Summary: Clara, the main character, is never allowed by his father to go out at night with Daniel as his boyfriend, Daniel tries to have some affairs with another lecturer and Clara’s best friend.
A newborn sunlight shyly bursts in between the hanging curtain giving a sign of a glimmering hope for a new day. The sound of singing birds is flown by the wind through the vents. The smell of cold air surges inside the room trying to blow the skin. Inside her woolen blanket made from fleece, Clara wakes up when the clock is striking 5.34 that morning. She opens her eyes to a calm, harmonious, and serene morning inside her room. The morning she always wishes to be every dawn, for in the forenoon, what’s going to happen is set up.
Today, Wednesday, is scheduled for Clara to learn Major Interior Design in her campus, University of Maranatha, from the one she loves the most at the moment. No, not from a classmate in her group work, not even a tutor in her extra course, but the lecturer, yes, the Major Interior Design lecturer. There is nothing excites her above meeting her beloved one in the class.
Mr. Daniel asked Clara to be his sweetheart about 2 months ago. In class, right when it ended, Clara could clearly see his jittery hands finally goaded him to pass the note he wrote the other night: “I LOVE YOU! LET’S BE A COUPLE! I AM CALLING YOU TONIGHT AND GIVE ME THE ANSWER!” Clara obviously thought he didn’t have any sense of romance. There was no word in Clara’s mind which can label him except a weirdo. Yet, Clara had been envisioning to have a boyfriend just as handsome as Daniel. As promised, he called Clara at nine. Clara had never thought she would say yes, nor had she depicted in her mind to hold Daniel’s hand in public, nor, the worst, had she ever arranged in what word she would tell her father about the relationship. Yet, since then, they have been a couple.
Clara equips the components of her exercise this week: glue, scissor, cardboard, iridescent tincture, and of course, a paintbrush. After taking a bath, she rushes down reaching the dinette to enjoy her breakfast.
“Why such in a hurry, honey?” says her mom. “It’s not even seven yet.”
“Should be in campus quickly, mom.” she replies.
What she eats is the compilation of fruits and vegetables, every day, every morning, every time she eats. She has been a vegetarian for four years. Her friends wonder how she gets extra nutriment without meat. Being a vegetarian is a label she never thinks of. It was quite tough when she started not to eat meat, or milk, or eggs. She was given vitamins to strengthen her immune system at first. But months after that, she had lost her dependency to meat.
Five minutes are adequate for Clara to finish her breakfast. She is now checking whether Musa, her driver as well as her armed bodyguard, has finished washing her car or not. Now, that silver Honda Freed type A is sleek and shiny. Without modification, pure and original from its factory, that car is now ready to deliver its queen to the campus.
“So your design is to be submitted next 2 weeks, okay? The late of submission will cause the reduction of your score. Make sure you attach the documentation of you making the design. You may offer and get helps from your pair to make sure you have the documentation… alright that’s all for today and meet you next week!” exclaims Daniel to the class. Clara listens to every bit of word Daniel tells, for it doesn’t sound like an exclamation to her but a calling of love. She pays attention intentionally to every single movement of his lips as Daniel speaks his words.
As always, Clara, who sees herself as a diligent student, a class champion in high school, is sanguine of her success in drawing the design before the due time. Especially, her boyfriend always encourages her to put her best on the project.
Now the class is almost empty. It’s only Clara who deliberately keeps sitting in her chair, for the conversation awaits.
“Baby, how ‘bout tonight? Please make it for me,” Daniel starts a conversation. “I’ve been waiting in weeks to take you out just a night.”
“Daddy still shuts his mouth when I talk about you. You know, it’s so hard to convince him. One day we’re gonna have fun, baby, I promise,” Clara answers.
“There’s gonna be a perfect time… hey you wanna try too? What about tonight?”
“Yea you know, go to my house and dine in the same table with him, I mean, try to talk to him!”
“Oh my God, I’ve told you, I’m not good with parents.”
“Then when will?”
Clara feels annoyed. She has been repeatedly facing this kind of conversation for about 7 weeks, five days after they were officially lovers. It was when Clara arranged the meeting in the rooftop of the highest building in the university, sometime around nine or ten at night. Clara pulled Daniel’s arms to get inside elevator to reach twelfth floor so they could walk the upstairs to the rooftop. Sitting on the bench beside a two meters high fence, they could see the city of Bandang clearly, far at the end of light, they could spot the border of Mount Gelis hindering the moonlight to shine behind it. Clara could barely see Daniel’s face blushing awkwardly. She then asked him why he looked nervous. Daniel started to confess that Clara was his first girlfriend, for he was always labelled as a nerd by his schoolmates. He said that nobody wanted to be closer to him, including girls, he thought it was because he appeared not like any other students who were stylish, fashionable, living in beautiful house, and possessed the latest gadget that period; it was the reason he took the major in order to prove his friends that someday he would possess a beautiful home and be so stylish in fashion. Clara was surprised listening to the story; she never thought his handsomeness never led him to, at least, have a girlfriend once. Feeling so pity, she reached his cheek with her wet lips, then came nearer to his lips. It happened to Daniel his first kiss. Then, the two souls shared their stories of childhood, like other couples often did. Clara also revealed the secret behind the existence of her bodyguard, she told Daniel that her father, the third richest man in the city, had a client whose daughter was raped, killed, and thrown to a river by her own boyfriend. To prevent it happening to her, her father hired Musa three years ago to guard her everywhere she goes. She tried to tell her father that now she also belongs to her lecturer, as her lover. Her father expressed his displeasure toward the news, for he had never met Daniel nor had he had any idea how qualified Daniel was to be his daughter’s lover. That was the main reason why Clara brought Daniel to the rooftop that night, to ask Daniel to also chase her father in getting his approval toward their relationship. To her surprise, Daniel refused. He told Clara he was not good in dealing with elderlies, parents especially. He pursued Clara to try harder.
Clara now can see how Daniel really wants to set up a nice night date for her, while in other hand, her father still seals his approval words.
“Hey Clara! Here you are, been looking for you all the way,” someone shouts.
Clara looks away to the source of the sound. It is somewhat to her left, somewhere near the door. A white Asian dark-haired boy is waving his hand to her. It is Kevin, her classmate. In Clara’s eyes, Kevin is the nicest guy she ever befriends with. He is a handsome, smart, industrious, diligent, and conscientious man, she thinks. Kevin often offers his hand when Clara’s in bad luck. Whenever the lecturer asks a group work, Kevin often enthusiastically picks Clara to work as a team. Besides Kevin, stands Chania, Clara’s best friend. Clara feels matched to befriend with her. Clara and Chania have been always schooling under the same roof since elementary school, it makes them inseparably so close.
“Hey, ermmm, what’s up?” Clara replies calmly while packing her stuffs.
“Let’s go! We’ve planned to have lunch together, remember?”
“Oh yes sure, sorry I almost totally forget it.”
Kevin and Chania help her packing her stuff.
“What about some sushi?” Chania proposes.
“Whatever, I’m just going to take salads,” Clara replies.
Clara catches a glimpse on Daniel preparing himself to go, and, he goes out the class, without saying anything anymore. To Clara, that is such a rude behavior that Daniel does, the rudest one, without saying anything, as a boyfriend to her, he has just ignored Clara, right in front of her friends. Peculiarly, Clara sees Kevin giving a satirical smirk.
“What’s that smile about?” asks Clara.
“What? No, nothing,” replies Kevin nervously.
“Let’s go go go go!” Chania exclaims loudly.
Clara now is about to go home after lunch. Chania has gone home earlier.
“Hey Clara, is it okay if I go with you to your house and doing stuff with you? I mean, I wanna meet your parents and say hello,” Kevin says.
“What’s wrong? Why that serious? Just come then, as usual,” Clara chuckles.
“Really? I don’t feel that serious though. Alright let’s go”
Clara invites Kevin to enter her car. Musa drives them home.
Clara is often visited by Kevin, indeed, whether for doing homework, or only for having little chats. Clara wonders aloud under which circumstance Kevin wants to meet her parents. Her parents are busy, they usually get back home really late at night. Her father is a successful businessman in the city who has plenty entertainment businesses in the city; he is a CEO of a technology company. Besides, he also possesses five cinemas, fourteen karaoke stores, fifteen boutiques, two grand hotels, and has the most shares of Ampira, the largest and the most famous Bandangnese restaurant across the country. Having these businesses, Clara finds it difficult to eat dinner at the same home dinette, or, at least, say ‘good bye’ to her father before going to campus. Probably, the average time she has the chance to meet her father a day is about 30 minutes for weekdays, and a bit more for weekends. That’s why Kevin never meets her father. Now, Clara appreciates Kevin’s intention to meet her father, even though it is less likely for him to meet her father and to say hello.
Clara sees people, pedestrians, cars, bikes, buildings, homes, on her way home with Kevin. People are chatting, walking, driving, begging, speaking, and mumbling as they interact each other.
“I’m home,” Clara shouts in the house.
“Hey honey, why so late? Oh, your friend’s here too? Is it Daniel or Kevin?” Clara’s mother’s wondering who comes with Clara.
“It’s Kevin, Mom, no schedule today with daddy?”
“Good afternoon, mam,” Kevin shakes Clara’s mother’s hand.
“Oh hello Kevin,” Clara’s mom replies. “No, honey, your dad will be home soon, he’s going out of town tomorrow, so he should prepare everything today.”
“Oh good, Kevin intends to meet daddy today,” Clara says.
“Excellent! You’re gonna meet Joseph soon, Kevin,” Clara’s mom smiles big.
“Let’s go to my room!” Clara invites.
Clara and Kevin is now in Clara’s room. It is for as-many-times for Kevin entering her room. Since the last time Kevin entered her room, Clara has modified many things. Now her bed is close to the window. Her wardrobe is no longer standing next to her dressing table, it confronts each other. She will see her wardrobe as the background as she reflects her body toward the mirror in the dressing table.
“Why so many movements? When did you do all these stuff?” Kevin wonders.
“Oh you recognize it, huh? I did nothing, Musa did. I just told him how I wanted this room would look like, and he arranged it for me. It’s bored, you know, having seen that interior for five years, I need a change. To refresh my mind. To explore something new. And to feel something different when I woke up and when I got back home from campus. I truly need a change, you know, Daniel keeps avoiding my dad for a reason which for me is not a reason, it’s more a denial to me. Feeling afraid of my dad, he says. I just can’t accept that silly reason. I just want daddy’s approval, so he’ll trust me to let me hangout at night with Daniel. Isn’t it what all couples do? And me? I just sit here, like caged bird, I got everything, but I don’t get freedom. The date on the rooftop that night was the only night we have.”
“Oh don’t be sad, it’s okay, perhaps you gotta think about your assignments now. Just get rid of him for a while.”
“I can’t, I just…” and they continue talking and sharing, for hours, until…
“Honey daddy’s here,” someone shouts who sounds like her mom, and yes, it’s her mom opening the door. “Kevin, you wanna meet Joseph, right? Let’s go down for dinner,”
“What? Dinner? It’s not even sev…” Clara glimpses at the clock and, yes, it is striking 8 now, “What? Oh my God, so long talking, huh? Alright let’s go down!”
Clara finds a difference in the dinette tonight. Now they have Bandangnese foods on the table. It seems like they’re going to have a French-style dining, for there has lied spoons, forks, knives, and glasses. Joseph welcomes Kevin warmly.
“Hey, you must be Kevin, please have a seat,” Joseph starts the conversation.
“Yes, sir, I’m Kevin, Clara’s classmate.”
“I hear much about you, you often visit us right? Sorry for always being unavailable to greet Clara’s friends, I always get back home late, you know, business.”
“Daddy is always like that, I’ve told you right?” Clara speaks to Kevin. Kevin giggles.
“Here we go, to all of you, please enjoy the appetizer,” Clara’s mom declares the opening of the dinner tonight.
Clara feels something different tonight toward the existence of different foods that are served, and the use of dining etiquette. Clara is somewhat being a listener in the table, for Kevin and her father enjoy the conversation. Kevin tells the story of his childhood, his family, and other topics she can’t even connect to, like politics, economy, and manhood stuff. They both talk, laugh, eat, talk, laugh, sometimes serious, and so on, which deeply in her heart, she wishes the one who does that is her boyfriend. Deeply inside her heart, she wishes Daniel who enjoys the conversation with her father.
It is now twelve at midnight. Kevin has gone home. Clara lays on her bed with her pajamas, ready to rest her tired body. A text comes to Clara’s online account saying:
Daniel: ‘Hey babe, I’m sorry for ignoring you after class. I miss you.’
Clara: ‘It’s okay, whenever you’re ready to meet daddy.’
Daniel: ‘No, I mean it, I’m truly sorry, for what I’ve done to you last noon, and tonight.’
Clara: ‘Me too, I mean it, it is okay. By the way, may I call you? I’d like to share you what happens to me tonight.’
Clara calls Daniel, six seconds of waiting, he answers:
Daniel: ‘Hallo, why do you call me in the midnight?’
Clara: ‘Why? I’m just gonna tell you something.’
Daniel: ‘Alright what is it?’
Clara: ‘Ermmm… so today Kevin had din… wait, why are you whispering?’
Daniel: ‘Ha? No I’m not…’
‘Who’s that in the call my handsome?’ suddenly Clara hears someone’s sigh, a girl, not Daniel, someone else.
Clara: ‘What? Who’s speaking next to…’
The call ends. Clara doesn’t push the end button. Daniel must do. Or perhaps, it’s due to bad networking, she thinks. But, ‘who the hell is that girl with my boyfriend, this late night?’ is a question that leads her to wonder. Well, she decides to just sleep.
Next day, Clara stalks Daniel from the very beginning of his arrival to the campus. She spots him from the park area, and follows him walking the upstairs to the second floor, where the Department of Interior Design is situated. On her way, she sees a key lays on the floor, before the stairs. She looks very carefully to the key, and bang, that’s his car key. Daniel just dropped it, unconsciously. Without the further do, she takes the key. She continues walking to the room and finds Daniel again. Daniel, seems trying to find something, perhaps, he realizes he just lost his car key. He now goes back to the path down. Clara immediately hides behind a big pillar before the entrance door. As Daniel’s gone, Clara steals his phone. Checking. She finds messages, from Ms. Dongmei Ann.
Ann: ‘Thank you honey for tonight, thank you for raping me hard, I felt the joy, babe. Be safe on your way to campus okay? Meet you tomorrow!’
Daniel: ‘It was awful raping you honey, you did make me on with your sexy dress as I came to your house. And thank God for your sexual masochism, now I won’t worry for being accused to raping. You really made my night.’
Clara cannot continue reading those messages. It explains all. Without her command, her tears start to stream down her cheek. She runs, cries, hastes, and rushes, to reach nowhere, perhaps, to a place where she can scream as free as she can, or, to the place where she can get a hug to lean all the hurts. And…she suddenly falls to someone’s chest, Daniel’s chest, crying in the weakest anger she probably has, if she has any.
“Why are you crying, honey?” he starts talking.
“STOP CALLING ME YOUR HONEY, I AM NO LONGER YOURS.” Clara screams.
“Oh my God you must have been…oh shit!” he continues, “Honey, it’s not like what you see, I can explain all. Alright, it happens to me that she texted me and invites me to a dinner, when I come to her house, Ann was wearing a truly sexy dress that makes me…oh shit…here, I know it totally is my fault, I raped her. I don’t wanna be virgin anymore, it hurts me whenever my friends talk about their relationship and I have done nothing. And when I was given such chance…ah please forgive me honey, you’re still the best for me. I know it’s totally wrong but please…”
Clara cannot hide her sadness toward the story Daniels just told. In the need of a hug, she can’t release Daniel’s arms around her body. Even though she tries to. All she can do is just to express her sadness with crying, no matter to whose chest she’s leaning on, she thinks she only needs to calm down.
The last class today has elapsed. Clara has sent a message to Musa to drive her straight home after the class. In her way to the car, long way ahead, Clara sees Kevin rushing and reaching her. Kevin greets her as he arrives in front of her.
“Hey, why looking so upset?” he asks.
“Ermm nothing, it’s just, erm I’ll tell you later, okay? I just wanna be home soon,” she replies calmly.
“Okay, bye, here, give me your forehead, be careful, beautiful,” Kevin cheers her up, kissing her forehead.
“Hey Clara! Daniel’s been looking for you, you wanna meet him?” Chania came.
“Not now Chan, I’m not in a good mood to talk to him.” she says while entering the car.
“Oh alright, bye!”
It is unusual, that seeing Clara in a bad mood and her black eyes without cheering her up is something that Chania doesn’t ever forget. But now, strangely, Chania just lets Clara goes inside the car and leaves her. Clara becomes even more upset. Well, what matters to her now is just to take some rest, she doesn’t want to bother herself thinking about why Chania acted like that. Meanwhile, thinking about whether to forgive Daniel is what bothers her a lot. That was their first fight. She shouldn’t have leaned back to his chest when she cried. Now, she thinks forgiving him is the easiest way to help her release the hurts.
As she arrives home, her mom informs that her daddy talks a lot about Kevin last night.
“Daddy likes Kevin so much, he is honest, modest, kind, and nice guy. Why aren’t you two a couple?” her mom asks.
“Ahh mom, I’m tired. I just wanna sleep for a while,” then she directly enters her room and sleeps.
Clara wakes up to a calling from her mom, reminding her on arisan—regular social gathering whose members contribute to and take turns at winning an aggregate sum of money, in Palace Hotel, one of Clara’s father’s. At first, she thinks she’ll be unable to join, but later on, she thinks it may cheer her up by meeting his mom’s friends, and, of course, have some fun.
From her wooden wardrobe, she chooses the beautiful pink dress which she wears once at a prom in high school, and picks some touch-ups. Feeling ready for the arisan, she goes down to her mom and Musa drives them.
It is 9.20 at Clara’s watch, her mom and she arrive at the Palace Hotel, a beautiful five stars and glamorous hotel in the city. Its golden gate at the entrance welcomes visitors with the feeling of luxury. The grand lobby invites us to stay for a while at the sofa. Its aromatic perfume around the lobby relaxes the mind. At the left of the receptionist is the entrance to the big ballrooms and luxurious restaurants as well as three elevators, and at the right lays the way to the pool as well as five main elevators to reach upstairs’ floors. Now, Clara’s destination is to the left, to reach Kartina Ballroom where the arisan is held. She and her mom go left to the way that leads them to the room in the corner. Behind her, follows her armed bodyguard.
As she stepped to the corridor, she slightly hears a clicking sound as a sign that the elevator doors are open. She ignores that sound, but, to her surprise, as the elevator doors open, that man she knows so well is with a girl she knows so well, better than anyone else, whose hand is tightly held by him. Daniel, her boyfriend, is now being caught holding hands with Chania, her best friend.
“What the…” she’s shocked.
As she says that, Daniel looks very afraid, shocked, stunned, like stunned of seeing snakes, or, like afraid of being whispered by ghost. He shockingly flings Chania’s hand, while Chania is as stunned as Daniel. Clara forcibly pulls Daniel from the elevator and slaps him right on the face.
“HOW DARE YOU SLAP ME!” Daniel angrily punches her brutally right on her breast which causes her bumped the wall behind her, and collapsed. She now feels strange about her vision, everything seems blurred.
She sees Musa fires his air gun pointing to Daniel. Three bullets form an air gun shot Daniel, around his left chest, right hand, and right in the middle of his neck. Blood is streaming down to the floor. Everybody nearby witnesses a man’s dying, and perhaps, her dying. Someone’s calling ambulance, another calls police, and now, black is the only color she can see.
Thank you to Kelvin Kristianto (my friend), Ananda Bayu Pangestu (my friend from class C), and Vina Fasya (my friend from class C).
1. Sexual preferences from The Little Death.
2. Relationship disloyalty from A Royal Affair.
3. A relationship involving four characters in David Lodge’s Changing Places.
4. Song theme: “Last Kiss” (Taylor Swift).
Word Count: (3936)
Link for work dramatization: https://soundcloud.com/rahmatharmi/caged-love