by Paola Aliedo
This year’s Fictory is in partnership with BRUMULTIVERSE, a fictional multiple universe with dimensions, realms and parallel realities where amazing stories happen. All fics use the prompt: “The Main Character wakes up on the first day of school, late for their classes in a university to which they don’t remember enrolling.”
I’m officially a college student at Somerset International School, and today is my first day of class!
New school. New classmates. New experiences! It was my dream school and I was lucky to be enrolled.
Along with my excitement as a freshman was a headache. I remembered I slept early last night yet I woke up like someone was drilling in my head.
Touching my forehead, I glanced at the desk calendar which was in August and saw the red circle. Crap.
That was why I was experiencing a massive headache.
First day of school. First day of my monthly visit.
Way to start my day!
I got up from bed but stopped in my tracks in an instant.
Am I dreaming? I pinched my right cheek. Nope, you’re not, Ileaia!
I looked behind me. That’s not my bed! The cover was a sparkling blue sky, not a plain pink blanket.
Where is this room? My eyes roamed from the wallpaper to the door. It was painted with the pinkest shade I’ve seen in my entire life. Did my parents change the color overnight?
The only things familiar were my pet parrot, Kokoo, who was very quiet but had his eyes on me, and my shoulder bag on the chair.
I picked up my phone. 7:30 a.m., it read. I dialed a number.
“Ileaia, are you still in bed?”
“Ye—No. Mom, I don’t know exactly where I am. I am not in my room!”
I made my way to the window and peered outside while waiting for my mother’s response. The glass was tinted in black but the sun rays crept inside.
“Aren’t you in your dormitory?”
“What? How did I get here?” I couldn’t recall what happened yesterday.
“Dad carried you to your room. We wanted to wake you up but the kind Dean George Whitman told us to let you sleep. Have you seen your schedule of activities for today?”
“What? I haven’t. Where is it?”
“On your side table.” I picked it up and read the first words, then my eyes widened.
Oh no! “Mom, why did you enroll me at BRU?!”
“Ileaia, you told us yesterday that you decided that BRU was better than SIS.”
“What? I don’t remember. And Mom, why Performing Arts?” This was getting worse. I put my forehead on the glass window while waiting for her answer.
“You said you wanted to be an actress. So I thought…”
“That was when I was still a kid!” I knew I was raising my voice to my mother but I couldn’t help it. “I want to be a flight attendant, Mom, and Somerset is the best university for it. I can still get out of this school, right?”
I heard a sigh from the other line. “We cannot withdraw your enrollment with BRU. Besides, SIS already closed their application for this school year.”
I had planned everything since I graduated last March. I learned international languages, watched videos being an FA, and attended several workshops while on vacation.
My parents were the ones who kept telling me I would get in. They were insisting to enroll on the last day to avoid conflict of interest. However, they sent me to BRU instead.
I wanted to argue with my mother but I knew it wouldn’t change anything much. I was here at Berkeley-Reagan University, the last school I would have enrolled in. My dream of becoming a Flight Attendant was going downhill. BRU did not have tourism courses or aviation-related programs. My excitement for my first day as a college student vanished.
“Ileaia, are you still there?”
I sat down on the bed. “Yes.”
“And you’re still in your room? Ileaia, your first class begins at 8 a.m.!”
As if on cue, a bell rang from outside my room.
One of the reasons I wanted to be in SIS was that there was no uniform. Now in BRU, I had to wear the prescribed violet skirt and black coat. How my mom got my size while I was sleeping, I had no idea.
I was already thirty minutes late so I ran in the corridor to get to Room 102. Hopefully, whoever the professor was, they wouldn’t embarrass me on the first day of the class. Being here at BRU was already difficult enough to digest.
I waited for my heartbeat to return to normal before I opened the silver door.
“Finally… We’ve been waiting for you.”
All eyes were on me. I couldn’t speak.
The woman—professor?—standing in the front cleared her throat and smiled at me. “You’re Ileaia Madrid, right?”
I found my voice. “Yes, Ma’am,” I confirmed. “I am sorry I’m—”
“That’s alright,” she responded. “You may sit wherever you are comfortable.”
I nodded my head and marched towards the nearest desk. The girl whom I believed to be my seatmate for today grinned at me. Ileaia, be friendly. You promised Mom that you’ll behave. Fine. I beamed at her before turning my eyes to our professor.
“Now that you are all here, we can start. Good morning, everyone! Today is your orientation and campus tour. I am Miss Dahlia Ramenof, Theater and Drama instructor and your advisor. This is not a formal class introduction but I would love it if you can mingle and get to know your partner for your first day here at BRU. Who else? But the person beside you.”
At that, my seatmate started babbling.
“Hi! I am Geanna Samonte. I really want to be a theater actress someday like Monique Wilson and Lea Salonga. They are the icons I look up to. Have you seen Miss Saigon and Les Misérables?”
I tried to flash a smile at her. “Yes, when I was in elementary.”
Geanna held my hands and her eyes sparkled. “Oh my gosh! We are meant to be seatmates… What is your name again?”
“It is so nice to meet you! I am so nervous for this first day but it turns out it will just be an excursion. But what a pity we need to wear this uniform, right?”
I was about to agree when a girl from the front row shrieked.
“Adwin Herrera!” she cried out, pointing to a guy scratching his head.
“Wow, it is really him!” Geanna’s neck craned to get a glimpse of the boy.
“Who is he?” I asked.
My seatmate peered at me. “It’s Adwin Herrera, the son of the only Filipino actor who performs at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in London!”
She pulled out her phone to show a photo of the boy with a man wearing the same costume.
“This is Adwin and his dad, Timoteo Herrera.”
I nodded my head. “Does Adwin also perform abroad?”
“Well, I heard he and his dad aren’t on good terms after he chose his career over his family.”
I didn’t ask any more. I had more important things to think about, such as transferring to SIS.
Miss Ramenof called our attention. “Okay, everyone! Please form a line outside with your partner, and I will meet you all there in a bit.”
The Freshman Orientation was held at the auditorium and ran for an hour. The students invited were from the Reagan Arts and Humanities with the Head of Drama and Theater Arts department, Mrs. Conchita, introducing all things BRU. Geanna pointed out the dean to me. He did not bother to introduce himself or even welcome students which was alright for me. It cut the orientation down to just an hour of boredom.
We were dismissed after. Thank goodness because I’m starving! I was not able to eat breakfast because I immediately took a shower and hurriedly went out of my room.
“Do you want me to get you a glass of hibiscus juice, Ileaia?”
I bit the alcapone doughnut before answering my partner’s question. “Yes.” But what I wanted to say to Geanna was to leave me alone for a minute so I could enjoy my brunch in peace.
She rose up and strode her way to the refreshment counter. We headed to the Mess Hall where BRU’s official cafeteria was situated. The area was like a first-class hotel’s restaurant with a buffet-type setting where you can eat and drink all you can.
It was nearing lunchtime and some students from Berkeley and, I suppose, Integrated School were coming in. It was a hunch because the color of their uniforms was different from ours. We had an hour before the campus tour proceeded but I didn’t want to stay here with all the noise and temptation with the food.
“Here you go.” And Geanna was back.
“Thanks!” I quickly finished the dessert and drinks. “Can we go outside and have some fresh air?”
My new friend clapped her hands. “That would be awesome! Let us go!” Good thing we had something we agreed on!
“Our first stop for this afternoon is the Reagan Block. I will show you what you can see within our premises. Then we will be heading to the important areas in our campus that you need to be aware of. Take note of them because you don’t want to get lost especially when you are late to your class.” The former Freshman Class Governor pointed while gaping at me.
How did he even know? This guy who was in his sophomore year was our tour guide. He was part of the Student Council and was assigned to our section. Mrs. Ramenof reminded us to be obedient and behave with him before she bid us goodbye.
I elbowed Geanna. “Stop ogling at him!”
“I cannot! Colby is so cute.” I shook my head and left her daydreaming.
“This is Rosal Hall, where you will be staying most of the time because this is the place where your classrooms are located. At the end of this hallway are the Faculty and Admin rooms. You best be quiet when passing by or else the professors will call you out.”
I was the first victim though. Great job, Ileaia!
After we checked the possible rooms where we might have class, we transferred to the Grand Hall where the big events take place. Upon entering the Grand Theater, my classmates became extra thrilled. I was more interested when we reached the Music and Dance Studios in Sampaguita Hall. My feet were itching to groove. Every girl wanted to stay behind at Lualhati Hall when Julio, the hunky librarian, came out from one of the shelves to greet us. Meanwhile, the boys were hyped when the Oval and Grand Stand appeared.
It was almost four when Colby told us that we could rest for ten minutes. I stretched my legs. We rode e-jeepneys to go to the next destinations but were walking most of the time. I wanted to shout, “Are we done?” But I kept my mouth shut and drank my annoyance with the bottled water given to us.
“Before we continue our campus tour, any questions or clarifications?”
“Are the students from Reagan allowed to go to the Berkeley area? Or vice versa?”
I was so tired I did not realize it was Geanna who made the query.
Our tour guide cleared his throat. “There are no restrictions. We can go to their area and they can visit our halls too. Some of them are using our buildings for their elective courses and we are also capable of using the gym which can be found on their block.”
“Are we nearing the finish line?” I almost laughed at one of my classmates who knelt in front of Colby.
“Twenty minutes then we can call it a day.” Hallelujah!
Sunset has always been my favorite time of the day. For most human beings, it meant sadness and goodbye. However, for me, the sunset gave me peace and happiness that I survived the day. Ending the first day of being a freshman in the university I didn’t even remember enrolling in was not bad at all. Congratulations to me!
That was why when Geanna tugged me to the World Park and witnessed the sun setting from the horizon, I responded a mirthful yes!
I yawned and laid my head on my partner’s shoulder. “What was your preferred part of the campus tour? Mine was when we went to the TV and Radio Office Station and they let us practice off-air! Those pieces of equipment are world-class. That was amazing!”
I almost closed my eyes when she nudged my arm. “What?”
“Do you know that Berkeley girl?” Her finger pointed to the woman who was heading towards us with her two companions.
Come on! Why does it have to be now? “Geanna hide me!”
But before my newfound friend could move, I was spotted! My heart accelerated.
“Well… Well… Who do we have here? Is it really you, Ileaia?”
I combed my hair and smirked. “Oh hello there, Krizta! Long time no see!” I did not want to notice you ever and your earth-shattering voice that I did not miss.
“I was surprised to see you here at BRU. Does your friend even know that you hate this school so much?”
I gritted my teeth as my partner glanced at me with shocked eyes. “Don’t listen to her, Geanna.”
Krizta chuckled. “You are still the same old Ileaia Madrid that I’m familiar with.” She tapped my classmate’s finger. “We had been schoolmates since nursery until high school. She spat at anything related to Berkeley-Reagan University like venom. Trust me.”
“Stop it, Krizta,” I growled as a warning.
“Hahaha… Scared of the truth? Are you embarrassed now?”
I lifted my right hand. I was ready to slap her face if she uttered one more word when suddenly someone grasped my palm.
“I found you.”
Up close, he was more handsome. The last ray of sun hit his prominent jaw and the wind blew his curly short hair.
I was transfixed on him for a while but then reality slapped me on my face. Why is he here?
Adwin did not release my hand but instead, he firmly held it before whispering, “Go with the flow. Act naturally.”
If I was startled that he popped out from nowhere, Geanna, Krizta and the others’ jaws dropped.
He flashed his white teeth on them. “I’ve been searching for Ileaia. Thank you ladies for accompanying her.”
My forehead creased. What was he talking about?
Adwin gazed at me. “We should be going.”
I wanted to ask where but I recalled what he requested briefly. I nodded my head and stood up.
He pulled my hand and I was like a robot who followed his lead. We were merely a few feet away from the benches when Geanna shouted my name.
I looked back at her. She was indicating her skirt. My eyes grew wide when I saw what she wanted to tell me.
“Adwin… We need to stop.” How could I even forget about it?
Though he was confused with what I requested, he let go of my hand.
“May I borrow your blazer?” I had left mine in my room.
He removed it and handed it to me. I hurriedly wrapped it around my waist.
“Now, we can go.”
I should go to the nearest comfort room and change my sanitary napkin but this moment may not happen again. Never mind my menstruation, I will deal with you later.
“Why are we here?”
“Girls love plants, right?”
I giggled while I touched a small bud in a purple pot. “There are already lots of plants and flowers in the World Park. And not all ladies are a plantita.”
Adwin snickered. “I thought… Never mind.”
We were both quiet for a moment.
“Why did you rescue me back then?”
“I was sleeping in one of the shaded trees when I heard some noise and you were being cornered.”
“So you acted like a knight without shining armor and saved the damsel in distress.”
Adwin avoided my stare by throwing a pebble on one of the empty water sprinklers. “A simple thank you will do.”
“Do you always act like that?”
He breathed out heavily. “I should not be studying in this university or sticking with this course.”
I did not expect him to confess what he just did. He did not want to stay here either! Somehow I felt we connected. And it was good to hear I was not alone.
I lay a fallen leaf on top of his hand. “For whatever reason that you ended up in BRU like me, you can keep it.” I bit my lower lip. “Thank you for getting me out of that messy situation earlier and for bringing me here. I appreciate it, Adwin.”
He dusted off his pants before he ambled to the door. “Maybe we are in this place because we are supposed to be. Good night, Ileaia.”
See you tomorrow, Adwin.
Best way to end the first day of being a freshman at Berkeley-Reagan University? Soaking my aching body in a huge tub with lavender-scented Epsom salt and listening to relaxing music. It was like the spa area was brought here with the aroma scents and essential oils wafting in the room.
I was applying lotion when a message from WhatsApp appeared.
“Ileaia! I am forgiving you for leaving me in the World Park.
But here are my three conditions:
- You have to tell me the truth about your schoolmate’s accusation.
- Let us exchange secrets, seatmate because I miss you already!
- Spill the beans about your runway with Adwin Herrera!
You should check the school’s WhatsApp chatroom, you and your knight are trending!”
I promptly opened the group chat and the headline was screaming: Couple alert!
There was a photo posted of me and Adwin’s back. My heart almost fell! It was a bit blurred, though. The chat box was bombarded with questions about who we were. I scrolled down until I viewed the last comment. No one was able to identify us. I was relieved.
I closed the GC and typed back a message.
Thank you for not revealing it was us, Geanna, and for not commenting about the issue. You are the best partner and seatmate for my Day 1 here at BRU. Let us chit chat more tomorrow!
What a day! I was suddenly sleepy. I laid down in bed and was about to put the phone on silent when it vibrated and rang. I pressed the answer button without checking who it was.
“Are you still awake, honey?”
“I am about to sleep now, Mom.” Meaning: Can we talk some other time? But knowing Mother, she would not stop snooping around.
“How was your first day, Ileaia? I was hoping you’d update me and your Dad. Were you too busy?”
I blew out the air. “I survived Mom. We had our orientation and a campus tour.”
“What an eventful day! Have you gained friends?”
“I have one for now. Her name is Geanna. She is my seatmate and partner for today.”
There was a clap on the other line. “I would love to meet her! Video chat tomorrow when you are on breaktime, okay?”
I creased my eyes to keep myself awake. “I have to ask her first, Mom.”
“I know… I know… You should sleep now so you won’t be late again. I am happy that you are doing well there, Illeaia.”
Maybe we are in this place because we are supposed to be. “Mom, do not worry anymore. I guess being here at BRU is not bad at all. Good night!”
I clicked the end button and stared at the ceiling. I was thinking about the events that took place today when Kokoo flapped his wings.
“Ileaia likes it here! Ileaia likes BRU!”
I should be irritated with my talkative parrot but hearing his voice after a tiring day made me miss home.
I hugged the pillow tight. Looking forward to Day Two and socializing with my classmates. I still can’t remember what happened yesterday. But I do hope that when I wake up tomorrow, I will remain a freshman student taking up Drama and Theater Arts here at Berkeley-Reagan University. ☁️