Endang carefully put down the garnish as the final touches on the serving tray of the dish she just finished cooking. She gently picked up the tray and put it into the oven. She had recently learned this trick, keeping the plate inside the oven will keep the dish warm a little bit longer.
Guntoro entered the kitchen in his singlet and sweat pants with a small towel wrapped around his neck. “That smells so good!” He announced.
“Of course it does!” Endang replied without looking at him.
She slapped his hand when she saw that he was about to pick up a piece of fried mashed potato patty from one of her serving tray. “Keep your hands off my food!” She warned him.
“Don’t be so stingy.” He complained.
She turned around and picked up a plate from the kitchen counter, “Here, I saved some for you, see? Why don’t you sit down over at that side and eat? When you’ve finished go upstairs and shower. I’ve already laid out the clothes for you to wear!”
He looked at her with surprise, “Amazing, you act and sound exact like my mother!”
“What’s so strange about that? We were raised by the same parents.”
“Oh, right…..” He nodded in agreement.
“So do you go running every weekend?” She asked while moving around the kitchen finishing her chores.
“Yes I do, I try to maintain an active lifestyle, but today I had to double my route. These past few days since you’ve been living here, I’ve been eating so much, I don’t want my waistline to expand.”
“My goodness, aren’t you a vain one.” She commented, “But I suppose at your age, it gets harder to maintain your weight in check.”
“Don’t worry, you’ll reach my age one day, and let’s see if you can act as cocky.” He sat down and took a bite.
She stopped her activity and said, “Say, I need your permission for something.”
“What is it?” He asked, uninterested.
“Would it be okay for….for Mas Widodo to come and visit me here? When you’re at home of course.” Seeing his frozen expression she doubted for a while, but continued anyway, “When I was living in the boarding house, he usually comes and visits me every Saturday night.”
Guntoro was silent for a while, “I suppose…..if you’re going to see him, it is better here under my supervision. I have conditions though…”
“What condition?” She asked.
“He can only come on Sunday afternoons between two to four.”
“What is this, prison visiting hours?”
“Take it or leave it!”
“I will tell him that he can come tomorrow between two and four.” She exclaimed while texting, too happy to notice him clutching his fist tightly.
Riski clicked her tongue when she saw the house, “How can your nephew afford to buy such a house on an honorary lecturer’s salary?” She asked.
“He wiles people into buying a bunch of paper filled with his nonsense.” She replied casually.
“You lost me.”
“He has another job. Come on, let’s go up to my room.” She pulled her best friends hands.
“Make sure that you do your job properly later when the guests arrive. You have to cross check the gifts they bring me with this list. Whoever doesn’t bring me the right tribute, gets blacklisted and can’t speak with or sit anywhere near my nephew.”
“I get it.”
“So you need to do it fast! Remember it’s the green marker for yes and the pink for no.”
“I got it, green for yes, pink for no. Just don’t forget my cut of the prize.”
“Of course.” Endang smiled brightly.
“Hey so, I need to tell you that after what you told me about your nephew’s ex-wife, I’ve decided to move on from my unrequited love for him.”
“Really? Unrequited love? You actually love him?” Endang looked straight at her.
“Well, unrequited crush.”
“That’s more like it,” Endang replied with a smile.
“And there’s another reason why I decided to give up on him.” She paused and smile, “It was because Syaiful, my second in the line crush, confessed to me.”
Endang threw opened her arms and hugged her best friend tightly. The two girls cheered happily, hugging each other and while jumping up and down.
“How did that happen? Tell me all about it.” Endang pulled Riski down to sit on the bed.
“It just did. You know how he is, all awkward and stiff. But yesterday he came to visit me at the boarding house, he was twitching nervously all the time, I was annoyed that I yelled at him to stop shaking his legs. Then suddenly out of nowhere he confessed.” Riski recalled.
“And you must be so happy…”
“I am, now you’re not the only one with a boyfriend.” She paused, “Speaking of boyfriends, how is your relationship with Mas Widodo, now that you’re living here?”
“Well, I definitely don’t get to see him much anymore, but I’ve been busy between school, studying and taking care of this house, I barely have time to miss him. My nephew is bossy and a slave driver, in the mornings I have to prepare his breakfast and make his coffee, then prepare his clothes for the day, luckily he eats out for lunch. But at night I have to cook his dinner and he likes to drink tea before he goes to bed.”
“Ah, so you’re practically taking the role of a wife?”
“What? Heavens, no! How can I be his wife? I’m his aunt!” Endang lets out a nervous laugh.
“You’re acting strange! Hmm….confess! What aren’t you telling me? You’re an untrustworthy friend, we’ve lived in the same room for more than a year, and you never told me that Pak Guntoro was your nephew. You know I can sense that there’s something else you’re hiding from me!” Riski interrogated her.
“How would you feel if you were in my shoes? Having a nephew who’s fifteen years older, it’s embarrassing!”
“Well, yeah….that part is true. But still as your best friend, you should have trusted me with that secret……Now what is it that you’re still not telling me?”
“Noth…” Endang stopped when she heard the buzz of the doorbell. She never felt as happy as now to hear it. “Saved by the bell.” She thought.
The group of girls arrived looking beautiful and smelling like the cosmetic aisle of a department store. As the hostess, Endang greeted them with false friendliness and floating kisses on the cheeks. Using her right hand to receive the packages and handing it over to Riski. As they planned, Riski quickly brought it upstairs to check the goods, while Endang stayed to entertain them. She kept looking to the landing of the second floor to see if Riski had finished sorting the gifts, finally Riski came out and quickly flashed the sheet of paper towards her. It was all green. Endang circled her right index finger and thumb and winked, as a sign of okay.
“Ladies, how rude of me, please sit down, while I get the owner of the house.” She smiled politely.
Endang quickly ran up to the second floor while Riski dashed down to help serve the drinks. Endang knocked on Guntoro’s door. He opened from the inside, he had changed into the clothes she prepared and smelled subtly of cologne.
“The guest is here, why don’t you go downstairs and greet them.” She said.
“Okay, be patient.” He said while stepping out of his room and closing the door behind him. “I don’t know how you talked me into this.” He sighed.
They both came downstairs, “Dik Gun, let me introduce you to my closest friends. This is Anies from my faculty, this is Diana and Maya from Medicine, and this is Nita from Mathematics and Shirley from Finance.”
Guntoro shook their hands respectively.
“I’m Shirley from Mathematics and this is Nita from Finance.” One girl said correcting Endang as she got the names and faculty wrong.
“Bu Lik, what kind of a person are you forgetting the names of your ‘closest friends’?” He looked at her suspiciously.
“Oh, don’t be silly, I did it on purpose, isn’t that right girls!” She smiled intimidatingly.
They nodded and smiled, “Yes Endang likes to joke around all the time.” Anies replied.
Endang quietly snuck away and walked to Riski who was standing in front of the dining room, “Behold, the wooing ritual of fine fowls. Observe how the peahens flutter their feathers and strive to attract the attention of the peacock.” She joked.
They through a high five at each other before they entered the dining room to set the table.
“It’s strange that today was your house warming party, but I was the one who had to entertain your closest friends, while you were hardly around,” Guntoro said as Endang cleaned the house after the guests had left.
“Well, it’s because they are my closest friend, that’s why we can talk any other time while they hardly get a chance to talk to you. Maybe that’s why.” She responded flatly.
“I don’t know, something doesn’t feel right to me.” He walked closer to her.
“Oh? Could it be that you ate too many mashed potato patties? Let me go to the kitchen and fix you some ginger tea.” She turned to run into the kitchen.
He quickly moved sideways to block her way, Endang stepped backward to distance herself from him. But he moved forward getting closer and closer to her.
“You have that look on you.” He said again.
“The look that you always have when you do something mischievous.”
She continued to move backward until her back hit the wall, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” She answered while trying to move sideways to get away from him.
Guntoro quickly blocked her with both arms so she couldn’t escape to either side. She felt her face becoming very hot as she felt his warm breath on her face. She trembled uncontrollably and felt that her knees became weak. Her heart beat became faster and faster. She leaned all her weight against the wall to avoid falling limp to the floor.
Guntoro’s face also reddened, he quickly dropped his arm and stepped back. He walked slowly to the couch and dropped his body on it. “I think ginger tea would be a good idea.” His voice barely a whisper.
“Yeah, I’ll go and make some.” She tried to walk but couldn’t seem to move her leg. Her shaky hands reached out for the table and she forced herself to walk to the kitchen, using the furniture to support her body.
She threw herself to a chair and tried to calm herself. From the time she could remember, she had many close contacts with him, but this is the first time she ever felt this way.
Endang stayed in her room the whole day, she wanted to avoid coming close with Guntoro, and luckily he seemed to feel the same way. She only went out and downstairs to prepare his breakfast and lunch, leaving it served on the table before quickly entering her bedroom again. Every time she remembered what happened last night, her heart would beat out of control, and she would blush.
The door bell rung across the quiet house, she checked her wrist watch, it was two o’clock. She straightened her clothes and combed her hair. She quickly went downstairs to open the door for Widodo.
“Mas Wid, was it difficult to find the house?” She asked while welcoming him in.
“No, it was quite easy.” He replied.
“Why don’t you take a seat?”
She ran upstairs to inform Guntoro that her guest had arrived. Trying to calm her beating heart, she knocked at his bedroom door. She could hear him telling her to open it, she turned the knob and opened the door. He was sitting at his desk observing a piece of wood formed like a square, he was only clad in his sarong and a t-shirt.
“Mas Gun, Mas Widodo is here to visit me, do you mind coming downstairs so he can greet you.” She said softly.
“Sure, I was meaning to go downstairs, I have something to do in the garden.” He replied. He stood up holding his piece of wood, grabbed his strong with both hands and quickly fixed the knot around his waist then walked to the door.
“You’re not going out in that, are you?” She snapped.
“Why can’t I? I’m in my house, and this is how I feel most.” He replied with a smile. “And is he such a grand and important guest that I have to dress up in a suit and tie to comfortable welcome him into my house?
“I’m not asking you to dress up, but at least you shouldn’t go out looking like a hobo!” She shrieked, “Get back here and change, right now!” She tried to hold him back, but she was too late, he was already at the top of the stairs.
She quickly ran behind him and stretched out her arm to grab him.
Widodo looked up to the top of the stairs case, seeing the owner of the house appearing, he stood up and put on a smile to greet him.
Guntoro extended his hand and touched the railing when unexpectedly his body was pulled backward, he tried to keep his balance but couldn’t stop himself from falling back. He quickly pivoted his body hoping to stop himself from falling. Reflexively he grabbed the closest thing to him.
Widodo’s smile turned into a frown seeing Endang fall backward and Guntoro tumble and almost landed on top of her.