“This is what I’m talking about,” Kenny narrated, looking at the trees surrounding them. “A little harmless picnic and then some more.”

Yes, the day of the picnic finally arrived, and they managed to gather quite a crowd for the event. The location of the gathering was actually a little farther into the woods than some local park. They preferred a change in altitude this time around. Though a June day, they managed to grab a day that wasn’t too hot for their purpose.

“Might want to help us set up, Little Bro,” Joanne commanded, taking out a quilt from her sack.

“Sure,” Kenny said, dropping his own sack on the grass. He turned to Calvin who was next to him then. “Hey, want to set up a place for ourselves?”

Calvin nodded. “After I help my pop set up his, though.”

Kenny shrugged and proceeded to help with his family’s quilt as well. About twenty minutes or so later, they managed to finish with their setup tasks. What was left was waiting for the rest of the guests to arrive. Interestingly, Charlene was not with the group because she claimed she had to go check on her grades before joining them about several hours later.

The next group of guests to arrive was the Chu family, and then Derek and Joyce. Jacky, Joanne, Derek, Joyce, James, and Elisa ended up setting up a quilt for themselves as a group after helping the Chu family set up.

“Is SCTN coming later?” Joanne asked, turning to Joyce.

Joyce shrugged. “Lacey might want to go do something else.”

“Oh.”

They settled down on the quilt as at that time.

“Why do you guys call Stephen SCTN?” Derek asked suddenly.

Joanne had to laugh at that though she had on her apologetic look then as Derek turned a few shades—out of embarrassment. “Sorry.”

“I know SC is Stephen Chou,” Derek attempted to fix his own ignorance image. “But what’s TN?”

“The nerd,” Joanne answered, finally regaining herself. “I wasn’t laughing at you but was just remembering the time we pinned that name on him.”

Derek finally laughed as well, nodding in agreement to their assigned nickname to Stephen. “He’s a nerd all right.”

“Definitely.”

“Frisbee time?” Kenny said, walking by them at that time.

Joanne gave Kenny a look like he was crazy.

“What?” Kenny asked, still looking innocent. “Can’t have a picnic without some fun, right? And we don’t have to do it the traditional way.”

Joanne crossed her hands together and had on one of her smart smiles. Her rare smart smile since it was not really in her nature to tease others, except perhaps her siblings. And Kenny sure fell into the “siblings” category. “What do you suggest then?”

Kenny didn’t seem affected by his sister’s taunt though. He looked like he was used to it. “Whoever drops it first when it’s being passed to them has to confess their darkest secret.”

“You’re on,” Jacky said before the rest could object or rethink the matter.

Joanne turned to Jacky and gave him a look, but he just shrugged as he got up from his spot.

“You’re that bored?” Joyce asked, getting up also.

“Hey, come on, help the poor kid who’s trying hard to entertain us,” Jacky returned, his smart smile on.

“Haha,” Kenny murmured sarcastically as he continued toward an empty, spacious area where it would guarantee some fairness in the coming game. “We’ll see about it after you drop the frisbee.”

After another round of taunting looks between Jacky and Kenny, they started the game. Though the others looked reluctant from the start, they ended up participating anyway. Even James and Elisa joined in. It was not about the activity but more like they needed to kill time while they waited for the rest of the parties to arrive. And it indeed lessened the wait because Kristy soon showed up with some desserts for them. She also engaged in conversation with Elizabeth, catching up also—since they hadn’t seen each other since Elizabeth returned from her latest trip.

“I wonder what in the world Charlene’s up to,” Kenny said suddenly when he tossed the Frisbee toward Joanne.

“Why?” Joanne asked, tossing it toward Joyce. “It’s not like she’s not coming.”

“She’s been disappearing for strange reasons lately, you know.”

“Like studying?”

“Haha, sis.”

“Like you don’t disappear out of nowhere at times,” Jacky reminded Kenny of his bizarre on the brink of stalking behaviors in the past.

Kenny had on his annoyed look again. “Another haha.”

“What do you suggest then?” Joyce asked, attempting to rescue Kenny from the others’ grasps.

“Like she’s…uh…I don’t know. I just know something’s wrong.”

Jacky, Joanne, and Joyce exchanged a look then. They seriously wondered what Kenny was really up to since he was usually not the type to stutter or hesitate. Joanne almost dropped the frisbee since she was also thinking about Kenny’s words, wondering if she had missed what Kenny saw during these past days.

“You’re slipping, sis,” Kenny said again. “Prepare a secret already.”

Joanne scowled and tossed the frisbee back toward Kenny though he just passed it toward her.

“Nice…”

Though they seemed to be having some sort of disagreement, they continued to participate in the brainless game. It was actually a good game for the day because they were given a chance to stretch their muscles. When Charlene finally arrived, she surprised everyone into speechlessness. The reason was because they could see a guy around her age walking with her.

“Well, what do you know?” Joyce said after they recovered seconds later—and Joanne had dropped the frisbee for real. “Our Kenny is right this time.”

“This time?” Kenny repeated, sounding almost offended by Joyce’s confidence in him.

“You have to admit you’re not that observant, you know,” Calvin jumped in.

Calvin had been quiet for the most part, concentrating on passing the frisbee back and forth. Now that the game seemed to halt, he finally dared to speak up again.

“Thanks for the vote of confidence then,” Kenny snarled, apparently still annoyed.

“Let’s see what Charlene has to say for herself then,” Joanne prompted, making her way toward her family quilt where Charlene was making her way toward it with their father looking at Charlene and the new guy.

“Hey, sis,” Kenny greeted Charlene with his teasing smile on. “Look who you brought. A surprise indeed, eh?”

Charlene looked annoyed as always—since she was always easily riled up by Kenny’s taunting. “Ge…”

“You know I’m kidding,” Kenny said. Then he turned to the new guy. “Hey, how’s it going? I’m Kenny, your future bro-in-law.”

“Kenny!” Joanne interfered, giving him a look.

Kenny shrugged, backing up—literally—to give the others space to greet the new guy.

“Hi, Uncle,” The new guy spoke up, not daring to stare at the others as Charlene shielded him from them. “I’m Miles.”

Mr. Tseng nodded and shook the guy’s hand before speaking up. “Nice to meet you.”

“Dad, this is my…uh…” Charlene stuttered, getting nervous because of the others glaring at her.

“Yes?” Kenny prompted, his smart-aleck smile still on.

“Ge!” Charlene yelled, getting really annoyed by now—and could only attack her brother.

Mr. Tseng could see Miles getting nervous as well, so he gave Kenny a look. “Zhi Rong.”

Kenny saluted and backed off another step, standing next to Joanne by now. Though Elizabeth and Kristy were equally curious about the new guy, they just turned toward the quilt’s direction to witness from afar of the upcoming developments—unlike the others who were actually stationing themselves right next to Mr. Tseng’s quilt to wait for the answer.

“This is my boyfriend,” Charlene finally rattled out, her nerves on the edge.

Mr. Tseng smiled then, possibly having already guessed the correct title for this new guy.

“Welcome to the family!” Kenny shouted out before Mr. Tseng could react though.

“Zhi Rong…” Mr. Tseng warned again. Then he turned to Miles again. “Don’t mind Zhi Rong. Just go ahead and make yourself comfortable.”

Miles nodded with much respect he could muster out toward Mr. Tseng before scurrying away with Charlene by his side.

“Interesting development,” Kenny remarked after they were out of sight—and possibly earshot.

“Zhi Rong…” Mr. Tseng called out again, his warning tone still intact.

“Aww…come on now, Pop. I can’t make a comment?”

“You’re better off quiet,” Joanne told her brother with her “know-it-all” tone in place.

Kenny—as if remembering something—turned to his sister at that time. “And look who we have here! The first person to confess about her secret!”

It didn’t take much. Joanne was already chasing Kenny around the area. It didn’t matter if they had a fair share of the supposedly respected elders present. And it didn’t matter that her future-in-laws were witnessing the scene either.

“Talking about being mature!” Kenny managed to yell between his escape attempts from his sister.

The others could only laugh at the siblings’ interaction, except for possibly Miles who was still looking confused and fearful at what he just signed himself up for. Yet all of those feelings seemed to extinguish themselves because around twenty minutes later, Joanne had settled down and was helping the others prepare foods since it seemed whoever else that wanted to come decided to bail out on them already.

“Good to know that it’s over now,” Kenny said as he was passing around utensils and napkins to the people present on their quilt.

Yes, Kenny and Calvin had moved their own private quilt and merged it along with Jacky and the others’ around ten minutes back, wanting to join in on the so-called excitement.

“What’s over?” Calvin asked, confused.

“Get with the program, will you?” Kenny returned. “Charlene’s silly crush over my future bro-in-law.”

Calvin still had on his confused look. He directed his eyes toward Kenny then, abandoning his current task altogether. “Huh?”

“You know Charlene has always held some kind of torch for Jacky since he joined the family, right?”

“Really?”

Kenny scoffed at Calvin’s overly surprised reaction. “Where in the world have you been, man?”

“Don’t mention it anymore,” Jacky interfered. “If you talk any louder, Miles will hear you and misunderstand.”

“You knew she liked you all along?” Calvin asked, turning to Jacky.

Jacky nodded. “I just pretend I don’t know.”

“It’s the reason why she always clings on to him each time he comes back from trips,” Kenny explained.

“Oh…I don’t hang around you guys all the time, you know,” Calvin defended himself.

“Now you know.”

“Okay, moving on,” Joanne interrupted their little conversation. “How about telling us when you’re going to graduate, Little Bro?”

“Good question,” Mr. Tseng seconded from the quilt next over. And he had already merged his quilt with Mr. Wang as well since they were catching up on the latest again.

Joanne had spoken loud enough so the general population present could hear her. That had placed Kenny into the heat on purpose.

“Thanks a lot, sis,” Kenny snapped, annoyed that he was the talk of the town now.

Joanne had on her teasing smile again. “Just answer the question, Little Bro.”

“Um…” Kenny stuttered, scanning all the eyes that were on him.

“I think he’s planning to be a celebrity,” Jacky teased.

“What?” Calvin asked, obviously confused again.

“You know, they stay in school to delay enlistment.”

“Hahaha,” Kenny snapped, his confidence returning. “I’ll probably graduate after the fall quarter, okay?”

“All right then!” Joanne shouted. “Did you hear that everyone? Now let’s see if he could carry it out.”

Kenny had on his murderous look then. Yet he turned it into an equally taunting one. “Let’s see when you’ll get married then, sis.”

Joanne wrinkled her face and stuck her tongue out at her brother. It was one of those rare times as well that she had opted for the immature role.

“It depends on your future bro-in-law then,” Joyce jumped in, not wanting to rob herself of the opportunity to poke fun at Jacky.

“Cute,” Jacky mumbled, not meaning it at all.

Joyce had on her innocent smile then. “Thanks.”

“But if anyone wants to see some sort of a wedding soon, I wouldn’t mind obliging,” James spoke up then.

Elisa, shocked, turned to James. But it was too late since he had gotten up from his spot and changed into a kneeling pose in front of her.

Jacky, Joanne, and Joyce exchanged a look then. And if anyone was looking, Jacky was actually giving Joyce a bill at the moment. It was like they had previously bet on the proposal.

“Ice cream money,” Joyce commented to herself—but still loud enough for Jacky and Joanne to hear—before she quieted down to give James the undivided attention he deserved.

Just like any other proposal, the typical question came forth and they waited—holding their breaths without even realizing it—for Elisa’s answer.

“Yes,” Kenny muttered under his breath—though the others could hear him.

“Yes,” Elisa finally said—because she was sure of it and not because of Kenny’s persistent urging.

“Congratulations!” Jacky, Joanne, Joyce, and Derek blurted out at the same time.

“Yes!” Kenny yelled out—on his own, causing some stares from the others.

“Did you bet as well?” Joanne asked, her voice low on purpose—and staring at her brother accusingly.

“No, but that means I get more chances to eat.”

“The way you say it, it’s like we’re starving you at home.”

“Aww…come on, sis. Drinking happy wine is far from a typical meal.”

Joanne smiled at last. “Just kidding, Little Bro.”

And they turned in time to see James placing the ring on Elisa’s hand—and also witnessed a heartwarming embrace. After that, James helped Elisa up, and both made their way over to Mr. and Mrs. Chu’s quilt. As for Mr. and Mrs. Chu, they were more than happy to hear the good news.

“So when is it our turn?” Jacky asked Joanne—though he had on his teasing smile.

“I think they stole our limelight,” Joanne replied, playing along.

“How about a double wedding to make up for this stolen spotlight then?” Joyce offered, joining in with the joke.

“You’re on,” Jacky agreed, extending his hand toward Joyce to seal the deal.

“What?” Derek asked, confused—as Jacky and Joyce shook their hands to finalize the matter.

Joanne turned to Derek then. “Get used to it since I think she has already made the decision for you.”

Jacky and Joyce finally let go of one another’s hands and returned their attention to their significant other. Though Derek still seemed to be in confusion, he soon smiled, realizing if the deal was true then he was seriously so lucky. It was also the same time that Joanne leaned into Jacky and stared ahead at the scenery played out in front of them, specifically at James and Elisa talking to Mr. and Mrs. Chu. It seemed like a new page of their life was about to unfold itself, and she didn’t mind it at all. She would welcome it with whatever it was that will come—without regrets.

“What are you thinking about?” Jacky asked, spotting the expression on her face.

“Nothing,” Joanne replied, smiling still. “Just a bunch of nothingness.”

“You’re not making any sense, you know that?”

Joanne gave him a look then, her typical bossy look. “And you’re with me because?”

“Because you’ve marked me with your rock, remember?”

Joanne couldn’t help but straighten up again, hitting him on the shoulder. She knew he was still teasing her about what happened during their first encounter. And like many times before, he reached out his hand to catch hers, pulling her back to him again. Knowing too well they were both joking, they let out a familiar laugh after that. As they settled down again, they could see the clear blue sky hovering above. Yet this time, it seemed much clearer than it had ever been since they’d come to know of its existence. They could also see the afternoon’s shimmering light dancing back and forth among the trees along with the softness of the summer breeze.

© Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Posted: Friday, February 17th, 2012

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