“Can you afford to buy a Prada bag?”

He observed her a long time ago. Perhaps it was when she was introduced to him. Petite and slim, she could be at least five years his junior.

Their interactions were kept to a bare minimum. Lunches were now sporadic since he had fallen out with one of his other co-workers. Even then, there were precious little he could do or say except for the usual mundane conversations about the latest celebrity gossip or bits of information of the “people upstairs” (and then, there were some who were particularly lecherous).

He remembered the look on their faces (including hers) when he uncharacteristically blurted out “so what plans do you both have tonight?” during lunch on Valentine’s Day. The memory of that stray strand of udon swinging from her mouth was something he could not remove from his mind.

Cute.

He would pass her a particular magazine (that came with the national rag) on Fridays as it was her favourite reading material. With a smile, of course. She would sprightly say “thank you”. And that was it.

Or that he would buy Gong Cha for her whenever he had a chance to, but reined in the frequency of the treat later to avoid throwing up mental images in the minds of other co-workers or breeding the green-eyed monster amongst them. In response, she would go “Oh wow! Thanks!” and that was it.

These days, he would admire her from afar (figuratively speaking, because her work cell was just opposite his). There were some indications that her heart is with someone else.

This morning, gasping for breath from the briskest of walks to work and having to navigate through the peak hour crowd, he stepped into the lift lobby. Most of the time, he would avoid the blank looks on the faces of those who, like him, were facing the prospect of another long, boring and arduous work day. He was checking the panels to see which lift he could take when he felt someone poking on his shoulder.

It was her. With that unmistakable big, sprightly and slightly impish smile. It sent his mind into a frenzy as multitudes of bright, yellow sunflowers filled it.

He smiled, took off the earphones and muttered, “hello.” Mornings, to him, were never good.

She returned the greeting and before he could say any word in response, the lift doors opened. They shuffled into the lift. And then, the 30 seconds of silence filled the space.

He hadn’t the privilege of opening the door to their office for her. Someone else was doing that already. Then, off they slipped quietly into their work cells. And that was it.

But he realised later that there were other aspects of her he had noticed.

Like how she was carrying this bright green hand bag yesterday and today, the words “Prada” stood out from the slightly shiny black bag she brought to work today. It sat (somehow) inconspicuously on the row of cabinet drawers in her work cell.

He knew what his emotions and thoughts were telling him. He could acknowledge them, but never he will give them their satiation.

***

All characters appearing in this work are possibly fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, could be purely coincidental.

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