*Clack Clack Clack*
The sound of the elevator door closing reminded Ein of his tasks due in the hour. He usually finishes the morning inspections just before 10:15 AM, however, it looked like it will be missed as Henry towed along for a tour. Ein felt annoyed that he had to babysit someone on the 1st workday of the week, his face showed a hint of irritation as his brows arched and Ein's business smile flattened to a poker face. Seori and Henry noticed Ein's demeanour and opted to keep quiet.
Only the sound of the elevator broke the awkward silence.
Ein then pressed on the button for the Ground floor where his rounds start while Seori abruptly pressed the button for the 30th floor.
The doors of the elevator opened.
"Ein, I just remembered! I'll be heading off to HR and Securities first to finalize Henry's access." Seori looked at Ein and Henry who were standing beside each other, they looked like a pair of models going down on the elevator.
Although Ein's face expressed fatigue, his complexion was fair for someone in his late thirties. His black hair was combed up neatly, exposing his beauty marks: one by the side of his right eye and the other one was near the left part of his chin. Ein had a high nose bridge and narrow rosy lips, his sharp dark blue eyes complemented his bespoke charcoal grey suit and black brogues. Ein's body was also lean, thanks to his mixed German blood, he was fairly tall for an Asian man. If Ein brandished a genuine smile, Henry's beauty beside him would be put to waste.
"See you later at the Adhoc Ein! Oh, and Henry if you need something, don't hesitate to reach out to our department, okay? I'll see you guys later!" Seori waved goodbye and smiled at both men as the door closed.
*Clack Clack Clack*
Seori's thoughts were filled with vibrant images of office love. She broke out in a bright red flush after seeing the elevator doors close.
'I almost lost my composure there, damn my inner Fujoshi is screaming! Those two would look good together as a couple! I should have taken a photo, they look straight out of doujins!' Seori then took out her phone to send a message.
[MonMon!!! (人*´∀｀)｡*ﾟ+ Just what you said! They look so good together AAAHHHHHH!!! (づ￣ ³￣)づ I hope things finally go well for Ein. (´；ω；｀) I wanna see him happy!]
[ - Sorry, Seori, Sorry, Seori 9:54 AM]
"Ahh… I wonder if the new chapter for Love Bus is out, I should check later maybe around lunch." Seori hummed with glee as she shuffled off to the HR offices.
The awkward silence resumed as the elevator doors closed, Ein didn't mind it but Henry felt uncomfortable, he then decided to break the ice.
"Mr Schmidt, I just noticed. You seem close to Ms Avery." Henry glanced at Ein with a curious expression.
"We joined the company at the same time, we've been together for a couple of years and she's a reliable colleague," Ein replied with his nonchalant voice while writing down notes in his planner.
"Hmm… I see, is that also the same for Ms Monique? Earlier both of you seemed like-"
"She's a dear friend and my benefactor, that's all there is to it." Ein glanced at Henry with his poker face and then went back to taking notes on his planner.
"Don't mistake my relationship with her or else you'll incur her wrath. Monique hates it when that happens." Ein left out a soft chuckle.
"You finally smiled, Ein…" Henry mumbled and smiled sheepishly at Ein.
"What is it? Did you say something?" Ein glanced at Henry with an inquisitive face.
"It's nothing, Mr Schmidt."
"Call me Ein." He then patted Henry's shoulder. "Whenever I hear my surname it makes me feel older, please stick to my name instead."
"A-alright, if that's what you prefer… E-Ein." Henry stuttered as he tried to suppress his excitement towards Ein's response.
'This… what is wrong with this man… Earlier he's composed and now he's stuttering and his ears are flushed.' Ein pondered at the sudden change in Henry's body language. 'Is he perhaps…?'
When Henry stroked Ein's palm with his index finger during their handshake, Ein had deduced what type of man Henry was. He was aware of the hungry types of men as he had dated a few similar studs back in his youth.
'Don't fall for it Ein, you need to be careful... he's a wolf in sheep's clothing!' His inner voice screamed at him loud.
Ein looked at Henry with an inquisitive stare. "By the way, Emery told me that you've worked here in the past…"
"A-ah… yes, I did in the past. It was only for a month as a dishwasher. Haha!" Henry snickered as he recollected his past in Hotel Citron.
"By why a dishwasher? I saw your CV, you could have helped in the kitchen and get paid properly."
"I… Didn't do it for the money." Henry's ears flushed red.
Ein was befuddled. It was a first for him to hear about someone accepting a low-paying job and didn't expect any monetary benefits.
"If it isn't for the money, then why did you accept regardless?
"Uh… well… I-it was for me to see y-"
*Ttring! Ttring! Ttring!*
Suddenly, the emergency alarm of the elevator rang and the lights suddenly went out. The two men were stranded inside, Henry quickly took out his phone and turned on its flashlight.
"It must be a power outage or an earthquake… Ein are you-"
"I-I'm f-fine… D-don't mind m-me…"
Henry saw Ein standing near the corner where the buttons of the elevator were. It seems he distanced himself away from Henry after the lights went out. Ein was trembling and his face became pale.
"Are you certain? You don't look fine to me..." Henry extended his hand towards Ein to assist him.
"No! No! S-stay away p-please! S-step back!" Ein shrugged off Henry's outstretched hand. "L-leave me a-alone!"
"Haaahh… haaah…" Ein felt his heart palpitate and started hyperventilating. He dropped to the floor and curled up. Tears started to fall uncontrollably from his eyes. "No! No! No! D-don't t-touch m-me!" Ein shrieked at Henry as he got close.
"Ein! It's me, Henry! I'm not going to hurt you! Everything's going to be alright, so take deep breaths, please?" Henry toned down his voice to a gentle and assuring tone.
Henry recognised Ein's condition, it was a panic attack and he was familiar with it.
"I won't touch you Ein, but please bear with this… You need to keep warm since the floor is cold and it's autumn after all." Henry quickly removed his jacket and gently covered Ein with it. "We can't have you getting sick due to the cold." Henry gazed at Ein with a gentle smile and then sat across him.
"Take deep breaths, and focus on my voice, Ein." Henry inched a little closer to Ein. And spoke in a soft voice.
"It's just you and me in here. There's no one out to get you. I'm not here to hurt you remember?"
Ein was still sobbing incoherently, he remained curled up in his corner assuming a fetal position. Being stuck, alone in the dark with a stranger terrified him as it brought back horrifying memories. He did notice the mild fragrance that was on Henry's jacket. It smelled faintly of dried lavender and it helped Ein calm down a bit.
'It is 2023 now, he's not here anymore… it's 2023… it's 2023…' Ein tried to calm his thoughts by thinking of the current year.
Henry's words triggered one of the worst memories Ein wished he could forget. The darkness inside the elevator and the eerie silence reminded Ein of that terrible day. He closed his eyes and tried to focus on other things but the trauma of the past was far stronger and he couldn't overcome it.
To be Continued.