Chapter 19:

Cafeteria Madness

Would You Paint My Dunk


If there’s one thing I regret after saving her earlier, then the answer is ‘time’. Arriving at the cafeteria, I was stunned to see how crowded it was.

Never mind an empty table, the place was crawling with students like a sea full of fish. That’s not the only problem on our hands, the line to order food is three times longer compared to the first day.

Wow, the queue is so long!

Shit, we would be screwed at this rate. Let alone time to spare, we won’t have enough time to finish our meal.

Hmm, I can order takeout and eat my meal in the following class, but she… No, I don’t think that telling a girl to order takeout and eat in the classroom is a good idea.

What should I do?

Putting my brain cells to work, a good plan struck my head like lightning. Enlighted with a brilliant idea, I swiftly turned around and looked at her, telling her my solution to get ourselves out of this predicament.

“Jessica, we don’t have much time. Do you want to order takeout or eat here?”

Hearing the question, she put her finger on her lips as she gave it a thought.

“Hmm… To be honest, I would love to eat here, but I don’t think we can....”

“How about this? One of us will find a seat, and one of us will order the food. What do you think?”

“Sounds good. Well, since I’m not sure I could get the seats, I’ll buy our meal. What do you want?”

“A fish fry and orange juice, perhaps.”

I took my wallet out of my pocket, shelling out a twenty-dollar bill to give it to her.

“Here. Pay my meal with this.” I offered the bill with my right hand.

“Sure! I’ll hand you back the changes.” She politely took the money.

As our hands touched, I could feel a few rough yet hardened skins among her silky-smooth fingers. There’s no way I didn’t notice that. I clearly remember the sensation that I felt when her skin rubbed against the palm of my hand.

The state of her fingers tells me that she had been hardworking. Considering that she bought the painting supplies yesterday, I started to wonder if she practiced painting like crazy, to the point that her finger turned like this.

I don’t know things about painting, but I know one thing: If you use your hands roughly, your hands may start to harden, or even make some calluses. My hand started to harden and become slightly rough because I touched the basketball thousands of times. Like the sword scars on a swordsman's body, it serves as a testament to your efforts.

But the problem is, I’m not talking about my own hand. It’s hers! A girl’s hand was supposed to be delicate and smooth, but if her fingers got this rough, then I couldn’t imagine how hard and long she had been doing this.

While pondering about her situation, suddenly I remembered that I’m yet to find seats for both of us. I snapped myself out and focused on the task at hand, hunting for any vacant spot for us to sit.

Even though I have been circling the whole place for a long time, I still can't find a place for us to sit down.

On the off chance that there are seats that are not occupied by a student at the moment, those seats are pretty much useless, as their friends reserve the seat for whoever is in line.

Navigating through the area, I suddenly heard a familiar voice calling me.

"Keith! Over here!"

I turned to look, only to realize it was someone I knew so well.

It was Brandon. The quartet of him, Tony, Sean, and Carlos were sitting at a table far away. It looked like Carlos, Brandon, and Tony had already finished eating. Meanwhile, Sean is yet to finish his pasta, slowly enjoying his food.

Looking at the lively bunch, I approached their table, raising my hand to greet them.

"Hey, guys!"

Carlos answered my greeting with a warm response.

“Yo’! Wassup Keith! How are you doin’?”

“Well, I’m trying to find two seats here… I looked around the cafeteria, but…”

“Buddy, what do you mean by two seats? Or perhaps…” Carlos smirked.

“Well, yeah. It’s for me and a friend of mine. She…”

Before I could finish my sentences, Brandon cuts in.

“Is it the girl that you’ve been chatting with? Oh guys, Keith is on a lunch date. Let’s get packed and give them the space they need.”

Brandon quickly stood up, followed by Carlos and Tony. However, it doesn’t bother Sean. The giant eats his meal like nothing happened.

“Brandon! It’s not what you think! I didn’t think of her as a crush. She is my friend, and now she is in a predicament…”

Again, my reply was cut off by Brandon, who patted my shoulder.

“My junior, there’s no way a boy invites a girl for lunch as a friend. Talking to each other is one thing, but lunch? That’s not something you do unless you are interested in her. Stop denying yourself, Keith.”

The misunderstanding keeps piling up! Why do people make such a big deal of this? What’s wrong with a boy befriending a girl? Is it wrong for someone to help his troubled friend?

But I couldn’t deny this either. She exactly needs this kind of misunderstanding so she could get a breather. Sigh… I guess I just have to explain everything to them.

I took a deep breath before I explained the entire situation to them.

“Guys, look. I’m not into her romantically. It’s just that she got some guys hitting on her, so I'm pretending to be her boyfriend to fend them off. I hope you guys understand.”

Hearing that, Tony immediately smiled.

“So, if she isn’t your girlfriend, does it mean I can…”

Before Tony could finish his question, Brandon performed a karate chop on the pompadour-haired guy. Tony looked displeased at the captain.

“Ouch! Brandon, I didn’t even finish my question!”

“Because I know what you are going to ask! Can’t you read the room here?!”

Brandon seemed to be fed up with Tony, but the well-known playboy didn’t back off. He turned his head around to see Brandon in the face.

“But he said that she is not…”

“Not yet!” Brandon firmly replied. “Tony, stop if you don’t want to taste my karate kick.”

It was all it took for Brandon to put Tony on a leash, completely making him silent and obedient like a dog. And now, the captain looked at me.

"Keith, I want to see her. I need to remember her face so I can drive Tony away from her. You said earlier that she was being hit on, right? Then Tony is the last guy she wants to meet."

Well, it makes sense. Brandon said that Tony is a playboy. At this point, letting Tony see her is like leading her out from a pack of wolves into a lion’s den.

However, thinking about her made me realize that she is still queuing for food.

Oh shit! She was queueing! I need to go back to her.

Swiftly, I pardoned myself to them.

“Guys, I left her in the queue, and now I need to go to check her now.”

“Sure, we will reserve this place for your ‘date’, Keith.” Brandon made air quotes with his hand, signifying the date word.

“Now off you go!” He grinned as he finished talking.

“Whatever, Brandon!”

Before I could turn my gaze away from them, Carlos shrugged his shoulders and smirked at me. That alone was enough to convey what he wanted to say, even with his mouth shut.

‘See? Remember what I said last time? Even Brandon thought like that, too!’

Or something like that. His face couldn’t be more obvious.

I shook my head as I left them, heading toward the queue to find her. Turns out, I didn't have to look far. She was standing beside the counter, at a place where people are waiting to get their food ready.

Ah! There she is!

Deciding to get back to her, I swiftly walked to the desk where she awaits. Noticing my arrival, she smiled at me, and we waited for our food in silence.

A few minutes later, our order came out. We took our own food trays and walked away from the cashier. Around us, the tables are still occupied by students like bees in a hive. Thinking that Sean would be finished by now, I decided to tell Jessica about it.

“Jessica, I met my basketball friends earlier. Three of them had already finished eating and reserved their place for us. Shall we go there?”

“Sure! I won’t reject the place where I can sit.” She giggled.

While we were walking toward the boys, we heard a girl shout her name.

“Jessica!”

Turning around to see them, we looked at two girls sitting at a distant table, waving their hands to her. She put a smile on her face and started walking toward them.

“Grace! Maria! It’s good to see you!”

“Oh my gosh! Jessica, you have a boyfriend? Since when?” The girl on the left asked her.

“Grace, we have just started lately. Nothing worth mentioning.” Jessica smiled.

“Oh well, we won’t interrupt your lunch date any longer. We are rooting for you guys.” The girl on the right smiled at us.

“Yeah, see you later!”

Waving our hands to them, we walked toward our original destination. In the distance, I could see that Sean had finished his pasta, and the table was cleaned up as the boys talked to each other.

Arriving in their presence, my heart was pounding like crazy. How could I not? Remembering the ruckus they made earlier, I could somewhat expect them to cause another mischief. All I hope is that she won't be irritated later.

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