I threw another pebble into the drain. The water came splashing upward as it hit the rushing stream and sunk to the bottom. In my hands were a few more pebbles ready to be thrown into the drain with specific trajectory patterns. For the whole evening, I was paying more attention at building a small dam in the drain rather than paying attention to Bob and Tiara.
"Eh hello," Bob continued in his almost-a-hermaphrodite gesture. "What am I, a statue here?"
I turned to Bob, who was then sitting on a wooden bench that my father built next to the backyard's fence, with an empty look before turning back to my small-scale dam project. Tiara was still sitting next to him with a glass of chilled homemade orange juice in her hand, looking at us both, from one to another, repeatedly, trying to figure out just what the hell was going on. From the corner of my eyes, I could see her patting Bob's shoulder a few times and asked him for an explanation. I could feel my right ear enlarging slightly in order to listen to what they were talking about.
"She cheated on him," Bob told Tiara.
I felt like a long, rusty iron chain was inserted from my right ear and pulled it from another ear with such unmerciful force, causing a maximum achievable damage to my whole auditory system, if not my whole brain.
"Oh for God's sake," I grunted. "Don't say that, man."
I threw the rest of the pebbles at the same spot where I was throwing them previously, but instead of the pebbles form a damn, they all collapsed and the gushing stream in the drain was reduced back to its normal flow. I looked at the failed construction in frustration. Great, I said to myself, as if I wasn't already frustrated by then.
I turned to Bob and Tiara and sat at the end of the wooden bench. Tiara moved closer to Bob who was sitting at the other end of it, as if she was afraid of me. I took an untouched glass of orange juice that my dear mother made for the three of us earlier from the tray on top of a short table and sipped it fiercely, as fierce as my feelings were. Deep inside, I was very much burning at extreme temperatures. Not even the coldest of ice could rectify my burning heart, let alone that pathetic glass of mildly-cold juice. Realizing my reactions, none of the two companies I had that evening dared to say anything.
Looking at the very awkward situation, Tiara finally took an effort to redirect the whole course of where the whole evening was going. She tied her wavy, long hair up with a hairband and she tidied up the remaining short strands of hair by placing them behind her ears. Some of them fell free nevertheless. She bit her bee-stung lips for a while before slowly moving close to me. She placed a hand on my back and slowly rubbing it up and down as if she was trying to calm me down from some rage that even she herself didn't really understand why or how it happened. But what she did did calm me down a bit. Instantly I was reminded of that one person who had been wondering in my mind for so long -- that lady who caught me by heart, captured me by mind, and imprisoned me by this unknown, confusing feelings in my chest.
The lady who was the cause for all my miseries.
Tempered with sorrows, I slowly degraded into a man I never was - frightened. I was frightened from what had happened, and even worse, I was frightened with what will happen in the future. Everything seemed to be incorrect and not in place. The puzzle I thought I have solved suddenly became a very unfamiliar territory with nonsensical puzzle pieces scattered everywhere. I didn't even know where to begin. I didn't even know if it will ever end. Funny, just when I thought things were never going to be anymore difficult than before, they suddenly did.
I turned to my right to look at Tiara.
I've known Tiara for almost my whole life. I knew her first, actually, before I knew Bob. In fact I knew Bob through her. As a child, I was always the kid who went around with my bicycle, and Tiara used to follow me with her slightly smaller bicycle. We used to roam the nearby mosque that had a small playground next to it. Sometimes we hung around this one stall near the park within the neighborhood with homemade tube popsicle and wasted the whole evening munching on that brain-freezing but tasty delicacy. It wasn't until one day when a fat kid came and took Tiara's posicle even before she could tear the plastic wrapping open, and I wasted the fatso so much that he cried so badly home. But even before I had the chance to celebrate my knightly victory, he came back with his mother, in which my mother later got involved, and then Tiara's mother too, and the whole situation went from a small-scale kiddish quarrel into a whole domestic emergency. And as a result, I got the most whacking from my mother.
Needless to say, the fatso was Bob -- still was a fatso after so many years after. How he and Tiara ended up together was still an unsolved mystery.
"Tell me," she said.
Tiara looked into my eyes with concerns. Her eyes shone with care. She put her hand on my shoulder and massage it slowly. Her lips moved as if she was preparing to say something again, in which she did.
"Tell me what happened."
* * *
I pulled the zip of the tote bag to close it shut and buttoned its top together. I brushed some dusts off the bag's surface and placed it standing on my lap. I stared for a while at the cream-colored bag before turning to her.
"Oh nothing," I said. "You fell asleep."
"Oh my," she said while rearranging the way she sat and fixed her hair. "Where are we?"
"Almost reaching the end station."
"What?" her eyes grew large. "You missed your station?"
I just looked at her, maintaining my calmness, although in my heart there was a raging storm messing everything up. I smirked a little -- the closest thing I could make to a sincere smile, in which I swore, it wasn't sincere at all.
"Nah," I replied gently. "I just wanted to spend more time with you."
Min didn't reply, but from the changing reactions on her face, I was entirely convinced that my words touched her heart greatly. Her lips trembled for a bit, and her cheeks reddened in the most conforming way. She lowered her head and looked at the grey floor of the carriage. Awkward situation. It was good that by the time I said that, the LRT was already at the last curve before it entered the end station platform. Once in, it stopped and all the doors to the platform opened in a synchronized motion.
Min stood up and started to undo my jacket that she was wearing but I stopped her halfway. So this was where she normally left the LRT.
"Don't," I told her. "You might need it."
"But you'd be cold on the way back."
"I'll be alright." I just don't want to smell you tonight. Oh, not tonight.
She undid it anyway and folded it up before giving it to me. I took it without saying anything. Her citrus perfume stroke my nose like a thousand arrows did on a small, unsuspecting straw board. By the time I stood up, she was already on her way out of the carriage. I pursued her but she turned around and blocked my way, and the door alarms rang off, signalling that the doors will be closed shut and the train will make a move anytime soon. She arranged her hands as if she was stopping me from moving any further.
"You have to stay," she said jokingly.
All I did was smiling. I had no words anymore, not because I was stunned with her jovial behavior, but because I chose not to say anything that might cause anything that both of us didn't want, especially when that thing will cause the night to end badly. My heart rebelled in every possible way. I stared at her beautiful face as the doors slowly closed. She raised a hand and in the most adorable way she waved at me and her mouth moved like she was saying bye but the word was not pronounced. At that moment I just couldn't hold back anymore, so I blurted the question that changed the entire course of the night, right before the door in between me and her closed shut.
Min's face changed abruptly and the door panels bumped together, dividing the world that we shared into two separate parts. I saw Min was saying something but I didn't hear anything from inside the carriage. Or maybe I chose not to listen. I just looked at her with smiles on my lips as she was panicking in her part of the world. Slowly, the LRT made its move away from the station, and all I saw was Min standing on the platform with her hands held close to her mouth. Her face looked worried -- really worried. I stood at the door and stared at her through the window as the distance between us grew until she disappeared completely from my eyesight.
And the LRT rode into the dark night, as dark as the room in my heart was.
* * *
"She didn't text you anything?"
I just shook my head, giving Tiara a quick 'no'.
"Not even anything?"
"No, Tee." Tee was Tiara's nickname. "She didn't text, didn't call, nothing."
"Well did you contact her?"
"Why would I? I'm the victim here."
Bob let out a small cough. I bent forward a bit to look at Bob who was hiding behind Tiara. Bob you bastard.
"She works today?"
"I think so," I said. "Why?"
Tiara turned to Bob and asked him for the car key. She then stood up and brushed her pants off from dusts.
"So," she said to me. "What are you waiting for?"
"What?" I asked.
"Come on, boys," she replied while juggling the keys in her hand and rose her eyebrows continuously at the both of us. "Let's go."
She smiled at me before pulling Bob by the collar, in which Bob followed without hesitation. How very impressive, that a man as big as Bob had to succumb to the powerful but petite-in-size lady. She then turned to me, who was then still sitting, my mind clouded with confusing confusions. She pulled my hand but I refused to follow, for I was no Bob, and I won't go anywhere until I know just what the heck she was up to.
"Wait, wait a minute," I said. "Where are we going?"
Tiara stared at me for a few while.
"Oh you know."
"Know what?" I replied with a pressing (and a bit of panicking) tone. "Seriously, where are we going?"
Tiara juggled the keys again in her hands and she let out a cunning smile.
...to be continued