What became the final wedge among the group was Sonia’s confession to Angela and Bianca the following Tuesday afternoon. The three of them were meeting at East Shore Café. Jacky just dropped Angela off about ten minutes back. As for Bianca, she was just taking a break since she had to return to her office to take care of the end of year reports and other duties that came with the holiday buzz. Despite the cold weather, Sonia had chosen a spot outside the café to wait for them. She claimed she had something important to say, hence wanting some privacy. Angela and Bianca didn’t object. But before they let Sonia start, they both went inside to order some hot beverages.

“So…” Angela said, taking a sip from her hot ginger tea. “What’s going on?”

“I made my decision,” Sonia said, smiling.

Angela wrinkled her face, an indication of her impatience. She was still hugging her cup of tea to warm herself. “What?”

“It’s about James?” Bianca asked.

Sonia nodded. “Somewhat.”

“You called him up and had a talk with him?”

Sonia shook her head. “I don’t want to talk to him anymore. I made my mind already. I’m not going to give him another chance to hurt me. I’m going to stay here with Jacky.”

“What?” Angela asked, almost choking on her tea. “You mean stay here with us for a time being before James comes, right?”

Bianca had to place a hand on Angela’s shoulder to stop Angela from proceeding. She looked at Sonia with much more patience than Angela could ever project. “What do you mean?”

“I’m staying here,” Sonia repeated her words from seconds before. “I know I hurt him in the past by leaving. But this time, I’m not going to make the same mistakes again.”

It was then that Bianca finally let go of Angela’s shoulder and exchanged a look with her.

“Have you talked to Jacky about it yet?” Bianca asked, trying to keep calm.

Sonia shook her head. “I will talk to him later tonight. I want to tell you two first to get your support.”

“What?” Angela asked, outraged. “You want me to support your decision made in the heat of anger?”

Sonia shook her head. “I thought about it long enough already. I’m not throwing a tantrum.” Sonia paused to display a placid smile before continuing. “I should be glad that this happened because after returning this time, I realized that only Jacky could do anything for me. He’s not afraid to offend the world just to protect me. He would never ask anything in return. I used to think as long as I love James, I could get past anything. But I was wrong. When I needed him the most, he wasn’t there for me.”

“Even if you want to return to Jacky’s side, what makes you think he wants the same thing? It has been years now.”

Sonia wasn’t defeated. She still had on her confidence smile. “His return to KFT proved that he wanted to start over. What he said in his recent segments said it all. He’s just waiting for the right moment to tell me. But I know I can’t let him do all the pull; I have to make the move first this time.”

“No,” Angela said, getting up from her seat. “He loves being a DJ. That’s why he returned to KFT. What he said in his segments wasn’t about you, he was talking about Sophia. Just because he let you stay at his place doesn’t mean he wants to get back together with you. If he wanted to get back together with you, he would have clarified that a long time ago.”

“Angela, I know you’re upset because I didn’t listen to you in the past,” Sonia said, her voice sad. “But I won’t hurt Jacky again.”

“You’ve been hurting him enough since you returned,” Angela said, her voice outright confronting.

“Angela,” Bianca interfered then.

“Am I wrong?” Angela asked, turning to look at Bianca. She then turned back to face Sonia. “I initially thought that you were just lost and needed our support before you could face James again. But now, you’re trying to hurt Jacky and I won’t let you do that.”

After saying that, Angela placed her teacup down on the table before leaving. She didn’t care that Bianca was yelling after her. And she didn’t care either that she didn’t have a ride back home. She needed to get out of there—before she did any more damage.

*****

Ehlo was on his way to East Shore Café when he spotted Angela walking. She looked upset and was moving at a rapid pace. Ehlo slowed down and parked before getting out of the car. He had to chase after her since she wasn’t paying attention and didn’t see his car.

“Angela,” Ehlo called out, grabbing a hold of her at long last. “What’s wrong?”

As if pulled out of a trance, Angela finally looked up at Ehlo and threw her arms around his shoulders, crying out at long last.

“It’s all right,” He soothed her, his mind in turmoil. “What happened?”

Angela still didn’t say anything. Yet Ehlo didn’t mind. He just patted her back until she stopped crying. It wasn’t until he made sure she was safely inside and turned on the heat for her before speaking up again.

“What happened?” Ehlo repeated his question from earlier.

“I give up on her,” Angela began.

“Sonia?” Ehlo guessed, having known about the three’s meeting at East Shore Café. He thought he needed to wait a little longer in the parking lot for Angela. He didn’t realize it had turned out that way.

Angela nodded and told Ehlo everything Sonia said earlier.

“How could she?” Angela said after she was done with the recounts. “It took all these years for Jacky to return to normal again. Now she wants to play with his feelings again? I told her not to regret once she’d chosen. Now?”

Ehlo reached across the seats to grab onto Angela’s hands again. “I know I wasn’t on my best behavior these past few weeks. But I wouldn’t want you to give up on Sonia just because of Jacky.”

Angela shook her head. “I don’t want to give up on her. But she left me no choice. She wasn’t here during Jacky’s meltdown. She didn’t know what aftermaths she left behind for us. Now she wants to undo all our efforts? I’m upset because she’d let me down as a friend, not just because of Jacky.”

Ehlo squeezed Angela’s hands, not knowing what else to say to help the situation.

“You always wanted me to be on Sophia’s side, right? So why are you trying to sabotage yourself now?”

Ehlo couldn’t help but smile. “I was just trying to be the voice of reason when you’re upset.” He shrugged. “It’s not like I want to.”

Angela returned his smile. “Then don’t.”

Ehlo nodded.

After that, they buckled up and headed home.

*****

Luckily, Jacky wasn’t home that night for Sonia’s grand confession. Ehlo had alerted Joanne of the latest developments and told her to sabotage Sonia that night if it was to go into execution. As fate would have it, Jacky had left town right after he dropped Angela off at East Shore Café. That was also after he called Ehlo and told Ehlo to pick Angela up. Jacky just didn’t tell Ehlo that he was leaving town. When Jacky returned at the end of the week, he was occupied with his workload that he didn’t have time for anything else hence Sonia not having a chance to talk to him. As for Sophia, she returned the day after Jacky. She had to run an errand for Novia, so she was out of the loop for the majority of the intensity traveling within the group.

Ehlo only told Joanne about Sonia’s possible confession so that little detail had stayed with the five of them. Unlike his mischievous self, he didn’t want to spread the news around thus causing even more rupture among their group. Even though Angela had declared that she’d already given up on Sonia, Ehlo knew better than to make matters even worse for them. Instead, Ehlo chose to focus his energy 100% on Jacky’s room. Jacky had been sleeping on the sofa for the time being as renovation was taking place. As for Bryant, he had taken Ehlo’s old room since Sonia was actually staying in Wallace’s old room for the time being. Ehlo’s progress was faster than usual because of how he didn’t have any new projects as of recent. He had hired some people to help him. Jun and Derek had also volunteered themselves during the weekends whenever the other contractors were off.

*****

The following Wednesday, right on Christmas Eve, came Joyce’s wrath. She had somehow found out about Sonia’s confession plans. She stormed into the house just like Janine did many days ago when she found out about Sonia moving in. The majority of the group weren’t around for it. Ehlo was in the middle of a painting job but had to drop his brush to go inspect on the matter upon hearing Joyce’s voice.

“You don’t have any shame, do you?” Joyce asked, getting straight to the point.

“Xiao Qiao, what are you talking about?” Sonia asked, looking at Viva and Jade who were tugging on Joyce’s shoulders respectively, trying to calm Joyce down.

“What’s going on here?” Jun asked, entering the house with a box. He had been outside searching for some items.

“Ask her,” Joyce said, pointing an accusing finger at Sonia. “You want to get back with Jacky? Don’t you think you’d already done enough damage around here?”

“You want to get back with Jacky?” Janine asked, stepping into the house.

It was one of those rare few times that Janine had come to visit her brother of recent. She just entered with Novia when she overheard Joyce’s words.

“It’s between Jacky and me,” Sonia said at long last, feeling the heat of the parties present staring at her.

“Like how it was when you left him and the rest of us had to pick up the pieces?” Ehlo asked.

Sonia directed her attention on Ehlo then. “Ehlo…”

“Don’t try to win me over with that pitiful look. You and I might not get along that well in the past, but I had respected you for your courage to fight for what you believed in. But now? You lost all grounds in my book.”

“Stop using Jacky as a lifesaver,” Joyce warned.

“What’s going on here?” Jacky’s voice asked then.

The others turned to the door to see Jacky walking in with Sophia and Bryant.

“Catfight,” Ehlo mumbled.

Jacky only needed one glance around the room to understand the situation. He entered the room before addressing everyone.

“It’s the holidays for crying out loud,” Jacky said, scanning all faces present. “Stop acting so childish. I think this has gone far enough. Whatever silly game you all are participating in, I think it’s time to stop.”

Joyce turned to Jacky then. “You still want to take her side?”

“Xiao Qiao, you’ve gone too far,” Jacky returned. His expression was a mixture of anger and disappointment.

“You’re making a big mistake.”

“This is my house.”

That was a hint to dismiss all parties. Ehlo was the first one to leave the scene. But he was only going back to his task, not leaving the house. Joyce took one last look at Jacky before taking off. Viva and Jade chased after her like before. Janine took a routine look at Bryant before leaving as well. She had meant to drag her brother out for a holiday celebration yet had witnessed such an infuriating scene, so she didn’t feel like it anymore. Novia had chosen to leave with Janine, signaling to Bryant that she would call him later. That left Jun. Jun soon took leave as well yet it wasn’t to return to his residence, not really. He did return to his place, but it was to call Derek over to help Ehlo. It would increase their progress.

“You all right?” Jacky asked Sonia after Bryant had gone to his room.

Sonia nodded and sent him a smile.

“Join us for dinner at my parents’ place?”

Sonia’s smile turned brighter. “All right.”

Sophia hesitated a little before stepping forward. “I’m going to go check on Janine.”

Jacky, surprised, turned to Sophia. “I thought we agreed on the dinner earlier.”

Sophia smiled. “I know. But you know Janine. I don’t want her to do anything rash. We’ll meet up later, okay? Send my regards to Uncle and Auntie.”

Jacky nodded.

*****

After that day, the group became even more divided. Even Cynthia finally made her move. She had casted her vote for Sophia. That wasn’t as surprising as when Jun, Derek, and Bryant showed their support for Sophia as well. The majority of the male population—with the exception of Ehlo—had remained neutral from the start. They didn’t want to participate in the drama, knowing it wasn’t worth it. However, this time, the three guys had made it clear what their stance was. It seemed that the ones who had managed to steer clear of the dramas were Andy and Achel—after the initial random meetings. Then there was Tony, who was too caught in his own projects that he dodged a bullet with their wraths. Esther was also caught in her workload that she didn’t have time to worry about other matters. Although she was indeed quite worried for Sophia as well and had visited Sophia from time to time whenever she was coming up for air, but she wasn’t actively involved in the alliance like some of the others.

The tension among them all finally broke that Friday, which was two days after the confrontation between Joyce and Sonia at Jacky’s house. It happened late in the afternoon when Janine and Novia returned home from work to find Sophia packing. Janine was the one who discovered it as she walked past Sophia’s room. She had gone to the living room to talk to Novia. Both parties ended up trying to call the guys but were unsuccessful. They agreed to have one of them go and find the guys while the other kept watch. As Janine opened the door, she saw Joanne walking toward their apartment. That was when she gestured to Novia. The three of them ended up huddling under a tree nearby, sharing the new development.

“We still can’t reach the guys,” Janine told Joanne. “I was about to head out and look for them. But now that you’re here, Novia could go too. Remember, stall her.”

Joanne nodded.

© Monday, November 17th, 2014

Posted: Saturday, September 19th, 2020

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