The next morning, Cyndi found Jiro at the same balcony as yesterday afternoon. He wasn’t cleaning his gun like the previous day. He was actually leaning against the banister, watching the sunrise.
“Hey,” She greeted him, keeping her voice low on purpose–as not to disturb him.
He turned to see her walking in. “Miss Cyndi.”
“You can just call my name.”
“You know we can’t.”
Cyndi did not force him into the routine. She stayed silent as he continued to watch the sun.
“I’m going to teach you how to protect yourself,” Jiro said several minutes later.
It was one thing Jiro was talking to her. It was yet another thing that his sentences were getting longer nowadays. (Or more like since yesterday afternoon.) But offering to train her? She had on her confused look. Or was that shock? Or both?
Jiro understood her confusion. “It’s to reduce your anxiety. If you know how to protect yourself…and possibly others, you wouldn’t feel so hopeless about everything else.” He paused. “And you wouldn’t be so loud anymore, disturbing other people’s concentration during a crisis.” He meant it as a joke because he suddenly smiled.
“You’re really going to help me?” Cyndi asked, still not believing his words.
Jiro nodded. “If you’re willing to learn.”
“Of course, I will!”
Jiro laughed at her childlike reaction. He didn’t remember the last time he had laughed–or smiled even. He turned serious again after watching Cyndi’s initial reaction. “But…” He looked out toward the horizon again. “I won’t train you to use guns. Just using some other weapon to defend yourself.” His seriousness was returning to normal. “I can’t let you end up like Miss Joanne.”
“What do you mean?”
He did a quick surveillance of the hallway before turning to her again. “She made her first kill.”
“Sh…” Jiro clapped a hand over her mouth. He checked the hallway once. Then he released her but leaned in closer to whisper. “If others know, Jacky would be dead.”
“What happened?” Cyndi whispered back.
“Jacky taught Miss Joanne how to defend herself. More specifically, how to use a gun. She had her first kill the other night. That was why she was so devastated at dinner when you were mentioning about being able to fight back. I saw that haunting look in her eyes.”
Cyndi looked up at Jiro. “Does that mean you will get in trouble too for training me?”
“I told you I’m not going to train you with guns. I’ll just build your strength up and help you defend yourself. Distract you from being anxious. You can use your skills to hit them or whatever, but you don’t have to kill them. That’s my job.”
Cyndi was still staring at Jiro. “How can we carry on without getting caught?”
“Jacky never got caught, right? We can do it.”
“That’s different. They’re always together. People would be suspicious if we’re together for more than necessary.”
“Aww…you guys are so cute!” Joanne’s voice boomed into the room.
Jiro and Cyndi turned around to see Joanne and Calvin. No Jacky. Jiro finally stepped back.
They were huddled so close together that it was so easy to mistake it for some affectionate exchange. Cyndi felt her face burning.
“It’s not what you guys think,” Cyndi clarified, looking down at the ground.
“Then why are you getting all shy?” Joanne persisted.
Jiro took a step forward, indicating his departure. As he walked by Cyndi, he whispered to her, “We’ll talk later.” He did not care to clarify the matter with Joanne or Calvin but just nodded at them on his way out.
“I came at the wrong time, didn’t I?” Joanne asked, smiling still.
“Don’t know what you’re talking about,” Cyndi said, walking out also.
Joanne turned to Calvin. “You know what they’re up to?”
“Why are you loitering in the hall?” Sharon asked, walking by at that time.
“We just like to stand here,” Joanne replied, crossing her arms in front of her. “Problem?”
“Why are you so defensive? Got something to hide from us?”
“More like you’re the one who’s behaving strangely. What’s wrong? You want to pick a fight with everyone just because Jacky ge found someone?”
That did it. Sharon advanced on Joanne. Calvin had to jump in to shield in front of Joanne. He did not grab a hold of her wrist, so he received the slap himself. Sharon stared with her mouth open, shocked that she actually just hit Calvin.
“Calvin!” Joanne yelled out, checking his cheek for damage. She turned to Sharon. “I can’t believe you did it.”
Sharon finally reacted. “You were the one aggravating me! I didn’t mean to hit Calvin!”
“So you meant to hit me?”
Calvin shielded in front of Joanne again. “Enough already!”
“Are you yelling at me or her?” Joanne demanded.
Joanne turned on him, feeling betrayed.
“Am I wrong? You’re acting like a bunch of kids. We have to eat and then get out of here. Why don’t you save your energy for later?”
Sharon gave Joanne a murderous look. “She started it.”
“I don’t care who started it. Why don’t we just drop it?”
Sharon pouted, stomping her foot with much reluctance and continued down the hall.
“I’m sorry,” Joanne said, her voice softening.
Calvin turned to her. “Sometimes, you have to know when to stop. Not just in times of immediate danger but also in normal times.”
“I just…” She let out a sigh. “I don’t know.”
Calvin placed a hand on her shoulder. “If you feel unease inside because of what happened and want to take it out on anyone, just yell at me. Or you can hit me. Don’t start with Sharon.”
“I don’t want to take it out on you.”
“When Sharon gets started, she will never stop. And you just have to hit the spot.”
“You know she likes Jacky ge?”
“It’s hard not to. She has been targeting Sophia since she first arrived.”
“She targeted Angela too.”
“That was because Angela is just too straightforward.”
“How come it’s okay for Angela to target Sharon and I can’t?”
“Because Angela’s a guest. She will leave us one day and go back to her normal life. We still have to live under one roof.”
“That’s sad though. Chun has been so happy.”
“We all need to go back to our past routine. Having the two guests around these past days…”
“Like the life we live isn’t.”
Joanne sighed out. Then she looked up at Calvin again. “I kept talking. Let’s go take care of that.”
Calvin looked confused. “What?”
“We have to get some ointment for you. Your face is going to…”
“What’s a little slap?”
“It honestly doesn’t hurt?”
Calvin shook his head.
Joanne reached her hand up to poke at the red mark.
His reflexes kicked in and grabbed a hold of her hand. “Ow… What did you do that for?”
Joanne smiled. “You said it didn’t hurt.” She dragged him down the hall. “Come on.”
He did not mind being dragged for some reason.
“Eh…how come you were so fast to grab a hold of my hand just now but you didn’t grab Sharon’s earlier? You could’ve prevented the slap.”
“I wasn’t thinking.”
“Hey, it’s called reflexes. You don’t need to think.”
“I was too worried so…”
“I told you it’s reflexes, you can’t forget. It has to do with your motor nerves, do you know that?”
“So my motor nerves forgot to think, okay?”
Chun and Angela were a distance from the two. They had been silently observing the scene and did not feel like joining the other two. Though it was because Chun was so deep in thoughts that Angela did not want to disturb him.
“Are they supposed to do that?” Angela asked suddenly.
“What?” Chun asked, confused.
“I thought you said that bodyguards couldn’t get involved with…”
It finally clicked in for Chun. “Oh…nothing’s going to happen. Calvin knows his limit.”
“Doesn’t look like it.”
Chun did not know how to respond. He was feeling wavered by his actions since the other night. Unsure was not a term he was attached to. None of the members were. He was chosen to be one of the guards too, why was he so hesitant lately?
“But what’s so wrong about it though? If they get along, it’s good. Even Sharon likes Jacky, right? We all know it doesn’t work out since he doesn’t like her. But there’s also Jiro and Cyndi.”
“I think Jiro’s just trying to make up for his fierce attitude toward her though.”
“Or so you think. You said it yourself yesterday that you don’t know why Jiro’s so talkative lately. Well, not toward you guys, but to Cyndi.”
“Maybe because we’re finally assigned to some other person instead of just following Mr. Hsiao so…”
“Have anyone seen my daughter?” Mr. Tseng asked, walking up to them.
They turned around to see Mr. Tseng displaying traces of anxiousness.
“She was…” Chun began.
“In her room,” Angela jumped in, cutting Chun off on purpose.
“But I just checked there,” Mr. Tseng said.
Angela scratched her head, faking cluelessness. “Then I don’t know. That was the last I saw of her.”
Mr. Tseng turned to Chun.
Angela poked Chun from behind. It was easy since she was standing so closed to him, his sleeve was shielding her action.
“Uh…no, sir,” Chun managed. “I was with Angela earlier.”
Mr. Tseng left them and went back to the direction he came from, mumbling something about it being impossible that Joanne was still in her room.
“What was that about?” Chun asked after making sure Mr. Tseng was far away.
“If he sees her in the living room, he would know she’s with Calvin, right?” Angela prompted.
“No one is as clueless as you. He will know something’s going on between them.”
“Like they can hide it from him.”
“Do you want to give him that chance? Let’s go warn those two first.”
“Why are you meddling into their business?”
“I don’t live with you guys, but I would hate to see everyone getting punished for loving, okay?”
“Impossible. I don’t believe anyone could fall in love that fast. They only spent the other night together. And it was trying not to get killed.”
Angela shook her head. “You seriously don’t know anything.”
“Why are you still talking to me then?” He had on his challenging look.
Angela stared back. “I don’t have to.”
Chun had to pull her back since she was increasing her pace. “I was just kidding.”
Angela brushed his hand off. “It wasn’t funny then.”
They made their way to the living room, spotting Calvin and Joanne there. Jiro had gone somewhere already though he was actually heading in the same direction earlier. The same with Cyndi.
“Breakfast, anyone?” Joanne offered when they entered.
“I thought we have our meals in the dining room,” Angela remarked.
“Not today. We have to pack and then get out of here.”
“This is a temporary place. We have to move to the other side of the island.”
“What will happen to us?”
Joanne knew Angela was talking about herself and Sophia.
“No choice but come with us?”
“We’ll help you get back to civilization so you won’t be found,” Calvin said.
Angela crossed her hands. “Sounds promising.”
“We didn’t mean to disturb your world,” Joanne said.
“Why are we all here?” Mr. Hsiao’s voice rang into the room. “Let’s get moving. We’ll eat after we’re done packing.”
“Yes, sir!” The other members answered while Joanne and her group were still standing around.
“Your father was looking for you earlier,” Angela informed Joanne as they were making their way back to their rooms.
“I can’t believe I lied to him,” Chun complained.
“Why did you lie then?” Calvin asked, turning to Chun.
“She made me.”
Angela turned to him with a glare. “Thanks a lot.” She hit him on the shoulder. “What kind of man are you, blaming it on a woman?”
“You did make me lie.”
“Why did you have to lie though?” Joanne interfered, having enough of the tennis game being carried on.
Angela scanned the hall real quick. “I didn’t want your father to catch you with Calvin.”
Joanne looked disappointed. “That’s it?”
“You two are together, right?”
“Talking about blunt,” Chun jumped in.
“What?” Joanne said at the same time, wrinkling her face.
“You and Calvin.”
“No!” Calvin reacted.
The others turned to him.
“I was just saying it’s against the rule, forbidden, uh…”
“Stop shaking,” Joanne said, placing a hand on his. “You don’t have to explain to them. I’m always being targeted because I’m the odd one here. It has been that way since little.”
“Not just that,” Angela said, pointing at Calvin. “His reactions are betraying him.”
“Hurry up, you kids!” Mr. Hsiao yelled as he passed by.
Joanne gestured toward Mr. Hsiao’s disappearing back. “See? He didn’t even see that I was holding Calvin’s hand. They’re used to me acting abnormally.”
“Let’s hurry,” Chun said, looking at his watch. “We need to be ready in half an hour.” Then he remembered something. “Where’s Jiro?”
“He’s outside,” Calvin answered.
“Are we going to travel like how we did before?” Angela asked. She had learned the journey of the other night from Chun.
“Probably,” Joanne answered.
“This will be like a camping trip then.”
Angela detected something from Joanne’s voice. “Like for real?”
“We have to dress in casual clothes this time since we’re traveling by daylight. Have to act normal.”
“That’s easy for me and Sophia.”
“You can’t wear black anymore, right? Do you even have anything in your wardrobe aside from black?” Angela had been shown Joanne’s closet last night–out of curiosity.
“I’ll find something.” She paused briefly. “Somehow.”
They sped up after that, rushing to their rooms and packing.
© Monday, January 3rd, 2011
Posted: Thursday, February 3rd, 2011