Chapter 35 – Call for a Celebration

As to add to these past days’ strange occurrences or the list of unexpected, Ehlo and Angela outdid Chen Yi for once since they were the first to arrive at Uncle Ben’s noodle stall. Aunt June was actually there today to help him. They saw a few customers at various tables so they proceeded in silence at first, observing the noodle stall. It was strange that they hadn’t been there for a long time now. Ehlo let out a sudden smile since he realized the similarity of their nature for coming here once again. The only difference was that he wasn’t in a bad mood like last time, scolding at Angela. She was the one who was annoyed with him. He did another quick scan of the area when he spotted Chen Yi arriving with Jacky behind him. Ehlo abandoned the thought of greeting Uncle Ben and turned toward the two cars instead. Uncle Ben could see them also so he took the free time to walk over to them, catching up to Ehlo and Angela.

“You kids all right?” Uncle Ben asked with his usual concerned tone.

Ehlo smiled. “We’re fine. We just came here to visit.”

“Is that so? Or do you need my help again? I’ll be free this afternoon since I’m closing early. I need to set my brother straight once and for all. That’s not exactly the way to do it, you know. What is this? Forcing your kid into marriage at this day and age?”

Ehlo couldn’t help but utter out a laugh, shaking his head. He just had to love Uncle Ben for being so defensive and protective of his own nephew. It didn’t get any better than this. He was glad that he decided to come here first. “We have to update you on the latest but let’s wait for the star of our show first.”

Uncle Ben looked confused but he could see that Jacky and the others were coming so he stood there waiting for the others to approach also. Qiao Qiao was the first one to run up to him with a happy face.

“Uncle Ben!” Qiao Qiao greeted him excitedly. “Guess what? We got the greatest news for you!”

“Hi, Qiao. I see that you’re happy today but are you kids just trying to reassure me? I know that you kids don’t want me to worry but I’m determined to help back you kids up this time.”

Jacky looked at Ehlo. “You haven’t told him?”

Ehlo grinned. “I was waiting for the star of our show!” He put an index finger up to stop Jacky. “Hold up.” He then turned to Wallace. “Huo, ready for our next segment?”

The others–even Angela–hadn’t realized that Ehlo had been holding onto his camcorder the whole time. He raised it up to eye level, focusing into the scene before telling Wallace to continue. Some customers at different tables were turning around to look upon hearing Ehlo saying those words.

“Uncle Ben, like Qiao said, we’re bringing good news here,” Wallace began in a narrative voice.

“Huo, get to the point,” Ehlo urged.

Wallace turned to Ehlo. “Why don’t you say it then?”

“Looks like Huang and Huo aren’t as a strong team as we’ve been thinking,” Qiao Qiao jabbed.

Ehlo turned to Qiao Qiao. “Just ‘cause you’re his sister doesn’t make you immune to our attacks. You just wait, girl.”

“Huang, get to the point,” Angela commanded.

Ehlo turned to Angela with a smile. “Yes, ma’am.”

Angela crossed her hands in front of her and looked away from him again.

Uncle Ben turned to Jacky. “What good news?”

“Uncle, we’ve taken care of things already,” Jacky replied, looking around at the same time. “Should we go over there to where Auntie is before saying it since we won’t have to repeat the news later?”

Uncle Ben nodded since he could see that Ehlo had managed to attract the customers’ curiosity with his camera. At that time, Johnny, Bianca, and Sam managed to join them as well before they began to tell Uncle Ben and Aunt June of their discoveries and plots within the past week. When they were done, Aunt June let out a sigh of relief as Uncle Ben spoke up.

“I guess that means you don’t need my help after all.”

“We’ve bothered you enough already and we did cause you to argue with Aunt Mary,” Wallace said in an apologetic tone.

Uncle Ben waved his hand. “I’m already used to it. You kids don’t need to worry.” He took a quick scan at the group. “So…what are you kids going to do now?”

“We were thinking of going out for a celebration,” Ehlo told him.

“Here?”

“Uh…” Ehlo turned to look at the others.

“I’m just kidding. Don’t worry. You just go off to wherever and have fun. If you want, you can come back later in the afternoon since I’ll be off. We can go to my house for dinner. That is if you kids want to. “

Jacky looked at the others as well to see them nod. “We’ll come back later then.”

They left the stall and walked back out toward the curb.

“Do we need to bring something back later?” Ming Dao asked. “I mean going there empty-handed is sort of…uh…”

“You can if you want,” Jacky said.

“Where are we going to go if we’re not going to stay here?” Sonia asked.

“Somewhere with fresh air?” Bianca suggested. “Like the sea or…”

“Good idea,” Jacky agreed. “But where and what should we do? I don’t feel like going to the local beach since it’s so crowded during the weekends and…”

“As long as there is water, it’s fine, right?” Qiao Qiao asked.

“What are you suggesting?” Ehlo asked, turning to her.

Qiao Qiao turned to Chen Yi. “Doesn’t East Shore Café allow you to reserve it for gatherings?”

“Not sure if we can do it today since it’s on such short notice,” Chen Yi said. “It won’t hurt to try though.” He fished out his cell phone. “Let me check with them.”

“You guys have some café’s number on your cell phone?” Ehlo asked, amused.

“It’s our favorite hangout since high school.”

“Still weird…”

“You have Ed’s place on speed dial too, you know,” Jacky pointed out.

Ehlo pointed at Jacky. “That’s plain backstabbing, Chu. After all, Huo and I did help you out of the mess. That’s how you’re going to repay me?”

Jacky let out a smile as Chen Yi tried the number again since he couldn’t get through the first time around. He succeeded this time so they quieted down and waited for him to be done. It took Chen Yi about two minutes before he was off the phone.

“Well?” Ehlo asked.

“I think luck is really turning on us,” Chen Yi informed them. “Well, at least it seems that way.”

“Care to elaborate?”

“One of these large groups cancelled their reservation, costing the restaurant some loss. So now they have the back area empty. They were going to open up for regular customers again but I called in on time so they say they’ll save it for us.”

“By the pier?” Qiao Qiao asked.

Chen Yi nodded.

“Let’s go then.”

Chen Yi turned to the others. “Guys?”

The rest nodded.

Again, they went in the same cars as before after Chen Yi gave them the direction to the café. But as they were getting into their cars, Angela spoke up.

“Oh yeah, let’s call Valerie up too since we have to thank her officially.”

“Good point,” Jacky agreed.

“I’ll call Cyndi since I think she’s not busy today,” Wallace said.

“What about Tony?” Ehlo didn’t realize what he just said until Wallace gave him a look. He shrugged his shoulders. “I’m just suggesting. We don’t have to call him.”

Wallace shrugged his shoulders as well. “It doesn’t matter. We’re just celebrating our victory.”

“That’s right,” Angela said. “The more the merrier, right? We haven’t gotten together in a large group for a while.”

The others looked at her–shocked–since they practically lived together these past weeks.

“I meant as in everyone hanging out, you know.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Bianca said. “Come on, guys.”

She finally entered her car and got ready to pull out. The others followed suit, not wanting to waste any more time.

*****

“How did you guys ever think up of this one?” Tony asked them. “BBQ at a café? Only you guys could think of it.”

“Come on now, we’ve rented this place for a celebration,” Chen Yi said, defending them all. “Why couldn’t we make the best of it, right?”

Tony nodded. “That’s true.”

They were actually at East Shore Café and had somehow decided to do a BBQ along the way here. It was more like Chen Yi’s suggestion but they went ahead with it anyway. They’d been using the last half an hour or so to set up and were now standing in front of the grill to roast their own food selections. Well, only some of them were while the rest were spread out within their reserved area. Ehlo, Angela, and Wallace were actually sitting at the railing not far from where they set up the grill, but were sitting quite a distance from one another, enjoying the breeze. Qiao Qiao and Yan Yan were sitting at the far end of the pier–the same place where they had a talk with Chen Yi the last time–and were chatting away about something. Valerie and Cyndi were actually talking to each other also. It seemed that they had some shared interests with each other and somehow wanted to talk more. Penny and Melody–yes, they came also since the more the merrier was being practiced–were also talking to them. Ming Dao and Sam were just walking around, exploring the area before joining the others again. Achel, of course, had been by Chen Yi’s side the whole time since they arrived at the café.

As Chen Yi and Tony were chatting away, Jacky took a quick glance at Ehlo by the rail. He wondered why Ehlo wasn’t racing around with his camera anymore. It was hard to imagine Ehlo sitting still at one place for a long time–nevertheless witnessing it with his own eyes. He handed his stick of food to Sonia real quick before signaling to her that he was going over to talk to Ehlo. At that same time, Bianca also handed her stick to Johnny and headed over to where Angela was sitting–maintaining an uneven distance between Ehlo and Wallace. She was actually closer to Ehlo on the rail than to Wallace but they were still not that close to each other either.

When Ehlo saw Jacky walking over to him, he gave Jacky a quick wave to show that he was paying attention. Jacky leaned his back on the rail to Ehlo’s right before speaking up.

“What’s wrong? I thought you should be over there fighting with the others for the food.”

Ehlo smiled. “No, just thought I slow down for a bit. After all, it’s a bit funny to think that we actually joined forces to accomplish something. Although it would sound too foolish and minimal to others, but it’s the effort that counts, you know?”

“Something to be proud of because it proves the strength of our friendship?” Johnny asked.

They looked up to see Johnny carrying two sticks of foods over to them. He handed a stick to Jacky and Ehlo before leaning against the rail to join the others also, but he was standing on Ehlo’s left. (He had already given Bianca’s stick to her before coming over to where Jacky and Ehlo were.)

“Exactly,” Ehlo said in response to Johnny’s question. “It’s not doing the big things that make the most point but the little silly things that make us appreciate life more.”

“Your enlightened talk is freaking us out,” Jacky said.

“Not to mention you usually don’t get this cheesy,” Johnny added.

“I guess there are always exceptions?” Ehlo asked.

Jacky and Johnny nodded at the same time.

While Jacky and Johnny continued their conversation with Ehlo, Angela and Bianca were having a conversation of their own.

“You all right?” Bianca asked Angela. “Not joining in the excitement with the others?”

“I’m fine. I just want to sit around and reflect a bit.”

“Reflect?” Bianca asked, concerned.

Angela shook her head. “It’s not anything worrisome. But I’m just feeling like I need to slow down and take in all the things that have been going on and try to figure out matters. Although things have been dragging out since we’ve been stressing and trying to figure out ways to help Sonia, but it seems to go by so fast at the same time. I just want to take a step back and rest for a bit.”

Bianca nodded. “I know it’s hard to believe that so much has happened in just a week.”

Angela nodded also. “It’s like we’ve been walking in some kind of fog and we suddenly found our way out of it again.”

Bianca turned slightly to her right to look at Angela. “Are you sure you’re all right?”

“I’m fine. I just want some time alone to sort my thoughts out.”

Bianca placed a hand on Angela’s shoulder. “Don’t think too much, all right? If you can’t think it through clearly, you know Sonia and I are here for you anytime, okay?”

Angela nodded.

Bianca observed Angela’s face a bit more before stepping away to give Angela some time and space alone.

While the girls were exchanging the last few words, the guys were also wrapping up their conversation.

Jacky turned slightly to his left to face Ehlo. “Actually, I came over here because I want to thank you officially for waking me up. I mean I would never know it if I had gone through with the wedding blindly and…”

Ehlo waved his hand. “Forget it. Like I said before, you would have never seen it coming, right? I can’t take credit for it all though. Huo came up with the majority of the schemes.”

Jacky smiled. “Talking about Huo, I need to go talk to him too.”

“Before you go, how about a cheer to our friendship?”

Jacky and Johnny exchanged a look before clinking their soda cans to Ehlo’s since they each had one to begin with. After that, Jacky and Johnny walked away, leaving Ehlo with his thoughts again. Jacky, of course, walked over to Wallace while Johnny headed toward Bianca who was actually walking back to the grill to join Sonia.

*****

About ten minutes later, Ehlo got up from his spot to dispose of his empty soda can and stick before going back to his post. He couldn’t help it but feel Valerie’s words coming back to him upon spotting her talking away with the other three girls on the far left table from the grill.

Although he knew the reason he gave Ming Dao and Sam that one time about trying to annoy Angela when they asked him if he really liked her. He also said that he wanted to find out what her motive was with Jacky. However, he couldn’t help but think if it was more than just that. At the same time, he knew deep down that she WAS really fun to tease considering how she would snap at his every word and make a fool out of herself. Xiao Ru, on the other, was just as silly. She was just too cute and funny in that she tried too hard to help him with Qiao Qiao without knowing the whole truth behind the story. He couldn’t blame her for trying to help. He should blame the others more for putting their continuation round of teases. He should also blame himself for letting them as well. A simple crush for a strange girl was just a crush after all. But what about Xiao Han or Xiao Ru? He knew he couldn’t be liking them for real, right? Xiao Ru would be a more of a possibility since despite her aggressiveness to score points with Qiao Qiao and being so pushy, they did get along very well–unlike what he was carrying on with Angela right now. They were like salt and pepper. Or water and fire. Whatever, he knew he had to take Valerie seriously about not sending out the wrong messages. If a joke was put out there for too long, it would become an uninvited complication.

Just as he was about to give up on his thinking as he was clutching on his spinning head, he could see Wallace smiling about something on the other side of Angela. What was this guy up to? Was he going to pursue Angela once again? It looked like Wallace was checking out the group of four by the table to the far left but he could be thinking of a totally different matter, right? Ehlo gave himself a mental shrug once again. He knew that he just managed to help Jacky, but was he going to be such a busybody and stick his nose into Wallace’s business as well? No, he shouldn’t overestimate his abilities. After all, if it wasn’t partially for Wallace, they wouldn’t be able to achieve. But then again, he couldn’t help feeling a strange itch slithering up from within wondering silently if his hypothesis was true at all. He shrugged his head once more, trying to stop his mind from jumping ahead ten steps. He needed a break from all these so he had to make sure he sorted out his problems first. He shouldn’t meddle into Wallace’s.

As if it helped any, since after convincing himself to leave Wallace alone, his mind returned to the matter regarding Angela and Xiao Ru all over again. However, he was glad that his mind should return to the matter again since he realized he couldn’t hide from it no matter how he tried to push it aside for the time being. Some things were meant to be put off for another time–like his current project at work–and others needed to be focused on at a certain time before it was too late.

Just as he tapped on the rail, he took another look around the area at every single small group being formed. His eyes stopped at Wallace and Angela again. Whether out of habit or coincidental, he couldn’t be sure. Just as he was about to give up, moving his vision away from the two and guiding it toward the water behind him, he realized something very important. He let out a smile as he turned back to where Angela was. His curiosity was actually his answer after all. Curiosity is just curiosity after all, he thought. Feeling happy that his question had been answered and his problem resolved at last, he let out a victory smile–yet it contained such a strong sense of peace that one would have a hard time to imagine possible on his face. It was at that same time also that Angela turned toward his direction with a happy smile of her own. He silently wondered what she’d been thinking of, but because he was so happy that he didn’t care to speak up to spoil her moods or start a fight with her at that moment so he maintained that peaceful smile until she turned away from him to look out at the clear water with the mid-noon sun spreading its sparkling light on the surface.

*****

While Ehlo had been doing some thinking of his own after Jacky and Johnny left his side, Angela was also doing some thinking herself–like she told Bianca. She wasn’t just thinking of how her opinion had changed of some of her friends this time around–after she moved back to town, but was also trying to confront herself of her conflicting thoughts and actions at times. Yes, she had learned a lot these past months but she couldn’t help wondering if she had finally matured or was it because she had already grown up years before but just let her stubbornness take over? Was she clinging on to a piece of the past too hard and was unwilling to understand until recently? Without knowing it, she turned to steal a look at Wallace before turning her attention to an unknown spot past Cyndi and the other girls’ table to sort out her thoughts again.

Was she still trying to slowly pave her way back into Wallace’s heart or was she just trying to help her friends this time around? Then she turned toward where Jacky–who had returned to their side after having a little side chat with Wallace a bit after leaving Ehlo’s side–and the others were chatting by the grill and laughing away. What was this feeling in her right now exactly? Relief that she could finally let go of the past? Satisfaction because of her own achievement? Or happy that she finally realized that she shouldn’t blame anyone for what happened between her and Wallace except for herself? Did she seriously want to go through the same thing with Wallace again–even though she had been a lot calmer with handling some matters these past weeks, which was so unlike her past hot-headed self? Somewhere nabbing in her heart was a message jumping out, screeching its apparent ‘No’. However, how could she have explained her reactions each time Wallace brought up about their past breakup? Or was it because she was thinking too much about the words Ehlo had said with them trying to get back together? Somehow, she couldn’t help feeling mad at Ehlo for making things more complicated by constantly bringing the subject to her attention. Then she scolded at herself silently for making things complicated all by herself in the first place. But why then if the answer was so apparent that she didn’t want to get back with Wallace? Why was she feeling a great stab in the heart every time someone mentioned anything about her and Wallace? If she didn’t care, she could already let it rest, right? She could just ignore it because it was already part of the past.

Putting her hands on the railing again, she directed her attention yet again to the four girls chatting away still. Cyndi and Penny seem to get along very well, she thought. She found it strange that… Then it hit her. She shook her head in silliness, feeling foolish for not seeing the answer when it was right in front of her the whole time. Thank you, she thought. Thank you so much, Wang Xin Ling and Lin Wei Jun. She thanked Valerie also for getting along so well with them both the whole time to allow her to cast some extra attention toward the group more than she usually would before turning toward her right again. She smiled peacefully at the happy scene in front of the grill once more, appreciating their presence, before turning her attention toward the water behind her.

She stopped turning for just a second–or maybe more–as she could see Ehlo smiling over at her for no particular reason. She was about to utter out some words to sabotage his sudden joy but decided against it since she had already thought it through. Instead, she continued to send that same smile toward him casually as she directed her attention to the water at last, feeling a sense of peace from within. She spent about a minute to appreciate the sparkling lights on the water before turning back to the view of the café.

Another strange thing happened as she looked over toward her left to check on Qiao Qiao and Yan Yan by the edge of the pier to the far left. What is with everyone and secret smiles today? She couldn’t believe that Wallace was also smiling at her. Were Huang and Huo up to something again that they didn’t tell anyone beforehand? She shrugged it off as paranoia as she sent a friendly smile toward Wallace as well, deciding that it wouldn’t hurt to maintain the balance at that moment. Besides, hadn’t she already thought it through?

*****

So why was Wallace smiling at Angela? Or was it just a coincidence like how it happened with Ehlo and Angela?

Wallace, like the others, had been thinking about things as well but not until Jacky left his side–which was a bit later than when Ehlo and Angela started their thinking. So what had Wallace been thinking about really?

Wallace had been putting his own problems on hold since the day he discovered of Jacky’s obstacle. But now that he found no other excuse to delay his thoughts any longer, he wanted to take this opportunity with the sun and sea–partially figuratively since they were not really at a sea–to confront himself once and for all.

Why should you delay this any longer, Wallace Huo? I’m not delaying it, he answered his own question. At least not anymore. Hadn’t I learned enough from Jacky’s hesitation and goof ups? Of course, he knew that was not the point since it was not totally Jacky’s fault after all. Jacky thought that he was trying to do what was supposed to be good for others yet he was just blinded by his bias views after all. And not to mention he was tricked by Jo. But what about Wallace? Wallace wasn’t held back by anything else except his own paranoia. Why was he hesitating? He glimpsed at Cyndi and Penny getting along so well with Valerie and Melody, and silently admired them for it.  Or were they just putting up a fake front? No, they had no reason to be. They were all decent girls after all. Just because he couldn’t sort his thoughts for the girls in his life didn’t mean he had to think ill of their attitudes and behaviors toward one another.

He couldn’t help but form a light smile on his face as he saw Cyndi reaching over to slap Penny a high five. He wondered what they were discussing about. So they were actually keeping score about something after all? Upon thinking of Cyndi, he couldn’t help but turned toward the grill to steal a look at Tony. He could see Tony slapping Jacky a high five across the grill as well. What was with Tony and Cyndi and high fives? Then he scolded at himself for taking it out on Tony as well. Focus, Wallace Huo, focus. You have to stop being a jerk and muster up the courage already. What happened to that fearless guy whom Orchids recruited some years ago? Was that guy suddenly taking a leave of vacation to leave the clueless Wallace Huo here to take care of the mess? Then he wondered also if that ‘fearless guy’ was just a joke after all to conceal his weakness.

Turning back to the four girls again, he couldn’t help but realize how sweet Penny’s smile was. Shrugging his head, he stopped himself from getting distracted from the main point. This was no time to check out cute girls, he reminded himself. He needed to think of what he really wanted. After all, he just promised himself a minute ago he had to take care of it. He can’t run anymore. He can’t. What was more, he can’t waste time. In fact, it was running out really fast as he was sitting there pondering about matters. He needed to hurry. He… He finally understood as he turned to watch Qiao Qiao and Yan Yan talking by the pier. Just go with the flow. What was so hard about this whole thing anyway? Why must he complicate matters and make assumptions when he could just do it? He shouldn’t rely on others’ actions or behaviors to proceed. He shouldn’t let others influence his course of actions. He should be the one in control of himself and not by others’ opinions.

Just as he could sense the familiar and once forgotten fearless Wallace Huo coming back, he let out a smile. As he turned around to check on the group at the grill once again, he spotted Angela smiling at him. Feeling like celebrating for his old self coming back–at long last, he sent her a warm smile of his own before shifting his focus back to where the four girls were.

*****

About half an hour later from Ehlo, Angela, and Wallace’s reflection episodes, the others were gathering around the grill to eat since they’d already exhausted themselves with exploring the area or talking among themselves in small groups, except for two set of groups. Ehlo, Angela, and Wallace were still by the rail at their original spot. Qiao Qiao and Yan Yan were actually still sitting at the edge of the water talking away. Jacky and Bianca–once again–left their place by the grill and walked over to Ehlo and Angela–respectively–to check on them.

“How is it going with your enlightened time?” Jacky joked. “Can we get in yet?”

“Very funny,” Ehlo snapped, but wasn’t annoyed like many times before.

“Seriously though, what are you up to now?”

Ehlo looked casually over toward Angela and Bianca before answering. “Something.”

Jacky could see the trace of mischievousness in Ehlo’s eyes so he looked over to the girls as well to see Angela smiling with an equally challenging look at Ehlo. “Are you going to keep messing with Angela?”

“She’s asking for it. She could’ve back out but no, she just have to take the challenge on, so I’ll just go ahead and fulfill her wish.”

While Jacky continued to pry Ehlo for information, Bianca was also trying to get Angela to confess her thoughts–with little success. It was partly due to the fact that Ehlo and Angela were engaged in a staring contest of their own while talking.

“Well, if you don’t want to say what’s on your mind, it’s fine,” Bianca said finally, leaning on the rail to Angela’s left. “Actually, I really wanted to ask you something earlier but didn’t ‘cause you said you want some time alone.”

Angela finally peeled her eyes away from the staring contest since she could hear the seriousness in Bianca’s voice. “What?”

“Actually, it’s more like the others are curious as well. Even if we agreed with what you did.”

Angela had a confused look on her face. “What? Just ask away ‘cause it’s driving me crazy with the suspense.”

Bianca smiled. “You’re still impatient as always. I’m glad to know since I was wondering who kidnapped you earlier. You’d been so serious since you were lost in thoughts.”

Angela wrinkled her face. “You mean to ask me that?”

“No. Actually, what we were wondering was, why did you speak up for Jo when you did? I mean you were the most anxious to expose her and help Sonia, right? It’s just surprising to see you speaking up for her and wanting Auntie Mary to forgive her just like that.”

Angela tossed her hair back before answering. “Actually, I’m a bit surprised myself why I did that and wouldn’t know how to answer you if you asked that earlier. But now I’m sure why.”

Angela stopped to lick her lips. Bianca didn’t jump in to urge her on but knew that she was trying to collect her thoughts. Since Jacky and Ehlo had stopped talking for a bit, they could hear Angela’s words as well. Or maybe it was because the group at the grill seemed to quiet down as a whole and were carrying side conversations at the tables while eating so it was more audible. Even Wallace was listening in upon hearing Bianca’s question.

“I kept thinking this past week what will happen if we expose Jo finally. I mean yes, Jacky and Sonia will get their approval from Auntie Mary. But what about Jo? Will she pull anymore tricks? Or will she just admit defeat? I got my answer–and we all witnessed it of course–when she broke down yesterday. Maybe because I was bracing myself for the worst and have been mulling it in my mind all along, I knew I had to do it. We all know Jo’s a spoiled brat, right? She won’t give up just like that. Even though she cried and probably knew she did wrong. But it was just for that moment. What about later? What about when everyone’s gone and she’s back into her room and thinks things over again–when she’d calmed down? When Valerie decided to deliver the last blow, I had to interfere. I knew it that she already hates Valerie so much. The only thing we need is one more person for her to be after. It doesn’t end there. This is not some fairy tale that ends when they get married or when this problem is solved. We’ve been through so much as a group and we’re not afraid of what’s ahead. But do we honestly think we can keep going on like this with all the problems popping up? Are we trying to set some sort of record? If I leave an open road for her, she might reconsider. Even when she calms down and might have thoughts of sabotaging Jacky and Sonia or even getting at Valerie in the future, she would hesitate. I might be overly confidence about it since we won’t know for sure in the future. But I know that I had to do it.”

When Angela finished, she then realized that she had been trying to get her thoughts out that she didn’t know everyone was staring at her at that point. They’d actually listened in along the way when her voice became a bit higher–without her knowing since she’d been trying to focus on making her thoughts coherent to Bianca. Even Qiao Qiao and Yan Yan were back from the pier and were standing not far away from Angela and Bianca, tuning in to the explanation. Angela finally felt the awkwardness dawning in on her as she could see even the people who were settled down a few tables from the grill were staring at her so she cleared her throat and turned toward Jacky.

“I’m not being heroic or righteous or whatever you guys want to call it. Like I said to Bianca a minute before. I wasn’t sure what my motive was after I said it since I only had a minute to think before I did it. After I said those words and then we left to take care of the rest. I finally had time to think it over of any possible alternatives earlier. And I’m glad because…” She stopped to let out a smile before continuing. “…I did it because I want to make up for my past wrongs.”

Jacky smiled back at her. “Whatever it is, I still have to thank you for being so considerate.” He let out a sigh. “I want to apologize also for sending you that dagger eye. I thought you were trying to get back at me for something else, like putting me on the edge a bit ‘cause I didn’t exactly handle it correctly, causing Sonia to suffer so much these past weeks.”

“Make up for what past wrongs?” Ehlo jumped in.

Angela directed her eyes to Jacky again. “For thinking the wrong thoughts of Jacky and always misunderstanding him.”

“We honestly underestimated you then. I mean with your fast thinking and being so well prepared with your speech.”

Angela pasted on her challenging look again. “Yes, you have, Huang.”

Ehlo smiled. “You just had to have the last word.”

As Angela turned back to Bianca, the others resumed their usual conversation again after hearing Angela’s speech. With Qiao Qiao and Yan Yan back into the scene, the noise level rose again with Chen Yi and Tony chatting away with them. Jacky also returned his attention to Ehlo.

“You seriously never quit messing with her, do you?” Jacky asked, reviving their last topic of discussion.

Ehlo smiled. “Like I said minutes ago, she asked for the challenge. “

“Miss Chang, looks like someone’s issuing a challenge your way, are you on?” Jacky hollered over to Angela and Bianca.

Ehlo couldn’t stop Jacky in time since he could see Angela turning to look at him with a smile again. This time, it was like a smile that said, “All right, Huang, bring it on. I’m not scared of you.”

Ehlo hopped off the rail. “Thanks a lot, Chu. Nice knowing you too.”

Wallace had actually hopped off the rail also and was walking toward the grill to join the others. As he walked by them, he let out a laugh.

“Huang, you’ve dug yourself a hole,” Wallace said. “Good luck with fighting off my ex’s attacks.”

“Huo, you’re not any better,” Ehlo snapped. “I’m so going solo with my filmmaking career.”

As he said that, he could see Angela and Bianca joining them by the grill as well. Jacky had also returned to Sonia’s side.

Cyndi–who had been talking to Valerie–turned to the guys with a playful smile. “Huo, what did I tell you? You never learn, do you? Stop trying to invite trouble onto yourself.”

Wallace saluted at Cyndi. “Sorry, Miss Wang. I guess I’ve not been listening hard enough.”

Angela took a clean stick from Ehlo. “I guess I should thank Jacky and not the other way around.”

“What do you mean, Angela jie?” Chen Yi asked.

Angela smiled. “Because of what happened between him and Sonia, it had forced me to confront myself of certain matters. So thank you, Zhu Fan Gang.”

Ehlo turned to Jacky. “I actually agree with her–for once.” He clapped Jacky’s left shoulder lightly. “Thanks, Chu.”

“Me too,” Wallace said.

Ehlo released his hand from Jacky’s shoulder and turned to Wallace at that time. The others braced themselves for the upcoming words. However, for some reason, Ehlo didn’t attack Wallace at all for copying him. But he sent Wallace a secretive smile. Angela then remembered what had happened earlier so she sent them both a smile of her own also.

Chen Yi eyed them suspiciously. “We missed something?”

“Nothing,” She said with the same secretive smile, pointing at his stick of food. “Eat.”

“I guess that means the rest of us will have to thank Jacky too?” Tony joked. “After all, if it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t get an opportunity to gather here today, right?”

“True,” Chen Yi admitted. “Good idea. How about a toast to our friendship then?”

Upon hearing the last part, Jacky turned to look at Ehlo and Johnny, sharing a secret smile that they’d already did that earlier. However, they wouldn’t mind doing that again–with the rest of the group. Ehlo passed Angela a soda can as the others were raising their soda can along with Chen Yi.

After their toast for friendship, they went back to their own tables again, especially those who’d long resided at the grill to tend it. Ehlo, Angela, and Wallace were actually the only ones left at the grill as the rest finally settled down to carry on their side conversations. Ehlo was scooping the remaining foods for the other two. Then Angela took it to a table a foot from the grill while the guys tried to put out the fire and finally joined her at the table. It was interesting to see them at the same table but the others no longer had to worry that there should be a real fight going on since after all, they were all friends.

A few minutes passed by before anyone spoke up to the group as a whole. It was surprisingly not Jacky, Ehlo, Wallace, or Chen Yi–who were known to be the most talkative among the guys here combined–but Ming Dao. He was actually sitting at the same table as Qiao Qiao, Tony, and Yan Yan. The four girls–Cyndi, Penny, Valerie, and Melody–were still sitting together at a table between Ming Dao and Ehlo’s. Jacky, Sonia, Chen Yi, and Achel were at the same table–which was the table next to Wallace’s seat. Johnny, Bianca, and Sam were at the same table next to Sonia’s seat from one side and next to the four girl’s table on another side.

“So what are we going to do from now on?” Ming Dao asked. “I mean any activities for next weekend or possibly the upcoming weeks?”

“You know what?” Wallace asked.

“What, Huo?” Ehlo asked causally before realizing something. “I know!”

“What?”

“Mid-autumn festival!”

Jacky laughed. “That’s a month away.”

“No, it’s not. Only three weeks. If I’m not wrong.”

“You’re right,” Wallace said, backing Ehlo up.

“Thanks for the confirmation, Huo.”

“You’re welcome, Huang.”

Valerie looked over at them. “I just don’t get you both. You’re at odds one minute and friends the next? And they say us girls are hard to understand.”

“And I thought you’re intelligent,” Ehlo said. “Why are you asking silly questions? And not to mention still bothering to figure us guys out.”

“So…are we getting together for the mid-autumn festival then?” Chen Yi asked, diverting their conversation back to the main topic.

“It’ll be fun since there are different fairs to go to and not to mention…we have an excuse to get together,” Qiao Qiao pointed out.

“We’re always together anyway.”

“Still…something to look forward to.”

“Talking about the upcoming weeks, we’ll have to prepare for a lot of things for the upcoming season,” Sonia said.

“Two words, tough luck,” Jacky said. “I’m out.”

“You’ve decided?” Valerie asked.

“I’ve been a coward long enough. After what you guys done for me, how could I still hesitate? Besides, I’ve been meaning to do it too if it wasn’t for some delays.”

Sonia looked over to Jacky with a worried expression. Jacky sent her a smile back and reached over to give her hand a squeeze.

“Don’t worry,” Jacky reassured Sonia. “I want to pursue other careers anyway. In fact, I might take up Huo’s offer.”

Wallace turned around in his chair to face Jacky upon hearing that.

Jacky smiled. “So how about it, Huo?”

“I’ll give Orchids a call later.”

“Maybe I’ll call her personally to beg her.”

“It might not work out well though,” Qiao Qiao said.

Jacky turned toward Qiao Qiao’s table. “Why not, Miss Zeng?”

“Girls might be mistaken that you’re not helping in matchmaking them with others but you’re putting yourself up for them to bid on.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence, sis.”

“Love you too.”

After that brief exchange, Jacky and Qiao Qiao turned back to their table and resumed conversation instead of giving each other another look or another opportunity to speak up. Wallace smiled at the hilarious brief exchange before turning his attention back to his own table.

“Guys, what about the mid-autumn festival?” Ehlo asked.

“How about giving each other some time to think about it?” Tony suggested.

“I second that idea,” Qiao Qiao said.

“Right, who knows whatever else happens in three weeks’ time,” Chen Yi added.

“True,” Jacky followed.

“How about looking around and checking different fairs to see where we want to go?” Ehlo asked. “I mean those places are already planning activities. It wouldn’t be hard to try and look for information now.”

“Not a bad idea,” Angela agreed. “Some of us could do that while the others are thinking it over.”

“Does that mean you’re definitely going?”

“Nothing to do anyway, right? If Chu is out, I might as well pack my bags and leave too. I mean after all, going back to Uncle Zhe’s shop for a while isn’t bad at all. It’ll give me a break before finding another job.”

“Why are you quitting?” Valerie asked, surprised. “I mean if Jacky leaves, we’ll be busier.”

“It’s no longer a challenge for me. I mean it’s hard stuffs and keeping up to listeners’ demands aren’t easy–either way. But I no longer feel a challenge toward it, you know.”

“It’s becoming a drag, Angela jie?” Chen Yi asked.

“Something like that.”

“Ah!” Achel exclaimed suddenly.

Chen Yi looked over at her. “What?”

“About the confession thing, it might be that cute guy who works at Uncle Zhe’s shop!” She continued, turning to Angela. “Jie, be careful!”

Angela turned toward Bianca’s table. “Bai Xin Hui!”

Bianca smiled. “Sorry. It wasn’t me but I guess after I said it yesterday, it got leaked out really fast.”

“Come on now,” Ehlo said. “Calm down. We won’t laugh at you.” Then he turned to Achel. “And stop trying to freak your sister out, little one.” He turned on his mischievous smile again “After all, I won’t let anyone make a confession to my fiancée.”

Angela snapped her attention back on Ehlo, annoyed. “Huang…Yu…Rong!”

“What?”

“Huang, stop harassing my ex,” Wallace warned Ehlo.

Angela turned to Wallace. “Huo, you’re not helping.”

“I told you so, Huo,” Cyndi repeated her previous words from the other table.

“Here we go again,” Tony commented.

Yes, here they go again indeed–back to where they started minutes ago.

© Saturday, February 28th, 2009

Re-posted: Thursday, February 10th, 2011

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