The scent of smoke – Part 2

Liana rushed around the venue, making some last minute changes to the decorations while Jazz talked to the bar staff. Ever since she had been assigned to Jazz as assistant her days were busy, but also rewarding. Jazz gave her a lot of freedom but also expected professionalism and if not perfect, so at least working solutions to whatever problem might pop up.

“Did you take care of the flower arrangements?” The list in her hand got shorter and shorter, a check mark after every task already done and the sight made Jazz smile. Everything was under control.

“Yes, all done. And I moved some candelabras, they were too close to the flowers.”

“Good job. Anything else I should know?” Jazz handed the list over and clipped her earpiece on, checked the channel.

“Nothing so far. What’s still left to do?”

“Take the guest list over to the entrance. Can you brief the crew on who to let in and who not?”

It was a rhetorical question, of course Liana could. She nodded, stepped aside to let some staff carrying crates of wine and champagne through.

“Okay, I’m going to check on the kitchen staff real quick. First guest should arrive in ten, we better be ready by then.”

Before an event started Jazz was the most nervous, it only got better about halfway through. Burden of being the person in charge, but she wore it like a cape, not a yoke.

Another important business party for some important company, only important people were invited to eat snacks and drink imported wine. One of these days her bosses would give her the really big events, not only the good paying ones. Jazz was good at raking in the cash from CEOs who were convinced that their parties were the highlight of the year, she combined traditional elements with influences of her western heritage to some impressive and unique venues and performances. And although she had fun planning and organising these parties she wanted more. She wanted the crown.

For now she had to make do with crown roast; its fragrance wafted around her when she opened the door to the kitchen. Japanese foods and some western specialities were lined up to create the perfect fusion of east and west, fitting to the location and decoration.

She snatched a bite, deemed it worthy to get served, asked the chefs if they needed anything and with the assurance that everything went according to plan she rushed out again, always on the go.

Liana found her giving the staff a last pep talk, not standing out in her black skirt and blouse combination in a sea of waitstaff dressed in black pants and shirts. The only difference was the missing red tie around Jazz’s collar, the earpiece and of course the clipboard.

“Be polite and smile, but if someone crosses the line, don’t hesitate to get help. We rather take care of problems early. Discreetly of course. Any more questions?” She looked around, nodded a last time. “In that case, have fun and do a good job.” A round of polite applause and Jazz spotted Liana, shot her a questioning look.

“The host has arrived and he’s asking for you.”

Her clothes hastily smoothed down Jazz straightened up, all confident event planner now without any traces of nervousness.

“I better go and greet him.”

During the planning phase she had mostly dealt with his secretary, a competent and efficiently working young man named Osanai. Mr. Aikawa himself had talked on the phone with her once or twice, but Jazz recognized him from some pictures in the media. Tall, dark, handsome and one of the youngest clients she had so far he was the CEO of a company that seemingly dealt in everything.

“Aikawa-sama? I am Jazz Mann, the party coordinator. I hope you enjoy the event.” Her perfect bow was well practiced, Subaru had made sure she knew the etiquette after once seeing her bow sloppily.

“Ms. Mann, glad to finally meet you. And don’t be that formal, this is a party after all.” He smiled, slight dimples showed on his cheeks, and offered her his hand. “Mr. Aikawa is more than enough of formality.”

“Thank you, sir. Anyway, if there is anything you need tonight, don’t hesitate to tell me.” It was a phrase she had only reluctantly taken into her usual speech; it often sparked the wrong responses but her bosses insisted on it.

“Thank you, but so far everything is looking really great. I’m sure you did a great job.” He bowed his head lightly and she smiled.

“Well, your secretary was a big help of course. We can work best with clear instructions and he has been very specific in his ideas of this event.”

Mr. Aikawa laughed, shook his head lightly. “He is pretty peculiar, but I’m glad he was of help and not making things harder for you.” Once more he scanned the room, smiled as he took in all the details. “I just want my employees to enjoy this night. They do so much for me and the company, they deserve some appreciation every now and then.”

Rare words. Planning events for new ventures and fusions, sometimes to celebrate milestones and anniversaries – that was Jazz’s bread and butter work. A party for the employees to thank them for their hard work was new.

“I’m sure they will enjoy it. And I hope you will, too. If you excuse me now, sir, I still have some things to check.”

“Yes, of course. After all you are still working, aren’t you?” His laughter was happy and Jazz wondered what working for such a laid back boss would be like. Hers were constantly breathing down her neck.

With Liana in tow she made some last adjustments, more to keep her distracted than out of necessity.

The karaoke booth was constantly in use, the waitstaff was busy serving drinks and clearing glasses away and Jazz had reached her personal Zen moment while watching people having fun without crossing lines.

“A great party, Ms. Mann.”

Her polite smile widened a fraction when she recognized Mr. Aikawa, a glass in his hand. “Everyone is praising you and your work.”

“Thank you, sir, that’s the best reward. After getting paid of course.” Now that not much could go wrong anymore she was more relaxed, took things less seriously.

“Skip the sir, please. I feel so old.”

He didn’t look that old, maybe in his early 30s. Jazz raised an eyebrow, gave him a once over.

“Please, you can’t be much older than me.”

He hid his chuckle with a sip from his drink, followed her line of sight towards the crowd on the dance floor.

“I start to regret that I didn’t play a more active part in the whole planning process.”

“Why? Are you unhappy with how the party turned out?” Now both of her eyebrows shot up, after his praise earlier this came out of the blue .

“No, definitely not. It’s just – I could have met you more often.”

It was impossible to tell what was in his glass but Jazz assumed it was some kind of alcoholic drink. Wouldn’t be the first time a client hit on her after too many drinks.

“To discuss the order of courses and the venue?” Innocent blue-ish eyes came in handy when playing dumb and Jazz used it to her advantage if she had to.

“I guess I would have feigned interest in that, too, if that meant talking to you more.” A small smile on his face he watched her eyes widen.

“Mr. Aikawa, that’s very flattering, but I guess you should have a glass of water and some fresh air.”

“Oh, I’m not drunk. Actually I never drink.” There was enough space between them to pass as appropriate yet it just got too intimate for her.

“Is that so?” A tiny step back and she felt safer already. He really was handsome and his undivided attention boosted her ego.

“Maybe we could meet up after the party,” he suggested, tilted his head slightly.

“Sorry, but we don’t do evaluations after an event.” Again she flashed him an innocent smile, followed by her wedding ring. “And my husband doesn’t like it when I meet other men for anything else but work.”

“Oh.” His smile faded, he furrowed his brow. “Sorry, I thought because you are ‘Miss’ Mann and -”

“No, it’s fine, don’t worry. That happens a lot.”

“I didn’t want to make you uncomfortable.”

“No, if anything you flattered me, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m married. Happily.” At least he wasn’t creepy about it, some men didn’t even respect her marriage.

“Your husband is a lucky man, if I may say so.” His smile was back, but his body language had changed. Leaned back a bit, not fully turned towards her.

“You may. Tell him if you ever see him. He tends to forget it,” she joked. It was always tricky to turn down a man, even more so a client.

“Well, I better go and talk to someone else before I embarrass myself any further.” He gave her a short nod, a last lopsided smile before he wandered off.

She was a married woman but that didn’t mean she couldn’t watch. For work she met so many interesting men and although she loved Subaru with all her heart, sometimes she wondered why she couldn’t have met these interesting men sooner? Like when she was still in college?

“Miss Mann, we have a problem with the karaoke machine.”

Her earpiece cut her musings short, with a sigh she rushed over to the karaoke box, hoping it was an issue that could be solved by simply rebooting it.

 

“Jazz?” Liana checked the storeroom for her superior, frowned when she wasn’t there. “Where did she go?”

It was no surprise Jazz didn’t answer her phone, it currently was in Liana’s hand. She had found it on the bar counter earlier, but no trace of its owner. Usually Jazz told her when she was going on a break but this time she just vanished.

Liana could handle most of the work on her own, only sometimes she needed a signature to authorize orders and decisions. Still, after working with Jazz for months now and becoming friends, at least work friends, she worried about her. At least when Jazz broke her own patterns.

“Maybe in the kitchen,” Liana mumbled, made her way over there. Sometimes Jazz swiped some food at the end of the events, she didn’t eat much before due to her nerves. Liana had no problems eating before events, but she wasn’t the one with all the responsibility.

“Jazz? Are you in here?”

In the very back of the kitchen Jazz sat on a counter, a plate with appetizers in her lap, a napkin in one hand, a spring roll in the other.

“I was looking for you. You left this on the bar.”

“Oh, thanks.” Her voice muffled by the food in her mouth Jazz smiled sheepishly, offered Liana the plate and took her phone back.

“Party’s winding down. People are still having fun, but some are leaving already.” It was past midnight, so that was normal.

“Good. I’m beat. Hungry, tired and my feet hurt.” She set the plate down, hopped off the counter on her bare feet.

“Why don’t you wear comfy shoes then?”

“Because I’m short and need the additional height of my heels.” Jazz slipped back in said heels, winced briefly but shook it off. “Did you need me for something?”

“No, just wondered where you are since you weren’t hovering around your phone like you usually do.”

Jazz made a dismissive sound, she wasn’t clutching her phone all the time. Only when she was nervous.

“Fine, since my snack time is cut short I can just as well go back to work.”

Under Liana’s laughter Jazz swaned out of the kitchen, head up high, struggling to keep a straight face but failed. Back behind the bar she was smiling again, slipped her phone into her waistband and checked on the barkeepers. She only noticed the guest staring at her when she looked up and met his gaze.

“Oh, hi!” Her smile widened when she recognized the ponytail and the scruffy goatee of the helpful guest back from her encounter with the drunk man in the closed off bar.

“Oh, hello. Didn’t think I would run into you here.”

“Well, here’s a bar and a party. My natural habitat.” She motioned for him to wait a moment, ducked under the counter and came back up with a bottle of beer. “Here, but don’t let the others see it.”

He cracked a smile, took the bottle and looked around. “You’re not getting into trouble, are you?”

“For offering you a beer? Depends. Are you legal?”

He spluttered, covered his mouth with his free hand, coughed and turned away. “Goddammit, you can’t make me laugh when I’m just drinking something!”

Jazz snickered, her professional facade crumbled; apparently she wasn’t meant to act cool and collected around him.

“What? I’m supposed to make sure not to give alcohol to minors.” Her wide eyed innocent look coupled with the batting of her lashes got another laughter out of him, but this time without almost spraying his beer all over the counter.

”You are quite entertaining, anyone ever told you that?”

“I consider myself funny,” she shrugged. “Most other people don’t. I’m fine with that.”

“Yeah, I guess that’s the same for most people.” He took another sip of beer, set the bottle down again.

The party was slowing down, about half of the guests gone already so Jazz had time to kill. And there was no harm in having some fun, was it?

“Most people don’t care that I’m not funny, though. Not as long as I’m wearing tight clothes.” She took a step back, gestured with a flourish to her black ensemble.

“Which look great on you, I gotta admit. But only looks won’t get you very far.” Still, his eyes followed the path of her hands, once up and down her body.

“Well, in that case I guess I’m lucky for my great personality and my incredible charm.”

“Don’t forget your modesty,” he pointed out only for Jazz to grin even wider.

“Exactly.”

He huffed a laughter, drained his bottle. “Definitely entertaining.”

“Thanks, we aim to please.” She took the empty bottle, shook it once midair, one eyebrow arched at him. “Another?”

“Nah, shouldn’t push my luck. But thanks, that was exactly what I just needed.” He tilted his head and Jazz bowed slightly. When she raised her head again she was still smiling.

“You’re welcome.” And for once she meant it.

One comment

  1. And the plot smoke thickens… I look forward to seeing what develops! 🙂 (And Thank You so much for giving Liana a part…it’s always such a thrill, like being an extra on your favorite tv series! ❤ )

    Like

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