Three days later, the rain hit hard. The streets were deserted. Everyone was inside, hiding from the rain. Because it wasn’t the typical rain the planet was used to. It was a storm. Will and Sandrine were seen painting in their apartment. They had decided to redo the paint so it would be more suitable to their taste. Angela wasn’t around. She’d gone out temporarily to pick up some items. Even in the storm. She wasn’t afraid of the storm. She was used to it. Or so she claimed when she passed Debra on the way down.
“Heading out?” Wallace asked, smiling her way as he spotted her with just an umbrella in hand.
“Just grabbing some items,” Angela replied.
It took Angela half an hour. Some shops were still opened because the owners didn’t find any harm, considering how they were safely inside. Aside from a few shops braving the storm, the rest–especially the market–were closed. Angela ran into Calvin on the way back. He was drenched from the rain. His umbrella wasn’t helping much. It wasn’t as durable as hers. They ended up sharing the umbrella and headed back to her place. She insisted, knowing the storm would hit hard this time.
“You can help us paint,” Angela told Calvin as they entered the building.
“Paint?” Calvin asked, puzzled.
“Yeah, we’re redecorating our place.”
They ran into Wallace again. Or at least it was Angela’s second time walking past Wallace.
“I couldn’t imagine anyone else out there right now,” Wallace teased as he saw Angela walking with Calvin.
“Some people are just naturally clueless about our weather,” Angela joked, returning Wallace’s smile.
Calvin didn’t say anything. He just continued upstairs as Angela turned to exchange those few words with Wallace. Angela and Wallace didn’t say anything else after that. Angela faced forward and followed Calvin as Wallace returned to whatever he was doing. Yet while they were heading upstairs, both Angela and Calvin were able to hear Debra’s voice nagging Wallace about something. Apparently, she had overheard a bit of Angela’s conversation and sounded annoyed, especially with how Angela and Wallace were “flirting with one another” as Debra had put it. Angela smiled and increased her steps. She wasn’t fearing Debra’s wrath but was just amused with how Wallace didn’t seem to catch on to Debra’s jealousy.
“Hey, I’m back,” Angela announced to Will and Sandrine as she entered.
“Hey,” Sandrine greeted her. That was when Sandrine realized Calvin was present. She dropped her brush and rushed over to greet Calvin. “Hi, Calvin. It’s nice to have you here with us! We’re redecorating and need all the help we can!”
Sandrine’s enthusiasm wasn’t lost on them all. Calvin felt his mood lightening. He returned her smile before speaking up.
“I’m glad to help,” Calvin said.
“Come on, dig in,” Angela urged, gesturing toward the opposite wall from where Will and Sandrine were working on earlier.
“You want anything to drink?” Will asked from his side.
“I’m good,” Calvin returned.
“I’ll get you a glass of water,” Sandrine said. She flashed him another sweet smile before heading toward the kitchen area to get him the “said” water. She returned soon after, placing the glass of water on the table far away from their work area. “It’s here.”
Calvin nodded and muttered a word of gratitude before helping Angela. Sandrine returned to Will’s side and helped him like before. The four of them worked for an hour before taking a break. They only spoke up to discuss the painting task. So when the break came around, their conversation expanded toward many other subjects.
“It’s too bad the traditional festivals are canceled just because of those incidents,” Calvin was saying as he took a sip of water. “I mean, I kept hearing the neighbors talk about it. I really want to experience something like that for once.”
“Maybe we could take you to another town and show you theirs,” Sandrine said helpfully, trying to cheer Calvin up.
“It wouldn’t be the same,” Calvin said.
Sandrine’s smile turned off then. It was like she was running out of ideas. Her eyes were still moving, showing that her mind was probably spinning to find another way. Calvin saw what he’d done so he cleared his throat to break the somewhat intense atmosphere.
“But it’s okay,” Calvin said, smiling. “Rules are rules, right? I’ll just have to live it through others’ stories.”
“Hmm…” Angela murmured. She had one hand up caressing her chin. It was like she was in a thinking mode–just like Sandrine. “Supposed, we could resurrect the traditional festivals.”
“Are you kidding?” Will asked. “Once the city hall officials had already decided, no one could change their minds.”
Angela was still in her thinking mode. “There’s another way.”
“What?” Will’s voice wasn’t annoyance but it had edged toward worry. “I know that look. This can’t be good.”
Sandrine had stopped darting her eyes back and forth. She seemed to have recognized Angela’s expression as well. She was now biting her nails and staring anxiously at Angela, waiting for Angela to enlighten them of her latest grand plan. Calvin was also looking at Angela, pondering what was so unnerving about Angela’s plan that could cause the other two to be so disturbed by it.
“A petition,” Angela said at long last.
It was actually just mere seconds later. Yet it seemed like an eternity because of Will and Sandrine’s expressions.
“A petition?” Calvin repeated, not being able to believe that Will and Sandrine were making a big deal out of it.
“Yeah, don’t you guys have those?” Angela asked, turning to Calvin.
“Yeah,” Calvin responded. “We actually abuse those to death.”
“Really?” Sandrine asked, her disbelief reflecting on her face. “Like you wouldn’t get in trouble for it?”
Calvin shook his head, smiling. “It’s been popular for a while now.”
Calvin meant to say several hundred years ago, but he didn’t want to imply that their planet was less evolved so he had opted for a vague answer.
“Popular?” Sandrine said, still unsure.
Calvin shrugged. “What can I say? My planet seriously takes advantage of what others would consider as a privilege.”
“So does that mean you’re in with the petition?” Angela asked, her smile cunning all of a sudden.
“It depends,” Calvin said, although he’d been the one acting passive or more like there was nothing to panic about when he heard about the petition idea.
Angela’s eyebrows came together in confusion. “On what?”
“If it’s going to get you in trouble.”
Angela was still looking at him in puzzlement. It was like she thought he was the fearless one. Now?
“I mean on my planet, we wouldn’t get punished unless it’s some conspiracy or outright obnoxious sabotaging. But here? I wouldn’t want you to go through all the trouble just because I want to see a traditional festival with my own eyes.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Angela said, flashing on her bright smile again. It was like she finally forgave Calvin for his hesitation seconds ago. “I know what I’m doing.”
Angela was still smiling secretively to herself, not revealing her trick quite yet. Calvin was able to see Will and Sandrine exchanging a worried look between the two of them.
Five more days of rain later, Angela was able to collect quite a number of signatures due to her persuasion skills. The fact that she got the city hall officials to agree with her was a miracle already–according to Will and Sandrine’s words. And what shocked Debra the most was how Wallace was the first to sign. Yes, Wallace was the first to sign–and not Will or Sandrine. Although Will and Sandrine had shown their support the minute they learned that the city hall officials had allowed Angela to collect signatures. Their term was for Angela to collect at least one hundred signatures. Considering their population, that was already a hard task. Not to mention the ghost stories and other phenomenal tales weaved and spread these past few years had scared the citizens into obeying an earlier curfew without any fuss. Yet to persuade them to attend the traditional festivals that had caused two deaths? Impossible. So after Angela had followed the usual procedures and acquired the appropriate documents from the registrar, she and her two friends exited the building. Will and Sandrine were going to sign it for Angela after they arrived at their apartment. What changed the situation was when they bumped into Wallace in the front hall. He had whipped a pen out of his pants pocket and signed it without any hesitation after Angela explained to him what was going on. That had shocked even Will and Sandrine, not just Debra. Then Debra’s jealousy kicked in again after the initial shock. That was why she didn’t care to sign Angela’s petition. At least not at first. Will and Sandrine became the second and third citizens who signed. Calvin didn’t need to sign since he wasn’t officially part of their town yet. He was considered a guest.
“I’m only doing this because I want to see some cheerfulness around here after all these ridiculous rainy weather,” Debra said, pouting as she signed the petition on Day 7.
Angela smiled and thanked her. And the irony of Debra’s comment wasn’t lost on Angela either, but she had kept her amused expression turned off on purpose. She didn’t want to piss Debra off–after Debra had finally caved in and only needed an excuse as a way out.
“Only twenty-five more signatures now,” Angela said hopefully as she sat down at the sofa in the living room.
“Too bad I couldn’t sign,” Calvin said. “After all you’ve been through for me.”
Angela had on a sly smile. “I’m not doing it for you. I’m merely taking a challenge.”
“Fair enough,” Calvin returned, having caught on to her teasing.
“I heard that Debra finally signed,” Wallace said as he entered the apartment at that time.
The doorbell had ringed seconds before and Will had opened the door for Wallace.
Angela shrugged and tossed her hair behind her shoulders. “Probably couldn’t resist my charm.”
Wallace let out a chuckle at her attempt to joke. He sat down on the sofa next to Angela before speaking up again. “How many signatures do you need?”
“Twenty-five,” Angela answered, smiling ear to ear.
“I’ll see what I can do,” Wallace said, reaching for the petition in Angela’s hand.
Angela allowed the paper to slip from her grasp as she stared at Wallace in amazement. “You’re recruiting citizens for me?”
Wallace shrugged. “I have nothing to do lately anyway.”
Angela seemed satisfied with his answer yet Calvin wasn’t so pleased. He wasn’t exuding any sort of jealousy toward Angela or Wallace like how Debra had often let on these past few days upon learning that Angela and Wallace got along unusually well. What Calvin was exuding seemed to be along the line of unease. It was like he was trying to figure out a possible motive from Wallace’s charitable efforts.
Wallace got the rest of the twenty-five signatures for Angela by Day 10. Angela, Will, and Sandrine were no longer surprised by Wallace’s capabilities and connections. After all, he was in business, his easygoing personality and persuasion skills had surpassed the majority from this town. Yet his eagerness to get this petition signed had made Calvin even more suspicious of the matter. It wasn’t like the city hall had forced a deadline on Angela. They had told her whenever she could finally reach the goal they set, she could hand in the petition at any time. That was also why Calvin decided to move his suspicions from passive observance to active searching. And was caught red-handed in the end.
“What are you doing here?” Angela’s voice exclaimed the minute she saw Calvin snooping around in Wallace’s apartment.
Yes, Calvin’s plan was to sneak into Wallace’s apartment and find some source of conspiracy lurking within all those furniture. If only he hadn’t forgotten to lock the door in his haste. Then he remembered that Wallace hadn’t locked his door either, that was why he had to leave it like that to throw off suspicion. He didn’t realize someone would enter. Because he knew Wallace wouldn’t be back until later.
“Uh, what are you doing here then?” Calvin managed, his mind zooming to find an answer to dodge this fiasco.
“I was going to ask Wallace to go celebrate with us,” Angela responded, her eyes still staring at Calvin–quite sharply actually. “Your turn.”
“I…uh…” Calvin stumbled.
Just when Angela was going to outright confront Calvin, they heard the doorknob being turned. Panicked, Angela and Calvin exchanged a look before Angela shoved Calvin into the nearby closet and shut that door. Angela turned around in time to see Wallace entering.
“Hey!” Wallace greeted her, his smile shining bright. Yet there was also a trace of surprise seen on his face.
“I came over to invite you out for a celebration with the three of us,” Angela said, returning his smile. Then she had on a somewhat guilty look. “And your place is such a clutter so I couldn’t resist and rearrange some stuff for you.”
A sheepish look appeared on Wallace’s face then. “I live alone, why need to clean up?”
Angela shrugged. “Or maybe I should have let Debra do the honor.” She scanned the room once more. “Hey, I didn’t do much so she still has a lot to work on.”
Wallace’s smile turned off then. “She’s always pestering like some old killjoy.”
Angela had caught on to Wallace’s discomfort so she gestured toward the door. “How about that celebration?”
Wallace checked his watch. “Actually, I have to go meet up with a customer. I’m just coming back to get some files and samples. How about later tonight?”
Angela nodded. “That’s fine.”
“Great then,” Wallace said.
Angela waited for him to retrieve the said files and samples before leaving the apartment with him. They descended the stairs. Angela told him she was heading toward the market anyway so they went together. Wallace was more than glad. So they ended up talking and joking around the rest of the way. She even took the time to ask what he wanted to eat later so she could prepare them.
Back in Wallace’s apartment, Calvin exited the closet after he was sure Angela and Wallace were long gone already. He didn’t know what to make of Angela’s action earlier, but he was glad she did it. Was it instinct? He didn’t know. He would have to ask her later. Knowing he couldn’t risk exposure, he went upstairs to Angela’s apartment instead of heading down as he had intended after the search.
© Wednesday, April 15th, 2015
Posted: Friday, May 22nd, 2015