Bold: The characters are speaking in English.
Seven hours earlier.
After passing out for an estimated three hours, my tiny, dizzy and confused brain started to function normally once more. I brewed a dark cup of coffee and sat down to finish organizing my work schedule for tomorrow and the day after, which wasn’t too difficult of a task. Tomorrow, I would do a bit of research at noon, have an assignment briefing with the model at one, then after separating ways, if I had spare time remaining, I might ask Viktar to take me out to survey the location. Then on the following day, it would be the day of the photoshoot. Fortunately, the time of year was autumn so there was more daytime than nighttime, as such, I would have a large window to work with, from five in the morning up to nine-thirty at night, precisely when the sun would disappear beneath the horizon. I could only pray… that everything would go as planned.
The corner of my eyes glanced over to the phone. Not because there was an incoming call, but rather, because they were no calls, making me feel a bit dejected. Although, if Alexey called me, was I ready to speak to him yet? And what if his mouth itched to berate me again? Dear readers, perhaps you will find my dead corpse hanging lifelessly from a tree.
Ruminating while taking small sips of coffee, I was unaware that Jessica had entered the room. Her complexion seemed fairly distressed. “What’s wrong? Making an expression like you’ve been dumped.”
“Are you asking yourself or asking me?” Jessica replied as she dragged out a chair.
“I’m asking you.” I replied.
“Well…” My dear friend Jessica shrugged her shoulders and adjusted the glasses she was wearing. “Well… well maybe I’m worried about you, or something like that. Your expression resembled a frog getting squashed under a car.”
“Is my face really that ugly? I’ll have you know that I used to be the campus moon of my university department.”
(TN: Campus Moon – A feature of Thai universities where annually a contest is held to vote for the most attractive guy in the department, winner gets the title ‘campus moon’)
“A waning moon probably.”
I blurted out laughing. “Then a waning moon like me has to be paired with a Rahu like you–ow… fuck, don’t pinch my ear, what if you tear it off!”
(TN: Rahu, an asura in Buddhist mythology that swallows the sun and moon; it looks quite ugly.)
Jessica willingly released my right ear and spat back in dramatic fashion. “Now you’re suddenly energized to bicker with me!?”
“That Mr. Satan of yours thrashed me hard Mrs. Jessica.” I couldn’t resist voicing my complaint. “Speak nicely and I’ll speak nicely back.”
Jessica, my loyal kathoey friend shrugged her shoulders again. “Now… I’ve come invite you out, properly open your eyes and ears and explore the city for once, are you coming?”
The offer was tempting. Although I couldn’t read the street signs, I still at least had a map of Astana so it wouldn’t prove too difficult. Despite currently being displeased with the hottie times twenty-five, this was no excuse for me to stubbornly refrain from using the map he had given me. Thus, I acceded and quickly opened my big travel suitcase, searching for any winter coat capable of withstanding the eight degree temperature outside.
Now where did I put it… ah, found it!
I stared at the gorgeous warm Burberry coat in my hands and suddenly felt a stinging pain deep inside my chest… did the person who returned to Thailand realize? That his every action, be it nice or cruel, all had an effect on me…
I wanted to drop everything on the spot, change tickets, go back to Thailand, call off my remaining vacation days, sell back the apartment, go back to live with Pa and Ma, and never have to face Alexey ever again.
…But this was merely a desire that flashed briefly into my mind from time to time.
Because my life and everyone else’s life… our lives are not driven by wants… rather, it has to be propelled forward alongside the words: duty and responsibility. I might be on holiday leave, however, since I promised P’Chid that I would write and send him columns throughout the entire trip, this was an obligation that I had to see through to the end. I couldn’t let the editorial department suffer from my abrupt decision to abandon the project so suddenly.
I pondered this on the ride back from the airport to the hotel I was currently staying at. Some people might think, hey …don’t worry, people fail, people trip, there’s no need to try to win at everything… of course, anybody has the right to think like this. But what happens if you give up and accept defeat when you haven’t even won once? This is no different than blindfolding yourself and walking backwards, comforting yourself that it’s okay, you don’t need to win, only to realize later… that you’ve become a permanent loser. I needed to thank the hottie, P’Chid, and Sasha for taking turns to beat me with words until I became tender, finally coming to realization at last.
A loser… I didn’t want people calling me this… and I especially did not want to hear it from the mouth of someone… who I felt good about.
I admit that it hurt a lot… you know where it hurt? It hurt to know that I was so close to becoming one, a loser. If I was any more narcissistic than this, it probably wouldn’t hurt this much.
At the heart of this pain however… I saw a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel. Alexey’s ferociousness… was the thorny path that I had to walk in order to achieve my dreams… but I was also fairly certain that he was the only person who would ever pave a path for me. I, who had to change… and had to hold on until I reached the end.
At the bottom of my travel suitcase was a box containing the Leica lens I had received as an early Christmas present from Jessica. I lifted it up to inspect it, and couldn’t resist smiling
It hurt… but at least there was still a certain someone by my side, she who was always ready to cry and laugh alongside me… she who was constantly wishing me the best…
I spotted something out of place inserted inside the lens box. Upon extraction, it was a postcard, the custom type where you could print your own photos onto it. And this photo, was so beautiful it could steal one’s heart away, reflecting the contours of a man carrying something on his head, set against the dry weather-beaten desert that was as vast as they eye can see. Flipping over to the backside, there was a peculiar-looking stamp which had already begun fading. The postcard was addressed to Baum, Jessica’s husband. However, because the message was written in German, I was unable to decipher it. But I could at least read the last three sentences.
13 Dezember (Unspecified year)
Alexey I. N.
Western Sahara Desert, Morocco.
It was the hottie’s handwriting, why wouldn’t I be able to remember it? …But what was most shocking was the person that took this photo.
“Oh really? There was a photo inside the lens box too? I didn’t know that.” Jessica pitched her voice higher, expression clueless. But I wasn’t very inclined to believe her.
“You’re the one who gave me the lens and you didn’t know that there was a photo inside the box?”
“I got it from an eBay auction! They shipped it from Morocco.”
“Still determined to say bullshit I see. eBay my ass, the postcard is signed with that hottie’s name.”
“Do you know the number of people named Alexey in Central Asia? Over two million.”
“And how many people are named Alexey in Morocco? Even two is considered too much– oh… shit, red traffic light. Why didn’t you warn me there was a red light?”
Jessica stared daggers at me. “You’re the one driving and you want me to help you look whether the light’s green or red? Pay attention yourself, also brake already woi.”
Oh, forgot! I made a head lurching hit on the brakes. Luckily, there was no one in my driving path. “Stop trying to veer off topic.” I attempted to steel my voice. “Confess, who gave you the lens?”
My dearest kathoey friend gave in unwillingly, acting extra unimpressed. “Okay, okay, fine. It’s that hottie of yours, he gave up his lens to you.”
Oh my Buddha! I’m honestly shocked actually. “And why did he only give me the lens? Why not the camera too? Where am I going to find the money to buy a Leica camera?”
“Oh… this bastard, you get given an inch and now you want a foot. Look… maybe he doesn’t know that you’re too poor to buy a Leica camera.”
“Is that hottie so rich that his brain is on backwards? Dude does photography as a hobby yet buys a Leica camera and lens, not to mention giving up the two hundred thousand baht lens to me?”
“Yeah, I agree with you.” Jessica shrugged her shoulders, making a sick and tired face. “The kind of person who sees you as someone that’s like… ‘attractive’ must definitely have their brain on backwards.”
“Wait a minute, tell me what ‘attractive’ means first.”
Jessica looks at me with immense pity and exasperation. “It’s the antonym for ‘so bad’, ‘dull’, ‘gloomy’ and ‘very ugly.’“
I turned to fix my eyes on her and glared. “Are these really antonyms or are you insulting me, hm!?”
I concluded that driving and bickering with Jessica was an extremely dangerous activity to do, so I decided to park our car on the side of the road and invite her for a walk.
My second visit to Astana was still as pleasant as the first. I strolled around, admiring the buildings which were a mix of European and Soviet styles. I saw a bunch of Kazakhstani citizens in the middle of having a late afternoon break, sipping warm cups of coffee in classic-looking coffee shops. I saw a beautiful woman with long slender legs wearing an extra short skirt and the added sexiness of an intricate pair of lacy stockings. I saw a granny selling flowers hobbling along the side of the street. I saw children filtering out of an elementary school as they jumped and celebrated their afterschool freedom.
We walked until reaching a gigantic atrium with an eye-catching group of people gathered out in front. My sight tripped over a poster which said a photo exhibition was being held inside, the theme of it being national parks across Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. The name of the photographer was not specified, however, Jessica and I decided to go take a look anyway.
This large antiquated antrium happened to be Kazakhstan’s national library. Furthermore, the photo exhibition seemed to be organised by the very people in charge in this library. I strolled along, not bothering to study the photographs in too much detail. The photographer’s skill was basic, the likes of which anyone with a fairly good digital camera was capable of. Nevertheless, from this detour, I discovered that the size of Kazakhstan is almost as large as the entirety of the Europe continent. It had drastically different terrains and climates depending on the region. Moreover, several of the regions had less population than all of the people living in the Ekkamai area, while some regions had no population at all… the desert.
(TN: Ekkamai – A fairly crowded neighbourhood in Bangkok.)
Seemingly, the photographer fancied the desert in particular because a zone in the exhibition was solely dedicated to it. I saw and admired their effort… but suddenly sensed a heaviness in my heart. I… know nothing about this desert… and I’d be killed if this was still the case when the day after tomorrow arrives…
I looked at a photograph of the sand whipping up alongside the breeze, each grain reflecting the light of the dusky sun while the tracks of desert snake paved its way through the fine dune…
Each individual photograph, not a single one looked the same despite being taken from the same angle. Each grain of sand reflected light and shadow in its own unique way… the sunlight which waxed and waned, changing in every second, gave a new perspective to the photographs…
I wanted to know more… I wanted to get to know this desert better.
“Jessica… hey… could I ask you to head back first?”
“Hua, where are you planning to go?”
I pointed towards the entrance door of the imposing library.
“I’m going to find the answer… I need to familiarize myself more with the assignment… as much as possible.”
The eyes looking back at me appeared surprised, and then she smiled.
“Okay, call my room when you return, I’ll be waiting.”
…And upon coming back to my senses again, the night librarian had already kicked me out of the library, shutting the door in my face so violently that it disturbed the dust clinging to the frame of the door.
I closed my eyes… not because dust had gotten into them… but rather because I wanted to retain all the information about the desert that I had researched today… I wanted to burn the stunning images of this nation’s desert into my memory… It was a shame that I couldn’t read a single word of Russian nor understand long English sentences, otherwise, I would have approached the librarian and inquired if there were any other books which had escaped my sight.
…It was also a shame that Alexey wasn’t here… despite being angry and disappointed, I believed that he would still support me… unknown as to why… but I really believed so.
Suddenly, a thought flashed into my head…
Grains of sand which never stay still in the same place… and sunlight which never illuminate photographs in the same way…
This definitely had to be connected to my ‘last chance’, surely!
A long dialing sound echoed from the phone. My heart was drumming loudly, hoping upon hope that the other end would pick up already.
“Alexey, it’s me.”
He answered curtly with a noise in his throat.
“I have two questions that I need you to answer clearly and directly, got that?”
“This ‘last chance’ you speak of, is it for me… or for whom?”
The other end of the call went quiet.
“You’re taking too long to think, I’m not playing around okay? ‘One last chance’ for whom? Me or him?“
“Neither. Is there no other option?”
“Then… the desert.”
“There is no answer better than that.”
I practically slumped down onto the marble floor at the entrance of the library… smiling to myself like an idiot… the relief felt like a mountain being removed off of my chest… my heart inflated, on the verge of bursting at any moment now… and I began to laugh at myself for overthinking too much… this hottie was freaking evil, leaving me to cry my eyes out, leaving me to go on a rampage… leaving me to run around in circles just so I could learn how to kick myself forward with the motivation in my own heart.
“Oh, what’s with the fit of laughter, are you alright?”
“I understand now hahaha. Thanks so much, you really are a damn handful.”
“So what are you doing right now?”
“Haha… I just got kicked out of the national library, about to head back and find something to eat.”
“What did you go there for?”
“To find the answer to that mystery you laid a trap for me in, how about you?” I tried to make myself stop laughing, returning to sit in the car and leaning my body back as I sunk into the driver’s seat.
“Currently playing with two four-year-olds… not my children but Sasha’s, hope you haven’t forgotten.”
“Oh, oh, I remember.” Finally able to stop laughing. “The second question then. You have to answer, definitely no beating around the bush.”
“Make it quick, the two twins are about to destroy the condo.”
“Please pay attention and answer me this. I don’t know what the relationship between you and Ethan is, but I need to know the best method in order to deal with him. I have to work with him, and I have to get this assignment completed no matter what. If you send him to me, then you need to tell me how to solve the problems I will inevitably face as well.”
Ten seconds… uh, Alexey… my dad isn’t the owner of a telecommunications company you know, this much is already damn expensive for my phone bill.
“Then listen up and keep this in mind. There are two things that you need to have confidence in, that you are the person in control of this game–“
Now it was my turn to be surprised. “Hah? What? Are you joking?”
“I’m not, and I’m not overestimating you either. You control this game… and secondly, you need to have confidence that… no matter how horrible the situation gets, you’ve done your best.”
“Quit speaking nonsense and answer me properly, international calls are expensive you know.”
All of a sudden, the hottie disconnects the call and dials me back instantly. Uh, should have done this since the beginning.
“Put simply, there’s a certain magazine title that’s about to have simultaneous launches all across Europe, in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy. They sent a proposal to your model with the condition that aside from specifying Ethan, the photographer… has to be Ethan’s regular photographer.”
“Eisbär?” I asked.
Alexey went a bit quiet. “Yes… Eisbär… but he refused… the conditions outlined strictly that if not Eisbär, then it has to be someone designated by Eisbär. There must absolutely be no involvement from any third-party photographer. Furthermore, upon submission, Ethan will not receive a single cent unless Eisbär calls the owner of the magazine to verify it himself. With that said, if everything goes according to plan, Ethan will land on the front cover of this person’s big-name magazine that is to be on sale in the aforementioned four countries.”
“Where is Eisbär right now?”
“Let’s just say he’s not here anymore.”
“You know, right?”
“Yeah, but you don’t need to know.”
“Fine, fine, you don’t have to tell me as that’s not the current issue.” I tried to process this newfound information in my head. “Yeah… but isn’t it weird? If this magazine title really wants Ethan that badly, why go through all this extra hassle, especially when plenty of other people are equally eager to work with him? Then again, unless this magazine’s actual goal is to locate Eisbär who has vanished from the industry. They want to lure Ethan into accepting this job because they believe Ethan knows where Eisbär is.”
“So you’re capable of asking smart question after all.”
Just look at him! What a terrible personality. Nevertheless, he sounded inexplicably proud?
“I ate some Pedigree earlier, there’s omega-3 in it too.”
(TN: Pedigree – A brand of dog food.)
“If I knew, I would have bought you some a long time ago.”
“Stop being annoying and get back to the story already, what next?”
“So, the focus is not Ethan but the photographer, you understood correctly.”
I stilled. From my experience as a fashion photographer that has shot several hundred people, some went on to become superstars, some were ruthlessly kicked out of the industry, some stepped closer to their dream, and some discovered that their dreams brought along with it grief and suffering.
But the people that always remained… were people that helped these guys fulfil their dreams… realize their aspiration to shine dazzlingly on the front cover of the top magazine in Thailand… Inside a photographer’s portfolio, the model is not what determines skill. Rather, it is what the photo conveys which determines whether the photographer is good or not.
I uttered a sentence. “Models come and go, born and extinguished, but a magnificent piece of work will still remain…”
“Pedigree really seems to be working, I should order an entire truckload for you.”
“Petch… what did I tell you this morning?”
I grimaced… “You threatened me and said ‘Do you best for one last chance’. I really should demand heavy compensation from you for making me neurotic for an entire day.”
“And what have I done to you exactly?”
“You didn’t decide to act obedient all of sudden because I threatened you right?”
“Of course, as if things like this have any effect on me woi.”
“Well spoken.” Alexey turned back to speak German with someone nearby. I could hear the sound of whiny children in the distance, believing now that he was really with Sasha’s twins. After a while, the sound of the children died down. “And I believe you will do well.”
“No need to try and cheer me up with your words.” Yet, the heart of the person listening was already full, inflated, and floating…
“Hey, let me tell you something…”
Upon listening to his words, I was highly relieved and highly pleased. So high spirited all throughout the course of the dinner that Jessica couldn’t resist asking what had got me in such a good mood.
Before heading to bed… I read Alexey’s email over again meticulously, understanding straight to the point and transparently.
The words ‘one last chance’ might sound a bit harsh towards one’s feelings… a way of speaking that’s expected from that hottie… but upon proper reflection, I was also partly responsible for making him have to speak this way with me… therefore we were considered equal on this issue.
The ability to seize chances is seemingly a special skill attached to the hottie since birth. Regardless of what his story with Ethan is… he was capable of making Ethan stay put in order to collaborate with me. And this is the very ‘chance’ that Alexey has given me… A one in a million chance for me to present my work on a magazine that will be launched all across Europe… and if this chance is missed, it’s lost forever.
(TN: Clarification – So by ‘one last chance’ Alexey actually means this once in a lifetime assignment, it was never a ‘one last chance’ for Petch.)
The hottie’s voice still echoed in my heart.
‘I wasn’t threatening you… I was simply speaking the reality that anyone has to have experienced before when they face obstacles that need to be overcome. I might have chosen a method that you dislike, to which I cannot undo because regardless of whether it’s me or you, we are both living beings that are difficult to understand. But today’s outcome… even if you haven’t picked up your camera and started working yet… at the very least, I’m relieved that you have made good decisions, and believe that you will pour all your effort into doing the best you can…’
‘Aren’t you placing too high hopes on me?’
‘A worthless person… is someone no one will place their hopes onto… understand?’
I took three minutes to process his words… so he trusts me?
‘And… and… and why did Eisbär choose me? You know that my skills aren’t even close to being on par with his, didn’t you tell him?’
‘Eisbär has abandoned everything… you can forget about him entirely. Also, I’m the person that chose you. As to why, I’ll explain it to you later… if you can to wait that long.’ His final sentence sounded significantly gentler.
I wanted to asked him, what if I couldn’t wait that long? What then? …But instead, I chose to say the opposite. ‘I can wait, but I’ll be charging you an interest rate in the meantime.’
I was about to say that once everything was over, I would be demanding heavy compensation as well… but his reply had me utterly shocked…
‘I believe in you.’
Tears on the verge of flowing upon hearing these words. These words weren’t words of appeasement nor words of comfort, they were genuine, and they emanated from a place inside… I believed in his words, just like how he believed in me.
It was already eleven o’clock at night but I couldn’t fall asleep… As such, I decided to tread over to Jessica’s room and knock on her door, seeking someone to have a nice walk with. My kathoey friend complained incessantly yet agreed to come along in the end. We walked together quietly amidst the hazy lights lining the edge of the streets and looking up at the spindly branches above, this scene was like something out of ‘Friday the 13th’. At a small grocery on the wayside, we stopped to get some vodka in order to relieve us of the cold. For those of you who don’t know, this place is practically heaven for ‘copper throats’ because a six-hundred cc bottle of regular grade vodka costed only a hundred and fifty baht (I already purchased several to store in my room).
(TN: Copper throats – Those with a high tolerance for alcohol.)
“Jessica, have you known that hottie for a long time?”
I brought this topic up so out of nowhere that Jessica lost her balance, spilling the vodka in her hand.
“And what if I have?”
“I plan to buy some underground lottery tickets.”
(TN: Gambling is prohibited in Thailand, so we have a lucrative underground alternative instead.)
“Fuck!” My answer was worthy of getting scolded at, this I admit. “You finally want to know more about Mr. Handsome? Talk about slow.”
“Oh come on, I just got a little bit more interested now. I want to know more about the type of deranged person that buys a two hundred baht Leica lens and gives it out to other people for free.”
Jessica motioned as if wanting to rap me on my head. “Let’s see, Alexey’s been friends with my husband Baum ever since he went to earn his masters degree in Boston.”
Oh… right, that hottie had told me before that he used to live in Boston for a half year. “Then what?”
“They were friends from that time onwards. As for me, I first met him when Baum took me travelling to Amsterdam. At that time, Alexey had a small art gallery by the riverside, oh… it was so gorgeous.”
“So… you’ve known him for a long time then, why didn’t you tell me before?” I asked, beginning to sulk a bit.
Jessica gave me a sidelong glance, throwing back an entire shot of vodka. “And then what? Some things are better known later.”
“Then… what about Eisbär?”
Jessica knitted her brows together, staring at my face and scratching her head before letting out a sigh.
“I came to know them all at once. Those guys are all friends, Baum, Sasha, Ethan, all friends. Only Sasha and Alexey grew up together since they were small. Also, Isakov, Viktar, and Leof grew up together as well. First off, you need to know that these Russians stick close together like a big family. Be it the boss’ children or his underling’s children, they all play and study together.”
“You’re even knowledgeable about their ancestors? Are these guys relatives of Rasputin or what?”
Jessica met my face with a glare. “Do you want to know about Eisbär or not?”
Oh, right, right, I completely forgot. I relayed the story that I had heard from Alexey to my best friend and finalized it with this question. “Thus, to conclude, Eisbär permanently quits taking photographs while Alexey takes over instead, deciding everything in his stead–the thing I’m wondering is, what was the disagreement about? Why is that hottie out seeking revenge, wiping out both the older twin sister and the younger twin brother, Ethan? Where did this resentment come from?”
“Uh… it’s a damn long story that you’re better off in the dark about.”
“Fuck, I’ve gotten this far already and I’m meeting Ethan tomorrow, just give me anything at all for me to work with, please.”
Jessica honestly didn’t wish to tell me, but caved in eventually. “Only because this is work-related.” She said.
The story was exactly like what I had known so far. Eisbär and Ethan were one of most skilled model and photographer duos in Europe, furthermore they were lovers. For this reason, the two of them made a vow to each other that they would never work with anyone else. Truthfully, the publishers were often reluctant to accept this arrangement, however, they would ultimately have to because Eisbär’s photography skills were god-like.
“Wait a minute, let me interrupt you for a second. Eisbär isn’t his real name right? I tried searching before but it came up empty.”
“It’s a name made up by Ethan’s fan club. At first, when he wasn’t famous yet, he was pretty normal. Just that he refused speak to anyone at all, no human beings whatsoever. Not to mention, he was so handsome that it made many people confused. Whenever he came to discuss work or arrived at the photoshoot, the team would always be confused as to who was the model and who was the photographer. He’s the type of person that wears Valentino and drives a BMW Z4 to work.”
My god! Even if I worked as a photographer for a number of lifetimes, I would still never have the money to afford and drive a BMW Z4!!! Just witness my daddy Eisbär!!!
“Now then, your man is a really irritable guy. Once starting to gain reputation, he disliked all the attention he was receiving. As such, he stopped wearing good clothes and let his body grow bigger and bigger until becoming a bear. His facial hair was left to grow into an unruly fashion while his expression resembled a grumpy polar bear, not to mention transforming the luxury car into a Hummer instead.”
I secretly thought, if he didn’t want to drive the BMW, he could have just given it to me. I’d be willing to adopt it for free. “But why the grumpy mood?”
“He’s an artist got it? He dislikes when people cause a ruckus and meddle in his private life, the exception of course being the people in his family. But Ethan’s fan club loved to meddle, be it news reporters or paparazzis.”
“You’re crazy, why would there be paparazzis chasing after a photographer? They should be chasing the model woi.” I commented.
“This is what’s crazier… several of these paparazzis who stalked the duo had to be admitted to the hospital afterwards.”
“Don’t tell me…” This was clearly the trait of a gangster.
“Let’s just say, Eisbär eradicated the paparazzis from his sight by making himself inconspicuous and got back to working passionately again because he truly loved his career. But the problem didn’t lie with him, rather it was other person, Ethan.”
“What did Ethan do to him?”
“Asking this means that you haven’t checked Ethan’s portfolio yet, right?”
I shook my head.
“Go back and look at Ethan’s final three magazine photographs, you’ll find your answer.”
When faced with the actual situation, I think… rather than demanding heavy compensation, I should force that hottie to show up instead.
The real Ethan E. Wittenberg in the flesh was something beyond my imagination, beyond a UFO mixed with a transformer mecha. By this, I don’t mean that he’s ugly or anything. On the contrary, he was such a beautiful man that it made me feel feverish, wanting to turn into a mushroom right on the spot.
However, past this layer of beauty was a dark simmering atmosphere that was being conveyed through the ocean blue eyes. He refused to shake my hand, not to mention staring at me with disdain from the corners of his eyes… Look, I’m a hundred and seventy-seven centimeters tall okay? I’m not a tiny pest, no need to make a face like I’m that inferior.
Ethan spoke English very fluently but it was coupled with a strange accent… it wasn’t a Russian accent like the one Alexey has… and it sounded really strange to the ear.
As for me, as if I was going to give up.
I invited him to sit down and introduced myself briefly, whilst trying to prevent myself from grabbing the tripod standing nearby and breaking Ethan’s pretty neck with it. Especially upon claiming that I was a fashion photographer working in Thailand, his gaze was even more like…
Uh… Ethan, I’m not a cockroach alright? You don’t have to make such a disgusted face.
“So… you’re the one?” He finally spoke up.
“Yes, he entrusted this assignment to me.”
“Merde! I thought we understood and settled this already, it has to be him and only him! Not you!” Ethan raised his voice while clanging the cup of coffee in his hand down onto the saucer, causing it to chip instantly. Hey, just don’t pull out your gun on me okay…? “A big assignment like this, how could he entrust it to some nobody?”
Hua… this bastard.
“Regardless of whether it is big or not, we are both responsible for this assignment.”
Piercing ocean blue eyes snapped to meet my face. “Who-is-this-we?”
“Oh, sorry, I mean ‘you’ and ‘I’” How the hell is this any different from ‘we’? “I believe you are professional enough to have this discussion done in half an hour…?”
“What if I refuse to do this?”
“Then five hundred thousand euros… and being banned for five to six years might suffice for refusing.” Viktar’s decisive voice interrupted our conversation.
Ethan turned towards the source of the voice, grabbing the cup of coffee and flinging it in the same direction, only to be riposted by the sound of a gunshot. The entire room therefore reverted back to it’s peaceful state once more. The coffee cup laid shattered into pieces on the floor of carpet, leaving behind a cloud of ceramic dust in the air. Ethan was pale-faced yet kept his face turned upwards haughtily. As for me… my tail almost dove into my butt!
“Five hundred thousand euros means that your boss wants this assignment more than me, if not, why would he offer ten times the hiring fee that was outlined in the actual contract…?” These hateful eyes landed on my face. “Is he planning to pave a path for this little puppy with money or what? This his new kid…? His tastes have changed.”
What about five hundred thousand euros? I had no idea what he was talking about but I went with the flow anyways… my English was poor… speaking-wise it sounded like nonsense… listening-wise there were many words I couldn’t understand… but my rabid dog instincts… were still as strong as ever!
“Quit your bullshit already. Whatever resentment you have from your previous life I don’t give a shit about. However, this is my work. If you think you’re that smart then consider properly if you want to return those five hundred thousand euros and be registered on the national unemployment list or hug those five hundred thousand euros and land on the cover of this magazine, it’s your choice. But I definitely won’t waste my time on you because my vacation will not be wasted with a model that has kicked the bucket.”
“Petch, you!” Jessica exclaimed from behind, acting as if about to faint due to the speech that I had spat at Ethan, all entirely in English, there was not a single word of Thai mixed among it. I was also surprised at my own words. My English bulb which had been blocked like a large pimple since birth finally burst and overflowed, flooding up and out of my mouth (but now was not the time for celebrations).
“So are you going to cooperate with me or not? If you are… please sit down. If not… the get out, I don’t want to waste my time on you.”
Ethan obeyed and sat down, glaring at me with loathing eyes. “…Son of a bitch.”
“We’ve only talked for ten minutes but you’re already capable of thinking up a suitable label for me? Not bad.” With an emotionless voice, I shot him back this question. “Then again, who would know a ‘son of a bitch’ better than a ‘son of a whore’? …Isn’t that right?”
I gave him a smile… coldly.
“Before spewing something out of that fucking mouth, realize first that the person in control of this game isn’t you!!!”