Panji nodded slightly, “Yeah……… that’s how I knew who you are.”
“Hey…” She moved her head closer to him, “I know you, don’t I?”
Panji’s heart thumped.
“You’re the hobo from last night…” She said. “Just with less hair, much less hair, all over the place….”
Panji frowned, “I’m not a hobo, I was just going through a hard time.”
“You’re right, if you were a hobo, you wouldn’t be here, would you?” She agreed, “But now that you’re here, it looks like you’ve resolved your problem.”
“Kind of…” He pumped up, “Hey, you never told me why you were in a party gown riding a scooter last night, if you don’t mind telling me that is…..”
“I don’t mind, it’s not like I robbed a bank or something. I ran away from home. From my engagement,to be exact. My Father wanted me to marry this poor guy who went crazy because his wife died, and apparently I looked like her.”
“Ah…..” Panji was speechless, not knowing what to say or feel.
“Don’t get me wrong, I send this guy my condolences from here…” She moved her hand pretending to grab something from her chest and throwing it out the window, “But I refuse to be anybody’s substitute wife.”
“Is that so?”
“Hey, I see that you’ve already fell into the grasps of Miss Talk-a-lot here…” Roni entered the room. “Loony, this is our new Marketing Manager, my cousin Panji. Panji, this is our web designer slash IT person to support those of us who aren’t IT people, Chandra Kirana…” He lowered his voice, “She calls herself Luna…
Luna burst into laughter making Panji feel nostalgic, “Marketing Manager? You only have one person doing marketing, him.”
“He manages the marketing, dumbo!” Roni replied sarcastically, putting his arm around her shoulder and flicking her nose,”He doesn’t manage the marketing department.”
“Your company, your rules….” She poked her tongue, “I think I left your phone on my desk, I’ll be back…” She left the room.
“Are the two of you….” Panji joined his index fingers.
Roni sighed, “No, but who knows, maybe someday she’d reciprocate.”
“Knock…knock….” Luna said from the door while entering the room. “Here’s your phone. Let me give you your passwords…..”
“Okay, you settle him in, while I’m going to round-up the other staff for the introduction meeting.” Roni waved his hand and left the office.
“You and Roni seem familiar, have you known each other for long?” He dared himself to ask.
“Yeah, you can call us life long friends. I used to live in the States, when I moved here to Jakarta, he was the very first friend I made. And we stayed friends til now. Even after he came back from the Netherlands, he got in touch with me and asked me to work with him.” She explained, “Some friends are not as loyal as Roni.” She frowned touching her necklace.
Panji felt his head spinning, he touched his forehead with the tip of his fingers. He was paralyzed by the extent of the emotional hurricane that had just hit him.
“Oops, sorry, I’m giving you a headache, aren’t I?” She winked, “Come on, let me explain our toys to you.”
Luna dragged a chair and sat next to him, pulling the laptop in front of them. “I’m sure you know this email system…..”
Panji found it hard to concentrate on what she was saying, he was too busy looking at her.
* * *
Panji sat at his desk, he took out and opened his wallet. He looked sadly at his wedding photo. He caressed her photo with his index finger. He closed his eyes and leaned back, biting his lips to hold back his feelings of guilt. He remembered their last conversation the night before she died, if she knew how he was feeling at this moment, it would surely hurt her.
“Hey, new Manager, the boss wants everybody to go to the meeting room,” Luna popped up at his door. Roni had instructed him to keep the door open, to comply with the company policy.
“Hey, can you show me where it is?” He asked, “Nobody gave me a tour of the office yet. You know, usually the new kid at school get’s a tour around the premises.”
She smiled, “Huh! I remember those days… Come on, follow me then…”
He got out of his chair and followed her.
“Luna, help me with the door!” Nuri walked with holding a tray in her hand.
Luna rushed to the door and opened it they followed her in to the meeting room, “Hey, Nuri, I want to present you to the new Marketing Manager, Panji.”
“Hello,” Panji shook her hand.
“Nuri he’s our neighbor. He lives with Roni, I found out about that because I gave him a ride last night,” She explained shortly.
“Oh….you mean he’s the homeless guy from last night,” Nuri opened her eyes widely.
“I’m not homeless,” Panji stated.
“He’s not homeless…” Luna repeated.
“Snacks…….” They heard people speaking from the door as the rest of the staff walked in.
“And these are the rest of the crew, we are a small family, you know…” Luna smiled coyly. “Boy, our graphic designer, this beautiful lady here is Dini, she’s the accountant, Nuri is Roni’s assistant, this good-looking young man is Made, who is our Java expert, and last but not least, this is Robert, he is our project manager, he is the glue that keeps us together, the gas to our productive vehicle, the horse that pulls the cart, the wood in our pizza oven, the……”
“Oh be quiet, send him a love letter and spare us the details!” Roni came in with a sour face and hushed her.
Panji observed his cousin and sighed, it was obvious that he was jealous of her praises towards Robert.
“Take as seat!” He ordered, “Okay, I think you’ve all been introduced to Panji, he’s my cousin, he’ll be helping us with the marketing. Panji has a lot of connections in the business world, so I hope that with him on board, we will be seeing more and more projects come our way.”
“Welcome on board!” Boy said out loud.
“Thank you…” Panji nodded.
“Okay, now that we know each other, let’s talk about our projects and pipelines…” Roni said in he boss tone.
* * *
“You have an interesting team,” Panji said as they sat to dinner in Roni’s apartment.
“Yeah, this company is my baby, I hope that I can make it on my own, unlike the majority of our relatives who prefer to work for your parents.” Roni replied.
Panji nodded, “Well, I guess working for them offers the promise of stability.”
“I agree, but hey, why look for stability when you can have challenges.” Roni smiled, his cell phone vibrated in his pocket he picked it up and read the name on the screen, putting on a big grin he answered the call while walking away, “Yuli, baby, how was your trip to Europe…….”
Panji shook his head, his cousin has always been popular with the women. That’s why the thought of him having an unrequited love doesn’t really fit the picture.
“Okay, you’ll have to eat by yourself…” Roni came back, “I have some business to attend to….”
“What type of business?” Panji knew but pretended to ask.
“Business that is none of yours.” Roni smirked as he walked out.
Panji laughed silently, he finished his meal quickly. He cleaned up the table and kept Roni’s meal in the fridge. After surfing the channels to find nothing interesting for him, he walked out to the balcony to take some fresh air.
He was surprised to see that on the balcony to the right, Luna was standing against the railing looking at the surrounding. The tank top and shorts she was wearing allowed her uncovered skin to glow subtly. He observed her tender face against the light of the moon, she was different from the teenage girl he knew, she was still cheerful, talkative and helpful. Her face hadn’t change much, she was just as beautiful as he remembered. Inadvertently he remembered Anggraeni, like he always said, they looked similar but they had many differences. Luna’s face showed more assertiveness, her opened and confident personality reflected in her eyes. Anggraeni had always been shy and introverted, she was sweet and soft-spoken. His wife had a tendency to be passive and apatheist, while Luna was very warm, helpful and caring although she talks a lot and likes to shout when she’s upset.
He coughed to get her attention. She turned to look at him, he could feel his heart stir seeing her hair being blown by the gentle night breeze. She used her index finger remove the strains of hair that covered her face.
“Hello neighbor,” She greeted kindly.
“Hello to you too…” Panji cooed. “Enjoying the night view?”
She nodded, “My roommate went out to visit her parents so I was left alone here to apartment sit.”
Panji laughed, “Mine had a business that was none of mine.”
“Ah….a date, huh?” She perceived.
“What gave you that idea?”
“That’s what he used to say to me when he tried to escape from group study during high school.”
“You said that the two of you have known each other for a long time, did you use to date?” He asked.
She shook her head, “No….it seemed like it was never meant to be between us. When we were in high school I was still hung up on my previous crush, and when I was finally over him, Roni began dating somebody else.”
“Your previous crush…?” Panji’s eyebrows arched.
Luna laughed dismissively, “You know how it is, puppy love.”
“So what happened with him?” Panji wanted to know more.
Luna shrugged her shoulders, “We lost contact when I moved back here from the States. Well, actually he forgot to contact me. That and my mother’s sudden death around the time, I chose to let go of the memory.”
“I’m sorry about your mother,” He said softly.
“It was a long time ago, now I can’t even remember what he looked like. He could be standing in front of me right now, and I wouldn’t know it was him.”
Panji laughed at the irony of her statement, “What was his name?” He fished.
“What was his name?” She tried to remember, “He was from Indonesia too, he had a weird name, like out of a folklore. But I always called him Sam. ”
“Sam….” He his stomach fluttered from the distant memory.
“What about you? What turned you into the scruffy man from the other night?” She asked.
Panji took a deep breath and looked away, “My wife, she died a few months ago in a car accident.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” She lamented.
“It was a difficult situation, dealing with the loss and the emptiness. One day we were sharing our bed, eating breakfast together, joking, and pouring our hearts out to one another, then the next day it all just vanished. I felt like my life got sucked into a deep dark hole and it destroyed everything I dreamed of and wished for.” He said.
“Oh….” Luna bowed her head, “I know how that feels. When I lost my mother, it felt as if my world crumbled, thank goodness I had my father by my side, he took her place and dedicated his life to me. Sometimes when you lose someone you love, it’s better to reach out and hold on to the ones who are around you rather than shutting yourself in.”
“It’s not that easy for me,” He whispered.
“Hey, wait here for a moment don’t go anywhere,” She said as she entered her apartment.
Panji furrowed following her with his eyes as she disappeared behind the sliding door. He stood there alone for several minutes, wondering what she was planning. The door bell rang, he glanced at her balcony to see if she was coming out or not, but there seems to be no activity. The bell rang again. He took a deep breath and went to check who was at the door.
“What took you so long?” Luna pushed by him and entered the apartment. She was carrying a container of ice cream and a small plastic bag. She walked to the kitchen and took out two bowls and two spoon. It seemed like she was familiar with the situation of the apartment. “When Roni went to the Netherlands, I used to come here to crash when I had a fight with my father.” She said without him having to ask, “Then when he got back, of course I couldn’t stay here anymore, but my best friend moved in to the other tower, thus giving me a new crashing place.”
She passed a bowl of ice cream to him.
“Thank you…” He said.
“When I was younger, my late mother used to buy me twinkies whenever I felt down. You can’t find twinkies here, but ice cream has the same effect.” She said walking to the living room, she dropped herself on the carpet putting her bowl on the coffee table.
“I prefer Ice cream to twinkies.” Panji commented following behind her, “Can I sit beside you?”
“Yeah, go ahead.” She grabbed the television remote control and turned on the TV. “Ice cream, TV and a good friend. I’m sure that will make you feel a little bit better.” She chirped.
“Do you fight a lot with your father?” He asked.
She nodded and smile, “Our fights makes our relationship closer, he’s the best father in the whole world.”
“And your latest fight with him was because of an engagement he had in store for you, right?”
“Yeah, but after talking to you, I have a different perspective, maybe I should have accepted the engagement. The poor guy is probably going through the same thing you are right now.”
“I’m sure he wouldn’t appreciate it if you marry him out of sympathy.” he said what he honestly felt.
“Hmm, you’re right.” She agreed.
They shared stories and anecdotes until late night. For the first time in months, Panji could laugh again.