Chapter 30 : Sex Sells
"I'm exhausted! I'm stressed! I feel like I'm at war!" with a pretty reedy voice, I half shouted. I felt like I was about to lose my mind after reading an email from Daniel asking me to change a few things in the article I wrote for him.
I was at the Dr. Love, selecting some photos for the upcoming 'Relax' column when I received the email.
Right after the meeting for the next issue of Hey ended, we dispersed for our own tasks as usual. It was the busiest ten days where everyone was working their hardest to meet the dateline. It was also a period full of surprise in which Daniel might hold impromptu meetings and required everyone to present our latest works or findings. Now, while that was not a real issue because we had got used to it, Daniel's habit to make last minute changes on these works was a different story. And that had caused us lost our shit sometimes. Just a day before, he was almost getting in a brawl with Dee. To be honest, I understood what Dee was feeling at the moment when Daniel asked him to change his article yet again- for the seventh time! I would had taken off my earrings too!
"What is it with her, Gina?" asked Michelle who happened to be at the Dr. Love as well.
"Go ask herself," replied Gina.
I took no time to explain everything from A to Z, soon after Michelle asked me what had really happened. All the dramas in Hey, including Daniel's less than pleasing work habit, all spilled on the table.
"Daniel changes his mind like a girl changed her clothes! He kept rejecting all my works! From the articles... the topics...the photos selection. All. Of. Them! For the first time I do not get it what he wants at all! He keeps changing everything!"
"Hold on...Daniel is her boss, right?" Michelle whispered to Gina.
"Mmmm... hmmmmm...."Gina nodded.
"And guess what!? We only have less than two weeks before printing!" I was not done obviously, this time even with a more dramatic body gesture. Michelle was patiently trying to be a good listener, not missing any points that were also no secret to Gina and Ally. I kept rambling, about my struggles to get good sleep at night now, about my bad dreams involving Daniel and other things. Not to be missed, what happened between me and Daniel pre and post Asia Café.
"So what are you going to do now, Marina? Any plan?" asked Michelle.
"Plan?" I asked her back in confusion.
"Yeah. Aren't you going to do something about it?" said Michelle with a smile.
I just stared on her face not answering that question. But it did trigger something in my head.
That night, I suddenly woke up from sleep. I had a bad dream about the situation at Hey. I took a deep breath and tried to calm myself down and get back to sleep. I kept turning my body left and right, hoping it would make me fall asleep faster. But it was all to a failure. I was too anxious about what's going to come tomorrow at the office.
"Ahhh! When is this going to end!" I sighed to myself. "Maybe I should run away!"
Thinking about running away suddenly reminded me of something from the past. Or more accurately, something I did, back in school days. There was one time when every student must join a compulsory camping activity, and guess what yours truly had done to escape? I pretended to have a stomach ache. And maybe my acting was little bit too good, I got warded for an undetectable disease for a couple days! I thought of the possibility of me doing what had I done before. Faking a stomach ache, fainted down right in front of the emergency section in the hospital and then got warded for a few days.
"Or maybe I should get to Susan who is now in quarantine and get infected from her?" I said to myself, talking like a crazy person. "No!!! that's like committing suicide! H1N1 is no joke! Or or or...maybe I should kiss Gina who is having a flu now? And then get quarantine for a suspected H1N1 case? Ugh ridiculous!" I aborted all my own stupid ideas. But in a moment I rethought all of the ideas back and found out that one of them was actually not so bad at all.
With the old method when in school kept under my belt, I went to the Assunta Hospital right at seven in the very next morning. I called Daniel before sun started showing its face to tell him that I was not well and that I needed some rest.
I took my numbers and be seated in the waiting area. While I was waiting, I just could not help to keep questioning back what I was doing, honestly. I gave a deep thought about it and I came to realize that this was all wrong. Running away would not gain me anything, only to be left behind. Maybe it worked back then when I was trying to escape the boring camping event at school. But now is the time for a reality. A real life as an adult. I could not just escape away every time a set back or a problem happened. It would not make me a better person and certainly it would affect all the people around me. Someone might have to work extra time to cover for me and I certainly did not want that to happen.
'What if something like this happens again in the future. Do I run away from it again? Should I run away from problems every time they come? What about Daniel? Yes, he did turn into a lost grip control freak lately but deep inside I know he's counting on me to be with him to get through this testing phase. To support him until the next issue come to life. Don't you feel important to Daniel at all? One day you are going to look back and be so proud of yourself for not leaving. For pushing through,' these questions lingered in my head.
'I can't do this to Hey. I can't do this to Terry Lee and certainly I can't do this to Daniel who has given so much trust on me, nurtured me to who I am today. No I can't! The time has changed. I'm no longer a high school student who simply ran away from all the thing I hated. Well I may still be a dramatic one, but now I'm much braver!'
"I can't do this Michelle. I can't!" I called Michelle after those thoughts and self checks.
"Well it seems like you still care about Daniel. Even after everything that has happened between both of you," Michelle added.
"Yes. But don't get it wrong. I don't do this for him. I admit I was disappointed with him after the Asia Café incident and his decision to get back to Jennifer. But I can't let these things cloud my judgement and do harm to myself and my career. In fact to even anyone else's," I explained to Michelle. To think about it, I almost proceeded with my fake sick leave plan because of my anger to Daniel. Serve him right , for hurting my feeling. But I realize now that I should be more professional in this. I should not mix personal stuffs and career."
"It's great you finally came back to you senses, Marina. Now I think you better give him a call. Or go straight to the office immediately. I believe he will appreciate your presence there."
"Yeah I think so. I'm already feeling so bad now I left them for a couple hours already. They must be running around like a tornado in the office now."
A few minutes after I hanged up with Michelle, Daniel called me unexpectedly. I was hesitated at first, but I grew some balls to answer it anyway.
"Marina..." he spoke my name softly.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah. I'm fine. Why are you calling me Daniel? Anything can I help you with?"
"Marina. There something I need to talk to you about."
Uuugh...I was not so good with this kind of phrase. No matter who said it, it made me nervous every single time.
"You...You have changed a little bit lately..." added Daniel.
"What do you mean?"
"You and I. Us. We are no longer they way we were before."
'Ahh Daniel. Please know what you are talking right now! Don't play with my feeling!' my heart screamed.
"Marina. Those are just words! He is just questioning you both's professional relationship, that's it! Don't romanticize anything from his mouth!" Gina's face appeared in my eyes, with loud and clear warning.
"Maybe it has got to do with this role I'm holding at the office right now. Maybe it stresses me out a little bit. Last time I checked, I was just an assistant there. But now I'm joining the editorial group! Never in my mind had I imagined that to happen before. Or maybe I am just very shocked with this tragedy we are having right now," I explained to Daniel meticulously.
"You called this a tragedy? You are so funny Marina" Daniel laughed at me. "Well maybe you are right. This is shocking us both. We didn't see it coming and now adjusting made us not the person we were before."
I believed from the way he responded to it, Daniel knew I was not giving the right answer.
To be quite honest, after everything that had happened between us, I felt betrayed. I felt like I had lost a friend. But I knew it, if I did not have any feeling towards him, I would have not responded the way I did. And I did not have any right to blame him either. He never said it to me that he had any feelings toward me before. So why did I have to be emotional like he was mine?
"Are you sure that's all the reason?" Daniel asked.
"Yeah. Don't worry about it. I'm just concerned that..."
"Concerned on what? This issue we are working on?" Daniel knew it from my voice that I was not comfortable with this conversation and so he changed its direction.
"Yes! Daniel...I'm very concerned about the upcoming issue..."
"Well as the editor in chief my worries are like ten times stronger! It's all on my shoulders at the end of the day. I'm the one who have to report to the board of directors. But I know...you are too strong to be bothered by this H1N1 pandemic right now. In fact some people are happy it's happening right now they don't have to come to work," Daniel tested me again.
"What are you trying to say Daniel? I swear that is all I have in my mind now. It's all about Hey. But I am holding tight to what you said to us the other day- what else can we do now? Pushing through is the only way. Let's finish what we started," I replied him with the safest answer I could think of.
"Hmmm.." I could hear a little sigh from him. It could mean that he was still not satisfied with my answer. "All right. Now tell me what is it actually that gives you headache about Hey?"
"I just think that the issue we are working on now, there are lots of other magazines are doing the same," I slowly gathered all my points that had been stuck in my head for quite some times.
"Many people know Hey's ability to turn a conventionally boring topic into something more interesting and cool. Hey could turn something 'underground' to become 'mainstream'.
"What are you trying to say Marina?" Daniel was a little confused.
"This issue sucks! We need something to boost it up and make it interesting."
"Do you have any idea?" I could hear his intonation changed a little bit with my honest opinion.
"No but I believe sex and controversy sell."
'Oh no! Did I just say it to Daniel? Sex and controversy?!' I said to my heart in disbelief.
"I know..." Daniel sounded like he was holding a laughter. I knew he never expected it from me to use sex and controversy to sell our magazine. "But I don't know how those two fit into this"
"Oh...mmm...." I lost for words.
"Take a rest Marina. Think about it and ready to attack later all right?"