I got the concept of story spirals from fellow Pinay author Ines Bautista Yao, who publishes outtakes from #romanceclass books on her blog. I wrote my own story spiral for Crushingly Close on Ines’ blog (you can read it here), but since I was already getting restless over NaNoWriMo I decided I should do one for this year’s book as well. It’s a bit of a writing exercise, in a way, but if it gets me more motivated for NaNo, then so be it.
That was what TJ used to call me back then. I got the nickname because he was Trinculo and I played Ariel–or, rather, one of the three people who played Ariel–when we did the live reading of The Tempest with the rest of Tita Evelyn’s class. By then I was sure who I was, but he wasn’t, and he was still hanging out with his basketball friends at Paideia Academy. So he called me Sprite, and every time he did that, I could hear his friends chuckling in the background.
“Sprite,” he said again.
I whipped my head so hard that I almost threw my lunch all over myself. “What do you want, knucklehead?”
His friends continued to snicker.
“All right, TJ, spit it out.” I wasn’t going to let him ruin my lunch break, but the way he stretched his long legs out on that bench made me tingle all over. “What do you want?”
TJ cleared his throat. “Um, I don’t–see, I was wondering–were you at the prom the other night?”
I rolled my eyes. “Hello, Fabella. I couldn’t find a date. Why would you ask me that?”
“You could’ve, you know, brought a cousin with you, or something.”
What, so I could pass as straight to my classmates? I knew what these people said behind my back. That was the reason why my mom told me not to tell anyone after I came out to her: because there was nothing left to prove. Then again, I would’ve looked better in a suit than the rest of them. And maybe TJ would have noticed me.
TJ coughed again, and I liked how he hunched his broad shoulders so he wouldn’t hover over me–or everyone else–while he talked. “Well, I’ll…see you later in class, Sprite.”
“Of course, TJ. I still have your stuff for pre-cal.”
He pressed his lips together and nodded. “Thanks for letting me use your notes.”
One of the basketball guys–I couldn’t remember, but he had curly hair–punched TJ in the arm. “You’re flirting with the bakla now too?”
Oh, please. As if that was going to happen between us before the end of senior year. Besides, TJ needed to pass that math class if he didn’t want to lose his chance of going to college. Most of the seniors in his team had accepted basketball scholarships, and all he had as a second-tier D-man was a promise from his Dad that he would “find ways” to get him into Avenida de Manila if he graduated above the cutoff GPA.
Another joker–again, I don’t remember who, except he had small eyes–tried to catch my attention. “Bakla, you should be looking for Christian Mendiola. Did you hear what happened?”
“He wasn’t at the prom,” TJ said. “He doesn’t know what happened.”
Suddenly the table went silent.
TJ was the first to blink. “Don’t look, Sprite.”
“What do you mean?”
That was the sound of someone bursting past the cafeteria doors to chase after someone. Everyone’s attention shifted to the front of the room, where an argument was happening.
You left me, Christian.
I said I was sorry, Kim. I didn’t mean to–
You left me. You fucking left me at the fucking prom, and you didn’t have the fucking courtesy to say goodbye.
TJ moved his seat on the bench, I liked how he left enough space for my skinny ass to sit down and eat my chili dog while watching Kim rake Christian over the coals.
You don’t even know what happened, do you? Did you think I was going to stand in there all alone while everyone else teased me about losing my date?
But how was I supposed to know? I mean, I didn’t mean to, but I had to–
“Shit.” Curly Haired Basketball Jock stared straight at me. “Kim wouldn’t be like this if bakla had given her fashion tips to keep Christian from leaving her.”
TJ smacked Curly Hair upside his head. “Shut up, asshole.”
You don’t even know, do you, Christian? I thought you were a nice guy. I didn’t think you’d be a snob like your other friends.
“Ooh, burn!” Small Eyes cried out.
Look, Kim. I’m sorry you had to go through that. But you have to understand–
I hate you, Christian. I. Hate. You.
This is the time when I should tell you that Kim had never looked as fierce or beautiful as she did when she was yelling at Christian. Her eyes were cold behind those glasses, but her curly hair was a halo around her head, and with all of her muscles flexing with tension, it really looked like she was going to rip Christian from limb to limb. The Kim that we knew was silent and shy, hiding behind her hat with the kitty-cat ears. The only time she came out like this was when she was doing cosplay, but she didn’t need her steampunk-slash-anime costumes this time to come out swinging.
Meanwhile, the features that had made Christian so handsome and dashing in everyone’s eyes looked dopey and weak under Kim’s stare. His jaw, so strong and fine-boned at the same time, was stuck in mid-air. His eyes, which once sparkled with mischief, were hollow and soulless. Everyone could swear they could hear his breathing with every rise and fall of his chest.
You don’t mean that, Kim!
Don’t tell me how to feel, you jackass!
We all heard the slosh of water and ice being thrown in mid-air. Kim must’ve found a half-finished drink to throw at Christian’s face.
I’m going to say it again: I hate you, Christian. I never want to see your face again. Don’t talk to me, don’t sit next to me–and don’t you even dare to try to find me online, ’cause I’m blocking you everywhere. Understand?
Goodbye, Christian. Go fuck yourself.
All eyes were on Christian as he tried to wipe away the remains of melted ice and watered-down juice from his Gap shirt. One by one the basketball guys went to Christian’s side, and the chorus of “Dude!”and “Pare, are you all right?” all but drowned out the sound of Kim’s combat boots as she stomped past the doors.
I stared at the remains of my chili dog. By then I had lost my appetite.
“Brian.” TJ had a hand on my shoulder. “Aren’t you going to eat that?”
When I met his gaze, there was this one short moment when it seemed like we’d recognized each other for the first time. But it didn’t last long. “I’ve gotta find Kim.”
“Yeah, you do that.” He slapped my shoulder again with his broad palm. “Go get her, Sprite.”
I pushed my plate away, and left the table to retrace Kim’s steps. But just before I exited the cafeteria, I turned my head back, and I could swear that I had just seen TJ nod at me.
Five years later, on our first anniversary as a couple, he admitted that he was looking at me all along.