The Divorcee is a Wicked Black Belly Chapter 31: An Ning surprises everyone
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The staff looked surprised to see An Ning. Their eyes widened even more when they saw Richard.
An Ning greeted everyone jovially and opened the door to the room occupied by Matt. Gara looked up when she entered. Sam, who was working on a laptop, said hi in a low voice. Matt eyed her rather suspiciously from his keyboard.
Matt had done a quite amazing makeover to the once scary looking monster by cutting his hair, clipping his nails and buying him new clothes. Gara was wearing khakis, a white shirt and loafers. There was even a whiff of something like men's cologne coming from him. In this getup, he looked like a nerd seeking an interview with the head of the HR. He was neither anxious or nervous. He sat there totally at ease.
Richard entered the room and was struck dumb when he saw Gara.
"Another applicant," An Ning said flippantly. "I'm not really the one who decides this things though. Maybe you should talk to my father? Richard, can you take him to see dad, please?"
An Ning's tone was very casual. Anyone hearing her would assume that she was dismissing the guy because he didn't pass the initial interview. Richard would promise an interview with An Ma then they would never hear from Gara ever again.
Gara stood up and followed Richard outside. An Ning pretended not to see the quizzical look Richard threw at her.
She went outside and entered her office. She turned on her phone and sent a text message. She left her office again and went back to Matt's room.
"When is this tech convention again?" she asked, looking at Sam.
"The middle of June," Sam said, frowning. "Why? Is there a problem?"
"Nothing like that," An Ning assured her. "I was just wondering what kind of game we're unveiling for the competition. Any ideas yet?"
"I've started working on something. But it's in its early stage yet. Just the interface."
"Can I see it?"
Sam typed on the laptop and opened a file. An Ning looked at the design and frowned a little.
"It looks a bit stiff and the interface not cuddly enough."
"The audience are young teens and above."
"I want us to target kids as young as ten of either sex. They want something, their parents buy it for them. Teens are more target oriented. They follow the fad."
"I'll work on ten frames and show them to you later. I was thinking of something educational but fun to play with."
"That's fine," An Ning said. "Are we going with this just one design then?"
Sam was startled.
"You want us to present another design?"
"I want us to make a statement, Sam. Even if we don't win anything, I want that statement made loud and clear."
"I'll talk to the guys..."
An Ning pulled her phone out and opened an app.
"Here, take a look at this," she said, handing the phone to Sam.
Sam looked at the app and started playing with it. His face broke into a smile when he scored a hit. He looked at An Ning and grinned.
"This is kind of fun. What's it called? I'll download it."
"I'm glad you like it. It's not finished yet. I'm still working on the visuals and the sound effects. The onboarding part needs a little tweak as well. It's too slow for my taste. What?"
Sam was looking at her like she just sprouted two antennas on her head.
"You write games as well?"
"As well? What do you mean? Why would I agree to this competition otherwise?"
Sam gurgled with laughter.
"You really are amazing, boss," he said. "What do you call this game anyway?"
"Not my problem. Brainstorm it with the rest of the group."
"Pacman turns into a truck and bashes the ghosts?"
"Too long and Pac-Man is already a trademark."
"Truckman?" Matt suggested, taking the phone from Sam and playing the game. "When did you have time to do this anyway?"
"I don't know. Three days ago?"
"Are you even human?" Matt asked sarcastically.
"Matt," An Ning said, turning serious. "I want you to test the firewall with all you've got. I want it cleaned of all bugs by tonight."
"Are you expecting something to happen again?"
"I just have this feeling. It doesn't hurt to be prepared anyway. I'll see you and Sam later."
Richard was waiting in the car when An Ning emerged from the building. She opened the door and got in.
"Did mom saw him?"
Richard nodded. He leaned over and tightened the belt around her middle. An Ning winced.
"It's a little too tight," she complained.
Richard adjusted the strap until it loosened a bit around her waist.
An Ning nodded. Richard started the car.
"Why a computer shop?" he asked, turning to look at her.
"I don't trust the computers in the office and my laptop. I think it's better if you buy a new laptop as well."
"Trust me on this, please, Richard. I need to be careful starting today because many lives are at stake."
"My mother will never be the same again if Yu Yan wins. You know that, don't you?"
"She's made from a different breed than ordinary women, An Ning. I think she can take it, whatever it is that's waiting for her."
An Ning fell silent.
"She was seventeen years old when she had me. Most women go through the same then go home to lead pampered lives. My mother didn't even have time to breathe air when she saw her daughter get kidnapped. Then she was imprisoned and everything that was dear and familiar to her was taken away."
"She feels some guilt over what happened," Richard conceded.
"Why? Because she thinks she's failed her mother. Hippolyta casts such a long shadow over her, even me. I don't think any of us can live up to the expectations."
"You and your mother are not Hippolyta," Richard pointed out.
"You know, in the normal scheme of things, if Ceres had me and there was No Yu Yan, I would have taken over at the same age. This would have been me confronting problems and finding ways to solve them. It would have been easy. Just a war or two every century and the Amazons would have continued living their lives like they always did, independent and free."
"Did you ever think that their old ways need to change so they can survive more in this century? Amazons have become obsolete, An Ning. They're spoken of as myths and legends. Nobody believes in them anymore."
"I don't want anybody to believe that they're real. It's not about how people accept them, Richard. It's about how they go from here, from this point. Do they go forward or do they go back? Do they stay the same or change?"
"They have to figure that out for themselves then," Richard said. "You know, even without Yu Yan, something or other will stir the waves, so to speak."
"This is more than a wave though, Richard. It's a tsunami."
"An Ning?" Richard said, throwing her a glance.
"Whatever happens, you don't go out in battle alone, got that? Promise me."
There was silence.
Richard seemed to sigh in relief.
"What happened in Saravia? When you got there? What happened?"
"Ceres was expecting us. She wasn't even surprised when she saw us drive to the village. It must have been a different place when your father first got there. When we arrived, everything was deserted. The entire town shuttered. Ceres was standing outside what seemed to be a hall. An Ma almost staggered to a stop when he saw her. She looked so much like Yu Yan yet different."
"She's a flame to her passive ice. I wonder why dad never even suspected she was a different woman. Not after loving the real Ceres surely?"
"I think he is the type of man who will believe anything as long as Ceres, real or not, is with him."
"He loved her that much?"
"Why the surprise? You don't think I can love you like that, too?" Richard was a little hurt and it showed in his voice.
"But Yu Yan was but a shell of the woman he longed for. She looked like my mother but she didn't even behave or think or speak like my mother. Surely, he must have noticed the difference? It's right there, staring him in the face. Was he really that blind?"
Richard didn't answer.
"He loved her. Or the idea of her. And that's what's important to him anyway," he said after a while.
"It seems rather stupid to me though."
"Why do you say that?" something like fear crept into Richard's voice.
"I don't know. The idea of loving someone different from what you imagined. Didn't I fell out of love with you when you cheated on me?"
"That was different," Richard said quietly.
An Ning laughed.
"Of course you would say that."
"What I realized after the divorce was that I made a colossal mistake," Richard said. "I didn't know my own heart that's why I acted like I did. I hurt you but I hurt myself more. I didn't want you to leave quietly and just forget about me. And the thought of you with another man...it tore me up, An Ning. It would have destroyed me."
An Ning was touched. She gripped the hand on the wheel and kissed him on his lean cheek.
"Don't talk like that," she admonished. "I'm not worth it."
"You are to me," Richard said, holding her hand in his. "Whatever happens, you can trust on that certainty."
An Ning was puzzled by the intensity in his voice but dismissed it as something any man would say to a woman they had the hots for. What did the pre-amnesia An Ning really feel for this man, she wondered? She divorced him yet got back together again with him then had his baby. There's definitely something not right with this story. But he won't say anything other than tell her to trust him because he loved her. Definitely fishy.
When they got back to the penthouse some two hours later, it was to see the occupants of the 19th and 18th floor apartments ringed around their long table peaceably having their dinner. Gan waved to Richard in greeting. Richard was annoyed but An Ning dropped her bags on a table and pulled out a chair. Richard muttered under his breath, helped her to her seat then sat down beside her. Sarai placed two plates in front of them.
"Sarai, how about looking for additional help in the kitchen?" An Ning said, using her chopsticks to reach a piece of pork. "Somebody with your talent for cooking, of course, and perhaps a helper to clear things afterwards? What do you think?"
"My daughter is a good cook. She went to cooking school and now works for a well-known restaurant in M City. I'll give her a call later. My grandson could help out as well. He's on a break from school and is looking for something to do."
"Will your daughter agree, do you think?"
"She was telling me the other day that work in the restaurant was getting too tiring and her boss doesn't appreciate her efforts. I think she'd be glad of the change."
"Okay, I'll leave it to you then," An Ning nodded.
"Does she know how to make omelets?" asked Ceres.
"Then she's hired."
"I like those bread with stuffed meat," Matt said, like he was speaking in an infomercial.
"Good to know," Richard said sarcastically.
"Does she know how to make a martini?" asked An Ma.
"That's all, Sarai," An Ning said. "Bring out the cake I brought home, will you?"
"Cake again?" Matt frowned. "Is that really good for the baby?"
"And my flavored iced tea, Sarai," An Ning said, ignoring Matt.
"What time is breakfast tomorrow?"
Richard ground his teeth when he heard the question from Gan.
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