11 May 2009

No Need for Normalcy! - Chapter Twenty

This cannot be good: the last time I updated No Need for Normalcy! was on 06th March - that can't be good, hai?

It's been a busy two (or, well, closer to three) months for me and it hasn't been the happiest time. (As seen in every line of poetry I've written since March.) But we just have to - as stated in Meet the Robinsons - keep moving forward.

So, without further ado, we have Chapter Twenty...

Chapter Twenty: Rush

When Shinichi Nishiyama arrived in Manila, he really should have taken a hint and gone back to Tokyo post-haste.

For one thing, it rained - and it rained hard. As if that weren't bad enough, it was April. Climate change notwithstanding, rain in Manila in April was definitely not normal at all.

Unfortunately, Shinichi wasn't very perceptive when it came to omens. Indeed, he was more than a little resolute about things when he arrived in the country he'd grown up in. He would get to the bottom of this mess involving Luce and that brat (as he referred to the youngest Huang in his own mind) and he would knock some sense into his friend. If necessary, he would drag her back to Japan. After all, what thirty-ish woman in her right mind would be mad enough to fall for someone six years her junior? The very idea was just plain mad, in Shinichi's opinion and he wanted to get to the gist of it all ASAP.

Unfortunately for him, events were about to take a most unusual turn...


It was a Saturday and Bettina was pleasantly surprised to see a few people from her college crowd among the diners at the Ginger Noodle.

The Miyaharas - Torch and his very pregnant wife Hecate - were happily slurping from bowls of steamy-hot won ton noodle soup. Praxi was also there with her husband Jules and their two kids; the latter were excitedly poring over the dimsum menu and begging both parents for one item or another. Behind the counter, Graham and Mardi were helping out with orders and payments. Even Jake - who closed his clinic on Saturdays - was cheerfully waiting tables.

Bettina could also see that some of Gilbert's friends had occupied one of the corner booths. Shigeru Nishiyama and Mateo Se seemed to be vying against each other as to who could eat more dimsum. The pile of baskets on their table was growing rapidly. The married couples of that particular set - the Sanno Nishiyamas and the Ardith Tiongsons - sat at a separate table and were more soberly discussing something over noodles and roast pork buns. (Bettina was pretty sure that it was about young Mrs. Nishiyama's pregnancy; Gilbert had mentioned it in passing at the previous weekend's family dinner.)

And speaking of Gilbert... Bettina smiled as she thought about her youngest brother. He looked incredibly uplifted at the last dinner which was, surprisingly (or not, depending on how you looked at it), hosted by Luce Saavedra. There was a different level of confidence her brother seemed to exude at the dinner and the reason for it had not been much of a surprise. No, of course not; Guama and Graham had a standing bet - not on if it would happen but when. Graham had, alas, lost; then again, Bettina reminded herself that her twin was a lousy gambler, anyway.

"You seem to be one man short, Achi," Annette Tiongson commented when Bettina came to refill their teapot.

"Gib's in Tagaytay right now," Bettina replied serenely.

"What's up?" Sanno Nishiyama asked.

"Luce invited him over," Bettina said. "Lunch with her parents, I guess."

To say that the table had fallen silent was a gross understatement. When Bettina looked up from pouring more tea, four shocked faces greeted her.

"Is he..." Pura Nishiyama stammered. "I mean, well, is she... Are they...?"

Bettina simply smiled at that.

"What do you think?" was all she asked regarding the matter.


"She's not home, boys; sorry."

Shinichi looked ready to explode and would have gone utterly ballistic if Shura hadn't placed a placating hand on his shoulder.

Almost as soon as they got off the plane, Shinichi grabbed a cab and dragged Shura along to Luce's house in Paranaque. To his great consternation, he found the young lady of the house gone and YuYa - his "runaway" guitarist - at the door. As if that hadn't been enough of a shock, YuYa casually told them that Luce went to Tagaytay to visit her parents.

"Her car's still in the garage," Shinichi grated as YuYa ushered them into the living room.

"It would be," YuYa replied blandly. "Her young man picked her up. It's not like he doesn't have a car of his own, Shinichi."

"Some cheap Korean or Chinese jalopy, I'll bet," Shinichi muttered as he sank indecorously onto the sofa.

YuYa said nothing. He calmly sat on a nearby armchair while Shura sat beside Shinichi. The gay guitarist raised an eyebrow at his boss's scowling face.

"You do realize that nothing you say or do at this point in time will mean anything to Lusia," he remarked archly. "I know why you're here, Shinichi."

"He's a kid, YuYa!" Shinichi grumbled. "Luce will eat him alive if he isn't careful. Brats like that are too young to be playing with fire."

"He's not a brat and he's not too young," YuYa quietly corrected him. "He'll be twenty-six soon."

"And Luce's pushing thirty-two! God damn it, YuYa - she's six years older than he is! It does not look right!" Shinichi sat back and drew a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket. "Got a light?"

YuYa's nostrils flared angrily. "You smoke in this house and I will personally throw you out!" he shrilled. "You - of all people! - ought to remember that Luce can't stand the smell of cigarette smoke. It was one of the reasons why her last relationship fell apart in the end!"

"I don't suppose her boy-toy smokes?"

"He doesn't; doesn't drink, either."

"What good is he for, then?" Shinichi demanded insultingly. "A goody-two-shoe-milksop and a spitfire like Luce?" He snorted indignantly. "It won't work, YuYa."

"And how can you be so sure, Mr. I-am-so-goddamned-sure-I'm-right?" YuYa hissed back, half-rising from his seat, eyes flashing angrily. "In all the years we've known Luce, I've never seen her make a mistake about anyone's character. Which, if I may add, is more than I can say about you!"

"She did make a mistake, remember!" Shinichi shouted back. "She took up with that Arevalo bastard! Fine judge of character she was!"

"Calm down, guys," Shura mumbled placatingly, his eyes shifting nervously between his friends. "I'm sure..."

"Shut up, Shura!" both Shinichi and YuYa yelled at him. Cowed, Shura meekly backed off.


Meanwhile, Sophia Koa was humming to herself as she knit yet another pair of booties for Bettina's little girl Giselle.

Everything was, in the Koa matriarch's personal opinion, falling into place and was right on schedule.

As she sat in the sunny living room, Yi-Che purring happily beside her on the couch, Sophia's mind returned to the events of the previous evening...

He came home looking about as happy as he'd been when both his parents were still alive; such a brilliant smile, such a glow about his person!

"Had a good day at work,
syoti?" Sophia asked him when he stooped to kiss her cheek.

"And then some,
Guama," Gilbert replied, his small eyes positively shining with happiness.

Sophia narrowed her eyes at him slyly. "It's about Lusia, isn't it?" she asked.

A vivid blush colored Gilbert's face and his smile grew even more joyful than it already was.

"It is." He spoke calmly, but one could sense the great excitement he was desperately trying to suppress behind the words. He dimpled up and declared - the joy in his heart ringing loudly with each word - "She loves me,
Guama! Luce loves me!"

Sophia opened her arms to her grandson and he immediately flew into her embrace. He sat at her feet, normally pale face flushed with excitement.

"I was afraid she'd say 'no'," he admitted nervously. "But she didn't and you can't imagine - oh,
Guama!" More soberly, he added, "I wish Mama and Papa were here to see this." He looked up, a worried expression furrowing his brow. "D'you suppose they'd approve, Guama? I mean, Lu is older than me and..."

Quickly, Sophia pressed a finger to his lips to silence him. "Hush," she said. "Hush,
syoti. Should it even matter who's older or who's younger? I don't think either of your parents would have disappoved of Lusia - she's a lovely girl!"

"Even if she isn't Chinese?"

"Gilbert, did either of your siblings marry Chinese people?"

"No, but..."

"Did your father disapprove of Jacob for your
Achi or, for that matter, Mardi for your Ahiya?"

"No, and..."

"And if you're going to bring up that she's Catholic and you're not, why ~"

Gilbert held his hand up to quell her. "I get it,
Guama," he hastened to assure her. "I see the point."

Grimly, Sophia muttered something about people sticking to outdated and baseless traditions under her breath.

Did you tell her?" Sophia demanded.

your side of the family's Catholic? Oh, Guama..." Mischievously, Gilbert winked at her. "Like she says, I'll burn the bridge when I get there..."

Sophia chuckled to herself at the recollection of the previous evening's events. Dear, sweet Gilbert - how he'd grown up! She shook her head in a slighly melancholy, somewhat indulgent manner; her youngest grandchild was all grown up and properly courting. This was no adolescent fancy, some childish infatuation; one look at Gilbert told Sophia everything she needed to know.

Her youngest grandson was determined to play for keeps.

However, Sophia knew that her side of the family weren't the young man's only relatives. The boy would, sooner or later, have to deal with the bigots on his father's side of the family - and a regular howling bunch they were!

Sophia never objected to Gregory Huang when he went off and married her favorite daughter. Greg was a sweet boy - he had a gentlemanly manner he'd passsed on to both his sons. He took care of Anastacia right up to the day he died; and really, one could not blame the woman for losing her will to live after he passed on. What Sophia had always objected to was Greg's mother.

From what Gilbert told her some few weeks before, the old bat already had a potential candidate for the boy's future wife. Sophia had made her own discreet queries and discovered that Old Lady Huang was fielding a certain Monica Tam, the youngest daughter of a family that ran several jewelry shops in the southern provinces. She seemed to be a nice girl: convent-college-educated, currently helping with the family business and all.

Of course, Sophia also discovered that said family business was not as honest as her late son-in-law's mother believed; nor was Monica Tam some sweet, can-do-no-wrong colegiala type.

Far from it, as a matter of fact.

Sophia set aside her knitting basket and reached for the cordless phone. She dialed a number from memory, one that belonged to one of her oldest and dearest friends. It was going to be a long-distance call, of course; she would pay Gilbert, of course. The boy was definitely going to protest and hand her back the money, but she'd still pay for it.

Presently, the phone on the other end of the line began to ring. Finally, a voice: a woman's voice, strong and resolute like Lusia's, just as rich in timbre, if made just a tinge rusty by advanced years.

"Imatani-no-uchi desu," the voice declared firmly. "Kore wa Carmela desu. Kore wa donata desu ka?"

"Carmela, hello!" Sophia trilled. "It's Sophie - Sophia Koa!"

There was a startled pause then and equally exuberant answer. "Sophie!" the voice declared. "Sophie, how are you? I haven't seen you since your poor Anastacia died! It's been too long!"

"I know!" Sophia narrowed her eyes speculatively. "You must come to Manila soon, dear."

"Oh, Sophie!" Carmela Imatani protested. "I'm getting too old for a whirl of gaiety!"

"Oh, come!" Sophia chided her. "We'll always be a pair of giddy schoolgirls fibbing about going to Mass then going for ice cream sundaes at the old Milky Way."

Carmela laughed; Sophia marveled at how similar her laughter sounded to her granddaughter's. "Don't tease me so, Sophie! What's going on in Manila that's so important? I told my Luce - that's my Louisa's eldest girl - that I'd only come back to Manila when she got married!"

Sophia smiled wickedly at that. "Well, in that case, I'd say you and Ted had better come on over," she said. "It's high time."

There was another shocked pause.

Then, "What on earth are you talking about, Sophie?"

"Your granddaughter Luce? I've met her." Sophie chuckled. "She's my youngest grandson's girlfriend."


"I still don't see what Luce sees in that kid!" Shinichi grated.

It was already late in the afternoon. Shura had fallen asleep on the couch, so YuYa and Shinichi continued their still-heated discussion in the kitchen. YuYa spent much of the afternoon telling his boss about how Luce's courtship had gone. Frankly speaking, Shinichi didn't think much of it. To him, it was neither impressive or exciting. He was of the opinion that a woman like Luce ought to be courted in the most flamboyant manner possible.

YuYa, however, shook his head.

"Sometimes, women don't want to be swept off their feet," he remarked sagely. "Sooner or later, the best of them realize that neither the bad boy with the killer good looks nor the smooth talker with the come-hither gaze will be there to stay." He pursed his lips thoughtfully as he stirred his tea. "Sometimes, it's those guys you call 'milksops' who are man enough to heed the call of the altar."

"You couldn't pay me to get married, YuYa," Shinichi muttered.

"I wasn't talking about you, baka!" YuYa grunted, playfully swiping at Shinichi's head. "I'm of the opinion that people can - and will - drop everything, even settle into domesticity when the right person shows up." He smiled slightly. "Or, even the mousiest of men become tigers or lions when they meet the right girl."

Shinichi was about to say something disparaging about Luce's young man when they heard a car pull up in front of the house.

"That'll be Luce," YuYa said, rising to his feet. Shinichi followed him out the kitchen door and into the front yard.

"I told you my mom and dad liked you," they heard Luce say as she entered the gate.

"Well, yes, but..." A slender young man followed her in, several baskets laden with fruit in his arms. "I think your dad overdid it with the mangoes, Lu."

"If it isn't my truant PR manager," Shinichi declared soon as they were in view.

"Oh, hi, Shinichi." To Shinichi's consternation, Luce greeted him as if they'd only seen each other the previous day. She turned to her companion, "Babe, this is Shinichi Nishiyama - aka Subaru Nishiyama of Pleiades Project."

"Hi!" came the cheerful greeting. Shinichi saw that he was a very pale young man who would probably not look out of place in the cast of a Taiwanese soap opera, save for his geeky wire-rimmed glasses. "You're Sanno and Shig's big brother; nice to meet you." Apologetically, he held up the baskets in his arms. "I'd shake your hand, but..."

Impatiently, Shinichi waved him off. "Not a prob," he grunted.

"Shinichi, this is Gilbert Huang." The smile on Luce's face, in Shinichi's mind, was pure wickedness. "My boyfriend."

Shinichi raised an eyebrow at that and said nothing. Muttering to himself about the blindness of women, he followed YuYa out the gate to help with the rest of the stuff.

To his complete and utter bewilderment, the creaky old jalopy he expected the boy to drive turned out to be a late model Jaguar - in the perfect shade of scarab green that Shinichi had lusted over for years.

Shinichi stared first at the car, then at the grinning YuYa.

Then, "Lusia! I want a word with you..."


Sorry if there isn't much of Luce and Gib in this chapter, but I hope you enjoyed it. ;p

As with all my other writing projects, you probably know the drill already. Did you like this chapter? If you did, please feel free to write your comments at the end of this post.

Plus, if you want to get more updates regarding
No Need for Normalcy or any of my other writing projects, drop me a line at midge.manlapig@gmail.com.

No comments:

Post a Comment