Ken’s gaze strayed upon hearing the distracted ring and the vibration that comes along with it.
Ken is focusing on his tender document when his phone rings. He takes a deep breath as he dives his hand into his pants’ pocket and takes out his phone.
The screen bears Vanness as the caller.
Vanness: Hey, Ken, we are having beer tonight, do you want to join us?
Ken rubbed his eyes as he grips his cell phone: Sorry, Vanness, I’m working.
Vanness: You are still working?
Ken: Yeah… you… just go with Vic and Jerry. Enjoy your drink.
Vanness: Ken, it’s already 10pm! When I call you the last few times, you were working at night as well!
Ken: I know…
Vanness: Are you desperate for money… that much? How much are they paying you for OT?
Ken: I don’t get OT, Vanness.
Vanness yelled over the phone: You… what?! Your company should hire more project tender executives like you to help your workload!
Ken pressed his forehead: Well, it didn’t happen that way. I am trying to settle the tender document. I’ve been working on this for weeks.
Vanness: So this is the same tender you have been working on the last couple of times when I call you?
Ken: Yeah… customers have a lot of requirements.
Ken: Hello? Are you still on the line?
Vanness: (deep breath) Yes. Alright… just concentrate on your work alright. If you get to finish early, drop me a call. We might be here still.
And Ken hangs up the call. He then placed his hands on his face and he harshly rubbed the face. “One more, just one more. Can’t give up now. Not even an option,” he said as he took a deep breath.
Ken has been working as Project Tender Executive in the company for the last 4 years. He is just this close to be promoted in the company. He only has to complete this tender and gets customer’s approval, and he knew he will be promoted.
All his blood, sweat and tears will be down to this one FINAL tender that he has been working on every single day for the last few weeks. He goes home everyday after 11pm, and he even comes to work on weekends.
“He’s not coming?” Vic asked, upon seeing Vanness hanging up the call.
Vanness lifted up his head and looked at Vic from the phone. “I guess not,”
“Ah… I supposed… the same tender again?” Jerry asked.
“Apparently, yes,” Vanness said as he slipped the phone back into his pants.
“He is working a little bit too hard, isn’t he?” Vic asked.
“For the sake of promotion and salary raise, who wouldn’t,” Vanness said. “He is always saying the same damn thing. ‘Just one more tender’ he said. ‘One more tender’ and he should be promoted, I can even utter that from my heart,”
“Oh well. He works so hard for this,” Vic said. “He definitely wants to see some raise in his salary and also a promotion after all those hard work,”
“I know,” Vanness said, “Anyway, I am introducing a woman to you later. So, the bloody Ken missed this chance to meet her,” he said, as he turned and looked around.
“A woman?” Vic and Jerry asked.
“Yeah…” Vanness said while his head is still turned to the back.
“Cool,” Vic and Jerry smirked at each other, understanding that Vanness hardly brought a woman, or asked one to join their meeting.
Must be someone significant, or potentially significant for Vanness; that he wanted to introduce her to the gang.
“I need to use the washroom. Be right back,” Jerry said and then he walked off, leading to both Vanness and Vic’s eyes followed him as he walked away.
And then Vanness returned his gaze to the entrance. “Ah, here she is,” he raised his hand.
Vic turned and looked at the entrance when he heard Vanness said that.
A lady raised her hand as she responded to Vanness’ hand and then waved at Vanness.
“Pretty,” Vic smiled, as he looked at the lady walking towards their table now.
Vanness smiled as the lady walked to Vanness. Vanness gave her a peck on her cheek.
“Hi,” Vanness said to the lady.
“Hi,” she replied. She looked at Vic. “Hi,” she said, as she took her seat next to Vanness.
“This is Pace,” Vanness said, introducing the lady. “And this is Vic,” he pointed at Vic. “My buddies since 7 years old,”
Pace smiled at them. “Wow, since 7 years old. So it’s like over 20 years,”
“Yeah…” and Vic pulled Vanness’ sleeve and eventually dragged Vanness over to him. He whispered to Vanness, “Where do you meet?”
Vanness smacks Vic’s hand and Vic released the sleeve. Vanness straightened the shirt. “I’ll tell, I’ll tell,” he smiled at Pace and she returned the smile to him. “Pace is a flight attendant. I met her during my flight from Taipei to Amsterdam, as you know, I fly for my job. And basically, we travelled together in Amsterdam too,”
“Oh, wow,” Vic said, and then he turned to look at Vanness. “You never bring me to trips!” he then slapped Vanness’ arm.
Vanness glared at Vic. “If you want to go, get your own flight tickets!”
Vic pretends he is sulked with that statement, and then he asked Pace. “So, you stayed with Vanness too in Amsterdam?”
“HEY, why do you have to be so straightforward?!” Vanness asked Vic. He then turned to look at Pace, “Sorry, when he is insane, he is like this,”
Pace laughed and then she looked at Vanness, “You’ve warned me back then, right?”
Vic glared at Vanness. ‘WARN?’ he thought.
“Of course we didn’t stay together. Her company offered overseas accommodation. So we only meet up and then we go everywhere together in Amsterdam,” Vanness smiled.
Pace nodded. “Hmm… I think two are missing, right? You told me you have 3 buddies,”
“Oh, mentioning of that, is definitely missing. He is working tonight. So, you’ll meet him next time. And the other had just gone to the washroom. He will be right back,” Vanness said.
“Oh, alright,” Pace smiled and then she looked around the place.
Vanness immediately turned his focus and looked at Vic.
“What?” Vic mouthed the word.
Vanness gives Vic the eye signal as he (Vanness) looked at Pace before he quickly turned to look at Vic again. Vic smiled. He understood the question.
Vanness is basically asking Vic how he feels with and about Pace.
Vic nodded and gave Vanness thumbs up.
Vanness smiled. He’s happy that Vic sorta ‘approves’ her. If Vic likes her, then most likely Jerry and Ken will.
“Nice ambiance here,” Pace said as she turned back and looked at Vanness.
“Yes it is. It’s cozy probably around 6-7pm where there is no crowd. Now it’s late so the place is swarmed by people came to drink. Anyway, do you want to eat something?” Vanness asked.
“Hmmm… good idea,” Pace said. “Maybe some light snack will do,”
“I’ll get you the menu,” Vanness smiled.
“Why not you just order what’s nice here for me instead?” Pace said.
“Oh, okay,” Vanness turned and flagged the waiter to his table and he places his order.
Just right after the waiter has walked off,
“Ah, Vanness’ friend is here,”
Vanness, Pace and Vic looked at Jerry approaching the table.
Jerry halts his movement as he looked at Pace. And Pace looked at him.
“Yeah, Jerry, this is…”
“Hey Pace,” Jerry smirked, interrupted Vanness and then he sits down at his seat.
“Hey Jerry,” Pace replied.
Vanness and Vic immediately turned and looked at Pace, and then Jerry.
“You know… each other?” Vanness is surprised.
“Yes. For years in fact,” Jerry said, and Pace smirked at him.
Vanness gaped. He turned and looked at Pace.
What is going on here?
“So she is the woman you wanted to introduce to me?” Jerry looked at Vanness.
“What is the relationship between both of you?” Vic bluntly asked.
“Vic, please,” Jerry said. “It wasn’t that complicated. She is my wife’s best friend, that is why,”
“Your wife’s best friend?” Vanness and Vic asked at the same time. “Barbie?”
“Yes. Barbie and I are best friends,” Pace smiled. “That is how I know Jerry,” she then looked at Vanness, “So Jerry is one of your buddies?”
“Yeah,” Vanness replied, and then he looked at Jerry. “I am still a bit surprised…”
Jerry could only smile. “Me too, when I saw her just now,” he takes his beer up for a sip.
“The world is probably that small,” Pace smiled at Vanness, and then she turned to look at Vic, “So… what do you work as, Vic?”
“I’m a Styling Choreographer in fashion industry,” Vic smiled.
“Oh? Sounds interesting. What do you do there?” Pace asked.
“Hmm. You know there are fashion shows around the globe. Whenever these fashion shows involved models from my agency, I will be responsible in ensuring that the right models are assigned to model the designer clothes. I am in charge of coordinating the clothes, the styles, jewelries and shoes to match the event and requirements from the fashion designer. I am attached to the modeling agency and not the fashion designers as many might claimed,”
“Wow,” Pace said. “Sounds like a very exclusive job,”
“Yeah, he works with the models taking their measurements and making sure the clothes fit for the fashion shows and events. So he’s always surrounded by and with models,” Vanness said.
“I am not impressed with the way you are trying to advertise me,” Vic said, eyeing Vanness.
“It is not an advertisement. In fact, you don’t need advertising. You work with models. You even have a model girlfriend,” Vanness said.
Pace laughed. “Looks like your job pays off for you to have a model girlfriend, huh?” she smiled.
“I supposed,” Vic smiled.
“Supposed, supposed,” Vanness said and then he smacked Vic’s right arm. “You haven’t introduced her to us! It’s almost a year!”
“Yeah!” Jerry smacked Vic as well, though it is Vic’s left arm this time. “I wonder why you are so secretive about her. Whenever we ask you to bring her out, you always said next time, or give us tons of excuses!”
Vic rubbed both sides of his arm, left hand rubs the right arm, and the right hand rubs the left arm because each of the buddies smacked a side. “Next time, next time,”
“SEE!” Vanness and Jerry said together.
“Well, maybe you are not ready yet,” Pace said.
Vic looked at Pace.
“Or it may be she’s the one that is not ready,” Pace smiled.
Jerry and Vanness looked at Pace.
“Just let them be. Once they are ready, he will bring her over for meals or events uninvited,” Pace smiled at Vanness.
Vic nodded. Jerry tilted his head to signify he accepts that statement.
Pace then looked at Jerry. “Well, Jerry needs no introduction. He is an assistant bank manager, married to Barbie, an accountant. And they are both high school sweethearts. I mean, college sweethearts, since they met in college,” she smiled.
“I am sure you know it already,” Vanness smirked. “I didn’t tell Jerry earlier about you coming, or else he will bring Barbie along,” he said at Pace. “Barbie might be surprised to see you too,”
Jerry smiled and nodded again. “Vanness just told me that a friend is coming about… seconds before you came,”
“What a surprise,” Vic sarcastically said and Vanness smirked at him.
“I am not like you, Vic. So secretive,” Vanness said, and Vic rolled his eyes.
“Hmmm… Vic, did you just say you are attached to a modeling agency?” Pace asked.
“Is it Modeling Academy?” Pace asked. “The most famous modeling agency in Taiwan?”
“Yes,” Vic smiled. “Why do you ask?”
“Oh, really? That is so coincident. My two best friends are models in that agency too,” Pace said.
“Oh?” Vic asked.
“Yeah. Since they are models there, most likely you know them,” Pace smiled. “Ah, Jerry knew them too,” she looked at Jerry.
“Really?” Vic asked, as he looked at Jerry. “Tell me their names,”
“Oh, that two models. Yes, I know them. But I have never mentioned it to Vic,” Jerry said, looking at Pace, and then at Vic. “They are Barbie’s best friends; Rainie and Winnie,”
Vic’s eyes widened upon hearing the names, before he quickly acts normal. “Oh, yes… I know them,” he smiled. “So… umm… they are your best friends…?” he asked Pace.
“Yeah,” Pace smiled.
“Oh,” that is all Vic could reply. ‘Small world indeed…’ he murmured before taking his glass of beer up for a sip.
“Hey, I didn’t know you knew models!” Vanness snarled at Jerry.
“Now you know!” Jerry snarled back.
Vanness shook as he eyed Jerry, and then turned and looked Pace. “So, how was your shift?”
“Oh, it was okay,” Pace replied, smiling at Vanness.
Vic and Jerry exchanged glances. They looked at the way Vanness reacted around Pace.
Vic leans over to Jerry and asked softly, “You know Pace well?”
“Depends on what you mean by ‘well’. She is Barbie’s best friend, not mine,” Jerry replied softly too.
“She looks like a nice person. So, is she?”
“Ah, that. Yes, she is a nice person,” Jerry smiled, looking at Vanness.
Vic and Jerry smiled. Looks set that Vanness is taken.
“So, Scott is busy again?”
Rainie lifted her eyes up from her glass of pina colada to Winnie, who is staring at her. Rainie nodded. “Yeah,”
Winnie let out a deep sigh. “So, when was the last time you saw him?”
“Last week. He went off to Milan for a fashion show,” Rainie said.
“He didn’t call you, I presume?”
“Nah… it’s different time zone. It won’t…”
“Seriously, Rainie. Your boyfriend of 2 years has been acting weird for the past 3 months. Don’t you suspect anything, or feel weird?”
Her eyes strayed before looking back at Winnie. “What is there to suspect or feeling weird about, Winnie?”
Winnie closed her eyes as she shook and then she opens it and looked at Rainie, “Alright, Rainie. We know very well Scott is just another ordinary model. He is not a supermodel like you and I do. Are you telling me he became so famous all of a sudden that he is booked to model for tremendous fashion shows that… that sometimes I am not even sure if there is really a fashion show. Since when he is that famous, Rainie? He told you he had photo shoots to take, but he never tells you which brand, model for what… and no pictures or outcome for us to see?”
“Winnie… you think too much,” Rainie said.
“Honestly, you did not feel suspicious about him recently? He used to be like a power glue to stick with you, goes anywhere with you and he will not fail to update you where he goes, what he is doing… and right now he is so different,”
“Scott said he is busy, so he’s busy, he didn’t change like you have suspected, Winnie,”
“I still say he is using your popularity to become popular on his own as well. Even Barbie and Pace thinks the same,”
“We have said this many times before, Winnie. I know you, as well as Barbie and Pace think he is like that, but I always believe that if he is famous, then it is his own effort,”
Winnie rolled her eyes. “Rainie, I am your best friend. We’ve been best friends since high school. Do you think I will sabotage your relationship with Scott? You are probably blinded by love to see what he is doing. Now I am telling you what you cannot feel or REFUSE to feel. There is something really wrong with that guy. Please, dearie. Just open your eyes and see. At least, allow yourself to feel them. I am not thinking too much and there is no reason for me to do it, right? I am just trying to help you, Rainie,”
“Winnie, I know you well too. I know you like him as a colleague but you don’t really like Scott when it comes to my relationship with him. I am not blinded by love, but I wish you will not justify and judge him based on what you don’t like about him,”
Winnie gaped looking at her, “So, you are telling me that you will stand by him and not me? So you are telling me that I am wrong and he is right? Are you telling me that even if he lied to you, cheats on you, you will still stand by his side?”
“I don’t mean that…”
“And you refuse to believe even a percent of what I’ve said. Look, I am not asking you to trust what I’ve said completely. I am asking you to be more attentive to what he is doing. As your friend, I do not want you to suffer. Have I, ever, in your life, say these kind of things to you?” Winnie looked at Rainie.
Rainie looked at her. Winnie is right. She had never said these kinds of things. Even sometimes, no matter how unhappy Winnie is with Rainie’s decision, she will support Rainie. But now…
“Is there something… that makes you say like this about Scott?”
Winnie stared at Rainie intently. “What?”
“The Winnie that I know won’t say this kind of things unless there’s proof and evidence,”
Winnie’s eyes strayed. “I’m just a bit suspicious towards this guy,”
“What did you know, Winnie?”
Winnie looked at Rainie, and silent for about 10 seconds. “I’ve worked on 2 events with him last month. On both events, he has not been really, really professional at work. When he saw me looking at him, he immediately turned and walked away, as though he is guilty of doing something bad behind my back. I seriously can’t pinpoint those look whether he is guilty or not, but he does look like he is hiding something. I guess it’s too late if we are saying he is preparing something in secret too; such as for your birthday surprise, since your birthday was 4 months ago,”
Rainie did not speak as she looked at Winnie.
“Whatever it is, Rainie. I want you to really look up and see what is happening to him, alright? I didn’t want you to suffer any heartbreak,” Winnie squeezed Rainie’s hand.
Rainie smiled lightly and nodded. “Thanks,” she said. “So… where is Pace and Barbie?”
“Barbie said she’s not joining as we should have contacted her earlier. And Pace said after her working shift is over, she is going to meet with some new friends of the man she met in Amsterdam,” Winnie said.
“Oh? She met someone already?” Rainie asked.
“I guessed so. She said they have a lot of fun in Amsterdam together. He’s a… Travelling Writer, if I am not mistaken. She said his profession has something to do with writing and travelling. So he brought her to a lot of places in Amsterdam because he knew where to go and explore,” Winnie said.
“Oh wow,” Rainie said. “If she hooked up with that guy, she’s surely going to a lot of places since he needs to go travelling to do his write up,”
“Not like she is not going to places herself already but I kinda agree with you that she will go to even more places if she is with a guy who travels. When we were on a phone call earlier, I can feel from the way she speaks that she seems extremely fond of this guy. But he should be serious with her too, since he is bringing her to meet his friends. You know, when a guy brings his girl to meet his friends…”
“It means he’s serious about her,” Rainie continued for Winnie.
“Yes, you are right,” Winnie smiled.
“I hope he is not bringing her to meet his friends and then… they do something on her, you know what I mean,” Rainie frowned.
Winnie laughed. “Pace is very careful with this, don’t you know? I guess he should be a nice guy for her to like him. And you know Pace is very selective when it comes to this. I surely hope he won’t,”
“Then when are you going to bring Vic out to join us, and introduce him?”
“He doesn’t need any introduction. You already know him, Rainie,”
“Of course I know him. He’s our Styling Choreographer and we worked with him a lot. I mean, to bring him and join us as in US with Pace and Barbie? You have been with him for almost a year now and you still seem to keep him secret from us,” Rainie said. “Besides me, of course,”
Winnie smiled. “If you are not a model, I think I’ll keep it secret from you as well,”
“Question is, you can’t because I worked with him as well,” Rainie smirked.
Winnie smiled. “He has asked me to move in with him,”
Rainie’s smirk fades. “Really?!” she exclaimed excitedly.
“When will that be?”
“When are you moving in?”
“I haven’t agreed,” Winnie said.
“But why not? You have been staying alone since I moved out and stayed with Scott last year. Just move over to his place so I will feel better that someone is taking care of you, instead of you going in and out of that house alone,”
Winnie frowned at her. “That is exactly the same thing he told me,”
“It is a big move in a relationship, you see, to move in and stay with him. He is serious about you,”
“I did not question about him not serious with me,” Winnie said. “But like you have said, it is a big move in relationship to move and stay with him,”
“Thing is, he’s ready. What about you?” Rainie asked.
Winnie waits for the lift at the ground floor of her apartment.
The lift’s door opened and she walked in. She pressed the 9th button, which is her apartment floor and then she pressed the ‘close lift’ button.
“Wait up!” someone called out and heavy running footsteps are heard.
Winnie quickly pressed the ‘open lift’ button.
“Thanks,” the person said as he reached the lift. He looked at Winnie holding the lift for him.
“Eh, it’s you,” Winnie smiled as she looked at him clad in a formal attire.
“Eh… hi,” he replied with a friendly smile. “Thanks,” he walked in into the lift and pressed the 10th button, before he then walked and stood at the other corner of the lift.
“Working late tonight?” Winnie asked as she pressed the close lift button, and then turned to look at her neighbor who is staying in one of the units on the floor above hers.
He has a perfectly well-defined facial feature; along with the fringe that extends from the top right of his head that stretches to the left, ending at the mid-cheek.
“Yes. Working on some urgent documents,” he smiled. “And you are working late too?”
Winnie shook. “I went out with some friends,” and she replied his friendly smile.
“Ah… I see,” he smiled.
Both of them quiet as they waited for the lift to reach their apartment’s floor.
The lift reaches 9th floor and the door opens.
“See you,” Winnie said as she takes a step out from the lift.
“See you. Goodnight, neighbor,” he said.
“Goodnight, neighbor,” Winnie responded and she walked off.
And the lift’s door closed again.
He smirked. “Ah, crap,” he dives his hand into his pants and took out his phone and looked for his buddy’s name.
Just right when the lift’s door opened again as it reaches 10th floor, he puts the phone on his ear as he walked out from the lift and heads to his apartment unit.
X: Yo, Ken. Still working on your precious tender?
Ken: Hey, Vanness. Are you still at the bar? (takes out his house key from his pants)
Vanness: Yes, you wanna come?
Ken: Nah, I just got home. (inserts house key into the keyhole of his apartment’s door)
Vanness mocked: Then why the f*ck you call if you aren’t coming?
Ken laughed: I forgot. I headed back home straight after I leave office. Now I remembered, so I just call to check and also to tell you…
Vanness: To tell me that since you have got home, you are not going to come over and even if you will, you have to leave earlier as you also need to wake up early tomorrow, right?
Ken laughed again: You knew me, huh. (opens the door and enters the house)
Vanness: Yes, I do. We all do. It’s alright, dude. This bar is nearer to your office so I won’t recommend you to come all the way to here again since you are home. And we are calling it a day soon since tomorrow is yet another working day.
Ken: Alright, Vanness. Send my regards to everyone else. (closes the door)
Vanness: No problem. Sleep early and fight again tomorrow, Ken.
Ken laughed: Not something I like to hear but then I have no choice, right?
Vanness laughed: Just rest, dude. You needed it.
Ken: Thanks. I hope I can join you guys for beer soon. (places house keys on the table)
Vanness: I’ll see how soon can that be. Ciao.
Ken: Right, ciao.