Chapter 1 – A New Chapter

“I’ll definitely miss this place,” Andy said, his hands slipping into his jacket pockets and a sense of reluctance was shown on his face.

Wallace smiled, feeling a sense of nostalgia washed over him as well. “We sure did a lot there, huh?”

“It sure seems like the end of an era, huh?” Andy joked, turning to Wallace with a half-hearted smile.

“You guys are acting like this is the end or something,” Jacky said, looking from one to other.

Andy shrugged. “It sure seems like it.”

Jacky shook his head then. “You sound like Ehlo.”

“I’m in the same clan as him after all, right? It’s contagious.”

“So you want to represent him at this moment?” Wallace asked, turning to Andy.

Andy shrugged again. “Sure, why not? Since he’s not here anyway.”

Jacky smiled, staring at the house again. Then he turned to Bryant who was standing on his right. “Sorry about that. But I’m glad you found a good place with Derek.”

Bryant shrugged. Like shrugging was the latest trend. “It’s okay. It’s your place. You’re allowed to sell it.” He paused briefly, still staring at the house before speaking up again. “No harm though. Derek and I have a lot in common. We get along fine so far.”

“Famous last words,” Andy jabbed.

“You’re seriously channeling your inner Ehlo, aren’t you?” Wallace asked, turning to look at Andy again.

Andy shrugged once again. “I don’t know, man. It’s just strange not having him around, especially on this special day.”

“It has only been three days. You know we went for a full week without talking to each other in the past, right? He has only been gone for three days.”

Andy had been looking at the house the whole while talking to Wallace. Now he turned to Wallace with his full attention. “When is he coming back anyway?”

It was Wallace’s turn to shrug. “I don’t know. A week? A month? He’s been saving up for this moment. They both did. If it was me, I wouldn’t come back that early.”

“Come on, you guys,” Johnny spoke up at that time. “We shouldn’t stand here acting all gloom and doom. Treat it as a new chapter of our lives.”

“Ah…Johnny, the ever so wise leader,” Andy said, sounding almost like Ehlo as well.

“Let’s get out of here,” Wallace said, urging the others. “Before you know it, Chen Yi might just turn into Ehlo before our eyes.”

The five of them headed to Jacky’s car and took off what seemed to be for the last time. It was their last goodbye. It was strange how it turned out. Because they were down one member. Yet they weren’t bitter. It felt like a sign of a new start.

****

It had been two years now. A lot of changes happened. In fact, they were barely done with celebrating Ehlo’s birthday before he and Angela took off to Hainan Island for their long-awaited vacation. What was more, several months back, like around the New Year’s celebration, Ehlo, Jacky, and Johnny had agreed to sell the house they shared for so long. They had also discussed it with Bryant since he would be affected by the decision. That gave Jacky and Bryant some time to look for a new place. Yet it had worked out in the end with them since two things happened within the last two years that had fitted perfectly with their timeline. One was that Joanne and Bryant had officially gotten together several days after Ehlo’s birthday two years back. That wasn’t a big surprise since the others had expected it for a while now. So they were happy for both. Even if there were some teasing here and there with Joanne ending up with a famous chef when her cooking skills were severely lacking. Aside from that, Jun and Novia also got together since last year’s Valentine’s Day. What had that got to do with the guys selling their place? It turned out, Jun and Novia had decided to move in together several months back and Derek learned around the same time that Bryant was looking for a place. So the two guys decided to find a place together and split the cost. What about Janine? She was still at the old apartment she shared with Novia since it was small and didn’t cost as much versus the house Derek and Jun shared. Why didn’t Bryant just move in with Derek? They had already talked and decided they were done living in the countryside, so they decided to move back to the city. It was easier for their work commute anyway. So, that was how things had been. Today was the day they turned over the keys to the new owners hence being present at the old resident again. Because they already finalized the paperwork awhile back so Ehlo didn’t have to be present today. Wallace, Andy, and Bryant were just tagging along for old time’s sake. And it was for the last time—as Andy had put it so dramatically, channeling Ehlo as the others had already mentioned.

What about the others? Johnny and Bianca had a new addition to their family since two years ago. They found out about Bianca’s pregnancy several months after Ehlo’s birthday. But things had been great. Nic and Cynthia still lived together. They hadn’t even planned on getting married yet, which made Nic’s parents anxious. Because as much as most of them didn’t want to think about it, Nic’s parents were traditional to some extent so even if they didn’t say it out loud, but they had hoped Nic actually got married before Angela. Who knew? Andy and Achel were still taking it easy. Considering how Nic wasn’t moving yet, Andy and Achel didn’t have to worry. Not to mention, her parents considered her their baby still, so they didn’t push her about it.

Talking about strict, traditional parents, Tony’s mother was the other party who was disappointed. To much of Tony’s mother’s excitement when she heard about their engagement, she was once again deflated because they did not get married by the end of the year like they had planned. In fact, the situation had dragged on for two years now. They were still engaged—if that counted.

For the rest, it was very much the same. Sometimes their out of town friends visited, other times, they went to visit them. It all depended on their schedules. But their last gathering where everyone was present was actually Ehlo’s birthday two years ago. And regarding Ehlo’s threat, he never followed through. It wasn’t because he was scared of Wallace. But because Wallace and Yvonne were out of town during Wallace’s birthday. And Ehlo never saw it coming. Ehlo had vouched for a future opportunity to strike. And Wallace said he would wait. But it never happened during the past two years.

© Thursday, July 9th, 2020

Posted: Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020

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