“You’re back already?” Roni asked seeing Panji enter the apartment with his bag.
“Change of plans, it turns out that I wasn’t really happy with the photos that Luna took at the tourist attractions, so I decided to cut the trip short and reschedule with a professional photographer who can travel to Lombok and do the job, but this time I want someone who isn’t related to us so I can claim for a breach of contract if he doesn’t show up or cancels at the last minute.”
“Ah, okay. And, I won’t be holding it against you that you only worked for me for a little more than a month, as long as you give me the other websites.” Roni declared.
“Hmm.., my mother called you, huh?” Panji could imagine what had happened.
“Yeah, she didn’t waste any time or hold back on any thoughts. I have to congratulate you on your marriage. Although I don’t know why it was rushed. I would accuse you of getting your bride pregnant, if I didn’t know that it was an arranged marriage and you haven’t met her yet,” Roni smirked.
Panji smiled nervously, “I’m just grabbing what’s mine before it slips away from me.”
“The investment or the girl?”
“The girls, they’re both mine. ”
Roni scratched his head in confusion.
* * *
“Papa, how are you?” Luna answered her cell phone. She quickly jumped out of the couch and walked to the balcony. From the corner of her eyes, she could see Nuri observing her.
“Okay, I have good news for you, your sister is flying back the day after tomorrow with your Aunt Emma. The flight is 25 hours so they’ll arrive in four days.” He paused, “We are going to have dinner with your future husband and his parents tomorrow night, make sure you be there, otherwise I’ll cancel your sister’s return. It took a lot of efforts to get her into a good school there in the States, so I’m not very happy about bringing her back, I’m doing it only so you would agree to the arrangement.”
“I’ll be there!” She reassured him. She didn’t hurry to go in, instead she sat on the chair on the balcony.
“Are you alright?” Nuri peeked through the sliding door.
Luna nodded, “I was just thinking about a relative of mine, you see she married a man who’s late wife was said to look exactly like her. Obviously this relative of mine isn’t too happy about it.”
“I think that she should leave right away, why be with a guy who would see you as someone else. The horror! What happens if her husband suddenly calls out the other woman’s name when they sleep together, ” Nuri replied without a doubt.
“Even thinking about it gives me the chills.” Luna’s heart beat faster just thinking about it. Her face became pale.
“What? Sleep together? Isn’t that what married people do?” She continued to tease her friend.
“Shameless woman!” She tried to control her voice.
“There’s only the two of us here. But think about it, your relative should consider it properly.”
“The problem is they already have a daughter, and she wants her daughter to grow up with a complete family. ”
“Hmm… Some women choose to sacrifice their happiness for their children and live a miserable existence in a loveless and unhappy marriage.”
“It’s not that she doesn’t love him…. ”
“But the question is does he love her? Or does he see his dead wife every time they’re together.” Nuri paused obviously waiting for her response. “So this relative of yours, do I know her?”
“What if you do and what if you don’t?”
“Never mind, instead of talking about people I don’t know, why not tell me about your trip to Lombok? How was it? Did you have a good time? Did he make a move on you?”
“Why would he make a move on me?” Luna blushed.
“Hmm, your face looks like a boiled crab. So, did anything big happen?” Nuri didn’t want to let it go.
Luna exhaled, “Can you keep a secret?”
“You know I can… ” Her friend exclaimed.
“You know the relative that I was just telling you about?”
“The married one with a daughter?”
“Well actually she’s not married yet, she does have a daughter and she’s about to marry her daughter’s father, who is a widower who’s wife is said to look like her.”
“Wait a minute, let me see if I understand this properly. Your relative is about to marry a widower who’s late wife looks like her, is the daughter theirs or his from his previous marriage?”
“So they’ve known each other before. Before he was married to his dead wife or were they having an affair before his wife died?” Nuri was clearly trying to understand the situation.
“No, of course not. The daughter was born long before he got married. She never told him or anyone about the child because they were separated due to unfortunate circumstances.”
“Hmm, that sounds complicated. So what’s the big secret that I’m supposed to keep?”
“I’m talking about me. Not my relative.”
“You? How could that be? A daughter?”
“But that would mean you had her when you were.. ”
“I need to sit down,” Nuri gasped as she sat next to her friend. “No wonder you’re so protective of her, and the two of you are inseparable. And her biological father?”
“Panji, he was my boyfriend in high school. He had some dental and facial modifications done so that’s why I didn’t recognize him.”
“He had plastic surgery? Did he used to be ugly?”
“No,” Luna almost couldn’t hold back her laughter. “Crooked teeth and a mole removal on his chin. Besides shaving his head like that, totally changed the way he looked.”
“Hmm, that I can’t deny,” Nuri muttered, “But the two of you? And Samantha? Wow! I would have never guessed.”
Luna nodded, “He wants me to marry him so the three of us can live together. He was also the guy I was supposed to get engaged to last month.”
“Huh, what a strange twist of fate,” Nuri replied, “So if you knew him way before he married his deceased wife, and your relationship went so far as to result in Samantha’s birth, that could only mean one thing.”
“Oh yeah? What?”
“That he married her because she looked like you, and not vice versa.”
* * *
“We’ll meet our parents at the restaurant tonight at seven, make sure you look beautiful as always!” He sais as they were in the elevator.
“Are we going together? Are you sure it would be alright?” She asked dubiously.
“Of course it is. I have to make a stop somewhere before I go home to Roni’s,” He stated.
“Do you need me to give you a ride?”
“No, it’s okay, I’ll take a taxi I’ll be at your apartment at six. See you later,” He gave her a peck on the cheek before rushing out of the elevator as soon as they reached the first floor.
Luna waved at him, she arrived at the basement and walked towards the parking lot, wondering what he was up to.
* * *
“That dolled up look actually becomes you,” Nuri said as she was leaning on the door of the room, “You should do it more often.”
“Well, this is my big chance to give Samantha a real family. I guess I have to dress appropriately for the occasion.” Luna replied while putting on her shoes.
“Don’t tell me you’re not just a little bit interested in looking good for you baby daddy?” Nuri pinched her index finger and thumb together.
“I am…” she blushed.
‘How do you plan to tell Samantha about this?”
“Slowly. We want her to get to know Panji first, then when we see that she’s ready to accept the situation we’ll tell her. But it’s going take time. She still thinks that I’m her older sister. We don’t want to confuse her or give her a shock.”
“Oh, that’s right. I came to tell you that he’s waiting for you in the living room.”
“Ah..thanks. Are you sure I look okay? I’m not over-dressed or something am I?” She asked again.
“No, you look absolutely gorgeous.”
She walked nervously to the living room. She stood still in her steps when she saw him standing in front of the glass door looking out to the balcony. Luna coughed gently to get his attention.
Panji turned around, to her surprised he clasped his chest and folded his body, “Are you alright?” She quickly rushed to his side.
He put his arm around her and looked up with a big smile, “Seeing you so stunning like this almost made me get a heart attack.”
“Stop fooling around!” She pouted, “You scared me.”
“I’m sorry…But you do look very beautiful. This is for you, I hope you like it.” He handed her a small black velvet box.
“What is it?” She asked.
“You won’t know if you don’t open it!”
Luna opened her eyes in surprise and gasped, she could feel her heart beat with excitement, “A ring?”
“It’s only appropriate for me to get you one since we are now engaged. Let me put it on.” He took the ring from the box held her hand and slipped it on her ring finger.
“Who knew you had good taste.” She admired the ring as she lifted her hand up.
“Of course I do, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be marrying you, would I now?” He replied cheekily. “Let’s go it’s getting late.”
His hand on her back was warm and gentle as they walked out of the apartment and headed down in the elevator, “I imagine that we’re taking a taxi, right?” She said.
“I brought my car here,” He replied.
“You have a car? Then why do you hitch a ride with me everyday?”
“I don’t hitch, I pay for the gas, remember? Besides what better way to get close to you than ridding on your scooter every day?”
“Hmm, you’re very fast, aren’t you?”
“No! I’m just sure of what I want and not afraid to get it!” His voice was stern.
* * *
“This is the place,” He said as he parked the car and secured the hand break.
“Are you sure that we should go in together? Wouldn’t it be better that we pretend not to know each other?”
“You brought me home and introduced me to your father, remember?”
“Ah, that’s right.”
“Hey,” He grabbed her hand, “Everything is going to be alright. You’re not alone, I’m with you.”
“What if they find out about… ”
“Then we’ll figure something out! Come on, what happened to the cheerful and happy girl who ran away from our engagement party on a scooter?”
“I guess you’re right, let’s go,” she sighed.
* * *
“We have reservations,” Panji said to the host, “We’re meeting Mr. Erlangga.”
“Of course, sir. This way.. ” He showed them inside to a private room. “The other guests have arrived.”
“They have?” Luna asked.
“Yes, Mr. Erlangga and his wife and also Mr. Dartono.” The host elaborated.
“Ah, excellent.” Panji exclaimed.
The host opened the door for them and welcomed them in.
“Ah, you’ve arrived,” Mrs. Dari said upon seeing them. “I see you’ve met Miss Luna.”
“Actually we arrived together, Luna works with Roni, and she lives in the apartment next to his.” Panji explained, ” Mr. Dartono, it’s good to see you again, sir.”
“How are you? It’s good to see that the two of you are getting along,” Luna’s father replied.
“Yes we are getting along,” Panji remarked as he pulled out a chair for her.
After shaking hands with her future in laws, Luna sat down at the table next to him.
Panji glanced at her shaking hand that was hidden under the table. He held it firmly to give her encouragement.
“So you work with Roni, what do you do?” Mr. Erlangga asked kindly.
“I’m a web designer.” She replied.
“She’s the one developing our site for the hotel in Lombok.” Panji explained, “Oh, by the way, we need to change the photographer…”
“We can talk about work another time,” His mother cut in impatiently, “Why don’t we talk about the wedding date, we propose to set it for three months from now, what do you think, Mr. Dartono?”
“Can’t we move it forward?” Panji asked to everyone’s surprise.
“What’s the rush?” Mr. Dartono asked suspiciously.
“We recently came back from a trip to Lombok together, and it just seems right to get married sooner than later.” He answered vaguely.
He felt Luna looked at him with her mouth wide open, surprised at what he was insinuating.
“Not that anything out of norm happened, not at all, ” He added, “We have discovered that we enjoy each other’s company very much, and we want to move forward with our lives together.”
Panji saw Mr. Dartono exhaled in relief. “Why not, if that’s what the children want, I don’t have any objections. It’s recommended not to delay marriage when two people are willing and ready to avoid unwanted circumstances.”
Mr. Erlangga laughed to lighten the situation, “It looks like our son is impatient. Ma, why don’t we schedule it for two months from now. I think it will give us enough time to make preparations.”
“I agree,” Mrs. Dari nodded.
“There’s one more thing that I’d like to ask from Mr. Dartono,” Panji took the opportunity to ask, “Luna mentioned that she has a younger sister whom she loves very much, and she wants to be with her, I want to have your permission for her to come and live with us. I will take care of all her expenses.”
“I don’t know if that’s a good idea, ” Mr. Dartono said looking at his daughter judgmentally, “Young married couples need their privacy and intimacy.”
“I insist! Luna’s happiness is my priority.” Panji said again.
“I suppose it’s okay if you insist on it,” Luna’s father surrendered.
“Thank you,” Panji was relieved, he felt Luna gently squeezing his hand as she put on a sweet smile.