Chapter 1 – Mission Healing A Wounded Eagle

Ehlo shielded his eyes with one hand, staring at the sun hanging above. A familiar feeling washed over him as he waited for the others. The reason why it was so familiar was because he also sat at that exact spot almost a year back waiting for Angela–and it was his birthday. The difference this time was it was actually a week after his birthday–and he was waiting for the rest of the gang too, not just Angela. Well, the rest of the gang minus Jacky that was. If they had invited Jacky, it would be too ironic. The most important thing of all was that it wasn’t mid-day, but somewhat of a late afternoon. If he had looked directly at the sun during mid-day, his eyeballs would’ve been scorched.

“Waited long?” Angela’s voice sent another feeling of déjà vu traveling over him.

He turned around from the water and faced her with a smile but didn’t hop down from the rail like the previous time. They were going to be there for a while. He didn’t need to go anywhere.

“Hey,” He said casually, smiling at her. “Where are the others?”

She advanced toward him and got up on the rail, sitting next to him. He felt strange that she would do that but didn’t object. If it was any other girlfriend out there, she would chide her boyfriend for sitting like that and endangering his life. Yet this was Angela they were talking about, not any other girlfriend out there. Then he felt he was the luckiest guy on earth to not get a typical girlfriend.

“What are you smiling about?” Angela demanded, having seen his strange expression.

Ehlo shook his head, still smiling. “Nothing. You didn’t answer my question, Missy.”

Angela shrugged, like she didn’t feel the need for any rush. She tossed her hair behind her shoulders first. Yes, she had straightened her hair out and grew it long just for the upcoming wedding. “Change of plans, I decided not to include Bianca or Johnny–for obvious reasons, of course.”

Ehlo nodded. “Good call.”

After that, they sat in silence, waiting.

It took another fifteen minutes before anyone showed up. And that person was none other than Wallace.

“Huo!” Ehlo called out, waving toward Wallace–though he didn’t have to since Wallace saw them already.

“Hey,” Wallace greeted, eyeing them suspiciously. “Why are you two sitting up there?”

Ehlo shrugged. “Since we’re waiting?”

Wallace smiled, knowing Ehlo’s sarcasm was kicking in again. Like it was ever off, but there was always a degree of sarcasm. Sometimes, it was too subtle and sometimes it would get so high up there that it was hard to miss. That was Ehlo.

“Who else is coming?” Wallace asked, changing the topic on purpose.

“His sister, Chen Yi, Xiao Yu, and…uh…that’s it.”

Wallace wrinkled his face, shocked. “That’s it?”

Ehlo swung his feet back and forth. “That’s what I said, hello.”

“What about…”

“I decided not to include Johnny and Bianca,” Angela answered, knowing where Wallace was going. “You know, with their upcoming wedding and all.”

Wallace nodded, getting it. “But what about…”

“The others?” Ehlo jumped in. “You want me to broadcast it live with some of the others? Qiao even brought up that we shouldn’t include her boyfriend. So why do you think I want to include Tony or Yan? I meant okay, Yan knows us longer and all, but then Tony wants in too. Then we have Ming Dao and Sam, and my future bro-in-law. Then I would be standing around with a microphone and amplified speakers yelling out that my friend’s not getting over someone yet, nice?”

Wallace nodded, staying silent. He knew he didn’t want to work Ehlo’s temper anymore than he already did.

“Calm down,” Angela interfered, placing a hand on Ehlo’s.

Ehlo turned to her, his expression softening. “I’m not mad. Just trying to make a point.”

Angela nodded. And the atmosphere returned to its placid state like when Wallace hadn’t arrived yet. But not for long like last time since the other three remaining conspirators soon joined them.

“We’re all here?” Chen Yi asked, scanning the group.

Qiao Qiao did a mental count with her finger pointing at each and every one of them before nodding her head. “Yeah.”

“Okay, here’s the thing,” Ehlo began. “We all know my buddy hasn’t gotten over you-know-who and it won’t get any better with the upcoming wedding. Not to mention how Sonia’s back and helping Bianca with the wedding preparations as well. So…here are some things not to remind him too much of her.”

Ehlo turned to Angela then.

Angela understood and retrieved a list from her pocket. She cleared her throat quickly before beginning. “Number 1, do not, I repeat DO NOT say anything stupid like ‘Hey, look at how good and compatible James and Sonia look together’ when you see them coming and Jacky’s present.” She paused to see all four heads nodding. “In other words, no inconsiderate comments or remarks. It should go the same with not making James and Sonia uncomfortable while they’re here, okay?”

All four heads nodded again.

“Number 2, no wearing any clothing or perfumes or whatever else that’s similar to Sonia’s style or do anything that will trigger him to remember stuffs about Sonia, get it?”

“That’s kind of far-fetched,” Chen Yi objected.

“You have nothing to worry about, kid,” Ehlo reminded him.

“But that’s extreme for the girls.”

“It’s just temporary until he recovers.”

“When is that?”

Ehlo turned on his aggressive look then. “I don’t know. Maybe lay low for several months, okay?”

Chen Yi saluted then, knowing he didn’t want to push it. “Got it.”

Ehlo turned to Angela again, signaling for her to continue.

Angela cleared her throat again. “Number 3, no music or any types of songs that would trigger his memory about him and Sonia.”

“That’s cramming our style big time, Angela jie,” Chen Yi objected again.

“I have to agree with him on this one,” Ehlo said, turning to Angela with his pleading smile. “You know me and music.”

Angela had on her grim expression, not giving in. “Play some happy songs, not morbid ones, get it?”

The others did an in-sync nod.

Angela folded her piece of paper then, hopping off the rail in the process. “I guess that’s it. The rest are common sense, okay?”

“We came all the way out here for that?” Wallace asked, his face displaying traces of disbelief.

“Oh yeah,” Ehlo jumped in. “If we hang out with him, don’t go to familiar locations. I mean places that would remind him of Sonia.”’

“Here,” Wallace finished. “And home.”

“Let’s move then.”

Wallace nodded. “Good idea.”

“That’s crazy,” Chen Yi blurted out, not believing that Wallace was going along with it.

“We’re just kidding,” Ehlo clarified. “Even if he wants to move, I wouldn’t want to. It’s too good of a place.”

“All right,” Angela said. “That’s it for now.”

“What I don’t get is why we’re not doing some kind of thing for him too.” Chen Yi was pointing at Wallace.

Ehlo pointed at Wallace at that time, but his eyes still on Chen Yi. “See a sign on him?”

Chen Yi wrinkled his face in confusion. “What?”

“Waiting mode.”

“What?”

“He’s waiting for Cyndi because he still has hope. With Jacky, it’s like impossible now.”

“Oh…Then we have to go,” Chen Yi said, grabbing Achel’s hand–as if eager to escape from Ehlo’s fierce attitude. “Movie in a bit.”

“Remember to stop by at the church Saturday for rehearsals.”

Chen Yi turned around to face them again, his face full of surprise again. “But the wedding’s a month away.”

Angela shrugged. “Bianca wants it that way, okay? Show some support.”

Chen Yi nodded. “Got it.”

“So, see you guys at home?” Wallace asked when it was just the four of them.

Ehlo nodded, grabbing Angela’s hand. It was a given that Wallace had to drive Qiao Qiao home.

*****

Friday night, Ehlo came home all smiles. He looked like he was on Cloud 9–or even better. Angela was already there with Qiao Qiao, Chen Yi, and Achel. It seemed to be one of their routines to come to the guys’ place–though they had promised to meet at the church on Saturday for rehearsals.

“Hey, you guys are all here, good,” Ehlo rattled out in a jumble.

Wallace was in the kitchen pouring some juice for himself. He stepped into the living when Ehlo whipped out an item for them all to see.

“Zai Zai’s song is in here!” Ehlo exclaimed, his spirits still high.

It was then that they realized it was an album, Vic Chou’s album from Ehlo’s declaration. Angela got up from her seat and grabbed the album. That gave them a closer look because it wasn’t Vic’s album to be exact, but the soundtrack from a movie. It was also then that Angela turned to Ehlo with a murderous look.

“What?” Ehlo asked, detecting signs of explosives.

“I thought I told you not to listen to any songs that would remind him of it,” Angela replied, her hand waving the soundtrack back and forth in the air.

“Happy song, hello.”

Angela still had on her disproving stare. “Don’t tell me you don’t remember the history of this song.”

Ehlo flashed on his ‘know-it-all’ smile then. “Of course, I do. It’s part of the soundtrack of the movie hence the soundtrack in your hand.”

Angela turned to Chen Yi then, gesturing for him to tell Ehlo. Feeling proud that his status got bumped up to being of importance, Chen Yi stepped up and cleared his throat, ready to rattle out the ‘real answer’ behind the history of the song.

“July 17th, 2009, the world came crashing down on our handsome, popular favorite DJ because he found out his supposed soulmate doesn’t love him anymore–and even had some past old flame,” Chen Yi narrated. “A week later, July 24th, 2009, he officially broke up with her and a song we all came to know as ‘the Zai Zai song’–with its official title being ‘Love You 10,000 Years’–became the forbidden song because it repeated for about one hundred times afterward.” Chen Yi cleared his throat again and looked at Angela. “End of report, Angela jie.”

Angela turned back to Ehlo then, her hands crossed. “Now, do you get why it’s forbidden?”

“And I thought you’re sick of that song,” Qiao Qiao jumped in before Ehlo could speak up to defend himself.

Ehlo pointed at Qiao Qiao, finding her a safer target to attack than his girlfriend. “Hey, that song becomes catchy after I forget about why we’re allergic to it in the first place, okay?” Then he turned to Angela, his smile extra charming, wanting to disarm the murderous look that she was still giving him. “Come on now, I can at least buy the album, can’t I? I’ll just hide it in my room and plug my headphones in to listen. Not to mention, I’ll demonstrate for you why it’s a good song to keep around.”

Without needing Angela’s permission, Ehlo snatched the soundtrack out of Angela’s grasp and made his way over to their entertainment center. He made sure to take the CD carefully out of its wrapping before popping it into their old-fashioned CD player. The music of the song ‘Love You For 10,000 Years’ came on then because it was the first track. He started dancing along with the music, mimicking Vic, and even began singing along with Vic as the song took its toll on them all. At all the relevant parts, he managed to point at Angela and at himself, indicating that the song was meant for her. Qiao Qiao couldn’t stop laughing halfway through the song while Chen Yi and Wallace were watching with a mixture of admiration and jealousy. When the song was at its end, Ehlo pulled Angela into a hug while Wallace clapped at Ehlo’s performance. It didn’t have to do with Ehlo’s musical abilities either, but more of the ability to give them such a show. When Ehlo and Angela finally separated, Angela was seen finally smiling.

“Thanks for the demonstration, Huang,” Chen Yi spoke up with traces of mockery in his voice.

Ehlo turned to Chen Yi then, his hand still around Angela’s waist. “Hey, don’t be jealous just because you didn’t think of impressing your girl with this song.”

“You have to give him the credit for being so thick-skinned,” Wallace said, still displaying his amused smile.

Ehlo turned to Wallace. “Like I said, you’re just jealous.” Then he turned to Angela. “How about it, Mrs. Huang?”

Angela hit him for the ‘Mrs. Huang’ comment before clearing her throat, attempting to keep a straight face. “All right, you can keep it, but don’t bring it out in front of Jacky.”

“Yay!” Ehlo exclaimed, jumping up and down for real, having released Angela from his grasp already.

Just like that, the front door opened and Jacky walked in. Wallace quickly dived forward and turned off the soundtrack that was still playing. Ehlo hid the sountrack’s box behind his back at the same time.

“Jacky ge!” Qiao Qiao called out, walking over to him with a smile.

“Hey, sis,” Jacky returned the greeting. “Guess what, you guys?”

“What?” Ehlo asked, not missing a beat of the conversation, sounding as normal as he could.

“I just picked James up and dropped them off already.”

“Oh…great then.”

Qiao Qiao looked from Jacky and then back at Ehlo, her confused expression on. “James? But I thought…”

“Jacky’s older brother,” Angela jumped in, cutting Qiao Qiao off on purpose. “They just landed today. Johnny invited him and his wife to the wedding as well.”

“Oh…” Qiao Qiao mumbled. Then something else clicked in. She walked over to where Jacky was sitting on the sofa going through some contents in his briefcase. “How come you never told me you have an older brother?”

“You didn’t ask,” Jacky answered casually, his attention still on the contents in his briefcase.

“That’s right, kid,” Ehlo seconded. “Do we need to get our family tree book out for you to look at?”

Qiao Qiao turned to Ehlo, annoyed. “Huh.”

Jacky got up then, his briefcase closed and secured once again. He walked past Qiao Qiao, heading toward the hallway that led to the bedrooms. Ehlo had to turn to hide the album box behind his back again. Yet Jacky turned around to face them again, catching Ehlo off guard.

“Mind if I borrow that?” Jacky asked, pointing to where their CD player was. “I’ll sync it to my computer and give it back to you in a bit.”

“Huh?” Ehlo asked, faking innocence.

“The soundtrack,” Jacky clarified, pointing toward Ehlo’s hand still holding the soundtrack box.

“Oh…uh…yeah…” Ehlo had no choice but to walk toward their CD player and retrieved the CD, placing it back into the box before handing it to Jacky. “Take your time.”

After Jacky was gone–and his door was shut, Angela turned to give Ehlo a sharp glare that said it all: I told you so, Huang Yu Rong–loud and clear without needing to say anything at all. Jacky’s actions had meant that he had listened to them before even stepping into the house hence knowing about the soundtrack in the first place.

Ehlo shrugged. “Maybe he just likes the song?”

“Of course, he likes it,” Angela gritted her teeth. She ignored him and left for the kitchen, making dinner.

“I need to make sure you don’t put in some special ingredients,” Ehlo said, following her.

When it was just the four of them, Qiao Qiao exchanged a worried look with Chen Yi, Achel, and Wallace. Wallace, like Ehlo, shrugged but his was really from cluelessness. Qiao Qiao had no choice but head home, hoping it won’t develop into anything, but she doubted it. Yet she didn’t want to march into Jacky’s room and demand an explanation. What if it was just like Ehlo said? Then she would make a fool of herself. Or worse, being the one who brought it up.

*****

Two weeks later, Tang Feng and Qiao Qiao were at the old shop together with Nic. They finally found someone who would lease the place for some sort of business. Thanks to the rumor mill and the Zhao family combined, their little shop remained empty many months since they closed. Tang Feng finally found someone and they were supposed to meet her there, showing her around and then going through negotiations. After Tang Feng told the others of the news at one of their gatherings, Qiao Qiao wanted to come along as well. Tang Feng had agreed since he needed someone to help clean up. The others were busy handling the last minutes of the wedding preparations–just doing a routine check since everything was already done, so only Nic was able to come with them and help. However, they didn’t really need to clean up, only doing a routine check since Tang Feng had been coming in from time to time, making sure it was sparkling and ready for showing in case any potential customers were interested. What about Cyndi? Cyndi was still in New York doing her studies. She hadn’t returned since then. She sent words that she might return in the summer but might not since she wanted to use the time for taking some classes to speed up her program completion.

“I’ll check in the conference room,” Tang Feng informed them after he unlocked the door. “Qiao, you want to take the break room?”

Qiao Qiao nodded.

Tang Feng turned to Nic after that. “Stay out here and look out for her?”

Nic nodded. “Great.”

Though Nic was just supposed to be their lookout but he ended up taking a duster and began dusting some of the shelves while waiting. Fifteen minutes later, the chime told him someone was entering. He looked up and saw a girl wearing a red blouse and black pants with high heels walking in. She flashed him a friendly smile to which he returned immediately, meeting her halfway.

“Hi,” Nic began casually.

“Mr. Tang?” The girl asked, extending her hand. “I’m Cynthia Wang, we talked on the phone.”

Nic shook her hand to maintain politeness. “Actually, I’m Nic. Tang Feng’s inside.” He pointed toward the direction of the conference room. “I’ll go get him.”

At that time, Tang Feng emerged from the conference room, walking toward the two. Qiao Qiao had also come out from the break room.

“Hi, Miss Wang,” Tang Feng greeted her, extending his hand.

They shook hands and went right to business. Tang Feng showed her around the shop while Nic and Qiao Qiao waited nearby, chatting at minimum volume among themselves. After another half an hour or so, it seemed like the deal was signed – though technically it wasn’t.

“That’s that,” Tang Feng said after Cynthia had left already, having already scheduled a day to sign the agreement.

“Finally,” Qiao Qiao agreed, sighing out in relief.

“Let’s get out of here and tell the others the good news.”

Qiao Qiao nodded, turning to Nic afterward. “Want to come along?”

Nic scratched his head, thinking. “Maybe not.”

Qiao Qiao smiled. “Sick of our gatherings, huh?”

Nic shook his head. “Actually, I have to head home and help Uncle Zhe balance the store’s account.”

Tang Feng and Qiao Qiao nodded in understanding. They had heard a lot about Uncle Zhe from all the Chang siblings, Ehlo, and Chen Yi. Only Ehlo managed to give a positive feedback of Uncle Zhe. Uncle Zhe wasn’t that bad, just strict. Even Nic, who seemed quite strict at times, couldn’t stand the old man’s stickler for details. Angela was the only one who could withstand Uncle Zhe’s harsh attitude. And for the record, Uncle Zhe had already fired that one assistant–even though Angela had tried hard to protect the poor girl. Though in the end, they had wondered if that was the best for the girl. Being stuck with any other employers out there might be better than being constantly pestered by Uncle Zhe.

After Tang Feng and Qiao Qiao waved goodbye to Nic, they headed to the church where the others were.

*****

After about two more weeks–Sunday, Johnny and Bianca’s special day finally arrived. Their hard work had paid off because that day was as beautiful as they had hoped. The weather had cooperated. The ones who were directly involved with the ceremony had to go together–males and females. They were so glad that Bianca had been so nervous from the start and wanted to grill the drills in them because they ended up moving faster with arrangements. The trip to the church was early in the morning–and was just the beginning because when they got there, they had to make another round, making sure everything was in place. Some of the others had arrived to help also. Johnny and Bianca were following the usual tradition of not seeing each other until the actual moment hence they were in their individual chambers, letting the others do the last bit of the check. After Jacky, Ehlo, Angela, and Sonia had to go change and get ready, Tang Feng, Qiao Qiao, and the others stayed to help greet the guests.

Inside the guys’ chamber, Jacky and Ehlo reported to Johnny of the smooth sailing progress while changing into their suits. Ehlo was done first, stepping outside to go find Angela to help him secure the clip on his tie while Jacky was stuck standing in front of the mirror, trying to adjust it.

“Hey, get Qiao or someone here to help me with this,” Jacky yelled after Ehlo before the door slammed shut.

“Want me to help?” Johnny asked, turning to Jacky.

Jacky shook his head, knowing that Johnny was already nervous–and had to prepare himself for the final moment that his life changed to a new phase. “He’ll get someone.”

[*Author’s Note*: Turn on Eric Moo’s “You’re My Only One” (你是我的唯一) for this coming scene.]

And indeed, someone was there five minutes later, knocking on their door.

“It’s not locked,” Jacky hollered, thinking it was Ehlo coming back. He was still fidgeting with the clip and was still looking into the mirror.

Johnny gasped then. That was when Jacky turned toward the door and saw Sonia walked in.

“Ehlo said you needed help,” Sonia explained.

“I told him to get Qiao,” Jacky returned, feeling himself losing control. Though he had been practicing with her the past few weeks but had never been alone with her like today. Okay, so Johnny was around but Johnny might as well be invisible at the moment because Sonia looked so beautiful in that dress standing in front of him like that and with that smile. He cleared his throat then, trying to regain himself. “Aren’t you busy with helping Bianca too?”

Sonia nodded. “Angela’s there. I can spare a few minutes.”

“Oh…”

Sonia stepped forward then, standing next to him, still keeping a safe distance – yet he felt they were too close. He watched as she reached her hands toward his tie and began positioning the clip with just the right touches. He scolded himself, beating himself up inside even, wanting to pull out of the trance yet he couldn’t. He just kept staring at her while she secured the clip. If that wasn’t enough, she ended up fixing his tie also, making sure it was just the right touches as well–not too tight that it would end up strangling him and not too loose either that it would make him look ridiculous. And that was when he realized how much he missed her, had always missed her–and why he even missed her so much.

“There,” She finally said, her attention on him again–not on the clip or the tie–with a smile still so sweet that was suffocating him. “You’re good to go.”

He smiled then, letting out an internal sigh, wanting desperately to recollect himself. “Wouldn’t want to mess up Miss Bai’s special day with a crooked tie.”

She smiled at the joke and nodded. And just like that she turned and left. He watched until she was no longer within view and the door slammed shut, separating them once again. It wasn’t like that didn’t happen in the past few weeks. Yet this moment reminded him so much of their breakup months back. Like after he dropped her off at her place and the car door slammed shut, telling him to get a grip of reality–and that it was already over.

“You okay?” Johnny asked from a distance place.

Jacky felt Johnny’s hand on his shoulder. He turned around to face Johnny, nodding. He knew he looked troubled. “I just need a minute.”

Johnny nodded back, getting it. They stayed silent until Ehlo came back.

“Who told you to get her in here?” Jacky demanded the minute the door was shut.

“What are you talking about?” Ehlo asked, puzzled. “I thought you said to get Qiao.”

“It was Sonia,” Johnny replied in Jacky’s place.

Ehlo wrinkled his face. “What?” He scratched his head, forgetting he wasn’t supposed to mess up his hair. “No wait…”

“What?” Jacky prompted, his voice impatient.

Ehlo turned to Jacky again. “Qiao got called away for something while she was on the way here. I saw her walked past me again. I think Sonia saw what was going on so she came here instead. Hey, I did come to their side to get Angela so it’s not impossible that Sonia overheard me when I was talking to Qiao.”

Jacky sighed out, reaching up to fix his tie–yet stopped himself. He remembered that Sonia just perfected it. He didn’t need to ruin it with his nervousness. “Sorry.”

Ehlo shrugged. “Forget it. Let’s get this thing going, eh?”

Jacky pushed his paranoia aside then, focusing all his attention on Johnny and making the day smooth sailing again.

And indeed, the rest of the day was just so. Even when Jacky had to walk with Sonia during the ceremony–as the other couple. Though he couldn’t help but imagine them being the main couple–just for the sake of it because they were there anyway.

© Monday, October 31st, 2011

Posted: Sunday, March 25th, 2012

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