She read the message on her phone without much fuss about it. Her need to keep up with the preparation for their planned reunion with her high school batch took all her time lately. She accepted the task of tracking down those classmates who were not being heard of ever since they graduated.
It was Anthon, one of her classmates in her high school class.
From the first to fourth year, they shared one class as they both belonged to their school's forty elite students of their level. They were specially selected and separated from the rest as the cream of the crop.
Their class was exposed to rigid and advanced training as their school's frontier for different academic competitions.
"Hi, Jia! Have you come up with something?"
He was asking about a new plan that she may have thought about. But his intentions were clear enough to her as crystals in broad daylight.
"Should you need any help, don't hesitate to call me."
She grabbed her phone this time and thanked him. A smile curved in her lips as her thoughts brought her back fifteen years ago.
He was tall, bronze-skinned, and handsome. They were not close friends, but during lunchtime, he would often find time to sit beside her and talked about anything.
However, she wished the opposite. She badly wanted him to get away from her sight as she was deeply engrossed in finishing up the chapters of her Danielle Steel or Sidney Sheldon's editions. These books just kept her sleepless all the time.
At other times, she just wanted to settle down in a corner and sleep on an armchair. While she maintained her diligence in her studies, she also couldn't just set aside her consuming obsession in reading. She could last three consecutive sleepless days and nights just to finish a thousand -paged book.
However, she could not deny the fact that there were sparks in his eyes meant only for her and the hidden truth that there was also a special affection that grew within her for him that no one knew about — even him.
Though she kept her aloofness all the time, Anthon always found his time with her. He was good at choosing those topics that wore out her defenses in the end. She may not be aware of it, only to realize later that she had already entirely given her trust in him. So then, confidential matters about herself became easier for her to confide.
He was a great listener, not opinionated. He knew when to butt in and knew when to keep silent. Slowly and obliviously, she had fallen, most especially when he innately started to offer a shoulder for her to cry on during her most vulnerable moments.
She may be reluctant to admit it, but her routine chat with him made her look forward to it every day.
As her growing confidence reached its peak, a special affection deep within her heart was undoubtedly defined. She saw the sparks in his eyes and knew that it's every flicker matched the leaps in her heart. She came to believe that their feelings were mutual, but neither of them dared to admit it even after their graduation day.
There was one time, just when she thought that a deep affection had finally blossomed in both of their hearts, he came to shatter it, instead.
"How's my beautiful friend?" he said, his usual line every time he approached her.
He was towering in his height though his muscles had not perfected yet into a young man's ideal body mass. However, in her eyes, he was stunning.
"Jia, something's troubling me these days. I want to confess ...but before that, I want to thank you for coming into my life. With you around, I have finally found someone to share my life with."
Share his life with? Is he going to say it now? Is he finally going to say those words she had been imagining and hearing in her dreams?
All of a sudden, her heart fluttered that she could not bring herself to look into his eyes. It throbbed even harder when she imagined him ahead, saying, "I love you, Jia..."
The sudden rush of thrill made her felt dizzy, and the pounding of her heart increased a mile in every second that ticked by...
How would she respond? "Anthon, the feeling is mutual. I love you as well..."
"Damn it," she cursed herself inwardly. Why did her heart run wild?
While it took an effort for her to calm down, she slowly answered while fixing her gaze into her hands.
Anthon gently pulled up her hand that she was forced to steal a glance into his eyes. It was warm, and she was thrilled even more. It sent a stronger sensation into her core and made her plunge into more intense excitement.
Anthon was about to say it...
He had long been waiting for this chance. But his doubts and insecurities overpowered him. Instead of saying those lines he had been mastering for days, he quickly changed it into a lie. He wanted to see her reaction to the rumors spreading around.
"Jia, I am in a relationship with... Ayanna."
Ayanna had been chasing and flirting with him all those years. She, herself, was responsible for spreading out the rumors that they were already in a relationship. Jia had also heard about it.
Upon hearing him, her world came crumbling down in a second. It fell too heavily, crashing painfully into her heart. It was a confirmation of what she had already heard about. What made it even worse was that he was the one confirming it. She almost cried...
Emotionally battered, she somehow gathered her courage quickly and pretended to be unaffected.
"You love her?" she blurted foolishly, which she regretted right away. What right did she have to ask about it?
His reply was odd and confusing.
"I don't know. All I know is I'm in love with someone else."
That was too much! That was just too shattering. She thought she already knew him enough. She thought their friendship made her understood who he was. And all she knew was his sincerity in all things. Who would have thought that he gets himself entangled with many girls? Who was that 'someone else'?
She had no right to feel this way. She did not own him. She may be the most brilliant young lady on the whole campus, but she did not possess the beauty of Ayanna, the campus belle.
Didn't it matter most? Men always prefer beauty over intelligence. She may be confused with his confession that he loved someone else, but in a relationship with another, she did not ask about it anymore. What would she get from asking? Would it be a way to win him back? Of course, not. She'd rather keep her silence and keep the pain to herself. She could not bear to be humiliated because of her assumption because of her foolish delusion. She could never face the shame. This thing which he did not know would not hurt him.
Amazed with herself for the courage she mustered, she further pretended.
"I'm happy for you, Ton. You have my support."
"You will not ask me about
anything? About Ayanna and the rumors?a"
"It's enough. I understand."
He stared into her eyes with confusion and pain, but he lost the courage to explain. Perhaps because she looked unaffected. Probably because he had confirmed through her reaction that he, indeed, had no place in her heart. He was right after all; in her eyes, he was just a mere friend.
Little did he know that he broke Jia's heart. Those insecurities he had felt, she also felt the same.
After that day, she went home during lunchtime. During their dismissal in the afternoon, she would also hurry up to go ahead of everyone. When at times she couldn't, she would hide somewhere until she was sure that he had already left.
Days passed by swiftly. And in each new day, she noticed that he did not care about her anymore. There were a few times that they were brought close to each other through some class activities. But, he seemed to have forgotten entirely that once in their lives, they became special friends.