They call me Junior even that’s not my name.
My parents never call me that, and besides, my real name’s more dignified and appealing. I couldn’t remember when it all started, but according to Ma, others called me in that nickname since I was a baby. It was my looks, the majority said, especially the dark hair and deep-blue eyes. Like a spitting image of my Da.
And speaking of my Da, he was holding my arm as we entered his building. I tried to admire the vast area with gleaming floors and mag decorations, but couldn’t find a heart to do so. Ever since he fetched me to school and rode a limo going here, he was not talking to me.
Several employees greeted us as we passed, with Da responding them the same greetings. He was not looking at me, and I guess these employees could sense the atmosphere. When we entered the glides, I buried my face in his suit for shame. He was still holding my arm – not too tight, not too hard.
Caro was waiting for us at the elevator entrance. She looked at Da first then to me. Her eyes were full of pity, which I bet it was for me, so I moved to Da closer until we entered his office. He let me sat on the couch then went to the bar counter.
“I’m sorry,” was all I could say.
Da went back with a medicine kit. He opened it and laid the contents on the couch.
“I’m sorry.”, I said it again.
Da was opening a cap of ointment, rubbed his fingers with it, then dabbed it to my left temple. He was not talking me, looking at me, or listening to me.
So I cried.
Keith said that boys never cry, only the sissy ones. But he was not here, or anybody else besides Da and me, so I’ll just keep this as a secret. I couldn’t help but burst out when you’re all guilty and the person you’re sorry for won’t acknowledge it.
A large hand pulled me closer to warm shoulders, patting my back to ease my hiccups, then cradled me. I love it when Da carry me or have my piggy-back ride. I hugged him tightly, burying my face in his mane hair. He finally looked at me, and while I am expecting to see an anger there, all I saw was sadness.
“Did I hurt you?”, Da asked.
I shook my head. He pulled a hanky to wipe the tears from my eyes, then lightly squeezed my nose – maybe I got a snot there. Ew.
“Did you know why Da was mad at you?”
“I got myself into trouble.”, I replied as I nod.
“I got myself hurt.”
He put me down on the couch again then finished dabbing my eye. The throbbing sensation I felt there was gone, maybe because the ointment was more effective than our stingy cream in the school clinic.
“But Da, I was just defending myself. Keith and Rolly and Bert called me a rich, pampered, spoiled brat.”
“Of course not!”, I defended, then gave a thought. “Am I?”
Da chuckled as he placed a dressing on my left cheek. “Are there some rich, pampered, spoiled brat who would go all means to defend a classmate from a bully?”
I did not answer.
“I can’t say that I’m proud you saved someone, but perhaps you could have avoided something like this. Did you know that you knocked somebody’s nose, somebody’s teeth, and somebody is having a concussion?”
Which of them have I injured that severe?
“They were aiming a bat on Hub, telling him that he’s better as crippled, so I went to stop them. Hub is like a toothpick and has this asthma sickness, and scared like a puppy. Besides, they were the ones who hit me first. First blood, remember?”, I explained, quoting a line from an old game.
“Those kids were older. You could’ve been hurt.”
“I can handle myself.”, I pouted.
Da was about to say something when his link’ beeped. A frantic voice boomed through it. Oh no.
“Where is he?!”, Ma asked.
If there’s someone whom I don’t want to tell about this, it was Ma. She'll go ballistic over the school, and I’m afraid what she’ll do to Keith, Rolly, and Bert…and the faculties.
“He’s fine, energetic and cheerful. Say hi to your Ma.”, Da said as he moved me towards the link’.
“Hi, Ma.”, I said then gave her my widest grin.
I could see the shock on her face, almost similar when Da saw me in the Principal’s office a while ago, but with controlled tears.
“I’m on my way there.”, she mouthed.
“Ma, I’m fine! Really, really fine! See, Da has taken care of me, and I’m okay. You don’t have to come here, okay?”
Da must have sensed my panic so he took the link’ from me then patted my head.
“Eve, he’s alright. No major injuries. I personally checked it. Just scratches. Relax.”
“Scratches?! You call that shiner and abrasions scratches? They used a steel bat on him, for Christ’s sake, and they were bigger than him, and you’re telling me to relax? And why was he on a three-day suspension? I’m coming.”
I mouthed a voiceless NO to Da, waving my hands in the air as a signal.
He flipped the transmission to private, gave me an OK hand sign, then moved to the farthest corner. I slammed my body face-down on the couch, silently praying that Da would win the negotiation.
Now I felt sorry to all of the staffs in the school.
It was a fifteen-minute private conversation, and when Da clicked off Ma’s transmission, he sat on the couch near my head.
“Did you win?”, I asked.
“Why son, are you betting on us?”
“You know that my money’s on you, Da.”, I said then raised my head and stared at him. “So, did you win?”
Da simply ruffled my head with his hand. “You’ll face her wrath at home.”
“Yeah, but, she must have vented it out, right? I’m glad you fetch me first, Da.”
“Am I less scary than your mother? Do you want me to impose a hard punishment then?”
“No, please. That’s not what I meant. I mean, you’re more understanding than Ma in this because, you know, man to man.”, I said sheepishly.
To be honest, both of them were scary when they got mad. Being a son of two prominent people, you have to know where and who to run when things went wrong. In this case, it was Da. But there were several cases when Ma was the best person.
Just like what I did last Christmas.
We always held a house party to all of my parent’s associates, and since it was an adult’s party, I was forced to go upstairs and sleep. I’m not yet sleepy that time, and the movies played on the screen were generic Christmas stories and the music played were generic Christmas songs. So I crept downstairs to observe. It was also boring, so I went to the technical booth operated by our droids then ran a program. I never knew that I toggled the keys from a serene ballroom to a disco house, and the music shifted to something that labeled The 80’s.
Da was very angry when he caught me, gave me a long-hour sermon, and grounded me for thirty days. Ma was the one who calmed Da, and was able to lessen his punishment because ‘everyone enjoyed it more than the past parties they have attended’.
“Erm, Da, can I have a request?”
“What is it?”
“Can I stay here for a while? I’ll behave, just don’t call Poppy to send me home yet.”
“Why not? You can ring Caro if you want something, or play around here.”
“Really? That’s so mag!”, I said, almost jumping with joy on the couch and leaped to Da.
We did not notice Caro was standing at the door and was observing us for a while. She cleared her throat.
“Sir, the associates are here. Would you like me to relieve them for a while?”
Da sometimes travel for business. It makes me sad, especially Ma, but I know they were all important. And every time he gets home, Da would always bring souvenirs for me and gifts to Ma, much to her annoyance.
“I’ll be back in an hour then we’ll eat downstairs at the restaurant. Caro’s going to make reservations, so better tell her what you would like to eat there, okay?”, Da said.
He went to Caro to take the folders from her then went outside. Caro waved her hands towards me.
“Hey young fellow, what do you want for lunch?”
“Hmm…do they have lasagna and tacos there?”, I inquired.
“I believe they have those. That’s all?”
“Chocolate pudding.”, I added, almost gleaming with the thought.
And true to his words, Da finished his meeting in an hour. He found me sitting at the reception’s desk, cooed and played by some employees. They scrambled and resumed their work when they spotted him coming.
I’m excited as it was my first time to spend with my Da in his office during schooldays. I ripped a suspension anyway, so better enjoy it while it lasted.
There were several diners in the restaurant. The waiter led us to our reserved spot. It was a table for two located near the windows. Before the waiter could place the tablecloth on me, which I really despised much, I snatched it immediately then laid it on my lap. Our food was delivered to our table in a minute, especially my chocolate pudding.
“Poppy called a while ago. I told him that I’ll be staying here and he said okay and that Ma already told him that.”, I reported while munching my food.
“Really?”, Da said, raising his brows.
“Really. That’s why I don’t want to go home now because Poppy sticks with Ma’s side. He always reports to Ma anything related to me. And he said that you were worse than me when you were at my age.”
Da frowned. “I might be a troublemaker when I was your age, but I don’t give your Poppy a heart attack like what you did.”
This time I frowned. “Everybody said that it’s ‘like father, like son’ why I’m like this.”, I defended, “Were you also alike with your dad?”
Da stopped suddenly.
Then in a heartbeat, he looked at me and said, “Aye, like your Poppy.”
After we finished our meal, I pulled something in my pocket.
“This is for you, Da.”, I said, offering him a lollipop.
“My classmate Karla gave me three of these this morning. She said that her feelings are with these and if I could share the same. I don’t have a candy that time so I don’t understand.”
Da looked at me with a grin on his face.
“I think I need to teach you some proper manners of a gentleman before you could break somebody’s heart.”
We both peeled the wrappers and popped it in our mouth. It tastes like strawberry.
“I’ll be giving my last lollipop to Ma as a peace offering. Do you think she’ll like it?”, I asked.
Da paid and left the bills on the table, took my hand, and went back to his office with lollipops in our mouth.
Da spent most of the afternoon sitting on his table, doing several things I don’t know of. Some came to have a short talk then went outside. His desk link’ beeped for several times and he answered them in a serious tone. Sometimes he went outside for a few minutes then returned to his table. It was fascinating to see him work in all-serious eyes and calm demeanor like he’s an opposite of my laid-back and lazy Da.
Ma was very similar as well. She was all poker-faced with an authoritative voice and snappy movements, and always using it to Aunt Peabody. I remember when I was still in a crib, she used to place me in her office, and like Da, Ma went outside for a few minutes to update her ‘murder board’ as I’ve heard, then came back again.
Unlike with the usual kids I know of, I never touch or disturb my parent’s workplace for their attention. I never whine if they won’t notice me when they’re on work-mode, or do tantrums if they won’t play with me. Poppy said that only spoiled brats do that.
Da went outside for a bit again. I went to the television screen that he had at the bar counter. I clicked it on, scanned some interesting channels then stopped at 75. It was Auntie Nadine on the screen, reporting something like ‘criminals’ and ‘chase-down’ jargons I usually hear with Ma. The scene changed into a street with a big man running, bumping the people along his way. Behind him, I saw Ma doing the same thing, and in an instant, she leaped on his back. The man smacked his head on the pavement, and when he struggled, she planted a fist on his face.
“Way to go, Ma!”, I cheered.
When Da entered the room, I saw his eyes were completely glued to the screen.
“Ma slugged somebody. Total knock-out.”, I announced.
I heard Da groaned, murmuring something about reprimands, then returned to his table.
When the screen started to get boring, I clicked it off. That was when I noticed the hologram on Da’s desk. I went closer to it, gazing the structure of a tall building.
“What’s that?”, I asked, pointing the antennae-looking design on its top.
“Ah, that’s a device used against lightning, in order to protect the building not to get hit.”
I was clearly engrossed by its design and appreciated its view more when Da let me sat on his lap. His intercom beeped. It was Caro. “Mr. Stradiskova is in the visitor lounge now.”
“Let him in the office instead.”, Da said then clicked off.
“Would you like to meet the one who made it?”, he asked me.
I nodded then asked me again if I would like to play a game. He laid out the rules for me, and as he explained, I couldn’t stop grinning.
When Mr. Stradiskova entered, that was our cue.
Da was at his last meeting of the day – according to Caro.
She was arranging some files on her desk when I spotted a tall, willowy-haired woman entered the receiver’s area. She was wearing a black suit, with high pump heels. Her skirt was above her knees, quite short for my standard, which only highlighted her butt.
“Who is she?”, I innocently asked.
When Caro followed what I was referring to, she immediately scowled.
“A bimbo applicant for one of the positions in the HR department.”
Ah, that jargon was not difficult for me to understand. Bimbo.
“If you hate her, then why are you hiring her?”, I probed.
Caro gave a short laugh.
“I don’t have any capacity to hire her or even reject her. She’s an internal hire from one of your father’s branch office who wants to be relocated here to a higher position. She doesn’t have to pass me for screening.”
I was curious about her now that Caro revealed her total dislike. So I walked towards her and sit in the opposite chair.
“Hi.”, I greeted.
I saw her eyes bulged for a moment when she saw me. Her back was facing Caro’s location, so she couldn’t see the secretary’s furious hand signal.
“You must be Roarke’s junior. It’s a pleasure meeting you.”, she said.
Uh oh. One markdown.
“May I know your business here, Miss…”
“Ah, Miss Wesley. Lori Wesley, but you can call me Lori.”, she fumbled.
I waited for a beat then offered her a handshake. Another markdown.
“So, may I know your business here, Lori?”, I asked her again.
“I was called for a final interview here, in relation to the position of HR Admin.”
“And may I know what HR Admin is?”
She did explain what HR Admin was all about but after the first three phrases, I stopped listening. Another markdown.
When she was done, I stood up.
“Okay, Lori. I think I already got an impression from you. Nice meeting you.”
“May I know your impressions are?”, she asked sweetly.
“I was taught not to tell a lie, so I’ll be frank. You failed.”
Somehow my words bolted her like an arrow. Her sweet expression suddenly turned into vicious.
“Ho-how dare you telling me that?! Do you have any idea what you are saying?”
I tilted my head like I’m giving a thought.
“Ah, I don’t think so, because your idea might be different with my idea. And because you were much older than me and may have lots of ideas than me, I’ll tell you my idea. Your hand is wet when you shake my hands and you’re not even bothered offering it to me. It was vital for introducing yourself. Then you explained lengthily about the position when the one’s asking was a simpleton. Then third? We have proper dress codes to follow.”
She looked baffled.
“Don’t worry, Lori. I’m not the one hiring you but my father. And to think that I have given you some cheat points?”, I said then walked out.
I didn’t need to look back to know that she was fuming on my comment. She stormed out into the elevator and punched the ground floor.
Caro was not the only one observing me. Her other assistants saw my actions.
“What?”, I asked Caro who was grinning at me.
“It would be a great loss to the law force if you decided to become an Executive, and to the business world if ever you will be a Detective someday.”
I just scoffed and went to my Da who just ended his meeting in the conference room.
“Do you have another meeting?”, I asked.
Da looked at Caro. Since his last appointment backed out, his next option would be home.
“Before I forgot sir, the IT department handed me this disc.”, Caro said as she gave the item to Da.
He inspected the label then flashed a beaming smile to me.
“Would you like to play a game with me?”