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Chapter 8

It was until Hebe, Selina, and Lara left that Chun and Jiro finally had the chance at a conversation with Joanne in the living room. Calvin, of course, was in his room – resting. Chun had made an excuse about some catching up to the others, especially Lara, to get the other girls out of their hair for the time being. Hebe and Selina already knew about Chun and Jiro’s plan. It was not about finding out if one side or the other had won the bet. But it was for their friends’ sakes. They had reassured Lara that they would drop Joanne off later.
“So…” Jiro began, feeling weird that he was even tongue-tied. “I guess you moved on?”
Joanne had a puzzled look on her face. “What are you guys talking about?”
“Ah Ru, of course.”
Joanne smiled.
Chun and Jiro exchanged a look. They were sitting on either sides of her, waiting for her to elaborate.
“I think it was good that I moved out,” Joanne continued. “Because I realized how silly I was. I thought by having a chance to be with Ah Ru, I could have some effect on him. But I was just being a pest, forcing him into acknowledging my existence.”
“Been reading his novels lately?” Jiro jumped in, wondering why Joanne was being so flowery.
Joanne smiled again – as if remembering the familiarity of how they were in the past months. “It’s not just that. I think I could move on now. I need to let go so I wouldn’t burden anyone or make them worry for me. I was so happy when I found out that even Da Dong supported me in the matter. But now I realized I was wrong in thinking that. I was so selfish, allowing Ah Ru’s best friends to turn against him. So…I hope that you guys won’t give him a hard time anymore. Seeing how everyone’s getting along today, I feel very relief.”
Chun knew Joanne was honest about her feelings. Seeing her placid state at that point, he knew she had thought it through.
“But…” Jiro uttered.
“We’ll always be friends, right?” Joanne asked, placing a hand on Jiro’s.
Jiro nodded.
At that moment, some movements could be heard down the hallway. They looked up in time to see Calvin’s door opening and closing. It was like he had made a trip to the bathroom and was just getting back into bed. The light to his room flicked off seconds later, so they focused their attention to the conversation once more.
“The reason we even pressure Ah Ru into acknowledging your feelings for him is because we know he cares for you more than he’s willing to admit,” Chun spoke up again.
Joanne shook her head, turning to Chun. “You don’t have to reassure me anymore.”
Chun did not respond immediately. He reached into his pocket, pulling out a wrapped up towel. The same one that he had tucked away upon the girls’ arrival. “You know why his hand was injured earlier?” He unfolded the towel, revealing the broken pieces – some pieces still caked in blood, though the blood had dried up.
“It’s your wind chime,” Jiro explained, seeing that Joanne was running her fingers through the pieces. “It blew out the window by accident and he ran outside like a maniac to retrieve it, knowing it was already broken. And…”
Jiro did not have to continue. Joanne’s eyes were already brimming with tears. Chun reached a hand over and patted her shoulder.

*****

The rest of the week went by without anyone of them encountering Joanne again. Chun, Hebe, Jiro, and Selina took turns questioning Lara about her whereabouts but were turned down. It seemed like Lara was a loyal friend after all – despite the fact that she was such a careless person. They had no choice but wait until Joanne came back. As for Calvin, he was not able to use work to distract himself any further since he was injured. Instead, the memories of the past months continued to haunt him more and more. The fact that he decided to pick up Chun’s novel to read at last was not helping situations either.
It was until the end of the week that Joanne reappeared again. She came to Chun and Jiro’s house first. Chun was the one opening the door for her. Both guys were more than glad to see her, knowing she was all right.
“Lara earned my respect already,” Jiro said when they all settled down at the sofa in the living room.
Joanne smiled, knowing it was Jiro’s way of saying how much he’d gone through with trying to get past Lara.
Jiro pointed to the box in Joanne’s hand. “Is that for me?”
“Well…” She opened it, revealing a wind chime made out of seashells.
Jiro’s eyes shot up to look at Joanne. “You seriously went home and reconstructed the whole thing?”
“It’s not the same, but I did my best.”
“You’re crazy.”
“You guys said it already. Don’t want him to touch anything until his hands are better again, right?”
“True, but did you have to go to that extreme?”
Joanne shrugged. “He has work later, wouldn’t want him to be distracted doing this when he could use his hands again, right?” She closed the box again, handing it to Jiro. “Give it to him but don’t tell him I did it, okay?”
Chun and Jiro exchanged a look – something they were doing more and more in recent days.
“Then what’s the point?” Jiro asked – at last. “I thought you’re going to…”
“I just don’t want him to feel bad about it.”
“And saying that we did it for him would make him feel better?”
“That’s different. You guys are his best friends.”
“You’re putting us in the hard spot here.” Though he said that but he took the box from Joanne anyway.
“What are you going to do now?” Chun asked, setting a glass of water down in front of Joanne.
Joanne shrugged. “Resume work.”
“What about Ah Ru?” Jiro jumped in. “You know how you both are? You’re killing us with your rate.”
Joanne got up at that time and headed for the door. “I have to get home and finish one of my creations. That was the excuse I gave so I could have the whole week off.”
Chun and Jiro followed her. Jiro had set the box down on the coffee table already.
“Qiao Qiao,” Jiro called out, grabbing a hold of her arm.
Joanne winced at that time – though she did not let out any sound to indicate she was in pain. Chun had caught on to her expression. He grabbed her right hand with his left, pulling her glove off with his right hand. Jiro gasped, pulling her other glove off also. Except for her thumbs, the rest of her fingers were covered in bandages. It was like she was wearing a ring on every single finger.
“You are crazy,” Jiro muttered.
“That’s why you’re not supposed to tell him,” Joanne said, putting her gloves back on. “And it wasn’t all because of the wind chime. I had to make some items for the shop as well.”
Chun knew she was trying to lessen the effects, but he could not help blaming himself. Why did he even tell her in the first place? Now, she was hurting herself to restore a piece of the past – which was not even the past anymore.
“I’m going home now,” Joanne declared again. “You guys must not tell him, okay?”
Chun and Jiro nodded at last, knowing she was serious. With another smile, she disappeared from their sight.
“This is just great,” Jiro said, crashing down at the sofa a minute later.
“Want to deliver it to him tonight?” Chun asked, pointing at the box on the table.
Jiro yawned. “Why?”
“If we don’t do it now, he might try to restore the pieces himself. And he might hurt himself once again. Then it would be too ironic because we would be back in the same spot, right?”
Jiro nodded. “Good point.” He got up and disappeared down the hall. “I’ll call the girls and tell them we’ll be late.”

*****

Chun and Jiro arrived at Calvin’s house to find Calvin sitting at the living room, staring into space. Calvin had taken his bandages off already. His hands seemed already healed. He was not someone who liked to daydream. Why was he looking so out of it?
“Hey, man,” Jiro said, sitting down next to Calvin and waving a box in front of his face. “Look what we got for you.”
Calvin took the box from Jiro, opening it slowly. He took the wind chime out cautiously, not believing his eyes. He knew it wasn’t exactly like the other one, but it was almost like it.
“Surprised?” Jiro asked, his proud smile on.
Calvin turned to Jiro. “Da Dong…”
Jiro clapped Calvin’s shoulder. “What are friends for, right?”
“How did you manage it?”
“Hey, it’s art after all. Can’t be so hard.”
Chun was still standing there, watching Calvin and Jiro’s exchange. He was struggling inside. Should he?
Jiro straightened up at that time and put on a serious look. He cleared his throat before speaking up. “Now that you’re almost recovering, let’s get going with this whole thing.”
“What are you talking about?” Calvin asked, confused.
“Come on now. Stop beating around the bushes. I’m tired of the games or whatever you’re doing. It’s very obvious that you care for Qiao Qiao, so why don’t you pursue her instead of sitting around sulking? What’s the point of pretending?”
Calvin shifted in his seat, staring into space again. He absent-mindedly closed the box in his hand and placed it on the table. “It’s too late.”
“What do you mean it’s too late?” Jiro exclaimed.
“Da Dong,” Chun called out in his usual warning voice.
“She said it herself the other day,” Calvin continued, his voice full of hopelessness.
“She said it, but you don’t have to listen to her,” Jiro urged. “For someone who’s such a workaholic like you, I can’t believe you’re giving up so easily.”
Calvin still had that haunting look in his eyes. He looked passive yet there was so much going on inside just through his eyes. “She won’t forgive me.”
“How would you know?”
“I just know.”
Jiro turned to Chun with a fierce look. “Say something, will you?”
Chun finally pulled a chair up and sat down, facing Calvin and Jiro. He did not sit on the sofa next to Calvin though there was more than enough space. “You know who did that?”
Calvin turned to the box Chun was pointing at. As acknowledgment seethed in, he turned to Chun. “You mean…”
“Even if Da Dong’s a genius with anything art related, I don’t think he could reconstruct it with no scars on his hands.” Chun sighed out. “And we promised her not to say anything but seeing you like this, I have to say it.”
Jiro placed a hand on Calvin’s shoulder at that time. “You have to try harder than this. Where is your confidence?”
“That’s right. You can’t let her down. She’s a girl after all. What do you expect her to do? She already pushed her pride aside and tried to get your attention. She can’t continue it alone if you’re acting like this.”
Calvin took in a deep breath, feeling his strength slowly coming back to him. Was it because of Chun and Jiro’s encouraging words? Or the glint of hope growing brighter, knowing that Joanne still cared for him? He knew he could not let anyone down. Everyone tried so hard to help him yet he had brushed their warnings and encouragements aside, acting ungrateful. The worst of all, hurting Joanne.
“Once you decided, you cannot back down,” Jiro warned, seeing signs of life creeping back into Calvin’s face. “If you hurt her, you’ll know what happens to you.”
“Da Dong,” Chun called out – the same usual tone. “Stop being dramatic.”
“I’m supporting him here. But I honestly want to know why he kept stepping forward and then jump ten steps back.”
“I admit I was stupid to listen to others,” Calvin confessed, his voice full of shame.
Chun and Jiro quit their attacks of one another, but turned to look at Calvin again.
“What?” Jiro asked.
“Who?” Chun followed.
“People at work, people in general,” Calvin replied, not knowing where to begin.
“Society,” Chun summed up.
Calvin nodded.
“You know what? People in our town could account for half of the traditions already and they don’t mind, and you care about some lame city people’s perception?” Jiro asked. “Who cares? What only matters is if you like her or not. If you don’t, we can’t change it. But if you do, that’s your matter, not anyone’s. I thought you’re smarter than that.”
“Da Dong,” Chun gritted his teeth.
“I’m trying to knock some sense into him here.”
“What is your final decision then?” Chun asked, his attention on Calvin, ignoring Jiro’s taunting on purpose.
Calvin straightened up. “I have to make her believe I’m serious this time, don’t I?”
“Get rid of Vanessa first,” Jiro jumped in. “It’ll be quite convincing if she’s always around.”
The other two knew very well that was Jiro’s attempt at sarcasm like many times before.
“The project’s over,” Calvin said. “She won’t bother me anymore.”
“Or so you think,” Jiro corrected him.
“I’ll talk to her and straighten her out if she continues to bother me.”
“By not letting her come here anymore, right?”
Calvin nodded. “I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
“You better.”
“Then…”
Jiro put a hand up to stop Calvin. “When was the last time you pursue someone? Things have definitely changed now so let’s go over some basics…”
“It doesn’t matter if things have changed,” Chun interrupted him. “Qiao Qiao never changes. That’s the most important thing.”
“Sure,” Jiro snapped. Then he got up from the sofa. “Let’s get out of here and go celebrate.”
“Aren’t you getting ahead of yourself?” Chun asked, though he had gotten up and was following Jiro to the door.
“Hey, not celebrating the success. Just that we have our friend back.”
Chun gave Jiro a look – yes, the familiar look that said something along the line of Jiro being a ‘Drama King’ again. “He was never gone, you know.”
“He was. At least he was behaving so strange lately.”
Chun shook his head, not wanting to argue with Jiro anymore. “Whatever, man.”
Calvin had joined them by the door already. The three of them took Jiro’s car and met up with the girls at Hebe’s apartment complex before heading to a shopping center nearby. It was the same routine of the girls having a chance to torture the guys with the wait and the many bags. However, they did not complain. Calvin was actually on the hunt for something. The others did not question his motives when he was stopping at some shops. They were only glad he was lively again.
© Monday, October 4th, 2010
Posted: Saturday, November 27th, 2010

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