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Chapter 10 – Friendship

Around 4 PM, they arrive at the Huang resident. The girls are trying to settle in for the last half an hour or so while the guys are sitting in the living room, watching TV.
“I’ll give you girls another half an hour, then we’re heading to the beach to watch the sun set,” Ehlo yelled upstairs, announcing his last warning.
“What’s your hurry anyway?” Xiao Jie yelled back from somewhere upstairs.
“The sun doesn’t wait for anyone!” Ehlo hollered back.
“How funny!” Xiao Jie returned.
“It’s true though!” Jacky and Ehlo shouted out at the same time.
Ehlo slaps Jacky a high five at that time.
Jacky has already changed back into regular clothes when he returned to his house couple of hours earlier. The guys just threw their bags in their rooms awhile back and decided to unpack later when they’re back from the beach. The girls decided to unpack now since they need their “stuffs.”
When they came back to the Huang resident, Ehlo thought he had to go through the whole “formalities” of introducing the girls to his parents, but apparently his parents decided to go on a vacation at a time like this – without telling him beforehand. He just came in the door and found a note pin to the fridge. His parents know him the best. The first place he would look is the fridge. What can he say? You can’t fight a war with a starving army. After he read the note from his parents, he managed to find some sodas in the fridge and threw Jacky one as Jacky walked by. Now, they’re just sitting on Ehlo’s couch and waiting for the girls.
“Your turn to rush the girls,” Ehlo said to Jacky, glancing at his watch again.
“You’re scared they’re going to tear you apart if you rush them one more time?” Jacky asked, looking over at Ehlo.
“No.”
Jacky looks amused, waiting for Ehlo to come up with another explanation.
“What? Don’t look at me that way. Just thought you want to take a turn.”
Jacky turns his amused look off. “Then you want to take the cooler outside first? If we pack now, the girls will definitely get the hint.”
“Finally you said something that actually sounds like you’re my brother.”
Jacky smiles and gets up from the couch. Ehlo rustles some stuff on the coffee table, trying to find the remote so he could turn the TV off. By the time he finally locates its location and turns it off, Jacky is out the door already. Ehlo grabs some jackets that are hanging on the doorway just in case the girls need it later when it’s cold at night. The guys finish packing the van in fifteen minutes. They had decided to take Ehlo’s family van since it’ll be more convenient to store all the stuffs they need. The girls come out as Jacky shuts the back door of the van. Actually, he didn’t realize they are there. But he looks up when he hears Ehlo wolf-whistling. Jacky is quite taken aback at what he’s seeing also. Wei Ru is dressed in regular shirt and pants – summer attire really. Nothing special, her shirt is striped light blue while her pants is the same light blue shade that goes a little below her knees. But what’s a bit indescribable about this is that he has never seen her in such outfits before. She’s usually in dresses or so he always sees when he’s around her. Xiao Jie – on the other hand – is dressed in a white t-shirt and dark blue jeans that goes down the same length as Wei Ru’s. Brittney is wearing a white t-shirt with pink flowers on it with black short jeans. While Jacky walks towards them, Ehlo begins to comment.
“Wow!” Ehlo began.
“What?” Xiao Jie asked, waiting for his answer.
“You girls look fabulous,” Ehlo said, pausing before saying, “minus one.”
Brittney knows that he’s talking about her. She wrinkles he face at him.
“Let’s get going, shall we?” Jacky jumped in before another scene takes place and delays their trip any further.
“Sure!” Xiao Jie said with a bright smile.
The girls get into the middle section while the guys sit in front. Jacky’s driving again since he doesn’t trust Ehlo’s “driving skills” while the girls are here. The last time he was in Ehlo’s car, they got a ticket because Ehlo was a bit “excited” about something.
“How far is this beach?” Xiao Jie asked as Jacky’s pulling out.
“About five minutes,” Ehlo answered.
“Try ten,” Jacky corrected him.
“Forgot. Fan Gang drives too slow. Make that fifteen.”
“Hey, we have female passengers present here. You wouldn’t want to scare them to death, would you?”
“What harm is a little excitement?”
“It’s a nice day and still is. Don’t make us sit in the police station and explain to the officers why we’re going over one hundred miles per hour on a 35 miles per hour street.”
Ehlo ignores Jacky and looks out the window.
“Is the beach nice?” Xiao Jie asked, changing the subject to ease the little tension going on between the guys.
“You’ll know when you get there,” Ehlo said, still looking out the window.
Fifteen minutes later, they arrive at the beach. It’s not because Ehlo was right about Jacky’s driving. But because they have to spend about five minutes in trying to find a parking space. The beach is packed today. The guys unload the stuffs after Jacky parked. Then everyone helps carry all the stuffs towards the beach area. They have to walk around for five more minutes trying to find a place to settle down.
“Phew…lucky we finally found this place or I’ll passed out,” Ehlo said as they finally parked themselves at a spot.
“You’re a guy,” Brittney remarked.
“And?”
“Stop whining.”
The others smile and wait for Ehlo’s reaction.
“Since you’re a kid, I won’t get mad at you for not knowing much. After all, you haven’t really come into contact with the real world yet.”
Everyone expected Ehlo to fight back with some other way, but his clever words throw everyone off – especially Brittney.
“Let’s get everything set up,” Jacky jumped in. “If we stand in this sand any longer, we’ll fry.”
After Jacky’s rescue, everyone spreads the light quilts and sets up the umbrella so they could relax in. The girls open the food basket that they packed earlier.
“Pass me an apple,” Brittney said.
“Yea, pass her one,” Ehlo chimed in. “She needs help in growing some teeth.”
Jacky and Ehlo are sitting next to each other while the girls are on the opposite side of the quilt.
Brittney gives Ehlo a dirty look just for that comment.
“Don’t glare too much. It’s not healthy,” Ehlo said casually before bringing out a mischievous smile.
After he said that, he gets up and grabs the beach ball that he has tossed aside earlier.
“All right, who’s with me?” He asked, eyeing them one by one.
“Let’s eat first,” Brittney said, wrinkling her face.
“We have plenty of time to eat.”
With that, Ehlo walks out of their comfort space and back into the sun. Jacky, Wei Ru, and Xiao Jie follow him.
“Does that mean I’m in charge of keeping all these stuffs in one piece?!” Brittney yelled after them.
“Looks like it since you’re lazy!” Ehlo yelled back.
When the other three catches up to Ehlo, he’s wearing this expression that says he got a new scheme in his mind.
“So, what is it?” Jacky asked, knowing too well of that expression.
“You know me the best, man,” Ehlo said, smiling. Then he clears his throat, “Okay, here’s the deal. You can either be a one-person team or choose partners. But the winner gets to request something from all the losers.” He turns on his mischievous smile again after saying the last sentence.
“How would you know that you’re going to win for sure?” Xiao Jie asked.
“That’s the point. I don’t,” Ehlo said, flashing out his charming smile. “Fun, isn’t it?” He slams his hand down at the beach ball in his hand after that, “All right! Let’s get this going before the sun goes down.”
The others divide up into teams. Smart as Xiao Jie is, she chooses to be on Ehlo’s team. Whatever it is, they’re going down together. Brittney watches from nearby as she’s lying back on the quilt after having finished her apple a minute ago.
They play for about fifteen minutes and still no progress of seeing who will win or lose. Ehlo feels that he has under-estimated Wei Ru since he thought he would win in no time with Xiao Jie on his side. About ten more minutes later, Ehlo’s about to give up when he carelessly hits the ball sideways instead of straight towards Jacky. He mutters a “Sorry” and runs to retrieve the ball. Since his hit is always so nice and hard, he has to run a bit further than he has to. As he’s making his way across the beach, he hears Xiao Jie calling him – more like yelling for him. He turns around to see what’s going on, but is still moving at a slower pace. Before he knows it, he knocks into someone. He hears an “ah” sound seconds later after they crashed. He turns his attention back front and sees that it’s a girl he just knocked over. Before he could rush forward to help the girl up, he sees another girl – possibly her friend, helping her up already.
“Sorry about that,” Ehlo muttered out. “I was…ugh…” He could only gesture his hand nervously in an attempt to explain.
The second girl – the one who had helped the first girl up – gives him a disapproving look before saying, “You weren’t looking, right?”
“Something like that,” Ehlo said, letting out a nervous laugh.
“Obviously not,” The girl continued, rolling her eyes for effect. “If you had, you wouldn’t be knocking her over.”
“Umm….ugh…”
The first girl, seeing Ehlo’s awkward look, tugs on her friend’s shirt sleeve. “Come on. Don’t be like this.” She turns to Ehlo, saying, “It’s all right. I’m not hurt anyway.”
“I’m not done though,” The second girl said, folding her hands inwards.
“But I’m not hurt,” The first girl persisted. “Come on. We have to go meet Ken. He’s waiting somewhere in this crowd.”
The second girl unfolds her hands, but puts it on her hips instead. “Okay then. But Mr…um…” She gestures towards Ehlo.
“Huang Yu Rong,” He said, extending his hand towards her.
She doesn’t shake Ehlo’s hand, but points her right index finger at him. “You better watch where you’re going next time or others are going to get hurt.”
The first girl takes Ehlo’s hand and shakes it, smiling. “I’m Selina. This is my friend and co-worker, Hebe. She’s a bit straight-forward. Don’t mind her.”
“She has the right to get mad anyway since I was being careless,” Ehlo said, smiling at Selina. He finally lets go of Selina’s hand. “I guess I’ll be going now. Since you two are…ugh…probably busy.”
But before Ehlo makes a move for it, he looks at Hebe. He looks like he needs her approval of dismissal.
“All right then,” Hebe said, her voice finally softening. “Just be extra careful next time.” She smiles after saying that.
Hebe has this mischievous glint in her eyes that made Ehlo even more nervous.
“Okay. I’ll just go…” Ehlo uttered, pointing in the direction where he just came from, “…that way.”
He turns to leave before the “Ice Queen” could find anything else to rip him apart with.
When he’s back where the other three are standing there waiting, he looks lost.
“Where’s the ball?” Jacky asked.
“What ball?” Ehlo asked absentmindedly.
“Beach ball,” Jacky said, wrinkling his face. “The one that you hit way over there.” He points in the direction Ehlo just came back from.
“Are you okay?” Xiao Jie asked with a teasing smile on her face. “Like someone stole your heart away?” She bursts out laughing after saying that.
“What?!” Ehlo exclaimed, turning to Xiao Jie.
She’s laughing so hard now that she’s almost on the ground, hysterical. Wei Ru rushes over to pat Xiao Jie on the back since she’s laughing so hard she’s choking and coughing at the moment.
“What in the world is going on here?” Ehlo asked, wrinkling his face.
“We should be asking you that question,” Jacky said. “It must be a girl. In fact, two girls. If not, why would you come back empty-handed and all hypnotized?”
“You guys saw me?”
Jacky tries to hold back his laughter so he could reply to Ehlo’s question. “Yea. What a sight. Imagine Huang Yu Rong getting all tongue-tied in front of a girl that’s thinner and shorter than him.”
“What? Where did you get that? I wasn’t scared of her. It just looks that way from far away. I was actually trying to make out what she’s saying ‘cause her voice is a bit hard to hear. The other girl has to explain it to me.”
“You mean the part where she goes ‘My friend is a bit straight-forward’?”
Ehlo looks at Jacky and then the girls. Xiao Jie had stopped coughing already. But she looks like she’s about to start another laughing fit. He looks towards Wei Ru to see if he can detect any signs. Wei Ru – alarmed at his stare – looks towards Jacky for help.
“Oh…you only know how to bully Wei Ru, huh?” Jacky asked. “It wasn’t our fault that you didn’t pay attention.” Then his expression changes since he just realized something. “Oh, I guess Hebe was right after all about your ‘inability to pay attention’.” Then he gets to the point again since he could see Ehlo’s impatient look. “We walked past you to retrieve the ball and caught some pieces of the conversation before coming back here.”
“‘Pieces of the conversation’,” Ehlo asked, wrinkling his face. “Sounds like you were spying on me.”
“Okay, okay,” Jacky confessed, putting his hands up in the air. “So we did listen in a bit more, but it was still funny to see how you reacted. I was expecting a fight though.”
“You expect me to fight two weaklings?” Ehlo asked in shock.
“Correction: Only one weakling. Hebe could kick your ass though.”
“Thanks a lot for the support, buddy,” Ehlo snapped, annoyed.
“Anytime,” Jacky returned, smiling brightly.
“Fine if you don’t believe me with whether I’m scared of Hebe or not, but why did you ask me for the ball if you already retrieved it?”
Jacky shrugs his shoulders. “Just to see if you still remember why you were running in the first place to be bumping into the girls.”
“With all these talks, which girl is the one you’re pursuing though?” Xiao Jie asked anxiously.
Ehlo shoots her a “What in the world?!” expression.
“Come on. We know it all from your interactions or,” Xiao Jie paused for effect, “lack of it.” She waves her hand in the air at that time. “You don’t look like the type to be speechless in such situations. Or if we go back to the hypothesis that you’re scared of Hebe.”
“Come on, guys,” Ehlo said with a despair look. “Give me a break. Why don’t we just get out of this sun and go eat or something?”
“What about our game?”
“Re-match later.”
Ehlo heads back towards the little camp they set up earlier before anyone could say anything else.
Jacky and Xiao Jie just look at each other and shrug while Wei Ru looks puzzled. They follow Ehlo anyway.
******
Brittney’s lying on her stomach and reading a book at the moment. She had lost interest in their game awhile back since she didn’t see any progress whatsoever. She looks up from the book when she sees some shadows approaching her direction. She sees Ehlo in a weird mood, so she puts her book down and changes to a sitting position – crossed leg.
“So…had fun?” Brittney asked casually.
Her eyes sparkled with mischievous intentions that Ehlo doesn’t want to reply. He sits down at a corner of their camp instead.
“Not a good time, Britt,” Jacky said to her. “Let’s set up, guys.”
Brittney looks like she’s going to protest, but Jacky wrinkles his face and shakes his head, motioning for her to drop it. Brittney knows that look too well – especially the last several weeks, so she stops herself from approaching Ehlo. She walks over to help the others set up for the little campfire barbeque that they’ve agreed on earlier. They have to fold up the towels and move to another location closer to the water area and away from the general crowd.
About twenty minutes later, they’re gathering around their little fire as the sun’s setting. Ehlo’s mood has returned to its usual state of cheerfulness. They laugh and talk like usual again while watching the sun go down. As the sun starts to change its color from bright red to an orange-ish shade, they become silent at the breath-taking scene. After a brief silence of enjoying it, Xiao Jie speaks up again – continuing their conversation from a bit earlier.
“You know what’s funnier though?” Xiao Jie asked them.
“What?” Ehlo asked back.
“I wanted to laugh about that incident too although it seems a bit odd. I mean I almost went hysterical laughing if I didn’t remember that I was the one being dumped.”
“Forget about it. Just laugh away.”
They’re sitting around in a circle in front of the fire and are holding their own stick of food and waiting for it to be cooked. Xiao Jie’s actually joking about what happened earlier at the moment while the others listen intently. Only Ehlo seems to chime in and joke with her.
“Oh yeah, did your parents mention something in their note about Yu Lan? Was she with them on the trip?” Jacky asked Ehlo, changing the subject suddenly.
“No idea,” Ehlo replied.
“She’s your sister. You do know you have a sister, right?”
Ehlo wrinkles his face at Jacky’s expression. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing,” Jacky said innocently. “Just thought I remind you of the only sister that you have – although you want to forget about it.”
“She’s always tagging you when you were around. She might as well be your sister.”
“Is this some kind of scenario where the brother is jealous with his future brother-in-law?” Xiao Jie jumped in.
Both Jacky and Ehlo look at Xiao Jie while Brittney gives Wei Ru a quick glance before looking over to the other three to see how the scene unfolds. Ehlo’s the one to break the multi-stare.
“No…” Ehlo answered. “Fan Gang’s already taken. And I said she should be ‘his sister’ instead of mine. If I want him to be my brother-in-law, I would have said so already.”
“Jacky’s taken?” Xiao Jie asked.
For some reason, she looks over to Wei Ru with a concerned expression before darting her glance towards Jacky.
“Of course he’s taken. He hasn’t told you?”
“Of course not. Why would I ask you if I already knew?”
“Well…”
Before Ehlo could tell Xiao Jie who the mysterious girl is, he hears a familiar voice rising above the average conversational tone. He almost dropped the stick he was holding when he sees who it is that’s coming their way. Behind the girl are another girl and a guy tagging about a feet back – looking at each other, exchanging an agonizing glance. Jacky, seeing Ehlo’s fixated glance, looks towards that direction also. He smiles as soon as he sees the three who are walking towards them. He gives his stick to Wei Ru before standing up to approach the three.
“Hey, Xiao Tian!” He called out. “How’s it going?”
“Hey!” Xiao Tian shouted back, smiling. “It has been a long time. I almost didn’t recognize you.”
“I didn’t change that much to start with.”
While the guys are exchanging these words, the girls are standing quietly behind Xiao Tian.
“Your friends?” Jacky asked, gesturing his hand towards the girls’ directions.
“Actually, co-workers,” Xiao Tian clarified.
“Hebe and Selina, right?” Jacky asked, extending his hands out to the girls.
Xiao Tian has moved back a few seconds ago, so the girls are facing Jacky directly now.
“You look familiar,” Hebe said, taking Jacky’s hand. “Have I seen you somewhere before?”
“From earlier?” Jacky offered, letting go of her hand. “I was the guy who motioned to you when we were retrieving the ball and Yu Rong was stuttering his way through his apology.”
“Hey!” Ehlo shouted behind Jacky.
“Oh!” Hebe exclaimed out at the same time as Ehlo. “So you’re the guy!” She gives him a light smile after that.
“That wasn’t the truth?” Jacky asked, turning to Ehlo.
“At least don’t put it like that, man,” Ehlo said, irritated.
“It seems like Yu Rong hasn’t changed at all, huh?” Xiao Tian commented.
Wei Ru, Xiao Jie, and Brittney are coming up to the group at the moment.
“Hey, you guys know each other?” Xiao Jie asked, smiling.
“Yea. Let me introduce. Ken Zhu Xiao Tian and these are Wei Ru, Xiao Jie, and Brittney. And Brittney, Hebe and Selina,” Jacky rattled off, pointing to each one as he says their names.
“Ooohhh,” Brittney oozed out, running to Hebe and Selina’s side. “So you were the ones the guys were talking about earlier?”
“I wasn’t talking about them. Fan Gang and Xiao Jie were,” Ehlo clarified, sounding defensive.
“Oh, come on,” Xiao Jie said. “Stop it with the…”
Ehlo jumps in before Xiao Jie could say further. “You’re quite nosy, Missy.” Then he turns to the others, saying, “So…you guys want to join us?”
“Sounds good to me,” Ken said, turning to Hebe and Selina. “Girls?”
“Sounds like fun,” Selina agreed, sending them all a friendly smile.
“Okay,” Hebe mumbled. “Since we got nothing else to do around here anyway.”
“Why do you always sound so ungrateful?” Ehlo asked.
Hebe ignores him.
“All right. Let’s get this going then,” Jacky interfered.
Everyone sits down in a circle again in front of the fire. Jacky, Ehlo, Xiao Jie, and Brittney sit down at their original spot while Wei Ru moves to the other side to sit next to Brittney so Ken can sit next to Jacky. Hebe is between Wei Ru and Selina. Jacky, Ehlo, and Ken chat away about their old days at the university while Wei Ru and Xiao Jie pass more food around the circle for the new addition to their group. After they’re done, the girls strike up a conversation of their own also. Hebe and Selina fit right in with Wei Ru, Xiao Jie, and Brittney. The guys join in once awhile, but return to their conversation after a few exchange. As it’s getting darker, they eat more and talk less. The atmosphere is quite heart-warming with the little fire burning in the center of their circle.
© November 20th, 2007
Re-posted: Saturday, February 20th, 2010

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