Three months later, Calvin, Joanne, and Sharon were seen in front of a wooden house. It was Japanese style. The exterior was brand new. Entering the house, they found a familiar feeling about it. A wooden cabinet was seen at a corner of the room. Some figurines were on display. Only the center spot was reserved for a picture frame. The picture was the one they’d taken the day before it happened.
“I’ll turn on the light,” Joanne offered as they entered the room.
“Help yourself to anything,” Sophia said, smiling. She was the one who opened the door for them.
“Is this exactly like your old house?” Sharon asked, scanning the room.
“Not exactly. But it’s close enough.” She went to make drinks for everyone. “How have you all been?”
“We managed.” Sharon’s tone wasn’t sarcasm. She walked into the kitchen to sit in front of the counter, facing Sophia. “Are the others coming?”
Sophia shook her head. “I don’t know.”
They heard the doorbell at that time.
“I’ll get it!” Joanne volunteered.
Calvin followed her to the door.
“Cyndi!” Joanne cried out, hugging Cyndi to her. She pulled apart from Cyndi and observed her. “Hey, you’re getting fat.”
“Be careful,” Jiro said, having a hand around Cyndi–as if protecting her from Joanne’s grasp. “You’re scaring my kid.”
Joanne turned to Jiro, her expression excited. “You mean…”
“I didn’t even know she’s pregnant until we went to the doctor last month.”
“Congratulations!” Sharon shouted, running out to greet them. She hugged Cyndi this time.
“Eh…be careful!” Jiro warned her.
“You just worry too much,” Cyndi chided, turning to him after separating from Sharon.
“I’m being careful,” Jiro repeated his mantra.
“I want to be the godmother,” Joanne said.
“No, I want to,” Sharon argued.
“Hey, you guys,” Angela’s voice reached their ears.
Since they were busy talking about Jiro and Cyndi’s baby, they had forgotten the door. Now that they heard Angela, they all turned around to greet her. Then they made their way into the living room after Calvin shut the door. Sophia brought out drinks and some food at that time.
“I’ll get something for her,” Jiro volunteered, heading toward the kitchen.
Sophia turned to look at Jiro, pondering what was going on.
“Cyndi’s pregnant,” Joanne said, beaming. “So Jiro has to make sure she doesn’t eat certain things.”
“That’s wonderful!” Sophia said, walking toward Cyndi and giving Cyndi’s hand a squeeze.
They were sitting down on the sofa. The others made sure to give Cyndi more room. They were cautious with every move they made, not wanting to upset Jiro when he returned.
“So, how has everyone been?” Sophia repeated her question when Jiro joined them.
“I quit my job,” Angela announced, smiling.
“Too much conflict of interest.”
“I got a job at a bookstore,” Chun said.
“You won’t believe what Dad’s trying to do now,” Sharon said, taking a sip of tea.
“What?” Joanne asked, turning to her.
“He’s going to open a bakery.”
Joanne almost choked on her piece of pie. “Nice.”
Sharon pointed at Joanne. “Don’t laugh. What is Uncle Tseng doing then?”
Joanne shrugged. “He’ll find something. He has been fishing. Maybe I should tell him to join in with Uncle Hsiao to do some business together.”
Sharon shook her head as a sign of a bad idea. “Nuh-uh.”
“They might get tempted and get back into business again.”
Everyone knew exactly what she meant. As if by cue, all their smiles fell. A sense of thick silence passed over them.
“Are we going to…” Cyndi began after a minute, gesturing her hand. “…later?”
“If you guys want to,” Sophia said. “I am.”
“I want to go too,” Sharon seconded.
Joanne nodded. “How about we go now? And then come back later for…”
The others agreed.
They arrived at the site in half an hour. They did not mind the walk. Though Jiro was very protective of Cyndi, he just made sure she was safe and was walking at a reasonable pace. The others were also taking their time. When they were in front of the tombstone, Joanne knelt and placed a bouquet of flowers to one side before standing up. Sharon followed. Then Chun and Angela. Jiro was the one who did the placing while Cyndi stood nearby. He returned to her side afterward. Everyone had left the center spot empty for Sophia. When she was done, the others gathered around her, forming a straight line.
“Jacky ge,” Joanne spoke up. “You never said anything, but I know you always miss this place. You can rest now.” Tears were welling up in her eyes, threatening to flow out. “Don’t you worry about being alone…” Her voice broke.
Calvin placed his hands around her shoulders.
“Because…” Joanne continued. “Sophia jie will always be by your side. And…” She brought her hands up to cover her mouth, sniffing at the same time. “We will always come to visit you.”
Indeed, they had returned to civilization from the island that most of them had sought shelter from for all these past years–as the three leaders had promised. They had burned Jacky’s body after he passed away and took the ashes back to the mainland. Joanne knew Jacky could only find whatever that was left of peace in their life at the old house where they grew up. She had suggested burying him around there. It was also the reason why Sophia had built her new habitat nearby, wanting to stay close. Sophia was used to seclusion. She preferred it that way. It suited her lifestyle more than anyone of them.
Joanne’s little speech had caused the other girls to shed tears as well. Strangely as it had become, Sophia and Sharon were hugging each other for support. The other guys were comforting their significant others.
“Come on, everyone,” Angela spoke up after a few minutes of silence–aside from the sobbing sounds, her voice hoarse. “Jacky wouldn’t want us to be like this.”
The others knew it was true. They tried to pull themselves together.
Twenty minutes later, they were walking along the woods. They had decided to go into town tonight instead of going back to Sophia’s house.
“By the way,” Joanne said, turning to Cyndi. “How come you haven’t told us what your father’s doing?”
“Um…” Cyndi stuttered.
“What?” Sharon asked, looking over to her.
“He’s planning to open a flower shop,” Cyndi said finally.
Both Joanne and Sharon let out a chuckle.
“I guess no one will ever believe the tales of our lives, huh?” Joanne joked, her voice dramatic on purpose.
“What about you guys?” Jiro asked, looking at Calvin, Joanne, Chun, and Angela. “When are you going to get married?”
“Wait until I could buy a house,” Chun said.
Angela looked shy all of a sudden.
“Whenever I could convince her father,” Calvin said.
“Didn’t he say her future is in your hands now?” Jiro reminded him of Mr. Tseng’s words months ago.
Calvin shrugged. “Apparently not anymore.”
“That’s because he’s just testing you,” Joanne said, swinging their linked hands back and forth.
“I hope he’s done before she grows into an old maid,” Sharon said.
Joanne’s hand separated from Calvin’s at that time and she was on the run to chase Sharon down. The others watched and laughed, knowing they would never change no matter what. They caught up to the two a minute later when both girls slowed down again.
“Look!” Joanne called to the others, pointing at the horizon ahead.
The sun was setting. They’d seen many sunsets in the past. Yet it had never been so beautiful, so full of hope. And somehow within the patches of clouds above, they saw Jacky’s face among ‘em, smiling to them, like he was glad they were all safe and were moving on with their lives. A figment of their imagination or not, it did not matter. Sophia exchanged a look with Sharon as they continued on their way, sharing a smile. It was their way of saying they could finally live with one another–as friends.
“Now, we have to decide who is the godmother,” Joanne brought up the subject of Jiro and Cyndi’s bundle of joy once more.
“You know the baby would love me,” Sharon said, her tone challenging as she fell into steps with Joanne.
“You know it’s our kid, right?” Jiro reminded them. “We get to decide.”
“Aww…come on,” Joanne and Sharon said at the same time.
“Behave yourselves then,” Cyndi jumped in, her voice mischievous. “We’ll be scoring you both to see who is more suitable.”
And the three princesses and Jiro continued to battle it out the rest of the way into town.
© Friday, February 4th, 2011
Posted: Thursday, March 3rd, 2011