Hazrin, born Azrina, was born a boy and was genetically a boy. Then his mother registered him as a baby girl. When he was 2, his mother sent him away to live with his aunt, deep inside the vineyards of France. Without knowing anything, he lived almost twenty years of his life as a girl. Now he has returned home, to his home country, and decided to care for his little brother and sisters, as a man.
Can he untrain himself of all feminine gestures and become a real man?
Enter Iskandar, the nephew of one of the wealthiest tycoons in Southeast Asia. He had a plan, of becoming independent from his uncle, but that would cause him to betray the only one he holds dear. Will he sacrifice all for Azrina's love? Or will he sacrifice Azrina instead?
Then comes Max, a german man from an impoverished noble household. For the past fifteen years, Rina Sofiana de Havensall, has always been in his mind. Now that he had fulfilled his promise, he came to find Rina, to ask her to honour her part of the promise.
"So you really won't change your mind?" the older woman said.
"No ma. I must go back to take care of my siblings," the young Rina said.
The older woman sighed. "It seems I can't change your mind. But promise me, no matter what, do not ever go near Arif Global Ventures. Do you understand?" she said to her daughter.
"That's the fifth time you reminded me, but what is so important about staying away from them, Mama?"
"Do NOT argue with me! You will stay away from them and that's final!"
"Is, do you happen to have a minute?" a man in a blue shirt with horizontal stripes on the left side poked his head through the barely opened door.
Iskandar took off his reading glasses. He had been reading the company's latest fiscal report and had frowned the entire time. Someone, somewhere had messed something up, he thought as he waved the man in. Iskandar thought he could use a little break as he had been looking at reports all morning his eyes were starting to turn entirely white.
"Something wrong, Joe?" Iskandar asked, his vision still quite blurry.
Joe raised an eyebrow. "Oh nothing's wrong really, I was just having a little trouble finding a NONEXISTENT ADDRESS!"
Iskandar stretched calmly, delaying his response. "And you're here in my office because...?"
"Is this a joke, Is? A new method of torture? Are you having your sadistic jollies now?" Joe fumed.
Iskandar stretched his body. Sitting on his ass all day was pretty tiring. He took his time, playing with Joe's patience, before he finally said, "When writing a thesis, you must have the preface at the start and the appendix or summary at the end with the main content in the middle, Joe."
"I'm talking about those bills and other documents you gave me, Is. I spent three hours trying to find the address and you know what? I still couldn't find it. My GPS was of no use, it kept asking me to wait for directions. Don't even get me started on the terrible handphone reception in that area."
"Which documents? What address?"
"Don't play dumb with me, it's insulting!" Joe glared angrily.
"Unless you tell me exactly what you're talking about, I can't possibly have any idea what it is about. How about a clue? Maybe a word? Or whether it's a place, an animal or a phrase?" Iskandar said.
"I'm talking about these bills!" Joe exclaimed as he slammed a folder onto Iskandar's desk.
Iskandar took the folder, opened it and peered inside. "Ah, I see. Didn't expect the accounts people would finish it so quickly-"
"I didn't see the damned accounts department. Do you have any idea what kind of crap I'll get into if I asked Ms Yong to do your private bills?" Joe said between gritted teeth as he leaned forward with his hand on Iskandar's desk.
"Oh really? Don't you have a really good relationship with Ms. Yong?" Iskandar laughed.
"If you truly thinks so, then go get your eyes checked, Is. Because I can assure you, that rumour was in no way true," Joe denied, referring to the recent rumour that he and Ms. Yong was seen dining together. In truth, it was simply that the restaurant mixed up the reservations and neither would budge when given an alternative by the restaurant manager. Stubbornness was about the only trait they ever shared.
"You must be joking," Sarah, Rina's aunt said into the phone.
"But why is he even doing this? This isn't right. It has always been my job before,"
she said as she stopped to listen.
"Yes that sounds just like him. So what exactly do you want me to do?"
"No, that won't be necessary. I already have an idea where he is."
"Yes, I do. I got it covered, and stop calling me everytime you stumbled into a problem here. I'm retired, remember?"
"Yes, as if you would let me forget," she huffed.
"Please, please, please. I'll never forget, I promise" Hazrin said to his coworker, a woman whose name Sasha was sewn to her vest.
"You know, I've never had your problem. Seeing a prettyboy like you being chased around by a handsome rich guy really rubs me in a bad way."
"You can have him if you want, Sasha," Hazrin offered.
"No thanks, I'm not interested in gay guys, even if he's rich and handsome."
"So you see my problem now, don't you? How can I handle that?"
"Funny, I could've sworn that you liked the attention. You were giggling and blushing like a lovesick little virgin just the other day when he kissed the back of your hand," Sasha stated while fixing her unforgiving stare onto Hazrin's face.
"What? I didn't like it at all. I just found it funny, that's all," Hazrin denied while averting his gaze.
"Funny? That's a very funny way of showing your appreciation for humour. Perhaps-"
Just then, one of the senior staffs whose name Hazrin couldn't remember poked his head in through the doorway and said, "Less chit chatting and more working, girls."
Sasha shrugged after he left and said, "Time to earn my pay. I'll handle this for you today, but you really need to learn to be firm if you don't like it."
"Firm? But I-"
Sasha turned around and placed both hands on Hazrin's shoulders, "Look, take it from me. I know all kinds of jerks and guys you don't want to bring home to mom. You can't really avoid them, you make mistakes from time to time no matter how careful you are and most of them were really faking it in the first place anyway. What you can do is to reevaluate, admit that the relationship's over and firmly tell him exactly that. If he won't accept it, then it's time to get a restraining order so he'd leave you alone."
"But Sasha..." Hazrin said gently, "We aren't in a relationship."
Sasha looked at Hazrin's face, appeared as if she just remembered something and slapped her forehead, "Right, I forgot that we're only talking about a customer. I swear you looked just like my little sister whenever she got harrassed by her soon-to-be ex-boyfriend. You're a guy, stop being so cute and defenseless like a pre-pubescent little virgin, would you?"
Sasha threw her hands up in frustration and went outside to serve one Mr. Aiman, who had decided to make Hazrin, who was really Rina in her male persona, his next short-term girlfriend. Hazrin wisely took over Sasha's task of mixing drinks to avoid being called over by her new fan. It made less income in tips, but Rina as Hazrin still had no clue how to fob off a male admirer.
"Kak Rina," Nini called from the hallway.
"Yes Nini? What's the matter? Why are you not asleep yet?" Rina asked as she placed the stalk of rose she was holding to the floor and raised her head facing Nini. She tucked her skirt under her legs the way she was taught since she was a child.
"I can ask you the same thing, Kak Rina. Why are you arranging flowers so late into the night?" Nini asked once she knelt next to Rina on the floor.
"I haven't been able to do it the past few days, it's starting to bug me. Don't worry about me, Nini. Just go to sleep, you have to wake up early tomorrow," Rina said as she picked up the rose again.
"What are you talking about, big sis? You always woke up earlier than any of us to prepare breakfast."
"Yes, how things have changed. I used to be a very heavy sleeper," Rina smiled wistfully.
Just then they heard heavy knocks from the front door. For a moment there, both of them were worried that the door might be knocked down from the heavy thumping. Both of them looked at each other and wondered who would be coming so late at night. Apart from certain emergencies in the village, such as a house on fire, or the recent 'orang minyak'* incident, residents of the village are quite happy staying in their own houses.
Nini turned around and was about to go back into the hallway to open the door when Rina grabbed her wrists and hissed, "Don't!"
"What? Why?" Nini asked as the banging resumed.
"Go back to your room, Nini," Rina ordered.
"But why?" Nini questioned.
"Just go. Please," Rina hissed as she grabbed Mira's wooden baseball bat.
Nini saw where Rina's hand was and understood. "Alright, but scream real loud if something happens, ok?"
"Fine, I'll try my best to wake up the whole neighbourhood."
Nini giggled quietly as she went back to her room while Rina went to the front door.
Rina jumped slightly when the banging resumed.
"Who's there?" Rina called.
"Hello, is that Rina? It's me. Iskandar," Iskandar announced. Next to him was Joe, whom he had brought with him after he complained about not being able to find the house.
"Which Iskandar?" Rina called back from the other side of the door.
"The Iskandar whose car broke down in front of your house a few days ago." Iskandar shrugged as Joe lifted an eyebrow. Iskandar motioned Joe to keep quiet.
"Go away!" Rina replied.
Joe chuckled as he heard Rina's reply. Iskandar glared at him, wanting to turn him into scorched dirt with his stare. "Rina, we came today to discuss something important, may we come in?"
"Do you know what time it is?" Rina fumed, "Where are your manners, coming to a girl's house in the middle of the night? And what's this with calling me by my name? It's Ms Rina to you, Mr Iskandar!"
"But dear Ms Rina, I thought we're close enough to call each other by name-"
"Groping me isn't how people get closer, Mr Iskandar. Go away!"
Joe's lips moved as if saying, you groped her?
Iskandar glared at Joe again, while Joe just grinned at seeing Iskandar being yelled at. Still glaring at Joe, Iskandar said, "OK, first, that was an accident, Rina. I didn't mean to touch your breasts, it was an act of god!"
Joe broke into laughter now, annoying Iskandar even more. It wasn't very common for Iskandar to be flustered, so the few times he did, Joe enjoyed every second of it. Rina however thought it was Iskandar tgwho had laughed.
Iskandar immnediately clamped his palm on Joe's mouth the moment Joe laughed, but the damage was done.
"Oh, you think this is funny, don't you? I spent my whole life saving myself for my future husband, and now you simply come in, fondled my breasts and you think it's a joke? Leave! Or I'll call the police," Rina yelled.
"Alright, alright. We'll come back tomorrow, don't get your panties in a wad, Rina. "
"What I maudite marde do with my own damned panties is my own damned business, you lecherous perverted bastard!"
"I guess it's time to go. Never knew the girl could cuss that much." Iskandar said to Joe, who was trying real hard not to laugh.
Rina gingerly walked closer to the front door. She puts her ears to the door, trying to catch any sound from outside. When she was satisfied that Iskandar had left, she let out a breath and relaxed against the door.
"You're not still bothered by that, are you? Lots of girls had their breasts fondled before high school, it's not that strange anymore, Kak Rina," Nini stated.
"Nini! What are you saying? Simpang malaikat 44**, purge these evil influences from your young mind," Rina admonished as she made a sign of warding evil.
"What are you, a grandma? Who says 'simpang malaikat 44' anymore? Besides, I'm already 14," Nini said, annoyed, "You can't expect me to be innocent forever. Anyhow, the way he explained it last time, it really did sound like it was an accident, even you admitted later that it was an accident, Kak Rina."
"Oh no, until you learn to wash your own panties, you're still a kid. So as long as you're still a kid, you will do and say what little girls do and say, Nini. Now go to sleep," Rina said as she continued trimming the rose to the intended length.
Nini walked back to the room she shared with Mira and muttered to herself, "Being a kid sucks."
Sarah, Rina's aunt entered the darkened room with the only light source directed at a bound man who had seen better days. He looked haggard, as he lacked water, nourishment and sunlight, and his eyes were blinded to his surroundings by the single bright light directed at his face. The steel door creaked from rust as she opened it wider. The two men sitting by the desk looked up at her as she entered.
"Out," she said to the two men. They nodded and left her alone with the captive.
"Look," Nathan a.k.a. Bernie said, "I told them before, I don't speak French, so if you're here to interrogate me, you need to use English."
"Oh, but there's nothing more to interrogate. I already know all there is to know about you... Bernie," Sarah teased.
"How I know your codename? But Bernie, I know everything about you," Sarah ran her long fingers under Nathan's bearded chin, "Such as how much debt you have with the bank, how many children you have, what they want for Christmas."
"You're bluffing!" Nathan stated.
"Oh am I? I also happens to know that you pissed your pants in Api's car during the firefight in Kabul."
"What? How? But the only one who knew that was- oh, I'll be damned."
"And damned you will be, every word's a prayer," Sarah giggled girlishly.
"Dahlia? After all these years, I thought you're dead. Did King send you here to rescue me?"
"Well, he did say something along that line, but I refused."
"You what? But I need rescuing."
"First yell loud and clear that you're 'a dumbass who likes to kiss duck's butt with peanut butter sandwich'."
"But me yelling would bring the house down on you."
"Oh please, my house is as sturdy as a Tiger Tank, maybe more."
"What do you mean 'your house'?"
"I meant exactly that. This is my outfit and you're in my turf."
"...I'll be damned."
*'Orang Minyak' is a kind of demon who preyed on virgin girls. They are actually human men who learned black magic and required by their studies to rape virgin girls before they acquire their full power. Some say they need to rape virgins every night for the whole month, some others claim that they need 100 virgins to graduate, without a need for time frame. They can go invisible and has the ability to climb very high without any aid.
**'Simpang Malaikat 44' literally translates to '44 Angel Crossroads'. It doesn't make much sense in English, so I left it in its original Malay. Basically it's what old people say when someone said something bad and they're admonishing them, hoping that the bad things said won't happen. It has something to do with the idea that every word is a prayer and god listens even when one doesn't mean what was said.
-As always please send me comments and feedbacks. Good comments encourages me to write faster and positive criticisms helps me improve. Also I love it that my readers speculate. Mind you, I'm not going to say you're right or wrong, just wants to see if I've become predictable.
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