The next morning proved Jacky right because Qiao Qiao had indeed fallen asleep on his bed. That also meant he had to find another place to sleep. But it wasn’t the sofa because she found him coming out of Johnny’s room when she got up and wandered toward the bathroom.
“Hey, sleepyhead,” Jacky said, patting her head.
“Hey yourself,” Qiao Qiao returned, not caring if she was hogging the bathroom when it was his house.
He smiled and stepped aside, letting her go first. In fact, he was already done–and had showered. He just wanted to put the towel back on the rack. But now that she was already out of his room, he headed to his room, hanging his towel on the usual rack. After that, he walked to his desk, grabbing his notebook, looking for a certain entry.
And just like that, the plan with Jacky’s usual PI searching for another PI for Sonia was in place. Jacky did not want to be involved in the details as much, claiming he was busy with his latest projects, which was true to some extent. The other reason was he didn’t want to give Sonia any more pressure. Or himself for that matter, knowing he couldn’t handle it yet. Angela, after calming down slightly, had volunteered to help Sonia, not wanting Sonia to face the PI alone. Not to mention how she didn’t trust Sonia to provide the right details the way Sonia was always so partial toward James.
While that was taking place, they also had to aid in the investigation regarding the fortune-teller. The mess was enough to occupy their time that they didn’t stop to ponder about other side matters either. Qiao Qiao was still unemployed yet she didn’t care for it that much at the moment. She took it into her own hands to find ways to cheer Jacky up while the investigation was taking place.
Another week of agony passed by and they weren’t anywhere near closure. Either way, it didn’t look good. As they were sighing out and getting ready for another weekend full of intensity, Jacky called Ehlo and Wallace up–at the same time through three-way calling–and told them to gather the others up and meet him at East Shore Café. At least the few who knew what happened thus far.
“This better be good,” Angela said when she and Ehlo arrived at the café.
Qiao Qiao, Yan Yan, Chen Yi, and Achel were already there.
“If it’s the result, it can’t be good, right?” Qiao Qiao reminded them.
Angela sighed out, sitting down at the table next over from the other four. “This is just so frustrating.”
“How could they find out the result so fast though?” Chen Yi pondered aloud.
“It’s six years, not…”
“It would still take time.”
Angela sighed out again. “Who knows? We’ll have to trust that PI. He seems legit enough.”
The others exchanged a look among themselves. They knew she didn’t want to admit the PI was a true pro. Because that would mean whatever the truth would be, they would have to accept it.
“Whatever it is,” Angela’s voice resumed its course. “That James is sure a Wen Shen.”
[Author’s Note: Angela was using James’ last name Wen (溫) as a pun, Wen Shen (瘟神) means an unlucky god/demon literally. The figurative meaning is an unlucky person–who would bring nothing but trouble if you were to encounter him or her.]
The others exchanged a look again. Ehlo had already taken a seat next to Angela, but now he had to get up again. He went inside and ordered for them, knowing they all needed something to cool down.
“I thought you were against Jacky and Sonia getting together,” Qiao Qiao said, repeating a phrase she said to Jacky last week.
Angela sighed out yet again–as if that was her latest acquired habit. “Let’s just say that I’m a very stubborn person who refuses to accept that someone has a very good excuse to not show up at a wedding.”
“They got married?” Chen Yi jumped in, not believing that Sonia had such a past.
Angela tossed her hair behind her shoulder, though there wasn’t much hair to toss around because of her current hair length so it was just one of her habits when she did have long hair. “Almost.”
“If she’s willing to forgive him for not showing up at their wedding, then she must have loved him a lot,” Qiao Qiao noted. “I mean…come on now…she has to face all of that embarrassment afterward.”
“And move here.”
Ehlo came back at that time, relieving them temporarily from Angela’s sighing routine. He set drinks down for Angela and himself before proceeding to the other table. But he didn’t do the placing task with the others since he just handed the tray to Chen Yi.
“They’re not here yet?” Ehlo asked, settling down at his seat again.
“What does it look like to you?” Angela asked back.
Ehlo ignored her sarcasm. Or more like he didn’t mind it, knowing she was upset. “Look at it this way, we’ll have closure either way, right? It’s better than dragging this out to no end.”
“Should I even say ‘may the best man win’?” Chen Yi joked.
Ehlo waved a ‘No’ sign behind Angela’s back but she turned toward Chen Yi with a dagger look.
Chen Yi shrugged, not taking it to heart. “I’m sorry, Angela jie. But I’m just trying to make light of the situation here.”
Angela sighed out again and turned back to stare at her drink. She ended up taking a sip out of it anyway, knowing she couldn’t do anything but wait.
“The only blaming I want to do now is myself,” Ehlo said suddenly.
“Why?” Qiao Qiao asked, looking over to him. Then she jumped up from her seat, pointing an accusing finger at Ehlo. “Unless you’re the guy who contacted James and told him where Sonia is.”
Ehlo rolled his eyes. “Sure, kid. Like I know he existed. Or know that much about Sonia’s past.”
Qiao Qiao wrinkled her face in confusion once again, lowering her hand already. “Then why are you blaming yourself?”
Ehlo’s head lowered then, his eyes staring at the table surface. “Because I encouraged him to follow his heart and pursue Sonia.”
Angela reached a hand out and placed it on his. “But if you didn’t push him, he would have already married Jo, right?”
It was Ehlo’s turn to sigh. “You can’t win ‘em all, right?”
“You think it’s a good time to call for a celebration, Huang?” Wallace’s teasing voice came on at that time.
All six of them turned around to see Wallace walking toward them.
“We’re trying to cool down here,” Qiao Qiao spoke up in Ehlo’s place.
Wallace wrinkled his face but didn’t forget to make himself comfortable at the seat next to Ehlo. “Cool? The rainy season is coming soon and you’re trying to cool down?”
“You know what we mean,” Qiao Qiao chided him.
Ehlo seemed to regain his composure then, not looking so sad anymore. He looked around once more before turning to Wallace. “What happened to your girlfriend, Huo?”
“An emergency meeting with one of the suppliers,” Wallace replied, shrugging his shoulders–as if he found that hard to believe as well, yet he was repeating it to them.
Ehlo rubbed his chin. “This is too strange. It’s like we haven’t seen much of her lately. It’s like it’s a sign…like who else isn’t here? Oh yeah…Mr. Sun.”
“Hey!” Yan Yan yelled out from the other table.
Ehlo turned to Yan Yan with an apologetic smile. “Just kidding, girl.”
“Well, find something else to kid about then.”
Ehlo shrugged. “What? There isn’t much around here that could be funny anymore.”
The others went back into silence. Yan Yan had sat back down at her seat. And then they were finally relieved of the wait because Jacky and Sonia arrived five minutes later. All of them got up from their seats and approached the pair.
“Waited long?” Jacky asked, smiling.
The other six exchanged a look among themselves, wondering if they could decipher the smile as a good sign–like in Jacky’s favor. Yet the smile on Sonia’s face sent them into confusion again.
“Please tell me that PI is legit,” Chen Yi said, repeating Angela’s doubt. “How in the world could it be so fast?”
“It is about that, right?” Yan Yan asked, not wanting to intensify the atmosphere any more than it was before Jacky and Sonia were there.
Jacky nodded, extending the hand holding a tan envelope. They could see it was one of those envelopes that would sometimes contain important documents. And this time, it was no different. Ehlo reached out and took the envelope. He handed some of the contents to Angela. The other four gathered around to check on the evidence also.
“The PI called Sonia when I went to pick her up so we swung by his office to get it,” Jacky explained.
Ehlo nodded, still studying the evidence. The others were as occupied so they didn’t care to respond. Out of the six people rustling with the various documents and photos, Angela was the slowest with reading–though she was known as one of the fastest readers among them. It was like she wanted to delay the moment when she had to look Sonia in the eye. And indeed, it was just that. Because when she finally looked up and into Sonia’s eyes, Sonia had on a smile full of relief.
“I told you, Angela. James’ not like that.”
Angela rolled her eyes, scoffing at the same time. “You’re happy but look at the guy next to you.”
It was then that Sonia’s smile faded, realizing her inconsiderate behavior. She turned to Jacky. “I…”
Jacky had on a forced smile, shaking his head. “It’s okay. I have to keep my word, don’t I?”
Silence came then. Even the sound of papers being shoved back and forth between the six of them was no longer present. The others knew and could take a hint. They made up excuses real quick and cleared out of there, letting Jacky and Sonia talk.
“I guess this is it,” Jacky said, gesturing his hand in the general direction, wanting to make light of the situation.
Sonia’s face returned to its worried state mixed in with guilt. “I…”
Jacky shook his head. “Don’t blame yourself. I made a promise, remember? I have to go through with it now.”
“But it’s not fair to you,” Sonia said, repeating Angela’s words from about a week ago.
He shook his head again. “It’s not about fairness. We’re talking about feelings, either we have it or we don’t. What does fairness have to do with anything?” He paused briefly before continuing. “Actually, I have to thank that hoax of a fortune-teller. At least the truth helped you made the decision, right?” He shook his head, sighing out, not believing it still. “Who would know that you would get hold back just by some fortune-teller’s words about fate and destiny?”
Before Sonia could speak up to say anything else, Jacky undid the bracelet on his hand. Yes, the same one Sonia made for him and he’d been wearing it since that day, except for some occasions that he did not want it to get damaged. He handed it back to her. She still stared at him, waiting for him to clarify, not taking it back. Jacky took a hold of her left hand with his and pressed the bracelet into it with his right hand.
“Perhaps…you should give this to James,” He continued in that overly calmed voice. “Tell him, he’s a lucky man and he should know how to treasure this second chance Heaven has given him.” He knew he had to clarify it with ‘Heaven’, because leaving it out would somehow imply that he was the one giving them that second chance–and claiming credit was just defeating the purpose of persuading Sonia to not feel guilty in the first place. “I just want to ask you for one last favor.”
Sonia nodded in agreement without stopping to think.
“Can I…” Jacky stopped, wanting to get a hold of himself.
“Say it,” Sonia urged.
“Can I hug you for the last time?”
Sonia smiled and nodded. “You may.”
Jacky didn’t need any more words as permission. He took a step forward and hugged her to him, feeling like he never wanted to let go. All the memories of the past came flooding back in his mind. It was like a filmstrip zooming by at a dizzying pace. He had heard of that type of flashbacks, but only through stories about seeing one’s life flying by before one’s death. He wondered if it was just about the same, but he had a feeling it was almost the same because he was witnessing the end of his relationship. Yet so different because in the other case, that was the end, no more suffering, no more holding everything inside and enduring the worst. Then he felt Sonia shifting from the embrace, bringing him back to reality. He finally let go of her, knowing if he didn’t, he could never again.
“Sorry,” He apologized, feeling the words so foreign on his lips, but knowing that they were no longer together. Therefore, he had to apologize for hugging her too tightly–if he had done so.
Sonia shook her head. “It’s all right.”
He scanned the place, trying to distract himself–and to regain his composure. Then he cleared his throat. “Let’s get you home, Miss Sui.”
“I can take a Taxi.”
His eyes returned to hers then. “Are you going to rob me of the last chance of sending you home?”
Sonia shook her head.
“Then let’s go.”
Sonia followed him obediently to the parking lot. It looked like the others had left already. Yet Jacky and Sonia had no idea because the others were seen lurking at a corner inside the café. It was because both Jacky and Sonia were so distracted that they didn’t care to check on Chen Yi, Wallace, or Ehlo’s cars. And it wasn’t until they made sure it was absolutely safe that they stepped out into the open space again.
“That was so sad,” Achel commented, sniffling away.
Chen Yi and the other two guys exchanged a look. Chen Yi shrugged while Ehlo and Wallace looked as troubled. But with Chen Yi, he had to reach into his pockets to find some tissues for Achel.
“Stop crying already,” Qiao Qiao chided Achel, her voice on the brink of crying also.
“But it’s so sad,” Achel argued, attempting to swallow back tears–and failed.
“Don’t scold her,” Yan Yan interfered. “Like you’re any better.”
Without any more words, Yan Yan hugged both Achel and Qiao Qiao to her, patting their shoulders to calm them down. Qiao Qiao had given in to her tears and ended up crying anyway. Ehlo and Wallace exchanged another look before Wallace stepped forward to the table that was supposed to be Chen Yi and the other girls’ table earlier. He reached under the table and snatched his cell phone up, placing it into his pocket again. Apparently, while they were fishing for excuses to get out of there, Ehlo and Wallace had signaled to each other about something. It was just that the others were too fidgety–and Jacky and Sonia were too distracted–that no one noticed. Wallace had called Ehlo, allowing Ehlo to pick up and kept it that way hence them being able to hear the whole conversation between Jacky and Sonia.
“All right, all right,” Angela interfered, unable to watch the scene in front of her anymore. “I’m going to start crying too if you girls don’t break it up.”
Upon hearing Angela’s command, the other girls attempted to dry their tears as best as they could, breaking away from one another. By now, Chen Yi had found the tissues in his pocket and had handed it to Achel. Wallace also got out his own pack and handed it to Qiao Qiao, letting her share it with Yan Yan.
“Those soaps could be so helpful at times,” Ehlo commented. “Being prepared with tissues is the best tip they ever gave you. You don’t know when your girls are going to start crying.”
Angela gave Ehlo a glare, but not too sharp of a glare. She knew he was trying hard to make light of the situation.
“I wonder how long he practiced that speech,” Wallace said, looking at the empty spot where Jacky and Sonia stood minutes ago.
“Probably all week long in front of Sonia’s picture,” Ehlo replied–and he was dead serious, no traces of teasing or mockery.
Wallace shook his head, sighing out, still not believing all of it. It was like he could almost feel the repressed emotions within Jacky.
“Let’s go, everyone,” Angela urged, not wanting to stop or provide more times for the three girls to start up again.
The three girls finally got themselves together and they made their way to the parking lot.
“Who would let Jacky ge go anyway?” Achel asked, her voice both reeking of injustice and sadness.
“Well, one just did,” Ehlo responded, his sarcasm on high again.
“I’m not attacking you, kid. I’m just as frustrated about this whole thing as you.”
Achel nodded as Chen Yi slipped a protective hand around her shoulders. They stayed silent the rest of the way to their cars, not bothering to say goodbye to one another, knowing they would meet again another time–and another day.
© Thursday, October 27th, 2011
Posted: November 3rd, 2011