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Chapter 13 – Memories

They arrive at Jacky’s house in about twenty minutes. As they’re getting out of the car, Xiao Jie takes in the mansion’s view.
“Wow!” She exclaimed with amazement.
“What?” Jacky asked, turning to her.
“I didn’t realize that you live so close to Ehlo and you didn’t bother to come home even though we seen to pass by it twice or so already.”
“I practically live out of Yu Rong’s house anyway,” Jacky said, shrugging his shoulders.
“That’s strange.”
Jacky nods, gesturing towards the front steps. “So…shall we go in or you want to gawk at the scene some more?”
“Let’s go.”
Jacky leads them towards the entrance and opens the door with his key. He pushes the door inwards and steps back to let the girls pass first.
“This place looks like a castle,” Xiao Jie commented.
“My parents tend to get creative,” Jacky said, closing the door behind them.
“And you didn’t bother to tell us you’re some multi-millionaire’s son?” Xiao Jie asked Jacky, turning to him again.
“What’s the point? What difference does it make?”
“Maybe we should go find a gift shop or some place to buy a gift.”
“My parents aren’t home, remember?  Doesn’t matter.”
“Still…there’s your brother.”
“He might be out at the moment. I didn’t see his car around.”
While Jacky and Xiao Jie are talking, they’re walking through a hallway that leads into the living room.
As they’re walking, Wei Ru feels a chilly feeling creeping up from within. The hallway without any lights on creates an eerie atmosphere. She could see some shadows dancing on the wall from the little light shining in from the living room as they’re making their way down the hall. She almost jumped when Xiao Jie tapped her on the shoulder.
“Are you all right?” Xiao Jie asked when she sees Wei Ru’s pale face.
“It’s just…” Wei Ru started, not knowing how to go on.
“Sorry about that,” Jacky said, realizing how the atmosphere must look like. “I forgot to turn on the light.”
“It’s okay.”
“We’re almost there anyway.”
Just as Jacky finishes those words, they’re really at the end of the hallway.
Unlike the creepy hallway, the living room itself reveals a bright room, containing from a large chandelier hanging on the ceiling to the crystal glass windows covering the two walls of the room. Aside from the hallway they came from and the hallway to the right that leads to the kitchen, the rest of the living room is covered in white.
“This place is sooo…overwhelming that I’m afraid to even sit down,” Xiao Jie commented.
“It’s that scary? Want to go to the kitchen then?” Jacky asked, gesturing down the other hall.
“Is it another creepy hallway again?” Xiao Jie asked, her eyes brightening.
“Very funny, Miss Qu.”
Xiao Jie puts on her charming smile and takes a bow.
Jacky turns towards the hallway that leads to the kitchen. The girls follow quietly.
Unlike the creepy feeling of the front hallway with the dark-golden wallpapers, the side hallway contains white cream-like wallpapers with some tiny dark blue flowers on it.
“Wow! A totally different atmosphere,” Xiao Jie’s voice speaks up again.
“James rescued it from being decorated like the main hall,” Jacky said, smiling.
“James?” Xiao Jie turned to Jacky for an explanation.
“My brother.”
“Oh!”
Jacky stops at a door to the right and opens it. He steps aside to let the girls go in first.
“Wow!” Xiao Jie shouted – yet again. “I’m guessing this is James’ idea again?”
The room is decorated somewhat in a cheerful theme like the hallway they just came through.
“Definitely.”
“He has good taste.”
“Are you implying something?” Jacky asked, turning to her.
“No! I didn’t mean it in that way,” Xiao Jie rushed to explain herself, looking alarmed.
“Don’t worry. I’m kidding.”
Jacky leads them to the counter in the middle. The girls sit down on the stools while Jacky opens the fridge to take out a thermo from it. He also takes out some glasses from a cabinet on the top left of the sink. He finally settles down on a stool behind the counter to pour out the drinks for the girls before pouring a glass for himself.
“Hmm…this is good. Where did you buy it?” Xiao Jie asked.
“I’ll take that as a compliment then,” A guy’s voice spoke up from somewhere.
All three girls turn in different directions to see who belongs to the voice. Jacky just smiles, knowing too well.
“Who is it?” Xiao Jie asked, turning to Jacky again.
“Don’t worry. My house isn’t haunted.”
“I didn’t mean that.”
Jacky puts his glass down before turning to his left. “Come on out already. You’re scaring the guests.”
The girls turn their head towards the direction Jacky’s directing his voice at. They wait anxiously to see who the guy is.
A guy in striped t-shirt and tan slacks with sneakers comes out from a small room on the other side of the kitchen.
“Hi, everyone,” The guy greeted them with a friendly smile. “Wow! What a surprise. All girls, huh? Little Bro, when did you change into a womanizer?”
“They’re just friends from out of town,” Jacky said, wrinkling his face.
“Okay,” James said, turning on his serious expression. “Sorry, girls. Didn’t mean to sound so rude, but I just want to make sure my little brother didn’t…”
“It’s okay. We know you’re kidding,” Xiao Jie said, giving him a friendly smile of her own.
James finally reaches the counter and sits at the stool next to Jacky.
“Hmm…so…you girls just came today?” James asked, studying the girls more closely.
“We’ve came like yesterday,” Xiao Jie answered. “We’re staying at Ehlo’s house right now.”
James turns to look at Jacky before returning his attention to Xiao Jie. “Typical of my brother to stop by Ehlo’s house first before coming home.”
“So…does your house have a garden as well?”
“Of course. Want to go see?”
“Can we?” Xiao Jie asked, looking at Jacky.
“Come on,” James said, getting off of the stool. “You don’t need to ask him. I’ll take you.”
The girls get off the stools they’re sitting at and follow James. It appears that the kitchen’s back door leads out to the garden.
Wei Ru stops in her tracks since she realizes that Jacky’s not coming. Wei Ru turns around and walks back to the counter. “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine,” Jacky said, pasting on a smile. “Go ahead.”
“Are you feeling uneasy that we’re following James and…”
“I’m not that petty.”
Wei Ru’s face turns a little red at that time. “No. I didn’t mean that. I…”
“I’m teasing you. Go ahead.”
Wei Ru still hesitates, having a strange feeling that Jacky’s not all right like he claimed.
Xiao Jie notices that Wei Ru’s not with them so she turns around. “Wei Ru!”
“Go,” Jacky insisted, gesturing towards the others.
Wei Ru gives him a light smile and follows the others.
*****
Jacky unlocks the door to the room. The door creaks loudly as he opens it. He couldn’t believe it has been almost a year since he returned. This room is still the same, but everything around him has changed. He steps towards the window to pull the curtains aside, letting the light flow into the room itself. That was how she liked it. She never wanted to turn on the light, but just pulled the curtain aside to let the sunlight flood in. she said it’s like bringing in part of nature to the room itself. He lingers at the window a bit more, seeing that James is leading the girls around the garden and is pointing out all the flowers and plants. Flashes of memory come back into his mind. He remembers it was late spring and early summer like it is today.
He sighs out and steps away from the window. He directs his attention towards the picture frame next to the bed instead. He sits on the edge of the bed and picks up the picture itself. It was the one James snapped about two years ago in the garden. He had sneaked up on them when they were sitting on the bench next to the rose beds. They were talking about a song. A song he wanted to write just for her. She had laughed at him for needing to prove their relationship. He was almost done with the song when it happened.
*****
When they’re back into the kitchen, they couldn’t find Jacky anywhere.
“Probably he went to his room,” James said. “You girls can sit here and wait for him or…wait out in the living room. Doesn’t matter.”
“Uh…we’ll just wait here,” Xiao Jie answered finally.
“The main hallway is too much of a sight, huh?”
James could see Xiao Jie’s hesitant look so he smiles. “It’s okay. Let’s pray my parents will change the style again soon. That’s also the reason why we use wallpapers instead of real paint. Knowing Mom, she would want to tear it apart in a day or two just because she doesn’t like the setting or whatever it is that’s out of place.”
The girls have settled down at the stools next to the counter again. James still remains standing.
“I’m going back to my work now if you girls don’t mind,” James informed them, gesturing towards the small room on the other side of the kitchen.
“Go ahead,” Xiao Jie said.
“Jacky’ll be back soon,” He continued, smiling. “If he isn’t, just knock on the door and I’ll go hunt him down for you.”
Xiao Jie nods.
James makes his way towards the small room.
When James has finally closed the door to the room, Xiao Jie turns around to Wei Ru. “This place is amazing, huh?”
Wei Ru gives Xiao Jie a light smile.
“What’s wrong? You seem unimpressed.”
“It’s just that I sense this unknown sadness coming from the garden when walking through it.”
“Are you saying plants can talk?” Xiao Jie joked.
“Don’t laugh. I’m serious.”
“Come on. You’re just sensitive. Or maybe ‘cause the sun’s almost setting so it gives off this gloomy atmosphere.”
“It’s not that,” Wei Ru argued, shaking her head for emphasis. “I don’t know how to explain it to you.”
Xiao Jie doesn’t want to tease Wei Ru anymore. She turns her attention to Brittney. “What’s wrong with you lately? I mean since this morning you’ve been quiet.”
“Nothing,” Brittney replied, managing a light smile. “Just don’t feel like talking, I guess.”
Xiao Jie turns her full attention to Brittney and puts a hand on her forehead. “That’s a major problem. I mean come on. You don’t feel like talking?”
“Am I that annoying?”
“Of course not. I’m just kidding. Seriously, what’s going on?”
“Maybe I don’t feel well today. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.”
“Maybe it’s James’ juice,” Xiao Jie joked, pointing to the glasses in front of them.
Wei Ru hits Xiao Jie lightly on the shoulder. “That’s not funny.”
“Come on,” Xiao Jie said, turning to We Ru. “Don’t be so serious. He’s really friendly. He won’t mind even if he hears it.”
“Still…”
“Come on. Lighten up. We’re on vacation, remember?”
Wei Ru smiles lightly to reassure Xiao Jie.
“That’s better,” Xiao Jie said, taking a sip of the juice out of her glass before looking around the kitchen. “I wonder what’s taking Jacky so long.”
Wei Ru looks towards the door that leads back out into the hallway. Coincidentally, Jacky appears at the doorway at that time. He smiles at her. She smiles back.
“You girls had fun in the garden?” Jacky asked casually.
Xiao Jie turns around upon hearing Jacky’s voice. She jumps off the stool and walks towards him before answering. “Yes. It’s a really nice garden. But…” She pauses on purpose.
“But…?”
Xiao Jie looks towards Wei Ru before going on. “Wei Ru thinks that it…”
Wei Ru has gotten off the stool also and was walking towards them. “Don’t!”
“Why not?”
“It’s not nice to say it.”
“Jacky doesn’t mind, right?”
“What’s going on here?” Jacky asked, looking from Wei Ru to Xiao Jie. “You girls hiding some secrets from me?”
“Wei Ru said that there’s some sort of sad presence in the garden. Like the plants knows how to talk!” Xiao Jie blurted out, turning her attention to Jacky again.
Jacky’s smile fades as soon as he hears the first sentence. He looks towards Wei Ru. How could she have known? But then again, she really loves flowers and has a little flower garden of her own. Maybe she can sense it.
“I told you not to say it,” Wei Ru said, tugging on Xiao Jie’s sleeve.
Xiao Jie could see Jacky’s expression also. “Jacky…are you all right?”
“Of course,” Jacky answered, turning on his smile again. “Let’s go back to Yu Rong’s house. It’s getting late.”
“Good idea. I’m hungry already.”
“I can see the reason why you get along so well with Yu Rong,” Jacky teased, turning his attention to Brittney who is still sitting at the stool at the counter. “Britt, coming?”
Brittney hops off the stool and walks towards them.
“Shouldn’t we clean up the area first?” Wei Ru asked, looking at the counter.
“Leave it,” Jacky said. “James can take care of it when he’s done with his work.”
Jacky takes Wei Ru’s left hand into his right and leads her out of the room. Xiao Jie and Brittney follow behind. Xiao Jie doesn’t dare to tease them both since she could feel some strange uneasiness within. Wei Ru doesn’t dare to withdraw her hand either, sensing something’s wrong with Jacky.
This time as they’re passing through the hallway, Jacky remembers to turn on the light with the switch on the left before walking through it. He’s still holding onto Wei Ru’s hand as they’re making their way to the front door. For some reason, Wei Ru isn’t scared anymore – even if there isn’t any light on, she could feel an unknown safeness upon her.
*****
As they passed through the side door, Jacky could see Ehlo and Mina back downstairs, sitting at different sofas. They’re actually reading some sort of magazine. Ehlo looks up upon hearing footsteps coming closer.
“Hey!” He called out to them. “You guys are back. I thought I have to send out a search party or something.”
“Exaggerating again?” Jacky asked, sitting down on the opposite of the sofa Ehlo’s sitting at.
Wei Ru and Brittney take the love seat next to that sofa while Xiao Jie walks over to the other sofa and sits down at the opposite end of Mina.
“So…” Ehlo began, gesturing his hand in the general direction. “…where did you take the girls to? Some night club?”
“You must be kidding, right?” Jacky puts on his half-amused expression.
“Well, you never know.”
“Ge, stop scaring our guests,” Mina said without looking up from her magazine.
“Hey, I’m just telling it like it is.”
“Whatever,” Mina mumbled, turning the page.
Jacky smiles, knowing Mina’s back to her usual self again. Maybe she was just tired from earlier?
“But for real, where did you guys go?” Ehlo asked, turning to Jacky again.
“I took them back to my house to check it out,” Jacky replied.
“You went back there?” Ehlo asked, surprised.
“What’s wrong with that? It’s his house after all, right?” Xiao Jie asked, looking from one guy to the other.
Ehlo ignores Xiao Jie totally for the first time. Not totally, but only looks at her once and then turns his attention back on Jacky. “Did you go into…”
Ehlo’s face looks so serious the other three girls didn’t dare to interrupt. Even Mina has dropped the magazine down to her lap and looked at Jacky.
“Yes, I did,” Jacky finally answered. “It’s not that bad anymore. Maybe taking some time away from here is a good idea after all.”
“That’s good then,” Ehlo said, sounding and looking more relief.
“Jacky ge, you want to go rest or something?” Mina asked in a soft voice instead of her usual teasing voice like they’ve been used to. “I mean you don’t have to put up this front for us if you don’t want to. I’ll tend to the guests.”
“It’s all right. I’m fine. I’m serious,” Jacky said, giving her a sincere smile.
“Want to eat dinner then?” Mina asked, turning to the others.
“You mean your brother didn’t bother to eat yet?”
“We just woke up anyway.”
“You two took that long of a nap?”
“Come on,” Ehlo urged, getting up from his seat. “It’s my life, man. I want to spend it sleeping, okay?”
“Fine with me,” Jacky said, getting up also.
Mina gets up as well, gesturing to the other three girls to follow her.
They walk to the dining room and eat dinner together.
Mina makes sure to sit next to Xiao Jie at one corner of the table while her brother and Jacky sit on the other side. Ehlo’s actually sitting at the head of the table while Brittney’s on his left and Jacky’s on his right. Wei Ru’s sitting next to Mina’s left while Xiao Jie’s on Mina’s right. There are still a few chairs in between, but Mina insisted they sit that way.
“Xiao Jie jie, did Jacky ge take you guys to the room?” Mina whispered to Xiao Jie.
“What room?” Xiao Jie asked, puzzled.
“Uh…okay, so that means no,” Mina said, not answering Xiao Jie’s question at all and looking towards Jacky to make sure he doesn’t hear it before continuing. “Uh…did he go out in the garden then?”
“No. He looked tired at that time, so we followed James out to the garden. It’s a great view.”
“Don’t you feel that it has this eerie feeling there though?”
“You sensed it too?” Wei Ru jumped in.
“You know? Did James ge tell you?” Mina asked, turning to Wei Ru.
“Uh…no. He didn’t say anything. He just showed us around a bit and then we came back in. When we were back, Jacky wasn’t around. James said that he was probably upstairs. He came back later though.”
“Hmm…”
“I’m sorry to ask, but is there anything wrong?”
“Uh…no…I’m just curious.”
“What are you doing, sis?” Ehlo asked from the other end of the table since he could see his sister’s suspicious behavior. “Gossiping again?”
“Ge!” Mina whined, wrinkling her face.
“Just kidding. Eat,” He said, smiling at her before resuming his conversation with Jacky.
Mina swallows her soup before continuing her interrogation session with Wei Ru and Xiao Jie. “Did he seem to be strange or having some sort of weird signs when he came back?”
“He was sort of pale when I mentioned that Wei Ru sensed there’s some sadness in the garden or something like that,” Xiao Jie answered.
“There is,” Mina mumbled absent-mindedly.
“What?!?”
“Uh…nothing. Let’s eat.”
They continue the rest of the meal in silence. Only the guys are talking among themselves until they’re finished.
Wei Ru and Xiao Jie help Mina with the dishes while Brittney returns to her room to catch some sleep. The guys head back to the recreational area to chat some more. The last they heard was that Jacky having some idea on a possible new song.
Wei Ru and Xiao Jie keep looking at each other and Mina, pondering what’s really going on around here. Jacky has been a bit strange since the trip back to his house and back to the Huang resident. Although he seems to resume to his cheerful self again since dinner, but the girls could feel something different. What’s even more suspicious is Mina’s interrogation session. What’s really going on here? What are the Chu and the Huang families hiding from them? They couldn’t help but feel uneasy towards the situation. Even though it’s none of their business, but for some reason, they wish they know. Although they know Jacky for only a short time, but they really want to know more about him and to help him even.
© Sunday, May 11th, 2008
Re-posted: Saturday, February 20th, 2010

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