I folded my hands on my chest, with my butt leaning against my desk, I stare out of my room, looking at Taipei. It’s 9.30 in the morning on a usual Monday morning. A lot of people busy traveling in Taipei going to work, or probably working at this time. I blinked my eyes a few times. I wasn’t quite sure what I see in front of me, but my mind seems working on elsewhere. No, it felt blank. My mind is blank. I glanced down, only to be chocked by my silver tie tied on my neck over my light blue shirt and a black coat. I must have tied a little too tight. I loosen my tie a bit.
Someone knocked the door, and then opened it. “CEO Xi Men,” he called out.
Among thousands of staffs in my company, only Secretary Xu has the permission to knock and open the door of my room without me agreeing beforehand. He would only do that if it is something very urgent. And from the way he does things, it is predictable whether it is urgent or not. He is a very good secretary for me. He is efficient too.
“CEO Xi Men,” he called again.
I did not turn looking at him immediately. It took me a while before I turned my head and I looked at him. “Yes, Secretary Xu?”
“CEO Xi Men, this document is in need of your signature now. I need to fax this over today,” Secretary Xu said, as he opened the file and showed me.
“What is this?” I asked, this time turning my whole body and faced him.
“This is regarding Project A-Cres. They are sending their resources over to do the project with us this Friday, so they need our approval latest by today,” Secretary Xu said.
“Oh, Project A-Cres,” I said. “So A-Cres is going to send their project manager over?”
“Yes, CEO Xi Men,” Secretary Xu said. “The project manager will be here for 6 months to study if they can continue the project with us,”
“Yes, I remember,” I sat down on my chair and looked at the document. “They are in need to study our company’s structure if our company needs their company’s solution. Our company’s business structure is a mess,” I said. I sighed.
The only way to mend the structure right is to apply a proper study to our IT departments first, because my business development starts from there. And I remember, I bumped into A-Cres’ president Mr. Allan Dane in a dinner that I was invited to attend in Singapore a few months ago. He sat next to me, and he told me about this solution which amazes me. For the next couple of months he and I keep teleconferencing, and he furnishes me with a lot of details, which I admit, some I barely understand. But he assures me that he will send a project manager over to my company to study on my company structure, before proceeding ahead.
“They are coming this Friday?” I asked.
“Yes, CEO Xi Men,” Secretary Xu said.
“Ok,” I said, and then I signed the document after I am done with the reading. “Fax over,” I handed him the document.
“Sure, CEO Xi Men,” Secretary Xu said.
I stood up, my right hand rubbing my forehead.
“CEO Xi Men, are you alright?” Secretary Xu asked.
“Yes I am, thanks,” I responded. “I have a lot of things to do. But my mind is blank,”
“Take a break, CEO Xi Men,” Secretary Xu smiled. “Oh, I need to fax this ASAP, if there is nothing for me, CEO Xi Men, I would like to go out first,”
“Sure, go ahead,” I smiled.
Secretary Xu left the room and closed the door. I sighed again. Again, I turned my body and leaned my butt against my desk, staring out from my room. I looked out at the tall buildings and the blue sky. I am not sure how long I have been standing there and look out from my room, and then I heard someone knocking my door again.
“Come in,” I called out.
I turned and smiled at him. “Mei Zhuo,”
“Why are you staring out? Any pretty girls outside?” Mei Zhuo walked over and peeked up and down.
I frowned and stared at him. “Ha-ha-ha,” I uttered a fake laugh with a serious face. ”So, what’s up?” I turned and sat down on my CEO seat.
”I am heading for an appointment nearby at 10.30am, it’s still early to go there so I drop by here,” Mei Zhuo smirked. He sat down on the seat in front of me.
As usual, that wandering hands of Mei Zhuo will automatically take some of the papers on my table to read. Only those not confidential papers will lie across my desk. And Mei Zhuo does not touch my files unless I show him. Those files are more towards company things and he respected my company’s confidential stuffs and he will not ask much until I tell him. “A-Cres,” he said, holding a paper in his right hand.
I stared at him. “Yup,”
“A-Cres from Canada?” Mei Zhuo asked.
“Yes. I am planning to buy a solution from them, but I need to test-drive first. I’m not sure if it is required in my company,” I replied.
Mei Zhuo smirked. “Okay,”
“What’s with your smirk?” I asked. “What about A-Cres?”
“Nothing. How to test-drive, by the way?”
“They are sending resources over to study on my company structure and then they will tell me if my company requires it,”
“Oh,” Mei Zhuo said. He abruptly dropped the paper on my desk. “You seem tired,”
“Slightly,” I said. “My mind is blank,”
“Your mind is blank? Maybe it’s time to get a break,” he smiled.
“Maybe,” I replied.
“Call one of your mei-mei and get it over with,” he laughed.
“You jerk,” I said. “You know I don’t have mei-mei anymore,”
“Just kidding, bro,” he said. “I know you don’t lead such lifestyle anymore,”
I smirked as I let out another sigh again.
Something seems missing.
It’s 9pm. I went to VS, the bar that we F4 always go more than 6 years ago. As always, I went there alone.
“Hello Xi Men,” the bartender called me.
“Hi James,” I smiled. “Usual,”
“Right away,” he responded. He then gave me a beer.
I took the beer and I take a few gulps down my throat. The slight bitterness of the beer at the tongue is the entry point for refreshing feeling as it travels down to my stomach.
“Hi,” a girl sat next to me.
I looked at her and smiled.
“Mind to buy me a drink?” she asked.
“Sure,” I said. As usual, when a girl asks me to buy her a drink, I do. “Tell James what you want,”
“Thank you,” she responded. “I’m Alyssa. You came here often?”
“I do,” I smiled.
“So I get to bump to you in the future,” she said, as her hand lands on my hand.
I stare at her hand. “Lady, I only treat you a drink, not more than that. So, keep your hands off,”
She abruptly lifted her hand, as her smile faded.
“I usually come here for a few drinks. Girls want to talk to me, go ahead. But I don’t drive them home, nor let them touch me here and there,” I said seriously. She just stared at me. Maybe she is trying to land a cute guy or something. I may be her type, but clearly, I am not interested.
Those playboy days are over. It’s over 6 years ago. The moment she walked out from my life, those days followed… I drank the entire beer in the glass. There is at least a corner in my mind that I would have placed her in. I would be reminded or recalled her once in a while. No matter what I do… she is deemed ‘stored’ in a safe place in my mind.
I miss her.
But she is married.
It’s Friday. Days passed by unknowingly. My mind blanks again. It keeps happening too often. I closed my eyes and as I leaned on my chair, resting my head.
“Coffee, CEO Xi Men,” Secretary Xu said, as he put the coffee down.
I opened my eyes and I glanced up at him. “When did you enter my room?”
“I have knocked a few times but you did not respond, CEO Xi Men…” Secretary Xu said.
I nodded. “Ok, thanks,” my hands covered my face.
“CEO Xi Men… you really need a break…” Secretary Xu said.
I removed my hands from my face. “I have a lot of things to do,” I said. “Anyway…”
Secretary Xu’s table’s phone rang. Secretary Xu nodded at me after I fling my hands, indicating he can go out to pick the phone, and he run towards his table to pick the call, without closing my door. A while later, Secretary Xu protrudes his head in via the door that is not closed.
“CEO Xi Men, the project manager from A-Cres is here already,” Secretary Xu said.
As a matter of fact, I need to see this person as his team is going to be working in my company for the next 6 months. So I nodded at Secretary Xu to bring this person in, and the door is still not closed, but not that I noticed of.
“This is our CEO, Mr. Xi Men,” he introduces me.
I immediately glanced up, because I did not hear him walking in into my room with the project manager. He should have at least knocked the door! And then I turned and looked at the person standing next to him. Is a she? I have always thought the project manager is going to be a guy. But here stands a lady.
“CEO Xi Men, this is Miss Yang, the project manager from A-Cres,” Secretary Xu said.
“Hi, Miss Yang,” I said as I stood up and extended my hand.
“Hi, Mr. Xi Men,” she looked at me and graciously accepted my hand.
I stared at her, at this beautiful lady standing before me. She had purplish-red long wavy curls with the length until her bosom and she dressed professionally. I did not noticed that I had held my grip on her hand long enough she is trying to release her hand off my hand.
Wait. She looks familiar. And now I recalled her voice is familiar too! She smiled at me. She is waiting for me to speak. I stared at her long enough to realize I do know her!
“Xiao You?” I uttered, I am surprised with what I had just said.
“Hi,” she smiled politely. “…Xi Men,”
Oh SHIT! She’s Xiao You? She’s the Project Manager from A-Cres?
“You… changed!” those are the only words that come to my mind. My mind went blank totally! I only stared at her.
“You too,” she smiled forcefully. “It’s been 6 years,”
“CEO Xi Men, Miss Yang… you both…” Secretary Xu said.
“Get Miss Yang a drink,” I said. “Take a seat, Xiao You,”
“Thank you,” Xiao You said.
“Sure… CEO Xi Men…” Secretary Xu scratched his head as he walked out from my room.
“I’m… surprised,” I said.
Xiao You smiled. “I am from A-Cres, to study your company’s structure,” she said professionally.
“For the next 6 months?” I asked.
“Yes,” she responded. “I am here purely for business,”
I nodded. I understood her meaning. She is indeed professional.
“I will get Secretary Xu to get you anyone you need to help you to understand my company structure,” I said.
“Thank you,” she smiled. “I hope our business would go well,”
“So, any other team members of your company that I can meet?” I asked.
“I come alone,” she replied. “My company sends the project manager to study the company structure, and then only applied team members in the later stage,”
“Alone?” I’m surprised.
“Yes,” she smiled. “Any problem, Mr. Xi Men?” she asked professionally, again.
“No,” I said. “Do you need any help in Taipei? If there is, do voice out,”
“So far so good, Mr. Xi Men,” she said. “Thank you,”
She changed… completely. She does not even seem like still treating me as a friend. I wasn’t quite sure how to react to her. Is she just being professional?
Or did I lose her as a friend?
Right here before me, Xi Men Zhong Er Lang, the CEO of the company that I had been sent to work at. I remember how stunned he was when he saw me just now. Perhaps he did not expect that it is me that is sent by A-Cres to come to handle the project. And I remember how my heart pumped extremely hard and fast when I walked in into the room him to meet him. He looked older than what I have last seen 6 years ago. Definitely. 6 years. Many things had changed.
I don’t want to work on a project here. But I have no choice because my company wants me to…
“Why, Xiao You?” Manager Wayne asked. “Why you don’t want to go?”
I stared at him, my direct reporting manager. How can I tell him that I don’t want to be based in Xi Men Corporation? How can I tell him that I know the CEO of Xi Men Corporation and he is the reason why I don’t want to go? I am very furious earlier when he told me that I am going to Xi Men Corporation for a project, as my director Allan Dane wants me to do. The problem is not with going to Taipei but it’s with Xi Men! Why not any other organizations? Why Xi Men Corporation? My head is in a mess. For once I thought that if I am being sent to Ah Si, Mei Zhuo or Lei’s company it wouldn’t feel so bad. The thought of facing Xi Men everyday is killing me.
“Look, Xiao You… you are the only person here who has the capability to lead this project in Taipei. First, you came from there, and you know how to speak Chinese! And second, you are the only person we have here that has the experience and exposure to lead this project which is to be based oversea. There is no other suitable candidate other than you,” Manager Wayne told me. “Allan wants you to go also, he said you are the most suitable among your colleagues,”
I shook lightly and sighed. I don’t know how to reply him. As a matter of fact, I know I am the most qualified because I can help bridge the communication problem there, should it happens. But I am sure that this communication problem will not happen, especially if it’s Xi Men! But it might not be the same if I am working with the employees of Xi Men Corporation, and yes, communication problems might occur. My other colleagues can speak Spanish, German, French and sending them to Taipei may not help as much as sending me over to do the same job. “There is no other candidate, really?”
“No one else but you,” Manager Wayne said. “Xiao You, please?”
I looked at him. I don’t even know how to reject him. As a professional, this is a way that I have to deal with. I closed my eyes and I just nodded, unwillingly.
Manager Wayne smiled. “Glad you can take it, Xiao You,”
“You’re welcome,” I answered forcefully. I let out a deep sigh.
Why am I going back to Taipei for business?
Why am I dealing with someone that I once loved and lost?
And someone that I loved in Taipei is married!
But I really have no choice. This is my job task. And I need to do it.
*End of flashback.
“So, is your accommodation arranged?” Xi Men asked.
I looked at him. “Yes,” I smiled, as a matter of fact, he is a potential customer of my company. I need to do a lot of reporting when I am back to Canada 6 months later. I need to respect him, even if he asked me something that is not related to work, but hopefully he did not cross that border.
“Where do you stay?” he asked, as he turned facing his computer and worked his hands on the keyboard.
“Ying neighbourhood,” I answered.
He froze. I wondered why he reacted that way. He turned looking at me with an unbelievably stares.
“Ying neighbourhood?” he asked. “That area…”
“I understand you are concerned about my accommodation, but it has been arranged and solved,” I smiled. “Thanks for your concern,”
I just do not want him to ask so much… after all… I came for business… not to be friends or private matters. I saw the look in Xi Men’s eyes. He may not like the way I talk, and he may think that I am arrogant… but I am just being professional.
“Since that is the case, then I will not ask more. Welcome to Xi Men Corporation,” he stood up and extend his hand again. “For the project,” he continued.
“Thank you,” I said as I stood up and accepted his hand for a handshake. “I do hope that your company requires the solution that my company offered,” I smiled.
He smiled at me before he and I let the hand go off each other. His smile did not come from his heart. I can see that. He sat down on his chair.
Secretary Xu entered the room with a cup of coffee in hand.
“Secretary Xu, please bring Miss Yang out and bring her around, make sure she understands our business structure. Assign a person for her so that she can refer to him of anything she needs,” Xi Men said.
Secretary Xu blurred. “Oh, sure, CEO Xi Men,” he took the coffee with him again, which I know the coffee is for me, as he directed the way to me.
“Miss Yang,” suddenly Xi Men called.
I closed my eyes and then I opened my eyes, and I turned and looked at him.
“It is a standard procedure for me to have lunch with partners or customers, I hope you do not mind to attend lunch with me later,” he said. “Since I am your company’s customer,”
My heart sank. I have never pictured to have lunch with him. He gave me the hint, he knows that I will reject if he ask me for lunch without saying the standard procedure or even stating specifically that he is my company’s customer.
“Sure, Mr. Xi Men,” I smiled.
“I’ll see you soon,” he smiled.
I turned and I followed Secretary Xu out of the room. Oh… how much I hated that!
I rested my head against my chair. Xiao You! I have never thought that A-Cres is going to send someone I know to my company to study on my company structure! I closed my eyes. I did not expect to see Xiao You again… I run my fingers into my hair.
I let out a deep breath. She is going to be here for 6 months… I thought to treat her like a friend… but it is clearly seen that she reluctant. She keeps calling me Mr. Xi Men… and she hinted to me that she is here purely for business.
If that is the case, how will she and I going to treat each other for the following months? I scratched my head. I don’t know why she treated me that way…