“GAY.” May laid down the word she formed on the Scrabble board. “Double word.”
Rachel just grinned from ear to ear as she recorded the new score her friend got. She then removed a tile with a letter on a word she had formed on her rack. She looked at the faces of their other friends as they concentrated on the next turn.
It was a fine Saturday afternoon and they are currently hanging out in the large garden of their friend Jereth’s house. It was National Heroes Day so almost all of them didn’t have to go to their respective jobs and just thought of spending time at their friend’s house.
She and her friends May, Rushell, and Frances were trying to outdo each other in Scrabble; rather, trying to out-trick each other. She knows they are all smart, but she’s clever. She smiled secretly. When does a cheater lose? Isn’t that why political crocodiles are sitting in government today?
“Gays,” she said as she laid her single letter on the board. “Triple double words. Hey, I won. My goodness, I didn’t expect this. Ha-ha!”
She was no longer surprised when her friends complained.
“You cheated, Rachel. That’s only a double word.”
“It can only be read vertically so you should have only one score.”
“And you shouldn’t repeat the score that Jack-Jack got earlier since it was already hers.”
Of course, is she going to let herself be defeated? She wouldn’t be a cum laude when they graduated from college if she couldn’t justify all the things she knew were right. The case is, her opponents were also cum laude so what happened seems to be a reenactment of Clash of the Titans… in the middle of the Scrabble board. Noise filled the entire rooftop. No one wants to be defeated. Especially her. Their other friends even approached their table.
“I’ll be the scorer,” Leilani volunteered.
“I’ll be the watcher,” Jereth said.
“Then I’ll be the muse.” Cherry’s words earned ridicule from her friends. “Of course, you should have an inspiration for this competition, right? And my beauty can inspire anyone…” Then she one by one pointed them despite the sour expression on their faces. “Especially you, oh-my-most-exasperating friends. Don’t even try to say anything, okay?”
“Excuse me, hija, I think you’re just hungry.” She picked up three pieces of the snack that she had been munching since earlier. “Better yet, you should eat first, girl, before you even appear in front of us.”
Her friend just gave her a smirk. Her friend was also about to pick up some snacks when she took them away. Cherry slapped her on the shoulder so she was forced to share her blessings with her.
“I’m not going to join,” Jackielyn said, whom they preferred to call “Jacke” or “Jack” or “Jack-Jack” or whatever. “After all, it looks like the game is just for loveless people today.”
“Wow. Meaningful words from someone who’s also loveless.”
“At least, I’m entertaining suitors.”
“Suitors who have no chances to become your boyfriend from the beginning because you have no intention of answering any one of them even in their dreams.”
Their friend just smiled. “At least, I have suitors.”
“So arrogant,” she said. “Just go home.”
“You’ll lose someone cute here if I go home.”
Each one of them has their own innuendo after what their friend said. At one point, every person in this group of friends has really thick skins.
“It’s a good thing Jade isn’t here,” Rushell said as she shook the plastic cup containing the tile block letters. “If not, you will all lose.”
“What do you mean ‘you’? You’re also included, Rushell.”
Among all of them, Jade is really the one who excelled academically when they were still in school. She knows a lot because she loves research studies and other literary works. As for them, they will only study when there is an exam or their professors asked them to do it. It’s not that they didn’t take their studies seriously. They wouldn’t achieve honors academically if they didn’t take their studies seriously. However, they prefer to take things slowly with regards to everything related to their study. Learn as you play is their motto. Jade was different, though. If they hadn’t been friends with her, she might have been a nerd.
They’ve started playing again. Yet their stories and jokes were still not ongoing. Such moments are what they love the most so all of them make sure to get together once they don’t have any important things to do. They were college friends who made it a point to be together once in a while. Thanks to modern technology such as the telephone, cell phone, and the Internet. Even though their jobs are different, their communication with each other is still not severed.
“By the way, Frances,” May said to their friend beside her. “We heard that you’re moving.”
“How did you find out?”
“Jade,” they answered simultaneously. That friend of theirs plunged into the chaotic world of news and public affairs. She is already a photojournalist so it is not surprising that she knows almost everything.
“Yes,” Frances answered. “I have already chosen a house that we will move to. In Rancho Estate Village. There was no formal deal that was going on yet but I knew that house would be mine soon.” Their friend even looked up at the sky as if dreaming.
Because of that, they then had a chance to peek at the letters on her rack. She and her other friends secretly smiled at each other. One down.
“Rancho Estate?” Cherry suddenly said. “That sounds familiar.”
“Of course. Since that village is the most prominent in the whole Marikina(City). Moreover, I only want the best for myself. One of these days, my friends, I will also be one of the prominent residents there.”
“Does the owner of that village even know that you’re from a Mental Asylum, Frances?” she asked her friend. “I guess they don’t. That’s why they’ve let you step foot in their village.”
“You’re just jealous that you don’t have a nice house, Rachel.”
“What do you mean I don’t? What is my palace doing in Sta. Mesa?” (Another city)
“Which one, Anito Inn?” (Famous love motel)
“Nope.” She looked at the words she formed with her tiles. “Beside that one.”
Their friends just laughed. It’s because Frances kept mentioning names of different motels.
“How the hell do you know those motels? You, Francesca Anne Dumapidez, hmm? I guess you’ve been to those places. Who are you with? You better admit it now!”
“Don’t be stupid. How could I not know that when our former school was just near there? Don’t you remember? Our beloved PUP?” Her friend smirked. “You’re all getting senile due to old age.”
“Excuse me. You’re the oldest here.”
“It’s not obvious in the face, girl.”
“You’re turning twenty-eight, mama mia.”
“I’m still young.”
“And you still don’t have any boyfriend.”
“And you have?”
“I am young.”
“You’re also turning twenty-eight six months from now, for your information.”
“You’re still older than me, Frances,” she said then gulped the orange juice in her hand.
“Do you even know that you’re arrogant Rachel?”
“Since when have I been humble, Rushell?” She smirked.
“Haa, let’s see.” Rushell had already laid on the board the word formed from her tile blocks. “Zany. Triple letter Z, double word.”
She immediately dropped her own letters on the board. “Crazed. Triple letter D, triple word.”
“Wait, can past tense be used in Scrabble?” Cherry asked. “It should only be present tense.”
“Why?” Her eyes widened as she turned to her friends who were starting to protest. “Do you guys have proofs?”
“You’re a cheater, Rachel!” May shouted.
“Hah! I know. Either way, I win.”
She continued counting her score amidst protests from her friends. Their relentless rivalry of intellect ensued. Cheating included. But everyone became even happier when Jade arrived and they were finally completed. It was because she was suddenly given a one-day suspension by her employer in the News Herald for unknown reasons.
“He could just be fed-up with your face, Jade,” she said. Jade grimaced. Then she lifted Jereth’s glass of iced tea. “Tea?”
They took sides one by one and the deception intensified. It not only became a simple rivalry of intellect but also of strategy.
“Girls, I just thought,” Rushell said a while later. “Why are you all still without any boyfriends?”
“Don’t ask me,” Jacke retorted. “At least, I go on dates.”
“Oh, come on, Jacke,” Leilani said. “Dates are not counted. Rushell means steady boyfriend. And you obviously don’t have that.”
“At least, she goes on dates,” she repeated what Jacke said earlier.
“Rachel,” Jade turned to her. “You’re joking again even though you’re not a clown. Why don’t you try to wear a costume first?”
“You do it first. I’m just someone who follows after those older than me.”
“My goodness, Rachel,” Jereth said. “Every time you join the conversation it always goes another direction. How about you then, hija, do you even have any dates you can be proud of?”
“Why, do you guys even have?”
“Back then, at least, we somehow liked someone we associated with,” May answered. “But you, even when we were in college, you didn’t even have anyone you lusted over. Are you even normal?”
“What do you think?” she asked back, at the same time thrusting a few pieces of snacks into her mouth.
“You asked the wrong question, May,” Jade interjected. “The correct question to that one should be, ‘Rachel, are you human?’”
She faced her friend and said. “What do you think?”
“I really think you’re not. Because normal people, somehow have someone they called handsome and cute guys. However, you, your only description of Adam’s race was ‘I’m more handsome than that.’ What exactly is your gender, huh?”
Her friends started observing her, doubting. She just continued munching on her food. “Sometimes, a woman,” she answered. “Sometimes, a man.”
“Asexual!” her friends declared.
“You’re not human!”
“You’re a reptile!”
She just smiled at her friends and nodded. “Why, thank you.”
“Be afraid of the cross!”
He just tapped Leilani on the forehead. “Just for the peace of everyone’s souls, I do not like any man because there’s only one Adam that I want,” she declared.
Silence immediately enveloped their surroundings. Everyone’s eyes were fixed on her as if they could not believe what they had just heard. Maybe because it was the first time she mentioned anything about the opposite sex without insulting the same person.
“Look at these people,” she said. “If you don’t talk about men, they will say you are not human. When you speak, the reaction is just the same.”
Then she eventually picked up the plate containing the snacks and placed it on her thighs. It’s much better to revel with food. No one asks, doubts, or complains, they even have benefits for her stomach.
“Is it true, Rachel?” Jereth asked for confirmation. “You’ve also been a human, once upon a time?”
“Not just a simple human,” she said, riding her friend’s joke. “But an extremely beautiful human.”
“Oh my, it’s gone. Let’s go home,” Jacke said. “We’re back to monkey business again.”
“Everything that I said was true,” she boldly said.
“That you’re an extremely beautiful human before?”
“Just be thankful that I didn’t say that I’m an extremely beautiful WOMAN.”
“Oh, my goodness!” Frances exclaimed. “Who the heck is that guy? I have to write about this.”
Frances, being a romance novelist, was always making sure she was writing everything about their friends’ whereabouts. They had been the subject of her stories since she realized they had unique personalities.
“Come on, Rachel,” urged Cherry. “Who’s he? When did you meet him? And why didn’t you introduce him to us?”
“Because I still haven’t seen him again since we graduated from high school.”
“You were high school sweethearts?”
She frowningly turned to May. “Why does it feel like you can’t believe it? Excuse me. This beauty was a heartthrob when we were still in high school. ”
To her annoyance, her friends just laughed at her.
“What, is that a joke?”
“You, Rachel? You agreed to be mobbed when you were in high school? ”
“Wait a minute, so that means we still haven’t existed at that time.”
“The correct term is, I don’t think the man referred to by this witch friend of ours really exists.”
“Hey. You guys shouldn’t be like that to Rachel! Hey, Rachel, are you joking with us?”
She just gave Jacke a sarcastic grin. “You don’t have any originality, Jackielyn Abiga. I’ve already used that line.”
“Oops, apologies for the cutie.”
She noticed that her friends were still watching her intently. They seemed to be waiting for something to be heard from her. And she knew what it was. They were waiting for her to confirm she was just really joking about what she said a while ago.
“His name’s Melvin Osias,” she declared without hesitation. “And whether you like it or not, he exists.”
“Where is he then?”
“Somewhere out there.”
“Do you love him?”
She thought for a moment. She filled her mind with the memory of him—his smile, his laughter, his scent, his voice, his eyes, his handsome face, his cute little butt.
His taste. His lips. His kiss…
“Rachel’s blushing!” May shrieked. “You’re fantasizing about that Melvin guy in the middle of the day in front of us? Yuck!” Then her expression suddenly changed. “What ‘position’?”
“Mariameia Celiz!” she uttered. “My brain feels scandalized by you! To think that you’re the most conservative among us.”
“Care,” May said casually. “So, what ‘position’ did you remember?”
She carefully lifted the plate that was on her thighs, then changed place, away from her friend who was a simple pervert.
“Rachel, you can’t run away from us today.” Frances even pulled her by the arm so she wouldn’t get too far away. “Sit here and tell us about your nonexistent Melvin.”
“He exists,” she insisted. And as time goes on, she seems to want to forget that she is enjoying the claimed snack because she is beginning to plan to shower them to her annoying friends. “In fact, the moment I see Melvin again, I will immediately ask him to marry me.”
Her friends each had an assertion again.
“I believe you won’t do that.”
“Right. You’ll definitely be scared, Rachel.”
She annoyedly faced her friends. “It’s not a joke. I’ll definitely do it. And I’m not scared. If you want, we can even place a bet.”
They were quiet for a moment and looked at each other. She would have given them a triumphant smile had they not taken out their wallets. They then dropped a hundred pesos each on the Scrabble board. They had completely forgotten about their previous game.
“I bet Rachel’s in love with him still,” Jade betted.
Then her other friends also start to bet. These witches! They’re actually going to gamble on anything, as well as her love life.
“I bet she was just blabbering.”
“I bet Rachel will not do what she had said earlier.”
“I bet she’ll do it.”
“I bet Melvin doesn’t exist.”
“I bet he exists.”
“I bet what you’re betting, Cherry.”
“I bet…” Leilani turned to her. “What am I going to bet?”
“Hah, don’t include me with your guys’ craziness.”
“Okay!” her friends shouted at the same time. “Betting’s close!”