The door opened immediately after one knock, her face was pale and she was cracking her fingers in anxiety, “Come in,” She welcomed him.
He walked in slowly finding the small couch he sat down and made himself comfortable by crossing his legs while putting one hand on the armrest and the other on the couch.
Luna walked nervously and sat on the edge of the bed.
“We don’t have to do this if you don’t feel comfortable,” His voice was sincere and understanding.
“No, I want you to know everything about me before we start a relationship. That way if you decide to not go ahead with this, it won’t hurt me.”
“Okay,” He agreed.
She took out her cell phone, he saw her tapping on the screen a few times then she handed it to him.
Panji received it and looked at the photo on the screen his heart shuddered at the sight of the photo on the display, it was of a young girl, “Is this her? Samantha? Your sister?” He looked at her questioning expression then added, “Roni told me last night.”
Luna shook her head, “That’s what we tell everybody, but she’s not really my sister, my parents adopted her as their daughter. She’s actually mine, my daughter.”
He passed his finger on the screen as if to caress the face in the picture, “She’s beautiful, she looks just like her mother.”
“She’s everything to me, she’s my universe.”
“And her father?” He asked choking on his own voice.
Luna shook her head, “It was just a boy who I met in high school, we lost contact before I knew that I was pregnant.”
His heart thumped, “Just a boy? The boy whose necklace you still wear to this very day?”
She grabbed the chain around her neck and nodded.
“Is that why you named her Samantha? You said you called him Sam, didn’t you?”
“Yes, ” Her voice was but a whisper.
“So he’s not just a boy to you, is he?” He chased.
“You see, that’s why I try not to get involved with anyone. My father tried to fix me up with men from distinguished families so many times, and I always end up leaving the house with my daughter. Anyway two months ago, the Erlangga family of Kediri Jaya Properties, the owners of this place, officially asked for my hand, he sent her away to live with my aunt in the States so they wouldn’t find about ….about my condition.” She evaded his question.
He remained silent looking at the cell phone screen.
“So after knowing this, I understand if you decide that you don’t want to continue with our relationship.”
“I…. ” He didn’t know what to say, he sat in silence again for a few minutes.
Luna sighed, she bit her shaking lip, her face was pale and her eyes moist with tears.
Panji took a deep breath, sat up putting both feet on the floor, before daring himself to say, “You still wear the necklace I gave you for our fourth month anniversary, gave birth and raised my daughter, you even named her after me, after the nickname which you gave me, but you don’t remember what I look like?
“Wh…what?” She opened her eyes in surprise.
“After you left to go back to Indonesia, my father came for us.” He paused, “He took us to Europe for a month, we traveled to different countries, that’s why I didn’t have access to emails and I never contacted you. When we arrived in Indonesia, I read your emails and tried to respond but it all bounced back.” He continued.
“This can’t be happening,” She said to herself, “How could you… ”
“I tried to give you hints, with my comments about the necklace, the Twinkies, and many other small things, but you couldn’t seem to recognize me.” He brushed his face with his hand, “Do you hate me that much that you wiped me out of your memory and not realized who I was even though I was standing in front of you?”
“No..no…no! I’m not some scatter-brained bimbo,” She stood from the bed and began pacing, “Sam had crooked teeth and you don’t, a small mole on his chin, and he had darker skin.”
“Ah….so you actually do remember him, I thought you said that you wouldn’t recognize him even if he were standing in front of you. Braces and a very good dental plan. The mole was cauterized, my mother was afraid that it was something more serious, thank goodness it wasn’t, and you were just making it up about the darker skin,” He pointed to his face.
“Huh! You had plastic surgery and you blame me for not recognizing you!” She raised her voice. “Besides, remembering people by their dentures and physical marks are valid things, they even use it to identify cadavers!”
“It wasn’t plastic surgery! And I’m not dead!” He huffed, “That’s beside the point. After knowing who I am, do you hate me?”
“This is all too sudden,” She stopped pacing, “I need time to think about everything.”
“I understand, I’ll give you time to think.” He said leaning back on the couch lifting one leg and crossing it on top of the other.
“Why are you making yourself comfortable?” Luna crinkled her brow.
“What’s wrong with that?”
“I just told you I need time to think, alone!”
“I’m not leaving this room,” He shrugged.
“What?” Her tone was angry.
“Luna, I just found out that we have a daughter, and you have a habit of running away and evading me, do you think that I’m going to let you do that again? If I leave you alone, you might pack up your bags and go. Not only will I lose you again for the second time, I’ll lose any chance to meet my daughter too,” He replied calmly.
“What is it exactly that you want?” She looked at him suspiciously.
“I still want the same thing I did when I walked into this room earlier, I want us.”
“When you walked in here.” She repeated, “You knew about Samantha, didn’t you?”
“I suspected it.” He admitted.
She sat down again on the bed, “I want my daughter back. I want her here with me.”
He stood up from the couch and sat next to her,”Does she know that she’s not your sister?”
Luna shook her head.
“So she doesn’t know that I even exist…” Panji sighed.
“Well, what do you expect?” She shrugged.
“I’m sorry that I wasn’t there, for you and her.” He lamented.
“Even if you were, there wasn’t so much you could have done for us, we were too young,”
“But at least I could have seen her birth, watch her grow, and be her friend,”
“If it wasn’t because my father wanted me to marry the son of Kediri Jaya Properties, she wouldn’t have to go away,” She sulked.
“About that, there’s something else you need to know….”
“You’re the widowed son that I was supposed to get engaged to….”
“I can explain…”
“Don’t bother, I guess it wasn’t a coincidence that we met on the street that night…”
“Because it was fate?” He asked.
“Dhuh! Because, we ran away from the same engagement party!”
He laughed, “Yes, we did…”
“You still can, watch her grow, and be her friend,” She took his hand.
“What are you saying?” He looked at her wistfully.
“We can bring her back, I’m broke, with my salary I couldn’t afford tickets to the States, but, you…”
“You’re right, we can bring her back, but we don’t need to go there,”
“We’ll have your father bring her back, call him and tell him that you’ll agree to the arranged marriage as long as he brings Samantha home.” Panji told her his idea.
“Good idea, maybe I should tell him who you are, ” She suggested.
“If you do that, I think he might try to punish me for what I did to you. He might even refuse to bring her home, just to make me suffer. ”
“I’ll call my parents to set up the wedding preparations.”
“Wait, wedding preparations?”
“Don’t you want to give our daughter a real family?”
“I do, but marriage? I don’t know…” Her hands were shaking and she was perspiring cold sweat.
“What is it? I want her to live with me so I can make up for the time I lost, and I’m sure you also want to be with her. We can’t live together without being married, otherwise we can get arrested for immoral behavior,” Seeing her reaction made him very worried.
“I know, but I….. ,” She started nervously.
Panji froze up followed by a sigh, “Let’s worry about it later, you should call your father first.”
She nodded as she picked up her cell phone from the couch.
* * *
“What did he say?” He asked as her long call concerned him. He had finished talking to his parents about the arrangements far before she wrapped up her conversation.
“Well, I told him that I’d agree to the fix marriage as long as he brings Samantha home, he was reluctant at first, obviously he doesn’t want your family to find out one way or another that I have a child, he thinks that marrying into a high profile family like yours, I’m likely to be under scrutiny by your extended family members and someone might decide to look into my background. But he agreed after I reasoned with him with one good argument,” She paused on purpose.
He knew her intention to build a suspension for her story, but asked anyway, “What was that?
“It’s your family who needs this marriage engagement, they are practically selling you to me. So I’m sure that your parents would choose to ignore any skeletons in my closet. In fact they may help cover it up.”
“Hmm, you’re right, but between you and me, we have to do our best to protect Samantha’s feelings, we have to make sure that she’s ready to accept us before breaking the news to her. ” He waited before continuing in case she had anything to say, “When is he sending for her?”
“He said that he’ll call my aunt right away to find out when they can fly back. The new school year has just started so we have time to register her in a good school.”
“That won’t be a problem as far as money is concerned.”
“Your a big talker for someone who is selling himself for an investment.”
“Hey, I have a job and a good personal credit line. It is my parents who need the investment, not me. I’m not fifteen,.I don’t plan to ask money from my parents to provide for my family.”
“Ah.. that didn’t occur to me.”
“Hmm, I asked my parents to skip the engagement and set a wedding date, they were confused with my change of heart, but I told them that I’ve come to my senses.”
“Hey, I thought we were going to talk about it, I haven’t… ”
“What’s your reluctance? Is it me? I thought you felt the same way I do. It’s not like we don’t have a good reason to get married soon.” He couldn’t understand her inconsistency.
“Panji, remember that afternoon at your house, when we……, when Samantha….. ” She could hardly mention it.
“Yes,” He replied curtly.
“It hurt me and after that, I found out that I was pregnant, it wasn’t a pleasant experience for me. I don’t want to go through it again, I like you a lot and I like to be near you and spend time with you, I like it when you hold my hand and kiss me, but when people get married, there are other things, more…. Intimate…. that …”
“Luna, I’m sorry for what I did to you, didn’t I promise you that I won’t ask you to do it again? I’ll keep my word. I won’t obligate you to do anything that you don’t want to do. ” He held her hand, “Let’s build a family, okay? Just the three of us.”
“Are you sure?” She wasn’t convinced.
“Of course I am. If you don’t want to do it, I won’t make you.”
She sighed in relief, “I guess it’s only fair if I promise you that I’ll look the other way if you decide to find comfort outside the house.”
“That’s not the promise I’m looking for, I want you to promise to give me the chance and not try to prevent me from attempting to win you over completely and wipe away the fear of intimacy that you have inside your heart. ” He held her shoulder.
“I promise,” She replied.
“Let’s shake on that,” Panji extended his hand.
“Why do I get the eerie feeling that I’ve sold my soul away.”
He smirked, “I want to cut this trip short, I’m going to cancel the photographer, let’s go back to Jakarta. I want to find a house and look at some schools.”
“But what about the webpage?”
“You can start working on the wordings and the other things, we’ll come back here for the photos with Samantha, I’m sure she’d love it. Besides this trip was my scheme to spend some time alone with you.”