TALEA, April 11th
Once again I am sitting at home and thinking about everything and nothing at the same time. Why would they offer to represent me? I mean, I am talented, it's not unfair to say that. But this feels wrong. Like I am benefiting to much from someone who died. I think I will have to turn them down. But part of me would just love to have representation. No. I shouldn't do it. It's way too weird.
"Bertram, I'm doing the right thing. I have decided that it's right, so it will be the right decision, if not now, later."
I look over my apartment and decide to clean it a bit. Maybe by cleaning the room and organizing it the rest of my thoughts will also fall in line.
I clear all the boxes of take out into a garbage bag and toss it by the door. My mind empties as I vacuum and dust the apartment. I sigh as I finish and flop on the couch taking up as much room on it as possible. I seriously consider stripping off my sweaty bra, but I decide against it as I have to take out the garbage to finish my work.
"Okay Bertram, let's take out the garbage and go for a quick walk"
I quickly throw my hair up in a messy way and head out the door. I actually pay attention to the weather and notice the damp smell of rain drying out in the sun. Did it rain last night? I toss the garbage in the bin and I feel lighter than I have in days. I slip my headphones on and walk with Bertram through the park. I actually feel my feet skip along to Boney M's "Sunny" and my hands dance quietly by my sides. I glance about stealthily and see no one around. I'm all alone, so I go for it. Complete dance break. Bertram prances beside my feet and yips happily as we dance along the path.
"Sunny you smile at me and really ease the pain. The dark days are gone, and the bright days are here. My Sunny one shines so sincere I love you... I love you... I love you..."
I spin and twirl happily along the path for a minute or two until I notice Asher sitting on a bench at the end of curve staring at me in what looks to be a look of utter embarrassment and horror until a smile creeps over his tanned face and he bursts out laughing.
"I love you... I love you..." I sing loudly as I walk towards him ending the song with laughter. I slip off my headphones as I reach him. "Hey"
"Um... thanks for the other night Asher. I mean really Thank you."
"No thanks need Talea, we're weird friends after all"
"the weirdest right? I mean not everyone can say that their friend is an agent of Death now can they?"
"Shush! I told you not to bring that up."
"Oh come on. That was the funniest moment ever. You were so drunk after performing at that bar."
"Well how was I supposed to know that they were going to pay me in drinks. You and your friends were all drunk too. I can't believe you remember me saying that."
"We...ll, it was one of the weirdest things anyone has ever said to me, so it was pretty memorable. 'You know Talea, I'm not actually a busker' then you looked back and forth like a cartoon character and motioned me closer 'I'm going to be a Death agent. This is just my probation period before I start my real job... don't tell anyone kay?"
"Yeah and then tripped over your own purse strap so let's just say we were both not in our finest forms and perhaps we misheard things."
"fine, fine, I won't betray my weird friend's secret."
"But seriously. How is it going?"
"It's going weird. His family had me over yesterday. They like did a background check on me and offered me a job at their company. Which they were kinda pushy about, but I just said I'd think about it. It's all a little too close and weird. I'm goint to say no. That's Right? That is the right choice right?"
Asher looks up at the sky for a moment before he answers me.
"Yes, I'd say that's the right choice. If you feel funny about it, it's wrong"
"Yeah, you're right... I guess I mean I'm right. What about you Asher? What are doing here in the park instead of your corner.
"I sorta saw some people die last night... there was an accident at Soup & Sub, I had literally just left it" He sighs, "What a pair we are huh?"
I throw my arms around Asher and hold him tight.
"Asher" I cry softly
"It's alright, I'm fine, you're fine. We're here together and nothing is going to change that."
"Of course we're together. We're weird friends forever" I think to myself.
We just sit there hugging each other for a couple of moments and let the world pass around us.
"Do you want to talk about it?" I ask
"Nah, it's alright... as a Death Agent I got to get used to it right" he winks.
"I guess..." We sit side by side for a while, holding each other's hands without even thinking about it.
"Listen Talea, about that Death Agent stuff... what would you think if I was talk about that sober to you"
"To paraphrase Arthur Dent, 'I don't know, why? Do you think it's the sort of thing your likely to do?" I rest my head against Asher's shoulder. What is going on in his head. This is the one thing about him I can't stand. He mostly seems like the nicest guy ever, but then once a blue moon he turns on a dime and heads into crazy guy territory. "You've had a major trauma I guess I can listen to your crazy today"
"Huh, thanks I think. Okay I was just kidding you know."
"I know you were."
We sit and let Bertram run around our feet. After some time passes Asher shifts a bit and stands up. Putting on a baseball cap.
"You know, that driver that day was wearing a hat like that... A black and silver hat and a nice grey suit."
"Do you remember anything else more specific about him?"
"I don't know... It was so fast, I could tell it was a guy, but I'm not sure..."
"Maybe you should talk with the cops again."
"No!" I shake my head "I want it to be over".
He sighs and starts to walk away. "Talea, you know that I just want you to be safe right?"
"I know that. I want you to be safe too Asher" I say as he walks away. I get up to follow him when my phone starts to ring. It's Joon again.
"Hello Talea, listen I know you must still be thinking about our offer, but I thought perhaps it would help you if you were to come in to our offices and see what we are prepared to offer you."
"Um... honestly, I was thinking about calling you today and saying no. I mean, it feels very sudden and I don't think it's the right timing for it."
"I understand, but please reconsider one more time and see us before you make a final decision."
"I really have thought about it a lot already Joon. I think I'd be shameless to benefit from meeting your family in the way that I did and get a job out of it. I already can't sleep much at night because I feel guilty that your cousin died in front of me..." Why do I keep telling this guy too much when I talk with him.
"Listen, Talea, I know the timing really is awful and it could feel that way to you, but consider it this way. I feel like we were meant to meet and this is just the way that it happened. I really think your voice would be such a great addition to our company's roster, not to mention that Mother is so desperate to thank you in some way."
"But why? I didn't do anything worth that much thanks. What about the paramedics and doctors who worked on HeeGun despite knowing it was helpless? Has she shown the same level of gratitude to them?"
"We were planning on donating a lot of money to the hospital to be honest with you if you must know" Joon says somewhat angrily.
"I'm sorry Joon... I've been under a lot of stress I didn't mean to lash out towards your mother. I guess it couldn't hurt to come in, but please realize that it will take a lot to change my mind."
"I understand. What day works for you next week to come in?" After finalizing plans to meet up I hang up and head home.
A few days later I find my self in front of Raku Entertainment's large office building nervously fiddling my skirt with my anxious fingers. "Chill Talea" I whisper to myself. "No reason to be intimidated by a building. I walk in and head over to the information counter.
"Hi, I'm not sure where I am supposed to go? I have an appointment with Joon Go at 1130?"
"May I have your name?"
"It's Talea Meer"
"Ah yes, please head to the elevators and go to the 15th floor. Someone will be waiting there for you."
I head to the elevator and punch floor 15 on the wall. As the doors start to close a hand darts in to stop it startling me. A young woman in a suit steps in.
"Thanks! Sorry about that"
She punches floor 9 and the doors close.
"Heading up to 15 eh? Got a meeting with some of the family then?"
"I have a meeting with Joon Go"
"He's dreamy, but sort of hard to read. Never know what he is going to do or say that one. Good luck with your meeting, but don't mention his cousin's name... he died and everyone is still trying to figure out everything, best to avoid it. Hee Gun was such a nice boss...I even heard that there was a witness to his death that they want to bring her into the company... Isn't that weird? I'd like to see this brazen girl. Can you believe someone would try to get a contract out of that situation?" The doors open at her floor, "Maybe she's just desperate for some money? Anyhow see you later perhaps"
The door closes behind her. My eyes start to well with tears. I don't even want to be here at all and now I've got to worry about people thinking that I am this horrible person who is a money crazy bitch who doesn't care about people's feelings. I let try to stop my eyes from overflowing when the doors open and I see Joon waiting at the door.
"Talea, I'm so glad you... could... are you crying?"
"No!" I snap and a moment of awkwardness settles over us. "I'm sorry, I'm fine I just... I don't know why I'm here"
"Follow me to my office" Joon says as he quickly ushers me through the floor until when we come to his office door. "please have a seat"
"I'm fine really. I'm just worried that people may get the wrong idea that I am unjustly benefiting from tragedy, you know? I mean I am glad that your family is so thankful towards me, but it's weird Joon. I mean I honestly wouldn't want to see the person who watched my cousin die around all the time, if I had a cousin... Why are you guys so insistent that I join your company?"
"Honestly, Talea my mother just wants to hold on to Hee Gun in some way and she thinks that by having you with us here in the company a part of him is still around in a sense I think. That's what she has said to me in any case. But we are not going to force you here, but we honestly just want to show you our best offer in case you choose not to turn us down. But we will of course honor your decision in the end." He sighs softly "Are you feeling better? Feeling up to taking the tour? I promise it will be as quick and painless as possible."
We tour the facility and it is truly impressive. I wish I had brought someone with me to help me not fall in love with the potential of working here. We look through a fully equipped recording studio and I practically salivate over the microphones and playback equipment. I'm introduced to agents who work in the classical world and even a few composers they have on staff.
"And over here is where we are working on a program to foster young musicians in schools. To be honest... this was Hee Gun's passion. He wanted to create a program that allowed lower income students the chance to study classical music through school."
"Wow" I say as I look at a class in progress of young guitarists. "What are they playing? It's beautiful"
Joon steps quietly into the room and checks the music. "It's Study in E Minor by Francisco Tarrega"
We observe the class for a few minutes before moving on.
"Well I think that is about everything I was going to show you, other than the contract but you really should have someone look it over. I mean I know it's a fair offer but you shouldn't take my word on it." Joon says as we return to his office and he hands me over a document. "Take it and look it over and then call me when you make a decision. I promise you I won't pester you for a few weeks so you can really think things over." He says.
"thanks Joon... and I promise I will truly consider it"
"That's great to hear." He says with relief.
We walk amicably towards the elevator.
"Oh wait here" Joon says as he stops and runs back to his office before returning with a hat in his hands. "Take one of these with you. We had them made up promotions" he says as he hands me a baseball hat.
"Thanks" I say as I get on the elevator.
As I ride down the elevator I think about everything I had seen today. It really would be nice to work here. The facilities are amazing and all the people are so professional... well except that woman who made me cry...
I head towards my car and slip into the driver's seat tossing my purse and the contract on the passenger seat and the hat. When I take a better look at the hat. It falls from my hands as I realize that the driver who killed Hee Gun was wearing a hat exactly like this. Black with silver accents in a unique design. I try to see the driver again in my mind's eye now that I recognize the hat it becomes clearer, but is still hazy. It was a well dressed man in this hat, I couldn't see his eyes, but he was grinning as he drove at Hee Gun. I hop back out of the car and rush back inside to the company and head up to Joon's office.
"Joon!" I say as I knock at his door.
"Talea? What is it"
"I think that the person who killed Hee Gun must work at your company! He was wearing one of these hats!"
A look of disbelief and shock pass over Joon's face.
"Do you remember who it is?" He asks shakily
"No, just that he was wearing a suit and this hat. It was definitely this hat. I remembered this swirl here" I say as I point at the Raku logo. "But maybe if I looked over all the employees I would remember better.
Joon looks around his desk and grabs his keys.
"Let me drive you to the police, we should let them know this right away"
"Yes of course, let's go"
We head down to Joon's sporty car and start to drive away from the company in tense silence. After driving some ways I realize that we are driving away from the city centre and onto the highway.
"Where are we going?"
"I was hoping that we could have had you in our company Talea. Really, you are very talented. But sadly I was banking on you not remembering anything about that driver and now you are starting to remember things that you shouldn't."
Joon speeds up at the wheel and his face contorts into a savage smile, the same smile the killer had on his face.
"Let me out Joon" I say breathlessly "I swear I don't remember anything else... and I promise I never will"
"Too late Talea. I will just have to let mother down and tell her you have moved away and couldn't take our offer. And you'll just disappear"
"Please Joon" I cry "I won't remember anything else, Please God!"
Joon takes an off ramp and we drive to a river bank and he pulls me out of the car by my hair and throws me on the ground. I scramble along the bank trying to find my feet when Joon kicks me in my ribs. I feel the air rush out of my lungs and I try to pull myself into the fetal position.
"You know I thought you were kinda cute with your wild hair and amazing voice. I was thinking about asking you out after some time passed even... But I can't leave any loose ends with Hee Gun's death. I was going to keep you close in case you remembered anything. I had forgotten that I was wearing this hat. We had just gotten them you see. Another precious idea from Hee Gun that my mother thought was good. I mean hats! The makings of a gHereat business man indeed" Joon sneers as he continues to kick me.
I start to loose focus on his words and then all I can sense is a blur of muted sounds and colours thrown into sharp contrast as each blow paralyzes me with pain. I look towards the river and I swear I see Asher coming towards us in a rush. A look of terror upon his face.