The girls got out of the car after Chen Yi parked it. Chen Yi jumped out of the car without opening the door after he pulled his key out. Qiao Qiao turned around to face him at that time with a doubtful look.
“Are you sure you want to leave it like that?” Qiao Qiao asked, eyeing his convertible.
“Why not?” Chen Yi asked back, not indicating a trace of concern.
“It’s going to be dark when we come back out,” Qiao Qiao replied in an as a matter of fact tone.
“So? Who would dare to steal from me?” Chen Yi shot back, still undisturbed.
“Qiao’s right,” Yan Yan chimed in. “Pull the roof up.”
“You girls are such naggers,” Chen Yi retorted.
“We don’t want to walk home later,” Qiao Qiao pointed out.
Chen Yi jumped back in and started the engine so he can pull his car roof back into place. After that, he opened the door and came out again.
“That’s better,” Qiao Qiao commented approvingly.
Chen Yi rolled his eyes as they were making their way up the steps of the entrance.
The waiter took them to a table way in the back with a view to the garden outside. Chen Yi sat on one side of the booth while Qiao Qiao and Yan Yan were on the other side. The waiter put down a menu for each of them before leaving to get their drinks.
“I’m so hungry,” Chen Yi announced, stating the obvious. “I’m going to eat…”
“We know how much you can eat. Don’t need to tell us,” Yan Yan jumped in, cutting him off.
Qiao Qiao laughed and gave Yan Yan a high five.
“Very funny,” Chen Yi snapped, looking up from the menu toward the girls.
Qiao Qiao and Yan Yan exchanged another gleeful smile before looking at their menus. The waiter came back with their drinks at that time. They also ordered several dishes. Divided between them, Chen Yi ordered four and the girls ordered one each. After they were done, the waiter collected the menus and walked away toward the kitchen area.
“Seriously, why are you girls here anyway?” Chen Yi asked, hinting a challenge. “We’re celebrating our graduation. You should go all out.”
“There are other ways to celebrate besides from eating, you know,” Qiao Qiao said.
“Like getting yourself a rich boyfriend?” Chen Yi asked, obviously delivering a challenge.
Qiao Qiao wrinkled her face. “What?!”
“I could smell that rich aroma on him.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Do I smell some jealousy?” Yan Yan asked, half teasing and half wanting to make light of the situation.
“I’m not,” Chen Yi said quickly. “I’m just telling the truth.”
Yan Yan smiled. “Uhuh.”
“You’re the one drawing the attention to yourself.”
Chen Yi ignored her and looked toward the view outside. As he was taking in the view, he tapped absent-mindedly on the table. Qiao Qiao and Yan Yan looked at each other and smiled. He was acting a bit strange today.
“Hey! What a surprise!” A voice exclaimed from somewhere near them.
The three turned around to see another girl smiling at them.
“Hey!” Qiao Qiao shouted first. “When did you come back?”
“Last night,” The girl answered. “We’re here with some old friends.”
“Where’s Angela jie?” Yan Yan asked.
“She’s over there,” The girl replied, gesturing toward the other side of the restaurant.
Qiao Qiao and Yan Yan looked toward that direction and waved a “hi” to Angela who happened to look in their direction at that time. Angela saw them and smiled. She got up and walked toward their table.
“Hey!” Angela greeted them. “It’s been a long time.”
“Definitely,” Qiao Qiao agreed.
The girl had been giving her full attention to Qiao Qiao and Yan Yan mostly since she spotted them, but now she turned to Chen Yi.
“How’s it going with you, Chen Yi?” The girl asked. “You look…disturbed.”
“He is!” Yan Yan jumped in before Chen Yi could justify himself. “You know why? It’s ‘cause…”
“Hey!” Chen Yi stopped her. “Stop spouting nonsense, okay?”
The girl snapped her attention from Yan Yan back to Chen Yi. She studied his expression before speaking up again. “Whoa. You do look disturbed. Care to share?” She flashed on her bright smile to encourage Chen Yi.
At that time, the waiter brought the food toward them. Angela and the girl moved aside for the waiter to place the dishes down and leave before stepping in front of the three again.
Angela smiled. “I shouldn’t disturb you all then. Have fun.” She then turned to her sister. “Let’s go back. We can talk to them later.”
“This seems too interesting to let it pass by,” The girl said reluctantly, still eyeing Chen Yi with full of curiosity.
“Jie, you go back first.”
“All right then, Xiao Yu. Don’t be long.”
“Sit down!” Yan Yan urged Achel, gesturing toward the empty space at their booth.
Achel looked at Chen Yi with a smile. He had no choice but to scoot over and leave some space for her.
“So…what is this all about Chen Yi feeling uneasy?” Achel asked, her eyes still showing that same glow of curiosity.
“Stop being so nosy, will you?” Chen Yi mumbled between chews. “You just came back and you’re already poking into other people’s business.”
“Stop being so defensive. Treat it as catching me up with the latest news. I’ll tell you what I’m up to also. Fair?”
“You go first then.”
“All right,” Achel said, clearing her throat. “I just graduated from the university so Angela and I decided to move back here to live with Uncle Zhe instead of staying home to help our parents with the shop. And guess what else?”
Qiao Qiao and Yan Yan stayed silent while Chen Yi looked at Achel.
“Stop acting mysterious,” Chen Yi said. “What?”
“I just met this really cute guy who works at Uncle Zhe’s place,” Achel blurted out in an excited tone.
“What’s with you girls and…” He stopped to mimic Achel’s voice before continuing. “…cute guys?”
“Jealous?” Yan Yan teased.
“What have I got to be jealous about?”
Chen Yi saw the waiter walking by so he signaled for him.
“Sir?” The waiter asked politely.
“Could you please bring another set of utensils and…” Chen Yi said, gesturing his hand.
“Yes, sir,” The waiter said in the same polite manner before walking away to carry out the task.
“It’s his way of shutting you up,” Qiao Qiao translated for Achel.
Achel smiled. “I thought you wouldn’t share your passion with anyone.”
Yan Yan smiled also. “It’s the price of silence.”
“Would you girls stop picking on me?” Chen Yi said. “What is this? Eat.”
The waiter came back with extra utensils, plate, and bowl at that time. He set it down in front of Achel and left. She uttered a “thanks” as he was walking away.
“Seriously though,” Achel spoke up again, getting some food into her bowl with her chopsticks. “What have you all been up to?”
“We just graduated yesterday,” Qiao Qiao responded. “This is actually our little celebration.”
“Oh really?! That’s great to know. Have you all found jobs yet?”
“I’ve been working at this restaurant part-time as a waitress, but just moved to the Advertising Department to work full-time,” Yan Yan said.
“That’s great,” Achel said, biting on her chopsticks. “What about you two?” She diverted her vision from Qiao Qiao to Chen Yi.
“Don’t tell me you’re going to poke your chopsticks back into our food again,” Chen Yi said, not answering her initial question at all.
“Maybe not,” Achel said quickly, letting out a nervous smile.
“Don’t worry,” Yan Yan reassured her, smiling. “I’ll get you whatever you want to eat then.”
Achel gave her an appreciative smile. She couldn’t help it. It was one of her long-time habits.
“I’m temporarily working at Orchids’ place until I can find another job,” Qiao Qiao continued with their previous topic before Chen Yi interrupted its flow. “Chen Yi just got recruited today.”
“Really?” Achel asked. “So you two are co-workers now?”
“It’s ironic too ‘cause he would rather be seen at a club than at Orchids’ place.”
“Why? What does Orchids do?”
“Friends connection. Sort of.”
“Match-making?” Achel asked, that same tint of curiosity creeping back onto her face and into her voice.
“I know that look,” Chen Yi said, a cunning smile on his face. “Are you hinting that you want to get a discount?”
“Don’t be shy. We’re your friends. It’s okay to tell us.”
Achel turned to Chen Yi. “I would like to say the same to you.”
“What?” Chen Yi asked, putting on his innocent look again.
“Quit teasing him,” Qiao Qiao interfered. “It gets boring fast. Are you going to work at Uncle Zhe’s place then?”
“For the time being,” Achel said.
Qiao Qiao looked at her watch briefly before going back to eating.
“Waiting for a call?” Achel asked, seeing Qiao Qiao’s anxious look.
Qiao Qiao nodded.
“He probably ditched you already,” Chen Yi said.
“After he spent that much money on the dress?”
“He’s rich. He can afford it.”
“Who are you both talking about?” Achel asked, looking from one to the other like before.
“Her new rich boyfriend,” Chen Yi replied, putting a great emphasis on the word rich.
“Here we go again,” Yan Yan commented, rolling her eyes and bracing herself for the next round of words battle.
“I better get back to the other table before Angela calls for me again,” Achel said suddenly, glancing at her watch and standing up at the same time.
“Keep in touch with us, all right?” Qiao Qiao reminded her.
Achel nodded. “Let me give you all my new number.” She retrieved her cell phone from her jeans pocket and exchanged numbers with the three before saying goodbye to them. Then she stopped herself and turned around to face them again. “Want to split the bill?”
Qiao Qiao shook her head. “Don’t worry. You barely ate…” She stopped to look at Chen Yi before saying, “…comparing to someone.”
“Hey!” Chen Yi shouted.
Qiao Qiao smiled. “Just kidding.”
Chen Yi went back to eating as Achel walked back to her table.
“You girls want to go for ice cream later?” Chen Yi asked, attempting to change subject again.
“You mean you don’t like any sweets here?” Qiao Qiao asked, surprised.
“You,” Chen Yi blurted out absent-mindedly between bites. Then he realized what he just said seconds later. “I mean…do you?”
Yan Yan smiled. “Now we’re talking! Ooohh…”
Chen Yi gave her an annoyed expression.
“I guess it gets boring eating here, huh?” Qiao Qiao asked Chen Yi.
Chen Yi nodded, glad that Qiao Qiao didn’t catch what he meant before. Yan Yan, however, was still focusing on him and smiling mischievously, making him feel uncomfortable by the minute. He pretended not to see her and ate furiously like he was starved for a long time.
“Are you checking him out?” Qiao Qiao asked Yan Yan upon seeing her fixed stare on Chen Yi. “He’s just eating.”
Yan Yan turned to Qiao Qiao. “No, I’m just observing him more carefully. Sort of seeing him in a new light, you know.”
Qiao Qiao wrinkled her face. “Really?” She took the chance of looking at Chen Yi carefully like Yan Yan did before. “I don’t see anything new though.”
“Look more carefully. You’ll see a side of him that you haven’t seen before. In fact, have you realized something? He’s not that nosy or likes to talk about people’s boyfriends before and now he keeps bringing it up. Don’t you feel it’s strange?”
Qiao Qiao looked at Yan Yan. “You have a point. What’s going on here?”
Chen Yi couldn’t take it anymore. “I’m here too, you know.”
Yan Yan turned to Chen Yi. “Oh, sorry. We didn’t know. Since the carefree Chen Yi seemed to leave since like this afternoon.”
“No, this morning,” Qiao Qiao corrected her.
“What are you talking about?”Chen Yi asked, pretending not to notice. “I’m still the guy who loves food. Stop talking. Eat. We’re going for ice cream later too.”
Both girls smiled and went back to eating as well.
Closed call, Chen Yi thought. He reminded himself to stop mentioning a certain someone, especially in front of Yan Yan. Why does she have to be so sharp?
Jacky stepped out of the studio stretching and yawning before continuing down the hallway. Sam and Sonia were already walking halfway down the hall. Sonia turned around to look for Jacky when she realized he was missing.
“Come on!” Sonia urged in an impatient tone.
“I’m your chauffeur now?” Jacky asked, amused.
Although he said that, but he quickly caught up with them.
“Is this place always as exciting?” Sam asked, smiling.
“Only when we’re around,” Jacky answered in a casual tone.
“He’s exaggerating again,” Sonia said. “Don’t mind him.”
“That can be arranged. You can walk home then.”
Sam smiled at them again.
They were making their way to the front entrance right now. Sonia was walking in the middle while Jacky was on her right and Sam was on her left.
“So…are you two heading home now?” Sam asked after a brief silence.
Jacky checked his watch real quick before answering.”Where else?” Then he realized something. “Oh no!”
“What?!” Sam and Sonia exclaimed at the same time in alarm.
“I forgot to call Qiao,” Jacky replied.
“Qiao?” Sam and Sonia said at the same time again, confused.
“What happened to Jo?” Sonia asked.
“She never had a chance, to begin with.”
“Who is Qiao? Anyone we know?”
Jacky turned to her. “Miss Sui, why are you suddenly so interested in my personal affairs? Or are you…?”
“It’s just strange that you’ve found…” Sonia rattled out upon seeing his mischievous smile.
“You honestly want to walk home?” Jacky asked with some traces of a warning.
They were finally at the front entrance and were making their way to the parking lot. Jacky took out his cell phone to dial Qiao Qiao’s number while waiting for Sonia’s response.
“I guess I’ll see you both later?” Sam said casually.
Jacky was waiting for Qiao Qiao to pick up. “You know what? Want to go somewhere for a midnight snack or something?”
“Sure, but don’t you have a date with your girlfriend?”
Jacky shook his head. “Not tonight. I have to be Miss Sui’s slave.”
He earned an evil stare from Sonia with that comment to which he responded with a charming smile.
“In that case, let’s go then,” Sam said in response to Jacky’s offer. “Your car?”
“Of course,” Jacky said before talking into the phone. “It’s Jacky. Call me back when you get this message.”He snapped his phone shut after that and increased his pace, giving his attention back to the current situation again. “So, where do you live?”
Sam told him.
Sonia rolled her eyes. “No, he got all the time in the world to joke around with you.”
Jacky turned to her. “Miss Sui, are you trying to get my attention at every possible chance?”
They finally reached Jacky’s car. Sonia got into the passenger seat while Sam sat in the back.
“When we’re done eating, I’ll take Miss Sui home first then we’ll go home,” Jacky told Sam of their upcoming schedule.
“You live in the same area?” Sam asked.
“Yeah. Did you just move there or something?”
Jacky was driving out of the parking lot right now.
Sonia turned sideways in her seat. “From where?”
“Kenting,” Sam replied
“Really? I heard it’s a nice place,” Jacky said.
“Why did you move here then?
“Change of atmosphere.”
Jacky’s cell phone rang at that time. He reached for his earpiece and secured it to his ear before he plugged it into the phone. “Hello?”
“Sorry about before,” A girl’s said into the phone. “Was eating.”
“It’s late. I thought you would be sleeping or something.”
“Nah. Just got home though.”
“Don’t your parents worry?”
“They’re not around right now. I’m living with Orchids.”
“Oh. Anyway, I just got off work.”
“I’ll tell you why later.”
“Who is it?” Sonia whispered from the other side of the car.
Jacky glanced quickly at Sonia. “Qiao, hold on.” Then he glanced at Sonia real quick before saying, “Stop being nosy.”
Sonia turned around to face front again, ignoring Jacky. He smiled.
“What?” Qiao Qiao asked, confused.
“Not you,” Jacky clarified. “Some nosy co-worker of mine.”
“The party we’re attending is this Saturday. I’ll pick you up around 5 since I have to pick some other people up too.” He stopped again and gave Sonia another look. “Miss Sui, you still need a ride, don’t you?”
Sonia turned to Jacky again. “Maybe.”
“Maybe yes or maybe no?”
Sonia turned to Sam. “You want to go with me?”
“What? Where?” Sam blurted out in confusion.
“This Saturday’s event.”
“I thought only senior staff get to go.”
“I can take you.”
Sonia turned back to Jacky. “Okay.”
“All right then,” Jacky said before talking to Qiao Qiao again. “I guess you sort of caught that.”
“It’s hard not to.” Qiao Qiao admitted. “What are you doing right now?”
“Driving. I’m heading to some place for a midnight snack and then home.”
“Your best luck is some stalls in the street. It’s so late right now.”
“I’ll find a way. Or they could come to my house for a late-night dinner.”
Sonia rolled her eyes at him.
“I saw that,” Jacky said to Sonia.
“What?!” Qiao Qiao exclaimed, confused.
“Nothing. Okay, I’ll let you go since I need to get back to driving.”
“All right. See you Saturday.”
“Bye.” Jacky pulled off his earpiece after that and put it back to its original spot.
“Where to, you two?”
“No idea,” Sam said. “You two are more familiar with this place, remember?”
“There’s a noodle stall near this place,” Sonia reminded him.
“You mean that weird, creepy place?” Jacky asked.
“Are you scared?” Sonia challenged.
“No, I’m just concerned for you.”
“What? I didn’t do anything.”
“No. I meant slow down. I see someone standing by the road.”
Jacky slowed down a bit so they could get a better look. He knew it was a bad idea and started to increase his speed again. Suddenly, the person stepped right in front of his car. Luckily, he stopped in time. As they got a better look, they could see it was a girl. She had long hair and was wearing black jeans and a dark-gray jacket. She came up to the window on Jacky’s side.
“Hitch-hiker?” Jacky said casually to the parties in the car.
“Maybe,” Sonia said.
“I’m not taking her in.”
Jacky turned to her. “Texas Chainsaw Massacre, anyone?”
“Stop watching those Hollywood movies so much.”
The girl was finally standing right next to the window.
“Roll it down,” Sonia urged.
“Yes, ma’am,” Jacky returned sarcastically.
When he rolled the window down, Sonia seemed to recognize the girl.
“Bianca?!” Sonia shouted in excitement.
“Sonia?” The girl said back as surprised as Sonia. “Is that you?”
“What are you doing here?”
“Car broke down. Can I get a ride with you guys?”
“Sure. Hop in the back.”
Sam moved aside to the right to make room for Bianca as she got in.
Jacky turned to Sonia. “Thanks, Miss Sui.”
“Come on,” Sonia said. “She’s all alone in the middle of the night.”
“All right then.”
He made sure Bianca put on her seatbelt before he started up the car and pulled into traffic again.
“So…care to introduce?” Bianca said to Sonia, tilting her head slightly toward Jacky’s direction. “New boyfriend?”
“You mean she had a boyfriend before?” Jacky asked before Sonia could clarify their relationship.
“Sure,” Bianca answered in an honest tone, not catching on to Jacky’s sarcasm at all.
Jacky smiled. “It’s hard to believe though.”
Sonia hit Jacky on the shoulder.
“Hey! I’m driving here.”
Bianca smiled. “It seems like you two are getting along just fine.”
“Don’t listen to him,” Sonia said. “He’s just…”
“The driver,” Jacky finished passively.
“You mean you’re…” Bianca prompted.
“I was signed into her service since this afternoon,” Jacky clarified.
“You’re the chauffeur?” Bianca asked in disbelief.
“You can say that.”
“He’s putting you on,” Sonia interfered before Jacky twisted it any further.
“Then tell me.”
“He’s just one of my co-workers.”
“Oh,” Bianca muttered, nodding before turning to Sam. “Hi, I’m Bianca Bai and you?”
Sam extended his hand. “Sam Wang.”
“Nice to meet you.”
Bianca turned to Sonia again. “So…where are you guys heading?”
“To this one creepy noodle stall,” Jacky answered passively–again.
“That’s great! I haven’t eaten yet.”
“Great to know that we could help you satisfy your hunger.”
Sonia hit him on the shoulder again.
“If you hit me again, you’ll be walking home for sure.”
“Don’t mind them,” Sam said to Bianca. “They’re always like that.”
Bianca looked at Sam. “One of those love-hate relationships?”
“I’m still figuring out what kind of relationship they have,” Sam confessed.
Sam and Bianca remained silent as Jacky and Sonia battled it out the rest of the way to the noodle stall.
Ming Dao smiled as he spotted the noodle stall up ahead. He thought he was deceived because it seemed so deserted along the way. No one would notice this shop if they didn’t take the time to look carefully. It was worth the walk, he thought. He ordered a big bowl as he sat down at a table. He studied the surrounding area as he was waiting for his noodles to arrive.
“Boss, how long have you been here?” Ming Dao asked, turning to the boss.
“Two years,” The boss replied proudly.
“Wow! And you haven’t opened an official restaurant yet?”
The boss smiled. “The idea isn’t about a big place, but it’s all about the noodles and happy customers.”
“That’s true, but this place looks so…”
Ming Dao let out a nervous laugh. “Uh…”
“It’s all right,” The boss reassured Ming Dao. “I’m used to the comments, but in daytime…” He stopped briefly to look at the scenery ahead. “…this place is like a paradise.”
Ming Dao turned his head to look in the same direction. He pondered how it could be, but didn’t want to spoil the boss’ mood. He turned his attention back to the boss again. “So…you come here every day or move around?”
“I’m usually here, so if you want to come again…”
“If I have time.”
The boss smiled and went back to tending to the soup pot.
Ming Dao went back to studying the scenery some more with the little light from the stall shining into the street ahead. As he was scanning the area, he could see a car coming toward their direction and parked at the corner. Four people got out and walked toward the stall.
“Looks like more customers,” Ming Dao commented, attempting to resurrect their conversation and diverting it into a friendlier zone.
“Or maybe they’re just passing by this area to the shopping center around the corner,” The boss remarked.
The group of four finally arrived at the place. Ming Dao was surprised to see someone among the four. He got up abruptly and yelled out, “Shao Wei!”
Sam looked surprised also. “Ming Dao?!”
“What are you doing here? I thought you said you have to work late.”
“We finished earlier than expected since I had two professionals helping me.”
“Scoring points with your seniors?” Jacky teased.
Sonia hit him on the shoulder again.
“These people are…” Ming Dao asked, gesturing his hand toward the other three.
Sam turned to the other three, finally remembering their presence and attempted to introduce them all in one go, pointing at each party as he spoke. “Oh…these are my two co-workers and seniors…and this is someone we just picked up on our way here. This is my long-time friend, Ming Dao.
“Jacky,” Jacky said to Ming Dao, extending his hand. Then he turned to Sonia. “This is my girlfriend, Sonia.”
As he said that, he slipped a hand around her shoulder.
Sonia–typical Sonia–slapped his hand away before giving Ming Dao a friendly smile. “Don’t mind him. He’s kidding.”
“Don’t worry,” Sam reassured Ming Dao. “They’re always like this. You’ll get used to them.”
Ming Dao turned to Bianca.
“I’m Bianca,” Bianca introduced herself with a friendly smile.
Ming Dao returned the smile. “Nice to meet you.”
“So…shall we sit down then?” Jacky asked, gesturing toward the tables.
“Of course,” Ming Dao said.
The others replaced the chairs with benches from the other tables so it left more room for them. They sat down two to a bench. Ming Dao and Bianca were sitting on one as Sam and Sonia shared a bench together. Jacky walked toward the boss.
“Four big special bowls, please,” Jacky rattled out his order.
The boss nodded.
Jacky walked back to the others after that.
“It seems like I’m left out,” Jacky commented as he settled down on the bench next to Sonia.
“Call Qiao up then,” Sonia teased, turning to him with a challenging smile.
“How funny,” Jacky shot back with an equally challenging glare. “Or you just want to meet your rival?”
Sonia ignored him and turned back to the others.
“She just likes to annoy me,” Jacky told the others.
“I’m curious about this Saturday’s event,” Sonia said, changing the subject on purpose.
Jacky took chopsticks from the wooden holder in the middle before answering her. “There’s nothing to it really. Just a bunch of rich people getting together to celebrate their success aka ‘Brag-land’. We have to mingle with them to maintain a good relationship and help boost their popularity by exaggerating how successful they are.”
“Why do you make it sound like it’s torture?” Ming Dao asked, curious and confused at the same time.
“It is. But Ray and the others don’t want to do it so Sonia and I have to go. And he even said he wanted to become a professional DJ. I wonder how he would turn into one though.”
“Are you being bitter?” Sonia asked.
“No, just curious.”
“You two seem to not like your job much,” Ming Dao said, tapping on the table with the edge of his chopsticks.
“It’s not that we don’t like it, but there are some things I rather not face.”
“I thought you love taking on challenges,” Sonia reminded him.
“Please. That isn’t even a challenge. It’s plain boredom.”
“Is there an empty spot?” Bianca asked.
Jacky stopped cleaning his chopsticks with a napkin in his hand and turned to look at her. “Don’t tell me you want to be a DJ too.”
“Sounds like fun,” Bianca said.
“It’s not that fun once you’re there.”
“Who was Mr. Optimistic this morning who told me not to be so negative?” Sonia asked, attempting to sabotage him again.
“I’m not talking about the job in general,” Jacky clarified, remembering to give Sonia a look also. “I’m talking about working at this particular station.”
“Is it that bad?” Bianca asked.
“You mean Shao Wei made the wrong decision joining this station?” Ming Dao chimed in.
“No,” Jacky answered both questions at the same time. “Just not a very wise one…because…”
Everyone stopped what they were doing and looked at him. Only Sonia managed to give him another slap on the shoulder.
“Stop scaring them,” Sonia warned.
Jacky put on his charming smile again. “Just kidding, everyone! How was I? That convincing?”
“You’re kidding?” Ming Dao asked, confused.
“You mean…?” Sam said, as confused as Ming Dao.
“Exactly,” Jacky said. “You fell for it again. Twice isn’t exactly…”
“Stop being mean already,” Sonia said.
“All right. But seriously, this Saturday’s event isn’t all that interesting. I’m waiting for our next project though.”
“Why?” Ming Dao asked.
“Summer. Lots of excitement. More of a variety in our reports.”
At that time, the boss brought out their noodles. They sat back and waited until he left before resuming their conversation.
“So do you still want to join us at the station?” Sonia asked Bianca.
“Nah, it’s all right,” Bianca said, not as enthusiastic as before.
“Scared already?” Jacky asked.
“No, I love my job more.”
“Oh? Where do you work at?”
Bianca swallowed her food before speaking up. “Southside Mall.”
“More fun manipulating people into buying stuff?”
Sonia gave Jacky a slap on the shoulder–YET again.
Ming Dao smiled. “Are you two really…”
Jacky was eating but he stopped and raised his chopsticks hand up to stop Ming Dao also.
“What?” Ming Dao asked, half confused and half annoyed at Jacky’s gesture.
“I hear a familiar voice,” Jacky said.
Sonia looked up from her bowl and scanned the surrounding area with her eyes.
Sonia turned back Jacky. “I don’t see anyone.”
Jacky turned around toward the street where they just came from. He smiled as he saw two figures walking toward them. He turned back to Sonia with the smile still on his face.
“Okay, so you have sharp ears,” Sonia said, still reluctant to admit it.
“I’ll take that as a compliment,” Jacky said, still smiling.
“Can you guess who they are then?” Sam challenged. “Don’t turn around to look.”
Jacky closed his eyes and listened carefully. “A guy and a girl.”
“Too vague,” Sonia said.
Jacky opened his eyes again. “Hey, I didn’t say I have sharp ears. You did.”
Without saying anything, they turned to look at the approaching couple. The couple was finally walking into the light.
“Angela?” Bianca said, surprised.
“Wallace?” Jacky said about the same time, but not as surprised as Bianca.
Jacky and Bianca turned to each other.
“You know them?” Jacky and Bianca blurted out at the same time.
Then Jacky snapped his fingers. “Of course you know them! I almost forgot.”
Sonia smiled also, feeling foolish. She then turned to the couple again.
“Angela!” Sonia called.
Wallace and Angela were even closer to them now. They were about to sit down at a table next over.
Angela turned around to see the group. She turned to Wallace. Wallace nodded. They made their way over to the group of five.
“Hey!” Angela exclaimed. “Didn’t expect to see you all here.”
“When did you come back?” Bianca asked.
Wallace and Angela sat down at the empty bench. Angela was next to Bianca while Wallace was next to Jacky.
“I just came back last night with Xiao Yu,” Angela answered.
“It’s funny that so many people are moving back here,” Sonia said.
“Really? Who else is moving back here?”
“Shirley and Jessica.”
“Did you two get back together?” Jacky whispered to Wallace.
Wallace wrinkled his face. “No. She called me last night and asked me if I want to meet up again so…”
“Oh. I thought you want to hook up again.”
Bianca overheard them. “You know that they used to date before?”
“Of course, he’s my cousin.”
“No way! How come I haven’t met you before?”
“Maybe because I’m never around much…”
“You two are cousins?” Sonia asked, surprised, looking from Jacky to Wallace.
Jacky stopped his chopsticks mid-way to his mouth. “Marriage connection.”
While they were talking, Ming Dao and Sam were having some sort of side-talk of their own, but now Sam couldn’t help but jump in. “So tell me.”
The others looked at him.
“Does everyone here know each other in some way?”
“Uh…” Jacky uttered, looking around to the others. “Beats me. I’ll go home and dig out my family tree book and meet you all back here tomorrow.”
“Stop,” Sonia warned him once again.
The boss brought over two more bowls of noodles to their table. Wallace had ordered before while the others were talking.
“This is one strange day,” Ming Dao commented.
“Definitely,” Bianca agreed. “I thought I was unlucky that my car broke down earlier. But now here we are in some kind of reunion.”
Ming Dao smiled, knowing exactly what she meant.
“So…want to do something together later?” Jacky asked causally.
Sam looked at his watch. “It’s already so late.”
“Don’t you have to come in early tomorrow?” Sam asked.
Angela’s phone rang at that time. She stopped eating and answered the call. The others lowered their volumes while she was talking.
“Hello?” Angela answered with the typical greeting. “Qiao? Oh, really? I’m not with Xiao Yu right now, but I think she’s still up. Okay. No problem. You’re welcome. Bye.”
Wallace stopped eating. “What does Qiao want?”
“She’s inviting us to some sort of party next weekend,” Angela replied.
“Us?” Wallace asked, confused.
“Xiao Yu and I.”
“Are you guys talking about Qiao…” Jacky hesitated.
“Qiao as in your new girlfriend,” Wallace said.
“Qiao’s really your girlfriend?” Sonia asked, shocked.
“What?” Angela blurted out at the same time as Sonia. “You mean he and Qiao…”
“You mean I can’t have a girlfriend?” Jacky asked, looking at Sonia.
“I thought you were kidding,” Sonia said.
Angela was still waiting for Wallace to answer.
“Uh…you should ask him,” Wallace said, diverting the question completely. “He came to the agency earlier ‘cause he was hiding from Jo. And…”
Angela turned to Jacky.
“Don’t look at me,” Jacky said innocently. “We’re just…uh…friends.”
Angela raised an eyebrow. “Friends?”
“She agreed to help me so Jo wouldn’t bug me anymore.”
“Oh. What did you bribe her with?”
Jacky smiled. “How did you know?”
“Qiao’s a smart girl. She wouldn’t easily be taken advantage of if there isn’t anything in it for her.”
“A new dress.”
“It must be something extraordinary.”
“No, it was really simple. “
“I meant the dress.”
“Talking about Qiao, be careful.”
“Why? She bites?”
“No, she knows martial arts,” Wallace informed him. “So don’t mess with her.”
“Okay then. I didn’t plan to play any tricks on her in the first place. I better tell Ehlo to be careful in the future.”
Wallace wrinkled his face. “What does Ehlo have to do with anything?”
Jacky smiled. “It’s a secret.”Just then, he could feel Sonia’s hand brushing lightly against his. He turned to see that she had put in a piece of meat in his bowl. He wrinkled his face. “Are you serious? You can’t even finish it?”
“I don’t want to eat too much…” Sonia defended herself.
Jacky turned back to Wallace. “Girls…”
With that comment, he received a look from all girls at the table except for Sonia–because she gave him a slap on the shoulder again.
“Oh, one more thing,” Wallace said.
“What? Qiao has some kind of mental problem?”
“No! Of course not.”
Jacky waited for Wallace to go on.
“Don’t mess with him, right?”
“Not exactly. Don’t act all lovey-dovey with Qiao in front of him.”
“Got it. He likes her, right?”
“It’s written on his face already.”
“I never knew guys like to gossip too,” Bianca said aloud.
“We’re just sharing info for future reference,” Jacky said with hints of defensiveness. “It’s to maintain peace all around.”
“Did you drive here or…” Sam asked Ming Dao, not caring to join in the others’ conversation.
“No,” Ming Dao replied. “I walked.”
“Are you crazy?”
“I want to explore this place.”
“It’s all right,” Jacky reassured them both. “We still have space in the car.”
“You mean…” Ming Dao hesitated.
“I live in the same area.”
“You don’t look like…” Ming Dao stopped himself.
Jacky smiled. “It’s my secret hideout from the general public.”
“Please,” Sonia mocked. “Like you’re a public figure.”
“You want to walk home?” Jacky repeated his old threat from earlier.
“I guess you’re driving her home too?” Ming Dao said.
“It started off as only driving her,” Jacky said.
“Shao Wei and I can…” Ming Dao said, gesturing toward the general street area.
“I’m kidding. I only mind driving Miss Sui home, not you guys.”
“Hey!” Sonia shouted.
Jacky smiled. “You should be used to this type of treatment by now, Miss Sui.”
Most of the people at the table were done eating already, except for Wallace and Angela who had arrived and ordered later than the rest.
Jacky turned to the boss. “Boss, can I have some fried tofu and some of your special veggies?”
The boss nodded.
“Men and food,” Sonia mumbled.
Jacky turned to Sonia. “Women and their figure.”
The others smiled, staying silent to see how Sonia would respond. When they didn’t see Sonia respond, Ming Dao spoke up.
“Is it always so exciting having you two around?” Ming Dao pondered, repeating a question from minutes earlier.
“You haven’t seen much yet,” Bianca told him. “You’ll get the full experience on the way home. In fact, good luck since you’re the last stop.”
“You’re the first stop, right?” Jacky asked Bianca, making sure of their destination.
The boss brought over Jacky’s recent order and left again. Jacky dug in eagerly like he hadn’t eaten anything yet. Sonia somehow dug in also. Jacky looked up at her as he saw her chopsticks poking into the tofu plate.
“Who was complaining about ‘men and food’ before?” Jacky repeated of Sonia’s mockery from minutes ago.
“It’s your fault that you’re ordering my favorite dish,” Sonia said defensively.
Jacky grabbed the soy sauce bottle and poured in some on both the tofu and veggies. Sonia still dug in like usual.
Jacky looked toward the others. “She’s hopeless.”
“You haven’t seen anything yet,” Bianca announced excitedly. “She once…”
Sonia stopped eating and put her chopsticks down again. Wallace and Angela finally finished eating.
Angela smiled. “I think we shouldn’t expose Sonia’s secret…especially in front of her future boyfriend.”
Jacky choked. Wallace had to thumb him on the back and hand him some water.
“Was that admittance?” Bianca teased.
Jacky finally found his voice again. “That wasn’t funny.”
“It is to us,” Angela said.
Ming Dao looked at his watch. “Whoa. It’s past midnight already.”
“Welcome to reality,” Jacky said.
“Stop picking on people already,” Sonia jumped in–again.
“All right,” Jacky said, standing up. “Let’s go.”
He stepped toward the boss to pay. Angela got up and followed him.
“We can pay for our own,” Angela said.
“Don’t worry,” Jacky reassured her. “It’s my treat for our little reunion.”
Angela turned to look at Wallace.
“Don’t mind him,” Wallace said. “We’ll probably get a chance to pay next time we’re out together.”
Angela looked hesitant but didn’t say anything further.
“Are we all set?” Jacky asked, walking back to the table.
The others nodded.
“So you two… “Jacky said to Wallace, gesturing his hand.
“My car’s park that way,” Wallace said, pointing toward the street they came from earlier.
“Probably several cars down from mine?”
“Let’s go then.”
They all walked toward that direction.
“See you next time, Boss,” Ming Dao said as he was walking by the boss.
“Take care,” The boss said back.
“How did you do at that interview today?” Sam asked Ming Dao.
“I got the job.”
“That’s great. Are you going to call home to tell Uncle and Auntie?”
They finally reached Jacky’s car.
“See you both later?” Jacky said to Wallace.
Wallace nodded and walked with Angela toward his car.
“Hey!” Jacky called out.
Wallace turned around again.
“Don’t tell you-know-who at the agency that we’re related.”
“I know. That was why I didn’t expose you earlier.”
Jacky smiled. “You’re the considerate cousin all right.”
Wallace smiled and continued on his way with Angela again as Jacky opened the car with his key.
“All right,” Jacky said to the other four. “Let’s go home, everyone.”
Sonia sat in front with Jacky again as Ming Dao sat in the middle between Bianca and Sam in the backseat.
“Welcome to another entertaining ride, everyone,” Bianca said as Jacky pulled out.
Jacky smiled. “Thanks, Miss Bai.”
Ming Dao turned to look at Sam. Sam gave him a smile that indicated that he would find out on the way home.
© Friday, May 23rd, 2008
Re-posted: Thursday, February 3rd, 2011