Chapter 30:

Emptiness in My Heart

Would You Paint My Dunk

The next day, I went on just as usual. Having a lively talk with her during the lunch break, I had forgotten that I wouldn’t see her often from now on.

At five, I went to Sport Aula 3 to my basketball club as usual. As I was practicing, I unconsciously looked toward the spectator seatings, only to see that she wasn’t there. A fragment of my memories replayed the moment that she was drawing in her sketchbook, before it fades into nothingness. Her presence that I took for granted was no longer there.

While I was staring at the sidelines, Carlos nudged at me.

“Yo’ Keith, where is she? Do you guys have a fight?”

I turned to look at him and shook my head.

“Nah, she's just getting busy these days. She doesn’t have time to come here anymore.”

“Ah, that’s a shame, I thought…”

Carlos couldn’t finish his sentence as Brandon called for us.

“Carlos, Keith, our club has yet to end. Stop dawdling around and go back to practice.”

Following the instructions of the captain, we returned to practice. Little did I know that a small crack had formed on my heart.

When the basketball club was over, I walked back home… Alone…

I looked to my side, remembering the moments when we talked and laughed as I walked her home. Now, it’s nothing but a mere memory. Even though I’m walking in the middle of a bustling street filled with glimmering lights, I felt lonely without her company.

I turned my gaze upward, staring into a lone star that floats in the night sky, all alone by itself. It reminds me of my current situation, where both of us experienced how it feels to be lonely.

Soon, I arrived at my house. I took a quick bath and dinner before I laid myself on the bed, staring at my phone screen while waiting for her call.

Fifteen minutes, thirty minutes, one hour. Time flew by, and my phone was completely silent. Nothing happened.

Maybe she is too busy to converse with me. Well, then I'm just gonna sleep.

Just as I decided to take a rest for tonight, she called.

“Keith, I’m sorry. I just finished the course my uncle put me through. How was your day?”

While it wasn’t a pleasant day for me, I decided not to make her worried. I casted aside the aches in my heart and replied to her just like I used to be.

“Ah, nothing much, I just spend my days as usual. How about you? Are you enjoying counting those numbers out?”

“Oh, don’t get me started! Agh!!! Those numbers are so frustrating. And…”

We continued to chat for a while, and before we knew it, it was already ten PM.

“Keith, I know we aren’t talking for long, but it’s time for us to take a break. I hope you understand…”

It was short, but she cured me from my boredom. I have to be grateful because she gave all the free time left on her hands to talk with me.

Knowing this, I decided to express my gratitude as fast as I can, even if it means I’m interrupting her.

“Jess, I’m grateful that you are giving all your time left to talk with me, and you shouldn’t feel guilty because we talk less. It’s not like it’s the end of our friendship, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, you are right. Anyway, see you tomorrow, Keith!”

“See you!”


She hung up the call, and I laid myself to rest.

Never I expected that things would get worse from now on.

By each passing day, the duration of her call gradually became shorter and shorter. Before this had happened, we used to talk for hours, but it now reduced to less than five minutes.

Wednesday, October 4th, 2023. Our night interactions have deteriorated into texts again, as she just left a message saying hi and sorry for not being able to call. My heart aches, but there was nothing I could do but to reply to her at night.

As if it wasn’t enough, even the number of messages kept shrinking. At first, it was a series of messages. But since the fifth day, she only messages once a day.

Tuesday, October 10th, 2023. We met in the cafeteria once more. She looked anxious, as if she wanted to tell me something important. Shortly, she opened her lips.

“Keith, I’m going to volunteer myself to the Halloween event committee. In a poster, they said that they were going to host a haunted house, and there would be a few paintings about vampires and undead. They are accepting applicants, and I heard they will also teach and guide their juniors, so I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to join them…”

Oh, she finally spread her wings and started to take the initiative. I hope everything will work for her.

Wait… it’s strange… If she is going to deliver good news, then why is she so anxious? Seeing how she acted, she probably wanted to say something that has something to do with me. I gotta ask her.

“That’s good! I’m glad to see you didn’t give up with your goal as a painter. But, why are you telling me this?”

“Well, as you know, the only remaining free time I had was in the morning and at lunch break. In these circumstances, I have to use my lunch time in the committee room, so this means I can’t have lunch with you anymore for a month straight. That’s why…”

My heart cracked. I couldn’t believe that life would be cruel enough to take the little time I have left with her.

In the cafeteria, Carlos has stopped visiting me, and now I would miss her too. Her company was akin to an addictive drug, and after tasting that kind of ecstasy, I couldn’t bear to be lonely anymore.

However, suddenly a thought struck my mind.

Who am I to stop her? I’m just a ‘fake boyfriend’. We are not that close to the point that I have a say in her life. I shouldn’t let my selfishness stunt her growth. As much as it would hurt me, I have to…

Wait! If she couldn’t join me in the cafeteria, then why didn't I accompany her? No one said that I couldn’t accompany my ‘girlfriend’, right? Even though we are faking this thing, it already gave me an excuse to attend.

As the solution was clear enough, I decided to ask her about it.

“Jessica, if you don’t mind, may I join you? I could help carrying some stuff or whatever.”

Hearing my question, she jolted in surprise. She shook her hands politely to reject my idea.

“Wait… Keith, you don’t have to do it for my sake, I don’t want to trouble you too much.”

I know that she would say this, that she shouldn’t burden me or whatever, but I’m the one that wanted to be close to her.

I wanted to talk to her more.

It’s been a long time since I could talk heart-to-heart with someone like her, and just merely a few minutes a day wouldn’t satisfy my heart.

Truly, I wish that I could have more interaction with her. Instead of a burden, it’s a privilege. It doesn’t matter if I have to be inconvenienced a little. As long as I could have more conversations with her, I would be happy.

Thinking that she wouldn’t be convinced easily, I decided to steer the conversation into something she couldn’t reject.

“Jess, are you trying to avoid me? Why are you casting me away when we could barely interact against each other? Do you even think of me as a friend? Can’t I just… Talk beside you when you are doing your stuff?”

My words shook her incredibly. She was so shocked that she was trembling when she responded back.

“W-w-w… W-w… Wait! K-k-k-k… Keith… I’m not…”

It’s working… And now… It’s time for the final blow….

“Is it too much to ask? If you think that your work is that important to you that I’m nothing but a disturbing pest and a nuisance, then I’m sorry to bother you.”

“N-No. Keith, you have never been a bother to me. I’m so grateful to know you. It's just…”

I shook my head and exhaled my breath. Looking at the fact that she is still persistent to the end, I decided to assure her.

“Jess, are you cruel enough to leave me alone in the cafeteria? Come on, I can order a takeout and eat at the committee room anytime. Heck, you could even ask me to bring you one, too. Are you forgetting that we need to maintain a facade of a couple? What will you do if people question our relationship again? I wouldn’t be a hindrance to you, I promise.”

As soon as I finished talking, she started laughing, to the point that she wiped her eyes from tears. Calmed down, she replied.

“Ha, I guess I should have known… You are a persistent one at that. Very well, if you wouldn’t mind, then I would love your company. I shall trouble you once more, my fake… boy…friend…”

In the midst of joy getting a clearance from her, I realized I had forgotten to ask where the committee room was. After all, I wouldn’t be able to join her if I didn't know, right? And so, I decided to ask her.

“No problem. Anyway, what room is it?”

“D513, don’t forget it.”

“Don’t worry, I memorized the location on my brain.”

She stood up and looked at me.

“Well, shall we get going there after this?”

“Let’s go!”

And so, we went to the committee room, registering ourselves to be a crew for the event. Our seniors were there, and as she registered with the art division, she quickly mingled with other students. A few seniors started to teach her about art and what they would make for the event, and she happily converse with them.

With her getting assigned to the art that she loved so much, I also got an assignment.

An ‘errand boy’ that is in charge of carrying heavy stuff.

Keuk! I know that you guys wanted to take advantage of my muscular body build, but still… Isn’t assigning me as an ‘errand boy’ too much?!? At least call me something else, like…

A pack mule?

Sigh! Nevermind! This humiliation is nothing! As long as I could talk with her more, then I can endure this.

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