Valerie stopped her pacing and leaned on the window sill instead. She looked at her watch once more before darting her vision to the street. It was finally Tuesday and it was her chance to carry out her plans to once again prove her capabilities in helping her friends. However, her patience was running a bit low. The others had told her of Tang Feng’s unpredictable schedule but she knew that she wanted to face it head-on, taking the challenge. She was not backing down no matter what.
“You waiting for me, Miss?” A voice asked her.
She straightened up and spotted a guy staring at her. He still had his keys in hand so he must have not been here that long. She cleared her throat quickly and began approaching him.
“If you’re sent here by them to convince me otherwise, then forget it,” The guy said before she could speak up.
“What are you talking about?” She asked, wondering how the guy knew.
“You’re with Qiao Qiao and the others, right?”
Valerie knew there was no point in lying so she nodded.
“I would’ve imagined that you guys would get more original than this. Qiao Qiao was sitting at the window sill waiting for me last time too but it was in the afternoon and not early morning like now.”
“Have anyone told you to look at others when you’re talking?”
Tang Feng had been talking and walking toward the shop. He was fidgeting with the keys and was opening the door so he couldn’t look at her at that time. He finally turned toward her and smiled. “Irritated? I’m more troubled by everyone’s attempt to drive me out of this place here.”
“Why would you want this place anyway?” Valerie asked, gesturing toward the shop.
“Then why do you guys want it so bad anyway?”
“Hmm…how about we make a deal then?”
“Don’t tell me this has to do with finding me a match.”
Tang Feng smiled. “Over-killed, Miss.”
“Name your terms then.”
“I already told them. Either let me marry Qiao Qiao or think up of a better plan to convince me. Not going around in circles like this and ask me nonsense questions.”
“You’re brutal all right.”
“I’m just honest.”
“So, is there anything else that you want to discuss with me?”
Valerie flashed on her charming smile. “How about breakfast?”
Tang Feng turned on his smile also, but it was of an amused one. “Sorry. Already had breakfast. And…” He stole a glance past her before continuing. “Don’t try any smart moves. Remember that I was once a prankster.”
“But you don’t know me so…”
Tang Feng shook his head. “It doesn’t matter.”
Valerie watched in silence as he finally pushed the door open and entered the shop.
“What about this one, sir?” Ehlo asked, pointing toward the necklace in the display case by the window.
The man’s eyes brightened. “How much is it?”
Angela moved like a storm across the room, gesturing at Ehlo from behind the man’s back. Ehlo held a hand up to her and gestured for her to calm down.
“Let me check real quick, sir,” Ehlo said, still maintaining his polite smile. He quickly pulled out a thick booklet from the compartment under the register. “Here it is. That’ll be 500,000.”
The man’s jaw dropped–literally. “Only for that small necklace?”
“It’s real,” Ehlo reminded the man, staring him down with serious eyes. “And rare.”
“Still…” The man managed, trying to correct himself for his ignorance. “I’ll just take this one here then.”
Ehlo closed the booklet and returned it to its original place. He then wrapped up the item the man wanted and quickly processed the order. Five minutes later, the man left the shop–finally.
“Aren’t you proud of me or not?” Ehlo asked, flashing on his mischievous grin as Angela joined him behind the counter.
“You scared the world out of me,” Angela admitted. “If Uncle Zhe finds out it’s gone, he’ll be furious.”
“That cheapskate can’t afford it anyway,” Ehlo pointed out. “He’s just here to get a piece to fool his girlfriend.”
“That cheapskate finally left?” Chen Yi asked, walking up to the counter.
“All thanks to me,” Ehlo said proudly, pointing to himself.
“Stop bragging,” Angela jumped in, slightly annoyed.
“What?” Ehlo asked, turning back to her. “Are you jealous I’m more famous around here?”
“Please.” She made her way to the other side of the room to continue with her inventory task again.
“What did I say?” Ehlo asked, turning to Chen Yi–who seemed to be the only one around at the moment.
“Don’t worry,” Chen Yi reassured him. “Angela jie’s just scared that you will upset Uncle Zhe.”
“Uncle Zhe’s so nice though,” Ehlo said, surprised that someone should be afraid of the old man.
“You’re only here occasionally, Huang,” Chen Yi said, shaking his head. “You’ll find out in time.”
Ehlo put on his challenging look. “Who are you scaring, kid?”
“I’m just giving you a friendly reminder since we’re on the same boat now.”
Ehlo faked confusion. “We weren’t before?”
“You know what I mean.”
“Ehlo ge!” Achel called from across the room.
“Coming!” Ehlo exclaimed, seeing Achel was waving her hand furiously for him. Then he turned to Chen Yi once more. “Sorry, but I have to go save the day again. You take over.”
“Impressive,” Chen Yi mumbled with much sarcasm as he watched Ehlo making his way toward Achel.
It was actually Tuesday afternoon and they were helping Uncle Zhe several hours before closing. Only that the pickiest customer wasn’t planning to leave anytime soon so Ehlo had to pull a trick on the guy to get him out. It was another fifteen minutes that they finally closed up and got ready to leave.
Strangely but not so strangely, Ehlo and Chen Yi had been getting along quite well recently. It was just their talk that sounded challenging but it was their way of communication that could cause misunderstanding.
“Let’s see if you can get that one,” Wallace challenged, shifting his hand lightly so his motion would register.
“Ha!” Ehlo shouted proudly after returning the attack.
“Oh yeah,” Wallace said again, increasing his pace.
“Gotcha,” Ehlo shot back–once again in his victory voice.
“You guys!” A panicked voice rang through the door, interrupting their conversation.
“Pause it,” Ehlo commanded, seeing who just arrived.
“Can’t,” Wallace returned.
“I guess we’ll have to continue then,” Ehlo said, his eyes returning to the screen.
“You guys!” The voice shouted once more, trying to get their attention.
“What’s going on, Miss Tao?” Jacky asked, walking into the room at that time.
“Plan failed,” Valerie informed them all, settling down at an empty spot on the sofa.
“Hey!” Ehlo shouted. “That’s cheating, man.”
“All’s fair in love and war,” Wallace rattled out. “And Wii.”
“I’ll get you,” Ehlo said, his tone threatening.
“Aren’t you listening to me at all?” Valerie asked, frustrated.
“We’re kind of busy right now,” Ehlo answered, his attention still on the screen.
“You’re just playing tennis,” Valerie pointed out.
“You heard what she said?” Ehlo asked, turning to Wallace just for a second.
“We’re playing tennis,” Wallace replied.
“No, she said ‘just’, not playing.”
“We have more important matters to take care of here,” Valerie continued, eyeing the guys, her annoyance increasing by the minute.
“Relax,” Ehlo reassured Valerie. “We got it under control.”
“How can I relax when I promised to help you guys?” Valerie asked anxiously.
“Don’t worry, we’ll handle it,” Wallace said, taking over the reassuring role.
“Why do you guys look like you want me to fail?” Valerie asked, eyeing them suspiciously. “What’s with that smile?”
Wallace and Ehlo exchanged a look before continuing to play their game, pushing the explaining task to Jacky on purpose.
“What’s up with them?” Valerie asked, finally turning to Jacky. “Did they bet on me failing?”
“No,” Jacky replied, setting down a fruit bowl on the coffee table.
Valerie wrinkled her face. “Then why do they have that smile on their faces?”
Jacky shrugged. “Beats me. Want some fruits?”
“No, thank you,” Valerie snapped, too upset to eat.
“Calm down, Miss Tao,” Jacky said. “They’re harmless.”
“They look like they know I would fail,” Valerie repeated her accusations. “You guys know how unbelievable that Tang Feng is? He’s saying that I want to offer myself in Qiao’s place and…and…”
“So, did you?” Ehlo jumped in, his attention finally on her.
Valerie sent him a threatening glare.
“Was just asking,” Ehlo said, flashing on his innocent smile before resuming the game with Wallace.
“Of course not!” Valerie exclaimed, outraged. “I’m helping you guys here. Why are you so…”
“Relax,” Ehlo repeated his latest mantra. “We’re just kidding.”
“And aren’t you supposed to come back for a visit?” Wallace asked, reminding her of her trip. “Take a stroll around the neighborhood to see the changes. Don’t worry about us. I was impatient before too but it doesn’t do any good.”
“Like I said before,” Ehlo took over. “We got it under control. Just wait for another Huang and Huo production coming this Friday.”
“What?” Valerie asked, wrinkling her face out of confusion this time around and not because she was annoyed with them.
“We got a plan,” Wallace clarified.
“What do you guys have under your sleeves this time then?” Valerie asked, remembering back to the famous ‘Huang and Huo’ production from last year.
Ehlo flashed a secretive wink toward Valerie’s direction before focusing on the game again. “Watch and see.”
“Why Friday and not tomorrow?” Valerie asked.
“We made too much fuss these past days,” Ehlo explained. “Let Tang Feng rest. Then we strike again. If we go ahead so soon, he might just disregard it and not give it a proper thought.”
“Being a pest is the last thing we want to do,” Wallace concluded, ending their explanation before returning to the game again.
“Are you saying I’m a pest?” Valerie challenged, her eyes moving from Ehlo to Wallace.
“How in the world did you come to that conclusion?” Ehlo asked, wrinkling his face.
“I don’t know,” Valerie continued in her annoyed tone. “Maybe it’s because you guys have been ignoring me or keep picking on my tactics since I stepped into the room.”
“We never did any of that,” Wallace said. “We just want you to rest and enjoy your trip here while you can before you go back to the States. Is that wrong?”
“She thinks it’s insulting because we won’t let her help or let her use her brain,” Ehlo said.
Valerie got up at that time and left the room.
“Hey!” Jacky called after her.
“Forget it!” Valerie shot back.
“You’re not staying for dinner?” Angela’s voice asked from down the hall where the guys’ bedrooms were.
“I’m not welcomed,” Valerie explained, her hands resting on the doorknob.
Angela walked into the room at that time with Cyndi at her side. She looked from one guy to the other. Ehlo and Wallace had resumed their game already so she turned to Jacky for an explanation.
“Don’t look at me,” Jacky said.
“Huang Yu Rong,” Angela called out.
Ehlo–as if having received a command from the queen–tossed the Wii remote control on the coffee table and ran to Angela’s side at that time.
“What?” Ehlo asked, flashing on his innocent smile.
“What did you do to Valerie?” Angela asked back, her eyes staring him down.
“I didn’t do anything. Wallace and I were just telling her to rest and have fun while she’s back for a visit. And she’s mad at us because we don’t need her talent.”
“Val!” Angela called out, turning her attention to Valerie–who was still standing by the door. “You know how he is. Don’t be mad.”
“I’m not mad,” Valerie said finally. “I guess I’m just frustrated that I can’t help you guys.”
“Ehlo said it. You’re here for a visit. Don’t feel bad. Come on.”
Valerie could see Angela meant it and she knew that she had been overboard–even if the others did not blame her. She sighed out and nodded.
“All right!” Ehlo shouted. “Now I can get back to my…”
Before Ehlo could say ‘game’, he could see that his character had already died. They’d switched to a shooting game somewhere along the way when they were still talking to Valerie.
“Why didn’t you cover me?” Ehlo asked, eyeing Wallace cautiously.
“I couldn’t even cover myself,” Wallace defended himself.
“Oh great,” Ehlo said. “Let’s finish this another day then.”
“Fine with me,” Wallace said, rubbing his arm. “I’m beat too.”
They ended up cleaning up the area and getting ready for dinner.
“I’ll go call Sonia and Sam,” Jacky said, walking down the hallway.
“Sonia’s here?” Valerie asked, having been helping them set the table.
“Yeah,” Angela said. “She has been discussing some plans with Sam.”
Before Valerie could ask Angela any more questions, Ehlo walked down the hall to the guys’ rooms also.
“Where is he going?” Valerie asked, curious about the sudden action.
“Ming Dao and Johnny,” Angela answered.
“Oh. Sounds like a full house, huh?”
Although Valerie was a bit tensed and frustrated before, she became her cheerful self again during dinner. She talked and joked with Angela, Cyndi, and Sonia while the guys talked among themselves by the counter.
“Seems like a reunion tonight,” Ehlo commented when Jacky got up to get the guys some sodas.
“We’re missing about a dozen people or so, that’s all,” Jacky said.
“Hey, I know,” Ehlo called out again.
“What?” Wallace asked, staring at him–like the others were.
“How about we go to Uncle Ben’s place for a celebration Friday night?”
“You’re calling victory so soon, Huang?”
“Are you doubting our plan, Huo?”
Wallace smiled. “I guess I shouldn’t.”
“But it’s a good idea to visit Uncle Ben though,” Jacky said, sitting back down again.
“I haven’t visited him for a long time,” Ming Dao confessed. “Even if I love noodles.”
“You’ve been loving love too much to love noodles,” Ehlo pointed out.
Of course, the others already learned of Ming Dao having a girlfriend already so the joke was about his girlfriend–and not about Qiao Qiao anymore.
“What?” Ming Dao asked, turning to Ehlo.
“Don’t ‘what’ me,” Ehlo shot back. “Like you’re not.”
“Guys,” Jacky interfered.
“You guys are always stirring up troubles for nothing,” Angela said from the table.
“Sure,” Ehlo said, dripping of sarcasm.
“It feels familiar though,” Sam said suddenly. “I mean…”
“You like to see us argue?” Ehlo asked.
“Quit it already,” Jacky jumped in, attempting to rescue Sam from Ehlo’s grasp.
“All right then,” Ehlo said. “I’ll let you off this time.”
“Huang Yu Rong,” Angela called out again.
“What?” Ehlo asked, turning to her.
“You forgot your place again.”
“Wow,” Jacky commented. “Ehlo apologizing.”
“It’s unbelievable but we all heard it,” Johnny joined in.
“Very funny, guys,” Ehlo snapped, turning to give his buddies a threatening glare.
The night went on in that pattern, except they finally let Ehlo off to talk about other topics.
© Friday, September 25th, 2009
Posted: Saturday, February 12th, 2011