Chapter 20:


The Ballad of the School Hallways

There was a crack on my right knee cap, that was, according to the doctor who looked unto my x-ray. My right hand, though it was in pain, turned out to be okay. Probably it got bruised, he said, but a few days of rest, and it’d be fine.

The doctor, however, was concerned about my knee, which received the strongest blow when I fell from my motorcycle.

“For the crack to heal, you should take a break from your work for at least a month,” he told us. “I won’t have it wrapped in cast—it’s not that serious, though I’ll prescribe a splint for your knee, so that you won’t be able to move it.”

“Got it, Doc,” my mother thanked him.

“I will also give him some antibiotics, just in case his injuries got infected,” he explained further. “Normally, an injury like that will be fine. However, my secretary told me that Mister Gilles has diabetes, so I wanted to be sure.”

Once the doctor finished writing his prescriptions, we went on our way to the hospital pharmacy. Fortunately, my pants impeded the muffler, so that it didn’t thoroughly burned my skin. The only problem now was that I couldn’t walk; good thing the hospital let me use one of their wheelchairs. My cousin-in-law suggested that we buy a pair of crutches.

“I’ll talk to our pharmacist,” she told my mother. “So she can give us a discount.”

“Thanks, Ate Tina!”

“No problem about that, Kuya! You can count on me anytime,” she replied to me.

After buying my medical needs, my mother and cousin-in-law pushed me towards the elevator, on the way to the exit so we could hitch a ride back home. Then, we happened to go past Room 329 in the private suites. As expected, it was empty, as Stephanie was already saved before.

Now thinking back of my circumstances, I couldn’t help but think that what happened to me was the ‘actual’ consequence of changing the timeline. See, not only did I get involved in saving my student from a vehicular accident, I also had to part ways with something important to me…

Because the doctor told me to rest for a month, my salary would be slashed to the bare minimum!


And, even though by this time my 13th Month Bonus was already credited in my account, my monetary compensation was effectively halved. Christmas was around the proverbial corner, and I guess, I would have to tone down on my spending, ’till I come back when classes resume in January. 

God, I want to cry! This is so unfair!

But anyway, I’m still comforted by the fact that Stephanie and her mother were reconciled, and she didn’t get to experience the accident. I already took her place, and suffered for the sins of her mother as well, since she had to separate from her lover…now, I get to divorce from my monthly salary as payment for that.

Hitting two birds in one stone got me hit in return.


The student who caused the accident suddenly flashed into my mind. I wanted to hit his head; it was his fault that I ended like this. Nevertheless, my mother reminded me to still be thankful: at least, I was the one who was injured. Otherwise, it could result into many criminal cases against me, though he’s the one who’s didn’t take care.

Yep, for some strange and stupid reason, driving laws in this country are overwhelmingly against the drivers, not the pedestrians.


Well, so much for that. There’s nothing I could do about my situation, anyway. If I travel back in time to prevent my accident, I’m afraid of further consequences. Besides, the one-month ‘early Christmas vacation’ was a boon for me. Now, I get to play all the games I wanted, without worrying for my lesson plans—for a month up to January. I couldn’t be tasked for any household chores, too, since I couldn’t even stand. And, the best part of it all: I won’t see my idiotic principal’s face for a long while.

Yep, fuck that old hag.


Upon coming home, I quickly posted an update on my F*cebook wall, saying that I’m fine and imploring my students to take care on the road, so that they won’t end up like me. Then, I closed my social media for the last time; I’d get back to it by January next year.


The next I did was to open my Ste*m account. Ever since the beginning of classes in June, I barely touched it, for I was too busy with school works, and counseling sessions to set aside some time to play. However, starting today, there’s nothing else for me to do, except for…

Yeah, baby! Games!


As I watched the loading screen of my game, Stephanie came into my thoughts. That girl…she had been pretty close to me lately. In my heart, I was a bit worried that she may need my help soon. And, uh, somehow…I’m going to miss her company. Her bright and cheerful greetings. The times we shared together whenever she was asking me to teach her how to draw.

Well, it’s not like I’m not going back to school. I’ll just be absent for a whole month and a half…


Besides, what’s up with me? Stephanie’s just a student, a good friend of mine. Someone whom I’m willing to sacrifice a limb or two to keep her safe.


Hey, I know it’s a bit creepy, but yes, I’m being serious. After the time she stood by my side when I’m hurting? I told myself, this person—no matter how young or old she was—was worth my life. I got no girlfriend, nor my own family anyway, so I could always put a ‘meaning’ to my years by being loyal to my friends.

I found myself staring on my game’s title screen. As I moved my mouse over the ‘Load Game’ option, I silently prayed to God that He watch over Stephanie, and keep her away from danger. It was the only thing I could do, no matter how much I try to worry about her. Then, as the game file loaded, I congratulated myself…

You did your best, Seth. You deserve some self-love, too. And I’m sure, your students will understand.


My accident happened on the third week of November, and classes were only up to the second week of December…officially. The ‘serious’ lectures were ’till the first week of the 12th month, as the second week was meant for Christmas-related activities for the students, before the start of the two-week ‘Christmas Break’. Regular classes would resume in January.

As for me, my daily life was…well, quite fine. I mean, yes, I was playing games from morning up to sundown, since I couldn’t do anything else because of my injury. My family took care of me; my mother would help me with small matters like getting a glass of water, preparing my toothbrush, or set aside my food. My brother—if he’s not playing his game—was in-charge with assisting me in reaching the bath whenever I needed to take a bath, or use the comfort room. My sister was the one cooking, in addition to her motherly duties to my nephew.

The first two weeks after my accident was a bit hard, for aside from the fact that I was still adjusting to my limitations, the pain from my injury was unbearable. By the third week (first week of December), I could finally stand and use my crutches on my own, though my right leg was still weak from disuse. When the fourth week of being invalid came over, I was so bored with the tasks I repeatedly do in my game.

God, I need some exciting event in my life, right now!


Nevertheless, I kept on playing, not only because my teammates were relying on me, there’s also that part of me that asked, ‘What would I do aside from this?’. So, from morning ’till night, sometimes going into the wee hours of the next day, I continued with my games.


Then, one time, my phone rang. Someone sent me a short message; it was from a colleague.

‘Sir Seth! How are you? Can you come to school tomorrow?’

You could only imagine my reaction when I read his chat. I was like, ‘Dude, do I look like I can go to school with crutches on each side?’. I doubt if I could last an hour outside the streets without my armpits weary and hurting! But, in the spirit of being a professional, I asked him, ‘Why am I needed there, Sir?’

‘The digital time cards have to be submitted before the start of Christmas Vacation,’ my co-teacher answered.

Oh, right. The digital time cards. See, aside from being an illustrator/graphic artist, my expertise in using the computer landed me an extra work known as the ‘timekeeper’ of our school. Because of its small size, we only had a single, overworked clerk who would grumble whenever she was given loads of paperwork. As such, our principal decided one day to disperse the ‘responsibilities’, and assigned me to the digital time recorder. And, of course, I couldn’t be late in submitting that…

Our salaries depend on its submission.

So, as I understood his concern—as well as realizing that it was an opportunity to go out, I offered, ‘Sir, if you can help me with the transport tomorrow, I can do it quickly.’

‘Alright,’ he replied. ‘I’ll fetch you with my SUV tomorrow morning.’


So, it was understood that I would drop by our school to print our digital time cards. My colleague showed up at our house around 10 in the morning, and—since he’s a veteran driver who knew the alternate streets, alleys and avenues that led to our school—it didn’t even take us an hour before we arrived. The morning session students were busy decorating the corridors as well as the walls with festive trinkets and banners. Others were putting up star-shaped lanterns—a popular symbol of Christmas here. (1)

“Tomorrow is the Christmas party,” my co-worker explained. “That’s why they’re busy right now.”

Ah? Tomorrow is Thursday, right?”

“Yes, and Friday is the Christmas Party for the teachers,” he replied. “Want to come, Sir?”

“I got no transport.”

“I got you, though.”

“Thanks Sir!” then, I opened the doors of his SUV and went out. Although my colleague tried to assist me, as it turned out, he shouldn’t have bothered. My former students now in 10th Grade rushed to my side, grabbing my arms, and helping me alight the vehicle. The others also formed a sort of a ‘VIP pathway’ for me to pass by, since the Grade 7 students got curious and crowded around us.

“Sir, it’s been long since we last saw you,” the Grade 10 students greeted. “Don’t worry, we won’t let anyone harm you!”

I knew they were joking, but man, these fellows meant what they said. They would really shove the unruly Grade 7 students to make a way for me, no matter how I plead to them to be gentle with their juniors.

“They really love you, Sir,” my co-teacher commented.

I could only smile. I never expected this kind of treatment from my current and former students, yet here they were, acting like my bodyguards.

“I thought some celebrity came!” another co-teacher of mine exclaimed. “You really have your grand entrance, Sir Seth!”

Haha…my apologies, Mam!”

“No! No! It only means that these kids look up to you,” she told me. “Let them be!”


So, even though my movement was limited, I finished what I came here for in record time. All that I did was unlock the data from our time clock, ask a student to help me print the data time cards at the faculty, sort it, and then pass it to our clerk for our principal’s verification. When the bell rang for the morning session’s dismissal, I was already sitting by the faculty door, taking a rest.


For some reason, I didn’t want Stephanie to see me like this. I knew her, she would get worried once I came into her full view.

“That Grabbed car sure is taking his sweet time,” I muttered. The rental car was about 30 minutes away from my location, and I’m beginning to see some of the afternoon session students pouring in.

Heh, looks like I will meet that girl…

Well, in an effort to avoid her, I got up and hobbled towards the school gate. I intended to wait at the nearby church, so I’d miss Stephanie. However…


I froze in my spot when I heard her familiar voice. Turning around, I saw the person I dreaded, standing behind me. “Err…uh, Steph!”

She threw me a glare, “You’re avoiding me.”

Eh? Ah, n-no!”

“Then why did you go when I was about to come near you?”

Honestly, I was not aware that she’s around. “I’m sorry, I did not see you coming. Are you here early?”

“I volunteered to come early, Sir, so I can help with the decorations. I saw you arrive in Sir Michael’s van. I also saw how the Grade 10 students treat you as a celebrity,” she added. “And I saw that you’re busy with something at the faculty earlier, so I avoided approaching you until now.”




Stephanie said nothing, as she gently wrapped her arms around me. As usual, my instincts barged in, and I raised my hands. Nevertheless, I heard her say, “Sir Seth, I missed you.”

I jested, “I did not.”

“No, seriously, Sir. You don’t know…h-how…” Stephanie’s voice started to garble as she had to control her sobs to speak, “…I was w-worried!”

I could only let out a weak smile, “I’m sorry for worrying you. I’ll be careful next time.”

“Right, Sir!” she countered as she buried her face in my chest, ostensibly to hide her tears. “Please, value your life more! I don’t want to lose someone like you!”

I could say nothing to my student, at least initially, until her words sunk unto my mind, and realized that something was off, “Eh? What do you mean by ‘value my life more’? Did I do something?”

“Huh?” Stephanie stared at me, confused. “Didn’t you try to kill yourself by ramming your motorcycle?”

“Wait, what?” I couldn’t believe what I just heard. “W-Where did that come from?”

“I saw your post!” she defended herself. “You said that, ‘If you’re not ready to die like me, be careful on the streets.’!”

My F*cebook post from the time of my accident came rushing back into my mind. Yes, I did say that…but it was rather a sarcasm, than what I truly had in mind at that moment.

“And Kyle said that you must be missing your ex-girlfriend again! That’s why you did that!”

“What the hell?” I could only laugh in disbelief. “How can I even explain this…? Stephanie, I’m happy that you’re that concerned but…” Then, I explained to her what really happened on that day I got involved in the accident.

You could only imagine Stephanie’s embarrassment when she learned of the truth.


The Grabbed car finally came to the gates of our school, which also meant that it was time for me to go. Stephanie, however, was still mad about her classmate’s deception. I don’t know if Kyle deliberately did that so he could prank her, or he’s also misled to think that I’m contemplating of killing myself.

Where did it come from, in the first place?

Anyway, Stephanie—together with the rental car driver—helped me into the vehicle. As soon as I strapped on the seatbelt, I told her, “Please don’t mind Kyle; I think, if he’s not playing a prank on you, he misunderstood my post as well.”

“Just let me punch him in the gut later Sir,” Stephanie winked at me. “Take care and goodbye, Sir Seth!”

“Yeah, same to you, Steph!” I waved at her. “Oh, and by the way, Merry Christmas!”

“Thank you, Sir!” she smiled.

But then, just as I was about to close the car door, Stephanie stopped me. “Sir Seth,” her cheeks were red, “…you know…uhm, don’t you wish we’re of the same age?”

Hm? Well, I think it’s fine,” I commented.

“I’m also of the same opinion, Sir,” she revealed. “Because, uhm…you know, if we’re of the same age, I will wish I am your girlfriend.”

Then Stephanie never let me respond. She quickly closed the car door, and ran back into the school. I was left dumbfounded.

Author's Note: (1) We call it the 'parol'.  Yes, I did not type wrong.  A popular symbol of the Filipino Christmas--also known as the longest Christmas season, with the traditional start once our calendars hit September 1--the 'parol' is basically a star-shaped lantern with various adornments, or lights.  It commemorates the 'Star of Betlehem'.