A New Face
There was a new face in the office.
Komiya was a model employee. Or so, at least that was his personal reflection. Dedicated, disciplined, and might he add, well dressed, it was no wonder he’d secured his enviable position as Chief Clerk of Accounting.
It was the first week back to work since the New Year, the streets and shops still blanketed with snow and drawn up with the echoes of the festive season, and Komiya was more than eager to get back into the swing of things at the office.
It hadn't been a particularly restful holiday for him; New Year’s dinner with the family had been more miserable than merry, and the remainder of his holiday he had chosen to spend at home, alone, as he preferred it- busying himself and obsessing over a new project.
It had all started with a few words at the office Christmas party.
“Komiya...we deserve a vacation.” Director Ton had mumbled, downing another glass of sake and belching.
“We sure do keep busy, sir!” Komiya had assented, pressing his face obnoxiously close and nodding, seated in the barstool right beside his boss.
His head was buzzing from liquor, but unlike his superior, he was still sober enough to maintain some semblance of balance in his seat.
In the far back of the izayaka, he could faintly hear the sound of his coworkers stumbling over drunken melodies.
Ton turned to him, face and eyes red from inebriation. “You’re the only one who gets me,” he grunted, slumping onto the table. “Remind me...to give you a raise come the New Year.”
A smile broke across Komiya's face. "You flatter me, sir! Of course, I would be more than pleased to accept-!"
But the raucous sound of snoring cut him off mid-sentence, and he tapered off. The boss was out cold.
Now, one might have just dismissed this entire conversation as the ramblings of a drunk.
But not Komiya.
He’d been anticipating this morning all week.
The air was bitterly cold, but the morning was bright and sunny- prospects looked good.
Briefcase and laptop in hand, the accountant arrived at the trading firm's parking lot a full hour early. Most employees- Komiya would just call them slackers- didn't arrive until fifteen minutes before nine, and so he didn’t feel a bit awkward about giving himself a little pep talk as he entered the building's main lobby.
Komiya passed the receptionist at her desk and pinged the button for the elevators, reciting the opening lines of his presentation to himself.
“Good morning, director...I’d like to discuss with you my performance in these last months...”
Needless to say, he was proud of his presentation. A well-illustrated detail of his work performance, complete with graphs, animations, and clip art, it looked damn near professional.
And for added measure, he'd slipped in the photograph of him with the Director together at last year’s company picnic. Couldn’t hurt.
Komiya smiled. He knew this would be just the right little nudge to incline Ton towards that raise.
And if that didn't work...
The elevator doors slid open onto the third floor- accounting.
Accounting was divided into three teams: sales, marketing, and, most importantly in Komiya's opinion, finance.
The office hadn't been occupied since before the holiday break, and Komiya wanted to be the first there to tidy things up. Dust the computers, fill the humidifier, and brew some strong morning tea, just as the boss liked it. That would definitely win him some bonus points.
If he played his cards right, he might even be able to clinch Yagyu's job.
The only person standing between Komiya and Ton, Yagyu, the section manager, was a lazy, incompetent buffalo with an addiction to the stock market.
There was a surplus of reasons Komiya hated his supervisor, but most of all, he envied his position. With all the work he did, he deserved that spot. And he would prove it.
Komiya reached the main office at the end of the hallway and started to withdraw his key from his pocket. But he stopped short, confusion drawing on his face.
Through the blinds of the office window, it looked like the lights in the room were already on.
Was the Director already in? That's weird...
Uncertainly, he knocked once and turned the doorknob, taking a step inside.
“Director, is that you-?" he asked softly.
But his words were drowned out by the sound of another voice, the bubbly peals of girlish laughter.
"Hehe! Ooh, that is so cool, Mr. Ton!"
Komiya blinked, stopping dead in his tracks.
Sitting laxly at his desk, there was the Director, smiling, and by his side was a person Komiya had never seen before. An effervescent gazelle with orange fur, she was small, petite even; but her vibrant couture and handbag, not to mention her manner of speaking, were enough to make her eye-catching. And she was in deep conversation with the boss himself.
"And you won the championship right then and there?" The gazelle gasped, eyes wide and pressing her hands together in what must have been awe.
"Just like that!" Ton chuckled, a grin stretched so far across his face it didn't seem to end. "I'm not the head of the country club for nothing!"
Komiya hesitantly approached the desk, hands tucked in front of his chest and anxious sweat budding on his brow. "Excuse me, Director?"
The two of them whipped around, noticing him for the first time, and the meerkat cringed a little at the momentary flash of anger in the boss' eyes.
"Oh, Komiya," he said, resuming his smile. "Meet our newest associate. This is Tsunoda. She'll be joining our marketing team as of today."
Tsunoda looked at him and beamed. "It's nice to meet you, Mr. Kimoya."
"What a nice girl!" Ton continued, looking pleased. "She came in bright and early to bring me an espresso and even filled up the humidifier!" He motioned at the appliance and an enormous cup of coffee sitting on his desk.
"It was my pleasure," Tsunoda said, smiling brightly.
Komiya nodded, uncomfortable. Well, there went that plan out the window.
"Yes. Charmed." He turned his attention back to Ton. "Director, I was hoping we could discuss..."
"That'll have to wait, I'm busy," Ton grunted, taking out his favorite golf club from under his desk and polishing it. "Why don't you show the new girl around before the crowd comes in? I'd ask Retsuko to do it, but," he chuckled. "She doesn't know her head from her ass. Ahahaha!"
And that was the end of that matter.
After a moment’s pause standing in place, Tsunoda turned to him expectantly, eyes bright. "Kimoya, right?"
"Komiya," he corrected, wiping this forehead. This task almost seemed demeaning…maybe he had done something wrong?
He cleared his throat.
"I expect you've seen enough of the boss's desk," Komiya said, a little bitterly, and he prompted her to look at the other many rows of computer workstations.
"This one is mine," he said, gesturing to an immaculate desktop, organized most particularly with papers alphabetized and all staples lined up at perfect 45 degree angles. Little color-coded notes were placed neatly on the shelf, and at the very front, his desk was adorned with a little silver plate: Chief Clerk.
Sure, it wasn't as big and shiny as Ton's DIRECTOR plaque, but it was a source of pride for him.
Tsunoda studied it for a moment, then looked up at Komiya with a grin. "Wow, Mr. Perfect. So what does a Chief Clerk do?"
He was stopped abruptly by the question.
It wasn't that he didn't have an answer; it was his job, for one thing, to handle all the records the office processed.
But he'd never been asked before. She was probably making fun of him.
"Nevermind," he said, annoyed. "And don’t call me that. Your desk-" he motioned to the far corner- "is probably way in the back."
Next he ushered her over to the photocopier- perhaps the most important tool in the office.
"We have one rule," he said, tapping it. "Business only. The machine is not a toy." He said these words seriously as he looked at her. "I wouldn't want a repeat of what happened last year. I expect you know how to use it?"
She had the look of a girl who had never done a day of work in her life, but all the same, she nodded.
"Here is the tea room," Komiya said, leading her to the rear of the office.
"Tea is an integral part of life here at The Working Company; not just for you, the employees, but as part of the work culture, too."
He flicked on the light, illuminating a room prepared with a small kitchen.
"Ohhh!" Tsunoda gasped, clapping her hands in excitement. "This is so posh! My last job didn't have anything like this!" She bounced inside, browsing the number of different tea bags laid out on the counter.
Komiya couldn't help smiling in spite of himself. "I assume you like tea."
Tsunoda looked up at him. "No, I prefer coffee." Her eyes lit up. "Especially lattes. Vanilla, Hazelnut, Caramel. And oh, the Gingerbread that is only out at Christmastime. The one they sell at the Sanrio Cafe!" She made a little gasp, snagging her cellphone out of her purse. "I love latte art! I post a ton of it, let me show you, it's so cute-"
Komiya took a step back awkwardly as she shoved a social media screen into his face. He sure as hell didn't want to look at any latte art, and uncomfortably cleared his throat. "Well, last is the locker rooms down the hall," he said, changing the subject. "Where you change into your uniform for the working day. Work begins in just a few minutes, so..."
He was just glad to finally be done with the tour.
"Ohh, I got one of those," Tsunoda nodded, putting her phone away. "But I don't think I'll wear it. It's not really my color."
Komiya stopped abruptly, staring. "What? It's required." All the men and women in the department had a uniform to wear.
Tsunoda smiled. "I know, but the Director said I should do whatever makes me comfortable, and I'm most comfortable in my own clothes. Isn't that super nice of him?"
A fuse in Komiya's head went off.
Narrowing his eyes, he laid his arm against the wall assertively. "Listen up, I can see what you're doing, but since you're new here, I'll let you off with a warning."
Tsunoda closed her mouth.
"I'm second-in-command here, and I'm Ton's favorite," Komiya continued, mouth twisting into a boastful smirk as he looked down on her. This was a little of an exaggeration, considering Yagyu was rightly Ton's right-hand man, but Komiya refused to honor him with the title.
"I don't need someone like you nosing in trying to butter him up. So stop your little suck-up act."
Tsunoda looked up at him for a moment, blinking with hesitation. Then she giggled.
"For a second there, I thought you were serious," she said, registering the smirk on his face. "You're funny!"
The meerkat's face fell.
At that moment, there was the chime of the clock: fifteen minutes 'til nine. Slowly, employees started to drift into the building.
Tsunoda put her hand on Komiya's arm, and he felt a sudden prickling sensation at her touch. Their gazes met.
"I look forward to working with you, Mr. Komiya!" she said, smiling and taking him in with her big, bright, doe eyes.
And then suddenly she was gone, disappearing back into the office and joining others as they made their way to their desks.
Komiya could feel his face and ears burning and swiped a hand over his heated face. Anger...it had to be anger.
He paused a moment, arm dropping down to his side, realizing that the heavy, dreadful sound echoing in his ears was his own heartbeat. "She is so annoying!" And how dare she turn the tables on him!
But as collected himself, he couldn't help lingering over one traitorous thought: she was kind of cute...
Some thirty minutes later as things got settled in, Komiya was feeling more and more anxious.
He was naturally fidgety- it's just how he was.
He was a nervous person. Constantly fidgeting and bursting with energy, he tried his best to maintain a facade of calm resolution for the sake of his job. But when he had something weighing on his mind, his movements became all the more fickle and restless.
Tapping impatiently at his keyboard, the meerkat glanced up at the boss's desk for what might have been the hundredth time. Was he mad at him?
Sitting across from him, Komiya saw the section manager was just settling into his workplace, late as usual, probably preparing to spend the whole day playing virtual scratch cards, as usual. A complete embarrassment to the company!
He swept his gaze towards the other side of the room, where he could faintly make out Tsunoda at her new desk and computer. She caught his gaze and smiled and he quickly turned away, starting to feel more and more irritated. Best to ignore her. Ignore them all...
Too anxious to keep still, Komiya stood up and began to pace around the office, doing his usual rounds of watching his coworkers at work. Man, was he busy! As Chief Clerk, he felt it was his duty to make sure people were keeping to task... and he was Ton's self-appointed eyes and ears.
As he looked over their shoulders, he was not surprised to find the typical vulgar and boorish behavior of his subordinates.
There was Kabae, once again going off about her nephew to anyone who would listen. He spotted that old hag Tsubone sticking chewing gum underneath her desk, revolting. And surprise, Ookami wasn't even present, probably taking another day off for extended vacation.
Komiya clucked his tongue, being sure to report this all to the boss when he had the chance.
And then, it was time for lunch.
Despite it's size, the company did not have a real cafeteria. It only offered a collection of vending machines in the break room, and so the wise decision, as any employee would conclude, was to bring lunch from home.
At the lunch bell, Komiya brought out his little brown bag and headed to the break room. He'd packed the same as he packed every day: a bento box with white rice and a rolled egg, and some canned black tea. And he had his same favorite spot overlooking the window, a great view of the city skyline.
The room bustled, and Komiya took a long sip from his tea. He was finally starting to feel a bit better, beginning to think the day might not turn out so bad after all.
He always ate alone. The Director always attended luncheons with supervisors at this time, and Komiya didn't really have any friends at the office.
But Komiya didn't really think he needed anyone- and, as he preferred to think, they were all just intimidated or beneath him. They were, after all, his subordinates.
He focused his attention back out the window, and ate contentedly in silence until the lunch period was over.
The thirty minute period was just ending and everyone was heading back to their workstations in the office when Komiya came across Tsunoda again.
She was leaning back against the photocopier taking a selfie, cellphone raised high and making a peace sign with her fingers, completely oblivious to the traffic trying to get past her.
"Tsunoda!" Komiya snapped, coming up in front of her.
With surprise, the gazelle sprang up and nearly bumped into him. "Oh, oops!"
"Tsunoda, put the phone away," Komiya said as calmly as he could, expecting another one of her arguments coming. "If Ton catches you with it on the clock, he might confiscate it."
This wasn't necessarily true, as nobody had ever been dumb enough to be caught before, but it was something the Director had threatened many times, and if the threat might make her listen to reason...
Unexpectedly, she obliged and slipped her phone back into her purse.
"Sorry, I was just taking some pics for my blog. First day at the new job!" She said excitedly, that smile of hers unwavering. "I really like everyone so far! I think I'm fitting in real well, don't you?"
Komiya looked her up and down awkwardly, not sure how to respond. She seemed to be completely sincere, completely unaware that she was as vexing as she was.
Could someone really be that naive?
Her face became worried for the first time. "You won't tell Ton, will you?" she asked.
Komiya felt a twinge of sympathy and looked away, shaking his head. "Just forget about it. Don't let me catch you doing it again."
Ton then entered the room with the last of the stragglers, and Komiya shuffled back to his desk for the rest of the work day. Anxiety was bubbling up again.
By the time he got home, his head was splitting with a violent headache.