Guntoro loved living in Malang, it wasn’t as hot as Surabaya and definitely not as crowded. Things were looking up for him, the teaching job, his books, but not in love.
He could only settle with seeing her every now and then at his parents’ house, and most of the time she would disappear, hiding out in the kitchen or out in the mango plantation or any other place except around him. Guntoro told himself to be patient, he had promised his father that he would not do anything to disrupt her studies, and he was determined to keep it, telling himself to feel satisfied with seeing her from afar and looking at photos of her.
But he never got disheartened. Instead, he focused on his work and career. His books were a success and brought him a good income, but he always kept in mind the advice of his father. Sure being a bestselling author brought him money, but how sustainable would that be? New books get published every day, bringing forward new authors with different literature styles, he can never know when his star would dim out. When the opportunity came forward he added his investment to the University as it had proven to be a dependable income.
“Mat, I need your help to find me a house.” He said to Rahmat, who he had hired to be his personal assistant, the young man needed some income as he didn’t want to be a burden on his mother anymore. And Guntoro could use somebody to run his errands for him.
“Don’t you like the one you’re currently renting?” Rahmat asked.
“No, I want to buy one, look for some houses near the campus for me to look at. Make sure that they have a spacious kitchen, Endang likes to cook, so I’m sure she’ll appreciate the space. Oh, and also it should have a big garden, she would love it since it would remind her of her parents’ house in the country.”
“Is Mbak Endang going to decide which house you’re going to buy?” Rahmat asked.
“No, but I want to buy one that she would immediately fall in love with.”
“How many bedrooms should it have?”
“Two or three, I think we could renovate after we have children, to accommodate rooms for them.”
“nDang, have you considered what you would want to study in University?” Pak Koes asked his sister in law.
The whole family gathered in the living room. Endang felt as if she was on trial with all the four elders sitting in front of her. “I want to study something within the natural sciences area, but I’m still not sure what it would be.” Endang responded.
“I think it would be a good idea if you studied agriculture, we come from a rural community and our family have been cultivating the land for generations. I think if you study agriculture, it would be like continuing our family’s tradition.” Pak Bakrie said.
Endang nodded her head. “Agriculture seems like an interesting subject,” She replied.
“I will talk to Guntoro about it, and see what he thinks,” Pak Koes said to his father in law.
“Yes, I think we have to do that, we can’t make any decisions on Endang’s future without consulting Guntoro first,” Pak Bakrie added.
Endang wondered why they had to bring him into the discussion, but she then she realized, their family is quite small and every single member’s opinion is important. Especially being the youngest, age wise, she had to listen to the opinion of the older and wiser.
“I think it’s great that she wants to study agriculture.” Guntoro beamed. “I will make a letter of recommendation for her to be accepted in UUUU University, and since I teach in the Agriculture University I can help keep an eye on her progress.”
“But a private university is expensive, Gun. The money from the land rent won’t be enough to cover the tuition. I was thinking that it’s better for her to apply to a state university. She still has time to study in cram school to prepare for the entrance exam.” Pak Koes said on the other side of the line.
“I’ll pay for her tuition until she graduates,” Guntoro replied.
“Are you sure? Pak Koes doubted.
“Of course, I’m sure.”
“Gun, if she does go to Malang to study, you are aware that she can’t live with you. The two of you aren’t married yet, even though she is your “aunt”, but we know that’s not how you see her. She will have to go to a boarding house.”
“I agree, Pak. I will find a boarding house for her and I’ll also cover the monthly rent.”
“Okay, then the land rent money could be used for her living cost.”
“Bapake Gun, why does Endang have to study in University, why can’t we have them marry as soon as she finishes high school?” Bu Yuni protested. “If we wait for a few more years, Guntoro might dry up and can’t have kids anymore. I want to hold my grandchildren already!”
“Yun, don’t be silly, men don’t dry up.” Pak Koes frowned.
“You know what I mean!” She pouted.
“Yun, when she graduates high school she’ll be eighteen, I don’t think she’d be ready to marry and have children, you have to have patience.”
“Mas Koes, I have a feeling that if we wait too long something will happen. Even if she doesn’t marry Guntoro right away, we should at least have them get engaged or something, I don’t see any sense in keeping this from her. I just don’t like it.”
“Yun, what can go wrong? Aren’t you exaggerating? Besides it is Bapak’s decision not to tell her about the marriage plans until she’s old enough, he doesn’t want her to be distracted from her studies.” Pak Koes scold his wife.
“Mas Koes, you mark my words, all your secrets will backfire on you. People should be upfront and straight forward.”
“University in Malang?” Endang was surprised. “But we don’t have any family in Malang.”
“Guntoro is one of the investors in that University, nDang. We have to take advantage of this situation.
Besides in case you haven’t been paying attention to what we’ve been saying about Guntoro, he lives in Malang now.” Bu Yuni explained.
Endang’s heart started to beat again. Hearing his name was always enough to stir her, and now they tell her that she’ll be living in the same city as him, she didn’t know whether to be happy or sad.
These past few years, she had put in all her effort to leave behind her feelings for him. Every time he came to town, she would go and hide away because the sight of him was enough to cause her distress. Distance has always been the comforting factor for her. And now he would only be a few steps away. How can she control herself to not go find him? And what happens if he has someone to replace Dini? How could she handle that?
“nDang, have you packed everything you’re going to need?” Bu Yuni asked.
Endang nodded while looking at the two suitcase on the bedroom floor. She didn’t have so many clothes, she had packed all the good one she owned.
“I’ll call Guntoro to help you carry your suitcase to the car.”
Endang nodded. Every single nerve cell in her body seemed to be on alert, just hearing movements at the door already made all her hair stand and her heart race. She turned around, he was standing at the doorway. She quickly turned her head to avid looking at him.
He entered, bent down and picked up her bag, “Are you ready?” He asked her kindly with his deep soothing voice.
Endang nodded without saying a word.
The boarding house that she would stay in was nice and clean. She liked it right away, everything was according to her taste. Her room also had a lot of sunlight, her roommate Riski goes to the same faculty as her, and was also a freshman. It all seemed perfect. As if everything had been arranged for her on purpose.
At first she would try to find Guntoro on campus, she would stand by the faculty window waiting for his car to pass by, or stand around in the hallway hoping to at least be able to catch a glimpse of him. But he never paid attention to her. To him it was as if she didn’t exist, he was too busy entertaining the girls who would flock around him.
Finally she realized that she was no different from all the other girls in the building who had a crush on him. She began to feel embarrassed of herself. To win back a little bit of pride and dignity, she began to act out. She’s pretended to dislike him in front of her friends and if she would have a chance to talk to him, she never missed the chance to remind him that in the family, she was his elder.
Guntoro couldn’t understand why she changed so much. The girl he was longing for and waiting for all these years is now so indifferent with him. Could it be that Wahyu was right? The opposite of love was indifference, and Endang in the end didn’t reciprocate his love. Guntoro didn’t lose hope, she was probably going through a phase, and if he had waited this long, he could wait a little bit longer to finally be with her.
Everything seemed to spiral downwards for Endang when she entered her second year. She took his class. Seeing him from a distance always took her back to their time together. Now he was right in front of her but out of reach. Every time he entered the classroom, she felt her soul being pulled down to a dark corner and chained there.
“nDang, I don’t understand why you’re always failing in statistics, Pak Gun is a good lecturer and he’s always ready to help everybody, why don’t you ask him if you don’t understand?” Riski asked while they were walking to the shop to buy something to drink
Endang shook her head, “It’s his voice that bores me, if I had to talk directly with him. I might fall asleep on the spot.” She claimed. She reached out for a bottle of soda on the wooden table but apparently somebody else had the same idea.
“Sorry.” He said. Endang looked at him. He was a tall slim young man, with thick glasses and curly hair.
“No problem.” She smiled kindly.
“Um…here, you can take it.” He handed her the bottle shyly.
“Thanks.” She accepted it, then walked away to pay the auntie who tended the shop.
She sat beside Riski to continue their talk, “I don’t know how anybody can dislike Pak Guntoro, his handsome, kind, and he has this deep voice that so dreamy.”
Endang secretly acknowledged her friends words but ended up saying, “I don’t see anything good about him! He’s stuck up, thinks he’s the most handsome man in the world and smiles smugly at every girl who flocks around him. He’s nothing but a peacock, he thinks he’s the prettiest bird in the jungle!”
Riski shook her head disapprovingly, “You’re so hateful.”
“Excuse me,” It was the young man again standing at Endang’s right-hand side. “My name is Widodo, may I know what your name is?”
“Me, I’m ending.” She said.
“I study finance, fourth year, what about you?” He asked her again.
“Agriculture, second.” She replied shortly.
“Endang would you mind if I came to talk to you, from time to time?”
“Eh? Sure, I guess.”
“Thanks.” He said while walking away.
“Oh, I think somebody has an admirer…..” Riski smiled at Endang mischievously.
“He was just being nice, that’s all.”
“No he wasn’t!” Riski insisted, “But I don’t approve, my best friend here is a very pretty young woman, and he’s not on the good looking side.”
“Ah, Ris, you should judge people by their heart, not by their looks.”
“Well, I prefer someone like Pak Guntoro, who is handsome inside and outside.” Riski smirked.
Endang took a deep breath, hearing his name always cuts her up inside.
Widodo would come by her faculty building to look for her every afternoon for three months. He was a very persistent young man. Before long it was clear to Endang and her friends that he had more than just friendly intentions towards her.
Endang was very reluctant to respond to his advances, but she didn’t want to seem rude. She strung him along, without rejecting or accepting.
Guntoro disliked the skinny guy who always haunting the faculty building looking for Endang. What hurt him the most, was that she seemed to respond kindly to that walking tree man. He tried everything he could do to get close to her without being too obvious about his intentions, but she just keeps running away from him. He peeked to the front of the faculty building from his desk. Here he was again, and she was talking to him, laughing and looking very comfortable.
Guntoro felt his heart boiling. He paced back and forwards, and finally decided to confront her. Guntoro
quickly walked out the door and headed to the front of the faculty building. He saw the two of them talking and headed straight to them, not paying attention to anything else. He was surprised to hear a little scream in front of him, he looked down and saw Bu Nunik on the floor.
“Pak Guntoro, why did you push me to the ground?” She whined.
“Bu Nunik, I’m sorry, I didn’t see you.” He apologized, “Here let me help you get up.” He extended his hand and helped her stand up.
“Ouch, my ankle, I think I sprained it.” She grimaced.
Guntoro took a deep breath, he glanced at Endang and Widodo who were standing a few meters away. He could see that she was looking at them. He wanted to go to her, but he couldn’t leave Bu Nunik alone after making her fall.
“I’ll help you to the office.” He said putting his arm around her shoulder to help her walk.
Endang felt like she had been hit by lightning on a bright sunny day, “I’m not feeling, well. I need to go home.” She said holding back her tears.
“I’ll walk you home.” Widodo offered.
“No!” She yelled. Realizing her inappropriate action, she quickly said, “I’m sorry, it won’t be necessary, excuse me.”
Endang didn’t wait for him to respond, she ran as fast as she could towards her boarding house. Her eyesight was blurry, her tears began to fall. When she arrived in her room, she dropped herself on the bed.
She suddenly jerked up, her eyes full of anger and resentment. How could she be so stupid? Enough already! She was well aware that all the feeling she had for him was one-sided, but she was such an idiot to keep longing for him.
She grabbed her cell phone and wrote a message, “I accept, let’s try to date.”
Guntoro sat alone in his room playing his guitar. She loved listening to him play. “I wonder if he plays the guitar for her.” He asked himself.
What did she see in him? Guntoro felt he was better in every way than that guy, but why would she fall for that skinny guy and not for him?
Guntoro thought for a while, he had enough of Endang running away from him and avoiding him. He had to put an end to all this stupidity and move on. He picked up his phone and called his father.
“She what?” Bu Yuni yelled at the top of her lungs. “I knew something like this would happen. I told you this would happen.” She yelled at her husband, “But did you listen to me? Did you? No! You men think you’re so smart, saying to yourselves, what would a housewife like me know?”
“Yun, calm down.” He coaxed. “Guntoro said that he will come back tomorrow to start the marriage registration process, he asked me to tell you to get Endang’s documents ready, and he wants our help to make the preparations for the wedding.”
“Of course we have to help him, he waited for her patiently all these years and did everything for her. It would be stupid of him to let her go now.” Pak Bakrie agreed.
“So Bapak had a heart attack and had to leave the house was all because of me?” She asked sadly.
“No, it wasn’t because of you, it was because of me. I didn’t want you to know because I was afraid that you’d feel guilty over something that was out of your control. Dini used that to blackmail me to let her stay here.”
“Mas, I want to go to Jember, I want to tell everybody how much I love them and how much I’m grateful for everything they had done for me.”
“Of course, we can go home this weekend.” He hugged her tightly and caressed her hair.
“I can’t believe that it was you who was behind our sudden wedding,” Endang said without lifting her head from his chest.
Guntoro nodded and smiled slyly, “Of course, a man has to protect what’s his, doesn’t he? I’d be stupid if I just sat around doing nothing while somebody steals my woman right under my nose. Besides it should’ve been obvious, if neither the bride nor groom submitted the marriage registration documents, the marriage couldn’t happen, could it?”
“How can you say it so easily without a single trace of guilt?” She pouted.
“All is fair in love and war.” He replied, sitting her down on his lap and kissing her passionately. “I’m happy that you finally admit you felt the same way about me all this time.” He whispered.
“You tricked me and manipulated me, that wasn’t very nice!” She said while pulling her head back.
“I won’t apologize for it.” He replied. “I’m not sorry that I did everything and anything necessary to marry my one true love!”
“You’re a stupid jerk! ” She pouted while turning away from him.
“I’m not a stupid jerk, I’m your stupid jerk! I’m the stupid jerk who only loves you and no one else!” He turned her body to face him and kissed her again.
“How did you get Bapak to do something as absurd as pretending to be sick in front of the office of religious affairs?” She asked.
“That was my mother’s doing.” He smiled.
Endang looked at the clock on the wall, and took a deep breath, “Well, it’s almost time for dinner, I’m going downstairs to prepare something for you.”
Guntoro held her down, “Later! Right now, there’s something else that I want to eat. I’m going to make love to you like there’s no tomorrow.”
“Mas….” She sighed shyly as he laid her down on the bed.
To be continued……………………