Chapter 11: Cheese naan and tandoori chicken

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I put on my best dress and took out my one and only pair of heels from the closet. There was no special occassion, just another day at work - a meeting with Nazrul and Ku Na at PJ Hilton. But I was determined to look and feel good today. I took five minutes to polish a brown, leather handbag my mother gave for my birthday three years ago. 

Nazrul shot me a funny look when he saw me coming down the stairs. "Are you going to some party afterwards?" He asked. I flashed a mysterious smile and didn't answer. "If you are, it must be one hell of a party.... Are you sure I'm not invited?" He joked. 

"Nah! I just felt like wearing this dress. Bought it some time last year. Better wear it now while it's still in."

"Frankly, it looked to me like something from last season." Nazrul smiled at me teasingly. 

"Shut up and drive!" I slapped his left arm. 

He grinned as he released the hand brake, changed gear and stepped on the gas. "Any ghost stories for today?" He asked as he glanced at the rear view mirror.

"Nothing interesting." I pulled the seat belt and secured it.

"Any disturbance in your room?"

"No. It didn't come to my room last night." I was not lying. Dwen didn't visit my room and I had a really good night sleep. I even dreamed of having a vacation in Bali - in Ubud, to be precise, surrounded by gorgeous hunks who resembled those I've seen on gym advertisements.


"Yeah! Thank god." I didn't plan to tell him about my short conversation with Dwen at the living room yesterday.

"Now you can free up your mind and put one hundred percent into this project," he sounded relieved.

"It's still at proposal stage," I reminded him. 

"We're going to get it. I'm two hundred percent sure it will be ours."

I couldn't supress my laughter. He turned and stared at me, looking hurt. "You don't trust my capabilities? Hey, Allysa.... Ku Na is not just another pretty face. She will make sure that we win the project."

"Sorry. I was not looking down on you - or both of you. But you sounded so confident. Sometimes you - being so optimistic - make me afraid, but just now it just sounded so funny." I covered my mouth to hide a smile that refused to fade.

"I can do it. I'll prove it to you!" Said Nazrul, full of determination as we alighted from the car and headed towards Ravi's restaurant. "The usual?" He asked me.


Cheese naan and tandoori chicken had to be one of the heaviest breakfast one would have in the world, but it's quite common in Malaysia. It's the kind of comfort food that I ate without feeling guilty at all. In some restaurants, it was available 24/7.

"Careful with the mint sauce. You don't wanna ruin your pretty dress," said Nazrul. I smiled as I took another bite of the chicken. 

"Thank you. I know you intended to tell me that I look pretty today," I said, shamelessly. 

"I'm a lucky guy. I'm surrounded by pretty girls all year round." It was Nazrul's way of telling, 'Hey, you're not that pretty. I know many more girls who are a lot prettier than you.' But I didn't feel hurt; he had said meaner things to me before. 

"The other day, at the furniture launch you were about to tell me the story of you and Ku Na. How you guys got engage and all that. I'm sure it was controversial," I reminded him as I searched for his eyes but he remained stoic and continued to look down while eating his pratha. 

"It felt like a lifetime ago," he suddenly said, still avoiding my gaze. "Both of us were undergrads then: young and immature."

"Yeah! We all did stupid things when we were young and immature," I added, only to realize later that my opinion didn't go really well with Nazrul's life story.

"Like any normal college boys who craved to be accepted, I joined a clique. There were five of us." Nazrul showed me his fingers. "So, one day we placed a two hundred bet each: who got to go on a date with Ku Na, won."

"And you won?" I asked impatiently. Nazrul flashed a thin smile and his eyes were twinkling. It must have been one of the best times in his life.

"No. My friend did. He went out with Ku Na and pocketed RM1,000. I've never seen him so happy." Nazrul shot me a nostalgic look. "He was my best friend throughout college," he added. 

"But how come you were the one getting engaged to Ku Na?" There was a lot more to his story, I knew that for sure. 

Nazrul took out a cigarette and lighted it up. He inhaled deep before releasing a cloud of smoke away from my direction. It was the first time I saw him smoke. I was sure it was a very difficult story to tell. He didn't look like the usual cool and dashing Nazrul. He looked like a slacked college student who had just failed his monthly test. 

"After a few dates, my friend told me that they were not meant for each other. He didn't think Ku Na was his Ms. Right. So, he made a plan to pair me with Ku Na. He ignored her calls and always asked me to answer them on his behalf. Then he asked me to step in on their dates - telling Ku Na that he had urgent things to attend to and that I would accompany her to the movies or shop or for coffee...."

"Why he chose you and not the other three guys in your clique?" It was getting really interesting. I've abandoned my cheese naan and tandoori chicken and put the fork and spoon aside. 

"Well, he thought that I was the best choice."

"Because you were ....?" 

"Handsome, caring, gentleman, loving.... Ah... you can fill in the blanks yourself. You know what kind of man I am," said Nazrul jokingly. 

I pinched his exposed arm and he yelped. "Get serious! What happened next?" I asked, couldn't wait to hear the full story. 

"No. I'm not going to tell you. You've been mean to me. Yesterday you punched me, then this morning you slapped me and now you just pinched me. Gosh, are you becoming a wrestler or something?" 

Nazrul's forehead creased and I giggled as I watched him rubbed the place that I just pinched. It was turning crimson red. "Sorry," I said without really meaning it. 

"I am so telling Ku Na about this," he warned me. "And I'll ask her to give you a tonne of designs to study tonight."

"Childish!" I sipped my hot tea and thought that was the best word to describe Nazrul most of the time. 

Five minutes later we were back in his car, cruising in the light morning traffic - which I found unusual - heading towards PJ Hilton. Ku Na was waiting for us at the lobby in a scarlet Armani suit and a black leather suitcase. Suddenly my best dress looked pale and old when I walked beside her towards the lift. 

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