Chapter 19 – Puzzles

“It’s as clichés as those romances in the dramas,” Ehlo began, letting out an amused smile despite the situation.
The others sit in silence to wait for him to continue, not wanting to interrupt since he has agreed to tell them about it. They had settled back down in the living after Mina cleaned up the mess in the kitchen. They also had another round of lemonade to calm their nerves for the situation – if possible.
“She’s a sweet girl,” Ehlo continued. “Always very supportive of us and of what we do. We got along from the start – she and I that is. Jacky did not have anything to fear about.”
Ehlo stops to let out another sigh. Wei Ru and Xiao Jie notice that Ehlo had called Jacky by ‘Jacky’ instead of ‘Fan Gang’ like many times before. They exchange a look but do not speak up to ask Ehlo. They just assume that he’s changing it for their sake.
“The only thing that we would ever argue about – if it even counts – is how to call him by,” Ehlo resumed his train of thoughts. “In the end, she and Mina won out and I continue to call him Fan Gang till this day because…I don’t want him to think of what happened if I call him Jacky as well. It’s weird but what happens around us could trigger his memory.”
The others nod in understanding but do not speak up either.
“He did not think of writing her a song until…it happened. She got into a car accident several weeks before the wedding.”
Wei Ru covers her gasp with her hands while Xiao Jie places a supportive hand on Ehlo’s shoulder. Mina’s sitting at a chair nearby and is almost in tears – as if her brother’s recounts of the events triggered her feelings.
“Jacky withdrew from everything around him,” Ehlo’s voice continued in a passive tone. “Even halted all his projects. He ended up hiding at our place – the Huang’s resident – for a while because he could not bear to be around his house. It was until several months ago that he recovered normally. I was surprised that he decided to leave, thinking that he would be hiding again, which he was. But I guess he found something here that made him happier. Maybe it was the peaceful atmosphere and the friendly people around here.” Ehlo’s voice returns to its normal tone at that time. “That’s why I want him to spend more time here so he could fully move on. I didn’t realize he still could not face it when he returned home and went to her room.”
“That was when ge and I got together and thought up of a plan that night when you guys returned from the Chu resident,” Mina continued from where her brother left off.
Wei Ru and Xiao Jie turn to Mina. They do not realize that she had a part in this whole matter. They thought she was just wanting to go on an adventure to this strange town that her brother and Jacky have become attached to.
“I didn’t think it would work,” Mina said, her eyes on the lemonade glass in front of her instead of looking at them. “But it works. Jacky ge still misses Xiao Yan jie but he promised me to be happy.”
“Did he ever finish the song?” Xiao Jie asked suddenly when the Huang siblings are silent again.
Ehlo shakes his head.
“Of course not,” Xiao Jie said, feeling foolish. “How could he when…”
Ehlo nods, verifying the obvious. “When he met you…” He turns to look at Wei Ru. “I almost thought that he was going after his past but I finally know that he’s not because you’re different from Xiao Yan.”
“Do you mean that Wei Ru looks like Xiao Yan?” Xiao Jie asked anxiously.
“No,” Ehlo clarified. “She’s like Xiao Yan that she could be so sweet and fragile at times yet she seems so much braver than Xiao Yan. I just noticed these past days.”
“You’re observant then,” Xiao Jie joked.
“Xiao Jie,” Wei Ru called out, feeling unease.
“It’s all right,” Ehlo said, finally smiling. “It feels strange to be talking about it again after so long but I’m relief that I told you girls. And sorry I called you Xiao Yan, Miss Lai.”
Wei Ru shakes her head. “It’s all right.”
“So…what now, girls?” Ehlo said, getting up at last.
“How about go out on weird adventures and tire ourselves out with waiting at a restaurant that probably suck but pastes a #1 sign in front of their place?” Xiao Jie suggested.
“Sounds good,” Ehlo said. “Let’s clean up first.”
The girls know that Ehlo is trying to loosen up and dissolve the hectic atmosphere so they help him clean up and head outside.
“My car or your car?” Xiao Jie asked when Ehlo’s locking up the house.
“Um..” Ehlo said, still thinking.
“Where are you guys going?” Jacky asked as he parks into a spot next to Ehlo’s car.
“On an adventure to torture ourselves with more below satisfactory food,” Xiao Jie said, smiling at Jacky.
“I didn’t realize you’re into self-torture,” Jacky joked, returning Xiao Jie’s smile and getting out of his car at the same time.
“Well, we are feeling like it today,” Xiao Jie continued.
“I’ll join you then,” Jacky said.
“I guess we’re taking my car then,” Ehlo said.
“I guess so,” Xiao Jie said. “Come on.”
They end up getting in the car with Ehlo driving and Xiao Jie next to him while Jacky gets in the back with Wei Ru and Mina. After putting on his seatbelt, Jacky leans his head against the backrest, closing his eyes.
“You all right?” Wei Ru asked, turning to him.
She’s actually sitting in the middle – contrary to previous times where Mina’s stuck in between them.
Jacky rubs his eyebrows a bit and opens his eyes again, smiling at her. “Yea.” Then he turns to Ehlo. “How was it with Johnny?”
“Great,” Ehlo replied. “In fact, awesome.”
Ehlo launches into telling Jacky what happened since they arrived at the studio, including the part where they ran into Hebe in front of the building. After that, he ends up talking with Xiao Jie while Mina and Wei Ru converse with each other. Jacky’s actually going back to rest, his head still on the backrest the whole way to the restaurant. Wei Ru turns to check on him once in awhile.
Contrary to their preparation of spending time at a restaurant for the purpose of self-torture, they actually choose a good restaurant this time around. It is actually an accident since Ehlo is just picking out of random. After an hour or so at the restaurant, talking and eating and laughing, they continue in that same manner, making a trip to the sea for some fresh air until sunset.
For the upcoming days, Ehlo get along even better with Wei Ru and Xiao Jie after his confide with them. They actually spend time to cheer Jacky up more than necessary. However, they do it so crafty that Jacky just think that they’re up to something again but doesn’t know that they’re in it together to just make him happy. On the other hand, Jacky continues to write his song with Ehlo. He’s also trying to negotiate some agents that want to recruit him as a composer, penning for their artists.
They also make a trip to the airport to see Gigi and Chris off. Strangely, on that same day, Sharon also leaves for a short trip again. Hebe has been staying at the Lai resident since the day after Ehlo told the girls of his plan. The Lai resident becomes dominated by the female population that suddenly Bryan and Darren feel on the out on different matters. However, it’s good to know that the house is always so occupied and cheerful. Hebe gets along very well with everyone, especially Mr. Lai who really admires her attitude towards her work.
One day, they come by Jacky and Ehlo’s place to invite them to see a movie but spots Jacky rushing out of the house as they’re walking up the front steps.
“Where are you going?” Xiao Jie yelled after him.
“Can’t talk now!” Jacky yelled back, heading for his car. “I’m late for a meeting.”
The girls look after him until his car disappears from view. They then turn around to enter the place, finding Ehlo watching TV.
“Why watch TV?” Xiao Jie asked, heading towards the sofa and settling down next to him. “Let’s go to the movies.”
“What are you girls up to?” Ehlo asked, eyeing them suspiciously.
“Nothing,” Xiao Jie said innocently. “Just a friendly gathering.”
“Hebe’s coming,” Wei Ru chimed in, smiling at Ehlo.
“Nice going, Miss Lai,” Ehlo said, pointing at her. “Not falling for that one.”
“Oh come on,” Xiao Jie urged. “We’re helping you here.”
Ehlo still has his hand pointing at her. “Helping or harming?”
“Helping of course,” Xiao Jie continued in her innocent voice.
“When did you guys clean up last around here?” Wei Ru asked.
Ehlo turns around to see Wei Ru standing next to Jacky’s desk.
“Don’t touch it or he’ll kill you,” Ehlo said. “Even if you’re his beloved at the moment.”
“Star Dust,” Wei Ru read, picking up a music sheet from the desk. “His latest song?”
“No,” Ehlo said, standing up. “Better put it back to where you found it. I don’t even know why he put it on display. He usually hides it in his room.”
“Maybe he’s organizing?” Xiao Jie suggested, walking over to where the other two are standing.
“It’s not finished,” Wei Ru commented.
“Because…” Ehlo began.
“Oh,” Wei Ru said finally when she read the lines at the bottom corner of the sheet.
“What?” Xiao Jie asked, looking over Wei Ru’s shoulder. “To the one and only with love – Jacky.”
They could see a little swallow in place where her name should be so Xiao Jie finally stops with her curiosity.
“Exactly,” Ehlo said. “Let’s get out of here.”
Wei Ru places the sheet back to its original place, even reaching out to grab a paper weight and placing it on top of the sheet so that it doesn’t get blow away by accident.
They help Ehlo clean up the living room real quick before heading out to meet Hebe at the movie theater. They end up eating at a nearby café first since they want to wait for Jacky also.
“So as I was saying…” Ehlo continued to tell Mr. Lai of his latest plan. “I would never expect it to come out that way. I’m not a singer but I could become a chef?”
“Stop exaggerating already,” Xiao Jie jumped in. “You make it sound like one day you woke up and seen the light and just decided to quit your singing career to go make ice cream.”
Ehlo turns to give Xiao Jie a glare before turning back to Mr. Lai with a friendly smile.
“Xiao Jie,” Mr. Lai called out, giving her a warning look.
“Ba,” Xiao Jie continued. “He’s always like that. You’ll know him when he comes here more often.”
“Are you insisting that you’re seeing him now?” Mrs. Lai asked bluntly.
Everyone in the room stops eating or talking or both and turns their attention on Ehlo and Xiao Jie.
“What?” Xiao Jie blurted out.
“Well, are you?” Bryan asked, his face displaying the usual teasing smile.
“Get out of here,” Xiao Jie shot back. “We’re just friends, okay?”
“Sounds like something the typical celebrities would blurt out to fend off paparazzi speculations,” Bryan continued, his smile still present.
“Huh, to think that you would believe such.”
“Let’s eat,” Mr. Lai said finally, trying to protect his precious god daughter from everyone’s attack.
“Yes, sir,” Bryan said, saluting in the process.
“You only want to eat,” Xiao Jie mumbled.
“And you don’t?”
“Anyway, as I was saying,” Ehlo continued at where he left off, trying to impress Mr. Lai again.
“What happened to Uncle Heng?” Hebe asked suddenly, looking around.
“He is probably out somewhere with his camera again,” Xiao Jie replied.
They have been sitting next to each other the whole time so it also means that Ehlo’s sitting across the table from them – with Xiao Jie next to Mr. Lai, who is at the head of the table.
“We can see how much you love your uncle,” Ehlo teased before turning back to Mr. Lai again.
Xiao Jie gives Ehlo a look before resuming her conversation with Hebe.
“So why are you arguing with him lately?” Wei Ru asked, curious. “I thought you get along with him so well since the first day you met, remember?”
“I don’t know,” Xiao Jie said, shrugging her shoulders. “Suddenly I feel like he’s trying too hard to impress someone that it gets annoying.”
“Jealous?” Wei Ru teased.
“I could care less.”
Wei Ru smiles.
Jacky steals a glance across the table at Wei Ru, feeling strange that Wei Ru’s so talkative tonight. Then he scolds at himself again for comparing. He ends up returning his attention to Johnny’s words instead. For some reason, he feels strange that the guys are on one side and the girls on the other – with the exception of Mr. and Mrs. Lai who are sitting at both ends. It’s another get together at the Lai resident but this time, they include Johnny. It’s possibly because of their sudden closeness to him due to work these past days.
“How about a movie later?” Ehlo asked the others suddenly.
“In the rec room?” Jacky asked, turning to Ehlo.
“Nah,” Ehlo said. “Let’s take everyone out for a night of fresh air and then off to the theaters.”
“You kids go,” Mrs. Lai said quickly.
“Going out too much isn’t good for you,” Mr. Lai said at the same time, contradicting his wife’s words.
“What do you expect them to do?” Mrs. Lai asked, staring at her husband. “Sit around here and stare at us?”
“Boy, I just love to be married,” Ehlo whispered to Jacky.
“You’re sitting next to him,” Jacky whispered back.
“So?” Ehlo asked.
“So simmer down,” Jacky shot back.
“It’s all right, actually,” Ehlo said, his attention on the Lai family again. “I was just suggesting. We could stay around here and admire the garden or…play pool in the rec room…if Uncle Lai doesn’t mind that is.”
“That sounds good,” Mr. Lai said quickly. “I haven’t played pool for a while.”
“That’s great then,” Ehlo said, letting out a sigh internally.
“Who’s up for a challenge then?” Mr. Lai said, smiling suddenly – as if to make up for his sternness several minutes earlier.
“I’m up first, Uncle,” Ehlo volunteered – as if to make up for his suggestion that ignited the few flames arising earlier from both Mr. and Mrs. Lai.
“Second,” Jacky blurted out after receiving a jab in the elbow by Ehlo.
“I guess I’m third then,” Johnny said, feeling like he needs to contribute.
“I’m out,” Darren mumbled.
“Where is your sense of…” Xiao Jie began.
“I’m tired out from work, okay?”
“The rest of us aren’t?” Ehlo jumped in.
“Leave my brother alone,” Bryan interfered.
“Thanks, ge,” Darren said quickly – though surprised that his brother is showing support tonight.
“He needs all the rest he can so he could wonder out to hunt for girls tomorrow,” Bryan finished before Darren could react.
The others laugh, except for Johnny since he’s trying to be polite.
“You mean he doesn’t care for the beautiful guest who just arrived at our house?” Wei Ru asked, turning to her older brother.
Hebe jabs Wei Ru in the rib at that time.
“What?” Wei Ru asked, turning to Hebe.
“Sh…” Hebe signaled to Wei Ru.
“I think he doesn’t dare to cross someone else’s territory, that’s all,” Bryan explained, darting his eyes back and forth between Daren, Hebe, and Ehlo.
“Who?” Wei Ru asked innocently although she knows exactly what her brother’s talking about.
“I never knew you were such a tease, Miss Lai,” Jacky said, smiling at her.
“Start knowing,” Wei Ru chided, still displaying her teasing smile.
“She got you there,” Ehlo said, turning to Jacky.
The rest of the meal continues in that same pattern, one person jabbing at the other just for the sake of it. But somehow, they feel like this is actually the good old times that they first met Jacky and Ehlo several months back. Apparently, Uncle Heng does show up after dinner, claiming that he has been busy exploring some sceneries – just like Xiao Jie told the others earlier. While Ehlo is accompanying Mr. Lai to the rec room for a round of pool, the girls are back in the kitchen, trying to throw together some snacks for the rest of the night since they claim they need to witness the event with their own eyes. Therefore, Mr. Lai and Uncle Heng end up playing first instead. Mrs. Lai is actually within presence too, talking to Uncle Heng and catching up since he has not been around that much recently either.
While all that is happening, Jacky and Johnny are actually out in the garden, talking and taking in some fresh air. Jacky studies the garden more carefully this time around – although he has already been to the house several times in the past and would have enough time to explore. After that eventful night with Chris and Mina arguing over the garden, Jacky has not stepped foot near the garden, fearing it will reach out and pull him into his past though the setting is different from his own garden. He feels that he needs to re-explore everything around him, especially everything having to do with the gullible yet cheerful Miss Lai.
“What are you thinking of?” Johnny asked upon seeing Jacky’s sudden smile.
“Nothing much,” Jacky said. “Interesting how time passes, that’s all.”
“Yea,” Johnny agreed, nodding his head. “It seems…” He stops and steals a glance into the house before turning back to Jacky.
“What?” Jacky asked, curious.
“I’ve been thinking but since we’ve been busy, I haven’t had a chance to ask you yet.”
“What?” Jacky asked, repeating his previous statement.
“At first I thought that you and Wei Ru are attached but…”
“We’re not,” Jacky said quickly, glancing into the house also.
“I see that now,” Johnny said. “So I was thinking of…”
Jacky almost feels like choking the answer out of Johnny. At the rate he’s going, dawn might as well come already. But he refrains himself, knowing Johnny’s just choosing his words carefully.
“I’m thinking of asking her out to a movie,” Johnny said finally.
“Oh,” Jacky said, feeling a strange feeling creeping up from within. “That’s a good idea.” He did not mean for it to come out that lame. He clears his throat quickly before continuing. “When?”
“Probably tomorrow,” Johnny said. “I mean since I already know that I’m interested in her, I don’t see the point waiting and guessing. I want to know
if she’s interested in starting…” Johnny gestures his hand for emphasis. “…you know.”
Jacky nods. “Good luck then.”
Johnny smiles. “Thanks.”
While the two guys are talking in the garden, the girls are occupying themselves with cooking. With the exception of Ehlo – who is on standby for his match, the other guys are actually in the kitchen with the girls. Bryan and Darren are actually going at each other for the previous attacks at the dinner table. In fact, they never stopped to begin with.
“What do you mean that I’m a coward?” Darren asked his brother, refusing to let the issue go.
“I’m just saying if I were you, I would’ve confess to her already,” Bryan said in an as a matter of fact tone.
“I want to see you try,” Darren challenged, his voice rising.
“You guys are just so unbelievable,” Xiao Jie commented, finally placing the cookies on the plates she set out earlier. “How could you argue over an issue for so long? Bryan was just kidding. You know that, right?” She eyes Darren suspiciously.
“I wasn’t kidding about him being a coward,” Bryan clarified.
Xiao Jie turns her glare on Bryan. “Why do you have to complicate matters when I’m trying to untie the knot for you?”
“He doesn’t need anyone’s help because he could take care of himself,” Darren mocked.
“Enough already,” Wei Ru interfered, setting her dessert in the empty bowl next to Xiao Jie’s cookies plate. “Don’t you think it’s getting out of hand?”
“What are they up to now?” Jacky asked, walking into the kitchen with Johnny behind him.
“They’re still arguing over that matter,” Xiao Jie told Jacky, rolling her eyes. “So childish.”
“It’s not childish,” Bryan argued. “It’s because I’m saying he doesn’t have the gut to confess to the girl he likes.”
“And you do?” Darren jumped in, his voice still hostile.
“You want me to demonstrate for you right here and now?” Bryan asked, turning to his brother.
“Go ahead,” Darren said, gesturing his hand. “I dare you to try it in front of everyone present.”
“Fine,” Bryan said, his expression unmoved. “Here is how you do a confession, Little Bro!”
“Are you sure on this one?” Jacky asked, smiling.
“Watch, non-believers,” Bryan said quickly before clearing his throat and straightening up. “Xiao Jie, because they challenge me so I have to skip the romantic atmosphere. I like you since we met, so will you accept my confession?”
“What?!” The others exclaimed, including Xiao Jie.
“Stop joking around,” Xiao Jie said, taking the cookies plate from the counter and beginning to make her way towards the rec room down the hall.
“I’m serious!” Bryan yelled after her.
“Sure you are!” Xiao Jie shot back.
The others are still standing at their original spot, staring at Xiao Jie’s disappearing back.
“And ladies and gentlemen,” Darren narrated. “That is how you scare someone away with your bizarre confessions.”
“She thinks you’re joking,” Jacky said.
“He’s not?” Wei Ru asked, turning to Jacky.
Jacky shakes his head.
“I’ll try again later,” Bryan said, shrugging his shoulders and making his way to the rec room also.
The others still stare at Jacky for an explanation but he just smiles and follows Bryan to the rec room.
“Guess what happened?” Brittney asked everyone as soon as she and the others step into the room.
“What happened?” Mrs. Lai asked with a concerned expression on her face.
“We just witnessed a very eventful moment earlier,” Brittney said, pasting on her teasing smile and darting her eyes towards Xiao Jie – who is placing the cookies plate on one of the empty tables at the corner.
“Stop it with the teasing,” Wei Ru warned her sister, stepping towards Xiao Jie’s direction also.
“It’s okay for our brothers to tease each other but I can’t tease Xiao Jie?” Brittney asked reluctantly.
“What happened?” Uncle Heng asked, walking over to them since he’s still waiting for his turn.
“Sounds like I missed something exciting,” Ehlo said, eyeing everyone who just arrived from the kitchen.
“Someone just confessed to your niece and you missed it,” Brittney said to Uncle Heng, using her teasing tone still.
“Really?” Uncle Heng asked excitedly. “Who?” He directs his eyes to all the guys who just stepped in a minute ago. “Don’t tell me.” He puts his hand up to stop them although unnecessary. “You, right?” He has pointed at Jacky.
“I’m sorry to say that I can’t be responsible, Uncle Heng,” Jacky apologized.
“Lucky it wasn’t you,” Ehlo said, turning his eyes to the other guys.
“Huang Yu Rong!” Xiao Jie shouted out. “Am I that terrible?”
“No,” Ehlo said casually. “You’re just too unpredictable sometimes.”
“Are we still playing?” Mr. Lai asked front the pool table.
“Of course,” Uncle Heng replied, walking back to the table. He doesn’t forget to whisper a “We’ll resume this later” to the others.
“Interesting night this is turning out to be, huh?” Ehlo whispered to Jacky after the others already dispersed around the room to watch Mr. Lai and Uncle Heng’s game.
“You bet,” Jacky said, feeling the double meaning of the definition – to which only he understands the second meaning.
Although Uncle Heng announced that they would resume the conversation later, but they busy themselves with the game for the rest of the night. Even Wei Ru and Xiao Jie join in the game with Mr. Lai, taking their turns. And although Jacky had volunteered himself – after Ehlo’s jab, but he ends up sitting on the side to observe the others play instead. Hebe ends up being one of the people watching also. After Ehlo’s done with the game, he occupies himself with some snacks and somehow manages to share some with Hebe as well. They seem to be getting along just fine – contrary to some others’ predictions that it would be an interesting night to see how long it would last. Perhaps, it is because Hebe suddenly understands that Ehlo’s not bad in general, it is just his mouth that is shooting. Or perhaps she’s trying to be nice since he had helped her solve her financial problems after all. Whatever it is, it does not pass Brittney’s radar either – who is sitting on the other side of the room, waiting for her turn for a match with her father. She looks like she wants to start another episode of dramas since the other load of dramas was brushed aside by her siblings and friends. She knows it’s because the others are too protective of Xiao Jie. But if she…
“Hey!” Darren’s voice rang into her ears.
“What?!” Brittney asked, turning to her brother with clear signs of annoyance on her face.
“We were asking if you want to come with us to the picnic this weekend.”
“I don’t know. Maybe. Who’s going?”
“Everyone present,” Darren replied.
“There’s food, sis,” Bryan chimed in.
“I’m not like the both of you,” Brittney said, still annoyed. “Always food, food, and food.”
“We need food to live, don’t we?” Darren returned.
“And water too,” Bryan added.
“Not to mention some fresh air,” Darren agreed. “Want to join us then?”
“How come you guys are getting along now?” Brittney asked, surprised.
“You want us to continue arguing?” Bryan asked, shocked. “What kind of sister are you? Always wanting to stir things up.”
“I’m not,” Brittney said. “I’m just curious.”
“You’ve been our sister forever and you don’t know us?” Bryan asked, still shocked.
“She’s too engrossed in herself,” Ehlo’s voice explained.
The others turn to see Ehlo and Hebe walking towards them. Ehlo’s also wearing a teasing smile on his face.
“Hmp.” Brittney crosses her hands again out of habit – as to all the previous times that Ehlo had upset her.
“Stop being mean,” Hebe scolded, turning to give Ehlo a glare and a slap on his shoulder.
“Stop trying to be nice,” Brittney blurted out, causing everyone’s attention to turn to her. “What?”
“What are you getting at, sis?” Bryan asked.
“Nothing,” Brittney snapped, walking off from the group at that time and out of the rec room.
“Did I say something wrong?” Hebe asked, turning to the others.
“No, don’t worry,” Bryan said, giving her a reassuring smile. “She’s just a kid. Don’t mind her.”
Hebe nods but still looks after Brittney with a worried expression.
“I bet she’s just jealous that the beautiful guest gets more attention from Dad than her,” Darren commented.
“Not to mention my Xiao Jie has always been Pop’s favorite this whole time,” Bryan added.
“Your Xiao Jie?” Darren asked, turning to his brother.
“Of course she’s mine,” Bryan said, his expression still firm. “I just confessed, didn’t I?”
“She didn’t accept,” Darren snapped.
“Staying quiet is accepting,” Bryan said. “I’ll bet that she’ll be sneaking a note or some sort of answer on her way out of the door later when she leaves.”
“Or is it a note of rejection because she doesn’t want to embarrass you in front of everyone?” Ehlo jumped in.
“Hey!” Bryan shouted out in protest.
Darren bursts out laughing and reaches his hand out to give Ehlo a high five. Ehlo’s a bit surprised of Darren’s sudden companionship but completes the high five anyway.
“Very funny,” Bryan shot back. “Thanks for your support and you’re not welcome here anymore.”
“Don’t worry,” Darren said, finally straightening up from his laughing fit. “You’re welcome by the rest of us.”
Bryan ends up walking away from the group also. But he doesn’t walk out of the room like Brittney. Instead, he walks over to where Jacky and Johnny are talking, joining in with their conversation.
“What happened to my sister?” Ehlo asked, looking around suddenly after Bryan’s out of earshot.
“I think she went back to the kitchen to find some water,” Wei Ru answered, joining the group.
“Oh,” Ehlo said.
“You’re just too occupied to notice,” Wei Ru teased.
“Very funny, Miss Lai,” Ehlo said with a half smile.
Wei Ru takes a quick bow, causing the others to laugh also. After she straightens up again, she could catch Jacky’s eyes watching her from the corner. She returns his smile before joining in with the random conversation that Ehlo and Darren are carrying on.
As for Brittney, after she leaves the rec room, she doesn’t go back to her own room but ends up in the kitchen. She sits lazily by the counter and sulks to himself. She doesn’t realize that Mina’s by the fridge, looking for water.
“Mad at my brother again?” Mina asked suddenly, scaring Brittney.
“I couldn’t be bothered,” Brittney said – after regaining herself.
“He’s harmless, you know,” Mina reminded Brittney.
“I just can’t believe he would just go and…”
“What?” Mina has stopped her searching rampage. She stares at Brittney cautiously, waiting for Brittney to continue.
“He’s…” Brittney doesn’t stop but just let out a sigh.
Then Mina understands. “You like him, don’t you?”
“Of course not!” Brittney shouted out.
“Of course you do,” Mina argued. “If not, why would you care what he does? We’ll be going home soon anyway.”
“You’re going back?” Brittney asked, turning to Mina with a disappointed expression.
“See? You’re disappointed that we’re going home so soon.”
“No, I’m not. I meant I would miss hanging out with you.”
“I’m serious.”
“Then why haven’t you been around Xiao Jie’s shop to hang out with me? But only come when we’re visiting my place?”
“I didn’t want to bother you guys at work.”
“Come on now. Xiao Jie’s shop is almost like a tea shop. People come and go. You could always come in and she wouldn’t even kick you out.”
Brittney wrinkles her face, feeling her it burning by now. “It doesn’t matter anymore.”
Mina could see that also so she turns back to the fridge instead. “I guess you could choose to tell him soon or you can just forget about it since we’re going home with Hebe later.”
“What does it got to do with me?” Brittney asked, still pretending to not care.
Although she says that, but Mina could see her curious look after closing the fridge. She comes closer to the counter and pulls the wooden chair by the middle counter to sit face to face with Brittney.
“What?” Brittney asked, seeing Mina’s eyes on her.
“I’m going to be direct with you,” Mina said. “I actually support Xiao Jie jie the most but I just want my brother to be happy so I will respect his decision. So if you want to get his attention, arguing won’t work. It only works for silly high school girls.”
“Whatever,” Brittney said, getting up from her seat.
“One more week,” Mina called out since Brittney has left for the garden instead of back down the hall to the rec room or her room.
While the girls have been talking, Jacky has been standing behind the wall leading into the kitchen. Since the hallway’s a bit dark, the girls did not see him earlier. He has been listening in and pondering about matters instead of approaching them. He knows he couldn’t do anything to help so he doesn’t want to speak up or step in. It will only cause Brittney to feel even more awkward towards the situation.
Now, he realizes that the night is getting more and more interesting by the minute. Who else is hiding something? Does Bryan like Xiao Jie for real or was he just getting at Darren for being a coward – or so he claimed? And what’s more, what will Wei Ru say to Johnny tomorrow?
“Hey, man, what took you so long?” Ehlo asked, tapping Jacky’s shoulder.
“How long have you been standing there?” Jacky asked, turning around to face Ehlo.
“I just waltzed out here to look for you since you seen to be lost,” Ehlo replied, eyeing Jacky suspiciously. “Why? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” Jacky said quickly. “Let’s head back inside.”
“I thought you said you’re looking for my sister.”
“Oh, ugh, found her drinking water already.”
“What about Brittney?”
“What about her?”
“She’s still around?”
“Uh, she’s in the garden, but I don’t think we should bother her. Mina just talked to her earlier so she’s thinking things over now.”
“Whoa…what did my sister say? Trigger her even more?”
“They’re friends after all, nothing happened. Mina just tried to calm Brittney down.”
Ehlo gives Jacky that same doubtful look as before. “Really?”
“Okay then.”
“Why are you two standing here?” Mina asked, walking up to them.
“Uh…talking,” Ehlo said, feeling strange that he’s stuttering. “We thought you got lost so we came to look for you.”
“Very funny, ge,” Mina snapped, swinging her water bottle at her brother.
“Watch it, will you?” Ehlo asked, catching the bottle.
“You two never stop,” Jacky said, shaking his head before leaving the siblings to sort it out on their own.
However, Mina doesn’t care to argue with her brother anymore. She catches up to Jacky, clinging her hands onto his left hand.
“What is it this time?” Jacky asked. “You want me to keep a secret?”
“Jacky ge!” Mina protested. “You’re so mean.”
Jacky smiles. “You’re the one looking suspicious.”
“But I’m just trying to be nice to you since we’ll be leaving next week.”
“So that’s the reason? What if I moved back home?”
“Our house?”
Jacky nods.
“The better!”
Ehlo has already caught up to the two and is walking by Mina’s side, only a little distance from her so he could hear what’s going on. He clears his throat loudly at that time.
“What?” Mina asked, turning to her brother – still clinging onto Jacky’s hand.
“I’m your brother,” Ehlo reminded her.
“So I have to have a say in it. Not to mention…”
“He has always been living with us anyway.”
“Don’t argue anymore,” Jacky interfered. “Since you’re her brother, Yu Rong, I’ll leave it up to you.”
“See?” Ehlo said, giving his sister a victory look. “This is my buddy talking here.”
“Jacky ge,” Mina whined, turning back to him.
“And next time when we go out to eat, I’ll let you pay for her meal too,” Jacky finished, flashing on his mischievous smile in the process.
“Hey!” Ehlo shouted out.
Mina giggles and places her head on Jacky’s shoulder. “You’re the best, Jacky ge.”
“You two just wait and see,” Ehlo said, pointing his index finger at them both with a threatening glare to accompany his stern words.
Jacky and Mina do not say anything. They just continue on their way back to the rec room to join the others.
© Wednesday, October 7th, 2009
Re-posted: Sunday, February 21st, 2010