She loved to read.
Besides being a gateway to unexplored territory, it was a way of keeping her calm. Her way of escaping the dreadful yet mandatory rules of growing up. It was also the only thing that could keep her silent for an entire day. Friends have known her to be so engrossed in reading that she couldn't focus on anything else. Sooner or later, they'd leave her to her own devices.
It helped, she supposed, musing, that she could always find comfort in books. For one, they never made her feel lonely. Sure, she liked being alone, and had long accepted the fact that she was a loner, but still...
She sighed. It hurt somewhat that she couldn't find a "pair", as one of her childhood friends once said. She and Louisa had been besties from the start. There were a few bumps along the road, but nothing they couldn't manage to solve. Then Louisa moved to another school. Both promised to keep in touch. Both honoured that promise.
It started with one of their habitual telephone chats over the phone. She'd confide how she felt lonely in school, how she felt a little left out even though she had friends. She'd elaborated even more how, during a school carnival, all her classmates had paired off in groups of two and three, while she had no one else to go with. Although some had asked her to join them, she debated against it, appreciating their concern while not wanting to feel like a third wheel.
At that moment, it felt as if everyone had a pair except her.
How evident this was soon presented itself to her. Her class was planning a photoshoot, a remembrance of their final year in school, and they'd gathered together to discuss the theme for the shoot. Simon & Viviane were in charge of the whole thing, but they wanted to know everyone's opinion. It was chaos. They couldn't decide on anything.
It got to the point where everyone started having their own discussion. She had turned to her friends, eagerly sharing her ideas about a mediaeval-themed photoshoot, where everyone would have a title in front of their name, such as Knight Whoever and Lady So-and-So. It'd be great, she insisted, to have such a theme. At that moment, they'd agreed it was nice, but wondered if it would seem too complicated. So she held her peace, having spoken her mind. Besides, she had to leave for Editorial Board duty, hoping that when she came back they'd have a decision.
The next day, however, Kate came in, carrying a bag laden with cardboards and everything. When she asked, in surprise, what was it for, Kate replied casually. 'Oh, it's for the class photoshoot. We're doing a carnival theme.'
Her eyesbrows shot up. 'They've decided on a carnival theme?'
'Nope,' Kate replied cheerfully. 'I just decided myself. So we're doing a carnival theme, okay?'
It wasn't that she didn't like the idea of a carnival-themed photoshoot. She just wasn't enthusiastic about it. I mean, what was so fun about a carnival? And she wasn't mad at the choice of theme. Oh, no, it was the fact that she had been left out and no one bothered to let her know.
Like when they were setting the venue for the photos. They wanted to snap pictures at a well-known tourist centre that was too inconvenient. She had EdBoard duty on that day as well, and she arrived at school the next day to find that they had decided everything and not one of her friends had even bothered to let her know.
She felt betrayed and insecure, and she confided to Reina, citing the issues above, who had gently reassured her that she was wanted, and that if she was feeling left out, she should voice it out. She had nodded, taking it into consideration, feeling a bit better. She offered to help Kate and Nix with the layout, hoping it could ease the tension she felt.
Instead Kate thanked her, brushing her off with a curt "Actually, we don't need any help. We've got it covered." She fought to keep her tears under control, and nodded dumbly, turning back to her book while everyone else were eagerly discussing. At that moment, she turned to her book for relief, dreaming of legends and myths.
Reflecting back, she realized that this class photoshoot was draining their lives.
They were supposed to have sponsers for their pages. One grand for a coloured page, six hundred for a black-and-white. Reina and Mae had offered to find them sponsors throughoutt he one week holiday they had, but when school started it came to surface that they weren't sure exactly how much could their sponsors contribute to the five pages, preferably most of them coloured and one or two black and whites. So there was the issue of money.
While that issue was still in Limbo, something else popped up. After Physics one day, just as everyone was ready to leave the lab, Jason stood up and announced in his loud voice that everyone was expected to contribute at least 25 dollars each so they could pay for a coloured page. It sparked a fire of rage in most of them, her included. She wanted to know why they were paying money when they were supposed to have sponsors.
Jason and his bunch gave a dumb-ass reason about "Don't you guy feel bad that someone is paying for our pictures to be in the magazine? Therefore we should pay for ourselves." When she questioned Kate and Nix, the whole not-enough-sponsors deal came out.
She had narrowed her eyes at the way Mick, the heavyset librarian in their class had forcibly convinced everyone to pay. She had asked Nix why they had to pay when they could have had sponsors instead. Nix repeated Jason's argument. She retorted back that classes before them had been dependant on sponsors for their layout from Day 1: Why should their class be any different?
And Nix had replied back: Why shouldn't we? We're putting pressure on the sponsors to pay for five pages. It's not fair.
She had snorted. "Life's not fair," she said bitingly. "Besides, we wouldn't have this problem if they could find sponsors."
"Just pay up. Just think of it as payment for the two years you've been in this class. It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing anyway."
She had shook her head. "No, it's not. It's not worth it. 25 dollars for one page is not worth it."
Nix had stared at her. "Fine. Don't pay." Immediately she swung her chair around to talk to Reina and Kate. She could hear them whispering behind her back saying that she didn't want to fork out the money.
It wasn't true. She was willing to pay: She just didn't understand why they had to. 25 dollars each for one coloured page was too much. Five dollars, ten, hell, even 15 would be preferable to 25. Besides, they were in recession. It simply wasn't worth it.
And if they wanted to argue about the sponsors, she had an answer ready. If they were having trouble finding sponsors they could let her know and she could get her dad to help. But they didn't tell her. They didn't tell her anything.
And so she had done nothing.
Later it was discovered that it only costed 600 dollars for one coloured page and 180 for a black-and-white. At this, she thought it was going to be okay. Nix had said something about making everyone pay less, maybe 15 or ten dollars. 5 would be enough with the amount of people they had. But then, the Treasurer insisted on collecting 25 dollars, saying if there were any left over, he would pay them back in full.
She wasn't happy about this. Why make things complicated? Why couldn't they just hand over the 15 dollars and contribute some more if needed?
They do enjoy making life miserable, didn't they?
Books, she reflected absentmindedly, were nice and soothing. They never made her feel left out; instead, they drew her into them, making her the star of every story. It often became the case with every passing day; she would read until the dead of the night, ignoring everything else. She resolved that nothing would affect her now: feeling lonely, the need to get away, the hurt at not being included.
She decided to simply stop caring.
Her phone vibrated. Picking it up, she checked the message. It was from a friend, asking her to check out the latest poem he'd written. As she read it, she smiled, feeling the familiar thrill again. Suddenly inspired, she thought of the unshed tears of many days ago, and, signing into her blog, she created a new post, typing two words in the Title box.