Pilot: Reaping Clockwork

[2013, May 4]

Kay has always hated running. But lately all she does is running from one appointment to another. Running is futile. When you're late you are late. You can never cut 30 minutes delay by sprinting. Not when you are Karyn Becker, world's worst runner.

Her heavy glasses and bag slips down alternately, further restricting her movement. She struggles with the files tuck under her arm while the straps of her bag almost gives way to the constant tugging. As she runs up the crowded subway stairs, it rings again; her phone. It just won't stop ringing! She purposely leaves it unanswered. She's almost there. Right after the corner, she crosses the bustling road, ignoring the profanity spewed at her for being reckless and there she is. Here at last.

Kay takes a deep breather. She finally has the courage to glance down to her watch. 8.30 pm. It's already that late?! 

Kay: Fuck it, they will forgive me.

Muttering prayers under her exhausted breath from all the running, she strides toward the receptionist. A klutzy looking waitress immediately comes waddling to welcome her in.

Kay: Hi, Karyn Becker.. I have a reservation under the name of Romanov..

Says Kay as she reaches the front desk. The receptionist smiles nervously at the mention of the name. She runs her fingers through the register. Kay gathers her waist length hair into a messy knot. Is it me or is it too hot in here? Kay's eyes wander to the interior of the restaurant. Not her usual go-to-place. She prefers somewhere more laid back. This is too high end for her taste. The high ceiling donned with crystal chandeliers. The overplayed classical music. It's all too old for her taste.

Kay is never keen on the idea of going to places where your clothes dictate whether or not you are allowed to enjoy your food. She's clearly not dressed for the occasion. It is supposed to be a casual reunion but Kay always has a tinge of doubt when it comes to her friends. Especially when they insisted on having their reunion at the La Platz.

She observes the busy girl flipping the guest book who constantly going back and forth for missing out the name in the register. Her uniform is for those trainee staff. Her panic gestures, biting the corner of her lips and that slight perspiration on her forehead suggested Kay's theory. New here, huh? Kay is reminded of her old aloof self. She used to be that clumsy fragile looking waitress too; back when she’s in the college, midst of her sophomore year. The transition period she called.

A senior waitress comes for assistance seeing the line building up behind. She lightly shoves the younger one aside.

Waitress: Sorry about that. She's new. Your reservation please.
Kay: Romanov.. -snapping out of thought.
Waitress: Ah..I was informed.
Kay: Informed? -surprised

The waitress takes out a different list. Kay waits impatiently as the waitress goes through the new sets of register.

Waitress: This way, Miss Becker.

The waitress leads her way up the stairs toward one of the VIP's rooms. Kay has had the misfortune of meeting some of the foulest businessmen in those room. The memory of being grope for the sake of looking "friendly" will forever haunts her whenever she walks the aisle. Kay tries hard to ignore her spiking heartbeat and focus instead on the matter at hand.

Kay: I'm not expecting this. Is it okay for me to be wearing this here?

The waitress turns to her and smiles sweetly gesturing that it's okay. If Kay didn't know better, she'd say that the waitress is holding herself back from throwing Kay out of the premise for wearing an unacceptable dress code to one of the most expensive restaurant in town.

She comes straight from a factory visit in the outskirt. Naturally, she wears the most convenient button down, acid washed out jeans. Her unruly titanium hair doesn't help with the get up at all. She might as well bail now before she embarrasses herself for being an uncultured piece of trash.


Valerie: Thanks lord! You are finally here Kay!! 

The girl in black roses printed dress sprints out to her, dragging Kay by the wrist. The other girl clad in body hugging pinstripe suit is smiling her teeth out as soon as Kay emerges. A look that many has not experienced. Valerie Romanov and Kazuhiko Miura, her two best friends. The oldest friendship she ever had. Kay can't help but to awe.

Kazu: I thought you're not gonna make it today. This girl here about to bawl her eyes out calling your phone non stop. Glad you are safe and sound, Kay. Come, come sit.

Kazu gestures to the empty seat next to her. She is mesmerizing. Always well dressed, the young fashion editor is always serving look. She ties her hair tightly in a ponytail, accentuating her high cheek bones. Her lipstick is always light to contrast her fierce eye make up. She smells nice. Kay makes a mental note to ask for the perfume name later.

Kay: Why didn't you guys tell me it's a formal dinner? I'm not properly dressed for this. Sorry, Val.
Valerie: Nah that's okay. It's not formal.. I just want us to have a nice private dinner and they they let me do anything here. Convenient.

Valerie is wearing floral, as always. But it is never a simple dress when it comes to the Nova Corp's heiress. The wide waist belt provides an interesting contrast to her feminine floral decorated dress, making her get up looks more grounded and fierce. Kay looks at herself. She sighs. Always the odd one out of the bunch.

Kay: Guys I can't tell you how sorry I am for being late. You must have been here for quite a while.

Kay glances at their half empty glasses. Probably not their first glass. Kazu is a careful drinker. She likes to savor her drink but the lipstick marks on the glasses suggested that she has been playing with it due to boredom. She does that when she has her second glass. Habits die hard. Just like Kay's knack for observing people around her. She has to remind herself to stop doing that again.

Kay: I came straight from a meeting. You guys even had to travel here. I'm so embarrassed.

Kay is trying her best to smile, brushing off the awkwardness. Valerie and Kazu shake their head in unison. It's okay, they say. Kay being here is all that matter.

The three course meal proceeds without interruption aside from the obligatory interjections by the waiters for second helping of the wine. The wine is amazing and the steak is to die for. Kay is practically swallowing the whole course in one breath. It is a habit she develops for being starved of proper meal back when she works for an audit firm. Another habit she needs to kill.

Valerie laughs at Kay. It is not a new habit. Kay has always been a fast eater. She is only getting faster over the years. Kazu on the other hand is more interested in small talk with the newly arrived Valerie. She has been away for a few years for her study. Not that it's impossible for them to gather from time to time, but all of them are very much preoccupied with their own separate live to even bother. It is the bitter truth of their adult life. Excuses after excuses. That is how they manage to dodge the annual high school reunion.

Kay for one is steadfast on not going back to Lennox High. She has a few emotional scars growing up. The funny thing is, she couldn't even recall what so bad about it. Other than being the timid little girl constantly needing a protection from her two powerful friends, she is one of the best academic performer at the school. Surely the school has done something right with their education. Kay shrugs away the remnant of curiosity she has over the well being of the school alumni. Fuck them. I don't want to remember.

Valerie: So I heard you got promoted.
Kazu: Congratulation!

Kay comes back to earth. She is dragged back into the conversation.

Kay: You're talking about me?
Valerie: Yeah you, silly.
Kay: You knew?
Kazu: You talked about it in your blog. Of course we know. We're a big fan of your blog.

Valerie and Kazu slides closer to the table, eyes gleam in curiosity.

Kay: Oh that.. I forgot I have one. Haven't been updating much lately. Anyway. I'm quitting.
Kazu: Blogging?
Kay: Nah.. the job.
Valerie: But why? I thought you love it there. Exact quote "I would sacrifice my first son to Cthulhu if I were ever to leave this company"

Kazu laughs heartily at Valerie's comical rendition of Kay's equally comical post. Kay puts down the fork, chugs down some amount of the red wine in her glass. She sighs dramatically as she slams the table. What comes next is her exaggerated wailing. Kazu and Valerie both have a hard time stopping themselves from laughing at her antics. Behind that slapstick however, dwells a truth Kay has been keeping from everyone. She contemplates whether she should open up to her friends and ruins their perfect night. She opts out. Next time, perhaps.

Kay: It's killing me. I would die in a pile of balance sheets if keep on working there. I am through!
Kazu: Oh come on. It can't be that bad.
Kay: It is worse! Aren't you worried of my mental health, dear friends? Save me from this darkness..

Kay slumps into her seat, faking a sob. Valerie almost folds herself for laughing too much. Kazu on the other hand is more familiar with Kay's humorous way of distracting everyone from the main issue. She knows Kay better than anyone.

Valerie: You can come and work for me. I'll make sure you have everything you need. You'll be right at home.

The air shifts at Valerie's response. There's a slight uneasiness in Kay's expression which she quickly buries with a big laugh. Kazu looks over the whole scene like waiting for a ticking bomb to explode.

Kay: Nah.. I'll manage..
Valerie: I'm serious. Come work for me.

Kazu could see a slight tremble in Kay's eyes.  She needs to intervene soon.

Kazu: The company would never let her go, Val. You better stop "threatening" her with a job offer. Besides, it's a small firm and Kay is over qualified for the job. They can't afford to lose her. Not when they're having a meltdown crisis.

Kay picks up her knife and continues to carve out the remaining of steak she has in her plate. Kazu smiles at Valerie who seems oblivious of Kay's feeling when it comes to this matter. That friend of hers has always been so intimidated by them. Kazu understands her completely.

Kay: And you know this how?

Or maybe she doesn't. Kay's tone changes immediately. Kay turns her gaze to Kazu. Air goes stale. Kay has had her suspicion for quite some time. She doesn't reveal that much information in her blog. Meltdown crisis? Not even her colleagues know about the internal struggle at the company. If she's being smart, which she is, she won't go around announcing it to investors. Her hypothesis; her friends have been spying on her all this while. Kazu keeps her cool. Kay is clearly agitated. She doesn't even make an effort to hide it.

Kazu: Don't worry. I'm not spying on you. I met Schneider a while back and we talked about work and stuff. Long story short we were casually talking about everything when your name popped out.
Valerie: Schneider? Eugene Schneider?
Kazu: Yeah, you remember Eugene. From the student council.
Valerie: Oh yeah. That guy..
Kay: Are you sure that's all you guys were talking about? Schneider.. I didn't know he has a big mouth. What is he doing spreading corporate gossip with a fashion editor?

Kazu smirks at Kay's remarks. Karyn Becker, still playing detective I see. Kay locks her gaze at Kazu, not backing down until she spills the truth.

Kazu: Okay, to be honest he was trying to convince me to help out with the situation. But you know I don't have that kinda money. I turned him down and that's it. Drop that look of your face Kay. I don't snoop around, you know that.

But you do.. And I knew that.. Kay's eyes meet Kazu's straight and piercing. Kazu maintains her unabashed look but God knows how fast her heart is beating against her chest. She doesn't even know why she is so afraid. She doesn't have a secret. But the way Kay dissects her with her piercing stare is as if Kazu has the biggest skeleton in her closet.

Kazu: Plus.. I'm not a fashion editor. Not yet. (pause) So where are you planning to go next?

Kazu tries to change the subject, steer it away for a bit. Kay soon drops her anxious look and focus on the succulent meat in front of her. Kazu takes a fresh gulp of air when Kay goes back to her normal tone.

Kay: I'm thinking about going back to Larkins. Work for my dad for a while. Who knows I might be helpful.
Valerie: That's good news! We can see each other more often then.

Meeting the girls more often is not her intention when she decides to go back to her hometown. It's just an issue of bore. Kay has been living in San Berken for almost three years now and she is bored with everything. She is disgusted by the people she has surrounded herself with. San Berken is a bigger city compared to Larkins but there's something missing. It feels like she won't find what she want from the bustling city. She needs to get away, go back to her old self, rekindle with familiar faces and start anew. She might not find what she is looking for but at least someone is happy with her decision to move back to Larkins.

Kay: Enough about me. What's new? Kazu and I keep in touch.. Well, online at least.
Kazu: Yeah, and who's the one that always end up leaving early if it's not the socially deprived Miss Becker here. -chuckles
Kay: Oh come on! You know I hate chat.
Kazu: Yeah yeah.. Same old excuse.

Kay grins at Kazu's complaint. Sorry girlfriend. She really does hate chat and catching up. Kay taps the brim of her glass prompting the waiter to fill it up again. Steak and red wine is a great combination after all. No one would mind if she drain the whole wine cellar, would they?

Kazu: Hey, I think you've had enough. You should go easy on the red wine.
Kay: Hah, this thing is harmless. I can take more.
Kazu: You sure know how to hold down your drink.
Kay: Wanna bet how much I can actually take?
Kazu: No thanks.

Valerie giggles at them bantering. It's good to see them like this. She can't help to feel left out. Maybe she shouldn't have studied abroad. Things would have been a lot more interesting with these two around.

Valerie: I need to make a mental note on your drinking Kay..
Kazu: You should. She drinks like an old man.
Kay: Well, not everyone is allergic to alcohol.
Kazu: Hey, I know how to enjoy good liquor without being an alcoholic.
Kay: Pfft..Anyway, I was asking about you Val. So? What's up?
Valerie: Well.. For a start.. I'm getting married this Fall.

Kay almost spurt out her red wine when she hears the news. Married?!

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013