Wordplay # 6: Culminating Event

I love college romance, or at least, love stories that started during college. I think it’s because my college days were my favorite years, and sometimes I still find myself missing those days I’d walk down hallways to class or hanging out with my org at our designated tambayan. I don’t miss the exams and the despair of being unsure if I would pass a subject or studying all night for calculus exams, but I miss life being less complicated.

I think that’s why I like writing about characters who met in college, or have backstories that trace back to their university years. Mark and Rain were best friends during college, Faith met her ex-boyfriend in during a college outreach event. Meah almost had an LI that she met back in college, too, but I decided it might be too much (lol and maybe that’s why I haven’t finished her book yet). That said, when I started working on Ruth and Ian’s NaNoWriMo project, they weren’t really college friends. And in a way, they weren’t, because in the last Wordplay I posted, Ruth hardly remembered him.

Anyway, soon after I wrote that back in 2009, I decided to go back a few more years to the time they met for the first time, which is the fic below. This is canon in their story, that I’m sure of. 🙂

And yes, when I was in college, projectors weren’t a thing so we don’t have powerpoint/video backdrops — we made them with glitter and styrofoam and all that jazz. 😛

Culminating Event

“Okay, thanks, sir, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Ian ended his call and then joined the group that sat under the lone gazebo outside of the building of the auditorium where their college organization will be having their culminating event the next night. It was late, the school was closing in half an hour and the entire project team looked exhausted, but they were still talking animatedly about the things they needed to do for the next day. Nothing like a pre-event rush, Ian mused with a smile as he took his seat.

“Our call time tomorrow is ten o’clock, okay, so we can set up! The performers will be here by three, sound check is at four,” Heidi, the project lead, said over the noise. She turned to Ian. “Ian, what time will the sounds people come in?”

“They’ll be in by eleven,” Ian replied. “I just got off the phone with them.”

“Good,” Heidi said, making a mark on her notebook. Across Ian, a paint-stained hand waved back and forth in the air, trying to catch Heidi’s attention. “Yes, Ruth?”

“I have to go.” Ian turned to look at where the voice was coming from; it was the team’s creative marketing head, Ruth. There was a smudge of paint and glitters on her cheek, her hair disheveled and she looked absolutely beat, but it was probably because of that worried look she wore on her face.  She not only had dark bags under her eyes but also big bags that probably contained art materials at her side.

Heidi raised an eyebrow. “Already?”

Ruth nodded meekly. “I’m sorry, my dad is already here,” she said, regret evident in her voice. “He’s already waiting outside.”

Heidi sighed, sounding frustrated. Ian saw Ruth look down, and he wondered what she would do if Heidi told her she couldn’t leave yet. He looked back at their project lead, who made a face and then waved her hand in the air. “Okay, but be here ten in the morning tomorrow. Sharp.”

“On the dot!” Ruth stood up and gathered all her things. Ian was just about to stand up to help her with her bags since they seemed too many for one person to carry, but she somehow managed.

“Don’t forget to hang up the posters tomorrow, by the way,” Heidi ordered as Ruth started to leave.

“I will! Thank you! I’ll see you guys tomorrow.” Ian watched as Ruth gave everyone a final wave before rushed away, bags bouncing with every step.

* * *

“Awesome posters, Ruth. Love them all.”

Ruth knew who spoke the words from the voice and the footsteps on the stage before she even looked up from her position on the floor. Heidi towered over her, looking very fresh and bright and very unlike Ruth, who was already covered with glitters that early in the morning. “Thanks, Heids.”

“I know tonight will be a success, you guys have been awesome all week,” Heidi continued. She looked up at the part of the backdrop hung on the wall and then back at what Ruth was working on. “What time will this be done?”

“Around two o’clock, hopefully,” Ruth replied and concentrated back on the glittered styrofoam letters she was sticking on the wires to hang onto the backdrop.

“Okay then, I’ll check back later.” Heidi walked away and stepped down from the stage. Ruth watched her go out the exit and then rolled her eyes.

“And I thought she was here to help me,” Ruth muttered. She looked back at the letters and continued to work, humming slightly. There was something about doing work like this that calmed Ruth, no matter how tedious and tiring and dirty it may be. She liked creating designs on paper, recreating them in actual size, cutting, painting, yes, even the messy glitter. Ruth loved seeing the designs on scraps of paper come to life in front of her, even if it meant losing sleep over it.

The door at the side of the auditorium opened, disturbing the peaceful silence where Ruth had been working for some time now. Ruth looked up from the stage, slightly statrled, and there was one of her org mates, leading a bunch of guys in black carrying sounds equipment. She couldn’t remember his name, but she knew he was in charge of the logistics of the concert.

The guy looked up at her and flashed her a smile before heading out of the auditorium again, probably to fetch the other sounds crew. Ruth continued to work on the backdrop, humming softly as she taped the letters to the wire.

“Hi!”

She gave a start and looked behind her, where the guy was now standing, leaning on the stage. How long has he been standing there?

“Hello,” Ruth said, pushing back the stray that fell from her ponytail behind her ear. She knew she probably got gold glitter there, but she can wash up later.

“Do you need any help?” the guy asked.

“Huh?”

“Do you need any help there?” the guy repeated. He smiled and climbed up the stage from the front, not bothering to use the steps. “It will take a bit of time before the sounds guy can finish setting up, so I’ve got some time. Where are your teammates?” Before Ruth knew it, the guy had sat beside her.

“Uh, they’re out pulling the old posters. Some of them will be here later,” Ruth said, focusing back on the letters in front of her.

“Well, okay I can help you now. What can I do?”

Ruth glanced at him, wondering if the guy was willing to get down and dirty with her glitters. Well, it’s his doing, Ruth thought. “You can help me stick the last two letters for this and then we’ll hang it up.” She finally said.

The guy nodded. “Okay.” She handed him some tape and a letter and showed him how she taped the letters so they wouldn’t fall any time during the concert.

They worked silently for a moment, working almost methodically as they stuck the designs on the wire and hung them on the backdrop. An hour later, the backdrop was finished, and they stepped back to admire their work.

“That looks awesome,” the guy said. He looked at Ruth and patted her glitter-covered shoulder. “Did you do all of these?”

Ruth shrugged modestly. “Just the design, and then my teammates helped me put them on the styrofoam.”

“Well, great job to all of you, then. I couldn’t even draw a straight line,” He laughed, and crossed her arms, and Ruth noticed that they were already covered in glitter, like hers. Which reminds her, she should clean up.

Before she could say anything, one of the sounds crew approached the stage. “Sir, we’re done.”

Ruth’s companion turned around to look at the other guy. “Okay, thanks. I’ll give you the music in a while.” Then he turned to Ruth. “Well, I have to go. I’ll see you later, okay?”

Ruth nodded. “Yeah, sure. I better go clean up and wash up too. Don’t want to be all glitter later,” she paused before adding, “You too.” The guy laughed as he looked at his arms.

“Yeah, you’re right. See you!”

She watched as he started to walk to the edge of the stage to jump down, and then stopped. He turned around to look at Ruth again, and asked, “You’re Ruth, right?”

“Yeah, I’m Ruth,” she replied. Ruth found the question quite weird, and then she realized that she didn’t know his name either. “And you are?”

“Ian,” he replied with a smile. “Okay, better go now. See you!”

* * *

Ian watched the sounds crew put their equipment back in their truck as he waited for Oliver, their head, for the receipt of their payment. He was still high from the event, but he also felt a huge sense of relief that it was all over — after more than a month of preparation and a week in crunch mode, he was glad to go back to school work.

“Here you go, sir,” Oliver said, handing him the receipt. Ian shook his hand firmly after getting the piece of paper.

“Thank you so much,” he said gratefully.

“You’re welcome. Here’s our card in case you would need our services again.” Ian received the card and put it in his pocket as the sounds crew drove away. He turned and headed back to the auditorium, where his orgmates were still cleaning up and waiting for him so they could head off for a very late dinner-slash-early celebration.

The school was already quiet, but there was still the slight buzz in the air from the concert that happened just a while ago. Ian was happy that everything turned out well, from the early promotions of the events for the week, and finally leading up to their culminating event. He was worn out from making sure all the logistics of the events were ready, but he really enjoyed it regardless of it. Ian could imagine himself doing this for a living, and he already has his first contact!

As he neared the auditorium, he heard the laughter of his orgmates from inside the venue. He picked up his steps so he could join them again, and so they could head off to dinner — the last time he ate was more than eight hours ago.

Suddenly, a figure rushed out of the venue, carrying various bags and yelling out a hurried “Bye!” to the auditorium. Ian stopped in his tracks to look, and recognized the person is Ruth.

“Ruth!”

She stopped to look at him, but she bounced on the balls of her feet, like she really needed to go.

“Hey, sorry, I really have to go now.” She smiled at him apologetically.

“So soon?” Ian asked, disappointed. He was hoping everyone could be at the celebration later.

Ruth wrinkled her nose. “Yeah, sorry. I wanted to stay, but my dad is here already,” Her phone beeped, and she jumped slightly, with a look of panic in her face. She started to walk away, but not without saying, “I’ll just join you guys next time. See you!”

Ian watched her run down the hallway and disappear on the turn as she headed out of the campus. He stood there for a moment, feeling amused at the entire exchange that just happened. Ian smiled and walked back to the auditorium, into the laughter of his orgmates.

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