Chapter 14:

New Arrival

Life Eats Us Now

A month had slipped away since then, and as time flowed on, the tension between Adica and me began to dissolve, bit by bit. In the beginning, every encounter was like a balancing act, filled with awkward silences and cautious glances, as if we were observing an unspoken truce. But as the days unfurled, something subtle began to happen, like the gradual unwinding of a tightly coiled spring.

Then, on an otherwise ordinary day, Adica did something unexpected. You see, she wasn't typically the one to initiate conversation. Emma was absent that day, down with a cold or fever... I don't quite remember what Ms. Indy had said. Well, the music club was on practice that day, so Adica and I ended up in the club room by ourselves. I guess it is just me, or both of us were thinking of bailing out from the room but couldn't seem to bring ourselves to do so. And then suddenly, from out of nowhere, Adica called my name, placing her book aside on the table, brushing her that had reached her face to the side. My heart raced as I prepared myself for whatever she might say. For the time we hadn't talked, my thoughts were a jumbled mess, thinking of what she might be feeling being stuck with me in one room, and such, her words caught me off guard.

"I'm sorry about that day in the music room," Her voice was gentle, yet determined. "It wasn't your words that hurt me... but..."

She paused abruptly, leaving me in suspense, with no clues to decipher what she had been grappling with inside. The weight of those words settled on my shoulders, both comforting and puzzling. I couldn't deny the relief that I felt. It was like a Christmas present I had been secretly wanting brought to me. Though I had already heard it from Emma, hearing it from Adica herself provided a sense of validation, finally allowing my racing thoughts to find some peace... that my words hadn't been the cause of her pain after all.

Perhaps stating it that way wouldn't be entirely accurate though. After all, what I had uttered in that moment was probably the last thing she wanted to hear, and I had delivered it just as the way she wasn't expecting nor wanting to.

Maybe that's why she sought me out to share her thoughts in the end. But I'm at least glad that she did. 

With each passing day, our interactions grew more comfortable, and the awkwardness from our initial meetings gradually melted away. We found ourselves engaging in more casual conversations, sharing smiles that spoke of a growing friendship, whether it was in the classroom or the club room.

There were many things I wished I could share with her, to explain why I had said what I said in the music room that day. I wanted to make things clearer between us. But maybe it meant taking more risks than I had already faced, and so I tucked those thoughts away in the recesses of my mind, deciding to concentrate on the present instead.

I wouldn't easily confide in someone who suddenly wanted to discuss things I'd rather keep hidden deep within me. However, that doesn't mean there's no hope. If anything, I've started believing that tere can be meaning to all of this... gradually constructing something important—a bridge of understanding and trust, step by step through our conversations.

In those silent moments, when my own thoughts threatened to engulf me, I took comfort in the idea that maybe, just maybe, this path wasn't so bad after all. It could be a lengthy journey filled with uncertainty, but I can wait. After all, that's all I've been doing for all this time. 

Life had settled into a strangely comforting rhythm, even though it diverged from my seemingly usual routine. Emma and Adica occasionally visited the club room, but you'd find them more often in the music room, especially when the music club wasn't practicing.

Later, one day, Emma shared with me that Adica's parents had once stopped her piano lessons, particularly after a few unsuccessful contests she had entered. And then from a point on, she stopped playing it entirely after that. It was only after transferring here when she played the piano again, when no one was there in the music room. That's why she couldn't join the music club too; her parents wouldn't allow it.

Despite this, she still played the piano frequently. I marveled at her determination. Her skill was undoubtedly impressive, even if my judgment was that of an amateur. Adica, on the other hand, possessed a profound appreciation for the true essence of musical excellence. Despite the challenges she faced, she had not given up on her passion.

I often found myself pondering what I would have done if I had been in her shoes, having endured the hurdles she did...

It didn't come as a shock to me, but I discovered that Adica had a deep interest in reading as well. Whenever she visited the club room, she often had her nose buried in a book, completely engrossed in its pages. 

I guess that's why she would never react, whenever I would try to grab her attention. She was just too immersed in to even hear anything around her.

There was something captivating about the way she looked when she was immersed in something she loved, whether it was playing the piano or delving into the world of a good book. However, my chances to steal glances at her graceful concentration were limited by Emma's constant presence.

Speaking of Emma, she seemed more like a casual visitor than a club member. She'd flip through the pages with a playful curiosity, often commenting on book covers or whimsical titles. I couldn't blame her, though; she was here because of Adica and not out of any genuine interest in books.

In their own unique ways, both of them were on a quest for a sense of belonging. Initially, it was in the music room, within its melodies, and now here—a place where they could retreat from life's intricacies and discover solace.

Back in our classroom, as the month rolled by, I had grown closer to John. I found myself sharing meals with him and his group during recess. In the beginning, I felt like the odd one out, the new addition to their tight-knit circle. However, with time, I managed to slip in a word or two into their lively conversations. They were a vibrant bunch, no doubt about it, but it was a welcome change for me. Something I'd always hoped for.

Just like that, I was gradually growing more accustomed to meeting the gaze of others. Slowly, after each word, it was no longer suffocating to engage in conversation while looking into their eyes anymore.

Nevertheless, amid these newfound friendships and the sense of belonging that was slowly taking root, there was one frustratingly unchanging aspect of my life—my studies. I poured in the effort, dedicating hours to studying textbooks, searching for answers to questions that seemed to slip through my fingers like elusive ghosts. Yet, when the teachers called on me in class, my words stumbled, my mind a bewildering maze, and I got the answers wrong, every single time.

The final term exams were fast approaching, and I couldn't help but wish that these exam seasons would take a break too, rather than looming over us so frequently. John appeared to excel in his studies, and I couldn't help but wonder if he engaged in group study sessions. I had never been a part of one before, and I often felt a pang of envy when I saw others heading to the library or other places to study together. Studying alongside someone else seemed like it would be a thousand times better than my usual solitary study sessions.

The day had started just like any other, following the usual routine. My footsteps echoed through the quiet classroom, making my way toward my seat, a cheerful "good morning" on the tip of my tongue, a greeting I exchanged with John every day. It had become an everyday ritual by now.

However, as I neared my usual spot, right in front of John's desk at the front of the class, a sudden chill gripped my heart. I stopped in my tracks, my eyes fixed on the desk that is typically unoccupied in front of mine. Today, though, it's not empty.

I blinked, desperately wishing that the scene unfolding before me would change, that it was nothing more than an elaborate prank or a trick of the morning light. But reality remained stubbornly unchanged.

"Is this some sort of joke?" I muttered, the words escaping my lips as a resentful whisper. I struggled to make sense of the surreal situation, unable to grasp the cruel turn of fate that had materialized right before my eyes.

The classroom seemed to close in on me, its walls tightening as if they were trying to stifle my confusion and unease. I couldn't shake the unsettling feeling that this was merely the beginning, a prelude to an impending storm capable of disrupting the delicate equilibrium of my life. A sense of foreboding hung in the air, a looming shadow on the horizon, casting a dark cloud over what had begun as an ordinary day.

My gaze locked onto a figure seated in the desk in front of mine, and a shiver coursed down my spine. Why is he here? Just how much does he intend to torment me, to upend the life I had started to rebuild? What is his motive?

John noticed the abrupt shift in my demeanor. I stood there, paralyzed by fear, my muscles wound tight with tension. John's gentle touch on my shoulder brought me back to reality, but my thoughts were still spinning in confusion. "Reol, is something wrong? You look really pale..."

I couldn't hold back the fear and frustration that had welled up inside me. "What is he doing here?" I blurted out, unable to hide the concern in my voice.

John exchanged a puzzled look with another classmate before his gaze followed mine, settling on the figure in question. "Oh, you didn't know?" he said, sounding somewhat surprised. "He got suspended for some trouble about a month ago. If I recall correctly... it happened just the day before you arrived..."

"Have you ever met him before..." John continued to ask, but I couldn't find the patience to answer. I felt like the ground had shifted beneath my feet.

Without uttering a word, I strode toward my desk, my heart thumping loudly in my chest. I placed my bag on the desk with a resounding thud and then turned to confront the figure occupying the seat in front of mine.

"What a surprise!" he exclaimed with a grin, swiveling around to face me. "I didn't think we'd end up in the same class."