Valentine’s Day soon came around for its yearly visit. Both Chun and Jiro had plans with Hebe and Selina while Calvin showed no signs of launching any sort of actions. One afternoon when they felt like stopping at a local beach to watch the sunset, the guys had a little talk while Hebe and Selina were busying themselves with collecting seashells.
“Don’t worry,” Jiro reassured Calvin, walking over to him and placing a hand on his shoulder. “When Valentine’s Day comes around, she’ll take pity on you and agree to go on a date with you.”
Chun sent Jiro an evil glare before turning to Calvin. “Don’t listen to him. Lighten up.”
Calvin was leaning on the rail, thinking to himself. He had been quite oblivious to their conversation until Jiro placed a hand on his shoulder. He didn’t know how to react except shrug.
“If you’re going to continue and play the ‘cool card’,” Jiro said, dragging out his voice for dramatic emphasis. “I suggest you go buy a suit and get ready for Qiao Qiao’s wedding with this one guy.”
That got Calvin and Chun’s attention. They turned to Jiro, not caring to look at the sparkling lights dancing on the water anymore.
“What?” Chun asked, finding his voice first.
“You guys are so out of it,” Jiro chided both, shaking his head in disbelief. “Even if I have a girlfriend, I’ve been paying attention.” That comment was meant for Chun—obviously.
“Get to the point already,” Chun urged impatiently.
“All right, all right,” Jiro said—though he was in no hurry. It was like he was still taking in the power of knowledge while looking out at the water looming ahead again. After a full minute—or so, he dramatically cleared his throat and continued where he left off. “There’s this one guy that keeps coming in to buy whatever. But that’s not the point. He’s just making an excuse to come by and visit her. I saw him already…good looking enough for our Qiao Qiao.”
“Qiao doesn’t care about that,” Chun jumped in, sounding defensive.
“Like Cinderella doesn’t care about her prince being handsome or not?” Jiro mocked.
“That’s just some fairytale,” Chun reasoned, wrinkling his face. “We’re talking about Beauty and the Beast here.”
Jiro pointed with his thumb at Calvin, but still looking straight at Chun, abandoning his water observing task already. “So he’s the beast?”
“That’s not the point.”
“Obviously not. Know why? Because the point is our friend here is going to lose soon.”
“What are you guys arguing about now?” Hebe questioned, having overheard their heated debate, and was making her way over to them.
“Yeah,” Selina chimed in. “I thought you said you wanted to comfort him.” That was meant for Jiro.
“Well, someone wants to test my patience,” Jiro argued, refusing to back down—and still staring at Chun.
“You’re supposed to help him, not scare him,” Chun said, his voice still determined, not wanting to back down either.
“Guys,” Calvin interfered at last. “I know what to do. You two don’t need to argue over my situation.”
Jiro scoffed. “You know what to do? Do you?”
“For such a talented artist, you’re quite impatient,” Chun mocked, still catching on to Jiro’s full rhythm, not slowing down one bit.
“Most artists become mad. And that’s the point I’m at right now.”
“Why don’t you two just quit it?” Hebe asked, giving them both a warning look.
“If Calvin over here knows what he’s doing, then I could step aside. But seeing that he’s…”
“Like you have any better plans…if you had, you already told us.”
“Guys…” Hebe’s voice interrupted them once more, her expression grim.
“I’m trying to tell him that he’s not any better off either.”
“If you want to spend Valentine’s Day alone, then by all means go ahead then.”
Chun grabbed Hebe’s arm as she walked away from them. “It’s not like I don’t want to cooperate, but he’s…”
Hebe yanked her hand away from Chun and gave him a sharp look. “Then go ahead and argue.”
“All right,” Jiro said, sighing out, frustrated still. Though it had to do with Chun and Selina wasn’t budging at all, he was not that unreasonable—nor that stubborn. “Even if I have to sabotage those two, I’ll do it for you man.” That was meant for Calvin.
“What?” Selina asked, alarmed. “What are you going to do?”
Jiro had on his mischievous smile then. It was the same one that said he was up to something. “You’ll see.”
The others exchanged looks among themselves, feeling puzzled about Jiro’s plan.
The day before Valentine’s Day, Jiro still showed no signs of carrying out his brilliant plan. It was getting everyone anxious, Calvin included—though he had insisted on doing it his own way. Jiro had overruled him and made him wait until that last minute. Chun got a message to meet up at Hebe’s house—where the others were. Chun had never been to Hebe’s house before, so he was a bit lost at first. He’d only been to her apartment several times to pick her up. He learned a while back that she was like them, moving out for work and only came home once in a while. Her house was a bit off to the countryside, a little too secluded. Yet not bad either. Following the advice from some locals, he’d abandoned his car where the cemented roads ended, and the dirt roads started. As he was stepping toward the correct path that led to Hebe’s house, the noise level was picking up. When he entered their front yard, he saw a line of kids chatting away excitedly. He could only catch bits and pieces of their conversation.
“You have to get in line!” One kid yelled his way as he spotted Hebe sitting at a table about a foot or so from the line.
Chun turned to the kid, seeing that the little boy was tugging on his shirt sleeve. He smiled at the kid, patting his head. “I’m not cutting. I just want to talk to her for a bit.”
“You’re lying!” The little kid yelled back, trying to shrug Chun’s hand off. “You just want to get in before closing time.”
Chun kept his hands to himself this time around, but he was still patient with the little kid. “I’m not lying.” Then he turned to Hebe, wanting to call to her and prove his purpose for the visit.
“Mister, you have to get in line like the kids,” Hebe spoke up before he could, shooting him down.
“See?” The little boy said, his voice sounding full of the ‘know-it-all’ attitude.
“Come on,” Chun tried again, ignoring the little kid. “Where are the others?”
“What are you talking about?” Hebe asked, still pretending to be clueless. Then she waved to the little boy. “Dong Dong, you can come in now.”
The little boy called Dong Dong shot Chun a victory look and marched toward the table facing Hebe, sitting down at the little chair. Chun was still standing there stumped, wondering what game Hebe was playing. Not only was she ignoring him, treating him like an outsider, but she had… Wait, Chun thought. Had he missed her birthday? No, her birthday wasn’t coming yet. Then…why? He studied her then, seeing how she was drawing away zealously, concentrating on every stroke to the point that she had tuned out the rest of the world. He’d seen that expression on her already, but only when she was brainstorming for her stories. He never knew she liked to paint as well. Then something dawned on him, her hair was long, longer than say last night when they said goodbye by her doorstep. She had her hair tied up in a ponytail. And she was wearing jeans clothing, her light jacket was jeans material and her shorts that barely covered her knees were also out of jeans material. Only her T-shirt was white with some fancy design on it.
“Strange…” Chun mumbled to himself.
Then a series of heavy metal music roused Chun out of his trance. He stared ahead to see Hebe picked up her cell phone after completing a stroke. It must have been a text message because she punched some keys and stared at them for a while before turning to look straight into Chun’s eyes. It was then that she decided to acknowledge his existence because she actually got up from her seat and approached Chun, her smile wry.
“Sorry about that,” She apologized. “I forgot that you were coming over.”
“You forgot?” Chun uttered, not sure if he should start crying right there and then. But decided against it as quickly as the thought was introduced in his mind. There were just too many kids around. Crying would be making too much of a scene.
Hebe shrugged then, ignoring his petrified mode. She turned to Dong Dong with a smile. “I’ll be back, okay?”
Dong Dong nodded obediently to Hebe—though Chun could see traces of annoyance on the little boy’s face. Like his time with the princess had been interrupted. And he was about to make Chun pay for it.
“Everyone be good and stay in line, okay?” Hebe told the other kids.
They all nodded in unison and uttered a united ‘Yes’ as obedient and as respectful as ever.
“Come on,” Hebe said to Chun, grabbing onto his arm and leading him into the house.
Chun didn’t know what to say except follow her—and letting her hold his hand like a little kid who was going to get lost any minute now. He was silently bracing himself and asking for more strength. How often could someone forget that her boyfriend was going to come over and visit? The worst part was that she had told him to.
“Here we are,” Hebe said, stopping in front of a wooden door.
Chun had lost track of what the other parts of the house were like. But it seemed like this place had been built around wood. All wood, just too much wood. And he did not have any more time to ponder. Because Hebe had pushed the door open and allowed him the view inside.
“Hey,” Jiro greeted him. “It took you forever all right.” And Jiro turned to Hebe before Chun could speak. “Thanks, girl. You can go back to the kids now.”
“Anytime, buddy,” Hebe returned, sounding so unlike herself. Then she turned to Chun with a smile. “Nice meeting you!”
“You…” Chun managed to croak out, too speechless for words—still.
Jiro grabbed Chun’s shoulder then and hauled Chun inside, waving Hebe away with another “cool dude” smile. And Hebe waved the peace sign Jiro’s way real quick before disappearing down the hall.
“What was that?” Chun finally found his voice, mostly through anger.
“You don’t know the half of it,” Jiro said, smiling like an idiot. Or at least Chun thought so.
“Hey, you’re here,” Hebe’s voice came into Chun’s ear at that time.
That got Chun’s attention because he turned toward the sound and saw her in…white. She could have gone to change after that little game. That wasn’t the strangest part. The strangest part was her coming from the opposite direction. Or was this house somehow connected that he did not know?
“What’s wrong?” Hebe asked, her expression full of concern.
“He met Hazel,” Jiro jumped in before Chun could respond.
“You met my sister?” Hebe asked Chun about the same time as Jiro’s answer.
“Sister?” Chun managed, still lost. Though his mind had already begun to deduce some parts.
“Twin sister,” Jiro said, still grinning like an idiot.
“Oh, no wonder!” Chun was suddenly lively again. His mind was no longer processing at a 0.00000001 rate. Everything made sense now if Hebe had a sister—twin sister. He turned to the others in the room to see them laughing at him. “Very funny, guys.”
“Pay up,” Jiro said, extending his hand toward Calvin.
It seemed that it had been planned quite craftily—and had been mutually agreed upon—since Calvin handed the bills over without a word.
“So you guys were all in on it?” Chun asked, his eyes darting back and forth between Calvin, Selina, and then Hebe.
Jiro cleared his throat, forcing Chun to look his way. “I had to lure her away as soon as she said that Hazel messaged her about you standing outside. We were just having a little fun. Come on, man. Like we weren’t shocked when we first came.”
“And when were you going to tell me about having a twin?” Chun asked, turning to Hebe again. It was like he needed a new target to regain himself.
“Quit it already,” Jiro said, placing his hand around Chun’s shoulder. “Let’s get started on the main point of why we’re here today.”
“I was just visiting when Jiro called so I thought I would use this chance to introduce Hazel to you all,” Hebe said.
“Yeah, forget it,” Jiro said, still attempting to disarm Chun’s hostility.
Chun shrugged Jiro’s hand off, but he wasn’t mad. He just gave them the look like he didn’t care. “Let’s get started then.”
They sat down around the table after Hebe shut the door. It felt too much like some formal conference that Jiro couldn’t help but smile, feeling so powerful.
“What’s your plan?” Selina urged, surprising everyone with her impatient tone.
“Relax,” Jiro reassured her, sliding a hand around her shoulders.
Selina craftily shook his hand off, feeling indifferent. “Valentine’s Day is tomorrow—in case you don’t remember.”
“Our plan begins tomorrow,” Jiro announced to them in his cheerful voice.
“What?” Chun exclaimed in disbelief. “That’s cutting things close. And we all have dates after work.”
“What kind of friend are you?” Jiro shot back. “You would go on a date to abandon your old buddy to soak up in some beer bottle?”
“Stop being dramatic already and get on with the plan.”
Jiro scoffed. “Well, excuse me for messing up your schedule, Mr.-I-have-a-date-tomorrow-and-can’t-help-my friend.” He rolled his eyes for emphasis. “Anyway, it won’t work unless we approach Qiao Qiao after work tomorrow.”
“Sure,” Chun muttered under his breath.
Jiro turned his sharp glare on Chun then. “Well, excuse me, but I don’t see you helping.”
“We told you of our plans but you turned it all down, remember?” Hebe reminded him.
“Thank you, Miss Tian,” Jiro snapped. “I think I like your cool sister better.”
“Hey!” Chun jumped in, wanting to defend his girlfriend.
“All right already,” Hebe took over. “Are we going to do this or not?”
“Okay,” Jiro said, his sarcasm put away already. “Here’s what we’re going to do tomorrow.”
The others had to lean in closer because Jiro’s voice was getting lower by the second.
© Thursday, July 7th, 2011
Posted: Monday, September 5th, 2011