The following Friday, some of them were gathered at Uncle Ben’s noodles stall for a private meeting. The irony wasn’t lost on some of them, considering how the location was very much public. Yet Ehlo had claimed that it would shield them away from watchful eyes. And by “watchful eyes”, he meant Jacky.

“Okay, guys,” Ehlo began as they all settled down and ordered already. “New plan.”

“What are you talking about?” Andy asked, turning his attention to Ehlo since he was having a side conversation with Achel after he had ordered.

“Oh, come on, kid,” Ehlo chided. “Where have you been?”

“Living in reality,” Andy returned. “Unlike someone.”

“Hey!”

Ehlo’s annoyance wasn’t lost on Andy. In fact, Andy had turned on his mischievous expression.

“Besides,” Andy continued, not caring that Joanne was giving him a sharp look. “Who was the one whom told us years back that Jacky always cover his tracks? That once he does something, he’ll make sure there are no stones left untouched? What do we have now? James having some kid out of nowhere.”

Ehlo wasn’t tongue-tied. In fact, he was ready to defend. “Hey, Jacky covered all his tracks, okay? James didn’t even know he have a kid, so how could you blame Jacky?”

“What if Jacky was still with Sonia?” Andy asked, scanning everyone’s faces.

“Don’t you dare,” Ehlo warned, pointing a finger at Andy.

“Hey, come on, man, I’m just saying.”

“I guess then we wouldn’t meet Sophia,” Esther said. “Because Jacky wouldn’t go around randomly and found her, right?”

“No,” Wallace contradicted Esther. “We would eventually meet Sophia.”

Ehlo wrinkled his face and turned to Wallace. “How, Huo?”

“Because of Tang Feng. Tang Feng knew Sophia before all of us, remember? She’d made such an impact in his life, of course he would bring her around to introduce to us one day anyway.”

It was then that Ehlo turned off his confused expression. He seemed tenfold happier. “Oh, of course! How could I forget?”

“If it was like that from the start, would Qiao have liked Sophia right away?” Andy pondered. “But then we wouldn’t even meet Bryant, right?”

“We would eventually meet him,” Wallace spoke up again, seeming to be the voice of reason among them all of recent.

“How?”

“Novia moved here, right? We met Bryant because of her, not because of some show.”

“Life, huh?” Ehlo noted, attempting to sound philosophical.

Then Uncle Ben brought over their food so they quieted down again, only thanking him after everything was settled.

“So, plans?” Ehlo prompted as he tasted his bowl of noodles already.

“Are you really going to sabotage them?” Nic asked. “I mean, it’s not like they’re going to do anything.”

“Wrong,” Ehlo said. “We’re not sabotaging them, we’re sabotaging her.”

“What’s your plan, Huang?” Wallace asked.

“I’m asking you guys here,” Ehlo returned, playing with his food.

“You’re saying that you can’t handle it, Huang?”

Just when the others thought that they would end up witnessing another showdown between Huang and Huo, Ehlo had on his cunning smile.

“What?” Andy asked, confused.

“Don’t worry, kid,” Ehlo said. “I got it cover.”

“What are you up to now?” Angela asked, looking at Ehlo.

“You’ll see.”

As Angela tried to wrestle the answer out of Ehlo—and failed, the others exchanged looks among themselves. If Angela couldn’t get him to talk, they might as well wait and see.

*****

Ehlo’s plan commenced itself into being the next day. It was around 10:00 A.M. when Bryant had already placed breakfast on the table for the other two. It was one of those rare times that Bryant was around of recent. He had a break from filming. Jacky actually just awakened and was on his way to the bathroom with a towel in hand.

“Hey, man, I have something to show you,” Ehlo said upon seeing Jacky down the hall.

“What?” Jacky asked, eyeing Ehlo suspiciously, knowing too well from Ehlo’s smile that his buddy was up to no good again.

“I’ve got the best plan yet for our place,” Ehlo said, his smile wide and bright—which was so unlike Ehlo of recent. Or more like since the day Jacky made that announcement.

Jacky had on his passive expression. “Care to tell me that grand plan before we all grow old?”

Ehlo immediately whipped out a folder and handed it to Jacky. Jacky was still eyeing Ehlo suspiciously, but Ehlo gestured his hand to encourage Jacky to open the folder. Knowing Ehlo, Jacky proceeded with opening the folder. Inside, there were several drawings. He studied it carefully before looking up at Ehlo again.

“A renovation project?” Jacky asked.

Ehlo nodded, grinning ear-to-ear. “Yup. What do you think? Since the others moved out already, you’ll have more space to expand your room. You’ll have your private bathroom too. Nice? We could do shower separate from other stuff.”

“Sounds good. But don’t you have other projects to work on?”

Ehlo scoffed. “Are you kidding me? I’m done with Huo’s project. I’ll be waiting for a while, might as well work on this.”

“Ask Johnny. It’s his room you’re getting rid of after all.”

Ehlo smiled. “Now we’re talking. Don’t sweat it, man. Johnny will definitely agree.”

And Ehlo wasn’t exaggerating this time. Johnny did agree. After much persuasion from Ehlo—that was. Yet he didn’t care to tell Jacky about the details. He just got started on the renovation project after some adjustments and suggestions from Jacky. Because after all, it was Jacky’s room he was expanding.

*****

The following days, there were two things brewing on the horizon: Ehlo’s grand plan and the intensity among their group. Ehlo working on the renovation project also equaled to him having the privilege of roaming freely around the place and monitoring Jacky and Sonia without others suspecting him. Or at least they couldn’t say anything anyway. It wasn’t like he was so afraid of them that he had to make up an excuse to stick around. It was partially his house still, so he didn’t need anyone’s permission to tread into the territory. However, he had to use that as an excuse to stick around, considering how he had outright opposed to Jacky’s decision previously. Even if Jacky knew exactly what Ehlo was doing, he couldn’t really say it out. Unless Jacky wanted to add more oil to the already burning fire.

By Wednesday, the intensity among their group had reached another level. If that was possible. Because Valerie was due for another visit. After learning what had happened, she decided to take matters into her own hands. Valerie, of course, took Sonia’s side and urged her on, wanting to see a reunion between Jacky and Sonia. After all, she claimed she had a hand in helping them in the past. It wasn’t too much to support Sonia in a time of turmoil as such. Valerie had no idea that Sonia was just throwing a tantrum of some sort at the moment and was just secretly waiting for James to come crawling to apologize for his past wrongs. Even if that meant it wasn’t really his fault. After all, that was the life before Sonia.

As if it wasn’t already enough with the madness, Penny soon caught wind of what was going on one day when she came to check out Novia’s shop. She soon placed in her ticket, supporting Sophia. That also meant Melody sided with Sophia as well. To make matters worse, Janine ended up forming a team to show their unanimous support toward Sophia. Joanne was also present at that moment and agreed to join their alliance. Yvonne, of course, joined their group as well after learning about the pact. What that meant for the rest of the population, especially their significant others, was being stuck in the middle. Ehlo voiced his support for the alliance but had toned it down on purpose for Angela’s sake whenever they were around the others—if at all. As for Ambrose, he did not even know why his wife was involved but had chosen not to speak up regarding the matter. He had opted for the silence approach. Having work as an excuse was much easier when he was actually quite busy of recent, unlike some of the other parties. Perhaps the most pitiful person was Sam, because he was forced to choose sides, even if he didn’t want to be involved. And the luckiest person was Wallace, because he had chosen to become the peacemaker among them all. He understood too well Jacky needed his backing, not to stir things up anymore.

Despite the intensity unraveling and multiplying day by day, Sonia didn’t know of their disagreements and was still wrapped up in her own self-pity. As for Sophia, she wasn’t around at that moment, so she didn’t know of the madness of them choosing sides. Before they knew it, the week had already flown by.

© Monday, April 13th, 2015

Posted: Friday, September 18th, 2020

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