Seungwan had changed her outfit four times in the span of thirty minutes. She had originally intended to get up at seven o’clock to have enough time to get to her new job as a secretary at Bae and Kang Law Firm by eight thirty, but her nerves had woken her at six o’clock instead. She had been rifling through her closet, trying to find something suitable to wear to her first day of work ever since. Nothing seemed appropriate; it either felt too casual or too formal, to plain or too flashy. She was determined to keep this job, a feat no others who had been handed the position had been able to do. Bae Joohyun was an up and coming criminal lawyer who already had multiple case wins under her belt, but she also had quite a knack for firing secretaries. Seungwan had seen the job notice online and had almost immediately passed by it, until she saw the pay rate. She was desperate, and she loved a challenge. And boy did Bae Joohyun seem like a challenge.
She reached into the back of her closet, tugging out a pleated, navy blue skirt that was about calf length. Sighing, she laid it out on her bed and went searching for a shirt to go with it, coming up with a cream colored blouse. She quickly slid the newest outfit option on, looking herself over in her full length mirror. It was the best of all the outfits she had tried so far, not looking too modest while certainly not being provocative. Silently approving this as the final clothing choice, she went rooting through the bottom of her closet for shoes. Seungwan found an old pair of black flats and slid them on, feeling the familiar worn soles mold to her feet immediately. She checked her wrist watch as she made her way to the small kitchen to make some coffee. The time read 7:03, so Seungwan began brewing her coffee and sat herself down at the kitchen table and opened up her laptop. Her google searches from the previous night looked back at her, showing her pictures of her new boss. She was usually pictured next to the other owner of the firm, Kang Seulgi. They both looked young, almost too young to own a law firm together. One picture caught Seungwan’s eye and she clicked on it. It showed Joohyun in court, standing in front of the jury, looking calm and collected, her eyes fiery.
The coffee pot beeped, pulling Seungwan’s focus away from the picture on her laptop. She made her way over to the counter and poured a mug of coffee, meandering back to her computer. As she sipped her coffee, she went back to a regular google search of her boss, reading articles about the cases Joohyun had won. She was specifically a criminal lawyer, Seungwan had learned that much already. Some of the cases she dealt with seemed downright gruesome, and Seungwan wondered how she could stomach it. The more she read about her boss, the more nervous she became; every article described Joohyun as intense, fiery, and bold, someone who was not to be messed with. Seungwan wanted this job to work out, more than she had ever wanted a job to work out before. She would be making twice as much in this position than her last job, and she was terrified to mess this opportunity up.
At eight o’clock sharp Seungwan headed out her apartment door, locking the door behind her. She did not live in the best area and had learned very quickly to never leave her door unlocked, even if she was simply taking the trash out for five minutes. She ran down the flights of stairs to the main door of her apartment building and stepped out into the crisp autumn air. Dead leaves littered the streets and she kicked a few out of her path as she began walking to work. Taxis flew down the streets, beeping at one another. People hustled on either side of her, moving quickly as always. Seungwan felt as if everyone in the city moved with as fast a pace as possible besides her. She missed the friendliness she had felt in her small town home, where neighbors waved to each other as they passed.
Seungwan arrived at the building and she peered closely at the sign above the door; First Floor: Greenwood Publications - Second Floor: Bae and Kang Law Firm. She took a deep breath, steadying herself, and pushed open the door. She climbed the stairs rapidly, counting each step as she went in hopes of calming her pounding heart. She reached a frosted glass door reading Bae and Kang Law Firm in loopy printed script and she knocked hesitantly, rocking back and forth on her feet nervously. The door opened, revealing a young woman she had not seen pictures of in her google searches. She was tall, with shoulder length auburn hair and round eyes the smiled with her lips.
“Hi! You’re Son Seungwan, right?” She said, a welcoming smile on her lips. Seungwan nodded, not trusting herself to speak just yet. The woman held her hand out for a hand shake. “Park Sooyoung. I’m the general practice lawyer at the firm.” They shook hands. “Come on in, I’ll let Joohyun know you’re here.” Seungwan followed Sooyoung inside the studio apartment turned office space. There had clearly been many renovations done; what had been intended to be bedrooms had been transformed into offices that also had frosted glass doors and frosted glass windows where parts of the walls had most definitely once been. The door farthest to left read PARK and was left open. The door directly across from the entrance read KANG, and a young girl was seated at a desk in front of the door, a phone to her ear. The door farther to the right was labelled BAE and an empty desk sat in front of it, which Seungwan knew was intended for her. The waiting room (which had clearly been intended to be a living room) was adjoined to the small kitchen, where two pots were steaming on the double coffee brewer. Sooyoung had disappeared into the door marked for Joohyun, and Seungwan could hear muffled voices from inside despite the closed door. She waited a few steps away from the entrance, towards Joohyun’s door, shifting from foot to foot.
The rightmost door clicked open and Sooyoung stepped out, followed by Joohyun. Sooyoung waved to Seungwan and then made her way back to her own office. Joohyun walked towards Seungwan, offering a hand to shake. “You must be Seungwan.” She said, smiling warmly. Seungwan shook her hand, trying not to grip too tightly. Joohyun only stood an inch taller than Seungwan but she felt extremely small in Joohyun’s presence. Joohyun wore a deep green pencil skirt, a black blouse, and an unbuttoned white cardigan and she was still smiling down at Seungwan, her dark hair falling past her shoulders and framing her face perfectly. “I’m Bae Joohyun. It’s very nice to meet you.”
“It’s nice to meet you as well, Miss Bae.” Seungwan said in a tight voice, her heart thrumming in her chest.
“I see you’ve already met Sooyoung, but let me introduce you to your other colleagues.” Joohyun said back, her voice sounding like honey. She led Seungwan to the middle office, stopping at the desk of the young girl. The girl smiled at Joohyun and then waved to Seungwan. “Seungwan, this is Kim Yerim. Yerim, this is my new secretary, Son Seungwan.”
“Nice to meet you, Seungwan!” Yerim said cheerily, standing up and and shaking Seungwan’s hand. “You can just call me Yeri if you’d like.” Yeri had a childlike grin, her face framed by a short, bluntly cut bob.
“It’s nice to meet you, Yeri.” Seungwan replied, trying to smile back through her nerves.
Joohyun promptly knocked on the office door and then pushed it open. “Seulgi?” She said softly. Seulgi looked up from her computer, smiling as Joohyun and Seungwan stepped inside the office. She had long black hair that fell just above her ribs and bangs cut directly across her forehead. Joohyun stepped beside Seungwan to introduce her. “This is my new secretary, Son Seungwan. Seungwan this is my business partner Kang Seulgi.”
“Wonderful to meet you, Seungwan.” Seulgi said as she stepped around the desk and shook Seungwan’s hand.
“Likewise, Miss Kang.” Seungwan said back.
Seulgi smiled at her again. “Don’t let Joohyun work you too hard.” Seungwan smiled back, feeling a bit more at ease. Joohyun smiled too, playfully hitting Seulgi’s arm.
Joohyun led the way back to the waiting room and went towards the kitchen, Seungwan trailing behind her. “How do you like your coffee?” Joohyun asked, taking a cup and a lid from the stacks.
“Huh?” Seungwan was taken aback by the question, by the whole morning really. She had expected Joohyun to be cold and maybe even a bit rude, considering how quickly she went through secretaries and how she was known to dominate a courtroom. But Joohyun had been overwhelmingly nice, giving Seungwan warm smiles at every opportunity.
“Your coffee,” Joohyun repeated. “Do you take it with creamer or milk, or do you prefer it black?”
“Oh, uh,” Seungwan stumbled over her words, feeling nervous again, but a different kind of nervous this time. A kind she couldn’t quite put her finger on. “Black, please.”
Joohyun smiled and poured her a cup, closing the plastic lid on securely. “Be careful,” She said as she handed Seungwan the cup. “It’ll be hot.” She reached for another cup, presumably to get her own coffee.
“Thank you.” Seungwan said quietly. A bit louder, she continue. “I can get your coffee for you, if you’d like.”
“Goodness no, I wouldn’t ask you to do something like that.” Joohyun insisted, taking the other pot filled with boiling water and poured that into the cup, proceeding to open a cabinet above the coffee pots and fishing out a tea bag. “Besides, I don’t drink coffee. It’s entirely too bitter.” As she put the tea bag in and swirled it around a bit, she started to head back towards her office, motioning for Seungwan to follow. She pulled Seungwan’s chair out for her, to which Seungwan mumbled a thank you. “The computer system is a breeze, all you have to do is begin a new file for each new case that comes in.” Joohyun bent down beside her to begin showing her the computer system. “This is how you access the already created files, and here’s how you edit them.” Seungwan glanced to Joohyun, noticing her blouse wasn’t buttoned fully, giving her a direct view down the woman’s shirt. She quickly averted her eyes. That’s your boss, idiot. You’re gonna get yourself fired. She berated herself mentally. “If you have any questions about anything, you can ask Yerim or myself.” Joohyun continued.
“Thank you for showing me everything.” Seungwan said, still looking straight ahead at the computer. “I won’t let you down.”
“I’m sure you won’t.” Joohyun said, resting a hand on her shoulder and squeezing ever so slightly. She turned and went to her office, shutting the door behind her with a click. Seungwan released a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding, looking over her shoulder back at the door. The phone on her desk rang, drawing her attention back to her own work space. She picked it up with a slight tremor to her hand.
“Bae Joohyun’s office, how may I help you?” She said into the receiver.
“Hello, this is Doctor McLaughlin, the court appointed psychiatrist for the case dealing with the Reynolds murder.” The voice on the phone said. Seungwan quickly opened the file labelled Reynolds, tucking the phone between her shoulder and her ear and poising her fingers over the keys. As the doctor spoke, she typed rapidly, getting into a groove of how the online program worked.
“Thank you for calling, I’ll let Miss Bae know which day you will be appearing in court and I will pass the files on to her. Have a nice day ma’am.” Seungwan closed up the conversation, hanging the phone back up. She attached the document to an email and sent it to Joohyun’s email, which she had left on a sticky note on Seungwan’s desk, reading: Send any updates to files here. The rest of the morning passed quickly, filled with phone calls and Seungwan sifting through all of the files on the computer so she could get a grasp on the cases Joohyun was handling at the moment.
The office door behind her clicked open and she fought the urge to turn around and look at Joohyun exiting her office. The clock on Seungwan’s desk read 12:11. Joohyun made her way across her the waiting room, heels clicking in rhythm on the floor, and disappeared into Sooyoung’s office. A few minutes later she re appeared and made her way to Yerim’s desk, speaking with her for a few moments and scribbling something down on a notepad. She then disappeared into Seulgi’s office. Seungwan found herself distracted from her work, despite having been extremely focused minutes earlier, wondering what Joohyun was doing. Joohyun exited Seulgi’s office and began walking over to Seungwan’s desk, stopping just in front of it.
“How has your first morning been?” Joohyun asked in a kind voice.
“It’s gone well, I’m already used to the computer program.” Seungwan answered earnestly.
“Good, that’s good.” Joohyun trailed off for a moment. With a sigh, she went on, “We’re getting sandwiches for lunch, what kind would you like?”
“Oh um…” Seungwan huffed out a nervous breath. “I’m alright without lunch, thank you though.”
“I can’t let you not eat.” Joohyun insisted. Seungwan bit her lip, not sure how to proceed.
“I’m not trying to be rude, Miss Bae,” She said quietly. “I just don’t have the money at the moment.” Money was always tight for Seungwan, but it had become a worsening issue in the few months she had been unemployed. Her stockpile of money had been running out with celerity.
“Don’t worry about that.” Joohyun said, her voice soft.
“Miss Bae, I couldn’t let you pay for me…” Seungwan felt her throat tighten out of embarrassment. Joohyun didn’t answer, she simply went to a drawer in the kitchen, pulling out what looked like a menu. She went back to Seungwan’s desk and set it down in front of her, looking at her expectantly.
“I’m not taking no for an answer.” She said firmly. Seungwan heard a hint of that fire creeping into her voice, closer now to what she had originally imagined Joohyun to be like. It seemed ironic she had only become firm when it was an issue of Seungwan’s well being, not in regards to her work quality. Seungwan looked up at Joohyun, seeing the woman watching her intently. She glanced back down to the menu, quickly choosing a cheap sandwich and passing the menu back to Joohyun.
“Thank you very much, Miss Bae. I’ll pay you back.” Seungwan insisted.
“No need, Seungwan.” Joohyun said, running a delicate hand over Seungwan’s back before heading to her office and scooping her up car keys. As she walked towards the door to leave, she looked back at Seungwan and smiled, warmth seeming to radiate from her. Seungwan smiled back, her chest feeling tight.