Chapter 15

For the remaining weeks of August, they continue to proceed according to Jacky’s plan. The plan doesn’t last long because Jacky and Joyce are a team after all at work so they could not avoid each other for long. They have to take another business trip together. Lucky for Jacky, the boss and some of the other members of the management team will accompany them so they are not alone on the trip. Jacky will have plenty of alibis in case anything shall happen or any sort of suspicion that would cast its way on him and Joyce. Another factor that Jacky doesn’t have to worry about is that this trip will be short-lived, considering how they will only be gone for two weeks and not their usual one month or more like before.
When they arrive home in mid-September, Joanne arrives at the airport to pick them up like many times before. It is not anything new but it is Joanne’s attitude that has changed. She is not excited to meet them like all those times before. Though she tries to keep a calm state in front of them, but Jacky could detect the difference right away.
“Can you go with one of the others?” Jacky asks, turning to Joyce. “It’s not that we can’t take you, but…”
“We’ll drop you off at your house,” Joanne says, cutting Jacky off.
Jacky turns to face Joanne at that time. “But…”
Joanne shakes her head. “It’s okay.”
Jacky and Joyce exchange a look. But they follow Joanne out of the terminal and into the parking lot. They stay silent the whole time, but also ponder of Joanne’s strange behavior.
On the way to Joyce’s house, Joanne continues to stay silent. It is until they drop off Joyce at her house that Jacky finally turns to Joanne.
“What’s going on here?” Jacky asks. “Don’t tell me someone has spies out of the country and found some disturbing or damaging photos again.”
Joanne shakes her head. “It’s not about that.”
“Then what is it?”
“James and Caitlin broke up,” Joanne says, finally looking over to Jacky.
“That’s great then,” Jacky exclaims.
“James was the one who broke up with her.”
“The better.”
“Although he doesn’t want to.”
“Then why did he do it?”
“It was all because of Kristy.”
Jacky wrinkles his face. “What?!”
“It happened so fast. We didn’t have time to stop them.”
“Start from the top.”
“I’ll tell you later.”
Jacky feels anxious about the situation but Joanne has already restarted the car so he has no choice but wait.

*****

James and Caitlin’s breakup incident actually occurred several hours before Joanne went to the airport to pick up Jacky and Joyce. It was also the reason why Joanne was still distracted about the situation, unable to put things into words.
What happened was Joanne was supposed to meet up with Kristy and Calvin at James’ restaurant since the Wang siblings had stopped by to try some new dishes James came up with. While Kristy finished with paying the bill, Calvin made a trip to the restroom as Kristy continued to wait for Joanne. James happened to come out of his office at that time and spotted Kristy. He settled down at her table and they engaged in a casual conversation. They were laughing all of a sudden.
“Maybe we should try something like what we did during Valentine’s Day,” James teased, regaining from his laughter.
“A different place though since the surprise element is already gone,” Kristy said, smiling.
James nodded. “Good idea.”
That was when Caitlin came in and heard their exchange of words, assuming something fishy. She then raced forward and demanded an explanation from James. James got up from his seat at that time, attempting to pull Caitlin away from the scene.
“You misunderstood,” James said calmly.
“What am I misunderstanding?” Caitlin exclaimed angrily. “You said you spent Valentine’s Day with her!” Caitlin pointed an accusing finger at Kristy. “And not me! What do you have behind my back?”
“You cancelled on us, remember?” James asked, trying to circulate Caitlin’s memory.
“The point is…you went out with another girl.”
“That’s absurd. We were just hanging out as friends. I did that with Jacky, Qiao, and Xiao Qiao at times too.”
Caitlin did not back down. She pointed an accusing finger at Kristy. “But you went with her alone!”
James stepped forward to shield Kristy from Caitlin. “If you want to argue, target me, not her. She has nothing to do with this.”
“So you’re admitting you’re with her now?”
“You’re taking this way out of proportion.”
“You’re defending her!”
“I’m just clarifying things to you.”
Caitlin pushed James out of the way at that time and grabbed a hold of Kristy. “Witch! Say it!”
“It’s not what you think,” Kristy spoke up – though her arm was hurting. “James and I just bumped into each other at that time. We didn’t plan anything.”
James regained himself at that time, not expecting Caitlin to resort to violence. He pried Caitlin’s hand from Kristy’s. “Stop it! You’re being unreasonable.”
By that time, a crowd of employees had formed in front of them.
“You’re using force on me! You’ve never done that before! If you’re not with her, then why are you doing this?”
“I had enough of this!” James bellowed, scaring everyone present.
That was when Joanne stepped into the scene.
“What’s going on here?” Joanne whispered to one of the waiters.
“I’m not sure either,” The waiter whispered back. “But it’s serious.”
They turned their attention to James and Caitlin again, observing the scene unfolding.
“Let’s break up,” James said at last, sending the room into silence.
“You…” Caitlin uttered, her voice wavering and her face showing disbelief. “Just because of her?”
“I told you it’s not about her but about you and your unreasonable ways,” James continued. “I can’t keep offending everyone around me and ignoring their feelings. I thought you’re just spoiled, but you’re beyond help.”
Caitlin finally realized the crowd gathering so she stormed out of there in a huff. James turned to watch her leave and then directed his attention to his employees.
“We’re done with the preparations for this afternoon’s reservation, Boss,” One of the waiters informed James.
Then Joanne realized why no other customers were around except for Kristy – and now Calvin. Calvin had stepped out of the restroom awhile back but stayed hidden in the hallway to observe the situation. He finally stepped out when he saw Caitlin leaving.
“Jie, you’re okay?” Calvin asked, placing a hand on his sister’s shoulder.
“Are you okay?” James asked, turning to Kristy also.
Kristy nodded. She looked at James with a guilty expression. “I’m so sorry that I caused that misunderstanding. I’ll try to talk to her later when she calms down so you two could sort it out.”
James shook his head. “No need. I had enough.”
“I…”
James shook his head again. “It’s not your fault.” He then turned to Joanne. “You should go since Jacky should be home in several hours. Traffic’s heavy this time of the day.”
Joanne nodded, knowing it was James’ way of saying he did not want to talk about it.
Afterward, Kristy and Calvin excused themselves and left the restaurant with Joanne.

*****

“So…that was it?” Jacky asks, sitting down at the sofa again, still trying to dry his hair. He has gotten up to get some water before while listening to Joanne’s recounts. Now that she’s done, he speaks up to voice his opinion towards the matter.
Joanne has her head back on the headrest, still pondering about matters. “It’s funny that it’s what we really want but now that it happened…”
Jacky’s still drying his hair. “I’m not sad.”
Joanne turns to give Jacky a look.
“I’m serious. He’ll get over it.”
“He looks devastated though.”
Jacky wrinkles his face. “So?”
“He said he had enough.”
“His words but he looks devastated.”
“Your perception.”
“Hmp.”
“What? Don’t believe me? He’ll be fine in a month or so.”
“If he isn’t?”
“We got Plan A and B.”
“Which are?”
“Get Kristy to move in on him so he could be distracted.”
“And?”
Jacky smiles. “Plan B will go through after Plan A succeeds.”
Joanne still isn’t convinced.
Jacky finally gets up from his seat, his towel in his hand. “Of course I’m kidding. Let’s go. I think I could cheer him up.”
“What?” Joanne asks, getting up from her seat also.
“Tickets to the arena. His favorite team.”
“Bribery will work?”
“It’s a distraction for the time being while he thinks things over.”
“If that’s supposed to make sense.”
Joanne follows Jacky out the door – like many times before. A routine they go through each time he comes back. However, they’re not going back to her flower shop this time around.

*****

A week passes by but there doesn’t seem to be any sign of James and Caitlin reconciling like some of them predicted. Jacky tries to tone down his sarcastic attitude and not aggravate James when they’re at home together – since their parents have gone on another trip again. One day in the following week when he’s making his way out of the house after grabbing his keys at the key hanger by the door, he bumps into Joyce. He hasn’t seen Joyce since the day he and Joanne dropped her off. The same day that James and Caitlin broke up.
“Hey,” Jacky says casually. “What brought you here? Brought some tea over to comfort poor James?”
“You think it’s funny, don’t you?” Joyce asks, stepping in front of his path and blocking his way to his car.
Jacky wrinkles his face, sensing traces of dynamite from her look. “What are you talking about? Of course I don’t think it’s funny that he’s still recovering. I’m just saying that it’s funny to see you here.”
“Stop playing this game,” Joyce warns, her voice cold. “We know each other longer than this.”
“You’re confusing me,” Jacky says, attempting to step past her.
“We have to talk.”
Jacky turns to look at her again. “What do you mean? Aren’t we talking now?”
Joyce doesn’t say anything but pulls him back into his house.
“Hey, hey,” Jacky protests. “What in the world are you doing? Just because I don’t like to use force on a girl…”
“Shut up!” Joyce yells out, shutting the door at the same time.
“Who aggravated you this time? Why are you targeting me?”
“You.”
Jacky wrinkles his face again – the exact expression he gave her when they were outside. “Say what?”
“Why have you been avoiding me?”
“What are you talking about? I’ve been trying to cheer James up by thinking up of senseless activities. Of course I’ve been occupied. Not to mention…”
“It’s not that! It’s been months now. If it wasn’t for this, what other excuse would you’ve come up with? Is our friendship so tiring to you that you need to make an excuse to avoid me now? Am I stupid that I don’t know what you’re doing? Don’t I know that James ge is very capable of taking care of himself? What’s really going on? Have Gino told you anything?”
Jacky attempts to walk to the door again. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. And I don’t know where you heard that.”
Joyce shoves him back to the living at that time. “You can’t even look at me in the eyes and you expect me to believe you?”
“Guys don’t snitch on one another,” Jacky rattles off – as if having it memorized ahead of time already. He gestures his hand in front of him to make a point. “I’m sorry, I already promised. I can’t tell you.”
“Zhu Fan Gang!” Joyce shouts out, frustration mixed with disappointment. “Then what am I? Some girl down the street? I’m your best friend since kindergarten!”
Jacky stops himself. He knows he has let her down big time. Suddenly, he doesn’t know what to say and he can’t remove his presence from her either.
“What am I?” Joyce repeats, her eyes brimming with tears.
“Okay, okay!” Jacky says, pacing the living room. “Gino misunderstood us once and confronted me so I thought it was a good idea to not see each other for a while until Gino understands our friendship more. It was my idea, not his. You can ask Qiao since she agreed with me. We talked about it.”
“Are you saying that he suspects me?” Joyce asks, eyeing Jacky suspiciously.
“No, I’m just saying any guy would get mad,” Jacky clarifies, finally stops his pacing. “Even I was acting silly when he first came back, remember?”
Joyce observes Jacky a little more before speaking up. “All right. I believe you. But would you stop it with your silly games?”
“I will work hard for both of you. But you must consider Gino’s feelings too.”
“Of course. He’s my boyfriend.”
“Then we’re good?” Jacky asks, offering her a smile.
Joyce still has on her unconvinced expression. “We’ll see.”
© Wednesday, April 14th, 2010
Posted: Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011