ACT NORMAL

The next morning, I entered the school’s gate with my heart pounding loudly. I’m nervous about what’s going to happen today if I see Chrixa. I really hate this! Not this again! Not with my best friend!

I take a deep breath. I just have to act normal.

“Mort!”

I flinch as Chrixa calls me from behind. She then catches up to me and we walk together. Whatever happened the other day, she seemed to have forgotten about it. Not me, though. As we walk, I can’t help feeling so uncomfortable.

Mort: Oh! H-hi Chrish.

I smile feeling so awkward.

Chrixa: What’s wrong with you?

She looks at me with a brow raised.

Chrixa: You look like you’ve seen a ghost. Are you alright?

She’s actually doing her forget-about-it-after-one-day style. Somehow that made me slowly relax. If she’s doing that style then Lance’s theory could be wrong and what happened the other day was not really as big a deal as I thought.

I exhale as the nervousness goes away.

Mort: Yeah yeah. I’m alright.

Chrixa: Oh… Ok…

She weakly smiles. We walk silently for a minute. My mind is struggling between asking her about the other day or just act normal and forget about it. Suddenly the awkwardness creeps back in. But before it could consume me, I’m just going ask her so this whole thing will be cleared and over.

Mort: Uh Chrish –

“KRIIIIIIIIIIIIING!”

Great. If the bell was a person, I’d punch him in the face.

We start running towards our classroom. I’ll just ask her later.

During lunchtime, I started having that feeling of being hungry-but-not-hungry again. A feeling that consumed me last year.

I just sit on my chair, mind flying somewhere else.

Chrixa: Here take this.

Chrixa appears beside me holding up a lime green lunchbox. She’s wearing one of her sweetest smile.

I can’t help my mind from getting ahead of me. Now I’m thinking that the reason she’s giving me lunch is because – NO!

Dang it Lance! Giving that idea to me! Now I can’t erase it in my head!

This is just another prank. I hoped as I ask Chrixa, trying to act suspicious,

“What’s inside it?”

It’s gotta be a prank. So inside it would be…

Chrixa: Lunch. Food.

Now I feel truly suspicious and my mind just focused on the prank she did the other day when she gave me lunch. I can’t fall for that again.

Mort: Not confetti?

Chrixa, rolling her eyes and without saying another word, opens the lunchbox.

Real food was actually inside.

The sight of Adobong manok made me wanna drool but the feeling of Lance’s theory being true slowly creeps back in. I started examining the corners of the lunchbox, desperately looking for a confetti.

Mort: Okay…

I touch the food and felt it’s genuineness.

Mort: Where’s the confetti?

Chrixa: There’s no confetti, stupid!

Chrixa said almost laughing. The word “stupid” made me recall her face the other day, opposite to how she’s saying it now. It made me uneasy.

Mort: Well…n-no pranks today?

Why am I feeling nervous?

Mort: I don’t have to do anything before taking that delicious food? You’re giving it for free?

There’s gotta be a catch.

Chrixa: I actually thought of making you lick my shoes before giving this to you.

She’s checking her nails and eyes her shoes.

There is a catch! My insides almost rejoice but her next words prevented it to do so.

Chrixa: But then you wouldn’t accept it so I altered it a bit: If you don’t take this, I’ll force you to kiss me.

Her lips half pouting, half smiling.

Mort: I’ll take it!

I immediately take the lunchbox. Trying hard not to mind the “kiss” part which is actually echoing inside my head. I force a smile.

Chrixa: Good boy.

She pats my head.

Chrixa: Now eat!

She said cheerfully and takes off.

Mort: Uh…Thanks, Chrish!

Chrixa: You’re welcome!

Her back towards me, she raises a thumb up and walks out of the room.

I look at the lunch. Then I notice that the Gang was snickering from a distance. I can see Lance making heart shapes with his hands. I make a fist at them which was effective for stopping group antics.

That was supposed to be just a normal thing. But it felt so weird. I don’t know why but ever since the idea of her being – I inhale then exhale. Ever since THAT, I just feel different.

After praying for the food, I started eating it wondering if she’s the one cooking it. It’s really delicious. As I eat it I feel so different though. I can’t really determine what it is but it’s unpleasant and familiar. Could it be that – No! I patted my chest. I can’t be. Not with Chrixa.

I eat fast and drank a lot of water to drown the things that are stirring inside me. I shake my head and just nailed it to the fact that nothing’s proven yet. I need to make it sure though. So I’ve decided to ask her after class. I can’t let this confusion linger.

After dismissal, I lost sight of Chrixa. I’m looking for her because I wanted to ask her, once and for all. So that everything is settled and I wouldn’t have to imagine things anymore.

I head towards the white leadtree beside our room but then I hesitated because why would she be there alone? If Lance’s theory was right then the possibility of her sitting on the emo rock is high.

I’m walking towards the tree, from afar I can see that no one is sitting on the emo rock. I was about to turn around and head for the school gate but then I hear familiar voices from my left. It was Chrixa and Karen. They’re not under the white leadtree but on the garden beside our room. There’s a table in the middle of it. That’s the comfort table. A table only used by the gang to either hang out or give serious advice.

I didn’t interrupt Karen and Chrixa because I think I know what they’re talking about. I shouldn’t do it but I decided to eavesdrop.

Chrixa: I already told him! But it seems like he didn’t hear it!

I never heard Chrixa talk like that before. Come to think of it, she never really ranted to me before. She’s always so happy whenever we’re together. We didn’t really talk about her problems because it seems like she doesn’t have any. And if she does have a problem, she’d be absent.

Back when we were just kids, I went to their house the day she was absent. I just sneaked into their backyard and throw pebbles at her window. Then I’d make her go out to play. I always made her happy whenever she’s sad so talking about her problem doesn’t happen between us. I’m also not the guy who pries that much, especially when I know it would be wise not to. So every time I see that Chrixa has a problem I just make her happy and we just laugh it off.

But now that I hear her talking like that. I felt like there’s a very big distance between us. I want to go there and join Karen helping her with her problems. But then I realized –

Karen: He didn’t hear it?

I am the problem.

Chrixa: It’s not that he didn’t hear it. He’s just so stupid to get it!

Chrixa’s words came through my heart like an arrow, hitting it right on the spot.

Karen: Actually Daniel told me about it.

I knew Daniel would tell Karen.

Karen: He said Mort actually thought that it’s Hugh Jackman.

Karen laughs and that’s when I accepted it.

Lance’s theory was right.

Chrixa: He’s really stupid…

I’m really stupid.

Chrixa: But I love him. I love him so much.

Hearing it directly from her feels so…

What? What do I feel?

My heart can’t even process her words. Suddenly I wanted to go and confront Chrixa but what will I say?

I tried to recall the prank she gave me on the first day. The way she hugged me and said those words. The way I got very angry.

I clench my fist. Did I hurt her because of that? Did I made her feel that she’ll only hear those phrase from me if she pushes me into doing so?

I’m frustrated. Now the “L” thing hit my best friend. I feel like crying but I suppress it.

Karen: Aren’t you gonna tell him again?

Chrixa: I don’t know.

Chrixa’s voice is almost like a whisper. Full of pain and sadness.

Chrixa: I think I’ll just wait.

Chrixa pauses.

Chrixa: Maybe He has a plan.

And by saying He, I assumed she’s talking about God.

Karen: Of course He does.

What is He planning though? I look up.

Mort: (whisper)What are You planning?

I hear rustling as Chrixa stands up.

Chrixa: I’m going now Karen. Thanks for listening.

Karen: Oh Chrixa…whenever you need someone to talk to about this, just call me ok?

Chrixa: Ok…bye.

I walk away, stops after a few steps and turns around. Chrixa was just turning around the corner towards me.

Mort: There you are!

The came out so natural that it surprised even me. Chrixa flinches as she sees me. Karen is also rounding the corner.

Mort: Oh. Hey, Karen!

Karen also flinches but smiles as I greet her.

Chrixa: You can go home, Mort.

Chrixa’s not looking at me but the ground. I can see her face now. She looks so sad.

Chrixa: You don’t have to wait for me.

Mort: We’re always going home together. Of course I’ll wait for you.

I have to act as normal as possible, for now.

Karen gives me a smile. I smile back. She usually pries a lot but, right now, she’s acting like Auntie Jane. Letting us deal with it ourselves.

Chrixa didn’t make a sound after that.

Our walk home is the longest walk I’ve ever had with her. I wanted to tell her something but I’m afraid to make a wrong move and screw it up so bad. So I remained silent. I don’t really know what to say to her at the moment, so silence is the best thing to do, I guess.

I was staring at her back as she walks ahead of me. I don’t ever want her to end up just like me. Isolating herself into loneliness. Shutting down interactions with friends. The kind of stuff those hopeless romantic people go through. If I wanted to help her, the next move should be clear, right? Allow myself to fall too? I can’t. I know how sensitive a heart is. I don’t want to pretend I lo- I stop myself. Even saying the word is difficult for me now. How much more putting it into action.

We reached her home both looking gloomy. I don’t know if Auntie Jane knows what’s happening but I gave her a smile, to give her an assurance that it’s nothing big, and bid goodbye. I bid Chrixa goodbye too but she just walked straight into their house, not looking back.

Later that night, I just can’t sleep right away. Chrixa’s words are echoing inside me.

“I love him so much.”

AH! I sit up, bow my head, and pray:

Please God show me the way and guide me through it. I know You’ll never leave me. And I know that You will be with her, especially now that she badly needs Your guidance. Please, Father, guide us both through this. Amen.

After that, I felt slightly comforted. I’m pretty sure that He’ll answer my prayer.

“MORT!”

I hear Chrixa’s voice calling me. I slowly open my eyes and her face focuses slowly in front of me. Her beautiful face shines as she smiles at me. I’m lying down on a patch of grass. She helps me stand up and I notice we’re on a huge field of beautiful flowers.

She grabs my hand and we run around the field. We’re very happy. Then Chrixa drags me near a cliff.

“Whoa!” I say, stopping and pulling Chrixa away from it. Chrixa smiles and pulls me towards it.

“C’mon! Don’t be afraid.” she says. Then she lets go of me and moves closer to the edge of the cliff.

“Hey Chrixa, don’t!” I tell her, but she just smiles and says,

“Jump with me.”

Then she lets herself fall off the cliff.

My insides leap as I run to try to grab her but it’s too late. I watch as her figure diminishes into the darkness, shouting,

“CHRIXA!!! NO!!!”

I wake up panting. I’m on the edge of my bed, my right arm dangling towards the floor of my bedroom. I’m breathing heavily as I stare at the dimly lit floor beneath my bed.

I sit up my bed and turn on my lamp on the table beside me.

The nightmare never left my mind even after waking up. It keeps on replaying in my mind and, for what seems like an hour, I sat on my bed thinking what it meant.

Chrixa. Falling. Me. Helplessly watching as she falls.

And she was smiling.

A sudden pain shots through my chest. I slap my head thinking, “How could I be so stupid to let her fall! Why didn’t I see it coming?”

Once again, Chrixa caught me off guard. And it left me feeling awful again. But this time I don’t think it would only be for a while. This ones going to last long. And no knucklehead can make it any better.

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