Chapter 4

When Jacky enters the house, he sees James sitting at the kitchen table with Caitlin. They’re actually eating dinner together. Jacky couldn’t bear to watch their “lovey-dovey” moments anymore. He clears his throat loudly. James looks up to see Jacky. He smiles and waves a “Hi” with his fork. Caitlin looks up when she sees James’ smile. Her smile fades as she sees Jacky glaring at her with an annoyed expression.
“You’re back already?” James asks. “Why didn’t you tell me? I could’ve picked you up at the airport.”
“No, thanks,” Jacky says 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 asks in an irritated tone.
“You,” Jacky answers, still in the same dry tone as before.
James clears his throat. “Jacky.”
“I’m going to bed,” Jacky says passively.
Jacky walks towards the back part of the house, past the bathroom, his father’s study, and the recreational center in the middle. He stops at the path where it divides into two directions, which leads to his and James’ rooms and takes a deep breath before heading to the right where his room is.

*****

Gino has been quiet – a tad too quiet – the whole way since they got into the car. Of course she knows exactly where he lives, so there’s no need to tell her the directions. Joyce tries to turn on the radio to entertain herself and to stay awake at the same time. Gino glances over at her once every while. He has this expression that he wants to talk, but is afraid to. Or maybe he doesn’t know how to begin. Strange, since he was fine earlier at Joanne’s house. When they’re turning into Gino’s neighborhood, Joyce couldn’t stand it anymore and decides to speak up.
“Do you have something to tell me?” She asks.
“Uh…” Gino manages.
“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 compliments Joyce for her straight-forward and brave 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 admits, shrugging his shoulders 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 parks 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 gets out of the car and closes the door.
Joyce rolls down the window. “See you next time?”
“At Qiao Qiao’s house?”
“Or anywhere.”
“True. See you.”
Joyce backs out of the driveway after making sure that Gino’s out of the way.

*****

James walks into the bathroom as Jacky’s brushing his teeth. (It’s the bathroom down the hallway at the path where it divides to separate their rooms, not the one by the kitchen.) Their eyes meet in the mirror and James looks displeased. Jacky concentrates on brushing his teeth and then spitting out the toothpaste afterwards, ignoring James’ sighing. James finally speaks up.
“That was some entrance you made.”
“Thanks,” Jacky says 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 mocks, 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 walks out of the bathroom after hanging his face towel on the rack next to the sink. James follows him, blocking his path.
“Last time, stop messing with Caitlin,” James warns.
Jacky slaps James’ hand aside. “Okay. Until you switch girlfriends.” He continues down the hall to his room after that.
“I mean it!” James yells after Jacky.
“I mean it too!” Jacky yells back.

*****

Jacky dials Joanne’s number as soon as he hops onto his bed.
“What did you do this time?” Joanne asks.
Jacky breaks 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 asks, 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 chattery 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 snickers. “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 laughs. “Is that the most ironic thing in this world?”
“At least you’re laughing now.”
“Thanks, Qiao.”
“I’m your girl, remember?” She reminds him, putting the magazine aside and lies 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 hang up at the same time.
Jacky looks at the phone and thinks for a bit before putting it on the table next to his bed. He turns off the light before lying down. He couldn’t sleep though. All the events of the day come rushing back to him. He looks out to the window. Rays of lights from the street lights outside are spraying through his window. He turns the other way and stares at his door instead. James’ words come back to him. Then Joanne’s words come back to him also. He decides to listen to Joanne and try to live it out as it is. At least he’ll be gone again after a few more weeks. In the meantime, he has plenty of things he could do with Joanne while he’s here. He likes that thought. Within fifteen minutes, he’s fast asleep.

*****

Joanne rolls around and lies on her back as soon as she hangs up. She puts her hands under her head and begins to think. She’s 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 smiles to herself. She gets up and hops out of bed. She runs out of her room and down the hall towards the ladder that leads to the attic. She has to find it before she goes to sleep since she will need it tomorrow.
© Tuesday, February 19th, 2008
Posted: Friday, April 22nd, 2011