“Jiu Jing Shen Me Jiao Yong Qi? Shi Wei Xiao Zhe Rang Ni Li Kai, Hai Shi Ku Zhe Ba Ni Liu Xia?”
Cherie held up a green T-shirt against Wei Lian, trying to see if the colour suits him. But she really wasn’t focusing on the T-shirt nor Wei Lian. Her mind had wandered far away. Why was Jason so nice to Fang Qi? Why were they even together in the first place? Where have they gone?
Wei Lian stood still as Cherie fiddled with the T-shirt. Beneath his seemingly calm exterior, his mind was in overdrive, replaying the scene where they were almost knocked over earlier. He couldn’t explain to himself why his instinct was to reach out for Fang Qi and not Cherie who was just next to him, holding on to him. And that moment of closeness had brought a surge of warmth into this heart. He had no explanation for that either. It was bothering him. He hates it when he himself doesn’t know what to think anymore.
“Ouch! Iyo, you want to kill me issit?” Wei Lian exclaimed jokingly as he was jolted out of his stance when Cherie accidentally jabbed the T-shirt hanger into his left cheek. “Oh! Sorry sorry!” Cherie apologized profusely and reached out to rub Wei Lian’s cheek. “Haha I can’t bear to kill you one la!” she laughed. Wei Lian grinned at her. Cherie can be so clumsy and cute sometimes.
Rubbing Wei Lian’s cheek that she had “injured”, the scene of Jason wiping Fang Qi’s mouth flashed across her mind. Jealousy crept into her heart. Hmm, maybe Wei Lian knows something? Should she ask him? “Fang Qi and Jason together not bad what hor?” The question came out all wrong.
Wei Lian was spaced out again. Huh? "What?" He cocked his head and raised his eyebrows.
Cherie repeated her words a little louder. "I said, Jason and Fang Qi look good together!" Her voice bordered on jealousy and annoyance.
"Is it? Okay la." Wei Lian trailed off. He really doesn’t know what to say or how he should answer her. As sensitive as he is, he caught a strong hint of jealousy in Cherie’s tone. He has never heard this kind of jealousy from Cherie before. But the tone rang a bell in his head. “Wah, you finally back from your hot date ah?” But then that was a different kind of feeling altogether, he quickly refuted inside him. He knew Fang Qi was just trying to irritate and spite him. All the time.
A strong uncomfortable feeling churns inside him but he couldn’t quite make out what it exactly represents. All along he has been clear on what he wants or thinks. Yes means yes, and he will go ahead and do it. No means no, he wouldn’t waste his time over something not worth bothering about. That is him. But now, he is becoming more and more unlike him. He can’t accept this kind of weird nagging feelings that keep threatening to spill out. Feelings that invade his life without him even realising. Feelings, which make him act differently from how he thinks. The fear of losing control of his feelings terrifies him somehow.
“Ya what, they looked pretty good together mah. Some more now Fang Qi looks much better after the makeover.” This time Cherie sounded even more jealous. She looked up at Wei Lian and directed all her jealousy of Jason and Fang Qi on Wei Lian.
“Okay la." Wei Lian said again. He was still listening to Cherie. He looks away, trying hard to suppress the bitterness within him. He is not a fool. Anyone would have caught the jealousy in Cherie’s words. He could tell Cherie’s jealousy from the way she talked. He knows she is trying to see if he knew anything. But what can he tell her? How to tell her anything? Everything suddenly became unexplainable. He bit his lip, an urge of walking away and hiding from the crowd surged within him. He too was wondering how on earth Jason and Fang Qi ended up together.
Jason and Fang Qi. The thought of hearing their names together made him uncomfortable somehow. He knew Jason couldn’t stand Fang Qi’s unwomanly and rough demeanor. So why the sudden interest in giving her a new image now?
He tried to make an answer out of it. He swears that given Fang Qi’s character, it was easy for him to know the girl inside out. She would flare up and kick up a fuss and bite the head off anyone who attempts to sway her decision. In short, if she doesn’t want to do something, no one can force her. How come Jason can manage to change her image? He wanted so much to dial her number and ask her. His fingers attempted to stray over the side pocket of his jeans silently. For his handphone.
Wait! Then he quickly withdrew his hand and instead raises it up to scratch his face with much awkwardness. He couldn’t see, so he wasn’t sure if he had accidentally revealed his thoughts through his actions and facial expressions. What is he doing lor? Hopefully Cherie didn’t catch his odd behaviour. He realized he has been staring out into space too often in front of Cherie. That was certainly not what he wanted.
"Hmm, after all Fang Qi was saved by Jason when she had gastric and hospitalized the other time mah....if they’re together, not surprising also hor?" Cherie was half sarcastic, half digging, wondering if Wei Lian knew anything.
“Okay lor." Came Wei Lian’s stoic reply.
"Why you keep saying okay okay okay??!” Cherie couldn’t take his meaningless replies and raised her voice. Her voice brimmed with frustration. She couldn’t get the scene of Jason reaching out and shielding her from the rowdy teenagers out of her mind. She knew she was clearly disturbed by his reaction. To quell her jealousy, she tried talking to Wei Lian. But then again, every word and sentence came out the wrong way. She was already troubled enough and all he could give were his favourite one-word answers.
"Iya, how I know la, I also don’t know how they look like. You say look good look good lor." Wei Lian’s answer dripped with sarcasm and bitterness. Almost immediately, he regretted snapping at Cherie. What has gotten into him? He wanted to apologize but…iya never mind la. A bit lazy and a bit….
The nagging feeling inside him held him back from saying another word. He decided that he wasn’t in the mood to do anything now. Not even talking. He just feels like finding something to kick. He cannot describe how he feels, but then again, decides that kicking things is out of his list.
Then…Cherie realized she had tested Wei Lian’s patience a little too far. He seldom talked to her in this manner. Not even when she snapped back at him when he is in a bad mood. But today….She looked at his gloomy face and pushed her thoughts of Jason behind her. What’s wrong with him also? Today is bad mood day issit? Hai! Better cheer him up a bit first.
“Hey this T-shirt is nice!” Cherie resumed her chirpy voice and took a light pink T-shirt off the display rack. She started to measure the T-shirt against Wei Lian’s shoulders to see if it fits. He obediently stood still and let Cherie fuss over him. Cherie was asking him if he liked the feel of the material and whether it felt comfortable. But all he could hear in his head was Fang Qi asking him “Can anot?? Issit too tight? The collar too high anot?” and then Fang Qi turning him around roughly to scrutinize the clothes he was trying.
Fang Qi had gone shopping for clothes with him before when he needed new clothes for a major performance at Granny Gin’s hotel. That was before Cherie came back and he had no choice but to get Fang Qi’s help as Jason was busy then. He didn’t know if he could trust her taste, but oh well, better than nothing la. He remembered them creating quite a scene at the men’s department.
“Eh! You can don’t anyhow touch me anot?” Wei Lian brushes off the hands with irritation. Fang Qi was meddling with the left sleeve of the shirt that she made him try on. Her hands were tugging the shirt so roughly that she accidentally scratched his chest with her fingernails.
“Iya, this size can la, why must you keep measuring?” Wei Lian’s irritated voice sounded again. Hearing no reply from her, Wei Lian asked again impatiently. “Eh! This size can la. Big a bit okay la! Oei, I talking to you.” He tried to listen for a response before he realized that he was talking to the air. Fang Qi had already shifted to his right side and continued to tug at his shirt.
“Wait la! This material wash liao also don’t know will shrink or not. Buy this size if shrink then you wear liao look like dumpling la. If buy bigger then never shrink, you will look like wearing pyjamas you know??” Fang Qi shrieked.
“Iyo, you very troublesome, buy one shirt also must think so much. The most I don’t wash la, then won’t shrink lor.” He had gotten a big stinging slap on his arm for rebutting her with that. The thought of their bickering made him want to laugh out loud. Such a barbaric girl.
Huh? What is this?? Why is this silly barbaric girl invading my mind? Wei Lian suddenly snapped out of his thoughts. “Erm? Can wear la.” He quickly replied before Cherie noticed that he is not concentrating again.
Cherie held onto Wei Lian’s arm and walked side by side with him with silence after they left the departmental store. “Ouch!!” The guy beside her shifted in uncontrollable pain as he banged his face into the wall. Cherie let loose her arm and looked up to realize that she has been walking too closely to the wall and now she had caused Wei Lian to bang his head straight into the wall. She cupped her other hand over her mouth and gasped. What the hell is she doing? She had actually forgotten that she is holding on to Wei Lian who is depending on her to lead the way in front. She crackled awkwardly and apologetically. “Eh sorry leh, sorry. I was…I didn’t realize I was walking too close to the wall…” She quickly reached out both hands and rubbed the slightly bruised area on his right forehead.
Wei Lian slumped against the brass railing of the glass panel behind him and allowed Cherie to take a closer look of his bruise. “How? Pain or not? Sorry leh.” Cherie’s voice softened with guilt. Wei Lian shook his head and gave a weak smile. “Ok la. Not very pain la. But you can don’t bring me too near the wall again or not? The wall very hard lay.” He muttered grudgingly. “Orh.” Came Cherie’s reply.
Ten minutes later. Cherie hooked her arm onto Wei Lian’s arm again and wandered aimlessly around the shopping mall. They stopped in front of a jewelry shop. Cherie dragged Wei Lian closer to the display windows and took a closer look. She was staring at the square-shaped pendant with little diamonds set on its silvery pendant plate surface to form the alphabet “C”. The slim fingers on her free hand played with the pendant she was wearing on her neck. It was exactly the same as the one in the shop display window.
Wei Lian felt the unusual quietness in her. He needn’t ask or probe. After all they have been buddies since they were young. And he knew where exactly they were standing. He had accompanied her on many occasions as she peered into the window display to awe at the exquisite pendants.
He listened to the ultra soft clanking of the silver necklace against her pendant as they rubbed against each other with friction. He smiled softly, his eyes slightly revealing a look of bitter pain in them. That has been Jason’s gift to Cherie on her 19th birthday. But what Cherie did not know was that Wei Lian was the one who came and selected the gift. Jason’s original gift was a crystal guitar key chain. But Cherie has been eyeing the necklace. Without a word, he thrust the present he prepared into Jason’s hand and took over Jason’s gift as his own.
“Iya, okay la, let’s go…” Cherie nudged him with her arm. Wei Lian followed her silently, his head facing away from Cherie’s as they wandered down the corridor of the other shops.
Finally after five minutes, Cherie came to an abrupt stop. “Wei Lian….I, …….” She hesitated for a while, but still, no words came to her mouth.
Wei Lian stopped in his tracks with her and wriggled his arm out of Cherie’s. “I ya, go la. I know la.” He felt for the bag of clothes he bought and took them over from her and gave her a slight push. How can he possibly not know how restless Cherie had been feeling for the past one-hour or so? He kept his face straight and urged her to go, his face refusing to reveal any emotions.
Looking at Wei Lian’s expressionless face and usual nonchalant attitude, Cherie’s lips broke into a wide smile. Wei Lian knew. He always knew how she felt without her saying too much. “Hey, love you okay.” She stepped forward and gave him a tight hug to show her appreciation to him for his understanding. She quickly planted a peck on his cheek and pulled away. Her hands still on his arms, she gave them a squeeze before she turned to leave.
Wei Lian heard her footsteps drifting further and further away from him. Till he could not hear them anymore. He felt terribly upset inside him. He remained in his stoned posture for what seems like five minutes in the middle of the spacious shopping mall. Her “love you okay” made him feel even worse.
He could feel the warmth of the sunrays shining in through the mall’s glass roof panels dancing on him. But deep within his heart, he could not feel any sign of warmth anymore. All he could feel was his heart wrenching into a tight knot. The feeling was so suffocating that his senses became numb. He could no longer feel anything. Only a strange kind of coldness overwhelmed his body and hit him in his heart. He does not know what kind of coldness is that. It is a familiar kind of coldness. As if something is gone. The kind he had experienced when he was rescued up from his fall into the swimming pool at the hotel. But only this time, the feeling wasn’t as strong. Suddenly, he felt as if he was being sucked into a deep dark bottomless pit. Suddenly, the crowd in the spacious shopping mall seemed to fade rapidly into the background, as if he was the only one left standing there. All by himself.