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Chapter 2

It was my “vacant” period, which was supposed to be devoted to studying in the library but of course we found ways how we can do anything but that.

I decided to buy myself something to relieve hunger pangs from the cafeteria before heading to the library. The only other people there were Ryan, the older brother of my new-found friend Reese, and Lewis, the older brother of my not-so-ex-friend, Tracy. Both guys were seniors.

It was Ryan who greeted me, rather airily.

I was about to pay for my brownie and apple juice when I heard Ryan shouting to Lewis to quickly get out as he was about to padlock the doors from the inside.

I hastily paid for my food and ran out of the cafeteria in a flash. I didn’t know why I did .

“See? I told you to move quickly. She got out,” Ryan told Lewis and stopped fiddling with the padlock that was hanging on the cafeteria’s double swinging doors but I did it anyway.

What I figured out was Ryan was trying to lock us both inside the cafeteria.

I looked back at the two seniors. “What is wrong with you?” I asked incredulously.

Ryan just flashed me his wicked smile.

This guy, aside from being my friend’s brother, is somewhat more of an acquaintance. We get to talk on the phone when he happens to answer it whenever I call up Reese. Instead of handing over the receiver immediately, Ryan would chat me up until Reese wrests the receiver from him.

In one of those chats, Ryan complained that I was too aloof and ignore him whenever we see each other in school.

I, on the other hand, shot back that he was such a tease that I don’t really know how react to his greetings in school, which was a cross between a joke and a public announcement. I decided to just ignore those and keep my eyes straight to where I was going.

In one instance, again in the cafeteria, I overhead Ryan’s friends calling out to him and said his crush was there. He happened to be just behind me in the line for the cashier.

“Oh, Andy’s not my crush–,” Ryan said.

I ignored him and what he was saying.

“–the Ice Maiden is just the love of my life.”

I nearly dropped my sandwich in my soup.

You see I’ve been an object of ridicule since sophomore. I’m not oblivious to the fact that I’ve been called the Ice Maiden but I could not get why so I just left it at that.

Last year, when things were still ok with me and Lainey and the gang, a senior was pestering me and later called me an Ice Maiden. The guy, Orville, was a friend of the guy Lainey was dating that time.

I was ignoring his attempts to get my attention and his lame passes at me because guys like him make fun of girls like me who are inept at the whole flirting-dating-sex game.

There was one time I was watching a concert of our resident rock band, Witch Hazel, when Orville’s friend practically pulled the shirt off my classmate Mark’s back and said he should get off the seat next to me because somebody’s bound to get mad.

Later Orville took the seat next to me. I left in a huff.

Orville and his friends often called out to me whenever I pass by the school’s front lobby. Sometimes I acknowledge him with a lift of my eyebrow but oftentimes I just ignore them, especially if the calls were turning obnoxious.

He attempted to walk me home but I said there was no need because I was not sick and I can carry my books. I left him standing on the sidewalk, his mouth hanging wide open.

The final straw was during a school play that I wasn’t part of. This was the time Lainey and I already had a falling out. I was watching by my lonesome when suddenly the seats beside me were seized by Orville and his friend, JP.

I tried my best to ignore them. He was attempting to make a conversation with me by asking why I wasn’t in the play and I snapped back at him by saying I dropped out because rehearsals were eating too much of my time.

I thought he already gave up. I suddenly felt funny and when I turned to my left I caught Orville blowing air into my ear and neck. I was flabbergasted and walked out on them and the entire play.

The next day the seniors were calling me the Ice Maiden.

The name-calling was bordering on bullying but I kept on plodding on. The misery hanging over my sophomore year shouldn’t be carried over to my junior year, which was supposed to be amazing.

But so far, no amazing thing has happened yet.

And then there’s this Ice Maiden thing. To be branded as an Ice Maiden during your formative years—supposedly the best years to go out on dates and flirt like crazy—was anything but amazing. It kills your chances at romance and social life, which were supposedly the most important things for a 16-year-old on this side of the world. Nevermind that other 16-year-olds in other parts of the planet are scavenging for food or already dodging bullets, barely keeping themselves alive.

Nope, amazing things happen to svelte, beautiful girls like Kirstin Lopez, the epitome of how a girl is supposed to be. The poster girl for All The Things A 16-Year-Old Should Aspire For.

Then there’s just me. No amazing thing happening.

I promise you that.

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Chapter 1

It really was a foreign language to me.

But I tried—tried so hard to arrive at solving x but for the life of me I could not understand how I wasn’t able to.

I could feel a wave of panic coming over me as I suddenly had an inkling that my Trigonometry teacher was about to call me next to solve the problem on the chalkboard.

I have to execute my exit plan. Now.

I made a move towards the door and proceeded to slip away on the pretense that I would be going to the little girls’ room.

It was lucky of me that Ms. Luna chose to write on the board that instant.

I slinked my way out the door and after I extricated myself out of the stuffy room into the corridor, I tried to walk as nonchalantly as I could and made my way to the bathroom.

And pretended I had not done a misdeed.

Well, it wasn’t really…I really had to go, you know.

Once I got to the lavatory, I washed my face vigorously and stared at my reflection and eyed the water slowly dripping from my chin. I stared at my heart-shaped face that was framed by my long, straight black hair, highlighted by a pair of somewhat almond-shaped eyes.

I fished inside my jeans’ pocket for my handkerchief to scrub down my face devoid of make-up, as if my sole purpose in life that moment was to erase memories of my harrowing Trig class.

I really couldn’t help it. I had been bad at math for as long as I can remember. In grade school, my mother had to hire a tutor for me just be able to get through all my math subjects. The humiliating thing was I was an honor student who was bad at math. My sciences and my English kept me afloat until middle school.

Once I reached high school, I eschewed all ambitions to run for honors and—to heck with it—I vowed to myself I will try to survive without a math tutor breathing down my neck year in and year out. So far so good, I am already a junior and I haven’t managed to come home with an F  in my math.

Just as I entered one of the bathroom stalls, two pairs of well-shod feet suddenly barged into the room and a shower of giggles permeated the air. I recognized one of the voices as Lainey Grant’s, the self-proclaimed queen bee of our grade.

“Can you believe that guy had the gall to ask you out? Who does he think he is?” asked Jen Wheeler, Lainey’s equally evil twin sister.

No, they’re not really twin sisters but they could have been in another life.

“Maybe he felt that he was already God’s gift to women after he had his braces off,” Lainey replied.

“Yuck, that Kevin,” the other girl commented.

That moment I wanted to hurl my bag at the two airheads from inside my stall, but of course I didn’t have it with me so I just had to content myself by imagining other things that I would just love to do to the two girls, if I had the chance.

The funny thing here was I was friends with them during my sophomore year. By the second semester, they made it clear they didn’t want to be friends with me anymore and decided to just dump me. The rest of the gang took Lainey’s lead by ignoring me and stopped inviting me to hang out.

At first I was oblivious to what they were doing to me but somehow I felt something was off. My suspicions were confirmed when I accidentally eavesdropped on Lainey and Jen’s conversation inside the bathroom while I was in one of the stalls. They were talking about me and how dense I was for not taking the hint.

Funny how bathrooms turn out to be the best places to confirm rumors and whatnot.

Yeah, I had some issues—and who didn’t have issues at 15?  Inferiority complex was eating me alive at that time, which was, unfortunately, confused as superiority complex. Was a loudmouth most of the time to mask that complex. To top it all off, I was also going through an identity crisis, which was—surprise, surprise—was sparked by hanging out with them.

But real friends talk you through your troubles, right? They just don’t dump you.

To sum it up, I had a miserable sophomore year.

As the two girls’ voices started to fade away, I got out of my hiding place and quickly went back to my Trig class. Ms. Luna may have skipped me already.

-oOo-

Eddie Vedder was serenading me that night while I was trying to balance my chemical equations on paper. For some reason I wanted to do well in Chemistry and not just pass the subject. I was about to pencil in my answer in number 8 when there was a loud knocking on my door.

I turned off my cd player and yelled, “Yeah?”

“Phone!” my sister Kate shouted from the other side.

I got out of my room and grabbed the cordless phone from its cradle that was hanging on the wall of our second floor landing.

“Hello?”

“Andy, hi. It’s Jay. Jay Macmillan” My eyes flew wide open and gripped the phone tighter. I quickly went back to my room and quietly shut the door behind me.

Jay is my Chem lab partner.

“Listen, obviously you know I had missed a couple of days and I was wondering if I could ask you if we have any homework or quizzes I should know about?”

“Sure. We’re scheduled to have a quiz tomorrow. Balancing. I’m just doing my homework now. I could dictate to you the problem sets.”

Jay is, well, a revelation to me. I had been hearing a lot about him since we were freshmen but I couldn’t get what the girls saw in him. He was not particularly handsome or rich or anything. He just has a bad boy persona that I thought girls were attracted to. I wasn’t really a fangirl so I just ignored him like the rest of the boys in our class.

One day I had with me a lyrics of a Lisa Loeb song I had written down to memorize. It was probably unfortunate that I had chosen Chem period to do my humming while reading my handwritten lyrics. It’s easier to memorize it that way. I was leaning over one of the lab sinks when Jay, who was opposite me, grabbed the sheet from my hand and inspected what was written on it.

“Really, you like this song?” he asked in mock disdain.

“Hey, who asked you to criticize my music choices?” I protested.

“Really, Lisa Loeb? This belongs to the garbage can,” he said, then pretended to throw the slip into the bin adjacent to our sink.

I reached out desperately, trying to keep him from throwing it. But I couldn’t so I went round the long lab table to pry it from his hands. We might have looked stupid then, which I realized was Jay’s intention all along.

My dignity was worth more than that piece of paper so I stopped and went back to my seat. Seeing that the fight had already died in me, he flipped back the lyrics onto my desk.

He just did that to annoy me. He does things to annoy me every Chem.

They say if a guy always teases a girl, he likes her. But why isn’t he making any move at all, like ask me out?

Then there’s this phone call, which is totally utilitarian. Nothing romantic.

After giving him the problem sets, he just said, “Hey, thanks. See you tomorrow.”

That’s it.

Though I didn’t give him our home phone number, we are listed in the phonebook so it’s no biggie. It’s not as if he really had to comb through a haystack to find my number.

Wait, why am I flattering myself? I don’t even know if I like him or not.

Although it’s already 1994, I still wouldn’t make a move to find out if he’s interested or not.

-oOo-

One of the things that really changed when I turned junior was that I’m no longer hanging out with a big group and most of the time I just kept to myself. I made a few select friends from my classmates who kept a low profile. Not the party-going, mall-hopping type. Most of the time when we have free time, which  mostly falls on Friday afternoons, we just watch movies in our house, which was near our school. Et voila! That’s my social life.

I prefer it that way, I guess, lest I run around school again as the overacting drama queen I was back then. Maybe it was the company I kept? I don’t know. I spent half of my sophomore year analyzing what went wrong. I don’t know why I had to be overacting. I don’t know that I was already overreacting to things. It’s not that I want people’s attention. It’s just—me. You can probably blame it on hormones and the pain of going through adolescence but I really don’t know how to control my emotions. And the volume of my voice. It’s LOUD by default.

So now I always have my guard up and tell myself to keep a low profile, be quiet and don’t stand out.

Memories of being at the end of snide remarks and the cold shoulder treatment I received from former friends and mere classmates keep me in check.

It was probably one of the reasons why I didn’t have a boyfriend from school. I may be interesting at first but when boys discover what I really was, they start to back off.

No, no, Andrea, you’re letting your insecurities eat you up again, I told myself. Stop it. You are capable of attracting guys. They even confess to love you. Look at Jake.

Yeah, Jake from last summer. I spent my summer vacation in my parents’ hometown in the West and there was Jake who at first tried to woo me at the urging of his friends but later on he claimed he genuinely fell for me. We went out and his friends and my cousins hung out for a while. When summer was over, I went back home and had not been in touch. Jake, on the other hand, kept writing me letters, asking me if I love him in return.

I was not being unfair to him; I told him from the very start that I can’t commit and I’m not really sure about my feelings for him. Let’s just enjoy the summer and each other’s company for a while,  I told him.

I was just being honest to myself. Before the summer was over I told him to forget me and go on with his life and I to my own.  There was no point in prolonging the agony of something that could never be. Harsh, I know, but I had to be realistic. How can you keep a long distance relationship at 16 with only expensive long distance calls and letters posted in between? Plus, I couldn’t really decide if I was really in love with Jake or not.

Probably I wasn’t. I was a little heartbroken when summer was over. I was a ghost floating around our house for a little while but I got over him once school started.

So I wrote him, telling him that I wasn’t in love with him so the letters would stop.

Cruel? I was just being honest. I wasn’t ready for a serious relationship and a long-distance one is too taxing for someone as fickle as me. Maybe if I were crazy in love, I would have moved mountains to make it work out.

The problem is I wasn’t.

It’s more cruel to let him dangle and hang on. I had to say goodbye.

-oOo-

I probably got an A- in my Chemistry quiz so I was feeling great that morning. Despite his absence for a couple of days, Jay decided to still take the test even though Mr. Port was ready to cut him some slack. Anyway, Mr. Port reminded us to bring our lab coats the next meeting because we will be conducting some experiments and put our theoretical balancing to the test.

“Hoooo great! A chance for Andy to blow up the lab!” Jay hooted. Then he and Randy Gomez laughed their way out of the room.

Jay can be cute sometimes but today he is just plain annoying.

I shoved my stuff in my bag and reminded myself not to take him seriously. Ok, don’t overreact. Don’t overreact, I keep muttering under my breath.

I was vacillating between liking him and not liking him at all. Today I feel the latter.

I went up the stairs to get to my next class, Literature. On the way, I suddenly felt the urge to write “Kick Me, I’m a Hip-Hop god” on a paper with a Sharpie. I got a small roll of tape from my bag and stuck the tape on the sign. When I got into the classroom where we will be having our Lit class, I searched for Randy who was talking with Heather. Luckily his back was facing me. I talked to Heather with my eyes and put my index finger on my lips to tell her not to give me away.

Then I taped the “Kick Me” sign on to Randy’s collar at the back of his shirt.

After the deed was done, I settled in my usual seat and pretended nothing was out of the ordinary.

At the corner of my eye, I saw Jay, who I think witnessed everything, sneak up on Randy and kicked him behind his knees.

“Owww! Man, what did you do that for?” cried Randy.

“It says here!” and Jay ripped the sign off Randy’s back and showed him.

“This practically gives me the license to beat you up.”

They continued their friendly bickering while I tried to read up on some of the Shakespeare sonnets we will be taking up today.

Two shadows fell on my textbook. I looked up and feigned innocence.

“What can I do for you?” I asked Jay and Randy.

“This,” said Randy, holding up the offending sign for me to read.

“So, what has it got anything to do with me?”

“Everything. It has your name at the back of the paper. It has your doodles, idiotic woman,” Jay said, laughing.

I’m an idiot, alright.

Jay then quickly wrote my name at the bottom of the “Kick Me” in bright red ink and ran out of the room. I followed him and saw him pinning the sign on the Juniors’ bulletin board. On a place I couldn’t reach. Jay was wayyyy taller than me.

“Hey! Get if off!” I couldn’t reach the sign. Of all the days to wear a skirt.

“If you weren’t an idiot, this sign wouldn’t have been here in the first place,” Jay said while parrying my attempts to rip off the sign.

“Well, how come it’s you who’s taking the revenge when Randy is supposed to be the offended party?”

Jay was tightly holding both of my wrists. “I am his friend and this is what friends do for each other,” was his jolly answer.

The third period bell rang and Ms. Natural suddenly materialized and was walking down the corridor to our classroom.

-oOo-


life in business journalism

crazy. exciting. boring to some but hey, you get to understand the world better when you're a business journalist. you learn to be patient with tons of documents, make sense of numbers and charts. all geeky stuff. this is my story, behind the scenes.
August 2018
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