Chapte 41

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I was glad that Kina acted the same now as she usually did around us. Gary and Sarielle seemed to know something had transpired between Kina and I, but neither of them asked, understanding that it was a very touchy topic. The class was abuzz with conversations about the upcoming senior ball, which was four months away. Even if it was still quite far, many of the girls were excitedly sketching their gowns and wondering who would ask them out. Some of my classmates had even asked the girls they liked to be their partner since junior year, afraid that some other guy would steal them away. Now that’s what you call an ‘early reservation’. No one needed to ask me who I was going with, as it was obvious as day. Come to think of it, I never even asked Sarielle to be my ball date. We just knew. There was never anyone else in our minds. “I want you to wear an off shouldered gown,” I said, already imagining how nice her shoulders would look. Then I suddenly made a face. “Never mind. I don’t want other guys to ogle you. Only I can do that. You should just wear a tuxedo to cover everything.” “I’ll wear a tuxedo if you wear a gown,” Sarielle said laughingly. Gary and Kina arrived at the lunch table, just in time to hear Sarielle say she wanted me to cross-dress. “You would look fabulous~” Gary said in a high pitched coquettish tone, and I was momentarily stunned by how it suited him so well. “I think a lot of people would run away,” Kina remarked with a smirk. “Just don’t. It’ll ruin a lot of girls’ and even guys’ imaginations.” “Doesn’t ruin mine, though,” Gary said abruptly as he added another lump of sugar to his milktea. “Need I say why?” Kina punched him teasingly in the shoulder. Gary looked like a deer caught in the headlights. “Please don’t,” Gary pleaded. “What’s this all about?” I interjected, wanting in on this secret conversation of theirs. “None of your business,” they both replied at the same time. Huhu, why were they ganging up on me?!

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Sarielle and I were doing homework in the living room (because confining ourselves in my room caused too many temptations *cough*). I was researching online about our next class excursion, which was for history class. We had to use the common mode of transportation to immerse ourselves in plebeian society. The academy had rented out an antique train for us, which was said to have carried with it immigrants dating from WWII. Our destination was a large museum in the province, and it held gorgeous artifacts from the 12th century and beyond. I found it interesting how Earth always preserved things of the past. In my past life, there were no such things as museums and the like. The gold and jewelry that they obtained were actually still usable in the present, so they had no need to store them so scrupulously for future generations to behold. All the important objects that were deemed important were used for the cultivation process. Earth, however, was different. They did not know how to cultivate, and such, gave their all to the aesthetic values in life. The intricacies of the sculptures and of the ancient buildings were a rare sight now in modern society, and the artisans of the past were venerated for creating amazing designs with humble tools. Sometimes I was philosophical about it. Perhaps Earth preserved the past not only to enrich the minds of modern people, but also to display the horror and truth of what wars, immorality, intolerance, and most importantly, hate, could do to life. We were doomed to repeat such tragedies if we couldn’t grasp the past. While in my philosophical state, the clacking of my mother’s heels against the tiles and my father’s rich baritone voice brought me to the present. My parents had arrived. “Bobby!” “Ryle.” “Welcome home mom, dad.” I stood up to kiss them on their cheeks. “Sari!” Mother beamed and kissed her on the cheeks as well, my mother’s elegant hands on either side of Sarielle’s face. “Good evening auntie,” Sarielle said, then smiled warmly at my father. “Good evening, uncle.” “No need to be so polite with us, Sari!” Father patted her shoulder with a warm smile on his face. “I have something very important to discuss with you both, and I wish for you to hear me out,” Sarielle said suddenly. My parents looked at me, askance. I raised my eyebrows and shrugged my shoulders, pleading for innocence with my eyes. This came right out of the blue. I didn’t know what Sarielle was going to say either! “Reeve already said not to be so polite, Sari dear! You don’t have to look so stiff!” Mother laughed. “Spit out whatever you want! Not literally of course.” “Well…” Sarielle suddenly turned very red, but her eyes were still focused on my parents. “I…want to ask for your dau–son’s hand in marriage.”  The silence was deafening, and we all stood there shell shocked. “Um, well, I won’t marry your dau–son right away or anything…maybe after I get a stable job and can provide for her–him…” Sarielle’s face was so ruddy that she looked like she was going to overheat. “My goodness!” Mother finally said something. She covered her huge smile with a delicate hand. She nudged the surprised husband in the ribs. He shook himself from his daze. “Ryle! How could you let your girlfriend propose for you!” Father looked a bit miffed. “I didn’t do anything!” My hands were in the air. I was innocent! Although I had proposed to her a year ago, I didn’t think she would start asking my parents for permission to marry me. I was surprised myself! I had planned on telling my parents about our engagement after we graduated high school, but it seemed Sarielle stole the limelight from me this time. “Calm down honey,” mother smoothed his arm. She turned to Sarielle. “Well, it’s not that we’re against it. We were just shocked, that’s all. But we’ve known since the beginning that this would happen.” Father smiled wryly. “You’ve hooked a great girl, Ryle. I wonder where you got your techniques from.” “Obviously from you, dad.” I decided to just play along, and he grinned. “Take good care of her, okay?” Father said, his eyes in all seriousness. “Use protection!” Mother quipped. “MOM!!!” I complained. We weren’t even going to do anything that would require it! I added, “I don’t need it!” “Ryle!” Mother said, aghast. “You HAVE to use protection! At least, before marriage!” “MOM!!!” I whined. I was misunderstood, ah!

In the subway not far from our academy, our senior batch stood at platform B6, waiting for the train that would take us to the museum in the province. Everyone was chattering excitedly. The students who came from humble backgrounds were not too amazed by the common trains, as they were used to commuting to and fro school, but they were still excited by the fact that what they were going to experience now was an antique train. It was, after all, cool vintage. “You’re engaged?” Kina and Gary both shrieked after I had finally confessed to them my current relationship status. They were my closest friends, and they had the right to know. I scratched my head. “Don’t say it so loud, guys!” I looked at the heads that were starting to turn towards our direction. “Hell,” Kina spat, glaring at Sarielle who was standing beside me. I didn’t like how Kina looked, so I stood in front of Sarielle as if protecting her. But Sarielle herself didn’t want to be protected, and she took another step to stand beside me. I contracted my brows in displeasure. What was with this tense atmosphere? “Er–congratulations,” Gary said awkwardly. He couldn’t look at Sarielle or I in the eye. Was it a bad thing to suddenly blurt this out? Was it such a surprise? I started to regret my decision. I wish I could stuff it all back in my mouth. Kina did not say anything, yet she had a portentous scowl on her face. I felt chills running down my spine. “Does anyone want anything to drink?” I asked wearily. Maybe their mood would soften with a can of Coke…or something? I was hopeful. “No?” I said after no response. I glanced at Sarielle to see if she wanted to come with me to the vending machine, but she merely smiled softly. The vending machine wasn’t that far, but with this crowd of students, it was hard to get through. After about fifteen minutes of weaving in, I purchased two cans of Coke, one orange juice for Sarielle, and a small carton of milk for myself. I made my way through the throng slowly, clutching the beverages in my arms. “I hate you!” A shrill scream pierced the common chatter. I started feeling very anxious, and I quickened my feet. “You stole him from me!” My classmates hushed their conversations to eavesdrop on the current commotion. My heart was ringing in my ears. “Kina, wait.” I saw Sarielle grip Kina’s sleeve, but Kina brushed her off forcefully. Sarielle had already been standing on the yellow line of the platform, and when Kina pushed her away, her foot was sent to the edge, and she stumbled backwards. The drinks fell from my arms as I lunged forward. “JIIIIIN!!!” I shouted. It was as if the scene that unfolded before me occurred in slow motion. Before I could reach them, Gary had pulled her back on safe ground with his hand. But instead, he had taken her place. I did not want to lose Gary or anyone important to me, and so with one last stride, I jumped forward to catch his hand as he was sent flying over the edge. I pulled back his arm, pushing him with all the force I could muster back to the platform. I slammed myself against the train tracks with such a force that I heard my bones crack. I groaned from the intense pain that ran up my arm. I could hear a sharp, ear-splitting scream just as a light came speeding towards me, and every other sound was drowned out by the locomotive that chugged closer and closer, the horns blaring in alarm. I closed my eyes. I hoped the soul collectors would come and take me before I could feel even more excruciating pain.

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