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Chapter 4 – Invisible Force

After two days of begging and apologizing later, the Wang sisters finally pardoned the group of four conspirators. Though it did not mean they were let off. It was just a normal pardon. Not a special privilege. They were still in exile while the girls decided to call upon them.
Cyndi was lying on her bed while talking to Melanie the following Saturday. She was playing with the phone cord. “So, do you want to go shopping later?”
“Uh…” Melanie hesitated on the other end.
“What?”
“I have to clean up the house…someone is coming over later…”
“Who?”
“Umm…my parents. They suddenly wanted to visit me. Short notice so I…”
Cyndi was still twisting the cord in her hand, not really paying attention. “Oohh…”
“Yeah. So…”
“Forget it. I’ll call Jiro up.”
“You like him for real or…”
“What?” She stared at the owl clock on the wall.
“Or are you going to…mess around with him until…he gives up like…your past pursuers?” Melanie sounded almost timid. Too timid. Her words came out in a jumble.
Cyndi smiled, reliving her past accomplishments in her head. Those guys were so fun to mess with. “We’ll see.” She snapped the phone back to its receiver and jumped up from her bed.
“Where are you going?” Her father asked when she was by the door. He was bringing work home today. So he was naturally in the living room, tapping away on his computer.
“I’m going out for a bit,” She yelled out quickly.
“Be home early!”
Cyndi did not care to respond. Her father was treating her like some kid again.
“Hey, Miss, do you know…” A voice asked.
She turned around and glared at him. “What?”
“I’m lost…”
“Sure.”
The guy scrammed away in five seconds top.
She turned off her glare and got into her car. Like she was convinced he was lost. He’d been around the past few days. Like a spy. Or a fly pinned to their neighborhood.
“Jiro?” She said into the phone. She glimpsed the neighborhood once before pulling out. No harm checking. That creep might still be there.
“Yeah?” Jiro responded on the other side.
“You free?”
“Why?”
“Idiot,” She muttered under her breath. Then she cleared her throat. “I’m going shopping, want to join me?” She was soooo bored to even drag him out like that. Men hated shopping. She knew that. But it was not like she was going to ask Larissa. She might run into Cynthia. The last thing she wanted to deal with. Another run in. It was a beautiful day. She did not want her weekend ruined.
“Sure,” Jiro replied after what seemed like an eternity.
Cyndi was playing with her phone accessory. “Are you busy?”
“No, why?”
“You sound like you’re distracted.”
“Uh…no.”
“Uhuh.” She did not care if her sarcasm was apparent. She was running out of patience.
“I’m serious.” He sounded defensive. “I was just helping Vin choose a suit for his date tonight.”
“Sounds fancy.” She was still playing with her phone accessory. It wasn’t like she had any other toy around. And on hand.
“He says it’s an important night. Like meeting the parents. Or something.”
She rolled her eyes. Why was he rambling on? She finally abandoned the rubber teddy bear and focused on driving again. The light finally turned green. “So, where are you guys at right now? I could help.”
“Um…”
“Don’t trust my taste?”
Jiro gave her the address. Or more like the name of the place since it was too brainless that she did not know all the shopping centers around town. She hung up and focused on driving again, wondering why that white car kept following her.

*****

Cynthia was on her way out of the house when her cell phone rang.
“What?” She answered.
“Friendly,” Larissa returned.
“I already know it’s you.”
“What if it’s not me?”
“You lost your phone?”
“Well, it could be my brother.”
“The one that likes her?”
“Yes.”
“Well, tell him to knock the stalking off before he’s arrested for…”
“You know he just needs the courage to approach her.”
“What do you want me to do about it? Why are we talking about this then?” She had locked her car already, knowing this conversation could take forever. She did not want to start driving. Larissa was her friend but that girl could drive people insane with beating around the bushes too much.
“Um…I forgot what I was going to ask you.”
“Well, remember before we grow old.” She snapped her phone shut. No point in keeping the connection when Larissa could take forever. That was another annoyance she couldn’t stand with Larissa.
Her phone beeped again as she finally exited the driveway.
“What now?” She snapped – without looking at the screen.
“Friendly,” The other person teased.
“Nic?” Cynthia asked, surprised. She parked her car to the side again, not wanting to crash.
“I just wanted to ask you if you want to go out for a movie or something.”
“You must be nuts, right?”
Nic was stumped.
“What?”
“I guess you’re not free.”
“No, that’s not it. I was just on my way to the post office. But I’m just saying you must be nuts to still stay in contact with me.”
Nic scratched his head. Then he secretly cursed Ricky – AGAIN – for spreading that little disease to him. “What do you mean?”
Cynthia rolled her eyes. “Hello, maniac alert.”
“You know you’re not like that.”
“I don’t need anyone to justify my behaviors for me.”
“Then I won’t.”
“And I told you the reason why I agreed going on that date was because of Sha Sha. So…”
“Just treat it as getting to know a new friend, okay?”
“Okay then, but if you guys dare to conspire against us again…”
“Got it.”
The rest of the conversation was less threatening as they planned their next destination after Cynthia dropped some items off at the post office.

*****

Several hours later, Cyndi walked out of yet another store with Jiro and Vincent. The difference was that they had found the perfect attire for Vincent.
“Now you guys see why it was a good idea to have me around?” Cyndi asked, feeling proud of herself and playing with her hair at the same time. She had forgotten her scrunchie somewhere and it was killing her.
“Yes, Miss Wang,” Vincent returned, sounding ever-so grateful for her assistance these past few hours.
Cyndi still had on her proud smile. She glimpsed at the shops surrounding them. It took major concentration to focus on the relevant shops only. Now, she was ready to attack the other ones.
“Where should we go now?” Jiro asked as they were making their way along the boardwalk.
“That one.” Cyndi pointed, spotting some hair accessory in the display cases.
Vincent checked his watch. “I’m sorry, you two. I have to get going. I need extra time to prepare and…”
Cyndi turned to him with an understanding smile. “Don’t worry. I know how anxious you are with meeting your future in-laws.”
Vincent had on a nervous smile. “Wouldn’t want to be late.”
Cyndi nodded.
Jiro and Cyndi continued toward the shop Cyndi pointed to after waving Vincent goodbye – and wishing him good luck.
Fifteen minutes later, Jiro and Cyndi emerged – with Cyndi in a much better mood. Her hair obstacle had been solved. She was tying a blue ribbon to her hair.
“Where do you want to go?” She asked him.
“Wherever,” Jiro muttered, not quite sure himself.
“How about catching a movie then?”
They had reached the end of the street. The movie theater was just across the street.
“Okay,” Jiro mumbled.
They crossed the street and made their way to the board.
“Jiro!” Someone called from somewhere.
Both Cyndi and Jiro turned to see Nic and Cynthia walking out of the front entrance. They must have been watching some movie. Both Jiro and Cyndi were displaying signs of shock on their faces. Nic was almost glad to see them. Cynthia, of course, was annoyed.
“Uh…” Jiro managed as the other two came closer.
“What a coincidence,” Nic continued, oblivious to Jiro’s state.
Cyndi was studying Jiro closely. His neck was turning red. He felt like he was being placed under a microscope.
“Wang Dong Cheng,” Cyndi gritted, her face an iceberg.
That was about the same time Cynthia got a grip of Nic’s shoulder. “Explain yourself.”
Nic felt the pressure on his shoulder. He had no idea. He turned to Cynthia, the fear registering in. He saw her dark expression. “I swear I have nothing to do with it. It is a coincidence.”
”Tell it to the kids,” Cynthia returned.
“I don’t know how this happened,” Jiro attempted to explain to Cyndi at the same time.
“You mean to tell me that Nic over there isn’t your friend anymore?” Cyndi drawled out, her voice matching her expression.
“Uh…” Jiro had suddenly adopted Nic’s scratching habit. Indeed, it was contagious. “I…we…I mean I guess we’re casual friends?”
“Casual friends who conspire with each other? And lie about not doing it again?” Cynthia jumped in.
“I’m questioning my boyfriend here!” Cyndi howled, giving Cynthia her famous glare. “None of your business.”
“Well, excuse me, but I was dragged into this whole matter as well. You think I like to see my weekend ruined like this?”
Cyndi scoffed. “Puh-lease, who would want to ruin your weekend? Like I have too much times on my hands. I should be questioning you about ruining my weekend.”
“Well!”
“Girls.” Nic found his voice again. “How about calling this coincidence and go on our own way?” His braveness only came back slightly because Cynthia had let go of his shoulder a minute ago to argue with her sister.
Both girls turned to give Nic a look. Then they turned their eyes on one another again. Agreeing would mean backing down.
“Over here,” A man’s voice rang out at that time, cutting through the intense atmosphere.
They all turned to look since it was too close for comfort.
“You came early,” The man spoke up again. He was dressed in a black suit – at this time of the day. He was probably wearing his sunglasses earlier. He was holding that in his hand at the moment.
“What?” Cyndi and Cynthia let out at the same time.
“I just love your sense of professionalism,” The man continued enthusiastically. He glimpsed his watch. “We might even have time to finish this and review the photos. Then we could re-shoot them or call it a day.” He sent them a ‘thumbs-up’ sign. “Good timing.”
“Could you please tell us what’s going on here?” Cyndi blurted out after the guy was done with his latest rambling.
“Brandon and Sydney, right?” He was pointing at Nic and Cyndi.
Cyndi’s face wrinkled up in confusion. “What?”
“You’re the models we hired for the photo-shoot to promote that brand new store over there.”
They all turned to check the new store where the man pointed.
“We talked over the phone,” The man continued. “I’m Len.”
“You’ve misunderstood, sir,” Nic jumped in, turning to the man again. “We’re just a group of friends passing by here.”
Len had a shocked look on his face. “You’re kidding?”
“I think we know about our identities to recognize our names if we’re being addressed,” Cynthia said.
“That’s right,” Cyndi followed – though she wanted to kick someone for not reminding her to speak up first. Cynthia got the ultimatum again. Even if it was just trying to sort out some misunderstanding.
Len scratched his head with the tip of his sunglasses. He turned to his team who were setting up their equipment by the supposed location. Then he turned to them again. “Please give me a minute.”
“What in the world?” Cyndi said as soon as Len was out of earshot.
“You tell me,” Cynthia returned. No traces of sarcasm this time. Like she was just curious about the whole mixed up. “If he works for me, I would’ve fired him already. How careless could he get?”
“He wouldn’t even submit an application at your place.”
“Huh.”
Jiro and Nic stayed silent while they waited for Len to get back to them. Len looked beyond the panic stage while he was on the phone with someone.
“Um…” Len began when he returned to their group. “Could you two help us, please?” His eyes were on Nic and Cyndi.
“With what?” Cyndi asked.
“Pose for our AD,” Len replied. “The models…they…bailed out on us.”
Cyndi was eyeing Nic cautiously. “You want him and me?”
“You two look like a couple,” Len said. “It would be perfect for our AD. We will also pay the regular fees for the models for troubling you.”
“Why can’t you hire someone else?” Nic jumped in. He sent an apologetic look toward Jiro. Cynthia was not the only one wanting to kill him today. Len was too. Why in the world would Len say such words? Desperate photographers, he cursed silently.
“We’re already here. And it will be awhile before we find someone. Our deadline is approaching.”
“All professionals have backup plans,” Cynthia said in a matter of a fact tone. “Especially crisis like this. Not grasping at straws.”
“Hey!” Cyndi protested. “I’m not a straw!”
“It was just an expression!” Cynthia did not care to be polite in front of Len anymore.
Cyndi’s face scrunched up in frustration. Then something snapped inside her mind. A light bulb had turned on. She turned to Len. “I’ll do it!”
“You will, Miss?” Len asked, his face full of relief.
“Yes,” Cyndi replied happily. “I’ve never experienced these types of things before. It’ll be fun!”
“Thank you, Miss,” Len said, his voice full of gratitude. Then he turned to Nic. “Sir?”
“I can’t,” Nic responded firmly. He had made up his mind already.
“Oh come on, Liang Liang,” Cyndi urged, hooking her hands through his right hand. “It’ll be fun! And we’re helping someone.”
“And getting paid,” Cynthia finished, her expression challenging.
“I don’t know,” Nic said at the same time, edging away from Cyndi. He had no idea what Cyndi’s game was but he did not want to be involved.
“Please, sir,” Len begged, his expression pitiful.
“Come on, Liang Liang,” Cyndi repeated her words, but in a much sweeter voice.
Nic turned to Cynthia.
“If you want to, go ahead,” Cynthia said. “Don’t look at me.”
Nic directed his eyes to Jiro.
“If she doesn’t have a problem with it, why should I?” Jiro rattled out. Though his voice was masking traces of unease.
“I guess,” Nic said, still sounding reluctant.
“Yes!” Cyndi jumped up at that time, grabbing onto Nic’s hand again.
Nic edged away from Cyndi like before.
“Let’s get this going then,” Len said. “We’ll alert the manager we’re here so he could get ready.”
Cyndi followed Len, her spirit still high. Nic was just lagging behind them. He had no idea why he let Len’s pitiful look conquered him.
Five minutes into the shoot, Nic had already regretted the decision about three million times. Cyndi kept edging closer and closer to him, making him work harder trying to dive from her grasp. But Len had no idea, asking Nic to smile and hold the pose. Len even complimented Cyndi for being a natural.
Cynthia was shaking her head by the time Nic and Cyndi went inside to change to another outfit. “She’s really driving people’s patience.”
Jiro did not know what to say. He was trying hard not to blame anyone. He understood that Cyndi was just trying to piss Cynthia off – and putting Nic in a hard spot.
“I’m not mad,” Cynthia clarified.
That got Jiro’s attention. Because she did sound mad.
“I’m just irritated because she would risk your relationship with her so she could get back at me.” Cynthia stole a glance at the store’s entrance again. “So she wants to contradict me…”
“She’s not that terrible,” Jiro said, wanting to defend Cyndi. “And we’re not really dating yet. I meant…”
“I don’t care what she does. I’m not stomping her down so you would stop liking her. I’m just saying how she could get carried away. Besides, you’re not the only one watching this.”
“Obviously,” Jiro muttered.
“I’m not talking about me.”
“Huh?” He did not mean for it to come out like that.
Cynthia pointed across the street. “Look.”
Jiro followed her finger. “Him?”
“Yeah.” Cynthia fished out her cell phone and dialed some numbers.
Jiro saw the guy across the street had picked up his cell phone. He wrinkled his eyebrows. He was definitely confused. But did not want to ask Cynthia.
“Justin,” Cynthia spoke into the phone. “Stop stalking her or she’ll call the cops on you.” She paused. “Well, not yet but one day. Get over here! Now or I’ll expose you.”
Jiro saw the guy making his way to the light as Cynthia put her phone away.
“What was that all about?” He could only wait for so long.
“Sha Sha’s baby brother.”
“Oh.”
“You could guess that he’s after your girlfriend.”
“Hi Cynthia,” Justin said when he was right in front of them. His smile too innocent.
“Have you even said hi to her yet?” Cynthia asked.
It seemed that the interrogation just began. Jiro did not want to meddle with it.
Justin scratched his head. “Not really.”
Cynthia had on her surprised expression. “You’re kidding me, right?” She turned to look at Jiro. Then back at Justin. “Three months and not even a ‘hi’?
“I did talk to her,” Justin said, sounding too defensive.
“Like?”
Justin scratched his head again. “I was asking her for directions at…”
Cynthia tossed her hands up in the air, exasperated. “Either you’re scared of her or you’re just too slow.” She turned and pointed at Jiro. “This is her boyfriend right now.”
“Uh…” Jiro jumped in, but kept quiet upon Cynthia’s sharp look.
Justin seemed shock. Then the disappointment look. But that all settled to a smile. He extended his hand out to Jiro. “Congratulations then.”
“Ugh.” That was Cynthia. Her head was up in the air again. Almost a forty-five degree angle. She pulled herself together and stared at Justin again. “No wonder…” Then she tapped his shoulder. “Justin dear, go home and find a girl who’s less of a challenge to you.”
“I’m going then,” Justin said. He turned to give Jiro a nod.
Cynthia turned to Jiro again when Justin was already a distance away. “See?”
“What?” Jiro asked, a tad confused.
“He’s too obedient.”
“That’s bad?”
“That’s only good when it’s to his parents and elders.”
“He’s just being nice,” Jiro said. He had no idea why he was defending that guy.
“You’re bordering on the hopeless side too, you know.”
Jiro shrugged.
Cynthia waved her hand. “Forget it. It’s not even my place to judge anyone.” She spotted Nic and Cyndi coming out of the shop in their own clothes again. “Here they are.”
Jiro turned around to see the other two walking toward them. “You’re done already?”
Nic nodded. “Long enough.”
“It was sure fun,” Cyndi said, her smile still on brightly.
“It was only an hour,” Jiro said. That was meant for Nic.
Nic looked at his own watch, shocked. “I thought it has been several hours already.”
Cynthia shook her head, her amused smile on. “I guess you’re not meant to be a model after all.” She knew the real reason why Nic dreaded every minute of the shoot. She just did not want to bring it up again.
Nic let out a nervous smile. “I guess not.”
“Let’s go somewhere to celebrate this!” Cyndi exclaimed, surprising even Jiro.
“What for?” Cynthia asked, curious of Cyndi’s response.
“It’s my first time being involved in something like this.” Cyndi clapped her hands in excitement. “Of course I have to do something to mark the day.”
Cynthia shook her head again. “Childish.”
“You’re just jealous!” Her voice sounded strong but her smile still remained.
Cynthia shrugged. “What the world. I’ll go ahead with this craziness some more. Where do you want to go then?”
“Um…” Then she realized something. “Oh no, what happened to my ribbon?”
Jiro noticed it too. “It might be inside.”
“Check your bag first,” Cynthia suggested.
They ended up searching for Cyndi’s blue ribbon for the next twenty minutes.
“Oh, forget it,” Cyndi said. “Even they don’t have it.”
“Let’s go buy you a scrunchie then,” Cynthia said after they exited the store.
“Again?” Jiro asked.
“What do you mean again?” Cynthia asked, looking at him.
Cyndi turned to him around the same time. “Problem?”
“No,” Jiro said quickly.
“All right, let’s go buy you a scrunchie and go eat or we’re going to starve to death,” Cynthia urged.
Jiro and Nic tagged behind them, exchanging glances. Jiro shrugged. Sometimes if they did not do anything, the result might be better. And who knew?
And for the record, the search for Cyndi’s new scrunchie took another half an hour before the girls finally got it right. Cynthia took Cyndi to a different shop where it also sold jewelries among other things. The delay was due to Cynthia getting herself a scarf. It was just the right moment. No reason really.
“Where are we going then?” Jiro finally asked when they were back outside again.
“No good places around here,” Cynthia said, scanning the area.
“They have a hotpot place across town,” Cyndi said.
“At this time of day?” Nic jumped in.
“Problem?” That was Cyndi…and Cynthia.
“No,” Nic said, his tone almost matching Jiro’s from earlier.
As they made their way to their cars, Jiro and Nic silently wondered why in the world the girls even bother arguing for. They were too much alike. Or was that the real thorn? Being similar was just too plain annoying.
© Thursday, January 13th, 2011 – Monday, January 17th, 2011
Posted: January 17th, 2011

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