Angela did not know for how long she stood there looking at Sonia, dumbfounded. Yet she was still having a hard time putting two and two together. Okay, she got the gist of it from Sonia’s previous words that trouble was indeed inviting itself to paradise. But what she didn’t get was how it had happened–and they weren’t able to detect any signs of it at all these past weeks. Or in fact, how long ago had the rip occurred?
“Please tell me this isn’t one of those senseless fights,” Angela said finally. “Or one of those sick jokes. Or…”
Sonia shook her head. “No, it’s not. I thought it through for so long now. But I don’t want to hurt Jacky…after how much we’ve been through.”
Angela had on that confused look again. She couldn’t help it. “You changed your mind about him? It must be something you found out about him, right?” Angela knew it was low on her part to talk about Jacky in that way but she had to start somewhere–and targeting Sonia wasn’t going to help move things along.
Sonia shook her head again–as if that was the only gesture she learned since she was born. “I told you it’s not Jacky.”
Sonia looked elsewhere a few seconds before directing her eyes at Angela again. “Angela…James came back, he didn’t abandon me like we thought.”
That was when everything clicked into place for Angela. She was no longer standing there but pacing–and then taking the seat across the counter from Sonia again. “Sonia, I hate to break it to you, but James is history.”
Sonia shook her head. “We misunderstood him.”
Angela’s calmness had already abandoned her since she heard James’ name. She clutched her hands together, trying to control herself, knowing Sonia wasn’t at fault–not totally. “You seriously want to take that risk by abandoning Jacky and starting over with James?”
“You have to give James a chance to explain for himself.”
Angela scoffed, knowing Sonia was beyond help when it came to James. Then she realized she had to shape up, not let her emotions get the best of her at the moment. Sonia was already gone–where intelligence was concerned, so she had to be the voice of reason here. Not to mention how Bianca wasn’t around at the moment. She took another deep breath and let it out before turning to Sonia again. “When in the world did you see James again anyway?”
“It was the time Sam and I went out of town to do research for our special segment.”
More details clicked in for Angela. “Sam left after you guys were done and went to visit Xiao Qiao.”
Sonia nodded. “I decided to stay at the hotel to wait for Sam, so we could come back together. Then James checked in and…”
Angela put her right hand up to stop Sonia. “Spare me the rest of the details, please.”
“Nothing happened and you want to get back with him?”
“He just explained to me what happened and how he was looking for me all these years and…”
“He got stuck at some deserted island and couldn’t make it in time for the wedding, right?”
Angela put a hand up to stop Sonia again. “The point is…he knows he could fool you, that’s why he’s doing it. Because you let him, Sonia.”
“I’ll look into it then if you guys want to verify the details,” Jacky’s voice traveled to their ears then.
Both Angela and Sonia jumped up from their seats and turned to stare into Jacky’s eyes. It was more like Angela was the one who jumped out of her seat and turned around. Sonia only got up from her seat, but wasn’t any less shocked than Angela.
Jacky offered them a smile. “I forgot my notebook last time and didn’t remember about it either when I dropped you off earlier. One of my co-workers called and asked me about something so I had to come back and get the notebook. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop.” Jacky had been looking at Sonia the whole time while explaining the coincidence, even waving the notebook he had found in his hand for emphasis.
Sonia stepped out behind the counter then and walked toward Jacky. “Jacky…I…”
Jacky put a hand up to stop her from coming closer. “It’s not your fault or anyone’s fault. I want to know what happened too. I’ll contact the investigator I know and have him get me another unfamiliar investigator to meet up with you. You can talk to him about the details.”
“Right now, there’s no way to know who’s telling the truth. And I can’t risk the doubt of manipulation on my part if we use my investigator. It’s best we find another one to do the deed.”
Sonia still didn’t know what to say.
“But it’s not fair to you,” Angela jumped in.
Jacky turned to Angela then. “It doesn’t matter at this moment. We have to clear away the suspicion about James’ disappearance first.”
Angela still had on her disbelief look. “Do whatever you people want, I’m outta here.”
Angela did not mean to sound so unsupportive but she was going to blow up if she didn’t get out of there. She stormed past Jacky and left, slamming the front door. Jacky silently pondered if she’d learned it from Ehlo, but didn’t dare to ask.
“She’s just worried for you,” Jacky said when it was just the two of them again, defending Angela.
Sonia nodded. “Jacky…I…”
Jacky shook his head. “You don’t need to explain anything to me. If James really has his reasons like he told you, then I’m willing to let go.”
Jacky shook his head again. “Don’t say anything now. We’ll talk later, okay?”
Sonia nodded, making a move to walk Jacky to the door. He shook his head again–as if that was the latest trends, indicating that he could let himself out.
When Jacky got home, Angela was already there. It was no surprise since she got a head start over him when he lingered to exchange some more words with Sonia. From the looks of it, she was still fuming. Ehlo was so getting it, not even daring to play his games–or do anything while he was listening to her.
“I don’t know what in the world’s wrong with her,” Angela said, her anger still very much intact.
From Ehlo’s expression, she must have repeated that phrase several times already.
“She’s just too blind when it comes to James,” Angela continued on with her monologue.
“Angela, you might want to tone it down a little,” Wallace said, walking by the living room. He was on one of his breaks again, wanting to get a snack. “I was trying to work in there.”
“I just can’t believe her,” Angela returned, her voice still raging.
“Believe it then.” Wallace, of course, had spotted Jacky walking by to his room minutes ago. “And if you don’t, tone it down a bit, he’s here too, you know.”
“The more I want to talk about it.”
Jacky walked past them and into the kitchen then, pretending to be oblivious about it.
“Angela,” Ehlo called out, wanting to show some support for Jacky. “Let’s go out or something…”
Angela turned on Ehlo again. “To think that you approve of the straightforward method, not brushing things under the rug.”
“He needs a little time.”
Angela scoffed, turning toward Jacky’s back again. “It looks like he’s doing fine to me. In fact, he doesn’t even know what he’s talking about. You should have seen him at her house, all calm and volunteering to do something like that…”
Jacky walked past them again, but this time going to his room.
“Zhu Fan Fang!” Angela bellowed, having enough of Jacky’s passivity. “You’re a coward, you know that?”
Ehlo got up and pulled Angela back. Wallace had stopped in his tracks, staring at all three parties. Jacky’s expression was far from the passivity he seemed to project minutes ago.
“You think I want to do it?” Jacky yelled right back at Angela then. “They have a past! You know how I felt after I heard that she wanted to break up with me? Like I walked into a wall but worse because it’s like the wall slamming into me until I couldn’t breathe anymore. Why do you think it took me so long to step out and say what I did? Because I wanted to eavesdrop even more? I was recovering from…whatever that was…the suffocating feeling.”
“Then why did you do it?” Angela asked, not backing down.
“I just want her to be happy.”
Angela scoffed, shrugging Ehlo’s hands off her shoulder. “If what James said is true, then she’s going to go to him and then you’ll be left alone. When she’s happy, you’ll be miserable. How could you be happy when she’s gone? Or worse, the way he’s so deceptive, he might fool those PIs too. Then…how could anyone be happy?”
“I’ll work on it when it comes down to that, okay?” He was answering the first few questions more than the last two.
“Huh, we’ll see about that. The way I see it, you should fight for her because she still cares for you, that’s why she’s even torn in the first place.”
“Didn’t you see how devastated she looked? How could I hold her back? And what are we doing here? Shooting some daily drama? Fighting for her?” Jacky had on his mocking expression. “What is she? An object that two guys could toss around however they want?” He paused–as if to catch his breath. “And she’s torn because she doesn’t want to hurt me, it doesn’t mean she still loves me, it just means she’s feeling sorry for me.”
“No, she doesn’t. She still cares for you. You still have a chance.”
Jacky shook his head. “You don’t get it.”
“Like you do.”
“It’s not about winning or losing at all.”
“You know you’re just being fake by doing this and not wanting to at all.”
“What else could I do? Say I just ignored it and left without saying anything, knowing she doesn’t love me. If I could just get manipulative enough and prevent her from even saying anything, making her feel guilty if she says it. What do you think would come out of it? Huh? Tell me!”
But Jacky wasn’t done–or needed Angela to answer, because he continued right on after that outburst.
“If I keep her by my side like this, we’ll all be miserable. What’s the point?”
Jacky’s face had gotten too dark and full of fatigue by then. Even Angela couldn’t say anything more. Knowing they were finished, he turned and made his way to his room again. It was then that Ehlo put his hands around Angela again, trying to comfort her. It was also then that Wallace realized Angela had been crying, and he had a feeling she wasn’t crying because she had lost an argument. It was more serious than that, because she was crying for Jacky. By then, Ehlo had let Angela leaned on his shoulder, patting her back, trying to calm her.
“Your buddy is just dumb, you know that?” Angela blurted out as she stopped in between sobs.
Ehlo nodded. “I know.”
Wallace didn’t know what to say either. He wanted to go to Jacky and say some comforting words. Yet he knew it was just empty words after all.
As if the day wasn’t exciting enough already, Qiao Qiao appeared at their door around dinner time all smile.
“Guess what?” Qiao Qiao rattled out, waving a magazine in her hand when Wallace opened the door for her.
“What?” Wallace asked casually, just to maintain some type of conversation. “You won a trip to see your favorite idol?”
“No, I wish. But…” She paused to tap on the magazine. “This could make up for it.”
They had stepped away from the door and were making their way into the living room.
“What then?” Wallace asked, his pace not slowing down at all.
“I read that Zai Zai’s going to shoot some comedy at the end of this year and have it release next year,” Qiao Qiao replied, tapping on the magazine again. “If it’s true, that’ll be so cool ‘cause he’s going to sing ‘Love You 10,000 Years’ for the movie.”
It was no secret that Jacky was a fan of Vic Chou but Wallace had no idea where Qiao Qiao was going with her story.
“Wouldn’t it be cool if Jacky ge play that song for Sonia in the future? I mean we don’t have to wait for Zai Zai’s version since Jacky ge could just sing it for Sonia. We should do some gathering and cheer Sonia up, right? It would get her mind off the whole mess with the fortune-teller and having to deal with Mrs. Chu later, you know.”
That was when Wallace stopped walking. He turned to face Qiao Qiao. Lucky Qiao Qiao was paying attention since she almost slammed into Wallace. She took another step back to give them both some personal space.
“What?” Qiao Qiao asked, detecting traces of strangeness from his expression.
Wallace looked around, as if fearing that he would be heard. “About that…uh…”
“What?” Then she realized it. “Where’s Jacky ge?”
Wallace hesitated but responded anyway. “In his room.”
Qiao Qiao wrinkled her face. “I thought it’s dinner time for you.” As if needing verification, she held her watch up to eye level and checked the time. “Yup, according to my watch.”
“You’re right,” Wallace said when she looked at him again. “It’s just that…”
“Just tell her already,” Angela’s voice interrupted Wallace’s words.
Qiao Qiao turned to see Angela eating with Ehlo. Though Angela still looked so cool and collected like always yet Qiao Qiao knew something was wrong, so wrong. She turned to Wallace again. “Well?”
“First,” Wallace began again. “Don’t ever tell him to sing ‘Love You 10,000 Years’ to Sonia.”
Qiao Qiao wrinkled her face, not getting it–because Wallace was too slow with his explanation. But her face displayed some traces of recognition. “Oh! I know! Mrs. Chu got to them already? She told him not to see Sonia anymore?”
Wallace shook his head.
“Come in here, kid,” Ehlo interfered. “I’ll tell you since Huo’s a bit distracted himself.”
And that was the truth so Wallace didn’t speak up to defend himself. He just nodded when Qiao Qiao looked at him. She had no choice but to enter the kitchen and sat down next to Angela, waiting for Ehlo’s version of the story–with Angela’s constant angry inputs.
“This is too ironic!” Qiao Qiao exclaimed after Ehlo was done. “Jacky ge said that he doesn’t want it to end up like some silly drama but he doesn’t realize that it’s just like that. What is that? Some dude from the past show up?”
“Tell me about it,” Ehlo mumbled, his voice tired.
“Now you know why you must not tell him to sing that song to Sonia,” Wallace spoke up – after having sat down and was eating again.
“Hey, it might cause her to change her mind about leaving him,” Angela pointed out, though she knew she was grasping straws.
“Or cause him to break down then and there in front of her,” Ehlo sabotaged. “Not a good sight to see.”
Qiao Qiao had been silent, letting the others joke–or attempt to joke about the situation. She didn’t mind because she was thinking. Now, she got up and pulled some dishes off the rack.
“What are you doing, kid?” Ehlo asked, alarmed. “You break it, you replace it.”
Qiao Qiao ignored Ehlo and found a tray in one of the drawers as well. She scooped some foods into those dishes she managed to yank out and placed them on the tray. After scooping a bowl of rice and grabbing a pair of chopsticks to go along with it, she headed for Jacky’s room.
“Good luck, kid,” Ehlo muttered.
Qiao Qiao did not reply but just continued to Jacky’s room. She knocked–attempted to knock–at the door. “It’s me.”
Jacky came to the door after Qiao Qiao heard some rustling sounds inside. It was like he was hiding the evidence or something. Because when he appeared, he looked quite out of it, his eyes red.
“Hey, how about dinner?” Qiao Qiao asked, not wanting to force him into answering about his appearance.
Jacky smiled then, taking the tray from her.
“Not going to treat me like delivery boy and shoo me away, are you?” She teased.
Jacky reached for the door and opened it all the way. “Come on in then.”
Qiao Qiao stepped inside, almost skipping. She knew she was too trying but she didn’t care. She was on a mission. And the first thing was making sure he wasn’t starving himself–like she did weeks ago.
“I guess you heard,” Jacky said after they settled down at a corner of his bed. He had taken out a fold-up table from his closet so they could put the food tray on it.
“Well,” Qiao Qiao began, playing with a loose string of yarn on her shirt. “It depends on what you want me to hear.”
“I guess what they say is true.” He stopped to swallow his food before continuing. “Bad news spread like wildfire.”
“Look on the bright side, even Angela is on your side.”
“Not too bright for Sonia’s case. She thought she would get some support from her friend yet…”
“It’s just strange, huh?” Qiao Qiao had lain back on Jacky’s bed, using her hands as cushion. “To think that she used to oppose the idea of you and Sonia getting together.”
“I just hope she comes around and gives Sonia all the backup Sonia needs.”
“You always think for Sonia.”
Jacky smiled, not minding the fact that Qiao Qiao was chiding him. “If you were in a tight spot and everyone thinks you’re making the worst decision of your life, wouldn’t you want at least one friend’s support?”
“But that’s Bianca’s job, not Angela’s.”
Jacky shook his head, taken aback by Qiao Qiao’s comment. “You always have to get in the last word.”
Qiao Qiao bowed slightly and displayed her proud smile.
“Eh…don’t fall asleep on my bed. I need to sleep later, you know.”
“Who cares? You have the sofa. You enjoyed it last time since you didn’t care to go back to your room.” Qiao Qiao jerked up from her place then. “You know what? One more thing to look on the bright side, if you and Sonia break up, you can go back to work at KFT! That means you won’t be so burnt out anymore!”
Jacky had to laugh at that–despite the fact that it was not even funny at all–if it would come down to that moment. “What kind of logic is that?”
“Hey, you can’t blame me for trying.”
Just like that, she crashed down on his bed again, and he went back to eating.
© Thursday, October 27th, 2011
Posted: Tuesday, November 1st, 2011