“I love this.” Ahmed looked at her from the kitchen counter.
“Love what?” She asked.
“This, you here in my apartment, waking up together, having breakfast together, it’s nice.”
Tia dried her hands with a dish towel, “It is, it is nice.”
“We should get going.” Ahmed looked at his watch, “Come on.”
“Oh, and thanks for getting my suite laundered, I didn’t know you had it, I always thought I lost it.”
“I thought it would come in handy to have your work clothes here.” He grabbed her and hugged her by the waist, “Thank you!”
“For what?” she asked.
He whispered in her ear.
“Oh my goodness…..” She blushed, slapping him on the arm.
* * *
“You could drop me off at the usual place.” Tia chirped as the reached the intersection near the building.
“Why would I want to do that for?” Ahmed creased his brow.
“Your mother or Ratna might see us together.”
“Let them!” Ahmed replied calmly, “We’re not doing anything wrong, so why do we have to sneak around?”
“Okay, I understand that, but I don’t want your mother to hate me even more. I think if we want to be together, we should make her accept me, don’t you think?” She reasoned.
“That would take a miracle,” Ahmed answered flatly.
“Well, thanks for the optimism.” Tia huffed.
“I’m being realistic. Let’s say that money and wealth won’t be a problem, but your family ties will be. She hates your aunt to death. If she could have a bulls eye board with your aunt’s photo on it, she would.”
“Yes, there’s that too.”
“Don’t worry about it. We’re both adults, it’s not like we need our parents’ permission to get married.”
“But still, it would be good to have it.”
He glanced at her, taking her hand in his, “You’re not going to back away again, are you.”
“Of course not, didn’t I say that I’ll be by your side all the way.” She reassured.
“Good! Because it’s not going to be easy.”
He turned the car to enter the underground parking lot, parking it in his spot. Ahmed got down from the car, to open the door for her. They headed towards the elevator together.
“I’ll see you at lunch,” He said while kissing her cheek when they reached the destined floor.
“Good morning….” He greeted the staff as usual.
“Good morning…” They responded.
Tia headed to her desk and sat down. “You look incredibly happy today. Did you win the lottery?” Winnie popped up out of her desk.
“What are you a jack in a box? How was your karaoke night?”
“It sucked! Lili the girl from reception had a very good singing voice and technique. If you had come along with us, there would at least be somebody worse than me, so I wouldn’t have made such a big fool out of myself.” She pouted.
Tia couldn’t help but laugh, “My voice is still better than yours.”
“Ladies…early hours gossiping session?” Dodi asked as he walked to his desk.
“It’s not eight yet, we’re not exactly on the clock!” Winnie replied.
“Granted!” He nodded. “We have fifteen minutes, let’s go and grab some coffee, but not the free stuff.”
“Good idea!” Tia cheered, standing up and fishing her wallet from her handbag. “Ronald! Let’s go!”
“Coming…” He replied.
They all walked together towards the elevator, Dodi pressed the button for them and they chatted and joked while waiting for the lift to arrive. They heard a ding and the door opened.
“Miss Ratna good morning.” Dodi greeted her warmly.
Ratna didn’t answer, her eyes were focused on Tia, “Why did you come out of his apartment this morning?” Her voice was angry.
Tia’s heart thumped, “I…I.. don’t know what you’re talking about.” She denied.
“Don’t lie to me, you bitch! I saw you with my own eyes!” She grabbed Tia by the arm and started shaking her.
“Miss Ratna, what are you doing?” Dodi came to Tia’s defense.
“This is none of your business, it’s between me and this tramp.” She pushed him away.
“Let’s talk about this calmly!” Tia suggested.
“Talk about this calmly? How dare you try to tell me what to do!” She swung her arm and slapped Tia on the face.
Tia fell back a few steps, she held her throbbing cheek, “Tia…” She heard Winnie shriek and run up to her. Winnie put herself in front of Tia, protecting her from the raging woman while Ronald held Ratna back. Ratna stomped on his foot and quickly pushed him away when he bent down in pain. She grabbed Winnie by the hair and pushed her away also. Seeing Tia in front of her she quickly launched forward with both hands extended.
* * *
“Mr. Ahmed,” Suzy ran into his office, “Your fiancee is at the elevator landing, she’s hysterical and physically attacking the staff.”
“What the…” Ahmed got up from his chair and rushed out heading towards the elevator landing. From a distance, he saw Ratna cornering Tia against the wall while the latter held her wrists trying to push her away. “Hey! Stop that!”
“Let me go!” Tia Shouted.
“You bitch! You bitch!” Ratna shrieked she pushed forward and succeeded in grabbing Tia’s hair.
“Let me go!” Tia tried to pry her hand away.
“I’ll teach you to try to seduce my fiance,” Ratna screamed as she tried to hit Tia’s head against the wall.
“Stop that!” Ahmed clinched one of Ratna’s wrist making her grimace in pain and let go of her hold on Tia’s hair, he pushed her back before approaching Tia, “Baby, are you okay?” He pulled her in his embrace, his voice sounded genuinely worried.
“I’m okay,” She nodded straightening out her hair and her clothes while catching her breath.
“Ahmed! How can you be that shameless holding your lover in front of me like that!” She yelled.
“What is wrong with you? This is the office, how could you act like a hooligan in here? Don’t you have any self-respect” He scolded her.
“Tell me the truth, why did she come out of your apartment this morning? You slept together didn’t you? Is that why you didn’t want to go to dinner with me and our parents last night? So you can screw your employee?”
“Ratna, control yourself!” He rebuked.
“What’s going on here?” Princess Latifa stepped out of an elevator she looked at Tia, “It’s you again! Don’t you have any manners? How can you cause a commotion here in the office?”
“Auntie…” Ratna cried. Princess Latifa hugged her.
“Ahmed, how can you see your fiance distraught like this and do nothing?” She looked at him judgmentally.
“That’s exactly what I’m doing, I comforting my fiance who was attacked by that crazy woman.” He sneered.
“What are you saying?” She starred at him in anger. “Ahmed! We need to talk!”
“You know where to find me.” He replied calmly.
“Mr. Ahmed, I’ll help Tia back to her desk.” Winnie said, taking Tia by the shoulder. “Come on, did that psycho bitch hurt you?” She snarled sarcastically while looking at Ratna.
“Let’s go.” Dodi signaled at Ronald, he knew well that it was better to flee and stay clear of the family feud that was about to boil.
* * *
“We need to talk, it’s urgent!” Princess Latifa entered her husband’s office.
He lifted his finger to his lips silencing her, he finished the call, and hung up the phone.
“What is it now?” He gruffed pinching the bridge of his nose with his index finger and thumb.
“I want that woman fired from this company! She’s causing problems after problems. Today she fought with Ratna in front of the elevator landing, making a riot in front of everybody.” Princes Latifa complained.
“Okay, fine!” He picked up his phone and buzzed his secretary. “Please call Tia Chang’s supervisor to my office!” He ordered.
“Yes sir.” She replied.
“I can’t believe what’s going on here!” Princess Latifa paced, “I don’t know what that woman did to our son, but he has become very disobedient because of her. He even dared to talk back at me in front of all the employees. Can you imagine that when I came out of the elevator, he was holding that woman in front of everyone while poor Ratna was crying her eyes out.”
“Calm down!” He coaxed. “That’s why I called her supervisor here.”
They heard a knock on the door as Omar Al Rashid’s secretary opened the door. “Mr. Dodi is here.” She said.
‘Tell him to come in!” He ordered.
Dodi entered the room slowly, deep in his mind he could guess what was going on.
“Please sit down!” Mr. Omar said.
Dodi nodded his head and sat as he was told.
“I heard that there was a riot downstairs in front of the elevator landing that involved one of your subordinates. I hope as her supervisor you have investigated the case and are ready to take disciplinary actions according to the situation.” He started.
“Mr. Al Rashid, may I give you the chronology of what happened, sir?” He calmly asked.
“Of course, please go ahead.” Mr. Al Rashid replied.
“My team and I were going to go out for some coffee this morning, at 7:45 a.m. We arrived at the elevator landing just as Miss Ratna the HR manager exited the elevator. Without any provocation, she began to yell at Miss Chang, and when I tried to calm her down, she physically assaulted me, and not only me, but also the other members of my team, she physically assaulted, Miss Winnie, Mr. Ronald, and of course Miss Tia Chang. As employees of this company, we feel that it is an abuse on behalf of upper management to treat us this way.” He explained.
Omar Al Rashid glanced at his wife. “Are you saying that Ratna attacked not only Tia Chang, but also you and the other members of your team?”
“That’s right, sir.” Dodi affirmed, “As you know there is a CCTV in the landing area, I’m sure everything that happened is recorded on video.”
Omar Al Rashid sighed and shook his head. “Dodi, on behalf of the company, I apologize about what happened to you and your team. I hope you won’t “hold” it against us.”
“Mr. Al Rashid, I have worked here for many years, I won’t hold it against the company. My team on the other hand, I can’t control how they will react to this.” Dodi said carefully.
“I understand perfectly. Thank you Dodi, you can go back to your desk now.” Omar Al Rashid signaled to the door.
“Excuse me, sir, ma’am.” He nodded to the both of them and left the room.
“You apologized?” Princess Latifa thumped her foot.
“What else can I do. Not only do I have to apologize to them. I also have to indemnify them for what happened. You heard it yourself. Ratna started insulting the girl and hitting her and her friends. And what’s worse is that it was all captured by the CCTV. Can you imagine what would happen if they decide to sue us? This scandal can damage our reputation.” He replied in annoyance.
“But it was that woman’s fault.”
“Not according to the witnesses. And that’s what’s going to count if we are unlucky enough to be brought to court.” He paused. “Latifa, you should make sure that we make it up to those people. We don’t want them to make a complaint to the Ministry of Labor that would cause a bigger headache than you can ever imagine.”
“I can’t believe this.” She huffed, “I can’t believe that I have to bow my head in front of that shameless….shameless…..bimbo.”
“You can be angry all you want, but you better have Ratna make a public apology to her and her friends, otherwise our company will be in so much trouble.” He warned.
* * *
“Are you hurt?” Winnie asked Tia.
“I’m okay, it hurts a little on my cheek and where she pulled my hair, but besides that, I’m okay. How about you guys? I saw that she pushed and hit you too.” Tia asked her colleagues.
“My foot in throbbing, that gibbon monkey was wearing stiletto high heals. I actually thought she broke my foot bones.” Ronald said.
“Yeah, she even pushed me to the floor. What a witch.” Winnie added, she slapped Tia softly,”Hey, so why did she attack you anyway? Did I hear wrong, or she accused you of sleeping with the Boss?”
“What are you talking about?” Tia avoided looking her friend in the eye.
“Does her anger have anything to do with the new diamond ring that you’re wearing on your finger?” Winnie interrogated.
Ronald put on a wide grin, “It sure took him long enough…” He mumbled.
Ronald jumped when he heard a cough and saw that Ahmed was standing there looking at him, “How are you doing?’ He moved his attention to Tia, he held a tea towel, “Here’s some ice.” He said squatting in front of her and holding the bundle to her red and swollen cheek.
“Thank you.” She whispered.
“I’m sorry that this had to happen.” He continued. “And I apologize to the two of you as well, and thank you both for helping Tia.” He turned to Winnie and Ronald.
Winnie looked at him observantly, she raised her eyebrows and smiled, nodding knowingly, “Of course we have to protect our friend, and we always will.” She replied.
“Do you need medicine?” Ahmed turned his attention back to Tia.
“I’m okay.” She confirmed.
“Mr. Ahmed….” Dodi stood by Tia’s desk.
“Dodi, where did you go?” He asked.
“Your parents called me. Don’t worry, I explained everything that happened.I’m sure your father will make a wise and fair decision in respect.”
Ahmed smiled, “I’m sure he will.”
“Ah, Mr. Ahmed, I didn’t get a chance to congratulate you on your engagement.” Dodi said glancing at Tia’s hand.
Ahmed smiled and nodded, “Thank you.”
* * *
“I can’t accept this, auntie! They were stepping all over my pride!” Ratna shrieked. “I saw them this morning as they walked out of his apartment. Auntie, Don’t you think I have all the rights in the world to hit her? How can I not be angry seeing that my fiance spent the night with another woman?”
“Ratna, my child. I understand how you feel. Trust me, I do.” Princess Latifa persuaded. “You’re right to be angry. I will be too if I was in your place. But that’s besides the case, the problem is you attacked that banshee and her friends and it was possibly caught on camera. If they decide to sue the company, we stand to loose a lot of money.”
“What? Ratna couldn’t believe what she heard, “But how can that be?”
“Ratna, Uncle Omar wants you to publicly apologize to them, hopefully that will calm them down. We also have to show them a gesture of good will. I spoke with Omar, and we agreed that we have to invite them to dinner or something.”
Princess Latifa shook her head, “We have to accept defeat this time. Moving forward you should act with more prudence.”