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Babycharmer: The start of an ending

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Dessert & Cosplay
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Goodbye...

And things just went haywire from the beginning.

The day was just ok minus singing from the birds and the rather joyous gleam from the sun. It was indeed another day, which Ash thought will end up in quite a disaster. A firm believer of Murphy's Law, that's who this lady was.

Despite the bleak-looking day that promises a little bit ray of hope, Ash stood near the bus stop sign. There were a lot of people standing surrounding her; faces looked positively-tired. Probably due to long-hours spent in the office or lending their eyes to the sweet sound of nagging on the phone or whatever that was. People clutching their bags, handbags, backpacks and some carried nothing except a bulging wallet at the back of their pockets. Ash on the other hand was clutching a small file containing a document to her workplace, located smack in the middle of Golden Triangale of Kuala Lumpur, obviously dubbed by her bestfriend Elle and her.

Ah, Elle. At the thought of the bubbly lady, Ash's faces fell. There was indeed a pang of jealousy somewhere in her heart. A tiny prickle striked her heart for the second time this week. Ash's eyes fixed at the tiny ray of light brought by the sun. The time was 7am as Ash turned to glance at a watch on a guy's wrist beside her.

Like a bad tape, the movie in her mind played again for the umpteenth time. And like the time before this, she let it play quite unwillingly but without enough courage to stop it. The scene of both of them sitting in her house, licking on ice cream in front of the TV again. The conversation ran again:
'Hey, when are you getting married?' Elle asked while still having her eyes fixed on the idiot box.
'Hark! Look who's talking' Ash replied, also with the same expression.
'Look, I am asking you pretty nicely..' Elle's voice sounded monotonous and still she wasn't facing Ash.
Ash kept mum. What a difficult question.
'Remember I told you I am going to freak out if you ever get married?' this time Elle looked at Ash, who's holding her spoon in mid air with the look of slight confusion.
'How can I forget that?' Ash laughed. And she expected Elle to laugh together. That's what they do. Laugh about all the things that occured on the face of earth. At some extent, they went as far as cracking jokes about dead people.
'Well...' a lump seemed to form in the middle of Elle's throat. Her eyes looked at her toes, up to Ash's confused face, left and right but never lay on Ash's face for more than 15 seconds.

Silence filled the room. How odd to be sitting in that kind of situation. The TV was blaring, sound of voices from neighboring houses but such silence filled the room that it suffocated both of them. Elle's mouth trembled. She knew she didn't have to tell Ash what exactly she wanted to say in the first place. 15 long years of friendship made it possible for Ash to read or at least predict what is going to happen.

'I am .. getting married,' finally the words escaped Elle's mouth.

Apparently, the decision to pair Elle with her childhood friend has been reached some two months ago. Yet, she was unsure on how to convey it to Ash. It was as if she refused to be the bad news-bearer. It was funny how a long-awaited news like this may bring sadness to another being. But Elle knew better.

There were two young women getting too comfortable with freedom that they were willing to drop everything just to pursue their ambitions. They had the plan for the next 2 years laid down. They are going to travel the world and will start by going on Ash's dream train, Trans-Siberia. Then, they will head down to Champs-Elysse in France before landing in Switzerland, to visit Elle's brother. They spent weekends, weekdays, days and nights together for the past 15 years. But never they plan to include meeting a person of opposite sex into their long to-do-list. Both of them went through a tough time because of love previously. Or rather, their hearts were torn out, thrown onto a hot concrete and trampled over by a herd of mammoths. Not surprisingly, their hearts never did patch.

That was last week. All week Ash had to pretend she was happy with the latest development. Some sort of thought snapped her from her imagination that she will not be able to hang out or really, own Elle's time anymore. It will be divided into two and that will not be something that she wished to happen. Not this soon.

Ash brushed her hair to the side and sighed. The morning felt breezy despite of a hot night yesterday. The big white bus stopped in front of her with a deafening sound. People horded onto the bus, filling every corner of it. Like the thought that filled her mind.

Taking in a huge breath, Ash plugged her ears with headphones and let the sentence sink again: It has been fated.

                                                           +-+

The velvety surface of the sofa felt like heaven to her aching backbone. The smell of caffeine smelt like perfume to her nostrils. Her legs felt rubbery and weariness settled in her arms after a long walk in KLCC. It was Sunday and Isetan was having sales.

The air was buzzing with snatches of conversation of the guest in the complex. Anxious young parents were trying to avoid accidents to happen in the cafes. Babies seemed to have some kind of private conversations with their imaginary friends or even neighbours in the strollers located in the near vicinity. Some are blowing bubbles while the mothers is trying to focus at two places while having dinner.

And Ash was there on the sofa taking it all in to herself. She was alone, unlike other people around her. Elle was not with her today and it felt like something was missing. Elle; that was what missing right now.

'You guys have been friends from such tender age to greying old women!' Elle's sister said that during Hari Raya last year. Ash laughed gaily. Little that she know it was not going to stay that way.

Stirring the coffee inside the small white cup, thoughts are jumping out and in her thinking area. It was more of a debate really. What Elle did was not wrong. But somehow there she felt a stab in the heart saying aloud everything was a betrayal. Somehow, the ideal thought was having each other for the rest of their lives. How insanely ideal and how unrealistic.

Ash felt a tug on her white shirt. Dressed in T-shirt, jeans and pumps, Ash could be mistaken for 22-year old student just going shopping. In reality, Ash was not far from the 30 mark. Of course she can put on more but she was a true believer of 'Less is always more'. And the exterior represents nothing on the inside so why should people decorate themselves (she can make it as if you are decorating a Christmas tree) when what matters more was intention, principle and pureness of the heart? It's a miracle someone who laughed the most can come up with statements that would be so in the face.

The small tug was there again. Ash looked down and she saw the cutest thing ever standing beside her sleeve. With curly ringlets and white dress, the Bambi-eyed little girl was staring up at her. Ash was perplexed and she just stared back. And Ash almost toppled over when the girl smiled and let out the most adoring sound. The girl laughed.

Being the only girl and no experience of looking over smaller ones, Ash was totally unprepared. Finally, after staring almost intently at the girl's face, Ash picked the girl to sit beside her before someone bumped into the girl in the packed restaurant. The girl did not protest but instead, snuggled up at her. It was astonishing but it managed to bring some warm feeling to her heart.

There were traces of tears on the little girl's face as Ash studied the girl. The girl laughed when Ash blinked both of her eyes. It was the most that Ash could come up with. Ash tried to look left and right when she saw a mother looking for something. Ash waved and the woman rushed over.

'Laila! Ouh here you are,' the woman looked at Ash. "Thank you so much. This place is so packed. Luckily you found her'
'Ouh. Not a problem,' Ash's eyes trailed when the mother carried her daughter away from her.
'How did you do that?' The mother asked with an almost admiring look.
'Sorry?' The question was puzzling.
'She couldn't stop crying the whole afternoon and nothing could make her stop. Not even her favorite ice-cream.'
'Err..' Speechless.
'Ouh maybe it's your child. She loves playing with other kids. Where is yours?' The mother looked around Ash, of course seeing nothing but lots of bags. Ash flashed a toothy smile.
'I'm alone. Unmarried and with no kids,' Ash said with a smile. And her heart bumped into her ribcage when she spat the word 'married'. And she started sweating like always. The word marriage doesn't really give a good feeling to her.
'Ouh,' the woman seemed taken aback.

That day was a beginning to it all...

                                                                      +-+

The fit of sneezes started at night and carried on until morning. Waking up was a chore and don't even start on the thought of driving to work. All the bones in Ash's body were screaming for help. Maybe it was the fact that Ash didn't really allow herself to take a break. She kept pushing herself to work harder, instead.

The first thought that she had was to call Elle and tell her that she was sick, like always. It was common knowledge that if one of them fall sick, the other one will also not go to work. But that was before, while they were working together. Now, there were not in the same office anymore. And besides, it doesn't feel right running up to Elle everytime something happened to Ash anymore.

Yeah, quit the thought. Elle was not going to be executed or something, she was just getting married. And of course Ash knows why she was perfectly pissed off with that. Because it doens't seem fair. Ash wanted to get married too. It sounded childish but that was the fact. And she was adamant to keep to that. It's what they call, peer pressure.

After making few necessary calls to the office, Ash sprawled across the bed. Her head was hot and her palms were icy. As usual, she will take a nap before going to the clinic though she has  no clue how to get there in the state that she was in.

And this is one of the times that she wanted a boyfriend.

At about lunchtime, Ash got up and headed to the clinic. The day was not that cold and not that hot either so it was just perfect for someone suffering from flu like her. At this point of time, the sneezes were now combined with hacking cough. Ash's small frame swayed dangerously while she made her way into the clinic.

A scene in front of her was pretty much shocking. Babies were everywhere and it broke her heart to see them crying. Mothers were craddling the babies with worried looks. Most were alone but a man was pacing up and down the halls of the clinic. Ash stationed herself on the sofa beside the wall so she can propped herself up.

It took longer that she thought. But that was not supposed to be a puzzle because there were indeed a lot more patients before Ash. Luckily the air-condition was not that cold. The clinic bore a relaxing view to her eyes. It was painted in simple white, with soft sofas lining the walls. There was one plant on top of the registration counter, which occupied by two girls busy scribbling notes on pieces of paper.

A mother walked past her outside the clinic with a young boy between 2 and 3 of age. Both disappeared behind the walls that Ash was leaning on. Probably saw an acquantaince or talking to the father. Ash fixed her eyes in front of her. Nothing was bound to be interesting today.

That was what she thought for a moment later, Ash saw the mother's body backed into the clinic but only showing a bit of her back. The baby that she was carrying suddenly peeked into the clinic and looked straight at Ash. Ash was so taken aback that she rearranged herself on a sitting position at that moment itself. The baby was looking at her, with saliva drooling and gave her the cutest smile. Ash smiled back and the baby chuckled. The mother, who was busy talking a moment ago, stepped into the clinic and look at both of them.

'Wow,' the word escaped the mother's mouth. Ash didn't know what to do. 'He is usually moody when he is sick.'
Ash didn't know what to say. It will be a coincidence if it happened once but what if it happened twice.

'It's a sign,'Elle was on the other line.
'Like the horoscope?' Ash's voice sounded deadpan. A cough.
'No silly.' Ash coughed again. 'For you to get one.' Ash coughed again.Harder. 'Ouh you don't have to end each of my sentence with a cough, dearie.'
'I don't intend to do it. By the way, you mean they really sell babies?' Ash said in  mock surprise.
'Hmm..not a bad idea. Maybe I can start one you know. When I'm really not up to talking to Middle Eastern people anymore,' Elle quipped.
'Ha ha. And how are you going to do that? Like brede them or something?' Ash laughed.
'That is so gross, you know. Seriously, Ash. Maybe it's a sign. I'm about to..you know.'

The conversation was filled with silence again. They avoided it like a plague. Apparently, Elle also seemed to think that getting married together is the only way to do it.

'Get married. That's what you are going to do,' Ash said with a determination.'Why can't we just say it Elle? It's not a crime. It's ok for you to get married. It's fated. Can you just quit being miserable?'
'Well..'
'On another note, you were saying about a sign?' Ash was keen to know what she really meant.
'A sign for you that you will find someone?'
'Errrr...' Ash coughed again.
'OK I'm not talking to you unless you are a bit better. You are transmitting the virus to me via the line now. Go get some sleep.'
Ash laughed and a second later coughed again.

                                                                  +-+

'You shouldn't stare at her that long, dude,' Elle was teasing soon-to-be husband, Taufik.
'Oh, so you are jealous now?' Taufik returned Elle's joke.
It's not hard to see why they were meant to be for each other. Why didn't they meet earlier? It must be one of the many blessings from God. And Ash couldn't hide her smile. She understood that both of them deserves happines.
They were having tea at Secret Recipe Zen in Sunway Pyramid. It was kind of relaxing and Ash really enjoyed it. The ambience of the restaurant even managed to steal away some of the weariness that she felt after slaving away for so long in the office. The dessert that she had just made her feel sleepy and the dim yellow light was not helping either.

It was like a getting to know date for Ash. Well, Taufik was a nice person. And Ash must give him the credit for being nice to both of them. He was very funny and a pretty good listener. That's as much as what Ash need to know. And she can even feel the chemistry between them. And Ash was pretty glad that they were not the lovey-dovey couple or Ash would feel so bad interrupting their date. Thank God!

'Hey!'
Ash's head swerved around. Her eyes met a guy's faced and she almost choked on her saliva. Gavin Yap?
'Nazri, you are late!' Elle exclaimed and didn't even bothered to feign her disappointment.
'Oh sorry. Traffic jam,' this Nazri scratched his head sheepishly.
'Ah, the universal excuse people use,' Taufik rolled his eyes.
'Haha..'Nazri laughed out loud. Ash found that he smelt great. 'Oh hi!' Nazri turned and greeted Ash with a huge smile.
'Hi..' Ash trailed away.
'Ouh sorry. Nazri. Ash. Ash. Nazri' Is this a frigging double date? And Elle knew that Ash hated it.

The look on Elle's face gave it all. Elle was pushed into this. And Ash had to play along. You cannot control what you cannot predict. Besides, it's a Gavin yap look-alike. What's there to lose?

'Ouh Ash. Don't think evil thoughts,' Ash was playing with her food in the plate.
'What?!!' All three of the other occupants of the table said in unison. Ash's face turned red. The Gavin Yap look-alike laughed. Oh my God. He. Is. So. Good. Looking. Period.

 

Previous short story:
Dessert & Cosplay
Next short story:
Goodbye...
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about the writer

Siti Aishah Abdul Aziz

the one who loses her rose-tinted glasses, with the tendency to borrow others thinking caps. 
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