Smaradahana Chapter 1


Los Angeles, California. 2004 CE

“Hey Luna, the principle is looking for you,” Justin said as he nudged her on the back.

“Stop joking around, Justin!” Luna didn’t want to take her eyes off the computer, she was too busy typing in codes to try to break the lunch room administrator’s password. All the kids were tired of drinking the same lousy juice every week, so she decided to hack the menu and make a little change to it.

“I’m serious, there’s this new kid who just transferred in, he’s a foreigner he comes from your country and he doesn’t speak English. The Principle wants you to be his buddy until he adapts,” Justin explained.

“What? Now you see any old Asian person and you assume that he’s from my country, they have a name for that, you know. Racist!” She sassed.

“Stop being so prickly. He’s from Indonesia. That’s where you’re from, isn’t it?” Justin refuted.

Luna raised her head and looked at him, “Wow, you finally grew a brain…”

“Oh, shut up and get going!” He growled.

“I haven’t figured out her password yet.” She argued, “Why don’t you help me out…”

“Try this” Justin put the box of juice in front of her.

“Ha…ha…”

“No, I’m serious, type it in, organicjuice…” He grinned.

“Arrrgggghhhhhh………..” Luna growled back when she found out that the password worked.

“Ha…ha…ha….the irony…” Justin mocked, “Don’t think that my Mom doesn’t know how you guys hate the juice she serves. But like she said, it’s healthy and organic. Who needs to grow a brain now? Go on, I’ll take over your lunch room duty.”

She sneered before getting up from her chair  and dragged herself to the Principles office. She took a deep breath before gently knocking on the door.

“Come in….” From the inside the principle answered.

Luna opened the door slowly and walked in, “Good afternoon Principle Lopez, Justin said that you were looking for me…”

“Yes, Luna, come in and sit down, I have a favor to ask you…” Ruth Lopez was a woman in her late forties, friendly, motherly and caring. “This is Pan…um…this is the new student. He’s from Indonesia, he speaks some level of English, but not fluent, yet. And this is Luna, she’ll be your buddy.”

The boy turned around to look at her, he had a round face, through his wide grin she could see his big teeth, “Hello” the boy said in a cracked voice typical of boys during puberty.

Luna smiled back at him, “Hello…”

“Okay, why don’t you show him to the class room, the two of you are in the same class.” Principle Lopez dismissed them.

Luna waited for the boy to get up from his chair and they walked out of the office together, “What’s your name?” She asked in their native language.

“Panji Asmarabangun” The boy said.

“Huh?” Luna stopped and turned around before breaking into laughter. “Oh my God, I’m sorry, I’m not mocking you or anything. Your parent’s must be big fans of Javanese tales,” She sniffed.

“It’s okay….” The boy blushed.

“Listen, I think people here will find it hard to pronounce your name, so I’m going to give you a new one.” She told him.

“Okay…” He nodded obediently.

“I’m going to call you….Sam…” She decided.

“Sam?” He cocked his head, “I like it…Sam…I’m Sam……”

“Great, let me show you around the school, Sam.”

* * *

“Hey Sam, I guess you’re my partner for the group homework.” Luna said to him as the student got up from their chairs and left the class room.

They walked together to the lockers,”Do you want to go to my place or yours?” He asked.

“Let’s go to mine,” She replied, “My father will kill me if he knew that I went to a boy’s house.”

They got off the buss and walked together to her house. “How long have you lived here, in the States?” He asked.

“Five years,” She replied, “My father works as a representative of an Indonesian company here in the US. What about you?”

He took a deep breath, “My parents were having some problems, so my mother took me to stay with my grandaunt.”

“Ah…I’m sorry to hear about that.” Luna said with sympathy.

“They’ll work it out,” He almost whispered.

Luna glanced at him, “Wait here…”

She ran into a convenience store, he waited on the side of the road feeling restless, looking at his watch wondering what kept her so long. He sighed in relief when he saw her popping out of the store.

“Twinkie…..” She handed him a plastic wrap.

“Thanks,” He looked at her bewildered.

“Ever since we came to live here, whenever I feel down, my mother always buys me this treat to make me feel better.”

He opened the wrap and took a bite, he cringed at the taste, “It’s rich and very sweet….”

Luna laughed, “Come on, my house is over that way….”

* * *

He had always been bright and talented, after four months, his English began to improve and he was able to communicate with the teacher and the rest of the class. But Luna remained his best friend. They liked to hang out together, most of the time at her house. He found that her parents were busy most of the time, her father working, and her mother was studying in the community college.

“Luna, I want to give this to you,” He said shyly handing her a small box.

“What is this?” She asked, taking the box from his hand.

“Open it! I saved up my lunch money to get that,”

She opened the box gingerly, it was a short silver chain with a half moon pendant. “Wow, how much is your allowance?” She wondered.

“Never mind that, do you like it?” He asked.

Luna nodded, “I love it.” Her nose would always wrinkle as she smiled. “Help me put it on.”

He nodded, putting the chain around her neck as she lifted her hair.

“Thank you…” She blushed. Without a warning she moved forward and gave him a quick peck on the cheek.

He blushed as his heart felt like it would burst from happiness.

* * *

“Sam……” Luna called his name in a sad voice.

“What’s up?” He asked with a bad feeling because of the tone of her voice.

“My father told me that he has been called back to Indonesia. We’re going back next month.”

“But why?” His voice obviously despaired.

“Do you remember that I told you my father is a representative in this country for the company that he works for?” She asked.

He nodded.

“Well, the company belongs to my grandfather. My grandfather wants to retire, so he wants my father to go back home and take over the company,” She explained.

“So, we’ll never see each other again?”

“Hey, we can always email, chat and text….” She said.

“It won’t be the same” He bowed his head in sadness.

* * *

Their communication only lasted a few months, before it stopped for good. But the main reason was during the summer holidays unexpectedly his father came to find him and his mother.

“It was all a miss understanding,” His father explained. “But we’ve talked it over, and we want to try and fix our relationship.”

“I’m glad…” He replied, “Mama has been sad and depresses all these months, “I’m happy that the two of you finally resolved your differences.”

“Your father wants to take advantage of your vacation to take a tour in Europe before we return to Indonesia.” His mother said.

“Okay…” He nodded, “That sounds like fun…”

* * *

“And you’ve never seen her again, Mas?” Anggraeni asked.

Panji shook his head, “It was my fault, because when we went travelling through Europe, I never bothered to check my mail. The trip took two months, when I finally arrived in Jakarta and checked my inbox, I found out that she had been sending mails everyday, but because I never replied, she got tired. I tried to respond but her email address had been deleted.”

“Oh…” Anggraeni lamented.

He put his arm around her shoulder, hugging her tightly, “And so that was the story of my failed first love…”

She leaned her head on his chest, “Mas Panji, you’re not with me because I look like her, right?”

“Of course not. I admit, when I first saw you , I thought that you looked like her. But she’s only a girl in my memory, while you’re my college sweetheart, who is now my wife.”

“Good! Because I can’t handle knowing that somewhere inside your heart you hold a light for another woman…” She pouted.

Panji laughed, “Don’t be silly…”

“Panji….” His mother called as she walked to the living room.

“Yes, Ma…” He replied.

“Your father called, he wanted me to remind that he wants you to go on his behalf to Bandung to meet Mr. Lawrence.” She said glancing with dislike at his wife.

Panji took a deep breath, “No problem, Ma…”

“I’m going to sleep now..” His mother said.

Anggraeni sighed, “When would she ever accept me as your wife.”

“Be patient, I know it makes you feel uncomfortable, but with time, I’m sure she’d accept you.” Panji coaxed.

“Mas, I know she still hopes that you marry Mr. Dartono’s daughter, she probably prays every night that we end up divorcing each other.” Anggraeni pouted.

“She can wish all she wants, ever since I was young my parents always tried to brain wash me by telling me that I’m engaged in a fix marriage with her. I don’t know what she looks like for heaven sake. I’ve never met her in my life. How can they expect me to share my life with her. The fact is I’m married to you and she can never change that…” Panji lifted her up from the floor and carried her to the bed room.

* * *

“We need to talk!” Mrs. Dari Panji’s mother said to Angraeni over the phone.

“Are you coming home?” She asked.

“No. meet me at the cafe near the office at one o’clock. I still haven’t finished yet with the seminar…”

“Okay, I’ll meet you there….” Anggraeni hung up the phone.

She went to her room and changed her clothes. She put on her make up to make herself look presentable in front of her mother in law. The last thing she wanted to do is to look like a simpleton in front of their upper class appearance. She used her cell phone to call a taxi, her mother in law got upset when her husband offered to buy her a car. Finally Anggraeni told him not to bother, they didn’t want Mrs. Dari to hate her even more.

“To Sudirman Street, please.” She told the taxi driver.

“Yes, ma’am…” He drove towards the direction she indicated.

Anggraeni paid the taxi fare before she got off and entered the cafe, she looked around for her mother in law, but Mrs. Dari was no where to be seen. Anggraeni chose a table by the window to look at the view of the city.

“You’re here…” She heard a familiar voice.

“Mama…I hope you don’t mind that I chose this table….” She stood up to kiss her mother in law.

Mrs. Dari smiled slightly, “Thank you for coming to meet me.” She said while sitting in front of Anggraeni.

“Are you ready to order?” A waitress came to their table.

“I’d like a cup of tea please…” Mrs. Dari said.

“Black coffee for me…”

“Anggraeni, the reason why I asked you to meet me here is because I have to explain our condition to you.” She said.

“Our condition?” Anggraeni didn’t understand.

“You know that our company is dedicated in real estate, we have the shopping mall here, and also the shopping mall in Surabaya, and then the bungalow hotel in Lombok.” She said. “This company has been in our family for almost a hundred years, and we have more than a thousand employees through out the country.”

Anggraeni nodded, “Yes, Mas Panji told me about what the company.”

“Seven years ago, Panji’s father took a loan and invested it in some land acquisitions in another island, the plan was to develop it into a mega project, housing, shopping centers, and offices. That was before we found out that the land was on top of a natural water reservoir, the government canceled our permits, and we  had to forget about the idea of building on that land. We  were never compensated for it. This big loss is still haunting us today, even more fiercely in fact,” She paused to look sharply at her daughter in law, “Even though we succeeded in negotiating a payment plan, but it’s still a heavy burden for us the interests are stacking up, adding to the amount of debt we have to pay. Our family and company in in the border of bankruptcy.”

Anggraeni looked at her in shock, “I heard about the land acquisition scandal, but didn’t know that it was our company that was involved.”

“Now you do! There is a way out.” Mrs. Dari smiled Coyly, ” Jenggala Finance, the company belonging to the Dartono’s they can bale us out of this financial pinch. Obviously we can’t just knock n their door and ask for money.”

“What are you getting at?’ Anggraeni furrowed.

“If Panji marries the daughter of the Dartono’s our problems will be solved, our family won’t go bankrupt,  and thos thousand of employees will not loose their jobs.”

“But how do you expect me to let my husband marry another woman….” She cried.

“I knew you were a low class social climber, but I didn’t think you were selfish enough to do nothing while people’s livelihoods are in danger.” Mrs. Dari snarled. “I hope you can sleep in peace at night knowing that our employees will be out of a job and Panji’s legacy lost.”

Mrs. Dari stood up and was about to leave.

“Wait…” Anggraeni called out, her eyes were wet and red, she was holding back her tears, “What do I have to do?”

“I want you to disappear from Panji’s life. you should go as far as you can and never look for him again.”

“But…but…how can you ask me to do that?” She cried.

“Fine! It’s all on you then.” Mrs. Dari stood up, and left the cafe.

Anggraeni sat there staring into space. her eyes were full of tears, she didn’t know what to do. On one hand she didn’t want to lose her husband, but on the other hand she didn’t want to be responsible for all the terrible things that might happen if the company does go under.

She stood up from her chair, and slowly walked out of the cafe. She was in a state of shock and confusion. Anggraeni walked down the road slowly, half her soul had flew away in grief. She continued walking without looking where she was going. She turned her head when there was a loud sound of a car’s honk, a loud screech filled the air as the driver of the car tried to push the breaks in time, but all was to late. Anggraeni felt a sharp pain as the hard metal of the car hit her body, and the world became dark.

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