December 5, 2023

๐Ÿ’œ TALES
OF
The
Heart ๐Ÿ’œ

๐ŸŒบ Chapter 20๐ŸŒบ

A few days have passed since the incident at the stairs, and I’m surprised to find that the days have gone by smoothly. I don’t know what the other students think about Mikaela and Tyler, but judging from the faint whispers I’ve sometimes heard around me, some of them are indeed shocked.

I hope that the incident will open their eyes about what really happened.

I can’t believe that Tyler only thought of me as a bet. I still have doubt whether it’s true or not. But whatever his reason was — whether he was genuine or not — he never asked me to explain why I rejected him.

I guess that the humiliation I caused him when I rejected him in front of the whole school has bruised his ego.

The bell rings, indicating that the last class of the day has ended. I’m packing my books when Max arrives at my desk.

“Are you going home now?” he asks.

I nod. “Yes.”

What else would I be doing? I don’t really hang out. Geez , I’m such a boring person, am I not?

I wish that we had more team projects or assignments to do together, because I want to spend more time with him.
Oh, God, what am I thinking?

“What about you?” I ask, wondering if he plans to hang out.

With his friends, perhaps.

“I have a football practice,” he says.
I nod in understanding, and worry fills me as I think about his football team. “How’s it going?” I carefully ask.

He sighs, and his eyes soften as he looks down at me, as though he can sense my worry. “Everything’s good. Don’t worry about it. Coach is on my side, and only a fool wouldn’t realize what a jerk Tyler is after what they saw and heard.”A sigh of relief escapes from my lips as I look down.

“That’s good to hear.”

“Hey,” Max calls, making me look up at him again.

He gestures his phone in his hand. “Keep your phone with you.”

I chuckle. I definitely will respond to him.

“Okay,” I say before he walks off.
After I finish putting my books into my backpack, I stand up from my desk, only to find that a group of girls approaching me. Five of them, precisely.

As they stop in front of me, my grip on the straps of my backpack tightens. Are they going to confront me?

To my surprise, sadness crosses their expressions, making me frown with wonder.

“We’re sorry,” says one of them who’s standing face to face with me. “We’re so sorry for what happened to you, Luna.”
My heart drops as I see her tear fall onto her cheek.

“We never thought that Mikaela and Tyler would do something so low,” she croaks.

“What we saw was horrible.” Her eyes glisten with tears, and I can see that she’s being genuine.

Panic strikes me from seeing her crying, and when I glance at the other girls, I see equal guilt on their faces.

Oh, God, what should I do? Worry always comes to me every time someone cries in front of me, like I should do something to make them forget their pain.

“And about what Tyler said in the hallway… it was the worst.” The girl sniffles, making me even more speechless, frozen on the spot.

“I always knew that there was something off with that guy.”

I watch as the other girls nod in agreement, and I blink a few times to make sure that what I’m seeing is real.

“We’re very sorry, Luna.” The girl holds my hands in hers, and I can only stare at our hands in disbelief.

When I look up to see her face, my heart breaks from seeing her tears rolling down her face.

“We’ve been watching you getting bullied all this time, but we didn’t do anything, because we had doubts, and fear, lots of fear.”

Tears pool in my eyes too as I swallow the lump in my throat. I can understand what they’re trying to say.

“We’re afraid of Tyler and his friends, Mikaela and her gang, as well as the other students.” The girl squeezes my hands, and a tear rolls down my cheek.

Many people didn’t agree with the bullies, many watching me with pity or sympathy. But against the bullies — which seemed like the whole school while it wasn’t entirely true — nobody dared to reach out their hand to help me, to approach me or even to tell the teachers.

They were afraid that they would get bullied too.

“Please forgive us, Luna,” the girl rasps.

“Please forgive us for being so ignorant even though we could have helped you. Please forgive us for being so selfish — we know that we don’t even deserve your forgiveness. But we want to let you know that not everyone agreed with Tyler and Mikaela. We might have heard some misleading stories.”

I look over her shoulder, searching for Rory, but the rest of my classmates have already left. I wonder if this girl is talking about Rory, who has created false rumors about me.

“Please forgive us for being so heartless.” The girl sniffles again, and I can’t hold it any longer. I wrap my arms around her, pulling her into a hug.

“No, that’s not true.” My voice cracks as my tear falls onto her shaking shoulder.

“You’re not heartless. Thank you so much for reaching out to me. You make me feel so happy.”When we pull away, I plaster a soft smile, wiping my tears away.
Holding her shoulders, I look into her eyes. “It doesn’t matter anymore,” I say.

“It’s all in the past. I’ve moved on, and that’s what matters. I’m really happy that you finally talk to me. Thank you. Thank you so much.”

I can’t stop my tears either. I still can’t believe that this is happening. I haven’t talked to any girl in my class for a long time.

I shift my attention to the other four girls, and my heart melts when I notice that they have tears brimming in their eyes too. Soon, they engulf me in a hug, one by one, and I chuckle as I close my eyes, enjoying this new warmth that fills my insides, thanking God over and over again.

I turn off the lamp on my nightstand and slip under my bed cover. Just when I close my eyes to sleep, my phone beeps.

My eyes snap open, and I snatch my phone from my nightstand. When I open the message, I see a text from Max.

๐Ÿ“ฑMax: Are you still awake?

A small smile forms on my lips.

๐Ÿ“ฑMe: Yeah, I am.

๐Ÿ“ฑMax: What are you doing?

๐Ÿ“ฑMe: Just lying on my bed and getting comfy under the cover.

I bite my lower lip as my finger hovers on the cute sticker describing the sentence I just typed, but then I decide to leave it like that.

๐Ÿ“ฑMe: What about you?
๐Ÿ“ฑMax: Me?
๐Ÿ“ฑMax: I’m thinking about the moon.

I turn my head to look out the window, and indeed, the sky is clear tonight — I can see some stars. Max might be staring at the moon from his bedroom balcony.
Unfortunately, I can’t see the moon from here — it might be visible from the other side.

๐Ÿ“ฑMe: Is it half moon, full moon or crescent tonight?

My curiosity kicks in when he doesn’t answer right away. But then, after a while, his answer pops up.

๐Ÿ“ฑMax: ๐Ÿ˜Š

My brows furrow. I don’t know what he means by that. Why did he only send me a smiley?

I shrug and shoot him another text.

๐Ÿ“ฑMe: Do you like to see the moon before going to bed?

๐Ÿ“ฑMax: Absolutely
While I’m still typing to ask him why, his text comes again.

๐Ÿ“ฑMax: Can I call you now?

Now my brows shoot up. However, I don’t see why he shouldn’t, so I type an answer, a soft smile touching my lips.

๐Ÿ“ฑMe: Okay .

A second later, a video call request pops up on my phone screen, and I abruptly sit up on my bed. I’ve thought that it would only be a voice call, not a video.

I almost trip myself when I rush out of my bed to look at my reflection in the mirror. Quickly, I fix my slightly messy hair with my fingers. I thank God that the pajamas I’m wearing still look appropriate.

Yet, my lips are a bit dry, and I frown at that. I snatch my lip balm and quickly apply it to my lips.

God, why am I acting like a stupid girl?

Climbing back onto my bed, I finally answer the call, and my eyes widen in shock when I see Max without any shirt on.

That makes me drop the phone in my hand, and it falls onto the floor with a loud thud.

Trying to calm my heartbeat, I take a deep breath before reaching out to grab my phone back from the floor. I close my eyes for a while before facing the screen — it feels like my eyes are still trying to adjust to the sight before me.

Max’s smirk greets me, and my cheeks heat up. He’s leaning back against the headboard of his bed, shirtless, showcasing his toned abs that I’ve drooled over before.

Wait. Drool over? Scratch those words, Luna.

“Why aren’t you wearing any shirt?” I protest, my tone slightly higher than I expect.

“I don’t like to wear anything while going to bed,” Max says nonchalantly.

“Like, at all?” I whisper in disbelief, not realizing that I blurt it out.

Max chuckles before lowering his camera from his face, and I hold my breath as the video shows his neck, chest and abs on his stomach.

“Do you want to figure it out yourself?”

“Max ,” I shout, shutting my eyes before another part of his body can be exposed.
Oh, God, is he crazy?

My face must be red as a tomato now. Max bursts into laughter, and when I brace myself to look at my phone screen again, I see his laughing face. I should be glaring at him, but I fail miserably — I can only watch him laugh, thinking about how good he looks right now.

God, something is wrong with my brain.
He finally stops laughing, but amusement still lingers in his eyes.

Now that I see his face up close, I can still see the bruises on his cheek that have faded but are not fully gone. I wonder what his family thinks about that.

Max seems to notice the change in my expression. “What’s the matter?”

“About the fight with Tyler,” I pause, “Did your family say something about that?”
I swallow, feeling ashamed that it was because of me that he was involved in a fight. A part of me doesn’t want to hear his answer, because I’m afraid that his family would hate me.

“Mom definitely was worried sick, and she scolded me,” he says, making my heart drop. “But after I told her about what happened at the stairs, she started crying.”

Max lets out a long sigh. “She’s worried about you.”

His answer touches my heart — I feel more than flattered that his Mom cares so much about me. “What about your Dad?” my voice comes out as a whisper.

“He asked me about Tyler, about how many bruises and cuts and other damages Tyler had compared to mine.” Max smirks. “I think he was quite happy with my answer.”

I shake my head in disbelief, biting my smile. “What about your sister?”

Max rolls his eyes. “She just squinted at me and scoffed.”

I laugh softly at that. I didn’t expect those answers, but I feel relieved.

“Enough with the questioning,” Max says.

“It’s my turn now. I want to hear about you.”

I raise my brows. What’s there about me? Nothing is interesting about me.

“How was your day?” Max asks. “What did you do after school?”

I ponder in thought. “I think there’s nothing much, same thing as usual.” I’m more of a listener than a talker, so I’m not used to sharing my thoughts with someone else.

“How’s your football practice?”

“It was challenging,” Max says, but then irritation crosses his expression. “Don’t change the subject.”

I chuckle lightly as he shoots me a glare.

“But speaking of that, we’ll have a game next Friday,” Max says, suddenly looking a bit unsure. “Will you come to watch it? Coach just assigned me as the new quarterback.”

My eyes widen in surprise, excitement building up inside me. “That’s awesome. Of course, I will come to the game.” I’m so happy for him that I feel like my heart is bursting out of my chest.

“I know that I’m still new, but Coach thinks that this is the best strategy for the upcoming game, considering that the other players have already mastered their positions.”

I can’t stop the smile on my face, but then he reminds me, “Back into the topic. Tell me about your day.”

A sigh leaves my lips. “Well, my Dad and my brother are currently out of town for a business trip, so I only had dinner with my Mom tonight.” That’s the only thing that I can think of sharing.

“It was wonderful, though. We talked about who’s going to be the next American Idol, and she had a pretty good guess, since she’s one of the judges.”

Max watches me with interest. “You definitely love music from your Mom, don’t you?”

I nod, smiling at him. “Yeah. Mom taught me how to play the piano, while my brother taught me how to draw and paint.”

“What’s the first song that you managed to play on the piano?”

Max’s question startles me — no one has ever asked me about that. I’ve thought that I would stop talking in five minutes, but Max makes me feel like I can talk forever.

His next question is, “What do you like to paint?”

It’s such a simple question, a basic one. But I’ve never got that kind of question before.

Not even from Rory when we used to be best friends.

And before I know it, I’m talking with Max like he’s my best friend that I haven’t met for a long time. I don’t even realize that I speak with so much enthusiasm, until I notice Max gazing at me, the same way he did when I played the piano in his house.

Is he listening to my story? Or is he studying my face ? I don’t even know.
I have no idea how long we’ve been talking, but a yawn escapes from my mouth as I glance at the clock on my bedroom wall. It has passed midnight.

“Aiden showed me his painting of Hallstatt, a beautiful town in Austria…” I slur, talking about my brother’s painting as my eyes feel heavier.

I lay my head on my pillow — wait, why am I lying down already? Since when? Am I that sleepy, to the point that I didn’t even realize talking to Max while dozing off?

Another yawn leaves my mouth as I close my eyes. My phone slides from my hand and falls onto the mattress beside me with a soft thud.

Max’s chuckle echoes in my ears, and his voice is the last thing I hear before falling asleep.

“Good night, Luna.”

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