Chapter 11 – Regroup

“I can’t believe you girls want to join us in this,” Ehlo said, chewing on a shred of octopus snack. “It’s supposed to be a guys’ get together here.”

“Aww…shut up already,” Qiao Qiao jumped in. “You can’t expect to abandon us girls, can you?”

“Kid…”

“Hey!”

“Would you guys stop?” Wallace jumped in upon seeing Ehlo and Qiao Qiao fighting over the bag of snacks. “We’re drawing attention here. I want to see a game today, not child’s play.”

“Yes, sir,” Qiao Qiao said obediently, saluting in the process–and letting go of the snack bag also.

Cyndi placed a hand on Wallace’s hand to calm him down. Wallace turned to her and gave her a reassuring smile.

“Thanks, Huo,” Ehlo said, smiling since he finally could have the peace of eating the snack by himself.

“You’re so clueless sometimes,” Angela chided.

“And you’re with me because…?”

“You’ve just committed suicide by asking that, Huang,” Wallace noted.

“Thanks for the support, Huo.” Ehlo gave him a glare.

“Just reminding you.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Has it been like this the whole time I was gone?” Sonia asked, looking from one to the other.

“Not really,” Bianca replied. “We were more united several weeks ago.”

“More like we were nosy so we decided to tag along with them,” Jacky clarified.

“Thanks, Backstabber,” Ehlo scolded from the bleacher in front of Jacky.

“You’re welcome.”

“So, how has Xiao Qiao been?” Qiao Qiao asked, turning to Sam suddenly.

“She’s good,” Sam replied, looking somewhat shy.

“Xiao Ru still with that dork?” Ehlo asked, still chomping away on his snack.

“Hey!” Angela exclaimed, tugging on his ear again.

“I’m just saying the truth,” Ehlo said defensively, not caring to rescue his ear anymore. “He’s such a…”

“Who would you want her to be with then? You?”

“Uh…”

The others smiled, watching closely to see how Ehlo would react.

“That’ll be fine too but too bad,” Ehlo said, pausing on purpose for dramatic effects. “I’m already taken since she doesn’t have good taste.”

“If she said she likes you when she came to visit us that one time, would you’ve agreed?” Angela continued with her series of questions.

“I would’ve but she’s not my type.”

“Oh really?”

“Really.”

“You guys are just too much,” Bianca commented, taking a look at her watch. “I wonder what’s taking Johnny so long.”

“Probably the shoot got delayed or traffic,” Ehlo rattled off naturally.

“Getting back to our subject,” Qiao Qiao prompted, turning to Sam. “How was Xiao Jie? She still anxious? Missing her Jacky ge?”

“She has a boyfriend now, you know,” Jacky reminded Qiao Qiao, eyeing her with his warning look.

“So?”

“So…stop stirring things up.”

“She could break up with him.”

“Try getting past Xiao Qiao.”

“Just because he’s Xiao Qiao’s little brother doesn’t make it right that she has to stay with him.”

“I have a feeling she’s not the type to change easily although she’s a bit enthusiastic at times.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

“Hmp.”

Jacky smiled as Qiao Qiao turned around to face front again.

“I guess we have all the time in the world to argue since we already solved the problem, huh?” Wallace mocked.

“What’s with you, Huo?” Ehlo asked, turning to Wallace.

“Let’s see, we haven’t thought of anything yet and…”

“Calm down, will you?” Chen Yi interfered. “I think it’s not that bad of a situation. After all, he’s our senior. I meant the four of us who went to the same schools as he did. We can negotiate our way out of this.”

“He’s right,” Ehlo said, suddenly taking Chen Yi’s side. “We’re here for the game, not argue.”

“Speak for yourself, Huang,” Qiao Qiao reminded him.

“Hey, what’s with you and picking a fight with me?” Ehlo shot back, staring her down. “If I didn’t promise my girl about something, I already…”

“Huang Yu Rong…” Angela called out, preventing him from slipping away with the piece of information they learned yesterday.

“Quit messing with him, Qiao,” Chen Yi said, attempting to stop their argument also.

“I thought we’re all friends,” Qiao Qiao said. “I was just kidding, what’s with everyone today? I know I was tensed in the past few weeks. But now I learned to relax. So could you all do the same? I’m sorry, okay?”

“Forget it, guys,” Jacky interfered at last. “The game’s about to start.”

Chen Yi nodded while Ehlo shrugged, continuing to eat his snacks. He fidgeted a little before switching seats with Angela since he had been sitting next to Qiao Qiao while Angela had been sitting next to Chen Yi. Sam suddenly turned to Jacky, sending him a questioning look. Jacky shrugged, indicating he did not know of the situation between the other four either.

Johnny arrived five minutes later–a bit late for the game, but it was as Ehlo predicted. It was actually traffic.

After that, the group watched the game with their casual conversation only aiming at the game and not other subject matters that would trigger other undesirable events.

****

When they made it out of the stadium safely and could talk among themselves again, Ehlo and Wallace were back on speaking terms. Wallace’s moods seemed to have improved several notches.

“That was a good game,” Ehlo commented.

“No doubt,” Wallace agreed.

“Look at them,” Qiao Qiao said, wrinkling her face. “Now they look like twins again.”

“Huang and Huo are a team,” Ehlo reminded her. “We can’t be at odds for too long.”

“Where are we going now?” Ming Dao asked suddenly.

“Uh…” He turned to Wallace.

“Somewhere less noisy,” Wallace said.

Jacky’s phone rang at that time, so he stepped aside to answer while they continued to decide of the upcoming activity.

“How about Ed’s place?” Ehlo suggested, eyeing the others for objection.

“Xiao Yu doesn’t like spicy food,” Chen Yi objected before Achel could say anything herself.

“Since when?” Angela asked, turning to see Achel’s wrinkled face.

“Since I choked that one time,” Achel said.

Angela turned to Chen Yi for an explanation.

“It’s a long story, Angela jie,” Chen Yi said, trying to dismiss the attention on himself.

“Okay then,” Ehlo said, trying to rescue Chen Yi from the others’ stare as well. “How about…”

“East Shore Café?” Chen Yi finished.

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Sounds all right,” Wallace admitted, nodding. “Outside, right?”

Ehlo turned to Wallace. “Don’t we always?”

“What’s going on now?” Jacky asked, rejoining the group.

“We decided on East Shore unless anyone has other suggestions,” Ehlo recounted.

“No problem,” Jacky agreed, eyeing the others. “Guys?”

The others shook their heads, indicating they had no input.

“It’s a simple get together anyway, right?” Sam asked.

Ehlo nodded before turning to Jacky. “Who was that?”

“Oh yeah,” Jacky said as if realizing he needed to explain. “That was Valerie. She came back for a visit and asked if we want to meet up with her.”

“Ask her if she can come now so I can see some dramas unfold.”

Angela gave him an evil look.

Ehlo turned on his innocent smile at that time. “What?”

“Relying on others’ suffering for enjoyment?”

“What?”

“Ehlo’s right,” Sonia said suddenly. “Let’s call her back to see if she can join us.”

“See?” Ehlo said, gesturing his hand toward Angela.

“Hmp.” Angela stood to one side–with her hands crossed.

“Let’s get out of here first,” Jacky suggested.

“Great idea,” Ehlo jumped in–glad to be rid of the dagger look Angela was still giving him.

*****

“That’s outrageous!” Valerie exclaimed after having learned of what happened with Orchids Agency. “Why does the high-class society always stir things up like that?”

“Beats me,” Ehlo said, shrugging his shoulders. “I wish I know.”

“Tang Feng is our only hope now,” Wallace said, sighing out. “We haven’t thought of anything yet. He’s too clever.”

“Even for you guys?” Valerie asked.

“Sadly to admit it,” Ehlo said, smiling. “But yes, he’s not as easily convinced. The only way he could agree to help us without a blink is if Qiao would marry him.”

“Hey!” Qiao Qiao protested.

“What?” Valerie exclaimed out in disbelief at the same time as Qiao Qiao’s outburst.

“His words, not mine,” Ehlo said.

“He was just kidding,” Qiao Qiao clarified.

“Maybe he really likes you. You were quite popular last year among us, you know.”

Qiao Qiao didn’t say anything but wrinkled her face again, feeling trapped in front of them all.

“Knock it off already,” Jacky said. “We’re here to catch up with Val, not argue over some senseless things.”

“Your sister is senseless?” Ehlo asked, raising an eyebrow.

Jacky turned on his stern expression. “You know what I mean.”

“Fine,” Ehlo muttered.

“How come we’re here to relax but it seems they’re the only ones relaxing?” Bianca asked, glancing out to the pier backdrop.

“Tony’s smart,” Wallace said. “I guess he could just focus on anything at anytime and he could do it.”

“Interesting that you would praise him though,” Ehlo said, not believing his ears.

“Why not?”

“Um…never mind.” He knew they would be in circles again so he didn’t say anything else, returning to his drink instead.

“I got it!” Valerie shouted, alarming half of them.

“What happened?” Ehlo asked, the only one wanting to speak up as the others were just staring at her and were waiting for her to elaborate.

“Since Mr. Tang Feng wants to get clever with us…I got a treat for him,” Valerie said, flashing on her daring smile.

“I think you’re up to something,” Eho guessed, his eyes still studying her.

“You’re right,” Valerie confirmed. “And this time I will succeed like last time I helped you guys.”

“Great,” Ehlo said. “We’re forever indebted to you. How about we sold off Jacky to you?”

Jacky gave Ehlo a look once again.

“Just kidding,” Ehlo said with a smile.

“What’s the plan then?” Wallace jumped in, attempting to steer the conversation back into the relevant topic.

“You’ll see,” Valerie said, her eyes still full of mischief and intrigues.

“I guess we’ll have to wait,” Ehlo commented–though unnecessary.

“Let’s cheer to success then,” Valerie said, raising her glass.

“Don’t mind if I do,” Ehlo said, raising his glass to hers.

The others felt a bit silly that Valerie was so confident already though she just got back and was not fully aware of Tang Feng’s capabilities yet. But they knew she was enthusiastic because she was trying to help them so they raised their glasses to hers also.

“You know what?” Ehlo said after they already drank away their toast. “Let’s go visit Uncle Ben next week or something.”

“Sounds good,” Angela agreed, finally giving Ehlo an approving look.

The others nodded in agreement as well.

They spent the rest of the time at the café listening to Valerie’s many adventures this past year in the States.

*****

“What was all the hostility at the game today?” Jacky asked, sitting down at the counter.

Ehlo was preparing dinner again so Jacky knew that he should ask since it was just the two of them in the kitchen at that time.

“What?” Ehlo asked back, still having his back to Jacky since he was at the stove.

“You know what I mean.”

“I was just giving Qiao a piece of my mind since she was just being a pig with stealing my food.”

“You were sharing it with Angela, Chen Yi, and Xiao Yu too.”

“We’re from the same clan, okay?”

“Sure.”

“Stop probing. You’re acting like my mom.”

“Is it that serious that you need to pull out that card?”

“I’m not pulling anything. I’m cooking now if you don’t mind.”

“Yu Rong…”

“Don’t pull that one on me either, Zhu Fan Gang.”

“Remember you told me how my hiding stuffs have caused you guys to worry more than anything?”

“All right, all right.” Ehlo finally turned around to face Jacky, tuning off the stove in the process.

“What then?” Jacky still had his attention on Ehlo.

Ehlo checked the living room once before turning back to Jacky again. “You know that scheme Chen Yi pulled on us that one day we were meeting with Qiao and the others to discuss about how to break it to Chen Yi? Well, it was just an attempt to get us to stop pursing Qiao Qiao but I invited myself. ”

Jacky nodded, indicating he got what Ehlo was saying.

“Chen Yi lied.”

“What do you mean?”

“Angela and I were on our way to the movies yesterday and we spotted Chen Yi acting suspicious when we stepped out of a shop nearby. We followed him and saw him following Xiao Yu. She was with a guy and she was being bullied by him so Chen Yi stepped in to interfere.”

“And?”

“Xiao Yu was actually on a date with some guy but that guy turned out to be a creep. Chen Yi finally admitted to Xiao Yu that he has feelings for her because he has been missing her these past days.”

“So…”

“You’re being slow now.”

“I can’t help it!”

“Why are you mad? You told me to tell you.”

Jacky reached up to push his hair out of his vision line out of habit. “I’m sorry. It’s just that…it’s too crazy and ironic.”

“Now you know why I was feeling torn earlier. I couldn’t even tell Angela that Qiao pulled the same thing that day. I meant with how she thought that Chen Yi already found happiness and was willing to let go, not going forward with her plans to tell him anymore. Then who in the world knew he would pull the same thing, misunderstanding that she was with Ming Dao already.” Ehlo was pacing now. “I side with Chen Yi in front of him because it would make sense because Angela and I just found out what happened. But…” He stopped pacing and turned to Jacky again. “Don’t you know it’s torturous to get mad at Qiao too? I swear I almost made her cry.”

Jacky was still tearing at his hair.

“Will you stop it?” His voice was getting higher. “You’re making me even more nervous.”

“It’s all my fault for teasing everyone and misleading them with all the information.”

“Stop blaming yourself, will you? If they can’t tell a tease from the real thing, then I don’t know what to say. But…”

Jacky stopped attacking his hair and turned to Ehlo.

“We better keep this from the others or it would end up…” Ehlo gestured his hand to indicate uncontrollable.

Jacky nodded, his face still troubled. “Let’s just hope Qiao will move on soon. I meant with finding someone and…”

“And you guys never told me any of these?” Wallace asked, walking in.

Ehlo almost jumped but resumed his composure in time.

Wallace smiled. “We live in this house too, you know.” Then his smile was turned off, reflecting that of the troubled look like the other two. “That means Chen Yi and Qiao both thought they were doing good but ended up ruining a chance for one another?”

Ehlo sent Wallace a nervous smile. “Kids, right?”

“That just means that they’re not meant to be together, right?” Johnny asked, walking in also. “If they failed with this initial step because of communication problems, we can’t blame ourselves for it.”

“This better stay in this room,” Ehlo warned them all.

“Got it,” The other two chanted in unison.

“I’m serious,” Ehlo said, his voice more stern this time.

“Don’t you trust us?” Wallace asked, sitting down at one of the stools. “And I’m serious. Besides, it passed already, right? No need to bring it up.” He let out a sigh. “Let’s just hope…”

“Chen Yi’s finally with Xiao Yu for real,” Johnny continued. “No need to stir up stuffs anyway.”

“Hey,” Ehlo said suddenly, some glint of mischief on his face.

The others waited for him to continue.

“How about selling Qiao off to Tang Feng? You guys get the shop and we solve this matter.”

Jacky gave Ehlo a murderous look while the others shook their heads.

“Just kidding, okay? I just don’t know how long I could keep this up.”

“I talked to Qiao when we were at the store the other day,” Jacky said. “She said she no longer cares for Chen Yi in that way. I just hope it’s true.”

“Don’t worry, Huang,” Wallace reassured Ehlo. “We’re here. Besides, we have other things to worry about.”

“What?” Ehlo asked.

“Our plan,” Wallace reminded him.

Ehlo wrinkled his face. “I thought Valerie’s taking care of that.”

Wallace smiled. “So we’re going to sit around and wait for the result? We have to have a back up plan, right?”

“All right then.”

“Whatever it is,” Johnny jumped in. “I hope you guys won’t go overboard. That Tang Feng…we don’t know much about him yet, except that he’s Qiao’s senior, so…”

“Don’t worry,” Wallace said. “We won’t do anything rash. I thought of it over already. Getting mad or anxious won’t solve anything. We need to convince him with our communication skills.”

“Let’s hope so.”

After that, they ate dinner.

It was one of those nights when the four guys were not having guests over. Perhaps it was a good chance for them to reunite once again, talking among themselves freely, not having to refrain their words like when they were with the others. After all, they did grow up together. It took more than a few cruel words to upset anyone of them. Inside jokes were handled better in their situation.

© Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Posted: Saturday, February 12th, 2011

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