Inside the Social Hall, the sound blasted from all directions, coupled with the loud counting of all the dancers. The delegation was on their 10th day of training, and they only have another ten days left before the pageant happens. Bass has gotten a lot better than before. Phee Patch commended his improvement and has visibly become in sync with the rest of the cast. All eight contestants have been rehearsing non-stop, which includes the ramp-modeling part and question and answer portion.
Bass and the rest of the candidates danced to the beat of "Boy with Luv" by a Korean musical group called BTS. Phee Patch cheered on vigorously as she joins them in chanting every eight-count section of the dance performance.
When the track ended, Phee Patch stood up from squatting and approached the group. "Great job everyone!" she remarked and clapped her hands. "Girls take a break first. I'll go on and continue working with the boys,"
The girls dispersed from the set and took their own breaks. Some proceeded to the beverage station, while others went to the washroom. The rest of the guys stayed with Phee Patch.
"As you all know, the music video and choreography is made up of men. In the middle part of the song, there's a portion there that only you male reps will have to perform," Phee Patch instructed while pulling the strands of her hair back behind the ear. "Naawng Bass, I'd like you to front the group since you're the shortest,"
Bass sucked out of the air as he heard the choreographer's decision. He felt like fainting, but there was no time to refuse and act all sissy. The competition is in ten days, and he has to give his best for the IR program. The music continued to play again, and Bass watched Phee Patch as she started demonstrating the movements of the lead actors. "It's only for a few seconds, so no need to worry about messing it up," the choreographer said. If that was the case, he should be fine, Bass thought of.
The boys went on and continued dancing the mid-act while all the girls indulge in their own breaks. After half an hour of practice, Phee Patch dismissed the male reps and invited the girls this time to practice.
It was around six in the evening when they were all through with the production number. Phee Am announced dinner break, and the entire Social Hall chorused a sound of relief.
"Alright, let's take a one-hour break for dinner and then we will continue with the modeling and blocking rehearsals,"
Bass went to his small corner on the Social Hall where his bag and tumbler were placed. Godt was also present inside the hall, sitting quietly in one corner where he's less visible to the group. Godt got up and strode over to Bass. Bass wondered why he persists to be present during all his practice sessions when he clearly had nothing to do at all with them. "I'm bored" was all Godt said to him and watched them quietly until the end. Bass grew tired of buzzing him off, so he let the poor dog stay with him as long as he wanted to. "He'll grow tired eventually," Bass thought to himself.
"Yeah, we're having our dinner break. Have you got yours already?"
Bass looked back at him, worried and confused. "Aren't you hungry?"
"Naawng," a voice called out from behind. "Here. Take this and have your dinner already" Bass thanked the staff and received his meal box. He opened the package and stood up to sit next to Godt. Godt looked at him in surprise.
"Let's eat," Bass said and handed the fork to Godt. "We can share this together," he added and dug in on the food. Godt felt hesitant to touch his food since Bass was the one who's worked up and exhausted. While he just sat there and watched them perform. On the other hand, Bass insisted he eat, so he did. As they shared the meal together, Bass noticed how Godt was struggling to pick up a goodful of rice since it kept on falling from the clefts of the fork.
"Here!" Bass scooped a mound of rice on the disposable spoon and served it to Godt's mouth. Godt was startled with Bass's rather thoughtful gesture, but he managed to receive it graciously. He felt his cheeks warm up as he kept looking at Bass scooping another serving for him to eat. Godt never felt so warm and fuzzy inside before. This was a very different kind of mushy feeling like he was in some sort of movie having a romantic date in the fields. But instead of hills of rolling greens, they sat on a cold cemented floor with fluorescent bulbs hanging from the roof and a few dried leaves scattered here and there. Godt couldn't take his eyes away from Bass. He looked so cute and pretty as he tends to the both of them eating. He was quick to observe how they used the same spoon to feed each other's mouths. For a second, Godt supposed it as a form of an indirect kiss from Bass. The idea sent electric shots firing through his brain. He felt his ears burn and his face flare-up.
As Bass mindlessly eats, a grain of rice got stuck on the side of his mouth and remained unnoticed to his attention. Godt, without a second thought, lifted his thumb and pressed it on Bass's lips. Carefully, he took away the grain of rice. "There's a grain of rice... Right here on your left cheek," he explained with a rather shaky voice as he tossed the nib out of the way.
Bass stared back at him with a surprised look on his face while his cheeks burned rosy red out of his romantic gesture. "Uhm, thanks," he replied sheepishly. Not a word was spoken for a few seconds between them, and only their eyes communicated persistently.
"Will you give me another serving, please?" Godt murmured and tried to smile. Bass couldn't help but plaster a broad smile, and he spooned another one for him. Godt happily took the next offer like a child playing with spoon-planes and opened his mouth willingly. A soft, bashful giggle escaped Bass's lips, and he couldn't help but stare at his friend for a little while, longer.
Godt took his turn and forked a dumpling from the meal box and gave it to Bass. For one very small meal, both felt inexplicably satisfied and full to the soul. Bass grabbed his juice drink and took several sips, and burped. Godt, without hesitation, took the same and slurped on it satisfyingly. Bass could feel his lips glued side to side already, not stopping itself in keeping a happy face.
"Thank you," Godt remarked.
"Bakit ba ang gwapo ng taong to? Minsan nakaka buwiset na!" (Why is it that this guy is just oozing with so much gorgeousness? He looked so good, it's annoying already!) Bass grumbled in silence. For how could he resist such heavenly sight or refuse such generous serving of happiness? Only a fool would say no. And as astonishing as it can be, he no longer feels petrified with Godt's smile. He only realized now that it was one thing more he wanted to see every day. Those small, quiet moments wherein it's just the two of them, those intimate encounters wherein he's the only one who gets to savor his smile, Bass urged to ask for more. He wanted to see more of Godt, all that made up who he is, and all of his idiosyncrasies.
"Right," Godt cleared his throat. "What are you going to perform for the Talent Portion?"
Bass woke up from his daze. "I... I don't know yet. I haven't really thought about it until now," he replied.
"Well, it'll only be ten days now before the Acquaintance Party starts,"
"Yeah. I'll have to decide very soon,"
"Suu Suu Na!" Godt exclaimed. Bass stared back at him in complete confusion.
"What did you say?"
"Suu Suu Na!"
"What's Suu Suu Na?"
"It means 'fight on!'" Godt replied with one fist thrown midair. His cheerful face was indeed a good source of encouragement for a worn-out Bass.
"Oh!" Bass mumbled and laughed. "Well then, Maraming Salamat!" Bass responded in return.
"What's..." Godt paused. "Mala..min Sal..met?"
"It means, thank you very much!"
Godt grinned mirthfully and ruffled Bass's hair. "You're welcome!" he said and pinched his cheek.
"Alright everyone, dinner break's over! Let's continue our practice!" Phee Am shouted across the hall and swung her arms inwards, gesturing the participants to huddle back on the dance floor.
Soon after, Phee Patch took over the floor and continued rehearsing the modeling portion.
The hours went by so quickly. By the time the training ended, it was already fifteen minutes past ten in the evening. Just before Phee Am dismissed all the representatives, she made a few announcements.
"Alright everybody. I would like to remind all the participants and organization heads about the talent performances, okay? Please don't forget it as we will be doing a run-through of the entire program on the last two days of practice,"
"Have you thought about what are you gonna showcase for the talent portion, Bass?" Sprite whispered in his right ear as they continued listening to Phee Am.
"No, I haven't yet. Do you have one already?"
"Yeah, I'm going to perform gra-bee gra-baawng,"
"What's that?" asked Bass.
"It's a form of Thai martial art, kinda like arnis here in the Philippines,"
"Shut up!" Bass bawled in shock. "You can do that?!"
Sprite nodded confidently. Bass didn't know Sprite was a skilled martial artist. She didn't look like she was someone who would wield blunt weapons or someone who could deliberately engage in physical combat without hesitation. Gra-bee Gra-baawng is an ancient martial art of self-defense that recently gained popularity among women to protect themselves from assailants. "Sprite's a badass bitch" Bass thought to himself. Good thing he didn't retaliate last time Sprite forced her to don a wig. He might have been at the hospital by now, crying over a broken shoulder or neck.
"Now," Phee Am's voice howled loud across the hall. "I have been in my best behavior for the past ten days because I have to keep this a secret. But I have been dying to make this announcement to you all. So you better hold on to your seats as this is going to blast you off the roof!"
"Oh God..." Bass cursed under his breath as he anticipates Phee Am's major announcement. He could feel his gut about to throw up.
"Alright, do you guys remember the surprise number I announced last time during the assembly?"
Many of the representatives nodded in confirmation. Bass, too, hasn't forgotten that cliff-hanger statement.
"Well, get on your best act because we will be throwing a CROSS-DRESSING COMPETITION!"
The sound of their scream sonic-boomed five floors up outside the social hall. The uproar was so loud and strong, all the participants clamored on the floor. Loads of mouths started mumbling and grumbling over the horrendous plot twist of the event. Everyone was trying to find their opinions and lay down their protests in front of the pageant committee.
"Oh, shut it! Instead of going for the traditional costume segment, we will opt for a cross-dressing competition for the program,"
"You can't be serious Phee!" March reacted in disbelief. Phee Am just winked her eye in response.
"Yes Phee! Can we leave that one out?" Dok seconded. However, the Student Body Head only shook her head in slow motion as she twitched her finger from left to right. There was no changing of her mind. For Phee Am, she intended to make the most memorable Acquaintance Party ever in the history of the College of Social Sciences, and by extension, the entire campus of New Siam. The staff behind only giggled at the idea and kept their mouths shut. The girls seemed to be on board with the concept and didn't mind dressing for the opposite sex. The majority of the house seemed to be open about the changes of the program. So with a triumphant laugh, Phee Am declared the cross-dressing competition to proceed as planned.
"Be prepared with all your props and costumes, because it will be counted as part of your total scores for the pageant night. For now, let's head home and get some good night's rest! Sawatdee Khaaa!"
Phee Am waved goodbye to everyone and walked away. She left the stage together with the staff and Organization Heads for some post-work meetings. The contestants, on the other hand, could not stop talking about the cross-dressing segment. Everyone was buzzing with differing opinions. Some thought it was fun and exciting, while others were vehement over the proposal. Either way, it was going to happen, and Bass had no choice but to 'woman up' for the coming days. Tonight, the Social Media Committee will release the official flow of activities for the competition.
"Bass!" Sprite called out, tapping his shoulder. "I guess the cross-dressing segment won't be too hard for you! Good thing we did a test-run with the wig!" Sprite laughed out loud.
"That's not funny!" Bass whined, but Sprite regaled on the idea still. "Well it's late already, let's go home!"
Sprite turned her back and went away to find her bag. She joined the other female reps as they discussed the cross-dressing segment. All the girls were thrilled and excited with the concept and started pitching in ideas with each other. Bass, on the other hand, headed back to Godt. He was standing on the corner clutching his bag, ready to take a leave with him.
"Well, that was a funny way to end the night!" Godt quipped, giggling over Bass's frowning face.
"I know, right? I mean, look at me! What part in me screams 'womanly' at all?! I'll probably look hideous on that segment," groaned Godt's midget friend. "I feel like quitting already!" he sighed and drank his tumbler.
"No, don't quit just yet. You've come this far, right?"
"Yeah. But the cross-dressing segment had me all ready to pack-up my things and flee,"
"Well, personally? I think you'll do just fine. I think you'll even stand out of it,"
"Ha-Ha. Very funny!" Bass retorted and rolled his eyes. "But just for argument's sake, what makes you think I'll stand out of it?"
"Well... uhm..." his eyes evading direct contact. "I've seen you wear a wig earlier," Godt mumbled while scratching his head. "And I think, you looked really wonderful back there,"
"Shia! I hope he doesn't freak out with what I just said!" Godt thought anxiously at the back of his mind.
"Oh, shut up! I get it already! I looked ghastly in that appearance," Bass groaned, rolling his eyes.
"NO!" Godt protested loudly. Bass was startled with his steadfast objection. "Bass, you looked really beautiful that time" Godt insisted with distinct sincerity, cheeks blushing hard as he struggled to keep a straight face.
Bass's eyes widened in complete surprise. He did not expect that Godt was actually coming honestly to him. Hearing those words sent butterflies all over his stomach again.
"I couldn't stop thinking about it since then," he confessed even more. Bass felt like dropping on his knees. He wasn't ready for such a sudden confession. He always hated ambush attacks.
Thoughts began rumbling inside Bass's head. Was he actually serious with what he said? Bass didn't want to believe it, but Godt acted too self-conscious to be joking.
"Y-you think I'll be okay?" Bass murmured shyly. "Supposed I keep going, will I really look just fine dressing as a girl?"
In normal circumstances, Bass would have retaliated over such emasculating comments. He would've thrown a fit already and act all snarky and spiteful in defense over Godt's "un-manly" compliments, but he couldn't. Unwantedly, he was in such a relief after knowing Godt liked it too.
"You'll be fine. Suu Suu Na! Remember?" Godt reiterated.
Bass smiled in reply. "Yes. Suu Suu!"
Feeling relaxed now, Godt raised a thumbs-up sign at Bass. "I know it doesn't matter right now. But just in case you haven't noticed yet, I wanted you to know that no matter what position you land on to, I'm always the proudest of you!"
Bass was sincerely moved. "Thank you" was all he could say after.
"Let's go home, na?" Godt suggested and started walking out first.
Bass stood behind and watched him advance for the exit. Something about Godt, or simply the idea of him at all, just calms his mind and makes everything alright.
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