"Can I have a Martini, please? Thanks."
Taeyeon turned to the voice and saw the young lady taking a seat at the bar stool next to her. She
was quite surprised to see a fellow Asian considering the flawless American English accent and
made a mental note that she's the most beautiful girl she had seen in the past few days she had been
in the foreign city - if not ever. She returned her attention to the drink in her hand.
She turned towards the voice, "Excuse me?"
"Are you bored?"
Taeyeon shrugged, "A little."
Taeyeon lifted her eyebrows at the stranger, "I don't know anyone and you may notice that my
English is not very good."
"Ah. Are you Korean?"
"Good. Then English would not be a problem anymore." The girl smiled. Taeyeon reaffirmed her
mental note at the sight of the disappearing eyes.
A hand was extended to her, "Let's start over then." This time it's in her mother tongue. "Hi, my
name is Tiffany. Nice to meet you and I'm sorry for my poor Korean."
It took Taeyeon a second to react. She shook the hand, "Hi, I didn't know you're Korean and
don't worry, it's not as bad as my English. I'm Taeyeon."
"Kim Taeyeon? From Seoul?"
Taeyeon nodded. "News travel fast, huh?"
Tiffany shrugged, "Well, the New York office is not that big. Word gets around."
"You're working for the New York office?"
"For now. I'm based in LA actually. Just here for this among other stuff," she gestured towards
the crowded room behind them.
Taeyeon spun around to look at the room, "Do the US offices throw a lot of these parties?"
"I don't know about the New York one but we don't do it in this scale in LA. Seoul office is not
the partying type?"
"Our get-togethers are a bit different."
They grew quiet.
"Are you bored?" Now it was Taeyeon's turn to ask. She wasn't one for small talk but thought it
would be rude to not at least return the question.
"A little. I enjoy my share of parties but not these boring company ones." Tiffany turned to
Taeyeon, "I'm surprised that someone with your reputation is not the partying type."
Taeyeon looked at her with eyebrows lifted, "What reputation?"
"The up and coming young architect? The winner of the 2010 Best Urban Design Award? The
cover feature of Architecture Asia Magazine?"
"Oh. That." Taeyeon's expression didn't change as she took another sip from her drink. "I was
hoping no one would mention those..." she mumbled into her glass.
"Everyone here knows your name and achievements, although not many know your face. Present
company included. So I'm not talking to you because of that, just so you know."
Taeyeon chuckled, "No worries. It's fine either way."
Tiffany observed the small girl. She hadn't expected that the prodigy brain came in such a small
frame. Quite cute, actually. "You're totally not having fun, are you? You do realize that you're
invited to this party as the guest of honor? The US offices are glad to have you here."
Taeyeon nodded, "I know. But I'm not the partying type and I honestly don't get the point of the
whole `guest of honor' title. I'm just here to do the boss' bidding after all."
"Redesigning his daughter's lake house. Right outside of town."
"Ah. I heard about that. If you're so reluctant about it, why do it? I don't think he has any control
over you anyway. You'll be snatched up as soon as you leave this company."
Taeyeon shrugged, "I'm on a break from other projects and I like the guy, I like working for him.
I don't mind doing him or his spoiled little girl a favor." She paused, "Plus, I've seen the house..."
Tiffany smiled, "So it's the passion for the job?"
"Something like that."
"May I have your attention please?" The head of the New York office stood in the middle of the
room, lifting his glass and signaling for the music volume to be tuned down. Chatters died down
"I hope you've been enjoying the party so far. I'd like to thank you all for coming, especially
those all the way from the west coast. Thank you for sharing our joy with the new office building.
We should do this more often!"
A polite laugh and random remarks of agreement followed.
"I am especially excited about our special guest tonight." He smiled, "But before that, I have to
say that it's an honor and always a pleasure to have our lovely Miss Hwang among us."
Heads turned towards them and Taeyeon couldn't understand why.
The man in the middle of the room lifted his glass towards them, "Welcome back to New York,
Miss Hwang! Too bad your father can't join us today but you're much more fun anyway. Oh don't
tell him that by the way."
The room laughed again.
Before Taeyeon could process everything, she saw Tiffany raising her glass, "Glad to be back, Mr.
Burns. Don't worry, I feel the same way about my father. Congrats on the new office! It looks much
better than ours now."
Taeyeon's eyes grew wide in shock. She had to stop her jaw from dropping.
"Oh and may I introduce our guest of honor, Mr. Burns?"
"By all means, Miss Hwang."
"I'd like you all to meet the gem of Hwang & Partners Design, the winner of the 2010 Best Urban
Design Award and the cover feature of Architecture Asia Magazine... the prodigy that everyone in
Asia fought over, coming here all the way from Seoul, Korea... Miss Kim Taeyeon." She gestured to
the speechless girl next to her.
`Ooohs' and `Ahs' were heard in the room along with the sound of applause and murmurs of
Taeyeon pulled herself together and bowed a little, "Thank you for the warm welcome, Miss
Hwang," she nodded to her side, "and Mr. Burns," she lifted her glass towards the tall man. "I'm
honored to be here and I really do not deserve all those titles. Please just think of me as yet another
boring concrete loving person."
The audience chuckled politely and everyone went back to the party as soon as the introduction
"I'm in trouble, aren't I?" Taeyeon said.
"Why?" Tiffany put down her empty glass.
"I called my boss' daughter a spoiled little girl... right to her face."
Tiffany laughed and dismissed Taeyeon's worry with her hand, "I've been called worse. Plus, it's
not all wrong. Although I'm not little anymore, I did have to beg Daddy to somehow get you to do
"Simply because I'm a fan of your work. And that house means a lot to me. I don't trust it into
just anyone's hands. But I think you'll take very good care of it."
Taeyeon was still furrowing her brows in thought.
"A little. But thanks for trusting me anyway."
Tiffany laughed. She found this Kim Taeyeon very interesting. She's not like the other pompous
architects she had met; people who were so proud of their work and so full of themselves. People
who would design an outhouse and call it a work of art for the right amount of money. Tiffany knew
that Taeyeon had even refused to get paid for the project, only letting her father pay for the travel
expenses. The man told her that Taeyeon was sold as soon as she saw pictures of the house. That's
when Tiffany knew that she had chosen the right person for the job - someone who still has passion
for what she does.
"Have you been to the house?"
Taeyeon nodded, "Yesterday. Your father gave me a spare key."
"Good then. You can even use it while you're here, you know."
"Huh?" Taeyeon turned in surprise, "What do you mean?"
Tiffany shrugged, "I have an apartment in the city. And because this visit is more business than
pleasure, I won't be able to go there much. Since you'll be turning it inside out, you might as well
stay there. I don't mind. There's a caretaker so you won't even have to clean."
"Maybe I'll take you up on the offer."
"Consider it your own place for as long as you have the key."
Both turned to look at the crowded room as the volume of the music drowned their words.
It had been two days after the welcoming party and as much as she loved exploring the city's
concrete landscape so Taeyeon decided that she should quickly get back to work. It was why she was
there in the first place. She had just finished tying her sneakers' shoelaces when her phone rang. She
took the device out of her pocket and frowned at the unfamiliar number on the screen.
"Yes. Who is this?"
"It's Tiffany. Sorry to call you this early in the morning."
"Oh hi and no problem. I was going to get breakfast anyway. How did you get this number?"
A second of awkward silence.
"Where do you plan to have breakfast?"
"The hotel is the easiest option so far. I plan to head straight to the house right afterward."
"Have you had any ideas about the house yet? We haven't even properly discussed it, you know."
"I know but I'm still drawing blanks for the moment. If you have any specific request or a certain
preference, do tell me. Might help give me ideas."
"Hmm... how about I tell you over breakfast? I know this place that has the best fresh pastries
"Sure, why not. Text me the address?"
"If you don't mind waiting for a bit, I'll come pick you up. I have to drive by your hotel to get
"Drive? Won't you get stuck in traffic?"
"Don't worry. I'll leave the car at the hotel and we'll walk. It's just a few blocks away."
Taeyeon thought for a moment but decided that she needed to know more about the house before
she starts brainstorming ideas anyway, "Okay then."
"So? What are your ideas?" Taeyeon put down her coffee cup.
"Straight to the point, huh?"
Taeyeon shrugged, "I'm not really fond of small talk..."
"I've noticed," Tiffany smiled.
Taeyeon took another bite from her croissant.
"Okay then. As you may have seen, the house is quite old."
Taeyeon nodded. "Not that bad, though. The foundation is surprisingly still looking strong."
"Well you can take a look and decide on that later. I'm not planning any drastic overhaul or
anything, I don't want it to lose its current homey feel."
"I get what you mean. I wouldn't want to sacrifice that either."
Tiffany nodded, "Good. But I do want to remove most the wood and turned it into a more modern
house. The businesswoman meets grandma concept?" She laughed.
Taeyeon grinned, "Strangely, I think I understand what you mean. I assume glass panes facing the
lake and a sunroof too maybe? Taking down the walls and opening up everything but leaving the
main beams intact; not turning the whole thing into an aquarium?"
"Exactly! You do know what I'm talking about." Tiffany leaned back in satisfaction and
amazement. "I've never had to explain things this quickly and without throwing so much technical
"I don't really like using those terms anyway," Taeyeon finished her croissant; swallowing before
saying her next sentence. "It's easier to get along with a client if you don't come across as arrogant
or a smartass." She smiled, "When it comes to living quarters or structures, I believe the owner has
to feel connected to it to be able to call it a home." She paused to wipe her mouth, "You can call me
cheesy, it doesn't matter. I've heard that a lot."
Tiffany shook her head, "I agree with you although it is cheesy." She smiled.
"Well, that's just the way I work, I guess."
"To each her own," Tiffany sipped her coffee.
A brief pause fell upon them and Taeyeon found herself curiously observing the girl across the
table who was now looking out the window - watching the rush of people going about their daily
"How can someone like you be interested in this kind of business?" Taeyeon finally asked.
"Huh?" Tiffany turned to look at the inquisitive eyes. "What do you mean `someone like me'?"
Taeyeon shrugged, "You're too pretty to be an architect." She stated matter-of-factly.
Tiffany couldn't help but laugh, "You really are straightforward, aren't you? That's not very
common among the Koreans that I know. Refreshing." She looked straight at Taeyeon, "Thank you
for the compliment and although I disagree that an architect should not be pretty - take a look at
yourself, for example - I'm not one, unfortunately."
Taeyeon couldn't help but blush a little at the compliment; not expecting to hear it. "Eh? But you
work for your father and you know plenty of the boring stuff," Taeyeon remembered Tiffany's
conversations with the people at the party.
"I don't know everything but I know enough. I'm an interior designer, Taeyeon. I help Daddy in
that area of the firm. It's not as well developed as the architecture division but we're getting there."
"Ah, I see. That's why he changed the company name last year, huh? I was kinda wondering why
he decided to add the `Design' at the end."
Tiffany nodded, "Yep. He recruited me to help him get this off the ground. After that, he'll let me
go. The name change was to make it easier for people to realize that we're also expanding into other
areas of design."
"You didn't work for him from the start?"
"Nope. I was happy being a freelancer. Even had my own little office set up and everything."
Taeyeon furrowed her brows. "Wait a minute. You don't happen to be that Tiffany Hwang who
got that honorable mention in the young designer award from the city of New York a few years back,
Tiffany laughed, "I'm flattered that you even remembered that. That was straight out of college."
"That was you indeed? It made quite a buzz back home, you know... being the first Korean to
ever achieved that and all."
Tiffany shrugged, "I was lucky, I guess. No big deal."
Taeyeon was quite taken aback by her boss' daughter's attitude. Other people would gladly blow
their own horn at such an achievement instead of taking it this lightly - not even bothering to hint at
her hidden knowledge and experience ever since they took their seats in that little shop and talked
about the project.
"So... how do you plan to get to the house, by the way?" Tiffany took another sip of her coffee.
"Taxi, what else?"
"I see. And have you thought of how you would go back?"
Taeyeon stopped to think. She honestly hadn't thought of that. "Err... can't I call a taxi from the
Tiffany chuckled, "Not likely. It's quite secluded in case you haven't noticed."
Taeyeon mentally face-palmed for not being more meticulous in her planning. She had really
been slipping into vacation mode instead of work mode; thanks to the relief of finally escaping that
last huge project she had to do. It was quite a messy business and being in this foreign city gave her
the break she badly needed. "I guess I need to think this through first then."
"Didn't Daddy give you a car?"
Taeyeon nodded, "But I've returned it after I got back from the house. I don't want to trouble him
or the company. I'm not officially on a company project after all."
"Now that's just nonsense."
"No matter what you think or say, this is a job that we, I, asked you to do. So it's my
responsibility to provide you with what you need to accomplish it. Am I correct?"
"So take and use the car, please. I would be offended if you don't. Besides, it's not the only
company car so you don't need to worry."
Taeyeon tilted her head slightly, growing even more intrigued by this girl who's supposed to be
"It's the only way to get there and back here, Taeyeon." Tiffany said with a firm tone, "I insist
you use it." She already had her phone to her ear and ordered for the car to be brought to the hotel as
soon as possible.
"It's on its way. You can wait at the lobby." Tiffany put her phone in her bag. "As much as I'd
like to go with you to the house, I have some things I need to take care of today... Daddy's orders,"
she sighed and smiled. "Come on. I need to get my car from the hotel. I'll walk you back."
Taeyeon nodded and stood up from her seat.
She turned off the GPS and breathed out in relief. She had made it to the house in one piece. It
wasn't hard to find her way out there although the house was indeed secluded, like Tiffany said. But
the highways and roads were much wider than in Seoul so it wasn't much of a problem once she
made it out of the crazy city traffic.
Taeyeon stretched, breathing in the fresh air and enjoying the serenity for a moment. She had
missed such quiet places and she had felt an attraction to the house ever since her boss showed her
pictures of it. She wasn't sure why; considering it looked more like an old fashioned wooden cottage
more than a proper house by the lake. She assumed that it had served as a family vacation house for
the Hwangs at one point and had become quite abandoned during the years.
She opened the door - the wooden floorboards of the porch slightly creaking under her weight. A
whiff of musty air welcomed her. The place was clean thanks to the caretaker Tiffany mentioned.
She roamed around the house freely, observing every corner of each room, taking notes here and
there, drawing rough sketches, touching and knocking on beams, walls and stomping on floors.
Taeyeon stepped off the stairs, returning to the first floor and made her way towards the back
porch. She walked passed the fireplace and stopped to see the only picture frame on it. Inside it was a
photo of the younger version of her boss hugging a beautiful smiling woman and a young girl that
she assumed was Tiffany. The woman had the same eye smile as the young girl. Ah, so that's where
she got it from, Taeyeon thought to herself. The picture seemed to be taken at the backyard, with a
glimpse of the lake at the background.
She straightened up and went out the backdoor, out to the fresh air once again. She saw a wooden
porch swing, hanging lopsidedly thanks to one broken chain and made a mental note to have it fixed
later. She went down the steps and walked out to the yard leading down to the waters. After a
considerable distance, she turned around and looked back and up at the house. She drew some
sketches on her pad - imagining how it would look once she could put her hands on it.
Pages after pages she drew until she was at least satisfied with one very rough sketch of her vision.
If I keep doing this, I would be very environmentally unfriendly. She chuckled to herself after
noticing how many pages she had scribbled on just for this one short visit. She closed her book and
slipped the pen in the binding ring. The sun was already turning a gold color and she realized that
she hadn't had lunch. Deciding to call it a day and to come back tomorrow and stay there overnight
to work things out in more detail, she walked back to the car and started the engine.
"Hi. It's Tiffany."
"How was your visit to the house?"
"Okay, I guess. Got some very rough sketches already. I'll work from that and maybe I can give
you a draft by... Thursday?"
"What? That's fast."
"I only have about two weeks left, remember? The least I can do is work out a presentable overall
design that you could approve before I get back. I can easily work out the blueprint and more details
from back home."
"Well, you're the expert. I leave it into your capable hands. Just don't overwork yourself."
Taeyeon smiled to herself - feeling glad at the trust given to her by her client. "Don't worry. I
"Oh... have you had dinner by the way?"
"Any plans? Don't say hotel restaurant."
Taeyeon chuckled, "Not for dinner. I'm not sure what I want to have. I figured I'd take a stroll
around and see what I can find."
"Can I interest you in a steak dinner? I know this very nice place. They have the best steak in
town. Made the papers and everything, you know."
"Hmm... why not."
"Cool. I'll pick you up at the hotel?"
"Wow, this place is crowded." Taeyeon took a look around at the buzzing restaurant and the
people standing in line outside.
Tiffany nodded, "I told you it's the best in town."
"So how are we able to get a table?"
"Let's just say that Daddy's a regular," Tiffany smiled. "And her spoiled little girl likes to make
use of that fact."
Taeyeon gulped, "Sorry again for that."
Tiffany laughed, "I was just kidding, Taeyeon. Relax."
They spent the rest of the evening enjoying their dinner and talking about business and the project.
Tiffany got to know a little bit more about Taeyeon, the daughter of a simple owner of a small
shop back in Jeolado who moved to Seoul for college and worked her way through scholarships and
part-time jobs. She kept admiring the girls' humility and found herself enjoying her straightforward
personality even more than she did that morning. At the same time she realized that Taeyeon barely
talked about herself outside of the formal and business context or unless directly asked. Then again,
they'd just met two nights before. It would be creepy otherwise.
Taeyeon discovered that although there was indeed a spoiled side to Tiffany, it was mostly due to
being her boss' only daughter. Other than that, she was as independent as Taeyeon although a lot
more financially comfortable. She had made a name for herself ever since that mention she received
and had set up her own small firm, against her father's will. He wanted her to take over the company,
apparently. Something that Tiffany said she had no intention of doing. Originally placed in charge of
the LA office, Taeyeon found out that Tiffany was only representing her father until the latter could
return to New York from Korea next month.
Taeyeon was not one to pry. After all, she wouldn't want others to do the same about her and her
life. So she didn't ask any more questions other than the necessary basic information. She was able
to conclude most of the facts from their conversation anyway.
"Ready to go?" Tiffany grabbed her bag.
They stood and left the restaurant.
"Thanks for dinner," Taeyeon said.
"No problem. You're my responsibility for as long as you're here, remember?"
Taeyeon smiled. "As long as I don't turn into a burden..."
"Hey, don't say that. Project aside, I enjoyed your company," Tiffany smiled.
"Thanks. You're quite fun to be with yourself."
Tiffany laughed at that comment.
Taeyeon suddenly stopped in her tracks. Tiffany was surprised, "Is something wrong, Taeyeon?"
She found the girl staring at an ice cream parlor that had put its various flavors on display - the
colors of the creamy dessert shone under the bright store lighting. She looked at the girl's expression
and suddenly realized what's going on. She couldn't help but laugh out loud at the innocent awe of
the short girl. "Do you want ice cream?"
Taeyeon snapped back to life and cleared her throat. "Sorry, I've never seen so many flavors of
ice cream in one place before." She felt her cheeks slightly blushing at the unprofessionalism of her
behavior in front of her client who - to make matters worse - also happened to be her boss' daughter.
That realization made her mentally kick herself. Ice cream was and would always be her biggest
weakness; after jellies that is.
"Well, they do have 48 flavors and I admit I've never seen that many in Korea either." She pulled
Taeyeon's hand and dragged her inside, "Come on. Let's get you some ice cream then."
They ended up choosing three flavors each and took turns tasting all of them. Tiffany could barely
move after letting Taeyeon finish both their ice cream.
"You eat quite a lot for such a small girl."
"Only when it comes to ice cream... well, jellies too," Taeyeon licked her spoon clean. "I must
remember to make sure I taste every flavor before I go back."
Tiffany laughed, "48 flavors in what... two weeks? That will give you toothache, stomachache
and plenty of brain freeze. Are you sure you'll be able to finish the draft you promised?"
"Technically, only 42 flavors left to taste. And don't worry, I always keep my promises.
Especially to my clients."
Tiffany couldn't help but be amazed again at this Kim Taeyeon. How could someone so
professional be so kid-like at the same time? She found herself strangely drawn to her - wanting to
know more behind this seemingly cute yet surprisingly mature and complex personality.
Taeyeon sat at the large dining table. Papers, rulers, pencils and her other tools were strewn all
over its surface. She had spent all day measuring every inch of the house and took plenty of pictures
of its exterior and interior. She was now trying to combine her initial design idea with those
measurements, scrunching up failed attempts repeatedly.
The sun had already set but this time she came well prepared. She had bought some sandwiches
and drinks and even made time to swing by the ice cream place to get three more flavors. There was
a working fridge in that house so she could safely keep her precious bucket of ice cream for later.
She was ready to throw away yet another ball of scrunched up paper when she heard a car pulling
up the driveway. Suddenly paranoid, she hurriedly took a peek out of the kitchen window, preparing
herself to run away from the back door should the unexpected visitor turned out to be dangerous. She
breathed out a sigh of relief at the sight of a familiar sports car and the jet-black hair of its owner's
head popping out of the door. She walked to the front door and opened it - her free hand on her hip.
"You should've called first."
Tiffany looked at the girl and locked her car, "Why? It's my house, you know." She walked up to
"Yes, but you scared me there for a minute. I wasn't expecting anyone and this place is pretty
Tiffany smiled, "This area is safe, Taeyeon. No need to worry. The caretaker lives nearby. You
can always call him if you need anything. He's reliable. Been working for my family for years."
Taeyeon stepped aside and let Tiffany through.
"Have you had dinner?" Tiffany saw the mess on the dining table and turned to put the bags in her
hand on the kitchen counter instead.
"Not yet, but I bought some sandwiches."
"You can save those for breakfast tomorrow. How about Italian? You should try this ravioli. It's
one of the best this city has to offer. There's salad too."
Taeyeon smiled to herself. She sure loves to promote her food, she thought. She had started to
notice the other girl's tendency to always use the term `the best' for whatever she was feeding
"Oh, I think there's still a bottle left..." Tiffany rounded the counter and disappeared behind it,
squatting to rummage in one of the cabinets. "Yep. Good old Daddy." She stood up with a bottle of
wine in hand. "He always has at least one of these around."
Since Taeyeon didn't want to clear the dining table, they decided to just eat at the kitchen counter
- sitting on the tall stools.
"You shouldn't be drinking and driving you know. Especially on these dark roads," Taeyeon said
after Tiffany finished her second glass of wine. The girl in question put her glass down but her
expression didn't change. "I'm fine. I have a surprisingly high tolerance level when it comes to
"I don't care. You're not driving home like this."
"I'm fine, Taeyeon. Two glasses of wine won't do anything to me."
"Well, you should know that I pride myself of my stubbornness." Taeyeon stood up and locked
the front door. She then took Tiffany's car key that was lying on the counter and pocketed it along
with the house key. "Better safe than sorry."
"Wow... I wouldn't expect you to be such a little dictator."
"Call me whatever you want. You'll thank me one day." Taeyeon walked to the fridge and took
out the ice cream. "Want some?"
"You seriously went back there?"
"I said I would, didn't I?" She handed Tiffany one of the small colorful plastic spoons. "I got
three flavors. So 9 down, 39 to go. Dig in. I don't drink much so I don't even know whether this
would help you sober up but maybe it will."
"For the hundredth time, I'm not drunk."
Taeyeon shrugged, "Doesn't matter. You're not going anywhere anyway."