Chapter 24 – Irrational Routine

The following week continued with a lot of exciting events happening. The group seemed to get on quite well as they continued to get together and hang out after work–even if only a few would come at times. However, it could not be said the same for work at Orchids Agency since after Chen Yi and Qiao Qiao left. The agency seemed to be quieter. Even Orchids wasn’t used to it although she spent most of her time in her office. Wallace seemed to dedicate most of his time into his work, always disappearing after the last minute of work to an unknown place–even Cyndi didn’t know. Cyndi had to work double time as well as trying to draw up another employment ad seeking for someone to fill Chen Yi’s place so she didn’t have time to follow Wallace’s strange behaviors either. It seemed that all hope had failed until the end of the week. Cyndi was locking up when she saw a girl walking by outside. She didn’t pay attention, considering how late it was when the girl stopped in front of the door. She opened the door halfway and smiled at the girl.

“We’re about to closed but you can come in anyway,” Cyndi said politely.

“Uh…are you still hiring?” The girl asked nervously.

“You’re here to fill in our position?”

The girl smiled. “I saw your ad in the newspaper.” She took a quick glance behind Cyndi. “Do I have to come back tomorrow then?”

“You can go ahead and come in since Orchids’ still here.”

Cyndi opened the door wider for the girl to step in before shutting it again. She took the chance to flip the sign to “Closed” also. She then led the girl toward Orchids’ office. She opened the door to the office without knocking, knowing Orchids wouldn’t mind.

“All closed up?” Orchids asked without looking up.

“Actually…” Cyndi began.

Sensing someone else around, Orchids looked up to see a girl behind Cyndi. She put on a friendly smile. “What’s going on here?”

“She’s here for an interview,” Cyndi explained.

“Oh?” She glanced at her watch briefly. “All right.”

Cyndi stepped aside for the girl to come in and shut the door behind her. As she was making her way back to her desk to pack up for the day, she heard the door being opened again.

“It’s closed!” Cyndi exclaimed in a somewhat frustrated tone.

“I’m just looking for Orchids,” A familiar voice said.

Cyndi looked up to see Tony walking toward her. “Oh…sorry. I thought…uh…Orchids’ with someone right now. She’ll be done in a bit.”

“Oh,” Tony said, looking around. “Is…uh…the girls are probably gone already, huh?”

“You’re talking about Qiao and Yan?”

Tony nodded.

“They’re not going to be here anymore…unless they want to visit us.”

Tony looked confused.

“Chen Yi and Qiao quit already. They found a new job. So unless Yan wants to visit us, which is unlikely, she won’t be around here anymore.”

“Oh…”

Cyndi could see that Tony looked disappointed. In fact, he looked almost devastated. Feeling sympathy for a former classmate, she put on a reassuring smile. “It’s not like they’re disappearing for good.”

“You look familiar,” Tony said with a recognition expression on his face.

Cyndi smiled wider. “Do I?”

Tony pointed his sunglasses at her. “Yes, I’ve definitely seen you somewhere before.”

“Like the last few times you were here?”

“No, I don’t mean that. I mean from somewhere else.”

“Oh…”

Cyndi didn’t know what to say but just shrugged her shoulders before going back to packing her bag. Tony suddenly exclaimed out in excitement–or what it seemed like to Cyndi. She looked up at him again.

“Wang Xin Ling,” Tony said. “Xin Ling xiao shi mei.”

Cyndi smiled.

“No wonder you look very familiar when I first saw you. But then your boyfriend stopped me.”

“He’s not my boyfriend. He thought you were trying to get smart so he just wanted to avoid troubles.”

“Oh…uh…how about going somewhere to eat and catch up on old times?”

“What about your meeting with Orchids?”

“I’ll call Vincent to tell him that I’ll be awhile. He’ll call Orchids to let her know.”

“Okay then. Um…”

“What?”

“Are you sure it’s all right?”

“Come on. Why are you being so distance? We used to be friends, remember?”

“A lot of people used to be your friends too.”

“You’re different. You’re not like them, always wanting to use me to get spotlight.”

Cyndi could see the sincerity in Tony’s eyes. It was the same look her ‘Senior Xie Zhi’ had once displayed frequently on his face when they were still at the university. She finally smiled and nodded her head.

“That’s the spirit. Come on.”

Cyndi closed her bag and swung it over her shoulder before following Tony to the door.

Tony smiled. “I think we should go back to the old restaurant we used to go just for old time’s sake. What do you think?”

Cyndi smiled also. “That’s a great idea.”

Tony opened the door for her to pass and closed it behind her. He signaled for her to go right since he had parked his car in that direction. “You probably have to go back to get your car later. Don’t worry though. I’ll drive you back here.”

“It’s all right. I’ll catch a Taxi later to go home. My car’s in the shop.”

“Oh…I’ll drive you home later then.”

“It’s all right.”

Tony put his hand up to stop Cyndi. “I’m your senior. You have to listen to me.”

Cyndi smiled, feeling old memories washing over her with those words. He used to say that a lot. Always being a great senior, protecting everyone around him.

As they were walking and talking, making their way to Tony’s car, a shadow followed casually behind them and stopped at the corner before turning back to Orchids Agency.

*****

Jacky was walking out of the building and was fidgeting with his keychain when he spotted Sonia standing in front. She looked like she was waiting for someone. He was about to just shrug it off and go to his car when she turned around to face him. He gave her a polite smile and gestured toward the street. She walked over to him.

Sonia smiled. “Can I get a ride?”

Jacky looked around in hesitation. “What happened to Angela and…”

“Angela went home early since she has to prepare for her segment for tomorrow morning.”

Jacky nodded. “Oh.”

“If you don’t want to, it’s all right. I’ll just continue to wait for a Taxi to come by.”

Jacky glanced at his watch briefly before turning back to Sonia. “Are you kidding me? At this hour? Come on. I’ll drive you home.”

Sonia smiled and followed Jacky to his car.

“But I have to warn you first. I have to pick up the girls from the beach. They’ve been exploring these past days and Xiao Qiao was looking for a spot to write her novel. And guess where she chose?”

“Where?”

“Where else? My favorite spot.”

“Oh…”

“Yes, strange but we do have the same taste on a fair amount of things.”

They finally reached Jacky’s car so he deactivated the alarm before gesturing for her to get in. She circled around and got in on the other side. Jacky pulled out of the parking lot and into the street before speaking up again.

“How’s it going?” Jacky asked casually.

“You make it sound like we haven’t met for a while now.”

“We don’t socialize that much anymore. I mean because of our work schedule.”

“Our schedule hasn’t changed at all.”

“I guess it’s the workload.”

She flashed on her usual teasing smile. “Is that so?”

“What else do you want it to be?”

Sonia’s smile faded since she remembered those were the exact words that he had used when she asked him about their relationship.

Jacky glanced at her quickly before returning his attention to the road ahead. “What’s wrong?”

Sonia shook her head. “Nothing.”

Jacky smiled. “Nothing always means something. Nothing was the favorite word at last weekend’s gathering, remember?”

Sonia smiled.

“That’s better.”

They stayed silent for a few more seconds before Jacky spoke up again.

“Seriously though, what’s going on?”

“Not something that important.”

“Okay then.”

Jacky knew deep down there was something very wrong with Sonia but he decided not to pursue further. He knew he must be aware of his limit. He couldn’t let others misunderstand again.

They continued the ride in silence and it was probably one of their most peaceful rides ever.

“Here we are,” Jacky said as they arrived at their destination.

Sonia nodded as Jacky slowed his car down at the parking area where the girls were waiting by a tree.

The girls got in the back seat and buckled up before speaking up.

“What a surprise,” Xiao Qiao said.

“It’s unbelievable, huh?” Jacky asked.

“Definitely,” Wei Ru agreed.

Sonia turned sideways and gave the girls a polite smile before facing front again.

“Jacky ge, any special occasion?” Xiao Jie asked.

“No,” Jacky said casually. “A co-worker needed a ride. I came to her rescue. It’s weekend so I feel like helping others. Simple as that.”

Xiao Jie looked disappointed as Wei Ru continued to study Jacky and Sonia’s behavior from her spot between Xiao Qiao and Xiao Jie.

“Weekend actually starts tomorrow, not today,” Xiao Jie pointed out.

“So?” Jacky said, his voice still leveled. “Are you being technical now?”

“Just kidding, Jacky ge. Don’t get mad.”

“I’m not mad.” He flashed on his smile to reassure her.

“Only you could tolerate her,” Xiao Qiao mumbled.

Xiao Jie turned to Xiao Qiao. “Eh…”

“Come on now,” Wei Ru interfered.

Xiao Qiao and Xiao jie stopped it as Wei Ru wished.

The ride continued with the three girls talking about their adventure of the day and other random topics. Jacky listened for the majority of the time, but contributed whenever necessary. Only Sonia was the one that seemed to be left alone for the rest of the ride. She suddenly felt out of place–like she had invaded their world without permission and should be left abandoned–like she deserved.

When Jacky finally turned into Orchids’ driveway, they saw Qiao Qiao walking out of the house–dressed in tomboy-ish clothes again. She seemed to be out to dispose the trash or something similar. When she saw Jacky’s car, she waved to them. She stood by waiting for Jacky to park in front of her before coming closer. While Xiao Qiao, Wei Ru, and Xiao Jie were getting out of the car, Qiao Qiao walked toward the driver’s side and signaled for Jacky to roll the window down. He did as instructed.

“What?” He asked passively.

“Are we still in for tomorrow?”

“Probably. Not sure about the others though.”

Qiao Qiao saw Sonia. “Are you coming?”

Sonia–so used to being left behind by now–didn’t respond at all. Jacky turned to her and snapped his fingers in front of her. Sonia seemed to come to alertness again.

“What happened?” Sonia asked, confused.

“Are you going to the movies with us tomorrow?” Jacky repeated Qiao Qiao’s question.

“Uh…”

“Once in a lifetime chance to see the Soulfest Duo act,” Qiao Qiao jumped in, a smile creeping on her face.

Jacky turned back to Qiao Qiao. “Oh please, she could get it on DVD and watch later.”

“So? Once in a lifetime to go with us then.”

“Like we don’t hang out…”

“Not anymore,” Qiao Qiao said, cutting Jacky off. “Not as a whole group.” She ignored Jacky and turned back to Sonia.

“Uh…I’ll think about it,” Sonia muttered.

Qiao Qiao nodded. “That’s fine. Call Jacky ge back later then.”

Sonia nodded also.

Xiao Qiao, Wei Ru, and Xiao Jie had been standing behind Qiao Qiao the whole time to wait for her to finish. Seeing that Qiao Qiao was finished, they stepped forward to stand side-by-side with her.

“See you tomorrow, Jacky ge,” Xiao Jie said with a smile.

With that, Xiao Jie walked into the house.

Qiao Qiao looked after her a bit before turning to Jacky again, smiling. “That’s where I’m getting the ‘Jacky ge’ thing.”

Jacky smiled, nodding his head and finally understanding the reason why Qiao Qiao would call him by that.

“Qiao, I have something to show you,” Wei Ru said suddenly.

Qiao Qiao turned to Wei Ru. “Really?”

Wei Ru smiled. “You’ll definitely like it.”

Qiao Qiao turned back to Jacky. “That’s my cue. See you tomorrow.”

Jacky smiled again and waved to them as Qiao Qiao and Wei Ru headed inside also. He then turned his attention to Xiao Qiao but he realized that she had somehow headed inside already. He shrugged his shoulders and focused on backing out of the driveway. Sonia waited for him to finish entering the street before speaking up.

“Looks like they’re getting along just fine.”

“Looks like it.”

“You’ve been home lately?”

“Nope. No need to. Why?”

“No reason. Just asking.”

Their conversation continued in that same bland pattern. It was only until Jacky turned into Sonia’s driveway that he seemed to brighten up again.

“I guess this is it,” He said.

“I guess so.” She unbuckled her seatbelt and was about to get out but changed her mind and reached into her handbag.

“What’s wrong? Dropped something?”

“No…uh…”

Jacky waited patiently for Sonia to retrieve whatever it was in her bag. He glanced at his watch quickly–although there was already a clock right in front of him.

“Here it is.”

Jacky looked over to see Sonia holding an item in her hand. To his surprise, it was not her keys. She handed it to him. He took it into his hand to study it. He realized it was a Bluetooth headset. He looked up at her again.

“It’s a replacement for your earpiece.”

“I can’t take this.” He handed it back to her.

She stopped him. “I’m not taking it back.”

“Aren’t you afraid of rumors?”

Sonia smiled. “Take it as a thank you gift.”

He waited for her to continue.

“I haven’t thanked you officially for helping with the whole car matter yet and…”

“It’s not much.”

“But I want to.”

He could see the determined look in her eyes so he nodded. She smiled before turning to push the door open. He watched until she disappeared around the corner to the walkway before backing out.

He had tossed the Bluetooth headset loosely into the compartment under the radio after she got out of the car.

*****

“This is outrageous!” Ehlo exclaimed in disbelief.

“What?” Bianca asked.

“Oh nothing.”

“Are there going to be a lot of ‘nothing’ going on around here again this weekend?” Xiao Qiao asked.

Ehlo smiled. “Definitely.”

“So tell me,” Chen Yi said.

The others stayed silent for him to continue.

“Have anyone of you watch this yet?”

“No,” Ehlo replied.

The others shook their heads.

“Hmm…” Chen Yi mumbled.

“What?” Ehlo asked.

“It seems a bit expensive. A little more than the usual ticket price. So hope it’s good.”

“Stop being a cheapskate!” Qiao Qiao shouted.

“It’s my money. I have the right to be one.”

“By the way, how is it at the new workplace for you two?” Bianca asked, attempting to steer their conversation away from danger zone.

“Just great,” Chen Yi answered. “A tad boring but it’s okay.”

“Missed the old place?”

Chen Yi shrugged his shoulders. “A bit I guess. More freedom at the old place but I was getting bored of it.”

Bianca turned to Qiao Qiao. “What about you, Qiao?”

“All right,” Qiao Qiao said casually.

“By the way you both are talking…I bet it you’re going to head back to the old place faster than…” Jacky concluded.

“Don’t you dare jinx us.”

Jacky put his hands up in the air. “Yes, ma’am.”

Wei Ru looked around the theater. “Are the others going to join us later?”

“Not sure,” Qiao Qiao mumbled.

“What about Sonia? She was with us yesterday and she’s not going to show up?”

As if by a coincidence–or maybe not so coincidental–Wei Ru turned to look at Jacky when she said that.

Ehlo snapped his attention to Jacky. “She was with you guys yesterday?”

“Uh…she needed a ride,” Jacky said. “I came to her rescue ‘cause it was weekend. Simple as that.”

“Jacky ge, was that rehearsed?” Xiao Jie asked.

“You said those exact same words yesterday,” Wei Ru seconded.

“Did I?” Jacky asked, pretending not to know of the script lines himself.

Wei Ru hit Jacky on the shoulder. “Stop pretending.”

Ehlo had been walking on Wei Ru’s right the whole time but now he switched side and edged between Xiao Jie and Jacky to study Jacky a bit more.

“What are you doing?” Jacky asked, annoyed.

“You’re lying to us, aren’t you? You never stutter when you talk.”

“What is there to lie about? What do I have to hide? How would I know why she’s not coming? Maybe she’s just busy with work. I don’t know. I haven’t seen her around for ages now.”

The others looked shocked.

“You know we all work together, right?” Angela reminded him.

“Uh…well…”

“And I even have to get up early to go in for my segment. Don’t tell me Sonia’s so busy that she can’t come with us.”

“Maybe she has other commitments? It’s not like we’re the only group of people she hangs around with.”

“She rarely goes out during other times though,” Bianca said.

“Like I said, how should I know?”

Qiao Qiao, who was walking next to Chen Yi a few steps in front of them, now circled back and managed to cram in between Jacky and Wei Ru. She started to tug on Jacky’s right arm.

Jacky turned to Qiao Qiao. “What?”

“I told her to call you and she didn’t?” Qiao Qiao whispered.

“We’re only co-workers, remember?” Jacky whispered back.

Ehlo eyed them suspiciously. “What are you two up to?”

Qiao Qiao looked over to Ehlo and gave him a “back off” look.

“So now you’re playing the protective sister role?”

Jacky gave Ehlo his famous threatening glare also. “I could fend for myself just fine.”

“If you say so.”

“Would you guys stop arguing?” Wei Ru asked.

“If we don’t argue, what are we going to do?”

“Okay, if no one knows anything about Sonia, how about the others? Like…uh…Wallace. Doesn’t he live with you?” She eyed Jacky cautiously, waiting for his answer.

“I could answer that one for you,” Ehlo jumped in.

“Then what?”

“Wallace likes to sleep in. His usual habit. You won’t believe our previous attempts to get together for a basketball match. He’s always out or not up to it. No wait, he was there on time when Jacky was gone though. Still…he likes to sleep in during weekends.”

“And Cyndi?”

“Oh yeah. Talking about that…”

Jacky turned to her. “What?”

“You guys won’t believe what happened last night.”

“What? Stop acting all mysterious,” Ehlo hissed.

“Guess who came over?”

“Cyndi?”

“Who else?”

“It’s not Wallace,” Jacky deducted. “He came home earlier than I did. Too early for his routine even.”

“You all better stand steadily so you won’t fall when you hear the answer,” Qiao Qiao said dramatically.

“Stop acting all suspenseful, okay?!” Chen Yi yelled from in front of them. “I was there too. So were Xiao Yu and Yan. And so were the three angels. And Orchids and Vincent and…no Wallace, because…”

“You’re spoiling the mood.”

“What’s the big deal here?” Jacky asked. “A secret that all of you shared?”

“Are you guys ready for this?”

“Is he that special for such reactions?” Wei Ru asked.

Qiao Qiao turned to Wei Ru, smiling. “Just watch and see.”

Wei Ru stayed silent and waited for Qiao Qiao to continue.

“Well?” Ehlo demanded. “You’re making all our necks longer.”

“Okay,” Qiao Qiao said finally. “Here it comes now…Sun Xie Zhi came over.”

“Geez…” Jacky, Ehlo, and Johnny harmonized.

After that little “Geez”, the guys didn’t seem to show any other difference in reaction. Only Angela, Bianca, Ming Dao and Sam were a bit confused.

“Who’s Sun Xie Zhi?” Angela asked. “No wait. He sounds familiar.”

“He’s that young tycoon half of the population is talking about, aside from Vincent,” Jacky said.

“Oh…”

“I thought the reaction would have been a bit stronger than this,” Wei Ru said, disappointed.

Qiao Qiao tugged on Jacky’s arm. “Why aren’t you guys surprised?”

“I already told you Tony visits Vincent so it would make sense if he comes over to A…I mean Orchids’ place.”

“Oh…and I thought it would bring a stronger reaction.”

“What is he doing over there with Cyndi though?” Johnny pondered.

“Apparently, they’ve reunited and sort of came together at the last minute. He said he was going to take Cyndi home but changed his mind the last minute ‘cause something about introducing his ‘xiao shi mei’ to some people.”

“Oh…” Jacky and Ehlo said.

“What?” The others asked.

Even Chen Yi was interested in the two guys’ reaction this time. He stopped walking and turned to them. Achel–who was walking next to him, turned around to watch also. Only Sam and Xiao Qiao continued to walk on without them since they were talking about something.

“No wonder Wallace looks so devastated…like he just lost the love of his life,” Jacky said.

“What are you talking about?” Ehlo said, contradicting Jacky although he was the one who harmonized with Jacky earlier. “Of course he did and to…Sun…Xie…Zhi too.”

“No wait,” Qiao Qiao interjected.

Jacky looked at Qiao Qiao. “What?”

“I thought Wallace’s going with Penny from next door.”

“Who’s Penny?” Angela asked.

“One of the girls from next door to Orchids’ place. Not really but she’s friends with Melody from next door.”

“What?!” Jacky exclaimed.

“I saw them hanging out once or twice. They seemed close.”

“That doesn’t make sense though,” Ehlo said. “I thought he was just hanging out with Melody that day and somehow the other girl…Penny…tagged along.”

Qiao Qiao looked at Ehlo suspiciously. “How would you know?”

“I saw you and Ming Dao around some place once and then I saw that you were talking to Wallace and the other girl so…um…”

“You were spying on them?” Chen Yi asked with a disgusted look on his face.

“Like anyone’s better around here,” Johnny blurted out before he could stop himself.

Chen Yi turned to Johnny and wrinkled his face at him. “What?”

“Uh…nothing. I mean we’re all guilty of one thing or another, right?” He managed a nervous smile. “And…uh…look, popcorn anyone? I’ll get some for Bianca.”

Johnny walked away at that time and the rest of them stopped by a corner of the room to wait for him. Somehow Chen Yi, Achel, Sam, and Xiao Qiao had disappeared also.

“Are you all hiding something again?” Jacky asked, eyeing each and every one of them. What he worried the most wasn’t the others, but Johnny. Johnny was usually the most mature among them. He was always in control, especially of his behaviors in front of them. Why would he even act nervous? Or did Jacky imagine it himself?

“Something’s seriously wrong here,” Wei Ru agreed.

“Like we’re spying on each other…again,” Ehlo remarked.

“No. Other than that.” She turned to Qiao Qiao. “And you never told us why Yan’s not coming.”

“You saw how they were last night,” Qiao Qiao reminded her.

“You mean Sun Xie Zhi lured her out for a date?”

Ehlo wrinkled his face. “Lured? Sounds like a trap to me.”

“Cyndi was right?” Jacky asked.

“Talking about that, Sun Xie Zhi isn’t bad at all,” Qiao Qiao mumbled.

“Change of opinions?”

“I must admit he’s very funny.”

Ehlo leaned a bit into Jacky and whispered, “Careful, you’re getting replaced.”

Jacky shoved Ehlo aside but Ehlo was not mad or anything. He just smiled and shrugged it off.

“It would be nice to see Simon and Stacey here again though,” Wei Ru said, changing the subject on purpose since she was somewhat tired of seeing the guys’ occasional arguments.

“They’re not around us much,” Jacky said. “I think it was the first time ever that Simon ever hung around with us last time.”

“Oh?”

“He works for Orchids so he usually keeps to himself but I guess he just wants to socialize a bit more with us.”

“I bet we were too much for him,” Qiao Qiao said.

“And where in the world is Ming Dao?” Ehlo asked.

Qiao Qiao looked around the area, trying to scan the crowd for him.

“Probably went to get food,” Jacky said.

“Wait, where’s Xiao Jie?” Wei Ru asked, noticing Xiao Jie’s absence also.

“Okay, Chen Yi and Xiao Yu disappeared…probably getting popcorn or something like that. And then Johnny went to get popcorn…”

“For Bianca,” Qiao Qiao finished, repeating Johnny’s words from earlier.

“Right. And Sam and Xiao Qiao disappeared also so that means they ran off together as well. So that leaves us Ming Dao and Xiao Jie. See the connection?”

“What are you guys talking about?” Xiao Qiao asked from behind them. “Who ran away?”

Jacky turned around to face Xiao Qiao and flashed on his famous charming smile. “Nothing. We thought you eloped.”

“Whatever. We just went to get something to eat. You guys are always talking so…”

“We’re just catching up….”

“On the latest gossip?”

“Very funny.”

Xiao Qiao put on her proud smile. “Thanks.”

“So…” Ehlo drawled out, flashing on his charming smile in the process. “How’s it going with your novel, Miss Xiao Yue Lan?”

“It’s a secret. And not to mention…confidential.”

“I think the only person honest about his feeling around here is…”

“What?” Qiao Qiao asked, impatient with Ehlo’s pausing episodes.

Ehlo put his finger on his lips for Qiao Qiao to be quiet. She wrinkled her face at him so he signaled for her to look forward. Qiao Qiao turned around to see Chen Yi and Achel walking back to them. “Unbelievable!”

Chen Yi saw Ehlo’s look. “What?”

“Our famous health nut eating popcorn? You know how much butter is in there? And not to mention that soda looks kind of dark. It’s not good for you, you know.”

The others stayed silent to see how the show unfolded between the two.

“It’s an exception this time since she begged me,” Chen Yi blurted out.

“She has to beg you?” Angela asked.

Chen Yi nodded automatically, like it was the natural course of the nature as he tossed a popcorn piece into his mouth.

“My sister has to beg other people for food now?”

Achel walked over to Angela at that time. “Jie, he’s just kidding. Don’t worry. We’re all friends, remember?”

Angela eyed Achel suspiciously, scanning her every single feature–down to her feet and then back up to her face again.

“Jie, you’re making me nervous.”

“I’m just wondering where those aliens kept my sister locked at.”

Ehlo walked up to the two siblings and put a reassuring hand around Angela’s shoulder. “Don’t worry so much, dear fiancée, give the kids some freedom.”

“Kids?” Chen Yi repeated, his threatening look turned on.

“Come on. I’m your brother-in-law after all. Although we’re sort of both marrying into their family though. No wait, you still have to keep your name. I’ll just have to sacrifice mine then.”

Angela slapped Ehlo’s hand off as if it was something she did daily before turning on Achel again. While Achel was trying to figure out a way to explain to her sister, Chen Yi and Ehlo continued with their attacks.

“Who says that I’m marrying her?” Chen Yi argued. “I’m just a bit concerned about her eating habits, okay? We’re friends after all. I’m just looking after the poor kid.”

“Why don’t you say you’re just looking for a way to pick on Xiao Yu, Mr. Bully?” Qiao Qiao snapped.

“It’s his love for her,” Ehlo defended Chen Yi.

“Why don’t you cork it, Mr. Pervert?” Chen Yi shot back.

Wei Ru walked over to Jacky who was standing there crossing his hands and leaning against the wall to watch the whole thing.

“Aren’t you going to stop them?” Wei Ru asked softly.

“This is even better than watching the movie.” Jacky said. “Why should I?”

Sam and Xiao Qiao walked over to stand next to them also–with Xiao Qiao next to Wei Ru.

“They usually fight like this?” Xiao Qiao asked.

“It’s new actually,” Sam answered. “I didn’t know that Chen Yi likes Xiao Yu. I thought he likes Qiao.” Sam eyed Jacky suspiciously when he said that.

Jacky looked at Sam. “How should I know? I was gone for half a month, remember? You guys were around. You should know better.”

Bianca was the only one still standing near the other group to try and prevent a fight from happening. Upon seeing Johnny re-joining the group, she walked over to him and signaled for him to stop the fight.

“Could we all get going now?” Johnny said. “The movie’s showing in fifteen. With our group, it would be a problem with finding seats, don’t you think?”

The group managed to break away from the fight and followed Johnny and Bianca toward their designated theater. The others were still standing by the wall and had been observing Johnny carefully and how authoritative he had been toward them.

“So after a popcorn trip Johnny returns to his normal self?” Jacky blurted out.

“You noticed something wrong too?” Sam asked.

“I live with him, you know.”

“I didn’t mean that.”

“I’m not trying to be mean, but I’m just trying to figure something out.”

“Oh…”

Suddenly Johnny realized that some of them were still missing so he turned around to signal to Jacky and the others. Wei Ru was the only one to leave her spot when Jacky grabbed her hand to stop her.

Wei Ru turned to Jacky. “What?”

“I have to clarify something first,” He said.

Wei Ru had a puzzled look on her face but Jacky turned to signal for Johnny to go first before turning back to her.

“We can use this as an excuse to wait for Ming Dao and Xiao Jie,” Jacky told her.

“Oh…but about the movie.”

“At this rate, most of the seats are filled already. And we won’t find good seats anyway.”

“Are our tickets going to waste?”

“I’m just giving them a bit more time.”

“You’re up to something, huh?”

Jacky smiled. “You bet.”

“You’re back,” Sam said suddenly.

Jacky looked toward at Sam. “Huh?”

Sam smiled. “No. I wasn’t so used to you being so quiet and passive these past weeks either.”

“You’re strange.”

Sam scratched his head sheepishly, not knowing how to answer.

As if staring at one particular spot would help, Ming Dao and Xiao Jie appeared in front of them again about a minute later.

“Jacky ge!” Xiao Jie blurted out in her usual excited voice. “Guess what I found out?”

“What?” Jacky asked passively.

“Where are the others?” Ming Dao asked Sam.

“They went in already,” Sam answered Ming Dao.

“Oh.”

While Ming Dao was talking to Sam, Xiao Jie grabbed Jacky’s hand to drag him aside and was whispering something to him at the moment.

“Shouldn’t we go in too?” Ming Dao continued with his questions.

“We’re waiting for Jacky’s permission,” Sam explained.

“What? You need his permission? Since when?”

“He’s up to something again.”

“And you’re planning to conspire with him?”

“Uh…”

“I thought you don’t like his sneaky ways.”

“I must admit I’m not used to him being all quiet either.”

“He’s far from quiet,” Wei Ru jumped in, wrinkling her face. “What are you guys talking about?”

“Uh…nothing, just some past misunderstandings,” Ming Dao said casually. “But aside from the last two meetings, we haven’t seen him much after he got back.”

Wei Ru nodded. “That’s true. He has been around us mostly though.”

“Are we done whispering yet?” Xiao Qiao asked impatiently. “Ten more minutes before we have to sit on the floor.”

Jacky finally pulled away from Xiao Jie and headed back to the group. “It’s not that extreme, Miss Zhao.”

“Can we go now?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Amazingly, when they arrived at the designated theater, the others had managed to save spots for them. Jacky was about to sit down next to Ehlo when Ehlo extended his hand out to stop Jacky.

Ehlo smiled. “ Sorry. I saved it for Xiao Ru.”

Jacky raised an eyebrow. “Xiao Ru?”

“You know, Wei Ru.”

“I know you’re talking about Wei Ru. But why are you calling her…” Then he realized it. “Oh…” He pointed his right index finger at Ehlo.

“Would you guys stop?” Xiao Qiao scolded them. “Sit down already.”

“Excuse me, Miss Zhao,” Jacky apologized.

Jacky backed up a bit and let Wei Ru pass. After that, he sat down at the seat next to Wei Ru as Xiao Jie dropped down at the only empty seat left next to him.

Xiao Qiao stared at Jacky. “What about us?”

As he was scanning around for seats, he saw Qiao Qiao waving to him. He wrinkled his face and realized that Qiao Qiao was trying to get Xiao Qiao’s attention.

“I think Qiao saved a seat or two for you guys,” Jacky said.

Xiao Qiao looked one row down to see Qiao Qiao smiling and waving to her.

Ming Dao backed up and switched rows. Sam and Xiao Qiao followed him also.

“It gets so interesting lately,” Jacky said casually.

Wei Ru turned to him. “What?”

“Check the seatings.”

Wei Ru scanned the row in front of them once and then scanned the left side of their row before turning back to Jacky.

“Notice anything strange?”

“What’s so strange about it? We usually sit like this too. I mean with some people always sitting next to each other and all.”

“Stop stirring up trouble already, man,” Ehlo said, cutting in. “The movie’s about to start.”

Sensing uneasiness all around, Jacky decided to not push them too much. This can wait, he thought to himself. He tried to focus on the movie for the rest of the two hours until they were back outside again.

© Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

Re-posted: Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

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