It was a sunny Friday morning here in Lateneo University Kanada, the country's best university for the Engineering Arts. The Lateneo University had long integrated their school with modern technology, all students were required to join their online platform. One of the benefits of this system was that the students were quick to be informed of any announcements, and the Civil Engineer Board exam results were being given out right now.
"Hey! Look, you passed! You got an 85-point average! I only got 82, damn!" A raven-haired young man was walking around the school campus with his friend when he found a post from a professor in the school's message board.
His tall body was quite fit, as he was an avid gym rat. He loved working out, as he said that it helps get the attention of the ladies. But what usually took their attention was his pink lips that perfectly fit his face.
His white buttoned shirt with a breast pocket that had a symbol of a pair of leaves and the words 'Lateneo University' stitched on it and black slacks that reached all the way to his black shoes were the typical uniform of the university he hailed from.
His eyes that were finished scanning the post then turned to his friend. At the same time, he presented his tablet to his friend who looked then for his name on the list.
'Zel Huertazuela: [Lateneo University Kanada] - Rating: 85.30'
"Oh, that's good. Congratulations man." The person being called out was yawning when he heard him, only replying in a rather calm voice that lacked any excitement.
He possessed jet-black hair just like his parents, a relatively flat nose because his face, until now, had baby fat. Even though they should have been burned off when he was younger, suggesting his lifestyle was one that lacked the presence of exercise.
He was tall for his age, taller than most of the boys in his previous class. But his black eyes lacked the normal vitality that a young man his age would have. It was more likeable to a flicker that might poof out of existence with one petty push of the wind.
He gave Karl a pat in the back, but other than a fake smile, he did nothing else to even give the achievement any further attention. In his mind, it wasn't much. Of course, he would pass the exam. Though it wasn't easy, it was also not a hard exam. They've studied it for five years, the least he could do is pass.
"Dude! That means we're Civil Engineers, right? You better lend me some money when we meet again next time." Karl gave his friend a light punch in the arm. He knew exactly what Zel was going through, so he was fine with the rather mild treatment. He was aware that Zel wasn't exactly doing this for himself, only following along. He was the same as well.
"Please, when Engineer Karl Rance needs money, he just withdraws from an ATM. I should be asking you for a job instead." Zel waved his hands in front of him, like he was passing him a resume.
"Haha!" Today was their last normal day in College, as the following week would only be for graduation rites practice. Though there was only the two of them left from their group of five friends, they should at least be celebrating about this achievement.
So, they decided to get a drink, which Zel wasn't quite used to doing. Drinking beer was a rather occasional event for Zel, as he hated drinking. His father loved drinking, perhaps there's a correlation with that. Even having one light beer would get him drunk, so finishing a bucket of five got him wasted. This wouldn't serve as a problem, however, when he returned home.
"I said stop!" A young woman stood in the middle of a middle-aged couple. Her face looked tired, but she wasn't given a choice right now. If she left, then these two would continue fighting and might just do something that both would regret.
"What did I tell you about keeping a budget?! In one month, you've spent $10,000 dollars from our saving's account! What did you spend it on? I'm sure as hell that you didn't spend it on our family, so where did you spend it?!" The man was visibly shaking from anger as he pointed his finger at the woman's face. He was so full of it, her constant problem making were causing him to lose the rest of the hair of his balding head.
"…" Mel didn't reply, not even opening her lips. She merely watched him talk, like he was thin air. Her graying hair were as much of a problem for her as his balding head was for him. Arguing with him would cause her more stress, so she decided to end it by not doing anything at all.
"Talk! You bitch!" Tom couldn't help but curse at this maddening woman. Her failures as a wife, as a mother were hurting their family, and she was playing mute?! He was about to slap the shit out of her when he heard the front door open.
"…" Zel walked into quite the situation. He was even able to see his older sister giving him a hopeful look like he would help to alleviate the situation. But he was tired of it. Tired of them. He walked straight in between his parents, passing them each a paper he had printed out earlier.
"So, I passed. I'm a Civil Engineer now." Zel was talking like it wasn't even his achievement. He sounded more like someone telling them what he got for lunch, as no thrill was present in his voice or expression at all.
When he was done, he walked to his room upstairs. He didn't even look back, having felt too tired to deal with those two. His older sister, Melba, looked at his back in conflicting happiness, as she was glad that he passed but she really hoped to at least see him be happy.
The two parents did not proceed to go back to their previous fight. They knew that their son only wanted one thing from them, which was to make up. At least for now, they won't fight. However, they were too late in understanding that Zel just didn't care enough to intervene again.
After walking inside his room, he first sat down on his chair. He rubbed his temples, feeling that a headache was coming from the stress those two downstairs were bringing him. It wasn't that Zel never cared about getting them to make peace. In fact, he was usually the one that made them make up every time they fought. But when you build up their relationship over and over again, only to have it all collapse as soon as you turn your back, it gets tedious.
Instead of dwelling on something he shouldn't even have to do, he opened his computer. He liked spending his time on reading up stories about fantastical people. Men and women whose lives were given meaning by heroic and admirable goals, something he had none at the moment. He did have a few plans, but even those were taken away from him.
Two times, there were two notable times that Zel was able to steer his life into a favorable future. But all those opportunities were blocked by his parents. Making the young man feel nothing but hate and regret.
The first opportunity was when the young man graduated high school. Life was great, he had friends he could count on and he had dreams. But when he wanted to go for his dream, his father disagreed.
His father is a seaman, a person whose job was to ensure that the shipments that travel via the ocean are delivered on time. Simple descriptions of a job that pay well and includes travelling around the world. That's the type of life that Zel dreamed of having, as he wished for all those things.
But his father emphasized on the things they don't tell you, as they are what makes the job so difficult. The constant worry about not being able to come back alive to your family that you left back at home. The constant worry of your family getting into trouble and you not being there to take care of them. Even the worry that things won't be the same when you return, as people change as time passes. You cannot just hope that things would be what it was when you come back.
For Zel's father, these thoughts are what would haunt a man who has left for a place that your family can't reach, and they represent the thoughts that drive families apart.
So Zel decided to follow his father's advice. He didn't go for his dream, and instead went for his father's dream job, Civil Engineering. If he was going to follow his advice, then he might as well go all the way. The problem is, he didn't like it at all.
The second one was when Zel was in his first year of studying in College. When he saw an opportunity to earn money from a movie. He remembered lying on his brand-new couch. Lazily lying on his side as he wasted his time.
The movie he was watching turned out to be a great watch, with thrilling action scenes and tense dialog that made him sit up from his lying down position a few times during the good moments of the film. The most striking scene for him was when the main character, who eventually reached the top of the financial world, was imparted an advice. One that he used as his stepping-stones.
"You know Scotty, you just need a few sound investments and you can earn big. Then when you earn big, invest that money again until you make your money work for you."
That was when Zel got the idea to delve into the Stock Market. Investing money to make money, to let money work for you. A lot of people had lost money in trying this, as they weren't even trying seriously. There are many things to learn and adapt to when doing this, as it is not as simple as choosing a company to invest on and lay back while counting the money.
It was hard, very hard. But Zel was blessed, talented even. His initial investment of $1000 dollars were doubled in a month, and though it was a relatively small amount, the performance he showed was truly good. That would have been it if it weren't for him continuing to do it for the next seven more months.
(Total Balance: $16,220.00)
It wasn't a fluke. The man was good, so good that he was sure that he can turn this hobby into his job in the near future. To be honest, he was not happy with Civil Engineering. He just didn't want to fail, or to be considered a failure, when he wants to leave. Might as well finish it and get a degree while using the Stock Market for his income.
It was all planned out, until his parents asked to borrow his money. The low loan of $1000 dollars was fine, as he had much more, he gave it to them. But then they asked for more, eventually he had to stop using the Stock Market because he had no spare money left. It was especially so when the people around him keep tell him that he was doing the right thing, he accepted it all. They would pay him back anyway, they promised to pay him back.
They didn't pay him back. For the next few years, until now, they haven't paid a single cent. Zel was too tired to ask anymore, as he had been asking for it every week for a year after they didn't pay him on the date they promised. They were nothing to him, he only lived here because he had no choice. Truthfully, they were dead to him in his mind.
But he still didn't know what his future would be. Who he is. What he wants. He might have graduated, and was even a certified Civil Engineer now, but he was no wiser than he was when he first started College.
Even now, he didn't know jack shit about what being a Civil Engineer is. He was sure that he would mess up on his first day, that is, if he could even land a job. The tired Zel gave a sigh when thinking about it. He rested his head, taking a short rest as his head felt like it was splitting from to the pain.
A few days later…
"Hey! I've never seen you in a party before! Too bad it's in a semi-formal party like this, you look like you'd be a riot when having a drink or two."
A young woman sat by Zel's side as he talked with his friends. Her sweet fragrance made Zel feel dizzy as he had never been so close with a woman who was not related to him. Her shoulders were touching his as she placed her face very close to his. He was so struck that he didn't know what to say.
"I, uh, um."
"Ahem." The two who were trying to start a conversation heard a noise coming from behind, attracting their attention as the interference sounded near to them. It was then that Zel saw the a woman who only wore a yellow sundress that covered her body appropriately.
Although they were being bothered, Zel didn't really mind, he was just happy to see her face for some reason.
"Mind if I borrow him for a second?"
"Hey! Emilia!" The young woman then took Zel's hand as she dragged him away without waiting for the other woman's answer. Zel himself looked as if he was following her lead more than he should be, which made the other woman stomp her feet in frustration as someone else took her target.
"Hey, um, do you mind?" Zel didn't like the feeling of being dragged around, even if it was this beautiful woman. Her long strides also made his heart beat too fast for his liking, not having expected to tread a long distance so quickly. So he took back his hand from her clutches, prompting the two of them to stop. They were in a balcony right now, one that had a view of the city.
"Oh, sorry about that. My friend was targeting you so I had to take you away."Emilia placed her hands behind her as she apologized to Zel, her gentle smile making his heart beat faster than before.
'Her voice is so pleasant.'
"Wait, targeting me? For what?" Zel felt shock from the beautiful woman's words, having heard of a few things regarding being targeted at. Stories of men being drugged only to wake up the next morning without having any recollection of what happened the night before. Missing a few organs as well. "Should I call the pol-"
"Wha, what is it?" Zel felt his anxiety coming up as he heard her laugh. Though she was a beautiful woman, the feeling of being made fun of set him into a spiral of anxiety and doubt.
'She's definitely laughing at me.'
Zel slowly backed away, still hearing her giggle at him. He wondered what he did wrong. But not caring enough to find out, he turned around to leave. It was when he felt his heart shaking from fear that a hand grabbed his arm, holding him back.
"Hey. I'm sorry, ok? I shouldn't have laughed. But it's not that my friend was dangerous or something. That's why I laughed, sorry if I offended you." Emilia was quite surprised at his reaction. But she knew that she was the one at fault, therefore she apologized.
Zel didn't know if he should turn around or not, but the feeling of her touch made him feel relaxed for some reason. Like he was reconnected to something.
"Hey, are you mad?" Emilia was quite surprised that he looked like he was so hurt. Though it was her fault for being too familiar with him, she did think that he looked quite cute looking all pouty like that. Still, she needed to apologize at least.
Zel heard her footsteps as she went from behind him, to in front of him. His reddened face completely laid bare for her to see, causing him to feel more embarrassed than he already was.
"Hmm." Emilia then took on a pose, with her hands placed below her chin with the palms facing down. Her head that rested on her hands then swayed to the side, just a little bit.
"Pfft." It was a pose that was usually done by children. Zel remembered his little sisters doing it when they were younger. The pose was from a famous television show, and she was surely referencing it as her hands had followed the exact gesture the character in the show did.
"Pwease fowgive me?"
"Pfft. Haha!" Zel felt that her mature beauty suddenly turned into something very... cute? He couldn't help but laugh out loud when her voice turned all cutesy like that. He was even reminded of his niece.
"Good! Now we're even then?"
"Alright, alright, we're even."
Emilia placed a hand in front of her that Zel gladly shook. Her soft hands made him experience the same relaxation he felt earlier. But as he didn't want to make it awkward, he tried to let go. She didn't let him, at least not yet.
"I feel like I still have to apologize with something more... concrete, wanna have a drink?"
"Sure." Zel nodded his head, feeling a connection with this strange yet captivating woman.