Ahmed bounced the ball against the ground and launched forward, seeing Jason stood in front of him with his legs wide apart trying to grab the ball from his hand. Ahmed stopped and turned his upper body to the left and threw the ball at Hafiz.
Hafiz dribbled the ball, alternating between his right and left hand, he propelled himself passing Ahmed and making a jump towards the ring, he extended his arm and slammed the ball as hard as he could, making it move through the hoop and drop to the ground.
Ahmed and Hafiz jumped for a high ten celebrating the minute victory.
Tia clapped her hands above her head as she cheered for them. “What do you mean, you’re not surprised? Don’t tell me you were the type of girlfriend who is jealous of every woman around her boyfriend.” She asked picking up on their conversation.
“You have him out of the house and playing basketball on a Saturday, when we were dating, he never had time for anything other than golf with the client or activities at the country club.I remember that I worked at the company for two years before he started noticing me, and that was because his sister in law invited me to a dinner so I could catch his attention. Can you imagine how I felt? And he’s like that to everyone, cold, nonchalant, and indifferent. Only thinking about work, work and work.”
“Oh really? He didn’t come across me as someone like that. From the first day that I arrived at the company, he had always been a kind, supportive and cordial boss. Especially about work, I mean he always followed up on my progress and he was always available to answer any questions.”
“Exactly! Do you know that he has Dodi reporting to him, what time you arrive and leave the office? ” Daniyati continued.
“Oh, come on! He asks that about everybody from my department.”
“Only from your department and it started after you joined the company….”
“Look, Daniyati. You’re already married to Jason, and Ahmed is my boyfriend now. Don’t you think it’s time to let go of your past jealousy? I know that when I started at the company you were his girlfriend, but that’s changed now. It was you who married someone else, remember? Also, I want you to know that there was nothing between us before we went to your wedding in Bali. In fact, for your information, he was in Bali because of you, he wanted to stop you from marrying Jason.”
“But he didn’t, even though he had the chance to, even though I…..I asked him to stop me from getting married. Because in two days he was already fixated in someone else. Think about it, is that even possible? Nobody falls in love in two days.”
“That’s enough!” Tia was getting angry and didn’t want to hear anymore. “Jason is my best friend, he has been since elementary school. I hope you’ll be a good and faithful wife for him. Forget about my boyfriend, and focus on your own husband.”
“But why are you such a hot head?” Daniyati was puzzled.
“Hey, you girls were so immersed in conversation, you didn’t even bother watching us play.” Jason bellowed while catching his breath.
Daniyati walked up to him and gave him the bottle of water that she was holding in her hand, “You’re sweating…” She exclaimed.
Tia followed shortly, keeping her eyes on Ahmed. “Let’s go home…” She said.
“Yeah, I had enough exercise for one day…” Hafiz agreed with her.
“That was a great game…” Ahmed said while shaking Jason’s and Brian’s hand. “It was great seeing you again.” He said to Daniyati.
Tia sneered she looked at Jason, “Jason, I’ll see you around.”
“Bye, Tia…” He waved at her.
“Let’s go!” She signed to Ahmed and Hafiz.
“What’s with the horse face?” Hafiz asked.
“Nothing!” She sassed.
“Is that a real nothing or a woman’s nothing?” He chased.
“What did I do this time?” Ahmed asked.
“Didn’t I say it was nothing?” She insisted
Hafiz grinned, “Man, you’re in big trouble….I’m leaving!” He rushed towards the house.
“Tia….talk to me…” Ahmed said as they entered the house and stood in the garden.
“Happy that you’ve met your ex?” She asked sarcastically.
“I could ask the same thing, couldn’t I?” His voice was calm as always.
“I don’t have an ex.” She puckered, “And especially one who’s still thinking of me despite being married.”
“What are you saying?”
“Can you believe that Daniyati was jealous of me when she was still your girlfriend? She thought you were treating me different from all the other employees.”
“Hmm…what gave her that idea?” his voice unaffected.
“Who knows? Ugh, I can’t believe, it. She’s already married, but she’s still after my boyfriend!” Tia complained.
Ahmed laughed, “You’re cute when you’re jealous.”
She stared at him, “Who says I’m jealous?”
“I did, just now.” He pulled her into a back hug.
“You’re right, I am jealous.” She whispered clasping his arm.
“You don’t need to be…..” He whispered in her ear.
“It’s not enough to have your mother hating me, now your ex-girlfriend is after you…”
“Tia, what exactly did she say to make you think that she’s after me?”
“She said a lot of things….about how you were very attentive to me since I started working, unlike the way you treat the others. Ah, and she thinks that you have Mr. Dodi reporting what time the PMs arrive and leave the office, was because of me.” Tia puckered, “It’s outrages.”
“Hmm…” Ahmed rubbed his chin, “Was it that obvious?” He mumbled underneath his breath.
“What did you say?” She turned her head.
“Never mind me…..She looks happy with her husband. I think that’s how exes are. You know, you still have something lingering deep inside, whether you like it or not. But it’s not significant enough to matter because your heart is already filled with someone else.”
Tia pursed her lips, “Do you think by telling me that you have some lingering feelings for your ex, it’s going to make me less jealous?”
He replied by kissing her cheek. “That’s not what I said, I wasn’t talking about me, I was referring to her.”
Ahmed smiled, “I need to go home so I can change my clothes, why don’t you come with me?’
“Fine! let me call Hafiz.”
“Why do we have to bring him along? I’d prefer if we go alone….” He traced her shoulder with his finger.
“Alone? You, and me and your lingering feelings for Daniyati…?”
“Okay, let’s bring Hafiz along…” Ahmed sighed dejectedly.
* * *
Omar Al Rashid glanced at his wife, “And how exactly are you going to get this loan?” He asked Ahmed.
“I have my own business dealings, what’s important is that you don’t have to worry about Ratna’s father pulling out his money from the company,” Ahmed replied calmly.
His father exhaled, “No, you’re right we don’t have to worry. I’ve spoken to him over the weekend and he said that he had no intentions to do so. Although the economy is still dragging, but we’re able to stay afloat, and our revenue is still twenty percent above break even point.”
“Okay, good! I don’t see any reason why Mama has to go around threatening Tia or pressuring her to leave me.”
“What did she tell you?” Princess Latifa asked, “How not surprising for someone like her to go running to you immediately and complain about me.”
“As a matter of fact she didn’t. But I know you very well, Mama.” Ahmed stood, “Well, I think I should get back to my office now.”
Princess Latifa waited until she was sure that Ahmed had gone before scolding her husband, “Why did you have to say something like that?”
“What you said about the investment. We could still use it as an excuse to put pressure ion him and the girl!”
Mr. Omar took a deep breath, “Maybe you should stop trying to force him into the marriage with Ratna. He’s trying so hard to avoid it, I mean look at him, ever since he was a little boy, he lives to please us. Look how hard he works, compare him to that other boy, the son of your ex-husband. Ahmed never parties, he never dates around, he only focuses on the company, and on the family.”
“Why do you think I’m insisting on having him marry Ratna? It’s because I want the best for him. I want him to have a good life. What will he get by being with that girl he likes? Nothing! She doesn’t have any money, no dignified family background, and she’s not morally correct either. How can I let my son marry someone who so easily spent the night at his apartment with him?If she’s that free, how can I know that she’ll be loyal to him?” Princess Latifa argued.
“You can’t know that she’ll be loyal, but you can’t know that she won’t be either. There are no guarantees in life. But I know that my son will be able to face any problems that come his way. That’s how we educated him.” He suspired, “I don’t want to continue manipulating him and forcing him anymore, he’s my only son, my only heir, and I don’t want him to end up hating me.”
“If you’re not going to help me with this plan, that’s fine! But don’t try to stand in my way either!” She snapped. “I’m his mother, I know what’s best for him!”
“Why are you always so uncompromising?”
“I’m going through with the engagement plan and you have to support my decision!”
* * *
“Ratna!” Princess Latifa entered her office without announcing herself, “Tell your parent that my husband and I will be visiting them tomorrow night.”
“Auntie, what is this about?” Ratna looked up from her desk.
“I want us to discuss your engagement to Ahmed.”
“My engagement?” Ratna opened her eyes bewildered.
“Yes, I want to go ahead with you marriage to Ahmed. We should have done it months ago, but there were inconveniences.”
“Auntie, are you sure about this?”
“Of course I’m sure, you’re the only one I want as my daughter in law, nobody else.”
* * *
“What’s this?” Tia looked at the pink envelope on her desk.
“Its an invitation to The Al Rashid’s wedding anniversary this Friday.” Winnie peeked up from behind her desk.
“The Al Rashid’s wedding anniversary? And I’m invited? This must be a mistake…”
“Why would it be a mistake?” Winnie furrowed.
“I don’t know, I just have an eerie feeling about this.”
“Tell me about it, you should be banned from any company related events, the last two you’ve been in, you made quite the scandal,” Ronald commented.
“Oh, yeah. Huh, maybe I shouldn’t go…” Tia considered.
“Oh, but I insist!” Princess Farida out of nowhere showed up behind her. “You have to go. It wouldn’t be the same without you.”
Princess Farida smiled coyly as she walked past Tia and headed to her son’s office.
“What was that about?” Winnie whispered to Tia, “Her tone gave me the chills.”
* * *
“An invitation to their wedding anniversary?” Raden Nabila took the card from Tia’s hand and read it. “And she invited you to come?”
“Yes, she did./ In fact, when oI was saying out loud that I’m thinking of not going to the party, she put on this snake-like smile and said that it wouldn’t be the sam without me.”
“Hmmm, she has something up her sleeve.” Raden Nabila nodded.
“I don’t doubt it.”
“Then, you should go. Hafiz will go with you, so he can protect you, the invitation does say that you can bring a plus one.”
“Yeah, why not? It’s a chance to meet up with some old friends.”
“But Aunt Nabila….Hafiz is about as useful as a soaked tissue paper.” She protested.
“Hey….” He yapped back.
“No..no..no, you’re wrong. Latifa adores Hafiz, she has always been nice and kind to him. if he’s around you, she wouldn’t try anything strange. Just make sure, you don’t let out that you two are cousins especially that you’re a cousin from my side. She might like my son, but she hates me.” Raden Nabila frowned, “That’s because he looks like his father, you know. Huh!”
“Okay, fine. But we better keep our distance from that Madame Al Rashid, we’ll never know when a house will fall out of the sky and crush her,” Tia replied.
“Tia, is that a way to talk about your future mother in law?” Raden Nabila refuted.
“If that’s ever going to happen, auntie. I think she would rather be crushed by a house than see Ahmed with me.”
“But first we have to make sure that you suite up to the occasion….” Raden Nabila winked.
“How do I do that?” Tia wondered.
“Leave that to me…”
* * *
“She said that to you?” Ahmed asked as the were siting in his car in front of her house.
“Yeah….strange huh?” Tia replied.
“Hmm, I wonder what she’s thinking.”
“She’s never going to approve of me is she?” Tia asked solemnly.
“It’s a matter of time, that’s all. You should let her get to know you.” Ahmed consoled her.
“Well, I’m going to the party with Hafiz.”
“Okay, that’s better than going with the swimming instructor.”
“My aunt said that I shouldn’t let your mother know that we are cousins. She thinks that your mother doesn’t like her.”
“It’s a long story between my mother and your aunt. One that I sure prefer not to know.”
“Do you want to tell me about it?” She glanced.
“You know how Hafiz looks a lot like his father. And my mother is very kind to him…”
“Mmm….my aunt said the same thing…”
“She did?” Ahmed looked at her.
“So you’re thinking that maybe, your mother still hides some residual feelings for her ex-husband? Is that it?”
“….” Ahmed didn’t reply.
“Remember our talk the other day? About Daniyati?”
“What does that have to do with my mother?”
“Well just like the way you wanted me to accept your lingering feelings for her, you should learn to accept your mother’s lingering feelings for her ex-husband. Unlike you and Daniyati, they actually have a child together.”
“That’s hard for me to accept. As a son how can I accept my mother loving someone else besides my father?” Ahmed frowned.
“Well, your mother may be many things, but I’m sure she’s faithful to your father, and I’m sure she loves you a lot.” Tia clasped his hands.
“Tia, I want you to be clear on one thing, I never said that I still have feelings for Daniyati. Maybe she still has some for me, who knows. It doesn’t matter though, I already have you.”
Tia smiled as she gently kissed his forehead. “I believe you.”
He lifted her hands to his lips and kissed it, “Thanks…..”