Chapter 1

The rays from the rising sun were creeping through the curtains.

 

Jessica felt a weight on her tummy. She turned to her side and opened her left eye lazily.

 

Ah…it’s her.

Jessica turned around and lay flat on her back, opening both eyes and staring at the ceiling to collect her thoughts. She took a quick glance at the white Marc Jacobs watch by the bedside. Lifting the long slender arm off her tummy, she got out of bed and padded towards her luggage. She randomly grabbed a pair of khaki pants, a top and undergarments from her luggage before heading into the bathroom.

 

After washing up, Jessica walked towards the bed and nudged the girl who was lying on the bed, still fast asleep.

 

“Hey, wake up. I’ve got an early flight to catch and need to check out soon,” Jessica said firmly.

 

The girl nodded sleepily and rolled out of bed. Jessica gathered the girl’s clothes from the ground and handed it to her as the latter went into the bathroom. Meanwhile, Jessica was putting make up on before packing her cosmetics into the luggage. She made herself a cup of coffee and sat in front of the television to watch the news while waiting for the girl to be done.

 

“I’m done. Thanks for the wonderful night. Call me when you’re back here again, darling,” the girl said seductively. She gave Jessica a kiss on her left cheek before going out of the hotel room.

 

Jessica remained expressionless at her seat. She emptied the remaining mouthful of coffee down her throat. Taking one last glance around room to check that she didn’t leave anything behind, Jessica grabbed the handle of her luggage and went to the reception to check out of her hotel room.

 

~*~*~*~

 

“Jessica-sshi, are you back in Seoul already?” a deep voice bellowed over the phone.

 

The woman in the taxi tucked her blonde hair behind her ear and let out a long sigh before answering.

 

“Yes Mr Sung. I just arrived and am on my way back to the office now.”

 

“That’s good. I need to have a quick meeting with you when you get in. On Thursday, I need you to go to Tokyo for a meeting.”

 

“Yes Mr Sung,” Jessica ended the call politely. She tapped the ‘End’ button and slipped her phone into her handbag.

 

At least I have a two day break this time. I ought to count myself lucky.

 

~*~*~*~*~

 

“Jessica Jung! I finally managed to catch you. Are you free for dinner tonight? I’ve gotta update you on the latest gossip!” a bright voice chirped at one end of the phone.

 

“Tiff, I just got back from Singapore and I miss my bed,” Jessica replied lazily. “I don’t feel like going out tonight. In fact, I don’t even feel like eating anything.”

 

“Tell you what, I’ll buy dinner and pop over to your place instead. See you in a twinkle!”

 

The line went dead before Jessica could reply.  Jessica threw a few pieces of ice cubes into a glass. She unscrewed the cap of Baileys at the bar counter and poured the thick milky manila coloured liquor into the glass. Picking up the glass, she strolled towards her balcony and sat down on the lounge chair.

 

Jessica enjoyed the stunning night view of the town from the top floor of her apartment block. It made her feel like she was on top of the world, carefree and relaxed. The Han River was just a stone’s throw away from her apartment. Strolling by the river was one of her favourite activities when she was free. Breathing in fresh hair helped to clear her mind.

 

The loft apartment had a minimalist design, with white, black and silver tones. Furniture and decorations were kept to a minimum. A large 50 inch LED TV and Bose sound system occupied most of the cosy living room.  There was a bar counter tucked in the corner of the living room and it was always well stocked with various liquors. It was one of her favourite spots in the apartment, besides the balcony. It was where she would gather with Tiffany to chat and get drunk together.

 

The kitchen was partially hidden by the staircase that led upstairs to the bedroom. Her kitchen was adorned with mostly stainless steel and marble finishing. There was a row of silver knives hanging from the rack on the wall. An island with an induction cooktop stood in the middle of the kitchen. The seamless white floors, frosted glass shelving and dark coloured crockery provided a contrast in this play of light and shadows.

 

Ding Dong!

 

Jessica set her glass of Baileys on the coffee table as she went to open the door for her guest.

 

“Jess! How are ya? Bought any Merlion stuff for me?” Tiffany enveloped her best friend in a hug and kissed her cheek before stepping into the apartment.

 

“Go ahead and wake up the whole block,” Jessica grunted.  “Fortunately I have a private lift, else I’m sure I’ll receive a stack of complaint mails from the building management and neighbours each time you visit.”

 

“I got you some ddeokbokki and mandu. I know you miss Korean food at the rate you’re going on your world tour,” Tiffany smiled as she set the food on the dining table, ignoring her friend’s grumblings.

 

“Smells good. So what’s the hot gossip you’re dying to tell me?” Jessica poked a mandu with her fork and took a bite. Korean food always made her feel at home, no matter which part of the world she was at. Her job required her to travel a lot, especially in the recent two years when she got promoted to as the senior consultant of her company. She was practically living out of her suitcase and hardly had the chance to spend time at home.

 

“You know, that new hot guy at my office? He actually asked me out for dinner tomorrow? Like…just the two of us?” Tiffany squealed. “Do you think he’s interested in me?”

 

“Who knows? You should know the male species better than me. I have no interest in them,” Jessica replied coldly, chewing on her mandu.

 

“Oh come on, your best friend here hasn’t been on a date for ages. Show some enthusiasm will ya? At least give me some constructive advice on what to wear,” Tiffany beamed while poking her friend’s arm.

 

Jessica forced a smile on her face. Truthfully her guy-crazy best friend had gone on a blind date two weeks ago, just that it didn’t work out.

 

“Go pick anything you want from my wardrobe. Promise me you’ll treat them with care and send them for dry cleaning before returning them back to me.”

 

“Jess, you’re the best! Thank you darling!!” Tiffany planted a kiss on Jessica’s cheek and ran up the stairs to rummage Jessica’s wardrobe.

 

~*~*~*~

 

“So where are you off to next?” Tiffany picked an unopened bottle of red wine from the wine chiller and poured herself a glass. She sat next to Jessica, linking an arm with hers and filling Jessica’s empty wine glass with red wine.

 

“The land of the rising sun. Do you need anything from there?” Jessica swirled the red wine in her glass before taking a sip.

 

“Nah, nothing much. You travel there so often, I ran out of things to buy. I’m also kinda broke recently. Need to curb my spending else I’m gonna have to bunk in with ya,” Tiffany teased.

 

“Go away, girlfriend!” Jessica joked, giving Tiffany a playful shove.

 

“So did you meet up with her this time in Singapore? Any progress?”

 

“Nothing. I just needed company and she happened to be there,” Jessica replied in a matter of fact tone.

 

“Hey, I thought you were serious about her. The listings in your phonebook – SGP and TYO, they sound like country codes instead of real names. I’m sure it’s definitely not phone numbers of hotels or taxis. You don’t even bother to find out their names?” Tiffany asked, raising an eyebrow.

 

“Hey, that’s my phone!” Jessica snatched the white device from Tiffany’s grasp.

 

“Jess, you’ve gotta settle down some day. It’s always nice to have someone by your side and the both of you can grow old together, making wonderful memories together.”

 

“Don’t overload me with cheese, Tiff. I’m hardly at home, flying almost all the time. I’m just too lazy to constantly report my whereabouts, having to remember all the various anniversary dates, birthdays and God knows what other dates. It’s almost like reporting to your boss at work and remembering when all your meetings are,” Jessica grumbled before letting out a sigh.

 

“Jess, there’s such a thing as a calendar in your precious phone. You can always set reminders in your phone. There’s no excuse for forgetting birthdays and anniversaries,” Tiffany nagged as she pointed to the Calendar icon on Jessica’s phone.

 

“My calendar is already packed to the brim with work stuff. You should be thankful I still have an ounce of memory left to remember your birthday without having to rely on a device.”

 

“Sometimes I feel like smacking some sense into your thick head. You’re not a machine. You’re a human being. A human being with feelings. Hasn’t there been anyone that moved you at all?”

 

“No,” Jessica replied flatly.

 

Tiffany poked Jessica’s heart and said in a serious tone, “Maybe it’s because you have not let anyone into your heart yet.”

 

“Tiff, if you’re going to go on and on about this topic, I’ll just go upstairs and sleep,” Jessica warned, shooting a killer glare towards Tiffany.

 

“Okay okay, I give up knocking sense into you. You’re as cold as an ice sculpture. Sometimes I wonder how I managed to put up with your icy attitude for the past ten years.”

 

Jessica sighed and threw her arms up into the air. “I wonder too.”

 

Tiffany sighed and stared at her friend. A shade of sadness covered Jessica’s face. She leaned over and gave Jessica a hug.

 

“Jess, I’m sorry. You know how much I love you. To make up to you, I shall transform into your human bolster tonight,” Tiffany said softly. She felt Jessica nodding on her shoulder as she rubbed Jessica’s back.

 

Jess, you’re so vulnerable at times, like a fragile piece of glass despite the cold demeanour you portray.

 

~*~*~*~*~

 

The next morning, Jessica woke up to pins and needles in her right arm. She must have been sleeping in an awkward position last night. She rubbed her eyes with her left hand before sliding the blanket off her body. Slowly getting up from her bed, Jessica sat at the edge of her bed, still half asleep.

 

My whole body seems to be aching. I ought to go for a massage this afternoon.

 

Jessica slipped her on pink bedroom slippers, the ones Tiffany bought for her, and headed for the bathroom. She noticed that it was closed and there was someone showering inside.

 

Just then, the door of the bathroom opened and Tiffany stepped out, with a bright pink towel wrapped around her body.

 

“Whoa! You startled me! Were you trying to peek at me while I was showering?” Tiffany said, raising her eyebrows at her sleepy friend.

 

Jessica smacked Tiffany’s shoulders before shoving out her of the way without saying a word so that she could wash up. Tiffany laughed and skipped towards the wardrobe.

 

The two women settled on the sofa in the living room, sipping freshly brewed coffee.

 

“Would you like to go there to grab brunch with me?”  Tiffany asked, sitting cross legged on the couch, in front of the TV in the living room.

“Aren’t you supposed to go on your hot date tonight? Why are you still hanging around my place?” Jessica asked with a tinge of sarcasm.

 

“I can’t bear to leave my precious girlfriend alone last night and it has been a really long time since I had a sleepover at your luxurious apartment. Anyway, let’s grab something light and I’ll head off to the hair salon later,” Tiffany replied as she draped her arm tightly over Jessica’s shoulder.

 

~*~*~*~*~

 

“Thanks for lunch!” Tiffany flashed an eye smile at Jessica as both of them exited the restaurant.

 

A frown appeared on Jessica’s face but Tiffany merely grinned. She hooked her arm with Jessica’s and both women strolled down the walkway of shophouses.

 

“Hey, this is new. What a cosy looking café!” Tiffany stopped outside a huge full length glass window.

 

The café was dark and there was an “Opening Soon” sign stuck on the glass door.  A large white piece of paper covered a sign that was above the door, presumably the shop’s name.

 

“What a pity it’s not opened yet,” Tiffany lamented.

 

“I thought you’re supposed to be on a diet since you’re going on a hot date tonight? Can you afford to eat a slice of cake even if the café’s open? Aren’t you worried about your stomach sticking out in that skin tight dress?” Jessica questioned, looking at her friend with raised eyebrows.

 

Tiffany merely giggled and pointed to the sign above the door.

 

“Of sugar? Hmm…can’t tell what’s the word before it. Can you?” Tiffany asked.

 

Jessica shook her head and pulled her friend away from the shop.

 

“Let’s not waste time here. I have some errands to run,” Jessica hissed and dragged her friend away from the shop.

 

“When it’s opened, let’s come here for tea. It looks cosy and beautiful,” said Tiffany as they walked away.

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