“I didn’t know you did something creative!”

Something I have been dabbling with… for about 8 years now :p

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He could still recall the time when the walk towards his college building was, for lack of a brilliant streak in the witty term coinage, a pain in the arse. How he almost despised always having to be compelled to get up every five in the morning and wait the long line for the shower, only to find out the chillingly hard way that the water heater had broken a regulator. Such pathetic exercise was just a start. Francis never liked crisp bacon, but the dorm mistress always insisted on serving this on account of it being healthier, with all its cholesterol melted out and all. Why couldn’t she just serve greased cucumbers or something? At least it didn’t leave tiny bacon bits and oil on your fingers.Â

A litany, that’s what he used to have in the mornings, and it was usually composed of a series of dirges about the regular morning migraine, the foot traffic along the busy catwalk on the way to the annex, the heat, his dilapidated shoes, etc etc etc. Upon emerging from his building, he would normally see his fiancée, Rachel, waving at him from her dorm building. That would be the first passably pleasant sight his eyes would gaze at, before she had to meld in with the teeming crowd of squealing, semi-mature (or so they said) denizens of the university’s prissy population.Â

Something was awfully wrong about this morning, Francis began mind-mumbling as he passed by the infamous Mi-Lard convenience store – the only such allowed within university premises – which he swore specialized in high-fat foods and snacks (hence the name?). No, his so-called gut feeling didn’t particularly link with the store, but then, it never did whenever he thought like this, which was practically every day. In fact, he seldom thought of anything even remotely ‘good’. Though he tried to hide it, Francis Tracer was a cynic and a chronic self-hater – and those were his good points. His fiancée, Rachel, was a veritable ray of light and salt of the earth. Pretty, cheerful, hospitable, kind, patient, and the best listener this side of Gaia, Rachel could cause a group of astronomers who, after waiting five years for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to observe a supernova within three light-years and then seeing them all squashed like a squad of squirming squeegee by wrongfully forecasted thunderstorms, to turn into a There’s-Always-The-Next-Supernova-To-Watch-Out-For (a.k.a. We-Forgive-The-Weatherman) party with her presence and almost mystically charged words of encouragement. If Francis didn’t know better, he’d think he was affianced to the goddess of feel-goodness.Â

Of course, that was ridiculous. She was simply what the doctor ordered for Francis ‘Mr. God-Hates-Me’ Tracer. You see, this guy was quite fond of bad-mouthing himself as though he deserved it. Francis, due to an aforementioned crippling lack of self-esteem, considered himself to be at the bottom rung of the top 1% ugliest males on the face of the known planet. This was, in all practicality, contrary to the truth. He wasn’t exactly ignorant to all those girls who at the very least gave him a double-take whenever he passed by. By all respects, he could actually become a campus heartthrob if he wanted to, so said his friends. All he needed was to be more conscious with the clothes he wore everyday. Nothing of the t-shirts, torn denim jeans and canvass shoes he seemed to be so fond of. But Francis would never hear of these things, or the stories of that junior high hottie – Anna – who reportedly followed him to his dorm room one night after an impromptu introduction at a nearby pasta place. The why? They could only speculate. Francis must have undergone something superlatively traumatic as a kid to consider himself as the world record holder Mr. Hideous Toad. Needless to say, Rachel disagreed, every time vehemently, while still managing to shine through with her trademark feel-good smile.Â

No one in his outer circle knew about his ‘The Overlord of Misanthropism’ attitude; Francis didn’t dare tell his classmates for fear that his already pathetic and socially malnourished existence would look even more like a baby stricken with Beriberi.  He had what one could say tons of friends, but none did he maintain closer than what he had with Rachel, and one other person. He went out with the guys occasionally, sure. He lunched with his project peers and even went sightseeing in Balamb with fellow members of Thrill-Seekers Inc – a school club that endeavored to promote extremism in outdoor activities. But Francis never did grow intimate with any one of his peers and colleagues. He either didn’t want to or didn’t know how. He used to have several friends that could be categorized as intimate, but they all lived in Esthar now. Rachel had always believed that being left behind in Deling City while his friends achieved skyrocketing scholastic accomplishments in Esthar had something to do with her fiancé’s confidence crisis. She’d always tell him that he shouldn’t worry too much about this, that he was among the smartest people she ever knew and the only reason his friends made it and he didn’t was they were more interested.Â

That, and something more that always put a smile of appeasement in Francis’ face; that he stayed in Deling City because God wanted them to be together.Â

Francis may be an insufferable cynic, but his day always looked up whenever Rachel was around.Â

He was talking to his friend, Amber, and telling her how wonderful Rachel was and how lucky he had been to have been the one for her. Amber, who knew Rachel since childhood, agreed. How could she not? The two had been talking over the phone for the last fifteen minutes, a rarity for Amber, a person who was always on-the-go so much that people sometimes thought she’d be electrocuted if she stayed on one spot for more than a second. For the past fifteen minutes, Amber hadn’t heard much more than Francis showering his fiancée with well-deserved praises. But it wasn’t really that which had been keeping her glued to the phone, it was the fact that Francis sounded distraught while talking. She could tell that he was trying to camouflage it, and she couldn’t shake off the stinking feeling that he was about to confess a sin.Â

Francis spoke of how suddenly he stopped seeing university as the most profound torture chamber in the civilized world, and how much he had lately been enjoying his normally burdensome walk, as though Deling City’s superfluously warm weather was a heavenly blanket that suffused every cell in his body with happy energy.Â

Happy energy?Â

Amber frowned: what ever kind of nonsense, droll, cheesy, Power Rangers-worshipping lame drivel was that?Â

Amber had known Francis for five years, and she knew him enough to realize that only one thing could possibly be making her 200+ I.Q. friend talk this nauseatingly idiotic.Â

A girl was involved.Â

“Francis,” She said slowly, “I’m pretending that Rachel isn’t my friend since she was ten and I was five. I’m trying to forget for the moment that she’d always been there for me whenever my parents had to go away on those archaeological trips. I’m not trying to recall how she was the only one there for me when my no-good boyfriend dumped me for a guy.”Â

”That is so sad.”Â

“Shut up, please.”Â

”(muffled snort).”Â

“So you know that I’m your friend too, and I’m here for you. And whenever you say that you need to talk to me about something, I’m ready to listen to you. You know all those things, right?”Â

”Yeah, but…”Â

“I promise not to tell her anything.” Her would be Rachel.Â

”… You sure?” Was his delayed reply. Amber couldn’t avoid shaking her hear at what seemed like skepticism on his part.Â

“Yeah.” She said reassuringly.Â

”All right. Here goes…”Â

“You did something stupid, didn’t you?”Â

”Amber, good listeners don’t exactly butt in in the middle of the FRIGGING SENTENCE!”Â

“Heh. Sorry about that.”Â

”I FORGIVE YOU.”Â

“Thank you so much, my friend.”Â

”Now, do you mind?”Â

“Not the slightest bit.”Â

”Thank you. Now, where was I?”Â

“You were about to tell me whether you did something stupid or not.”Â

This was the part where things would start to get serious and heavy, Amber thought when Francis grew silent at the other end of the line. She wondered if he was drinking something with cyanide in it, or if Rachel was holding his head up with a boa constrictor and making him drink something with cyanide in it. Nah, couldn’t be, she thought. Cyanide was expensive.Â

Amber waited. But Francis didn’t come back to her with ’You’re probably thinking I’m drinking something with hemlock in it.’ They had known each other for so long that they had begun to think alike, at least when the need for sarcasm arose. The fact that he didn’t unleash a similar rejoinder told her that he was now, genuinely, deadly serious.Â

“Francis, you okay?”Â

”I almost did.”Â

“What?”Â

”I almost did something stupid.”Â

“Stupid as in ‘stupid’ stupid?”Â

”Yeah.”Â

“With whom?”Â

”You have to ask?”Â

Amber didn’t.Â

“With… Rinoa…?”Â

”Yeah.” Â

To be continued…

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quistian

An incorrigible Gen-X cynic who writes too damn much

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