Chapter 18

October soon greeted them and Wallace was wrong about Tammy recovering within several days. It had been three more weeks and she was not getting any better. In fact, it had turned worse if that was possible. She had to go to the doctor and stayed home until her test results came out.
“If you would just take care of yourself better,” Wallace chided her one afternoon when he brought her meds for her.
“When did you become such an old man?” Tammy asked, studying him as if to make sure he was indeed the Wallace Huo she knew.
“Since someone doesn’t know how to take care of herself, I guess I’ll have to take up the role.” He placed the empty glass on her night stand instead of taking it back out to the kitchen like many times before. “When are the results out?”
“In about a week or so,” Tammy replied. “Don’t tell me you’re going to escort me there to get the results.”
Wallace had on his cunning smile. “Want me to?”
Tammy wrinkled her face. “No way.”
“Why not? Got something to hide?”
“I don’t want a babysitter tagging along.”
Wallace shook his head. He finally got up and left the room. He had no idea her smile had faded as soon as he was out of sight. Her eyes showing traces of reluctance. If he only knew.

*****

One day after work, Wallace was locking up when he realized Cyndi hadn’t left yet. She was still typing at her desk. Being the boss had its advantages. He skillfully pretended to be checking his briefcase and looking for something in the drawer to her left but managed to glimpse the screen once. Maybe twice.
“A date?” Wallace asked casually. Too casual. Even for Wallace. He never cared about their affairs before. Old Nic should be grateful.
Cyndi smiled and nodded. “With Angela. We’re going to see a movie together.”
Wallace felt discouraged. He packed up and decided to leave. If he had to poke anymore, she might suspect him. The last thing he wanted to do. Losing his cool. But then the plot thickened. Because he spotted Jiro’s car parked right next to his.
“I never realize Angela changed so much,” He teased. Then he slammed the door shut. He wanted to have the last word. When he was outside, he headed straight for his car.
“Cyndi inside?” Jiro asked.
“I don’t see her out here,” Wallace returned.
“What’s wrong?”
Glad you noticed, he thought sarcastically. And why in the world was he letting Nic’s mood affect him? It wasn’t Jiro’s fault. Nic was just too much to take at times. “Nothing. I have to catch you later.”
“Is Cyndi inside though?”
“Duh.” He shut his car door then. Then he rolled his window down. “Sorry about that…” He had no idea why he was feeling so anxious at the moment. “Yeah, she’s printing something out.”
Jiro waved to him as Cyndi came out. He returned the wave before pulling out.
When he reached the red light, his cell phone beeped. He risked a glimpse and saw Yvonne’s number. He proceeded past the intersection as the light changed. He had hesitated. The tone for the voicemail followed. He felt like he needed to take the call. And he needed to stop first.
“Yvonne?” He asked. He didn’t care to listen to the Voicemail. “What’s going on?”
“You didn’t listen to the message?” Yvonne asked.
“You know I hate it. Unless I really have to.”
“Meet us at the hospital then,” Yvonne said. Then she remembered to clarify which one.
“What happened?”
“Maybe you should get here first.”
Yvonne hung up before he could ask further. He was forced to check the Voicemail. He was glad he had parked first.

*****

A month later, he was standing in the late autumn wind, clenching his scarf. It was the same scarf Yvonne gave him. Which also meant he was wearing the tan coat. And Yvonne was standing next to him. She was wearing her black coat. The coat that used to be her advantage because he had loved the coat that matched hers. And because it allowed her to wear her white scarf. Yet she no longer cared. They both didn’t.
“You sure you don’t want me to stay here with you?” Nic asked, turning to Wallace.
Wallace nodded, his eyes still staring ahead.
“All right.” Nic sounded like he did not believe Wallace but he left anyway. He did not want to say those words of reassurance because there was never a good word or two to say about the whole thing. Nic only patted Wallace’s shoulder slightly before leaving.
Yvonne was the only one there with him at the moment, standing at his left. She stayed silent, not wanting to disturb his train of thoughts. Wallace was glad of that. He had enough the past few hours. He did not mind Yvonne standing there. He just didn’t want her to talk. It would be too much of an effort for him to reply. Maybe she’d understood. That was why she’d stayed silent the whole time. And even offered to help him fend the others off with the questions.
The wind had picked up. He didn’t care. He just continued to stare straight ahead. All the memories of the past came hauntingly back to him. He didn’t regret of it. Maybe only times when he had upset her. He could only remember the words she often said to him: You don’t have to do this. But he wanted to. Now he couldn’t. Not anymore. He glimpsed at the ring on his left hand.
“Wallace!” A familiar voice called to his right.
He turned and saw Angela running toward him. He waited until she was closer. Instead of consoling him, she advanced and hugged him. He returned the hug, surprised. All everyone wanted to do all morning was talk.
“You got a perm?” He asked when they finally let go of each other.
She didn’t answer his question. She didn’t feel the need to. “I just got back and heard it from Nic. I hauled a Taxi from the airport.”
“Glad you could make it,” Wallace said, getting back to the crucial topic.
“I’m late.”
“It’s never too late to visit.”
“I’ll bring some flowers next time.”
Wallace nodded.
“What can I do?”
“Nothing.” He wasn’t being mean. There was seriously nothing he could think of. “We got it taken care of already.”
“Call me if anything?”
Wallace nodded.
After Angela left, Wallace turned to Yvonne. “You want a ride back?”
“You want me to drive?”
Wallace shook his head. “I could do it.”
Yvonne reached over and gave him a pat on the shoulder before they made their way back to his car.

*****

The disadvantage of being a boss was you did not get a break regardless. So what if your wife died? Life goes on. It wasn’t like the world would stop spinning. Even if Wallace was an inconsiderate, egoistical jerk, he was not oblivious to the fact that the others needed to support their families. He switched to full mechanical mode when he was at work and full passive mode at home. Soon, he was no longer at home. He was at Tammy’s house. No one dared to stop him. Or more like they couldn’t get through him. Only Yvonne, Nic, and Angela did not stop him. They supported him as much as he would allow them to help. Or even let them in on what was going on.
“Sometimes I wonder what’s worse,” Wallace’s mother said one day when Nic and Angela stopped by. “Maybe I should’ve given myself a chance to get to know you and accept you for who you are or…” She let out a sigh. That was meant for Angela.
“Auntie, even if we didn’t have that misunderstanding, things would turn out this way in the end,” Angela said.
Mrs. Huo nodded. “I called you here to apologize to you officially.”
Angela shook her head. “We didn’t know how to handle the situation in the first place either. Nic and I were…”
It was Mrs. Huo’s turn to shake her head. “Your brother was just protecting you. We all thought we were right, which you were and I was wrong.”
“We shouldn’t blame ourselves for what happened,” Nic interfered. “Maybe we shouldn’t blame Sylvie either. Maybe because she thought she was right so…”
Mrs. Huo, of course, had finally understood Sylvie’s intention and Sylvie’s attempt to get revenge on Wallace. Though Sylvie had no idea how wrong she was because Wallace had never caused her break up with Lex. Once Mrs. Huo realized what kind of silly game Sylvie was playing, she knew Sylvie’s words against Angela were just sabotage. However, it was just too late. Not too late to patch up their relationships. But it was too late to encourage Wallace on – for whatever it was about his life.

*****

Two weeks before Christmas, Wallace stopped at an auto place to fill up and bumped into Jiro. He had forgotten that Jiro owned an auto shop.
“Hey,” Jiro greeted him when Wallace entered to pay.
Wallace nodded. He was still in his mechanical mode.
Jiro looked nervous as he fished out some change for Wallace. “Been hanging in there?”
“Life goes on.” Wallace did not want to be mean. But he did not know how to put it any other way.
“I…”
Wallace took his change from Jiro. “You don’t need to reassure me. I’ll heal…eventually.”
Jiro nodded.
Wallace left after that and headed home. His and Tammy’s house.
“Happy birthday,” He said, sitting down at the sofa.
Then he waited about ten minutes before he cleared the area and placed the cake into the fridge. Yvonne was coming over soon. She did not need to be alarmed.
“You doing anything this year?” Yvonne asked when she sat down.
She meant Christmas. The last holiday he wanted to be reminded of. So he really appreciated that she was that subtle.
“Life goes on, right?” He asked back.
“Wallace…”
Wallace shook his head. “I’m good.”
“Want to get together with the others and…” She did not dare to continue.
“Sure.”
She was surprised that he even agreed.
“Only with Nic and Angela though.”
She nodded. “What about Jiro and Cyndi?”
“Ask Old Nic.”
Yvonne nodded.
Then they moved onto another subject. She told him of her work – or whatever was allowed of the assignment that could be disclosed. He managed to contribute some things he encountered during the day. It had been that way all along. It had been that way since Tammy passed away.
© Wednesday, March 9th, 2011
Posted: Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

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