March 6, 2009

It Is Time

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good or bad i don't mind, i won't take offence,
thank you
:)

- Edwan

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It’s been a week since she slept over at her parent’s house. The little talk she had had with her father was a comforting one for Evie. It put things into perspective. She’s been feeling better as well, other than the fact that lately she’s been hit with sudden stomach cramps or pains. But some painkillers sort of dispelled it, so that was fine. What was important was that she was feeling better overall. She was thinking with both her head and her heart, and not either one, and though she thought she was nowhere nearer to finding what it is her heart desired, she was positive she was on her way.

Except for the fact she has not seen both Adam and Rafar. Adam has been calling her regularly, and they’ve talked over the phone, even though Evie kept their conversations general and light, never going deeper than she thought she needed to. She sensed that Adam was slightly hurt the way she turned down every attempt at romance he swung her way. She did, however, admire him for trying. It was sweet.

Rafar, on the other hand, had been quiet for weeks. But when she called him (which she found odd: she hasn’t been calling Rafar for… years!) he always answered the phone, so she knew that he was around… and she hoped he was alright. He always sounded tired over the phone. One day Evie almost asked him why he hasn’t been calling her, but then realized how that might have looked. As with Adam, she could not afford to light a fire beneath Rafar. She thought the two of them has already laid our their cards… and though both of them never spoke it (at least, not Rafar… Adam was clearly trying to woo her back), she felt that they were waiting for her to come up with her hand.

She had her cards, but she hid it well, and she was neither going to put down a bet nor raise the stakes.

She was at work one morning when her receptionist, Alya, punched through a call for her.

“There’s a man here to see you. Mr. Adam Amirulkhair, he says?”

Evie sighed. “Can you take him to my office dear?”

“Sure thing Miss Evie.”

Evie straightened her hair, which had grown longer and was now brushing the middle of her shoulder blades when let down. She adjusted her blouse and moistened her lips just as Alya, the pretty young receptionist, knocked and opened the door and led Adam in. Alya looked flushed; Adam must have been flirting with her. She left them alone in the room.

“Hi,” he said. He was clean shaved and dressed casually. Evie smiled at him.

“Hi,” she said. “Have a seat,” she motioned to the chair in front of her desk. Adam took the seat and for a moment they just stared at each other. A slight awkwardness saturated the air. Both of them cleared their throats.

“So,” Evie said.

“So,” he replied.

“Have you come here today at my esteemed firm to discuss some advertising for Luna? Mind you, we charge a fortune.”

Evie said this cheerfully, trying to break the awkwardness. It was odd for her to feel that way, considering that just about a month ago she was smitten and charmed by the handsome man in front of her. They were dating after all.

“Luna’s fine, they have the handsomest chef in Malaysia to advertise for them,” he said, grinning. He clasped his hands in front of him. “I came to see you. I haven’t seen you in… two weeks? That’s way too long. You’re coming to lunch with me later. I won’t take no for an answer.”

“Well…”

Adam leaned forward on her desk. “Please? I miss you. It feels like I haven’t seen you in years.” He touched her hand and gently caressed it. “Don’t you miss me too? I promise I won’t wink anymore if you come to lunch with me.”

Evie thought it over. Finally she agreed. “Alright, I will. Place and time?”

Adam punched the air in triumph. “Yes! She’s coming to lunch with me!”

“Adam,” Evie said, slightly amused. “Where and when?”

“Wa-Raku Japanese, half-past twelve. You know that place? I can always pick you up.”

“Wa-Raku… at Jalan Stonor? Yeah sure, I was there with my boss and clients once. I’ll drive there myself, I have some errands to do.” This was only half true; the other truth was that she wanted to be alone before the date.

“Alright, sure. My friend’s working there, so we should get a good deal,” Adam said. He stood up to leave. “So I’ll see you at half-twelve.”

“You came all the way from Bangsar to ask me to lunch?” Evie asked. He shrugged.

“I had a feeling you’d say no if I just asked over the phone. So it was time to pull out the puppy dog eyes.”

Evie felt a slight twinge of shame at that because she knew it was true. They smiled at each other.

“Hey, Babe?”

“Yes?”

“I really missed you, you know?”

And she did know. It was there, written in his eyes and carried on his voice.

“I know,” she said. She saw a small light go out in one of his eyes. She knew he was hoping she’d say she missed him too. And the truth was she did; but like she thought before, she can’t light a fire beneath him. “We’ll talk okay? Now go, I have work, and don’t hit on Alya, she’s like a sister to me.”

Adam smiled. And winked at her.


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After Adam left Evie went back to her work. She thought about what to say to Adam later during lunch, because surely now she had to say something. It would be cruel of her to turn Adam down every time he steered their interaction towards something romantic. She felt bad enough for avoiding ‘the talk’; ‘the talk’ was supposed to have happened two weeks ago on the day Adam said he was in love with her. It was now probably past it’s ‘best before’ date. Evie had this inkling of a thought that Adam thinks she was not convinced that he was in love; as a result, he seemed to be trying hard to please her and to convince her, which was making it ever more difficult for her.

Maybe if this had happened a week or a few weeks before that day this Wiseguy showed up and cried and unearthed her own suppressed emotions, she would have happily accepted Adam into her life and made her way up from there. But this was life, and of course life has to be more complicated than that. And like her father said, it was no use mulling over the ‘what ifs’ and the ‘what could have been’. Time, and life, moved in only one direction: forwards. The past is the past.

What did her heart say? Evie had an idea but it was not fully formed yet.

But she knew she had to speak to Adam about this. It was only fair for him.

When the clock struck noon Evie packed her handbag and left the office. She told Alya she might be a little late coming back as she had a matter to attend to. Evie drove to Jalan Stonor in her white Golf, which was a short distance away, and just as she arrived at the restaurant and parked her car, Adam’s black NSX pulled in the parking slot behind her. It was a cool day; the grey clouds above were signaling rain, and there was a heavy hint of ozone in the air. Evie was pretty sure that pretty soon the skies would play host to streaks of lightning and rumbling thunder.

“Perfect timing! Are you Japanese? You’re very punctual,” Adam said as he got out of the car. He came up to her and took her hand. She let him. “Shall we?”

They went into the restaurant and were led to their table; it was the kind of restaurant Evie loved. The d├ęcor was very minimalistic, modern-Zen style, but it thankfully avoided looking austere and sterile. It was an elegant restaurant. She felt comfortable. As they ordered their food, the skies opened and it began to rain. In the right instances it could have made the atmosphere more romantic; but today Evie felt it was more appropriate for something less than that.

“I'm so happy to see you again,” Adam said. “You look gorgeous, as always. Have you done something to your hair?”

Evie rolled her eyes. “Adam, it’s only been, like, two weeks.”

“You have no idea how long that two weeks felt to me. Especially since on our last date you uh… well, you weren’t feeling very well. It’s okay though, at least now we’re here.”

“I'm sorry… I’ve just been busy and a little stressed out from work… and some other things. But I'm getting better now. I'm sorry for not seeing you for so long.”

“It’s fine dear, it really is. Like I said, I'm just very pleased to see you again.”

Again he caressed her hands, tenderly and full of affection. They looked into each other’s eyes, both of them trying to unlock each other’s emotions. Except to Evie, Adam’s feelings were making no attempt at being secret. She saw her own reflection in his eyes, and knew that was probably all he was seeing at the moment. They shared a quiet moment, both of them suddenly unsure of what to say. A first date all over again.

“Have you any idea how amazing you are to me?” he said suddenly.

“Adam, I –“

“You are,” he leaned closer. He squeezed her hands, gently. “I lov- “

Just then the waitress arrived with their drinks; Evie was glad for the interruption, while Adam looked mildly annoyed. When the waitress left, they both looked at each other laughed.

“Where were we?” Adam said.

“We were… nowhere, I guess?” Evie said. She made a wide, dumb grin.

Adam smiled back. He took a deep breath. “I love you Evie.”

Evie was momentarily taken aback by those words. He said it so casually and yet with genuine intent. This was going to be quite a conversation she would initiate. She was quiet, unsure how to respond. Adam was still holding her hands.

“Evie?”

She realized she must have looked lost in her thoughts. Evie sighed. “Adam…”

He looked wary. She could see he swallowed. Her own throat felt dry and itchy all of a sudden. Before they could say anything further their food arrived. Again, Evie felt glad for the interruption but knew they had to talk. She could not put this off any longer. They ate, quietly, neither of them saying much, both of them wondering where the following conversation would lead to. For the first time since she dated him, Evie saw Adam was visibly uneasy. She suddenly lost her appetite (which was to her, a very rare occurrence). She felt a faint, stabbing ache in her stomach, but did her best to ignore and dull it away. She poked what was left of her lunch and saw that Adam was still eating, and his eyes were wary and alert, but he was quiet. Evie thought she should talk now before things got more awkward between them. It was jarring enough to both of them to suddenly lose grasp on the chemistry evident between them before. Evie pushed her plate aside.

“Adam, dear,” she said.

“Hm?” he said, wiping his mouth.

“We need to talk…” She hated the way she sounded: feeble. But she couldn’t help it. How was she supposed to sound like anyway? Assertive and strong? This wasn’t one of those moments. Adam pushed his plate aside and looked at her. When he spoke he sounded careful.

“Okay,” he said. “Sure. What do you want to talk about?”

Evie leaned back on her chair. “About us… about you and me.”

“Oh boy.” Adam rubbed his hands together. “Okay… what about us?”

“Uhm,” Evie said. How to start? “I think I’ve been deflecting your… well, I’ve been deflecting the things you’ve been saying. And it’s bad of me to do so, and I'm sorry...”

She continued.

“Adam, before I say anything further, I think you have something you want to ask and say to me, right? Please, tell me now.”

“Evie, I…” he looked around him, as if asking for help. “Alright. I’ve been feeling this strange vibe coming off you since the day I first said I loved you. And after that day I hardly ever saw you, so I was beginning to think I scared you off or something. If so, I'm sorry, but I also want to say I’ve never been surer about my feelings. I do love you; you’re this amazing, wonderful woman and I thought we had great chemistry. But now it’s changed, suddenly, and I can’t figure out why.”

Evie nodded quietly, biting her lower lip.

“Funny how things can change so suddenly huh?” Adam said, sighing. “I want to be with you Evie. I think we have so much to promise each other. I thought you were feeling the same way…”

He looked at her. “Do you…?”

Evie shifted uncomfortably in her seat. She edged closer to the table and held his hands. “Adam, something happened that day you told me you love me.”

“What?”

“First I want you to know that I did enjoy the time I spent with you. And I do appreciate what you’re telling me. I really do. And we wouldn’t be having this conversation if this something didn’t happen the other day.”

“So… what happened?”

Evie took a deep breath and told him how Rafar re-appeared in her life, and of the day Rafar showed up at her building looking thin and sickly. This was the first time Evie told Adam Rafar’s name; before this he only knew of him as her ‘ex-husband’. As she told him, Adam studied her intently. He looked worried.

“And that night, I met with you and you suddenly say that you love me; it was too much for the day. I short-circuited, I guess. And ever since then my emotions have been swirling and swirling but they never settle down. That’s why I’ve been avoiding the things you say, because I don’t want to raise your hopes only to end up crushing them. And believe me, it hurts me to do this to you because if there is one thing I can say for certain, it’s that I care for you. I really do,” Evie said. “I just feel… caught, you know?”

Adam sighed. “I guess I do…”

“He is my ex-husband. There was a reason I married him in the first place. And I'm surprised myself that after all these years; I still have feelings for him. And it hurt me, it hurt me deeply than I ever thought I would be hurt when I saw him in that state; it hurt me even more than when we separated,” Evie said. “I'm sorry I'm telling you this now, Adam, but I think it’s only fair for you to know. I don’t want to leave you in the dark and lead you on…”

Adam nodded. To Evie’s surprise, he asked, “Tell me more about your husband.”

“What? Why?” she asked back, puzzled.

“I don’t know… Curious, I guess.”

“Well,” Evie said. “We met when we were nineteen… dated for awhile and got married six years ago. After two years… well you know.”

“What’s he like?”

“He’s…” Evie thought. She thought of Rafar; of his qualities. “He’s quiet; no, reserved is more the word I guess. But he has this way with words. You know Chandler from FRIENDS? He’s like that, but not as loud or obnoxious. He’s calm, soft spoken… if you didn’t know him you’d probably say he was the brooding type. And he has this constant bed-head that makes him look messy…”

The more she thought of Rafar, the more she felt like she wanted to see him, to see how he was. So she stopped. “I'm sorry, I can’t.”

Adam nodded. “Alright…”

Silence.

“So what happens now?” Adam asked.

“I don’t know Adam…”

“Do you… do you still love him?”

Evie thought quickly, her mind racing. Should she lie? Could she lie? She decided to avoid the question, feeling shameful and cowardly in doing so.

“Can I please keep it to myself for now?”

“I'm sorry.”

“No, it’s not you. It’s me. I shouldn’t be feeling this way in the first place.”

“It’s alright. I understand.”

“I'm sorry. I know this is hard for you, too. But I don’t want to be rash and plunge into this. I don’t want to take a path only to discover one day that I'm not entirely happy with the choices I made. I don’t want to regret, Adam. I just want to be sure.”

“This won’t change the fact I still love you, you know?”

“I know…”

“Can you please tell me anything I could do to win you over?” Adam said, smiling. He was trying to lighten the mood, but Evie saw in his eyes that he was hiding hurt and worry.

“I can’t. It’d be cheating,” she said.

“Eheh, yeah, I guess it would be.” He chuckled and looked down on his hands. They both sighed and checked their watches. It was time to go. Evie thought for now there was nothing left to be said. She was glad she managed to tell Adam, but she also felt horrible. She knew how disappointed he must have felt, when it seemed there was much promise between them. But this was for the better.

They paid the bill and left the restaurant. Outside, the rain had subsided and bits on sunshine were poking through the clouds. Adam walked Evie to her car. They did not hold hands.

“Will I see you soon?” he asked as he opened the door to Evie’s white Golf.

“Maybe,” she said.

“I'm looking forward to it already.”

“Don’t.”

“Can’t help it.”

She smiled at him and felt pangs of sadness.

“I love you Babe,” he said. “I really do.”

“I believe you,” she said, and that was at least true. Adam lingered, probably still hoping for something at least. But Evie did not say anything. She sucked on her teeth.

“Well, I’ll call you okay?” he said.

“Okay.”

Evie entered her car and watched Adam walk back to his on her rear view mirror. His footsteps looked heavy, and he was looking around as if lost. It was the walk of someone on the verge of defeat. Just before he got into the car, he turned around to look at her. Evie stared at the reflection and lifted a hand. He waved back, got into the car and drove away, honking at her as he exited the car park. Evie followed suit soon afterwards, and headed back to her office.


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When she went home that night she felt awful, and not just because of her stomach pains (she though her period must be due). Though the lunch with Adam did not go as bad as she expected, it was still a painful ordeal to sit through. But at least she managed to tell him why she has been avoiding any attempt at romance. That was a start, at least. And she was glad that Adam had taken it quite well. She knew he suspected her true feelings; why else would she hide it from him anyway. But she admired the way he had not let that bring him down.

Dear, sweet Adam. She wished things were easier for the both of them. It was already unfair for him to be dragged by her own tide of emotions; by telling how she was feeling she hoped she was making it clear that she can’t give him an answer. Not yet anyway. But she had this sneaking suspicion it won’t be too long before she could.

Now, alone at home, she just wanted to relax for a moment.

She thought about calling Rafar but decided against it. One at a time, one at a time, she repeated to herself. She did find it perplexing that Rafar hasn’t said much since that day; unlike Adam who was still playing his cards, Rafar had just put down his bet. Evie thought it must be because he thinks there is no hope; knowing Rafar, Evie was sure that, while he does obviously wishes to get back together with her, he also thinks he has nothing left to offer. It was a “here’s my heart, take it” thing to him, like that day in the rain so very long ago, at the beginning of their relationship. More and more Evie found herself thinking of Rafar. The things they did and the memories they shared. Whose to say it was never meant to be? She did not know.

What she knew for certain was that she still loved him, although even that was bringing her some inner conflict. Part of her thinks that she shouldn’t; that Rafar had had his shot at her love, and that was it. The other part is the part that has the names ‘MUHAMMAD RAFAR’ carved forever into it, and is beating strong and proud, a love undying through the years.

Had she not said so herself? That in one way or the other, she would always love her Wiseguy
?

Evie mumbled to herself as she made her dinner; flat rice noodles with chicken soup and soy sauce. Her stomach still ached but she took some off-the-shelf painkillers and that seemed to be working. She sat down at her dinner table, which could seat four, but those three extra chairs only ever found use when she had guests or her parents over. As she sat down to her meal, she browsed through the jumble of letters that had earlier been sticking out of her mailbox.

Bills. Bank letters. Office stuff. Volkswagen newsletters. Tesco and Giant brochures. Yada-yada-yada. But then one envelope caught her attention; it was un-stamped, and only had her name written on it in neat bold letters. The handwriting she knew all too well. The envelope was small, and there was a circular bulge in it. She carefully opened it and shook the contents out. A metallic object and a folded sheet of paper fell out.

It was her wedding ring. She remembered the day she took it off and left it with Rafar. Evie frowned. She examined the envelope again; seeing as it was unstamped, she knew then that Rafar had dropped it off by hand. Evie unfolded the piece of paper that had come with the ring. It was a hand-written note. All it said was:

This was yours to keep. Still is.

Yours,
Rafar
P/s: is it okay if I still believe in that better tomorrow?


Evie studied the note carefully. Though the words were few, they seemed to say so much. She noticed how he did not say ‘I love you’ or ‘with love’; instead he had put there ‘Yours’, which meant so much more than the sum of it’s letters. It was a statement, wasn’t it?

Evie put the note back in the envelope and picked up her ring. She had almost forgotten about it. Even the pale band of skin where it used to be had somewhat returned to a normal color. Evie fiddled the gold band, studying it. She glanced around her apartment; an apartment she used to share with Rafar.

There was little there now that spoke of him; she had re-decorated after the divorce and had hid away or discarded the things that reminded her of him back then because it had been too painful. But now the lack of any evidence that he ever lived there only amplified his presence. The apartment seemed to be holding his soul and spirit within its walls.

Or maybe it was her? As she looked around she reminisced about the times when he was still here; Rafar at the dinner table, cleaning his camera gear. Rafar in the kitchen, cooking her breakfast. The two of them watching TV while sharing a tub of ice cream. She saw herself cuddling up to Rafar. She saw Rafar’s often amusing (and usually very successful) attempts at seducing her.

The memories were… pleasant. Evie was surprised. This was new for her; usually the memories of them together would hurt but now, suddenly, they didn’t. It was like getting a visit from an old and much loved friend. Evie shook her head and snapped out of it. She couldn’t and didn’t want to get caught up. She wanted to be sure… of what, exactly? She already knew how she felt towards Rafar, even if right now she wasn’t saying it out loud.

She felt her stomach ache again, and that brought her back to reality. Feeling a bit queasy she washed up her dishes and took some medication. She decided to retire early that night.

Before she closed her bedroom door, she threw a sweeping look at her apartment again. In one quick second, it all crystallized for her.

And absently, without even realizing it, she put her ring back on.


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sorry this is quite messy i think
- edwan

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6 comments:

Mardhiah said...

Adam's constant dotingness got on my nerves today :| The more he does that, the more Evie feels guilty. Personally I would get a tad irritated if a guy keeps on telling me he loves me when I didn't say anything the first time. Sometimes you don't need to tell her you love her, you just need to show it. And if she doesn't answer you, give her time instead of harping over it.

Sorry Adam, but you gotta learn :|

I kinda lost interest when I reached the last half of the episode. Maybe I want a closure already :)

Muhammad Edwan Shaharir said...

closure is coming

:)

thanks!

nuraainaa said...

jeng jeng jeng..

wohoooooo!!!!

rafar rules/rocks/rrrr!

anne mohamad tabib said...

*baca the last sentence n shrieked*

Muhammad Edwan Shaharir said...

aainaa: jeng jeng :P

anne: hu? shrieked happy ke shrieked tension?

nurdini izni said...

adam sangat sweet. very understanding.
n he doesnt give up easily. awww
:D