Chapter 1

While the inequality rhythmic sound of the keyboards continued its rapid pace throughout the office suite mixed in with the constant thumping sounds of footsteps, a girl approached the door and grabbed its handle. Her movements were so light that even the squeaky sounds detested by the staff were not heard.
Wallace looked up upon seeing her shadow casting itself on the spotless floor. He paused to take in her view before speaking up. “May I help you?”
“Are you still hiring?” The girl asked.
“The sign is still posted,” Wallace said, gesturing toward the glass window with the sun still shining on the ‘Now Hiring’ sign instead of answering her question directly.
The girl attempted a smile to melt the icebergs on Wallace’s face. “I want to apply for it.”
Wallace gave her another quick scan-over. “Can you type fast?”
“Um…”
Wallace turned away from her. “Don’t bother applying if your typing speed is like your response.”
“Let her try, boss,” Someone said from the corner of the room.
Wallace turned his cold eyes on the person who dared to oppose him.
“I’ll grab some popcorn,” A girl next to the guy volunteered, getting up from her seat.
Wallace knew they wanted to see a show. He was not going to rob them of it. He walked toward the long cream desk in front and center of the room – his desk. Pulling out the charcoal leathered chair, he gestured for the girl to come. She had a puzzled look on her face but still approached him, knowing it was probably the task that the others were urging him on. She sat down obediently and typed the lines on a piece of paper he handed her.
“Time’s up,” Wallace prompted. His attention was on the row of desks and all the pair of eyes instead of caring to acknowledge the girl. “Lex, how fast was that?”
“Uh…” Lex – the guy who spoke up in the new girl’s defense earlier – stuttered. He scratched his head once before answering. “I wasn’t counting, Boss.”
Wallace turned to the girl who claimed to be grabbing some popcorn earlier. “Sylvie?”
“I wasn’t counting either,” The girl called Sylvie answered. Her confidence at a higher level than Lex.
“One hundred,” Wallace answered at last, snapping his stop watch shut and placing it on his desk. “Let’s see how fast you are, Lex.”
Lex looked around the room, his eyes darting toward his colleagues for help. “Uh…Boss…”
“Now!” Wallace bellowed – scaring even the new girl sitting not far from where he was standing.
Lex got up timidly and scurried to the front of the room. Wallace gestured for the new girl to step aside. While Lex sat down in the chair, Wallace reached for a remote at one corner of his desk and flicked the overhead projector on. He had switched to the function that showed the blank document on the screen in front of Lex.
“Go,” Wallace rattled out his command.
A minute passed as everyone watched the screen being filled with lines of words.
“That’s sixty, Lex,” Wallace announced. “Unacceptable in my book. Why did I even hire you in the first place?”
“I’m not the secretary,” Lex mumbled.
“What was that?”
Lex did not dare to repeat his answer.
“You think secretarial work is so easy, Lex?”
Lex’s head was down. If one was closer, one would be able to detect patches of red marks around his face.
“I’ll let her take over your job and you can be my secretary then.”
More silence.
Wallace directed his attention to the rows of desks again. “Or you rather go in his place, Sylvie? Come on up and we’ll see your speed.”
“Boss, can you stop?” Sylvie asked, her bravery apparently higher than the rest of the scared faces in the room. “It’s not fair to take it out on us just because you lost to that guy last week.”
“This is about being fair now?” Wallace shot back. “When was it even fair to pick on new people?” He switched off the overhead projector while giving the room a scan again. “Unless I see anyone typing 200 words per minute, don’t speak up about insulting secretaries again, clear?”
All twenty nine heads in the room nodded. Only Sylvie was the one still staring at Wallace with much reluctance.
“Back to work,” Wallace commanded, slamming the remote down with much force at the same time. He turned on the new girl. “Come with me.”
The girl followed him into the room behind Wallace’s desk.
“Read and fill it out,” Wallace said, handing her a pile of papers after flicking on the light. “Routine procedures. Are you available tonight?”
“What?” The girl asked, looking up from the papers.
Wallace turned to look at her – still with his cold eyes. “Yes or no.”
“I have to…”
“Cancel it.”
“I thought this job is daytime.”
“It is. But sometimes we have to attend social events.” He looked up when he didn’t hear her response. Hesitation? “You can turn me down right now. Don’t have to be scared. This is your choice, your job.” He reached for another pile of papers. “You’re my special assistant, by the way.” He looked up again. Still confused? “Say something, will you?”
“How come you were so fierce before but now you’re…”
Wallace chuckled. “You’re one of those observers, right?” He shook his head in amusement. “Lex and Sylvie are actually dating. They were trying to embarrass you on the first day. More her than him. It was stupid of him to go forth with her plan. If he was dumb enough to do it, then he has to pay a price.”
The girl suddenly let out a smile.
“What?”
She shook her head. “Nothing. You’re not that cruel like people are saying.”
“So was it a bet to enter this shop?”
“More like a challenge.”
“What was the story then?”
“I wanted to apply here but the others told me not to, that I wouldn’t have a chance.”
Wallace nodded, a routine nod, like he was used to the rumors. “They just want to scare you away so they could apply here.” He gave her a quick scan-over. “You have more skirts?”
The girl nodded.
“Can you wear skirts all the time?”
“If it’s the dress code requirement.”
“No higher than knee-high, okay?”
“Perfect for me.”
“If I caught you wearing jeans or those slacks, you’re fire.”
She saluted. “Yes, Boss.”
“By the way, what’s your name?”
“Cyndi Wang.”
“What’s your Chinese name?”
“Xin Ling.”
“I’ll call you Ling Ling from now on.”
He walked to the door, opened it, and walked out, leaving her behind thinking to herself. “Now Lex…” were the last words Cyndi heard before the door slammed shut. He was not done, and Lex was still paying for his price. Yet Cyndi did not mind, staring at him admiringly through the glass window.
© Sunday, April 12th, 2009
Posted: March 4th, 2011

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