When Jacky entered the house, he saw James sitting at the kitchen table with Caitlin. They were actually eating dinner together. Jacky couldn’t bear to watch their “lovey-dovey” moments anymore. He cleared his throat loudly. James looked up to see Jacky. He smiled and waved a “Hi” with his fork. Caitlin looked up when she saw James’ smile. Her smile faded as she saw Jacky glaring at her with an annoyed expression.

“You’re back already?” James asked. “Why didn’t you tell me? I could’ve picked you up at the airport.”

“No, thanks,” Jacky said dryly, walking by the table. “I don’t want to be reminded of why I dread coming back here in the first place. I want to fade some things out as much as possible until my next trip.”

“What’s your problem anyway?” Caitlin asked in an irritated tone.

“You,” Jacky answered, still in the same dry tone as before.

James cleared his throat. “Jacky.”

“I’m going to bed,” Jacky said passively.

Jacky walked toward the back part of the house, past the bathroom, his father’s study, and the recreational center in the middle. He stopped at the path where it divided into two directions, which led to his and James’ rooms, and took a deep breath before heading to the right where his room was.

*****

Gino had been quiet—a tad too quiet—the whole way since they got into the car. Of course, she knew exactly where he lived, so there was no need to tell her the directions. Joyce tried to turn on the radio to entertain herself and to stay awake at the same time. Gino glanced over at her once every while. He had this expression that he wanted to talk but was afraid to. Or maybe he didn’t know how to begin. Strange, since he was fine earlier at Joanne’s house. When they were turning into Gino’s neighborhood, Joyce couldn’t stand it anymore and decided to speak up.

“Do you have something to tell me?” She asked.

“Uh…” Gino managed.

“Unless I have something on my face ‘cause you’ve been staring at me once every while since we got into the car.”

Gino silently complimented Joyce for her straightforward and courageous nature. “No. I just…”

“Just what?”

“Uh…I just…uh…don’t know how to begin a conversation with you, that’s all.”

“Do I look like I bite?”

“I don’t know,” Gino admitted, shrugging at the same time although Joyce couldn’t see it. “Do you?”

“Which house?”

“At the end of this block. On the right.”

“You don’t know that, do you? Maybe you shouldn’t jump to conclusions.”

“Maybe not.”

Joyce finally parked in front of a white house with the light yellow roof. “Looks luxurious.”

“It’s my uncle’s.”

“Oh. Not bad at all. He has some taste.”

“More like my aunt’s creativity.”

“Then your aunt has good taste.”

“All right, I guess it’s good night then.”

“I guess so.”

Gino got out of the car and closed the door.

Joyce rolled down the window. “See you next time?”

“At Qiao Qiao’s house?”

“Or anywhere.”

“True. See you.”

Joyce backed out of the driveway after making sure that Gino was out of the way.

*****

James walked into the bathroom as Jacky was brushing his teeth. (It was the bathroom down the hallway at the path where it divided to separate their rooms, not the one by the kitchen.) Their eyes met in the mirror and James looked displeased. Jacky concentrated on brushing his teeth and then spitting out the toothpaste afterward, ignoring James’ sighing. James finally spoke up.

“That was some entrance you made.”

“Thanks,” Jacky said after spitting out a mouthful of water.

“You know what I mean.”

“Do I?”

“You do. You’re not dumb. I know you don’t like Caitlin, but could you stop it? She’s trying to be nice too.”

“Sure she was,” Jacky mocked, rinsing his toothbrush. “Like the look she gave me as soon as she saw me.”

“We all know how this started from the beginning when I brought her home the first day.”

“Refresh my memory, because I obviously tried to block it out of my mind. For the sake of sanity, of course.”

Jacky walked out of the bathroom after hanging his face towel on the rack next to the sink. James followed him, blocking his path.

“Last time, stop messing with Caitlin,” James warned.

Jacky slapped James’ hand aside. “Okay. Until you switch girlfriends.” He continued down the hall to his room after that.

“I mean it!” James yelled after Jacky.

“I mean it too!” Jacky yelled back.

*****

Jacky dialed Joanne’s number as soon as he hopped onto his bed.

“What did you do this time?” Joanne asked.

Jacky broke out into laughter before answering. “Nice greeting.”

“I can skip all the formalities since I know it’s you.”

“Still…does it have to come out in that way?” Jacky asked, smiling.

“How do you want it to sound like then?”

“What’s that sound?”

“I’m just looking through this flower magazine. Getting ideas for decorating flower baskets.”

“Oh…”

“Honestly, what happened? Did you walk into one of James and Caitlin’s lovey-dovey moments again?”

“How did you know?” Jacky asks, surprised.

“I don’t know. I guessed.”

“It’s a pretty good guess then.”

“Actually, I can sense it in your voice that you’re irritated, so I’m guessing it’s Caitlin since you just got home a bit ago. But I don’t want to sound so serious, so I just made it off as a joke.”

“Why are you all chatty all of a sudden?”

“You don’t want me to be? Want me to call Gino up and talk to him instead?”

“Zeng Zhi Qiao!”

Joanne snickered. “Just kidding! But seriously, don’t let it get to you. You know how much brain Caitlin has. Don’t bother.”

“Just wait for James to come to his senses and dump her?”

“Not exactly like that, but hope that she develops some intelligence?”

Jacky laughed. “Is that the most ironic thing in this world?”

“At least you’re laughing now.”

“Thanks, Qiao.”

“I’m your girl, remember?” She reminded him, putting the magazine aside and lied on her stomach instead. “You should go to sleep though. It was a long day today.”

“All right. You should turn in too.”

“I want to too, but someone kept whining to me about his ‘dreadful’ life.”

“You’re signed for that position since you’ve become attached to me.”

“Should I reconsider that then?”

“You may not!”

“I was kidding.”

“I know.”

“All right. Go to sleep.”

“All right, you too.”

They hung up at the same time.

Jacky looked at the phone and thought for a bit before putting it on the table next to his bed. He turned off the light before lying down. He couldn’t sleep though. All the events of the day came rushing back to him. He looked out to the window. Rays of lights from the street lights outside were spraying through his window. He turned the other way and stared at his door instead. James’ words came back to him. Then Joanne’s words came back to him also. He decided to listen to Joanne and tried to live it out as it was. At least, he would be gone again after a few more weeks. In the meantime, he had plenty of things he could do with Joanne while he was around. He liked that thought. Within fifteen minutes, he was fast asleep.

*****

Joanne rolled around and lied on her back as soon as she hung up. She placed her hands under her head and began to think. She was coming up with all these plans in her mind to distract Jacky away from the whole James and Caitlin image. After a few more minutes, she smiled to herself. She got up and hopped out of bed. She ran out of her room and down the hall toward the ladder that led to the attic. She had to find it before she went to bed since she would need it tomorrow.

© Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

Posted: Friday, April 22nd, 2011

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