"What's the meaning of this?"
Her head snapped upwards, her huge doe eyes widening in fright as her lips trembled. Her white, slender neck strained as she looked up at her piqued employer.
"I'm asking what does this mean?" the angry baritone repeated and she clenched her fists on both sides as she slowly stood up. "W-which one?" she asked back as her mind reeled, trying to figure out what exactly the matter was.
In all actuality, she could not recall what she had done wrong – again as this seemed to be the umpteenth time her boss came rushing to her table like an angry bear demanding answers.
"Kim Yunjae, are you listening to me?" her boss' almond-shaped orbs turned turbulent with his rising temper which added to his subordinate's nervousness. "What do you mean by this?" he demanded as he shoved the files under Yunjae's nose.
"I-I'm sorry," Yunjae replied, her slight frame nearly shaking visibly in anxiety as she took the files in her hands. "W-what's wrong with these, sir?" she asked in a small voice as she scanned the papers, though she could not see clearly as her vision turned blurry with unshed tears.
Day after day, she found herself becoming more and more wrecked emotionally which was taking its toll on her body, reflecting on her work. She'd been making mistakes here and there… a lot.
These documents for example; Yunjae thought she did her best when she worked on them but it seemed her best wasn't enough. Her boss wouldn't be this furious if she didn't make a mistake, right?
But how would she know what was wrong with them if she could not see properly anymore?
Swallowing hard, Yunjae lifted her head from the papers to look at her boss' angry face just inches away from hers. Those pair of intelligent, irked almond orbs had been scrutinizing her movements and she felt her throat go dry.
With another wave of trepidation assailing her, she opened her lips to ask in spite knowing she'd have her head yelled off if she did. Lately, she was becoming more and more an example of a poor excuse of a secretary, and she felt ashamed to be standing here still, working.
"Please tell me what's wrong with these?" she pleaded breathlessly and those angry eyes turned to slits. For a moment, she thought her boss would shout at her, and she braced herself for it, but it didn't come.
In a span of several heartbeats, she found the papers snatched from her, and when she looked, her boss had stepped away from her carrying them. "The figures don't match," her boss informed her, this time with a normal tone of voice. It was as if her superior had given up on his anger knowing she wouldn't be able to understand anyway.
Yunjae had never felt more foolish than she did right now.
"I'm sorry. I'll change them," she offered but her boss turned his back on her. "Forget it. I'll work on these myself," he said as he stalked off, leaving the rattled secretary behind.
Watching her boss' retreating back, hearing the finality of the door closing after him as he retreated into his inner office, Yunjae collapsed on her chair and closed her eyes. Her hand in her temple, she let out a frustrated sigh.
She really should resign, she thought. But she knew it was impossible. First, it's because she badly needed a source of income. Second was…
Well, the same infuriated boss would not let her leave – not when she had a lot of things to pay for what she did in the past.
Glancing at the door, the secretary wondered how long it would take before her superior was satisfied. Then again, at the back of her mind, she knew that some sins just couldn't be forgiven no matter how hard you work to pay for them.
"But I'm tired…" she whispered as she rested her head on her desk, her eyes locking with the glass of water she placed on it, and a wistful smile carved her weary face, her eyes finally clearing as her suppressed tears began to fall.
The clearness of the water in the glass reminded her of years ago. Reaching out for the glass, tilting the crystal container, she watched as the water within rippled, and with it, memories came rushing back and she gave in to the luxury of drowning in the sea of recollections.
Three years ago...
"Faster! Go! Go! Go!"
Catching her breath, her arms spread wide; she pushed herself above the water as she kicked in sync. Swinging her arms then sideways across the water surface to the front, she ignored the slicing pain in her nether region and willed herself to swim faster.
"Faster! Faster! Faster!" she could hear her coach yelling every time she surfaced and her determination to increase her speed grew.
Reaching the end of the pool, her hands touched the tiled surface before she turned with bent elbows as she pulled her legs closer underneath the water towards the wall. She then kicked with all her might and then kept a streamlined position for fifteen meters before she started kicking in sync again, her arms spreading wide in semi-circles until she reached the other end.
"Ahhh…" Gasping, she anchored herself on the lane rope as she pulled the cap from her head followed by her goggles.
"What the fuck was that?" her coach sputtered and it didn't take a genius for her to understand that she sucked her time again.
"2:58," her coach stated in disbelief. "What happened to you, huh?" the middle-aged guy demanded again as Yunjae pulled herself out of the water. "What the fuck happened to you? Do you think you can compete with that fucking time?"
"Sorry," she murmured as she trudged towards the bench to get her towel. There was nothing she could say to defend herself. No excuses. She sucked, and that was that, she thought as pain sliced at her lower abdomen once more and she flinched.
"Sorry? Do you think that can fix everything?" her incensed coach continued to screech and Yunjae sighed as she closed her eyes. Her fault or not, she had no penchant for anyone's scolding at the moment.
"Coach, leave her be. Maybe she's tired," a soothing baritone interrupted the man's tirade and Yunjae glanced sideways to meet a pair of twinkling almond-shaped eyes set in a small handsome face. With her brow raised, she gave the newcomer a discreet once-over, from his smiling face down to his broad shoulders, to his lithe, muscular, tanned body, down to his powerful thighs and legs then back up to his bulging crotch.
"Enjoying it?" the guy asked as he stepped closer to her, his eyes dancing in amusement for he knew where her eyes had lingered longer. Having stepped close to her, the guy leaned forward to whisper in her ear. "I can show you what's under my speedo – but you have to wait until later," he suggested playfully followed by a wink and a chuckle as he walked away.
"Asshole," Yunjae muttered under her breath as she draped the towel over her shoulders and sat.
She watched as the coach welcomed the newcomer with a beaming face and her own expression crumpled into a scowl. The dratted old man unashamedly exhibited his favoritisms but Yunjae couldn't complain though. Kang Jinho deserved to be anyone's favorite: handsome, charming, rich and a very good student and athlete. Unlike her.
Kim Yunjae had been competing since she was in middle school and was even once boasted the fastest in her district. But suddenly, upon entering college, she had lost her edge. It seemed she was getting tired of the sport. Besides…
"Hey, let me borrow your goggles," the pleasant baritone distracted her from her thoughts and she frowned at Kang Jinho's face which she hadn't noticed had gotten so close to hers that she could feel his hot breath on her skin.
"Why?" she snapped irritably. "Because I left mine in the locker room," was the reply, but she was in no mood to indulge him. "Go fetch it," she said, but the other had already snatched the goggles from her hands. "Hey!" she protested but Jinho just laughed it off, placing it out of her reach.
"Don't be so mean sweetheart, I'll give it back to you when it's your turn to swim again," Jinho promised as he put the goggles on and walked towards the starting platform.
As soon as he stood there, she watched as the smile on the guy's face vanished, replaced by a determined expression as he started wiggling his arms for warm-up, and her breath hitched. She knew that look.
It was the look of a conqueror – a look she once wore on her face.
Practice or not, Jinho swam to win.