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The Meeting

Chopin’s Nocturne op. 9 no. 1 was heard from Chris’s mobile phone. That was the ringtone for his weekday mornings. It was 6.30 am. He swiped it off and went back to sleep. He thought: Strange...Why did the alarm ring on a Sunday morning? Did I set it to every single day? Nah, just sleep.

At 8.30 am, the mobile phone rang. This time, Chris picked it up.

“Hello”

“Chris, where the hell are you now?”

“Wait... Are you Dave?”

“Yes! Come straight into the office now!”

“What? Is this a prank? We don’t work on Sundays. That’s inhumane.”

“Chris..Look It must have been the drinks last night. You can’t hold your liquor. You should stick to coke if you knew you have work the next day.”

“I don’t know whatcha talking about. I am gonna check the date.”

“Chris, today’s is D-Day for the department meeting. This is the meeting prior to the annual end of the year meeting...For Christ’s sake, you should know it...Whatever, the meeting is supposed to have started. Everyone is waiting for you. Bye, Henry is screaming now.”

Chris was truly puzzled. He couldn’t fathom what’s going on. He took a quick shower, gotten dressed, and turn on the TV.

On the TV screen, it read 8.40 am 22 November 2019.

Chris was utterly shocked. Without hesitation, he ran down the stairs of the apartment and called for a taxi. A taxi came within minutes.

In the taxi, countless thoughts were running in his head.

“How did all this happen? I pressed a button ... Next thing I know is the 6.30 am alarm followed by the crazy call from Dave. And it’s 22 November today! Oh my gosh... Paul’s time-traveling watch works! It went back a day in time. ”

Chris smiled to himself. The driver caught a glimpse and uttered: “Had a lucky night last night?”

Chris: “No, I will be in trouble minutes from now.”

“Where is that watch? I need to find it tonight. First thing first. I need to get through this hell of a meeting.”

Chris got off at the taxi stand next to his office. He looked at the amount he paid and felt bad. $32 to get to a meeting and get bashed. He thought: “No time for regret. Let’s get this done with.”

The Meeting Room

Henry: Now, let’s look at this chart.

Chris was panting and came into the room. “Sorry team, I’m terribly sorry.”

Henry: ” You, See me in my room after the meeting. Get your butt on that chair over there and shut up.

The meeting ended at 9.30. Chris was there for barely 30 minutes.

Henry is Chris’s manager. He manages a team of risk analysts in this Bank of Sicara Headquarters office in Sicara’s CBD district. He is a veteran in this bank, having worked in this office for 15 years. He is a fair though domineering boss. He does not participate in office politics or using relationships to enhance one’s career. He is very objective and goal-driven.

Chris knocked on the door of Henry’s room.

“Come in.”

“Good morning Henry.”

“Chris, it is very uncharacteristic of you to come into a meeting so late and very unprepared. I do not know what happened. I’m not going to probe into it. You do know the annual performance review is coming up?

“Yeah. Next month.”

“I do not let a single episode alter my review of an employee. I believe that this is just once. Your review will be based on what you have accomplished for the year. However, all the other senior management executives will be at the upcoming annual meeting. You should get yourself prepared and on time. A negative impression wouldn’t do you any good for your career.”

“Yes. I will be prepared and do a better job. Thanks.”

“Alright, Chris. Please close the door when you leave the room.”

Chris went back to his desk and get his work going.

At lunch, he went to the riverside and took a seat on the bench at his favourite spot. As he munched on his sandwich, many thoughts flashed past his mind. These were episodes in his life that left him with regrets and he could not let go of them. Very often, two words come to his mind. They were If Only.

Here he was at the river, trying to recall what had happened on 22 November 2019 before the time-travel episode. He has a habit of recording events on his phone such as birthdays of friends, meetups, dates, and gym sessions. He checked on 22 November. It has only a single entry. “Dinner - Elly” He pictured the entire day in his mind.

22 November began with him taking the train to work. Henry gave him positive feedback at the meeting. Lunch was a sandwich in his lunchbox by the river. Nothing significant happened at work. Dinner was at Alfredo with Elly. Elly is one of his best friends. They knew each other at the University of Pomona. Pomona is Chris’s hometown. It is a 4 hours flight to Sicara, where he works now.

“It’s only a day from the time travel. Easy to recall... I wonder if I could do anything different....hmmm... The morning has passed. Can I change anything? The only eventful thing is the dinner with Elly later. Let me recall our conversation that night. What can I change?

He looked into the river for a few minutes. Deep into thought, something came to his mind suddenly. “Yes! I wanted to ask her if I should ask Sandy out. I remember now. I hesitated on this night. A call came after we are done with desserts and I answered it. We went our separate ways after that. Oh man, it’s my mum who called. Darn!. So that should the thing that will talk to Elly about. 1st thing at dinner. Fantastic! That shall be the plan.”

6 pm Alfredo

Chris strolled into Alfredo. It is an Italian restaurant in downtown Sicara, about 400m from his office. He really looked forward to seeing Elly. It has been more than a year since he last saw her. The last meetup was when he visited his other for Christmas.

“Elly.”

“Hi dear, you look great.”

“Nah, you look better. I have something to tell you...”

“Now, hold on. I am famished. Let’s order before we talk about anything besides food.” Elly gave him a smile.

“Ok, cool. The risotto and ravioli are known here.”

“Yeah, I want a pizza. Anything else, you take your pick.

The salad came and Chris wanted to get it rolling immediately. He wanted to ask “The question” in his head.

“Elly”

“Yes, Chris?”

“You know that I broke up with Mikhayla last year?”

“I don’t. How would I know? This is the first time I hear it. From the horse’s mouth. Hold on, last year!? Why didn’t you tell me earlier? When was that?”

“Last December. Anyway, it is over. I don’t wanna talk about it.”

“Good for ya, Chris. So what’s up lately?”

“Oh yes, you are right. So here’s the deal. I was at a restaurant last week and this girl was working there as a waitress. I took a long time just to muster up my strength to speak to her. About 10 minutes. Do you think I should ask her out?”

“Should? hmm... I think it’s more like Can you? I don’t think anyone should ask someone out. It is not like you Should love somebody”

“But, you know... It is barely a month since they broke up. It’s still hurting. If I start dating so soon, isn’t weird?”

“Weird? Your relationship is already over. Over = No more. It’s more bizarre if you can’t move on. That’d be sicker. Tell me more about your new flame.”

“No flames. Nothing’s started. I was at a casual Chinese restaurant last Friday with my Karate mates. This waitress is kinda cute. I waited till the dinner is over and...”

“Hold on, Chinese restaurant... I guess she is Chinese?” Elly laughed.

“Well, yes. I think so or maybe she is Japanese or Korean. Not too sure. Anyway, I did get to talk to her for a few minutes. She is working there while looking for acting gigs in the city. Fresh graduate from some Arts College. I can’t remember the name of that. I don’t know much else about her. You know, there are some risks.”

“Yeah and I bet you love that risk...deep inside” Elly smiled.

“Chris, there are only 2 outcomes. 1. She goes out with you. 2. She doesn’t. I don’t think there is any physical danger or financial risks.”

“If the outcome is no.2, I could either 1. Keep trying until I get outcome no. 1 or 2. Give up. Ok, it sounds good. Where do you think I should suggest going on a 1st date?”

“Museum. I am guessing she might be keen coz she’s from an arts college.”

“Why not the movies?”

“Movies can be tricky. If it’s not one that she likes, 2 hours stuck there as strangers will be totally awkward.”

“Cool. The museum will be it.”

They finished the dinner and Chris walked her back to the hotel.

“Where is Karen?”

“Oh, she had dinner with her new boss and colleagues. She will be at the hotel later.”

“Are you moving here as well?” Chris asked.

“Maybe in a few months’ time. I need to settle some work in Pomona.”

“I see. Take care babe. See you in Sicara someday. I am going for my solo trip tomorrow.”

Chris took the train home and he knew that tomorrow never comes. Well, not for now. Yesterday is coming again. He wondered if the clock turned back at exactly midnight. His watch read 8.45 pm.

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