Heeyeon wasn’t a bad person. Kyuyoung didn’t know if she was doing it on purpose or if she simply didn’t know how to read the room, but the other girl was often a little inconsiderate of others.
Kyuyoung: Must be nice. Have a nice time.
As she closed the messenger tab, she let out a shallow sigh. Unlike her, some people were able to go on dates. She had wanted the whole day off to prevent any chance of being held late, but Team Leader Jung had crushed her hopes from the start.
Kyuyoung was about to start her work again when a notification popped up from her work inbox. Sender: Yoongun Jung. As soon as she noticed the sender, she scowled.
“Working late, Manager Kyuyoung?” Sanghwa asked, holding a macaron out towards her. Judging from the thick, creamy filling in the middle, she must have bought some from the popular cafe across the street.
“As usual,” Kyuyoung sighed.
“What a shame. You can’t even make your date.” As Kyuyoung shrugged her shoulders with a resigned grimace, Sanghwa clicked her tongue and glared in the direction of the team leader’s office. “I know Team Leader Jung is a talented developer and all, but he’s way too harsh on the project management team.”
“He’s especially hard on me,” Kyuyoung added quietly. Sanghwa handed her another macaron in an effort to cheer her up.
“Just tell him you can’t stay today. Where else is he going to find a project management manager as hardworking as you around here?”
“He’s still tolerable. I’ve been learning a lot from him.”
Occasionally, Team Leader Jung would assign tasks that didn’t have to specifically be performed by her. He always managed to choose the worst times possible too—somehow, she’d missed both Jihyuk’s parents’ birthdays and a play they had reservations for because of him.
“Aren’t you heading out soon?” Kyuyoung asked.
“The update is almost complete. I’m going to send it to project management tomorrow.”
“I won’t be able to check on it immediately, is that alright?”
“Hmm? I thought this was Manager Kim’s project?” Kyuyoung simply smiled wistfully. It was a long-suffering expression that conveyed it would fall to Kyuyoung regardless of whose project it was. Sanghwa patted the other woman’s shoulders and pressed a chocolate bar into her hands. “Just do what you can and call it a day. I’m sure Team Leader Jung won’t mind if you slack off just this once.”
‘I don’t know about that. Would he really not mind?’ Kyuyoung thought as she flashed another weak grin at Sanghwa.
* * *
The weather forecast had predicted rain that evening. As the workday drew to an end, the pitter-patter steadily increased. Kyuyoung, who had briefly stepped out to buy dinner at a café, watched the beads of rain run down the glass windows of the company building. She had heard that it would only be a light autumn shower, but the downpour seemed heavier than when she’d left the office.
Her body felt heavy as if she was a sponge soaked with water. She felt the tell-tale signs of exhaustion creeping through her body. Her nerves, already frazzled from her fight with Jihyuk, felt taut and overstrained. Perhaps it was because of the air conditioning in the lobby, but a shiver ran up her spine and chilled her to the core. Wrapping her cardigan tightly around her torso, Kyuyoung passed through the security gates and caught the elevator right before it slid shut. Just when she’d thought she’d missed it, the elevator doors sprang back open to reveal a man standing within.
Inside the elevator stood the culprit who had ruined her day, Team Leader Yoongun Jung. As he glanced at her, she bit her lip and bowed to him lightly. ‘I should have just waited for the next one,’ she thought. Despite recognizing her, Yoongun’s facial expression did not change, and he simply looked away silently. He was holding a paper bag from another neighboring cafe— it seemed he had also returned from picking up dinner.
Kyuyoung hid her discomfort and stepped back, indicating that she did not intend to get inside the elevator. She had realized that Team Leader Jung hated being around her when they were not working. He had not always avoided her like this. His aversion to her had started around the same time that he began remembering her name. As Kyuyoung retreated, Yoongun pressed a b*tton to close the doors. The large metal doors slid shut once again as if delineating Kyuyoung and Yoongun’s territories. Kyuyoung recalled the team leader’s expression just then. It was neutral and almost impossible to read, but something about it gave her the impression that he was laughing at her.
Not long after she returned to her desk, the wind began whipping the rain loudly onto the window panes. Since they were located on one of the highest floors, the howling wind sounded like ghosts screeching in a graveyard. Kyuyoung stood up, stretched, and walked towards the windows. It was already 9 pm. The empty office felt as bleak and dismal as a cemetery. The rain pounded against the windows, and every clap of thunder sounded like an explosion. Kyuyoung thought that maybe it was best if the weather kept up like this. She hoped it would continue raining until the whole world was submerged underwater by the end of the week.
Team Leader Jung had assigned her a task that would be impossible to finish within the week no matter how much she worked. Not being able to see Jihyuk was the least of her worries. The team leader was practically telling her to pull an all-nighter. The mere thought of having to spend the night at the office felt suffocating.