Chapter 16 – Complications

The event lasted about two hours long. When the show was over, Ming Dao and Qiao Qiao stayed in their seats until most of the people either gathered around the stage for pictures with the painters or scrambled over to the artwork displays before getting up themselves since they didn’t want to be step over.

“Where to now?” Ming Dao asked when they were walking along their row.

“I’m going to get their book and signatures,” Qiao Qiao said.

“You serious?” Ming Dao asked, eyeing the crowd.

“It’s like one of those once in a lifetime thing.”

“True.”

They got in line and had to wait for an equally long amount of time. Possibly half an hour until it was their turn.

“I would like two copies,” Qiao Qiao said to the person at the book table.

“Two?” Ming Dao asked while Qiao Qiao was paying.

She continued onto the signature table, which was the next table over. “One for me.”

“You want both signed?” One of the painters asked.

Qiao Qiao smiled. “Yes, please, sir.”

“One for yourself and one for selling?” He joked, scribbling his name on the bottom.

“Can you write our names on the top?” Qiao Qiao asked, pointing to the corner where she wanted the writing to be. “One for each, that is.”

She painter smiled, knowing how Qiao Qiao had answered his question indirectly. “What will this one be?”

“To Qiao Qiao,” Qiao Qiao said, pointing to herself.

“And this one?”

“Can you hand it to your brother so he could write that part for the second one?”

The painter smiled at the strange request but handed it to his brother anyway. “Would you want your copy with my name only then?”

“Both.”

“All right.” He handed Qiao Qiao’s copy to his brother as well–since he had already signed it.

Qiao Qiao sent him a smile full of gratitude. “Thanks!”

“What would the name be for this one, Miss?” The brother asked as Qiao Qiao stepped toward him.

“To Chen Yi,” Qiao Qiao replied.

He wrote just that before signing at the bottom and closing the cover for both, handing it gingerly to Qiao Qiao with a smile. She returned the smile and stepped out of line. She waited for Ming Dao at the side, not wanting to slow others down.

“Worth the experience?” She asked when he came toward her.

“So why didn’t Chen Yi come himself?” Ming Dao asked, having heard her earlier.

“He hates waiting,” Qiao Qiao replied.

“Oh.”

They made their way out of the theater.

“Where to now?” Ming Dao asked when they were out in the street again.

“I have the rest of the day off,” Qiao Qiao said. “Want to go to the mall?”

“Let’s go show Bianca this so she could be jealous!”

Qiao Qiao shook her head at Ming Dao’s childish attempt yet she must admit they had a right to be bragging. “Sure.”

*****

They arrived at the mall half an hour later, grabbing some ice cream and browsing some random shops before searching for Bianca. Ming Dao knew she had a break around that time so it wasn’t like they were interfering with her work. And he was right since they found her sitting at a bench just outside of the food court. She was actually reading a book and chewing on an apple at the same time.

“Miss Bookworm!” Ming Dao called out, alarming Bianca into alertness.

“Hey, you two!” Bianca greeted them with a smile after shutting the book. “Didn’t expect to see you two here.”

Ming Dao turned to Qiao Qiao. “We lost our bragging rights.”

Qiao Qiao had spotted the cover as well. But she still had her smile on. “No, we didn’t.” She walked over and sat down on Bianca’s left, pulling out the book and placing it in front of Bianca’s vision line. “Watch!”

“The same book,” Bianca commented.

“Don’t blink.” Qiao Qiao flipped open the book and revealed the signatures.

“Whoa!” Bianca exclaimed, turning to Qiao Qiao. “You went?”

Qiao Qiao had on her proud smile, nodding. “Yes.”

It was until then that Ming Dao walked over to them and settled down on Bianca’s right. “Same here.”

Bianca turned to him. “I’ll trade you.”

Ming Dao had on his arrogant smile. “No deal.”

She used her book to hit him since she already handed Qiao Qiao’s book back. “That’s mean.”

Ming Dao shrugged. “Too bad. You didn’t go.”

“Forget you.” She turned to Qiao Qiao. “So, did you have fun?” She was displaying her teasing expression.

“If you think we went together as a date, then it wasn’t,” Qiao Qiao said, knowing that smile.

“No fun,” Bianca said, taking a bite out of her apple.

“How do you like it so far then?” Ming Dao asked, pointing at the book in Bianca’s hand.

“So far, so good. I think they should become authors instead of painters. I mean their art isn’t as impressive as their writing techniques, you know.”

“What are you talking about?” Ming Dao asked, sounding a bit defensive. “You should have seen them today.”

Bianca shrugged, taking another bite of her apple. “Oh well, it’s a matter of opinions.”

He pointed to the book again. “How far are you?”

“Chapter 5. It’s getting interesting.”

“It just came out today. When did you buy it?”

“An hour ago. Bethany got it for me while she was on break.”

Ming Dao’s eyes widened. “Whoa! But these are long chapters.”

“It was addicting though.” She glanced at her watch real quick. “Gotta go. I promised to cover for Stevie. See you guys later then.”

Ming Dao and Qiao Qiao got up and walked with Bianca to her shop. They waved goodbye to her as she rushed inside. Ming Dao turned to Qiao Qiao again after watching Bianca disappeared behind the front counter.

“So, want to get out of here?” Ming Dao asked, gesturing toward one of the entrances.

Qiao Qiao nodded. “Might as well.”

They walked the rest of the way in silence until they were back out in the sun again.

“Strange,” Ming Dao mumbled, looking at his watch. “Didn’t realize we’re this late.”

The sun was almost setting.

Qiao Qiao smiled. “Yes. End of another day.”

“It’s getting dark soon. Want me to take you home?”

Qiao Qiao shook her head. “It’s okay.”

“No. It’s not right to let you go home alone. Come on.”

Qiao Qiao could hear the sincerity in Ming Dao’s voice so she nodded her head.

*****

Johnny said goodbye to his manager before getting into a Taxi. He knew he still had a little time so he decided to stop at the mall and pick up the tuxedo for Ehlo. They hit traffic ten minutes later, but managed to arrive in front of the mall about twenty minutes later. Johnny paid the driver quickly and stepped out of the car. He walked briskly toward the side entrance, hoping that the shop wasn’t closed yet. He remembered Ehlo saying something about it being closed early today but wasn’t sure. He honestly hoped it was not today. He scanned the area and was relief that the shop wasn’t closed until 7. He still had time. As he was walking by the food court, he spotted Bianca sitting at a bench just outside of it, reading a book. He walked over to her and stood in front of her. She seemed unaware of his presence. He couldn’t help but smiled at her placid face. She looked so adorable when she was so engrossed in reading a book. He finally cleared his throat to announce his presence. Bianca finally looked up.

Bianca smiled. “Hi! What are you doing here?”

Johnny sat down next to her. “Picking something up for Ehlo. How about you? Off work yet?”

Bianca shook her head. “Was supposed to be off work already, but I’m covering for a friend later.”

“What are you reading?”

Bianca held up the book cover for him to see.

“What chapter are you on?”

“Four.”

Johnny smiled. “Wait until you get to Chapter 5. It’s quite interesting.”

“When did you buy it? It just released this morning.”

“Actually, I’m going to buy it later.”

“Oh? How come you know Chapter 5 is interesting then?”

“Borrowed from one of the crews while we were doing a shoot today. Some equipment was having problems. So we stuck around until it was fixed since none of us wanted to come back tomorrow.”

“Oh.”

Johnny looked at his watch. “Anyway, I’m going to pick up a particular item for Ehlo and get out of here before traffic hits again. Have fun reading, okay?” He got up and started to walk away.

“Hey! Wait!”

Johnny turned around to face her again. He could see a piece of paper in her extended hand. He took a step toward her again. “What is it?”

“Discount for the book.”

Johnny took the coupon from her. “What about you though?”

Bianca waved the book in her hand. “Do I look like I need it?”

“That means…?”

“Bethany used her coupon to buy the book for me since she got it in the mail, but wasn’t interested in the book at all. So I still have mine with me. I was going to give it to Ming Dao, but it’s only good for today and I’m not going to see him anyway.”

“Oh. Okay. Thanks then.”

Bianca smiled. “You’re welcome.”

“Then I’ll be going now.”

“Yeah. Bye.”

Johnny departed for the tux shop after that as Bianca went back to her book again.

As he entered the shop, a salesperson smiled at him. He smiled back and walked straight toward the cashier. He waited patiently as someone was talking away a storm with the cashier. Ten minutes later, it was finally his turn.

“Hi,” The cashier greeted him with a smile. “How may I help you today?”

“I’m picking up a tuxedo for a friend,” Johnny said, handing her the receipt.

The cashier studied it carefully before turning to Johnny again. “Please wait here, sir, I’ll be right back.”

Johnny gave her a polite smile before she headed toward the back area.

Apparently, that person wasn’t “right back” like she promised. He had to wait for another five minutes before she came back.

“I apologize for the delay, sir,” The cashier said in an utmost apologetic tone. “The orders were mixed up somehow, but we managed to find a replacement for it in storage.”

“Can I take a look?” Johnny asked, extending his hand.

She handed him the bag. “Of course.”

Johnny inspected it carefully, making sure it was as Ehlo requested or as close as possible before turning back to the cashier. The cashier took the package from him and wrapped it up before bagging it. Then she handed the bag to Johnny with a smile.  He thanked her and exited the shop.

Johnny headed straight toward the bookstore to buy the book before making his way back outside. He wondered if Bianca was still around as he made his way back to the food court. He spotted her still at the same spot, but with two people. Then he almost dropped both of his bags when he recognized the other two. Bianca was chatting away happily with the two. He watched them for about ten minutes more before Bianca looked at her watch and got up from the bench. Johnny had to dodge out of the way as he saw the three coming his way. After Bianca was back into her shop, he looked back at where Ming Dao and Qiao Qiao were. He followed a distance behind them and saw that they were hauling a Taxi. He wondered where they were going. Luckily, he managed to haul a Taxi and instructed the driver to follow them. The sun’s setting soon, where could they possibly be heading? He finally knew the answer when the car ahead stopped in front of a road separating into a different row of houses. Actually, it seemed like it was entering a different world of its own. Johnny told the driver to stop and paid before getting out. He dodged under a tree and followed them at a distance as they turned toward a luxurious road ahead. He was glad that they never turned around the whole way there.

*****

Ming Dao and Qiao Qiao got out of the Taxi after paying.

“So…this is it, huh?” Ming Dao said.

“It’s actually down that way,” Qiao Qiao clarified. “But you can go if you want.”

“It’s all right. I said I’ll walk you home, right?”

They continued on their way until Qiao Qiao turned into a smaller road down the way. Contrary to the surrounding houses, the houses here looked quite ordinary–run-down even. Qiao Qiao laughed at Ming Dao’s puzzled look.

“It’s not that run-down on the inside,” She said. “The houses here are mostly for filming.”

“Oh. Didn’t realize you live near those places.”

“I got used to them already. I mean after almost half a year living here, you’re no longer amazed with anything.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. My parents love to travel so they finally insisted that I move in with Orchids so they wouldn’t have to worry so much about me being at home alone with the staffs.”

Ming Dao smiled. “Poor little rich girl, huh?”

“Are you mocking me?”

Ming Dao raised his hands in surrender. “I wouldn’t dare, Miss Zeng.”

Qiao Qiao turned left again at the end of that block, taking them back into the view of luxurious houses.

“Why didn’t you take the Taxi the whole way home, but walk around in the neighborhood like this?” Ming Dao pondered.

“Call me paranoid, but I don’t like to let others know where I live, especially strangers.”

“You have a point. I mean look at this place.”

They walked the rest of the way in silence as Ming Dao took in the place.

When they arrived in front of Orchids’ house, it looked quite ordinary from the surrounding houses.

Qiao Qiao spotted Ming Dao’s expression. “Orchids doesn’t like to show off.”

Ming Dao laughed.

“What’s so funny?”

“Nothing. All right. I guess this is it, huh?”

Qiao Qiao nodded. “I guess so. It’s dark already so be careful.”

“Yeah, thanks.”

“And don’t go the same way we came from. You can go to the end of the block that way …” She pointed toward her left. “…and then you can catch a Taxi from there.”

“All right. Thanks.”

“Bye.”

Qiao Qiao watched Ming Dao’s back disappearing farther and farther away from her view before turning back to her place. She walked tiredly into the house, having mixed feelings about the day. She ended up smiling as she hugged the bag consisted of the two books in her hands.

*****

Why in the world would someone stop so far away from their home? Johnny began to regret why he bothered following them in the first place. He was about to turn back when he saw them stopping in front of an ordinary house. He hid himself in the shadow of a house across the street as he tried to make out what they were saying, but failed. Why are they talking so soft? Even though the place was somewhat deserted right now, but he couldn’t hear what they were saying since the crickets were chirping so loud. It was not the peak of the night. How come those crickets are chirping so loud? He could see Ming Dao finally leaving. He turned to leave himself as he saw Qiao Qiao walking into her house. But out of the corner of his eye, he could see someone lurking in the shadow. He could see it because a car just passed by, revealing the person’s hiding place. He couldn’t make out that person’s feature since the little light from the car only allowed him to see it was someone, not the person’s features. He decided to dismiss it since he didn’t want to get lost. He increased his pace and followed Ming Dao from the opposite side again, seeing where Ming Dao was heading. He suspected it was a shortcut so he didn’t want to be at lost and have to go back the long way to haul a Taxi home.

When Johnny was finally in a Taxi, following Ming Dao’s Taxi again, he pondered aimlessly about things. How in the world was he going to break it to Ehlo? How in the world was he supposed to act in front of Ming Dao now? Pretend he didn’t see? What about Chen Yi? Did Chen Yi know? And Bianca. How much did Bianca know? He scratched his head as his brain spun with so many questions in mind. Jacky would know what to do in such situations. Where was he when they most needed him? No, wait. Maybe Jacky didn’t know either. If he did, would he run away just like that after something so complicated happened? But then Johnny can’t blame Jacky. He probably needed a break anyway.

Johnny was so glad when he finally made it home and gave Ehlo his tuxedo. After knowing Ehlo had no complaints, he headed for his room. He needed a shower desperately to wash away all these stressful things. Maybe it was a bad idea after all to snoop on Ming Dao and Qiao Qiao.

© Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

Posted: Monday, February 7th, 2011

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