Whispers broke out as I strode into the hall, which I ignored. After a couple of years being thrust into the spotlight, one would get used to the stares and judgmental looks thrown their way. I definitely learned how to ignore them. The hazer training back in college had been helpful, too, to build up my confidence and my acting skills.
I scanned the crowd for my friends and saw one person enthusiastically waving at me. Striding towards them with purpose, I weaved my way through the throng of people, who all turned to look at me. Going to this reunion after work was a bad move on my part. I should’ve remembered to take a change of clothes to the office with me. I could only blame my forgetfulness for this.
I was so preoccupied with maintaining my poker face that I didn’t notice someone coming my way until I bumped into them. My arms shot out and held onto strong muscles to keep my balance, and his balance too.
Both of us spoke and stopped at the same time as our eyes met. Awkward silence enveloped us as we just stared at each other, having a moment in the middle of the crowd. Obnoxious clearing of throats spurred us back to the present. I was loath to let go of his arm but my friends and his friends were already surrounding us, looking suspiciously between us, annoyance beginning to form on their faces. I cleared my throat as I noticed that we were gaining a lot more attention than necessary.
“You—you look good,” I told him lamely. Well, he always looked good in my eyes.
“U-uh yeah. You too, P’Arthit,” he answered, his eyes travelling from my head to toe and back up. I saw him visibly gulp and I was dancing inwardly. Oh, yes. I still got it in me. Outside, I looked politely at him. Well, I also ogled the younger, having not seen him for quite some time. He—He looked really good.
“Oh dear lord, somebody kill me,” I heard someone mutter, I think that was Prem?
“Uh—so we’re gonna—just, uhm…” I stuttered, gesturing wildly with my hand to the general direction of our reserved table.
“Yes, dearest Nongs. We’re gonna go to our own table while you go to yours. Which is a different table from ours,” Tutah said snootily, grabbing my arm and dragging me away from the juniors. I turned my head for one last second and I could see how he was also dragged away by his own friends, indignation coloring his every move. As our eyes met, I could see longing in them. Oh dear, it was going to be a long night.
Third Person POV
“Did you see that?” a girl whispered to her friends as she put down her plate on the table. “They’re broken up, right? It was so awkward, I tell you. They’re so awkward to each other!”
“I… I couldn’t believe it,” answered another, almost near tears. “They’re my model couple ever since they announced their relationship! What happened?!”
“Hmmm. Maybe they weren’t meant for each other—”
“No! They’re soulmates! I refuse to believe otherwise!”
“Get a grip, Malee. People break up. Maybe they had their differences and they couldn’t work it out. Stop putting so much investment in their love story. It isn’t yours to begin with.”
“Tam is right, Malee. They should do whatever they want with their lives. It’s such a shame, yes, but life is unpredictable.”
“This is good actually,” interjected one of their friends. The other three, Malee, Tam and Jane looked at their friend, Kara. She was eyeing their senior’s table and something clicked in their minds.
“You’re still not over P’Arthit, aren’t you,” Tam asked, looking at her long time friend. Kara smirked at them and then she was standing up and striding towards her target. One thing was racing on her mind and that was to snatch the handsome man before someone else did.
“Why didn’t you just remove your coat, vest and tie before coming here?” Knot, my most sensible friend, cut me off from my rant of not having the time to change outfits, and complaining about people staring at me. I looked at him in shock.
‘Yeah, Arthit? Why didn’t you do that?’ I asked myself.
I hastily removed the coat and vest, draping them at the back of my chair, then I was slipping off the tie, stuffing it into my pants’ pocket. Then I was popping the first two buttons of my dress shirt and started to roll the sleeves.
Someone tapped on my shoulder a few seconds later and I turned to look at them. There was a beautiful girl standing confidently behind me.
“Yes?” I asked distractedly as I focused on folding my sleeves not too messily, because I didn’t want someone to nag at me when I get home with clothes all crinkled up. I didn’t mean to be dismissive.
“Uhm, hi, P’Arthit. It’s so nice to see you again,” she said enthusiastically. I shot her a wan smile, still distracted with my sleeves.
“You too, Nong,” I replied. A loud clearing of throat distracted her from her next speech.
“Hi, Nong! It’s nice to see you, too!” Bright’s obnoxious voice resounded. I glanced at him briefly and saw his fake smile.
“O—oh, didn’t see you there, P’,” the girl said, belatedly giving my friends the wai. I raised an eyebrow at her ridiculous statement. How could she miss four fully grown men, one of them with bulking muscles at that?
I looked around the table and saw that my friends shared the same thoughts as I. Knot spoke next.
“Do you need anything from our dear Arthit?” he asked politely.
“Oh, actually. I was wondering if I could talk to him in private?” she asked, her confidence returning.
“First, she doesn’t acknowledge our presence, and now she wanted us to leave our table? Unbelievable,” I heard Tutah mutter beside me. He wasn’t even subtle about it because I was pretty sure the girl heard him. Her smile dimmed and she shot an annoyed look on Tutah’s direction. The others missed this, and had I not been watching her closely, I would have too.
I was actually surprised that Prem hadn’t thrown a fit. He was big on senior greetings and all that especially from our juniors. This girl right here, she was a little bit rude in that regard.
“Just say it here, Nong,” I answered, not in the mood to stand from my seat anytime soon. I saw her look uncertainly around my friends and I raised a brow at her.
Everyone of us looked at her expectantly. She was taking too long and I was getting impatient. I wanted to go to the buffet table and get some food in me, jeez.
“Uhm, go out with me, P’?”
“Uh, I just said that you can tell me whatever you want to say here. I’m tired and I’m currently comfortable on my seat, thank you very much.”
Come to think of it, we weren’t being very gentlemanly, too. What the hell? I looked around for a vacant chair I can snag for her. There was none. I was contemplating whether I should offer her my chair but my aching feet were crying out to me, for fuck’s sake. Still torn if I should be a gentleman or not, she continued to talk.
“You misunderstand, P’. I wasn’t asking you to go out now to talk about something. I’m asking you to take me out on a date.”
A pin drop silence permeated our table as we gaped at her. What the actual fuck?!
“Did you—did you just—” Bright stuttered.
“Oh my god, did you just ask Arthit out—no, that’s not quite right.” Prem said, looking confused.
“She asked Arthit to take her out,” Knot told him.
“Wow, the audacity,” Tutah deadpanned, poorly concealed condescension dripping from his voice. It was clear he didn’t like the girl one bit.
“I’m sorry Nong. But I don’t want to,” I answered primly. I watched her furrow her brows, her gaze fixed on me.
“But why? You—”
“Because you’ve been nothing but rude to my friends. Remember what the SOTUS program entailed? We taught the first years to be respectful and yet, after all these years, you seemed to have forgotten all about it. Actually, it’s up to people now how they act towards other people since the hazing has long been in the past. Your actions show what kind of a person you are—”
“What?! I didn’t disrespect you or anyone!”
“You ignored the presence of my friends, who are also your seniors. The least you could’ve done was to greet them politely before you addressed me. That’s being disrespectful in my books.”
“Also, he can’t take you out on a date Nong, because I’m pretty sure, he’s not gonna be going home alone tonight. Eh? Eh? Right, Arthit?” Bright decided to interject, not so subtly looking at the direction of a certain junior of ours, while jabbing his bony elbow against my ribs. I hissed at him to stop with his teasings, as my face began to flame.
The girl looked at each of us as her face began to redden. Then she turned around and stomped her way back towards her table. I heard Tutah scoff at her blatant disrespect and I could only shake my head. I watched from the corner of my eye as she sat down and her friends began to talk to her. I turned back towards my set of friends and they were all beaming at me.
“Bros before hoes,” Bright exclaimed, and we had to shush him out for being too loud. As it was, we’ve already attracted attention to ourselves with the girl’s interruption, we didn’t want anymore.
Oh, wow. He looked good. He looked sooo good in his three-piece suit. Absolutely delectable. I was brought out of my not-so-innocent thoughts and blatant ogling of a certain tsundere senior by a smack to the back of my head.
“Ow! What the fuck?” I turned to glare at the culprit. Em just stared back at me, unimpressed.
“Stop raping P’Arthit with your eyes, for god’s sake!”
“Wha--! Em!” I whisper-shouted at him. “That’s so uncultured of you!”
My best friend just looked at me, deadpan.
“You’re the uncultured swine. You’re eyes are undressing the man, for fuck’s sake! And don’t even bother denying that you were thinking unsavory thoughts about him!”
“How would you know what I was thinking, huh? Are you a mind reader now?”
“No, but you kept licking and biting your lips like you want to devour him! Jeez, Kongpob!”
“I can’t help it, okay?! It’s been so long since I last saw him!”
“Yeah, yeah. Whatever. You sho—”
“Uhh, excuse me, Nong?” a deep voice said behind us. Em and I both turned around to find a tall gorgeous man, with a beautiful smile. Not as gorgeous as P’Arthit but still. The chatter in our table and in the vicinity noticeably died down, and I could feel that they were not so subtly listening in. My friends didn’t even hide their interest in our conversation.
I politely greeted him, my friends doing the same. He greeted us back with his perfect smile, (but it’s not as perfect as a certain dimpled smile though) and then he was focusing back on me.
“I’m Sam, by the way. Uh, I was wondering, would you like to go grab coffee with me sometime? You still like coffee, right? Iced coffee?”
I got surprised when he said those last sentences. What? It’s been so long since I last drank Iced coffee even though it had been my usual drink order back when I was in school.
“Uh, yeah. I noticed that you liked drinking iced coffee back in university,” he said, scratching his nape and looking all abashed. I must’ve been projecting how perplexed I was. Ooo—kay?
“Uhm, but that was years ago, P’. How’d you remember that?” I asked.
“I—” he stopped. He looked so embarrassed. “I just—I have been noticing you since then. I didn’t approach you because I thought you weren’t into men. But then, you started dating Arthit, and that was when I realized that I should’ve at least talked to you, or something…”
Wait, was he…? Did he have a crush on me after all these years? It was… a little bit endearing, but…
“P’. I’m really sorry. I already have someone in my heart and I couldn’t possibly reciprocate your feelings. I can sense that you’re sincere with your feeling though, so don’t worry. You’ll find someone to love soon,” I told him gently.
“Oh… I thought that… since you and Arthit aren’t… Uhm, it’s okay, Nong. Thank you for your honesty. I’m just—yeah, back to my table.”
He beat a hasty retreat towards his own set of friends. I felt a pang of guilt at how his face fell after I rejected him. I couldn’t help it. I was still in love with my sun. It had always been him and it will always be him.
“Ooooiii! Why does everyone fall for you, huh? Kongpob, leave some to us poor souls, too!” Maprang bemoaned. I didn’t have any answer to her.
“Hey! Quit looking far and wide, Maprang. Your soulmate is just near you,” Oak said with a wide smile, all the while pointing a finger at himself.
“Oh! Maybe I should go ask P’Bright then?” Maprang teased, absolutely disregarding Oak and looking towards the seniors’ table. I followed her gaze when her happy façade fell, replaced by a frown.
I understood her frown when I saw the stoic looks on the seniors’ faces while they were conversing with a girl standing before P’Arthit. We continued to watch as the seniors, especially P’Tutah grew progressively annoyed at the girl.
“What’s Kara doing?” Maprang wondered out loud. Kara was their batchmate but in a different class from us. She and her friends had been quite popular with the male student population due to their beauty and their smarts.
“Wait, she’s not confessing to P’Arthit, is she?” Maprang gasped. We all looked at her in question.
“She had a crush on P’Arthit. I heard she confessed to him before the end of our first semester during freshman year. Hey, were you and P’Arthit together then?” she questioned me. I only nodded my head, not sure if I could speak properly to her with this new information.
She liked P’Arthit? No, that was quite wrong. She still liked P’Arthit if her bashfulness was any indication. I wonder, what would P’Arthit’s answer be?
The girl almost ran away from the group of seniors, her face bright red and her head down. I looked at the seniors and saw their satisfied looks, looking at P’Arthit with approval.
“Bros before hoes!” P’Bright then shouted. So he refused her, huh? I hid my satisfied smile behind my hand. Good, good.
Third Person POV
“Basing from your reaction, he refused you, huh?” Third asked Sam, as the latter slumped down on his seat. He smiled sadly at his friends and muttered that he was fine when they prompted him.
“I guess, he’s way too out of my league, huh?” he asked self-deprecatingly.
“What? No! You’re really, really handsome. And you’re a goddamn catch! Believe in yourself more,” Nina, one of their friends, exclaimed. “What did he say, anyway? Did he tell something bad?”
“No, no. Nothing like that. He was really polite in rejecting me. Said that he already had someone in his heart.”
“But aren’t he and Arthit broken up, though? That’s what the buzz was all about a while ago. They arrived separately and they are barely interacting with each other. Heck, their friend groups aren’t even talking to one another!” exclaimed Sara, another of their friends.
“Yes. It doesn’t seem like they’re together still. Just look at them. The distance between them is so huge. Oh, and while you were confessing to N’Kong, I saw some girl approach Arthit. I think she also confessed but the hazers had been harsh. They didn’t look amused with the girl though. I wonder what happened?” Third said.
“Maybe N’Kong is still hung up on Arthit. He did the chasing, didn’t he?” Sam said.
“Yeah, he did. And yeah, I think he might still be in love with Arthit. He keeps on glancing at him,” Sara observed. Just in time, they caught their junior in the act, staring at their batchmate a little too long to be brushed off as accidental.
Huh, maybe he really didn’t have a chance, at all, Sam thought.
“Wow, this is so amazing. I still couldn’t believe we managed to pull this off!” Tum said on the mike. Someone shouted in the crowd, ‘We are engineers, nothing is impossible!’ that sent the crowd of engineers into titters.
“That’s right my dude! WE are Engineers! Can I hear the chant then? Fellow IE’s? Or have you forgotten about it?” Tum teased. He got a resounding agreement from the majority of the gathered crowd, making the previous head hazer laugh.
“Okay then! Okay then. May I please then call the previous hazers of each batch to the stage please? All of you, from batch fifty-five to sixty-four. Come on up, engineers!”
A cacophony of chairs scraping against the floor echoed across the vast hall as all ex-hazers in attendance collectively stood up and trudged their ways towards the stage. Tum directed them to group up according to their batches and afterwards, joining his own group at the very first ones.
“Now that we have our distinguished hazers on stage, why don’t you all stand up with us and link arms? We will do the engineering chant for old times’ sake.”
With this, everybody stood up and braced their arms over the shoulders of the ones beside them, creating long rows of linked bodies.
“On the count of three, let us all do the chant, okay? Okay. Three, two, one, Go!”
As one, everybody shouted the engineering chant and just like old times, they felt nostalgia of their experiences under the SOTUS system.
“E-N—G-I—N-E—E-R. We are Engineer! Engineer! Engineer!”
After it was done, Tum remained passive, surveying the crowd with squinted eyes. The full-fledged engineers grew uncertain because of this and they bowed their heads in remembered fear of their SOTUS days.
“Is that all you’ve got?!” the oldest head hazer firmly spoke into the mike. A deafening silence permeated the hall, and then—
“P’Tum. You’re not head hazer anymore. Stop it.”
The rest of the engineers uncertainly lifted their heads a fraction when they heard someone chided the ex-head hazer. They saw Deer with a mike in his hand, an unimpressed look directed at his fellow head hazer. The other hazers on stage were also looking at the elder with curiosity. Then Tum began to laugh.
“Oh my god, it was too good to pass that up. And what a reaction I got!” he said in between bouts of laughter. The others looked on in amusement at the head hazer’s antics.
“You can relax now. Chill. I was just messing with you guys. Sorry if I gave you heart attacks!”
A general chorus of “Phi” echoed across the hall as the gathered engineers relaxed their stances. They couldn’t believe that one of the head hazers would pull a prank on them!
“You did great with the chant, by the way. You still remember one of the values of SOTUS, I see. I hope that you remember the rest, too, and you’re living your life by them. You may take your seats now.”
After everyone had settled down, Tum started his MC role again and spouted about facts and figures, and played a short message from the current Dean and the President of the University, thanking them for bringing pride to their school, the Dean especially mentioning about keeping the spirit of SOTUS alive even after they had left university. The former students all beamed in pride after the speeches.
Afterwards, Tum announced to them that they’d have a little program for the students. He turned mischievous eyes to his fellow hazers and the gathered hazers on stage couldn’t help but to feel trepidation.
“Everyone of us here had been freshmen once, am I right? Because if not, then you aren’t normal,” he deadpanned as he looked amidst the tittering crowd.
“It means you are exceptionally smart and you skipped first year. Wait does that even happen? Haha, I’m not sure. But yeah, everyone of us here had been freshmen once, right? Or twice, depending on who you ask. Anyway, almost everyone of us had been through the SOTUS system that our university have. To those who transferred schools here on their second year, shame. You missed so much fun.” He grinned impishly at the jesting negative answers he received.
“See? Even my sarcasm is met by such vehement denial! I know, I know, we all went through hell with the hazing. But – what? What is it?” Tum walked closer to the group of people chorusing something and listened harder.
“Oh hoh! What is this? There’s a head hazer here who hadn’t been harsh? A crowd favorite? And a very handsome – uh not sure about the bachelor part, ladies— very handsome head hazer that made countless people swoon? Oh, and breaker of hearts too? My, my, does a person really exist? Maybe you, ladies, were all just blinded by his charms?” Tum teased as he figured out what the group had been telling him, and deducting who they were referring to.
There was an outburst after he said those words and he moved away from them before they came onstage and hi-jack the mike. He was laughing all the while and as he passed said head hazer, he winked at him. The younger man ducked his head in a bout of shyness.
“Okay, okay. Let’s get on with the program. I have something for our gathered engineers here and that’s the reason why I gathered all hazers from the batches present here. I’m sorry for the last two batches, I couldn’t include you in this,” he said fake remorsefully.
“Since you guys had been hearing us shout at you and obeyed our orders for how many months, I am giving you this opportunity to tell the hazers anything you want. You can also confess you hidden desires for them but please, let’s maintain each one respectful and PG-13, okay? You can also order us but for this time only, okay? And within reasonability please. Have mercy on this old bag of bones!”
All of the gathered hazers looked on at the eldest with varying degrees of horror and mortification. Tum turned to them with a grin.
“Right, so, hazers? Are you ready to hear your dearest juniors’ inner thoughts about you? Eh? Eh?” he asked while wiggling his eyebrows at them. The gathered hazers, as one, shook their heads, not wanting to believe this.
“Oh, c’mon guys! This is giving them a chance to voice out their opinions. To know your juniors more, you know?”
“I’ve had enough of that during my time,” Arthit grumbled to himself. The mike that Deer had been holding caught the little grumble and Tum zeroed in on him.
“What was that, Arthit?”
Feeling like a deer caught in the headlights, Arthit shook his head in denial. But Deer had other plans, wanting to tease the younger more.
“He said he had enough of that during his time,” he said with twinkling eyes. Then, with innocent eyes, he added, “I wonder what happened, P’Tum?”
“I wonder too, my Deer. Perhaps a certain junior of his made his life, hmm, interesting?” Tum answered to the hollering and shouts of those in the crowd who knew about the past of the certain head hazer and his junior. The younger batches were looking on in confusion.
“Ooooh, Deer. Look at those confused faces. Should we recreate the legendary gear presentation scene?”
“OOOOOIIII! P’Tum! The program’s getting too long. Let’s not keep these engineers here more than necessary yeah?” Arthit yelled nervously.
Tum laughed at his flushed face.
“Okay! Okay. No more show for everyone. Sorry guys. Let’s just go on with my previous one. Okay, who wants to start first? Who has something to say to their head hazer? Anyone?”
Several brave souls raised their hands hesitantly.
“Oh and before we continue on, I need to be clear about something. The only one you could only tell things to should be your batch’s hazing team, okay? Because if we would include all years’ hazing team, then we’d be here all night long. So just to shorten it, just a message to your batch’s hazers would suffice. Okay let’s start!”
Those who raised their hands dropped them down after his little rule.
“Oh… No one?”
The other people on stage heaved a discreet sigh of relief. But one of the older head hazers wouldn’t take this, so he decided to intervene.
“P’Tum. I think they need an example. Why don’t you do it yourself?” Deer said, wiggling his eyebrows at the older. Tum looked at him in confusion. “Call the Dean. If I remember correctly, he was your head hazer, wasn’t he?”
“O-oi! Let’s not disturb him. He’s a busy man. Hehe…”
“Oh-hoh! Are you scared of him, P’?”
“Wha—no! I just don’t wanna disturb him, that’s all.”
Suddenly, Tum’s wife, Fon climbed onstage and presented her phone to Deer. The latter smiled in glee when he saw that she had already dialed the current Dean’s number. Tum looked on, horrified at his smirking wife. Everyone waited in anticipation for the next events to unfold.
Deer was seen talking to the phone, probably asking for permission to the other one on the line if they could broadcast their conversation. The other must’ve been sport about it because Deer came back with a shit-eating grin. He hooked up the phone through the Bluetooth speaker with the help of the tech crew and then they were hearing a deep baritone voice.
“Hello, P’?” Deer spoke through the mike.
“Hello guys. Is this on speaker now?”
“Yes, P’. P’Tum will speak with you now.”
“Sawasdee Khrap, P’Tee,” Tum greeted as he shot daggers through his eyes at his junior.
“Sawasdee, Nong. Was my motivational speech not enough for you?” the older teased.
“No, no. It was great actually. Thanks P’, for that. Sorry to disturb you on your leisure time,” Tum said politely, so different from his teasing nature a while back. The current Dean chuckled in reply.
“It’s fine Nong. I heard from N’Deer you had something to clear up with me? From your hazing days?”
“Ahh… yes, about that. Yeah, we’re doing a program for the other alumni here P’, and Deer said I should give an example. So here goes. P’Tee, I still resent you for making wade through that murky pond after I accidentally threw a candy wrapper in there.”
Silence rang through the hall, the crowd waiting with bated breath for the reply of the older one. Then rambunctious laughter echoed through the speakers, making the rest heave sighs of relief.
“You still remember that?” Tee said in between chuckles.
“Of course, P. I felt something slimy slither against my foot and I lost my footing. I had to return to the dorm soaking wet!”
“Well, that had taught you a lesson to stop littering. And you know our faculty’s tradition. Just be glad I didn’t make you gather trash in the middle of the scorching sun alone.”
“Yes, P’. I know that now. But I was actually trying to impress this one girl at that time—Fon, dear it’s in the past okay? – and then she laughed at me instead.”
“Poor you!” Tee said amidst his jovial laughs.
“But thank you for your teachings, P’. Thank you for making us all understand the meaning of SOTUS, for teaching us these values that we still carry on in our daily lives. I greatly appreciate it.”
“Aww, N’Tum, you’re making me cry,” Tee answered, fake sniffing.
“Anyway, Batch 55, do you have anything to say to P’Tee?”
As one, the whole of Tum’s batchmates present hollered their thanks to their previous head hazer, nostalgic smiles on their face. Tee chuckled and thanked them all before he bid goodbye to everyone.
“Okay. I’m done. Who’s next?”
After Tum’s phone call ended with his previous head hazer, one by one, the gathered engineers grew courageous and raised their hands. Tum gleefully called them out and soon everyone was in stitches as the gathered engineers shared their experiences in college with their hazers. Even some of the hazers came forward and shared theirs while facing their seniors. Em particularly demanded two boxes of chocolate from his codeline senior, Bright, as he remembered how the older had demanded it from him during their ‘Thank You Senior Party’. Bright hemmed and hawed but Tum put a stop to it as he sternly said that he had to do it.
Of course, there were those who really wanted to take advantage of this and ordered their seniors to do some stuff like pushups, the chicken dance, laps around the hall, and others. One particular engineer went upfront and demanded to Arthit that he should shout he liked men three times. And no, it wasn’t Kongpob who dared him. It was Prae, who sported a mischievous smile on her face as she stared unflinchingly at one of the most feared head hazer of all time.
“Should I also go around and ask out ten men?” Arthit asked the lady sarcastically. Prae looked thoughtful for a moment.
“No, P’. Let’s change it up a little bit. Instead of asking ten men to go out with you, how about you ask only one man ten times to go out with you? You know, so that they would know you are serious about them.”
Arthit looked at Prae gravely before he turned around to go find his victim. But he was stopped by Prae.
“Wait, wait, wait. I almost forgot, P’… You can’t ask any of your friends and acquaintances. He must be a stranger, or someone you barely know. Remember? That’s how you made someone do this in the past,” Prae smiled sweetly at the horrified look Arthit sent her.
Arthit was rooted on the spot for several seconds, just glaring and pouting at the devious lady.
“You’re evil,” he grumbled. Then he was shouting at the top of his lungs that he liked men. He went down from the stage and approached a random man, asking him out on a date ten times in a speedy manner, and at the end of it, both male were blushing furiously.
Onstage, Prae noticed a certain someone who was not happy with the situation. She watched him in amusement as he could only stare longingly at the senior’s back, who was asking a stranger to go out with him on a date. She met his glare head on with a smirk on her face.
‘This is what you get…’ she mouthed at him.
‘Evil witch,’ he mouthed back.
The activity continued on for quite some time. The general atmosphere was light and everyone was enjoying the show. After the last request from an engineer was fulfilled and everyone had said their messages to their hazers, Tum asked if there were anybody else.
“No more? Has everyone said what their hearts had yearned to say for all these years? Yes? Oh, we still have someone among our previous hazers. Oooh, this is unexpected. Of all the students here, I thought that it would be you who wouldn’t have anything to say to their hazers since you had been very vocal about it during your year. So, who among the five hazers do you want to direct your message or request, or whatever it is that you want to do, N’Kongpob?” Tum asked mischievously. He already had an inkling on who it was but he opted to tease the junior more.
“You know who it is for, P’Tum.”
“Ah, ah, ah. I may know who it is for but not everyone does. You have to tell me his name, N’Kong.”
“It’s for P’Arthit, P’.”
Hollering erupted from the crowd and loud whispers of the two getting back together at this very gathering spread like wildfire. The younger engineers who hadn’t witnessed the history of the two looked on in anticipation of what was going to happen.
Tum grinned widely and gestured for Arthit to step forward. The latter did so reluctantly. Tum approached the two and gave them mikes so that people could hear what they were going to say. Kongpob slowly approached the older in the midst of the hush that descended on the venue, his heartbeat getting faster at each step he took. Arthit looked unsurely at him and he could see how the older had resisted taking a step back from him, which he appreciated. Then when he was about at an arm’s distance, he suddenly went down on one knee in front of the other. Everyone waited with bated breath, shocked and confused at what they were witnessing.
Kongpob held out a black rectangular velvet box, slightly larger than the norm and opened it, presenting the content to his senior.
“P’Arthit, will you marry me?” he asked. Gasps were audible from people in the crowd and looked on in mixture of jealousy and awe at the romantic couple.
Arthit scowled at him and the others on stage looked at the younger in confusion. They couldn’t see a ring in the box but there was something in it, they just weren’t sure what it was.
“Hell no!” Arthit blurted out. Gasps were audible again, but this time, it was the affronted kind. They couldn’t believe that someone could be so heartless, especially to a certain prince charming that everyone wanted to be with.
“What the hell are you playing at, Kongpob?” Arthit continued, ignoring the glares from the women (and some men) from the crowd. Kongpob wasn’t phased by the rejection though. In fact, he was even chuckling. “Quit laughing! Seriously, what are you playing at? Huh?”
“Look at the box properly, P’Arthit.”
Arthit took a step closer to the kneeling man and lifted the silver bracelet from the velvet box, holding the curved long plate of the bracelet between two fingers. There was a stylized etching of a sun and moon on the plate, their regular design, but there were also three twinkling stars near the moon and sun. At first, Arthit didn’t get what Kong was going on about, and why were there stars added to their regular sun and moo—
He looked at Kongpob, wide-eyed. He didn’t want to get his hopes up but his heart was already beating so fast. He looked pleadingly at his husband for an explanation.
Kongpob rose to his feet and gently turned the bracelet so that the inset of the curved plate was shown. Arthit looked down on it and gasped. He brought a hand over his mouth as tears began blurring the letters stamped inside of the bracelet.
He looked back up at his husband who had a soft smile on his face.
“Please tell me this isn’t a joke?” he asked hoarsely. Kongpob shook his head as he wiped the tears that escaped his love’s eyes.
“We’re really gonna be—”
“Yes, Papa,” he answered softly. Then he reached out for his wallet and slid the two pictures from it, handing them to his husband.
Arthit looked at the black and white image before him and he looked at Kongpob helplessly.
“Kong… I don’t know what I’m looking at,” he said honestly. The younger laughed out loud.
“Actually, me too. But, that’s supposed to be the ultrasound of our baby,” he honestly answered the bewildered man.
“Let’s ask your cousin Mona about this—”
“We’ll meet her and her partner tomorrow.”
“Okay.” Arthit took a deep breath, wiping the last of his tears away from his cheeks. “Okay.”
“See, P’Tum?! This is what we have been suffering from for years! Whenever we are around these two, we feel like we are ghosts, you know?” Bright dramatically said, startling the two from their own world.
“Speak for yourself. I feel like air, not a ghost. You’re the only ghost here and you even resemble one with your ugly mug. Actually, you don’t have to be a ghost to scare other people. Just seeing your face makes me want to sprinkle holy water on it,” Tutah said, which the mike had caught. The gathered people laughed as the two bickered on stage.
“You’re not as light as air though, because you’re a goddamn hippopotamus!” screeched Bright as he ran away from his best friend.
“I thought you had a lovers’ spat or something because you haven’t been interacting at all this evening!” Tum exclaimed at the two lovebirds.
“It’s our asshole friends’ fault, P’Tum,” answered Arthit.
“Uh, no. It’s your fault,” Prem countered. When Arthit was about to retort, Prem hastily continued.
“We rarely see each other again but when we do meet up, all you do is stare lovingly at your husband and act sickeningly lovey-dovey with each other. We missed our friend too, you know!”
Arthit had no retort because he and Kong were guilty for this.
“So what did you tell them tonight?” Tum asked.
“We dared them that they should ignore each other at any cost or else we will make one of them go into a long business trip. I already asked Kong’s father about this and he readily agreed because there is a business meeting overseas that needed to be attended,” Em answered Tum. The couple glared at him.
Meanwhile, the gathered crowd was watching avidly at the comedy-drama unfolding on stage. Some of them were even filming the ongoing act.
“Wait, so you willingly separated two soulmates? That’s a crime!” Fon cried our dramatically.
“It’s only for a day!” defended Em.
“I’d gladly be air if I could witness this everyday!” someone yelled at the crowd.
“Ploy! I heard you! I will tell your husband about this!” Bright yelled from the other side of the stage. Then he screeched when he saw that Tutah had gained on him and started running again.
“We want to know why Arthit is crying! C’mon, get on with the show!” Ploy yelled again. Arthit looked at her direction, affronted.
“My life is not a fucking lakorn! Ploy, I will definitely tell your husband about this!” he threatened.
“I’m also curious, N’Arthit. What did Kongpob do to make you cry? Should we ready the shotgun and the shovel?” Tum said jokingly. Arthit looked around them and everyone was indeed looking on in anticipation, making him a bit embarrassed.
“I… “ he looked hesitantly at his husband, who nodded subtly.
“My amazing husband just told me that we would be both fathers,” Arthit said shyly on the microphone. He brought down the device and leaned in for a kiss.
The hall erupted, congratulating the couple. Those on stage went to them to greet them properly and those close to them suggested a group hug. Everyone on stage gathered for one massive hug. At the center of it stood Kongpob and Arthit, laughing and grinning with each other as their engineering family celebrated with them having a family of their own. They felt so blessed with these people around them.
The night continued on in merriment after that. Of course, not everyone was happy, because they really didn’t have a chance at all at the very off-limits men who just announced that they will be having babies, but even they couldn’t begrudge the pure love that was shining between the two.
As for the couple, they were adamant to never leave each other’s side despite their friends coaxing and unsubtle jabs. They tried to interact more with them and not treat them like air, like they claimed, but well, they did try, okay? It was just that they were so happy of the prospect of being dads that they couldn’t stop smiling at each other.
They were going to be parents, people. Parents!