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Chapter 4

“What are you talking about?” Cyndi asked, focusing on Vic instead of the questioning eyes piercing at them from every direction.
Vic opened the box to reveal the contents inside, his temper still raging. Cyndi jumped back a step upon seeing the green snake. It took her seconds to realize the snake was a fake. Yet she still lost seconds of her composure. However, she did not dwell on those seconds. Her eyes focused on Vic again, still radiating that sharp, icy glare.
“What game are you playing now?” Cyndi demanded, relief that she hadn’t dropped her food plate during the previous initial shock.
“I should be asking you that question,” Vic returned, his composure still intact, not backing down to her innocent act.
Cyndi decided she had enough of his weirdness. She did not want to encourage his strange behavior any further. She turned and made her way toward the table where Jensen and Kimmy were sitting at. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You should know,” Vic continued, following her. He was still holding the box in his hands, but it was now closed.
The others who had stopped to observe the scene a minute ago had also moved onto their tables or whatever they were doing before the brief confrontation. They had decided to shrug it off as two people sparring on some childish pranks. They had better things to tend to than some silly game.
“What are you guys fighting over now?” Jensen asked as Cyndi sat down next to Kimmy.
That left an empty space next to Jensen and across the table from Cyndi. Vic had no choice but to sit down since he didn’t want to walk away and give up on the investigation. It seemed like Jensen and Kimmy were in their own world that they did not realize what had happened and hadn’t even heard the exchange between Vic and Cyndi. Though they were able to detect the obvious hostility on both parties’ faces but did not catch on any further than that.
“What’s that?” Jensen asked, pointing at the box in Vic’s hands.
“Her idea of a joke,” Vic replied, placing the box on the table surface with a dramatic thud. His attitude hadn’t improved at all. In fact, his mind was circulating in trying to crack Cyndi for more answers. He wasn’t ready to give up yet.
Jensen wrinkled his face in confusion. “What?”
“He’s the one playing some silly game again,” Cyndi retorted, taking a bite off of her toast.
Jensen handed Vic a green apple from his plate. “Here, your mood will improve soon, buddy.”
Vic didn’t take the apple. He gave Jensen an evil glare instead. “Whose side are you on?”
Jensen offered Vic a smile, attempting to ease the situation. “It’s too early in the morning to start an argument. Quit it already, man.”
“After two threatening notes and some rubber snake, I don’t think I could quit it.”
Jensen’s face was scrunched up in confusion again. “What?”
Vic shoved the box toward Jensen, but applied only enough force to make Jensen’s food plate slide away several inches. Jensen gave Vic the doubtful look but opened the box anyway. Kimmy’s screech came seconds later.
“It’s fake,” Cyndi reminded Kimmy, placing a hand on Kimmy’s shoulder to reassure her. She did not forget to give Vic an evil look either.
Vic glared right back – with dignity and determination on his face. He was not the guilty party, therefore, did not need to back off.
“What’s going on here?” Kimmy asked, looking at Vic for further clarifications.
“I don’t know what she’s trying to do,” Vic returned, his eyes obviously glaring at Cyndi – still. “But this is getting out of hand. The next time, she’ll find some snake somewhere.”
“She doesn’t like snakes,” Kimmy defended her friend.
“She doesn’t have to like it, just have to place it in a box and send it to me.”
“Hey!” Cyndi exploded, standing up and slamming the table with her right hand. “Enough already! I told you it wasn’t me.”
Vic scoffed, getting up as well. “Let’s see, who’s so aggressive and obsessive of winning that she refuses to let her friend hang around with the enemy?”
Cyndi scoffed right back, crossing her hands and still glaring at Vic with a murderous look. “Just because I’m motivated doesn’t mean I would do it.”
“Guys,” Jensen interfered, his eyes darting around the room. “You’re attracting attention.”
Kimmy took that time to slide her hands around Cyndi’s shoulder, attempting to calm her down.
Cyndi shrugged Kimmy’s hands off, her eyes still on Vic. “Well, if you’re so sure that someone’s out to get you, then why don’t you turn it over to the police? Or was that you who staged the whole thing and just wanted to grab some attention before the third round?”
Vic pointed his index finger at Cyndi then, his eyes containing a definite warning. “Winning this whole thing takes some brainwork and not some childish game. Unlike someone…like let’s say some shorty couldn’t handle the loss so she’s using this opportunity to distract me from working on the clues.”
Cyndi reached across the table at Vic. “Why you…”
But Cyndi’s little move was thwarted by Kimmy pulling her back. Kimmy also sent Jensen a look, indicating that he should do his part in help easing the matter as well. Jensen turned to Vic then – about to open his mouth.
“Forget it,” Vic said, grabbing the box and marching out of the place altogether.
“I’ll go see what’s going on,” Jensen said before scurrying after Vic.

*****

A week later, Vic was seen walking along within the park. The same park they held the first round. And he was actually pacing, waiting for someone. Not Jensen. Not in a million of years would it be Cyndi. But it was a girl when she finally arrived. They embraced briefly and then he had one hand around her shoulders as they walked away from the park together. It also happened that Cyndi saw them as she was passing by the place – on her way to a shopping center nearby. She was bored and needed some distraction. She was alone because Kimmy was already there at the mall – with Jensen. Somehow, Jensen and Kimmy got together already. Yet Vic and Cyndi were still on unspeakable terms. That didn’t matter, Cyndi didn’t want to care. He was the unreasonable one, not her.
When she arrived at the mall, she bumped into Jensen and Kimmy at a food court. They were walking out with some ice cream cones. Cyndi didn’t mean to bump into them since she had turned down their invitation to go together earlier.
“Hey,” Kimmy called out to Cyndi. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” Cyndi replied. “I was bored so I thought I come here as well.”
“Want to hang around with us?” Jensen offered, his smile friendly.
Cyndi appreciated that they did not hold hands or act close in front of her when they spotted her. But she wasn’t going to join them on this supposedly fun shopping trip and ruin their moods. She knew better – and could differentiate between a polite invitation and a real one.
“No,” Cyndi answered, shaking her head at the same time. “You two go ahead. I want to go alone.”
“Okay then,” Kimmy said, not attempting to be polite any further.
Cyndi couldn’t blame them. She turned and walked in the opposite direction, her mind a buzz. She kept walking and walking, until she bumped into someone. Okay, two people to be exact. Well, not really bumped into them. It just so happened that she saw them when she was at the other end of the mall and was about to turn at the curve to see the other side of the mall on her way back. They didn’t see her. They were looking at some jewelry set through a display case. It was Vic and this one other girl. The same girl at the park with him. For some reason, they must have made it to the mall. They soon entered that jewelry store and he spoke to one of the sales rep hence her bringing out the set for the girl to see. Vic’s smile toward the girl was one that Cyndi never witnessed before. It was too gentle and kind. Two combinations that she could never imagine on him. Yet it was happening right in front of her eyes. And she was feeling this strange surge of rage rushing up her upon seeing Vic helping the girl put the necklace on.
Shaking herself slightly, Cyndi forced herself to stop staring and moved on. She got better things to do than stalk. And if he as half as caught her stalking, she would never be able to live it down. Curiosity was one thing. But getting caught doing it? Not her style.

*****

Another week passed by and Cyndi saw Vic in front of the park with the same girl again. She tried to avoid the others at all cost all week since the last encounter. She was either in the library or was shut in her hotel room, reading. Or tried to read. Yet she was just out and about to get fresh air when she witnessed Vic and the other girl hugging again. A sight she still couldn’t get used to, especially with Vic being nice to some girl. He was barely nice to Kimmy – or more like being polite. But this girl? No barriers whatsoever. After they hugged, they exchanged some gift bags. Cyndi stared a little more before making her way back to the hotel, not wanting Vic to look up and catch her. It was too risky. She made it back in time for an early dinner. It was some sort of gathering event the host attempted to get everyone together. For whatever reason it was, Cyndi had forgotten already. Vic walked in about fifteen minutes later.
“Hey,” Jensen said to Vic.
Vic just nodded and took a seat nearby, not next to Jensen since Kimmy was next to Jensen at the moment. Vic wanted to show his considerate side by giving them some space. Cyndi was sitting at a distance as well, but on Kimmy’s other side. Though Cyndi had spied a little when Vic walked in and still saw the bag in his hand. The same bag she saw the girl gave him at the park. She made a little face before looking at the host again, trying to tune in to whatever the man was getting at.
For fifteen minutes more and they were able to eat, not forced to listen to the host anymore. After getting up to get their own food from the buffet, they shared a table like once upon a time. Okay, it was about two weeks ago. This time, it was a circular table so Vic and Cyndi weren’t that close together. And for some reason, Cyndi was glad. She didn’t want to sit alone during meal time, but didn’t want to see Vic’s face either. Especially when he was resuming his usual teasing look again. She had about enough of that one. Why couldn’t he act normal like when he was in front of that girl? Or was this his real persona and he was just using that fake exterior to impress that girl? But she swore he looked sincere when he was smiling at the girl.
“You sent your sister off already?” Jensen asked after ten minutes more of talking to Kimmy – and eating.
Vic nodded. “Yeah.”
“Sister?” Cyndi jumped in, not realizing she had spoken out loud.
Jensen turned to her and nodded. “She was here for the past two weeks, you know. Hard to miss.”
Vic didn’t care to answer. He was still on his silent strike. The shorty had worked his temper up good. There was one thing for challenging him. And another for playing those silly games like dishing out threats – and not having the bravery to admitting it at all.
“That was his sister?” Cyndi repeated, still not believing it.
“Can’t believe that others have family members?” Jensen returned, still talking for Vic.
“No, it’s not that,” Cyndi rushed to explain.
“I’m going upstairs,” Vic told Jensen – and he was gone, not forgetting to take his gift bag with him.
“Hey…you’re not finished,” Jensen said, his tone worried.
“Finish it for me then.”
And Vic was so kidding. Jensen was sensitive about germs. Even more sensitive than him.

*****

Vic made his way upstairs, feeling he could explode if he didn’t get away. So the shorty was spying on him. He had a hunch. If not, how would she know who Jensen was talking about when she wasn’t around that much these past two weeks?
As Vic was thinking those thoughts and working up a temper – and having reached the level of his room, he spotted some guy in a baseball hat walking by. He stepped aside to make way for the other person since that guy was carrying a toolbox. Must be one of the maintenance crew receiving a call from someone. He waited until the other was a distance from him before going on his way again. As he pulled out his key card, he could hear some footsteps making its way toward him. He turned around in time to see the guy in the baseball hat coming back. In fact, coming too close to him. Before he could dodge out of the way, he felt a sting at a spot above his waist. Then darkness.
© Thursday, July 28th, 2011
Posted: Thursday, May 24th, 2012

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