James and Elisa were on one of their more extended vacations this time around hence staying for two months instead of the rushed encounter like last time. Within those two months, several things happened. For one, they ended up at Johnny and Bianca’s house and even organized some sort of party there the coming weekend. Friends only so they weren’t that worried about the whole town coming over.
“Hey, Little Bro, you sure you’re okay with this?” James asked Jacky once during the gathering.
Jacky had a glass of apple cider in his hand at that point and was just staring out toward the seaside, enjoying the view when James walked up to him. He was in the balcony area looking out so that meant they had some privacy for this conversation. Yet he had no idea what James was talking about to even be worried about others overhearing their conversation.
“What?” Jacky asked, wrinkling his face as he turned his attention to his brother.
“Sonia,” James said, pointing toward the direction that Qiao Qiao and Yan Yan were playing with two kids around the ages of 2 and 7.
Jacky smiled, understanding then. His brother was such a worrywart. But he silently appreciated it so much. And one of those moments where he didn’t mind to cross toward the mushy side of admitting that he had the best brother in the world, always worrying for him regardless if they were able to see each other all the time or not. “I’m fine. After all, the name ‘Sonia’ was chosen by Elisa, right? It’s a nice name, really. It goes well with your little princess there. Why should I mind?”
James wasn’t smiling though. Instead, he tensed up a tad more. “Come on, you know what I’m asking.”
Jacky was still smiling. “I’m serious. Just because one of my exes is named ‘Sonia’ doesn’t mean we will have to avoid getting into contact with anyone having the same name. Or worse, preventing others from using that name for their kid. How outrageous is that?”
James shook his head, still not giving up. “You’re always like that, you act like nothing’s going on in front of others yet…”
It was Jacky’s turn to shake his head. “No, this time I’m for real. After all that happened and how long it had been since Sonia and I broke up, I think my ‘moving on’ plan is long overdue.”
They heard some giggling then. Both turned their attention toward the door to see Qiao Qiao carrying the little girl in.
“Little Sonia wanted to see the view,” Qiao Qiao said, reaching one hand out to tickle the little girl again.
Jacky moved out of the way and gestured his hand in a gallant way, playing along with Qiao Qiao. “The place is all yours, Princess Sonia.”
James smiled around then, realizing his brother wasn’t kidding this time around or brushing it off so he wouldn’t worry. The smile on Jacky’s face was genuine. “Does that mean I’m the king?”
“You still have to listen to the queen,” Jacky returned, looking at his brother again.
James nodded. “Fair enough.”
Yes, as interesting as things had turned out, five months before Johnny and Bianca’s wedding, Elisa had given birth to a baby girl. She named her Sonia because that was one of Elisa’s favorite names. James, of course, didn’t object. He had no reason to. Yet the irony of the situation was learning about Jacky’s breakup with Sonia when he was back for the wedding with Elisa and his son, Jeff. That was also the reason why he didn’t trust Jacky about his ‘moving on’ speech just minutes ago. Jacky kept it under wrap so good, even reminding his parents not to tell his brother about it so the last parties to know about the breakup were James and Elisa. James, being the older brother, felt like he needed to do something for his little brother. Even if that meant getting crafty with his wife in changing their now 2-years-old daughter’s name.
The second thing that happened during those two months took place at the end of May. The last day of May to be exact. It wasn’t a gathering. It was news delivered from the usual gossip line. Or in their case: Ehlo.
“Good news, guys!” Ehlo yelled out as he entered the house.
“What?” Wallace returned, knowing it was a routine Ehlo often tossed out to create more hype. He was actually making a trip to the kitchen for some water. “You won the lottery?”
Ehlo had on his annoyed expression. “Very funny.”
“Okay then, how about your project got picked again so you’re on Cloud 9 right now? Or, no wait, you got promoted?”
“Huo, why don’t you join the circus?”
Wallace shrugged and took a drink out of the glass he just filled. “I tried but I kept getting rejected.”
“Maybe it’s because you’re not funny.”
“Why are guys arguing again?” Angela asked, coming from the hallway of their rooms. She had used Ehlo’s computer this time instead of her brother’s since Nic was in his room working on his own paperwork.
“I wasn’t even going to,” Ehlo defended himself. “It was Huo’s fault.”
“Nice of you to blame it on me, Huang,” Wallace mumbled–with sarcasm added.
Angela gave them both a look. Both Ehlo and Wallace burst out laughing at the same time. It was almost like they were back to that one day of four years ago. It was the time they celebrated for Jacky and Sonia’s get together after exposing of Jo’s schemes. They had even taken time to think over their next move before confessing to their significant others. And by the time they sat down at different tables to chat, not so scattered out like before during that gathering, they had sat at the same table and enjoying their own jabs at one another. Though the situation was totally different after so much had occurred, but the feeling was the same. Wallace and Ehlo arguing over some senseless matter and Angela tried to keep them in line. There had been many other times like that these past four years. But what made this moment the same as that one day was the fact that they were in their own world, tuning the others out completely. Time indeed never stopped to give them a break from reality yet time often replicated itself and this was one of those moments they just couldn’t help but feel the déjà vu of it all.
“Anyway,” Ehlo said after pulling himself together again. “Great news from Xiao Ru, Gino proposed to her.”
“For real?” Angela asked, a cheerful smile on her face–yet her voice was doubting Ehlo’s motive. She knew better than to believe every single thing her boyfriend uttered. Being born on April’s Fool Day made his suspicious nature even more obvious.
“Would I joke about something this important?”
“Huang, you forget it’s you,” Wallace jumped in, stabbing Ehlo’s back some more.
Ehlo’s annoyed expression turned back on. “Haha, funny.”
“What did Wei Ru say then?” Angela urged, trying to ignore the ‘Huang-Huo’ showdown. She even grabbed onto Ehlo’s hand and had shaken his shoulder slightly for him to continue.
Ehlo reached for Angela’s hands to stop her from the possibility of dislocating his shoulder–again. “Of course, she said yes. Why would I say ‘good news’ in the first place if Gino has to soak his face in a beer bottle at some unknown bar?”
“That’s great then!” Angela said excitedly, letting go of Ehlo’s hand and actually did a jump.
Ehlo and Wallace were staring at her strange behavior. So a wedding was exciting to look forward to. Yet she didn’t act that happy the last time one of her best friends got married.
“I’m guessing she’s either celebrating the fact that one of her possible threats got eliminated from the game,” Wallace rolled out, still playing the helpful friend role that he was. “Or she’s hinting something to you, Huang.”
“What threat? What hint?” Ehlo blurted out, still giving Wallace the annoyed glare. He knew Wallace was far from helpful. That evil, sly fox is back, Ehlo thought to himself. He was half glad of Wallace’s moving forward progress, but also half worried of Wallace’s coming words of sabotage.
“Your Xiao Ru is the threat,” Wallace answered, still unfazed by Ehlo’s glare. “And of course, she’s hinting that she wants to get married too.”
“I do not!” Angela yelled out, hitting Wallace on the shoulder as she walked by them again.
The reason why they even dared to talk about Angela’s possible overjoyed mode at the moment was because Angela had stepped into the kitchen after her little jump. She made her way back in time–after retrieving a water bottle–to hear the second part of Wallace’s response to Ehlo.
“Strong reaction,” Wallace teased, his smile ever so cunning.
Ehlo’s false intensity toward Wallace had dissolved since he heard Angela dissipating Wallace’s words. He, like Wallace, had caught on to her underlying words. He slid a hand around her shoulders then–with Angela still facing Wallace and was ready for round 2 in dissolving some nonsensical rumors. “Give me another year. I’m saving up now.”
Angela’s expression couldn’t be more shocked by then. Instead of the felicity and joy seen previously after hearing of Wei Ru and Gino’s good news, Angela’s happy state turned off. She even brushed Ehlo’s hand off her shoulders and turned to face him. “Don’t listen to him. He’s just messing with you.”
Ehlo’s smile became wider by then. “Does that mean you don’t want to marry me?”
Angela’s momentum seemed all lost by now. Her eyes moved back and forth. It was like she was trying to think of a way to craft her words carefully as to not hurt Ehlo’s feelings. “I…”
“It might be too late now…”
Before Angela could react, Ehlo had gotten down on one knee. And he had whipped out a small red box from somewhere. It happened all too fast for Angela to react. Yet Wallace was just standing nearby smiling and enjoying the show.
“So, what’s your answer?” Ehlo said, his voice calm and patient. It was an indication that he knew she was already under pressure. He didn’t need to apply more with his words.
“Ehlo, get up….” Angela blurted out, her full panic mode now in place. She turned to Wallace when Ehlo didn’t respond. “You’re in on this?”
Wallace shrugged, still not answering. He was so enjoying the show. Angela had no choice but returning her attention to Ehlo. He was still smiling patiently up at her.
“I know you hate crowds and pressures,” Ehlo said, his voice sincere, no hints of jokes whatsoever. It was another indication that he wasn’t pulling one of his schemes again. “But I feel like having Huo here as a witness would mean that I can’t back out of my promises.”
Angela was moved to tears by then. Whether it was from Ehlo’s latest words or not, both guys weren’t sure. All they know was to wait for Angela’s answer. She finally nodded her head after what seemed like Ehlo could already get a Charlie Horse for his Charlie Horse. However, it only seemed that way because the stake was too high. In actuality, it had only been five minutes.
“Does that mean….?” Ehlo asked, wanting to be sure of the answer.
“Yes,” Angela answered and nodded her head again, confirming her previous response.
By then, Wallace had to step over and helped Ehlo up as well. After that, he stepped back to his spot and watched as Ehlo placed a simplistic yet unique ring on Angela’s finger.
“You just missed one of the most eventful moments in your sister’s life,” Wallace said as he saw Nic coming toward their direction.
The reason why Nic didn’t even come out or seemed to notice the ruptures in the living room was because he had plugged his ears in while he was typing. Wallace had made sure of that when Ehlo texted him earlier asking for status updates.
“What?” Nic asked before he turned to see Ehlo wiping Angela’s tears away for her as they shared a secret smile.
“We’re officially engaged,” Ehlo announced, waving both of their rings in the air.
He had laced his and Angela’s hand together and waved it toward Nic to be exact. To which, Nic was as stunned as Angela like before. And like Angela, Nic turned to Wallace for an explanation.
Wallace raised both hands up in surrender then. “Guilty on all counts of conspiracy charges.” Wallace had added a sly smile before continuing. “But no worries, you can watch it all later when we show it at their wedding.”
It seemed like Wallace had his compact camera in hand all this time yet Angela wasn’t aware of it. Or perhaps it was because Wallace had crossed his hands out of habit while he was witnessing the scene that had avoided Angela’s suspicion on him.
“Hey!” Angela yelled out in objection.
Wallace turned and winked at her. “No worries, I’ll edit out some stuff so it wouldn’t look like you cried all the way through.”
Angela knew she couldn’t win with Wallace so she turned to Ehlo. “So about Wei Ru and Gino, was that real or were you just using that as a distraction from your actual motive?”
“Wow, words spoken like a true investigator,” Wallace joked, whistling while he was at it.
Ehlo let out a chuckle and pointed at Wallace. “You mean interrogator.”
Angela’s glare shut Ehlo up. At least he had turned his smart-aleck expression off.
“Well,” Ehlo said in a serious tone again. “It was more like…”
“So it was fake?” Angela persisted.
Ehlo shook his head. “It was real, but I just used it as leverage for my own cause. Hey, it was their fault for stealing my thunder. I had it all planned out weeks ago. Just didn’t find the perfect time for it yet. Then Xiao Ru had the nerve to call me and tell me about her good news when I was out to pick up the ring last Sunday.”
“So Gino proposed last Sunday?”
Ehlo shook his head again. “Saturday, they were celebrating big time so she didn’t tell me until Sunday.”
Angela nodded, finally satisfied that she didn’t get tricked about the other happy news.
“You won’t even believe what I just found out,” Jacky’s voice reached their ears around the same time the front door opened.
Jacky was with Qiao Qiao like one of the old days. James, Elisa, Jeff, and Little Sonia were back at the Chu residence, spending some time with Jacky and James’ parents as well as some of the relatives so they hadn’t been around these past few days.
“If you’re talking about Xiao Ru’s engagement to Gino, you’re late,” Ehlo told Jacky. “But you’re in time to catch the latest news about my engagement!”
As soon as those words were out of Ehlo’s mouth, both Jacky and Qiao Qiao stopped what they were doing and stared at all parties present in the living room. Qiao Qiao didn’t care to undo her shoes the correct way anymore but kicked it off to one corner by the door before rushing toward Angela.
“Really?” Qiao Qiao asked.
Angela nodded with a smile, her eyes suddenly staring at the ground. It was a shy gesture that they weren’t used to. Yet it was understandable since it was one of the most important moments of her life after all.
Ehlo took it into his own hands to show their rings again. “Of course it’s real!”
“That’s so awesome!” Qiao Qiao exclaimed, jumping up and down. It was almost like how Angela had reacted earlier upon learning about Gino and Wei Ru. Yet she stopped herself in the middle of the celebrative gestures. “Wait, Wei Ru and Gino got engaged?”
Ehlo had to repeat his tale for Jacky, Qiao Qiao, and even Nic. They had settled down at the various furniture in the living room–with Qiao Qiao opting for the rocking chair again.
“So what’s your news?” Ehlo asked, turning to Jacky when he was done with his tale.
“Sam’s thinking of proposing to Xiao Qiao,” Jacky replied.
“Good luck with that.” Ehlo had his proud smile on as he said that. “Because no one’s going to beat my proposal.”
Angela hit him for that comment–like a routine they often saw. Yet Ehlo caught her hand this time and smiled.
“Because he doesn’t have backup like you?” Wallace inputted helpfully–like he usually did.
Ehlo turned to Wallace with his usual menacing yet routine glare. “I thought of the plan on my own, Huo.”
“And you needed some backup, Huang,” Wallace returned, not missing a beat of the banter.
“All right,” Jacky interfered. “How about we do something to celebrate instead of sitting here snapping at one another?”
It was then that Nic seemed to come alive again. They hadn’t heard much from him. Or perhaps he was still trying to feel the reality of it all.
“We have to tell everyone,” Nic said as the others got up from their seats.
“Of course,” Ehlo agreed. “So they could be jealous of me.”
“Stop,” Angela chided him.
Ehlo was in high spirits so he didn’t mind. He knew she was still registering all the events so he left it at that–for the time being.
Indeed, they took turns calling up all their friends and spread the news. Ehlo had personally volunteered to call Angela’s parents and Uncle Zhe to tell them of the news–with Angela and Nic nearby to answer some questions. It was the typical protocol they have to go through with protective parents and relatives. It was only right.
Their celebration among friends was scheduled for that weekend on some picnic outing where they could interact freely without outside interruptions.
© Friday, April 5th, 2013
Posted: Sunday, April 7th, 2013