When they arrived at Amber’s house, Nic was outside waiting for them. But when Wallace got out of the car, he also spotted Angela walking out from inside the gate. Though it was dark outside, Wallace was able to see them.

“What are you doing here?” Wallace asked, not caring if he was off-guard.

“I picked her up on the way here,” Nic said.

Yvonne walked up to them at that time and gestured toward the gate. “Let’s go inside first.”

“You better have some really good answers,” Angela said, her voice echoing Wallace’s anxiousness since this afternoon at Yvonne’s house.

“I will explain once we’re inside,” Yvonne said, entering without waiting for them.

Nic and Angela exchanged a look as Wallace followed Yvonne inside.

“Better lock the gate,” Yvonne instructed as she turned around to check on them.

Nic did the honor as the others walked up the path leading to the house. They entered the house to find Amber sitting there waiting for them. She had tea out and ready.

“Hey,” Amber said, looking at Yvonne. “What’s going on here? I heard Nic said he wanted me to meet some of his friends. But this is…”

Yvonne scanned the room before taking a seat next to Amber. The others had no choice but to gather around the two at various chairs around the room.

“Change of plan,” Yvonne said. “Remember how I told you about the intruder earlier and how we would meet Rick at the hotel tomorrow?”

Amber nodded, still having her attention on Yvonne. “Yeah, along with your…”

“That’s the change of plan part,” Yvonne cut Amber off. She turned to check on the others, knowing they were quite anxious by now. “They’re coming with us.”

Amber wrinkled her face. “What?”

“Details, please,” Angela jumped in impatiently.

Yvonne turned back to Amber. “I’m going to brief them real quick about our identities before clearing that bit up, okay?”

Amber still look confused but nodded anyway.

“Okay, I’m going to tell you guys now,” Yvonne said, looking at Wallace, Angela, and Nic at this point. “But…Nic, Angela, you two can leave now if you don’t want to be involved.”

“We’re already involved,” Angela pointed out, responding for her brother as well.

Yvonne wasn’t threatened by Angela’s demeanor. She turned to Wallace instead. “You told me several times already that you remembered, but you obviously did not. If you remember, you wouldn’t want to involve them. Are you sure you still want to take the risk?”

“It doesn’t matter if Wallace lets us or not, we’re in,” Angela interrupted Yvonne again. “I don’t care what you say, we deserve to know the truth.”

Yvonne was still looking at Wallace, waiting for his answer.

Wallace licked his lips once, feeling unease for some unknown reasons. “Okay, you got me. I don’t remember everything. Just fragments of memories of me and Tammy, and how we got married the first time already.”

Yvonne looked down on the ground then, but just briefly. It was like she was trying to regain her composure. When she looked up again, Wallace was still able to see her hurt look, despite her attempting to erase any traces of its visibility.

“Okay,” Yvonne said at last. “Since you look like you can’t decide you should involve them or not, I will have to tell you all everything anyway. You still could back out after I’m done.”

“What’s with you and trying to scare us?” Angela jumped in again. “We’re your friends after all. Or at least it had been that way until like recently.”

Yvonne wasn’t upset by Angela’s words though. She turned to Angela. “I’m just worried for you.”

“Then tell us! Stop treating us like a bunch of idiots and couldn’t handle the truth or something.”

Yvonne smiled then, feeling like she was staring at a female version of Wallace. Yet she didn’t look as hurt as when Wallace confronted her. Her reflective moment only lasted several seconds. She finally nodded. “All right. I’m going to start with the story.”

“What does Amber have to do with anything though?” Nic asked, speaking up at last. He had been confused since the start but didn’t want to ask Wallace upon seeing Wallace’s state when Wallace arrived with Yvonne. But now, he couldn’t resist it.

“I will tell you once I’m done with the story regarding Wallace,” Yvonne answered, looking at him briefly. Then she turned her attention back on Wallace.

Though she tried to keep up a strong front, Wallace was able to detect the longing in her eyes. He chose to ignore it, knowing it could possibly be a trick because his guard was so off at this point. And he was still no closer than the truth. “Go ahead. I think it’s about enough stalling you’d done already.”

Yvonne still stared at Wallace, no longer bothered by his attacks. “It all started ten years ago when you were 23 and I was 21.”

Angela gasped but stopped herself from interrupting. She knew it was the moment Wallace was waiting for. Her curiosity and questions would have to wait.

“I was about to open my flower shop and you were working for a local company, doing business support. That was when a special agency approached us. They wanted us to help them, knowing what you were capable of. At first, we didn’t think of anything and thought it was some regular government job so we accepted. They soon trained us into special agents. We ended up taking on missions involving international matters. It was too hard to believe at first, like those old movies or TV shows that we often saw when we were little. But it ended up being true.” Yvonne paused briefly–as if to think before continuing. “Everything was fine until five years ago. You got injured and couldn’t continue with the missions anymore. They didn’t know when you would recover, so it was either had you put under monitoring or had you hypnotized so you could start over.”

Yvonne stopped again and looked on the ground. Wallace finally noticed that she was clenching her fists together though she was still pretending to hold a passive stare.

“Choice number two happened, right?” Wallace asked, not wanting Yvonne to have time to improvise her story.

Yvonne nodded. She looked up at him again. “We were prompted for time. If we didn’t pick, you would be sent to somewhere unknown. So that was why it was choice number two in the end.”

“That’s it?”

Yvonne nodded, still maintaining her cool.

Wallace shook his head, not being able to believe it.

“What about Tammy?” Angela jumped in at last. She didn’t want to but it seemed that Yvonne wasn’t going to add anything else.

Yvonne was still looking at Wallace. “We met Tammy and Rick upon joining the agency. They became our teammates at first. But later we ended up becoming good friends as well.”

Suddenly something occurred to Wallace. “You said it happened five years ago, that meant I was married before it happened?”

Yvonne nodded. “The wedding was two years before it happened.”

“And then?”

Yvonne looked on the ground again, like it was her latest habit. “After the damage was already done with the hypnosis and no one could change anything, we all relocated. Rick was the only one still staying at the agency while you, Tammy, and I moved here.”

“What about my family? Do they know?”

Yvonne shook her head. “Your real family did not know and will never know because your parents had already passed away and you have no other siblings.”

“What?” Nic jumped in, not believing it. “But they…”

Wallace was still numbed or more like he couldn’t believe Yvonne. He didn’t want to. Now some things finally clicked in for him. “Then who are those people?”

“From the agency,” Yvonne answered. “They’re here to monitor us and make sure we don’t disclose anything to you after you recovered.”

“Then why are you telling me now?”

“It’s up to this point now, do you think I could keep it from you?”

“You had no trouble these past years.”

Yvonne had that hurt look on again.

“You haven’t answered my question about Amber,” Nic interrupted them again.

Yvonne turned to Nic then, her hurt look gone already. “Amber’s one of the new agents. She was sent here to fill Tammy’s place as one of my contacts while Tammy’s out on another mission.”

“And you guys pulled the death card so she could get away?” Angela asked, beyond shocked. Or more like she didn’t believe those people for blowing things up at such a scale.

“They’re not planning to have Tammy back here when she’s done with this mission, so they needed to make her disappear here.”

Wallace nodded his head in an understanding gesture. It was like he had just been told about the weather report–or the time of the day even. The others exchanged a look among themselves, wondering if he was still too numbed to let all the information register. Only Yvonne still kept her attention on Wallace.

“Just splendid,” Wallace spoke up again after a moment of silence. “I just realized I cheated on my wife twice in the past already, once with you and the other time with you.” He had pointed at Yvonne and Angela respectively as he was saying the last few words. Then he nodded his head in a knowing way again, still staring in general space instead of anyone in particular. “Just nice, really.” His sarcasm was creeping back into his voice, which was partially why the others were keeping silent at the moment. “Have anyone ever thought that I would’ve wanted to make my own decision about the whole thing?” His voice had raised to another notch–in fact, several notches. And he had gotten up from his place on the sofa. “Especially you, Yao Cai Ying!” The accusing finger was set on Yvonne for emphasis. “I trusted you!”

“Do you think I want it to happen?” Yvonne shot back, getting up from her spot as well. All traces of her weakness gone already. The person standing in front of Wallace now was the strong, fierce person who refused to cave into Wallace’s tantrums.

“Is this one of the things about what’s good for me? Because I think I know better than anyone what’s really good for me. Especially when I’m the one going through it, not you, not anyone.”

“We don’t know if you were going to recover and…we didn’t want to see you locked up until you finally recovered…”

“And I’m a walking encyclopedia, is that it? I might blurt out random facts to others just because I can’t be on those missions anymore? Is that it? You have to wipe out my brain and reprogram what’s inside?”

“You can get mad at me all you want, but that won’t change anything.”

“Huh…easy for you to say.” He was resorting to his stubbornness–and a lot of unreasonableness–by blaming it on Yvonne, but who else could he blame? At least not anyone at the moment. He sat down again, still tuning the rest of the world out, except for Yvonne.

“You can get mad, but we have more important matters to take care of now.”

Wallace looked toward the white wall on the left side of the room, not really paying attention but was just trying hard to restrain his anger. Yet it was so hard. He opted for sarcasm again. “Like?”

“We need to go save Tammy. She got captured by one of the opposing parties. I’m guessing the same guys who sent that intruder to my place.”

Upon hearing those words, Wallace leaped up again. “What? My wife’s captured?”

Yvonne nodded reluctantly. It seemed like she didn’t want to admit it, especially in front of Wallace at that moment when he was so mad.

“Huh, and those people think they’re so good that they could hypnotize me and manipulate my life. Yet they couldn’t protect their own agents from harm. No, wait, why am I surprised? They don’t want to train us so good or we’ll go against them, right?”

“Wallace…” Yvonne had used somewhat of a begging tone.

“Forget it,” He returned, his voice still hostile. “I’m going to save her on my own, I don’t need them.”He got up from his place again and headed for the door.

Yvonne rushed after him, trying to catch up. “Wallace! You can’t go yet! We have to set up a plan first.”

Wallace didn’t care to turn back, he increased his pace even more. “Well, you guys already failed with your cautious, over-analyzed, over-killed plans. I’m doing it my way.”

“You need to know the details before you can go,” Yvonne reminded him. “And we still need to meet up with Rick.”

That got Wallace. He turned around and faced Yvonne again, not so almighty anymore. “Okay, if you say we’re a team, then I don’t need the others, only the three of us will go.”

“We need some equipment from them and technologies,” Yvonne said.

“Okay, fine, other than that. Let’s go.”

“Let’s wait for tomorrow.”

Wallace shook his head, disagreeing. “Let’s go tonight. Don’t you think it’s better to use the darkness to our advantage?”

Yvonne looked like she was thinking, then she nodded. “Okay.” She turned to Amber at that time. “You better come with us.”

“I’m going too,” Angela jumped in at that time.

“What?” Nic asked, shocked–and was wondering if his sister was nuts since they just learned something quite out of this world.

Wallace turned toward Angela also. “No, you’re not. You and Nic are staying here. Yvonne’s right, it’s too dangerous.” And Wallace felt strange that he was agreeing with Yvonne–out loud. Okay, so he had to admit she was indeed right about this whole mess being too dangerous for the Chang siblings. But he thought he was supposed to be mad at Yvonne. Wasn’t he yelling at her like they were sworn enemies minutes earlier? Where did all the anger go?

“I still can’t trust what you said is really true,” Angela said, looking straight at Yvonne. “I wouldn’t know if you’re luring Wallace to some unknown location and try to…”

“Yvonne’s not that kind of person,” Amber said, her voice determined. She stepped forward bravely and stared back at Angela. “I don’t know why you guys are blaming Yvonne for everything when she’d suffered as much as you.” She had looked at Wallace when she said ‘you’. “In fact, even more than you ever thought possible. But now? You’re standing here in front of your new friends condemning her like that?”

“Amber…” Yvonne interfered, tugging on Amber’s hand. “We don’t have time for this.”

Amber looked confused and timid even when the others had entered. Yet now, she seemed so brave defending Yvonne like that. It surprised them even more, especially Nic. Nic wasn’t too sure about her being some sort of special agent at first, considering how he’d witnessed her being bullied by her co-workers on different occasions. Now seeing her like that, he was starting to believe Yvonne’s words about Amber’s true identity.

While they were pondering about Amber and looking at her in a new light, she turned to Yvonne. “Why can’t you tell them everything? I know it’s between you and him, but you can’t take the blame in silence like that.”

Wallace had on his guarded expression again. “What are you still hiding from me?”

Yvonne turned to Wallace then. “Nothing, let’s get going.”

Amber ignored their dispute and stared straight at Wallace. “If she doesn’t want to tell you, then I will.”

“Amber…” Yvonne called out, her voice anxious.

“I’ve never seen anyone so irresponsible and heartless like you…” Amber managed to blurt out before Yvonne resorted to covering her mouth.

Amber managed to free her mouth from Yvonne’s grasp and let out a cough. Yvonne grabbed a glass of water and handed it to Amber, feeling guilty that she had to resort to that.

“Tell me what?” Wallace prompted still.

“Nothing,” Yvonne replied, looking at Wallace again. “Let’s get going.”

Amber had recovered by then. And she managed to put even more distance between her and Yvonne before blurting out, “It’s about you and Yvonne.”

“Amber…” Yvonne called out again. She looked at Wallace. “It’s best not to talk about that now. It’s all in the past.”

Then Wallace understood. Amber knew about them, about the cheating. He no longer was mad at Amber for her unreasonable attack at him. What he suspected was true after all. Yes, he was an asshole for committing the act and then letting Yvonne suffered alone. He even dared to distance himself from her time after time, letting her take all the blame.

“Yvonne, I…” Wallace said, at last, not wanting to delay things any longer.

Yvonne shook her head. “It’s not the time for this. Let’s take care of it after we have Tammy back safe and sound.” She turned to Amber again, knowing Amber wouldn’t let it rest. “Didn’t you listen earlier? He doesn’t remember everything. He can’t be blamed for it.”

Amber looked like she wanted to give up. She let out a heavy sigh and turned her attention on the Chang siblings instead. “If they want to come along, let them. They’ll take you seriously once they see some real danger.”

After saying that, Amber turned and left. She wasn’t going outside. She was heading toward the back. A hallway leading to her bedroom perhaps?

“I’ll show you the direction to Rick’s,” Yvonne said, looking at Wallace again.

Wallace nodded. Then he realized something was missing. Like a ring. He didn’t want to panic. But when he looked down at his own hand, he didn’t see it. “My ring’s gone!”

Yvonne’s alarmed look turned on as well. “What? Are you sure? Did you leave it at my place?”

Wallace shook his head. “I don’t know.”

“Oh my god, it’s by the coffee maker!” Nic shouted all of a sudden.

“What?” Wallace asked, turning to Nic.

Nic slapped his forehead for his absentmindedness. “I meant to tell you earlier before we left. You left it by the coffee maker. You took your ring off because you were fixing the faucet, remember?”

“I have to go back and get it!” Wallace declared, making a move toward the door.

“No, you’re not,” Yvonne interfered, blocking his path. “At least you’re not going alone. I’m going with you.”

“No, you’re not,” Wallace returned, feeling the familiarity of this conversation once in a time when he didn’t remember anymore. “You’re staying here with them. I’ll be back.”

Yvonne persisted. “No, I’m going with you.”

“We’re all going with him, so stop fighting,” Amber said.

The others turned around to see her all packed with one luggage like Yvonne.

“What?” Yvonne asked, confused.

“It’s a good chance to get out of here,” Amber clarified. “We’ll just swing by and get his ring. Then we’ll be on our way.”

“She’s right,” Wallace agreed with Amber. “Let’s go.”

And that was Wallace’s next mistake because he grabbed onto Yvonne’s hand as they were heading for the door. He didn’t know why he did it. It was around the time they were outside that he realized it and let go. He didn’t dare to stare at the others either. He thanked an unknown force out there because it was so dark at this point so the others couldn’t see his embarrassed expression. But he could hear Amber getting into Nic’s car with Nic while she and Angela were still fighting over who got to sit in front. And apparently, Amber won the fight since Angela had said ‘whatever’ before a door slammed.

“Let’s go,” Wallace said as he opened the door for Yvonne before circling to the driver’s side.

*****

When they arrived at the shop, it was midnight. Wallace and Nic parked at a side street. Not wanting to park too close in case they were caught. On the way there, they had managed to go to the Chang siblings’ place and allowed for them to pack a small bag already. Wallace got out first and told the others that he was going in.

“Be careful,” Angela said.

“I know,” Wallace returned, his response casual. Though he felt like she was being too silly. After all, this was his territory. Nothing would happen.

“I’ll go with you,” Yvonne said, a familiar phrase she said earlier.

“No, you’re not,” Wallace rattled out in that same tone he used earlier. “It’s just my shop. We’re already careful by not parking directly in front of it, you know.”

“Don’t worry, he could take care of himself,” Amber spoke up to assure Yvonne.

Angela scoffed. “Like you know him so well.”

“At least I know his past more than you,” Amber shot back.

“Girls,” Wallace interfered. “We’re not here to argue. I’ll be back. I’m going to be fine.”

After he said that, he sent Nic a look before proceeding to the shop. And it was like Wallace predicted, nothing happened. He got the ring from next to the coffee maker and placed it on before he dropped it somewhere. As he reached for the door and exited through the back though, he could hear a beep-beep sound. He looked up in time to see something like a lime hanging above the door.

*****

The girls were pacing as Nic was keeping watch. They had a little bit of light from some streetlamps and that was it. Nic was even more anxious while the girls were pacing. Then they all heard it. A loud explosion that set the sky on fire. No, it was impossible that the sky was on fire. It was an explosion that had forced the whole atmosphere to light up.

“Wallace!” Both Yvonne and Angela yelled out at the same time.

“Calm down!” Nic yelled above their voices, trying to stop Angela from advancing toward the dangerous site.

Amber was the one restraining Yvonne.

“How could I be calm?” Angela yelled at Nic.

“Let me call him first,” Nic told Angela, still having a hold of her arm.

Yvonne was crying at this point, her whole body shaking and Amber was still holding her and comforting. But before Nic could make the call, his phone rang.

“It’s Wallace,” Nic reassured all the female population present after looking at the screen to check the number. After that, he picked up the call. “Hey, man, where are you?”

“Uh…Nic,” Wallace said from the other side of the line. “Remember how you said you wanted to have a renovation done later? Renovation has to start from scratch.”

“Stop joking, man, just get out of there.”

By then, both Angela and Yvonne had calmed down already. Yvonne was attempting to pull herself together while Angela grabbed her brother’s phone, not caring to ask.

“You idiot! You scared the world out of us!” Angela yelled.

“Am I that terrible?” Wallace’s voice asked. This time, it wasn’t from the other side of the line but much closer.

Angela abandoned the phone–to which Nic made sure to rescue it from her hand despite the situation–and looked toward the direction of the voice. Wallace emerged from a side path and smiled at them. Yet his smile soon turned off upon seeing Yvonne’s devastated state. Though she had tried to pull herself together, it was still visible. Amber had let go of her already and Yvonne was making her way toward him.

“Next time, I’m going with you,” Yvonne managed before she was choking up with tears again.

Wallace didn’t know why but he could only pull her closer and comfort her with light patting on the back. He knew the others were staring at him, but he didn’t care. When he finally looked at them again, only Amber seemed to show signs of approval. Or were the other two still upset that he didn’t call them up earlier?

“It’s okay,” Wallace soothed Yvonne again. “There’s no next time. I promise.” He attempted to guide her to his car. “Come on, we have to go now.” With that, he gestured for the others to make a move.

Out of the three, only Amber managed to send him a gleaming smile. Angela and Nic were still trying to recover from having seen the sight. Not the one where there was an explosion. They were still puzzled as to why Wallace was holding Yvonne so tightly. Even if it was to comfort her, yet he seemed to be fine with it?

“Come on, you two,” Amber urged as she opened the car door.

The Chang siblings had no choice but to follow suit since Wallace had already gotten into his car–and had already helped Yvonne buckled up after helping her in.

“That was strange,” Angela commented as she buckled up.

“What?” Nic asked. He was so faking innocence because he, himself, was as puzzled.

Angela gave him a look in the rearview mirror. “You know what.”

“There’s nothing strange about it,” Amber said after buckling up–and Nic was pulling out of their parking spot.

“Just because you know Yvonne first doesn’t make it right that she’s going after someone’s husband,” Angela blurted out, apparently still upset with Amber from previous conflicts.

Amber had on her amused smile then. She turned around slightly and looked straight at Angela. “Going after someone’s husband? Speak for yourself.”

“I…” Angela stuttered. “Okay, I did it too but I didn’t know at that time, okay? She knew.”

Amber scoffed and turned around again. She stared straight ahead at Wallace’s car, smiling at the two silhouettes in the car.

Nic didn’t dare to ask so he just shrugged when he caught Angela’s protesting glare in the mirror.

© Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Posted: Friday, July 5th, 2013

PREVIOUS CHAPTER | CONTENTS | NEXT CHAPTER