After the New Years’ celebration, Wallace was back in town and he was out with Nic at that one diner they spent at after being dumped on the same night. It had become their secret hideout. If anyone could keep secrets around there. Nic ordered while Wallace was playing with the utensils on the table. So out of character. Yet he didn’t care. He had more important things to worry about than table manners.
“So, how was your trip?” Nic asked when it was just the two of them again.
Wallace didn’t respond. He was still playing with the utensils–and mulling things over.
“Well?” Nic prompted, studying Wallace’s strange behaviors–as if Wallace’s behaviors weren’t strange since the day he met him. “What have you found out then?”
Wallace snapped his attention to Nic. “Did you know?”
Nic wrinkled his eyebrows in confusion. “Know what?”
Wallace still couldn’t bring himself to say it. If he confronted Nic and Nic denied, would he know the difference? Everyone around him was such good actors and actresses that he no longer knew if it mattered to them as much as it did to him.
“You’re acting strange.” Nic paused, shaking his head briefly. “Like stranger than usual.”
Wallace directed his eyes to Nic again, letting out a sigh. He didn’t care if the worst was to unleash. He had thought the worst that could happen was losing his wife–at such an age. But now? It seemed like a joke. He cleared his throat–as if catching Nic’s attention–though Nic’s attention had been on him the whole time. “I saw Tammy while I was there.”
“What?” Nic asked, showing apparent shock.
“I saw Tammy while I was there.”
“This is the part where I’m supposed to laugh and tell you you’re joking, right? Then tell you how crazy it is to joke about your deceased wife?”
“I really saw her.”
“Saw who?” Yvonne asked, sitting down across the table from them.
Wallace turned on Yvonne then. Yvonne was still smiling, like she was just playing the role of a nosy friend at that moment.
“He said he saw Tammy in New York,” Nic filled in.
Yvonne’s smile dissolved then as she turned to study Wallace. “You’re joking, right? And it’s not funny.”
“Where have you been these past days?” Wallace asked, changing the subject on purpose.
“Oh…here and there,” Yvonne replied, her smile back on as she tossed her hair behind her shoulders.
“Like?” Wallace pressed, not letting go of the situation.
Liar. But he regained himself then before uttering it out loud. “Brought any gifts back for us?”
Yvonne seemed to be off guard for the moment. She had resumed her teasing expression–like many times before. “I could ask you the same question.”
“I don’t award people who go off on vacations while I have to work.” Though he meant to say something totally different, like: Liars do not deserve gifts.
Wallace retracted because Yvonne had reached her hands across the table to grab onto his, attempting to shake him into submitting to her demands. He never minded in the past, even playing along with her. Yet now? It felt too wrong. Like he no longer knew who she was exactly.
“Food’s here,” Nic interrupted their disagreement. Like he needed to announce it. “You look quite fair-skinned for a person who was in Kenting for a month.”
And Nic just redeemed himself to Wallace by then. Good eye, Wallace thought to himself. He was too occupied with other thoughts to notice that.
Yvonne shrugged, finally abandoning her strike on Wallace. “I take good care of myself.”
“Like staying in your hotel the whole time and covering up from head to toe when you go out,” Wallace chimed in helpfully–though he meant anything but helpful.
Yvonne scoffed. “What’s wrong with you today?”
“I could ask you the same question.”
“All right already, you two,” Nic interfered again, wondering why he had to take on that role when it was Yvonne who had to stop him and Wallace from going at one another in the past. “Let’s eat.”
They ate in silence for a while. Wallace didn’t mind. It gave him some time to think. Nic was the one unusually disturbed.
“How’s Angela doing?” Yvonne asked all of a sudden, breaking the quiet atmosphere.
“She’s coming in a bit,” Nic answered, still having an eye on Wallace. “You can ask her for yourself.”
Yvonne nodded and resumed eating.
“What?” Wallace asked, finally realizing Nic had been staring at him.
“You’ve been acting strange, so I thought…” Nic began to explain.
“Guys,” Yvonne jumped in, taking her role back.
“Hey, you guys, sorry I’m late,” Angela said, sitting down at the remaining empty spot–the one next to Yvonne and across the table from Nic.
“Hey, your hair’s straight again,” Wallace said, his smile genuine yet hiding an unknown agenda.
Angela returned his smile yet gave him a strange look. “I’ve been changing hairstyles a lot lately, you know.”
Wallace shrugged. “Couldn’t a guy give you a compliment?”
“Not when he’s your ex and he has some hidden agenda.”
Wallace felt the stab. Yes, she wasn’t his ex for nothing. “Cute.”
Nic cleared his throat around then.
Wallace turned to him with an innocent look. “What?”
“If you’re planning to get back together, you should alert me in some way.”
Wallace shook his head, his smart-aleck smile on. “You had no idea.”
“Ge!” Angela chided Nic right then, reacting a tad too late–but it seemed like they didn’t notice or mind.
“You want to go shopping later?” Yvonne asked suddenly, turning to Angela.
Angela shook her head. “Can’t. I have to work on this new set. I was using the holidays as an excuse for the delay. Can’t anymore.” Then she turned to Wallace again, her expression somewhat troubled. “What happened to your coat?”
The others turned and stared as well. Yes, Wallace’s favorite coat was no longer on but was replaced by some black one. His scarf was also different, not the one Yvonne had given him years ago.
Wallace shrugged. “It’s been years now. I’m entitled to change my wardrobe, right?”
“You were wearing it before you left, you know,” Angela reminded him. “What gives?”
Wallace let out a sigh, knowing Angela won’t let it drop. She was so sharp sometimes that he wished she was a tad dumber. Like right now. Temporarily even. “I need change, okay?” His voice was too edgy for its purpose. He had intended for it to send some kind of message to her so she could back off but it shouldn’t have sounded so edgy. And her expression just said it all. He had gone overboard. “I’m sorry.” And he was.
Angela shook her head. “Don’t worry about it.”
He offered her a sincere smile for compensation. “Let’s eat.”
The other two exchanged a look but did not say anything.
After the meal, they separated with only Wallace and Nic walking together along the streets. It almost reminded Nic of the time after Angela and Cyndi broke up with Wallace and him–respectively, except this was late afternoon–and not late at night. He was supposed to go home with Angela but had opted for the walk–because he needed to find out something quite important. Something so disturbing that he needed to get rid of from his mind.
“What’s going on here?” Nic asked when they were far from the girls’ view and earshot.
“What?” Wallace returned, not caring to let on. He had already gone past that moment when he wanted to confide in Nic. It was too late. He was on his own.
“You were picking a fight with Yvonne earlier, you know.”
“What’s new? We always get into senseless disagreements.”
“Who are you kidding? I’m the one who gets into those senseless arguments with you and Yvonne’s the peacemaker.”
Wallace sighed out. “I told you already but you wouldn’t believe me.”
Nic stopped walking. “About Tammy?”
Wallace nodded, resuming his steps–forcing Nic to catch up. “I wasn’t kidding when I said I saw her. And I know why and how they did it now.”
“Did what? And who are they?”
“Cheated us. Tammy and Yvonne.”
It was Wallace’s turn to stop. “I knew I was mad from the start when I chased after that girl who looked like Tammy, wanting her to tell me off, that I’m stalking her. But when I got to the hotel, I saw Yvonne. She was meeting up with Tammy in New York.”
“What?” Yes, Nic was so confused that he couldn’t even continue his steps.
So Wallace had to start from the beginning, from his walk to the park to the encounter with the familiar-looking girl, to the shadow in the dark stepping out and it just happened to be Yvonne.
“Are you sure she said your name?”
“I think I know what my name is.”
“I didn’t mean that.”
Wallace shrugged, not wanting to sound so hostile when he knew Nic was just analyzing the situation. Nic was no longer doubting him, he knew that. They’d been working together for a while now. He knew how Nic operated.
“Why would she do that? And how?”
“I wasn’t so sure at first. But it made sense, doesn’t it?”
They continued walking then. Nic was also listening without interrupting.
“Yvonne was the one who took care of the funeral arrangements afterward. She had access to everything, including Tammy’s body. I was operating on some mechanical mode by then. They could do anything without me knowing.”
“That still doesn’t answer the why.”
“I don’t know. I’m still figuring that one out.”
“Why didn’t you just confront them if you caught them that night?”
Wallace shrugged. “I don’t know if it would be too much for…” Was it so hard to admit he was a coward, running away from the truth? Whatever that was. He shrugged again. “I guess I wasn’t ready for the truth.”
Nic paused for too long that Wallace had to turn and give him a look.
“Maybe…Tammy’s helping Yvonne with something. I meant Yvonne’s PI, after all, right?”
“What’s so important that they need to play the death card?”
It was Nic’s turn to shrug. “And maybe they didn’t mean to deceive you into marrying Tammy since it was too much of a shocker that you ended up asking her to marry you, you know.”
“What is it that they can’t tell me? Am I that bad at keeping secrets?”
“No, it’s probably something big. Major confidential stuff.”
“We’re not getting anywhere with these vague guesses.”
“You should’ve confronted them.”
“What would I say?” Why was he suddenly such a coward?
“She’s your wife after all.”
Right…and lying to him about her whereabouts, especially when she wasn’t even dead yet. “Maybe I should confront her.”
“Is she still there though?”
“Of course not.”
“I’ll get to Yvonne first.”
Nic let out a laugh. Yes, he was that foolish. How could he not see it? Wallace always had a backup plan.
© Saturday, July 2nd, 2011
Posted: Thursday, March 1st, 2012