“Yun, don’t be sad.” He whispered while caressing her shoulder “I’ll take responsibility for you. I promise”
“How can I face my parents tomorrow knowing that as a daughter I’ve disappointed them and abused their trust towards me?” She muttered staring into blank space clasping the blanket tightly to her chest.
“Once my mother gets back from Semarang, I’ll talk to her we’ll arrange a visit to your parents and set a date for our wedding.”
“Mas, do you think nDoro Putri will agree? I’m just the daughter of a poor peasant, working here as a maid. How would she allow me to be her daughter in law?” Yuni began to weep, “This is my fault. It’s not enough that I’m ugly, I’m too easy, so cheap, and so worthless, I couldn’t conserve myself, I should have had more dignity, I should have …”
He quickly turned her around then put his fingers on her lips, wiping away her tears, he said, “Shhh, don’t mistreat yourself like that, you’re not easy or cheap, you’re the most precious thing to me. And what happened just now, was because I love you and I want you to be mine. But more importantly, I want you to know and always remember that it wasn’t only you who gave yourself to me, but I also gave myself to you. So you have to take responsibility for me too. You have to value yourself more, because the woman, who owns my body and soul, is the woman who means more to me than all the beauties in heaven and on earth combined.”
“Mas Koes……….” Her voice stuck in her throat. “Why did you choose me? You could have any girl you wanted, why me? I’m not beautiful, I don’t have a high education, and my parents are just poor farmers. Mas, are you just playing around with me?”
“Yun, I didn’t choose you, life gave you to me. When I was at Desa Sumber Rejo life seemed to put this crazy girl in my path all the time, and before I knew it, I couldn’t bear the thought of her being married off to a cranky old geezer, so I brought her home with me to work here. The more I got to know her, the more I can’t get her out of my head.” He paused, “If you want me to point out what is it that I like about you, I can’t do that, I don’t know. I just know that I’m crazy about you, so crazy that I went to cut my hair as soon as I heard you say that it might be the reason your father didn’t like me.”
“Mas…..thank you….” She muttered then she remembered, “When I said that it might be your hair that my father didn’t like, I wasn’t serious, I was just looking for a quick answer.”
“You crazy girl! I have to take revenge for my hair.” He said pinning her down and tickling her.
Yuni squirmed and laughed forgetting about her worries and sadness.
He stopped then said, “Yun, I like you just the way you are, but if it would make you feel better about yourself, I’ll buy you some cosmetics that women today usually use. I only want you to be happy that you’re with me.”
“Bapak, Ibu, are you home?” Yuni called. She pushed open the door, entering the house. But nobody was home. She looked at Koeswanto, “I wonder where they can be, oh well, I’m going to bring these gifts to the kitchen and make you some coffee.”
“Okay.” He replied curtly, sitting in one of the chairs.
Yuni light the wood in the stove, she inadvertently began to complain to herself. Missing her stove in Jember, a stove that she doesn’t have to blow on. She filled the kettle with water from the well and put it atop of the fire. Even though her parents hadn’t arrived, she had prepared four cups of coffee.
She came out of the kitchen carrying a tray. Koeswanto was still sitting there by himself, smoking his cigarette.
“Can they be at the field? But the rice plants are still so small, usually he doesn’t go to the field at this time of day. “She said out loud although she was actually talking to herself.
“Why don’t you sit down?” Koeswanto said, “Let’s wait for them.”
“You’re right.” She sat down beside him.
He held her hand tightly, “Are you happy?”
She nodded, “Very.”
They heard noises outside the house as Pak Bakrie and Bu Nining entered the house. Yuni quickly stood up and walked to the door. “Bapak, Ibu.” She greeted them.
“Yuni, how are you, nDuk?” Her mother hugged her warmly kissing her cheeks. “I miss you.”
“Pak” She approached her father, kissing the back of his hand.
“You look well.” He said, “Did your patron give you permission to come home?”
“Pak Bakrie, Bu Bakrie, good morning.” Koeswanto greeted.
“Nak Koes, I didn’t expect you would take Yuni all the way here. This is embarrassing, this useless girl must be very bothersome for you.”
“Not at all. I wanted to take the opportunity to greet you.” He replied.
“Sit down, make yourself comfortable, please.” Pak Bakrie gestured to the chair with his hand.
“Thank you, Pak.” He said.
“Pak, we bought some gifts for you…” Yuni said while sitting beside Koeswanto in the long chair.
“Yuni, are you usually this disrespectful to your patron? How could you so easily sit in the same chair as him?” Pak Bakrie scold.
“Pak, we haven’t seen our daughter for so long, and you’re already scolding her for everything. I don’t see Nak Koes being offended. Right Nak Koes?” Bu Nining said.
“There’s no reason for me to be offended, Pak Bakrie.”
“Ah, that’s good. Thank goodness,” Pak Bakrie said nodding his head.
“Pak where did you and Ibu go this morning, when we arrived, the house was empty and the door was opened.”
“Oh, Yun, this is a big scandal, this is about Pak Dahlan’s eldest daughter, Tatiek. She was caught doing an inappropriate act with her boyfriend. It was Pak Dahlan himself who caught them, he was so angry that he almost killed them both. Luckily Pak Lurah was passing by his house and was able to calm him down.” Bu Nining told.
“I can understand Pak Dahlan, Buk.” Pak Bakrie responded, “If someone deflowered my daughter before marrying her, I would definitely get my sickle and ring it around his neck. I would rather see my daughter become a spinster all her life than marry a man who doesn’t know how to respect her.”
“Pak, what are you saying?” Yuni laughed awkwardly while glancing at Koeswanto’s pale face, “Don’t say those kind of things. What man is going to fall for me?”
“Pak, stop talking nonsense in front of Nak Koes,” Bu Nining said, “Nak Koes, I hope that by taking our daughter home, your work doesn’t get affected.”
“We just had a performance the other day, so I have a few break days before practicing again,” Koeswanto explained. “I also wanted to take the opportunity that my mother was busy with our relatives, to let Yuni visit you.”
“How considerate of you.” Bu Nining turned to her daughter, “Yuni, let’s go to the kitchen to prepare lunch.”
The two women left together.
“Nak Koes, what does your father do? If you don’t mind the intrusion,” Pak Bakrie asked.
“Not at all, my father is deceased, five years now.” Koeswanto sighed, “When he was alive, he used to make a living by cultivating the land we own. He was a farmer too.”
“I see. And aren’t you interested in following his footsteps?”
“Cultivating land is not my calling, it takes a lot of dedication and time. I rent out the land, then I buy the rice grain from the farmers and sell them to processing mills. I can afford to buy the rice a little higher than the middlemen, that way the farmers can earn a little more from their hard work.”
Pak Bakrie nodded, “You are an astute business man, your parents must be proud of you. And do you plan to settle down soon?”
Koeswanto coughed, “There is a woman who I hope to spend the rest of my life with. As long as her parents will have me as their son in law.”
Pak Bakrie laughed, “I’m sure any parent will be proud to have a son in law like you. I never got the chance to thank you for giving work to my daughter. After she left, I realized that I almost made a mistake by considering to accept Pak Bakrie’s marriage offer.”
“Pak Bakrie, I would like to ask your permission to…” Koeswanto started.
“As a father I have to be very careful about the men who approach my daughter. She isn’t a beauty, men, who approach her, would probably want to take advantage of her low self-confidence, seducing her with sweet words and then leaving her after having his way with her. That’s why I’m glad that we found a decent and correct man like you, you can at least make sure that she doesn’t fall into that kind of trap.”
“Pak Bakrie, please don’t look down at your daughter. There might be a man who is sincere towards her and would like to share his life with her.”
“Nak Koes, I have to admit, I feel very comfortable leaving her under your protection. Because you have previously shown me that you are a true gentleman, besides you are a man with good looks and considerable wealth. And you have a very beautiful girlfriend. The type of person who wouldn’t want to be bothered with the likes of Yuni.”
“Pak Bakrie, why do you say that I have a beautiful girlfriend?” Koeswanto asked.
“Pak Lurah’s brother told us, he is the owner of the Paguyuban you belong to.”
“Yes him. He told us that you are about to be engaged with the Paguyuban prima donna.”
“Pak Bakrie that’s not at all true. I don’t have anything to do with her, the woman, I want to marry, is your…….” Koeswanto denied.
“Ah, Nak Koes, don’t be embarrassed. I understand perfectly.” He nodded, “Yes, luckily my daughter works for you, because if she were to work for someone who showed the slightest interest in her, I would drag her back home and would never allow her to see him again. That’s for her own good.””
Koeswanto swallowed his words.
“Mas, why do you look so gloomy?” Yuni asked as they were sitting together in the train.
Koeswanto shook his head, “I failed my mission today.” He replied.
“What mission, Mas? I think our visit to my parents’ house was a success. My father was in a good mood and my mother was happy with the gifts.”
“I wanted to ask your father’s permission to court you, but instead he seemed to be more convinced that I’m going to get married to who knows who. He also said that if you ever work for somebody who is slightly interested in you, he’ll drag you home. After hearing him say that, how can I ask him for permission?”
Yuni observed him quietly, “So you didn’t tell him anything?”
Koeswanto shook his head.
“Mas, maybe that’s for the best, we should leave it that way for now. You heard what he said about Pak Dahlan’s daughter and her boyfriend.”
“You’re right, if he knew that you’ve been deflowered by me, he’d probably try to kill me.”
“Shhh….don’t say it so loudly, someone might hear us.”
Koeswanto smiled, “You’re embarrassed that someone might hear about our relationship, while I want to tell everybody about it. I want everybody to know that you’re mine.”
“Mas… you’re terrible.” She pouted.
“Yun, tomorrow I want you to come to practice with me.” He said changing the subject.
“What do you mean why? I don’t want to leave you at home all alone.”
“But, I’ve been out of the house every day that I barely had time to clean it.”
“Clean in the morning, practice doesn’t start until two o’clock anyway.” He insisted.
“Okay, okay….” She surrendered.
“This is our station, let’s go down.”
“You take her to practice too now? Since when have you two been glued together?” Budi asked.
“I just feel bad if she stayed alone at the house.” He answered.
“I didn’t know you had a cute side. You were afraid she’d be lonely?” Budi mocked.
‘No, I feel bad for me. I’ll be restless thinking that she might go to see Saleh in the field and enjoy mangoes together.”
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Never mind, we should start warming up before practice, I heard we’re going to get hired to perform in Probolinggo.”
“Your Yuni aren’t you?” Pak Atmojo asked as he stood in front of her.
Yuni looked up to him, wondering how he knew her name, “Yes I am.” She replied.
“My sister in law and brother the village headman talks a lot about you. They are very proud of you, they told me you graduated first place in the Region in the Junior High School final exams. My brother mentioned that you worked for Koeswanto.”
“Ah, you are Pak Lurah’s brother. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” She said.
“Likewise. Actually I was looking for you, I planned to go to Koes’s house later to talk to you, but since I found you here, we can talk right now.”
“What would you like to talk to me about?” She asked.
“I want to offer you work. Actually my brother recommended you for this job, he said that you used to help him balance the books for his shop. I trust his opinion in this.”
“What work would that be?”
“To be the events treasurer, to manage the bookkeeping when we get hired to perform. It’s good pay, right now I have to do it myself, and it is too much for me. Because I have to oversee the organization of other things too. I used to have to do everything, but at least now I have Koeswanto in charge of set up and decorations, and Linda in charge of costume and makeup.”
“Pak Atmojo, I am very interested.” Yuni beamed up, “But I have to consult Ma…nDoro Koes before making a decision.”
“You do that, and you let me know what he thinks. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind. Our next performance is two weeks from now in Probolinggo.” He said while taking leave.
“You’re the girl who works at Mas Koes’s house, aren’t you?” Sitawati asked when she passed in front of Yuni.
“Yes I am, nDoro.” Yuni replied.
“What are you doing here? You’ve been following Mas Koes around lately, you even came with us to Kediri, and now you’re here during practice.” She looked at Yuni suspiciously.
“I …I… I actually asked nDoro Koes to take me here.” Yuni thought quickly, “When I was in my village yesterday, Pak Lurah left a message with my father to look for Pak Atmojo. Pak Lurah is Pak Atmojo’s elder brother.”
“Oh….what for?” Sitawati asked again.
“For some work.” Yuni didn’t explain anything else.
“Oh…” Sitawati was about to leave, but turned around again, “Mas Koes is a very kind person, and he is very popular with the women. I advise you to know your place, and realize your own limitations, physical limitations! And don’t start dreaming that he would be the least bit interested in you.”
“Yes nDoro.” Yuni replied while bowing respectfully. She didn’t want to make any trouble.
“Of course, I agree,” Koeswanto said while fixing his pillow. “The bookkeeping job is a good opportunity for you, and you have experience in it. I’m sure you’d do a good job.”
“Then, you can tell Pak Atmojo for me tomorrow.” She supposed.
“You can tell him yourself tomorrow.”
“Mas, I feel reluctant to go. Today that woman Sitawati was looking at me with very evil eyes. She reminded me of my place and “physical limitations”, she warned me not to even dream that you’d be even remotely interested in me.” Yuni complained.
“She’s right, I’m not remotely interested in you.” He replied, “I’m smitten with you.”
“I’m serious…”She glowered.
“So am I.” He murmured as he kissed her nape and traced her thigh with his fingers.