Chapter 11 – Family First

Ehlo wakes up with the worst headache ever. He marches out of his room, still in his black t-shirt and gray shorts. He absent-mindedly walks downstairs without caring to check if he’s in a proper condition to address the female guests. As he’s making his way downstairs, Xiao Jie’s making her way upstairs.
“You look like you’re having a hung-over right now,” She commented.
“Nice outfit,” Ehlo complimented back.
“What?!” Xiao Jie asked, wrinking her face. “It’s still t-shirt and short like yesterday.”
“Still…” Ehlo uttered, letting out a yawn. “So…what are you doing heading this way?”
Xiao Jie finally remembers her purpose of climbing the stairs. “Ah! I have to go retrieve something from my room.”
Xiao Jie rushes past Ehlo before he could question further. He turns his head to look at her running the rest of the way upstairs and down the hall before turning back to continue his way downstairs.
Jacky and Wei Ru are sitting in the room next to the kitchen by the stairs, sipping their coffees. Ehlo sits down at a sofa across from Jacky and to Wei Ru’s left. He places his head down on the headrest of the seat and makes himself comfortable, shutting his eyes again.
“Were you drunk last night after the rest of us gone to sleep?” Jacky asked, eyeing Ehlo cautiously.
“Don’t ask,” Ehlo said, his voice sounding somewhat strained. “I was just thinking too much last night. Now I’m tired.”
“What’s going on?” Jacky asked, smiling. “Did something happen?”
“No, I wish,” Ehlo answered, tapping on his forehead at the same time.
“You wished?” Jacky asked curiously, taking a sip of his coffee.
“Nothing,” Ehlo mumbled.
“Coffee?” Jacky offered.
“No. I need ice.”
Xiao Jie finally comes back to the room. She sits down next to Ehlo after putting her cell phone on the coffee table.
“You’re feeling that awful?” She asked, turning to him.
“What do you think?” Ehlo asked back, rubbing his forehead again.
Just then, a girl’s voice could be heard from the front area of the house. The girls look around, trying to see what’s going on. The guys don’t bother to move. They seem to know this person or recognized the voice. The girl’s voice becomes closer. A few seconds later, they see a girl walking through the kitchen and into the current room. As soon as the girl sees Jacky, she runs to him and clings to his right arm. She has settled down next to him in the process. Ehlo takes his hand away from his face long enough to take a quick glance at the girl before lying his head back and covering his eyes again.
“Jacky ge!” The girl shouted out excitedly, still clinging onto Jacky’s arm. “When did you come? I missed you sooo much.”
Wei Ru and Xiao Jie look at each other. Xiao Jie shrugs her shoulders and settles comfortably back into the sofa.
“Care to introduce?” Xiao Jie asked, looking towards Ehlo’s direction.
“Mina,” Ehlo said passively.
Xiao Jie smiles at the girl named Mina. But Mina doesn’t seem to notice anyone in the room, except for Jacky.
Jacky attempts to detach his arm from Mina before answering her question. “We’ve been back since yesterday. Where were you?” He edges away from her as he asks that. “We thought you went with your parents on the trip.”
“Oh! So you’re Yu Lan?” Xiao Jie asked.
Mina finally seems to notice that there are other people around too.
“Uh…who are you?” Mina uttered out, studying Xiao Jie carefully.
“Show some manners, sis,” Ehlo said, still rubbing his forehead.
“Ge!” Mina whined.
“Don’t yell,” Ehlo warned her. “I’m still trying to get over my headache here.”
“It’s all right,” Xiao Jie said to Mina before turning back to Ehlo again. “You want me to get you some ice?”
“Finally…” Ehlo muttered.
Xiao Jie gets up from her place and heads towards the kitchen to prepare an ice pad for Ehlo. Mina observes Xiao Jie for a bit before turning back to address her brother.
“Ge…is that my future sister-in-law?” Mina whispered across the way towards her brother.
Ehlo snaps his head up from the headrest of the sofa so fast that his head throbs even more. He stays still for a bit to make sure he’s okay before turning to his sister. “What in the world gave you that idea?”
“Three signs.”
“Which are?”
“She’s sitting next to you the whole time.”
Ehlo gives her an expression that said, “Are you implying something right now?” since she’s sitting next to Jacky too. Mina ignores him and goes on.
“Number two,” She continued and paused for emphasis, “she only addresses you when asking questions. And…number three…she knows her way around the kitchen.”
“If my head isn’t throbbing right now, I would be rolling on the floor with laughter at this instant. Seriously, where in the world did you get that idea?” Ehlo asked in his most uninterested tone.
“By observing, of course,” Mina said, shrugging her shoulders.
“Well, your observing skills suck,” Ehlo commented.
Ehlo is about to get up when Xiao Jie comes back with an ice pad in hand. She places it over his forehead as he leans his head back to rest again. Xiao Jie settles down next to him like before.
“See?” Mina said.
“By the way, where is Brittney?” Jacky asked suddenly.
“No wonder this place is unusually quiet,” Ehlo said, realizing the tranquility among them. “Well, at least since until ten minutes or so back.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Mina asked, giving her brother a look.
“You and Brittney would get along just fine. Keep trying to attack me at every chance you get. And not to mention – both are obsessively clinging onto Fan Gang…although you both know clearly that he’s taken.”
“What?!” Mina exclaimed in shock. “Jacky ge has a gf?”
“Well…technically no, but soon.”
“You mean what you said yesterday was just for fun?” Xiao Jie asked, sounding both anxious and curious at the same time.
“I said lots of stuffs yesterday. Which one do you mean?”
“You know.”
“No, I honestly don’t know,” Ehlo said, then he realizes it. “Oh….you mean if Jacky’s taken or not? Of course I’m serious. He’s taken because…” He pauses and brings his head up to look at Wei Ru before putting his head down to rest again.
Mina has been following her brother’s every move since she heard about Jacky’s possible change of status. She begins to observe Wei Ru as soon as her brother revealed the mystery.
“Not bad,” Mina said, nodding her head.
“You sound like you’re going to the meat market and trying to pick a chicken or something,” Ehlo jumped in.
“No. More like fruits and veggies,” Xiao Jie said.
“Same difference.”
Wei Ru pretends to be interested at something in the kitchen while Jacky looks around, trying to find something to do.
“What are we going to do today?” Xiao Jie asked them.
“I’ll think about it after I get rid of this headache,” Ehlo informed them.
“You want some food?” Xiao Jie asked, turning to him again. “It’s probably ‘cause your stomach is empty right now.”
“Good idea. Would you please?”
“Okay. Don’t go anywhere.”
Xiao Jie hurries to the kitchen to get some food leftovers from the stove for Ehlo.
“And you tell me that…” Mina began.
“Would you knock it off with your match-making career?” Ehlo said, cutting Mina off. “People who do those things will end up alone.”
“Ge! You’re evil!”
“I’m telling you the truth.”
Jacky looks over to Wei Ru as the siblings continue to battle it out. He gets up from his current place and moves over to where Wei Ru’s sitting.
“You all right?” Jacky asked as he settles down next to her.
“Yea,” She answered, smiling.
Xiao Jie comes back at that time with Ehlo’s food. She sets it in front of him and turns to remove the ice pad from his head.
Ehlo leans forward to grab the utensils placed in front of him. “I feel like a king now.”
“Enjoy it while it last because I’ll be going back home in a few days,” Xiao Jie said.
“Of course I will enjoy it,” Ehlo said, turning his mischievous smile back on.
“Are we going to look up Xiao Tian later and invite him over or meet him somewhere around here?” Jacky asked Ehlo.
“Doesn’t he have work?”
“I don’t mean to drag him out now.”
Ehlo continues to eat after that.
“Jacky ge, how long are you going to stay around this time?” Mina asked, turning back to him.
“Whenever your brother decides to kick me out,” Jacky answered, shrugging his shoulders.
“He wouldn’t dare,” Mina said, looking towards Ehlo’s direction.
“I’m your older brother,” Ehlo managed between chews.
“I get to decide who comes and goes.”
Mina sticks her tongue out at him.
“I told you…” Ehlo said, swallowing. “…you would get along just fine with Brittney.”
“Who’s Brittney?”
“Someone who likes to sleep in late.”
“Like you don’t.”
“Defending a stranger already?” Ehlo said. Then he turns to Xiao Jie. “This stuffs is good. You made it?”
“Wei Ru,” Xiao Jie replied.
“No wonder you guys run a coffee shop,” Ehlo complimented, glancing at Wei Ru. “Might as well turn it into a restaurant too.”
Wei Ru just smiles.
“Oh yeah, why were you rushing in here earlier?” Ehlo asked.
“I almost forgot!” Mina exclaimed, jumping up from her seat.
“You did forget. I’m just reminding you now.”
“Ge!” Mina whined, her hands on her hips.
“All right. Go ahead.”
“I just won two tickets to this one concert. Want to come along?”
“Me or Jacky ge? Oh…Jacky ge of course, right? I’m just your brother.”
“What?” Ehlo asked casually, looking away from his food and tuning in to Mina’s words.
“You’re not making it any easier for me.”
“Go ahead and ask Jacky ge.”
“I can’t go,” Jacky jumped in. “I have to…go somewhere later.”
“I’m not going to ask you,” Mina said, turning to Jacky.
“You mean I actually won this time?” Ehlo asked, surprised.
“Are you two going to let me finish ever?” Mina asked, frowning at them both.
“Go ahead,” Ehlo insisted.
“No one is stopping you,” Jacky joined in.
“You two are, okay?” Mina pointed out, looking quite irritated by now.
“Well, go ahead then,” Jacky offered, smiling.
“My point exactly,” Ehlo continued.
Mina gives up and sits down again.
Jacky and Ehlo smile at the same time – victory for the guys.
“No seriously, who are you going with then?” Ehlo asked, looking up from his food again.
“My boyfriend, of course,” Mina replied. “I was going to go with you, but I have to change plans. I just want to ask anyway in case…”
Ehlo snaps his head up again since he has returned his attention to his food after asking Mina the question. “You have a boyfriend? And I don’t know?”
“No, wait,” Jacky interrupted. “I thought you knew.”
“You mean you knew?” Ehlo turned to Jacky.
“You mean you don’t know?”
“All right,” Xiao Jie spoke up. “Can you guys stop it? Have you three planned this all before-hand so you could act it out in front of Wei Ru and me?”
“I’m not kidding,” Ehlo said, turning to Xiao Jie. “I seriously don’t know. That’s why I told you before.” He points his fork to Jacky, saying, “He should be her brother, not me.” Then he turns to Mina again, asking, “So, who’s your boyfriend?”
“Ken,” She replied.
“I’m supposed to know who Ken is?” Ehlo asked, pasting on his passive expression.
“Your classmate, Ken Zhu Xiao Tian.”
Ehlo chokes on his juice. Xiao Jie tries to thumb him on the back.
“What?!” Jacky exclaimed at about the same time that Ehlo choked.
“You mean you don’t know?” Ehlo asked Jacky after he regains himself.
“She mentioned a boyfriend,” Jacky replied.
“You mean after last night’s little gathering, he still wants to hide it from me?” Ehlo asked, staring Mina down suspiciously.
“He didn’t say anything?” Mina asked back with a worried expression.
“If he did, would I be choking? I would hunt you down – wherever you happen to be – and strangle you already.”
“Ge…stop exaggerating.”
“I would, you know.”
Jacky’s cell phone rings at that time. He grabs it from the coffee table and answers.
“Hello? Oh. Okay, hold on,” Jacky said, covering the mouthpiece and whispers to Ehlo, “You want to get together with Xiao Tian today?”
“Yea,” Ehlo replied. “Might as well. Since I want to strangle him anyway. Didn’t bother to tell me that he wants to be my bro-in-law.”
“Yea,” Jacky said into the phone. “We’ll meet you there in about half an hour or so.”
Jacky hangs up after that.
“Time for action,” Ehlo said, clinking his fork and knife together for effect.
Ehlo drops his utensils after that and heads for the stairs again.
Half an hour later, Wei Ru has managed to wake Brittney up and they’re dressed ready to go out. Mina and Brittney have already been introduced along the way somehow as they’re rushing out the door. They’re taking Ehlo’s family van again since they have to pick Ken up later…and possibly his companions. Jacky couldn’t trust Ehlo enough to let him drive – considering his reactions after Mina dropped the “news” on them.
Ehlo turns to Mina – who’s sitting in the back next to Xiao Jie – with a serious expression. “You’re not putting me on, are you? If you are, you can say it now before I do some damage to your boyfriend.”
“Serious,” Mina answered with a straight face. “You don’t believe that I could possibly be dating someone?”
“We’re not talking about ‘someone’,” Jacky jumped in. “We’re talking about Xiao Tian here.”
“Stop calling him Xiao Tian,” Ehlo said, annoyed. “It gives me the creeps.”
“You call me Fan Gang too.”
“We’re not ‘The Three Musketeers’. Only you and I are buddies, okay?”
“Or are you just sore ‘cause he didn’t tell you about dating your sister?”
Ehlo gives Jacky a look.
“Would you guys knock it off? I’m here to have fun, not babysit you guys,” Xiao Jie said.
“Ooohhh..that hurts,” Ehlo said, holding his left side where his heart is with his hands.
“I tried,” Xiao Jie returned with a smile.
Wei Ru tucks on Xiao Jie’s shirt sleeves for her to stop. Xiao Jie smiles lightly and whispers something to Wei Ru. Ehlo catches it since he’s still leaning towards the back to address the girls.
“What’s all these secrets here?” He asked, looking from one girl to the other.
“Don’t be so nosy,” Xiao Jie said.
“Fine then.”
Ehlo turns back front and pretends to be mad while Xiao Jie smiles at her victory. Mina watches intently at the two’s interactions while her mind spins rapidly, trying to come up with a plan. Brittney’s unusually quiet state doesn’t go unnoticed.
“Britt, are you all right?” Jacky asked.
Brittney nods.
Xiao Jie turns back to the last section of the van to check on her. “Probably ‘cause you didn’t eat breakfast yet, right?”
Brittney shrugs.
“What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. Just don’t feel like talking right now.”
“Fan Gang, turn right,” Ehlo said in his serious tone.
“Why?” Jacky asked.
“Two o’clock.”
Jacky turns his attention towards that direction.
“Great day, huh?”
“No kidding.”
The girls look worried. All leans forward a bit to get a better look at what’s going on ahead. Even Brittney is focusing her attention on the scene ahead.
© January 12th, 2008
Re-posted: Saturday, February 20th, 2010