Gabby thinks her life could rival even the cheesiest of soap operas. Her brother just proposed to Tara, a certified primo bitch. Worst of all, Tara's brother happens to be Jace, the school's resident Ice Prince and the biggest mistake she ever made.
IMPORTANT! PLEASE READ THIS FIRST.
Most of my characters are high school seniors who are only sixteen-years-old, so you might be confused about that. In the Philippines, we don't have junior high school. We graduate from high school when we're sixteen or seventeen at the most. I hope that clears a few things up. If you have any other questions about the story or the setting, feel free to ask me through the reviews.
CHAPTER ONE: THE DINNER PARTY
I'll be your number one with a bullet, a loaded god complex.
Cock it and pull it.
- Sugar We're Going Down, Fall Out Boy
Something big was going to happen.
I knew it the second Marcus, my older brother, said we were having dinner with his girlfriend Tara's family.
My brother didn't treat girls like dirt, but he didn't stick with them for very long either. Marcus dispatched girlfriends number one to seven so fast that I barely remembered their names. So, having dinner with Tara's family was major.
Marcus tried to look nonchalant, as I glared at him from across the table. He pulled on his tie, another blaring alarm, like it was choking him. I chose to ignore it, and focused on trying to meet his eye instead. Five minutes passed. He couldn't bear my stink eye anymore, so he looked up at me.
He knew I knew.
My name is Gabby Ramirez, and my greatest fear was about to come true. My brother was proposing to Tara, the Ice Queen. Marcus didn't say it out loud, but he looked guilty as hell. He knew I loathed Tara.
Lotus Pond was brimming with people. The black marble floors shone, reflecting the light from the red paper lanterns above us. Aromas of delectable Chinese food drifted out of the kitchen, and made my mouth water.
I stared at the food in front of me, and realized that I'd lost my appetite. Groaning, I glared at my brother again. My family rarely ate at the Lotus Pond, since the food was so expensive. This occasion was supposed to be a treat, a nice little experience to be savored later on. I kept on glaring at Marcus. He glared back.
"Gabby, why are you so quiet?" Ma said, forcing me to look at both my parents.
Pa sampled the pork chao fan from my mother's plate without her knowing. He wasn't supposed to be doing that, since his blood pressure went up last week. Ma was still looking at me with a worried expression on her face. She had no idea that Pa hadn't touched the seafood chao fan she ordered for him.
"I'm fine, Ma," I said, shoving a spoonful of food into my mouth to prove it. "Really, I'm okay."
Marcus looked at the door, and glanced at his watch. He shifted in his chair again, and tried to eat his food. Tried was the operative word. He looked like he was stabbing his food repeatedly.
I sighed and forced myself to eat. All that food seemed so delicious a few minutes ago, but the thought of my brother marrying the Ice Queen made my stomach lurch.
Marcus was older than me by eleven years, but that didn't stop us from being close. He was good at everything, both academics and sports. My mother laminated all his report cards from elementary to college, and showed them off to every unsuspecting visitor who set foot in our house. His medals—from basketball and soccer—held their place of honor in our father's office.
I couldn't deny it. I was proud as hell of my brother.
But his taste in women wasn't one of the things I could be proud of. I preferred to think of most of his girlfriends as temporary lapses in judgment, but Tara was a different story. He was serious about her, and I had no idea why.
Sure, she was pretty in a law-firm-ish sort of way, but stale milk was more appetizing than her personality.
At that moment, Tara Ongpauco walked into the restaurant. When she saw us, she smiled, a tight-lipped one that didn't show her teeth, and walked toward our table. A couple who looked about my parent's age followed after her.
I didn't want to admit it, but Tara had taste. She was wearing an elegant black dress with a string of pearls around her neck.
"We're so sorry for being late," Tara said, when she and her parents were seated.
"Puh-lease," I muttered.
"There's no need to apologize." Marcus shot a warning look at me.
Everyone started talking, jumping around the reason why we were there, the impending engagement.
While the adults talked, I watched Tara. Her impending union with my brother wasn't the only reason why I disliked her. The little things about her, the way she looked while listening to other people, or the way she poured soy sauce on her food. Her little quirks reminded me of a certain person I wanted to forget.
Everything happened more than a year ago during junior year. At school, I wasn't a total loser but I wasn't one of the popular kids either. I hung out with semi-okay people, got invited to parties, and did better than most when it came to academics. But I differed from most of the girls in my grade in one significant way. I didn't giggle over the varsity players.
Sure, I knew they were good-looking, but I didn't see their appeal beyond that. The basketball players were a bunch of testosterone-filled children who got more attention than they deserved. Jace Hernandez was one of them.
He was your typical jock, with all the looks and money any normal teenage boy could want. Girls liked him for the obvious reasons, and guys worshipped him since it was rumored that he lost his virginity while they were still figuring out how to use their you-know-what.
Nonetheless, something set him apart from his other friends. He didn't emanate the same brainless vibe I got from them. Looking at Jace was like standing in front of an open refrigerator. He radiated the same aura I got from Tara, an unforgiving arctic one.
Instead of going out with the pretty but brainless girl who'd been stamped by his friends' seal of approval, Jace noticed me.
He never would've if Lance Ordonez, his best friend, hadn't spread around school that I wasn't a virgin anymore, a by-product of a one-night stand we supposedly had. When I found out about the rumor and the person spreading it, I made my way to the gym and hit Lance in the head with a basketball. I would've slapped him too if the coach hadn't dragged me off to the principal's office. All the other players stopped practicing and laughed at him.
Jace was there too, and I guess he liked something about my little display of brazenness.
He started asking about me after our first exams. I couldn't believe it at first. I wasn't butt-ugly, but he was supposed to ignore me until we graduated, forgetting about each other's existence until alumni homecoming rolled around.
I wasn't sure if I was falling for him, until he ate lunch with me and my friends one day. The entire canteen became speechless when he chose to eat with us, and not with his usual cohorts. It might not sound like such a big deal, but it was. His eating lunch with me meant that Jace was willing to step down from his pedestal, just because of me.
We became an official couple two months later. Even if we had a few fights, we made each other happy. I had no reason to doubt this until the night of Isabella Chavez's party, when the shit hit the fan.
Isabella's party was on a Saturday night. By Monday, everyone at school knew Jace and I were over. There were a lot of speculations like who dumped who and why. Some people even asked me point blank.
We didn't have a proper break up, but I didn't need a billboard to tell me that we were over. He went back up on his pedestal, and I struggled to recover.
I didn't want to go to school during those first few weeks, but I pretended nothing was wrong, ignoring the gaping hole that appeared in the middle of my chest. Somewhere along the way, I became okay again.
"Gabby, dear, why aren't eating?" My mother's voice brought me back to reality. "Are you sure you're feeling well?"
"I'm fine," I said, trying to get a hold of myself. "I just need to go to the bathroom."
I stood up before Ma could ask more questions, and went straight to the bathroom. Since all three stalls were empty, I locked the door, needing to be alone for a few minutes.
I turned on the faucet, and cupped my hands under it. Splashing some water on my face, I willed my sanity to return. Thinking about Jace always reduced me to a quivering mass of anger and regret. I stared at myself in the mirror. A pale-faced girl with stringy hair stared back at me.
"That was more than a year ago," I said to my reflection. "Get over it."
I was going to get through this dinner without hyperventilating. Sure, Tara might piss me off again, but I could handle it. Marcus might be making a colossal mistake, but that was his problem. I stepped out of the bathroom, and walked back to our table.
Someone had taken the seat next to mine. I couldn't see his face since he had his back turned to me, but I was sure it was Tara's younger brother. She was lecturing him for being late.
I took my seat, without bothering to look at the person next to me. If Tara and Marcus were going to get married, I had a lot of time to get to know Tara's younger brother, not that I'd ever want to.
"Gabby, let me introduce you to Tara's kid brother," Marcus said.
I let out a bored sigh, and forced myself to look. Tara's brother was gorgeous in a sizzling kind of way, with eyes that could render any girl speechless. Looking at him, I felt like I was standing in front of an open refrigerator. No, that wasn't it. It was like standing naked somewhere in the North Pole.
If it was any consolation, he looked as stunned as I was. His usually empty eyes were wide with shock, and his mouth was open like he was about to say something.
Jace Hernandez was sitting next to me, my ex-boyfriend and the biggest mistake I ever made.