Chapter 6

Joanne and Kristy arrive at the Chu resident around 7:30 P.M. Jacky comes out front to greet them.
Jacky’s face lights up when he sees what Joanne’s wearing.
“Wow!” Joanne exclaims upon seeing Jacky.
“What?” Jacky asks, smiling.
“You’re not wearing black,” Joanne replies.
“Very funny,” He says, wrinkling his face.
Joanne smiles.
Jacky turns to Kristy at that time. “Kristy jie! How have you been?”
“I see that you haven’t change at all,” Kristy comments.
“It’s only about a month or so. How could I change that much?”
“That’s true.”
“Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s head in.”
Jacky leads Kristy inside as Joanne tags behind.
As Jacky opens the front door, Joanne could see Caitlin already inside. James’ probably in the kitchen – cooking. Joanne could see Caitlin’s happy face turns into an alarmed one when she sees Kristy. Jacky lets Kristy and Joanne pass first before going in himself and closing the door behind him.
“Hi, Caitlin,” Kristy greets her in a sweet and friendly tone, smiling also. “How have you been?”
“Hi, there,” Caitlin returns back, pasting on a smile. “Great. I see that you’re alone.”
“Kristy jie, let’s go into the kitchen,” Jacky urges, ignoring Caitlin.
Jacky has to hold back his tongue as not to mention James.
Joanne gives him a pat on his left shoulder as she walks by him. Jacky gives her a look, but smiles as soon as she whispers something to him – possibly an inside joke.
“Hmm…smells good,” Kristy compliments, turning to Jacky. “You’re cooking today?”
“Thanks for the compliment, but I can’t take the credit,” Jacky says.
Kristy looks to the far right of the kitchen to see James at the sink, rinsing some veggies.
“Hi, there,” Kristy says, walking to James. “I see that the Great Chef is at work today.”
“Hey,” James mutters, turning to greet Kristy. “What brought you here?”
“Your brother invited me for dinner,” Kristy explains. “Something about a reunion.”
“Oh really?” James says causally, turning to Jacky.
Jacky turns to Joanne.
“Sorry, James ge,” Joanne jumps in. “I invited her on Jacky’s behalf. I want to surprise Jacky. I mean he hasn’t seen her like a month now and we’re having dinner together tonight so I thought I invite her. If you mind, I will…”
“I can’t kick out a guest, can I?” James says to Joanne before turning his attention back on Kristy again. “Especially a very beautiful one.”
Jacky and Joanne are practically celebrating inside while Caitlin’s pouting nearby.
“You two sure are brothers,” Kristy chides, turning to Jacky again. “Always like to joke.”
James turns back to the veggies he’s tending to. “If you like to hear such words, I could come up with some more.”
Kristy walks away from James. “No, thanks. I’m not used to those flattering words.”
Jacky leans over to Joanne and whispers, “Something happened between them while I was gone?”
“If it did, I wasn’t informed,” Joanne whispers back to him.
Kristy’s standing in front of Jacky and Joanne now.
“Are you two up to something?” Kristy asks suspiciously, staring from one to the other.
“NO!” Jacky and Joanne shout out in unison.
“Why are you two reacting so strong?” James asks, turning around to look at the two. “You’re both guilty, right?”
Caitlin strolls into the room at that time, heading towards James.
“Are you done with the veggies yet?” Caitlin asks, clearing her throat for emphasis. “It looks like it’s going to squash soon if you don’t stop rinsing it.”
Jacky and Joanne give each other high-fives behind each other’s backs. Because they’re standing so close together, the others couldn’t see it. Kristy senses something going on from the smile on their faces.
Kristy turns to James and Caitlin by the sink. “You two need my help setting up the table or anything?”
James turns to Kristy. “No. Just wait in the living room or something. You’re the guest.”
“Yeah, right.”
“Actually, you can help us,” Jacky jumps in.
Kristy gives Jacky a warning look.
“How about helping Qiao Qiao and me?”
Kristy lets down her guard and digs in to help the two with setting up the table – even though James told her not to just seconds before.
About fifteen minutes later, Jacky and Joanne are sitting in the living room with Kristy. While Jacky and Kristy are having a “catching –up” session, Joanne leans back on the sofa to rest. Jacky slips a hand around Joanne and lets her lean into his shoulder instead. She closes her eyes to rest – only half listening to the conversation.
“I see that you two haven’t changed at all,” Kristy comments.
Jacky shrugs his shoulders lightly so he doesn’t disturb Joanne. “I guess not.”
“Have you ever thought of quitting your job?”
Jacky wrinkles his face. “What brought this on?”
“This has nothing to do with me,” Joanne murmurs.
Jacky looks down at a very sleepy Joanne. “I know. You don’t have to react so strong.”
“Am I?” Joanne asks with a half-yawn.
“What did you do last night anyway?”
“You mean after dinner? Talked to some whiner.”
Jacky pokes Joanne lightly on the right side with his right index finger.
Kristy laughs at the two.
Jacky turns his attention back on Kristy. “Seriously, why did you ask me that question?”
“I mean…don’t you two want to get married one day?” Kristy asks in a serious tone.
Jacky turns back to Joanne. “Qiao, care to get marry tomorrow?”
“No, you?” Joanne returns in that same tired tone.
Jacky turns back to Kristy. “Not that I could think of. What does that has to do with me quitting my job though?”
“You’re rarely around. It might not be good if you want to start a family.”
Joanne turns sideway to lean more comfortably into Jacky.
“Are you sure you don’t want to head home and sleep instead of sticking around here?” Jacky asks Joanne, sounding more concerned than before.
“I’ll be fine in a bit,” Joanne reassures him.
“Sure. Don’t drool though.”
That comment got him a poke on his right side.
“That doesn’t make you right,” Jacky says, laughing. After that, he turns to Kristy again. “I’ll think about it one day.”
“Are you avoiding the issue?” Kristy asks.
“Seriously, what’s going on today? I mean you didn’t even bring all these up before. Why now?”
“I don’t know. It’s just that you’ve been dating for several years now. I thought that…”
“I want to get marry soon? And then you jump ten steps in your mind?”
Kristy nods.
“Come on, Kristy jie. We promised, remember?”
“We promise not to talk about me, not you.”
As Jacky’s about to say something, James and Caitlin walk into the room.
“What’s going on?” Jacky asks, turning to James. “You’ve burned the kitchen and want me to come to the rescue?”
Joanne jumps up – literally – in alarmed. Jacky has to grab her and sit her back down again. He calms her by patting her back. Everyone in the room could see that she’s turning pale and is sweating somewhat, like she’s having a seizure.
“It’s okay, Qiao,” Jacky says in a soothing voice. “It’s okay. Relax. Breathe. It’s okay. Nothing’s going to happen. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it. I didn’t.”
Jacky continues to speak in a soft voice to Joanne.
“Qiao…” Kristy calls out.
Jacky shakes his head, indicating that Kristy shouldn’t say anything now.
James looks worried also, but remains silent. It’s one of those rare times when Caitlin isn’t putting in a word or two of mockery.
Jacky could feel the burning feeling of being stared at. He turns to James and Caitlin, “You two can go eat first. I’m going to make sure Qiao’s okay.”
James nods, taking Caitlin’s hand and leading her into the kitchen.
Jacky turns to Kristy. “Kristy jie, you can go eat too if you want.”
Kristy knows Jacky doesn’t want Joanne to feel uncomfortable with all the staring, so she nods. She joins James and Caitlin at the dining table. She makes sure to sit down as far away from James as possible. She knows Jacky and Joanne better than anyone – even James. She can’t take a risk.
About five minutes later, Joanne’s back to her normal self again. She straightens up and looks at Jacky. “I’m sorry, I…”
Jacky brings her chin up to face him again since she has looked down at the ground as she said those words.
“I should be saying sorry,” He says. “I didn’t mean to mention it.”
“It’s all right.”
Jacky smiles. “How about dinner?”
Joanne gets up from her place. “Let me go wash my face first.”
“Yes, I need to go change my clothes too.”
“I’m sorry!” Joanne exclaims upon seeing the wet spot on his shirt.
“I’m kidding.”
Jacky gives her a reassuring smile and leads her past the kitchen and down the hall towards the bathroom between his and James’ room.
“There’s one right there, you know!” Caitlin yells as they walk by.
“Inconsiderate!” Jacky shoots back.
“Cait…” James speaks up before Caitlin could fire something back at Jacky.
Caitlin turns to see James’ disapproving look. She feels the need to defend herself. “I’m just trying to decrease the intensity here.”
“You’re not really that good in the comedy department. Leave it up to Jacky, okay? It’s his girl after all.”
“Why are you picking on me tonight?”
“I’m not picking on you. I’m just telling you that Jacky can deal with it.”
“But I’m trying to help too.”
“I know. But you’re not familiar with the situation.”
“Then tell me.”
“I want to, but I can’t.”
“Why not?” Caitlin asks in a whiny voice.
“Because it’s…” James stops himself before revealing anything.
“Qiao…” Kristy begins.
“Don’t!” James exclaims, cutting Kristy off.
Kristy turns to James, alarmed.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you,” James says, softening his voice. “I just don’t want you to say it without Qiao’s permission. It’s her personal matter after all.”
Kristy nods.
“So she knows but I don’t?” Caitlin asks, looking from James to Kristy.
“I told you already,” James reminds her with a stern expression on his face. “It’s Qiao’s personal matter. You have to respect her.”
Caitlin knows she’s not going to get an answer out of it, so she goes back to eating.
Jacky and Joanne appear in front of them at that time.
“All right?” Kristy asks with a bright smile.
“All better,” Joanne replies, grinning mischievously.
Jacky pulls out a chair for Joanne before circling around the table to sit down at Kristy’s right. It’s strange that they’re eating dinner together but James and Caitlin are on one side of the table while Jacky, Joanne, and Kristy are on the other side.
Jacky puts some food on Joanne’s rice bowl before speaking up. “Wow! So…which one of you is the head?”
“What are you talking about?” James asks, raising his left eyebrow.
“You and Kristy jie are both sitting at the head of the table – just on the opposite ends. So…”
It’s clear that James’ sitting at the head of the table according to the setting, but Jacky just have to rub it in for Caitlin.
“Jacky, you promised…” Kristy interferes.
“I didn’t say anything.” Jacky starts to eat after that.
James swallows his latest bite before saying, “You guys want to meet up tomorrow and do something together?”
“James, tomorrow we’re…” Caitlin interrupts.
“Qiao?” James asks, cutting Caitlin off.
“Can’t,” Joanne replies. “Have to help Lao Ba manage the shop. I was out half of the day today.”
“I have to make sure someone doesn’t wander into the shop when I’m not around,” Jacky mumbles.
“What?!” James asks, surprised and confused at the same time.
“Some high school flame came back,” Jacky clarifies, his eyes traveling towards Joanne when he said that.
“Hey!” Joanne protests, stops eating at the same time.
“Just kidding!” Jacky says, smiling.
“Something you want to tell us about?” Kristy asks curiously.
“Yes and no.”
“Kris, what about you?” James asks causally.
“I have to work, Young Master Chu,” Kristy reminds him. She stops herself in time before she could flash James a teasing smile. She pretends to cough and takes in some water.
“I guess we’re back on for tomorrow, huh?” Caitlin says, flashing on her satisfied smile.
“Says you,” Jacky mumbles under his breath.
Kristy heard that. “Are you up to something again?”
“No, you heard wrong,” Jacky answers quickly.
James taps on the table with his chopsticks without noticing it.
“What are you doing?” Caitlin asks, wrinkling her face.
“He’s in a thinking mode,” Jacky answers in his brother’s place.
“I didn’t ask you,” Caitlin snaps, giving Jacky an annoyed look.
“I didn’t need your permission as when I can speak up,” Jacky retorts.
“James,” Caitlin calls out, turning back to James for help.
“Told you,” Jacky jumps in again.
Caitlin turns back to give Jacky another annoyed look.
“Try snapping your fingers in front of him,” Jacky suggests, smiling.
Caitlin ignores Jacky, but does what he says anyway.
“What?!” James exclaims, sounding somewhat annoyed and somewhat alarmed also.
“You were tapping on the table and zooming out on us,” Caitlin says.
“Correction – he was tuning you out,” Jacky clarifies.
“You…” Caitlin grinds her teeth.
“People, we’re eating here,” James interferes.
“Fine with me,” Jacky says. He turns to talk to Joanne and Kristy instead.
“Hmm…” James starts his trance again.
Jacky takes that opportunity to turn back to James and Caitlin. “Okay, he tuned us out again. Let’s argue some more.”
James gives Jacky a look.
“Just kidding, ge.” Jacky has turned on his innocent smile. Then he turns serious again. “What were you thinking about earlier though?”
“I was thinking maybe we should do something after Mom and Dad get back,” James responds, tapping his chopsticks on the table again.
“What? There’s no special occasion coming up.”
Joanne gives him a look.
“Valentine’s Day isn’t until next month.”
“I didn’t say anything.”
“Your eyes said it all.”
Joanne wrinkles her face. “You’re paranoid.”
Jacky laughs.
“Aren’t you out of town that day?” James asks his brother.
“Unfortunately.”
“Another trip?” Kristy asks.
“Yes.”
Kristy sighs out.
Jacky turns to Kristy. “What’s wrong? Missed me? I thought you have a lot of pursuers. Find one for Valentine’s Day.”
“Oh…really?” Caitlin asks, her eyes lighting up.
“None of your business,” Jacky snaps without looking at her.
“Jacky…” James warns.
Jacky pretends not to hear James. Joanne puts some food into Jacky’s rice bowl to wake him up from whatever trance he’s in since he’s chewing on his chopsticks and looking towards the ceiling at that moment.
“I wonder if…” He begins.
“What?”
“If I can take some time off next month.”
“Maybe you should,” Kristy agrees.
“He sounds like he’s up to something,” James comments.
“Nah…” Joanne jumps in, smiling.
“Thanks for your support, hon,” Jacky says. He stops chewing his chopsticks and goes back to eat normally again.
“Do you usually do that to every single pair of chopsticks in the house?” Caitlin asks, wrinkling her face and feeing unease at the same time.
“I could if you want,” Jacky mutters.
“Cait, we usually wash ‘em afterwards,” James reassures her.
“Still…” Caitlin says, looking at her own pair of chopsticks.
“Maybe you shouldn’t come by anymore so you wouldn’t have to fret over it,” Jacky suggests.
“Are you sure she could understand what you mean?” Joanne whispers from across the table.
“Oh…fret means worry,” Jacky explains to Caitlin.
“That wasn’t funny,” Caitlin says with an annoyed expression and tone.
“It is to me,” Jacky mumbles.
“Jacky…” James warns again.
“Qiao started it.”
“Still…”
Jacky shrugs his shoulders and goes back to eating again.
They finish the meal about ten minutes later.
Jacky, Joanne, and Kristy clear the table while James and Caitlin head towards the recreational room down the hall for some time “alone.” Jacky volunteers to do dessert since he has “nothing better to do anyway.” Kristy has excused herself to the living room to make a call after she helped clear the table.
“I’ll call you two when I’m done,” Jacky says to James as James’ leaving the kitchen.
“Go first,” James says to Caitlin. “I’ll catch up in a bit.”
After Caitlin leaves, James turns to Jacky.
“Remember, don’t put pepper in the dessert,” James warns his brother – yet again.
“What?” Jacky asks, putting on his innocent look. “How can I put it in the dessert if it’s supposed to be sweet?”
“You did it last time. Don’t pretend.”
“Qiao probably handed me the wrong recipe last time. We all know how careless Qiao is in the kitchen.”
“And Qiao will be so careless as to put some vinegar in your cake too,” Joanne blurts out sarcastically as she walks by them.
“Hey, how should I know? Maybe someone switched the labels?”
“The point is, don’t do anything else this time, okay?” James presses Jacky.
Jacky stands straight up in a saluting pose. “Yes, sir!”
James ignores him and turns to walk down the hall.
Jacky makes sure James’ out of earshot before turning to Joanne. “What will it be this time? Vinegar or cinnamon?”
“You don’t like cinnamon either,” Joanne reminds him.
“Hey, I could put it only for hers.”
“What if James ge make you taste it before giving it to her?”
Jacky wrinkles his face upon the thought.“True.” Then his eyes sparkle with mischief again. “Vinegar?”
“Uh…”
“What are you two doing putting your heads so close together like that?” Kristy asks out of nowhere.
Both Jacky and Joanne react at the same time, causing their heads to bump together by accident. They rub their heads furiously as they turn to Kristy.
“Nothing,” Jacky says quickly. “We’re just figuring out something.”
Kristy looks from Jacky to Joanne. “Why do I have a feeling like you’re coming up with some ways to spike Caitlin’s food again?”
“You’re just sensitive,” Jacky says with a nervous laugh.
“You know what? Let me make the dessert then. You two go out to the living room and wait.”
“But you’re the guest!” Joanne blurts out anxiously.
“Yes, that’s right,” Jacky agrees.
“You didn’t treat me like one when you told me to help earlier,” Kristy reminds them, studying their faces carefully.
“Uh…we’re feeling bad for making you work hard, so we’re trying to make up for it now?” Jacky explains, uttering another nervous laugh.
“That’s right,” Joanne chimes in.
Kristy begins to take out a pan from one of the drawers below the sink. She then circles to the other side towards the fridge to take out milk and eggs. She sets them down on the center counter before getting some ingredients from the cabinet above the sink. Jacky and Joanne couldn’t object anymore. They’re just amazed with how she’s gliding around the kitchen with ease.
“It seems like you know your way around here pretty well,” Jacky comments.
“Of course. I’ve been here since…” Kristy stops herself in time.
“Forever?” Jacky offers.
“Something like that.”
“Even better for you to join the Chu family.”
Kristy stops what she’s doing.
“We promised not to talk about it in front of James,” Jacky clarifies to her of their terms. “He’s not here.”
She resumes her tasks after that, knowing she can’t argue with Jacky.
Jacky and Joanne sit down at the stools in front of the center counter to watch Kristy. Kristy knows better than to let Jacky and Joanne help. Jacky’s too tempted to sneak something into Caitlin’s portion. Jacky and Joanne end up putting their heads on the counter with their hands as cushion – Jacky’s right, Joanne’s left – as they’re waiting for Kristy. Jacky keeps tapping on the counter with his free hand as Joanne sighs. Their heads are actually really close together right now, just facing the opposite direction.
“You two seriously know how to keep me company,” Kristy mutters.
“We were looking forward to some excitement, but you spoiled the fun,” Joanne whines, yawning.
Kristy smiles. “You’ll thank me later.”
“Yeah, sure,” Jacky says sarcastically.
Joanne lets out another yawn.
Jacky stops tapping and turns towards Joanne, switching his hand in the process. As he lays his head on his left hand, he tugs at Joanne’s ponytail with his right. “Qiao.”
Joanne turns around, switching her hands also. They’re facing each other right now – with their heads still down.
“What?” Joanne asks tiredly.
“Let’s go outside and watch the stars.”
“Stars?” Joanne asks, wrinkling her face. “Are you kidding me? We can watch the moon. But we can’t see any stars from here.”
“Doesn’t matter, let’s go.”
Jacky sits straight up again, grabbing Joanne’s left hand with his right as he’s getting off the stool. Joanne couldn’t object, but just allows herself to be dragged by Jacky to the front door. Jacky finally speaks up when they’re outside.
“Okay, change of plans,” Jacky informs her.
“What?!” Joanne asks, wrinkling her face.
“Don’t tell me you’re giving up already.”
“How about we continue it tomorrow?” Joanne suggests, smiling. “After all, they’re not at the restaurant tomorrow, right?”
“You clever…”
“Of course.”
Jacky looks up towards the sky above at that time.
“It’s interesting that the moon’s still this bright tonight.”
Joanne nods although Jacky couldn’t see her. She slips her left hand around his waist as he slips his right hand around her shoulders.
“Are you going to be really disappointed if I couldn’t take some time off on Valentine’s Day?” Jacky asks in a serious tone.
“It’s no big deal. You just have to bring back some…”
“I knew it!”
Joanne giggles.
“But for real,” Jacky says, looking at Joanne.
“Of course I don’t mind. You know that.”
Jacky smiles, looking up towards the sky again.
© Wednesday, May 7th, 2008
Posted: Sunday, April 24th, 2011