Chapter 9

One day after work, Chun and Jiro came to visit Calvin like always, finding him in the kitchen, hovering over something. They had to come closer to get a better view of it. After a little tip-toeing and somewhat of paranoia from Jiro’s behavior, Chun settled down at the chair to Calvin’s left. Jiro took the seat to Calvin’s right.
“What are you doing man?” Jiro asked, getting straight to the point.
Calvin had a smile on his face. It was always a good sign.
“Doesn’t look like something for your project,” Jiro probed, tapping on the table.
“It’s not,” Calvin verified.
Jiro exchanged a look with Chun. “What is it then?”
“Can’t tell you guys or it wouldn’t be important anymore.”
“Aww….come on. We’re your buddies.”
“For Qiao Qiao?” Chun guessed.
“You’re direct all right,” Jiro mocked. “An idiot would know too. Where have you been?”
“Hey, no name calling.”
Jiro got up from his seat and went to get a soda from the fridge. He tossed Chun an apple juice bottle before making his way back to the table. “Last time I checked, you already have several names.”
Calvin had been ignoring the guys. He was too focused on the current task.
Jiro took a sip from his soda can before speaking up again. “Do you need us to pull some strings and get Lara out of the den so you can talk to Qiao Qiao? Or like call her up to meet you at some undisclosed location?”
“Lara’s a lion now?” Chun prompted, sending Jiro an amused look.
“It’s an expression,” Jiro snapped, taking another sip from his soda can.
“Don’t you guys have things to do like…” Calvin began, his voice passive – not out of sadness, but more like the familiarity of the past when Chun and Jiro were engaged in one of those senseless arguments again.
“Hey, we’re too tired out from work, we need to entertain ourselves with some fun activities,” Jiro defended himself. “Or maybe you could provide us with some show yourself.” His expression was too cunning to not notice.
“I’m going over to Qiao Qiao’s later,” Calvin informed them.
Jiro jumped up from his seat. “Wow! You’re fast all right.”
“He’s already late,” Chun reminded Jiro.
Jiro gave Chun a look. “Don’t bring up the past. We need to encourage him here, not stomp him down.”
Chun ignored Jiro. He turned to Calvin. “What do you have in mind?”
“I’m giving this to her for one,” Calvin replied. “And…”
“And?” Jiro prompted.
“You guys can come with me if you want.”
“That’s it?” Jiro looked beyond disappointed.
“If I say it now, what is left to see?” Calvin finally looked up at Jiro with a teasing smile on his face. “I thought you want to see a show.”
“Yeah,” Chun seconded, rubbing it in Jiro’s face on purpose.
“Forget you,” Jiro said, walking to the door.
Calvin and Chun exchanged a familiar smile before following Jiro.

*****

Calvin got out of his car and scanned his surroundings. Peaceful, he thought. He did not have to look back to know that Chun and Jiro were spying on him at a distance, still in the car. It was the only way he would let them watch.
“Here goes,” Calvin muttered under his breath.
“Calvin,” Lara greeted him when she opened the door for him.
Calvin stared past Lara’s shoulder. “Qiao Qiao in?”
“Went out with the others.”
Calvin had on the confused look. “Others?”
“From work.”
“Oh.”
“They’re back!”
Calvin did not need Lara’s exclaim. He saw a car parked and Joanne got out. She exchanged some words with someone and stepped back, waving goodbye. He made his way down the stairs and walked toward her. She didn’t see him until they were about a foot from one another.
“Hi,” Joanne said, sounding too casual. Formal even. Though her smile was as bright as always.
“I have something for you,” Calvin said, after a brief inspection. He wondered if she still wore bandages – since she was wearing gloves. But did not dare to ask. That would mean blowing Chun and Jiro’s cover. He only handed Joanne the box.
“What is it?” She asked, though she was already attacking the wrapping.
“I hope you like it,” Calvin said. Why was he so timid? It was not like he was ever scared of her. Or anyone. Okay, maybe a little.
It was a snow globe. Sort of. It was actually hand-made by Calvin, not store bought. Only the materials were. Inside, there was a house resembling the sand castle he and the guys once made for her – in addition to other decorations this time. And instead of white particles acting as snow, Calvin had used shimmering golden stars. The small kind of course so it would look delicate and nice – and not bulky if the bigger stars were used.
Joanne finally looked up at him – and smiled. Not the casual, formal smile – like she would use on the next door neighbor or someone who lived down the street. Like before. This one was genuine and heart-warming. “Thanks.” And she made her way to the stairs.
All Calvin did was stared. He did not know what to say. She did not invite him in for a cup of tea. Or anything – for that matter. And she did not turn back to look at him either. Stumped, Calvin made his way back to the car.
“Smooth,” Jiro commented when they buckled up.
“Shush,” Chun warned Jiro, seeing Calvin’s expression.
© Saturday, October 9th, 2010
Posted: Wednesday, March 16th, 2011