Chapter 14 – Stars Changing Location

“All right!” Ehlo shouted. “Before we begin, who wants to back out can say it.” He paused for dramatic emphasis as he scanned the crowd once. “It’ll be too late when we play.”

“Quit being lame already,” Chen Yi scolded.

“No, wait,” Qiao Qiao interfered.

The guys turned to her.

“You’re backing out?” Chen Yi asked, surprised.

“No! Of course not. Who will take over as the other team captain? We’re short of one.”

“Let’s see…Jacky told Xiao Yu she can be on his team. That means we can bump everyone up a notch.” He turned to Ming Dao. “You want to be captain or Chen Yi?”

“Doesn’t matter,” Ming Dao said.

“Why did you ask them and not me?” Bianca protested.

Ehlo turned to her. “You want to be captain then?”

“How about we battle it out between the four of us?” Chen Yi suggested. “It’s only fair. Whoever makes 3 baskets first will become the new captain.”

“I don’t want to compete though,” Achel said timidly. “I mean it doesn’t matter who is captain really.”

“You’re the weakest link already,” Ehlo pointed out. “It doesn’t matter if you compete or not.”

“Ehlo ge!”

“Are you picking on her ‘cause she’s a girl?” Qiao Qiao asked, putting on her challenging look. “We’ll trade you for her if you’re so…”

“Sam has to decide that though, right?” Ming Dao reminded Qiao Qiao subtly.

Ehlo turned back to Qiao Qiao. “It’s better if you guys trade me for Ming Dao though. So he can be on the same team as his best buddy again.”

“Would you guys hurry already?” Angela jumped in, her voice showing apparent impatience. “I thought we’re here to see a game, not see you guys fight.”

“If no one is satisfied with their current team, how about starting over?” Johnny suggested, attempting to get the others to negotiate.

“No way!” The others shouted at the same time.

Johnny glanced at everyone once before speaking up again. “Then why are you all shoving a certain person back and forth between teams?”

“We formed teams like right about the same time we were spying on each other, remember?” Ehlo reminded Johnny. He could see Ming Dao’s expression. “And because we were at odds with each other also. So it’s only fair if anyone wants to change their minds now.”

“What in the world are you talking about?” Chen Yi asked, wrinkling his face.

“Don’t believe me? I’ll prove it to you.” He turned to the others again. “Who falls into one of the two categories I just described?”

Ming Dao raised his hand first. Ehlo scanned the group once before raising his hand also.

“Looks like you two were the only ones that…” Chen Yi began.

Before he could finish the sentence, Qiao Qiao raised her hand also. She had this nervous look on her face. She could see everyone’s eyes on her, causing her face to burn a bit. “Sorry! I was being silly too.”

“I thought you want to be on the winning team,” Chen Yi said, putting an emphasis on the last two words.

Chen Yi’s comment dripped of sarcasm, but Qiao Qiao chose to ignore him.

“That too,” Qiao Qiao said. “But I was curious about things so…I…want to get closer to a certain person to probe for info.”

Ehlo chuckled. “Same for me. I decided after I saw Wallace and Cyndi in Jacky’s room.”

“I was mad at Sam,” Ming Dao confessed.

Ehlo turned to Chen Yi. “See?”

“Okay then,” Chen Yi said. “Let’s switch teams now.  But…”

“Does it matter that much?” Ming Dao asked. “I mean we agreed to be friends now with no secrets, right? So it doesn’t matter which team we’re on. This is all for fun, right?”

“It’s sport. We’re supposed to win!”

“You mean my team’s winning while yours is sitting over in some corner crying?” Qiao Qiao asked, a mischievous smile forming on her face.

“Guys, are we still playing today?” Johnny asked, tugging at his shirt front, trying to fan himself. “It’s going to get hot soon.”

“Okay, since no one wants to switch teams, then you three…” Ehlo said, pointing at Ming Dao, Bianca, and Chen Yi. “…can battle it out who is captain. We can start the game after lunch.”

“Fine with me,” Ming Dao mumbled.

They all stepped back away from the court to watch the three potential candidates compete against one another. Chen Yi made two baskets before Bianca could make one. Chen Yi almost made the last basket when Ming Dao blocked him in time. Ming Dao managed to get a basket before Bianca made another one. As the little game was getting quite intense, the others began to talk again. They’d been watching with their full attention that they didn’t care to debate earlier.

“Come on!” Ehlo shouted finally, breaking the pattern of rapid footsteps moving back and forth and the basketball hitting the pavement. “What in the world is Ming Dao doing? He called that playing? We should have let Xiao Yu be captain already.”

“Ehlo ge!” Achel whined.

Qiao Qiao hit Ehlo’s shoulder. “Stop it already. If you pick on Xiao Yu anymore, I’ll kick you off the team.”

Sam cleared his throat at that time.

Qiao Qiao turned around to him with a challenging look. “Problem?”

“Qiao, he’s captain,” Johnny reminded her.

Qiao Qiao flashed on a bright smile. “We can override you with our votes!”

“What was that?” Angela spoke up, cutting through their argument.

The others turned their attention back to the court. Chen Yi just made the last basket.

Ehlo turned to Angela. “Who were you rooting for then?”

“Bianca, of course.”

Qiao Qiao hit Ehlo’s shoulder again. “Why would you be surprised anyway?”

The others made their way back to the group again.

Ehlo turned to Qiao Qiao. “Stop hitting me already. I don’t see you hitting the other guys here.”

“You’re lucky that she’s hitting you,” Chen Yi said. “If she doesn’t hit you, that means she doesn’t acknowledge your existence.”

Ehlo clapped Chen Yi on the shoulder. “Congrats, man. I was rooting for you the whole time.”

“Was there anyone even rooting for me then?” Ming Dao asked.

“I was!” Achel jumped in, smiling.

Angela turned to Achel. “Sis, you’re supposed to root for Bianca.”

“Aiya, doesn’t matter,” Qiao Qiao interfered. “We know who the winner is now. Let’s go in to get some lunch before we starve to death. Not to mention dehydrate too.” She began to walk out of the backyard and toward the front of the house.

“Qiao, where are you going?” Chen Yi asked, staring after her.

Qiao Qiao turned around. “The food’s better over there.”

“You’re saying that you like Ehlo’s cooking?” Johnny teased, somewhat surprised.

Ehlo turned to Johnny. “Stop stabbing me in the back! Without Jacky, you can starve without my cooking.”

Bianca followed Qiao Qiao. “Don’t worry, I’m with you.” She put a hand on Qiao Qiao’s shoulder. “Oh yeah, want to go to the movies later? Or shopping maybe?”

Qiao Qiao shook her head. “Can’t. I’m preparing for my interview tomorrow.”

“Oh? You’re not going to work at Orchids’ place anymore?”

“I told Orchids it’s temporary. So …”

“Oh. Need help practicing then?”

Qiao Qiao smiled. “That’s good. Thanks.”

“No problem.”

The guys had somehow followed behind Qiao Qiao and Bianca. Maybe they were used to hanging out over at the other house that being in Ming Dao and Sam’s place felt too weird. As Qiao Qiao and Bianca were waiting to cross the street, they heard Angela and Ehlo arguing over something.

“No way, he wouldn’t do that,” Angela argued in an unconvinced tone.

“Come on,” Ehlo retorted. “You girls are so gullible. Why can’t it be like that?”

“Because he’s such an influential figure. Would he ruin his already established reputation?”

Qiao Qiao turned around to see the two. “What the world are you two talking about now?”

“We’re talking about that new radio host on CVN,” Ehlo explained. “He switched station, of course. Anyway, rumor has it that he’s having an affair with several wealthy women so he can, you know…” He gestured his hand. “…ka-ching.”

Bianca wrinkled her face. “You two are gossiping now? Unbelievable. Just yesterday, you were still at each other’s throat and now you’re sharing the latest rumors.”

Achel jumped forward with a mischievous smile. She placed both hands on Angela’s shoulders. “Actually, you all shouldn’t be surprised about jie’s change in attitudes toward Ehlo ge. She has been madly in love with him since the first day she met him. It’s just that she was suppressing her feelings for him for so long that…” She gestured her hand.

Angela brushed Achel’s hands off her. “Hey!” She turned around to face her sister. “What are you talking about? Stop spreading rumors.”

“It’s all right, Miss Chang,” Ehlo said with an equally mischievous expression as Achel. “You don’t need to deny it. I wouldn’t mind having another girlfriend.” He slid his hand around her shoulders after saying that.

“Aww…how cute!” Achel drawled out.

Angela jabbed Ehlo in the sides with her elbow. He jumped back before Angela was able to attack again.

“Someone’s trying to murder her future husband!” Ehlo yelled out as he ran across the street before Angela could strike back.

“Huang Yu Rong!” Angela yelled back, running after Ehlo. “You get back here right this moment!”

At that time, they could hear a car honking.

“Angela!” The others exclaimed at the same time.

Ehlo turned around in time and managed to double back, grabbing Angela out of the way in the process. The car stopped seconds later with tires screeching. The driver rolled down his window.

“You freak!” The driver shouted. “Watch out where you’re going!”

“Sorry, Rick!” Ehlo returned, still holding onto Angela’s shoulders.

Rick gave Ehlo another disapproving look before driving on again.

The others waited until Rick’s car passed before crossing the street to join Ehlo and Angela. Ehlo finally released Angela.

“Jie, sorry!” Achel said anxiously, walking to Angela’s side. “I didn’t mean to start it! I was just kidding. Are you all right?”

Angela’s breathing pattern had returned to its normal state so she nodded.

“Since my fiancée’s all right now, let’s go inside to get some food,” Ehlo said, taking off running again as Angela chased him into the living room. He ended up running toward Wallace’s room down the hall.

Wallace was sleeping in again, but this time probably for real. Ehlo began to bang on Wallace’s door. Wallace came to the door seconds later, his alarmed expression turned back to normal since he saw Ehlo’s happy face.

“What is it this time?” Wallace asked.

“Guess what?” Ehlo asked rhetorically. “I just found out your ex-girlfriend was cheating on you when you were still dating.”

Wallace wrinkled his face. “What?!”

Ehlo put a hand on Wallace’s shoulder. “Don’t be alarm. I know it’s hard to accept. But she was madly in love with me since you brought her to meet us that one time. Xiao Yu just told me!”

Angela finally caught up to Ehlo. “What are you talking about? Stop spouting nonsense already. You…” She stopped because she realized that not only was Wallace still in t-shirt and shorts, but Cyndi was sitting on Wallace’s bed.

Ehlo started to realize that also. “Oooohh…” He turned to Wallace again. “No wonder you didn’t want to go play basketball with us. Breakfast in bed, huh?” He flashed on his mischievous grin again.

“What are you talking about?” Wallace asked, wrinkling his face. “Cyn just came like ten minutes ago. She’s helping me clean my room.”

“Sure you were.” Ehlo began to make his way back toward the living room. He could see that Bianca and Ming Dao were preparing lunch again as he stepped into the kitchen. “You guys know what? This is starting to be a habit.” As Ehlo sat down at a stool in front of the counter, Angela suddenly popped out of nowhere and sat down next to him. He put a hand on Angela’s shoulder. “What’s with the long face? Who upset my fiancée again?”

Angela shrugged his hand off her shoulder as she cupped her chin in her hands.

Bianca saw Angela’s troubled face. “What’s wrong?”

Angela sighed out. “Nothing.”

“You’re a worse liar than…” Ehlo saw Sam walked by at that time. “…Sam, so don’t try it.”

Sam turned to look at the group at the counter. “What do I have to do with anything?”

He put on his wise guy smile. “Nothing. I was just using you as an example.”

Wallace walked into the kitchen at that time–still in the same attire as before–and opened the fridge. He tossed Sam a soda before walking over to where they were, sitting next to Ehlo. Sam ended up sitting next to Angela.

Ehlo turned to Wallace. “What happened to your girlfriend?”

“In the living room, talking to Sonia.”

“Oh.”

“What happened to Qiao?” Ming Dao asked, looking around.

They all turned around to check the living room.

“She went to Jacky’s room,” Achel answered back from the sofa.

After hearing that, they all turned back like before.

“What could she be doing in his room?” Ehlo pondered.

“Maybe leaving him a message?” Ming Dao said.

Ehlo got up from his seat. “Maybe I should sneak in to see which direction she’s facing so I know where the hidden camera is.”

Angela got off the stool also. “You’re such a snoop.” But she ended up following Ehlo anyway.

“Like you’re not.”

Before they turned at the hallway again, Qiao Qiao came out from Jacky’s room.

“Leaving him a message?” Ehlo asked.

“His camera is gone,” Qiao Qiao said.

“I swear you look disappointed.”

Ehlo and Angela walked back to the sofa with Qiao Qiao.

“He took it with him?” Ehlo suggested.

“Not sure,” Qiao Qiao said halfheartedly. “Or maybe he changed the location.”

“Great. I have a creepy roommate and I never knew.”

“Could you guys stop talking?” Chen Yi asked, annoyed. “We’re playing here.”

Chen Yi, Achel, and Yan Yan were playing some card game right now.

“Like talking would break your concentration,” Qiao Qiao mumbled.

“You know how loud you are,” Chen Yi reminded her. “It breaks our concentration.”

Qiao Qiao hit Chen Yi on the head lightly.

Achel giggled. “Told you not to mess with Qiao.”

“That was low,” Chen Yi said. “I wasn’t prepared.”

“If someone were to attack you, would they tell you?” Qiao Qiao jumped in. “Duh! Of course not!”

“Hey! That was cheating!”

“No, it’s not!” Achel shouted over his voice. “I won!”

Chen Yi turned to Qiao Qiao. “Thanks a lot!”

“You’re welcome,” Qiao Qiao said with a wide smile.

Yan Yan shuffled the cards and began to distribute them out. She stopped after giving one card to all of them and turned to Qiao Qiao. “You want to play?”

“Sure.” Qiao Qiao sat down next to Achel at that time.

“Oh goody, we can see Chen Yi has a less chance of winning now,” Achel continued in that same cheerful tone as before.

Chen Yi stared at Achel. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Achel smiled. “It means what it means.”

“Weirdo,” Chen Yi mumbled to himself.

Yan Yan was done distributing the cards so they were picking it up to prepare for the round. Ehlo and Angela stood there to watch them play. Ehlo glanced around and pulled two chairs up for him and Angela. Just then, someone’s phone rang.

“It’s mine,” Qiao Qiao said.

The others went back to organizing their cards.

“Hello?” Qiao Qiao said into the phone.

“Qiao?” A girl’s voice asked. “Are you still at the guys’ house?”

“Yeah. You need me home?”

“I need you to check something with Jacky.”

Qiao Qiao hesitated. “Orchids, I forgot to tell you he’s not here right now. He left town like yesterday already. “

“Oh? What happened? I called him earlier but he seemed to have shut his phone off. I thought I would call you instead.”

“It’s a long story but we got it sort out now. I’ll tell you later.”

The others were signaling to Qiao Qiao to start the game so she ended up placing the phone on her neck so she could use her hands to play.

“What were you going to tell me though?” Qiao Qiao continued.

“I was going to tell you to pass words to Jacky that whenever he’s ready, we found some potential candidates for him already,” Orchids said back. “He can come in and take a look when he has time.”

Qiao Qiao wrinkled her face. “What?” Chen Yi just went so it was Qiao Qiao’s turn now.  She put down a card before focusing on the conversation with Orchids again. “What candidate? I thought you were setting Ehlo up with someone.”

Everyone stopped what they were doing and turned to look at Ehlo–even the ones in the kitchen.

“Don’t look at me!” Ehlo yelled out. He turned to look at Qiao Qiao for an explanation.

“I’ll get back to you in a bit,” Qiao Qiao mouthed the words to Ehlo. She focused on her conversation with Orchids again. “Why did the focus turn to Jacky?”

“Ehlo said he was going on Jacky’s behalf,” Orchids explained. “Is Cyndi there with you? She knows.”

“Yeah, she’s here. And what in the world? Jacky’s not desperate.”

“Qiao…”

“I’m just kidding. But seriously, Jacky already has someone. He doesn’t need our help.”

“So this was all a misunderstanding?”

“I guess so. But you can leave the file aside for the future. In the meantime, I’ll make someone cough out some money for you. Such a waste of time too.”

“It’s all right. I was going to do it as a gift for Jacky anyway. But if he already has someone, then I’ll just forget it.”

“Still…”

“Qiao…”

“I know my limits.”

“All right. But don’t do anything rash, okay?”

“Got it. See you later then.” She finally got the phone off her neck and clicked it shut.

Somehow, Ming Dao and the others had managed to come back into the living and were standing in front of the coffee table–a little behind Chen Yi’s seat–to wait for Qiao Qiao’s answer.

Qiao Qiao turned to Ehlo. “You pulled a trick on Jacky, didn’t you?”

“Qiao, what happened?” Yan Yan asked.

Qiao Qiao turned to the general crowd.  “When he came back with me to the agency ‘cause Jacky wants to find him a girlfriend, he ended up turning the thing around and played a prank on Jacky. He said…”

“ …Jacky is the one who needs to find a girlfriend but is too shy to say it out, so Jacky sent him instead to provide some information,” Cyndi finished.

“And you believed him?” Wallace asked Cyndi, not believing that she would fall for such words. “Don’t you know him at all?”

“How should I know? I don’t hang around him much to know.”

Qiao Qiao turned to Cyndi. “And you didn’t tell the rest of us?”

“Qiao, it was probably confidential,” Wallace reminded her of such circumstances.

Cyndi nodded. “He requested it to be kept a secret.”

“Considering how secretive Jacky can be, you bought it?” Wallace asked, turning back to Cyndi again.

Cyndi nodded again.

“Great,” Qiao Qiao muttered. She turned to Ehlo. “You’re so going to pay for that one.”

“What?” Ehlo asked, putting on his innocent smile. “It’s a harmless joke.”

“And Orchids even personally handled the case.”

“I’ll just compensate for the damage then.”

“No need. You’ll have to sign your life to the agency to pay Orchids back.”

“Last I heard, you guys aren’t hiring anymore.”

“After I leave, they will.”

Ming Dao, Bianca, Wallace, and Sam had already gone back to the kitchen after realizing nothing exciting was going on. Cyndi had followed them, not wanting to witness another fight between Ehlo and Qiao Qiao.

“Uh…” He glanced around the table.

Chen Yi looked at Ehlo. “Well? Want to compete with me who can handle more cases before I quit too?”

“Please,” Qiao Qiao said. “If you want to compete, compete with someone at your own level. Like Simon. Ehlo’s probably new and…”

Chen Yi wrinkled his face. “Why are you defending him?”

“I’m not. I’m just saying the truth.”

“You are defending him.”

Qiao Qiao put on her mischievous smile. “I’m just merely trying to lure him in so he can pay back our loss, okay?”

Chen Yi smiled. “That’s more like it.”

“Hey, kids!” Ming Dao called out from the kitchen. “Let’s go eat!”

Qiao Qiao snapped her attention toward that direction. “Who are you calling ‘kids’?”

“He probably meant the rest of them, not you,” Ehlo clarified.

Chen Yi turned to give Ehlo an evil glare before resuming the game since it was his turn.

Angela and Sonia already left after hearing some exchange from Ehlo, Qiao Qiao, and Chen Yi. Now, only the ones that were still playing games were left–with Ehlo.

After the “glare” incident, the living room became extremely quiet–except constant sounds of cards slamming on the coffee table. After another five minutes, Achel jumped up from her seat and declared victory–yet again.

Chen Yi got up also. “What in the world?! I don’t believe you’re that lucky. Let’s try again.”

Qiao Qiao jumped up also. “No way! Let’s go eat.” She began to walk toward the kitchen as Yan Yan put the cards away into its original box.

As Qiao Qiao stepped into the kitchen, she couldn’t resist the aroma anymore. She didn’t bother to stick around for breakfast this morning since Vincent came over to visit. It would be suicidal to eat breakfast with them. She grabbed a plate from the dishwasher next to the sink and managed to scoop some food into the plate before sliding into the seat next to Wallace. Angela and Sonia had sat at the dining table instead of the counter like the others. Sam was with the other two girls too, so that left two empty spots–one next to Qiao Qiao and the other next to Cyndi. Qiao Qiao ate quietly for a couple minutes while listening in on the conversation that Ming Dao and Wallace have been carrying on since when. Ming Dao was trying to convince Wallace of something. Qiao Qiao was only half listening until the random discussion turned into an argument between Ming Dao and Chen Yi.

It seemed Ehlo and Chen Yi had finally decided to join them in the kitchen. Achel and Yan Yan had already gotten some food and were sitting out in the living room, eating and chatting among themselves. Strangely, Ehlo was the one who was sitting next to Qiao Qiao while Chen Yi was standing next to Ehlo, eating and talking. Or more like debating with Ming Dao.

“Would you guys quit it already?” Qiao Qiao snapped, giving them both glares.

“Hey, I’m just trying to tell him what art is about,” Chen Yi justified himself.

“It’s their bonding that made everything work more than just their talent,” Ming Dao said firmly.

“Who?” Qiao Qiao asked.

“The Soulless Duo,” Bianca answered.

“Not Soulless Duo, the Soulfest Duo,” Ming Dao corrected her, slightly annoyed.

“Oh. Okay then.”

“Oh, them,” Qiao Qiao said, getting it. “And what in the world were you arguing about?”

“Weren’t you paying attention at all?” Chen Yi asked, turning to her.

“Was busy eating.”

Chen Yi rolled his eyes. But somehow, he didn’t say any smart-aleck words to aggravate her. He cleared his throat before speaking up again. “I was saying how it’s their talent that got them their fame and he’s saying it has to do with their bonding.”

Qiao Qiao looked like she was mulling things over. She was sort of staring up into space.

“Are you trying to find a way to break it to them that it’s silly to fight over such issue?” Bianca asked, smiling. “You can tell them.”

Qiao Qiao gave them her attention again. “Actually, if they have real talents, their fame would be consistent. If they just rely on some other factors, then they will sink when those worshipers find something else to fawn over.”

“What kind of answer is that?” Ehlo asked, turning to her.

“Just saying. But I wonder what in the world does art has to do with their bonding? It just so happens that they get along with one another. Friendship can do that too, not just because they’re brothers.”

Chen Yi turned to Ming Dao with a victory smile. “See?”

“Having her agree with you doesn’t mean everyone else thinks so,” Ming Dao retorted.

“Quit it already,” Qiao Qiao chided. “Can’t you two eat in peace? It’s just a matter of difference in opinions. Don’t have to tear at each other. If you like their art, it doesn’t matter for what reason.”

“Wow,” Chen Yi said, sounding amazed. “Qiao being the peace-maker?”

Qiao Qiao gave him a look. “If you were next to me, I already punched you out.”

“Who just said something about eating in peace?” Ehlo jumped in.

Qiao Qiao turned and hit Ehlo on the shoulder. “See what I mean?”

Chen Yi laughed. “That’s why it’s not good to sit next to her.”

“Quit it already,” Bianca interfered this time. “Let’s talk about something else.”

“But I really want to go to their event though,” Ming Dao said, his voice almost whining. Or was that an attempt to lure others to go with him?

“You could go alone, you know,” Chen Yi pointed out, looking at Ming Dao. “Who knows? You could meet some cute girls there.” He put on his teasing smile.

“Aren’t there already enough cute girls to go around in this room?” Ehlo asked.

“They’re all off limit one way or another,” Chen Yi clarified, wrinkling his face. “And cute? Okay, if you count Xiao Yu–the rest are… quite scary at times, you know.”

“Including Yan?” Qiao Qiao asked with a puzzled look.

“Why do you think she became friends with you? She’s got some hidden psycho personality too.”

“Hey!”

“What about Cyndi though?” Ming Dao asked, his turn to be confused.

Chen Yi smiled. “She and Wallace are sort of like Jacky and Sonia, except it’s more subtle with them.”

Cyndi smiled without answering while Wallace shook his head at Chen Yi. He ended up smiling in the end. Angela looked their way once before resuming her conversation with Sonia.

“That’s an interesting comparison,” Wallace said.

“Weren’t you two the ones who made me join the team on the first day?” Chen Yi asked, reminding them of the incident. “You both trapped me.”

“If Qiao wasn’t in, would you be in then?”

Chen Yi swallowed before speaking although he wasn’t chewing anything to begin with. “Uh…nice try. But no. I thought it was interesting, remember?”

Wallace put on his victory smile. “Got him.”

“I didn’t admit anything.”

“You swallowed before speaking,” Ming Dao analyzed. “And you stuttered for a second.”

“Are you guys taking over Jacky’s job?” Chen Yi asked, annoyed.

“What are you talking about?”

“Teasing other people.”

“We’re not teasing anyone,” Wallace said. “We’re just uncovering the truth.”

Johnny had disappeared into his room awhile back, but appeared again in front of them at that time. He pointed at his wristwatch. “Guys, better hurry if you want to play at all today.”

“What’s your hurry?” Ehlo asked, turning to him.

“Photo-shoot later.”

“Oh. Then maybe we should cancel the match so you won’t be so worn out by then.”

“Anything is fine with me. Depends on you guys.”

“Everyone!” Ehlo called for attention but it wasn’t necessary since everyone was just having side conversations.

Everyone in the kitchen and living room turned to look at Ehlo.

“Want to start the match today or next time?”

“It’s better next time since I just thought of something I need to do,” Qiao Qiao inputted.

Ehlo turned to the others.

“If we’re suddenly occupied, I think we might as well cancel it,” Ming Dao chimed in.

“Okay then,” Johnny said. “I’ll just go to the site early and see how things are. Maybe they’re already there and we might start earlier.”

“Good luck then,” Ehlo mumbled.

The others said their goodbyes to Johnny and went back to eating and chatting again after he left the room.

Angela turned to the ones at the counter. “So much for a match, huh?”

“Hey, if not everyone can concentrate fully, we might as well delay the match than lose,” Ehlo pointed out, sounding a bit defensive.

“It’s just a game, what’s the big deal? Isn’t it just for fun?”

“You just said it’s a game. Of course the most important thing is to win. Duh!”

Everyone laughed at that comment–except for Cyndi and Sonia who were trying to be polite.

“Hey!” Angela shouted.

“Give up already, you’re not my match,” Ehlo said.

“Sometimes I wonder if you two have something going on behind our backs,” Ming Dao commented. “And your arguments are just to cover up the relationship.”

Ehlo turned to Ming Dao. “Didn’t you hear me call her ‘my fiancée’? Of course we’re involved.”

“I thought you were kidding.”

“Don’t listen to him!” Angela shouted about the same time as Ming Dao.

Qiao Qiao got up from her seat at that time and went to the sink to dispose her plate and utensils. She turned back to the others to see who else was done. She ended up collecting everyone’s dishes as Bianca was getting out a lemonade thermo from the fridge. “How did you manage to prepare lunch and desserts in such a short time?”

Bianca smiled. “Teamwork.”

Qiao Qiao had collected all the dishes and was getting ready to wash the dishes.

“You can leave it,” Bianca said. “I’ll do them.”

Qiao Qiao smiled. “It’s all right.” She turned to Bianca briefly. “You’re helping me with my interview later, right?”

Bianca left Qiao Qiao at the tasks and went back to the counter to help Ming Dao divide the desserts among them all. Bianca made sure to set one portion aside for Qiao Qiao.

The guys were chatting among themselves again, excluding the girls this time. Bianca joined Angela, Sonia, and Sam after she was done helping Ming Dao. Cyndi went back to the living room to chat with Achel and Yan Yan as she was bringing them their desserts.

After Qiao Qiao was done with washing dishes, she and Bianca left the place, heading back to Orchids’ house to get some information as well as preparing for the interview tomorrow. The others were still involved in some type of conversation. So much for gathering to witness a “real” match. It was just another boring day after all.

When there were only guys left at the place–excluding Chen Yi and Wallace who had volunteered to take the girls home, Ming Dao turned to Ehlo.

“Don’t give me that look,” Ehlo said, pointing at Ming Dao.

“What?” Ming Dao returned. “I’m just going to ask you something.”

“What?”

“Do you really like Angela?”

“Are you kidding me?” Ehlo asked back, a bit amused. He grabbed his water glass. “I was trying to annoy her without losing my temper. Clever, eh?” He turned the amused look into a mischievous one. “Besides…”

“Besides?” Sam prompted.

“I want to find out if she still likes Wallace or have she shifted her target to…”

“Who?”

“Jacky.”

“No way!”

“Well, why not?”

“It’s too strange to imagine.”

“Anything can happen in love and war.”

“That means…” Ming Dao hesitated.

Sam turned to Ming Dao. “That means Ehlo still likes Qiao. He’s just being nosy about Angela’s affair.”

“Oh…okay then.” Ming Dao got up at that time.

“What’s that expression supposed to mean?” Ehlo asked, eyeing Ming Dao suspiciously.

“Nothing,” Ming Dao muttered, looking from Ehlo to Sam. “You guys want to go shoot some hoops? We still have plenty of times since the others bailed out.”

“Sure, why not?”

“There are only 3 of us though,” Sam said.

“The better, don’t you think?”

Ming Dao wrinkled his face. “Huh?”

“We played like how you, Chen Yi, and Bianca played before, covering for ourselves and taking advantage of the opportunity while one person is blocking the other to…” He motioned with his hands at the same time. “… shoot the basket!”

“Oh! Okay then.”

“Let’s go before it gets dark,” Sam said eagerly.

They made their way to the front door, making sure the door was locked this time before heading to Ming Dao and Sam’s backyard again.

© Saturday, June 28th, 2008

Posted: Sunday, February 6th, 2011

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