The 8pm City Square

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Chapter 2

Morgan stood at the doorstep of the apartment she shares with her brother, fumbling for her keys. She rarely remembers where she places them, her focus at the moment of dropping her keys into her bag after use is to be sure they do not drop out of her bag onto the floor or elsewhere. Once they are in the bag, she would heave a sigh of relief and move on to the next thought and action. After a good one minute, the clink of keys was heard and the mahogany coloured wooden door opened up to show her brother quietly working under a singular source of yellow light, enough to illuminate his second draught of a house for a diamond cutter. Her brother lives and sleeps in the living room of the apartment, and the communal area of the home takes place in one of the two bedrooms, which is half the size of Justin’s living room converted bedroom. Justin heard his sister’s return and turned around to greet her with a smile, but was repaid with gloom. The two then didn’t proceed to speak more, but instead went on with their own activities.

Morgan didn’t look at the clock. It didn’t matter what time it was. Seeing how late it could have been already would have created even more worry that she wouldn’t get enough sleep for the next day in waiting. She wasn’t even hungry, and in fact the simple act of chucking Justin’s leftovers into the microwave felt like moving a mountain. She opted for a muesli bar instead, which turned out to be three in total for dinner. Downed some orange juice and showered before turning into bed. There is hardly anything that belongs to her in her room. Most were either hand me downs, people’s rejects, presents or refurbished garbage. She never really knew what it meant to have her own space all her life. In fact, she was quite happy to be an outlet for other people’s expressions. So going to her room meant straight to the bed for her. I mean, there are homeless people so just be grateful you aren’t one.

Day broke. She got up and on the way to the toilet she would have to walk across the living room converted to Justin’s bedroom. She could tell Justin just got into bed. He usually does when on a project and would be up slightly before lunch. That meant a short 3 hour period of winks. Morgan usually takes in a hearty breakfast before starting her day. It was no guarantee that she would be having lunch at all in the day, so that’s a formed habit that has become quite a pleasant welcome to a new day. What however is disturbing Morgan today is the unresolved issue of Mr. Humphrey’s invoice. What should be said in the call that has to be made later? Morgan hasn’t much of a life apart from work, and she doesn’t know how to address personally demanding issues like these. She doesn’t even know they have to be addressed. She only knows there is effort on her part, and with every effort comes a headache so bad, she has to numb them with painkillers.

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Chapter 1

Given the name as the tower clock quaintly chimes once a day at 8pm. The sky has just turned dark from dusk, and the stillness of the night at the 8pm City Square returned once again as the 9-5 o’clock workers have dribbled off, leaving Finlayson Green to re-unite with their families at home or with friends at petite bars along the narrow alley way of D’Almeida. The only other sounds you will hear at that time of day is the cooing of one or two lost pigeons and the heel taps of loafers at 8pm City Square. In the faltered heat, never mind it being early November, today the foot taps going across the Square are quick and light, deep and resonant. Who wouldn’t have guessed: the devil’s voice of Manolo Blahnik black matt leather heels, Morgan’s everyday shoes. Planted in those shoes were feet at the end of strong solid, slightly short legs attached to a small framed body with a full bosom. Morgan is rushing back to the office after a horrendous meeting with one of the clients who decided to gorge more dinner than was invited. Mr. Humphrey, Robert Humphrey, had an extra serving of vanilla butter ice-cream and a strawberry cheesecake without restraints. It does not matter that it is falling onto Morgan’s bill. She is the one who wants his signature on the next consignee of semiconductor parts anyway. Running against all traffic, human and vehicular, she needed to get the revised quotation from her boss, who fortunately, will be arriving at the office about now. Just in time for a quick approval before send off by email. She had promised that it will get into Bob’s mailbox by 10pm the same night. Little did she know that Mr. Humphrey was more stressed out than happy by her act of efficiency. He thought to himself that all he wanted to do after the shot of ice-cream was to go back and recline in his faithful massage chair for that most well-deserved treatment after a day of toil, I mean food, and plug on the wireless headphones, watching CSI on TCS5. Not to fret about emails. “I will check it first thing tomorrow morning,” he said to reassure himself that her effort is well-received all the same. CSI on TV is one of the perks of being an entrepreneur, moving to Singapore to be it. So it is to be relished.

“Shouldn’t be a problem rounding up numbers,” thought Morgan. Boss Ang and Mr. Humphrey do get along and bounce pool balls around the table much at synchrony the previous Friday at Geeks cafe. No one won then. They both gave up as the balls seem happy to roll on the surface rather than fall into any one of the six holes they were pre-destined for. Ang B. Is a laborious man, he holds a day and night job. He is one of the luckiest men around as he has got Morgan, a mousey yet stern girl who would work around Ang’s clock rather than her own. “Boss?” Morgan called out, peering through the creek of the doorway of Aug’s minute office, serving only enough space for 2 chairs and one Spartan table, nothing more. She caught a glimpse of Ang wiping his forehand across his forehead as he looked up.

“Hi Morgan.” Ang said matter of factly.

“Mr. Humphrey’s in a good mood today. He has decided to continue assigning us to be his vendor for the next year. Can we round off the final figure to the hundred?” Morgan asked as she pushed the door wider to see more of boss Ang.

“Come in.” Ang motioned for Morgan to enter. He has been doing this for 2 years now. Morgan has started on the first day he started “Ang B. Denki”. His wife is a trophy he won while he was at Kyoto on a golf trip.

Morgan did what she would usually do. Place the revised quotation on the right, and the original on the left with changes marked in red. There was a red underscore on the figure in the thousands place. The change meant a loss of $950. Ang frowned while he tried to make sense of it. Ang took out a pink highlighter and crossed it.

“Polish your negotiation.” Ang said looking at Morgan briefly and then turned away, signalling that it was the end of the discussion and that it was a bad start to his day of the second job.

Morgan was stunned. She was expecting an easy go ahead, but now it seems the promised 10pm email will seem impossible. She started to panic. Going back to her desk, she laid the same two sheets of paper on her orderly desk, and started to think of how she can get to the finishing line on her own. It was already 9pm once that was done. “Think,” she said to herself. “Think harder,” she tried to add more firewood to the burning fireplace of the mind. Maybe she will really have to go back to Mr. Humphrey and as what her boss says, negotiate. It was a good thing she bought him a good dinner. She hadn’t had hers, she just saw him eat.

Bob caught the west bound train home and was ready to embark on his shower which will soothe him for the night’s session. Then his phone rang.

“Hi Mr. Humphrey,” a slight quiver in the girl’s voice was sensed.

“Yup?”

“Morgan here. We met for dinner earlier,” she continued in her close to inaudible voice.

“Yes, what can I do for you?”

“Um, sorry that you have to be disappointed, but I can’t get the revised quote over to you by 10pm. Mr. Ang did not give the go-ahead,” Morgan said as she puzzled at what her boss Ang means by negotiation. “Can we negotiate this? Instead of rounding it up the nearest hundred, can we do the tenth?”

“Sorry what is it again? I didn’t quite get you,” Bob was caught fully unaware. Furthermore, he thought she was rude for two things. One, for not asking how he was doing before they let the rest of the conversation take flight. Two, for calling this late in the night, just before he can get himself settled into CSI. Three, for giving him a hard time by putting so many questions in one place without any of his answers yet.”

“Um, ok. One more time. Mr. Ang says no to rounding up to the hundred. I want to negotiate. Let’s round up to the tenth place,” Morgan repeated, this time hoping statements will be firm and clear.

“Morgan,” Bob said, trying not to sigh too loudly into the phone. “What do you mean by the tenth place?” He was very annoyed. He has faced many terminology problems since moving over to Asia. He thought to himself that as a condolence, he was already faring better than a year ago when almost everything sounded alien although it is English, and he is supposed to understand it with a breeze.

“What I mean is Mr. Ang can only give you the final price of $4,900, not $4,000.” Morgan said in another clear statement.

“You see Morgan, we are going through a rough period now, so you have to understand that it is difficult as it is that we are using you exclusively. Just yesterday, Mary had two calls from potential vendors who know our contract with you is drawing to an end and were anxious to let us see their proposals. Morgan, we had a really good dinner together earlier and I think I did mention that we will always want to work with Ang B. Denki. You have the quality we need and are always on time, we value these very much. But this time around, we have to work leaner without a choice. You have seen the money section of the papers this morning, financial analyst Bill Harvey wrote how we might be facing one of the worst downturns in this century very soon, and everyone will be doing the same. Tighten up.”

Morgan strained her ears to catch every word of what she deemed as a very long soliloquy. She has known Bob for a year now, but they hardly speak. Can’t blame the poor girl. She doesn’t down pints or watch cricket like the boys. What is there to do or say with the burly big man besides speak figures and re-contracts?

“We have to negotiate. The final possible Mr. Ang says, is $4,900. Can I get a go-ahead so that I can revise the contract now for your signature?” Morgan said the same thing as what she did earlier, just re-phrased. She didn’t get what he was trying to achieve. She didn’t get that Bob is the one smoothly engaging in negotiation. She is merely using the word.

“Morgan, we had a long day. Are you still in the office? Why don’t we both call it an early night and talk about this again in more clarity tomorrow?” Bob wanted to get her off the hook as soon as he could.

“Um, ok. So sorry I cannot send the email by 10pm today.” Morgan thought the apology would help in some way.

“Not at all a problem. Have a good night.” And Bob hung up without a second thought. His thoughts were on whether he had missed any part of CSI. What he said earlier didn’t mean anything very much to him. He was on auto drive when he comes to things like these.

Morgan didn’t know what else to do. She panicked but managed to go home for her microwave dinner.

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