Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Chapter 20: The bright side

Chapter 20: The bright side (Wattpad)

The word paparazzi took a whole new meaning. I clutched the magazine hard, as though it would erase the foreboding photo in front of me and change into something coherent and possible. Nevermind the laws of transition. This must work. This insanity must end. This atrocity, violence of – of my – violence of my privacy and of my well-being. And of my sanity.

My eyes swept through the cover title, though my brain was refusing to accept the words,

The lovestruck billionaire and the flare. Then below that was worse, mush worse. This month’s latest issue – 18 year-old heir to the fortune of Gedi Institute and his newfound love. For more information on Mr. Travis Warner and Ms. Avery Allton, see page 19.

Page fucking nineteen.

I held the rest of the package under my arm and frantically started flipping the pages. My breath went short – it’s a five-page article.



The first page had Travis and I walking casually, but it had been shot at the most opportune moment; we were looking at each other. Intentionally or by accident, I don’t know, I don’t care, the headline read, The multi-million dollar relationship. And the byline in smaller letter size read, by Cassandra Watts.

I never in my life, wished anyone to rot in hell. Never, not until now. This Cassandra Watts should just stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. While my academic mind profusely reminded me that the sun literally doesn’t shine on the Arctic and Antarctic region, I started reading the first paragraph,

The media and the worldwide press has always been covering stories, issues and financial breakthroughs from the known company of Gedi Institute for high-ranking and high-flying lawyers in the city. Mr. Anthony Warner, age 35, has always been a prominent figure in the upper circles, as expected by everyone from his only son and heir, Mr. Travis Anthony Warner.

Mr. Warner, age 18, has had his own share of the public media and spotlight, but now, he may be able to bask in it. Following the events of yesterday afternoon, Mr. Warner was seen out with a Ms. Avery Allton. From very reliable sources, Ms. Allton has apparently, been in a relationship with Mr. Warner for many months and both are deemed to be serious with each other.

Ms. Allton, age 17, has some very surprising academic background and an IQ of 109. A new student at the same school with Mr. Warner, it is assumed by our sources that it was instant attraction that had them knowing each other. The couple, as their classmates had said, always “made time for each other” and it is undoubtedly clear in our photos that the statement is true to every inch. They were spotted at a local park in Melbourne, namely Royal Ridge Park, spending the warm afternoon walking, away from prying eyes. From the time – 

“Avery? The magazines.”

“Yes, Mom. Coming.” 

I turned back to the article, wiping my sweating brow with my arm. Words were swirling around my head, making me dizzy – some are full-out lies and the others are nothing but the horrifying truth. Months? It’s not bloody months, fuck their sources. And just who the bloody hell said that we were ‘making time with each other’? People at school are so twisted and wretched! They can’t just keep their mouths shut, can’t they? Just fuck this. 

Lies, lies, lies. And ‘instant attraction’? Just who the fucking hell do they think they’re kidding? And what is this shit with ‘serious with each other’ relationship?

It’s blatantly obvious that Cassandra Watts – whoever the hell she is – just ate some crap out of some ‘sources’ and published – published! – this fucking story without any heads-up of any fucking kind.

Just who do they think they’re dealing with?

And my IQ isn’t a hundred and fucking nine – it’s 113. I sat down on our lawn and spread out all the magazines before me – Billboard, Details, Ok! Magazines, U.S. Weekly, PopMatters, Life&Style Weekly, and some more others that makes me want to puke.

They all have different covers, different headlines, but one topic in general.


With a shaking hand, I picked a paper at random – Variety magazine. Its front cover was of Travis and I when we were back at the car. He was pinning me against his car, his arms snaking around my waist and my arms were doing the same with his neck. He was smiling radiantly, his assets in full-view mode, but it wasn’t that observation that made me stop and look.

It’s me. My face.

I had no idea what I could be thinking in that particular moment, but my physique looked more…vibrant. Alive. I looked really happy. Energetic and inexplicably happy. I remembered what Nicole said on the phone,

“I’m glad you found him.” 

I smiled involuntarily, flipped the magazine open and looked for the scoop. It said the same things all over again, but the way they told it made me look and feel like Cinderella. The pictures weren’t so bad – what I meant to say is that there are no photos where we kissed, and that’s the crucial part. Just the pictures where we were fooling around and of him taking a picture of me.

Now, in that picture, I definitely looked happy.

I sighed again, feeling the pressure close around me, trapping me with no way out. I breathed in and out, counting the seconds before exhaling. I bit my lip worriedly and faced me dilemma.

What should I do?

The most practical thing to do would be to call Travis now. And I mean, now, now. But Mom’s waiting for the blasted magazines and I really don’t know if I should…I glanced at the monstrous bamboos and a risky plan made its way to my mind.

The bamboos look tall and thick enough to cover Dad. What more to a harmless little package of magazines? This scheme is so childish, but this situation is pushing me and leaving me no choice in the matter. Childish be damned. I started getting up and stuffed the magazines back randomly when I paused.

So what should I tell Mom?

Mom, there has been a raging hurricane outside and I barely escaped with my life. Let’s just forget about the magazines and cherish each other and our family. 

No, I don’t think that would work.

Okay, slow down. There’s always a solution to a problem. I looked down at the package in my hands. It’s a matter of will, and it also relates to the fact of my readiness to tell them of my situation. Shit, I can’t do this. I can’t tell them now; I need time.

Five minutes later, I sighed. Okay, I’ll follow my subconscious thinking. To hell with everything. 

My legs moved forward shakily as I closed the door behind me. Elaine and the others went back to their game, but she glanced at me worriedly, asking, “You okay?”

“I’m fine.” I responded in a raspy voice. After clearing my throat I tried again, “I’m fine, El. I have a bit of a headache.” Her look of concern intensified. “Do you want me to get you something? Just sit down, Ave. No offense, but you look terrible.”

I feel more than that. ‘Terrible’ doesn’t even begin to cover what I’m feeling right now. It’s not even barely adequate.

“It’s okay, El.” I gave her a smile and before she could stop me, I moved forward to the dining table where my alder relatives are chuckling amusedly. Mom quickly turned to me, “Where – Avery, are you okay?” she urgently stood up and placed a hand on my cheek. Her hand was like a blaze of fire against my numb cheek. “Did you eat something, honey?” Do I really look sick?

“Nothing, Mom.” I guess I can use this to my advantage. 

“Ave, you alright?” Dad joined in the conversation in hushed tones while everybody else on the table went along as they were. “Did she eat something, hun?”

“I didn’t eat anything, Dad.”

“Well, why didn’t you?” Both of my parents asked in unison. Mom sad worriedly while Dad held my hand, “You didn’t eat anything?”

“Mom. I meant that I didn’t eat anything bad that I know of and Mom, they probably delivered the magazines in a wrong address; I didn’t see them.” Please, please, please. Surely, anybody can read the telepathic message I’m trying to send – 

“It doesn’t matter. Just rest upstairs, okay?”

My knees seemed to give in from my weight and I trembled violently. I exhaled. 

Someone up there must really love me.

“Ave, get better, m’kay?” Dad said as he pecked my cheek, “Now, let me help you up – ”

“Dad, it’s fine. I’ll go with Dels.” I need to speak to someone before I faint. “Okay,” he said. “Get better, Ave.”

“Rest, okay?” Mom reminded.

“Will do.” And with that, I started towards Delsey, who was lounging on the couch reading a book. I stood awkwardly in front of her and tried to keep my cool. “Dels? Can you help me for a minute?” She looked up from the book and immediately, her expression morphed from curious to absolute concern. 

“Ave? Are you okay?” She discarded the book without even putting her bookmark. “You look like ice.” She started getting up and out a hand on the small of my back. “C’mon. Let’s get you upstairs.” I didn’t even bother replying because I know she would just tell me to shut my mouth tight as a coffin. And I’m really tired.

I somehow managed to get to the second landing and she gently pushed my bedroom door open and settled me on the bed. I lay down and immediately felt extreme comfort and weariness at the same time. I can’t help closing my eyes and breathing in deeply.


I opened my eyes again and saw Delsey assessing me with her eyes narrowed in speculation and her hands on her hips. She pursed her lips and then moved forward. While removing my flip-flops, she lectured.

“Don’t tell me you have been eating something not good for you. You really look terrible, Ave. Like that girl from the Corpse Bride.”

“Thanks, Dels.” I muttered in a hoarse voice. That was extremely encouraging and just what my ego needed. She instantly erased what she said in my mind with a warm smile. “I was just joking. You should look in the mirror more closely.” Yeah, and see my skinny self. That’s nothing new. I grabbed a pillow from over my head and hugged it tightly. My caring cousin sat down by me on the bed and surveyed my face. 

“I know what you’re thinking, Ave. And I’m guessing the reason why you’re so out of shape is because of some problem. Am I right?”

She’s such a mind reader, but I think that’s one of the qualities that made her such a good role model for us. I sat up slowly and faced her.

“Before I say anything, uhm. Could you please remind your Dad about my ten bucks? He was going to give me, you see.”

“Got it. So what’s the big problem?”

I sighed and looked deep in her eyes. Okay, no beating around the bush this time. I licked my lips and started, “I have this problem. A really, really big problem. And I really don’t see how – ”

“Is there a solution?” she suddenly cut me off, her eyes testy. “Ave?” she prompted.  Why is she asking that? Shouldn’t she be asking about the problem?

“Yes, there is. There is a solution.”

“Then why are you worrying?”

That was unexpected.

For a moment, I couldn’t speak. Of course, I’m worrying because – it’s just – it’s a fucking problem! We’re supposed to be worried sick over them. But her remark had me thinking. If there is a solution, then why am I worried? I bit my lip again and looked at her and I saw her smiling like she knows what I’m going through. 

“What if there’s no solution?” I said, “At all? No solution to this miserable problem that I’ve gotten myself into – ” I was cut off by her laugh and she said, “You sound silly, Ave.” Silly? How the hell could I be silly? “What?” I asked her, still puzzled. 

“You said so yourself – there is no solution. None at all. So why are you still worrying?”

“But – I don’t have a choice! You don’t even know – no one knows!” I said hysterically. Damn. She’s really good in these things. Delsey arched her eyebrow slowly. “Well, then. You’ll just have to tell me everything, right?”

20 minutes later

Her hand was trembling as she held the page torn off from a magazine. I held my breath, having explained everything to her already as she turned to the next torn page. Then the next. And the next one.

Slowly, she raised up her stoic face and met my gaze. She released a breath I hadn’t known she’d been holding and she only said seven words, as though she’s in a dream-like state, “You’ve got to be fucking with me.”

I exhaled. 

“Ave, this is – this – wow. I can’t – ” she looked at lost for words and she just gaped at me soundlessly. “Look,” I started. “I know this looks ridiculous and you’re probably waiting for me to shout ‘Happy April Fools’ but the point is that it’s really, really true and it’s not April.” To be honest, my speech looks like it had no effect on her.

“So, you’re in a relationship with Travis Warner. The Travis Warner.” She chuckled in disbelief, “I’ve read about him a few times.” She shook her head and chuckled again. “Wow, Ave – just – wow.” She blinked rapidly and said, “Do you want a quick math?”

No, I don’t like that. The term we use for my counting disorder is ‘quick math’ but Delsey looked so expectant that I felt like I really had no choice in the matter.

“Dels, you know how I hate that…thing.” I gave her a withered look as I elaborated, “It makes me feel like a freak, as though I’m in a circus for weird people.”

“You, Avery Jacob Allton, are not a freak.” She stressed out then said, “Now, Ave. Two hundred, fifty-six thousand, one hundred forty-two minus five thousand, two hundred thirty-one?”

“Two hundred fifty six thousand, nine hundred eleven.” I answered, bored. Really. I feel like a monkey behind bars in a freaking zoo. Delsey’s eyes spoke out her awe for the disorder and I resisted the urge to grit my teeth. It’s not her fault that I’m an abnormal person. I had to live with it for seventeen years. She suddenly said,

“I don’t think the quick math is helping.” She bit her lip as I replied, “Yeah. It makes the headache worse.” Then she smiled.

“I have the perfect alternative.”

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