“I feel like wiping that big smirk off your face,” Roni said as Panji opened the door and stepped into the apartment.
“Roni, there’s something I have to tell you…” Panji hesitated a while, “We should sit down.”
“You look so serious, I’m getting worried, ” Roni joked.
“Cousin,” Panji sat down on the couch, he gestured Roni to sit in front of him, He waited until Roni was seated before continuing, “Look, my parents and my wife to be’s parents have agreed on a wedding date. We are going to get married in two months. ”
“Congratulations!” Roni said, “But why the serious face?”
“I’m marrying Luna….” Panji held his breath.
Roni opened his eyes in surprise, he looked at his cousin sharply, leaned back on the couch and swallowed his spit, “Lu…Luna…? But, how….how could you? You know that I have …”
“Cousin, you know that I have feelings for her, why did you ..”
“Roni….Luna and I, we knew each other from before she met you, we were friends, in the States. She…”
“It was you, her boyfriend…”
Panji nodded, “That’s not the only thing. I hope you won’t tell anybody about this, for her sake.” He exhaled, “Samantha is not really her sister, she’s our daughter. It happened when we were younger, it was my fault, she doubted and tried to refuse, but I wouldn’t take no for an answer.”
Panji was taken by surprise when suddenly Roni launched forward and punched him on the face, “You son of a bitch!” He shouted.
“What are you doing?” Panji covered himself with his arm to block in case Roni decided to attack again.
“I’m embarrassed to be related to you, I didn’t know that my cousin was such an irresponsible coward.” He fumed.
“I know…look, I told her that I’m really sorry about what happened in the past…I…”
Roni grabbed Panji by the collar of his shirt and pulled him up off the couch, “Sorry? Sorry isn’t enough. Sorry doesn’t cover what you did to her! You almost destroyed her!”
“Roni, what do you mean?” Panji was caught by surprise, “What do you mean I almost destroyed her?”
“You and her are the same age, but she graduated high school after you did, do you know why?”
“Because of the baby….. ”
“Not only that, when I was in high school, I heard talk, gossips around the school, about a girl, a transfer student from the US. The kids at school said that she was treated for a while in the psychiatric ward. Only after I got to know her, did I know that she wasn’t crazy like the kids say she was. She was very sad and depressed.”
“What?” Panji opened his eyes in disbelief.
“Now I think I know the real reason.” He released Panji’s collar and threw him against the couch.
“It must have been post-partum depression, but she didn’t tell me anything. She seemed so…. so calm and understanding about everything. Roni, I know you care for her, but by the way she’s taking this matter, I think she’s moved on and she has forgiven me.”
“I hope you’re right…. For her sake, I hope you’re right.”
“I love her, I want to make her happy, to cure her pain and take care of her for the rest of her life. I want to make it up to her for what happened in the past,” Panji said firmly.
“What about your late wife, how do you feel about her right now?” Roni arched his eyebrow.
“Anggraeni? She’s…..although she looked a lot like Luna and I can even go so far as saying that they might be twins, but for me she could never really take Luna’s place and vice versa, each woman holds a special place in my heart.” He replied solemnly.
* * *
“Good morning, Samantha,” Luna smiled as she pinched the little girl on the nose.
“Kak Luna, you look so pretty and you smell nice,” Samantha smiled drowsily, “I’m so happy to see you here.”
“I’m happy too,” She hugged her tightly.
“I’m still sleepy, I want to go back to sleep,” Samantha sank into the covers.
“We won’t have any of that. You haven’t said hello to Papa, and you went to bed without washing up or brushing your teeth,” Luna scolded. “You fell asleep in the car and kak Panji had to carry you all the way to your bed.”
“Kak Luna, your fiance, Kak Panji, I think he’s pretty nice,” She leaned up on her elbow.
“Do you really think so?” Luna’s eyes shone.
Samantha nodded, “I know so. I have a good feeling about him.”
“That’s good,” Luna caressed her hair, “I’m happy you feel that way about him. We are going to live together, the three of us, so it’s really important for me that the two of you get along well.”
“If we are living together, that means we’ll never be separated again, right? you wouldn’t have to go away again, you don’t need to go to the hospital for a long periods of time again, do you?”
Luna took a deep breath and shook her head, “I promise, I’m better now. I’m cured. Everything is different now.”
“Really?” Samantha’s eyes were wistful.
“Really!” Luna replied with security. “Now, you should get out of bed and take a shower. Kak Panji is going to take us out as soon as he arrives from work.”
“Kak, I want you to be healthy, I don’t want you to be sick, I don’t want to lose you like we lost Mama,” Samantha frowned, her eyes were moist with tears.
“My baby. You won’t lose me!” Luna comforted her, she kissed her daughter’s hairline. “Now come on, let’s get you cleaned up.”
* * *
“Hey, good morning beautiful,” Panji greeted as Luna opened the apartment door for him.
“I thought you would be here a little bit later.” She replied letting him into the apartment, ‘We haven’t had a chance to eat breakfast yet. In fact, Samantha is still getting dressed.”
“I guessed as much,” He remarked, “I actually came earlier than planed because T wanted to take the two of you out for breakfast before we start out activity for today.”
“Ah…, aren’t you the generous one,” She commented.
“Do you have any special requests?”
“As a matter of fact I do. I have a strong craving for Nasi Uduk(1),” She said.
“I know a good place.” He grinned, ‘I’m sure the two of you would love it.”
“Great! Wait here while I help her finish getting dressed.”
* * *
“Good morning, Den(2) Panji,” The seller an older man dressed in a very simple clothing saluted as Panji lead Luna and Samantha into the make shift restaurant. He turned to Luna then said familiarly, “Good morning, Neng. We haven’t seen you for quite some time.”
Panji’s face turned pale as he saw how Luna froze at the treatment from the older man, “Pak Saleh, this is Luna my fiance, and this is Samantha her sister.”
“Fiance?” He looked at Panji with a puzzled expression, “Luna? Ah, Neng Luna, welcome, please, take a seat, your breakfast will be ready soon.”
The three of them walked to a table and sat around it. Panji’s heart sank at the sight of Luna’s sour face, “Do you want anything else?” He asked trying to remedy the situation.
“Kak Panji, can I have crispy fried chicken intestine?” Samantha asked.
Panji cringed at his daughter’s taste, but he ordered on none the less nodded to her. Samantha got up from her chair and walked to the seller.
“Are you angry at me?” He asked Luna after Samantha had walked away.
“No!” She replied curtly.
“Then why are you putting on such a long pout? What’s wrong?” He continued to tease.
“Nothing, don’t mind me,” She sassed.
He grabbed her hand and held it in his firmly, “Hey, I brought you here because I thought you would love the food, not for anything else. I’m sorry, maybe I made a mistake, I didn’t remember that…”
“It’s okay, you had another life, in another time, with another woman…” Luna grumbled.
He brought her hand to his lips and kissed it, “That was a lifetime ago. But now, the one that I have and want is you and our little girl.”
“I don’t know, I think that you’re trying to wriggle your way out of this situation by sweet talking me.”
“I’m serious! Luna, I love you. I really do. If it makes you uncomfortable, we can leave and find some other place to eat,” He offered.
“No, don’t worry about it.” Luna brushed his offer.
“Hey, I got some crispy intestine for all of us,” Samantha handed each a small plastic sachet of crispy intestine.
Panji gulped, he forced himself to smile, he gingerly opened the sachet, took pout a piece of intestine and put it in his mouth trying hard not to spit it out.
Samantha smiled happily and ate hers, “It’s delicious, isn’t it?” She said cheerfully.
Panji nodded awkwardly, bracing himself to swallow the intestine in his mouth and put another one in.
Luna sneered while watching him forcing the pieces of meat down his throat. She opened her sachet and began eating hers too then she suddenly said, “Samantha, I think Kak Panji likes these intestines, why don’t you get to more packages for him. Ask the seller if he has bigger ones.”
“Of course, Kak Luna,” Samantha replied, “Kak Panji, I’m glad you like it.” She said.
Panji forced a smile on his lips, “Thank you, sweetie.” He said.
“I’m glad that you like it too.” Luna snickered after Samantha left the table.
“Don’t punish me this way,” He pleaded.
“Punish you? But the only thing I’m doing is arranging for you to eat more of these delicious crispy intestines.”
“I won’t do it again, I promise. Please don’t make me eat that horrible thing,” He sniffed back his tears.
* * *
After visiting Mr. Dartono, Panji decided to bring Luna and Samantha house searching. He handed her a stack of paper as she sat on the front passenger seat and asked her to read all the listing and point out one that interested her so they can go and take a look.
To his surprise, Luna was a very picky person when it came to houses. She would reject some for the bathrooms, the kitchen or the children bedroom. Finally, after hours of searching and as the sun began to set, they found one that she was happy about. It was a two story house. The bedrooms were on the second floor. The rooms had their respective bathrooms. The whole house itself atually had only three rooms, but he didn’t mind, they weren’t actually expecting any visitors to stay at their house.
Luna also loved the kitchen, it was spacious, modern and had all the necessary equipments. “It’s perfect!’ She exclaimed.
“There is a very good private school four blocks away,” The rel estate agent explained, “Maybe you would like to visit it, just iun case.”
“Yes,” Luna agreed, “We were going to look for a school for my little sister, maybe we should go and visit the school you mentioned.”
‘What do you think Samantha, do you like the house?” Panji asked.
Samantha nodded assertively, “I like it very much.”
“I’m glad you do.” He sighed in relief, “Then what documents do we need to submit.”
“Just your identity card, and you can transfer the rent to our account.” The woman said handing a small piece of paper to Panji.
“Okay, well, since my two Princesses here love this place, I think it would silly if I still doubted.” He replied, “I’ll live here for the time being, and the two of you can move in when this angel and I are finally married.” he grabbed Luna by the waist.
‘Hey, there are people here,” She protested.
“You look like a lovely couple,” The agent commented, “I’m sure you are going to enjoy this house vey much.
“Thank you!” Luna shook her hand.
“It’s late. Let’s go grab some dinner, then I’ll drive the two of yyou home,” Panji said to Luna ans Samantha who nodded in agreement.
* * *
She sat quietly in the dark room, she peered at her daughter from a distance then walked to the mirror at the corner of the room, as she looked at her reflection, she took a deep breath and took out her phone, “Maybe it’s time for you to come back now. Do you really want him to go ahead with the wedding? Are you sure about all this?”
She remained silent as she listened to the voice on the other side of the line.
“But I don’t know. Of course I like him, I like him a lot and above all he’s the father of our child.”
She listened carefully again.
“How can I be sure that he loves me too. What if…what if it’s not me who he loves, what if he only thinks of me as just a replacement?”
She clasped the phone as she paid attention.
“Do you think so? Could it be true? Does he really love me? If he did then why did he take Samantha and me to that restaurant this morning?”
She pinched the bridge of her nose with her fingers as she listened.
“Do you know what? Nuri said that because he knew me first, I was the person he really loved, me and not you.”
(1) Nasi Uduk is Jakarta style coconut rice with side dishes, usually bean cake and hot sauce.
(2) Den honorifics to refer to a young respectable man.
(3) Neng honorifics to refer to a young respectable woman.