Chapter 5

Laughter filled the room and spread toward the rest of the apartment as Claudia continued to make a face at the screen. Cyndi had temporarily forgiven Claudia for her reckless moves after they settled down to watch some TV programs via satellite. It was one of those programs from the earthlings’ place and not theirs. They didn’t care to make their own shows yet. In fact, their people encouraged other creative activities, not wanting to reinvent the wheel–or so one of those earthlings’ phrases said–hence not wanting to meddle into stuff they found the earthlings already did. The show they were watching just happened to be some alien-related one. Claudia’s exaggerated expression had made things even funnier. Contrary to their moods, they were actually watching a horror. But because of the way the aliens were projected, it made them ten times more amused than scared.

“I can’t believe they would think we look like this,” Claudia blurted out–one of her familiar phrases whenever they checked out another one of those alien movies–or weird documentaries.

Cyndi nodded in agreement. “But you got to admit they tried and it sells. If not, why would they keep creating the movies or shows talking about aliens?”

Claudia passed Cyndi the chips bag again as she reached for the remote to change the channel. “But don’t they go around researching us too?”

“It has been too long since they got their people ingrained with the idea of us or anyone else out there looking like these green monsters, so why change it? It would be too much explanation and you know they’re lazy.”

Cyndi paused, reaching for the popcorn bowl before continuing. “Oh yeah, confidential, as the governments over there loved to dish out.”

That got Claudia rolling on the floor again though it wasn’t funny. Well, it wasn’t funny to those earthlings if they knew they were being made fun of.

“But seriously though,” Claudia said when she finally recovered from her laughing fit. “It’s a shame that we can’t be friends with those two guys. They’re actually really cute.”

Cyndi rolled her eyes, her moods returning to its dark ones. Claudia knew she had stepped past the line again. Yet she didn’t want to give up on convincing Cyndi that it was a good way to extract information.

“How bad could it be?” Claudia continued, her voice edging toward its persuasive mode.

Cyndi gave Claudia her famous glare. “You really want to find out?”

Claudia had on her amused expression. “Are you getting paranoid like those earthlings and their shows?”

“Well, we have criminals here too, you know,” Cyndi defended herself.

That was the other difference between their planet and the earthling’s. Their crime rate was almost nonexistent. Yet it wasn’t impossible. It was then that Cyndi felt foolish for even thinking too much of that dream. Perhaps Claudia’s wild theories combined with her own paranoia were the catalysts for the endless cycle. Claudia was right. Why was she stopping herself from mingling with those two? Perhaps she’d seen them around the area and somehow they had moved here. People relocating wasn’t too weird. But she couldn’t understand why they weren’t in the local records.

“Maybe you’re right,” Cyndi finally said. “We should find out more about them.”

“That’s the attitude,” Claudia said, her victory smile on.

Cyndi pointed at Claudia at that time. “But I’m warning you, don’t set up dates with them or whatever you’re going to do.”

Claudia did a little salute–earthlings’ military-style salute that was. Then the girls ended up watching another weird show again. Before they planned the next move.

*****

Several days later, Cyndi and Claudia were at the market. They were out to get some items–and fresh air. The rain had ceased temporarily so their moods had improved slightly, more like Cyndi’s than Claudia’s since Claudia had been all excited the second Cyndi agreed to go along with her plan. And for the record, they hadn’t approached either one of the two weirdos to engage in some friendly conversation yet. It wasn’t like they didn’t want to, but those two suddenly disappeared out of their sights. At least they couldn’t find those two after work anymore. They blamed it on bad timing and decided to focus on Cyndi’s job search instead. Until those two resurfaced once more.

When they were at the center of the market, they spotted a large crowd gathering at the area where the bulletin was supposed to be. Because the market was like the center of attention for obvious reasons (i.e. everyone had to eat to survive), a bulletin board was set up in the center area by the wall to inform the general public of upcoming meetings or events.

At Claudia’s urging, Cyndi weaved through the crowd with her to check in on the excitement as well.

“This is a good theme,” A familiar voice yelled to someone among the crowd. “Finally! We haven’t seen anything exciting for a while now.”

Cyndi turned in every direction to spot the other person but it was like finding a needle in a haystack. They were in a crowd, of course, everyone was loud. Yet that one person had spoken loud enough seconds ago for her to differentiate between all the buzzes of conversation everywhere.

“Whoa, watch it,” Claudia warned Cyndi as she steered Cyndi safely to the front of the crowd.

They were able to see the new notice clearly now.

“Oh, this is awesome!” Claudia screamed with much energy–and even made it known by jumping up and down. “We have an excuse to go shopping!”

The little notice was informing them of a new gathering event at city hall. They usually have one like within a month or two, depending on their town leader’s decision. Its purpose was to strengthen bonds between the townspeople and welcome new faces. The theme this time was anything gothic.

“I thought you have more than enough costumes in your closet,” Cyndi reminded Claudia as they weaved their way out of the crowd.

Claudia shrugged. “Come on, where’s the fun?”

“I’m telling you this is the best opportunity,” That same familiar voice Cyndi heard when they were still stuck in the crowd spoke up again.

Cyndi turned left and saw three guys walking together. They had just escaped the crowd just like she and Claudia. Yet what made her stop dead wasn’t their presence, their attires, or their loudness. The reason was because they were the same three guys in her dreams, had been haunting her dreams. So they knew one another, considering how they were walking together and chatting like best buddies. The only difference was their attires. Tony was in a regular t-shirt and jeans, no more raincoats or those fancy boots. Nic was still wearing his usual casual clothes. The third guy, the one who just spoke up twice, also the one who said “Time’s up” in her dream, was wearing a blue and white striped shirt, blue jeans, and white sneakers. His smile was as sunshine as the other two, so harmless and so carefree, the typical fiber of their town. Yet it made Cyndi unsettled just to see them together. She had been standing frozen just staring at the guys since she spotted them. She hadn’t realized that Claudia had been nudging her ceaselessly.

“Cyndi!” Claudia finally bellowed.

The guy in the blue and white striped t-shirt finally turned around to acknowledge the girls. Tony and Nic did the same. Upon spotting the girls, Nic waved to the girls while Tony nodded. The other guy just studied Cyndi and Claudia but soon stepped over to their side.

“Hey,” Nic initiated. “Sorry about the other day again. I didn’t apologize properly because I was late for a meeting.”

“No problem,” Claudia returned. She had to nudge Cyndi again for staring yet Cyndi wasn’t out of it yet–or so she thought.

“What’s wrong?” The guy whom they did not know yet asked, looking at Cyndi curiously, his smile flashing out. Just a normal friendly smile, nowhere near intimidating.

“Cyndi!” Claudia yelled again, tugging on Cyndi’s shirt–not caring if the silk was going to be torn. She turned to the guys briefly. “Sorry, she’s been…stressed at work so…”

The other guy shook his head. “You two seem to know my friends? I’m Wallace, by the way.”

“Nice to meet you, Wallace,” Claudia returned, still trying to catch Cyndi’s attention.

“Something wrong with me?” Wallace asked, his attention back on Cyndi again.

“Uh…you’re not wearing a raincoat anymore,” Cyndi managed, pointing at Tony.

Tony had to laugh at that. But stopped immediately. “Sorry, but I couldn’t help it. And of course, I’m not. It’s not raining anymore.”

“You have no idea,” Wallace interrupted Tony. “The rainy season just started. It’s just on break for like a day or possibly half a day. It will be back in a matter of time.”

“Sounds unpredictable.”

“Welcome to our town.”

“You’re from out of town?” Claudia asked, looking from Tony to Nic.

Both guys nodded.

“That’s why they’ve been lost and I’ve been helping them,” Wallace said, gesturing his hand toward the other two guys. “Hey, you girls want to help me by helping these lost souls?”

“Sure,” Claudia agreed, her voice excited. “Sounds like fun.”

“Unless your friend objects,” Wallace jumped in, his eyes still studying Cyndi’s face.

“Um…” Cyndi managed. Then she seemed to snap out of it finally, shaking her head to show that she had no objection. “I’m fine.”

“All right then,” Wallace rattled out, his spirits high and his smile on again.

That was how the five of them got stuck together for the rest of the grocery trip. Claudia and Wallace were engaged in some extended conversation that they never once turned back to acknowledge Cyndi and the other two guys. The three of them were actually walking behind the other two. They were quiet for most of the time, except for when they had to stop and buy some items from some stalls.

“Want me to carry that for you?” Nic offered, pointing at one of Cyndi’s heavier bags. Then his face became passive–like he was trying to remember something. “Oh, I almost forgot. You don’t like to be helped.”

Cyndi shook her head. “Sorry about that time. I was just taking it out on you and it wasn’t right.”

Nic had his hand extended then. “So…?”

Cyndi knew there was no way to convince him otherwise so she let him carry the heavier bag.

“So, I guess you’re going to join that festival too?” Tony asked when he was sure that it was all right to talk to Cyndi.

Cyndi shrugged. “I guess so. Claudia’s probably going to convince me into it somehow. And I guess it’s tradition so can’t skip it.”

“What’s it like usually?” Nic asked, his voice curious.

Cyndi gave him a strange look. “Don’t they have one of those festivals where you guys came from?”

Tony and Nic exchanged a look between the two of them. Cyndi saw the uncertainty in their eyes, but she didn’t speak up to interrogate about the matter. She pretended to look ahead to check on Claudia and Wallace.

“Uh…” Nic’s voice came seconds later. “I meant we all have different traditions, right?”

“Right,” Cyndi answered, trying to keep her voice at a normal level.

“So that’s what we’re wondering about yours.”

Cyndi gave them a look again. “So that means you’ve come from the same town?”

They nodded in unison this time around, not exchanging looks before answering like the last time.

Cyndi pointed toward Wallace’s direction. “So how did you come to know him?”

Tony shrugged. “Happens.”

Cyndi knew something was definitely weird but didn’t want to be the suspicious one so she faced front again, just nodding to maintain some sense of politeness. She also took that time to check for Wallace’s ears. Long pointy ones just like all of them.

“So, where did you get such nice tans?” Cyndi asked a few minutes later when they regrouped again after another round of stopping at some nearby stalls. She was looking at Tony and Nic, of course.

“At the beach,” Nic answered automatically.

“You’re kidding, right?” Claudia jumped in then. She had turned around to give both Tony and Nic a quick scan over.

“They meant they brought some tanning equipment with them when they were at the beach the other day,” Wallace rattled out, his smile nervous.

“Oh,” Claudia said, nodding her head. “Makes sense.”

Cyndi could barely see Wallace letting out a silent sigh as Claudia turned to face the front again. Yet she wasn’t convinced. She studied both Tony and Wallace more carefully.

“How did you do it though?” Cyndi continued the interrogation, not wanting to let them off as easily this time around. “I meant it has been raining so much these past days, weeks even.”

“Umm…we were prepared,” Tony explained this time around.

“Hey, you guys want to go to the festival together?” Wallace interrupted Cyndi’s little interrogation then, changing the topic on purpose.

“Sure,” Claudia agreed excitedly. “Want to go shopping for costumes together too?”

Wallace shook his head. “Are you kidding me? Just slap on a black suit and we’re good.”

“You just took the fun right out of it,” Claudia argued. “Come on. Come with us, it’ll be fun.”

“Forget it,” Cyndi interfered, her teasing smile on. “Whether they’re earthlings or our people, men are men. They hate shopping unless it’s absolutely necessary.”

“Fine then,” Claudia caved in. She turned to give Wallace a look. “But that means you won’t get to see us in our costumes until the day of the festival.”

Which was in two weeks.

Wallace looked like he was on the out. Yet he maintained his composure. “Fair enough.”

They walked out of the market at that time and separated, just like that. It wasn’t unusual that their own people just met and invite one another on some grocery shopping trip just to get to know one another. In fact, it was encouraged throughout their planet to help one another, especially those newly relocated to get acquainted. Yet the strangest thing was Cyndi didn’t feel so threatened by their presence anymore, especially when it seemed like they were more afraid of her. Though they tried to maintain calmness, she could see right through those “take it easy” exteriors. And Claudia might be right after all.

© Monday, May 28th, 2012

Posted: Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

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