“Big obstacle, you guys!” Qiao Qiao shouted, throwing the door open.
“Whoa!” Ehlo exclaimed from the living room. “You’re still able to use big words when there’s a problem?”
“I’m not joking!”
“What happened, sis?” Jacky asked, coming from the kitchen.
“What’s all the fuss here?” Wallace asked from down the hallway, letting out a yawn. Upon seeing Qiao Qiao, he rushed back to his room to grab a shirt and put it on before returning to the living room. He could see Jacky trying to calm Qiao Qiao down, handing her a glass of water. “What happened?”
Ehlo gave Wallace a shrug before turning back to wait for Qiao Qiao’s explanation. Ehlo had already gone to the door to close it since Qiao Qiao had forgotten to close it after she burst in earlier.
“Somehow, some dude came and bought the place over the weekend,” Qiao Qiao said finally after catching her breath.
“What?!” Ehlo and Wallace exclaimed at the same time.
Jacky seemed to be the only one remaining calm. “Are you sure, sis?”
“Of course, I’m sure,” Qiao Qiao said anxiously.
“I’m not doubting you. Start from the beginning.”
“I just overheard Mom talking to Dad about being relieved that she finally found a buyer,” Qiao Qiao continued, her voice slower than before. “I asked her the details since I’m always curious anyway. Then she said that that person didn’t ask much or want to take a look but just wanted to legalize everything right away. Even when Mom insisted on taking him there to see before making the final decision.”
“What kind of nut is he to not take a look first?” Ehlo asked with an amused smile.
“When is the paperwork taking place?” Jacky asked.
“That’s right,” Wallace finally found his voice again. “They can’t just do it right there and then, right?”
“It’s today,” Qiao Qiao said. “I’m not sure about the time since Mom didn’t disclose anything else. She just let me know that someone finally bought Alyssa’s place because I’m curious but the rest is confidential information.”
“Then how have you been getting the time for the viewings this past week?” Ehlo pondered, scratching his head.
“I snooped in her folders,” Qiao Qiao confessed boldly.
“Whoa! Way to go, girl!”
“We don’t have time to talk nonsense,” Wallace said. “Maybe we can still talk him out of it.”
“It’s useless,” Qiao Qiao said. “We won’t know where Mom’s heading and…”
“We still have hope. Come on.”
“Hey!” Ehlo exclaimed to stop Wallace.
“What?” Wallace asked, wrinkling his face with annoyance.
“Change your clothes first.”
Wallace looked down at his own sleepwear and felt a bit foolish. However, he regained himself real fast, heading for his room to change.
“Wait for us,” Jacky told Qiao Qiao, getting up from the sofa. Then he turned around when he was by his room. “Don’t you have work?”
“I ran here as fast as I can to tell you guys,” Qiao Qiao said. “Hurry! We don’t have time! I already called in.”
Qiao Qiao paced the living room with anxiousness while the guys were changing. When they were out after ten minutes, she was ready to leap out the door. In fact, she was by the door already, having her hand on the door handle.
“Let’s go!” Jacky shouted to the others, seeing how anxious Qiao Qiao was.
“Everyone has everything?” Ehlo asked again.
“Yes,” Wallace said, handing Jacky his cell phone when he joined him and Qiao Qiao by the door.
“Okay, we’re good to go.”
Qiao Qiao practically ran to the cars and was actually waiting for them by Jacky’s car. Jacky unlocked his car so Qiao Qiao could get in while Wallace headed for his car. Ehlo knew that they have to stick in groups of two so he joined Wallace. When they were inside and heading out to town, Ehlo called Jacky up to keep in touch on the way so they could discuss the plan as they were driving.
“You actually ran all the way here?” Ehlo asked when Jacky already put him on speaker.
“Of course, I hauled a Taxi,” Qiao Qiao clarified.
“All right,” Jacky interfered, feeling that Qiao Qiao would explode soon if Ehlo kept being random. “Let’s see what we can do.”
“Qiao, call Auntie,” Wallace instructed across the way. “Tell her she forgot some documents. We can bring it to her.”
“Will it work?” Ehlo asked. “What if she said she didn’t forget anything? Or if they’re already done?”
“She wouldn’t be sure if she forgot it or not, right?” Wallace asked back. “It’s not her only case for today. She might think she forgot it for another client. Or she just wants to make sure. Plus, we’re also testing to see if they’re done.”
“Let’s do it then,” Qiao Qiao said, her voice impatient again.
“Calm down, sis,” Jacky said upon seeing Qiao Qiao taking out her cell phone. “Don’t let your voice change or Auntie might suspect you.”
Qiao Qiao nodded.
“Put her on speaker so we can listen too,” Wallace instructed again.
“Okay,” Qiao Qiao said as she began to dial.
The three guys stayed silent while she was trying to make the call so they would not expose her. When she was done, they resumed their conversation.
“Told you it works,” Wallace said, his voice full of relief.
“You were worried too, weren’t you, Huo?” Ehlo teased.
“I would be crazy if I’m not worried,” Wallace snapped back.
“Guys,” Jacky interfered.
“We didn’t tell Johnny we were leaving,” Ehlo said suddenly.
“He’ll call us.”
“What if he can’t wake up on his own?”
“Are you kidding me? I would be worried if we didn’t wake you up, but Johnny?”
Wallace let out a laugh on the other side. “Great morning talk, huh, Huang?”
“Shut up, man.”
“I don’t get why you guys can still laugh in a time like this,” Qiao Qiao said.
“Take it easy, sis,” Jacky said, tousling her hair. “Impatience won’t get you anywhere.”
“That’s right, kid,” Ehlo continued.
“Yu Rong,” Jacky said, gritting his teeth.
They heard silence after that. Jacky reached out to retrieve his cell phone and pocketed it before he forgot it like when they left the house.
“It’s going to be all right, sis,” Jacky reassured Qiao Qiao–though he felt like he was reassuring himself.
“Hopefully,” Qiao Qiao said tiredly, sighing out.
Jacky stole a glance her way real quick to see her staring out the window. He knew he should not try too hard to cheer her up since they were all experiencing this set of nerves at the same time. They stayed silent until they were almost at their destination, which was Mrs. Tseng’s workplace.
“Pick it up, sis,” Jacky said as he was slowing down to find a parking spot by the sidewalk.
Qiao Qiao snapped to alertness upon hearing Jacky calling her. She stared at her cell phone in her hand and picked it up, her hands shaking. “Hello, Mom.”
“You don’t need to bring it for me anymore,” Mrs. Tseng told her daughter. “It’s probably not as important today since I just checked and got all my documents. The one you saw is probably for tomorrow’s workload.”
“Oh,” Qiao Qiao said, not knowing what else to say. Then she remembered. “Aren’t you supposed to be in some sort of meeting? Why do you have time to check? The meeting ended early?” She found it hard to keep her voice leveled, but she had to bite down on her teeth to stop her nervousness.
“It wasn’t an office meeting,” Her mother corrected her. “It was just a meet up with one of my clients. We just finished and he just left.”
“Which one is that? Um…I meant is that the one who’s buying Alyssa’s place? I…”
Jacky just parked into a spot and cut the engine so he was just waiting for Qiao Qiao to be done. Seeing her expression and loss of control, he placed a hand on her shoulder.
“I know Alyssa’s decision in selling the place has affected you a lot,” Mrs. Tseng’s voice came back onto the line. “So I’m going to tell you the answer. But Qiao, you must move on, all right? It’s not the end of the world. All of us have to go through changes in life. It’s Alyssa’s decision, after all, honey.”
Jacky could see tears rolling down Qiao Qiao’s cheeks so he knew she must have heard the undesirable answer. He increased the pressure on her shoulder a bit, trying to let her know he was there for her.
“So what is the answer, Mom?” Qiao Qiao said, her voice changing slightly.
“Yes, honey. It’s over.”
Qiao Qiao covered the mouthpiece with her right hand and sniffed real quick as her mother continued.
“You’re supposed to be at work, aren’t you?” Mrs. Tseng asked. “You should hurry or you’ll get in trouble with your manager.”
“I’m going now,” Qiao Qiao replied finally after clearing her throat and removing her hand from the mouthpiece.
“I’ll see you tonight then,” Mrs. Tseng said before hanging up.
Qiao Qiao didn’t move. She just let her phone stay by her ear until her hands finally dropped to her sides.
“Qiao?” Jacky urged, tugging on her shoulder lightly.
“It’s over,” Qiao Qiao mumbled, her voice barely audible.
“What?” Jacky asked.
Before he could continue, he heard tapping on his window. He turned around to see Ehlo and Wallace. Ehlo signaled for him to roll the window down.
“Are we going in or not?” Ehlo asked when Jacky did as he instructed.
“I…” Jacky began.
Just then, they heard the door to the realtor agency opening. They turned to see a gentleman stepping out. He spotted them and sent them a polite smile before continuing on his way down the street. When Ehlo was about to turn back to Jacky, they heard the realtor agency’s door opening again. A young man in uniform hurriedly stepped out and scanned the street cautiously.
“Mr. Tang!” The young man finally yelled out when his eyes reached the gentleman they saw earlier.
The gentleman called “Mr. Tang” turned back and smiled at the employee. The employee stepped forward and handed him a scarf.
“You left it earlier, sir,” The young man explained.
“Thank you,” Mr. Tang said.
The young man nodded once more before returning inside.
Mr. Tang then resumed his way again.
“Could he be…” Ehlo prompted after the guy’s out of earshot.
“He’s holding a folder in his hand,” Wallace said. “Of course, it would be obvious since he just stepped out but I don’t think it’s just ordinary papers.”
“Qiao?” Jacky said, turning to Qiao Qiao again.
“It’s him,” Qiao Qiao said, her voice determined. “I recognize the folder.”
“Sis,” Jacky tried again, placing a hand on her shoulder once more.
“It’s over,” Qiao Qiao said tiredly, her voice resuming its hopelessness.
“We can still negotiate, girl,” Ehlo urged, seeing tears forming on Qiao Qiao’s face again.
“Yes,” Wallace continued. “We can’t give up.”
Qiao Qiao shook her head. “It’s over.”
Jacky couldn’t take it anymore. He took Qiao Qiao’s shoulders and pulled her into his arms. “Remember what I told you? You can rely on me anytime. Go ahead.” That last comment was reminding her of what they’d discussed when they went grocery shopping that one time. Because Jacky knew she couldn’t just be upset at this current loss, but the lost control of her life.
“Are you crazy?” Ehlo whispered to Jacky.
“Huang,” Wallace said, putting a hand on Ehlo’s shoulder.
“What?” Ehlo asked, turning to Wallace.
“Let her cry.”
Ehlo could see that Wallace was serious so he sighed out. They made their way back to Wallace’s car, which was parked several spaces down the street, after another full minute of standing silently next to Jacky’s car. Jacky continued to comfort Qiao Qiao after Wallace pulled out and turned in the direction that Jacky knew that he was heading for Ehlo’s workplace.
“Are you guys sure he’s going to come today?” Ehlo asked the others.
“We’ll have to try our luck,” Wallace said, tapping on the tip of his side of the window, which had been rolled down.
“When he comes, you grab him while…”
Wallace turned to Ehlo to see Angela tugging on his ears.
“Let go,” Ehlo demanded–though his voice contradicted his planned authoritative tone.
“We’re not here to threaten anyone,” Angela reminded him before letting go.
“I was just kidding,” Ehlo said defensively, rubbing on his ear.
“We have to stay calm in order to negotiate,” Wallace said.
“Let’s hope Qiao doesn’t break down again if we don’t succeed,” Ehlo mumbled. “No wait, it would be better if she breaks down, right? We can use that as an advantage for him to take pity on us.”
“He’s so fast with his decisions,” Angela said. “How can he just give it up like that?”
“Are you on his side or ours?” Ehlo asked, turning to her with a threatening glare.
“You forgot your place again?” Angela asked, tugging on his ear again.
Ehlo was prepared this time so he grabbed her hand and sent her his victory smile.
“Would you guys stop it?” Wallace asked, annoyed.
“Jealous?” Ehlo shot back.
Wallace shook his head and directed his attention back to the shop, scanning his eyes everywhere in an attempt to spot Mr. Tang’s presence. His eyes stared past Jacky’s car, which was parked in front of them. He could see Qiao Qiao next to Jacky. He remembered Jacky telling him that he had to take Qiao Qiao to work earlier, explaining to her boss that her car broke down so he had to swing by to pick her up hence the delay. Wallace felt a bit strange that Qiao Qiao had been crying a lot more recently. However, he could understand her frustration with the inability to do anything to stop what they strongly believed in. He had been experiencing the same helplessness these past two weeks. Out of habit, Wallace glanced in the rearview mirror to see Chen Yi’s car behind him. They sure made a big deal out of it when they planned to come here this afternoon.
While Wallace had been deep in thoughts, Ehlo and Angela continued to fight over their success rate.
“Will you guys knock it off already?” Wallace asked, annoyed.
“Like we have anything else to do right now,” Ehlo said.
Wallace gave up and pushed the door open, getting out. If he stayed there any longer, he might end up killing Ehlo. He still remembered to shut the door lightly since it was his car after all. He walked over to Jacky’s car to see Jacky’s window rolled down also.
“Great time with them?” Jacky asked with a teasing smile.
“The greatest,” Wallace replied sarcastically.
“It’s almost 6,” Qiao Qiao said. “Is he going to show up?”
Wallace smiled at Qiao Qiao’s question, which was a bit similar to Ehlo’s.
“We’ll just have to try our luck,” Jacky answered.
Wallace turned back to the street, checking the traffic, which was becoming quite dull because of the end of the day.
“There he goes!” Chen Yi exclaimed from behind them.
Wallace turned around to see Chen Yi out of his car already–with Achel by his side. Ehlo and Angela were out of the car also. Wallace stepped toward that direction, allowing Jacky to exit the car also. Of course, Qiao Qiao was getting out as well. Somehow, their group of seven made a line right in front of their cars as they waited for Mr. Tang to pass by them.
“Mr. Tang!” Wallace called out when Mr. Tang passed by them.
Mr. Tang turned around and greeted them all with a smile.
“Can we have a word with you?” Wallace asked.
Mr. Tang scanned the group once before turning his attention back on Wallace. “Regarding?”
Mr. Tang smiled. “You’re direct.”
“Call me Tang Feng.”
“It would be better that we get it out without the sugary words right now,” Chen Yi jumped in.
Tang Feng turned to Chen Yi. “You’re a very interesting group of people.”
“Mr. Tang…” Wallace tried again, attempting to direct Tang Feng back onto the main purpose.
“If you want, we can come inside and talk,” Tang Feng said, gesturing toward the shop behind him. “While you’re at it, you can clean the mess up also.”
The others could not help but exchanged a look.
“We’re not your servants,” Qiao Qiao spoke up for the group.
“I’m only suggesting it would be wise to clean up the mess you created before anything else happens,” Tang Feng said.
“What are you talking about?” Qiao Qiao asked, wrinkling her face. “This place is haunted. Why would you want to clean up all the items that are protecting this place?”
Tang Feng let out an amused laugh. “Haunted? Really? Isn’t it a bit early to tell ghost stories?”
“It’s getting dark, you know,” Ehlo jumped in.
Tang Feng shook his head. “You guys are seriously too much.”
“Fine,” Qiao Qiao said. “Don’t say we didn’t warn you.”
“If it’s really haunted, why would you guys want it?” Tang Feng asked back.
“Who says that we want it?”
Tang Feng held up the folder in his hand. “You seriously don’t want it?”
They finally realized that he had been holding the same folder he was holding this morning when they spotted him outside the realtor agency.
“He found us out already,” Ehlo whispered to Wallace. “Let’s stop this game.”
“Since you already found us out,” Wallace said to Tang Feng. “Name your terms.”
“I like this place,” Tang Feng said. “I bought it fair and square. If you guys really like it, you should have done the same instead of driving away buyers with such silly tactics.”
“What are you going to do with it then?” Ehlo asked with a challenging look.
Tang Feng shrugged. “Maybe turn it into a candy shop or a tea shop or…”
“That’s crazy!” Qiao Qiao exclaimed.
“If you let go of this place, we’ll do anything you want.”
The others turned to Qiao Qiao with a murderous look without intending to. How in the world could she sell their lives to this stranger they just barely met this morning? However, they managed to regain themselves in time and turned back to Tang Feng to hear his response.
Tang Feng stared at each of them carefully before directing his eyes at Qiao Qiao. “What if I say…”
“What?” Qiao Qiao asked impatiently.
Tang Feng smiled–as if enjoying the agony she had to go through to hear his request. “What if I say I want to marry you?”
“That’s ridiculous!” Qiao Qiao shouted, outraged.
“What?!” The others exclaimed at the same time as Qiao Qiao.
“You said anything,” Tang Feng reminded Qiao Qiao.
“Anything besides unusual and over the line requests,” Qiao Qiao clarified.
“Then I can’t think of anything,” Tang Feng said, turning to leave.
Tang Feng turned around again. He could see the anxiousness on everyone’s faces so he smiled at last. “If you can convince me to keep this place running like before, then I’ll reconsider.”
“That’s it?” Qiao Qiao asked, not believing Tang Feng’s words.
“That’s it,” Tang Feng repeated her words in confirmation, nodding his head with traces of sincerity in his eyes. He turned to leave again but turned around to face them as abruptly. “How about helping me clean this place up then? Do you expect me to reconsider this mess in front of the shop?”
Wallace, Angela, and Ehlo scrambled toward the shop and tried to clean the yellow papers sticking to the bottom edges of the glass window while the others piled inside to help Tang Feng clean the place up after he opened the door.
© Monday, September 7th, 2009
Re-posted: Saturday, February 12th, 2011