Chapter 39 – Winner Takes All

“Come on,” Wallace urged. “What are you guys doing? Is this even a match at all? Show them no mercy!”

“You want to take the bet higher then?” Jacky threatened.

“Sure, why not?” Wallace said cheerfully, unaffected by Jacky’s threat.

“Someone’s in high spirits today!” Qiao Qiao teased.

“I guess it’s true what they say after all,” Jacky spoke up again.

“What?”

“People actually functions better when they’re in love.”

“Speak for yourself!” Wallace exclaimed.

“Hey, that’s cheating!” Chen Yi exclaimed around the same time as Wallace, outraged.

“It’s fair. He was careless.”

“Guys!” Angela interrupted their argument.

They stopped the game and turned to her.

“Be serious for once ‘cause I want to see real competition.”

Although she was saying that but they could see a smile on her face.

“Coming right up, Miss Chang,” Jacky promised. “I need to wrestle the ball back from him first.”

As he was saying the last words, he lunged forward and snatched the ball away from Wallace once again. Then they resumed the game like before.

It was actually the morning after the group went to the mid-autumn festival. After they watched the fireworks last night, they separated into different groups and went their separate way to spend time alone as couples do–or as friends for some cases. But before they left, they promised to meet up the next morning to finish the basketball game they had abandoned so many times before because of another game they were so involved in–the dating game.

For the next half an hour, they played hard and tough. For once, they were actually taking things serious and were trying to give the sport the respect it deserved. Even Achel managed to score some points, earning some proud remarks from Chen Yi as well. Because of all talents and capabilities combined from each team, they kept tying up and couldn’t even break the tie. Finally, they decided to settle on picking a person to do a one-on-one match as a tie-breaker for the whole game in general. For some reason, the others picked Jacky instead of Chen Yi to be their representative for Jacky’s team while Sam’s team picked Wallace. When they were done negotiating the terms, team members from both sides stepped back into the crowd to watch also.

“This should get interesting,” Ehlo commented.

“Are you trying to stir things up again by letting them go against each other in this final match?” Angela asked, eyeing Ehlo suspiciously.

Ehlo smiled. “I wouldn’t want to do that.”

“Turn that smile off. I know you too well.”

“Could you guys stop playing lovey-dovey and pay attention?” Chen Yi asked, a bit annoyed.

Ehlo turned to Chen Yi. “Kid…”

“Knock it off already, guys,” Angela ordered.

Ehlo resumed his innocent smile again. “Yes, ma’am.”

Angela gave him a look before turning back to watch the match.

“Why did you guys pick them instead of…uh…I’m not saying that they’re not good but…” Tony finished upon seeing some of their stares.

“I’m tired out,” Chen Yi confessed. “It was Ming Dao and Qiao’s fault. Xiao Yu and I followed them last night and we ended up lost for several hours and then…”

“You should have been with us,” Bianca said. “We found this one place and had hot pot. But then in the end, we exhausted ourselves by playing mindless games too.”

“I thought we decided to separate last night to do our own stuffs as individual couples, why did you guys get together again then?”

“Speak for yourself. Weren’t you and Xiao Yu with Ming Dao and Qiao too?”

Chen Yi let out a nervous smile.

“Oh yeah, who were you guys with then?” Qiao Qiao asked Bianca.

“Jacky and Sonia,” Bianca answered.

“Why didn’t you tell me earlier?” Chen Yi said. “Wallace’s so going to win if Jacky was out all night.”

“He looks fine though.”

“Looks are deceiving.”

Chen Yi turned back to watch the game again before Bianca could come up with another reason to defend herself. He turned in time to see Wallace make a basket. Before anyone could react, Ehlo jumped out from the crowd and slapped Wallace a high five.

“Another Huang and Huo victory!” Ehlo shouted. Then he turned to Jacky. “Sorry, man. Gotta support my team.”

Jacky waved his hand casually. “Any time.”

“Well, at least now the game’s done,” Chen Yi said, trying to make light of the situation.

“Definitely,” Qiao Qiao agreed. Then she turned to the others with a mischievous look. “Want to start another one?”

“NO!” The other team members–from both teams–exclaimed at the same time.

“You guys don’t have to react so strong.”

“Believe me, girl,” Ehlo said. “We’re never going to finish since we’ll be super busy from now on.”

“Definitely,” Wallace agreed.

As they were talking things over about a possible game, Sonia walked over to Jacky who was in a crouching position. “You all right?”

Jacky stood up straight and slipped a hand around her shoulders, smiling. “Yes.”

She used the towel in her hand to wipe off his sweat.

Chen Yi began shivering at that time. “I can’t believe I’m witnessing such a mushy scene.”

“Definitely worth a picture or two though,” Qiao Qiao commented.

Chen Yi faked fear and pretended to turn his eyes away from the scene. However, he discovered that Cyndi was doing the same to Wallace. “Oh great. Another scene.”

Achel stepped toward him, trying to give him some support since he looked like he was going to faint soon. “Are you all right?”

Chen Yi slipped a hand around her shoulders. “I’ll be all right in a bit. Please take me away from all these sugary scenes.”

Qiao Qiao looked at Chen Yi. “Like you’re not making a scene of your own.”

Chen Yi flashed on his sly smile. “Jealous?”

“Ha! As if…”

“What?”

Qiao Qiao didn’t answer so Chen Yi turned around to see what was going on.

They saw that Sam and Xiao Qiao had parted from the group and were heading inside–without caring to realize if the teams were dispersing yet. Chen Yi turned back to Qiao Qiao.

“This is getting out of hand,” He repeated his last words.

“Definitely,” Qiao Qiao agreed.

Ming Dao walked over to them at that time. He looked confused when he saw Chen Yi and Qiao Qiao having a staring contest.

“What are you guys doing?” Ming Dao asked. “Chen Yi, why are you crouching like that?”

“Was getting sick from being fed too much sweets,” Chen Yi said, faking pain.

“Huh?”

Qiao Qiao turned to Ming Dao. “Don’t mind him, let’s go.”

Ming Dao had no idea why they were talking in codes again. As for them making their way across the street? It was already a habit by now that they were heading for Jacky, Ehlo, and Johnny’s place so Ming Dao didn’t question her.

“I need to go get a shower first,” Ming Dao said. “I’ll join you guys later.”

Qiao Qiao nodded and went on her way again, walking out of the backyard, not looking back at anyone present. Ming Dao went inside his house after that, leaving Chen Yi and Achel there.

“We definitely need to get away somehow later,” Chen Yi said to Achel.

“Where do you want to go then?” Achel asked.

“Anywhere but here. Okay, maybe after lunch.”

Achel smiled and continued to support Chen Yi as they were making their way out of the backyard also–catching up to Qiao Qiao. The others had slowly left also after seeing Qiao Qiao leave. Sam and Xiao Qiao joined them about ten minutes later after they were settled down at the living room again.

“What are they doing with the line?” Sam asked, confused.

“You probably don’t know but they’re trying to take turns with the shower right now,” Ehlo explained. “I mean since we did have a hard match today.”

Sam nodded.

*****

Several hours later, they were sitting in the kitchen eating lunch like one of those meetings again. But this time, Tony was with them. The arrangements in seats at the counter were the same with Ming Dao and Bianca behind the counter while Jacky, Ehlo, Wallace, and Cyndi in front of it. The others were scattered out between the other two tables like a long time before–at one of their meetings. Chen Yi sighed out in relief upon seeing the seat arrangements since he didn’t have to witness so many scenes of “sweetness” while he was trying to enjoy his meal.

“What are we going to do after this?” Chen Yi asked. “I mean don’t tell me we’re going to scatter out again like many times before.”

“Hey!” Qiao Qiao blurted out. “I thought you wanted to get away from us earlier.”

“I was kidding, okay?” He flashed on his bright smile to challenge her even more.

“You guys ready for Vincent and Orchids’ wedding yet?” Jacky asked, interfering with Chen Yi and Qiao Qiao’s argument.

“It’s one month away,” Chen Yi pointed out. “We have plenty of times. Besides, everything’s taken care of as far as arrangements and whatnot. So we should be good to go, right?”

“We have to choose what to wear also,” Qiao Qiao said.

“Slap on a suit and I’ll be good.”

“And to think that you spent so much time trying to make her wedding perfect?”

“Come on now. The main focus is on the bride and the groom on that special day. Who cares about what I wear?”

“Talking about that, did Vincent pick his best men yet?” Ehlo asked, curious.

“Yeah,” Tony answered. “And I’m glad I’m not one of them. I think his mom has a hand in it though.”

As if to conceal the rest of Tony’s explanation, someone’s phone rang. They turned around to find the source.

“It’s mine,” Wallace said. “No need to panic.”

The others went back to eating again, trying to keep the conversation to a minimum so Wallace could listen.

“Hello?” Wallace said into the phone. “Yeah. Okay. I guess so. But let me ask her first.” He covered the phone and turned to Cyndi. “You want to be A…Orchids’ bridesmaid?”

“Huh?” Cyndi said, confused.

“One of the couples eloped so they need a replacement. Vincent volunteered us.” He lowered his voice to a whisper for the next few words although it was not necessary. “I think he doesn’t know that we’re…” He paused to gesture with his hand. “…now.”

“That’s fine.”

“Okay, she agrees,” Wallace said into the phone again. “Show up for practice tomorrow? We’re there. Bye.”

As soon as Wallace snapped his phone shut, everyone fired out questions at the same time.

“Whoa!” Wallace said, putting a hand up. “What are you guys doing? It wasn’t my fault.”

“Who eloped?” Ehlo continued from the last person’s question.

“What happened?” Angela followed.

“Was that Vincent?” Qiao Qiao added.

“If you guys can quit it with the question marathon, I can explain faster,” Wallace pointed out.

The others still looked anxious but they finally simmered down to let Wallace continue.

“Apparently, the third couple eloped…for unknown reasons that Vincent’s not disclosing. So now they’re short a couple so Vincent asked me and Cyndi to fill in. I think he’s trying to pull us together but he doesn’t know that we’re already together, so…might as well not burst his bubbles too much.”

“So…someone actually eloped?” Chen Yi asked. “Strange. Is this a sign?”

Qiao Qiao hit Chen Yi on the head.

“Ouch!” Chen Yi cried out in pain. “Why did you do that?”

“Stop jinxing Orchids or I’m going to…”

“I’m just curious, okay?”

“You two…come on,” Achel interfered.

“All right,” Qiao Qiao gave in. “It’s ‘cause Xiao Yu pleaded for you.”

“Like I’m scared of you,” Chen Yi shot back.

Achel stopped eating and helped Chen Yi rub his head. Qiao Qiao ended up going back to her food instead of arguing with Chen Yi.

“Whoa…” Ming Dao mumbled finally.

“Definitely a good reason why we’re not together,” Chen Yi said. “And good luck to you, man. That hurts big time. I think I need ice on it.”

“I thought you said you won’t pick on me anymore,” Ming Dao reminded Chen Yi.

“Really?” Achel asked at the same time in a more than concerned tone–more over to the worried line.

Chen Yi put on a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry. I’m just kidding.” Then he turned to Ming Dao. “Sorry, habit.”

“Drama King,” Qiao Qiao mumbled.

“Whatever, girl.”

“Is it always so exciting around here?” Tony asked.

“Definitely,” Ehlo confirmed. “You should come here more often. But I guess you will be, huh?”

Tony smiled.

They continued to eat and talk for another half an hour. Then they decided to head out somewhere to enjoy the day again. It seemed like they were trying to spend as much time together for the time being, closing another chapter of their life before moving on to the next one.

They spent most of the day enjoying nature. However, around noon, the girls persuaded the guys to go take care of their necessities for Vincent and Orchids’ wedding so they wouldn’t be looking into their closets at the last minute to find nothing suitable for the event.

© Thursday, January 1st, 2009

Posted: Friday, February 11th, 2011

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