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Chapter 16 – An Attempt to Start Over

We agreed to stay another week once again. It seemed like we were stalling for time, but we needed to get everyone’s nerves calmed again and prepared for the worst if anything shall happen. During the second last day of our deadline, Ting Wei came to me as I was helping one of our neighbors finishing up a shirt.
“Something happened?” I asked him.
“Not really,” He said. “I just need to talk to you real quick.”
“Oh?”
“What?”
“It’s personal.”
“Give me some time. I want to finish this first.”
“You can go if you want to,” The lady sitting next to me said. “I can finish the rest.”
“It’s all right,” I reassured her. “I don’t like to leave things unfinished. I’m sure he can wait.”
The lady smiled at me and went back to her knitting also.
Ting Wei had no choice but to wait for me.
It took about half an hour before I was finished. I was not trying to make him wait, but I didn’t want to be careless considering how she had helped us a lot when we first arrived here as well as Granny Yang and Ah Xiang.
We ended up walking toward a deserted area a feet outside of Granny Yang’s house before beginning.
“What’s going on?” I asked Ting Wei after making sure no one was around.
“I want to tell you something,” Ting Wei replied, licking his lips.
I waited for him to continue.
“I’ve been thinking a lot this past month.”
Good for him, I thought.
“So have all of us,” I said instead. “I know everyone of us fears the worst although we’re so close.”
“It’s not about that,” Ting Wei said.
“Oh?” I said, a bit surprised and curious at the same time. “What is it about then?”
“It’s about us,” Ting Wei said, reaching his arm out to take my hand.
I took a step back.
“Shao Han, I…” He started to say.
“Forget it,” I said, raising my hand up to stop him. “Let’s not do or say anything until we’re all back.”
“What if we’re never going to be back?” Ting Wei asked. “Are you going to keep avoiding the issue?”
“I’m not avoiding,” I said. “I already accepted it and I’m getting over it now. I think you need to do the same.”
“Whatever happens, I know finally that I choose you,” He said.
Oh wow, I thought. Good for him too. “So?”
“So maybe we should start over,” He said. “Give me another chance to prove to you that…”
“I already gave you a chance.”
“I know I made a bad decision because I was greedy and because…”
“Don’t you think it’s unfair to Jing Jing?” I asked, surprised at my own question.
“I thought you hate her,” Ting Wei said.
“I don’t hate her,” I said honestly. “I used to feel annoyed at her manipulative ways. But now I feel that we’re both victims.”
“She knows that we’re deceiving you,” Ting Wei said. “You’re the only victim in this.”
“Making her seems lower than me doesn’t make me forgive you more,” I said. “It just belittles you even more for talking behind her back when she’s not around to defend herself.”
“What I mean is…”
“It doesn’t matter anymore, okay?”
“Shao Han,” He tried again. “Could you at least promise me that you’ll reconsider this whole situation?”
Seeing that he wouldn’t give up if I didn’t at least think about it, I nodded. I knew it was a bad idea, but I knew that he must think I was just acting out of rashness right at that time. No matter how much time was given, my answer would always be the same because I have already made up my mind since that night in the storm. He just didn’t seem to get it yet.
After that talk, we walked back to Granny Yang’s house. Ting Wei seemed to look hopeful for some odd reason. It showed how much he understood me although we’d known each other all these times. CJ – my so-called brother – probably have already figured this whole situation out ages ago.
That night, we ate dinner with Granny Yang and Ah Xiang happily, pretending that we were just making plans for the upcoming New Year although it was still several months away. Ancient people loved to prepare early for some odd reason. But it was all right. We could at least get the whole idea about it.

*****

Our deadline finally came. That night, we returned to our room earlier than usual, saying that the past month’s work had finally taken a toll on us and our energies were drained out. Granny Yang understood – as always, so she let us off. We managed to sleep for several hours before waking up in the dark. We listened for sounds of Granny Yang and Ah Xiang moving around in the night after placing the goodbye letter on the table.
“This is it,” Roger said, repeating the phrase he once said when we returned to this town about a month back as CJ opened our door for what was supposed to be the last time.
I heard CJ sighing out as we stepped out of our room into the hallway.
“Careful,” Roger whispered as we made our way down the hall, surprisingly successful this time.
We managed to make it toward the kitchen without problems.
“What’s that rattling sound?” Jing Jing whispered, her voice somewhat wavering.
“Probably just some mouse racing by,” Roger whispered back.
“Stop trying to scare her,” I warned Roger, remembering to whisper like the others.
“I’m just saying the truth,” Roger shot back, forgetting to whisper.
“Sh…” CJ reminded us.
“It’s the wind,” Ting Wei said somewhere in the dark.
“Oh,” Roger said. “I think you’re right.”
We continued to make our way toward the front door in silence again, stopping once in awhile when the rattling pattern changes or an unknown sound of the night started up for some reason.
“That was close,” Roger whispered, breathing out when we finally made it out of the house.
“It’s a nice night tonight,” Jing Jing commented, her voice not so scared anymore.
“Too bad it’s windy,” CJ said. “But come on, we have to hurry before someone sees us.”
As if finally aware of it, we all turned in every direction to inspect the scene ahead.
“We’re safe,” CJ reported seconds later.
“Okay,” I said. “Let’s go.”
We made our way silently toward the haunted house. CJ opened the door and let us in. He waited by the door until Roger passed before entering himself. We placed a new candle on top of the candle holder in the house and brought some light into the room before continuing our next move.
“Is the door lock?” I asked CJ, looking toward the door.
“Yes,” CJ replied.
“Just want to make sure,” I said, somewhat nervous.
“It’s all right,” Roger said. “You look pale. Don’t scare us now.”
I was somewhat taken aback that Roger should be the one reassuring me now. I was also surprised that Roger sounded less frightened than me.
“It’s all right,” CJ said, patting me gently on the shoulder.
I nodded toward everyone to let them know I was all right.
“Okay, here goes,” CJ said, taking out the medallion from his pocket.
“Are we going to be making a wish like last time?” Jing Jing asked timidly.
“Probably,” CJ said. “Since we’ve never got a chance to break away from the others, I guess it’s the only time to find out.”
“Who should be making the wish then?” Roger asked, scanning each of us carefully.
“I guess since Ting Wei made the wish last time, it would make sense that he does it this time as well?” CJ said, his answer coming out as a question.
Jing Jing and I nodded in agreement.
“Okay then,” CJ said, still somewhat unsure.
I couldn’t blame him since I think his nerves were beginning to come apart.
“Here,” CJ said, handing the medallion to Ting Wei finally.
“Should we hold hands or stay closer or form a circle or something?” Roger asked, looking at each of us one at a time again.
“I guess?” CJ said, his voice unsure again.
We ended up sitting down in a circle and linked hands in case we got separate since we guessed a strong wind might stir up like how we got carried away last time.
“Do it, man,” Roger urged Ting Wei. “Before I’m going crazy with my nerves coming apart.”
It was strange to hear Roger confess his current state since he seemed the calmest among us tonight.
Ting Wei still had one free hand since he needed it to hold the medallion, but as long as one of us was holding onto his other arm, it was all right.
We waited patiently as Ting Wei held the medallion up and began to make a wish. We saw his lips moving but only a gust of wind blew by, lashing out at the candle. Then it returned the room to its quiet state again.
“Say it out loud,” CJ urged, sounding somewhat anxious.
“Okay,” Ting Wei said, holding the medallion a bit higher than before in front of him. “I wish that we five are back in our own time again and continue our lives as normal.”
The wind picked up a bit stronger this time, causing us to hold on tighter to each other’s hands.
“It’s working!” Roger exclaimed.
As to contradict Roger on purpose, the wind died down once again.
“What’s going on?” Roger asked, sounding more frustrated mixed with some fear instead of disappointment this time around.
“Maybe,” CJ began.
“What?” Roger asked. “Say it out already before I die of impatience.”
“Roger,” I said lightly.
“Sorry,” Roger mumbled out. “I’m just nervous.”
“It’s all right,” I said. “We all are.”
“Maybe if Angela makes the wish, it will work,” CJ explained.
“Huh?” Roger asked, more confused than trying to mock CJ.
“She’s the only person who has been determined to return from the start, right?” CJ asked us all.
The others nodded without hesitation.
“Okay,” CJ said.
Ting Wei took the hint to hand the medallion over to me.
I let go of CJ’s hand and took the medallion from Ting Wei. I waited until Ting Wei took Roger’s hand with his now free hand before closing my eyes to make the wish.
“I wish,” I began out loud. “We are all back in our time and continue our life as before, in our own way.”
I opened my eyes again to see not even a gust of wind greeting me.
“This is hopeless,” Roger said, sighing out.
“Sh…” CJ said. “Hear that?”
We all concentrated on listening.
“It sounds like some sort of gushing sound,” Roger said.
“Exactly,” CJ said, as if it was the most natural thing.
“It’s getting closer,” Jing Jing said, sounding somewhat scared.
“It’s a tornado,” Ting Wei said. “At least it sounds like one.”
“It’s the same sound I heard before I woke up here about a year ago,” I said finally.
“That’s right,” Jing Jing agreed, her voice less worried.
“That means…” Roger jumped in, sounding hopeful.
“That’s right,” CJ said, cutting him off.
“Whoa…” Roger drawled out. “Watch it!”
The wind was picking up stronger than before. In fact, a gust of wind had formed around our little circle. It was so strong we were nearly toppling over. Things were beginning to become a blur in front of me.
“Are you guys all right?!” I managed to yell over the uprising wind.
“Shao Han! Jing Jing!” I heard Ting Wei called across from me.
I could feel Jing Jing’s grip tightening as seconds passed by.
“Hold on tight!” I yelled out.
Seconds later, I could feel CJ grabbing my right wrist.
“Roger! You all right?!” I yelled, feeling anxious since I haven’t heard his voice since the wind picked up.
“I’m trying to stay still here!” He yelled back.
I felt somewhat relief that we were all together by this time.
As the wind picked up even more, I could see a tint of light opening up somewhere around the room. I blinked twice before realizing that we were heading straight for that glint of light. I looked down below me to see that we were all rising up above the ground.
“Aaahhh…!!!” I heard Jing Jing screamed seconds later as her grip tightened even more on my hand.
“Calm down!” I yelled, not even sure if she heard me.
“We’re going to be all right!” CJ yelled out of somewhere in the mist of the grayness.
“Zhao Jia Le!” I shouted out as I felt CJ’s grip loosening on my right arm.
“Shao Han!” I heard from a distance away.
I knew that it was not Ting Wei’s voice, but CJ’s.
Before I could say anything further, a gust of strong wind attacked me straight in the face. The blow was too strong for me to brush aside even if both of my hands were free. I tried to use my free hand to shield myself from it but I could feel the heaviness of it crushing onto my chest. I could hear some faint screaming sounds coming from the others and then…
© Saturday, October 4th, 2008
Posted: Saturday, March 13th, 2010

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