Chapter 1: Gorgeously Confused
Mom said it was “okay” that I transferred to Teddy High for my secondary education.
Not that she cares much, but hey, I have to tell her what I am doing with my life given that she is halfway around the world with her new kids and new husband.
Dad reckons that I’m “old enough to know what to do with [my] life.”
Gee, Dad, thanks. I’m twelve.
He’s just 400 kilometers away and he can’t even give me the answer I expected, or make that trip to help me arrange my transfer papers. Maybe something along the lines of “Oh, no need to come live with me here and study here. So that settles it then? I don’t have to explain you to my other family.”
Sometimes, growing up and being your own mom and dad is never nice.
My first day at the Teddy High.
I breathed deeply and looked at Theodore Montessori High School’s magnificent eight floors of maroon and white beauty. I told Manang Luisa when she asked me why I chose Teddy High was because (1) I liked maroon, (2) Teddy High has a gorgeous garden and fields, and (3) it is on a hilltop, so it should be sometimes cold. She flashed me a glare when I said that, and I just laughed, hugging my almost mom. Manang Luisa had, after all, taken care of me ever since I was in my diapers—or maybe ever since my parents decided I wasn’t worth the damn orgasm. (If they had one, that is. It sucks to think that even for once, they weren’t even sexually compatible. There has to be a reason why they made a mistake of marrying each other.)
Honestly, I chose Teddy High because of the seclusion. The place is a kilometer or so away from the main road (hilltop—go figure), and it only had around 80 students per year level. If it’s discretion you need, Teddy High’s the place to go.
Plus, Teddy High beats the crap out of my former school, Louisville Montessori, every single time in academic competitions. So if I plan to sow the seeds in my brain and harvest some kind of many rewards, I need to go to Teddy High.
Although going to a school that has less than 400 high school students means knowing practically everyone, I’d take my chances.
A honk from behind our car told me that I needed to go down now because we’re blocking the driveway. Manang Luisa gave me a good luck hug and the driver Paolo gave me a weird, almost maniacal smile. I swear our new driver freaks the hell out of me. Whatever. Manang Luisa tells me that he is a good guy, then so be it. If Manang Luisa thinks so… I shrugged.
I got down the car and smoothened the wrinkles of my clothes. Teddy High’s maroon and white checkered skirt and white long-sleeved blouse seemed to be okay for me, and then I put on a hey-I’m-a-freshman-but-not-your-ordinary-freshman smile. I remembered fluffing my hair in the car so the hair’s check, and I didn’t dare put on makeup because I’m still technically too young for that. I tried not to put too much confidence in my walk—I might trip and be the butt of the first day jokes. And when I got to the school gates, I swear I tried not to let my jaw drop and to keep my panties on.
I stared—I allowed myself that. The guy standing next to the guard is drop-dead GORGEOUS. He has the most intense pair of eyes I’ve ever seen and the most heartwarming smile. The dimple on his left cheek was one of the highlights of his face, along with his long, pointed nose and high cheekbones.
And I was sure that he is not a freshman.
The gorgeous one looked up and caught me staring at him, and I didn’t dare look away—that would only make me look even guiltier than I am. Gorgeous stared back, the smile on his face curving into amusement. I am so hoping he was staring at me.
And then he looked alarmed.
He stalked past the guard, who yelled at him to come back, and lunged at me, pulling me by the arm. A loud honk told me that I was actually at the driveway, and that I didn’t do a survival check (e.g., looking left and right before crossing the road) while I was staring at Gorgeous. I gasped as I crashed into his chest, inhaling his very manly smell. Hmm. It might be Bvlgari—or Clinique Happy. Either way, he smells so darn nice.
DAMN. Feels so warm and cozy in his arms.
I felt him inhale my hair, and I had to hold my breath. Thank God I had the wits to shampoo. Ha. Ha. I jumped out of his arms and tried to restrain myself. I looked up at him and muttered thanks. He looked confused for a moment, and then he glared at me.
“Don’t be stupid next time,” he said harshly, and he went back to his post next to the guard. That made my cheeks burn, and I felt my eyes well up. I caught myself in time and composed myself, and adjusted my backpack on my shoulder. I breathed deeply and entered the campus. The guard surveyed my uniform and then waved me in. Gorgeous deliberately ignored me as I passed by him, his eyes intent on the student behind me.
What the hell is he doing there? Surveying if students are in proper school uniform?
“Kuya Nathan is a student council representative,” said a perky voice from behind me. “Er, batch representative to the student council, I mean. He’ll kill you, though, if you call him Kuya. He and his friends don’t like being reminded of their ages.” I twirled and saw a girl a few inches shorter than I am, with wide black eyes and straight black hair that passed her shoulders. She had a wide smile pasted on her face, and her open palm was between me and her.
“Lau,” the girl said brightly, and I accepted her hand. “Trista,” I said. She shook my hand enthusiastically and then released it. “You’re new,” she said, so I figured that she had been at Teddy High since God-knows-when. Teddy High, after all, has a preschool like Louisville, but my old alma mater doesn’t have a high school division. I nodded. “From Louisville Montessori,” I replied, noting the school’s rival. Lau grinned.
“So YOU’RE the infamous Trista Limtanco!” she squealed, and other students around us looked at me and Lau. Some held appraising looks, others with frowns on their faces. I pulled Lau to a corner and she still grinned brightly at me. She pointed to the bulletin board that had eight immaculate white sheets of coupon bond tacked separately and neatly across the board. “You know what section you in?” she asked, and I shook my head. It was her turn to pull me towards the bulletin board, and we found the list for freshies.
I looked at the St. Peter Calungsod section (all of the sections at Teddy High are named after saints, which I wonder sometimes why because they’re advertising themselves as a non-sectarian school, but to hell with it—they have Religion as a subject) and didn’t find my name there. Lau scanned the St. Thomas Aquinas list, and I peered over her shoulder and read the list.
“Oh goodie. We’re classmates!” she said, still as brightly. The light and life in Lau doesn’t seem to fade. She pointed to my name—Limtanco, Trista Alexx C.—and then to hers—Waldo, Lauren Pamela Y.—and beamed at me.
“That’s great,” I said, trying to liven up my voice. While Lau half-dragged, half-pulled me to our classroom at the first floor, I silently wondered what year Nathan is. Lau indicated that Nathan wasn’t in our year level, so what year is he in?
I hope he’s not a senior. Please don’t make him a senior.
I placed my bag at one corner and got welcomed by a bunch of guys huddled at the other side of the room, and they were watching me with curious stares. High school. They were the nerdy bunch, judging by their eyeglasses, half-innocent looks, and their sudden aversion to eye contact. I would have blushed—I did not allow myself that since every blush I’ve saved for the day had been exhausted earlier with my incident with Nathan.
Lau bounded towards me and said, “Come on. Flag ceremony’s in five minutes.” I nodded, hastily getting my wallet from the corner pocket of my bag and stowing it in my skirt’s pocket. Lau and I headed for the circular ramp that led to the basketball court. Elementary students have already lined themselves on the basketball court, so I figured we’d be assembling at the volleyball court ten feet down the basketball court. A teacher waved at us, so I followed Lau who was already making her way to the teacher.
“Hi, Ms. Quinones!” Lau greeted gaily. The teacher gave her a smile, and then asked, “Year and section?”
Lau answered for us both. “First year. St. Thomas.”
She pointed to the far end of the court, and Lau and I hustled there. Some of our classmates are there already. I turned to her.
“You studied here?” I asked, and Lau nodded.
“For as long as I can remember,” she replied, and then she started pointing out people to me and saying their names and a few trivia about them. Lau seemed to know everything about everyone, so I deduced there was only a few of us who transferred here. The guy named Geoff was so cute, and he was in a group of guys who had that confident strut and that extra bounce in their step—like as if they owned the school. These, I think, are the jocks.
Or maybe the heartthrobs.
When I examined their group closer, I thought Nathan was one of them, but I blinked, and he wasn’t.
The boy I was eyeing looked so much like Nathan that I strained my ears to listen to Lau as she ratted off the names the guys in the group. “—and that’s Ian. He’s Nathan’s brother,” she finished, and I realized the resemblance.
“What year is Nathan in?” I asked, trying to sound uninterested.
She gave me a sly smile. “Third year,” she replied. “But honey, no offense—I know you’ve got the beauty and the brains and everything else, but upperclassmen don’t really go for younglings like us.”
I silently thanked heavens for her honesty. At least someone’s setting me right. “His brother then,” I teased, and she shook her head.
“See those girls?” Lau said, pointing to a group of six or eight girls going down the ramp in the same style and attitude as Geoff’s group did. I nodded. They should be the mean girls. “Cherie—that’s the one with a headband—” and boy, she looked like Snow White personified—“that’s Ian’s long-time crush. Kris, the one with the curly hair—”she pointed at the Tyra Banks lookalike—“she’s Ian’s ex. And Lyra, the one on the far left—” she cocked her head and I saw a girl with a pearly white smile and a boy cut hair that suits her real well—“she’s head over heels in love with Ian.”
I heaved a sigh and exhaled, “Whoa.”
“So if you want a complicated life, go for Ian. But if I were you, I wouldn’t go after him, because those girls could be mean and cruel,” Lau warned. I gave her a loose smile and wanted to reply that I already have a complicated one, but I just stopped myself and strained to listen to a few more names that completed Cherie’s group. Eight people, and two others met them halfway to the volleyball court. By the time they arrived at the court, Ian’s group were eyeing them, and the girls gave a particular guy in Ian’s group a smile.
We both turned and saw three girls. One was small and plump, with dimples on both her cheeks, the other tall and thin, and the last thin, dark, and tall. All three possess varying degrees of beauty, but the tall and thin one stands out—she is the most beautiful among the three. She has foreign blood from what I can see.
“Trista, these are Renee, Frances, and Mai, and they’re my friends,” Lau introduced, and I smiled at them. “Guys, this is Trista.”
One of them gaped at me, and it was Renee. “Trista Limtanco?”
I nodded, frowning. This is the second time this day that I got that reaction. “What’s so grand about the name?” I asked innocently.
Frances laughed. “Girl, you have been tagged as the jack-of-all-trades. We’ve watched you sing, dance, and beat the hell out of Sam, or give her a run for her money every academic competition,” she said, mentioning Sam Laurente, and she had always been the one who I was competing against in every contest that I had entered. She is part of the Mean Girls group, though I wouldn’t have imagined Sam as a mean girl. “Plus, guys here do not know what you look like, but know your name and who you are. They sort of get some news around here you being gorgeous and smart and talented. Guess they’re all accurate,” Frances continued.
Now I blushed. I didn’t know I was THIS popular at Teddy High, considering I haven’t even been here. The first time I stepped onto Teddy High was when I took my entrance exams, and that was a Saturday, so no one really saw me.
Before we could continue with the chat, the bell began to wail, signaling the start of the flag ceremony. I rushed to the line behind a girl a few centimeters shorter than I am, who I later learned was named Sandra. Ian’s and Cherie’s group joined the freshmen line, splitting. Half went to the St. Peter section while the other half stayed with us and filed into the line. Tearing my eyes off the two groups, I searched the crowd for Nathan, and I couldn’t find him even at the third year line.
I felt disappointed, and that sinking feeling stayed with me until came the time to sing the national anthem.
Nathan rushed from the lobby and went down the flights of stairs and helped another guy to raise the flag. Something warm rushed through my veins and I didn’t like the feeling at all. Warm and fuzzy over a guy I don’t even know.
Flag ceremony finished, and we said our Panatang Makabayan, and then we filed out of the volleyball court, a little sweatier than we were when we got down. Our class adviser, Ms. Quinones, was already at the entrance of our classroom, and I suppressed a groan.
“Guys, I want you to enter the classroom and get your bags. We’re doing seating arrangements,” she announced, and all of us scrambled into the room to retrieve our bags and filed out once more. I scanned the boys’ line as Ms. Quinones called one student after the other to assign us seats. I saw Ian in my class, and Geoff, the cute dimple guy. Nice. More distractions.
Okay. The name got more recognition this time, and guys stared at me. Modesty aside, some stared like mad—like they’re about to drool—and I fought off rolling my eyes. Some gave me appraising looks while others tried to pass it off as boredom. The girls gave me bitch stares and I knew what they were thinking: I am stealing their very gorgeous spotlights. As if I can eat that. They can have that darn spotlight for all I care.
I raised my hand and Ms. Quinones pointed to a seat next to the window, the one where I placed my bag earlier. I dropped my bag on the floor and flopped onto the chair, ignoring the stares I was getting from almost everyone. My seat was a window seat—yeah, I know I said that already—but it was a window seat that when you peered out you’ll see the circular ramp and the corridor, not the typical window seat that makes you see the trees and the nice view outside—a.k.a. the daydreaming view.
I looked up and saw Geoff smiling down at me. I gave him a thrifty smile. My heart didn’t give a lurch when I expected it to, so Geoff isn’t the real thing. It took forever for the seating arrangements to finish, and when it did, now came the usual first day ritual: Introduce Yourself 101.
That took forever, too.
I found out though, that Ian’s surname is Lazaro, and that made me smile a bit. I can Google Nathan now.
When the introductions came to me, every bit of attention was on me, and I hated that. I saw Lyra roll her eyes and I felt bad that I pissed off the mean girls when I haven’t even said my name. Damn.
“Hi. I’m Trista Alexx Limtanco, but you can call me Trista. I am a transferee from Louisville Montessori. I am twelve years old,” I began, and then glanced at the long slum book-like questions on the blackboard that we had to answer. “My favorite colors are blue and green…”
I drowned on, trying not to think that Ian was actually staring at me, and Geoff was gazing at me with that stupid brightness in his eyes.
I don’t want to be hated by every female being on campus, please. I already had that at Louisville.