The following days proceeded with three areas: funeral arrangements, aiding the police in the investigation, and living. The third was the hardest because they’d to try and remain calm for the sake of one another. After that initial crying at the hospital, the others managed to pull themselves together as much as they could for the sake of Qiao Qiao. Even if some of them felt like crying, they would try to do it when Qiao Qiao wasn’t present. Wallace had volunteered to call Cyndi and break the news to her while the others took care of the rest of the calls. Contrary to her hysterical state and roller coasting attitude during the incident, Qiao Qiao maintained a passive attitude for the coming days. She didn’t talk to anyone either. They were all worried for her but tried to keep a distance and give her some personal space to sort her own thoughts. Though that didn’t mean they weren’t keeping an eye out for her.
The news of Tang Feng’s passing spread far and wide. It partially had to do with their arrangements and the other reason was because he’d become well known within the business world since the past few years of his return and establishing his own empire. Yet they tried to fend off all rumors and possible gossips surrounding his sudden death. They just focused on preparing his funeral, knowing it was the last respectful gesture they could do for him, regardless if others found it necessary or not. Wallace became the person in charge of everything because of his free schedule. The others had volunteered to take time off to help as well, but he turned them down, stating they needed to proceed with their normal lives too. He also stated that Tang Feng wouldn’t want anyone’s careers on the rocks because of him. So the others had no choice but to only help when asked or assigned tasks to. At least that was what happened until Sophia joined the crew because she was the other person with a somewhat free schedule. Just like that, they continued on, trying to recover slowly.
On the day that they were supposed to go pick Cyndi up at the airport, Wallace had to go into the police station. Detective Chen actually called Jacky and told them about it. There were no specific names mentioned but Wallace had volunteered to take the task. That had left Angela the duty of picking Cyndi up at the airport. Nic decided to go with her since Angela had been overworking herself these past days like some of them.
After Wallace got past the security checks, he was led by one of the officers to Detective Chen’s office. To his surprise, he found Yvonne there talking to Detective Chen. She had her back to him so she hadn’t realized his presence yet. Detective Chen had waved the other officer away upon seeing them both. He had also signaled for Wallace to wait and Wallace had nodded, stepping to a spot across the hall, not wanting to eavesdrop. Yet he couldn’t help staring at Yvonne the whole time she was there. When she finally turned to leave, her bright smile dissolved as quickly as it had flashed on and was replaced with shock. It was then that Wallace stepped forward from his spot and entered Detective Chen’s office, but he was still staring at Yvonne and not Detective Chen.
“Mr. Huo,” Yvonne called out. “What are you doing here?”
“I called him here,” Detective Chen answered for Wallace.
Yvonne turned to Detective Chen with a confused expression. “Why?”
“None of your business, go, Miss Yao.” But Detective Chen’s eyebrows came together then. “You two know each other?”
“He did some consultation work for my company several months back.”
Detective Chen returned to studying Wallace’s face. “You’re probably wondering why she’s here.”
Wallace nodded. “But it’s none of my business. I’m here because you called and said there’s some new development with Tang Feng’s case.”
“Actually, he’s my dad,” Yvonne jumped in suddenly, circling around Detective Chen’s desk and placing her hands on the old man’s shoulders.
“He just called you Miss Yao a minute ago,” Wallace noted, his face still passive.
Yvonne straightened up then, a nervous smile on her face. “Um…actually, I would prefer it if you don’t tell my boss. I mean, being the local detective’s daughter is a bit hard to find work unless you go into the same field as him. So that’s why I went by a different name for work.”
Wallace directed his attention on Detective Chen and saw the old man nodded, letting out a sheepish smile. He didn’t see any harm in that so he nodded in agreement to Yvonne’s plea. Besides, it had nothing to do with him.
“We should get right to the point,” Detective Chen said, at last, clearing his throat and reaching for a folder to the right of his desk. “Miss Yao, go. We’re talking confidential stuff here. You chose to go into business instead of helping your old man so…out of my office now. Visiting hours are over.”
Yvonne had on a discouraged look then, rolling her eyes. “Aww…come on, Dad.”
“Let her stay,” Wallace spoke up all of a sudden. “Treat her as my friend then.”
Detective Chen’s eyes traveled between Wallace and Yvonne several times before nodding. “Your choice.”
“The man responsible for the accident that involved your friend,” Detective Chen began, his voice serious and professional again. “He wasn’t drinking.”
“What?” Wallace asked, his face reflecting disbelief.
Detective Chen cleared his throat. “Sorry, I mean he wasn’t just drinking but had also inhaled some drugs while driving. That was why he was swerving, hitting other cars and eventually your friend.”
Upon hearing the details, Yvonne gasped and covered her mouth. She hadn’t realized Wallace was in to see her father for such a serious matter. Her heart went out for Wallace and his friends then, and the family of the victim. Her anger surging high at that point, wanting to curse that person responsible with all the bad luck she knew of. Was that the possible reason why she hadn’t gone into the field? Encountering those incidents long enough, one would go crazy if not knowing how to control one’s emotions.
“If you were able to find out all that information, that means you have him in custody, right?” Wallace inquired, looking straight at Detective Chen.
Detective Chen nodded. “Yes, we do. He’s awaiting his sentence.”
“I want to see him.”
Detective Chen shook his head. “No, you can’t. I know how you feel right now. If you can’t control your emotions, you will end up causing harm toward yourself more than him. If you attack him, he gets a chance to play victim then. It’s not worth it, son.”
Wallace didn’t like the pep talk but he must admit Detective Chen was sure sharp. He exhaled deeply before asking to be excused so he could go take care of more funeral details. Detective Chen nodded and dismissed them both from his sight.
“I’m sorry about your friend,” Yvonne said as they walked down the hall.
“Don’t be, it’s not your fault,” Wallace returned, not feeling like socializing, especially after knowing she was Detective’s Chen daughter.
But it was like she knew. She suddenly slipped her hands through his right hand–and kept it there. Alarmed, he turned to her but waited for her to explain herself.
“Are you mad at me for hiding it from you?” She asked, her eyes on his face.
Wallace looked straight ahead again, shaking his head. “No. I’m just too numbed to think of anything straight right now.”
“If you’re not mad at me, can I get a ride home?”
That was the second time of the day Wallace was stumped. The first time was seeing Yvonne inside Detective Chen’s office. How could she ask him for a favor right after learning about his friend’s death? Inconsiderate much? Before he spoke up to turn her down, he suddenly recognized the concern in her eyes as he turned to look at her. Was that an excuse to watch over him after learning that he might want to tear someone apart? Was that her father’s cop instincts transferring to her and forcing her to stay close in order to stop him from doing anything stupid?
“Fine,” Wallace rattled out, instead of asking to confirm his suspicion of her motive.
Yvonne smiled then. “Thanks.”
He silently thanked her instead.
When Wallace arrived home, Yvonne was still with him. She had convinced him to let her be a part of the crew in helping with the preparations. Knowing he couldn’t really turn her down, he had agreed in the end. And it wasn’t because of her father’s status either. It just felt right having her around at the moment. It would reassure the others that he wasn’t overworking himself. What he didn’t expect was seeing Cyndi there. She looked devastated–as it should be after learning what happened and had to hang on while making her way back. It wasn’t too big of a surprise that she’d sought them out before heading back home to rest after the long flight since it made sense she wanted to know the progress of the preparations and wanted to be a part of it all. Yet what shocked Wallace into speechlessness was seeing a stranger in the house. He immediately turned to Angela and Nic for an explanation.
“Um…” Angela stuttered, which felt foreign to Wallace. Angela had been so strong these past days, trying to be on the brave side, holding the fort for everyone. But stuttering? Had she slipped that bad?
“This is Cyndi’s boyfriend, Josh,” Nic took over, knowing it was too much torture for Wallace to wait.
“Oh…” Wallace said, stepping forward to greet the other party. “Despite the circumstances, nice to meet you at last. Tang Feng told me about you.”
Josh returned Wallace’s handshake and offered a weak smile. It wasn’t like he didn’t want to be polite but it seemed like Josh was suppressing the smiles and kept a serious attitude for Cyndi’s sake–after what happened to her brother.
“Um…this is…?” Angela gestured her hand toward Yvonne but was looking at Wallace for an explanation.
“Oh,” Yvonne said before Wallace could introduce her to the others. She even stepped forward and hooked her hands through Wallace’s right hand. “I’m his girlfriend, Yvonne Yao.”
All four pairs of eyes stared at Wallace. Wallace was actually staring at Yvonne.
Yvonne’s smile faded a little, replaced with a nervous one. “I know you told me to wait since it’s bad timing and all to tell everyone now. But I want to be a part of this and help you in the upcoming days.” Her sincere smile had turned on at that point, instead of the somewhat mischievous one. “Please.”
Wallace understood then, even taking Yvonne’s hands into his. He turned to the others. “Sorry, guys. But it’s true.”
“Wow,” Angela said, not being able to resist the urge to look at Cyndi for some sort of reaction–despite the terrible timing.
“Congrats,” Nic said, his smile sincere, even clapping Wallace on the shoulder.
“Thanks,” Wallace said. “Now, let’s get going with the planning.”
“Guess what?” Ehlo’s voice boomed into their ears as they heard the front door open.
“What are you doing home in the middle of the day?” Angela demanded upon seeing him–and had of course cut whatever it was he wanted to say off.
“I can’t come home for lunch?” Ehlo asked back, eyeing everyone present.
Angela looked at her watch and had on a wry smile, a rare one. “Sorry.”
Ehlo closed the door and stepped toward her, slipping a hand around her shoulders. “You’re losing it, take it easy.”
Most of them could see how fatigued Angela looked at that moment. She must have pulled a lot of weight these past days–though Wallace had wanted to shoo her out of it, claiming he could handle it.
“We don’t have to worry about that now,” Angela assured Ehlo. “Because your buddy, Huo, has a girlfriend to help him.”
Ehlo’s expression turned into full surprise then, eyeing Wallace and Yvonne–who were still holding hands.
“Whoa, I thought you were waiting for…”
Angela cleared her throat around then and gave Ehlo a look, which he got the message loud and clear.
“Sorry,” Ehlo said, scratching his head. “Anyway, congrats, you two.”
Yvonne had smiled at Ehlo’s effort, feeling like she could really fit in with the rest of the group in no time.
“Anyway,” Wallace said, knowing he should wrap it up before Ehlo made another mistake, which he rarely did in the past. The events of the past few days must have been part of the cause for it, he guessed. It was hard not to be affected. “I was saying how we should get going with the planning since Cyndi’s here now.” He turned briefly to Cyndi. “I’m going to go change and grab my folders with all the arrangements so far so you could read it.”
Cyndi nodded. “Thanks.”
Instead of letting go of Yvonne’s hand and heading to his room, Wallace steered her along.
“I thought you’re going to change,” Ehlo reminded him.
“She’s my girlfriend,” Wallace returned, understanding where Ehlo was going with it. “And she doesn’t have a protective brother who’s going to tear her boyfriend apart if he witnesses something like this.” But she does have a protective father who’s a local detective that won’t hesitate to use his gun if he finds out about something like this, Wallace added silently as Yvonne followed him down the hall.
“But you never allowed Cyn…owww…”
The reason for Ehlo’s sentence breaking off was because Angela had stepped on his foot for him to shut up before he could finish the rest of the sentence, though she was a second too late when Ehlo had mentioned Cyndi’s name hence most of them getting it already.
“I think you need some food,” Angela said and quickly headed toward the kitchen.
That was when Nic took the hint to invite Josh and Cyndi into the living room, even volunteering to get drinks for them. They’d been standing around near the door and talking since Wallace and Yvonne entered hence not moving to the living room or sitting down yet earlier.
In Wallace’s room, Wallace was changing while Yvonne was standing at one side of the room, facing the other direction. It was the only way he could talk to her without the others suspecting any other types of motives.
“Care to tell me what’s on your plate, Miss Yao?” Wallace asked, putting emphasis on her last name on purpose.
Yvonne was playing with her hair since she was just waiting for him to finish changing. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Huh, as if we’re really dating.”
He was already done changing but didn’t bother telling her. Instead, he walked to the closet, reaching for something inside. He came closer to her without her realizing it and as she turned, their faces almost touched. Almost, since he had moved away in time.
“Here,” He said, handing her a bag.
She took it, wrinkling her face. “What is it?”
“Props for the rest of the upcoming production.”
She wrinkled her face. “What?”
“And you call yourself a cop’s daughter? Slippers, for in the house.”
That was when she finally undid the plastic wraps and took the slippers out, exchanging it with her current shoes. She was actually sitting down on his bed while doing that as he was now searching for something in his desk drawer.
“Are we playing one of those games with ‘who got over whom first’ thing?” He asked as he sat down on the bed next to her. He wasn’t looking at her but was leafing through the files in the folder he just found. “Because you know it’s so childish, especially in this situation.”
“Come on now,” Yvonne chirped, her voice reeking traces of injustice. “Look at it this way, I get to stay and help you guys with the funeral arrangements and your ex do not have to think about how the reason why you dived in 100% with helping her was because you’re still having feelings for her, right?”
Wallace directed his eyes on her then. “I didn’t even tell you she’s my ex, how did you know? Cop instinct?”
And he was mocking her with that last comment. To which she had scowled and hit him on the shoulder, causing him to laugh without realizing it.
“It’s girl instinct, okay?” Yvonne retorted. “And your friend just confirmed it earlier, you know.”
Wallace sighed out, absentmindedly playing with the folder in his hand. “Huang’s getting quite slippery these days.”
“He’s probably worried for his girlfriend. Look at her all pale and worn out.”
Wallace knew it was too easy to figure out, considering how she learned what happened to their friend. And Angela’s appearance had indeed reduced to show obvious traces of stress. Perhaps, that was why Yvonne was even more eager to volunteer herself than before? That was the only explanation because even if she didn’t pull the ‘girlfriend card’, he already agreed to let her help before they stepped into the house.
“What will your father say about your involvement in this?” He asked all of a sudden, staring at her again.
Yvonne shrugged. “Why should he object? I’m helping you guys.”
Wallace smiled then, getting up from his place. He ended up pulling her up as well.
“Let’s get this show started, huh?”
The discussion started over lunch in the kitchen as Wallace filled Cyndi in with what he and the others had already done these past days. He made it sound like Yvonne had known the details all along, not wanting others to suspect. When lunchtime was up for Ehlo, he left and told them to brief him later. He didn’t forget to tell Angela to take a break after the so-called meeting. Nic had volunteered to drive Josh and Cyndi back home, allowing Angela some more time to rest. In fact, he didn’t even mind if Angela had taken Ehlo’s room. It wasn’t just because Ehlo was already gone for the rest of the day either, but he didn’t want to stir up more senseless matters after what happened these past days.
The next few days went by in a buzz. They were so busy that Wallace no longer cared who was involved, considering how they couldn’t just sit around and wait when they were done with work. On the other hand, after Yvonne joined their team, she had ease Angela’s load off majorly, letting Angela rest more. Though Angela had Sophia before, Sophia still had her promotional events and had to visit Grandpa Chou to make up for the days she had disappeared. On top of it, Grandpa Chou seemed to sink into a deep depression after learning of Tang Feng’s passing that he needed more tending to as well. Then there were Chen Yi, Achel, and Yan Yan but they had to spend more time looking after Qiao Qiao more than helping with arrangements, not wanting Qiao Qiao to do anything rash. Yes, they had kept Qiao Qiao away from arrangements on purpose, knowing she would break down faster if they let her get too close. Jacky had to switch between both places and his new project at his workplace too so the load was as heavy. In fact, he got too busy that Sophia had called off the other operation, considering the hectic situation. There was no need to occupy his mind with senseless activities when they had to fend for so much at the moment.
“Your brother’s lawyer contacted me the other day,” Wallace said at dinner one evening. They were supposed to rest but Wallace didn’t want to forget later–with all the tasks they needed to take care of…still.
Cyndi was sitting at the table with Josh and some of the others while Wallace was by the counter with Yvonne, Ehlo, Angela, and Jacky so when she heard him say that, she turned to look at him. (Sophia wasn’t around that night since she was with her grandpa and insisted the others not wait for her.)
“He wanted to schedule a time with us to read your brother’s will,” Wallace clarified when he caught Cyndi’s worried look.
“He has a will?” Chen Yi exclaimed, not believing his ears–or Wallace’s words. Chen Yi had been eating in the living room but he had stepped into the kitchen to get some water.
Wallace shrugged. “That’s what his lawyer said. I told him I need to talk to Cyndi before I could get back to him.”
Chen Yi shrugged as well. “Hey, it would make sense, right? He has too much money so of course, he would be prepared.”
“But that’s like jinxing yourself,” Achel pointed out.
Chen Yi had on his thinking expression then. “You guys think Tony has one?”
“If you weren’t eating, we would’ve thrown stuff at you already,” Ehlo said. “And I thought I’ve been slipping these past days.”
Chen Yi shrugged and went back to the living room with Achel.
“So, what do you say?” Wallace asked, still waiting for Cyndi’s answer.
Cyndi had looked at Josh before answering. “We need to get back to the States at the end of next week.”
“You planned well,” Yvonne commented.
Cyndi had on an unease look. “I just did some brainstorm, it’s not definite. I mean after these past few days of planning, I would think…”
Yvonne waved her hand. “I’m just giving you a compliment with your planning skills. You don’t have to get all defensive.”
Wallace had gritted his teeth and muttered, “Yvonne.”
Yvonne turned to him with her clueless expression. “What?”
Wallace had on his grim expression. “You know what.”
“Catfight during dinner?” Ehlo jumped in, pouring even more oil into the already burning fire.
Wallace turned his glare on Ehlo. “No one’s having any type of fight here. We’ve been too tired these past days, don’t mess with me.”
Ehlo shrugged. “Sure, whatever.”
“Huang Yu Rong…” Angela called out at that time, attempting to stop Ehlo.
Ehlo shrugged again. “Come on now, it’s not like we’re that inconsiderate these past days. We’re entitled to have some sort of entertainment around here, aren’t we?”
“Well, find something else to pick at then.”
Ehlo saluted with a smile before turning to look at Yvonne. “So, how did you two meet?”
“Oh, he came to my company to do some consultation work and I…uh…” Yvonne paused slightly, letting out a nervous smile. “I accidentally grabbed his cell phone and…uh…”
That was when realization kicked in for Ehlo. He jumped up from his place, alarming even Angela. “You’re the girl that broke my first phone!”
Yvonne had stopped eating by now and was staring at Ehlo with much surprise. “I…” She turned to Wallace to find him gone. No wonder he hadn’t spoken up to warn her ahead of time.
“Wallace went outside,” Angela provided the information.
Yvonne had on her worried look then, no longer fearing Ehlo’s wrath. She turned her attention to him again. “Look, I’m really sorry for what happened but I already compensated Wallace and he must have passed the money to you already. So could we just forget it for now?”
Just like that, Yvonne left the place and went outside searching for Wallace, not even waiting for Ehlo’s answer.
Wallace was actually leaning on his car and looking up at the sky at the moment.
“Hey,” She said, offering a light smile when he looked at her again.
“Don’t ever do that again,” He warned her as she stepped closer.
“You know what. You can pretend to help me with this whole thing, but don’t attack Cyndi.”
“I know what you did there, so stop playing the innocent card. Or I’m going to pull you out of the team for good.”
Yvonne sighed. “Fine.”
After saying that, she removed her presence from his view and departed. To which Wallace called after her. When she didn’t respond, he chased after her, grabbing onto her hand and turned her to face him again.
“You want to walk home in those slippers?” Wallace asked.
Yvonne’s face fell. As if she had expected Wallace to stop her from leaving. “Trust me on this one, I’ve been in worst situations and got home fine.”
Wallace scoffed, looking at some distance object before focusing on Yvonne again. “Because they’re afraid of your father and wouldn’t dare to lay a hand on you?”
Yvonne displayed traces of annoyance then, something Wallace hadn’t seen since he met her. Instead of conjuring more words to defend herself, she just yanked Wallace’s hands off her and turned to leave again.
“Could you stop doing this right now?” Wallace bellowed, losing it. “I don’t have any more energy left to deal with this crap!”
Yvonne turned to face him again, showing no traces of timidity or weakness. Not like when those around him would give in because he’d really lost his temper. What was more, Yvonne was showing even more anger than before. “If you want to protect her, then go ahead. I have no right to say anything.”
“Yvonne!” Wallace called as she turned to leave again. “I thought you said Angela needs you.”
Yvonne stopped from her spot but didn’t turn around this time. “The funeral is this weekend. I think we’re almost done now. Sophia could handle the rest with her. I just got kicked off the team, you expect me to apologize and beg you so I could stick around?”
Wallace was trying hard to stay sane, but it was so hard. She was driving him crazier and crazier by the minute. He’d always thought she was the supportive type, not flaky at all, and would never make a big fuss over small matters. That was one of the reasons he’d agreed to let her stick around in the first place and even admired her for her considerate nature. Yet now? What she was doing now was going against all the things he’d seen since he’d met her, the gentle and somewhat bubbly side at the first meeting. The carefree nature and the less talk, more action principles were all gone. Or was his interpretation all wrong? Was that just an illusion he had created for her and expected it to stick? Despite the tantrum she was throwing at the moment, he wanted more than anything for her to stay. It wasn’t to help Angela and the others either.
When Wallace didn’t say anything else–since his mind was exploding with questions, Yvonne continued on her way. And when he snapped out of his thoughts, he chased after her again, grabbing onto her from behind, wondering if he was mad. They were just posing as a couple. Yet now? That had reminded him that Yvonne had gone back on her words. She had claimed of not wanting Cyndi to feel bad about the whole incident, but she was creating even more guilt for Cyndi just now?
“Let go!” Yvonne yelled out then, struggling with him.
He did–and even took a step back to show that he meant no harm. He didn’t know why but when he saw the look she gave him, his heart had softened to the point that he felt it was impossible. She wasn’t crying, but just displayed this hurt look that he couldn’t help it. He just had to obey.
“Go back inside, okay?” She said at last after looking at him for a while. “They’re waiting for you. Wouldn’t want them to go search for their team leader, right?”
“At least let me drive you home,” Wallace insisted.
Yvonne sighed out heavily before shaking her head. “Trust me when I said I can get home alone.”
“We’re going around in circles. Just go inside.”
“What’s going on here?” Nic’s voice asked from behind them.
Wallace turned to see Josh and Cyndi behind Nic. Yvonne didn’t bother to turn. She used that opportunity to walk away. And Wallace had heard her footsteps so he didn’t bother clarifying the situation with the others but turned around to chase after Yvonne.
“Come on,” Wallace urged, feeling frustrated that she was this stubborn. “Let me drive you home.”
Yvonne didn’t bother to reply.
It was Angela’s voice this time. And Yvonne finally turned. She looked past Wallace as if he was invisible and saw that both Angela and Ehlo were there. She wasn’t surprise since wherever Angela was, Ehlo wasn’t far behind, always there to protect her, especially these past few days.
“What’s going on here?” Ehlo asked, looking at Wallace and waiting for his explanation.
“Nothing,” Yvonne replied before Wallace could.
“You’re walking around in your slippers, you know.”
Angela turned to Wallace then. “What in the world is going on here? I thought you said you’re too tired to fight.”
“I don’t want to fight,” Wallace said, looking at Yvonne instead of Angela. Though he was answering Angela, he meant the words for Yvonne.
Ehlo had on his sly smile then. “If I tell you those slippers were actually meant for you-know-who, would you swap them with your own shoes instead of walking around in that silly thing?”
That got Yvonne. She took one look at the slippers and kicked them off without caring to acknowledge the fact that she was standing on the rough stone path. Alarmed, Wallace rushed forward and attempted to reach for Yvonne’s hands. But she was faster, taking two quick steps back and avoiding his contact altogether.
“You can’t make me wear ‘em,” She said.
“Huang Yu Rong!” Wallace yelled out at that time and turned to Ehlo, wanting to strangle Ehlo more than anything at that point.
Ehlo didn’t seem anxious at all. “Hey, you didn’t want her to wear those slippers. I got her to take them off, mission accomplished.”
Angela gave Ehlo a sharp glare. “You’re not helping.”
Ehlo smiled, not offended at all. “You don’t know the half of it.”
Wallace didn’t care to argue with Ehlo anymore. He turned to Yvonne and advanced toward her again.
“What are you doing?” She yelled out in alarmed as he wrapped his arms around her and carried her back into the house. Though she was protesting, she still had her hands secured on his shoulders, not wanting to fall down.
“Stop being so stubborn,” Wallace said, his voice stern.
Ehlo turned to Angela after the other two were gone. “Told you I was helping.”
Angela just sighed out, walking over to the abandoned slippers and picking them up.
“You guys can go now,” Ehlo said, looking at Nic.
Nic just nodded and turned to Josh and Cyndi who were watching the whole scene unfold nearby.
“I’ll fill you in later,” Ehlo promised as Nic took out his keys.
“What in the world just happened?” Angela asked as they stepped back into the house.
“How should I know?” Ehlo returned, opening the front door.
They found Wallace and Yvonne in the living room with Wallace trying to clean Yvonne’s feet with a wet paper towel while chiding her. Yvonne was sitting on the sofa while Wallace was kneeling beside her.
“Great,” Ehlo muttered as he closed the door behind him–after letting Angela entered first. “I’ve seen it all. Anyone care to explain to me what in the world just happened?”
“It’s a long story,” Wallace muttered, feeling his energy draining even more.
“Care to elaborate, Miss Yao?”
“I told you it was nothing,” Yvonne said, repeating her answer from earlier.
“I think you’re taking the whole jealousy thing a tad too far here. After all, the majority of your fight probably was missed by us, so what was the point? Like Cyndi would be affected by it. And your purpose in the first place was to put up a show for Cyndi, right?”
Yvonne had on her surprised expression then. But she soon recovered and turned to Wallace. “You told him?”
“No,” Wallace replied, getting up from his place. He continued to the kitchen to toss out the paper towel and wash his hands.
Ehlo laughed. “Just because Cyndi couldn’t see it doesn’t mean we can’t.”
Yvonne looked at Angela. “You know too?”
Angela nodded, looking at Ehlo.
Ehlo shrugged and turned to face Yvonne again. “If you’re really his girlfriend, he would take the initiative to tell us, not let you break it to us first. And he reacted too late when you said you were his girlfriend that day. Come on now, we live with him, you know. I mean Jacky and I would know. Nic’s the only one who’s still clueless because he doesn’t know Wallace like we would.”
“I’m not jealous,” Yvonne finally decided to answer Ehlo’s question from earlier. “I just feel really frustrated that…”
“Her brother just died, give her a break.”
Yvonne let out a sigh. “Forget it, you’ll find out later anyway.”
Yvonne got up again and headed toward the door. She made sure to put on her own shoes this time. Angela had placed the slippers she picked up outside by the door. Yvonne had the urge to kick at it on her way out but she resisted it.
“I’m taking you home,” Wallace reminded her.
“I don’t care,” Yvonne said. “I’m going to call JT to pick me up.”
“Yvonne…” His voice sounded almost pleading.
“If you don’t trust me, then I don’t trust you either.”
“I told you I’m too tired for these games right now.” His voice had taken on a gentler tone than when they were outside.
“It doesn’t matter.” Her voice didn’t waver at all nor did she turn around to acknowledge him. “Because I’m not playing any games right now.”
Those were her last words as she opened the door and stepped outside.
“And we’re back where we started,” Ehlo narrated dramatically.
But Wallace didn’t chase after her this time. He felt a stab somewhere inside him. It wasn’t because of what Ehlo said either, but what Yvonne had said. If you don’t trust me, then I don’t trust you either.
On the day of the funeral, every one of their friends showed up, including Ming Dao who came all the way from Kenting. And even the three angels and their significant others who barely knew Tang Feng during their past few gatherings as a large group from the mid-autumn festival celebrations. As agreed upon, they only let family and friends came since they did not want any more gossips or other types of ruptures during the respectable ceremony.
Contrary to her unreasonable behavior the other day, Yvonne showed up to help them in silence and also managed to stay respectable to even Cyndi. Wallace was a bit taken aback by her appearance but decided not to inquire further because he seriously didn’t want to make a scene that day, especially when the guests were all there. If he messed up, no one would forgive him–and it would be too ironic that he had tried to cover every detail with all the arrangements these past days.
After the funeral and the cleanup, they left and let Josh stay to comfort Cyndi. They weren’t so worried about Qiao Qiao anymore because of her parents being present. Yet Jacky made sure someone was guiding Qiao Qiao in and tending to her before leaving the Tseng residence. He returned home to find Yvonne waiting for him at the front door. He took a look past the door and guessed to himself that the others probably hadn’t arrived home yet. Ehlo and Angela had taken Sophia home earlier since he wanted to focus all his attention on Qiao Qiao. But then some parts of his brain came into function again because he remembered Wallace was the one driving with Yvonne. Why was she standing out here now? Then he also realized that her attire was a pale yellow shade, not the formal black like earlier for the funeral.
“Hi,” Yvonne said with a polite smile on her face.
“Hey,” Jacky greeted also, waving toward the door. “Wallace’s not back yet?”
Yvonne shook her head. “I don’t know. He dropped me off at my place earlier. I had to go take care of some things for my boss. Now that I’m done, I want to come and check on Wallace to see if he’s all right.”
Jacky nodded, glad Yvonne had filled in all the gaps for him–though he knew it wasn’t any of his business. And he was even more glad when Yvonne stepped aside after her explanation, allowing him to unlock the door without needing him to ask.
“I guess he’s not home yet,” Jacky muttered–more to himself than Yvonne.
Jacky turned on the lights before pushing the door completely open and invited Yvonne in. She smiled again and entered the house, removing her high heels before stepping into the living room.
“It’s okay,” Jacky said a second too late. “We haven’t vacuumed lately. We’ve been busy with…”
Yvonne nodded in understanding without Jacky needing to finish the sentence. But she didn’t slip back into her high heels. She just did a quick scan of the room as Jacky locked the door again. Then they were able to hear some sounds coming from down the hall. They both turned in that direction at the same time before exchanging a look.
“I think Wallace’s home,” Jacky said, realizing the sounds were coming from Wallace’s room. “He probably turned the sound on too loud.”
Yvonne hesitated before speaking up, gesturing toward the hall. “Do you mind if I…?”
Jacky shook his head. “Go ahead.”
Jacky watched as Yvonne made her way down the hall and toward Wallace’s room before entering his own and shutting the door. As for Yvonne, she stepped in front of the door to wait for Wallace’s acknowledgment. He was watching something on his computer so she didn’t want to disrupt his concentration. He was actually sitting on his bed in the same attire as earlier, but the only difference was he’d kicked off his shoes already. Just when his face brightened up and his laughter filled the room, Yvonne began to focus closer to the clip being played. She could see Wallace and Tang Feng onscreen, standing not too far from one another in a spacious room.
“Clever,” Tang Feng said, smiling. “Like I will go back on my word.”
“You never know in this day and age,” Wallace said.
“Monday at 10. If you’re not on time, I’m out.”
“We’ll be there.”
“Smile for the last shot,” Ehlo’s voice said in the background yet sounded so much closer than the other two’s voices.
“Charmed,” Tang Feng said sarcastically before turning to leave.
The screen paused then and that was when Yvonne turned to see Wallace holding a remote device, but he was staring straight at her. She was so focused on the action onscreen that she’d forgotten to check on him.
“Hey,” Wallace said, still waiting for whatever she was going to say to him. He knew she always had a purpose. He gestured casually toward her. “What brought you here?”
Yvonne didn’t answer his question. Instead, she entered the room and settled down on the bed next to him, still keeping some distance between them. It was then that she was sure that his meltdown finally occurred. He’d been holding it all up and doing most of the funeral arrangements for the sake of everyone. Now, he felt like he’d done his duty and could finally ease off.
“I just came to check on you,” Yvonne confessed, knowing she must come clean with her motive.
Wallace smiled then, surprising her. “Show’s over, Miss Yao. No need to pretend we’re attached anymore.”
Yvonne shook her head, her expression serious. “I’m here as your friend.”
Wallace still had on his teasing smile. “I almost half wished that you’re still my girlfriend.”
Yvonne didn’t smile or try to put up a front for Josh and Cyndi to see like earlier. She felt something caught in her throat because Wallace was still trying to hold up a front. Though she hadn’t known him for long, since the day she learned what had happened to his friend and had tagged along to help with the funeral arrangements, she had understood him more. Before she could speak up to tell him it was all right to let his guards down in front of her since no one was around anyway and it was natural to just cry or let his anger be known, he suddenly moved toward her. She shifted, feeling nervous about his abrupt movement. Yet he just placed his head on her shoulder and faced the screen again. She let him stay there, trying best not to move, knowing he needed some sort of support at this point. And it seemed like he had trusted her. In fact, he actually relaxed and unfroze the scene on the screen to allow Tang Feng to move toward the door of the conference room.
The next segment they saw together was the one at the mid-autumn festival when they discovered Qiao Qiao and Tang Feng had gotten together without telling them. Apparently, Ehlo had been filming without telling them until later. After that, the clips just continued in one continuous loop. Somehow, it returned to the scene Yvonne saw when she first came in. Wallace had fallen asleep somewhere along the way yet she didn’t wake him up or moved. She continued to watch, wanting to enter their world even more. In fact, she watched even more carefully as the segments repeated, studying all their reactions as they interacted with one another, especially Tang Feng. It wasn’t until Ehlo returned that Yvonne left.
© Sunday, November 4th, 2012
Posted: Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013