A/N: And I'm back from the dead and so is this story. I've decided to reboot the Top Hat story because, well... just because I can? Just kidding. I really feel like it was the best direction to take for this particular story. Otherwise, I would have just given up on it.
Some old elements are still present in this new version but I hope you'd still get to enjoy the improvements I've made.
Don't forget to review and subscribe.
The surge of students swarming out of the buildings had been drowning to the eyes. In that mass of population, where everyone appeared the same as everybody else, a black-haired girl with copper skin and dark brown eyes stood out among the rest. While the rest bore sulking and distraught expressions, she had a smile on her face as she strolled down the stairs of the College of Business Administration Building. While the view outside gave other people hope in the darkness, she felt nothing but absolute confidence.
For the likes of Andrea Ruiz, who never had to doubt anything about herself, hope was for the weak and darkness was a myth. She was convinced that she shone bright enough to make darkness non-existent. To her, self-assurance would stand better than hope.
As she treaded her way towards the Liberal Arts Building, a familiar ringing had alerted Andrea back to reality. She took out her mobile phone from her right hand pocket and answered it.
"Hello," she feigned a happy tone. "You are calling the top-secret phone line of Andrea Ysabelle Nakamura Ruiz. If you're a stalker, please contact me through my other number. If you're not, please state the password."
"You are insane, Andy," a female voice replied. "How's that for a password?"
"Oh, Gene, I missed you too," Andy responded with a smile. "How is my best friend doing on the other side?"
"Stop talking about my school as if it's in another dimension," Gene retorted. "It makes me think I'm an alien or worse, dead."
Andy increased her pace as she held the phone to her ear on one hand and carried her shoulder bag with another. Out of all the days, she could not afford to be late for her midterm exam. She only had fifteen minutes to get to her next class and the building was three blocks away.
"Gene, your university is in the south of the Metro," Andy said as she crossed the street. "I'm in the north. To me, you are in another dimension."
Andy could not resist in expressing her bitterness over the fact that her best friend chose to study in a different school than hers. They were high school classmates and although they didn't really start out as friends, their obvious abhorrence towards each other turned to respect and admiration. They became inseparable since. After graduation, Andy got accepted to the best university in the country while Gene, making it clear that she didn't want to study in a state university, chose to enroll at a more prestigious and expensive school.
"Are we really going to argue about this again?" Gene sounded exasperated. "State universities are for the bright minds of the underprivileged. You and I may be smart, Andy, but we are most certainly not underprivileged."
"Alright, you win," Andy conceded. "I really don't want waste my brain cells over another petty argument."
There was no counterargument. Although Gene was an academically competent student, she was far from destitute. Being the granddaughter of a mall and real estate tycoon meant that Gene De La Vega would never need government subsidies with her tuition or a scholarship to finish her education. She felt that to enter in a government-funded institution would mean denying another less fortunate but deserving student to the same opportunity.
Andy was not as gracious as her best friend. Graduating top of her class, she was not the kind to settle for anything less even if it was to the detriment of the rest of the world. Being the daughter of the owner of the fastest growing telecommunications company in Southeast Asia allowed her the attitude of a cutthroat business tycoon. Andy had always acted as if she owned the world and she was raised to never apologize for it.
"Anyway, I only called to tell you your mom called me for like a hundred times," Gene said, changing the subject. "I'm not even exaggerating. She said you weren't answering her calls."
Andy rolled her eyes in annoyance. She deliberately ignored her mother's phone calls. She thought her mother knew better than calling her on the day of her exams. She had better things to do and think about than answering to her mother's ludicrous hollers. She barely saw her parents and it was even rarer that they drop a line. However, when they do remind her that she still has parents, they make sure that their presence is indeed made known in the most dramatic way. Calling her and her friends a hundred times is a miniscule example of it.
"I have a mom?" Andy asked sardonically. "I didn't know that. I only know of the Chairman and the Chairwoman abducting me once a month telling me I share their genes."
"In the real world, you call them parents."
"In the real world, you call them negligent," Andy corrected her friend. "Well, what did she want anyway?"
"I'm not really sure," Gene said, hesitating. "But she seemed very adamant that you call her back. If you don't, you're well aware that drastic measures are usually her first resort, not the last."
"How dramatic," Andy groaned back in submerged anger. "That's Isabelle Ruiz for you. She always wants to make a spectacle of herself."
Just as Andy was about to go across the building, three black Mercedez Benz suddenly pulled over in front of her. At the back of her mind, she knew what was coming but when more than half a dozen men in polo barong hopped out of the vehicles, she still could not help but curse under her breath.
"Damn," she whispered when she saw her mother's chief secretary.
"What's wrong?" She heard Gene ask.
"Gene," Andy turned her attention back to her phone momentarily. "I got to go."
Glaring at the chief secretary, Mr. Hernandez, she asked, "What?"
"Ma'am, the Chairwoman requests your presence immediately," Mr. Hernandez said, gesturing at one of the guards to open the car door. "We'll escort you on your way there."
"No. Are you kidding me?" I spat, disbelieving. "I'll meet mother in my own time and not anybody else's, and right now, I have an exam to take. Now get the hell out of my way."
Andy shoved past Mr. Hernandez. To her astonishment, members of her security detail lined up and towered over her. She should've anticipated it. Her mother always enjoyed staging such a grand scene, knowing full well that it would surely attract both the attention and ire of the people around them. Isabelle also knew how much her daughter hated it.
"What do you think you're doing?" Andy asked, loud enough for all of the guards to hear. "Are you trying to get yourselves fired or do you really want to die by my hands?"
Creeping up behind her, Mr. Hernandez whispered, "Please, Ma'am Andy. The Chairwoman gave us explicit instructions to get you in that car by any means necessary. Do not make a scene and come with us."
And I am the one who's making a scene, Andy thought with sarcasm. Turning to Mr. Hernandez, she demanded, "At least tell me one good reason why I should get in that car right now. Don't tell me it's because my mother says so. God knows how little that means to me."
For a moment, Mr. Hernandez' eyes flickered with both panic and sorrow. Although hesitating, he finally found the courage to blurt out the one reason her mother knew Andy would never have the heart to disregard.
"It's your grandmother, Andy. She's dying."
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