Author’s note: okay I’m slowly starting to get used to this provincial life haha. To go to the nearest city, we have to drive for at least three hours though, which was what happened yesterday. It’s actually so tiring even if you’re just sitting in the car the whole time lol. Now I have the whole day to myself so I’m gonna focus on writing chapters (unless my little cousins come to visit me. I love kids, they’re so funny and annoying at the same time.)
Tim, Bob, Edrie and Gary were my roommates, and after dinner, we had an exclusive roommates-only late night conversation about life, love and food. Those three were an essential combination on Earth.
This was actually the first time we got to spend so much time together in one room, and although we were all friends, there was something about being in an enclosed room that made for an intimate discussion.
“So, Prince, I heard you’re dating Sari,” Edrie made a steeple with his fingers as he looked at me seriously through his glasses. Ever since he fell in love with Amy in kindergarten, he had been wearing glasses to impress her with his intelligent facade. Wearing glasses heightened one’s appeal, he would blurt out randomly during class.
“Why are you guys putting me on the hot seat so fast?” I asked with an incredulous tone in my voice. People really loved to gossip about things that needn’t concern them. It was highly frustrating.
“Because you’re the Prince, and we’re the paupers,” Bob said as he shed crocodile tears.
“Cause you’re the number one talked about person in school, so we gotta extract new news from you first, ya know? We can gain popularity that way!” Tim chortled.
“My friends are a bunch of users!” I declared, and they were callous enough to agree.
“Stop making fun of him guys,” Gary said to mollify me. We were squatting in a circular formation on the wooden floors of the cottage, and Gary sat to my left. He turned his face to me and said gravely, “You actually love Sarielle very much don’t you?”
The boys whooped in amusement when they saw my ruddy face.
“The Prince has indeed fallen in love!” Tim said in a low, old-fashioned voice.
“Hear ye, hear ye!” Bob pounded his chest.
“Hear ye, hear ye!” Edrie echoed as he fist bumped Bob.
“Shut yer traps!” I hollered. “Yeah, I like her a lot okay? So stop it. I don’t want to be made fun of.” I couldn’t help but pout to let off a bit of steam.
“I can already hear the sound of breaking hearts,” Edrie could not help but say mournfully.
“I’ve heard it since this morning!” Bob cackled.
While the boys were guffawing to themselves while drinking the pilfered non-alcoholic champagne from the mess hall, I stood up to take a breath of fine mountain air outside the cottage. Alcoholic beverages were prohibited in school since we were all minors, and we were generally brought up to be health conscious (I try), preferring milk tea over sodas. The boys drank the champagne with merriment, pretending to be inebriated after just one glass.
“The stars are out.” I heard Gary’s voice from behind me, and I turned around and stopped walking.
“Yeah.” I waited until he caught up to me. We stood by the lakeside, and with the moon reflecting silver against the tranquil waters, I felt at peace with myself. I could actually still hear the sound of raucous laughter emanating from our cottage, and I hoped the teachers didn’t wake up in the dead of the night just to reprimand us. Our curfew was 10pm, which was 3 hours ago. I wasn’t even allowed to take a stroll in that case, but I didn’t mind if I were scolded. I just wanted to get away from that cottage and the three nut cases.
I gripped the hot pack in my hands and handed it to Gary after I saw him shiver from a gust of chilly wind.
“Thanks,” he said while compressing the hot pack in his hands.
We sat on the bank of the river drinking another non-alcoholic champagne bottle that Gary actually had hidden away inside his jacket. Because there were no glasses, we took turns taking swigs from the mouth of the bottle, and in the pale light of the moon, I saw Gary’s cheeks flush crimson.
“You know, I have a lot to thank you for,” he said softly as he stared at the glistening lake.
“You don’t have to thank me for anything.” I honestly felt embarrassed if people felt they were indebted with gratitude towards me. I did things not so I could receive their thanks, after all.
“I do. I really do have to thank you.” He pulled his knees to his chest and leaned against them with his arms. “I’m not joking when I say you saved me. I’m serious, you know. I’m only going to say this once because it’s embarrassing, so just listen to me, okay?”
“Okay.” I didn’t have much choice on that matter.
“You’re more than just a friend to me…” He said slowly, his eyes still holding the view of the lake. Then he hid his face in his knees after turning a shade darker.
Why was he was embarrassed to say he thought of us as best friends? I had even been thick-faced enough to declare my best friendship status with Siming first.
Gary lifted his face then rested his chin on his knees. He was very antsy today.
He continued, “I know you won’t ever feel the same way, but I’m going to support you regardless. As your friend, I’m going to do what it takes for your relationship with Sarielle to flow smoothly. That’s all I can do for you…”
He didn’t really have to do that, though? I think my relationship was fine even without outside help? But I was touched. Gary was a really good friend.
“Thank you,” I said simply. I hugged him sideways with one arm, and he took solace in my half embrace, leaning his head briefly against the edge of my shoulder.
“No…I don’t need your thanks for this…” He looked down, a small forlorn smile playing on his lips. “…we will, after all, be friends forever…”