Ming Dao woke up to find Sam already at the kitchen table, sipping away some type of drink. It didn’t look like coffee.
“Hey, why are you up so early?” Ming Dao asked, scratching his head.
Sam turned to Ming Dao with the look like the latter just came from another planet. “You forgot? We’re meeting here this morning.”
Ming Dao rubbed his head. “Oh…it’s today?”
“Yeah. Don’t tell me you don’t remember.”
“I thought it’s tomorrow.”
“You’re so out of it. Where were you last night?”
“Out with Bianca.”
“What? You two are really…”
Ming Dao turned to look at Sam. “What? Now you’re a gossip like Jacky?”
“No. I’m just surprised.”
“I was helping her find something. Then we got lost. It took a while until we found our way back again.”
Sam put on a teasing smile. “Did some major bonding while you were lost?”
“It’s not what you think.” He walked into the living room and knelt slightly on the sofa facing the front window to watch the house across the street. “Hey, are you sure they’re gone already?”
“I checked already. Saw them–all three–leaving for work.”
“What if they come back later?”
“We’ll be done by then.”
“What if the others are late?”
“We could pretend that they want to meet for some event.”
“A little surprise for Chen Yi’s graduation party.”
“Come on. Who would believe that? We barely know him. It would be more suitable if the guys across the street plan something like that.”
“Will you stop worrying like some old man?”
“When we’re busted, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
“Don’t tell me you don’t want to help Sonia.
“Sonia is kind of reluctant too, you know.”
“She couldn’t believe that he could be doing such things, that’s all.”
“All I know is, when we find out he isn’t the one, he’s going to kill us. For real this time.”
“Hey! Why are you making it out like we’re conspiring against him when you’re the one who came up with the idea in the first place?”
“Angela started it, not me.”
“You’re backing down now? Not to mention blaming it on a girl.”
“I’m already dragged in. Can’t back out. But…it’s just too…” He got up from his crouching position on the couch before continuing. “Here comes Angela and Wallace.”
Sam’s phone rang at the same time as Ming Dao was walking to the door.
“Who is it?” Ming Dao asked.
“Sonia,” Sam replied.
“She’s backing out?”
“No. She said she’ll be late.”
Ming Dao finally opened the door for Wallace and Angela.
“You look like you just woke up,” Angela commented.
“You’re smart, you know that?” Ming Dao said back, a subtle trace of sarcasm that could go undetected if one didn’t know him well enough.
“It’s hard not to know,” Wallace said, sensing hostility and attempting to clear the thick air before things got serious. “Look at your hair.”
“Thanks, man,” Ming Dao mumbled, not sounding sarcastic at all.
He stepped aside for Wallace and Angela to come in.
“Morning tea, anyone?” Sam asked, walking into the living room at that time.
“Sure,” Angela responded.
Wallace looked uncomfortable. He unknowingly was shifting from one foot to the other at the spot he was standing.
“You look like you’ve just been caught stealing,” Sam remarked.
“Worse,” Wallace corrected Sam. “If I’m caught here, what will I say to him?”
“If we caught him stealing, we could prevent a tragic incident from becoming,” Angela pointed out.
“Can you stop being dramatic? Maybe he just forgot to give the key back to her.”
“If he forgot, why didn’t he give it back to her last night when it dropped out of his wallet?” Sam asked.
“That’s right,” Angela seconded. “Here’s someone with a sharp mind.”
“And the rest of us are dummies?” Ming Dao shot back.
Angela ignored him.
Sam smiled. “Don’t be mad. Let’s get something to drink and get started while we wait for Bianca and Sonia.”
Angela followed Sam into the kitchen for some tea while Wallace sat down on the sofa in front with Ming Dao. Ming Dao was going back to spying on the neighbors again–in case they came back.
“So…” Ming Dao said, attempting to strike up a conversation. “Do you think he’ll find out before we find out what he’s up to?”
“I don’t know,” Wallace said, shrugging his shoulders out of habit even though Ming Dao couldn’t see it. “I hope not. Or maybe we would call this silly thing off soon.”
“You don’t believe he did it either?”
“At first, I was shocked. But then again, it might just be something else. Maybe we’re just over-reacting.”
“Strange. She’s with Sonia.”
“Maybe she picked Sonia up on the way.”
Ming Dao and Wallace got up and went to the door again. As Ming Dao opened the door, he saw a smiling Bianca.
“Hey,” Ming Dao greeted her. “How come you girls are together?”
“I couldn’t get a Taxi and called Bianca up ‘cause I remember she picked her car up already,” Sonia answered in Bianca’s place.
“All right. Come on in. The others are here already.”
“Great,” Bianca said, looking at her watch. “We’ll be out of here before 8.”
Sonia turned to Ming Dao at that time. “You have a radio? I want to listen to Jacky’s segment.”
Bianca turned to Sonia. “Are you kidding me? He might be the guy that stole your car.”
“You said ‘might’. He’s still innocent until we find out otherwise.”
“What is he talking about this morning?” Wallace asked.
“He said it’s a secret,” Sonia replied. “I might be able to catch the last of it.”
“Then come on,” Ming Dao urged, closing the door after the girls and then leading them back into the living room. He walked to the stereo system next to the sofa and turned on the radio. “What station?”
“KFT,” Sonia and Wallace blurted out at the same time.
Ming Dao fidgeted with the radio knob to find the station. When he finally found it, Sam and Angela came back. Ming Dao sat down at a chair next to the radio to listen. Bianca, Sonia, and Wallace had already made themselves comfortable on the sofa. Sam and Angela sat at some chairs in front of the coffee table, facing the others on the sofa.
“You’re listening to him?” Angela asked upon hearing Jacky’s voice.
“Hey, don’t ask me,” Ming Dao said, still applying some of the icy tone he used before. “Sonia wants to listen.”
“Come on guys,” Sonia pleaded. “Only half an hour.”
Ming Dao turned the volume up as the others quieted down.
“The last topic I want to cover today is human interactions,” Jacky’s voice traveled across the way. “Why did I use the word ‘interaction’ instead of social networking? Simple. Interactions sound closer to heart and less formal. It’s what most of us can relate to. I’m sure you all know what I mean without me having to say it out. But just for the sake of filling up your time, I’m going to elaborate a bit more. Human interactions are strange. It’s something that you can’t really explain yet every one of us seems to understand clearly why it must be that way. We all need a companion, a friend, or a loved one. To sum it up, we enjoy the company of others. We like to share our joy and happiness–and even harsh times together. It’s good to know someone out there cares for us.”
“What is he saying?” Angela asked impatiently. “He seriously wants us to believe this?”
“Is he covering up for what he did?” Sam continued. “I mean since we’ve already seen him dropped the key last night.”
“Sh….” Bianca, Ming Dao, Sonia, and Wallace shushed the other two at the same time, leaning closer to the radio to listen.
Angela looked at Bianca. “Don’t tell me you’ve become a fan.”
“Let Sonia listen,” Bianca said.
Angela could see how anxious Sonia looked so she quieted down again.
“I just realize how many good friends I have and it’s such a fortunate thing,” Jacky’s voice continued. “I should be very grateful to know that I not only have two best friends in this world but a whole group. What am I getting at? I want to remind all of you to look around you. Look carefully. You’ll find that you’re not alone in this world, but there are more people who care for you than you think. I’m not talking about those who cling to you because of your status, your fortune, or all of those materialistic stuffs. But I’m talking about those who are tolerant of you and will always be there for you no matter how childish and stubborn you are at times. They will not only be there for you to share your joy and happiness but will fight by your side when you encounter obstacles. I want to dedicate the next song to them. An old song by Bette Midler. Old, but is always good because it conveys the message very well and reminds us to cherish the people around us. After this song, I will wrap up early today since I need to go take care of some things. But will be back again tomorrow for the full hour. Thank you for tuning in and see you tomorrow.”
The song “Wind Beneath My Wings” came on at that time. Everyone around the room looked at each other–everyone, except for Sonia, who seemed to be deep in thoughts. Wallace’s face showed apparent guilt. Bianca put her head back onto the sofa to enjoy the song, pondering to herself as Ming Dao looked toward Sam, wearing a hesitant expression. They finished listening to the song before Ming Dao reached for the dial to snap the radio off.
“He seriously took us on a guilt trip all right,” Angela commented, breaking the brief silence among them.
“But we’re still doing this, right?” Sam asked, looking from one to the other.
“Of course! He can’t buy us with those words.” She took a sip from her teacup before putting it down on the coffee table again. “Let’s get going, everyone. We have about an hour.”
The others–except for Sam–looked ten times less excited about the whole plan than before. But they couldn’t turn back now. They have to find out–one way or another.
Wallace sighed out for the umpteen time of the day as Chen Yi came back from Orchids’ office. He sat down at his desk before studying Wallace.
“You look like you’ve lost your best buddy,” Chen Yi concluded.
Wallace sighed out again. “I don’t know. Am I that obvious?”
“I like to borrow yours and Jacky’s phrase ‘it’s written on your face’ to describe this situation.”
“Don’t know. I feel like I just stabbed someone in the back.”
“Oh? Someone we know?”
“Uh…” He managed, remembering the event happening only several hours before and the words being exchanged.
“It’s the only way we will know for sure,” Angela reasoned. “Come on, Wallace. You can do it.”
“I…” Wallace managed–unable to come up with the right words for it.
“It’s not like you’re going in there uninvited,” Sam reminded him. “He asked you to join them, right?”
“Still…it seems like…” Wallace tried again–but failed again.
“Come on, guys,” Ming Dao interfered. “Don’t force him. It’s just wrong. Like you guys said, it’s wrong to be betting on Qiao for our benefit. It’s the same concept in this case. We can’t just sneak around like this.”
“No, it’s not,” Sam argued. “Sonia might be in danger.”
“Guys, can’t we just quit being paranoid?” Sonia begged. “Maybe he’ll give me back the key later. Or maybe ‘cause he doesn’t feel the need to give it back anymore since it’s already stolen.”
“Yeah, ‘cause he stole it so he would need the key to operate it,” Angela snapped.
“But…” Wallace said reluctantly.
“How about this?”
Everyone waited for Angela to continue.
“If you want to prove his innocence, this is your chance.”
“Come on,” Bianca said. “We don’t have much time left. We have to get back to town for work.”
Wallace thought for a bit. “All right. I’ll do it. I’ll move into his house, but you guys can’t sneak into the house while I’m around or try to influence me to do anything. I’m going to find out on my own, okay? If you break the rule, I’m out.”
“All right,” Angela agreed.
Sam looked at his watch. “Let’s get out of here then.”
“I’m already out of here,” Ming Dao said, getting up. He ended up stretching and walking toward the front door also.
Sonia got up also, following him.
“You don’t look good at all,” Ming Dao commented. “Want me to drive you back?”
“I’m fine,” Sonia lied.
Bianca walked toward them. “Let me drive you both. Sam can have the car to himself then.”
“Sounds good,” Ming Dao agreed. “Let’s go.”
Wallace looked at the three leaving, wishing so much he could go with them. It seemed like 3 against 3 became 4 against 2 somehow, but he was still stuck with Angela. As he was thinking, he heard Angela calling him.
“Let’s go, Wallace.”
He absentmindedly followed Angela to the door and outside to his car.
As Wallace remembered back to their meeting this morning, he could feel someone tugging on his sleeves. He turned to see Cyndi next to him. When did she come back?
“What?” He asked.
“Are you all right?” Cyndi asked.
Wallace smiled. “I’m fine.”
“You don’t look fine to me,” Chen Yi jumped in. “Opposite from what I have seen you the first day coming here. In fact, everyone has been acting strange lately.”
“That’s life.” He got up from his seat and walked to the break room.
Cyndi looked at Chen Yi.
“Don’t ask me.,” Chen Yi said. “You know him better than I do.”
“Did you guys meet up since Monday night?” Cyndi asked.
“It seems like someone said something to him. Or maybe…”
“Do you guys believe Jacky could do such things?”
“Remember what happened that night when he was paying?”
Chen Yi stood up abruptly. “Oooh…you mean if he…?”
Cyndi glanced at Simon briefly to stop Chen Yi from spilling it out.
“It’s impossible and too far-fetch,” Chen Yi finished.
“I thought you don’t like him much from before,” Cyndi pointed out.
“You said ‘before’. I’m not going to get paranoid again. Not until I see some proofs.”
“Amazing. Did he bribe you?”
“Am I easily bribed?”
Cyndi tapped her pen on her desk. “I guess not.”
Simon couldn’t help with all the “secretive” talks again, so he turned to them. “What are you guys talking about? How come you’re always talking that Jacky?”
“We couldn’t help it,” Cyndi admitted with a smile. “It’s addicting.”
“Who is he really then?”
“A friend of Vincent and Orchids, also Wallace’s cousin. We never really talked about him around here until recently since he decided to pop back into our lives.”
“He looks familiar. But I couldn’t remember where.”
“You listen to the radio?”
“He goes on for only an hour each day. Used to be at night but that slot was given to Sam so he’s on early in the morning now.”
“What is his show about?”
“Talking about life mostly. Inspirational stuff. It’s unbelievable since he’s always so loudmouth and being such a smart-aleck, but he loves doing those segments.”
Simon smiled. “It seems like he’s well-received by the female population too.”
“Hey, don’t look at me. You asked.”
Chen Yi looked at his watch. “Shouldn’t Qiao be back by now?”
Cyndi looked at her watch also. “She should. I wonder what happened.”
They all turned to look at the front door. There was still no sign of Qiao Qiao.
“I should have gone with her,” Chen Yi said.
“Don’t worry,” Cyndi reassured him. “It’s not a house visit this time. It’s at a café. It won’t be that bad.”
“So…how is your graduation party going along? Done with all the preparations?”
“Mostly. Still need to decorate the place. Qiao and the other two will help me.”
“Anyone of us invited?”
“I know. I was just kidding. It’s better if we don’t show up and spoil the mood, right?”
Chen Yi smiled. “Sorry.”
“It’s your party after all. You have the right to ensure that it works out.”
“Maybe we can go out somewhere to celebrate together later. I mean not just for me, but for Qiao, Yan Yan, and Xiao Yu too.”
“Where does Xiao Yu works at anyway?”
“At their uncle’s shop.”
“I’m hoping to find a new job soon. I don’t want to stay around here anymore.”
“Oh, can’t wait?”
“This place is getting more and more dramatic each day and less challenging.”
Cyndi put on an apologetic smile. “Sorry that we made you feel so uncomfortable.”
“It’s not your fault. Maybe I’m not cut out for this type of work after all.”
Qiao Qiao came back at that time.
Cyndi smiled. “How was it?”
“Better than the last one.”
“That’s great then.”
“I’m going to finish the report and give it to Orchids.” She sat down at her desk and started to take out the folder from the case. As she was typing away, she looked up toward the Cyndi. “You know what’s strange though?”
“It is a small world after all. I bumped into Jacky earlier when I was at the café. He was meeting with someone so we didn’t talk much. But he was acting so strange. He looked like he was caught red-handed.”
Chen Yi turned to Cyndi.
“What did he say when you asked him?” Cyndi asked, narrowing her eyebrows.
“He said he was there on business,” Qiao Qiao answered.
“Remember what happened that night?”
“Jacky dropped a key from his wallet.”
“They were talking about how it could be possible that…”
Cyndi smiled, seeing Qiao Qiao’s reaction similar to Chen Yi’s.
“So you think he did it?” Chen Yi asked Cyndi.
“Of course not.”
“Then we shouldn’t talk about it anymore.”
Cyndi nodded her head. “You’re right.”
Chen Yi and Qiao Qiao went back to typing their reports after that as Cyndi got up to go to the break room. She pondered why Wallace was in there for so long. She saw him next to the coffee machine as she was almost to the door of the break room and was about to call his name when she heard him talking on the phone. She stepped aside and away from the door, listening in.
“Yeah,” Wallace continued. “I know. Don’t rush me. I’ll call him up later and tell him that I’ll accept his offer. I told you already. If you tell me what to do, I’m out.”
Cyndi wondered what he was talking about. Who was the person on the phone?
“All right,” Wallace said one last time before hanging up.
Cyndi was about to step into the room when she heard his phone rang again. What in the world was he up to?
“Hello?” Wallace said into the phone again. “Angela, I know. Stop pestering me. Sam just called to check on me. Can you guys just quit it? It’s only around lunchtime and I received several calls already. Now I’m starting to remember why we broke up in the first place.” There was a brief pause. “I didn’t mean that, but you must understand my frustration. Okay. I know. Bye.”
Cyndi knew she must take some action. Even if she was going to get yelled at for eavesdropping in on him, she must interfere. She cleared her throat loudly as she stepped into the room. Wallace turned around to face her. He had on this worried expression.
Cyndi closed the door behind her before saying, “Care to tell me what’s bothering you?”
“Uh…” Wallace hesitated.
Cyndi raised both hands up in the air at that time. “Okay, I confess. I heard you talking on the phone to Sam and Angela, but only the last bit of Sam’s conversation. What’s going on? What are they forcing you to do? You know you are your own person. So whatever they’re forcing you to do, you can choose to back out.”
“Stop hiding from us, okay? We’re as worried about you as them. It’s not really my business to care, but I’m your friend. So you can yell at me for eavesdropping. Go ahead.”
Wallace looked at Cyndi for a bit before speaking up. “Sometimes I wonder why we never start.”
“What?” Cyndi asked with a puzzled look on her face.
Wallace shook his head. “Nothing. Pull up a chair.” He sat down as Cyndi pulled a chair over to the little table next to the door. “About what happened that night, the others are suspicious of Jacky. They want me to take Jacky’s offer and move in with him. I might be able to find something at his place.”
“What?!” Cyndi exclaimed in disbelief. “I thought you guys were just kidding.”
“With Jacky’s strange nature, everyone’s suspicious of him now.”
“She’s undecided. Angela sort of went ahead and made the decision for her.”
Cyndi smiled. “She’s the same as always.”
“Yes. After this morning’s meeting, it seems that Bianca’s coming over to our side. But Angela and Sam won’t let it rest. I guess they’re both concerned for Sonia, but it’s just a bit far-fetch. They’re saying that if I want to prove his innocence, I should go ahead with the plan.”
“Does that mean Ming Dao’s on your side now?”
“Ming Dao–I’m not sure what happened. But he seemed to change his mind since this morning.”
“Oh yeah, Qiao said she bumped into Jacky at the restaurant when she was meeting with her client. He was acting suspiciously according to her. But he said that he was there on some business matters.”
“Could it be related to why he had to leave early this morning?”
“He left early?”
Wallace nodded. “Fifteen minutes before the show ended.”
Cyndi tapped her chin, trying to think. “Hmm…”
“Are you suspecting him too?”
“No. I’m just wondering. Don’t tell the others. They might go to the extreme of stalking him.”
“They already are. Sam’s been stalking since we left the meeting. He might even know who Jacky’s meeting already.”
“Whatever it is, Chen Yi and Qiao Qiao support Jacky so we’re on your side, okay? Don’t carry all the burden yourself. I know everyone’s concerned for Sonia, but don’t do anything you’ll regret later.”
“I hope not.”
Cyndi looked at her watch. “We better get back out there or they’ll think that we…” She got up at that time.
Cyndi opened the door again. “Use your imagination.”
She walked out of the break room after that, leaving him standing there. He smiled to himself, realizing he had been overlooking a certain someone all along.
“Ehlo, could you hurry up a bit?” Jacky’s authoritative voice boomed over them all. “The rate you’re moving at, we’re never going to be done.”
“Stop rushing me,” Ehlo warned. “Geez. Acting like some old lady. It’s only Wallace moving in. Not some…”
“Careful,” Johnny reminded Ehlo.
“Me or him?” Ehlo asked, looking at Johnny.
“Both. I think that’s fragile.”
Wallace came back out at that time.
“You like the room or you want to switch with one of us?” Jacky asked Wallace.
“That’s fine,” Wallace said. “And don’t be treating that with so much care. It’s just some old stuff.”
“Oh? Why didn’t you say so earlier?” Ehlo increased his pace and passed through the front door again.
“Actually, the view isn’t bad here.”
Jacky smiled. “Told you.”
Ehlo came back at that time. “I’m beat. I need a break.”
“We’ve only been moving things in like half an hour ago,” Johnny said.
“It’s heavy stuff, okay?”
“It’s all right,” Wallace said. “You guys don’t have to help. I’ll take care of it.”
“No way,” Jacky objected. “I invited you, remember? We have to help.”
“Great,” Ehlo mumbled before turning to Johnny. “I think we should pack our bags already. His cousin’s moving in and we’re treated like slaves already.”
“Quit whining,” Johnny said. “I don’t see you objecting to the whole idea earlier.”
“How would I know there’s going to be a change in attitudes?”
As they were sitting on the porch resting, they saw Ming Dao coming out of the house across the street. Jacky waved to him. Ming Dao waved back and crossed the street.
“You’re really moving in?” Ming Dao asked casually. “I thought you were kidding.”
“I reconsidered,” Wallace said, playing along.
Their double-meaning conversation went on unnoticed by the others.
“Spying on the neighbors again?” Wallace snapped, not caring if Ming Dao already changed his mind about their plan.
Ming Dao could sense Wallace’s hostility. “Hey! I wasn’t so hyped on the idea either. Don’t take it out on me.”
“What are you talking about?” Jacky asked, looking from one guy to the other.
Ming Dao finally realized that the others were staring at him. “Uh…nothing.”
“Ready for tomorrow’s match?” Jacky continued, not caring to question further about the two guys’ strange behaviors.
Ming Dao smiled. “Always. Oh yeah, where are the girls?”
“We’re doing labor work here. Do you think any girl would show up and help?”
“What about the trusty Qiao?”
“She’s my sister, not my slave. Besides, she’s probably at Chen Yi’s house right now.”
“Oh yeah, where’s Sam?” Ehlo asked, looking across the street to Ming Dao and Sam’s front yard.
“No, working on his next segment for Monday.”
Jacky shook his head. “Does he have to be that efficient? He must have forgotten that Sonia and I are taking that slot on Monday.”
“Yeah. It’s our weekly report on summer events, remember? No, wait. You don’t listen to my show.”
“Probably missed that one. But I’ve been tuning in since Wednesday morning.”
“Really? You get up that early?”
“Might as well. What are you and Sonia talking about next week then?”
“It’s a secret. Just tune in.”
“Oh, look,” Ehlo announced.
They stopped talking and turned to look at what Ehlo was pointing at. Sam was making his way toward them.
“Here we go again,” Wallace muttered, feeling his irritation rising from within.
“I don’t think he’s monitoring you though,” Ming Dao reassured Wallace.
Jacky wrinkled his face. “What?”
“Nothing. I was just kidding.”
“You guys have been acting strange since Monday night.”
“So have you.”
“Uh…” Before he could find a way to back out of the situation, Sam was standing in front of them. “You’re done?”
“I just remember that I don’t have to do my show on Monday,” Sam told them.
“Sorry,” Jacky said with a half-smile. “We take someone’s slot each week. Things will go back to normal in August.”
“Woohoo,” Sam said passively.
Jacky turned to the others. “All right, everyone. Back to work.”
Ehlo got up reluctantly. “You really know how to torture your friends.” Although he was complaining, he went back toward the truck to get more stuff off it.
Wallace followed his lead also, not looking at Sam as he was walking by.
Johnny could see that. “What’s with all of you lately? You’ve been at odds?”
Sam shrugged his shoulders. “Not sure. Maybe something to do with his work?”
Wallace walked by with a box at that time and gave Sam an imaginary strangle as he was walking toward the door.
“All right,” Jacky spoke up again. “I’m getting back to helping them before Ehlo complains again. See you guys later.”
He and Johnny headed toward the truck also. Ming Dao followed them.
“I want to help too,” Ming Dao said.
“You don’t have to,” Jacky said.
“Might as well since I have nothing to do anyway.”
“All right. If you say so.”
The guys worked at a faster rate since they have Ming Dao. Sam watched them for a while before heading back across the street.
When they were beginning to move things from Jacky’s trunk, they heard a car honking in the street. Wallace turned toward that direction to see Bianca’s car driving toward them.
“Great,” Wallace mumbled in that same unenthusiastic tone. “Another person to monitor me.”
“What?” Jacky asked.
“Give Bianca a break,” Ming Dao defended her. “She’s on our side now.”
“Who’s going to give me a break?”
Bianca just got out of her car and was walking toward them so Ming Dao had to shut Wallace up, not wanting to upset Bianca.
Bianca stopped in front of them. “Am I too late to help?”
“I thought you have to work on the weekends,” Ming Dao said.
“My shift just got changed.”
Ehlo walked out at that time and caught Bianca’s last words. “Oh great! That means I don’t have to stay anymore, right?”
Jacky gave him a look. “You’re a guy. Show some…”
“Hey, I’m beat.”
Bianca smiled. “It’s all right. Let me help.”
They began unloading stuff again. Although Ehlo said he wanted to leave, but he still stuck around to help them until everything was in Wallace’s new room.
About half an hour later, they were all sitting in the living room to rest.
“You guys have a nice place,” Bianca complimented. “I’m surprised it’s this neat.”
“Are you implying something?” Ehlo asked challengingly.
Bianca smiled. “No. Just surprised.”
Ming Dao looked at his watch. “I think I better leave.”
“Don’t want to stay for dinner?”
Ming Dao shook his head. “Not tonight.”
Ehlo turned to Bianca. “If he’s leaving, you’re leaving too, right?”
“If you want me to.”
Ehlo turned to the others. “Guys?”
“I don’t mind,” Johnny said.
Jacky nodded in agreement also and flashed on his mischievous smile. “But don’t say we didn’t warn you.” He could see Bianca’s confused expression so he continued. “We’re all guys. It’s not safe to stick around by yourself.”
“Like you guys dare to do anything,” Bianca mumbled, not convinced of his threat.
“Trust me, Bianca. We’re guys. And it’s way out here in the countryside. No one would know.”
“Stop scaring her already,” Ming Dao jumped in. “No wonder the others say you’re creepy.”
Jacky smiled. “I’m just telling her some possibilities.”
Ming Dao sat back down again. “That’s it. I’m staying here. I’ll let Sam know I’ll be here.”
“You are all so easily rattled.” He got up and walked toward his room. “I’m going to take a shower and then a nap.”
“Call you when dinner’s ready, right?” Ehlo asked.
Ehlo and Johnny got up also, but they were walking into the kitchen instead of their rooms.
“So…” Bianca said.
“Don’t start,” Wallace warned her.
“I’m not. I’m just wondering if you’re going to stay here for good.”
“If they find out, I’ll be kicked out without needing to decide.”
“It won’t be that bad. I mean if he finds out, we’ll back you up. I mean Ming Dao and me.”
Wallace knew he was being harsh on Bianca because of the others. Seeing how sincere she was, he decided to stop the hostility toward her. “Thanks.” His phone rang at that time. He saw Angela’s name popped up on the screen as he opened his phone. “Hello? Are you checking in on me again?”
“Very funny,” Angela snapped back.
“I don’t need a check-up. Sam’s across the street, you know.”
“What’s with all the hostility? We’re just trying to help Sonia.”
“Sonia doesn’t need you two to babysit her.”
“Don’t aggravate her,” Bianca mouthed to Wallace. “Want me to talk to her?”
Wallace shook his head at Bianca. “Look. I don’t want to argue. I just need to tell you something. Get a driver or get a car.”
“I’m taking care of that right now. But in the meanwhile, can you…”
“No. Enough. I’m with Cyndi right now. I don’t want her to misunderstand. Do you get it?”
“You’re with Cyndi?!”
“It’s hard to believe, but it’s the truth.”
“Okay. I understand. See you later then.”
Wallace shut his phone after that.
“You’re a terrible liar,” A voice behind them said. “Your voice wavered just now. If you didn’t sound so mad, she wouldn’t be bought over by your words.”
Wallace turned around to see Jacky smiling at them. “What happened to the shower and nap?”
“I’m getting a drink first,” Jacky said.
Jacky continued his way into the kitchen.
Wallace turned around to Ming Dao and Bianca. “Did he hear what I told Angela?”
“Don’t worry,” Bianca reassured him. “He was only here for the part where you said you’re with Cyndi, not the others.”
Wallace sighed out. “Good.”
“You’re not really with Cyndi, right?”
“I can’t stand her monitoring anymore. I have to…”
“But it’s not fair to Cyndi. What if her boyfriend misunderstands?”
“I thought you were going to defend Angela.”
“She can be quite controlling sometimes, but we’re her friends so we will always support her. But it doesn’t mean we would go to the extreme of not thinking for others.”
Wallace smiled. “Nice to know that. And no, Cyndi doesn’t have a boyfriend.”
“She will in the future.”
“I’ll find a way to solve this soon.”
“You should just tell her. After all, you two aren’t together anymore. Don’t let her control you.”
“I’m not so used to you taking my side.”
“Maybe it’s because I’m feeling guilty for what you have to do right now.”
“You don’t have to. I’m part to blame too. It’s like what Cyn said. I have a choice. I just chose poorly.”
“Hopefully this will be over soon. Who knows? Maybe the authorities will take care of the car thief before we do anything and Jacky will be cleared by then.”
Wallace smiled, silently appreciating Bianca’s effort.
“Let’s not stand here,” Ming Dao said. “We’ll draw suspicions to ourselves.”
“That’s right,” Bianca agreed.
With that, Ming Dao and Bianca walked into the kitchen together to join Ehlo and Johnny. Jacky walked past them on his way back to his room.
“Don’t tell me you have some kind of ‘move-in’ anxiety,” Jacky teased.
“Do I look like I have that?” Wallace asked back.
“You don’t look good at the moment. That’s all I know.” He walked off after that.
Wallace looked after Jacky, having mixed feelings. He stopped beating himself up inside and joined the other four in the kitchen also. Whatever it was, he already made the decision. He had to think positive and remind himself that he was there to clear Jacky’s name, not being a spy for the others.
© Friday, June 6th, 2008
Re-posted: Friday, February 4th, 2011