“Ahmed, don’t leave the country, okay?” Princess Latifa cried, “Are you going to leave your mother alone again?”
“Ma, it’s only an hour and a half by plane, besides, don’t you have another son and grandchildren there? I don’t see why you can’t hop on a plane once in a while to visit me and my brother.” Ahmed replied.
“Ahmed, why do you insist in rejecting Ratna? If you would only accept your engagement none of this would happen. What does that woman have that Ratna doesn’t? Look, Ratna is beautiful, she’s educated, well mannered, and if you get to know her, you can see that she has a great personality.” She tried to convince her son.
“Mama, please stop, okay? Enough already! I told you many times that I don’t like her, but you never understood. If you didn’t pull a trick on me and announce the engagement at your party. Ratna wouldn’t be that disappointed, and Mr. Sumantri wouldn’t dare to threaten me with my job. ” Ahmed exhaled, “Besides, I think it’s time for me to step away from under my father’s shadow and try to make it on my own. I’m tired that you and Papa treat me like an incompetent person, and that I would never achieve anything by myself.”
“This is all because of her, isn’t it? She put all these ideas in your head.” She accused.
“Why? Because I can’t think for myself?” His voice was ironic. “Is that how you see me?”
“Ahmed….” her voice was genuinely sad.
* * *
“Here is the updated report. Also this folder contains the opened projects that we have, and the status of each.” Ahmed explained to his father.
Mr. Omar looked through the folder, “very good.” He praised.
“Thank you, Pa.” Ahmed
“Ahmed, I want you to know, that I’ve been very hard on you all this time, because I want you to be a man who will make use of all his potentials. You’re my only son, it’s common that children from well off family slack off, and become irresponsible, depending themselves on their parents’ wealth. Maybe I’ve never told you this, but I am very proud of you.”
Ahmed looked at him in disbelief, his father’s tone was gentle and loving. “Thank you.”
“I’m sure you will have success and good luck in the future. You have the ability and presence to achieve what you set your mind to,” He got up from his chair and hugged his son warmly.
* * *
“Let’s go…” Ahmed tapped Tia on the shoulder.
“Just one more thing and I’m done.” She replied as she typed in the numbers into her computers. “There, now I’ve finished.” She tidied up her desk, and turned off her computer before getting up.
They walked together to the underground parking, Ahmed opened the door of his car for her, and hopped in himself. “Bunda Nabila said that she prepared something delicious, so she wants us to have dinner with her.”
“My aunt is a great cook, I think I gained weight after living with her for a few days.” Tia smiled remembering her aunt.
“Baby, have you considered about what I asked you the other day?” He asked.
“About getting married?” She looked away, “Ahmed, I love you very much, but I don’t know if I’m ready to take that big step yet.”
“What’s your hesitation?” He asked.
“I don’t know, your parents, my parents, right now my life is uncertain, I’m about to be jobless in a few days, and you’re going to start a new job. It’s just that there is a lot of things going on, and I think that marrying at this moment is not a good idea, it’s all too soon, too sudden. I want us to have a well planned wedding, my dream is that we walk together into a marriage instead of jumping into it. Am I making any sense to you?”
“You are. It’s just that I don’t want to be away from you. A long distance relationship usually doesn’t end well. And how could you expect me to feel peace there in Jothar, knowing that here you’re all alone. You’re not living with your parents anymore, and Bunda Nabila is travelling back with me.”
Tia didn’t reply, she looked outside the window of the car, her aunt said that she can stay in the rented house for as long as she wanted. Her aunt promised that she would pay the annual rent for the house. But Ahmed was right, she would be all alone here. away from her family, but worst of all away from him. She turned to look at him, observing his face from the side, his eyes, his nose, his mouth, the way he looked to the road as he drove the car, and his concentrated expression.
“How long are you going to keep on starring at me for?” He asked out of the blue.
Tia realized what she was doing and turned away again hiding her embarrassment. Ahmed glanced at her with glee.
“I don’t want to put the pressure on you, if you want to think about it, then think about it.” He held her hand and squeezed it gently.
She smiled back at him sadly.
* * *
“I’m very happy you can join us for dinner tonight!” Raden Nabila said as she served the dish to Ahmed.
“Who am I to miss the chance to eat the best meal in the world.” Ahmed replied.
“Ah…look at this boy, he’s very good at praising.” Raden Nabila added.
“That’s right he is!” Hafiz joined in the conversation.
“Sorry, I’m late.” Tia entered the dining room after taking a shower and changing her clothes.
“You’re not late, you’re just in time. I’m serving the dishes.” Raden Nabila explained while putting a plate in front of Tia.
“This smells incredible!” She sniffed the vapor coming out of the plate, “A feast for the eyes, the nose and the tongue.”
“Well, children. Dig in!” Raden Nabila told them.
* * *
“Tia….I’m going to miss you….” Winnie sulked.
“I’m going to miss you too….” Tia hugged her friend from behind.
“It’s going to be very quiet round here.” Dodi said, “I imagine Winnie can’t gossip all by herself, she’ll have to keep her voice in starting from tomorrow.”
“This sucks, every time we have to see a friend leave.” Ronald manifested.
“Yeah, it does.” Winnie agreed.
“Well, tonight I have permission from my wife to get home late, so we are going to throw a little goodbye party for our friend, and for Mr. Ahmed, he’s going to join us too.” Dodi announced.
“Where are we going?” Winnie asked with excitement.
“Someplace with food and drinks…” Ahmed popped up behind them. “Come on, let’s get out of here.”
He hugged Tia by the shoulder as they followed the others to the elevator. “Any ideas guys?” He asked.
“There’s a good restaurant bar at R hotel.” Winnie said.
“Okay, let’s go there.” Dodi agreed, “Ronald and Winnie, you guys go with me, we’ll meet Mr. Ahmed and Tia at the venue.”
“Okay, we’ll see you later.” Tia waved at them.
* * *
“Mr. Ahmed, I heard rumors that you’ve already landed a job, is that right?” Dodi asked after they had ordered the meals and drinks at the restaurant.
“That’s right. I’m going to start work next week.” Ahmed replied.
“Wow, that’s amazing, it’s good to be talented, you leave one job, and you’re ready to start another…” Ronald looked at him with admiration.
“So the job is overseas, right?’ Winnie asked.
Ahmed nodded his head, “It’s a Conglomerate in a neighboring country, it’s called The Holy Mountain Group.”
“Ah…that’s the company belonging to Hafiz’s family… ” Ronald remembered.
“That’s right! I’ll be taking position as the Managing Director.” Ahmed told them.
“Wow, that’s a higher position than GM, you practically stepped up on your career ladder.” Dodi said. “Well, you’re very capable, I’m sure you’ll do very well.”
“You’re right, i do have to prove myself to them. I have to show them that I deserve the job because of my talents and abilities and not because I’m dating the boss’ niece.” Ahmed said while putting his arm around Tia.
“Tia, I didn’t know that you’re Hafiz’s relative… Winnie looked at her.
“Don’t worry, you’re not the only one who told me that, it is kind of hard to believe that the hard working me is related to that lazy bum.” Tia yapped.
“It must be good to be Hafiz” Ronald observed, “Play all day, no responsibilities, just the fine life.”
“Huh! I like a responsible, mature and success oriented man more than my cousin’s type.” Tia said.
“Ah…you mean like the one beside you?” Winnie teased.
“Exactly!” Tia agreed.
Ahmed smiled and hugged her. “See why I love her?”
“So how did you two started dating?” Dodi asked
Ahmed and Tia looked at each other. “I think it all started in Bali… ” Tia started, “At Daniyati’s wedding.”
Ahmed nodded, “That’s how we got close.” He said while taking a sip at his drink.
“But how come at her wedding?” Ronald asked.
“We both had the same idea, he wanted to stop his girlfriend Daniyati from marrying Jason, and I wanted to stop my crush Jason from marrying Daniyati.”
“So you weren’t inventing, he was dating Daniyati.” Winnie commented.
“I don’t buy it!” Dodi slurred. “If you were dating Daniyati, then how come none of us ever heard about it?”
“I didn’t want anybody at work to know. You know how gossipy the staff can be, especially Winnie.” Ahmed replied glancing at Winnie.
“Nope, still not convinced…..” Dodi said again, he pointed at Ahmed, “Everybody could see that you’ve been behind this girl ever since she started working with the company, and that was like three and a half years ago!”
“Yeah, that’s right!” Ronald agreed.
Ahmed glanced at Tia, he smiled “Well, it’s normal for a man to feel interest when he sees a cute girl.”
Dodi laughed, “But if is true that you were with Daniyati at the time, wasn’t it shameless of you?”
“Hang on a minute!” Tia cut in, “I don’t get it, why did you guys think that he was interested in me?”
“Huh, because he always found excuses to be around you, he was always asking about you. He never trained a new staff himself, but he did with you. I remember when you disappeared from the office a few months ago, claiming to be sick, the first thing I reported when I called him was that you didn’t come to work, who knew that the two of you were in Bali together?” Dodi chuckled.
“What?” Tia looked at Ahmed.
He shrugged his shoulder,
“You didn’t……, was that all on purpose?” She questioned.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He replied nonchalantly while drinking his whiskey.
“It was!” She slanted her eyes, “The room, coming out of the shower, getting left behind on the island, that wasn’t all just by chance, was it?”
“A smart man knows how to use an unfortunate situation to his advantage.” Ahmed laughed, “I honestly went to Bali to stop Daniyati from getting married, who knew that fate sent you right into my arms instead.”
“Oh, my God, you’re terrible…” Tia shrieked.
Ahmed grinned, “Going to Bali was the best decision I ever made in my life.”
“Jerk!” Tia slapped him on the thigh.
* * *
“I can’t believe these men are wasted!” Winnie complained.
“We should get them a taxi,” Tia suggested.
“I’ll take care of these two clowns, you worry about your boyfriend!” Winnie said as she pushed Ronald an Dodi into a taxi, “Bye…” She waved at Tia.
“Bye,” Tia waved back, she waved a taxi and helped Ahmed in before climbing herself. She gave the address of his apartment to the driver.
She put his head against her shoulder, he was sleeping peacefully although his body reeked of alcohol. when they reached his building, she waved to the security guard to help her carry him up to his apartment.
“Thank you!” She said to the security guard after they laid Ahmed on the bed while tipping him with the money that she fished out of Ahmed’s pocket as she was looking for the key.
She took of his jacket, tie, shoes and socks and covered him with the blanket before she took off her outer clothes and threw herself on the bed beside him. Tia observed his sleeping face lovingly, “Idiot!” She said as she slapped him on the forehead before turning her body around and falling asleep.
* * *
“Ahmed, don’t forget to call us once you’ve reached Jothar!” Princess Latifa said while kissing her son’s forehead.
Ahmed nodded, “I will, Mama.”
“Good luck, son!” Mr. Omar hugged him warmly.
“Thanks, Pa.” He hugged him back.
Ahmed looked from left to right. He was disappointed that she wasn’t there to send him off. He sighed when he heard the announcement calling all passengers to board the plane.
“Let’s go, Ahmed.” Hafiz called out to him.
Ahmed nodded, he picked up his carry on luggage and followed Raden Nabila and Hafiz to the gate. They showed the boarding pass to the flight attendant before entering the plane.
“Our seats are here.” Raden Nabila said as she took the window seat while Hafiz put the bags in the overhead compartment.
Ahmed also put his bags in the compartment and sat in his seat. He looked out the window dejectedly. He couldn’t help but feel hurt and sad about leaving her behind. Although she had told him yesterday that she wouldn’t come to the airport to see him off, because she couldn’t stand saying goodbye to him. He took a deep breath and brushed his face with the palm of his hand. Trying hard to control his feelings. He felt that the passenger beside him had arrived, he didn’t want anybody to see his moist eyes, so he closed it and leaned back on his seat. The passenger sat down and buckled up.
“What took you so long?” He heard Hafiz’s voice.
“My father insisted that I bring gifts for my grandparents so I got held up during check in.”
Ahmed opened his eyes and looked at her in disbelief, “Tia…” He whispered.
“Okay then, let’s try our luck in Jothar, one step at a time.” She smiled.
Ahmed pulled her head closer to him and kissed her lips longingly. “Thank you!”
“I love you.” She whispered cupping his cheek.
“I love you too…..” Ahmed took her hand and kissed it gently.