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He Was a Ska- Oh Hell No!

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--_--

“Daddy. Daddy. Daddy? Daaaaaaaddddy! Daddy, wake up!” a young voice said. Small hands were poking his cheek and he groaned as he was yanked from a wonderful dream of dimples and shining mischievous eyes.

“Time issit, hmm?”

“Six zero two, it says on the digital clock, daddy. Daddy, come oooooon. Please? Wake up already,” she whined.

“I’m up, I’m up,” he answered, sitting up on the bed. He rubbed the sleepiness away from his eye with his hands. He looked down at the hopeful pair of eyes, peering at him, and he smiled gently.

“Good morning, princess. Give daddy a kiss?” he asked, tapping his cheek.

“Good morning daddy! *chup* Now I order you to get down from the bed and help me make breakfast, please?”

“Yes, yes, your highness. I am but your servant, and your wish is my command.” He slid his feet down to the carpeted floor and slipped on his slippers. His princess giggled at his response and ran from the room.

“Careful on the stairs! No running around, please!”

“Yes, daddy!”

--_--

“Are you ready for your first day of school, Morgan?” he asked her while they were eating breakfast. It was toast and sunny-side up and some cut up fruits for breakfast.

“Yes! But I’m also scared daddy,” she mumbled the last part hesitantly. He reached out to tuck a strand of hair that refused to be in the simple ponytail that he arranged her hair in.

“It’s okay to be scared, my little princess. But you know what? You will surely make friends with the other kids because who doesn’t want to be friends with you? You’re cute and charming. You’re very polite too. The other kids will like you, for sure.”

“Thank you daddy. I promise that I will do my best to make friends so that you will not be worried about me.”

He felt his heart tug at his daughter’s words. He gathered the young girl into his arms and hugged her tight.

“Thank you, Morgan. Thank you for worrying about daddy. I love you so much, baby.”

“I love you too, daddy. Now hurry up! I don’t want to be late! I have to make a good, uhm, what was the word again?”

“Hmm? Impression?”

“Yes! Impression. I want to make a good impression, daddy.” He chuckled at his daughter’s adorableness as he let her go and gathered their used plates and washing them.

“Aw, my baby’s all grown up.”

--_--

He watched her daughter walk towards the entrance of the school, occasionally looking back at him. He stayed there until she disappeared inside. He turned around and started towards his car, ignoring the appreciative glances he got from the young – and not so young—mothers, who had come to the school with the same purpose as him.

“DADDDYYYY! Daddy Kong!” He turned around swiftly, and just in time too, because Morgan leapt and he had an armful of squirming six-year old.

“What is it baby?” he asked worriedly.

“I forgot something!”

“What is it?”

“My goodbye kiss. *chup* You can put me down now, daddy.” He put her back down, all the while laughing at her antics. He pushed her towards the direction of the school entrance again.

“This time, you really should go, Morgan. Or you’ll be late. Didn’t you say you wanted to leave a good impression with your classmates so that you can make friends?”

“Right. I’m going now daddy. Bye! I love you!”

“Love you too, princess. See you later.”

--_--

 

“Hello?”

“Yes, hi. How are you?”

“Busy.”

“How is it going with your project?”

“Urgh! I’m having trouble with the management! They’re not agreeing to my terms!”

“Oh…”

“Yes. How about on your end? What’s the news?”

“Well, that’s why I called you. My cousin is back.”

“…What?!”

“Yes, so I think you better fast track that negotiation. I don’t know how long he will stay this time. I have hopes that he will live here permanently, but I don’t really know…”

“Noooooo…”

“Stop whining and think of ways to get your management’s approval.”

“Yes, yes… Can you… uhm never mind…”

“Can I talk to him for you? Is it what you were gonna ask?”

“Yes…”

“Talking to me about you is the last thing he would do. After what I’ve done. I’m sorry.”

“No, no, it’s okay. Don’t worry about it. I-I…”

“You have a greater chance to talk to him, you know…”

“Uhm, maybe. But it’s been so long…”

“He never forgot you. I don’t think he ever will. If he hadn’t changed, then I think you still have a place in his heart.”

“Please don’t get my hopes up.”

“Okay, okay. I’ll stop. Okay, I gotta go. I still have to run a bar.”

“Haha, okay, thanks. Good luck with Dim Bulb’s bar.”

“Hey, I am doing a great job with it!”

“Haha, bye!”

“Okay, bye. Take care!”

--_--

“Hey Kong. Welcome back.”

“Thanks Em. It’s nice to be back. How have you been?”

“You know how I am. You always ask me that whenever we talk on the phone,” the pale man said with a roll of his eyes. Kongpob laughed.

“I should be the one asking you that. How are you, really, Kong? After all that had happened to you…”

“I’m fine now, Em. I accepted everything that had happened. I forgave everybody who had done wrong and I just wanna move forward instead of dwelling in the past. Well, except for my ex-wife. I don’t think I’ll ever forgive her. I could take it when she say hurtful things to me, but not to our daughter. I had to get her away from her because I don’t think she’ll stop at verbal abuse, Em.”

“I know that, Kong. I know. You don’t have to explain your decisions to me… By the way, now that you’re free, aren’t you gonna go see him?”

“Em, I don’t want to open up old wounds when they’ve already closed up and scabbed over. Better to leave it alone. We both have separate lives now and successful careers. I’ve managed to rise up from the ashes of what my family’s company turned to, with huge, huge, thanks to all of you, and he has a stable career now, rising up the ladder of fame. I don’t want to disrupt the flow now, Em.”

Em stayed silent for a while, observing his newly returned best friend.

“Okay,” he said for a while. “Although, is it safe to say ‘Welcome back home’?”

“Hmm? Well, Thailand is my home, Em. So what do you mean by that?”

“Are you staying here temporarily? Or for good?”

Kongpob raised his head from the new game development plan he was perusing to give his best friend a raised eyebrow.

“Well, I’ve enrolled Morgan in a school here, didn’t I? I think that’s a pretty good indicator that my stay here is permanent.”

Em broke into a large grin and he punched the air. Then he bounded up towards the seated man behind the large wood and glass table to hug him tight.

“Don’t disappear on us again, okay?”

“Well, that wasn’t my choice, Em, and you know that.”

“I know, I don’t have any hard feelings about it. Well, not anymore.”

“Okay, okay. Enough of this. You still have a job to do, don’t you?”

Em released Kongpob with a laugh then went to the door of the office. Before he closed the door behind him, he turned back towards his best friend.

“Welcome home, Kongpob. It’s so good to have you back here again.”

“Thanks, Em. It’s so good to be home.”

--_--

Ten Years Ago

“Watch out! Watch out! Fuuuuuuuuuuckkk – oomph!”

Arthit opened his eyes when he heard the groan underneath him. He immediately scrambled up then checked his victim for any visible injuries. He settled on his knees beside the fallen stranger.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Are you okay?” he asked frantically, his hands hovering on the stranger’s body.

“Yeah. Yes. I think I’m okay,” the stranger said with a groan as he slowly sat upright.

“Really? Then how many finger am I holding up?” he lifted his right hand to show three fingers.

“Three,” “No it—“, “—but five if you’re gonna count the index and middle finger on your left hand.”

Arthit shut up, flushing slightly. He smiled sheepishly at the other.

“That was lame, by the way,” The stranger said, to which Arthit just chuckled.

“Are you sure you’re okay? I’m sorry, I didn’t notice you on time. I would’ve stopped my skateboard or avoided you had I been paying attention to the road ahead of me.”

“No, no. I’m at fault too. I was busy reading the synopsis of the new book I just bought. I’m sorry for that.”

“I guess we’re both at fault then,” Arthit grinned. “I’m Arthit by the way.”

He offered his hand in a handshake. The stranger looked at his hand curiously before he shook it.

“I’m Kongpob.”

“Now that that’s out of the way and I wouldn’t have to call you stranger in my head, can I escort you the that bench over there? Please? We’re still in the middle of the skateboarding area and I wouldn’t want another accident on my hands today.”

“Oh, sure, sure.” Arthit helped Kongpob up from the ground and the latter had to hiss in pain with how his hips felt.

“Oh my god, what is it?”

“I think I fell on my bum too hard. Don’t worry about it, it’s already receding. Just a sore butt for now.”

“Careful then.”

Once they were on the bench, Kongpob sat down gingerly with the help of Arthit.

“God, I feel like an old man being escorted by his grandchild when I’m even barely an adult.” Kongpob chuckled.

“Sorry, sorry!” Arthit apologized again, which Kongpob waved off. Arthit continued to fuss over him and Kongpob just looked at him, bemused.

“You really don’t have to worry.”

“But it’s my fau—”

“Both of us is at fault. C’mon, ease up, Arthit.”

“Okay, okay.”

They sat at the bench side by side, their possessions resting between them. Arthit would occasionally shoot him looks of concern that he answers with a smile of his own.

“Uhm. So, is it hard? Skate boarding, I mean.”

“Hmm? Well, some people find it easier than others. It takes a lot of practice though. And scrapes. And.. broken bones…”

“Oh. Have you had broken a bone before? From skating?”

“Well, no. I thank all my lucky stars for that. But I already had too many scrapes to count.”

They settled in silence again.

“How about you? What do you do in your free time?”

“I’m… pretty boring. I just read books.”

“Oh, well if you’re entertained, who am I to judge? Are you entertained?”

“Oh yes. I love to get lost into fantasy worlds and gallivanting around like I’m some sort of a hero. It’s fun.”

“Oh! I get that too whenever I read my mangas!”

“Oh yeah? I read mangas, too!”

“Yeah? Which ones have you read?”

“I’m currently hooked on Detective Conan. I also got ahold of this series called Katekyo Hitman Reborn. I’m currently binging it and I would have been reading it now if not for the errand that my sister had sent me.”

“Oh! I know that one! There’s an anime adaptation of the latter though. Have you watched it?”

“Yes. It was great. But they cut a lot of the scenes from the manga. It felt so incomplete for me.”

“Oh really? I haven’t gotten around to reading the manga though.”

“Yep.”

“Oh well. I’m still binging One Piece, and with my course load, I might have to just add it on my to read list.”

“Oh, you’re in college?”

“Yeah, third year IE.”

“You’re older than me?!”

“Uh, I guess so? Should I get offended by your reaction? Because I am getting offended.”

“Uh, w-wait no. Don’t get offended. It’s just that you look so young. And I should really be calling you Phi.”

“It’s okay. I was just messing with you. Are you also in college?”

“Yes P’Arthit. I’m a freshman in International Business program.”

“Oh…” Rich kid. “Which uni?”

“SSU.”

“What?! Are you serious?”

“Yes, P’. Why?”

“I also go there!”

“Really? What a coincidence, P’! Although, how could I not notice someone as cu—I mean someone like you?”

“What do you mean by that, Nong?”

“I mean, you’ve got presence so how come I haven’t noticed you before?”

“SSU is a large university, Nong. And our buildings are so far from each other. I also don’t venture to other buildings much.”

Their lively chat was interrupted by a call on the younger’s phone. Arthit watched the other as he talked, and he found himself admiring his profile. He just noticed it but the younger sure have a shapely jaw. He followed the line with his eyes then they roamed towards a high bridged nose and pink lips. He watched those lips, mesmerized, as they stretched into a grin, and oh god, he had a very beautiful smile. What is this I’m feeling?

He shook his thoughts mentally just in time as the younger ended the call. It wasn’t good to be caught ogling another man.

“Phi, I’m sorry, I have to go. That was my mom. I need to meet with her…”

“Okay, wait. I’ll help you get a cab.”

“No, no. No need for that, P’. I can manage, promise.”

“Please, N’Kongpob, let me? For my peace of mind?” Actually, Arthit didn’t want to part with the younger just yet. He didn’t understand why he was feeling melancholic with the impending departure of the younger. Whatever it was, he still wanted to spend just a little bit more time with him. Just a little bit.

“Okay, then P’, if you insist.”

“I do. Now c’mon. Let’s get you to the main road.”

--_--

Present Day

Kongpob’s POV

“We still have the musical scores to think about. Has anyone got any suggestions?” I asked.

I was on my third month back in Thailand and our gaming company was thriving and getting really known worldwide. The very first game that we launched had gained so much popularity that it catapulted us into success and made our company visible in the gaming world.

I set up the company three years back, with my friends Em, Oak and Tew, and they had managed to recruit the coding wizard, Wad. I provided some of the funds, from my sizeable inheritance that my maternal grandparents had given me, and Em had provided for the rest. That was why we agreed that we would share the CEO-ship of the company instead of just him, even though I wanted nothing to do with the position.

I wanted to be just an animator and create the lore behind the games, but he said “no Kongpob, this is your idea so you have to take responsibility. Deal with it”, and here I was, doing something that I don’t specifically enjoy. We HQ’ed at Bangkok, with him taking the reins  most of the past three years while I was still in the US, sorting out my family issues.

Speaking of family, I have to take Morgan from school, so I have to deal with this meeting for an hour or I’d be late. I didn’t want my princess to be the last one at school, waiting for me. I tuned in when our Sound Engineer, Prae, talked about a local orchestra.

She talked about them, they were kids actually, but they were hella talented. According to her, their mentor had been considered a musical genius, the eccentric lady choosing to teach children in her Native Land, instead of performing all over the world, where her fame and success were guaranteed. Well, I can somehow relate to her, in a way. All that glitter was just that, glitter. There was no substance to be found.

“How about we add a few tracks from rock bands too? Like those American Game franchises. We could compile some of the well known songs as soundtracks. It could be a good marketing strategy for us,” Maprang, the Head Artist, suggested. I nodded in thought. It was an interesting suggestion, but…

“How about commissioning the bands? It would be better in my opinion if the songs we choose would relate to the storyline; that they are made for the story.”

“Yes, yes! That’s a great idea boss! Okay, I should list down some of the hottest bands out there right now then contact their agencies. Ooh, this is gonna be interesting!”

“You’re just saying that because you wanted a chance to meet him,” Oak, one of our designers and Head Tester, called out Maprang. The other stuck out her tongue to Oak. I just raised my eyebrow and looked at Em, who sat beside me, and he shrugged in reply.

“Who are you talking about this time?” Tew, Head Level Designer, asked. I looked down at my notes and tried to tune them out as I needed to review what else was in the agenda. Some snippets managed to penetrate through my brain though, but it screeched to a halt when a band name popped up within their conversation. Hazing Daze.

“Guess they’re a big name, now, huh,” I murmured softly. I continued reading my notes, occasionally jotting down notes, an absent smile gracing my lips. I was lost within my work and reminiscence of the past that I didn’t notice the sudden silence that permeated the meeting room. I’ve only noticed it when I got to the point of Marketing Strategy, which we hadn’t discussed yet, that I tuned back in to their conversation. Or, you know, the lack thereof.

“What?” I asked confused.

“Well, I was talking about the hottest bands right now and I don’t know why they don’t want me to contact one of the chart toppers. Seriously, Tew, what’s wrong with Hazing Daze? They’re really a good band! They’re also those down to earth ones, very approachable, and their genre fits our—”

“Maprang just stop!” Tew snapped. All the time that Maprang had been talking, Tew was shaking his head at her. I watched on in interest, my focus especially on Tew.

“Why?!”

“Because—”

“Yes Tew, why?” I asked coolly. He looked at me guiltily, lost for words. I heaved a sigh.

“If they are really good, and a lot of people adore them, why not include them in our selection? There’s still the screening processes for the songs that we can use. If we could have them as our option, then why wouldn’t we consider them?” I asked. I had to be objective about his issue instead of letting my feelings make a mess of this situation and we lost a good opportunity for a good marketing strategy.

“Are you sure about this, Kong?” he asked. His usage of my nickname told me that he was asking as a friend. I met his worried gaze with a steady one of my own.

“Of course, Khun Tew. I’ve got no problem with it.” That was a lie. I did have a problem with it, namely a person who had a big role in that band, one that I was trying to avoid. But business was business. There was no room for personal issues in here and whether something discomfited me or not.

“Okay, if you’re sure. You can add them to your list, Maprang,” he conceded after one last worried look at me. I didn’t even want to look at Em, fearing that I’d also find the same look.

“Now I’m interested why you don’t like Hazing Daze. And why did it take Khun Kongpob’s opinion for you to change your mind?” Prae, said. I only heaved a deep sigh.

“Nothing that you should concern yourself about,” was Tew’s short answer.

“Aww, Tew. Why? D’you have something against my P’Arthit and his gang? Hey Prae, I think Tew is jealous of them. He probably lost a girlfriend to one of them, most likely to P’Arthit. Heard he’s a playboy. I wonder if it’s true?” Maprang mused. My grip on my pen tightened. Em noticed this and gently nudged my thigh with his thigh. I relaxed my grip on the object.

“My sister would fight you on that,” May, another Senior Artist and Em’s current love interest, added laughingly. “P’Arthit’s an angel, according to her. All the girlfriend claims about him were fake, and those ladies linked with him, he denied everything. The only thing that he didn’t deny was that report about P’Namtarn. I think that’s the only real relationship he had amongst all the rumors. Well, that’s according to my sister anyway. She’s a Freshie. I think she’s one of the leaders of their numerous fanclub, too.”

“What, really?”

“Yes, really,” May laughingly said.

My heart was clenching in my chest painfully at the mere mention of his name and his apparent ex. I sighed. I didn’t think I could ever get over him. Ever.

--_--

“Hazing Daze declined,” I heard Maprang say a week later when we were gearing up for a meeting between artists and head designer, which was me, effectively killing the hope that I didn’t know had sparked in my chest.

“Well, they are busy with their new album, you know. I heard that it will be released soon, and that talks of a chain of concerts is already circulating. My sister is already bugging me for pocket money and I know that she’s saving up most of it for the concert tickets,” May lamented.

“Well, I’m going, too! Let me chat with your sister. As a fellow Freshie, you know, we should stick together.”

“No way! Both of you will go absolutely crazy!”

“Come on, May, please!”

“No…”

“Hey May,” I called out. She turned to look at me questioningly. “Why don’t you ask Em for concert money? I’m sure he’ll happily provide for you, like the sugar daddy he is to you.”

She blushed as she glared at me.

“He’s not my sugar daddy!”

Maprang and I laughed. I momentarily forgot about the lost opportunity to see him.

--_--

Ten Years Ago

“Oof!”

“Ouch! Hey! Watch out--!”

“I’m sorry! I’m really sorr—P’Arthit?”

“Oi, N’Kongpob!”

“Oh my, we keep bumping into each other. Literally.”

“That’s a lame one.”

The younger laughed and Arthit felt his heart flutter. He has a melodic laugh, his mind supplied. He shook his head to rid of the thoughts.

“Are you okay though, P’Arthit? I’m sorry I wasn’t watching where I was going.”

“I’m okay really. The way I bumped into you was way more painful, I suppose.”

“Is this a competition?”

“Are you exacting revenge on me for crashing against you?”

“Hey, this is also an accident!”

“Well… We gotta stop meeting like this though. It hurts. Although what hurts the more right now is my bum.”

“Haha, that’s what I felt the first time we met.”

“Sorry!”

“Stop saying sorry. How about we call it even? No more saying sorry for the both of us.”

“But you haven’t said it as much as I did!”

“Again, this isn’t a competition, P’…”

“Fine, fine. I was just messing around. Anyway, where are you headed? Are you in a hurry?”

“Uhh, sort of? My friends are in the library and we’re supposed to do our group work.”

“Well then, don’t let me keep you.”

“Okay, P’. It was nice meeting you again even though the method of our meeting was less than convenient. See you around, P’! And again, I’m sorry!”

“It’s okay. Go.”

--_--

“Hey, P’. Fancy seeing you here.”

“I study here.” Arthit answered, deadpan. The younger laughed.

“Why are you here on your lonesome, though P’?”

“Hmm… well, my friends ditched me. They all went skirt chasing.”

“Well, why didn’t you go with them?”

“Too lazy. I’d rather sleep than go sit as a corner and judge women that passed by.”

“Oh so, those typical engineering boys that I’ve heard about. I thought that was just a myth though?

“Haha. No. Some still do it. Some are even purposely doing it just for the sake of keeping up that image of engineering boys.”

“You guys are so weird.”

“But we’re a fun bunch!”

“I know, I know. I’ve seen you with your friends actually and you seem like you all are having fun.”

“Wow, stalker much?”

“No. just… It’s just ever since I met you, I became hyperaware of you. I don’t know why but with just a flash of crimson workshop jacket, my eyes follow that, thinking that it was you.” The younger shrugged nonchalantly.

Arthit looked at the younger dumbly. He was amazed at how someone could just utter that so casually. If it was Arthit, he was sure to be a stuttering mess.

“Sorry, did that scare you off?” Kongpob said, sheepishly rubbing his nape. His silence must have gone for a little too long.

“U-uh, no. Not really. Uhm, do you really mean that?” he asked. The younger peeked at him then nodded, darting his eyes away again in embarrassment. Arthit felt… flattered? Yeah, he felt flattered that the younger was seeking him out unknowingly among the thousands of students, hundreds of which belonging to his faculty. He bit his lip, trying to stop the smile from blooming on his face. The bell rung in the distance and Kongpob reluctantly said his goodbyes.

“Uh, wait. Kongpob?” Arthit hastily said. He himself was confused why he stopped the younger, just that he had the feeling that he didn’t want to part with him yet. He scrambled to think of something to tell the younger.

“Yes P’?”

“Uhm. D’you wanna hang out sometime?” There, that was plausible right? Just friends hanging out with one another?

“Uhm sure, P’. I’d actually… like that.”

“Great!”

“Great…”

“Uhm, yeah, see ya!”

“Um, P’. Aren’t you forgetting something?”

“Hmm?”

“Details, P’. Of when and where we’re meeting up. Or if you haven’t had anything planned, then how about exchanging numbers so we could come to an agreement?”

“Oh! Right, right. Here, let me put my number on your phone…”

--_--

They hung out the next Saturday, and they bonded over mangas and animes, trading collectibles and books. They made the effort to see each other when they have the extra time, growing closer by the day. They also texted each other, chatting with each other in social media, or calling each other just to know how the other was doing. They didn’t notice it, but their feelings for each other grew; it grew and ran deep, deeper than any friendship.

It was one fateful day, when they were hanging out by the skatepark, that one of them realized it.

Kongpob couldn’t stop laughing at one of Arthit’s numerous stories about his and his friends’ misadventures. Arthit had been laughing with him, until he wasn’t. Until he was just staring at the younger with a softer look on his face. Until his heart felt like bursting at the sight of the other’s smile. The sky was getting dark with rainclouds, yet in Arthit’s eyes, the whole world was bright and beautiful and Kongpob was the one lighting it up. That was when he realized that, shit, he was in love—

“I think I’m in love with you,” he blurted out breathlessly. Kongpob sobered up and stared at him with wide eyes. Arthit realized his mistake and he froze, staring at the younger like a deer caught in the headlights. The first fat drop of precipitation woke him up.

“I-I’m sorry!” and he ran away. He didn’t heed where he was going nor the younger’s shout of his name. He just ran, ran, ran, ran and ran, until he was out of breath. He leaned his side by a large tree to catch his breath. By then, the skies had opened up, and Arthit laughed, humorless, at how the sky seemed to cry with him at the possible loss of a beautiful friendship because of his stupidity and lack of brain-to-mouth filter. His laughter had turned into sobs as he let the tears go, since the tears were hidden by the raindrops, right? No one would know that he cried. But he couldn’t even have that small time of wallowing because then, someone was yanking him backwards and he yelped, and then—

A pair of warm lips were on his, and another pair of warm brown eyes were glaring at him. His face was framed by warm tan hands, the thumbs rubbing soothing circles on his cheekbones, and he was melting, oh god, he was melting…

He closed his eyes and savored the mouth that was on his, tilting his head slightly to the right to slot their lips better, just like what he had seen in the movies. His lower lip was being sucked and nipped and he copied the action on the upper lip that was between his.

Then there was something wet, slimy, probing the inside of his mouth and he squeaked, opening his eyes immediately, meeting brown ones behind half-mast lids and he was reassured. He poked his tongue to the younger’s, curiously, cautiously, and then he became bolder. He didn’t close his eyes this time, and he was looking at the younger’s expression as he let his tongue explore the other’s wet cavern.

Rainwater mixed in with their combined tastes but he didn’t care. He was still kissing the one he had unwittingly confessed to just a few minutes ago, thinking that it could’ve ended way worse. He could’ve been punched, although Kongpob didn’t strike him as the type to be homophobic.

He had to separate from the younger when the need for air was imperative. They panted against each other, hands roaming on each other’s bodies, still in their intimate embrace.

“What was that for?” Arthit asked breathlessly, his eyes looking at swollen red lips.

“What do you think, P’Arthit?” the younger answered with an eyeroll, which earned him a slap from the Arthit.

“Stop being sarcastic for a sec, will you? I want definite answers. Do you like me too?”

“No—” Arthit deflated at this. “—I don’t just like you, P’Arthit. I love you. I think I’ve loved since that day you crash landed on top of me. Or maybe the days after that, I don’t really know. All I know is that you are one hell of a guy and I just, just drawn into you. Like a moth into a flame.”

“I’m just an ordinary guy. You—”

“You’re really not, P’. I know you don’t even notice this but a lot of people take notice of you. You are someone warm and bright, P’Arthit, and I am one of those who are drawn to your light. Like your namesake. Believe in yourself more, P’.”

And Arthit believed him, he couldn’t help it. Right that moment, leaning against the tree, getting drenched in mid-summer rain, he believed him. Until the present, he believed him, even though at some point, he thought of him as a liar. But in the end, he still chose to believe him.

--_--

Present Day

It was pouring outside. The rain was battering against the floor to ceiling window of the office. He stopped to watch as the rain continued to leave a steady staccato against the glass and he smiled. He smiled, reminiscing that one particular day, when he was caught in the rain, along with his love. He had chased after his sun then. But now… he didn’t. Did he even still have the right to say his name? He had hurt his love, so bad, and his hurt had reflected on his songs on their second album, the one that catapulted them into nationwide fame. He kept listening to that particular album, punishing himself for what he had done, and for what he had not. (He didn’t know what hurt more, the ones he did, or the ones he didn’t do.)

“Kongpob?” He was interrupted from musings when a voice called out to him softly. He looked at the reflection of his visitor and he fought the urge to stiffen up.

“Yes, P’Rome?” he asked amicably. He had once greeted the older in a much warmer voice but he couldn’t seem to muster that even though he had well, and truly forgiven him.

“Uh, your secretary said that you were still here. Uhm, may I come in?” Well, it seemed like he wasn’t the only one who was walking on eggshells.

“Yes, P’. Of course.” He turned back around and went for his desk, seating himself at his comfortable chair. He gestured at the seat in front of his table, which Rome took. “You’re my cousin, after all. So, what brings you here, P’?”

He watched as Rome squirmed a bit in his seat.

“I-I—here!” the older reached for something in his bag and slapped what seemed to be a piece of paper on the glass of his desk.

“What’s this?” he asked curiously, reaching for the rectangular thing… only to freeze when he saw what it was. He closed his eyes tightly as his heart began to race and he struggled to regulate his breathing. Opening his eyes, he leveled the other with a glare, which Rome met with his own defiant one.

“Why,” he asked in a controlled voice.

“Don’t you want to see him?”

“I don’t want to dig up skeletons, P’Rome. Let it be, already. We’re both living our own lives. Peacefully, might I add. Let’s not stir it up, shall we?” he said tiredly.

“Kong… Please, both of you are hurting. I can still see it in your eyes.”

“How will you know what he feels, P’Rome?”

“I… I’m acquainted with him…” Kongpob glared at the older and he scrambled to explain himself.

“You see, after the announcement of your marriage, I went to find him. I asked for his forgiveness and told him everything. Everything, Kong. He knows everything. I couldn’t get myself to accept your marriage with that girl so I had hoped that he could go and rescue you from them. But… he didn’t believe me. At first. And by the time he came around, it was already too late. You were already married and your wife was expecting. So. That was around when their first successful tour was over. He poured out all his frustration into their second album. I know that you’re following them, Kong. I know, don’t deny it. I saw all of their albums at your new house. Morgan also likes them because of your influence, I guess. So yeah, I know that you’re still not over him, and I know for a fact he’s still not over you. That’s why I’m here to give you a nudge. Give your love story another chance, please, and live happily again. I missed seeing you smile, your real smile. Stop this avoidance nonsense already and just go see the man.”

“P’… I-I can’t. I did him wrong, and I-I…”

“Kongpob, listen to me. You didn’t do anything wrong, you hear me? Nothing. You were a victim, too, with the games that we played. I’m so sorry about it, Nong. But I can’t change the past. All I can do now is to fix the present so you could have your future with him, the future that was supposed to be yours. Please. Give yourself the chance to fall in love again. With him, preferably.”

“…but I never fell out of love.”

“See! Ju—”

“But that doesn’t mean that he still loves me.” Kongpob smiled sadly. Rome groaned in frustration.

“That’s why, you have to go to this concert! Then you’ll have your proof that he still loves you. Jeez. That’s what I have been telling you for the past few minutes!”

“Well, how can a concert prove that he still loves me? He will be up there on stage and I’ll just be another face among the hundreds of people who’s going to the concert.”

“Just… Just go, okay? You will know when you get there, I promise. Go, okay? Don’t miss this chance.”

There was something in his cousin’s tone of voice that told Kongpob that there was more into this concert than the normal ones and that P’Rome was privy to it. He stared at the other suspiciously as the older scurried away towards the exit.

“Oh! I almost forgot to give this to you,” Rome said when he had the door opened, rummaging into his bag again for something. He retraced his steps towards Kongpob, and set the squarish object down on his desk. It was a Hazing Daze album. He picked it up. Upon closer inspection, it was something unfamiliar to him?

Your Smile… Is this new?” he took his gaze from the CD case towards his cousin.

“Yep. It was released some time last month. Or was that last, last month? That’s what the concert is all about. They’re promoting their album. The first one’s gonna be here at Bangkok, then they’re gonna head to other parts of the country.”

“Oh.”

“Go to the concert, okay?” With that parting words, Rome was gone from the office.

Kongpob didn’t even notice, his mind already contemplating whether or not he will go to the concert. He looked at the album and turned it around. He read the tracklist, his eyes widening when they fell on not one, but four familiar titles. His heart started to beat wildly in his chest again as he shakily removed the plastic wrap of the CD. He popped open the player of his PC and inserted the disk, then wore his headphones as he navigated though his music player application with shaky hand. He clicked on one particular track, and the familiar notes began to filter through.

I have a confession to make

You don’t know this but I,

I am such an uncool person

Acting like a fool person

Yeah that’s what I am

I have a confession to make

Remember that day beside the lake

On the park where I’ve always skated

I think our meeting was fated

Destiny tripping me over you

And I, Oh I

Was a stut-tut-ttering mess

Palms cold and sweaty kind of mess

Always in a daze

He began to cry without him knowing. Silent tears cascaded like twin waterfalls from his shining eyes as he stared at nothing on his screen. He was lost, so lost in his memories, all the good things, all the bad things, and his heart was clenching so tight. His tears became less silent as he sniffled and gasped, until sobs began to wrack his frame, growing more powerful with every stuttering breath he took.

A hand shook him violently and he stared helplessly through blurry eyes at the person. Em. His best friend tried to yank the headphones away but he didn’t let him.

“NO!” he screamed hysterically, grasping the device like his life depended on it.

Em got shocked with his tone of voice. He had never, ever, heard Kongpob like that. He rounded his friend’s table, going beside the other as the sobs continued. He peered at the screen to see what set him off, and got more confused when he saw that only the music player was running. He thought… He never really thought of anything. By then, Kongpob had his hands tightly clutching the seat of his chair between his thighs. His head was bowed as his shoulders shook hard with how violent his sobs were.

Em crouched down to look at his best friend but the other had his eyes scrunched shut, tears being squeezed out and falling towards the carpeted floor.

“Hey, I heard someone shout, is everyone okaaaaaa yeah, no. What, what’s happening?” Em heard someone say, and he straightened up to address the other.

“Maprang, can you go grab me a glass of water please? Hurry up,” he ordered urgently as he looked for that Bluetooth connector for the headphones. He found it and then pulled it out, the music and a familiar voice piercing through the air. He saw Maprang start at the voice, a question on her face. Em stiffened for a moment then mouthed at her to go.

“Goddamnit Em! Why can’t you just leave me alone!” Kongpob screamed shrilly, ripping the headphones off and throwing it on the floor, making the girl jump in surprise. Then he buried his face on his hands, shaking off Em’s hand that was on his shoulder.

As Maprang scurried off, preferably to finally do what he asked her to do, Em crouched down again and laid his hand on the other’s thigh.

“Talk to me, Kong. C’mon. Am I not your best friend? It hurts to see you like this, you know.”

“…ry. S-sorry. ‘M s-sorry. ‘M sor-rry, Sorry. S-sorry...”

“Hey, no. Stop apologizing. You didn’t do anything wrong. You didn’t, okay. Is this a new song?” he coaxed, to which the other nodded.

“Y-yes. I-it’s their new a-album. A-and.. a-and, Em…” Another round of sobs wracked his best friend’s frame and he rose on his knees to rub his back.

“That’s the song, Em. That’s the song.”

“What song? The one that’s playing?”

“Yes.”

Em listened to the lyrics of the song, really listened, looking for a clue as to what set Kongpob off.

“—fession to make

You still hold my heart ‘til today

Even though you’re far away now

I hope you’re happy there now

I’m sorry I never got to say

How much I love you.”

The final notes of the song sounded then tapered off, leaving a break in between, until a new song played, a more upbeat one than the previous. He hit the space key to pause the song.

“What about that song?” Em asked, even though he had an inkling what it was. Something about songs being written for a younger Kongpob, how his best friend had glowed when he told him about it in what seemed like a lifetime ago.

“That’s the song. The one he wrote for me. That’s my song, Em.”

He heard the other’s breath hitch again and he shushed him, rubbing his back in a comforting manner.

“Em, P’Rome came here. Just now. And. And—hah—he gave me this a-and a concert ticket. For him. For his band. H-he told me to just a-attend the concert, t-that he still l-lo—hah—still loves m-me. t-that I will f-find proof of t-this when I… I go to the c-concert. I d-don’t want to hope, E-Em—”

“Here’s the water, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for barging in but here’s the water. I’ll be leaving this here,” Maprang cut off and Em had never wanted to strangle someone ever at that instant. He could sense Kongpob closing in on himself and he couldn’t have that.

“We’ll go to the concert,” he said, flashing his eyes at Maprang and gesturing his head towards the door. The other complied quietly, shooting a final worried look towards Kongpob. At his friend’s whining negative answer, he turned back to the hunched man. He found wide red-rimmed eyes peeking through long slender fingers.

Kongpob shook his head vehemently at him. He heaved a sigh and reached for the glass of water.

“Here, drink this first.” He watched with hawk-eyes as his best friend gulped the offered water. After replacing the half-emptied glass on the desk, he set on convincing the other again.

“Look, Kong. I think you’d better go to this one—” Kongpob started to shake his head again.

“You know that I can’t after all that happened—”

“Why not?! None of it was your fault!”

“You don’t understand! What if he doesn’t want to see me, huh?! I can’t let myself hope just to be heartbroken in the end, because I don’t think I can survive it, Em. I already have someone depending on me, and I don’t want to break completely. I don’t want to be broken beyond repair, I’m afraid to be that, because then, what will happen to me and my daughter, huh? I want to give my best to my daughter and I can’t do that with a broken me, Em, I just can’t.”

“Kong… you’re only dwelling on the negative side of the 'what if’s'. How about you see the positive side, huh? Those 'what if’s' can go both ways, I know, but with all this, with P’Rome giving you these items, I think the more positive ‘what if’ is the outcome of this. Kong, he is also putting himself out there, for you. He’s waiting for you, Kong. Your song being included in this new album, I think it’s a clear message that he is reaching out to you. Both of you had hurt for such a long time already. Don’t you think that it’s time for you to stop all of it? The ball is in your court now, Kong. I’m purchasing a ticket to the concert, just in case. You’re not going there alone.”

Kongpob rubbed his hands against his face, wiping away the traces of the tears he’d shed. Em offered him a tissue and he used it to blow his nose. He took a deep breath and let it out noisily through his mouth, slumping against the back of his chair. He stared at the ceiling for a while, contemplating his options and the ramifications of his actions.

“I’ll consider about going, okay? Let me think about it,” he said, finally looking at his best friend in the eye.

“Thank you. That’s all I ask,” answered Em. He cracked a small smile.

“By the way, buy tickets for May’s sister, too. May had mentioned last time that her sister was sure to bug her for pocket money just so she could save up for the concert. You’ll earn yourself a cookie point for that.”

“Really?! Oh my, I should get tickets now.”

“Wait, contact P’Rome. I don’t know if they began selling yet or if it’s already sold out. You should ask where he got mine.”

“Okay, okay, thanks buddy!”

“I should be the one thanking you, Em. Thank you for always being there for me, through the ups and downs. I owe you a lot.”

“It’s okay, Kong. It’s what brothers do, isn’t it?”

--_--

Ten Years Ago

“What do you mean he left?! P’, answer me!”

“He left for the States, Arthit. All of them. Our grandpa had been receiving treatment there and he’s too old for the constant travelling from Thailand to US.”

“But why did Kong have to go with them, P’?! He didn’t have to! He has his life here, too!” ‘He has me,’ he didn’t say. “And you, P’. Why weren’t you obligated to go too? He’s your grandfather too, so why are you here, P’?”

“Nong, you must understand that they’re the first family, the ones that got to run the company and inherit most of the assets. Kongpob is the heir. You don’t leave the heir to a major conglomerate living alone while you and your family is in another country.”

“But not a lot of people is aware of how he looked nor his name! What harm could It do?”

“Plenty, Nong. And there’s a reason why he’s lived in anonymity for most of his life. He was kidnapped when he was still a child, N’Arthit, and that’s why there is some sort of a media blackout with his identity. He is protected that much.”

“But P’…”

“Let him go, Nong. I’m sorry.”

“But P’, didn’t he leave any letter for me or something? Anything P’? Even just a note?”

Rome felt so bad with this. So, so, bad.

“…N-no, N’Arthit. H-he didn’t leave anything.”

He saw the tears threatening the usually cheerful younger male and he nearly blurted out the truth right then and there. But the image of his ailing mother came to mind and he held his tongue. I’m sorry, N’Kongpob, N’Arthit. I’m really sorry. But my Mae…

“I’ll be off then, Nong. That’s all I wanted to say.”

He left the younger man standing in the middle of the campus park, the younger man that had his heart breaking apart. He hated his part in separating the two, hated that he had to steal the younger’s phone so that his cousin could not call him and reveal the lie that the people from his disgusting family had spun, hated that he had to break two innocent hearts who only yearned to be with each other, to love one another, the emotion between them pure and beautiful.

He hated that he had to think of his ailing mother, and how his uncle had offered help to his mother in exchange for something, and not like offer it as a heartfelt help because she was his sister and not a stranger. He hated his extended family, his mother the only person he had now after his father died, and he couldn’t afford to lose her. Without her, he’d be alone at being the pariah of his own family, because they had never accepted him nor his father, no, not really. He had to save his mother, because she’s all that he had left.

…he was blinded to see that his cousin, whom he had hurt so much that day, would accept him wholeheartedly as his own family, regardless of what the others would tell him. He failed him, and he hated it.

--_--

The number you have dialed is either unattended or out of coverage area. Please try your call later.

The number you have dialed is either unattended or out of coverage area. Please try your call later.

The number you have dialed is either unattended or out of coverage area. Please try your call later.

The number you’ve dialed is not in use. The number you’ve dialed is not in use. The number you’ve—

--_--

K: P’Arthit, are you angry? I’m sorry I haven’t had a time to call you. Things had been hectic since we arrived. We had to stay at the hospital with my grandpa, and with mom and dad managing the company, it was me who was with grandpa most of the time. I also kinda lost my phone for the past two weeks. I didn’t know where I put it but then I found it at mom’s purse. I found it weird, but she said that she got it while she had been cleaning, and she meant to give it back but I guess she forgot.

By the way, have you gotten my letter? I left it with P’Rome. Our new address here in the US is there. You could, maybe, write me a letter or something? Maybe I’ll write you one, too. But. Wait you’ll be leaving for your internship.

Anyway, let’s just chat on facebook, P’, so that you won’t be burdened with the roaming charges for the text messages. Whoops, this text had gotten way too long. Talk to you via facebook, okay? love u lots.

--_--

Arthit Rojnapat

[account deactivated]

--_--

Eight Years Ago

“How could you do this to me?! You--! You lied to me! You, my most trusted people, had lied to me! Why did you have to do that huh?! Because you can’t accept that I fell in love with a man? Because he’s just an ordinary middle class son? Or is it both? Well, I’m sorry but the man I love cannot change his gender nor to whom he was born. But you know what? I think P’Arthit’s parents are way better than you are because at least for them, they accepted me for their son. Even though I am a boy. Do you know what they said? They said that they didn’t care as long as we both love each other and we will never hurt each other. But guess what? I hurt their son. I hurt their precious son so much that I don’t have the courage to face them. And that’s all thanks to you! I hate you! I hate this family who only thinks about status and riches and all the possible embarrassment if I brought in a middles class man as my partner—”

“ENOUGH!”

“YES! ENOUGH! I HAD ENOUGH OF YOU! STRIKE OUT MY NAME FROM THE FAMILY REGISTER, PLEASE! I don’t want to be a part of this family anymore!”

“Kongpob, get back in here! Kongpob!”

“Kongpob, please my son, I’m sorry! Forgive mom, please…”

“Kannika, don’t beg. If he wants to run away from his responsibilities as a Suthiluck then let him. I don’t need an ingrate as a son!”

*SLAP*

“How could you say that, Kerkkrai. He’s your son and we are in the wrong. Accept that what you and you father did was wrong. I was also wrong for going along with your plans even though I knew that it would hurt my son. I should’ve never agreed with you. I should’ve never…”

“Well, it’s too late for that now. AS of the moment, we need to find a way to get that merger underway or the company will sink further…”

“Komen advised against taking that big project, but you didn’t listen! Why can’t you listen to someone for once in your life? All you ever did was say yes to your father! You’re too old for that, don’t you think?”

“Father is always right—”

“No he’s not! He’s just proven that he’s not right and now we’re gonna lose everything!”

“Kannika—”

“No, Kerkkrai. Let’s just stop this. Please. I’m tired of all the fighting. We’ll talk again tomorrow.”

--_--

“Oh, wow. I’ve hit the jackpot tonight.”

“Hmm? What do you mean, Boon?”

“See that hottie, over there? The one drinking in his lonesome at the bar? I remember him from one of my parent’s functions. He’s the Suthiluck heir and he’s supposed to be my hubby. Yummy, right?”

“Oh wow, he’s hot”

“Back off, Kate. He’s already mine.”

“So you’re engaged now?”

“Not yet. I think he’s resisting his parents.”

“Oh? So he’s still free real estate, then.”

“Bitch, I said back off. You thirsty hoes back off my man. Especially you Jess.”

“Aw c’mon! If you really want him, you gotta stake your claim over him!”

“I will, soon.”

“Soon is not tonight. So let me enjoy him for tonight, yeah?”

“I said back off Jess.”

“You know, if he’s resisting, why don’t you make him your baby daddy? You know, so that he will be yours faster.”

“Huh. That’s not a bad idea. Good job, Jane. And it looks like this is the perfect opportunity, girls.”

“Yeah, he’s already swaying. Hey, drag him up to your room.”

“Hmm, with pleasure.”

--_--

“N’Arthit! You’ve got to stop him! He’s making a huge mistake, Arthit, please!”

“Huh? What are you doing here, P’Rome?”

“N’Arthit, there’s no time. You’ve got to pack your bags. We’ve got a wedding to stop!”

“What? Whose wedding?”

“Kongpob’s!”

“…”

“…”

“P’. let him. I don’t care anymore about him.”

“I lied, okay?! I fucking lied! He didn’t just leave you without any sort of goodbye. He was willing to try long distance relationship with you even though it will hurt at times!”

“I don’t believe you. He left without saying goodbye. That’s pretty much a break up to me.”

“His parents didn’t let him get anywhere near you, Nong. They wanted for their son to never associate with you again.”

“…what?”

“They don’t want you for their son, that’s why they took him away from you. T-they made me steal your phone, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry...”

“P’Rome…?

“I’m sorry, Nong. I’m so sorry. A-and Kongpob, he left you a letter. Wait, I have it always with me. Here. This is his letter for you.”

“P’? How could you…?”

“I’m sorry Nong, I’m really, really sorry. I hate myself for this, I really do.”

“Then why…?

“Because… no never mind. I still shouldn’t have done what I did.”

“..”

“…”

“Nong?”

“I still won’t go and stop his wedding. It’s been two years and now he’s moved on. This doesn’t change anything at the present except for the fact that he didn’t leave me without a proper goodbye. That he hadn’t fallen out of love before he left. Thank you for this, P’. I’ll keep this among the mementos I have of him.”

“But, N’Arthit, we really need to stop the wedding! She’s not the right one for him! I know her reputation and she will only hurt him! Not to mention that their union is an arranged one. Kongpob never loved her, N’.”

“P’, leave it. arranged or not, it will not change anything. His parents won’t still like me and the society will still judge us, just like how his parents did. I’m trying to move on P’. And besides, I can’t just leave behind my friends, band mates, my second family. Our album is already successful and I don’t plan on stopping at one. I’m really sorry P’, but I think I will have to let him go.”

--_--

“I do!”

“…I do.”

--_--

Present Day

Kongpob’s POV

The excitement and anticipation was tangible in the air as we made our way inside the venue. For their opening concert, the venue was already fully packed. We had to squeeze our way in, with me clinging to Em’s shirt, while he held on tight to May and I held May’s sister, June’s, hand. We settled in our places, with June moving next to her sister while Em and I stuck close together.

“You okay?” he leaned in to whisper to me. Too close.

“Yeah,” I said, leaning away slightly. “I’m so glad that mom had volunteered to babysit Morgan.”

“Yeah, didn’t they go to Chiang Rai? To your grandparents’ house?”

“Yep. They really adore her.”

“…With your father in tow?”

“…Yeah”

“Okay, good luck to your father. This is his karma now. Anyway, why are you wearing… that? We’re not here to rob a bank, Kong. We’re here to watch a concert. Why’d you choose a black hoodie, with a black baseball cap? Oh, do you need a black face mask too?”

“Fuck you, Em. I just like wearing hoodies, okay?”

“Nah. I think you’re just a sissy and you’re afraid that he will find you. There are hundreds of people here, Kong. It would be like finding a needle in a haystack.”

I turned to glare at him through my black rimmed glasses.

“Weren’t you the one who had been pushing me to go to this concert? And now you’re telling me that he won’t notice my presence at all because of the audience bulk.”

The bastard had the audacity to laugh. Can I slug him just this one time?

“How about we take a picture then both of us will post this on our social medias? Let’s put in a hashtag too! Hashtag Hazing Daze Concert.”

“Whatever. Do it quick.”

He took a few of shots of us and several other more with the two girls. Then he got to his social medias and posted those pics. I also did the same, hesitating for a second at the upload option before saying, ‘fuck it’ then I posted it.

“There, are you happy now?” I asked Em, shoving my phone near his face, making him cross-eyed for a few seconds before slapping my hand away.

“Bastard,” he murmured.

--_--

Third person POV

 

“He’s here. Arthit, he’s here!”

“What, what, where?!”

“Look, he posted something on his social media!”

“Huh? Bright, you’re… friends in social media?”

“Nope! This is my baby Rome’s phone. He asked me to check it every now and then to specifically stalk his cousin.”

“Bright! Don’t do that! It’s bad enough that P’Rome practically forced his cousin to attend the concert.”

“He begged him, not forced.”

“Yeah, but his method was like emotional blackmailing.”

“Nnnnnnope. He still hasn’t forced him. He could very well just have given his concert ticket to another fan but here he is, in all his, hmm, robber glory. Hey, is your boyfriend planning to rob a bank?”

“He’s not my boyfriend. Yet. He’s still looks so handsome. How come he looks so good and handsome so effortlessly?!”

“You’re just biased because you’re in love with him.”

“I-uh- No! look at him, he rocks this robber get up.”

“Whipped, Arthit. You’re so whipped.”

--_--

Kongpob’s POV

Screams filled the air as the band appeared on stage. I didn’t even register the deafening sound, didn’t register the jostling that the jumping of people around did to me, didn’t register Em’s gentle nudges to my side. All I ever registered was his face, his voice, his everything. God, he really was an angel. Wait, no. He really was the sun, shining brilliantly on stage, warming me up from the inside out with his presence alone. I basked in it. Then he began to sing.

I cracked a smile, as familiar words flowed through the air. Countless of times had I heard of this song from all the times I played the CD’s, or sometimes their vinyl. I started to enjoy the concert, cracking a smile at my best friend to reassure him. We both started to sing along, in time with the band and all the concert-goers, enjoying ourselves and forgetting about our problems for the time being.

That was, until they started playing songs from the album they were promoting, and P’Arthit just had to start with THE SONG. His introduction though… Em had been right. It was the positive side of what if.

“Okay, can I have some silence please? Please? Come on, Freshies, don’t make me use my hazing voice, now.”

“YEEEESSSSSS!”

“Oh, oh, okay. Should’ve expected that.”

I watched him straighten his posture, his back turning rigid with his feet shoulders apart. His hands rested at the small of his back as the whole stadium screamed their lungs out. He visibly took a deep breath then—

“FRESHIES! BEHAVE! I WANT SOME QUIET!”

The effect was instantaneous. A hush enveloped the stadium and he looked over the people slowly, a pleased expression on his face. Then he loosened his posture, affecting a relaxed stance instead.

“Now, that’s better. I have something important to say so listen until the end, okay? Okay. Hah. In a short while, we’ll gonna be starting our set from the new album that we released. Let me just tell you about the album, okay? Here’s a little fun fact about it. Every song in the album was written years ago. Ten years to be exact. It had been edited and polished now but the very first versions of them were written at that time.

And, most of the tracks… they were written for a certain person, a certain Nong of mine. It’s been ten years already and I decided to be less of a coward. So this. I decided to release these songs that I had been keeping close to my heart, songs that were never meant to be out there because they are precious and they belonged to that Nong only. Well, desperate times call for desperate measures. The songs that were never meant to be published is now a record so that I can get my Nong’s attention. It seemed like I succeeded.”

My heart began beating so hard, in trepidation or excitement, I didn’t know. His smile was so wide, and I can see that he was genuinely happy. I have this irrational thought in my mind that he wasn’t referring to me, that he must be referring to someone else, someone he had met a few days, or a few weeks after we left for the States, that yeah, that must be it.

“Nong! Listen up! I know you’re here. I saw your post, you know. By the way, I’m not gonna mention your choice of wardrobe right now. It’s atrocious. There’s no bank to be robbed right here.”

Em jabbed his elbow against my side, hard. I glared at him.

“I… Thank you for coming here, for coming to see me, see us, right now. It means a lot to me. And, it made me so fucking happy, oh my god, I think I’m gonna cry. Dammit Nong! Why do you always make me cry? I, the fates had been cruel to us for these past ten years, Nong. Both of us had been hurt.”

I ducked my head to hide the forming tears in my eyes. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself because I’m afraid that people will connect the dots, and I wasn’t sure if I was ready for that kind of mayhem yet.

“I want to stop hurting and longing for you, Nong. And I am taking your presence here that I have some sort of a chance with you, that you still would like to be with me, that you would also like to stop this cat and mouse game, even though we’re already on the same country for a few months now. Yes, Nong. I know when you landed in Thailand, and before someone of you think that I’m creepy, well. My Nong and I have nosy friends and they were the ones updating me, and I didn’t even need to ask for it.

Nong, I want you to know, that I still have your copy of the volume 287 and 62 of One Piece. I am holding them hostage for now until you come get them. You will receive my address later. I’ll ask that so called nosy friend of ours to pass it on. You can give me your answer then.

Well, now. I think I’ve said too much. Let’s continue on to our concert!!”

“Yeeeeeeeeaaaaaaahhhhh!”

“Oh, sorry. But another trivia. This song, with a mouthful of words as its title, is called “The Things I wanted To Say (But Never Had The Chance)”. This is actually my song for my Nong. This is his.”

“Arthit! You idiot!”

“Wha? OOPS!”

I facepalmed at how careless he had been. Way to go, P’Arthit, for your way of coming out.

“Well, I already came out as bisexual during the last Pride, so. HAPPY PRIDE MONTH EVERYONE! Let’s start!”

He strummed his guitar, then the others followed. He got closer to the mike then started to croon out the lyrics.

“I have a confession to make

You don’t know this but I,

I am such an uncool person

Acting like a fool person

Yeah, that’s what I am

I have a confession to make

Remember that day beside the lake

On the park where I always skated

I think our meeting was fated

Destiny tripping me over you

And I, Oh I

Was a stut-tut-ttering mess

Palms cold and sweaty kinda mess

Always in a daze

I have a confession to make

Your eyes they shine like the brightest stars

I could always get lost within them

And never really wanted to be found

I have a confession to make

Your smile is always mesmerizing

Always so dazzling

My heartstings are beating fast

Whenever you are near

And I, oh I

Was a stut-tut-ttering mess

Hands shaking kind of mess

Always in a daze

I have a confession to make

You still hold my heart ‘til today

Even though you’re far away now

I hope you’re happy there now

I’m sorry I never got to say

How much I love you.”

--_--

The concert was more than successful, with the highlight being, well you’ve guessed it right: P’Arthit’s confession onstage. Also, for the record, any doubt in my mind that my P’Arthit was referring to me and not someone else was banished when he talked about the One Piece mangas. I was missing those two from my collection and I knew that he borrowed it years ago. I’m glad he didn’t throw them away when I left.

I’ve received a message from P’Rome, confirming my hunch that he was the ‘nosy friend’, a short “be there” message along with what I assumed to be P’Arthit’s place and a time… only a time. One am. Uhm. I couldn’t help but think about the things that usually happened at one in the morning, all of them not-so innocent thoughts. I blushed. A stray though visited my mind: ‘aren’t we moving a little too fast?’

“I wonder who he is?” June said loudly as we managed to get out of the gates, finally. It broke me out of my musings.

“I would also like to know that, sis!” a stranger said, having heard June’s musings. This started a plethora of hypotheses from June and the other girl and they gained the attention of other people. Some started to flock closer to the duo, prompting more to join, until there was a sizeable group talking excitedly with one another.

I looked at Em and May respectively to ask for their help in extracting June from the crowd, but Em was pretty much useless because he was staring at where May still had her hand looped around his arm. May at least offered a helpless shrug. Another chime from my phone broke me out of my bemused staring at the group of fans who were chittering excitedly.

I opened up the message and it was another one from P’Rome. He said that P’Arthit was a nervous wreck and would I be willing to be fetched by him?

“So, are you going?” I jumped as Em whispered near my ear. I shot him a look of irritation. He looked at me with concern though and I couldn’t let myself be annoyed at him.

“Well, I would but the time bothers me. Who would want to meet with someone at one am? Serial killers and those who are looking for a good time, that’s who.”

“And you didn’t even think that they could, I dunno, singers who just had a successful concert and can only meet at one am because they still had to stay on site for god knows what else? C’mon Kong, you’re just being a coward again.”

“I’m not,” I hissed. I noticed May looking at us curiously, and then she started to look me up and down. That was why I saw the moment when something in her mind clicked into place. She stared wide-eyed at me then. I shook my head at her in negation. She only raised an eyebrow though.

“Control May. I’m not ready yet, for the public scrutiny and media fiasco that this will surely turn into once they get wind of my identity.”

“Okay. But that is if you will go?” he asked hopefully.

“I am going.”

I’ve decided. I think it was time to follow my heart now. P’Arthit was right. I think it’s time to finally cut the longing and just be with him already. It was clear that he wanted me still, and I know for myself that I wanted him, so much. I tapped my phone and composed a message, sending it afterwards.

K: Tell P’Arthit that I’ll be there. I’ll take your suggestion and ride with you, P’. 

I don’t want to wait outside his place just for the paps to take ahold of my picture.

R: Okay. I got his door code. Where are you?

K: Main entrance, P’

R: I’m coming there. Wait for me.

K: Okay, P’. Thanks.

--_--

P’Rome left me behind at his place and I had half a protest on the tip of my tongue, but then the door was slamming shut. I stood at the hallway awkwardly, not knowing what to do since I felt that I was invading someone else’s space. But with still an hour left before the meeting time and nothing else to do, I decided to look around the place.

I went to the living room and I studied the place, finding some traces of his past self, incorporated with newer elements. For instance, there were tasteful accents of red, not too much for it to be annoying and an eyesore, but enough that the viewer could conclude that the main theme of the interior design revolved around the hue. His favorite color. There were also trinkets, ones that I recognized as a fan of animes and mangas, but would probably be seen as only a part of the general design by other people.

The newer elements included plaques of recognition and musical accents, the part of the design that were easily more recognizable as part of him. There were also several abstract paintings on the wall, one of those modern arts where the paint on the brush was left to fade, and straight lines traversing across the canvas, instead of the classical style of solid strokes and bold colors.

I studied the painting, looking at the signature briefly and finding them somewhat familiar. There was something about the series of paintings though, and the more I looked at them, the more that I see them… moving? No, flowing. Each canvas had their paints flow towards the next, and the way they were positioned on the wall too, they were deliberate, so as to let the paintings flow towards the other. Like some sort of a river. Neat.

I followed the path, slowly, admiring the paints on each and every one. The sequence ended at a door, at the end of the hallway. I was itching to open that door, to discover what lay beyond it, but this wasn’t my home. The master of the house was barely my acquaintance, because after all these years, that was what our relationship had been reduced to, mere acquaintances.

My hand hesitated at the knob, my curiosity warring with my respect of privacy. I took off my hand from the handle only to put it back again. What a dilemma. I must’ve been standing there for quite a while, being indecisive, because one moment, everything was silent in the flat, and the next there was a baritone chuckle from behind me, making me jump and shout in surprise.

“Are you trying to steal from me, Mr. Robber? Then might I suggest the bedroom at the opposite side of this one? That’s where my valuables are.”

“O-oh! Uhm. Huh. P-P’Arthit. Hi,” I stuttered. What the hell, Kongpob? Stop stuttering!

“Hello, Nong. Fancy seeing you here,” he said huskily, taking a slow deliberate step towards me.

I stepped back and found myself backed against the solid wood. He watched me hungrily, his eyes slowly trailing from my head to my feet, then back up again to stare directly at my eyes. His warm brown orbs were smoldering, and I found myself caught within their flames. I couldn’t escape, even if I wanted to. So I did what the most logical thing was to me at that moment.

I surrendered to him.

.

.

.

.

.

.

After all, he had owned me from the very start.

I had never belonged to anyone ever since, even though I got lost somewhere in between. My owner found me, and I found the master of my heart, my soul, my being. My sun. My warmth. My angel. My refuge.

.

.

.

We crashed, like two extraterrestrial bodies colliding. And the subsequent explosion was a brilliant myriad of sensations and feelings, our repressed emotions and longing for each other leaking out unhindered, uncontrollable. Teeth nipped at lips and skin, tongues dueling for dominance, hands caressing over warm bodies, clutching hard, pushing, pulling, tearing at clothes in a frantic race to be closer to each other.

Seconds, minutes, hours, I wasn’t sure anymore, but I found myself lying on something soft after what felt like eternity of just drowning myself in his taste, smell and the feel of his naked body against mine. I took note of the room, briefly, seeing musical instruments neatly arranged on one side of the room and then I was drowning in my sun’s essence again.

We rutted against each other, flesh against flesh, with teeth clacking and tongues tangling in a frantic kiss. I’d bet my ass that I would be sporting vivid marks high up on my neck later on as the sting of his passion made me crave for more. So I moaned for more.

I reached my zenith, yelling out his name in choked syllables, with sobs following not long after, the small sample of ecstasy that he provided me making me realize that I had been craving for this, for him; making me realize that I couldn’t let go of him now, wouldn’t want to let go of him now, because I felt complete for the first time in a long time. I cried silently as he reached his own climax, biting hard on my shoulder, feeling the sting and relishing on it. I tightened my arms around him, wrapping my legs around his waist for good measure, not wanting to let go of him, ever.

“…ove you,” I choked out. My frame began to shake and he started to fight against my hold, but I didn’t let him. I whined high in my throat and he stopped struggling.

“Hey, Kong. Did I hurt you? Please let me up so I can check on you,” he said soothingly. I shook my head vehemently and tightened my hold on him to further drive in that I wasn’t ready to be apart from his warmth yet.

“Okay, okay,” he easily relented.

He let me stay like that, wrapped around his body like some demented octopus. Slowly, I relaxed my hold on him until I was no longer squeezing him. He started to disentangle from me and this time, I found it in myself to let him, to let go. I dropped my arms across my face, hiding the evidence of my ugly crying, although it was futile because he surely heard and felt the sobs.

“Well, this is the first time that I had left my partner crying after sex.” He said, amusedly. My heart squeezed at the implication that there had been others after me, but I would be too hypocritical if I called him out on it like an overly jealous girlfriend. We weren’t even anything at the moment, for pete’s sake. Speaking of which, we should definitely talk about the status quo; remain as it was or let the nature of their relationship change.

“Sorry about that,” I said, wiping my face roughly with my hands.

“Hey,” he said, catching my hands and holding them captive so that I couldn’t hide anymore. “Why are you crying? I’m here already, aren’t I?”

“I… It’s stupid, really.”

“Tell me, hmm?”

“Well, I just realized that—I’m… I was missing something and I just—just found out about it right now. I thought I was okay with watching you from afar, so that I could never muck up the serene water, so to speak, that I’m content with you out of the picture. I was okay with all that, P’, but I… I didn’t know that I was this greedy. I just realized that I want you in my life, that I needed you in my life. I’m not going to go as far as saying that I need you to live, but I would say that I need you to live happily. You know that I have a daughter, right? Well, I feel bad saying this because it means that she doesn’t bring me happiness but it’s not, it’s different. The happiness you bring me is so different from the happiness I feel for her. I can’t explain, but it is what it is. I—I – ”

“Shh. It’s okay. I understand. No one’s judging you. I’m not judging you. I am, too, you know. Greedy, I mean. Look at me, I am in a successful band, we have thousands of fans, I can provide for my parents for a more comfortable life. And yet, here I am, craving for you, greedy for you, and I know why.” He paused, guiding my face to make sure we were looking at each other in the eye.

“I love you, Kongpob Suthiluck. There wasn’t a day that I stopped loving you, even during that time when I thought you’ve abandoned me. I never moved on from you. I’ll be honest, I tried to date other people, but I just couldn’t bring to give myself completely to them. No one ever made me feel like the way you still make me feel. There, I said it. I still love you, and I will make you mine no matter what. This meeting, this is just me giving you a notice that you will never get rid of me, no matter what you do, no matter who try to do it. I will fight tooth and nail to keep holding your hand and to stand by your side.”

I stared at my Phi, stunned. I was so overwhelmed by the sincerity in his voice but what stumped me the most was the intensity of his eyes, screaming what his words had failed to convey. That made me believe in every single thing he said.

“So what happens now, P’?” I asked. He shrugged in reply.

“I really have no idea. Do we date?” I shrugged in reply.

“We could.”

“But with the tour happening, that would be a challenge. Hmm, how about you go on a date with me, tomorrow evening?”

“Hmm, sounds good. It’s a date then.”

“It’s a date.”

He smiled, and my heart skipped a beat when I saw how beautiful it was. I poked at that cute dimple on his cheek.

“You still like poking that, huh,” he stated, letting me poke at him.

“I love you dimple.”

“Just my dimple?” he baited. I looked straight into his eyes.

“I love you, Arthit Rojnapat. I have loved you since that day you crashed into me on your skateboard, and I never stopped loving you since. I gave you my everything long ago and I have never regretted doing so,” I told him earnestly.

He ducked his head bashfully, a beautiful blush dusting his cheeks up to the tips of his ears.

“P’. I have a request to you.” I waited ‘til he was looking at me before I continued. “I—My daughter and I, we’re a package deal, P’. I’m sorry that I am burdening you with a child, but—” I took a deep breath to try to calm my racing heart. “—but that’s how it’s gonna be. She’s my princess and she’s very precious to me.”

“I know Kong. P’Rome kept me updated with all the important things that was happening to you. With all the stories he told me about her, I think that she’s as wonderful as her father. I would love to meet her and get to know her, Kong. If you’ll let me.”

I cannot contain my happiness at that moment. I felt like I was bursting. I knew that P’Arthit would accept my daughter, but there had been a little grain of worry in my heart.

“I love you P’Arthit,” I murmured, almost reverently.

“love you, too. Now, can we continue this?” He gestured at our naked bodies, with the drying cum on our bellies. I raised a brow at him and decided to tease him.

“Oh, yes. Yes we should.” I waited until his smile had grown wide. “Where’s your bathroom? We really need to clean up, then go to bed. It’s… two-ten already, huh. C’mon, move your ass, Oon!”

“But I want your ass!”