Tia sat at the opened air restaurant barely touching her fruit salad breakfast, she was still flustered remembering the way they woke up this morning.
“Don’t you like the food?” Ahmed asked.
“I do…” She replied.
“Are you upset with me? Did I do something wrong?” He chased.
“No..no…you didn’t do anything wrong.” She muffled, she diverted by looking out to the sea, “Look at this view, I feel heavy to leave.”
Ahmed nodded, “I hope we can visit this place again.”
Tia looked at him bewildered, she convinced herself that she understood his words wrong, though she couldn’t help but acknowledge that the idea of coming back here with him made her quiver.
“We should get going, it’s almost 8:00 AM.” Ahmed looked at his watch.
“Of course…”Tia sighed, back to searching for Daniyati and back to helping him win her back. Funny that the notion of talking to Jason seemed meaningless to her at this moment.
After checking out, the walked together to Desa Jungutbatu. She grabbed on to his hand knowing that soon she wouldn’t have any excuse to do so. Tia wondered what was going on with her own mind, she had never felt this way before for anybody. She cursed herself for her shamelessness. She realized that she had developed a crush for him, which she thought was very silly and senseless, because once they return to their regular lives, he will be her boss, and out of her reach.
“Hey, there’s our friend the beach boy.” Ahmed rushed her to the man who referred the resort to them
“Oi, Mister, how are you? You sleep good? Good Bali jig-i-jig?” He blurted shaking Ahmed’s hand amicably.
Ahmed didn’t understand what he was saying, but smiled and nodded anyway, “I need to buy two tickets for the boat.”
“Okay…no problem.” The beach boy and his friends laughed as they took the money from Tia.
“Let’s go.” Ahmed pulled her by the hand.
The boat already had a few passengers sitting on it, the crew member who was leaning against one of the motor helped Tia up, another speed boat passed by the beach causing their boat to rock vigorously. Tia lost her balance and almost fell back, luckily the crew man moved fast and grabbed her hand, and Ahmed quickly caught her butt so she didn’t end up falling backward in to the water.
“Are you okay?” He asked without taking his hand away.
“I am, thank you. You can let go of my butt now.” She said awkwardly.
“Sorry.” He put on a cheeky smile, there was no trace of repentance on his face.
* * *
“What’s your next plan?” She asked as soon as they found a place to sit.
“I haven’t thought of one yet.” Ahmed replied. He didn’t know if it was the island, the view or the atmosphere, at this moment all he wanted to do was to savor the moment with her. He was having a good time, something he hadn’t felt in along time. He even forgot his work, forgot to call Dodi and check up on office matters, which is definitely not like him.
Ahmed glanced at the woman beside him, then at his own hand, wondering why he was reluctant to let go of hers even though they were already seated. She didn’t seem to mind, and as long as she didn’t complain, he wasn’t going to do anything to change it.
“Do you know what?” Ahmed said, “Let’s go by ears, we’ll think of what we need to do when we see either of them. In the meantime, let’s take advantage that we’re here and enjoy ourselves.”
“Hmm,” Tia smiled at his words, “Okay, sure, why not?”
“Let’s head back to the hotel and hang out at the beach.”
“I like that idea.” Tia nodded.
“So tell me about yourself, what do you do outside of work?” Ahmed wanted to know her better.
“Nothing much, my life lately evolves around work, home and work again. Sometimes I play tennis during the weekend or go swimming, but that’s as much sports that I do. When I don’t feel like going out of the house, I usually spend my time reading.”
“Any brothers or sisters?” He asked again.
“I have one little sister, she’s still studying in University. What about you? I heard that you have a rich and powerful step brother.”
“My brother? Yeah, his father is a nobleman, a descendant of one of the earlier Sultans of Jothar, my sister-in-law is a daughter of the current Sultan. They have two kids, the first is a boy Sobri, and the little one a girl Aliyah. I adore my nephew and niece very much.” Tia smiled seeing how his eyes glowed when talking about his family.
“Ah….” Tia nodded. “And what do you do in your spare time?”
“Spare time?” He shook his head, “Golf or tennis, lunch at the country club, anything that might help me gain more business contacts.”
“So in other words, in your spare time, you work?” Tia concluded.
“Yeah, you can say that…” He agreed.
“Wow.” She thought on what he said. “Well, today is a Saturday and you’re far from any of your business contacts, you should forget work at least for one day.”
“Huh. Yesterday I already didn’t call Dodi, I guess he’s wondering why I didn’t call him all day. I forgot my cell phone in the hotel room when I changed my clothes.”
“Ah…well, that’s a good thing. But I suggest you call him, even though he’s at home. Knowing my boss, he’s most likely thinking the worse. He is a creature of habit, he’s probably at the brink of a panic attack right now.”
“I suppose you’re right.” Ahmed nodded.
* * *
“Why don’t you come with me to the room to get my cell phone! Then we can go to the beach together.” Ahmed said when they arrived at the hotel.
“Sure, why not? I want to change our towels, these ones are sandy and crisp.” Tia replied.
“Come on.” He took her hand.
* * *
Daniyati saw them in the distance as she was sitting with her parents and her future in laws in the lobby. They were talking with the event organizers on the final details of the wedding ceremony tomorrow.
Her eyes followed the two individuals who were walking hand in hand towards the room. She couldn’t help but feel hurt seeing them like that.
“Ah, isn’t that Tia?” Aunt Lisa whispered to her sister. “When I met them yesterday morning, she introduced him as her boss, but I didn’t think that they were close. I just found out that they are staying in the same room.”
“Huh, well, he looks like a promising young man. Having a future son in law like that will definitely make her parents proud. But I don’t agree that they share a room before they are officially married. I understand that young people today are more liberal, but still….” Her sister commented.
“Excuse me, I need to use the bathroom.” Daniyati got up leaving them to their gossip.
She ran to the bathroom and splashed water on her face to wash away her tears, “This isn’t fair…this isn’t fair…..”
* * *
Ahmed took out his cellphone from his pocket, luckily the battery hasn’t completely discharged yet. The screen showed twenty miss calls from a familiar number. It was Dodi, apparently Tia was right. Dodi had been trying to reach him all day yesterday and this morning too.
“Hello Dodi…” Ahmed said.
“Ah, Mr. Ahmed. How are you? I was worried that something had happened.” Dodi answered.
“I accidentally left my cellphone in my hotel room. How are things over there?”
“Everything at the office is good, nothing out of the ordinary happened. Miss Tia Chang is still absent, but I have her work covered.” Dodi informed.
“Give me one second Dodi.” Ahmed put his cellphone against his chest, “Can you do me a favor and take out another shirt from my bag?” He said to Tia who came out of the bathroom after changing her clothes.
Tia walked to his bag, “The red one or the blue one? I personally prefer the blue one. ”
“The blue it is!” He replied, “Okay Dodi, I’ll see you on Monday. ” He resumed the call.
“Okay, sir. I’ll see you on Monday.” Dodi replied. He ended the call with a mental itch. Dodi shook the idea away. “I have to stop being angry at Tia Chang. I’m beginning to hear her voice everywhere.” He thought.
* * *
“Do you want to sit on one of those chairs or on the sand?” He asked as they walked out on the beach.
“On the chairs.” She replied. “Over there. It looks very comfy.”
“Let’s go.” Ahmed said.
Tia sat on the beach chair making herself comfortable, taking out the bottle of sunscreen she lathered her body with it.
“Hey, do you want me to help you with your back…?” Ahmed grinned.
She glanced at him throwing the bottle at him she laughed, “Only if you don’t try to take advantage of the situation!”
“Me? When did I ever?” Ahmed got up and waked to her.
Tia lied face down on the chair, she trembled as she felt his hand touching her skin.
“Okay, you’re good to go.” He slapped her back gently, “Now it’s my turn!”
Tia sat up, squeezing the content of the bottle in the pal of her hand, she rubbed the lotion on his back, her face reddened, “Okay, I’ve finished.” Her voice barely audible.
Ahmed turned facing her, his face only a few centimeters away from her. “Are you nervous?” He asked.
Tia didn’t reply she tried to look away from him. Ahmed moved closer to her, he held her chin and made her look at him, he repeated the question, “Do I make you nervous?”
Tia gingerly nodded,
“Why? You weren’t nervous yesterday, I remember you easily climbed on top of me, and bossed me around all day.” He whispered in her ear.
She swallowed her saliva not being able to reply to him, her skin developed goose bumps. “Stop teasing me…!” She whispered.
He smiled coyly, “Come on, let’s hit the water!” He stretched out his hand.
Tia smiled, she took his hand and they ran across the sand to the ocean.
* * *
Daniyati knocked at the door of Ahmed’s room. It was Tia who opened the door. “Daniyati….” Tia gasped.
“Hi Tia, can you please tell Ahmed that I need to talk to him?” Daniyati said.
“Sure!” Tia’s heart was ready to jump out of her chest, “Wait here.”
Tia walked into the room. She knocked on the bathroom door, “Boss……” She called.
Ahmed opened the door, he had showered and changed to a smart casual attire. “Hey, what’s wrong?”
“Um…I think you finally got your chance.” Tia whispered, “Daniyati is looking for you, she’s at the door.”
“She at the door?” Ahmed looked towards the door.
“I don’t know, maybe I should go and take a walk on the beach so the two of you can talk privately.” Tia offered, although for some strange reason she wasn’t happy about the idea.
Ahmed looked at her closely, “I’ll talk to her at the restaurant.”
“Are you sure?”
Ahmed nodded. He walked to the door while she entered the bathroom. “Daniyati!” He greeted her, “Did you want to speak with me?”
“Let’s go to the restaurant.” He said while stepping out of the room and closing the door.
Daniyati shook her head, “I want to talk to you privately.”
“Then let’s go to the beach.” Ahmed said again. “Come on.”
* * *
Tia left the room and closed the door. Her heart felt as if it had been dropped from a high place and is left scattered on the floor. She decided to go and look for Jason. This was what she set out to do, and now is her chance, since she knows that Daniyati wasn’t with him.
She found him sitting by the pool with his brother, they were drinking beer and chatting, “Jason!” She called to him.
He looked up at her, “Hey Tia, what are you doing here?” He asked.
She hesitated, “What are you doing here?” She asked back.
“I’m enjoying my last day as a bachelor with my little brother.” He explained, “Just the two of us, like the good old days. But since you’re here, we can make it the three of us like the good old days.”
“Come here, do you want a beer?” Brian, Jason’s brother offered her.
Tia nodded, she accepted the bottle from him and sat on one of the chairs. “So tomorrow is the big day, huh? Are you nervous?” She asked.
“I’m nervous, but in a good way.” Jason nodded.
They were interrupted by the sound of a cell phone’s ring, “It’s mine.” Brian announced. He stood and walked away while answering the phone.
“Why are you here alone? Where’s your boyfriend?” Jason asked.
“He’s…he’s taking a very important business call.” Tia lied.
“Ah, I see. It must be difficult to date some body like him. He’s always busy with work .”
“Oh? how did you get that idea?”
“Daniyati told me.” Jason looked out to the distance, “When we started dating, she was still in a relationship with him. She was very sad and lonely. She always complained about how he ignored her and how he loved his job and company more than her.”
“Hmm…so I heard.” Tia nodded.
“You know when I saw him here, I was very worried. I thought for sure that he was here to get her back and try to ruin our wedding plans. But when I saw that he was with you I felt some what relieved.”
“Why did you feel relieved?” She asked.
“Because even though tomorrow she’s going to become my wife, deep down inside I know that she still keeps a light on for him. She still thinks of him and she secretly loves him. But now that he’s dating you, I hope that he has already forgotten her.” His voice was sad.
“But if she still loves him, why are you going to marry her anyway?” Tia couldn’t understand his way of thinking.
“Because I love her, and she’s a good woman, I know that I can make her happy and fall in love completely with me.”
Tia felt bad, she wondered if she should tell him that his bride was talking in private to her ex-boyfriend at this very moment, but she decided that this kind of scandal before their wedding day is something she should try to prevent. Even though deep down she wished that somebody would break up Ahmed’s and Daniyati’s conversation for her own sake.
Tia sat in silence sipping her beer, she admired her friend’s conviction in love. She looked at him, “You know, I didn’t want to come to your wedding because I was jealous, I thought that I was going to lose you. ”
“Even with a handsome and successful boyfriend like yours, you still manage to feel jealousy for me?” Jason laughed.
Tia laughed awkwardly, “Jason, I want you to know that you’ll always have me. What ever happens, you can count on me for anything.” She stated.
“What are you saying? Are you wishing that I get dumped?”
She shook her head, “Of course not. I wish that you’d be happy.” She didn’t have the heart to tell him that his bride was probably planning to escape with her ex-boyfriend a thought that made her want to cry.
* * *
“Ahmed, what does she have that I don’t?” Daniyati asked while wiping her tears.
“What do you mean?” Ahmed didn’t understand what she was trying to say.
“How come for her you could make time to travel, you publicly announced her as your girlfriend, you held her hand in public, and acted intimately at the beach. How come you were never that way with me? We dated for three years for heaven sake’s and never once did you treat me like a girlfriend.”
Ahmed was left speechless, he looked at he darkening ocean, the light of the moon reflected on the water created a serene atmosphere. He realized that the past two days something inside him had changed. Someone had opened his heart and gave it a new direction.
“Daniyati, I apologize, I apologize for being the worst boyfriend in the world for you. I realize that I was selfish and I treated you bad.”
“Just like that?” Daniyati asked.
“Daniyati, both you and me, we deserve another chance at love. Yours is already in front of you. You are going to marry a man who loves you and cares for you more than I ever did. Don’t let our past ruin this chance for you.You deserve to be happy.” Ahmed affirmed.
“Are trying to tell me to find my happiness with someone else? You don’t even have the intentions to try to make me happy?” Her voice had a hint of pain in it.
“I thought that I did, but now i understand that if I did have those emotions, I would have tried to make you happy since before. When you love somebody, you don’t have to wait until you lose them to realize that you love them. You’ll realize it instantly, from the moment you admit to yourself that you’re in love. And from the start that person’s happiness is a priority for you.”
“You’re insensitive as always, how could you calmly say to my face that you never really loved me when we were together and confess your feelings for another woman.” She looked away from him.
“Daniyati, I wish you luck in your new life.” Ahmed whispered.
* * *
Ahmed opened the door to the room, he found Tia sitting on the bed watching TV. She looked at him with out saying a word.
“Hey, did you wait long?” He asked sitting by her side.
She shook her head, “I went to talk to Jason.” She replied.
Ahmed’s heart froze, “You did? About what?”
“Nothing much, I did most of the listening. He felt threatened by your presence here, because he knows that his bride to be is still in love with you. And I didn’t have the heart to tell him that he might not have a wedding tomorrow, so I made up an excuse to go back to my room.”
“Why wouldn’t there be a wedding tomorrow?” Ahmed asked.
“You’re asking me?” her voice was sarcastic.
“Tia…” Ahmed didn’t know how to start, he decided to take a risk and pulled her to him, he moved his face to hers and kissed her lips gently.
Tia was startled, but his lips were warm and inviting that she closed her eyes and reciprocated, showing him her true sentiments.
* * *
Tia had to admit that it was one of the most beautiful and touching wedding she had ever saw. The beach was decorated in white lace and white roses. The ocean air was scented with the fragrance of Jasmine.
Jason was wearing a white shirt and matching white trousers, while Daniyati’s had on a spaghetti string strapped silk white dress, her hair was adorned with a crown of baby’s breath..
They had a cellist to play the wedding march, and even a live band to play during the entertainment session of the beach party.
Tia smiled when she saw her childhood friend’s happy face. She sincerely wished him all the luck and happiness in the world.
* * *
“My flight is at gate seventeen.” Tia said after they had checked in at the airport.
“Mine is at gate four.” Ahmed showed her his boarding pass.
“So I suppose we have to say goodbye here.” She concluded.
“It seems that way.” Ahmed agreed, “Will you be alright?”
“Of course, I’m a big girl, I can travel by myself.” She smiled.
“Then I’ll see you at the office tomorrow.” He caressed her cheek.
“Yeah, I’ll see you tomorrow.” She nodded before they separated to go to their respective gates.