“Um, you said that you’re going to pay all of my expenses, right?” Tia asked as they arrived at the bungalow.
“Yes, that’s right!” Ahmed affirmed.
“Okay, then what are you waiting for? Tip the guy!” She said while gesturing to the hotel employee.
Ahmed gave her an evil look while taking out his wallet and giving a one dollar bill to the attendant. He waited until the bell boy left before closing the door, “Hey, we don’t have much time, we have to do something drastic to stop the wedding tomorrow.” He said to Tia.
“What do you mean the wedding tomorrow? The wedding isn’t for another three days.” She replied.
“In three days?” Ahmed repeated. “Then why did you have to skip work?”
“Oh, that? It’s because I bought the promotional flight, when you need something cheap, you can’t be picky about the time frame.”
“Huh! I don’t know why I have so many lazy and irresponsible people on my payroll. I have to improve the selection process” Ahmed mumbled, he dropped his carry on bag on the couch then said. “Okay, let’s go!”
“Where to?” She questioned.
“I forgot to pack my underwear, I have to go out and buy some! I can’t go looking for Daniyati if I’m not fully confident with myself” He replied calmly.
“Why do I have to go with you to buy your underwear?” Tia complained.
“I’ll need someone to carry my shopping bags. An who better than someone who is already employed by me.” He peaked at his wrist watch, “It’s three thirty Thursday, the last time I checked you’re still in your work hour.”
“Do you want to keep your job?”
“But you said…Oh, fine!” She pouted while walking to the door, opening it and stepping out.
Ahmed followed behind her, he locked the door and pocketed the key, looking from left to right he urged her to walk faster.
“Why are we acting like thieves?” Tia asked.
“I don’t want Daniyati to see me just yet, I’m not ready.” He whispered.
“Why are you whispering?” She asked again.
“Stop asking so many questions! Move it!” He hushed her with his hand.
Ahmed dragged her a few meters away from the hotel before stopping a taxi and hopping in. “Take us to the department store.” He said to the taxi driver.
* * *
Tia wished that the earth would swallow her whole as she stood by Ahmed’s side while he was picking out boxers. She turned away to not seem so conspicuous that she was with him.
“Hurry up! What’s taking you so long?” She nagged.
“I’m done, let’s go to the cashier and pay. Here, take the basket!” He passed the basket over to her.
“This is embarrassing.” She mumbled.
“You should feel honored, ” Ahmed mocked walking beside her through the department store aisle. Suddenly he caught sight of Daniyati and her fiance, “She’s here!” He exclaimed.
“Where?” Tia tried to see what he was talking about.
“There, twelve o’clock and heading our way.” He looked to see if they could slip and hide anywhere, but they were at the women’s lingerie section with nowhere to go but forward or back. “Quick, act natural and authentic, pretend that you’re choosing something! Maybe they won’t notice us.” He ordered, pushing Tia who was pale with nervousness at seeing Jason by the forearm to face the rack and taking the basket from her hand.
“Ahmed…?” He heard Daniyati’s familiar voice calling him.
Ahmed turned around putting on a big smile, “Daniyati, fancy meeting you here.”
“Jason, this is Ahmed, my e..my boss, I’ve told you about him before.” She told Jason, “Ahmed, why are you here?”
“Me? I’m here because…because…..” Ahmed searched his mind for a good excuse, he remembered that the hotel was reserved by her group, so he had to justify the reason he’s staying there, “I’m here for your wedding, yeah…I’m here as a guest to attend your wedding.”
“Did we invite you?” Jason looked with disbelief and suspicion.
Tia hurriedly grabbed a piece of lingerie and tried to cover the side of her face with it.
“No…no…you didn’t, not me, but you did invite my girlfriend, yeah she is a friend of yours and I’m here as her plus one.”
“Girlfriend?” Tia, Jason and Daniyati asked almost spontaneously.
“Yeah, I’m sure you know Tia Chang, I think she’s a childhood friend of yours Jason.” He said while grabbing Tia who was trying to slip away.
“Tia, I thought you weren’t coming…” Jason said when he saw her.
“Hi Jason, Hi Daniyati, yeah I changed my mind.” She replied while smiling awkwardly, she threw the lingerie in her hand to the basket that Ahmed was holding.
Daniyati’s face turned pale as she glanced at the basket in Ahmed’s hand, “Ah, you’re here on a weekday…….., to accompany your girlfriend……………, and the two of you are shopping……. for under garments, how sweet.”
“So when did the two of you started dating?” Jason interrogated.
“Us? Oh about what was it, a month ago?” Ahmed looked at Tia.
“Yes, a month ago.” Tia parroted.
“Tia, usually you tell me about everything, how come you never mentioned that you were dating the big boss of the company you’re working for?” Jason interrogated.
“Well, that’s because..you know….Ahmed can explain that better…..” Tia decided to throw the ball at Ahmed.
“Well, of course we decided to keep quiet about it, because we didn’t want the other staff to start talking and gossiping, you know, that would disturb the work atmosphere and it can affect the productivity…” Ahmed invented while putting his arm around Tia’s shoulder.
“That’s right!” Tia nodded, “It happened exactly the way he said it”
“Huh! Interesting.” Jason looked at them sharply.
“Enough about us.” Ahmed cut, “What are you guys doing here, in the department store?”
“Oh, we’re buying some supplies for tomorrow, we’re going on a tour to one of the smaller islands.” Daniyati explained.
“One of the smaller islands?” Ahmed eyes shun, “Which island?”
“Lembongan.” Jason said.
“He’s going to go diving.” Daniyati explained.
“And do you dive too?” Tia asked.
“No, I’m going to wait in the island, I’d probably go snorkeling near the beach.” Daniyati said
“Ah…..” Ahmed nodded while rubbing his chin seeing his opportunity.
“We’ll go first.” Jason said, “We’ll see you around the hotel then. Tia, we need to talk.”
“Of course…..you can just find me, or I’ll find you…” She smiled.
After they walked away, Ahmed dodged Tia with his elbow, “See, there’s our chance, we need to arrange to go the the island tomorrow.”
“Yeah you’re right, as soon as we arrive at the hotel, we should ask the people at the front desk for information.”
“Good!” He nodded. “Let’s go to the cashier and pay.”
Ahmed took out the clothing from the basket and put it on the counter, turning to her he commented, “Didn’t I tell you to act natural and authentic?”
“Yes, why?” She asked.
“There’s no way on earth anybody is going to believe that you’re a 36 C!” He said lifting up the lingerie she threw in to the basket while looking at her chest.
“Pervert!” Tia covered her chest with one arm and snatched the lingerie from his hand.
“No..no…no….didn’t I say that I’ll pay all your expenses?” He snatched it back while smiling audaciously.
* * *
“I can’t believe that we’re here in Bali and you made me eat KFC!” Tia mumbled while sitting at the back seat of the taxi.
“Well you saw it yourself, that was the easiest place to go!” Ahmed defended, “And remember, we’re here for our mission, not to waste time eating in restaurants.”
“Ugh, you’re just cheap, that’s all.” She pouted.
* * *
“Let’s go to the reception.” Ahmed said as they arrived back at the hotel, “Don’t forget to bring the bags.”
“Yes, boss!” She responded.
“Good evening…” He saluted the receptionist.
“Good evening, sir.” The receptionist greeted her by placing both palms together in front of her chest.
“We’re interested to know about a small Island that is off the coast of Bali.” Ahmed explained, “I think you need to go there by boat, and it has a place where you can go diving and snorkeling.”
“Certainly, sir. I think you are talking about Lembongan Island, you can reach it by cruise boat from The marina in Benoa, or you can charter a boat at Sanur Beach.”
“Hmm….Did you reserve a tour for the bride and groom to be?” He leaned over the counter.
“Let me see….” The receptionist said while opening her thick agenda. “Yes I did…”
“Can you reserve a seat for me and my lady friend here for the same boat for tomorrow?” He asked.
“I can’t reserve for tomorrow, sir. Their office is closed already. I can call them first thing tomorrow morning and reserve for the next day.”
Ahmed sighed in disappointment, “That won’t be necessary.”
“If you want to go to the Island tomorrow, the best thing to do is to go to Sanur Beach and find a boat.”
‘”I see.” He nodded, “I suppose that’s the best way to approach it.” He said to Tia, “Come on, let’s go back to the room.”
“But I want to go and see if I can find Jason.” She argued, “I want to talk to him.”
“Okay, then I’ll see you later, I’m going to shower and take a rest, I don’t think this is a good time for me to talk to Daniyati, not after meeting her and her fiance at the department store. And at sunset like this is the ambient where lovers like to be romantic with each other, something we should rather avoid seeing.”
“Ah, I don’t plan in wasting my time!” She rebutted stubbornly.
Ahmed shrugged, “Suit yourself.”
“Here, you’ll need your gear after you’ve showered.” She said putting the shopping bag in his hand.
* * *
Tia walked around the hotel complex, she didn’t know which room Jason was staying in, and she considered that it wouldn’t be a good idea to look for him there.
She walked to the swimming pool, from the distance she could see his familiar silhouette, excitedly she jumped forward to call him when she realized he wasn’t alone. His future bride was with him. From her spot she could see him pulling Daniyati close and kissing her lips. Tia felt a painful pang in her chest.
“Of course he’d be with her, what did I expect?” She said to herself, “They came here to have their wedding ceremony.”
She realized that Ahmed was right, the scenery, the surrounding, it all reflected romance, naturally they would be all ardent with amour.
She stepped back and headed to her room. Ahmed had left the door closed, but he didn’t lock it. She opened the door gently and entered dejectedly. She could hear the shower in the bathroom running. Tia threw herself on the bed, lying face down and sulking.
She let her thoughts drift remembering her fond memories with Jason, she had all the chances in the world to confess to him, but regrettably she threw them all away. And now it was almost too late to win him back.
She heard the rustle of the bathroom door opening as Ahmed stepped out from the bathroom covered with only a towel around his waist.
“What are you doing?” She shouted her face becoming red, then she started throwing every thing she could grab at him.
“Hey stop that!” Ahmed barked as he dodged the flying objects. “Stop throwing things.”
Tia extended her hand, and without realizing it, she grabbed the coconut shell mint bowl that was on the table, as she threw it at him, Ahmed deflected by pivoting to his right causing his towel to slip off.
Seeing him in his birthday suit, Tia opened her mouth to scream, realizing the ruckus she was about to cause, he quickly snatched the towel to cover his modesty before jumping to her side and clasping her mouth with his hand and holding her firmly against his body.
“Are you out of your mind?” He hissed. “Do you want every body to come here to see what’s going on?”
His words got through to her. When she stopped wriggling, Ahmed asked, ‘”Have you calmed down?”
“Do you plan to scream again?” He asked again.
She shook her head.
He let go of her, “You should have given me a heads up that you were already in the room. I didn’t know that you were here!”
“You were right.” She said softly, “It was a bad idea to find him at this hour.”
“Good, that’s why next time you should listen to wise old Mr. Ahmed!” He said, taking his bag and entering the bathroom to put on his clothes. “Okay you should take a shower and let’s call it a day. Tomorrow we have a long day ahead of us.”
Tia nodded, agreeing with him, she chose her clothes and carried it to the bathroom. Tia closed the door and locked it. She covered her face with the palm of her hands in shame remembering the incident that happened a few minutes ago in the bedroom.