"A man is like a novel: until the very last page, you won't know how it will end. Otherwise, it wouldn't even be worth reading."
-We, by Yevgeny Zamyatin.
My head seemed a little lost for the past minutes that I was perfectly unaware of my actions. One moment I closed my eyes and the next thing I knew I was in a cramped space with Von which I struggled to understand.
"Remind me again why we forced ourselves in this small wooden box whatever, with no air to pass through and not enough space to stretch my toe?" I whispered, declaring my dislike in this uncomfortable space.
"Such impatience," he chuckled.
He suddenly moved his arm and grabbed something which made me kiss the wall and made things more difficult. Not only that, this thing we're in suddenly moved downwards at a very fast pace. I almost screamed at the top of my lungs but held it in, for I am perfectly aware of the presence of those angry men. The downfall only took seconds before it came to an abrupt stop. I held my phone over us to illuminate our path; we stepped out of the thing we just rode, which I found out was their old food elevator. Good old times...
Von swiftly moved around the basement like he was here every day and lighted up the candles in each corner. The scent of ancient dust greeted us and cobwebs were hanging at every corner of the ceiling. All sorts of damaged things can be seen everywhere. Thick dust flew as I pulled the white cloth covering a surprisingly fine sofa despite its old age. I wonder why they never replaced this.
"How come this place turned out like this?" I asked while my hand was covering my nose.
"No one came here ever since...I guess. I heard they were planning to make this a storeroom," he replied. That explains this entire mess.
He was dusting off the sofa while I pulled another cloth and uncovered a book shelf. I fanned myself from the dust and surveyed the shelf. Aside from old familiar books, there were old frames that remained there as well. I took the one which I perfectly recognize and cleaned the glass frame with the white cloth until I could clearly see the picture inside it.
"That was your prettiest smile so far," a voice suddenly intruded. I unconsciously jerked at his sudden appearance next to me. He was scanning the collection of books on the shelf.
I composed myself and spoke, "And yours was the fakest I've seen so far."
I could sense he stared at me for a moment before he shifted his gaze. "Yeah," he said, like I didn't make a joke out of his sudden remark.
I stared back at the picture with my phone light and saw how the sun was at its peak in the background. It was so hot and everyone gathered on the school grounds had the privilege to bathe in its heat. Impatience was clear on every student's faces while sitting on the chair wearing their hard-earned white toga. While the parents at the back, fanning themselves with the program booklet, were probably cursing the school of how it celebrated this memorable day under the scorching sun. Regardless, I could still maintain my smile during the entire event. Especially now that 'that' particular man was going to end his graduation speech.
"I promised not take this too long before we get roasted in this scorching heat. Which is why to end your agony, let me say this one thing. Yesterday is no longer ours. But today, at this moment, it's ours to live. I encourage you to take this challenge: Care for the now and live every minute of it. Thank you and congratulations, everyone."
Thunderous claps were heard all over the school—to the vacant corridors, the empty classroom, the quiet canteen, and even to the rooftop. And among those who clapped, I guess mine was loudest, so much that my palms turned red. The whole ceremony ended with smiles and relieved hearts. I could see flashes of camera in front of students wearing their joyful smiles and parents with their proudest eyes.
My eyes roamed around at the chaotic school grounds and I smiled as I spotted him briskly walking away from the crowd. I ran after him and among all the faces I've seen today, his was the total opposite.
"Where are you off to? Anyway, congratulations! Though, I wonder how this event could possibly make you grumpy."
"We are just reaping what we sow. There's nothing to make mountain out of a molehill—" his stern voice stopped.
Our self-proclaimed batch photographer intruded himself wearing his excited smile while a camera was on his hand.
"I finally found this magnetic couple. Quick and give my baby a smile!" he said and positioned his camera.
He was about to turn around and leave but my hand was quick to drag him back to his place and flashed the brightest smile I could configure. Despite what this man has expressed, this day is still worth smiling for. I plan to take his challenge and that includes pouring every affection I have bottled up for this man.
"Say, infinity!" Harold said.
"Infinity..." we both sang like dissonant chords.
I heard a flipping page that returned me back to my senses. The basement was adequately lighted by the candles and I was left standing at the bookshelf. I turned around and saw Von on the sofa with a book in his hand. He was calmly reading under this kind of situation, which is something that's not surprising at all given his personality. Even if you tell him the world is ending, he'll just probably be reading a book with a coffee on his side. Well, that's just my assumption on him while being a slave to my irritation.
I placed back the frame to the shelf while clinging on to it as I contemplated on my next course of action. Clearly, the air has been awkward between the two of us, not to mention we are ridiculously stuck in this basement full of idle memories with nothing but candle lights. It almost seemed romantic, if not for the circumstances that pushed us here. Sitting on that sofa on the far end was not a good option for me. As he had found something to focus his attention on, I, on the other hand, have nothing and would just look stupid if I sit at the far end of that dreadful chair. I couldn't also just take a book and act like I'm reading as I sit next to him when most of the books on this shelf don't even interest me in the least bit. Wait, I still have my phone with me, which I can play games with or even call anyone and pretend I'm—
I was utterly disappointed with myself when I realized how I never thought of calling the police or someone to help as soon as we got a clearance in here, which any sane person under threat would do.
As if to add to my irritation and disappointment, the light on my phone suddenly turned off and when I checked, my battery died. I was on the brink of throwing it on the floor when I heard another flipping page. With disbelief clear on my face, I gazed at Von as I walked to the sofa. He never batted an eye at me when I perfectly knew he noticed me. Frustrated, I leaned at the backrest and rested my head as I closed my eyes.
If he just looked away from the book and met my eyes, he'd be dead by now. As I heard him flip pages through pages, I can't help but throw dagger stares at him. However, as soon as my eyes landed on him, I seemed to have seen an illusion concocted by this old basement.
Von was casually sitting with a book in his hand. He appeared to be so focused and immersed in what he was reading. I know the significant benefits that reading can bring to one's mind, however, isn't it just rude for him to act like this?
"Are you trying to look smart right now?"
I placed the mugs of coffee I was holding and never failed to put his mug down with dislike. Only then, he stared at me with his calculating gaze. He closed his book and straightened up.
"You seem mad. I wonder you if you also act like this to every person you had just been acquainted," he said and took a single sip from his cup. "As to your question. I am merely doing my hobby. Thus, I find nothing pretentious about it. Besides, not to brag but, I am smart even without trying."
I rolled my eyes upon hearing his words. It would be such a delight to wipe that smug look on his face.
"Indeed, but your actions have pushed me to doubt the agenda I have written on my invitation. As I remember, this is not a book retreat but a discussion on the upcoming theatre play, which is a very important project. And as leaders of our respective sections, I suggest you take this seriously, Mr. Lucena," I said, devoid of emotion. This man, I guess, can just naturally cancel out good energy.
He grinned. "I have no idea how you got that impression on me, Ms. Deverra, but please, do get started for I have been long ready to listen," he stated.
Judging from this meeting, both of us don't meet in the eye at all. And I have proven that for the succeeding conversation we had. We were assigned with a very important task that has a crucial role in our grades and this man just nitpicks everything that I have suggested. This is the first time we've been acquainted, and it hasn't been long since we conversed yet, we both clashed like stones creating sparks of despise every time we talk.
"Are you kidding me right now? That scene would definitely make this whole play genuine and at the same time romantic!" I exclaimed.
"Have you completely forgotten that we are enrolled in a very conservative school? Hence, intimate physical contacts such as that are banned and would automatically be rejected. It's a waste of time," he calmly argued.
"It's a fake kiss. Fake as in F-A-K-E. What's hard to understand about that?"
"If you want to waste your time revising the script, be my guest."
He was smart and unfairly attractive, but his proud voice and sombre eyes give me a steady dose of annoyance. Now that I think about it, the intensity of my annoyance and the dislike I had with him... it sounded absurd knowing I'll be attracted to him later on.
"What time is it?" Von asked, which pulled me back again in the basement.
"My phone died minutes ago."
"I see? Must be good to be you. Calm and all in this kind of situation," I muttered more to myself but I'm pretty sure he heard me.
"Anyway, how long do we have to stay here?" I asked, knowing how stupid that was. Unconsciously, I was gripping my phone harder.
"Just until they're gone. They might've weapons, its too dangerous," he said, his eyes still fixed on his book. This is him. He can naturally start a conversation without even batting an eye on the person he's talking to.
"What's dangerous is reading in low light," I grumbled. "Anyway, how would we know if they have left or not?"
He snapped closed his book and looked at me. "Good point," he said and stood up.
"Where are you going?" I quickly asked when he strode towards the stairs leading to a door.
"I'm going to check if the coast is already clear. I'll be right back."
I quickly stood up, my fingers tightly balled into a fist. "Are you kidding me right now?!"
That was the most preposterous words I've heard from him tonight. The basement is getting darker; the candles were slowly melting into nothing, but I couldn't care less. What enraged me was the fact that he casually said those words like he was just about to go check his Facebook notification.
Seriously, I could kill just to make this man realize how stupid his last sentences were.