Chapter 37: The Unrequited and The Abandoned
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After they finish eating, they now start to walk towards the school.

While they are walking, everyone in the group is talking to each other except for Mark and Ruth. Ruth looks at Mark and Mark looks back at her, she then looks away and Mark also does so. An awkward silence reigns between them until Mark breaks it.

“Sure is good the spaghetti and chicken you ate earlier. Hehe.”

Ruth looks up at him and smiles, “Sure is, Mark. It’s very delicious. I was about to share it with you but…”

Ruth looks down to the ground and silence, once again, reigns for a moment.

Mark smiles and says, “It’s ok. Besides, the burger I ordered is yummy. Get it? Haha.”

Ruth, again, looks up at him with a smile and says, “Yeah, I guess so. But you should eat more, you don’t want to be too thin. That’s not, anymore, healthy.”

Mark looks at her and says with a kind of chuckle, “Don’t worry, Ruth. I eat little for a meal so that I could give room for some snacks.” Mark then puts his bag in front of him and opens the zipper, grabbing something. He then pulls a snack from the bag and shows it to Ruth. “Wanna taste some Hansel crackers that are still in a wrapper?” Mark smiles with a giggle.

“Sure thing,” Ruth says with a giggle.

Mark opens the wrapper of the Hansel crackers and offers Ruth to take the first biscuit. Ruth obliges and takes a biscuit and eats it, Mark also takes a biscuit and eats it.

Mark glances at her and says, “You know, you should come with us sometime.”

“Yeah, I guess. I spend so much time with my girlfriends that I forget that I have a best friend and boy friends. Haha.”

“Boyfriends?” says Mark with a bewildered face.

Ruth looks at him and says, “No, that’s not what I meant. I meant boys who are my friends. That’s what I meant. Come on, now. Don’t assume something that isn’t.” And then she looks away with red all over her face.

“I’m just kidding. We’re only friends, that’s all. And friends are supposed to joke around each other.”

“Oh, yeah. Friends. I get it.”

Silence again prevails between them and the others notice this. So Cesar gets beside Mark and talks to him with Justin following suit. Samantha also gets beside Ruth and talks to her.

Along the way towards the school, Ruth and Mark didn’t pay attention to each other or even look at each other. After moments of walking, they finally arrive at the school, Maaravi College of Toledo.

Just as they enter the school, their fellow students flock in on them.

“CESAR, YOU ARE AMAZING!”

“MARK, YOU REALLY HIT THE BUZZER BEATER! YOU’RE AWESOME!”

“JUSTIN, YOU REALLY CAN DRIBBLE WELL IN THERE! YOU’RE OUR NEW POINT GUARD!”

The company just smiles at them with the three gentlemen saying their thanks always to their extollers as they enter their classroom. In the classroom, there are also praises to them by their classmates.

“AMAZING BUZZER BEATER, MARK! WOOO!”

Their classmates holler at them giving them praises for their performance. After a while of extolling, the noise dies down and everyone begins minding their own business with some still talking to them.

Waiting for the class to start and their teacher to arrive, they all chat to each other. Justin is curious about what happened between Ruth and Mark.

“Mark, what happened between you and Ruth? You two are friends, and then suddenly it all became awkward. Do you like her?”

Mark holds up his hands and says, “No! No! It’s not like that.”

Justin’s brows furrow and whispers close to him, “Then what is it?”

Mark whispers close to him, “She likes me, Justin. But I don’t want to reciprocate, I still like Samantha.”

Justin whispers back, “WHAT!? I didn’t know that that woman was capable of loving a fool like you. Just kidding, I knew it earlier than you did.” Then he laughs silently.

Mark just sighs in silence.

“Look, Mark. You like Samantha, and that’s perfectly fine. You like her but it’s gonna be difficult to gain Samantha’s heart. She already loves someone else, be patient and she’ll be yours. They’ll break up anyways, that’s for sure.” Justin snickers.

“I don’t know, Justin. I guess I’m a fool for loving a woman who doesn’t even love me back, but my heart keeps on wanting her.”

Just as Mark finishes speaking, Ms. Berido arrives at their classroom.

“Good afternoon, class. Please go to your respective seats.”

“Good afternoon, ma’am,” the class replies and then goes to their assigned seats.

“Ok, class. This morning, our basketball team Maaravi Warriors won their first game against the Charlemagne Pitbulls. Owens, Mercado, Banderas, and Aguas, please stand.”

The four of them stand up.

“Thank you for playing your best. And Mercado, amazing buzzer beater. All of you are giving honor to our school. God bless to you four. Class, give them a round of applause.”

Their classmates, including Ms. Berido, clap their hands and holler. After a while, everything dies down.

“You may take your seats, gentlemen.”

And the four players sit at their seats.

Ms. Berido writes on the board with the chalk in her hand, “The siege of Alexandria and the fate of Cleopatra and Antony.”

Ms. Berido faces the students and says, “The events, that we will discuss henceforth, happened in the spring of 30 BC. It was Octavian and Agrippa versus Mark Antony and Cleopatra.”

Ms. Berido points at Mark and says, “Mark Mercado, where’s your Cleopatra?”

The students chuckle and Mark too is amused.

“I’m just kidding,” Ms. Berido says. “There will be a Cleopatra in our lives, don’t you think? But is it worth it that you will have that dynamite of a woman or man in your life? Well, let’s see what will happen to our story.”

Ms. Berido pulls the white screen down and turns on the projector and the laptop. When it’s all set, an image projects on the white screen. Ms. Berido then turns off the lights.

“Agrippa is a genius in military warfare. He’s the one who advised Octavian to split the army and navy on the east and the west of Egypt, making it hard for Antony and Cleopatra to fight on two fronts. And Octavian follows the advise of his good friend, Agrippa, and sets sail for Syria while Agrippa goes to Libya.

“On the other hand, Cleopatra and Antony lost so many soldiers due to desertion. Thus, they couldn’t adequately defend against the two incoming forces. They tried to offer peace to Octavian, and Octavian did not respond; they sent him a massive bribe, he kept the bribe but he continued with the attack. Cleopatra had the idea of escaping through the Red Sea towards the north-east of India where there would be ethnically-Greek kings who could sympathize with her cause. This is a great plan, a clever one because this is the only way they could have a chance to live. Cleopatra initiates the plan and commands the laborers to drag a group of ships towards the Red Sea. But a group of Arab camel riders killed the laborers and burned the ships. This may be because of Antony’s policies in the Roman East. Antony urged Cleopatra to give up on the very sensible idea, which turned out to be a mistake. Antony thought that his fifty thousand soldiers from Greece would come to the rescue, but they surrendered to Octavian last year. But Antony thought they were still out there, wandering in Greece. A blunder on his part.

“King Herod of Judea betrayed Antony and sided with Octavian. He gave provisions to Octavian’s legions as they passed by his domain.

“This betrayal reached Antony’s ears. And Plutarch states that Antony is not upset about it. It was as if Antony was pleased to set aside his hopes so that he could let go of his worries.

“Antony and Cleopatra would throw expensive dinner parties every night and would load their guests with gold and treasures before sending them home. They knew their time was coming ahead.

“Antony tries to slow the enemy down with a minor victory in the east and a minor defeat in the west. It’s just slowing down the inevitable. On July thirty-first, Octavian is at the gates of Alexandria. That evening, Antony held a feast saying to his generals, ‘Drink deep for tomorrow you may have a new master.’

“On August the first, Antony prepares for battle just outside the city while Cleopatra sends her fleet alongside them. Their only plan is to win an unexpected victory. This is how Antony wanted, fighting to the death. Unexpectedly, Cleopatra’s ships surrendered and when the cavalry saw this, they fled. By the end of the day, most of his army is lost. But miraculously, Antony is still alive. He failed to fight to the death.

“But Antony stabbed himself in the stomach. Cleopatra heard about this and ordered the servants to bring him to her. So the servants brought Antony’s lifeless body to her at the mausoleum and found that the stone slab was at the threshold which cannot be entered. So Cleopatra, who was on the second-floor balcony, ordered the servants to tie a rope to Antony’s waist. Cleopatra and the servants with her, on the balcony, pulled the other end of the rope with all their strength. Up he went, reaching his hand towards her. Their love for one another, unwavering. Their efforts are not in vain as they grab Antony unto the balcony. Cleopatra literally rendered her clothes, scratched her chest, smeared Antony’s blood on her face, and wailed uncontrollably. Antony asked Cleopatra to be calm and told her that Octavian could be reasoned with, to squeeze out whatever deal she could get. Antony asked for a wine and drank; at this moment, he died.

“When the negotiations were going at the threshold between Cleopatra and Octavian, a Roman negotiator grabbed a ladder and sneakily scaled the balcony. He went down the stairs and met Cleopatra and her servants, they were surprised. So Cleopatra grabbed a dagger and stabbed herself. The Roman negotiator grabbed the dagger away from her; fortunately, the wound seemed to be superficial.

“Cleopatra held a feast for her and her two servants after a face-to-face negotiation with Octavian. She asked a roman guard to deliver a note to Octavian. Octavian reads it and sees, ‘I wish to be entombed with Antony’. Octavian rushes towards the mausoleum and sees Cleopatra dead with garments of royalty. In my opinion, she poisoned herself. This is the fate that befell the lovers Cleopatra and Antony with the relationship that lasted for ten years.

“Love is awesome but it can be deadly because you have to die with the one you love. If one of you falls, you fall along with them. This is one of the cases where death is waiting at the door of love, seeing if love truly exists between them. Even if the sickle of death strikes you dead, would you still hold on to love? When all is lost and nothing is gained, would you still believe in love? If love evades you so eagerly, would you still believe in love?

Ms. Berido’s face is sullen as she closes the PowerPoint presentation. She pulls back the white screen and turns off the projector. Having this done, she faces her students. Tears already stream down her face.

“Well, It’s for you to find it out, students.” Ms. Berido says with a quivering voice. “You are dismissed, class.”

The students are as quiet as the wind and slowly get out of the room. With no word coming out of their mouth, they get out, one by one, of the classroom.

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