**Note: This short story is not edited so that grammar Nazis can have a field day.
Razak waited impatiently for the girl in pink pashmina to arrive. He nicknamed her ‘Pink’, the colour she liked most. Her name was Nur Hana Humaira Husna Hazira which Razak found quite difficult to remember and she worked as a junior programmer in the company. Razak was planning to discuss with her the program code she submitted yesterday that did not meet specifications.
She sauntered toward her cubicle at half past eight; water bottle in her right hand and a fuchsia sling back on her left shoulder. A dual tone pashmina of pink and cream was her choice for the day. Razak grinned as he got up from his comfortable, leather chair. Pink looked pretty today, she should be in a good mood. The printed program codes were in his hands – all 500 lines of them.
“Hey, you! Good morning!” he called out to Pink. He couldn’t remember her full name, and he couldn’t possibly call her Pink in front of the others, so he decided to just address her as ‘you’ whenever they conversed.
“Good morning Encik Razak!” She smiled coyly; her eyes were bright and the new bronze eye liner she had on made her looks glamorous. Razak pulled the nearest chair and sat next to Pink. “I need to discuss this program codes with you.” He put the stack of papers in front of her. Pink glanced nervously at the notes scribbled by Razak in red.
“What’s wrong with them? I think all the logics are correct. I tested the program on my workstation and it worked,” said Pink after reading some of the handwritten notes. Razak gave her a long gaze. She was only 24 and had just joined the company for 4 months. She had a long way to go.
“You see, the logics are not the problem here. What I’m trying to tell you is that these codes are not efficient; they are using a lot of computer resources. Last night, when I tested this program on the server, the CPU and memory shot up to 100%. Can you imagine what will happen if two thousand internet users access the web and click on this program simultaneously?” Razak tried to appear as calm as possible.
“So, what should I do?” asked Pink innocently. Razak squeezed the red pen in his hand and reminded himself not to shout at the junior programmer. “You will need to rewrite this program, my dear. But before that I need you to do your own research on how to make it efficient.” Razak saw the colour drained from her pretty face. It was a 14 day effort for her to come up with 500 lines.
“When do you want me to submit it?” Pink’s voice quivered. She knew she would need at least 3 weeks to do the research and rewrite – the logics were really complex.
“Well, the truth is you can take your own sweet time, unless….”
“Unless what?” Pink’s thumb was twitching as she held her breath.
“Unless the test engineer wants it by this Friday,” said Razak nonchalantly. He knew the deadline was Friday; he just didn’t want Pink to get the surprise too early.
After dropping the bomb Razak’s cell phone rang and Zahar’s name appeared on the screen. Razak quickly answered and made a beeline towards ‘Heaven’, the only smoking room in the office – hence the name.
“Morning, boss!” Razak greeted his superior, the software development manager.
“Hey, Razak! I need a big favour from you,” the husky voice echoed in Razak’s ear.
“Anything boss, you just name it.” Razak leaned against the half opened window and watched the ceiling fan tried its best, chasing residues of tar and nicotine away.
“Well, our department’s third quarter performance is worse than the last quarter’s – a lot worse. So I was thinking if we could do something about cost saving.” He paused to give Razak a few seconds to make a few guesses.
“Do I have to fire anyone?” Razak asked jokingly and let out a hearty laugh. Zahar found it amusing and joined him laughing. “No, we are not that desperate yet. I just need your programmers to take up more than one project. We have a few on-going software development projects that need to be fast tracked.”
“That shouldn’t be a big problem. These young programmers are always hungry for more. They’d kill each other for more responsibilities. I’ll do the assignment as soon as I can get my hands on the project files,” Razak gave his assurance and Zahar couldn’t help but admire the senior system analyst’s optimism.
“You’re my man!” said Zahar, gratified as Razak smiled proudly while visualizing himself sitting behind a manager’s desk soon – his name engraved in bold letters on the glass door.
The junior programmers, including Pink started working 16 hours a day to complete the projects. They needed to prove themselves and they knew they could deliver, so no one complained. Razak noticed that Pink was wearing the same blouse and pink pashmina for a few days in a week. She looked pale and rarely left her cubicle. She must have spent a few nights in the office. Sometimes, he pitied her for having to multitask and work with challenging deadlines but every programmer had to struggle during their first few years in the work force.
“Do you want me to pack lunch for you? I haven’t seen you going out for lunch for quite some time,” Razak offered one afternoon. Pink turned to face him and gave a blank stare. Her mind was miles away, he could sense that. “No, thank you. I brought sandwiches today.” She raised her food container. Her voice was weak. “Okay, then,” said Razak before he left to join his friends.
The long hours went on for 4 weeks before two of the projects were completed. The junior programmers were celebrating except for Pink; at 8.30pm she was still busy writing program codes.
“Hey, you! We’re going for steam-boat. Let’s go!” Razak was standing next to Pink’s desk. She shook her head and flipped her pink pashmina. “I don’t think so. I still need to complete this.”
“We’ve just completed two projects, that one can wait, can’t it?”
“No, the test engineers want this by tomorrow. I’ve been asking for deadline extension many times because I had to complete the other two projects,” Pink mumbled. Razak shot a glance at the program codes on Pink’s screen and recognized them immediately. “Oh, yes! You were supposed to finish this weeks ago. Make them efficient, okay? I know you can do it!”
Pink told him to go and have fun with the rest. “When you guys eat, don’t forget to think about me!” She gave a faint smile as Razak bid her good night. It was a long night out as they continued celebrating at the bowling alley, followed by a karaoke session.
When Razak arrived at the office the next morning, no one was in - not even the junior programmers. Pink was not at her cubicle. She must have finally completed her codes, Razak thought. Her place was tidy as usual except for a coffee mug with her lipstick stain on it. Before entering his room, Razak noticed something else. The coffee mug on Pink’s table was placed on a piece of A4 sized paper. There were writings on them.
Curiosity got the better of him and he decided to go and read it:
“Thank you for giving me hell. I hope you are happy.”
Razak looked up from the paper and that’s when he saw Pink in the smoking room – the heaven as the guys liked to call it. The long, pink pashmina was around her neck and one end was tied to the ceiling fan. Pink’s pale body was hanging lifelessly. Her eyes were wide opened and stared accusingly at Razak.