Chapter 10: Bread Butter Pudding

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A bowl of warm bread butter pudding with a short note was waiting for me on the breakfast counter. The note said : "Allysa, I'm off to work. Award show tonight. Ta! - Nora XXX"

I crumpled the note and threw it in the dustbin, hating the feeling to be left alone again. There was no sign of either Lily or Marina too. The living room was a mess I didn't plan to fix - tidying up the place had always been the last thing on my list. It's been a while since I last swept the floor. Let the other girls do it, since they were the ones using the living room most of the times while I stayed in my room, either finishing my designs or reading fiction.

I brought the bread butter pudding to the living room and put it on the coffee table as I plopped myself on the two-seater. CSI NY was showing on TV - not interested. I pressed the remote control button a few times and stopped when I saw Nigella making a huge pot of wild mushroom soup. I muted the volume. Some shows were better watched that way, I supposed.

A sudden pang of hunger swept over me. I quickly scooped the bread butter pudding - not bad, just a bit too sweet. After four spoonfuls, I decided that I've had enough. I brought the bowl to the kitchen and put it in the fridge. My cell phone was beeping; it was an SMS from Nazrul: 'What's up?'. I didn't reply. He should know better.

Why was it too hard for him to believe that the ghost was real? He even saw how it turned our drinks into ice and heard it calling my name. Now I began to agree with: people would believe what they wanted to believe. And I had to agree that people would only hear what they wanted to hear.

I knew Nazrul decided to ignore what had happened this morning at the office pantry.  We left the place when the temperature suddenly dropped. Nazrul pulled my hands and said, "we better have this discussion in a proper meeting room." After that he never mentioned about what happened, or the voice we both heard.

"Just don't pay too much attention to this kind of disturbance," he told me. "It might be just our imagination." I looked at him in disbelief. We were imagining the same things at the same time? Well, that's just ridiculous. "You need to focus now, Allysa.... focus!" He said.

I was so furious that I stormed out of the meeting room, leaving him alone and confused. Yes, the clown that was Allysa Salehuddin was daring enough to leave a meeting. After packing my things, I told Zureen that I was going to work from a nearby coffee shop. My boss was understanding enough to give a nod. We both knew that I functioned better when I was surrounded by strangers. Some people don't need to be in a place where everybody knows their name. I didn't regard myself an old school, but I've watched Cheers a few times. Great show, great friendship. It's just that I would never survive in that kind of environment. 

But what I did was not commendable and I suddenly felt guilty. Nazrul must be mad at me. He could always strike my name out of the project team. Or worse, Zureen might fire me (after three warning letters).

"What are you thinking?" The voice made me jumped. I looked around. It was so clear, I knew it was in the living room, very close to me. "I'm on the floor, doing 50 push-ups," it said with a chuckle. It was not funny.

"Shit!" I couldn't help myself. "Who are you?" I asked.

"You can call me Dwen."

"Dwen?"

"Yes, but I don't exist."

"Then why am I hearing your voice?" I sat on one of the arm chairs and pulled my legs up.

"I don't exist in your dimension," it added. "But you are one of the few who could hear or sometimes touch me."

"What are you?" My hair stood on ends. This was such a weird conversation; none of my housemates would believe it if I told them about it. 

"Some call me: the lost soul - the one who couldn't cross over. The trapped entity."

"Can my housemates: Lily, Nora or Marina hear you? You know them, right?" 

Dwen laughed and took a long pause before answering. "Yes, I know them. No. They can't hear me. They're shrouded."

"Then, what am I?" I asked. "The chosen one?"

Again, there was laughter but it was almost a shrill. "No. You're the weakest. It's easier for me to reach out for you than the rest."

I gasped. Was Dwen going to posses me? Take over my body? Mess up with my mind? And then make me jump out of the window? "What do you want from me?" I felt small and my voice was trembling. 

"Can you reply to Nazrul's SMS? He must be anxiously waiting for your reply."

"What? How did you know that he...." I stopped mid sentence. Of course Dwen knew, he could check my phone anytime he liked. I couldn't see him. 

"I see and hear whatever I choose to. But this is important, you must reply to his SMS or call him," Dwen sounded like he was being serious. "Yes, I am very serious." He made my heart beat a lot faster.

"Damn it! You can read thoughts too?" I asked.

"I can feel your doubts. They showed on your face."

"Shit!" I leaned over and grabbed my phone. "Now, what should I tell Nazrul?" I murmured to myself as I started to type my SMS.

"Just say you're sorry too. For leaving a meeting just like that," Dwen gave an unneeded suggestion. 

"You knew about that too?" I stopped typing and turned to the direction where Dwen's voice was coming from. 

"Yes, you shouldn't have done that," he said with a low voice. Disappointed? 

I continued typing my SMS to Nazrul. "I hope he's not mad at me," I said after pressing the send button. "The truth is, I need this project really badly. I wanna do an international project. It's about time. I need to prove to everyone that I'm talented and reliable."

"Good luck and thanks for sharing," said Dwen. His voice was cracking, like having a phone conversation in an area with very bad reception. "Thank you for replying his SMS too," the voice was too faint. It was followed by a very long silence. I stared at my cell phone screen, waiting for Nazrul to reply. Dwen must have left me, the house was too silent; I could only hear my own breath. 

When the reply finally came, it made me smile: 'Cool! U r still part of my team. Tomorrow mtg with Ku Na. PJ Hilton. 9a.m.' No mention of him coming to fetch me. That meant I'll have to go on my own. It shouldn't be a problem as the LRT station was not far from the hotel. 

I replied: 'OK. No prob.' before I got up and headed towards my room. I was reaching for my towel when my cell phone beeped. It was Nazrul again. This time my smile was even wider: 'Cool! Brekkie at Ravi's then?' Within seconds, I replied with a 'YES'. Yup, in capital letters but I was careful not to put an exclamation mark at the end of it. 

As I turned on the shower, I smiled to myself. What a weird day. I just took an advice from a ghost (which I hoped was harmless) and I was not kicked out of a big project.

People believe what they want to believe. I believed today was one of my lucky days.

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