A Gentle Rocking Breeze

Out of the blue, she was missing him tonight.

It was almost a year since their last text (12th April, to be very exact). This she affirmed with the texting app, and at that moment she scrolled to his chat, he was ‘Online’. When they say technology was a bane of romance there weren’t a single ounce of lies. If goodbyes were solely based on letters and a huge sigh, she wouldn’t hate herself for not typing ‘Hi’. She wished he were simply gone for good, so she wouldn’t be tempted to check on his life. Instead, he was virtually haunting her mind, living within the very best memories that belonged to another time.

Every single guy she dated since could never match up to his humour, genuine personality and unpretentious charm. Despite lying to her face the very first time they met, he never told her another lie. And despite thinking that she would always be a cold-hearted person, she dearly missed him. She missed his good-mornings and goodnights. She missed knowing he would always have her back. She missed his promise that he would always be her very best friend. She missed typing furiously at her phone and hanging on to every written word from the other side.

She couldn’t watch a funny shihtzu video on YouTube now without tearing up a little because that used to be his pet name. She couldn’t drink another beer with a ridiculous name without recalling he’d bought her a ‘Fucking Hell’ on their very first date. On that same day, they shared a salty 4-cheese pizza and till date, that dish still takes her back to that night (‘so cheesy! How do we finish this?’). As a human GPS, their very first joke was her telling him to turn left instead of right, and perhaps she never wanted to stop being a terrible navigator, so she would always relive that inside joke in her mind.

Night cycling would never be the same for her, if he weren’t riding by her side from dusk to dawn. She would never forget lying with him on the break barriers of the sea just watching the stars and talking about life. She would always recall the salty breeze on her face as she laid so close to the ocean, with her head on his bag, and he would sneak little glances at her as though she wouldn’t realise. Her favourite food never tasted the same since they last shared it on a dirty bench in a deserted park in the middle of the night. She would always remember sitting at the backseat of his car and all he wanted to do was hold her hand. She sorely missed the right fit of his palm to hers, and the painfully shy way he first held it, and told her he was never letting go. Good times were simply endless conversations in every dark, quiet spot they managed to find. And even now she could recall every word of their last heart-to-heart.

People, she realised, could be so vastly different, yet have so much they could build in common. For the very first time, she thought she could be falling in love. She regretted the very first letter she wrote for him – the very act of penning a letter was an important gesture, and she was sharing a significant bit of her core. It was then she discovered her biggest fear was destroying his heart. Perhaps the very thought of their perfect fit scared her too much. She always knew the pen was her most lethal tool, and with another letter she carved out their tangible, irreversible distance.

Even with impossible differences, they thought they could be friends.

She always doubted herself since, thinking that to end it all on her terms was a very selfish move. After all, perhaps this was ‘the right guy’, at the wrong time. So she gave it time.

Promises were as easily broken as they were made. This she knew. She knew a year would make a big difference, let alone 4 years – he wouldn’t possibly remember to come back for her in 4 long years. There would be too much to bridge within that time when they weren’t even bothering to speak, or catch up. No ‘Happy Birthdays’, ‘How are you?’, or simply ‘I hope you’re doing fine.’

She could say ‘Let’s catch up now,’ but some distances were simply too great. So she would resort to re-reading their texts, his letter, and the diaries she wrote when they were more than friends.

 

Tonight she sat at their familiar spot, moon-gazing to a gentle rocking breeze.

Was it a little bit of salt she could taste in the air?

 

—-

 

P.S. There are fine lines between fiction and fact.
You decide what’s real and what’s merely written text.

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

 

♛ Scarlet Carousel | oo4

{Installation} – [oo4]

You trust us to find her? Your trust is cheap.

February 2017
South Korea

“Here, this is the source of our system’s hijack, Mr Yamaguchi.”

The aforementioned ran his eyes across the network protocol and address. “A one-man operation?”

“Indeed. Helluva a genius this one is. Shall I get rid of him? Your call, Sir.” His proud lackey rubs his hands together, eager for mission. He shifts his weight from foot to foot – the only sound that could be heard in the Yamaguchi headquarters.

Yamaguchi grits his teeth and lets his thoughts fill the silence. Finally, he lets out a deep chuckle and says, “Let this go on.” He swivels around to face the vast skyline of metropolitan Seoul.

“But Sir, this man has obtained crucial information –

“Let him pass system security for a whee bit longer.”

“Sir, our database has been compromised –
“You heard me.”

“Sir, for someone to hack into the system, he’s not simple to begin with…”

“I have made myself very clear. You may go.”

Puzzled, his subordinate hastens to retreat. Meanwhile, the stack of sheets containing the hijacker’s information goes alight with a flick, and disappears amongst dark wisps of smoke. Within minutes it is nothing more than ashes in Yamaguchi’s wastebasket.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“For God’s sake what this lady needs is the hospital!” Eiji does not follow the party up the flight of stairs leading towards a dimly lit private apartment.

In Pierre’s arms, her arms and legs droops like a lifeless ragdoll.

Pierre grits his teeth. “Keep this up and you’ll be the one needing a medic.”

Eiji’s head snaps up. He charges forward. Reina quickly blocks the stairway with her frame and shakes her head vehemently. “We need to lay low,” Reina lays a hand on Eiji’s forearm an leads him up the stairs, “as we’re clearly on the run now. Showing up at the public hospital would only cause a hoo-hah we don’t need.”

Pierre lets out a low whistle. “Thank god someone here’s got brains.”

Eiji’s fists clench at the other man’s remark, but with Reina’s soothing hands running up and down his arms, he could no longer stay angry.

A swift intercom call later, they are introduced into a dark studio apartment. The world outside is cut off by a sharp, almost inaudible click of an automatic door security system. As the door shuts quietly behind their backs, Reina registers a monochrome space with patches of greys and startling implants of scarlet red. Beyond the walls, nothing from the inside can be heard even to anyone pressing a stethoscope to the cold metal of the door. Hence nobody, save for Eiji, would ever have heard Reina’s soft, surprised gasp as she first lay eyes on Jae – a tall stranger of which she could only make out the sharp contours of his deepset eyes, high cheekbones and strong jaws. In the dim of the lights, he looked even darker in a full suit of black, eyebrows in thick slashes of rich chocolate brown furrowed in an inconspicuous frown. So natural was this look of intense concentration that this man did not appear to be frowning at all, until you took a closer look at the lines at the base of his forehead.

Taking her gasp as an indication of fear, Eiji steps protectively closer to Reina, and this movement leads Jae to frown in their direction. He immediately recognizes the face from a recent seige of the nation’s identity databases – a Reina Yamaguchi who Pierre asked to keep tabs on.

This close, Jae is stirred by the girl’s dark, startling beauty. Keeping his cool, he steps one forward, deliberately closing the distance between them. He takes one look at the unconscious girl in Pierre’s arms, then back at Reina and Eiji. “If the pair of you so much as breathe a word to anybody outside of this room, you two are as good as dead.”

With a chin-tilt, he gestures for Pierre to go forth into another room. “I’ll be attending to the wounded. The two of you need to remain on this couch, within our sight.”

From the room, Pierre replies, “the female identity is verified. You can just discard the boy.”

“Hey we came here together and I’m not leaving without Reina!”

Jae sighs gravely as he pushes both of them onto the couch. “Oh Pierre, why the heck did you bring the boy here.”

“I couldn’t run with one girl’s body and securely ditch another. The pretty one is too fragile to be of any help.” Pierre steps back into the room, wiping his hands on a bloodied towel.

“Could the two of you not speak as though we don’t exist?” Reina points back and forth between Eiji and herself, emphasising their presence.

“Yup, pretty one’s got guts and brains,” Jae confirms, “and so I’d expect you to know how to shut your trap. If you guys try to run, you’ll only escalate your deaths. Not to mention your room-mate’s.”

“Noemie? You know where she is?” Reina stands abruptly. Suddenly, the couch tilts back and Eiji is flung onto the floor. “Hey!” he gets back on his foot and looks befuddled.

“Watch it. My home is booby-trapped everywhere to disarm intruders. If you don’t wish to be caught off-guard, don’t make sudden movements. The trick is – stay still, don’t leave the premises unless you’re with Pierre or me. Also, the studio with the red door is out-of-bounds.” Jae throws out the warning before leaving the room.

Eiji tugs Reina down to his side and pulls her close. “You guys are insane!”

“Are we? Your roommate is insane. This Noemie. Tell me, why would she stalk me in the middle of the night, dressed like a whore.” Pierre questions.

Reina frowns in concern. “You met Noemie? Is she safe? She was supposed to meet me at my dad’s bar but was uncontactable all night.”

Pierre slips a hand into his jeans and pulls out the device. “Because I have her cellphone. And she has mine. We had a confrontation but I didn’t hurt her, or see her after. I was hoping to find her in that apartment to return it.

“We stay together in that apartment…” Reina lets her voice trail off. The room they shared was now ransacked and destroyed.

“And we don’t know who that girl is.” Eiji chin tilts to gesture towards the room where Pierre had carried the injured girl earlier.

“The main thing now is to make sure that girl lives to tell the story.” Jae says as he returns with 2 Styrofoam cups of water. “Drink up, you look like you need it.”

Thirstily, the two downs them. Reina wipes her mouth with the back of her hands and says, “Thanks. I really need to know if Noemie is safe. Can you find her?”

Jae takes the empty cup and thrashes them. “If she’s important, we’ll look for her, dead or alive.”

“Of course she’s important! Don’t even mention dead. I can’t hear it. If you brought us here, you must know what happened to her.” Reina’s eyes start to fill and Jae has to look away from them.

“Give me a reason we have to bother with you kids fouling up our plans.”

“We have no such intentions. If you know where Noemie is, would you find her? For me?” Reina pleads with desperation in her eyes. She searches Jae’s face to no avail – a cold hard emotionlessness is all he shows.

Jae fights an urge to let down his guard; in his defense he’s not usually weak when it comes to girls. In Reina’s records, she was an actress with accolades to her name – a girl like that could charm the pants off a man without lifting a finger.

Jae shrugs. “You trust us to find her? Your trust is cheap. Lesson number one: don’t finish your drinks so quickly.”

It takes them 2 seconds to digest this piece of news. In the next instant, they had fallen into deep sleep.

In the makeshift surgery room, Jae grits his teeth and frowns in concentration. With doctor’s precision, he weaves the stitch needles in and out of the fresh wound. Pierre hands him a hot sterilized napkin, which he dabs on the face of the wounded girl.

“Jae. You think we can get much out of her when she’s conscious?”

“I think she’s as innocent as those two out there. One less life on my bad karma, one less load on my conscience.” With an inbuilt flashlight on his Swiss army knife, Jae examines her pupils. “Any idea where this girl comes from?”

Pierre shakes his head as he winds up the bloodied sheets and tucks them away in the washer, and quickly checks the security screen with cameras reflecting all zones of Jae’s apartment. Huddled on the couch, the screen showed Reina and Eiji fast asleep.

“I’m still confused. Are you gonna tell me what’s all this about? First you check up on this Reina Yamaguchi. The next moment you show up with her, plus an almost-dead chick and a dumbass.”

“So that girl is Reina Yamaguchi?”

“Yea. What’s the story? Start from the beginning.”

“Okay, so, a briefcase full of bio-hazardous drugs should have been on that flight to Vegas an hour ago, but nobody showed up to hand them over to me. I couldn’t leave for Vegas. My guess is, peddlers of the patented drugs killed my messenger. I got shot in the alley, hence my bleeding head if you haven’t noticed. Out of nowhere, I found a girl who’s been following me. I thought she had shot me in the first place, but turns out she’s just a very sexy whore. Her name’s Noemie Matsumoto. We had a scuffle; I tried to get information out of her. She acted all girly and weak in front of me so I let her go. Then our phones got swopped, and I know I got that girl into trouble because if she picks up any of my calls at all, she’s dead meat. That Reina Yamaguchi had been calling the whore’s cellphone the entire night, so I figured she knew something. When I got to their shared apartment, I found her,” he points to the makeshift surgery table, “and none of us know who the fuck is she. Their apartment got torn apart.”

“Right, this is not confusing as hell. Who do you think wants those drugs?”

“Man you have no idea. If news had been leaked, countries would pay gazillions for these drugs as investment in biological warfare. These new anti-retroviral drugs are deadly. You don’t need internal ingestion to kill an entire population within seconds. When genetically altered, these viruses can be timed into action, so if you want a person, or a society, to die at a specific time and date, that can be made possible.”

Jae curses under his breath. “And that stuff was carried around in a briefcase?”

“Discreet huh. At the moment the drugs are unnamed, manufactured by a private South Korean organisation nicknamed Cave, which coincidentally also sold the satellite database system to the government.”

“Really? Coincidentally, I was skyjacking the government satellite system earlier. Guess what? Complete access.” Jae winks.

“Nice.” Pierre holds up a hand for high-five, and follows Jae into the red room where his devices were stored. “I was hoping to find out more about Cave through the drugs transaction. Did you find out more?”

“See? Sceenshot here says interference on my skyjack was from a source name Yamaguchi. I was totally blocked after that. Considering my system is still up and running I’m surprised they didn’t try to shut me down completely. My guess is, Cave built this the database for the government, but for Yamaguchi to hack into government files and change records. Afterall, Cave sold the system to the government many years ago. So Cave is in fact working for Yamaguchi. Coincidentally, that girl outside shares the last name.”

“But when you ran a check on Reina there was nothing on her.”

“Not her. Her family.”

“Family. So you’re saying…”

“We need to find out more about her family. Then we need to find Cave’s headquarters.”

“Jumping into conclusions aren’t we. I like that. Where do we start?”

“Before we go anywhere let me look at that gunshot. That sniper got you good.”

cracked perfection

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“I am not the first person you loved.
You are not the first person I looked at
with a mouthful of forevers. We
have both known loss like the sharp edges
of a knife. We have both lived with lips
more scar tissue than skin. Our love came
unannounced in the middle of the night.
Our love came when we’d given up
on asking love to come. I think
that has to be part
of its miracle.
This is how we heal.
I will kiss you like forgiveness. You
will hold me like I’m hope. Our arms
will bandage and we will press promises
between us like flowers in a book.
I will write sonnets to the salt of sweat
on your skin. I will write novels to the scar
of your nose. I will write a dictionary
of all the words I have used trying
to describe the way it feels to have finally,
finally found you.

And I will not be afraid
of your scars.

I know sometimes
it’s still hard to let me see you
in all your cracked perfection,
but please know:
whether it’s the days you burn
more brilliant than the sun
or the nights you collapse into my lap
your body broken into a thousand questions,
you are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
I will love you when you are a still day.
I will love you when you are a hurricane.”
— Clementine von Radics

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xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

But it is the nature of stars to cross

“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”
John Green (The Fault in Our Stars)

“It seemed like forever ago, like we’ve had this brief but still infinite forever. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”
— John Green (The Fault in Our Stars)

“I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.”
— John Green (The Fault in Our Stars)

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Lounging around in bed, in Beijing, unable to fall asleep, and re-reading John Green’s while thinking about life. The best part about this hotel – everything in the mini-bar is complimentary, although I hardly touched anything except beer and nuts. Been unable to fall asleep lately, again, and I think it’s the restlessness and hyperactivity in the mind that kills me and keeps me up all at once. Ironically, only when I’m truly on holiday do I find the complete relaxation to concuss for long unspeakable hours.

“But it is the nature of stars to cross, and never was Shakespeare more wrong than when he has Cassius note, ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves.”
John Green (The Fault in Our Stars)

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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“I guess humans like to watch a little destruction. Sand castles, houses of cards, that’s where they begin. “

I love this book even as I’m sucked into the throes of its deepest tragedies. Even as I’d watched the movie midway through the book, I was unprepared for its ending. Nazism, constant bombings, war-torn countries and broken families set the backdrop amidst the seemingly detached, occasionally soulful, narration by a nameless, hooded Death – a collector of souls whom have left their earthly bodies. Markus Zusak’s book is a lingering remnant of World War II – Deah narrates the chance encounters between himself and Liesel Meminger, a foster child on 33 Himmel Street, Germany.

“He was waving. “Saukerl,” she laughed, and as she held up her hand, she knew completely that he was simultaneously calling her a Saumensch. I think that’s as close to love as eleven-year-olds can get.” 

I loved Rudy Steiner in this book – the movie couldn’t give him half the heroic credit he deserved. Rudy Steiner was: Three times Hitler Youth Athletics medallist; a bread-giver to starving Jews even as his own stomach was growling; a straight A student even though all he ever did was rebel – and all he ever wanted was Liesel’s kiss. Liesel and Rudy’s subtle puppy love breaks my heart all the time, especially towards the end.

“Often I wish this would all be over, Liesel, but then somehow you do something like walk down the basement steps with a snowman in your hands.” – Max Vandenburg

Max Vandenburg is a master of words. He is the Jew in the basement whom Liesel and her family hides. He is saved by words, Liesel’s words to be exact, when each night he laid unconscious in bed he was fed with a multitude of words. With determination to thank the girl he weaves and leaves behind stories of a lifetime and more. Like Rudy, Max wishes to beat the crap out of the Führer and hence his story is that of the Jewish fist-fighter.

“His soul sat up. It met me. Those kinds of souls always do – the best ones. The ones who rise up and say “I know who you are and I am ready. Not that I want to go, of course, but I will come.” Those souls are always light because more of them have been put out. More of them have already found their way to other places.” (On Hans Hubermann)

Liesel’s foster father, Hans Hubermann, is the reason why I still believe in good people. He loves Liesel like his own, teaches her to write and read, receives a beating for feeding a Jew, and is deeply indebted to the man who first taught him to play the accordion (and died on his behalf), so much so that he was willing to hide a Jew in the basement to return the favour. In much of the book, he is the doting father. A saint.

Liesel’s foster mother Rosa Hubermann rules with an iron fist but is the epitome of a hard shell with the softest core. Her unappreciated pea soup shows up a lot, and the hardship of Germans in the 1940s were best illustrated by how much food Rosa puts on the table each night. As loud as she gets, her soft-heartedness beams through whenever Liesel has her back turned because that’s when Rosa shows how much she actually loves her foster child.

“The consequence of this is that I’m always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both. (Death)” 

Death’s cryptic final words: I am haunted by humans.
The book will break your heart from its sheer brutality (all masked by the predominant story until the concluding chapter where it all comes too close for comfort).

“At first, she could not talk. Perhaps it was the sudden bumpiness of love she felt for him. Or had she always loved him?” 

And the happy ending is left to your own imagination. Who exactly was the husband Liesel spends a lifetime with before Death comes to her?

“A SMALL PIECE OF TRUTH
I do not carry a sickle or scythe.
I only wear a hooded black robe when it’s cold.
And I don’t have those skull-like facial features you seem to enjoy pinning on me from a distance. You want to know what I truly look like? I’ll help you out. Find yourself a mirror while I continue.” -DEATH

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Sleep a Little, Dream a Lot

This weekend I’m finally able to catch up on some reading to feed my obsession with caffeine. If you’re looking to set up your own café, coffee-house or coffee-bars in future (well, one can always feed their dreams), you’ve got to check these books out.

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Complete Book of Coffee: The Definitive Guide to Coffee, from Simple Bean to Irresistible Beverage, Including Over 100 Classic Coffee Recipes
An illustrated guide to the history of coffee, where and how the beans are grown, the types of roast and grind and, above all, how to brew and drink it. This is my new bedtime story!

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Cafe Life London: An Insider’s Guide to the City’s Neighborhood Cafes
A profile of 34 independent cafés in London, coupled with great photography and quick, practical insights.

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The Coffee Boys’ Step-By-Step Guide to Setting Up and Managing Your Own Coffee Bar
Haven’t actually started on this yet. This is The Coffee Boy’s distillation of experience in setting up their coffee businesses. Somewhat of a marketing, economics type book. My next bedtime story!

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These perhaps, are the reasons why I sleep so little and dream so much.

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

♛ SCARLET CAROUSEL | OO3

{Installation} – [oo3]

Life would be an endgame if we knew it all.

February 2017
South Korea

Even Las Vegas was in boycott of his calls. Pierre consciously fights the urge to crush the identical twin of his own cellphone in his palm. Calls to his Nagasaki hometown, directed to the comrade who had handed him the transaction, went straight to voicemaill. Somebody’s obviously having the time of his life at 2am. He curses his comrade under his breath.

Pierre, having gone solo as an agent, had long since acquired the art of non-existence. He had plucked the traceability of his mobile phones off the locality map — contributing to the anguish of having lost the only point of contact with his Vegas merchant.

He spends a good 3 hours retracing the alleys in search of the girl who is in most unfortunate possession of his cellphone, sincerely hoping that she had not stupidly picked up any calls.

Yeah right.

“Meddler”, “nuisance” and “interferer” were written in bold all over that girl’s pretty face. Pretty face. Did I just think that aloud? He looks down at the cellphone indistinguishable to his own, save for the absence of a small spiderwebbed crack – a scar acquired in the backpocket of his owner who had fallen 10-feet onto a parapet – and he admonishes himself for the possible disastrous mistake.

In the span of 3 hours, a Reina Yamaguchi had tried to contact this girl, whose name he had no burning desire to learn of, a grand total of 153 times.

“Jae? I need to crack your brains. Take down this name and get her checked.”

True to his top-notch skills at disarming passcodes to government system files, Jae had replied within the hour.

“Reina Yamaguchi was a child actress in Japan, born in Nagasaki and raised by nannies. Attended a Western University in Korea. Seems to have blood relatives here too. You like this chick? She’s hot.”

“Nothing fishy about her?”

“No…wait you’re checking up on her? Man, I thought you were just interested. She’s clean.”

“Great. Get me photographs, address, next-of-kin, details.”

“Sent.”

With no time to lose, Pierre cracks the lock on a Vespa in an open-spaced lot and races it to the address tagged to Reina Yamaguchi. The helmet reeked of cheap cigarettes but Pierre keeps it locked around his throbbing head.

Whoever had hired the chick whom Pierre silently and swiftly disarmed earlier in the alley was bound to have already heard of her misstep.

Pierre was to be dead. Details of the transaction had to be hushed, forever.

Now he lives. And this Reina Yamaguchi was going to lose an important friend.

All Pierre needs at the moment is his cellphone back in order to inform the Vegas merchant of the glitch in operation. The money was already in somebody else’s hands, for god knows what reasons. He would need to get it back. But to do so, he would need to play hero for a certain intrusive damsel in distress. He abruptly guns the engine. Long legs already sweeping up the porch steps to Reina’s dormitory before the Vespa was even silenced.

Why the heck had she been trailing in his shadows all night? She looked way too uptown and naïve.

The gun loosely tucked into his waistband was a .45 caliber Beretta, and if required he was swooping in for a quick decisive kill. But the victim he was looking for had no place and name. Who the heck had pounced on the previous messenger, and how did they know of this clandestine deal?

First things first — find the girl, save her ass.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Eiji doubles back up the stairs, taking three at a time, and finds Reina collapsed in a quivering heap. He crouches by her side, takes her by the shoulders, as he takes in the scene before him. The house was in disarray – looking as though heavily ransacked. Eiji makes a mental note to ask Reina if they had lost any precious items when she sobers up.

“Stay here,” he orders, gets back up in a run towards Noemie. With fresh blood streaking down her face, and frail breathing, Eiji does not move her. Instead, he places emergency calls to the police and the hospital.

“Get her blankets, Reina.”

The girl staggers to her feet and moves as instructed. The thick blankets were soon stained with blood upon placing them over the motionless body. Her hands shiver as she struggles to wrap the blankets around Noemie, careful not to dislodge any vital crime-scene imprints.

Suddenly, Reina drops to her hands and knees in the puddle of blood and peels off the blankets. “Wait. It’s not Noemie. It’s not her, it’s not her!”

Hysteria rises in her voice, as new panic replaces the shock of discovering the body.

“She’s wearing her clothes! Why is she wearing Noemie’s outfit?”

Eiji pulls Reina up and hugs her briefly. “Go into the kitchen and call her cellphone. I can’t find it anywhere.”

He calmly dissects the scene and the injuries of the girl before him. Somebody had used physical force to knock her out. His or her main intention was not to kill. It was also a fresh wound, Eiji observes, probably minutes before he had brought Reina home. Blood trickled down her left temple. Seeing as bulk of the bloodshed came from the base of her skull that had met the edge of the dining table with force.

Noemie’s ringtone sounded just outside the door, seconds before it swung open.

Clutching the ringing cellphone, Pierre takes one look at the girl’s body and cursed under his breath. Eiji makes a grab for the nearest table lamp, steps between Pierre and Reina.

“Look,” Pierre surrenders his unarmed hands,  “I know what happened. If you want to save your friend, listen carefully.”

Wailing sounds of siren alerted them to approaching authorities. Pierre dropped to his knees.  Weakened pulse. Alive. But this unconscious body of his attacker in the alley was smeared with Pierre’s fingerprints.

“Grab fresh blankets. We’ve got to keep her warm. We’ve got to get out! I’m not here to hurt anyone. Staying will make things worst if you two are arrested for suspected murder.”

Urgency in his voice seems to engage his listeners into shocked action. In minutes, Noemie’s double was wrapped in bedsheets and huddled down the stairs in Pierre’s arms, closely followed by a stricken Reina and a suspicious Eiji. They make it past the dumpster, before hearing their unlocked front door slamming and male voices establishing contact. Cops.

“Got a car, boy?”  Pierre gently lowers the body onto his stolen bike.

“No. Dont call me boy.”

“I’ll upgrade your nickname when you prove it. Think you can handle a Vespa? I’mma jack another.”

“Who the heck are you?” Eiji rants, but already he is swinging a leg over and starting up the engine.

“Get into the back of his bike,” Pierre tilts a chin at Reina as he single-handedly disarms a sound lock security, “and follow my lead. Don’t even think of going anywhere.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Cutting edge technology my ass. He had, in his possession, government blueprints, corruption archives, treason records, and proof of rumoured political scandals. He could earn trillions from blackmail, but Jae was not one to hanker after big bucks. Countries, states, unions, societies, and organisations…everybody was entitled to secrets, right down to the individual. He stood resolute to an absolute faith in the moving power of unresolved riddles and enigmas. In a lifelong race, Jae had been searching for a sense of an ending to the life he knew before his father was dead.

Aren’t we all searching for answers? Life would be an endgame if we knew it all.

Secrets.

Off the screen, he deciphers a series of numbers and barcodes and scribbles them onto a sketchpad. On his unlisted cellphone he translates the encrypted message.

1975.RALPHSARK.VIETNAM.

1975 marked the cessation of the Vietnam War. It was also the year his father’s company filed for bankruptcy in the face of corruption lawsuits. The year Pierre’s parents sought refuge with his father after the war.

Ralphsark was too well formed to be incidental gibberish. Jae cracks his brains for the next hour but comes up with nought.

A bleep sounded. This indicates an interception of messages and Jae enters the transmission to locate the source of interference.

YAMAGUCHI.

Yamaguchi?

Meanwhile, someone from the other end detects a hike in interferring lines.

✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫

Scarlet Carousel ©
Searching for the centre of the universe, the centrifugal force that holds everything together.
Each spinning out of control, yet inevitably riveted.
Is this a journey with an end, or does the weight of the world settle in places where the spinning never stops.
Where then will the spiral lead them?

To be continued…

✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫

xoxo
Viktoria Jean

SCARLET CAROUSEL

Pick of the Week

pick of the week

Karl Pilkington brandishes his unique class of intelligence once again in The Moaning of Life, a humourous take on the human condition and crucial ever-evolving global issues. In Trust Me, I’m Lying Ryan Holiday does an exposè of popular blogosphere; hook, line and sinker of the biggest liars in social media. Onto a lighter read, award-winning Jane Lovering is back with Hubble Bubble, in which wishes come true in twisted ways when 5 women dabble in witchery.

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

Book Review: I Heart Vegas

lindsey-kelk-i-heart-vegas
Published by Harper, 2011

Unemployed: check.
Deportation notice: check.
Next stop: Las Vegas!

Best friend Jenny treats Angela to a weekend at Vegas with her new room-mate, supermodel Sadie. Concurrently, Jenny’s ex-boyfriend Jeff, currently engaged, takes his posse on a stag night slash strip-club weekend to Vegas. Something smells fishy…or does it?

The chapel of love, Vegas, is where you take the quick leap of marriage, with le super hot rockstar boyfriend, in a bid to keep your American Visa. He doesn’t even need to know you’re about to be deported. What your boyfriend doesn’t know can’t hurt him, right?

Enter James Jacobs of I Heart Hollywood, fresh from a breakup and ready to rock Vegas with Angela. With her devil-may-care attitude, her wild adventures in Vegas is as funny as it gets.

The Strip proves to be unable to handle Angela-Sadie-Jenny trio and superstar James. Where then, does Alex come in? Her relationship enters a rocky stage after an argument. It appears Alex does not want to marry Angela. The idea of having kids and starting a family invokes too much of his ex-fiancé. Or rather, both their exes.

Is Angela about to leave New York and her new life for good?

There’s trouble in paradise. Does it get resolved?

Since I’m already on I Heart London, all I can say is…Viva Las Vegas!

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Fancy kicking off your heels and sinking into a couch with a light, fun read? I Heart Vegas, as does the rest of I Heart series, keeps me giggling in my seat and takes the edge a rough day. I’m drawn into Angela’s world, and more than anything, I’m extremely sad over my impending completion of the series. More sequels, please!

If I HEART was ever to be made a movie, (as seen in I Heart New York)I would cast:
ANGELA CLARK: Alicia Silverstone
as

ALEX REID (the rockstar): Nicholas Hoult
Nicholas-Hoult001

JENNY LOPEZ (the best friend!): Cheryl Cole
Cheryl-Cole-HD-Wallpaper-1024x768

GRAHAM (gay drummer of The Stills – Alex’s band): Dan Stevens
danst

Craig (bassist, ladies’ man, playboy): Chace Crawford
chace-crawford02

JAMES JACOB: Cam Gigandet
cam-gigandet-rocks-fauxhawk

SADIE: Shannan Click
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SYNOPSIS:
Angela Clark loves her life in New York. She loves her job, her friends and her gorgeous musician boyfriend, Alex, who is finally ready to move in with her and start planning their future together. Everything is perfect.

But, after Angela loses her job, her world starts to crumble around her – her visa is revoked and she’s given the disastrous news that she must leave New York and her life behind and go back to London.

Confused, heartbroken and desperate to stay, the last thing Angela needs is a girls’ trip to Vegas just before Christmas – especially when Manhattan at Christmas is so perfect that she never wants to go home…

Book Review: I Heart Paris

12980295Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Date Published: January 1st 2010
My Ratings: 7 / 10

Yes I truly heart Paris!

With all due bias, this is my favorite in the series. Set in my dream city to live in someday, the third installation captures the mystery and allure of Paris.

The Alex/Angela relationship takes a nosedive into an all-time low as the duo make their way to the city of love. Here, not one but three jealous women attempt to backstab Angela via an array of unscrupulous means. With her blog and career in jeopardy, she’s got everything to lose, including her work visa at New York. Alex’s relationship commitment also apparently slackens as he comes face-to-face with his French ex, Solène.

Honestly I’m not entirely taken by Paris, because the Angela/Alex/Solène/Virginie/Cici drama took all the attention away. There were no loving afternoon coffees by the sidewalks whilst gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes. The people she thought she could trust (aka her lovely assistant Virginie) are not who they seem to be.

In terms of perusing Paris’s hot destinations, Angela was zipping through downtown hipster crowds where Alex’s band was doing gigs rather than big names like the Pont Neuf, taking away the allure of a textbook Parisian retreat.

Lindsey Kelk wrote as if she were a true Parisian, taking us on a tour of trendy local spots and chill-out spaces. I found myself enjoying the lesser-known parts of Paris which one would not be able to find out about from popular guidebooks. The spirit and joie de vivre of Paris comes alive in bits and pieces gleamed from Angela’s (mis)adventures.

Eventually Angela straightens things out with her backstabbers. Her evil boss Mary seems to soften a whole lot more and claims she doesn’t want to lose a ‘good writer’ – a huge compliment in The Look’s history of employee flattery. Taking the leap, Angela moves in with Alex in the New York apartment. That said, I’m already moving on to I Heart Vegas, next in the series of Angela’s quests and explorations.

If I HEART was ever to be made a movie, (as seen in I Heart New York)I would cast:
ANGELA CLARK: Alicia Silverstone
as

ALEX REID (the rockstar): Nicholas Hoult
Nicholas-Hoult001

JENNY LOPEZ (the best friend!): Cheryl Cole
Cheryl-Cole-HD-Wallpaper-1024x768

GRAHAM (gay bassist of The Stills – Alex’s band): Dan Stevens
danst

Craig (drummer, ladies’ man, playboy): Chace Crawford
chace-crawford02

SYNOPSIS:
Angela is in the city of love — but romance is taking a nose-dive! When Angela Clark’s boyfriend Alex suggests a trip to Paris at the same time as hip fashion mag Belle asks her to write a piece, she jumps at the chance. But even as she’s falling for the joie de vivre of Paris, someone’s conspiring to sabotage her big break. And when she spots Alex having a tete-a-tete with his ex in a local bar, Angela’s dreams of Parisian passion all start crashing down around her. With London and her old life only a train journey away, Angela can’t decide if should stay and face the music or run away home!

One more for the road 🙂 (taken in Dubai’s Movenpick Hotel Deira)
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Book Review: You Don’t Have to say You Love Me

Neve Slater’s self-esteem is buried somewhere underneath her size 32 waist-line. She battles to fit herself into a size 10 in order to finally attract the attention of her love interest William, and decides to enter a ‘pancake relationship’ with the sex-god celebrity journalist Max.

Max’s social reputation as a full-time jerk with the ability to charm the knickers off any woman was Neve’s sure-fire guarantee that she would never fall in love with him. So to gear up for WIlliam’s return to the country and back into her life, Max offers to be her ‘pancake boyfriend’ —- the first pancake relationship in her life which is bound to be imperfect and not made to last.

‘We both got so obsessed about that first pancake being thrown away that we forgot something really important,’ Max explained. ‘That first pancake tastes just as good as all the other ones. It’s not its fault that it was first in line and the pan wasn’t hot enough so it got a bit lumpy and misshapen.’
‘And when you’re really famished that first pancake tastes better than all the ones that come after it,’ 

Here we have a pair of perfectly compatible man and woman too busy coming up with excuses for how they should not be together, that they fail to see how right they are for each other. Happens a lot, no?

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“That was the worst thing about having a relationship with someone, even a pretend relationship. You opened up, let someone in, and when it was over, they had all the ammunition they needed to completely destroy you.” 

You don’t have to be a snarky bitch to love their verbal sparring and offhand flirtations. Manning’s fabulous plot is moulded by her wonderfully written prose with comedic interjections that made this novel so enjoyable. The shallow man-whore becomes the tamed romantic. The nerdette with oversized hips gains confidence through her unlikely pancake soulmate, and when WIlliam inevitably returns to the country, Max has to let go of Neve, to whom he eventually confesses that

“We don’t stop, not even when we reach the finish line. It’s a journey for life, Neve.”

I fell in love with the book cover (with the lips) the moment I’d laid eyes on it, and I’ve never even heard of Sarra Manning until I bought the book on impulse. I fell in love with it further when I found out that the male character Max has the typical outlook of a bad-boy I personally would love, with a secret mellow side he only shows to a selected few. Personally, I felt that Manning’s novel gives off a more realistic vibe in comparison to the plethora of chick-lit on popular best-selling shelves. I fell deeply in love with the book somewhere past the middle point with the ferocity with which Max was delivering the duties of being Neve’s trial lover. His conviction was the reason this make-believe relationship stood apart from commercialized versions of love. It was literally as if he was telling Neve: You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me.

“She was so fed up with unrequited love and platonic love and all the other kinds of love that weren’t passionate, romantic, can’t-live-without-you, I-have-to-have-you-right-now, the-beat-of-your-heart-matches-the-beat-of-mine love.” 

This book is about finding your way around unfamiliar grounds and learning to push past perceived boundaries that any physical characteristics has limited you to.

Author: Sarra Manning
Paperback: 560 pages
Publisher: Corgi (February 3rd, 2011)
Rating: 8.5 / 10

If this were to be made into a movie…

NEVE SLATER – bookish, good-natured fat girl: Scarlett Johansson
scarlett-johansson-natural-golden-brown-beach-wave-hairstyle-mtv-movie-awards

MAX – celebrity journalist, smooth-talking ladies’ man: Justin Timberlake
justin-timberlake-the-2020-experience-photo-shoot-tom-munro-main

CELIA SLATER – the bubbly, devious younger sister: Karlie Kloss – always encouraging, fun, and effortlessly perfect
kloss

WILLIAM – the long-time friend who is unattainably perfect: Matthew Lewis
matt-lewis-500

SYNOPSIS:
Sweet, bookish Neve Slater always plays by the rules. And the number one rule is that good-natured fat girls like her don’t get guys like gorgeous, handsome William, heir to Neve’s heart since university. But William’s been in LA for three years, and Neve’s been slimming down and re-inventing herself so that when he returns, he’ll fall head over heels in love with the new, improved her.

So she’s not that interested in other men. Until her sister Celia points out that if Neve wants William to think she’s an experienced love-goddess and not the fumbling, awkward girl he left behind, then she’d better get some, well, experience.

What Neve needs is someone to show her the ropes, someone like Celia’s colleague Max. Wicked, shallow, sexy Max. And since he’s such a man-slut, and so not Neve’s type, she certainly won’t fall for him. Because William is the man for her… right?

Somewhere between losing weight and losing her inhibitions, Neve’s lost her heart – but to who?

Book Review: The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris

Do not read this book on an empty stomach, for it will leave you foraging for every last morsel of chocolate in the refridgerator.

With the promise of being introduced to the world of The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris, Jenny Colgan has left me more than hooked: I literally devoured her novel in 2 sittings, with a couple of Reese’s peanut butter cups and a bag of Mars PODS to go along. 20130912-072626.jpg

What’s promised is rightfully delivered: Paris is ever so picturesque, and French cuisines ever so mouth-watering. Jenny Colgan successfully reignites the spark of Parisian magic in contemporary chick-lit by infusing the element of top-secret home-made luxury-chocolate recipes (plus we all know it’s every girls’ dream to be able to guiltlessly binge on chocolate, not a hot Parisian with dreamy French accent).

If interested, you can expect elaborate and vivid descriptions of chocolate making processes. The tale of an artisan chocolatier – Thierry Girard – springs to life, the Parisian Willy Wonka whose chocolatier is the highlight of the story. His brief but significant relationship is revealed in italicized snatches of flashbacks, inserted between the modern, blossoming love affair between Girard’s son Laurent and the novel’s heroine, Anna Trent. As much as we can smell love in the air, the thick scent of ‘rich dark chocolate’ is so often repeated and emphasized, reflecting the chocolatiers’ dedication to their craft, as Colgan never lets us forget that the story is set in the culinary capital of Paris.

I’ve enjoyed the novel thoroughly from cover to cover – her simple and deftly delivered prose were easy on the eyes and thus would be a comforting light-hearted pick-me-up. However, I hardly had to think while reading for the words were fairly simple and the plot somewhat predictable towards the end. The bittersweet aftertaste from the novel is something I was expecting from the description of the bitter chocolates that Parisians found tasty — totally unlike the overly-sweetened milky creamy American commercial brands — and that, I felt, perhaps foreshadowed a non-sugarcoated ending to this unconventional chick-lit.

Publisher: Sphere
Release: 14th March 2013
Genre: Chick-Lit, Fiction, Food, Paris, Romance
My Rating: 7 / 10
Recommended for: Holiday-goers, summer reads, weekend reads

If Chocolate Shop was ever to be made a movie, I would cast:

ANNA TRENT: Blake Lively
Noon By Noor - Presentation - Fall 2012 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week

LAURENT GIRARD: Henry Cavill
henry-cavill-670x350

CLAIRE (French Teacher): Gwyneth Paltrow
Actress Gwyneth Paltrow arrives at the 2012 Vanity Fair Oscar party in West Hollywood

THIERRY GIRARD: Fat Russell Crowe
ACTOR RUSSEL CROWE ON NBC NETWORKS THE TONIGHT SHOW.

SYNOPSIS:
As dawn breaks over the Pont Neuf, and the cobbled alleyways of Paris come to life, Anna Trent is already awake and at work; mixing and stirring the finest, smoothest, richest chocolate; made entirely by hand, it is sold to the grandes dames of Paris.

It’s a huge shift from the chocolate factory she worked in at home in the north of England. But when an accident changed everything, Anna was thrown back in touch with her French teacher, Claire, who offered her the chance of a lifetime – to work in Paris with her former sweetheart, Thierry, a master chocolatier.

With old wounds about to be uncovered and healed, Anna is set to discover more about real chocolate – and herself – than she ever dreamed.

September Reads

These couple of chick-lit came in the mail from Book Depository!
A cosy, much-desired break from heavy literature. Can’t wait to lose some sleep over them.
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Easy – Tammara Webber
Hubble Bubble – Jane Lovering
I Heart New York – Lindsey Kelk
The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris – Jenny Colgan
Unsticky – Sarra Manning

“Sometimes we get so used to not really feeling anything, just going with the flow, that we forget how it feels to be really happy or sad.” 
― Lindsey KelkI Heart New York