Chapter 33 – Mis-matching

Angela and Bianca walked casually side-by-side up the path that led into the lotus garden and down the right toward the main hall. They could see a long line forming in front of the fortune-teller’s stand.

“I guess they’re getting their fair share of the deal before the weekend ends?” Angela asked.

Bianca gave Angela a slight shove, causing Angela to turn around to face her again.

“What?” Angela asked.

“We’re at a temple,” Bianca reminded her. “Show some respect and don’t utter nonsense.”

“We’re about to deceive him here. Do you think we thought about respect in the first place?”

Bianca let out a nervous laugh and turned back to the stand ahead of them.

“Do you think we should come back later?”

“There are ten more people. Want to wait and see what happens?”

Angela looked at her watch real quick.

“I’ll wait here if you don’t want to.”

“Let’s get in line then. I’m not backing down.”

Bianca smiled at Angela’s determination. She followed Angela to the line. They were glad to know that there was actually a distance between the fortune teller’s table and the line itself since they wouldn’t want others to overhear what they were going to do. There was nothing to be ashamed of if they were caught here, but they need some privacy to investigate some matters.

They waited for about another five minutes before Angela’s cell phone rang. She retrieved it from her pocket and answered it right way. Bianca waited for her to be done before turning to her.

“The guys are wondering if we got caught already,” Angela passed on to Bianca.

“Like we’re doing anything illegal,” Bianca muttered.

“They’re just impatient.”

“It’s almost our turn anyway.”

Wanting to contradict Bianca, the person in front of them took up ten minutes on purpose. Some people behind them became impatient and left. When it was finally their turn, they went together–to which the ones that were left cheer them on, causing them to exchange an amused smile before approaching the stand. Angela took the seat on the left while Bianca took the right.

“How may I help you two today?” The fortune-teller asked with a friendly smile.

“Um…we’ve been having bad lucks lately so we want to ask you when it’ll pass,” Angela rattled out casually.

The fortune-teller turned his attention toward Bianca to get a quick glimpse of her before turning back to face Angela.

“Write down your birth dates here,” The fortune-teller instructed.

Angela and Bianca wrote their names and birth dates down on the small pieces of paper before sliding it back toward the fortune teller. They waited patiently as he studied their birth dates. He started with Angela after some hesitative glances.

“You both aren’t having bad lucks of your own,” The fortune-teller said. “You’re just too concerned for a friend’s well being. As for you…” He gave his full attention to Angela before continuing. “…be careful.”

Was that a threat? Angela thought to herself. She cleared her throat before speaking up. “What do you mean?”

“You should try to relax and give yourself a chance. A confession will come your way in the coming month. He might not know it right now but he will come to realize that you’re the most important person in his life. Give him some time to sort out his thoughts.”

Angela had a very confused look on her face. If she as much as muster a “Huh?”, it would’ve completed the picture of a totally clueless girl.

“You don’t believe me but you’re just here today to investigate about a matter involving your friend. Am I right?”

Angela had somehow lost her voice so Bianca took over.

“If you already know, then we want to get right to the topic,” Bianca said.

Bianca took one of the small papers in front of her and jotted down something before handing it to the fortune-teller. He took it casually at first but turned abruptly to Bianca again.

“What’s wrong, sir?” Bianca asked upon seeing his expression.

“They’re your friends?” He asked.

Both Angela and Bianca nodded in unison after exchanging a quick look, wondering silently why he was behaving this way.

“Mrs. Chu and some of her family members came earlier to ask me to match some birthdates. Their birthdates matched very well. I even congratulated her since I’ve never seen any two birthdates that match like these two.”

Angela and Bianca exchanged another confused look before speaking up again. This time, it was Angela who spoke up–since she seemed to have found her voice.

“Are you sure about this? I don’t mean to doubt you but we were told otherwise of the results.”

“I think one of your friends was also concerned for…” He took a quick glimpse at the paper. “…Miss Sui so she personally took the birthdates for me to see beforehand.”

“What friend?” Angela asked.

“I don’t know her name, but…”

“And you’re a fortune-teller?”

Bianca poked Angela in the sides for such comment.

“I must admit that I was careless the day she came because I was closing up and wanted to go pick up my kid at school so I didn’t bother to look at her carefully. After all, she did wear sunglasses. She gave me two birthdates to match with Young Master Chu. One was Miss Sui’s and the other was…”

He reached out to take a piece of paper in front of him and jotted it down before placing it in front of Angela and Bianca. They glanced at the birthdate written on the paper real quick before looking at the fortune-teller again.

“How come you remembered the birthdate and not the face?”  Angela asked.

“I was careless that day and I tend to remember numbers better than faces.”

Angela finally picked up the paper in her hand before speaking up again. “What can you tell us about this birthdate?”

“If Young Master Chu is with her, he will be jinxed for the rest of his life. In fact…”

“What?” Angela urged impatiently.

“I just mentally did a check for his birthdate right now. His luck hasn’t been very good. I don’t know if Mrs. Chu is just testing me or she might not believe me after all–like you both are still doubting me right now. I don’t blame you both since there are many hoaxes around, causing our reputations to be so tarnished by others. Anyway, his luck seems to have changed since…yesterday afternoon.”

Angela and Bianca did not know what to say to the fortune-teller anymore. They did not expect him to be so good at guessing. Yes, Angela’s stern expression might give them away but how did he guess about Jacky’s luck changing? Was he spying on Jacky?

“So…do you have anything else to ask me? If you don’t want to know, I won’t reveal anything else.”

“If we take Mrs. Chu back here, would you help us by being a witness?” Angela asked.

The fortune-teller nodded without asking them any other questions.

Angela and Bianca got up at the same time, thanking him before turning around to go back out. It was until they were outside the temple and were walking toward the parking lot that they spoke up again.

“This is too strange,” Angela said. “He’s really good at guessing but he can’t seem to remember some things. What’s with this?”

“He might be a real one that was why that girl wanted to conceal herself before coming to him?”

Angela turned to Bianca. “Don’t tell me you believe him.”

“Didn’t Jacky’s luck change?”

“He could be really lucky to have guessed right. And wouldn’t that contradict what he said earlier though? If he said that Sonia’s birthdate is very compatible to Jacky’s then why would Mrs. Chu separate them?”

Bianca shrugged her shoulders.

“The only thing that would make sense is if the sneaky girl is Jo.”

“Why would she do that?”

“Mrs. Chu is very superstitious so she will definitely listen to the fortune-teller’s words. If this birthdate…” She held the paper with the unknown birthdate up for emphasis. “…is Jo’s, then everything makes sense. She wants to switch it to her advantage.”

“That would make him a hoax though. I mean if he can’t tell one birthdate from the next.”

“Maybe because Jo’s concealing herself so he can’t tell? He was in a hurry anyway so he would just look at it and tell the results real quick before rushing off? If you want to believe him, then that’s the only explanation that could go through. Because if he’s always mixing up birthdates, would he still get customers? I’m a non-believer but I must say he has to have some talents for his customers to keep coming, right?”

By this time, they were past the parking lot already and were just about a foot from Jacky and Bianca’s cars, which were parked by the trees at the side of the temple instead of at the usual front parking lot. Angela looked up in time to see Ehlo coming her way. His smile was so cunning that made her want to deliver the usual cruel words at him if it wasn’t for the importance of the situation.

“Well?” Ehlo asked. “What did you two find out?”

They continued to Jacky’s car where Jacky, Sonia, and Wallace were waiting before either girl spoke up.

“We have some blanks to fill in,” Angela informed them.

The other three could hear her since they were by the car at that time.

“What blanks?” Wallace asked. “Are you guys playing games again?”

“You know me.”

“Then what?”

“Contradicting information.”

Angela and Bianca took turns telling the other four what they found out. Angela even included her suspicion of what could have happened. When they were finished, Angela held the unknown birthdate up for the others to see. Jacky took it from her and looked at it. His face showed signs of recognition as he turned to Angela again.

“Did I tell you’re very clever?” Jacky asked Angela.

“You mean it is Jo’s birthdate?” Bianca asked.

“Yes.”

“It’s just so predictable,” Angela said. “I mean come on now. Why would she dress up like that? She has some motives of course. Besides, who would care so much to go through such hassle? She would ‘cause she wants to secure her spot.”

“One thing that I do believe out of these stuffs,” Ehlo confessed.

Angela turned to him. “What?”

“He’s jinxed all right.”

“Whatever.”

“Come on now. You got to admit, even if that fortune-teller got careless that one time, but he was right. There’s one thing that I don’t get though.”

“What?” Jacky asked.

“If you know Jo’s birthdate, wouldn’t your mom know too? How could she get it so mixed up?”

“I know because of what I do. But she has always been secretive about it. I’m not surprised my mom wouldn’t know by now.”

“You know what’s funny? How could your mom have bought it that she’s 27? Isn’t she 24?”

“I think the most important thing we should take care of right now is prove to Mrs. Chu that Jo’s a hoax,” Angela pointed out.

“Easy, just bring her here.”

“Would she think that we conned her by paying the fortune-teller off?”

“Would she think that of her son?”

“Her son won’t do it but his friends will.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence, dear fiancée.”

Angela turned on her annoyed expression. “Anyway, let’s find another way to straighten this out. I mean we need some sort of leverage before we can bring her to the fortune-teller again.”

“Get Jo to come as well so he could look at her face,” Wallace said. “If he’s good then he would know that the birthdate belongs to her, right? She probably didn’t come that day with your mom, right?”

“I don’t think so,” Jacky said.

“Let’s get out of here before the security guards make their move.”

The others nodded, knowing that they couldn’t stand there for the rest of the day.

“Oh yeah, Chen Yi and Qiao called earlier,” Jacky told Angela and Bianca. “They said they’re at Seahorse Café waiting for us.”

The girls nodded.

“Let’s get this going then,” Ehlo said.

For some reason, Ehlo and Wallace followed Angela and Bianca back to Bianca’s car instead of going with Jacky and Sonia. The girls ended up in front with the guys in the back–with Ehlo behind Bianca and Wallace behind Angela. It was until Angela buckled up her seat belt that she realized of the arrangement.

Angela wrinkled her face. “Why aren’t you guys with Jacky?”

“It would be too suicidal to watch them,” Ehlo said. “We made that mistake the first time around. Not this time. Us single people should stick together.”

Bianca gave Ehlo a look in the rearview mirror.

“Sorry, Miss Bai. I didn’t mean you.”

Bianca didn’t answer but pulled out of the spot and into the street.

“Why did you help Jacky and Sonia then?” Angela asked.

“I’m just helping my friend, okay?” Ehlo said defensively. “Would you rather see him so morbid all the time? Not to mention doing stupid stuffs like getting himself into a marriage with Jo.”

“Oooh…”

Ehlo turned to her. “What?”

“Let’s call Valerie up. She can help us think up of a plan.”

“She’s interesting but do you think she’s for real? Seriously, how would we know she’s not just using ‘help’ as an excuse to get rid of Jo before moving in on Jacky?”

“I don’t think she’s like that though.”

“Hey, I’m just your fiancé. I don’t know anything.”

Angela turned around slightly in her seat to face Ehlo. “Would you knock it off with that talk? It’s getting annoying.”

Ehlo smiled. “You mean you weren’t annoyed the first few times?”

Angela ignored him and turned around to face front again.

Ehlo turned to Wallace. “What did I say wrong?”

“I can’t help you there,” Wallace diverted himself away from the battlefield. “Just be glad she’s not driving because you would’ve been kicked off already.”

Ehlo shrugged his shoulders and turned to look at the scenery passing by again instead of starting up another argument with Angela. Somehow, Angela took a chance to call Valerie after shrugging off Ehlo’s comment.

*****

“One seagull, two seagulls, three seagulls, four…” Qiao Qiao counted.

Chen Yi wrinkled his face. “Qiao, there are no seagulls here.”

Qiao Qiao tapped on the table. “I’m bored.”

Chen Yi turned to Ming Dao. “Your girl is a bit abnormal.”

Qiao Qiao hit him on the shoulder since she was sitting between them.

“What’s with you guys and teasing me and her?” Ming Dao asked, not being able to take it anymore.

Chen Yi smiled. “Well…see…”

Qiao Qiao gave Chen Yi a sharp look. “You promised, remember?”

Chen Yi shrugged. “Okay.” He turned to Ming Dao. “Can’t really tell you but I’ll quit it, okay?”

Qiao Qiao turned to Ming Dao with a nervous glance. “Sorry…”

Ming Dao shrugged, still clueless but decided to not pursue the matter anymore. As long as he had their words of no more tease, he was reassured.

Johnny came back at that time and placed their drinks in front of them.

“Hurray!” Qiao Qiao shouted in her cheerful tone again. “Thanks!”

Johnny smiled at her before sitting down next to Achel.

“I wonder what they found out,” Chen Yi pondered.

“This has better be good,” Qiao Qiao said.

As they continued to ponder aloud about Angela and Bianca’s possible progress, they could hear some footsteps approaching them. They turned at the same time to see Valerie walking toward them.

Valerie smiled. “Hi, guys.”

“Hey,” Chen Yi said casually.

“Can we help you?” Johnny asked.

“Angela called me,” Valerie explained. “I live around here so I got here as soon as I can. I guess they’re not here yet?”

“No…uh…” Chen Yi began.

Valerie shifted her attention to him upon hearing his change of tones.

“They’re here now.”

Valerie turned around to take a look. She could see the others were walking up to them. Angela sent her a smile and increased her pace toward her.

“Been waiting long?” Angela asked.

“Not at all. I just got here.” She saw Jacky and Sonia. “I guess it’s time for celebration?”

“Not quite yet but if you want to celebrate, then let’s do it,” Ehlo said upon hearing Valerie’s words.

A waiter walked up to them at that time and volunteered to lead them to their seats but they blurted out their drink preferences to send him back inside. Ehlo grabbed a chair and pulled it over to sit between Johnny and Ming Dao while Jacky and the others were settling at the table next over.

“Since we’re all here now, what to do?” Ehlo asked.

“You guys have to tell us what happened first,” Qiao Qiao said.

“Oh, almost forgot.”

Ehlo briefly summarized for Valerie’s sake what happened since yesterday before letting Angela and Bianca tell the rest what they found out at the temple. At least he told Valerie what Angela left out from the phone conversation yesterday with Valerie. It was somewhere along the way that Jacky finally realized that Valerie was also in on the whole conspiracy to pull him and Sonia together before–hence the others weren’t surprise that she was with them now.

“That rat!” Qiao Qiao exclaimed after Angela and Bianca finished.

“Calling a girl a rat?” Chen Yi asked.

“That’s so low. She would use such tricks?”

“It’s a scary world out there, Qiao. You should know.” He turned to the others. “What do we do now? I mean if we can’t just confront her, what else can we do?”

“We can set up a trap for her,” Angela said.

“Like?” Ehlo prompted.

Wallace turned to Angela. “Are you saying we get her to confess to Auntie? She wouldn’t fall for it since she’s so close to success now. Besides, like we can trap her ‘cause she knows we’re Jacky’s friends.”

“Just maybe we can get her to confess,” Valerie jumped in.

Everyone turned to Valerie. They could see her sly smile proudly on her face.

“I don’t like that look,” Ehlo said. “What are you thinking?”

“Maybe she needs a little persuasion,” Valerie said.

“Stop talking in that suspense tone. What have you got?”

“Let’s say if someone rattles her a bit like threatening to expose her or steal Jacky from her. Since she’s so close to getting what she wants, wouldn’t she be frustrated if she knows she has competition? A brand new competition. In fact, a competition that she never knew about?”

Angela smiled. “Don’t tell me you want to do the honor.”

Ehlo wrinkled his face. “What?”

“Don’t tell me you’re just going to walk up to her and declare war,” Wallace said.

Valerie smiled. “Wouldn’t it be in my nature already? So it would make sense if I should take such actions.”

“Are you saying you’re going to walk up to Jo and tell her that you like me and want to…?” Jacky asked, leaving the rest of the sentence off since it was so obvious.

Valerie turned to Jacky. “Of course. It would work because she doesn’t know who I am…unless she listens to my show. What she doesn’t know is my connection with you guys. If I would just convince her a bit, she would be so mad as to blurt out how she already secured her position with you. Then I can record all her words. We can play it for your mom to hear later.” She smiled. “Great idea?”

Before the others could say anything, the waiter came back with their drinks. Ehlo waited for him to clear out before speaking up.

“It would just work. Considering how Jo usually reacts if there’s a threat in her way. Remember that charity event you guys went to? She went ballistic that night ‘cause she couldn’t figure out if Jacky’s with Sonia or Qiao.”

Jacky looked around. “Where’s Sam?”

Ehlo suddenly realized Sam’s absence also. He turned to Chen Yi and the others for an explanation.

“Occupied with something so he didn’t come,” Chen Yi said.

“Two bets it has something to do with Xiao Qiao,” Ehlo muttered.

“Guys!” Angela exclaimed, trying to remind them of the current situation.

Ehlo turned to her. “What?”

“Are we going to focus on the plan or not?”

“I agree with the plan. What about you guys?”

“Wouldn’t it be too unbelievable?” Jacky asked. “I mean Valerie wanting to…uh…”

Ehlo turned to Jacky. “You mean you don’t know she likes you?”

Chen Yi turned to Valerie. “It looks like he’s not as smart as you dubbed him to be.”

“You mean you…” Jacky asked, shocked.

“Of course I like you,” Valerie said to Jacky in a so casual tone that it sounded like she just confessed to have eaten the last apple out of the fruit bowl. “Why would I always defend you for? So I can climb the ladder faster?”

“I…I’m sorry I thought that you were.”

Valerie waved her hand. “No big deal. I’m glad that you’re with Sonia anyway and not some girl down the street.”

Ehlo turned to Valerie. “Get out of here! I said the same thing to Qiao.” He pointed at Valerie. “That’s it. Let’s get together since we’ve both been rejected silently.”

Angela hit his extended hand.

She was actually sitting next to him so it was very easy to attack. Although Ehlo was sitting between Johnny and Ming Dao at the other table but he actually set his chair so it was slightly turn so that he could turn around comfortably to look at both groups between the two tables. In fact, Johnny, Ming Dao, Angela, and Valerie’s chairs were slightly turned as well so they could pay attention to both sides.

Ehlo smiled. “Are you jealous?”

“Like I care.”

“Uh…guys,” Johnny said, his turn to remind them about the situation. “Are we going with Valerie’s idea or not?”

For some reason, they all turned to Jacky and Sonia.

“I still think it’s too…” Jacky hesitated.

“Don’t say cruel,” Ehlo said. “She deserves it.”

“I just thought it wouldn’t be fair to Val.”

“I thought of this plan, right?” Valerie reminded him. “So why wouldn’t it be fair to me? Besides, I’ve never met such a despicable girl before. I really want to get my hands on her and teach her a lesson.”

“Actually, if you think of it, she’s not as despicable,” Johnny said. “She just likes Jacky too much and can’t seem to find any way.”

Ehlo turned to Johnny. “Are you her spy? Stop trying to sabotage us.”

“I’m just saying…”

“Aiya… you guys,” Angela interjected. “Come on now. Maybe she’s just childish, okay? Happy now? Let’s get this thing going.”

Ehlo placed a hand on Angela’s right shoulder. “Calm down. We’re sorry, okay?”

Angela slapped Ehlo’s hand off but did it a little lighter than he expected. “It’s okay. I’m just impatient right now.”

“Anyone know her work schedule?” Valerie asked.

“You mean she works?” Ehlo asked back.

Chen Yi slapped Ehlo a high five.

“Good one, Mr. Pervert,” Chen Yi complimented.

Ehlo pointed at Chen Yi. “Eh…”

Chen Yi flashed on his wide grin. “Sorry. Old habit.”

“Guys?” Valerie prompted.

“She’s working at some gift shop,” Jacky replied. “I forgot what it’s called.”

“Norish…no…Notorious?” Ehlo attempted.

Chen Yi burst out laughing and ended up choking. Achel had to slap his back so he could recover.

“You mean they honestly have no other name?” Chen Yi asked, his voice a bit hoarse from the coughing fit. When his voice resumed its normal tone again, he said, “Or they just want to create the opposite effect?”

“I swear it’s Notorious,” Ehlo said. “Or is it Narcotic?”

Angela gave him an evil eye.

Ehlo turned on his innocent smile. “What?”

“If you’re not helping…”

“I’ll call and ask Mom later since it would make sense that I want to meet her after work, right?” Jacky suggested.

Valerie nodded.

“I guess that’s set?” Ehlo asked the others. “We just have to wait for you two to make the move and then we’re done, right?”

“If she will take the bait,” Valerie pointed out.

“Oh come on now. You were so optimistic before, why doubt yourself now?”

“I’m just bringing forth other possibilities.”

“I have faith in you.”

Angela gave him another evil glare.

“What?”

“I thought you said she…”

Before Angela could finish, Ehlo already grabbed a hold of Angela from behind with one hand and used his other hand to cover her mouth. She spent the next several seconds trying to free herself. When she was free again, she shoved him aside with her right elbow and tried to take in fresh gulp of air before speaking up again.

“What did you do that for?!” She exclaimed with irritation.

“Nothing,” Ehlo said innocently. “Was just…uh…getting friendly.”

“Yeah right!”

Wallace handed Angela her drink so she could resurrect herself. She smiled at him before taking it.

Ehlo pointed at Wallace. “Hey, stop scoring points with my fiancée. Or I’m going to kick you out.”

“Are you guys really engaged?” Valerie asked.

Angela wrinkled her face. “No way.”

“She’s my ex,” Wallace said.

Angela turned to Wallace. “Thanks for the info. Are we sharing old time stories now?” She put her drink down and walked away from them after that.

Ehlo got up and followed her. “Hey! Come on! We were just kidding. You can’t be serious.”

“I just remember I need to do something, that’s all. See you guys around.” She said that without turning around to acknowledge the others at all.

Ehlo stood there to watch her for a bit more before returning to his seat.

“Should we go after her?” Valerie asked.

“Nah. She’s a big girl. She could take care of herself.”

“I guess we’re done for the day?” Wallace asked.

“You have other plans?”

“Yeah.”

“See you later then.” When Wallace was finally out of earshot, Ehlo turned back to the others. “Who wants to guess that he’s going after Angela?”

“Are you saying that they got back together?” Jacky asked.

“Who knows? I mean Cyndi’s suddenly hanging out with Tony and…”

“He might be going with Penny,” Qiao Qiao jumped in.

“This is all you guys spend doing?” Valerie asked.

“Hey, so we have no life besides from sitting around and gossip about our friends,” Ehlo said passively.

Jacky suddenly let out a laugh.

Ehlo eyed him suspiciously. “Don’t tell me you lost it. Or you don’t believe that you could escape Jo.”

“No. I just thought that it’s silly how I didn’t investigate like you guys did but just assumed that I’m doomed for good.”

“Don’t blame you since you’ve been too blinded by love.”

“Not to mention that you wouldn’t believe in those fortune stuffs anyway,” Chen Yi pointed out. “How would you know that someone messed with the birthdates?”

“Let’s not talk about this anymore. How about going somewhere to have some real fun?”

“Like where?” Valerie asked.

“Like…”

“If you guys don’t mind, we’re outta here,” Johnny interrupted.

As he said that, he and Bianca got up at the same time.

“Have fun then,” Ehlo said. “See you tonight.”

“Yeah,” Johnny said.

Bianca waved to the others before following Johnny down the path.

“Tonight?” Valerie asked, puzzled.

“We live together,” Ehlo said. “Along with Jacky and Wallace too.”

“Oh…”

“I like it better when we were all single though.”

“I thought you’re engaged,” Valerie teased.

“She doesn’t want to be engaged to me anymore,” Ehlo said in a sad tone, playing along.

“Seriously Ehlo, do you like Angela?” Sonia asked.

Jacky smiled at her as the others were turning their attention to Ehlo as well. However, Ehlo didn’t seem to be uncomfortable of the sudden spotlight on him. He flashed on his usual bright smile before responding.

“What do you guys think?” He asked back.

“I thought you like Xiao Ru,” Qiao Qiao said.

“A guy can’t choose?”

“Were you blurting out Xiao Ru’s name just so the rest of us wouldn’t feel so awkward the other day?”

Ehlo smiled. “I’ll let you guys ponder that out further. But honestly, girl. I’m okay, right? So take it as I was just checking you out from time to time.”

“You seriously are pushing your luck,” Chen Yi said. “Are you keeping your options open? ‘Cause it would be so wrong to keep both girls in suspense like that.”

“Xiao Ru doesn’t know that I think she’s interesting. Only you guys know, right?”

“But Chen Yi’s right,” Valerie said. “You shouldn’t act so…”

Ehlo turned to Valerie. “Do you want to put your name up for consideration as well?”

Valerie had on her stern look. “I’m just saying this because I’m Angela’s friend. Even though we only talk more to each other recently but I really like her attitude toward work and everything. I just hope she isn’t involved in one of your games–if that’s what you’re setting up right now.”

Ehlo smiled. “Geez. I just started to like you and now you’re giving me a lecture?”

“I’m serious.”

Ehlo knew that he should stop messing with her so he replaced his playful smile with an appreciative one. “Don’t worry. I know what I’m doing.”

“I hope you do.” She looked at her watch out of habit. “Anyway, I guess I’ll just head off too. See you all around. And Jacky…”

“I know,” Jacky said. “I’ll call you as soon as I talk to Mom.”

Valerie nodded and got up to leave them.

Again, Ehlo had to wait for her to be out of earshot like with Wallace before resuming the conversation.

“What’s with her anyway?”

Sonia smiled. “Don’t worry. She’s just concerned for Angela.”

Ehlo shrugged his shoulders before turning to Chen Yi, Achel, Ming Dao, and Qiao Qiao. He realized they were not really paying attention to him and the others but were having side conversations of their own.

“I guess we should just scatter since no one really has any other inputs?” He asked them.

Jacky glanced at his watch. “Yeah. Let’s go. You’re going with me or…”

Ehlo nodded.

Without saying, they all got up at the same time and walked down the path together. Jacky and Sonia took it into their hands to go inside and pay for their drinks.

Ehlo walked with the other four back to their cars, feeling a bit strange as he lost himself in his thoughts. He pondered why he suddenly felt this emptiness creeping up from within. He scolded himself for letting Jacky’s past moods and Wallace’s possible current mood affecting him. He should be happy that Jacky’s problems would soon be resolved and Wallace could take care of himself. Even if Ehlo didn’t get along with Wallace as much since they usually have their conflict of interest, but he must appreciate Wallace’s effort in coming up with the scheme to confront Jacky. It was one of those times that he felt that they were true friends. Then a disturbing thought occurred in his mind. Could it be because everyone was pairing off so nicely now–except for some people–that he couldn’t help feeling left out? He knew that he was bluffing when he said he was madly in love with Wei Ru. He was just trying to reassure Qiao Qiao. He knew it was coming, right? Jacky predicted it already that he would lose–whether Jacky was joking at that time or not. Besides, it was just a harmless crush toward a girl totally different from the ones he’d met before. It wouldn’t affect his friendship with anyone involved.

He suddenly felt relief after re-analyzing the matter in his mind. He shrugged it off as part of his paranoia for thinking that he was feeling left out just because his friends were taken. But as he reached Jacky’s car and did a quick wave toward the others, he couldn’t help feeling strange all over again. It was until Jacky and Sonia finally came out that he could talk to them and distract himself from his vivid imagination.

© Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Re-posted: Thursday, February 10th, 2011

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