Ehlo knew something was up as soon as Angela dragged him out of the house that day. He honestly didn’t want to go anywhere that day. She knew why. It was one of those rare times he was able to take off. Yes, he was his own boss and his schedule was much more flexible compared to the majority of the people in their group. Yet he hadn’t taken off since Valentine’s Day. Well, that was the weekend, but it was one of those times that he’d taken off to celebrate. Or had some sort of real leisure activity. He was planning on something big hence the busy schedule. So today was his break.
“Pulling something again, aren’t we?” Ehlo asked as they got into the car and she volunteered to drive.
“What?” Angela asked innocently.
Her smile was also equally innocent. But he wasn’t buying it. Not today. Especially after what happened several years ago.
That was all he mustered after they were on the road. It took them an hour because of traffic. He didn’t know why she took that path because he knew it was a high chance they were going to East Shore Café. But he didn’t protest. He just waited until he could expose her. Actually, them.
Contrary to Ehlo’s belief, Angela wasn’t going to East Shore Café. She sped up by the time they were out of traffic and drove right past it. He held on to some hope that she was just looking for a parking spot off the street. However, she didn’t slow down as they passed a parking structure.
“Where are we going?” Ehlo asked, his mind buzzing of possible places.
“You’ll see when we get there,” Angela replied.
Ehlo watched her cheery expression and sat back several minutes later. They passed a park about fifteen minutes later. Then the zoo. And the movie theater. He was getting anxious. If those top locations weren’t their destination, then where were they going? When he was about to give up, he realized he’d missed the most obvious place.
“We’re going to Jacky’s, right?”
Angela smiled. “What made you come to that conclusion?”
“You guys pulled this trick on me before, okay?” Ehlo jumped right in with his rationalization. “I’m not falling for it again.”
“You’re trying to throw me off track right now. I just know it. The guys put you up to it, right?”
Angela wrinkled her face and turned to him. They were at a red light so he wasn’t worried they would crash.
“You think I could listen to them so easily?” Angela asked before turning to look ahead again.
Ehlo shrugged. “You never know.”
Angela focused on driving again and ignored him the rest of the way. It wasn’t until around twenty more minutes that they stopped. This time, she parked. So he knew they arrived at their destination. He hopped out of the car and did a quick scan before turning to her again.
“This is the part where everyone jumps out and scares me half to death, right?” Ehlo asked.
Angela gave him a look again. The one that said he was the weird one and not her. “You’re silly.”
“Hey,” Ehlo said and followed her toward the entrance.
“Just in time,” Joanne’s voice said then and she emerged with Andy.
It was indeed a déjà vu feeling for him since it was exactly how the scene played out. Well, except for the location.
“I knew it!” Ehlo said. “Let’s get it over with, ‘April’s Fool’, right? Haha, you got me.”
Joanne wrinkled her face then. “What are you talking about?”
“We all know you pulled this one on me several years ago on my birthday. So you kids can pack up and go home now.”
Yes, it was April 1st and yes, it was both Ehlo’s birthday and the day of pranks. And yes, they pulled this one on him six years ago. So of course, he had every right to tell them off. However, it seemed like his friends were a bunch of thick-skinned individuals that did not know when to quit. Instead, Achel walked up to them at that time with drinks for everyone—and not ice cream cones like last time.
“Happy birthday, Ehlo ge,” Achel said then, handing him a drink.
Ehlo took the drink from her and eyed her suspiciously. He knew she was the weakest link of the group. So it was up to her to break.
“’Fess up, kid, show’s over,” Ehlo said.
Achel looked confused. “What?”
“Are they organizing a surprise party at Jacky’s? That’s why we’re all here as a distraction? Don’t tell me we have to spend all day here like last time.”
Achel wrinkled her face even more. “What are you talking about?”
Ehlo threw his hands up then. “Oh, come on! You guys pulled this one on me years ago. Don’t you remember?”
“You’re paranoid,” Joanne jumped in then, rescuing Achel from Ehlo’s interrogation.
“Hey, why aren’t you guys going in?” Bryant asked then, appearing in front of them. “If we don’t get inside before the lunch crowd, we could be squashed.”
Ehlo saw Bryant holding two ice cream cones at that time. Okay, so they changed tactics a little, Ehlo thought. As he was thinking, Bryant handed one of the ice cream cones to Joanne.
“Didn’t you say you had a shoot today and couldn’t be back in time this weekend to celebrate?” Ehlo asked, eyeing Bryant cautiously.
Yes, they all agreed to celebrate this upcoming weekend because Ehlo’s birthday was right on Wednesday this year and he wanted to have the day to himself. Or at least, that was the plan. Or so he thought. So much for it.
Bryant shrugged. “So my plans changed.”
“Or they put you up to it.”
Bryant wrinkled his face. “What?”
Ehlo ignored their little innocent act and headed toward the ticket booth. If his day was going to be wasted anyway, he might as well hop on some rides. Yet Angela called him back.
“What?” Ehlo asked, turning to her.
His question seemed unnecessary since his words coincided with her action. He already saw the ticket in her hand.
“I knew you guys planned this ahead of time,” Ehlo said, taking the ticket from her.
Angela smiled. “It’s going to be a busy day, of course we have to buy tickets ahead of time.”
“Where are we going first then?” Ehlo asked after they passed the checkpoint already.
“Turn right,” Joanne instructed as they crossed a bridge.
“Why?” Ehlo asked, stopping in his tracks.
Joanne had on a secretive smile. “You’ll see.”
Like he didn’t know she was stalling. He didn’t want to continue with the questions, considering how all of them already prepared to dodge. He turned right as instructed and remembered a little too late that there was a small restaurant around the corner. And as soon as he stepped past the entrance, an explosion of “surprise” shocked him into speechlessness.
“How do you like this one, Huang?” Wallace asked, stepping forward after they already finished singing the song for him.
Everyone was there. Everyone was indeed there. Even the ones who said they were still swamped with so much work that they might not be around until June. All of their friends over the years. That meant the people who resided in town still. There were also the three angels and Sam. Matthew and his wife were also present. Not to mention Penny and Ambrose—who had been out of the loops since the New Years. There were also their new friends who they knew and conspired with in the recent months. Hell, even James, Sonia’s husband, came. And Tony. Mr. Sun Xie Zhi, who said he had to go overseas the night before and couldn’t make it to the celebration for this weekend at all. Ehlo was still unable to speak. Although he had anticipated tricks since he and Angela left their house, he was still caught off guard. Because this was all a stalling scheme. Because he thought this was all an act. The real surprise was supposed to be at Jacky’s place. Their old place. For old time’s sake. He also expected it to be quite small. Just a few friends hanging around and pulling some side trick to tease him. Just for old time’s sake.
“You guys are messed up, you know that, right?” Ehlo finally said, taking the knife from Wallace at long last.
“Glad you liked it, Huang,” Wallace joked as Ehlo proceeded to cut the cake.
“I’ll pull something on your birthday, Huo,” Ehlo promised as some of the people who had come in with Ehlo stepped forward to help him passed the cakes around to different parties.
“Sure, Huang,” Wallace returned. “If you can.”
“And you call yourself my best friend?” Ehlo asked, tuning to Jacky.
“You’re welcome,” Jacky said, his smile mischievous.
They hadn’t seen that smile on Jacky for a while now, so the others were a bit taken aback. Yet Ehlo moved on to chide the next party so they decided to drop it for now. It was after all Ehlo’s birthday. The rest could wait. Because tomorrow will be another day. Because time will heal all wounds.
© Thursday, July 9th, 2020
Posted: Monday, September 21st, 2020