Chapter 23:

Blast from the Past

Sweet like Honey

The next week flew by before I knew it, and I slowly eased back to my daily routine of working at the Honey Café. I found myself taking more off days these few weeks, with Bernard and Honey Chan forcing me to rest. During those days, Shirley would drag me out, and no matter where we went, we would inevitably find ourselves in a karaoke bar.

I was more than happy to accompany her. As long as she enjoyed herself while singing, that was all that mattered to me.

She also had more good news for me. During one of her sessions, she dropped a hint as to what her future plans were.

“Junior, I managed to get a new job. It’s temporary, though, because I don’t see myself doing it for long, but I’m going to give it my best shot!”

“Oh?” I smiled, infected by her enthusiasm. “Congratulations. What job is it? I’m guessing it has something to do with singing?”

“Something like that.” Shirley smirked enigmatically. “More like a freelance entertainer. It’s not as impressive as it sounds. I simply sing at parties or whatever events I’m invited to. Hopefully, by exposing myself to smaller audiences, it’ll help me overcome my stage fright.”

“That’s great!” I was pleased for her. “I’m sure you’ll do very well. But just don’t force yourself, all right?”

“You know me.” Shirley giggled. “Don’t worry, Junior. I know how to take care of myself.”

However, those peaceful days were abruptly halted by the appearance of yet another old schoolmate.

“Welcome,” I said when I heard the automatic doors slide open and a new customer came in. Retrieving up my notepad, I prepared to take orders, but froze when I caught sight of her face and the long blond hair that she had elegantly tied up to a bun.

Helen Huang. What was she doing here? Shouldn’t she still be in the countryside?

Forcing my questions aside, I maintained my professional smile.

“Would you like a table, or are you ordering to go?”

“I’m dining in,” Helen replied, her scrutiny intense. She all but smirked. “So you really are working here.”

She didn’t address me by name. I would be surprised if she knew my name. she simply knew me as her stalker, and while I didn’t go as far as Fan Wong, I supposed my behavior was borderline stalkerish. Especially at school.

“This way, please.” I didn’t reply to her directly and instead led her to a table. Helen watched me somewhat warily – and I didn’t blame her, though it puzzled me why she would come here then if she knew I was working here – before she followed and took a seat. I passed her a menu, and though she accepted it, she didn’t browse.

Instead, she stared at me.

“You really have changed.”

I said nothing, only inclining my head as I waited patiently. Helen rolled her eyes.

“You don’t have to be so tense. I’m here as a customer today. I’m not here to cause any trouble.”

That was what Victor Tang said…before he caused trouble. I didn’t say that, of course. Instead, I nodded in pretend agreement.

“That being the case, ma’am, is there anything you have in mind? Would you like some food to go with a drink, or just a cup of beverage?”

“Victor’s right.” Helen scowled. “Your fake professionalism is off-putting. Do you mind dropping that waiter act?”

“I’m afraid not, ma’am.” I took a step back and nodded at Honey, who appeared to notice. She was getting ready to step in.

“There’s no need to be afraid of me. I’m not going to do anything to you.” Helen sighed. “Look, I just want to talk.”

“I’m afraid I’m working right now, so it will not be appropriate…”

“I heard you don’t intend to attend the high school reunion next week.”

That caught my attention. I paused in the middle of my retreat and turned toward her. “Yeah, that’s right.”


“After everything I did? I’m sorry.” I lowered my head. “I don’t deserve to be there. I apologize for what I did, and I promised I would stay away. I don’t intend to break that vow.”

Helen studied me for a few seconds, even as I backed away. She sighed heavily and leaned against her chair.

“If you want me to forgive you, then show up at the reunion.”

I stared at her, bewildered. “What?”

“You heard me. Come to the reunion. And then we’ll forget that everything in high school happened. We will move on from the past and toward the future. Sounds good?”

I was dumbfounded. The last time we spoke, back in high school, she was declaring war on me if I ever got near her…if I even so much as commented on her social media. And now she was offering a truce?

This…wasn’t a trap, was it?

“Just take your time and think about it.” Helen rose from her seat and waved airily. “But I do hope I get to see you next week. If you come, we’ll wash the slate clean and only look forward from there. Otherwise, you can continue to hide for as long as you like, but I’m sure Victor will persist in hunting you.”

“If he does, we’ll call the cops,” Honey said, surprising Helen. She shrugged nonchalantly, struggling to maintain her composure.

“Fair enough.”

With that, she left. Honey glared after her, her hands on her hips.

“Who does she think she is, swaggering in like that and acting all high and mighty?” She turned toward me. “Remember, Junior. You don’t have to do what she demands of you. If they continue to harass you, we’ll report them to the cops. We have your back, so don’t worry about what they might try to do. Just don’t fall for their sweet talk. If they really planned on forgiving you and washing the slate clean, they wouldn’t give you some stupid condition and gaslight you into attending a high school reunion. It’s obvious they are planning something.”

“She didn’t even buy a drink,” I grumbled. “She came here, sat down, and then left without purchasing anything.”

That’s what you’re worried about?!” Honey threw her hands up. She placed a hand on my shoulder, but she was pretty short, so she had to really stretch. “Junior, you have us. You don’t need to appease a bunch of people from your past. And from what I’ve seen so far, they aren’t very pleasant people. They aren’t worth your time.”

“I mean, I’m agreeing with you. Anyone who walks into our café and then leaves without buying anything can’t be trusted.”

Honey burst out laughing, her hands flying to her stomach. “Now that I can’t argue against.”

“If you don’t mind me saying…” Shirley held a hand and poked her head out from her corner. She was wearing the cap and sunglasses, but ever since that day, she had ditched her mask. “Junior, I think you should go ahead. Not because I believe your high school schoolmates, but I think it’ll be good for you to get some closure. To confront them and break ties with them once and for all.”

“Closure, huh?” I considered that. “That actually sounds like a good idea.”

“Yeah.” Shirley smirked. “I heard this saying from one of the anime you recommended me. If you run away, you gain one. If you move forward, you gain two. Continuing to avoid them might be an excellent course of action to take, but if you confront them head on and get some closure, perhaps by saying your final farewell to them, you’ll be able to truly move on.”

“You might be right.” I nodded and crossed my arms, impressed. “I’ll think about it. Thank you for your advice. It’s really helpful.”

“Of course.” My girlfriend was pleased. “And as Aunt Honey says, no matter what choice you make, we will always have your back.”

“Yeah, thanks.”

And I made my decision.

John Lee H. Wu
Steward McOy