Chapter 20 – Unexpected Twist

Wei Ru follows Johnny outside to the side entrance leading out to a part of the sea. Her mind suddenly returns to the day when she drags Jacky outside to negotiate with him about helping Xiao Jie. A time so far ago. She does a quick scan around the place, feeling like the scenery is still the same but the people around her has changed, especially the compassionate and cheerful composer  who her brother once introduced to her.
“So…what do you want to talk to me about?” Wei Ru asked, finally breaking the silence between them.
“I have two tickets,” Johnny began, bringing his hand up to her vision line.
She stays silent and waits for him to finish.
“Are you free tonight?” Johnny finished with a smile on his face.
He’s straightforward all right, Wei Ru thought silently. She studies his expression and finally understands through his eyes that it is not just about a movie. She glances at the movie title briefly before returning her attention to him. “I don’t like this type of movies.”
“Or we could watch something else,” Johnny suggested.
Wei Ru shakes her head, knowing she’s right. “It’s not about the movie. Let’s just be friends.”
Johnny’s smile fades. He’s not disappointed that she turned him down. But he’s surprised that she’s that direct and determined with her words. He clears his throat quickly – as if trying to find a suitable way to maintain the conversation. “Um…”
“No need to feel awkward,” Wei Ru told him. “I just don’t want to delay this any longer or cause any misunderstandings between us.”
Johnny nods.
“If you don’t mind, I want to leave first.”
Johnny nods again.
Jacky stares out at the clear blue sky ahead. He realizes that a lot of things have happened since he came to this small town. Though it caused him to revisit his past, but he realizes that he has a group of good friends. He also knows that he has lost his chance because of his hesitant nature. If only. He stops his train of thoughts, knowing he shouldn’t dwell on the matter. If he couldn’t react faster, it is his own fault. What he needs to do now is to concentrate on his career. Maybe one day, one day, when he becomes bored of this place and move on to another place, he will find someone. Someone that will not remind him of anyone else but herself. Having made up his mind, he picks up a pebble by his side and tosses it into the water – as if to get rid of the welled up sorrows.
“Thought you be here,” A voice said behind him.
He turns to his left to see Wei Ru settling down next to him. Her smile is so innocent, so sweet like a drop of sunlight passing by to cheer him up, adding to the scenery a refreshing feeling of a mid-day view, blending in with the sea and the air around them.
“Why aren’t you at the movie with Johnny?” Jacky asked, finally finding his voice after a brief moment lost in thoughts.
“You knew about it?” Wei Ru asked, her voice reproaching.
Jacky diverts his eyes towards the seagull a distance behind her before nodding.
“Why didn’t you tell him? And why didn’t you tell me?”
“Why would I?” He has his eyes on her again.
“Tell him that I’m taken. Tell me so I know.”
“I would blow his surprise if I told you. He trusted me. But…”
“You know me longer or him?”
“Is that how it’s supposed to be?”
She doesn’t answer but turns her attention towards the sea instead. He turns in that direction also, seeing the bits and pieces of the sunlight dancing lazily against the water, sparkling mystical tints of white in it.
“Well?” Wei Ru asked, speaking up again.
He turns to her, surprised that she should be asking him. He’s the one who’s waiting for a reply here. Then he remembers something. He knows it might just be another reason. But he needs to satisfy his curiosity. “Why do you want me to tell him you’re taken?”
She doesn’t say anything but just grabs a hold of his left hand with her right. “Why else?”
He could not believe her words or his ears. He stares down blankly at their joined hands. Then he brings his eyes back on her face. “What?”
“You heard me,” She said, tightening her grip on their linked hands. “How much longer do I have to wait?”
He’s still too numbed for words. Or perhaps speechless by her forwardness. Or even her bravery. So unlike someone in his past that he thought was like her. But he is wrong. She is her own self. She is the one he has been searching for so long – before he knows of the other one’s existence. The girl he once outlined to Ehlo of her characteristics and qualities when they were still in high school – and promised that he would meet her one day. Because she matches with him wit per wit.
“I actually have to thank Johnny because he wanted to talk in private earlier so we walked outside to the side entrance,” Wei Ru continued in her soft voice. “You know, the one you and I talk about helping Xiao Jie that one day. I knew then that I can’t just ignore everything around me or pretend that I don’t care.”
He still does not say anything.
“I don’t know what will become of our future, but I know that if I don’t follow my feelings and fight for my happiness, I will definitely regret it.”
He finally reacts, pulling her into a hug. “I’m sorry. It was my hesitant nature that has caused even more confusion. I can’t promise you that I’ll be able to give you the best there is but I will promise you that I’ll protect you from all the storm of life and give you the happiness that I know of.”
“Do you have to be so flowery with your words?” She teased, placing her head on his shoulder and tightening her grip on his back.
He smiles also – though he could not see her smile. “It’s part of the job. I can’t get rid of it, Miss Lai.”
“Want to go catch a movie?”
“You snatched Johnny’s tickets and ran all the way here to invite me?”
She hits his back. “Stop being mean.”
“You’re the cruel one rejecting him just like that.”
“You rather I reject you then?”
He smiles. “I guess better him than me.”
They finally release each other from the embrace. He gets up at that time and pulls her up with him.
“Come on,” He said, tugging on her hand.
“Where are we going?” She asked, following him towards the path leading back to town.
“Let’s go back and tell Yu Rong that I found her.”
“The girl I told him I would meet one day. The one he said does not exist in this world.”
She doesn’t know what he means by that but follows him anyway.
Although he makes it sound so urgent when he tugs on her arm to go, but they continue to walk slowly along the seaside, enjoying the sea breeze and its salty aroma mixed in with some sweetness because of their feelings.
Jacky looks out to the sea ahead, seeing Wei Ru, Xiao Jie, and the other girls walking along the seashore together, engaged in some unknown conversation. He silently conjures up series of words exchanged in his mind, wondering why the girls are unusually happy today. Though it is actually the picnic they have planned several days ago but it is just a normal gathering. Why are they in such high spirits? He smiles upon seeing Mina splashing some water on Brittney. She’s a kid at heart, he thought.
“What are you smiling about?” Ehlo asked, sitting down next to him.
“It’s funny how they’re happier than us in spending the day here,” Jacky said.
“Maybe they feel the need for a celebration?”
Jacky turns to see a sly smile on Ehlo’s face.
“Don’t give me that look. You should be ashamed of yourself for celebrating on someone’s sorrow.”
Jacky wrinkles his face. “What are you talking about? You guys wanted to gather for a picnic, remember?”
“Yea. But we didn’t expect it to be a celebration of some sort.”
“What are you implying?”
“It’s funny that Johnny’s even here, to tell you the truth.”
Jacky takes a quick glance in Johnny’s direction. He’s actually engaged in conversation with Bryan and Darren at the moment at a spot not far from them.
“Feeling guilty?”
“I didn’t lie to him.”
“Sure you did. Like you should have said something about going after Wei Ru yourself too so he would know in advance.”
“She was the one…”
Ehlo points his right index finger at Jacky. “Shame on you, Zhu Fan Gang, for putting the blame on her.”
“What do you want me to do? Tell her that I withdraw so Johnny could have more chances?”
“She wouldn’t choose him anyway.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“He’s too honest. Unlike someone.”
“What are you implying now?”
Ehlo doesn’t say anything but gets up from his spot. He ends up heading towards where the girls are still taking their walk by the seashore. Jacky continues to watch them from his spot, smiling a peaceful smile at the scenery ahead of him.
“Sometimes I wonder what else will be the news tomorrow,” Bryan said, sitting down at Ehlo’s spot.
Jacky turns to him and waits for him to continue.
Bryan smiles. “Seriously? Just a day after that last gathering and you guys are together. What else will happen next?”
Jacky doesn’t know what to say although he and Bryan are considered very good friends from the start. How could he explain to Bryan what he, himself, still could not believe either?
“Don’t worry,” Bryan said, putting on a reassuring smile. “I won’t tease you about it. I just want to say one thing.”
Jacky waits silently for Bryan to continue like before.
Bryan claps Jacky’s shoulder lightly. “Take good care of her, okay?”
Jacky nods. “I will.”
“What are you guys talking about?” Wei Ru asked, coming up to them.
“Nothing, sis,” Bryan said, getting up from his spot. “I guess I have to leave. Wouldn’t want to be in the way, right?”
“Ge,” Wei Ru called out, her voice light yet still contains a warning tone.
“Let’s quit it,” Ehlo said. “How about getting ready to eat or something?”
“Good idea,” Brittney said. “I’m hungry.”
“And you said that us guys always care for food?” Darren asked, walking over to them.
Brittney doesn’t say anything but makes her way to their table by the tree.
“You good?” Wei Ru asked, turning to Jacky.
Jacky nods, getting up.
“What have you guys been talking about?”
Jacky smiles. “Nothing.”
“Keeping secrets from me?”
“I wouldn’t dare, Miss Lai.”
“No one told me you had an attitude.”
Wei Ru slaps his shoulder but he catches her hand in time and leads her towards the table where the others are at the moment. He quickly lets go of her hand when he spots Johnny walking towards them.
“All right,” Ehlo said, speaking up when they finally sit down at the table. “One more week for us Huang and we’re gone. How about showing some appreciation for us?”
“I thought we’re here to eat,” Jacky jumped in.
“Nice going, Zhu Fan Gang.”
Jacky sends him a smile back – knowing too well Ehlo’s annoyed with him.
“Stop it, you two,” Xiao Jie interfered. “How about a toast for friendship?”
“We can’t forget about Hebe either,” Wei Ru reminded them.
“It’s hard to even,” Brittney muttered.
“Stop spoiling our fun, sis,” Darren jumped in, having heard his sister.
“How about toasting to Johnny’s debut album?” Ehlo asked, feeling like he needs to break some ice.
Johnny turns to Ehlo in surprised but sends him an appreciative smile anyway.
Ehlo smiles back. “Don’t mention it.”
“What else is there to talk about?” Brittney jumped in. “Let’s eat.”
“To Zhu Fan Gang’s second album!” Ehlo yelled out.
“You’re releasing your album?” Xiao Jie asked, turning to Jacky.
The others – except for Ehlo – turn to Jacky in surprised also.
“What did you guys think I was disappearing for these past weeks?”
“New projects,” Xiao Jie blurted out. “You had a first album before?”
“Of course,” Ehlo jumped in. “If not, why would this be called the second one?”
“I didn’t know, okay?”
“How come you never told us?” Wei Ru asked, tugging on Jacky’s arm.
“I didn’t want to let things out too early if it didn’t work out,” Jacky said.
“Then how come he knows?” Xiao Jie asked, not giving the guys a break.
“Because I’ve been working with him on his new song,” Ehlo said. “The song I wrote with him was for his album. The other one I wrote was for Johnny.”
“That means you’re competing again?”
Ehlo wrinkles his face. “What?”
“For the charts.”
“Mine will probably release next month or later,” Jacky clarified. “I still need to find a singer for this last song.”
“Let’s not talk about that anymore.”
“We finally get to eat, right?” Mina asked.
“Girls should not worry about food all the time,” Ehlo said, turning to his sister. “You might get conned by guys.”
“I will only empty your pockets, ge,” Mina reassured her brother.
“Thanks,” Ehlo shot back.
They continue in that lighthearted manner – with a lot of random talks. They do not forget to enjoy the rest of the day since it is probably one of the last days that will have good weather.
That night, they return to the Lai resident to spend some more time together since Mr. and Mrs. Lai are out somewhere with Uncle Heng, which is a rare thing.
“I can’t believe you guys have a karaoke system in your house but you never told us,” Ehlo said, hooking up one of the microphones.
“We haven’t used it for a long time so I forgot,” Wei Ru said.
“What are we singing tonight?” Bryan asked, sorting through their collection.
“When did you guys last update your collection?” Ehlo asked, looking over Bryan’s shoulder.
“You can’t expect us to pay attention that much, do you?”
Ehlo shrugs, settling down at the sofa.
“Put in something quick,” Xiao Jie urged, her voice impatience.
“What’s your hurry anyway?” Ehlo asked, turning to her. “Trying to show off so you could get into Jacky’s album?”
Xiao Jie makes a face at him.
“No wonder you guys always get teased by the others,” Hebe noted.
“What?” Ehlo asked, turning to her.
Hebe just smiles, not saying anything further.
Ehlo shrugs, returning his attention to Bryan – who’s still browsing through the disc collection. “Hurry up, man. How about that one on your right hand? Zhang Xue You, right?”
“You think you can top that?” Bryan asked, walking over to the sofa after putting the disc in.
Ehlo waves the microphone in his hand. “We’ll see.”
Jacky leans back on the sofa as the music begin, his mind reminiscing of the old days.
“You all right?” Wei Ru asked in a concerned tone.
“He’s just getting ready to hear my voice,” Ehlo bragged.
“Stop bluffing,” Xiao Jie chided.
“Oh come on. Have some faith in me, will you?”
As Ehlo says that, the words start to come on so he has to focus on singing instead of exchanging any words with Xiao Jie.
“Wow,” Xiao Jie commented after hearing several verses.
“Impressed?” Ehlo asked.
“If you’re not singing, let me,” Jacky said, grabbing the microphone from Ehlo.
Ehlo yanks his hand back and continues to sing the song.
“This is my favorite song,” Brittney said from across the room.
“Because of my singing, right?” Ehlo jumped in.
Brittney makes a face.
Jacky shakes his head, knowing that Brittney didn’t take Mina’s advice.
“I want to sing this song,” Wei Ru said upon seeing the title appearing on the screen of the upcoming song.
Jacky glimpses at the screen to see a duet.
“Want me or Fan Gang?” Ehlo asked.
“Uh…” Wei Ru hesitated.
“It’s not surprising that you’ll choose your boyfriend, right?”
Wei Ru turns to Jacky – as if for consultation.
“Up for it, buddy?” Ehlo asked, turning to Jacky also.
“Sure,” Jacky said.
Ehlo hands Jacky the microphone and sits back in his spot to enjoy the performance.
“This is a good song since autumn’s coming,” Mina remarked.
“You’re silly, sis,” Ehlo said.
Mina doesn’t care to argue with her brother since the song’s starting. She focuses on listening to Jacky and Wei Ru’s performance instead. At first, she’s just paying attention to the song because it is one of her favorites but as it progresses, she’s more drawn into it than ever. Even Ehlo snaps up in alert, looking from Jacky and Wei Ru as they sing their verses.
“We found her,” Ehlo declared after the song’s over.
Jacky turns to Ehlo with a smile. “I know.”
“What are you guys talking about?” Wei Ru asked, handing the microphone over to Xiao Jie.
“You’re in for the last song,” Ehlo said, turning to her with a smile.
Wei Ru wrinkles her face in confusion.
“Remember that last song we told you earlier at the picnic?”
Wei Ru nods.
“Yes, you’re the last song.”
Jacky and Ehlo nod at the same time.
“You have to try it,” Ehlo urged.
“But I…”
“Afraid that your parents won’t let you?”
Wei Ru shakes her head. “It’s not that since it’s only one song but it’s just strange. I meant me?”
“I should’ve recorded earlier and played it back for you guys to hear it again.”
“We felt that one,” Bryan spoke up for the rest of his siblings. “Come on, sis. Try it.”
“I…” Wei Ru managed, looking from one to the other.
“Don’t worry,” Xiao Jie said. “You’re not there alone, right, guys?”
The others nod as Xiao Jie turns to each of them with a questioning look.
“Let’s not pressure her into it,” Jacky said, feeling the need to defend Wei Ru. “But think it over, okay?”
Wei Ru nods.
“This calls for a celebration!” Ehlo yelled out.
“Again?” Mina asked.
“Come on, sis. More food for you!”
“Whatever, ge.”
Jacky smiles, knowing that the Huang siblings are at it again.
The rest of the night continues in that humorous manner – just like any other night that they spend together as a group.
“Just when I say something like, ‘Surprise me with something even more extraordinary’ and I get this,” Ehlo said, gesturing his hand towards Jacky and Wei Ru.
“I must admit it was a strange occurrence but we did it,” Jacky said, remembering back to the past week.
“Well, I guess this is it, huh?”
“See you in several months.”
“You bet.”
“Bye, Hebe,” Wei Ru said, waving to her.
Hebe returns Wei Ru’s wave with a smile.
Ehlo scans everyone’s face once more before turning to leave.
Jacky, Wei Ru, Xiao Jie, Bryan, and Darren stand there until Ehlo’s car disappears in the distance before turning back to the direction leading back into town.
“What will it be now?” Xiao Jie asked. “How about a movie?”
“Too early for it,” Darren said.
“The coming days will be so exciting.”
“Imagine Wei Ru’s first song!”
“Get a grip, girl,” Bryan jumped in.
Bryan shakes his head. “You’re acting like a fangirl now.”
“Come on now. Wait, I have to reserve my own copy, right?” She turns to Wei Ru, tugging on Wei Ru’s arm. “Can I have your autograph later too?”
Bryan shakes his head again. “Seriously.”
“This is exciting though!”
Wei Ru places a hand around Xiao Jie’s shoulder. “Come on now. Stop acting like I’m some celebrity.”
“But you are! You’re our local celebrity.”
“It’s just one song I’m helping Jacky with.”
“If there’s a first, there will be a second.”
“It won’t happen.”
“But it’s a shame though.”
“We’ll have to wait for the sales,” Jacky reminded them all.
Xiao Jie turns to Jacky. “If others love it, it’s highly likely that you two will sing together again, right?”
“It’s up to Wei Ru,” Jacky said.
They walk the rest of the way back to the Lai’s shop slowly, enjoying the day’s breeze. Although the weather has changed a bit but it is still sunny like many days before, affecting their moods in a positive way.
© Thursday, October 22nd, 2009
Re-posted: Sunday, February 21st, 2010