Sorry is the hardest word to say when the person you need to apologize to is your boss. Simply uttering the word was a strict no-no in Junming’s rules. His parents had taught him that apologizing was better done with actions. Actions speak louder than words - well, one word.
He had it all planned out as he entered the office that morning. But Valerie waylaid all of that by plunking his first assignment into his email inbox. Excited to get started in his new job, he rubbed his hands and clicked on the message icon.
Details of the client’s request filled his screen along with an attached note from Valerie. He scanned through her note first.
Junming, here’s your first assignment. It should be a simple one. Please take note of the deadline on the client’s request. Budget is listed at the bottom.
He scrolled down to the client’s request.
Scenario Type: Events
Deadline: Today, 17:59
Budget: Below $30 - Negotiable
Venue: My apartment
Description: I need to apologize to my girlfriend before she leaves on her flight. I know she loves big-ass events like those in dramas. So please, please help me throw something like that! We’re supposed to have an early dinner so that she can catch her flight, so the apology must be done at that time. I can’t cook, by the way, so please figure out something for that too. She likes steak and all that.
Apologies! This request was right up his alley! Junming beamed at the chance to prove himself. He glanced at the time on his computer. It was almost 9.30 am. First things first, he needed an idea.
Reaching for the scratchpad on his desk, he glimpsed the book Valerie had given him yesterday. He had forgotten to take it home with him but he might as well skim through it to find out if there were any tips for these kinds of client scenarios.
He pulled both the scratchpad and the book towards him. Leaning back in his chair, he held the fuchsia-colored book in one hand. The title read “Romance Uncliched” and its author “Ivan Skilling” wasn’t someone familiar to him. He opened the book to the Contents page.
There were more than ten chapters, each of them labeled with a piece of manila paper stuck to the side. Skimming through the printed words on the manila papers, he figured they were categories describing each of the chapters. He ran his index finger down the page, trying to find something that fit what he needed.
Not too far down the page, he found it under “Throwing Events”. He noted the page number and flipped to the middle of the book. The top of the page had the chapter name “Flaming Passion”.
Before he could start on the first sentence, a slap on his shoulder startled him.
“Good morning! You’re up and early,” Jamal chirped.
Fumbling with the book, Junming laughed. “You scared me, Jamal. Good morning.”
“What are you reading?”
“Oh, it’s the book that Valerie said would help with training. Romance Uncliched?”
Jamal shrugged his satchel bag off his shoulder, tossing it below his desk. “Ah, that.”
Something in his tone made Junming frown. “Why? What’s wrong with it?”
Scoffing, Jamal settled into his chair with a thump and swiveled to face Junming. “Nothing wrong with it. It’s just that most of the advice written there is common sense.”
Junming looked down at the book. He could see more manila notes pasted at the bottom. “But it still might be of use.”
“Well, it’s up to you.” Jamal shrugged, turning back to his screen. “The stories can be pretty boring but if you want to slog through them and understand the meaning behind them, then go ahead.”
Torn between excitement and anxiety, Junming pursed his lips in thought. His schedule was packed today. Between training seminars that Valerie had signed him up for, he had to discuss details with this client, create a contract, and start working on recreating the requested scenario. Did he really have time to read through a chapter?
“Jamal, if I only want to read the advice part-”
“Ah, skip straight to the purple-colored manila notes. Those are the essentials. And they’re at the end of the chapter.” Jamal threw a wink at him. “For that nugget of wisdom, you owe me a meal.”
Junming flushed, his heart skipping a beat at the thought of sharing food with this lanky, handsome, tall drink of sparkling water. A sheepish smile bloomed on his face. “Sure, it’s my treat.”
“We’ll get Kyler to join us too.” Grinning, Jamal knocked on the divider wall separating their cubicles from Kyler’s.
Junming’s smile wavered. Disappointment coursed through him but he shoved it aside. It was good to get to know all his colleagues. Plus, Kyler was a sweet girl.
“Yo, Kyler,” Jamal whispered loud enough that it felt more like a shout. “Jun’s treating us to lunch.”
Junming’s heart skipped a beat. He liked how Jamal said his name.
Kyler’s small head popped up above the divider. “Really?”
“Yeah, I would love to treat you guys.” Smiling, Junming enjoyed the way Kyler and Jamal’s eyes gleamed at the prospect of a free meal.
“That’s so sweet, Junming,” Kyler exclaimed. Her eyes crinkled in a grin. “Thank you so much. I’ll treat you back next time.”
Junming laughed, his head bobbing up and down. “Sure.”
She thanked him again, her head disappearing below the partition wall. Jamal reached over and lightly punched him in the shoulder. “Thanks, man.”
“No problem.” A small voice whispered in his head, “Anything for you.”
Grinning, Jamal turned back to his screen. Junming snuck a longing look at his colleague for a second longer before returning his attention to the book. He skimmed straight to the manila note at the end. It read:
Take into account fire hazards when designing and procuring elements for romantic scenarios.
That sounded simple enough, Junming thought. He closed the book and pushed it aside. Jamal was right, he didn’t need to read that.
First assignment, so exciting! I hope it goes well and I have all faith in our Junming that it will :D
He shouldn’t be so disappointed about the lunch! This way he can get to know Jamal without the pressure of it being just those two ;)
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)