Sometimes, being a writer is a thankless job. You’d push yourself to the limit, making sure you’ve gotten all your facts correct; you’d sleep less, research some more; and be subjected to the blessed curse that is caffeine addiction.
Afterwards, your work would get little to no recognition, you’d be bashed for your writing style and have your whole educational and mental background questioned.
It can be a thankless job, but sometimes, it also has its perks. Usually, it’s the people who actually go out of their way to tell you that you did well and that they enjoyed your writing—it’s not a ‘thank you’, but it’s the closest thing an author would ever get to one.
It was with these thoughts that Hayden Dela Cruz developed “Foot Prints”. The website allowed the writers to freely express themselves without the usual harsh judgment of their peers. They also had the choice to remain anonymous or have their e-mails available for any inquiry that the readers might have from their works.
There were four major pages in Foot Prints, and they’re all aligned as tabs at the top of every page, just below the ridiculous literal foot mark that served as the site’s logo. There was the Home Page, The Articles Page (which breaks into four more pages), The Chat Page and The Staff’s Page.
The Home Page consisted of some ramblings Hayden thought would be helpful and comforting to those who were merely starting their journey in the path of writing. There were also individual photos of the current staff and their positions found at the right side panel of the page. Some inspirational clips and photos can also be viewed in this page courtesy of said staff and of course, Hayden himself; and then, even more senseless anecdotes that were most likely ignored by the visitors of page—as the staff were most certain to ignore it when they checked in.
The Chat Page was where actual communication happened between the visitors, writers and the staff. This also happened to be Hayden’s favorite page. It was where he tended to idly wait for people to notice the blinking green ball at the left side of his name and/or recognize him from the Staff’s Page. This was how he came to meet Gerard Uchtdorf, a German fellow who was very enthusiastic with the idea of writing stories for a living; and Cora Summers, an American woman who felt deeply involved in creative writing. The two became part of the staff even before they had ended their chat with Hayden and e-mailed their curriculum vitae as writers and proofreaders for the jolly website developer.
The Staff’s Page, of course, was all about the staff and what they do as part of the Foot Prints Community. Originally, Hayden wanted at least five people, including himself as the core staff—for some unfathomable happenings, he ended up hiring five more.
The rest of the staff were Brixton Crest, an artist from London; Daniel Tam, an aspiring writer from Vietnam; Sylvie Trinidad, a cheerful author from Mexico; Angelo Conner, another American who loved writing for sports; and Ken Tatsuya, a Japanese student who swept Hayden off his feet after reading a sample of his works.
The Articles Page was divided into four sub-pages: Novels, Short Stories, Poems and News. It was where all the submitted works go after being reviewed by the staff. An eternal glory page for the creations that were passed with all the apprehension and worries that plagued the author even after they were posted and reviewed by different fellow writers.
Naturally, the staff were required to pass their own works to set some example to the developing community. It took a bit of work, what with the staff scattered all over parts of the world—but they managed to work it out.
At least, they did until they—well, didn’t.
Cora, while sweet and strongly motivated to work through the pile of files to proofread, was a bit of a bully when things didn’t go her way. She mainly exchanged heated words with Gerard, who didn’t find her daily nagging very productive and necessary. They usually fill out an entire chat box before the 30-minute mark, to which Hayden would interfere and placate both. One or both usually ends up going offline for the rest of the day, neither answering any other means of communication. It was rather the opposite of what the website developer wanted in his team.
After a few more times of this happening, and some mishap by Daniel with a newbie writer, Hayden went offline for a full month. It left everyone blaming everyone else and chaos fell upon the remaining staff. Angelo compared the feeling to that of when your computer decides that it hates what you’re doing and that it’s going to be blue for a few seconds before completely quitting. The fact that you knew that you did something to have it quit on you, made it a modern gut-crunching feeling.
When Hayden came back online, the whole staff were relieved to have their boss back. Not that he skipped on any of their pay or anything, they were just feeling very guilty and was craving the sweet chance to apologize to the man who gave them all the opportunity to do what they loved to do as a job.
Then, Hayden announced that the whole online operation would be cancelled as he was planning to build a tangible office/headquarters for Foot Prints. Then, chaos fell upon the employees yet again.
While some of the staff wanted to remain, the others lost their drive to stay with the crew. Sylvie and Daniel wanted to see where the whole thing would take them, but due to the close relations they had with their families, they both decided not to pursue it. Angelo just abruptly vanished from all of their web meetings and was labeled as AWOL when his number (the one that he provided in his resume) became unreachable. Ken, ever the polite one, apologized to Hayden and thanked him for the wonderful opportunity, but seeing as he was still a student, he was unable to follow as much as he wanted to. Surprisingly, three out of seven of the staff wanted to follow Hayden to wherever he was going to build his little headquarters. Even more so was the fact that two of them were the very reason why he thought of having an office instead of an online setting.
So, 6 months later saw all three remaining employees converging at an airport.
“I don’t get why boss-man wanted to build it here. Don’t they have one of the worst traffic jams in the world?” Gerard asked almost fluently with only the slightest bit of his accent.
“I think it’s because of the possibility of finding more writers.” Brixton shrugged as he placed his suitcase upon the pile of baggage on their trolley.
“I really don’t care, but you honestly can’t tell me you guys can’t feel this heat.” Cora sighed in annoyance. “Let’s go find a café and wait for Hayden there, I’m not staying here any longer than I absolutely have to.”
“Sure, lead the way, little Miss.” The German gave an exaggerated bow while gesturing with his long arms. Out of the three of them, he was, by far, the tallest at 6’3”.
With a huff, the only lady in their company stomped away in search of an air-conditioned store to wait in for their boss. “I really wish you wouldn’t antagonized her.” Brixton sighed as he made to push the trolley after their colleague.
“Nein, don’t do that. Let me, you’re looking tired.” Gerard offered and maneuvered the handle away from the shorter man without waiting for an answer. “Long flight?”
The artist let out a short laugh at that. “Long life—I’m just glad I’m out of there and starting anew here.”
The two made their way towards where they saw their companion enter and proceeded to park their trolley next to their table. After ordering their coffee, they sat around the table quietly—each dealing with their own post-flight hangovers.
“Did you know that we’ll be staying at an ancestral house while we look for own places?” Cora asked after some time fiddling with her phone.
“No. Hayden was rather vague when he told me that we’ll be staying with him.” Brixton scooted closer in interest. “He told you that this was the place he grew up in, right?”
“The boss-man grew up here? I thought he was from the U.S.?” Gerard asked after sipping at his coffee.
“He moved to California when he turned 25.” Cora answered as she subconsciously twirled a lock of blond hair. “Something about inheriting some land and money from his grandmother.”
“How do you even know this?” The equally blonde German asked after another sip at his beverage.
“I talk to him like a normal human being, you dolt.” She gave another sigh, this one with disdain.
“He told me we’ll be staying near a mountain and a volcano, doesn’t that sound a bit alarming?” Brixton asked before the name-calling could escalate.
“A rock and a hot place.” Gerard nodded with a frown.
“You mean, a rock and a ‘hard’ place.” Cora automatically corrected.
“Sure, I mean, volcanos are hard places, too.” Their German colleague answered cheekily while the only lady in their company fumed but was unable to say anything in return.
Brixton sighed in defeat at trying to diffuse their oncoming ‘friendly’ debate. He turned to look out of the café, only to catch a glimpse of his reflection. He frowned slightly at the sight of his unruly black hair going in their every direction as if sentient; his blue eyes, a shade more vibrant than those of his colleagues were bloodshot and itching. Before he could observe anymore, a shadow merged with his reflection, pulling his attention away from himself and unto the man standing on the other side of the glass window.
Hayden grinned at him as he made haste towards the door and towards their table. “Did anyone of you ever thought of texting me when you landed? I was waiting from the parking lot for something, and here you all are having coffee.”
All three of them stuttered an apology for forgetting, which in turn was waved off by the jolly man that was their boss for almost a year by then.
“Well, since we’re all here—you can finish your coffee and we’ll be on our way.” Hayden smiled indulgingly at the three slightly panicking youths. “Oh, and guys—”
The three of them looked at him with curiously alert attention.
“Welcome to the Philippines.”