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The Best Summer Activity

Addy is a regular teenage girl who faces the usual conflict of falling in love, feeling unwanted and trying to resolve things ingeniously. She knows she's for falling for her old friend Geoff but doesn't want to admit it because she is not sure if Geoff feels the same. To remove the awkward feeling, she decides to divert her attention to something or rather someone else. Kyle comes into the picture as the ideal guy everybody wants. Addy and Kyle easily become friends and she makes herself believe that Kyle is the right one for her. Geoff, on the other hand, stands aside although he seems to have an idea of what is going on between him and Addy. Everything is even better than she expected it would be. Kyle is just what she had always wanted and, most of all, what she really needed at the moment. Things go rough when she finally makes up her mind to proclaim her change of heart in front of everybody. She was pulled out of reverie and into the real situation. But Addy is not ready to see what had hit her. Will Addy be able to make up for all the bad decisions she had made? Or will she lose what she has been protecting the whole time, her pristine reputation? Will there be someone for her when she's finally ready to profess her real feelings? Hey, this was written as if a girl is really relating how things happened to her Thus the girly terms, expressions and sentences with incomplete thoughts. This is really a very random narration of every unforgettable moment in our characters summer vacation! I really tried to make it seem so real. If its fast-paced, its because this is how things really are the more we try to pause and understand. I just hope you guys like it! Just tell me what you think about this HAHA Thank you! :*

Introduction to the Activity Hi there the text message said. I was stunned, as in really stunned that I didnt know how to react. I was sitting on the floor. My toes were enjoying the comfort of the 2-year old carpet I was sitting on. My hands got cold. I quickly typed in my reply after having realized that Ive been staring at my cellphones screen for too long. Hello! But I erased the half of it a second after I finished typing. How in the world can I make myself say hello when Im overly unhappy after what I saw on my way home? But then again I cant tell him that just because I saw him flirting, not just hanging out, with that argghh girl. They might have not seen me because the cars windows were tinted. By the way, this he is a guy from my former school. He transferred when I was in Preschool and left the school again when we were in fourth grade. He came back in my first year in high school but we didnt get to see each other because I already transferred to a very demanding and prestigious high school. I just learned that he came back from my best friend in the world, Maxine. This guy, his names Charles Geoffrey Villafuenco- Trinidad, hes 16 years old and has an athletic built, or so they say. He is the heartthrob of girls ranging from second grade to fourth year high school. He has those brown eyes which are almost perfect in position and size and a pointed nose, actually its what the fan girls call an inverted 7. He smiles at almost everyone and whenever he squints at the sun or winces or grimaces, he never looks less attractive, thats what they say. Anyway, I met him again last summer, before our junior school year started. Maxine and I decided to meet at Starbucks in Santana Grove. I was brought there by my adorable Kuya Anthony. I have been waiting for at least 10 minutes when my eldest brother said that he couldnt stand waiting with me because I was so talkative. So he left and I was alone. I immediately thought about what yaya Lilette said about my attire. She said I looked cute in it. I was conscious of how my clothes would look on me because I never thought of myself as a girl who has awesome style and fashion sense. I decided against buying a venti cup of caramel. Itd be better if Maxine and I would drink at the same time so we could take pictures. Then a few more minutes later, I saw a group of people walking towards the shop I was in. I recognized the two walking ahead as Iris and Toby; they were my former classmates, way back when I was in grade school. Uh-oh! Maxine came with them! I noticed Maxine with her straight hair accented by the pretty headband I gave her last Christmas. Then, they all came in and said in cheerful voices, Addy! How nice to see you here, I just smiled nervously and moved closer to the yellow-orange post near me to give them space to sit. Maxine gave me a peck on the cheek and whispered, They wanted to see you too. I smiled again to mean that it was okay, as long as they dont bombard me with questions or talk about stuff I dont know. I knew Maxine understood that. When I looked up again to see who the other person was, I was shocked to see him there. Charles, I almost stood up. Hi, Addy, he said with a smile, by the way, its Geoff now and- err- you look good in black. That was the only time I appreciated my oversized black shirt with OMG. Oy May Gwapo! in hot pink and bold letters, my mind raced and asked myself immediately if it was right that I paired it with cropped pants and my beach slippers. Oh, does he look good in pink! So much for that, the group talked for quite a while until Iris said they had to go. She said they were picking something up for someone from somewhere. I didnt pay much attention to what she was saying because I was too busy distracting myself so as not to drool over Charles or rather Geoff and as a distraction, I was twisting my hair over and over again. Maxine and I said bye to them but before they left, we got each others numbers. Of course, I let Geoff type in my number so I could tell the whole universe that it was him who saved it and I let him type in his number on my phone. Ha! No one could say I asked for it. So that was how we started talking to each other. He sent a quote that night and I nonchalantly commented on the quote. Soon, every day and every night until dawn, we texted each other and there were times when he actually fell asleep but I immediately forgive him when he calls me up early in the morning to say sorry. I guess this was also the start of the inevitable fact all over my body that I was starting to like him, really like him.

I frowned at the realization. It was the millionth time I thought of that thing today. I looked around the room. It was all in order. My bed was fixed with my favorite bubble-themed bed covers and pillow cases; it also had my collection of small pillows with different designs. On the left of my bed was a side table with my rainbow colored cellphone case above a small pile of English pocket books. I thought of the things inside the side tables drawer, a notebook full of wacky drawings and a pencil case containing ball pens with different colors and a couple of pencils. Perpendicular to my bed was my closet. Beside my closet was the window looking out the streets. I could see at once who were coming through this window. It was the first time this day I noticed my new curtains, gray with blue dolphins all over. Everything was fine indeed, so what need have I of anymore complications? But my own mind threw a question at me; do I really want to miss this opportunity to connect with him again? I dont know. One thing is for sure, I am not going to send any reply today or tonight. Problem: Were Always Brought Together; I Dont Know What to Do! My parents are in France right now, visiting my aunt who lives there. So at dinner the whole month, I have to wait for my brothers, Kuya Anthony and Kuya Angelo. Not to mention that I have to suffer dinnertime with both of them. Anyway, Kuya Angelo came home first. Hes taking up Civil Engineering. I was about to say hi when he started the conversation first, Adeng, we have to talk. Actually, he made it sound like I shouldnt even say a word. He calls me Adeng, the worst version of my name. I just stared at him and continued playing with the marbles on the center table. Do you know whats the latest about you? he asked as if I should know whatever that was but doesnt because Im so not updated. Nevertheless, I asked him, About me? What is it and how did you know about it? I wasnt even sure if I wanted to know what it was but since I asked, I must listen to what hes going to say. Well, as I was walking home, the trio was walking to the village gate. They were chatting excitedly about some girl who was having a fling with the heartthrob who just came back. Too bad, the one with the fairest skin of them all said, because someone elses seen out with him very often. I froze at the first part of his news. Those were the exact words! And what those girls talk about is the latest and most spread news. Would you mind telling me whats going on? Kuya Angelo has never been this irked because of those three girls (who were HIS stalkers). But I still didnt understand how he knew they were talking about me. So I asked, Kuya, how did you know it was me they were talking about? They said the guy was teaching the girl how to play basketball. Codename for the girl was AL and for the guy, Coach Varsity. Any more questions? Okay, so now I have no escape. How the hell did my name ever pop-up in gossips? I am not even a frequent visitor of my former school and yet they find time to talk about me. Sure, I have lots of friends there and Id love to hear that they remember me but not in this way. I failed to answer or even move from where I sat for a few minutes. The fact that my brother heard about the news is a major alert but him hearing I was having a fling is total disaster. Speak. He simply said, like a god demanding for an excuse from a slave. First of all, I am not having a fling with anyone. Second, I dont care if that Coach Varsity whatsoever of those stupid nosy girls has been seen dating someone else. Ouch. That hurt a little bit. Third, I havent even seen him again and that basketball tutorial hasnt even started. I told you Id tell you guys if hes going to teach me already. True enough, his voice softened a bit. I know youre telling me the truth but the thing is theres news about you. Do you still talk to Geoff? I really prayed he wouldnt tell me to stop talking to him. But I had to answer him with all honesty. Not as often as I used to, I said, my head still bowed down. Thats convincing. Now, how seldom do you talk? Did he really have to ask that? Oh well, we just text each other during weekends and he has not called for quite some time. This was true but during those said weekends, we texted till the morning and only paused when he had to play basketball which was during 5:30 p.m. He would then text me if hes done playing already. Then wed talk about each others lives till dinner, and the cycle goes on again. Kuya Angelo just looked at me with wondering eyes but I know he believes me because I never lie to them. Ill just take a nap, wake me up when dinners ready, he said as he went up to his room.

I opened the television and tuned to different channels, looking for a movie thats yet to start. Then I found one, Garfield was just about to begin. I have always loved Garfield even though I didnt like cats that much. He was the exact lazy, wanna-be, and super cute thing I want to live with. I was really into the movie. It was the part when Garfield was looking for Odie and was having some difficulty in looking for the pink building when the phone rang. I reluctantly stood up. How I wished I could pause the movie until I could concentrate on it again. When I got to the phone, I answered with my usual greeting. Hello, good evening, who is this? Then I heard the most dreaded and, at the same time, awaited voice, Its Geoff. Are you busy? If this were a conversation on a radio station, the staff would fire me for the longest dead air. What should I say? Yes, I am busy and you cant disturb me but honestly, I want to talk to you. Or, no, I am not doing anything but its really weird because I am not supposed to talk to you yet I really miss your voice. The hell! I cant get an appropriate answer. But in the end, I told him, Im just waiting for kuya Anthony to arrive. Do you need anything? I wished he had a valid reason for calling. Sure, an endless talk with Miss Addy Lopez, please, Geoff said sounding really funny and sincere. If I were an ice cube, I would have melted. This was a strange request for me but an intellectual person wouldnt agree to something like this. Really? I asked in the most casual way I could manage. Yup, really. He simply answered. I wondered if this was the way he talked to that girl but deep inside, I wished it wasnt. I wished he was only this sweet to me. Impossible, I thought to myself. Soon, though it was against my plans, we were talking about my day, his day and some things we failed to mention in the past. Addz, I heard kuya Anthony say a few seconds after I put the phone down. Whew, that was good timing. Yes? He walked across the room and put his laptop down on the single sofa. Kuya Anthony was tasked to practice managing the family company. Like I always do, I went to where he stood and kissed him on the cheek. You look tired, I told him, walking to his laptop. I really am, can we eat now? he answered. I was just about to open his laptop to play when he said this so I nodded and bounded the stairs to call my other brother. After three knocks, I heard a grunt inside the room and I took it as a cue to get in. Hey, kuya Tonys really tired and hungry. Get up now. He slowly lied on his back then looked at me, I have nothing against Geoff, Adeng. I just dont want other people talking about you in a negative way. I understood him and waited for him to stand up and put on his shirt. Thanks Kuya, I mumbled and kissed him on the cheek. We had dinner while chatting about our daily events. I kept on looking at Kuya Angelo to check if he would tell Kuya Tony the gossip. Good thing he didnt. Manang Lilette brought out sliced apples with caramel for dessert. As we were eating, Kuya Tony mentioned something about a basketball league in our subdivision. Wouldnt there be volleyball games? I asked. I am a volleyball player and since my brothers are active youth sports leader in the community, they could probably squeeze it in. Im sorry Addy; theres no volleyball this time. Mr. Hernandez wanted to focus on boys in the area. You could actually do something, however, he said. What can I do? I asked him. You could be the manager or support leader of the village team, Kuya Tony suggested. Thats sounds good, maybe I could do that, I told him. Great, because you know what? I heard your old friend, Geoff, is playing on our team. When he said this, Kuya Angelo and I looked at each other alarmingly and out of nowhere I got hiccups. Are you okay? Here, drink some water, Kuya Tony said, rubbing my back. Im fine, thanks, I told him. You sure? he asked me again. I just nodded my head and looked at Kuya Angelo again. Much to my fury, he was chuckling. What a life! Here I am, trying to avoid someone that could cause me my reputation and here are my brothers, organizing a basketball league and happily putting that someone on the team they want me to manage. If I get into trouble, I could not tell them that its their fault they put Geoff in the team. Did they not tell me and always remind me to worry of the outcome before doing something? But I could not show my brothersor anyonethat Im actually bothered about it. Oh, that would be great. At least I know someone on the team already, I said with the entire casualty I can afford. Kuya Angelo shot me quite a look and I just gave him my teasing smile, saying, Are

you getting hiccups too, Kuya Gelo? Kuya Tony looked at both of us and said, Stop, you two, I know this is not going to be nice. I returned my attention to eating the apples, secretly wondering how I would live my entire managerial position with him in the team. Hypothesis Number One: Getting Used to His Presence Will Eventually Make Him Uninteresting I woke up the next morning because of the vibration made by my ever-friendly cellphone. There were thirty-five messages waiting to be read, or at least opened (for the hundreds of group messages I receive every day). Shockingly, half were from people asking me about the upcoming basketball league. Heres an example from Reese, a friend of mine from the other street: Girl! I heard theres going to be a league. Boysboysboys! Is he going to play for our team? You know who Im talking about! To show you, however, that not all of the text messages are from my friends who would like more to see boys playing than actually see how they play, heres something from Tito Jun, one of the sports officials of the community: Please help your brothers in arranging the schedule of games and the entire preparation for the league. Encourage your other friends to help too. It would be a lot of fun, thanks and a beautiful morning! They were all excited about it and its not making time any slower especially for me whos nervous about the event. Soon it would be summer time and the games would begin. I dont exactly know why I want to avoid Geoff as much as possible. That Saturday morning was supposed to be the start of the preparations for the league. My brothers tasked me to go to the other villages within the subdivision to ask about their teams thatd be joining. I immediately thought and kind of worried how Id get to the other villages and ask for a list of players. Then I remembered Maxine wont be able to come with me because she has an appointment with her dentist. I was meant to be alone, I thought. The hall smelled of fresh bread, making me tread the staircase faster. I greeted Manang Lilette and asked if both my brothers were still there. Yes, theyre in the dining area, she told me. I smiled as thanks and went to the dining room. Good morning! I greeted happily. Kuya Anthony was chewing something and motioned for me to sit down. My family always wondered what power bread holds on me because I do not put anything on it when I eat it, except of course when theres liver spread. They were talking about how one of Dads clients called and asked if he could meet with Daddy in France because he needed to ask something about latest styles. A pretty stupid request because the trip to France is nearly as long as a meeting held here in Manila with Kuya Anthony. Whoever he was, he has to trust my brother because he can surely meet whatever his demands are. Then the conversation turned to the league. What time are you going to Anne Oak? Kuya Angelo asked me. Probably after lunch, I have to make some calls for our volleyball team in school this morning, I answered. Anne Oak is a village within this subdivision where the tough competitors of our village team live. Just thinking about how I managed to get rid of their volleyball players last summer from the champion spot, I cant imagine being at ease there, not to mention Id be arriving alone. After breakfast, I helped fix the living area; Kuya Anthony was in the garden with his laptop. Kuya Angelo was trying to shoot some hoops near the garage. I have been really thinking of the perfect way to speak to the other team coaches Id be talking to later. When Id finish arranging the center piece back to its rightful place, I sat down and turned the television on. All sorts of birds were flying at all directions in Discovery Channel. I was hoping I could watch an episode of the Most Extreme but I remembered it aired on Sundays only. After changing from channel to channel, I got interested in one show, Creepy Creature. I watch this whenever I have the time and today is the first time in months I have seen this. Maybe its really been a long time since I have had real free timeyeah, like that was so last summer. All through the morning I watched cartoons on TV and occasionally tuned to MTV. Then I remembered the calls I had to make before lunch time. First, I called Marie, one of my favorite teammates. Hello, she greeted, Hey Marie! I greeted back. Oh, Addy, whats up? she asked. I just called to tell you that we have a few stuff to settle with the Alumni Association for the sponsorship. We

have to settle them before summer ends, I said with a sigh, remembering summer gives me mixed emotions. Nevertheless, we chatted for some twenty minutes, mostly about updates of her blooming friendship with one of the guys in school. When I put the phone down, Kuya Anthony was back in the living room, reaching for the remote control. Stop! I called to him. He looked at me with a puzzled look. After my fourth call, that things going back to my hands, I told him, this is my second call. He just chuckled and sat lazily on the sofa, changing the channel. We had lunch and then I had to go to Anne Oak. I put on my usual jeans and a green shirt my brothers gave me as a Valentines gift last year. Going out of the house, I told them I was leaving and Kuya Angelo reminded me to bring an umbrella and that both of them would be looking for referees and judges for the league. As I was walking towards the village entrance, I opened the folder I was carrying that contained the papers the managers and coaches would have to read and sign. Unexpectedly, the papers flew out and I almost jumped while I turned to catch some of them still on air. Also unexpected: Geoff was at once to the rescue. He was picking up those that flew far away while I chased those around me. Here, he said, handing me the papers. Thanks Geoff, I told him, looking at his awesome half smile. Where are you going anyway? he asked me. Im going to visit the coaches of other villages, I answered. Alone? he asked, kind of surprised. I nodded, at the back of my mind, a voice was telling me I should ask if he wasnt busy and if he could come with me. Of course I didnt give in to that voice. By the way, what are you doing here? I asked Geoff, I was just with the other team members, we decided on the jersey design, he told me. For all I know, he lived in another subdivision a jeepney ride away from ours. Do you mind if I come with you? From what Ive heard, the players from Anne Oak dont like you very much, Geoff said, chuckling. Yeah, I agreed, they think Im such an excitement spoiler, as in they were expecting very much to win. Did others tell you they prepared a party for their supposed victory? I laughed when I said all of this. Unfortunately, youre part of the opposing team, he said and smiled his wonderful smile again. I started to walk, thinking hed do the same but he didnt and when I looked back at him he said, You didnt say I could go. Okay then, lets go. Inside Anne Oak, the people inside a small store were looking at us. I didnt bother to look back at them because Geoff was telling me about some basketball rules. We arrived minutes later at the office inside the newly renovated hall. Excuse me, sir, is Mr. Derek Garcia here? I asked politely after a short woman let us in, never removing her eyes from Geoff. The guy who was standing in front of us was currently rummaging inside the drawer. Yep, hes here. May I know who the visitors are? he asked, not looking up. Addy Lopez, Im supposed to meet him for the basketball league in our village. Hes Geoff, I answered, pointing to Geoff even if I know the guy wont see because he was too busy to look up. Oh, the basketball league, he said, turning his back on us, now looking through the rack at the back, Hell be coming in a minute, he just printed out something. Okay, Geoff and I simultaneously said. I felt myself blush slightly so I turned my head away. A man emerged from the door beside the rack; he looked fit for a coach. There you are, Coach. They wanted to talk to you about the league, the busy guy said. And what do you think youre doing there? Mr. Garcia asked with one eyebrow raised. Oh, I was just looking for the large stapler; I told the boys you have something like it. I wanted to show them some proof, the busy guy answered, finally revealing his face. I thought he was undeniably cute, with his hair slightly longer than a high school boys should be. You boys, its beside the computer table inside. You didnt even entertain our guests, Renz. Hello there, Mr. Garcia said, looking at me, then Geoff. Addy, right? he asked again. Yes, Mr. Garcia, I am Addy, I answered. Please take your seats, he said when he noticed we were still standing by the door. Renz, on the other hand, was inside the other room already after some ten seconds of staring at us. I told Mr. Garcia about the registration fee and the few grounds for disqualification before the opening of the tournament. While I was speaking, I sensed his interest on Geoff. So after we talked, he asked Geoff questions about his basketball background, teams he had joined and his plans for his basketball career. Many times they laughed at their own jokes and I just kept silent because I didnt know much about their topic. When I felt that an hour had passed, I looked at Geoff and signaled it was time to go. But it seemed like Mr. Garcia wanted to talk more and Geoff was just as interested. So after a few more boring minutes, I pretended that my brother was calling me. Hello, kuya Angelo, I greeted on my pretense phone call, oh yeah okay well be there in fifteen minutes Bye! I paused momentarily so I

was like listening to the one on the other end. You have to go? Mr. Garcia asked me with regret in his voice. Yes, Mr. Garcia, thank you for your time. If you still want to talk, I said, looking at Geoff then Mr. Garcia, you could, I can go to Ruby Avenue alone. No, Ill come with you, he said, on his feet at once, Mr. Garcia, thank you very much for your time. Id like to play with your team one day. Sure, why not? Thanks for your time, too. Take care on your way, Mr. Garcia told us as he excitedly waved when we were getting out of the door. Ruby Avenue teams coach was waiting for us in his garden when we arrived. I noticed he was looking at me, I thought Angelo was sending his sister, he said. Sir, good afternoon, I am his sister, Addy, I told him, offering my hand for a handshake. Oh, sorry, I always thought their sister was more like them, boyish and really noisy, he said, smiling. I thought I heard Geoff chuckle but when I looked at him he was looking down on me flashing his half-smile. Again, I slightly blushed, making myself believe that it was caused by the coachs joke and not Geoffs reaction. May I have the registration list? said the coach. I handed him the papers and mentioned the registration fee. This coach, Mr. Tomas, was more time conscious than Mr. Garcia. You kids can go now; I know youre on to other places. You shouldnt stay out when its dark, he told us with concern. Thank you, sir. Well go now, Geoff answered. There are two sheets of paper left inside the folder. We have been to five villages now and I am sort of exhausted. But we have another village to visit, the last place. Are you okay? You look tired, Geoff stopped walking and just looked at me while waiting for my answer. Sure, Im just fine. Come on, lets walk faster, I told him. Honestly, I am tired and thirsty. Thanks to my regular volleyball training, my legs arent aching and the night wind is making me feel comfortable enough to walk. The way to the last village was to the left but Geoff walked straight and I called to him, Hey! Its this way. He looked around and said, Just stay there, Ill get you something to drink, then he jogged to the mini store. When he came back, he was carrying two bottles of Nestea, one lemon and one ice. He opened the Nestea Ice and gave it to me. I know you like Ice better than Lemon, he told me as he opened his own drink. I was surprised he remembered. Nevertheless, I thanked him and we started to walk quietly. The last village was a little smaller than I expected. We were still quiet when a security guard approached us. Good evening, maam, sir, he said. Geoff and I greeted him back. Where are you going? he asked and I told him, Were here for the basketball teams coach. We have here the papers that the coach has to sign. Geoff was completely quiet beside me. Oh, too bad the coach isnt here. However, I could leave those at his house to save you the time, the security guard. That would be so great, thank you! Thank you so much! I said to him. Its nothing, you kids should go now. Its getting darker and darker, he answered as I handed the papers to him. Geoff said, Thanks and thank you, sir. Take care. I wanted to laugh at him. I know he was just making an effort to be able to say something. He didnt want to be out of the conversation. Well, thanks to that security guard, one job less! I told Geoff as we walked out of the village. Yeah, you dont meet a nice guy like that everyday, Geoff said. I was about to mention to Geoff what I observed in him the whole day when three individuals started calling from the back, Hey! Hey, you two! STOP! I was about to turn back when Geoff kept me from doing so and he was the one who looked back. Evenin! Lets have a little chat, one of the guys said. Uh-oh, that voice is familiar. I felt my hearts beating go faster. I knew it. I knew from your shadow that its you! said the guy with a red cap. Huh? Geoff asked, confused. Oh, so your boyfriend doesnt know? Hello again, AA Lopez, the guy said as he moved closer. I was trying my best to recall his name. I have a bit of clue on his friends names but his, I really cant remember. Were kinda wasting our time here, Red, said his friend who wore a gray jacket. Yeah! There, I remember his name! Alfred Palmenco! His friends call him Red! Yes, and I remember exactly the root of his wrath. But then again, I didnt mind correcting him when he thought Geoff is my boyfriend. Hi, Alfred! How have you been? I asked casually. Well, not very good since you got us kicked out of the organization, he said while looking at me from head to toe. Oh, its not exactly my fault. You did something and you had to take responsibility for it. Too bad, your connections didnt really work, I spat the last sentence. He should know by now that Im not scared of his threats. Hey, man, were running a little late. We gotta go, said Geoff as he pulled me away. No, no one leaves until I say so, Red announced. Yeah, we ought to have a meet and greet all over again, added the guy in the jacket, Joe. No, seriously, we have to go, Geoff said, adding anger in his voice. Red

said no! yelled Bob, their other friend who was disturbing because he was just staring at me. Dont you yell at us! We have to leave, so well leave! Geoff was getting mad. Bob took a step back but that just made Red smile. AA Lopez has not yet gotten what she deserves. I promised you something before we parted ways months ago, didnt I? Red was moving closer and closer; I swear I could smell his breath. I also swear Im getting scared, he could do anything. God knows what hes fishing for inside his pocket. I remember what he promised me: a revenge I would never forget. He even said he didnt care if Im a girl, I ruined his social life and I deserve some beating. This, I pray, is not the night for it. Red gripped my arm and I had the immediate reflex to kick him but before I could do anything, Geoff pushed him away so hard. Dont you dare touch her, he said angrily. Oh yeah, what are you gonna do? Red asked as he pushed Geoff and tried to grab my arm again. I stepped back just in time but his friends were fast to pull me back. Geoff didnt wait a single second as he hit Red in the face. Red staggered few yards backward and Bob was fast on his feet to hit Geoff. Like a pro, Geoff ducked and when he regained his pose, he gave Bob a strong blow in the abs. I know Joe was also watching the scene. I gave him a hard kick and he loosened his grip. I slapped him with the back of my hand so hard that he yelled and cursed. Before any of the three could make a move, Geoff grabbed my hand and we both ran for our lives. We heard them yelling Come back here! and cursing us. It was like we were in an action movie. Geoff looked for any place to hide. We ran faster and took a turn. Addy, get inside, Geoff told me as he helped me inside an old nipa hut. It was sort of elevated by four sturdy-looking stumps that stood at about three feet from the ground. I was very careful in leaning against the walls of the hut. Whoever thought of putting a nipa hut in an open area is a genius. Thanks, whoever you are! I said, panting. Geoff chuckled and took out his phone. Whispering, I only heard a few words. Geoff, you think theyre gone? I asked him. He shrugged. Quietly, he stepped to the opening of the hut and checked if the three losers were still around. Addy, he whispered to me. Even though it was uncalled for, I held his hand. Geoff looked at me and I just bit my lip, Its okay, he said. We walked quietly out of the hut, along the street and fast to the area where there were many people. Geoff, lets go, I told him. I watched him staring at the sky while we were walking briskly together. Yeah, lets, I called your brothers already. Kuya Anthony said theyd be coming to pick us up, he said this and I couldnt imagine him actually this cool with my brothers. That just means Kuya Angelos just against the gossip. I simply nodded and we walked to the entrance. We were still holding hands. When we were in the part again where it was kind of dark, held his hand tighter and even gripped his arm with the other just in case one of the guys pulls me away. It seemed to have alarmed Geoff because he looked at me. I didnt bother to explain, though. Then we saw Kuya Angelo walking towards us, I immediately removed my hands and jogged to him. We were in the car already when Kuya Anthony asked us if we had all the papers signed. I said yes and sighed. Thanks Geoff, for accompanying our little sister, Kuya Angelo said sincerely, Those boys are terrible, dont you think? Geoff answered, Yes, they are. They were arguing with Addy. Really? What did they say? Kuya Anthony asked, alarmed. They said she didnt get yet what she deserved for getting them kicked out of the org, Geoff told them, remembering the irritation he felt at that moment. Sigh. Good thing you were there. Addy, I remember telling you that sticking your nose into their business last Christmas would give you big trouble, Kuya Anthony said. We dropped Geoff off in front of his house, big surprise; I thought Kuya Anthony would let him get home alone. Hes like, I dont know, part of the family? Procedure Number One: Prevent Topics from Being Him They still cant get over what happened to us a while ago. Actually, they always say they cant thank Geoff enough. But they kept reminding themselves too not to make a huge deal out of it or theyll slip when they talk to our parents. Good thing Mom called from France that night before we had dinner. She talked to each of us and my brothers were so careful in detailing the days events. I never talked about it so I was confident I

wouldnt slip a word. No one did, actually. So dinner was the usual debate and talk show event of our evening. I suggested the topic about the coming Bb. Pilipinas competition. Their batch is definitely one of the most beautiful, I said. Yeah, but I hope their answers would be quite good, kuya Anthony said. Well, no doubt they all had gorgeous figures, Kuya Angelo told us. Kuya Anthony and I laughed at him. Kuya Anthony said, Because thats where you focus! Kuya Angelo grunted and continued eating. Manang Lilette brought out the dessert again. This time, she served an oversized egg pie, just the right thing to compensate my adventurous day. While we were eating, they asked me of my impressions on the coaches and team managers I visited. Some were nice and some were not conscious of the time. Like that Mr. Garcia from Ann Oak, I told them. Oh yeah, Geoff mentioned that guy seemed to show a lot of interest on his basketball career. I think he wants him on his team, Kuya Anthony said, emphasizing with a wave of his fork. Well too bad for him, Geoff wont leave our team, Kuya Angelo glanced at me with a teasing smile and I rolled my eyes on him. He just chuckled. I kept silent to avoid talking about Geoff. Talking about him is not right for me. Avoiding this is the only way to prevent myself from developing whatever I feelbe it anger, irritation, or happiness. The dinner ended with their conversation on guy stuffbasketball, possible officiating flaws, ideal referees and team members. Procedure Number Two: At Least Act Normal When Hes There This morning happened to be the last day of this school year. I didnt bring anything but extra clothes, rags (for clearance in some subject), extra money (for clearance again) and the notebooks I need to pass today. Before I called for the driver to bring me to the van terminal, I checked my to-do list. It says there today is the last day of preparation for the awaited league. Today was going to be my first meeting with my team, as a real manager would say. Bad thing to have read, I went to school a little anxious. I reached school at 6:50 a.m., a bit earlier than I expected. Thanks to our very tactful driver. There were all sorts of expression on my fellow students faces. Some wore the look of anticipation for a pre-vacay gimmick, others sad for the leaving seniors and future reshuffle of classmates, and others anxious for the hard-to-earn clearance. I am really sad because I loved the class I belonged to this school year. I would definitely miss my classmates and the hours we spent playing like little children, laughing out loud, getting scolded because of our noise and the memorable stories weve shared. But this is life, all has to change. While we were helping each other for the clearance (as in writing notes on each others notebooks) I occasionally sent group messages describing how I am looking forward to watch the basketball games and how hard getting our clearance signed. Of course I removed Geoff from my list. But as it always happens, I am shocked by the number of people who react to my group messages. One of them is Grace, a friend from the village. She asked if it was true I was going to meet with the team later, I replied yes and why she asked. She said in her usual artsy texting style that her group would love to sing at the opening which will be the day after tomorrow. I said everyone would love that so, yes, it would be appreciated and listed already on the program. She thanked me and asked of the team members. I said I didnt know exactly all of them but I could name a few. As expected, she did ask me to name them. Heres how my text message appeared: Louie, my brothers asked him until he agreed. Julius, he was enticed when he learned there were many other teams coming. Dave, hes Netties cousin. Mark, Jay, Patrick, Mico, and Geoffhes on our team. Grace immediately replied, Ooooh.soooo many hotties in the court as expected.haha.ill see them all! I almost laughed out loud but I prevented myself so I could hide my actual anxiousness about meeting the team a few hours from now. When we finished doing the notes and running around the campus to get the clearance signed, we were all so relieved we almost cried. The day was indeed tiring but really fulfilling at the end. As we were all saying bye to each other, a phone call was making my phone vibrate madly. It was Mico, why the hell is he calling me at thisoh! Its just 15 minutes before the meeting. Even though I

didnt want to, I had to say goodbye to my classmates and the seniors we have learned to like so much. They asked why I was going all too early, but my answer was just to answer my phone and roll my eyes. Yes? I asked, a little irate. Hey, its me Geoff, the voice on the other line said. Oh, hey, Im sorry. Ill be a little late, I told him, my nerves jumping out of place at the sound of his voice. Aw. But okay, Ill tell them. Are you still in school? He asked me, I could hear the other guys teasing him. Uh-huh. Oh. Im sorry, they were bughey! That hurts!sorry, they wanted me so badly to call you. He said apologetically, whispering funny names to the other boys. Its okay; I have to go, sorry. Bye, Addy. Bye Addy! he said with some voices coming from behind him. Bye, Geoff, see you all later! I said before finally putting the phone down and facing my classmates who had teasing looks on their faces. You have to go because Geoff is waiting for you, Elmer teased. I just rolled my eyes and said to all of them, Im going to be the team manager so I was asked to meet with them this afternoonthem and not only with Geoff. They all laughed and teased me about being defensive. No, I am not defensive! I argued with them but I knew there was no way I could win so I just let it all pass and left them reluctantly. We were entering the village premises 30 minutes past the original time of the meeting. I fixed my hair a bit and put on some cologne and powder. A few meters away from the court, I left my bag inside and ran out of the car to the group of boys laughing together near the committee area. Hi! I greeted all of them, making sure I do not look at Geoff and if I do, make it seem so common and un-special. Hello, they greeted me back. Im so sorry Im late but I swear Ill be early next time, I added. Nah! Its okay, really, Mico said. Yeah, its really fine with us. At least we had some time to play basketball, Louie added. This is the first time Im going to see you play basketball again after you became a soccer player, I told Louie. He just smiled and put one arm around me. I felt a little red because, honestly, Louie is one of the cutest guys I know. Too bad, I dont like him much. You know, Im sort ofshowing that I can do this, not just soccer he was rubbing my arm, I knew what he meant. Right, Louies showing off to Maxiiiiine! Julius teased, prolonging my besties name. We all laughed while Louie chased Julius. Louie is a fast runner but when he caught Juliuss shirt, Julius took it off and ran again, topless. I suddenly saw a hand cover my eyes and a deep chuckle. Geoff. Its bad for your eyes, he teased. Whatever, I told him slowly removing his handbad move, I felt my face get so hot when I touched his hand. The meeting went on as planned, even though the boys often interrupted the meeting with teasing and laughter. Procedure Number Three: Whatever Happens, Keep Calm The day of the opening came. Many people were in the court and the sound system which Louies mom sponsored was blasting with really cool music. Everything was in place, every team had their own banners and muses, the referees were all ready and the people were all very excited. Please all welcome residents and guests, the teams we are going to scream for this Summer Basketball League 2009! Tito Jun was the emcee for today. Cheers and applause could be heard from every corner of the court. I couldnt help but smile at the anticipation and excitement we all felt. Then each team, together with their muses were asked to do some sort of promenade as their team is introduced. Our team was called last. Out of nowhere, there was Lizzie, the girl I really didnt like, squealing in her small, irritating voice. Go Geoff! Wooh! I wanted to step up and tell her to keep quiet but it was shameful. I got to keep calm. But what really caught my attention while I was chanting my mantra, creating a more caring and compassionate world (which I read from a very remarkable book

called Teen Heaven) was when Geoff did a mock salute and smiled at her. Ughh! I wanted to shout at him and say, Hey! Youre supposed to intimidate the other teams not flirt with Lizzie! Well, that was if I couldnt keep calm. Thanks a lot I could or there wouldve been one hell of a cat fight here. Later, when they got back to our bench, the team was teasing Geoff because Lizzie kept staring at him. Geoff, looks like you got a fan here on the first night! Louie said, rubbing his head. Geoff just made a hissing sound and looked at Lizzies direction, and then the boys were faking squeals. I just secretly sighed but unfortunately, Maxine saw me. Girl, its okay, she whispered, Are you sure thats why I sighed? I asked her while I laid my head on her shoulder. Of course, hes not so sure right now, I think. Not that Lizzies actually comparable to you, she answered. I just sighed again. If thats the case, then there really must be something between Geoff and Lizzie. But is it something like whats going on between us? I mean, theres actually a close friendship between us, but is it less than theirs? Im so sure flirting isnt included in our relationship whatsoever. Well, whatever, if hes confused, Ill help him choose. Its about time to find someone else on whom Id spend my time, thoughts and much more. Procedure Number Four: Accept Challenges, Whatever They May Be Waking up this morning was my cue to start my search. But Im not really going to search, just going to wait and watch out for the signs. Speaking of watch out, its been three nights since the opening and tonight, at 6:30 pm, our team will have their first game. I definitely have to watch their practice at 4 pm. I was still reading some magazine inside my parents room when my phone sprang to life with the hit of Beyonce as my alarm tone. It was 4 pm. I jumped off the bed and pulled the sheet to make it flat. After doing my hair into a ponytail, I ran out of the gate with my wallet and phone. Hi! I greeted my friends when I arrived at the basketball court. Hey! they called back, walking to my direction. I noticed they were only six. Where are the others? I asked them. Mico just bought gums, Jay, Mig and Dave arent here yet but theyre coming and Geoffs over there, Louie answered, pointing to the bench across us. Lizzie was sitting with crossed legs fiddling with Geoffs thick, black lanyard. When she saw me, she picked his hanging cellphone and removed it from the lanyard. I smiled at her slowly and watched her face express shock and irritation. Julius called Geoff so we could start the practice. He looked at us and waved, I smiled back. He jogged to where we were and asked if we were going to start already. Yeah, we are. I could see the other four coming, I told all of them. When the other four arrived, I took out a list of exercises the players must do during the practice. It contained routines I barely knew or understood but they seemed to know it all. Besides, my brothers are the coaches, Im just manager. It was past 5 pm when they finished. I tried shooting some hoops with Mico but he said I still needed some tutoring. When I glanced back at the bench Lizzie was sitting on an hour ago, she wasnt there anymore, neither was Geoff with the other team members. Julius was asking me if he could go home, I simply nodded and reminded him to be back on time for the game. Just as we were going home, we saw Geoff coming our way. Faster, dude. Well wait for you here, Jay said leaning on a lamp post. What a bother, I muttered to myself. He came back running. The boys were then making such a big fuss on whos fastest in running. I was just joking when I said, Whoever that is, he has to beat me. Im such a fast runner! I was laughing but suddenly they all had smiles on their faces. Okay, we concede, Louie is the fastest around here. If you beat him, we promise to treat you on chips and soda later after the game, but if you lose, you have to do the single thing well ask you to, Ian told me. I looked at them and said, Okay, deal. Whatever that is, I think I can do it. I feel drunk. Our starting mark was the lamp post Jay was leaning on, the finish line would be the hump about twenty meters away. Ready, set, go! they yelled in unison.

I was running as fast as I could and I could see Louie was a little behind. Still, I wasnt too confident about it. I was just five meters away when Louie suddenly sped up and reached the finish line ahead of me. Simple, very simple, Mig started, I was asked by Tito Jun to assign someone to entertain our so called guest of honor for the whole league tonight. You just have to do your best not to get him bored, and make him want to watch every game this season. Thats quite easy for Addy, shes friendly, Dave reminded him. Why not get to know him very much? The deal is he has to get your number before you leave or youll have to buy each of us two bottles of water tonight, Geoff suggested. The boys agreed at once and patted Geoff on the shoulder for his great idea. Okay, I think I could do that. But honestly, what if hes as old as my brother or even Tito Juns contemporary? Well, a deal is a deal. Whoever he is, he has to be your friend! they said. We walked home chatting, at the back of my mind; I was praying that someone was friendly. I cant treat these boys tonight, Im saving! At dinner, I ate alone because my brothers were not yet home. But surely theyll arrive to coach during the game. I kept thinking what to say to whoever he was going to be. There was this silly nervous feeling inside I couldnt stop. I couldnt stop it until it was time to go to the game.

Procedure Number Five: Get to Know Some People I wore something that would make whoever-he-is think Im friendly. I spotted Mig a few meters away walking to the basketball court with his rubber shoes in one hand and a water jug in the other. Mig! I called, waving my hand up high. He stopped walking and waved back. I jogged to him and nudged his side, I see youre ready for my victory, I teased, looking at his water jug. Not really, Im gonna pour this on myself after OUR double victory, he said and winked at me. I just laughed it off and we walked together talking about their opponent, Ann Oak Team. The moment I stepped inside the gates of the court, I spotted Tito Jun at the committee area. I walked my way to him and waved at some of my friends who came to watch. There you are, Addy. Im so glad you agreed to help us out, Tito Jun told me. Its okay, anyway, where is the guest po? I asked politely, secretly wringing my fingers. Hes at Marlas, you want to go now and see him? I simply nodded. Tita Marla Vidas house was like the receiving area of our village. She owns a really fabulous house and it has been featured thrice in different magazines. I wonder when they would have it rented for a movie or a television series. So, as Tito Jun and I walked there, we talked about my school, study habits (though I have none), how I survived three years of studying therenone about the guest. Jun! Oh, youre with Addy! Come in, come in, Tita Marla welcomed us into her house. Hes a wonderful guy, speaks mostly English but never runs out of stories. Youd have a great time with him, Addy, Tita Marla whispered to me as we entered her sala. There, sitting on the couch, clad in a plain red polo and acid-washed jeans was the model from a famous TV ad. He has gorgeous eyes, nose, lipshe was stunning! He wasnt so fair but his skin looked so fresh, as in like he just got out of the shower. Hello po. He stood and shook hands with Tito Jun, I didnt even feel him coming to us. Then he said, Hi, looking at me and offering his hand. Hi there, I said, I felt my voice shaking, then shook hands with him too. The mere clasp was electrifying. I made sure I could still let go of his hand. Kyle, this is Addy. Addy, meet Kyle. Tita Marlas voice was like a booming announcement from a speaker. Why dont you two stay here first while we go check on something? Tito Jun suggested but before we could answer, theyve already gone. Its a nice place you got here, he said. Gee, thanks. Ive lived here all my life, I answered. He had such handsome voice. By this time, I was feeling cool already. He had such easygoing aura and I didnt feel that intimidated around him. All your life? Thats cool. Do you always have leagues like this? Kyle seemed to be interested.

Yup, but this year they decided not to hold a volleyball league, I remembered our past summers with me playing with the champion team. Oh, you play volleyball? Its a great sport for anyone, not too tiring like basketball. Anyway, why didnt they? They said the focus should be on boys since theyre the ones who tend to end up on the rebel side most of the time. Theyre sort of right, but we should all know everythings a matter of choice for everyone. And Im speaking in general, not just because Im defending us guys Kyle told me. He wasnt like other models Ive met or heard of, he thinks and hes intelligent. You know, you have a lot in mind, I told him. He was piquing my interest. Thanks, its not every day I could let them out as much as I want to. Kyle isnt like the other models who, people say, fiddle with their cellphones like their forever depended on these gadgets. Well, why not? I asked him. Work then school, and in both places I have limited time to give way to the other. Poor guy, I thought, he who has a lot to say is hindered by things he wont be doing for eternity. Well, at least your friends could listen to you. Please dont think Im bragging, but most of my friends are also models and stuff, not all of them talk about topics I like, and the others, well, they tend to just stare at me and forget to listen. I laughed at this. Who wouldnt stare at him, anyway? Oh well, he sure has a cute worldfilled with admirers and some buddies who only know the cool stuff. Hey, I know its quite funny but really, its my life. I was still laughing, I believe you, its just that if you want to let your thoughts out, you could always go out and explore the real world. The world of non-models, your admirers and regular people. This time, he was the one who laughed and I asked him what was funny. Your phones vibrating, cant you feel it? I can feel it from here. I blushed when I realized that it really was and the couch was conducting the feeling. It was Tito Jun calling, he said they were at the court already we should just follow. Is it time to go? Kyle asked me, I bet he was excited to watch the game. Yes. He ushered me to the door and closed it behind us. The maid opened the gate for us. We walked to the basketball court talking of things I like and his sports, soccer and basketball. He was so fun to be with. Hypothesis Number Two: If I Continue This Attitude, I Would Fall At Once Tito Jun was smiling at us even before we entered; Kuya Anthony was announcing the end of the first game. When he saw us he said on the microphone, And I think I know the guest of honor already, is he that model from the TV commercial? Yes, he is! (Tito Jun whispered the name to him) Please all welcome Kyle Santos, with that good-looking teenager who looks just like me. Peoples heads turned to us and others started whispering. There was a loud applause from the audience. Kyle, that ones my brother, Kuya Anthony, and the younger one beside him is Kuya Angelo. I told him, pointing out my brothers. Kuya Angelo waved at us to go to the committee area. Hi, good evening po. Im sorry I wasnt able to come on the opening day. But I believe Ill want to watch every game this season with my new friend Addy. Im looking forward to great games. He ended with that killer-smile. My team was hooting and I even saw Julius and Louie pushing Geoff out of his seat. Kyle spoke with the other people while I went to our bench to wish them luck. Have a great game. Just have fun, okay? But also focus, focus, focus. They all nodded but I knew they wanted to say something. Have a great date, too, Miss Manager. (They laughed) I didnt know itd be him, but you have to thank me for asking you. Mig was teasing me again. Whatever, but you know hes cool and hes not conceited. Hes actually fun to talk to. It was somehow wrong for me to say that because I saw their faces light up and they started cheering again. I asked them to keep quiet, it was embarrassing. Geoff was also teasing me but he was punching me lightly too. Ouch. I said and punched him too, harder. I thought

he would stop at that but he hit me back and we were hitting each other until Julius spoke, Uh-oh, look whos coming. I turned and saw Kyle walking towards us. I felt like jumping. Hi guys, he said coolly. Hi, whats up? Im Julius, this is Louie, Mico, Mig, Patrick, Mark, Jay, Dave and Before he could introduce Geoff, Hi, Im Geoff. Kyle, right? Kyle nodded. The digital clock sounded and got everyones attention for the start of the second game. I patted everyones back and wished them luck. Kyle said good luck too. He sat beside me and we watched the game together. The first half of the game got me on my feet. The moment the referee whistled for the jump ball, I saw Geoff immediately become the tiger he was in the hard court. Their play was good and I was totally excited as I cheered for the whole team. Unexpectedly, Kyle whispered to me that his driver was picking him up already. Im really sorry; I have to go because we still have a family event to attend tomorrow morning. I promise Ill come to the next game, he told me apologetically. Its okay, you have a good night. Be careful, too. Ill see you tomorrow. I didnt want him to go yet but he had to so I let him. His driver, Manong Brad, had talked to Tito Jun and Kuya Angelo already. I thought he was leaving already, then he got inside the court again and said, Addy, I cant go home without your whole name and cellphone number. His killer-smile always gets me. Oh, really? Then I think I should just give it to you. I saved both info on his Blackberry. He was on his way out again when he came back and did that one thing that had me drugged the whole night, he kissed me on the forehead. I think a lot of people saw it because they started cheering Ayieeee as Kyle alighted on his black Ford Everest. Someone patted me on the shoulder, I thought Kyle had changed his mind about leaving and came back. But I saw Bob. I was stunned and took a half step backward. Sorry, this area is only for the team. You can go and sit over there, I told him, pointing to the other side of the court. He wouldnt go away so I shrugged and turned my back on him. To my surprise, he stood beside me and started singing. I glanced at him awkwardly and focused on the game again. Go Geoff! I heard the most annoying voice on the face of the earth Lizzies. I dont know what happened but after that, I felt something brushing my hair and it was the guy, smoothing my hair! I gasped and covered my mouth. My brothers who were in the other side of the court, occasionally yelling tactics, immediately shouted something like, Get off! but it was overpowered by the cheers and shouts of the crowd. Geoff heard what they said and did the substitution hand signal. The committee let Jay (who was standing below the committee area) enter the game and Geoff ran to me quickly. What do you think youre doing? Geoff sternly asked the guy. Bob looked at him from head to toe, and said, Im just being friendly. I want to get to know her even more, sort of remove the bad blood ever since she got us He was obviously sarcastic but Geoff wouldnt let him speak like that. Youre too touchy. Back off! And I mean now! Geoff was just mad and I prayed the guy would just walk away. My brothers were walking towards us already when Bob rolled up his sleeves and walked away. Whew! I touched my forehead and felt cold beads of sweat. I breathed deeply and rested my head in one hand, the other gripping Geoffs jersey. Are you alright, Addy? He asked me. Yes, Im alright. Thank you, thank you so much. I wasnt expecting you to do that. I mean, I could have you couldve Geoff stopped me and told me, I couldve what? Waited for him to pull you out of here? And you could have done what? Pushed him away with your bare hands versus his knuckles? No way Im gonna let that happen. From that, I could have announced to the world that next to my Dad and brothers, he was my hero. I could have hugged him but all I did was stare into his beautiful eyes and whisper, Thank you so much. He looked at me, too, smiled and tucked my hair behind my ear. I took a step back and he was called in to play because Mico had to take a seat after he fell on his ass. During the second half, the game was intense already. I was sitting comfortably on the bench chewing a gum Kuya Anthony gave me during the half-time break. The game ended with everyone on their feet. It was so exciting. We won with a five-point lead, 86-81. I congratulated everyone but Geoff because he was still signing something over at the committees table. This sure was a night, I thought to myself as I continued picking up bottles around. Procedure Number Six: Reflect on Everything Always

As I walked to our bench, I stopped at my tracks when I saw Lizzie speaking to the team. She was having so much fun flipping her hair at them and touching their arms. What the hell, shes a one of a kind flirt! I looked around for my brothers and saw them putting the balls inside a sack. I ran to them, when I reached them, I kissed them both in the lips, Kuya Anthony first. Thank you for being so concerned about me, I told them. What did you think we were going to do? If he didnt leave before we reached you, he would be flying home at that very second, Kuya Anthony said. Geoff came to the rescue again, Kuya Angelo said as he finished tying the sack with a rope. Ill carry that for you, I told him. I held it like Santa did with his sack. It was sort of heavy but I didnt mind. We decided to tell the boys we were going home now. As we neared them, Lizzie got even enthusiastic about talking to them, especially to Geoff. And I said like, Hey! That seat is mine, Im a number one fan here so go away so I could have a great view, her friends Dana and Isha giggled with her like dwarfs. When she saw me, she came closer to them and talked louder. I saw Louie looking at me and waiting for my first move but I stayed calm. I waited for all of them to feel I was there. When everyone had already greeted my brothers, I mouthed a simple, I won and smiled. Mig was first to react, he asked how but I told myself I wouldnt answer until we were heading home already. Geoff stared at me blankly. I just kept smiling. Lizzie groaned and said, Well be heading home now, guys! They did their choreographed turn and hair flipping. I just rolled my eyes at them. We were already some meters from the court when Louie nudged me and asked for the details. He just asked for it before he left, I answered casually. Proof. Julius demanded. Dont you believe me? I did it. Honest. Geoff was speaking to my brothers when my cell phone rang. Hello, whos this? I asked after picking up. Its Kyle, are you in bed already? his voice was more attractive on the phone. I stuck my tongue out at them and answered casually, Hi, not yet, Im walking home with them. How about you, Kyle? They were looking at me like I just won a gold medal and no one came second to my performance. We talked for a few minutes. We passed Jays house first, we said good night and he did the same with a special remark for me, Nice one, Addz. They laughed at this though my brothers didnt actually get it. Everyone on the team was home already except for Geoff. He was sitting at our living room, waiting for his older cousin to pick him up. I, on the other hand, had just brushed my teeth and was sitting right across him, changing channels. So you really did it? he asked me. I almost jumped off when he suddenly spoke. Yes, but actually I didnt think of it as a deal when Kyle was there. He was just great to be around, I told him, not taking my eyes away from the television. I didnt know youd actually win, you know, he was also watching the music video of 21 Guns by Greenday. You should have known I am one of the friendliest people, and I really didnt befriend him for the sake of our dare. Our chat ended that way until I heard the doorbell ring. I was fast on my feet and opened the door. Its Kuya Joey, I told him. Kuya Angelo and Kuya Anthony came down to see Geoff and say bye. Bye, Geoff. Good night! we said, each with different tones. I followed him to the gate so I could close it after him. He walked briskly and I just reached the gate as he was about to get on the car. Geoff thanks a lot. He tilted his head a little and mouthed something I didnt understand. I thought maybe he just smiled but I knew he didnt just smile he said something. Nevertheless, I said bye to both Kuya Joey and him. I didnt leave the gate until they were out of sight. When I was in bed already, I kept thinking of all the things that happened before and after the game. What did he say before getting in the car? Was it something like he didnt approve of what I did because there was something that I said that wasnt nice at all a while ago? I was so confused. How many times have I allotted an evening to think of all the things Ive done in a day? I actually dont have time to recount them but tonight is definitely one example. After having known Kyle, I thought I have finally found someone to keep me from falling for Geoff. But now, as I compare them, I find differences that make my head spin even faster. Kyle is a model and Geoff was asked to be one but he refused, but they differ by some points only. They both have the envious athletic builds but I still dont know whos better in their own sport (since Kyle is more into swimming). I remember the times I talked to Geoff and my chat with Kyle a while ago. With Geoff, I feel relaxed and sometimes irritated because he always gets the better of me. With Kyle, I was having fun too and he makes me realize not all people like him think alike. Kyle and I got to know each other a lot within a short time. Geoff, however, spoke and shared naturally. We both waited

for the days to pass us by with just the two of us filling each others days. I believe there so much more I could learn about Kyle, Id like to get to know him more. Probably, Id give us a chance to get closerhe might be okay for me but me being okay for him is yet another question. Anyway, Geoff is giving Lizzie just that so theyd become close friends. Not that I mind much but I hope I hope well, what do I hope would happen? This is one hell of a thinking night. Its two a.m., I have to go to sleep before my mind gets excited again and keep my body up for another three hours by thinking. Tomorrow, I pray Id be focusing on something else other than comparing Geoff and Kyle. Procedure Number Seven: Think of Something Else It has been two days since Kyle first called me. With all honesty, I wasnt so interested in keeping an exciting connection to him. So I decided to walk alone along the subdivision, waiting what would happen to me today. I was enjoying the windy condition as I lazily walked. The children in one of the streets were too busy playing dodge ball to notice two cats running off with flowers between their teeth. I smiled at the sight. When I approached the corner to my least favorite street, I saw the unwanted scene. Geoff was sitting on the plant box in front of Ishas house. Standing across him was Lizzie in her usual headband and shrill exaggerated voice. She was, as usual, telling stories of how great other people think of her, how boys find her so adorable and stuff meaning shes just so great. People might think I hate her because of what her stories say. I am irritated but for other reasons and experiences. Let me enumerate them: 1. When we were in first grade, I was well liked by teachers and students even from other batches. Its not that I am proud or something, but maybe it was just because I always had a smile for everyone. I was also at the top of the class that time, joined competitions and represented our school in interschool activities. One time, it was announced that a girl from each class was to be chosen to be a part of the Girl Leaders Society. This society was famous all over the country because of the seminars and conventions it was invited to. Both of us were members and during one of our camps in Tagaytay, we became competitors in an obstacle course. It so happened that the two of us were the last contestants in the race. I was leading until she screamed and everyone rushed to her. I also stopped to check on her. Suddenly, as I was looking down at her, I saw her looking at me from top to toe and reverse. She wasnt hurt! The game was ended and the committee declared everyone winner because of the casualty experienced by a very enthusiastic player. I cannot explain what I felt at that moment. 2. During fifth grade, I am proud to say that I was the star player of the volleyball team. At one of our practices, the class of our coach who was also a physical education teacher was allowed to watch. Unfortunately, Lizzie was part of that class. I didnt care about that. I still played my best and gave what was expected of me. Coach gave us a 15-minute break. I immediately went to our bench to get my water bottle. I sat alone since my teammates were in the washroom. I fished inside my bag for the single face towel that I brought. I realized that if I lose it, I would stay sweaty and un-fresh all day. Soon after, our coach called us back. After like an hour or so, the practice ended. I was going to my Dads office that afternoon. I went back to our bench and drank again. I was laughing with my teammates and we were talking about just how hot we felt. I looked for the small towel and didnt find it. I looked around but still didnt see it. Just then, Marie told me to go see what Lizzie was doing. I saw hershe was wiping her shoes with MY towel. I felt myself go very red. Marie held me the moment I took a step forward. She knew I


could plunge into my anger pool and raise Lizzie by the neck. But I wouldnt go down to her levelnever. This is what I did: I walked to her with my water bottle in hand. Everyone was looking at us. Lizzie, I told her firmly, did you know that by getting my towel, you tell people just how much you idolize me? You are elated that you got hold of my property now youre wiping it on something you wear every day. Thanks for the appreciation! I grabbed my towel, poured water on it and wrung it near her shoes. I walked away with hot air continuously spurting out of my head. My teammates wore wide smiles and they were giving me handshakes. Last summer, my brothers and I were fond of buying barbeque from a vendor who lives in an apartment on the other street. Every night, we bought about five sticks each. I was personally a fan of the pork and chicken intestines. Anyway, I could still remember those consecutive nights when every time we went to that stall, some guys would actually go near the stall and stand by there the moment we arrive. I am very unassuming, but at these times, I cant help but wonder I was the reason they were doing that. Yet I just wished theyd stop doing it because my brothers were not seeing its bright side. For every time they were there, my brothers cant eat to their desire and they kept on getting nearer and nearer. Imagine my horror when one night, one of them called me by name, Addy. I looked back and saw him winking. Ugh, I thought to myself. Who was he? Then another dialed my number and when I answered, of course the caller was just beside Kuya Anthony. You know my sister? Kuya Anthony asked. Of course, her friend gave me her name, number and e-mail address, the tallest of them said. We wondered which of my dear friends did that monstrous deed. Kuya Angelo, who looked so fresh and cool that night, put one arm around me and said, Who gave you all those? Did that person also tell you about her boyfriend? he was eyeing them as if hed devour them wholly. The tall guy shook his head and simply gave a fake bow. They left one by one. I was able to breathe deeply after that. I immediately set on my way to find out who gave away all my info. That person definitely wanted to get me into trouble. I thought and thought until such time I had only one person in mind. This theory of mine was proven when I saw that person speaking to these boys. I guess everyone knows that the person is Lizzie. I wanted to grab her hair and kick her into a puddle. But I didnt do that. With a wide smile on my face, I approached the vendors of our evening stall and told them I was paying for 10 sticks of chicken feet. They were to pack this for Lizzie and tell her they prepared them especially for her because they knew they were Lizzies favorite. At that moment, I could already imagine the cursing expression on the devils face.

After all these, does anyone still wonder why I dont like her? As I passed through this horrible scene, I thought I saw Geoffs head shot up and almost stand up. I decided to walk on and about the whole village. As I was strolling, Mom called me on my phone. I was so happy. Mom, I said with so much excitement, how are you? I miss you so much! She giggled and said, Hello, deary! I miss you so much too, Anak. Im fine here. How are you? Fine, Mom. Im having a good time here with Kuya Tony and Kuya Angelo. Im so glad youre arriving on Friday. Thats what I called about, Nak. Our flight was rescheduled. We still have a few unfinished transactions here in Paris. Too bad you wont enjoy the 20% of our pasalubong. We are going to buy lots of chocolates in Belgium. Its so sad youre allergic to it. Anyway, what are your plans for this summer? Are they going well? Mom was so talkative on the phone. Mom, Im disappointed youre not coming home yet. Really. But I wish youd take care of yourselves there. I miss you so much. By the way, Id still be able to eat a few of your chocolates. I would love bookmarks and socks from Europe, Mom. This summer, Kuya made me manager of the junior

basketball team. I also met a commercial model and were sort of friends now. His names Kyle. Im really excited and Im gaining so many friends. I was trying to be as talkative but I just missed them so much. Dont be so mushy about our late flight! Enjoy your summer okay? I love you, Addy. Take care and say hi to your friends and even that Kyle guy for me. Mom was bidding me goodbye. I heard voices in the background, probably calling her for a meeting or dinner again. I said bye too then hung the phone. Now I am thinking of something other than Geoff, I said to myself. Procedure Number Eight: Say What You Need to Say Another game was to be held four nights after our first. In the afternoon, we practiced as hard as we could and laughed all the while. From that night Kyle first called me, we have been texting, calling, keeping connected thru Facebook and we even see each other at the local burger stall just outside our village. We have discovered each others favorite bands, subjects, color, and just that ordinary stuff. I wore a blue jacket with a butterfly print on the left chest. This night gave me some chills. Still eating a doughnut, I walked to the basketball court with my wallet and cellphone in the pockets. Tonight, I planned to do everything I want to with my social life. Kyle had invited me to stroll around with him after the game, he even asked for my brothers permission. Good thing they agreed. I saw Kyle already talking to some members of the other team. Even though I really wanted to talk to him, I knew there had to be some limit. I casually entered the gates and I heard someone from the committee table whisper in the mic, Here is one of our single ladies. It was probably Mark again, that young boy who loved to greet us loudly, calling Max and me single ladies. Before I even sat at our bench, I heard Mark say over the microphone, And to complete the night, dear friends, Addy Lopez, one of our SINGLE LADIES! People looked for that person he mentioned and I just stuck out my tongue at him. All of a sudden, he started pointing at me and telling others that I am Addy Lopez. I just bowed shyly and felt like punching Mark. In pairs, my team members started to arrive. As always, we joked about how people crowded when they had a game. You know, some guys just love to make themselves feel elated. Anyway, there I was, sitting with them until Lizzie entered the court with Geoff tailing her. They were giggling. Honestly, I was getting tired of watching and staring at Geoff then seeing him smile with Lizzie. I didnt want to feel like this because I thought it was hopeless. Lizzie stared at me for some moments but looked away immediately when Geoff said something to her. Oh really? I never thought of that! Lizzie said. Geoff just smiled. When I thought he was going to sit with us already, he went straight across to where Lizzies friends were sitting. Fine, I thought, I DONT CARE. Addy, Kyle said, Hey, nice jacket you got there. He sounded so cute and I just smiled at him. I know that whatever he did would just make me melt and I have to keep myself from always looking like I hit a pole when he touches me. He asked if we could walk around a bit before the game started. I said yes since there was still half an hour left. Addy, have you ever had a boyfriend? Kyle asked me. I was surprised by his question but since I didnt want to assume, I answered in the most casual way. No, never. We have been talking about his school and his life growing up in LA. So this question was quite unexpected. Whoa! Kidding aside? I dont believe you. Kyle stopped right in front of me. He looked like an angel with the night sky as his background. I told him it was true and its for several reasons that I have never had anyone as a boyfriend. Is it hard to please you? Kyle asked. No, it isnt. Its just that there are things I want to experience as a teenager before having a commitment. And, I believe in signs, you know. There are signs that will show me whether that guy is indeed for me or not, I answered. I imagined the two of us in a movie scene. What could be more perfect than a talk like this under the stars? And when you find out, youd say yes? I just nodded at his question. Just as we were about to walk farther from the shortcut to the court, I felt trickles of water on my head. SIGN NUMBER ONE (We must have moments under the rain). I just froze and waited for more water to fall on us. Can you feel it? I asked Kyle excitedly. Feel what? he asked. The drizzle! Can you? I wanted to hug him! Oh, yeah, yes I could. Do you like it? Kyle was smiling at me like we were

having our picture taken. Its the first sign! Oh my gosh! Its really the first sign! Right that second, I hugged him tightly. I knew he was looking around, watching out for any passer-by who might be secretly watching us. After some minutes of just laughing and singing bits of different songs, we walked back to the court. I received a text message from Mico that the game would start in a few minutes. I didnt realize weve gone out so long already. When I heard the digital game clock sound, I rushed and jogged to the court. My team was already on their feet, warming up for their 10-minute practice. I counted them. They were supposed to be fourteen tonight and I saw only twelve. On the other side of the court were Geoff and Patrick, still chatting with Lizzie and her friends. Patrick! I called firmly and withaccording to them was my signaturesuperiority. His head shot at my direction and I tilted my head, raised my brow, as if to say What are you waiting for, flirts? He nudged Geoff and ran to the team. Geoff, on the other hand, took his time in parting with Lizzie. I am definitely giving them a piece of my mind after the game. Kyle whispered for me to calm a bit and told them to give their best, held my hand for some time and sat on the bench. It was a close fight; I was on my feet the whole time. Kyle and I cheered and cheered all throughout the game. It ended in favor of our team; it had been a fair one. After much greetings, we all sat on the bench. Exhausted. Kyle went to the committee area. I remembered what happened just before the game, I automatically stood up. I thought I heard my legs scream of shock. Okay, congratulations, I told them without any emotion. They shot strange looks at me. Well, right, you won. Do you think thats enough to disregard my urges to make this a priority of yours the moment you enter the court? Were here to play the game, to have fun, and most of all to be responsible members of this team, I was speaking loudly for them to be shaken from their reverie. What are you pointing out? Julius asked seriously. Now I got them. I avoided looking at Geoff before I got to what I want to say in his face. Im talking about the simple and obvious fact that in this team, there might be some who instead of going here to play, come all the way here to chitchat with some people. I felt his eyes on me. What the hell, Im being professional here. He should know that hes supposed to focus when its game time. I think I know this, Geoff said, shifting in his seat. He now had his elbows on his thighs, head bowed. Gosh, hes so cute. NO! Thats not why Im here in front of them and besides, I shouldnt be interested in him because the first sign happened between Kyle and me. Okay, okay, focus, focus, focus Are you mad at me? he asked coolly. You? I asked as casually as I could, any reason? Well, for one, a while ago, I was with Lizzie and the 10-minute practice time has started. If thats what all this is about, Im sorry. Okay? He was looking at me; waiting for an answer which he probably thought was yes. But I refused to say yes and challenged his assumption. You knew it was time yet you didnt stop? What the heck is that? And, anyway, what makes you think its about you talking to her? I felt my blood boiling under my skin. If its not then whats your reason? Hmm? Thats the only thing I think you saw that looked like chitchat or something. He was slowly standing up now. Why do you always assume? And not only do you assume, you say out loud what you think I think. Its crazy that when I talk about something about the team, you suppose its about you! This time he was standing right in front of me. His height towered over me. Geoff almost looked down at me but I did not feel intimidated. Honestly, he was annoying me and had really gotten in my nerve! So you think I always assume? He asked quietly. Whatever made you think I suppose these topics are always about me without any basis? Addy, I dont know but if you cant stand my attitude these days, its not my fault. Sometimes you over-think. I really dont know whats getting into you but I feel like when you see me doing something, you talk later like its really big. Yet actually, its something we should discuss, the two of us. Dont drag the team to this. Is this about Liz Now he did it. Okay, so Im the one with the problem? What does that Lizzie have to do with all of this? Why do you keep dragging yourself into the middle of things when a lot of times you are not the middle of those things! You think its about you and that Lizzie?! Go ahead and imagine, because it is not. Im talking about the team here. Priority. Discipline. I was speaking louder now and I didnt care if others were

staring at us because really, he just pisses me off. Imagine my anger when he said that my problem was with him talking to Lizzie at the time of practice. Well, quite true but thats not the point. Its just not my point. Fine, Addy, fine. He said, turning his back on me and shaking his head. Everyone thought that was it, he sat down again. I felt his words echo in my head, everyone thought that was it. They thought I always blabber because it is quite obvious for everyone how Lizzie flirts with Geoff and that he is somehow reciprocating it? Great! Just when I thought I still had my guy friends on my side of reason. I looked at each one of them and I didnt see anyone flashing a sign that says, Hey Addy, we really didnt mean that or, Not all of us, though. NOT ONE. You all thought this was something personal I was making such a big fuss about? No denials. Okay. Breathe thrice. Take one step back. Now turn and walk to the gate. Dont listen to Julius calling you back, or Mico saying its okay. Forget about the whispering people still staring at me. I just had to get away from them. From him. I thought about walking home alone until Kyle caught up with me. What happened? I just saw you werent there anymore so I decided to look for you. Are you okay? Kyles face was a bit turned into a frown. He looked even more angelic when hes serious. I dont know what to think. I mean, I should not be that affected of what happened but Im just feeling so confused. Oh, its giving me a headache, I felt I had to sob so I turned my face away. Kyle slowly turned my face toward him and spoke softly, Whatever it is youre feeling right now, you could let it out. Ill stay as long as you need me tonight. Suddenly, a tear fell on my cheek. I dont know whether he understood exactly why I was crying but I didnt mind. I needed a shoulder to cry on. My cellphone had vibrated more than a dozen times since I went out of the basketball court. I didnt want to answer any call or text message from anyone. Why did it have to be this way? Why did he have to shove right in my face how important all of them think he is to me? Im not sure how to feel but I dont know whats making me hate Geoff even more tonight. Is it the fact that he knows that whenever he and Lizzie are together, I feel like my devil side wants to explode on them? Or is it the fact that they dont think Im being reasonable whenever I tell them of things they should keep in mind during the game? Or maybe, its that SIGN NUMBER ONE had happened with Kyle and Im still here, affected by that Geoffs reactions? I am so disappointed more in myself than them. Kyle, thank you so much for staying here for me. I really appreciate it, I told him as we sat out in the garden. It was past 1 am and my brothers were still in the court. Its no big deal, Im just glad youre kind of okay now. I know you didnt tell me everything you cried about tonight but I understand how painful it can be knowing your friends hid what they felt about you, Kyle and I had been holding hands for so long. Still, I want to thank you. Youre always welcome, Addy. I think its time for you to go, I was removing my hand lightly. Yeah, its kinda late. He held me by the shoulders and kissed me lightly on the cheek. Call your driver, Ill check on my brothers. He dialed his drivers number while I texted kuya Angelo. His only reply was: lets talk later, Adeng. Gonna sleep 2gether, all 3 of us. Is kyle there? I didnt send any reply anymore. A few minutes later, Manong Brad arrived and opened the car door for Kyle. Ill see you, Addy. Good night, Kyle muttered to me as I walked him to the gate. Good night, take care, I answered. Mang Brad called out to me, Miss Addy, good night ha! I waved at him and smiled. Kyle rolled down his window and I blew him a kiss. He pretended to catch it and gave me that killer-smile again. I know I should not be affected by how he feels for Lizzie because, what the heck, the first sign happened with Kyle. What more should I ask for? Right, the SIGN NUMBER TWO (He has to sing my favorite song, Longer, to me). Whatever he does with Lizzie, I wont feel anything anymore. One more thing, I think I have a problem with the team. I just have to talk to Maxine tomorrow, good thing shell be coming over. Besides, I know Louie would have told her by the time we meet. Good graces! What an evening again! Procedure Number Nine: Have a Best Friend within Hugging Distance

Last night, my brothers arrived about an hour after Kyle left. We didnt actually have a long talk about what happened. Kuya Anthony said, Its just like that with guys, you know. You wont really expect whats going on in our minds so just let it pass. I agree with him with the unexpected thing but Ill let it pass in my own way and in my own time. Seshie! Ten minutes, and Ill be there na. Is it really okay Ill be having lunch there? Maxine was obviously excited about staying at our house today. Her parents are going on a tour in Cebu. She didnt really want to go with them since going out at night was more likely her type of vacay. Maxx would surely bring her D500 today. Shes so good at photography her older cousin recommended her on a practice shoot in Tagaytay this April! Actually, Im even more excited that shes coming over. There are a lot of things I want to tell her and ask her about. I know Maxx is the kind of girl who loves to go to malls even on weekdays and stay on the phone for really long hours but at times like these, shes sure a good listener and adviser. I think thats the reason why were best of friends. Even though we differ in a lot of things, we understand each other so much. Shes so into fashion (she sometimes thinks shes a fashion icon for a number of people) while I just dress comfortably and simply. Shes more techie while its just enough for me to know how to operate a few gadgets. Maxine has a really loud personality and shes talkative just like me. At about 10 am, Maxine arrived. She was in pink shorts and a really cute gray shirt. She had her hair styled into a cute apple cut before summer vacation. She brought her spacious pink tote bag that contained her camera and other personal stuff (we both despise wearing make-up). Anyway, Maxx almost jumped out of the tricycle and hugged me. Seshie, oh my gosh! We havent seen each other for a long time. I missed you, her voice echoing in our garage. Seshie, we were just together about two weeks ago. Come, lets get inside, I opened the door for her. A few minutes later we were sitting on the floor listening to some Taylor Swift tracks. So, whats up with you? she asked as we flipped through the pages of a fashion magazine. For the first time, a lot! I mean, who would have expected that Id get to know someone like Kyle Santos?! I was trying hard to sound excited and cheerful instead of worried. Wrong move, Maxx knows me too well. Later about that cutie, hows Geoff? she sat upright and lowered the volume of the speakers. Louie didnt tell me much about your confrontation; he just said I should ask you. What really happened? I knew she wants some straight answers and so I told her just what happened. Then I remembered about the sign. Seshie, SIGN NUMBER ONE happened last night. Maxines eyes widened and her expression was unfathomable. Seriously? With whom? she was so excited it was contagious! With Kyle, we were walking when suddenly it drizzled. And we were just on that spot, enjoying! I couldnt help but blush whenever I remember that night. Maxine hugged me and congratulated me for it. Now we just have to wait for SIGN NUMBER TWO! We never imagined it would be with someone like Kyle! I sure would love to meet him, Maxine then narrated how she envisioned my love story with him but then stopped. What? You ran out of ideas already? I laughed at her. No, Addz. You like Geoff, right? What are you going to do with him now? Maxine sure has a talent for coming up with painful questions. Honestly, I have no idea either what was going to happen between us now. I know that were both starting to get along with our own lives at present, but what about what we had before? I mean, its not easy to just let go of something so special. Even though there have been some challenges in keeping calm when Lizzie was there, we got through. Now, with Kyle also in the picture, I feel that were growing farther apart. And by farther, I really mean so far. Its weird and its confusing. Like Maxine read my mind, she told me, Addy, you know no one can answer your questions but the two of you. Tell me honestly, did you expect this sign to happen with Kyle or with Geoff? I laid my head on the center table and looked away. Okay, so how about looking at me and talking to me? I slowly turned my face to her. You shouldnt turn yourself to Kyle because you want to keep away from Geoff. Im not saying this because I know you like Geoff but because we both know that things arent clear yet to make some major moves like this one. Another thing is that; dont ever try to make yourself believe that its Kyle you really want at this moment just because he fits your description of an ideal guy. Maybe you will eventually fall for him, but I feel that right now, youre still in shock that such a guy exists and he

just might be into you also. Okay, so my best friend tells me just the things I felt she would say to give a good whack on the head and now I am totally speechless. Maxx, you were happy when I told you that the sign happened with Kyle. Why the sudden change? I didnt have any proper question in mind and so I asked anything that came in my head. I am happy for you, so happy; in fact I believe that last night was one of your happiest. But I still stick to what I said that you just felt it was like perfect nga because Kyle is clearly close to perfect and that most awaited sign happened with him pa. Pero girl, lets face it. This is reality and when things like that happen, theyre just too good to be true. I cant argue with her. It was too good to be true. But it was, it really was. Manang Lilette was my heroine. She called us for lunch just as Maxx was about to give out her sermon again. My brothers ate with us and Maxx had so much fun chatting with them. Kuya Angelo, Addy said you played hockey before? Maxx felt really at home and it was alright with all of us. Shes like family already. Yeah, I used to. But I visited the States less and less so I stopped. Why did you ask? Kuya Angelo doesnt keep his hockey days. Hes so proud of all his goals and games, I never got to watch any of those so I just listened and teased him when he speaks of them. So all three of them talked about Kuya Angelos hockey days, kuya Anthonys college getaways and Maxxs dancing. Nothing much in common but they got along. Meanwhile, I did more of my reflections and thinking. Procedure Number Ten: Be Mean If You Have To Days after Maxine had lunch with us, my brothers decided I should have her stay with me at times because I have no one to talk to at home; even Manang Lilette chooses to sleep in the afternoon than to chat with me. Maxx and I were inside my room googling people on my laptop. Weve searched for my favorite figure skater, Katrice Delos Reyes, the songs she liked and just about everything when Maxines cellphone started ringing. She looked at the screen and hesitated a little before answering. Whoever it was, I told her, she should answer and I wont be listening. Maxx just shrugged and jumped out of bed. Hello, Maxx said in her usual volume. Then as she spoke to the person on the phone, her voice became lower and really soft. I wondered who it was because usually, even if it was her mom on the phone, she spoke loudly. I didnt ask her until the call which took about more than five minutes, ended. Who was that? I asked, still typing on the laptop. A friend from school, she answered coolly. Oh, you werent the usual megaphone. I thought another teacher, I told her. She laughed at the idea because before summer began, teachers had been calling her for some requirements they said she didnt pass. Anyway, Maxine went in front of the mirror and slightly brushed her hair. Then, she said we should go out. Are you sure? I asked her. I didnt really want to leave the house or my room but Maxine might want to and I cant be selfish. Cmon, its just a walk! She was pulling me from bed and I had no choice but to grab my phone and head downstairs with her. As we treaded the stairs, she was fussing with my hair, trying to fix it. Im really going out; I really am, after what I said that I wont take a walk for days. Seshie, dont be so paranoid. Were just going to take a walk. Yeah, I know. I cant breathe. What if I see the team? I stopped just right below the stairs. Then dont say anything if you dont want to, Maxx was walking ahead of me now. Right, its not like they would all walk up to me this afternoon. I took a deep breath and I thought I heard Maxine cough. As I opened the gate, I thought I heard some voices. Maxx pushed me out of the house and I was just about to ask her why she was so excited to get out when I saw a black Toyota Vios parked right outside our house. No one from our street owned a black Vios. Before I even got to ask Maxine who she thought was inside, the car door opened and I saw a very familiar shoe. Geoff slowly got out of the car. I looked behind me to ask if Maxine knew about this. But she wasnt there anymore; I looked to the left and saw her with the guys some meters away from us. They pretended not to be looking at us when I spotted them.

Addy, Geoff started. I looked at him and checked my phone for the time. What? I can only spare you five minutes of my time. I told him without any emotion in my voice. Five? Thats too short! Cant you make it seven or more? I shook my head. Okay, five minutes then. I crossed my arms and leaned on one foot. This better be good or Ill go back inside. I whispered. Its been four days, nineteen hours and God knows how many minutes Ive been thinking of doing this since you walked out of that basketball court. I was stupid to say that. It was so wrong for me to assume things and Im really, really sorry. Here, I brought you flowers. He brought out a pretty bouquet. It had more than a dozen red roses with a blue and purple overall wrap. I muttered my thanks. I looked sideways at my best friend and waited for an explanation. She didnt give any, as expected. I was about to ask him what else he had to say when I saw Julius approach him and hand him the guitar. Now what?! I asked myself. This is definitely one hell of an afternoon for me. Should I forgive him just like that? If I could suddenly jump out of this scene and analyze it before I react, I would. But I cant and maybe today, just for this moment, I could let things flow without my intervention. This is, in fact, what destiny is all about, isnt it? I looked at all the boys before me as they started swaying and snapping their fingers to Geoffs strumming. Much to my amazement, the first notes sounded so familiar. Then, I almost screamed. How could have I not known from the first five seconds?! Geoff was already singing the first verse of Longer! Before I could even interrupt, I saw Maxx cover her mouth in shock and shift her gaze from me to Geoff, wide-eyed. I was speechless for a time. Then, as if a being pushed my soul out of me and squeezed my voice box for some words, I held my hand up. He was in the middle of the chorus. I held my other hand up and shook my head. Stop. They were noticeably surprised but stopped anyway. My head shook involuntarily and I just opened my mouth and the words just came tumbling out. Geoff, why the hell did you choose that song? Louie, youre dead meat. Guys, this is such an awkward encounter but gee, thanks. I love the flowers and all. Forgiven. Oh, maybe just 72 percent. Wait, back to the song. Why that, Geoff? Tell me. I thought Id be breathless after that but I found myself calmed and steady. Louie signaled Geoff that he was going to speak up first. First of all, dude, I didnt say or do anything. It was his surprise. I had nothing to do with it, swear. I took a breath and Geoff took a step forward. To add to that, I do solemnly swear that Louie didnt know anything about this until a while ago. I just told them we were going to apologize. Now, about the song. I heard it while I was in a store two days ago. I figured I heard you sing this a few times. I thought maybe youd love it but you dont seem to. We really are sorry, as in. We hope by the next game or maybe even before that, wed be okay already. He finished with a flourish and smiled that incredible smile. Eyes closed, I slowly crossed my arms. You sang that because you thought Id love it. Thats what you said. And, thats all. Did you know that that song is so important to me for you to use in your apology? Really, wasnt there any other song that popped in your head? I paused for a moment and the rest took it as a signal to leave the two of us. Addy, I didnt know. Sorry, Geoff put the guitar on the hood of the car. Dont apologize for that. For all I know, there are just a lot of things unclear between us, both as friends and as two different people. I hate to ask about the real score stuff and I wont do that. But I believe well find it out ourselves, right? So, please dont ever sing that to me or anyone, unless you really mean it. You know, its a great song for the heart and I hate to misunderstand the true essence of it. I felt he was going to say something else so I waited a minute then turned around. I quietly pushed open our gate and whispered goodbye as I entered. Without locking it, I hurriedly walked in the house and went up to my room. I didnt slam the door, stomp to my bed, mope lying down or face the mirror and ask myself if I did the right thing. I knew I did the right thing. It was too special a sign to be ruined in such a way. It was up to him to mend things. He didnt know how he felt and I didnt too. So, if we both continue without making things clear between us, everythings gonna end up in the wrong place. We both need time to figure out the real thing. Procedure Number Eleven: Make Some Important Decisions on Your Own

That day, Maxx stayed for dinner and I tried my best not to show her I was still so affected by what happened but I failed. She is my best friend and she knows I did not feel okay after that. We tried talking like nothing happened but it just wont work so she just let me join her in our garden while she did some photography. This way, we were both more quiet than usual but we still worked together. At about 8 pm, she was picked up by Louie from our house. I wasnt mad with Louie or anything, I believe him. But things werent casual anymore. That afternoon really changed a lot of things. I went online as soon as they left. My brothers were busy doing their own thing so they werent really bothering me about my quiet mood. On Facebook, I really didnt want to talk to anyone so I just answered some personality tests, viewed my photos and ignored the notifications. Then I clicked on the Home icon. I was staring at the Newsfeed when a changed status appeared. I think youre right, said Geoffs status. I felt more curious than ever. What was I right about? What part of what I said was right? I wanted to ask him, or anyone he might have talked to but stopped myself. I reminded my subconscious that we both needed time to think without any interruption. Then, I thought again, Im not even sure if the youre pertains to me. Thoughts were filling my mind nonstop. What if, after everything I have said, Geoff stops whatever we have now? What if he took that as a cue to walk out the door and never talk to me again? Honestly, I didnt mean it that way. I wanted him to understand that we both needed time, thats all. I was just about to go offline when a chat window popped, Kyle. Hi! he said, with some smileys. When I saw this, a feeling surged again. But it was so different I was so sure at once that it was too different to be admiration, likeness or even love! I replied without any smiley. We talked for some time about new movies. Then he asked me if I was interested in going to a party with him. I asked for the details and learned that it was the famous summer party that happened every two years. Thinking about it, I thought it would be fun to have that experience, especially after having met such a wonderful guy like him. Yes, I agreed. Then he said it was arranged then. We are going to be each others date during the party. The party was going to be at least two weeks from tonight. He went offline after a simple bye. I stood up from my bed and stared out the window. There were so many stars. As usual, my guiding star was there as one vertex of a very obvious triangular constellation. Hey friend, can you pretty please guide me this summer? Things are going out of hand and I wasnt expecting any of these. At the beginning, I wanted something exciting but as I see it, my mind will do a million spins and my heart, endless somersaults before I could figure the best way to get through. Oh, please just help me. I heaved a deep sigh and maybe as an answer, like a wink from the star, it twinkled once.

Three days later, I saw my phones screen, it had a reminder. Ball game today. Go team! I suddenly remembered, the team has not lost a single game and were running for the semis. I had the urge to text Julius or Mig so we could practice later. But I decided against it. They would practice anyway. They are responsible. Its past two in the afternoon and if they will practice, they will be starting in two hours. Two boring hours for me. I looked around my room and searched for what I could do. I walked across the room and got my box of collection. There are over a hundred bookmarks inside my box; most of them were given to me by Maxx. I browsed through them then one caught my eye. It was the slip of paper Louie and I wrote on long ago, I had it laminated and we decorated it to become a bookmark. On top was a drawing of a frog and a cat, leaning against each other. Below, I wrote, Pangs, you look like a frog. He wrote in reply, Addy, youre a fat cat. I remember punching him nonstop until he wrote another note, Will you ever have a boyfriend? Dont think so! I punched him again, as I remember, and told him the two signs that should happen so I could say that ones perfect to be my boyfriend. I wrote below his note, Seriously, there are two signs. Makes me picky? LOL I made him promise that he will never tell anyone about those signs. He promised. He wrote his final note below, Whoever he is, he should make you very, very happy. AND DONT BE OVERWHELMED BY THE SIGNS! FOLLOW YOUR HEART, FAT CAT! I remember hugging him and telling him that even though hes such a sucker and a stupid frog, he never fails to be the best guy friend in the entire universe. We laughed at each other for being so mushy afterwards. I thought

about what he said. Will these signs really overwhelm me when they happen? And can they overpower the true feelings? I was thinking and thinking if Im doing the right thing. At exactly four in the afternoon, I went out of our house and started my way to the basketball court. I didnt want to look nervous about facing all of them again but I cant contain myself. I kept looking sideways and checking myself on car windows. Gee, I whispered to myself. Like what I expected, I didnt see any one from the team in the street. They are probably in the court andoh what if they dont want to practice or they are on other activities now? This made me more nervous than ever. Yet I know that fateful scene that happened should not change my relationship with the friends I almost grew up with. And with Geoff, (if and only if Im the one he was pertaining to on Facebook) if he thinks Im right then we should reevaluate things. He was wearing a green shirt and Lakers jersey shorts. Oh no, I shouldnt be looking at him. I walked casually inside the court and looked at the guys who were playing, searching for my friends faces. I spotted Mig, he looked at me like I was from some ancient film and I just popped out of the screen. Hi, I said softly, almost a whisper. He immediately left the game and approached me. Dude, I missed you. He gave me a bear hug. He wasnt sweaty yet so I hugged him back. Mig, dont eat her up. We missed her, too, I heard Mico say. Mig just hugged me tighter and almost lifted me off the ground to put me in front of the other guys. The others just messed my hair and shook me by gripping my shoulders. Geoff was just standing behind all of them, holding the ball. I gave a timid smile and motioned for the ball. He looked shocked but passed it anyway. They found it weird also but I acted as coolly as I could. Game, guys! Lets start practice! I was being as enthusiastic as I was during the past times we did this. They all cheered and went to the end line. The same routine, okay? I told them and walked to the benches so they could start their exercise. None of them changed a bit, they were still so good and they all looked unbeatable. I love the feeling of being their manager, and even their friend. Ten minutes later, they had a 3-minute water break. We chatted about a few things, joked a little and then they had to go back to their practice. Everyone was having fun. My brothers came in and joined them for a practice game. They had been playing for quite some time when Lizzie arrived. I didnt want to feel the way I feel. They sat on the other side of the bench. Looking down, I knew they realized I can hear whatever they were going to say. Dana sat close to me and greeted me. I was gripping the edge of the bench, trying to relax. Hi there, I replied. Hows summer so far? she asked. Great, uhmm, one of a kind, I guess, I told her, keeping my eyes on the game. Oh come on, of course its even better than great! That Kyle can make anything more awesome than ever! she wants to get some juicy news from me but I wont give her anything. Kyles a nice person. Hes cool, I said, now looking at her. I see, are you guys going out? she is indeed very interested in gossip. Now Im starting to think that its not bad to give some good gossip, something theyd drool over. Oh yeah, Im going to give them just that! We go out only when hes here. My brothers and I are always out on our own trips; Kyles sort of busy also. Why do you ask? For the first time, I gave her a really good smile. She looked at me with wide eyes, Nothing, you look good together. Are you guys official? Her question took me by surprise but I kept my smile, Thanks but no, were not official. With that, she tapped me and said bye. She went back to their side of the bench. When the practice ended, everyone was tired. Later at six, okay? Kuya Angelo yelled after the other guys who were going home already. From my peripheral view, I saw Geoff approach Lizzie. The latter then gave him the bottle of water she brought. I took a really, really, really deep breaththe deepest I have ever taken in my life. I diverted my attention to my brothers and the rest of the people who were right in front of me. Im definitely going to watch your game later, I promised Julius. Is Kyle coming? Kuya Angelo asked, wiping his face with a small towel. He took off his shirt and Kuya Anthony followed, so did Julius and the rest. I wanted to tease them for showing off but decided against it. I dont know, but I hope he is, I answered. We had been home for just an hour when Mig arrived at our house. Kuya Angelo had to bring the cooler so were driving to the court for convenience. Five minutes later, we were inside the car and Mig was just about to open up a topic on a league within the city when my phone rang. Its Kyle, I said to them. Hey, I said. It was like five seconds before he spoke, Addy, Im bringing some of my friends over and I was thinking maybe we could hang out after watching? It was the first time Kyle invited me out as in outside the village in an instant call. Oh, where are we going? I have to ask my brothers first, I

answered. Oh yeah, Ill talk to them later. I was thinking somewhere we could grab a bite, he replied. His voice didnt sound all too relaxed. Okay, I said and he hung up. I realized there must be something wrong and I just have to ask him after the game. The game was about to start. Good luck, guys! I cheered the team and gave them the best smile I can manage. I said I can manage because I wasnt expecting whatever I saw when we came in. Lizzie and Geoff were sitting beside each other. They looked like they were having fun; I mean they must be having fun. I even saw Geoff leave his water to Lizzie instead of keeping it inside the cooler we brought. I should not be annoyed by this, maybe he already took his time and everything is now clear to him. Good for him. Sad face for meor maybe not. st Maxx arrived a little past the start of the 1 quarter. She brought her camera again. Hi Seshie, I kissed her cheek. Oh, whats up? I see trouble in your face, she said, dusting the seat beside me. When she sat, I just smiled the Im-so-okay-you-shouldnt-worry-about-me-really smile. She gave me a light embrace and took out her camera. While she took some photos of the game, she whispered to me, Lets just talk later, okay? I dont want people noticing somethings not going well with you. I nodded and focused on the game. Mark had a bad fall. He was so hurt; Kuya Anthony had to assist him to our bench. Are you okay? I asked Mark, putting ice in a towel for him. It hurts but Im not dying, Mark answered me with that goofy smile hes known for. Right, youre not dying so give me a pose, Maxx ordered and we both posed for a shot. This will do for a charity program, Seshie. Look, she was laughing at us. Mark and I were like freaks in the photo. I was down on one knee and the hand holding the towel on Marks leg and the other blowing a kiss. Mark, on the other hand, was doing a what-can-I-do pose, complete with his facial expression. So Im like the good charity worker and you are the very proud and arrogant patient, he whacked me in the head and we laughed even more. I was just about to sit down when I heard someone call out my name. I looked around and I saw a group of guys standing by the gate. I recognized Kyle at once so I waved at him. I didnt know if I should approach him or wait for him to get here. I motioned for them to go to our bench with my head but the way the players were running madly, people wouldnt want a group of guys blocking their view. No matter how hot they may be. Mark, Seshie, Ill just go to the other side, I walked carefully so I wouldnt get in the way of the very active basketball players. Geoff did a great pass and Julius did the best fast break so far of the game. I was a few feet away from Kyle when I heard Dana giggle and say excitedly, Way to go, Geoff, thats to impress Lizzie even more. Gosh, I cant believe you two are this close to becoming official, and even if I kept my head straight, my eyes involuntarily looked at the hand gesture of Dana. Her index finger was less than a centimeter from her thumb. So thats how close they are to becoming official? I felt my legs and arms become jelly. But no, what do I really want? This is how things are supposed to happen and I should just let them flow. Hi, I greeted Kyle and shyly smiled at the other guys. There were five of them and I believe they are models like Kyle or maybe two of them are not but will pass for models anyway. Havent seen you for days, Kyle said and kissed me on the cheek. I wondered if my brothers saw this or they were too consumed by the game. Yeah, so, you guys want to go inside? The games really wild. Go team! I said, trying to be really enthusiastic. The game is wild, which is your team? the guy in purple shirt asked. Those in black, I pointed to him Louie who was running across the court. Oh, theyre good. Winning? he asked again. I nodded my head and added, Hope so. They laughed lightly and the other guy in green nudged Kyle. Oh yeah, Addy, can you like go with us now? Kyle asked me, giving me a one-sided grin that seemed questioning. I thought were leaving after the game? I dont think my brothers would like it if I leave now, I told him, removing a leaf from his head. What are we going to do? I dont think theyll stay there for lo the guy in white told Kyle, he stopped when the guy in green nudged him hard. Are we meeting anyone? Im so sorry, if you told me I could have asked Kuya, I said. The night was getting colder by the minute and the things unrolling before me didnt seem real at all. No, were not meeting anyone. How long before this gets done? Kyle asked me, slightly annoyed by his friends comment. I wanted to push on about what his friend just said but I didnt want to ruin the night for everyone. Its almost done, I told him and turned my back. I watched as Louie dunked the ball and everyone cheered, including me. Go Pangs! Thats it! Wooh! He looked at me and winked, I laughed at him. Kuya Anthony was coaching them and the others from the team who sat on the bench were on their feet also, cheering,

booing, coachingall at the same time. Geoff was hit hard on the shoulder and before anyone could react, I yelled, Ouch! That was stupid, freak! I felt myself go red and good thing Kuya Angelo reacted violently also so not a lot of people dwelled on what I just did. Im going to ask permission now, I told them. Kyle has not introduced his friends yet but it did not matter. The game ended with a two-point lead. We won. I saw the smiles on their faces and I felt all my worries going away. Congrats, team! I cheered as soon I reached the other side of the court. They thanked me and I clasped hands with them. You guys were really great out there, I told them, giving them a proud smile. Thank you, this game just became even more special because we didnt expect that youd even be here today, Mark told me. There was a united aw from them. I laughed but it did feel special too. I felt Kyles presence and immediately remembered what I was going to say to Kuya Anthony. I looked at Kyle and saw that he looked a bit worried and annoyed but he tried his best to sound cheerful while talking to some of the team members. Kuya, I told you Kyle and I were going out tonight right? So, can we go now? I whispered to Kuya Anthony. Oh yeah, but dont you think its a little late? he asked. Uh-oh. But we planned it after the game, I said, careful not to sound nervous that he wont let me go anymore. Hmm, okay, what time will you be home? I want an exact time, he said, looking at Kyle who was busy texting. Since its already 9 pm, how about before 1 am? I gave him the nicest smile I could afford. Before 1 am? Woah! Thats late. You have until midnight, Kuya Anthony then he put one arm around my shoulders and we walked to where Kuya Angelo was, he was shooting some hoops. Gelo! kuya Anthony called. He passed the ball to Patrick and jogged to us. Why? he asked. Addy is going out with Kyle tonight, I told her she must be home by 12 midnight. What do you think? Kuya Anthony was actually hoping for some reason to keep me from going. Dont you think its a little late? Kuya Angelo asked, looking at Kuya Anthony then at me. Thats exactly what I told her! Kuya Anthony said happily, clapping his hand against my back once then taking a grateful breath. But Kuya, I told you we were going after the game and it just ended. You agreed already! I told them both, holding Kuya Angelos arm with both hands. Where are you guys going anyway? Kuya Angelo asked, looking over his shoulders and checking out Kyle who was now with his friends, they are all boys, are you sure you want to go? I tightened my hold then took a deep breath, letting go of his arm I said, Kuya, I dont think those guys are joining us the whole time. I mean, I believe theyve gone out already and are on their way home but passed by here because Kyles picking me up. Please, Kuya? You already allowed me. They looked at each other, then at me. Kuya Anthony started, Alright, for being so open-minded and coming here today, yes, you can go. I almost jumped in relief and kissed him all at once on the cheek, jumping also to reach him. But only until 12 midnight, well wait for you, Kuya Angelo added, I also kissed him on the cheek. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you! I said in a high pitch. Kuya Angelo pulled out his wallet and gave me some cash, I was beaming as I walked backwards. Bye Kuya Anthony, Kuya Angelo, see you later! Love you Kuyas! I was half-running towards Kyles group when I stopped in the middle of the court, Team, congrats again! Ill see you tomorrow, good night! I waved at them and I knew at once that Geoff was sitting a little far from the group, he was talking to Lizzie who was standing alone now in front of him. I saw the two of them looking at me. Then I noticed, the look on Lizzies face was not that of someone bragging but she looked sincerely happy. Yeah, she should be happy, shes over there conversing with Geoff without any intervention and interruption. I waved at them also and smiled broadly, Good night! Although they both looked shocked, Lizzie hesitantly smiled and Geoff waved with his one-sided grin that was a little pulled back. Maxx just got back in time before I went out of the court, Bye Seshie, Ill see you tomorrow. Good night! You too, Pangs. I gave her a peck on the cheek, hugged them both and Maxx had to yell her bye because I was almost hopping on my way to Kyle. He was standing there, with that beautiful smile and I just had to believe that things were better this way. Me, with Kyle and him, with Lizzie. Maybe this was really how we should be arranged, like in a classroom when the teacher has to plan the perfect sitting arrangement so all the students can perform well in class. These were the seatmates were supposed to have. Ready? How many hours do we have together? Kyle asked me as he helped me into the car. I only have until 12 midnight, I replied, adjusting myself inside the car. It was a black Toyota Fortuner, beside the driver was one of Kyles friends, the other one was sitting beside Kyle and the other three were at the back. Nice one, Prince Charming, you and Cinderella have less than three hours, one of the guys

from the back told us, laughing. Yeah, less than three hours so we should really go now, Kyle told him, looking over his shoulder and then signaling the driver to drive now. Anyway, where are we going? I asked Kyle, he looked at me. I sensed there was something else in his mind and he just reacted because he heard me speak so I asked again, Where are we going? The guy beside him spoke, In BF, one of our friends is holding a party tonight. Kyle thought it would be great to introduce you to them. He also had that sense of efficiency in his voice. I dont know why but the way he said where we were going was like he was the only one allowed to say it or like he was keeping something or I dont know. He doesnt really sound friendly to me. I looked down at how I was dressed and thought about where he said we were going. Will I fit in? I thought we were just going to grab a bite so I was only wearing shorts, graphic tee and doll shoes. I was definitely not dressed to party. Staring out the window and into the sleepy mode of the outside world, I sat quietly throughout the ride. Kyle and the guys occasionally asked me questions and I answered shortly. I didnt care that maybe they thought of me as a snob but this wasnt going the way Id imagined. This is for being so excited to get away. We arrived at the place within 15 minutes, thanks to the really great speed we were going with the whole time. I was the last to get out of the car. The other guys went inside the house casually but one of them was waiting for Kyle and me by the huge gate. Addy, are you okay? Kyle asked me, holding the car door open. I bit my lower lip like a child and told him honestly, You didnt say we were going to a party. I look so drab, what will your friends think of me? I got out of the car hesitantly and when I was standing in front of him, he held my hands and told me sincerely, It doesnt matter, you look just as great as you do every day. Dont worry, youll be fine inside. Im with you, remember? He put one arm around my shoulders and we walked together to the gate. I felt like my insides were shaking involuntarily and I had to put one hand across my stomach to help it calm. I was chanting my mantra inside my head, Creating a more caring and compassionate world. The house was one of the most beautiful places Ive been to. It was like the homes they use in movies or television series. The moment I stepped through the gate, we were greeted by loud music. There was a few meters of space before the five-step staircase to the two-door entrance of the house. It looked like the house of a bachelor. Vertical glass windows in the right places, and it was so sleek. Inside the house, there was a spacious living room, only black sofas and a plasma television that hung on the wall were around. There was a huge painting on the other side, it was abstract. I formed a theory in my mind, this house didnt have a lot of kids or maybe the owner is a single dad. I continued to appreciate the whole place while Kyle considerately walked slowly with me. This place is beautiful, I told him. Everyone thinks so, too, a voice said. I was taken by surprise and felt Kyle removing his arm. Dude, I missed you, he said, approaching the new guy I still havent seen because I was keeping my head low. I missed you too, man! I think they did the regular embrace for guys. Hi, the new guy greeted, I knew it was for me and I knew I had to turn now and face him. Hello, I said, turning slowly. When I looked up and saw who the guy was, I was even more shocked. Addy, this is the guy throwing the party. Meet my friend I didnt let Kyle finish. Chan-Chan? I asked, so surprised that I covered my mouth. He met my eyes with the same surprise and said, Adeng? He was the only other guy I allowed to call me by that. I stepped closer and said, Is it really you? I havent seen you for a very long time! He didnt answer and hugged me instead, I missed you so much. Youve changed a lot. I hugged him back. Had I known it was you, I would have invited my brothers also, I told him, holding his face with both hands. Its never too late to call them, Chan suggested and smiled his unforgettable smile. I hugged him again. But I think theyre too tired to come, Kyle said. I almost forgot we werent the only two people inside the place. Oh, yeah, sorry Kyle, I said, finally approaching him. You didnt tell me were going to Chans party, I told him. Suddenly, this party wasnt that bad anymore. I didnt know you and NK knew each other, he said. He was looking at me now, and I thought there was something thats bothering him. NK? Is that what you call him now? We happen to be really good friends from way back, our parents are childhood friends. But they went to the States when we were nine so this is the first time I have seen him after years, I replied. NK, or Chan, butted in, Dont worry, dude, were just friends, shes like my sister. If you brought her here as a date, I wouldnt really be someone to worry about. Kyle laughed at this and

said, Now I feel better. We all laughed at what he said. Chan led us to the party outside and I saw how many people cameso many. Is this your welcome party? I asked Chan, he shook his head and said, not really, they just wanted me to throw a party so I did. Mom and Pops are not home anyway, theyre the ones who are planning to hold the official homecoming party. Apparently, theyre waiting when your parents will be available. I suddenly remembered that my parents still didnt have a definite date of coming home from France. Anyway, Addy, just have fun okay? I have a lot of people to entertain, dont forget to meet me before you go home, Chan told me than gave me a peck on the cheek and tapped Kyle at the back. Kyle and I faced the swarm of new people I wasnt very familiar with. Lets go? he asked before we went through the sliding doors to the really wide lawn where the party was being held. There were so many people present. This was sort of a preview of what Id be facing at the fast approaching summer party. A couple of guys approached us, I recognized the other as one of Louies teammates from his exclusive boys school. Hey Kyle, he said. Hey Cedi! Jude, dude, how are you? Oh guys, this is Addy, he introduced me. I was about to offer my hand when Jude bent forward and touched his cheek with mine. So this is how it goes around here. Very touchy. Cedi did the same. Hi! Cedi, I think Ive seen you before, I said, saying it louder so the music wont overpower my voice. Yes, I think weve met also. Was it during a soccer game? Im glad he recognizes me. Yeah, youre teammates with my guy best friend, Louie, I answered back. Oh, Louie, I havent seen him since the end of classes. Say hi to him for me, okay? You guys, have a great time! Cedi and Jude smiled at us and walked away, bouncing with the music. Kyle nudged me and whispered, Seems like you have a vast pool of friends, Addy. I just smiled at him and he pointed to the long buffet table, Lets get something to eat. The buffet table was filled with finger foods and punches. I picked a shorter but thinner version of cinnamon flavored bicho. I was about to take a bite when Kyle offered me a glass of strawberry juice. Is that a punch? I asked, careful not to sound too offensive. No, I know you wont want to drink tonight, he picked up a large chocolate-dipped marshmallow on a stick and made me take a bite. He finished it up and I took the glass from him. Thanks, I muttered and then sipped. It tasted good. The party was indeed Chan-Chans. He has always loved strawberry juice and many people found it weird. Kyle asked me if he could go inside the house first, he said he had to take a call. I nodded but deep inside, I was thinking if I could manage without him in this party. I only knew two other people here, one of which isnt really close to. He said hed be back in a minute then walked away, making his way through the people dancing in the middle. I finished my first cinnamon stick and picked up another one. I was about to take my second bite when a girl came up to me and said hello. Uh, hi there, I said in reply, putting down my glass of juice. She reached behind me and took one of the cinnamon sticks also. Im Trina, you? she asked me, biting off her stick. Her nails were really nice, pink and blue and purple in their nicest shades. She must have spent a lot on them, looked like nail art to me. I usually greet people about these things but I thought twice about doing the same here. Im Addy, I told her. I removed my eyes from her nails but it was too late. She showed me her hand eagerly and said, I just had them fixed last night when NK called me that he was going to throw a party. Lovely arent they? I just had the urge to brag that NK or Chan-Chan happens to be one of the closest guys to me in the entire universe and that weve been friends for like forever. Yeah, they are. I was just brought here by a friend, I didnt know it was Chan-Chans party, I replied and when I saw the question mark on her face I felt triumphant. Oh, I dont call him NK. Since we were kids, my brothers and I have always called him Chan-Chan. Our parents are childhood friends, you know, I added. She rearranged her posture and formulated a question to move me since her bragging didnt really work. Really? Thats a nice story, who brought you here, anyway? she asked as she finished off her bread. Kyle brought me here, and that wasnt a story, its the truth, I snapped at her. Kyle? Well, then youre the new girl theyre talking about. You see that girl in a purple mini dress, she asked me, pointing with her head at a really slim person with short hair, she used to be Kyles girlfriend, its the first party theyve been in together since they broke up, she added. I suddenly felt my heart stop. What is this Im feeling? She just told me that pretty girl that looked like a real part of this crowd was Kyles ex-girlfriend. So what? I waved the feeling away and asked Trina, Oh, so you two are friends? She nodded at me and waved at the girl. The girl waved back and started her way towards us, Uh-oh, here she comes. I didnt know what uh-oh was for but I felt like saying it too. Compared to her, right now she would look better with Kyle. As Ive said earlier to him, I look drab compared to everyone.

Hi Trina, uh, hi there, the girl said, and touched cheeks with Trina. Her long arms showed off while she took one of the marshmallows on sticks whose platter was a little far away. Im Cassie, whats your name? She seemed friendlier than Trina but I didnt know if it was just right to be comfortable with her. Though I didnt know why I shouldnt be anyway. Im Addy, nice to meet you, I said to her and she just nodded at me. So, youre a friend of NK? she asked me. I noticed that not only was her dress really nice but her stilettos were hot. She looked like the type to go to these events and blow off the others. Cassie was unintentionally showing off how great she really looked. Actually, weve been good friends since we were little. But I didnt know he was throwing this party. How about you, how did you guys become friends? I asked, trying to be as cool as she is. Wow, thats great. So youve been like friends even before he went to the States? I nodded and she continued, Well, my mom was chairman when the company she worked for held a fund-raising event in the States. NKs parents were sponsors so we met there. Oh, I see. So youve also met Chan-Chans big sister? I asked her, this was becoming easier. Yeah but we didnt really get to talk much because she looks so mataray, we both laughed at her statement but I commented, Shes actually very, very nice. We used to pick on Chan-Chan a lot and Chan-Chan would always keep himself from stomping away but he always ended up annoyed. She giggled and asked me, Who brought you here, anyway? You said you didnt know NK was throwing a party. I was about to answer when Trina felt that this was her chance to make her presence known again so she spoke for me, Kyle did. I felt cold. I didnt know why but the way Trina said it made all the difference. It was like she was hoping to ignite a fight between the two of us. Yet, to my relief, Cassie said casually, Oh, Kyle? Small world, we have so many common friends. I just nodded and smiled at her before I drank all of my juice. Yeah, we do. So, hows your summer so far? This was the most relevant question I came up with. Its been crazy but just fine, how about you? She was still smiling and it seemed like Trinas words and tone didnt really affect her. So I tried to do the same, Mine has been very interesting and I just cant wait to find out how things would turn out by the end of the summer. She laughed lightly and told me, It must be really interesting, if you have results to wait for. Do you have some summer activities and stuff? I was about to answer when I felt a hand on my back. She happens to be the manager of the basketball team of their village, it was Kyle, he took the glass from my hand and took two steps back to refill it. Kyle, hello, Trina said but she moved towards Kyle too excitedly to know that she had something in mind by the way she greeted him. Kyle touched cheeks with her. Okay, guys, Ill just go there and mingle with friends, she went to the area where there was dancing. No one paid attention to her. Not one of us. I was waiting for Kyle to greet Cassie but he didnt so Cassie took it as a cue to greet him first, Hello, Kyle. I havent seen you for a while. She didnt do what friends dotouch cheeks. Kyle didnt move either. Yeah, Ive been hanging out with Addy and her team, I mean, friends, Kyle answered. I stood beside him like some statue and wasnt saying anything as the seconds got more awkward. Finally, Kyle grabbed my hand and asked, It sounds like the first slow song, do you want to dance? Before I could even say another word, one of the guys who were with us a while ago pulled Cassie towards the dance floor. Laughing and holding the guys arm, Cassie told me, Go ahead, Addy. Dance the night away before youll have to go, she winked then added, Have fun! It was nice meeting you! I smiled back at her then looked at Kyle. I saw him turning his gaze back at me. So I was right, he was looking at Cassie. But I tried not to make a big deal out of it, I know I shouldnt. Lets? he asked me. I nodded and we did dance the few minutes we had left. It was 11:15 pm when I told Kyle that I think we should go. Okay, lets just tell my friends were leaving, he held my hand and was about to approach the group who was with us on the way here when I remembered that Chan-Chan asked me to see him before we left. You go ahead, Ill just go see Chan over there, I told him and removed my hand from his hold. I was not really sure where over there was but I had to find him at once or Ill get home late. He nodded and walked towards his friends. I found Chan by the buffet table with some of his friends. Addy! He called out. I walked a little faster and smiled at his friends. Guys, I want you to meet my twin sister, Addy. Addy, these are my friends: Harry, Rey, Mae and Gel, and those approaching are Lyn, Fay and Coach. I know youre so good with names, youll remember them all. His remark got his friends laughing. Yeah right, Chan-Chan. I have to go, I have to get back at home before 12 midnight, I told him and his friends got into conversations of their own. Whos bringing you home? he asked, concerned. Kyle will bring me home. He brought his car and a driver, I told him. I noticed we were standing so far apart so I took a step closer. Alright, can I have your number? So I could

be sure youre home safe, Chan-Chan took out his phone from his pocket. He never really changed, he still had the best versions of the stuff he owned. I typed my number on his flat, glass-like, touch-sensitive keypad. When I returned it to him, he held my shoulders and looked me in the eyes, I know we havent been together all night but I know whats happening. So keep all your senses open. Addy, the last thing I want to see is you getting hurt. He embraced me one last time and kissed me lightly on the cheek. I was just about to tell him that I didnt understand what he said when Kyle arrived, Ready to go? Hey, NK, thanks so much for the party. We had fun. They clasped hands then I said bye to the group, looking at Chan-Chan for some hints on what he just said. But just like what he always did back then, his face didnt show anything. It was like he didnt say anything important just a while ago. We were almost out of the gate when Kyle paused to ask me something, Addy, are you feeling okay? I looked up at him and nodded. Are you sure? he asked again, he was looking intently at my face and feeling my forehead with the back of his hand. Yeah, sure, why? Do I look sick or anything? I asked him and felt my neck also, checking if I have fever. Then I felt something, my cheeks felt a bit itchy. Oops, I hope this is not what I think it is, I whispered nervously. Instead of waiting for Kyles response, I grabbed his hand and headed to where his car and Manong Brad stood waiting. I smiled at Manong Brad when he opened the door for me; Kyle got in beside me and shut the door quietly. Kyle, I said, checking his face. He was too quiet. Kyle, Im not sick, okay? I started again but added almost immediately, Or at least I think, I am not. With that his attention got back to me and he asked, Why, how do you feel? I pursed my lips and said as calmly as possible, I just think I might be having my allergy. Procedure Number Twelve: Be Sensitive to the First Signs Oh no, he said, with the tone of someone who just broke his moms favorite vase. Am I red? I asked him, worried also. You have small lumps like insect bites, is that it? he was staring at my face. My insides crumbled and I just felt like I lost a very important war. I slowly nodded and he slapped his forehead. This is bull, Im so sorry, he said quietly and held my hand. Its okay, I enjoyed the mallows and I forgot all about the allergy. Dont blame yourself. He looked out the window and sat there quiet for some minutes. Something has indeed changed since we got to that party. Something I should really figure but cannot. Im really sorry, I cant help but blame myself for this because I didnt know all these important things about you, never bothered to ask or failed to remember them. Sorry, he wasnt looking at me. He even sounded as if he was practicing lines for a play and this was all but an empty moment. I looked down and tried to get my mind to read whats actually happening. But every time I tried, all I saw was the image of myself getting redder and redder, my skin becoming warmer and warmer and the feeling, itchier and itchier. Ugh! I can almost see myself in a really bad state three weeks from now. And all he could give me was this piece of almost-fake reaction. Addy, I hope you enjoyed the night as much as I did even though I failed you, the allergy, I mean, he was trying to put all the sincerity he could muster. I knew he was just trying to. He failed. Again. He sucked at this. I can almost read his mind, it was all over there: I HAVE TO TELL YOU THESE THINGS, I HAVE TO. He knew he had to but he wasnt saying them from his heart. I sat there quietly and slowly leaned against him. I pretended to be sleeping. Soon enough, I was asleep. He dropped me off at our house, he said goodbye to my brothers also. Kuya Angelo had one arm around me because he noticed that I was very, very sleepy. Addy, you know, Cinderella never went home with Prince Charming, Kuya Angelo teased. Out of nowhere, I heard Kuya Anthony whisper, Maybe because that isnt really what this is. I frowned at no one and looked down at my feet that looked red now.

Addy, what happened to you? What did you eat? Kuya Anthony asked, alarmed. He was sitting at the foot of my bed the following morning holding a piece of cinnamon roll. I sat up at once and touched my face, oh no, it was full of lumps. Those freaking mallows, I said to him, just as shocked as he was. Chocolate covered mallows? he asked me. I nodded and covered myself with the blanket. How can I

watch the games today? And go out with them? I was red all over and I knew it. Addy, theres no use hiding. Geoffs here, he said he had to ask you something. WHAT?! I screamed. Go down now, its alright. He wont laugh at you, maybe Gelo will. Kuya Anthony was smirking at me. He wasnt helping. I wailed. No, I yelled. This is about to be one of my worst mornings ever. I treaded the staircase slowly, holding a large fan in front of my face. Hi, I heard Geoff say. Whats up with the fan? he asked again. I shook my head. When I got down, I sat across and didnt remove the fan. Come on, whats going on? he was reaching for the fan but I strongly avoided him. Its okay, he said and pulled the fan away at last. I looked at him and slowly, tears came down my face. Laugh, thats what you want to do, I told him, teary-eyed. No, no, I wont, he answered but he was smiling. Why are you smiling? I asked him, trying to control myself. Because I have never seen you cry before and now youre crying because you got allergy. Its really not what I expected you to cry over, he was still smiling but he was fanning me with the one I used. Well, when you have the weeks of summer ahead of you with this kind of appearance, youll cry too, I slouched and thats when he laughed. What?! I asked him, annoyed. You look like you lost something really important but its actually very lame. Its just an allergy! he laughed again and I threw a pillow to his face. Its not just an allergy! Its the allergy that will cover me for the following weeks and that means if I want or need to go out, people will see me so red! I looked at my arms and sighed. Hey, you can tell them its just the heat, or something. Youre great with excuses, he told me. He was toying with the pillow I threw at him. What do you mean Im great with excuses? I asked, sitting upright. Huh? I didnt really mean anything by that, just boosting you, he told me, he sounded like he really didnt mean anything. Alright, Ill let it pass, I told myself. So, why are you here? Its early, I asked him, slouching even more. Its almost noon, he replied, smiling matter-of-factly. I snorted. Okay, so I came here because I was thinking maybe I could invite you to a I sneezed just in time and he stopped his sentence. I couldnt take it if he said summer party. I would die almost instantly. Kyle already invited me and I already said yes. No, this shouldnt be it. Wait, what date is it today? I asked, faking some sort of alarm. He looked at his watch and said in a questioning voice, May 11, why? I rearranged the st statements in my head. Oh cheese, the partys on the 21 ! How will I party with Kyle in this skin? Oh my cheese, I hope this goes away very soon, my voice did sound worried but all the while, I avoided Geoffs face. Well, it wouldnt be worse, I guess. Anyway, to that thing I was going to say, it wouldnt really matter how you look. Its the third Youth All-the-Way Summer Event, he said, smiling. He didnt seem to care about me going to that party with Kyle. Oh well, what did I expect, a jaw-drop? No, he didnt care because maybe he was going there, toowith someone else. In this event, theres a seminar and all kids just go there and talk about whatever theyre interested in. Theres a speaker and so many activities to have with new people. Its just a day when you can think and say anything. Cool, right? I saw he was really relaxed and even watching my brother play ball. Yeah, yes, thats cool. When is that? I asked him, th not exactly disappointed that he wasnt affected. On the 27 , 10 am. Are you coming? he said, slowly standing up. I think so; Ill ask my other friends, then I asked hesitantly, are you? He shrugged, Not really sure, but Ill try. Anyway, itll be held at the new halls of Anne Oak. I dont know exactly where inside. I nodded and blinked. I stood up and walked towards the door. He was right behind me and I could smell his cologne. It was one of a kindthe scent youll always remember and even follow to know whos wearing it. So, well see you at the game, manager? he asked, that wicked grin forming again. Whatever, I said smugly but deep inside, I was kind of glowing when he said that hell see me. But thats stupid, were moving forward. Ahhk. This is all becoming awkward for me. Our maid walked him to the gate but he stopped her from opening the gate. He got out and waved at us. I saw Manang Lilette smiling, Geoff must have joked again. I waved back and waited until his back was totally turned before I sighed and started scratching my cheeks the mildest I can manage. Antihistamine, honey, sugarall these were laid on top of the glass table in the garden as I sat on one of our rattan seats. Louie and Maxx were staring at them too. So, which of these things will you intake to make the rash go away? Louie asked. Hes been trying very hard not to look at me. This is the second time he saw me at my worst case of allergy and he really cant keep the laughter to himself. I

slowly shook my head. I have no idea, I was still staring at the three things. Arms crossed in front of her, Maxx sighed and shook her head, too. Sorry, guys. I really dont know what to do. Am I wasting your time already? I pouted my lips about so theyd know I really am sorry. My lips arent swollen. I dont have a problem with you, Addy. Im just thinking of why youre hurrying things like this. Youve had this allergy before and you were able to wait it out, Louie said. He took the bottle of honey and shook it lightly. st Why? I dont know also. Seshies going to this party on the 21 and she has to look her best, Maxx told Louie. Oh, youre talking about the summer party? Let me guess, you have a date, Louie said out loud, tapping the glass table excitedly. Yes, she does, Max answered. I looked at both of them. It was like they were talking about me and didnt know I was there, sitting and itching. And I think youre about to say some name but I want to inform you that its not who we hope would be bringing her to the party, Maxx turned her head to me. I raised both brows as if to ask why she was looking at me all of a sudden with that I-still-dont-approve look. Youre going there with Kyle? Louie asked me as his brows met in disapproval. Um, I started but instead of continuing my sentence I just nodded. I thought Geoff came here to invite you to that, Kuya Anthony said he was here this morning, he said disappointedly, putting the bottle back and slouching in his seat. He did invite her to something, the youth seminar thing, Maxx said. I stretched my neck and leaned my head against the seat. Guys, whats wrong with me going with Kyle to the party? I finally asked. Nothing, Louie answered but one could sense from his tone that there was something. Seshie, you know that I approved of Kyle before but after this allergy scene and that awkward ride home, I dont know. I really dont know, Maxx started. I didnt interrupt her because I know I have to listen to whatever she was going to say. Shes been keeping herself quiet all this time but I know she has some insights on whats happening now. Kyles a nice guy, from how he mingled with all of us, but when all of a sudden he became moody, I know you feel that he has changedsomething did change about him, all three of us were sitting upright and we were listening intently to her. You said he wasnt his usual self yesterday when he met you at the court. You said he left you for a long time at the party and you had to entertain yourself plus force yourself to enjoy the unusual crowd. Good thing, NK was there or you would have been swallowed by that crowdnot that youre not good at socializing but you said it yourself, they were too party-ish! Maxine Antoinette Mendoza was actually speaking like I didnt know or remember what I told her earlier this afternoon. Maxx, I know I said all those things but do you think thats it? I should change my mind about going to the party with him? She heaved a deep sigh and was about to speak when Louie butted in, Whoa! NK is back? Since when? Why didnt he even tell us? I was about to explain when my brothers rushed to our spot when they heard the name, NK. Yeah, Mommy said theyre coming home but didnt say when. Why did he not contact us? Kuya Anthony is very close to Chan-Chan and I think he was quite upset that he didnt know about Chans party. He was not really going to throw a party but his friends swayed him into doing so. Tita and Tito arent here yet; they wanted to wait until our parents are in the Philippines to hold the real homecoming party. I have his number, you want to call him? I held out my phone for them to get Chans number but instead, Kuya Angelo took my phone and pressed call. Louie stood up from where he was and joined my brothers as they walked to our living room. I didnt really mind letting them use my phone as long as they dont fish for any gossip in there. I suddenly remembered that Maxx was still saying something. Alright, Seshie, tell me what you want to say, I told her and slouched back. I was just going to tell you to reevaluate everything. You might be ignoring some signs or feelings that arent supposed to be here, she pointed to her heart, if you really are happy. I looked up at the sky and asked myself, Am I really happy? Maxx just held my hand. I was walking to the court, wearing a jacket when some kids ran towards me. Ate, I think this belongs to you, said Enzo, he was holding out a piece of braided blue and black yarns. Sorry I returned it only now, I saw it on one of the benches in front of Tita Sallys store. I wasnt sure if it was yours but now I am, he was grinning shyly and I took it slowly from his hand. I suddenly felt very odd. Thanks Enzo, but why are you so sure now? I held the supposedly bracelet in my hands like it was some fragile museum piece. Well, this morning, I saw Kuya Geoff and he was wearing something like that as a bracelet. At first I thought I returned this already but I remembered that I did not so I asked him where he got it because I have something like it. He told me that he made it with a really good, as in he emphasized the really

good, friend before. He also said that maybe the one I have is the partner of his, I was about to ask him if he knows who owns it when he scratched his head and said, I wonder why Addy ever lost that, she said shed never take it off. Then, there, I confirmed it is yours. All the while, I was staring at the bracelet. NO, I never really lost it. I always thought it was just somewhere in my room. The only time I took it off was when I played with Mon and the others. We were pouring drinks on each other and I didnt want it to get stained so Mon suggested I leave it on the bench. I didnt know I left it there. When I got home, I fell asleep at once after having a shower. When I woke up, I really thought it was just in my drawer. The reason I never wore it again was because I thought it would be too controversial if we both had it, especially now that he played for our team and things were getting weirder and weirder. Thanks Enzo, thank you very much. Ill see you inside, I ruffled his hair and walked away from the court. I cant go in there with all of these things in my head. Out of nowhere, memories came rushing in my head. I clearly remember the day we made those bracelets. Maxx was busy helping me with my project in front of our house. I got out of the house with a box of colored yarns and when the wind blew, some of the materials went rolling away. I had difficulty catching them because Maxx and I were keeping the papers from flying. I told you it was a bad idea to do it here outside, Maxx was telling me. Cmon Maxx, its just the wind. Wed be more inspired if we stayed here. Dont be so grumpy, I said giggling. Grumpy, eh? Well, this was supposed to be a real weekend for me until you called to ask help for this and look, Im the one doing this while you tell me stories about you and Geoff! she was holding some paper cuttings and foam stickers as she said this like a litany. I just kept laughing while I picked up some yarns, all the while bent down. I was going to move where I last saw the blue yarn but it wasnt there anymore. Oh, where the heck is that now I stopped when I saw Geoff holding the blue yarn. Hi, I said. Hello, some project? he asked, handing me the yarn. I looked back at Maxx who was smiling teasingly at me. I stuck out my tongue at her. Ah, yeah, I made Maxx come over so she could help me. I was never really good at decorating stuff, I answered. At that moment, I felt like flying. We walked to where Maxx was. He sat beside me in our driveway and Maxx returned to gluing decors to my project. I was just looking at the project while Geoff and Maxx chatted a little. Having him so close was like ecstasy. A few minutes later, Louie arrived. He sat beside Maxx, of course, after saying hello to us. Addy, for what subject is this? Geoff asked me. Its for my Filipino class, I replied, turning my attention to him. I was being helpful by handing the small cutouts to Maxx. Louie helped her stick them in the right places. Oh, he said. Then came the wind again, it would have blown the things away but Louie and Maxx held them just in time. Alright, thats it. Im doing this inside, Maxx said, as if talking to the wind. You heard that, Addy? Shes doing it; shes actually doing your project! Louie was being the good friend again to Maxx. I just laughed at him and said, Then, go help her do my project. Haha! Geoff was laughing with me and Maxx looked at Louie. I was going to Louie started, Maxx rolled her eyes and said, Ill be inside, I can do this. Okay, okay, Im going to help you, Louie said, raising his hands in front of him as a sign of defeat. Go, make the moves, you can show your good side now! Geoff teased him. We laughed at Louie again. He closed the gate behind him and the two of us, Geoff and I, were left outside. So, why were you actually walking along our street? I asked casually. Good thing weve been laughing, the mood became lighter for me. Louie wanted to see Maxx but he wasnt really intending to help her. He actually wanted to invite her to buy some ice cream, Geoff answered. Well, too bad, when Maxx starts on a creative project like that, she would never leave until its finished. He can always buy her ice cream, the guy who sells dirty ice cream always passes here, I said to him, playing with the blue yarn in my hand. We were quiet for almost a couple of minutes when he asked, Why do you like to stay here, I mean outside? I inhaled some fresh air and looked at him, For the same reason you like climbing up your favorite tree, I like seeing some things that are so usual we dont appreciate them everyday. You know, Im always out on the streets of Manila and during weekends, I like to see these stuffs in another perspective. I thought I was becoming a bore for Geoff but he was actually listening, even understanding what I was saying. Yeah, I get you. It is more relaxing here. You can even say inspiring, he said as he looked back at me. That was what I told Maxx, she said it was not really a good place for project-making. I threw the yarn up in the air and I positioned my hands to catch it but Geoff caught it. This happens to be our favorite color, he stated, smiling. I nodded and picked up the black yarn that had been lying between us

unnoticed. Does black look good with blue? Geoff asked me. I think it does, why? He was staring at both and as if a bulb lighted up in his mind he said, Why dont we make bracelets out of these? I was sort of surprised by his suggestion because he didnt seem like the guy whos interested in things like this. Anyway, I agreed and we started thinking of ways to create two bracelets. We decided on a design and started braiding them together. Here, now we have a pair, Geoff announced gladly when we finished both. I had borrowed scissors from Maxx a while ago. She was peering in a small gap between our gate when Geoff said this. Aw, thats so cute Geoff. I mean those are so cute, you have a couples bracelet now, Maxx teased. I looked at her fiercely and she just laughed. May I have the scissors back? Its almost done, Maxx held out her hand and I placed the scissors in there and mouthed for her to get back inside. She whispered, Okay, fine, I wont disturb you again and went back inside. I smiled at Geoff. He was watching me while I fiddled with the bracelets. Geoff quietly took one of them and tied it around my wrist. I did the same for him. Alright, this is really a cute bracelet so we must never lose it, he reminded me, Besides; we made it together so it ought to be important. He was smiling at our pieces. I really liked the way this afternoon was going. Everything seemed so right. I must have been smiling at the sky for long because when Geoff removed a leaf from my hair, he was sort of chuckling at the expression on my face. What? I asked, his chuckle was somehow contagious. Nothing, youve been looking up at the sky like its going to rain if you smile at it long enough, he replied. No, it wont rain just by smiling at it. Its going to get us wet when it wants to. Hey, Geoff, thanks for this. Ill never lose it. I wont even take it off if its not necessary to do so, I told him. Thank you also, we made it together remember? And yeah, if you lose that, it means I remember it very clearly. He said that if I lost it or stop wearing it, he said it means that he wasnt really important to me at all. He laughed at himself and even said sorry for being too mushy because hed been watching too many chick flicks with his cousins. We both laughed at it but I knew he meant what he said. He meant what he said and I totally forgot about it for a long time. How stupid can I actually be? Did he really think he wasnt important anymore? I was running back to the gym while random questions filled my head. I rushed inside to do what I should have done long before. Their opponents didnt show up according to some people chatting outside the gym. I expected to see him with the team at our usual place. The lines I planned to say were running in my head, over and over again. Where is he? I whispered. Where the heck is a guy when youre planning to confess your feelings? Cmon dude, show yourself, I was really getting nervous and I wanted to find him fast before anything could stop me again. Then I saw him, like everything else was blurred. Geoff was the only person I could see. He was wearing a gray shirt, and our teams shorts. I started walking briskly towards him, ignoring the few people I bumped into. I murmured sorry and for tonight, that should be acceptable enough. I was almost five feet away from him when he turned and waved at me. I didnt stop or anything, just kept walking until I was only one deadly foot away from him. Everything else was still blurred. In my eyes, Geoff was the only thing clear enough to recognize. Geoff, I started, I just want to say that I was cut when he suddenly spoke and asked me if I was alright. Of course, Im fine. I just want you to know that I That was the moment I got cut off because suddenly all the things around took their normal shapes and they were clear again. Like something just whacked me and I was pulled back to the reality that Geoff wasnt the only person in the two-foot radius. There was someone beside him, someone else holding his hand. There was Lizzie. I looked at their hands intertwined. Then I looked at Lizzie, she looked kind of puzzled and mind you, innocently puzzled. Lastly, I looked at Geoffs face which just moments ago, was the only thing that I could see. What do you want to say? Geoff asked me nicely. Too nice that I realized he knew I suddenly forgot what I was about to say. Oh, that, uh, I was gonna say that you You played real good this season, I told him, mustering all the sincerity I can. I looked at my feet and all at once, I realized my skin didnt really look well with this rash. I was just too positive a while ago, thus the confidence. But actually, I looked really horrible. Thanks but theres still the championship. Thats next week, Geoff reminded me. I know, I replied. I didnt want to start babbling so I gave a very brief answer. Whatever happens on the championship, I told them, covering my face with both hands for a few second before I continued, I

want you to know that I enjoyed being withbeing your manager, I mean the teams manager. I smiled at both of them and said, Enjoy the summer, you two. Ill go now. Bye, Addy! I heard them say. They might think I was weird. I did not care. I did not care a bit as I walked out of the court. Some of my friends greeted me and I smiled and said hi absent-mindedly. I started running. My tears were just coming and I didnt stop them. I had to cry because it was too painful. I almost stumbled but I just kept my pace. Whoa, stop, Louie said. He was standing right in front of me and I know that theres no way I could get past him without bumping into him. Pangs, I feel very, very, very bad. I hate myself, I said. Then I kept crying. He put his hands on my shoulders and spoke slowly, Addy, tell me what happened. I just kept crying. He sighed and embraced me. I cried even more. Lets walk, and then tell me what happened, he said. When I pulled away from him, he put an arm around me and we started walking around. So why are you really crying? Louie asked me. I havent really stopped sobbing but somehow, Ive relaxed a bit. I saw Enzo, he gave me this, I took out the bracelet from my pocket. He looked at it once and he spoke, I remember that. Why was it with Enzo? I told him the story of how I left it there and how Enzo managed to confirm it was mine. Youre crying because Enzo returned your bracelet? he stopped walking and looked at me like I was some sort of loony. No, you dummy! I am crying because the moment all of those memories came rushing at me, I realized that I wasnt ready to give up on us just yet. I realized that maybe, it should come from me, and you know that I still liked him and maybe even more than that. But my point was whatever we were having, I wanted it to always be there and I wanted to keep it because it made me happy. When he came to my house this morning and he didnt laugh at me, instead he made me more comfortable; I knew there was something other than mere friendship between us. I thought that maybe if I let him know that I was feeling this way about him, maybe just maybe, it wouldnt be so hard on us anymore. Wed stop pretending that we can both live the fullest without each other, I didnt realize I started crying again in the middle of my monologue. Looking away, I cried my eyes out. Louie made me face him again and he said, If thats the case, it didnt really sound bad to me. So my guess is something else happened and that something else is really heartbreaking. I nodded. We started walking again. Hesitantly, I started speaking of what I saw again. Then, I just kept myself from blabbering so I told him that I was happy to be the manager and all. Finally, I told them to enjoy the summer together. I finished the story, trying so hard not to spill any more intense sadness and all. I knew that Louie felt sorry for me. Anyone would, I guess, that was a pretty stupid scene for me. Imagine yourself, about to confess and then seeing that one person you wanted to talk to, holding hands with someone else. Addy, I know how hard that was. I think if I were in your case, Id feel the same or maybe even worse. But you have to understand that you cant actually read his mind, he was trying to talk some sense into me. What do you mean I cant actually read his mind? I didnt have to be a vampire or a witch to know he is already fine and well without me. He is alright already, they are okay, I told him sadly. This just wasnt how I expected my night to end. I mean, you dont really know if in his mind, he was actually thinking like, Addy, I hope I know what youre thinking right now, seeing me hand in hand with Lizzie. This is all a show to make you like me even more. So why dont you just say that you like me, too? Huh? What if it was all like that in his mind? Louie is being a nonsense comforter again. I simply shook my head at him and told him that was just the most impossible thing that could ever happen. Geoff is not as lame as other guys to use girls to get what they want, even use girls against girls. He is just not like that. But on the other hand, Geoff didnt seem egocentric to me until he said that he knew my problem on the team was all about him. Well, it was really about him, anyway. Oh, this is just not making any sense. Addy, are you still there? Louie was waving a hand in front of my face. I was startled a bit and answered, Yeah, Im still here. What were you saying? He sighed and shrugged. Come on Pangs, what were you saying? Im sorry, I pushed. I just asked you if you saw the bracelet on Geoff, he quietly asked. No, I didnt really notice that, I answered, knowing that Louie now has another argument coming up. You see, you dont really know whats inside that head of his! So stop wailing and figure things out. Dont give up this easy, I know you. Dont you dare jump to conclusions, he ordered. I closed my eyes and took a really deep breath. Pangs, Im not going to do anything stupid anymore. Im very sure now of what has to be done to make things right. He looked at me with

questioning eyes and he didnt have to speak. I just have to stick with whoever has really made my summer exciting. And I know exactly who I am talking about. Louie didnt say a single word. He just nodded and gave me that okay-you-said-it look. For a few minutes, we were just quiet until he said, Its late, and I should take you home. Procedure Number Thirteen: Brace Self for A Life-Changing Moment Almost a week had passed since that fateful night. I have changed a bit, I know. A little too sweet, my brothers said. A little colder than before, some friends thought. How can I be a little too sweet th and a little colder than before at the same time? God knows. It was the 20 and I still havent chosen which piece from my untouched wardrobe I am going to wear to the party tomorrow. The only thing I was sure of was the pair of shoes I shall use. Hello, Maxx, I said casually on the phone. The person on the other end of the line was obviously surprised. Oh, its you Addy. Whats up? Maxx was obviously doing something at the moment. She sounded disturbed. Are you busy? I could call later, I told her. There was some unusual noise in the background. No, no, its okay. I just wasnt expecting you to call, thats it, she said then I heard a sigh. I just called because I need a little help but if youre doing something, its fine. Ill just call you there was a loud thud and Maxx kept herself from yelping. Alright, Maxx, whats going on there? I was suddenly alarmed. You really dont want to know, Maxx said, she sounded as if she just surrendered. Seshie, Im trying to fix the room. Mom and Dad will be home in three days. They said my room should be really neat and all by that day or else I wont get my gift, Maxx sounded helpless and hopeless. I wanted to giggle but then shed yell and scream at me on the phone. I felt for her. Whenever her parents say that they have a gift for her, the gift is indeed a gift, a blessing, a really jaw-dropping thing that would turn Maxx into an angel for weeks or maybe even months. Do you want me to come over? I asked her. I knew shed say yes. But I wasnt expecting the way she answered, Yes, Seshie, please do. Please come over, Ill be buried alive in here. I can imagine her right that moment. Kuya Angelo volunteered to drive me to Maxxs house. He said he was going somewhere close to the place also. I asked Kuya Anthony for some extra cash just in case I dont have enough because I planned to buy a new dress for the party. He gave me one thousand bucks without a single word. Now, thats a reason to be a little sweeter. In about half an hour, I arrived at Maxxs house. They have a very industrious house helper but I knew even Ate Alva didnt want to get caught up in the cobwebs in her room. I totally understand why Maxx sounded so helpless on the phone. Books, magazines, pens, clothes and all the other things one could expect in a teenagers room were there. Only, no one ever imagined they can get this cluttered that one touch can cause death. Or maybe not death, just some numb toesthis mountain range of things in here can really hurt a living human being. What have you done to this place? I asked her, I opened my eyes wider and wider as I scanned every corner of her room. What? Like you havent seen this before! Maxx was suddenly defensive. I have seen this before but not this bad. Okay, Ill stop with the observations. Lets start this, we were like soldiers getting ready for battlea battle against her room monsters. We removed her sheets and pillow cases. I took charge of the bookcase; she folded her clothes and put the dirty ones in the laundry basket. Together, we swept and mopped the floor. I helped her choose which sheets to use. We chose one of purple balloons. Now that were all done, can I tell you what I actually want to do? I asked Maxx. We were both exhausted with all the cleaning. Okay, what is it? Maxx dropped herself on the bean bag. I cant find a dress for tomorrow nights party but you already have one, right? I know that Maxx never runs out of clothes to wear on these occasions. I envy her at this. Alright, lets get going. We rushed to one of their cars and called up Kuya Al to drive us to the mall. At about six thirty in the evening, we still havent found the great dress. Sipping her chocobanana drink, Maxx stared at me for some moments before announcing, We have raided almost every single boutique for the great dress you want and nothing really got you. What are we going to do? You should pick one now or well run out of time. We cant go home very late. I just drained my own

watermelon drink. Seshie, I dont know what I actually want. I just want to see a dress that fits me right and I would feel comfortable in. You know, something that would really make me, me. Maxx eyes lighted up and I knew she had that light bulb in her head glowing very brightly. I know exactly where to get you that! We hurriedly threw our tall carton cups into a bin and I let my best friend drag me to that life-saver shop. We entered this boutique that didnt really look very posh but it was cute and kind of simple. There were blue decorations everywhere and the light gray tiles did some magic to the place. Welcome to Blue Dolls, the young saleslady sweetly greeted us. Hi, I replied. She seemed really nice. I was just about to make some rounds inside the shop when Maxx started speaking in her business-like self, Excuse me, we kinda need your help. My best friend here has been looking for the great dress, emphasizing the word great by making quotation marks with her hands, Weve been through almost every single shop in this mall and we really cant find any. She wants something that would express her personality, fit her right and one thats super comfy. Maxx finished with a flourish. The saleslady looked a little surprised but she smiled at us. Turning to me, she asked nicely, I think I got what you want, Miss. In three different colors. I sighed and thanked her in my mind. Thanked her so much. I tried on a yellow halter dress that wasnt exactly very tight but just right. It flowed until a little below my knees but the cloth was very nice to touch. The design made me feel like a queen. The lower part was a bit ruffled at the seams and the neckline was just low enough to show my favorite mole. No cleavagemy brothers will kill me. I tried on the light green. The only difference on this one was the braided straps that were to be tied to make it a halter. It was pretty cute but I really wanted to try the last one so I could make a good comparison. The last one was in old rose. The good thing about all three of these were that the buttons were placed beautifully in front so it was easier to put on. I stared at my reflection. Great, I whispered. Are you done? Maxx asked from outside. Almost, I replied. Whew, I really love you, I told the dress quietly. Touching the dress, I knew it was exactly what Ive been looking for. Not too mature-ish, not too kiddy. I changed into my own clothes and headed outside with my great dress in hand. Ill take this, I told the saleslady. She took it without a word. How much is it? I asked, I hoped my money would just be enough. We have a promo, Maam. If you purchase anything more than 1000 pesos after 7:00 pm, you get a 30% discount on the item. Its five minutes past 7 pm, so it will only cost 785 pesos. Maxx and I cheered. This was good luck indeed. I paid her and even told her that we would definitely tell our friends how great it is to shop at Blue Dolls. She thanked us also and walked us to the entrance of the shop, mentioning how fun it really is to help teens find the perfect dress. This saleslady is really great at what she does. Seshie, thank you so much for coming with me tonight. You really helped me, thank you! I hugged Maxx tightly. Okay, welcome. Thank you also for helping me clean up my room. I guess we found each other helpful and useful today, we agreed on this with a friendly but sort of loud slap at the forearm. The whole day has been really productive. We headed home riding Maxxs car. Addy, are you really sure about forgetting about Geoff just like this? Maxx took me by surprise. I was busy imagining how Id make friends tomorrow night at the party and her question wasnt really expected. Well, I I thought of the perfect words to put thisby this, I mean what Im doing mentally and physically, I am not forgetting about anyone. Im just doing something I should have done long ago, you know what Im talking about. Maxx shook her head, Sorry, I dont really know what long ago is or when that was. I sighed loudly and told her with very great effort in controlling some tears from falling, I should have just let go when I saw the first signs of Geoff moving away or being so distant from me. I mean, we both saw how he openly flirted with Lizzie. And when he was plainly being cold and too busy for me, I should have just let go. I looked away immediately. Maxx should not embrace me or Ill cry again. Ive been playing tough all week but deep inside, I was still breaking over and over again. The image of their hands never moved from its spot in my headright in the middle. How casual they talked to me, everything about that night never went away. Seshie, I didnt mean to offend or hurt you. No, you know Id never do that. I just want to know if youre really sure this is the right thing to do. There are so many what-ifs around the corner, Maxx apologetically said. I looked her in the eyes and shook my head. No, the only what-if I can imagine right now is What if I never really thought of confessing to Geoff? Ive got the answer for thatmaybe this wouldnt be too hard and maybe nothing would be as transparent as the situation I got in my hands now. So maybe it did some good, now I see that I should have really

stopped long before all of this happened right under my nose. I wanted to sound as confident and strong as I want to show all of them but one could never fool her best friend. She put her arms around me and I closed my eyes, resting my head against her shoulder. Seshie, thank you for always being within hugging distance. I will never be able to thank you enough. I have the best friend in the whole wide world, probably even in the entire expanse of our universe. You know its what you and me are for. You are my best friend. This is like a reflex, you know, she pulled away carefully and gave me two thumbs-up. I giggled a bit and realized we were already in front of our house. Okay, Ill see you tomorrow. Bye! I got off their car and closed the door. Yeah, see you tomorrow! Good night, nice dress you got there, Maxx said through rolled windows. I waved at her as the window rolled up. When it was fully closed, I gave her a two thumbs-up, I knew she did the same thing on the other side. I waved at them as they drove away and the car was out of sight before I went inside the gate.

Procedure Number Fourteen: Know When To Leave The Party The next morning, I was totally in the mood to get up and start the day right. Rushing to my own bathroom, I checked myself in the mirror. Great, just a little red but other than that, you look nice, I told my reflection. The rash was almost gone. No more itch, just a bit red or pink but its fine. Good morning! I greeted everyone loudly as I ran down the stairs. Kissing one brother after the other, I thought if I should eat a lot or not at all. The dress might not fit right. Oh, Id eat enough. Whats up? Youre so nice and cheery, Kuya Angelo commented. I smiled as a reply and started eating. My nerves were really excited. I felt like smiling and walking around all day. By lunch time, I have sweated a lot by playing ball with my brothers. Though they found my sudden energetic persona strange, they liked it that I was playing with them rather than ranting how noisy they can get because of basketball. I decided to take a beauty rest for some time at about three in the afternoon. The party starts at 7 pm, I should have some time to get ready. I already called Kuya Anthonys special friend, Ate Stacy, to help me with the make-up and all. She agreed, she loved painting my face. I woke up at about 5 pm. Ate Stacy arrived with her beauty bag. I took a refreshing shower and when I stepped out of the bathroom in my robe, I felt like a bride going to have her hair and make-up in a few minutes. This day was just so perfect. Im so happy I have another chance to make you over! Ate Stacy said excitedly. Sure, I dont want to look like a freak tonight. Guess who Im going out with, I told her. Okay, you tell me, Ate Stacys eyes were glinting. She had someone in mind and I didnt know who but when I told her it was Kyle Santos, I knew we were thinking of different people because of her reaction. Nice, thats really surprising! Kyle the model, thats cute, but her face didnt really look surprised in a happy way. I let the thought out of my mind and chatted with her while she did her thing. I wasnt really paying attention to my reflection as she made me over. Chatting with Ate Stacy is one of the easiest and most fun thing to do. So when she said everything was done, I carefully looked at my reflection and my, oh my, I looked prepared and indeed good. Thank you, Ate Stacy! Thank you, thank you thank you thank you! I could thank her a million times and it still wouldnt be enough. I hugged her tightly and excused myself to put on my dress. Ill go down now, Ate Stacy said as she closed the door behind her. No, Ate Stacy, please, can you stay? Ill just call you inside after this. I really need a girlfriend right now. She nodded with a smile on her face and closed the door quietly. The dress really looked great. There was nothing more beautiful in my mind but the idea that for once, I may have the chance to prove myself worthy of another eligible teenage guys admiration. I opened the door to my room a bit and whispered, Ate Stacy, Im ready. She got back inside and added some glitters on my hair and adjusted my dress a bit. You look amazing, Addy, really amazing. Beautiful, just beautiful. She turned me to face the big mirror in my room and she was right, it was definitely one of my most beautiful moments. You ready to go down? Kyles been there for about ten minutes, Ate Stacy held the door for me. I checked my sliver sling bagcellphone, lip gloss, Mighty Bond and handkerchief. I

nodded slowly and smiled awkwardly. Ate Stacy just gave me a big smile and whispered, Youre not getting married, just going to a party with Kyle. Dont be so nervous. Just make this night one of a kind, okay? You go enjoy. I took a deep breath and stepped out of my room. I treaded the stairs like a debutante and fiddled with the white gold necklace with a heart-shaped pendant that had my name engraved on it. I only wore this whenever theres a really special occasion. I never looked up. When I reached the landing, I looked at the people in front of me. My brothers were smiling in disbelief and approval at the same time. Kyle was just standing there, staring at me. Hey, I said when I was just a foot away from him. He was still staring at me. Oh, uh, the curls look great and, Kyle touched my hand, youre really beautiful. I felt my heart skip a beat. I smiled as thanks. Okay, take her home safely and dont go to dark corners. I got my eyes on you, Kuya Angelo said jokingly, but I know he meant it. I kissed him on the cheek lightly and thanked him for allowing me to go. Kuya Anthony said in his authoritative voice, Dont forget what we always tell you okay? Never drink too much and make a fool of yourself. I walked to him and kissed him on the cheek lightly also. You can thank Ate Stacy with a kiss, you know. They laughed at this and for the nth time, I thanked Ate Stacy. Kyle and I were about to walk out the door when I noticed something resting on top of our centerpiece. I picked it up carefully. I am doing the right thing. He took it off. With that, I took Kyles hand and we walked to his car where his driver waited and moments later, we were off to the party that will change my life forever. We arrived at the party less than an hour later. The music was really great, new hits remixed. From the entrance, the lights did magic to the event. Everything had energy. Every single face had some reaction that one would like to capture. This was truly the party. Lets go get some punch, Kyle offered. I bopped my head to the music as we walked to the bar. Some of my friends were at the bar and we complimented each other because we did look goodno, great! Addy, you should stop tying your hair up. Letting it down is much better! Dave told me, making his voice really loud so the music wont drown it. Ill try! But you have to make sure youd greet me every day about the hair! The group laughed at this. Few minutes later, Maxx and Louie appeared from the dancing crowd. I waved at them. You wanna go there? Kyle offered, I pulled him before he got the chance to do the same. The music was really loud. Maxx and I had to speak directly on each others ear to be heard. Seshie, you look wonderful! The hair, Ate Stacy did that? I nodded at Maxx. Maxx looked magnificent in her purple mini dress. Off-shoulderstotally HOT! We giggled and danced nonstop until the song became a slow one. Kyle and I danced close to each other. Kyle, thanks for bringing me here, I whispered in his ear. What? Sorry, the musics kind of loud, Kyle was teasing me but I still moved closer to him and said it a bit louder this time, Kyle, thank you! Thanks for bringing me here. He chuckled and smiled at me in reply. This was really too good to be true. When we got tired of dancing, we looked for some empty stools aligned against a really long table some meters across the bar. Kyle excused himself to go to the mens room. Addy! I heard my name. When I turned around, I saw Chan-Chan. He was wearing a really handsome long-sleeved mocha polo. Chan! I yelled and when he was sitting beside me, I planted a friendly kiss on his cheek. Wow, never saw you like this before, Chan said, I shrugged and said proudly, A little change never really hurts, you know. He patted my lap and shook his head lightly, It doesnt. Here come the old buddies. I saw Maxx, Louie, Julius, and Mark with his date approaching us. I waved at them. It was almost an hour when I realized Kyle hasnt returned yet. I thought maybe he saw some friends too and since Im really having fun in here with my own group, he decided to stay with them also. Chan was delivering a joke when a new guy waved at our direction. I looked at my friends to see who knew him and saw that Chan was waving back. That guys King. Hes from the States, too, but hes been here since March. Oh. I had a weird feeling Kyle and this guy knew each other. I didnt know what that feeling meant but it made me a bit fidgety. When everyone was introduced already, I saw Kyle coming with a waiter behind him. Guys, have some drinks, he told us. We grabbed glasses of the punch. Kyle was holding one in his and he took mine and replaced it with the one he was holding. I dont want you drinking too much. I felt my face go red as

they teased us. I was right. Kyle and King new each other. They are cousins. We were back on the dance floor in no time. Maxx and I were dancing to the beat of Ego when I nudged her lightly and said, I told you Im doing the right thing! Found his bracelet on top of our center table! Maxx just danced close enough so only the two of us can understand each other. You dont know what happened so dont say anything but if thats what you think, then okay! We enjoy this night with no more thoughts, alright? Anyway, I havent seen him. I just shrugged and continued dancing. This was really getting easier and easier. Just as we were about to go back to our seats, I saw Geoff and Lizzie with Julius. Ignoring them, I went back to our stools. When I realized they were joining us, I just excused myself and went to the bar. I didnt really want any awkward moments. Kyle wasnt at the bar so I just asked for a drink. After a few glasses of punch, I saw Chan approaching me. Addy, Geoffs over there. Have you even said hi? Youre already here, drinking. I gave him an okay-fine-whatever expression and waved at everyone on the other side, including Geoff and Lizzie. Happy? I asked and pulled him to the dance floor. We were almost out of our seats when I saw Trina walking towards us. Oh shoot. Hey, she greeted. Her nails were, again, outstanding. I smiled sweetly. She ignored me completely. I didnt mind. Chan-Chan was about to open a topic but Trina had some other things to talk about in front of me. So, how are you? she asked, touching Chans face lightly. Im great! Chan-Chan replied, moving his head away carefully so Trina wont get offended. Oh, Cassies over there! Wanna come with me? Trina was almost pulling him. Chan-Chan just shook his head with a smile and pointed at me. Oh, Trina said, slightly embarrassed. Hi, Addy! Have you seen Kyle? she asked. She obviously knew where Kyle was but I didnt want to get this night ruined because of her so I casually said, We were just dancing a while ago but I guess he found some friends. I never removed that sweet smile from my face. Some friends? I guess the same, Addy. Okay, so Ill see you guys! Gotta get back to our group! Trina trotted away, bumping into some people on the dance floor. Ignore her, lets just have fun? Okay? I nodded at Chan-Chan. How can anything this perfect go wrong? It was almost midnight when the DJ announced that there was a special portion of the night for a really great person. Whoevers name get yelled loudly will be called up on stage to show whatever he or she can do. The catch is that no one can get off the stage without doing anything. Everyone was game! Chan-Chan and I were back with the old buddies. Not even the presence of Geoff and Lizzie together and the absence of Kyle at the moment could dampen my mood. Addy! Addy! Addy! Chan-Chan started and pointed at me. I was pulling his hand and threatening him to stop saying my name. But later on, about fifty per cent of the crowd were shouting my name and I doubt if everyone even knew who Addy is. Alright, Miss Addy! Come on up and show us what you got! My friends were cheering and pushing me to the stage. I shyly walked up and even before I got up there, I already felt really embarrassed. Okay, so what can you do? Can you dance? the hot DJ asked me, I shook my head violently. Whoa, okay! I get your point already! Stop shaking that pretty head off your neck! Everybody laughed and I felt some heavy lumps in my tummy float away. Can you sing? I was about to answer when I heard Julius yell, Addy can sing! She sings very well! No more question. I had to sing. But before you can show us some talent you got there, tell us whom it is for! The crowd got really excited. I realized this was indeed my chance to show how big the changes I was going to make really are. With the microphone in hand, I mustered all the courage to start speaking in front of this crowd of strangers. Hi! Im Addy! I said and smiled. They said Hello! like pre-schoolers. I continued, I have this one song in mind thats really meant for someone special Someone asked, How special? I recognized the voice. Thats Trina. Very special, very, very, very, very special. They said Oh and Aw. Well, we havent really been friends for a long time, but hes really great and Id like him to know that, yes, he is special and I can say that he makes me happy. So thank you, I was blushing profusely. Who is this you? The DJ asked. I didnt want to get the crowd impatient so without further ado, I said his name, My date for tonight, Kyle Santos! I felt like a prize winner as the spotlight searched for Kyles face. My eyes were searching also. Looking everywhere. Then the light man found him. He just got in. Smiling at some people while he leaned at the bar. He was quite shocked when he saw the light on him. Then the light got brighter and focused on some imaginary circle around him. There. Right there beside

him, his hand on the waist of no other than, Cassiethe ex-girlfriend. I shut my eyes tightly and handed the microphone back to the DJ with no more than a single hand movement that if he wasnt ready, I would have dropped it on the stage. From the crowd, Trinas voice rose, Seems like he wasnt aware youre his date! Some people from her group started giggling but some people said, Oh no, this isnt good. I felt my hands go really cold. I got down the stage and walked straight. I was almost in the middle of the whole place and people divided as I passed by them. Addy, hey! Kyle was walking towards me. I just kept my head down and didnt stop walking. Hey yourself, you animal! That was Chan-Chan charging from the left. Obviously, Julius failed to restrain him or did they even try? Before the guys clashed right in front of me, my tears started welling up my eyes until I could not see or even hear anything. I started running towards the entrance. My feet would take me anywhere even in heels. Blindly, I ran and ran outside. Running was the only thing I was capable of. I wont stop, I told myself. Tears didnt stop from ruining my make-up but I just continued sprinting to wherever. My mind was in total chaos. Part of me said, You looked so stupid. You shouldnt have thought of doing anything in the first place. The other part said, Everythings going to be fine, youre not really wrong. My cheeks started to feel really hot. I looked up and tried to blink the tears away. Oh, I said loudly as I covered my eyes with both hands and sniffed. Sorry, self, none of this should be happening right now, sorry. When I removed my hands and looked around, I saw some people looking at me. Oops, I said in my mind. I started walking to nowhere. I just kept on walking and I let the tears flow. In the middle of an empty street, I sat in a gutter and buried my face in my own hands. I just kept on crying. Crying and crying, not minding if anyone can see or hear me right now. Im so stupid, I am so stupid. I am just plain stupid! My whimpering even got louder. Youre not, a voice said. I didnt want to know who the new comer was. Here, I felt his handkerchief touch my arm. Im fine, I said stubbornly. Okay, so now you are not only stupid but also fine. Maybe you are stupid, you dont look fine so dont make others believe that you are. Here, just use this, he was forcing me to get it. I still refused to take it. Then the new comer sat beside me and touched my arm. I moved away. Come on, Addy. Just take this, wipe your face with this. I looked at the person beside me and checked who it was. Geoff. Why are you here? I asked him. I finally took the hanky and wiped my face with it. I should ask you that, he simply replied, you are aware that this place is practically empty and dark, am I right? And you wont be able to run home. He was scaring me. I just looked around and even though I felt goose bumps rise, I answered coolly, I dont care. You should go back to that party. I finished wiping my face with his hanky but I saw that it was too dirty to return, with some of the make-up on it already. I held it tightly. Theres no more party was his very short reply. I looked at his face while he looked away. My fault? Sorry, I said to him quietly. Much to my dismay, I started crying again. This time, he put one arm around me and I just used the hanky to cover my face as I whimpered and wailed. I was just plain stupid to believe that this was all true, I told no one in particular. How can anything that good go so wrong in the end? Why did it all fall on me? I never asked for any of this but everything came at my door and I tried to sort things out, I did my best in arranging everything. What did I get for that? Total humiliation! I have never been so embarrassed and hurt all my life. I was on my feet already and deep inside, I felt like the ground was going to crack open right beneath me because of all the negative energy. I know I was blabbering. I almost forgot who was with me at the moment as I ranted. He was just listening, sitting there and just looking at me with concern. Addy, its okay. Things like this happen, Geoff was patting the space beside him, asking me to sit again. Geoff, how can you be so sure that this is okay? Huh? Its not okay! Nothing is okay anymore! And its all because I am so stupid. Did I not know that when somethings too good to be true, then it is not absolutely true?! I was just plain stupid and theres nothing more to this than the fact that I made really bad decisions. How could I have not noticed that when Cassie was around, he can barely keep his ground and he was always floating somewhere else? My head was just so full I wanted some of the things inside to leak out for a moment before it totally exploded. I sat down again, hugging myself and

looking up in the sky in despair. Nothing came out of my mouth when I wanted to speak. Just hot tears from my eyes. I wiped my eyes with the back of my hands and sniffed as quietly as I could. Geoff heaved a sigh and took out his phone. He looked for some land markers and texted somebody. I knew he was going to give up on me. Anyone would. All this drama could drain any human being within one-mile radius. I was about to tell him that he shouldnt have come this far in the first place when he said one sentence that really made me shut up for a very long time. Geoff squatted in front of me and said, Addy, Im sorry. His voice was full of sincerity and when I looked into his eyes, I could see that he meant what he said. It didnt matter to me what that sorry was for. Whats important was that he said this without hesitation and he did mean it. When he spoke again, he simply told me, I called the driver. Hes picking us up. I could not argue anymore. I just had no strength left to speak or think of anything. Procedure Number Fifteen: Give Self Some Time to Gain Peace and Think Things Over Inside Geoffs car, I leaned my head against the window. Are you okay? he asked. I shook my head honestly. Are you telling Kuya Tony and Kuya Gelo? he asked again. I nodded my head. There was no point in keeping this. Theyre going to find out anyway. I just didnt want to talk about anything right now, especially with Geoff here. He is sort of at fault in thisjust sort of, Im not blaming anyone but Kyle and my stupidity. Whats good about Geoff is he knows from the way I looked that I didnt really want any kind of conversation at the moment so he just linked his iPod to the car stereo and played some good music. I didnt know that I actually fell asleep on our way home. The last thing I remember was staring out the window thinking of how to numb myself. Kuya Gelo was waiting by the gate. He did a quick handshake with Geoff, said thanks and Geoff got inside the car. We waited for the car to be out of sight before Kuya Gelo held me by the shoulders and stared at my face. Five seconds. Then, he hugged me tightly. I knew that the news already reached them. We walked to the living room while he had one arm around me. Oh no, oh no. There was a glass of water for me on the center table. I reached for it as I sat down on my usual spot at the long sofa. Hi, Kuya Tony said awkwardly. I sipped some of the water and found it really cold. Hey, he said again. I was so afraid to say a word. I might burst into tears the moment I say something. Addy, are you okay? that was Kuya Gelo. I rested my head on a small pillow and smiled grimly at them. Then, I hid my face. Oh crap, I heard Kuya Tony say and he bent in front of me and slowly removed the pillow I used as cover. Addy, do you want to talk? he was being the good brother. I can almost feel how much they pity me, like some kind of blanket that wraps around me tighter and tighter the more pitiful I become for them. I just want to go to sleep, was my simple reply. I hugged the pillow tighter. I saw Kuya Tony stand up and move aside. I took that as my cue to stand up by myself and give him a quick peck on the cheek. I did the same to Kuya Gelo who stood up as I walked towards him. Slowly, I climbed the stairs and when I got into my room, I closed the door quietly. I dont know how long Ive been sitting on my carpet, staring at nothing, when my phone suddenly rang. It was Kyle. I wanted to hit him really hard. He should bump his head somewhere. I pressed accept but didnt even hold the phone against my ear. I pressed loud speaker. Addy, its me, Kyle. Uh, hey, he paused for a while then returned, Im very sorry about what happened at the party. Its my fault, I know. I should never have done anything like this. I really dont know how I could face you and your friends, I mean, other friends, again when youve all been really good to me. He coughed and then continued, You see, it was nice meeting you and all. I was having a really great time until Cassie and I broke up, I wanted to hang up. He was going to tell me now what exactly went on under my nose. I didnt want to hear any of it but my hand wont move. I wanted to tell you about it but I saw that you yourself were having some problems. When did he even start to care about other peoples problems? I know that this next thing will sound really bad but Im being honest. I decided that since I needed someone to show off, and since you were having a difficult time too, we could actually be beneficial to each other. Now that sounded really bad. I wasnt looking for anyone to cover up for the misery that problem with Geoff is causing me. I will never do that because it will hurt other people but

now, that idea was not only proven but I also found out how painful and embarrassing it could be. The friendship wasnt fake at all. You are one great person and I really enjoyed my time with you. But when you started treating me like I was really special, I realized you were making it easier for meeasier to give that image of a happy guy with someone new. I decided to keep it going. I knew you were becoming more and more into me when we were walking that night you kept babbling about the sign. I just wanted to shout at him, shout really bad words but somehow, I just let him say what he wanted to say. He was on the signs already; I want to hear this part. The drizzle was not actually drizzle. Someone was watering the plants using a garden hose with that spray end. I thought you figured it out when we entered the court and the ground was perfectly dry, I was a really big fool. I cant believe I was totally misled by everything and hearing it from Kyle, I can imagine how stupid I looked from his view. There are so many other things I should tell you but just to be sure that youre listening to me and not just accepting the call and leaving your phone somewhere far, I want to talk to you in person. Kyle was being a big jerk right now, asking me to meet him after what happened! But I really wanted to hear more. I just want to know what I failed to notice or maybe I noticed but decided to put aside. And then maybe after he tells me everything, Ill kick him in the face or throw something at him. So, there, Addy I know this is really not going to help but I just want you to know that Im sorry, really sorry. I truly feel bad for what happened. Youll never understand how awfully sorry I rea I pressed dismiss. He has a way with words. I hate him for that. For now, Ive had my fill of revelations. I just want to go to sleep. I lied down on the floor and fell asleep there. I woke up at about five the morning. Going straight to my own comfort room, I noticed the small notebook lying open on top of my bedside drawer. Things like 1. Submit new team list. 2. Make a new essay for the AA. 3. Inventory of volleyball mats were listed on that page. I completely forgot about my responsibilities because of this summers fateful events. I heard myself sigh. The important things were left behind because I focused on how to enhance my network of friends, make my personal life shine. Thats it, I told myself. Starting today, I ought to make things really right. No more stalling and waiting for graces to come. From now on, I will be discerning and really critical about the things happening around me. First things first: school assignments. It was past lunch already when I told them I had to go to my school. In the afternoon? Kuya Gelo said. Yes, I have to submit this, I showed him the list I printed out. Okay, Ill give you a ride, he agreed. Without another word, I got out of the house and waited for him to get dressed. He was looking at me like I was weird or something, Addy, not everythings alright. I know that. But dont act so weird, youre giving me the creeps. Im not weird, just acting right, I replied and gave him a quick smile as I tried to focus again in memorizing the names and jersey numbers of my new teammates. Thats what Im talking about; youre acting like a robot! Kuya Gelo almost slammed on the brakes when he said this. I cant blame him but if I show him that this is also new and a bit uncomfortable for me, theyll do things to make me unwind. If I unwind, Ill keep remembering that what gave me these aches is my want to unwind! We arrived at my school without another conversation. Ill just wait here, Kuya Gelo said as he parked the car. Okay, Ill be back in five minutes, I hopped out of the car and entered the school premises. As I walked to the schools main building, I felt like I have distanced myself from so many familiar things because of what I have been doing all summer. And even though I tried not to think about it, I remembered almost every event. I know that all of these began when I realized Geoff was in a sort of complicated situation. He was flirting and he made me feel he was into me. So to make him see that I disagreed with that, and that I can actually make this summer memorable without him, I diverted my attention and time to Kyle. It was a pretty short time we had to know things about each other. It all came too fast and I was indeed very stupid to think that nothing could go wrong. Nothing like this would be happening if I knew exactly what I wanted before. Now I do, but its too late. Geoff would not care whatever I tell him and things are too settled to disturb at this point. The only thing out of place right now is me. Finding my exact place will be difficult but at least I have an ideaI am supposed to be a little far, I would just be some disturbance to others.

Miss Lopez, greeted a head teacher as she came out of the office. I did not realize I have been standing in front of the empty desk for a while, staring at the papers I was holding. Oh, Maam, I just came by to pass these, I told Mrs. Paly as I handed her the new list of the team members. Actually, I thought maybe you have forgotten about this, she said and I felt ashamed that she was right. Never mind, you did it anyway. Good job, Captain! I knew youre responsible enough to finish everything before school starts. Mrs. Paly is one of the teachers I admire because behind her strict image, she is really very nice and friendly. Thanks Maam. So, Ill see you in June? I told her, smiling. Dont you want to stay for some snacks? You know the people inside, she pointed inside the room and I saw that some graduated players both from basketball and volleyball were there. I knew them all but I could not stay. Its okay, I cant actually stay. My brother just drove me here so I ought to be going now, thanks though, we embraced briefly and she said goodbye. I turned and walked back to the gate. Hey, Kuya Gelo started when I got back in the car, Kuya Tony said lets have dinner together, outside. Maybe I needed this too, some family time. Okay, where are going to eat? I asked politely, looking out the window. He has not started the car yet. At Mall of Asia maybe, what do you think? he was trying to be casual, wanting to forget what our conversation was like on the way here. Yeah, MOA would be alright. The chat stopped there, he drove to Mall of Asia. The only sound was the stereo, playing some music from his iTouch. We arrived at Mall of Asia early. Where do you want to go? Kuya Gelo asked me. Anywheres fine, my mind was not actually working. Sigh. Lets take a walk, Kuya Gelo put one arm around me and we walked like we really did not know where we were going. I spotted a really cool dress at a boutique. I kind of paused but continued walking anyway. Kuya Gelo noticed that and he pulled me back. Addy, you want to check that out? He did not wait for my reply; he walked to the shop while he pulled me. Once inside, he took a seat and said, Go ahead, try it on if you want. I looked at him and sensed that he did want me to cheer up a bit, even just a little bit. Do you have that in blue? I asked the saleslady. Minutes later, I was inside a fitting room. It looked good. I liked the way it fitted and even the design. I got out of the fitting room to ask Kuya Gelo how it looked. So, what do you think? I asked him. He stood up and walked towards me. It looks really great. I never knew you liked dresses, he said as I twirled slowly in front of him. Actually, I still dont like dresses that much. I dont know why I fell in love with this at first sight, I told him. Well, I think youre right about falling in love with it. It looks really good on you. Lets buy it for you? Kuya Gelo did look pleased with me. I nodded like a little kid and slowly, I realized Ive been missing on the real stuff a lot. Ive been sticking with what would please the new people, sort of forgetting how much I loved to make the familiar ones happy. We just paid for the dress when a group of girls entered the boutique. I was still smiling at the paper bag I was holding when all of a sudden; one of the girls approached my brother angrily. So this is what you do during your free time, Angelo? Huh? You left me for someone like her? Whoa. This girl was starting some commotion. Slowly, Kuya Gelo removed his arm around me and took a step forward. Excuse me Gertrude, I did not leave anyone and you dont care what I do during my free time, Kuya Gelo remained calm. The friends of the particular girl did not do anything to stop her from making such a nasty scene. The girl ignored my brother and looked at me with hawk-like eyes, then she pointed a finger at me, And you? Who the hell are you hanging out with Angelo? Hes just fooling around! Its me he was dating but now that I know why hes been avoiding me, Im totally dumping him! Then she turned to Kuya Gelo, You heard me, I am so dumping you! I am dumping you! We are so over! You two-timing son of a blob! I wanted to laugh at the scene. I felt like Kuya Gelo wanted to do the same. I covered my mouth and glanced at the saleslady, she was sort of smiling at me. Alright Gertrude, this has been really nasty and awkward. I just want to walk away, you should do the same you know, he said as he grabbed my hand and almost took a step when Gertrude burst out, Why?! Youre ashamed of being a two-timing flirt?! Kuya Gelo was taken aback by her words. Listen, I am not dating you nor did I date you. The only girl I want to date is the friend you ditched for your new groupSam, I saw the shock in Gertrudes face. The only time we went out was when we met at the mall and bought you ice cream. Youre the one who started acting like were together or something. When will you ever understand that things are not always what you think they are? You should try the art of asking sometimes. And please, dont speak like that to my sister.

Gertrude looked at her friends then at me, Youre his sister? I raised a brow as a yes. Angelo, I am so sorry. I did not I Kuya Gelo cut her off with a short bye and we stormed out of the boutique. When we were a few meters away, we both laughed really hard! I cant believe her! he said, laughing even more. I tried to catch my breath. She was so mad, Kuya! Then Kuya Gelo smiled like a kid, Im so glad youre laughing. I grinned and walked ahead of him, still in disbelief at what happened back inside the boutique. We waited for Kuya Tony at Fridays. Kuya Gelo and I have played some silly games not to get bored inside. The boxing replays were really not my type. Somehow, I was getting over the strange feelings and becoming more comfortable again. An hour later, Kuya Tony arrived and waved at us. Hey! he called out to us and we both waved at him. Kuya Tony looked really fresh. It was still a mystery though why he called for a dinner out, his treat as a matter of fact. Have you been here for long? he asked us, asking for a menu. Not really, just an hour. Whats up Kuya? That was Kuya Gelo, he didnt know also so this wasnt actually some move to get me softened and all. Well, guess who has been asked to be the ribbon cutter for that car show in June, my eldest brother was smiling proudly and fanning himself with an envelope. Whoa! You got to be kidding me, Kuya Tony! You said that Yuchengco man hated you, made your life like hell, Kuya Gelo was just as puzzled as I was. Lets just say he was trying me, like testing how strong I really am. And now, look, I passed that test! Kuya Tony was very proud of himself and we were too but it was just strange after all that happened between him and that man. Seriously, Kuya Tony, that man was one hell of a pain in your neck! Then, he gives you that kind of honor? Unbelievable! Kuya Gelo was still in pure amazement. I know, I know. But a while ago, he called for a meeting and I thought he was going to ridicule me again in front of the board so I prepared a really venomous speech for him. Then it turned out that he just wanted to congratulate me. He said he was just testing the limits of my abilities, Kuya Tony explained. And he found out that you are what hes looking for? I asked. Exactly! You see, not because it seems like it is all hard stuff, nothing good is behind it. Sometimes, the best things are hidden behind the ugly ones. With that, he called for the waiter and we ordered dinner. It was almost 11 PM when we decided to go home. It was so much fun hanging out with my brothers. We had so many photos. I didnt expect this day to be this fun. We bought cotton candies, huge popcorns, and simply chilled with each other. I know that yesterday was such a scary day for me but this was so different and even made things easier to accept. Actually, yesterday seemed like a decade ago, no matter how hurtful it was, when the people who really make me feel loved are with me. Addy, whom are you going to drive with? Kuya Tony asked, we drove in two different cars on the way here. I did wish we could all be in one car. Okay, Ill ride with you. I got in and I saw Kuya Gelo and Kuya Tony say something to each other before they got into their respective drivers seat. So, did you enjoy this day? Kuya Tony asked me as he drove through spacious roads. Yeah but I guess you enjoyed this day best, I teased him. Yes, you can say that. Honestly, I cant believe it myself. But I guess it was really meant for me. I chuckled because I have never heard him say anything about fate or things going the way they were always planned. I have spent more than four days fulfilling my duties and stuff. I remember having read in a magazine that the one stage in getting over a very bad experience was to give myself a few days to mope but that did not really seem useful for me. I mean no progress if I just mope, right? Besides, my brothers told me that if I stick to what happened at the party, I would be making the antagonists feel important. They are not so I wont do that. But still, I havent gone out of the house to see some friends. Maxx and I have been texting each other but we havent really met again. They were all so worried about me and I keep telling them that I am just alright, not suicidal at all. th The championship game was on the 27 and I have been thinking when I would meet with the team. I am almost a hundred per cent over everything but I know that there are still things out of place. Several days of just reflecting did me good. I have realized many things and my mind is at peacekind ofnow. I was just about to go to my room to take my afternoon nap when I decided to watch anything on TV. I tuned in to HBO: Mean Girls has just started. I propped myself on the couch.

It was almost ending when my phone alarmed. Practice for the big day! I tried to focus again on the movie. Then, a thought came to my mind at that very instant. Cady Heron had to see all the people who were involved in her messed up life to get over everything. Maybe thats what I should do also. I had to say a few words to people I might have hurt because of the things I have done to myself. Whoever they were, I just had to talk to them. So disregarding my plans for an afternoon nap, I got out of the house without even looking at the mirror. Procedure Number Sixteen: Never Be Too Proud to Say Sorry I almost bumped into Louie and Julius as I hurriedly ran to the basketball court. Whoa, Addy! Julius said as I stopped in front of them. Hey guys, uh, I just need to talk to all of you, I told them. Really? Are you okay now? Louie asked me. I nodded and wiped the sweat on my neck, Where are you guys going? Were just going to buy drinks for everyone in there, and then well practice, Julius told me. Okay, can I come with you? So well just go back there together? I was feeling a little nervous because of what I was planning to do. Sure, they agreed. Julius, I just want to say that I really appreciate what you guys did for me at the party. I know you didnt really stop Chan from hitting Kyle, thank you, I knew I sounded funny with that but I was happy I was able to say that to him. Not only did I let him do that, Addy, we all helped him! Julius and Louie both smiled proudly at me. You did?! I wont say thats wonderful but honestly, I didnt expect that, I was still surprised that they actually did that to Kyle. Some of his friends did stop us but one of them told the dummy that he warned him about that kind of scene. The guy was in some kind of disapproval with what he did, Julius said. I wanted to know which among his friends actually said that. Louie, sorry also, I started; he just patted my back, sorry for not listening to you and stuff. I know you know what Im talking about but I want you to know that I regret having ignored some of your pieces of advice. Its okay, not entirely your fault. These things do happen and youre gonna be alright, Louie reassured. I smiled at them both, thankful that I have really good friends. Guys, I just want to say that Im really sorry, I began saying to the team after I had them settled down and sitting in front of me inside the court. I was appointed manager, you know, support leader, but all I have really brought on all of you are conflicts and so much drama. I wish Ive been smarter. But if you would give me another chance to make it up to you, I am very willing to do my managerial duties for the championship. I will do my best. This time, for sure, I wont disappoint you guys. That is if you are still willing to take me back as part of this team despite all the ugly things. Whoever said you were out? Of course youre with us! Dave said loudly. The boys cheered and I felt my cheeks burn in happiness. The drama did us some good also, you know. We really became more responsible, Mark told me. Yeah, and it would really be an honor to have the most dramatic yet the most wonderful manager cheering for us tomorrow, Mico said. Patrick started their chant, Addy! Addy! And even though it was quite embarrassing with these boys cheering again, I felt happy. I knew Geoff wasnt in the group and I did not really bother to ask why. Geoff just texted me, hes still with his cousins. He might not make it to the practice today but hell be here tomorrow morning, Louie announced to us. Okay, I said casually and then I remembered about the seminar tomorrow. Guys, I wont be here in the morning but Ill definitely come to the game in the afternoon. I promise that, I told them regretfully. Just be sure that well see your face on our usual bench tomorrow! Julius yelled as they all ran for their positions. I gave him two-thumbs up and whistled as the signal for their training. Yesterdays practice was really good and I was confident they could do the same this morning even without me. The seminar was at 10 am and I will indeed go. I thought I really needed that. Since its all out, I expect that many people wouldnt mind hearing my insights and experiences. But I doubt if anyone had anything like mine. I was so careful in entering the premises of Anne Oak. I believe more of the participants would be coming from here than any other villages. Maxx wont be able to come and honestly, I sort of discouraged

the boys to come because they needed this time to practice. The championship game later brought chills to my back. Nervous, yes. But for now, I have to focus on this seminar thing to get the weight of my chest. The hall was spacious enough for about a hundred people. There was a platform in front and some good sound system. More than twenty people were inside already; mostly girls and they looked excited. There was not a single familiar face in the crowd. So I took a seat in the middle row, a little far from the group chatting. I was just about to take my cellphone out of my pocket when a girl in a really nice gray dress approached me. Hey there, she greeted me. I just smiled and before I could even greet her back, she told me, You look familiar, have we met before? I surely have never seen her before but to be polite, Im not really sure but maybe I just resemble someone youve already met. She blinked thrice and then, stood up, Oh, Im really sorry. I must have faces jumbled in my head. Okay, enjoy this convention! The girl turned her back and walked to the other side of the room. She belongs to another set of participants who looked like they just came here to meet new people and not really to get their feelings out. At last, the speaker started the convention. The room wasnt filled yet but there were at least 50 people inside. The first activity was, of course, getting to know others. Each person was asked to find a person with the same name. Obviously, I was the only Addy around. I almost had no partner when one person yelled, Anyone named Angelic? I grabbed the opportunity and approached the girl who said that. When we all had partners, the speaker gave us the chance to ask one another at most 10 questions that can be personal or not. After a couple of hours, burgers were passed around along with cans of juice. Lunch time! Ive made some friends already. Angel was invited here along with three other girlfriends by her cousin. We were having a pretty good chat when I saw a familiar face, a very familiar face. Lizzie was here too but her friends werent. She saw me and surprisingly, she smiled. I did the same. Things are really turning upside down now. I did expect some confessions from the participants. You know the type when a chosen few would have to stand up in front and say whatever we have learned. But there wasnt anything like that. When the convention was about to close, there was an awarding ceremony. The winners were chosen by voting during lunch. I remember writing a few names on that piece of paper but I only selected people from the group I ate with. One of the awards was Nice Buddy Award. Everyone around here called each other buddy thus the name. I was so shocked when I was called on stage to receive the award. My new friends were teasing me and it was really embarrassing because all of the awarded buddies had to remain in front for so many shots. As I was about to take my seat, the speaker took the microphone and coughed to signal the start of another speech. Last words for every single soul in here, he started, Some people have a lot to say but just cant let the words out. Now let me tell you that a million things can happen or not happen by speaking up. You might say Im being really optimistic about the things that could happen but honestly, no one is ever hundred percent sure of what the outcome would be. This is kind of crazy but its the only way we can all realize what were here for. Remember: No person gets what he wants until he says what he wants. You all got that? he paused and wait for a yes in unison then continued, Alrighty, I guess thats just what I had to tell you from the very beginning. So, go on, dont be afraid to say something. Go! Say what you need to say! Then the crowd broke into applause and in two seconds, all of the participants had grabbed someone aside to say something. It was weird because he seemed to have really triggered the minds of many. I felt the same, too. But the question was if there was any reason for me to say the obvious. I was walking out with my head bowed when I accidentally bumped into someone, Sorry. I looked up and saw it was Lizzie. Freaky fate. So, I decided maybe God was asking me to do something relevant now. I took a deep breath and smiled at her, then I began, I never imagined this would happen and that I would say this to you but, Im really sorry. Im sorry for coming in between you and Geoff, sorry for being so hard to deal with when I was the one all out of place, sorry for-- She waved a hand at me and said, Look, Addy. I should tell you I held her shoulders and shook her lightly, Even for once, Felicity, listen to me and shut your mouth.

I removed my grip and continued, I know now that Ive been making a mistake in fighting for what I thought was right for all of us. I guess you and Geoff realized it earlier, you two are happy together and I should have taken long strides away. I didnt do that and look where I am now, technically alone and just feeling sorry for myself. Look, Im really sorry and all I really want is peace. I wish you and Geoff to be very happy. Slowly, I smiled at her and as I was about to turn my back at her, she held my arm. I froze and realized something was going to happen but I didnt know what. Nevertheless, I looked back at her and faced her again. Addy, what I was trying to tell you is that you got it all wrong. Geoff and I arent together. There is no us. I also thought before that maybe there could be a chance for the two of us but I guess Ive been seeing it behind a foggy glass the whole time. All I really wanted was to be liked back by someone I really admire, thats Geoff. But I guess my admiration for him isnt doing any of us even a little good. I saw how hurt Geoff was by the decisions that you made and no matter how hard I tried to get him more into me, I just saw the difference in the way he treated you. I know for a fact that I cant say I love Geoff but I know you can say that because you do, and he loves you too. So dont give up on him, dont give up on whatevers between you and him! What Lizzie was telling me didnt make much sense or maybe because my head was full of things that keep whacking each other. I was just so confused. Are you serious? was all I managed to say. Of course, I am! For once, believe me! When I saw him running after you at the summer party, all of this came to me. But you know, being the gentleman that he is, before he got out of sight, he called out for me to ride with Julius home. I almost felt relieved that at least something important got in my head even though the party was really becoming such a riot house. You should have seen what they did with Kyle. NK was mad as hell, he Impulsively, I hugged Lizzie. You just became my friend officially. Now, what do you think I should do? She looked at me with probing eyes then she said, I know that song wasnt for Kyle at all. You should correct your statement at that party. For what its worth, you should be true to your heart. Immediately, I knew what to do. I hugged her once again and thanked her from the bottom of my heart. There was a very obvious solution to this. And Im going to make it happen tonight, after the championship. No matter what, Im going to do it. I was running out of the halls, waving back at Lizzie who was smiling and shaking her head at me. She was just there, smiling and looking peaceful. Lizzie waved at me like we were old friends. Well, were just new friends but that friendships going to last very long. Procedure Number Seventeen: Never Let the Fear of Being Rejected (Again) Keep You from Speaking Up I was panting but kind of smiling when I got to the house. I ran up the stairs like someone being chased and dialed Maxxs number. It didnt take long before she answered my call. Seshie! I almost yelled, my nerves were jumping everywhere and my heart was thumping outside my chest already. As I listened to the worried voice of my best friend, I reached for my organizer and giggled at her. I carefully checked the details for the awarding ceremony later. No performersYET! I told Max excitedly about what happened at the seminar and my eardrums almost got shattered because of her shrieks and I told you so. She was even happier than I thought she would be. Well, nobody expected this so it was quite a shock really. Then she stopped and took a deep breath. So, what are you going to do? I didnt know if shes going to agree with my plan but it was the only thing I had in mind. Im going to tell him how I feel, Seshie. Maxx said she expected me to do just that and she was proud of me for having the guts to do so. The plan was running through my head over and over again. I just had to call one person to get it all done. Too bad, Danie and Belle wouldnt see this theyre both out of town at the moment. But Ill call them when everythings done. Excited and nervous, I called Mons number. He has to be at home and available to help me out. After a few rings, he answered. Mon, my love, you have to come to our houseNOW! he asked me why and when I told him of my plan, he was just screaming at me! Whoa, calm down! Its my moment okay? You should just help me because youre the reason why he thought Im the one who forgot about us! Mon defended himself, I am so not part of your conflict! What are you talking about? I told Mon about

the bracelet and he just said Oh. Alright, come to my house ASAP. We gotta practice, love you sister! And we hung up. I went in front of my laptop and searched for what I needed later. At about past 2 pm, Mon arrived. He kept asking me if I was sure with my plan and whenever I said yes, he shrieked. I had to yell at him to shut him up. We were both excited but he had to keep quiet or my brothers will find out. We were just polishing up the plan when he felt his tummy ache so badly. Are you okay? I asked Mon as he twisted in pain. Oh no, it might be the nuts, he said as he became paler and paler. He ran to the bathroom. What about peanuts? What happened? Are you gonna be okay? he didnt answer and all of a sudden, I got worried. My very excited mood turned to very nervous mood. But I know that no matter what, I had to get it done. Mon was having the worst problem one could ever havehe was suffering from LBM. It was almost four in the afternoon when Mon started to feel a little better. I guess it was selfish when I did it but it didnt matter, Mon would understand. I made him promise that no matter what, he will come to the championship game. Okay, I promise. In the name of our sisterhood, I hugged him. The game was scheduled to start at 6 pm and Mon asked me if he could rest while waiting. As soon as I said yes, he fell asleep. I was left nervous and a bit jumpy. Mon was sleeping on my bed. I picked a book from my shelf and relaxed myself on a bean bag to read it. As soon as I opened it, my mind spun and thought of the endless possibilities. What if, all of a sudden, things dont go my way? Nothing ever does! The last thing I remembered was flipping pages absentmindedly. It was five minutes past six when I woke up. Hitting my forehead with my fist, I looked at the screen of my cellphone and saw five missed calls from my brothers. I stood up almost instantly and checked Mon. He wasnt on the bed anymore. Mon, Mon! Where are you? I called. I heard a grunt from inside the bathroom. I rushed to the door and knocked, pressing my ear close to the door. Are you alright? I asked him. I Im fine. Just, just go to the game now. Ill be right there in time for your surprise, Mon answered. He tried to put some joy when he mentioned the surprise but I knew he was really feeling bad. I sighed and got myself ready to watch the game. I was putting on some cologne when my phone rang. It was Maxx. Seshie, where are you? Its about to start. Is Mon okay now? My body was feeling very cold. Mixed emotions and I could almost feel myself shaking. Seshie, are you there? Seshie, Im coming. Im so nervous. I want to collapse. I dont know if this is right. Oh my, Mon is not even okay. Things are all turning inside out! Maxx just sighed as I ended my rant. Its going to be alright, okay? One step at a time. Come to see the game first, then your plan. Come on, Seshie, these boys all want you here. Reluctantly, I left Mon in the house. He promised me that hell be there by the end of the game. I was so nervous. First, because its the championship game. Second, because my plan didnt look entirely pleasing at the moment. My feet were so cold and so were my hands. I was a few meters from the court when I heard my team banging and harassing the grills! Addy! Where are you, Addy? Mark was yelling like crazy and my brothers were laughing at him, mocking a restraint. I rushed to the court and found the first five players getting ready. Geoff was some feet away but I knew better than to confess before the game. Sorry, Im late. I fell asleep. Uh, I was babbling and wringing my fingers, good luck everyone! Do your best and just have fun but dont get too confident. They were looking at me like real NBA players or something. The joking mood was gone and they were all preparing to transform. I believe in these guys. I really do. Deep in my heart, all I prayed for was that no one would get hurt and the game ends according to Gods will. Thanks, I heard someone say from the crowd in front of me. I looked up and focused my gaze on Geoff who stood there with hands on his waist, looking so pro and good in his jersey and sweatband. I just nodded because I was afraid I would stutter when I answered. The referee blew his whistle and the game began.

Julius tapped the ball to our side and Geoff leaped to catch it. He was so focused that his eyes looked so intimidating. He passed the ball to Dave and he aimed for the ring. But oh! That was a fake! Louie got the ball and he made the shot. The crowd cheered and Maxx was shrieking excitedly. Patrick and Dave were doing really good. I have never seen them play this intense! The whole court was roaring with excitement and cheers from both teams supporters. The first quarter ended in favor of our team, 10-6. But we couldnt be too relaxed. It has only been 10 minutes. My brothers did the coaching thing. I sat there, looking up, waiting for a shooting star. Then, I saw a familiar car stop in front of the court. NK got out of the car and made his way towards us. We waved at each other. Hi, I just had to be here and see them win. NK whispered to us and gave us pecks on the cheek. Maxx was excited like a kid and told him, I know right! I just cant wait to see who holds the ball last. I nudged them both and told them to calm down. Guys, lets not be too confident. Their opponents are as good as they can get, hmm, I just wish the boys play very well tonight, I said to them and returned my focus on the game. It was Mico who was holding the ball and I couldnt help but notice that he was very nervous. Go Mico! Cmon, you can do it! I was yelling madly until I saw him loosen up a bit. He maneuvered past a tall guy from the other team and positioned to make a shot. I thought it was another pass but Geoff called to him, Mico baby! Go! All heads turned to Mico as he made the shot I kept my fingers crossed and I heard the commentators say, Brave move Lets see what this Mico baby can do! A few seconds were hanging in the air and then, SHOOT! It was an almost impossible shot but Mico did it! He really did! Hes been telling me about his fear of shooting hoops although he loves basketball. He even told me that maybe all he could do was dribble. He couldnt just attempt to make a shot especially in a real game when hes in a challenging position. But now he did, he did it and it gained the team three points! Youre the man, Mico baby! The team was ecstatic and I could just imagine how proud of himself Mico was at the moment. He looked at me and I gave him two-thumbs up. Maybe tonight was indeed the night of the brave, the night we all show what we can do and get what we deserve. st The 1 half ended still in favor of us, 40-36. They were running towards our bench looking happy despite the sweat. I hesitantly embraced some of them because I didnt want my shirt to smell like them. Alright, were going great. Just two more quarters until that trophy is ours. But we have to keep in mind that eight points isnt that far away for them to chase. Lets just keep doing our best and remember, work as a team, Kuya Gelo was being the coach that he is. Few moments later, both my brothers were teaching them some strategies again. However, the third quarter didnt really seem good for any of the boys. They were getting tired and it showed. The other team took advantage of it and they gained points, FAST! From my point of view, our team just kept running but they werent getting a good grip on the ball. And when they were able to keep the ball to themselves, they only managed to make about three goals against the opponents seven or nine. It was pretty disappointing. Guys, whats going on? 46 versus 62! Didnt we tell you not to get too confident? My Kuya Tony was indeed pissed but we all knew he just wanted to put pressure on the boys because the team deserved that trophy. Sorry, Mark said. Lets just do better, okay? We can do this! Geoff yelled. Yeah! they all said. I wasnt able to say anything, nervous that I might say something wrong and ruin the whole preppy mood. A big smile was all I managed to give everyone who looked at me. It was the last quarter. I was even more nervous that I would shake had I not sat down. There were so many fouls from both teams. Geoff had to do some penalty shots. Actually, I wish someone else is narrating this part about the game. Im not good with basketball details. I just know that its bad to charge, push and shove the boys. The other team was leading by 4 points and there is only three minutes left. Seshie, do you think they can make it? Maxx whispered. She wasnt so excited now. Theyre going to make it. Our teams going to win! Chan was being so optimistic while he patted both Maxx and me on the shoulders. I drew a deep breath and bowed my head. Inside my head, all sorts of images were flashing. There was one of me, soaking wet with ice water Victory. Then there was another image of me, looking down in despair, with my head in my

hands Failure. But I couldnt even imagine the faces of the boys. I was just scared that at the moment I really need to do something brave, Geoff would not be in the mood to hear any of it. I didnt know how long Ive been looking down when all the people around me stood up. With 45 seconds left on the clock, the ball was in Juliuss hand. He was driving fast to our side of the court. Anne Oak was still leading by two points. We couldnt afford overtime. Go Juli-boy! Go JB! Go for the shot, JB! Friends, even his sister and the rest of the people on our side were screaming. However, those who supported the other team faked sneezes and boo-ed a little. But I knew Julius had something else in mind. He wasnt going to go for the shot because that would just make a tie. He expertly passed the ball to Geoff. He caught it and he backed down a bit. It was going to be a three-point shot. Go Geoff! I yelled out of the blue. He looked at me and smiled. Then, he turned and made a chest pass to Mico. I saw the horror in Micos face. Geoff mouthed something to him, it seemed like Give it a try; youre a lucky baby Mico. Go! But Mico was still confused and pressured. What if I already ran out of luck? he answered. I thought like I heard it. Once again, we were all cheering for Mico. This was his night. With the last Go Mico from the crowd, he made the shota three-point shot. Eight seconds on the clock, Maxx and I covered our faces. Chan looked directly at Mico and not at the ball. HE MADE IT! He really didagain! I couldnt believe how overly lucky Mico could be tonight! Some three seconds after the goal, the buzzer sounded. They hoisted Mico up in the air! We won! We really did and all because they believed in Mico. After the boys from Anne Oak congratulated our team, we all got ready for the party. The older men arranged the sound system just beneath the basketball ring. A stage was pulled out of the storage room. Everyone around was rejoicing and even those who came from other villages were all very ready to party! Hey, congrats! Really intense game you had there! said a guy I didnt know to Louie. There were just so many people greeting and talking. Even the opposing team didnt seem so sad while waiting for the party to get started. The awarding ceremony was about to start and they have finally introduced the guest of honor for the night. None other than, CHRIS TIU!!! The excitement was overwhelming. I couldnt believe my eyes as he got out of the improvised backstage. He was like a prince walking out of a garden or whatever. Hi, guys! Chris greeted. The shrieking began. I thought I would blow my head off. Hey! yelled Kuya Tony to shut me up. Sorry, you know I could get so caught up in things like this! Chris Tiu is here! He really is! I was standing up already, gripping Kuya Tony by the shoulders as he sat and laughed at me. I know, just shut up. This program would never continue if he cant speak, Kuya Tony was pushing me back to my sit. When we got settled, about some minutes later, Chris Tiu continued his speech, Im much honored to be present in this event. When I was younger, I only dreamed of playing for my alma mater. And now that Ive accomplished that dream, even playing for the country, seeing you guys play and strive for the honor of your teams and the namesake of basketball brings back so many memories. I know that youre all excited to get your awards and to get the party started. Before we present these trophies and medals, I just would like to tell everyone that whatever you get today is not just for you but for the people whove helped you all throughout the season or league. So to end all the waiting, Tito Jun is here to call on the awardees! The cheering was unstoppable. The awarding went on, everyone happy that the season ended without much intrigue and st unwanted stuff. When the 1 runner-up was called, the Anne Oak team stood and smiled sincerely at us. It had been a fair game: they still got other seasons to battle for the tallest trophy. When Tito Jun started to announce the champion, my smile just wont fade or get any smaller. I curled my fists and thumped against Chans back. And the champion of this Summer Basketball League, the team who never lost a game, Tito Jun informed the audience. Chris Tiu mouthed something like Wow! and Unbelievable. Lets give a round of applause to no other than, the team of Blue Bridge! Heads held high, the boys went up the stage and

claimed their much aspired trophy. Geoff raised it high and they all held on to it. I was just so proud of them. My brothers were called on stage also by Tito Jun and I gladly took a photo of the whole team holding on the trophy. Julius won the MVP award. Party. After the awarding, the funny feeling surged again. I remember telling everyone that the program has been taken care of. But until that moment, there was still no sign of Mon. Seshie, wheres Mon? Maxx talked to me as she held hands with Louie. I looked at her and slowly, she removed her hand and asked again, Wheres Mon? I shrugged and started to wring my hands again. Addy, dear, wheres the intermission number you said had been prepared already? People will get tired of listening to party music, Tita Marla whispered. She gave me a smile and turned. I chanted again. Creating a more caring and compassionate world, creating a more caring and compassionate world, Ive said for like fifteen times when someone tapped me from behind. Good evening, mister! Its just time you arrive, I said as I turned to the person. It wasnt Mon. It was Geoff. He was smiling broadly and shaking his head, You always mistake me for someone else. I do? I asked, shocked and definitely in disbelief. Well, yes, you always do. About twice already, this summer, he said and I could actually feel him laughing at my not understanding of what he said. I was just about to ask some explanation from him when someone huffing and puffing grabbed my hand. Mon. He finally arrived! Im so sorry, I shouldve been here an hour ago. Sorry, Im really sorry, I patted his back and told him he could relax a little now. Hey, Geoff, how was the game? I knew youd win, Mon was flirting again. Uh, thanks Mon. It was a pretty tiring game, Geoff answered him in usual tone with Mon, giving this freaking sister of mine a chance to flirt with him. Alright, give flirting a rest. We gotta go up and perform, I pulled Mon and whispered to Tita Marla that were ready. Before we went up the stage, I told Mon how nervous I felt. Maxx walked to us to wish me luck. Seshie, whatever happens, youll be okay. I just feel that everythings going to work out. You can do this, Maxx assured me. Thanks, I told her as we hugged tightly. Now this is what you can call taking a leap thats indeed life changing. Careful not to make myself a laughingstock just before we began, I slowly got up the stage. Mon was right behind me, obviously enjoying the attention. He carried his most precious guitar. I held on to the microphone like it was some piece of precious glass. Go on, Mon nudged me. Taking a deep breath, I walked to the middle of the stage as he sat on a stool right beside me. Hi! I said nervously, this isnt my first time to be on stage and I know most of you here know that. But, heres the thing. This season has been one of a kind. We made mistakes and these mistakes shouldnt bring us down. Instead, we should acknowledge that we made them for a reason, the chills were going away slowly. I looked at everyones face and said, Yet, for whatever reason, we always have the chance to make it up, to correct it. And we should grab that chance. So, here, this song is for I stopped. This is for the one who really deserved the song. Mon strummed and played. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and got ready to sing the first line. The thing about love is I never saw it coming, I prevented my voice from being shaky. I must not mess up this song, its Marie Digbys Say It Again! The crowd ooh-ed and I felt myself blush. You kinda crept up and took me by surprise. And now theres a voice inside my heart that got me wonderin Is this true? I wanna hear it one more time. When I got to the chorus, some were singing with me already. I thought I might be boring them but these people know when to cooperate. I was really singing from the heart. My eyes rested on Geoff for a while when I felt that he was looking at me too. As I neared the end of the song, all the nervousness had gone and my heart was just going to explode with emotions. Thank you, I said and tapped Mon, Everybody, Ramon Cuevas He surprised the crowd who didnt know him with a girly wave. He did look like a real guy as he played a while ago. We bowed together and got down the stage. Go Addy, do what you got to do before you lose the guts again, Mon whispered in my ear. Taking a deep breath, I nodded at him and at Maxx who smiled at me from their spot. I walked briskly to Geoff who stepped out of the crowd near the stage.

Removing all my fears, I looked him in the eye and began, Geoff, theres something I should tell you. Okay, but you have to Geoff was interrupting me and I couldnt let him because I might lose the momentum. To start with, Im just so sorry for all the drama I caused this summer. Im really, really sorry. Ive been one helluva person to deal with, considering, especially, my indecisiveness and stupid actions. But you were right when you said that I made such big fuss when Im disappointed in you, maybe its because I just couldnt stand feeling that you dont give me the same importance I give to you. And, yes, Im freaking great with excuses that I fool even myself. Did you know that I was just about to give up on you? On us? Good thing, Lizzie and I had a good talk. After that, I just realized everything. All this time, Ive been trying to push you out of my mind because I didnt want to keep myself hanging by the ledge while you enjoyed like I didnt exist. Admit it, youve been really blurry and impulsive. There are times when youd call me and there are times when youd act like youve forgotten all about me. I hate you when that happens. Geoff was just staring at me, doing something like a gesture to cut it out but I wasnt sure so I just continued. But heres the real thing. Kyle, Kyle was just fooling around with me and it was too late for me to realize that I was just being spun like a top on his hand. I was so stupid to think that by diverting my attention to him, I would get back at your your your flirty ways! Yet as we all could see, I ended up losing my face at that party, Geoff grabbed me by the hand but I politely removed it and said, Let me finish first. Finally, I have figured myself out. Youre the one Im falling for. Youre the one whos like a puzzle in my mind, never getting solved and so you just wont let me sleep. Youre the guy whos almost perfect but has little undeniable flaws. No matter how forward this may sound, I just know that Im doing the right thing because Ive kept this inside me and Im afraid that not letting you know how I really feel would just make matters worse. So there, now you know At last, I took a deep breath and Geoff was just looking at me in disbelief. What? I asked him. Addy, its just that Geoff began and scratched his head. You didnt understand me, did you? I said in utmost disappointment and I searched his face for some answers. Its okay if you dont feel the same. But at least, say something! I finally said. My eyes began to well up with tears. Then, someone from the back poked me and I angrily yelled, Now, what? When I checked who the freak just disrupted the whole scene, I realized he wasnt a freak. He is Chris Tiu. Addy, uh, your mic is still on, he said quietly. I opened my mouth, bit my lip and opened it again. No sound came out and I covered my face. Taking a few steps back, I told no one in particular, So everyone heard what I said. Yes, everyone did. That was, uh, absolutely brave, Chris Tiu said in a matter-of-factly voice. I just wanted to be dissolved that moment. How could I have forgotten to give back the microphone? What was I thinking holding it in my hands which were clasped together in front of me as if praying sincerely? What was I thinking releasing all the tension on the mic? I laid the microphone on Chris Tius hand and walked out of the court faster than anyone could have expected. I didnt know if my brothers heard everything, didnt even care if they did. I just wanted to vanish. I was some meters away when I heard someone tapping the mic. Addy! Geoff yelled. I heard him but I just kept walking. Addy, stop! Listen to me, Geoff sounded irritated. For Chrissake, I listened to you! Why dont you just stop right where you are if you really dont wanna walk back? I heard people calling out to him things like, Yeah, show her whos boss! For two months, Addy, I tried to figure you out. I know I did stupid things, too. I acknowledge them and Im sorry. And if you think I didnt understand what you said a while ago, youre wrong. I did, I do! Now come back here before the rain gets harder! He was ordering me to do something and he knew I hated being yelled at. Alright, sorry for shouting but please, just get back here. It came down as drizzle at first but it was getting harder. I started to feel more rain coming down on me and I still refused to go back. Unless I hear what Ive always longed to hear, I would never go back in there. I looked up the sky and saw just one star. That was weird. No star should be out when its raining. Then I felt someone grab me by the arm. By reflex, I hit the person in front of me hard. Ouch! Geoff yelped. Im sorry! Oh my, sorry! I was just shocked. Why are you here? You should go back to the court! Its raining! I was speaking too fast. He just put his arms around me. We didnt say a word for what was like ten seconds or so. Then, he spoke, Addy, I like you too I like you a lot. You were just so hard to

figure out and it seemed like you knew an easy way out of what we were having before. And if I have to do something like you did back there, you know, sing, I would gladly sing Longer again. But now, I guess we have it cleared, I mean everyone knows were clear, he chuckled and I squirmed out of the embrace. I hate you, I told him, he was making fun of me again. No, you dont. And Geoff kissed me on the forehead. He knows how important the first kiss is to me and I believe he wont do it tonight. Ill slap him hard if he does. We were walking back to the court despite the heavy rain. Everyone was dancing already to the beat of cool party music. Just before we got in, Maxx and Louie appeared before us. Dude that was one helluva move! Louie said, shaking Geoffs hand. Yeah, Seshie, you totally made this night memorable. Dont think of the microphone incident, your brothers arent mad, they just find you funny, Maxx sounded so happy and I had the urge to hug her but that would only get her camera wet. Thanks, Geoff and I said in unison and our two good friends just laughed at us. So, just strike a pose! Maxx ordered. Geoff put one arm around my shoulders and I leaned against him. We just moved in closer and laughed at being soaking wet. Perfect, Maxx whispered as she took a photo. Louie was just smiling at me as he held an umbrella for him and Maxx. It was just the beginning of our fun together. I pulled away from him, Lets go inside! He shook his head and held both my hands, You have always loved the rain. Im just starting to and I want to enjoy this time with you. Im honored, Geoffhonored to be having this great moment with you, I told him. Geoff mouthed something and I asked him, through the noise of the rain falling on the rooftops, what he said. He just laughed like a kid. I tried to push aside the curiosity to enjoy the really cold rain when he spoke, I said I love you! Thats what Ive been saying every time you see me mouthing something and you dont understand it! This time, I didnt let the moment pass. I moved closer to him and holding his face in my hands, I bravely said, I love you too! Geoff acted as if he didnt hear, What? I didnt get that. I said I love you! For the nth time tonight, I looked in his eyes and he gave me that wonderful smile. Conclusion Tomorrow, school starts again. Its been almost a week since that beautiful night of the party. Geoff offered to bring me home that night but Kuya Gelo thought weve had too much time together. I wanted to snap at them but Kuya Tony said something that made me smile and agree with them. Addy, Cinderella was supposed to go home with his friends. Prince Charming will see you some other day if not tomorrow. Oh, and about the bracelet, well, he told me he played basketball with my bros so he had to remove it. He never got the chance to get it back. We promised wed just buy each other new ones. Making was kind of mushy, he said. How I wish hed watch chick flicks with his cousin again so hed get some creative ideas for me. Geoff is coming over later with the boys. My parents arrived yesterday and all three of us persuaded them to throw a dinner party as an extension of the victory celebration. For all my friends, school would not start until next week. Actually, Im hoping Kuya Tony would be brave enough to ask Ate Stacy to be his girlfriend tonight. Ive been sensing his intense feelings for days now. They would be perfect together. Addy, Dad called from the kitchen. I ran as fast as I could downstairs, excited to follow their every order since theyve been really kind and (sort of) spoiling all of us. Yes, Dad? I asked him when I got to the platform of the staircase. Someone is looking for you, dear, he told me, nodding towards the front door. I glanced and walked towards it. Mom was there, in her usual house clothes, welcoming a visitor. He wore white shorts and a blue shirt, flowers in hand. Anger and irritation flooded my senses. Addy, Kyle is here. Hes the one you told me about last time we talked on the phone? Mom asked me, smiling broadly. I hate to burst her bubble but I just had to give Kyle what he deserves. Yeah, I see youve met Kyle, I told her, walking closer to them. And dont you get too elated, Kyle. I only mentioned your name; there was nothing to tell Mom about you. Or, would you want me to tell them about what happened? I told him sarcastically. He offered me the flowers. Addy, here, he said, looking really shy as he talked with head bowed down, take it as my peace offering. Im really sorry. I looked at Mom and she pursed her lips.

Mom, I said to her. She looked once at Kyle, then at me. Ill leave you two. Get inside afterwards, then Mom walked to the living room. So, why are you here? I asked him, glancing around for people who might be seeing us. I just want to say sorry in person, he said. Are you just acting or what? Keeping your head down is a bit overacting already, I told him. I wouldnt get those flowers from him, I really wont. Slowly, he looked me in the eyes and straightened up his head. There, just below his lip, was a cut. NK was just so mad at me that night. He hit me so hard that I got a cut. I couldnt tell my parents because its my fault after all. Even though I tried hard not to, my face broke into a smile, You think you deserve that, or do you blame me? I bet you turned down a couple of good photo shoots because of that. I know I deserve it, and I turned down four, Kyle replied but almost looked regretful having said the last line. I looked at his cut again and sighed. Alright, I know that youre really mad at me, and your friends too, I bet theyre even madder, he said as he put the flowers on top of the car hood. Yeah, you bet, I answered like it was an undeniable fact (it really is). But here I am, asking for forgiveness, with flowers. He took the flowers again and held it out for me to accept. What do you think of me, a really shallow person? I know that Ive humiliated myself in front of you before but that doesnt make me someone whod forgive you just because you brought me flowers! Kyles face morphed into an ogre in my mind. I just wanted to whack him with his flowers. Addy, what do I have to do? Im really sorry! I really am, he pleaded. I wanted to yell at him, to punch his face, to kick him hard. I just wanted to hurt him but I know that would only make me like him a hurtful bull on the face of the earth. I was just about to say that he should rot in his room when I heard footsteps. Kuya Tony and Kuya Gelo were walking towards us with some of the expected guests. Maxx was there with Louie, Julius, Chan-Chan, Mico, Jay, Mark, and, of course, Geoff. Youre back, Chan-Chan said in a voice that made it obvious he was ready to fight again. Im just here to apologize, nothing more, Kyle replied as he showed them the flowers. We see you also want to give her flowers, Kuya Gelo said to him. Hes been looking forward to the day hell be given a chance to hit Kyle. Its part of my apology, I could feel Kyle getting scared. Look, Im really sorry. All of you, I know, are mad at me. I cant blame you but can you just, please, forgive me? Even just thirty percent, or maybe forty, please, he begged again. He looked sincerely at me and I realized something. Had it not been for him, I would never have realized that Geoff is the one I really like. And even though he was just making a show out of both of us, he did make me feel special for a while and we were happy, a little bit. I have decided. I looked at the people on my side: Maxx who crossed her arms in front of her, with an eyebrow raised; Louie who stared down at Kyle looked really angry; and, Julius and Chan-Chan both had their hands on their hips while they each had a ready-for-battle facial expression. Geoff was still there, one hand inside his pocket and the other hanging loosely as he held his phone. I tried to understand what I was seeing in his face but all I got was something like Whos the loser now? He caught me staring at him and I just gave him a half-smile. He deserves the bragging rights. Kyle, I began and I saw my brothers faces tighten, I know how hard it is not to have that second chance. I accept your apology BUT only thirty percent of it. You are not yet forgiven by seventy percent. Thats a whole lot of good deeds for you but we have to settle for that. Kyle took my hand and planted the bouquet there. He was about to hug me when Geoff spoke, Oops, youre getting a bit too close. Youre thirty percent forgiven; you can go now, and he took the flowers from my hand, You can bring this home too. I have hundreds of those for her. Kyle looked really embarrassed but he took it with him anyway. He got inside the car reluctantly. I almost blushed when Geoff spoke like that to Kyle. Like always, Manong Brad rolled down his side of the window and did a salute, See you soon, Maam Addy! I smiled at him and replied, Well see, Manong. Okay, how about a group picture? Mom said in the middle of our happy dinner. Chan-Chans parents were there too. The older people had their own gathering in the dining area while the team plus some girlfriends and my brothers friends had the whole front yard to ourselves. There were boxes of pizza, big bottles of soda, and some half-consumed bags of chips. In the corner, there was a pile of chips yet to be eaten and three bottles of vodka. Excitedly, we gathered closer to each other and posed for the best picture of this season. Ate Stacy stood close to Kuya Tony and I know theyre both really happy. Even Lizzie and Julius who looked

good together seemed to be having fun; the rest wore bright and happy faces that were yet to be captured in the photo. I checked to see who was standing beside me. Geoff. Well, I wouldnt want him anywhere else. I looked at him and he looked back at me. When Mom said smile, we were still smiling at each other. I just would have to check if that perfect moment was captured. I could imagine Dad and my bros a bit disappointed if they see it. They still wanted a wacky shot so we all rambled and I ended up doing a funny face while shoving Juliuss hands away from my face. This is the best group of people I could ever find. What more can I ask for? I have definitely learned that when youre always brought together, its not really healthy to keep avoiding the person or persons. It only adds unwanted drama. But we do have so much to learn from the drama. Were all just characters in a novel, there is an ending and no one knows exactly what it is. However blurry things may be at the beginning, were gonna get through it all. We better brace ourselves for whatever may come and trust that GOD will always, always help us. All of us will find our rightful places before the book is shut. Or maybe, the book will never be shut and we would just have to stick together as new conflicts unravel.

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