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Chapter 14 – Change

The next few days, the group spends their time either at the beach or they would go explore different locations that Ehlo recommended. Hebe, Selina, and Ken haven’t been hanging out with them since they’re out of town for their new project. It must be something major since all three needed to go. (Of course Ken had already been cleared by the police so he could accompany the girls on the trip.) Brittney becomes talkative like her normal self again. Wei Ru and Xiao Jie let their guard down for the moment to enjoy the scenery and other activities with their friends. However, Wei Ru couldn’t help looking at Jacky intently from time to time, wondering what he is hiding from them exactly.
On the day before they go back, Mina breaks them with a surprise that causes everyone to stop eating and looks at her.
They are having breakfast in the garden of Ehlo’s house, enjoying the morning fresh air.
Ehlo swallows his bite before looking at his sister. “Repeat what you just said again.”
“I’m not kidding. I want to go back with Jacky ge,” Mina said firmly.
“Reason?” Ehlo asked, wrinkling his face.
“Come on, ge. It’s not what you think.”
“What am I thinking then?”
“That I’m running away from home to be with Jacky ge.”
“Wow! You’re a girl, could you be a bit more reserved?”
“Honesty is the best policy, ge.”
“Whatever.”
Ehlo goes back to eating as the others look at each other, not knowing what to say. Only Jacky still has his attention on Mina.
“Are you getting pulled in by Wei Ru and Xiao Jie’s descriptions of their hometown?” Jacky asked Mina.
“And because I want to change the surrounding I’m in,” She answered with a serious expression.
“You’re kidding, right?” Ehlo asked, looking at her again. “Don’t tell me you want to move back within two days.”
“Uh…actually, I want to move there and work.”
“Don’t make me choke,” Ehlo said, wrinkling his face again. “What’s going on?”
“Ge! Can you stop treating me like a kid?”
“Stop acting like one then.”
Mina looks towards Jacky for help.
Jacky clears his throat before speaking up. “Yu Rong, maybe you should…”
“Hey, are you siding with her just because she worships you more?” Ehlo asked, looking slightly annoyed.
“I didn’t mean that. I’m just saying just let her try it out, maybe she does move back here in two days.”
“Are you kidding me? I might as well save her a trip by saying no.”
Mina’s getting quite irritated by now. It shows on her face. “Ge! You’re being unreasonable.”
“I would love to let you go, but what about our parents? What will they say when they found out that you’re gone and I didn’t do anything to…”
“I’ll explain it to them then.”
“Sis, what is this about?”
“Nothing. I just want to experience some change, okay?”
“I’m your brother. Could you at least be honest with me?”
“I broke up with my boyfriend, okay?” Mina said in a low tone, lowering her head slightly.
The ones who went back to eating a minute ago snap their heads back up again.
“Oh…” Ehlo uttered, realizing how ugly it might have been.
“Can I go now?”
“Who is it? I’ll beat him up for you.”
“Ge, it’s not about that. I just want to get away from here for a while.”
“Okay,” Ehlo said, putting his utensils down. “Let’s say I let you go. But who are you going to stay with?” He looks past Jacky. “Cross that out. What are you going to do there? How long are you going to hide there?”
“Xiao Jie jie needs an assistant right now,” Mina answered, looking at Xiao Jie. “I can help her while I’m there until she finds someone to fill the position.”
“Do you honestly need an assistant or you’re just going to cover for her?” Ehlo asked, looking at Xiao Jie with his radar eyes.
“It’s true,” Xiao Jie admitted. “If you don’t believe me, ask Wei Ru. She wouldn’t lie for anyone for just the sake of it.”
Ehlo turns to Wei Ru to see her nod. He turns back to his sister. “All right. I’ll let you go. But make sure you don’t…”
“…get into trouble?” Mina finished.
Ehlo smiles.
“Ge, don’t worry. Jacky ge’s going to take good care of me, right?” Mina said, turning to Jacky.
Jacky gives her a half-smile.
Mina has been standing up since she made the announcement. Now that she got permission from Ehlo, she sits down again.
*****
On the way back, Mina sits in front with Jacky while the other three girls are in the back. Before they leave, Ehlo has emphasized many times regarding Mina’s well being. Although he’s goofy and seems pretty random most of the times, but the other girls could see that he’s very concerned for Mina.
When they’re back in town, Jacky takes Wei Ru and Brittney home first. Wei Ru and Xiao Jie are walking in front while Jacky’s hauling Wei Ru’s luggage along. Brittney’s behind him. Mina rounds up last since she’s walking slowly and admiring the setting of the house.
“Jacky ge,” Mina called out as she catches up to Jacky. “I like this place. It has this simplistic touch yet it seems so sophisticated at the same time.”
“You’re not making any sense,” Jacky teased.
“I don’t have to,” Mina said, smiling.
As Wei Ru opens the door, they could see Darren sitting in the kitchen with some of his friends, chatting away. As soon as he hears the door being opened, he turns to see them all. He jumps out of his seat and walks towards them.
“Hey! You’re back!” Darren exclaimed.
“Ge, you look like a little kid who was just given a lollipop,” Brittney said.
“You’re the kid,” Darren snapped back, wrinkling his face.
“Seems like someone haven’t changed at all,” Jacky commented.
“Where is Mr. You-know-who?” Darren asked, looking around.
“He’s home,” Jacky replied. “Do you want him back here? That can be arranged.”
“No, thanks,” Darren said with much hostility.
“Mom and Dad at the shop?” Wei Ru asked.
“Yea, where else?”
“I think we’re good, you can go ahead and take Xiao Jie home,” Wei Ru said, taking her luggage from Jacky.
“You mean I can’t stay with you?” Xiao Jie asked, sounding disappointed.
“You want to?” Jacky asked. “I can go back outside and take your luggage in.”
“I’m kidding. I need to go back before my uncle sends out a search party for me.”
“Talking about that, your uncle came back yesterday already,” Darren informed her. “He was looking around here for you. You didn’t leave a message for him?”
“We’re on vacation here. Do we want to be bothered?”
“Hey, don’t take it out on me. I’m just the messenger.”
Xiao Jie ignores him and turns to Jacky. “Let’s go then.”
“Since that Ehlo isn’t around anymore, you guys want to go do something this weekend?” Darren asked them.
Mina has been standing in the back since they entered the house. Now that she hears what Darren just said, she couldn’t take it anymore. She steps forward, pushing Xiao Jie aside gently.
“What are you talking about?” She confronted him. “You have a problem with my brother?”
“Your brother?” Darren asked, confused.
“Darren, we forgot to introduce you both,” Xiao Jie interfered, putting a hand on Mina’s shoulder to calm her down. “This is Ehlo’s sister, Mina. And this is Wei Ru’s younger brother, Darren.”
Darren stares Mina down, taking in her features and all.
“Are you done yet? Pervert!” Mina blurted out, annoyed.
“Yu Lan!” Jacky yelled out.
“Jacky ge,” Mina said, turning to Jacky. “Let’s go. I don’t want to talk to him anymore.”
“Yu Lan, you promised me not to be like this.”
“Okay then. I’ll just wait outside for you.”
Before Jacky could say anything more, Mina turns around and goes back outside.
Jacky looks after Mina before turning to Darren again. “Mina’s just…”
“Forget it,” Darren said. “It’s her brother after all, right?”
“Darren!” Wei Ru shouted, giving her brother the warning look.
“I didn’t say anything. I’ll just head back to my group.”
Darren turns to walk back to his group of friends still stationed at the counter of the kitchen.
“I guess we’re leaving then,” Jacky said to Wei Ru.
“Thanks for…” Wei Ru said, gesturing her right hand towards him.
“No problem,” Jacky interrupted, smiling. “Glad you like the trip.”
Wei Ru turns to the hallway that leads to her room as Brittney follows closely behind.
“Miss Qu?” Jacky said, turning to Xiao Jie.
Xiao Jie turns to walk back outside where Mina’s waiting. “Still mad?”
“What right does he have to say those things about my brother?” Mina asked, fuming.
“He’s a bit weird, but he’s pretty much harmless. You’ll get used to him later.”
“Whatever.”
Mina begins to walk to the car as Jacky and Xiao Jie exchange a look.
Xiao Jie’s actually surprised that Jacky would understand that look since he smiles. A look she and Ehlo have been sharing sometimes these past days. Or maybe because they’re best friend so Jacky already picked up what it meant from Ehlo?
*****
The drive to Xiao Jie’s house takes longer than Wei Ru’s since traffic hits them as they’re turning into the street that takes them to Xiao Jie’s house.
“This is fun,” Mina commented passively.
“Sarcastic, aren’t we?” Jacky teased.
“You’re bored of this place already?” Xiao Jie asked, turning to Mina.
Since the Lai sisters are already gone, Mina had taken the backseat so she could chat with Xiao Jie when they returned to the car earlier.
“No. I just don’t like traffic,” Mina responded to Xiao Jie’s question.
“Who would?” Xiao Jie said, smiling.
“True,” Mina mumbled, sighing out.
Jacky looks into the rearview mirror to see Mina somewhat exhausted. Possibly from the long ride here. “So tell me, why do you want to come here? The real reason.”
“I told you already, I need a change of scenery,” Mina said.
“You mean she didn’t break up with her boyfriend?” Xiao Jie asked, looking from Jacky to Mina.
“She doesn’t even have a boyfriend to break up with,” Jacky clarified.
“Then why did you…?” Xiao Jie could see that Jacky is smiling at that moment. “Oh…you two…”
“What else?” Jacky asked, still smiling.
“Xiao Jie jie, don’t tell my brother, okay?” Mina begged.
“I guess I can’t anyway. I mean he wouldn’t believe me. My words against yours,” Xiao Jie mumbled.
“Maybe he would…”
Xiao Jie could see Mina’s mischievous grin. Xiao Jie gives her a warning look. “Don’t you dare.”
“What?” Mina asked innocently, still smiling.
“Trying to match-make me with your brother. I’m not easily tricked. I’m a professional match-maker here.”
“I thought you’re a wedding planner,” Jacky teased.
“Match-maker slash wedding planner, okay?”
“All right, Miss Qu,” Jacky said, smiling.
“Jacky ge, are you suggesting that you want to switch targets?” Mina asked, leaning forward towards him.
“What?”
“You want to pursue Xiao Jie jie instead of Wei Ru jie.”
“What ever gave you those ideas?”
“It’s obvious that you’re pursuing Wei Ru jie since you’ve been favoring her the whole time these past days. And…”
“You’re just guessing. I’m just being polite.”
“Stop trying to justify yourself. It makes it worse.”
Finally, traffic clears a little bit. Jacky doesn’t respond to Mina anymore, but just concentrates on driving again.
They finally make it to Xiao Jie’s place around 2. Jacky gets out and helps Xiao Jie take her luggage inside before going back to the car. Mina waits in the car this time, claiming to be tired.
Mina switches to sitting in front with Jacky again when Jacky comes back out.
The ride to Jacky’s apartment is pretty much peaceful since they’re both tired. Jacky’s also lost in thoughts that Mina doesn’t want to disturb him.
*****
A week passes by rapidly after their return to the little town. Mina gets along with everyone around her with the exception of Darren, who had offended her because of the insult he inflicted on her brother the first day they met. She also learns fast and is a great helper to Xiao Jie with managing the place. Wei Ru has more time to tend to her family’s coffee shop since Xiao Jie already has help from Mina. The strangest thing is Jacky’s disappearance. They’re so used to having him around that the lack of his presence caused some uneasiness within them all. Mrs. Lai keeps questioning Mina about Jacky when she comes to visit at times with Xiao Jie. Mina usually shrugs her shoulders, insisting that she doesn’t know or she would say that he’s probably working on his latest song in which she heard him discussing it with her brother recently. It’s a half-truth reason, but Mina chooses to seal it from them because she wants to protect Jacky’s privacy. What they don’t know can’t hurt them, right?
It’s not until yet another week passes by without any sign of Jacky that they start to grill Mina for information, especially Xiao Jie. It happens one day when they’re opening Xiao Jie’s place up.
“Mina, could you tell me honestly what’s going on with Jacky?” Xiao Jie began.
“Huh?” Mina blurted out, playing innocent. She’s dusting the counter with a duster and is humming a tune or two to start the day off. Now that Xiao Jie’s asking her this, she stops her task and looks at Xiao Jie. “What do you mean?”
“I mean…isn’t it really strange that he suddenly disappeared?”
“He isn’t.”
“I know he isn’t to you, but he is to us. I mean it has been what? Half a month? What’s really going on here? Is he sick? Is he…”
“Don’t worry. He just needs some time off to write a song. You don’t know his record. He could disappear from reality like almost a year if it would take that long for him to complete a song.”
“Are you kidding me?”
“Of course I’m kidding,” Mina said with a smile. “His record is actually half a year.”
Xiao Jie walks towards Mina and sits at one of the stools in front of the counter, “Mina, we’ve known each other for a while now. I know it can’t gain your trust just within these past two weeks, but could you at least just give me a clue? A hint, perhaps?”
“I’m sorry. I can’t tell you,” Mina said in a serious tone and with a serious expression. She looks away for a moment before looking at Xiao Jie again. “It’s too…complicated and…hard to say it just in couple of sentences without disclosing too much. Besides, when Jacky ge is ready, which I hope soon, he’ll tell you all.”
“Is he a player in disguised?”
“What?! Jacky ge would never do that!”
“I’m sorry if I upset you, but Wei Ru and I have been worried mad too. We could sense something was wrong with him since the trip back to his house. We didn’t want to ask before because we didn’t want to invade his privacy. But it seems like he’s playing with someone’s feeling and just disappears like that. You know, giving her hope and then…just vanished.”
“Even if you don’t trust me, you would at least trust him since you know him longer than you know me. If you think he’s that type of person, then I don’t have anything else to say.” Mina goes back to dusting the counter.
Xiao Jie follows Mina. “I’m not saying I don’t believe in him. I’m just worried for Wei Ru.”
Mina stops dusting and looks at Xiao Jie again. “Trust me on this one. He would never hurt Wei Ru jie. He just needs some times to sort things out.” She sighs out before continuing. “I’m not supposed to tell you, but since you’re so worried…then…”
“What?”
“It’s his past…returning to his house was possibly a mistake after all. Or maybe it’s a good chance for him to face it once and for all. I know I sound dramatic right now, but I can’t put it any other way.”
Xiao Jie nods.
“And I’m not telling you anything else until Jacky ge lets me. But…don’t tell the Lai family. I mean aside from Wei Ru jie, that is. I know they’re good people, but you know how Mrs. Lai is. She’s…”
Xiao Jie puts a hand on Mina’s shoulder. “I know. I won’t broadcast it live if that’s what you mean.”
Mina smiles.
The bell at the door dings to tell them a potential customer is coming in. They begin the day as usual, not mentioning about Jacky’s matter anymore.
*****
Yet another week passes by without any sign of Jacky. Aside from Wei Ru and Xiao Jie, who now has some idea of what’s going on, the rest are still pondering what is the reason behind his strange behavior. Wei Ru continues to help her parents with the shop, but her mind isn’t in it at all. She hasn’t come up with any new creations at all since the day they came back. The Lai family is beginning to worry for Wei Ru like the way they are for Jacky. Wei Ru asks for some time off and spends her time helping Xiao Jie instead although Xiao Jie already has Mina there. Wei Ru doesn’t feel like having her mom around pestering her every time she made a mistake on the orders or miscalculated the bills for customers.
It’s not until the end of that week that Mina begins to show some sign of worry also.
They’re taking a lunch break when Xiao Jie notices that Mina’s not touching her food at all.
“What’s wrong?” Xiao Jie asked. “Are you saying that you’re not so sure anymore if Jacky’s going to be all right?”
“I have to admit that it’s getting quite…” Mina confessed.
“Nerve-wrecking?” Wei Ru suggested.
“How can silence be so suffocating?” Mina pondered.
“You mean he hasn’t been talking to you at home?”
“No, that’s not it. He’s doing fine at home, but I know he’s just putting up this front. I don’t know what for since we’ve know each other since I was born. Why bother?”
“Wow!” Xiao Jie exclaimed, somewhat shocked. “That means Jacky and Ehlo knows each other since they were in their cribs or something?”
Wei Ru looks at Xiao Jie.
“Sorry. I was just wondering.”
“I guess so ‘cause our parents are friends too,” Mina explained.
“Sort of like Wei Ru and I, huh?”
“Xiao Jie,” Wei Ru said, not wanting Xiao Jie poke any further.
“It’s okay, Wei Ru jie. I don’t want to talk about this anyway,” Mina reassured her.
Xiao Jie puts a hand on Mina’s shoulder. “Is it okay if we come to your place and talk to Jacky?”
“Maybe I should talk to him first,” Mina said. She could see the disappointed look from both girls, so she says, “It’s not that I don’t trust you. I don’t want it to seem like you both already know what happened.”
“All right,” Xiao Jie said.
“Can I take the rest of the day off?” Mina asked, checking her watch.
“Sure,” Xiao Jie said, giving Mina a smile. “Wei Ru’s here anyway.”
Mina gives Xiao Jie an appreciative smile as she hops off the stool to head towards the door.
Wei Ru and Xiao Jie look at the entrance until Mina disappears behind the corner of the place.
“Don’t worry,” Xiao Jie said. “Maybe Mina will get through him. I mean she was there when it happened – whatever it was – so she should know what to say to him.”
Wei Ru nods.
Xiao Jie puts a reassuring hand on Wei Ru’s shoulder.
*****
Mina smiles to herself as soon as she spots Jacky. He’s sitting on one of the big boulders by the seaside. She knows that he has been coming here since they came back to this town. She walks silently towards him and sits down next to him – on his right.
“Jacky ge,” Mina called out softly.
Jacky turns to face her. She could see that his face is full of sadness. But he turns on his bright smile as soon as he sees her. “Aren’t you supposed to be at work?”
“I asked for the rest of the day off,” Mina explained.
“What is Xiao Jie going to do then?”
“Wei Ru’s there with her. Don’t worry.”
Jacky wrinkles his eyebrows. “Isn’t she supposed to be tending to the coffee shop?”
Mina sighs out and looks out to the water ahead before answering. “She took some time off to help Xiao Jie instead since Mrs. Lai kept pestering her.”
“Why?” Jacky asked, wrinkling his face.
“Even a blind bat could see why.”
“Huh?”
“She has problems concentrating in the shop, so she kept making the dumbest mistakes. Mrs. Lai kept pestering her about what’s wrong. She asked for time off to go to Xiao Jie’s place for the time being.”
“That’s strange. She’s not usually that careless. In fact, carefree fits her better.”
“So much for it. Thanks to you know who,” Mina said with some bitterness in her voice.
“Who?” Jacky asked, smiling.
Mina looks at Jacky with a serious expression. “Jacky ge, can you stop putting up this front? It’s even harder than seeing you cry.”
“What are you talking about, little one?” Jacky asked, patting Mina’s head out of nowhere.
Mina shrugs his hand off. “Jacky ge, we need to talk about what happened a year ago.” She pauses before continuing. “Even if you don’t want to talk about it anymore.”
It’s Jacky’s turn to look out towards the water.
“Jacky ge, you can hide from reality, but you can’t hide from yourself. So let me help you,” Mina said in one breath in a very soft and sincere voice.
Jacky sighs out, nodding his head.
© Monday, May 12th, 2008
Re-posted: Saturday, February 2oth, 2010

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