As Junming walked beside the lanky Jamal, he noted they were about the same height. Perfect kissing height. He bit his lips, avoiding looking at Jamal’s face.
“So you’ll be sitting beside me in this cubicle behind Kyler.” Jamal spun around the partition separating the guys’ cubicles from Kyler’s. He spread his arms to indicate their space. “How do you like it?”
Jamal’s desk was closer to the wall, every inch of his space cluttered with action figures and post-it notes. A shorter partition divided Jamal’s space from Junming’s. Both desks had two decent-sized monitors connected to the slim desktop on the floor and a company-provided headset.
“It’s a nice space,” Junming said appreciatively. “I’ve always liked the idea of two monitors.”
“Now you have it.” Jamal plunked into his seat, his arms crossed behind his head as he twirled in the swivel chair. “Go ahead and make yourself at home.”
Smiling, Junming settled into his seat and placed his bag on his lap. He took out his wallet, phone, and notepad, placing them neatly in a corner of the desk. Then, he reached deeper into his bag and with the utmost care, unwrapped a small paper model rocket.
As he placed the rocket beside his monitor, Jamal leaned forward in his chair. “You’re into rockets?”
“Yeah. Love them to death.” Junming stroked the rocket like a loving father. “The actual rocket this is based on has a great thrust and isn’t that big in size, but I think it’s the best.”
Stifling a chuckle, Jamal nodded. “You know, I always thought rockets have the best shape too.”
It took a second more for Junming to decipher what Jamal meant before he retracted his hand from his prized rocket. His heart twisted at the sound of Jamal’s chuckles, hurt that his hobby had been turned into something dirty.
Seeing Junming’s expression fall in dismay, Jamal quickly added, “I’m sorry. That was rude of me. Your model rocket looks beautiful.”
The sincerity reflected in Jamal's eyes assuaged Junming. Deciding not to make a big deal about it, he said, “Of the ones I have, this is my favorite model. I thought it would look good on my desk.”
“I think it does too.” Jamal bobbed his head. “Val is right. I’m an idiot sometimes. I say things without thinking too much. Just slap me on the head if I go too far. That’s what Val does. Sometimes, Kyler too.”
That earned a short laugh from Junming. He smiled at Jamal, feeling like he had a better understanding of his new colleague now. “Thanks.”
Jamal beamed back at him, his lips parting to say something when a flashing icon on his screen cried for attention. He cringed and grabbed his headset. “Sorry, duty calls. By the way, your computer password is on the post-it note.”
“Oh, okay. Thanks.”
Junming’s gaze fell on the post-it note stuck to the screen. Before he could ask more, Jamal was already on a voice call with someone. Shrugging, he moved his mouse. Best to start work now.
The screen came to life with a background of RomCon’s logo as the desktop background. Junming typed in the password given to him and went about setting up his digital workspace. In under ten minutes, he had his email set up based on Valerie’s written instructions and downloaded the slides she had sent over. His only task for the day was to read up on procedures and explore the RomCon app.
After going through the slides that Valerie had walked through, Junming’s stomach complained with a growl. He glanced at his watch. It wasn’t time for lunch yet. He peeked across the partition to Jamal’s side. The guy was still in an animated voice call.
Then, he recalled the pantry and its stock of ice cream. Junming licked his lips. He got up from his seat and walked back down the corridor. Stopping at the fork, he glanced at the sign on the wall. The pantry was to his left.
He turned and entered. It was a nice, cosy space with a large window overlooking the park behind the building. A long countertop housed the sink, water cooler, and microwave. In the center of the space were a plastic table and four chairs. A whiteboard covered one wall. Social event notices, doodles, and advertisements were plastered on the board.
He headed for the fridge sitting at the end of the countertop, stopping for a moment to look at the magnets decorating its door. There were travel souvenirs, slogans, and notes taped on it. One of the notes had a large “FYI” written in dark blue ink. Junming squinted at its contents, attempting to read it when his stomach screamed at him again to eat.
Groaning, he gave up and pulled the door open. Bread, takeaway food, peanut butter, and juice filled the three racks. His eyes drifted up to the row of mini ice cream tubs at the very top. There were so many flavors, he noted with glee.
Vanilla, chocolate, coffee. He read every single label until he reached the last tub. Blueberry - his favorite flavor. His lips curled up into a wide grin. Grabbing the tub, he found a plastic spoon on the side of the door that seemed untouched. He opened the lid. No one had even peeled off the top layer protecting the ice cream. Bingo!
He tore it off in one pull. Digging his spoon into the perfect surface, he scooped out a big mouthful and closed his lips over the mountain full of ice cream. His eyes squeezed shut. A long moan left his lips. The taste of blueberry sweetness melting on his tongue was the best.
Plunging his spoon again into the tub, he backed away and closed the fridge door. He ate a large bite, the spoon still lodged in his mouth, when he realized a person stood before him. His eyes traveled up the neatly pressed black shirt to a long neck and then, the face of someone he had only seen in the news. Junming’s mouth fell open.
Hopeless romantic Yu Junming is over the moon when he lands a job at the RomCon startup as a ConCoct agent. From meet-cutes to ultimate airport runs, he must re-enact surreal romantic scenes to fit a client’s dreams. Sadly, he botches his assignments and learns the hard way that romance needs a dash of practicality.
Despite his track record, he’s soon tasked to help his boss, Grayson Black - a die-hard cynic who dislikes him at first sight - to find love. Through disastrous dates, the two men grow closer and realize there’s more to each other than meets the eye.
Junming fantasizes of seeing even more of Grayson but he also finds himself drawn to Fernanda Morales, a spunky and eccentric undercover reporter who masquerades as a RomCon client. When Fernanda unexpectedly ends up heartbroken after an awful date, she falls for Junming. Pitiably ignorant of her mission to dig up dirt on RomCon, Junming is stuck between two people and a hard place called reality.
(Book cover done by Joanne Kwan: https://tapas.io/dashalutris
Banner done by Frappe7: https://www.instagram.com/frappitto/?hl=en)