Joani Ng’s female colleagues were talking enthusiastically about the new male colleague when she strolled into the office.
“I heard that he’s simply gorgeous!”
“Really? How do you know?”
“Well, Jancy from the third floor told me and she also said that Elaine from the seventh floor said that…”
Joani shook her head at her female colleagues and smilingly placed her handbag on her table. Their new colleague from Britain hadn’t even arrived yet and he was already the talk of the office. Not that she blame them, for the colleague was reputed to be very good-looking and her female colleagues were really eager to see him. How they knew that, Joani had absolutely no idea but the male portion of the office were apparently not happy about that for they went about their work with a dark, dissatisfied look on their faces.
Suddenly, a commotion near the entrance of the office caught her attention. A highly flustered receptionist dashed in excitedly.
“He’s here!” She squealed, “His lift’s coming right up!” Everyone turned expectantly to the glass door of the entrance and Mr. Tan, their boss, stationed himself by the door and prepared to give a cordial welcome to the official observer from their parent company in Britain.
The elevator outside chimed his arrival, which caused the female colleagues to check their appearances one more time, much to the displeasure of their male colleagues.
The glass door swung open and in came…
Everyone was stunned into immobility. Even Mr. Tan who prided himself on not being easily surprised stared at the newcomer open-mouthed and judging from his panic-stricken look, he had apparently forgotten his welcome speech as well.
Joan gazed at this blond man who looked a lot like the gorgeous elf in the highly acclaimed movie, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and felt her heart beat just a little faster. Even though her new colleague had no pointy ears nor did he carry anything that was similar to a bow and arrows but his striking resemblance to her favorite fantasy character was enough to make her just a little short of breath.
With a bemused look on his fair face, the new colleague spoke with a Canterbury accent, “hello, my name is Luke Skit. How do you do?”
“Oh my heavens. He even speaks like Legolas. I think I’m going to faint.” Joan overheard one of her female colleagues mutter under her breath. Joan didn’t blame her, she was fairly sure that if this Luke Skit unleashed any more of his unspeakable charm, she was going to faint as well. But unlike the rest of her female colleagues however, she chose to keep her true feelings off her face.
With an enormous effort, Mr. Tan wrenched himself from his state of immobility and brought on a cordial smile to his face.
“Welcome, welcome, Mr. Skit. I ah…” He stole a glance at his still shocked subordinates and concluded they are still incapable of speech, “please forgive my workers, they ah…are a little indisposed at the moment.”
“A little?” Luke asked mildly, his expression dubious as he gazed at his colleagues. One, in particular caught his attention. It was a Chinese young woman who remained expressionless even though the rest of her female colleagues had looks of adoration on their faces. Then he smiled and shrugged, “well, I guess I can understand that since I have the same effect everywhere I go.”
Mr. Tan couldn’t have agreed more.
Joani always believed in first impressions. If the person had appeared cordial at first sight, chances are that he would be a nice person to work with. Good looks were a bonus of course but what ultimately mattered was the character.
But she couldn’t say the same for Luke Skit.
For reasons known only to himself, Luke seemed to have developed this irritating tendency to pick on her, no matter what she did. Whether it was her style of dressing or the ideas that she proposed at the meetings, Luke always had something to say. It was as if he was testing to see how long she could hold on to her temper.
For the other female colleagues, it was an entirely different matter. Luke was a complete gentleman with every one of them, so much so they never mention his name without going breathless. The male colleagues, though resenting his good looks soon found themselves liking him as well for Luke was a good team player and an excellent leader.
Joani could not understand why he picked on her and only her but it didn’t matter anymore. She had made up her mind to fight back if he ever picked on her again. She would make sure he regrets it. Big time.
Joani finished explaining her proposal for the Christmas ads and turned to her colleagues for comments. What she saw warmed her heart for open appreciation was on everyone’s face except for Luke. As usual.
“Well, what do you guys think?” Joani asked apprehensively, knowing full well that Luke would criticize her work. Again.
Luke rose from his seat slowly and felt everyone’s eyes on him, including Joani’s burning ones.
“I think, that your ideas are silly.”
Joani felt anger oozing from under her control. “Well, Mr. Skit, what do you suggest then, if not my silly ideas?”
Luke didn’t even seem to notice the steel in her deceptively calm voice but his colleagues did and they braced for the inevitable storm.
“I suggest that maybe we can do a more ‘adult’ kind of an ad without involving Santa Claus at all. Your ideas are a little too childish for me.” Luke replied, gesturing towards her carefully drawn illustrations of children frolicking with Santa Claus, then he paused and grinned at Joani, “funny how the aged can think up of such childish ideas, huh?”
Volcanoes of fury exploded within Joani and she saw red.
Joani marched straight up to Luke and landed a resounding slap on his cheek. With her revenge dispensed in that single slap, Joani turned on her heels and stormed out of the meeting room with immense dignity. Everyone, including their boss, was stunned by this display of anger.
Luke stood and rubbed his cheek, outrage snapping in his eyes. How dare she slap him?! In front of so many people too!
He narrowed his eyes dangerously at the doorway through which Joani had disappeared. Joani Ng would pay for this embarrassment she’d caused him. He would personally see to that!
Just before lunchtime, Joani’s boss summoned her into his office. As she walked to his domain, eyes filled with awe followed her every step. But Joani never noticed, she was focusing on that door beyond which her boss may be waiting with her doom.
Joani sighed, best to get it over with.
Holding her shoulders erect, Joani stepped into the Lion’s den.
“Jo oh Jo.” Her boss shook his head in disbelief, “how could you slap Luke Skit?”
“He insulted me, Mr. Tan.” Joani’s reply was flat, even unfriendly.
Mr. Tan sighed and shook his head again, “Jo,” He begun, “do you realize you just slapped the observer from our parent company in Britain?”
Joani’s eyes turned flinty, “I don’t really care, Mr. Tan. Do you also realize that he insulted me first? And this is not the first time that he’s doing this, you know.”
Joani then crossed her arms at chest level,
“if you feel embarrassed by my behavior, Mr. Tan, then I’ll type out my resignation letter at once.”
Mr. Tan stared at her in surprise.
“You…you cannot be serious.” He finally ventured.
“I’ve never been so serious.”
It took Mr. Tan the better part of the hour to dissuade her of that notion for she was after all a very valuable member of the company. Despite her quick temper. And irritable nature.
“oh alright.” Joani finally gave in, “but Luke Skit has to apologize to me first.”
Mr. Tan brightened, “of course, no problem.”
Joani had never felt so smug in her entire life. Luke stood before her, outrage evident in every line of him but she was not cowered. She was going to face him down, no matter what it took. Mr. Tan was clearly nervous by the way he kept fidgeting. The silence between them stretched to such an uncomfortable extent that Mr. Tan finally spoke up, if somewhat timidly.
“Ah…Luke, perhaps you should apologize first?”
Luke glared at him with such intensity that Mr. Tan looked even more nervous, if that was possible.
But Mr. Tan didn’t rise to the position of General Manager without considerable steel in his nature.
“You should, you know.” Mr. Tan managed to say despite Luke’s almost insane glare, “after all, you did insult Jo first.”
Luke’s eyes snapped back to Joani who returned his glare intensity for intensity.
“I’m certainly not going to apologize to a hag for anything at all!” Luke spat the words out as if they left a bitter taste in his mouth, “besides, I was speaking the truth. With all those wrinkles on her face, she’s probably more than fifty!”
With his poisoned insult hanging in the air, he turned and stormed out of Mr. Tan’s room, slamming the door so hard that it almost came off its hinges.
Joani stared after him, shock rendering her immobile until the meaning of his insult penetrated her mind.
“Why you…” She snarled, stalking to the door with her hands like claws, meaning to tear him to shreds if she could but Mr. Tan restrained her with a strength that bellied his fifty-five years.
“No Jo, no more, no more!” He yelled, trying to restrain the snarling mad woman who was Joan.
“Lemme at him dammit!!!” Joani screeched.
Mr. Tan winced at the shrill sound, it was lucky that he had opted for this meeting after everyone had gone home or all would have been crowding around to see what was happening. Joani continued to struggle in his arms, which he didn’t think was going to last long under her vigorous struggles.
“Alright Jo!” He managed to yell, “if you don’t stop, I’ll…I’ll fire you!!”
That got her attention for Joan immediately went limp, her astonished eyes taking in the gentle mentor who seldom raised his voice. Mr. Tan took the opportunity to push her down onto the couch in his office.
“You…you…” Mr. Tan panted from the effort of handling Joani, “you’re supposed to be the calmest of everyone else!”
Joani was also panting from her exertions, “That…that jerk!” was all she could manage.
Mr. Tan shook his head in defeat and sank onto the couch beside Joani. Will these two never end their war?