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Writings > Short Story > Love

Porcelain

Previous short story:
Serenity: For The Love of Peace
Next short story:
The Butterfly (Stages)

this is a continuation to this story, Of leaf and teas


Porcelain

“... and that is the whole story to it. So now I need your help,” Akmar said as he popped his right knuckles in his left hands.

“Stop that, it’s annoying. Plus it seems as if you wanted to bash that poor kid. Why do you have to pick someone who has just arrived Mar?” said Lili.

“I didn’t plan it this way,”

“You sure didn’t plan, but you knew it would lead to something like this. I am even surprised that until now, none of the exes ever beat you up. I did warn you that this kind of thing might happen, right?”

Akmar sighed and got up from the bed. He paced the few open spaces in the room, before sitting back on the same spot on the bed. He was moving the cursor on his laptop when he replied to Lili.

“I know that,” Akmar said.

“But you are still doing it. And why Ariff?”

“It just happens to be him and her, okay.

“It brings no good Akmar, not even to you.”

“Yes Lili, I know. It’s just . . . Urgh!”

“Okay, okay. I will help. What should I do? But before that, you know right why I am helping you?” Lili asked.

“Why?” Akmar asked simply.

“So there wouldn’t be others,” Lili said. Akmar acted as if he didn’t hear.

“Here’s what I want you to do”

 

*****

 Ariff came slowly out of the lavatory and breathed a relief when he saw the girl wasn’t there.

“Lili pinjam kereta kawan. Dia pi ambik kunci kat bawah. Siap la dulu,” said Akmar. Ariff just grunted, signalling he heard what Akmar said. “Don’t wear jeans, by the way. We are going to a fancy restaurant. At least don’t wear some sleazy jeans. But that will do,” Akmar added.

Macam-macam pulak die ni. Biarlah.

Nevertheless Ariff changed to the pants that Akmar was pointing at. As soon he was ready and about to seat and wait, Lili came. She then drove and after almost half an hour, they arrived at the outskirt of town. She was looking for a spot to park when Ariff saw the place they were to dine in. It was on the second floor on a row of buildings with balcony looking over the pedestrian walk. From afar, blurry shadows could be seen through the dark tinted window panes, shadows of people, partly concealed by heavy drapes.  There was no one sitting on the balcony and the empty seats outside somehow falsely give the impression of emptiness in the inside of the restaurant. However as soon as they stepped out of the car, Ariff understood why there was no one enjoying the view upstairs, outside. The cold air chased them into the building, where a man was waiting at the front of the steps. He took their coats and escorted them to a table.

Wow. Ade orang sambut. Ariff was surprised and he was further delighted as he entered the spacious dining room, furnished with beautiful paintings while the marble tiles were polished till they shine. Ade patung batu bogel-bogel plak tu. Macam dalam tv, kat coliseum.

They then sat. “What should we eat?” Lili asked her companions, looking first at Akmar, then Ariff.

“Erm, Cordon Bléu?” said Ariff.

“Haha. I am okay with that. But you guys can eat that?” Lili asked Akmar.

“No,” Akmar answered. “Dekat sini tak halal. Order something else. Seafood maybe,” said Akmar.

Pulak dah. Leceh gile.

In the end the Ariff and Akmar ordered fish-and-chip and salmon roulade respectively, while Lili only  ordered mushroom soup with gingerbread. “I am not hungry,” she said.

“Are you on diet?” Akmar asked.

“No, I am not,” she answered.

“Yes, you are. Or you should. You are fat,” Akmar said.

“No, I’m not! Shut up Mar!”

Ariff tried to suppress his laughter but a smile escaped on his face. Akmar noticed it, before he excused himself to the gents. He said something to Lili as he passed her, though Ariff didn’t hear it.

“Am I fat?” Lili asked as she turned to Ariff. Ariff almost spluttered the water he was drinking as he quickly tried to answer her.

“No, no! Of course not,” he said.

“Thanks Ariff. That is sweet of you,” she said smiling.

Ariff smiled back shyly. “You are not fat,” he added.

“Ha ha. I know. Girls just need assurance from time to time, even if they are not true,”

“I’m not lying, serious!” he insisted.

She laughed again. “I know. But maybe instead of ‘you are not fat’, you can rephrase your sentence in the positive, like....  you are slim and beautiful? ” she suggested.

“Oh. You are beautiful,” he said.

“You really are sweet,” she said as she laughed again. “Do you have a girlfriend, Ariff?” she suddenly asked.

Ariff was stumped. “Y-y-y no. I don’t,” he stammered.

“You had one didn’t you?” she continued. “Until recently, right?”

Ariff was silent. “How do you know?” he then asked warily.

“And she chose Akmar,” Lili finished her sentence. Ariff looked away and didn’t answer.

“It’s expected that you would hate him. That’s why he asked me to speak to you,” Lili proceeded. “He wanted to help you, but afraid you wouldn’t listen to him. I think he is right, seeing how you ignore me know.”

Upon hearing that, Ariff turned towards her, though he still didn’t say anything in reply.

“That’s better. Would you let him help you?” she asked. “Ariff? Answer me please.”

“Why would he help me?” he reluctantly asked back. Lili smiled upon hearing that.

“He said that you would ask that. AND he wanted me to tell you it’s because he wanted your help with your brother in the future. To borrow a book, he said,” she answered.

“What! Now he wants to use me?” Ariff said as his anger boils up.

“That’s what he wanted me to ...”

“Pergi mampus,” Ariff cut short. Lili was silent, observing him as he stare angrily at the glass of water in front of him. Lili then spoke with a more level voice, very soft but her words were clear.

“Now Ariff. Look at me. Thank you. Now, what Akmar wanted me to tell, it’s not what he really meant. He says he wants to help you but what I see, it is him who needs help. I don’t know how to explain to you but first of all, Akmar is not a bad person. However somehow, somewhere, he got twisted and he did things, like he did to you guys, which he regrets later on. I believe he wants to help you not because a favour with your brother or whatever bluff he is telling, but because something else. And I believe he can change. And I believe he needs your help instead. So, will you agree to whatever he proposes?”

Ariff didn’t perfectly understand what Lili was saying but he decided to ask regarding the last thing he caught. “What is actually that he proposed?”

“He wants to help you get her back. Your girlfriend. What’s her name again? Ella?” Lili asked.

“Eja,” Ariff corrected. “But how?”

“That, Ariff, you have to ask Akmar yourself. So do you agree?” Lili looked at him and they both stared for a second before he lowered his eyes on the dishes that were just brought over. “Just try Ariff?” Lili added. After a while he finally answered, and agreed.

“That’s better. Now I have to miscall Akmar. He said to do it without you noticing but who cares, right? What is it anyway you Malaysian with miscalls? Can’t you even spend 20 p to say something?” Lili said as she close her phone clam shut. “Okay, here he comes. Oh oh! And don’t tell him that thing about how I think he can change and stuff,” Lili added in urgent whispers as Akmar was closing quickly.

“What are you whispering?” Akmar asked coolly.

“Nothing,” Lili answered. “Ariff agreed for you to help.”

“Very well. Just remember I am doing it because it is a coincidence that we are in the same room and your brother, Zul, studies in Leeds and I need to borrow a book from there,” Akmar said to Ariff. Lili cocked her head and mouthed the word, ‘see’ which caught Akmar attention. “What?” Akmar asked.

“Nothing. I was just wondering why you didn’t borrow the book from the Uni,” she replied.

“I did,” Akmar said flatly. “Do you not think I would do that first? And if you were to wonder why I didn’t borrow straight from Leeds Uni, it is because they are all used and the ones left are reserved for the students from their Uni. Got it?”

Lili poke her tongue out in reply.

“Jelan la lidah banyak-banyak, nanti jadi biawak,” Akmar said.

“What did you say?” she asked.

“Nothing. I just said you are beautiful with your tongues out,” he lied blatantly.

“Well thank you Mar. Sweet of you. Though I know you are lying. I’ll ask Ariff later,” Lili said as she looked at Ariff. “Ariff wants to know by the way how you are going to help him.”

“Do you?” Mar asked, in which Ariff only grunted in reply. “Then I have to know about Eja, and about you. Is it okay, Ariff?”

“You mean about their details and stuff? Do you really need to know that?” Lili chipped in.

“Yes?” Akmar made a face at Lili.

“Duhh. After what you did, I’d be surprised if anyone would tell you more about their ex,” said Lili.

“You are not helping, Lili,” Akmar said sharply.

“Fine. Whatever. Just don’t do this over lunch. Do it later in your room,” Lili said

“Okay with me. You Ariff?”

Ariff who was already memory lane, barely agreed. Thus the topic was dropped as they finished their lunch, which was followed by dessert, then the receipt. Ariff took his wallet out when Lili firmly said no. She paid with her credit card which had a picture on it. Even the waiter took a second look as she gave it to him. As he gave it back, Ariff peered and saw it was a picture of a girl with a straw hat, standing on a beach.

“Nice isn’t it?” Lili asked. Ariff nodded. “That’s me,” she added with a grin.

“Vain” Akmar said.

“Shut up Mar!”

 

*****

It was only around three in the afternoon when they left the restaurant but the clouds were heavy, blocking any sunlight going through and causing the day to be very gloom and dark, as if it was already dusk. Akmar wanted to buy some snacks so they stopped at a petrol station on their way back. Ariff got out too and was about to follow Akmar, when he turned around and  said to Ariff, “Asked Lili if she needs help.” Ariff frowned, so Akmar repeated, “Go ahead, and ask her.”

“No, no. I am okay,” Lili answered as Ariff asked.

“Help her with the pumps. Tolong ja. Dia cakap ja camtu,” Akmar said. Again Ariff frowned and again Akmar urged him. So he took the pump from Lili and inserted the nozzle to the mouth of the tank. Lili raised her eyebrows and asked Akmar about what was going on.

“I’m trying to help him. You know, what I said earlier, about getting Eja back,” Akmar answered.

“Ooookayy. I don’t get that, but I think I just said I am okay with the pumps. I am not a helpless blonde,” Lili said.

“Yeah, you said no, but you do like it when he helps you, right?” Akmar said as he walked into the petrol shop, leaving the two of them behind.

“Beats me. I can’t figure out what he is trying to say too,” Lili said to Ariff. He smiled, “It’s okay. I don’t mind.”

“You are, sweet,” Lili said. “Come. Let’s go buy something.”

They went into the shop and Ariff quickly took a bottle of soda to the counter, trying to avoid Lili paying for it when he noticed he only had 50 pounds notes. Reluctantly he put the note on the counter, when Akmar said, “Asked Lili if she has any change.”

This time Ariff obeyed promptly, in which Lili gave a pound shilling. When they were all in the car, Akmar asked Ariff.

“What would you do, if the situation just now, happened at the Uni’s cafeteria?”

“Erm. I would borrow money from my friend,” Ariff answered uncertainly at the peculiar question.

“No, you will not borrow from your friend and you have just borrowed from a girl who was in line behind you. The question is, how are you going to pay it?” Akmar said.

“I would give her the money,” Ariff said.

“When? How?”

“Bile aku jumpe die la,” Ariff said.

“What would you say then?”  Akmar questioned. Ariff was quite lost and looked at Lili hopefully.

“Here’s your money?” Lili volunteered.

Akmar looked at the dashboard and ran his hand through his hairs. He scratched his head twice before saying, “This is only an example, but over time you will get what I am trying to say. Anyway, my suggestion is, you should approach the girl you borrowed the money from and thanked her before trying to repay her. Then take a five note pound out and apologize that you still have no change for her. If she says it’s okay, insist on paying and take her to coffee or something. No more than that. If she still refuses, tell her you’ll pay another day. Pay and on that other day, try your luck and invite for another drink, but don’t use the 5 pound trick anymore. If she still refuses, then do not proceed.”

“Wow! Is that a step-by-step to tackle with one pound or what?” Lili exclaimed.

“It’s just to give Ariff the idea,” Akmar explained. “You get it right, Ariff?”

“Right, I get it,” Lili said instead. Then she suddenly asked, “What happens when the girl doesn’t lend you the money in the first place?”

The humming of the engine could be heard as the three of them fell silent.

“Akmar?” Lili asked as she looked sideways at him. “Akmar?”

“Fine, you are not answering that, I get it,” Lili said angrily before continuing driving. Ariff, who was listening, stayed mum all along the way. About 5 minutes before they arrived, Lili made a call and broke the monotonous hum. Akmar only spoke when they arrived at the hostel.

“Thanks, you are not coming in, right Lili?” he asked.

“Nope, Nasim is coming. I’ll wait in the lobby. Can you please give the keys back to Ross?”

“Okay, no problem. Bye,” Akmar said, followed by Ariff. They both went towards the lift when Ariff noticed a car zoomed to the front of the hostel and Lili rushing outside. “Nasim,” Akmar answered unasked.

Ariff couldn’t help his curiosity but to proceed asking, “Nasim tu sape?”

“Boyfriend Lili. Anak tokey minyak,” Akmar answered before he stepped out on the 2nd floor. “Aku nak bagi kunci ni kat Ross. Pi naik dulu.”

Ariff nodded as the door closed. “Nasim eh,” he said to himself.

Nasim, Bugatti Veyron.Hmmm.


To be continued

Previous short story:
Serenity: For The Love of Peace
Next short story:
The Butterfly (Stages)
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