Chapter 20 – While There’s Still Time

What happened to Jacky and Jan? And how did they disappear at the same time but also reappear at the same time?

It had to do with what happened four months ago. More accurately, it was the same day that Ehlo and Wallace’s hostility toward one another took up to another level. Yes, the day that everyone was looking for Jacky and then eventually leading to the contract.

As it were, Jan was helping Uncle Ben and Aunt June start the day off. She had some time before opening, so she went to buy a newspaper to read. Upon seeing the headline and reading the business section, she rushed back home. She and Jacky actually arrived at the same time.

“You heard what happened?” Jan asked, though she knew too well from his expression.

Jacky nodded. “You…”

“I’m going to talk to Victoria.”

Jacky recognized that determined look on Jan’s face, so he nodded. They got past the security easily since the guard recognized Jan and let them in. Jan unlocked the door and they found Victoria in the living room.

“I thought I told you to show up alone,” Victoria said as soon as she saw Jan with Jacky.

“I came on my own,” Jan clarified. “But we all know what this all about, Vicki.”

“This doesn’t concern you,” Victoria said, her anger apparent. “Unless you want to say that you have some close relationship with Tian Cheng.”

“You walked back on your promise, Vicki. That isn’t how Dad usually do business.”

“Oh? Now you’re teaching me how to operate our family business? Where were you all these years when I had to handle all the deals?”

Jacky stepped forward at that point, using himself as a shield in front of Jan. “All right, Victoria. You wanted to talk to me, I’m here. Just say what you want.”

Victoria glanced at Jan real quick before saying. “I want her out of here.”

Jacky turned to Jan. “Jan, perhaps, you should…”

Jan shook her head. “I’m not leaving you here with her.”

Victoria smiled, an amused one. “What do you think I’m going to do to him? Eat him?”

Jan stared right back at Victoria, not affected by her taunting. “You might.”

Jacky placed both hands on Jan’s shoulders then. “I’ll be fine. Go.”

Jan shook her head. “You don’t know her like I do.”

“Stop acting intimate in front of me,” Victoria said, her face becoming redder. “Either she leaves, or we’re done talking.”

Jan detached Jacky’s hands off her shoulders with one hand before taking a step toward Victoria. “Since you’re not shy about your motive, let’s hear it. Or you think it’s inappropriate to say it in front me?”

Victoria smiled again, her taunting one. “Fine.” She turned to Jacky then. “It’s very simple. Although Tian Cheng isn’t as powerful as Wan Da, but given a few more years, Tian Cheng could go much further. How about we join forces?”

“You already broke the contract,” Jacky said. “In fact, you tricked my dad into signing that contract. Now you want to say that you want to collaborate? Isn’t it too late?”

Victoria shook her head and smiled. “I thought you were smart.” She paused again, looking between Jacky and Jan before continuing. “I mean we should join our alliances in marriage.”

Jacky had on a shocked expression then. Like he couldn’t believe such a thing existed in this day and age. Yet there he was, hearing it right out of Victoria’s mouth. “You got to be kidding me, right? Get to the point, Victoria. You showed us that you won.”

Victoria had on her serious expression now. “Oh, I’m very much serious. It’s the best of both worlds, don’t you think? We could announce the good news and say what the news reported earlier was just a misunderstanding.”

“You’re asking me to sell myself to your family?” Jacky asked, pointing at himself for emphasis.

“We all get something in the end, right?” Victoria reminded him. “It’s not like you’re going to lose anything.”

“Yeah, except my dignity.” Jacky knew he was channeling his inner-Ehlo, but he couldn’t help it. It was ridiculous. If Ehlo was here, he would have said just that. Or even worse, he would have made plenty of jokes.

Victoria’s face turned gray at that point. “Are you saying I can’t measure up to you?”

“Victoria, in the words of Ehlo, you’re delirious. Maybe you need medical help because we’re not shooting some senseless drama. Maybe you might want to cut back on the dramatic department.” Jacky was almost proud of his monologue. Sort of. He knew Ehlo would have been proud.

“You’re mocking me?”

Jacky shrugged. “That’s because it’s ridiculous.”

“You think this is all a joke? When your father’s company tanks because he couldn’t pay all the companies banging on the company’s doors, then you tell me if I’m joking.”

“Enough already,” Jan said, stepping forward and placing herself in front of Jacky at that time. “He’s not buying whatever you’re selling. In fact, even if you’re offering for free, he’s not interested.”

Victoria’s face had turned another shade of red. In a flash, she reached forward, and slapped Jan. Jacky couldn’t react in time. Yet Jan didn’t get slapped either. She had used her left hand to catch Victoria’s hand.

“I’m not that girl from five years ago,” Jan said. “I wanted to keep the peace, but you kept pushing past the barrier.”

Victoria tried to yank her hand back yet couldn’t.

“Remember that cologne you destroyed? That was the last straw, Vicki.”

Jan finally let go of Victoria and Victoria took a step back, like she was finally taking Jan serious.

“Now,” Jan said, her expression unreadable. “The most pressing problem. I have a better proposal for you. You can take it, or I will release the tapes and see who loses the most, you or Tian Cheng.”

Victoria’s face was no longer red nor gray. It was now turning green. “What do you want?”

“Remember how I promised Dad I wouldn’t release it? Since you already broke some of your promises, do you think it’s only fair that I do the same?”

Victoria’s lips were quivering now. “Jan…”

“I’m going to give you a way out. A chance for you to save face and also for Wan Da to remain unaffected.”

“What are you saying?”

“I’m going to transfer the rest of my shares to you.”

“Jan…” Jacky called out, stepping toward both and reaching for Jan’s hand. “You can’t.”

Jan looked up at Jacky. “This is the only way.”

Jacky shook his head. “But…”

Jan turned to Victoria again. “You better make the decision right now before I change my mind and release that tape.”

“How would I know that you won’t go back on your words?” Victoria asked, her voice unsure.

“We’ll draw up a contract right here, right now,” Jan said. “Write everything out clearly, no terms left untouched. We all sign it. If anyone backs out of it, there will be consequences.”

“What consequences?”

“If you break it, I will release the tape. If I break it, you can make up some story about me and release it to the tabloids. I won’t retract it. Just like old times.”

“What about witnesses?”

At that time, they heard a ringing sound. It was the intercom.

“Whoever that person is could be the witness.”

It was Wallace. They soon explained the gist of what was going on to him. At least the relevant parts about Victoria agreeing to cover the loss because she had broken the contract. In exchange, Jan was going to transfer her remaining of the company’s shares to Victoria. In the additional clauses, Jan had also added that Victoria could not touch Tian Cheng, Winston & Co., or any one of the people who were considered Jacky’s friends. It was a side clause, identifying only on personal attack. Because future business ventures would cover too far and wide, so that was left out. And Wallace was also the one who had to sit down and write it out for them all. Because either side trusted the other to write it. Wallace was a neutral party. After everyone read it and was satisfied with all parts, it was signed and sealed away. They all had copies.

When they left the mansion, it was also the moment that Ehlo arrived with Joanne and Andy.

What they did not know was Jacky and Jan had met up again that night after Jan finished helping Uncle Ben and Aunt June. He had arrived at the countryside house and drove Jan out of there. Both Uncle Ben and Aunt June didn’t see them, so they really didn’t know. Jan was already out the gate before Jacky showed up. He convinced her to get in and they drove to a private location to talk.

“You expect me to accept what happened just like that?” Jacky asked when he already parked safely.

“It’s done and over with,” Jan said. “Whether you want to accept it or not, you have to admit it will help Tian Cheng temporarily.”

Jacky shook his head. “Because of what happened, you lost all your shares. How could you be passive toward everything?”

“It wasn’t mine anyway. I didn’t earn a cent of it. If it could help Tian Cheng get out of this tight spot, then it’s worth it.”

“Jan…”

“Besides,” Jan said, smiling—though the smile was a sad one. “Didn’t Wallace say that it was a family conflict that you all were just stuck in? This will solve that problem.”

Jacky shook his head. “Wallace didn’t mean it in that way. He just wanted to stop Ehlo from doing anything rash at the mansion.”

Yes, they’d both heard what was being exchanged between Ehlo and Wallace in front of the mansion. Yet they just chose not to react when they walked away separately after they exited the mansion.

“What he said is true though. Victoria had always wanted to compete with me. Even if she has everything already. You don’t deserve to be pulled into this conflict.”

Jacky couldn’t restrain himself anymore. He pulled Jan to him. She allowed herself to be held but didn’t hug him back.

“Don’t feel sorry for me,” Jan said. “I did choose it.”

Jacky released her but still his hands on her shoulders. “I’m not. Can’t you feel it at all?”

Jan shook her head. “I can’t trust myself.”

“Because of the scent?”

Jan nodded. “I don’t know if I could ever forget him.”

“I’ll wait.”

Jan shook her head. “It’s not fair to you.”

Jacky reached out and wipe the tears that was falling down Jan’s face. She didn’t realize she was crying. She reached her own hand up to stop his motion.

“It’s useless,” Jan said, turning to leave.

Jacky stood there for possibly ten minutes. That was the last time they saw each other. At least, that was what they thought. Because both left the country the next day.

*****

Three months later, Jacky was seen on Hainan Island. He remembered Ehlo telling him all the best locations that he had to visit. According to Ehlo, aside from that run-in with Chris, the rest of the trip was wonderful. Jacky just had to see it for himself. He’d been consistently sending in his recordings via email, so it wasn’t like he was abandoning his job. He even paid upfront several months for his apartment, so he wasn’t going to get kicked out anytime soon. He just needed a break from it all. This wasn’t his first location, but it was one of many that he vouched to visit.

“Hi, everyone,” Jacky said in front of a microphone. “I like to dedicate this song to someone very special.”

It was karaoke night at a local venue. He just happened to stumble into it. And he thought he might as well try. He hadn’t sung for several months now. Yet, what could go wrong? He could get kicked out. And that would be it, right?

“While There’s Still Time by Phil Chang,” Jacky whispered to the band.

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: If you want to listen to Jacky’s version of the song while reading, click here.]

The venue had decided to go full traditional on the music, so instead of a typical system with a wide selection of songs to choose from, they opted for using a band. The risk of that was the band might not know the song. But luckily for Jacky, they had sent him an “okay” signal as he settled back into the tall chair.

“Wooo…” The crowd cheered as the music came on.

The crowd cheered louder as Jacky began to sing. Whether they were just being polite or not, Jacky didn’t know. But he was glad he hadn’t gotten kicked out yet. So, he sang on.

“Thank you,” Jacky said after he was done.

He was just standing up to take a quick bow before exiting when he saw a familiar silhouette in the crowd. It looked like that person was leaving. Their eyes met briefly. Then Jacky was running, not forgetting to place the microphone back on the stand.

“Hey!” Jacky called out, placing a hand on her shoulder when he caught up to her by the door.

She turned around to stare at him. Her eyes were red. Was she crying?

“Please don’t go,” Jacky said. “We don’t have to get married, but our child can’t be fatherless.”

The room went quiet then. Just briefly, then the others were whispering. Then laughter. The laughter was from the girl. The girl was obviously Jan.

“You’re doing this here?” Jan asked, her smile an amused one. Possibly mixed in with bitterness.

“Please don’t be mad,” Jacky continued, placing both hands on her shoulders now. “I’ll do anything you want.”

Jan’s eyes were bright with tears now. “I want you to let go of me and stop this nonsense.”

Jacky smiled. “But I don’t want you to leave.”

Jacky finally hug her to him. She was really crying this time.

The crowd? They were cheering. Because Jan had returned his hug.

*****

Afterward? They left the bar and went to an outdoor venue to talk. They ended up watching the sunrise together as well. Somehow, they spent some more time on the island and didn’t return until almost Wallace’s birthday.

Ehlo had blocked Wallace from Jacky’s news. It worked because Wallace was slammed with work from some of the company rushing to do the end of the year reports and projections for the upcoming year. They were so late. Most of them were occupied with seeing the shift in Wan Da that they were waiting to see what would happen hence the delay.

What was more, Jacky and Jan had been staying inside mostly at Jacky’s place, so they hadn’t been spotted by any one of their mutual friends. Jacky only let Ehlo know he was back, so it was easy to conceal from the rest. At least at first. When it was getting a little closer to the date, Ehlo let them in on the secret. That was why they managed to show up at the small diner one by one.

© Monday, November 16th, 2020

Posted: Wednesday, February 2nd, 2021

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