Chapter 20:

Second Chance

Sweet like Honey

“Of course, I’m not saying this without any conditions,” I continued and held a finger up when I turned to Fan Wong. “You only get this one chance. Never show your face in front of Shirley again. If you stalk her again, we won’t hesitate to call the police this time. So don’t make us regret being magnanimous.”

“I…I won’t!” Fan Wong blabbered as he pressed his forehead to the ground. “Thank you for your kindness!”

“Hey! You can’t possibly let him get away with this…” Nina protested, but Shirley raised her hand.

“It’s fine. I agree with Junior.” She took a deep breath, clutching her arm and nodding toward Fan Wong. “I understand that he has done something awful, but…no actual harm was done. And he was a fan of mine. I’m still grateful to him for his support…and for listening to me sing. So, please, just let him go.”

However, her eyes narrowed and her voice turned cold.

“But Junior is right. You only get one chance. You stalk me again, and I’ll see you put behind bars. Understood?”


“You have no complaints if I crush this, right?” Howard asked menacingly, the data card in his hand. Fan Wong shook his head frantically, and Shirley’s sole male roommate clenched his fist, folding and breaking the data card. He dropped the bits on the road and ground them under his feet. “You better delete whatever else data you have on the cloud or on your phone or computer or whatever.”

“I…I don’t have any other data. All the photos are there.”

“That better be the truth, or else…”

“I…it is! I swear!” Fan Wong waved both hands wildly. Shirley sighed and stepped in, gesturing for Howard to step back. He nodded, and she turned to glare at Fan Wong.

“Now get lost!”

Despite his chubby figure, Fan Wong could really run. He vanished down a corner and into the night, his pudgy limbs flailing like a fish. We watched him leave, and then Cheryl shook her head and sighed.

“Let’s go back.” She placed an arm around Shirley and gently guided her back into the share house. “At least we know who to look out for. If the bastard shows his face again, we’ll destroy him socially.”

“I’ll keep an eye out for any unauthorized photos on social media,” Howard added.

“For now, get some rest. It’s been…quite eventful.” Nina looked concerned, but Shirley smiled placatingly. However, I recognized that smile.

It was the same one Shirley wore whenever she closed other people off and put on a façade. It was identical to the smile I practiced in front of the mirror several mornings.

Her roommates didn’t notice, probably because they rarely put on the same façade. It was something more akin to acting…where we pretended everything was all right when it really wasn’t. My heart ached, but I didn’t say anything.

I couldn’t. I was the one who stopped them from calling the police. I doubted I had any right to speak to Shirley when I caused more harm than good. Her roommates were casting glares at me.

Fortunately, Shirley appeared to realize it. She stopped and frowned, her exhaustion replaced by concern.

“Junior is right. I don’t want to blow this out of proportion, so please stop blaming him. He knows what I wanted, and spoke to support me.”

“Blow this out of proportion?” Cheryl repeated incredulously. “Shirley, he was stalking you.”

“Yeah, but he didn’t physically assault me. It was misguided, but he did it because he was my fan.” Shirley sighed. “Look, it’s not that I approve of his behavior, but if I go to the police, do you know what will happen? The press will be all over it, and I’ll be thrown into the media spotlight once more. I’ve enough of seeing my name in online articles. I have no intention of giving tabloids ammunition to write about my latest exploits or victimization.”

“That…makes sense.” Taken aback by her sudden explosion, Howard nodded. “Sorry. We didn’t consider it from your point of view.”

“It’s fine.”

“You should get some rest, though.” Cheryl gave in with a nod. “I forget that you used to be an idol, and that you had some…traumatic experiences during your career. We’ll do what you say.”

“We’ll accompany you!” Nina said, raising her hand. She grinned. “Let’s drink until we fall asleep!”

I didn’t feel welcome among their small group, so I simply hung back and faded to the background. When Shirley glanced back at me, I waved goodbye and turned to head home.

She didn’t seem pleased the next morning. I had to appease her with a cup of honey caramel coffee.

“My treat,” I told her. “Did you rest easy last night?”

“I feel a lot better already,” Shirley said as she stretched. It was true. As I watched her, she was more relaxed than the past few days. Her shoulders were no longer stiff, and the tension in her expression was gone, likely because she no longer had to glance behind to watch out for Fan Wong. “Thanks to you.”

“I didn’t do much.”

“You caught the stalker,” Shirley reminded me. Then she raised a finger. “And you owe me. Make some time tonight. Want to eat ramyeon?”

“Sure.” I was relieved. I thought she would be upset, especially when she sent me some messages demanding to know why I just snuck away. I had to explain to her that the atmosphere felt awkward because of her roommates.

“Don’t worry.” She appeared to read my mind. “It’ll just be the two of us.”

“Sounds good to me.”

At least that was what I thought, but I found myself right outside the gate of her share house later that night, after work. I was escorting home, as usual, despite the absence of Fan Wong. Neither of us felt like we were being watched, and Shirley walked at ease, far more relaxed than she was for the past week.


“Don’t worry. We’re heading to my room.” Shirley had her hand on my wrist, gripping it tightly. Her smile was scary. I tried not to gulp. We entered through the front door, and though Howard and Nina were in the living room, we exchanged no more than a greeting before we disappeared into Shirley’s room.

“Make yourself comfortable. Sit wherever you want.” Shirley patted her bed after flopping down on her mattress, but I demurred. Instead, I pulled her chair out from her desk and sat on it. My beautiful host looked disappointed, but she didn’t object. She rolled over and pulled a can from a minifridge. “Beer?”

“Sorry, I don’t really drink…”

“Okay, juice then.” She tossed a bottle of fruit juice at me, and I caught it with my fumbling hands. I was never the most athletic of people. Fortunately, Shirley made no mention of my embarrassing reflexes.

“So…uh, where’s the ramyeon?” I asked, looking around. I had guessed that we would be eating cup ramyeon because she brought me to her room, but I didn’t see any sign of instant ramen anywhere.

Shirley gave me a look. “Are you an idiot? Do you really think I brought you to my room to eat ramyeon?”


“How innocent you are.” She sighed and rolled her eyes. “It was just an excuse to invite you over. I don’t actually have ramen. And stop looking so disappointed.”

“I was hungry. And if you want to invite me over, you could have just told me.”

“Clearly, I should have done that.” She smacked her forehead. “Now, let’s talk.”

“About what?” I stared at her, bewildered.

“You,” she replied, lying on her stomach as she stared seriously at me. “That look on your face when you suggested that we let the stalker go yesterday night…it was a mix of empathy and understanding. And I think it has something to do with your past. You mentioned a girl back in your high school and that being the reason why your high school classmates hate you?”

My mouth went dry. She really was astute. Lowering my head, my shoulders slumped and I sighed in resignation. I really didn’t want Shirley to know about this…if she did, then she would surely hate me. I wouldn’t be surprised if she never wanted to see me again. This would be the end of our relationship.

However, I couldn’t bring myself to lie to her. Steeling my resolve, I nodded.

“I won’t make any excuses. All I can say is that…back in high school, I was young and stupid, and I did a lot of dumb things that I now regret.”

John Lee H. Wu
Steward McOy