Chapter 4

One day after work–or after work according to their definition, Jacky and Joanne proceeded with their plan. They made sure no one was following them before heading toward their preplanned destination. Jacky had told her that they would go find Sara at the local park–at least at the park near her workplace. She usually jogged before heading into work. That would be the perfect time to intercept her for a conversation.

To prepare for this particular occasion, both Jacky and Joanne had changed out of their work attires and had donned some decent wardrobe to help their case. He was wearing a blue vest over a white t-shirt complete with blue jeans. And she was in equally casual attires. A silk blue sleeveless shirt was tamed comparing to her usual attires. And completing the outfit was white capris. She even added a light blue bow hairclip to enhance the innocent look. If innocent hadn’t worked, at least it made her less intimidating than previously. Her hair had been straightened out as well. If that wasn’t showing effort, she didn’t know what. How did they manage the attires? They had prepared beforehand–agreeing on wearing something tamed–hence stashing it in their bags and snuck it to work. The changing was easy since they were the only two left when closing time came around.

Joanne suddenly let out a laugh as they reached the entrance of the park. Yes, they had taken the bus and then walked the rest of the way. Despite wearing high heels, she wasn’t complaining about the distance or the increasing heat as the day began.

“What’s so funny?” Jacky asked, turning to her slightly.

Joanne covered her mouth with one hand and the other still clutching onto her white handbag. “We’re matching. Do you think she would misunderstand even more?”

It was then that Jacky realized they were both wearing various shades of blue–and the dead targeted white. Her handbag was more along the line of cream but it didn’t help their case either. Yet like they could turn around and change again. Today was one of those rare chances that they didn’t get tag.

“She wouldn’t pay attention,” Jacky brushed off. Though he sounded like he was trying to convince himself more than her.

Joanne reached a hand out to hit his shoulder. “You’re saying that a girl wouldn’t pay attention to that?”

“You want to go home then?” Jacky asked, his annoyance apparent.

Joanne’s mood didn’t sour up though. Instead, she was fascinated by his recent vivid emotions unraveling in front of her. “Of course not. I promised to help, remember?”

They resumed their steps into the park then. But that was when they realized Sara had stopped in front of them–and they didn’t realize it. They were so into their little side brawl that they didn’t notice Sara’s presence.

“Sara!” Jacky called out, making his move toward her.

“What are you doing here?” Sara demanded. “Trying to gloat?”

Sara was obviously eyeing Joanne with her icy glares.

“We’re here to explain,” Joanne said, only showing traces of sincerity–and not the taunting from last week.

“Save it.”

“Sara,” Jacky interfered. “I know I lied to you about working at a bar. But…”

Sara turned to Jacky then. “Is that all? I don’t know anything about you anymore. You probably lied about your family too.”

“Sara, I….”

Sara took a step back as Jacky took another step toward her.

“I was just teasing you two the other day because he didn’t tell me about his girlfriend,” Joanne took over for Jacky once more. “So he returned but didn’t tell you because he had to report to work first. Are you going to hold it against him that he needs to work?”

“Qiao Qiao,” Jacky interrupted Joanne, turning to her with worried eyes.

Yes, she had allowed him to call her by her nickname when they were not working.

“Okay, okay,” Joanne said, her frustration showing. “I’ll just leave you two alone. But remember we have to return home soon or Dad’ll get suspicious.”

She turned to leave then, knowing that he would meet her at the bus stop when he was done.

“You two live together?” Sara blurted out, her hostility obviously cranking up without Joanne needing to see her expression.

Joanne gave herself an internal kick as she turned to face the two again, seeing Jacky’s face fell.

“Um…I meant…” Joanne rushed to explain. “He still has to come to my house since my father needs to give him some paperwork later.”

“That’s right,” Jacky jumped at the chance, smiling–and glad Joanne had reacted as quick.

But it seemed like Sara wasn’t convinced. She looked from one to the other.

“I’ll be going then,” Joanne said, not wanting to make another mistake.

But Sara stopped her again as Joanne tried to make a clean exit.

“You two seem to get along so well,” Sara noted. The underlying meaning was too obvious. “You could even speak up for each other.”

Joanne did not care to turn and face Sara anymore. “I couldn’t care less what happens to him. But I just want to keep him in line and make sure he doesn’t miss the appointment with my father.”

After that, Joanne stomped off, leaving Jacky and Sara behind. She knew playing the goody-two-shoes role wasn’t her forte. She might as well opt for the girl with an attitude. And her mood stayed terrible all the way to the bus stop.

She waited at the bus stop for fifteen minutes. A bus came. Their supposed transportation home. And she let it leave. Another fifteen minutes passed by. And she was still standing at the bus stop. She found herself a corner under some source of shade already. While she was at it, she pulled out her prism and studied it like many times before. It was like her fascination in it never ended. It kept her calm. Always had. But it was like that was her other fatal mistake of the day, the prism soon left her hand and shattered on the ground into millions of pieces. She reacted too late. Someone had run by and bumped into her. After the incident, she could only scramble on the floor and attempted to collect the pieces with her bare hands, not caring to pursue the culprit. Soon, traces of blood were oozing out of her hands at various spots. Yet she didn’t stop. She didn’t care. She only wanted to collect those pieces. If only she could collect all the pieces before the crowd stomp all over it. But she was soon stopped by a pair of hands.

“Mind your own business!” She lashed out, her annoyance finally kicking in. she hadn’t realize her panicked state until her rattled voice rang in her own ears.

“Leave it!” The other person yelled back, trying to tie some piece of cloth around her hand.

It was then that she realized it was Jacky.

“Leave it!” Jacky repeated, tending to her wounds.

“It’s the only one left!” Joanne returned, not wanting to back down.

They struggled with one another as she attempted to reach for the shards on the ground and he tried to stop her rash moves.

“It’s over…” Jacky said, his voice leveled but effective.

She broke out crying then, shaking her head, not wanting to believe it. He continued to pat her shoulder, wanting to calm her down more than anything. And he didn’t even care that they were attracting attention from a large amount of the crowd. He soon pulled her into a hug, allowing her to cry into his shoulders.

“It’s going to be okay,” He continued to soothe her.

And just like that, the crowd suddenly dispersed, leaving them alone in their corner. But it could possibly have to do with the fact that a bus had arrived so they were forced to continue on with their daily activities.

As fateful as it got, someone was seen standing at the back of the crowd as the others had stepped aside. That person was none other than Sara. Joanne saw her first. Or more like recognized her sneakers from earlier and looked up to see Sara staring back at her full of hatred. Joanne finally released Jacky and got up slowly. Jacky didn’t notice Sara since he was facing Joanne at the time and had his back to Sara. Therefore, he refused to let go of Joanne completely, even guiding her as she was getting up.

“Sara,” Joanne called out–in an attempt to warn Jacky more than getting Sara’s attention. Her voice had become hoarse but her bravery had returned faster.

Jacky turned to face Sara then. Her anger was too hard to miss. Yet he remained calm, not letting go of Joanne’s hands at all.

“And you say nothing’s going on between you two?” Sara questioned, her tone still unmoved as before.

“Sara, for god’s sake, she’s bleeding to death over here!” Jacky yelled out.

After that, he didn’t care to wait for Sara’s reaction. He returned his attention to check on Joanne’s hands. His firm grip had prevented it from gushing out anymore blood but he could see it was getting worse.

“I’m all right,” Joanne argued, attempting to yank her hands from Jacky’s hold.

“You’re always so stubborn,” Jacky chided. “Hold still!”

It was also that time that Sara took leave.

“Sara!” Joanne called after her, wanting to take a step forward.

“Save it!” Sara yelled out, turning to face them again.

That–of course–had caused some stir of curiosity hence those people left waiting for some other bus turning their attention to them.

“Save your lies,” Sara continued, not caring for the glances.

Jacky looked like he didn’t care anymore. He turned toward Sara with a stern expression. “Maybe I’m lying. But the rest of us do not have such a simple life like you.”

“You…”

“And some people aren’t lucky like you to still have their mother.”

And like Jacky wanted to break the cycle, he guided Joanne out of the situation before Sara could leave. He didn’t care to wait for Sara’s reaction or the crowd’s whispering. He just kept walking and remembering to hold onto Joanne’s hands. Though his handkerchiefs had helped stop the bleeding already but he didn’t want to take the risk. Yes, he had successfully tied the handkerchiefs to her hand while Sara was present.

“You didn’t have to do that,” Joanne told him after they were away from the crowd. “I’m all right. And she didn’t know.”

“You’re not all right,” Jacky said–as if his words were final.

Joanne wasn’t used to being protected like just now. But what had sparked her surprise was his reaction to Sara. And the fact that he’d spoken up for her–even though they’d only gotten along since last week. Was he pitying her because he had lost his mother like she had?

They walked a distance before Jacky hauled a Taxi and took Joanne to the hospital. He wanted to make sure she was really all right. And he needed the confirmation from the doctors, not her words.

*****

Vic had been tailing them since they got off work. His coffee was by his side the whole time. He had taken over for Roy after everyone left. It had been that way since the day his patience reached its end. He didn’t want Roy’s vague reports anymore. Or those broken coded-messages that would take some NASA specialist to figure out. What Vic didn’t realize would happen was the incident between the three parties across the street. Was it that simple? They were just on their way to patch things up with Sara? He couldn’t hear their voices since he had chosen a safe spot. But he was able to read somewhat of their conversations. And the mixed feelings each party exuded with their expressions. He didn’t know if he should check on Sara or follow the other two, but he soon called Cyndi up and left her a message–as he sped after the Taxi the other two managed to haul.

Several hours later, he was home with Justin, trying to install some fancy system for Cyndi. Justin was one of the officers under his authority. Yet it wasn’t because of that reason that he managed to haul Justin in to help him with some personal matters. They had an ulterior motive. Yes, Justin was responsible for tailing Sara since the day Vic found out about Sara’s relation to Jacky. And this time, they were home in the middle of the day just to spy on the girls because Sara had called Cyndi up and wanted to bawl about her problems to Cyndi. If Vic hadn’t call Cyndi, the result would still be the same because Sara only had Cyndi as a friend in town.

And the reason for Vic not spying on Jacky and Joanne at the moment was because the two had returned to their base and had not come out for the time being. Vic called it a day and decided to search for more luck around the home front.

“I can’t believe that deceitful witch,” Sara bawled some more.

Vic rolled his eyes toward Justin’s direction as Justin stopped to connect some cables to the TV. Though he sympathized with Sara for being deceived, but he had run out of patience with Sara’s overly dramatic attempts to tell her tale since the last hour or so. And having already witnessed the scene first hand made the whole story even more pathetic with her recounts than the actual happenings.

“She even went to the extreme of cutting herself up so he would rush to her side and even yelled at me,” Sara managed between sobs.

Cyndi had been handing Sara tissues after tissues while patting Sara supportively on the shoulder. Now, she looked toward Vic who had gotten up to get water for Justin and himself. Vic got the secret message from her and managed to get some water for the two girls as well. He and Justin were done for the time being. But they were up for a second round of replacing the wiring in Cyndi’s home office as well, which was located the next room over by the den.

“The things people do to seek sympathy,” Justin remarked after he took a sip of water and settled down on the carpet.

“I know…” Sara moaned and continued with her sobbing.

Vic settled down next to Justin and placed his glass of water on the coffee table in front of them. He had decided to keep his distance from his wife at the moment to allow Sara some space as well. Now, it was his turn to exchange another look with Justin. He knew Justin was talking about Sara yet Sara had misunderstood Justin’s ally position instead of mockery. But Vic decided not to clarify. It was better that way. He needed some more information from Sara and arguing with her wasn’t the right approach.

“You sure she did it on purpose?” Vic asked, wiping a drop of water from his mouth.

“Of course!” Sara bellowed–and broke down in sobs again.

Cyndi–on cue–turned to Vic with a sharp glare. Though Vic didn’t want to upset Sara anymore than necessary but he wasn’t going to abandon his typical skeptical behaviors either.

“I’m just trying to cover all bases,” Vic defended himself, shrugging.

“Don’t mind him,” Cyndi said, her sharp glare still on her husband. “You know he’s always playing devil’s advocate.”

Sara seemed to gain her composure again. She stared right at Vic, attempting to be strong. “If she hadn’t cut her hands on purpose, he wouldn’t have panicked and wouldn’t have yelled at me.”

Vic wanted to say that Jacky wasn’t even there when Joanne had cut her hands but it was a few minutes after. Yet he couldn’t. If he had clarified the matter, it would cast guilt toward his direction–a risk he rather not take. Instead, he chose to shrug and return to some random conversation with Justin.

“I don’t know what he sees in her anyway,” Sara droned on.

“Cute,” Vic mumbled under his breath but it was still audible to Cyndi.

“You met her before?” Cyndi interrogated.

Vic pasted on his charming smile then. “It was just a guess.”

“You, Mr. Devil’s Advocate, would defend someone you’ve never met before?”

Vic shrugged again, like he was threatened by his wife’s sudden demeanor. “You know those guys, always falling for those cute girls.”

“She’s not cute at all,” Sara retorted, her tears still brimming. “Just a little witch full of tricks.”

“Vic, you’re not helping,” Cyndi finally stated the obvious. “Could you go…”

“Okay, okay,” Vic cut her off. “I’ll just go wire your office then. The way I see it, the better that Sara got rid of that guy. Come on now, better now than later.”

Justin followed Vic away from the dramas. Yet they could still hear Sara’s injustice rants.

“What are you talking about?” Sara yelled after Vic.

“He’s just concerned for you,” Cyndi reasoned, patting Sara’s shoulder and trying to calm her down. “Even if he likes to overanalyze things, he hates those two-timing slimes, you know. It makes the rest of the guy population look bad.”

Sara seemed to calm down after realizing that Vic did not mean harm. Yet she didn’t seem to give up about Jacky’s personality. “Jacky’s not like that. He just got brainwashed by that little witch.”

And at that moment, Cyndi wished she was in the other room with the guys as well. She felt like they were going around in circles. Though she had never met that Jacky guy before, but she detested him already because of the torture she had to go through these past hours.

© Monday, January 30th, 2012

Posted: Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

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