Rena soon discovered her friend Akane surprisingly ended up being right when it came to the new candidate. In fact, Rena couldn’t believe how impressive her résumé was for someone of her age. At the age of 24, and after graduating from one of the best universities in the country, the girl who shared the same surname as her had already worked in big corporations in Japan. To be honest, when she checked her résumé for the first time, Rena was having a hard time matching the drenched girl who was patiently waiting for her turn in the hallway with the person who had accomplished all those things on the paper. Could looks be so deceiving?
She hired her. It was the most logical decision, albeit the fact she surely couldn’t say the new candidate made a first good impression on her in the elevator. In the end, this moment was all forgotten. What mattered the most to her, was what Jurina Matsui could bring to the team. Rena had been looking for someone with the necessary skills to build the time machine, and it seemed the younger girl would definitely be the one to help them.
Jurina Matsui didn’t disappoint her. In only one month, Rena realized how much progress they had accomplished with the latest addition to the team. Of course, she didn’t fool herself into believing the time machine would be built in no time. It is true to say they were progressing much faster thanks to her new assistant, but there were still too many unknown parameters to know when the time machine would be operational.
Much as Rena was grateful for all the help the younger girl was bringing them, she couldn’t say she had really bonded with her new assistant. When it came to her work, the girl was on time and very professional. However, there was one personality trait she had difficulty adjusting to. Indeed, it didn’t take long for her to discover that Jurina Matsui was a real flirt.
In fact, she was pretty sure she had flirted at one point or another with everyone on floor 22, men excluded. It didn’t escape Rena’s keen sense of observation that Jurina’s conversations with her male co-workers always remained strictly professional. Why that? The head of Matsui corporation found this difference in treatment between both sexes more than curious, but she always kept her thoughts carefully to herself.
But there was one fact that disturbed her even more than Jurina’s obvious disinterest in flirting with men. As she was her assistant, Rena definitely interacted quite a lot with her during the day. However, there was one pattern her assistant followed with every other woman of the floor, except with her. She never flirted. Not once.
Jurina was always very polite and would smile to her here and then, but that was it. Yes, her kindness showed on many occasions, as when she would bring her everyday her coffee inside her office at the 4PM break. It wasn’t something Rena had ever requested her to do, but that her assistant had taken the liberty to do on her free will. However, she could tell her assistant chose carefully her words each time they spoke to each other. In fact, there was a form of shyness in her eyes that only seemed to appear when they interacted.
Was it because she was her superior and as such felt she would be overstepping boundaries if she acted too carefree with her?
Rena had not a clue, however she couldn’t ignore the fact she felt more than once taken aback by this difference of treatment towards her. She should be happy her assistant was respectful and nothing but hardworking, so why was Jurina’s peculiar attitude towards her troubling her so much?
Today again, Rena was witnessing her assistant’s flirty behavior right in front of her nose. Because of the project the 24 years old girl worked closely with Akane, and it seemed she had taken a particular liking in her. Indeed, Rena noticed that she flirted with her best friend way more than with the other women of the floor. And unfortunately, Akane’s office was located just in her field of vision, making it impossible for her not to see Jurina’s actions.
Rena had a lot of work to do this morning, but somehow couldn’t detach her eyes from her assistant who had arrived behind Akane a little while ago, and was now leaning forward to show her something on the computer. Of course, it was impossible for her to hear what they were saying but she surely didn’t miss Jurina placing her hand casually on Akane’s shoulder, nor the amused smile on the latter’s lips as she had evidently said something funny to her.
“Why does she keep doing that?” Rena muttered, finding herself once again displeased by her assistant’s constant flirting with Akane. A sudden soft knock on the door of her office distracted her, and she diverted her attention in curiosity to the long dark, curly-haired woman entering her office.
“It’s 12.45PM. Want to go out for lunch?” Airi, her 27 years old Human Resources manager, offered.Already?
Rena was startled by the news, and checked the time on her computer, realizing it was indeed already past noon. She barely had done half of what she was supposed to do this morning. “Yes,” Rena replied nonetheless, knowing she needed a break anyway. She started losing focus as soon as her assistant decided to flirt in front of her shamefully. “Just give me a few minutes. I want to finish this.”
“Alright,” Airi nodded, taking a brief look at the paperwork the other girl was pointing to her, “come and see me at my office when you’re ready.”
Rena watched her as she was about to turn on her heels and leave, and felt the sudden need to ask her one particular question. Something had been nagging her for a while, and witnessing her assistant impossible flirty behavior with Akane prompted her to finally voice her concern. “Doesn’t it… bother you? Seeing Jurina-san flirting with everyone, especially with your wife?”
“Absolutely not,” Airi replied seriously, much to her surprise. “It’s mostly light teasing, and Akane doesn’t mind. Besides, you can tell the women enjoy the attention they are getting.”
“She never flirts with me,” Rena murmured without thinking. As soon as she realized the words she had blurted out she widened her eyes in shock and looked away in discomfort. For a minute, she hoped her friend had not heard her, but soon discovered it was only wishful thinking on her behalf.
“No, she doesn’t,” Airi conceded, and Rena didn’t miss the amused smile forming on her lips. “Why do you think that?”
“I have no idea,” Rena admitted her ignorance. On one hand, she wasn’t feeling particularly at ease broaching such a subject but on the other, she felt relieved finally getting it off her chest. And who better could she talk about it than with a trusted friend? A friend who had also apparently well noticed this difference of treatment she was being subjected to?
“And I think I’m getting paranoid lately,” Rena frowned, remembering vividly a few strange occurrences. “I’m under the impression she purposely flirts more with Akane because she knows I can see her from here. It’s stupid, isn’t it?”
Rena looked up in expectation to her friend, hoping she would state that it was indeed only a figment of her wide imagination. Why would her assistant be doing that anyway? It made no sense whatsoever to her. However, she couldn’t ignore the fact the younger girl glanced in her direction quite often when she happened to visit Akane’s desk.
“Of course she’s doing it on purpose,” Airi chuckled softly, shaking her head a little in disbelief. “I adore you Rena but sometimes, you can be really clueless.”
“What?” Rena exclaimed. She searched her friend’s eyes for an explanation to her cryptic words, but Airi never elaborated. Instead, the latter left the room without adding another word, even though Rena certainly didn’t miss the amused smile back on her lips as she closed the door behind her.
Rena didn’t know how long she stared at the door in bewilderment, trying to process the very curious conversation she just had with her friend. Evidently, there was a message she was trying to convey, but her mind failed completely to decrypt it. Rena looked down to the documents in front of her in the intent of resuming her work, but soon discovered she had a hard time focusing on the task at hand. Indeed, Airi’s last words kept repeating in her head again and again.
Why did her friend stipulate she was being clueless? What did Airi apparently believe she was missing?
“Oh no, it’s raining.”
Rena turned her head to her left when she heard the familiar voice sounding next to her. It was already 8PM and just as she was about to leave the building to go home, she had noticed the rain falling in abundance through the front door. Once again, Rena knew she had taken the right decision by not trusting the weather forecast, and placing her mini-collapsible umbrella inside her handbag. However, it appeared her young assistant - who was now standing next to her and watching the rain falling outside in concern - had not taken such precaution.
Rena pondered over her declaration, and knew by the light, dark blue vest she was wearing she would be drenched in a matter of seconds if she decided to step outside right now. If she wished to stay dry, she had no other choice but to wait for the rain to stop. And, considering how heavily the rain was currently falling, Rena guessed she would have to wait for quite some time.
“You can walk with me if you want,” Rena suggested. “Where are you going?”
By the startled look she received, Rena could tell her assistant was definitely not expecting her to make such an offer. However, her surprise progressively made way to a genuine, pleased expression. “That’s very nice. The closest subway station would be perfect.”
Rena nodded and opened her umbrella, the younger girl stepping immediately underneath it when she made her way outside. Rena started moving towards the direction of the nearest subway station as instructed, taking in how her assistant was being very quiet beside her. The girl was usually very talkative with her female co-workers, but not when it came to her. It was an aspect of her behavior she didn’t understand, along with her reluctance to flirt with her.
As they walked silently in the streets, Rena realized it was the first time they found themselves completely alone outside of the workplace. If truth be told, she rarely went out with her co-workers, except for the monthly dinner at a restaurant organized by Airi for all employees of floor 22. Rena didn’t particularly feel at ease during those social events, but still felt obligated to attend.
In fact, there were only two people she felt close enough to consider as friends: Akane and Airi. Akane was a long-time friend, who she had met when she was still studying at University. As of Airi, she was one of the first persons she hired when she decided to create this special division on floor 22, a year ago. Between her best friend Akane and the new Human resources manager, it was love at first sight. Six months after meeting each other, they were tying the knot.
Until now, Rena had kept silent when she saw her assistant flirting with Akane overtly and surprisingly, it appeared neither Akane or Airi minded the girl’s actions, passing it for something quite innocent. But what if it wasn’t? What if her assistant really had genuine feelings for Akane and no one warned her it was a wasted effort? For a long time, Rena promised herself she wouldn’t broach this particular subject with her assistant, not willing to meddle in her personal life. However tonight, she decided not to keep quiet any longer.
“There’s something you need to know about Akane-san,” Rena started hesitantly, almost not believing she was going to have that conversation with the younger girl. She had to keep repeating herself that it was the right thing to do, in order to continue. But how could she announce her the news without hurting her if she happened to really have feelings for her best friend contrary to Airi’s belief? In the end, she figured it was best not to beat around the bush and simply be honest. “She’s… she’s married to Airi-san.”
Silence enveloped them after that, and Rena wondered if she hadn’t made a big mistake by bringing up such a topic. Her assistant was still very quiet, and Rena felt too ill-at-ease to look back at her. Did she hurt her? “I…”
“I know,” Her assistant interrupted her before she had time to formulate a semblance of an apology. “I like Akane a lot, but I’m interested in someone else.”
Rena tilted her head towards her in surprise, unconsciously slowing down her steps a little. Her confession came completely out of nowhere and Rena felt slightly destabilized, not knowing what to make of it. And what about this shy, but still serious look she was now giving her? Rena waited, sensing she wanted to say more. Indeed, the younger girl opened her mouth a few times as if she meant to add something else, but in the end no other words left her lips.
Rena looked back to the street in front of her when it became clear she wouldn’t elaborate, trying to figure out what her assistant was trying visibly to tell her. The younger girl had always acted quite timid around her, but right now she could tell she was more agitated than usual. Evidently, something was troubling her, and she found herself willing to know what it was.
She didn’t have time to ask. They had already arrived at the subway station in no time, but the younger girl didn’t seem in a hurry to leave her side. In fact, she glanced back and forth a few times between her and the subway station as if torn, until she finally kept her eyes steadily on her. “Are you doing something tonight, Rena-san? I want to buy you dinner.”
Rena didn’t often find herself speechless, being naturally a very composed and eloquent person. However, her assistant’s unexpected offer certainly managed to take her off guard. Despite her eyes set firmly on her she could read easily the apprehension mixed with expectation in them. Rena could tell it had taken quite an amount of courage from her to utter such bold words.
They were currently standing in the middle of the street, and received a few curious looks from bystanders who were coming in and out of the subway station. However, Rena ignored them, looking straight into her assistant’s brown orbs. There was a sudden glint of determination in her alluring eyes, and she knew the younger girl wouldn’t move an inch until she received a reply.
All of a sudden, her previous cryptic words made complete sense. It wasn’t just a friendly invitation, as she initially believed. No, it was much more than that. And as she linked her declaration with her past behavior, she understood what Airi tried to explain her in her office.
As the head of Matsui corporation, Rena had certainly been courted by many men in the past. Most of them approached her for her wealth; a few were more genuine with their feelings. However, never once did she respond positively to any one of them. For a while, she believed her lack of interest originated from her entire focus on her work. Since her father left her sole heiress of Matsui corporation, she barely had little free time.
Now, Rena realized what had been going under her nose recently, and what her assistant was expecting from her. Rena never denied the fact she found her attractive. She believed so from the very first moment she laid eyes on her in that elevator, when she didn’t even know yet that very drenched girl would be joining her team. And by the sound of her beating heart, she already knew the answer she would be giving her.
Rena didn’t know if this would work, but she wanted to give her a chance. In fact, it was the first time she considered letting someone enter her life. “I’m free. Where do you want us to go, Jurina-san?”
“You are?” Jurina’s eyes lit up in joy, and Rena couldn’t help smiling at her genuine reaction. She could literally see the relief spreading across her face. “Follow me, I know the perfect place.”
Rena nodded and obliged, noting the way her assistant immediately became more relaxed and talkative as she led the way. In fact, the tension between them had dissipated in a matter of seconds, as if it had never been there in the first place. Rena laughed softly when her assistant suddenly made a funny joke, and found herself enchanted by the charming smile she was sending her. Rena simply knew their relationship would never be the same anymore after today.
TO BE CONTINUED