Foto bij Remember me | Chapter thirty-two

With Amber safely at home, Krystal was finally able to concentrate on her work again. And she would need her head clear the coming few days, because tomorrow Liu Economics and Lee Electronics would break off their contract.
That day was the calm for the storm: the Board was relaxed, her father was his 'busy' self and no one seemed to have a clue that something big was going to happen. Except for Krystal Jung, of course.
With nothing to worry about, Krystal could focus completely. Her daily ritual continued: getting up from the bed she slept in with Amber – either her own or her girlfriend’s – and going to work, lunching with Amber and Jack Jack, working again and going home to see her soulmate trying to cook dinner, which eventually always turned out in a small disaster. Nevertheless, Krystal ate the food, because that’s what girlfriends do.

A few days after Amber came home, her tattoo looked precisely the way she wanted it to look. The redness had disappeared and the letters flowed in the exact right way over her skin. Her hair usually fell over it but she found herself more often rubbing her neck when she was nervous – as a new habit forming. It was her way of being close with Amber, her own ‘what would Amber do in this situation?’.
When she was home, she put her hair in a ponytail, much to the delight of her girlfriend, who loved to look at her new decoration. Amber’s fingers often trailed over the flowing letters of her own name in her neck, making goosebumps appear all over her body, the same way Krystal did when they laid in bed late at night and Amber’s back was unexposed and her tattoos free and visible.
Living like that – crossed Krystal’s mind – wasn’t at all that bad. Even as Vice-President.

But Krystal wouldn’t be Krystal if she blew off now. She owed it to herself, to Amber, to Victoria that she would go through with this. So, that meant she sent a confirmation e-mail to Jackie Liu and Amy Lee the night before the grande finale would happen. Both of them replied back within an hour, affirming their part of the plan. They would break the contract in the late hours of that evening so the plan could be set in action tomorrow morning.
Krystal slept with a light heart that night, with Amber’s arms curled around her waist. She slept soundly, not waking up once.

The next day, it felt like a tornado had run over the Jung Internationals' Headquarters, but the Headquarters only. When she entered the hall, it seemed like a normal working day. Unlike that time Victoria outlasted herself as her father's associate, the ladies behind the information desks weren't gossiping through their headsets, whilst trying their hardest to get on top of the work that was being shoved down their throats. They didn't even seem aware that Liu Economics and Lee Electronics had left.
As soon as she came upstairs, she noticed why.
There was no meeting called. The Board greeted her happily when she arrived – that is, as happy as old men can be on a Tuesday morning – and her PA Eloisa gave her the schedule of that day: it was a normal working day. But as soon as she opened her laptop, Krystal saw an e-mail of her father popping up, saying they needed to talk and it would be nice if they could have lunch together later. Krystal texted him back – not fond communicating through e-mails with her own father – telling him that she'd love to grab some food together during their breaks. Krystal got a reply back to meet him at Zucchini’s – the Italian two blocks away – at 1 PM. At last, she had sent a confirmation before putting her phone away and starting her laptop.
In her mailbox, she found two mails from Jackie and Amy, both telling her how they had successfully ended their contract. And yet, no one seemed to know. Krystal decided not to ask and play dumb; waiting for others to make the first move.

With such a big thing coming up, her normal work seemed like child’s play to her. Dull, boring work that consumed too much of her time and was in fact useless right now. If the company would fall apart in a few hours, what use was it do all of this work?
Yet, she stayed at her job, despite working slower than usual. She let her mind wander about how she was going to run the company when she was in charge. When her father would leave it to her in times of despair, she needed to be a strong leader who knew what to do. Of course, she’d enlist Song Software, Liu Economics and Lee Electronics again, but it would still take a while before Jung Internationals would be strong again.

Around half past twelve, Krystal started to clear up her stuff. To Eloisa she said that she’d be out for an hour or two. She knew her father well enough that if he invited her to lunch that there was something going on. All of the lunches and dinners they had ever spent between just the two of them had been because there was some sort of problem that needed fixing. Krystal had always felt incredibly superior that her father trusted her and only her with such problems and wanted to hear her opinion.
She knew better now. Her father just needed someone who would agree with him in the meeting room, so the Board would be more easily convinced. Krystal had always admired her father and for a long time she thought that all of his decisions were correct. Now that she had grown older, she knew better than to let her judgement be clouded by her feelings. Her father was a formidable business man, but he as well had grown older and that was affecting his sense of judgement. Sometimes it felt like he was going blind, like there had formed a layer of whiteness on top of the dark brown of his eyes and that prevented him from seeing clearly.

Krystal arrived at the restaurant five minutes late and she was immediately directed towards a table in the back. The smell of tomatoes and garlic immediately entered her nosetrils. The floor cracked familiarly underneath her feet when she walked. The walls were still dirty dark green and the wooden bar still looked like a piece of driftwood. The bartender was polishing glasses with a towel. Her father was already there, waiting patiently with a glass of dark red wine in front of him, his fingers intertwined with each other and his gaze down. When he heard the familiar clicking of Krystal’s heels on the wooden floor, he looked up and smiled. It was the smile he had shown her a dozen times when she was little. One that was a mix of pride, admiration and love. Whenever she had gotten a good grade as a kid or had managed to get first place in an athletics event, he would show her that smile.
Krystal didn’t understand why he showed it her now, after years of not using it. It almost made her uneasy.
“Sit down, love,” he told her, and Krystal did so. A waiter immediately put a glass of the same wine in front of her, but Krystal declined.
“I prefer white wine, actually,” she told him. “Chardonnay, please.”
The waiter nodded, took the glass away again and returned a few moments later with a bottle Chardonnay. He poured her a glass and Krystal slowly took a sip.
“I thought you liked red wine more?” her father asked her, his eyes not averting from his daughter. Krystal put the glass down and nodded. She would not want to confess that due to Amber she didn’t like the bitter taste in the red wine anymore, but preferred sweet.
“I underwent a change recently,” she muttered. “If I want to drink something that’s not to my taste, I’d take whiskey. I actually like the taste of white wine, unlike red.”
Her father nodded slowly then shrugged. His daughter’s taste in wine was his least concern. For a moment, a silence fell. Krystal thought her father would break the ice by introducing the topic of why he had brought her here, but instead he took the menu’s and handed one over to her.
“Anything you want, I’ll pay,” he told her, as he opened his. Krystal nodded quietly.

Half an hour later, both of them had a damping plate of food in front of them. Salmon and ravioli. They were both quietly eating their food, when her father suddenly put his knife and fork down.
“Do you know why I took you here?” he asked her. Krystal didn’t look up from her plate.
“This was my favorite place to go when I was young, but I suppose it rather has something to do with Jung Internationals because I don’t recall you re-living memories for fun ever.”
Her father chuckled.
“Always so attentive,” he said. “I remember that you always wanted to come here on your birthday. We could have gone to the best chef in the country if you had wanted to, but you always chose this place with prices not higher than fifteen dollars over a five-star cook. One time your mother got food poisoning because she ate badly cooked chicken breast here. And still, you want to come here on your birthday, every year again.”
Krystal looked up and tilted her head a little to the left.
“This was the only place in the city that made me feel like a common girl. Like a normal, middle-class family who had no money to rent a five-star cook to make dinner for their daughter. The fact that mom got food poisoning once made it even better.”
Her father nodded. “I know you felt that way. That’s why we let you.”
“Why are we here, dad?”
Krystal asked abruptly, not liking that he spoke so easily over her childhood. He doesn't know how she felt or would ever feel and she didn't like it that he interpreted her feelings.
Her father sighed and rubbed his temples. For just a second, he looked like a fragile, old man again, who had had his days and needed a break. The circles underneath his eyes seemed to have turned darker when he looked back up to her.
“I wished it would’ve never come to this point but I cannot hide it anymore.. Jung Internationals is doomed to fall soon and I don’t know how long I can pretend that everything is going to be alright anymore…”
Krystal frowned.
“What are you talking about?”
Her father took a big sip of his wine and licked his lips afterwards.
“That Song Software left us wasn’t at all that bad. We had an economy big enough to save us. But this morning… I found two mails from Ms. Liu and Ms. Lee that they wanted to quit as well, now that Victoria Song had left. Only, what I didn’t think they’d do was that they took all of the products with them. They have cancelled the production of the goods we had together under our names. Do you know how many combined stuff we have together with Liu Economics? Half of our assortment… The other quarter belongs to Lee Electronics. They don’t want to do business with us any longer. Jackie Liu said that she understood why Victoria had left. They will form a coalition together, the three of them. And with three quarters of our products and income gone, I don’t think Jung Internationals’ will last much longer.”
Krystal tried to look as surprised and deeply shocked as possible, but she had never been a great actress. Nevertheless, her father was wallowing so much in self-pity that he didn’t even recognize the triumphant look in his daughter’s brown eyes.
And even though she had practically won already, a strange feeling started to gather in her stomach. To hear her father talk about the company like this was heartbreaking. He had spent his whole life to build up something good and now due to his own daughter, he would lose it all. And if Jung Internationals’ economy was really going to crumble down, would Krystal be able to prevent it from dying? Despite her few years of experience, she was still young.
But even if she wanted to stop right now, there was no way back. She’d just have to push through and set the last part of her plan in action.
“Why did they leave?” she asked. Her father shrugged.
“Amy Lee said that we were losing and we weren’t responsible business partners anymore and Jackie Liu followed Victoria Song. It seems like the three of them have been conspiring against us all along and it was just a matter of time before they left too. Song Software was simply breaking the ice.”
“And there’s no way to stop this?”
she asked sincerely – or, as sincere as she could.
“I know the Liu’s well enough to know that Jackie Liu isn’t going to make up her mind. And as for Amy Lee, I understand damn well why she would choose the other side. We’re indeed losing, Krystal, and there’s very little we can do. Only the Empire Group stays with us but they have always been sucking onto us like a parasite. Soon, we won’t provide enough blood for them anymore and they’ll leave too, to the next host.”
Krystal sighed and placed her head in her hands.
“We have to make this public soon…” her father muttered. She looked up.
“Why? Don’t you want to hush this up as much as possible? You always told me that bad publicity is also publicity but I don’t think that this belongs to that category.”
He shook his head.
“I cannot start firing people out of the blue, Krystal. Soon, we won’t have enough money anymore to uphold so many employees. We will have to select our best workers and fire the rest. The others have to work extra hours to come up with new products but even if we can design new items within the next few weeks I don’t think it will help…”
Krystal sighed and looked at her father. He was staring at his place, like a kid who was just told he wasn’t allowed to play outside after dark. He looked defeated, tired and breakable. Her heart ached to hug him, but she controlled herself. Wasn’t that what you have always taught me, daddy? Control yourself; think rationally, without any emotions clouding your judgement.
That’s why she said:
“I want a re-vote.”
Her father looked up, a look of hurt in his eyes. It was just for a second or two, then it got replaced by annoyance that was followed up by anger.
“You can’t be serious.”
But she was and she knew she needed to break the news now or it would indeed be too late for Jung Internationals. If she didn’t act quickly, the company would never be the same.
“There is a reason why Victoria Song, Jackie Liu and Amy Lee bailed on you. There is a reason why they shared behind me. It’s simply because you’re not fit for the job anymore. I’m going in appeal, as soon as possible. But before that, I will make public what has happened with Liu Economics and Lee Electronics. The Boards and the other employees need to know,” she said, as she stood up, “Perhaps there’s still a chance for me to save Jung Internationals if I’m quick. Don't think about stopping me, if you want to see our company ever the same again.”
And with those words, she turned around and strode out of the restaurant, leaving her father speechless at the table. A lonely, distant feeling fathered in her stomach. Krystal's face was neutral as emotionless spread through her abandon.

“Did you really say that to him?” Amber asked her a few hours later, after Krystal had enthusiatically told her what had happened during lunch. She stared at her with eyes as big as saucers. Krystal shrugged, not really getting the worried response of her significant other.
“I suppose I did. Aren’t you proud of me?”
Amber let a sigh escape from her mouth and furrowed her brows.
“Well, I’m proud of you for standing up against him but don’t you think it’s a bit too hard? He sounded like he was at the edge of crying.”
Krystal pouted her lips.
“It’s not like Jung Internationals is really going bankrupt. He’ll just have to bear with the situation right now,” she muttered.
“Wasn’t it painful to see him like that? I know you think of him badly but still… he’s still your father.”
Krystal rolled her eyes and sat upright from the bed, freeing herself from Amber’s arms abruptly. Her girlfriend immediately noticed that there was something wrong and propped herself up on one elbow too.
“I don’t know if you have noticed, but good relationships aren’t exactly the most important thing in our family. I know you’re all close and sweet with your parents and sister, but I simply have never had that childhood. So no, it was not painful. It felt like I was finally getting what I deserved.”
Krystal stood up from the bed and immediately took her bathrobe, feeling cold without Amber’s body heat and the sheets now that she wore just her lingerie but not wanting to admit it. She turned away from Amber, who quickly hurried up from the bed.
Right as she wanted to leave the bedroom, she grabbed her hand and spun her around.
“I didn’t mean it like that. I know that your relationship with your father is difficult,” Amber said, her face serious and her brown eyes deeper than ever. Krystal sighed and turned her face away.
“It’s not understandable for an outsider. I barely knew him. I became the person I am today because I wanted to get to know him and I did. What I found out wasn’t exactly encouraging our relationship. I just see him as a rival, nothing else. If he cries about losing his position, then that’s his problem,” she hissed.
“He doesn’t cry about not being CEO anymore, he cries because his lifework is going up in flames. Give the man some slack,” Amber tried.
Krystal took her hand back furiously and looked deadly in her girlfriend’s eyes.
“He deserves it.”
She felt something pop in her as she said that. It wasn’t the surprised, almost hurt, look in Amber’s eyes, but something within herself that she had refused to acknowledge. She had always told herself that she loved her parents no matter what. It was expected of a person to love their family. But she didn’t. She only loved Jessica unconditionally and she wasn’t there ninety percent of the time. As a matter of fact, her sister made the choice to escape the family drama too, leaving her sister right in the middle of it.
She didn’t love her parents nor would she ever. In fact, with saying this out loud, she understood that she perhaps even hated them. Strongly disliked at least. She hated them for turning their daughter into an emotionless robot, programmed to do as they say, believing that it’s good to do what its parents say. Krystal was brainwashed as a kid and would have been a completely different person if only she was brought up with love.
But she had not and that’s why she could only be together with Amber now, after eight years, instead of right away. She had been programmed to think that love was bad. It wasn’t, but she was only able to understand now, at the age of twenty-six. And she hated it. She hated it that she could only be happy now and only give Amber now what she deserved.
They had ruined her and she wanted revenge. She wanted to make her father suffer like she had, even if that meant burning Jung Internationals to the ground.
“Please, go home. I want to be alone now,” she muttered distantly, not looking in Amber’s eyes.
“Excuse me?”

Her voice had shot up a few octaves. In utter disbelief she looked up, only to see a very stubborn look in Amber’s eyes. She stared back with the same stubbornness.
“It’s not right for him to pay like that. He didn’t hurt you because he liked it. He’s probably brought up the same way,” she said. Anger gathered in her chest.
“I don’t care. If we will get a kid together, I will not raise it like my father. That he has been fucked up too doesn’t mean you have to burden your child,” she barked angrily. But instead of anger or at least annoyance, Amber stared at her with shock in her eyes.
“‘Our kid’?” she whispered. Krystal’s anger faded immediately when she realized her mistake. Krystal felt like her heart stopped. For a full few seconds, they just stared at each other. Her hands were shaking, she noticed.
“Is this normal?” she eventually blurted out, when Amber would not say anything. “Because I don’t know, Amber. I don’t know if I’m supposed to think about that already or if it’s actually too soon. I don’t know anymore…”
Amber took her hand again, tried to comfort her shaking girlfriend. But Krystal couldn’t set herself to grab her hand firmly.
She didn’t know. She didn’t know how a relationship was supposed to work because she was simply never taught.
“It is, I think. It is normal,” Amber replied softly.
“Then have you thought about it?”
she admitted. “Children are the next step in marriage, I suppose. Would you marry me, then?”
“Is this a proposal?”
Amber said firmly. “If it will come to that, I will propose in a special way.”
“What if I want to propose?”
she asked. It wasn’t like she had always dreamed about someone getting on their knees for her, but it would be revolutionary if she proposed.
“Then you can. Just make it special,” Amber replied, with a weak smile on her face. She took her hand firmer and squeezed it reassuringly. “Please, don’t ever think that your thoughts might not be normal. You are normal, you are okay. That your parents lacked in this, doesn’t mean you’re different. You are perfect and good and even if you want to get married in Las Vegas right now, steal a child from a kinder garden and grow up somewhere in a small cabin in the woods in Europe, I’d say yes. You are everything I need, Krystal.”
She breathed shakily in, trying to control her own body as much as possible. Her shoulders tensed and she gritted her teeth together to prevent tears from gathering in her eyes. And she didn’t want Amber to see her cry. Even though she had promised to open up more, she couldn’t have it. So, she placed her hands around her face and pulled her towards her roughly. Their lips clashed together in need. A sloppy kiss formed as their mouths moved over each other, teeth clinking together and heavy breaths in between. Amber gripped at the bathrobe, clutching the fabric between her fingers. Krystal felt tears roll down her cheeks during the kiss. She didn’t know if Amber could feel her lower lip shake, but she did and it made her heart ache even more. Why couldn’t she just be happy just being with her? Why did she always want more? CEO instead of Vice-President. Married instead of just a relationship… and what about children? She didn’t want to ruin the beautiful thing she had with Amber by wanting too much.

Later that night they had settled on the couch. After their conversation, they had both been in need for hugs and silent love. Amber had settled in the corner of Krystal’s lounge sofa and Krystal half leaned half laid against her. Amber caressed her cheek and otherwise played with her hair whilst watching the movie – Jurassic Park – together. As the living room filled herself with the screams of dinosaurs, Krystal couldn’t find herself concentrating. Instead, her eyes closed slowly and she settled in a more comfortable position against her girlfriend, eventually pulling the thin blanket that was always on the rug of her couch over her body.
Before she fell asleep, she muttered:
“Just so you know, I’d say yes if you proposed to me.”
Amber stirred. Her breathing stopped for a moment, then continued to breathe unevenly.
“Why are you letting me know that? It’s no fun for me to propose if I know you’re already going to say yes,” she chuckled. Krystal closed her eyes.
“I already let you know by tattooing your name in my neck,” she replied softly. “You knew from the moment we met again at the party. You have always known.”
Amber stroke her hair, eventually moving her hand to her neck and tracing over her tattoo. She kept her gaze on the screen, watching how the tyrannosaurus rex attacked the portable research center of Dr. Grant.
“I have. But I want to hear you say it when I propose, not right now.”
“Okay, but then you first have to propose.”
she asked.
“It’s no fun in knowing I will propose, now, is it?” she chuckled.
Krystal smiled softly.
"I agree."

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