Tia paddled the water and tilted her head to the right to breath in some air, she stretched her arm forward and stroked it backward, causing her to launch forward in the water, repeating the movement until she could feel the edge of the swimming pool. She made a flip inside the water and repeated the movement towards the other direction.
After swimming a few laps until she was satisfied, she went to the showers and cleaned herself,. Tia raised both arm in the air and twisted her body left and right. Her mood was better, with the boost of serotonin in her system thanks to the big breakfast she had prepared for herself this morning and the exercise.
She checked the time, it was seven o’clock she’s just in time to reach the office. She picked up her backpack and walked out of the building. The office was just a twenty-minute walk, she could use the additional physical activity.
Tia jumped when she heard a car honking behind her, she spun to see who it was, “Ahmed…” She gasped. She took a deep breath and confidently walked to his car, opening the door to the passenger seat and sitting there. “Just the person who I wanted to see!” She exclaimed.
Ahmed looked at her in disbelief, “What’s….”
“Who am I?” She cut him off.
“What? Did you fall down and knock your head or something?” He asked.
“Who am I?” She repeated, looking at him straight in the eye.
“You’re…you’re Tia Chang.” He replied.
“That’s right! That’s my name, but who am I to you?”
“Tia, where is all of this coming from?” He couldn’t understand her.
“I like you! I want you to know that! But have you ever realized that even after everything that had happened between us. I still call you boss! Because guess what? We’ve never defined our relationship as anything different than boss and employee.” She finally was able to let it out.
“Tia, you’re very special to me . I want to be close to you, to be by your side.”
“As what? As my boss?”
“Of course not. If you want me to spell it out for you, then I will. I want to be by your side as your boyfriend!” He finally said.
“Do you really think of me as your girlfriend?” She asked gingerly.
“Tia, I don’t kiss just any woman and much less bring them home to stay overnight at my apartment and sleep in my bed . Those are things I reserve for my girlfriend, which is you.”
“Okay, be careful how you say it, because even though I’ve slept in the same bed with you in several occasions, nothing weird ever happened between us.” Tia raised her hand.
Ahmed smiled, “Okay…okay…. And honestly the reason why I don’t want to tell anybody about us is because of my parents, they’re not ready to accept our relationship. They don’t want me to get involved with anybody from the company.” Ahmed explained.
“Is that so? Then why did your mother bring Ratna to work for the company? Everybody can see that she intends to be the match maker for the two of you.” Tia brought up the facts.
“She can play the match maker all she wants, it doesn’t mean shell succeed.” Ahmed assured her.
“You can drop me off at that corner, I’ll walk the rest of the way to the office.” She pointed it to the corner of the street.
“Tia, please understand me, don’t let anybody know about us yet. Especially to your friend Winnie, the office gossip queen. Give me time to talk to my parents about it, okay?”
“Fine!” Tia sighed.
“I’ll talk to you later…..” Ahmed stopped the car and waited for her to get out before continuing to drive.
* * *
“Tia, I heard that Madame Al Rashid is planning a big party for the company’s anniversary.” Winnie shrieked excitedly.
“That’s nice…” Tia replied without stopping what she was doing.
“Such enthusiasm…!” Winnie pouted.
“What’s the joy of going to a party with people you work with? The last company event I went to, I ended up getting washed and ironed by that new HR Manager.” Tia mumbled.
“That was your own fault. Who told you to get drunk at the dinner?” Winnie sneered
“Who’s friend are you again?”
“Oh come on, any girl would love to get the opportunity to go to an event, the requires her to dress up.”
“Hmm….you’re right, every girl wants to be the home coming queen, no matter how old she is.” Tia agreed.
“I know what it is…….you’re embarrassed that you’ll have to go all alone, aren’t you?” Winnie teased, “I think I know a certain someone who wouldn’t mind being your date for that night.”
“Who?” Tia felt a jolt in her heart, could it be that they had been discovered?.
“Mark Simonian, the tennis instructor?” She almost exhaled in relief.
“Tennis instructor? He’s not just a tennis instructor, he owns several sports wear stores, and most importantly…..he has a crush on you. I’m sure he’ll flip if you ask him to be your date to the party.” Winnie grinned.
“I don’t think so, I don’t want to give him the wrong idea….” Tia thought about Ahmed, she hoped that he would ask her as his date, although she doubted it, they would probably go separately.
* * *
“I don’t know why I have to do your filing, isn’t this your secretary’s job?” Tia complained as she punched holes in Ahmed’s documents and organized them in the folders.
Ahmed glanced from his desk, “That’s part of your one on one mentoring program.” He replied nonchalantly. “Don’t you want to spend time with me?”
“I do…., but somehow this isn’t how I imagine it.” She frowned.
“Come here!” Ahmed said while putting his document down.
Tia walked to him, he pulled her to his lap.
“Hey, aren’t you afraid that someone will walk in and see us?” She asked.
“Don’t worry, if anybody wants to see me, Lily will buzz me. She knows that I’m coaching you.” He caressed her fingers
“Is this how you coach all your employees?” Tia snaked her arms around his neck.
“You can rest assure that I don’t coach Dodi like this.” He laughed.
“I’d love to see that…” Tia poked her tongue out.
“I want to tell you something.” He doubted for a few minutes.
“What is it?”
“This Friday night the company is going to celebrate it’s anniversary.”
“Ah yes. The famous party…” Tia nodded, “What about it?”
“Baby, my mother wants me to go with Ratna….” He said softly.
“Your mother wants you to be her date? You rejected, right?” Tia was becoming antagonized.
“You don’t know my mother, she doesn’t take no for an answer.” He tried to explained.
“So if one day she tells you to break up with me and marry a certain woman, you wouldn’t oppose? Or what if she made you take two or three wives?”
“Baby, it’s not like that..”
Tia got up from his lap, “I see! I think our session is over. If you excuse me boss, I have to get back to my workstation.”
“Tia, don’t misunderstand!” Ahmed grabbed her hand.
“Misunderstand? Me? You’re wrong! I understand perfectly!” Tia walked to the table where she was working on his documents and jumbled them up. “This is your secretary’s job!” She hissed.
* * *
“Hey, what did the keyboard ever do to you?” Ronald peeped over to her desk hearing her loud typing.
“It’s a stupid keyboard, it’s full of crap!” She growled.
“Hey Winnie, you friend is moody again!” Ronald called.
“What is it now?” Winnie stood up, “You were cheerful this past few weeks, and now your back to being the gloomy mean queen.”
“I’m just a little upset. Don’t mind me!” Tia replied.
“Maybe we should take you out tonight, we can go dancing.” Winnie offered.
“I don’t want to go dancing, but if you’re really willing to go some place with me, we can go play tennis. What do you think?”
“Tennis? Ah…..tennis, of course I’d go with you to play tennis.” Winnie smiled knowingly.
* * *
“Wow, you look gorgeous….” Shirley, Tia’s sister admired as she was sitting on the bed next to her mother.
Tia turned around in front of the mirror, she didn’t have money to buy a new cocktail dress, since she’s still paying for her airplane ticket to Bali, so her mother had taken one of her old gowns and made modifications. Now she was wearing a strapless beige evening dress adorned with rhinestone.
“Mama is a genius…” Tia admired her mother’s work. “Thank you!” She hugged her mother tightly.
“I’m sure my baby is going to be the most beautiful girl in the party.” Her mother said with pride.
“Hmmm, well there will be so many beautiful girls there with expensive designer gowns. So with that being said, I won’t be the only beautiful girl in the party, but I would be the only one who can hold my head up high knowing that I’m wearing a beautiful dress made especially for me with love, by my own mother.” She kissed the older woman’s cheek.
“Tia, your friends are here for you! They’re waiting downstairs.” Her father came in to her room.
“I’m coming…” Tia replied.
She walked down the stairs, Winnie was dressed in a gray evening gown. Winnie gasped when she saw Tia, “Hey you, beautiful woman! What did you do to my friend?” She teased.
“You look stunning too….” Tia laughed. “Papa, mama, this is Mark, he’s escorting me to the party tonight.”
“Good evening, sir, ma’am.” Mark greeted them respectfully.
“How do you do.” Her father shook his hand with a straight face, “Are you dating my daughter?”
“Papa…” Tia blushed, “Mark is my tennis instructor, he is a very good friend of mine.”
“I’m not dating Tia, but I hope she would grant me that wish someday….” He said carefully.
“Uncle Leo, Mark is the owner of Fit N’ Fun sportswear chain stores.” Winnie promoted.
“Is that so?” Tia’s father nodded.
“We should head out now, Ronald is probably bored waiting for us in the car….” Tia cut in, she didn’t want her father to get the wrong idea about Mark and her.
* * *
“Wow, that’s quite a party decor…” Winnie admired as they reached the Al Rashid mansion.
“I guess that’s why rich people need household employees, can you imagine if Madam Al Rashid had to wash the floor by herself?” Tia thought out of the blue.
“Honey, with her nails, I don’t think she even washes her own hair….” Winnie cracked.
They couldn’t help but gasped in awe when they saw that even the parkway had attendants and even valley parking. Ronald was reluctant to let go of his car keys, Winnie had to coax him to hand it over.
“Will you take my arm?” Mark offered to Tia.
Tia nodded, she put her hand around his arm as they walked to the front door. She caught sight of Ahmed welcoming the guests at the door, her heart felt heated when she saw that Ratna was standing beside him.
“Good evening…” Ahmed received them.
“Good evening, Mr. Ahmed…” Ronald replied he walked in front of his group.
“Good evening… “Winnie also said.
“He’s Ahmed..my boss…the General Manager of the company, he is the only son of the Al Rashids…” Tia whispered to Mark., “The woman beside him is Ratna, she is the HR Manager, and the daughter of one of the share holders.”
“Ah….” Mark nodded.
Ahmed looked at them without blinking, he didn’t attempt to hide his dislike for what he saw.
“Good evening, Tia, and this is…?” He asked sharply.
“Ah, Mr. Ahmed, good evening.” Tia replied trying to calm her pounding heart, “This my friend Mark, he was kind enough to make time to accompany me to this party.”
“Ho do you do?” Ahmed shook Mark’s hand and squeezed hard on it. “Please enjoy the party…”
“Thank you!” Mark grimaced.
They walked inside the mansion, Tia saw that there were a lot of guests already. Not only employees, but share holders, clients and partners.
“I think your boss doesn’t like me…” Mark whispered.
“What gave you that idea?” Tia pretended to be surprised.
“He almost broke my hand.”
“Mark, you’re imagining things, let me introduce you to my friends….”
* * *
Tia tried hard not to yawn as Mr. Omar Al Rashid gave his opening speech, she smiled politely and clapped like everybody else when he finished, although deep down she wanted to jump up and cheer that it was all over.
Mark surprisingly was a pleasant person, he was polite and cordial, making small talk with her friends. After finding out that he was the owner of a popular sport wear store and an accomplished athletes, the male staff became more interested in him, and began surrounding him, Tia carefully glanced around to look for Ahmed, she saw that he was immersed in a conversation with a client.
Tia slipped near the snack table, picking up a small plate and taking a selection of snacks. She wasn’t really in the mood to make small talk with anybody. Although she tried to appear to be cheerful and happy, but inside she wasn’t.
“Your date seems to be very popular…” Her heart jerked as she recognized the voice behind her.
“Mr. Ahmed, what a great party, congratulations.” She smiled.
“How could you flaunt around with a man in front of me!” Ahmed growled.
“I’m not flaunting around, It’s only appropriate if a woman arrives at a party accompanied by a gentleman.”
“Do you think, I would be fine seeing my girlfriend linking arms with another man?”
“Girlfriend? Ah you mean the girlfriend who’s not your date to this party, because you had to go with another woman?” She replied sarcastically.
“Tia, here you are…” Mark came up to them.
Ahmed scoffed, “Wow, you’ve managed to escape from your fans…”
Mark chuckled, ” Those gentlemen do have a lot of questions.”
“How did the two of you meet?” Ahmed asked.
“Oh, Tia takes tennis courses from me.” Mark replied. “She’s very talented.”
“Thank you…” Tia was happy with his praise.
“Ahmed….” Princess Latifa called as she walked to them linking arms with Ratna, she said to Tia and Mark “Will you excuse me, I need to borrow my son for a few minutes.”
“Mama…” Ahmed replied to her.
“Even though the music is playing in the background, but nobody is dancing, why don’t you take the lead and take Ratna to the dance floor.” She took his hand and put Ratna’s in it.
“But, I’m not a good dancer…” Ahmed furrowed.
“Nonsense, you are! Now go!” She insisted.
Ahmed walked with Ratna to the floor and began to dance, “I’m happy that you asked me to be your date tonight.” Ratna flustered.
“I asked you?” Ahmed was surprised.
Ratna nodded, her cheeks were pink with happiness, “I waited for a long time to get a chance to dance with you like this, I’m very happy..”
Ahmed couldn’t hear what she was saying, his eyes were focused on the sight of Mark pulling Tia by the hand to the dance floor, and persuading her to dance with him.
“I know that it’s not right for a woman to speak openly to a man about her feelings, but I’ve liked you for a long time, I’ve always hope that one day you’d feel the same way about me….” Ratna continued.
“Eh-he…” Ahmed was relieved that Tia rejected to dance, but his blood suddenly boiled when he saw the man laugh and pulled her close to him, putting both arms around her waist, while he moved his body to the music. He could see her gracefully pulling herself away, but the man didn’t seem to want to let her go. He couldn’t hold it i anymore when Mark touched her shoulder while pretending to remove her hair.
“Ahmed, are you listening to me?” Ratna cringed
“Excuse me!” Ahmed let go of her and walked to Tia and Mark. “That’s enough!” He barked
“Excuse me?” Mark asked, he didn’t know why his date’s boss would suddenly come up to them in that manner.
Tia felt relieved seeing him there, she quickly slipped behind him to get away from Mark.
“Hey, don’t youthink you can behave abusively rich boy!” Mark took offense at Ahmed’s behavior, he pushed Ahmed aside and grabbed Tia by the hand, forcibly pulling her and causing her to whine in pain at his grasp.
“Don’t treat my woman like that!” Ahmed said as he punched Mark on the face causing him to fall back on the floor.
The crowed stopped and looked at the commotion on the dance floor.
Tia didn’t know what to do, she could feel every body’s eyes piercing her.
“Ahmed, what’s going on?” Princess Latifa rushed up to them.
“Nothing, Mama! Excuse me, I’m going to take my girlfriend home…..” Ahmed said as he put his arm around Tia’s waist and led her out of the mansion.