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He woke about a second before his alarm rang. Cris Ibarra rolled over and looked at his cell phone, groggily reading the time.

 

"... SHIT. I'M LATE!"

 

He jumped off the top of the bunk bed, rocking it enough to bother the one sleeping below him. Elias rolled over under the sheets, muttering some intelligible curse as he put a pillow over his head.

 

"Eli." Cris said urgently, buttoning up a blouse while slipping on his shoes.

 

"Eli."

 

"ELIAS!!!! WAKE UP! WE'RE LATE FOR CLASSES."

 

The older man glared at him. "Crisostomo... It's Sunday."

 

Cris' eyes widened, and the younger paused for a moment in a silence that might have been amusing.

 

"Ah- hahah.... Hah...."

 

The pillow made contact with his face harder than any normal bag of fluff should.

_______________________________________

 

Juan woke up sober, an unfortunate state to be in with the hangover attacking his temples like a bass drum.

 

Last night, he'd been out on the town. He remembered; he had to be dragged home by Florante at about two in the morning, if Flor's ranting was anything to go by.

 

Amazingly, Juan remembered what he'd said. Something about 'getting drunk off his ass was a real macho thing to do, and how much of an idiot he was for thinking he was immune from STDs' or something.

 

Florante was a good friend, but annoying. Really. Seriously.

 

Juan got up, rubbing the side of his head as he made his way to the bathroom. Greeting him in the mirror was the handsome face that made girls (and a number of guys) swoon in his presence. To match that face, Juan's ego was like that of a weather balloon: inflated and a good distance in the clouds.

 

He heard some glass break in his room, and he came back to see a picture frame shattered on the floor. He picked it up, soon wishing he hadn't. Smiling at him were the faces of his parents, his two older brothers, and his own younger self, that one day they'd gone to the medieval theme park.

 

They'd dressed up like real monarchs. At the time, the three brothers were still quite young; Pedro was still fourteen, Diego at twelve, and Juan had just turned ten.

 

It was one of the happier times. Now, at age nineteen, Juan was far from happy with his family.

 

Especially his brothers.

 

Juan cleaned up the mess on the floor and lay the frame face-down on the shelf.

_____________________________________________

 

Florante had woken a little while before, enough to hear Elias in the floor above him cursing his roomie for waking him so early and something breaking in Juan's room beside his. He hoped his friend wasn't hurt.

 

The blond was sitting at the window combing his grown-out hair, sighing. He'd only gotten to sleep at the ungodly hour of three, but habit got him up at seven in the morning, doing nothing more than combing his hair till it was soft as feathers.

 

Sunday. He would see Laura in the afternoon. He and Menandro had been invited out with her, thank God.

 

He enjoyed time with Laura, but it seemed stale when it was just them. He didn't understand it.

 

They'd begun their romance in high school. It was like a game; he would try for Laura's attention, he'd get it, but still have to challenge his rival Adolfo for Laura.

 

Ever since then, though, seeing her everyday began feeling strange. Meaningless, maybe. He hadn't realized it till recently, but he felt as though it had become an obligation to him.

 

After all... It had been Laura who began it. Of course, he'd been the one to approach her in freshman years, but he'd never really dated other people. Laura always seemed happy, and Flor was happy to see her happy.

 

That was the way things were. He and Laura were together, Menandro was their mutual friend, and Adolfo was Florante's rival for Laura's affections.

 

It'd been that way for so long that no one thought otherwise.

 

Unfortunately, that was exactly what Florante was thinking.

 

And by the time he'd finished that thought, there wasn't a single tangle in his blond hair, which had fluffed up like duckling feathers.

 

He sighed. 

 

-----------------------

 

As was the tradition, people celebrated Monday-hating by trudging off to work, school, or wherever the hell else they were obliged to go.

 

The inhabitants of Makata were no less celebratory.

 

Eli and Cris were off to College classes that day, Juan to his job at Starbucks (in which not even free drinks could snap him out of the Monday morning mood) and Florante to his slightly more bearable job at the music store.

 

Juan found himself watching the doors, playing a silent guessing game at what each person who walked through the door did for a living.

 

He gave up after a few tries when every girl walking into the store seemed like a prostitute. (No one could blame him; if you'd seen them, you'd have the same guess)

 

Fortunately for him, a familiar face emerged.

 

Juan's face brightened. "Sal!"

 

His friend's friend's alleged girlfriend (since so far, that was their relationship) came over with a sweet grin, greeting him back.

 

"Hi Juan. So how's business?"

 

"Slow. As in." He pointed subtly to his manager-from-hell and made a face. Salome giggled.

 

"Think you could get twenty minutes?" Salome wondered, looking over his shoulder. Juan nodded. "No prob."

 

"Hey, Gina!" He called. One of the other employees looked up nervously. "Yeah?"

 

"Mind covering me for a sec?"

 

"Uhm... well... I guess."

 

"Thanks doll." Juan said, flashing a smile. The girl blushed as Juan quickly discarded his uniform and went over to where Salome sat with her new order.

 

"You player." Salome muttered humorously.

 

"Thank you." Juan responded. "So then, what's this about?"

 

"Well, just checking to see if you're not currently single today." Salome said. "Well, not as of this moment.

 

“Why? If you're gonna cheat on Elias for me, I'd rather not jump off that bridge, thanks."

 

"Ha. Ha. Firstly, you wouldn't have to jump, Eli gives a good push. Secondly, no. I found something that might interest you." She took out a card, handing it to the male across her.

 

Juan read the fancy script under the picture of an Adarna bird in the same elegant lines.

 

"A dating service?"

 

"Might as well. I thought it might be fun for you." Salome said.

 

Juan looked the card over skeptically. "I don't trust these things. And why bid for something I could get for free?"

 

"For the challenge." Salome said, winking. Juan looked down at the card once more. "Good answer. Gives me something to do Friday anyway."

 

"That's good." Salome smiled. "Well, seeya later, Don Juan." She quipped.

 

Watching her retreating figure, Juan went back to the counter.

 

A challenge, huh?

____________________________________________________

 

Florante tapped to the beats from the close-by speaker, reading a copy of an S&M magazine he'd 'borrowed' from Menandro.

 

His best friend appeared somewhere in the middle pages, sporting a scant bondage outfit and a black mask. Florante whisked over that page, stopping only to laugh out loud and ceasing just as swiftly, getting looks from some teenagers.

 

He stared for a moment at the girl's page, then at the guy's (he would never admit that his eyes strayed for two seconds longer in the latter) before someone tapped him on the head.

 

"Hey." He looked up, almost wishing he hadn't. In front of him was Adolfo, (aka worst enemy/rival/nemesis/bastard) questioning look riding on his raised eyebrow.

 

"Is that what I think it is?"

 

"Yes." Florante said shortly, not wishing to pick any fights today.

 

"You seem off today." Adolfo noticed aloud. "I didn't think you cared." Florante said dryly. "But obviously you're not here for my sake, so what are you doing here?"

 

"Just scanning, geez."

 

"... Laura's fine by the way." Florante said, playing the envy card. "Saw her just yesterday."

 

"Real nice." Adolfo said absently, flipping the magazine on the counter.

 

Florante frowned. Adolfo seemed almost as disinterested as he was. Usually, talk of Laura would spark an expected argument between them, but today was somehow... listless.

 

"By the way... Laura's been talking about how weird you've been acting." Adolfo said, smirking.

 

Florante looked surprised. "When did she tell you that?"

 

"Yesterday. When she called me up after your disaster date. Said you barely even looked at her that time. Wanted ME of all people to know what's going on."

 

Adolfo really did look curious.

 

Florante frowned. "How about this? You get to date Laura for the next few weeks if you make sure neither of you bothers me about it."

 

Once again, Adolfo stared at him, this time, looking like Florante had just screamed that he'd humped a dolphin at seaworld.

 

(On a somewhat related note, he really DID say it once. One night out drinking was enough to make Florante the designated driver by choice for bar nights to come)

 

"Now I know there's something wrong with you." Adolfo said with genuine surprise.

 

"Take it or leave it, Adolfo." Florante said impatiently.

 

Adolfo sighed. "Right. Sure." He looked down at the magazine distractedly. "Is that... Menandro?"

 

"Oh. Right, yeah. I think he looks good in black, don't you?" Florante joked, but by then, Adolfo had already turned away and walked out the store door.

 

___________________________________________

 

Cris met up with Maria on the bridge, waving as she came over.

 

"So how was today?" MC asked good-humoredly.

 

"Terrible." Cris whined, slumping over. Maria pat him on the back comfortingly. "How WAS today, Eli?" She asked the other male.

 

"Take his word for it." Eli said simply, hissing through his teeth.

 

"Aw. Well I have something to make you both feel better." Maria said excitedly. The two remained silent, staring at her.

 

Maria frowned. "Seriously."

 

"Okay then, what is it?"

 

"Picnic. Sal's already at the place." Maria said cheerfully.

 

"Whoopee." Elias said sarcastically, earning a punch from Cris. "Sounds cool." The latter said.

 

"It's like... a meet and greet. Sal has some friends she invited over. They moved here only a little while ago." MC explained.

 

"Oh really?"

 

"Yeah. I heard that one of em's an archer. Pretty cool huh?"

 

"Yeah." Cris said, sincerely interested in these new friends.

 

_______________________________________

 

Hey!!!

Meet'n'greet at d park, 4pm

 

Come f u cn!

xoxoxo Sal xoxoxo

-gm-