Sync or swim

Sync or swim

Part 23 of our serial

June 29, 2012
June 22, 2012
June 15, 2012
June 08, 2012
June 01, 2012
May 25, 2012
May 25, 2012
May 18, 2012
May 11, 2012
May 04, 2012


Sync or swim_L
Illustration: Lau Ka-kuen/SCMP
When Grandad and Ethan got to the hospital, they were relieved to find Mr Wong already sitting up in bed.

Now, as they watched, he gazed out across the ward for a few moments before slowly shaking his bandaged head. "I'm, sorry. I just can't remember whether I was pushed or I fell. It all happened so quickly."

"But it would be a bit of a coincidence if you just fell, wouldn't it?" Grandad demanded impatiently. "Right after the graffiti and the silent phone calls had begun again."

Ethan was stunned by this revelation. "What? And you've told the police about this?"

It was Wong who answered. "Of course we have. But the property agent had already told them we only made accusations to push up the price."

Ethan knew all too well that, via this agent, a developer was trying to buy up 80 per cent of the properties in the old building that housed both Wong and Grandad's shops, and thereby ensure the other owners would have to sell.

Wong turned to Grandad with a resolute look on his face. "But those crooks aren't going to force us out, are they?"

Grandad smiled at him. "Of course not."

Ethan, however, knew his grandfather well enough to find his show of optimism less than convincing.

That night, as he lay in bed, Ethan thought about his stalker and how this menacing figure had watched the aftermath of Wong's "accident". Was he linked to the property agent's skulduggery? Ethan would have to find out.

But not tomorrow evening, he thought, as he finally fell asleep.

As he entered school the next day, his phone beeped with a text from Sam: "Yee-hah! Shamefacebook revenues booming!"

But even this good news didn't compare to the thrill of bumping into Maya by the lockers. "Eight o'clock?" she asked, with a smile.

"Eight o'clock," he nodded, with a grin that threatened to split his face in half.

"Hi, Maya," a voice behind them interjected. They turned to find Charlotte Chan, and her twin, Gilbert, smirking inanely. "Look at this new photo app I've got. It's so advanced it can take a picture of anyone and make them look cool."

Charlotte snapped Ethan with her smart phone then showed the shot to her brother. "Oh, dear. Even with the latest technology, Ethan still looks like a dork."

Ethan, however, just beamed back at them - his current good mood was bulletproof. As the twins stared at each other, their disappointment at his reaction palpable, Maya took the phone from Charlotte.

With her finger over the lens, she pointed it at the twins and pressed the shutter release.

"Nope, your app does work," Maya told them before showing them the screen. "I've never seen you two looking better."

"But it's all black," Gilbert complained.

"Oh, yeah," Maya said, slapping her forehead. "That'll be why."

All Ethan's classmates had seen the flowers he'd decorated Maya's locker with on Valentine's Day. But rather than being embarrassed by the teasing that continued right up until the final bell, he quietly revelled in it.

Having already messed up so many chances with Maya, Ethan was anxious to get to her house in plenty of time that evening.

He waited until exactly eight o'clock before ringing the bell. The door was opened by Maya's mum.

"So, you must be Ethan," she said with an approving smile. Now, despite his best efforts, he blushed profusely.

And when, on the way to the cinema, Maya took his hand, he blushed again - this time with pleasure.

She leant towards him. "You know, I saw someone pacing up and down outside our place earlier this evening."

A surge of electricity shot through Ethan.

"What! You too?" he demanded, thoughts of the hooded stalker suddenly filling his mind. "What was he wearing?"

"Oh ... jeans and ... a red sweatshirt."

"Yeah?" Ethan began, before looking down at his own clothes and, after a moment, laughing.

The film they went to see was terrible - which made their meal afterwards all the more fun, as they took it in turns to recite its cheesiest lines. And, after Ethan had apologised for his choice of the rom-com, they swore a solemn oath to, in future, stick to the horror films they both adored.

As they walked back to her house, Ethan was oblivious to everything but Maya's head on his shoulder and his hand gently squeezing her waist.

And when, on her doorstep, Maya turned to him, Ethan felt like he was standing on the edge of a cliff that was crumbling beneath his feet.

And, as it did, he leant forward and kissed her.

Ethan floated through the school gates the next day, past the scrum of honking and revving top-of-the-range cars that delivered, in his eyes at least, his fortunate schoolmates.

Inside the main building, however, Sam brought him crashing to earth when he shoved his smart phone in Ethan's face and asked, "Have you seen this?"

It was a blurred, but still unmistakable, photo of Ethan kissing Maya, tagged: "Some frogs never turn into princes."

"Who ..." Ethan began, before he caught sight of Gilbert Chan leaning against a locker, laughing and tapping his own phone.

As Ethan lunged towards him, Sam grabbed his pal. "Ethan, Maya's just laughed it off."

But the red mist had descended. Ethan shook off his pal, and collared Gilbert. Yes, he was furious this worm would try to embarrass Maya, but something deeper fuelled his anger. As he drew back his fist, Ethan demanded to know, "Is it you? Have you been stalking me?"

Sam's rugby training came in useful at times like these, and a crash tackle prevented Ethan making a bigger fool of himself than the Chan twins could ever hope to.

By the time Ethan set out to investigate his grandad's tormentors that evening, he'd long since dismissed the notion that a wuss like Gilbert could track him through the streets over so many nights.

However, as Ethan approached the property agent's office, he registered someone at the edge of his vision, someone wearing an all-too-familiar hoodie.

And, incredibly, with their attention also fixed on the office, they hadn't spotted Ethan.

The initial surge of fear that Ethan felt quickly turned to a cold, determined rage. Retreating slowly, he raced down a side street before looping back to the main road.

Too late the stalker reacted to the sound of approaching feet. As Ethan grabbed a flailing arm, the hood slipped from their head and ... Ethan froze as he stared open-mouthed at the identity of his long-time pursuer.

To be continued next week


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