Chapter 14

Soon, July gives way for August as well. That also means that Kenny’s little hypothesis about a possible cat fight becomes invalid. Or so they thought. Because one day in mid-August, Gino walks into the shop with his grim expression on. It’s as if someone has offended him, particularly one of the people of the Zeng clan.
“Zhu Fan Gang!” Gino bellows, alarming everyone in the shop.
Luckily, it is lunch time so there are no customers present. They are actually in the break room, talking and eating. Joanne and Kenny exchange a look before getting up to check out the matter.
“What is it?” Joanne asks, walking out to greet Gino.
Gino still has on his serious expression. “Where is he?”
“Jacky ge’s not coming today,” Kenny jumps in, standing by his sister’s side. It’s almost like he’s prepared to shield his sister from Gino’s possible attack. “What’s going on?”
“Where is Xiao Qiao?” Gino continues, not caring to clarify of his behaviors or presence.
“Obviously not here,” Kenny answers, his hostile tone obvious. “If she’s here, she would have come out already, right?”
“Then that proves it,” Gino says, still not making sense to both siblings.
“What is it then?” Joanne presses, still studying Gino closely just like her brother.
“Hey you guys!” Charlene exclaims out as she breezes into the shop. “Jacky ge said that he wants to invite us to his house for dinner tonight. His parents are back again. I want to go!”
“Jacky’s here?” Joanne asks, still keeping an eye on Gino.
“Yeah,” Charlene answers, her spirit still high. “He’s outside.”
Gino turns his attention to the door, his pace rapid. Joanne reacts as fast, speeding by him and blocking his way at the door.
“What are you trying to do?” Joanne asks, alarmed.
“I have to talk to him,” Gino says, his hand rising up – ready to push Joanne out of the way.
“You have to tell us what’s going on first,” Joanne urges, not giving way.
“What are you guys up to again?” Charlene asks, finally realizing the hectic atmosphere.
“Get out of the way!” Gino yells out, not caring to reason with Joanne anymore.
“Not until you tell me what’s going on!” Joanne yells right back, not letting Gino scare her off easily. She turns to Kenny briefly. “Kenny, call Jacky and tell him to leave first.”
“I’ll hunt him down wherever he is!” Gino threatens.
“Kenny!” Joanne orders again.
Before Kenny could take actions, Gino makes a move first since Joanne has directed her attention to her brother slightly. Joanne is pushed aside before anyone could react. Gino pushes the door open and makes his way towards Jacky – who’s standing by his car. Joanne and Kenny rush outside to stop Gino, blocking his path once again. This time, Kenny makes sure to shield in front of his sister.
“You have to get past me before you could do anything!” Kenny yells out, determined to make himself heard this time around.
“If you’re not telling us what’s going on, we won’t back off,” Joanne says, stepping up by her brother’s side.
“What are you guys doing?” Jacky asks, approaching the three. “Isn’t it too early to be playing some game?”
“Zhu Fan Gang!” Gino yells out – as if needing to make himself heard.
“What…” Jacky starts to say.
Jacky doesn’t have time to finish since Gino lungs forward and throws a punch at him. Joanne pushes Jacky out of way but Jacky reacts in time and pulls Joanne aside, receiving the full blow. Kenny steps forward to restrain Gino though he is not as strong because of Gino’s martial arts background. But Kenny doesn’t give up. He continues to struggle with Gino as Jacky finally let go of Joanne so he could inspect his face.
“Fan Gang,” Joanne chokes out upon seeing the blood dripping out of his mouth.
“Jacky ge!” Charlene’s voice rings out with worried.
Charlene has joined them and could witness the scene unfolding but could not do anything to help. She’s still too shocked of the turn of events to react. She could only stare blankly at her brother’s fight with Gino and her sister’s tears falling down.
“It doesn’t hurt,” Jacky reassures Joanne, turning to Gino and Kenny again. “Quit it everyone! What in the world is going on here?”
“Stop it!” Joanne yells out, despite her emotional state.
Both Gino and Kenny finally stop fighting and turn to look at Joanne.
“Do you guys want to get arrested and then we could explain it at the police station?” Joanne asks, her voice a little shaky yet her expression determined.
“It’s his doing!” Gino yells out, pointing at Jacky.
“I don’t care whose fault it is,” Joanne yells back. “All I know is, we don’t know what you’re talking about. Why don’t you just tell us from the top instead of acting out? Let’s do it in the shop before we attract anymore attention.”
Gino finally realizes that some people has stopped nearby or across the street to observe their situation and are pointing casually at them. He could see Jacky still standing there. He turns to Joanne again. “Fine.”
They finally return to the shop with Joanne tending to Jacky.
“Kenny, lock the door,” Joanne instructs after everyone’s inside. “We’re taking care of it in the break room.”
Kenny does as instructed. He joins them in the break room afterward.
“Now that everyone’s present, you could go ahead,” Joanne says.
Kenny takes the hint to sit next to Joanne. Charlene still looks pale from the incident in front of the shop so she is still silent. Jacky is sitting on Joanne’s right – and a distance from Gino.
“Well?” Joanne prompts, her face full of anger.
“This,” Gino says, slamming something down on the table.
The others could see that it’s a set of pictures when they look down to observe. Joanne picks it up and goes through it one at a time.
“This is the time we were at the market night with James, remember?” Jacky asks, looking at Joanne. “Gino said he couldn’t come because he has a meeting with someone.”
“Two weeks ago,” Joanne says, nodding her head.
“What’s wrong with…” Kenny stops because he could see the next picture.
“Exactly,” Gino jumps in. “Now you see why I have to teach him a lesson.”
Joanne turns to Jacky also, her expression casual – not of anger or suspicion.
“It was when you and James went to pick up the tickets for the show,” Jacky explains. “Something went in Xiao Qiao’s eyes so I had to blow it out for her. You don’t expect me to wait for you to come back, do you?”
Joanne turns back to the pictures again, continuing with her flipping task.
“You’re just going to believe him like that?” Gino asks in disbelief.
“It’s the angle,” Kenny says. “The person who took the picture must have waited long for that shot.”
Gino turns to Kenny with a look of disbelief also – as if not believing that Kenny would cover such sin to lie to his own sister too.
“I took a photography class. High school, remember? The days when I was snapping my camera like crazy. Most of our high school memories were taken by me.”
“Look,” Joanne says, ignoring the guys’ argument.
“What?” Gino asks, turning to Joanne again.
Joanne points to another picture she’s looking at. “Here.”
“It’s still him trying to kiss her,” Gino says, his tone still edgy.
“Not that but here.”
They could see a reflection of Jacky and Joyce but from a different angle since it’s the effect of the mirror. It looks like Jacky’s trying to lean in for a kiss from the angle of the picture, but from the mirror’s angle, they could see clearly that the two are a distance apart.
“Good eyes, jie,” Kenny compliments his sister, his proud smile on.
“So if you want to accuse anyone,” Joanne says calmly yet her expression passive. “You should check all the evidence carefully. Whose idea of a joke was it? And if you think that Xiao Qiao would let Jacky kiss her just like that, it just means you don’t trust her at all.”
“I…” Gino manages, suddenly not so sure about the matter anymore. “I just…”
“Forget it,” Jacky says, seeing everyone’s eyes on Gino. “It’s a misunderstanding.”
“But he just hit you!” Charlene shouts out, having finally recovered.
“I’ll try to be more careful next time. I meant as not to cause anymore misunderstandings.”
“It was my fault for acting so rash,” Gino says, his voice a little too soft.
If the room isn’t so quiet at the moment, they would not have heard him.
“Whose pictures are these?” Joanne demands, her eyes still on Gino.
“Qiao,” Jacky interferes, placing a hand on her shoulder. “Forget it.”
“Umm…” Gino manages, his courage suddenly abandoning him. “One of Clara’s friends snapped a shot of it since the group of friends was at that area around the same time too.”
“How do they know she knows Jacky and Xiao Qiao or you to give this to Clara?” Joanne continues with her questions, not backing down.
“They didn’t know. They just showed her some pictures they snapped at the night market to her and she saw it so she gave it to me.”
“A likely story,” Kenny jumps in.
Jacky turns and gives Kenny a look, indicating that he should know when to stop.
“I almost got hit too,” Kenny continues.
“I’m sorry, you guys,” Gino says, his voice apologetic enough. “I wasn’t using my brain.”
“Obviously…” Joanne starts to say.
“Obviously you were worried for Xiao Qiao,” Jacky jumps in, cutting Joanne off. “So you just over-reacted.” Jacky shakes his head. “So forget it.”
Gino nods. “If it’s all right with you guys…” He hesitates a little before continuing. “Maybe we shouldn’t let Xiao Qiao know about this. I don’t want to hide it. It’s just that I feel too foolish.”
“You got our words,” Jacky says quickly before the others could object.
Gino gets up at that time. “I’ll be going now. I’ll try to make up to you guys another day.”
Jacky stands up at that time and walks Gino out before Joanne or Kenny could say anymore. When he comes back, the Zeng siblings are still gathered in the break room.
“What?” Jacky asks them. “A staring contest?”
“Why did you let him off so easily?” Joanne asks, surprised.
“It’s like you were really guilty but glad there was a gap in this whole thing so you could dive out,” Kenny says. “And that’s why you’re shooing him out of here as fast as you can before he catches on otherwise.”
“Zeng Zhi Rong!” Joanne yells out, turning to her brother. “How could you say that?”
Kenny shrugs. “Hey, it seems that way. I have a right to know, okay? It’s my sister after all.”
“I understand how he must have felt,” Jacky says, his voice not threatening or mad that Kenny was accusing him. “Like how I felt when he first showed up here.”
“But you didn’t beat anyone up.”
“Because that’s not my way, but I was being mean to him too, remember?”
“Are you making it up to him now by letting him vent out on you like that?”
Jacky shrugs. “I just know that we should give him a break. Don’t you think we’re giving that Clara the satisfaction if we let her plans go through?”
“That’s right,” Joanne says finally, realizing the situation. “If we let her play us and fall right into her traps, then we’re a bunch of idiots.”
“I guess I was right after all about her being trouble, huh?” Kenny asks, reminding them about his prophecy.
Joanne turns around to give him a look. “Why don’t you say something like we’ll win the lottery or something more fortunate? You always jinx us.”
Kenny points to himself, looking wounded. “So it’s my fault?”
“Of course.”
“All right,” Jacky says. “Let’s get out of here.”
“We have to go back to work,” Joanne says, glancing at the clock on the wall.
“I’ll just buy you lunch and bring it back here.”
Joanne nods.
“Before you go though, clean that up,” Kenny jumps in, pointing at his own mouth for emphasis.
“Oh,” Joanne gasps. “I’m so careless.”
“You looked like you wanted to tear Gino apart first before taking care of his wound,” Kenny jokes.
Joanne turns her eyes on her brother again.
Kenny raises his hands up in surrender. “I’m just kidding, jie. Let’s go, Charlene.”
“Are we still up for tonight then?” Charlene asks.
“Yes,” Jacky replies.
Kenny drags Charlene outside at that time.
“You’re the one that has to go back to work, not me,” Charlene protests, still being pulled out by her brother.
“You don’t like to spend time walking back to my shop with me?” Kenny asks, diverting the subject on purpose.
After they’re gone, Joanne turns to Jacky again. She reaches up to inspect the blood that has dried up at the edge of his lips. She grabs his hand and directs him over to the sink where she takes out the emergency kit, helping him wash off the blood and apply some ointment on it.
“I guess we won’t be doing any kissing for a while, huh?” Jacky jokes after Joanne’s done.
“Hmp.” Joanne utters out, looking annoyed.
Jacky grabs a hold of her from behind like he did many times before. “You were really brave to use yourself as a shield before. I would’ve died of embarrassment if I didn’t react in time.”
“I didn’t have time to think. I just know I have to stop him.”
Jacky smiles, hugging Joanne tighter than before.

*****

That night proceeds just like how Jacky reassured them. However, Jacky’s spirit isn’t as high as the last few times they had a gathering at his house. Perhaps it is due to the fact that he couldn’t smile very well. Gino sure could punch.
“What happened to you?” James asks, eyeing Jacky that night when they settle down at the dinner table.
“Long story,” Jacky mumbles, not wanting to strain his energy at all.
James turns to Joanne for an explanation.
“It was a misunderstanding,” Joanne replies, her answer as brief as Jacky’s.
“I guess someone got what he deserves,” Caitlin says from the other side of the table. “Considering how someone always likes to offend others.”
Jacky doesn’t care to exert his energy but just gives Caitlin a sharp stare.
“Now, kids,” Mr. Chu speaks up, knowing too well of their past disputes. “Don’t do this at dinner time.”
“If someone wouldn’t aggravate me,” Jacky grits.
“Seriously, son, what happened?” Mr. Chu asks, turning to Jacky.
“A misunderstanding.”
“Is that all?”
“Arthur,” Mrs. Chu interferes. “You shouldn’t stir things up at dinner time either.”
“I don’t want to talk about it with outsiders here,” Jacky says, eyeing Caitlin.
“You…” Caitlin begins.
“Cait,” James interferes this time. “Let’s not do it at dinner time.”
“You mean I could take her out and finish her off after dinner?” Jacky asks, his annoyance level raising another notch.
James gives Jacky the same look like many times before.
“That’s enough,” Mrs. Chu speaks up again.
Both Jacky and James stop talking and continue to eat. Caitlin also takes the hint to not aggravate Jacky anymore.
“Karaoke night, anyone?” Mr. Chu suggests, eyeing his sons.
Jacky doesn’t reply though he knows that his father is compromising with him and trying to make up for adding part of the oil into the flames.
“Sounds good,” Joanne agrees, placing a supportive hand on Jacky’s shoulder. “But I think the rest of us will have to entertain ourselves since Jacky can’t follow this time.”
Jacky manages a smile upon seeing Joanne’s effort.
“Then your mom and I will have to let you kids hear our golden voices,” Mr. Chu jokes.
“Arthur,” Mrs. Chu calls out, shaking her head disapprovingly.
“What?” Mr. Chu asks back, faking innocent. “If we don’t sing, like anyone else would sing around here since James will be occupied with pleasing Caitlin and our Jacky is currently not under the condition to sing.”
“It’s okay, Dad,” Jacky finally says, feeling like he needs to defend his father after what the old man went through for him. “Qiao and I need to go somewhere for a while so we can just scatter.”
“Really?” Mr. Chu asks, eyeing Jacky and Joanne suspiciously. “I didn’t hear you two mention it earlier.”
“Last minute planning,” Joanne continues. “Sorry, Uncle.”
Mr. Chu waves it off. “No problem. We’ll think of something later.”
Jacky nods.
After dinner, Jacky and Joanne excuse themselves and leave the Chu resident. They are actually dropping Kristy and Calvin off at the Wang resident since both siblings claim to have some other commitments as well. Jacky doesn’t say much during the car ride either. He lets the other three interact among themselves. It is until they arrive at the Wang resident that Jacky finally speaks up.
“Sorry that you guys had to be there when it happened.”
Kristy shakes her head. “Don’t worry about it. We’re used to your battles, remember?”
“You actually didn’t initiate it this time,” Calvin says, displaying a proud look – as if it is something to be proud about.
“What do you know, huh?” Jacky jokes, smiling also.
“Calvin,” Kristy chides.
“It’s okay,” Jacky reassures her. “We’re family. We can joke like that…unlike someone.”
“Family?” Calvin asks.
“Dad calls you ‘my boy’, doesn’t he?”
Calvin smiles, knowing Mr. Chu’s overly enthusiastic nature. “True.”
“I guess we’ll be going now,” Kristy says, breaking up the conversation. “Take care, okay?”
Jacky nods.
“And whatever it is, hope that you can take care of it. If you want, remember to look for us to consult.”
“Yes, Teacher Wang.”
Kristy gives him a look but just the usual teasing one and not the stern one.
“All right. See you.”
The Wang siblings step back so Jacky could pull out. He turns to wave to them one last time before driving off.
“You okay?” Joanne asks when they’re safely in traffic again.
“Yeah,” Jacky says, attempting to smile.
“You don’t have to reassure me. I know it hurts to move.”
“Maybe I should learn hand signals too.”
“Seriously though, are you okay? You haven’t said much all night. I meant aside from the fact that it hurts to move.”
“I’ve been thinking.”
Joanne doesn’t want to interrupt him so she waits patiently for him to continue.
“Actually…” Jacky says after they pass another traffic light. “I was thinking about Gino and Xiao Qiao.”
“I thought you were thinking of a way to get back at Caitlin.”
“I’m not that senseless. I have more important things to take care of.”
“So…”
“So…how about we not see them for a while?”
Joanne wrinkles her face in confusion. “Are you sure it’s a good idea?”
“Giving them space and time would be good for their relationship. We could hang around them more when their relationship is stabilized.”
“Won’t Xiao Qiao get suspicious of us?”
“I’ll make up an excuse, saying that we need the time alone.”
Joanne smiles, knowing Jacky will always cover all bases. She finally nods. “All right, I’m with you.”
“No wonder Dad said you’re his favorite daughter in law.”
Joanne smiles again, reaching over to grab hold of Jacky’s free hand.
© Tuesday, April 13th, 2010
Posted: Monday, May 2nd, 2011