The meeting with the lawyer to read Tang Feng’s will occurred on Tuesday. The lawyer had given specific instructions as to who could attend the session–both as inheritors and witnesses. Aside from Cyndi, who was obviously family, there were also Wallace, Jacky, Ehlo, Angela, Johnny, Bianca, and Josh attending. Morgan, a representative of Tang Feng’s company, was also present. In addition, there were also several more lawyers to stand in as witnesses. All the lawyers sat to one side of the long table while the rest of them sat on the opposite side. They were actually meeting inside the law firm’s conference room.
“As some of you already know, I’m Wesley Zhuang, Mr. Tang’s lawyer,” The man began and scanned their faces once before continuing. “According to Mr. Tang’s will, Mr. Chu, Mr. Huang, Miss Chang, Mr. and Mrs. Yan will be the witnesses.”
Wallace wrinkled his face in confusion around then, wondering why he was there if he wasn’t a witness. But he waited, not wanting to interrupt the session.
“I will go by section the way Mr. Tang wanted,” Lawyer Zhuang continued. “But by procedure, I will have to read you the standard information first, such as what accounts as part of the will and how it would affect the benefiters or inheritors.”
They all waited patiently as the man went through general procedures with all the technical terms and laws that abided the will. It wasn’t until he got to the crucial part that Wallace tuned in again, considering how he was still trying to figure out why he wasn’t named a witness from the beginning.
“First of all,” Lawyer Zhuang said, turning the page. “Properties.” He stopped to clear his throat before continuing. “The main house, also known as his current resident will go to his sister, Tang Ling.”
Cyndi nodded then, but she didn’t say anything. Josh had been holding her hand under the table the whole time, attempting to comfort her still.
“And the shop, the one currently known as ‘Xin Ru’s Art Gallery’, also previously called ‘Feng Ling’ will go to Mr. Huo.”
“What?” Wallace exclaimed, standing up from his seat at that time.
Even the others were looking between him and the lawyers, wondering if they heard wrong.
“It’s impossible,” Wallace said when the other party didn’t answer.
Lawyer Zhuang was actually pulling out another piece of paper from the file. It was clipped onto the page so he had to undo the paper clip before holding it up for them to see. It looked like a letter from where they were sitting.
“This letter was written personally by Mr. Tang,” Lawyer Zhuang explained. “In event that confusion arises, I am to bring it out and read it to everyone present.”
Wallace exchanged a look with the others, except for Josh and Cyndi, before turning his attention to Lawyer Zhuang again. But Lawyer Zhuang didn’t begin. He turned to make sure he had Cyndi’s attention first.
“There are two parts to this letter, one to explain in general about Mr. Tang’s decision and the other part is a personal note to Miss Tang.”
“A personal note to me?” Cyndi asked, sounding as puzzled as the others.
Lawyer Zhuang nodded. “I was told to read both parts even though the second part is personal.”
“How can it be personal when it’s read aloud?” Ehlo jumped in.
Angela had given him a look but Lawyer Zhuang waved it off and launched into his explanation mode again. “It was Mr. Tang’s request so I will have to read it, even if it sounds strange to everyone.”
“Please,” Wallace urged, feeling like he was losing all of his nerves soon if he didn’t get to hear what was so important about the letter.
Mr. Zhuang nodded and began, knowing how anxious they were. “The shop is for Wallace. In the event that Wallace doesn’t want the shop, he can either sell it or choose to transfer it to Ling Ling. However, Ling Ling cannot sell the shop if she doesn’t want it. On the other hand, Wallace cannot sell the shop and transfer the money to Ling Ling either. If both get back together in the future, then the previous statements become invalid because they share ownership and are allowed to take any course of actions seen fit to their situation.”
Jacky, Ehlo, Angela, Johnny, and Bianca had been exchanging looks among the five of them after hearing the first part. Yet the last part had them even more shocked. How could Tang Feng write such specific instructions and such strange requests? Though they all respect him very much, but they still didn’t understand how he could embarrass his own sister like that, even in death.
Lawyer Zhuang had stopped to take a sip of water before continuing. “Now, the second part.” He had turned directly to Cyndi as he said that. “Please understand that this is Mr. Tang’s exact words to you and not mine.”
Cyndi nodded with acknowledgement.
“Xiao Ling Ling, I told you to think it over carefully. You made your choice and I’ve made mine. That’s why you will have to face the consequences. The past cannot be reversed; pain inflicted toward another individual cannot be undone. Old wounds will heal, but there will always be scars.”
Cyndi had slumped back in her chairs upon hearing the first two sentences. When the coming words were read, she was already tearing up. It was also why the others didn’t dare to question the strange content. After finishing, Lawyer Zhuang had taken the initiate to push the box of tissues on the table toward Cyndi. Josh took some out and handed them to Cyndi while still patting on her shoulder.
“Xiao Ling Ling?” Ehlo muttered then, not being able to help himself.
“Not now,” Angela whispered back, pushing him slightly.
Lawyer Zhuang sighed out, trying to recollect his thoughts before taking up the official documents again. “The company will be under Morgan Hsu’s management and Mr. Hsu will be allowed to take all course of actions to help the company prosper. Mr. Hsu is also allowed to pass the company onto his own family line in the future or a suitable candidate who could help the company’s expansion–if the company still exists.”
The others weren’t surprised about that part since they had heard Tang Feng praising Morgan many times in the past already. However, they felt it was strange that Tang Feng didn’t mention Cyndi at all and seemed to sever all ties of the company from the Tang altogether.
“It couldn’t be,” Morgan croaked out at last. He had been too shocked to speak up before.
“If anyone wants to question the will’s authenticity, I could bring all evidences or have it investigate thoroughly by another team,” Lawyer Zhuang said, his professionalism still intact. “Also, if there are any questions concerning Mr. Tang’s letter, you may ask at this time.”
“Is Xiao…” Ehlo began but got silenced by Angela kicking him under the table.
“Go ahead, Mr. Huang,” Lawyer Zhuang encouraged.
“I know it’s not the right time and none of my business either,” Ehlo said quickly before he got kicked again. “But I have to know.”
Lawyer Zhuang nodded.
“Is Xiao Ling Ling just a nickname or was it placed in on purpose?”
“Very clever, Mr. Huang, you figured it out.”
Ehlo had turned to look at Wallace at that time. “You mean…”
“Xiao Ling Ling could mean both Mr. Tang’s nickname for Miss Tang, but it could also be her pen name.”
“That still doesn’t explain why he would use such words for his sister.”
“That part, Mr. Tang never gave specific instructions for clarifications. He just requested that I read it to her and she will understand.”
“Don’t tell me he placed Josh’s name in as well to be present today.”
Lawyer Zhuang shook his head. “The instructions had said either Mr. Huo or her current boyfriend.”
“Can we be dismissed now?” Josh jumped in at that time, his expression obviously grim. He was having a protective hand around Cyndi–who was still crying.
“It is best that you stay to sign the forms first, because you two are leaving soon, right?”
Because of the necessary procedures, they were forced into silence again. Ehlo had taken a hint from Josh’s hostility to let his remaining questions died. In fact, the others stayed quiet to witness the inheritors and benefiters signed different documents. It wasn’t until they were all done and Wallace had asked to be dismissed that Ehlo spoke up again.
“The puzzle’s still unsolved,” Ehlo mumbled as they exited the building.
“Stop being so nosy,” Angela chided.
“Hey,” Yvonne called out and walked toward them.
Yvonne had been standing outside to wait for them, considering how she was worried for Wallace. It made sense since she had extended her ‘girlfriend’ role until Cyndi return to the States with Josh.
“How was it?” Yvonne asked, scanning their faces.
“Very strange,” Ehlo answered. “There was a puzzle we need to crack.”
“You’re just nosy,” Angela exposed him, still giving him a look. “Stop talking about it, especially in front of Cyndi later.”
Josh and Cyndi were still inside since they had to sign more papers than Wallace. Wallace only signed the initial papers because he was not in a hurry to get everything done or need to keep up with a schedule. He also had to wait for the transfer of property so it would take awhile. He could wait for another day to come in because he still needed to sort out his thoughts.
“What happened?” Yvonne asked, walking next to Wallace now. Her worried look hadn’t turned off since she saw him step out.
Wallace shook his head. “I don’t want to talk about it now.”
Yvonne nodded and walked in silence.
“Actually,” Ehlo said, turning to Yvonne with a teasing smile. “Good news, you should consider dating him for real because he just got the shop.”
Yvonne wrinkled her face. “What shop?”
“The shop Cynthia’s leasing right now.”
Yvonne gasped and turned to Wallace, but she didn’t dare to ask. Her eyes moved back onto Ehlo’s face.
“What was even more interesting was the letter though.”
“Can you stop being so nosy?” Angela interfered once again, though knew her efforts were in vain.
“I know it’s none of my business, but don’t you think it’s just weird to condemn your sister after your own death? I just can’t see it. Even if he used to be a prankster. And who knew he would expose her pen name in the letter.”
“What did he say?” Yvonne asked, not caring if Wallace would get on her case again.
“I can’t remember the first part word per word but it was about the shop. He said if Wallace doesn’t want it, he could sell it or give it to Cyndi. But she can’t sell it, and he can’t sell it and give the money to her either. And if they got back together, disregard the above because they share ownership.”
Yvonne wrinkled her face. “That’s one strange letter all right.”
“Huang Yu Rong!” Angela called out, her umpteenth attempt to shut him up.
“I think it’s better to let him exhaust his curiosity now than later in front of Cyndi,” Bianca jumped in all of a sudden.
Angela turned to look at Bianca. “Are you crazy?”
“She has a point,” Wallace agreed at last. “Go ahead, Huang.”
Angela scoffed, feeling frustrated that she got outnumbered. “Fine.”
Ehlo shrugged. “The part I don’t get is ‘Xiao Ling Ling, I told you to think it over carefully. You made your choice and I’ve made mine. That’s why you will have to face the consequences. The past cannot be reversed; pain inflicted toward another individual cannot be undone. Old wounds will heal, but there will always be scars.’”
Wallace snapped his fingers then. “He said the first two sentences that one day in the shop, remember? I meant the day we decided to close the shop and he didn’t ask Cyndi’s opinion.”
Ehlo nodded. “What in the world does it mean though?”
“Lawyer Zhuang already said it’s between them so of course we won’t understand.”
“Is that the first time he mentioned her pen name?” Yvonne asked.
“It was the only time.”
“You all don’t have any right to talk about it since it’s between the two of them,” Josh’s voice spoke up then.
They were so into cracking the code that they hadn’t heard or paid attention. Caught red-handed, they couldn’t help but become a little nervous, except for Yvonne that was.
“If it’s read out loud, all is fair game,” Yvonne spoke up to defend her conspirators.
“Yvonne, don’t…” Wallace warned, giving her a sharp look.
Yvonne ignored Wallace and stared straight at Josh. “If you want to know the answer, then go home and read all her novels. Or better, just read the latest one and you will find your answer.”
Ehlo had on his shocked expression then, wondering how Yvonne could have figured it out before them when he just provided her with the information about Cyndi’s pen name a few minutes ago. But then his mind circulated, trying to remember. “All thirteen of them have the same answer? That’s impossible.”
“Think about it.”
“That’s enough,” Josh interfered again. “Cyndi have been suffering with losing her brother these past days. Whatever was the point in embarrassing her, we will never know. But you all do not have a right to condemn her. Give her a break.”
Yvonne was about to return the attack yet Wallace grabbed her hand and pulled her toward his car. She wanted to protest but upon seeing his expression, she didn’t. Ehlo had gone with Wallace earlier so he had no choice but to follow. The rest of them also dispersed, not wanting to aggravate Josh any further. Angela had to return to work so she went with Bianca. Jacky ended up taking Johnny back to his photo shoot location.
“I told you not to attack Cyndi anymore,” Wallace said when they were in the car already.
Yvonne scoffed, crossing her hands. “Whatever.”
Ehlo was sitting in the back and hadn’t missed a beat of it. But he didn’t care. “Come on now, you agreed to crack the code with us.”
“Understanding the meaning of the letter does not equal attacking them like that.”
“Whatever, man.” Then Ehlo remembered what Yvonne said earlier. “Wait, you said her latest novel has the answer too…”
“Did you read it?” Yvonne asked, turning sideway in her seat.
“Backup, how in the world did you know her pen name when we just found out now?”
“I broke into a certain database to check it up.”
Ehlo’s shocked expression made its appearance again. “You cracked into the system to find out?”
“Not exactly but sort of.”
“You’re crazy, but….” Then Ehlo stopped. “Oh my god, I know what the letter means now.”
Yvonne had on her amused smile. “Now you know why.”
“He wasn’t trying to torture her, but just wanted to teach her a lesson.”
Yvonne nodded. “And by the way her boyfriend’s going on and on, I’m guessing someone hasn’t learned.”
“What are you two talking about?” Wallace asked, confused.
“Did you read her recent novel?” Ehlo asked back.
“No, didn’t have time yet. Just tell me already. What does that have to do with the letter?”
“It has been two years already and you haven’t read it?”
“What? I’ve been starting my business and then use whatever time is left for you guys or rest. Just tell me the plot.”
“You have to read it to know the answer. A summary won’t do.”
“Could you jut knock off the secretive act already, Huang?”
Ehlo shook his head. “I’m not. If you don’t read it yourself, you will think I made it up.” He paused, sighing out. “Call it unlucky on both their parts, because I think his will would have been different given several more years.”
“How could you be so sure?”
“You’re probably too tired out from these past weeks, Huo.”
“Don’t take it the wrong way. I’m just saying you’re stressed out that’s why you’re not thinking clearly. If you give him several more years, you both would’ve moved on already and he would’ve cooled down also, right? Or more like he would’ve convinced her to stop her routine already so what’s written in the letter would become irrelevant. I think we will have to wait for her next novel to see the change.”
“Or see how long the current boyfriend last,” Yvonne added.
Ehlo nodded. “That too.”
Wallace knew both Ehlo and Yvonne won’t tell him so he didn’t bother with talking anymore. He dropped Ehlo off first. Then stayed silent the rest of the way to Yvonne’s place. She didn’t make an effort to talk to him either. Yet he was already used to her temperamental attitude so he didn’t want to push her any further. The only thing he placed at the top of his task list when he got home was to read that book.
The outburst in the hospital wasn’t the last of Qiao Qiao’s breakdown. It was just the beginning. What occurred more than two years ago repeated itself once again. She had locked herself in her room five straight days after the funeral. The difference was that she didn’t turn down her meals like the other time. It was brought to her room. Still, her parents contacted the others on the fifth day, knowing too well only they could get through Qiao Qiao. This time, Yan Yan volunteered to enter her room while the others waited in the hallway. Yan Yan even told Chen Yi and Achel to wait outside when they insisted on coming into Qiao Qiao’s room with her. As she entered, Yan Yan shut the door behind her and hopped onto the bed next to Qiao Qiao.
“Hey,” Yan Yan began, studying her friend. “You ready to face the world yet?”
Qiao Qiao didn’t respond, she suddenly scooted over and placed her head on Yan Yan’s shoulder. It was like she needed some support from an old friend. Yan Yan understood. They had been friends for too long. She didn’t need any clarification. She just slid one hand around Qiao Qiao’s shoulder and patted her friend, trying to figure out what to say next. Though she understood Qiao Qiao’s hurt, but that didn’t mean she was a master at assuring others where death was concerned. There was never a good way to say comforting words.
“I wish…” Qiao Qiao spoke up after what seemed to be an eternity. “…that we were still in high school and were just worried about what was on our exams.”
Yan Yan could hear Qiao Qiao sniffled then, realizing that her friend had started crying. Though not loud, but the subtle signs were enough. Yan Yan felt her own throat tightening as Qiao Qiao continued.
“Those days, we were so carefree. If it wasn’t exams, we would worry if it would be sunny enough for some picnic or gathering. Now?” A brief pause and some more sniffling were heard. “Why did it happen?”
“I don’t know,” Yan Yan admitted honestly, still patting Qiao Qiao’s shoulder. “We’ll never know. It’s one of those things in life you just have to deal with no matter how irrational it is.”
Silence occupied for a few minutes more before Yan Yan take the initiative.
“We just have to move on and cherish what’s around us. And make the best of it all.”
Qiao Qiao nodded and finally lifted her head from Yan Yan’s shoulder. She attempted to wipe her tears with her hand. Yan Yan fished around in her pocket to find some tissues and handed them to Qiao Qiao.
“Starting tomorrow, I have to start anew, right?” Qiao Qiao asked.
Yan Yan smiled. “How about now?”
Qiao Qiao shook her head. “Still not ready.”
Yan Yan nodded then. “All right, but we have to catch you up to a lot of things, whenever you’re ready.”
Qiao Qiao wrinkled her face, wondering what else had occurred since her hibernation from the world, temporarily. “Like?”
“Tang Feng’s will was read two days ago.”
Qiao Qiao wrinkled her face, but stayed silent.
“The others didn’t really tell me all the details since it was private matters, but Ehlo couldn’t keep it down with this one particular information.”
“Wallace got the shop, you know, the old shop that Orchids used to own.”
Qiao Qiao began asking even more questions but Yan Yan could only provide so much information, at least from Ehlo’s words.
“And there’s more,” Yan Yan spoke up again as Qiao Qiao let the turn of events sink in. Even if it wasn’t directly concerning her, but so much had happened at the shop that it was hard not to think about it more.
“What else?” Qiao Qiao asked, her voice casual.
Yan Yan hesitated, but continued on after a brief sigh. “I broke up with Tony already, like three days ago.”
That got Qiao Qiao’s attention. Her expression was beyond shock. “But why?”
Yan Yan had on her light smile then. “It had somewhat to do with Tang Feng’s death, but it had been on my mind for a while now.”
Qiao Qiao wrinkled her face, still confused, but didn’t interrupt; knowing Yan Yan wasn’t done talking.
“His mom has been rushing us to get married for a while now.”
“Surely you could work something out with her. I mean it would be hard but…”
Yan Yan shook her head. “I tried. But I would understand that she wants grand-kids. It’s just that I’m not ready. I still want to focus on my career for several more years.”
“Then you could…”
Yan Yan shook her head again. “It’s not fair to them. I know what I’m telling you now contradicts with what I just told you about cherishing what is around us, but wasting someone’s time and knowing you can’t keep your promise isn’t right either. Time is so precious, why force Tony or his mom to wait for me? What else will happen in the future? They can’t wait for me forever. Like I said, it’s not fair to them.”
Qiao Qiao finally understood and nodded, even taking a hold of Yan Yan’s hand. “How’s Tony taking it?”
“He was shocked at first and even told me to think it over but I told him I already made up my mind.”
They stayed silent for a while more–with Qiao Qiao holding onto Yan Yan’s hand for support, their roles reversed this time. Qiao Qiao suddenly felt the need to stay strong for her friend. Though Yan Yan had initiated the breakup, but Qiao Qiao knew it wasn’t an easy decision.
Still several days later, they were all gathered at Jacky and the other guys’ place again. Well, almost everyone. Tony wasn’t there for obvious reasons. Yet the others weren’t as worried–at least they had been filled in after Qiao Qiao left her room and returned to her normal routine again. This afternoon, they were just gathered to discuss some randomness in their lives. Wallace was around yet he was in his room, trying to read. Though he vouched to get home and read the book that held all the clues right away several days ago, but he had a call from a new client hence needing to handle it first. So far, he was trying hard to restrain himself from strangling Ehlo because he still didn’t get what the big deal was. As for Cyndi, she had unexpectedly canceled her trip back to the States. That had meant Josh was still around with her. But they weren’t gathered in the house at the moment. It would be too hectic if they were.
As most of them were gathered in the living room talking, Jacky and Sophia stepped outside the house to talk on their own. As far as sound went, Jacky didn’t feel safe enough to discuss it in his room. They walked in silence until they reached the driveway. Sophia stayed silent though they had stopped walking. She stared at him, her patient still intact, and waited for his words.
“What I want to talk about is…” Jacky began but held back slightly. He licked his lips once before continuing. “I want to apologize for these past months.”
Sophia wrinkled her face in confusion, studying his face for more clues. “For what?”
Jacky let out a deep sigh and stared toward Sam’s house across the street before turning back to face Sophia again. “I had unknowingly used you as a replacement for Sonia all these times, and it was wrong of me. It wasn’t until Tang Feng’s death that I realized I should be glad I’m still alive and am able to start all over again.” He paused to let out a chuckle, more out of amusement than actual happiness. “Ironic, isn’t it? How we all refuse to acknowledge what’s already passed until something terrible happen around us.” Another pause. “And to think that I always preach about not wanting to treat anyone like objects. But I’m the biggest idiot ever, not being able to keep my words.”
Sophia shook her head. “It’s all right. We all have our blind spots, right?” She smiled then. “Just be glad you finally figured it out.”
Jacky’s expression bordered on haunting then. “But must it be the only way?”
Sophia shrugged. “We can’t dwell on what we can’t explain, right?”
Jacky knew Sophia was right. He shouldn’t linger on it. “You’re right. I shouldn’t dwell on it. I should be focusing on moving forward and not let others around me worry. I can’t just keep on living in denial about the past.”
Sophia nodded, her smile encouraging him on.
He returned the smile but didn’t make a move. “I just want to say thank you for putting up with me all these times and tried to cheer me up.”
Sophia shook her head again. “It’s nothing.” She retrieved an item from her pouch and looked up at him again, handing him the item. “Here.”
Jacky took it from her and realized it was the key to his secret compartment.
“Since you’ve made up your mind, I think it’s only right to give it back to you.”
She meant the possessions sealed in the compartment and not just the key itself.
He smiled. “Thanks.”
As he was about to gesture his hand to indicate they should head back inside, she spoke up again.
“Actually, I was about to tell you something too but I wasn’t sure on how to say it yet.”
Jacky could detect the hesitation still in her. “What is it?”
It was then Sophia’s turn to stare at Sam’s house before giving him her attention again. “Tang Feng left something for me. I wanted to use the chance to take grandpa overseas to see some of the doctors he recommended. He gave me a list several days before the accident occurred. And because of what happened, he even left some money for me. If the circumstances were different, I wouldn’t want to depend on him or use that to my advantage, but it’s his wish in wanting to cure grandpa. I have to fulfill part of that wish for him.”
Jacky understood. Though Sophia was quite well off on her own, but it was far from covering all fees possible were those medical fees were concerned. This was her chance, and she didn’t have to explain herself. He knew she would never take money from Tang Feng or anyone if the circumstances were different. Letting them help her with looking after her grandpa when she needed some time alone to write was a stretch already. As he was thinking those thoughts, he suddenly realized what she was trying to tell him. It wasn’t about explaining herself. She was telling him that she would be away for a while, leaving them. But how could he ask her to stay when it was about her grandpa? And it wasn’t like she was gone for good. She would return one day. If not, she could come back to visit them. Or they could do that when they have time. Right?
“Have a safe trip then,” Jacky said–though there was a lot going on in his mind. “I hope the doctors Tang Feng recommended could help.”
Sophia nodded, her composure still intact–though there were traces of sadness from her eyes. “Thanks.” She extended her hand then. “It was nice knowing you, Zhu Fan Gang.”
He took her hand and shook it before letting go quickly. “It was my honor.”
And just like that, they headed back inside without another word. It was time to break Sophia’s news to the others.
© Tuesday, November 6th, 2012
Posted: Friday, January 25th, 2013