Short story by Hamzah Puadi Ilyas
Published in The Jakarta Post | Sun, 07/31/2005
""Mom, can you tell me again about daddy?"" begged five-year-old Fayi, asking again about where her father had gone.
Laela took a deep breath. She felt utterly bewildered every time Fayi asked the question. So as not to disappoint her beloved daughter, Laela had made up a story about Fayi's father, Har, and that he had gone to a place far above in the sky.
""Who did he go with, Mommy?"" Fayi's voice was slowing, a sign that she was getting sleepy.
""He went there with the wind.""
""Can I be the wind's friend, too? So I can go to daddy? I miss his Cinderella,"" said Fayi.
Hearing this, Laela was deeply touched. She wanted to cry, but she held it in, not wanting to shed tears in front of her daughter.
""You certainly can, honey. But wait until you can fly a plane like your daddy."" Laela touched Fayi's hair tenderly. After Har's death, Fayi was the only one Laela cared about -- her life was dedicated to Fayi.
""Can I fly a plane like daddy some day?""
""Of course, dear. But you have to promise Mommy to be a good girl and study hard. So later, when you fly a plane, the wind won't disturb you because it is your friend.""
""I will, Mom.""
Fayi stretched and yawned.
""Now, it's time for bed,"" Laela cooed.
Her eyes half open, Fayi murmured, ""I want to hear about Cinderella. I want to hear about her beautiful glass shoes.""
Laela gave in to her daughter's wish and picked up a book from the nightstand. She opened it and started to read in a soft voice.
About 20 minutes later, Fayi's breathing became heavy, and she fell into a deep slumber. Slowly, Laela put the book back on the nightstand. She tucked a striped blanket around Fayi and gave her a good-night kiss on the brow. Then she turned off the lights, leaving Fayi with her beautiful dream about the wind.
It was the dead of night, but Laela could hardly close her eyes. An image of Har seemed to float on the bedroom ceiling. It was so clear, as thought he was trying to contact her.
She tried to concentrate, making an effort to follow the image as it moved to and fro. Har's face was so calm and peaceful. He even looked more handsome than in life. Laela's eyes were glued to the pattern it made on the ceiling. Strangely, it left a faint trace of words, a farewell.
Quick as a flash, she got up. Was it just a dream? But why was it so clear?
She recalled a moment with Har, in a fancy restaurant at a five-star hotel, celebrating their second anniversary. Har didn't talk much then, and simply said that he was deeply in love with her.
""Will you love me for the rest of your life?"" Har asked.
""Yes, of course Mas. I loved you from the first moment I saw you,"" Laela said.
Har didn't reply, but his eyes shone with happiness, and he took something out of his pocket. It was a diamond ring.
""This is a gift for being my soul mate,"" he said.
Laela was surprised and overjoyed. ""Ooh, Mas Har, it is really beautiful.""
It fit her finger perfectly.
""Mas, I'd like to tell you something -- something I've been hiding from you,"" Laela teased.
""What is it, dear?""
""I'm two months pregnant.""
""What?? Really?? Oh, bless the Lord. I'm going to be a father!"" Unable to control his joy, Har clasped his wife's hand and kissed her long.
It was absolute happiness. Life was so good.
Seven months later, Laela delivered a healthy baby girl, whose nose was pointed like her mother's, and her round eyes took after her father's. They named her Fayi, which was Arabic for sweet fragrance. Laela and Har wanted her to grace those around her with her sweetness.
As she grew, they could see Fayi was a smart child. During his days off, Har spent all his time with Fayi, reading Cinderella to her.
Life is like a rainbow, thought Laela -- full of bright colors, beauty and mystery. We can't touch it, no matter how hard we try. In the end, it disappears, its cheerful and lively colors gone for good.
Day by day, Fayi grew under her parents' undivided attention, and had already started kindergarten.
One week before the shocking news came, Laela often caught sight of Har, who had become fond of watching Fayi as she slept. Laela was curious about this, but she was reluctant to find out what had caused the change in behavior.
Another unusual thing she noticed was Har's face. It looked sallow and drawn, losing its radiance. It was like the moonlight, how it disappeared gradually as the morning sun rose to show off its power.
The day before he was to fly, Har didn't say goodbye as he usually did. Kissing his wife on the forehead, he then drew Laela to his chest, whispering in her left ear: ""Please take care of Fayi and be strong."" That was the last thing he said. It sounded strange to her, but Laela just nodded, as a loyal wife should. Then Har went to Fayi's bedroom and kissed her goodbye on both cheeks.
Two days later, Laela's life was shattered: Jumbo jet flown by Capt. Hariman falls into Indian Ocean.
The cause was a violent storm. Everyone on the plane was missing. Why did this happen to me? Not now, it's too soon. We'd just started to be a family, facing our future together. He is a good husband. Fayi still needs a father who can drive away the evil spirits at night. She still needs Cinderella, and ... and ...
Be strong Laela, his words reverberated in her ears.
Days went by without Har. Silent, gloomy, dull.
Like a sunrise that was too shy to rise and erase the night, in her heart, Laela was unwillingness to let Har go. She was afraid whether she could raise Fayi on her own. What she should answer when Fayi asked about her father. Doubt cast a shadow over Laela's future.
Be strong Laela. There it was again.
Leaving Fayi's bedroom relieved Laela for a moment. It had taken several times for her to compose the story about Har's journey to the sky with the wind.
Fayi never tired of listening to the same story, again and again, and she seemed to have become obsessed with the wind ever since she heard the story.
Laela went into the living room, gazing at the big family portrait of the three of them, Fayi in between her and Har, smiling her childish smile.
Laela stepped closer to it and touched the figures in the picture one by one, including herself. That time was all too brief, but it was full of happiness.
Touching Har's face, Laela's spirit revived gradually. She remembered her last promise to him.
Let the past be buried. The future was for Fayi and Laela. From this point forth, Laela vowed in front of Har's smiling face, nothing would separate them.
A sudden loud noise came from Fayi's bedroom. Laela came back to herself, waking from her thoughts. Hurrying, she went into her daughter's room to see what was going on.
Stopping just inside, Laela couldn't believe what she was seeing.
The window was wide open, the wind gently blowing into the room. Fayi was on her bed, her arms stretched out, and the wind surrounded her as though it was protecting her from the dark night and evil spirits.
-- Jakarta, April 24, 2005
The writer is an English teacher at LBPP-LIA Slipi, and is taking English Literature and Creative Writing courses at the Jakarta International School of Foreign Languages (STIBA) in Ciputat, South Jakarta.
Short story by Hamzah Puadi Ilyas