“You can let go now,” Angela told Jacky as she finally took over the comforting role.
Jacky realized he was still having a strong grip on Sonia’s shoulder. He quickly withdrew his hands and allowed Angela to lead Sonia into the living room.
“What happened?” Angela asked as she guided Sonia toward a chair next to the sofa.
Sonia was still crying uncontrollably and was still hugging Angela. It seemed like she was just looking for some sense of comfort the whole while, and Jacky wasn’t the only special person to be trusted at that moment. As the others continued to wait for an answer from Sonia, Jacky returned to the living room as well, settling at the spot next to Sophia. He had sent her a look of concern, yet she managed a weak smile to reassure him she was all right. After that little brief exchange between them, Jacky returned his attention on the crying Sonia in Angela’s arms. And although Angela tried to be patient, but she wasn’t able to take it anymore.
“What’s going on here?” Angela urged again, her tone a little sterner than before.
Sonia just shook her head, not answering still.
“For god’s sake, did someone die?” Ehlo yelled out after a few more minutes of silent frustration and enduring Sonia’s sobs.
“Huang Yu Rong!” Everyone in the room—excluding Sonia (who was still sobbing), Sophia (who was still observing Sonia’s state), and Bryant (who was still digesting this strange scene happening in front of them all)—yelled out.
Yet it was like Ehlo’s outburst had awakened Sonia from her devastated state. Because that was when she stopped sobbing. At least not so hard anymore. She finally removed her head from Angela’s shoulder and moved away from Angela’s embrace to give Angela back her own personal space. She also realized the others were there as well.
“What happened?” Jacky repeated of Angela’s words minutes ago when Sonia’s eyes passed him.
Sonia’s sob returned once again. But this time, she didn’t return her head to Angela’s shoulder. She tried to wipe her tears away—to which Jacky detached himself from his turmoiled emotions and tried to find a tissue for her. Yet Jacky didn’t succeed in playing the gentleman this time. It was Ehlo. He reached for his own pack and handed it to Angela so Angela could pass it onto Sonia. He didn’t touch Sonia directly and he had meant it on purpose. Because his face was displaying traces of impatience.
“I’ll leave first,” Sophia said suddenly and got up from her place. She also turned to Bryant. “You mind giving me a ride?”
“Um…” Bryant managed, getting up himself. Although he soon recovered, realizing that it was probably Sophia’s way of creating an exit for them both. That was also when his brief hesitation left, and he replaced his unsure look with a smile. “Sure.”
“Jing Jing,” Jacky called out then, getting up himself. He didn’t react fast enough because Sophia’s words were too fast. And because his mind was still thinking of all possible reasons to Sonia’s devastated state that he wasn’t focused. “You can’t leave now. You don’t have anywhere to go.”
Sophia had on a light smile then. “Don’t worry. I know this town like the back of my hand. I’ll find a temporary place first.”
“You can stay at my place with me and Alyssa,” Joanne jumped in then, getting up also.
Sophia shook her head and placed a hand on Joanne’s. “It’s okay. Sonia probably needs a place to stay for the time being so it might be better if I don’t take that place too.”
With that, she turned to Bryant and nodded, indicating they could leave.
“Jing Jing,” Jacky called again, following them to the door—with Joanne tagging him. “How about if you stay at my parents’ place for now?”
They had reached the door at this point. It was also when Sophia turned around to face Jacky again, seeing his worried expression.
“You seriously think I could mingle into that high-class society of yours?” Sophia joked, her teasing smile making its appearance.
Jacky couldn’t help but smile also, knowing too well Sophia’s simplistic lifestyle. Yet he couldn’t let her leave and fend for herself just like that.
“How about…” Joanne began, trying to think of a place for Sophia.
“You can stay with Janine and Novia,” Bryant said before anyone else could input. “They still haven’t rented out that extra room yet.”
Unlike Sophia’s past attempts to turn them down, she turned to Bryant with a smile and a nod full of gratitude. That was also when she turned toward the corner of the room to retrieve her luggage where Bryant had left it when they entered earlier. Bryant took it into his hands once again to help her with it as Joanne sent him a smile. He returned that smile before turning to address the others in general, uttering out his goodbye. Joanne was the one who shut the door behind them both after waving her last goodbye toward them, knowing Sophia would be safe with Bryant.
“Let’s see what’s wrong with Sonia first,” Joanne whispered to Jacky as she realized he was still standing there numbly. “Janine and Novia could take care of Sophia.”
Jacky snapped out of his trance then, knowing Joanne was right. Yet he still couldn’t focus, even if he trusted Janine and Novia. What was even stranger was how Joanne was the one tugging him back into the living room. The others were still waiting for Sonia to speak up. Surprisingly, Sonia hadn’t recovered enough to tell the others about her tale yet. And the fact that Ehlo hadn’t exploded again seemed like a miracle. Or was it because he realized Angela was once again placed into a difficult situation that he wanted to hold his tongue this time around?
“James…” Sonia finally said when Jacky and Joanne resumed their places on the sofa again—with Joanne sitting next to Jacky this time since Sophia was already gone.
“Something happened to James?” Angela tried, attempting to move things along faster, knowing how it was already so nerve-racking for the others with the wait. “Is he injured? Or…”
Sonia shook her head, sniffling again. “James…he lied.”
Upon hearing those words, the others exchanged looks among themselves. And while the staring was taking place, Ehlo had mouthed “I knew it” to Wallace as their eyes brushed path. Wallace, of course, had given Ehlo a sharp look before returning his attention on the conversation at hand—with Angela still playing the interrogator.
“What did James do this time?” Angela asked, her voice sounding routine, like she’d expected something to happen.
“James…” Sonia attempted again. “He lied to me.”
Ehlo was rolling his eyes by now, gesturing his hands at Wallace. Sonia was having her head down and staring at the ground, so she didn’t see what Ehlo was doing. Yet Wallace gave Ehlo another warning look. And it seemed like Ehlo didn’t care since Sonia finally looked up at the others, yet he was still pointing.
“Outside,” Wallace finally said, pulling on Ehlo’s shoulder and making his move as well. “Sorry, we have to take care of something first.”
Wallace had tapped on his cell phone, which he had been holding in his other hand, so it made sense it was relating to some call. Yvonne had on her grim expression at that point. She gave the room another scan before following Wallace as well.
“What do you expect me to do?” Ehlo protested as soon as they were already out the door. “Dead Grandpa or my husband just lied to me? Your pick.”
“You’re putting Angela on the spot,” Wallace reminded Ehlo.
“Since we’re out here anyway, how about go check on Sophia?” Yvonne suggested, looking at the other two.
“You and I can go, but not Ehlo.”
“Why not?” Ehlo asked, crossing his hands in annoyance.
“Because you’re Angela’s husband.”
Ehlo scoffed. “Come on.”
“Huang Yu Rong, I mean it. You can’t leave Angela here to deal with this madness while you run around town like that.”
Ehlo’s annoyed expression faded then. It was now replaced with a cunning one. “How about I go grab Angela and we all go? I mean just let Bianca deal with the ‘my husband lied to me’ problem already. She’s patient enough.”
Wallace wasn’t amused. “You know Angela can’t leave.”
Ehlo had on his frustrated expression again. “What kind of logic is this?”
He wasn’t questioning Wallace anymore, not exactly. He was just frustrated with how things turned out.
“I’ll text you later to update,” Wallace promised as he and Yvonne made their way to his car.
“Whatever,” Ehlo gritted before returning to the house.
Inside, Sonia was still crying. Ehlo took a deep breath before entering. He realized Bianca had sat down on Sonia’s other side and was now comforting her as well. At least that was some progress, Ehlo thought. Yet he was still fuming inside. He increased his pace and sat at the edge of the sofa where Joanne and Jacky were sitting at.
“Huo’s checking on Sophia,” Ehlo whispered their way, looking specifically at Jacky.
Jacky had on his relieved expression then, nodding in the process. Not that he didn’t trust Bryant. But he felt like if Sophia wanted to leave, Bryant might be too polite to stop her.
“There has to be some sort of misunderstanding, right?” Angela asked then.
Ehlo had on his puzzled look, scanning everyone’s faces for some traces of new development that he might have missed while he was outside. Then he heard his phone beeping. He retrieved it from his pocket to find a text from Joanne. He pondered about her bravery, considering how she was like right there, so close to Sonia. Yet he welcomed the little help. Her message read: James’ past lover came back with a love child.
“What?” Ehlo blurted out—although under his breath.
Joanne sent him another message. She had her head down so it was like she sympathized with Sonia, but she was actually typing on her cell phone. Her next message said: Wait for development. We’re getting there.
Ehlo tried to focus again.
“It’s really his,” Sonia said, still sobbing. “I thought it was a big misunderstanding too at first. Then they did the DNA test. The child’s really his.”
Then they heard some beeping again. Yet this time it wasn’t Ehlo’s phone but Jacky’s. Jacky gave Ehlo a look as soon as he saw the sender. The message said: I thought you had every rock turned.
Jacky’s response was a sharp look, not a message. He obviously was annoyed with Ehlo’s timing. He turned to face Sonia then. “When was this?”
Sonia looked up at Jacky then. “It was before he met me. But he said there was no one else before me.”
Ehlo had on the amused look by then, which Johnny had given him a nudge for him to turn that look off. Yes, Johnny had stepped forward a little to stand next to Ehlo since Ehlo entered. And indeed, it seemed like Ehlo and Angela were a match made in heaven all right since she looked up toward Ehlo and exchanged a look with him. Not the one telling him to behave but the one sharing his sentiment. Ehlo returned her look with a smile of sympathy. Sympathy for Angela, not Sonia. And Angela wasn’t the only one who was exchanging looks since Bianca had also turned to look at Johnny for help.
“What did he say after the DNA results were out?” Johnny asked, knowing he had to say something, considering how the room had gone into an awkward silence. “Have you met that girl before?”
Sonia shook her head, sniffling. “I don’t know who she is. That was why I thought it was ridiculous at first. But she was so fierce. We had to use the DNA method so she could leave us alone.” Sonia paused to wipe her tears with some tissues again. “I didn’t realize that was a mistake.” Another pause and some more sniffling. “James said he has to take responsibility for his past actions.” Another sniffle. “So, what could I say except run out of there?”
Ehlo’s jaw had dropped already. Johnny had to nudge him again.
“You ran out there just like that?” Angela exclaimed. “I mean that’s like handing him over to her already.”
Sonia turned to Angela then. “What could I do? He said he wanted to take responsibility.”
“I’m sure he means for his kid,” Ehlo jumped in then, not being able to take it anymore.
Johnny nudged Ehlo in the back yet again.
“Yu Rong,” Jacky warned.
“Don’t ‘Yu Rong’ me,” Ehlo said, ignoring both Jacky and Johnny. “Come on now, like he’s going to abandon you. You’re his wife.”
“That’s right,” Angela seconded. “If that Wen Shen dares to abandon you, he’ll have to hear from us.”
Sonia shook her head, still looking quite devastated. “He already made up his mind.”
Ehlo scoffed. “Let’s call him first.”
Sonia shook her head again. “It won’t help.”
Ehlo had looked at Jacky at this point. His expression was along the line of: A little help?
“Get some rest first,” Jacky said, his voice soft and soothing.
Sonia seemed to have awakened from an unknown trance. She looked at Jacky then with traces of recognition in her eyes. That was also when he sent her a warm smile. She finally nodded.
“Let’s go,” Bianca urged, guiding Sonia onto her feet.
Angela took the hint to help Bianca as well.
“You can stay at our place for now,” Bianca said.
Johnny smiled and nodded, backing Bianca up. On the other hand, Ehlo turned to Johnny and clapped him on the shoulder. Johnny gave Ehlo a warning look again, not wanting Ehlo to speak up to undo their progress.
“I’ll get you some clothes for now,” Angela continued. Then she turned to Ehlo. “Go check on Sophia. I got this.”
Ehlo nodded before turning to Jacky. “Let’s go.”
After saying that, Ehlo actually bypassed the other group and moved toward the door in lightning speed. Jacky followed, not wanting to miss the opportunity either. However, when he was by Sonia’s side, she grabbed onto his hand.
“Do not call James,” Sonia said, her eyes pleading.
“I’m not going to,” Jacky said, undoing Sonia’s hand on his. “Don’t worry. You need rest now, not distraction.”
Sonia nodded and smiled at last. She finally allowed herself to be guided by Bianca and Angela out of there. Her action had forced Ehlo to step back and hold the door for them.
“It might be better if you stay here for a while,” Bianca said when they were outside. At least when Jacky and Ehlo stepped outside.
Johnny nodded, understanding too well of the situation. After the girls were gone, Ehlo clapped Johnny on the shoulder.
“Looks like you’re kicked out, huh?” Ehlo remarked, his sarcasm very much attached.
“You know too well why we can’t be there right now,” Johnny returned, indifferent to Ehlo’s taunting.
Ehlo shrugged. “Hey, come on, you have to admit we didn’t see this one coming, right?”
“Let’s not waste anymore time,” Jacky interfered, tapping on his watch.
“Good point, let’s go.”
“Wait for me,” Joanne’s voice called to them.
“Hurry up, chick,” Ehlo urged. “We’re losing nightlight.”
Joanne had been inside, helping with cleaning up the place. As the others were making their leave, Joanne finally caught up with the guys.
“So, guess you have to stay here until Sonia leaves,” Ehlo said, turning to Johnny again.
They were all walking toward the driveway. Bianca, Angela, and Sonia already left in Bianca’s car. Ehlo actually parked behind the other cars so he had to get out first before some of them could leave. The rest had parked along the sidewalk, so they were able to leave immediately. Because they seemed to agree that Ehlo was going to check on Sophia, so the other three went with him while the rest headed home.
“So, thoughts on the latest development?” Ehlo said after he pulled out safely already.
Joanne turned to place a hand on Jacky’s then. “It’s going to be okay.”
Jacky had been looking out the window—although he’d seen the view around this area millions of times already, but he turned to look at Joanne when he felt her hand on his. He sent her a smile of appreciation, feeling the irony of the situation. Yes, it was one of those rare times that Joanne was looking out for him and not the other way around.
The four of them arrived at Janine and Novia’s apartment about an hour later. It was mostly because Ehlo got lost. Then Joanne had to call Bryant up to ask him for directions. So, when they arrived, the others were eating dinner, including Bryant.
“Hey, want to join us?” Novia asked, getting up from her place.
“It’s okay,” Ehlo said. “I think we’re still full of whatever that was from earlier.”
After saying that, Ehlo settled down at the sofa by the living room. The kitchen and dining room was not far from where he was sitting so he was able to sit and still keep a conversation with them.
“What happened?” Janine asked, looking at the newly arrived parties.
Ehlo sighed. “A cliché formula.”
Janine wrinkled her face. “What?”
While Ehlo was talking to Janine, Jacky walked over to where Sophia was and placed a hand on her shoulder.
“I’m fine,” Sophia said, smiling. “Crying helped. I’m feeling much better now. Sorry for scaring everyone earlier.”
“If only someone is as considerate as you,” Ehlo mumbled.
“Guys, what happened?” Janine asked, scanning their faces once more.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate to discuss the situation,” Johnny said. “It’s Sonia’s business after all.”
Ehlo scoffed. “You know you’re beginning to become an old bore?”
Sophia turned to look at Jacky—who was now sitting next to her. “You okay?”
Jacky nodded, sending her a smile.
“You won’t be for long,” Ehlo mumbled.
“Yu Rong,” Johnny warned.
“Yeah, yeah, whatever.” Then he turned to Jacky. “You seriously won’t call James?”
“Not right now.”
“Taking full advantage of the situation, aren’t we?”
“Huang Yu Rong!” Joanne exclaimed, turning to Ehlo with an annoyed expression. She’d been talking to Bryant since settled down next to him—after realizing Sophia was all right. Yet she couldn’t ignore Ehlo’s comments anymore.
Ehlo had on his innocent look. “What?”
“Stop pouring oil into the already burning fire.”
“Huh, like you’re not thinking it. I’m just more honest than the rest of you guys combined.”
“All right already,” Johnny interfered. “We’re here to check on Sophia, not argue.”
Ehlo shrugged yet he looked at Sophia then. “You know I’ve always been rooting for you, right?”
Sophia gave Jacky a look again. Yet Jacky just smiled, not saying anything.
“Let’s get out of here,” Ehlo said then. “Need to go get Johnny some clothes and head back to the house.”
“Why? What’s wrong?” Janine asked, wrinkling her face in confusion.
“Sonia’s staying at Johnny and Bianca’s place. That means my wife will have to stay with Bianca to help out, so that also means that I’ll be camping at the old house.”
“You want me to move out for now?” Bryant asked, turning to Ehlo.
Ehlo shook his head. “There’s still enough space, hello. I’ll be back in my old room and Johnny can take Wallace’s old room.”
“It’s serious this time, right?” Janine asked, still checking their faces for signs.
“Yeah, it’s serious. Why would I lie?”
Ehlo shrugged. “Fair enough.”
“I’ll have to trouble you two a little longer,” Jacky said, looking at Janine and Novia at this point. “Jing Jing will probably stay for a while.”
“Wow, speaking on her behalf already,” Ehlo mumbled.
Novia smiled. “It’s our pleasure.”
“At least you guys didn’t ask us to take Sonia in,” Janine said, her expression serious.
Ehlo had to laugh at that. “Good one.”
“You only met Sonia at the wedding, how can you come to such a conclusion?” Johnny asked, looking at Janine.
Janine shrugged. “I don’t know. For someone bursting in to make a scene like that while someone else has a more pressing problem, I can’t imagine how good that person can be.”
Ehlo gave Janine a thumbs-up. “Finally, you’re singing my tune.”
“It’s not Sonia’s fault,” Sophia said. “She didn’t know. She just wanted to find friends whom she trusts and could confide with.”
“Last I check, she didn’t know we were all there. The only logical explanation is she’s looking for Jacky.”
Sophia looked at Jacky again. Even if she wanted to defend Sonia, she knew Ehlo was right. Jacky sent her a reassuring smile, yet she didn’t return it. She returned her attention on Ehlo. “So?”
“Hello, what better way to get back at your husband for a past before you than to get back together with an ex who could do anything for you?”
“Yu Rong,” Johnny warned again.
“Seriously, man, you’re abusing my name. Like I’m wrong.”
Joanne had also looked at Jacky after Ehlo’s initial deduction. Now her face reflected of worry. “I’m with Ehlo.”
Ehlo had on his proud look. “See?”
“It doesn’t matter why,” Jacky said. “The most important thing right now is waiting for Bianca and Angela to calm her down so we could figure out the next move.”
Ehlo had on his challenging look. “Like?” Then Ehlo realized what in the world was bugging him since the four of them arrived at the apartment. “Where in the world is Huo?”
“I knew you missed me,” Wallace said then, opening the door and stepping in. He waved a bag in his hand. “Dinner.”
Yvonne entered after Wallace and was also holding a bag. “When Qiao called Bryant, we knew you guys haven’t eaten yet, so we decided to get some food ahead of time. Who knew we got stuck with such a crowd?”
Ehlo finally smiled. “You guys are thoughtful all right.”
So, after that, they ended up eating dinner together. For Bryant, Janine, and Novia, they just cleaned up and made way for the others. Sophia had gotten up to help Yvonne, yet Jacky stopped her by grabbing onto her hand. The others agreed she shouldn’t help since she was a guest. Understanding too well what they were trying to do, Sophia didn’t object and ended up sitting at the sofa.
© Sunday, June 22nd, 2014
Posted: Thursday, September 17th, 2020