Happenstance [Part 3]

 “You forgot your wallet?” Iris blurted out.

Faith shrugged her shoulders as they were putting some of their things inside their lockers. “I told you, I woke up late.”

“But…who paid for your lunch?” Iris asked.

“Um…” Faith suddenly blushed horribly. “It’s…someone I know from the other class.”

Iris opened her mouth to ask another question, but closed it again as she looked at her friend, who was blushing horribly. “Oh. Okay. Then go ask Marco to lend you some money from the special fund so you can go home. Or better yet…” Iris grinned impishly. “Let’s force Jamie to ask Marco for you.”

Their plan was successful, as Faith managed to borrow some change from their class fund, and they were able to play Cupid with their friend.

The three girls said their goodbyes; Jamie was whisked away by Marco, who told them he was walking her home, and Iris was picked up by her mother.

Faith was trying to flag down a passing tricycle when there was a sudden downpour. She ran back to the school gates and looked for her umbrella, only to remember that she also left it at home. She could only sigh and watch as the tricycles rushed by with their passengers.

“Hi! It’s you again.” Someone tapped her shoulder and Faith turned and saw Mike, who had removed his polo and was only wearing his T-shirt (a black shirt, with a Batman logo on the front).

“Um. Hi.” Faith replied, blushing a little. She was trying not to look at his face directly, so she concentrated on staring at his neck. (She saw his hair was slightly curled.)

“You’re going home? Waiting for someone?” Mike asked.

“Um…not really.” Faith replied, wishing that she didn’t sound so stupid. “Um…how about you? Going home?”

“Yeah. I had to take a makeup test; I just finished a little while ago. Mrs. Cruz was staring at me, so I couldn’t peek at the other guy’s answers.” He laughed, scratching his cheek. “My nerdy brother, Mark, who I thought was still at the library, ditched me. And so did my nerdy friend Luke, who was going to play some sort of computer game only he could understand.”

“Oh. Okay. Um…so…well…um…” She was twisting the hem of her blouse nervously. Mike was so friendly. She desperately thought of a way to open up a scintillating conversation, but failed as she could only come up with single-syllable words.

“So if you’re not waiting for someone…why are you still here?” He asked again.

“Ah, well, I had to wait for a tricycle. And um, I don’t have an umbrella.” She confessed, blushing.

“Oh.” Then he grinned. “You forgot to bring one?”

She nodded slightly in response.

“Ah, well. Let’s just share. I’ll walk you to the nearest spot where you can get a tricycle.”

Faith couldn’t remember how she got home that day. All she knew was that she told Mike about her day and Mike only laughed good-naturedly. In exchange, he told her about his older twin brother, who was smarter and yet had not yet made any friends. (And that his favorite color was blue, he was a Libra, and he liked adobo.) She actually frowned after the rain finally stopped and he flagged down a tricycle for her. She wished that the rain would never end.

Oh. There was that other thing.

By the way, I think you’re cute. Let’s hang out together sometime.

Happenstance [Part 2]

“All right class, before we begin, I want you to pass your assignments.” Ms. Marquez, the English teacher said.

Some students, like Carla, already had their paper in front of them and were passing them to the person in front of them. The rest of the students were browsing through their bags in panic, praying to whatever higher power above that they did brought their homework.

Faith was optimistic. She always prepare her things the night before and she was confident that she had the sheet of paper containing her essay inserted somewhere. Not until she zipped open the last pocket and leafed through her books and notebooks did she sweat heavily in fear.

And then she remembered. Her essay was on her study table. She never got to place it inside her bag because she thought she could revise it earlier before going to school. But her alarm never rang.

“All essays here? Remember what I told you yesterday, since we were not able to finish our discussion, your homework will consist of half your recitation grade for today and our daily ten point quiz.”

Faith, who never got anything less than a passing grade, nearly banged her head on her desk in frustration.

“Today is the deadline for your investigatory project plan. No project plan, no approval of science experiment. Ergo, no science experiment, no grade. Now go to your partners and finalize everything before consulting with me.” Mr. Robles instructed the class.

“Hey Faith, do you mind if I still add some things to our proposal?” Sheila, Faith’s partner and resident overachiever, said as she went over.

“Sure. Let me just get it.” Faith rummaged through her bag, looking for their project plan. When she finished searching through every space inside her bag without finding it, she felt the blood drain from her body.

“Faith? The project plan?” Shiela had a huge frown on her face, tapping her ballpen impatiently on Faith’s desk.

“Ah…” Faith took a deep breath, frantically searching for the right words to explain the situation delicately and carefully. “Uhm, you see…”

“Wow, this is a first. You usually have your packed lunch.” Iris commented as Faith waited in line with her. “I never see you lining up with the rest of us here.”

 “I overslept and forgot to bring my lunchbox. I’m sure my mother’s mad right now.” Faith replied sheepishly.

“There’s a first time for everybody. But honestly, you have a horrendous unlucky streak today. A tardy slip, forgotten homework, getting yelled at by Sheila…well, Sheila yells at everybody anyway.” Iris paid for her lunch. “Oh, Jamie found us seats. I’ll go ahead.”

“Sure.” Faith reached inside her skirt pocket for her wallet. To her disbelief and dismay, she could only feel her handkerchief. She nervously looked behind her, and saw a long line of students waiting; most of them had irritated looks on their faces. She gulped at the thought of causing a scene, and was starting to stammer out an apology to the annoyed cashier, when someone placed some money in front of her.

“Here, I’ll pay for her.” Mike smiled at both the cashier and Faith. The cashier just nodded as he accepted the payment and waved them away.

“Thanks, um…”

“Mike.”

“Mike. Yes. Thanks. I’ll pay you tomorrow.”

Mike laughed and shook his head. “You don’t owe me anything. See you around.” She watched as he walked away, hands inside his pants pockets and whistling out of tune.

“Excuse me!” A girl bumped into her. “Sorry!”

Faith, startled, nearly dropped her lunch tray.

“Good afternoon! Pop quiz, you guys.” Mr. Macasaet, their Social Studies teacher, said as he entered the classroom. The students (except for the teachers’ pets and the overachievers) groaned in unison.

Their teacher ignored them. “Take out a ½ sheet of paper, lengthwise and number it one to 10. Then at the back part, write ‘Essay’ and ‘10 points’.”

Marco raised his hand, and stood up when Mr. Macasaet acknowledged him. “Sir, what’s the quiz all about?”

“Prehistory and pre-colonial history, Marco. Now, everyone ready?”

Faith paled. Of course, she had forgotten that the first rule Mr. Macasaet established during the first day of class was to always prepare for a surprise quiz. And she made the mistake of being confident when their teacher didn’t give them anything for the last two weeks.

“Question number one: Who established the Sultanate of Maguindanao?”

The least thing Faith could do was to frantically think of a name that sounded like a Muslim one. She remembered one from somewhere, and wrote it down. She tried to remember all the random facts she knew and hoped that it would be enough to get her through the quiz. Which it did, and she managed to answer all the questions.

She never expected to get a high score, but she never thought that she would get a zero.

And the knockout punch? When Mr. Macasaet announced that he had to leave their class immediately as he had an important conference to attend, he left them to read the chapters about the early Spanish expeditions, and told them that their quiz scores would reflect their recitation grade for that day.

Faith wondered if the worst was over.

“Sorry, I don’t have a spare.” Iris whispered. “Ask Carla. She always has extras.”

Faith knew that, but she didn’t want to. Carla was one of her classmates who always get in her nerves. And to owe the girl something, even as small as borrowing a pen, was unpleasant for her. But she didn’t have a choice

“Carla.” She called softly. When the girl didn’t answer, she bit her lip, annoyed, and called her again. “Carla.” But there was still no reply. She took a deep breath and tapped the shoulder of the girl seated in front of her. “Carla!”

“What?” Carla turned, frowning.

“May I borrow your pen?”

“Fine. Here.”

“Thanks.”

“You’re not welcome. Now stop disturbing me.”

She swore never to ask anything of that person again. Never ever again.

Like any normal high school student, Faith dreaded Mathematics. Not because the subject was hard (well, yes it is, for normal students), but she feared the person teaching the subject the most. She was known as “Mrs. Cruz”, and even the teacher’s pets and the overachievers tremble in their seats as soon as she enters the classroom. (The other students were frantically praying to every deity to save their lives.) Mrs. Cruz spared no mercy for anyone. And she was very, very good at remembering faces and names, especially if someone broke a rule or got a failing grade in her quiz.

“Good afternoon. Take out your notebooks and textbooks, and we’ll begin today’s lesson after I go around.”

Everyone scrambled for their things with some noise, and suddenly became quiet as Mrs. Cruz calmly slammed her things down on the table. (Despite the classroom being warm, most of the students were shivering.)

Faith wanted to cry as she came up empty. She had only brought her notebook, and her textbook was missing. (She later found it under her bed.) After passing by her desk, Mrs. Cruz looked at her and nodded. She announced in her usual chilly voice that she was giving a surprise test, 20 points, all problem solving questions, and no points for the solutions.

Faith prayed for an asteroid to hit Earth so her classmates would stop looking at her as if they would drop nuclear missiles on her head.

Word Games

Iris Garcia was just like any other normal student. She got along well with her peers, despite all of them being first year students. (Except for Carla, of course.) Like her friend Faith, she got good grades, enough to keep her mother off her back and leave her to do whatever she wanted to do. (Like collect mystery novels; their house was already full of books, what with her father’s own collection of political thrillers and social commentaries, her older sister’s romance novels, and her own books. Her mother despised house cleaning because of this, and ordered them to clean their own bookshelves. But that was for another story.) The two things she was exceptional with were English class and spelling quiz bees. (Or so she believed.)

Since elementary school, with the exception of second grade (where the final round was to spell the word orally, and she was bad at speaking in public and stumbled over the letters), Iris had been winning all the spelling bees she joined. Her mother collected all of her ribbons and cooked beans for good memory, her older sister reviewed her, and her father went to the events. Every time she was asked, she told them that it was thanks to her parents that she got an early head start in reading, her first present from her parents was a kid’s dictionary, and their family played Word Factory and Scrabble during weekends.

So it was no surprise when Iris beat out everybody else during the elimination spelling quiz that Ms. Marquez gave, and she was chosen (along with Marco, Carla and Sheila, who were second, third and fourth placers respectively) to represent Section B in the upcoming freshmen spelling bee contest.

 

“I’m sure I’ll win this year.” Iris declared confidently. A small paperback spelling dictionary was on her lap, and she leafed through the pages. “I mean, I think I’ve read more words than any other first year.”

“I’m sure you can do it.” Jamie replied. “You got the highest score among us.”

“Of course you can.” Faith reassured. “But I heard that Mark Rosales is among those representing Section C. Or so his brother told me.”

“You talked with Mike?” Jamie murmured in surprise. Faith pinched Jamie’s shoulder in reply.

“Pshaw.” Iris snorted. “Mark is easy to beat. He has the Math Quiz Bee to prepare for. And he’s never won a spelling bee contest, ever.”

“There’s one person who did, though.” Faith said. “Mike’s friend. Luke Sandoval from Section A. Mike told me that since they were in Grade One, Luke has never been beaten in any spelling bee he joined. Not even once.”

“Who cares about that guy?” Iris replied. “I’ve won in elementary school, too.”

But not all contests. You lost in the second grade. That thought persisted in her mind.

 

The week after, Iris started to feel a little bit of doubt.

As she entered the classroom, she saw Marco sitting closer to Jamie, who was completely red in the face. She was holding up a notebook and murmuring, while Marco scribbled something after she finished speaking. Iris moved nearer.

“—used to mark a water channel. The word is ‘buoy’. It’s spelled as B-U-O-Y.” Jamie spelled out the word slowly. “Did you get that correctly?”

“Yep. Next.”

“It means vivacious or gay. The word is ‘effervescent’. E-F-F-E-R-V-E-S-C-E-N-T.”

“Got that one.” Marco smiled and placed a check mark beside the word. “And the next word?”

“A bad-tempered person.” Jamie said. “The word is ‘curmudgeon’.”

Iris cleared her thought loudly, startling Jamie who dropped the notebook. Marco just winked.

 

As soon as the dismissal bell rang, Iris ran to the girls’ bathroom to relieve herself. She made the mistake of drinking a lot of water, and conveniently forgetting that their last period teacher didn’t allow for bathroom breaks, lecturing the class that they should have gone before she entered the classroom. After washing her hands, she walked back to the classroom to get her bag, when she saw Faith at the end of the hall, seemingly talking with someone. She tried to call out to Faith, but stopped when she saw who her friend was with.

“Really? Well, tell her good luck for me.” Mike Rosales grinned as he scratched his nape. “But I have to warn you, she’s facing major competition from my geeky brother and my equally geeky best friend. Lucky I didn’t get infected with the geek genes.” He laughed.

Iris noted that Faith was blushing. “Um, but Iris is really good. She has been winning spelling bees since she was a kid.”

“Well, so did Luke. And he was only in the third grade when he beat out the fourth, fifth and sixth grade students. Then he represented our school during the elementary inter-school spelling competition. And he won.”

Faith gasped. Iris did too.

“So you tell your friend that. Oh, and my brother is seriously preparing for this as well, because he wanted to add another to his list of achievements.” Mike rolled his eyes. “Honestly, I think those guys need a love life or something. Unlike them, I’m happy.” He grinned at Faith, who went even redder.

Iris decided to intervene. “Aherm!” She coughed loudly and glared at the two. They both looked up, Faith still blushing and Mike only smiled even wider.

She excused herself from having lunch with her friends the next day, saying that she had to prepare for the spelling bee. Which she was going to do, and her friends agreed. After all, they would just be a nuisance and they promised to cheer for her and then celebrate with her after the contest.

 

There were a few people who spent their free time at the library. There were the usual overachievers who she knew personally. (Carla was not among them, as she was busy chasing Marco.) Predictably, Mark Rosales was one of them, seated by himself and placed in front of him were thick books that looked like encyclopedias. Her classmates Sheila and Roddy also had thick books in front of them and whispering while writing down notes.

Iris wrinkled her nose in disgust and scanned the area, and saw an empty table at the back. She quickly walked towards it and was starting to sit down, when someone went past her and grabbed the opposite chair.

She frowned heavily at the offender. “Excuse me. I was here first.”

The student was wearing eyeglasses with the really thick lens and he was squinting at her through them. He shrugged. “What? Can’t we share? This table seats seven, you know.” And then he sat down and placed the books he was carrying on the table.

She fumed silently but also pulled out her chair and sat down, slamming her books on the table to annoy him, but he completely ignored her.

He propped up his thesaurus and opened it. Iris’ eyes grew wide as she read the label on the front cover.

Property of Luke Sandoval.

Happenstance

The alarm clock never rang.

At least that was what Faith Ramos though when she woke up one morning and brushed her teeth. But her mother swore it did. And Faith can sleep through anything, why does she even bother having an alarm clock?

She hurried down the stairs after getting dressed and she never heard her mother shout about forgetting her lunch.

 

No Entry. Road Under Construction. In big, bold letters, written on the yellow sign.

“Sorry Miss, we have to go another way.” The tricycle driver said, then rattling off the street names they have to go to.

Faith looked at her wristwatch and saw that it was already 7:50. The new route would take her another ten minutes. She gritted her teeth in annoyance for being left no choice. She could only nod at the tricycle driver and wish that he speed up instead of bobbing his head along to the music playing through his headset.

 

She never heard the bell rang as it was already ten minutes later that she arrived at the school gates. She was catching her breath when she reached the hallway. Unfortunately, her legs didn’t carry her faster enough.

“…Villanueva, Christopher.”

“Present!”

She gingerly stepped inside the room. The class all turned to look at her.

Just her luck. The first period teacher, Mr. Chua, was strict with the attendance.

“Miss Ramos. Good morning. Get a tardy slip from the Discipline Office before you join my class.”

First tardy slip ever since she entered high school. There goes her dream of a perfect attendance school year.

 

Faith was one of those “model students”. She paid attention during lectures and took down notes. She studied hard and got relatively good grades. She strictly followed the uniform code and was one of the few who memorized the Student Handbook. She never incurred the anger and annoyance of their teachers, unlike her other classmates. She was always prompt and on time, except for today.

This was the first time she entered the Discipline Office for her spotty attendance record. As required by good manners, she knocked softly three times before opening the door. There was nobody inside when she entered. Seeing a row of chairs facing a desk (which she assumed was where she would be getting her tardy slip), she sat down to wait.

The door opened a few seconds later and a male student entered. He was not wearing the school vest, and the top of his polo shirt was unbuttoned. She could see that he was wearing a shirt underneath. His hair was disheveled, and he was whistling something out of tune. He stopped when he saw her.

“Oh! Sorry.”

“It’s okay.”

“Is the Discipline Officer here?”

Faith shook her head faintly.

“Mind if I sit beside you?”

Faith nodded.

 

“Michael Angelo Rosales. Section A. But just call me Mike. You’re from Section B right?” The boy held out his hand. “You looked familiar.”

Oh. He recognized her immediately. Faith nodded and shook his hand. “Faith Ramos.”

“You’re not a regular here, are you?”

“No, this is my first time.”

“Really? First offense? For what?”

Faith nodded, suddenly shy. “Tardiness.”

Mike grinned. “Me too. But it’s my fourth time. Though the D.O. gave me a tardy slip only once, when I told him the teacher asked me to get one. He said it was too much of a hassle to give the freshmen kids tardy slips. You’ll see, he’s not going to give you anything.”

“But… I need a tardy slip for my class attendance.”

“Mr. Chua, huh?”

Faith’s eyes went wide in surprise. “How did you know?”

“He’s the only freshman teacher who asks for them. Nobody else does. Not even Mrs. Cruz, who just kills you with your grades instead. But well, just tell the D.O. that. He won’t enter anything in your permanent record.”

Faith let out a huge sigh of relief. Then she saw Mike looking at her with a smile on his face.

The door opened and the D.O. walked in.

Begin at the Beginning [Part 2]

The first time it happened, Jamie thought it was some weird illusion of hers, induced by lack of sleep and late night anime watching, following a groggy, reluctant commute to the campus. (Without breakfast, of course. She would eat brunch later in school.)

“Good morning.” Marco smiled cheerfully at her as she sat down, his dimples showing. She blinked many times, and then murmured “Good morning” back at him. She began her usual custom: take out her textbook, notebook and ballpen (her favorite one, her good luck charm), put her backpack in front of her seat, and then stare outside the window, replying only to classmates who approach her.

“I like your pen.”

Jamie turned to look at her seatmate. “Huh? (Smooth, Jamie, smooth.)

“I like your pen.” Marco repeated, and pointed. “This one. With the phoenix. It looks cool.”

Her ballpen was a gift from the only friend she had during elementary. It was given during the sixth grade Christmas party, before they all graduated and left for high school. Her friend said it was going to be a good luck charm, her totem, her talisman, especially that she would be entering a new world alone and without him. It was going to protect her, he said. It was going to give her courage.

“Rebirth. That’s what the phoenix symbolizes.” The words left Jamie’s mouth before she could think of a proper response.

Marco looked at her without saying anything for a while. Then he nodded. “Oh. It fits you.”

The bell rang for classes to begin.

 

The second time it happened, Jamie thought she was just hungry. And brain dead from all the Algebra problems Mrs. Cruz kept bombarding them with.

“…and so Ate Rose said, why not go for it? She said since I feel confident about myself, why don’t I join?”

“Hey guys!” Marco greeted, sitting down in front of Jamie, with some of their classmates behind him. “There are no more vacant seats, so we thought of joining you.”

“Go ahead.” Iris said. “Hey, is it true you’re running for class president?”

“Of course it is! I thought it would be fun.” Marco replied, smiling. (Jamie thought his dimples were cute. She liked him smiling. Then she thought she was going crazy with that line of thinking.)

“You have my support then. As long as you defeat Roddy.” The boy sitting beside Marco (Seth, Jamie remembered. His name is Seth.) said. “He’s too smug for his own good.”

Marco laughed. “Roddy’s not bad.”

“Well, as long as you’re nice to us, I’ll vote for you later.” Iris said, chewing on her sandwich. Faith, who was sitting beside her, nodded in agreement, the rest of their classmates doing the same thing.

“Thanks guys. How about you, Jamie? Would you vote for me?”

Jamie’s only reply was to drop her spoon on her plate, which made a loud clatter.

 

“So this article says that your favorite things tell a lot about your personality. For example, your favorite color.” Faith said, as she was showing them the magazine while waiting for their next class. “My favorite color is pink. It says here, pink means that I am sensitive, sentimental and romantic.”

“Ooooh, cool. My favorite color is green.” Iris read aloud. “Green means a practical, well-balanced and stable nature. And hopeful, as green is the color of spring. What’s your favorite color, Jamie?”

“Blue.”

“Okay, it says here that if you like the color blue, you are trusting of other people although you are wary of them at the beginning. You have a deep need for peace and harmony in your life. You may appear to be self-controlled, but you are hiding your vulnerable side.” Then Faith stopped reading and Iris looked at Jamie closely. “Sounds a lot like you.”

“Hey guys, what are you so busy about?” Marco asked, having arrived from the faculty office after volunteering to bring their worksheets from the previous class.

“What’s your favorite color, Marco?” Iris asked, taking the magazine from Faith.

“Hm, mine is red. Why?”

Iris skimmed through the magazine, and then she replied, quoting from the article. “Well, it says here that you usually gain the respect of other people. You are competitive and ambitious; with you, it’s all or nothing. And you are courageous and confident.”

“I hope I am all that! I sure do want to win the class election.” Marco said, grinning.

Their next teacher entered the classroom, and everybody rushed back to their seats.

Jamie really liked how his dimples kept showing when he smiles.

 

The third time it happened, she thought it was too much of a coincidence. Or maybe the sun was too hot when they went out of their classroom earlier to study the different life forms around the school gardens.

Marco predictably won the elections for class president, as everybody (except Roddy and his minions) liked him (Carla most enthusiastically so).

As homeroom was finished and the dismissal bell rang, everyone went to congratulate Marco, and the back of the classroom was crowded. Jamie was all too eager to get out, so she hurriedly put away her things inside her backpack, slung it over her shoulder, and waved a quick goodbye to Iris and Faith.

As she was nearing the school gates, she heard someone calling her name. She stared in disbelief as Marco ran to her, catching his breath.

“I swear you move like a ninja.” Marco groaned, still huffing, and wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand. He was grinning as he took something out from his pocket and held it out to her. “Here. You forgot this.”

Wordlessly, Jamie took her ballpen, the one with the blue ink and a small figure of a phoenix pasted on the cap.

“This is your good luck charm, right? So I brought it over to you as soon as I saw it on the floor.”

“Uh, thank you.” (Why was she being so stupid with her replies?)

“No problem.” Marco was still smiling. His sudden sprint made him red in the face, and Jamie thought he looked cuter. (She slapped her head mentally at that thought.) “Don’t lose your pen again. And thanks for voting for me.” He then gestured towards the pen she was still holding in her hand. “I sure did win because you wrote my name on the ballot using that.”

Rebirth. Hope. New beginnings. For the first time in her life, Jamie felt very lucky indeed.

 

 

(Note: The color symbolisms come from this website: http://www.empower-yourself-with-color-psychology.com)