Chapter 16

After the atmosphere cleared up somewhat, Jiro and Cyndi were the first to wake up. They scrambled to their feet, checking on the others. Calvin, Joanne, and Sophia were closed to one another while Chun and Angela were a distance from them. They revived Sharon first because she was the closest. Sharon coughed several times and finally opened her eyes.

“What happened?” Sharon asked weakly. She shielded her hands from the sun. It was suddenly so bright.

“Stay still,” Cyndi said, realizing Sharon was still unstable.

Jiro left Cyndi to tend to Sharon as he made his way to the others. He only had to revive Chun and Angela since Calvin and Joanne were waking up on their own. Calvin and Joanne rushed toward Sophia as soon as they were alert enough of their surroundings.

“I’m all right,” Sophia assured them, brushing some dust from her face. Her voice was weak, yet she still managed to steady herself. “Where’s Jacky?”

“Jacky ge!” Joanne called out, searching the perimeter.

Calvin helped Sophia up as Joanne raced aimlessly around the field, calling for Jacky.

“Qiao, calm down,” Calvin soothed, catching up to her. “We don’t want to get separated. “Especially now when we don’t know if…”

“Over here!” Sophia called to them.

Calvin and Joanne rushed toward the direction Sophia had disappeared seconds ago.

“Jacky ge…” Joanne called out, her voice caught in her throat upon seeing the sight in front of her. She dropped down on the ground, grabbing onto Jacky’s hand. “Jacky ge…”

The others arrived at that time.

“Jacky ge!” Sharon cried out in alarm, dropping down next to Joanne, reaching for his other hand. “Wake up…”

Sophia was the one holding him up from behind. He was still unconscious but there was a huge amount of blood surrounding him, soaking through his shirt.

“He’s still alive,” Sophia said, her voice wavering. She retrieved a handkerchief from her pocket and attempted to dab where his wound was still oozing blood.

The others searched themselves for other objects that could possibly stop the blood from draining him. Joanne and Sharon were still kneeling by his side, their tears streaming, waiting for him to wake up. Sophia was also crying but she tried to keep calm, working on his wound.

“Damn it!” Chun swore, not being able to find anything on himself.

Every one of them was injured one way or another. But those were only minor scratches comparing to Jacky’s wound.

“Get your handkerchiefs out if you have any,” Jiro ordered them. “We can tie them together and create a cloth.”

He was indeed the calmest and wisest one out of them all.

They all took out a handkerchief and handed it to Jiro.

“It’s okay,” Jacky’s voice spoke up at that time.

“Jacky ge,” Joanne and Sharon called out at the same time, still holding onto his hands.

Jacky shifted, his eyes opening finally. His face was paler than before.

“Stay still,” Sophia commanded.

Jacky smiled, feeling the familiarity of their first meeting. He detached his hand from Sharon and reached for Sophia’s. Sophia turned to look at Sharon, feeling guilty. Sharon shook her head, indicating she did not mind.

“I don’t think it matters if I move,” Jacky continued, his voice weaker. “I won’t make it this time.”

“Don’t say that!” Joanne exclaimed, tears still streaming down her face, tightening her grip on his hand.

Jacky turned to her. “Don’t cry.” He realized Sharon had been crying too. “I don’t want anyone to cry.” He paused, letting out a cough. “It was my duty.”

Joanne shook her head furiously, refusing to listen. Calvin had knelt next to her and was trying to soothe her at the moment. It was like Jacky’s words had unleashed a series of events because by then even Cyndi and Angela were crying–though more subtle than Joanne and Sharon.

“Now…” Jacky continued. “You don’t have to worry about him anymore.”

“You took care of him?” Jiro asked.

Jacky nodded weakly. “Too bad…I…won’t…”

“Stop saying those words,” Sharon begged.

Jacky turned to Sharon at that time. His lips wavered, attempting to speak up again. “I’m sorry…I couldn’t…”

Sharon shook her head. “It’s not your fault. You can’t force yourself to like me. I understood that a long time ago. I’m just too stubborn to admit it.”

Jacky attempted a smile, showing traces of relief that he’d been forgiven. He attempted to turn to Sophia.

“Don’t,” She said.

“It doesn’t…matter…” He coughed again. “I’m sorry…I couldn’t…fulfill my promise…”

It was Sophia’s turn to shake her head furiously, leaning in closer to him. “You don’t owe me anything. You don’t…”

“Jacky ge…” Joanne managed, her state was on the verge of hysterical.

“Miss Joanne,” Jacky said, his voice barely audible. “I can’t…follow you…anymore…”

Joanne shook her head. “You have to call me Qiao.”

Jacky smiled. “Qiao…”

As if fulfilling Joanne’s command was his dying wish, he finally closed his eyes again, his hands loosening its grip on the hands of the two women who mattered the most in his life.

“No!” Joanne bellowed, shaking Jacky furiously.

Sharon did not react as strong though her sobbing had increased. Sophia finally let her sob be known. She was just holding it back for Jacky’s sake, not wanting him to worry like many times before. She held him even tighter to her.

“Qiao, stop it,” Calvin urged, prying Joanne’s hands from Jacky’s. “He’s gone…he’s gone.”

Joanne shook her head, not wanting to believe it. Calvin turned her to face him. Joanne finally cried into Calvin’s shoulder. Jiro was comforting Cyndi at that moment also. She leaned into his shoulder and cried while he patted her shoulder. Chun, on the other hand, wasn’t any better than the girls. He and Angela were holding onto each other tightly. She was the only one crying but his frustration was increasing. Their strength gave way as they both collapsed on the ground on their knees, still in each other’s arm. It seemed that only Jiro was able to stay calm among them all. They stayed like that until darkness enveloped them all. Until the night became an atmosphere eerier than any other nights they’d come to know.

© Friday, February 4th, 2011

Posted: Thursday, March 3rd, 2011