December 8, 2008
A girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do.
“If you’re looking for your planner-slash-journal, you won’t find it here, sister dear,” Matt, Rachelle’s older brother, told her in what is supposed to be a girly but turned out to be a high-pitched, annoyed tone. Matt’s room is in a mess, thanks to his beloved sister. Her room, he suspected, could only look worse.
He leaned on the door frame and crossed his arms. “Honestly, why would you think I’d be interested in your diary?”
“It’s not a diary!!! And you hid my journal last year!” Rachelle accused her brother while still rummaging through her brother’s bookshelves.
He gave her a look that told her to prove it. “Granted, I’d be happy to read all your girly secrets just so I could tell them to the whole world.” He smiled mischievously, made a pirouette, and raised his arms as if making a grand announcement.
“Ladies and gentlemen! Come one, come all! Lend me your ears and get ready to hear the reigning queen of St. James Academy, Rachelle Harlow’s deepest secrets! Hahahahaha!!!”
Rachelle reacted to that with a snort of disgust.
He sobered, thinking. “Hmmm. Now, that would be a good marketing strategy for Quarter To Five. We’d get more gigs with your secrets as bait. Maybe I should ask Nick. What do you think?” He started laughing again.
“Oh, shut up. Just tell me where you put it, will you?” She stood up, hands on her hips. She was in her pajamas but her stance made her look like a CEO chastising a lowly rank-and-file. She’s tall compared to other girls—five feet eight inches— but her brother’s the same height as Nick so it’s kind of hard to stare him down. But at least she’s doing her best to stare him up.
She wasn’t able to do it longer than a few seconds though. She knows that if Matt really hid her journal, she’ll never find it again. Unless of course, some supreme being would miraculously change her brother’s mind. “God! Sometimes, I really hate you!” she gritted out, and looked outside the window to try to analyze her situation.
“No, God. She doesn’t mean that,” Matt said happily.
Rachelle abruptly turned back to her brother. “I was talking to you, butthead!”
“Really, sis. If I have your journal, you’d have all your friends calling you already asking you if the rumors in Facebook and Twitter are true,” he told her sister without an ounce of humor. “Although,” he started grinning. “I probably wouldn’t have posted anything tonight. I have to read everything first and choose the juiciest piece of gossip. At most, I’d have it circling the Web by midn—hey! Watch it!” something that closely resembles his old bedside alarm clock flew and barely missed his left ear.
A muscle ticked near Matt’s jaw which made Rachelle think she might have gone too far when she threw that alarm clock.
“You. Shouldn’t. Have. Done. That,” Matt said in a voice menacingly soft.
She dropped her arms on her sides and exhaled. Maybe her brother really doesn’t have her journal, after all. “Look, Matt. I’m sorry. It’s just that sometimes you make it so hard for me to recognize when you’re joking and when you’re not,” she paused for a few seconds. “I shouldn’t have thrown that bedside clock.”
“Yeah, you shouldn’t have,” Matt replied. “It was my favorite alarm clock.”
Rachelle looked at her brother with disbelief. “Honestly, Matt.”
“What? It is my favorite,” he said looking at her like she’s dumb.
At that moment, their mother, Vivian, arrived and found Matt’s room in a mess. “Whatever it is, I expect this room clean tomorrow,” she said looking at her son.
“It was Rachelle’s fault, mom,” Matt said defensively.
His mother shot one of her eyebrows up then turned on Rachelle. “Yours, too. And both of you should go to sleep. You have school tomorrow.”
“My classes don’t start ‘til nine,” Matt said.
“It doesn’t matter. And watch your grades. I love that you’re in Kinston but I’ll murder you if you lose that scholarship,” Vivian replied with only a hint of irritation then turned her back to go to the master’s bedroom. She works as Human Resources Manager at Château d’Isabelle, Heartlake’s most prestigious five-star hotel located at the country’s Leisure district. Her husband works overseas but their situation never made Vivian want to hire a household help. She believes her children, being nineteen and eighteen respectively, are old enough to help her with the house chores.
“Hmph. How lucky. Must be great to be out in university. Whyever did St. James prescribe a seven o’clock homeroom class for high school?” Rachelle grumbled while on her way out of her brother’s room.
“Hey, Rach,” Matt said stopping her sister in her tracks. “I really don’t have your diary. If anything, you must have left it in your locker. Or maybe, you dropped it while you were out with Nick this afternoon.”
She sighed. “I have my name and address in it. I hope if someone picked it up, he or she would be kind enough to return it.” And, I wish that person wouldn’t read any further than the name and address.
He turned to face his bookshelves. “You just have to pray that that someone is not a person who sees you as an enemy. You know, an ex-boyfriend’s current girlfriend, a second-tier model who won’t get the spotlight as long as you’re there,” Matt shrugged. “Or maybe an ex-boyfriend. Now that would be a good way for revenge. Spilling your secrets. Ha!” he finished while rearranging his things.
“Whatever. Besides, I was never cruel to any of my exes. If anything, I remained friends with most of them,” Rachelle said with confidence.
“I guess.” Matt went on to fix his room and Rachelle decided to leave before her brother realized that she was the one who should be tidying the mess she created.
When she reached her room, she tried to check her things again while putting everything back to their proper places just in case she just missed her journal. Unfortunately, it still was nowhere to be found. She just hoped that someone would give it back to her tomorrow. Or maybe even Tuesday.
She’d started using a journal when she won one in a raffle at a local bookstore. She’s not much of a writer so what she did was use it as a calendar for her plans and scribble notes and thoughts once in a while. Sometimes, she’d end up writing an entire page, but most of the time, a sentence is all she ever wrote. She’d never call them diaries because she believes diaries are supposed to be detailed accounts, more than a few sentences per entry.
Not many people know about her journals. Mostly, her playgirl image makes everyone think that she’s nothing more than a pretty face and a voluptuous body. This suits her just fine. With her job as a model, she can’t afford to have a lot of people knowing too much about her. That way, there is less room for rumors. Not that she doesn’t have friends, though. She has lots. But only a few knows the real Rachelle Harlow. And only these people are aware of just how much she values her journals.
Now if only she could get the lost one back. She went to sleep thinking of the contents of her missing journal.
St. James Academy is one of the three major educational systems in Heartlake City. It is located in the country’s Leisure District and is considered the most diverse when it comes to students and the system itself. Its façade takes on a combination of modern and classical architecture. Just like the other two, it offers education from pre-school to college. It is also considered the middle ground.
The more elite and harder-to-reach institution is the much modernized Kinston University. This one is located at the Financial District and would only accept either students whose parents are so wealthy and influential that they might as well be the next generation of business tycoons and political dynasties, or scholars who passed the entrance exams which can only be achieved by about 1/5 of the country’s student population. Either way, students here are always considered special.
The school at the other end of the line is Heartlake State University, the country’s first educational system. It is sponsored by the national government and teaches about 75% of the country’s students. Although the buildings are quite old, it is considered the Cultural District’s main tourist attraction. Its extension includes museums and galleries as well as the country’s largest basilica in the east and the largest mosque in the west.
Grace Enriquez lives in the Cultural District mostly because her father is a curator in Heartlake State Museum and her younger twin brothers attend middle school in Heartlake State University. To go to St. James, she’d either ride the bus exclusively for the use of students or the Loop Express, the traditional-looking-but-is-actually-a-modernized-passenger train, which was mostly available for the use of tourists. Today, she chose the bus despite the fact that it’s slower and she had no choice but to stand. These buses, like the Loop, follow an almost circular route that passes on all major parts of Heartlake. The train takes about an hour to complete the entire loop, an hour and a half for the bus.
Last night was probably the worst night of her life. She just lost her part-time job as a waitress, the guy she thought she’d finally go on a date with had started dating another girl without even telling her he’s no longer interested, and her mom met a car accident while she was in the Philippines doing a documentary for Heartlake’s National Broadcasting Station. Her father is currently on his way to the Philippines hoping against hope that her mother did not suffer any major injuries. The call they received had only informed them of the accident and the name of the hospital where she is currently confined. If her father hadn’t called her cell phone to tell her he’s ready to leave for the Philippines, she would have stayed at Central Park until she could no longer cry. How could everything bad happen in one day?
And then, just as she was about leave, she found this simple, brown notebook near the foot of the bench she was just sitting on. She picked it up and decided to bring it to the lost and found office tomorrow morning. She went home, said goodbye to her father and sent her brothers to sleep. For the next few days, she’s going to be the oldest in the family and she really can’t afford to be depressed. Just as she was about to sleep, her eyes found the brown notebook. Out of natural curiosity, she opened the notebook and came face-to-face with a page-long journal entry.
It has to be tonight. It wouldn’t be easier if I postpone it anyway. I have to tell him I want out. Jake was a great boyfriend but—
Grace hastily closed the notebook, realizing it was a diary. The owner might not know, but she was never the kind of person to dig up secrets that no one wanted to tell her. If they want to keep the information to themselves, that’s fine with her. She opened the diary again, this time on the first page.
“Okay, I wonder if I know the owner of this diary?” she said, flipping through the second page. And there she found it. “Rachelle Harlow,” she said, surprised. “She keeps a diary? Now that’s new,” she put her right thumb and forefinger under her chin, thinking.
“So that Jake she mentioned could only be Jake Clifford. That was her eighth? No, wait. Ninth. Ninth ex-boyfriend. I wonder what happe—Hell!” She closed the diary again and tossed it on her nightstand. Didn’t she just say she’s not a sneaky busybody? She lied down on the bed and told herself that today’s events must be exhausting her. She decided it would save more time and effort if she just returned the diary to Rachelle herself. The offices, after all, like involving paper works even with a situation as simple as this.
So here she was, standing in the crowded bus, feeling slightly apprehensive about the coming meeting with the notorious St. James Queen. Rachelle was overly popular and although they attend the same school and are both high school seniors, there is a huge possibility that Rachelle has never even heard of her.
What if she thought I stole this diary? Or worse. What if she decided I’m planning some sort of scheme because I’m envious of her fame? No. One look at me and she would never think me as someone who’s devious enough to plot a scheme against her. Uggghh. Maybe I should just bring this to lost and found? Yes. That would be a good idea. Unless of course, it falls on the wrong hands and that person ends up putting the contents in online forums which would totally embarrass Rachelle Harlow and in turn affect the reputation of Nick Cleveland and I really can’t allow that to happen because I know that Nick is not a bad person. Oh hell, maybe I really should just give this to Rachelle personally.
“St. James students, out of the bus now,” the conductor said in his booming voice, which all bus conductors seem to have. “Next stop, Kinston.”
“We already know that, old man!” Some students shouted. The last thing she heard before the door closed was the conductor’s voice telling the students to learn how to respect their elders.
Okay. I’ll see her after class hours. And that’s final.