Chapter 11 – Für Elise

Within the crowded room, Jacky felt a wave of familiarity washed over him. It was more than ten years ago, but also at a grand event. He was with Sonia and Sam. Ehlo and Johnny were also there. Of course, that was one of the grand events they attended after meeting Joanne. It had been a long time since Jacky attended such an event. Considering how he had to dodge rumors like insane after haven’t been in the limelight for ages already. What made this time different was he was there for work—and he was way out of town, so hopefully he didn’t run into anyone who noticed him. Or possibly recognized him. Thanks to the tabloids, moving around town was getting harder. This was the event he mentioned to Ehlo when he left two weeks ago. What was the hurry if the event was two weeks later? The event got moved after he arrived. He had told Producer Lin he would use that time as his vacation, considering how he still had lots of hours. Producer Lin had agreed and told Jacky to log everything. So, he ended up exploring the local areas and getting some sunshine. Now, he was finally at the event he was supposed to cover.

After a round of exploration and getting all the information he needed, he walked past a spacious room. He was surprised it was empty. He scanned around for some kind of “forbidden” sign before entering. Considering how the door was opened, he entered after making sure it was all right to do so. The reason why he wanted to enter was because of the grand piano to one corner of the room. He hadn’t played for the longest time now. He wondered if he still remembered. Another quick glance at the door before he approached the piano. It was an interesting feeling as soon as his fingers glided across the keys. In fact, it was exhilarating. He was so focused that he hadn’t realized that some people had stopped at the door to listen. One of those people was a girl in a light-yellow dress. She was leaning against the door to listen. It was like she was enchanted by his music. If he only knew. And he soon found out. Because after he stopped playing, a round of applause was heard from the door. Alarmed, Jacky turned around and saw a crowd forming. He smiled at them and made a slight bow—as he saw that they weren’t mad that he had intruded into this room. The crowd soon dissipated as they saw that he had closed the case again. Only the girl in the light-yellow dress remained. In fact, she approached him as he got up from his place.

“Did you know that Beethoven was almost deaf when he wrote Für Elise?”

Jacky smiled before responding. “His hearing wasn’t that bad until 1814.”

The girl looked impressed with Jacky’s trivial fact. She smiled also. “Fair enough.”

Jacky extended his hand at that time. “I’m Jacky.”

The girl took his hand, and they did a brief, polite shake before she answered. “Victoria.”

“Nice to meet you.”

Victoria nodded. “Same.”

Jacky looked past the door and noticed that the noise level had gone down also. He checked his watch real quick before looking at Victoria again. “Looks like they’re kicking us out.”

Victoria had on her amused smile. “I don’t think so.”

Jacky smiled, knowing she wasn’t falling for it. “I’m leaving anyway. My assignment is done here.”

“Oh?”

“I’m here for work, not leisure,” Jacky clarified.

He saw Victoria’s smile fading. It was like she sympathized with him. “That’s sad.”

Jacky still had on his smile. “I know. But we all have bills to pay, right?”

“That’s what my sister always says,” Victoria said, shaking her head. “I guess I can’t escape that line.”

Jacky shrugged and gestured to the door. “It was nice meeting you. Tell your sister I said hi.”

Victoria nodded.

Jacky smiled at her one last time before taking his leave. She was an interesting person, but he knew he had to head out tomorrow to be home in time for Ehlo and Wallace’s grand gathering. It wasn’t that grand. It was just a small get together because Ehlo was bored. Wallace had told him that in their group text. That had also caused a side fight between Ehlo and Wallace. Chris was also in the group text and had mentioned he was coming back with his brother, because Mark wanted to see Jan. Jacky didn’t say it in the group text, mostly trying to avoid Ehlo’s wrath, but he wanted to see Jan too. He hadn’t seen her since their last fallout. He hated to admit it, but he missed her more than he realized. It was probably a habit of having someone to chat with at times. At least, it was without Ehlo’s constant aggressiveness. He knew Ehlo meant well, but Ehlo could be so overbearing at times that it was getting kind of frustrating. And telling Ehlo to back off was equally hurtful either way.

*****

“I told you we should have come earlier,” Ehlo chided as he placed a hand on his forehead to shield his eyes from the sun.

Wallace was looking out for Jacky’s bus too, but he had to turn to give Ehlo a stare down. “Really?”

“What?” Ehlo returned, his annoyance reflecting on his face and in his voice.

“Who was the ‘Mr. I-Want-To-Sleep-For-Two-More-Hours’?” Wallace reminded Ehlo, his stare getting sharper.

“Who?” Ehlo asked back, his expression a blank one now. Like he was clueless. Like that wasn’t him.

“You should go into acting,” Wallace said before turning to face front again.

Ehlo shrugged, his cunning smile back on—even if Wallace couldn’t see it. He was feeling proud. “Whatever, man.”

And Ehlo taking a step back from Wallace was a mistake. Because he bumped into someone.

“Hey!” A voice yelled out. “Seriously?”

“Sorry, okay?” Ehlo said as he was turning to face the other person. Then his smile turned off. “Jan?”

Jan’s hostile expression turned off then. It was like she recognized him. Almost. She was pointing at him with one finger. Like she was trying to remember his name. And then gave up. “You’re Jacky’s friend.”

Ehlo nodded. “What are you doing here?”

“I didn’t know you own the bus station,” Jan returned.

Ehlo couldn’t help but smile—despite the situation. Yes, he admitted that his voice was beyond hostile. But that was a pretty good comeback. It sounded normal, but it was something he would have said. And it was also consistent with her personality since their run in that one time. Then he remembered something. “Oh, don’t tell me Jacky called you to pick him up because we’re late.”

Jan wrinkled her face in confusion. “What?”

“We’re picking Jacky up. He was out of town for an assignment.”

“Oh,” Jan said, finally understanding.

“So you’re here to pick him up or no?”

Jan shook her hand. “No, I’m here for Mark and his brother, Chris. I think he mentioned Chris knows you guys.”

“Which Chris?” Ehlo asked, giving up on the puzzle already. Or more like he wasn’t an idiot to not clarify the matter before getting mad. Okay, he was totally thinking about that misunderstanding between Jacky and Jan, which caused her to be stranded that one time.

“Lee.”

Understanding finally registered for Ehlo. Then he had on his outraged expression again. “He’s already moving in on you?”

Jan wrinkled her face in confusion again. “What?”

“Why are you always talking behind my back?” Chris’ voice reached their ears at that time.

Ehlo turned at that time to see both Jacky and Chris were walking toward them at the moment. Jacky was actually still a little farther from them. He was walking with Wallace who had broken away from Ehlo to find the correct bus and led Jacky back to the spot. Chris was now standing in front of them with his brother, Mark. His smile was as bright as always, maybe brighter.

“It’s not like you have anything nice to talk about,” Ehlo returned, not missing a beat.

“You guys came together?” Chris asked, looking from Ehlo to Jan.

“No,” Ehlo and Jan said at the same time. Then they turned to each other. “I’m the one who should be clarifying.”

“So, this is totally normal,” Wallace commented as he and Jacky joined them at that time and had heard the exchanges. “Not creepy at all.”

“There’s two of them now,” Chris muttered.

“I don’t know why you’re surprised, you’re the one who said they’re alike.”

“I was just trying to shut him up,” Chris said, sounding defensive.

Wallace stepped forward then. “Hi, I’m Wallace. We met once already, and you know Jacky and Ehlo.”

Jan nodded and took Wallace’s hand. They did a quick shake, and she gave him a polite smile before turning to Mark.

“Ready to go, Little Bro?” Jan asked, patting Mark’s shoulder then.

“Whoa, you’re claiming my brother?” Chris jumped in then.

Jan turned to Chris at that time. “It doesn’t look like you’re going to do that anytime soon.”

“Ouch,” Ehlo said then. “Shots fired.” Ehlo reached over to clap on Chris’ shoulder. “Good luck with her, man.”

After saying that, Ehlo turned to Jacky and Wallace. “Let’s get out of here. I need an iced latte.”

“Hey, you want to go grab something to eat?” Jan asked Mark then. “I haven’t eaten anything yet.”

“Vicki’s home?” Mark asked, his expression worried.

Jan nodded. “But that’s not the point. I want to treat you two. I need some fresh air anyway. How about East Shore Café?”

“How about East Shore Café?” Ehlo said to Jacky and Wallace around the same time Jan said that exact phrase. That was also when Ehlo overheard it and turned to Jan. “Really? Just to stalk us now?”

Jan didn’t hear Ehlo since the two group were kind of far apart and then there was also the crowd. However, Ehlo just happen to have sharper ears than normal people. That was why it was hard for Chris and the others to mumble about him during gatherings. So, it wasn’t surprising that Jan had on her confused look again.

“What are you talking about?” Jan asked, looking at Ehlo to Jacky and Wallace and then back.

“We’re going to East Shore Café too,” Ehlo said.

“I didn’t know you own the café as well,” Jan returned, finally understanding what the problem was.

“We don’t have to go to East Shore Café,” Mark said. “Wherever that is. We can go to some other place. I don’t want to see his face anyway. In fact, I don’t want to see anyone’s faces who had previously left you at the airport.”

“Hey!” Ehlo said, taking a step forward—to which Wallace had held him back. “I didn’t leave her at the airport, okay? For the last time, kid, it was Jacky.” He even pointed toward Jacky for emphasis. “Completely two different individuals, okay?”

Jacky had been standing silently witnessing the conversation and side banters happening in front of him. Yet he wasn’t able to speak up. There was no mistake that his eyes were on Jan the whole time. He wanted to step forward to say something to her. But somehow, he just couldn’t. He was almost glad that Ehlo threw him under the bus. Because that had brought everyone’s attention on him, even Jan. She seemed to have ignored him since she saw him. Or did she even see him in the first place?

“I didn’t mean to,” Jacky said, looking at Jan and finally stepping forward to close their distance. Without realizing it, he took her hands into his. “I’m sorry. It was a misunderstanding. I thought that…”

Jan seemed frozen for a minute or so. She finally yanked her hand away from him and turned away. “It’s not your fault.” Then she turned to look at Mark. “You coming or not?”

They all could see that Jan’s attitude had changed to another type of hostility. For some reason, Mark wasn’t exuding the confidence that he used to forge war with Ehlo earlier. He turned to look at his brother before being pushed slightly forward, urging him to catch up to Jan.

“See you guys later?” Chris said as he turned back to acknowledge the other three one last time.

For some reason, Ehlo wasn’t fighting either. He just nodded in silent as he watched Jan walked far ahead already. He finally turned to Wallace with a troubled look before acknowledging Jacky’s existence again. “You have a pattern, man.”

“What?” Jacky asked, trying to regain himself as he turned to Ehlo.

“You jump in too fast,” Ehlo said, shaking his head. “Come on, let’s get out of here.”

“Are we still going to East Shore Café?” Wallace asked as he walked between the other two.

“You bet I am.”

“Now you’re spying on them?”

Ehlo shrugged but didn’t say anything.

*****

They didn’t make it to East Shore Café until another thirty minutes. Both groups. Because they were stuck in the same traffic on the way back. It was the end of the weekends. Out of towners were making their way back home. They completely forgot. That also allowed Chris to text the other guys while Jan and Mark caught up on some stuff. Chris was only half tuning in. He blamed it on traffic. As for the other three, Wallace was the one driving so Ehlo was the one who read the texts aloud to him to see if he wanted to respond. Jacky was still lost in thoughts and he was in the backseat, so he didn’t bother to check messages. Having Ehlo reading it to him was enough already.

Anyway, when they finally arrived, they stayed split up. However, their tables were somewhat close to each other. Jan volunteered to go inside to order since she had asked them while she parked. Considering how Chris was already familiar with the place’s menu, he didn’t need to go inside. Mark wanted Jan to choose for him to see what she would come up with. As for the other three guys, Ehlo was the one who volunteered himself to go inside while the other two were outside.

“Hey, what in the world was that?” Chris asked as soon as the other two were gone already. “Don’t tell me you move in on her already.”

Wallace was playing on his phone yet had turned to check when he heard the question. Chris had stepped over to their table to talk temporarily as Jan wasn’t around. His comments were obviously for Jacky.

“I…” Jacky managed. He didn’t know why he was struggling. He didn’t have any problem speaking before. Or talking. Or using his words. Or anything for that matter. Or even thought of fearing Chris’ wraths.

“Don’t tell me Ehlo’s right,” Wallace said, putting his phone down then. He made sure to turn around and check before turning back to them. He had to make sure, even if Ehlo and Jan barely left like possibly two minutes ago. “You have it bad for her.”

Mark wasn’t interested in whatever Chris had to say to the other two when Chris muttered something about being right back. However, he had gotten up from his seat upon realizing they were talking about Jan. It wasn’t crowded today, and most people were inside to enjoy the AC, so it was easy to overhear a conversation.

“You like Jan jie?” Mark asked, standing next to his brother at that point. “And you left her at the airport?”

Jacky looked up at Mark then. He was still sitting down and still didn’t know what to say regarding to Chris and Wallace’s words. Now, there was someone else coming at him. How could he respond? “I’m sorry, okay? I didn’t do it on purpose.” He licked his lips once before continuing. “It’s not like that. I mean, I just feel bad for her and want to be her friend.”

“She doesn’t need your pity,” Ehlo’s words reached their ears then.

That was when Chris and Mark jumped at the same time. Jacky’s heart wanted to jump to out too—although he was still able to sit at that point. Wallace was the only calm one. Yet all four of them turned to look at Ehlo at the same time. No Jan. Jacky exhaled after realizing that.

“It’s a long line in there,” Ehlo said. “She said she could stay, and I could come back here and wait. She doesn’t mind ordering for us. I gave her the money already since I had some change from my wallet.”

“Oh,” Wallace said.

Ehlo sat back down in his seat between Wallace and Jacky before turning to his right—where Jacky was sitting. “I’m serious, man. You’re not going to turn her into Sophia.”

“What?” Mark asked, completely confused because of the lack of information.

Only Jacky and Wallace understood Ehlo’s words in totality. Chris—although he knew more about Sophia through their recounts—still had no idea what Ehlo meant. Not completely. He barely guessed.

“I’m not,” Jacky said, looking at Ehlo with his serious expression.

“Then why did you say what you just said? The last time you felt bad for someone, you took her home in the middle of the night, then we fell in love with her. And then you know what happened? She left because you were only pitying her. Now?” Ehlo snapped his fingers for emphasis. “Rinse and repeat.”

“Is that why you’re hating her on purpose?” Wallace asked then, looking at Ehlo at that point.

Ehlo turned to Wallace with an annoyed expression. “That’s not the point, okay? Focus, Huo.” Then he turned to Jacky again. “I mean it this time, man. I know I ruined yours and Sonia’s relationship in the past, but let me tell you something, you’re not going to ruin some other girl’s life if you’re not sure about her. Stop messing around. We’re not getting any younger.”

Jacky and Wallace actually had on their impressed expression. In fact, Chris and Mark weren’t far behind. That was why the atmosphere got quiet for a bit. They were obviously taken aback by Ehlo’s sudden wise words.

“I know I messed up in the past,” Jacky said. “I don’t know if there’s anything in the future with me and Jan, but I know I want to be friends with her.”

“Only friends?” Chris jumped in, pointing at Jacky. “If you’re only friends with her, I’m jumping in.”

Ehlo had on his suspicious expression at that point. He turned to Chris. “I knew you were just trolling me when you said you’re going to get together with her. But for real, you can’t either if you’re thinking about executing that plan. I know I’ve gone overboard with my stupid theories about her and Jun. But if you mess with her, you’re not any better than those assholes out there.”

“Who said I’m not serious about her?” Chris asked, his charming smile making its appearance.

Ehlo pointed at Chris. “You know how many flings you had in the past?”

Chris wrinkled his face in confusion. “What?”

“Margaret told me.”

Chris wrinkled his face even more. “Seriously, you’ve been gossiping with Margaret? What else did she say?”

Ehlo pointed at Chris again, his expression grimmer than before. “Don’t change the subject on me.”

“Coming from you?” Chris and Wallace said at the same time.

Ehlo sent Wallace a dirty look before turning to Chris again. “You’re unreliable regardless. You can’t take care of her.”

“What?” Chris asked, his face all wrinkled up still. “Come on, man.”

“I’m actually with him,” Mark jumped in then. He’d been quiet since the others were confusing because of their lack of explanation regarding some matters, especially about their mutual friends. He was only able to guess about some things. But now, he felt like he needed to speak up. “You’re unreliable. You can’t take care of Jan jie.”

Chris turned to his brother at that time, feeling betrayed. “Hey, you don’t know that. You haven’t been around. And I know you don’t know Margaret to know all her gossips.”

“He agrees with me and he doesn’t like me,” Ehlo said, pointing at Mark but still looking at Chris. “That means he knows you too well to even agree with me. It’s two against one now.”

“Hey, you can’t just decide this for either Jacky or me,” Chris said, feeling like he needed some kind of alliance in Jacky.

Ehlo turned to Jacky again at that time. “Talking about that, both of you, she’s off limits. I don’t care. I’m not going to clean up your messes again.”

“Coming from you?” Chris asked. Chris turned to Wallace then. “Why aren’t you backing me up?”

Wallace looked from one to the other, not threatened by either’s expressions. “Because Ehlo’s right. Both of you, stay away from her.”

Chris had on his shocked expression at this point. “Seriously?”

“I don’t know why I have to be the mature one in this situation,” Ehlo said, looking from Chris to Jacky and back. “But it has been five years now and she still can’t get over her dead fiancé, you know how bad she has it for him? If you somehow managed to get her attention, you better be serious about her. If not, she will never come back from this, do you get it?”

Wallace pointed at Ehlo then. “That’s why Ehlo’s right.”

“What he said,” Mark followed, gesturing toward Ehlo. “I was even closer than you all were when Albert died. I know exactly what happened. And you know what’s even worse?”

“What?” Chris asked, his face no longer reflecting of betrayal.

“Jan jie never got a chance to see Albert for the last time because that bitch…”

“Hey!” Chris jumped in. “Language.”

Mark looked annoyed because of his brother’s technicality but he decided to drop it. “Fine. Anyway, you know how you’re not supposed to crowd the area, especially for ICU situations? Most of us took shifts to stay by Albert or at least inside the hospital and call the rest if anything changes. Vicki was the one who took that last call and never told Jan jie. Jan jie was so tired that she fell asleep already, so she told Vicki to wake her up if someone called. By the time Jan jie got to the hospital, Albert was already dead, and you know what happened? Albert’s mom slapped Jan jie right in front of everyone present. She called Jan jie a two-faced person and said Jan jie was only good talking in front of Albert. No one really blamed her since she just lost her son. But you know how much that hurt? And you know the reason why Vicki didn’t wake Jan jie up?”

“I’m guessing it wasn’t due to fatigue,” Ehlo said, his sarcasm running high.

Mark nodded. “You’re right. It wasn’t because she cared for Jan jie’s well-being. Not totally. Her reasoning when Jan jie confronted her later? I know it was chaotic, everyone was mad. It wasn’t really Vicki’s fault if she had just gone with how she was worried for Jan jie’s health. And Jan jie would have forgiven her if it was the case, after everyone calmed down that was. She said and I quote, ‘He looks so ugly at that point anyway, wouldn’t it be better to preserve his past image in your heart?’”

Ehlo’s jaw dropped then. Chris had on his disbelief look. Both Jacky and Wallace had gone pale.

“What the hell?” Ehlo exclaimed like two minutes later of silence. “Tell me you’re pulling my leg. I’m serious. What kind of person says that?”

“I think that’s from some movie,” Chris said, finally regaining himself.

“Shut up, man,” Ehlo said. “I don’t have the patience for that now.”

“No,” Chris said, his expression serious. “I think it was one of those award-winning movies.”

“What kind of monster make those movies then?”

“I don’t remember, but the difference in that one was both of the main leads contracted some kind of virus or sickness or something.”

Ehlo still had on his annoyed expression. “Keep going, you’re doing great.”

“Anyway, the point? They decided that they shouldn’t see each other anymore because they would rather preserve their best image of one another in their hearts.”

“And people pass out random awards for that stuff?” Ehlo asked, his sarcasm still running high.

“Who’s passing out random awards?” Jan’s voice asked then.

All five guys turned to see Jan carrying a large tray. That was when Chris rushed to help her. Ehlo also got up to help as well—unlike his past hostile attitude toward her. Although none of the guys mentioned the topics previously discussed for the rest of the time, but Ehlo had given looks throughout to warn both Jacky and Chris not to make a move. And they had somehow ended up sitting at one table and not two like previously. Jan had sat down at a space between Chris and Mark. Mark had taken the seat on Wallace’s left while Chris sat at the seat to Jacky’s right. That meant Ehlo and Jan were facing each other.

“So, how long you planning to stay around?” Ehlo asked sometime later, looking at Mark. “If you want, we can take you around town, you know how unreliable your brother is. He might disappear after he found out about some mysterious site to explore.” Ehlo had mimicked Chris’ voice with the last few words hence it sounded unnatural for his style.

“Hey!” Chris objected.

Jan smiled at that reaction. “I could attest to that. In all the years Mark was over there, I don’t think I ever saw Chris visiting him.”

Ehlo pointed at Jan at that time while looking at Chris. “See? Witnesses after witnesses keep coming out to testify against you.”

“What am I testifying for, though?” Jan asked, looking from Ehlo to Chris for answers.

“You’re just a character witness. You don’t need to know the details. It would keep you at a neutral state.”

Jan had on her doubtful but shrugged. It was like she didn’t care one way or another. “Whatever, man.”

“Exactly like you,” Wallace whispered to Ehlo as the others changed the topic again.

“Whatev…” Ehlo began but stopped himself. Because he was about to say the exact same thing Jan just said.

“I have to stop at the music store later, so I’ll drop you off first?” Jan said at that time.

“Uh, I could use a trip to the music store,” Chris said. “I’m in no hurry.”

Jan was still looking at Mark.

Mark shrugged. “Fine with me.”

Wallace’s phone rang at that time. “Hello? Really? Okay, fine. We’ll be there in a bit.”

“What?” Ehlo asked as Wallace hung up.

“Ambrose wanted to talk some details about Ba Fang’s.”

“It’s Sunday.”

Wallace got up at that time. “Rice Bowl.”

“Forget him,” Ehlo said. “Tony’s my rice bowl.”

Wallace had to laugh at that. “Your latest nickname for him?”

“You’re going to tattle on me?”

Wallace shrugged. “Depends.” Then he turned to Jan and Mark. “Nice meeting up with you two today. But Ehlo and I have to leave now.”

“We’re dropping him off first, right?” Ehlo said as he was cleaning up his area.

“Um, I think I could get back on my own,” Jacky said. “It’s near here anyway. Just need to retrieve my luggage from Wallace’s car.”

“You got money to burn?”

“It’s nearby, I just said that.”

“I’ll take him home if you guys want,” Jan volunteered. “You guys go ahead with business.”

Ehlo turned to Jan. “How do you know it’s business?”

Jan smiled. “You mentioned Ambrose and Ba Fang, it wasn’t hard to figure out. I’m Ricky Chang’s daughter after all.”

Ehlo winked. “Not bad.”

“Let’s go, man,” Wallace urged then, having cleared his area already.

Ehlo didn’t argue. He waved to the others after having tossed out his trash already. Jacky, of course, was following them so he could retrieve his bag from Wallace’s car. The other three were cleaning up. They were going to meet up with Jacky afterward.

*****

They spent half an hour at the music store Jan wanted to visit before going to the gift shop next door. Chris wanted to explore. Jan didn’t mind since she said she needed to find a gift for someone. They sort of scattered after entering the stores, wandering around on their own. It wasn’t until Jan saw Jacky opening some music box that she stopped. Or it was more like she recognized the melody. She smiled and stepped toward his direction.

“Did you know that Beethoven was almost deaf when he wrote Für Elise?” Jan asked when she was closer.

Jacky turned around with his surprised expression on. He wasn’t surprised about the question or the fact. He knew that. Even before Victoria had asked him when she approached him last night. What was strange was having someone else asking the exact question at the moment. And what topped it even more was that person being Jan. Yet he couldn’t just stay silent. He smiled, feeling like he was taking the easy way out by providing the same answer as he had to Victoria. “His hearing wasn’t that bad until 1814.”

Jacky had expected Jan to respond the same way as Victoria. He was waiting, but it didn’t come. Or more like she didn’t respond yet. But her expression had reflected of the same impressed look as Victoria’s had last night.

“I knew that,” Jan finally said after a minute. “What four years of difference it would make. But, of course, we’ll never really know, huh?” She turned to check on another music box after Jacky had shut the one in his hand. “Don’t you think it was such a shame that it wasn’t published forty years after he passed away? I meant; he didn’t get to see people’s reaction after listening to his masterpiece.”

Jacky shrugged. “I think the most important part was that he had enjoyed composing it because he loved music, not because he wanted the fame.”

Jan wrinkled her face, as if thinking. Then she looked at him again with a smile. “Good point.”

“You two are looking at music boxes,” Chris said at that time.

They turned to see Chris and Mark walking over. Chris even took a random box from the counter and opened it up. It was a different design yet was also playing Für Elise. Mark’s face lit up at that time.

“Did you know that Beethoven was almost deaf when he wrote Für Elise?” Mark asked. That was mostly meant for his brother, but he had also looked at Jacky.

Jacky smiled. “I know. But his hearing wasn’t that bad until 1814.”

“That’s only four years of difference, you know,” Mark said, turning to Jacky. “Who knows how bad his hearing was. People kept saying it wasn’t that bad, but none of us would know.”

Jan was still having this secretive smile on, mostly staring at Mark. “Our little Mark is all grown up, getting all philosophical now.”

Mark’s face turned red then. “Fine.” He scanned the other two’s faces before speaking up again. “I stole that trivial from Jan jie. She told us ages back. I’m pretty sure that most of us stole her trivial to impress our other friends too. She’s the Beethoven expert here, not us.”

Jan shrugged. “Those are facts, it’s not my story to tell, you know. It doesn’t matter really. History is history, anyone can talk about it.”  

“I’ll paint you a Beethoven portrait if you want,” Chris said suddenly after carefully putting back the music box.

“Not interested,” Mark rejected his brother without a second thought.

“I wasn’t talking about you.”

“Why would I want some old dude’s portrait?” Jan asked.

“He was only fifty-six when he died,” Jacky said.

“You just made her point,” Mark said before turning to leave.

Jacky actually bought the music box in his hand before they left the store. In fact, the others waited for him outside. After that, they headed to Jacky’s place first. Then to Bryant’s. Chris had to give Jan directions. Chris had moved back in with Bryant and Derek briefly before he left to go back home, so most of his stuff was still there. It was more convenient for him there. Ehlo’s place was nice, but he knew Ehlo and Angela would like their freedom back. He already called ahead of time and asked both guys if his brother could stay temporarily.

© Friday, November 6th, 2020

Posted: Sunday, January 24th, 2021

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