Chapter 14 – Dream House

The last Friday in June the guys went to visit Tony at his place. It was his small house in the countryside and not the mansion he lived with his mother. They told the girls not to come because they wouldn’t want to trigger Tony. Though it had been a while now and they knew that Tony could take care of himself more than anyone among them. Yet it was a matter of showing support toward him.

Tony was in the back when they’d come. At least it seemed that way since Tony answered the door in regular clothes and not the usual professional suit they’d spotted him in. Either that or it was the tan raincoat and dark brown jeans. It was probably Tony’s trademark since they’d known him.

Tony led them into the back of the house with some equipment scattered on one side still. It was like he had to abandon those temporarily to go get the door and invite them in.

“Make yourselves at home,” Tony said, gesturing toward the chairs scattered in the patio.

“Nice place you got here,” Ehlo said, gesturing in the general direction.

The guys hadn’t sat down yet. They were still scanning the perimeter and taking in the view.

Tony had on a proud smile. “How do you guys like it here?”

“Not bad,” Ehlo commented, finally settling down at a chair.

As if Ehlo’s actions had dispersed somewhat of the awkwardness around them, the others settled down as well. Wallace took the one on Ehlo’s left while Jacky chose the chair on Ehlo’s right. No Johnny or James that day. Johnny had a photoshoot while they thought it was best not to include James since James barely knew Tony. They didn’t want to make it seemed like they were putting Tony on display. It was the same case for Kris so he wasn’t there with them either. As for Sam, his schedule got moved back so the time was off for him. Nic and Chen Yi were still on their way.

“I guess it would be all right if I’m not making this a full-time job,” Tony joked and settled at the chair next to Jacky.

“You did all of these?” Ehlo asked, surprised.

Ehlo wasn’t the only one displaying traces of astonishment but Jacky and Wallace weren’t too far behind.

“You finally finished the patio?” Chen Yi’s voice asked as he and Nic entered.

Ehlo got up from his place again and looked at Chen Yi with a ‘demanding some answers’ glare. “You knew about this?”

Chen Yi nodded, still playing with his keychain. “He had it done a while back. He was going to surprise Yan, but then….” Chen Yi’s smile had faded upon mentioning Esther. He realized he had just let one of Tony’s secrets slipped. He turned to Tony then. “Sorry, man…”

The others were silenced once again, not knowing what to say except exchanging looks among themselves. Tony, on the other hand, was still calm. He shook his head at Chen Yi.

“It’s okay,” Tony assured Chen Yi. “At least I have fun doing this, right?”

“A year and a half project?” Ehlo asked, his estimation based on experience.

Tony nodded. “I was a bit slower but still…”

“And you didn’t ask me to draw the plans up?”

Tony didn’t mind that Ehlo had sounded offended. He knew Ehlo was kidding. “Hey, what can I say? I wanted to do this for her, not have some other guy design it. Besides, you guys can’t keep a secret anyway.”

Ehlo turned to Chen Yi then. “And you didn’t tell us, Kid? How in the world did you keep such a secret?”

Chen Yi wasn’t threatened by Ehlo’s fierce glare. He was too used to Ehlo’s dramatic moments. He shrugged. “He bribed me.”

Ehlo turned to Tony again. “You what?”

“It’s a joke,” Tony said. “Laugh.”

“Haha,” Ehlo returned, his mockery apparent.

The others laughed, knowing Ehlo was at it again.

“Anyway,” Tony spoke up again. “You guys want something to drink?”

“I’ll get it,” Chen Yi volunteered before the other guys could turn Tony down.

The others had no choice but to sit down again. Tony resumed his spot next to Jacky while Nic took the seat next to Wallace.

“So…” Nic began, trying to find something to talk about.

“Don’t you guys dare tell Yan this is for her, okay?” Tony warned them, his right index pointing at each and every one of them for emphasis. “I mean it this time. I don’t want to give her any more pressure than my mom already did.”

The others nodded, seeing how serious Tony was. Then they sat in silence until Chen Yi came back with a tray of drinks for them.

“It’s water,” Chen Yi announced. “We ran out of other stuff.”

“Water’s fine,” Jacky said, taking a sip from his as Chen Yi handed him his.

“Water’s always good,” Ehlo echoed, taking a sip from his also.

“So, why are you guys here today?” Tony asked, eyeing them suspiciously. “It’s not just about missing me, right?”

Chen Yi took the remaining seat between Nic and Tony and eyed the others as well, wondering why they weren’t really talking like they had told him about going to check on Tony in the first place.

“Just checking up on you,” Ehlo said, opting for the straightforward answer.

Tony shrugged, his composure still intact. “Well, you can see I’m very much alive.”

“Come on, man.”

Tony finally let any trace of sorrow to become apparent. Yet it was still subtle. “I’m not giving up on her.”

Ehlo couldn’t help but turned to look at Wallace. And it was like Tony understood.

“We won’t end up like Wallace and Xin Ling xiao shi mei,” Tony clarified, having detected traces of doubts in the other guys’ eyes as well. “And while we’re on the subject, I’m not giving up on Xin Ling xiao shi mei either.”

Wallace looked at his water glass and picked it up to take a sip. It was all he could do to distract himself. He couldn’t just put on a plaster expression and acted like he didn’t care. He was still handling the aftermath of the newly learned information.

“I know you guys are really, really mad at her right now,” Tony continued–and he meant Cyndi and not Esther. “And I’m not blaming you guys for ignoring her either. She really made a big gamble this time, playing on your trusts. But as Tang Feng’s friend, I feel that I have an obligation to look after her.”

“Good luck then,” Ehlo mumbled, his sarcasm subtle but still present.

“Yu Rong,” Jacky warned, knowing Tony was in a very difficult spot at the moment.

Tony shook his head at Jacky. “Like I said, I don’t blame his reaction. It’s my choice to look after her. I think it’s fair that you guys want to discontinue your link to me as well.”

“Are we shooting an 8’oclock drama?” Ehlo asked all of a sudden.

The others turned to Ehlo–with some still giving him the ‘warning’ glare like before. But Tony gestured for him to continue.

“It’s not about severing our ties and that’s it. Okay, I admit I’m really mad that she treats us like a bunch of idiots when we trusted her so much. But I think we just need time to cool down. Perhaps…she’s lucky to have you by her side at the moment because she already lost the rest of us.”

After he said that, Ehlo paused to scan the faces of the rest of the guys who had accompanied him on this trip to Tony’s place.

“I don’t know,” Wallace said, at last, playing with the water glass in his hand. “I can’t promise anything about her. But I will tell you now that you and I are still friends.”

“But the girls won’t take it so lightly though,” Chen Yi reminded them all. “Especially Qiao.”

“Unless Cyndi stops what she’s doing,” Jacky found his voice again. He had been mulling over the words that Tony said. And he knew he should be a good brother at this point, not sitting around all numbed. “I think it’s reasonable that Qiao wants to keep her distance. She just wants to protect herself from getting hurt anymore than this. You can’t blame her for the outbursts. After all, she just managed to stand up after Tang Feng left us.”

Tony nodded then. “I know…”

“And I think it’s better that we stay away from Cyndi for a while anyway,” Ehlo took over again. “What I mean is, she really needs to think things over on her own, not having us around to pressure her even more. After all, like that Josh said–and I seriously don’t want to agree with him, but her brother just died. She really needs to rethink her life.”

Tony nodded again. “We all need to take a step back to cool down.”

“But I thought we’re here today for you,” Nic reminded everyone. “Why are we talking about other people’s businesses?”

Ehlo shrugged then, letting out a sheepish smile. “That’s right.”

Tony had on his confident smile again. “Guys, I’m all right. There’s no need to look after me. Like I said, I will wait for her.”

“You can’t wait too long,” Ehlo said.

Tony turned to Ehlo, waiting for him to elaborate.

“Okay, I don’t mean to compare, but honestly, Huo doesn’t have the same pressures as you so he could wait for anyone he wants. But your mom will condemn Yan for holding you back.”

Tony still had on his determined look. “Unless Yan finds someone else and proves that she doesn’t care for me anymore, I’m not giving up on her. My mom will one day understand it too.”

“Not like I want to talk bad about Yan,” Chen Yi jumped in. “But what if she’s one of those super career women and won’t stop at any cost? Are you going to wait for the rest of your life?”

Tony smiled then. “That’s where you don’t get her. I know she still cares for me. If not, why would she break up with me?”

Ehlo had on his confused look. Or it was more along the line of thinking Tony lost it already. “Last time I checked, when someone cares for you, he or she will stay by your side, not break it off like that.”

Tony shook his head, not agreeing with Ehlo. “That’s where you’re wrong. She doesn’t want me to be stuck between her and my mom.”

“Dramatic, eh?”

“If he made up his mind already, then let him be,” Wallace interfered, feeling like he needed to defend Tony’s decision. After all, didn’t he make one of his own in the past? Even if that didn’t turn out the way he predicted but that didn’t mean he needed to get all bitter over it.

Ehlo shrugged. “Okay, whatever.”

Tony got up at that time. “Aren’t you guys here to visit me? How about staying for dinner? I’ll call for the delivery of supplies so we could do a BBQ or something. Guys only?”

The other guys knew that Tony was a strong person so they didn’t want to linger about the matter too much. They got up also.

“All right,” Ehlo agreed for them. “But how about a toast first?”

Tony had on his puzzled look. “What for?”

Ehlo flashed on his famous teasing smile then. “For Yan.”

The others gave Ehlo a look but Tony laughed, he clicked his glass to Ehlo’s.

“And to our friendship,” Chen Yi added, not minding that he was being cheesy for once.

Wallace laughed then but supported the cause by clinking his glass to Chen Yi’s.

“To our friendship,” Wallace echoed Chen Yi’s words as the others followed suit with the glass clinking gestures.

© Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

Posted: Thursday, June 27th, 2013