Chapter 20: Spicy fried chicken

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Emotional eating - one of the main factors contributing to female obesity, or so they say. I thought of Jada Pinkett Smith's petite but toned body as I noisily chewed on a spicy fried chicken drumstick. I want that kind of body, but I need this delicious chicken too, I thought. I was just going to focus on my chicken and not think about the mess I was in.

What should I tell mom tomorrow? I didn't have the answer. She would probably call me early in the morning. She would want to know whether everything's okay. And she was probably more interested to know how Nazrul had been treating me since she went back to Kedah.

"I don't even remember how that thing tasted like," Dwen's voice came from the far corner of my room.

"Hi Dwen! Want some?" I lifted my half eaten drumstick. His presence didn't scare me anymore. In fact there were times when I wished he would come to comfort me.

"I don't eat. I'm not a living thing," he reminded me and I nodded, regretting the offer. Although he's not alive like me, there were things that could make him feel hurt. When we discussed his father the other day, for instance. The emotion was there in his voice, in his heavy sighs.

"Ah... fried chicken is just fried chicken. Nothing special about it," I tried to sound casual and Dwen gave out a low chuckle.

"I thought they're special. You've finished all six of them."

I stared at the box of fried chicken that was now filled with bones, feeling ashamed of myself. Now I have to agree that emotional eating leads to obesity and unhealthy life.

"I was just so hungry. And I'll surely burn all the calories running to the LRT station tomorrow morning." That's a lie. I would never run to the station. Not in my heels. Not even in my flats. Who would want to arrive at the office in a wet blouse?

"Hmm.... I'd love to watch you do that." Dwen laughed out loud.

"Never underestimate a woman," I warned him but deep down inside I knew it would never happen.

"Or should I say never underestimate a woman in love?" His words startled me.

"Have you been gossiping with my mom when she was here the other day?" I knew my mom must have seen or heard Dwen before she went screaming like a possessed woman in the living area.

"I heard some of your conversation and I must say Nazrul is a very lucky man," he was not teasing. There was something unusual about his tone. Was is jealousy?

"And?" I asked him. "I think your sentence is not supposed to just end there."

"And you are also very lucky to have him. He's a great guy."

I knew it! He must have known Nazrul quite well when he was alive. Yet he was not ready to share so many things with me.

"How long have you known Nazrul?" I was expecting a simple answer.

"16 months 3 weeks and 5 days."

"What?" My eyes widened. "Did you mark the calendar everyday since you met him?"

"No. I never did anything that silly," -he paused and then inhaled deeply - "I still remember the day I first saw him and the day I died. And then I just did the maths. Not that difficult," he was trying to make it sound funny, but I knew it's not. There was more to that and I needed to find out.

"Wow! He must have done something good to you."

"He was being very supportive, that's all I can say. I was a troubled teenager; didn't know what to do with my life, didn't really listen to my parents, didn't really care about so many things and didn't mind doing self-destructing things."

"For example?" God, I sounded like a school teacher.

"I was on drugs for a few years - not the common ones - I took a few types of designer drugs. Not many of my friends could afford them."

He was from a very rich family, of course he could afford those drugs. I just found out that Tan Sri Rahman and his wife appeared many times in the Tatler magazine, they must be filthy rich, right? Or that's not the best way to estimate Malaysian's wealth?

"Was Nazrul the one responsible taking you off drugs?" The only logical thing I could think of right now. Nazrul was a persistent person. I was sure he could have helped Dwen with his addiction problem.

"Well, he became an inspiration to me. He made me want to live my life. He also made me realise how I had disappointed my parents for what I've done and the things that I refused to do - to continue my studies after SPM was one of them."

"You didn't go to college?" I nibbled on what's left of my last drumstick. They're so delicious, I should buy more tomorrow. Or was it Dwen's story that was getting more interesting that it made me hungry again?

"After knowing Nazrul for a few months, I submitted my college application form. It made my parents so happy." From his voice, I guess Dwen was smiling. It could be one of the highlights of his life.

"Oh! That's great!" I just wanted him to know that I was happy too.

"So, do you really love Nazrul or you're just doing this to save yourself from some kind of trouble?" He shot a question that I didn't want to answer. If Nazrul had done so much for him and he sounded like he had a lot of respect towards the man, how was I supposed to tell him that whatever's happening now was my selfish act?

"Well, we have our ups and downs - in our work life, I mean," I gave the wrong answer.

"Do you love him?"

"I... er... well. The truth is he is not an easy person to love. There are things about him that I don't like. It's even difficult to be his friend." I wanted to say Nazrul was a nice person but not many people could stand him but Dwen cut me short.

"Leave him! If you don't love him don't play this game," he said firmly. Too firm that the hair at the back of my neck started to stand. 

I was so sure he was angry.

The room was in total silence after that. I couldn't hear Dwen's breathing sound. He must have left. I had no idea where he went but he didn't visit me for the next 3 days.

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