“Ouch my back.” Ahmed complained as he woke up, “I can’t believe that I paid so much money to sleep on a very uncomfortable couch.”
Tia came out of the bathroom completely dressed in her beach shorts and T-shirt, “You asked for it!” She mumbled.
“Oh my God!” Ahmed growled again as he tried to straighten his body, “How can I try to win back my woman in this condition?”
Tia couldn’t help but agree, she wasn’t going to gain anything if her accomplice can’t perform properly. She took a deep breath, “Maybe I can help you! Lie face down on the bed.”
“What are you going to do?” He asked distrustfully.
“You’re going to have to trust me if we are going to achieve our goal. Now go ahead lie face down on the bed.”
Ahmed doubted for several minutes, but considering he had nothing to lose, he complied. He almost jumped when he felt her climbing on and straddling his back, “Hey, what are you doing?” He protested.
“Relax boss! I’m not trying to seduce you or anything, I always do this to my Dad when he has back aches.” She assured him.
“Put both of your arms under your head and relax.” She ordered.
Ahmed did what she said, from the mirror in front of the bed he could see how awkward they looked, with him lying face down between her legs. She gently placed the palm of her hand on his back. She raised herself, supporting her body on both knees, then unexpectedly she threw all her body weight onto her hands causing a loud cracking sound, before jumping off him.
“Oh, my God you broke my back…” He shouted as he turned around and jumped up. Ahmed was surprised to feel the pain had gone and he was able to stand up straight, “Hey, it worked!” He exclaimed.
“Of course it does, I can do it to your neck too if you feel that it’s stiff.” Tia offered.
“No thanks, I’m good, I don’t want to end up walking around tucking my head under my arm.” He replied while flexing himself, “Well I’m going to take a quick shower. You can go to the restaurant to have breakfast.”
“I haven’t finished getting my things ready!” She said.
“Oh really? it’s not like you’re going to look any better even though you put makeup on!” He commented insensitively.
“Neither would you, but who’d care!” Tia rebuked. “I need to bring my swimsuit, towel and sunscreen.”
“Okay…okay, knock yourself out.”
“Hey! I might still be in here when you finish taking a shower, so bring your clothes to the bathroom!” She reminded him.
“Yeah, yeah….” He flung his bag over his shoulder and entered the bathroom.
Tia made sure that he closed the door and locked it before opening her suitcase and took out three swimsuits, laying it out on the bed. Today she was determined to get close enough to Jason to talk to him and confess her feelings, and that’s why she wanted to look her best. She observed them carefully, not able to decide which one she wanted to wear. Finally she chose the white two piece.
She considered whether to put it on right now, but she wasn’t sure if Ahmed would still take longer or if he was about to exit. She knocked on the door, “Hey Boss….” She shouted.
“What is it?” She heard him shout from the inside.
“Don’t come out of the bathroom yet, I’m going to change.” She said.
She quickly took off her shirt and her shorts and slipped on her swimsuit before putting her clothes back on.
“Have you finished?” Ahmed yelled from inside the bathroom.
“Yeah, you can come out now!”
Ahmed opened the door, he looked at her , “You’re still wearing the same clothes!” He commented.
“Not your problem!” She sassed, “I’m going out for breakfast.”
“Oh, wait! Let’s go together.”
* * *
“Tia, how are you?” Ahmed saw an older woman greet Tia, “I thought Jason said that you weren’t coming to the wedding.”
“Aunt Lisa, good morning…” Tia said while kissing both her cheeks. “I changed my mind. I decided to come anyway.”
“And this young man?” She said while looking at Ahmed.
“Ah, this is Mr. Ahmed, my boss at work.” Tia presented, “This is Jason’s mother.”
“It’s nice to meet you.” Ahmed shook her hand.
“Ah, so you’re Daniyati’s boss too, because Tia and Daniyati work at the same company.” She deduced.
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Ah, wow, you’re so young and you’re already a boss in a big company….” She nodded.
“It’s nothing, the company was founded by my parents, you can say that I’m just another employee there.” Ahmed smiled modestly.
“Hmm……and your parents didn’t join you?” She turned to Tia.
Tia shook her head.
“I can understand their reason, you’re father’s high blood pressure and heart problem makes your mother worry a lot.” The elder woman nodded sadly.
“But his health has been improving.” Tia said.
“I’m glad to hear that. You should go and have breakfast, I’m going to talk to my sister.” Aunt Lisa said.
“Okay, we’ll talk later.” Tia waved.
Ahmed cam closer to her, “Do you see the target?” He whispered while glancing from left to right.
“No, I think we should pretend to walk around the restaurant to look for a table.”
“Good idea,” Ahmed nodded. “When we find them, you pull Jason away so I’ll have a chance to talk to Daniyati.
“Okay, boss.” She whispered back.
They walked slowly around the restaurant, finally spotting Jason and Daniyati at the far end near the beach side. Tia gestured to Ahmed. “Let’s make or move.” Ahmed said.
“Hey, how are you love birds?” Tia saluted out loud once she was close to them, “Enjoying your breakfast?”
“Tia, how are you? Why don’t you join us.” Jason said warmly, then said to Ahmed, “You can join us too.”
Ahmed sneered, “Thank you.”
“Jason, we have to hurry up, the tour company is going to pick us up soon to take us to the Marina.” Daniyati exclaimed, she didn’t feel comfortable having Ahmed and Tia at their table.
“If I knew you would be here, I would have reserved a spot for you on the boat.” Jason said while shaking Tia’s hair.
Ahmed observed them carefully, he glanced at Daniyati to observe her reaction to Jason and Tia’s closeness. He could see that she wan’t very comfortable with it. Ahmed saw the chance to use the situation to his advantage. “The two of you seem very close.” He said to Jason and Tia.
“We are!” Jason didn’t deny, “This kid here is like a little sister to me. We’ve known each other since I can remember.”
“Is that so?” Ahmed responded, “So we can say that Tia is a very important person to you, isn’t that right?”
“That’s right.” Jason nodded.
Ahmed nodded he glanced at Daniyati checking out her expression. He pretended to cough to hide his smile at seeing her distressed face.
Tia saw Ahmed’s reaction as a cue, “We used to play together all the time, we were inseparable, remember the time when we skipped school together to play video games all day?”
Jason laughed while nodding his head, “Those were good times.” He remarked.
“Yes they were….” Tia agreed.
Daniyati abruptly stood up from her chair, “We should get ready! Our pick up will be here in a few minutes.” She pouted.
“Calm down, baby.” Jason coaxed, Okay, let’s go.”
“Jason, lets meet up later on today to catch up.” Tia smiled coyly.
Jason nodded, “We’ll see.”
Ahmed laughed out loud as soon as the couple were far away, “Ha…ha…ha….you are pure evil! And I mean that as a compliment.”
“Just following your lead, boss.” She replied.
“We’ll have to keep working on it, divide and conquer” He put on a cunning face. “Hey, what time did they say the boat leaves for the Island?”
“The speed boat leaves at nine.” Tia reminded.
“Good, we’re just in time, come on, let’s get some food at the buffet table and eat quickly.” Ahmed rushed to stand up without realizing that there was a waiter carrying a tray full of juice walking towards him. He crashed against the waiter causing the juice to spill all over his clothes.
“I’m sorry, ssiir….” The waiter muffled nervously.
“Ugh…my clothes are all stained.” Ahmed shook his shirt, “It’s okay, don’t worry.” He said to the waiter. ‘I’m going back to the room to change.”
“Okay, I’ll be here eating breakfast.” Tia stated.”
* * *
“Look, over there, I think that’s the public boat!” Tia pointed, “Wow, look at the scenery. it’s beautiful.” She admired.
“It is…incredibly beautiful……” Ahmed looked around, “Hey. let’s get on the boat.”
They walked together to the beach, “Is this the boat to the Lembongan Island?” Ahmed asked a man who appeared to be part of the crew.
“Yes, you want ride, Mister? Seventy thousand rupiah!” The man answered.
Ahmed dove into his pockets, “Umm….Oh-oh….I think I left my wallet in the other shorts.”
“What?” Tia opened her eyes wide.
“Hey go ahead and pay the fare, I’ll pay you back this afternoon as soon as we get back.” he said
Tia mumbled, she pulled out the cash to pay the man, “Here, for two.”
“You and wife can go on!” The man said to Ahmed.
Ahmed nodded to Tia, “Come on.”
Tia tried to climb on, a man who was on board extended his hand to help her, “Careful!” Ahmed warned holding her by the waist and heaving her up.
Ahmed climbed on after her, they sat together side by side with the other passengers who were already aboard, “How long does it take to reach the island?’ Ahmed asked one of the crewman.
“Half hour, we go to Desa Jungutbatu.” He replied.
“Ah, okay.” Ahmed nodded. He ducked to whisper to Tia so she could here him over the boat’s motor, “When we arrive we have to search for them.”
Tia nodded she brought her lips closer to his ear, “So Jason is going diving and Daniyati plans to go snorkeling. I imagine that she’ll be snorkeling somewhere near the beach. But I’m not sure where the diving site is and how I can get there.”
“Although, thinking about it carefully, I don’t know if it would be a good idea for you to go looking for him, if he had already left for the dive site, you might get lost. Maybe it’s better if you come with me to the beach to look for Daniyati.”
Tia turned abruptly, “I think I…” She stopped when she realized his face was very close to hers, she could feel his warm breath touching her cheeks. Tia froze for a minute, not knowing how to react to the situation, she turned away, flustering. As did Ahmed.
“We’ll talk about this later….” He finally said again, he tugged on her sleeve, “I think that’s the island.” He pointed.
She tried to look over the other passengers, “I can’t see” She regretted.
“Here, lean over.” He said.
Tia bent herself sideways in front of him, “I can see!” She shrilled in excitement,”Look, isn’t it beautiful?”
“Wow, look at the beach and the ocean, it’s so blue!” He pointed.
Without realizing, she put her arm across his legs to make herself comfortable as she was admiring the view, “Over there, what are those things in the water?” She asked.
“I think I saw in the brochure last night, they cultivate seaweed here, so I think those are poles to secure the seaweed to not drift away.” He explained, putting his hand under her upper arm to help her support herself.
“I love this place,” She said in a dreamy voice.
“Hmm…It’s fantastic.” Ahmed agreed.
The boat approached the shore slowly, the captain maneuvered it to have the back end of the boat facing the island. The crew announced for the passengers to get off.
“Let’s go.” Ahmed said, taking her by the hand so she wouldn’t fall due to the rocking movement of the boat. “Watch your step.” He cautioned.
Tia walked closely behind him, putting her other hand around his arm, she waited until he got down first, holding on tightly to the boat, afterwards, he gave her his hand to help her get down.
The shin deep sea water was nice and warm on her skin, she could feel the movement of the sand under her feet drifting her to the sea. He held her hand until they reached the dry sand, letting go to cover his eyes as he looked around.
“There are so many people, boats and beaches, how are we going to find her?” She asked him.
Ahmed shrugged, “By observation, we have to walk around the beaches and see if we can find her. Let’s go, look, there seem to be a small foot path that goes up that hill and down again to the other beach, see, you can see people walking there, I think that’s the best place to start.”
“Let’s go then.” She asserted.
They headed towards the cliff, the footpath started with stone steps to help climb up, “Let me go first.” Ahmed said, “Give me your hand.”
They walked hand in hand again as they climbed up the cliff and through the narrow footpath, Ahmed stopped at the middle “Look, you can see the whole bay from here.” He admired.
“Look how the light water meets the darker one.” Tia pointed towards the distance.
“Incredible…” He muttered. “Come on, let’s continue”
* * *
“How long do we have to continue….” She sulked, “We’ve been walking under the scorching sun for hours, and we still haven’t found her. I’m sweating all over the place and my legs are about to fall off!”
Ahmed exhaled, “It is very hot, it’s passed midday already.” He said in frustration, “Hey, let’s jump into the water to cool ourselves down.”
“Now you’re starting to make sense,” She replied in joy.
“Let’s go, ” He took his shirt off and threw it to the sand then ran to the water.
Tia gently put down her canvas bag on the sand by his shirt and took off her shirt and shorts, she followed suit entering the water, it was warm, but had a cooling affect in contrast to the hot and humid air.
“This is nice.” She said to herself.
“Hey, this was a good idea.” Ahmed came up behind her.
“It is….and very much needed.” She concurred sitting down on the sand inside the water.
Ahmed dropped down beside her, “We should find a place to get some lunch.”
“I don’t think they have KFC here.” Tia teased.
“Hey, stop making fun of me. I try not to enter just any restaurant because I have to be careful of the pork contents. KFC is licensed as pork free.” He defended.
“Hmm….so is that why? Well, we can always go for fish.” She replied.
“Good idea.” He nodded, he observed her carefully, reflexively he removed a strain of her hair that was almost entering her mouth.
Tia felt her heart thumped in her chest. she looked down at the water blushing. Ahmed couldn’t help but smile at how cute he thought she was.
“Let’s go and find a place to eat, but we have to find someplace simple, because I don’t have that much cash on me” She whispered awkwardly.
He stood and gave her his hand to help her up, “Come on.” He said.
She took his hand and got to her feet. They walked to their clothes and bag, Tia shook her shorts and shirt to get rid of the sand. She put them on, her wet swimsuit transferred water and salt to her clothes.
They walked into a small beach side restaurant and ordered some baked fish.
* * *
“The last boat has left?” Tia cried in despair. “When will the next boat to the main island leave?”
“Tomorrow morning at eight.” The beach boy told them.
Tia and Ahmed looked at each other, Ahmed looked at his watch, it was five o’clock and the last public boat left at four. “I suppose we have to find some place to stay the night.” He said.
“I can take you to a good resort!” The beach boy said, his eyes gleaming with the prospect of a commission, “Coconut Beach Resort.”
Ahmed looked at Tia, “You do have a credit cad on you, don’t you?”
“Then let’s go.”
* * *
It turned out that the resort was on the foot path that they passed by earlier, “We have one non air conditioner bungalow available.” Explained the hotel manager who was taking their check in.
“Does it have twin beds?” Ahmed asked.
The manager looked at him oddly and shook his head, “Some of the others do, but this one just has a queen size.”
“Spare bed?” Ahmed asked hopefully.
The manager shook his head again, “All taken.”
“I suppose it will be alright.” Tia said, “I mean we already are sharing a room at the other hotel.
The bungalow had no windows on it, it was more like a gazebo with bamboo curtains to close the opened sills.
They spent the rest of the day in the resort’s swimming pool to occupy themselves until night fall.
“We have a very uncomfortable situation here.” Ahmed said when they got back to the bungalow.
“There’s no couch, and no spare bed, and the floor is made of river stone so I can’t sleep there, so we’ll have to share the bed too.” He took a deep breath.
“I realize that.” Tia answered.
“Our clothes are full of sand and salt so we can’t sleep in it other wise, we might get a skin infection.” He said softer that before.
“I realize that too, so we have to use these nice fluffy long towels to cover ourselves.” She held one out.
“Just as long as you’re aware of that.”
“Just as long as we stay at the edge of the bed and don’t come close to each other.” She attempted to make herself clear.
“Agree!” He acceded. “Do you want to take a shower first or should I?”
“I’ll go first.”
* * *
They laid together on the bed keeping as much distance as they could. Tia felt embarrassed and awkward realizing that she was only in a towel and under the same sheet with a half naked man.
“Um…can I ask you something?” She said to break the ice.
“Go ahead.” He replied.
“I’ve worked with the company for almost three years now. But how come neither me “or anybody at the office knew that you and Damayati were dating.”
Ahmed exhaled, “That was my fault, if you can call it a fault. I didn’t want people to talk about us and gossip. office gossip is something that can disturb the productivity of the company.”
“So why did the two of you break up?”
“We didn’t break up per say. We kind of drifted apart. I realize that I was a bad boyfriend for her. I always put her second after my work, after the company. I think she grew tired of waiting for me.” He reflected.
“So you want to win her back to make it up to her?” She asked again
“I want to win her back because I’m not ready to loose her.” Ahmed turned to face her, “What about you? Why are you trying to confess to Jason just before his wedding day? Why not before?”
“I was also like you. I always had other priorities, and besides that we had a very good thing between us. I feared that changing it would end everything.” She explained while also turning to him
“That makes sense.” Ahmed replied.
“It turns out we both are people who took for granted the people we love until it is almost too late.” She concluded.
“I can’t deny that.” He agreed.
* * *
Tia woke up to the chirp of the birds and the sunlight entering through the spaces in the bamboo curtain. she closed her eyes again lazily, the activity searching for Daniyati through the island yesterday made her body tired and sore. She snuggled up to the warm firm body beside her, the arms that wrapped around her made her feel comfortable and secure.
She opened her eyes abruptly realizing the situation, she sat up causing Ahmed to stir awake, “How long have we been like this?” She asked to herself.
“Hey I think it would be a good idea if you cover your breasts first!” He said drowsily.
“This can’t be happening…..” Tia pulled up the towel and shrank under the covers in shame.