Moving day brought forth many obvious signs between the two parents. It was not a matter of their conspiracy anymore in digging into their parents’ past. Yet it was a subtle battle between the parents unknowingly and once again in proving who cared more. On the day of the move, Mr. Wang personally helped with hauling items to Cynthia’s room on the second floor. Yes, a big indication in his partial toward Cynthia because he not only personally went upstairs to clean up the place himself, making sure it was in tip-top shape, but he had lifted the restrictions of not letting anyone going up to the second floor—since the day his wife and oldest daughter moved out. Those partial gestures were also seen with their mother, because she had also taken the time to check and make sure Cyndi had everything she needed. The guest room was not a typical guest room anymore, but it had somehow turned into a princess’ chamber. Though taking an active role in the whole move, but it wasn’t like both parents would dip in any further in regard to actually driving to the said resident to help haul items to the transport vehicle. That was left in the hands of their friends. Nic had volunteered his bowling friends to come over and help Cynthia. After all, they did gain a meal or two from Cynthia in the past. As for Jiro, he had Vincent and Melanie. Larissa had to stick with Nic’s team because she wasn’t sure if it was really safe to stick around and help Cyndi.
“Now that’s all set…” Cynthia drawled out after they were all in the front of the Wang resident—minus their parents’ presence, of course. “Let’s see who wins.”
“What?” Cyndi asked, not really paying attention.
“We’ll see who finds out the real answer faster. Hey, they won’t budge with us questioning them one way but now that we switch residents, we have a better chance.”
“Whoever loses…will be the other’s slave for a month,” Cyndi said, hinting that victory was already in her hands.
Cynthia smiled an amused one, shrugging her shoulders. “Fine. I’ll start a task list for you as soon as I settle in.” That was, of course, hinting at her own victory.
“We’ll see,” Cyndi snapped, pulling Jiro out of there.
Jiro only had time to shrug at Nic before he was dragged toward Cyndi’s car.
“Want to go out for a meal with the guys later?” Cynthia asked, turning to Nic.
“I thought you have to settle in,” Nic reminded her.
Cynthia smiled. “I’m already settled in.”
Before Nic could utter another word, Cynthia pulled him into the house toward the living room—where her father was waiting for them. He was actually watching TV—or pretending to be watching TV, but he snapped to attention as soon as they were inside. And both Cynthia and Nic had remembered to take their shoes off and switched to slippers. Even if the OCD maniac wasn’t around, they still needed to keep to the code.
“Ba, want to go eat with us?” Cynthia asked, her smile all sincere and welcoming.
Mr. Wang stared at Nic and then back at his daughter. “I wouldn’t want to go and disturb you kids.”
Cynthia shook her head. “I’m treating Nic and his friends to a meal for helping today.” She stopped to wave toward Nic’s direction casually. “It seems like you helped a lot with cleaning upstairs too. So…” Her charming smile flashed on then, wanting to secure the little gathering with her father.
Mr. Wang still looked unsure. Yet they were able to detect signs of his wanting to go with them. “If you kids are sure…”
“Of course we’re sure!” Cynthia exclaimed, getting up from her place. “Come on, Ba. We’ll wait for you in my car.”
As if that was final, Cynthia got up and tugged on Nic’s arm once more. She and Nic left the house before Mr. Wang could utter any words of objection.
One afternoon, Cynthia called Cyndi up and said that she had some leads. She wanted them to come and meet up at her shop after work. The news could only wait for so long. That afternoon was like the day they met up to agree on the conspiracy.
When Cyndi, Jiro, and Nic arrived, Cynthia was still behind the counter, making some final calculations. She signaled for Nic to lock the door behind him so no one else could enter.
“So, what’s the big news?” Cyndi asked the minute she settled at the stool in front of the counter.
“Relax,” Cynthia said, still tapping on the calculator in front of her. “Let me finish this first. If you guys want anything to drink, there’s some in the back.”
“I’ll get it,” Nic volunteered, making his way to the break room.
Cyndi was still anxious, staring at Cynthia’s tapping rhythm, wondering when it would end so they could finally talk. Jiro had to send her a smile once every while to reassure her it was going to be all right. Nic came back two minutes later and got some water for everyone, except for Cynthia—who already had a ginger ale bottle by her side.
“You redecorated?” Nic asked, glimpsing at the wall behind Cynthia.
Cynthia nodded, still not losing her tapping rhythm.
“Looks nice,” Jiro commented, attempting to keep some sort of a conversation going.
“It has to do with a woman,” Cynthia said finally, having kept them in the dark enough already.
“Why is it always so cliché?” Cyndi shouted out while the guys exchanged a look. It was like she was disappointed more than frustrated with their parents’ childish retreats.
“Hey, like I want it to be that lame, but now that we know the root of the problem, we could help patch things up,” Cynthia continued, not wanting anyone to feel discouraged and abandoning the mission altogether. “Talking about a woman though, something else happened at home…”
“What?” Cyndi asked, her impatience way too obvious.
“Dad broke up with that woman already.”
“Thanks to me.”
“You would do that?” Jiro asked, astonished at how far she was going with all of these—and even acted so casual about it.
But like Cynthia understood Jiro’s assumption—or accusation, she looked up from her calculations at last. “Hey, it was an accident.”
“How accidental was it?” Cyndi asked, not really believing her sister’s words—just based on past records.
“She wanted to go to the second floor and explore. And Dad said no. She kept insisting, push came to shove, and out the door she went.”
Cyndi still wasn’t convinced. It was written all over her face. In fact, she was restraining herself from making silly faces at the moment. She knew Cynthia was putting her on.
Cynthia had gone back to her tapping again but returned her attention to them when they didn’t say anything. “I’m serious.”
“I want to believe you, but it sounds too stupid. Like you’re putting us on.”
Cynthia shrugged. “How would I know Dad would get so short-tempered over a little tour on the second floor?”
“Wait a minute…” Cyndi said—as if remembering something.
The other three turned to her. Though Jiro and Nic had exchanged a look behind her back first.
“Didn’t our parents’ last argument happen on the second floor?”
“So?” Cynthia asked.
“Maybe it’s related to that.”
“Like because Dad doesn’t want to be reminded of Mom?”
Cyndi wrinkled her face, feeling the theory was as lame. “This is just too…”
“Don’t take it out on my counter.”
Yes, Cyndi had banged her hand on the counter out of frustration. Jiro and Nic exchanged another look.
“Anyway,” Cynthia went right on—like Cyndi’s hand wasn’t hurting. “About the other woman, the one in the past, want me to look up on her or…”
“Let’s see the photo,” Cyndi said, which also meant she wanted some proof and not Cynthia’s empty words.
Cynthia shrugged and bent down to get her bag. She retrieved a mini folder and handed it to Cyndi.
“She looks familiar,” Cyndi commented, wrinkling her face, trying to conjure up some familiar images in her head. “Like…” She shook her head—as if clearing it. “I don’t know…just strange…”
“We’ll find out in the next few days.”
Cyndi handed the photo back to Cynthia. “How did you get it though?”
“Sneaked around when Dad’s not home.”
“He doesn’t notice?”
“He’s not OCD like you and Mom.”
Cynthia smiled, feeling amused her sister didn’t even realize the similarities between her and their mother already. “Come on now. You gotta admit I was good, if not, how would I have gotten the answer so fast?”
“Are you trying to say that you’re enjoying this moment because I have to be your slave for a month?”
“Hey, just because you’re unproductive—since you were busy hanging out with your boyfriend—doesn’t mean you can blame it on me for losing.”
“What does my boyfriend have to do with you? And are you just jealous that you don’t have one?”
“Girls, girls,” Jiro jumped in—one of those rare times when he was feeling so brave.
Cynthia waved her hand. “Forget it. I’ll check further details out about this mystery lady.” Cynthia didn’t take the mini folder from Cyndi earlier but now that she made the decision to recover information on her own, she took it back without hesitation.
“I didn’t say I don’t want to do it,” Cyndi objected, pulling the mini folder back toward herself.
“Don’t destroy the photo before you can do anything beneficial with it then.” Cynthia moved to put away her calculation and notebook then. “But I’m telling you, we’re on a deadline so might want to stop your rants and show me what you got.”
Cyndi scoffed. “Like your taunting would work. I’ll show you. Just because you were playing dirty before doesn’t mean you would win in the end. And why are you putting a deadline on our investigation?”
Cynthia shrugged, but before she could continue on with more of her taunting, she covered both her mouth and her stomach—like she was going to throw up. Then before anyone else could ask about it, she raced for the bathroom.
“Hey!” Cyndi called out, running after her.
When Cyndi got there, Cynthia was already done with her “throwing up” scene. She was washing up at the sink.
“What’s wrong with you?” Cyndi asked, alarmed—no longer caring about their previous argument.
“Nothing,” Cynthia said, still washing her hands. “Must be lunch not agreeing with me.”
“But you look pale.”
Cynthia smiled. “Really? Might be because I just spit out my gut too.” She finally shut off the water and reached for the paper towel. “I have to stop ordering out and bring lunch with me in the future. Better yet, go to the doctor later to make sure I’m not poisoned or something.”
“You want us to come with you?”
Cynthia had on her amused smile, turning to Cyndi finally. “You’re kidding me, right?”
“Hey, you don’t have to sound so ungrateful, I’m just concerned.”
Cynthia made her exit then. “Now there’s my evil twin again. Don’t act so caring, you scared me.”
“Like you’re any better.”
They were back in the main area of the shop now with the guys standing around, waiting. It was like they knew better than to invade.
“So if we’re all clear on the next move, let’s clear out of here,” Cynthia continued—like her threw-up episodes didn’t happen. “I need to get to the doctor.”
“I’ll go with you,” Nic volunteered.
Cynthia smiled and turned to Nic. “I thought you have to meet up with Sha Sha and Ricky later?”
“There’s still time.”
Cynthia shook her head. “It’s okay. It would be too much of a slap in the face if you’re sitting right there with me and the doctor’s lecturing me about my eating habits that led to food poisoning.”
Cynthia put a hand up then, stopping Nic. “I’m good, okay?”
“If she’s so ungrateful, then let her go alone,” Cyndi jumped in, her face all scrunched up and ready to attack her sister once again.
Cynthia didn’t seem to be offended though. “Yeah, listen to the little kid.”
Cyndi scowled yet had no choice but to leave with Jiro and Nic as Cynthia made it obvious that she was locking up—after retrieving her bag from behind the counter.
They waited for Cynthia to leave the shop before pulling out. Cyndi had put Nic on speaker when he entered his car.
“This is too silly,” Nic said when he maneuvered into traffic, trying to keep out of sight and not look too suspicious. It wasn’t too odd that he was going the same way and would eventually turn yet he was still feeling unease.
“We have to see what she’s actually up to, you know,” Cyndi said, her authoritative tone cranked up to its max.
“What if it’s really food poisoning?”
“Then we’ll just go home after that, okay?”
Yes, Cyndi, the typical Cyndi, wasn’t about to give up when Cynthia kicked them out of the shop. She knew something was up, so she managed to recruit the guys to follow Cynthia.
“Say, I wonder if she’s really pregnant,” Cyndi blurted out when they were halfway to the hospital—or they had assumed the distance according to the routes Cynthia was taking.
“Uh…” Jiro managed, not knowing what to say.
“Could be food poisoning,” Nic said, still sticking to his mantra—and mostly wanting to believe Cynthia’s words.
“Come on, guys!” Cyndi exclaimed. “Put two and two together.”
“She’s just throwing up, it could mean a lot of things, you know. In this day and age, it’s not the only explanation. Like food poisoning.”
“Sounds too suspicious to me. Like she’s trying too hard to sell the food poisoning thing.”
“Say if she’s really pregnant, who is the father of the kid then?” Jiro pondered aloud.
“It’s not me,” Nic clarified, wanting to vouch for his innocence first.
“We all know that Nic,” Cyndi sabotaged. “You couldn’t even hold her hand, how could she let you…”
“No personal attacks now,” Jiro interfered. “I’m just saying if. It doesn’t mean she’s pregnant. Maybe Nic’s right. It’s just food poisoning and we’re paranoid.”
“Better paranoid than discover that I’m an aunt later and get caught off guard,” Cyndi reasoned.
“The way I see it, you have a higher chance of getting pregnant than her,” Nic said, his intention obvious.
“Hey! What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Guys,” Jiro interfered again.
Jiro’s interference also marked the moment when Cynthia pulled into the hospital’s side parking lot. They had to wait a bit—at least until Cynthia went inside before coming in, except for Nic who was already so close behind Cynthia. He had to get a bit crafty with following her though.
Like when they came, they had to wait for Cynthia to leave the doctor’s office before sneaking in.
“Hi,” Cyndi said to the clerk at the front desk. “May I ask what that lady was here for?”
“I’m sorry, we can’t release any patient’s conditions or records to outsiders,” The clerk answered, her grim expression obvious.
“Uh…” Cyndi managed, not really stuttering but more like she was playing on the clerk’s feeling. “I know it’s inappropriate, but I’m just worried about my sister. She said it’s food poisoning, but I have a feeling it’s not just that…so…” She saw that the clerk wasn’t caving in, so she sighed out. “I guess I shouldn’t give you a hard time. Sorry, Miss.”
“Wait,” The clerk said as Cyndi pulled the doorknob of the office.
That was when Cyndi gave herself a mental pat on the shoulder. She had looked pitiful enough.
“What is your sister’s name?” The clerk asked.
“Last name Wang, first name Cynthia,” Cyndi rattled off, guessing that Cynthia must be using her English name. And she could try Cynthia’s Chinese name later if Cynthia wasn’t on the list.
All three watched as the clerk scanned the patients’ list with her finger, feeling anxious.
“Here it is,” The clerk finally said after what seemed like forever—though it was only a minute.
The others leaned forward a little more, not wanting to miss any word.
“Cynthia Wang,” The clerk read aloud, though not too loud so as not to disturb the other patients. The clerk paused, sending them all into another few seconds of nervousness. But the smile on the clerk’s face reassured them—slightly. The clerk finally looked up at them again. “Congratulations, you’re an aunt.”
“What?” Cyndi asked, faking confusion, wanting more clarification.
“Your sister is pregnant,” The clerk verified, her smile still attached. “She was here to check up on the progress of her baby.”
“Oh…it’s…” Cyndi clutched her head, like she was feeling overwhelmed.
The clerk put a hand on Cyndi’s shoulder then. “I know it’s all too overwhelming at first, but you’ll get used to it.”
Cyndi nodded, pretending to be collecting herself together. She turned to the clerk again. “Thanks for your help.”
The clerk just nodded, and they cleared out of there—with Cyndi still playing the overwhelmed aunt.
“I told you so!” Cyndi yelled out as soon as they were out of the hospital—and safely away from anyone who would suspect them of having some ulterior motive.
“How should I know?” Nic returned, still feeling overwhelmed from the news—for real and not faking it like Cyndi.
“What are we going to do now?” Jiro asked. “Like pretend we didn’t know?”
Cyndi didn’t say anything but just had on this undecipherable smile that caused both Jiro and Nic to exchange a glance between the two of them again.
© Friday, June 24th, 2011
Posted: Friday, November 4th, 2011