Chapter 7 – Together During the Storm

I got woke up by CJ the next morning. Yes, he never learned. Like the last three times, he climbed up on my ladder and shook me awake.
“What?” I whispered.
“Let’s get out of here while everyone’s still asleep. It’s our only chance,” He said.
I knew he will never give up so I followed him off the ladder. I got dressed quickly as he turned his back away again like the last three times – four actually, counting the time after I woke up in the inn. We’ve managed to find some change of clothes thanks to Mrs. Yang who asked around so the neighbors took pity on us and gave us some extra outfits that their children had outgrew – or maybe they themselves had outgrew. I was wearing a lavender outfit today. I liked it much better than the green one – although green was my favorite color, but the way the outfit was designed made me looked like a parakeet too much.
CJ and I slipped out quietly like the last three times. We made it outside this time without being caught by anyone. The first time was our first exploration of the town. The last two times we were trying to sneak into the dark house, but someone kept getting up at the wrong time and caught us. That was why CJ had reassured me that no one would be outside this time yesterday.
CJ finally opened the door to the dark house successfully today. We slipped in quickly and closed the door before anyone else wanted to stop us. We stood still for a couple of seconds to adjust our eyes to the place again. This place only had one window so the early morning sunlight didn’t help either. I walked to the window and tried to clear other things out of the way so more lights would enter.
“All right,” CJ said. “Which side do you want to take?”
“This side,” I said, indicating the side with the window.
“All right, let’s get going then.”
We searched for about half an hour before sitting down at the center table to rest. This time, we found several objects that we overlooked from before, but it didn’t look like anything Ting Wei owned or any of us owned to be a token of time travel.
“What now?” I asked, catching my breath.
“Have to go back before the storm hit. You wouldn’t want to be trapped here in the middle of the storm with me, do you, jie?” CJ asked, teasingly.
I stomped on his name plate again.
I got up and headed for the door. As I was about to open the door, I could hear some whistling sound on the outside. I reached for the door handle and opened it to realize that the wind was picking up. CJ rushed over to me and slammed the door closed again. We ran to the window in the back and looked outside to see what was going on. It looked like the storm had arrived.
“Zhao Jia Le! You’re such a foul mouth!” I exclaimed, outraged. “Why didn’t you say something like you wished we were back at home?”
“I said it like millions of times already,” He said. “It didn’t work. So it’s not my doing. It’s just a coincidence this time.”
“We should have listened to Mrs. Yang and stayed inside too.”
“It’s our only chance, hello,” He said.
“Do you think it’s going to rip this house in two? I mean no one bothered to care for this house before since they all think it’s haunted.” I turned to look at him, feeling somewhat worried.
“I’m not a magician,” He said. “I wouldn’t know.”
I sighed out, frustrated. I walked back to the table and sat down to think. I went back to my old routine of putting my hands on my chin while we waited out the storm. There was no point in looking outside if we couldn’t get out, I thought. Somehow, CJ joined me at the table, sitting to my right.
“If I didn’t know any better,” I started. “I would have thought you planned this beforehand.”
“You mean I planned to be trapped in here with you?” He had this expression on like I just stabbed him. “Please, like I want to be stuck with you.”
I stomped on his name plate some more while I was at it. We had nothing to do after all – except wait for the storm to end. I honestly hoped soon since I knew CJ wouldn’t behave himself. He would think up of every single way necessary to annoy me.
Several minutes passed by before we heard louder sounds coming from outside.
“It’s picking up,” CJ said.
“We should have run for it when we had a chance,” I mumbled.
“You think that’s wise?”CJ asked, sounding challenging.
I didn’t reply to his smart aleck question, but went back to stomp on his name plate some more instead.
Just as I was about to drift off to sleep from boredom, I heard some banging sounds. I jumped out of my chair and ran to the window to look out again, sulking inside that there wasn’t some other window in front so I could look across Mrs. Yang’s house to see if I could run for it. This storm – like they said – was going to be a big one. It seemed like they weren’t exaggerating at all.
“It looks like they weren’t lying after all,” CJ said beside me. When in the world did he come over? How come I didn’t hear his footsteps? I turned to him. “Could you stop sneaking up on me?!”
“Miss Chang,” He said. “Like I want to stalk you. But there’s only one window.”
I ignored him and turned back to watch the scene outside again. Some kind of big object was heading toward us. I ducked down, not wanting to get hit if it did break the window. CJ dropped down next to me about the same time. We only heard a loud thud seconds later, but nothing seemed to be broken. I brought my head up to check the window. I stood up straight seconds later, alarmed.
“Whoa!” I exclaimed.
“I know,” CJ said, standing up also. “Maybe…”
I turned to him to see a mischievous smile on his face.
“What?” I asked.
“Maybe this place is haunted after all!” He blurted out. “The ghosts are protecting it from being torn down, get it?”
“Very funny,” I said. “Maybe it’s just one of those really durable houses.”
I continued to watch things being tossed around outside, ignoring him again.
“Come on,” CJ said, almost begging. “Let’s go back to talk about our plan since we seem pretty much safe in here.”
“What about them though? I mean we’ve been following everyone’s plan to prepare for this but what if it’s not enough?”
“Oh please. They’ve been experiencing this forever so they should know.”
I stayed quiet again, feeling kind of tired since my “little brother” dragged me out of bed. I put my head on my hand to rest and wished that the storm would end soon.
“Hey,” CJ said softly – too soft even for CJ’s tone.
“What?” I said, without the sharp tone.
“Do you think it could have to do with your side instead of Ting Wei’s side?”
“What do you mean?”
“Maybe we got it wrong all along. It’s not Ting Wei’s wish but maybe what the rest of us did?”
“Why would I want to be here?”
“I don’t know. You might be stuck with your article and wish you could write something really creative, so here we are.”
“I’m telling you, if my wishes come true, a lot of ‘em already did.”
“That’s strange that you and Roger could remember exactly what happened but Ting Wei didn’t. I’m going to ask him again later when we get back.”
“What?” I finally lifted my head off the table and stared at him again.
“I’m just thinking of a possible object that could be the token.”
“We’ve been searching and thinking for days now. It’s not helping at all. And not to mention…” I turned to look at him again.
“What?” CJ asked, looking around us. “Do I have something in my hair?”
“No,” I said, pointing at him with my index finger. “You just reminded me of something.”
“Why do you keep hiding stuffs from me?”
“What do you mean? Don’t I have my privacy too? I can’t tell you everything about myself, you know. Even if you’re my sister.”
His smile made me want to go back to stomp on his name plate again, but I knew I had to use this opportunity to attack him to extract for information. He couldn’t run away this time unless he wanted to risk getting hurt in a storm.
“I mean it. You, Roger, and Ting Wei have been acting all strange since we’re here. Even Jing Jing’s not as talkative as before. What’s going on?”
“What do you want to know then?”
“What was that comment about ‘both girlfriends’ that Roger was mumbling about the other day then?”
“How should I know? I’m not him.”
“If you’re not him, then how come you said he was kidding?”
“And what about yesterday? You’ve changed the subject on me on purpose.”
“And how come you’re not as close with Ting Wei anymore? Did I miss anything during the two days I didn’t see Ting Wei?”
“You didn’t see him for two days?” He asked, puzzled. “When was that? We’ve been pretty much together for the past days, except when we sneak around together.”
“No, that was before we were trapped here. I didn’t talk to him for two days ‘cause… That’s not the point. The point is how come you distanced yourself from Ting Wei since we came here?”
“I had an argument with him earlier so I don’t want to talk to him at the moment,” He finally admitted, looking down at the table.
“Whoa,” I said, shocked. “You two had a fight? You guys get along so well. Sometimes I thought Roger doesn’t fit in with you two, but now he’s still getting along with Ting Wei and you had a fallout with him?”
“Can’t we get into arguments?” He turned to look at me again. “It’s not impossible.”
“Just unbelievable,” I said.
“What about you and him? The golden couple having an argument?”
“Because he was being unreasonable and dumb,” I blurted out. Then I covered my mouth with my hand real fast, realizing I just revealed a little too much.
“What was it about?”
“Why are you so nosy? I thought we’re supposed to find a way out of this ancient place, not discussing irrelevant information.”
“It is relevant. Tell me. I need to know why Ting Wei said what he said so maybe we can find our way back.”
“You think so?” I asked him, unsure.
“Sure,” He said, smiling.
“I know that smile,” I said, alert again. “I’m not falling for your trick.” I turned away from him.
“No,” He began again. “I’m serious. Come on.”
I turned around to face him again. “You’re always trying to trap me.”
“You’re trapping us here if you don’t help me out on this.”
I could see how serious he looked right now so I hesitated. Then I knew if I didn’t say it out, he was going to ask Ting Wei later and knew the details anyway, so what was the point of holding back information?
“Okay,” I finally said. “I’ll tell you.”
“That’s the attitude,” He said, smiling again.
“I pretend you didn’t put on that expression and tell you anyway since it’s nothing really,” I said.
“Go ahead, jie.”
“I went to meet him at the café like last week after work. I was going to tell him the good news when he pulled out some old letters from high school and said that I was behind the whole drama thing of pulling us three apart. I told him I wouldn’t do such nonsense stuffs, but he didn’t believe me.”
“That was a bunch of jumbles,” CJ concluded. “What good news? What letters? And pull who apart?”
“The good news is I got a little promotion and was given my own column finally…”
“Really?!” CJ jumped in. “That’s great! Congrats!” He reached his hand out to grab hold of mine, squeezing it.
I looked at him and down at our linked hands. He suddenly realized it, so he withdrew his hand back. Then I remembered that we were both reporters, just for different newspapers.
“Sorry,” CJ said, a little nervous. “Just happy that a fellow reporter is promoted. Continue.”
“Anyway, remember those weird rumors people kept spreading around our high school? About Ting Wei, Jing Jing, and I are in a triangle of some sort? And then the rumors got worse and we got into some misunderstandings, but somehow managed to solve them anyway? He found some letters with directions on it that are in my hand-writing and confronted me with it. He told me he would forgive me if I would just admit it. And how he understands that I want us to be together without a third person involved, but he wants us to remain friends with Jing Jing forever.”
“Did you give out those directions to the gossip mill then?”
“Of course not! Are you crazy? If I want to do something like that, I might as well do it myself. And how lame is that? Why would I still keep those letters around if I really did it? So he could confront me? Besides, those papers look so brand new I swear someone wrote them recently.”
“Hmm…your hand-writing. Who would be a good candidate for that dirty job?”
I couldn’t believe he was actually thinking out the issue seriously.
“Forget it,” I said. “It doesn’t matter anymore. Since we’re all trapped here anyway. Like we could ever find out again.”
“Have some faith, will you? We’ll get out of here. And isn’t Jing Jing quite good at those things when we were in school? She forged her parents’ signature once to go on the field trip, remember?”
“What are you talking about?”
Although I knew that Jing Jing was behind it all, but I couldn’t expose her now. Not when we were all trapped here and we needed to work together to find a way out of this. We didn’t need this type of drama.
“Come on. Remember that one day she forgot to get the papers signed when we went to the museum and she forged her parents’ signature just right there and then before we turned it in. You even told her she’s as sly as a fox.”
“Oh,” I said passively.
“Oh? Don’t you see she could be behind it? Did the cold weather freeze up your brain?”
“Hey!” I stood up from my seat and stared him down.
He stood up also, hitting the table with his hand in the process.
“What?” He challenged me.
“Of course I know she’s behind it! Because she likes Ting Wei, okay?!”
“You knew?!” He looked shocked. “Then why are you still with him?”
“What am I supposed to do? Break up with him and shove him over to her? I have to respect him after all, you know.  He’s my boyfriend, not a pet toy!”
“Oh,” He finally said, his voice calm again.
He sat back down, looking at the table again. What was the cause of change in mood? I couldn’t believe this complicated person sitting in front of me was CJ. I sat down also, trying to find the right words to say to him. Suddenly I felt sorry for him since he and Roger probably didn’t have anything to do with this but were pulled into this nightmare with us too. I brushed off all the dirt from his name plate and placed it back on the mantel again in my mind.
“I’m sorry,” I said softly.
“It’s all right,” He said, looking at me again. “I should be the one saying sorry. I didn’t mean to aggravate you.”
“Umm…” I hesitated. “Aren’t we supposed to find out the cause of…”
“That’s right,” He said. “So that’s the reason why Ting Wei had been quite stressed out these past days, not just because of work. Then that’s probably the reason why he would blurt out such a strange statement, causing us to be in this state.”
“Even if we know it now, it doesn’t make any difference anyway. We’re still here.”
“Wait a minute.”
I could see his expression changing. It was like he just remembered something.
“He was holding his medallion when he was talking.”
“Yes, remember that one he won in the contest for the academic competition with that school? You wanted it but he didn’t give it to you.”
I was surprised CJ still remembered the reason. “He said he wants to keep it in the house so his parents would be happy to see it every day.”
“Damn bastard,” CJ muttered.
“What?!” I exclaimed.
“Not you!” He clarified. “It’s nothing. Sorry.”
I decided to ignore that comment, knowing he was probably under stress right now too.
“So could that medallion possibly be the token?” I asked, steering it back to our subject of discussion. “If that’s the case, then how come it’s not here?”
“I know,” CJ said, looking at the table again. He did that a lot when he was thinking.
“Maybe he still has it on him and doesn’t realize it’s the token either.”
“Don’t sound so unenthusiastic. If he has it, that means we can ask him for it later. Then he’ll just make a wish again and we’ll be out of here after this storm. Isn’t that great?”
His smile was so appealing that I couldn’t help but smiled also. Maybe it was because I wanted so much to return to my normal life again.
“That’s the spirit.”
“Thanks, CJ,” I said with the utmost sincerity.
“We’re friends, remember?” He smiled.
That was right. We were friends. It was just that I always referred to him as Ting Wei’s friend that I completely forgotten that we’d been friends also since the day Ting Wei, Jing Jing, and I bumped into each other. We’d been introduced during lunchtime that same first day and right away, CJ and I didn’t get along. It was a habit until this day that we remained arch enemies. I wondered why I never noticed his good qualities before. Maybe it was because I’d been so blind with my annoyance toward him that I could only pick at his flaws? It didn’t matter anymore. From this day on, I promised myself to be extra nice to him. Okay, maybe not extra nice since Ting Wei might be jealous, but at least treat him like a normal friend and not an alien from another planet.
“Angela,” He called my name softly.
“What?” I turned to him.
“Is anything wrong?”
I could see the concerned look in his face. I smiled. “Nothing. I’m fine.”
He smiled also.
© Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Posted: Saturday, March 13th, 2010