About two months later, they were standing at a bridge in Kaohsiung, watching the fireworks like they had a year ago. They were actually standing on the Kaohsiung Bride along the Love River. The scenery was as breathtaking as they had seen in the pamphlets. The place was full of people–like anywhere else–at this time of the year, gathering and chatting away excitedly. Some even went on the boat rides being offered for romantic effects. The night was still young so they decided to watch the fireworks first and then trying out the boat rides.
Most of them were there, including Tang Feng and Nic, but excluding Cyndi. Tang Feng had kept his promise to Qiao Qiao to appear at other meetings for further updates of their plan. Cyndi, on the other hand, had been busy planning her trip out of the country. She had left a month ago so she was not able to make it to the reunion. Yet she had apologized for it. The others never asked what happened between her and Tang Feng that one time since they felt it wasn’t their business to meddle into. Nic, on the other hand, had been getting along fine with everyone so they invited him on the trip as well.
“Whose idea was it to come here?” Wei Ru spoke up as they were still keeping their attention on the colorful fireworks overhead.
“Call me a genius, Xiao Ru,” Ehlo took the credit, flashing on his usual cunning smile.
Angela cleared her throat at that time.
Ehlo turned to her, slipping a hand around her shoulders. “What?”
Angela tilted her head toward Gino’s direction. Ehlo finally got it and mumbled a quick apology to Gino, which he didn’t mind about it.
Yes, the three angels, Gino, and Anthony had come as well. They had managed to work everything out with plenty of time to spare. Unbelievable but it took a lot of creative manipulation.
After that little mishap from Ehlo, they focused on the sky above again. It wasn’t until they were satisfied enough with the views that they moved on toward a pier that would take them out on a little tour along the river.
“Fifteen people only,” Ehlo noted as he read the sign by the pier. “We’re like over about…”
Angela nodded, understanding their interesting situation. They will have to resort to the creative manipulation method once again.
After they talked it out, they managed to get fourteen on one boat and the rest on the second boat. It was then that they began lining up for the ride. When they finally got on a boat, the seating was as followed: Jacky at the back corner of the boat with Angela on his right, then Ehlo, Chen Yi, Achel, Esther, Tony, and Nic. Wallace was actually sitting on Jacky’s left with Johnny next to him, then Bianca, Qiao Qiao, Tang Feng, and Ming Dao at the end. The reason why Ming Dao didn’t go with the others was he was the odd man out at the moment if he went with the other group of six. If he stayed with them, at least he had Nic to talk to while they were being given the tour. And though he was always so friendly, he didn’t feel like making new friends out of the blues with the people who the other six were sharing the boat with. He had a feeling they were all paired off nicely as well.
“Hey,” Angela called out, tapping on Jacky’s shoulder when they were still trying to get comfortable–and were waiting for the tour guide.
Jacky turned to her, feeling the familiarity of the situation–like almost a year back when she had that talk with him after dinner at Uncle Ben’s place. He wanted to laugh at the déjà vu feeling, but the bitterness in his heart was too much to bear. He knew if he attempted to joke, he would fail as miserably as the previous few times. So he opted for the silent approach, giving Angela his attention and waiting for her to continue.
“I want to apologize for that day when I exploded on you and called you names,” Angela said.
Jacky smiled, feeling the pang of familiarity pushing forth more than ever. It was another apology yet it was for something else. One had to do with Wallace and her, and now? He didn’t dare to think anymore. He cleared his throat, trying to collect his thoughts. “Don’t worry about it anymore. I know you cared for both of us at that time.”
Angela nodded. “But I shouldn’t have taken it out on you like that.”
Jacky shook his head. “It happened so fast, none of us could’ve predicted that moment. I yelled at you too, so we’re even?” He offered his hand to her as a peacemaking sign then–with a sincere smile on his face. Another gesture repeated from last year, except he was the one extending his hand first this time around.
Angela took his hand and shook it, letting go as rapidly. “I promise I won’t act so rash in the future anymore.”
Jacky shook his head, knowing Angela can’t keep it anyway. In fact, he felt the bitterness within himself again, knowing that none of them kept their promises anymore. At least when they thought they could, it ended up they couldn’t in the end. But he regained himself as quickly, pasting on a smile. “It’s okay. But just promise me one thing.”
Angela had on her anxious look. “What?”
“Never change for anyone.”
Angela finally smiled, shaking his hand again. “That’s a deal then.”
It was also that time that Ehlo turned to them–after having finished a conversation with Chen Yi and Tony. He was just in time to witness the handshaking ceremony–and how Jacky and Angela withdrew their hands back afterward, a smile on each one of their faces. He eyed them suspiciously, his mischievous smile flashing on, ready for another strike.
“So what’s with you two and talking behind my back?” Ehlo demanded, faking anger.
Angela turned to Ehlo with a teasing smile. “Stop being so nosy, Huang.”
“Great. A guy can’t ask a question around here anymore.”
“Not when that guy knows only of bullying girls,” Jacky said, sending Angela a secret smile after that–and then that smile hardened on his face. The image of that night between the four of them flashed in his mind again. He knew what was coming next, the comment from Ehlo about them planning a mid-autumn festival surprise for him. Yet that was irrelevant at the moment since they were spending the night together now. He braced himself for the next part of the script anyway, seeing that Wallace had turned toward them–after having finished his exchange with Johnny.
“What is it this time, you guys?” Wallace asked, eyeing each one of them suspiciously.
Ehlo turned to Wallace. “I’m trying to find out the same thing.”
“Is this another mission for Huang and Huo?”
“Sure, you’re in.” He turned back to Angela and Jacky. “What do you say, guys? Confess now or we’re on your tails.”
Angela put on her challenging look. “With Jacky on my side, I’m not afraid of you.”
Ehlo slipped a protective hand around Angela’s shoulders at that time–though he had on his warning look.
“You better not mean what I think you mean.”
Jacky’s mind was washed over with another sense of familiarity. He could remember the coming exchanges so clearly, with how Ehlo was pondering about Sonia’s whereabouts. They weren’t sure that night a year ago since everyone was so scattered out after dinner, cleaning up or chatting away at some corner of the property. Yet tonight, he knew the answer to that question. Sonia was probably spending the mid-autumn festival with James, enjoying the fireworks somewhere unknown to them all. And the most ironic thing of them all was that they–the four of them, not James and Sonia–were celebrating about his confident self returning versus tonight’s shattered state–if they only knew.
“You guys are at it again,” Qiao Qiao chided them, finally breaking the pattern of that night of last year from repeating.
“Hey, what do you want us to do?” Ehlo asked, his attention on her at that moment. “We’re waiting here.”
Yes, the reason why they were still able to talk this long and not bothering to pay attention to the scenery was because they were still waiting for their tour guide. It seemed there were some problems onshore hence the delayed discussions with some of the operators.
Qiao Qiao was about to come up with one of her remarks to sabotage Ehlo when she sneezed instead. Tang Feng pulled out some tissues and handed it over to her then.
“I told you to bring a sweater earlier,” Tang Feng chided her.
“I didn’t know it was going to be this cold.”
Tang Feng shook his head–like he was talking to a child. But he didn’t continue with his chastising. Instead, he took off the scarf he was wearing and draped it around her shoulders. “Here, this will keep you warm for a while.”
Qiao Qiao turned to him, alarmed. “What about you?”
“I’m a man.”
Qiao Qiao scoffed, rolling her eyes. “Yes, a dumb one at that.”
He pointed at her then, though his expression wasn’t reflecting anger, not really. “Hey!”
Qiao Qiao smiled, undoing the scarf around her and ended up spreading it out to restore it to its full length.
She reached and draped the scarf around the both of them instead. “There. So I don’t have to take care of you later if you’re sick.”
The others were watching in silence the minute Tang Feng draped his scarf around her. They had stopped all sorts of conversations just to figure out if it was just another typical banter–or something else. And Qiao Qiao’s reaction had let them know that it was in the ‘something else’ category. It was also then that they realized that the personal space between Qiao Qaio and Tang Feng seemed to be nonexistence. They had been too occupied earlier that they had neglected that little detail, thinking it was because of the space allowed on the boat.
“Look who got together without telling us,” Ehlo teased then, not being able to resist it anymore.
Qiao Qiao turned to him, not shy at all. “Get over it, Huang.”
Tang Feng smiled then, slipping a hand around Qiao Qiao’s shoulder. “Yeah, Huang.”
Tang Feng’s gesture had been too obvious that they were together.
“And you call yourself my sister?” Jacky confronted Qiao Qiao, his voice full of teasing more than being sore about it.
“When in the world did you two get together anyway?” Ehlo asked, his curiosity too obvious on his face.
“A month ago,” Qiao Qiao answered casually.
“After we sent Cyndi off at the airport.”
Ehlo looked at Tang Feng then. “Dude, what a way to celebrate your sister’s departure.”
Tang Feng wasn’t offended. He still had on his smile. “Hey, she’s going to New York to study, not going to the North Pole.”
Ehlo nodded in agreement. Then he looked like he was thinking. “Hey, I think this isn’t bad at all. The goods managed to balance out the bad after all.”
“What do you mean?” Wallace asked, his stare showed traces of warning in it.
Ehlo waved a hand, indicating Wallace didn’t have to worry about his answer–YET. “Come on, two breakups, a wedding, and a get-together. Great or what?”
“Huang Yu Rong!” The others on the boat yelled out at the same time.
Ehlo didn’t look like he was threatened by their united force. He just shrugged. “I know. Cork it, right?”
The others finally gave him the approval look. But they weren’t really mad. They just wanted to experience the familiar feeling of the past once again. Like that one time when they all yelled at him for his exaggeration several months back, the night they were celebrating about their success in convincing Tang Feng.
“How about it, guys?” Wallace spoke up at that time, breaking the somewhat quiet atmosphere. “Can we get together the next year?”
The others exchanged different types of expressions among themselves. Yet in the end, they all nodded, sealing the deal.
“To another year then,” Ehlo wrapped up as the tour guide finally got on with the conductor of the boat.
To another year indeed, Jacky thought as the boat began moving and the others turned their attention on the scenery coming into view.
© Saturday, October 29th, 2011
Posted: Tuesday, November 15th, 2011