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English: "Meridian Lights."
Tagalog: "Meridian Lights."
Japanese: "Meridian Lights."
Inner Thoughts: Meridian Lights
"Ela, you gonna join us later?"
"Megamall, Vivian and the others said that we're going ice skating."
"Haaa? Ice skating? I don't know how to do that."
"Eh ako din naman eh. Halika na, it's Friday, let's have fun!"
("That goes for the both of us. Come on, it's Friday, let's have fun!")
Gizelle, my quirky friend, urged me to go with them. She was currently doing her eyelashes with those metallic death traps. I didn't know what those things were called, as I generally steered clear from these kinds of cosmetic contraptions. Yeah, I was quite the failure as a woman.
The fan in the room once again turned, which successfully scattered stray strands of hair and ultimately messed up my neat pony tail. Lazily tucking a lock of my raven colored hair behind my ear, I watched as my friends went about in their silly ways. It was a really typical lunch break scene. The girls chatted, flipped open magazines and touched up their make-up with their compact powders, while the boys played one of those popular anime cards or board games, whichever took their fancy.
I wanted to go with them. It was our *barkada's ritual to go hangout every Friday after class. I usually go with them, but sometimes, my parents wouldn't allow me for some reason or the other. They're quite the overprotective bunch.
I got their reasoning. After all, I'm only thirteen years old, and a *bunso at that.
I had two older brothers but they're not enrolled in my school. Instead, they both attended an all boy school just near my own private co-ed school. The eldest was graduating this year, and the middle was graduating a year after.
While me, the bunso and the only girl in the family, well, I'm only a first year high school student.
So yeah, my family was pretty protective when it comes to me.
"Ano na? Sama ka?" ("So? You going?") Gizelle questioned again, taking a small mirror and setting it on the table. She sneakily smiled as she tugged off my maroon-colored hair tie then proceeded to comb my hair.
"I don't know why you insist on always using this horrendous thing." She pretended to be disgusted as she threw the tie on the table.
"It's called a hair tie," I supplied, raising my brow at her. "It's also quite practical, might I add."
"I know, but at least get a cuter one. Seriously Ela, you're like one of the prettiest girls here-"
"Ok, ok, what do you want?" I raised up my hand as I stopped her exaggerated compliment, or better yet, mocking.
"... ice skating?" She widened her eyes innocently.
Contemplating, I looked down and coincidentally saw myself reflected at the hand mirror Gizelle placed on the table. My hair was a mess even though Gizelle tried to comb it earlier. My usual heart-shaped face had a wan complexion on it and dark circles could even be seen on my almond-shaped eyes.
Well, it was Friday.
I did need to have fun and hang out. This past week was pretty tough, we had to accomplish three different projects, and there were also plenty of assignments that needed to be passed. It was stressing me out.
"Fine, but I will go ask for permission first. I just don't know if they'll let me. Usually, I ask for permission a day before. You know my parents."
"Ok, good luck!" Gizelle gave me a thumbs up before continuing on chatting with our other friends.
I screamed, hanging on the railings for dear life.
Not even ten minutes on the ice, I already started to regret going with my friends in this ice skating thing.
Who the hell could skate with two thin blades on your feet? Two thin blades that you're supposed to balance on slippery ice? Who the hell invented this thing anyway?
"Aaah! Ayoko na!" ("Aaah! I don't want to do this anymore!")
I couldn't help but burst out laughing at the utter absurdity of my situation.
My feet just continued on slipping away beneath me, leading me to do acrobatics around the rink. Hell, I didn't even know I could split that way.
My face turned red, both from the exhaustion and the embarrassment as people kept on humorously pointing at me. I could also hear my friends laughing at me. Well, some of them, like Gizelle, were also grabbing on the railings but their situation and my situation was like heaven and earth.
As one could clearly see, I had no balance whatsoever.
Ok, that may be quite the exaggeration. But that's what it felt like right at this moment.
I didn't do bikes or skateboards. Hell, I'm too much of a wimp to even stand on roller blades.
I remember that one time when my family visited Baguio City, a province in the north, my entire family went to a skating rink. Not ice skating, just plain old regular skating - roller blades style. The moment I put on my roller blades, I didn't get up for the entire duration from where I was sitting. As I said, too much of a wimp.
The only reason why I agreed to try ice skating was because it's ice, not grimy hard cement.
Now, I found out that falling on ice hurts like hell judging from the bruises already forming on my knees. But let's think of the silver lining, yeah?
At least it gets iced quickly.
Ok, my jokes were pretty terrible. Moving on.
A coach assistant wearing one of those yellow jackets approached me. Most probably taking pity on me as I struggled like a fish out of water.
"Hey, you need help?"
"Yes, please," I rasped, as I continued to hug the railing as my feet kept on slipping.
"Ok, first, place your feet in a V position. There should be a little space between your feet."
"Yeah, just like that. Now, bend your knees slightly. But make sure to keep your back straight, lean slightly forward if you have to but again, not too far, at least until you get the hang of it."
"Ok, now try to walk a little. And by walk, I meant slide. Just slide your foot one by one, like this."
The coach then showed me how to glide little by little. It actually took about 15 minutes of his time to teach me, which was pretty nice of him since I knew that coaches or assistant coaches needed to be hired for a certain amount of time.
Now, I was able to slowly glide a little on the ice. Of course, I still needed to hold onto the railings. But at least I'm not doing acrobatics or splits anymore.
"Doing good so far. I assume this is your first time skating?"
"Yes, I just went along with my friends, they wanted to go skating. So, here I am."
"Ah ganun ba? Ok yan, masarap mag skate lalo na pag sanay ka na."
("Is that so? That's actually nice, skating is pretty fun especially when you're already used to it.")
"By the way, I'm Coach Edmund."
Coach Edmund held out a hand which I then promptly shook. Free from the constant danger of falling down my butt, I finally was able to take a good look at him. From his appearance, you wouldn't think that he was a coach, it felt more like he was an elite businessman with his prim and proper appearance. His crew cut was neat, and his rectangular glasses complimented and softened his sharp features. Judging from his looks, I could hazard a guess that he was around his late 20's.
"Hello *po, I'm Elana. But I go by Ela."
"Ok, so are you going to be fine now? They're calling me, seems like I have a new student to teach." Coach Edmund gestured at the entrance of the rink, where there was a staff signaling him to come over.
"Oh! Yes po, I'm fine, thank you very much for teaching me." I slightly bowed to him.
"No problem. If you want to learn some more or sign up for classes, just tell the people at the front desk, ok? I suggest that you do, you're a pretty fast learner." Coach waved at me, before going towards his new student.
"Ok po! Thank you again!"
One of my friends, Carla, approached me. She's quite good as she glided along the ice.
"Oh, ok ka na?" ("Oh, you're ok now?")
"Oo, thanks sa tulong ha," ("Yes, thanks for the help,") I sarcastically replied, which made her laugh.
"You're welcome!" Carla smiled, cheekily.
I rolled my eyes in return.
"Anyways, c'mon. The others said that they're starving. Plus, their feet are starting to hurt."
My feet hurt too to be honest. Along with my entire body as I took quite a few stumbles earlier on.
"Sure, sure, let's go."
It's been weeks since that Skating Debacle, as I politely dubbed it, happened. It was our sem break now, so my brothers and I had two weeks off from school. Like a mini-vacation.
My parents decided to have a family trip abroad. They're always busy with the company. Somehow, they decided to free their schedule just so that we could have a family trip.
We were supposed to go to the States and stay there for about a week but things had changed at the last minute. My dad got an important call from a business associate of his. Some things happened, which I didn't know what - nor did I care - since it's Grown Up Stuff as my parents called it.
To make matters short, our supposedly week-long vacation abroad went down to three days.
It was virtually impossible to have a vacation in the States for just three days since just going there takes around fourteen to sixteen hours. Round trip takes a day or so. Dealing with the jet lag and all that adjusting into a different timezone... we basically only had a day to enjoy ourselves.
Just, no way.
We rather spend our vacation somewhere else. That's why our parents decided to just stick to Asian countries. They asked us where we wanted to go.
Before anything else, my family was pretty well off. Don't get me wrong, we're not very rich, but my parents could afford the things that my brothers and I wanted. We're more like between the middle and upper class family.
My eldest brother - *Kuya Matteo or simply Kuya Matt - didn't really care where we go. He's always the responsible one out of my siblings. I guess being the eldest gave him some sort of invisible responsibility to take care of us young 'uns.
The middle child - Kuya Gabriel or Kuya Gabby, as I call him - voted for Japan. He's in love with anime. 'Nuff said.
As for me, while I'm fine with Japan, I'm more in love with ancient ruins of Cambodia. It was a dream of mine to visit Cambodia as I love ruins, castles, basically ancient stuff. I knew Japan had an extensively great ancient culture and civilization, and yes, I would like to go there as well. But my heart was stolen the moment I saw that particular picture showing Cambodia's finest ruins.
Now it's between Cambodia and Japan.
My parents decided to be fair and let us draw lots.
Did I mention my crappy luck at draw lots?
Needless to say, to Japan we go.
Japan was astonishingly beautiful. We went to many tourist destinations, buying souvenirs here, eating street foods there, not to mention the *pasalubong. We just finished lunch and decided to wander around Tokyo. I didn't remember where we were in Tokyo exactly. Jugyu? Jinyu? Jigyu?
"The air around here is so fresh." Mom breathed. "Say hi kids!" Mom turned the video camera on her hand towards us. My brothers were messing around as always.
"Yeah, kinda cold though," Dad replied. "Mas malamig pa sa Baguio." ("Much colder than Baguio.")
It was already late October, hence, the cold weather. The trees around us began to lighten their leaves in a beautiful mix of red, yellow, and even gold hues indicating the start of Autumn. Good thing I was wearing a gray hooded jacket as a chilly breeze swept around.
We just walked around a huge park. It was pretty nice to see all the beauty around us. Well, for me anyways. My brothers began to get all antsy as they didn't actually do nature.
"Ma, let's grab a bite." Kuya Matt nudged Mom, who still had her camera rolling. He then pointed to a nearby cafe right around the park. "Nawala lahat ng kinain ko sa haba ng nilakad natin." ("Felt like I lost all the food that I ate, we walked pretty far.")
"Let's go." Kuya Gabby led the way and looked around for a vacant table.
"Eeeh," I whined a little, childish I know. But I really wanted to walk around some more. We're only staying for a few days in Japan. So, why not make the most of it?
In the Philippines, I preferred staying in my room, just listening to music and reading books. I'm kind of an introvert. However, when the family goes on a trip like this, I transform into an outdoor-y type of person who particularly loved long quiet walks, visiting new places, particularly museums, famous landmarks, parks, and galleries.
"Ayaw mo kumain?" ("You don't want to eat?") Dad asked, slinging an arm around my shoulders, hugging me close to him.
"Nope, still full. Let's go walk some more, please?" I begged my Dad, wrapping an arm around his waist.
I'm pretty close to my dad. We're the typical daddy's girl combo.
"Hm... Ok." Dad shrugged before calling out to my Mom. "Leia, we're gonna go around for a bit, just stay there Ok? Or if you guys are finished and we still didn't return yet, just give us a call."
"You don't want to rest for awhile?" Mom began to put away the video cam while settling down on a vacant table. My brothers were already in the cashier line, looking at the menu ahead.
"Ma, give me the cam." I grabbed the video cam then pecked her in the cheek. "We'll be back, I just want to walk around some more."
"Ok, stay safe and don't go too far away from Daddy, you hear?" Mom reminded me. "Rick, mind your phone."
We waved bye to Mom before setting out.
My dad and I enjoyed the scenery as we passed by. I didn't forget to record of course. My dad was pretty amused since all I recorded were trees and bushes. But hey, these were Japan trees and bushes, alright?
Later on, it seemed that we reached the end of the park. A large building loomed before us. It looked like a sports complex and an event of some kind was currently undergoing judging from the banners and flyers hanging around.
"Wanna go in there?" Dad asked out of the blue. His aged face still held some of that boyish charm that I saw in past pictures and videos when my parents were young. His jet-black hair had hints of grey from his temples. He had an angular yet strong face that my brothers had inherited, stray wrinkles were seen, especially at the corner of his eyes whenever he smiled, yet it all somehow added to his appeal as a middle-aged cool dad, as he liked to describe himself.
"Uh, sure?" I shrugged, kind of curious on what the hype was all about.
Dad asked the woman at the ticket counter about the event. It was a little funny watching my dad converse with the woman as she wasn't fluent in English, nor did he speak Japanese. They mimed a lot.
Ah well, we were in a different country where English was not so predominant. The tourists here should be responsible enough to know a few Japanese words. At least, to ask for directions and other simple things.
From what my Dad discerned, there was an ice skating competition currently taking place. We paid for the tickets and proceeded inside.
We saw a huge ice skating arena. Plenty of people were at the bleachers at the side with few vacant seats left. There was also a second floor that overlooked the rink, but we preferred to sit down on the bleachers. Thankfully, even though it's already the middle of the competition, we were able to get front line seats, albeit, near the far edges of the rink.
"You tried skating awhile back right?"
"Yeah, and I suck at it. I mean, I could glide a little, but only when I have the railings beside me," I replied, setting up the camera.
"That's nice, you should get a sport. Your Kuyas both do basketball. You should be active," Dad said, ruffling my hair.
"Dad!" I grumbled, pushing away his arm.
Do not touch the hair.
A round of applause interrupted our bickering as the current skater finished his routine. The skaters were all kids. Boys, to be exact. Way younger than me. I couldn't discern their age, maybe around 8 to 10 years old?
I readied the camera as the next skater got on the ice. The next boy looked kind of weird. He had this mushroom hair style that certainly didn't fit boys his age. It's an Ok look for girls, but it's my first time seeing it on a boy. Well, that's only my opinion, and I called it weird as I'm accustomed to the usual clean cut the boys in my school was required to follow.
The announcer was introducing him but I didn't understand what she said as I didn't know Japanese.
I was already impressed as the boy glided around the rink. I couldn't even attempt to glide in a few strokes without falling down my butt.
The boy got into center ice and held his position in a pose.
Then the music began -
- and the rest was history.
Some people said that there was that one particular moment,
a pivotal moment, when their life had changed.
And thinking back on it a few years later,
this was mine.
I watched entranced as this slip of a boy danced around the ice with such fluidity. It gave me goosebumps as I watched his routine.
"Wah!" I exclaimed subconsciously as he jumped to the air and spun. I couldn't help but think if that were me, I would've fallen flat on my face ages ago, even before the jump.
"Woh!" I couldn't help it, jolting my body. "Ah!" I kept exclaiming every time he jumped. I didn't know exactly if it was because I was afraid that he would fall or this was just me acting crazy because of amazement. I think it was a mix of both.
The boy did his last spin then the crowd burst into applause.
"Woooh!" I clapped along with the others, feeling quite giddy. I loved his routine. Thankfully, I was able to record it on video.
The boy then bowed to the crowd before leaving the ice.
I really wanted to know who he was but I was too shy to ask the Japanese people there. I only understood that his name was Hama-something. The announcer was talking pretty fast that I wasn't able to decipher it.
"Ela, you're mom called. Let's go." Dad patted me, his phone still against his ear.
"Ok," I replied, but my gaze kept on darting towards the boy.
He was joking around with the other skaters his age, his coach even ruffled his head in a good gestured manner.
I gave one last smile in his direction before following my dad.
"Kuya, ano ba! Kakainis ka!" ("Kuya, you're pissing me off!")
Kuya Gabby just laughed as he watched the playback on the video cam on his hand.
"Ela's got a crush~" Kuya Gabby singsonged, as he dodged my attempt to grab the camera.
"Ew, no!" I grimaced, disgusted at the thought, placing my hands on my waist. "He's like, eight."
"Gab, stop teasing your sister," Dad mumbled, his eyes on the newspaper. His half eaten breakfast still laid out before him.
We just came back from Japan a few days ago. I missed that place already and I really hope that I would be able to visit that country again soon.
Kuya Gabby was watching the videos on the camera before coming upon the ice skating competition that I recorded. Well, I wasn't able to record the entire competition, only that Han-boy part.
Hence, the current ruckus.
"Kids, finish your food. You're gonna be late," Mom stated, refilling the coffee of my dad. The aroma wafted up around the dining room.
"Shit!" Kuya Gabby exclaimed as he glanced at the clock.
"Gabriel! Language!" Mom frowned at him.
"Sorry!" He got up before sprinting upstairs, presumably rushing to get his things ready.
Kuya Matt just sighed at our brother, before getting up and heading towards the living room. His uniform neatly pressed as he slung his messenger bag across his shoulders.
I waited for my brothers to leave the dining room before I turned to my parents.
"So..." I let the word out hesitantly.
"What now?" Mom raised her brows at me.
"I was thinking, well, Dad said that I should get a sport." Dad looked up from his newspaper at that.
"Well..." I bit my lip before I rushed head on. "Can I try ice skating please?"
"Ice skating?" Mom raised her brow again, bemusedly looking at me. "You do know you need balance for that right? You can't even stand on roller blades."
"I know, I know." I flustered, feeling my cheeks heat up. "But I really want to try. You guys remember that I tried it a few weeks back? Well, the coach said that I'm a fast learner. And I can also balance a little, Mom." I couldn't help but pout slightly at the end.
My mom just laughed at me. Because, hey, who was I kidding? I'm the one in the family who often trips... without obstacles... on even floor.
"Honey, you tried tennis. Look where that got you?" Mom leaned her head on her hand while staring at me.
"Tennis... tennis isn't really my sport. I dunno..." I mumbled and averted my eyes, uncomfortable.
"And what if ice skating isn't really your sport either? What if you get tired of it too?"
"I..." I fidgeted as I didn't really know what to say. Who knows what would happen in the future. But for now, I did know that I wanted to try ice skating.
"Leia, let the kid try." Dad smiled, before taking a sip of coffee.
"Look, I'm just telling. The tennis racket we got you was expensive. And I know that ice skating is an expensive sport," Mom stated, looking at me intently. "Yes, we can afford that, but I don't want you wasting money on something halfheartedly."
My mom was the unofficial Budget Officer of the family. And what she said was true. While we could afford to buy things that we wanted, it didn't mean that we would waste money on something that we would get tired of quickly. I got her reasoning, and I knew that she's strict on these kinds of things to teach us how to manage money properly and let us become responsible adults in the future.
"I know. And I get it," I said, looking at my parents. "I thought about it too, but I really really want to try ice skating."
My parents looked at me for a moment.
"Ok." Mom sighed. "I'm not forcing you to like the sport, and I wouldn't hold it against you if ever you don't want to continue anymore sometime in the future. I just don't want you getting on something then quickly discarding it, alright? Before it comes to that, try it for a month or so."
"Yes, I understand." I smiled.
"Elana..." Dad started, he had a grave expression on his face.
"Are you sure..." Dad started, before letting out a side smirk. "You don't have a crush on that boy of yours?" He gestured at the camera.
"Ew! Dad! No!" I exclaimed, utterly disgusted.
I admit that I got way interested into ice skating because of the mushroom-haired boy, the Hama-boy, but it didn't mean that I had a crush on him!
He's way too young and I didn't have any interest at all in boys at my age, even with my classmates. I knew that other girls my age had crushes on others, but I don't know, I'm pretty weird at these kinds of things.
Besides, I would feel like a cradle-robber if I really did have a crush on him, which I reiterate, I did not.
Dad let out a full blown laugh as I dug my face on my arms at the table.
Bunso - Youngest child
Barkada - Group of friends
Pasalubong - Gifts bought abroad
Po / Opo - Respectful manner of agreeing, or just simply being respectful
Kuya - Older Brother; Usually used together with the name (i.e.: Kuya Gabriel, Kuya Matteo)
(Well, that's that. This chapter was basically an introduction of my character and her family.)
(I hope you guys liked this chapter. Please don't forget to leave a review, thank you!~)