Chapter 7

Mr Sung had requested to meet Jessica in his room at 11am. Jessica heard rumours of a new project coming up and wondered if the meeting was to discuss this matter.

“How’s Hyun Seung?” Mr Sung asked. He wasn’t a person who beat around the bush, preferring to dive into the subject matter immediately.

“He’s good. He has a strong project management background and seems to be getting along well with the rest of the team,” Jessica answered.

“That’s good. I’ve two pieces of news. One, you may have heard about a colleague who would be joining us from the China office. Her name is Kim Hyuna and she’s a Korean who was based there for the past two years. I’m assigning you to orientate her for a start, just to let her get used to our work culture here. She’s probably at the HR department filling in some forms and collecting her access pass right now. I told her to look for you when she’s done.”

Jessica acknowledged Mr Sung’s instruction with a nod.

“The next piece of news…” Mr Sung paused for a moment. His brows were knitted in a frown, his hands were on his table and he leaned forward.

After working with Mr Sung for several years, Jessica could tell from his body language and tone of voice that it was something major and that he needed Jessica to personally see to that matter.

“There’s a big project in Los Angeles going on at the moment. The LA office is requesting for our assistance. I’ll be assigning Josh to lead the project, with Hyun Seung assisting him. I see potential in Hyun Seung and this would be a good learning opportunity for him.”

Mr Sung leaned back into his chair and clasped his hands, resting them on the table. Jessica waited patiently for her role in this project. She prayed she wouldn’t need to be heavily involved since she was already up to her neck in work.

“At the same time, the client is hiring two digital specialists in LA. I’m thinking of sending you there for three weeks to understudy from them and gain valuable knowledge and experience which can be shared with the team in Seoul. At the same time, I need you to introduce Hyun Seung to the LA team and assimilate him. Josh would be busy with the project once he gets there and I’m afraid he doesn’t have the time to do the necessary introductions and bring Hyun Seung up to speed with what’s going on so far.”

Jessica’s expression grew serious. Breaking the pregnant pause, Mr Sung continued.

“I know you’ve mentioned that you don’t like to travel for long periods of time but this is an excellent opportunity to gain valuable insights for digital marketing and development. It would help develop your growth in the company. As I always said, knowledge learnt is for your own benefit. Even if you leave the company in the future, the knowledge goes with you, no one can ever take it away from you.”

“I understand, Mr Sung.”

Jessica knew that Mr Sung held her in high regards and such opportunities were rare. It wasn’t easy to find an understanding boss and one would saw the value in her and would want to groom her for a bigger role.

“I will go. It’s a rare chance to learn from the experts. Thank you for the opportunity, Mr Sung.”

“I am glad you take up the offer, Jessica. Josh has the project details, please find out more from him. That’s all I have to say for now,” Mr Sung concluded, a warm smile appearing on his face.

As Jessica walked out of Mr Sung’s room, she bumped into a man in a navy blue shirt with a pearly white tie. The man held Jessica by her shoulders to break her fall. Jessica uttered an apology. Looking up, she realised that the person was Hyun Seung.

“In a hurry?” Hyun Seung said coolly, striking a model-like pose against the wall.

“Yes,” came a short icy reply.

“I gathered Mr Sung has just told you the news about the both of us going to LA?” Hyun Seung grinned. He saw Jessica exiting Mr Sung’s room and made that assumption.

“Congrats on being selected for the LA project. Now if you could excuse me, I have other things to attend to.” Jessica furrowed her brows and turned around to leave.

“Hey,” Hyun Seung stuck out his arm to block Jessica’s path. “We should try to get along with each other since we’ll be together for almost a month.”

“To be exact, it’s lesser than three weeks since I don’t intend to spend the weekends with you. In case you’ve forgotten, Josh is coming along with us and he’s your team leader.”

“Ah, Josh, that nerdy guy. He’ll probably be holed up in his room playing his Xbox instead of hanging out at the lovely cafes or shopping in downtown LA.”

“What makes you think I’ll hang out with you then?”

“My instinct is usually right,” Hyun Seung said arrogantly, a smirk plastered across his face.

If your instinct is that spot-on, wouldn’t you have guessed that you’re barking up the wrong tree? Jessica thought to herself.

“We shall see. Now if you could excuse me, I need to complete a presentation for a meeting later on.”

Hyun Seung put his hand down, allowing Jessica to pass. He snapped his fingers and proclaimed, “Now, that’s one feisty woman. I love a challenge!”

Jessica sank into the chair in her office and slowly sipped on her cup of coffee. Since her change in portfolio just before she got engaged with Taeyeon, she hadn’t been travelling much and for such a long period of time.

Knock knock

“Come in.” Jessica set her cup aside, waiting to welcome the visitor.

There stood a slim woman with dark purple highlights among her light brown hair. She was wearing a business suit and was holding onto an iPad that was nestled in a bright red Chanel cover. The other hand held an expensive maroon Hermes Birkin handbag. She walked briskly towards Jessica’s desk and extended a hand for a handshake.

“Good morning. I’m Kim Hyuna and I’ve just been transferred to the Seoul HQ with effect from today. Nice to meet you,” Hyuna said, shaking Jessica’s hand firmly.

Jessica could sense this woman was trouble when she walked in. She wondered why Mr Sung hadn’t comment about Hyuna’s hair colour. It was inappropriate for a consultant to dye her hair in this manner as the consultant would be expected to meet clients. It didn’t present a professional image to a client.

“Good morning, Hyuna. I’m Jessica Jung. Pleased to meet you too. Have a seat.” Jessica pointed to the empty chair that was in front of her desk.

Hyuna took a seat, crossing one leg over the other, revealing a fair bit of skin. It was obvious her skirt was very short but she wasn’t bothered by it. She looked around the office. Cupboards lined two sides of Jessica’s office, framing the white L-shaped work desk. The full length glass window behind Jessica offered a panoramic view of the city if the blinds were up.

“Welcome on board. Please give me a few minutes to finish this email and I shall attend to you,” Jessica said politely as she shifted her glance from the woman to the huge LED monitor that sat on her desk.

Feeling restless, Hyuna got up from her seat and wandered to the glass window. She tugged at the cord at the side of the blinds and pulled the woven blinds up, letting the morning sun flood the office.

“Great view eh?” Hyuna commented.

“Yes, it’s quite beautiful, especially at night. Sorry but could you lower the blinds because the sunlight is making it difficult for me to read what’s on my screen,” Jessica requested politely.

It took Hyuna at least thirty seconds before she tugged at the cord again to lower the blinds. She strolled back to the empty chair in front of Jessica and sat down.

Hyuna randomly picked items off Jessica’s desk and looked at them; pens, scrap paper, post-its, a small Gingerbread man figurine. All this while, Jessica kept one eye on the newcomer. She didn’t like people touching her things without permission.

“Perhaps you would like to read this report about a recent survey we conducted for a client.” Jessica shoved a document towards Hyuna. She maintained her cool though she could feel irritation building up inside her.

As if Jessica’s words had gone with the wind, Hyuna spotted a silver photo frame sitting inconspicuously in a corner of her desk, partially hidden by her coffee mug. She immediately snatched it up, examining the photograph that was inside. It showed two women smiling brightly at the camera with the Eiffel Tower in the background. The shorter woman had an arm around Jessica’s shoulders and their cheeks were pressed together as they took the self-portrait.

“Who is this?” Hyuna asked curiously, pointing at the person in the photo. “Must be someone very close to you.”

Jessica took the photo frame out of Hyuna’s grasp. “I would prefer if you asked me for permission before touching my things.”

“Oh, you’re married?” Hyuna asked, seeing the diamond ring on Jessica’s ring finger. It was obvious to her that the ring wasn’t just any other ordinary ring. “You play for the other team? Is that person in the photo your… partner?”

This woman is very direct. She’s also very sharp unlike that blockhead Hyun Seung. He’s been in here so many times but didn’t notice the photo and link it to my ring. Sigh, men…

Jessica placed the photo frame back on her desk neatly. It was the only one of two personal items in her office. The other being the Gingerbread man figurine which Taeyeon bought for her at Tokyo Disneyland and insisted that Jessica displayed it in the office. Prior to meeting Taeyeon, her office was cold and clinical, with no personal touch at all.

Jesscia stared at Hyuna who was looking very bored. She didn’t see a need to spill details of her personal life to someone whom she had just met for barely ten minutes.

“I’m done with my email. Let’s take a walk around the building and I can introduce you to the rest of the team members. One of them is very excited to see you,” Jessica replied, completely ignoring Hyuna’s question.

Jessica rose from her chair and waited at the door. Hyuna spun the chair around to face the door and stood up. She ran her fingers through her hair, flipped it to the back and followed behind Jessica.

“Where’s Hyun Seung?” Jessica asked, noticing an empty seat among the low partitions in the office where the team members sat.

“He’s possibly touching up his hair in the washroom,” someone yelled from the back.

A wave of laughter swept across the team members, including Jessica. The only exception was Hyuna, who was staring at the team members as if they were aliens.

“Hey Jessica, looking for me?” Jessica heard a deep voice beside her ear. She had a good mind to stomp on the person’s foot with her killer heels if it weren’t for Hyuna’s presence.

The person swiftly danced to the front of the two women and adjusted his jacket. He ran his fingers through his light blonde hair and flashed a toothy grin at the ladies.

“I’m Jang Hyun Seung. I’m most pleased to meet such a lovely lady,” Hyun Seung said with a bow, offering a hand for a handshake.

“Hi, I’m Kim Hyuna,” came a rather cold reply in contrast to his enthusiastic greeting. Hyuna shook his hand briefly and looked around the office, completely ignoring Hyun Seung.

“Ah, I see you’re the type that takes time to warm up, just like my fellow colleague over here. No worries, I’ll help you warm up very quickly,” Hyun Seung offered, not ashamed that he was ignored.

An idea struck Jessica. “Hyun Seung, since you’re so helpful, could you kindly bring Hyuna around and also out for lunch with our colleagues as I need to stay in to finish my report that’s due this afternoon.”

As per her prediction, Hyun Seung readily agreed. Jessica was happy to leave Hyuna with him for a while.

Back in her room, Jessica picked up the silver photo frame and admired it up close. A smile crept up her face as she recalled the scene when they took the photo together. It took several attempts for them to get the Eiffel Tower in the frame in that selfie. Immediately after the shutter was pressed, Taeyeon turned around and pressed a kiss on Jessica’s cheek. Jessica didn’t realised the camera was set on burst mode, hence it was a series of shots of Taeyeon kissing her cheek. For obvious reasons, she didn’t choose those photos to put into the photo frame at work.

Just then, Jessica’s phone vibrated on her desk, interrupting her recollection. She unlocked her phone and read the message.

I miss you so much. I wish you were here. – Cheesecake K.

“I miss you too,” Jessica muttered to herself. She read the message twice before typing a reply. Before she could finish, another message came in.

I miss you so much. I wish I could shower you with kisses and never stop. – Cheesecake K.

The phone vibrated again, signalling another incoming message.

I miss you so much. I wish I could envelope you in a hug and never let go. – Cheesecake K.

Jessica chuckled while reading Taeyeon’s messages.

I miss you so much. I wish I could place your hand on my heart and let you feel how my heart beats for you. – Cheesecake K.

“Gosh, my toes are curling up.”

I know you must be as busy as me right now. I hope those little messages will brighten your day. Can’t wait to see you tomorrow. Hugs and kisses from your adorable baker. – Cheesecake K.

Jessica read the messages a few more times before typing a reply to Taeyeon. She would need to break the news of her business trip to Taeyeon. They had only just spent a precious holiday together and now they would be separate by distance and time zones due to work. Lately it had been taxing on both of them, having a lot of things on their plates to manage, leaving little time for each other. Brushing that depressing thought out of her head, she focused her thoughts on her work.

Can’t wait to see you too. Take care and fighting! – Princess Sica

Over in Tokyo, someone was chuckling as she looked at her phone.

“Taeyeon senpai, why are you smiling to yourself when looking at your phone?” Ren asked.

Taeyeon didn’t realise she was grinning when she saw the reply from Jessica. She kept the phone safely in her pocket and started to knead the dough.

“Don’t be such a busybody, Ren. Focus on kneading the dough. We need to finish all the pastries before 3pm so that we can send them to the stipulated location for the sampling session with the organizers,” Taeyeon said sternly.

Ren scratched his head at the sudden change in mood of his senior. Nonetheless, he didn’t dare to disobey her.

~*~*~*~

Later that evening…

The bell chimed, signalling the entrance of a customer. Yoona appeared from the kitchen and hurried to the cashier’s counter.

“Sica unnie!” Yoona squealed, happy to see the woman in the café.

“Hello Yoong,” Jessica greeted before giving the younger girl a hug. Yuri emerged from the kitchen and joined them in the dining area after exchanging greetings.

“How’s your baking lessons coming along?” Jessica asked, sipping on a mug of hot latte Yoona prepared.

“Let’s just say that it’s better for me to prepare drinks and serve customers instead of baking in the kitchen,” Yoona replied.

“She’s just being modest,” Yuri said, looking at the younger girl. She ruffled the head at the back of Yoona’s head. “You’re doing fine.”

“Ah, your teacher is praising you. I’m sure you’re much better than me. I can’t bake at all!”

“You have a master baker in the house that would gladly bake anything you like anytime,” Yoona said enviously.

“It feels like a long time though it has only been three days,” Jessica said wistfully, looking at the engagement ring around her fourth finger.

“Awww, it must be really tough to be apart from each other. Don’t worry, she’s coming back really soon,” Yoona consoled.

Jessica never thought she would actually miss someone so much. Taeyeon had become part of her life and it felt empty to do certain things without her, such as watching a movie at home or eating dinner on the weekends.

“I think you’re beginning to look more and more like each other too! Maybe that’s the couple look,” Yoona teased playfully.

A tinge of pink appeared on Jessica’s cheeks as she sipped her latte.

“I’m envious at how Taeyeon unnie and you managed to maintain such a close relationship despite both your odd working hours. Both of you are such workaholics at times.”

“We do have our fights and arguments but it is important never to go to bed angry at the end of the day. Cooperation, compromise and communication are the main keys to a successful relationship,” Jessica answered.

“You sound like a love consultant,” Yuri joked.

“Maybe I ought to change my industry. At least I wouldn’t have to travel that often. She’s probably out enjoying a feast right now while I’ve to eat dinner all alone,” Jessica lamented, looking at the time on her watch.

“Yuri unnie…,” Yoona said in an aegyo-laden voice. “How about closing early and going out with Sica unnie for dinner?”

“Why… why do you talk… in that voice?” Yuri stuttered.

“Because I’m asking a favour from my boss. Can we, please?” Yoona gave Yuri the puppy-eyed look.

“Of-of course we can. Sheesh, please don’t show us your aegyo. You make me wanna smack you,” Yuri warned.

“I know you wouldn’t. Let’s go!” Yoona flashed a wink, did a fist pump and dashed off to the cashier’s counter to start packing.

Jessica couldn’t help but laugh at the interaction between Yuri and Yoona.

“Why do I feel like I’m working in a childcare centre sometimes? One big kid who’s in Tokyo and a little one over there,” Yuri grumbled.

“I share the same sentiment. Taeyeon behaves like a big kid sometimes but that’s what makes her so adorable and lovable. Someone to protect and care for.”

Yuri chuckled at the sight of the dreamy looking woman. Seeing the smile on Jessica’s face and the love for Taeyeon in her eyes, Yuri was glad her mediation in the past worked.

“Ya, go dream of your big kid tonight. Now, let’s go out for a nice meal,” Yuri commanded, nudging Jessica out of her thoughts.

Jessica’s cheeks turned crimson red as she stared at her feet, embarrassed to look at Yuri directly as she grabbed her bag and prepared to leave with the both of them.

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