Chapter 5 – Like Family

Around 6:00 PM, Mrs. Lai, Darren, and Brittney come home. Darren had picked Mrs. Lai and Brittney up from Brittney’s school. Darren comes in the door first. Seeing that Jacky’s still there, he looks to Xiao Jie to fill him in.
“I didn’t realize it’s been so long,” Xiao Jie said, glancing at her watch. “Let’s take a break.”
Xiao Jie gets up from her seat and yawns.
“Jie Jie! Ge Ge!” Darren called out to Jacky and Wei Ru. “What have you been doing?”
Darren sits down in the middle of the sofa – where Xiao Jie had been sitting for the last several hours. He’s chewing on an apple, smiling widely, waiting for Jacky and Wei Ru to answer.
“My brain’s fried by now,” Jacky said. “I don’t know how Xiao Jie could handle all of these, but I definitely need to consider it again.”
“You definitely can’t back out now,” Wei Ru spoke up, giving Jacky a sharp look in the process.
“I didn’t say I’m backing out,” Jacky clarified. “I just need some more assistant.”
“Does that include me?” Darren asked, grinning.
“Ask Xiao Jie,” Jacky answered, shrugging his shoulder out of habit.
“I can’t be host, but I can at least do something, right?” Darren asked, sounding like he’s trying to convince them of how helpful he can be. “Like post as Xiao Jie’s boyfriend and make that Brent jealous!” He winks as he says those last few words.
“That’s not funny,” Wei Ru said in an irritated voice, hitting Darren on the sides.
“Jie, I’m serious,” Darren said, turning to Wei Ru with his utmost serious look. “Don’t you think we should get back at him for dumping our Xiao Jie?”
Wei Ru looks around to see if Xiao Jie comes back yet.
“Don’t worry, she’s in the restroom,” Darren reassured her.
“How do you know?” Wei Ru asked, turning to him again.
“I saw her.”
“You’re always spying on people.”
“Jie, I’m going to be a private investigator, might as well start now.”
“You are?” Jacky asked in a surprised tone, turning his full attention to Darren.
“I’m thinking about it,” Darren replied with a wide grin.
Jacky leans back in the sofa again.
At that time, Mrs. Lai and Brittney come in through the back door. They had been talking about something and circling around the house so they didn’t see Jacky until they’re right at the front door area.
“Young Master Chu! What a surprise!” Mrs. Lai said cheerfully.
“Mrs. Lai,” Jacky greeted her, standing up in the process. “How are you today? And please call me Jacky.”
“Eh ge,” Darren jumped in, managing to take a minute off his half-finished apple. “How come Mom has to call you Jacky and Wei Ru jie jie can call you Fan Gang?”
Jacky turns to Darren, confused. If his memory didn’t fail him, the only person that knows about this is Bryan. How come Darren knows too?
Darren sees Jacky’s expression, so he explains. “We work in a coffee shop. Nothing gets past us.” He gives Jacky a half-amused smile before going back to his munching task.
“Darren, stop talking nonsense and help Brittney prepare dinner,” Mrs. Lai scolded.
“Awww….Mom, let me finish this apple first,” Darren said, sounding almost like whining.
Darren looks reluctant, but gets up anyway.
“Mom, it’s okay, ” Wei Ru interfered, getting up at the same time. “I’ll do it. Darren can stick around here and keep Mr. Chu entertained.”
“Call him (me) Fan Gang”, Jacky and Darren said at that same time.
“We’re definitely a team, ge,” Darren said, looking at Jacky.
“Darren, to the kitchen! Now!” Mrs. Lai shouted firmly.
“It’s okay, Mrs. Lai,” Jacky said, getting up also. “Let him stay, I’ll go help Brittney. I can catch up on how she’s doing in school too.”
“All right ge!” Darren exclaimed, slapping Jacky’s shoulder appreciatively. “I know I can depend on you.”
“Young Master Chu, please sit down,” Mr. Lai said, extending her right hand to stop Jacky. “You’re the guest.” She turns to Darren again, uttering out, “Darren. Now!”
“Mom, he wants to help. If he doesn’t, why would I call him ge for?” Darren still managed to say although Mrs. Lai looks a bit upset by now.
“Mom, it’s all right,” Wei Ru said again, trying to calm Mrs. Lai down. “I’ll go help Brittney.”
Wei Ru leaves at that time so there won’t be any more disagreements.
“Okay then, Darren,” Mrs. Lai said with a less stern tone. “Since your sister is giving you a break this time, you’re off. But you have to keep Young Master Chu company.”
“Mom, call him Jacky,” Darren reminded Mrs. Lai, chewing on the last bit of his apple in the process and walking off to the kitchen although he no longer has to leave the area. “Or you want to call him something else, that’s up to you like….”
Darren doesn’t dare to finish since he’s walking by the trash bin where Wei Ru’s standing near. He just earned an evil glare from her.
“Mrs. Lai, it’s all right,” Jacky said. “You don’t have to act all formal in front of me. We’ve known each other for a while now.”
“I think you should skip the formalities too, ge,” Darren said, coming back to the living room with a glass and thermo. “Call her Mom. It might get your point across a lot faster.”
“Darren!” Wei Ru exclaimed from the kitchen.
“Jie, I didn’t say that he’s going to be with you, he might be with Brittney, you know. Or Mom could be adopting him. Or are you implying that he can only be with you in order to call our mother ‘Mom’?”
Wei Ru doesn’t reply to that. She knows that Darren’s so mischievous that answering either way will be to her disadvantage.
“By the way, do you guys know why Xiao Jie’s taking so long in the restroom?” Jacky asked since he realized they’ve been talking for a while now and she hasn’t come back yet.
“Let me go check,” Wei offered, sounding somewhat startled.
Wei Ru drops her utensils and heads towards the hallway that leads to the restroom.
Jacky gets up from the sofa and heads towards the kitchen to help Brittney. Darren comes along and somehow begins to help too. Mrs. Lai couldn’t stop Jacky since she’s so fascinated as to how he’s so familiar with the kitchen although it’s his first time to her house. She guesses he’s a cook himself, so his mind operates like one, knowing where one would put each utensil or the like.
Five minutes later, Wei Ru comes back with Xiao Jie.
“Are you okay?” Jacky asked, turning around to face the girls.
“Ahhhh!” Xiao Jie exclaimed, jumping away in fright. “What are you doing?”
“Sorry,” Jacky muttered, lowering his right hand. “I was cutting up some meat.”
“Next time, put your knife down before approaching someone. Sheesh!”
Xiao Jie pulls Wei Ru to the living room while Jacky goes back to “cutting up some meat.”
“Aside from his somewhat absent-minded nature,” Xiao Jie whispered to Wei Ru. “I think he’s a perfect match for you!”
“I heard that!” Darren jumped in, dropping the onion he’s peeling at the moment. “Let’s talk about that some more!” He grabs an orange from the fruit dish by the counter and heads towards the living room, sitting next to Xiao Jie.
“How come you’re not helping?” Wei Ru questioned.
“Ge’s doing it,” Darren replied, peeling the orange in his hand.
Wei Ru gives him a sharp look.
“Your brother’s so cute – already trying to find you a husband,” Xiao Jie said, smiling.
“Enough is enough!” Wei Ru exclaimed in frustration, but still keeping a slight smile on her face. “I only met him today and you guys are stirring up all these weird rumors. How come I don’t see you all teasing me with all my other guy friends?”
“Because he’s perfecto for you!” Xiao Jie fired back with a wink.
“High five!” Darren jumped in, extending his free hand towards Xiao Jie.
Xiao Jie slaps him “high fives” before turning back to Wei Ru.
“You know,” Wei Ru began. “You’re a wedding planner, not a match-maker.”
“If I’m not acting in the role of a match-maker first, how can I be the wedding planner later on?” Xiao Jie said, smiling brightly still.
“You’re so right! Another high five!” Darren interrupted again, extending his hand once more.
“We’re not little kids! Or at least I’m not. Keep it to yourself,” Xiao Jie blurted out at Darren before turning back to Wei Ru again. “So, what do you think?”
“I….” Wei Ru stuttered out, looking around. “Where’s Mom?”
“She went back to the coffee shop to help Pop since he’s closing tonight with Bryan,” Darren replied. “They should be home soon. It’s half hour to 7.”
Wei Ru, feeling a sense of awkwardness coming from within, walks towards the kitchen where Jacky’s standing there, helping Brittney.
“You know what? It’s not right. You’re a guest, you should sit and wait to eat, not standing here working away,” Wei Ru rattled out as Jacky’s chopping some vegetables.
“It’s okay,” Jacky reassured her, turning around to face her but not holding anything in his hand this time. “I haven’t cooked for a while now. It’s good practice.”
“Wow! You cooked? That’s great,” Xiao Jie commented, walking towards them. “How about making dessert for us tonight?”
“Stop taking advantage of him,” Wei Ru warned Xiao Jie before turning back to Jacky. “Seriously, you need to go back to the living room.”
“No. I don’t mind,” Jacky said. “Honest. Or are you suggesting that I can’t cook and we’ll have to order out anyway?”
“No, I didn’t mean that. I…”
“Come on,” Xiao Jie urged, grabbing Wei Ru’s hand and dragging her back to the living room. “Let the chef work his magic. You need to relax. He said he doesn’t mind. So let’s sit back and enjoy.”
“Jie, you need to have faith in ge,” Darren said, scooping over some more to make room for Wei Ru.
Wei Ru still feels unrest. She looks at Jacky still, not paying attention to what Darren’s saying.
Darren and Xiao Jie are sharing the orange that Darren was peeling a few minutes ago.
Jacky turns to face Wei Ru suddenly. “If you’re still feeling bad about this, how about helping with dessert?” He smiles at her.
“Okay. That’s fine,” Wei Ru said with much relief as she’s making her way back to Jacky.
“Mr. and Mrs. Lai won’t have to lift a finger when they get home. They just need to wait and eat. Isn’t that great?” Jacky asked, smiling at Wei Ru.
“Yea,” She replied, smiling back at Jacky. “Thanks!”
“Awww…aren’t they cute? Teaming up to make dinner for Mom and Pop,” Xiao Jie whispered to Darren a little too loudly.
“I totally agreed. I think we’re cute too!” Darren said mischievously.
Xiao Jie shoves her elbow towards Darren’s stomach.
“Aggghhh. I was just kidding!”
“I know!”
“And you still do it that hard?”
“That’s what friends are for.”
Xiao Jie laughs as Darren still holds his stomach.
Brittney, who only speaks to Jacky since they’re working together to make dinner, finally joins in on their nonsensical conversation.
“You know what?” She asked rhetorically. “We haven’t been this happy for a while. Isn’t that weird?”
“I agreed,” Xiao Jie said. “Although we’d always been goofing around, but not like today. Maybe it’s because we finally found…” She stops since Wei Ru looks at her from a distance.
“Or maybe it’s because I’m home again so this place stirs up,” Darren piped in.
“You wish!” Xiao Jie said, shooting him down.
Jacky smiles at the whole scene, agreeing with Brittney. He realizes that he hasn’t felt such an overwhelming sense of warmth from family bond for a long time now. He considers himself a family member mostly because he’d known this family for a long time now. It’s his first time coming to the house, but he feels like he’d already know this place somewhere along the way. Or is it because it’s what he dreams about the most?
© January 28th, 2007
Re-posted: Saturday, February 20th, 2010