The bell rang and classes started. I looked to my left, three seats from me beside the window, empty. The guilt hitting me hard. The teacher started calling for attendance.
Rick - absent.
Was it my fault for pushing him away? Should have I done otherwise and thanked him? Darn you Rick, making me feel bad in your absence. I hate to admit it but I want to see him so badly especially after what happened yesterday. I know he's just worried about me but I wasn't used to being taken care of. I don't know when I would be.
Class ended and for the second time of the week, I couldn't understand a thing. I dragged my feet to the PubRoom with Jessie by my side.
"You look pale." She commented, "please don't pass out again, we have work to do."
"And Rick's worried about you. That asshole bugged me the last time."
Rick. Why does his name pop up all the time? Or was I just too conscious about him now? I shook my head, I don't need to get distracted.
Jessie suddenly grabbed me by the arm before I had the chance to open the door to the PubRoom.
"What do you feel about him?" Jessie blurted out. "You seemed different when around him."
"What do you mean?" I asked, although I knew exactly what she was trying to say.
"You know what." She averted her eyes from me. "Just take care of him, please."
"Good afternoon." I greeted the moment Jessie and I stepped in the PubRoom. Gladly no one sensed the tension between us.
"Good afternoon, Chief." Monica, the Managing Editor said. "The basketball captain is here. I told him to leave because of the meeting but he won't move. Sorry."
I nodded to her and looked. There, on the seat beside my usual spot was occupied by Rick. His cheeks rested on the table and his eyes were closed. He looked...
Before I could even think of a word to describe him, a half empty bottled water came flying across the room.
"Hey!" Jessie exclaimed. "I even bothered coming over to wake you up and you're absent?"
Rick rubbed his head where the water bottle hit him. "I know, I know, sorry." He yawned. "I'm feeling lazy today."
"Asshole." Jessie murmured and Rick smiled at her.
I felt a twinge in my chest when I see Rick and Jessie this close. I took a deep breath and took a seat beside him. Today he smelled like coffee.
The rest of the staff took their places. Jessie seated beside Rick on my right, Monica on my left, beside her the treasurer, Erica. Across me were Raymond, head artist, Bea, literary editor, Ella, features editor, Jimmy sports editor, and Lloyd the photographer. Also present were Jo and Jed, they're twins and layout artists, Andrew, Annie, May, Charmaine and Gina, senior staff writers and Belle, Carmela and Miko our cartoonists, and Raymond the head artist.
"Shall we start?" I said when everyone's settled. "OK, let's start with the news, Andrew please."
"All approved articles are already forwarded to layouts to be typed. We're in schedule." He said.
The staff knew the drill when I ask for progress report, I didn't need to cue them for questions.
"Sport section is done with the articles and editorial. We are just waiting for the announcement of the next captain." All eyes turned to Rick who laughed nervously.
"Can you tell us when the announcement will be?" I asked him directly.
"Ehm.. , Saturday after our practice, you guys will be the first to know."
"Aside from that article we're in schedule." Jimmy continued.
Bea was next. She handed me a folder with atleast 20 poems and short stories. "We've reached the quota for the newspaper. Those were initially approved but didn't make it to layout. Those were excess."
I nodded. I need to make something out of these.
"All features are done. Book and movie reviews are in layouts, the person and blog review articles are in editing and will be done by Monday."
"Comic strips are done as well as the editorial cartoon." Belle said, we'll be working with layouts once all articles are in for the rest of the artworks."
"Ericka." I called," I also want a financial report please."
"The school will be releasing our funds by Wednesday next week. I don't have an estimate of how much we'll be funded."
"Do you think we'll have budget for special release? Maybe 20 to 25 pages including cover, editorial and TOC?"
"We still have savings from our last release, as long as it's not 100% colored we can make it work."
I started tapping my fingers, a habit when I think. The staff was quiet waiting for instructions. Rick, who's not used to the publication's workflow turned to Jessie with confusion.
"He's thinking." She told him. "Keep quiet."
I sighed and smiled.
"Depending on the budget report I want a special literary booklet using these" I lifted the folder Bea gave me. "10 poems, 2 essay or a short story and 5 pages of artworks or comic strip."
Bea, knowing she would be handling the project raised her hand. "What would be the title, chief?"
"Chief?" Rick whispered to me. "What's TOC?"
I've almost forgotten about him. I turned and smiled. His face flushed red. "Thanks" I told him.
"Table of Contents, TOC. Can we make something with that theme?"
Bea nodded. "I can make it work."
"Thanks Bea. Ella, since you're done with features, help Bea. Miko work the art and cover. Let's keep it within 20 to 25 pages. I'll write the editorial. Deadline is.."
I turned to Jessie. She's better in setting deadlines than me. I tend to make it short and the staff ends up cramming.
"Let's do it in three weeks. We can have it printed same day as the newsletter, we could even get a discount on the printers."
"You guys heard her. Any more question?"
"Please answer this nomination form for the next editorial staff." I passed the form around. "I want it asap, please."
I waited for any objection but there was none.
"That's it for today. Good job guys."
Everyone moved to their spaces to start working. I sighed and relaxed.
"He's cool right?" I heard Bea spoke to Rick. "Our chief."
"Yea he is." He glanced at me. "He's amazing."