Chapter 5: Caramel Waffles

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The event went smoothly. Luxurious furniture from Nusantara Teak was displayed in the grand ballroom. We went around to admire the design and quality. I met a few furniture designers who had worked in a few of my projects. I took the opportunity to ask them about job vacancies in Kedah.

"My friends from the northern states are all working in KL," said one of them and it was enough to demotivate me.

The event ended with a glamorous fashion parade that confused some of the guests but later we learned that the owner of Nusantara Teak had a daughter who had just completed her diploma - in fashion design.

I hated to admit that I was envious of her. Looking at her wide smile and twinkling eyes as she bowed to the cheering crowd made my stomach churn. Why wasn't I born a daughter of some oil tycoon? I could always start my own interior design company and not worry about finding a new job in Kedah.

If my job in KL earned me peanuts, what would I be getting in Kedah? - That was if I managed to secure a suitable job there.

"Come! Let me drive you home. I don't think you want to walk to the LRT station in those heels." Nazrul was standing beside me but his eyes were on the name cards he was rearranging. I suddenly realised I didn't collect a single name card after having a long chat with the Indonesian and Cambodian designers a little while ago. A stack of my own name cards remained untouched in my (borrowed from Zureen) Prada bag.

"That would be nice," I replied. My eyes were fixed on the young fashion designer who had just had one of her dreams fulfilled.

"She's damn lucky, right?" Nazrul asked and I nodded. "Can we leave now? I have an 8pm appointment with one of our customers." Nazrul tapped on his watch before he shrugged his shoulders. 

We left the hotel about ten minutes later and I kept quiet along the journey to my apartment. Nazrul was busy driving and at the same time talking with a few people - one after another - on the cell phone. (He was using the speaker function, so I did not chide him for being an irresponsible driver.)

"We're here!" Nazrul announced before stopping his Camry. I thanked him hastily and got out of the car. He sped off as I was busy adjusting my .... - Zureen's black skirt. He didn't wave Good bye to me, but I barely noticed it. I saw the light in Marina's room was turned on, so I climbed the stairs in a hurry. They were home! Or at least one of them had finally come home. 

I noticed the blisters under my toes after I took off my ... - Zureen's heels. Ignoring the pain, I opened the door and there they were - all three of them, lying on the sofa. The sound from our one and only TV was blaring. 

"You're home!" I exclaimed, but none of them took notice. Marina was lying with her eyes closed while Lily was doing her nails - with ear phones stuffed in her small ears. Nora was watching TV with her mouth agape; she must be mesmerized by the African scenery shown on National Geographic channel. 

"Girls! I'm home!" I raised my voice and Nora turned her head. Marina's eyelids fluttered a bit but she decided to cover her face with one of the soft cushions lying next to her. Lily continued on painting her nails, oblivious to her surrounding. 

"Oh. You're back," said Nora, looking uninterested.

"Where have you been? I tried calling you but none of you answered." I put away my ... - Zureen's heels at the shoe rack and went to sit next to Nora. 

"Ah... here and there. Taking a break," replied Nora as she continued to watch the documentary on TV. 

"I was worried sick. Why didn't you tell me you are taking a holiday?" I got up and switched on the main lights. That was when I noticed that their skin was slightly tanned. 

"We went to Maldives. It was such a last minute arrangement. We forgot to leave you a message," said Nora nonchalantly. 

"But you could always email me from the flight." I remembered one of them telling me that internet was now available even while you're flying. 

"We were too busy to do that too," replied Nora. Her eyes remained glued on the TV.

I decided to just keep my mouth shut. Apparently they had a thousand other important things to do while packing their bags, or during the flight, or when they arrived at their hotel rooms in Maldives, and informing their housemate - whom they left home alone - was not one of them. 

"Okay, have a good rest then," I said as I walked towards the kitchen. There were 10 new fridge magnets put haphazardly on the refridgerator. There were Maldives Hotels, Maldives Beaches, Maldives Skyline and a few other magnets with curvaceous ladies on them. I searched for my favorite 'Welcome to Singapore. It is a FINE city' magnet and found it in the garbage bin. It looked old and sad underneath a pile of chocolate wraps. I picked it up slowly and rinsed it under the tap water. 

"Come on, cheer up." Lily's voice startled me. I quickly dabbed my favorite fridge magnet with a kitchen cloth. "That thing is too old," said Lily. "When did you visit Singapore? Six years ago, right? With your college friends. We got you a fridge magnet. Here!" She extended her hand and opened her palm to reveal the souvenir from Maldives.

"Wish ewe were here!' Was written on it in the hideous Times New Roman font face.  

"Thank you," I said and quickly slid it in my .... - Zureen's skirt pocket. I couldn't stand to stare at a smiling, green faced sheep on the fridge magnet. 

"And here's some caramel waffles. We bought for you at the airport." Lily held out a small package wrapped with transparent plastic. 

Without looking at her, I took the package and disappeared into my room. My first bite of the caramel waffles tasted rather salty as my tears were flowing on my cheeks and dripped on the crunchy snack. 

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