Ken, whose focus is on his tender document on his desk; lifted up his head to look at his manager who is standing next to him. “Yes, Manager Lee?”
“I want to talk you. Care to drop by my office now?” Manager Lee said, gripping onto his notepad tight, as he had just emerged from the meeting room with a board of directors.
“Now? I… I am rushing the tender document,” Ken said.
“Don’t bother about the tender document. It’s okay. Just come into my office now,” Manager Lee patted Ken’s shoulder, as he walks away.
Ken looked at the tender document laid bare in front of him. He took a deep breath. He didn’t have much time for others. He also skipped his meals to get this tender document done. Customers have been changing requirements time and again. Competitors are lowering their amount, charges and value to fight with each other to get the tender from the customer.
He reluctantly stands up as he takes a final look at the tender document, before his eyes looked up and then he headed to Manager Lee’s room.
Ken opens the door. “Manager Lee?”
“Have a seat, Ken,” Manager Lee said as he shoved his files aside.
Ken nodded as he comes in, and he closed the door behind him. He then sits down in front of Manager Lee. He looked at Manager Lee.
Manager Lee’s face seems to bear some sorrow and sadness and also tad bit of seriousness, but one is unable to derive what is happening or what is going on with Manager Lee.
“I understood that you have been working really hard with the tender document for the past few weeks,” Manager Lee breaks the silence.
“Ah, yes. I have been working on it and it is a very difficult customer to work with, as we are fighting with many other competitors to win the tender,” Ken said.
“I know,” Manager Lee said. “Company have decided to give up on the tender,”
“WHAT?! I have been…”
“Ken,” Manager Lee said. “Customer has been voicing a really ridiculous requirement and fooling all of us, seeing who can give the best charges for them. We can’t be able to fight with all the competitors. We cannot take a job that will not earn us any money and instead wastes our money,”
“I…” Ken took a deep breath.
Manager Lee is right.
Ken has been working on the tender’s value every single day. He didn’t know if lowering any more amounts of money and charges will lead to loss but he didn’t want to lose the tender. His shoulder literally dropped.
“I am sure you know the tender’s value and amount right now is merely impossible to be done and achieved. But I know you are not willing to give it up so you are trying your very best to get the amount right. I understand how bad you wanted it,” Manager Lee said.
Ken lowered his head. “Unfortunately… company has decided to drop it… I have nothing to say,” he took a deep breath and then exhaled it frustratedly.
Manager Lee swallowed a lump in his throat, “Ken, I know you’ve been working really hard. I know how many nights you’ve been working on this. I know you are a good employee,”
Ken lifted up his head and he looked at Manager Lee oddly for what he had uttered. Something doesn’t sound really… really right about it.
Manager Lee then closed his eyes for a while before he opens it and then takes a white envelope out that is slipped in between the notepad’s pages in front of him, and then he placed it in front of Ken. “Company has decided to additionally compensate you on the OT you have been working on in this project,”
Ken startled as he looked at the white envelope.
A white envelope could be a good sign… or bad.
Good sign as in a raise or promotion. Or both.
Whereas for bad sign… it could mean he is sacked from the company.
But in this situation and from the way Manager Lee speaks, it does not sound like a good sign. And at the same time, it does not sound like a bad sign either. He needs explanation.
“Additionally compensate?” Ken asked.
“Company appreciates your effort, a lot. I am honored too,”
“Then you said… additional?” Ken asked.
Manager Lee takes another deep breath. “Ken, company has not been doing really well for the past 2 years as you know. I’m sorry. Company has decided to let you go,”
Ken stared straight at Manager Lee. “Let me… go?” Ken asked.
Manager Lee nodded and swallowed the lump in his throat, “Ken, you are a really, really good employee. I am glad having you as my staff. I am happy working with you. I’m sorry, Ken. I’ve tried my best to talk with the board of directors to keep you. But company could not afford having you anymore,”
Ken finally gets what he meant. “You mean… I’m losing my job now?”
“You probably noticed that we have not renewed or extend any employee’s contract. Contracted staffs are asked to leave once the tenure has completed. Permanent employees like you will be given compensation. Because company valued your performance and efforts you have given to the company, they offered you an additional of 6 months’ compensation on top of a year’s salary to you. They appreciate your effort and the time you have spent for the tender, for the company,” he patted the envelope.
Ken took a deep breath as he leaned his back to the chair.
“I’m really, really sorry, Ken,” Manager Lee said. “I have tried my best. If there is any opportunity in the future, I really hope to work with you again,”
“Ouch!” Rainie yelled as she turned to her right to look at Winnie. “What the hell is that for?!”
“I have some news for you,” Winnie said, crossing her hands on her chest.
“What?” Rainie asked as she rubbed her arm, on the spot Winnie just slapped on. “Make it quick, I need to go for a briefing in 15 minutes for a modeling show,”
“I will not take more than 5 minutes of your time since I am going to the same briefing,”
“Alright. What is it?”
“There is no fashion show in Milan,” Winnie said.
“Don’t you find it weird? If there is any fashion show, at least you, or me, will get an invitation for it? Or probably some other supermodels which you can see wandering around the set today,” Winnie asked, which leads to Rainie looking around. “That is why I go to office and ask. There is no fashion show in Milan. That is what they said, and these few days, there is NO fashion show anywhere in the world,”
Rainie scratched her head. “Then where did he go?”
“How am I supposed to know? He’s your boyfriend,”
“He did not go home. That’s his house,”
“Are you sure he did not go back, or he went back home, without you knowing it?”
“Of course I will know! We stay together,”
“Well, he told you about going to Milan for fashion show and clearly there is no fashion show. He did not call you claiming time zone difference when a man will definitely try to call his girlfriend even if he is going to lose 10 minutes of his sleep. And he did not go back to his home. Looks like Scott has some problems. And that makes you have some problems with him,”
Rainie frowned as she folded her hands on her chest.
“What?” Vanness asked, looking at Ken still clad in his formal attire along with a tie.
“Yes, I just lose my job,” Ken said taking a deep breath as he stirred the coffee in front of him and then he lifted the cup up and gulped it down.
“Dude, that’s coffee. Not beer,” Vanness said. “And technically it’s too early to get drunk right now,” he looked at the wrist watch that bears 2.30pm.
Ken stared at the empty cup of coffee in front of him. “Ahh…”
“I’ll order plain water for you instead,” Vanness said. “So you can gulp it down as many as you want,” he raised his hand to flag a waiter.
“I thought you have a flight to catch?”
“Yes, 6pm. So I have time to talk until 4pm, don’t worry about me,” Vanness said.
“I envy you. Get paid to travel. Travel for work and write about the places you traveled to,” Ken said. “And get it published,”
Vanness smiled. “One of the reasons why I want to be a Travelling Writer since young. I have flexibility of time, like right now when you call me or need me, I’m free to come out for… a coffee. Look at Jerry, a bank manager but he is bounded with working hours. And Vic, flexible but when there’s a fashion show, he doesn’t have time to eat or sleep… and you… work beyond normal working hours, no time to eat, no time to sleep,” he said.
Ken glared at him.
“I didn’t say anything wrong, I supposed?” Vanness said.
Ken then tilted his head and took a deep breath, “You are right…” he then reached for the tie knot and pulled slightly to loosen it up.
“Anyway, the reason you ask me out right now is for you. So… you got fired today?”
“I hate that word but yes. I leave right after the meeting with my manager. Head to my seat, pack my stuffs and leave,” he sighed.
“Not even looking back?”
“Do I even need to?”
“Maybe some nostalgic moments,” Vanness casually said.
“Gosh, what nostalgic moments do I have there? About being fired?”
“I don’t know. It was your job, not mine. You’ve worked there for 4 years…”
“Yes, I’ve worked there for 4 years. Whenever there is a bid or submission for tender, I will work extra hard for the tender and sometimes even every night, especially the latest one that the company has dropped. I was this close to achieve the next step. And look at what I got?” Ken asked.
“Wasting time and energy,” Vanness said. “Working your ass off for the tender. Missing all the meals and drinks with us, and you got fired in the end,” he practically answered Ken.
Ken shook his head. “And yes, for all that you have just said, why should I turn my head and look?”
“Maybe something related to your ex?”
Ken immediately went silent and a distinct change in his facial expression.
“Sorry for bringing that up,” Vanness said, upon realizing he had shut Ken up.
“Though it happened while I am attached to this company, I don’t want to turn my head and look at that,” Ken tilted his head and then he shrugged the entire thing off.
Vanness cleared his throat. “Umm… well, at least your company ‘feed’ you for 4 years,” he said, changing the topic. “Get you a car and also your apartment…”
“And they gave you valuable skills, Ken,” Vanness smiled.
Ken looked at Vanness. “Thanks for trying to cheer me up,” Ken smirked.
“There is nothing else I can do but that. So, they compensate you, I supposed?”
“Yes, of course. They terminate my service so they have to compensate me. Thank goodness I am not a contract worker. Else, I just lost my job at the end and there is no compensation and stuff,”
“Like you’ve said. You’ve worked there for 4 years. If you were a contract worker, I think you won’t be there for so long. Judging from your character, you won’t prefer a contract job. But I think… your company might be in a serious financial crisis. They will not let a staff go just like that unless the staff is not performing, in fact, like your manager had said, you are a good staff. Assuming the company is doing well, and if you decide to go basically on your own desire, they will do what they can to make you stay since you are really good in what you do,” Vanness said. “It might be a good idea for you to leave a company that may risk bankruptcy in any minute. You’ll in fact lose your compensation if your company has bankrupted. Anyway, did they give you fat compensation?”
“You can say like that,” Ken said.
“Aren’t our salary earnings private?” he glared at Vanness.
“Oh yeah,” Vanness scratched his head. “Sorry about that,”
“No worries… but the compensation can at least make me survive for a year and a half,” Ken said.
“Wow, they give you 18 months compensation?!”
“Yeah. So I can be jobless for a while… but I wouldn’t want to do that,”
“Of course. Because you are Ken,”
“You don’t have a girlfriend so you don’t need to spare some time to accompany your girlfriend. You won’t want to stay at home waiting for time to pass. Unless you want to go travelling. But… I doubt you will,”
“Do you think you can go travelling with ease, without thinking that you are still jobless? That will be way too stressful and not something the Ken I know will do to stress himself up,”
“Geez, how come you understand me better than I am?” Ken asked.
“We have been buddies for over 20 years, dude, we know each other very well. You know yourself too, it’s just that at this one moment, you didn’t and haven’t thought of it yet,” Vanness smirked.
Ken smiled briefly as well and he looked at the waiter placing down a glass of water in front of him. He basically extends his hand out and grabbed the glass of water for a sip.
“Well, not working for your company might be a good idea too. You might be able to get a better job elsewhere. You graduated with business. You can do well in any sales or marketing job. And gives you more access to knowing girls,”
Ken puts down the glass of water. “What are you are talking about?”
“Get a girlfriend. It’s not like you are still 12 or too young for a relationship, and your previous relationship has ended a while ago,”
“Don’t talk about me when you still searching too,”
“Oh, I did not tell you,”
Sensing that odd way of uttering the statement, “Huh? You already have? The last time I check with you was… I don’t even know when was the last time we actually chat like this,” Ken scratched his head.
Vanness rolled his eyes. “Blame it on your job,” he said. “I met her during my recent trip to Amsterdam. She’s quite nice. And she’s pretty too,” he smiled from ear to ear.
“Oh, no, no. She’s from Taipei. An air-stewardess. I met her on my flight to Amsterdam,” Vanness smiled.
“Air-stewardess? Wow, you get an air-stewardess girlfriend?”
“I have not made her my girlfriend yet. It’s still getting-to-know-each-other phase. You were supposed to meet her last night, if you have agreed to come and join us for beer,” Vanness said.
“I should have,” Ken rolled his eyes. “Wasted my effort to work like a dog for the tender that the company has decided to forgo in the end,”
Vanness laughed at the way Ken described himself.
“So, Vic and Jerry already met her?”
“Yes,” Vanness said. “And they actually like her,”
“Great. She passed the brothers’ level. If Jerry and Vic like her then she must be a really nice person. Congrats, Vanness,” Ken said.
“Thanks,” Vanness smiled. “Oh, as a matter of fact, she is actually Barbie’s best friend so Jerry already knew her prior to the meeting last night,”
“Huh? Barbie’s best friend?”
Vanness smirked. “Small world, huh,”
“Indeed,” Ken replied.
“Anyway, back to the topic. Girlfriend, right? Girlfriend,” Vanness said. “So, if you are still stuck with your tender job, you hardly can get any girlfriends. Unless you can get one in your office,”
“Huh, my office… umm… not that I noticed any of them is… umm… my type,” Ken said.
“Then right now, it is a good time for you to come out and search,” Vanness smiled. “Go and hit someone on the road since you are idling now,”
Ken smirked. “When it is the time, I will meet her no matter what and where I am. For now, I just want to look for a job. I need a job. Is your company hiring?”
Vanness shook. “We are not looking for a tender executive. But we are looking for a permanent cleaner to clean the office and the toilet. Do you want to do that job?”
Ken glared at Vanness as Vanness laughed.
“Scott?” Vic asked as he poked the needle into the dress that Winnie is wearing for resizing.
“Let me think,” Vic said as he stood up and then grabbed the measuring tape on the table and then puts it around his neck. “Hmm… now that you’ve mentioned, I think I saw him 2 days ago,” he put his hands on his waist.
“2 days ago?” Winnie asked.
“Yes. Should be around 9pm as I left office around that time the other day,”
“9pm. Usually everyone left back home after 7pm so there won’t be many people in the office,” Winnie said.
Vic frowned as he tried recalling that night. “I think he was with someone,”
“Huh?” Winnie asked as she looked at him. “Someone?”
“Yeah, they headed to a car. But it is not his car. Scott drives a white car but that night it is a black color car. Or was it dark red…” he scratched his head. “I forgot. It was 9pm and it’s dark and I didn’t pay much attention to it. But I know it’s a dark colored car,”
“Of course it’s not his car. He left it at home,” Winnie mumbled.
“Why, you are looking for Scott?” Vic asked as he gets back to work, and he lowered his body to find the excess portion of the dress again.
“Not me. Rainie is,” Winnie said.
“Rainie?” Vic asked as he gently puts the needle in after finding the excess segment on the dress wrapping Winnie’s body.
“Yes, I suspect there’s something wrong with Scott. He told her he went to Milan for fashion show. But neither me nor Rainie was invited. And then a check with the office, there is no fashion show in Milan. And Scott did not call Rainie, did not go home… and you said you saw him 2 days ago,”
“Scott did not go back to his own house?” Vic asked as he puts the measuring tape around Winnie’s waist.
“Yes, you know Rainie is staying with him,” Winnie said.
“Sounds like a cheating case to me,”
“Huh?!” Winnie asked as she flings her upper body and at the same time her elbow hits Vic’s forehead.
“Oh my gosh! I’m so sorry! So sorry!!” Winnie said as she turned and saw Vic covering his forehead with his palm and he is already sitting on the floor.
“Of all places… you need to use your elbow,” Vic rubbed the forehead. “Do you know that elbow is one of the strongest parts of the body?”
“I didn’t know you are behind me! And your head…” Winnie said as she tries to rub his forehead.
“Whoa… I feel very dizzy,” Vic said.
“Here, sit, sit,” Winnie said as she pulled the chair to him. “Are you okay? Do you want to go to hospital for a check?” she gives him a pull to pull him up from the floor to sit onto the chair.
“I think I need a rest,” Vic said and then he laughed.
“Still can laugh,” Winnie said. “You scare the shit out of me, what if your head is slightly higher and then I might have hit your eye?”
“I don’t know. You might need to take care of me for the rest of my life since one of my eyes is blind,” Vic laughed.
Winnie glares at him. “Sounds like you give away your ‘rest of your life’ easily,”
He laughed. “Just for you,”
“I am not buying your sweet talk,” she faked arrogance at him.
Vic smiled at her action as he rubbed his forehead. After resting for a while, he gets back to work and measured her waist.
“Geez, Winnie. You slimed down again. Two inches,” Vic said, writing down the measurement.
“Two inches? Really?”
“Yes, the last measurement I took from you was a month ago,” Vic said. “In just a month, you lost 2 inches from your waist,”
“You said I lost two inches from my waist but I did not lose any weight. Then most probably the 2 inches went to my butt or thigh… or arm,” Winnie said, raising her arm.
“Whoa, don’t fling your hand,” Vic raised his hand. “Not again,”
Winnie laughed. “I’m really sorry,”
“It’s okay,” Vic rubbed his forehead, thinking of the pain he had earlier.
“Vic, you were saying ‘cheating case’ just now. What’s your opinion?” Winnie asked.
“Oh, about Scott, right?” Vic said. “You see, we are not staying together but yet I call you every night, even if it’s just a one minute call to wish you goodnight. What is the need for a boyfriend to lie about going overseas for work, leave the house and not even having a desire to call the girlfriend to ask a single ‘how are you?’ question?”
“Hmm…” Winnie said. “How sure are you about that matter?”
“Sure? I am not sure, of course. You asked for my opinion, and that is my opinion,” Vic said. “Winnie, you have been talking and complaining about Scott for the last few weeks if not months,”
“I know. I couldn’t help it. I didn’t want Rainie to suffer,”
“I understand you are trying to help Rainie. Question is; she needs to be the one that feels it. Or Scott needs to confess what is going on,” Vic said. “If she refused to see how you see it, no point to stress yourself about it, you know?”
Winnie took a deep breath. “Yes, you are right,” she sighed. “I am sorry. I am sure the topic bores you. And it is like, it became one of our frequent topics,”
“You don’t have to be sorry. It is because you care for Rainie. And the fact is that she is your best friend, and I know how unhappy you are with Scott, which is why it leads to your frequent desire to vent and complain about Scott. I truly understand. You are free to vent and complain and I will be here listening to you. But I just need you to remember that, at the end of the day, no matter how angry you are with him or unhappy with how Rainie is dealing with this; this is still their matter and their relationship. There is a limit to what you can do,” he smiled as he looked at her lovingly.
Winnie smiled. She nodded. “I understand,”
He smiled, and he leaned forward and gave a quick, brief kiss on her lips. He then looked at her after taking a step back, and she smiled at him.
“Alright, I am done with the dress. You can take it off, and then I will send the dress to the fashion designer to amend accordingly for the fashion show. Please be careful with the needles on the dress,” he turned and walked to his desk.
“Alright,” Winnie said. “Errr… Vic?”
“I have considered your offer about moving in with you,” Winnie said.
Vic lifted his head and looked at her.