She’s avoiding me.
I watched as she entered the school building, her scarlet mane flowing loosely in the wind.
My gaze did not miss the glances she shot consciously over her shoulders repeatedly as if checking if someone was following her or not before sneakily glancing at the other directions, all the while she talked to her best friend.
She began to wear glasses this week, and it covered up those bright sky eyes. The thick walnut-shaped frame annoyingly masked her ardent face. It was like she didn’t want attention or hiding from something. But why?
The September sun was not improving with the confusion as my spine shivered from the unfriendly weather. “Damn it!” I kicked the frozen ground. I should’ve grabbed my heated sweater - this blazer was useless.
“Why are you sulking, pretty boy?” someone asked and I lifted my eyes. My vision landed on a puzzled Troy who stared at me weirdly.
“What?” I asked.
“Why are you frowning?” he asked anew in a louder tone, but I was still clueless and flared my nostrils.
“I am not pretty.”
He sighed. “You suddenly stopped walking and began to stare grumpily at the sky. I was wondering if you’ve finally lost it,” he explained briefly.
“It’s just the weather, I-I suddenly remembered the sweater I bought last week, and I regret not bringing it with me in this frosty weather,” I ranted, blowing warm air to my frozen hands.
“But, you were standing on that same spot for five minutes, bro, and you weren’t listening to what I’ve been talking about.”
I smiled sheepishly and casually ran a hand through my hair,” Sorry, dude. I told you I was just...thinking.”
“About?” he asked with a simper.
“HER.” I wanted to shout, but then that would lead to making my day worse, so I shrugged my shoulders and hoisted my backpack around.
“Nothing,” and began to step towards the building with an annoyed Troy tarrying behind me with a bleak expression.
The auditorium for the morning assembly was stuffy. As we trudged through sweaty air, I caught sight of her again, perched at the top seats in a corner with her best friend, Angelique Castillo, who’s name I found out.
**1 Week Ago**
“Crap, dude, did you hear?” Troy screamed-whispered as he ran breathlessly towards where I sat.
“She’s going to be staying at the hospital for a week. She’ll recover. Damn, I remember her barely breathing!” I gave a black face as flashbacks of us hurrying through the corridors four days ago, and Gab sank nearly inert in my arms.
Another unpleasant memory to add to my archives.
“Where did you get this news from, Troy?” I demanded.
“Oh, I have my ways,” he smirked as drank from his cartoon of berry juice he had brought along. I suddenly felt desperate and wanted to taunt him to get the information out, but I knew I had to restrain myself. I’ve been having crazy thoughts lately whenever the topic was about Gab, and it drove me nuts.
“What? So you’re not going to tell me!” I yelled, irritant.
He thought for a while. “Nah.”
I glared. “Well, can you at least tell me what made her end up in the hospital?” He gave me a puzzled face.
“Duh. She had an anxiety attack?”
“I meant what stimulated it.”
“That I don’t know, bro,” he said, then smiled smugly, “But if you’re interested, I could go ask her once she comes back.”
I swear I was next to ripping out his face after I saw the smirk growing on his lips. God damn him. What was with him and placing everything under his joke book!
I rolled my eyes and continued eating my lunch. I’ll eventually get the answers later.
We sat at our table in the cafeteria with a few of our football buddies who we’ve befriended on our first day of training here. These guys were the epitome of assholes.
Sam Valdez and Diego Salvador were the closest members to us, mainly because after we exchanged information, did we realize we were all Caucasians. It grew more amusing after we discovered another similarity.
We all originated from Spain.
Sam’s grandfather was born there but married a Texan lady, and together they moved to New York to start the family they’ve been dreaming of. His mother, their daughter, married a Spaniard man and had Sam.
Diego’s ancestors were mainly from Spain, but his father married a Brazilian woman and grew up in his mother’s homeland before moving here two years ago, thus getting his accent from her.
Momentarily, we were always hanging out together, quickly earning the name “The 4 Muchachos”. I didn’t give in to that idea at first but gradually did because of Troy. He wanted me to lighten up and enjoy being in a new phase of life, so I let him lead me.
The ladies would gather around when they saw a chance, and to say it annoyed me a lot was typical as they murmured amongst themselves about “The new hot guys”. Yeah, we were quite popular with the others, to no one’s surprise. Troy would flirt back and flash them winks and smiles, but I didn’t bother with those bullshits.
Instead, my eyes lingered around the area, scanning for the one person I hoped to bump into again. Yet there was still no sign of her.
I haven’t seen her best friend either, and I’ve been itching to know the following events after we left them in that ambulance.
Finishing the last bite of my homemade lasagna Mom made, I quickly excused myself to grab a bottle of water before the bell rang. I made my way out of the cafeteria and headed towards the almost silent corridors. Guess nearly everyone was eating their lunch in the café today.
Slowing down, I approached the nearest vending machine and caught sight of a pleasant picture.
Standing at 5′5 was a brunette talking to some teenage guy. My stomach churned my lunch. Could it be?
Yes! It was her. At last, I can finally ask the girl about Gab.
My pace quicked as I raced with time. My mouth opened to call her but accidentally lost balance and slid across the floor, my weight almost toppled onto the guy next to her.
He shouted out loud, spewing off cursed words when he almost fell back but luckily caught himself before pushing me roughly to the side. I controlled my legs before my nose could kiss the wall and grabbed the machine for support. What the shit!?
I glanced back at the place I slipped and saw a yellow sign. Okay, I did not see the “No Running” sign across the wet floor. My veins still pumped adrenaline, and I had to take a moment to breathe.
The guy was still near me, and I looked up to meet pissed off eyes. Vaguely familiar ones...
“Could you not have slowed down, dude? What’s the big rush? You almost fell face flat man - on me!” the guy barked in an annoyed tone. I think the words behind them were - “What’s wrong with you, asshole? I almost broke my face.”
A sharp chuckle escaped the surprised girl who was just stood idly beside us.
“Oh! Are you hurt?” she asked. The guy who now stood beside her snorted and rolled his eyes.
“Tsk, what about me? I was the one injured here,” he grunted, but she shut him up by repeating. I nodded and moved the strands of hair away from my forehead. I watched as pupils grew wide and almost let out a squeal.
“YOU!” we both spoke at the same time as we pointed to each other.
“Oh my god,” she squealed loudly. “I’ve wanted to talk to you ever since that day, but you went AWOL.” I gave her a face. Aren’t I the one to say that?
I almost scoffed. “She’s one to talk,” I stated internally.
“Umm...Lily, care to explain who we are talking to?” the guy next to her spoke up in a perplexed tone. Yeah, who is he? Her boyfriend or something? The fellow nearly towered over the girl. I gazed at him closely.
Straight brown hair that was a tad bit longer than needed, and stood almost 5′7 with a tight expression on his face. The guy looked about fifteen or sixteen, and his uniform proved that he was a middle schooler. He looked like to be the type who are all into being popular; his features says it all. He was far-fetched for his age.
I then observed his face.
He clearly didn’t look happy. Despite this, there was one detail that haven’t caught my notice properly before and they were his orbs. They were blue, almost sapphire, the same colour as Gab. It slowly transpired to me. I think I’ve seen him before - perhaps somewhere in the past?
Could they be related?
“What a blockhead,” he snickered when he noticed me staring creepily. “Are you gay, dude?”
The girl rolled her eyes and smacked his head, earning a groan. “Speak nicely to him, Ivan, he’s one of the guys who helped Gabriella, remember?” she spoke with a pissed tone, before turning her attention back to me. “He was the one who carried her to the infirmary. Such a charming one, huh.”
“Oh,” he stated in a guilty expression. His grey face turned bright all of a sudden and extended a hand, which I took - hesitantly. “Well then, thank you very much for helping my big sister. Even though she’s a pain in the butt, I could never imagine my life without her.”
So he was her brother! Heh, what a relief.
“My name’s Ivan, by the way. Ivan Gawan,” he introduced. Gawan...that name again.
“My family is incredibly thankful to you and your pal. We send our condolences to you,” he smiled genuinely and patted my back before giving me an awkward embrace. I did him back, feeling stiff. I don’t do hugs with people.
“Gab would be relieved that we found you. She wanted to say thank you on her behalf but she can’t get out of the hospital yet,” the brunette continued.
“No, she did not.” Ivan frowned. “I don’t think she ever mentioned that.” I creased my eyebrows.
“Oh, shut up, Ivan! How would you know that? You’re not her best friend,” she scowled and checked her watch.
I smiled ineptly. “It’s alright. I wish I could go to the hospital to hear that from her.”
“Then why don’t you?” the brunette asked.
I looked at her. “I don’t have the time now. I’m sorry.”
She frowned but barely nodded.
“So, what’s your name?” Ivan suddenly asked, which made me froze.
Wait, why should I? It’s normal for people to ask that sort of question, right?
Not for me, at least. I’ve always hated it when people ask who I was, and because of my background, I could never tell them. It was suffocating to the least.
“Evander.” I quickly answered.
“Nice to finally meet you, Evander,” the brunette said as she grabbed Ivan by his shoulders and began to push him away by surprise. “But, my little buddy here needs to go back to his class, or he’ll be very late.” Alright. Not her boyfriend.
“What do you mean?” Ivan asked.
“Oh, the bell.”
“Yes. Now go join your annoying friends, Ivan, because it’s going to ring again in another three minutes,” she announced. “You don’t wanna be late for Mrs. Joseph’s class, right?”
“Oh shit. Math!” And he was off before she could shove him any further. With a quick wave of goodbye, he hurriedly left. “Hope we meet again.”
“Yeah, me too,” I responded in a louder voice.
“Well, I should go too. Physics is next,” she mumbled as I turned back to her. She had just tossed her money in as an apple juice from the machine fell, and I panicked.
“No, no, wait, I wanted to ask you something!” I spoke, almost sounding frantic. Pathetic.
“And what would that be?” she asked, sipping her juice box.
“How’s Gab now?” I asked calmly, trying not to show my worry.
She thankfully answered me without giving any looks.
Gab would be in hospital for a week as the doctor recommended, and explained the details.
So Troy’s sources were right. “Then, what’s the actual reason for her anxiety attack?” I asked with a puzzled face. She was still for a few seconds before answering me.
“Urm- I don’t mean to be rude, but it’s something you aren’t allowed to know. Sorry, but I can only say that something ugly scarred her when she was a kid, and she’s still sort of not over it yet.”
“What does that mean?” I asked, wrinkling my nose.
She breathed, “Listen, Evander. I’m not supposed to be saying this to people, and when I tell ugly, I mean a real ugly of an incident that is a private matter to her. Everyone has one nowadays, so no need to fret about it. I answered you, and I’m pretty sure you need to drop the questions if you know what I mean.”
I wanted to pull my hair and shake her eyeballs out. I don’t know why, but something in me is prompting that it’s not the whole picture. And I stubbornly needed more answers. However, the bell rang again, and I had to reply with a nod and gave her a small smile.
“Well, I have to be going now. Thank you again for helping us,” she returned, giving me a happy smile that reached her eyes, proving she was genuine. I could tell she was one dependable friend.
“It was my pleasure err-”
“Angelique Castillo,” she chuckled. “It’s nice to meet you too.”
“Yes, it was my pleasure, Angelique,” I said and made her promise to tell Gab of my intentions for her to get better. She inclined, promising she would, and walked her way to class.
I suddenly harked back.
Ivan...he was the guy I saw coming out of her Jaguar that day.
I was soon left standing at the vending machine, wondering what the hell am I going to do next when I remembered why I was here. The bottle crunched under my grip as I gulped down the cold water. My moist lips smirked victoriously.
Her name suits her.
“So you told them your name was Evander?” Troy laughed as he punches practiced the air.
“Yup, I had no choice. Besides, it is my name.”
“Con name,” he corrected. “I still can’t believe you allowed your Dad. When are you going to stand up for yourself instead of just following every command blindly? We can’t even hang out properly with your Dad sending bodyguards with us everywhere we step on. Even to the comfort room!”
“You know very well why, Troy,” I replied coldly. “Whatever. It’s only till I finished high school, then Dad’s promise for me to finally let me return to my former self will be settled. I just need to be patient.”
In truth, I’ve been waiting for a long time for that to happen. Troy and his family were one of the only few to know about me being Leander Leos. I don’t know why, but maybe because his Dad was my father’s best friend and fellow business partner.
“I’m still calling you Ander, your con name and your real one is too long,” he complained. I fired him a white grin before making my way to the mat to start my kickboxing match against a Mexican teen.
Dad went as far as instructing the school to adopt my pseudonym and kept my original documents a secret that only the Principal and the admins knew but were to keep it hidden if anyone were to get suspicious. I was supposed to play as the orphan child of some distant cousin of my Dad and act like his nephew when we were in public.
It wasn’t odd. Dad did that in my old school too.
The students in this place had their doubts about me when I revealed my “past”, some gave sympathetic looks, others like Sam and Diego wanted to know more. Esperanza acted winsomely as my “cousin” as Troy played along.
Anyway, that was the primary reason for us to stay safe and not let the same episode happen again.
Mom was still traumatic about it and Dad...became very overprotective. He blamed himself for it, and after living for nearly ten years in Madrid, reports were initiated to spread about the old me being alive. My parents decided it was time to return here until they died down before I can go back and continue my studies in university.
I won the game. The kid was no match for me. I’ve been doing this ever since I was seven, no way I’d lose.
Next was Troy. He had defeated his contestant swiftly but had a cut against his left cheek. He showed me a toothy smile. “Ah, the one guy I’d like to make into a punching bag.”
“Tsk, don’t push me, Roy,” I drawled, making his nostrils widen. He hates getting called with that.
“Shut up, Leos, and fight. Show me what your inner demons can do!” he spoke with seriousness. My back squared, and I set my mind to focus.
“Oh, I’ll show you.” I lisped, and the fight began. My veins were on fire. I was angry. Livid at my Dad for being too protective, my life for being screwed up, and my whole existence.
I hated myself.
“Come on, you lovesick parrot,” he huffed, sweat poured fast down the sides of his neck. “Why are you slowing down? I knew you were a coward. Let your powers out!”
Damn this idiot. Does he want to die?
But he didn’t stop his blabbering.
So. I let it all out by punching his jaw hard to make sure he got the message to not mess with me again. And he submitted.
It left him as the loser of our kickboxing match for the rest of that day. He deserved defeat after he failed to close that big fat ass mouth, and to start a fight on the premises wasn’t a promising idea.
*End of flashback*
“Oi, Ander! What’s up, brother?” Sam greeted as we took our seats in the auditorium, a row below the girls. The guys were stubborn. I told them to call me Evander, but they complained it was too long along with Troy, who led them. What was with these people and my names?
“Nothing much,” I shrugged and sat down. I took the corner while Troy sat next to me.
“Tener un mal día?¹ What’s with him, Troy?” Diego asked as he sat to Troy’s left.
“He’s lov-,” he said, but I glared and punched him on the shoulder. “OK, fuck. God. It’s because he’d forgotten to bring his sweater today, and now you see him as that.”
“Are you sure?” Diego insisted.
“Yes,” I answered for him.
“Shut up, guys, before we get in trouble,” Sam whispered loudly. The morning started, and the whole room grew silent.
Twenty minutes and the Dean had yet to end his damn speech.
“Psst...Ander,” Diego rustled next to Troy.
“What?” I whispered back.
“Wanna hang out with us in that abandoned shipyard we were talking about yesterday?”
I thought for a while. It was a Tuesday. Nope. Too much homework to do.
“Sorry, man, I can’t. My Uncle has some errands today afternoon.” I whispered back. Diego gave me a “Don’t fucking lie to me” look, but I held on a clean face, which he bought and sat back on his seat.
My ears refused to listen to whatever our boring Principal and some teachers had to say. I was dying to rush out.
The assembly neared to the end when a special announcement boomed to a specific student that made my spine sit up straight.
Goosebumps erupted through my skin as I heard the next few words coming out of Principal Kim Grey’s lips.
“...for this year’s Annual Inter school Volleyball Tournament Captain and a winner of last year’s Senior Volleyball Team - I would like to cordially give that title to Miss Gabriella Gawan to be the new captain for 2020 Inter-school Volleyball!”
I couldn’t believe my ears.
That didn’t mean she doesn’t look like a sporty person- well - the fuck who am I to judge. I’ve only seen her once or twice in the hallway; I don’t know shit about her.
The whole auditorium applauded wildly, and some were whistling.
I looked up to see her on the top bench with a shocked expression plastered on her face. Her red hair, now braided nicely, loosely hung, and it looked like her glasses were about to fall as it dangled at the edge of her nose.
She looked dainty as her cheeks flushed.
“Come forward to the stage Miss Gabriella,” the Principal reverberated through the microphone. Angelique tried to snap her out of her trance but was frustrated that Gab was still not moving. I witnessed her shaking her friend frantically until she finally managed to push her down the rows of students as I watched in amusement.
Gabriella quickly passed our row, and turned her head around to say something but faltered when she saw me staring at her. Our eyes met for a second before she immediately looked away.
The blood in my ears abruptly became louder as she stood there, midway, and looked back...at me!
An unknown simper made its way up. Those sky eyes were looking straight at me! She bit her soft-looking lips before she stared at the Principal. Did she have stage fright?
Angelique couldn’t wait anymore and grabbed her hand at the end. After a few steps down, Gabriella made her way towards the stage with a shy face and shook the Principle’s hand before posing for a picture.
Damn, she’s one enthralling person to make a crowd cheer like this.
I wanted to know more about her...
...and those ripe lips.
¹Having a bad day?