The first time I laid eyes on Mace was during Christmas break of December 1994. She, along with her friend, were introduced to all of us as the new members of both the choir and youth committee.
Their membership sparked a lot of interest, mainly because of her friend, Frances who, I have to say, was beautiful. With wavy hair, naturally-arched eyebrows, sparkling eyes, sculpted nose and pinkish lips that curved into a dazzling smile of white pearls, it was understandable why many of the guys fell for her.
Mace, on the other hand, didn't have any of those flattering features.
Fair in complexion, the best description I could give her was she looked pretty average. If you'd see all the girls in our group standing in line, she would probably be the last you'd notice. Or if you do notice her, it's likely you'd dismiss her for a tomboy.
Mace was petite, just enough to reach 5 feet, with shoulder length black hair that never stayed in place because it had a life of its own. She walked with a natural attractive sway to her hips but such asset was often concealed by the baggy clothes she wore. While most of the girls her age started wearing fitting blouses, she was still donning T-shirts and hip-hop jeans that hid her hour glass figure. She never wore makeup and was never even attracted at the thought of smearing all that goop on her face even when her friends already started wearing it.
To be honest, I simply dismissed Mace as a "plain jane" and wholeheartedly agree with the rest of the guys who found Frances to be gorgeous. But then, as the months went by, I had the chance to get to know her better, especially when we ended up in the same group during our Youth Day festivities.
During such time, I found out that her personality was completely opposite the average look she sports to the world. It was refreshing to talk to someone who carried any conversation topic with ease, and more importantly, sense. Being around her was anything but dull.
But what really fascinated me was the child-like air about her. Despite being doomed to wear eyeglasses for a lifetime, Mace looked younger than all her friends. Even younger than me who is supposed to be 2 years her senior. She had the most awesome ideas one could think of when it comes to gifts, surprises, dramas and group presentations. She dances better than anyone I know and although her voice is nothing spectacular, she can sing along to just about any song playing on the radio with the right lyrics.
And it was one summer day of 1995 when we volunteered to help out with the Presidential elections in our neighborhood that it happened. She was sitting with eyes closed at the front seat of the parked pick-up truck of our friend, having her afternoon break and I was able to grab a chance to sit at the driver seat for a much-needed rest.
Our friends seated at the back were teasing us, mainly because we were the ones seated at the front. I laughed it off at first but when the teasing persisted, I decided to play along with them thinking this tactic would make them stop their noise and leave us to rest in peace. Impulsively, I reached for her hand and twined my fingers with hers.
Mace's eyes flew open at the movement and she looked down in surprise at our hands. Then she threw me a quizzical look. I pointed at the people at the back and whispered, "Just play along." She glanced at the people in the rearview mirror and smiled mischievously. She laced her fingers with mine more firmly and sat back against her seat and closed her eyes. Our hands were entwined quite snugly for all people to gawk and see.
And I felt like I've just found the pair of fingers that fit mine perfectly.
So right in fact that I didn't want to take my hand away. And that's exactly what I did. I remember wondering why she didn't take her hand away either but didn't dare ask. I sat back against the driver's seat and closed my eyes, just happy and content at the sensation of having her hand in mine. For the 30 minutes break that we had, our fingers stayed snugly entwined. Even when our friends had stopped the teasing, even when they got down from the pick-up truck because break was over.
I didn't want the moment to end but knew it was time to get back to work. I turned to her and saw that she was awake and looking at me intently. Her face was soft, her smile serene and it took a second for me to realize that she wasn't wearing her eyeglasses. I noticed for the first time that her eyes were light brown. Suddenly, my heart started beating an erratic tempo.
Mace gently took her hand away.
"That was some show we gave them huh?" she said with an amused laugh. Then smiling brightly, she jumped down and started walking back towards her assigned area.
All this time, I never said a word. I couldn't.
I was just staring at her, trying to control the still erratic tempo of my beating heart.
She smiled as bright as the sun.
She laughed like a million tingling bells.
She could drown me with those brown eyes.
And I never looked at her the same way again.