Not Her Cup of Tea – Part 1

A New Client

Mundane.

In one word, the paperwork she had scattered in front of her was anything but interesting.

There were two other mounds of papers piled high on the desk. Company profiles, budget statistics – Katherine had spent the last few hours of her Friday evening organizing in her office. It was one thing ticked off of her to-do list.

That and finishing up a report she had to produce by Monday. The incomplete excel sheet stared at her from the safe confines behind the screen of her MacBook. But she couldn’t bring herself to type in anything more.

She glared at the wall clock. 5:04 p.m.

“Hey Kat-” A familiar voice came from the door. Katherine looked up and saw her colleague, Dennis, leaning in and looking around. “What happened here?” He asked, astonished to see the wreck on her desk.

Katherine smiled patiently, following his stare. “Yeah, it’s kind of a long story.”

“I have all night,” He started to say, but remembered something as his eyes grew large. He looked at his watch. “No, actually, you know what, I don’t. I gotta run for the dinner date I have tonight-”

“Dennis..” Katherine knew where this was going. She didn’t want to spend the last hour listening to him rambling on about his girlfriend, Tanya. Or was it Tatya? Tasha?

Her inner-self grunted in disapproval of knowing Dennis’ many girlfriends. Just how many had he had over the past few months? Not that she needed – or wanted – to know. But it bothered her how he thought people wanted to know about Tasha. Tatya.

“Oh right, right. I wanted to ask, is the report up yet? For the proposal on Monday?”

Katherine didn’t respond, but her hand moved to her forehead. She remained like that for a good few seconds while Dennis uncomfortably shifted from foot to foot. He waited. But no reply.

Then he tried again. “Kat?”

Silence.

“I’ll be back.” He mumbled quickly, and left.

 

Katherine, noticing that Dennis was gone, almost wanted to split her sides open laughing. It was one of the advantages she got to use quite often as a brand manager.

All she had to do was keep as quiet as possible with no eye contact for a few seconds, and they’ll leave you alone.

With Dennis out of the way, her eyes took a slow panoramic view of her office. A soft sigh escaped her lips as she realized what used to be a regular meeting space with her clients. It was beginning to look like a monochromatic war zone of a workspace – the mahogany desk sitting in the middle of the office being the one affected the most.

Her bookshelves, on the other hand, were untouched. All her volumes on marketing, including public relations and advertising, sat pristine on the dusty glass slabs.

Mentally replacing the “Organize files” on her to-do list with “Complete Monday’s report”, Katherine took a deep breath before she made a move towards her desk where her iPad sat.

A brief thought about staying behind and completing her report lingered in her head, but it went just as quickly as it came. There was already a draft in her Cloud as her finger slowly scrolled down the page, one that she had done during the slower days of the week. She could easily pull it up on Monday morning to add the finishing touches.

Plus, an entire weekend away from the office sounded tempting. She needed all the chances of relaxation that she could get – going to the massage parlour, getting ice-cream with her kids, staying up all night watching whatever’s new on Netflix with her husband. Anything to keep her mind off of the looming amount of work in the weeks to come.

It took nearly an hour to wrap things up, and when she was finally done she felt a familiar craving creeping up from the back of her tongue.

Coffee.

More specifically, hazelnut coffee.

Luckily for her, a shop that she frequented was kept open until the wee hours of the night right around the corner. It served to be quite useful for the businessmen and -women around the area, especially for those who pull all-nighters. Bars and pubs were common around the business district too, but Katherine had always avoided them.

Her yoga instructor, Julio, had a favourite quote – that alcohol was “nothing but a gateway to memory loss and inevitable humiliation at the bottom of every glass”. He also gave a hard lecture the other day when other yogis were found with the smell of whisky on their breath, and he mentioned something about alcohol leading to the loss of muscle.

That was a long day, she recalled. After that, every yogi in the class had a good mind to go for beer or wine. She remembered the WhatsApp group they shared had over a hundred invitations and responses that night. There were photos, too, that came in the morning after.

No matter how hard she tried, she could not, for the life of her, forget how delighted Mark looked in a pink frilly dress the other yogis had found on the streets of Clarke Quay, where the historical Singapore River resides.

Turning a corner, Katherine pulled up the sleeves of her white dress shirt. She only ever wore long-sleeved blouses because of the dreaded centralised air-conditioning in her office. The warmth which greeted her chilled frame as she stepped out of the building could only be described as greatly satisfying.

Her car was parked on the opposite side of the street, but she didn’t mind the distance towards the coffee shop. She welcomed the rare opportunities that freed her from the confined spaces of her office.

The woman from behind the counter raised her eyebrow when she noticed Katherine approaching. “The usual?” She asked, small kettles clinking together in her hand. Katherine could only nod in response as her phone began vibrating endlessly. She ran her thumb on the Home button of her iPhone.

 

A screen appeared, along with two text messages and a WhatsApp message. All were from Edmund, her husband. Clearly, he was worried about her safe return home under the impending rain.

Just home. Where R U? – E
Kids waiting 4 U. – E
Going 2 rain soon. U got an umbrella? – E

Quickly she typed a short and concise response to her husband to keep him from worrying.

On the way back. Safe from rain. Will reach shortly. – K

Thanking the woman for her coffee, Katherine slipped her phone into her bag and paid for her cup.

—–

“You should stop scratching that,” Edmund commented from across the kitchen island, his back towards her.

The pair had retired into the kitchen after putting the children to bed. There were no protests against the early bedtime from either of them, which was a relief to Katherine. Usually during the school holidays, the children would demand a later bedtime, but tonight it seemed that playing the Barbie-themed Monopoly board game had them feeling worn out.

Her youngest, Ken, didn’t mind the stereotypical misconception of the doll. In fact, he seemed eager to purchase the Fairy Meadows for 200 Monopoly dollars. It unfortunately led to a string of arguments exchanged back and forth between his older sister Sarah and him.

“You can’t buy that,” Sarah argued. “You don’t even know where it is!”

Ken retorted like any 5-year-old with their sibling. “Oh, yeah? It’s in Fairyland!”

“It’s called Fairy-topia!”

“Fairyland!”

Mooooooom!”

Katherine had always refereed her kids’ little quarrels, and tonight was no different. Thankfully, Edmund had an idea. It doesn’t always come often, him having an idea that’ll put the kids to bed.

In an effort to determine who was worthy of the Fairy Meadows property, her husband cunningly suggested a “milk-drinking contest”.

“So it is agreed-” Edmund explained, feigning an overly-dramatic voice of a game-show host, “-that whoever finishes his or her glass first, would win the Fairy Meadows.”

“I’ll win for sure.” Sarah stuck her nose in the air as she strutted off to the kitchen.

“No, I’ll win!” Ken followed.

Little did they know that warm milk naturally had a psychological effect on young children, as their bodies were conditioned to prepare for sleep after they had had a bottle. Not a moment too soon and both children were yawning, lying on their own beds.

“It’s Fairytopia.” said Sarah. She clutched a child-sized bear that she had gotten for Christmas two years ago, while Ken snuggled with his own. He had turned his back to her, and despite the exhaustion from the earlier argument, he thought he’d try to change his sister’s mind one last time before sleep overwhelmed him.

“Fairy…land.”

Katherine hadn’t noticed her relentless scratching had caught the attention of her husband, but she was even more stunned to find the skin on her elbows had flared up. Tiny bumps formed underneath her skin, and in little round patches. The reddening hadn’t spread to other parts of her arm, yet, but it was enough to make her feel concerned.

“What do you think it is, some sort of allergy?” Edmund asked.

“I don’t know. It could be.”

“Maybe you should see a doctor or a dermatologist. I think there’s one about four bus-stops away from here, I could accompany you-”

“No, that’s…. Okay. I think I’ll just visit the pharmacy tomorrow,” Katherine stirred the cup of tea in her hand. It was chamomile tea, and it was her version of “warm milk”. It was her way of inducing sleep, a simple and traditional cup of chamomile tea. “You’ll be glad to hear that we are having a new client coming in from Japan soon.” She tried to change the subject.

“Japan? Wow.” Edmund bought her deception. “What’s their product, sushi?”

Katherine shrugged. “I don’t know yet, but it seemed like they were out of ideas for its’ marketing distributions outside of the country. Needed something new.” She tossed the soaked tea-bag into the trash can.

“That’s got to be exciting for you, right?” Edmund asked, pulling her into a half-hug and squeezed her shoulder.

Katherine nodded, downing her cup in silence before putting in in the sink to wash. Frankly, she hadn’t given it much thought. Having encountered a variety of different clients over the past 13 years at Green City Inc., she was just grateful for the steady flow of clients that the company seemed to attract. There was no monotonous clientele, and it was refreshing for her that the work she did for an existing client could not be applied to the work for another. It meant that she could be more creative in her assignments.

A sudden wave of excitement washed over her as she thought of the upcoming proposal.

“You know,” Edmund suddenly spoke from beside her, interrupting her thoughts. “If it were sushi, I’ve got half a dozen ideas in mind already. Wanna hear them?”

Katherine spun around on her bar stool to face him, narrowing her eyes. “What? You’re lying.”

She was sure that he was. Even for a graphic designer as good as he, he wouldn’t be able to quickly conjure advertisements in his mind, let alone ones for a Japanese company they had never even heard of.

“Am not.” Her husband had his hands on his hips, pretending to look insulted.

“Are too.” Katherine mocked.

“Am not.”

Are too!”

 

The couple’s bickering awoke their son, and a faint cry for his mom could be heard from the bedroom. Pointing fingers at each other to push the blame, Katherine giggled as she tiptoed quietly into the room.

Lying in the dark next to Ken, who soon succumbed to his slumber, Katherine thought about their conversation. It could be exciting, Edmund had said.

Could it? She thought, absentmindedly patting her son next to her. What would Leonard say?

Of course, having worked for the man for the period of time she had, she knew exactly what he would say. In fact, his words about choosing the right proposal still rung in her head.

It was during a D & D, “Dinner & Dance”, an annual dinner where the company encouraged their staff to bond and socialize. There would be an award banquet, and then the CEO would give his speech. Leonard just happened to be right in front of the CEO while he was asking for volunteers to deliver inspiring quotes to “motivate the working body of Green City”.

“Being in a client-agency relationship is like any other relationship. You have two parties in a relationship, and there is mutual respect.” Leonard began. Heads began nodding around the room, and Katherine, too, found her head bobbing along to the trueness of the statement.

“The client puts in a lot of time and effort in seeing different people, trying to find a way to narrow their choices down to a few suitable options. This is just like the proposal process – they leaf through, see which marketing agency fits them best, knows them best, understands them best. And they go for it. We just have to make sure that we are that choice they make.”

He received a standing ovation that night. It was the best thing anyone’s heard all year.

Choosing to remain on her son’s bed, Katherine took a deep breath and closed her eyes, letting sleep take over for the night. The last word that echoed in her head was “exciting”.

Continue Reading Not Her Cup of Tea – Part 2