Tuesday. Elle arrived to work wet, yet again. In a lavender blouse with short sleeves and denim short shorts, she went to Buzzy’s workroom to find New Guy.
“Morning Buzzy,” she said calmly.
“Morning,” he replied without looking at her.
“I don’t think I’ll need you too much today, so when I need you I’ll find you, ok?”
“Morning New Guy.”
“Come with me for a moment.”
He followed her to the common area. She asked, “Do you know if…,” took out the Chinese dictionary and finds the characters she needed, “there are spare portable whiteboards and markers in the studio?”
“Let me look around and see if I can find any. If not, I’ll buy some.”
“If you need to buy them, can I come with you?”
“Cool. I’ll wait here for you.”
New Guy left to find some whiteboards and markers while Elle continued in the Chinese dictionary looking for characters that appealed to her. He returned 10 minutes later with no whiteboard and marker. She put the dictionary back in her purse and went with him.
They were on the streets when she asked, “Does Buzzy know you’re with me?”
“What do you usually do for him all day?”
“All I do is get his lunch; dinner also if he decides to stay a little later to finish a song.”
“You are his intern, has he…,” she pulled out the dictionary again and looked for a character, “mentored you?”
“No, he keeps to himself a lot.”
“Have you been working on a song on your own while you sit in…boredom?”
“Have. Wrote about how he isn’t doing what is implied. Until recently, I’ve been forming ideas on the goddess I told you about.”
They arrived at the office supply store and she abruptly changed the subject to, “What size whiteboard should I get and how many?”
“If you get the big ones,” he began, “you can write a lot, however, if you get the small ones, it’s easier to rearrange lines and piece the song together.”
She decided to get a medium-sized one where he could carry it width-wise and a 5-pack of small ones, and they went to check out. While checking out, they encountered the same thing there with the cashier as at the bookstore and music store: being hassled with questions about dating JZ, and if she was not, was she dating the chubby New Guy.
When they were on the noisy streets again, she asked, “For the song you are writing about this goddess, what are some of your ideas so far?”
“I don’t know her well-enough to write anything about her, so all I have is her beauty. ‘Her beauty is beyond all goddesses combined’ is all I have so far,” he shyly admitted.
“Wow, is this girl real?” she jokingly asked.
“Yes,” he laughed.
“Where did you meet her?”
“In a bookstore,” he lied.
“How did you meet her?”
“I didn’t exactly meet her. She was promoting her book,” he lied again.
“How old is she?”
“Thirty to 35 years old,” he lied again.
“But you’re only 18 years old.”
“I’m 17 years old. I interned at the studio after I graduated high school.”
“You’re 17 years old and she’s 30-35 years old. Why don’t you find someone your age?”
“I like mature women.”
They finally arrived at the studio and went their separate ways. In the common room, Elle wrote down the characters that she liked on the medium-sized whiteboard as she continued going through the dictionary. The guys who passed by to take a smoke break did not understand what she was doing and did not find out. She ignored all the noise that passed her when everyone went to and came back from lunch. She did not leave her spot except when going to the restroom.
Half an hour before the workday ended, she was lying down with her stomach on the floor when she noticed a shadow but refused to look up, intending to work until the workday ended. Seeing her so focused, the shadow bent down and tapped her shoulder. She looked up.
“You promised I can talk to you for half an hour today,” said JZ with kind eyes.
“Sit and talk,” she ordered, keeping her hands where they were.
“I don’t want to talk to you here.”
Without a fuss, she packed up what she was working on and followed him. He tried to hold the whiteboards for her, but she refused. “You know you look ridiculous carrying all that stuff, right?” She did not respond, so he typed what he said on his phone and showed it to her. She threw him an angry look and stuck her tongue out. He laughed. He led her to the table they sat at yesterday in the cafeteria. While she was putting the whiteboards on the floor, he pulled out her throne. When she sat, he pushed it in. When he sat on his throne, the waiter brought a meal to the table.
“When we were in the dance room yesterday,” he slowly began, “who were you dancing with?” he asked in a kind tone with a serious face.
She asked for his phone and typed, “You said you wanted to talk to me. That means you make statements not ask questions,” and handed it back.
“That’s a very narrow interpretation of talking,” he showed her. Then he talked while typing. She did not understand much of what he was saying because he was using words she had not heard of before. He finished talking before he finished typing. When he handed the phone to her, she read, “Yesterday, I fooled myself into thinking that you were dancing with me. I fooled myself into believing that you were kissing me. I waited 382 days for the chance to dance with you and kiss you. I felt bliss in my heart and all over my body, feeling that you accepted my desire to be with you and you returned your desire for me. I saw your face. I saw your eyes. I saw your smile. I felt what you felt. However, I realize those feelings were not for me. I want to know who those feelings were for.”
As she read it, tears rolled down her face. Surprised that he made her cry and not knowing what to do, he commanded, “Stop crying.” She was not paying attention to him. She continued reading and cried even more, making it impossible to read everything on the screen. She kept wiping her eyes with her cloth napkin but they would not stop. She gave up and threw the phone at him and ran. She exited his palace the only way she knew: by running through the studio’s hallway. He quickly got up and chased her. On the street people saw a blur.
Once he was outside the studio, she was gone. “Have you seen a girl running with a cloth napkin on her face?” he impolitely asked as if he was in a hurry. They pointed him in the right direction but he never found her. “How could someone with short legs run so fast?” he frustratingly thought. “Where are you?” he shouted at the top of his lungs. He attracted attention and he got people to help him once again. “Help me find her,” he said desperately, showing a picture of Elle on his phone. He tried to squeeze through the crowd. Ten minutes later, he got out and realized he had lost her. He squeezed through the crowd again to get to his car and drive around, hoping to spot her still running in the same direction.
Elle loudly went into some sort of garden center. With her tears easing its flow, she went to the darkest corner she could find and cried softly. An old lady hearing a sound that did not belong to this place, went to investigate its source.
“What are you doing here so late in the day?” asked the old lady.
“I’m hiding,” Elle responded, nearly unintelligible to the old lady.
She paused for a moment to try and figure out what the girl had said, hearing that the girl was sitting on the grass with her face on her knees. “I’m 97 and blind,” the old lady said, “next time talk louder and clearer.” She paused. “Who or what are you hiding from?”
She lifted her head, “I’m…hi…ding…from…my…boss…” and returned her face to her knees.
The old lady laughed. “That’s it?” she asked. “What did he do?” she asked more seriously.
“If you feel that strongly to run from your boss because of this information, you should quit your job and get another one where you won’t have this kind of information to give. You can also start your own business. I started this business when I was 50 and nobody orders me around.”
Elle kept weeping.
“My grandson will be here soon to take me home. Do you want him to drop you off somewhere?”
“Can you ask him to drop me off at JZ’s studio?” her voice stressed with tears still streaming down her face.
“That womanizer’s studio? Are you sure?”
“Yes. I left my purse there.”
A young man approached. “Ready to go, grandma?” he asked. His voice was not familiar, but when Elle looked up, she recognized him: the waiter at JZ’s cafeteria.
“Jing,” the old lady said, “take this young lady to the womanizer’s studio. She left her purse there.”
“Ok, grandma,” he said as normal as he could.
Elle got up and said with a shaky voice, “Thank you both for your kindness.”
“Where are my manners?” the old lady said. “This is my grandson, Jing. He’s a waiter at a restaurant, learning from the head chef to become a world-class chef. This is…what’s your name, young lady?”
“My name is Elle,” she awkwardly replied. “I’m the womanizer’s newest song-writer.”
“The one all over the news?” the old lady asked in amazement.
“Yes,” she replied.
“You can quit your job and work for me,” the old lady comforted.
“Thank you for your generous offer. I greatly appreciate it in a time like this.”
“You can appreciate it when you take the job.”
“I want to work for him for as long as I can because I can make good money. That way, I can send money to my parents and buy school supplies for my students.”
“Where do your parents live?” the old lady asked, wondering why a bachelorette is not living with her parents.
“Oh, that far, huh? Well, a job will be waiting for you if you want it.”
“Let’s go,” the old lady said.
In the car the old lady asked, “Why did you take the job in the first place?”
“He said he would give me everything I said I wanted if I work for him.”
“How long ago was this?”
“Four days ago.”
“Did he give you everything you wanted?”
The old lady sighed then said, “You need to toughen up. The world is not going to continue without strong people leading it. Do what is the best option.”
Elle did not know what the old lady was saying, but nodded in agreement. The car stopped at front of the studio. Elle thanked them both for their generosity and the car drove off.
She could not bring herself to enter the building. The lights in the studio were still on. She paced near the door, but not in the receptionist’s vantage point. “I have to go in and get what he originally agreed to, or I will quit,” she said to herself. She took a deep breath to gather herself and entered the building.
“I left my purse in the cafeteria. Did anyone bring it to you when I came back?” Elle asked nicely.
“No, I haven’t seen it. Let me send a group text,” she answered in her normal voice and took out her phone. After she sent the group text, she whispered, “I have to tell JZ because it’s one of my duties.”
Elle nodded in understanding and stepped back to lean against the cool wall.
Her phone started singing one of JZ’s songs. It rung for a minute from all the texts she was receiving. “JZ’s assistant has it, but will only give it to JZ to hand it to you.”
Elle nodded in understanding and apologized, “Sorry I caused you to stay late. I’ll wait in the common area.” She sat on one of the couches and unintentionally dozed off.
Elle awoke to JZ shaking her arm to wake her up. She sat up while he sat on the floor facing her, feeling with his eyes her sad and exhausted face. He sent his receptionist and assistant home. He handed his phone to her that said, “I’m sorry for making you so upset.”
“I don’t want to work here anymore,” she typed back.
“Tell me what you want and I promise to give it to you.”
“Your word has no value. On Saturday at my apartment, you agreed to stop acting like I’m your love interest at work, but yesterday you did not do that. We dined, danced, and kissed during the time I was supposed to be working. I don’t feel emotionally safe with you.”
“I was better today, wasn’t I? You didn’t see me for nearly the entire work day. I can be better tomorrow.”
“You are not solving the problem. You’re also not reading what I’m writing. What I’m saying is that you promised to not look at me like you want to take me to your bed, you promised to not touch me like you want to take me to your bed, you promised to not talk to me like you want to take me to your bed, and other very inappropriate things, but you broke these promises. Your promises are not worth anything until you prove you are keeping them.”
“I will be better tomorrow.”
“1: Better is not good enough for me. If you are not perfect, I will quit as I intended. 2: I won’t be at work tomorrow.”
“I will be the best tomorrow. Why won’t you be at work tomorrow?”
“You caused me emotional trauma. Take tomorrow to practice how you will treat me in the future.”
Elle looked at the clock. “Do you have a blanket here?” she asked.
“No. Do you plan on staying the night?”
“Yes, the last subway already left the station.”
He dared not offer to take her home so he said, “I can get one from my suite.”
She pointed at the phone. He typed it. She read it.
“Where do you live?”
“The silver building next to this one.”
“I thought that was a hotel.”
“Good. I’ll return with a blanket soon.”
“Thank you.” She relaxed. “Wait! Where’s my purse?”
“Right here,” he said, lifting it from the floor on the other side of the couch.
“Don’t be so polite.”
She checked to see if she still had both dictionaries and music sheets in her purse. They were. She took the Chinese dictionary to continue where she left off. He returned a few minutes later with a blanket and pillow.
“Thank you. Good night.”