While I was pondering about the things that I did not do to keep Siti within my reach, I heard a rumbling sound of a car not far from where I was standing. It was in the direction of Siti’s house. I walked briskly through a path that Siti and I used to tread while commuting to and from my grandfather’s house, Siti’s house and the orchard. I walked past my grandfather’s dilapidated house until I reached Siti’s house. I saw a car parked in front of the house. A woman and a man came out of the front seats of the car. I recognized them quickly. They were Encik Abdullah and Puan Aminah, Siti’s parents.
“Assalamualaikum. How are doing uncle, aunty,” I said aloud, hurrying to meet them with my hands ready to offer a handshake.
“Waalaikum salam,” they answered simultaneously, gazing at me intently. “Ooo… Sani! You have grown up. Is everything ok with you? When did you arrive?”
“I am ok, alhamdulillah.” I said. “Not too long, may be half an hour ago,” I glanced at my wrist watch as I was talking.
“Three months ago, your father did tell me that you have come back from Ireland. But your aunty and I were quite busy to pay you a visit. It is good that you come here today. You can help me carry Siti’s baggage up the stairs.” Encik Abdullah pointed at the car.
Puan Aminah was taking out her handbag from the front seat, while a young lady was about to come out of the back seat.
“Siti?” I asked, too startled and too excited to say the proper words. But after a moment I managed to restrain my excitement. Who knows a young man might pop out from the other side of the car?
Enck Abdullah answered my question with a smile. I understood very well what wan in his mind.
Siti greeted me with salaam and I answered the same in return. Encik Abdullah excused himself, perhaps to let us speak to each other in private. For a moment we remained speechless, eyes gazing the other’s eye. But even without saying it, I could see that she had been yearning to see me again as I yearned to see her.
“Sani, let’s go for a walk,” she decided, breaking the silence that came between us.
“Ok. Let us go to see my grandfather’s house,” I replied.
We walked side by side towards the back of the house. We then trod down the path, which we had been familiar with. Soon we reached my grandfather’s house. I gazed at the rundown house, my mind overwhelmed by sadness and my heart swallowed by self-pity. How could I allowed this house to deteriorate? How could I became so callus about something that had been part of childhood days? How could I fail my beloved grandfather?
“I will rebuild this house,” I muttered to no one, forgetting that Siti was standing close to me.
“Did I hear you saying you want to rebuild this house?”
“That’s right. I will do it. When I have vacation, I will spend some time here. If you are around, we can play like we used to the old days.” I gave a grin that was terminated as quickly as it was started.
“Don’t you think, you have to ask permission from the inheritor of the land and the house first before you rebuild it?”
“Oh…I almost forgot about it. Thank you for reminding me. But, do you know anything about it?”
Before Siti could speak, Encik Abdullah and Puan Aminah appeared from nowhere. They must have come when I was in deep thought about the fate of the house in front of me.
“Sani! We would like to inform you that your parents will be arriving before sunset today. We have some important matters to discuss. Besides, tonight we will have a small ceremony to welcome back our child Siti. We hope you stay till tomorrow,” Explained Encik Abdullah as soon as he came close to where Siti and I were standing.
“Uncle! How do they know I am here?” I said in bewilderment.
“Your hand phone is out of reach, so they called us. When they know that you and Siti are here, they decided to come.”
“Uncle! Can I ask who inherit this house?” As soon as I finished asking the question, I realised that I sould not have done it. It is somewhat disrespectful in term of village traditions.
Nontheless Encik Abdullah did explain, “Both your grandfather and grandmother left a will that this land and the house be shared between you and Siti. It is their wish that you and Siti take care of this land and pass it down to our descendants when both of you are gone.”
“Our descendants? What does that mean, uncle?” I became more confused.
“It is a long story. But let me explain.” Encik Abdullah swallowed and then continued with his story. “You and Siti have the same great grandfather and great grandmother. Your grandfather and Siti’s grandmother were brother and sister. Your great grandfather and great grandmother died young, leaving the two of them to fend for themselves. They planted those cashew nut trees together and prayed to God that one day their grandchildren will harvest the nuts. Here you are. You and Siti are the grandchildren.”
“So, we are second cousin. Is that right, mother?” Siti’s turn to ask, looking at her mother while she did so.
“That’s right. I was the only child to your grandparents, as you are to your parents. When my parents died, Sani’s grandparents took care of me. They were like my own parents to me. That is why Sani’s grandmother was so fond of me and you, Siti.” Puan Aminah barely finished her sentences before she started to sob. Siti comforted her mother by putting her arms around her shoulder. Soon Siti began to sob. It was so touching!
Encik Abdullah and I stood still and speechless, each perhaps for different reasons. Obviously, I could not tell what was in his mind. But for me, I was overwhelmed by the events of the day, particularly knowing my familial relationship with Siti. From that moment onward, I knew I had obligations that I could not refuse…… to love and to take care of Siti. To tell you the truth, the obligations were quite insignificant in my relationship with Siti. For, I did not have the slightest doubt that I would do the same for Siti Rahmah, regardless of whether the secret had been divulged or otherwise.