March 13, 2009

Evie Nadia III: There Will Be No Regret

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episode 20 Part One will follow shortly after.
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- edwan


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Saturday

Sunlight fell on her face; Evie roused from sleep. She turned, placing the palms of her hand beneath her, on her stomach. The stomach cramps and pains were getting worse. She rarely got bad period pains; in fact she couldn’t remember the last bad one. She grumbled and woke up, not feeling too well in her tummy. She took a swig of water from a bottle she always kept bedside, and that seemed to comfort her stomach a little.

Evie stretched and yawned, her hair messed up and all over the place. As she sat, slightly drowsy, on the bed, she did some breathing exercises to get some oxygen up and running in her bloodstream. She had things to do; and she meant to do them as soon as possible.

Her eyes fell on the ring and the wedding album. Immediately she got up and went to her dressing table, where she kept her jewelry box. She fished around in there and came out with a thin, black leather string with a clasp. She removed the original pendant (a brushed steel medallion with a tribal motif on; where did she get that? She could not remember) and threaded the leather through her wedding ring, creating a makeshift necklace. Pleased with herself, she put it on around her neck and checked the mirror to see how it looked.

The ring rested just below the middle of her clavicles, above her bosoms. The black string contrasted starkly against her skin, and seemed to be a very youthful accessory for someone her age. But she had already decided she would not wear the ring; not yet anyway. At the same time she didn’t just want to leave it on top of a shelf or chuck it in her jewelry box (which contained mostly costume jewelry; she wasn’t a big fan of precious stones and metal). So hanging the ring on her neck was an ideal compromise.

Evie showered and made herself breakfast: two chicken frankfurters, baked beans, two soft-boiled eggs, three pieces of toast and a pear, with hot tea. As she ate she planned her day; at the same time her hand kept touching the ring hanging below her neck.

Would Adam be free today? She needed to talk to him. But it was Saturday, not the best of times for someone working in a restaurant; it was highly unlikely that he would have the time to spare. And she didn’t want to talk about anything unless he really had the time, because this has to count.

What was Rafar doing? But no, no, no. She can’t see Rafar. Not now. Not yet.

She decided that she would visit her parents in Shah Alam and take them to lunch; she wanted to tell them what she was planning. She wanted to tell them what she wanted in her life. So she called her parents’ house, and her father, Mr. Hakimi picked up. He was delighted as ever to hear Evie was coming over.

“I'm buying lunch today, okay Ayah? Tell Ibu alright,” she said.

Her father agreed and actually shouted over the phone to her Ibu, who sounded a bit further away. Evie heard a murmured ‘Okay okay’. Later as the clock struck noon, she was already in her parents’ house, waiting for them to get ready. The day was hot and sunny and humid; ‘cuaca rimas’ as she likes to call it. Evie dressed in a loose and comfortable white short sleeve button down shirt and jeans with flip-flops. She waited in the living room, talking with her mother. Her father was getting ready.

“How have you been dear?” Mrs. Nadzrah asked. “You look better. Less tired.”

“I'm alright, Ibu. Been getting stomach cramps and pains for a few days now, but otherwise I'm fine,” Evie said.

“Stomach cramps? You should go to a doctor.”

“Ibu, I'm okay, I think it’s my menses, don’t worry alright?”

Mrs. Nadzrah nodded. Evie thumbed through a copy of Anjung Seri that was on the coffee table.

“By the way I heard about your… predicament. Ayah told me,” her mother said. She adjusted her tudung.

“Ayah really can’t keep a secret huh?” Evie said, joking.

“Even if he did I’d have pried it from him anyway,” Mrs. Nadzrah said, smiling. “But you do look much better dear. I'm glad. And what’s that on your neck?”

“Hm? Oh. It’s… well,” Evie pulled it out. “I didn’t want to leave it around. But I also don’t want to wear it… yet.”

Mrs. Nadzrah raised her eyebrows when Evie showed her. She turned to her daughter. “Don’t want to wear it yet?”

Evie smiled. “We’ll talk about it over lunch. Ayah’s ready.”

“Yes I am, and I am hungry as a… as a what dear?” Mr. Hakimi said to Mrs., Nadzrah as he came down the stairs. Evie’s mother said dryly.

“As an old man?”

Evie laughed and the three of them left the house, riding in Evie’s car. Evie brought them to a dim sum restaurant at Shah Alam Mall, near Shah Alam’s city center. Despite her big breakfast she was already hungry, and the steaming bamboo containers contained delicious morsels of Chinese delicacies for her to ravage. They talked as they ate, though it was sometime before Evie herself began to talk; the food was too good to ignore.

Mrs. Nadzrah asked her what has brought the sudden change in demeanor. “I'm guessing it has something to do with that little thing around your neck?”

“What’s around her neck?” asked Mr. Hakimi, chewing on a wonton dumpling. Evie showed him. “Isn’t that your wedding ring? Why are you wearing it there?”

Evie rolled her eyes and playfully scolded her father for not remembering what she already told him. But she gave a brief recap anyway. “Anyway a few days ago I checked my mail and it was there. No stamps too. He must have dropped it himself.”

“Interesting,” Mrs. Nadzrah said. “And?”

Evie sipped some hot tea. Her father eyed her quietly, no doubt recalling the conversation he had with her. “Don’t push the girl, let her tell in her own time,” he said to Mrs. Nadzrah. “I'm sure she’s made the right decision.”

“I know, I was just curious. It’s just been so long since I’ve seen you really happy,” Mrs. Nadzrah said and touched her daughter’s hand.

Evie Nadia waved a hand. “It’s alright, I was going to tell you two anyway. So, uhm, I think I…”

Evie told her parents over their dim sum lunch. Upon receiving the news, her parents seemed glad; but most obviously, Evie felt there was a wave of relief coming off their expressions. They must have been thinking of her happiness. Evie felt touched; thirty years on and they still haven’t stopped caring.


“But it’s funny huh, how things turn out?” Evie said. “I never saw this coming, Ayah, Ibu.”

“Well of course you didn’t dear,” her mother said. “Nobody can anyway. What’s important is that you’re clear about what you want. You’re taking a step forwards.”

“Yes, of course,” her father chided in. “Remember what I told you, Evie. It’s your decision. And I trust your judgment.”

“I just don’t want to be in one spot anymore. I want to be happy. I think I deserve to be.” Evie said.

“And as long as you’re happy, my girl, then we’re happy,” said Mrs. Nadzrah. Evie saw she was almost crying, but she hid it well. Her father, though, suddenly seemed too preoccupied with ordering dessert rather than saying anything to Evie. Mrs. Nadzrah elbowed him in the ribs.

“What?” There’s nothing left for me to say. She’s a smart girl. She’s my daughter after all,” he said. Then he turned to Evie, with a tender and fond look in his eyes. “But yes, I'm glad. Like your Ibu said, we’ll always pray for your happiness dear.”

“Thank Ayah. Thanks Ibu. I needed to hear that.”

All three of them ended up ordering dessert; Evie was feeling more cheered up every second. After lunch they walked around the small shopping centre. Mr. Hakimi, much to Evie’s amusement, suddenly decided to get a haircut even thought there was nothing much to cut. “It looks bushy,” he said. Evie found it funny and didn’t bother hiding it. Her father told her to shoo away and help her mother shop or something. She saw her mother checking out scarves, engrossed in what was probably bargaining with the awkward teenage girl manning the stall. Evie made her way to a mobile phone kiosk and in a spur of the moment decision, decided to shell out for one of the latest handsets.

Afterwards they went back home and the three of them talked in the living room. Outside it was still hot and sticky so Evie was relieved to be in the cool living room of her parents’ house. Later Mrs. Nadzrah fell asleep on the sofa. Her father was lying on the marble floor, head resting on cushion, and soon he too fell asleep. Evie flipped through magazines for a few minutes, enjoying the serenity of the moment. She gazed lovingly at her parents; silently grateful to God for this life she was living in. She ticked off a box in a mental checklist; parents, done.

She thought about the person she needed to talk to next. But first she fell asleep on the sofa.


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Tuesday

On the previous Friday Evie had taken home some of her work and she spent the rest of her weekend and Sunday doing it. On Monday she took the work back to her office; they were already three quarters of the way done, and on Monday she forced herself to finish them and not procrastinate. The last piece of work was done by quarter to six o’clock. She felt triumphant. Now she could arrange a meeting with him to talk.

But first she got her hair done; before going home yesterday she dropped by her favorite salon and asked for a wash and a haircut. Today, she has a new ‘do. Her hair is now slightly shorter, just shoulder length, but it had that layered look and now she sported short bangs that she thought would make her eyes stand out. She was mightily pleased with the new look; her receptionist, Alya, immediately proclaimed she wanted the same look, which Evie found flattering. She felt pleased.

When she came into her office and saw that her workload was not so heavy, it made her very happy for no reason. There was still a lot to do, of course, but most of it was trivial stuff she could do with her eyes closed and her hands tied behind her back. What this meant was that she could have a clearer mind to talk to him. And the thought made her slightly nervous. But she was adamant; this must be done, in all fairness.

She drew in a deep breath and picked up the phone. It took only one ring for him to pick up; he must have been eager for her call.

“Hey,” he said over the phone. Evie sensed his joy and felt a tiny bit guilty.

“Hey Adam,” she said. “Are you free sometime this week? Can we talk?”

“This week? Yeah, yeah. Sure, anytime. You name it”

Evie sensed the sudden up swell of wariness in his tone. She had to make this easy. “Okay. How abo--, ouff..”

“Evie? Evie, what’s wrong? Are you okay? Evie?”

Evie winced; she held one hand to her tummy. “I'm okay, sorry.”

“You sure? Did you hurt yourself? Do you want me to come over?”

“What? No, no. I'm fine. It’s that time of the month, I think.”

“Oh, okay… Well, if you need anything…”

“I'm alright, thanks. So,uh, as I was saying, what about tonight? Are you free tonight, or does Luna need its boss?”

“Tonight’s great. Where and when?”

Evie thought for a few seconds. Where should they go? Preferably someplace nice. She got it. “Do you know Tamarind Springs in Ampang?”

“Know it? Lady, I worked there once. Yeah, that sounds great.”

“Okay, that’s good. I’ll make the reservation. Eight o clock?”

“Eight it is; I’ll pick you up. It’s along the way anyway.”

“Uhm, I think I’ll go myself, if you don’t mind.”

“Oh.”

Silence. Then he said, “Well, eight o’clock then. See you.”

“See you Adam Amirulkhair.”

Evie hung up. It was time for her and Adam to really have the talk. In essence she already knew what she wanted, but all the same she wanted to see Adam again. It was only fair. She would not want to go down as the bad person.

She breezed through the rest of that day’s work; when lunchtime came she ordered pizza and shared it with Alya. The young receptionist kept praising her new hairstyle and Evie found it cutely irritating after awhile. The whole day she kept looking at the clock, and it seemed like the more she looked, the slower time seemed to pass. To help make it easier she brought forward work that wasn’t due and set out completing them; finally, at six o’clock, she packed her belongings and went home, where she allowed herself a short, 20 minute nap before showering and getting ready.

At half past seven she drove to Tamarind Springs, a nice Vietnamese-Cambodian restaurant in Ampang. She reached there at ten to eight, and when she pulled into the parking lot she glimpsed Adam’s black NSX. So he’s here, she thought. Very nice of him to be early. Evie made her way to the entrance where she found Adam waiting; he had a small bouquet of roses and held it out to her.

“I didn’t have time to get a bigger bunch or nicer ones,” he said. Evie accepted them.

“You didn’t have to, Adam,” she said.

“It’s okay… Its just flowers. And I love your new haircut,” he said and winked. They were led to a table by the hostess and sat themselves. The hostess handed them their menus.

“So,” Adam said as he opened the menu card. “How have you been?”

“I'm.. I'm alright,” she said.

“Just the time of the month yea?”

“Yea.. eheh.”

Evie thought Adam was being really careful. The flowers were nice, but they also seemed like an afterthought. It was like he already knew what she was going to say, and had bought the flowers as a coupon to win her over. Evie felt sad. She decided to talk more general stuff and have dinner first. Adam tried to steer the conversation into ‘the talk’, and he kept injecting his words with praise and niceties for Evie. When their dinner arrived they ate in relative silence; there weren’t that many people in the restaurant.

“Evie,” Adam said, softly.

“Yes?”

“I thought you said you wanted to talk?”

Evie nodded. “I do.”

He waited. Evie wiped her mouth with a napkin. She felt nervous all of a sudden. But her resolve was strong. It was now or never; she would say it today, come hell or high water. “Adam…”

“Yes, Evie?”

“I want to say that of all the men I’ve ever dated in my years as a singleton, I think… no, I believe you’re the sweetest, nicest, handsomest and the most interesting. You’re funny, smart, you dress nice. Your charming, with your winking and your cooking. Adam, you stand out among them so clearly that it’s a wonder I haven’t met you before. Plus you drive a sports car. I'm surprised some Mak Datin hasn’t made you her toy-boy yet.”

They both laughed a little; it was a lame joke, but it eased some of the dread. Evie took a deep breath.

“Adam, do you really love me?”

“What?”

“I ask; do you really love me?”

“Why, yes, sure,” he held Evie’s hand. “I do love you.”

“Say it to me, like you said it before. Like the first time you said it.”

“Why?”

“Please, I need to know something.”

Adam paused; he seemed perplexed, and he stared at Evie for a moment, unsure. “Alright,” he said and this time he took a deep breath. “Evie Nadia, I love you. I really do.”

As his voice formed those words Evie Nadia closed her eyes; in the brief darkness she tried to catch the words and see if they had pierced. She tried to glimpse if those words would stir her soul or send her heart into crazed palpitations. She heard Adam say her name, but it was vague and distant. He loves me, she thought in a split second of time. But I…

“Evie?”

She opened her eyes and saw Adam was still holding her hand. “Evie, did you hear me?” Adam said.

“I heard you Adam,” she said. He waited to see if she would say something else, but Evie seemed quiet at the moment.

“Evie,” he sighed. “I know you’ve had a lot on your mind. But I need to know. I need to know how you feel and I need to know where we are.”

He was right, Evie thought. He needed to know where they were. It would be unfair and cruel for her to keep him in the dark about this. Honesty was the least she could do. She has made her choice. And now she would tell Adam.

“Adam,” she said, gently, her voice caressing. He looked at her with hopeful eyes. “Adam, when I said you’re one of the most amazing men I’ve gone out with… I really meant it. And I think perhaps I'm forever indebted to you, because in the briefest of times you showed me how my life needn’t be lonely and alone. You showed me I still had much to live for.”

“What are you saying, Babe?” he asked, but his face and the tremble of his voice showed he already knew the truth.

Evie felt tears welling behind her eyes. She couldn’t help it. “I do love you Adam, but I'm sorry I have to say that I don’t love you in the same way you love me. I'm sorry. I needed to tell you this because I don’t want to give you false hope or half-truths. You deserve to be told the truth and only the truth.”

Adam looked down on the table. Evie couldn’t read his expression. But she spoke.

“I can’t be the woman you want me to be. I'm sorry.”

They both became quiet. It was awkward; very awkward. Evie managed to keep her tears in check, and she had to concede that telling that to Adam, effectively breaking his heart, left a nasty taste in her mouth. This feeling was heightened by his silence.

“Adam,” Evie said. “Adam, say something.”

He looked up at her, his face defeated. But he managed to smile. “What is there to say?”

“I just wanted… no, I was hoping you’d understand…”

“Understand?” he said, his voice sounding, for the first time since they met, tired. “I think I do. It’s quite simple to be honest: Your heart doesn’t belong to me…”

“Adam, I'm sorry.”

“Sorry for what?”

“Well, if you think I’ve been leading you on, or giving you wrong impressions.”

He rubbed his face. “No, don’t. Please. You don’t have to apologize.”

“What?”

“I mean it. Don’t apologize,” Adam said, this time leaning closer to her. He toyed with her fingers again. “Let me tell you something, okay?”

“Alright…”

“When I asked you about him last time, I knew your decision was made. It was in the way you talked about him; your voice had wavered but there was this… vitality in your eyes. I think I saw the path you’d take. I was hoping to try, to get another go, but secretly… well, secretly I knew it was all but over. I knew I had lost.”

Evie was speechless. Adam’s words were tinged with a pale blue sadness. He spoke again.

“But I don’t want you to apologize, because there is nothing to be sorry for. What you’re doing is admirable you know… A lot of us think about ‘taking the risk’ but few ever go through with it. Evie, do you want to be happy?”

Evie nodded. “I do…”

“And I want you to be happy. I'd rather you be happy with someone else than to be regretful your entire life with me... Nothing should stop you from this. Not me. Not anyone. So you don’t have to be sorry…”

“But… aren’t you hurt? Shouldn’t I be sorry for that, at the very least?”

“I am hurt,” he said, laughing a little. “But… I guess you mean more to me right now than my own feelings? How’s that? Is that romantic or corny? Haha… but seriously, don’t worry about it. I’ll be… Well, I’ll be alright I guess. I’ll move on. What about you?”

“Me?” Evie said, caught off guard.

“Yeah, you. What next?”

“I… well, I'm not sure yet.”

“You haven’t told him?” Adam asked and laughed when Evie put her hands to her face and shook her head. “Well, I feel a bit special now, haha.”

“I'm not ready yet. I will though. Soon.”

Evie suddenly seemed to drift off in her own world, and her lips were curled softly at the corners. Adam snickered. “You really do love him that much, do you?”

“I… I do…” she said and blushed. Adam leaned back in his seat, his face content but undoubtedly sad. They continued talking; Adam said he wanted to know more about the other guy so Evie told him, although reluctantly out of fear she’d only cause Adam more hurt. But he insisted hard, so Evie told him snippets of her former life, choosing her words carefully. Then the talk moved on to lighter matter. Luna was apparently doing great so far in its maiden year of operation; Evie’s firm just won a contract to do advertising for a major telecommunications company and she was part of the team. Finally they decided to call it a night. Evie paid the bill; she said it was the least she could do. Adam joked that if so, he was going to call her often asking her to buy him dinner. They walked out of the restaurant together.

“So…” Adam said.

“Yes?” Evie said. She stood in front of him and it occurred to her how tall he was; at 5’5”, she only came up to his shoulders. Even Rafar was slightly shorter than Adam. She looked at him.

“Will I see you around after this?” he asked.

“Hm,” Evie bit her lip. “I hope so. We’re still friends, right?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I guess so. Back to square one. Hi, I'm Adam. Ehehe…”

“Evie Nadia Hakimi. Haha…”

Adam shuffled his feet. Evie looked to her sides. This was weird.

“Well,” Adam said, rubbing his neck. “See you soon.”

Evie stepped closer and embraced him. At first he seemed surprised, then Evie felt his hands rest gently on her shoulders. “Thank you Adam.”

“I’ll still love you, if that’s okay,” he said as they broke the embrace. He looked sad again. Evie nodded her consent. They stepped away from each other. He offered to walk Evie to her car, and opened the door for her.

“Goodbye Adam Amirulkhair,” she said as she stepped in. Evie started her engine and pulled out of the parking lot. Before she drove away however, Adam tapped her window. She rolled it down. He leaned on the windowsill.

“You know, if ever you change your mind…” he said.

Evie thought of saying something but she didn’t. She smiled instead, and just before she drove off, she looked at Adam. And she winked.


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The first thing she did when she arrived home that night was to cry: she cried for breaking Adam’s heart. She needed to let it out. When she finished, she felt an enormous burden lift off her shoulders. It was hard to be cruel to be kind. She prayed she would never have to do that again.

When she had asked Adam to say ‘I love you’ like he did the first time, it was not because she was setting him up to put him down. Rather, she wanted him to say it to see how she felt like. Would she reciprocate that love automatically, showing her that she was wrong and that her true devotions lay with this charming chef?

The answer came immediately; at the very moment Adam ended his sentence. And it was simple: her love wasn’t for Adam. She did not feel the electric pulses racing through her body when he said it. She did not feel choked up when he had said it. She did love him… but it wasn’t in the way she expected she would, or the way he wanted her to. And when she confirmed this truth in her heart, she became surer. Her resolve turned to concrete.

This was it.

This was the beginning of the moment where she would seal all her past sadness in an airtight jar and throw it all away. She walked around the apartment, placing her fingers on the furniture. Though most of the Rafar stuff had long been put away, there was a touch of him in everything in the house. Evie began to think about him under the same roof again, sharing her living room again, sharing her bed again. Sharing lives again.

She was excited. From this point henceforth, there will be no regret. All she wanted was to face tomorrow, and she wanted to face tomorrow with the one she loved and truly loves with a burning and eternal fire. All that was left was to tell him.

Muhammad Rafar.



Maybe a greater thing will happen,
Maybe all will see,
Maybe our love will catch like fire,
as it burns through me.


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Episode 20 coming on Monday, 17/3/2009

it's almost over.

1 comment:

Maiza said...

kesian adam, but i'm more than happy for evie! :D
but there's a catch you're about to reveal kan? yang stomach pain tu..
I wonder what it really is.. hopefully it won't come to a sad end :(