Chapter 25:

More than Meets the Eye

Would You Paint My Dunk


At half past eight in the evening, we grabbed our stuff and boarded the university bus. Carlos sat next to me and we talked about the match on the way home.

Though it was subtle, I could hear Brandon and Tony talking about games that they will play tonight. Meanwhile, the giant was resting, drooled and snorted on the bus ride.

Well, I couldn’t blame him. He deserved that rest after exerting a lot of stamina in that match.

Arriving at our university’s entrance, I glanced at my phone, which showed 9:07 PM. At this rate, even if I hurried my way back home, I wouldn’t have much time to chat with her. After all, we told each other to stop chatting at 10 PM.

I dropped off the bus and we waved each other goodbye.

As I walked toward the sidewalks on my way home, I was greeted by the shimmering lights of the night. The only thing that accompanied me at that time was the subtle sound of cars driving in the street.

I took a quick bath as I arrived back home. Feeling hungry, I went into the dining room, thinking that my mom probably preserved something for me.

I was right. There’s a plate of food, completely covered in plastic. It has a note on top of it, written in my mom’s handwriting.

It said ‘Keith, this is for your dinner. Heat it first before eating. Don’t eat it cold or you will get stomach aches. -Mom’

Looking at the clock, it’s thirty-three past nine. I started thinking about the time. It will take ten minutes if I heat this food now, and around fifteen minutes for me to eat it properly. I wouldn’t have time left to chat with her.

Sorry, Mom. I don’t think I would heat this one up. I’m hungry, and more importantly, I wouldn’t be able to chat with her if I heat this up. Forgive me this once, Mom.

I opened the plastic wrap and took the spoon and the fork from the table with my hands. Eating my dinner that had turned cold, I could eat faster than when it was warm, ending my meal within ten minutes.

I went upstairs and threw myself on the bed, grabbing my phone to chat with her.

“Hi, Jessica. What do you think about today’s matches? I hope you didn’t get bored at all.”

And… sent! Now I just have to wait for her…

Ding!

It didn’t take long for her to reply. I opened her message and looked at its content.

“Hey, Keith! Not gonna lie, it was good! I somehow understand why boys like you are obsessed with sports. If only I could see you play, that would be awesome!”

“But we all know I’m just a reserve.” I followed my reply with a laughing emoticon.

Ding! She replied again.

“And that’s why it’s a shame. You are a good friend of mine, and I couldn’t help but to root for you. I hope you can play soon!”

“Thanks!” I replied quickly.

However, I began to ponder her means of transportation.

How did she get there? By taxi? Has she forgotten that she was getting hit on a few weeks ago?

With those thoughts, I typed another message.

“By the way, Jessica, did you ride a taxi there and back?”

Ding! She quickly replied back.

“Ha! Why do I have to ride a cab when the university gives us free rides?”

“Ah I see. But the bus will end at the university, how will you get home?”

Ding! Another reply arrived.

“Oh, I walked my way home. My house was nearby, after all.”

Wait, walking back home that late, alone, a girl? That’s even worse! Ahh! I gotta tell her!

“Jess, why are you walking home alone? Let me accompany you home next time. I’m worried about you. It’s not good for a girl to walk alone at night.”

Ding! Another message arrived.

“Nah, I could just call the police if something happened to me.”

No, that’s not the point! She didn’t get it! Is she messing with me right now? How come she could be that carefree about her life?

I typed her back.

“What if you are unable to call the police? What if you got subdued by a criminal? Why didn’t you think of that?”

Ding! She replied quickly again.

“Oh, I see. Okay Keith, I’ll take your offer for it. I shall grant you the honor to escort me after a basketball match like this. Ha-ha.”

She sent me a laughing bunny mascot character emoticon. I shook my head. She even dared to joke about this.

Suddenly, I remembered that she used to sketch our team training in the spectator seat. I couldn’t help but wonder if she had done the same this time.

“Jess, did you just sketch our team playing yesterday? If you do, can I see it?”

Ding! Another message just arrived.

“Oh, this time, I took a photo of yesterday's match for reference and I painted it at home. However, it was a mess. I don’t have the guts to show you this garbage.”

I was excited as she told me that she painted us. I can’t help but be curious, having the desire to see her work with my own eyes.

“Jess, don’t be afraid to show it to me. I promise I won’t laugh.”

Ding, another message arrived. But this time, I never know that this is going to be her last message tonight.

“Oh, look at the time, it’s already past ten. Good night, Keith. See you tomorrow!”

Wait, don’t leave me hanging like this, at least send me a picture of it, please!

“Jessica, are you still there?”

But, no matter how long I waited, there was no response.

Sigh, I guess I’ll ask her tomorrow.

There was no choice but to sleep and ask her later. I had to plunge into my dreams, enveloped by the flame of curiosity that can't be extinguished until tomorrow.

The next morning, I did my routine as usual and went to my university. When I finished my morning class, I walked to the cafeteria as lunch was starting. I thought about meeting Carlos and her again at lunch and asking her to pick up where we left off yesterday. After all, she has yet to show me her work. But I quickly dismissed the idea of asking her when I met them.

Contrary to my expectations, she was quiet and passive today, as her sadness showed on her face. Carlos, on the other hand, was the one who initiated our conversations. He was so easygoing that it lightened our mood. I couldn’t help but be curious as she showed her fake smile once more.

“Jessica, why do you look upset? Are the girls bothering you again?”

“No” She shook her head swiftly. “It’s my family issue, I don’t want you to get involved in my private matters.”

“Oh, sorry, I didn’t know. I won’t pry any further then.”

Deciding not to ask further, we continued to chat before we had to go to class. We attended our class as usual until five PM.

Time passed, and it was time for basketball practice. When I arrived at the basketball club, I saw Jessica sitting in the spectator seat, working on her sketchbook.

Meanwhile, a lot of girls were crowding around Brandon, the handsome captain of the team. At this point, I would be surprised if that chick magnet could be free from the grasp of those girls at all.

Once again, Tony came close to Brandon and scared those girls off. The playboy never failed to drive the girls pestering the captain away. Carlos approached Tony, looking disgusted at him.

“Tony, if you keep doing that, no girls will look for you, yo!”

I approached them before Carlos picked a fight with Tony, hoping that the situation didn't escalate further. However, what Tony did next was to approach us and glanced backward at Brandon, as if he was confirming that Brandon won’t eavesdrop in this distance.

“Keith, Carlos, let’s talk somewhere more private.”

I was confused, unsure of what he would tell us. However, despite being a douchebag, I know that he never told us anything wrong. He never once advised us in the wrong direction. Thinking that he must have a reason to avoid the attention of everybody else, I decided to comply.

As I was following him outside, Carlos decided to follow suit. We walked out of the Aula and went to the back alley just behind the building. The playboy looked around, realizing that no one was there.

“Keith, Carlos, promise me this: No matter what you hear here, do not tell this to anyone else.”

“Sure, I promise.”

I immediately replied to my senior. After all, I thought, Tony would probably talk about embarrassing things that he would rather not reveal publicly, so he asked us to keep our mouths shut about it.

"Hey, Tony. I'm not a blabbermouth, yo'. Relax, man." Carlos flips his hands to the side.

Tony tapped Carlos’s shoulder as he replied.

"Carlos, I brought you here because I don't want Brandon to hear this. No matter what, I can't let him know. If he knew about this, then I couldn't repay him forever.”

"Whatever, man. Just spill the beans, we won't tell him." Carlos replied to Tony, his impatience was shown on his face as he waited for our senior to tell us.

“Okay, I’ll trust you two on this one. So... The truth is... I intentionally act like a playboy in front of everyone so I can scare off the girls who have their eyes on Brandon.”

I was shocked as Tony's revelation hit me like a thunderbolt. I never thought that Tony had a reason for being such a playboy. Carlos was left speechless. He couldn't believe the earth-shattering news he had just heard.

“So… All of this playboy thing was a facade?” I asked him.

“Exactly! Do you think I only think of girls all the time? Why would I hang out with the girls when I can spend my time practicing basketball?”

When I heard that, I suddenly thought we shouldn't judge a book by its cover. No one would have known that Tony put a front and hid his true personality.

There's more to him than meets the eye.

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