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“All the world’s a stage, and all men and women merely players. ” Shakespeare
Anxiety is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you very far. When I was still in WEDSTAR high school, there were times I was always anxious about going to school, anxious about walking through the hallway and having different pair of eyes stare blankly at me, wondering what they thought of me inside their head, anxious about making friends, and the ones I did make, I was anxious about keeping them. By the end of the term I’d be detached, we would talk, play and laugh but I didn’t feel any closure. Often times I assured myself I was being paranoid and tried to discard that feeling but it stayed. To me, having friends felt like a chore. It always happened slowly but it happened nonetheless, maybe that’s why I didn’t have a best friend just friends. My mom got worried about me sometimes, when the other kids snuck out to have fun, I’d sit in my room writing poems and playing my NF album. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I could be really loud, I’d go to parties and have fun but those moments were short compared to my memories observed in my own mind. So, I guess I’m not a total introvert.
She’d jokingly say she wished she never sent me to that school.
By the time I reached 15 I suffered from inferiority complex. My classmates were apt to using me for assignments, when they didn’t understand anything in class and some played nice but none of them were interested in having real conversations with me, others felt I was proud because I was smart but I just didn’t know how to talk to them and relate well. Suddenly all that seemed to change but the change was short-lived and once again I felt more alone than I ever did. I didn’t want anything to do with school, I tried to convince my dad about home schooling but he said “there are some experiences that come from attending a class”. I never really understood what he meant but somehow I made it through that time and actually found genuine friends.
Today however, I was anxious to go home which was a good type of anxiety. Exams were over and my school had announced a 4-week vacation in respect of the approaching Christmas holiday. Here in Pendine, the sun was like a cup of coffee in the morning. It never snowed during December, except for the harsh harmattan wind which breezed through during the month.
We had three days to vacate school premises and Ethan suggested we invite our friends over to celebrate the after exam break since, we weren’t going to see till January. Of course, our little get together was going to be at his dorm, because the dorm mother in charge of my dorm was very strict when it came to visitors and using the common room. And that’s where my roommate and close friend Sarah tags along. We were two in every room. The school system allowed us to change roommates every year. During my first year here, Sarah Cinders was my neighbour. Her room was across mine and we greeted each other every day. Back then, I really admired her. She was a total sweetheart with good looking features and porcelain skin. She was tall with skinny legs and curves that would land her a career in modelling if she wasn’t so bloody shy. I used to beg her to take selfies on her phone not to talk of full poses. It was sad she couldn’t pose to save her life and I wasn’t exactly an expert when it came to modelling and photography so eventually I gave up persuading her.
We made plans for our get together at Ethan’s place and we decided to buy some sweets and snacks for entertaining.
Ethan the foodie, was ever so pleased with our idea that he chipped in some cash to help get the stuff we needed. Surprising! Cause he said he didn’t have any money on him when I asked him to lend me a twenty this morning.
He was a stingy jerk.
I was on my way to meet up with Sarah at the shopping complex when a familiar mop of Sandy blonde hair stopped me in my tracks. Milan Stuart. He was still in college, I think. He worked as an assistant teacher here as a part time job. We’d met through Sarah, when he was still trying to woo her, all to no avail.
I didn’t want to deal with him today. To be honest he was a cool guy, very friendly to the point that he was pals with all the students. Both males and females. And his personality was just as big as his cheeks if not bigger, it was just that sometimes he could be a pest. A really really really small womanizing pest and the fact that he only came to me when he needed a favour or wanted to hook me up with one of his friends didn’t increase my tolerance for him.
“Hey Rin” He chirped giving me a small hug which I involuntarily returned. I didn’t want to embarrass him outside. Again. I smiled to myself reminiscing memories of embarrassing moments I’d caused for him, and other guys like him.
I played along easily “Milan! Long time! I thought about you the other day”.
Liessss. My conscience scolded me. I pushed her to a corner.
“Really” He asked happily. Pfft. He actually bought that.
“Yup. I would love to stand and talk but I’m kinda in a hurry so maybe we could meet up some other time to sit and chat” I made emphasis on “hurry”.
“You are always busy; don’t you care about daddy any longer”
You for real dude?! I thought to myself.
“No,no,no that’s not it I just have a lot to do these days, packing and all” At that moment my phone rang and I was literally about to start singing how much I love Jesus.
“Hey Rin” Sarah spoke calmly on the other end. “Where the hell you at?! I’ve been standing here for more than 10 minutes” She yelled. I was going to forgive her rudeness just this once because she called at a wonderful time.
“So sorry, I’m on my way” I said, before hanging up and started walking away from Milan.
“I got to go” I said faking a sad tone. “we’ll catch up later” I added, hastening my steps.
“Wait!” He yelled. “I forgot to tell you. My friend asked for your number the other day and I gave it to him, wanted to give you a little heads-up, if an unknown number texts you”.
He never listens. I felt like face palming myself.
“Thanks” I muttered and hastily disappeared into the crowd.
At about 1:30, Sarah and I were at Spave, a shopping complex not too far from the female hostel. Searching through the aisle store, we exchanged similar looks as everything seemed a little bit above our budget.
“Is it just me or did the prices inflate overnight” her face scrunched up in both confusion and shock.
I mirrored her look “Nope but I’m pretty sure we can find something- Oufff” My sentence was cut short as I stepped into some unknown figure.
“Sorry” We said in sync and I watched the masculine figure step out of my way.
“Rina the Clumsy” Sara laughed as we rolled our cart to the counter for check out.
“Oh, Shut up!” I replied jokingly.
“That boy is really cute though”, Pause. “I wish I’d bump into a cute boy once in a while” She pouted.
Trust Sarah to know these things. She had hawk eyes when it came to assessing the appearance of the male species.
I turned to her “Even if you did, your creepy stare would scare him away”
“That’s so not true” She remarked glaring daggers my way.
I snorted in response.
You know that awkward moment in class when the teacher calls you out for a demonstration and she pairs you up with your recent ex. It was how I felt sitting here in the same chair with William; Ethan’s friend who I may or may not have flirted with, led on and may or may not have proceeded to breaking his heart.
Unfortunately, Ethan and Sarah thought it was a nice idea to pair us up for our game of charades whilst the poor guy sat there trying to avoid all forms of eye contact with me.
I should feel bad but deep down I knew I wanted to laugh at the awkwardness of this moment.
There were 8 of us in the room. Williams, Jim, Carol (Jim’s girlfriend) who were all Ethan’s friends, Ethan was also here, Kathy and Leticia, I and Sarah’s former room-mates.
Kathy was my first roommate but I wasn’t so close with her as I was with Sarah, it was the same way in Sarah’s room. Eventually our dorm mates ended being good friends. So after my first year here, I convinced the lady in charge of assigning rooms to make Sarah my roommate and she consented.
For the game we divided ourselves into two groups. Williams, Sarah, Leticia, and I were team 1, while Ethan, Kathy, Jim and Carol formed team 2. My team was doing very well thanks to Sarah and Leticia. The rest of us watched them ace the charades game like sitting ducks. There was no doubt in my mind that I was horrible at Charades. The whole idea of acting like a wild monkey didn’t appeal to me for some reason. After five rounds everyone decided to relax and discuss about the coming holidays. I on the other hand sat quietly, intrigued by the deliciousness of my Apple cider.
“Rin what are your plans for tomorrow” Kathy asked attempting to make small talk with me.
I shrugged “Pack my stuff, I guess”.
I sipped the last drop of my drink and instantly craved for another cup. I excused myself to reach for the jar and found William sitting adjacent from me with the jar of Apple Cider.
Gush! Do I man up and face him or do I run back to my space like the coward I am. I thought to myself. The latter option made a lot of sense but then I’d have to forget about my drink.
Oh well, everyday can’t be Christmas. I mentally sobbed.
Brrr brrr brrr
I felt a vibration in my shorts. My phone was ringing and it was my mum calling I excused myself and stepped out into the hallway where it was less noisy.
“Hi momma” I greeted once I swiped the green button.
“How’s my baby doing?” She asked with her usual mellow tone.
“I’m good, I’m good” We exchanged pleasantries and I asked her how her husband (My dad) and my brother (whom I was six years older than) were doing. We talked briefly about school, work and more about how prepared I was to come back. I’d asked them not to come get me this time I wanted to find my own way back and they agreed to let me have this freedom. I spent another ten minutes on the phone assuring my mum that I wouldn’t get lost on the way or wind up with supernatural powers. I think she’s been watching too many magic series. We ended the call with ‘I love you’.
I turned to retreat back to my space willing to forget my delicious drink in order to save myself from an awkward moment. However, I didn’t notice William presence’s behind me, staring directly at me.
I stepped back startled.
Grow a pair Rin! My evil subconscious scolded me.
I took a deep breath. His ocean blue eyes glazed with a bit of emotion as I motioned for him to step aside.
He didn’t move.
A minute later, William broke the silence “How are you?” he asked. I studied him for a moment. Was that a rhetorical question or was I supposed to answer.
I decided to be polite “I’ve been good, you?”.
He chuckled ’’I’m ok. I’m sorry things as awkward as hell but you don’t have to talk to me if you don’t want to”
I sighed “I won’t be able to apologize enough. I know I hurt you and I’m sorry William but you can’t continue hating on me” His eyes locked on mine and the tension of the room increase to 150 degrees, at least from where I was standing it felt that way.
“You don’t have to act like you care Rin”.
Ouch! His words hurt like a blade but I should have expected this. He wasn’t going to forgive me that easily and I knew this of course. Thankfully, I took everything lightly.
“I don’t hate you as much as I did” he answered as if that was supposed to make me feel better. “I can never really hate you. I just need time. I will always wish what’s best for you because that how love works Rin. It doesn’t die out; it might fade but the feelings always linger. One day I hope you’ll understand this”.
“I have to go” I told him, excusing myself. I didn’t have time for all this crappy love stuff. If only he understood, he didn’t love me. it was a mere infatuation. Everyone had those. If I believed what he said it meant I agreed that people could really find their soulmate at a young age. High school love without any other selfish intentions.
What a joke!
I opened the door and the room was noisy. It looked like my team had lost from the score board and by the way Sarah and Ethan were acting like total children and embarrassing themselves, she didn’t seem very happy.
I sat beside Sarah. “What took you so long” she asked.
I motioned my hand to my glass “Nothing. I needed a refill. What did I miss?”
Today was all about having fun and this was far from fun. I listened to the chat, whatever he said to me faded to a faint whisper in my mind because at the time I walked in, Ethan was excitedly announcing a party he wanted everyone to attend. Hosting parties was allowed by the school as long as you adhered to the rules. The system didn’t want students to feel caged so they had venues for us to host small or big parties. We could order things outside too after filling out special request forms. Alcohol was forbidden and there was a curfew but the parties normally went smoothly depending on who hosted them.
Sarah started filling me on all the details the key ones being who was hosting the party, where it was going to be, and the time.
Just then my phone buzzed. I had made a mental note to check my messages later and right now seemed like a good time. I pulled out my phone from my jean pocket and tapped the screen.
Light beamed from the screen and on my notifications bar, there were a couple of messages from my parents, my classmates on the class group chat and a few unread messages sent by random guys. Everything looked normal but there was one message from an unknown number that caught my attention. Their profile picture was blank. I unlocked my phone and went straight to my WhatsApp and tapped on the number.
The message read: Hey, you forgot to smile today :)