"… and so, we here at Global Enterprises LLC regretfully inform you that-"
…that we have decided not to continue the hiring process with you at this time, but thank you for applying… thought Kiku with a sigh, having heard the polite rejection several times already. He sipped his now lukewarm tea and set the cup down.
"Um… actually, I was going to say that we just found out we have to downsize, so though you are very qualified and we'd love to have you working for us, we can't hire you. But, uh, we'll keep your file handy in case we have any positions open in the future." The man on the other line coughed a bit awkwardly, but any embarrassment he felt had nothing on the bright red cheeks Kiku was now sporting. Almost choking, Kiku forced himself to swallow his tea, then cleared his throat, bringing a palm up to his forehead. Bakabakabakabaka! How could you say such a thing out loud?
"Ah, I am sorry; I had not meant to say that aloud."Bakabakabakabaka! "Thank you so much for your time."
The man on the other line chuckled. "Not a problem. Oh, and hey," he added suddenly. "I think the guys down at RWB Finance are looking for help. Last I heard, anyway… If I were you, I'd ring them up. I'm sure they'll be interested."
Kiku's eyebrows met, and he nodded. "Oh, thank you, I will be sure to call. Thank you again, and I hope you have a good day."
"Mmm-hmm. You too. Bye." The man from Global Enterprises LLC hung up. The Japanese man frowned slightly. American mannerisms still confused him- the people seemed so brash and impolite at times, though Kiku knew it was simply a cultural difference. It seemed that 3 months in New York City had not been enough for him to accustom himself to the American way of life.
Kiku sighed again as he sat at his desk, placing his phone atop a stack of documents. He looked up at the clock on his wall. 2 PM already. He blinked a few times as he slowly shook his head. When he was applying for his work visa, looking for a place to live, and getting his finances arranged, the last thing he had thought he would have to worry about was finding a job; it was after his transfer to the States that his employer had had to close the American branch, and now Kiku was unable to return to Tokyo. He had made essentially permanent arrangements- convinced that his secretarial job with Korematsu Inc. was stable, he had sold his flat, liquidated his assets and withdrawn his savings- and now, he would have a hard time finding a new job with similar pay and benefits if he moved back to Japan. Besides, as his employers had so readily attempted to convince him when he explained his situation, he was an American company's dream- several years of experience despite his 27 years of age and Bachelor's degree in Business Management; fluency in both written and oral Japanese, English and even Mandarin; an excellent ability with computers and, finally, he was single. With no wife or even a girlfriend to tie him down, Kiku's time was flexible, his living arrangements fluid, and his insurance that much cheaper.
Yet here he was, unemployed for an entire month, living off what money he had left after his move, unable to find a job- not that it was for lack of trying. He had applied to several corporations, had gone to 6 interviews this past week alone, but still, Kiku had not had any luck. It was most likely, he believed, that companies preferred to hire Americans, their own people, over foreigners. It made sense, he supposed, but that didn't make it any easier for him. If he couldn't find anything in a few more weeks, he may be forced to look for a less… prestigious job. Sighing once more, he pushed his inky black hair away from his face, then turned to his computer and did a quick Google search on the company the man from Global had told him about.
RWB Finance... It was a very new company, only about a year old, but it seemed to be doing well, according to its stock rating. However, it was still a small company with only one location, a 20 minute subway ride away. The strange part, however, was that they had been looking for a new secretary for several months now, and had apparently not found anyone suitable. Kiku raised his eyebrow at that. Is the job that demanding? Is the pay too low, the hours too hectic? He frowned again, but decided that he would not mind whatever demands there were as long as he could have a job. He scanned the company's site, which told him interested applicants should call during regular business hours. Kiku found the phone number, dialed it on his phone, and without a moment's hesitation, pressed the call button.
They picked up after the third ring.
"Hello, you've reached RWB Finance. This is Matthew Williams, how may I help you?" The voice was a bit quiet, but confident, as one would expect of a seasoned employee.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Williams. My name is Kiku Honda," replied Kiku, remembering to give his family name second. "I heard that your company is looking to hire a secretary, and I am interested in applying."
"Okay. Do you want to come in for your interview tomorrow?" asked Matthew.
"Ano…" Kiku was caught off guard by the sudden question. No lengthy application to fill out first? "I would most appreciate that… Should I bring my resume?"
"If you want to, but you won't need it," the man on the other line replied with what sounded like a sigh. Again, Kiku was confused. What kind of interview will this be? Is it some sort of test? "All I need is your name, address and phone number." Kiku gave him the information and he could hear the clacking of keys through the phone. "Got it, thanks. So… is tomorrow at 9 a good time?"
"Yes, of course."
"Okay, I'll see you then. RWB is on the top floor of the building. Just head on up when you get there."
"Yes, thank you. Have a nice day, and I look forward to making your acquaintance," Kiku said, surprised that the whole process was so quick. Usually it took a week or more before he was offered an interview.
"You have a nice day too. And… good luck." The other person replied before hanging up, leaving Kiku thoroughly confused.
Kiku boarded the subway at 8:10 the next morning, planning to arrive at approximately 8:30. He took with him a copy of Rurouni Kenshin, hiding it in a hollow book he had created especially for all of his manga. The Iliad made a perfect cover for his otaku habits, as did his dark grey suit, slim gold tie and polished black shoes. Kiku sat on a mostly empty subway bench and began to read. After a few minutes, he felt as if someone was watching him and he glanced up, seeing another man in business suit sitting across from him, looking at him. The man was dressed professionally, but there was something in his manner that made his youthfulness obvious. It may have been his hair, which could best be described as a somewhat messy dirty blonde, or perhaps it was his blue eyes, which shone as brightly and clearly as a child's, despite the slightly dirty glasses that sat on his nose. Maybe it was his laid back posture, or the way his clothes sat on him, or perhaps it was the huge grin the man was giving Kiku.
Kiku turned back to his book quickly, deciding that yes, it was probably the bright smile that made him seem so. After another few minutes of being watched, Kiku was growing uncomfortable. Luckily, the train stopped, announcing the location, and the smiling man got up. Kiku's relief, however, was short-lived; the man simply sat next to him.
"I knew it," gloated the youth, leaning over. Kiku felt his cheeks growing pink as he shut his book. Had he been discovered? No, not likely. Perhaps he needs something?
"May I help you?" He asked politely, but he was ignored.
"You were turning the pages the wrong way." Again, the man beamed at him. "Reading manga, huh? Which one?" He reached out a hand for the book, taking it as Kiku simply stared in astonishment. "Ooh, RuroKen… that's a good one. The anime wasn't so good though. Oh, and nice cover. You actually seem like the type that'd read this kind of stuff. You almost had me convinced."
Kiku snapped back to his senses and held out his hand, his cheeks flushed in embarassement. "May I have my book back?"
"Heh, sure." The youth handed him back the book and Kiku took it, hugging it protectively to his chest. The man leaned back in his seat, making himself comfortable. "My name's Alfred, by the way. What's your's?" Kiku shifted uneasily, but decided that there was no danger in giving a stranger his name. They would likely never meet again- New York City had a large population, after all.
"Hon- I mean, Kiku Honda. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance." Kiku nodded his head towards Alfred slightly.
"Likewise~ So… what flavor Asian are you?" Alfred looked excited, bouncing visibly in his seat. "I'm guessing Japanese."
"Eto… that is correct." Kiku looked at him warily. Though the people here were talkative, in his experience most Americans were not quite so cheerful and enthusiastic to make conversation with complete strangers.
"That's so cool! So you speak it, right? Say something!" Again, Alfred's excitement was visible. Kiku raised an eyebrow at the command but complied.
"Domo Arigatou, Roboto-san." Alfred blinked, stared for a few seconds, then burst out laughing as Kiku tried to hide a smile.
"Too funny, dude!" said Alfred, his left hand hitting Kiku on the shoulder, causing him to lurch forward. "Whoops, sorry! Er, how do you say that in Japanese?" Kiku frowned a little.
"That depends on how formally you wish to say it and in what circumstance, though 'gomenasai' usually suffices."
"Uh, gomenasai, then?" The youth looked over, his bright blue eyes clearly seeking approval. Kiku smiled despite himself.
"Watashi wa anata wo yurushi masu," Kiku replied, for some reason taking pleasure in seeing Alfred's eyes light up in wonder. "'I forgive you.'"
"Whoa! That's awesome!" Alfred was beaming again. He opened his mouth to say something when the subway stopped again. "Aw, this is my stop," he said as both he and Kiku began to stand up. "Wait, you're getting off here too?" Kiku too was surprised.
"Where're you going? Is it anywhere near the Skyline building?"
Kiku blinked. "Actually, that is my destination…"
Alfred beamed again. "Ya don't say? Well, we'll split a cab! Come on!"
Kiku swallowed, a bit nervous for some reason, but nodded, not wanting to seem rude. He followed Alfred off the subway train and out of the station, watching with great interest as Alfred expertly hailed down a cab in about 4 seconds. Alfred grinned as he opened the passenger door. "After you~" Again, Kiku could feel his cheeks flush slightly, though he was not sure why this time. He slid into the seat, expecting Alfred to sit next to the driver, but Alfred instead chose to sit next to Kiku. "The Skyline building, please!" The cab driver nodded and they went off. Alfred turned to Kiku again. "So, whatcha doing at the Skyline?"
"Actually… I have a job interview today," Kiku answered a bit hesitantly. Why in the world was he telling this man anything? In fact, why had he even gotten on the cab with him in the first place? Why hadn't he just ignored him on the subway?
"Ooh~ With who?" Alfred peered down at him as he removed his glasses and cleaned them with a blue cloth.
"… RWB Finance…"
"Ah… you an accountant?" Alfred put his glasses back on.
"Ano, no, I am a… secretary, actually." Alfred raised his eyebrows at that.
"No way… you seem way too smart to just be a secretary. You seem like… an IT guy or something, maybe."
Kiku blushed lightly at the compliment. "Well, in my last position, I doubled as such." Alfred grinned.
"I knew it. You a Linux man?" Alfred asked with a smirk.
"Though I have used Linux before, I prefer PCs," Kiku replied. "And I use Macs on very rare occasion."
Alfred gasped. "Not a PC fanboy!" Kiku raised his eyebrows.
"I take it you are a Macintosh enthusiast?" he asked, amused. "Rude this may seem, but you are sadly mistaken in your choice of OS."
Alfred made a shocked expression. "Macs are way better! The Windows systems crash all the time and the-" The cab came to a halt and the cab driver turned around.
"$15 on the nose." Alfred handed him a $20, waving away Kiku's reach for his wallet.
"Keep the change." He slid out of the taxi, Kiku following behind, walking quickly to match Alfred's pace. "Anyway, like I was saying, Windows crashes like drunk driver on a Friday and its typography is crap!" Kiku noticed that Alfred rather liked using his hands for emphasis.
"Windows runs at a higher speeds, has more available software and is more versatile." The two walked into the elevator in the spacious lobby, and Alfred pressed a button, then stood in front of the button pad, leaning against the wall as the doors closed and the elevator began to rise. He stuck out his tongue, an amusing sight, as he appeared quite the businessman otherwise, albeit a bit young.
"But with Macs, what you see is what you get. No bogus color shifts. Plus, they have style."
"Well, they are quite elegant, but-" the doors slid open and Kiku looked up. They were on the top floor, exactly where he was supposed to go. "Did you skip your floor?"
"Nope~" Alfred strolled out of the elevator as Kiku stared after him, then followed. "Hey Mattie," he called out to the man seated at the desk. The man bore a striking resemblance to Alfred, but without the self-assurance that followed Alfred like a cloud.
"Good morning Alfred. So, another failure, th-" Matthew stopped as he noticed Kiku hanging back. "Or not!" he added in surprise. Kiku hesitated near the elevator. Alfred seemed to notice that Kiku was no longer at his side and turned, grinning, and beckoned him with a toss of his head. Kiku approached slowly, still shying a bit.
"Nope, he's a keeper." Kiku simply stared. What were they talking about? "Come on, Kiku, don't be shy. This is Mattie." Kiku remembered himself.
"G-good morning. We meant on the phone yesterday, yes?"
"Y-yeah, I didn't think I'd actually get to meet you though! Wow! Um, welcome to RWB Finance! I look forward to working with you." Matthew stood up and held out his hand to Kiku. Kiku took his hand and shook it, still confused.
"But I have yet to go to my interview. How can you be sure tha-"
"You already passed, dude." Alfred grinned again, clasping a hand on Kiku's shoulder. "That whole thing this morning? That was your interview, and you passed with flying colors."
"I… what?" Alfred laughed and Matthew smiled a little.
"You see, Alfred here doesn't like interviewing the old fashioned way, where the applicants talk about their skills for an hour- he likes meeting them and chatting with them to see if he'll get along with them," Matthew explained to Kiku who kept staring. "He does research beforehand and then sets up some kind of meeting, making sure to defer any candidate that doesn't meet his standards. And Alfred's opinion is the most important: he is the boss, after all."
Kiku turned, shocked. "Y-you are the…"
Alfred winked and snapped, pointing his index fingers at Kiku. "Alfred F. Jones, boss-man extraordinaire, at your service."
"I-I-I… passed? I… what?"
"Yup~ You work for me now, Mr. Kiku Honda. You're my personal secretary." He grinned and held his hand out for a hand shake. "Welcome to RWB."
A/N: I hoped you enjoyed chapter 1... I think it might have seemed boring to some of you in some parts, especially the PC's/Windows vs Macs thing. I wonder how many of you know what Linux is. XD Anyhoo, this may develop a little slowly, but hey, in real life, relationships aren't instantaneous. The rating will go up eventually, but at the moment, Alfred and Kiku just work together.
Remember to review~ Ameripan needs more love! :D