Chapter 3 – Courage

The wait lasted for five minutes. No, ten. No, it was longer than that. At least to the guys. But it only lasted a few seconds. Cyndi and Cynthia were both no-nonsense types of persons. They would never waste time to stare one another down and then walk away.

“What would it be this time, Sha Sha?” Cynthia asked, her eyes still on Cyndi. “Pick a number? Draw a picture?”

The mockery was too hard not to notice.

“We’re just passing by anyway,” Melanie jumped in—though she detected signs that Cyndi was going to attack. “It wouldn’t matter if we just happen to go the same way?” Her smile was too trying.

“That’s right,” Larissa agreed. “Let’s step aside and let them by and that’s that. We’re going to have hotpot, right? Don’t want that place to close.”

“Why should I step aside?” Cynthia asked, her challenging look still on Cyndi. In fact, it had never left Cyndi. Her radar eyes had been pinned on Cyndi the minute they bumped into one another. It was the same case with the other party and Cynthia wanted to win this time. “And I think I lost my appetite.”

“Like my appetite is not suffering,” Cyndi said, her intense look unwavering.

“Then maybe you shouldn’t have eaten too much.”

“You never told us your girlfriend is this scary,” Dan whispered to Nic. He glanced at his watch—though it was too dark where he was standing to tell the time. It was just a fake move to indicate urgency. “I just remember we have to be somewhere in a bit, right guys?” He poked at one of the guys.

“Right,” Chip answered.

“We’re leaving first then,” Dan continued, having been backed up by Chip.

“Right,” Chip followed.

“We’ll catch you later then,” Dan said, patting Nic on the shoulder.

As if preplanned, all of Nic’s bowling friends slithered away through the darkness. Only Ricky remained. He had no choice. He was not only Nic’s friend but also the girls’.

Standing in the shadows, the four guys watched the four girls intently. They were waiting for the girls to make a move. How much longer was the wait? Just when they could detect the Wang sisters’ lips moving, they heard the ringtones coming from a cell phone. No, it was two. It was not theirs. Not Melanie or Larissa either. It was the sisters’ cell phones. The same ringtone had fueled their dislike of one another up to another notch. If that was even possible. The girls got their phones out at the same time while still staring one another down.

“Hello,” The girls answered at the same time.

Then a brief pause.

“I’ll be home in a bit, Mom,” Cynthia said.

“In a bit,” Cyndi said into her phone.

Then it was done.

“I’m going to drop this because I wouldn’t want to keep my mother waiting,” Cynthia said, stating her case, indicating that she was not backing out on purpose.

“I have to go meet my father anyway,” Cyndi explained. “I wouldn’t want to waste my time on some people.”

Just like that, they stepped forward again, diving out of one another’s path without even touching an inch. And that was it. No more mocking comments. No more hateful glares.

The guys were still watching. Then Jiro and Vincent hurried after Cyndi while Nic and Ricky did the same but following Cynthia. Melanie and Larissa had been so in sync with the sisters that it seemed like they had predicted the steps ahead of time.

Another incident was avoided. No, accident. But for how long?


The next day, the guys were gathered at Nic’s house. Even Nic’s bowling friends were present—though they seemed frightened by Cynthia the previous night. Melanie and Larissa were also there.

“Go ahead and help yourself to anything,” Nic said as he settled down at the kitchen counter.

Most of them were sitting at the dining table. Some were scattered around the room. Nic and Jiro were the only ones at the counter.

“Why are you calling this meeting?” Melanie asked, getting straight to the point.

Nic and Jiro had talked on the phone last night after they got home. They had all exchanged numbers when they were exchanging information under the tree yesterday afternoon.

“It’s none of our business really, but…” Nic began.

“What?” Ricky jumped in, getting impatient.

“We want to help patch things up with them,” Nic continued.

The ones sitting at the table had stopped eating.

“You’re kidding, right?” Dan asked, putting the sandwich in his hand down.

“They’re not that menace like you guys think,” Jiro spoke up, wanting to defend Cyndi.

“Sure,” Dan mumbled, continuing to attack the sandwich.

“How would you want to help them though?” Melanie asked, curious.

“Getting them to appear at the same place together,” Nic replied. “Maybe they’ll find out that they have a lot in common…”

“Yeah, to stab at one another some more,” Vincent jumped in, cutting Nic off.

“You don’t have to help,” Jiro reminded his friend.

Vincent looked annoyed, like he had been misunderstood. “I’m just worried for your well-being here.”

“Where and how would you begin this mission then?” Larissa asked, having enough of the guys’ sarcasm.

“The fair tomorrow would be a good idea,” Melanie jumped in before Nic could answer Larissa.

“That’s right!” Jiro agreed.

“What?!” Ricky and Vincent exclaimed at the same time—apparent signs of objection.

“Need our help?” Larissa asked, ignoring the two’s words.

Vincent turned to Ricky. “What fair are you talking about then?”

“The fair at the next town over,” Ricky answered. He scratched his head and then was able to remember the name of the town somehow.

“That’s the fair we’re going to,” Vincent said, realizing the familiar situation. “I didn’t know you live there too.”

Ricky shook his head. “I was helping a friend set up his booth last week. At least getting the last-minute stuffs ready. But the guy at the next booth over bailed out on them. The organizers had to find someone else to fill up the place, so I told them I had some stuffs I want to sell.”

“Oh…” Then Vincent turned to the others. “Definitely do not let them come near our booths. I don’t want my artifacts smashed.”

“I wouldn’t want my stuffs tossed around like some basketball either,” Ricky seconded.

Melanie and Larissa exchanged a look and shook their heads.

“I guess they’re out,” Jiro said to Nic.

Nic turned to his bowling friends at that time. “What about you guys?”

Dan exchanged a look with his fellow comrades. Then he turned to Nic. “Sorry, man. We really value our lives. We could only wish you luck. And still hope you don’t dive into it. It looks too dangerous.”

“You guys are exaggerating,” Jiro said.

“Tell me where to pick up your body later,” Vincent jumped in. “Correct that, pieces of your body. You’re really working your way to your funeral.”

“We don’t need them,” Melanie declared bravely. “Sha Sha and I will help you guys.”

“That’s right,” Larissa confirmed.

“Then we’re set,” Nic said optimistically.

Jiro nodded in agreement, smiling.

“Optimists all right,” Vincent mumbled.

“Good luck, man,” Ricky said to Nic.


That weekend, Jiro and Nic carried on as they had planned. Melanie and Larissa showed up to help like they promised. Actually, they were leading Cyndi and Cynthia to the fair—without both girls having any prior knowledge that the other would be there. It was easier with Cyndi since she already agreed upon joining Melanie and Jiro at the fair. With Cynthia, Larissa had to use the excuse of wanting to see Ricky’s booth and heard how fun it was. Though Cynthia was mean beyond words in situations, she had agreed to come with Larissa—since she had claimed she did not have anything to do on that particular Saturday. Nic had said he would meet them by the entrance since he wanted to come and show some support for Ricky. If only Ricky knew they were using him as an excuse.

“I want to try this one too,” Cyndi announced to the others when they stopped at the umpteenth booth.

Her energy was never-ending. Jiro and Melanie were the ones holding her prizes. All won by none other than herself.

“This is how you do it, Miss…” The person in charge of the booth began.

“I know what I’m doing,” Cyndi cut him off.

Jiro exchanged a look with Melanie.

“She’s just competitive,” Melanie explained, her forced smile on.

Two minutes later, Jiro’s hands were too full to even walk. The pile of prizes was blocking his vision.

“How about we stop at the car and unload this?” Melanie asked, looking toward Cyndi—who was venturing upon another game booth.

Cyndi seemed to finally acknowledge the circumstances. She looked almost harmless at that moment. Her hands covering her mouth, she uttered a cry. Too innocent. “Sorry, you guys!”

“No problem,” Jiro mumbled, his voice barely audible under the pile of prizes.

Fifteen minutes later, they returned to the fairground by the side entrance.

“Where to now?” Melanie asked, stretching her hands. She did not care to be graceful anymore. Her hands were aching from an hour or so of carrying Cyndi’s prizes.

Cyndi’s eyes were darting. Jiro watched her with fascination, still wondering where all her energy came from. Though he and Melanie were the ones carrying the items, Cyndi did exert a lot of energy with winning those prizes. While Jiro was lost in thoughts, Cyndi turned around abruptly. He skidded to a stop, almost bumping into her. Almost. She did not seem to notice though.

“Hey, how about we visit Ricky’s booth?” Cyndi suggested.

“Sure,” Melanie said, casually.

“I thought Ricky said…” Jiro whispered to Melanie.

“What are you guys talking about?” Cyndi had resumed her pace after Melanie agreed. Now that she heard some whispering, she halted and turned to the other two again.

“Nothing,” Jiro said quickly—too quick.

Cyndi continued on her way after a little inspection of both parties. Jiro and Melanie continued to tag a safe distance behind her.

“Hey, this actually looks nice,” A familiar voice said somewhere around them. “I think I’ll take it, Ricky.”

“Since I know you, it’s…” Ricky began.

“No way,” The girl cut him off. “Original price or no deal.”

Cyndi had stopped walking. She turned sideways to stare at the booth to their right. The girl who was talking to Ricky was Cynthia. Only Cynthia would do such a weird thing, not welcoming good deals.

“Why is she here?” Cyndi demanded, turning to Melanie.

“It’s a huge fair,” Melanie explained.

Jiro nodded in agreement.

Cyndi detected something. Not from Melanie. Her serious look was on. “Did you have anything to do with this?”

“No!” Jiro blurted out.

“Watch what you’re doing!” Cynthia exclaimed at around the same time.

Cyndi and the other two turned to stare at Ricky’s booth again. Cynthia had caught the vase in time. Ricky was not a careless person. His reaction was triggered by his discovery of Cyndi. He knew he was going to have to dive right out of the situation. He quickly apologized to Cynthia for his clumsiness, but his constant stare elsewhere had caused her to suspect. She turned toward the direction of his vision and stared right into Cyndi’s eyes.

“It seems that I can never get rid of you, wherever I go,” Cynthia delivered. She was making her way toward Cyndi. Her hand was still holding the vase. She had already paid. (Yet Ricky was still sweating while he watched.)

“Uh…” Nic jumped in, following closely. “Maybe we should go somewhere else to wait for Larissa.”

“After I straighten something out,” Cynthia returned. Her attention still pinned on Cyndi.

“I’ll hold it for you,” Nic volunteered, reaching for the vase in Cynthia’s hand.

“I’m not going to use it in case you’re wondering. I’m not going to waste my money on someone.”

“I should be telling you to stop following us,” Cyndi said when Cynthia had stopped in front of her.

“Let’s try out the rides,” Jiro suggested, attempting to divert attention. “We’ve been browsing different booths the whole while. How about we go together?” Jiro was looking at Nic for help.

“Yeah,” Nic took over. “It would be fun.” He knew it was a lame attempt. Too lame. And scripted. Yet he was suddenly tongue-tied in front of Cynthia. Possible fear?

“Sure, why not?” Cynthia agreed—to everyone’s surprised. “Whoever pukes first, will leave this place first.”

And they thought she was caving in? Jiro and Nic’s faces failed. It was a different story with Cyndi. She seemed more than pleased that Cynthia had declared the war.

“Good idea,” Cyndi said. “Which ride?”

Cynthia did a quick scan of the fair. The rides were visible wherever they were standing. “How about the boat one? It’s the easiest so don’t say that I’m trying to get the upper hand.”

Cyndi had her arms crossed. “Huh! As if I’m scared.”

Larissa just had to choose that time to return. She walked over to them, looking from one person to the other. “What happened?”

“We’re at war,” Cynthia answered.


“Let’s go.” She turned to Nic. “You’re with me, right?”

“Sure,” Nic replied crisply. Or too quickly. Out of fear.

“Let’s go, Jiro,” Cyndi said, tugging on Jiro’s arm. She had used her sweet voice on purpose. It was like she was proving to Cynthia she knew how to handle relationships better than the deranged person who was dragging Nic across the fairground.

Only Larissa saw Cynthia rolled her eyes at Cyndi’s little exchange with Jiro. She turned to Melanie. “I guess we’ll be a team since the guys are out?” She meant Vincent and Ricky—of course.

“Looks like it,” Melanie said, half-heartedly. So much for their plan, she thought. It was just another opportunity for the sisters to fight.

Though hardly visible from where they were standing but if one looked carefully, one could see Ricky breathing out in relief as he realized they were leaving the area. No stuffs being tossed around this time, he thought happily.

As for the outcome of the battle? Nic ended up puking first and then Jiro. When the ride was finally over, the girls had to help them up. Cynthia and Larissa were leading Nic out of the ride’s path while Cyndi and Melanie were guiding Jiro. When they stopped at an isolated area, Cynthia turned to Cyndi.

“All right, you win,” Cynthia said. “We’re leaving.”

“What? Are you crazy?” Cyndi exclaimed in disbelief. “We didn’t puke.”

“Hey, our dates did and mine pulled that trick first. Fair is fair.”

“How about we compete by other means?” Cyndi was looking around for game booths.

“What do you want then?”

“Try the other side. I already browsed this half.”

“Fine with me. We didn’t even go to those booths. We only bought stuffs.”

“All right.”

They had to make a trip to use one of the restrooms outside the fairgrounds for the guys to get their nerves back while the girls waited outside at a table nearby. Cynthia took the chance to unload some of the items she bought in the car. When she returned, she saw Larissa sharing a joke with the other two girls. The guys were still inside.

“What’s taking those men so long?” Cynthia asked impatiently as she settled down next to Larissa.

Cyndi and Melanie were across the table.

“Can’t believe they’re that terrible at rides,” Cyndi muttered, shaking her head.

“Maybe we should have gotten some motion sickness meds for them earlier,” Larissa said.

“Huh,” Cynthia scoffed. “I wonder if that helped. Look how long they’re taking.” She was staring at her watch.

For some reason, Cyndi did the same. She turned to check the restroom’s entrance. Still no signs of them.

“Here they are,” Melanie said after two more minutes.

Cyndi and Cynthia got up at the same time.

“You guys are just too much, you know what?” Cyndi chided. She still had the teasing smile on her face. Possibly she wanted to reduce the embarrassment level the guys were suffering inside. She only wanted to tease them a bit and forget it.

Cynthia remained silent but her eyes said it all. She opened her handbag and took out a water bottle, handing it to Nic. “Here.”

“Thanks,” Nic muttered.

Cynthia’s face relaxed slightly. Just slightly. “Forget it.” Then she turned to Jiro and handed him another water bottle from her bag. “I guess someone isn’t prepared.”

Jiro hesitated, not daring to take it from Cynthia. He wasn’t afraid of her poisoning him. He was waiting for Cyndi’s reaction.

“Take it,” Cyndi urged.

Jiro nodded and took the bottle from Cynthia, uttering a word of gratitude.

Somehow, they settled down at the table and waited for the guys to down the water. They still look a tad pale.

“You guys want any food?” Melanie asked.

“You want to kill them?” Cynthia jumped in.

Melanie looked confused.

“You’re not supposed to eat stuffs while you’re nauseous,” Cyndi told Melanie before Cynthia could.

“That water’s going to help?” Melanie asked. “Cold water makes it worse, doesn’t it?”

“It’s hot ginger ale,” Jiro said.

“What?” That was Cyndi.

“Of course it is,” Cynthia said.

The three girls observed the bottles in the guys’ hands. They realized the liquid inside was actually a golden color and not white. It was the sun playing a trick on them earlier.

“They’re lucky it’s my favorite drink,” Cynthia continued. She had a proud look on her face.

“Since when did you like hot ginger ale?” Melanie asked, her expression unconvinced.

“In this weather?” Larissa followed.

“Hey, it’s been in the car for a while,” Cynthia reminded them. “Cold would turn to hot already.”

“Thanks, Cynthia,” Nic muttered again.

“I guess we’re set now?” Cyndi asked, turning to the guys once more.

The guys got up and followed the girls toward the fairground again.

“Pick one,” Cynthia prompted.

Cyndi was already searching with her eyes. “How about darts?”

“Sounds good. You can go first.”

The others stood to one side as Cyndi approached the booth. She hit the target twice. And then…the last time as well.

“She’s definitely winning,” Larissa mumbled.

Cynthia cracked her knuckles and smiled, approaching the booth as Cyndi stepped back. She paid and got her darts.

“Whoa!” Larissa exclaimed. “I didn’t realize she’s so good.”

While they were entering the second round, Jiro and Nic were whispering about something.

“We have to steer this away from the fight,” Jiro urged, feeling impatient.

“No,” Nic disagreed.

“What?” Jiro had on the expression that he thought Nic was crazy.

“They’re getting along already.”

“Are you kidding me?”

“Look at them enjoying the game. They’re even forgetting why they’re fighting in the first place.”

“We’ll see.” Jiro still had on his doubtful look.

“Where did you learn to shoot like that?” Larissa asked Cynthia.

“Practice,” Cynthia said, not wanting to disclose more.

The game continued into the third round.

“We’re not getting anywhere with this,” Melanie complained at the end of the third round.

“We’re winning,” Cynthia pointed out, smiling.

Melanie and Larissa’s hands were full this time around with prizes.

“Eh…” Cyndi called out. “How about we try something else?”

“How about that one?” She was pointing to the booth with the rings. The one that required one to toss the ring toward the bottle.

“Good idea!”

Melanie and Larissa groaned as the Wang sisters moved on. Jiro and Nic slapped each other high-fives as they followed closely. They had recovered their strength to divide the loads with Melanie and Larissa. Yet it was not any better because history continued to repeat itself several more booths later.

“Come on, you guys,” Melanie whined when they reached the other side of the fairground. “We can’t hold anymore stuffs.”

“If I know helping them reconcile is that tiring, I won’t volunteer so eagerly,” Larissa chimed in.

“What?!” Yes, those were Cyndi and Cynthia’s accusing tones. Both turned to stare at their friends. “You did what?”

“Uh…nothing,” Larissa attempted.

Too late. Cyndi and Cynthia turned to the guys. Their smiles had already turned off. Of course, the “volunteer” part meant the girls weren’t masterminds behind the plans.

“Uh…” Jiro managed.

“We should’ve let you guys puke your guts out back there!” Cyndi and Cynthia yelled out at the same time. Then turned on each other. “Don’t copy me!”

“Like I would,” Cynthia shot back.

“Don’t think just because I seem to forget our fight today doesn’t mean it’s the end of it. It was just the fun games that got me distracted.”

“Like I want to befriend you.”

Jiro and Nic did not dare to jump in anymore. Both sisters looked beyond furious.

“You can walk home!” Cynthia exclaimed. That was meant for Larissa. Lucky Nic still had his car.

“Same with you!” Cyndi shouted. Her anger not any less than Cynthia’s. And that was meant for Melanie.

Yet poor Jiro did not have his car. The other four watched as the sisters walked to the parking lot, leaving behind their friends and their prizes. And their dates.

“I guess I’ll drive you guys home,” Nic said, turning to the others. “Sorry about that. I didn’t realize they changed just like that.”

“Sorry about earlier,” Larissa said, her voice timid.

“Forget it,” Jiro reassured her. “You guys said that they’ve been at odds for years, right? One day can’t undo all that.”

“Back to the drawing board,” Melanie mumbled as they walked to Nic’s car.

“You guys don’t have to participate anymore,” Jiro said.

“What?” Melanie turned to him.

“It’s not that we don’t trust you, Mel.” He could see the hurt look in her eyes. “We just don’t want them to get mad at you because of our plans.”

“I guess we can take all these to their houses tomorrow?” Larissa asked a minute later.

“Sure,” Melanie mumbled.

They walked silently the rest of the way to Nic’s car. Night had arrived and the eerie sounds did not help their moods.

© Sunday, December 12th, 2010

Posted: December 28th, 2010