Arina Pringgodani, a tomboyish silat black-belted girl, who is also shy, naïve, and insecure. She has a dream to visit England, her favourite country. She doesn’t believe in love, because for her, love means weakness and might destroy her solid life principles.
But one day, in her internship office, she got a crush on an Italian man instead, who reminds her of the infamous Giacomo Casanova, a gorgeus ladiesman and a troublemaker from Italy. His infamous reputation last long until now in the whole world. Of course, he makes Arina’s heart and brain wage war everytime he is around.
“Why does he seem to be everywhere she goes anyway? He is not a stalker, right?”
As if doesn’t want to be left out of the fun, Arina’s best friend who looks like a real model, Verona Capulet Sudarso, apparently also got her head over heels with that Italian guy’s friend. Despite his very different personality with the cool guys Verona used to date before. What will Arina do? Will she grant what’s her heart desire, even as far as going to her dream country? Let’s follow these two girls’s exciting full-of-surprise adventures and life lessons in three countries that will be the host of these girls’s escapades.
Hallo, My Name’s “Love”, Nice to Meet You All!
That morning, the weather was a little bit cloudy when I arrived at the ‘Elephant’ Museum to attend the seminar, of which was a cooperation between the United Nations and the Embassy of Palestine. It was still quiet. So different with the situation on the crowded road. I came for the obligation to assist the progress of the function, not as a participant, though.
Despite being quiet, it didn’t make me afraid. This quite sensation, among the ancient artefacts and the fossils, it gave serenity and drove anyone with wild imagination. Anyone like me, who was so fond of historical things, especially the European history with its beautiful gowns and lavish palaces. Even though I knew it wasn’t all about the rainbow and butterfly. Sometimes, I imagined myself somehow travelled to the past and had to wear some wide – skirt gown with calming colour such as green or blue, my favourite ones. Or the combination of black and gold of which I thought could give an elegant touch to the soiree dress. I knew, it sounded like a daydream in the early morning, but a little bit of imagination was not a sin, right?
I happened to be in one of the Indonesian Museums. In my opinion, the museums in Indonesia were good enough, but unfortunately, it was just for certain musems, like this one. The other good ones, were located in Kota, such as Fatahillah Museum, The Puppet Museum, and Bank Indonesia Museum. As for the other museums… I wish the government would put more effort in reconditioning those ill-fated ones, so they could look more decent and attracted more visitors. As well as inviting more who would care about the Indonesian history, yes.
I still got half an hour before the other interns arrived, so I decided to spend some time exploring the enticing artefacts near the corridor that would lead to the seminar hall. I was reading the information about an ancient vase from Solo city, when suddenly someone had called my name. “Hey, Arina!” a tall guy with pale skin and raven hair in a red maroon shirt and light brown trousers called me. His steps toward me were in the company of his bright but brief smile.
He was Seba. My Italian intern colleague in the UN. His full name was Sebastiano Valenti, but for practicality, my colleagues and I called him “Seba”. He didn’t mind it and it wasn’t long before all staff at the office called him the same.
“Oh hi, Seba. Good morning! You startled me a lot, you know!
I thought I was alone here!” I said. Pretending to be angry at him.
He chuckled. “Why, Arina? Are you afraid of ghost?”
I rolled my eyes. “You wish! Anyway, you’re early! What time did you arrive?”
“I’ve been here since seven thirty. Mr. Adi asked me to come early so I can set up the laptop, sound effect, and the projector. You’re just here?” Seba asked in heavily-Italian-accented English. “Yeah, I came around ten minutes ago. Because there is still time before we gathered up, so I did some museum sightseeing, you know.”
“Okay. Perhaps you should get inside now. Mr. Adi is there. See ya!” he said lightly and walked to the direction where I came from.
“And where are you going, Seba?” I asked instead.
“Gotta pick up something from the car,” he replied without looking back at me.
I decided to end my short museum tour and walked to the seminar hall. In the said hall, I looked around to search for Mr. Adi, my supervisor at the office. He stood close to a small table near the pulpit, in front of the well-organized chairs, a bit far from where I was now. When I approached him, he was working on the cable installation, from the looks of it.
“Hello, Mr. Adi,” I said. He turned around and seemed glad to see I was here already.
“Ah Arina. Good you’re here. Please check the refreshment in front of the entrance. The catering guy just came. So, please watch over him and arrange the snack boxes.” “Okay, I got it, sir.”
“Where are the others? Risa and Manda?” he asked.
His eyes swept around the room. Probably hoping Risa or Manda – which are unmistakenly my other local intern colleagues – suddenly popped up there.
“They aren’t here yet, sir. Last time I checked they’re stuck in the traffic,” I replied as well as looking around.
“Alright. Call them later, check where they are. They should be here before Mr. Michael,” he said.
His fingers moved his glasses which was on the middle of his nose.
“Got it, sir. Okay, I’ll see the snack arrangements now,”
I said. I put my bag under the laptop desk which was covered in a velvet yellow table sheet and then quickly exited the hall.
Risa and Manda arrived together when I was busy arranging the snack boxes for the participants.
Risa let her presence be known to me in her merry enthusiasm.
“Arina Pringgodani!! Ah so good to see you here already. Shit, traffic was awful! Luckily I came with Manda.” She said breathlessly with Manda that indicated they actually ran to get here. I immediately asked Manda to help me with the boxes arrangement, while Risa was going fast inside to see Mr. Adi.
While arranging the snacks, I told Manda that I met Seba earlier. Manda, just like me, was a last-year college student in Public Relations major and we both wore minus glasses. So did Risa, who was in the same college with Manda. I went to a different college. So, yes I met them at the UN office. We three were fond of reading novels and watching movies. From Hollywood box offices to the famous Japanese anime. Sometimes we went to the cinema together, even though we only knew each other for two months. Regardless of being my senior at work, I was really happy. They were a good senior and well I dared say that they are such a good friend, too.
My best friend, of whom I knew since primary school and just like my own big sister, the one and only not blood-related person I knew so deeply like my own biological parents and brother, was Verona. Ah, but she was not here now. Finished with the snack arrangements, Manda and I rushed inside and joined Seba who was there earlier. Risa came in the next minute looking ready to explode on someone.
“What’s wrong, Ris?” Manda asked, she tilted her head. Her habit when she was confused about something.
Risa gestured to us to get closer, so she could whisper things she did not want Seba to hear. It was a strange thing, considering Seba did not understand Indonesian yet. So, it was a small probability he understood what we were saying, even with louder voice. But I ignored the fact and kept moving my ear to get closer to her mouth anyway.
“It was Seba, I didn’t know what he was doing with the power point slides I had worked on like crazy since a few days ago and I’ve tested it with the projector at the office. It should’ve worked just fine, but something was wrong and the screen showed nothing. So, together with Mr. Adi, I patched it all up, again. Hah! he freaked us out and piled up some unnecessary works!” Risa strengthened her spine and stared at Seba obnoxiously. On the other hand, Seba was busy focusing on his laptop.
“But it’s done now, right?” Manda asked in a calming tone. Risa nodded and took a seat besides her. “Good. That’s the important thing!” She added again.
When the seminar started, I spent most of my time by paying attention to my Director’s speech,
Mr. Michael Perigini and the Palestine Ambassador, Mr. Faroukh Mahmoud. Too bad they could
not keep up my enthusiasm and they didn’t take long to sound boring. Fortunately, I didn’t get
any task to do at this point. So, I just watched over the present participants, while Manda and
Risa were talking about their campus.
And then, I saw him.
He sat nicely at the middle and at the end of the row and – to my pleasure, not far from where I seated. He was listening to the presentation with the attention that deserved a compliment. His demeanor gives away an impression that he was a good kisser thinker with his right hand supported his chin, his left hand supported his right elbow, and his right leg was on top of his left leg. That man, handsome. So gorgeous, to be specific! He had a fair complexion with short blonde hair that reminded me of honey, broad chest, and slim body. With my eyes still fixed on him, I poked Manda’s arm to get her attention.
“What?” she asked. I saw her looked at me from the corner of my eye. Oh God, I still could not get my eyes off of him.
“Look at that guy. So handsome, isn’t he?”
More excitement coming to her as she strengthened her back and looked at the participants.
“Hah?! Where? Which one?” she asked.
I tried to steer her view to the right direction. “That one who wears a white shirt and off-white trousers and sitting near the alley, besides the Indian man in a black suit.”
“Ah that one… yes yes really handsome, Ar, hihih…” She commented three seconds later. She giggled quietly when she stared at the man again.
Unlike me who stared at him again, Manda did not seem to think that the man deserved to be seen more than five seconds after she confirmed his handsomeness. And then I remembered, any kind of foreigners are not Manda’s type. So, it was no wonder if she did not feel the need to keep staring at the man.
It also drew Risa’s attention. Like Manda, she agreed he was handsome but she did not feel the need to keep gawking at him. But at least, she got a good information about him and told me that he was actually Seba’s friend.
“You like him, Ar? That’s Seba’s friend. You can ask him when he gets here,” she said nonchalantly. Risa was not really attracted to foreigners either, it seemed. Doesn’t mean I like him at once! I grumbled in my mind. But for me, I did not mind. According to my mother, as long as he had the same religion, it did not matter where he came from. But in that moment, the religion stuff was the last thing on my mind.
But, when it came to romance… well, actually this was not my favourite topic of discussion because the idea of an independent woman who can struggle by herself in life would sound really cool. But, I did not think I knew any better… because until now I was only with a guy in a high school, and then we broke up. Afterwards, every boy was just friends. I never told anyone before but deep inside, I knew I felt that haunting loneliness and sometimes I envied those couples I saw everywhere, clutching to each other like their life depended one hundred percent on it. And then, I thought again. How would you look cool if inside it looked like a barren dry desert? Was the coolness actually valid if there was no one who even acknowledged it? What good would it be if it actually destroyed you slowly inside?
When Seba returned, it was Risa who were surprisingly eager to make sure if the guy was truly his friend.
“Seba, that guy over there, he is your friend, right?” she asked. I did not know why she looked excited. Seba stared at the guy for awhile before nodding his head. “Yes, he is my friend. His name is Carlo,” he answered with a smile on his face. Carlo. Now, that was a cool name for a gorgeus man like him.
“Where does he work?” I asked Seba, trying to keep my voice neutral.
“He works at ILO, International Labour Organization. Same building as us. We get along well, you know.” I did not why he thought I should know that, but I was glad secretly and went back at looking at the man named Carlo again.
Not long after that, Mr. Adi came to our desk and asked me to shush the noisy participants who were mostly college students. I immediately rose from my seat and walked to the line where the students were seated. They looked so fired up in their chat, instead of paying attention to the speech at the front. With some scolding,” Please don’t be noisy!” and brief glare, they fell silent at once. Without waiting to see if the continue their trivial chat or not, I continued to the other line. That meant, I had to pass Carlo.
When I passed him, he coincidentally turned to me and smiled. Shit! Why did he have to see me? And why did my heart have to beat twice faster when I saw his smile? But, the smile… I was proud of myself for returning it. But then, I walked faster than necessary.
“Okay, he smiled at me, guys.” I reported to Risa and Manda when I was back at our desk.
“Yaeeyy…!” They cheered at me in unison.
Manda made it worse by grinning so widely and clapped quietly. I could only put my head on my arms that were folded on the desk.
A few moments later, the boring seminar finally came to an end. And I was grateful I could force myself to stop staring at him until the seminar was over. While the participants were starting to exit the seminar hall, my friends and I were also packing up our things. Not long after that, Carlo walked to our desk which meant he narrowed the distance between us. I instantly looked at him as he was talking to Seba and completely forgot about packing up. I could also see how tall he was. The top of my head only reached the center of his chest. Right where his heart belonged to. My pretty imagination shattered when I heard Risa and Manda cleared their throats on purpose many times. Then, Carlo left without sparing any more look at me or my friends.
“Okay guys, care to explain what’s the meaning of those “ehem ehem” things? I asked pretending to be angry. They both grinned to my dismay, but before they really answered my question, Mr. Adi came and asked in curiosity,”What’s up? What’s up?”
I think the rumor that said Mr. Adi had some kind of a sixth sense and thus he could read minds might be right. Here was the evidence where he coincidentally managed to sniff something was up.
You know, sir. Arina has a new crush,” Risa replied. A satisfied smirk was plastered on her face.
Manda added some cheerful agreeing voices again.
“Oh, really? Which one? Where is the lucky guy?” Mr. Adi glanced at me, but I just shrugged and showed my sour face, he immediately turned to Risa and then Manda, hoping to find the answer from them.
It was Manda who gave it away. “Well, he’s gone now, sir. But, he came here for awhile, and Arina just won the nervous competition.” And then she giggled with Risa.
Mr. Adi cheered for me and also grinned widely. I wish I could run away from this embarrassment. I really was not used to this kind of thing. Did I really like him? Okay, that was a crazy thought! I hoped not. We hadn’t even introduced ourselves. For God’s sake, Arina! What’s gotten into you?!?
The next day, it was only Seba and I who were at the office. Manda and Risa had a class all day at their campus. That means, they would be absent today. Meanwhile, Mr. Adi had to take a sick leave, too. As a result, I almost had to do all the tasks by myself. Fortunately, I made it all and felt so lucky that day Mr. Michael was not in the mood to delegate some absurd tasks. Basically, I just did the usual daily works.
Finally, it was the end of the hours. Later on, I remembered I had to tell Seba something. But, he was nowhere to be seen and when I gave him a call, he did not pick up. Where in the world is he? I grunted quietly. At last, I decided to look for him at the lobby. But he was not there either. So, I just walked to the lobby door since Vero was on her way to pick me up.
At the lobby, it was really crowded with employees who were about to go home or headed to have fun after the office hours. It took awhile for me to get through them all and got out to the more open space outside, where there were less people. So, I could get a better view on the incoming cars. I noticed that those people are actually chatting idly, while waiting for their cars. Dear me… haven’t they got enough work chatting during the work hours? I thought irritably. But, among the long line of cars, I saw Vero’s car with the owner behind the steer. Since it would definitely take awhile for Vero to actually get right in front of the lobby, so, I decided to just came directly to her car. When she saw me, she quickly unlocked the door and let me get into the passenger’s seat besides her.
“It’s good that you wasted no time to get into my car, Arina. Why does it have to take such long time to reach the lobby?” she grumbled in a way to greet me, clearly annoyed with the situation. She whipped her long smooth hair impatiently.
“No idea. I thought there was grandpa Ban Ki-moon showed up there, but he didn’t. Well, whatever you do, don’t sound the horn! I don’t want to the attract the security,” I said. But, Vero just smirked casually, as if she was amused to the idea and that I might be terrified by it. And I just snorted at her, before I turned my attention to the CD shelf near me and started to select one of it.
“What are we going to listen today?” I picked Maroon 5 CD and inserted it into the player device. Oh, I’m so glad to be able to listen to One More Night, my favourite song. It sounded really cool here!
“Wow! Many handsome foreigners here. You’re so right. You must be so happy working in here, right Ar?” She said in pure excitement.
“Yeah.” But my focus was solely on the Maroon 5 CD case until Vero poked my arm many times. “What the hell, Vero?” I asked irritably. And then, she pointed to the bunch of foreigners who hanged out at the front of a café. “Now, that’s the most wanted guy over there.” I did not know exactly which one it was but I saw Seba and spontaneously said,”Ah there he is!” and opened the door.
“Arina! Wait!” cried Vero. I ignored her as I walked quickly to Seba.
When I was close to their table, I just realized Carlo sat next to Seba, and he was laughing at his friend on his right side. There was no time to stop and hesitate because my feet had brought me too close to turn back. It would look weird if I suddenly froze in the middle of the road like this. I didn’t hesitate to get Seba’s attention when I finally stopped and stood right before him.
“Ah Seba, here you are! I’ve been looking for you anywhere! And your phone is off, how could it be?!?” I snapped at him with a slight upset tone. And then, I continued with a more relax voice. “I’ve done the translation for the broadcast from Mr. Michael and I’ve sent to your email. I just want to check if you have received it?”
I was fully aware that all of his friends at the table were staring at me now. Actually, since childhood I was easy to get nervous and awkwardly fidgeted if many eyes were on me, especially when I had to speak in public. Although, recently after almost finishing my study at the communication school, I did quite a good job at overcoming the timid attitude and stage fright. “Arina, I’m sorry. My phone has a low battery and I haven’t charged
it yet. But, I’ll check it in my apartment later. I’ll let you know if I don’t get it. But don’t worry too much, okay?” He tried to smile in attempt to lessen the tension. I just nodded briefly. Then, I noticed that Seba’s friends had gone back to their previous cheerful talks, like there was no abrupt interruption from me at all. Except for Carlo, who apparently were still paying attention to me and Seba. Oh, God! Please don’t let me blush, I beg you! I hissed internally. And then, Seba got a brilliant idea at making my heart drilled inside my chest.
“Hey, Arina. Have you met my friends? It’s Carlo,” Seba said and smiled meaningfully. Carlo smiled at me again and stretched out his arm. “Carlo, it’s Arina,” Seba added for him.
Carlo’s smile was so wide, but not as wide as the Joker from the Batman’s movie, though. I tried so hard to make sure my knees were still strong enough to support the rest of my body and tried to shake his hand as normal as possible.
“My name’s Arina. Nice to meet you, Carlo!” How perfect his name coming out of my lips. “Nice to meet you, too,” he replied with the increase enthusiasm in his eyes. His eyes… were a perfect hazel. His hair reminded me of honey. His nose is as sharp as some common Caucasian foreigners. We kept staring at each other—and my hand was still glued to his, as if we were trying to memorize our respective faces.
Seba emitted a sound like “ehmmm” and we let got of our hands. I could not help but feel amazed at how easy for Carlo to put himself together as if that kind of introduction was something he did everyday. He did not look at me anymore, but instantly directed his focus to his phone. I was a bit disappointed seeing that because I was still gawking at him like an idiot—maybe, although, I shouldn’t have. Damn! What is so wrong with me??? This was not the first time I got myself introduced to a handsome foreigner! Carlo was no different than the others!
Secretly, I thanked Seba for turning my attention to his other friends there. He called them out and mentioned their names. There were Georgina, Giovanni, Remy, and Julia. They all showed some friendly faces to me, but nobody showed a pure interest like Carlo did back then. Moreover,
Georgina seemed to force herself to smile and before she did, she scanned me from head to toe. By the way, Remy was also gorgeus, but I did not know….. I was not that interested. Unlike with Carlo. Hmm…
“Oy! Are you finished? You took so loooong,” Vero suddenly appeared. Vero, a half Indonesian, half British girl who was so beautiful and cute. And now she was even cuter when she pouted. I caught Carlo snorted from the corner of my eye. There was no way he actually understood Vero’s words in Indonesian, right? Ah it might be his phone. I thought cluelessly.
“Err yes, Vero. I’m so sorry! Okay, wait a sec. Hey, it’s my colleague from Italy, Sebastiano Valenti. Seba, this is my best friend, Verona.”
“Verona… like a city name, Verona?” asked Seba. I rarely saw him got interested like this.
“Yes. Verona like the city in Italy, where Romeo and Juliet came from and a city which had earned a world heritage status from UNESCO,” Vero answered smoothly.
“Are your parents a true Romeo and Juliet fans or you were originally born in Verona?” Asked Seba again.
I could not help but wondering why Seba was so nosy about it. Then, I caught Carlo snorted and it suspiciously sounded like a laughter but he tried so hard to mask it.
“Oh I was born in Jakarta and yes, my parents love Romeo and Juliet. And for your information, my full name is Verona Capulet Sudarso,” Vero explained. Completely oblivious to Carlo’s snort. But this time Carlo could not hide his laughter. I could not deny that I like the sound of it. “Anything funny?” Vero asked while looking at Carlo with her temple wrinkled.
“Hi Verona. I’m Carlo Montague.” And then he laughed again at his own words. Even Seba also laughed but not as loud as Carlo. The other friends who were talking by themselves, now diverted their attention back to us. I did not know what to do, so I just grinned awkwardly.
“Wahh… Arina, I did not expect to meet one of the Montague descendants here in Jakarta,” Vero said in sarcasm.
“Carlo is just kidding. His real full name is Carlo Argenton,” Explained Seba. Oh so that’s his full name. So cool! I complimented it secretly.
“Well guys, just call me Vero,” said Vero firmly with a very elegant smile as if there were no men who just made fun of her name.
I also introduced Vero to the others. They, especially the guys, were looking at Vero as if she was a sort of an angel who just descended from the sky. With her mixed face, stylish clothes and a pair of high-heels shoes not less than ten centimeters which showed how tall and sexy she was, and her exotic complexion, which was a perfect balance between white and brown. Of course, men would spend more time staring at her than me who was just satisfied with a simple blouse, a pair of jeans, and a pair of elastic strap sandals.
I was shorter and my hair was not longer than my chin. A pair of minus glasses with green frame were covering half of my face. But, I was never sorry with this kind of simple style and I was so comfortable with it. So, I often paid no mind with the others’s opinions, including Vero who sometimes told me that my style was too tomboyish, etc. In the end, she gave up in her attempt to modify my look.
“Hey! We’re going to a cinema, right??” I asked Vero, whose eyes were still fixed on Seba. “Hah? Oh yes yes. Let’s go now! Bye – bye Everyone!” she said while waving her hands enthusiastically. One of the men, Giovanni if I am not mistaken or Gio for short, blew her a goodbye kiss. Vero returned the kiss and smiled. And then his friends cheered merrily and Carlo patted his back and talked in Italian. While Vero hastily went for her car.
“Seba, don’t forget!” I quickly reminded him. Seba lifted his thumb up and nodded.
A week passed since the fun introduction with Carlo, I did not know why but he just kept appearing in my head or right in front of me at the office. Oh, Mon Dieu1! And I told no one about this, not even Vero. Speaking of her, I thought she liked Seba. Normally, those who dated Vero were the type of metrosexual guys, who cared a lot about their appearance and would not relax if they did not look like some hotshot models, but mostly they were indeed hot. I could not even deny it.
Clearly, Seba was different from the others. Appearance-wise, he was rather plain. And actually, he was such a shy guy. Vero had never dated a shy guy before. I had not mentioned this to Vero, but I could clearly see her great interest everytime his name was brought up. If there was any chance, I would gladly be their matchmaker.
Coincidentally, she asked if I knew any good Italian language course. So unusual. Even so, she was not interested yet in any courses so far. So, she learned by herself, from some Italian movies and songs. She was pretty good at it. That was why she could understand a little when there was some Italian conversation around. Vero and her family were a big fan of the country. Despite it might a bit weird considering that her mother was a real British. Could love make us weird just like that? If so, then I wish I would never fall in love. Besides, what was so cool about love? I thought it was overrated. It would just make us weak and I hate being weak. That was also a reason why I took Silat course, a traditional Indonesian martial art. I was grateful I got a black belt already. So, I was no stranger to blood, bruises, light injuries, and physical pain.
But, I was not a hypocrite. I liked seeing handsome guys too. They were such apples of my eyes. Including Carlo who were seated right in front of me now. Gosh unbelievable! I had a bad feeling that this guy would be my weakness somehow.
So, how could he sat in front of me for lunch time at the food court now? It was not like he invited me to have lunch together like I had expected since the day we introduced ourselves to each other. Well, the point was Risa, Manda, Johanna or Jo—my other intern colleague, and Seba— who happened to be so unusually willing to get invited to lunch, decided to have lunch together at the food court, ever since we found out that Seba and the gang, including Carlo and Gio, had their lunch there a lot. But at first, I did not know they both were coming too.
My heart beat in anticipation when I entered the food court. My eyes quickly swept the hall to look for some empty tables and also look for Carlo at the same time.
Actually, I was just curious and would like to know more about him, but I hadn’t asked Seba about this. Hey! It was not love, was it? I thought it was just too early to jump into that particular conclusion.
After finding and securing the empty tables and knowing that Carlo was not here, my heartbeat relaxed. But I could not deny the disappointment either. But then, Seba pulled two additional chairs for the next table.
“Whom are those for, Seba?” I asked casually.
“Carlo and Gio are coming soon,” he replied and smiled. The next second, my friends screamed cheerfully together like some bunch of noisy kids. Damn them! Before anyone saw my face—of which I was sure it already started blushing, I decided to go order some food.
When I returned to the table with a tray and some food on it, I saw two empty chairs facing each other. My friends had taken all their respective seats at a table, meanwhile those two empty chairs are at the other table that they put together on purpose, so the two tables could fit for many people at once. At the table, there were Gio and Seba already and they sit in front of each other. That meant, it was just Carlo and me. Wherever I sat, besides Seba or Gio, I would be right in front of Carlo for sure.
Before I took a seat, I threw Risa and Manda a questioning look since they happened to sit facing me. They just shrugged and smirked. Damn it! It must have been them and Seba who set up this unexpected arrangement, while I went to order my food. Luckily, Carlo was not here yet. So, I had no choice but to accept all this and tried to act normally. Gio and I just said a brief “Hi”, before I began eating with my heart was beating faster than usual. It did not take long for Carlo to show up without any food. Gio ordered nothing either. Only Seba and I who had our lunches. “You guys don’t eat anything?” I looked at Carlo and then Gio. Yes, I was trying to converse as normal as possible.
“We already had some,” Carlo replied casually.
“Yes, I’m already full now.” Added Gio.
“Oh, okay then.”
I continued to eat with my head fully bent on my plate, so I did not have to see Carlo’s face all the time. I did not care how handsome and how close he was right now. I did not know what would happen to my heart if I kept looking at his face. It terrified me a bit, honestly. At this point, I just played the part as a good listener. But alas! I did not even know what they are talking about since they all spoke in fast Italian.
It was getting so annoying seriously, because then I was the only one who spoke nothing. Since the Italians around me kept talking and chuckling in Italian. What should I do when I finished my meal? It was going to be really awkward if I was just goggling at them talking and pretending I understand what they were saying. Awkward for me, of course, I freaked out a bit internally.
“Oy, Jo! I feel like I’m in Italy now hahaha,” I said loudly all of sudden when they were still chatting. I did not know why I did that. I must have been desperate already. Jo, Risa, and Manda immediately laughed like crazy.
So did Carlo. Gio only chuckled and Seba continued to eat quietly. After he stopped laughing, Carlo explained to me that they were talking about a box of Tiramisu cake that Seba gave to them last night.
Hold on a second! It sounded suspicious because in the morning I remembered in the refrigerator, there was a box of Tiramisu cake that belonged to me, Risa, and Manda. We planned to enjoy it this late afternoon. But, when we opened the fridge before lunch, it was all gone. Risa and I asked about the cake, but nobody knew about it. We did not ask Seba because he was not available and when he was back, we forgot to ask him.
Of course now it was the perfect time to get his confirmation. “Hey, did you take the Tiramisu in the fridge, Seba?”
“Hmm, yes,” he replied hesitantly but he also grinned.
“Why? Why did you take it, Seba? We were about to enjoy it for a late afternoon snack,” I said without hiding the fact that I was upset.
“Well… I didn’t know that it’s yours,” he said while scratching his head, indicating that he was really clueless about it.
Shit! He did not even say sorry! I grumbled internally.
“Don’t worry, Arina. I’ll buy you another one,” Carlo suddenly said with a melting smile.
“Yeah, lots of it! I don’t mind adding some space in my wallet for this,” Gio added exaggeratingly. Hearing that, I managed a smile. I said to them to not bother doing it. Then, I gathered some courage to actually ask Carlo if he really understood what I said to Jo. Yes, he did. He told me he could understand and spoke Indonesian, because he had been living in Jakarta for two years.
Afterwards, the courage to talk more to Carlo faded away. He did not continue our conversation, anyway. He joined Seba and Gio’s conversation instead. It was back to the awkward situation again for me. Seriously, do I really need to yell again to take over their attention? Besides, what else should I yell this time? I pondered desperately inside.
I could only sighed quietly and directed my attention to the rest of the food court, of which was still crowded. There were other foreigners, but they did not seem as attractive thanks to Carlo’s overwhelming present here. And then, I remembered yesterday Vero asked about an Italian language course. Coincidentally, now Seba did not seem to join the private conversation between Carlo and Gio.
“Seba, do you know any good Italian language course here?”
He finished his drink and turned to me. “Yes, it’s in IIC. Istituto Italiano di Cultura. It’s located in Menteng.”
“Oh, okay. Could you tell me about the course fee? And the duration of the course?” I asked again.
But this time, it was not Seba who answered it. It was Carlo.
“If you want to learn Italian, I can teach you. It’s free until you’re fluent,” he grinned playfully.
While Gio was suddenly coughing many times.
“Oh, really? So, you teach Italian too here?” I asked innocently. And then, his grin was getting wide. I thought he was serious, but turned out …
“If you were the student, I would want to, with pleasure. We can start tonight. How is it?” and that was when Gio could no longer hold his laughter. Carlo followed suit. Oh, so they were making fun of me! Damn those Italians! I swore inwardly.
“Oh so now you’re taunting me, Carlo? Wanna play a dirty trick, huh?!” I said a bit loudly.
“I saw nothing dirty here. I’m just trying to help a damsel in distress because you look like one, my dear,” he sounded like he tried to woo me. It sounded so damn good!
But what he just said? “my dear”? I was lucky I was sitting down now. If I was walking, I might have stumbled and fallen miserably. I meant I was even sure now my face must have been red. Oh shit! I was speechless!
“Don’t listen to them, Arina. They really like joking around. Well, if you are really interested, just come to the IIC Open Day next Tuesday after work, at ten in the morning until eight in the evening. You can register the course on site too.” He explained kindly.
“Okay thank you for the information, Seba,” I smiled briefly at him. And then, I saw Risa, Manda, and Jo stood from their seat and about to go out of the food court. I’d better go out of here and followed them.
“Well, see you guys,” I said while getting away of my chair.
“Where are you going, Damsel in Distress?” asked Gio. Then, he continued, “We’re not done with you.” He smirked like a pro teaser.
“But, I’m done. You have to do better than that if you want me to stay here,” I challenged. Gio was about to open his mouth to retort back, but I do not know why Carlo elbowed him and blew me a kiss. Gio stayed silent.
“See you again, my dear,” Said Carlo and I quickly walked away before anyone noticed my humiliating red face, which was definitely as red as tomato by now.
With the information from Seba, Vero came to the IIC Open Day. She insisted that I had to come along. Actually, I was so not in the mood to go there because I was not an Italian fan, except for Carlo, maybe. I did not know… the point was, I prefer going straight to home and continuing to read my unfinished fantasy novel, The Mortal Instruments: City of Lost Souls. Too bad, I was always lost to Vero’s begging kitten’s eyes, and this time was no different, so I came along albeit halfheartedly. I had an idea to ask Seba to come along too, but he still got some work to do, although he said, “see you there!”.
So, Vero and I went to the Italian Cultural Centre after the office hours. It was really crowded there, to the point where there were almost no room for breathing. Hmm… so many were interested in Italy, I see. Do they fall for the trap of the infamous Italians’s cheesy charm? Like me? NO! no no! I would not let them trap me with their cheesy woo. I was trying hard to convince myself.
Luckily, we did not have to wait for too long before we got the chance to sit down at the Italian course desk. While waiting for Vero’s consultation about the course, I read the brochures on the table. One of them was about the Milano Expo in Milan. Apparently, they were currently opening a youth recruitment to participate as a volunteer to assist in the Milano Expo. Very Interesting. Sounds exciting if I take part in it, I thought to myself.
I got so serious in reading it, I was not aware of my surroundings until a familiar voice surprised me. Guess who? Yup, Carlo! What the hell is he doing here?? I asked myself in annoyance. “Wow, Carlo! Oh my God! You’re here?!” I said, completely startled by his appearance. But I managed to not jump or even fall from the chair after hearing his voice. And then, he turned to me. So, he came with Seba, who was right across the desk. Without giving so much as a reaction to my surprise, Carlo immediately grabbed the Milano Expo brochure in my hand instead. He really liked to grab my things, indeed. And then, he read it quietly with a serious expression on his face.
“Hey! Give it back!” I snapped at him loudly, while trying in vain to snatch it back from him. Considering his obnoxious height, so it was a piece of cake for him to keep it away from my reach and he did all that with his awfully gorgeous smile! Grrr… damn him! I grumbled internally.
“Are you interested in joining this?”
I looked up at him, of which quickly triggered the overreacting sensation from my heart. ”Err,hmm… yeah, I thought maybe it’s interesting if I take part in it.”
He turned his attention back to the brochure.”I know the man who is in charge of this event. If you really are interested, it’s no big deal for me.”
“Eh, you really want to help me so I can get recruited as a volunteer, there?” I asked excitedly. “Sure. Ah but too bad, things like this don’t come free, My Dear,” he replied with his suspicious smirk.
I looked at him with my temple wrinkled. Before I had the chance to respond, suddenly there was someone who called him from his back. He turned to greet two female foreigners who were as almost as tall as him, and then they kissed each cheek. I was almost angry to see that, but I instantly remembered that it was their custom of greeting friends. Now, they were talking so excitedly in Italian. So, why should I be angry just now? What was the problem with Carlo kissing any girls he met? I was a nobody who had the right to be angry at such things, right? Those questions are swirling uncomfortably in my head.
I sighed and turned to Vero who was in another lovely conversation with Seba and another women who worked for the IIC. Okay. All of sudden, the situation was no longer in my favour. In the end, I decided to go to the toilet.
On the way to the toilet, I got a glimpse of Carlo still in the fun conversation with the same female friends. They looked so friendly to each other, even one of the girls casually circling her arm on Carlo’s waist. Did Carlo do the same? I thought in curiosity. Nevertheless, I did not want to see it if he did.
Out of the toilet, Carlo was standing alone besides the toilet’s door. He was focused on his phone.
I cleared my throat loudly while putting on a neutral face. “There, the toilet is empty now.”
Then, I rushed to Vero’s side.
“Hey! Please wait for me, My Dear. I don’t have any plan to go to the toilet, actually,” He hastily said while walking fast to catch me.
“My name is Arina, not My Dear, okay? Why are you following me?” I did not need to say that I was actually happy to find him keep following me like this, right? Teehee…
“We are not done talking. Hmm… Where were we?” he asked when we arrived at where Vero and Seba were supposed to be earlier. But, they were not here. Then, I looked around to look for Vero’s trace.
“Ah where the hell is Vero?” I asked myself verbally.
“Verona, your Turkish Delight friend? Don’t worry, she went with Seba to other room. They’ll come back soon later,” Carlo replied. I turned to him and glared.
“Huh?! Turkish Delight? What do you mean by that, Carlo?” I asked harshly, trying to fight the loud noise around us.
Carlo giggled briefly. “Or you prefer Gio’s Sweet Kiwi for her? Well, it’s nothing. Forget it. Ah about the… Milano Expo! Are you still in or not?” he goaded me.
And I did not know why I just followed him along in dismissing the Turkish Delight thing. I hoped he was just kidding.
“Hh now I’m losing my interest if there is any catch. I don’t think it’ll be a good thing for me.” Carlo shook his head and smiled.” I don’t mean to trick you into anything bad, my dear. But if you don’t want my help, it’s up to you.” He shrugged. “You know, I’m pretty sure my help will be useful.”
Errr! This guy must be so deliberate in calling me “my dear” again. But, his goad just piqued my curiosity. What would he want from me? If he asked anything weird, I could just say no and left, anyway. Or I could kick his ass first and then left. Sweet!
“Okay, name it. What do you want from me?”
“Your cell phone number.”
DAMN HIM!!! He really tried to make me…. Aaargh!!! I could not decide if I had to be angry or
hug him right now. But at last, I got a pen out, and then wrote my phone number on the brochure of Milano Expo. After that, I gave it to him.
“Open it later, okay.”
Alas it was too late. Carlo acted like he did not hear me at all and proceeded to open the folded brochure. To make it worse, he read it aloud.
Call me if you need a friend to share tiramisu in bed.
Oh God! What the hell did I just write?! He really corrupted my brain until I did not realize how dangerous the words were! And then, I STILL WROTE THEM DOWN?!! I cursed myself inwardly. Carlo burst out laughing. “Wow! That’s exactly what I’m talking about, My Dear! You can read mind. Amazing!” I could almost see his eyes sparkling with pure joy. But, I only gave him a sour look in retort.
“Grazie mille, mia bella2. Worry not, I’ll make sure we have a real fun later, hehe,” he said, while sneaking the brochure inside his trousers’s pocket. A few seconds later, I was so grateful when Vero showed up to save my situation.
“Ar, wanna go home now?” She asked when she was close to me.
I nodded and then, I turned to Carlo.
“Fine, we’re done here. Carlo, bye!” I waved him goodbye.
“See you soon, My Dear,” he replied and blew me some invisible kisses over and over again.
“Arina Pringgodani. Answer me honestly! Do you get a crush on Carlo?” Vero asked without beating around the bush, when we were already seated nicely in her car.
“No!” I answered as quick as possible. Too quick maybe.
Vero narrowed her eye like she was a bit upset and moved closer to my face. “It’s obviously written on your tomato red face. His name is written with capital letters! Carlo something?” “Argenton. His full name is Carlo Argenton. Hey! Eyes on the road!” I half snapped her. Hoping she would take the hint that I did not like the direction of this talk. She returned to look straight ahead.
“See, My Dear?” Vero said, her tone was somehow so irritatingly similar to Carlo when he called me that. “You even know his full name.”
“My goodness Vero! Knowing his full name is not the same as falling in love with him, right?” “See? Clearly you are so smitten by him, because you said “falling in love”, My Dear.” She giggled in victory.
- Thanks a lot, my beautiful one.
“I do not fall for him, okay! And please, what’s with the ‘My Dear’? Just stop it!” I said frustratingly.
Vero pouted her lips as if she was suddenly upset. “Oh, so the one who can call you “My Dear” is the one and only … Mr. Argenton?” she was so full of annoying sarcasm.
“It’s not funny, Vero!” I said in all seriousness.
“Listen, Arina! Carlo is the type of a seductive Italiano who will drag you to his bed for his fun only. I can see his move. You gotta be careful with the likes of him!”
I fell silent and staring tiredly at the window watching the night view. I prayed silently that she was wrong about him.
So Long, My Dear
“Arina! Look what I’m bringing you today, My Dear!” Carlo’s voice was heard from outside his room. Then, it got closer to my room. I was lying on my stomach in my bed, casually reading a magazine with my legs folded up. I did not move or stop reading even when I felt an additional weight near me. When he started to kiss my head, and then down to the left side of my face, slowly I started to turn my body toward him. I saw him on top of me with one hand brought a saucer of Tiramisu cake slice on it and also a fork.
“Wow! Tiramisu, my favourite!!!” I said gleefully and got up to a sitting position to take the saucer from his hand. “This is all for me, right, mon cher3?” Without waiting for his answer, I ate a tiny piece of the cake and enjoyed it with all my heart. I made sure my face showed it well.
“So, you don’t want to share it with your sexy fiancé, tesoro mio4?” He asked and looked visibly upset. His forehead wrinkled and I wish I could erase it from his handsome face.
But, I knew that he just pretended to be mad. I smiled, and fed him a tiny piece of the cake to his mouth. But before the fork even reached his thin lips, I turned it to my mouth instead. And then, I put the saucer on the bed and went away laughing.
“Not this time, handsome,” I said, still so amused by my own little antic.
I lunged fast to the other room, but Carlo had stood and spread his arms to catch me. I managed to dodge him when he almost got me. I ran to the other direction. For a few minutes, we ran – since he was so determined to catch me – in a not-too-wide room until I stumbled on my own foot and then, fell to the bed. Carlo came to me and tickled my stomach, made me laughed like a madwoman. Did not take long for my eyes to spill tears as if I’d been crying.
“Carlo, stop! Stop, please! Hahaha! Stop! Enough! Hahhahahahaha!” It took another few seconds for him to really stop it.
“That’s for not sharing with me, cutie.” He lowered his body until he lied down next to me, and he propped his face on his elbow. He tugged a piece of hair behind my ear and proceed to stroke my cheek. I gazed at his face, his eyes, his nose, and his cheeks which showed a trace of after-shaving. My arm stretched out to the front to touch it.
“Grazie mille5, Carlo. You know so well that Tiramisu is my favourite. I was just kidding. If there is anything good like this, it’s better to enjoy it with you.” He smiled genuinely and I turned to cut another piece of Tiramisu. This time, I really fed him the Tiramisu to his mouth with the same fork I used to eat my portion a few minutes ago.
I looked at how satisfied he was with it, and then he pulled my fingers to his lips to clean the remaining chocolate on it. But, suddenly his expression turned naughty. He sneaked his arm around my waist, to pull me closer to him. He lowered his body and kissed me right on my lips.
I woke up with a start at the same time with my alarm roaring. After the crazy joke with the Tiramisu, I dreamed of Carlo that night. Me and him really enjoyed the cake in bed. Once again, it was just a dream! And, I remember in the dream, we were engaged to be married. Great! Looks like the damage in my brain is getting worse.
And the kiss… even though, it was just a dream, I could almost feel it on my lips for real. Argh! WHY DID I EVEN WAKE UP?! HEY, THAT WAS WRONG! SHIT! The right thing would be why dreamed such thing? Did I really fall in love with him? Crazy! This was crazy! I yelled furiously in my head.
I got up from bed to turn on the radio. The song that was called I Love You from Martina Mc Bride was all over the room instantly. This was a good song, but… ugh, it reminded me of the crazy dream. The dream made me hopeful and I did not know if it was a wise thing. I knew nothing of him and it was good if he had the same feeling about me. If he did not? So what was next? Where should I hide my face?
So, No, No, No, Arina! I said harshly to myself.
He could trick you romantically, give you some false hope, play with your heart, and then throw you away once he saw anyone prettier, sexier, smarter, or even richer. Many bad thoughts swirling in my head practically ruined the brief moment of happiness from the dream. No, I could not even deny the tiny bit of happiness I felt from it. But it did not seem right, still. So… I did not know how, but I had to try to destroy this toxic feeling. From now on, if I met him, I promised myself to act as normal as possible and no more teasing like a bad girl.
I looked for the other radio channel and stopped only when I heard Linkin Park’s song that was called In the End. Perfect! And then, I worked out for a little bit, as my routine every morning after I woke up. Push-up and sit-up, five times each. After I finished, I plugged a pair of earphone on each ear so I could keep listening to it without any interruption. And now, for the harder exercise. I got out of my room to go for my punching bag.
Several weeks went by. Finally, today was the final day working as an intern in the UN. I did not really expect to get to this day so quickly. Time did fly! Working for the UN was very exciting and I was almost hoping in desperation to get back to work here as a permanent officer. Too bad, the requirements were still too unreachable for me. The way I was now, like I still needed hundred years of experience to get hired.
I did not want to go. Damn it! Alas, I could no longer work here either. They had extended my internship period, longer than they should. I did not like admitting this, but the hardest reason was the other contract Italian officer who worked many floors above me. I did not know why, but I felt miserable. Oh my God, I missed him everyday. No matter how much I tried hard to distract myself, but Carlo’s shadow did not want to stop invading my mind.
A week ago, he came to me to tell that he lost the paper that had my number on it. He wanted me to give the number again, but I did not. I told him to follow me on Facebook instead. Sometimes, Seba just asked him to come to our office. For what reason, I certainly did not know and I did not ask. I was secretly thankful, though. Sometimes, they just chat idly in front of the office’s door. My goodness!
Today would be the most unforgettable day of my life. Of course, it had anything to do with Carlo and it was half thanks to Seba. Today, I met him three times just like taking some medicines. First, before lunch time. I walked out of the toilet and found Seba standing in the corridor, next to the elevator.
“Hi, Seba, what are you doing here? Waiting for someone?” I asked casually.
“Arina? Oh yes, I’m waiting for Carlo. He is on the way here,” he said while checking on his phone. My heart swelled with joy hearing that and I felt like jumping in happiness like a madgirl. But, of course I ignored it all and did nothing.
“Oh, so he’s coming. Well, how kind he is.” I replied with an expression I hoped it was as neutral as possible. Seconds later, the elevator besides us opened and Carlo walked out of it with wide step. I immediately noticed his glee expression and he stopped right in front of me when he saw us.
“Hi, hi,” he greeted cheerfully, his devastating smile plastered on his face.
“Hi Carlo!” I greeted back politely.
“Ah Arina, you’re here? Good! Are you ready to have lunch with me?” He asked.
I stunned for a few seconds upon hearing his casual invitation. This was the first time he asked me to eat together. It did not sound like a date invitation, RIGHT?
I forced myself to get myself together soon and tried to act casually too. “Hmm… where do you think we will eat, Carlo?” Not being able to restrain myself, I decided to tease him, again. I definitely remembered to give him my best smile.
“Of course, at the food court downstairs. As usual. Or do you have other place in mind?” He said with a growing brightness on his face as he continued his words.
“In my apartment, maybe?” He smirked widely and my stomach felt like sommersaulting.
My eyebrows went up a few milimeters. “And where is it, Carlo? I believe I have no idea where it
is,” I asked him back. Before he answered me, he turned his face to Seba and they talked fast in
Italian. Obviously, I did not understand one bit. He chuckled once, and then turned his face back
to me. “I can take you there right now if you want to. I will carry you and run there. Haha!”
“Carry me? Bridal Style?” I asked innocently.
“Yes, I can do that too.” He grinned sweetly.
“Are – are you sure?” I asked him again.
What a foolish comeback, Arina! I yelled secretly at myself.
“Well, of course, My Dear. There is no way I’d carry him, right?” he replied while pointing at Seba, laughing. Seba also laughed hearing that. “He must be heavier. Better I carry you.”
But then, I instantly remembered I went to the toilet just now to wash my hands and eat the food Risa had bought for me. I had promised her to go back quickly so she could consult me about the work of thesis. Poor girl must have been waiting for me now. I could not help but also feeling upset because it meant I had to skip the chance of a lifetime to have lunch with Carlo. It was definitely a rare occasion to have a chat with him, just the two of us, like this. Yes, Seba was practically forgotten now. But, it’s for the best that you stay away from Carlo, Arina! Remember he is such a naughty guy and doesn’t really want you! I reminded myself harshly. So, I made a difficult decision, too.
“Carlo, thank you for the invitation. But I’m so sorry. I have to say no this time. Risa needs my help to do something and she bought me lunch already. So, sorry, Carlo.”
I showed him the regret expression, because I genuinely regretted it.
Carlo sighed. Maybe, to hide his disappointment? Even if he did, he failed because I noticed that his eyes could not really hide that he was upset. A second later, He shrugged it off and smiled. “It’s okay, Arina. I understand. Maybe next time?”
Next time… ah, I do not know when it would be, since today was my last day working here. Suddenly I felt so sad, when I realized that I was going to be apart of him, not knowing when to meet him again. Or if we ever meet again after this. I was also sad because I could not promise him anything. So, I just responded him with “see you”, nodded and smiled.
I returned to my desk and told Risa and Manda what happened earlier. Next time I knew, Risa bombarded me with apologies and she looked like she wanted to cry out of so much regret. But, it happened already and there was no way I would go to the food court now all of sudden.
After lunch at the office, I eventually went down to the food court to buy some fruit juice. I stopped abruptly when I saw Carlo there, sitting and laughing idly with his colleagues. I forced my feet to move again toward the juice seller. While waiting for my order, I used the last chance to stare at Carlo from afar. Even though, I could only saw his back, but it was quite enough for now.
Then, I remembered something. I had a plan to say goodbye to my distant relative who happened to work at the same office with him. I had tried to contact her if I could meet her today or not, but I failed. Until now, she had not responded to my message at all. I understand if she was busy. But now I only had three choices. Waiting for her response or trying to contact her again somehow, or asking Carlo. For the latter, it should not be a problem, right? Maybe he could help me. And I decided to take the third option, since he was nearby anyway.
With my heart beat like crazy, I gathered some courage to approach him when my fruit juice is finished. I could see he was eating a chocolate ice cream. I noticed he ate a chocolate ice cream often here, especially Magnum ice cream. He was definitely a big fan of it. After I stood behind him, I poked his shoulder so he would notice me. And then, he looked back and seemed surprised to see me.
“Hi, Carlo,” I greeted him.
He wasted no time to swallow the piece of ice he just bit. Still cold and big and he just swallowed it? Wow!
I chuckled a bit seeing that. “It’s okay, Carlo. You can finish your ice cream first. Just do it slowly, I can wait.”
He shook his head. “It’s fine. I can speak to you now. Honestly, I’m surprised to see you here. Anything I can help, Arina?”
“I just wanna ask if you know Ibu Sri? She also works at ILO, like you.”
“Ibu Sri?” He seemed to need more time to remember her or maybe trying to remember if he actually had colleague called Ibu Sri, I did not know. I was kind of relieved when he finally said,”Oh yes, Ibu Sri, I know her. Okay, what’s up with her?”
“I know her too and…” I paused for a moment, before continuing reluctantly,”and today is my last day, so I’d like to say goodbye to her.” Finally, I told him that. It was something that I was not supposed to hide from him anyway.
“Your last day? It’s today?” he asked with a real surprise on his handsome face. “Yes. You didn’t know? So, Seba hasn’t told you?”
Carlo shook his head again. His expression now turned a bit stiff. To lighten the situation, I tried to get his attention back with the original topic of conversation.
“So, how is with Ibu Sri?”
“Sorry, Arina. I haven’t seen her since morning. Maybe she got a meeting outside,” he replied flatly. Now, I was sad, more from hearing his voice, not the fact that I might not be able to say goodbye to Ibu Sri today. But, I’d still try it out.
“Oh okay. Fine then. If you see her, would you please tell her that I would see her in the late
“Yes, I’ll tell her.”
Suddenly, I got a little initiative in my head. I told him about the small farewell party. In hope that he would spare some time to come to the party of me, Manda, and Risa. Actually, Risa had finished her internship term a week ago. Yesterday, she came to consult about her thesis with me. Today, she came back for the thesis again and the farewell party.
“Carlo, later on I’d have a small farewell party. Maybe, you can come too if you’re not busy and want to-“
“I will come, Arina,” he cut me quickly.
“Thanks,” I responded with a smile. “So, see you later.”
“See you!” he showed his smile too and that made me relieved.
A few moments before my hours ended, I had to internally strangle myself from looking at the office’s door, over and over again. Shit, it certainly was a hard thing to do! But I still fought the urge to do it until it ended faster than usual time. My director allowed it so the other staff and I could have the farewell party soon. I could not have asked for a better boss!
When the party started, we spent some time taking pictures. From the outside, I knew I looked like the normal me. But inside, I was so restless waiting for Carlo. Finally, he came so late in the afternoon. He did not come alone, though. Gio was with him, too. Then, another photo session began. This time some variation of poses, from the ordinary ones to the ridiculous ones.
The situation was almost not in control until the end of it. Pak Michael took the calm vibe to chat with Carlo and Gio for a moment. But then, their attention was back to the party and the madness of it. Naturally, it was because Pak Michael allowed it. We spent the time to eat cakes, pizza, and sharing jokes and laughter. For making some crazy jokes, you definitely could count on the jesters, Carlo and Gio. I saw Carlo’s face had gone back to normal. It seemed so easy for him to erase the sadness I saw a few hours ago. That was if he was truly sad. I might have imagined it.
Our afternoon was getting exciting by the minutes. Risa kept talking about how she rooted for me and Carlo. She tried to talk with Seba about this too, but Seba did not seem to share the same enthusiasm. I tried not to engage too much in Risa’s attempt. Since she was not quite satisfied with my situation, so she did something totally unthinkable.
“Carlo, you have a big admirer here, you know!” yep, she ‘attacked’ Carlo directly and she looked at me meaningfully. I glared at her in response. Unfortunately, she did not seem to care or aware of my embarrassment.
“Oh really?” Carlo asked her back.
“Yes. And would you do me a favour by doing something special to your big fan?” Risa asked with a surprising persuasive tone.
“Okay, what should I do?” Carlo asked in curiosity now.
“KISS HER !” She shouted enthusiastically with her finger pointed straight to me.
“Aww.. c’mon Carlo! You gotta kiss her. It’s for the last day, you know. Hehehe.” Manda definitely did not want to miss this craziness and now she seemed enjoy it too.
Not only Manda, Gio also worsened the moment by clapping his hands and shouted in Italian. And then, Carlo stretched out his arms like he wanted to engulf me whole as he walked to me. “Oh, My Dear… come on. Come to me,” he said with a symphatetic smile and the chorus of my friends.
“Kiss her! Kiss her! Kiss her!!!”
Seriously! At that time, there was nothing I wanted but to faint in peace from the crazy embarrassment.
For a moment, Carlo stopped walking and talked to Gio in Italian. And then, they laughed together. I got a bad feeling they were laughing about me being extremely shy about it all. Hell like I wouldn’t be! After that, he came to me with his arms stretched out again. I backed up slowly. “Hey! Hey, Carlo! Stop! What are you doing? What do you expect?” I was clearly in panic mode, even though I grinned, desperately trying to hide that I was so nervous. Or maybe, grimacing. Yeah that was more like it.
But Carlo kept moving toward me until I had to stop when I felt the wall on my back. And then, he held me. If felt… oh oh I hope he could not feel the frantic beat of my heart. A few seconds later, Gio joined us. He held me too from the back. So, we were like a human ‘sandwich’. It turned out to be so awkward, I could not even hold them back. Not even Carlo, who was holding me from the front side. My friends did not stop cheering us on with some laughter and merry claps. To my relieve, they were all too excited with this commotion so nobody even remembered to take a picture of this ridiculous moment. And luckily, Carlo did not kiss me. Maybe because he saw me so nervous and a little bit afraid, despite my attempt to hide it with a useless grin. But, shit! That did not sound good! Nevertheless, if he really kissed me, I was sure I was gonna faint. “You won’t wash the clothes for awhile, will you?” Manda asked me while giggling in the middle of her own question.
I just gave her a brief smile and shrugged.
Then, it was time for the two jesters to go, eventually.
Actually, I was not ready yet to see him gone so soon. I had to do something! I mentally urged myself to do it. But alas. My tendency to be shy got in my way again. It took a few minutes to recover my confidence and did it.
“Carlo”! I called him once I managed to retrieve some confidence. Carlo and Gio were still standing at the corridor, waiting for the elevator.
He turned back to look at me and said, “Hi, Arina”.
And now what? Ahh… what should I do now? It was not like the time to confess or anything. Definitely not when Gio was around. Actually, I would like to say that I wanted to see his face for the last time. But, I felt so shy. Again. I was afraid that whatever came out of my mouth would ruin my plan. And I was also afraid that he would think negatively about me. God please help me. I prayed silently.
“Hey, guys, what are you doing?” I asked when I saw them pretending to have a boxing fight.
“We’re fighting,” Carlo replied briefly, he threw another false jab at Gio.
But, Gio evaded it smoothly. “For you.”
Ah so sweet! I thought happily. I wish it was Carlo who said that. At this moment, my initial plan was utterly forgotten when I continued to watch them acted like a bunch of children.
“Ya, we’re fighting for you! And I’m gonna win. You’ll see!” Carlo retorted gladly.
I could only laugh watching their antics until the elevator’s door opened. They entered the elevator and left me with something new in my heart.
At night, I cried myself to sleep. Damn it! This was not me. This was all Carlo Argenton’s fault. He made me weak like this. He had to be responsible for this! But how? Another question I did not have the answer.
Days by days gone by. There was no active communication between me and Carlo. He did not seem to be active on Facebook either. But, the dreams kept coming to me at night. And it worsened my longing of him. I thought about him everyday. Fortunately, I still could work on my thesis without any much burden. It was a very welcome distraction. Or else, I might have gone really crazy. So, everything went well until a new notification from Carlo popped up on my Facebook’s timeline. It said that he was currently in the airport, ready to leave Jakarta any moment.
“Oh my God! Damn it! He is leaving!” I half-screamed to no one in particular.
“Arina, what’s up? Who’s leaving?” Vero asked and walked to me. She was holding a pink mug.
The colour I despised.
“Carlo. He is at the airport now.”
“Huh?! Carlo your colleague? You’re still into him, Arina? Wow!
I focused on Carlo’s status and completely ignoring Vero who kept blabbering to me.
“Why do you like him that much? I mean, he is no different than other foreigners. Moreover, he likes to talk nonsense. Did you realize it? Sometimes, he was hitting on you like… like Casanova! Giacomo Casanova. I remember that infamous Italian figure everytime I saw him.” I was so happy he replied all my comments.
Me: Carlo, are you coming back to Italy?
Carlo: Yes, My Dear. I’m going back to Milan in a few hours.
Me: Okay. Will you go back to Jakarta again?
Carlo: I would love to. But in the meantime, I don’t know when I will come back here.
Me: Oh, I see. Well have a safe flight and don’t miss me okay. Haha!
Carlo: Thank you, Arina. Hmm… I can’t promise you that.
“Wow! Look at our Casanova here, so romantic, isn’t he?” Vero said all of sudden. I was so startled that she was already behind me. I was so close to jump after she spoke.
“My goodness, Vero! You startled me! Don’t do that!” I scolded her.
“It was your seriousness talking to him that surprising me more. To the point that you completely ignored me. I think you really fall in love with him, since it’s the first time I saw you like this, Ar.” I fell silent, wondering if this will be the last time I could get in touch with him. Besides, what was the meaning of his last comment? “I can’t promise you that?” Can’t promise me whaaat? I internally asked myself in frustration.
“Ver, just look here and explain to me what’s the meaning of this. Since you’re the expert of this kind of things,” I said as I poked the chair besides me as a sign for her to sit next to me. Vero immediately stared at the laptop screen.
“Are you finished? So, how is it? What do you think he meant by “I can’t promise you that?” I asked her impatiently.
Vero sighed and her temple wrinkled. “Hmm… frankly, he confused me too. I’m not so sure myself. I have a theory, but better not to trust it right away.”
“What is it, Ver? Just spill it, girl. Don’t make me mad out of curiosity.” “I think he also has the same feeling about you,” she said quietly.
I gaped at her in complete silence. It took a few seconds to open my mouth again. “Are you serious? That’s what you think?”
Vero shook her head. “I told you not to swallow the whole of it. It’s just a theory.” “Then, what should I do, Ver?”
“Why don’t you just reply him back and ask him what he meant?” She grumpily asked me back.
“Oh yes, right. Haha!” I replied with a grin.
“My God I can’t believe you’re so slow now,” she shook her head again.
“Eh, why is the laptop off, Ver?” I asked her with contempt when the laptop was shut off automatically.
“Oh the battery is empty, darling,” she answered so patiently like a mother who tried to explain something to her little child.
“Okay just charge it up quickly, then. Please.”
“Oh, this is so wasting time! Now, answer me decisively!
Arina, do you really want to meet him again?” Vero seemed to lose her patience altogether now. “Yes, but this laptop needs to be plugged first, right?”
“No need. Let’s go to the airport now and ask him in person so everything would be clear. Wait, I’ll change first.” Vero immediately ran to her room.
“We’re going for him to the airport? NOW?! Are you out of your mind??? What time is it?” I turned to look at the clock on the wall and it showed half past eight in the evening.
Not long after that, Vero hurriedly walked out of her room and grabbed her car key. I just stood in the middle of her living room, not believing the situation at all. “You really want to go there now, Ver?” I hesitatedly asked.
“Yes, Arina. C’mon hurry up!” She pulled my wrist and almost ran out of the apartment. ”I don’t want you to regret it all and change to a completely different person. A person I don’t want to know.”
Next thing I knew, Vero’s car already struggled through the traffic. The Verve sang Bittersweet Symphony beautifully from the radio, instantly the best soundtrack of our sudden trip to the airport.
When we got there, we ran to the international departure terminal to look for Carlo. We decided to split up to make it easier to find him among the crowd. Many times we mistakened him for someone else. Many did look like him … Or I just felt like I saw him everywhere?
Once we regrouped, we tried to check on the giant flight schedule board. My feet suddenly lost all energy when I saw the flight to Milan had taken off half an hour ago. I fell on the airport’s floor.
“We are too late. The traffic was quite bad,” Vero said sympathetically.
I cried as I was hitting the floor. I was really screwed up.
“If you and Carlo are meant to be, then you guys will meet again someday,” Vero said in an attempt to comfort me. She put her arm around my shoulder and helped me to stand up. She rubbed my arm on the way to her car, while I kept silent. On the way back to Vero’s apartment, the radio played a song from The Wanted called Show Me Love. It sped up the process of my heart’s ruination. I felt the lyrics suited my vague relationship with Carlo.
I could’ve shown you America
All the bright life in the universe
We could’ve reached the higher heights
A different place, a different life
Remember that night underneath the star
For a minute I thought the world was ours
All you had to do was show me love
If I could show you my love, Carlo, would the star smile brighter at us and take us to the higher heights? I could only ponder in silence.
A month after he was gone, I moved on with my life. I finished my thesis and passed it with straight A+ magna cum laude. Even so, I felt like I had to add more boxing training in my now-vacant time. I had to admit that I failed to forget about Carlo. He did not want to leave my mind. That sucked big time!
Right now, I was on another boxing session. I imagined the punching bag as Carlo’s face that I need to jab over and over again. How dare he drove me to the brink of madness and left me high and dry like this!? If I got to meet him once again, I’d make sure he would be a perfect punching bag. Let him got some taste of my fit. But, is it even possible to see him again?
I took a rest while waiting for Vero of whom had arrived in front of my house. I did not know exactly what took her longer than usual to reach my house, because normally it would only take five minutes to get here. I drank my water fiercely for the third time.
“Ciao6, Arina!!!” She greeted me cheerfully.
“Yeah, Vero,” I replied briefly to walk to my punching bad and started hitting on it again.
“Why didn’t you tell me that Sebastiano is now a teacher in IIC?” Vero asked.
“Huh?! Sebastiano who?” I asked her back. My fists attacking the punching bag ferociously. “You know, Sebastiano Valenti. Your UN friend,” she said. She took a seat at the terrace’s chair near my punching bag.
“He is my Italian teacher now.”
“So?” I asked again without any enthusiasm.
“Well, his teaching is kinda good. I understand quickly and he is really kind. Very sweet, indeed! And then…” Vero paused for a moment. ”Arina, Are you even listening to me?” she suddenly snapped at me.
“Yes. And then, what else?” I asked impatiently. My hands were still busy attacking the punching bag. Despite the nagging throbbing pain on my knuckles. But, I did not care. My heart hurt more right now.
“Can you stop hitting the damn bag? And tell me what’s going on. Everything!”
I huffed. “About what? I don’t think there’s more to tell. The only thing I can mention is my graduation. That’s all. I told you that already, didn’t I?”
I responded her flatly. But I did not stop punching.
I heard her snorted. I saw her moved to sit on the floor, closer to me. And then, she started to open up a topic I did not want to discuss with anyone, including Vero. Oh God, Can’t I just forget him?
“Since Argenton was gone, you change. Your mum told me, you are more diligent in your Silat training and you also jog in the morning-“
“I want to be healthier. So, I add my work out sessions,” I cut her quickly.
“Listen! If it gets this crazy, instead of getting healthy, you’ll end up ruining your body slowly! I have no doubt this is all because of Argenton, right?”
Yes, Vero was right. Unconsciously, my tears started running down my cheek.
“Fine! I can’t,” I punched the right side, “forget him!” I continued jabbing the left side. “He keeps coming to my dream when I sleep!” This time, I added a good kick from my leg.
“Nine times, Ver. Nine bloody times I had him in my dreams!” I said, emphasizing the ‘nine times’ while keep kicking the bag. But alas, my footing slipped and I fell to the floor, almost out of breath. “Arina! You’re okay?” Vero came to me and checked my hands. “Do I look like I’m okay? Hehe,” I asked in sarcasm.
Before she got the chance to respond me, my phone produced a single tingling sound. It was not because there was an incoming call, but there was a new email.
I drank the whole bottle, then proceeded to take off my boxing gloves. I ignored Vero’s shock when she saw the bad bruises on them. There was now fresh blood trailing down my hand. I flinched silently in pain when I tapped my phone to read the email. My fingers trembled slightly. The email was from the Milano Expo Team. WOW! My face slowly lighten up.
Dear Ms. Arina Pringgodani,
Greetings from Milano Expo!
For over the centuries, Milan has been the host for a tourism land that enriches the experience of foreign visitors. Milan offers a huge selection of flavors and tastes, as well as being the icon of elegance and style, home of fashion and design, and also the focus of the media, music, sports and Italian culture.
Milano Expo is a non-commercial Universal Exposition with some
very unique and innovative features. Not only it is an exhibition but also a process, one of active participation among a large number of players. It is sustainable, technological, thematic and focused on its visitors.
The Expo will host over 130 participants for 184 days. This giant exhibition site, covering one million square meters, is expected to welcome over 20 million visitors.
After analyzing your application that you sent to us, we decided to give you the opportunity to work part time in the upcoming Milano Expo. You will be stationed at the Youth Training Program for one month. Please find the details in the attachment we enclosed herewith. Congratulations and welcome to our innovative team. We are looking forward to working and sharing some experiences with you at the one of the greatest exhibitions in the world.
Head of Youth Training Program Recruitment
“Yes! Yess!!! I got selected for a part-time job in Milano Expo, Ver! I’m going to Milan!!!” I cried happily.
I looked at Vero who did not seem happy at all. Her eyes focused on my hands with disgust and a little bit horror.
“Arina…” she started in fear, “What’s wrong with your hands?”
She tried to help me taking the hand wraps. I hissed in pain. I tried to hide this from Vero and the rest of my family, but now I thought it was for naught. Yes, beside the bruises on some knuckles, my right hand was now bleeding.
“Argenton made you like this??” she exclaimed in a dramatic high tone.
I shook my head. “No, it isn’t his fault, Ver. I’m the one who can’t forget him. I am the one who can’t move on.”
“We must come to him!”
“Huuh?!” I asked in confusion.
“You heard me. We must after him and ask him to take responsibility of you!” Vero grabbed my phone impatiently. “So, you are hired for the Milano Expo, right? Congratulations, Arina! Well done! This is our chance to settle it with the famous Casanova once and for all!” she said with a growing excitement.
What will be Vero’s plan in Italy? Will Arina finally confess her love to Carlo in Milan? More importantly, how will Carlo react to all of this?”
Find out in their next romantic adventure in Italy and the UK from Chasing Casanova.
Available now in Google Playstore.