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“Adam, give me back my pencil bag!” Amelia demanded for the tenth time since half an hour ago. Her big brown eyes stared furiously at Adam who kept shoving her blue unbranded pencil bag playfully at her, without meaning to let her take it. Amelia took out her long slim hand to reach for it, but Adam pulled it away beyond her reach, again—to Amelia’s heavy groan. Adam’s handsome face smeared with his usual grin. “Come on, Amelia. Don’t tell me you want to give up now. Come, take it, if you can!” He smirked. Anita, sat beside Amelia in the noisy classroom, looked sympathetically at her. She rolled her eyes at Adam’s immature demeanour. “Adam, can you stop bullying Amelia, for once? Can’t you see she’s trying to study?” Adam glanced at Anita momentarily from the corner of his hazel-brown eyes. “What? I was just doing your best friend a favour, Anita. I mean, she’s been studying too hard each time I see her in class. I’m just letting her to take a break for a while!” The mischievous grin never left his playful expression. “Taking a break—hah!” Anita said out aloud. “More like torturing her, to me!” She said sarcastically. She just shook her head. It had been years since Anita and Adam had been her classmates, yet, she still could not understand why Adam never ceased bullying or teasing the quiet Anita whenever he could, almost everyday, as though it was an inescapable habit for him. “Torturing her?” Adam looked wide-eyed at Anita. “I’m not torturing her, am I, Amelia? I mean, you have to take a break once in a while, right? You can’t study all the time, right, Amelia?” Adam made the most innocent expression to Amelia, which made her, laughed out loud in spite of herself. “See? She’s laughing! People don’t laugh when they get tortured, do they, Anita?” Adam smirked at Anita while Anita rolled her eyes again, and let them fell back on the open History book before her. “Adam, please, I’m begging you, please give me back my pencil bag!” Amelia sighed for the umpteenth time. “Come on, Adam. Enough with it already. You’re making the shy, quiet girl miserable already!” Ed, Adam’s best friend who had been watching the scene the whole time, finally voiced out from at the back of the class with the rest of the boys. Adam finally nodded, “Okay, okay….but in one condition….” He grinned again as he looked up to Amelia’s curious eyes. “You have to kiss me on the cheek first….” His forefinger pointed to his dimpled cheek. “What?” Amelia frowned in disbelief. Her jaw dropped. “Aww, Adam, you’re making that little shy girl blush already!” Ed said again, laughingly along with the rest of classmates. Adam laughed too. “Come on, Amelia. You have to get rid of that shyness of yours sooner or later, for your own good. Come on. I thought about kissing on the lips… but…!” Smack! Instead of a kiss, she gave him a slap on his reddish cheek. Adam stared at Amelia, wordless in awe. The grin upon his face slowly disappeared as though it had never been there. The boisterous atmosphere of the class without the attendance of a teacher suddenly fell into shocked silence. Amelia stared at him, also in shock. She could not believe she had just slapped him on the face just like that. Her fair face coloured as all eyes were on her. Never in her entire life had she slapped anyone before. She guessed she just let the humiliation at Adam’s offensive words, took over her that made her hand held up high, and impulsively smacked on his surprised face. She saw the hurt look in his staring eyes. And suddenly she felt guilty. Yet, she did not know what to say or do. She was never so used to being in the limelight. Awkwardly, she grabbed her pencil bag away from Adam’s frozen hand, and walked away from the class with blushing face, as quickly as she could to the nearby toilet… “Amelia!” And she could hear the quick tapping of Anita’s feet tailing her from behind…. “Hello, Amelia!” Adam greeted cheerfully while he and Ed were exiting the school after the last bell rang. Amelia looked behind her. She was surprised tinged with awkwardness to find him smiling at her, as though what had just happened today when she slapped him, did not affect him at all. Amelia nodded quickly, wishing she did not blush so hard. Just as soon as she was about to hasten her steps so that she could get away from Adam, Adam called out quickly, “Hey, sorry about what happened today at school! You want me to walk you home to make it up to you?” Amelia thought he did not sound serious, however. The usual playfulness in his tone whenever he spoke to her seemed to be the only sound she had ever heard of him. It irritated her even more when she heard his words followed by a careless laughter from him. As she made her way quickly through the crowd of students, to catch up with Anita to walk home with her as usual, she wondered if Adam would ever take any matters seriously, not just merely thinking everything was a joke to his immature mind. She shook her head in despair. “Man, I can’t see why you always like to bully that poor girl, Ad!” Ed voiced out as soon as Amelia vanished out of sight into the crowd of students before them. Adam chuckled. “Nah, I don’t call it bully. I just like to tease her, that’s all.” He stared at Amelia’s orange bag before it blended into the crowd ahead. He smiled at the memory how he and Amelia had been classmates since they were in primary school. Being the life-of the-party, Adam had always been popular among everyone in school, including even the teachers. Everyone always found his friendliness, his charming demeanour, as well as his undeniably great sense of humour endearing. Among the sanguine faces that never cease to surround him whenever he was around, Amelia’s quiet presence caught his attention. Amelia had always occurred to him, as the shy, quiet, awkward girl who always spent most of her time studying. Whenever the teacher was not around, unlike everyone else who would be celebrating by socialising and making noise in the class, he would always see her reading and doing her revision quietly at her seat. And he had never seen her ever attending social activities organised by the school, not even the prom, as though, the only reason for her to come to school was to study, and nothing else. To a stranger, she might appear to be just one of the dull, studious nerds with spectacles, but to him, after being her classmate for years, he found her aloofness interesting. She somehow struck him as a girl of mystery, and he liked the fact that she made him wondered what lay beneath that enigmatic exterior of hers. And so, he started teasing her ever since to get her to be more open. Surprisingly, he enjoyed it as though it was a newfound hobby for him whenever he felt bored in class. Her discomfort and reserve toward him before somehow diminished with the passing time, as though she had grown used to him teasing her. “Teasing her… or wooing her?” Ed’s teasing tone broke his daydream. Adam widened his eyes at Ed as though his best friend had lost his sanity. “You’re crazy or what? I already have Lana!” “Even Lana thinks so, you know, about your trying to woo that quiet girl….” Somehow, Adam did not like the way Ed referring Amelia as the ‘quiet girl’ but he just said, “I’m not wooing her.” He rolled his eyes. “I just… well, enjoy teasing her.” He grinned despite himself. “And she happened to be the only girl that you enjoy teasing, and she’s not even that pretty—I mean, she’s just a dull, quiet girl….” “Are you jealous?” Adam grinned. Ed just stared at Adam. “Oh please, why would I be jealous? I’m just jealous of the fact that you and Lana are together… while me—I’m still single, unfortunately.” Adam took a long look at the clear sky above as he thought about his popular, gorgeous girlfriend, Lana. Lana had always been popular among guys in school for her looks and her vivacious personality. Any guy would have been proud to have her as a girlfriend, but it was not his aim to show off to the world that he could capture Lana’s heart while other guys failed. He did not even feel the least superior to other unlucky guys when Lana asked him out. And he had straightaway said yes, even though he was not sure of his feelings toward her. In fact, up until now, after dating for almost a year, he was still not sure of his real feelings. At times, he could not help wondering whether he agreed being Lana’s boyfriend simply because he was desperate for attention or rather, to be exact, he just needed love, the one thing he found lacking in his lonely life. Perhaps that was why he had always had plenty of girlfriends back then, to fill the gap… and Lana was not exceptional. However, even Lana still could not fill his complicated heart with the contentment he needed so badly. “Sometimes, even if you have a girlfriend, it doesn’t really feel like you have one….” Adam bowed his head to the empty road heading toward his house. Ed raised an eyebrow. “Don’t tell me you’re having a fight with Lana again?” “Nah, we’re not having a fight.” Adam sighed. “It’s just that, well, she doesn’t listen to every word I’m saying, you know. Every time I call her, it’s always about her and her friends and how her day is. That’s all she talks about. She never even ask me how I’m doing or how my day is or even how I feel… she just talks non-stop, without letting me to share my feelings with her. It’s so frustrating and emotionally draining!” Instead of offering a sympathetic gesture, Ed just laughed as though Adam had just cracked a joke. “Man, is this really the happy, carefree Adam I know?” Ed patted his friend’s back. “You want to know what’s your real problem is? You’re just too sensitive, that’s why! You should’ve been grateful that you have such a hot girlfriend as Lana! I would trade place with you anytime just to have a hot chic as Lana by my side! Come on, Ad!” Adam could only nod with a sigh. He should have known how useless it was to try to have a heart-to-heart conversation with his so-called buddies, including Ed, even though he was supposed to be his best friend, and that he was supposed to understand him more. Once he reached his house and bid goodbye to Ed, he unlocked the white-painted gate. He stood speechless to find a shiny black Volvo parked behind his grandmother’s blue van at the house compound. He rushed inside the two-storey house, and was not surprised to see both his parents in their grey business suits, sitting at the cushion, chatting lively to his grandmother. Their conversation somehow stopped abruptly at his presence in the doorway. “Oh hello Adam. It’s been so long.” His mother rose from the cushion and walked up toward him with a smile. “Your father and me have missed you a lot, you know. So, how are you?” Adam pulled away fiercely when she tried to hug him. “Ad!” His grandmother stared at him in shock. “Why are you here?” Adam raised his voice. “You’re not supposed to be here!” He took no heed to his mother’s hurt expression. “How can you say that, Adam?” Mrs. Diana said softly, trying to act unaffected at her only son’s rude demeanour. “We’re your parents….” “Then why didn’t you try to act like one all these years?” Adam yelled, voicing out the frustration that had been buried deep inside his blazing chest for so long. “All these years you and dad care about nothing but work, work, work that grandma has to take care of me for you!” “Adam, that’s not true….” “Of course it’s true! And if you’re asking me to come back home with you, the answer is no!” “Adam, you’d better watch your tone when speaking to your mom!” Mr. Jeffery stood up with a warning tone in his dangerously low voice. “I’m speaking to you too, dad!” Adam turned to him with challenging eyes. “You and mom have done nothing. It’s grandma who does everything! It’s always her! And now why are you here all of a sudden after being gone for so long? Visiting me? Oh please, you might as well just forget about me! You might as well just act as if you never had a son…!” A slap from Mr. Jeffery inevitably lay hard on Adam’s burning cheek out of anger. “Jeff!” Mrs. Diana gasped, along with her mother. Mr. Jeffery blinked in disbelief at his hand just slapped his son’s face a moment ago. Adam nodded slowly, staring hard at his father’s guilty expression. “Thanks… thanks a lot, dad. You’ve done so well in raising me.” “Adam!” Mrs. Diana called out worriedly as Adam about to walk away in silent anger. “And people call me ‘Ad’!” He yelled as he stormed off from there, racing up the stairs to his room. He locked himself inside the room. As he looked around the neat room tidied everyday by his beloved grandmother, a picture frame of him and his parents rested on the side table next to his bed He remember having the picture taken when they were holidaying in Disneyland when he was only five. He remember how he argued with his grandmother not to keep any of his parents’ photograph inside his room but her grandmother kept on insisting, that no matter what, they would always be his parents, and so, he gave in to her wish, simply because of his affection toward his loving, caring grandmother. He walked to the side table and reached for the framed picture. He could see the gay smiles upon their windswept faces as he let himself being hugged affectionately by his parents in the picture. Just then, he held the photograph high up in the air and threw it hard onto the tiled clean white floor. The frame smashed into pieces scattered messily on the ground as he strained himself not to cry. Just as he was about to lay down on his single bed, he caught sight of the cordless phone on the bed. He knew he needed to speak to someone. He knew he needed someone to listen to him. He knew he needed someone to comfort his disturbed feelings. He needed someone to pat him on the back and say everything was going to be okay, like a little child crying for comfort. He reached for it and dialled Lana’s number impulsively. “Hello?” Lana’s feminine voice was heard after a moment. “Hello, Lana. It’s me, Ad. Hey, I really need someone to talk to right now. You know my parents…!” “Oh, Ad! Hello! Hey, you sound upset. What happened?” “My parents are here.” “Your parents? I thought….!” “Yeah. You know how my parents and I never get along well, but they’re here to visit me. I mean, I can’t believe they would come here again! God, I even had a huge fight with my father. I can’t believe he just slapped me! All my life, he has never laid his hand on me but he just did! That perfectly tells me that…!” “Uhuh….” “Lana? Are you there?” “Huh, what? Say again, Ad? Sorry. So your father just slapped you and…!” “Yeah, and…!” “Hey, Ad, you’re calling at the right time! Guess what? You know the red dress that I’ve been dying to buy the other day? My mom just bought it for me for my birthday present!” “Oh….” “I know my birthday is not until next week but anyway, I’m thinking of throwing a birthday party at a hotel and my uncle is willing to sponsor it! Isn’t that fabulous?” “Hmm….” “Oh, I’ve already pictured the party in my mind. It’s going to be the best party ever! And you, of course, are going to be my date at the party! Wait until all my friends see you and they will envy me for having such a handsome guy as you as my boyfriend!” “Lana, I can’t….” “Yeah, I can’t wait for the party, too!” She let out a high-pitched giggle. “No, Lana, I mean, I can’t be your date at the party.” “But why not?” Her giggled faded away instantly. “Lana, I want a break-up.” “What? You broke up with Lana?” Ed stared, shocked at Adam’s indifferent expression the next day in class. “Are you out of your mind?” “No, I’m perfectly sane.” Adam answered coldly as he stared hard at the Biology reference book before him. It was English period yet Mrs. Tan, their class teacher was no where to be seen. At the teacher’s absence, the students of 5 Delta class took the opportunity to mingle with the crowd, shattering the silence with their wild laughter and chatter throughout the square-shaped classroom. “But—but why, Ad? I thought—I thought you two always got along well with each other!” Ed went on in disbelief. “I told you, Ed, she never listen! What’s being in a relationship for when you can’t share your deepest secret, hopes and dreams with each other? I mean, isn’t that what is all about?” Adam frowned at the book. He tried to make out the words typed neatly in the book, but the words somehow jumbled together, slowly dissolved, and replaced by the image of his mom, and his father slapping him on the face…. he could still feel yesterday’s pain lingered through his veins, evolving into cold, dark anger deep within his unfulfilled heart. “And besides, I should’ve known that she only dated me just because of my good looks so she could show off to her friends. What does she think I am? A trophy? Heck, I have feelings, too!” Ed just shook his head. “Man, you really are hypersensitive. You’re just too clingy!” Ed stared at the Biology book laid open on Adam’s table when his words fell on deaf ears. “And since when do you like studying when the teacher isn’t around?” Ed spontaneously slammed the thick book shut before Adam’s eyes. “God, what is wrong with you, Ed?” Adam’s buried anger finally snapped. His fierce voice thundered throughout the classroom. The whole class then fell into stunned silence at seeing him rising from his seat with fiery eyes. “Can you just stop telling me what my problem is? I’ve had enough of problems already!” Ed blinked at Adam’s sudden burst of anger. They had been best friends for the longest time even since primary school, yet, Ed had never seen Adam at such a furious state before. To him, Adam had always seemed to be a carefree, happy guy. Perhaps he had been wrong about his best friend. Perhaps, beneath the jovial surface and smiling face, there hidden thousands of secret miseries he was struggling to hide, even from Ed—his own best friend. “Chill out, man! Why are you being so touchy all of a sudden?” Adam stared at Ed’s bewildered face for a while. He let out a sigh. He knew he should not have had let out his anger on him. It was not Ed’s fault. He could blame no one but himself for letting anger taking the best of him. Under the stares of everyone in the class, he sighed again and began to walk away from his seat. On the way out of the class, his eyes met Amelia’s. Instead of offering humorous remarks, teasing greetings or even amusing gesture like he would usually do each time he met the quiet girl, he just sighed and walked away. He just was not in the mood for it. In fact, he did not think he was in the mood for anything in this world at all…. “Hey, Amelia! Wait up!” Amelia turned around to find Anita running after her along with a crowd of students pouring noisily from the school gate. “Hi.” Amelia almost mumbled as soon as Anita was beside her. While they walked side by side in silence, Anita began observing her best friend’s pale face with an astonished look. “You look rather sad today. Why?” Anita finally asked. “Nothing.” Amelia groaned. Just then, she felt someone’s shoulder accidentally brushing against hers. She looked up to meet Adam’s solemn hazel eyes. Unconsciously, she waited silently with hammering heart for any usual cue from him—for his usual joke, his usual friendly greeting, or perhaps, at least a grin or smile… yet, she was in vain to find only a look of sombreness smeared upon that usual playful face. And for the first time in her entire life, without even smiling at her, he held his eyes elsewhere as if she were invisible, and walked away quietly along with Ed by his side. Amelia fixed her despairing eyes upon him until he was soon out of sight. “It’s because of Ad, isn’t it?” Amelia almost shrieked when Anita stood in front of her out of blue, blocking her view of Adam’s disappearing figure. “Don’t be ridiculous, Anita!” Amelia rolled her eyes. She hurried her steps ahead of Anita, while Anita tried her hardest to catch up with panting breath. “Oh, come on, Amelia! I can see it just by the look you get in your eyes every time you see him. I know you secretly like it whenever he teases you—admit it!” Anita grinned widely. “Anita, please!” “You don’t have to deny me, Amelia. We’ve been best friends for as long as we can remember. I know you’ve always had a secret crush on Ad even if you won’t admit it. It’s obvious that you’re feeling sad because he didn’t bother with you today like he would usually do….” “Stop talking nonsense, Anita or you’re going home alone!” “Okay, okay, fine, whatever. It’s okay if you don’t want to admit it” Anita rolled her eyes. “Anyway, did you see him in class today? I thought he looked oddly moody today. It’s the first time I ever see him yelling at people. Poor Ed.” Anita shook her head that made her dark straight hair dangled rhythmically above her shoulder. “And to make it even more weird, today he didn’t even try to bully you or, rather tease you, that is, according to his vocabulary….” Anita folded her arms onto her chest. “I mean, it’s so unlike him! Everyone knows how he likes to disturb you.” Amelia sighed. “Maybe he’s just having a personal problem, that’s all.” Anita nodded slowly as they came to a bend, heading to Anita’s house. “Maybe… or….” Anita stared at Amelia. “Or what…?” “Amelia, can’t you see?” Anita held both Amelia’s shoulders. “Maybe it’s because of you!” They stopped walking. “Me?” Amelia creased her forehead. “Why me?” She asked innocently. “Oh, don’t you remember what you did to him yesterday? Maybe he was being moody because of his bruised pride after being slapped by you in front of the whole class!” “But—but he seemed fine with it yesterday. He greeted me and even apologised to me yesterday after school, remember?” “Oh don’t be so naïve, Amelia!” Anita grunted exasperatedly. “You never know. Sometimes people are not what seem to be. Maybe he’s just trying to hide it from you but he can’t just pretend that it didn’t happen and neither can you!” “But…!” “Amelia, can’t you see? Which guy wouldn’t be embarrassed to be slapped by a girl right in front of his buddies?” Anita’s loud voice sounded clearly convincing above the melodic chirping of faraway birds. “Perhaps that’s why he’s been so aloof to you today. Maybe he expected you to apologise, too, which you never did! You barely even tried to talk to him!” Amelia fell silent that made Anita went on, “And all my life, I’ve never seen you coming up to him. It’s always him who’d make the effort to strike a conversation with you. I understand that you’ve always been too shy around guys—but guess what? It’s time for you to let that shyness go!” Amelia bit her lips, staring at her best friend’s serious face. She wondered if Anita’s words were true—if it was really because of her that made Adam became strangely distant and moody today. Maybe it was really her fault. She had always known Adam to be the playful class joker. Everyone understood only too well not to take his words to heart—especially she after being his classmate for years and years, until she had grown to become accustomed to his frequent teasing—well that was until recently. She did not know why she acted the way she did when she slapped him out of the blue yesterday. She realised how fragile her feelings had been that day at the sudden thought of her deceased parents, at witnessing Linda crying her heart out inside her room over yet, another lovelorn the other night. And she knew she should not have let it out on Adam. He did no wrong. She braced herself, searching for courage inside her, shoving away the blemish of insecurity that tainted her determined heart…. “Amelia! Where are you going?” … And she perfectly knew what to do next…. “I’m sorry for yelling at you like that in front of the whole class today, Ed.” Adam finally blurted out after walking in silence, for what seemed like an eternity, while they were on the way home from school that sunny afternoon. “It’s okay, man.” Ed gave him a pat on the back. “So what’s up with you today, buddy?” He asked as he put his arm around Adam’s neck frivolously. Adam just shook his head, pulling away as he stared upon the empty gravelled road ahead of him. “Nah, if possible, I don’t really want to talk about it….” “Oh, all right.” Ed nodded. “Anyway, I have to go now for tuition or else I’m going to be late again to face yet again, another of my mom’s endless boring nag!” He tapped his hand upon Adam’s shoulder supportively. “You’re sure you’re going to be all right?” “Yeah, thanks.” Adam smiled before he waved goodbye to Ed’s departing figure. He walked on then until he reached a straight lonely road, where he could see a row of oak trees sheltering the riverbank of a crystal-clear stream flowing smoothly along it. It was his favourite road in the quiet neighbourhood. He had always loved the sound of the wavelets of the small river slapping gently upon the pebbles while he went pacing on the road on the way home from school. He loved the way the leaves of the oak trees waving gracefully to the calm pace of the afternoon wind. He paused then in the middle of the empty road and stared at the slow current of the stream beside the road. He loved watching the smooth pour of the crystalline water journeying ceaselessly through the rocky earth, as if nothing in the world would disrupt its serene surge. And he loved the way the river sparkled with enchanting luminosity at the touch of sunlight shone through the leaves of the oak trees above. It calmed his restless heart just to stand there and revel in the beauty of nature for as long as he could, forgetting momentarily of any woe, heartache, or even painful memories the reality seemed to offer. Under his rapt eyes, he felt as though a spell was broken when he caught sight of a heart-shaped bottle drifted in the midst of the river. The bottle swayed unsteadily to the current of the flowing water, like a lost boat rocked amid the fierce ocean waves. Adam thought the bottle looked somehow bizarre yet interesting. Out of curiosity, he walked closer to the riverbank with ginger steps. He carefully stretched out his strong arm as far as he could to reach for the nearing bottle. Upon reaching the bottle, he smiled in satisfaction and cautiously stepped back onto the road again. His curious eyes observed the wet, crystal-like ruby-red surface of the bottle. The bottle seemed ancient as though it came from another century, according to its rusty exterior. He gave in to his inquisitiveness as he quickly began uncorking the bottle. It took a while for him to finally pull the cork off the mouth of the bottle with all his manly strength. Just when he succeeded, he almost lost hold of the bottle when suddenly a brilliant crimson ray flashed from inside it, making the rust of ancientness upon its surface vanished as though it was never there, leaving a polished bottle looking brand-new. Adam shivered at what just happened but he tried to brave himself as his trembling hand reached slowly for the scroll of worn paper inside the magical bottle. He could almost hear the loud thumping of his heart as he unfolded the scroll cautiously as though a slight crumple upon the paper would cost him his life. As soon as his interested eyes laid upon the cursive words written in black ink upon the tawny paper, yellowed with age, the words shone the brightest white light, which almost blinded his squinted eyes. He gave a moan and just as soon as the light faded away, he began to read: Many happy returns to those eyes of the first blessed discoverer Thee finally touched by a mysterious ancient yet magical power Never a single fear should be in thee for new destiny draws near Nearer still at the presence of the only one so dear Read every line underneath with pure consciousness For every word that is written shall never be questioned nevertheless Act upon them with all heart and soul and such deep kindness To the first only maiden the eyes lay upon yet never should thee confess And if thee shall succeed, the beloved treasure too precious shall unfold Too precious, unlike any other thee shall never dare to be sold For the life’s best treasure will warm thee to the very heart and soul And the priceless jewel will offer new meaning and satisfy thy heart so cold…. He stopped just as soon as he heard the sound of footfalls ahead of him. He hid the scroll along with the bottle quickly behind him. He looked up and was surprised to see Amelia standing awkwardly before him. “Oh hello there, Amelia.” Adam broke into a smile. “What a surprise to see you here.” “Uh… hi.” Amelia almost stammered. She felt her heart beating unimaginably wild, just standing there under the intensity of his gazing eyes. And she hoped so bad she that she did not blush. She had never been comfortable talking to guy, or let alone be the first to come up to a guy and say hello. And now, for the first time in her entire life, here she was, standing right before Adam, ready to go beyond the boundary. Yet, seeing those hazel eyes staring straight back at her, she suddenly felt breathless, tongue-tied. And she began questioning herself again why she was here in the first place. No! It was now or never! She knew she could not turn back now. She would try to overcome her shyness no matter what. Besides, it was not like she had just known Adam yesterday. They had known each other practically all their lives, though, not as close to each other, as they ought to be, after being in the same class for years. “I—I hope I’m not disturbing you.” Amelia was relieved at finding her voice, though, it sounded miles away. “No, of course not.” Adam’s eyes twinkled with amusement at her awkward demeanour. Amelia found no hint of mockery in his amusement—only pleasant courtesy. “Adam, I’m sorry.” Amelia finally blurted out. Adam looked puzzled. “Sorry? For what?” Amelia sighed under the sweet chirping of birds in the trees above them. “Look, Adam, you don’t have to pretend that you’re fine with it because I know you’re not. I know I shouldn’t have slapped you the other day. I want you to know that I didn’t mean to embarrass you in front of your friends. I didn’t mean to do it at all!” her big brown eyes shone with sweet innocence as she spoke those words rapidly one by one like bullets. Amelia bowed her head, “Well, it’s just that I was feeling upset over some problem that day. It was a bad day for me, you see. I shouldn’t have let it out my anger on you by slapping you. I’m sorry.” “No, I understand….” “You do?” Amelia finally looked up with his curious brown eyes. “Yeah, I was having a bad day today, too.” Amelia thought she could see the sparkler in those hazel eyes suddenly died away. Amelia nodded, weakly. “I know, I’m really sorry if the incident when I slapped you the other day made you had a bad day.” Adam let out a laugh. “No, it’s not because of you.” “Really?” Amelia could only sigh with relief deep inside. “Oh I thought….” Adam nodded, smilingly. “Don’t worry. It has got nothing to do with you. It’s just that, well….” Adam groaned as he tried hard to shove aside the thought of his parents. “… Family problem?” There was something about the way she said it so understandingly that made Adam stared at her. “Yeah, I understand….” She nodded slowly. Adam could not help staring at her in awe then. He could sense an aura of heartfelt empathy about her words that surprisingly touched his heart. It was as if, she did not just merely say it just to comfort him… that she really did understand him well—even better than he thought she would. There was just something about her understanding tone, her sincere sparkling brown eyes, and her sweet smile bare from any cue of hypocrisy that gradually soothed the pain he was enduring at the moment. “Anyway….” Amelia bowed her head awkwardly under his staring eyes, “… I have to go now. It’s getting late.” “Oh okay.” Adam blinked. “Uh, bye.” “Bye.” Adam kept on staring at her walking away, as if captivated. Just when her slim figure vanished out of sight did he finally wake up from his daydream, thinking about what just happened between him and Amelia, and finally just laughed it off.... before his eyes fell back to his mysterious discovery he hid behind him, and forgot everything else about her….