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Chapter 3

  • Since he just finished reading “The Big Sleep” by Raymond Chandler last night, Jacob is staring at his stash of new books to read, trying to decide what to read. Flipping through the three new books on his hands, Alexandra’s angelic face flashed in his mind’s eye. In those few seconds that she looked up to him this evening, he felt as if she was trying to look right through him. Like she was trying to find something in his eyes but was not able to.
  • Although being on a joking term with her is somewhat far from impossible, Jacob thinks it must be nice to at least be on smiling terms with her. Those kinds that when you see each other on the road, and instead of frown, she’ll greet you with a smile. That doesn’t sound so bad either. Such a fine thought, but he doesn’t want to bother himself too much. The bet? He couldn’t really care less about that. The girl seems to have her nose high in the air, and can just cut you dead when she’s displeased. He just doesn’t think that he’ll be willing to go through that humiliation if he ever tries to approach her.
  • Shaking his head for getting distracted, he finally picked “The Aquitaine Progression” by Rober Ludlum, tucked himself to bed, and read, till he fell asleep.
  • ***
  • Sunday afternoon, Jacob woke up from his nap hungrily, he decided to go to the neighborhood grocery store, which has a food court inside. As he is munching on his sisig on a sizzling plate with two cups of rice, and two cans of soda pop, his gaze suddenly routed in the direction of the entrance of the food court. There he saw a familiar woman with angelic facial features wearing a floral Sunday dress, carrying lots of small and big plastic bags, entered the food court. It’s Alexandra, Ate Esther’s cousin. After looking upon the rows of tables and chairs, the woman decided to sit on the corner which was four tables apart from his right. She put the plastic bags with groceries to the chair beside her to save the seat and proceeded to the counter to order food.
  • When she came back, Jacob saw her smiling while looking at the tray she was holding. On the tray are a sisig on a sizzling plate, one cup of rice, and a soda pop. A slight chuckle escaped from his lips, as he found it amusing that they both ordered basically the same thing. It’s just that he ordered doubles of all those things.
  • Jacob continued eating while sneaking stares from Alexandra, here and there. She still doesn’t seem to notice him there as it looks like she has her own world. She seemed to be really enjoying her food, like those people who were finally able to eat the food they’ve been craving for a long time. The woman barely even glances at her surroundings while eating.
  • He finished eating few moments before her. However, since he decided to leave after her, he stayed sitting at his table, pretending to be flipping through his phone while still sneaking stares at her. Finally, she finished eating. She stood up and collected her plastic bags with groceries. After she turned her back, he also stood his way up, as it was his signal to leave as well, when suddenly, two of the plastic bags that the woman upfront was carrying burst, and spread out her groceries. Fortunately, they’re not food, but mostly detergent soap, bleach, and toiletries. From this moment on, he doesn’t care anymore whether she notices him, and who he is, and scornfully looks at him. She needed someone to help her, so he went forward and approached her.
  • “Are you Ok? Let me help you”, he told her while picking up the scattered groceries.
  • “Ah yes, thank you!”, she replied nicely, while looking down on him.
  • “Ah! These plastics are so fragile”, he commented as he looks up at her while kneeling.
  • He saw her dumbfounded face the moment he raised his head. Apparently, she changed her expression, smiled hastily, and look on the left corner of her eyes, while clipping her hair on the right side of her ears.
  • “Ah yes, I think so.”
  • “Don’t think these can carry heavy stuff. We need an eco bag. Give me a second, I’ll get you one”, he continued and hurriedly went to the counter and bought two eco bags from the bagger man.
  • He caught her rearranging the rest of the scattered groceries and the stuffed plastics that are still intact. After presenting her the two eco-bags, he rearranged them all and packed the items accordingly, and carried them all for her.
  • “Oh no! It’s OK. You don’t have to carry them, please. You’ve done a lot for helping me. Thank you!”, Alexandra tried to demur.
  • “Please, I insist. It’s so heavy, our place is near anyway.”
  • “But I will feel bad not having to carry anything…”
  • He then pulled up one plastic of lotion, facial wash, and soaps; looks like the stuff she mainly uses and gave it to her.
  • “Ok, here. You can bring this.”
  • She reached for the plastic bag and clipped her hair on her ears.
  • “Just so you know, I don’t live in Ate Esther’s house. We live six blocks away from her and its father from here”, Alexandra continued as they started to walk together out of the food court.
  • “Much better!”, he jokingly said.
  • He regretted his flirty remarks for a while after he forgot that she might not take that nicely. Well, based on what transpired yesterday, who could’ve blamed him? Until he saw her break into a smile. Although she tried to hide it by looking down slightly, it was too late as he already saw it.
  • The faint expression Alexandra did just gave him the confidence and courage to get to know her. He got a bit excited about his own thoughts. He found himself smiling like a Cheshire cat, and thought of starting a conversation before she even sees him as a complete idiot. He tried to fake a cough to disrupt the awkwardness.
  • “So, do you always go to Ate Esther’s?”, he asked trying to hide his awkwardness.
  • “Ah, yes! I go there mostly after school, and during weekends, if I’m not doing anything, or if Ate Esther’s needs me to look for my cousins. You? How long has it been since you moved there?”.
  • “We just moved two months ago, me and my friend Kevin. So you’re still studying? What course are you taking?”.
  • “Yep, I’m on my fourth year in Accountancy.”
  • “Wow! Debit, credit? That’s so hard. I never understood that during my Accounting 101 way back in college.” he replied in his attempt to avoid having a monotonous question and answer portion.
  • She chuckled before answering, “No, not really. That’s just the basics of Accounting. This field is so much more than that.”
  • This is nice! She’s smiling and is very gentle. He has to keep her engaging in a conversation. Should he up his game? No, she might get overwhelmed and run away again. Jacob debated in his thought. Geez! He’s walking on eggshells!
  • Fortunately, she seemed to feel at ease as they exchange conversations after conversations. She’s now on the phase where she smiles every time she responded to him. This made him feel a bit closer than he feels as though they’ve gotten closer, compared to how they were a few minutes ago, much more since a day ago.
  • ***
  • Alexandra’s tired after buying their groceries and decided to eat at the food court, as she still hasn’t had lunch. After scanning the tables, she chose to sit at the corner so won’t get disturbed. She put all her grocery bags on the chairs and headed to the counter. In the food court are different stores to choose from, but she decided to buy from this restaurant that serves all their dishes on a sizzling plate. Sisig is their best seller as this dish really tastes different when put on a sizzling plate. She bought one order of sisig, one cup of rice and a coke.
  • Fully satisfied with her late lunch, Alexandra plans to continue reading the romance novel she’s reading at home, which has occupied her mind from when she left. As she stood up to leave, distressing as it can be, some of the bags that carry the heaviest items burst and scattered all the groceries on the floor. Aside from the fact that she felt embarrassed after hearing the other diners expressed their shock at her situation, all eyes are on her. Let’s not forget the fact that it’s also a hassle.
  • “Ugh!”, Alexandra annoyingly sighed.
  • As she was about to bend down and pick up her groceries, a man from her back hurriedly went to pick up the stuff for her. She doesn’t know who he is yet, but he’s talking to her right away.
  • Are you Ok? Let me help you”, he told her while picking up the scattered groceries.
  • “Ah yes, thank you!”, she replied nicely, while looking down on him.
  • “Ah! These plastics are so fragile”, he commented as he looks up at her while kneeling.
  • At that moment, Alexandra saw who the guy was. She felt her ears and cheeks burned. Unconsciously, she turned to look away to hide her flush.
  • “Ah yes, I think so.”
  • “Don’t think these can carry heavy stuff. We need an eco bag. Give me a second, I’ll get you one”, he continued and hurriedly went to the counter where the bagger men are.
  • “This guy has a habit of leaving when he wants to huh?” She thought to herself, as he didn’t even wait for her to respond and just went there right away. It’s the same thing as what he did yesterday with his roommate. Nevertheless, she appreciated his gesture and thought that he may also be a gentleman.
  • She rearranges the groceries which Jacob gathered and decided to pack them in some of the bags. Jacob arrived with two pieces of eco-bags. He took the liberty to snatch the bags from her and put them all in the eco-bags.
  • Even though she thinks it’s convenient and safe, Alexandra thought that carrying all the items at once would be so heavy for her to bring, compared to when the items are put in different bags. Between a rock and a hard place, she just decided that she will just ride a tricycle on her way home. That is her plan until she saw him carried the bags! There is no way, she’ll let him carry the bags. He already helped her with the scattered groceries, and now this. She felt it’s going to be too much trouble for him, and she doesn’t want to cause trouble for anyone.
  • She tried to decline the offer while trying to reach for the bags to take them from him. Apparently, Jacob dodged her hands before she even reached his shoulders.
  • “Please, I insist. It’s so heavy, our place is near anyway.” Jacob looked at her gently as if he was begging in a friendly way.
  • For a couple of seconds, she felt drawn into him as he was looking at her with those eyes. Alexandra felt her ears and cheeks are about to get burned again, so she tried to brush off her thoughts and look down.
  • Over and above her hesitation, she felt uncomfortable know someone is going through all the troubles for her.
  • “But I will feel bad not having to carry anything…”, she defeatedly replied.
  • Alexandra thought that Jacob must really be a very sensitive and nice guy. To stop her from worrying, he handed her a plastic bag, so she won’t feel as much of a burden. She read his gesture and thought that it’s very thoughtful of him to think.
  • With that, she happily accepted the plastic bag and left the food court with him. While walking on their way outside the grocery store, she let her thoughts wandered. It just stuck to her that Jacob might be thinking she lives with Ate Esther. He could be thinking that it’s on his way.
  • “Just so you know, I don’t live in Ate Esther’s house. We live six blocks away from her and it’s father from here”, Alexandra’s still trying to dissuade him.
  • “Much better!”
  • She was not looking at him, but he sounded so confident, which prompted her to look at him. There, Alexandra saw him blanked face while looking straight ahead. Thinking it how the situation seems awkward, she felt kind of happy. Oh my gosh! What is this? Is he flirting with me? Inside her head, she let out a ticklishly giddy that only she could hear.
  • They were conversing nicely while walking and passed by an ice cream vendor almost outside of the park. Alexandra thought of buying him one in return for helping her carry her baggage. However, she was just reminded that the grocery could still be heavy, so she decided against the idea when Jacob suddenly pointed at the ice cream vendor.
  • “Hey! Let’s buy some ice cream.” Jacob excitedly told her while pointing at the vendor.
  • Again, he didn’t let her answer. Jacob walked to the ice cream vendor, which she happily followed.
  • He ordered chocolate ice cream on a waffle cone, while she ordered her usual vanilla, on a waffle cone too.
  • Jacob pointed to the park, and ask her if she wants to go inside to sit so they could focus on eating.
  • “Do you want to go to the park, let’s sit on a bench somewhere nearby, so we could focus on eating? Hehe!” Jacob encouraged her, to which she agreed after flashing a wide smile.
  • Jacob led her to the park and decided to sit on a bench near the entrance and continued talking just about anything.