I watched Siti walked her mother back to the house, her right hand still cuddling her mother’s shoulder and her left hand holding the her right arm. After a few steps, she turned her head around and gave me a glance, as if she was asking for permission to leave. Or, did she ask me to wait for her, and that she will return?
“Now that you know, you and Siti have a have a tough task at hand.”
Encik Abdullah’s voice startled me. But I responded nonetheless, trying to sound as calm as possible. “Yes. But we will figure that out. Thank you uncle for letting us know. I appreciate that very much,” I replied.
“That was just the beginning. I am sure, your father will explain it to you further when he arrives this evening.”
My father! Why would my parents be coming here as soon as they know that Siti and I are here, together? Are they thinking of what I am thinking? Unconsciously, I was smiling with that notion that something interesting was going to develop soon. But then, I became blushed when I noticed that Encik Abdullah was watching me all the while.
“They should be in time for the welcoming ceremony tonight,” I said after a scramble for words to hide my embarrassment.
“God willing, yes. But they are also coming here to discuss something more important than the welcoming ceremony.”
“Is it something to do with Siti and I?” I asked excitedly, without hesitation and feeling of inhibition. Why should I, anyway. During the first eighteen years of my life I had more interactions with him than my own father.
“Wait till your parents come. It is better that you hear it from their mouths.”
That was sure a neat answer. Older people are wiser. They know when, where and who to direct a task in order to get the most appropriate results for specific occasions. For me, I just couldn’t wait to know why. Why do my parents want to come here in such a hurry? Not that I could not figure out why, but I just want to hear the words coming from the person who will give the word okay.
“In that case, I will wait for them.” I finally said.
“Sani, you have heard what your grandparents wished you to execute. Everything will depend on you. I am sure Siti will be willing to share with you her feelings and her opinion.”
After we talked for few more minutes, Encik Abdullah asked me to accompany him back to the house. I told him politely that I wanted to do more exploration in and around the area, and he understandingly agreed. We exchanged salaam, and then Encik Abdullah left for his house.
“Sani!” Siti’s voice echoed from the direction of the cashew nut orchard. Wow! Was it not exciting? Yes, indeed it was. It was like reliving the old times, Siti and I. So, I hurried down the path which led to where her voice had come from.
“Siti!” I called back aloud. “I know where you are. I am coming for you. Don’t hide, okay. I don’t want to play that hide-and-seek game anymore. We are not longer young, you know.”
“No, I am not hiding. I am waiting for you to come here.” She cried out, probably thinking that I was still a distant away. She was wrong. Actually, by the time she answered, I was already at the position from where I could see her. Ah! Siti. How sweet you have grown. Much sweeter than when you were younger.
Siti stood at one spot under a cashew nut tree. She was staring at me as I was approaching her, her face lighted as if expecting a happy outcome from her game.
“There you are. What’s up?”
“Do you remember anything about the spot where I am standing right now?” Siti was grinning cheek-to-cheek, just as she did years ago when she managed to make me thinking hard to come up with an answer.
I frowned, trying hard to extract something that I could associate her with that spot. “No, I can’t think of any,” I conceded.
“Okay. It is about a promise that you have given me. You said it from where you are standing right now and I was standing right here. Remember?”
I pressed my forehead with my finger, my mind still searching for the clue. However, I knew that I had to surrender. “Okay Siti. What have I promised you?” I said softly, looking straight into her eyes.
“Ahem… You promised to build me a house with the money that we earned from selling these cashew nuts.” She pointed at the trees. Smiling gleefully she said, “And now, I am claiming it.”
“Oh that! I remember.” After a short pause, I continued, “but with that small amount of money, I can only build you a little house like the one we used to play with.”
“Oh no! Not that kind of house. This time around, I want a real house.”
“A house you and I can live in.” Now, that was some kind of suggestive expression. If you can read in between the line, of course you would know what I was implying. She should understand it quickly, because that was the same thing as the one I was saying about when I said I would rebuild my grandfather’s house.
“Do you really mean what you have just said?” She prodded.
“Share the house which we are going to build?”
“I do. Even if you ask me a hundred times, I will say I do.”
“Because, we have known each other since we were child. We shared many things. And will share anything with you till death. Believe me; I would do anything for you.” How enchanting it was, I thought. She would be enthralled by it.
But I was wrong. The light in her face dimmed as soon as finished my sentences.
“Is that all there is to it. Is that the only reason why you want to build a house for me?”
“I would say the same thing even if you had asked me a thousand and one times.” I said to her, perhaps jokingly.
“Oh, I see,” she muttered in a low tone of voice, her eyelid dropped and her face showing sign of despondency.
I ignored the sign. Instead I began to conjure new topics to continue the conversation. “Would you like to walk around this orchard? It has been ten years since I climbed these trees.”
Siti stayed put at the spot, not even looking at me when I was talking. She did noteven respond. I gazed at her, and I could not bear to see that somber face of hers.
“Siti, what is the matter. Have I said something that hurts you?” I walked nearer to her as I inquired.
“Nothing. I was not hurt by what you have said. I just feel that I want to get home.” She started walking towards her house, leaving me standing in confusion.
What have I done wrong? That was a good question. No, it was a bad question, bad enough to rattle my heart and made me sad.