Chapter 1


Location: Felicity Wedding Gowns & Tuxes Shop

Time: 7:00 A.M.

A young woman around 28 years old was seen wearing a fancy wedding gown and standing in various poses as a young man was snapping pictures with his hi-tech camera.

“Look this way, Penny,” the young man urged. “Okay, smile. Good. You’re a natural. You should be a model.”

Penny smiled as told but soon sent the young man a chiding look.

“Hey, you guys are all present,” a new voice said as he stepped into the scene. He was wearing a black suit, a much more professional appearance than the photographer. “I’m calling for a meeting before we open. The others are already inside the conference room.” He looked directly at Penny after saying that, even pointing with the folder in his right hand. “You, take that off. It’s our new collection. We can’t afford to have it destroyed before displaying it in the window.”

Penny scowled upon hearing that, even giving the authoritative person a sharp disapproving look. Yet she descended the steps and made sure to hold the gown up carefully, so it wouldn’t drag along the floor. Though the floor was carpeted, she didn’t want that arrogant voice to be right.

“But she looks enchanting in it, Boss,” the photographer spoke up to defend Penny. “We could use the set for promotions.”

The person the photographer addressed as “Boss” directed his eyes toward the photographer upon hearing that. “Don’t encourage her.”

After saying those words in the same authoritative voice, he turned and left—with his folder at his side this time.

“Don’t worry about him,” Penny told the photographer. “He’s always like that. I don’t know why he was given the general manager position. He’s wrong for this business.”

The photographer had to agree, but only silently. He didn’t want to offend his boss when his boss was still so close by. He just smiled. “I’ll go get ready for the meeting.”

Penny didn’t say anything but just headed toward the dressing room to change back into her work attire.

Fifteen minutes later, they were all sitting in the conference room and were waiting for the boss to begin.

“Well, Wallace,” another young man in black suits—just like the boss—spoke up at that time, looking at the person known as the boss. “What’s the big meeting about?”

“There’s an opportunity for us to work with a major wedding gown label,” Wallace began. “In the next several weeks, the big boss is doing an internal audit to make sure we’re ready for them. We will also have other preparations to take care of around here, such as keeping the professional level at the top and providing the best customer services to our clients.”

“What label?” Penny asked.

Wallace ignored Penny’s question and turned to a young lady sitting next to him. He extended a hand toward her way before speaking up. “This is Megan. She will be doing the audit on the financial side. I will make sure the professional aspect is taken care of.”

“What label?” another young man—who was sitting next to Penny—repeated Penny’s question. He was also wearing a black suit but not as formal as Wallace or the young man who spoke up first to ask Wallace about the reason for the meeting.

“Aesthetic,” Wallace replied.

“Boss,” the photographer spoke up then.

Everyone turned to look at the photographer. He had never spoken up before during a meeting. In fact, his only duty was to take notes during meetings and document it for them as references for the future. However, this time, he had broken the code. 

“I know you already dismissed my proposal,” the photographer said. “But I think with Aesthetic looking for a reason to collaborate with us, we could change our tactic by using fresh ideas. Like making Penny our model for this new collection of wedding gowns instead of using some local model.”

Wallace glimpsed Penny with a stern expression before turning back to look at the photographer. But as he was about to speak, the same person who had repeated Penny’s question spoke first.

“I agree,” The person said. “Fresh is exactly what we need right now. Creativity should be flourishing around here. I’m seeing less and less of it since I joined. It’s like we’re choking the life out of the business by staying in that restrictive box.”

“It’s actually a good idea,” Megan spoke up at that time. “I’ll pass the words to the boss.”

Wallace cleared his throat then. “Let’s have a vote before we actually do any telling.” He turned to the photographer before starting the voting process. “But you can’t vote, Chun.”

Chun understood Wallace’s look. He felt uneasy about his sudden bravery several minutes ago. He wasn’t able to respond. It seemed like Wallace’s aura was hovering intensely over him, so he just nodded.

“Van,” Wallace called out then.

Van—the person who spoke up first at the meeting—spoke up at that time. “I’m with Enson.”

Wallace’s eyebrows seemed to twitch slightly. But he moved on then, looking at the other female member in the room—aside from Penny and Megan. He had given her a stern look. “Tammy.”

“I’m with Enson,” Tammy said—without a doubt in her voice.

“Penny,” Wallace said at last, finally looking at her and not ignoring her like before.

“Of course, I’m with Enson,” Penny said, her voice challenging Wallace’s stare.

“That’s three against one,” Enson said, smiling.

“It doesn’t mean the big boss will agree,” Wallace returned, indifferent to his defeat. “The auditing and improvements start today. So, you better change your attires.”

Enson was still smiling. “I’ll be happy to oblige. But I never had people complaining about the way I dress before.”

“I’m complaining now.” After saying that, Wallace got up and gestured for Megan to follow. “End of meeting, let’s open.”

The others got up also and left the conference room one by one. Chun was still feeling uneasy about the situation, like he had caused their disagreements unknowingly. However, Enson made his way over to Chun then, clapping Chun on the shoulder.

“Don’t worry about him,” Enson assured Chun. “He needs to acknowledge the fact that he’s wrong for this business.”

“That’s right,” Penny agreed, also walking over to where Chun was standing. “Don’t worry about him.”

Although Van and Tammy didn’t say anything, Van had also walked over to give Chun a supportive clap on the shoulder as Tammy sent him an encouraging smile. After that, they returned to their opening duties. Chun saw that the others were supporting him, so he wasn’t as worried anymore. He followed Penny outside and helped her open the wedding gowns and tuxes shop while Enson, Van, and Tammy left by the back door. They were actually on their way to a different section of their business. They had about a block of land for their business, including the current wedding gowns and tuxes shop, the administrative area in the middle, the various backdrops for photo shooting process, and finally the venues for performing the wedding itself. They also had other packages for those who didn’t want to perform a certain routine at the agency, which made their business more flexible and matching with their competition—or perhaps even more.

Among them, Wallace was, of course, the general manager. Penny was the manager of the wedding gowns and tuxes shop. Aside from Chun, there was also Brad who helped with the various tasks inside the shop. There were also several other female employees as well to help future brides try on gowns and more. Chun also had another duty, which was their primary photographer. Van was in charge of the venues for the actual wedding ceremonies. He usually took clients on a tour to show them what they had. As for Enson, he was responsible for overseeing all administrative areas, which involved coordinating all the details of a wedding, starting from the paperwork to the end line. He had great planning skills and a very artistic mind hence attracting a lot of clients who wanted a special wedding. Tammy, though having a small job, it was very important, because she was in charge of walking the clients through the initial paperwork before handing them over to Enson.

Speaking of Enson, he wasn’t such a bad dresser as Wallace had implicated at the meeting. Enson usually wore slacks and formal shirts, topped with blazers. His only flaw was turning out average whenever he stood aside Wallace or Van. Perhaps that was why Wallace had chosen to strike at that particular spot earlier at the meeting.


Location: A cabin in the woods

Time: 10:00 P.M. Sharp

“Why did you all agree to it?” Wallace asked, his voice still reeking of frustration leftover from that morning’s meeting. “You obviously know we can’t risk any form of exposure.”

“It’s not just about hiding this time,” Van argued, not threatened by Wallace’s strictness. “You know it’s a good chance for us to lure him out.”

“That’s right,” Tammy agreed. “We can’t just continue with sitting around and waiting for him to appear.”

Wallace looked at Penny then. She was standing a distance from Tammy while Tammy and Van were standing closer together. They were all standing in a loose line facing Wallace.

“What can I say?” Penny asked, crossing her arms in front of her. “If I disagree, it will contradict what I said to Chun earlier. It would cause suspicions.”

“Relax, that old man might not agree at all,” Van assured Wallace, contradicting his previous point. “After all, he’s part of the old business world. He would always play safe.”

“Let’s hope our plan doesn’t get sabotaged,” Wallace said, still staring at Penny.

Penny ignored him and turned to walk back to civilization.

© Sunday, April 20th, 2014

Posted: Wednesday, August 20th, 2014