“Are you sick?”
Tiffany’s husky voice lifts Taeyeon’s eyes. She shakes her head. “I’m not sick.” She watches as Tiffany slides into the ruby red booth and places her wallet and phone on the table between them. Their eyes meet briefly. Then Tiffany’s leave to examine the other parts of her face.
“You look sick. What’s wrong?”
Taeyeon fiddles with her fingers for a moment. How should she say this?
“What is it?” Tiffany asks again, sounding more concerned this time.
“I’m not comfortable with the situation,” Taeyeon says at last. She braces herself for Tiffany’s response, convinced that a disagreement is brewing.
“This. Us. Working together.”
Tiffany leans back and folds her arms. Taeyeon can feel the tension building up and she dreads it. Fortunately, or not, the waiter chooses this moment to arrive at their table to take orders. Tiffany orders without looking at the menu—she has practically memorized the menu by now and Taeyeon had teased her about getting a job here during one of their dates—but Taeyeon takes a moment to place her order. Tiffany’s arms stay folded as the waiter collects the menus and Taeyeon mumbles her thanks when the waiter leaves.
“I don’t see a problem,” says Tiffany, as soon as their privacy is back.
“Someone might find out about us.”
Tiffany shrugs. “So what if they do.”
“Things get messy?”
“So we don’t let anyone find out.”
Taeyeon sighs. “I guess that’s the only way. We’ll have to be careful.”
At this point, Tiffany leans forward and takes Taeyeon’s hand. “Why is this bothering you so much?”
Taeyeon curls her fingers around Tiffany’s and rubs her thumb over the knuckles. “Nobody in the office knows and I’d prefer it stays this way.” She looks up from Tiffany’s hand and looks into her eyes. “Does anyone in your office know?”
Tiffany shakes her head. “This isn’t something you tell people when you’re only six months into the job.”
“But you’re alright with them finding out about us?”
“I wouldn’t announce it but I’m not freaking out about it like you are,” Tiffany answers with a smile. “Besides, who would ever guess that we’re seeing each other. Architect.” She points at Taeyeon. “Civil engineer.” She thumbs herself. “Sworn enemies, right?”
Taeyeon returns a feeble smile and the topic changes to shoes until the waiter serves their food.
Dinner is a mostly pleasant affair with Tiffany feeding Taeyeon some of her pizza and Taeyeon feeding Tiffany some of her burger. By the time the food is polished from their plates, Taeyeon’s worry is gone along with it too and they step out into the cool night, arms linked, laughing over some silly thing that Tiffany said. Taeyeon lingers by Tiffany’s car, unwilling to say goodbye but it is a weekday and Tiffany has to go home to her apartment. She settles for a kiss in the shadows and a long hug before parting with a mountain of reluctance. It would be nice if Tiffany didn’t have to go back to her own place. It would be wonderful if they could spend every single night together. But they probably wouldn’t get much sleep if that were the case, Taeyeon thinks and chuckles as she walks back to her car. It is probably better this way.
Taeyeon throws her hands up and digs them into her ruffled blonde waves. “What is this column doing in the middle of my pool?”
Matt and Ellie scoot over and peer her over shoulder. “That’s a pool?” asks Matt and Taeyeon shoots him a glare that would make a crocodile cry. He raises his hands in surrender and backs away. “Sorry, my bad.”
With a rising temper in the works, Taeyeon picks up the phone and hits the buttons like they deserve it for the trouble. She takes a few deep breaths as the phone rings and upon the first ‘hello’, lets it rip. “Don’t you know that the big, rectangular depression on the first level is a swimming pool or do you need to go back to engineering school to refresh your memory!”
“I assume this is Miss Kim Taeyeon calling from LS Architecture regarding the mansion?”
“Yes, I am. Now explain to me the column that you put right in the middle of my pool.”
“Well, as it seems to me, there is no other way but to put the column right there.”
“Are you kidding me?”
“I can assure you I am not.”
“This is ridiculous! How are people going to swim in the pool if there’s a column smack in the middle of it?”
“They can swim around it. Play peek-a-boo with it.”
“Tiffany, you can’t put the column there. Remove it.”
“Where else would you have me put it if you going to reject all the options I offer you? Extra columns reduce the openness, bigger columns spoil the aesthetic, additional beams ruin the design.” A sigh is heard over the phone. “You have rejected five of my plans over this pool of yours. We need more support for the structure, Miss Kim Taeyeon, and I am goddamn sick of your inflated ideals about the design. There’s not going to be a pool if the upper levels collapse onto it.”
“This is what the client wants. He wants it to be open. He wants the three levels on top. It’s your job to find a way to support all of that.”
“I would love to find a way to support the design. But you need to give way on certain things. Ever heard of a compromise, Miss Kim Taeyeon?”
“Fine. We’ll call for a meeting and work it out.”
“Send the dets over and I’ll be there.”
Taeyeon puts the phone down, closes her eyes and takes a few deep breaths. Then, she whips out her personal mobile phone, taps on the messaging app, Kakao Talk, and types furiously.
What’s with the full name? Rude!
I was only being professional miss kim taeyeon
Tiffany’s reply does nothing to extinguish the flaming temper burning inside.
Now u’r just mocking me
U haven’t seen mocking yet woman
U’r so immature!
Like u’r not
I’m not the one making things personal
I talk to all archis like this. U’r not that special
Ur ass stinks
Then don’t come near my ass
Frustration builds by the second as she stares as her phone.
“Taeyeon, are you alright?” Ellie pats her shoulder. “Cool down, you know what CEs are like.”
“Yeah, I can’t believe I’m—” Taeyeon stops herself just in time. Shit, she had almost let it slip. Damn.
“What?” asks Ellie.
Taeyeon shakes her head. “Nothing,” she replies and changes the subject. “Do we have any meetings in the afternoon tomorrow?”
“Nope. Nothing tomorrow.”
“Right. Help me to arrange a meeting with Tiffany tomorrow afternoon, will you?”
Taeyeon smiles and thanks Ellie, only then realizing that her colleague had a good view of her phone and the chat with Tiffany. Shit. Did Ellie read the chat? Good thing she saved Tiffany’s number under a nickname. ‘T Darling’ could be anyone, right?
“Hey, I’ll do it,” says Matt from behind. “I’ll set up the meeting for tomorrow.”
Words of discouragement nearly tumble from Taeyeon’s lips but she withholds them, offering a smile instead. “Be my guest.”
Not surprisingly, Taeyeon did not get to see Tiffany last night. Too busy working overtime for a certain mansion project, is what she said. So it is a grumpier, unhappier Taeyeon that turns up for work this morning.
A tall, lanky man with long hair strolls up to her desk and leans against the side. “Got out the wrong side of bed this morning?”
Taeyeon doesn’t bother to look up from her computer. “This is why I hate the open concept.”
The man snorts. “Privacy is overrated. There’s no fun in keeping everything to yourself. It’s better to share, spread it around.”
“Is that your explanation for your hundred and one girlfriends everywhere, Prince Heechul?”
“Hey, you don’t stab someone who is trying to cheer you up, okay. There’s no honour in that.”
Taeyeon blows a breath of stale air out from her mouth and runs her hand through her hair. “Point taken. I’m sorry.”
“So, what’s gotten under your little B-cup bra? Troubles in lub land?”
Heechul leans forward with interest. “Who’s the lucky man?”
Taeyeon pushes Heechul away. “Shoo. I’m busy.”
“Alright, alright. A man knows when he’s not wanted.”
Taeyeon can’t help smiling as she checks her e-mail. That man has the gift of lifting spirits around this office and she’s glad for it. She scans her inbox. Boss, boss, engineer, assistant, boss, architect, interior designer, boss, girlfriend, engineer—wait what? Girlfriend? Taeyeon rubs her eyes and takes a second look. It’s still there. An e-mail from Tiffany Hwang. She clicks and reads. You’re gonna regret making my life so difficult. Regret? How is Tiffany going to make her regret? Unable to figure out the answer, Taeyeon shrugs it off and gets to work. After all, the mansion project isn’t the only design she has to deal with.
The sound of heels clicking on the floor turns her head towards the entrance. There is a collective gasp as everyone in the office sees Tiffany and Taeyeon doesn’t blame them. Holy mother of civil engineers. Soft curls tumbling down sexy shoulders. Rosy lips. Pink blouse. Cream-white shorts. White heels. Shorts and heels? Fuck me. And an extra button undone? Is she trying to kill me or the entire office with her exposure? Taeyeon swears Tiffany is doing this on purpose. Is this what she was talking about in that email? If so, she’s wrong. Taeyeon doesn’t feel a trace of regret. What she feels is something else entirely.
Taeyeon stands and joins the team, saying a round of greetings as a form of courtesy before leading them to the meeting room. Once in there, they pour over the plans and launch the discussion on how they can keep the pool area open while supporting three levels worth of structure above it. Mere minutes into the meeting, Taeyeon feels something creeping up her leg. She jerks her leg away by instinct and thinks nothing more of it until a moment later, when it happens again. Looking up, she sees Tiffany sitting opposite her with Damon on her right, frowning at the plans. Meanwhile, she has Ellie on her right and Matt on her left. What’s going on? There it is again. This time, it inches up to her knee, making her jump.
“Taeyeon, something wrong?” asks Ellie.
Taeyeon can only smile and shake her head. “Nothing. Just pins and needles.” She catches Tiffany’s lips lifting slightly as she turns back to the plans and the truth is out. Damn it. Tiffany is the devil incarnate. But if Tiffany can do it, so can she. Taeyeon lifts her foot in search of Tiffany’s leg. She hits something solid and has to suppress a grin. Now it is Tiffany’s turn to endure the teasing.
Suddenly, Damon pushes away from the table. “Oh my God. What’s was that?”
Taeyeon blinks in confusion while Tiffany shows her concern for her colleague. Cold, clammy dread grabs hold of her insides as she looks under the table. Tiffany’s legs are tucked neatly under her chair! Oh dear God, the leg she had found was Damon’s!
“I-I’m so sorry,” she begins to apologize, as her face heats up with embarrassment. “I swear I thought it was the table. I-I was trying to get rid of the pins and needles.”
“Oh, no worries, it’s quite alright,” says Damon who looks visibly relieved by Taeyeon’s explanation. “It’s just that I have this phobia of creepy crawlies. I thought there was a bug on my leg or something.”
“I’m so sorry everyone. Please excuse me. I’m gonna walk off the pin and needles and visit the toilet. Be right back.” Taeyeon leaves the meeting room in a hurry and makes a beeline for the toilet. She walks straight into an empty cubicle, locks the door behind her and launches into a verbal diarrhoea consisting of a series of crude four-letter words as she sits on the toilet bowl and buries her face in her palms. Oh, Tiffany Hwang. She will make her pay for this. She will make Tiffany pay.
a/n: lotsa credit and thanks to my A & CE friends whose insights into their jobs has helped to put this together. i’m neither an A nor a CE and have absolutely no idea how these two professions work so i have these helpful friends to thank if this chapter succeeds in painting a believable world of A/CE. To all of you reading this, enjoy~