The foreign branch manager was sipping from a white and blue cup a watery instant coffee. His colleague entered his office. Her eyes were large, and her raised eyebrow created small wrinkles on her forehead.
“That was an awful meeting,” she said. He agreed and added that they were still expected to take the main culprit behind the failed meeting, a middle-aged foreign lawyer, to dinner.
“You have to come, we need you to translate for Mr. Zhang, his English is not good enough and it might be good to have a more informal talk with the lawyer” he told her, fiddling with a pen in his hand.
“Oh shit,” she said, pulling a face.
“Where can we go?” he asked, “we already went to the Great Wall hotel, we cannot go there again.”
There was no lack of restaurants in the small – by Chinese standards – city where the joint-venture was located, but few were serving foreign food.
“I know, let’s go to have hotpot,” she said with a smile.
“You know I like it, but the lawyer does not like Chinese food,” he said shaking his head.
“I know, that’s the point” she said as her pretty face transformed under the thought of revenge.
He stared at her for a moment then joined her in an open belly laugh.
A couple of hours later, on the way to take the hotel where the lawyer was staying to get some rest before dinner, she anticipated the dinner plans.
“We’re going for a hotpot, it is quite typical in this cold season. You don’t have to worry about the food, you can choose what to eat, there are noodles, meat, vegetables…, it’s like a bourguignonne, basically,” she said matter-of-fact and with a sincere voice. She failed to mention that one spicy half of the broth would burn the taste buds for the whole evening, if not for days, while the other half would look so oily that one could have been used to lubricate an engine. Her mouth started watering at the thought of the tiny slices of delicious lamb dipped in the broth or the sticky consistency of the niangao covered with a thin spicy oil layer.
She knew that novice in China often ended their first hotpot evening with a side-effect. Yes, arrogant bastard, she thought, next time you will think twice before coming here. Looking out of car window at the ugly but familiar city, she smiled thinking about the sleepless night the lawyer was going to have, stuck on the toilet bowl in the smelly hotel bathroom.
She felt no remorse and instead she relaxed in her seat, looking forward to the evening ahead.