The gigantic, shiny, automatic metal doors of Yamada Industries reminded twenty six year old Nadia Stone of a death trap. The metallic, sturdy pillars were a minor nuisance but a necessary one. It was a constant reminder to the workers and visitors of the building that Yamada Industries was a forced to be reckoned with. Slowly, but surely, the third largest technology conglomerate in America would surpass its rivals. That being said, a bit of tasteless decorative architecture should be tolerated.
Momentarily forgetting her disdain of the building's design, Nadia checked her make up several times, knowing that she must look like a monster. Her normally clear skin, the color of russet brown, was now flushed due to her running up three flights of stairs after exiting the train. She always tried to avoid the rude morning rush of people exiting the train station at Gibson Street and Hirsch Avenue, but she soon learned that just like the other commuters, expecting politeness was a fairy tale. Nadia cursed the subway, and even more than that, she cursed the obnoxious jerks that didn't know what 'yield to the right for faster passengers' meant.
Her natural, fluffy shoulder length hair, normally worn in an afro was a lovely shade of darkened cinnamon, but had since lost its luster because of her unexpected jog. The Seiko watch that her best friend Angela Davidson had given her on her birthday last July signified that she had three minutes to get to work on time. Managing to catch a relatively empty elevator, Nadia leaned against the wall, ignoring the other riders. As the other workers exited on their particular floor, Nadia realized that she was on the elevator alone with the one other person. She gathered her briefcase and removed her coat, taking a brief glance at the other passenger.
The man was listening to someone speaking rapidly in another language on his cell phone. It was a sleek silver gadget, no doubt loaded with all the current software that upwardly mobile enjoyed. The electronic toy certainly helped to reinforce the carefully crafted stereotyped image of the technologically advanced businessman. Still, the phone helped to accentuate his features. He was in his late twenties, maybe early thirties and remarkably handsome. He was clearly of Asian descent, and his almond shaped eyes were the color of sepia shined through a clear glass. His skin was nicely tan, no doubt evidence of summers spent in warm, island-like climates. His smile was vibrant, and he was rather tall, considering that she stood at an above average height of 5'8.
His suit had to be Armani and she knew that his watch was an expensive brand as well. Finished with his call, he promptly closed the clam shell style cell phone, and took notice of the other rider in the car. He seemed amused by her staring. Nadia, embarrassed at being caught, looked away quickly. She coughed gently into her hand, desperately hoping to quell the reddish hue spreading across her cheeks. As a black woman of medium brown complexion, there was an inherent advantage against blushing. The darker the skin, the harder it was to make out the redness of her cheeks.
The plateau of silence continued, only this time it was more pronounced. Never one for awkward situations, Nadia stared at everything in the elevator but the man. Brushing an errant strand of hair behind her ears, Nadia bit her lower lip nervously. She hoped that she hadn't offended the man, but a little staring never hurt anyone.
His deep chuckle silenced her inner monologue, and she couldn't help but notice that he had a nice laugh. She wondered if his voice was just as nice. She could imagine him whispering deep naughty thoughts in her ear. Biting her lower lips to quell her moans, she clench her legs together tighter, grateful that she had wore a pantsuit today. What was wrong with her? Never had any man, by the sound of his voice alone, made her body want with desire.
Glancing at the flashing numbers before her, Nadia was grateful that her floor was only two stops away. Just as the elevator passed the 17th floor, Nadia adjusted her bag, grateful that the strange moment would soon be over. She turned to him once more, to enjoy one last stolen glance.
He smirked at her behavior, and the congenial smile that usually resided on her face disappeared in a flash. He pressed the elevator's emergency stop button, and they both wobbled for a moment, before regaining their balance. He looked prepared to say something sarcastic, but before giving him the opportunity, Nadia heard the familiar 'ding' of the bell.
"What are you doing? Don't you know it's dangerous to play with the elevator buttons like that?!"
She spat out indignantly, wondering if her initial assessment of him was incorrect. She pushed past him, pressing the "resume" button. She returned to the corner, stepping off the elevator. Not bothering to spare the strange man another glance, she steeled herself for another day in the grind. Nadia just couldn't understand it. Why were all the people in this building a bunch of oddballs?
Her father's words reverberated through her head, a constant reminder of what she had gotten herself into. He considered writing to be a soft skill and had always wanted her to major in a more hands on program of study. His daughter was supposed to be the next best black scientist or engineer. He always believed that Nadia's Bachelor's degree in English was useless if she didn't properly market herself. Like a fool, she listened to her father, and found herself stuck in a job she hated. Her once vibrant dreams of penning the great American novel had at been halted when she began working at YamaIn, as the company was lovingly called by its employees a.k.a. peons.
Her dismal world view hadn't always been so apathetic. There was a time when she had been an idealistic, wide eyed grad, looking to work for a company that offered not only an impressive benefits and pay package, but also allowed for her to further cultivate her skills. How could that happen however, when she worked for one of the most toxic bosses in existence? The only thing she could cultivate in this office was a headache and an eventual tumor from the stress!
"Stone, I needed that PDF on chapter thirty-six last Thursday! What the hell were you and section four doing yesterday? I have to turn in the eighth section next week!"
A shrill voice interrupted her thoughts once more, and Nadia wondered how long it would be before she opened fire on everyone in this godforsaken place. Her supervisor, the blond, bossy, Cassidee Jamison was once again at her throat. Had she done anything in a past life to offend the gods to deserve such a fate? Sipping her warm cocoa, Nadia nodded along diligently. Cassidee could be talking about the hot date that she had last night, but she still wouldn't care.
"If you'll recall, I turned in section four last week. I also emailed and faxed sections five through seven to you, Cassidee. I am waiting your final proofs."
Nadia stated, stifling a yawn. She sipped her morning cocoachinno, enjoying the taste of French vanilla and cocoa mixed together to create a beautiful medley of flavors that her deserving palate yearned for. Although the liquid treat was delicious, it threw her dieting plans into the shit hole. She was already 180 pounds! Frowning at the thought gaining more weight, Nadia guiltily sipped on, refusing to have her mood dampened.
Though she had long reconciled with the fact that she would never be a size eight, Nadia still endeavored to lose weight if not for aesthetic purposes than for her own health. She had always been large, but she found herself sexy. Apparently she wasn't the only one if the ogling men on the street were any indication of her sexiness. She stood up, and downed the remaining caffeine laced beverage in one gulp. She would need as much energy as possible to deal with Cassidee Jamison for the rest of week. God she hated Mondays.
"Stone, I want chapters twelve through seventeen of the high school mechanics book by 9:00 am sharp tomorrow."
Cassidee growled, and with a flip of her long blonde hair she went off to terrorize someone else in the department. Nadia groaned as she settled herself into her snug little cubicle. She hated these boxed-in mini offices more than anything else in the world. She never understood why the inventor of cubicles would want to torture disgruntled office workers with the cramped box from hell. The cubicle offered no privacy, and she could barely turn around in there.
Turning on her computer, and reading over the massive footnotes, highlights, and post its all over the 560 page manuscript, Nadia knew she would get a headache today. As a technical writer, it was her responsibility to ensure that the author of the book wrote in language that was understandable to the reader, but effectively conveyed useful information. She heavily edited several popular technical books, although she never got name credentials on the flap jackets of textbooks, or do-it-yourself manuals. Taking a deep breath, she began to tear through the manuscript.
She was so engrossed in her work that she hadn't noticed the hours wasting away. The good thing about this particular assignment was that the author was a fairly good writer, who tended to avoid making many grammatical errors or using verbose language. The bad thing was that this writer packed the pages with unnecessary notations to the "bleeding moron assigned my groundbreaking text". She had already breezed through seventy pages and it was only thirty minutes to lunch time.
By 1:30, Nadia realized that she had missed her normal lunch hour because she had been so involved in editing. Standing, she stretched her limbs, needing to get the blood flowing once more. Grabbing her purse and jacket, Nadia headed for the elevator, being sure to avoid "Crazy Cassidee" on the way down. This time she noted that the elevator compartment was empty. Why was she going up when she had clearly pressed the down button?
"Great, you've done it again, Dia. Now you're headed to the executive offices."
No matter how much she hated working at Yamada Industries, she still needed a job. There was a benefit to being a mindless drone in the company—complete and total anonymity. She was just another worker in a group of thousands. The last thing that she wanted or needed was to be known as a trouble making low level employee that didn't know when to stay out of sight.
This belief was further accentuated when the elevator opened to the 33rd floor. The executive floor was sleekly designed and indicative of the Japanese heritage shared by the founder of the company. Although the corporation's American Branch was based in Atlanta, the higher ups didn't succumb to Southern culture. All around the room was Japanese artwork from wall scrolls to tatami mats. The receptionist even wore a traditional yukata. Nervous enough, Nadia bit her lip before quickly pressing the 'close door' button.
Before the doors closed however, a tan hand wrenched it back open. Again, Nadia found herself face to face with the annoying guy from this morning. If his smirk was any indication, he was amused to see her. Rolling her eyes, and stepping back into the corner of the elevator, she tried to ignore his presence as they headed towards the ground floor.
"Well, well, if it isn't Little Miss Ogle. What's the matter? Have you not gotten in the required staring dosage for the day?"
He grinned, showing off two rows of perfectly white teeth. He leaned a bit closer to her and his cologne drew Nadia in even more. He was a good 6'2 at least, an uncommon, but certainly not rare height among his race.
"Please. You're not that fine no way. I just stared a bit because you look like a guy I saw on tv, that's all."
"So you think that I'm fine huh? I can't argue with you there."
Who did this guy think he was anyway? Did he fancy himself some sort of Asian Don Juan? Yes he was sexy as all get out, but there was no way in hell she was going to mention this aloud. Besides, he was annoyingly self confident. Guys like that always meant trouble. Her best option was to ignore him.
"Hey? Hey?! Earth to Miss Ogle, I'm asking you a question."
She would just ignore him. The ground floor was only 24 stops away. It certainly was odd that no one had gotten on the elevator yet. Nadia glanced at her watch once more. 1:46 p.m. Cassidee would not be pleased when she returned, but dammit she deserved a lunch break!
"I'm sorry were you talking to me?"
She responded, finally acknowledging the man. He frowned, moving to push to 'stop' button. Once again, the car was brought to a screeching halt, sending her careening into his arms. Nadia yanked her body away from his, cursing herself for enjoying the feel of his hard body against hers. She went to press the 'resume' button, but his hand reached out to her pulling her back to him.
"Why are you so crabby, baby? Are you on your period or something?"
The first thing that ran through her mind was that his eyes were even more beautiful up close. The second thing was that this fool had the nerve to grab her arm. She restarted the elevator, and he stopped it again, until finally, the lights went off and the car stopped moving completely.
"Now I know you have lost your ever loving mind. First of all you do not grab me. You do not know me like that! Secondly, the car has stopped, and we are now stuck in here because of you. There goes my break, asshole!"
"Chill out, babe. These shortages happen all the time. We'll be moving shortly. Besides, you look like you need the break."
Where did this guy get off calling her babe? Nadia fumed, crossing her arms petulantly. She began to rant like she always did when she was angry. It had always been a bad habit of hers. She would go off into a long tirade, completely disregarding present company.
His voice interrupted her thoughts, and she couldn't help but narrow her eyes in anger. His outstretched hand was waiting to be shaken, but the childish part of Nadia refused to give in. Her adult side won out, and she weakly shook his hand. They both withdrew as if suddenly shocked.
"I'm Ms. Pissed Off, but you can call me Nadia."
Ryochi couldn't help but stare at this woman in wonder. There was something amusing about teasing her. When he had caught her staring, he expected her to do what women normally did when caught ogling him—go in for the kill. He didn't really peg her as the man-eater type. Speaking of types, she wasn't really his, but there was her candor to like. She was taller than most of the women he dated, with darker skin and eyes. She also weighed more than his average date by more than 50 pounds.
Still, despite her earlier tirade, she possessed a certain innocent quality that intrigued him. She was dressed nicely enough to be considered a working professional. There was nothing remotely provocative about her, and yet he found himself drawn to her whiskey brown eyes as if they held the key to the universe.
She obviously worked for the company, but in what department? He remembered her getting off on the 19th floor this morning. That was where mid to low level employees worked. Most likely, Nadia worked in Human Resources, Acquisitions, or Publishing.
"Hmm… it's 2:05. It looks like we will be here for a while longer. I better call my boss."
Ryochi watched as she pulled out a blue phone, quickly punching in the numbers. She pulled back her fluffy hair and he noticed that her ears weren't pierced either.
"Hello Rita? Hi, it's Nadia. Could you put Cassidee on the phone? Thanks."
She waited for the Cassidee person, while Ryochi watched her twirl her hair in silence.
"Cassidee, it's Nadia. Listen, I can't get back to my desk by 2:25 like I promised. Why? It's because some jerk got me trapped in the elevator with him! Yeah. Oh, okay. Bye."
"Ooh, that sounded harsh."
Ryouchi said, bringing Nadia from her reverie.
"You don't know the half of it. I've been working for Cassidee Jamison since I was hired fresh out of college, and she's been like this since I've known her."
"You don't get along huh?"
He asked, loosening his tie. With the car not working, the enclosed space was getting hotter by the second. Already a thin sheen of sweat had developed all over Nadia's body.
"Let's just say that there are bosses, and then there are toxic bosses. I guess that I had hoped that I could move out from under her and eventually leave my banal career as a YamaIn worker bee."
Ouch. Ryochi hadn't realized that some employees would have negative experiences working at Yamada Industries. The company had been founded with workers in mind, or so he was always taught.
"You don't like working for the company?"
He asked, curious about her opinion. If Adrian were here he would probably congratulate him for showing a genuine interest in the morale of his employees.
"It's not that I don't enjoy working here. It's just that I feel as if all of my creativity is slowly being drained by this building and its inhabitants. I've applied to the creative branches of the company with little success."
"What do you do?"
He asked, sliding down to sit on the carpeted floor. Nadia raised a brow at this, but joined him anyway. She didn't think he was the type that could stand to have his Armani sullied.
"Officially, I am a technical writer. I would like to apply my skills to more interesting outlets, however."
"Oh! You must work in the publishing offices then. I know the head of the department. DeJuan Sparks, about 6'4 loves to golf, married with three kids."
"Uh, yeah he's my boss' boss. Although I have spoken a total of ten words from him in the four years since I've been here."
Suddenly, the whirr of an overhead fan returned. The two occupants sighed with relief as the elevator head downward. Nadia pressed the 19th floor button and straightened her suit. No doubt the lack of cool air had frizzled her hairstyle.
"See, whaddya know? We're moving again!"
"Yeah, yeah. It's no thanks to you. You just cost me lunch pal!"
"Did I? How about the next time we meet, I'll treat okay?"
As the elevator reached her floor, Nadia couldn't help but feel relief. Waving Ryochi off, Nadia exited the car before being pulled back once again.
"In case I forget, what was your last name?"
"It's Stone. Nadia Stone."
He smiled, mouthing her name as if he were burning it into his mind forever. His actions were peculiar, but if there was one thing Nadia learned today, it was that Ryochi was a peculiar man.
"I'm Yamada. Ryouchi Yamada."
He said before leaning in to chastely kiss her cheek in front of everyone near the reception area, including her obviously pissed boss Cassidee. Just before the doors completely closed, she could hear him whisper—
"Until we meet again Ms. Stone."