Just As You Are

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Chapter Thirty Three


“You’re so precious to me. You have no idea how precious you are.”

After all the overwhelming drama, it was the least expected to see Ian at his limits. Everyone panicked as we watched our Captain collapse before our eyes. Ian kept shaking and heaving, and all his sisters could do was stand frozen, unable to do a thing; but I didn’t think it’d have that effect on me. It was hard to see the person I like so helpless and stand unable to do anything. Neither the sisters cried, but their expressions said it all. It was too much to carry by themselves, and none of us was able to process what was happening.

Things happened really fast.

Rachel left by herself, and when we stopped at the school gates, Mika had to stay with the team so she asked me to leave with Ian. I think it’s because she wasn’t able to face things immediately, so she had to disappear for the time being.

So, I got stuck with the twins’ mother, and couldn’t help but get flustered around her. I mean, I’m Ian’s girlfriend, and this is how I am supposed to introduce myself as. Anyway, Mrs. Roselie saw through me right away, her tired yet soft smile not leaving her face. She welcomed me warmly and told me to stay as long as I like.

I didn’t think of my thumping heart or the heat that swirled in my chest. I just let things flow. I allowed myself to be by his side. To get mesmerized in the ashes and the smoke of his eyes.

I allowed myself to be close to his heart.

Now it’s dark and the sky is fierce as I walk home with my key in hand. Nature keeps giving me signs; I hope it’s just rain this time.

“I’m home!” I chime as I close the door with my foot. It’s been one hella long fortnight, and I can’t believe I’m finally back! I missed my parents very much. I had no idea I’d feel this lost without them.

“Welcome back!” Mama greets me at the kitchen door, this time in a soft green apron and a ladle that’s dripping tomato sauce.

I smile; some things never change.

“How was your trip?” she asks as I settle myself into a chair.

“It was great! I had so much fun with everyone. Oh, I missed you so much.”

Mama comes around and hugs me. “That’s good news, sweetie. We missed you too.”

Keys jingle, and our door opens then closes. “I’m back.”

“Welcome back, honey,” Mama greets Papa.

I stand up and give him a salute. “Good work, Chief.”

“Yeah,” Papa mumbles rather flatly, “you’re back.”

Hmm? What happened? I cock my head in confusion. “Everything alright?” I ask as he takes a seat. Probably something about work.

“Where were you till this hour?” he asks.

Oh. Of course, he still wants to know every detail of my life. I’m his little spoiled daughter after all. Apparently, nothing had changed. If I wanna answer this question properly, then I hafta say I was checking up on Ian, but that will definitely stir up questions, and telling my parents that I have a boyfriend right away doesn’t give a good impression. So, I go with something that’s less intriguing.

“With friends.” It’s not totally a lie because Ian is my friend too, and I really was with school friends for the past two weeks.

Papa’s face darkens. “With friends, huh? Are you trying to tell me that those kids with flashy piercings and wild-colored hairs are actually your friends?”

“Huh . . .?” My stomach plummets. How does my father know what my friends look like? And what’s with the wild-colored hairs? Is he watching me?

“I thought you’d engage yourself with more proper individuals.” His ice-cold voice sends a shiver down my spine, and I stand still like a rock, unable to talk or even breathe.

Say something. Say something, Kiki! What’s wrong with me? Why is Papa saying that? Why am I not saying anything? Am I not able to stand up for my friends because these are my parents I’m talking too?


Was it always like that?

“B-But they are!”

“That’s not what I saw.”

My throat hurts with held back tears. “But Papa—”

“And then you jumped in a car with a guy too.”

Mom gasps, and blood drains from my body. I clench and unclench my hands. “His mother and sister were with him,” I mumble almost to myself.

“That doesn’t mean it’s right to get in a car with strangers! What if they kidnapped you or something?”

I sigh. “Please Papa, these are my friends, why would they do that? And why do you keep watching me like that? You know I’m not a kid anymore.” I try to sound as soft as possible, but my father isn’t even listening.

“Kiki.” He looks at me with hard eyes, and I know what he’s going to say is absolute. My heart sinks even before hearing the words that form on his lips.

“You’ll transfer schools.”

I shudder.

“I’ll not allow you to go to Eustitia High anymore. It’s my job to provide the best environment for you, and I see that it’s not anymore.”

It feels like my heart has stopped beating, but I know it hasn’t. If my heart stopped beating, I would die. But here I sit, alive. Breathing. Listening. Do something. I push my chair back and stand up. “N-No! I don’t wanna transfer!” My hands curl into fists at my sides as I try so hard not to pull a tantrum.

Papa stands up too. “Watch your behavior, young lady!” He clicks his tongue. “That school doesn’t hold benefit for you anymore!”

“It does!” I insist. What on earth happened? Why is he doing this? It’s strangling me; it feels as if a rope is tightening around my heart. I can’t breathe.

“Who? That redhead?”

I gasp. Why is he talking about Ian like that?

“Ian has always been helping me when I was in trouble. He’s the most important person to me!” I snap. He’s the person I like. The person who accepts me the way I am. The person who wants to be with me. “No benefit for me anymore? You decide everything for me—”

The disappointed look on Papa’s face cuts me off, and words stay trapped in my throat. It’s my job to provide the best environment for you. You’re so precious to me. You have no idea how precious you are. Tears hang in the backs of my eyes as I try to process what he just said. What I said. Somehow, it feels like I betrayed my father.

Walking past me to the staircase, Papa doesn’t even spare me a look when he says, “Apparently, interacting with those kids every day had a bad influence on you. Think this through. You’ll stay away from school for a while.” Then he goes upstairs and leaves me choking with my own thoughts.

I don’t even look back at my mother or seek her help. I know that even if I ask her, she won’t be able to help me. She’ll say it’s all for my safety. For my benefit.

Staggering back to my room, I shut the door and sink down, letting the bottled-up tears roll down my face and chin. Why did something like that happen? It’s like he’s asking me to give up after all the effort I put into building a place for me to exist in.

It’s restricted. It’s so restricted. The center of my world . . . is so protected.

What’s this place? It looks like a street in the middle of the city. Oh my God! Why are all people faceless? Where am I supposed to go? I dunno anyone here.

Ah! Isn’t that Mika? Huh? These are my friends.


“Huh? I heard my name. Did anyone of you guys call me?” Mika turns, her gorgeous hair fanning about her face, a smile spread across her face, and looks at our friends.

“That girl called for you,” Marsha says, pointing at me. Wait, did she say that girl? “Do you know her?”

Mika looks at me, studies me for a long while, and shakes her head. “I don’t know her. Does any of you guys know her?”

They shake their heads and utter “No.”

What’s happening? Do they not recognize me? Why are they looking at me like that?

“Guys, it’s me, Kiki.” I try to raise my voice, but it’s caught in my throat and only a small whisper escapes.

“Ian, do you know her?” Mika asks.

Ian looks me up and down, his silver eyes staring as if staring at the void. “Never seen her in my life.”

. . . Huh?

“Come on, let’s go,” he says with his back to me.

“Wait! Ian! Don’t leave me here! You promised not to leave me! You promised—”


I wake up disoriented, and pull my hair back. Ah . . . did I fall asleep by the door? Ugh, no wonder my neck hurts. A dream . . . wasn’t it? That scared me. What time is it? I look at my cat-shaped clock, it says 4:00 p.m. School had let out long ago, and I ended up not going after all.

“Think this through.”

The more I think about it, the more I just don’t wanna lose them. Those people, they are extraordinary in their individual beings. Those are my friends who believe in me. They might not be able to save me from each storm, and they might not be perfect, or neat or tidy, but I believe they’ll always be there for me. My friends are those with enough love in their hearts to fight for and defend what is right and good. They will fight by my side.

My phone rings. “Ah! Mika!” I practically pounce and get my phone. Come to think of it, what reason did Papa give for me staying at home? A fever? Or did he . . . Anyway, I gotta sound like I’m okay.

“H-Hello,” I say into the phone.

“Ah, Kiki! Thank God you picked up! We were so worried,” Mika says, her voice quavering. “Are you okay? You’re not transferring, right?”

Huh . . . ? Blood freezes in my veins. He told them? No, please no! “M-Mika—”

“I don’t want that! Please Kiki, don’t go!”

“Give that to me!” Marsha says on the other end of the line, “Kiki, sweetie, why are you doing as he says? Get a grip already!”

Tears brim in my eyes. Mika. Marsha. My friends. Ah . . . I really wanna stay here.

“Hey! Are you listening?”

I have to tell Papa my outright feelings.

Momentarily, my door flings open, and Papa appears, his wide eyes falling right on the phone in my hand. “What are doing? Who are you talking to?” he asks in an edgy voice.

I try to hide my phone behind my back. “P-Papa!”

“Give me that!” he snaps. I try to put it away but he twists my arm painfully. “Stop! Give it to me already!” He snatches the phone away.

“Papa!” I have to tell him. “Please listen to me.”

He stops and sighs loudly.

“Please, right now my friends at school are precious to me.” I raise my head and look him in the eye, ignoring the erratic beating of my heart. “So no matter what, I don’t wanna lose them! That’s why I absolutely will not transfer!”

Papa levels me with his eyes. Emerald green, just like mine. “I see, I understand how you feel, Kiki.”

Ehh? Did he just agree with me? That’s it? That was . . . simple.

“Do whatever you want because apparently, I don’t matter to you anymore.” My heart plummets, and I stand frozen in front of my father, unable to utter a word. It isn’t that simple. “I’ll keep your phone with me for the time being,” he adds as he closes the door after him.

I don’t understand. What does Papa want me to do? I know he’s trying to protect me and he wants me to live in a good environment, but what he doesn’t seem to realize is how suffocating that is. He doesn’t seem to realize that he’s controlling me instead of achieving his goal.

Sitting down by my bed, I try to wrap my mind around everything, but I can’t tell the reason why this happened. At least tell me why before forcing things on me.

Get a grip already! Ah . . . Marsha scolded me too.

You should speak up more . . . It’s been really hard, but you’ve been so brave, Kiki.

I wonder if Ian knew this would happen. He’s really amazing. Ahh . . . this isn’t the time to praise him, I should be stronger. I should think how to get out of this. Where’s me who stood in Rachel’s face? How can I summon her here?

Ah . . . I wonder if I’m asking too much.

It’s okay. It’s okay to be selfish.

If I wanna protect something, I hafta give up on something else. I know my father means no harm, and if I wanna protect his feelings, I gotta do what he says and give up on my friends. On the people and place that I made for myself.

Do I really have to live like that?

My mind is a mess now. I dunno which way to go.

In the midst of the chaos, there’s you.

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