This is a work of fiction
A family feud of deceit, games and revenge. Who is telling the truth ?
It was going to be my first interview in four years. Most of my friends had jumped ship and switched jobs barely two years into their careers, securing better pay packages and better terms of employment whenever possible. I wanted to do the same but perhaps I was a little softer when it came to interpersonal relationships. My boss, Mr Koh was a nice person, a retired principal. He was quite soft spoken and hardly spoke up during meetings and discussions. If I did not make any introductions, people would probably think he was working for me instead.
Anyway, two years into my job, he admitted that his small office of seven was not the place for me. He meant that in a nice and respectful way of course. Mr Koh told me that there was hardly any growth prospect for me in his firm. In terms of pay, he couldn’t afford to go as high as what the big boys were paying. Still, I hung on for a while longer, doing what I could to help put things in order for his small import and export company.
Even with a 100 dollar increment every year, my pay barely touched 3000 dollars at the end of 2012. For a poly graduate with lousy grades, it was still not too bad considering I was just turning 27. Single and with no commitments, I guessed 2900 dollars was not a figure I could complain about. I would have burst a blood vessel and died if I compared myself with my peers who were doing a lot better so I stopped comparing.
6th November 2012
It was just like any other work day. I walked into office with my coffee and breakfast in hand, looking forward to spending the next 30 minutes surfing the net and eating my sandwich before I started work. I was surprised to see Mr Koh in his office that early, he seldom came in before 10 in the morning. Out of respect, I went over to say ‘hi’ and was surprised when Mr Koh asked me in.
Mr Koh: James… sit… sit…
He was sifting through some papers while he looked at his phone, pushing his glasses down the ridge of his nose to get a better look at the message. I felt flood of mixed emotions when I heard what Mr Koh had to say to me that morning.
Mr Koh: I set up an interview for you… It’s for this big company… very good… my friend’s friend…
I did not know how to react. Honestly, I was feeling a little shocked. I could not even speak. And when I finally did, I asked if I was being fired.
James: Are… you firing me?
Mr Koh laughed and said of course not. He went on to say that he had been thinking about this for a few months and he felt that it was the right thing to do. He said that I was still young and I deserved a better career path than sticking with his old company. As much as he would like to keep me, he would not be able to live with the guilt should his company be the one hurdle that was blocking me from greater things. We spent 30 minutes talking about it and in the end I agreed to go for the interview. Inside my heart, I just wanted to make him happy so I agree to talk to the prospective new employer. At lunch time that day, Mr Koh told me I was to meet my employer for coffee at the new mall in Buona Vista, the Star Vista at 7:30 p.m.
Mr Koh: It’s just an informal chat… He’ll surely hire you… I spoke with him earlier and I gave you a very good recommendation.
I smiled and thanked Mr Koh.
I was staring at the number given to me by Mr Koh, thinking whether or not to call that number. When I got to the café, even without calling, I had a feeling about who I was going to meet. Aside from the regular patrons and the after work crowd, I saw two men sitting on the couch facing the entrance. They each had a coffee in hand and were chatting casually. Something in my head told me that it was them. I could not explain why I felt that way.
The two men looked young, probably in their mid-thirties. As I approached the entrance, our eyes met and they immediately got up and adjusted their suits. Their hands were extended and I shook the hand of the one closer to me who introduced himself as Victor. The other man was called Tianjun, TJ for short. Victor wasted no time and started straight away, asking me questions about my work, where I went to school and even which unit I belonged to in the army.
We spent 20 minutes chatting and it did not take long for me to realise that TJ did not speak a single word. He just looked around, drank his coffee and seemed uninterested in the entire interview. TJ was messaging and attempting to reach someone on his phone. Each time he was unsuccessful, he would whisper to Victor who gave a curt nod before returning to our chat.
Victor: Good… Good… You’re just the person I’m looking for….
I was surprised a second time that day when Victor offered me the job on the spot with a pay of 3500 dollars.
Victor: Come by tomorrow to sign the appointment letter. I’ll talk to Mr Koh…
James: Errr… can I… think about it…?
Victor laughed and said in a joking manner that Mr Koh had just told him earlier that he would be firing me tomorrow and that I would have to take the offer.
Victor: Trust me… Take this offer… Before this interview, Mr Koh even asked me to send the letter to his office tomorrow. Haha.
His words were swimming around my head as I sat in the café. Even during the short chat, I could roughly tell that Victor was a nice person. I hoped he was professional in his work too. He struck me as someone like an older brother, much like the platoon sergeant that you could click with during your NS days. I could not explain why but it just felt comfortable chatting with him. Victor was just a jovial smiling guy you would surely like even if you had just met him. TJ though, gave off a weird vibe as if he was a little distant.
Victor mentioned to TJ to try the phone again and during that attempt, TJ spoke into the phone for a while before it looked like he was hung up on.
Victor: Don’t mind James, err… wait for a while longer ah… I need you to meet someone…
James: Oh… okay… sure… Who is it, may I ask?
Victor smiled and replied after taking a deep breath.
Victor: Ermm… your new employer…
A hundred question marks started popping up in my head. I raised an eyebrow and Victor sat forward, clasping his hand together as he thought about how to put across the information to me in a simple way. Before he could speak, I saw TJ looking up, his eyes drifting behind me. A split second later, Victor too looked behind me. Before I could turn around, I jumped a little as a rolled up yoga mat dropped a little loudly onto the couch beside me. I turned around and Victor introduced me to Stephanie.
Victor: Meet my sister, Stephanie.
The moment I turned around, I felt my heart skipping a beat, depriving my body for that split second of oxygen rich blood. The girl standing in front of me was slightly shorter than me, I would say about five centimetres shorter than my 1.7 metre height. She was wearing a black singlet and beyond that, I saw a grey halter sports bra. The black three quarter tights she was wearing showed off her curves and her nicely sculpted bum and legs which surely were the results of good discipline. Her hair was tied up in a bun and she had no makeup on. Still, her cheeks looked a little flushed and from the perspiration on her forehead, anyone could tell that she had just finished her workout. The small white towel around her neck drew my attention to her flawless skin. I had to tear my eyes away from her as she dropped her bag on the couch.
Victor: He’s your new Operations Executive.
Inside my heart I was jumping in joy. Expressions like, ‘Hoh seh liao, huat ah… shiok…’ all came out at once. The thought of working for a hot and pretty girl was like something out of my fantasy. As fast as the joyful thoughts came, they went away the moment Stephanie spoke. She ignored me and spoke directly to Victor
Stephanie: What is the meaning of this?
Victor: There is none… I’m getting you help for your company…
Stephanie started to get a little mad and said that she could hire her own staff.
Stephanie: I am capable of making my own decisions… Don’t meddle in my affairs! I hire my own people…!
Victor: Sure… like the past three hires that lasted less than a month and messed up all the work.
Stephanie wanted to retort but was given a lecture by her brother.
Victor: You have only one client… That is me… So this is it… He works for you… there’s no room for negotiation.
I had never felt so uncomfortable in my life. Who the fuck would want to be caught up in such an awkward situation? It was a standoff alright as the siblings stared at each other in the café. After about a minute or so, Stephanie laughed and nodded her head a couple of times.
Stephanie: Sure… Sure… He works for me… Sure… hahaha.
Even without the need of anyone telling me, I knew if I accepted the offer, I would be fucked. The best thing to do would be to run as far as I could and never look back. Maybe even changing my phone number, changing my name and, fuck, maybe even begging Mr Koh to let me stay. There was no way I would be taking up that offer. I would surely get screwed up if I were caught up in this sibling rivalry. What I did not expect was for Stephanie to look at me and speak down to me in a manner that I found hard to describe. I assure you, if any man did that to another man, it was the signal for picking a fight.
Stephanie looked at me with folded arms, her head tilted to her left and said,
Stephanie: Sure… Let’s see how long you last…
I could tell she was not joking. In order to defuse the situation, I thought it would be a good idea to let Victor and her sort it out.
James: Ermm… why not you guys discuss about this… and…
Before I could finish, Stephanie rudely cut in.
Stephanie: Why? Are you afraid…? You don’t dare to work for me…?
I was fighting hard to control my anger. Victor looked like he was about to speak when somehow I lost it after Stephanie commented to her brother that he should probably interview some candidates with balls. That was it. I snapped and I replied to Stephanie.
James: I accept the offer…
Stephanie immediately locked eyes with me, her anger burning right into my eyes but I stared right back at her. Three seconds later, she spoke again.
Stephanie: Sure… Good…! You can start tomorrow…!
James: I will tender my resignation tomorrow… I will join after I serve my notice period of a month…
That was when things really got out of hand.
Stephanie: What notice period…? How much is your pay? I’ll pay for it… I’ll buy out your notice period… Say it…
I forced myself to keep my cool before I replied.
James: It’s not about the money… It’s about principles…
Stephanie was dealt another blow when both TJ and Victor stifled their sniggers. She looked like she was about to strangle me but she took a deep breath and surprisingly, she broke into a smile.
Stephanie: Principles… oh… principles… haha…
She nodded her head a couple of times before turning to her brother.
Stephanie: Okay… I like him already…
The silence that followed told me I had outstayed my welcome. I thanked Victor before I started making a move to leave.
James: Victor, thank you…
I shook his hand, followed by TJ’s. When I turned to Stephanie with my extended hand, she kept her arms folded and replied in a haughty manner.
Stephanie: Don’t… Touch… Me…
I took a deep breath and slowly retracted my arm. I gave her a nod and replied before I walked away.
James: I’ll be in touch…
As soon as the words left my mouth, Victor slapped his own thigh and burst into laughter. Victor’s words trailed behind me as I walked away from the table.
Victor: I like him already…
As soon as I walked away, I regretted saying the words. It was nothing but pure stupidity. Anyone with half a brain could have told you that pissing off your prospective employer was the last thing that you wanted to do. Then again it was the fucking attitude of that girl that I could not stand. It was just pure rude and uncouth behaviour. What kind of decent person with a proper upbringing would behave in such a manner? Sure, you had an issue with your brother meddling in your business but what part did I play in that? Nothing. I was just the guy on the street looking for a better career.
I gave a loud sigh as I walked towards the train station. Before I could get past the gantry, my phone rang and it was Mr Koh. I did not wish to pick up the call but I did so out of respect. Not many people could earn my respect these days.
James: Hi Mr Koh…
He told me that Victor had given him a call barely five minutes ago. According to him, Victor sang my praises so much that he was feeling a little regretful for letting me go to this interview.
James: Ehh… I haven’t accepted the offer…
Mr Koh: But you verbally agreed right…? That’s what I was told…
I replied a little too hastily.
James: I haven’t signed anything yet…
Mr Koh laughed and asked me to calm down.
Mr Koh: Relax… It’s okay… I know the terms he offered were good… I would take it if I were in your shoes too…
That was when I wanted to laugh out loud. If only he knew the situation I was in. After Mr Koh told me about the medical and dental benefits, not forgetting the 21 days of annual leave, I actually told him that I would really want to think about it first.
James: Ermm… did you know I’m not working for Victor? It’s… ermm… for his sister…
Mr Koh: Aiyah… Same la… It’s the family business… same same…
James: Err… haha… okay…
I managed an awkward laugh before I hung up. I turned back and looked at the new mall. Somehow my encounter with Stephanie left a bitter aftertaste in my mouth, even looking at the building made me feel sick. I tapped into the gantry and took the escalator up to the train platform, looking forward to get back home for a good sleep. Before I could get in line to queue up for entry, my phone rang again and it was a number I didn’t recognise.
Stephanie: It’s me… Your boss… This is my number…
Then she hung up. What the fuck? People actually behaved in this manner these days? I had to take a sip of water from my bottle to calm down before I got onto the train. No one could have taken that lying down. I decided to call Stephanie back right away.
James: You are very rude… You need to improve on your manners…
Then I went on a tirade, scolding her on her attitude when her feud with her brother had absolutely nothing to do with me. My heart beat faster with each passing minute. It was not just because I was giving her a piece of my mind. It was partly due to the fact that Stephanie kept quiet and listened without a word.
James: Having said that… I think you are an impossible person to work with… I’ll rethink the offer out of respect for your brother.
The moment I was done, I hung up on her. I heaved a sigh of relieve. It had been a while since I gave someone a piece of my mind but she deserved it.
7th November 2012
A courier came for Mr Koh with a large A3 envelope. Barely five minutes later, I was called into the room. Even without looking at it, I knew what it was. Together with some corporate folders, it was my offer letter. That was when I realised that the courier was still in Mr Koh’s room. He just stood there looking at me impatiently as if I was the one holding up his time.
Mr Koh: Wah… you see… big organisation do things chop chop one… Got standard… Nah… Here… after you sign pass back to him… He’s bringing it back…
My eyes widened and I wanted to speak. My head was spinning.
James: Actually… I don’t mind staying here Mr Koh… I…
Mr Koh: It’s okay James… I’m not someone who needs you to pacify me after you made up your decision… Hahaha…
I could tell it was a genuine laugh and Mr Koh was truly happy that I got the job. He went on saying that we could still work together in the future.
Mr Koh: Don’t worry… My door is always open for you James…
That last statement was what I wanted to hear. You always needed a backup. Still, looking at the letter, I was feeling apprehensive about putting my name on the dotted line, especially after my phone call with Stephanie. I tried to think positive thoughts. Maybe Victor would want me if Stephanie didn’t. Maybe he would post me into his team. Maybe Stephanie would close shop in a couple of weeks and I would get re-deployed. These thoughts made me feel a little better but the moment I looked at the courier guy checking out his watch, the sucky feeling came back.
Mr Koh: Don’t worry James… Everything will be just fine…
I signed the offer letter, thinking in my head that I could always quit in a month or so and come back saying that it was a different environment and the usual shit. At least it would pacify Mr Koh that I did take up the offer. Still, I had this weird feeling in my mind as the courier packed up the documents and went on his way. I leaned back on the chair in Mr Koh’s room, thinking I was truly fucked if I needed to work for Stephanie. She would probably kill me on the first day. How could she possible offer someone a job when she was just scolded by him the evening before? I was lost in my daydream when Mr Koh burst my bubble.
Mr Koh: Oh… by the way….. Stephanie called me… You know… Victor’s sister…
My eyes widened and I could literally feel my balls being squeezed.
Mr Koh: Ya… ya… Stephanie called me earlier this morning…
James: Errr… What did she say?
Mr Koh smiled and said that she too sang praises about me and she enjoyed the conversation she had with me yesterday. My heart sank as I listened on.
Mr Koh: Stephanie said that she looks forward to having you over as soon as possible… Haha… and that she has big plans laid out for you…
Inside my mind I knew I was dead.
Mr Koh: She offered to buy out your notice period… in a nice way of course…
Mr Koh looked away and tried to think of an appropriate term to use.
Mr Koh: I told her it’s fine actually… If she really needs you… you can probably wrap up the work you have on hand and join her…
Then he clapped his hands and flashed me a thumb’s up.
Mr Koh: As for the money… I asked her for it if course… haha… But it’s not for me… Take it as a parting red packet…
I could only manage an awkward smile when Mr Koh told me to report for work at Stephanie’s office two Mondays from now. I walked out of his room like a zombie and decided that I would not go down without a fight. There had to be another way.
I immediately Googled about Stephanie, looking for her social media accounts and I found out she was only two years older than me. Her birthday was reverse dates of mine. I was born on the seventh of June, while she was born on the sixth of July. It was surprising how much information was publicly available online. From her Facebook, I found out about her company. I read as much as I could, trying to get a whole picture put together. Within an hour, I had printouts of her company, her business profiles and other information on my desk.
Right when I was about to head out for lunch, an even bigger surprise awaited me. The office door opened and the moment she walked in, everyone stopped working. Heads turned and I saw Mr Koh coming out of the office. Stephanie came into the office dressed in a white long sleeved blouse paired with a grey asymmetrical skirt. Her black heels were glossy and shiny and so was the branded handbag that she held. She looked stunningly beautiful with her hair tied up into a neat bun. Her makeup was not too thick, just the right touch to bring out her naturally radiant and beautiful features. Beyond the white blouse, I saw an intricate lace camisole, one which was stretched and pushed out by her full breasts. I would be lying if I said I did not have any reaction in my pants when I looked at her. She looked around and when she saw Mr Koh, she extended her hand, greeting him warmly with respect. It was a total contrast to the way she behaved when she first met me.
Stephanie: Hi Mr Koh… nice to meet you…
Her smile lit up her face. And like the expert strokes of a master painter, that very smile added a different dimension to her facial profile. It was an endearing smile, one that was guaranteed to melt any heart. I stood frozen as I looked at the exchange between the two of them. Like a well-rehearsed movement, both of them turned and looked at me at the same time. My eyes widened and I discreetly covered up the information I had gathered on Stephanie with another folder.
Mr Koh gestured me over and I did not dare to look at Stephanie in her eyes. Not because I was afraid of her but because of how awkward I felt. I was asked along for lunch and I wanted to decline but Stephanie said she had already made reservations for three at the restaurant. Mr Koh drove and they chatted happily in the car while I hung on behind. If there was any feeling of awkwardness, they did show it. Aside from some basic exchange with Stephanie, I hardly spoke to her. I could tell that Mr Koh took a liking to her straightaway. The way he laughed and smiled and even the replies he gave. She was like the sweet daughter every father would love to have. I kid you not, if I hadn’t seen the other side of Stephanie, I would have fallen in love with her right there and then.
I excused myself to the bathroom and left the two of them to talk while waiting for the restaurant staff to bring the menu. After I settled into my seat at the restaurant in Siglap, Mr Koh excused himself to the bathroom, leaving me alone with Stephanie for the first time. The moment he left, Stephanie’s demeanour changed. She leaned back, folded her arms and crossed her legs. Not willing to be threatened, I did the same. I made myself comfortable and stared straight at Stephanie with my arms folded and a look of defiance on my face.
Stephanie: You should apologise for your behaviour that day…
James: What?! You got to be kidding me… You were the one that was rude.
Stephanie: Don’t be an ass… You’re a man, behave like a gentleman…
James: You are incredible… I have never seen someone as rude as you…
Stephanie: I don’t care… I expect an apology…
I could see that Stephanie was about to speak but I quickly beat her to it.
James: Look, I know where this is going… This is Singapore… employees are protected by the law…
I went on verbal diarrhoea about employment laws before I stopped when I noticed Stephanie just stared behind me before breaking into a smile. She immediately extended her hand.
Stephanie: I believed we got off on the wrong foot James… anyway… my name is Stephanie… Nice to meet you…
I was pleasantly surprised and I took a second longer to react.
James: Errr… okay… Nice… nice to meet you…
Something was off. It couldn’t be this simple. No way. I took Stephanie’s hand, feeling the soft skin of her hand in mine. There was this unique fragrance that came from her and I had no doubt that it would linger on my palm long after we broke contact. She did not need to say anything. Somehow through that brief handshake I knew I was fucked. She held on to my hand even when I loosened my grip. Before I could process any other thoughts in my mind, Mr Koh came back from the bathroom in time to see us shaking hands.
Mr Koh: So… err… you told James already?
Stephanie: Yup. He’s okay with starting tomorrow…
My eyes widened in horror and before I could react, Mr Koh laughed and said thank you to me.
Mr Koh: Wahahaha… Thanks James… You just won me my bet… hahaha…
Stephanie smiled shyly as Mr Koh bragged that he knew me well and he knew for sure that I would definitely agree to help Stephanie since she was really short-handed right now.
Mr Koh: Anyway… It’s just for these couple of days… I’m sure James would love to get acquainted with his new office.
I was left speechless and as much as I would have loved to retort, I did not want to make Mr Koh look bad.
I was still in a zombie like state when I left work.
Stephanie dropped me a SMS, telling to meet her at the Star Vista at 9:30 the next morning.
8th November 2012
I spent the evening thinking about it and realised it was actually myself making a big deal out of the whole thing. I mean, what could she do to me? Make me wash the toilet? Make me build a house? Make me crawl under her legs? Come on. I could easily tender my resignation and move on. There was nothing to be afraid of. I looked at myself in the bathroom that morning and told myself to man up.
When I laid my eyes on Stephanie that Thursday morning, I had to rub my eyes and do a double take. While I was in my work top and pants, she turned up in shorts and a tube top, revealing a good amount of her smooth skin. She had the nicest shoulders and collarbone of a girl I had ever seen. Hell, I did not know what even drew my eyes to her collarbone but it was just lovely. Her teal tube top hung snugly onto her body while the grey shorts covered half her thighs. She had a white bandage around her left wrist and she wore her watch on her right hand. Her flip flops were in white but you could see the dark stains from frequent wear.
She stopped in front of me and removed her shades.
James: You go to work like this?
Stephanie: You don’t question your employer’s dressing James…
She gestured for me to follow her to the carpark. Throwing me the keys, she motioned for me to start up the grey Toyota.
James: I’m not your chauffeur…
She gave me a pained look and pointed to her wrist before getting into the car. Twenty minutes later we arrived at Chinatown and entered a massage parlour. No, not the sleazy kind, it was those where you got foot and back massages at.
James: Aren’t we supposed to be at work? You said you needed help with something…
Stephanie: Shhhhh… I’m thinking of buying this place… We’re here to try it out…
Three minutes later I was begging for my life.
James: Argghhhh… no… no… no…
James: Uncle… wait… arghhhhh…
Stephanie just laughed away as I groaned and begged the uncle who was massaging me to show mercy. He did not reduce his strength, instead he gave me a breakdown of which organs in my body needed extra nourishment. I could hardly see Stephanie’s eyes as she laughed and slapped her thigh during the 45 minutes of foot massage. Every time I moaned in pain, she would crack up, at some point laughing till she had tears coming out. It was not funny to me at all. I hated the feeling and the moment we left, Stephanie asked me to do a feasibility study and give her a report whether or not to take over that shop. Although I was not exactly sure what she wanted me to do, I just nodded my head.
We entered the car again. Thirty minutes later, we got to Tanglin and I followed her into a nail parlour. She motioned for me to take off my shoes and I shook my head. Without batting an eyelid, Stephanie retrieved from her bag the employment contract which I had signed the day earlier, citing a clause about the employee’s dressing and bearing.
Stephanie: It’s says here about personal grooming… Look at your nails…
As if that were not enough, she whispered that she was interested to take over that business as well. It was utterly embarrassing as the staff of the shop looked on at me. The word to describe it would be ‘lan lan’. I gritted my teeth and sat through the one and a half hour session. My backside felt like it was going to go numb and in exchange, I got both my finger and toenails cleaned, cut, buffed and done up. Immediately after that, Stephanie asked me for a report too. I nodded, feeling a little weak.
Lunch was at Raffles City and I had barely finished my drink when Stephanie dragged me into a grooming shop at the basement.
Stephanie: Hahaha… Why are you overreacting…?
James: No way you are buying this too… You’re…
She laughed and dragged me in, reminding me that she was the boss. I heard Stephanie laughing away while the staff tried to pluck my eyebrows.
James: Arhhhhg… owww… oww… no… no… stop… arghh…
Fifteen minutes later, I was starting to get an idea of what was going on. I was starting to consider apologising to her and getting out of this situation when she hurried me to the carpark again.
Stephanie: I’m so sorry James… If not for my injured wrist… I would have driven.
She gave me a sad face while I looked at her helplessly. I could have made some remarks or a funny comment but I knew it would not help me so I kept quiet.
We got to a slimming centre at Jurong and she entered. I hesitated for a while before Stephanie came out and pulled me in. I immediately stopped Stephanie.
James: Stephanie, I’m sorry… I’m sorry… Don’t need for all this…
She laughed and said it was just a spa treatment.
Stephanie: My treat for my new employee.
She half dragged and pulled me in before I was wrapped up and marinated with some herbs before being steamed. By the time I emerged, I was feeling weak and battered. Stephanie was happily chatting with the staff, sipping tea and discussing about her next treatment when I came out. The staff left and brought me a cup of tea before leaving us alone.
Stephanie: Okay… one more place to go…
She was Googling for the address and when she showed it to me, I immediately raised up my hands in the air and surrendered.
James: You win boss… You win…
Stephanie chuckled and laughed as she sipped her tea. Leaning back on the couch, her expression changed again as she folded her arms.
Stephanie: Did I ill-treat you today?
I shook my head.
Stephanie: Okay… Apologise for being rude to me then…
I wasted no time and immediately said I was sorry.
James: Sorry… sorry… I was rude earlier… Sincere apologies…
She took a moment to consider it before smiling.
Stephanie: Okay… I accept your apology…
She looked at her watch and asked for her car keys.
Stephanie: See you 8:30 a.m. at work tomorrow… We got a lot to do… especially after having wasted today…
She handed me a name card with the company address. With that, she left me at Jurong. I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. She would regret this…
9th November 2012
I asked myself the same question several times, was I ill-treated? It was a no. I could not possibly tell Mr Koh that I was rejecting the job because my new boss brought me for massages and spa treatments. If that did not sound stupid enough, it would surely make me look stupid in my attempt to say so. If I changed and rephrased the question, was I being played? That would be a definite yes. I told myself to calm down. There would surely be an opportunity to get back at Stephanie one way or the other. I just needed to focus on the situation at hand. Keep things simple. It was a new job. I was looking for better prospects. That was it. It was that simple.
I made sure I got up earlier than usual that morning to get ready for work. If I was late, surely Stephanie would find more reasons to try and be funny with me. The crowd was pretty manageable when I boarded the train at Kovan, the nearest stop from where I lived. By the time I got to Tanjong Pagar at 7:30 a.m, I was a good one hour earlier than the agreed meeting time. Having checked out the location on Google the night before, I turned and walked towards my new office. It was a pretty old building near the Red Dot museum, I must have passed by it so many times but somehow it never caught my eye. I got into the lift opposite a large travel agency and alighted on my floor.
What greeted me was a long corridor. I got to the entrance of Stephanie’s office and tried to peer in. The double leafed glass door had frosted stickers on it, leaving only a few thin slits just below eye level. I could make out a reception that looked empty. Beyond that was a row of six tables that looked empty as well. There were no monitors or keyboards on them. The most well stocked section was the pantry which was right in my line of sight as I peered in straight ahead. I could make out a coffee machine, a nice totem stand that held all the coffee capsules and a three tiered stainless steel rack that held various snacks and titbits.
I double checked the unit number to make sure I got the right one and I was right. A keypad blinked lazily by the door, waiting for someone to key in the passcode to unlock the catch. I decided to call Stephanie to let her know that I was already at the office. There was a chance she might give me the password. That way I could go in and check out the office before she got there. It would be a golden No harm in trying my luck. I tried three times before she finally picked it up. It was obvious that she was still sleeping. I checked the time on my watch and it was already coming to 7:55 a.m. There was no way she could reach the office at 8:30 a.m. I felt my blood boiling as I tried to remain calm.
James: I’m at the office entrance already. Where are you? How do I get in…?
Stephanie: Oh… errr… Yawnnnzzz… So early…?
I heard her sneezing and she blew her nose before coming back to the phone.
Stephanie: Just key in the password, zero, six, zero, seven.
I held the phone and I tapped in the number but a red light flashed repeatedly and the door remained shut.
James: It’s wrong…
Stephanie: Is it? Weird… I remembered it as that… Wait ah…
I waited another 15 seconds before she asked me to try the reverse. I keyed it in and heard the loud release of the catch.
James: Okay… I’m in.
Stephanie: Okay… wait for me ya… Be there in a while… There’s coffee in the pantry…
With that she hung up on me. I took a quick look around the empty corridor and my heart started beating faster. Perhaps it was my voyeuristic nature; the thought of being alone in a place I was not familiar with excited me. All the things I could lay my hands on, all the files I could read without anyone knowing. First I checked the office for cameras. Having satisfied myself that there were no cameras, I started exploring. It was a simply furnished office, pretty open except for the rooms. All the walls were painted white and from what I could see, she probably took over the office from some other company. There was nothing at the reception, not even a calendar or a phone.
Moving past the entrance, I stood in the middle of the empty office. There were 12 chairs for the six tables; all of them looked pretty new. At the back of the office were stacks of plastic chairs, those round stackable stools that you saw at coffeeshops. There had to be at least 20 of them. The doors into the offices were closed and they each had a keypad on them as well. I opened up all the cupboards in the pantry and saw that they were well stocked with coffee, tea bags and even cup noodles. There had to be at least two dozen bottles of mineral water in the cupboard. The fridge had beer, wine and even tubs of ice cream in the freezer.
Heading over to the cabinets, I saw stacks of invoices, unopened envelopes and even a few cheques that were worth close to a good 10 thousand dollars that had yet to be banked in. The date told me that they were at least two weeks old. All the invoices were from Victor’s company, not surprising as he did say he was Stephanie’s only client. The cheques too were issued by Victor. I went through the invoices to get an idea of what Stephanie was dealing with and I was scratching my head by the time I was done with a stack of them. The only way I could sum this up was Stephanie’s company was just some plaything some rich daddy opened to keep his daughter occupied. There was no actual need for Stephanie’s company. From stationary to components, to even IT equipment, Victor bought them through Stephanie. All she did was to get them from the supplier and send them over to Victor, marking up the prices along the way.
I saw an invoice for a few iPads and did the calculations. There was almost a mark-up of 100 dollars for each. Weird. A large portion of the invoices were for some manufacturing components that I didn’t recognise. It was some medical grade stuff or something. Anyway, it seemed like Stephanie was the sole distributor for that product and the only way Victor was getting them was through her. I dropped the documents aside and checked the entrance again. It was coming to 8:15 a.m. There was no way Stephanie could be here that fast. My eyes wandered around and landed on the blinking keypad on her office door. I felt a terrible battle being fought by my brain whether to do something that stupid. In the end I decided to do it.
I tried the same number for the door but it did not open. I considered for a moment before trying the first combination Stephanie told me. Zero, six, zero, seven. I heard the release of the catch and I almost feel an erection coming up. I opened the door cautiously and immediately checked to see if there were any cameras. Thankfully there were none. The office was sparse and the only piece of furniture in it was Stephanie’s work desk. It was neatly kept with a laptop and several photo stands. I picked one up and looked at the photo of Stephanie. She was quite pretty, especially when she smiled. Inside that picture, she wore a white singlet with black sports bra. She was with a few of her friends and it seemed like they were laughing as they attempted to fly a kite. Her slender arms were up, holding onto an invisible string, her legs were amazingly toned and sculpted, even the way her toes held onto the flip flops made her looked sexy in a casual kind of way. Her pale grey denim shorts had bits of grass on them and that particular photo saw her flashing a million dollar smile, showing a row of pearly white teeth. Her eyes twinkled in that photo, a genuine laugh that would make anyone smile just by looking at the picture.
The photos were not arranged in any specific order, it looked like they were placed randomly according to her fancy. One shot was of Stephanie in her JC uniform. She had her legs crossed and her short skirt reaching up to the middle of her thighs. Her body was angled away from the camera but she turned to face the person taking the shoot. It was a deliberately posed shot. She had on a pair of geeky specs accompanied by a cheeky smile and as if she was going for the ultimate nerd look, she had a couple of books in her hands. I could not help but look at her legs in the photo despite the poor resolution since she was quite a distance away from the camera. The way they flowed into her shoes, leaving a wee bit of socks peeking out from her ankles.
I looked at the next photo and saw a photo of Victor and Stephanie when they were younger, probably when they were in their late teens. Victor had a cheeky smile as he rested his arms on Stephanie’s shoulder. Stephanie on the other hand had her arms folded in a haughty manner and was leaning her head back against her brother. They looked like they had just finished a bout of running. Their hair was messy and streaked across their foreheads.
Next photo I saw wiped the smile off my face. It was of Stephanie’s mother. I could see the resemblance in the photo. Victor and Stephanie flanked the sides of her hospital bed. They were all smiling but you could tell that their smiles were forced. Her mother looked weak and frail in the photo but I could see the fire in her eyes, something that both siblings had inherited. In that same photo, I could almost see the invisible flame burning in their eyes, a quiet determination of some sort, perhaps each of them fighting a battle of their own in their own way. That photo was dated almost a year ago.
I tried Stephanie’s drawer and was surprised that it was unlocked. My mouth gasped open when I saw the contents of the drawer. It was money. No, it was not those rolls and stacks of bills in the movies. It contained a metal tray and on it was a mess and jumble of five and two dollar bills. By my estimate, there had to be at least a couple of thousand dollars in there. It was really quite a bit. There were coins of various denominations were scattered all over the notes as well. You could literally say that it was a drawer full of money.
The next drawer had more photo albums. I opened some up to have a look and was surprised to see her childhood photos. What a weird place to keep photo albums. There was a pair of fluffy dog slippers under the desk, probably what she would put on after she came to work. There was a door by the back of her office that went to the pantry. I tried opening it and noticed for the first time that it was a one way door. There was no doorknob at the pantry end of the door.
My curiosity drew me towards the other door on the opposite side of Stephanie’s desk. I opened it and was surprised to see a few wardrobes within the small room and loads of shopping bags on the floor. Boxes of shoes, some unopened were scattered all over. There were at least 10 pairs of heels on the floor alone. Alongside the shoes were several bags. They were all branded. Some brands I recognised but some I didn’t. I checked their contents and saw that there was also money in them together with a mishmash of items that ladies carried. The wardrobes were full of clothes, work wear, casual and even a drawer full of gym gear and yoga pants. I struggled to breathe when I opened up the bottom drawer and saw it filled with lingerie. An instant shot of hormone infused blood rushed to my dick as I closed the drawer.
I looked around the room and it was like a walk in wardrobe. Nested at the corner by a full length mirror was a laundry basket. There was several article of clothing in it and my heart thumped as I struggled with my decision. I ran out of the room and paced about the reception area. Still feeling a little apprehensive, I opened the main door and looked out in the corridor. Empty. Doubling back, I went straight to the basket and started to go through Stephanie’s clothes. There was no lingerie within but I found some singlets and shirts. A dull fragrance caught my nose as I brought them out one by one for a closer look. So many thoughts ran through my mind as I tried my best to contain my excitement.
Thankfully some rational thoughts prevailed and I told myself to calm down. It was my new job and the pay was decent. Let’s not fuck it up. Even if it did not work out, I could milk the company for the pay for a couple of months before going back to Mr Koh. All this would not be possible if I was caught with my boss’s clothes on the first day of work. I made myself a coffee and settled at the reception table for a good wait. By my estimate, it was going to take Stephanie at least an hour before she arrived. Singapore was not that big and furthermore she drove so it was a good estimate.
I had probably sat on every chair in the office by then. There was still no sign of Stephanie. This was despite me calling every hour and sending her at least six messages. I even went to Maxwell market for breakfast and coffee. I felt my blood pressure rising as I silently cursed at her for wasting my time.
I wanted to strangle Stephanie when she finally showed up at 12:30 p.m. It was obvious she had just woken up. Her hair looked a little puffy and she still looked a little dazed. Instead of being dressed professionally, she turned up in a white Starbucks t-shirt and a pair of denim shorts. A black windbreaker completed her look as she dragged her flip flops into the office with a clutch bag under her armpit.
Stephanie: Oh… good morning James…
I was about to confront her about wasting my time when she stretched herself, raising both her arms high up into the air and letting out a long groan as if blaming me for disturbing her sleep. Her short white t-shirt rose up, exposing a good portion of her trim abs and I felt blood rushing to my groin again. It was definitely not a deliberate act or anything; it was more like she couldn’t be bothered.
Stephanie: So sorry ah… I was… err… not feeling too good… Err… haha…
She pulled out a chair and sat opposite me. She had both her knees together and yet her feet remained planted a shoulder width’s distance apart. Her palms rested on her kneecaps and she adopted a doll like pose as she tried to recall something.
Stephanie: Oh ya… I have a meeting at two p.m. Will need your help.
James: I’ve wasted the whole morning here… What do you need me to do?
She thought about it for a moment before gesturing me to follow her to a row of cabinets. Stephanie spent 20 minutes running through what amounted to admin work. It was basically sorting out the all the messy filing and documentation. Immediately after she was done, she quickly said,
Stephanie: I know… I know… it’s just plain old admin work… You’re more than this… but you know… Hurhur… I really need to get this sorted out for a start.
She gave me a nudge on my arm and then added,
Stephanie: Don’t look so glum la… I buy you lunch…
Before I could speak, Stephanie passed me a 50 dollar note and asked me to buy food from the hawker centre across the office for her and myself.
Stephanie: It’s so crowded now… lunch time… We packet up la… here aircon… haha…. Thanks ah…
I was really at a loss for words. First she claimed that she needed my help for something urgent. That was the whole reason why I was in the office in the first place. If I knew she was going to ‘loan’ me from Mr Koh to do these menial tasks, I would not have agreed to it.
I got into the lift and could not help but grumble at the whims of the rich. I was too lazy to queue a second time for my food so I just bought the same as Stephanie, fish soup and rice. I didn’t know what the food seller was thinking, she gave me the change all in five and two dollar bills with the balance in coins.
I sat the food down on the table beside the reception and Stephanie thanked me for my trouble the same time she clapped her hands together like some Korean star acting in an overly dramatic manner about food.
Stephanie: Wahhh… looks good…
The next thing that happened came as a shock to me. When I tried to pass Stephanie the change, she nodded and stretched out her hand but the moment she saw it was all in five and two dollar accompanied by coins, she immediately retracted her hand.
Stephanie: Oh… no… no… no… never mind la… I don’t like fives and twos in my wallet… I got a lot of them… Give you… give you…
What the fuck?! I mean seriously what the fuck! I almost screamed out loud but I could only manage an open mouth as I looked at her in a dazed manner.
James: Is this not money?
Stephanie: Aiyah… never mind la… Give you…
With that she started to tuck into her food. I could not decide if I was insulted by her gesture of giving me the money or angered by the manner in which she treated the change. I shook my head, set the money aside and just ate. We chatted casually with Stephanie doing most of the talking, mostly asking about me.
I had barely started on my work when she handed me another 50 dollar bill.
Stephanie: Eh James… I need to prepare for the meeting later… Very tua zong one… very important… Can you help me get forty… four coffee… Thanks…
Her phone rang at that moment and she excused herself back into her office. What the hell man…? How the fuck am I going to carry 44 packets of coffee? Since it would take a while to make and pack that much coffee, I decided to make my way down to the hawker centre right away. I took a carton box and emptied it of its contents on my way down. My mind started working out the order. I couldn’t probably order 44 same types of coffee. Some people took their coffee black, some preferred kopi-si and some liked siu dai. I would need a mixture of all of the above. In the end, what I came up with was:
- Fifteen packs of coffee with milk, five of those with less sugar.
- Fifteen packs of coffee black, five of those with less sugar.
- Fifteen packs of kopi-si, five of those with less sugar.
A Total of 45 packs of coffee. One was for myself of course since I was okay with any of the above. In the event that Stephanie decided to find fault with me for buying all the same type of coffee, she now would have no reason to. Inside the lift, I could not help but marvel at my intelligence. In fact I wanted to laugh.
James: Small case… Small case…
As I waited for the auntie to pack all the coffee, I started to think about the order. The office would probably be really packed later with so many people coming for the meeting. Even assuming if 10 percent of the drinks were extras, there would to be close to 40 people. That probably explained the spare stools at the back. Damn, I could be Sherlock Holmes or something.
I made my way up to the office with the coffee in the carton box. It was fucking heavy. How many of you had carried 44 packs of coffee before? I saw some shadows and figures through the frosted glass door when I arrived. Upon letting myself in, I was surprised to see Stephanie with only six guests. Okay, maybe the rest were still on their way.
Stephanie had changed, she was in a long dress and modest heels. Her hair was tied up and she had some light makeup on. Stephanie turned to acknowledge me as I set the coffee down in front of the guests. Her eyes widened as she did a double take. She stared at the carton of coffee and then back at me again before regaining her composure.
Stephanie: Oh… this… this is James… My operations… Operations Executive…
I shook hands with the guests and excused myself back to the cabinets to continue my admin work.
No one else came.
It sounds like they were wrapping up the meeting.
The guests left and the moment the glass door closed, Stephanie kicked off her heels. I got up and approached her. I wanted to ask her why she made me buy so many packs of coffee when she only had six guests. This had better not be some ‘I don’t want to see five and two dollar bills’ shit. I would strangle her. Hell, I might even drag her into the room and rape her.
James: No one else is coming? Why you ask me to buy 44 packs of coffee? It’s very heavy you know…
Stephanie folded her arms and narrowed her eyes at me. She walked up close to me, almost in front of my face. With her arms still folded, she squinted her eyes and peered right up at me. Then she suddenly got so close that I could smell her hair and her womanly scent. She placed her mouth by my ear and spoke in a normal voice.
Stephanie: James… four tea… four coffee… four tea… four coffee…
With that she stepped back and faced me while I stared shell shocked at her. She tapped me on both of my shoulders and stared at me like I was an idiot.
Stephanie: Breathe James… Breathe… Okay… Now repeat after me… Four tea… Four coffee…
I nodded weakly and mumbled,
James: Four tea… Four coffee…
She ruffled my hair then walked right pass me and went into her office.
Fuck… and this was only my first day…
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