My regular readers may remember that in December 2012, I tried a creative writing project . Here’s a recap if you don’t know what this is all about
This photo made me imagine the beginning of a story:
I imagined that the man was named Jacques and he was about to board a plane for Shanghai to start a new career. The story was written by myself and three friends in the beginning. The first post with this writing theme was here.
I then put it away for the holidays and then picked it up again.
It is now done.
I am copying here the two parts of this short story.
“Merde” Jacques mumbled to himself.
He frowned at the white Airbus bound for Shanghai. Glancing at the nose of the Airbus, Jacques let the thoughts float to the surface. ”I was breaking my back for peanuts”, Jacques said aloud. He suddenly surprised a fleeting image in the window of his boss. Gilson was once again taunting him with that crooked smile. ”Yah”, Jacques sighed.
In another reflection, Jacques could also make out Rose’s baleful face. It had been a trial to hear Rose cry about” the man who Jacques had become” while handing him the divorce papers.
“Rose was right; I didn’t like that man, either”…. It was definitely time to press the eject button.
Jacques had slept through the greater part of the flight. Upon arrival, a stout Chinese man in a cap and uniform was waiting for Jacques outside customs. The driver held between his white gloves a paper marked ” MR. JACQUES DUPOND” . The man beamed when he saw Jacques come forward.
“Welcome to Shanghai. I will be escorting you to the CEO’s office”.
“Let the games begin”, Jacques thought as he shook the driver’s gloved hand…
The ride to the office was smooth, and Jacques was secretly disappointed. He had expected Shanghai to be drastically different from Paris, but all these tall buildings reminded him of La Défense.
He tried to avoid conversation with the driver–his English wasn’t that good, he rarely had the chance to practice this language, especially since he took refuge in the family house in Brittany. Back when he lived in Paris, he was working with an international staff. These days, the only person he talked to on a daily basis was his elderly neighbour.
Until that phone call, one morning. And now he was in a taxi, speeding along Putong.
“Life is strange,” he thought.
“God, I hope I can find a good cup of coffee and a French croissant here!”
He announced himself and relinquished his briefcase, shoving a hand in his pocket and attempting to act aloof as the contents were searched. He knew whose ideas it contained, and he’d planned that ‘last laugh’ to be on her.
Jacques then hopped into a gilded elevator. The incoming crowd was pressing into his ribs. Jacques crushed his leather briefcase to his chest, like a shield. ” Breathe deeply man; it’s nothing”.
But it was not easy to forget that in a few minutes, he would be in front of the desk of this CEO woman. The name that could make or break a new career was incredibly short: Ms. TK CHU.
Before he could pursue his musings, the doors peeled open to reveal a mahogany paneled corridor. It was dimly lit but the light coming from the single office at the end was intense.
A suave British accent suddenly filled the corridor:
” Step up, Mister Dupond. I don’t have all day. I want to see your blueprints now.”
Part II ( Continuation and ending).
Ms. Chu’s voice did not intimidate him. He had already seen her photograph in a trade journal and knew that she was very attractive. But Jacques was not a fool. He also knew her reputation architectural circles for being a “hard as nails” woman and a shrewd negotiator.
During two months of “off and on” long-distance calls, Jacques had allowed himself to peel off a layer of the woman’s veneer. They discussed design projects and on a few occasions, anecdotes. Jacques had learned with amusement that Ms. Chu spent in a month in Paris as a college student.
Ms. Chu’s confidence had been accorded. It was a feat to obtain this and Jacques was conscious of his fortune. He hastened his steps over the thick carpeting. As Jacques walked past a row of glaring track lights, he peered towards the window. A high backed leather chair was facing towards the twilight. The air vibrated with Chu’s cool accent when he heard:
“Please have a seat, Mr Dupond”.
He quickly sat on one of two antique Chinese chairs. The silence that followed was almost unbearable.
Ms.Chu swung around and stood up. Jacques felt a tingling in his spine as he looked at her. In a sudden burst of courage, he said in his best English:
“I am happy to meet you, Madam”.
“Hello Mister Dupond. I am pleased to meet you also”.
Her deep set eyes peered straight into him as she extended her hand. He took care to shake her hand like he would have with any businessperson.
While sitting down, Jacques realized that what he said was enormously understated.
He did not feel happy.
He felt elated.
This was a rare type of feeling for the level headed architect. Because Jacques’ inner being was as orderly as his geometric designs. The crooked lines, smudges or stains in his existence were promptly fixed or hidden. He would then proceed to calmly close and put away the sketch book of his life.
There was a dark ink stain along that perfect line that he had traced: the younger years in Jacques’ native Brittany. When Jacques was old enough to drink, his Uncle Georges and Jacques had their after dinner ritual of drinking a cup of homemade apple cider.
Uncle would say each time, “This will heat you up!”.
The cider had the same effect on Jacques as it did at that very moment in Shanghai. It shot up to his brain as straight as an arrow.
Jacques tightly squeezed his briefcase handle in an attempt to regain some composure.
Luckily, Jacques’ inner turmoil went unnoticed to Ms. Chu. Her crimson lips broke out in a slow smile before she finally sat down.
“Your blueprints please, Mister Dupond “
Jacques quickly produced his precious document from his briefcase and slipped it to her without a word.
“Help yourself to the refreshment tray in the conference room while I study your blueprints”.
The coffee eased his nervous mind, as did the sight of twinkling city lights in center city. Jacques leisurely served himself a second steaming cup and a snack. He continued to sit and stare at the view.
After what seemed an eternity, Jacques grew impatient. ..
As he crossed over to the office, he stopped in his tracks to admire the elegant woman in the big chair. Her grey high heel shoes lay abandoned on the carpet as she was curled up with the blueprint in the chair. He saw little details in the scene that he found charming; her smooth ivory skin, or her dainty toes peeking out under her legs.
Ms. Chu looked back at Jacques and quickly came towards him. She had a different glow in her eyes as she held the blueprint up in her right hand.
“ Mr Dupond, I am truly impressed. Your vision of the future Shanghai skyscraper is EXACTLY what we are seeking for our 2014 project. I am asking you to return tomorrow afternoon so you and I can go over the details of your work contract. I will also introduce to you our team”.
“Thank you Ms. Chu”. Jacques smiled widely.
He had believed in his project’s potential, despite the critics and the mockery in France. And at this very moment, this beautiful woman believed in him, also.
Jacques extended his hand to Ms. Chu. He secretly wished to touch the warmth of her little hand once more.
This time, Ms Chu allowed her fingers to linger a moment on the top of his hand.
A partnership had been sealed through a blueprint and a touch…