Three weeks later in Tokyo
“Sica-chan, you seemed very tired. Busy project?” the Japanese lady cooed as she kneaded Jessica’s shoulders. Jessica felt the tension in her shoulders eased a little.
“Hai…” Jessica nodded, accompanied with a long sigh. She had been hard at work on this new project for the past few days and hardly had any rest. Thankfully tonight, she managed to get off work earlier, 10pm to be exact.
“Maybe this would help,” the lady said seductively, planting a trail of wet kisses on Jessica’s right shoulder.
“Why do all Japanese office employees work so hard? Aren’t they tired after working for 12 hours every day?” Jessica lamented.
“Ah, the pressure in Japanese society is very high. Everyone wants to do well, including me.” The lady wrapped her arms around Jessica’s waist, enveloping her in a back hug as they sat on the comfortable hotel bed.
“No shoot today?” Jessica asked, enjoying the warmth on her back. She stroked the pair of smooth fair arms that were wrapped around her waist.
The lady rested her head on Jessica’s left shoulder and shook her head. “That’s why I’m here with you, Sica-chan. It’s a pity I can only stay with you for tonight. I’ve got to go Hakone tomorrow for filming. I don’t think I’ll be able to meet you again so soon.”
Jessica reached for the two glasses of whiskey on the bedside table and handed one to her companion. “Yuki chan, I wouldn’t be able to finish the bottle by myself. Help me, will ya?”
Yuki chan, also known as TYO in Jessica’s phonebook, was a young actress whose popularity was rising in Japan. They met through an event in Tokyo six months ago and there was a physical attraction instantly. Yuki, being a celebrity, had a public image to maintain and she couldn’t let anyone know her preference for the same gender. The only other person who knew about her dark secret was her stylist.
The two ladies tipped their glasses and drank the cold hard liquor in a single motion. Several drinks later, they collapsed onto the bed, giggling like school kids as they started to peel off each other’s clothes.
An image of Taeyeon’s smiley face flashed across Jessica’s mind. That thought lasted no more than two seconds when she felt Yuki’s soft lips on hers and it never came back for the rest of the night.
During one of the afternoon tea breaks, the director announced there would be a special tea time break. Everyone was held to a big meeting room where there was a long table set up in the middle of the room. There were silver trays and a huge cake stand filled with mini cakes of all colours and shapes.
“As a reward for working so hard for the past week, my good friend Suzuki-san, the famous pastry baker and his protégé got together to prepare this spread of delicious desserts for all of you. Let’s give them a round of applause to welcome them,” the director’s voice boomed across the room.
The main door of the meeting room swung open and a tall middle aged Japanese man dressed in a white baker’s uniform walked into the room. Behind him was a petite lady also dressed in the same uniform and she followed closely behind. Everyone clapped as they entered the meeting room.
Jessica was staring at the lady the moment she walked through the door. There was an odd sense of familiarity but she couldn’t see her face clearly as she was partially blocked by a male colleague who was standing in front of her.
“Thank you, Nakamura-san for giving me this opportunity to share my desserts with everyone here. I heard that everyone has been working hard on this project. Your energy levels must be low by now and there’re some pastries to boost your energy level,” Suzuki-san said.
“Beside me is my former student, Taeyeon-san from South Korea. She is still one of my best students I ever had and I’m thankful she’s here in Tokyo to help me with the opening of my new store in Shibuya,” Suzuki-san added, patting Taeyeon on her back.
Jessica’s eyes opened wide in amazement. She couldn’t believe her eyes. That girl in the baker’s uniform was Taeyeon. The Kim Taeyeon that took her bag by accident. The Kim Taeyeon who was drunk, who leaned on her body for support when she was drunk, who almost took off her blouse in front of her… …
Taeyeon’s shoulder length hair was tied up in a neat bun and tucked beneath the white baker’s hat. She was standing upright, with her arms by her side, as if she was part of an army contingent and looked a little nervous.
“Good afternoon everyone, I’m Taeyeon-san, from Seoul, South Korea. I’m privileged to be here with my mentor Suzuki-san. Our brain needs glucose in order to function well. If we’re low on glucose, we tend to feel more lethargic. A little sugar rush would do the trick, so I hope everyone will enjoy the desserts we’ve prepared,” Taeyeon said before bowing to the audience in front of her.
Two waiters helped the bakers remove the silver food covers and clear plastic wrappers. Everyone queued in an orderly manner to take their food. Suzuki and Taeyeon stood behind the long table and helped to serve the desserts to the staff.
Jessica wondered if Taeyeon had spotted her among the crowd. As her turn got nearer, she took a deep breath to compose herself and walked confidently towards Taeyeon. She hoped to chat with Taeyeon but the opportunity was slim as there were other people who were standing behind her in the queue.
“Here’s a strawberry cupcake for you. I know you’ll like it,” Taeyeon teased. Jessica felt Taeyeon’s fingers meeting hers under the plate. It sent small tingles down her hand and to her heart. The latter slipped a piece of paper under plate as she handed Jessica the cupcake. Jessica smiled back and hurriedly picked up a vanilla swiss roll before joining her colleagues at the corner of the room.
While chatting with her colleagues, Jessica stole glances at Taeyeon. Each time Taeyeon caught Jessica looking at her, she would flash a quick smile before looking back at the person she was serving.
Jessica headed for the washroom to wash her hands after enjoying the delightful desserts. As soon as she entered the washroom, she heard a familiar voice calling her name. She turned around and saw Taeyeon, dressed in a light blue striped Oxford shirt with dark blue jeans, standing by the sink. The long sleeves were rolled up until her elbows, her long fringe was tucked behind her ears and she was holding onto a paper bag, containing her baker’s uniform. There was a wide grin plastered across her face.
“Hello Jessica. It’s nice to meet you again,” Taeyeon greeted merrily. She extended her hand for a handshake, wanting to feel those soft hands again.
“Hi Taeyeon, how have you been?” Jessica asked in a somewhat awkward manner, shaking Taeyeon’s hand. She didn’t expect to bump into Taeyeon in the washroom.
“I’ve gotten a little busy but I’ll survive. You look like you lost some weight. Remember to take care of your health,” Taeyeon replied with a look of concern on her face.
Jessica was surprised at Taeyeon’s observation. “Probably due to stress. This is a rather major project and there’re a lot of areas to manage.”
“I see. Don’t work too hard. You need to take a break at times. Regarding my question?” Taeyeon flashed a cheeky grin with her hands tucked inside her jeans pockets.
Jessica had forgotten the main purpose of coming to the washroom; to read Taeyeon’s note. She took a quick glance at it.
“Free for dinner? I’m sure you still have my number right? – KTY”
“Yes to both your questions,” Jessica answered hastily.
“That’s great. You’re staying at the same hotel as the other time? I’ll meet you at the hotel lobby at 7.30pm. I’ve gotta go now. See you tonight, Jessica.” Taeyeon patted Jessica’s arm, lingering a little longer than usual and left the washroom.
Jessica stood in front of the sink, staring into the mirror. She could still feel Taeyeon’s touch on her arm. Her cheeks had a tinge of pink to them and she was sure she didn’t put any blusher this morning when she came to work.
Jessica was ten minutes ahead of the appointed time. As she was talking to towards the lounge area, she spotted a familiar figure sitting on one of the sofas.
“Wow, you’re early,” Jessica greeted.
Taeyeon rose from her seat and smoothed the winkles in her vest. She put on a cotton v-neck vest over a new blouse and wore the same pair of dark blue jeans. “I don’t like to keep people waiting,” Taeyeon replied with a smile.
“You look beautiful.” Those words escaped Taeyeon’s mouth when she came face to face with Jessica. Jessica was wearing a sleeveless navy blue dress with a thin leather belt. The dress hugged her body and showed off her curves. She had light makeup on and her long blonde hair caressed her shoulders. A black cardigan and black Prada bag hung loosely from her arm.
“Thank you,” Jessica replied, pleased with the reaction Taeyeon was giving her. “You’re looking good yourself too. Do you have any place in mind to go to?”
Taeyeon blushed. It was rare someone complimented her on her clothes as she was hardly a person who enjoyed dressing up.
“Just follow me,” Taeyeon said as she led the way out of the hotel.
Hopping into a taxi, the women made their way to a nearby suburb. After a quick dinner at a ramen place, Taeyeon pulled Jessica into one of the side streets, away from the hustle and bustle. She led the way up the second storey of a building and went into a shop upstairs. A tiny silver bell rang as Taeyeon pushed the door open.
Jessica gasped at the sight of the numerous cakes lined up neatly in a huge glass display. The glass display took up most of the space in the tiny store and it extended from the ground to the ceiling. There were only four sets of tables and chairs in the café and the walls of the café were filled with handwritten colourful post-it notes.
Still holding onto Jessica’s hand, Taeyeon pulled her towards the cake display. She pointed to one of the shelves and asked, “Would you like to try one?”
Jessica couldn’t decide which cake to pick. In the end, Taeyeon told her to sit at the table by the window while she placed the order.
Minutes later, Taeyeon emerged by her side, holding onto a tray of cakes and two iced coffees.
“This store is opened by my mentor Suzuki-san. He owns two stores in Japan and both of them are takeaway outlets. That explains why there’re only so few tables and chairs here. His chiffon cheesecakes are often sold out by midday. I told him to leave some for us tonight,” Taeyeon explained. She had a lot of pride in her mentor’s products.
“Honestly, I didn’t realised you’re a baker. I thought you just had a keen interest in baking but didn’t expect you would make a career out of it,” Jessica commented.
“Why is that so? I don’t look like a baker to you?” Taeyeon asked, her eyes twinkling with curiosity.
“No, I don’t mean it that way,” said Jessica defensively, afraid she may had offended Taeyeon.
“It’s ok, I’m only kidding. You’re not the first person who tells me that. Technically I’m not a full-time baker. Go on, try the cheese chiffon cake. I’m sure you’ll love it.”
Jessica cut a small corner of the cake and placed it in her mouth. The fragrant cake tasted like heaven. It was light and not overly cheesy. The taste was just nice, not too sweet either.
“It’s delicious! I’ve never tasted such a light cheesecake before. I don’t feel like I’ve put on a kilo after eating it,” Jessica exclaimed, her eyebrows rising in delight.
Taeyeon laughed. “That’s why this cake is so popular, especially among the ladies. You wouldn’t feel sick of eating it since the cheese taste is not overpowering.”
Jessica took a sip of the iced coffee. She hadn’t felt so relaxed in a long while. It was a welcome relief to her stressful week at work.
“Try this mango tart, it will give you the sugar rush you need and boost your mood.” Taeyeon picked up the tart and held it in front of Jessica.
Jessica took it from Taeyeon’s hand, lightly brushing against the back of her hand. The touch of Jessica’s smooth palm sent an electric jolt down Taeyeon’s body. Jessica smirked when she caught Taeyeon trying to gawk at her discreetly. The latter had obviously failed. Taeyeon had her mouth open and her ears were turning redder by the minute. Seizing the opportunity to tease, she deliberately took a small bite of tart very slowly, licking her lips as she swallowed it.
Taeyeon gulped as she watched Jessica eating the tart slowly and using her tongue to clean off the excess cream off her lips in a slow and deliberate manner. The air felt thin and Taeyeon had problems breathing normally. She grabbed the glass of iced coffee from the table and drank a mouthful of it to calm her nerves.
“So, you’re a project manager?” Taeyeon asked, hoping the new conversation topic would divert her attention away from the way Jessica was enjoying the tart.
“Yes, kind of. My speciality is in digital marketing so all things related to website and social media fall under my care. By the way, this tart is lovely. Thank you for your recommendation,” Jessica smiled as she used a napkin to wipe her mouth nonchalantly. She knew she had Taeyeon’s attention.
“Good things are worth sharing. Would you like another one?” Taeyeon asked. However, in the next instant, she mentally slapped herself for asking such a question as it could mean a repeat of the earlier scene.
Thankfully, Jessica declined. “You mentioned that being a baker is not your full time job, so what is?”
“I teach at the Seoul Culinary Academy, specialising in desserts and pastries. On and off, I write food reviews for the local newspapers and magazines.”
“You’re such a busy person. Tell me, how do you maintain such a slim figure if you get to savour all the mouthwatering cuisines?” Jessica asked as she reached out to touch Taeyeon’s hand.
Taeyeon didn’t move her hand away despite feeling the cold hand on hers.
“Ermm, blessed with good genes? Actually I don’t normally finish a full meal. Just sample the highlights of the dish.”
“Ah, lucky you,” Jessica said, leaning back onto the couch and crossing her legs. The soft material of her dress rode up her leg, revealing her toned thighs. She casually adjusted her dress before looking straight back at Taeyeon, who by now was staring at her with her eyes as round as dinner plates. Taeyeon had to think of another topic soon in order to distract herself from thinking about Jessica’s legs.
“You’re good at web design?” Taeyeon randomly asked.
“I can do simple web designs,” Jessica replied.
Ah, this is a good opportunity for me to get close to her. Taeyeon thought to herself.
“Actually, I do have a request. I’m a part owner of a small café and my partners have been telling me that we ought to do a website so that more people can get to know about our café. We’re currently renovating the café and are targeting to open within a month’s time.”
“Oh, your partners are absolutely right! A website is important to help generate publicity about your products and gives people a chance to know more about what you’re selling too. Through social media, you can also drive traffic to your website and some of these are free. Hmm…I’ll design your website and help you set up a Facebook page. It’s also important to ensure that your website is optimised for search so that potential customers can look for your website easily,” Jessica was gesturing animatedly as she listed the ideas for Taeyeon’s website.
“Okay, I’m lost. Name me your price,” Taeyeon said firmly.
“Just for you, I’ll do it for free, but on one condition. My charges would be in exchange for the delicious cakes and tarts you bake. Do we have a deal?” Jessica said with a wink.
“Oh, erh, ya, sure!” Taeyeon stuttered, surprised at Jessica’s only condition.
“I’m free tomorrow afternoon, your place or mine?”
“What?” Taeyeon asked, surprised at Jessica’s straight forwardness.
“I meant, we can meet up to discuss the structure of the website. Would you like to do it at your hotel or mine? It would be easier if we have an internet connection,” Jessica explained, trying not to giggle at Taeyeon’s reaction.
Taeyeon’s cheeks darkened to a shade of red. For a moment, she thought she had misunderstood Jessica’s question. “Your hotel then. Mine doesn’t have wifi and yours is probably more comfy than mine.”
After they’ve finished up their cakes, they made their way back to their respective hotels.
Now I have a reason to meet her more often. Taeyeon thought to herself while in the taxi.
Meanwhile, Jessica was humming a tune during her taxi ride. She was pleased Taeyeon didn’t reject her advances so far. Now she had something to do to occupy her time since Yuki was busy with her drama.
“Had a good time tonight?” the taxi driver asked, looking at the bright smile on Jessica’s face through his rear view mirror.
Jessica let out a small laugh, “Yes, a very good time.”