Annabel pulls up at the car park of the exhibition hall for the annual Bronson’s Sales and Marketing Conference. Stepping out in her Gucci power suit and Jimmy Choo’s stilettos, Annabel is oblivious to other men staring at her silent beauty and inaudible power, quietly desiring her. Sophie falls a step behind Annabel to admire her best friend and smiles to herself. Annabel never fails to make heads turn. Her long auburn hair which looks too straight forms a V-shape behind her back. Although standing at a smallish height of 1.6 meters, Annabel makes up for her height with dangerously high heels everyday. Her sharply defined face is a pale complexion, almost translucent like a doll.
Annabel is quick-wit, smart and intellectual, she also exudes a particular sort of elegance and confidence, sashaying in her heels, girlish laughter, even how she likes English breakfast tea in the morning, Earl Grey after lunch and peppermint tea in the evening if she stays up late in the office, makes every woman silently idolize her. Comparing to her, Sophie though towers almost a head over her best friend and superior at work, looks less sure of herself. She has tried to keep her hair long but finds it a chore to keep it so picture-perfect like Annabel’s, so she chopped it off in a bob-style and under Annabel’s instructions and has kept it that way since.
Annabel turns back to look at Sophie, “Everything ok?”
Sophie smiles, “Yap.”
The exhibition hall has turned into a seminar hall filled with over four hundred chairs. At the reception area, waiters and waitress serve mocktails and bottled sparkled water. It is still a good fifteen minutes before the conference commences but the reception area is already packed with people chatting and exchanging name cards. Making her way to the reception area, Annabel feigns ignorance as her eyes caught Michael speaking to a Chinese gentleman and sipping his mocktail.
She allows her eyes to sweep past him to other people around him but what she is doing does not escape Sophie. Noticing that Sophie is narrowing her eyes at her, Annabel flashes her girlish grin and shrugs her shoulders.
After putting her signature down beside her name, Annabel looks up in Mike’s direction again casually but does not see him there anymore. Maybe he went out of the exhibition hall for a cigarette, she thinks to herself. Almost at once, Sophie voices her urge to have a puff as well, “Let’s smoke before we can’t get out of this stupid conference.”
The automatic glass door opens as Annabel and Sophie walk towards it and out into the designated smoking area. True to her speculation, Michael is there with his assistant and another man. Annabel tries to look casual and surprise as she makes her way there.
“Hi, what a surprise to see you here, Michael.” Annabel says as she extends her hand to her former colleague and current lover.
“Annabel. Nice to see you.” Michael smiles and shakes her hand firmly. Annabel can feel the affection from Michael emitting from his hand. She flushes as he grins a little too widely. Both are unable to mask the joy to see each other openly at a conference but also the secret of them knowing each other so intimately which every single human being around them doesn’t know- except for Sophie.
“Hi, Sophie. You look great.” says Michael offering his hand. Sophie grabs his hand unwillingly but doesn’t say anything.
Michael doesn’t seem to mind the hostility from Sophie but Annabel frowns at her friend. She shoots Sophie a disapproving look when Michael turns to introduce the gentleman to them.
“Ladies, let me introduce- William. He’s the associate director of Chomper. William, this is Annabel and Sophie from Morgan, my ex company.”
“Annabel.” greets William and extends his hand to Annabel.
“Hello William.” Annabel smiles and reaches out to shake his hand.
“Sophie.” William turns to Sophie.
“Hi,” replies Sophie acidly. William looks like he just got spat on by Sophie. Michael’s eyes opened wide with surprise and Annabel frowns once more at her friend. Always quick on her feet, and trying to ease the tension caused by Sophie’s unexpected respond, Annabel turns to ask William about Chomper.
William accepts this rescue gratefully and is most happy to fill in the awkwardness by sharing some facts on his company. But Annabel finds it hard to concentrate on what William is saying and is pleased that Mike has taken it upon himself to allow William to direct his attention to. Stealing a glance at Sophie who is silently puffing on her cigarette, Annabel sighs. Sophie’s dislike for Michael has extended to his social circle. Annabel makes a mental note to ask Sophie to back off from this treatment to Michael.
The bell rings for the attendees to be ushered into the exhibition hall. Annabel silently gives thanks for this timely release of thorniness. She extinguishes her cigarette at the ashtray and makes her way in, pulling Sophie gently along. She can feel Michael’s eyes follow her for a brief moment and knows that he will be picking a seat near her where he can see her. As she walks into the hall, Annabel picks an empty seat in the middle where it doesn’t seem too obvious when Michael stares at her back.
When Annabel has decided she picks up the brochure and itinerary of the conference and settles down to flip through them, she turns around casually to see if she can make out Michael among the crowd streaming in looking for empty seats. Almost instantly, she sees Michael and just three rows behind her with his assistant at her four o’clock direction and smiles at her prediction of knowing Michael will definitely pick a seat where he can see her clearly. It thrills her to know he is watching her in such a businesslike situation now. She looks at him a little longer, hoping to catch his eyes. He does. They lock eyes for a brief moment and she gives him a tiny smile. He winks at her. Her heart dances in glee.
It is then that she notices Sophie is not around. She looks up and scans the room quickly, thinking Sophie might have lost her on her way in. Quickly, her eyes pick out Sophie in her grey suit and short bob hair just a few steps to her right. She is speaking to a man but with her back to Annabel, Annabel cannot make out who the man is. Almost immediately, Sophie turns back to smile at Annabel and walks towards her. The man follows. Curious at who the man is, Annabel stands up to get a better look. It is Simon- her ex boyfriend.
“Guess who’s here too, Anna.” chirps Sophie excitedly. Annabel finds it odd that her best friend is happier than her to see her ex. Sophie steps aside for a young man to pass her. It is her ex.
Simon looks as handsome as ever in his black business suit. Nothing about him has changed, only his hair seems longer since the last time they met, covering his forehead sweeping his eyes a little making him look sexier than in the past.
Annabel is just as taken aback as Sophie to see him. She does not realise how much she misses Simon until now every since he left the country to pursue his career in Japan. Everyone used to talk about how good they look together, sexy hot Ana and stunning, handsome Simon. But there was just something that was always in the way between the both of them. They just couldn’t pick out what it was, until the love between the both of them just faded away and the inevitability of the obvious had to come- they broke up.
Annabel beams in delight and extends her hand to Simon. But he takes her by surprise by taking a step too close to her and embraces her. Annabel stiffens at first but this intimacy with Simon oddly makes her relax in an instant as she allows a familiar forgotten feeling to sweep over her. Annabel breathes in Simon’s scent- he still uses the same deodorant, the one that she has always like.
Before she can get enough of this comfort in the arms of her ex, Simon pulls her away slightly and plants a kiss on her cheek. Annabel lets out a girlish giggle, delighting in this cozy affection.
“How have you been?” Simon sings into Annabel’s ear.
“I’m good. Sophie and I are in Morgan now. Are you still with Yamashita?” She reaches up and speaks into Simon’s ear, aware that there is no need for her to do that; they still have their arms around each other.
“I know. Sophie told me just now. And yes I am still there. But hey, you look great! As hot as ever.”
Annabel blushes, “You too, Simon. You let your hair grow out, you look better this way.”
Smiling sheepishly, Simon runs his hand through his hair. “I haven’t got the time to have it cut.”
“You look good. Don’t cut it.”
“Okay, Anna. You know I always listen to you.”
When the three of them settle down in their seat, Annabel turns her head to take a look at Michael. Expecting a smile, she is shocked to see that he is glaring at her coldly. What the hell?
Puzzled at his expression, she tries to smile but Michael turns away as soon as he knows she has registered his acid glare and looks down at his brochure.
In an instant, she knows why he is radiating such anger. He is mad that witnessing her intimacy with another man.
In a desperate attempt to reassure Michael, she takes out her iPhone and texts him.
What’s wrong, Mike?
She holds her phone in her hand and waits for it to vibrate. It does. She slides her thumb across the screen to see what Michael has replied.
Who is he?
Ah, he is jealous. Glee skips in her heart.
And she waits for his reply. But it doesn’t come. Simon turns to look at her, trying to ask her something but when he sees her looking blankly at her phone, he decides not to. The emcee has already come on stage to gently remind everyone to set their mobile phones to the vibration mode and the first speaker is already at the side of the stage, ready to give his speech.
Annabel frowns slightly, her mind trying to think of reasons why Michael hasn’t replied her yet. Maybe because the conference is commencing and he wants to concentrate on the speeches?
The speaker flashes a screen with a pie-chart but nothing goes into Annabel’s head. She looks at the screen of her iPhone, willing it to vibrate but no text comes in. A dark feeling envelops her heart slowly, squeezing her it. She dislikes it. It is sucking the breath out of her. She takes a deep breath and texts Michael.
Are you ignoring me?
Almost immediately, Annabel’s phone vibrates. She quickly slides her thumb across the screen, hoping against hope to receive a text from Michael. She exhales when she sees his name appears at the top of the text box on her screen.
No, I’m not.
The short text message says it all. He is mad at her. Anger seizes her as she feels herself tremble. Her heart is contracting tightly.
You are mad.
I am not.
Why are you so cold all of a sudden? Because of Simon?
His name is Simon?
What’s wrong with you???
Well, I don’t like the way you are behaving now.
I want to see you tonight.
Annabel’s heart releases its tightness instantly. Oh anything to have her old Michael back. Anything to make him less mad at me.
Same place. 8pm.