Ruthless 01: The Troublemaker

Denise’s P.O.V.

From being a good girl, I never expected that I would turn this bad. Dahil sa takot kong ma-bully sa dati kong school ay sumali ako sa sorority club. From being the sweetest girl who was always the brightest star in the family, I became the meanest. I didn’t know that I would be a rebel, thus ruining my own life in the process.

Hindi ko na kilala ang sarili ko magmula niyon at sa murang edad ay kung ano-ano nang mga bisyo at gulo ang napasok ko. Most of the time, I cut my classes to have some fun in the clubs.

Minsan, kung hindi nagwawaldas ng pera sa pagbili ng mga branded na sapatos at kasuotan ay nakikipag-inuman naman sa bahay ng ka-frat. I must admit that I used to smoke cigarettes too but hell... nasa matinong pag-iisip pa rin naman ako and for that, I didn’t and would never take drugs!

I was able to watch my sorority sisters while making out with their partners inside our meeting den. Some even engaged with live sex, at hindi man lang sila nahihiyang gawin ‘yon sa harap namin. They always persuade me to do the same thing, but to no avail.

Kapag may nakikita akong ganoon, hindi ako nagsasalita at lumalabas na lang ako. It was gross... nakakadiri! Wala akong boyfriend at ayoko namang makipag-sex lang kung kani-kanino because I still valued myself. They used to tease me as ‘The Virgin’ but I didn’t care.

I even experienced an underground battle... kung saan ilang hibla rin ang nalagas sa buhok ko at ilang pasa rin ang aking natamo sa iba’t ibang parte ng katawan. The worst thing was when I was brought to the hospital, gawa nang naging fracture ko noon sa balikat. As a result, I was grounded and home schooled for three months. As in, bawal lumabas.

After that three months, nag-lie low muna ako bago bumalik sa dating gawi. Dahil nga literal akong napariwara at napabayaan ko ang pag-aaral ko, our eldest sister decided that I should transfer to other university to forget all my sorority memories. I didn’t have any other choice but to agree. After all, siya pa rin ang nagpapa-aral sa akin.

Tatlo kaming magkakapatid: si Ate Diane, si Kuya David at ako bilang bunso. Bunso na walang naidulot sa kanila kung hindi puro lang sakit ng ulo. May sakit na nga si Mama, dumagdag pa ako sa mga iisipin nila. Tatlong taon pa lang ako nang mamatay si Papa kung kaya’t halos hindi ko na naranasan ang magkaroon ng ama.

So here I was, transferring as a second-year college student at one of the most prestigious boarding schools in Le Sora. Aaminin ko na kahit naging rebelde ako ay medyo malapit pa rin naman ako sa pamilya ko. I realized that when I was grounded. When that happened, pakiramdam ko ay unti-unti nang bumabalik ang dating Denise.

Hindi naman nila ako palaging pinagagalitan o kaya’y sinisisi sa mga nangyari sa buhay ko. Nangako kasi akong magbabagong-buhay na at talagang gagawin ko ‘yon. Kaya’t ngayong unang beses kong mapapahiwalay sa kanila para tumayong muli sa sarili kong mga paa ay may nararamdaman din akong kaunting takot, pero iniisip ko na lang na para din naman ito sa ikabubuti ko.

“As much as I wanted you to become independent, nagpumilit si Michael na magta-transfer din daw siya rito para masamahan ka. Well, on my part... it was an advantage para kahit papaano ay may magbabantay sa’yo at may magre-report sa amin ng bawat kilos mo,” Ate Diane said when she parked the car.

Hindi ako sumagot at nagkibit-balikat lang. Then, I sighed. Kababata ko si Michael. I met him when I was only ten. He was the younger brother of Ate Karen, who happened to be Ate Diane’s best friend.

Hay, buong buhay ko na yata siyang makakasama! Was eight years not enough?

I rolled my eyes. It’s not that I didn’t want him in my life. He was actually my best friend. It’s just that... magmula nang sumali ako sa sorority club, I realized na marami pa pala akong makikilalang kaibigan higit sa kanya.

That way, lumaki ang circle of friends ko na dati ay akala kong okay na ako na siya lang ang palagi kong kasama. But the more we age, the more I realized that he was holding me tightly. Nasasakal ako sa pagkakaibigan namin.

Lumabas kami ng sasakyan ni Ate at pinasok ang entrance. We were asked by the guard regarding the purpose of our visit. Ate Diane said that I was a transferee so he advised us to head straight to the Dean’s Office. He also gave us the map of the university.

Masyadong malaki at malawak ang boarding school na ito based on the map. If I wasn’t mistaken, the number of buildings were ten and each were reaching up to twelfth floor levels.

Maybe that was the reason why this became one of the prestigious boarding schools here in Le Sora. Kulang na lang ay mag-drive ako para marating ang ibang buildings na sakop ng lugar. ‘Yon ang isa ko pang problema dahil tamad akong maglakad. Tingnan ko pa nga lang itong mapa ay tinatamad na ako agad!

“Huwag kang magpapasaway rito ha? I don’t want to drive again for three hours just because you did something wrong! Isa pa, busy rin ako sa trabaho...” sabi ni Ate.

Hindi pa rin ako sumagot.

Hindi nga niya ako pinagagalitan, pero alam kong disappointed pa rin siya sa’kin. What would I expect? She was a manager. She was still working even though her husband was already a multi-billionaire. All her life, she worked hard for us and I always looked up to her. Napariwara lang talaga ako.

But at least, I still have that one person na palaging nakakaintindi sa akin at si Kuya David ‘yon. But unfortunately, my brother was busy at work... or should I say... like me, he was also busy rebuilding his life again.

Ate Diane talked to the dean while I was being photographed for my identification card and other documents. Marami ring binigay sa aking dokumento na sa sobrang dami nga ay pinirmahan ko na lang at hindi ko na binasa pa. Binigyan din nila ako ng uniform when I told them that my size was medium, pero hindi ko na ‘yon binuksan at basta na lang nilagay sa backpack.

After that, hinatid kami ng dean gamit ang university e-bus na minamaneho ng company driver sa Women’s Dorm 1. It was the ninth building from the entrance. Gumamit kami ng elevator para puntahan ang magiging boarding room ko. Hiwalay naman ang boarding house ng mga lalaki at babae rito, which I guessed was a good thing.

Nang masiguro ni Ate Diane na okay na ako kasama ang tatlong babae sa kwarto ay agad din siyang nagpaalam sa akin. In fairness, malaki ang boarding room at mukhang kumpleto sa mga gamit.

May dalawang double-deck na kama na pinagigitnaan ng malaking sliding glass door na tingin ko ay terrace, may CR, L-shaped sofa, study table, air-conditioner, four wooden cabinets, two vanity mirrors, two-door refrigerator, kitchen sink and overhead cabinets, portable stove, four-seat dining table, microwave oven, book shelves at forty-eight inches LED TV. Tiles ang sahig at mukhang granite ang kitchen sink.

Now I understood why my stay here costed a Php 20,000-rent just for a month. Provincial rate pa iyon dahil kasama na ang tuition fees namin. Imagine, both Ate Diane and Kuya David would work their asses off to save a combined worth of Php 240,000 in a year para lang sa’kin? Dapat lang na hindi ko sila biguin, pero sana lang ay may Wi-Fi rin dito para makapag-subscribe ako sa Netfilms.

Because Wi-Fi is life!

Wala akong account sa Famebook pero aaminin kong marami akong followers sa Chinstagram. Mag-post lang ako ng story, wala pang isang minuto ay nasa one hundred views na agad.

“Hi, I’m Jacqueline... but you can call me Jacqui for short,” sabi no’ng isang kulot ‘yong buhok. Nakahiga ito sa ibabang higaan ng nasa kaliwang double-deck na kama at nagbabasa ng pocketbook.

“I’m Princess,” nakangiting kumaway naman ‘yong morenang babaeng may dimples. She looked like a Latina beauty and I envied her skin color. Nasa study table naman ito, nakaharap sa laptop at may kung anong pinapanood.

Hmm... baka Netfilms movie! It means, may Wi-Fi rito. Great! I will be able to continue my favorite zombie series.

“Margaux here,” sabi no’ng maputing may makeup. Nasa harapan ito ng nasa kanang vanity mirror at naglalagay ng kolorete sa mukha. Mukhang mataray, pero ngumiti naman siya sa akin. Halos magkasing-puti lang kami.

“Denise Camille. But you can just call me Denise,” nakangiti kong sabi sa kanila nang sinara ko ang pinto. I would prefer to be called Denise rather than Camille. The name Camille only brought me too many painful memories.

Sa apat na higaan ng dalawang double-deck ay ‘yong katapat ng nagpakilalang Jacqui ang wala pang mga gamit. Doon ako dumiretso at nilagay sa tabi niyon ang maletang hawak ko. Ipinatong ko rin doon ang bagpack at laptop bag na dala ko bago ako umupo sa kama. Wala namang kaso sa’kin kung saang kama ako hihiga.

“Alam mo, lahat tayo ay transferees sa room na ito except for Princess. Dito siya nag-high school hanggang tanggalin na nga ang curriculum na ‘yon last year. So tell us, bakit ka nag-transfer?” tanong ni Jacqui na pumunta sa sofa at iniwan lang ang binabasang pocketbook sa kama.

Princess closed her laptop as Margaux also finished her makeup. They both joined Jacqui in the sofa and sat there while waiting for my response.

Matagal bago ako nakasagot. Nahihiya kasi akong sabihin sa kanila ang totoo.

“Hmm... medyo napariwara kasi ako sa dati kong pinapasukang university eh.” I sighed before I continued, “Sumali ako sa sorority club, then natuto akong magbisyo at sumali sa mga gulo. But now, don’t worry... I’m starting to get back to my old self and I think, transferring to other university would be my first step to forget everything in the past,” nakangiti kong tugon. Lumapit ako sa kanila at umupo na rin sa sofa.

“Naku, okay lang ‘yan! Don’t be ashamed of it. You know what? We’re just on the same boat, Denise... and we certainly had to learn from our own mistakes. President pa nga ako ng sorority noon at leader sa gang fights!” Margaux said while patting my shoulder. Mabait naman pala siya at mukhang approachable.

“So, tayo na ang Four Cats?” nakangiting tanong ni Princess.

“Tama! Hindi na tayo Three Cats kaya group hug! Welcome to the club, Denise,” sagot naman ni Jacqui. Lahat sila ay lumapit sa akin at saka ako niyakap nang mahigpit.

“Ang cute naman ng name ng group natin!” sabi ko.

“Siyempre, cute din tayo eh! Meow,” tumatawang saad ni Margaux na sinabayan pa ng mga daliri nitong may mahahabang mga kuko.

A genuine smile formed on my lips. With my new batch of friends, I would definitely enjoy my stay here.

Sabay-sabay kaming pumunta sa cafeteria para kumain ng pananghalian. Our room was located at the eighth floor of Women’s Dorm 1. It was the ninth building from the entrance, while the main canteen was located at the second floor of the Medicine Building, which was fifth from the entrance.

Every building here had a cafeteria located on its second floor level but since today’s a Saturday, only the main canteen was open. Malayo ang nilakad namin, but with these girls around, hindi ako tinamad. Daldalan ba naman kami nang daldalan!

“I’ll treat you, guys, next week... kapag binigay na ni Ate ang allowance ko,” sabi ko sa kanila. My allowance for this week was just enough and I wanted to save some for my other needs.

“Ay! Bet ko ‘yan, girl!” Margaux responded. I guessed, I had a new friend here na mahilig sa libre.

Hindi nagtagal ay nakarating na rin kami sa main canteen. Napahanga ako sa sobrang laki nito. ‘Yong canteen lang kasi ang sumakop sa buong second floor - parang food court sa mall na may iba’t iba ring food stalls. Ang dami pang pagpipiliang pagkain kahit Sabado.

“Ganito rin ba kalaki ‘yong ibang canteens?” bulong ko kay Princess habang nasa pila kami.

“Hindi, kalahati lang nito. The other half was clinic,” sagot niya. Kahit simple lang ‘yong pagsasalita niya ay hindi maiwasang lumabas ng dalawang malalalim niyang dimples.

Luminga-linga ako sa paligid. Hindi naman puno ‘yong canteen pero marami pa rin ang mga kumakain. Siguro kasi ay nagluluto na lang ‘yong iba sa kanya-kanya nilang mga kuwarto o ‘di kaya’y kumakain sa labas.

Nasa isang mesa na kami at habang kumakain ay napagkuwentuhan namin na may kuya ako. Pinakita ko pa nga sa kanila ang picture naming tatlong magkakapatid na nasa wallet ko. It was already personal, pero mabilis talaga akong magtiwala.

“Uy, Denise. In fairness, ang gwapo ni Kuya ha! Single pa ba ‘yan? Baka naman pwede mo akong ipakilala!” kinikilig na sabi ni Jacqui na katapat ko sa mesa. Si Princess naman ang katabi ko na katapat naman ni Margaux.

“Naku, hindi pwede! Masasaktan ka lang dahil hindi ka papansinin niyan, Jacqui. Hanggang ngayon kasi eh in love pa rin ‘yang kuya ko sa iisang babae!” Truth to be told, in love pa rin talaga si Kuya sa naging classmate niya noong high school kahit ilang beses na siyang sinaktan nito.

When I was young, I was so nosy when it comes to my brother’s lovelife. But when I had my first heartbreak, I hated it when Michael was prying about it!

“Hay, mukhang loyal si Kuya ha! Nakaka-turn on tuloy lalo, sayang naman! Teka, baka naman may isa ka pang kuya? Hahaha!” giit ni Jacqui.

“Hmm... baka pwede si Kuya RK. ‘Yong pinsan namin, kaso wala akong picture niyon dito eh. Nasa ibang bansa kasi ‘yon,” sagot ko.

“Ay, may lahi bang foreigner? Pwede na ‘yon basta gwapo!” tili nito na nag-ayos pa ng buhok.

“Uy, Jacqui. Maghunos-dili ka nga, ang landi mo!” buwelta ni Margaux.

Nagtatawanan kaming apat nang may malamig akong naramdaman sa kanang bahagi ng katawan ko.

“Oh my God!” bulalas ko.

Hindi ko alam kung sinasadya bang matapunan ako sa balikat ng coffee shake ng isang lalaki. Agad kong pinagpag ang manggas ng damit ko ngunit nagmantsa na iyon bago ako tumingin sa mga kasama ko at sa lalaking gumawa niyon. Nagulat din sila Jacqui, Princess at Margaux sa tagpong ‘yon.

And what the heck?

Tiningnan lang niya ako na parang wala lang ‘yong nangyari at hindi man lang siya nag-sorry? I knew I should bring back the old Denise who used to be kind and understanding, but having situations like this? I guessed, it was too impossible to happen.

Dire-diretso lang niya akong nilagpasan, kasabay no’ng dalawa pa niyang kasamang lalaki nang hindi ko na napigilan pa ‘yong sarili ko. Pakiramdam ko ay sobrang namumula na ako dahil umakyat lahat ng dugo ko sa ulo.

Wala akong pakialam kung mag-eskandalo pa ako rito o kung hinahabol na naman ako ng gulo. Public fights were nothing compared to underground battles.

But now, this is war!

Tumayo ako at biglang sumigaw, “Hey, you! The guy wearing a black leather jacket... ‘yong nasa gitna!”

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