“Does it hurt?” He asked her.
“What? I don’t understand what you’re asking.” She replied.
“I want to know if you are aching or bruised.”
“What in the world are you talking about? Are you drunk? Did you take the wrong medicine this morning?” She asked harshly.
“I want to know, when you fell off your high horse. Did it hurt you?” He asked again, “You were always so happy rubbing it in my face that you are my elder, my aunt, and now that you were forced to become my wife, everybody in the family is obligating you to call me “Mas”, Ha…ha…ha…oh, karma has a subtle way to slap people in the face….” He chuckled.
“Oh, give it up! You fine feathered jerk!” She replied feistily.
“Guntoro, stop teasing Nak Endang!” His grand-aunt said from the back seat. “Why don’t we continue already? It’s uncomfortable here! Besides we don’t want the guests to arrive before the bride and groom, do we?”
“Guest?” Guntoro and Endang asked simultaneously, they looked at each other for a few minutes. Guntoro shrug his shoulder, then he started the car again and began to drive.
They reached the house about the same time as the other group. Upon entering, Endang could see that the owner of the house took the time and effort to decorate it.
“Endang, you have to go with Bu Lik Karmi and Bu Lik Narti, they’ll dress you up, I have a kebaya ready for you in the back room, it’s not a proper wedding kebaya, but it’s made of white lace and it’s beautiful, I supervised the tailor myself,” Bu Nining said.
Endang doubted for a while, but seeing her adoptive parents’ expression she finally succumbed and followed the grandaunts to the back room, as she walked she could hear her mother continue, “Guntoro, your grandfather bought you a very nice batik shirt, it’s in your room, you can go and put it on.”
Luckily it wasn’t a real wedding reception, but just a Selamatan, most of the invitees were men and Endang’s presence was only required for a couple of hours. She escaped to the back room as soon as the prayers were finished and lied down on the bed. She had lost all her appetite in the face of all the uncertainty that surrounded her.
“What are you doing here?” A voice echoed through the door, it was her “ex” sister if such a word even existed. “You have to come out, we’re going to take photos of the two of you.” Bu Yuni came in and observed her from head to toe. “Luckily you didn’t mess up your hair and makeup.” She said while dragging her out of the room.
What Endang dreaded the most in her life, was to look ugly in photos. That’s why she forced herself to pose and smile for the camera.
After everybody had left, the family gathered in the living room to talk.
“Endang I know you and Guntoro might feel tricked into this arrangement,” Pak Bakrie said, “I am doing this for the both of you. Endang, I’m already over seventy years old, and your mother is too. You need to have a family of your own to belong to and to take responsibility for you. I don’t want that after I pass and your mother passes, you would be left all alone in this world. And also Guntoro, you’re already thirty-four years old, almost thirty-five. I know you failed once in a marriage before, but it’s been five years already, its time for you start again. You’re my only grandchild, my only decedent left in this world, how can you not give me great grandchildren.”
“You could have forced him to marry somebody else, and not involve me in this,” Endang said under her breath.
“Well, let’s just say I’m killing two birds with one stone.” Her father replied while looking at her sharply. “I’m very tired now. I think I’m going to rest for the night.”
“Bapak, Ibu, the two of you can use the back room,” Bu Yuni said.
“mBak Yun, eh…, Ibu, is the spare mattress still in the usual place?” Endang asked feeling exhausted herself, she was more than ready to dive into bed she stood up to follow her adoptive parents to the back room.
“Yeah, let me help you bring it down from the top of the closet.” Guntoro volunteered.
“Where are you going?” Bu Yuni said sharply.
“To sleep, in the back room,” Endang replied.
“You sleep with your husband! There’s the room there!” She pointed to Guntoro’s room.
Endang searched her mind for the best way to reject her, “How could you expect me to sleep in a room and in a bed that my husband had used with his ex-wife.” She said with victory in her eyes.
“Nice try! Dini always stayed in a hotel every time she came to visit us. This house is too humble for her taste.”
“Why? Was she afraid that our poverty might stain her feathers?” Endang snarled.
“She taught that poverty is a contagious decease,” Bu Yuni replied with the same tone. The two women let out an evil giggle at the thought.
“You two, enough about Dini.” Guntoro’s father reprimanded, “Your conversation is making Guntoro uncomfortable.”
“What did I do to deserve this?” Guntoro sighed while shaking his head.
He entered the bedroom and ending doubtfully entered behind him. “I trust you wouldn’t try to take advantage of me tonight.” He said to her.
“What do you mean by that?” She genuinely didn’t understand.
“Never mind. You’re too dense to understand that joke.” He replied while taking off his shirt and pants off.
“Hey, how could you do such a thing in front of me?” Endang reproached him while turning around to face the closed door.
“I’m only taking off my shirt and trousers, I still have my singlet and shorts on. It’s you who has a dirty mind. It’s not like you’ve never seen me like this before. I always do this when we go swimming in the river.” He replied nonchalantly.
“Well, it’s just that….” She stopped
“Here, you can use my clothes, go and change in the bathroom.” He threw a shirt and a pair of shorts at her, “Then you can sleep on the other side of the bed and don’t go acting all high and mighty about it, how many times have you crawled into my bed when you had nightmares? Anyway, we have to go back to Malang very early tomorrow, so you better go to sleep and not think about anything else, it’s been a long day.”
“For your information, that was different, I was a child back then, and you used to be my favorite nephew. Besides you weren’t such a stuck up peacock back then.” She poked her tongue at him and ran out to the bathroom.
When she returned to the room, she could hear his rhythmic breathing. She peeked at his face, he was obviously sleeping profoundly. “Huh, strange, he doesn’t look so snobbish when he’s sleeping.” She said to herself.
She lied down on her side of the bed, turned off the desk lamp. Before long she was fast asleep.
“Endang’s tuition will still be my responsibility.” Said Pak Bakrie, “But since she’s married now, I don’t need to send the monthly payment for the boarding house. And I imagine you can afford to feed her.”
“Yes, Mbah,” Guntoro replied.
“Okay then, you two be careful on the drive back, don’t go speeding or anything.” He told them.
They said their goodbyes to the elders. Before getting into the car and driving off.
“What am I going to do? Endang complained, “The month is almost over. How can I come up with the money to pay for my room?”
“You don’t need to, just come and live with me. I have a spare room you can use.” He said without taking his eyes off the road.
“Well, I suppose that will be the most sensible thing to do.” She said pensively. “So what are you planning to do about our marriage?”
“Why do I have to do anything?”
“Well, unlike you, who was a divorcee before we got married, I was single, a maiden.”
“Then feel free to consider yourself a future janda kembang.” He grinned.
“Listen, I propose that we continue our lives and forget that yesterday ever happened. We’ll act like a couple in front of our family, but once we get to Malang, we’ll just go back to the way we were.”
“Okay, I’m on board with that.”
He dropped her off in front of her boarding house, “You better start packing your belongings.” He advised, “In two days you’ll have to move out, I’ll be here to help you bring your things over to the house.”
“Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow then.” She waved. She looked at her wristwatch, it was just seven o’clock, she had enough time to change and go to her first class.
“Welcome home, Tante Endang.” Riski greeted her, “How’s your father?”
“Tante Endang? What did your father offer to adopt me as his sister?” She asked.
“I’m practicing. So when I marry Pak Guntoro, it won’t feel weird. You’re so mean, how come you never told me that the two of you are related and that in fact you’re his aunt.” Riski smiled.
“Ugh…, please don’t put those two words in one sentence. It makes me want to puke.”
“What two words?”
“Marry and Guntoro.”
“Never mind, I’m going to change. How did you know about my relationship with him?”
“Everybody knows about it. Since yesterday, it has been the hottest topic in the faculty.”
“I can imagine. What are people saying?”
“Well at first some people were saying that you had a romantic relationship with him, because he was hugging you in campus, and the two of you left in his car, but Pak Komar from admin explained that you are his aunt and the two of you heard some upsetting news about your father who happened to be Pak Guntoro’s grandfather, and that’s why the two of you seemed so close.”
“Ah…, I see.”
“Although I’m angry at you. I thought that I was your best friend and your roommate, but how could you keep this secret from me.”
“Well, I didn’t intend to keep it as a secret, I just didn’t see the necessity in shouting it out to the world.” Endang explained.
“So can you put in a good word for me?” Riski begged.
“I can, don’t know if it will do any good. It’s not like we’re that close. We have a family relationship and everything, but that’s just about it. Besides, I don’t think you’re his type.”
“How is his type?” Riski chased.
“Well, Dini, his ex-wife. Oh yes, he had been married before. She’s the glamorous type, and when I mean glamorous think fashion model. Tall, thin, long straight hair, high cheekbones, designer perfume, designer clothes, and shoes. Her parents own a factory in Surabaya.”
“Wow, that’s kind of difficult to compete with.” Riski said.
“Oh, but I should tell you one thing. My parents don’t want to pay for my room anymore so I have to go and live with my nephew. “
“How can that be? You won’t be living here anymore?” Riski looked with surprise.
“Nope. I can’t afford it anymore. But the good news for you is that you’ll be able to visit me at my nephew’s house.”
“Hmm, Endang, you know I love you so much. Let me help you pack, so you can move out as soon as possible.”
“Thank you for all the love you show me.” She said sarcastically, “Okay, I’ve finished changing, let’s go to class.”
The two girls walked together to their class. Endang felt strange that the girls in her class were exceptionally friendly to her. It seems that everybody had a reason to say good morning to her. One girl even gave her a chocolate bar.
“Ndang, what do you plan to do for lunch today?” Anies asked her.
“I don’t know yet, probably to the usual place.” She replied while scratching her head.
“Do you like Siomay?” She asked, “I’ll pay for it.”
“I do like Siomay, but you don’t have to pay for it, really,” Endang replied with an embarrassed smile. Anies never cared to talk to her before, so an invitation for lunch felt somewhat fishy.
“But I insist. You know I think we can be good friends. It’s a shame that we’ve never tried to get to know each other better.”
“Uh….Anies. Thanks for your invitation, but I just remembered that I promised Riski to go with her to the library and look up a book for her report.” She quickly said while escaping from the pretty girl.
She exhaled with relief, these two days had been crazy. She looked around her, as she sa that the coast was clear, she continued to walk down the hall. She thought it would be a good idea to spend the next ten minutes hiding in the bathroom. Anies had separated her from her “soul mate” Riski and she felt vulnerable to greeting attacks.
“Mbak Endang….. You look so lovely today.” A loud woman’s voice echoed through the hallway.
She turned around in terror, seeing Bu Nunik walking up to her with a bright smile. Her big breast swinging left to right as she walked towards her.
“Mbak Endang, how is your father? I heard he fell ill and I was very worried about him.” She continued.
“Oh, Bu Nunik, thank you for asking. My father is fine, his health had greatly improved since yesterday.” Endang fibbed.
“Mbak Endang, you know, you are doing very well in my class. You are scoring a B average. But if you feel that you are having any difficulty in the subjects I teach, you should feel free to find me and ask anything you want.”
“Why thank you, Bu Nunik.” She replied earnestly.
“Then say hello to your uncle…no, your nephew for me.”
Ah so is that what it’s all about? She thought. Suddenly it dawned on her. Maybe this situation was actually a blessing in disguise. Maybe moving in with the peacock might not be such a bad idea after all. She smiled and her eyes shined. She has to map out her plan carefully to reap every benefit possible from this. First, she needs to find Anies and take her up on her lunch invitation. She turned around to walk back to the landing of the second floor where she left Anies, she walked merrily while whistling a happy little tune.
 Nak is abbreviation for anak meaning child, so Nak is honorifics used to refer to a young person.
 Kebaya, Javanese traditional women’s attire
 Selamatan ceremonial ritual practiced by the people of Java, where neighbors and friends are invited to eat to ask for blessing from God. The attendance sits on a pandanus leaf mat on the floor, and usually yellow rice and several dishes are arranged in a mountain like arrangement called nasi tumpeng.
 Janda Kembang is a slang to refer to a woman who has been married, but is still a virgin.
 Tante adaptation from the Dutch language meaning aunt
 Siomay, Indonesia style dimsum dipped in peanut sauce.
 Mbak is honorifics used to call a woman slightly older than oneself, but it’s also common courtesy to call this to a young woman as a sign of respect.