Chapter 26: It's Too Late
A few weeks later...
“Honey, I notice that since you started your new job, you’re always too busy to see me,” Sandra complained when she met with Aiman in a restaurant after he returned from work.
Yes, Aiman had just got a new job. Now, he was working in sales and marketing department of an automotive company in Jakarta. It was through Shinta that he got the job, because the company belonged to Shinta’s father’s friend.
And Sandra was right. Aiman hadn’t seen her for quite a while. To be exact, it’s been two weeks now since they had met each other. But it didn’t mean that he didn’t want to meet his fiancee. It was simply because he had to work from dawn till dusk. Thus, he really didn’t have time to see her.
“I’m sorry, Honey. I wish I could see you more often. But I’m busy working. So I don’t have plenty of time to see you,” Aiman apologized.
“But before you had a new job, however busy you’re, you always spared the time to see me,” Sandra started whingeing again.
Aiman was getting heartily sick and tired of Sandra’s moaning. She’s always chuntering on about something or other and didn’t know when to stop. But Aiman had to be patient. Because if he were angry with Sandra, he would be in trouble.
“The situation is different now, Honey. My previous job has flexible working hours, meanwhile my current job demand me to work overtime almost everyday. And I also have to work at weekends from time to time,” Aiman tried to explain.
Well, it was a lie. To be honest, it wasn’t compulsory for Aiman to work overtime everyday. But he deliberately did it because he needed to earn a bit extra every month so that he could pay for Dinda’s medical expenses and Alya’s tuition fees.
Since Aiman left that gang of robbers, he felt that his life changed completely. If before quitting as a robber, he could get money without having to work very hard for it, now, he had to struggle to make ends meet. He, who used to be spendthrift, also had to be more economical in all areas of his life. Aiman had to watch every penny that he spent in order that he and his sisters could get by on such a small salary.
“Why did you decide to look for a new job in the first place? If you hadn’t chucked your previous job, you would always have had a lot of time for me,” Sandra protested.
Self, self, self! That’s all Sandra ever thought about! Aiman had lost count of the number of times he’d told Sandra that the reason he couldn’t meet her regularly because he needed to work harder to make money for his sisters. But he could never get her to understand him. Sandra wanted Aiman all to herself. She wanted him to spend all of his time with her and didn’t care about other people.
“I have told you already. I had a blazing row with my friends. That’s why I decided to resign from my previous job, because I can’t work with them anymore,” Aiman reasoned.
“Why don’t you settle your differences and be friends with them again?” Sandra asked fiercely.
It’s exactly what Aiman wished for. He hoped that he could reconcile with his friends, but Aiman’s friends otherwise wanted to sever their friendship with him.
Aiman heaved a long sigh. “That’s easier said than done.”
“Why don’t you work in my father’s company then?” Sandra suggested.
Aiman’s eyebrows lifted. “Working in your father’s company?”
She nodded. “Yes. I think you should work in my father’s company, Honey.”
Aiman admitted that Sandra gave him an offer that was difficult to refuse. Sandra’s father’s company was one of the most prestigious companies in this country. Everyone must expect to work in that company. Aiman was lucky because everybody’s dream job just fell into his lap. But if he worked in Sandra’s father’s company, what would people think of him? He didn’t want to be judged a gold-digger who married her simply upon her wealth.
Okay. Let’s be honest, at first, Aiman was only interested in Sandra because of her money. However, once he got to know her, he began to like her. Even though Sandra came from a high-class background, but she never looked down on people from the lower classes of society like Aiman. She also had no desire to rake over his past. The only thing Aiman disliked about Sandra was her selfishness.
All right. Back to the topic of the job offer again. After considering about it carefully, Aiman finally decided to decline the offer of work from Sandra. He wanted to go it alone and start his own business, instead of working in his future father-in-law’s company.
“Thank you for your kind offer. But I’m sorry. I can’t work in your father’s company, Honey,” Aiman refused.
“Why not, Honey? The job in my father’s company brings with it status and a high income. Meanwhile, your job doesn’t pay very well and it doesn’t offer any prospects for promotion either,” Sandra scoffed.
“That’s where you’re wrong, Honey,” Aiman refuted, “If I work hard, I will certainly be promoted soon.”
“But it’ll take time for you to get promoted in your company, Aiman. Meanwhile, you can get an important position in my father’s company overnight,” Sandra reasoned.
“Look! I don’t wish to be rude, but I don’t need your father’s help to get high in the company. I want to start at the bottom and work my way up with my own efforts,” Aiman emphasized.
“Even though you refuse to work in my father’s company now, but in the end you will still have to work there,” Shinta said confidently.
Aiman frowned in confusion. “What do you mean?”
“Once my father resigns, he will hand his company over to me. And after we get married, you’ll be the one who run the family business, while I prefer to stay at home to take care of our children,” she explained.
“Sandra is right. Even though I refuse now, willy-nilly, I will have to take charge of her father’s company after we get married,” Aiman thought.
Aiman sighed in defeat. “Fine. I will work in your father’s company. But after we get married, okay?”
“No, I want you to work in my father’s company start tomorrow on,” Sandra insisted.
“Look, Sandra! I want to work in your father’s company only after we get married. Anyway, what difference will it make if I work in your father’s company now or later?”
“Of course it will make much difference. If you work in my father’s company, you’ll have more flexible working hours, and it means that you’ll have plenty of time for me. Therefore, the sooner you start working in my father’s company the better.”
Aiman’s patience was wearing thin, until he unintentionally snapped at Sandra, “How many times do I have to tell you that I want to work in your father’s company only after we get married? Why can’t you understand me, Sandra?”
Much to Sandra’s embarrassment she realized that other costumers started staring at her and Aiman.
“Why did you snap at me?” Sandra asked angrily.
Aiman took a few deep breaths to calm himself down, and then apologized, “I’m sorry I snapped at you. I didn’t mean to. But you have to understand me, Sandra! I want to start my career from the bottom. I want to be successful without help from anyone, including from your father.”
“Why are you being so stubborn, Aiman. You know, I just want the best for you.”
“If I’m stubborn, then you’re selfish. You only care about yourself without thinking of what I want,” Aiman snarled, but he regretted the words the moment they were out of his mouth.
Sandra’s eyes blazed with fury. “Fine. You are free to do as you please. I don’t give a damn about it.”
Sandra pushed back her chair and stood up. She was about to leave, but Aiman seized her by the arm, holding her back.
“Wait, Sandra! Don’t go! We haven’t finished speaking yet,” Aiman said.
Sandra shook Aiman off rudely. “There’s nothing else we need to talk about.”
Before Aiman could give a response, Sandra stomped furiously out of the restaurant.
“Sandra!” Aiman called after her, but she ignored him and kept walking away.
Aiman stamped his foot in anger. “Shit!”
Aiman went into his house to the sounds of merriment coming from upstairs. Overcome by curiosity, he dumped his bag on to the table by the staircase and quickly ascended the stairs to the second floor.
A warm smile lifted the corners of his mouth when he found his sisters sitting around the sofa in the living room, chatting away with Shinta. They didn’t seem to notice his presence yet, so Aiman decided to watch them from afar.
Aiman was amazed at Shinta. Since their parents passed away, Alya and Adinda seldom smiled, moreover, laughed. But now, when they’re talking with Shinta, his sisters’ faces were wreathed in smiles. They even laughed at the jokes that she told them. Shinta was really an amazing woman. She succeeded in making his sisters laugh when he could hardly make them smile
“A Aiman?!” Dinda suddenly squealed with excitement when she saw Aiman standing at the doorway.
Alya and Shinta turned to look at Aiman too.
“Hi Girls.” Aiman spreaded his arms.
Springing to their feet, Alya and Dinda ran towards their brother and hugged him. Aiman returned their embrace soon.
Shinta got to her feet and walked over to the three siblings. “Hi Aiman,” she greeted him, “I’m glad you’re finally home.”
“Shinta, what are you doing here?” Aiman inquired after he and his sisters pulled away from their embrace.
“Honestly, I came here to see you, but you weren’t at home,” she answered.
“I’m sorry, Shinta,” Aiman apologized, “I didn’t know that you’re here. You should have called me first if you wanted to come by my house. If you have told me, I would have left from work early.”
“That’s all right, Aiman. I understand that you’re busy with your work. Besides, there are Alya and Dinda here who accompany me. Your sisters are very good company, so I don’t get bored,” Shinta said.
Aiman’s face cracked into a smile.
“Unlike Sandra, Shinta is very understanding. If I think about it, since we’re kids, I and Shinta understand each other, even if we don’t always agree. It’s very different with Sandra. She—”
“Wait! Wait! Wait!” Aiman interrupted his own thoughts, “Why do l compare Sandra with Shinta?”
Aiman shoved the thought of Sandra to the back of his mind and finally turned his attention back to Shinta. “By the way, what do you want to see me about?” he asked.
“Oh, nothing. I was passing through your house on my way home, so I thought I’d call round and see you to say hello,” Shinta explained.
Aiman nodded his head in understanding. “Oh I see!”
“Well, it’s getting late. I think I ought to go home now,” Shinta said.
“Do you really have to go now, Teh Shinta?” Adinda pouted.
Shinta nodded. “Unfortunately, yes.”
“Can’t you stay here longer?” she asked hopefully.
“Sorry, but I must be getting home now. I don’t want to make my uncle and aunt worry about me,” Shinta replied apologetically.
“Oh okay. But you have to come and see us again soon, okay Teh Shinta?” Dinda demanded.
“Sure, I will,” she promised.
“Pinkie promise?” Dinda held out her little finger.
Shinta linked her little finger to Adinda’s. “Promise.”
“Okay then, see you soon, Dinda, Alya.” Shinta waved at the two sisters.
“See you, Teh Shinta,” Alya and Adinda said in unison.
“I will see you out,” Aiman said.
Shinta nodded. “Okay.”
Aiman finally led Shinta to the front door.
“Where did you park your car?” Aiman asked in confusion when he didn’t see Shinta’s car in front of his house.
“I don’t bring my car with me,” Shinta replied.
Aiman frowned. “Why?”
“Because I took my car in for a service this morning,” Shinta explained.
“How did you come here then?” Aiman posed another question.
Shinta answered, “I came here by taxi.”
“OK then, I will drive you home,” Aiman decided.
“No, thanks,” Shinta refused, “You don’t need to drive me home. I’ll just call a taxi to get me home.”
“No, Shinta. I don’t like the idea of you going home alone late at night. You might get mugged,” said Aiman anxiously.
Shinta chuckled. “Oh Aiman, why do you keep forgetting that I’m a police officer? I can take care of myself.”
“Even though you’re a police officer, you’re still a woman. It would be dangerous for you to go home alone at night,” Aiman reasoned.
Before Shinta could finish her sentence, Aiman cut her off, “I’ll drive you home and I won’t take no for an answer! Do you hear me?”
Shinta sighed in defeat. “Fine.”
“Hang on a minute! I’ll just get my keys.” Aiman ran into the house. A moment later, he returned with his car key.
“Let’s go!” he said.
They then walked over to Aiman’s car that was parked in front of his house. Aiman opened the passenger side door for Shinta.
“Thank you,” Shinta said as she hopped into the car.
Aiman walked around the car and lastly climbed into the driver’s seat.
“I’m proud of Dinda. She endured her illness with great fortitude,” Shinta said as soon as the car pulled away.
“You’re telling me!” Aiman agreed with her.
“She’s also amazingly cheerful considering all she’s had to go through. I’m sure no one will ever guess that she’s ill because she’s always so cheerful,” Shinta added.
Aiman only replied her with a smile. “She’s not usually as cheerful as this before. But thanks to you, she’s back to her usual cheerful self again today,” he thought.
There was a moment of silence until Aiman broke it.
“Um Shinta, I think I still owe you a gratitude,” he said.
Shinta lifted her eyebrows. “Gratitude? For what?”
“For helping me to get a job,” Aiman answered, “I don’t know how I can ever express my thanks to you for all you’ve done for me.”
“There’s no need to thank me. I’ve already told you. As friends, we must help each other,” Shinta smiled.
“No, Shinta. However, I still owe you a great debt of gratitude for all your help. Because of you, I can get a decent job, I can start life afresh and be a better man too. None of this would have been possible without your help,” Aiman said persistently.
Didn’t want to argue with Aiman anymore, Shinta finally said, “You’re welcome then.”
Aiman grinned at her.
At last, Shinta and Aimam spent the rest of their journey, shooting the breeze.
“Thanks for the ride,” Shinta said after they had just arrived in front of her uncle’s house.
“No problem,” Aiman responded.
Shinta was about to open the car door, but Aiman held her back. “Wait! Let me do it!”
Without waiting for Shinta’s response, Aiman hopped out of the driver’s seat. Walking around the car, he lastly opened the passenger side door for Shinta.
Getting out of the car, Shinta uttered, “Thank you, Aiman.”
Aiman beamed. “You’re welcome.”
“Let’s go inside! My aunt and uncle must be pleased to see you again,” Shinta offered.
“I’m sorry, Shinta,” Aiman refused, “but I must be off now. I don’t want to keep my sisters waiting. Give your uncle and aunt my regards, okay?”
“Okay, I will,” Shinta promised.
“Good night, Shinta. See you later!” Aiman said as he got into his car.
“Good night, Aiman. Bye. Be careful, okay?” Shinta gave him a wave.
As his car drove off, Aiman stared at Shinta through the rear-view mirror. He was suddenly smitten with remorse. He knew that he shouldn’t have dumped Shinta for Sandra. Shinta was a straightforwardly pleasant woman. She loved him sincerely and genuinely cared for his sisters. Meanwhile, Sandra was an egoistic woman who only cared about herself. Aiman didn’t even know if Sandra loved his sisters or not. Yes, Sandra often showered Alya and Adinda with expensive gifts. But apart from that, she never showed any affection to them.
Lastly, Aiman got to realize that his feelings for Sandra all this time wasn’t love, but it’s just a passing infatuation. He should have known that there’s a world of difference between liking someone and loving them. Yes, he liked Sandra, but he didn’t actually love her. The only woman he ever truly loved was Shinta.
But it’s too late now. Even though Aiman wanted Shinta back, but he could no longer be with her, because he’s engaged to Sandra now. Aiman couldn’t chuck Sandra easily. Her father was one of the most influential figures in this country. If Aiman broke off his engagement to Sandra, he would certainly stain her father’s reputation and he would shame her and his family too.