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A long time coming

SO, that was probably my longest hiatus from WordPress thus far. In the four months I’ve been AWOL, I:

  • suffered a wisdom tooth extraction — and consequently, lost five pounds.
  • started contributing articles to a local website, Kristn.com (check out my latest article about my trip to Siem Reap)
  • got a part-time gig editing — guess what? — thesis and dissertation abstracts (I. KNOW.)
  • traveled to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore — where I managed to watch The Killers perform at the SG Grand Prix (for cheap!)
  • underwent testing for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome — which turned out to be negative (thank God!!!)
  • joined and won NaNoWriMo 2013, continuing with the same plot I used last year (and still haven’t finished -_-)
  • was beset by freaking GERD again — and still am, at this moment :((
  • finished the first draft and initial edit of my first manuscript. FINALLY!

I won’t go into those in detail, even though my multiple trips to medical practitioners could fill an entire post. Suffice it to say that I pray 2014 will be a better year for me, health-wise. What I will tell you is that I finally made a Wattpad account, where I put up the first couple of pages of my New Adult novel, Beck and Fall. This is the story of Cyn, a Filipina who moves to the States to pursue a degree in Psychology, and Beck, a guy from Boston who just wants to finish college and become a licensed architect. If you’ve been reading my blog, you might remember them from this short story I posted a while back. I hadn’t originally planned to make a novel out of it, but Cyn and Beck just wouldn’t get out of my mind. I kept the scene in the novel, but it’s been revised quite a bit.

Anyway, in case you’re interested, here’s a short excerpt of Beck and Fall. I’d love to hear what you think about it, and if you’d like to read more, check out my Wattpad, which I’ll update from time to time. This is still a rough draft though, so please forgive any errors! Enjoy! 🙂

There was a condom in her welcome envelope.

The petite, dark-haired girl stared at the small red packet, her dark brows drawn together in a deep furrow. She’d been sorting through the papers containing the college handbook, campus map and directory, and various other information that overwhelmed her head, when that packet slipped out along with a number two Mongol pencil and her ID lanyard.

“You got the strawberry flavored one? Score. I got grape. So not my type.”

Cynthia del Prado dropped the condom on her desk and jumped to her feet, wiping her palms on the thick material of her denims as she stared at the willowy girl standing at the now-open doorway.

The girl flashed Cyn an easy smile. “Trade you?” she asked, shifting the big duffel bag on her shoulder.

“You can have it,” Cyn said, her face heating up.

Her new roommate threw back her long blond curls and laughed. Steering her suitcase to the foot of the empty bed, she dropped her duffel and approached Cyn. “I like you already. My parents call me Mary Jane, but call me that and I’ll dye your hair and eyebrows pink while you’re sleeping. I’m MJ, and I’m happy you’re not a goth-looking druggie.”

Cyn gave a soft oomph as MJ-not-Mary-Jane caught her up in a hug. “Hi MJ. I’m Cyn.” She patted MJ’s back, unused to receiving such an enthusiastic greeting from someone she’d just met.

“Cyn, short for Cynthia?” MJ drew away to cast a thorough eye on her. “I don’t think I want to introduce you to Cole.”

“Cole?”

“My boyfriend. He’s coming by later to bring the rest of my stuff.”

There was more?

Sitting in her chair, Cyn glanced at the bags that MJ had left on the floor, then around their dorm room. She didn’t know if it was a standard size as dorm rooms went, but it seemed that much of the space was taken up by the matching utilitarian twin beds, desks, and closets.

It was a good thing she’d been able to fit her empty bags under her bed. MJ, on the other hand…

“Don’t worry, I’m not some kind of clothes horse,” MJ said as if she’d heard Cyn’s thoughts. “This suitcase’s full of my supplies. Art major,” she shrugged and sat cross-legged on her bare mattress. “I’ll probably leave the bigger items in my locker at the studio. Cole’s bringing most of my clothes and I’m pretty sure they’ll fit in my closet.”

“Oh, there’s extra space in mine, in case you need it.” Cyn’s older sister, Jem, had been amazed that she’d managed to fit her things in her closet with more than an inch to spare. She promised to send over additional clothes, especially for when the temperature dropped. Cyn wasn’t sure if she could hold her sister to that, knowing that her promises didn’t always count for much.

“I knew I liked you for a reason.” MJ beamed at her, showcasing a row of white, perfectly straight teeth. “What’s your major, by the way? Just so we can get the boring stuff out of the way and move on to the good shit.”

Cyn blinked at the way MJ had casually thrown the expletive around. It wasn’t anything new to her, but it sounded so weird coming from such a sweet-looking girl. “I’m taking up Psychology,” she said.

MJ’s eyes widened. She pursed her lips together, nodding her head. “Pre-med?”

Cyn laughed. “Nope. Just Psych. I don’t think I can survive another decade studying. It’s bad enough that I have to redo second year.”

“Whew. Lord, you scared me there for a moment. I wouldn’t know what to do with someone who willingly subjects herself to years of school.” She shuddered, sending her curls bouncing, then frowned. “Wait, what’s that about redoing second year?.”

“I’m supposed to be about midway through my junior year now.” Seeing her roommate’s confusion, Cyn explained, “I transferred from the Philippines. I already finished second year and was about to enroll for my third year when I got accepted here. Since they couldn’t credit all my classes, I had to start over as a sophomore.”

Here was Sterling, California, a little city tucked away between Berkeley and Albany in the San Francisco Bay Area. Like Berkeley, it was a university town, only scaled down to around a third of the former’s size. The fact that Sterling University wasn’t too big was one of its main draws for Cyn’s parents, aside from its reputable Psychology program. It would be homey, they’d said.

The other reason why they’d been all for Sterling was that it was just a two-and-a-half hour ride from Sacramento, where Cyn’s older sister, Jem, lived with her husband. The full scholarship for Cyn’s tuition, books, and lodging was just icing on the cake.

“You’re Filipino?” Cyn hadn’t thought MJ’s eyes could go any wider, but they did. “Explains the accent. Cool.”

MJ was the one with the accent. It had the slightest bit of twang that pointed to Southern roots. Not that Cyn attempted to argue that point. On this side of the world, she was the one who was different.

“I wouldn’t have pegged you for one,” MJ said as she dug a lollipop out of her purse. She pointed it at Cyn in a silent offer, but Cyn shook her head. Smacking her lips together, MJ unwrapped her strawberry sucker. “I love these things. Anyway, where exactly is the Philippines again? Near China right? Sorry, I stink at Geography. Or is it Geology?”

“Geography.” Cyn’s lips twitched with amusement. It was hard to be offended by MJ because she had such a friendly, easygoing nature about her. “It’s actually in Southeast Asia.”

She went on to tell MJ a little about her country and was in the middle of talking about the thousands of islands that comprised it when a sharp rap sounded at their door.

“That must be Cole.” MJ jumped off the bed and rushed to the door.

The door opened to reveal a lanky guy with a close-shaven head and a charming smile. The smile grew into a cocky grin when he saw MJ coming at him. “Hey, babe.” Dragging a medium-sized bright orange suitcase behind him, he stepped into the room, nudged the door shut and caught MJ in a hug.

Cyn looked away as the embrace morphed into a full-on make out session. Searching for something to preoccupy herself from what was happening just a few feet away, she dug out her phone from her pocket and started fiddling with the keys.

A giggle rose from the end of the room. “Sorry, Cyn. We got carried away.”

Cyn looked up and found her new roommate giving her a rueful smile as her boyfriend stood beside her, his arm wrapped around MJ’s waist and his eyes studying Cyn with blatant appreciation.

He smirked when their gazes clashed. “Carried away? That was nothing, babe. Carried away is if I pinned you to the wall and fu–”

His last words were smothered by MJ’s hand. “Now, now. Don’t shock my roomie on the first day.” She choked back a laugh as she looked at Cyn. “Cyn, this is my boyfriend, Cole. Cole, Cyn. She’s from the Philippines.”

“You don’t say? I guess I better go give her a warm welcome, shouldn’t I?”

Cyn didn’t trust the glint in his eyes as he took one step forward. Luckily, MJ was there to intervene for her.

“Stop right there, Cole Williams,” she ordered, gripping his arm in her orange-tipped hand.

“What?” He threw her an innocent look. “I was just going to shake her hand.”

“Sure you were.” MJ didn’t sound convinced. “Hands off my roommate or I’m cutting your dick off.”

Huh. So she wasn’t the only lucky recipient of MJ’s threats. Compared to castration, pink hair almost sounded like a present.

Laughing, Cole held both hands up. “Fine. Roomie’s off-limits.” He turned to face Cyn and winked. “Nice to meet you, Cyn.  Welcome to Sterling.”

She mumbled a response in kind and busied herself with checking her messages as the couple talked in lowered voices. She was reading a text from her best friend from home, Jolie, when MJ spoke up.

“Cyn, I’m heading out with Cole. You want to go grab some lunch?”

“That’s okay, you guys go ahead,” she said, not wanting to intrude on the couple’s one-on-one time.

“You should come keep MJ company,” Cole suggested. “I’m going back to the House to prep for tonight’s party, anyway. I expect to see you both there.” He pointed a finger at Cyn, then MJ.

“Count on it, babe,” MJ told him before walking over to Cyn and tugging her from her chair. “C’mon, Cyn. You have to eat some time. I’m hung-gry! Someone didn’t feed me breakfast,” she said, eliciting protests from her boyfriend.

“Wait, let me grab my bag.”

MJ rolled her baby blue eyes. “The student union’s, like, five minutes away. Just bring your ID and your keycard. My stomach’s calling me, Cyn. It will not be denied.”

“Hold on.” Cyn plucked her purse from the hook on the back of her closet door and pushed it closed. “Okay, let’s go.”

“Finally!” MJ hooked her arm around Cyn’s and pulled her out of their room.

Cyn barely had enough time to look their door.

“Babe, have I told you that Cyn’s the best roomie ever? She gave me something strawberry flavored that I think you’ll enjoy. You know how I love the taste of strawberry in my mouth.”

Cyn winced at MJ’s words and blushed when Cole gave a response that she tried to forget hearing. She definitely wasn’t home anymore.

* * *

“Cole likes you,” MJ announced after she’d shoveled in half of her beef risotto. Aside from a few hums of pleasure, she’d been silent for the first ten minutes that they’d been sitting at their table.

After saying goodbye to Cole at the parking lot of their dorm, MJ had led Cyn to the student union, a three-story glass and steel curvilinear structure that looked out of place among the red brick buildings of Sterling U. While most of the school buildings were warm and stately, making Cyn think of a solemn-faced old man with horn-rimmed glasses, the student union was all cool and modern, like a fresh-faced, techie student buzzing with energy.

She knew from the campus tour that the Glass Building housed a bookstore, a small grocery, and a coffee shop in addition to several restaurants, lounges, and student organization offices. The coffee shop, cleverly named Uni Brew, caught her attention with its charming bleached wood interiors and turquoise accents. Then there was the simple fact that it promised a steady supply of her favorite fuel.

Yep, she’d be a regular at the Uni Brew, all right.

Twirling her fettuccine noodles around her fork, Cyn gave MJ a guarded look as she mulled over that comment about Cole. “What made you say that?”

“Aside from the fact that he’s a guy and you’re hot?” MJ said, waving her fork at Cyn.

Cyn ducked to avoid getting hit by a stray grain of rice.

“He told you to have lunch with me. That’s a nod of approval as any.”

“Oh.” She took a bite of her pasta.

“Look at you, all flustered. He didn’t make much of an impression on you, did he?” Without giving Cyn a chance to answer, MJ nodded, a pleased smile curving her lips. “Great, at least you’re one less girl to worry about.”

Cyn frowned at that statement. Seeing that MJ had no inclination to explain, she decided to ask the question that had been niggling at her mind. “How do you know so much about Sterling? Do you have an older sibling who studied here?”

MJ laughed. “Hardly. I’m an only child.” She gave a loud, dramatic sigh. “No, it’s because of Cole. I visited him a couple of times last year. He’s a sophomore, and a member of Alpha Sig.”

As Cyn caught up with MJ’s now-empty plate, MJ told her how she and Cole had been high school sweethearts. MJ had been the new girl in town, and two weeks after she’d started her junior year, she and Cole, the school’s hottest football player, became the school’s most talked-about couple.

“If I wasn’t such an artsy-fartsy weirdo, we’d probably be a walking cliche,” MJ said, her cheerful tone proving that she didn’t mind otherwise. “We were Homecoming King and Queen. Not bad, considering that I’m a year lower than him. So how about you?”

Caught off-guard, Cyn struggled to swallow the pasta she’d just scooped into her mouth. She reached for her water and drank before answering. “We didn’t have homecoming at my school.”

MJ rolled her eyes and flicked at a stray lock of hair. “That’s not what I meant, and you know it. Any boyfriends at home? Or did you break up with him before moving here? Please don’t tell me you’re attempting to do the whole long distance thing. Not only is that a pain in the ass, but it’s going to ruin your whole college experience.” Throwing up her hands palms out, she said, “I’m just showing some roommate love and concern here.”

Cyn stared at her. She hadn’t thought she’d meet anyone who could beat Jolie’s level of talkativeness. She thought wrong.

To MJ’s delight, Cyn admitted that she was, in fact, single. “But I’m not looking to date,” she quickly added, noticing the gleam in MJ’s eyes.

MJ was deaf to that last sentence. “That’s perfect! I’ll introduce you to Cole’s frat mates. A lot of them are really hot. And I mean, really. Hot.” She bobbed her chin with each word.

“MJ, I’m really not interested–”

“Oh, the kickoff party’s tonight! I’ll hook you up with someone then. Not that you need my help, but still.”

Cyn smothered a sigh. She’d only known MJ less than two hours, and already she knew that there was no stopping her once she got her mind set on something. “Sorry, I have a Skype session scheduled with my parents tonight.”

Before she’d left, her parents had made her promise that they have a video chat at least once a week. It wasn’t a hardship on her part. She loved her parents, and she missed home.

God, she missed home–traffic, humidity, overly crowded trains, and all. It was like she’d displaced an integral part of herself and had to relearn how to function with it missing.

“Oh my Lord. Cancel it. You can talk to them tomorrow. Or talk to them, then go to the party. It’s always good to make a grand entrance anyway. Hey, I might do that myself.”

“I was planning on sleeping early tonight. Jet lag.” She was grasping for excuses. Her body clock had adjusted to the new timezone more than a week ago, while she visited her sister and brother-in-law. But she wasn’t up for partying with a houseful of strangers. Unfortunately, her conscience got the best of her when she saw the crestfallen look on MJ’s face. “I promise I’ll go next time.”

“Fine, you go get enough beauty rest for both of us. Next time, I won’t accept any excuses.” MJ gave her the beady eye. “Oh, and don’t be surprised if you don’t see me until tomorrow afternoon.” She smirked. “Parties at the house are wild.”

Cyn bet they were.

* * *

They were walking out of the Glass Building, Cyn laughing as MJ recounted the story of her first visit to Sterling, when she slammed into a firm, heavy body.

“Shit!”

She stumbled back and stared in horror at the guy she’d collided with.

A guy who was practically a foot taller than her and built like a football player, all lean muscle and ripped biceps.

A guy with dark blond hair that was fixed so neatly, she wanted to muss it up with her fingers.

A guy who was muttering curses under his breath and holding a takeout cup away from his body as he swept coffee off his shirt.

Her first thought was: Shoot. Was that her fault?

And right at the heels of that: Well, at least his shirt is black. 

“I’m sorry,” she said lamely, heat suffusing her cheeks.

He looked up and she was blasted by the clearest, bluest eyes she’d ever seen.

He wasn’t handsome by usual standards. His nose was a bit crooked and his features too rough to be anything but masculine. Still, he had an undeniable appeal, everything about him screaming effortless confidence.

“Forget about it,” he said as he stared at her with drawn eyebrows.

Even his voice was hot. It was low and rumbly, and it hit Cyn right in the stomach.

His gaze flickered over to MJ.

To Cyn’s amazement, MJ said, “Hey, Beck.”

“MJ.” He nodded at her once and glanced back at Cyn for a millisecond before walking away in the direction of the parking lot.

“Oh. My. God.” MJ turned slowly to face her with eyes wide as saucers. “You did not just bump into one of the hottest guys on campus.”

“It was embarrassing.” Cyn averted her eyes only to have MJ grab at her arm.

“No, that was serendipity, Cyn,” she proclaimed solemnly. Then she shook her head, a grin spreading across her face. “Guess you didn’t have to go to the party to get yourself a guy. Beck Cooper is one of the stars of Alpha Sig. And he’s a senior,” she added, waggling her eyebrows.

Cyn started walking, using her arm to urge MJ along. “He’s not my guy. Didn’t you see the way he glared at me?” He hadn’t looked the slightest bit happy.

Well, you did spill coffee on the guy.

MJ waved her hand in the air. “Oh, please. It’s not like anyone’ll notice the coffee spill. His shirt’s black. Besides, it’s Beck. He’s not exactly mister cheerful, though he’s not a jerk either. Good job, roomie.”

Cyn gave a mental shake of her head, amused by the way MJ had taken what had been an accident and turned it into some spur-of-the-moment guy-catching maneuver. That move was something Jolie would’ve thought of–and executed without an ounce of shame.

She missed her best friend.

“I’ll have to ask Cole to help me get you guys together.”

Cyn was horrified. “You really don’t have to trouble yourself on my account.”

“Oh, it’s no trouble,” MJ said breezily. “‘Sides, what are roomies for?”

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