Chapter 18 – The Showdown

Around 4:45, Yan Yan came back to Orchids Agency. Wallace and Simon were the only ones around.

“Hey you!” Wallace greeted her. “How’s it going?”

“I swear my luck got worst after I ran into that arrogant, smart-mouth whoever he was,” Yan Yan said in an irritated tone.

Cyndi and Qiao Qiao came back from Orchids’ office at that time.

Cyndi smiled. “Back?”

Yan Yan nodded.

Qiao Qiao walked to Yan Yan. “What’s wrong?”

“Sun Xie Zhi just turned her luck,” Wallace said.

Qiao Qiao sat down at her desk. “I’m guessing it’s for the worst.”

Yan Yan sat down next to Qiao Qiao. “Such an annoyance.” She turned to Wallace. “He’s not coming back, is he?”

Wallace shrugged his shoulders. “No. Probably not today. Why?”

“Just want to make sure that I’m safe for now.” She looked around. “What happened to Chen Yi?”

“Meeting with his latest client,” Wallace said.

“Oh.” She cleared her throat at that time. “Okay, everyone. Let’s resume our conversation.”

Wallace put on an amused look. “You mean the whole showdown to see who gets to go to S.H.E.’s concert with you?”

Yan Yan smiled. “Yes.”

“Let’s see…” Wallace drawled out for dramatic effects, tapping his pen on his desk. “…Qiao’s in so that means two more tickets. And…” Before he could continue, Cyndi burst out laughing. He stopped his tapping and turned to her. “What?”

“You make it sound like we’re getting ready for some disaster strike or something,” Cyndi said.

“Come on now. It’s S.H.E.”

“How about we all put our names into this cup,” Cyndi suggested, pointing to the pencil cup in front of her. “….and let Yan Yan select the names out? Whoever gets chosen will go.”

“Not a bad idea,” Wallace said, turning to Yan Yan. “Well?”

“Might as well,” Yan Yan said. “Since it wouldn’t go anywhere if we keep debating it.”

Cyndi emptied the pencils and pens out of the cup before rustling around the desk to find a piece of paper. She tore it up into small pieces enough for writing down their names before handing one to each of them.

“What about Chen Yi?” Yan Yan asked, looking from one to the other.

Wallace was writing down his name when he heard Yan Yan’s question. “We’re going to wait for him to come back. He won’t be long since it’s closing time soon and he was gone like an hour ago.”

“Okay then.” She turned to Simon. “Interested?”

“You guys go ahead,” Simon said with a polite smile.

“Not a fan?”

Simon smiled. “It’s not that. I got tickets ahead of time already.”

The others turned to him.

Simon could feel the little tension building up. Feeling like he needed to explain, he cleared his throat quickly before continuing. “My girlfriend’s a fan.”

“Oh…” The others said at the same time. Then they went back to filling out their names or paperwork.

“Hmm…if…” Qiao Qiao mumbled.

Wallace looked up at her since he was done with filling out his name and folding it up. He stayed silent for her to continue.

“Never mind,” Qiao Qiao said quickly.

“What’s with…”

“Don’t start,” Cyndi jumped in.

Wallace turned to Cyndi. “What?”

“If you’re going to say ‘Girls, always saying half and leaving half open’ then don’t say it.”

“Since you already said it for me?”

Cyndi put her name into the cup before turning to Wallace again. She was about to deliver a counter-strike when they heard the door open.

“You’re just in time for our final showdown for…” He couldn’t finish because the person at the door wasn’t Chen Yi.

Yan Yan finally turned around since she saw Wallace’s expression. She jumped up from her seat. “It’s you again? Why don’t you just get lost?”

Wallace got up also. “Yan…”

Yan Yan turned to Wallace. “What?!”

Wallace could see the irritated look on her face, but he knew he must handle the situation at hand. He lowered his voice a bit so Tony couldn’t hear them. “Orchids still needs to talk to him about something.”

“Oh. Okay then.” She sat back down and distracted herself with looking over Qiao Qiao’s shoulder as Qiao Qiao was scanning through the database for her latest case.

Qiao Qiao was not covering the information up because there were only pictures showing up as she searched, not personal information. The information only showed up when she clicked into the picture itself.

As Wallace was explaining to Yan Yan, Cyndi had gotten up also and was heading toward the door. Wallace joined her seconds later.

“Mr. Sun…” Cyndi began.

Tony put his hand up to stop Cyndi. “I’m not here to talk to you…” He saw Wallace walking up to them. “…two.” He turned his attention toward Yan Yan and continued on his way to her.

“Mr. Sun,” Cyndi attempted again, following him. “Orchids needs to talk to you about…”

Tony turned to her again. “You guys got the check, what’s the big deal?”

“That’s not how things work here.”

“How should it be operated then? Is this…” He gestured in the general direction. “…some type of military base where there should be orders and…”

“Mr. Sun…”

Wallace could see that Cyndi was getting impatient, so he stepped in front of her. “What Cyndi means is that we need your signature in the document before we can proceed to closing your case.”

“Oh. Then why didn’t you say so?” He looked at his watch real quick. “I have about ten minutes for that and then…”

“That would be enough. If you would please step into Orchids’ office with me.”

Tony glanced briefly at Yan Yan’s back before turning to Wallace. “All right then.”

Cyndi walked back to her desk after Wallace and Tony were finally in Orchids’ office.

Qiao Qiao could see Cyndi’s expression. “It’s not like you to look upset.”

Cyndi shook her head. “Not that. I’m just…”

Yan Yan looked at Orchids’ closed office door. “Who wouldn’t be upset with that arrogant…”

“Forget about him,” Qiao Qiao said, attempting to calm her down. “Almost time to go. Let’s grab a drink at…”

“Don’t say Go-Go Café. I’m sick of that place.”

“Wherever you want to go then.”

“How about Seahorse Café?”

“That’s fine. I could try a different drink this time around.”

“You’ve been there lately?”

“At lunch.”

“Oh…”

The door opened again at that time. Yan Yan turned around to see who. Her smile turned on as she saw Chen Yi walking in.

Chen Yi wrinkled his face. “Why are you all still here? I thought it’s closing time already.”

Yan Yan’s smile faded. “Guess who came back?”

“What’s with the monotone?” Chen Yi asked, shifting his eyes toward Orchids’ office door. “You mean…”

Yan Yan nodded. “Who else?”

Chen Yi walked toward them, tossing the folder in his hand on his desk before speaking up again. “Just ignore him. He’s probably just bored so he needs to find a target to pick on.”

“If he keeps it up, I’m going tell him to take his game somewhere else.”

Qiao Qiao finally got up from her seat and began to pack.

Chen Yi eyed her suspiciously. “Don’t tell me you have a gathering with some friends again.”

Qiao Qiao nodded. “Yup.”

Yan Yan saw Chen Yi’s expression. “Qiao meant us.”

“Oh,” Chen Yi muttered.

Qiao Qiao turned to him. “So start packing.”

Chen Yi went about cleaning up his work area and sorting out some folders as Qiao Qiao finished. “Where are we going then?”

“We’re going to Seahorse Café later,” Yan Yan informed him. “Let me call Xiao Yu to see if she wants to join us.”

They waited for Yan Yan to make the call in silence. After a few minutes of talking, Yan Yan hung up.

“She coming?” Chen Yi asked.

Yan Yan nodded. “Yes.”

“That’s good. Been a long time we haven’t gathered.”

Qiao Qiao wrinkled her face. “What do you mean? We just gathered like last Sunday.”

“I meant us four.”

“Oh.”

At that time, they heard the door to Orchids’ office open. They all turned to see. Somehow, Simon was still around although work ended about ten minutes back. It seemed like he wanted to stick around for the last show of the day.

Tony was the first one walking out of the office with Wallace trailing behind. They could see that Orchids was getting ready to leave also. She had gestured for Wallace to leave her door open.

“Ah…good that you’re still here, little lady,” Tony said upon seeing Yan Yan.

Yan Yan ignored Tony’s comment and turned to Chen Yi and Qiao Qiao. “Let’s go.”

“Wait a second.”

Yan Yan turned around abruptly. “I don’t know what your problem is, but…”

Before Yan Yan could finish, she saw Tony reaching toward her face with his right hand.

Yan Yan jumped back. “What are you doing?!”

Tony smiled. “My sunglasses.”

Yan Yan reached up toward her head and pulled down the pair of sunglasses that had been resting on her head since she came through the door about twenty minutes ago. The others seemed to see it also. It was very strange that they hadn’t noticed at all before. Yan Yan silently handed the sunglasses to Tony without a word for some strange reason. Tony took it from her, still smiling. She turned to leave with Chen Yi and Qiao Qiao after that brief contact.

“Hey,” Tony called out again.

Yan Yan turned around again. This time, she had her usual annoyed expression on like the previous times while addressing Tony. “What now? Don’t tell me I have your earrings.”

The others sniggered.

“No,” Tony said, tuning the others out. “Here.”

They could see him holding another pair of sunglasses on his left hand. He reached toward her and placed it on her head where the other pair had resided for so long earlier before Yan Yan could object.

“This one looks better on you. I picked it out at the shop just now. Nice or what?”

“Crazy,” Yan Yan mumbled as she turned to leave again.

Tony looked after her a bit more before leaving also. Before Tony reached the door, he saw Yan Yan turning around again. She raced past him and back toward Wallace and Cyndi. Chen Yi and Qiao Qiao caught up to her, running past Tony without caring if they were going to knock him down. He jumped out of the way in time.

“What happened now?” Wallace asked.

Yan Yan smiled. “Our showdown, remember?”

“Okay. Let’s get started then.”

Tony–who was standing at the door, walked back to them again since he was curious to see what they were up to.

Yan Yan saw him coming back to them. “What’s with you and stalking us?”

“I’m one of your clients,” Tony rattled out in his as a matter of fact tone.

“I don’t work here. And it’s after office hours.”

“Then how about…”

“How about just let him stand aside so he can satisfy his curiosity?” Cyndi jumped in.

Tony turned to Cyndi. “You’re not so bad yourself after all.”

“I’m not helping you. I just want to know the results as soon as possible.”

“Very straight-forward. I like it.”

“She’s my girlfriend,” Wallace interjected, his eyes piercing Tony’s but still maintaining a calm composure on the surface.

Tony glanced briefly at Wallace. “My bad then.”

“If you’re going to watch, could you shut your mouth then?” Yan Yan asked, glaring at Tony with the same hostility as before.

Tony smiled. “As you please.”

As if proving that he could cooperate with them, he took several steps back from them, waiting silently.

“Chen Yi,” Yan Yan prompted, handing him a blank piece of paper next to the pencil cup that still had three little folded up papers inside.

Chen Yi turned to Yan Yan for an explanation.

“Just write your name down.”

Chen Yi did as he was told. Then he handed it to Yan Yan. They watched as she folded the paper up, tossed it into the cup like the others, and mixed the contents up a bit before taking out a piece. As she was unfolding it, they heard the door being opened–yet again.

Yan Yan turned around in the process. “Could you people leave us alone for two seconds?!”

Then she stopped herself–although it was a bit too late. It was actually not some annoying pest, but Penny coming in with Melody.

“Sorry about that,” Wallace apologized on Yan Yan’s behalf. “We kept getting bothered, that’s why.”

“We should be sorry for barging in like that,” Penny said.

“It’s okay. Come on in.”

Melody walked toward them. “What are you guys up to? Why are you guys still here?”

Orchids came out of her office at that time, locking the door before joining them. She smiled upon seeing the group still gathered around the work area. “Not leaving yet?”

Yan Yan turned to Orchids. “Apparently we kept getting interrupted.”

“Let’s see what that piece said then,” Qiao Qiao urged.

Yan Yan returned to the task of unfolding the paper in her hand again. Her eyes brightened as she saw the name written on it.

Qiao Qiao saw the name also. “I swear you were holding it in your hand the whole time while mixing it.”

“Was not,” Yan Yan said defensively.

“Forget it,” Wallace said suddenly. “Doesn’t matter who gets the last ticket anymore. Invite Xiao Yu. I’m leaving.”

Wallace grabbed his briefcase as he made his way to the door. As if he forgot something–like the others before, he stopped midway and turned around to address them again. “Coming, Cyn?”

“Uh…” Cyndi managed, confused.

Wallace glanced at his watch. “If we leave now, we can beat the crowd at the mall.”

“I guess so.” She grabbed her handbag and joined Wallace at the door, wondering what he had to talk to her about this time.

Melody turned to Orchids. “What are they doing?”

“Wallace probably needs to talk to her about something again,” Orchids replied with a smile. “It’s one of the over-used excuses to get her out the door.”

“Oh,” Penny said absentmindedly.

Orchids turned to the others. “Okay, everyone. Can we all go home now?”

Simon got up from his seat. “Not much excitement, but I guess it’ll do for today.” Then he turned to Orchids. “Bye, Lady Boss.”

Orchids smiled at him.

After Simon left, Tony walked toward Yan Yan again. Yan Yan turned around at the same time and almost bumped into him. She took two quick steps backward in time.

“What now?!” Yan Yan exclaimed, her frustration escalating again.

“Just wondering what you guys were doing before,” Tony replied. “What were those names about?”

“None of your business.”

With that, she turned to leave with Chen Yi and Qiao Qiao. Tony tagged them to the door.

Orchids looked after them, smiling to herself. Unbelievable, she thought. Just then, her cell phone rang. She had been holding her cell phone while waiting for the result earlier, so she picked it up right away. “Hello?”

“Are you done yet?” A guy’s voice asked.

“Yeah. I’ll be out after I lock the door.”

“All right. See you.”

Orchids hung up and turned to Penny. “You two…”

“We were looking for Wallace,” Penny explained. “But guess he’s busy, so…”

“It’s all right. You want his number? That way you can get in touch with him better.”

“He gave it to us earlier, but…it’s okay. Since he’s busy.”

“He and Cyndi are probably out somewhere with Angela again. You girls can probably join them if you call about now.”

“Thanks, but it’s okay.”

Orchids locked up after the girls left. She arrived at her car to see a guy standing there waiting for her. She smiled and unlocked the door for the guy to get in. They drove off together a minute later.

*****

“Good morning, everyone,” A cheerful radio broadcaster greeted them all over the airwave. “I’m sure you’re very surprised to hear a new voice coming across the way this morning. I’m the new DJ the station just recruited yesterday. I’m happy to be with the station and to be part of this hard-working team. To start off the hour, I would like to share with you a song–one of my favorites–about friendship. Enjoy and I’ll be back with the topic in about five minutes.”

The song “Friends Forever” came on at that time. Qiao Qiao hit the radio button to turn it off and rolled around to the other side of her bed, covering her head with her blanket again. She was expecting some lively introduction, considering how aggressive Angela’s personality was. So much for an hour full of surprises. As she tried to go back to sleep, her cell phone went off. Without removing the blanket from her face, she rolled to the other side and reached toward the night stand with her left hand to retrieve the phone. She pulled it inside the blanket with her to answer.

“Hello?” Qiao Qiao said groggily into the phone.

“Are you listening to the radio?” Bianca asked.

Qiao Qiao yawned. “You mean that boring beginning?”

Bianca laughed. “It’s getting better now.”

“How much better?”

“Uh…are you all right? What’s wrong with your voice?”

Qiao Qiao pulled the blanket off her face. “Nothing. Just tired.”

“Oh! How inconsiderate of me. It’s still early.”

“Never mind. I had it set to listen in on KFT. But I was kind of disappointed so I turned it off already.”

“Since you’re up now, want to go for a drink?”

“Not now. I want to stay home some more.”

“What were you doing since yesterday afternoon? You sound really tired. Are you coming down with something?”

“Nah. Was trying to fend off Sun Xie Zhi last night. Can’t believe he’s so thick-skinned. He’s trying to annoy Yan on purpose.”

“Sun Xie Zhi? As in…”

“As in that annoying arrogant genius who just happened to stumbled into our agency one sunny day, but ended up empty-handed until now.”

Bianca laughed again. “You sound like some Hollywood movie narrator.”

Qiao Qiao yawned. “Do I?”

“Maybe I should let you sleep some more.”

Qiao Qiao yawned again. “Okay. I’ll call you in half an hour.”

“You don’t have to. Just meet Ming Dao and me at the local park.”

“The one near your house, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, bye.” She hung up without making sure if Bianca hung up or not. She tugged the cell phone into a wedge of her pillow before rolling to the other side and covering her face with the blanket again.

*****

Qiao Qiao didn’t wake up like planned. In fact, Orchids walked in to check on her an hour later to find her still in bed. Orchids walked over to her and peeled the blanket away from her face.

“Qiao!” Orchids called out.

Orchids walked to the other side of the bed to sit down, checking Qiao Qiao’s head in the process.

“Qiao, wake up,” Orchids urged anxiously.

Qiao Qiao mumbled something and rolled to the other side again. Orchids got up from the bed and walked out of the room, leaving the door ajar. She came back a few minutes later with a wet towel to put over Qiao Qiao’s head as she adjusted Qiao Qiao’s body to face upward again. As she was about to leave the room, she heard music coming from Qiao Qiao’s bed. She spotted Qiao Qiao’s cell phone stuffed next to the pillow seconds later, so she picked it up and answered it.

“Hello?”

“Orchids?” A girl’s voice asked.

“Yes. You are?”

“It’s Bianca. Is Qiao there?”

“Yes, but she’s coming down with a fever. I’m trying to get her fever down right now.”

“She’s sick? And I thought…”

“Calm down. I just found her when I was walking into her room. Was she up earlier or something?”

“Yeah. I called her about an hour or so ago. She said she would meet us here half an hour ago, but she never showed up. We thought she got caught in traffic or something but didn’t know she would…”

“I don’t mean to cut you off, but I’m going to get off the phone to tend to Qiao, okay?”

“All right. Call me if anything.”

“Okay.”

They hung up after that. It was more like Orchids clicked the phone shut and tossed it loosely next to Qiao Qiao’s pillow again. She turned to Qiao Qiao again to check on her. The towel was getting warm, so Orchids took it off Qiao Qiao’s forehead and stepped out of the room again.

About half an hour or so later, Orchids managed to lower Qiao Qiao’s fever to a safe level since Qiao Qiao’s face didn’t look as red as before. Qiao Qiao began to stir also.

“Qiao…” Orchids called out once again.

“Let me sleep some more. So tired…” Qiao Qiao muttered groggily like several hours before when Bianca called.

“How are you feeling? You want some water?”

Qiao Qiao nodded absentmindedly.

Orchids switched the towels for Qiao Qiao again as she got up from Qiao Qiao’s bed once more to go to the kitchen. As she was walking past main hall, she heard the doorbell dinging. Still with the wet towel in her hand, she stepped toward the door. She opened it to find Ming Dao, Bianca, Sam, Ehlo, Wallace, and Cyndi staring back at her. She couldn’t help but smiled at the scene.

“I guess our Qiao is very popular,” Orchids joked.

“Is she all right?” The others asked anxiously at the same time.

“She’s much better now. Her fever has already ceased. I’m just getting her some water now.”

Orchids stepped aside for the others to come in.

“I’ll help you,” Bianca volunteered. “I know where Qiao’s room is.”

“Thanks. I’m going to call Vincent and tell him to order more food.”

Cyndi stepped forward at that time to take the towel from Orchids’ hand and went into the kitchen to soak it with cold water.

“Uh…we’re fine,” Ming Dao said. “It’s okay. We’re just here to make sure Qiao’s okay.”

“You’ll be here for the majority of the day anyway,” Orchids teased.

Ming Dao let out a nervous smile. “Uh…”

“I’m joking. Go ahead.”

Ming Dao and the others followed Wallace’s lead to Qiao Qiao’s room as Orchids continued on her way to the kitchen to call Vincent. When they reached Qiao Qiao’s room, the guys–except for Wallace, stopped outside and looked in. Bianca was already by Qiao Qiao’s bed, checking her forehead to make sure she was all right.

Wallace turned to look at the others. “What are you guys waiting for? An invitation card? Come on.”

Ehlo scratched his head. “It’s just strange to enter a girl’s room like that.”

“That coming from Mr. Pervert?” Chen Yi’s voice said from outside.

They turned around and saw Chen Yi making his way into the room with Achel and Yan Yan behind him.

“Exactly,” Wallace agreed. “You guys are too funny. You insisted on coming about half an hour ago and now you’re all standing there, acting like some high school boys.” He turned back to look at Qiao Qiao, not caring to tease the other guys anymore. He pulled a chair up next to Qiao Qiao’s bed and sat down. He turned to Bianca–who was sitting at the other side of the bed. “How’s she doing?”

“She seems better,” Bianca said.

They could hear Cyndi’s voice at the door at that time.

“Would you guys move out of the way?” Cyndi requested. “Wet towel coming through.”

The other guys had no choice but to step into the room and stood on both sides of the door to make way for Cyndi.

“Let me,” Chen Yi volunteered bravely, not caring if the others were staring at him or not. He extended his hand toward Cyndi. “Here.”

Cyndi shrugged and handed Chen Yi the towel. They watched as Chen Yi walked toward Qiao Qiao, retrieving the current towel and then placing the new towel gently onto her forehead.

Bianca turned to Wallace. “Let me go get her some water since Orchids said she was getting Qiao some water earlier.”

Wallace nodded. Bianca got up to leave. All three guys at the door looked like they were fighting with themselves inside, trying to decide if they should step closer to Qiao Qiao’s bed.

Wallace couldn’t take it anymore so he turned to them again. “Could you all knock it off? Just treat her like your sister, then you won’t feel so awkward.”

“I don’t want to treat her like a sister!” All three guys yelled out at the same time.  Though they had no idea if one had said something else and was blocked by the other two’s voices. Then all three guys turned to look at each other. Ming Dao was the first to break the stare by letting out a little cough.

“I meant she looks like she’s the only child to me,” Ming Dao muttered lamely.

Wallace laughed at Ming Dao’s attempt to resurrect himself from a possible slaughter.

“That was what I mean,” Sam followed suit.

Cyndi joined in with Wallace, but tried to muffle her laugh.

“Whatever,” Ehlo muttered.

Ehlo was the first to walk toward Qiao Qiao’s bed. He looked at her pale face, pondering when she would wake up.

The other two guys were coming closer to Qiao Qiao’s bed also as Bianca came back with a glass of water.

“Here,” Chen Yi said, reaching for the glass as Bianca settled down at the edge of the bed again. He had been sitting on the bed and facing the same direction as Qiao Qiao so it was more convenient for him to help her than Bianca. He lifted her up with his free hand cautiously and tried to feed her the water.

Qiao Qiao seemed to be a bit more conscious as her pace in drinking increased.

“How’s it now?” Chen Yi asked, removing the glass from her mouth.

“A little better,” Qiao Qiao muttered, her voice still weak. Then something seemed to register. “Chen Yi?”

“Who else do you want it to be?” His voice sounded slightly edgy and somewhat bitter.

Qiao Qiao shook her head, indicating no one. Either still weak or it was a coincidence, her head fell onto his shoulder. He let her stay there, only turning slightly to hand Bianca the half-emptied glass of water. And though the room had been quiet, trying to observe Qiao Qiao but there had been quite a few exchanges of glances, especially between the guys standing in front of Qiao Qiao’s bed. Yet they did not dare to speak up to disturb Qiao Qiao.

“What are you doing in my room?” Qiao Qiao asked after about a minute. “Isn’t it a bit too early?”

“Qiao, it’s 10 already,” Wallace informed her.

Qiao Qiao finally opened her eyes upon hearing a different voice. It was then that she realized that everyone was there. She forced herself to move out of Chen Yi’s grasp.

“Stay still,” Chen Yi ordered. “You’re still weak.”

She struggled just slightly, trying to sit up. Then she turned to Wallace. “So? I was out late last night, okay? We could have gotten together earlier but Sun Xie Zhi kept tagging us and…”

She had to stop because she felt her head throbbing like crazy. The room was starting to sway. Chen Yi pulled her into his grasp again.

“Stop moving,” He chided. “Your fever just got better.”

“I’m fine,” Qiao Qiao argued, attempting to move out of his grasp again. Yet she failed again. Her head was throbbing too hard.

“You had a fever earlier and Orchids have been taking care of you the whole time,” Bianca explained. “We just came a bit ago when I called you back and talked to Orchids. That was when we gathered the others to come here and visit you.”

“Oh. No wonder I feel so tired earlier. Didn’t realize it would turn into a fever.”

Orchids walked into the room at that time.

“Orchids!”

Orchids smiled. “You all right now?”

“A bit. My head’s still hurting though.”

Orchids turned to the others. “Maybe it might be better if you guys go outside and wait. Give her some room. You can come in and check on her later. Food’s here anyway.”

The guys nodded, piling out of the room, glad for something to do. Bianca and Cyndi sent Qiao Qiao some well-wishing words before following the guys out. Even Achel and Yan Yan left the scene after some brief exchange with Qiao Qiao. Wallace got up from his seat at last but he had on a mischievous smile instead of a concerned one.

“Good luck, kiddo,” Wallace said, patting Qiao Qiao lightly on the shoulder.

“I’ll be the host for them,” Orchids said, leaving also.

“You can go with them,” Qiao Qiao said to Chen Yi after the others were gone.

“You sure?” He asked, his voice sounding more along the line of concerned than the somewhat edgy tone from earlier.

“Yeah. I just want to be alone for a bit.”

“All right.”

He helped her settled back onto the bed before pulling the blanket up to her chin.

“If you need anything, just give me a call,” He said, using his hand to emphasize a phone.

She nodded.

He smiled and left.

He had no idea her tears finally flowed down after he shut the door behind himself.

*****

They stepped into the living to find a guy sitting at the sofa, watching TV. He had his back to them so they didn’t know who he was, except for Wallace. Wallace walked with speed toward the sofa as the others followed behind, looking from one to the other for any clues as to who the guy was. They finally knew when Wallace spoke up.

“Young Magician!” Wallace teased. “How are you doing?”

Vincent turned around to face them finally.

Vincent smiled. “Seems like someone hasn’t changed at all.”

Wallace shrugged his shoulders. “Is there a reason to change for?”

“Guess not.” He could see the other guys standing there. “Come on, take a seat. Don’t stand there and gawk like I’m some kind of monkey.”

Wallace smiled at the others. “He doesn’t bite in case you’re wondering.” Then he turned to look at Ehlo. “And you know him. Stop acting so strange.”

Ehlo was the first to sit down at the sofa next to Vincent among the three guys. Ming Dao and Sam followed suit, sitting at the sofa next over.

Vincent turned to Ehlo. “What’s wrong? You look like you lost your best friend.”

Wallace cleared his throat loudly at that time–a bit louder than necessary.

Vincent turned to Wallace again. “What?”

“I’m sure Orchids told you what happened last weekend.”

“You mean Jacky ran away with Jo?”

“What?!” Ming Dao and Sam exclaimed at the same time.

“He’s kidding,” Wallace clarified.

“That’s not funny,” Ehlo gritted at the same time as Wallace.

“Oh,” Ming Dao and Sam said upon Wallace’s clarification.

“I must give the person who drove him away some major points,” Vincent continued. “After all, who could drive him away? Not even that nut of a cousin of his.”

“What are you watching now?” Wallace asked, changing the subject on purpose. “Don’t tell me just these commercials.”

“No. I haven’t found a good show yet.” He turned to the others. “Oh yeah, food’s in the kitchen if anyone wants some.”

The others nodded.

“What’s with you all today? You were quite lively at the party couple weeks ago.”

“That was couple weeks ago,” Ehlo snapped sarcastically.

“Where did Johnny go?”

“Photo-shoot, what else?” Ehlo said, but he had switched to his monotone instead of his sarcastic tone.

“Okay then.”

Orchids entered the room at that time. “Why aren’t you guys eating? The other four are already in there.”

Ehlo turned to Orchids. “We’re trying to wait on your royal boyfriend here.”

“Whoa!” Vincent jumped in. “Sharp edge. No wonder you’re his best friend.”

Ehlo got up from his seat and went to the kitchen. Wallace, Ming Dao, and Sam got up and followed him, leaving only Orchids in the room with Vincent.

Vincent turned to Orchids. “What’s wrong with them?”

“Probably they’re just worried for Qiao,” Orchids answered.

“But they look like they lost their best friend.”

“I can say Jacky for Ehlo and Wallace, but…”

“Wallace was in high spirits until…”

“Until you mentioned Jacky, right?”

Vincent nodded.

“Flash-line, your highness. Stop mentioning Jacky around them so much. They might lose it and wrestle with you–literally. Especially Qiao.”

Vincent nodded. “Got it.”

Orchids finally gave him a smile. He got up from the sofa and walked with Orchids to the kitchen, joining the others after turning off the TV.

*****

The weekend passed by in rapid pace as they already killed Saturday off at Qiao Qiao’s house and Sunday doing house-cleaning or the like. (Apparently, the guys’ basketball match also got postponed. The guys somehow didn’t feel like playing anymore.) Orchids’ efforts weren’t lost since Qiao Qiao was able to get out of bed by Monday. She returned to work on Wednesday, looking more energetic. She dove right into work, even more active than ever since she had been coped up for so long.

The current week rolled by faster than the previous because everyone seemed to bring their concentration back into their work instead of thinking of other unrelated matters.

Qiao Qiao managed to meet up with Ming Dao and Bianca again for lunch since she got back to work as well as hanging around with Chen Yi, Achel, and Yan Yan after work. This time, they made sure the famous Sun Xie Zhi wasn’t around before going anywhere. For some unknown reasons, Tony seemed to disappear from their lives also. They came to the conclusion that he must had been bored with the little teasing game toward Yan Yan already–to which she was very relief to know.

On the other hand, after that little announcement in front of Tony that Cyndi was his girlfriend, Wallace focused his full effort into work like before, oblivious to any external matters. Penny and Melody came by to visit them from time to time during the week also, but they did not stay long like before.

By the end of the week, Angela’s schedule got moved around with Sam’s slot since they needed the morning slot for the weekly special summer program. Sam had joined Sonia to do the weekly program with her, easing her burden a little bit.

As the majority of the group returned to their normal lives, there seemed to be a different story going on inside Wallace, Ehlo, and Johnny’s place. Ehlo seemed unusually quiet, causing Johnny and Wallace to worry for him. They pursued the matter one night during dinner, but Ehlo brushed it off as work stress and fatigue. Ming Dao and Sam did not join them for dinner from time to time anymore.

Although they had promised to start anew as friends, but they hadn’t kept in touch for a whole week. It seemed like they’d returned to the state they were in two years ago. Only the original groups of friends–the groups before they got together as a big group–were getting along among themselves.

Another week came to an end, but what would the weekend bring them?

© Friday, July 18th, 2008

Posted: Monday, February 7th, 2011

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