Chapter 1 – Holidays Madness

It was exactly one week before Christmas. Joanne, Esther, Andy, and Achel were seen at a mall together. They were weaving through a large crowd, trying to stay safe and sound–for the upcoming holiday. The so-called “crowd” had turned into a mob several hours back. But because it was the holidays, they tried to keep calm.

“Made it,” Esther declared when they were already out of harm’s way at long last.

Joanne and Andy were actually catching their breaths as Achel settled down at a nearby bench.

“The better before I kill someone,” Joanne said a few seconds later. She had settled down on that same bench as Achel. “And I thought the holidays was supposed to be merry and all. What’s with all those people shoving us out of the way?”

“Welcome to the 21st century, Qiao,” Andy nabbed as he retrieved his keys from his pocket.

Joanne scowled at Andy but didn’t act on her anger. He was their ride home so she wasn’t that suicidal–yet.

“Look on the bright side,” Esther assured them. “We got all our shopping out of the way already.”

“If only we planned earlier,” Joanne returned, her tone tired–not sarcastic.

“Come on, girls,” Andy rushed, jingling his keys and looking at them all sitting on the bench.

Joanne rolled her eyes but got up anyway. Esther and Achel reached for the remaining bags before following the other two.

They arrived at Alyssa’s old house about fifteen minutes later and were in time to help Alyssa put the finishing touch to her Christmas tree. It was also then that Joanne’s foul mood disappeared. It was hard to stay grudging with the atmosphere surrounding the second floor rec room. The only thing short of the holiday spirit at that point was snow. But they weren’t going to be greedy–or too demanding with those moments they often witnessed on TV yet only rarely get to experience.

“Are we going to Jacky ge’s later?” Achel asked as she was bringing in ginger ale for everyone.

“Do you have to ask?” Joanne asked back. “We always do.”

Achel wasn’t offended of Joanne’s words. She set down the ginger ale along with the cookie plate before joining them by the tree.

“Hey, you guys want to come to my company’s reception?” Esther asked, reaching for a cookie as she settled down on the sofa to rest.

“It’s your first year so we’ll spare you of the embarrassment,” Joanne joked.

“Besides, we’re getting together for a celebration within our group anyway,” Andy pointed out. “No point in intruding with your world.”

Esther gave them both a look. She wasn’t convinced that they would turn their mischievousness off. She knew they were not interested in the new company. But she didn’t blame them. It was a matter of time before they would barge into her territory again.

*****

It had been more than a year now yet the group still stayed the same. Well, if anyone wanted to be technical, Alyssa and Vincent finally called it quit several months back and Alyssa had moved out of the Zhao resident. It seemed to surprise everyone at first yet they soon moved forward to try and console Alyssa. And they weren’t surprised that the two wouldn’t last, but they were more surprised that Alyssa was the one who gave up first, considering how optimistic and determined she was since the beginning. She knew too well what world she was setting foot into.

Alyssa and Vincent’s separation wasn’t the only bit that had alternated their world slightly. Esther switched jobs and worked for another company, claiming that she wanted to venture out in the world and take on even more challenges. Yet the underlying reason they all knew was because she didn’t want to put Brent in a difficult situation. Though Brent and Tony understood too well the differences between professional and personal matters but it was just harder to keep it clear. That was also the reason why Joanne, Andy, and Achel didn’t want to interfere with Esther’s new workplace. Not yet. Not until she settled in. They had visited her there before but only to pick her up after work, and had also met some of her new co-workers. The new co-workers seemed nice. For now.

Joanne? She resumed her life normally like she had promised others. However, her romance life was still empty. And somehow after Alyssa’s separation with Vincent, Joanne moved back into Alyssa’s place with her. Strangely as it were–yet not too strangely, Mrs. Zeng–Joanne’s mother–had actually bought the house herself and had rented out to others for filming or photo shoots from time to time hence the house still available for Alyssa when she moved out of the Zhao resident.

As for Jacky, he had also resumed his positive life like he had once promised Sophia. And he was still waiting for Sophia to come back. Even though they still kept in contact but they hadn’t visited each other.

What about Huang and Huo? They were still the same, an unbeatable team. Ehlo and Angela have been saving up for their wedding. Although Ehlo insisted on going on the old route of showering Angela with a perfect wedding, but Angela wouldn’t let him. She wanted it to be a wedding earned by both parties. Wallace and Yvonne’s relationship had been going just fine. Far from stable since Wallace always discovered something new about Yvonne. But he didn’t regret a day.

Oh, Nic was still living with the guys. He hadn’t moved back to his hometown yet. But the three siblings had gone back several times to visit their parents already. Nic had also brought Cynthia back to introduce to his parents as well.

The rest? Sam had moved away. Or more like to the three angel’s town to stay with Joyce. They had a small reception as their wedding sometime last month. Almost everyone in their group came. It was hard not to, after all they’d been through these past years together.

© Saturday, August 17th, 2013

Posted: Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

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