Author’s Note: This is a scheduled post. At the time of this posting, I’m away from everyone and the computer screen, clearing my cluttered mind in an undisclosed location. I'll be back to the computer screen sometime next week.
Hiding in the basement library at this hour of eight-thirty in the morning, Crystal couldn’t help but wonder why she dragged herself to campus when her lecture was at noon. The serenity that the empty area provided allowed her to reflect and think. Although she wasn’t exceptionally exuberant with her second semester’s timetable, she had to be contented because it accorded her with a rest day (unlike the previous semester, where it was necessary to embark on the daily commute to campus). She disliked the idea of running into Ryan on campus because she didn’t know what to expect from him. He was gregarious on one minute, but as moody as the grey skies on the next minute.
No matter how she rationalized the coincidences last semester, there were a couple of things that didn’t end up. How could they have enrolled together for those classes without even knowing what the other party’s choice was? Why was it so coincidental that they, for their own reasons, decided to study this particular course at the same time?
She initially hoped that she could rid herself of familiar faces when she broke away from her friends and embarked on a separate path for this year. She needed it; she needed it because she thought that she wouldn’t have to face Ryan for a long while and she had to excel in this favorite course of hers, making her college lecturer proud. Little did she expect that it will complicate matters for her instead.
The winter break allowed her to scrape the last semester’s stressful contents out of her brain with a spatula and start afresh. She was thankful that her two friends collaborated to drag her out to the movies and a late lunch together, where it took her mind off the worry of her final grades.
And sleep too.
Gosh, she couldn’t remember the last time she had such fitful sleep. Her rest was usually tattered with the amount of workload and fear about her academic performance where either she was insomniac or adopted the vampire’s shadowy figure, ready to pounce on people who stepped on her tail.
Yet, she still couldn’t wrap her head around the stark coincidence.
She buried her face in her hands when she realized that the very decision of swapping things around will lead to further interaction with him until their graduation.
The pressure flowed in her bloodstream and bled the joy out of Crystal when she departed with Tracy from campus for the last of their three exam papers. She wanted to be done with this and crash for the next twelve hours - or until her body was fully recovered by the continuous bashing.
Maybe it was for the best that all her papers were scheduled within a week of each other.
When they arrived at the examination hall, they squeezed their way through the crowd and hid at the far end of the building, where it was quieter and safer. The buzz that sashayed around them was too great a risk for them; they didn’t want to absorb the additional stress from the crazy energy that bounced off each student.
“Psst, look who’s here.” Tracy whispered, pointing to a reticent soul standing across them.
Crystal turned her head in the direction of Tracy’s finger and sighed. “Oh, great.”
“I mean, look! He’s making us look like fool. He’s only carrying a handful of papers and I don’t see him carrying a bag.” Tracy shook her head. “Look at us. We’ve brought practically everything from the tutorials and lectures.”
“My dear, it’s alright. We feel more secure this way. Plus, God knows what he’s done in the days leading up to this.”
It came as no surprise. It was evident to her towards the end of the semester that Ryan would ace this particular course. Observing his body language in both classes led her to believe that he was not only sure about the value of his contribution for the discussions, but also his effort in attaining the desired grade. She smirked to herself, knowing that there was a whiff of anxiety in his thoughts. As he leaned against the hall and glued to his iPhone, she saw that his ankles were crossed - not a sign of being carefree and relaxed. If he was honestly and genuinely confident, his facial expression would’ve softened with faint traces of assurance. She could feel the nervousness off him in the same manner that she saw the fear in his eyes when they crossed paths in this very same place a semester ago.
“I know the guy,” Crystal continued after the silence. “That’s how he rolls. You can’t tell whether he’s relaxed or petrified over the final papers until there’s been an exchange of eye contact. Or, at least that was what I was led to assume.”
Tracy looked up. “Hmm? Do elaborate, Crystal.”
“This is not the first time that I’ve seen him here for the exams. The first time was actually last semester when we were sitting for our separate papers. I didn’t say hello to him when I passed by him because I was speaking to a female friend and he was busy with his revision. It wasn’t until the friend and I were returning to the main entrance that he shot a hello. Not to us, but only to me. When our eyes met, I saw the stress and panic floating in his eyes. He didn’t look as stoic as he does in class. It felt as if he was silently reaching out for help. I’m not going to mention what happened after the exams, but let’s just say that my friend whinged for an hour that Ryan was nicer to me than to her. Mind you, he knows her too.”
“That sounds funny and weird at the same time. Does she like him?”
“Nope. I know she's taken by someone else, but I'm not sure if he's single and ready to mingle.”
“Sounds like he does favor you more than her.”
“Oh my God.” Crystal laughed. “Tracy, I wouldn’t have a clue. I’m not a mind reader! But yeah, he’s an intelligent person who carries his weight.”
“He has always looked studious to me, but then again,” Tracy pointed out softly, “even the smartest student, if not cautious, could mess up from the pressure of time.”
“There’s one thing I don’t understand. Why does it feel like he’s forgotten that I exist or only speaks after I’ve acknowledged his presence?” Crystal sighed. “You know what? Let’s just make our way out of here before he catches sight of us.”