Jacky could hear the energetic screams from the crowd as he’s on standby, waiting for his turn onstage. He must admit that the current performer is very impressive. He half feels he might turn the atmosphere into a sad one when he goes on. As he ponders over matters, he could feel someone tapping on his shoulder. He turns around to see Ehlo smiling at him.
“Ready, man?” Ehlo asked, his head tilting towards the dark curtain shielding them from the crowd.
Seeing Ehlo with him – like a time long ago he has come to forget, he nods.
“Let’s go get ’em,” Ehlo said, giving Jacky’s shoulder a final clap before ascending the steps.
Jacky follows Ehlo out. His hesitation disappears as soon as he sees the crowd below. He gives the arena a quick scan. It has been a long time since he disappeared. It is now his chance to return to the people who have gingerly and patiently supported him all thus far. The friends who he appreciates dearly, not just the ones who he comes to know and share with personally, but those who supports him all this far throughout his career. He doesn’t want to use the word ‘fan’ because he believes he should not need to rise above anyone or need to boost his ego by separating himself from this group of people. He doesn’t need followers or should he feel the need to recruit any. He only wants real support – those willing enthusiasm that are often seen everyday with everyone supporting each other through hardships in life, through all the hurdles that one must get past in order to achieve one’s dreams.
“I’m back,” Jacky mumbled, waiting for the crowd to simmer down.
“How is everyone tonight?” Ehlo asked the crowd, waving his free hand at them.
The crowd cheers at that time. Jacky could actually feel the lively atmosphere seething through his skin.
“We’ll start off with Jacky’s newest song,” Ehlo continued. “A surprise for you guys.” He then turns to Jacky. “Ready?”
Jacky nods, smiling.
Ehlo waits for the crowd to quiet down again before speaking up. “This song is called Star Dust.”
The main lights dim at that time, giving way for small circles of silvery lights dancing around the arena. Music comes on at that time. A soft set of piano notes start off the song. It is then that Jacky finally feels fully alive. He starts off the song – like many times before. Ehlo joins in naturally. They complement each other just like old times. The crowd quiets down to listen, giving the arena such a placid feeling. Yet there isn’t any trace of sadness, but more of mesmerized. As they take their brief pause, allowing the music to flow through the crowd, Jacky turns to the piano set at the right. Memories wash over him once again as he could see a light shadow of Xiao Yan playing on the piano like she once did when he and Ehlo used to perform. He could see her smiling at him. A proud smile? Proud that he had conquered his past? Or was that smile of happiness? Happiness for his achievement? Her image finally disappears as Ehlo’s voice comes on again. He regains himself and accompanies Ehlo through the rest of the song. It is until they finish the song that he realizes that he has moved on. This is his last time saying goodbye to his past. To her.
“Our next song will be…” Ehlo spoke up after the cheering had subsided and the light had come back on.
“So that was what you guys were talking about with a secret, huh?” Selena asked, turning to Ehlo and Mina.
Ehlo smiles. “Of course.”
“When did Jacky finish that song?” Xiao Jie asked, turning to Ehlo.
Ehlo turns to look at Jacky instead of answering Xiao Jie. He could see Jacky nods so he turns to Xiao Jie again. “Actually, he called me up one night and said that he wants to turn this into a song for us three instead of his dedication for Xiao Yan.”
Xiao Jie has a puzzle look on her face.
“Us three as in me, him, and Xiao Yan,” Ehlo clarified. “Our friendship.”
“So where are we heading now?” Mina asked excitedly.
“I don’t know about you guys,” Ken spoke up. “But Selena and I have to go.”
The others turn to them.
“Where?” Ehlo asked.
“We have to check this place out before it gets dark,” Ken said.
“Sorry, you guys,” Selena said, her expression apologetic. “We’ll meet you guys tonight at Ehlo’s shop for celebration though.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Ehlo said. “We’ll probably do something random for the next few hours anyway.”
They wave goodbye to Ken and Selena before separating to go into their own cars. Wei Ru, Darren, and Brittney go with Jacky while Hebe and Mina go with Ehlo. Bryan and Xiao Jie are going together of course.
It is actually after the concert and they are heading back to Jacky and Ehlo’s hometown for a celebration of the success. They have promised to meet back at the Huang’s shop since they’ve been done with the preparations beforehand. They just need to set it up and then they could celebrate.
“That was really something,” Darren said after Jacky enters traffic.
“Definitely,” Brittney agreed.
“Glad you guys like it,” Jacky said.
“Jie, you should’ve sung,” Brittney said, leaning forward into Wei Ru’s seat.
“It’s too overwhelming,” Wei Ru said, wrinkling her face. “Besides, I don’t want to hog the limelight since it’s their comeback.”
“Maybe next time,” Jacky said, smiling.
“You will not!” Wei Ru exclaimed. “You know how I get in front of the crowd.”
Jacky still has on his playful smile. “Just kidding, Miss Lai.”
Just then, Jacky’s cell phone rings. He reaches for his Bluetooth before picking it up.
“Hey, you guys want to visit Xiao Yan’s grave before we head home for celebration?” Ehlo’s voice asked.
Jacky hesitates for a bit, molding it over in his mind.
“Maybe it will be good for us both,” Ehlo continued, his voice leveled.
Jacky finally resumes his determined look. “Okay.”
He hangs up after that, getting ready to merge into the next lane, changing his destination.
The other three exchange a look but do not ask Jacky. They know the answer will reveal when they arrive at the location.
It has been a long journey for Jacky and even Ehlo because of their close connection to Xiao Yan. They could finally close that chapter of their life now. By Ehlo suggesting this visit, it could also be considered as the final closure.
They stop at a small flower shop before making their way to Xiao Yan’s grave. They actually park a distance from the cemetery and walk the rest of the way to the grave.
“It has been a long time,” Ehlo said, setting his bouquet of flowers down at the left side. “I guess I have not been that good either. I never visited you since that day at your funeral.”
“Sorry for being late,” Jacky said, kneeling down and setting his bouquet of flower on the right side. “I didn’t even come that day.”
Then both guys exchange a look before looking at Xiao Yan’s tombstone once more. They get up at the same time, stepping back to stand by Wei Ru and Hebe’s side.
The others stay silent to show their respect for Xiao Yan while the guys continue to stand there, lost in their own thoughts. Jacky and Ehlo turn to look at each other one last time before turning to their companions.
“Let’s go,” Ehlo said. “We’re ready.”
The others nod and follow the four out of the cemetery and back out to the street. They walk slowly and silently until they reach the path leading to their cars.
“Tomorrow will be another day,” Ehlo said, an obvious statement.
“So…is everyone ready to party?” Mina asked, her expression resuming its mischievous state instead of the serious, respectful state like when they were still inside the cemetery.
“You’ll bet, sis,” Ehlo said, his cheerful smile back on as well.
Mina turns to look at her brother. “How about a bet then?”
“Whoever arrives at the shop first will decide what to do with the losers!”
“What are you talking about?”
“Like if Jacky ge or Xiao Jie loses, they have to entertain us for the night!”
Ehlo’s face brightens up even more than before, his level of interest apparent. “With whatever we request?”
“Definitely! That’s the fun part!”
“Then I’m in.”
Mina then turns to the others. “Well?”
“Sure, why not?” Jacky said, reaching for Wei Ru’s left hand with his right. “We’ll definitely win.”
“My brother can speed!”
“Now I’m your brother?” Ehlo asked, his expression suspicious of his sister’s supportive behavior. “What about Jacky ge?”
The others laugh. They are more than familiar with this little scene from past gatherings.
“Well then,” Ehlo spoke up again. “Let the game begin…”
“Before we go though…” Jacky said, leaving his sentence hanging on purpose.
“What?” Ehlo asked, turning to Jacky.
Jacky points with his left hand at Ehlo and Hebe. “Why are you two holding hands?”
The others turn to look at Ehlo and Hebe, except for Mina.
“He didn’t tell you?” Mina asked excitedly – as if glad that she was the first one to know.
“Guess not,” Jacky said casually.
“So now you guys know,” Ehlo said, his tone as casual, swinging his and Hebe’s linked hands back and forth. “What’s with the staring? Haven’t seen such scene before?”
“Congratulations then!” Wei Ru exclaimed, her smile bright on her face.
“Save it since we’re not getting married…yet. I’ll send you the invitation later!”
Hebe yanks her hand away from Ehlo at that time, her face red with embarrassment. “Huang Yu Rong!”
“What? Don’t want to?”
“Let’s not tease them anymore,” Darren said. “We need to get back to the shop and get things ready. The sun’s setting.”
“Yes, sir,” Ehlo chanted, his voice hinting sarcasm. “I’m kidding.”
“I know, man. Quit being lame.”
After he says that, Ehlo takes Hebe’s hand into his again. They continue to walk down the path to his car. He seems to be enjoying the scene of the sun setting.
“That’s my brother,” Mina said.
The others smile, knowing Ehlo’s nature too well.
Just then, Wei Ru turns to Brittney and Darren who are walking a distance from them – though at the same pace. She steps towards Brittney and places a comforting hand on Brittney’s shoulder. Brittney turns to Wei Ru with a bright smile – contrary to her possible devastated state.
“It’s okay, jie,” Brittney said. “I’m fine now.”
Wei Ru wrinkles her face in confusion.
“She knows already,” Mina jumped in.
The others turn to Mina this time around.
“I told her last month when I called her up one time to talk about our possible plans this month. Then she told me she has been thinking about things. That was when I told her about my brother and Hebe.”
“I know what’s really important to me,” Brittney said, smiling. “I know I have to focus on my studies and on what I want for my future.”
“That’s my sister,” Darren said, sliding his hand around his sister’s shoulders.
Brittney smiles again. “We’re the Lai family, remember? We will move on no matter what.”
Darren has on his proud smile as if seeing his sister for the first time. “We definitely are.”
Wei Ru stands there to watch her siblings continue on down the path ahead a little while before returning to Jacky’s side. Jacky sends her a smile of reassurance.
“Sometimes I don’t get them,” Wei Ru said. “Maybe I under-estimated them.”
“Or we’re just making the situation much more complicated than it really is,” Jacky said, sliding his hand around her shoulders. “Let’s go.”
They could see Mina joining Darren and Brittney, walking in the same line, and chatting away about something. The three seem to get along so much better than when they first met. In fact, they seem to have changed a lot these past months as well.
Jacky smiles at their innocent laughter and their playful gestures with one another. Then he could hear Bryan speaking up again as he and Wei Ru join Bryan and Xiao Jie to form a group of their own.
“Maybe we should do this more often,” Bryan said.
Jacky turns to him. “We always gather for activities anyway.”
Bryan shakes his head. “No. Watch sunset.”
Jacky smiles, directing his attention back on the yellow-orange light rays ahead like before. He tightens his grip on Wei Ru’s hand and swings their linked hands back and forth – just like how Ehlo did with his and Hebe’s earlier. Sunset is indeed nice.
© Friday, January 8th, 2010
Posted: Thursday, April 15th, 2010