[SNEAK PEEK] THE BELL JAR

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The face in the mirror looked like a sick Indian.

I dropped the compact into my pocketbook and stared out of the train window. Like a colossal junkyard, the swamps and back lots of Connecticut flashed past, one broken-down fragment bearing no relation to another.

What a hotchpotch the world was!

I glanced down at my unfamiliar skirt and blouse.

The skirt was a green dirndl with tiny black, white and electric-blue shapes swarming across it, and it stuck out like a lampshade. Instead of sleeves, the white eyelet blouse had frills at the shoulder, floppy as the wings of a new angel.

I’d forgotten to save any day clothes from the ones I let fly over New York, so Betsy had traded me a blouse and skirt for my bathrobe with the cornflowers on it.

A wan reflection of myself, white wings, brown ponytail and all, ghosted over the landscape.

“Pollyanna Cowgirl,” I said out loud.

A woman in the seat opposite looked up from her magazine.

I hadn’t, at the last moment, felt like washing off the two diagonal lines of dried blood that marked my cheeks. They seemed touching, and rather spectacular, and I thought I would carry them around with me, like the relic of a dead lover, till they wore off of their own accord.

Of course, if I smiled or moved my face much, the blood would flake away in no time, so I kept my face immobile, and when I had to speak I spoke through my teeth, without disturbing my lips.

I didn’t really see why people should look at me.

Plenty of people looked queerer than I did.

My gray suitcase rode on the rack over my head, empty except for The Thirty Best Short Stories of the year; a white plastic sunglasses case and two dozen avocado pears, a parting present from Doreen.

The pears were unripe, so they would keep well, and whenever I lifted my suitcase up or down or simply carried it along, they cannoned from one end to the other with a special little thunder of their own.

“Root Wan Twenny Ate!” the conductor bawled.

The domesticated wilderness of pine, maple and oak rolled to a halt and stuck in the frame of the train window like a bad picture. My suitcase grumbled and bumped as I negotiated the long aisle.

I stepped from the air-conditioned compartment onto the station platform, and the motherly breath of the suburbs enfolded me. It smelt of lawn sprinklers and station wagons and tennis rackets and dogs and babies.

A summer calm laid its soothing hand over everything, like death.

My mother was waiting by the glove-gray Chevrolet.

“Why lovey, what’s happened to your face?”

“Cut myself,” I said briefly, and crawled into the back seat after my suitcase. I didn’t want her staring at me the whole way home.

The upholstery felt slippery and clean.

My mother climbed behind the wheel and tossed a few letters into my lap, then turned her back.

The car purred into life.

“I think I should tell you right away,” she said, and I could see bad news in the set of her neck, “you didn’t make that writing course.”

The air punched out of my stomach.

All through June the writing course had stretched before me like a bright, safe bridge over the dull gulf of the summer. Now I saw it totter and dissolve, and a body in a white blouse and green skirt plummet into the gap.

Then my mouth shaped itself sourly.

I had expected it.

I slunk down on the middle of my spine, my nose level with the rim of the window, and watched the houses of outer Boston glide by. As the houses grew more familiar, I slunk still lower.

I felt it was very important not to be recognized.

The gray, padded car roof closed over my head like the roof of a prison van, and the white, shining, identical clapboard houses with their interstices of well-groomed green proceeded past, one bar after another in a large but escape-proof cage.

I had never spent a summer in the suburbs before.

The soprano screak of carriage wheels punished my ear. Sun, seeping through the blinds, filled the bedroom with a sulphurous light. I didn’t know how long I had slept, but I felt one big twitch of exhaustion.

The twin bed next to mine was empty and unmade.

At seven I had heard my mother get up, slip into her clothes and tiptoe out of the room. Then the buzz of the orange squeezer sounded from downstairs, and the smell of coffee and bacon filtered under my door. Then the sink water ran from the tap and dishes clinked as my mother dried them and put them back in the cupboard.

Then the front door opened and shut. Then the car door opened and shut, and the motor went broom-broom and, edging off with a crunch of gravel, faded into the distance.

My mother was teaching shorthand and typing to a lot of city college girls and wouldn’t be home till the middle of the afternoon.

The carriage wheels screaked past again. Somebody seemed to be wheeling a baby back and forth under my window.

I slipped out of bed and onto the rug, and quietly, on my hands and knees, crawled over to see who it was.

Ours was a small, white clapboard house set in the middle of a small green lawn on the corner of two peaceful suburban streets, but in spite of the little maple trees planted at intervals around our property, anybody passing along the sidewalk could glance up at the second story windows and see just what was going on.

This was brought home to me by our next-door neighbor, a spiteful woman named Mrs. Ockenden.

Mrs. Ockenden was a retired nurse who had just married her third husband—the other two died in curious circumstances—and she spent an inordinate amount of time peering from behind the starched white curtains of her windows.

She had called my mother up twice about me—once to report that I had been sitting in front of the house for an hour under the streetlight and kissing somebody in a blue Plymouth, and once to say that I had better pull the blinds down in my room, because she had seen me half-naked getting ready for bed one night when she happened to be out walking her Scotch terrier.

With great care, I raised my eyes to the level of the windowsill.

A woman not five feet tall, with a grotesque, protruding stomach, was wheeling an old black baby carriage down the street. Two or three small children of various sizes, all pale, with smudgy faces and bare smudgy knees, wobbled along in the shadow of her skirts.

A serene, almost religious smile lit up the woman’s face. Her head tilted happily back, like a sparrow egg perched on a duck egg, she smiled into the sun.

I knew the woman well.

It was Dodo Conway.

Dodo Conway was a Catholic who had gone to Barnard and then married an architect who had gone to Columbia and was also a Catholic. They had a big, rambling house up the street from us, set behind a morbid façade of pine trees, and surrounded by scooters, tricycles, doll carriages, toy fire trucks, baseball bats, badminton nets, croquet wickets, hamster cages and cocker spaniel puppies—the whole sprawling paraphernalia of suburban childhood.

Dodo interested me in spite of myself.

Her house was unlike all the others in our neighborhood in its size (it was much bigger) and its color (the second story was constructed of dark brown clapboard and the first of gray stucco, studded with gray and purple golfball-shaped stones), and the pine trees completely screened it from view, which was considered unsociable in our community of adjoining lawns and friendly, waist-high hedges.

Dodo raised her six children—and would no doubt raise her seventh—on Rice Krispies, peanut-butter-and-marshmallow sandwiches, vanilla ice cream and gallon upon gallon of Hoods milk. She got a special discount from the local milkman.

Everybody loved Dodo, although the swelling size of her family was the talk of the neighborhood. The older people around, like my mother, had two children, and the younger, more prosperous ones had four, but nobody but Dodo was on the verge of a seventh. Even six was considered excessive, but then, everybody said, of course Dodo was a Catholic.

I watched Dodo wheel the youngest Conway up and down. She seemed to be doing it for my benefit.

Children made me sick.

A floorboard creaked, and I ducked down again, just as Dodo Conway’s face, by instinct, or some gift of supernatural hearing, turned on the little pivot of its neck.

I felt her gaze pierce through the white clapboard and the pink wallpaper roses and uncover me, crouching there behind the silver pickets of the radiator.

I crawled back into bed and pulled the sheet over my head. But even that didn’t shut out the light, so I buried my head under the darkness of the pillow and pretended it was night. I couldn’t see the point of getting up.

I had nothing to look forward to.

After a while I heard the telephone ringing in the downstairs hall. I stuffed the pillow into my ears and gave myself five minutes. Then I lifted my head from its bolt hole. The ringing had stopped.

Almost at once it started up again.

Cursing whatever friend, relative or stranger had sniffed out my homecoming, I padded barefoot downstairs. The black instrument on the hall table trilled its hysterical note over and over, like a nervous bird.

I picked up the receiver.

“Hullo,” I said, in a low, disguised voice.

“Hullo, Esther, what’s the matter, have you got laryngitis?”

It was my old friend Jody, calling from Cambridge.

Jody was working at the Coop that summer and taking a lunchtime course in sociology. She and two other girls from my college had rented a big apartment from four Harvard law students, and I’d been planning to move in with them when my writing course began.

Jody wanted to know when they could expect me.

“I’m not coming,” I said. “I didn’t make the course.”

There was a small pause.

“He’s an ass,” Jody said then. “He doesn’t know a good thing when he sees it.”

“My sentiments exactly.” My voice sounded strange and hollow in my ears,

“Come anyway. Take some other course.”

The notion of studying German or abnormal psychology flitted through my head. After all, I’d saved nearly the whole of my New York salary, so I could just about afford it.

But the hollow voice said, “You better count me out.”

“Well,” Jody began, “there’s this other girl who wanted to come in with us if anybody dropped out. . . .”

“Fine. Ask her.”

The minute I hung up I knew I should have said I would come. One more morning listening to Dodo Conway’s baby carriage would drive me crazy. And I made a point of never living in the same house with my mother for more than a week.

I reached for the receiver.

My hand advanced a few inches, then retreated and fell limp. I forced it toward the receiver again, but again it stopped short, as if it had collided with a pane of glass.

I wandered into the dining room.

Propped on the table I found a long, businesslike letter from the summer school and a thin blue letter on leftover Yale stationery, addressed to me in Buddy Willard’s lucid hand.

I slit open the summer school letter with a knife.

Since I wasn’t accepted for the writing course, it said, I could choose some other course instead, but I should call in to the Admissions Office that same morning, or it would be too late to register, the courses were almost full.

I dialed the Admissions Office and listened to the zombie voice leave a message that Miss Esther Greenwood was canceling all arrangements to come to summer school.

Then I opened Buddy Willard’s letter.

Buddy wrote that he was probably falling in love with a nurse who also had TB, but his mother had rented a cottage in the Adirondacks for the month of July, and if I came along with her, he might well find his feeling for the nurse was a mere infatuation.

I snatched up a pencil and crossed out Buddy’s message. Then I turned the letter paper over and on the opposite side wrote that I was engaged to a simultaneous interpreter and never wanted to see Buddy again as I did not want to give my children a hypocrite for a father.

I stuck the letter back in the envelope, Scotch-taped it together, and readdressed it to Buddy, without putting on a new stamp. I thought the message was worth a good three cents.

Then I decided I would spend the summer writing a novel.

That would fix a lot of people.

I strolled into the kitchen, dropped a raw egg into a teacup of raw hamburger, mixed it up and ate it. Then I set up the card table on the screened breezeway between the house and the garage.

A great wallowing bush of mock orange shut off the view of the street in front, the house wall and the garage wall took care of either side, and a clump of birches and a box hedge protected me from Mrs. Ockenden at the back.

I counted out three hundred and fifty sheets of corrasable bond from my mother’s stock in the hall closet, secreted away under a pile of old felt hats and clothes brushes and woolen scarves.

Back on the breezeway, I fed the first, virgin sheet into my old portable and rolled it up.

From another, distanced mind, I saw myself sitting on the breezeway, surrounded by two white clapboard walls, a mock orange bush and a clump of birches and a box hedge, small as a doll in a doll’s house.

A feeling of tenderness filled my heart. My heroine would be myself, only in disguise. She would be called Elaine. Elaine. I counted the letters on my fingers. There were six letters in Esther, too. It seemed a lucky thing.

Elaine sat on the breezeway in an old yellow nightgown of her mother’s waiting for something to happen. It was a sweltering morning in July, and drops of sweat crawled down her back, one by one, like slow insects.

I leaned back and read what I had written.

It seemed lively enough, and I was quite proud of the bit about the drops of sweat like insects, only I had the dim impression I’d probably read it somewhere else a long time ago.

I sat like that for about an hour, trying to think what would come next, and in my mind, the barefoot doll in her mother’s old yellow nightgown sat and stared into space as well.

“Why, honey, don’t you want to get dressed?”

My mother took care never to tell me to do anything. She would only reason with me sweetly, like one intelligent, mature person with another.

“It’s almost three in the afternoon.”

“I’m writing a novel,” I said. “I haven’t got time to change out of this and change into that.”

I lay on the couch on the breezeway and shut my eyes. I could hear my mother clearing the typewriter and the papers from the card table and laying out the silver for supper, but I didn’t move.

Inertia oozed like molasses through Elaine’s limbs. That’s what it must feel like to have malaria, she thought.

At that rate, I’d be lucky if I wrote a page a day.

Then I knew what the trouble was.

I needed experience.

How could I write about life when I’d never had a love affair or a baby or even seen anybody die? A girl I knew had just won a prize for a short story about her adventures among the pygmies in Africa. How could I compete with that sort of thing?

By the end of supper my mother had convinced me I should study shorthand in the evenings. Then I would be killing two birds with one stone, writing a novel and learning something practical as well. I would also be saving a whole lot of money.

That same evening, my mother unearthed an old blackboard from the cellar and set it up on the breezeway. Then she stood at the blackboard and scribbled little curlicues in white chalk while I sat in a chair and watched.

At first I felt hopeful.

I thought I might learn shorthand in no time, and when the freckled lady in the Scholarships Office asked me why I hadn’t worked to earn money in July and August, the way you were supposed to if you were a scholarship girl, I could tell her I had taken a free shorthand course instead, so I could support myself right after college.

The only thing was, when I tried to picture myself in some job, briskly jotting down line after line of shorthand, my mind went blank. There wasn’t one job I felt like doing where you used shorthand. And, as I sat there and watched, the white chalk curlicues blurred into senselessness.

I told my mother I had a terrible headache, and went to bed.

An hour later the door inched open, and she crept into the room. I heard the whisper of her clothes as she undressed. She climbed into bed. Then her breathing grew slow and regular.

In the dim light of the streetlamp that filtered through the drawn blinds, I could see the pin curls on her head glittering like a row of little bayonets.

I decided I would put off the novel until I had gone to Europe and had a lover, and that I would never learn a word of shorthand. If I never learned shorthand I would never have to use it.

I thought I would spend the summer reading Finnegans Wake and writing my thesis.

Then I would be way ahead when college started at the end of September, and able to enjoy my last year instead of swotting away with no makeup and stringy hair, on a diet of coffee and Benzedrine, the way most of the seniors taking honors did, until they finished their thesis.

Then I thought I might put off college for a year and apprentice myself to a pottery maker.

Or work my way to Germany and be a waitress, until I was bilingual.

Then plan after plan started leaping through my head, like a family of scatty rabbits.

I saw the years of my life spaced along a road in the form of telephone poles, threaded together by wires. I counted one, two, three . . . nineteen telephone poles, and then the wires dangled into space, and try as I would, I couldn’t see a single pole beyond the nineteenth.

The room blued into view, and I wondered where the night had gone. My mother turned from a foggy log into a slumbering, middle-aged woman, her mouth slightly open and a snore raveling from her throat. The piggish noise irritated me, and for a while it seemed to me that the only way to stop it would be to take the column of skin and sinew from which it rose and twist it to silence between my hands.

I feigned sleep until my mother left for school, but even my eyelids didn’t shut out the light. They hung the raw, red screen of their tiny vessels in front of me like a wound. I crawled between the mattress and the padded bedstead and let the mattress fall across me like a tombstone. It felt dark and safe under there, but the mattress was not heavy enough.

It needed about a ton more weight to make me sleep.

riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs. . . .

The thick book made an unpleasant dent in my stomach.

riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s . . .

I thought the small letter at the start might mean that nothing ever really began all new, with a capital, but that it just flowed on from what came before. Eve and Adam’s was Adam and Eve, of course, but it probably signified something else as well.

Maybe it was a pub in Dublin.

My eyes sank through an alphabet soup of letters to the long word in the middle of the page.

bababadalgharaghtakarnrninarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk!

I counted the letters. There were exactly a hundred of them. I thought this must be important.

Why should there be a hundred letters?

Haltingly, I tried the word aloud.

It sounded like a heavy wooden object falling downstairs, boomp boomp boomp, step after step. Lifting the pages of the book, I let them fan slowly by my eyes. Words, dimly familiar but twisted all awry, like faces in a funhouse mirror, fled past, leaving no impression on the glassy surface of my brain.

I squinted at the page.

The letters grew barbs and rams’ horns. I watched them separate, each from the other, and jiggle up and down in a silly way. Then they associated themselves in fantastic, untranslatable shapes, like Arabic or Chinese.

I decided to junk my thesis.

I decided to junk the whole honors program and become an ordinary English major. I went to look up the requirements of an ordinary English major at my college.

There were lots of requirements, and I didn’t have half of them. One of the requirements was a course in the eighteenth century. I hated the very idea of the eighteenth century, with all those smug men writing tight little couplets and being so dead keen on reason. So I’d skipped it. They let you do that in honors, you were much freer. I had been so free I’d spent most of my time on Dylan Thomas.

A friend of mine, also in honors, had managed never to read a word of Shakespeare; but she was a real expert on the Four Quartets,

I saw how impossible and embarrassing it would be for me to try to switch from my free program into the stricter one. So I looked up the requirements for English majors at the city college where my mother taught.

They were even worse.

You had to know Old English and the History of the English Language and a representative selection of all that had been written from Beowulf to the present day.

This surprised me. I had always looked down on my mother’s college, as it was coed, and filled with people who couldn’t get scholarships to the big eastern colleges.

Now I saw that the stupidest person at my mother’s college knew more than I did. I saw they wouldn’t even let me in through the door, let alone give me a large scholarship like the one I had at my own college.

I thought I’d better go to work for a year and think things over. Maybe I could study the eighteenth century in secret.

But I didn’t know shorthand, so what could I do?

I could be a waitress or a typist.

But I couldn’t stand the idea of being either one.

“You say you want more sleeping pills?”

“Yes.”

“But the ones I gave you last week are very strong.”

“They don’t work any more.”

Teresa’s large, dark eyes regarded me thoughtfully. I could hear the voices of her three children in the garden under the consulting-room window. My Aunt Libby had married an Italian, and Teresa was my aunt’s sister-in-law and our family doctor.

I liked Teresa. She had a gentle, intuitive touch.

I thought it must be because she was Italian.

There was a little pause.

“What seems to be the matter?” Teresa said then.

“I can’t sleep. I can’t read.” I tried to speak in a cool, calm way, but the zombie rose up in my throat and choked me off. I turned my hands palm up.

“I think,” Teresa tore off a white slip from her prescription pad and wrote down a name and address, “you’d better see another doctor I know. He’ll be able to help you more than I can.”

I peered at the writing, but I couldn’t read it.

“Doctor Gordon,” Teresa said. “He’s a psychiatrist.”

 

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https://www.e-sentral.com/book/info/222498/the-bell-jar

[SNEAK PEEK] RADIO

Radio oleh Fitri Hussin, Julie Jasmin, Syaida Ilmuna

BUDI terus nampak Johari yang sudah menunggu di tempat parkir sebaik dia membelok masuk stesen minyak itu. Dia terlewat sampai. Jam sudah menunjukkan pukul 8.30 malam. Johari yang resah tersenyum lega.

Sorry lambat sampai. Masuklah.”

Johari masuk ke dalam Mitsubishi Lancer GT.

“Kau dah beritahu orang tu kita lambat sampai?”

“Sudah bang.”

“Dia okey ke?”

“Okey aje bang. Asalkan kita beritahu. Dia tak tertunggu-tunggu nanti.”

“Jom kita gerak.”

Mereka tiba di sebuah rumah di hujung sebuah kampung di Banting. Sebaik sahaja mereka sampai, lampu beranda pun dinyalakan. Pintu rumah itu dibuka dan keluar seorang lelaki yang menunggu mereka di tangga. Lelaki itu menjemput mereka naik lalu duduk di kerusi rotan di beranda itu. Budi dan Johari duduk di situ. Sejurus seorang perempuan datang menghidangkan minuman dan makanan sebelum menghilang semula ke dalam rumah. Mereka berbual dahulu sambil minum dan makan.

“Saya datang ni sebab…”

Lelaki yang memperkenalkan dirinya sebagai Abang Mael itu mengangkat tangan. Budi yang faham tidak meneruskan kata-kata.

“Aku tahu.”

“Jadi apa sebenarnya yang berlaku pada saya bang?”

“Benda tu sentiasa ikut kau.”

“Benda apa bang?”

“Benda yang si Johari ni nampak kat belakang kereta kau tu.”

“Hantu?”

“Habis tu apa?”

Budi terdiam. “Macam mana dia boleh ikut saya bang? Dia asal dari mana? Saya tak pergi mana-mana tempat keras pun. Saya pergi pejabat balik rumah. Berulang macam tu tiap hari.”

Abang Mael tersenyum.

“Abang boleh tolong halaukan?”

“Payah sikit.”

“Sebab apa?”

“Bukan liar tapi bertuan.”

“Ada orang hantar ilmu hitam pada saya ke bang?”

Abang Mael mengangguk.

“Abang boleh bantu saya?”

“Boleh. Duduk bersila depan aku. Pejam mata.”

Budi bersila di lantai berhadapan Abang Mael. Mulut Abang Mael kumat-kamit membaca sesuatu. Dipegangnya kelopak mata kiri Budi dan kemudian berpindah ke kelopak mata kanan. Dipegangnya kepala Budi pula. Menghabiskan mantera yang dibacanya dengan dengusan kasar.

“Jauhi dia dan jangan datang lagi!”

Sunyi.

“Pergi kalau tak nak mati!”

Sunyi.

“Pergi!”

Kedengaran suara mendengus yang kuat sebelum sayup-sayup hilang.

“Buka mata kau.”

Budi membuka mata.

“Benda tu dah pergi. Nanti aku buatkan air. Minum dan mandi.”

Namun selepas seminggu benda yang mengganggunya itu muncul semula. Membuatkan Budi kembali berjumpa dengan Abang Mael.

“Kalau benda orang hantar memang payah. Bila dah dipaksa tuannya, nak tak nak dia terpaksa datang mengacau kau jugak. Tuan dia dah pegang kelemahan dia,” terang Abang Mael.

Budi mengangguk. Mulai perlahan-lahan belajar dan memahami selok-belok dunia ilmu hitam.

“Hari ni aku ubatkan, seminggu dua dia hantar lagi, kau pun diganggu semula.”

“Saya nak buat apa bang?”

“Aku ajar kau cara nak elak diganggu. Nak?”

“Ajar macam mana bang?”

“Ajar mantera pelindung diri.”

“Boleh bang.”

“Aku tak ajar orang sebarang. Orang terpilih aje aku ajar. Lagipun aku tengok kau sesuai.”

Budi tersenyum. Maklumlah terpilih dan sesuai pula.

“Kalau orang lain dah lama tumbang. Ada benda yang dituju pada kau tak kena.”

“Tak kena?”

“Betul. Orang tua kau bukan sembarangan.”

Budi terkejut mendengar kata-kata Abang Mael.

“Maksud abang?”

“Kau akan tahu nanti.”

“Beritahulah bang.”

“Kau akan tahu nanti. Sabar. Sekarang aku ajar kau cara nak atasi masalah kau ni. Sekali petua untuk keadaan-keadaan tertentu. Itu yang lebih penting.”

Budi tidak membantah biarpun hatinya meronta-ronta ingin tahu.

Seperti yang diberitahu Abang Mael, selepas seminggu kelibat perempuan tua itu muncul semula. Hampir sahaja kereta Budi terbabas apabila melihat wajah perempuan itu menjegil pada cermin pandang belakang. Mujur dia sempat menekan brek. Tayar berhenti selangkah dari gaung bukit.

Dia membuka pintu. Hendak keluar segera dari kereta seperti petua yang diberi oleh Abang Mael. Tetapi pintu itu ditolak keras dari luar. Kunci pintu tertutup sendiri. Dia cuba membuka kunci pintu itu semula. Ia tertutup sendiri semula. Brek tangan turun sendiri. Dia cuba menarik brek tangan itu ke atas semula. Tetapi brek tangan itu berat dan tidak mampu ditarik. Gear ke ‘D’ sendiri. Kereta itu berjalan sendiri.

Budi teringatkan pesan Abang Mael. “Tenang Budi, tenang.” Dia mengingatkan diri sendiri. Sebaik teringat mantera yang diajar Abang Mael, dia terus membacanya.

Kunci pintu kereta naik. Dia membuka pintu kereta. Sempat keluar sebelum pintu itu ditolak kuat dan tertutup semula. Keretanya berhenti bergerak kira-kira seinci dari gaung bukit. Budi lega bukan kepalang. Mengingati apa perkara seterusnya yang harus dilakukan, dia segera berdiri tetap lalu membaca mantera yang diajar Abang Mael.

Keretanya bergoyang kuat seperti ada sesuatu yang meronta-ronta di dalamnya. Di hujung manteranya terdengar cermin pecah dan suatu benda melesit pergi dari situ melanggar daun-daun pokok yang bergoyang kuat. Disertai raungan kesakitan yang menyeramkan.

Pantas Budi masuk semula ke dalam kereta dan pergi dari situ. Sepanjang jalan dia membaca mantera yang diberi Abang Mael sehingga sampai ke apartmen.

Perempuan tua itu tidak mengganggunya lagi. Dia berasa lega. Tetapi selepas sebulan, dia ternampak kembali kelibat perempuan tua itu di dalam apartmennya. Walaupun hanya nampak kelibat rambutnya, dia tahu ia milik perempuan tua itu. Yang anehnya selepas dia nampak perempuan tua itu sekali lagi dia ternampak kelibat lelaki tua yang dilihatnya di sisi keretanya dalam hujan dulu. Dia tertanya-tanya, adakah hantu yang mengacaunya dua ekor? Atau apa kaitan hantu lelaki tua itu dengan hantu perempuan tua itu?

Tidak senang duduk di dalam apartmen, Budi keluar melepak di restoran mamak. Pesan mi goreng dan teh tarik. Pesanan sampai selepas 15 minit. Dia kembali melayari Facebook, Instagram dan Twitter berhenti bermedia sosial. Cicip teh tarik dan jamah mi goreng.

Sebetulnya dia bukanlah lapar tetapi dia pesan juga mi goreng itu. Spontan. Entah apa yang difikirkannya waktu itu. Restoran mamak selalunya bukan kisah pun kalau pelanggan duduk berjam-jam. Lagi pula sebelum pulang ke apartmen dia sudah melantak nasi di restoran berdekatan pejabatnya seperti selalu.

Namun sebaik menjamah mi goreng itu, selera makanannya bangkit. Sedap satu hal dan perutnya yang berasa masih penuh tadi tup-tup seperti terasa sangat lapar. Tengah asyik menikmati makanan, dia berasa ada sesuatu di dalam mulutnya. Dia segera ke singki. Menunduk kepala. Sempat lagi tengok sekeliling. Kemudian baru luah. Gumpalan rambut kelihatan bersama mi goreng yang belum ditelan.

Dia membuka paip singki. Air mengalir melanggar gumpalan itu. Gumpalan mi berpisah dari gumpalan rambut itu. Dia melihat sekeliling. Kelihatan pekerja restoran itu bercekak pinggang mengawasi pekerja-pekerja lain.

“Anney!”

Penyelia restoran itu menoleh ke arah Budi.

“Mari sini.”

Penyelia restoran mamak itu datang. “Ada apa abang?”

“Kau tengok ni.” Tangan Budi menunjuk ke dalam singki.

Penyelia restoran itu melihat ke dalam singki.

“Kau rasa apa tu? Benda ni dalam mi goreng tu. Nasib baik aku tak telan.”

Sorry bang. Saya suruh tukang masak buat lain.”

“Tak payah. Tak selera aku nak makan lagi.”

“Ini mi abang tak payah bayar.”

Sejuk sikit hati Budi. Namun, dia tidak ke meja semula. Sebaliknya ke kaunter, membayar teh dan beredar dari situ. Pulang ke apartmen, menonton televisyen dan mula mengantuk. Seperti selalu, dia akan menggosok gigi sebelum tidur. Sambil menggosok gigi, dia akan merenung dirinya di dalam cermin.

Matanya terbeliak. Dia ternampak kelibat perempuan tua itu berlalu sangat pantas di belakangnya sebentar tadi. Dia terkaku sebentar dan pantas membaca mantera. Rasa cuak tadi perlahan-lahan hilang dan kelibat perempuan tua itu tidak muncul semula.

Dia menggosok gigi semula. Membuka pili air dan meludah ke singki. Terkejut mendapati air ludahan itu bercampur dengan gumpalan rambut. Air yang mengalir menghilangkan air ludahan dan membersihkan gumpalan rambut. Kali ini jelas kelihatan sifat rambut yang bergumpal itu. Ada helaian-helaian uban di dalam gumpalan rambut itu. Sah ia gumpalan rambut perempuan tua yang memang beruban itu!

Budi pantas berpaling. Sejurus dia berasa perempuan tua itu masih ada di situ. Ada bunyi pecutan air yang keluar dari kepala paip singki. Budi kembali melihat ke singki. Air yang mengalir dari kepala paip itu kelihatan sekejap perlahan dan sekejap laju. Seperti ada perubahan tekanan air. Sesuatu yang tidak pernah berlaku sebelum ini.

Lampu bilik air terpadam. Sesaat kemudian terpasang kembali. Terpadam, terpasang, terpadam… Dalam sedetik itu Budi berasa mulutnya dipenuhi sesuatu. Pantas dia memasukkan jari ke dalam mulut. Menarik keluar apa yang memenuhi mulut. Terasa benda itu menjalar ke kerongkong. Menyesakkan nafasnya.

Lampu terpasang. Dalam sedetik cahaya itu Budi terkejut melihat apa yang ditarik keluar dari mulut ialah gumpalan rambut beruban. Lampu terpadam. Budi menggagau pemegang pintu. Dia mahu segera keluar dari situ. Tetapi yang dipegangnya adalah sesuatu yang amat dingin. Seperti kulit seorang manusia.

Lampu terpasang. Perempuan tua yang berdiri di hadapannya itu menyeringai ke arahnya. Budi menarik tangannya dari tangan perempuan tua itu. Lampu terpadam. Dia pantas berundur dan jatuh terlentang. Kepalanya melanggar bucu singki. Dia tidak menghiraukan kesakitan di kepala dan terus menjauhkan diri dari pintu. Lupa tentang mantera yang diajar Abang Mael.

Lampu terpasang. Perempuan tua itu sudah tiada. Lampu itu tidak terpadam lagi. Barulah Budi teringatkan Abang Mael. Segera dia beredar dari situ. Masuk bilik tidur dan capai telefon bimbit. Abang Mael dihubungi.

“Tolong saya bang…”

“Tenang. Baca mantera yang aku bagi tu.”

“Saya terlupa. Terkejut sangat tadi. Saya rasa dia ada lagi ni.”

“Kejap aku buat dari jauh.”

Diam setengah minit.

“Aku dah halau dia.”

“Baru saya rasa okey sekarang. Tak ada ke mantera lain yang lebih power bang?”

Terdengar Abang Mael ketawa di talian.

“Kau kena belajarlah.”

“Saya nak belajar.”

“Tapi tak boleh ambik secubit-secubit. Kena belajar satu peringkat ke satu peringkat.”

“Boleh bang. Bila abang free, saya jumpa abang. Lagi cepat dapat belajar lagi bagus.”

“Nak belajar tak payah jumpa aku. Aku pun bukan selalu ada di rumah.”

“Macam mana tu?”

“Belajar melalui…”

 

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[SNEAK PEEK] PESONA

PESONA oleh Arif Zulkifli

 

Nuha menjamah bubur kosong di hadapannya dengan perlahan. Adik-beradik angkatnya yang lain sedang rakus menghabiskan bubur di dalam mangkuk masing-masing. Hatinya berdebar-debar. Acap kali dia memegang loket yang tergantung di leher. Sudah menjadi tabiatnya suka mengusap loketnya tatkala sedang bersedih, marah ataupun gemuruh.

“Kau tak lalu makan ke Nuha? Cepatlah habiskan bubur tu. Nanti Ummi marah,” bisik Lisa yang duduk di sebelahnya. Nuha menjeling ke arah mangkuk budak itu yang sudah licin. Dia memandang pula ke wajah Lisa yang kelihatan masih lapar. Matanya tak lekang dari memandang mangkuk Nuha yang masih penuh. “Kau ambiklah bubur ni. Aku takde selera.”

“Eh, kau betul ni? Nanti kau lapar kang?” Wajah Lisa berubah gembira sesaat sebelum dia sorokkan kegembiraannya. Dia sudah menjilat bibirnya beberapa kali.

“Takpe. Kau habiskan je.”

Dan dengan rakusnya, dia menghabiskan bubur itu. Tak sampai seminit, mangkuk Nuha sudah licin.

“Wow.” Nuha mengambil mangkuknya dan terus berjalan ke arah singki. Sempat dia menjeling ke arah Mona yang baru keluar dari bilik tidur dengan sanggul di kepala. Mata Mona tajam memerhatikan gerak-geri anak-anak angkatnya. Tatkala mata mereka bertentang, cepat-cepat Nuha masuk ke dapur.

Usai meletakkan mangkuk yang sudah dibasuh ke atas para, dia terus ikut beratur bersama lapan adik-beradik angkatnya yang lain untuk bersalaman dengan ummi dan abi sebelum keluar “mencari rezeki”.

“Ingat pesan ummi, kalau nampak orang yang mencurigakan, cepat-cepat lari dari situ. Ingat target harian kita berapa. Dan jangan lupa balik sebelum maghrib.”

Jantung Nuha berdetak semakin kencang tatkala giliran dia untuk bersalaman dengan ummi semakin dekat.

“Nuha.”

Hampir luruh jantungnya apabila dia mendengar ummi menyebut namanya tiba-tiba. Tangannya yang menggigil, dia sorokkan di belakang. “Ye… ye, ummi?” Setiap saat yang berlalu terasakan infiniti. Alamak, ummi dah tahu ke apa aku nak buat ni? Macam mana kalau kantoi dengan dia? Alamak! Alamak!

“Kamu lupa beg kamu?”

Nuha tersentak. Dia memegang bahu kanannya, tempat biasa dia letakkan beg sandangnya itu. Tiada. Dalam kekalutan, dia terlupa untuk membawa beg itu turun. “Alamak. Lupa ummi.”

Sepantas kilat dia berlari ke atas. Beberapa anak tangga dilangkau untuk sampai cepat. Beg dicapai dan dia bergegas turun. Di ruang tamu tinggal ummi dan abinya saja. Adik-beradiknya yang lain sudah tiada. Dia menelan liur. Perlahan-lahan dia mendekati ummi dan abinya. “Ni ada dah begnya ummi, abi. Maafkan Nuha sebab cuai.”

“Takpe. Ingat pesan ummi tadi?”

Dia mengangguk sekali.

“Bagus.”

Nuha menyalami dan mencium tangan kedua orang tua angkatnya itu, mungkin buat kali terakhir dalam hidupnya. Dia sudah lama bersedia untuk menghadapi hari ini. Walaupun cuak, dia sudah menyediakan diri dari dulu lagi untuk hari ini. Umpama burung yang sudah lama terkurung di dalam sangkar, hari ini dia membebaskan dirinya sendiri dan sayapnya akan dikuak luas dan dia akan terbang, terbang tinggi, jauh dari sangkar neraka ini.

Hari ini hari dia.

“Assalamualaikum ummi, abi.”

Langkah diayun ke luar pintu dan akhirnya dia bebas.

 

──♦──

 

“Kita nak pergi mana ni?” Azlan bersuara setelah senyap sepanjang satu jam lebih perjalanan dengan kereta.

“Akademi.”

“Akademi?”

Emran yang sedang memandu, mengangguk sekali. Sempat dia melontarkan senyuman pada Azlan yang sedang berkerut melihatnya. “Yup. Akademi. Akademi yang dibina Ahmad dan Emma, ibu bapa kandung kamu, khas buat orang-orang Hobat berlatih.”

Kerutan di dahi Azlan semakin bertambah. “Orang Hobat?”

“Ah, ya. Masih banyak yang kamu belum tahu lagi Azlan. Tak apa. Nanti bila kita tiba di sana, akan ada orang yang terangkan semua benda ni kepada kamu.”

“Semua benda?”

“Yup. Semua benda.” Emran menamatkan dialog mereka dengan menepuk bahu Azlan.

Azlan masih tidak puas hati. Jika betul kata-kata Emran itu, maka semua persoalan yang terkumpul di dalam kepalanya selama beberapa hari ini akan terjawab.

“Azlan… Azlan bangun. Kita dah sampai ni.”

Dia membuka matanya perlahan-lahan. Wajah Emran yang sedang tersenyum, mengisi ruang pandangnya. Dia menggosok-gosok matanya bagi membuang kantuk. Sesekali dia menggeliat bagi memastikan perjalanan darahnya kembali normal setelah duduk statik selama entah berapa jam.

Setelah betul-betul segar, dia keluar dari perut Audi milik Emran itu dan benda pertama yang menyambut pandangannya adalah sebuah rumah agam yang sangat besar. Lima batang tiang berdiri terpasak dengan megahnya. Setiap tiang lebih besar daripada sepemeluk manusia. Warna putih dan emas menjadi warna tema rumah agam itu.

Dari tempat dia berdiri, rumah agam itu kelihatan berkilau di bawah cahaya matahari. Boleh dikatakan, luas bangunan itu saja lebih besar daripada luas padang bola di sekolahnya. Mulut Azlan ternganga kerana terlalu kagum dengan keindahan bangunan itu.

“Selamat datang ke Akademi Orang Hobat. Biasa-biasa je. Heheh.” Emran di sebelahnya tersengih kerang. “Dah, jom. Ramai yang tak sabar nak jumpa kamu ni.

“Hah? Ramai?”

Pintu utama akademi itu ditolak Emran dan di sebalik pintu itu, terdapat hampir 50 wajah yang sedang memandang tepat ke arahnya.

“Oh, tak sangka pulak semua orang akan sambut Azlan hari ini. Well, guys, inilah Azlan. Orang yang saya ceritakan tu,” ujar Emran selamba sambil tangannya diunjurkan ke arah Azlan.

Wajah mereka semua kelihatan semakin berminat hendak mengenali Azlan.

“Err, hai.”

“Dah, dah. Azlan baru sampai, jadi dia penat. Semua orang pergi sambung aktiviti masing-masing.”

Hampir kesemua orang di situ beredar, kecuali dua susuk yang sedang berdiri di hadapannya. Dua orang yang sangat dia kenali. “Eh, Cikgu Iskandar. Cikgu Laili. Cikgu buat apa dekat sini?”

Mereka berdua datang mendekati Azlan dengan senyuman terukir di bibir masing-masing.

“Akhirnya, sampai jugak kamu di sini,” ujar Cikgu Iskandar tanpa menjawab soalan Azlan tadi.

“Saya ucapkan takziah atas pemergian ayah dan ibu awak. Semoga mereka ditempatkan bersama orang-orang yang beriman. Mereka orang yang baik. Banyak jasa mereka pada kami semua, terutamanya pada akademi ini,” ujar Cikgu Laili pula.

Azlan hanya tersenyum tawar. Apa lagi yang dia patut lakukan? Perlukah dia ucap terima kasih? Atau hanya mengangguk? Segala ucapan takziah yang diterimanya semalam, semuanya masuk telinga kanan dan keluar di telinga kiri. Namun, bila diucapkan oleh cikgunya sendiri barulah rasanya merejam perasaan. Barulah dia merasakan kehilangan. Kekosongan. Hampir saja dia tak dapat bernafas, namun dia cuba mengawal. Dia harus tunjuk yang dia kuat di hadapan mereka. Dia perlu kuat untuk Mak dan Abah. Demi dendam darah yang seharusnya dia balas dengan darah juga.

Bam!

Bunyi kuat itu mengejutkan mereka berempat.

“Den?” panggil Cikgu Iskandar.

Tak jauh dari mereka berempat, kelihatan seorang lelaki sedang berdiri di belakang pintu, tersipu-sipu malu. Dia menggaru kepalanya.

“Kan aku dah cakap hati-hati sikit. Tengok, kan dah kantoi?!” Dari belakang pintu, muncul pula satu suara perempuan yang berbisik kuat.

“Balqis?” Cikgu Laili pula yang bersuara.

Pak!

Perempuan yang dipanggil Balqis oleh Laili itu keluar dari tempat persembunyiannya. Tangannya melekat di dahi, sepertinya dia baru saja menepuk dahinya dengan kuat. “Saya bisik kuat sangat eh tadi?” soalnya, tak ditujukan khusus kepada sesiapa namun semua yang mendengar hanya mengangguk. Dia menggeleng. “Kau punya pasal lah ni!” Laju saja tangan yang melekat di dahinya terbang melayang ke lengan lelaki di sebelah.

“Ow!”

“Dah, dah. Alang-alang kamu berdua dekat sini, lagi baik kalau kamu tunjukkan Azlan kawasan sekeliling akademi kita ni,” ujar Emran. Dia memandang ke arah Azlan pula. “Azlan, kamu ikut diorang ni. Diorang antara senior dekat akademi ni, walaupun diorang yang paling muda.” Emran diam sejenak. “Well, not anymore.” Dia menepuk bahu Azlan sekali, sebelum mengajak Cikgu Iskandar dan Cikgu Laili untuk beredar dari situ.

Lelaki bernama Den itu terus menerpa ke arah Azlan dengan tangan yang terhulur hendak bersalam. “Hai! Azlan! Nama saya Latiff. Tapi semua orang dekat sini panggil saya, Den!”

Azlan menyambut salam Den yang kelihatan begitu teruja melihatnya.

“Jangan tanya saya macam mana daripada Latiff boleh jadi Den. Panjang ceritanya! Kalau nak dengar cerita panjangnya, kita kena duduk ditemani bintang dan bulan dan mug terisi air kopi di tangan, dan unggun api, barulah boleh saya cerita! Oh, salam kenal!”

Azlan memandang wajah Den tanpa sebarang kata. Lelaki di hadapannya itu berambut hitam dan kerinting yang dibiarkan kusut tak bersikat. Kulitnya cerah dengan alis mata yang tebal. Tubuhnya kurus dan tinggi, namun bukan jenis kurus yang tak bermaya. Terdapat sesuatu yang gagah dengan cara dia berdiri walaupun dia sering menampal senyum di wajah.

“Kejap, kejap. Apa maksud Cikgu Emran, not anymore?” Tiba-tiba Balqis muncul dari belakang Den dengan kerut di dahi. Telunjuknya lurus dihunus ke wajah Azlan.

Azlan mengundur selangkah ke belakang. “Err.”

“Berapa umur kau?” tanya Balqis.

Azlan menjeling ke arah Den.

Den yang masih tersenyum hanya mengangkat bahu sekali, seperti mengatakan, ‘lebih baik kau jawab soalan perempuan itu kalau tak nak kena belasah.’

“Emm, 17.”

“Shit,” Balqis memandang ke arah Den. “Kita dah tak jadi yang paling muda dalam akademi ni.”

“Berapa umur korang?”

“18!” Den menjawab riang.

“Dah, aku tak nak buang masa sembang dekat sini. Ikut aku. Aku tunjuk semua kawasan akademi ni dekat kau,” Balqis bertutur dengan laju, selaju kakinya melangkah meninggalkan Azlan dan Den yang terkebil-kebil di belakang. “Cepatlah!”

Cepat-cepat Azlan dan Den mengejar.

“Awak jangan terasa dengan Balqis. Cara dia cakap memang macam tu. Dia bukan kurang ajar tau,” ujar Den sambil menggaru kepalanya.

Azlan tersenyum nipis. “Oh, takpe.”

“Lagi satu, sebelum awak datang, dia memang bangga jadi antara penghuni akademi ni yang paling muda. So bila awak datang, mungkin dia rasa kedudukan dia dekat sini tergugat. So from now on, she has her eyes on you. Jaga-jagalah.”

“Great.”

Den ketawa kuat. “Selamat datang ke akademi, kawan!”

 

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[SNEAK PEEK] PIJAMA

PIJAMA oleh Rahim Ramli

 

Aku membuat keputusan untuk tidak terus pulang ke rumah. Mulanya aku mahu ke Kompleks PKNS di Seksyen 14, tempat aku luangkan masa bersama Fil semalam, tapi tiba-tiba aku teringat yang Fil kata dia bekerja di satu kedai buku di Shah Alam Mall. Jadi alang-alang dah keluar rumah, mungkin aku boleh pergi jumpa dia dekat sana.

Nampaknya nasib seakan-akan menyebelahi aku hari ini. Dari depan pintu kedai buku tempatnya bekerja, aku boleh nampak dia berdiri di sebalik kaunter juruwang. Dia tak perasan kehadiran aku sebab sedang sibuk bertugas.

Aku berdiri di sisi kaunter, menanti dia selesai melakukan kerjanya. Setelah tidak ada lagi pelanggan yang beratur di kaunter, dia menghela nafas. Barangkali lega kerana boleh tenang sekejap sebelum mana-mana pelanggan lain pula datang. Dia kemudian menoleh ke arahku dan tersentak. “Eh, Nazim. Kau buat apa kat sini?” soalnya penuh teruja.

“Ushar kau,” aku berseloroh.

“Banyaklah kau punya ushar. Time sekolah dulu tak nak ushar. Haha.”

“Dulu kau nampak lain, sekarang kau nampak lain.”

“Awek hilang, baru nak ushar aku.”

Aku mengetap bibir. Sedikit tersinggung dengan kata-katanya.

“Eh, sorry. Aku tak sengaja. Tersasul pula.” Cepat-cepat dia meminta maaf. Mungkin sedar yang dia melawak tak kena tempat.

“Nah. It’s okay. No big deal.”

“Kau macam mana sekarang?”

“Aku okay je kot. Thanks pasal semalam.”

“My pleasure.”

“Jom pergi makan?” aku mengajak.

“Wei, aku tengah kerja ni.”

“Blah je la. Kata punk, rebel.”

“Itu dululah. Kau juga yang kata dulu lain sekarang lain.”

“Aku tahu. So, nak pergi makan tak?”

“Sabar la. Aku rehat pukul dua belas nanti.”

“Balik pukul berapa?”

“Enam setengah.”

“Masuk pukul berapa?”

“Tengok syif. Hari ni aku masuk pagi. Sembilan suku. So, balik petang. Kalau masuk tengah hari, balik malam.”

“Ooo…” aku mengangguk-angguk tanda faham.

“Sabar ya. Pukul 12 nanti kita pergi makan.”

“Kalau macam tu, aku pusing-pusing dululah. Pukul 12 nanti, aku datang balik.”

“Alright. Ikut kau la.”

Aku pun bergerak meninggalkan Fil dengan tugasnya. Sebelum keluar dari kedai buku tu, sempat aku belek-belek buku-buku yang terjual terutamanya novel dan juga komik. Dulu aku rajin juga baca komik, terutamanya masa sekolah rendah. Bila dah meningkat remaja dan mula meminati muzik, perlahan-lahan aku berhenti baca komik. Minat dan komitmen dah beralih arah sepenuhnya pada muzik dan seterusnya fesyen yang lahir dari muzik itu sendiri.

Masih ada setengah jam lagi sebelum waktu rehat Fil tiba. Aku memutuskan untuk meronda-ronda tanpa hala tuju dalam pusat membeli-belah itu. Kedai-kedai yang ada semuanya tak menarik perhatian aku. Tabiat aku yang suka berjalan tak tentu hala ini sebenarnya aku berjaya hentikan tanpa sedar bila aku berkawan dengan Mai dan Fazlin. Sekarang mereka tak ada, aku kembali ke tabiat lama. Baru sekarang aku sedar yang aku dah lama juga tak buat perangai lama.

Tiga minit sebelum pukul dua belas, aku kembali semula ke kedai buku. Kali ni aku duduk dekat bangku di luar kedai buku. Dari situ aku boleh nampak jelas Fil sedang bercakap dengan seorang staf lain yang memakai uniform sama dengannya. Kemudian dia meninggalkan kaunter juruwang dan masuk ke dalam sebuah bilik yang terletak di belakang kaunter itu.

Gelagat seorang kanak-kanak yang sedang berjalan dengan ibunya menarik perhatian aku. Sesekali si kecil itu ketawa nyaring, nampaknya happy gila. Leka pulak tengok budak kecik tu, dahlah comel, pipi pun tembam. Aku jarang nak puji budak-budak comel sebab aku tak suka budak-budak, tapi budak tu memang comel.

“Dah ready?”

Aku menoleh. Fil sudah berdiri di sebelahku. Dia memakai sepasang jaket yang melindungi uniform kerjanya. Aku memerhati wajahnya sekejap. Nampaknya dia memakai mekap masa bekerja. Wajahnya dibedak tipis, guna celak dan lipstik warna merah jambu yang hampir sama dengan warna bibirnya. Mungkin sebab dia kena jumpa ramai orang kot.

“So, nak makan mana ni?” aku bertanya. Aku yang ajak orang, aku pula yang bertanya. Kalau Mai ada, mesti dia dah tegur. Elok sangatlah tu, Nazim. Terus cari jalan untuk kenang Mai.

“Kalau kedai hijau, kau okay?”

“Kedai hijau?”

Rupa-rupanya ada sebuah kedai makan di kompleks PKNS yang selalu jadi tumpuan para pekerja sekitar, termasuklah Fil dan rakan-rakan sekerjanya di kedai buku itu. Namanya aku lupa nak tanya Fil, tapi kedai tu digelar kedai hijau sebab dindingnya dicat hijau. Kata Fil, ada satu kedai makan lagi yang kawan-kawannya gelar kedai gelap. Sebab apa? Sebab ruang dalam kedai tu gelap. Agaknya, lebih mudah melabel sesebuah kedai itu dengan ciri yang paling menonjol dan ketara padanya selain nama kedai itu sendiri.

Kedai ini menghidangkan nasi campur. Pelbagai jenis lauk terhidang, sesuai selera para pengunjung. Kata Fil, selalunya dia bungkus saja dan makan di stor sebab tempat duduk selalu penuh. Tapi kali ini kami awal, jadi masih banyak tempat kosong. Kami berdua memutuskan untuk makan saja di sini.

Lepas mengambil lauk dan mula makan, baru aku tahu kenapa kedai ini selalu penuh. Makanannya murah dan rasanya boleh tahan sedap. Aku makan nasi berlauk ayam pedas dan kicap. Ringkas. Aku memang tak berapa suka makan sayur kecuali sayur yang Mak masak. Itu pun jenis yang tertentu je.

“Kau pernah makan sini tak?” Fil bertanya.

“Tak pernah,” jawabku sambil melihat sekeliling.

“Yalah. Kau mana makan kedai-kedai macam ni. Kau makan kat McD, KFC, Burger King.”

Aku sekadar mendengus sambil mula terus menyuap nasi. Tak ada idea macam mana nak balas kata-kata Fil.

“Kau macam mana?”

“Macam mana apa?”

“Kau okay ke? Yalah. Semalam kan macam tak berapa nak okay je.”

“Tadi kan kau dah tanya.”

“Saja aku tanya lagi. Nak tengok konsisten tak jawapan kau sekarang dengan jawapan kau yang tadi. Kalau tak konsisten, maknanya kau tipu.”

Aku mendengus. “Susah nak cakap. Sejujurnya, I feel like shit. But life must go on.”

“Kau kalau ada apa-apa masalah, kau contact la aku. Kau dah tahu mana nak cari aku kan?”

“Kalau kau cuti?”

“Henfon kan ada. Kau masih pakai nombor yang sama kan?”

“Sama je. Tak ada sebab aku nak main tukar-tukar nombor.”

“Aku pun masih pakai nombor yang sama. Tak tahu la kot-kot kau dah delete nombor aku.”

Aku mendengus lagi. “Tak adalah. Aku jarang nak delete nombor sesiapa. Kadang-kadang tak terlintas pun. Sudahnya, henfon aku penuh dengan nombor-nombor yang aku tak contact pun.”

“Samalah. Aku pun macam tu.”

“Kau tak kisah ke?”

“Pasal apa?”

“Maksud aku, kenapa kau nak buang masa kau untuk melayan aku dan dengar masalah aku? Masa sekolah dulu pun, kita tak adalah rapat mana. Kau dengan geng-geng kau dan aku pula, well, dengan kawan-kawan imaginasi aku.”

Fil ketawa. “Aku ada kepentingan aku sendiri. Aku suka nak ambil tahu rahsia dan hal-hal peribadi orang lain. Tu je. Kalau diorang ada masalah, aku seronok dengar. Baru aku tahu rupa-rupanya hidup diorang lagi teruk dari hidup aku.”

“Serius la, Fil.”

Fil menyeringai. “Serius la. Buat apa nak jadi pendengar kepada masalah orang lain kalau masalah sendiri tak boleh selesai. Dengar masalah orang ni, tujuan utama dia hanya untuk buat kita lupa masalah kita sendiri. Juga tujuan dia supaya kita nampak mulia dan baik pada pandangan orang yang berkongsi masalah. Diorang akan rasa terharu sebab diorang ingat kita ni ambil berat pasal diorang, sedangkan hakikatnya, we don’t actually give a shit.”

“Itu ke yang kau fikir?”

Seringai Fil berubah kembali ke senyuman manis gula perang. “Tak adalah. Aku gurau je.”

Tapi macam ada betulnya juga kata-kata Fil tadi. Dalam gurauan, ada kebenaran. Kadang-kadang kata-kata yang diungkapkan dengan nada bergurau itulah apa orang yang berkata itu benar-benar hendak sampaikan.

 

──♦──

 

Entah dah berapa lama aku termenung depan laptop di meja belajarku. Lampu bilik sengaja tak dihidupkan. Sejak kebelakangan ni, aku rasa lebih selesa duduk dalam gelap. Paling tidak pun, ada cahaya samar-samar je dari luar.

Mata menatap skrin di hadapanku. Laman Google memaparkan carian tentang Maizatul Allia binti Mohd Roslan, tetapi tiada sebarang berita terbaru tentang dia atau Fazlin yang aku temui.

“Nazim!”

Suara manja Mai kedengaran. Aku tersentak saat merasa ada sepasang tangan yang memelukku dari belakang. Kepalanya disandarkan ke belakang kepalaku.

“Mai?”

“Ya, Nazim. I kat sini,” ujar Mai lalu melepaskan pelukannya.

Aku menoleh. Berdiri di depan mataku kini adalah Mai. Dia memakai baju dan seluar pijama warna putih sama macam beberapa hari yang lepas. Aku agak yang aku bermimpi lagi tapi aku tak ingat pula kalau-kalau aku ada baring di katil dan terlelap. Seingat aku, tadi aku makan malam bersama Mak dan Abah sebelum naik dan menghadap komputer. Ke aku terlelap depan komputer sebenarnya? Entahlah.

Andai kata ini semua hanyalah mimpi, biarlah. Sekurang-kurangnya terlunas juga rinduku pada Mai. Aku berjalan mendekatinya lalu merangkulnya erat. Beberapa saat berlalu sebelum dia membalas pelukanku.

“Where have you been, Mai?” soalku.

“I ada je kat sini. You yang tak bagi perhatian pada I. Mentang-mentanglah dah ada orang lain,” jawabnya.

“Mana ada orang lain. I sayang you seorang je. Sejak you hilang, tak pernah sehari pun berlalu tanpa I fikirkan you.”

“Tak de orang lain? Budak perempuan rambut pendek yang kerja kat kedai buku tu?”

“Yang tu kawan I je. Sejak you hilang, I banyak mengadu kat dia pasal you. Itu je.”

Pelukan dilepaskan.

“I tak nak orang lain. I nak you je. You baliklah,” pinta aku.

Mai mendengus, “I ada je kat sini.”

“Then, you jangan ke mana-mana. Stay by my side. Forever.”

Dahi aku dan dahi Mai bersentuhan. Dari jarak yang sebegitu dekat, aku melihat dia tersenyum. Aku menarik tangannya dan kami duduk di katil sambil menghadap satu sama lain. Aku membiarkan sahaja diriku dibuai keindahan wajahnya dan kelembutan kulit tangannya. Aku tak minta lebih. Pada saat ini, berada bersamanya sudah memadai untuk membuatkan dunia ini terasa lebih indah untuk didiami.

Tapi tak selalu apa yang kita nak kita akan dapat. Apabila aku buka mata, yang kudakap bukannya Mai, tetapi bantal peluk. Ini kali kedua aku mimpi benda yang hampir sama. Kalau tiap-tiap malam mimpi macam ni kan best? Kenapalah mimpi selalunya mesti lebih indah daripada realiti? Kenapa?

Aku menatap tangan sendiri. Sensasi tanganku bersentuhan dengan tangan Mai tadi terasa realistik. Senyuman pada wajahnya segar dalam ingatan. Seolah-olah ia bukan mimpi. Bukankah mimpi atau ingatan kita tentangnya selalunya kabur? Tak mungkin mimpi yang aku alami itu sebenarnya bukan mimpi. Aku kena terima hakikat yang realiti takkan menjadi seindah mimpi. Sama ngeri dengan mimpi ngeri, mungkin.

Telefonku memainkan lagu Our Lady of Sorrows yang didendangkan oleh kumpulan My Chemical Romance, menandakan ada panggilan masuk. Aku melihat identiti pemanggil. Mama. Ada apa pula Mama call aku?

“Hello, Mama,” aku menjawab panggilan.

“Ni Nazim, kan?”

“Ya. Nazimlah ni.”

“Nazim…”

“Ya, Mama?”

Senyap seketika di hujung talian. Apa benda ni? Panggilan terputus ke? Ke ada masalah dengan talian? Mama tengah bercakap tapi aku tak dengar ke? Atau macam mana?

“Mama?”

“Mama ada benda nak bagitau Nazim…”

“Apa dia?”

“Pasal Mai…”

Keterujaan dan kerisauan bercampur-baur apabila aku mendengar nama itu disebut. “Ha, kenapa dengan Mai?”

“Mai…”

“Ya? Mai kenapa?”

“Mai dah balik. Dia ada kat rumah Mama sekarang.”

Nyaris telefon terlepas dari tangan. “Betul ke? Dia okay ke tak?”

Sunyi seketika.“Physically, dia okay. Tapi dia…”

 

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https://www.e-sentral.com/book/info/267683/PIJAMA

[SNEAK PEEK] KATE

Kate by Claudia Joseph

 

Hidden away behind the red-brick walls of her parents’ substantial house in the Home Counties village of Chapel Row in Berkshire, Kate Middleton spent the evening of Friday, 13 April 2007 mourning the end of her love affair with Prince William.

While her former boyfriend drowned his sorrows in the nightclub Mahiki, Mayfair’s latest celebrity haunt, quaffing champagne and drinking its legendary Treasure Chest cocktails, Kate, then 25 years old, spent a quieter and more subdued evening with her family.

It was barely a week since Britain’s most famous romance had drawn to a close – and hours before their separation hit the news-stands – yet the couple’s behaviour could not have been more different, underlining just how far apart they had grown since leaving university. Whereas Kate was looking for more commitment from William, the 24-year-old army officer, who had just left Sandhurst, was not ready to settle down.

News of the couple’s split came as a shock to the public, who had been following every twist and turn in their relationship since they had begun dating at St Andrews University four years earlier. An engagement announcement had been widely expected and few had noticed signs that the relationship was on its way out.

It had all seemed so different four months earlier in mid-December, when Kate and her parents had been invited to watch the prince pass out from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, a ceremony that must have been heart-warming for the Middletons, who had grown close to their daughter’s boyfriend. A regular visitor to their home, William would drive the 33-mile journey around the M25 to visit his girlfriend after training exercises and must have relished the time he spent with her tight-knit family, something he had missed out on to an extent during his own childhood. But everything changed the moment he left Sandhurst and embarked on the next stage of his army career.

For those who looked closely, the cracks began appearing over the festive season, when Kate’s parents decided to rent a £4,800-a-week mansion in Scotland for their extended family. Despite speculation that she might be, Kate had not been invited to spend Christmas with the royal family at Sandringham – only fiancées are afforded that honour, not girlfriends. Instead, the Middletons decided to invite William to spend Hogmanay with them at the Georgian mansion Jordanstone House on the outskirts of Alyth in Perthshire. Set in rambling grounds, the eighteenth-century mansion, which had belonged to the Conservative politician Sir James Duncan and his second wife Lady Beatrice (an actress known in her heyday for being the voice of Larry the Lamb in the Children’s Hour series Toytown), was certainly fit for a prince. Crammed with antiques and old masters, the house still has its original two staircases (one for staff ), a vast kitchen and laundry downstairs, a library of rare books and wood-panelled reception rooms with vast fireplaces upstairs, and thirteen bedrooms furnished with four-poster beds. But William, who spent Christmas at Sandringham, 400 miles away, failed to make an appearance.

It would not be until the following weekend that Kate was reunited with her boyfriend, at Highgrove, but even then it was more of a farewell party for William than a birthday celebration for Kate. The future king was about to follow his younger brother into the Blues and Royals, a regiment with one of the longest histories of any in the British Army. He would wholeheartedly embrace his new role, teasing Harry that he would rise faster through the ranks because he had a university degree.

One of two regiments that make up the Household Cavalry (the other is the Life Guards), the Blues and Royals were formed in 1969 when the Royal Horse Guards (known as the Blues for the colour of their tunics) and the Royal Dragoons, both of whom could trace their origins back to the seventeenth century, were amalgamated. The only mounted cavalry unit in the British Army, the regiment has the unique role of guarding the Queen on ceremonial occasions as well as serving around the world. Its regimental emblem – an eagle worn on the left sleeve of the blue tunic – commemorates the occasion on which it seized an eagle standard from one of Napoleon’s infantry battalions at Waterloo. Now stationed at Combermere Barracks in Windsor, its Colonel of the Regiment is the Princess Royal.

Kate was working at Jigsaw on the morning of 8 January 2007, when Second Lieutenant Wales reported for duty. Little did she realise how much their lives would change in just a few months.

Stepping alone out of her front door 24 hours later to go to work on her 25th birthday, wearing a £40 black-and-white dress from Topshop (which subsequently sold out within days), she was greeted by a barrage of photographers fired up by the conviction that she and her royal boyfriend would soon be announcing theirengagement. For the first time, she showed that the pressure was getting to her and she scowled.

The unprecedented paparazzi turnout provoked comparisons with the treatment of Princess Diana in the final years of her life and led the royal family to swing into action. While Kate’s lawyers Harbottle & Lewis, who also count Prince Charles among their clients, tried to work out a compromise with the media, Prince William authorised his press officer to make a statement on his behalf. ‘Prince William is very unhappy at the paparazzi harassment of his girlfriend,’ he said. ‘He wants more than anything for it to stop. Miss Middleton should, like any other private individual, be able to go about her everyday business without this kind of intrusion. The situation is proving unbearable for all those concerned.’

It was a terrible day for Kate to have to face the overwhelming attention. Now working in London, she could no longer escape the limelight by retreating to the sanctuary of her parents’ home and she had to leave her flat each morning to go to work. Without William by her side, there was little that the royal family could do to help her, as she was not entitled to Scotland Yard protection until they became engaged. The pressure would soon prove too much.

At first, William remained the gallant boyfriend, driving up to London to visit his girlfriend and party in the capital, and Kate put on a brave front, donning a stunning £800 silver dress by BCBG Max Azria to attend a party at Mahiki with the prince on 1 February. Run by nightclub impresario Piers Adam and club promoter Nick House, and designed to resemble a Polynesian beach bar, it had become a firm favourite with the couple after they spent a night there before Christmas with Tom Parker Bowles and his wife, Sara. William’s party-loving friend Guy Pelly was the club’s marketing director, and Henry Conway, the son of the now disgraced MP Derek Conway and flamboyant self-styled ‘Queen of Sloanes’, ran Thursday-night parties there.

During his first few weeks at the barracks, William managed to make another two trips to the capital, for a night out at Boujis – when he reportedly gave his girlfriend an antique Van Cleef & Arpels diamond-framed compact as an early Valentine’s Day gift – and a trip to Twickenham on 10 February to watch England beat Italy in the Six Nations Championship. He and Kate cheered on rugby hero Jonny Wilkinson’s record-breaking comeback: he scored 15 points in the team’s 20–7 victory.

However, William’s nights out with his girlfriend gradually dwindled as he threw himself into the life of a Household Cavalry officer, enjoying the feeling of being young, free and single. Torn between spending time with his girlfriend and partying with his fellow officers, it seemed there was no contest. It was a testing period for their relationship.

Kate put on a brave face, clubbing with her girlfriends at Mamilanji on Monday, 26 February, but the writing was on the wall for the relationship as she slowly tired of having an absent boyfriend.

On 4 March, in a last-ditch attempt to shore up their romance, William whisked Kate of on a make-or-break holiday to Zermatt, a village at the base of the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps, where they stayed in an exclusive £1,500-a-week chalet. But instead of going alone with Kate, he invited some friends along, including Thomas van Straubenzee and Guy Pelly, the man often described as the princes’ ‘court jester’. From the outside, it appeared as if William and Kate – who missed out on a family holiday in Barbados in order to spend quality time with her boyfriend – were on the verge of an engagement announcement, staying in their chalet while their friends hit the nightclubs, and embracing and kissing on the slopes. In reality, however, things were far from rosy, and an engagement must surely have been the last thing on their minds.

Their last public appearance together was on 13 March 2007, the opening day of the National Hunt Festival in Cheltenham, which had been a favourite with the late Queen Mother, who rarely missed a festival, attending latterly in a buggy painted in her racing colours. Arriving in William’s black Audi saloon, Kate looked comfortable chatting with Zara Phillips and drinking champagne in a box belonging to racehorse owner Trevor Hemmings. But William and Kate’s body language was strained, and fashion writers criticised the pair for looking like ‘lamb dressed as mutton’. It was the first fashion faux pas by Kate, and possibly an indication of her unhappy mood.

Three days later, William was off to the depths of Dorset to begin a ten-week tank-commander course at the army’s training camp at Bovington. But that did not deter Kate from attending the Cheltenham Gold Cup without him. Wearing a sky-blue jacket, brown skirt and matching beret, she looked much more relaxed – and more fashionable – than on her previous visit with her prince. Met on arrival by two plain-clothes police officers, she was escorted to the royal enclosure for a lunch hosted by the Queen’s Master of the Horse, Lord Vestey. There she laughed and joked with guests including van Straubenzee, jumping up and down when she picked a winner and covering her mouth with her hand when she lost. Her appearance that day in the same box as William’s aunt Princess Anne and Camilla’s former husband Andrew Parker Bowles seemed just another confirmation that Kate was on the verge of becoming an official member of the family. But some commentators thought she might have overplayed her hand by appearing in the royal enclosure, a move that was rumoured to have rankled with William.

In any case, it was while William was in Dorset that the couple’s relationship began to fall apart, strained by their constant separation. Instead of making the 130-mile journey to London at weekends, William seemed to prefer to spend his down time with his fellow officers.

During his first night out with the Blues and Royals – nicknamed the ‘Booze and Royals’ in Bournemouth, the nearest large town to the barracks – William pushed Kate beyond her limits. She had always ignored rumours of his roving eye and put up with his flirtatious behaviour towards the girls who threw themselves at him, but his cavalier behaviour at the Elements nightclub on 22 March had unfortunate consequences. Although there is no suggestion that the future king cheated on his girlfriend, two of the girls he encountered that night sold their stories to the tabloid newspapers, which must have been humiliating for Kate. That Thursday night, William and his friends painted the town red as they downed lager and sambuca chasers and flirted with girls in the nightclub, unbothered that they were taking photographs of the prince on their mobile phones.

Ana Ferreira, 18, an international relations student, was in the club when she heard that William was dancing in another room. After going to watch the commotion, she posed for a picture with him, only realising afterwards that the prince had touched one of her breasts. ‘Word went round that William was in a section playing cheesy ’80s music,’ she told The Sun, ‘so we went to look…There were a lot of girls hanging around him and he was posing for pictures. He had me on one arm and my friend Cecilia on the other. I was a little bit drunk myself, but I felt something brush my breast. I thought it couldn’t be the future king but now I’ve seen the picture it’s no wonder he’s got a smile on his face.’

Another girl, Lisa Agar, a 19-year-old performing-arts student with a lip ring, claimed that William pulled her onto a podium to dance with him. ‘He said something like, “Come on. Show us how it’s done. You’re too good for this place,”’ she told theSunday Mirror. ‘He was being very flirty and I was quite taken aback but just went for it. He was laughing his head off and waving his hands in the air.’ Lisa, who was dressed in a tight pink top, leggings and heels, claimed that William was following pints with shots of sambuca. ‘I call that stuff rocket fuel,’ she added, ‘because it does give you a huge hit very quickly and gets you rolling drunk.’

In the early hours, William’s friend invited her back to the barracks to continue the party. ‘When I said I wasn’t sure,’ she recounted, ‘Wills came over and said, “Are you coming back? It’ll be a laugh. Come on. We need to go.” I followed them all back to their base in a friend’s car and then we all went into a lounge area in the barracks, lying about on a leather chair and sofas. In the end, I only stayed about 20 minutes. Strangely, I felt a bit sorry for William and I thought maybe he was cheering himself up.’

William’s behaviour that night was by no means unusual for a serving soldier in his 20s, even one who is a member of the royal family. Two days later, Prince Harry showed his own excessive streak when he fell out of Boujis, having downed too many Crack Baby cocktails. The Blues and Royals officer had been in the club after spending a week on exercise with his regiment and was unwinding with friends, including former flame Natalie Pinkham, when he decided to try to avoid photographers by sneaking out the back. Angered that he had been spotted, he was reported to have lunged at one of the paparazzi, before falling over and landing in the gutter, although royal aides claimed he had simply lost his footing and stumbled.

Kate and William spent one last night together on 31 March, when they dined at the King’s Head, Bledington, with their friends Hugh and Rose van Cutsem, whose wedding they had attended the previous summer. However, at this point, the heart and soul had gone out of their relationship and it was drawing to a close.

A few days later, Kate popped over to Ireland with her mother Carole for the private view of an exhibition by a close family friend, Gemma Billington. Mother and daughter slummed it, staying in Dublin’s cut-price three-star Quality Hotel. After looking at Gemma’s paintings, Kate chatted to drummer Ben Carrigan and guitarist Daniel Ryan of Irish indie rock band The Thrills. The following day, she went to the National Gallery of Ireland.

Her appearance at the exhibition of paintings, which took place at the Urban Retreat Gallery in the city’s Hanover Quay, brought in a flurry of publicity for Gemma, the 53-year-old daughter of a Garda sergeant from County Kerry. She and her husband Tim, 63, a farmer and racehorse breeder, are close family friends of the Middletons. They live just down the road, on a 320-acre farm in the village of Stanford Dingley, where William and Kate have become familiar faces in the local pub, the Boot Inn. Their seven children grew up alongside the Middleton siblings and went to the same school, while Carole and Gemma play tennis together.

‘Kate is a lovely girl who is just one of our kids who happens to be going out with a boy called William who happens to be a prince,’ she said in an interview with theSunday Independent to publicise the exhibition. ‘He is just a normal boy, really. I think it’s tough on her, but she handles it well. The Middletons are a very close family who have meals together, watch movies, play sports and go on holidays together. It’s funny how you think people are different, but we are all just muddling our way through life. Whoever you happen to be going out with, you have to take the rough with the smooth.’

While Kate was having a cultured time in Ireland, William was leading an altogether different existence. He spent the evening of 4 April at Bournemouth’s late-night wine bar Bliss with a group of his fellow officers from the Household Cavalry. That night, the place was packed with 200 fans watching acoustic guitarist Dan Baker playing a gig. But halfway through the two-hour set, one of William’s rowdy friends leapt on stage, saying: ‘Please stop playing these crap songs. The prince wants dance music.’ The singer, who halted the gig for ten minutes until the officers had left the room, told a newspaper: ‘I was staggered when this drunken man scaled the stage and ran up to me mid-song. It was the rudest thing I’ve ever experienced. This gig was the pinnacle of my career. I’ve practised for years in the hope of a chance to perform like this.’

Meanwhile, for William and Kate, it was the beginning of the end. The couple’s final showdown came when they met up a few days later over the Easter weekend. William had turned down an invitation to spend the holiday with Kate’s family but the couple managed to get together for a face-to-face conversation and realised they wanted different things out of life. While Kate was looking for some form of commitment from her boyfriend, William felt he was being pressurised to propose. It seemed as if there was only one way forward, but Kate still hoped that William would change his mind.

At midday the following Wednesday, any hopes she might have had of a reconciliation were dashed. It was reported that she had a lengthy conversation with William on her mobile, after which she left work early and disappeared for the rest of the week. Meanwhile, William was said to have phoned the Queen at Windsor Castle, shortly before she left to visit the Earl of Carnarvon at Highclere Castle, to tell her that his and Kate’s relationship had drawn to a close.

By the time William turned up at Mahiki on Friday the 13th, news of the couple’s break-up had not yet emerged. But the prince was aware that he would be on the front pages the following morning and it seemed he was going to ensure he was seen to be having a good time.

Arriving with friends at 11.30 p.m., he was shown to a private table next to the dance floor, where the party downed £450 bottles of 1998 Dom Pérignon champagne before working their way through the cocktail menu, called the Mahiki Trail because it is devised around a treasure map. If guests finish all 18 concoctions, they are rewarded with the club’s infamous Treasure Chest, a mixture of brandy and peach liqueur, lime, sugar and champagne.

At one point during the evening, William is supposed to have yelled, ‘I’m free!’, before performing his own version of the robot dance goal celebration that Liverpool striker Peter Crouch had shown him during a World Cup training session. As the opening chords of the Rolling Stones’ ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ rang out, his friends dragged him onto the dance floor. But the prince’s high spirits slowly turned maudlin, and at 3.30 a.m. he staggered out of the VIP exit to the club and got into his chauffeur-driven car. A royal-protection-squad officer settled the £4,700 bill and the prince went home. Within hours, the world would find out that Britain’s most eligible bachelor was back on the market…but for just how long?

 

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https://www.e-sentral.com/book/info/224555/kate

[SNEAK PEEK] CINTA SEJATI SEORANG PLAYBOY

Cinta Sejati Seorang Playboy oleh Syina

 

QAIREEN ketawa sendiri. Masih terbayang-bayang di matanya peristiwa tadi. Boleh pula Amanda mandi tepung. Semuanya gara-gara terperanjat luahan hatinya turut didengari oleh sang jejaka. Tapi comel aje Amanda dan Akid tu.

Lagu Hello dendangan Adele berkumandang kuat. Dia dekatkan badannya ke meja. Nama si pemanggil yang muncul pada skrin telefon bimbit membuat dia mengukir senyuman lebar. Ikon hijau ditekan. Telefon bimbit dilekapkan ke telinga.

“Assalammualaikum,” dia bawa tubuhnya bersandar pada belakang kerusi. Jemari bermain dengan hujung baju.

“Waalaikumussalam. Selesai dah semua?”

“Mission accomplished. Dia orang ada dekat dapur lagi tu,” ceria suara Qaireen memberitahu. Pandailah Akid memujuk Amanda.

“Kita?”

“Kita?” Dahi Qaireen dah berkerut.

Apa masalah dengan dia dan Adwan? Kalau pasal Natasha rasanya dah selesai. Beberapa hari selepas kejadian tu, Adwan bersemuka sekali lagi dengan Natasha. Adwan beri amaran akan mendapatkan perintah mahkamah agar jangan mengganggu hidup dia dan Qaireen lagi.

“Aah…”

“Kita buat kerja macam biasalah.” Qaireen ketawa. Itu sahaja yang dia mampu berikan jawapan sebab dia tak faham apa maksud Adwan.

“Sampai hati.”

“Laaa… kenapa pula nak sampai hati?” Dahi Qaireen berkerut semula.

Saat itu dia mendongak bila pintu bilik pejabatnya dikuak dari luar. Rahang dia jatuh sebelum dia menggeleng melihat si pembuka pintu. Matanya berbalas pandang dengan si pembuka pintu yang redup merenung dia.

“Patutnya kita pergi makan-makan ke? Atau apa-apalah.” Adwan tersenyum. Telefon bimbit masih melekap pada telinganya.

Mulut Qaireen dah herot ke kiri dan ke kanan. Telefon bimbit dimatikan.

“Nak jadi macam Akid juga. Surprise!” Qaireen pura-pura menjerit gembira. Memang bagus sangat Adwan dengan Akid ni pegang title playboy. Cara dan gaya tu serupa saja.

Adwan buntang mata. Kerusi di depan meja kerja Qaireen ditarik. Dia labuhkan punggung di situ. Telefon bimbit diletakkan sahaja di atas meja.

“Tak kelakar, okey?” Wajahnya berubah cemberut.

“Siapa suruh datang tak beritahu? Cara tu sama macam Akid. Elok sangatlah sebab awak berdua memang digelar playboy, kan?” Qaireen tersenyum. Suka pula dia nak mengusik. Nampak comel pula bila Playboy Malaya merajuk.

“Kedai adik kita. Suka hati kitalah nak datang bila- bila masa pun,” balas Adwan. Geram melihat senyuman mengusik kekasih hati.

“Oh, lupa! Kedai adik dia. Qaireen, kenapa tak sedar diri ni? Kaukan makan gaji dengan adik dia,” nada suara Qaireen berubah. Mendatar. Tidak seceria tadi.

Dia lantas menuntas pandang pada monitor komputer riba di sebelah kanannya. Melayan hati yang terusik mendengar kata-kata Adwan tadi. Mengada betullah Qaireen sekarang ni dengan Adwan, kan?

Tangan Adwan naik mengurut belakang tengkuknya. Sudah. Salah ke apa yang dia cakapkan tadi? Siapa merajuk dengan siapa ni? Baru nak merasa Qaireen memujuk dia, tapi lain pula jadinya.

Qaireen masih buat tak tahu. Muka Adwan tak dipandang. Jemarinya laju menekan papan kekunci. Keras dan kasar bunyinya. Biar Adwan tahu yang sekarang dia tengah protes.

Adwan memerhati wajah masam Qaireen yang berjaya buat dia susah hati. Dia kena pujuk ke? Tunggu dia sejuk sendirilah.

Lama kedua-duanya senyap. Masing-masing buat hal sendiri. Qaireen menyiapkan kerjanya. Adwan pula leka dengan telefon bimbit. Hinggalah masuk waktu asar.

Adwan berdiri. Telefon bimbitnya diletakkan di atas meja. Kunci kereta dalam kocek seluar dikeluarkan. Turut diletakkan di atas meja. Begitu juga jam tangannya yang sudah ditanggalkan.

Wajah Qaireen yang leka membuat kerja dipandang seketika. Belum terpujuk lagi agaknya hati si dia? Adwan melangkah lemah. Keluar dari situ.

Qaireen memandang sekilas belakang Adwan yang beredar dari biliknya. Dia bersandar. Satu keluhan kecil dilepaskan. Sungguh dia tidak suka dengan apa yang berlaku sekarang. Terasa dia yang melebih-lebih. Dia kena buat sesuatu. Takkanlah nak biar semua ni berpanjangan.

Lantas dia mencapai beg telekungnya di dalam laci. Ingin ke tempat yang sama Adwan tuju. Sebelum itu, dia menulis sesuatu. Sticky notes yang bertulis tangan diletakkan di bawah telefon bimbit Adwan.

10MINIT berlalu, Adwan muncul semula di dalam bilik Qaireen. Terkejut melihat bilik itu tidak berpenghuni. Si dia ke mana? Matanya tertancap pada sesuatu berwarna oren di bawah telefon bimbitnya.

Perlahan-lahan dia mendekati meja. Telefon bimbit dialihkan. Senyuman terukir di bibirnya.

Solat Asar juga,

Qaireen

Macam-macam, dia menggumam. Sticky notes itu diletakkan semula. Jam tangan diambil. Diacu pada pergelangan tangan. Terdengar pintu bilik pejabat Qaireen seperti dibuka. Lalu dia berpaling. Senyuman dilorekkan bila matanya bertembung dengan mata Qaireen.

Qaireen membalas sedikit. Dibiarkan sahaja pintu terbuka. Dia melangkah ke belakang mejanya. Dia tahu mata Adwan mengekori setiap langkahnya. Rasa yang mengganggu hatinya tadi sudah hilang.

Hatinya sudah sejuk. Betul kata orang, mengadu pada Yang Maha Esa saat menghadapi kesulitan mampu membuatkan kita reda dengan apa yang berlaku. Ujian itu dari Dia dan kepada Dialah kita mengadu.

“Lapar.” Adwan memulakan bicara. Mengharapkan respon dari Qaireen.

Qaireen yang baru saja hendak duduk, mati tingkahnya. Wajah bersih Adwan dipandang redup.

“Kopi, shepherd pie,” tutur Adwan lagi.

Qaireen bungkam. Beg telekung diletakkan di atas meja sebelum dia menyibukkan diri. Mula mengemas kertas-kertas yang bersepah di atas mejanya. Dia tak tahu nak balas apa. Malu sendiri dengan perangai keanak-anakannya sebentar tadi.

Adwan jongket kening. Takkanlah Qaireen tak dengar apa yang dia kata. Merajuk lagi ke?

“Qaireennn…”

Diam lagi.

“Look, Qaireen. I’m sorry. Saya tahu saya salah. Janganlah senyap macam ni. Mati kutu saya.” Adwan merayu. Mata memaku pandang wajah Qaireen sambil tangannya memasukkan telefon bimbit dan kunci kereta ke dalam kocek seluar.

Qaireen nak menyahut tapi akal nakal dia beri idea lain. Biarkan Adwan gandakan usaha memujuk dia lagi. Biar Adwan sedar hati dia bukan senang-senang boleh dipermainkan.

“Qaireennn…” Adwan tak putus asa. Memanggil lagi. Lebih lembut dari tadi.

Masih lagi Qaireen diam.

Adwan hela nafas dalam-dalam. Qaireen mencabar dia. Dia nekad. Kalau cara ini tak berjaya juga, dia mengalah. Perlahan-lahan dia melangkah ke belakang meja. Merapati Qaireen.

“Awak nak suruh saya buat apa? Just name it,” dia mendekati Qaireen dan berbisik di tepi telinga.

Qaireen yang tak menjangka tindakan Adwan cepat sahaja menjarakkan kedudukan mereka. Terbuntang matanya. Sungguhlah Adwan ni. Dia bukannya maksum. Sempurna segala segi. Takut lain pula jadinya bila mereka berdiri terlalu rapat.

“Sekarang ni, saya nak awak berdiri balik dekat situ. Pergi sana,” jari telunjuknya menuding pada tempat asal Adwan terpacak tadi.

“Garang,” usik Adwan. Dia ketawa. Kembali ke hadapan meja, senyum meleret dihadiahkan buat gadis itu. Tahu pula Qaireen takut. Siapa suruh cabar dia. Kan dah mendapat.

“Saya bukan macam ‘perempuan-perempuan awak’ tu. Lembut, lemah gemalai macam tak ada tulang.” Qaireen membebel.

“Pandai-pandai aje cakap ‘perempuan-perempuan saya’. Awak, saya ni dah pencenlah jadi playboy,” balas Adwan.

“Pening kepala saya berkawan dengan playboy ni. Ada aje jawapannya.” Qaireen sambung bebelannya. Dia menghenyakkan punggung di atas kerusi. Terasa penat pula berdiri. Mata merenung tajam pada Adwan.

Adwan kenyit mata. Suka pula mendengar bebelan Qaireen. Itu lagi bagus dari Qaireen diam seribu bahasa. Diam yang boleh buat dia sakit jiwa.

Qaireen ketap bibir. Boleh pula Adwan bermain mata dengannya. Tak nampak ke dia tengah geram.

“Jomlah minum kopi. Kesian tetamu awak ni. Dahaga,” pujuk Adwan.

“Tetamu? Bukan ni kedai adik orang tu ke?” Sindir Qaireen.

“Qaireennn…” muncung Adwan dah sedepa.

Laju sahaja Qaireen berdiri. Terasa bulu romanya merinding. Lain pula rasanya mendengar suara Adwan macam tu. Merengek. Tak macho langsung.

“Buruk tau merengek macam tu,” Qaireen menggeleng. Mula melangkah keluar dari bilik pejabatnya.

“Cakap elok-elok awak tak layan. Kenalah tunjuk sisi manja.” Adwan membalas. Berjalan seiring dengan Qaireen.

“Manjalah sangat.” Qaireen julingkan mata pandang ke atas.

Adwan ketawa.

MEREKA untuk duduk di sudut kafé. Tak mahu ada gangguan. Qaireen dah buat pesanan. Kopi dan memilih shepherd pie menjadi pilihan.

Adwan memandang Qaireen yang sedang seronok ketawa. Apa yang lucu pun dia tidak pasti. Rasanya topik yang mereka bualkan bukan tahap maharaja lawak mega. Meja diketuk. Cuba menarik perhatian Qaireen.

“Yup?” Qaireen angkat kening.

“Kalau awak berterusan ketawa, nanti orang ingat saya dating dengan orang gila pula.” Adwan herotkan mulut. Bukan mengutuk orang gila tapi dia tak nak ketinggalan benda apa yang Qaireen ketawakan.

“So?” Qaireen tayang muka berlagak.

“Kongsilah dengan saya. Takkan ketawa seorang diri.”

“Tak takut dilabel gila?” Qaireen tarikan kedua-dua belah keningnya.

“Okey, okey. Saya minta maaf kalau apa yang saya cakap tadi buat awak terasa hati.” Adwan memujuk.

Qaireen hadiahkan satu jelingan.

Spontan Adwan tepuk mulutnya. Geram pada mulutnya yang tak bayar insuran. Suka sangat lontarkan kata-kata yang menyakitkan hati Qaireen.

“Cuaklah tu.” Qaireen mengejek. Senyuman mengusik menghiasi wajahnya.

“Qaireen, kalau awak selalu buat macam ni. Boleh kena heart attack saya tau. Tua sebelum waktunya.”

Adwan pamer muka serius.

Qaireen memang ada aura tersendiri. Aura yang mampu buat perasaan dia tunggang-langgang. Gadis ini mampu buat dia tersenyum, marah atau ketawa.

Pendek kata Qaireen telah merubah segala-galanya.

“Janganlah marah, abang sayang. Kata playboy. Baru usik sikit dah melenting.” Qaireen tersengih.

Bulat mata Adwan. Memandang Qaireen tak berkelip.

“What? Did I said something wrong?” Mata Qaireen turut terbuntang. Serius, apa yang dia tersilap cakap tadi?

“Awak panggil saya apa tadi?” Adwan meminta Qaireen mengulang semula kata-kata yang dilontarkan tadi. Dia tahu dia tak pekak lagi bila Qaireen memanggil dia abang sayang.

“Panggil apa? Abang sayang. Eh!” Qaireen tekup mulutnya. Crap! Macam mana boleh terlepas panggil Adwan abang sayang? Dia terasa rona merah sudah mula melatari pipi mulusnya.

“Sejuk hati saya. Awak sayang saya rupa-rupanya.” Adwan tersenyum senget.

“Jangan nak perasan. Abang tu sebab awak dah 32. Read my lips. Tiga. Puluh. Dua!” Bersungguh-sungguh Qaireen menegakkan benang basah. Siap disebut satu persatu maksud panggilan abang sayang tu.

“Sayang?” Sebelah kening Adwan terangkat. Menuntut penerangan lebih.

“Itu tergelincir. Tak bermaksud apa-apa.” Qaireen tersengih.

“Tak kisahlah apa-apa. Janji awak sayang saya.” Adwan menyisip sedikit kopi panas yang baru dihantar pekerja kafé sekejap tadi.

“Nak tahu tak kenapa saya senyum-senyum tadi?” Qaireen cuba ubah topik. Garfu di tangan menguis pai di atas pinggan.

“Hmmm…”Adwan bersandar malas. Layankan.

“Teringat tadi yang adik awak mandi tepung.”

“Really?” Terjongket kening Adwan. Menarik. Adalah bahan untuk kenakan si adik.

Qaireen mengangguk. Senyuman dia kembali tersungging.

“Ambil gambar dia tak?”

Qaireen menggeleng.

“Why?”

“Tak sampai hati. Tapi serius buruk muka adik awak tu,” terhambur tawa Qaireen.

Adwan turut tersenyum. Cuba membayangkan sama keadaan Amanda tika itu.

“Hoi! Mengata aku eh?” Amanda menyergah. Mengambil tempat duduk di antara Qaireen dan Adwan.

Qaireen angkat dua jarinya pada Amanda.

“Alah, itu pun nak marah. Ni dah mandi ke belum?” Adwan menggosok kepala Amanda biar pun si adik menepis tangannya.

“Bro.” Akid turut datang menyertai mereka bertiga. Menghulur salam pada Adwan.

“Teruklah kau, bro. Sampai mandi tepung adik aku ni.” Adwan ketawa.

Akid kenyit mata pada Amanda yang sudah merah wajahnya.

“Dahlah, Akid. Merah dah muka kawan I ni,” usik Qaireen.

“Reen!” Bahu Qaireen menjadi mangsa pukulan Amanda.

Masing-masing tertawa. Gembira.

 

eBook penuh boleh didapati di E-Sentral.com
https://www.e-sentral.com/book/info/266142/Cinta-Sejati-Seorang-Playboy

[SNEAK PEEK] RAHSIA DIARI MERAH

Rahsia Diari Merah oleh Iman Fadia

 

ADAM menunggu penuh sabar di sebuah restoran di Suria KLCC. Tadi dia sempat tanya ibunya di mana ibunya dan Hawa akan beriadah pada hari minggu itu. Dia sengaja pilih restoran di situ supaya dalam masa yang sama dia boleh perhatikan ibunya dan Hawa. Dari tadi dia mengekori mereka senyap-senyap. Jarum jam dilihat sekilas. Hampir lima belas minit dia menunggu Yahya.

“Ben pun belum datang lagi ni.” Adam panjangkan lehernya menjenguk ke arah pintu masuk restoran. Dia ajak lelaki itu sekali.

Adam senyum. Yahya sudah berjalan menuju ke arahnya. Mereka bersalaman seketika sebelum melabuhkan punggung di situ. Minuman dan makanan mula dipesan.

“Maafkan pak cik… Dah lama Adam tunggu?” Yahya senyum. Dia betulkan kerusi yang didudukinya.

“Tak adalah lama sangat. Errr… Alin tinggal dengan siapa?” Adam pula ramah bertanya.

“Pak cik minta tolong jiran sebelah temankan Alin di rumah. Mereka tu sama-sama ambil SPM tahun ni.” Yahya melakar senyuman.

“Oh… macam tu. Emmm… Ada apa pak cik nak jumpa saya ni?” Adam terus saja ke topik perbincangan.

“Ni hah… Pak cik jumpa satu gugus kunci dalam laci bilik arwah Melati dulu. Pak cik rasa mungkin kunci ni boleh digunakan.” Yahya hulur kunci yang dimasukkan dalam beg plastik kepada Adam.

Adam senyum. Memang betul tekaannya. Mungkin Yahya ingin serahkan kunci walaupun dia sendiri masih tidak tahu kunci apa sebenarnya. Dia belek seketika kunci itu. Ada beberapa kunci yang bentuknya lebih kurang sama dengan tempat kunci kotak besi itu.

“Saya simpan kunci ni.”

Mereka berdua mula berbual bersama daripada satu topik ke satu topik. Tidak sedar makanan yang dipesan sudah sampai ke meja.

“Adam!”

Adam mendongak. Benjamin berlari anak ke arahnya.

“Ben ada sekali?” Yahya pandang pula ke arah Benjamin yang kini sudah menjadi tunang Hawa.

“Apa khabar, pak su?” Benjamin bersalam dan mencium tangan orang tua itu.

Adam hanya memerhati tingkah Benjamin. Memang Benjamin sudah banyak berubah.

“Ada hal apa Adam, pak su?” Benjamin pula bertanya. Dia sandar di kerusi, melepaskan lelah berlari tadi.

“Ben, aku dah dapat klu baru. Kunci ni mungkin boleh digunakan untuk buka kotak besi yang aku jumpa di banglo putih tu.” Adam mula berterus terang.

“Kotak?” Serentak Yahya dan Benjamin bertanya.

“Ya, mengikut catatan pada diari merah tu, ada satu tanda X berwarna merah di bilik arwah Melinda, kakak Melissa. Saya pergi cari dan bawah tanda tu, memang ada kotak tanpa kunci. Mungkin salah satu kunci ni sepadan dengan kunci pada kotak itu,” jelas Adam.

Benjamin diam. Dia mula merasa cemburu pada Adam yang beria-ia menyiasat semua itu sedangkan dia yang sepatutnya melakukan semua itu memandangkan Hawa kini sudah menjadi tunangnya.

“Jadi, kat mana kotak tu?” Benjamin mula bertanya.

“Ada dalam simpanan aku. Kalau kita tahu apa isi dalam tu, mungkin kes ni boleh diselesaikan dengan cepat. Semalam, Razak ada hubungi aku, JD terpaksa dibebaskan kerana tiada bukti kukuh dia terlibat dalam kes ini dan juga kes pecah rumah aku dulu.” Adam sedikit mengeluh.

“JD?” Yahya pula terpinga-pinga.

“Errr… JD tu orang yang kejar Melissa dulu pak su. Dia yang arahkan orang kejar Melissa dan curi diari merah daripada Melissa tapi sayang, tak ada bukti kukuh. Terpaksalah dibebaskan.” Benjamin pula mencelah.

Yahya mengangguk-angguk.

“Pak cik kesian sebenarnya dengan Lissa tu. Dia jadi pelarian sampai macam tu sekali. Memang orang yang kejar dia tu tak berhati perut langsung!”

Adam diam. Memang tidak berhati perut. Mengejar seorang gadis yang tidak berdaya dan lebih sadis, ingin membunuh Hawa, waris terakhir Datuk Yusof. Kalau dia dapat tahu siapa dalang semua itu, tahulah nasib orang itu nanti.

“Maaf, pak su. Saya tak tahu selama ini Melissa adalah anak Datuk Yusof. Saya tak pernah tanya dia dulu masa di US. Hidup kami hanya berseronok dan belajar saja ketika itu. Rupa-rupanya baru saya tahu, arwah Datuk Yusof berkawan baik dengan papa.” Benjamin mula merasa bersalah pada Hawa.

Adam diam sahaja.

Tengah hari itu mereka bertiga berbual dan bersembang mesra sebelum beredar dari situ. Benjamin pula mempelawa Yahya bermalam di rumahnya. Adam hanya senyum. Yalah, pak su yang bertanggungjawab pada Hawa sekarang ini dan sudah tentu lelaki itu juga akan menjadi wali pernikahan Benjamin dan Hawa nanti.

SEKALI lagi Adam berjumpa dengan Encik Yahya untuk pulangkan semula kunci yang diambil semalam. Setelah berbincang serba sedikit, Adam menghantar Encik Yahya ke lapangan terbang. Benjamin sudah menempah tiket untuk Encik Yahya dan Benjamin sempat berpesan supaya menghantar pak su Hawa ke KLIA kerana dia terpaksa mengikuti mesyuarat penting.

“Adam, terima kasih.” Yahya bersalam dengan Adam.

“Sama-sama.” Adam senyum.

“Pak su!”

Adam berpaling. Hawa sudah berlari ke arah mereka. Dia berkerut kening. Matanya dialih pada Yahya.

“Pak cik yang beritahu dia.” Yahya senyum.

Hawa menghampiri pak sunya dan Adam. Tergamam dia melihat Adam turut berada di situ.

“Pak su… Ni untuk Alin.”

Hawa hulur sebuah kotak kepada Yahya. Adam di sebelah hanya dipandang sekilas. Mungkin Adam sudah tahu apa yang terjadi semasa di KLCC dulu. Sudah tentu lelaki itu melihat gambar dalam telefon bimbit itu.

“Lissa… Jaga diri baik-baik, ya? Datuk Malik tu baik. Dia yang jaga syarikat arwah papa tu,” pesan Yahya kepada Hawa sebelum dia melangkah masuk ke balai menunggu.

“Ya, pak su. Kirim salam pada Alin, ya?” Hawa mencium tangan pak su.

Yahya mula melangkah ke balai menunggu.

Adam mengalih pandang pada Hawa.

“Kotak besi tu… Saya dah dapat dari bawah lantai marmar.”

“Kotak? Maksud awak… bawah tanda X tu ada kotak?” Hawa terkejut.

“Ya, kotak tu ada di rumah ibu saya tetapi tidak boleh dibuka.”

“Maksud awak, kotak tu berkunci?” Hawa menelan liur.

Adam mengangguk.

“Saya rasa saya ada kunci… Tapi saya tak tahu kunci apa. Kunci itu ada dalam dokumen yang paksu beri kepada saya dulu.” Hawa pula berterus terang.

“Kalau macam tu, boleh saya pinjam kunci tu?” Adam senyum. Hawa dilihat sudah mengangguk.

“Saya nak juga tahu apa isi kandungan kotak tu.”

“Hmmm… Kalau macam tu, jomlah. Awak naik kereta saya. Kita ke apartmen awak… Errr … Maksud saya, saya tunggu awak di bawah.” Adam sudah teruja.

“Baiklah.”

Mereka berdua mula menaiki kereta bersama menuju ke Apartmen Anggerik.

ADAM menunggu penuh sabar di kawasan Apartmen Anggerik. Dia pandang jam. Sudah sepuluh minit dia menunggu Hawa di dalam kereta saja.

Adam berpaling. Ketukan di cermin keretanya menyedarkannya dari lamunan tadi. Kelihatan Hawa sudah tersenyum di situ. Perlahan Adam menapak keluar dari perut kereta.

“Ada tak?”

“Ni… Tak tahulah kalau kunci boleh pakai ke tak. Cubalah dulu.” Satu kunci dihulur kepada Adam.

“Hmmm… Nanti saya cuba. Errr… Awak nak tengok juga kan kotak tu?” Adam pandang Hawa yang masih tersenyum di sebelahnya. Terasa laju jantung berdegup.

“Ya, bila awak nak buka?”

“Malam nanti awak datang dengan Ben, saya tunggu di Restoran Rebung di Bangsar.” Adam beri cadangan.

Hawa diam. Dia tidak menjawab apa-apa.

“Maaf… Saya terpaksa ajak Ben sekali sebab dia tunang awak dan saya tak nak dia salah faham nanti.” Adam mula jelaskan situasi itu pada Hawa.

Hawa mengangguk.

Adam mula masuk ke dalam kereta. Malam nanti mereka bertiga akan bertemu di Bangsar.

ADAM bersiap untuk ke Restoran Rebung di Bangsar. Usai solat maghrib tadi, dia terus saja capai kunci kereta dan menapak keluar dari biliknya. Langkahnya diatur ke ruang tamu. Kotak besi itu diletakkan di atas meja sofa. Dia jenguk ke dapur, ibu sibuk mengemas ruang dapur setelah selesai solat maghrib tadi. Perlahan Adam mendekati ibunya yang leka mencuci pinggan.

“Ibu…”

Rohana berpaling. Dia melemparkan senyuman manis.

“Nak ke mana ni?”

“Saya nak keluar sekejap. Ibu nak kirim apa-apa tak?” Adam senyum. Dia menolong mengelap pinggan yang sudah dicuci.

“Tak ada…” balas Rohana.

“Kalau macam tu, saya pergi dulu.” Adam bergegas ke kereta.

Adam memandu ke arah Bangsar.

“Sangkut la pula.” Adam jenguk ke depan. Kereta hanya bergerak 20km sejam. Entah apa yang berlaku di hadapan jalan itu. Banyak kali Adam melihat jarum jam. Lapan setengah malam. Jam sembilan nanti dia perlu sampai di restoran itu.

Adam pandang telefon bimbitnya. Ada mesej. Mesej itu dibaca sebentar. Dia senyum. Hawa dan Benajmin juga tersangkut dalam kesesakan jalan raya, mereka akan tiba lewat di restoran itu.

“Hmmm… Ingatkan aku aje yang tersadai kat sini.” Adam sedikit lega. Dia tidak suka hanya pandai berjanji tetapi tidak ditepati.

Keadaan sesak tadi sudah mula beransur lancar. Adam membelok ke simpang masuk ke arah bangunan di Bangsar. Tiba-tiba terasa keretanya dilanggar seseorang. Dia pandang melalui cermin pandang belakang. Sebuah kereta berwarna putih sudah rapat dari belakang. Sekali lagi belakang keretanya dilanggar.

“Gila! Ni mesti road bully!” Adam mengetap bibir. Dia tidak hiraukan kereta itu tadi, dia teruskan memandu menuju ke arah restoran itu yang sudah tidak jauh dari situ.

Adam brek mengejut. Kereta putih tadi sudah memotong keretanya. Dia pandang kiri kanan. Jalan agak lengang dengan lampu jalan tidak bernyala di situ. Agak gelap suasana ketika itu. Dua orang lelaki sudah keluar dari perut kereta dan menghampiri keretanya.

“Samseng mana pula ni?” Adam masih berada di dalam kereta. Dia cuba mengundur tetapi keretanya sudah dihalang oleh sebuah kereta lagi di belakangnya.

“Keluar!”

Cermin kereta Adam diketuk kuat. Adam masih diam di dalam kereta. Kedua-dua lelaki itu sudah mengambil sebatang besi, bersedia untuk mengetuk cermin keretanya. Adam cepat-cepat keluar.

“Kau orang nak apa?” Adam pandang seorang demi seorang.

“Geledah kereta dia!” arah salah seorang lelaki itu yang memakai jaket kulit hitam. Adam dikilas tangannya ke belakang dan ditolak ke arah kereta sehingga tersandar Adam dengan pipinya melekat di bonet kereta.

“Tak ada, bos!”

“Tak ada?” Lelaki itu berkerut kening.

“Mana kotak tu?”

Adam menelan liur. Mana dia orang tahu pasal kotak tu?

“Aku tanya, mana kotak tu?” Lelaki itu tadi mula tonyoh muka Adam dengan batang besi tadi.

Adam masih diam. Dia cuba ingatkan semula semasa dia keluar dari biliknya tadi, dia terus ke dapur dan kemudian menaiki kereta. Baru dia teringat, kotak itu diletakkan atas meja sofa di ruang tamu. Mungkin dia terlupa mengambilnya.

“Mana aku tahu! Kotak apa kau orang cakap ni?” Adam tidak mahu mengalah.

“Dengar sini! Aku tahu kau ada simpan kotak tu. Aku nak kotak tu. Kalau tak, awek kau akan jadi mangsa!” Lelaki itu terus menumbuk muka Adam. Mereka terus beredar dari situ.

Adam yang jatuh tersungkur di tepi keretanya sudah berdarah mulutnya. Pipinya pula sudah pedih akibat ditonyoh batang besi tadi. Dia raba pipinya sendiri.

“Gila!”

Darah mula menitis kesan daripada ditonyoh dengan batang besi tadi.

Adam masuk semula ke dalam kereta. Dia mula mencari kotak besi itu. Memang tak ada.

“Hmmm… Jadi aku memang tertinggal kat rumah. Aku mesti balik cepat. Mana tahu mereka serbu rumah mak ayah aku pula.”

Adam segera menghubungi Benjamin. Dia terpaksa batalkan perjumpaan itu. Dia harus segera pulang ke rumah. Keretanya dipandu laju meninggalkan kawasan itu menuju ke rumahnya semula.

SAMPAI di rumah, Adam meluru ke ruang tamu. Matanya tertancap pada kotak besi di atas meja sofa. Dia bergegas pula mencari kedua-dua orang tuanya. Lega melihat ibu sedang membaca al-Quran di dalam bilik. Ayah pula sedang membaca di dalam bilik bacaan.

Dia menarik nafas lega. Sekali lagi Adam turun ke ruang tamu. Kotak besi itu masih ada di situ. Dia segera ambil kotak itu dan menapak ke bilik. Kotak itu diletakkan atas meja. Dia seluk poket seluar untuk mengambil kunci.

“Mana pula kunci ni?”

Adam seluk lagi poket seluarnya.

Dia bergegas ke kereta semula. Habis diselongkar keretanya mencari kunci di situ. Juga tidak ada. Sekali lagi dia memeriksa. Hampa. Adam menapak semula ke dalam rumah. Kali ini dia cuba mencari di sekitar sofa pula. Juga tidak ada di situ.

“Haih… Mesti Hawa marahkan aku nanti.”

Adam meraup muka.

Dia cuba mengingati kejadian tadi. Mungkin kunci itu sudah jatuh di tempat keretanya dihalang tadi. Sekali lagi Adam meraup muka. Dia sudah buntu sekarang ini.

 

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