Chapter 9

Valentine’s Day greeted them with much warm as winter slowly faded away in the background. In fact, they even decided to spend Valentine’s Day together. That night, they were in Wallace’s car heading to the reserved restaurant for a celebration. They decided on the same restaurant but with different tables – for very obvious reasons.
“Hold on,” Wallace said suddenly.
“What?” Nic asked, turning to Wallace. He had been looking out at the night view.
The stranger thing was seeing him and Wallace sitting in front while the girls sat in the back. Wallace, of course, was the one driving.
“I forgot something,” Wallace replied. “At least my house’s on the way.”
Nic stared at his watch. “Does it have to be now?”
“Can you give your Valentine’s gift tomorrow?” His sarcasm was apparent.
“We’re early anyway,” Angela jumped in, seeing her brother’s expression.
It did not take a genius to detect the beginning of their fights either. They were more than experience of how and when the guys would start fighting again.
Nic sighed out. “Fine.”
“Stop displaying that long face,” Cyndi said, smiling. She was poking Nic on the cheek.
He ended up smiling and grabbing her hands.
Wallace rolled his eyes. “Will you two stop? Want me to crash or something?”
Angela patted Wallace on the shoulder, attempting to calm him down.
“Don’t worry,” He reassured her. “I won’t kill them on Valentine’s Day.”
As if he needed another more pressing matter to delay his promise, the light changed and he returned his attention to the traffic ahead.
“When we get there, you guys stay in the car,” Wallace instructed. “It’ll be a fast trip.”
Nic scoffed but stayed quiet the rest of the way.
“Oh great,” Wallace muttered when they arrived and parked behind a black sedan.
They recognized that look. It was not of mockery. At least not the one where he often displayed for Nic. It was more intense. Along the area of disgust.
“What’s wrong?” Angela asked, getting out of the car as well.
“Sylvie’s car,” Wallace said. He turned to her. “You better stay here.”
“I’m not scared of her,” Angela protested.
“I’m scared.”
Nic and Cyndi stopped their horsing around and gawked at Wallace. They had rolled down the window to get some air in.
“I’m scared that you will kill her,” Wallace clarified.
The other two resumed their conversation.
“Don’t be silly,” Angela said, managing a smile. “I’ll just ignore her.” She reached out and hooked her hands through his. “Come on.”
He had no choice but to proceed to the door. Angela had released her grip on him and remained behind him as he opened the door.
“Mom,” Wallace called out as he passed by the living room.
Mrs. Huo gestured for Wallace to come her way.
Wallace did not budge from his spot. “I’m not staying. I forgot something earlier.”
Mrs. Huo’s smile turned off. Her attention was on Angela.
“Auntie,” Angela greeted Mrs. Huo, smiling and nodding in a respectful manner.
“Is this the girl?” Mrs. Huo asked, turning to Sylvie – who was sitting at her right.
“Yes,” Sylvie replied, her voice so soft, so innocent – contrary to her fierce attitude when she addressed Wallace and the others.
“What’s going on here?” Wallace was eyeing Sylvie. He knew something was up. He was too familiar with her tricks.
“That’s no way to treat your cousin,” Mrs. Huo chided him. “I want to ask you something.”
Wallace stole a glance at his watch. A habit he learned from Nic. “I’m prompt for time. Can we talk when I come back later?”
“This won’t take long.”
Wallace spotted the box he placed by the oak table at the right side of the room. He made his way toward it and seized it up, returning to Angela’s side in speed time.
“Did you let her slap your cousin the other day?” Mrs. Huo was pointing at Angela.
“She slapped me first,” Wallace said. He had reached his hand out to shield Angela from his mother’s attack. It was a reflex. “Without reasons too.”
“I didn’t mean to,” Sylvie said softly. “It was an accident.”
“Sure,” Wallace snapped. He grabbed a hold of Angela’s hand, turning to leave. “I’m not having this conversation. See you later, Mom.”
“Wallace…” Mrs. Huo pressed.
Wallace turned to face his mother again. “Mom…”
“If you’re thinking of letting some obnoxious girl enter this house, then…”
“Mom…”
“Let me finish.”
“Mom, you shouldn’t listen to other people’s words too much. You think Sylvie’s that innocent? What kind of world do we live in today? If someone like her is called innocent, then I don’t know what to call those people who live in a protective bubble anymore.”
“Attacking Sylvie won’t solve the problem,” Mrs. Huo said. Her grim expression was apparent. It seemed like she had made up her mind about Angela.
“I don’t see any problem around here,” Wallace returned. “Unless you call all the ones that she stirs up.” He was pointing at Sylvie for effect.
Mrs. Huo sighed out. “I never question you about your career because I trust you and know that you have talent. But I can’t let you bring someone like that into our house.” She was still staring at Angela in that displeased manner.
And for some reason, Angela felt some source of unknown fear crept up from within. She did not know why she could not speak up to defend herself. Or more like she could not muster up the courage to contradict someone like Mrs. Huo. Was she feeling the chill of being judged by her possible future mother in law? Or was she trying to resist for Wallace’s sake? Then she felt Wallace’s grip tightening. She knew it was his way of reassuring her that he would not abandon her.
“I respect you and know that you care for me,” Wallace said. “But it doesn’t mean I will let my marriage life turned into one of those dumb, pitiful ones. I will control my fate.”
Mrs. Huo had gotten up from her seat and was advancing toward Wallace. “Is that what you learn from her? Talking back to me?”
“Mom, you know very well that I could carry an attitude on my own without anyone’s help. You don’t have to bring Angela into it.”
Then they heard the door creaking. Everyone present turned to see Nic and Cyndi walking in. Wallace had left the door ajar earlier, thinking that he only needed a minute or less.
“Hi Mrs. Huo,” Nic greeted her while Cyndi nodded.
“Let’s go,” Wallace said, unfreezing himself from the spot he was standing, tugging Angela’s hand in the process. “Mom, we’ll talk about this later.”
“No,” Mrs. Huo rejected the idea. “You can’t dodge from this one.”
“What’s going on here?” Nic asked, turning to Wallace.
“It’s just a misunderstanding since some skunk managed to contaminate Mom’s mind.” Wallace was staring at Sylvie with an intense look.
“Wallace,” Mrs. Huo called out in a warning tone.
Wallace returned his attention to his mother. “I’m not wrong.”
“Just because she’s exposing your latest girlfriend doesn’t mean she’s hateful.”
“What?” Nic asked, confused.
“That snitch ratted on Angela,” Wallace explained. “Since she can’t get over the fact that Lex dumped her.”
“Wallace,” Mrs. Huo called out again. Her voice was leveled but her face had said it all. She was running out of patience. “Don’t make me say it.”
“Mom,” Wallace let out. It was the first time he sounded helpless.
Then everything registered in Nic’s mind. It was not like he never encountered such situation. He just didn’t realize it would happen to him. No, more like his sister.
“If there’s any sort of misunderstanding, I’m willing to clarify the matter,” Nic volunteered, stepping toward Mrs. Huo.
“No misunderstanding,” Mrs. Huo said coolly. She was trying to be polite yet she was direct. Her expression was still grim. “I don’t think you can help.”
“If it concerns my sister, then it concerns me, ma’am.”
“Your sister?”
“Angela.”
“Then I apologize for my straight-forward request but it is better that you tell your sister to not bother our Wallace anymore.”
Nic’s calmness had disappeared. He saw Angela’s timidity unwrapping itself. Her vulnerability was surfacing at a rapid rate. At a terrifying rate. The words really hurt. Unlike in the past when others were judging her. He did not blame her. That moment of hesitation had passed.
“I’m sorry, ma’am,” Nic began in a polite manner yet his attitude was different. “It is up to my sister to decide for her future.” He stopped briefly and turned to Wallace. “But I must clarify that it was him who pursued her and not the other way around.”
“Then I will talk to my son,” Mrs. Huo returned.
“Mom,” Wallace called out, his frustration increasing.
“If we’re not welcomed here, then we will leave,” Nic continued, ignoring Wallace’s protest. “But I won’t let anyone insult my sister.” He turned to Angela and grabbed hold of her right hand.
Wallace was still holding onto her left hand. He refused to let go.
“Huo Jian Hua,” Nic gritted his teeth. It was one of those rare moments where Nic was mad. Really mad, not acting out of childishness like in the past.
“I don’t care,” Wallace shot back. “I’m not letting go.”
Nic directed his eyes to Angela. “Xiao Han.”
Angela finally tore herself from the trance she was trapped in. She yanked her hand away from Wallace’s, not forgetting to utter out, “I won’t let you be trapped in a hard spot.”
Wallace took another step forward, reaching for Angela’s hand again. Her head had bent down, staring at the ground as she was being led away by Nic.
“Let go,” Angela begged. Yet her strength did not grow weak like her voice.
“I’m sorry, Mom,” Wallace said seconds later, staring into his mother’s eyes for the last time.
“Wallace!” Mrs. Huo yelled after them.
That was the last sound that the four heard before the door shut behind them.
“You can’t go with us!” Angela exclaimed in alarm. She had recovered from her weak state. It was like an invisible spell inside the house. Once she was outside, she was alive again.
“No one can tell me what to do,” Wallace said. He had the determined look on his face.
“If I know that your family is so royal, I would rather let Xiao Han hate me than let you date her,” Nic rattled out, his hostility apparent.
“I won’t let go,” Wallace repeated of his words from earlier.
“I don’t care.”
Wallace’s attention was on Nic now. “I don’t care how many senseless fights we got into in the past. From now on, I’m going to prove to you that I’m worth Angela’s stubbornness.”
He did not say ‘love’ because they all knew. It was already proof how much they’d been through these past months. By saying Angela’s ‘stubbornness’, he was reminding them of her persistence in dating him from the start – regardless of Nic’s objections. If she had hung on so long, why should he let go?
“You better not go back on your words,” Nic said at last, pointing at Wallace.
Wallace smiled, knowing it was Nic’s agreement. “You betcha.”
“Let’s get out of here then.”
“But what about…” Angela began, looking around in nervousness.
“I won’t go home until I find a way to solve this thing,” Wallace declared.
“What about our dinner?” Cyndi asked.
Wallace threw up his hands. “So much for Valentine’s Day, huh?”
“Let’s cancel it,” Nic said, speaking up for Wallace as well.
Wallace nodded in affirmation.
“What are we going to do then?” Cyndi continued her questioning.
Wallace shrugged. “Drive up some mountain and get some fresh air.”
Nic nodded. “Sure, why not?”
They were already in the car with Wallace backing out and exiting the resident. It was only a matter of agreement before Wallace steered toward their next destination.
“You can call and cancel our reservation, Ling Ling,” Wallace commanded.
Cyndi nodded. She already had her cell phone out. It was a matter of calling. She could not helped but let out of sigh. “Too bad.”
“Indeed,” Wallace agreed.
© Wednesday, November 17th, 2010
Posted: Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

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