Elise settles in behind her desk flicking open her notebook, she hits the start button. While waiting for her computer to start up she looks up around the office noticing the chairs and tables already filling up with their inhabitants.

Taking a sip of her coffee Elise scans the newspapers on her table looking for any good news of the day.

“Theft, homicide, snatch theft-homicide, fatal accident, scandalous politician, homicide, homicide, another accident, gahh why do I even bother reading the news?” Elise mumbles in exasperation and she flipped the page less than gracefully. A loud rip tears through the office and a few heads hunched over desks pop up like groundhogs surveying for predators.

“Angry much?”, said Carol as she walks pass Elise’s desk.

“Heheh, sorry. It’s just a frustrating day for the news, and…” Elise let her words trail off as she realised everyone
had gone back to whatever occupied their busy minds and she was once again ‘talking to herself’.

As the day crawled on at a snail-like pace, Elise fidgeted in her seat. Work has begun to feel mundane and her bones ached like they needed to be stretched and her joints had that uncomfortable yet weirdly compelling need to be popped.

“Elise? Elise? Yoohoo!”

Startling her out of her silent reverie, she looked up to see Eddy with a stack of files looking at her in puzzlement.

“What were you so deep in thought about?”

“Bonsai kittens.”

“Oooh kayy. I don’t think I should ask for an explanation. But I should probably warn you that it’s illegal. And downright cruel and..”

“Oh gee relax! I’m not gonna create a Bonsai Kitten! I don’t even like cats. Much less a disfigured one!”

“Umm okayy. But You’ll probably change your mind about kittens when you see the Kitten Therapy video. I’ll send it to you. It’s the cutest thing ever!”

“Well what brings you over? Has Mr Chan made you the office dispatch now too? Eddy, you should really learn to say no to fetching and carrying other people’s files and stuff.”

“It’s really no biggie. I could use the exercise anyway. I’m working on my guns,” Eddy says while flexing his biceps and almost drops the weight he’s carrying.

“Geez Eddy! Okok! Careful with that!”

“Hehe. I’m still working on the whole balance thing. Anywhoo… I gotta jet. But hey, a bunch of us are heading over to
Malone’s after work. You wanna join us?”

“Umm, well….”

“Oh come on! It’ll be fun! And it is a Friday night anyway. What other sad plans have you got anyway? I’ll meet you at the foyer after work. Layters!”

“But, but…”, Elise sighed as Eddy walked away, maneuvering skillfully pass the cubicles.

As 6pm drew closer, Elise felt that familiar knot in her stomach return. Somewhere between impatience and anticipation, she silently kicked herself for actually looking forward to the night out with a bunch of people she hardly knew.

— —

Malone’s was a little bar along a quieter street two blocks from the office. The bar was already piled with people as
Elise walked through the doors with Eddy and his colleague, Jeanne. There was a loud cheer from the table by the bar and a few voices could be heard over the din of chatter and music beckoning the trio over.

“Hey guys! You remember Jeanne right? Well this is Elise. Elise, meet, James, Quentin, Lee, you know Carol, Raj from purchasing, and Tom from Design,” said Eddy making introductions.

Elise had her hand extended and shook everyone’s till Tom was being introduced and her breath caught as as Tom gripped her hand in a firm handshake. He looked intently into her eyes and smiled. “Hi Elise. It’s so nice to finally, officially meet you.

Elise smiled in return gazing into the eyes that had been making itself comfortable in her daydreams. The wide brown eyes of Tom.

The evening wasn’t quite as bad as she imaged and Elise felt herself letting down her walls bit by bit as she drank her
pint of Stella and got to know her colleagues. She noticed how at ease everyone felt with each other. Even Tom, being new and all already had inside jokes with Raj and Eddy. She noticed how Carol the momma of the group kept tabs on how much everyone was drinking and insisted it was not a night for shots. So everyone was just nestling their pints as they unwound for the evening.

Elise said little but she was intent on listening and this little group of mismatched individuals intrigued her. She found out that James and Quentin went to grad school together and wound up at the same company. Lee worked in legal on the 12th floor and found everyone there incredibly boring. Raj had been at company orientation together with Eddy and their matching shirts kickstarted their friendship. Jeanne worked with Eddy and was the preetiest girl on the floor but all except her realised it.

“What about you Elise?”

Startled at hearing her name, Elise blinked as she realised all eyes were fixed on her.

“Huh? I’m sorry, I spaced out for a minute there.”

“We were just talking about our weekend plans. What are you doing tomorrow?” Tom asked.

“Umm… It’ll be just another day I spose. I haven’t really thought about it.”

“It’s settled then. You’ll be coming with me,” said Tom grinning.

“What? Where?” said Elise, startled.

“Just be ready by 6am, dress comfy and make sure you have your hiking shoes on.”

Elise found herself unable to protest as those wide brown eyes looked intently at her and all she could do was nod in resigned agreement.

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The streets are busier than usual Elise notes as she jostles through the crowd on their way to work. She gets swept along and dodges a flying hand – its owner gesturing wildly as he yells angrily on the phone.

“It’s too early to be that annoyed,” she thought to herself and hurried along. Looking down at her watch, Elise quickened her pace. She had just enough time to stop at the coffee cart for her usual cup of coffee before work.

Reaching Jumba Joe’s she joins the line of early morning coffee drinkers waiting to re-fuel for the day. Standing in line, she heard a familiar voice behind her.

“Good morning Elise!”

Turning around, she smiled and was about to respond with a chirpy “G’morning” of her own to Eddy when she noticed a tall brown-eyed figure join the line behind him.

Her “Good morning” tumbled out in an awkward squeak causing her to grimace in embarrassment.

Eddy didn’t seem to notice but continued on with his usual chatter.

“It’s a sunny morning isn’t it. What a change from the dreary grey days we’ve been having. If it keeps raining like this I’ll have to strut about town in a pair of wellies instead of my work shoes. They’re just about ruined!” Eddy complained.

“Yeah I know what you mean,” Elise responded. “But I sorta like the weather. The rainy season won’t last long though. Enjoy it while you can. Soon the hot season will be upon us and you’ll be begging for some rain,” she said with a chuckle.

As she stood in line talking, Elise’s eyes wondered over to the man behind Eddy. As if on cue the stranger looked up and caught her eyes. Their gaze held for a few seconds before Eddy nudged her saying, “Hey, your turn to order.”

“G’morning doll! I haven’t seen you in awhile,” Joe said beaming down at Elise.

The tall and sturdy Joe wasn’t all that bad looking with his wavy mess of hair framing his square stubble-lined jaw. Always with an easy grin on his face, it was no wonder that Jumba Joe’s was one of the most popular coffee spots on that street. More noticeably with a long line of ladies, queuing up for coffee.

Elise smiled up at Joe. “I was just here two days ago Joe!”

“Well long enough for me to miss you doll,” Joe responded with another grin and before Elise could respond he whipped around pressing the expresso beans into its holder and pulled its lever. Pouring milk into a steel jug, he turned on the steamer – its loud whisking sound filling the air. “The usual I assume Elise? One flat white coming right up!” Joe called over his shoulder.

Elise smiled at the familiarity of Joe. A complete stranger yet one capable of making her feel like an old friend with his witty banter and the occasional flirt. For the umpteenth time, Elsie thought to herself how geekily good looking Joe was. Even with the thick framed glasses, Joe managed to exude a hip yet classically old exterior; an old soul in a 30 year old body.

Paying for her coffee, Elise waved goodbye to Joe and Eddy as she walked towards her office building.

She made sure to avert her eyes from the brown-eyed stranger behind Eddy but she was sure he was looking at her. She felt his gaze follow her till she went through the glass doors and then she was swallowed by the early morning crowd as they rushed into the elevator.

Elise:

The early-morning stillness is my time for reflection and to connect with The Big Guy in prayer.

I sit on the balcony looking out at the KL Skyline as colour slowly seeps into the city. Faint orange and purple hues swept artistically seemingly with purpose. My stage is being unveiled for a new day, with new hope and new dreams.

It’s a beautiful sight.

Thankful that I’m too high to hear the din of the city streets, I enjoy the silence as it provides a suitable alter for my soul. In the stillness, I weigh the day to come.

My thoughts drift from the necessary routine to the spectacular tasks ahead. I consider my day’s schedule, the things to accomplish and the appointments to keep. After mentally checking off the to-dos, my mind wanders deeper. It goes to a place absent of urgency – it goes beyond the stillness around me to a place of beauty.

What lay before me was my life; complete with setbacks and failures and disappointments. My vision blurs as I recall the mess I’ve made of this life so far. But tucked within, I see beauty. It peeks out of every nook and cranny. I smile as I realise how thankful I am to be able to see such beauty in the breakdown.

In life, there only ever are two choices – Struggle with the complexity or delight in the simplicity.

Gripping my coffee mug with both hands, I close my eyes and say a prayer of thanksgiving. I’ve survived to see yet another amazing sunrise.

After a quick shower, I play dress-up. Laying my clothes out on the bed, deciding what outfit to wear. I try to pick out something that suits my outlook for the day. “A summery yellow top and brown corduroy pants. That should work!” It somewhat reflect the quirky me yet still be formal enough for the work place. I make a mental note to “be gorgeous”. After all… I did wake up feeling more alive today. It’s a good change. I need to savour it. This change could very well be lost again before the day ends.

Just one last pat with the powder puff and one last fluff of my curly brown hair. Grabbing my bag, I head out the door.

I stride into the new day that awaits me.

Elise lay awake well into the night thinking about the day that was long done. Her mumbled prayers included asking God to hold her physically, to take away the loneliness that plagued in the night, once the day quietneed and the distractions faded with the sun.

She stretched out on her bed and it felt as big as the ocean. Her tiny frame felt lost in the middle of it. Even in the hot Malaysian weather, she rolled herself into a cocoon with her blanket so she could feel something – anything – surrounding her.

Squinting into the dark, she pictured the faces of the day. The “Mad Hatter” she met on the corner of the train station. She wore the same denim overalls but always a different hat. Today she had on a black baret which looked a little worn for use. She saw the “Tranny Diva” with the cool shoes, as she walked the remaining two blocks to her office. The Diva probrably worked at the mall and was always made up with a model-esque air about her. She had on a dark red pair of workboots paired with an all-black ensemble which made her looks really badass!

As she reached the tall glass doors of The Big Corporation, she bumped into Eddy from accounting who said “G’mornin Elise!”. That sort of made her day. He was the only one who ever said “Hi”. Elise couldn’t remember what she was so deep in thought about as she rode the lift and missed her floor. Recalling the days events, she wondered if it was fate or coincidence that made her step out on the 10th floor where she met the new guy.

The one with the most charming smile. He said “Hi” too, as Elise stumbled around the 10th floor looking for the stairwell where she could walk back down to her office on the 7th floor. Mumbling a quick “Hello” and giving him a shy smile in return, Elise made a dash
for the EXIT sign and she heard a faint “see you around” as the door closed silently behind her.

“It’ll be nice to see more of him,” Elise thought smiling.

Sighing she turned to her side and flung off the stuffy blankets and checked the clock on her night stand. The bright red 2:00 am blinked at a steady pace and Elise sunk back into her pillow with a yawn.

As if the invisible dust of the phantom Sandman settled on her, a faint smile played on her face as  sleep enveloped her. There she dreamed of the person with wide brown eyes and the most charming of smiles.

A phone rings in the distance rousing her out of the reverie she’s been in. Elise sighs and turns back to her notebook letting her mind tune in to the words she was seeing on the screen.

“Where is the proposal Elise? It should have been on my desk this morning. Rgds, Mark”

“Check your side table. -Elise-”

“Found it. Next time put it where I can see it. Mark.”

“How unappreciative,” thought Elise as she worked on yet another proposal while finishing the sandwich left over from lunch. Monday’s just the beginning and it’s already a drag she thinks wondering what the rest of the week would be like.

Every so often, her eyes would wander to the big paned windows on the far side of the office. She could see the trees outside swaying with the wind, hear the din of the streets below as cars whisked by and people clamour to get places. She can almost smell the rain creeping up on the city from the far side of town.

“Everything’s a pandemonium of sounds and sights just before the rain,” she thought smiling to herself.

Snapping herself back to work Elise’s fingers never leave the keyboard as she works on a story – the one she’s been stuck on all weekend.

After three hours she types the last period and lets out a sigh of relief as her story is done. The sudden quietness of the office makes her look up only to realise they have all left.

“The last one again. I wonder if anyone noticed I was still around.”

Elise slowly packs her bag and shuts down her notebook. Another day, another night… she thinks to herself as she walks out into the wet, dark streets of Kuala Lumpur. The evening rain is down to a light drizzle. She doesn’t mind it at all.

Living just 5 blocks away was a blessing thought Elise as she walks past rows of shop houses all shutting down for the night. The city crowd thins out as she reaches her apartment in an unfrequented part of town. Nice, quiet, and safe. Elise looks up at the block of stacked houses. None of her neighbours are out, but the silence of the night was punctuated with laughter from an apartment probably from a sitcom and every so often you’d hear a mother screaming at her child to get ready for bed. Lights burn in most of the windows indicating life, Elise observes as she walks up the flight of stairs which lead to her humble abode.

The little girl in the pale white dress with blue flowers danced about in the vast wide field. She chased the butterflies and spoke to the grasshoppers as she connected with the blades of gold and green.

She loved the swoosh of the wind and the light chatter of birds. She danced in their melody and they sang their heart out just for her. Her bright 5-year old mind knew they loved her. And nature knew it had a grasp on her.

For no one else stopped to listen to the songs that resounded in the air. And no one else took notice of the trees that whispered its story of how nature met the little girl in the pale white dress.

It found her. And she found them. The patter of her naked feet on the creek and the swishing and swaying of the tall trees seem to tell u that girl and nature were one.

And one couldn’t survive without the other.

What happend next is still a blur to me. The look on his face. The tension being sliced by a half choked sob. The array of questions, insults and accusations. The outpouring of all dislike and hate. All my anger searing up to lead to two last words.

“Get out!”

I stand stock still. Only moving as i carefully press a white Kleenex against my bloody nose. He tries again. Pleading. Begging even to stay. He appologises for his ‘momentary violent outbreak’. My silence irks him even more. I silently pray.

“God make this all go away!”

I get lost in my moment of prayer, and then i hear him shuffle past me. He makes sure he closes the door carefully, without a slam. I look at the shut door envisioning him behind it. Looking right back at me. His gaze burning a hole through the door.

“Why baby? Why? Why do you push away love when it’s the one thing you need?”

I lock the door and sink into my nook in the corner. Surrounded by my white washed walls and marbled tiled floors. I know of only one eternal Love and that which comes from above. The morning will bring me new joy and a new hope. But for now, peace, as my mind floats towards the sunny parks where i run and let His presence just rain down on me.