Author's Note: This came up when I was searching for a bar of chocolate in my room last Friday night. Yup, I have a stock of goodies around here, especially Twix my fave, since it helped me come up with ideas, especially school stuff. So I was searching, found none, and reprimanded myself for forgetting to restock. Hahaha! Then VOILA---I was inspired and started typing all the way. I also decided to experiment a little with the characters and plot. And lastly, I would like to thank for helping me with this one, Lizzical, she's a great help! Thanks a bunch! :)

anyway, without further ado, ENJOY! :)



Lesson 1: Pudding is the Answer


I watched him.

I always watched him, silently, hiding in the shadows.

He would walk through the halls of our school carelessly, towering over everyone in his six foot frame. His eyes were sharp, frighteningly intense, but his expression remained blunt and uninterested. Nevertheless, he was ravishing. His black, wavy hair accentuated his finely chiseled and rugged, pale features making him look mysteriously dangerous. His well-proportioned, lanky figure was slightly slanted. His red lips would form a straight line. He was always bored. Extremely bored.

He was Damien Ray.

Ever since I caught him practicing late one night, I could not control the strong urge I felt to watch him again. From then on, when the last bell finally rang, when the students dash hurriedly to the doors, and when the lights were off, I walked to the court and waited. I always chose to sit at the far corner of the room, where the shadows bathed me in darkness. This way, he wouldn't notice me. He would not see me. I could watch him freely, watch his every move, all his angles and his display of talent without feeling embarrassed or self-conscious. I could admire him as much as I wanted, applaud silently and deeply to my heart's content.

Like today, I sat and waited, as I always did.

From the shadows, I could see his dark eyes glinting in consuming determination amidst the blazing lights overhead. In the middle of the court he stood motionless, staring intensely at the looming hoop in unwavering concentration. Then he let the ball fall from his right hand, bouncing up and down from the floor in a loud thud. It was the only sound filling the vast, empty room. It echoed off the walls, making my heart race in anticipation from the far corner. Then his muscles clenched.

My mouth opened as I stared. He began dribbling the ball from his left hand to his right and back again in a crisscross. In what seemed like a slow motion action flick to me, he positioned his body and launched forward. In a blinding speed, he looked like a soldier, attacking an army all by himself. His movements were silent but maddeningly graceful as he made swift turns, right then left as if eluding an invisible opponent. Then his eyes narrowed, glinting even more. In quick, light steps, he mounted, sweat dripping, playing the ball on his hands and gave the basket a hard dunk. The rim shook from the impact and the ball went through the hoop in a loud swooshing sound.

It was beautiful.

My lungs took a deep intake of air. My mouth opened and my hands were dying to applaud. I was completely taken, captivated again and again by his beautiful performance. I was dying to fill the uncanny silence clinging in the air.

However, I simply stayed in my spot in silent admiration.

Across the room, his back was turned to me. But from where I was, I could clearly hear his loud breathing. Then he brushed back his black hair and said loudly, "What are you doing here?"

I continued to sit there, my body frozen on the faraway bench.

"I can't take your stalking anymore. Come out. I know you're there," he demanded, the edge of his voice quirking a little. But he just stood there, his back still to me. "Why are you here?"

But I didn't move. I didn't answer his questions. I was too afraid to even say one simple word.

Then he turned. He stared straight at me from the shadows. "Why are you hiding yourself?"

He started walking. My heart began to race and my body trembled. I felt embarrassed for being such a freak, for stalking him for so long. I was frightened. If he came nearer, if he saw me, it would be the end of everything. I would be completely humiliated Hurry Shannon! Do Something! My mind was screaming at me.

"I don't know why you aren't talking back, but I don't like being stalked," he said menacingly. I could see the danger in his eyes as he advanced. "I don't like people watching me. It makes me really, really mad and I'm sure you wouldn't like it if I got mad... right?"

I cringed.

"So if I were you, I would show myself now," he warned, his voice was now seething in annoyance.

But that was the problem. I could not and would not reveal myself. I had to hide whether he liked it or not. I was ashamed of myself. I was scared of what I would see in his eyes the moment he saw me. I was afraid of his reaction. Although I have this golden yellow hair that I always pin into a nice bun and a beautiful pair of baby blue eyes, which were the only features I was proud of because all in all, it never mattered. In my full length, I am five-foot four and in my width, I have more than what is needed. Weighing one hundred ninety pounds, I am heavier than necessary. In short, I am a fat dork.

And he wouldn't like seeing a fat dork stalking him, would he? I thought nervously. Being the school basketball team's ace throughout his junior and high school life, people accepted him with open arms. He was the dream boy from every girl's fantasy. With his height, dark, handsome looks and talent to kill for, he was definitely popular, not only at school but at the nearby schools as well. He was greatly admired, though he never seemed to care.

He was uninterested to all the admiration. He was bored of all the girls flirting at his side. He never cared about anybody. He was alone most of the time. But during basketball games, his eyes would transform. Those dark blue eyes would glint in pure excitement, he would smile approvingly when faced with a worthy opponent. He only cared about one thing: basketball.

And I am no one.

He picked the ball that had rolled at the sideline and went to me. I could see his irritated face clearly now and I longed to run for the door. But, despite the nervousness that was enveloping my body, I was curious, and unusually excited. I wanted to know what he would do, what he would say. It could have been a chance. An opportunity for me. So I stood there and waited.

He did not speak. He was just looking at my direction in quiet frustration. When he was finally at the foot of the benches, he gripped the ball in his two large hands and threw it - at me.

It hit the side of my head and I yelped in pain. "Hey! What was that for?" I cried, instinctively brought a hand to my left cheek.

Then he smirked and sarcastically, he said, "Oh, so you're not mute? I'm glad."

My body flared up. I could feel myself blushing uncontrollably as I looked at his face. He was mocking me.

He picked the ball that had struck my face as it bounce down the bench. "If you want to stay here for the night, then I'd better leave and lock the gym," he said, turning away and began shooting the remaining scattered balls one by one into the ball rack. Then he headed to the door.

I stared at his back. He was joking,right? But when he gave me one last wave, I panicked ran hurriedly after him. I was nearly suffocating when I finally caught up with him at the door. I panted, breathing hard, as he locked the door and turned to face me. I was suddenly alarmed and decided to run for it but he just stood there, watching me. His smile was gone.

"Don't watch me again," he said icily, glaring ominously at me.

Then he walked away,disappearing at the boys' locker room while I stood there, appalled by his verbal attack, his words piercing my heart.

*

* * *

*

My eyes strayed from my book and landed at the far side of the room. He was late and was being reprimanded by their first class teacher as always. But then, his head was slumped on the table, dozing off in a soundless sleep. From the front, Sir Patterson was discussing the law of inertia, his voice getting louder every passing minute. His face had turned beet red, trying to control his agitation after seeing Damien's sleeping form at the far back. I could only stifle a giggle.

I could not blame him for getting annoyed, but he should have been used to it ever since his subject became Damien's first class. But knowing Sir Patterson, that was unheard of. He loved physics. He was easily agitated over a slight noise during his class. And looking at him, I could sense that he was restraining the urge to throw something at Damien's sleepy head.

When the bell rang after an hour, Damien was the first one to walk out of the class. Sir Patterson was about to call him and give him a ten minute lecture but failed to do so. From my seat, I sighed as I watched him go. I picked my things and went to my next class.

The morning went by as usual. Nothing out of the ordinary happened. I sat at the cafeteria, eating my lunch alone and watched the other students mingling with their friends at their accustomed tables. Behind me, I heard a guy talking about the basketball team. They were conversing about the upcoming Inter High School competition this coming week. It seemed like the team had went to the elimination draft conference yesterday afternoon to pick their first opponent which happened to be the third placer during last year's game.

I leaned a little and listened.

"You should see the team. Coach is giving them one hell of a practice till midnight starting today. That is totally insane," the first guy exclaimed.

The other guy nodded. "They sure are determined. But Ray's on the team. Somehow he'll pull it off."

"That's the problem," the first guy interjected. "He plays selfishly. He's a one man team. If he keeps that up, the team will eventually suffer. He'll get his MVP award again but the team will lose."

"I know..."

I was leaning farther than necessary by then. My chair gave a faint squeak and I hastily reached for the side of the table. The two guys looked behind them at me as the chair finally gave in. The right foot broke and it collapsed on the floor, my butt included. The cafeteria seemed to freeze as all of them turned to look at my direction. I gave them a weak smile. Then they went back to their musing, life and noise filled the room once again as if nothing had happened. The two guys shook their heads at me and went back to eating. No one went out of their way to help me.

I fumbled on my feet and fixed my things. I left the chair and the cafeteria, my face turning red. I knew no one would care anyway to see my embarrassed face, but as soon as I was outside, the sun burning above me, I began to feel at ease. With my half eaten sandwich, I searched for a place where I could be alone. Then I heard it, the familiar sound of a ball going against the floor. Someone was playing inside the court.

I hesitated, of course. After the last night before's incident, I resisted the urge to follow him around. But I could not control my feet as they ambled towards the sound. I'm turning into an obsessed freak, I thought. Well, I guess I already was. I peeked inside the open door. My eyes squinted for a second and saw him. He was on his fade away shot. The ball made a perfect arc and swiftly went through the hoop.

My eyes grew like saucers. "Wow."

He went to pick the ball, sweat falling in drops on the court's shiny floor. He toyed the ball, left then right, and took a seat. He reached for his towel and brushed it across his perspiring forehead. Then suddenly, he turned to the door. "I thought I warned you last night to stop stalking me."

I stood there, flabbergasted. How did he...? I could only grip the door's frame, my mouth opened in shock.

"Come here," he said, more like an order, as he took a drink from his cooler.

I looked around. The gym was deserted with only him sitting on the floor and taking a break. We were alone again. I glanced at him uncertainly, fumbling with my things. He might hurt me this time. Or worse, kill me. Those kind of thoughts were spinning on my brain and a part of me was craving to run. But I couldn't seem to move my feet around. I was stuck – again.

"Bring that food with you," he continued listlessly.

I blinked. "Huh?"

"I'm hungry."

And that was when my feet walked up to him, as if they had a will of their own. I handed my unfinished lunch and the other unopened sandwiches to him, fidgeting a little. He took it and started eating. The room grew quiet and I timidly sat at the bench, watching him eat. A wave of euphoria suddenly washed over me. I felt at bliss, somehow gratified that a dream had came true, a wish had been granted. I was no longer in the shadows. I was sitting with him.

It made me feel weak.

"Who made this?" his voice broke into my thoughts and I stared blankly at him. "This?" he waved the sandwich at me. "You made this?"

I nodded and suddenly alarmed, "Why? Does it taste bad?"

He chewed slower. "Quite the opposite."

"Really?" I said, beaming. "That's good. I'm glad you like it." And in an attempt to make conversation, I continued, "I heard you will have your first game against the third placer last year. How's your team handling it?"

He did not respond.

"Anyway, I will pray for you and your team's success. I knew you would make it to the top," I went on. I stared bleakly at him, despondent that the happy mood had flew away. He opened the other one and it was gone for a few seconds. He picked the light blue plastic container and eyed its contents curiously, as if battling whether he should eat it or not.

"Uh, that's chocolate pudding. It's my favorite," I told him. "You'll like it."

He gave me one long look before tasting it. Then in a couple of minutes, the container was spotless and empty along with the sandwich bags and he was lying on the floor, fully loaded and satisfied. This made me smile.

"I'm going to watch your first game, that is if it's on a weekend. I'll be at the sidelines, cheering you on," I told him carelessly when he finally went to his feet and fixed his things. "Is that fine with you?"

I heard him snorted. "To hell if I care."

I zipped my lips and said no more. It was a good thing the bell finally resounded, alerting the students of the afternoon classes. I went for the door, feeling embarrassed at what I had said. What was I thinking back there? Telling him that. Of course he wouldn't care. Silly me, I thought as I made my escape.

"Hey," his voice stopped me from my tracks. "Thanks."

I turned around, relieved, but he was already gone, his shadow vanishing around the corner, heading to the showers. I smiled, maybe more to myself, and whispered into thin air, "You're welcome."

*

* * *

*

The week went by passively. That night was the last night I watched him in the shadows. I would stop by momentarily when I hear the loud dribbling of balls after school hours. But I never stayed. He was not alone now. He was practicing hard with his team. But this week, he looked more exhausted than he used to. The guys had been right. They were having one hell of a practice.

It was a chilly Saturday morning and right at that very moment, as I was choosing between buying the red or green apples, somewhere far away from home, he and his team were attending the Inter High School ceremony. They would be watching the first game of the season. If only I had enough money, a reliable car and the consent of my parents, or if only I was a member of the cheering squad at school, I would have had the chance to tag along. But of course, both ways were impossible... especially the latter.

I decided to buy the green ones for a change and moved down the aisle. At the far end, two girls were having a loud discussion over something. My ears pricked up as soon as I reached their corner and checked the prices of the products across from them.

"Really? But that is just a superstition," the dark haired girl was saying.

"I know, but when it comes to love, anything is worth a try," the other one replied as she finally reached for a bottle on the shelf. "And Christmas pudding is told to bring luck back in our hometown, so I'll make one this coming Christmas as well."

The dark haired girl just gave a soft laugh. "Silly you."

Their conversation lingered on my mind as I paid for the groceries. Christmas pudding?

As soon as I arrived home, I unpacked, laid out the ingredients for today's lunch and opened the stove to boil the lean meat. To save time, I began slicing the vegetables, because at home, I was in charge with the cooking. Both of my parents were workaholics and both of them were great cooks. My father was the head chef in a hotel and my mother was managing our small bakery below our house. This might also be the reason why I love to cook, to eat and of course, for my obese form. But then again, both of them were also bulky. Maybe, having a well-rounded physique runs in the family.

Oh well.

By late afternoon, I had already finished all of my assignments for the whole week and my books were carefully arranged in my bag. I opened my computer and searched for the words. As I finished reading the mythical pudding, my eyes lit up. I had an idea. I was going to make one for him.

I went to buy the ingredients the next day. When the night took over and my parents were both tucked in bed, I went down and started making the Christmas pudding. It would be the first time I'll be making a pudding with such intricate instructions than the usual plain one and so, with careful hands, I began to cook. After an hour, I let it cool, placed it in the fridge for the night and continued the finishing touches tomorrow morning.

I woke up with a start the next day, an hour earlier than usual. The players would be excused from the morning classes and I would not have the chance to meet him. Hurriedly, I dash to the shower, fixed myself and was off to school after thirty minutes. It was a given fact that he would be at the gym by that hour, being a little earlier than the announced time. And as I bounded off the already crowded bus, nearly sending someone to the floor because of the lack of space as I pushed myself out, I nearly ran to the gym's door.

I gasped for air and skimmed the room. There he was, sitting by the bench and listening to his iPod. His eyes were closed, completely unaware of my presence. Probably asleep.

I held myself back, doubts targeting my low self-esteem or whatever was left of it. But, taking a quick glance at my small token of lucky charm, namely the pudding, I took a step forward then hesitated again. I bit my lip. "What now," I muttered to myself and was about to turn around and forget about it when I heard a slight ruffling sounds behind me.

"I can't believe you're still stalking me," he blurted incredulously. "And at this hour? Unbelievable."

I gripped the package in hand. "I'm sorry."

He eyed me, scrutinizing me. "You're hiding something."

"Yes, I am," and bit my lip again.

He shook his head, resisting the urge to laugh. He was about to put the headphones back on and doze to sleep but I quickly scurried to his side, squealing, "Wait!"

He looked at me, that almost-familiar annoyed look on his face. You can't back out now! I ordered myself. "Wait," I said again but in a normal tone. "I have something, ah, [more] like a lucky charm." Then I revealed the white container where I had carefully placed the chocolate Christmas pudding.

His eyes glinted slightly. "Food?"

"Ah, not really," and his eyes looked listlessly at it. "More like a dessert. It's a Christmas pudding."

Upon opening it and seeing the contents inside, he sneered. "Isn't it too early for that?"

He was about to shove it back at my face but I pushed it back at him. "Please, taste it and listen to me." Then his disinterested eyes bore a hole into mine making me uncomfortable again. But he was bored and I was given an opportunity. I had to take it.

"Please taste it. It's not really that good. Actually, it tastes like trash," I told him.

Then his eyes shifted, looking perplexed. "What are you trying to say?"

"I'm trying to tell you that it tastes awful."

And for the first time in my three years of being his classmate, he let out a laugh. It sounded magical to my ears. I watched his face, engraving that happy look in the back of my head.

"You, who makes wonderful lunches? I'm not buying it," he said incredulously. Then both of us fell silent. He had just complimented me. I could feel my body screaming and jumping in wild bliss but I forced myself to stay collected while he glanced away after catching what he had said.

Then he took the spoon I had offered, scooped a little and shoved it into his mouth. He took another one again. "See," he said matter-of-factly between chewing, and then started to gag. His eyes widened as he fished a coin out his mouth.

I smiled. "That's the good luck charm. Wish for something!"

He just gave me another weird look.

But it's better than those bored ones, I thought, encouraging myself and gave my watch a quick glance. From the high windows, I could see the dark skies were fast dwindling as the sun slowly hover the horizon. Then outside the door, I could hear voices and footsteps approaching the gym.

I gave him one final nod. "Do your best!" I yelled, and walked as fast as I could out of the door, leaving him looking blandly after me.

And later that day, as I sat on my chair, trying to catch up with the lecture, I saw a group of guys outside the classroom, rowdily announcing the team's victory. They had won.


review is a gift and more to come. stay tune :)

fictionalfact signing off.