Tuesday 3rd July 2012by Tina
We’re okay, we’re okay.
The thoughts echoed in Anna’s mind as she walked slowly towards her org’s hangout that afternoon. Her last class just finished, and normally she would be thinking of the things she needs to do for the night, like her homework for her Philippine History class, for example. Or writing down an outline for her final paper for her American Literature class, so she can get a draft started soon. Normally, she would be thinking about that, and what she’d have for dinner or where she’d go if her friends had plans. But instead, her mind flashed back on what happened before her last class, and she could hear herself repeating, “We’re okay, we’re okay” in her mind as she fumbled for her things.
“We’re okay, please, please let us be okay,” Anna mumbled, feeling even more worried as she made her way down the long stretch of SJ Walk. When she realized that she was already mumbling her thoughts, she took a deep breath and made a beeline towards one of the benches along the way to gather her thoughts.
Anna’s surroundings were peaceful and almost quiet, a complete contrast to her tumultuous thoughts. The bell for the next and last class for the school day just rang and the students milling around the walkway had trickled into a handful, easy to count if Anna had been paying attention. The sun was shining down the basketball court across her, and there was a light and comfortable breeze that carried the laughter of the people hanging out at one of the nearby gazebos towards Anna. If it was a completely normal afternoon for her, she would have smiled at them, and she would have felt a certain kind of freedom of ending a school day and having nothing much to do after that don’t always come for her at this time of the term.
But it wasn’t a normal afternoon, at least, as far as she was concerned. Anna sat by the bench, her thoughts racing a mile a minute while the rest of her felt a kind of worry that she didn’t even know was real or valid.
“We’re okay, we’re okay…we’re…oh Anna, get a grip on yourself,” she said out loud, ignoring the guy walking past her bench who glanced at her sharply when she spoke. She took a deep breath and found that she had been clutching her bag so tight that her knuckles were almost white and her fingernails has made marks on her palms. She shifted her bag beside her, relaxed her grip and then took another deep breath.
“Okay, focus,” she said softly this time, before she closed her eyes and thought back to just before her last class. It was a miracle that she could pinpoint the exact moment that she started thinking the thoughts she had now, but what she didn’t know was why she started thinking that way.
I’m a bit busy, so I’m not sure if I’ll see you later.
There it was, the last statement. Anna opened her eyes and reached for her phone from inside her bag. She quickly scrolled through her inbox to the last message from Rich, the one that contained that. One minute they were chatting about random things, something tat you don’t normally, really talk about through SMS, and then another, there was silence. Silence that Anna didn’t really expect, but should, given his last message.
But it was just so abrupt. So out-of-the-blue. It bordered on weird, even, and she didn’t know if she said something that could have made him make up that excuse just so he could stop talking to her. She switched to her sent items to look at her last few messages and tried to see what she could have said wrong but found nothing. Nothing that she could see from how she knew him, that is.
Anna stifled a groan in frustration. For the past hour and a half, she had been wondering what exactly made Rich say that, if she had done anything wrong or said anything wrong. Normally, she wouldn’t care for these things — even with her other male friends she didn’t think of what she said in her messages that much, or if there was a sudden silence between them, but Rich was…he was different. She didn’t know him well enough to know how he would react to certain things, so she was still, in essence, trying to get to know him despite knowing him for more than a term. And somehow she felt that she had to be more careful with her conversations with him than with the other guy friends she had.
Not that she had many guy friends now, anyway.
So what exactly did she do wrong to merit this silence?
Anna sighed loudly, earning her another look from strangers, this time from a group of girls passing by her. She heard them whisper something to each other and normally she would feel embarrassed at this, but she had come to accept that maybe nothing is normal for her that afternoon. She looked back at her phone, reading the last three messages she received and the last four she sent, and all she could see was: “I’m a bit busy, so I’m not sure if I’ll see you later.”
“What if he really is busy?” Anna mumbled to herself. “It’s not like he’s a liberal arts student like me. Who knows what they’re doing at Planet Gokongwei, anyway?”
She lifted her eyes to look at where she came from and then towards where she was headed for earlier, and uttered another sigh, but this time, of surrender. “Oh well, whatever,” she said to herself, gathering her things, and stuffing her phone back in her bag. “But we’re okay, right? We’re okay.We’re okay. Please.” She uttered the last words in a prayer, even if she’s not exactly sure what exactly she meant with okay.
She looked up, startled and almost let out a gasp but caught herself in time. Making his way down the SJ Walk was no other than the guy in question, Rich.
“Uh…hey. Hi, Rich,” Anna replied, after clearing her throat. She felt her face heat up, remembering the thoughts she had just a minute ago. She looked around furtively, looking at everything else except Rich, who continued to approach her. Finally, she felt him sit beside her on the bench and let out a long sigh.
“Why are you here?” he asked.
Anna opened her mouth and closed again, fumbling for an answer. Why is his presence making her so flustered? “I was looking for something in my bag so I had to stop first.”
“Are you heading for the hang out?”
Anna nodded, still not looking at her newest companion. “Are you? Aren’t you supposed to be busy?” She asked the last question before she could help herself and this time her face turned red for real.
If Rich saw it or noticed her embarrassment, he didn’t say anything. Instead, he leaned forward and she saw him try to look at her in the eye, as how he usually does when they talk. But since she was trying to avoid it, he was in for a challenge — at least, Anna thought so. “Yeah, I was. We had to consult with our professor for one major project and we just found out that this afternoon was the only time he was available, so I dropped everything for that meeting. I thought it would take long, but we just finished.”
“Oh, okay.” Suddenly, she felt a warm feeling spread out from her chest. It was small at first, but it spread slowly, slowly, until she felt this warmth all the way to her fingers and toes, making them tingle just a little bit. Enough to make her lips curve upward into a smile, and enough to give her courage to meet Rich’s eyes. “Really? How did it go?”
When her eyes met Rich’s, she saw him smile, and if it was possible, she felt even warmer inside. “It went okay. Turns out we don’t have to do as much as we thought we would. So now I have the afternoon off.”
“That’s good.” It was all Anna could say now, but she couldn’t stop smiling, and she hoped that was enough to share the joy she felt inside. The joy that she couldn’t really figure out just yet, but what mattered to her then was she felt it, and that it was there.
That Rich was there.
And they were okay.
“Are you done here?” Rich asked, pushing himself up from the bench. “Let’s go to the hang out. I can hear the guitar from here and I could swear it’s a bit out of tune. Come on.”
Anna laughed, and stood up as well, slinging her bag on her shoulder. She fell into a step beside Rich, and she could swear there was a bounce in her step, and she was just too happy to stop herself. “I think Nathan played it too much again,” she said, craning her neck towards the table at the end of the walkway, where their other friends usually hang out.
“Figures,” Rich said. He laid a casual hand on Anna’s shoulder as he steered her towards the right side of the walkway to avoid bumping into others. “So, where did what were we talking about before I had that consultation?”
We’re okay. Anna couldn’t be happier.
Author’s note: And another rough one. I’m trying to write more, really. This turned out a bit too long than I expected, but eh, let’s let it stay there. Characters from my NaNoWriMo 2011 novel, setting based on my alma mater. 🙂