The thirteenth chapter to Uncharted Stars! I’ve been pretty busy lately so I apologize for the long wait. Anyway, here we keep going…
The streets of Hong Kong were busy like usual as I walked outside. The weather wasn’t cool outside; it was pretty damn hot. I guessed around 30 degrees. There seems to be a general impression with Thais that anywhere north of Thailand should be ‘cold’; not exactly true during the summer months.
I still wondered why Will had invited me out to McDonalds exactly (I mean, like, seriously, is there nothing better to do with life than to go and eat out at McDonalds, god damnit). Not like I cared, to be honest. It was nice to get out of the apartment and have someone waiting for me instead of wandering around the streets alone. I don’t know how many times I’ve prowled around the Tsim Sha Tsui area. It’s a top-notch district of the Kowloon side of Hong Kong, alright; it’s a bustling shopping district. But I wasn’t interested in those sort of brand-name types, so I don’t know. Maybe if I were a Thai girl who felt personal insecurity at the thought of not using some fancy brand-name handbag, then maybe I’d pay more interest.
I don’t know. Maybe I should pay more attention to what Thai girls like. Aren’t impressions all that count when it comes to girls?
I rounded the street and walked up a building. McDonalds was on the second floor, and I took a lift up to get there. The McDonalds shop itself was pretty small (like everything else in Hong Kong, actually). When the lift opened, I entered the welcoming McDonald atmosphere with a Ronald McDonald literally standing there with open eyes. (To be honest, I’ve never seen how Ronald McDonald makes McDonalds more attractive with him than without). I walked in and looking to the left of the counter, I saw my friends sitting around a table.
A bunch of them.
There was Chip sitting next to Alison, Jinny sitting net to Jessie, and Will sitting next to Carl. They were all happily (or at least they appeared to be) feasting on mcDonald burgers and French fries (I don’t enjoy both, actually).
“Heye, Pete!” Jessie called. Jessie is actually Jinny’s best friend, and she’s a pretty cheerful and optimistic girl although she gossips a little too much. I like her as a friend, although we haven’t talked all that much (I don’t talk much to anyone anyway). She’s also a container gardening fanatic.
“Hi Jessie. Hi everyone.” I said and walked to sit down next to Jinny. We exchanged a brief glance, and I realized the last time she saw me would be when I fainted during the running in Sports Day.
Oh god. That thought. It was like food poisoning for the mind.
“Go order some food, Pete. We didn’t order any for you. I’m not babysitting you.” Will said.
“No it’s okay, I’m not hungry. Yet.”
“Oh god bless you. That nice little run yesterday proved once and for all that you do need to eat more. Come with me, I’ll order you something to fatten you up with.”
I probably looked noticeably more drained when he mentioned the run, because everyone became silent. Will looked a bit confused for a moment before he realized that the joke wasn’t funny.
“No, it’s okay.” I said. It wasn’t actually. I still felt really embarrassed by it.
“No, that was the reason we wanted you to come here today.” Will went on. “So how was it for you?”
Another moment of awkward silence.
“Okay, I mean- that was a bad question. Of course it wasn’t good for you.”
“What I’d like to know is the damage it caused on like, you know, my reputation.” I said coldly. “I’m quite interested in knowing more about that.”
“The damage…” Will said.
“It wasn’t good.” Jinny said suddenly. Everyone else wasn’t looking very comfortable. Jinny kept going. “I’m going to be pretty frank. Everyone laughed. You looked like a clown. You looked very weak.”
Ouch. That hurt. Especially coming from Jinny.
“Yeah, I could’ve guessed that.” I said quietly. “It wasn’t good, alright.”
“No, but here’s the point.” said Chip. “You’re down, but not out. You can still keep going.”
“Wait, so is this some sort of comforting-Pete ceremony we’re having here?” I said with a chuckle. I summoned up some fake confidence and cheeriness even though inside I had none. I hadn’t been expecting this. “Lord Jesus. I never knew you guys cared this much about me. I mean, like, gee- thanks, guys. But this makes me feel awkward, you know.”
“Aw, it’s okay.” Jessie said immediately. “It’s not like people are going to remember what happened. You’ll be fine. You’ll get to redeem yourself.”
I do love Jessie’s optimism. “Thanks.”
“Well, it’s nice to see that you’re still alive and well.” Will said. “I mean, we didn’t want you to stress out or something. We didn’t want you to resign, either.”
“Eh, I guess I’m not that stressed.” I liked, just to make my friends feel better. I didn’t exactly like being worried about. I know some people who enjoy being the center of attention and demands it 24/7, but I’m just not like that. “But I’ve given some thought to resigning though. I’m pretty crappy at this job, let’s be honest.”
Will, who was chewing on a burger, took it out of his mouth and slammed it onto the table. I peered at it for a half-second and it looked pretty flattened from the sheer force. “You are not resigning.” he snarled.
“I wasn’t aware you care so much about Student Council.” I said.
“No, no, think about.” said Will. “You need to realize this. All of us here have been giving some thought to this, and from what it looks like this was a plan laid out by Jason. He probably suggested the water polo event when he intentionally mess up on it, which led to the last minute decision on the race thing for you. I mean, look- he knew you suck at sports. I hate to be so straight, but it’s the truth.”
I know that, I thought to myself. Will kept going.
“You remember, a few weeks back when we had those random masked people trying to force you to resign? I’ll bet my underwear that they were Jason’s team. Jason has his supporters. He wants President. Why he cares so much I don’t know, and I don’t bother figuring out.
“The point, though, is that he expects you to resign after this so that new elections can be held and he can become President or whatever. And let me say this straight: that’d suck. He’s an arrogant arse and he needs to be shoved back into place. But if you resign, if you do choose to do it- that’s a victory for him. I don’t want to feed him any victories. Do you understand me?”
I paused for a moment and nodded weakly. I was beginning to grasp the significance of the plans Jason might be having inside his head, but I wasn’t exactly prepared to deal with that yet, only recently having fallen victim to such plans.
“Yes, I understand what you mean.”
“Alright. So you are not resigning. What you will do to try to redeem your reputation and create for yourself trustworthiness and awesomeness will be dealt with later.” Will said confidently. “Jason will not be allowed to win.”
I felt like I’d just hired a PR manager without knowing it.
“Anyway, while comforting you was a big purpose of why we’re here today- apparently you didn’t need too much of that, thank the heavens because I hate comforting emotional people- the other one is that I have decided that you need a break. We will give you a break. A long break. One that will last the entire week.” Will smiled to me. I looked around and the other people were nodding.
“Oh, don’t look so surprised. I’ll explain. So, here’s Carl.” Will immediately slapped Carl’s back. Hard. Carl’s a German who’s a new student at our school, and he’s become pretty good friends with Will. He’s only joined this year. I’ve never talked to him.
“Carl is new to Hong Kong and apparently he has never known anything outside of his native Germany.” Will said. “While I would have preferred for Carl to take us for a tour of his country so that I can feast on sausage, beer and become an outlaw Neo-Nazi-”
“Oh come on Will, really? Please don’t be a Neo-Nazi. Those discriminate Asians.” Chip said.
Carl nodded, and said in halting Mandarin: “No Nazi. No Neo-Nazi. No.”
“Oh shut up Chip. I just thought it sounded cool. What are Neo-Nazis, exactly, though? Well, in any case, Carl isn’t taking us to Germany because I demanded he pay for the fee for all of us here. But instead, since he is so new to our little island, we shall be taking him for a tour of the lovely Hong Kong and Kowloon territories.”
“Wait-” I started, but Will just kept talking while fingering up his burger and squashing it around so bits of vegetables and meat began to pop out.
“We will be embarking on a one week tour of the island. We won’t be returning home on any of those days, because that’s a waste of time, and instead we’ll spend time at different hotels. We will show Carl what Hong Kong is. And so I’ve decided to gather people I thought you know, like Jinny- and people who I think you should begin to know, due to the fact that you’re in Student Council, like Chip and Alison.”
This was going too fast. “Wait, what?” I exclaimed. “I barely go out with any of you. You’re wanting me to-”
“Oh come on, Pete.” Jessie said. “You know you want to! I’ve already began to draw up the itinerary. We’re gonna be touring all the major crap, of course, and we’re maybe gonna take him on the unknown side of Hong Kong.”
“The unknown side of Hong Kong.” I repeated slowly.
“Just in case you little Thai didn’t know, Hong Kong actually has places for eco-travel.” Jessie said proudly. “We will be showing Carl, and you, these places.”
“How fascinating.” I mumbled. “What sort of places?”
“Hiking, biking, traveling by sea, I don’t know. Alright, so are you coming?”
“Um…I gotta ask my uncl-” I started.
Will held up an open palm. “No you don’t You don’t need to ask anyone. We’re going to take you back to your apartment, and you can pack up all the crap you need. You know, travel light; a few clothes, personal stuff, Barbie dolls, that’s it. We’ll help explain to your uncle and aunt and we’re going to be starting today.”
I looked around. Everyone was nodding eagerly (except for Carl, who didn’t seem exactly too enthusiastic about all this).
They truly wanted to help me ‘relax’, I guess. But I was truly hesitating. I’d barely ever even went out with friends. I hated socializing. And how I’m feeling then was that I wanted to just bury myself under my bed and hide from everyone.
I glanced at Jinny. She smiled back.
“Do something every day that scares you.” That quote my mom had written in the speech.
Maybe it’d help to be charting through some new, unknown stars.
I sighed. “Alright. Let’s go for a little adventure then.”