“Excellent!” Pak Atmojo exclaimed, “Follow me to my office and I’ll show you how I’m managing the expenditures.”
“Yes, sir.” She glanced at Koeswanto then followed Pak Atmojo to his office.
“Well that’s something, from maid to bookkeeper.” Budi commented.
“Not everybody was born with the same opportunity to study and look for a good job.” Koeswanto exhaled, “I’m glad she got this opportunity to show her abilities. She really deserves it.”
“You’re serious about her, aren’t you?” Budi looked at his friend.
Koeswanto looked at him, “If I wasn’t serious. I wouldn’t have brought her home with me. I asked the heavens to send my true love into my arms, and they did. If I didn’t accept their decision for me, I’ll be cursed.”
Budi shook his head, “So you’re with her not because you like her, but because you think you’re fated to be together.”
“I never said I didn’t like her.”
“Well, it’s just that if you compare her to the other woman who surrounds you, she’s not eye catching, she’s not the kind of woman that men would take a second look at.”
“That’s not what I saw in Kediri, you and Joko were fawning over her.”
“No…that’s not possible, we were too concentrated on that hot curvaceous girl in the red Kebaya.”
Koeswanto looked at him, “Yeah, remember that she’s my woman, so I don’t want you looking at her that way again!”
“That was her? No, that can’t be… That’s not fair! Why do you always get the girls?”
“That’s because I’m not a womanizer like you.” He put his arm around his friend’s shoulder, “I’m off the market, so now the road has opened up for you.”
“Everybody gather around!” Pak Atmojo called out, “I have an announcement to make.”
The dancers gathered in a circle around him, Yuni was nervous but excited, finally she had a chance for a real job. She was determined to give it her very best.
“As you know next weekend we’ll be performing in Probolinggo. Finally we get to do Anoman Obong[i].” The group clapped and cheered, “I also want to introduce you to Yuni. She’s going to be the new treasurer for our events. You’ll have to report the expenses to her, and also for any reimbursements she will be the person who handles that. Does anybody have any questions?” He looked around, “Good, get back to practice, you know your roles.”
The preparation for a performance was more complicated than she had imagined. She knew that usually Koeswanto had to go a day in advance to supervise the building of the stage and the decorations, but she never thought that there was an extensive process behind that. Pak Atmojo always had to go to the location to survey the area. Most of the time, their paguyuban had to perform in locations that did not have an already built stage. He then had to purchase the perishable materials and store them at the location. There were also the logistics for the dancers, when in luck the company that hire them will provide a hall or area for the dancers and crew to stay overnight, but sometimes they need to rent rooms. The paguyuban also provides food for the dancers and crew. The biggest expense is obviously payroll. Although most of the dancers and crew worked with the paguyuban for several years, but they don’t receive a fix monthly salary, instead they get paid per performance.
“Yun, here is the receipt for the nails we bought just now.” Koeswanto handed her a piece of paper.
“Thank you.” She received it and kept it inside the thick agenda she kept in her bag. “I have to buy the lunch for the crew, how many men are there in total?”
“Ten, let’s go. I’ll accompany you and help you carry the bags.” He said putting his arm around her waist.
“Koes, just because your girlfriend is here with you, you shouldn’t slack around,” Budi shouted.
“I’m going to help her buy the food,” Koeswanto shouted back. “I’ll bring you something extra.”
Budi lifted his thumb, he fished a cigarette from his pocket and lit it. Taking a puff, he smiled looking at his friend.
They walked together to a restaurant, “We’ll eat lunch while we wait for them to finish wrapping the food.” He said.
“Mas, your mother will be home in a few days, wouldn’t she?” She asked after they sat at a table in the far corner of the small restaurant.
Koeswanto nodded, “The day after tomorrow.”
“I’m sure that I have to go back to calling you nDoro,” Yuni said.
“I think that’s the wisest thing to do, I don’t want to shock her, we should break this news to her slowly.” He replied.
“I understand.” Yuni looked dow at her fingers that was on the table.
“Don’t worry, we’ll resolve this, be patient, okay?”
Yuni smiled, “I suppose you’re right.”
The waiter came with their plate of food, she place it in front of them along with their drinks.
“Let’s eat.” Koeswanto said.
“Yuni, I need you to help escort the officials to the stage like the last time. The girl who we hired didn’t show up.” Pak Atmojo ordered.
“Yes, Pak.” She replied quickly heading over to the changing area.
“Linda, Pak Atmojo told me to help as one of the usherettes.” Yuni said.
“Oh. mBak Yuni, I’m sure you already know how to wear a Kebaya.” Linda replied.
“Yes I do.”
“Here today, use this one. It’s new, I just had it made a few weeks ago, I’m sure it would look good on you.” He said while giving her a white Kebaya, batik sarong and the other apparels.
“Okay, I’m going to change now.” She said.
Yuni tried to avoid the female dancers as much as she could. It was not because she disliked them, but she always felt that Sitawati looked at her with an unfriendly attitude. It was her habit to try and avoid problems and Sitawati was a problem just waiting to explode.
She finished changing and went back to Linda, “I was right, this Kebaya does look good on you.” He said while gesturing for Yuni to sit on the chair, “Your skin looks better now. I guess being one of the bosses in the paguyuban has its benefits.”
“What do you mean, one of the bosses?” Yuni looked at him questioning his statement.
“My dear, the person who holds the money is one of the boss. If we don’t treat you nicely, you might run out of cash just when you’re about to pay our salary, and we would be in trouble, won’t we.” Linda explained.
Yuni laughed, “That would be abusing my position wouldn’t it? But thank you for giving me this idea. I wouldn’t have come up with it myself.” Yuni winked.
“Mmmm…..So tell me, what’s your relationship with Mas Koes, the two of you are very close.” Lind whispered in a gossipy tone.
“Mas Koes? He’s my ……my employer. I work at his house serving his mother.”
“Ah…is that so? Still you’re very lucky to be able to get close to him. I think many girls in this group are jealous of you.”
“Is that so? Well if they think sweeping the floor in his house then washing it , cooking, washing dishes, washing stacks of clothes and filling the water container twice a day is something to be jealous about, they must have too much free time on their hands.”
“Is it true that he’s going to marry Sitawati?” Linda asked again.
Yuni looked at him through the mirror, “I don’t know.” She replied softly, “That’s the patron’s business, he never said anything to me.”
“Hmm…probably not. According to the gossip that’s been circulating around here, their parents are good friends. Supposedly Mas Koes’ parents and Sitawati’s parents want them to marry each other and they’ve been talking about it for years now. I don’t know why they haven’t gone through with it yet. But according to the rumors I heard, it won’t be long now.”
“Ah, okay.” Yuni didn’t want Linda to notice her shaky voice.
“I’ve finished with your hair, I want you to try to put the make up on yourself. It’s important that every woman knows how to groom herself.” He said. “First you have to put on the base, it’s this one here. That’s good! Now use this powder, make sure you don’t blotch it.”
Linda explained what colors she should use and how to apply it according to the current trend. Yuni paid complete attention thinking that one day it would become useful for her.
“Lind, thank you for your help, I need to run to the stage now to help Pak Atmojo.”
“Don’t run, walk! You might tumble if you run.” Linda warned.
Yuni made a military salute at him before heading out to the stage area.
“There you are.” Pak Atmojo said as soon as he saw her. “Help me coordinate the ushers, divide the by groups, there are two entrance, so make sure that you put at least two people at every entrance.”
Yuni nodded then turned to the young men and women hired to be ushers, “I want a pair at every entrance, you and you can go to the back, the two of you can go to the front entrance. Wait, no, you young man, you will pair up with her for the VIP guest, and you can take his place at the front entrance.” She ordered, not knowing their names, she just pointed them out. “Let’s get to work. If you need to take a break or rest for whatever reason, always coordinate with your partner, I don’t want to see any post empty without an usher there.”
“Yun, there is a problem in the men’s changing room. I have to go to the front to greet the patron, can you go and check out what’s going on there?” Pak Atmojo said when he saw that she had finished directing the ushers.
“Yes, pak.” Yuni replied, walking as fast as she could to the men’s changing room. She took care not to ruin her the fold of her sarong, but kept a good pace in order to get there faster.
She entered the changing room, the men were gathered in a small circle “What’s going on?” She asked.
They turned around to see who came, not recognizing her voice.
“mBak Yuni, Koes’ costume is missing.” Joko reported.
She glanced at Koeswanto, he was still wearing his regular clothes, but he had taken the initiative to put on his make up while the others helped him search for his costume.
“Is that so? Have you tried searching for it under the stack of materials on the table?” She asked while walking to the folded material.
She glanced carefully at Parman, remembering what had happened during the performance at her village, he was her first suspect. He was looking at the direction of the weapon props. Yuni slowly walked towards it paying attention to his reaction. He looked a little nervous as she came closer to the stack of props. Yuni cautiously observed the props to find anything out of place, she saw a bundle covered in red fabric. She squatted down, removing the props on top of it and pulled the bundle out. She wasn’t surprised when she found the costume in it. From the corner of her eyes, she could see Parman look away in anger.
“Mas Koeswanto, I’m going to discount your salary for being careless with your costume.” She announced while putting the costume within his reach.
Koeswanto turned around from the mirror looking at her in disbelief, “What?”
“Every dancer is responsible for his or her own costume and accessories, if you fail to comply with your responsibility, you will be sanctioned.”
The dancers grumbled and complained, cursing her under their breath. She could see Parman sneer and smile slightly. Yuni smiled with satisfaction, mission accomplished. This will prevent him from trying to sabotage Koeswanto again for the night. She thought.
“If you’ve finished dressing up, then hurry and go to the side of the stage.” She ordered while getting ready to leave the room.
“Wait!” Koeswanto said.
Yuni turned around, “What is it?” She asked.
“You have to help me get dressed, otherwise I won’t make it in time to greet the officials.” He responded.
“Mas, I can help you.” Tanto one of the other Alusan[ii] dancer who played Laksmana[iii] volunteered.
“You should go, this Miss, “I’ll discount your salary” will help me.” Koeswanto announced firmly.
“We better go, it’s a bad idea to be around a man who just lost his money.” Budi said the other dancers laughed and left the room.
Koeswanto began to take off his regular clothes, “Pass me the pants.” He said.
“Are you going to shamelessly change in front of me?” She confronted him.
“Is there anything here you haven’t seen?” He asked.
“Don’t be crazy.” She blushed.
“How are you going to make it up to me for discounting my salary?” He asked.
“Why do I have to make it up to you?” Yuni argued.
“You know very well who hid my costume and why, but you chose to punish me instead.”
“I didn’t punish you. I got him off your back. For tonight at least.” She replied.
“But I still want a compensation.”
“What do you want?” She exhaled.
Koeswanto smiled, “You know what I want.”
Yuni looked at him, with a flushed face. She nodded shyly.
“Let’s meet at the back entrance when the event finishes.” Koeswanto said. “And bring all your things with you.”
“Okay.” Her voice was very soft.
“Let’s go, I’ve finished putting on my costume.” He said planting a quick light kiss on her cheek.
Her first event was a success. Yuni felt good about herself. She had finished entering all the expenses and went to fetch the book that Pak Koes was looking for. She was about to return to the office, when she heard people talking.
“How can Pak Atmojo hire that servant as the treasurer?” Sitawati huffed.
“Servant? Well Pak Atmojo is a very nice man, he is always willing to give people opportunities to grow and develop themselves, even though she’s a servant now, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t have the right to find a better life. Besides, Pak Atmojo wouldn’t hire people without being sure that they fit the job. What do you have against her, anyway?” Wulan commented.
“I don’t like her! She was harsh on Mas Koes, she discounted his salary. And it doesn’t stop there, she seems to always be around him all the time.” She puckered.
“What’s so strange about that? She works for him!” Wulan smiled at her friend, “Don’t tell me you’re jealous of her. She’s only a simple village girl, she can’t be compared to you who is the prima donna of this dance group.”
“You’re right. Besides, someone like Mas Koes wouldn’t be seriously interested in a village bumpkin who smells like onions and frying oil.” Sitawati smiled.
“You shouldn’t be so sure, Sita.” Parman said showing up behind them.
“Are you eaves dropping in our conversation?” Sitawati glared.
“No matter how ugly she may be, a woman is still a woman, especially if she’s accessible, like a servant working in the house. Sometimes men need a little easy entertainment.” He expressed.
“Mas Koes, isn’t like that!” Sitawati rebuked.
“Hmm…., I’m sure that he sneaked into her bedroom once or twice already….” Parman continued to irritate her. “She has a cuddly body, the kind of body a man would want to enjoy every night.You haven’t become his wife yet, but she probably has already become his concubine.”
“You’re just jealous of him for his popularity.” She pointed her finger to his face, turning around and stomping away.
“You’re a horrible person!” Wulan scold him before leaving.
Parman walked away laughing.
Yuni walked out from behind the wall. She was holding the thick book that Pak Atmojo had told her to find in the cupboard where he keeps the important documents. Her eyes became teary, she could handle the humiliations that Sitawati threw at her behind her back, Yuni was used to that. But Parman’s word actually got to her. She hated to admit it, but his word were all true.
[i] Anoman Obong is part of the Ramayana story
[ii] Alusan, a male dancer who place the part of a hero
[iii] Laksmana is the brother of Rama in Ramayana