Lika was Henry Kingsley's PA & best friend. He messed up & vowed to get her back. ROMANCE
|With her coffee cup in hand, and her aunt's letter on the other, Lika went to the window of her apartment. She swiped open the curtain with her elbow and looked through the glass.|
It was ironic knowing that there was a huge, green golfing area at the other side of her building, along with other shiny skyscrapers standing proudly behind it, while at the same time, a dirty, sorry looking slum sat just at the back of her apartment.
The wealth gap in Jakarta was beyond irreconcilable.
Reading her aunt's letter again, Lika sipped at her coffee. Having nothing else to do, she decided to see what the slum was all about and to see whether it could be a fitting outlet for her project with her aunt.
Honestly, Lika anticipated to see poor people, living in cramped, dirty, bad homes. She didn't actually anticipate feeling terrible upon seeing the poor people living up to her imagination in ways worse than she anticipated.
The very first time Lika walked the dirty small alley in the slum, the pungent smell of sewer invaded her nostrils, making Lika's eyes water as she held her breath. For the sake of not offending nearby people, the woman kept a straight face as she walked on to see her surroundings.
The places in which these people lived in couldn't actually be a proper settlement to be called home. No. The word 'junkyard' or 'waste area' instead would fit perfectly to describe this poor neighborhood.
Dirt and various trash littered around the small, rundown huts with rusty metal roofs covering them. The huts glued to one another, making the area looked even more cramped and unhabitable. Still, there were many people living in them.
Men smoking as they crouched by their home entrance. Kids running around, making the area a suitable place for hide and seek. Women washing clothes or bathing their children with the dirty, dark yellow water from the stream. At some point she saw an elderly filled an old aluminum pot with the same water before bringing it into her home. Lika shuddered at what the elderly was doing with the water. She hoped it was not for drinking. It took no scientist to know from the looks of it that the water must be unsafe.
Lika turned to look behind her: her apartment building, and other tall buildings around it. Her stomach churned–the waste from those middle and upper middle class buildings, where do they go? Certainly, not to this heavily polluted stream. Not to these people.
"Bule!" she heard a child high-pitched, excited exclamation, pointing at her with a toothy grin, "Ada bule!"
Bule. She heard that word many times before. Lika fished for her dictionary from her messenger bag and searched the word. She smiled upon seeing the definition of the word. She was a bule, the way the Indonesians referred to a foreigner like her. It reminded her of the way the Japanese in Osaka once referred to her and Henry as Gaijin (foreigner).
Lika smiled at the group of children who was staring at her. She lifted her hand and waved at them. A little girl in an old looking blue dress, probably 7 or 8 years old, made her way towards her. Shy but brave, the girl grinned at her. "Hai tante (Hi, auntie)."
"Halo (Hello)!" greeted Lika back with a warm smile.
Lika crouched to get to the same eye level with the girl. She offered her hand. "Siapa nama kamu, cantik? (What's your name, beautiful)?" she asked the girl, "Nama tante Eliska (My name is Eliska)."
"Riri," the girl answered, taking Lika's hand shyly for a handshake.
"Nama kamu cantik, Riri (You have pretty name, Riri)," praised Lika. "Riri lagi ngapain? Lagi main sama teman? (What are you doing? Are you playing with your friends?)"
In no time, all her friends began making their way closer to her. Lika chuckled when the boys and girls seemingly find her mighty interesting. They looked at her with wide eyes, listening to her making small talk with them in fascination–it was almost as if they had never talked to a foreigner before.
Lika reached for what would've been her dinner–two chocolate energy bars. Their eyes lit up like a Christmas tree upon seeing the small treat. The childish excitement on their smudged faces was enough to send warmth spreading across Lika's chest, that she forgot completely about the unbearable sewer smell in the neighborhood, or on the kids.
Lika's heart dropped to her stomach at the realization. She couldn't imagine how anyone could bear bathing their children in such polluted water, let alone letting them live in such an unhealthy neighborhood that had appeared as if forgotten by the rest of the people in Jakarta.
She realized it was what poverty would do to anyone. It was vile and tragic, though to her wonder, being poor didn't seem to dampen the spirits of these children as they waited patiently for their treat, with ear to ear smiles on their little faces.
Seeing that there were six kids around her, Lika decided to cut the bars and share it among them equally, after she made them use her hand sanitizer.
The very next day, Lika came back in search of the same kids, this time, loaded with more treats in her bag. Joking darkly to herself, Lika thought that it would be so easy to kidnap these children if she wanted to. Just bring enough Beng-Beng chocolate bar and the overly trusting kids would follow her straight into her basement–if she even had any.
The same joke unfortunately reminded her of Henry and how he thought the same about her drunk self.
For a moment Lika wondered how he was doing. Is Henry eating okay? Did he get enough sleep between his schedules? Does life treat him well wherever he was at the moment? Then she remembered what went down between the two of them, and her longing thoughts of him quickly ended in a sour note.
Riri and her 14 year old brother, Jaka, interrupted her train of thoughts. The two pulled her each by her hands to join their soccer game. The thought of Henry quickly being pushed back behind her mind.
She hadn't had much laughter these past few weeks. But with these children, she grew to be able to laugh at simple things, everything. It was hard not to be thankful about her own life whenever she was around these people. Poor they may be, but the joy and the lightness in their eyes over little good things in life taught Lika that one didn't have to have everything to be happy. To be content, she didn't have to have a good job, or a best friend or an aunt to lean on.
She just needed to be thankful to be alive and well.
Her familiarity with the bubbly kids she grew to adore opened new connections to the people in the slum area. In no time, she found herself being introduced by some of the adults living at the slum. Riri and Jaka's parents made money by selling various fritters in the city. They were lovely couple; extremely polite and sometimes forward at the same time out of innocent curiosity. They even invited her to their house, sharing tea and eating banana fritters with them.
That invitation opened a window for Lika to learn more about the slum area and its adversities. She found that she was right all along–access to clean water had been a long term issue in the neighborhood. While they could just buy clean filtered water from outside the slum, the people were too poor to actually have to use their money to do so. The people constantly got sick and had skin problems due to the polluted water they were using everyday, though Riri's father claimed that the more they got used to it, the more they became stronger and immune to the condition.
It was as if the universe was giving her a signal.
That night after their shared meal, Lika went home and got a serious stomach bug from what Lika suspect was the fritters or the tea. She got a taste of the what the people in the slum had to deal with. Sickness from the water. It only solidified her intention to go through with her aunt's challenge– to help these people.
Through Riri's parents, Lika met the Pak RT, which was basically a person that was chosen by the local people in the slum area as the head of their neighborhood association. Pak RT, whose name was Bapak (Mr.) Ahmad, was a 63 year old man who was well known and respected by the people living in the slum area. He was kind and knowledgeable, though unfortunately, he and his family too were also living in poverty, pretty much like his people.
Her meeting with Bapak Ahmad exposed her to the bitter situation the people had to face besides poverty, which was probably the root of all the evil in the neighborhood–drug addiction. The disease had secretly festered amongst the jobless, young men of the slum area.
Lika's head spun at the information. Surely, giving these people money or food would not be sustainable. Hell, Lika had not much money to feed healthy foot to 100 or so people everyday. She definitely had no experience dealing with drug abuse in a community.
So she went back to the one idea that had bugged her mind for weeks now–clean water.
Bapak Ahmad told her that there was a way for them to get clean water. That, was by making a well and dig deep enough to reach clean water from the underground. But they lacked equipments, lacked expertise, lacked the fund and Bapak Ahmad himself admitted that he lacked the capacity to manage such a project.
Lika was no genius. She knew nothing about establishing a water treatment plan–but she knew how to get information and coordinate things.
The next couple weeks was spent by Lika looking for informations from prospective vendors and the established connections she had made during her stay in Jakarta from way back even before she found the slum. When her search finally gave her a clear and feasible ways to go forward, and the number of money needed, Lika opened her apartment and hosted a dinner where she introduced Bapak Ahmad as the representative for the slum community and pitched her project to her Indonesian friends.
Lika had her doubts before. But after seeing the compassion in her friends' eyes, she knew that what she had in mind for the slum was not something unattainable. There were many good people with good hearts in Jakarta who wished to help–they just didn't know how to help, where to offer their help to or who to trust with their kindness.
Her charity project presentation was a success.
Many of her friends pledged themselves to the cause, not just with money, but with their own expertise and time. The plan was simple: Choose a vendor to work on the small water treatment plan, calculate the cost, gather enough donation within a period of time, and coordinate the project.
That night, after her lengthy presentation, Lika called Emily–who freaked out about her being missing for months now. After reassuring her that she was alright, Lika asked her to sell her car for her–because obviously she was jobless now and having a nice car in London had become redundant. Hence, she decided to use the money from the car sale for a good cause instead and as a show of good faith to all her friends that had pledged themselves to the project.
Despite the simple plan with the project, managing the proccess itself was quite a headache. There was always something coming up, things to troubleshoot. By this time around, her oldest friends in Jakarta who were involved in the project had, to her embarrassment, find out about Lika's stress puking. She didn't even know how it must look to them–their head of the project threw up upon stressful news definitely didn't exude much confidence in the project. It was honestly a miracle they didn't bail out on her.
By sheer miracle, three months later, there was a well established next to Bapak Ahmad's place, along with water filters, jet pumps and a huge, bright orange water container that would supply water freely to the people.
Lika and her friends went their way to make sure that the privilege was sustainable for the people, by choosing Bapak Ahmad and his son as the caretaker for the communal water system. They made sure the water treatment plant vendor taught them how to care for the equipment. All they had to do on their own now was to keep up with the gasoline price to operate the water pumps and filters.
Bapak Ahmad took care of that by collecting an insanely cheap fee for everyone who uses the water, a fee that won't break their bank and still way cheaper than having to pay for water had they were to buy filtered water somewhere else. The money would be enough for Bapak Ahmad to keep up with the monthly electricity.
There was unspeakable joy when Lika and her friends finished their project. To see the people in the slum finally had access to clean water for everyday use. Sure, having clean water didn't automatically solve all their problems, but it was a start.
If finishing the project was a monumental moment in which everybody was shouting in joy upon witnessing first time when clean water ran down the pipe, then the Selametan (celebration) that the people in the slum threw for her, her friends and the donors, was big tearjerker moment.
Lika had lost count of how many people she had hugged that night. She even thoughtlessly embraced Bapak Ahmad, who was very reserved in nature, causing him awkward moments from being hugged by another woman other than his own wife. Despite that, all that stressful nights and and the trouble that she and her friends had went through, was suddenly paid off.
Her aunt was right. There was indeed more joy in giving than receiving.
Derek Donovan reached into his jacket, making the woman in front of him tense. He halted, a mischievous grin appeared on his scruffy face. "Relax, miss agent. It's not like I'm going to kill you with a flash drive," he muttered humorously as he showed her the thumb drive.
The woman in a pair of red, expensive business suit, reached out to take the drive, only for Derek to pull it out of her reach.
"Information first, then the drive," he said with an arrogant smirk, heightening the vicious glare that the woman shot him. He chuckled, pocketing the drive again and took his cup of coffee, sipping at it leisurely. "So. Tell me exactly why you framed Eliska Denali for poisoning Miss Mendez?"
"What? I don't know what you're talking about," she muttered, frowning, though the anxiety in her eyes betrayed her.
"Uh-uh. Don't bother lying now. We both know you swiped off the garnish made by Chef Kitori and replaced it with your own deadly recipe."
Derek sighed. He stood up and straightened his jacket, made as if he wanted to leave. The woman's eyes were wide and frantic. "No! Wait! I need the drive. It will ruin my career. I have kids–"
Derek sat back down and folded his hands, giving her a look. "Do the kids know that their mother had been shagging her previous employer behind their father's back?"
Raina Deveroux looked like she wanted to cry now.
"Tell me what I need to know, Mrs. Deveroux, and I will make sure this won't be uploaded to PornHub by midnight," he threatened gently, as if offering her kindness.
Raina swallowed. "I have nothing against Eliska."
"So you had a thing against Annika Mendez? If so, why bother preparing an Epipen ahead?" questioned Derek, "We both know none of your kids have any allergy that required you to bring one."
Raina took in a shaky breath. "If I tell you everything, how do I know you don't have an extra copy of my video and won't use it to blackmail me in the future?"
"You can't know that" the American man answered honestly, "You just have to take my word for it. But I can assure you, I don't lack money. What I lack, and all I ever need from you, is just the truth."
"Who do you work for?" she asked, hiding her angry tears, "Henry?"
This time the woman really cried. If her boss found out, she would surely lose her job, and he would definitely drag her name through the mud. No one would ever be able to accept her in Hollywood anymore with this kind of rumor at her back. Whether or not she tells him everything now, she was screwed.
"Shhh..." He cooed, "You know I hate it when the ladies cry. You know what? I'll throw you a deal. I'll sweet talk Henry Kingsley into letting you off gently, if and only if you tell me the whole truth. That way, I get my answer, you get your flash drive, and keep your career."
"I'll get sacked either way!" she hissed.
"Better than being unemployed for the rest of your life."
Raina swallowed. Weighing her options. One, she already messed up. If she didn't get this man what he wants, he wouldn't just cause her a job loss from Henry Kingsley, he would also posted her video online–it would ruin her marriage, and her kids, aside from ruining every other chance of getting employed again in the future.
"It was Annika," she blurted out, her eyes red from crying.
"She referenced me to Henry, and by the time I was accepted as his new agent, she gave me money to keep an eye on him and to insert her agenda into Henry's without him knowing," she elaborated with shame in her eyes, "My agenda often clashed with Eliska. I told Annika I couldn't get through Henry much with Eliska around, and she paid me more money just to get me to get rid of her– with any means necessary."
"Interesting," Derek commented thoughtfully. He guessed it was true that it was the prettiest of women that were often rotten on the inside. "So Annika told you to poison her?"
"No," Raina shook her head in defeat, "She told me she didn't want to know how I do it. She just wanted results. Said she needed to keep appearances for Henry. I hadn't been able to pin anything on Eliska because of how efficient she was at her job and how close she was to Henry. I was desperate," she admitted, not meeting his eyes.
"So you resorted to the oyster sauce idea, making sure you had Epipen ready to save your other boss," finished Derek for her. "Annika really didn't know you were going to poison her?"
"She must have been mad at you."
"At first. But when I got the job done, severed Henry and Eliska's friendship for good and Annika got Henry's full attention in the end, she wasn't mad anymore."
Derek Donovan smiled in amusement to himself. Had it not for Raina's lie about her son's peanut allergy, she would've gotten away with the act. "You're quite the double agent, Mrs. Deveroux."
He stood up and adjusted his glasses before placing the flash drive containing her sextape on the cafe's table. "Thank you for your cooperation. You won't be seeing me again."
[Author's Note: I hope this wasn't too boring for you 😭 I mean I know this chapter is boring but bear with me, we would see a lot of Henry next. Did I just butcher my characters with too much plot? Please comment and review on what you think. Let me know how you feel about the chapter and how it goes so far. Love y'all!]