Chapter 3 – A Friend In Need

Wei Ru rushes through the door and settles down on a counter seat, trying to catch her breath.
“What in the world? Did you run all the way here?” Her friend asked.
“Only…half…way…” Wei Ru managed to utter.
“Don’t talk. Drink this.”
The girl hands her a glass of water and comes to sit next to her. “Wei Ru, you should stop rushing like this. It’s not good for your health.”
Wei Ru’s breathing finally goes back to normal. She takes one last sip of water before speaking up. “It’s all right. I told you I would be here on time, but I’m not so I have to hurry. It’s so crowded today that I didn’t get a break. I didn’t even realize how fast time flew by.”
“We’re friends. You don’t need to be on time. Besides, you’re just helping me until I can find an assistant.”
“Still, this next project of yours is even more fascinating than the others.”
“They’re all weddings, Wei Ru.”
“I thought you love this job, how come you sound so un-motivated?”
“It’s just that…”
“Are you all right?”
Wei Ru turns serious since she sees that her friend looks all troubled. Wei Ru puts a hand on the girl’s shoulder. “Xiao Jie, what’s wrong? I never seen you this down before.”
Xiao Jie sighs. “It’s okay. Let’s get this plan lay out before they’re here.”
“Okay. But you can tell me when you’re ready.”
Xiao Jie nods.
The girls go straight to discussing their plans, making sure they have all the designs and combinations for the variety of decorations their customers want. About twenty minutes later, their customers come through the door. It’s then that Wei Ru finally knows why Xiao Jie isn’t excited about this particular project.
The couple who walks into the door is holding hands and smiling brightly. Wei Ru recognizes the guy as Xiao Jie’s boyfriend, Brent. She knows that it’s “ex-boyfriend” now since he’s getting married soon. She looks over to Xiao Jie while the couple settles down in the stools at the counter they’re at. Wei Ru pats Xiao Jie on the shoulder and gives her the look that says, “You want me to handle this alone?”
Xiao Jie smiles at her friend and turns to face the “to-be-married couple.”
“Hi!” Xiao Jie greeted them. “Ready to begin?”
Brent flashes her a bright smile. “We’re ready when you’re ready.”
Xiao Jie turns around to retrieve the folder they were looking through before and lays it out in front of the couple. While Xiao Jie’s doing that, Wei Ru has circled around to open the door in the middle and slips behind the counter to sit alongside Xiao Jie.
They spend half an hour going over the sequences of the ceremony and all the necessary details at each step. When they’re done, Brent smiles brightly at Xiao Jie.
“You always know what to do in such times,” Brent complimented Xiao Jie.
“It’s my job,” Xiao Jie said passively.
“You’re the best,” Brent said, smiling.
Xiao Jie smiles casually. “Stop it with all the flattering compliments. I’m not going to give you discounts. This case is much more tiring than the others that I’m considering about adding extra.”
“I thought we already agreed on the price,” Brent’s fiancée said. “You can’t do that to us! Besides, we’re your friends.”
Xiao Jie just looks at her.
Brent wraps his hand around his fiancée’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, honey. She’s kidding.”
The girl breathes out. “That’s good.” She smiles at last.
Xiao Jie looks at her watch. “If there aren’t any more questions, I need to get going since I have another appointment in an hour and I need to drive there.”
“I trust you on this,” Brent said.
He and his fiancée get up from the stools they’d been sitting on and get ready to leave.
Xiao Jie gathers up the papers in front of her and starts to put it neatly back into the case folder. “Well, if you guys change your plans or if you’re confused about anything, just call me.”
Brent smiles brightly and says goodbye before leaving with his fiancée.
The girls watch in silence as the couple leaves their shop. Wei Ru turns to look at Xiao Jie, placing her right hand on Xiao Jie’s left shoulder as the door closes.
Xiao Jie turns to face Wei Ru. “I’m okay.”
Xiao Jie gets up from her seat and places the folder back into her briefcase. She looks at her watch and turns to Wei Ru again. “Do you want to get some coffee?”
“I thought you said you have another appointment,” Wei said with a puzzled expression on her face.
Xiao Jie smiles lightly. “How do you think I could get rid of them?”
Wei Ru understands immediately. She smiles and grabs her handbag from the back counter and leaves with Xiao Jie.
Wei Ru stands at the corner of the street to wait for Xiao Jie while Xiao Jie locks up. She looks at the clear sky, feeling like it’s a good day so she turns to Xiao Jie when Xiao Jie’s done locking up. “Let’s go to my shop instead of some loud coffee shop.”
Xiao Jie looks at her watch. “At this time, your coffee shop is loud.”
“Come on!”
Xiao Jie laughs lightly. “I’m kidding. Okay. Let’s go.”
The girls walk down the street, talking and laughing all the way. Wei Ru tries to distract Xiao Jie as much as she could from the hardship she had to endure earlier. They arrive at Spring of Hope in fifteen minutes. It’s crowded like Xiao Jie had predicted.
“I told you,” Xiao Jie said in an as a matter of fact tone. “People go to restaurants during lunch time. But they go to coffee shops during the afternoons.”
“Like I don’t know. I work here.”
“Let’s grab a seat somewhere.”
“No need. Just go into the back with the rest of us.”
“I just want some fresh air.”
“It is a nice day today. Let’s go to the back.” Wei Ru points towards the seashore areas.
The girls make their way past all the crowded tables, heading towards the back. While they’re in the middle area, someone calls out Wei Ru’s name. Wei Ru turns around to see who. She realizes that it’s her brother, Darren.
“Hey sis, here you go,” Darren said, handing Wei Ru her cell phone.
“Oh, thanks. I didn’t realize it was missing.”
“I called Xiao Jie jie jie and told her about it.”
Wei Ru turns to Xiao Jie.
“Yea. He called earlier but I didn’t get a chance to tell you since we were discussing the plans and then they showed up,” Xiao Jie explained.
“It’s okay,” Wei Ru said.
“So? Can I get you anything, Miss Qu?” Darren asked, his mischievous expression turning on.
“Don’t call me jie jie, I’m only two days older than you,” Xiao Jie said, referring to the comment from earlier.
“Okay, how about I call you Min Jie?” He asked, smiling sweetly at her.
“Get back to work!” Wei Ru exclaimed, breaking through his attempt at being charming like many times before.
“All right, sis!” He said, saluting before marching away from them.
Wei Ru and Xiao Jie continue to make their way across the room after that.
“You go ahead, I’ll get us something,” Wei Ru said.
“I want the Jell-O dessert.”
“Coming right up.”
They giggle before parting ways.
As Wei Ru’s making her way back to the counter, she bumps into someone – her other brother, Bryan.
“Xiao Ru! Where have you been?”
“Helping Xiao Jie. We’re done for the day now. I’m treating her to some refreshments before she heads back home.”
“Say hi to her for me.”
“Are you heading out?”
“No. I’m actually talking to Young Master Chu. He’s doing a new song.”
Wei Ru’s eyes brighten with curiosity. “Young Master Chu? The one Mom has been raving about?”
Bryan nods. “Yea.You haven’t met him, right?”
Wei Ru shakes her head.
“Let’s go,” Bryan said, pulling on Wei Ru’s arm. “Might as well do it today since he’s free.”
Wei Ru disengages her hand from her brother’s hold, but still follows him. “You make it sound like it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Bryan chuckles lightly and continues to lead Wei Ru to the far left of the shop. This side also has a view to the seashore but not as nice as the back area.
“He’s sitting at the last table next to the door,” Bryan informed her, his tone still as excited as before.
When they’re closer, Wei Ru realizes she met him before. In fact, they had a crash – literally – earlier. She suddenly feels shy because of the knock-over incident earlier.
“Young Master Chu, look who I brought to see you!” Bryan exclaimed as they’re right in front of Jacky.
Jacky stands up to greet the famous Wei Ru.
Jacky extends his hand. “How are you, Miss Dessert Creator? Zhu Fan Gang, nice to finally meet you – formally.”
Wei Ru shakes Jacky’s hand and smiles politely.
Jacky feels the need to explain, “Your brother – Darren – told me earlier about who you were when he was looking for you after you rushed out.”
“Oh,” Wei Ru said, turning pink. “Sorry about that.”
“No need. It was my fault. I wasn’t looking where I was going.”
Wei Ru smiles, not knowing what to say.
“You two already met?” Bryan asked, half surprised and half confused. He turns to Wei Ru. “Why did you say you didn’t?”
“I didn’t know he’s Young Master Chu,” Wei Ru explained.
“I guess that settles, you’re meant to meet. Like Mom said!”
Wei Ru is turning red now. “Stop teasing. Ge, get back to work.” She then turns to Jacky. “Nice to finally meet you, Young Master Chu. I have to go though since I’m with a friend.”
“You can just call me Fan Gang,” Jacky said.
“Okay then, Fan Gang. Uh…”
Jacky waits for her to finish.
“Can I have my hand back?” Wei Ru finally said.
It’s Jacky’s turn to turn red since he didn’t realize he had been holding onto her hand for the entire time they’d been talking.
“Sorry. I didn’t realize I’m still holding…” He said.
Wei Ru cuts him off. “It’s okay. I’ll see you around.”
Wei Ru walks off, making her way back to the counter again. Jacky looks after her graceful steps, his mind begins to wander.
“So, what do you think?” Bryan asked casually.
“About what?” Jacky asked back.
“My sister.”
“She’s nice.”
“What a conclusion. Give me some more description.”
“I can’t tell you what I don’t know. We just met.”
“But I can tell.”
Jacky turns his full attention to Bryan, waiting for Bryan to continue.
“You’re going to be my brother-in-law.”
Jacky laughs and shakes his head. He sits back down in his chair.
“Don’t believe me?”
Jacky takes a quick sip at his coffee. “All I know is, you sound like some hokey fortune-teller.”
Bryan sits down across from Jacky, smiling secretly.
“Your smile creeps me out, man,” Jacky said.
“Good,” Bryan drawled out. “You’re supposed to be very scared of your future brother-in-law.”
Jacky laughs and shakes his head again. He goes back to writing his song after that. Bryan sticks with him, but moves on to another subject since he doesn’t want to push too hard.
Not more than half an hour later, Wei Ru comes back with Xiao Jie.
Jacky’s the first to notice the girls’ presence since Wei Ru’s dress casts a shadow on his notebook.
Jacky looks up. “How can I help you?”
Wei Ru feels a bit taken aback with Jacky’s sudden formality.
“You missed him already?” Bryan teased.
Wei Ru’s face turns a few shades – from pink to red.
“She wants to take me to meet her future boyfriend,” Xiao Jie chipped in.
Wei Ru pokes Xiao Jie in the back.
Bryan extends his hand to give Xiao Jie a high five.
Wei Ru turns even redder. “Ge!”
Jacky stands up finally. “Ignore them. What do you want to see me for?”
“I have a favor to ask,” Wei Ru said hesitantly.
Xiao Jie jumps in as Jacky opens his mouth. “How did you know she’s looking for you and not her brother?”
Jacky turns his attention to Xiao Jie. “She stepped towards my direction more than her brother.”
“Are you a cop?” Xiao Jie asked, impressed.
“Musician,” Jacky replied.
“You should be a cop though.”
“All right. We’re getting off-base now,” Bryan interfered. “Xiao Ru, finish.”
“Xiao Jie and I just discussed this matter,” Wei Ru began. “And I think it’s best she doesn’t participate in Brent’s wedding ceremony. I mean we already got everything going as far as planning. But we need someone as a host of the ceremony. Xiao Jie usually does that because she loves to witness such a blessing event herself, but for this one….”
“Brent is getting married?” Bryan asked, shocked.
Wei Ru wrinkles her face at her brother. “Ge!”
“Sorry! I didn’t know.”
“It’s okay,” Xiao Jie said. “I can actually do it. So forget it.”
Xiao Jie begins to walk away.
Bryan stands up and grabs her hand. “No wait. You want Jacky to fill in for you?”
“Jacky?” Wei Ru asked, puzzled.
“Jacky Zhu Fan Gang,” Bryan clarified.
“Oh,” Wei Ru said, getting it. “Yes. But it all comes down to his final decision.”
At that, she turns to face Jacky directly.
“You want me to be a wedding host?” Jacky asked.
“That’s up to you,” Wei Ru answered.
“It’s okay,” Xiao Jie reassured him.
Bryan jumps in before Jacky could speak up for himself. “Not the time to ask, but why him and not me?”
“He has a nice image for one,” Wei Ru and Xiao Jie replied at the same time.
“You’re selling your brother out, Xiao Ru,” Bryan said, pained.
“You’re getting mad at small things, you can’t be a host,” Wei Ru pointed out.
“Since when?” Bryan asked, confused.
“About half a minute ago,” Jacky said.
“So now you’re all ganging up on me?”
“It’s the truth,” Xiao Jie said.
“Okay, fine. Figure it out among yourselves. I’m out.”
Bryan leaves them – not forgetting to reach for his dessert plate though. After he’s gone, Xiao Jie turns back to Jacky. “Well. Are you going to do it?”
Jacky scratches his head, thinking.
“It’s okay since we just met you today. I just think from a wedding planner’s viewpoint that you have a very good image. Then suddenly Wei Ru suggested this. I seriously just want to meet you in person that’s why I agreed to come along with her to your table. You don’t have to help me though. I can handle it.”
Before Jacky can say anything, Wei Ru grabs his right hand and drags him outside towards the seashore.
Jacky just realized how strong Wei Ru is as the wind hits their faces.
“I know it’s hard on you since we just met,” Wei Ru began. “But since she said that you have a good image and could be a host, I want to use this opportunity to help her since the wedding is coming up soon. I thought since you know my family, maybe you can help us. I can make it up to you later.”
Jacky is about to open his mouth, but Wei Ru continues.
“Brent is Xiao Jie’s ex-boyfriend.”
Jacky’s face turns to realization.
“Yes,” Wei Ru continued. “That’s why Bryan is shocked. I didn’t even know until today when Brent and his fiancée came to Xiao Jie’s shop. So could you just swallow this through and I’ll make it up to you later?”
“I think…”
“Don’t think! Say ‘Yes!’,” Wei said, smiling brightly.
Jacky’s mind spins. How could someone be so authoritative and have such a sweet smile at the same time? His heart goes out to her. She’s such a good friend, he thought. She doesn’t care about embarrassing herself or be so forward with someone she just met, but just wanting to help her friend.
Jacky speaks up finally. “I’ll do it. But you girls will have to train me. I’m not a pro.”
Wei Ru smiles even brighter. “All right then. Thank you!”
Wei Ru jumps in delight and yanks on Jacky’s hand. He realizes that Wei Ru had been holding his hand the whole time.
“Let’s go in and tell Xiao Jie the good news,” Jacky said, his head tilting towards the doorway.
“Okay.” She finally lets go of Jacky’s hand and walks towards the doorway.
“You two had a good talk?” Xiao Jie asked, her face lighting up in a mischievous way. “I saw the whole scene! It was totally lovable.”
Wei Ru turns shy again, realizing what it must look like. “Good news! He agreed.”
“You promised to go out on a date with him?” Xiao Jie asked, still maintaining that mischievous expression.
“Then what was it?”
“It doesn’t matter, okay? How about we go discuss this over? Since you will have to fill him in on the details,” Wei Ru reminded Xiao Jie. Then she turns to Jacky. “Are you free for the rest of the afternoon or do we have to schedule another day for this?”
“I’m fine,” Jacky replied. “I just need to go drop this box off at my place first.” He gestures at the box by his feet.
“Do you need a ride? I can get Darren. After that, he can drive you back to my house and discuss this further.”
“That’s fine.”
With that agreement, Wei Ru rushes off into the crowd to find Darren while Jacky stands there, looking after her. Xiao Jie’s still there, observing Jacky.
“She’s something, huh?” Xiao Jie asked out of nowhere.
“What?” Jacky asked with a confused expression, snapping out of his thoughts.
“Does she make your head spin?”
“Somewhat. How do you know that?”
“She’s very complex. There’s many side to her that even I can’t figure out although we grew up together.”
Jacky just smiles, not knowing what to say.
“It’s okay,” Xiao Jie reassured him. “You’ll find out more about her later.”
Jacky pretends not to know what Xiao Jie’s implying. He looks into the crowd again, trying to see where Wei Ru is. Darren is nowhere to be found so that would take awhile, he thought. But he got time. Xiao Jie just stands there, smiling secretly.
© January 27th, 2008
Re-posted: Saturday, February 20, 2010