Chapter 8

Cyndi weaved through the crowd and headed toward a small shop by the east exit. She sighed out as she saw a long line. Yet she wasn’t about to give up. She knew only that shop sell those materials that the client requested so she had to make the sacrifice. She walked briskly to the end of the line and stationed herself behind a girl in a pink silk blouse and white capris. Upon her arrival, the girl turned around and sent her a friendly. She returned the courtesy with one of her smiles.

“It’s going to be a long wait,” The girl said, stating the obvious.

Cyndi nodded—and was glad she didn’t wear high heels this time around. In fact, she never wore high heels while she was hunting for items for her projects. It would be too suicidal, knowing from past records—with the long waits and extended hours of roaming around the mall. Just as she was silently celebrating her cleverness, she noticed the girl wearing maddening high heels. She pondered why the girl still looked so comfortable. Or did she just arrive several minutes before so the wait hadn’t affected her yet?

“I’ve been here for an hour already and the line hasn’t moved yet,” The girl spoke up to dispel of Cyndi’s theory.

“Oh,” Cyndi uttered, not knowing what else to say. And she wasn’t being rude on purpose. She was just all talked out since the day she took sympathy on Sara. And her breaks only took place when she wasn’t with Sara.

“I’m Joanne, by the way,” The girl said, extending her hand to Cyndi.

“Cyndi Chou,” Cyndi introduced herself, still feeling the unfamiliarity of the way it sounded—despite having been married for six years already.“Cyndi Chou,” Cyndi introduced herself, still feeling the unfamiliarity of the way it sounded—despite having been married for six years already. And it really broke the tradition that she went around introducing herself in that way, considering how they didn’t have to change their names like some other culture. Or at all, actually. Yet she had gone with it, because of the location they got married at that time.

“Could I call you CC then?” Joanne asked, her smile sincere. “You can call me Qiao Qiao.”

Cyndi nodded, feeling even stranger that this person was offering some source of friendship right there and then. Or perhaps the girl was looking for some sort of distraction from the wait.

Joanne gestured toward Cyndi’s many bags then. “You’re here for the sale?”

If it was any other occasion, Cyndi would already suppress an eye roll and nodded but this time she shook her head—and was even glad Joanne had asked. “I’m on one of my trips to hunt for items for my latest project.”

“Oh?” Joanne’s face shown interest then, not mockery–like Cyndi had thought from her tone.

Cyndi nodded. “I’m an interior designer.”

“How’s that like?” Joanne gestured her hand causally, even showing some traces of nervousness. “I meant I know what it’s about but I never know anyone who’s in the field so I wouldn’t know the exact details.”

Cyndi—though exhausted from the trip, suddenly felt a new surge of energy. If it was anything, she was more than glad to talk to people and clarify of her profession to others around her, especially this girl who was showing even more interest than Sara had in the past. And she had no idea why she was comparing this girl to Sara. But perhaps it had to do with the fact that she had spent too much unwanted times with Sara these past days.

“Wow, that’s so different from how those dramas portrayed it,” Joanne remarked after Cyndi went into some details regarding her profession.

Cyndi nodded. “Definitely. Those shows are so misleading. But I think they’re closer than portraying…oh…let’s say cops.”

Joanne snickered then. She seemed to have realized her error right away hence bringing one hand to cover her mouth. “I’m sorry. It’s just that I found it silly how they make it so interesting that makes everyone wants to sign up to be some cop as well.”

Cyndi nodded again, her amused smile on. “Exactly.”

“But I think the cops have it better though, at least they’re still the heroes. What about the gangs? Those are so exaggerated. Sure, they’re badass, that’s why they’re gangs, right? But why are they always portrayed as selling weapons or dealing drugs or like…”

And their conversation continued on the same wavelength with mocking the general media and e-circle. Yet it was a good distraction because before they knew it, they had reached the front and was able to enter the shop to do their own shopping. But it didn’t end there because they were even walking out of the shop together and ended up at some coffee shop as well.

As if welcoming a different type of liveliness in her life, Cyndi invited Joanne home after their time at the coffee shop. And even wanted Joanne to stay for dinner.

“Just make yourself at home,” Cyndi said, kicking her shoes off at the front door.

Joanne did the same, knowing it was decent to do that. While she waited for Cyndi to hand her a pair of slippers, she studied the house’s layout.

“You designed this?” Joanne asked, her expression showing amazement with the décor.

Cyndi nodded and handed the white pair of slippers set aside for possible guests.

“It’s amazing,” Joanne complimented—and seriously meant it.

“Come on, my husband’s probably in the kitchen,” Cyndi said, leading Joanne toward the steps by the living room.

“Honey, you’re home?” Vic’s voice called out from the kitchen.

“Yes,” Cyndi answered. “I brought a guest home.”

Cyndi hadn’t noticed that Joanne had stopped dead in her tracks upon hearing Vic’s familiar voice. At least she didn’t realize what was going on until Vic stepped out to meet them both.

“What are you doing here?” Vic blurted out as soon as he spotted a stunned Joanne standing behind his wife.

“No, what are you doing here?” Joanne asked back, finally regaining her composure.

Cyndi looked from one to the other. “You two know each other?”

Vic and Joanne still had their eyes locked on each other—both on guard for the upcoming happenings.

“Of course I have every right to be here,” Vic retorted, not answering Cyndi’s question at the moment on purpose. “I live here. Why are you spying on my wife?”

“Your wife?” Joanne asked, wrinkling her face—though Cyndi had said her husband was home and had confirmed that with some words exchanged. She had also noticed that Vic had moved toward Cyndi and had placed a protective hand around Cyndi’s shoulders. “Why would I want to spy on your wife? Or you even? In fact, you’re the one who’s doing any spying around here.”

Cyndi was still looking from one to the other. And she knew she had to interfere since the two were doing some random dance that was driving her insane. She knew even more that Vic hated those dances, why do it to her?

“I met her at the mall while waiting at this one shop,” Cyndi explained, looking at Vic.

“Oh,” Vic said, still having his radar eyes on Joanne.

“So you two know each other?” Cyndi demanded, not letting Vic get away with it.

“He’s been sending people to spy on my bar and constantly coming in to check on us,” Joanne answered, her glare still on Vic.

“The case you’re working on right now?” Cyndi asked, her eyes on Vic.

Vic nodded.

“Then I guess I’m not welcomed here,” Joanne said, her voice hostile. But then she turned to Cyndi with an apologetic look. “Sorry that it didn’t work out. I guess I’ll see myself out then. It was nice knowing you though.”

“Wait…” Cyndi called out as Joanne turned to leave—and undoing Vic’s hand around her shoulders at the same time.

Joanne kept walking because she knew she had barged into unknown territory—even if she was invited at first.

“You don’t have to do this,” Cyndi said, placing a hand on Joanne’s shoulder. “He’s investigating stuffs but it’s not like you’re guilty already. He has to prove it. You’re my friend right now and I want you to stay for dinner.”

Upon hearing those last words, Joanne finally turned around to look at Cyndi again.

“You sure?” Joanne asked, knowing too well the differences between courtesies and actual sincerities.

Cyndi nodded. She even turned to give Vic a look. Vic looked hesitant but finally nodded.

“She’s right,” Vic verified. “You’re welcome here. I know you’re probably thinking I’m letting you stay so I could extract some info from you, but this house is as much mine as my wife’s…” He paused and gestured at the general space for effect. “So whoever she invites home for dinner is our guest.”

Joanne finally relaxed, knowing Vic meant it. She nodded also, even putting on a light smile.

“All right then,” Cyndi said. “Let’s get dinner started.”

As if that wasn’t final, the doorbell rang to announce another visitor.

“It’s probably Justin,” Vic said, walking toward the door. “I’ll just talk to him in the den.”

Cyndi smiled and gestured for Joanne to follow her into the kitchen.

“Hey, Sara,” Vic greeted the guest at the door—and obvious passiveness had crept into his voice.

Upon hearing Sara, Cyndi turned around to look at the front door again. That also prompted Joanne to follow her vision line. And that also completed their list of dramatic incidents for the day. Because Sara stormed into the room past Vic the minute she saw Joanne.

“What are you doing here?” Sara bellowed toward Joanne’s direction.

“Shoes off, Sara!” Vic yelled around the same time.

Sara didn’t care about Vic’s words though. She was already gone. She continued to glare at Joanne with much hatred. “What are you doing here, witch?”

“Hey! Who are you calling witch?” Joanne returned, her temper rising several notches. “In case you want to know, I’m invited to dinner. And you’re probably not.”

Sara turned toward Cyndi then. “You invited this witch to dinner?”


“Sara, calm down, please,” Cyndi interfered, stepping in front of Joanne to face Sara.

“You know her all along?” Sara interrogated. “You knew this boyfriend-stealer all along?”

“Hey, who are you calling boyfriend-stealer?” Joanne demanded, stepping forward to confront Sara once again.

“Enough already!” Vic shouted above their voices.

That got the female population’s attention since they all turned to Vic then.

“My wife just met her at the mall today, okay? And Joanne’s staying for dinner because I promised to treat her as a guest. If you have a problem, you don’t have to stay, you know.”

“You’re siding with her?” Sara asked, looking at Vic.

“Don’t act like the world owes you when you can’t keep your boyfriend,” Vic shot back.

“You apparently know what kind of person she is!”

“So you’re saying you know about my business?”

Sara had on her “know-it-all” look then. “Your case’s about her and her lawbreaking family.”

“Hey!” Joanne jumped in again, pointing at Sara. “No one talks about my family like that.”

“And how do you know I’m investigating them?” Vic questioned, knowing way too well that he didn’t tell Sara about it. And he also knew that Cyndi would never talk about his cases with anyone. In fact, Cyndi did not know much about the case because it was mostly confidential. She only knew he was investigating about the Tseng family because of Sara’s bawling these past weeks.

That got Sara because she had turned into a nervous case. Yet she wasn’t about to give up because she soon recovered and resumed her hatred toward Joanne. “If you think you could gloat about stealing my boyfriend, then you’re wrong. He’ll leave you one day just like how he left me for you.”

“Number one,” Joanne said, one hand on her hip and the other pointing at Sara. “I’m not with him. And number two, if you keep talking to me with that attitude, you’ll be sorry.”

“You’re threatening me in front of a cop?” Sara snorted. “He’s going to arrest you for it.”

“And I’m taking orders from you because?” Vic jumped in, his voice apparent mockery.

Sara ignored Vic and turned to Cyndi then. “One word. Me or her.”

“Sara,” Cyndi said, feeling exasperated at Sara’s childish game yet repressing herself from getting mad.

Both Vic and Joanne had on their worried look for Cyndi. And Joanne, despite her temper rising, exchanged a look with Vic before taking the initiative.

“I guess I’m not that lucky to be the guest after all,” Joanne noted—and left the scene. “I’ll see myself out.”

“Qiao Qiao!” Cyndi yelled out, chasing after Joanne.

It was also then that Vic stepped up to shield Cyndi from Sara. “If you want to take things out on my wife, then you’re making a big mistake. If you want to bring anymore of your mess into my house, then I have no choice but to kick you out.”

“Vic!” Cyndi called out, shocked at Vic’s direct words—and turned around to look at him.

Their staring had allowed Joanne to leave successfully. It wasn’t like Cyndi was so patient with Sara either but she knew he had been patient for her sake—most of the time. Yet he was never that direct about kicking Sara out. What brought this on?

As for Vic, he was doing his own experiment with Sara after having learned some interesting things from her files. And he knew he couldn’t tell Cyndi yet. At least not when Sara was still present.

“Fine,” Sara said at last, turning to leave also.

And made it known with her stomping.

“Why must you do this?” Cyndi asked, looking at Vic still.

“Sara’s not who she said she is, honey,” Vic answered—after Sara was gone with the door slamming behind her.

Cyndi wrinkled her face in confusion. Vic made sure the door was locked before guiding Cyndi to the kitchen. And he began to explain what he found out regarding Sara. At least what he, Seth, and Brianna found out so far.

© Saturday, February 11th, 2012

Posted: Thursday, May 3rd, 2012