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Chapter 2 – Keeping Scores

“If you didn’t write the number down in the first place, I would think you were conspiring with her,” Cynthia chided.
They were at the bowling alley. The girls wanted to watch the guys play. In fact, they even changed into comfortable clothes to join in with the guys. Cynthia had tied her hair up so it wouldn’t get in her way. They were sitting at one of the benches, waiting for their turn.
“Forget it,” Larissa said. “You know it’s always hard for us to choose sides. It’s a miracle Mel and I aren’t enemies as well.”
“Here you are,” Ricky said, handing Larissa her drink as he walked toward them. His smile was bright on his face. It did not look fake either. He was not just putting up a pretentious front to ease the situation, but because he seemed to be in his own world. A world with only Larissa.
“Thanks,” Larissa said, sending him one of her sweeter than all the sugars in the world combined.
Cynthia gave Larissa a look. She got up from her spot. “I better move away or I’ll die from sugar overload.”
“Here’s yours,” Nic said, walking up to her.
“Thanks,” Cynthia said, using her polite tone. “Where’s yours?”
Nic scratched his head. “Uh…”
Cynthia had been sipping on her drink while waiting for his answer. She found him too amusing. Was he that careless? “You can drink mine if you want.” She handed him her drink.
“Sure?” Nic asked. He seemed too timid. It was like he was afraid of her. It was like he was trying hard to erase the image at the café out of his head…but failed.
“It’s your turn, Miss,” Dan – one of Nic and Ricky’s friends – called out to Cynthia.
Cynthia shoved her drink toward Nic. “Hold it for me. You can drink it too if you want.”
Nic stood there staring at her as she made her way toward the lane. He scratched his head again. Then forced himself to stop. He needed to get rid of that contagious habit. If other people walked by and saw him scratching furiously, they would think he had lice. Or worse, major dandruff problems.

*****

“What do you guys think of this one?” Vincent asked the others. “I could use this globe as my crystal ball at the fair next week. Convincing?”
“Sure, if the customers’ eyesights are as bad as yours,” Melanie replied, her teasing smile on.
Jiro and Cyndi laughed at the same time. Jiro then turned to Cyndi, almost forgetting that she was with them. It was strange that she had returned to her petite and polite self like when they first met. He had to get used to that.
“What fair are you guys talking about?” Cyndi asked as they browsed through another store.
“Oh, it’s a yearly event at our town,” Vincent explained. His voice was getting back to normal within the last half hour.
Melanie took over to do the explaining.
“Sounds exciting,” Cyndi commented, checking out a necklace on display. “And you said you also have a booth there?”
“I do,” Vincent said. “Mel’s lazy this year.”
“I never get enough time to browse any of the game booths or stalls,” Melanie whined. “I want to use this year for leisure time.” She turned to Cyndi. “Want to come?”
“Sure,” Cyndi replied. “I want to see what it is all about.”
They made their way around the shopping center, chatting away. Day gave way to night when they were done with their walk.
“Want to go in for a drink?” Cyndi asked the others when they were near a café.
The others nodded.
It was a different café, not the one they ran into Cynthia earlier. As they settled down into a booth, Jiro’s cell phone rang. He picked it up and pointed to his drink preference before answering. The others chatted quietly among themselves, waiting for him.
“What was that all about?” Melanie asked when Jiro got off the phone.
It was not bad news. Should not be. His face was all sunshine.
“One of the clients agreed to let me work on his case,” Jiro announced. His smile was even wider than before. If that was possible.
“The one you said hard to please?” Vincent asked.
Jiro nodded. “He just has high expectations.”
“I’ll bet.” Yup, Vincent was returning to his old self.
“We should cheer on it then,” Cyndi said suddenly, bringing her glass of milkshake toward the center – indicating with her eyes that the others do the same.
Vincent and Melanie exchanged a look before placing their glasses on either side of Cyndi’s. Cyndi offered Jiro an encouraging smile. He held out his glass as last and clink it with theirs. They withdrew their glasses and took a few sips. Jiro still had his eyes on Cyndi – as she did the same. They were sharing the same bright smile, sharing a world of their own even. He had a feeling that she was telling him she was sharing his victory with him. While the two were still caught in the moment, Vincent and Melanie slapped one another a high-five under the table.

*****

At that very moment, Cynthia had made the last strike for Nic’s team, winning the game for them. They were also on the verge of celebrating for a victory.
“Yes!” Cynthia yelled out, her hand pointing at the other team. “And you guys thought you beat us, huh?”
“We accept defeat now, Miss,” Dan spoke up for the rest of his team.
Cynthia did not say more. She walked toward Nic and embraced him. “I told you we would win!” Her smile was more than happiness. Or perhaps victory was her source of happiness.
“You guys sure are good together all right,” Dan teased.
Nic felt his face flushed. He was about to hug Cynthia back – as a sign of victory, but he didn’t after hearing Dan’s words of tease. Luckily Cynthia let go of him. She was still wearing that victory smile.
“You guys are just jealous of our talents,” She returned.
“Is she always this competitive?” Ricky asked Larissa. He was still sitting by the bench with Larissa.
“She was using the game to release her anger,” Larissa explained, smiling.
“Let’s go celebrate this!” Cynthia suggested.
“Do we have to pay for your meals too?” Dan asked.
Cynthia shook her head. “My treat.”
The other guys exchanged a look, feeling it was too good to be true. They did not argue either.
An hour later, they met at the main entrance, ready to go. It did not take them that long to change but they had to shower after the game. Because they had parked their car a distance from the alley, they had to walk awhile before reaching it.
“What do you guys want to eat then?” Cynthia asked when they were half a block from their cars.
“How about hotpot?” Dan suggested.
“Sure,” Cynthia agreed.
Larissa tugged on Cynthia’s shoulder, whispering, “I thought you don’t like to eat hotpot at night.”
“I didn’t name any terms, right? Can’t back out after they suggest.”
Nic overheard them since he was walking next to Cynthia. He pondered what kind of person she was. She could be so unreasonable when arguing with her sister yet she was a person of her words with his friends. Or was this an attempt to score points? No, didn’t she tell him she had no intention of starting a relationship with him? Or was her intent in stating that up front was to confuse him?
“Eh…” Cynthia called out, snapping her fingers in front of him. “Where have you been?”
Nic shook his head. He almost reached up to scratch his head again, but resisted it. “I was thinking about something.”
Cynthia gave him another amused him smile. “Everyone agreed on hotpot already. What about you?”
“If everyone’s in, I shouldn’t have a say.”
“You’re always entitled to your opinion. And we could change it to match everyone’s preferences. Don’t ever give in to others’ pressures, especially when you’re the only one thinking otherwise. No one should be a doormat.”
Nic felt more amused than ever. He had a feeling she was his older sister, giving him philosophical tips.
“You’re scaring him,” Larissa jumped in, not wanting Nic to feel suffocated by Cynthia’s aggressiveness.
Nic switched to scratching his neck instead of his hair. This method had one disadvantage. Just one disadvantage but it was enough to kill him. His neck would eventually turn red. But before he could speak up to defend himself, the group stopped abruptly. He looked up to see the other group staring at them as well. His group had more people yet the other group seemed to enumerate this strange aura that promised protection for everyone and more. If that person chose to be on the other side.
“It seems that some pests are harder to get rid of than others,” Cynthia remarked, her face all business once again.
Yes, it was Cyndi and the others. It was her threatening energy that had surrounded her group, outnumbering Cynthia’s group – without an effort.
“What a coincidence,” Melanie spoke up, letting out a nervous smile.
“How would we know that we bump into you again?” Cyndi snapped. She did not care for Melanie’s attempt at humor. Her face was an iceberg once more.
“You guys know each other?” Dan asked, staring from Cynthia to Cyndi, not knowing what was going on.
“Dan, stay out of this,” Ricky warned, gesturing with his hand for the other guys to clear out.
As if it was some kind of mutual agreement, all the guys step to one side, making way for the girls. That also included Jiro and Vincent. They were hurdled next to Ricky and Nic once again. That little reaction from the guys caused the change in situation. It was no longer two groups, but three groups. The guys were somewhat hidden in the shadow, their energy not as menacing as the girls. The shadows casting on the ground surrounding the girls were more threatening than they could imagine. They stood there waiting for the next move – from either girl, not daring to even whisper.
© Saturday, December 11th, 2010
Posted: Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

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