March 1, 2009

The Man She Loves The Most

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There comes a point in the lives of everyone when they are made to face a difficult decision. These decisions will force you to make choices that could potentially alter and re-write the very pages onto which your lives have been written on. These decisions will impact you in every possible way; your minds, body and soul; your beliefs and dreams. Your tomorrows will never be the same, all because of one decision, a singe choice they’ve made.

And the thing about making these decisions is that none of you would actually know just how you’ve been affected; not until you are on the other side, and the choice has already been made. And this is where a lot of people stumble when making decisions: the prospect of the unknown, of what could be, or, to some, of what might have been had they done otherwise, is, at times even more terrifying than making the decision itself. But to the brave who make the decisions and face whatever it brings for them, the results could prove to be tremendously gratifying… or horribly crippling.

But this is life. There is no ‘undo’ button, and you can’t turn back time to rectify whatever mistakes or errors in judgment you have made. Life does not wait for yesterday to catch up. Instead, life is a constant battle between the present and the future.

For here, at the very edge of existence, is where things really matter; because it is the things we do and the decisions we make in the present that will shape our tomorrows, for better or for worse. How you face tomorrow, then, is up to you. Because life is not about what was or what could have been. It is about what you do with the time you have, and what happens next. The person who stays in one place, pondering his or her yesterdays and wondering about the things that could have been, is the person who is wasting the time given to them, and it is them that have most to regret in the future.


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Evie Nadia woke up when she heard a knocking on the door. She stretched her limbs and squeezed her eyes. She felt thoroughly relaxed, but where was she?

“Evie, come let’s have breakfast,” said a voice at the door. It only took Evie nanoseconds to register the voice as belonging to her mother’s, Mrs. Nadzrah. Next she realized she had spent the night at her parent’s house, so that was where she was. Evie got up, a bit groggy, but she felt better. She opened the door. Her mother was outside, wearing a t-shirt and trousers, with a scarf tied loosely around her head. Mrs. Nadzrah eyed her daughter, whose hair was all wild and messy.

“Wake up. It’s ten in the morning. Brush your teeth and wash your face, then come down for breakfast. I bought you Nasi Kerabu from the Pasar Tani.”

Mrs. Nadzrah then left Evie alone. Evie yawned and again stretched her limbs. She brushed her teeth and washed her face, and straightened her hair. She trotted down the stairs and saw her father, Mr. Hakimi at the table, reading the Sunday papers. He saw her come down the stairs and pushed a seat next to him, inviting her down. Evie smiled at her Ayah. Then her mother came carrying a pot of coffee, and set it down on the table. There were three packs of what Evie thought were nasi lemak as well as her own nasi kerabu. Her meal was already unpacked and lying on a plate; cutlery had been set down beside her plate. She suspected it must have been her father who did that. She joined her parents at the table.

“Morning Ayah, Ibu,” she said. “Ummm, nasi kerabu. Did you open it for me? Just like the old days. Ayah, I can open my own meals, okay?”

Her father did not look up from the broadsheets. “No matter how old you get you’re never too old to be my only child. If I can pamper you to death, I will.”

Mrs. Nadzrah rolled her eyes and mouthed to Evie, ‘Softie’, but Evie blushed a little and felt her heart fill with love for her parents. “Even now that I'm thirty?”

“Even until you’re a hundred, provided I'm still around,” Mr. Hakimi said, and he smiled at Evie. “Now come, let’s makan. We went to the pasar without you. I thought you’d want to tag along, but your Ibu said you wanted to sleep.”

“Eh, you’re blaming me now?” Mrs. Nadzrah said. “I said she looked tired, and you were the one who said ‘let her rest at home’. Ohh, so you’re the good guy now?”

“Mestilah. I'm always the good guy.”

Mrs. Nadzrah pinched her husband on the shoulder and he cringed in pain. Evie laughed at her parents. They were both fifty-seven years old and were as happy as ever. Evie thought that perhaps the only thing they were sad about in their lives was the fact that they were not blessed with more children. Like Evie and Rafar, they had met in their college days; like Evie and Rafar, they were also separated for a while as both went on to pursue their studies. Unlike Evie and Rafar, they had stayed together and made a family.

Evie hungrily ate her nasi kerabu, followed by three curry puffs, two pieces of kuih lapis, one piece of kuih bingka, a slice of wholemeal bread with peanut butter and a banana. She washed this down with two cups of coffee, a small cup of orange juice, and a tall glass of water. Mrs. Nadzrah shook her head, always amazed at her daughter’s appetite. Evie leaned back on her chair and rubbed her stomach. She belched, quietly, at the back of her hand.

“Excuse me,” Evie said. Her father smiled and munched on a curry puff as he read the papers. Mrs. Nadzrah was sipping coffee. She asked Evie,

“Are you going back straight away? Working tomorrow?”

Evie thought for a moment and shook her head. “I am working tomorrow. But I thought I’ll stay another night, if that’s alright?”

This time Mr. Hakimi looked up. “Of course it is. Why would you ask permission to stay at your own home?”

“Ayah,” Evie said, smiling in gratitude. “Are you two doing anything today?”

“Nothing much,” her mother answered. “I'm baking cookies later. You want to help? And help as in help, not help eating the cookie dough, like you usually do!”

“Sure! Haha! I’d love to! Is Ayah helping as well?”

Mr. Hakimi grunted. “No. Your mother won’t let me. Says I’ll ruin the dough. Anyway I'm meeting a friend for lunch today.”

Evie left the table and let her parents talk. She went upstairs and took a cold shower; it made her feel slightly dizzy but she needed it after the heavy meal. She went to her parent’s bedroom, which had a balcony and stepped outside. The sun was shining and the skies were blue. It was shaping up to be a lovely day. Bukit Jelutong was quiet, calm and peaceful. As she stood at the balcony, a very young man passed by below on the street. Evie recognized him as one of the neighbors’ kids; he had to be no more than eighteen years old. And yet the kid looked up and whistled at her! Evie smiled despite herself and waved back, and much to her amusement, Evie saw the kid’s face blush red, even in the sunlight, and he quickened his steps and broke into a run.

Boy, I bet you don’t get much attention from girls, do you? Evie thought and laughed. She surveyed the street; it was nearing afternoon. On a Sunday such as this, things seemed pretty lazy. People either stayed home, had late lunches or lazed around, or they were at one of the hundreds of shopping centers in the Klang Valley. Evie felt relaxed. She felt more relaxed this morning than in the past few weeks. Last night she did not dream, nor did she wake up with a damp pillow. For the first time since a few weeks, last night she had slept soundly and well. Evie thought she would tell her mother about her current predicament. About how, at this moment, she thinks she’s being faced with a decision that she hoped would not cause anyone any hurt, as impossible as that may sound.

“I’ll tell Ibu later when we’re making cookies,” she said out loud, unaware she had spoken.

“Tell Ibu what?”

Evie turned around, surprised and embarrassed when she realized she had spoken her thoughts out loud. It was her father, carrying his pipe (which he liked to hold and put in his mouth; but he had stopped smoking sometime ago). He joined Evie at the balcony and put a hand on her shoulder.

“Can you tell your Ayah too?”

Evie looked at him, gazing into his thoughtful, caring eyes. He should know as well, of course. It was just that Evie thought about telling her mother first, because she felt a woman-to-woman would be more appropriate. But this was her father after all, right? Of all the men in the world, who better to listen to her?

“Come on, girl. You can tell your Ayah,” he said, smiling gently with a pipe in the corner of his lips. “Ibu just went out to the shops to get her cookie stuff.”

“Aren’t you supposed to go out?” Evie asked.

“Well, yes, but you’re more important. You’re troubled aren’t you dear?”

Evie nodded. “I guess I am. Am I that easy to read?”

“When you’ve lived with someone for more than twenty years, they become like well worn, well read and well loved books. I am talking about you, of course. Not your mother. Twenty seven years and I still don’t understand her,” he smiled.

Evie laughed at the joke. Mr. Hakimi spoke again.

“Now, come on. You can tell your old man.”

Evie sighed. “Where do I begin…”

She recounted her recent experiences, from the day she met Rafar again (her father visibly frowned upon hearing the name) at Juliza’s wedding some months ago, and how she had met and had been going out with Adam, the fun and charming chef who loved to wink, and how suddenly Rafar had had epiphanies about their relationship, all the way up to the day he showed up at her building and broke down in tears, and Adam’s proclaimed love for her.

Evie broke down in tears again, feeling the confusion and weight settling on her chest. She hated crying over this, but that was the only way of letting the feeling go. She felt like a clich├ęd, weak damsel in distress, the stock-character of almost every romance story she’s ever read. She hated it.

“And now… well, I don’t know. I feel like I'm on a tightrope. I just know they want to be with me, but I don't know what to say to either of them,” she finished, her eyes red and watery. Mr. Hakimi pulled out a handkerchief as if by magic and handed it to her. Evie wiped her eyes. Mr. Hakimi was quiet when Evie told her story. He nodded thoughtfully.

“I have to admit this is rather awkward for me,” he said and smiled. Evie smiled back and mouthed ‘it’s okay and sorry’. Her father looked at her warmly. “Hmm, let’s go have a seat, it’s getting hot out here.”

They stepped back in the room and sat on the bed. Evie leaned on her father’s shoulder, much like she did for so many years as a child.

“I don’t know what to do, Ayah,” she said.

“Did they say they want to be with you?” he asked.

“No. Not yet anyway. Well, Rafar said it before, but I rejected him outright. I was angry. And Adam hasn’t said anything, you know, ‘formal’ yet, but what else do you expect when someone says to you ‘I love you’?”

Mr. Hakimi rubbed his chin and switched his pipe from one corner to the other. “True, true. This is most unexpected. It’s like one of those dramas your mother loves to watch on television.”

“Ayah…”

“Well, you know what I mean. Rafar, huh?”

“Uh-huh.”

“You know, I always knew he’d regret divorcing you.”

“Ayah-"

“No, no, I don’t mean it in a hostile way. And maybe I'm biased. But I knew the day he divorced you that he would one day wake up and regret it. Who wouldn’t?”

Evie smiled. “That’s very flattering, Ayah…”

“And it’s true, too,” he said. He sighed. “He was a good boy, that Rafar. I liked him a lot. Clever. Polite. Knows his way around elders. It broke my heart when you two got divorced.”

Evie was quiet.

“And suddenly today you tell me he breaks down crying in front of you,” he said.

“It’s so strange, right?” Evie said.

“Well maybe not. Like I said, any man would have regretted it.”

Father and daughter were both quiet for a moment.

“What about this other boy?” her father said. “This Adam Amirulkhair? He seems like a nice lad.”

Evie sighed. “He is. He’s sweet and caring and… oh you know. I was already dating him and I was already sort of hoping that we’d, you know, get steady. I was counting on it, in fact. But then…”

“Rafar.”

“Yes, Rafar.”

Mr. Hakimi stroked his chin. “Well… do you like him?”

“Who?”

“Adam.”

“Yes, I do,” Evie bit her lip. “I like him a lot. I think I may even love him a little, for what he’s brought me and what he seems to promise for me.”

“Promise? What do you mean?”

“Ayah, you should have seen his eyes when he told me he loved me. They were so… sincere. And when I couldn’t say anything back you should have seen how hurt they looked. I saw then how he loved me and how in his eyes he had this… promise. I knew he could make me happy after what I’ve been through with Rafar...”

Mr. Hakimi began to understand. “And it would have been easy if not for the fact you realized that you’re still very much in love with Rafar, your ex-husband.”

Evie nodded and her eyes began to water again. She began sobbing like a little girl. “Ayah, I still love him so much. For four years I tried to get over him, tried to convince myself to move on. And I thought I had succeeded when I met Adam. Then Rafar comes sauntering into my life again. But how can I deny the way Rafar cried at me, Ayah? How can I deny that I’m still in love with him?”

“Hmh, there, there, don’t cry. Big girls don’t cry,” Mr. Hakimi said and held his daughter.

“Now I don’t know what to do; I'm unsure of myself. I feel like I'm being unfair to Adam, and it feels like I'm cheating on him. I also feel like I'm torturing Rafar’s very own heart and soul by letting him be like that,” Evie said. “I wish I could turn back time…”

‘What was that?” Mr. Hakimi asked.

“I said,” Evie sobbed. “I wish I could turn back time so that none of this would have happened. I wish I never met the two of them.”

Mr. Hakimi raised Evie’s shoulders and looked her in the eye. “You do not wish that.”

“And why not?” Evie said.

“Because you don’t mean it. And because by saying so it shows you’re angry at Fate. And who decides our Fate? It’s God, right? We have no right to be angry with God. Instead, all the things he puts in our way are meant to test our will and resolve, even if, at first glance, it seems trivial, like most romances are, such as this.”

Evie blinked, shedding fresh tears. Mr. Hakimi took a deep breath and put his pipe on the bed. “Now let me tell you a story. Your mother knows it, because it was the right thing to do, telling her. But you’ve never heard this story before.”

“Okay,” Evie said.

“You know how your mother and I went to further our studies at different countries, of course.”

Evie nodded.

“What you don’t know is something happened to me back then. Something that, at the time, I thought should not have happened to me.”

“What was it, Ayah?”

“I fell in love with another woman.”

Evie wiped her eyes and frowned. “You did?”

Mr. Hakimi nodded. “I did. She was a batch-mate of mine. Her name was Suraya. Tall, fair, friendly. We started out as friends, of course. She was a friend of a friend, but over at our place, us Malaysians tended to stick together. So I saw her often, and pretty soon we hung out a lot.

Now at this time I was still corresponding with your Ibu, of course. We sent each other letters and posted them everyday, though they’d arrive a week or two late. That was the day before internet, of course.”

Mr. Hakimi smiled at Evie and Evie smiled back. He continued.

“But despite having friends over there, I got lonely. Emotionally lonely. Your mother’s letters meant the world to me, but I yearned to see her and to feel her close to me. At the same time, I began to see Suraya a lot. At first we hung out along with some friends. But then peculiarly, the ‘friends’ began to drop out and we began to spend more and more time together, just the two of us. And it happened quite suddenly. Sure, the distance and time apart from your mother played a huge factor, and one day I woke up in my cheap rented room and realized I had developed romantic feelings for Suraya.”

“What did you do then?” Evie asked, curious.

“Well I freaked out! It felt so wrong… and yet, at the time, right. To be honest I was not quite sure. The feelings were there. And yet at the same time, I was still writing love letters to your mother and missing her deeply. I felt, for lack of a better word, like a jerk. Since Suraya knew I had a girlfriend, I thought I was the only one. Syok sendiri, so they said. But then one day she confessed her feelings to me too! Needless to say, we began dating.”

Evie looked at her father, who was shaking his head. His eyes were lost in his memories. He continued.

“It was the strangest time of my life. And I did nothing to stop it. I was in love with two women who loved me back. I felt terrible and wonderful at the same time. And always I would sleep troubled by bad dreams and bad thoughts. After a few months, one day I felt that I could not take it anymore… I was lying to your mother. So I bought an IDD card and called her half-way across the globe, and told her everything.”

“What did she say?” Evie asked.

“At first, nothing. She just cried over the phone. And I remember the sound of her crying made me weak in the knees. I tried to comfort her and sooth her, even though I was the one at wrong. We talked and we cried at the same time. I would run out of money and had to rush out to get more calling cards. We talked for days, trying to figure it out. At the same time I was also telling Suraya that I had to figure it out. And she was trying to make me choose her!

This went on for weeks, maybe a month or so, I can’t remember for sure. Then one day as I was talking to your Ibu, I asked her: ‘Sayang, I don’t know what to do. I'm sorry I'm hurting you, and I'm sorry this happened. I wish I had not fallen for Suraya. I wish I could turn back time and not spend time with her, and just be faithful to you. Nadz, what should I do?’”

Evie nodded, listening intently. “What did Ibu say then?”

“She said this: ‘Kimi, I cannot tell you what to do. I cannot force you to choose me. I cannot force you to leave her. I cannot tell what is going to happen to you, nor can I tell you to think about how things might have been if you had not fallen for this Suraya girl. What I can tell you, however, is that this is your decision to make. And whatever it is, you are the one who has to be brave and take the risk. You are the one who must decide what you want in your life, because right now, the power to shape your life is in your hands. And whatever it is, later on, you cannot have any regret. We live for the future, not yesterday. If yesterday is a mistake, then today or tomorrow is where and when we learn from it. That is why it is not good to think about how you wish things happened differently, because it does not matter, it's in the past, and by doing so you’re saying that you’re upset with the path God laid out for you. What you can do is to follow your heart, take the risk, make your decision, and pray and hope that your tomorrows are going to be alright.’”

Evie’s father was quiet. His eyes seemed to mist over. Evie laid her cheek on his shoulder. “And then what happened, Ayah?”

“Well,” he said, clearing his throat. “What your mother said made me think: she was correct. What was the use of me moping around, feeling self-pity at a predicament of my own doing, and thinking about doing the impossible: that is, changing the past. I thought long and hard about what your mother said. About taking a risk and moving forwards, not just staying put and wishing for yesterday to come around again so you could do things differently. I thought long and hard. I followed my heart.”

“And where did your heart lead you?” Evie asked. This time Mr. Hakimi smiled.

“You already know,” he said. “My heart belonged to Nadzrah, your Ibu. I cleared things between Suraya, and one day I told your mother I loved her and that all I wanted was her. She forgave me, a fact I am eternally grateful for. To cut a long story short, later then we both came home and got married. Then something happened that justified my love for your Ibu, and the decision I made.”

“What was that?”

Mr. Hakimi touched Evie’s hand. “We had you. That was when I knew that I would not swap my life for anything in the world. Not even a chance to turn back time and do things differently, to see what could have been.”

“You see,” he said. “Everything that happened, is happening, or will happen is because of a reason. We might not see what the reason is straight away. But that does not mean we have to fear it. Life is about taking risks. Because we won’t know what’s on the other side if we don’t get there.”

Evie smiled and squeezed her father’s hands. He put a hand to her cheek. “Don’t be afraid of what life throws your way. Face it, head on, even when you think you’re powerless. Because the fact is, you’re not. You have strength. You can take all the time you need. Nobody can tell you otherwise. You have the power to decide what you want from life. Because…”

Evie nodded. “It is my life…”

Her father smiled. Evie sighed. She felt better. A lot better, in fact, than when she first reached her the day before. She was nowhere nearer to getting on with what to do with her current situation, but now she’s put it in perspective. Now she was seeing it like she was an observer rather than the one in the situation. In doing so, she felt she would eventually have a better grasp on the situation. And hopefully, she will come upon an idea of what to make of it, despite her fear of tomorrow or hurting someone she cared for.

But there was something else she wanted to find out. “Ayah,” she said. “What happened to Suraya then, after all that?”

“Hm? Well,” her father said, and Evie detected a hint of sadness in his voice. “She passed away from cancer a few years ago; we went to the funeral, your mother and I.”

“But was she happy after you two ended it.. and uh, before she died?”

Her father looked at her. “A few years after we ended it, she married a nice businessman who went on to become a Dato’. They had 5 children. She died peacefully, a millionaire and in the company of her husband and children. So I suppose it’s safe to say that, yes, she was happy.”

They smiled at each other.

“Thank you, Ayah,” Evie said. Her father smiled, kissed her brow and shoo-ed her away.

“I want to use the loo. The nasi kerabu is getting to me,” he said.

Evie laughed and left her father to do his business. She went to her own room. Her steps felt lighter, her mood felt lighter. Yes, she was still upset about her predicament, but her father’s tale comforted her. And he was right.

She can’t afford to mope about how things were or how things might have been. What she can do – no, has to do, is to have courage, and to be strong, and to just tread the waters Fate has thrown her way, no matter how deep or how strong the currents are.




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'catalyst' episode.

epiphanies.




11 comments:

Nadila Roslee said...

one of my fav episodes, because i came across someone's advice a few days ago, and the person said something along the line of "its not anybody's fault. things just happened". and i really like it.
and this episode is revolving around something like that too. me and rafar soooo ada chemistry. haha takde kena mengena :p anyway, great one Edwan! :D

Muhammad Edwan Shaharir said...

eh first time u comment, hehe.

thank u. i was trying something different for twaay kat sini.

:)

nurdini izni said...

i love this episode :D
and its nice to get rafar n adam 'out' of the story sometimes. haha

great sentences. very uplifting ;)

Muhammad Edwan Shaharir said...

thanks dini.

:D

pinkbanana_ said...

hm i like this episode, lama tak baca about evie with her family mcm dulu2.

and uh, Suraya?

>.< my bf's ex name is suraya. Hahahaha and i thought "perlu ke?" LOL.

Muhammad Edwan Shaharir said...

tq kerana suka.

dal, at first i terbaca ur last sentence as "my ex'bf's name was suraya. and went 'apekah girly giler nama bf'.

haha. sorry for the dyslexic moment.

nuraainaa said...

something different..but i like it jugakk :D

Muhammad Edwan Shaharir said...

thanx aainaa.
hurm. i have an announcement i think.
but laterrr.

:)

Mardhiah said...

Didn't really fancy the manja bits of Evie (never did anyway, i'm sure you know that) and some lines were a bit corny like 'big girls don't cry' (or maybe I'm bias coz I HATE that effing song by Fergie). This reminded me abit of the first episodes of TWAAY (the part where sugar was with her parents), and it wasn't one of my faves. But this one is a bit more deeper, so you've improved on that.

My fave part is the story told by Dad. You didn't make him appear like a doting father with not much to say. Overall, good :)

ps: sorry if i offended you, just giving an honest opinion :)

Muhammad Edwan Shaharir said...

mardhiah, none taken pun :P

haha i tak terpk pun that fergie song sbb i hate her gak.

i just thought it's her dad: he HAS to be corny ngahaha.

thanks!

:)

Francesca said...

i mostly like the first part of the episode( before the story continues), about the fear of making a desicion because one doesnt know the outcome of that decision.

and i also like how evie is a daddy's girl :) and that her father story is somewhat similar to what she's going through.

~ good job!! a very nice father- daughter moment :)