Chapter 8: Brotherly Favor
“A classmate of mine told me about the ‘peanut story’ of our sister. They’re calling her ‘flying peanuts’! How funny it is!”
I am about to brush my teeth when I happen to pass by the twins’ room. When I heard Greg retelling the little story to Corey, I pause and listens closer. I recognize whose voice belongs to whom even if they’re inside or behind me. Why? Duh, I lived with them all my life.
I roll my eyes when I heard them laughing. So the “peanut story” reached their ears, but they got my interest when I heard a familiar name that they mentioned.
“That British dude, uh, Stephen is it?” Greg asked Corey. I can barely hear their conversation so I had to listen with my ear by the door.
I can hear Corey playing his violin and stopping abruptly. “What about him?”
“He tried out for the soccer team,” Greg replied. I somehow smiled at what he said. Stephen would be great, I know he will be. If only my brother will give him a chance. My brother should not be too hard on him even if Greg’s one of the kings of the school soccer team.
“Don’t forget Hailey bumped into him. That was pretty embarrassing!” Corey laughs and Greg joins him after. I grit my teeth the whole time I am listening to them.
“Embarrassing for whom? Stephen or Hailey?” Greg asked.
“Hmm, for Hailey because now half the school knows she’s really clumsy,” Corey answered then both of them started laughing again. I was about to open the door wide when Trevor caught me eavesdropping at them.
“Eavesdropping?” Trevor is already in his pajamas.
“Think they’re talking about boy stuff?” Trevor raised an eyebrow. I understood what he meant by “boy stuff” and listening about it is not the business worth listening attentively to with all the reasons there are.
“Well I wasn’t really listening to them.” I quickly got away from the door.
“Hey, do you know that guy they are talking about?” Trevor mischievously grins at me.
“I’ve known so many guys, which one?” He asked.
I know whom he was talking about, but I pretended to be dense by shrugging my shoulders. I can’t believe news travel so fast that even my apathetic genius brother is informed.
“Stephen Cutler.” He started walking away with an odd smile on his face while pushing back the rim of his glasses to his nose.
“Wait. Um, what about him?” I think he might have something to tell me.
“My academic teachers told me he’s becoming top student in his classes in these past few days,” Trevor answered. “I might hang out with him these days. I met him when Ms. Adele introduced us once.”
“Yeah, she might have been very impressed with him at their Homeroom class.” Trevor knocked at the twins’ room, and I hurried to head to the bathroom.
I haven’t heard Andy counting his blessings again this time, so he might have been fallen asleep already. I peeked at his room, and I was right.
I paused before I could enter the bathroom. I smiled while thinking the picture of Stephen hanging out with my brothers.
That means I could have an excuse to see him all the time.
The following morning, I entered inside the soccer team’s locker room and rushed toward Greg. I knew he always hang out at the locker room by 2pm.
“Please. I never asked any favor from you before.” I was standing by the door at Greg’s locker room. I was half-pleading in front of my athletic brother. He was the only one inside wearing his complete soccer uniform and now tying his shoelaces.
“Well, what’s with him that you really want him to be accepted to my territory?” He looked up after finishing his shoelaces.
He adds with a chuckle, “Not to mention that you bumped into him with flying peanuts!”
He chuckles louder, and I blush.
“He’s my friend,” I reasoned while some of the soccer players start barging in.
“Friend?” Greg throws a questioning look. I just nodded.
“Hey, Hailey.” One of them whom I know as Ted, who often hangs out with my brothers at home, greeted me. He had grown taller and probably had been going to the gym because of his improved physical structure.
The others gave me high and low fives. They threw question mark looks at Greg regarding my business inside their locker room because girls were not allowed to enter.
“She wants me to help someone––
“Uh, see you guys. I think Christine’s calling me.” I gave Greg a warning look not to tell a soul about anything. I knew I left the soccer players with question marks eyes, but I don’t really mind as long as Greg can keep his mouth shut and take care of Stephen.
“Mind if I join you?” Rose Sison asked me. She’s my club mate, the one with the curly red hair that I sat near to.
It was after school and got nothing to do, so I was eating at the canteen. Christine had gone home to let her parents sign some permission letter from her club, and I have to wait for Elaine after her cheerleading audition. Few people are around, but no one was alone, so I guess Rose doesn’t want to be known as a loner, especially if you’re a freshman.
“Sure.” I pulled a chair for her, and she mumbled “thanks.” I noticed her eyes are grayish. I could see the view of the storm forming as the waves crashed to the beach shore on a forlorn Saturday. Despite the storm painted in her eyes, I still regard them as peaceful.
“You’re wearing contacts?” I asked her when she already settled.
“Yeah. I got them last year after a million of times of pleading my mom to get a pair for me.” She got her phone from her bag and dug inside for the earphones, which the wires are kind of entangled. “Hailey? Am I right?”
“Yeah. What’s yours?” I have to ask her even if I already knew.
“Rose Sison. Just Rose.”
“You love writing? You’re in my club too.” What a stupid question, Hailey.
“I love it, but it isn’t really my first love.” She takes a bite from her burger. “It’s just that the club I wanted to join was already full so I had to sign up for another club.”
“Well, what is it?” I’m starting to think that she could be a friend.
“It’s swimming. I practice it since I was eleven. I got to practice it still during weekends.” Her eyes lightened up as we started talking about her passion.
I was about to say something when I saw my prince charming, er, Stephen. He was heading to our table. I pretended to look away. My cheeks are burning, my hands are wet and shaky, and my stomach are forming knots. I couldn’t understand myself sometimes. I wonder why I eagerly search for him when he’s not around, and eagerly cower when he’s near.
“Pretend you’re really busy chatting with me,” I instructed Rose.
“I am busy chatting with you, really,” she replied.
“Hailey, congrats. Your name is at the bulletin.” I can hardly look at him. I knew I would stutter if I talk. Then I wonder if there are no smudges of food around the corners of my mouth.
I looked up. There he is, standing in his full height, his eyes still reminding me of a virgin forest, and his minty ocean-breeze scent filling my nostrils again. And also, he’s already wearing his school uniform now. Even if he looks just like e everybody else already, he still stood out from the rest if the people inside the canteen.
I calmly reply despite my heartbeats ringing in my ears, “Oh, thanks. And may I ask, is Rose Sison in the list too?” I asked, and I glanced at Rose who is hiding teasing stares. I guess she figured out how I feel in this situation. My cheeks might be burning again.
“Yeah, I think so.” He stops talking and surprises me when he leans over. Crazy thoughts came into my mind that he’ll kiss me. But, of course, he just brushed his thumb softly under the left corner of my lips. “There was a chocolate smudge.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. I still have to catch up with my soccer try out, though. Have to go, see you around.” He said before he walks away, as he always does.
“Um, hey, Steph! My brother’s in there too.” Why do I have to say it?
“And did you make it to the photographer list?” I change the subject.
“Well, my name was printed last.” He chuckles and hurries out. I wonder if he just came all the way here just to inform me.
“I think this song’s perfect for you.” Rose lent me her phone, and I wore the earphones.
“It’s ‘Sparks Fly’ by Taylor Swift.” She answered the question I had in my mind. I finished listening to the song, and the whole time, I am thinking of him. The song was the sum of all of my puzzled emotions. Yeah, sparks fly whenever he comes around, and there are even more sparks flying whenever he smiles.
“You like it?” She asked.
“It’s perfect.” I smiled, but it suddenly vanished when I saw Elaine , who is still in her cheerleader uniform that was lent to her, enter the canteen.
Something is wrong. I knew it because she is teary eyed.
“Excuse me. I think I have to take care of something.” I get up from the table and walk toward my red-eyed friend who is looking down. I instinctively give her a hug the moment she looks up.
“I didn’t make it,” she revealed. Realizing that people are watching us, I take her to a corner. “Dana… and I tied for the last spot…and…and… of course, obviously, they will choose...her. So they did. They know who she is, and they didn’t even bother to give me a second tryout.”
I take her away because she starts sobbing harder. I give a signal to Rose, who is watching us the whole time, that I had to go. I lead Elaine to the nearest comfort room while patting her back the whole time.
She turned off the faucet after washing her face. “I always… wished… to be a cheerleader. Maybe because I just wanted to be part of the club where all the beautiful girls are, but I realized that I’d rather not be in the field where girls actually hate each other. I observed it from afar. Someone is always jealous with someone in there.”
“I know you really wanted to be in it because well, as you said, you like to prove yourself to everyone and feel that you belonged to the top beautiful girls in this place, but you don’t need them to feel like you are beautiful. You are beautiful, Elaine, and they were wrong when they didn’t give you a second chance. C’mon, it’s just the first year, maybe you could try again for next year.” I embrace her tighter.
“I don’t know. But I just know now that I don’t really feel good about everything,” she replied. She turns the faucet on again and washes her hands.
“C’mon, I know where the perfect place is for you!” I reached for my phone inside my bag to send a text message to Christine who later replied that she’ll be good to go..