Note: It’s been a long time since I’ve posted a short story in here. This was written for a retelling/adaptation paper required in my English 11 class last 9 September 2015. The same format as my old work, Love at Failed Sight and it is an adaptation of James Joyce‘s notable work, Araby.
IT IS THREE days before winter break. The sun has barely risen in the morning sky and the city is getting colder and colder by the days passing by. Snow slowly covers the place and trees seem to have leaves as white as ivory. Nevertheless, students in the University still need to endure the last three days before they could spend their precious holidays.
The city is still busy no matter what. Traffic continues to fill up the streets and at one of the corners is a café which is busier than ever. Uni students always have the need for a dose of caffeine, anyway. However, this day is more jam-packed due to the need of something warm for the body.
She is in no exception. Sitting alone in her usual spot in the café, a fresh cup of espresso is in her table and in her hands is a 19th century classic book she needs to analyse in her Literary Class. Needless to say, she is completely oblivious to her surroundings. She is always the loner, so it isn’t a new thing for her not to pay attention to the city around her.
She continues on reading her book totally in touch with its fictional characters until a raspy voice speaks, “Hello, Miss!”
She slowly looks up with a slight hint of annoyance for disturbing her fervent reading. But what she sees—who, rather—makes her palpitate deep inside. This is the guy with the brightest shade of blue orbs she has been having a crush on for months now. Just by looking at him, she is lost in a trance until he speaks and smiles at her, “Each seat seems to be taken. May I share a seat with you?”
Slightly embarrassed from her little staring, she immediately replies, “Uhm, sure.” Then she gives back a smile to prevent her blush.
‘Is this real?’ she thinks to herself. Sitting in front of her is the guy who she has been stalking on every social media page for months. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you name it. Don’t get her wrong, though. Who wouldn’t be infatuated with the Team Captain of the Varsity Football Team, Vice Chairperson of the Student Council, Outstanding Member of the Debate Society and the most popular junior student in the campus?
He is every girl’s dream. He is the Prince Charming in fairy tales. He is the epitome of Mr. Perfect Guy. And she, being a fresh newbie in the university isn’t able to fight the infatuation for him.
In her three months stay in the university, she has watched all four football elimination games which their school’s team have won (and six of eight goals have been achieved by him). She has attended orientations hosted by the Student Council just to see his face. She has watched his speeches with the Debate Society.
On the other hand, there she is. A freshman. A recluse. A nobody. Someone who engages herself in books, studies, and is usually on her own. The only organization she’s a part of is the Book Club. Being a geek, she is satisfied with her profound liking to be alone. However, it changes the day she met him.
And that brings back to their first-ever face to face in a café on the greatest day of winter (in her opinion).
“This coffee shop never fails to be jam packed every second week of December, does it?” he inquires.
He is actually starting a conversation with her. He, of all the people, is starting a conversation with her. Something is wrong with the scenario but she doesn’t care as she has been waiting for this day to happen.
So she answers, “Yeah, I guess. It’s never like this on any time of the year. It’s always Coffee on Decembers.”
He nods taking a sip from his coffee cup, his fingers anxiously tapping on the hardwood table and gazing at his phone from time to time as if waiting for an important call.
She wants to bring a new topic for a conversation but how could she do that? She can barely speak a word to her acquaintances and some friends, what more to him?
Should she continue the conversation?
“YOU WILL BE at the Winter Fair, right?” She has spat out the words before she could stop it. ‘Could you control yourself? Seriously,’ she mentally scolds herself.
“Yes, I will be there,” He answers still not looking up from his phone.
And all she does is to reply with a nod. Suddenly a phone vibrates and he picks it up. Upon reading the text message, he said to her, “sorry, I need to go. See you when I see you.”
She nods once more and gives him a small smile, but deep inside she is hyperventilating. His presence makes her senses giddy, her heart beating faster than its normal pace, her legs wobbly, and her mind all over the place.
Standing up from her seat, she thought to herself, ‘I have a Winter Fair to attend to.’
“AUNT, I REALLY need to go to this fair,” she pleads her mother’s sister who has been financially supporting her since the start of her college.
“But the time of that event is your shift in my boutique,” her aunt reasons out.
“I will do extra shifts on winter break. I just really need to attend this one. Please let me. Please.”
“Several months in school and you already know how to party? What would your parents think of you?” her aunt accuses.
“But it is not a party. It is just a fair hosted by my university. I’ll be back at a reasonable hour,” she explains.
“Make sure you do or I’ll pull out my financial assistance on your school fees. Now go do your chores,” her aunt dismisses her because she could even agree.
THE NEXT THREE days become busier for her. Although winter break is getting closer, her errands pile up higher and higher. She is not just a university student. She works as a waitress too, a saleslady in her Aunt’s boutique and has a part-time job at the local bakery.
Unlike him, life for her isn’t that easy. Not even close. Whilst he is at the top without any struggles, she, on the contrary, needs to strive hard in order to catch the pace.
In any circumstance of her life these days, he is somehow included. She can’t get him out of her mind. The odds are saying she doesn’t stand a chance but she still hopes they would meet again.
That is why she stood up against her aunt for the first time just to allow her to go to the fair. Their Book Club will be hosting a bazaar and this might be her way in getting a glimpse of the junior student that’s always in her mind.
How would he notice her again? That is the question of the hour. She is just another Jane Doe, whilst he is one in a million. Perhaps, a gift for Christmas will give her the chance to talk to him again.
Yes! A gift, indeed!
THE NIGHT BEFORE the fair, she feels a different kind of adrenaline through her veins. She has gotten her most intricate casual outfit at the farthest part of her not-so-very-large wardrobe. She has taken time to look for various cosmetics she could use to beautify herself. She has dug deep under the bed to get her precious piggy bank. It’s time to say goodbye to her Mr. Piggy.
Others may find it bizarre and absurd for a girl to spend her savings just to buy a gift for a guy who barely talked to her, let alone know her name. But for an infatuated girl, everything is worth a try.
THE DAY OF the Winter Fair came. She is clad in her dress as white as snow and topped with a jumper to keep her warm. Paired with it is her winter boots. To say the least, she looks pretty and classy. Gone is the shy girl who used to be alone in the corner of libraries and coffee shops.
She arrives at the venue with confidence and joviality. Even her mates from the Book Club haven’t failed to notice it.
“You look lovely today,” one says. “True! She’s more lively and radiant,” the other agrees. All they receive from her is an inward blush and a shrug.
“Is there a certain someone for this transformation?” another one teases. She just shakes her head in denial, not really the talker type. ‘But if only they knew,’ she thinks to herself. With that, they start to open their book bazaar for the next hour.
After a successful book-selling, she couldn’t be more excited to look for a gift to give him. She has been waiting for this since three days ago and now as she wanders through the stalls, she thinks of a way to start up a conversation with him.
Should she say, ‘Hi! I’ve been a fan of your football team since the start of the season. You’re so amazing; I decided to buy you a gift’ or ‘Hello. You’re so dashing in your Council uniform all the time. I’m your admirer. Have this gift’?
‘Urghhh. Both are stalker-ish and immature,’ she reprimands herself.
Realising she have walked around the whole venue, she turns around to go back until she sees the best gift she could give him. ‘Screw with what I’m going to say. I need to buy this.’
Just as she approaches the lady in the stall, she has heard a group of girls squealing about five meters away. She tries to see what the commotion is about and there she sees him in his most casual white tee, leather jacket, black ripped jeans and boots. But still so dreamy and dashing. And not to forget, surrounded by his fangirls who seem to be asking him to sign the memorabilia’s they bought from the football club.
“Girls, please calm down. I will sign your stuff. Please just make way for my girlfriend,” he says to them and she feels her poise deflating as she deciphers the words.
His girlfriend—the A-class, tall and gorgeous cheerleader—comes near him with a hug and a light kiss in the lips, forgetting they are surrounded by a bunch of girls who has envy written in their eyes. She is one of those girls, too. Not being able to do a thing, she slowly turns around with her heart crushed in pain and disappointment.
“Are you going to buy something, Miss? This is one of a kind for your significant other, perhaps,” the lady in the stall asks seemingly unmindful of what’s happening.
“No, thank you,” she says as she walks away completely opposite of her earlier blithe attitude.
NOW, IS IT worth the pain and heartbreak to strike up a conversation?
‘Nope. Having a conversation with him is not the best idea,’ she mutters to herself. With that, she stands up and politely tells him, “The table’s all yours. I got to go.”
He looks up from his phone, “Oh. Is that so? Nice to meet you, —”
“Jasmine. My name is Jasmine,” she supplies.
“Jasmine,” she cherishes the way her name lingers in his mouth for she knows this will be the first and last time he will ever mention it.
She walks away from the table and just as she takes her fifth step, she overhears a girl approaching him saying, “Hi, babe. I miss you.”
She slowly turns her head to steal a gaze and there she sees, indeed, is the A-class, tall and gorgeous cheerleader—his girlfriend—as their lips lock completely heedless of the PDA.
She must be heartbroken, but no. She has seen this coming, anyway. Her earlier notions have confirmed it. To save herself from the future heartbreak, she turns on her heel and towards the front door she continues her pace as she goes out of the coffee shop with—ironically—a lighter heart. It looks as if a weight has been lifted off her chest.
(photo courtesy of wallpaperscraft.com)