With my bare eyes, I witness how Adi treats Melati ever so gently and lovingly. So much different from how he treats me. Very tragically different.
Yes, three of us... me – Anyelir, Adi, and Melati are bound in a legal marriage by religion and law.
If you ask, who is Adi’s first wife?
But, who does he love?
Then the answer is Melati.
So, how did we get here?
It all started with an arranged marriage initiated by both Adi's parents and mine.
I am the third person in Adi and Melati's relationship. I am the intruder of their years-long love story. I am also the one who – in the end – consciously allowed Adi to marry Melati, even though Adi did not really seek my approval.
But then again... what about my heart?
One afternoon, three months ago. Exactly a month after our wedding, Adi came to me in my room. We both, in fact, have always slept in separate rooms, despite our status as husband and wife. All the first month-long, too, there had been no physical contact between us, even until now. I have no clue what kind of household we are running at this moment.
“Anye, there’s something I need to talk about,” he said at the moment. He looked as usual, stoic and emotionless. I’ve known him for two months since our first encounter and spent an entire month of my life with him, but never once did he smile at me.
I quitted reading my novel. For a brief second, I glanced at him and then turned my face away to stare at the window that was dripping wet with raindrops.
“What is it?”
“I’ll marry Melati.” Said Adi, nonchalantly, straightforwardly, with no hint of weight in his words.
I had known who this Melati is. She came on our wedding day. It was Adi’s cousin who told me how precious that woman is to Adi.
I stared back at him, this time a little longer, trying to delve an iota of hesitation there. Ah, then a sudden realization struck me. He was not asking but making a statement that needn’t to be answered.
“Go ahead, marry her,” I finally said. I was truly aware that I had just said one thing that – for some women out there – might be very hurtful to say.
To share my husband.
Although Allah approves the deed, with how deeply in love Adi is with Melati, it is beyond doubt that he will favor her. And my days will be filled with how unfair he treats us. But what can I do? I had no choice but to let him.
When Dad and Mom spoke about their intention to arrange my marriage with Adi, I could only remain silent. My heart wanted to oppose, yet my mouth kept shut tight. It was because I knew my place in the family.
I’m Anyelir, now 22 years old, holding a bachelor’s degree in economics, am only an adoptive daughter. Dad and Mom, I used to think as my biological parents, turns out are not. The kind-hearted couple adopted me twenty years ago from an orphanage.
And my decision to agree with this arranged marriage was solely one way of showing my gratitude to them as my adoptive parents. They are the parental figures who raised me with compassion and affection so that I can stand on my own and live independently.
“With or without your agreement, I will still marry her. You surely know, before this stupid marriage happens, we’ve been in relationship for years. So... I hope you know exactly about your place.”
I kept staring at him. Did he not have an iota of mercy on me?
“I understand... It’s just, I’m thinking about our parents. They will-“
Quickly Adi cut my sentence.
“Keep this in secret from your parents. They won’t know if you don’t speak a word. As for mine, I’ll take care of it.”
I faintly nodded. Truly out of words at the moment.
“Melati will live here with us. So, I want you to be nice to her.”
Having said what he wanted to say, Adi left. I was left alone, drowned in a myriad of emotions I could not even name. We had just been bound by an arranged marriage, and my husband had just said he was going to marry his lover.
Although, between us, love is yet to grow... can’t I say that I am hurt?
Melati patiently feeds Adi, who is lying in bed. Our husband has been in bed for three days. His gastritis recurred due to how often he skipped a meal and his stress, and it finally resulted in his collapse.
Both Melati and I have suggested that he is hospitalized, but he insisted he wanted to stay at home. So, a doctor will be called home to check up on him and a nurse will change the IV bag when it is empty.
“No more, please.” It is only the fifth spoon from Melati. Maybe Adi feels stuffed, or just that his mouth cannot enjoy food yet.
“But you’ve just eaten so little, Di,” Melati protests.
“I’m full, honey.”
I hear it well since I am sitting on the sofa by the window of their room. Silently, I am observing my husband and my co-wife all the time.
A magical word I never know when – or if – my husband will ever say to me.
Does it hurt? Yes, absolutely. It has been three months that we live in this polygamy marriage. Maybe I am kind of getting used to this pain. I know they never intend to make me feel.
Melati is a kind woman. We rub along so far. She is ten centimeters taller than me, has a pretty face, is a good cook, and always has a smile plastered on her face.
I admire her. I heard it myself how she asked Adi to sleep with me. How she asked Adi to give a little amount of his affection to me.
But Adi is Adi, a stubborn man that he is. He will not touch anything he does not take an interest in. Including me, it seems.
“You’re done with it.” I get up and walk to them. “Let me take it to the kitchen.” I grab the plate from Melati’s hand.
“Thank you, Nye.”
I briefly nod and get out of the room. I wash the dishes clean and put them on the rack. Then, I walk back to their room.
My step slows down and then stops. Faintly, I overhear Adi and Melati’s conversation.
“Di, please don’t ignore Anye like that. She’s your wife too,” Melati says.
“But you know it, Mel I don’t love her.”
I lean on the wall outside their room, carefully listening to their conversation.
“Yes, I know, but one of the conditions for polygamy is that you’re able to be fair. And what I’m seeing now is you’re not being fair to us both. I am afraid of sinning too, just because I cannot advise you, Di.”
Oh, look how wise Melati is. No wonder Adi loves her so much. I finally leave that place, heading to my room.
We live in a two-story house. My parents and Adi liveAdi’s live in Bandung while we live in Bekasi. I had moved to this city since I graduated from college. Adi is busy with his outlet and cafe business, which has several branches in Bandung, Bekasi, and Jakarta.
I took off the hijab covering my head, which I always wear even inside the house, even in front of Adi.
I looked at my face – at some pimples on my forehead and cheeks. I feel it, even the big pimples that are not touched would hurt. It adds up the point of unattractiveness of my face.
My hand then moves to take the acne medicine on the dresser in front of me. I then apply it on the pimples that have been there since my first period when I was in junior high school.
“Anye.” Melati pops her head from behind the door.
“Yes?” I immediately put my hijab back on.
Melati steps closer to me, “I am going somewhere just for a while, for some business. Take care of Adi, would you?" she says.
I study her neat appearance. This beautiful woman with flawless cheeks is wearing a yellow knee-length dress. Her feet are covered with flat shoes with the matching color as her dress. Her hair is flowing freely. A small bead studded bag is draped over her right arm, completing her look.
One word for her. Beautiful.
“Okay,” I reply briefly.
“Alright then. I'm leaving.” Melati walks out, leaving me in this room with deep-seated envy in my heart.
I promptly grab my phone and novel then walk to their room. The room where Adi is now lying. The room where my husband and my co-wife sleep together.
I find Adi sleeping soundly. Maybe it is the effect of the medicine he had just taken. I glance at the clock on the wall. It is still eight in the morning. And it is the weekend now, my day off from work. To be honest, I want to go out, just to eat, and refresh my mind. But what can I do now that fate forces me to survive in the same room with a man who is my husband by status, but never considers me his wife. At least that is what I feel all this time.
I open my phone to read new incoming messages.
Marta: (Nye, there will be a meeting tomorrow at 7 am)
A message from Marta, my co-worker, and I reply immediately, OK.
I work as a warehouse staff in a garment factory. I have been working there for one year, and Marta is my only friend. We often spend time together, just to hang out in cafes or even curl up under the blanket at the weekend after staying up all night binge-watching Korean dramas.
I find myself drowned again in the novel by Madam Asma Nadia entitled Surga yang Tak Dirindukan – Heaven is Not Missed. A story that I find seemingly similar to my own married life. I need a reference for my domestic life, or at least I think so. While it is most appropriate for us to follow the life of the Prophet, it is okay for us to read stories written by ordinary people, right?
At the very least, I get the picture.
The clock shows nine in the morning, which means I have been accompanying the sleeping person for an hour. I am still engrossed in my novel.
Feeling my eyes getting tired from reading, I turn to look at the backyard of the house. There lies a small garden beside the swimming pool. Then, I observe the corner of the garden, a gazebo, which is my favorite place in this house, where I often spend my time alone. I’ve been crying, laughing, and even falling asleep there.
I turn to Adi, who I see faintly moving a little. The man stretches. Slowly he opens his eyes.
“Do you need help?”
Adi is positioning himself, leaning against the headboard. I stay still, just observing.
He did not even bother answering my question.
“She went out, not home yet.”
Quiet. I stay still where I am, and Adi seems to be pondering about only God knows what, just staring blankly at the ceiling of the room.
This time I open my phone, strolling on my IG account. I don'tdo not even know what I am looking for, my finger just scrolls the screen up and down and occasionally shifts right or left.
Whenever I am around Adi, I suddenly become a quiet woman. Besides, it is pointless to initiate the talk, only to be ignored.
Adi puts his feet down and stands up slowly.
"Where are you going?"
Adi still says nothing. Instead, he steps slowly to the bathroom connected to this room.
I walk over towards him, about to help. However, before my hand can touch him, I can see him making a gesture that he does not want my help.
I am being ignored, again. I freeze in my place, letting him go to the bathroom alone.
Still standing where Adi has rejected me, I really do not know what wrongdoing and sin I have done to deserve a husband like him.
Adi is not verbally or physically abusive. It is just that he is too ignorant of me, making me feel like I am invisible.
Adi comes out after a few minutes and then slowly steps towards the bed. He leans back his body, ignoring me, who is still watching him since the earlier scene.
“Melati asked me to take care of you.” Finally, I speak, trying to sound as calm as possible, holding back the anger that begins to undermine my chest.
“I can do it myself.” Adi answers without looking at me.
I turn towards the sofa, grab my phone and novel and then leave the room. I walk to my room, which is right next to this room.
I close the door roughly with a slam as if to tell Adi about my anger.
Even though I know, it is useless.