(A/N): Yay! Thank you, Tadora Angel, for subscribing! Now you can follow along to the Yunalai goodness, or the story of life. Whichever reason you decided to stay with us. I wrote this chapter in Yuna's POV, actually, and the next chapter will be part two of April Fool's Day (also in Yunie's POV, or maybe even Baralai's, too? We shall see).
I hope I portrayed Yuna well. Peering into her mind made me realize how turbulent her emotions are, but not in a bad way. It's just very different compared to Baralai's logical behavior. I like it, though. :3
Chapter 6 - Fool
"The wise are wise only because they love. The fools are fools only because they think they can understand love."
~ Paulo Coelho
"Mr. Bevelle. Hi."
"Oh. Hello, Ms. Alexander."
Her PE teacher stops to place his hands down on his knees, and turns to regard her in a questioning manner.
Yuna heard the quiet echo of piano keys, which led her astray from her normal path to the library, curiosity guiding her to follow the distant trail of music. She poked her head in the doorway of the choir room and saw someone seated at the piano, playing a nice and plaintive melody. Strolling inside with her hands at her back, Yuna moves to hover by the old wooden piano and smiles at him.
Outside of Gym class, this man substituted for her American History teacher on several occasions, and Baralai Bevelle made a strong impression on her as someone very young and handsome for his position. Every student who ever had him knew him as the kind of adult who combined discipline with fun-loving and engaging class time. Yuna recalled the day they were studying the Civil War: Mr. Bevelle had everyone split up in two teams as he marched between the opposite rows with his imaginary rifle, shooting down those unable to spit out rapid-fire facts about their ancestor's independence from the English colonies. Who knew an athlete could be smart in book-related subjects and possess the skills to play a classical instrument?
Never had Yuna met a man so passionate and intelligent, and before she knew it Baralai Bevelle formed the ideal man in her mind. Standing now in the same room as him made her feel self-conscious, and the thought of being alone together makes her blush.
"What were you playing? It sounded wonderful."
"Overcome, by David Nevue. It's beautiful. One of my favorite modern piano pieces."
"Would you mind if I stay and listen?"
"Not at all. I'm curious, though. Do you not have somewhere to be?" Yuna takes the seat he offers beside him, and shakes her head.
"Not really. I usually wait for my friend to finish his swim practice, so I try to find ways to kill time."
"'Kill time?'" He chuckles, fingers poised on the correct keys. "You mean 'make the best of my time.' To kill time is such a horrible thing to say."
Yuna laughs. "Of course. How cruel of me."
"So, your friend..." Twinkling notes tinkle faster than the beat of her heart and Yuna feels the melancholic smile on her face. The melody sounds so profound, it soothes her soul. "Do I know this student?"
"Maybe. His name is Tidus."
"Ah. Tidus. I like his name. It's unique. Sounds similar to the Okinawan word for 'Sun,' Tiida."
It tickles Yuna pink how he glorifies her best friend's name with such knowledgeable symbolism, and she grins. "Unique like yours?" Baralai smiles and returns her teasing.
"Yes, like yours. Did you know your name is the Okinawan word for 'Moon'?"
"My Dad did. He never let me forget it. Always calling me his precious moon..."
The conversation trails off, for a lack of better things to say. Comfortable silence settles, giving them freedom to enjoy the music without the interruption of words. The melody matures into a powerful message of emotion and celebration, and Yuna wonders why it sounds so familiar, if perhaps her father had sometimes listened to it in his times of leisure. She watches his deft fingers dance across the keys, hears the slight slip-ups and experienced precision of each hit. Not the best piano player in the world, but Baralai shows his love and dedication for the piece in the fruits of his practice.
Once the music ends, empty silence reigns.
"...I love your playing. It's full of emotion, and strength."
He sighs, smiling, looking tired all of the sudden. "Thank you."
"It makes me think of my father. If he heard it, I'm sure he would have loved it."
"Funny you would say that."
"Really? What do you..."
"David Nevue's ninth CD album was called 'Overcome.' It's a response to his father who died of cancer a few years before the album's release. Many people think the music focuses on sadness or sorrow, but it isn't. Rather, it serves as a testimony to the spiritual process of passing through it."
"Passing through it..." Yuna echoes the words, which whisper in her heart. "You mean pain?"
Lifting her hands, she lets them drape on the piano keys, pressing one after the other in a slow and pensive manner. Her small smile masks what she truly feels inside. Loss. Heartbreak. Resignation.
"I think..." His eyes are trained on her, before they look away. "You seem to be doing better."
Her fingers freeze, as does her breathing. "Doing better?"
"Compared to how you were like two years ago."
"Oh..." Unsure of what to say, Yuna ducks her chin to hide the beginning of tears behind her bangs. "Um, I... I didn't think..."
"What? That anyone wouldn't notice? I did." Silence, tense silence. "Ms. Alexander?"
"What are you still doing here?" Yuna looks up, startled by the blunt question and intimidated by his look. His brown eyes are dark, boring through her very soul. She realized a long time ago she would never get away with lying to him, because his perception frightens her. At long last he averts his eyes, as if suddenly aware of his unkind behavior. "If I remember correctly, you were waiting on a friend. I think enough time has passed for you to leave now."
"True. You're right."
"I will see you next Monday."
Yuna fidgets in her seat, solemn, yet self-conscious. "D-Don't be afraid about scaring me, um... I... I like being around you. Today, I... I found myself loitering here, because I saw you and I..." Gulping down her trepidation, she tries to control the hammering of her heart. She can feel her face flush at the thought of what she wanted to say, hoping he won't misunderstand, daring to initiate eye contact.
"I wanted to be with you."
He shows little reaction, except for the pensive look on his poker face, and Yuna stammers to explain herself. "You... you always make me feel better, n-no matter what you do..."
"I know. I understand what you meant. My mind was just elsewhere." Baralai forces the smile, as if to reassure her when he would rather still be thinking about those mysterious thoughts of his. Her inner doubt likes to think he fabricates smiles to fool the world, but her heart believes therein lies some semblance of real emotion beneath each carefully crafted expression. If you would stop to strip away the professional mask, he might have his reasons for trying to appear strong. Those are the thoughts that cross Yuna's mind when she watches him and recognizes the same mask she wears on herself. Or that can be her getting too ahead of herself, wanting to feel some sort of empathic connection towards a man who holds little personal involvement in her life.
"Thank you," he says, pressing the keys to play a simpler melody more uplifting than the last. "For what you said, it meant a lot." Baralai's bashful smile brings out an endearing side of him she rarely sees, and the random sounding of the school bell startles Yuna out of her trance. He laughs when she jumps out of her seat. "Strange how the bell does that even after school has ended."
"Y-Yeah..." Tucking some hair behind her ear, Yuna stands and hoists her backpack onto her shoulder. "I'm happy we got to talk, Mr. Bevelle. It's been awhile."
"Of course. It has been a pleasure."
Yuna drops her pen and sags into her seat.
'What am I thinking, writing a story about him? About — us? This is so embarrassing!'
The depth of her private emotions in relation to someone she knows in real life captured in the written word — the thought of it mortifies her.
She returned to school that day and felt her entire world shift polarities. In the sea of unfamiliar people, the familiar faces of all her friends and acquaintances have become alien to her. How would they react if she told them about what happened over the weekend? Would they make a big deal out of it or think of her differently if she dared to pour her heart out to them? Would they understand? Do people even need to know what happened? Knowing Rikku, the news would spread like wildfire and everyone would know in due time. Yuna's not sure whether or not she wants to face everyone's pity.
She went about her school day, walking from class to class, taking notes, listening in on the lectures with half an ear, daydreaming of horrifying and intimate things, all the while wondering what she will say to Baralai next time they meet. After everything that happened over the weekend, she can no longer think of him the same way. His actions have earned her complete trust in him, and more. Anyone else would have taken advantage of her — exploit a vulnerable and beautiful girl in her time of emotional need, but Baralai did no such thing. He had been there for her, refrained from gross judgement and complaint.
'I want to see him. He makes me feel so safe.' Her eyes start to water, blurring the desk and her immediate surroundings, and she manages to stifle the hiccup, wiping her eyes in the back of her sleeve. The teacher sits at his desk, grading papers while her classmates are silent, engrossed in their assignment. Seeing her mother earlier this morning didn't comfort her at all; it only opened the floodgates she locked shut, emotion soaking through her every word and action. She wants to let it out, but there are too many people around, and 'Where are you? I want to be in your arms. I need you.'
She must learn to hold herself strong somehow, because she knows Baralai won't always be there to support her.
"Do it for me?"
"For the last time, Chappu: NO!"
"I am not a sissy!" Yuna says, her voice shrill with annoyance. Only her best friend possesses the unique power to thin out her otherwise inhuman patience. The redhead in question leans back against the table, arms folded at the back of his head and grinning like a madman who's killed too many people to count. In this case, the various shreds of humanity Yuna still has and counting.
"You are and you know it."
"Don't make me angry." She threatens him with the most intimidating voice she can muster; by Chappu's mocking impersonation of the Hulk, she can tell it failed miserably.
"You don't like me when I'm angry…" He cackles, wiping the tears of mirth from his eyes. "Seriously, why so chicken? It's April Fool's Day. The prank you have to do is simple and harmless."
"'Simple'? How is a love confession 'simple'? And 'harmless'? What if I hurt his feelings?" Considering the person Yuna's been dared to prank, she doubts there will be any feelings in his egotistical heart to hurt. But she always goes out of her way to respect the feelings of others, no matter how mean or scary they are.
"Imagine how nerve-wracking it would be if you had to confess to Tidus," Chappu says in a sing-song voice, and the apple juice Yuna had been drinking shoots out of her mouth with hilarious velocity.
"But that wouldn't be a prank!" she says, soft and wary, looking around incase someone had heard. Wiping the juice off her chin with a napkin, she glares at Chappu, indignation forming in the shape of a frown.
"Exactly. A prank love confession should not be taken seriously. There's nothing to lose by going through with this. On the contrary, you'll have a couple of laughs!" Before Yuna can open her mouth to retaliate, Chappu snatches her arms and hauls her up on her feet, dragging his friend against her will to the other side of the quad. "Now get. I'll be watching you, so you can give up on weaseling your way out of this."
"B-But—!" Yuna stumbles after he shoves her forward, and barely manages to catch herself by grabbing onto a nearby table. The teenagers sitting there give her odd looks and snicker at her clumsiness. 'What have I done to deserve this? Oh, I forgot. Chappu loves to mess with people. After all, his friends are his victims.'
Yuna straightens herself and directs her attention to the group of jocks occupying an entire table to themselves at the opposite side of the quad. Gippal Ortega sits in the middle as their Alpha Male, the captain of the soccer team and the one individual she dreads to face. When she sees him laugh at a friend's joke, anxiety stops her from going through with this.
'I don't want to do this. Do I really have to walk up to him and confess out of the blue in front of all his friends? What will I do if he accepts? What if he rejects me? Oohhh...'
But knowing Chappu, he will only cook up a prank worse than the last if you refuse to participate in his mayhem. Yuna takes a deep breath and prepares for the worst, making her over. "Hi, um, Gippal." Tearing himself away from the current conversation, the boy in question smiles at her with looks that can kill a lady's heart. 'Do not fall for it, Yuna!'
"Hey, girl, what's up?"
"Hi…" 'Dummy, you already said that!'
She tucks a strand of brown hair behind her ear, nervous. Before Yuna can scavenge the courage to speak again, someone calls her name and she turns around. Seeing this handsome boy walk in her direction, looking at her, smiling at her, she feels the world slow down and her heart beat faster now.
Baralai approaches, right hand clenched on the strap of his shoulder backpack, the other lifted in a friendly wave, looking so confident in his stride that she imagines running into his embrace. Euphoria pumps warmth into her dimpled cheeks when he picks her up in his strong arms and twirls her round and round like a Disney prince would with his destined princess. She clutches him tighter and squeals in delight after Baralai holds her up high to peer into her eyes. He smiles the way he does when she says something that amuses or impresses him, and feelings of affection bloom in her chest, pooling into a reservoir of pure emotion.
"Good afternoon." His voice anchors her back to reality, dragging her out from the world of idle fantasies. She gasps and shakes her head, feeling her face burn to the point of imminent combustion. Baralai stands in front of her, confused by her reaction, and dismisses it with a polite smile. "I'm glad I ran into you. I packed some strawberries for you. I was wondering if you would like to share."
"O-Of course! I'd love to. I love fruit." Yuna clears her throat, embarrassed by the sheer volume of her enthusiasm.
"Okay." She blushes again, spellbound by the sound of his boyish laugh. 'Cupid, shoot me down, for I can't take this anymore. Why? Why me? Why am I so...'
"Ah, but before that... Here you are, Gippal." Yuna groans, kicking herself in the head. 'I'm not here to make small talk or daydream of drop-dead gorgeous guys. I need to focus.' Turning to regard Gippal who lost interest in her, she watches him stand up to greet his best friend.
"YES! Finally! I was starving. My waifu! You are my waifu! Come here, lemme give you some good ol' Gippal love—."
Baralai 'kindly' inserts his boot into his stomach, shoving him back down on the bench to intercept his incoming hug. "No, thank you. I'd rather have your perverse tendencies restrained in exchange for my kindness." Once he receives the food Baralai almost throws at his feet (which Gippal dramatically prides himself in catching), he almost drops it into the cold unforgiving oblivion of hard concrete.
"Wait, what is this? It looks like crap!"
"It is not 'crap,' it's popara," Baralai says, crossing his arms. "It's healthy for you with plenty of calcium."
"I've had it before. It's actually pretty good," Yuna says, smiling.
"Hmm, well, if the Goddess doth proclaims it is good, it must be good." Despite his easy-going demeanor, Gippal pokes at the food with a plastic spork, sniffing it once and twice, poking it again just incase it jumps out at him to suck his brains out, before bringing a morsel to his lips. He licks it, chews it, cringes, then swallows. "Huh. Not bad." Baralai smiles despite the sigh, rolling his eyes, amused by his melodramatic display.
"I thought of you while making it."
"Aww, thanks, B'man."
"After all, children love to eat popara."
Gippal almost chokes in mid-gulp, and coughs, startled by the jest. "This crap?! In what country?"
"Hmm, let's see... In countries like Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Macedonia—."
"Okay. I get it. Europe... Yeesh. I'm just a child to you, aren't I? We were never equals in this partnership!"
"Desist with your sniveling. You aren't fooling anyone." Baralai suppresses the twitch of another smile and turns to address Yuna, curious. "Not to be rude, but why are you here? You don't usually eat with Gippal."
"...you know, B'man's got a point. What's up?"
'Darn. Why does Baralai have to be so observant?' Yuna had wanted to avoid this, and the words she wants to say now die on her tongue at the expectant look on Gippal's face. Helpless, Yuna looks behind her shoulder and pleads with Chappu through frantic eye contact to bail her out. He does no such thing, except smile like a cocky troublemaker with total disregard for her poor feelings.
"Is Chappu blackmailing you again?"
"Huh?" Yuna swerves around to face him, surprised. "W-What makes you say that?"
"Because you were just looking at him," Gippal says, chuckling, fiddling with the soccer ball on his lap. "Is there something you want to tell me? Don't be shy now. Whatever you can say, you can say in front of my peeps."
"It's okay." 'It is not okay!'
"Let's hear it, then." Gippal reclines back on the bench, stretching his arms, before letting them fall back down on the table. Yuna gulps. 'This is it.'
"Gippal." He raises his eyebrows and Yuna nibbles on her bottom lip. "The thing is…"
"What's there to lose?" 'Chappu was right. Maybe I do complicate things more than they should be.'
"I'm in love with you!"
Birds shoot into the air, scared by her ground-breaking confession. All the crowded tables surrounding them fall silent as countless pair of eyes glue themselves at the couple. Yuna wants to run, but her feet are glued to the ground.
Before she can comprehend anything over the explosion of catcalls, Gippal lunges forward to hug her. One moment she feels suffocating warmth, the feel of his groping hands on her back, the next she hears the echo of a sharp slap resound in the cold air. Everyone falls silent again, voices rising soon after in a chorus of shouts, as they celebrate for the "new" competition. Baralai steps in between them, pushing Gippal back.
"You have a girlfriend!" he says, shouting on top of everyone else. "Act like an adult. If a girl comes up to you and confesses her love, be it sincere or not, you turn her down. Don't take advantage of her feelings to fool around."
Without giving Gippal the time to react, Baralai grabs her hand and leaves the quad, pulling her along while ignoring the wolf whistles and cheers that bounce off their backs. His tight grip on her hand scares her and as they weave through the thin crowd of people, she wants to ask where he plans on taking her, but too scared to break the tense silence. Further and further Baralai takes them to the back of campus, stalking across an empty hallway behind the library that rounds the corner, before he reaches the end and pushes the double doors ajar. Yuna staggers outside and hears the doors slam shut, winded by the trip, and finds herself gazing out into the football field and portable classrooms down below. Very few people meander in this part of school, capable of eavesdropping. Baralai walks forward and stops to lean on the railing, glaring into the distance.
"Yuna, care to explain to me why you were at the forefront of that farce?"
"Um, it was supposed to be a prank."
"I know it was a prank. What I'm asking is why would you agree to participate in that kind of malarkey?"
"I don't know. Chappu was trying to cheer me up, I think. I told him about my mom."
"Forcing someone to confess their fake love to a friend who's dating their family hardly constitutes to comfort."
His sarcasm angers her more than she expected and she snaps. "I don't see why you are so affected by it. You had nothing to do with it."
"On the contrary. I never took you for the type of person who jumps at everyone's slightest whim."
"I'm — I'm not a doormat!"
"What I saw there begs to differ."
"That's what I don't understand. Why do you care?"
"I am your friend, and I just watched you get sexually harassed by my best friend. I can tell you didn't want to be there, but you did nothing to defend yourself. What would have happened if I hadn't thought about seeing him? Would the public humiliation continue and progress into something more shameful?"
"You... y-you didn't have to pull me away like that..." she says, sniffling, "Now people will get the wrong idea..."
"I don't care what they think. I would rather die than watch you humiliate yourself."
"It wasn't a big deal..."
"It was a big deal to you."
Awkward silence. She starts to cry, because she knows he speaks the truth. The way he raises his voice scares her, even though he only acts this way because he cares. Yuna tries to hold onto Yunalesca's words for comfort, and wonders if Baralai's also angry about something else, which added fuel to the fire of his temper.
"...a-are you still angry over Sunday night?"
"...what do you mean?"
"For slapping me." Yuna hears the denial in his silence, and she sniffs. "You were right. I-I was uncomfortable. Thank you for defending me, even though it embarrassed me." He smiles a little, reluctant to let go of his anger, and steps closer, moving to touch the tears. Something flits across his eyes, causes him to falter and drop his hand. Her heart throbs when he looks away and turns his back on her, going back to rest his arms on the railing. She can feel his remorse as if it were her own.
The eminent image Yuna built him on shatters into a million pieces. He would hit a woman. He has a dark temper. He lies, he loses control, and yet this does not make Yuna think any less of him. It makes her feel that much closer to him, because his flaws show he's far from perfect, that he's just like her, a human being, and she wouldn't have him any other way. 'I can't ask for a better friend.'
Joining him at the railing, she stands shoulder to shoulder with him and they both look out into the distance, admiring the nice and peaceful weather. Silence and contentment cradles the unspoken apology and her forgiveness.