Not Her Cup of Tea – Part 19

Edmund felt his eyelids getting heavier by the minute. His hands were clasped together, his arms resting on his lap. His breathing slowed, and his head began to nod towards his chest.

He shook his head to regain his focus.

“Can I get you anything? A glass of water, coffee?” The girl from the reception counter asked politely. Her thick-rimmed glasses slid down her button nose, and she pushed it back up again with her index finger. Edmund looked up at her, feeling thankful. “Coffee, please. Thank you.”

The girl walked away.

Turning his wrist slightly so he could see the time on his watch, Edmund silently cursed at himself for the lack of sleep he had had the night before. The last thing he wanted was to look sloppy in the eyes of the client. Especially since I’m presenting my best work yet, he thought to himself.

Despite having had previous advertising proposals like this one, Edmund couldn’t help but feel a tinge of anxiety every time he pulls up his work on the projector screen or held it up in front of everybody. It is one thing to be good at what you do – it is another to meet the client’s expectations.

He sighed, but jerked up when he heard his name being called out. “Ahh, Edmund! Nice to meet you again!”, said a pleasant-looking man in his early 30s, his hand held out to meet Edmund’s. “Have you got something nice put together for us?” The man grinned.

Shaking his hand, Edmund laughed as he replied in kind. “I’ve always saved the best for you, Matt.”

Matthew had always shown enthusiasm whenever Edmund came around to present his designs and artwork for the company’s communication efforts. With Matthew being the head of the communications team there, it gave Edmund a great advantage for having a good relationship with him. It is always about networking and connections in the media.

As Matthew led the way to the boardroom, Edmund whipped out his iPhone to send a quick update to his wife.

Proposal is about to start. Wish me luck!! Xoxo -E

“Okay, okay. I’ve found one deal online – you get economy class with this airline, BUT you get a 5-star hotel! And it’s in the vicinity where your client’s company is.” Ginny said excitedly. It was exactly 6 days before the Japan trip, and she was getting visibly anxious. “Could we highlight this to them? As a preference?”

Katherine stared at her friend in surprise. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

What? Why? Come on, private pool, a great restaurant, plus they have a gym!”

Pushing the heavy doors that led to the lobby, Katherine held it open for Ginny to step through. “Because Nihon’s Teas can do that. They told me, they’ll handle the flight and accommodations.”

Ginny pouted. “But-” she began, looking down at her phone where a clear photograph of a brightly-lit restaurant at the hotel was opened.

“Uh-uh. No buts.” Katherine waved her finger. “I’m sure they have good taste in hotel and flight selection,” she assured Ginny, who jabbed her finger at the elevator button. Sliding in between the opening elevator doors, she turned. “Say, have you talked to Edmund yet?”

“What do you mean?”

“You know,” she paused. “About you going to Japan.”

“Oh,” Katherine sighed. “Yeah, we’ve talked. He is totally supportive of it, but somehow I got the feeling that he’s only putting on a brave front with me. He doesn’t seem to think that we should leave the kids with my mom, though. That would be the downside of it. Upside, he understands that this is something I have to do in my line of work.”

“That’s great. My mom yelled and then sent me articles via WhatsApp about the dangers of travelling alone.” Ginny shrugged. “Hey, a new hotel deal!” She exclaimed, opening the email icon on her smartphone.

Katherine laughed as she stepped out of the elevator at her level, and watched the elevator doors close as she waved goodbye to her friend. Upon reaching her office doors, her phone buzzed.

Hi Kat, need U to see something. Come by my desk. HURRY -Dennis

“What on earth-”, she muttered, making a beeline to his desk.

Dennis had his headphones on. Files were scattered around his desk, and there were a number of tabs opened on his desktop. Tapping lightly on his shoulder, Dennis turned slowly with his hands ready to remove his headphones. He automatically relaxed when he saw Katherine.

“Oh, it’s you. That’s great. I need to show you something.” He proceeded to rattle on about his morning – missed the bus, scrolled through his Twitter feed while waiting for a taxi to get to work, how he came across numerous “‘retweets” about an upcoming campaign about healthy living in Singapore and how tea can help.

“It’s crazy.” He breathed, opening up a new window on his desktop. “They’ve only gotten the client a couple of days ago, and now they’re already launching a fresh campaign-”

Katherine stopped his hand from clicking on the mouse. The cursor was hovering over the title, “Kenko Teas: Here for Health. Here for Good”.

“Don’t click that,” She told Dennis.

“Why not? Don’t you want to know?” A confused Dennis looked up at her, his brows furrowed. Katherine shrugged.

“I do, of course. It could serve as an insight into what our competitor is doing, and would be good for us-”

“Then let’s have a look!”

“No,” Katherine moved away from the computer and leaned against his desk. Holding her head in her hands, she groaned, flustered. “It’s not that I don’t want to take a look at it. It isn’t the time. I’ve got this trip to Japan to think about, and Bob from Skulker’s Sportswear is chasing us for that video call we were supposed to have. Not to mention-”

Dennis held his hands up to stop her. “Okay, alright. I get it. So, what do we do?”

A good few seconds passed before Katherine said, “Okay, let’s monitor their progress on the media, and gather again at the end of the week. We’ll see what our competitors are up to, and see where we can improve on our strategies. Can we do that?”

Dennis nodded.

“Perfect,” she said, making a mental note to send an e-invitation to the team for a quick meeting on Friday to discuss their current strategy with Nihon’s Teas. Katherine couldn’t be more excited. Tea? In sunny Singapore? She could come up with more than 10 different ways to market their products.

Settling down at her desk, the clock on her desktop showed that it was an hour to lunchtime, and Katherine could do a lot in an hour. She stretched her fingers and put her hands to the keyboard. “Dear Bob,” she began.

Edmund stepped out of the building, feeling relaxed and contented. He wasn’t the only one who was pleased about the proposal. Matthew liked it, too.

It was 12.06 p.m., and he was in the city district, with Clarke Quay just around the corner where his wife’s office was. People were beginning to fill the streets, and the roads were getting busier. He moved to a quieter spot by the building and fished for his phone.

Listening to the dial tone, he waited for Katherine to pick up. No answer.

Eh, he thought. I’ll try again in a few minutes.

Having a deep conversation over lunch would be good. While he was getting ready for the proposal in the morning, Katherine had let slip that the client for whom she would be paying a visit to in Japan was a “potential” client.

If nothing was signed or contracted, what was the point of travelling to a whole other country? Edmund’s concern for Katherine was too great – he didn’t want her to be putting in effort when the firm was just going to wave her off in the end.

Spotting a cafe tucked at the corner of Raffles Place, Edmund turned off the ‘silent mode’ on his phone and went to find a table.

15 minutes and a cup of coffee later, his phone rang on the metal table and the vibration created a din, causing other patrons of the cafe to turn to him in disgust. Edmund muttered an apology, waved his hand and answered the call. It was Katherine.

Finally, he thought.

“Hey, honey. You called? Is anything wrong?” Katherine’s bubbly voice burst through the speaker. Edmund winced, and tried to speak.

“Hi, nothing’s wrong. I was-”

“Oh! How was the proposal? Has it ended?” Katherine continued.

“Yeah, I’m just around Raffles Place now. Let’s have lunch,” he said. There was something crackling in the background, and then he heard a heavy thud. “Kat, honey?”

Silence, and then her voice came back. “Hi, yeah, no. Let’s get some lunch together, sweetie. I’ll see you at Moza’s.” And the phone clicked.

She had hung up.

Weird.

Edmund shook his head. He downed the rest of the coffee and made his way to the restaurant. Whenever they had lunch together in the city district, Moza’s was a favourite. He and Katherine had become such regulars to the restaurant, the waitress always gave them the same spot – a table by the window.

He was grateful to see the same waitress working there for the past few years waving at him as he approached the restaurant.

“Good afternoon, Mr Chan. The usual?” She smiled warmly. Edmund nodded and was shown to his table.

Sitting down, he flipped through the menu he had seen numerous times before and waited for his wife to arrive. His fingers tapped lightly on the glossy cardboard menu, feet tapping to an unheard beat, all the while thinking about her reaction to his reservations about her trip.