Bold: The characters are speaking in English.
“Please keef your key very well.” …Please keep your key very well…
An antique-looking copper key was stuffed into my hand as Granny Svetlana beamed me a warm smile.
“Your want breakfas now?” …Would you like your breakfast now?…
“Yes please.” I smiled dryly and waved her farewell, seeing Granny wobble past the stairs in the corner of the room to the kitchen.
I didn’t know whether god was blessing or punishing me but after forcefully insisting Granny for several minutes, she eventually complied to speaking English with me. Thank god… Granny, what are you being shy for? I can’t even recite all twenty-six letters of the English alphabet okay? You can’t be much worse than me.
I carefully push the door to my room open. Muddy sunlight poured onto the grey carpet which shifted gradually into a carmine red then orange color; similar to the interior furniture which gradually shifted from dusky grey into its original color. The decorations in the room were telltale sign of age, seemingly ancient relics from the Soviet era and essentially several decades old. I deposited my travel suitcase in one corner and flopped down onto the bed, waiting until Granny Svetlana had placed my breakfast on the floor in front of my room. I demolished the meal in less than ten minutes and reverted back to lying down again, patting my full belly.
What should I do next…?
Prior to coming here I had been excited, confused and anxious, all at the same time. The one hundred and eighty or so things on my checklist which I hoped to accomplish in these eight weeks while in central asia trickled into my mind one by one. Yet once arriving here… I was at a lost of what to do first.
To add, the discovery that there would be no one I could hold a decent conversation with filled me with dread. If I had that hottie or one of his ruthless bodyguards to accompany me, this trip would definitely be more enjoyable…
Hm… that’s not a bad idea, actually it’s a brilliant idea.
Then again… I should call to annoy him too. With this in mind, I didn’t hesitate to quickly dial his phone number, waiting for a few seconds with bated breath. Is this considered ‘giving in’, if I’m the one who calls first?
“Hello? It’s me. What do you want, hurry up and speak.” How come his voice sounded so stern…?
“Uh… it’s me.”
“Me? Oh, you…” I heard somebody else’s voice travel through the other end of call, it echoed slightly as if in a conference room of some sort… “I’m in a meeting right now but tonight I’ll be flying to Astana, keep your phone near you.”
Was he planning on not giving me a chance to speak at all? “Uh… are you coming to see me?”
“I don’t think so… but you can think of it that way.” Well which is it… “So what do you want?”
The thought of what I was about to say had me grinning cheek to cheek. I inhaled deep into my lungs, readying myself for battle.
“Oh… I don’t really mean to bother you but I want a guide… this travel guidebook is a piece of crap and Google isn’t being helpful either… I don’t necessarily mean you though… I know you’re extremely busy, plus quick-tempered as hell. You’re high and mighty, not to mention perfect in every way, so you obviously can’t risk even a glance at me–and even if you lowered yourself to my level, you would probably get sick of me in the first fifteen minutes… so… to conclude… may I borrow Isakov, your favourite underling… for around… two months… please…? But let me warn you first, I don’t have any money to pay for that guy’s salary so think of this as a donation alright?”
I swear, normally I don’t act this shameless, and never to this extent.
If I had to guess… by now the vein on Alexey’s forehead was probably throbbing as he ground his teeth in anger. He was probably going to retaliate along the lines of: ‘Who do you think you are little puppy’, or something like that.
“Sorry to say but Isakov has to fly to Frankfurt tonight.” The tone of his voice wasn’t as horrible as I thought. Hmm, or did he have a hidden motive? “And how very smart of you for understanding that between us, we’re like the back of a hand and the dust behind the sole of one’s feet–so try being more modest next time when you ask for something Petch.”
Huu, it hurts…
“But since you were brave enough to ask, I’m brave enough to give. And I can even give you a hundred times more than this, but drill these words into that thick skull of yours Petch… always think before you speak…”
Alexey’s voice was frigid… he didn’t need to finish his sentence for me to know that a disaster was soon approaching.
“As it so happens, Viktar is flying back this afternoon. He’ll finish the task I assigned him and contact you afterwards.”
“And… will you have a bodyguard to use in the meantime?”
“Don’t worry… I have an entire army.” Despite his words obviously being an overstatement, the sky high confidence in his voice made me to believe him completely. “Let me warn you about one thing though… hm, actually no, I won’t warn you, you’ll figure it out by yourself anyways.”
Not even minutes later I received a text on my phone, the notification sound startling me out of my absentminded state… It was from Viktar.
‘Buy a box of cigars near the town hall and a bouquet of flowers. Bring them to Eeyore at Eeyore’s Cafe at 2PM sharp and collect the press pass from him. Prepare yourself and your equipment, wear a tuxedo too, I’ll have someone deliver you to the hotel.’
A second text arrived not even thirty seconds later.
‘Tail the woman in the red dress, don’t pay attention to the events in the ceremony. Receive 2,000 dollars in cash and meet me at the mosque…’
A third text trailed behind closely, this time it was from… hm? It was an unknown sender.
‘Since you’re brave enough to ask, I’m brave enough to give… tonight V. will show you around.’
Uh… I only asked for a city tour guide, not James Bond and his national-security top secret mission dude.
After spending significant time mulling it over, on one hand I was scared of getting tricked. However, on the other hand, doing something strange once in awhile didn’t sound like a bad idea; I was also the one who called him after all. Five minutes definitely wasn’t enough time to conjure up a bullying scheme for a little monkey like me, right…?
Fine, whatever happens, happens… I might as well write a column on it for Editor Chid too, brandish it into one of those thriller mafia novels, surely I won’t be accused of being delusional, no not at all~
I start preparing, donning the Burberry overcoat (Which nearly moved me to tears because it was my once in a lifetime chance to wear a forty thousand baht coat. To add, I looked damned good in it. Even with my chinatown-esque appearance it suited me perfectly. If that hottie were to wear it though… I’d probably faint due to his unbearably handsome appearance), a full set of winter gear, and my camera bag. Studying myself in the mirror, I looked oddly like a giant snowman. Moreover, as soon as I opened the door and encountered my nextdoor neighbour wearing a single pair of jeans and showing off his six pack, I couldn’t help but feel bashful. I removed a few pieces of clothing with pity before staring into the mirror again… Whatever, I’d rather be cold than not look handsome.
After having walked for roughly half a kilometer… where in the world was I…? Regardless, a giddy feeling was starting to bubble in my stomach. I unfolded a map which I had bought from a nearby newspaper stand–the labels fortunately in both English and Russian so I managed to scrape by–as well as resorting to asking directions from passersby… I felt a little timid at first, but after five or so people I had managed to get the hang of it; it was beginning to feel enjoyable too. The final person said I was not too far from my destination, merely instructing me to turn left into a small alleyway. I thanked him and prepared to cross the road. Looking around, the cigar shop happened to be situated right beside the town hall so I peered at my watch and decided to drop by the government building first, stealing a couple of good shots in the process.
A hunchbacked granny in a brown outfit and a thick skirt trailing the floor pushed a flower cart past. The scene was no different than in Thailand, save for the fact that as Granny pushed her cart along, one of her frail-looking hands grasped a cigarette. With every five steps, she would stop to take a puff of her cigarette, exhaling the thick smoke before starting her walk again… at this rate, when was she ever going to reach her final destination? I shout for her to stop. Granny turned to look and adjusted her sunglasses, inspecting me as if I was a strange creature from some other planet. Although I hadn’t yet opened my mouth to order a bouquet of flowers, she was already waving a hand dismissively. “English nyet nyet.”
For god’s sake, I was rejected before I even got to say a single word! But I wasn’t going to give up here. I sprint over to block the front of Granny’s cart, however, when she spotted the camera hanging from my neck: She started screaming.
“Camera nyet!!!” No idea as to where she mustered the strength from, Granny spun her cart around fast and stubbornly fled… leaving me totally confused in front the town hall by myself.
Only later did I learn that people here really disliked having their photo taken (even if you ask nicely, they won’t allow it), partly you could call it a fear of strangers. Either way, I’ll try to remember it for next time.
Turning two more corners, I was beginning to fear that I might be lost when all of a sudden, another cart selling flowers popped into view; the vendor this time as ‘ancient’ as the first. Having learnt my lesson now, I packed my camera back into my bag before approaching the cart.
The vendor sold around ten different varieties of flowers but this just made me feel reluctant, I didn’t know which to choose. I had no clue who the recipient of these flowers was either. Was it Eeyore? That didn’t sound right, Eeyore was a man’s name after all. The vendor herself wasn’t making this any easier too, recommending each and every one of them all the same; if I owned an acre of land, I would gladly buy the entire cart Granny.
Finally, I decided on a random flower, it was white and bunched together in clusters. When arranged into a bouquet it looked fairly cute–and this granny was cute as well, she went to the effort of tying a bright red bow for me too. This time I tried asking very politely for a photo but the reaction was no different, Granny started to flee immediately, hastily pushing her cart away at top speed. So I sprinted after her according to my instincts and forcibly stuffed roughly one hundred tenge (around thirty baht) into her hand, causing her to brake fast, body nearly doubling over. Granny beamed a big smile for me, showing off her set of golden teeth… I quickly press the shutter as fast as humanly possible before Granny could decide to up the price. All in all… adding a footnote to my previous lesson about taking photos of people in Kazakhstan: ‘One hundred tenge and you won’t be disappointed’.
The streets in Astana were fairly wide and extremely clean; the only clutter being the dry fallen leaves of the autumn trees. These large trees lined the sidewalk, their trunks so wide that I could barely fit my arms around one, it was a cool and pleasant sight for the eyes. The number of cars in this vicinity was negligible and the weather was good (according to the people here). Nearly every car which drove past had their windows rolled down to let cool air flow inside, rendering air conditioners unnecessary. As I was about to cross the road, I spotted a frail grandma leading her two grandchildren by the hand across the road… A luxurious car darting straight ahead slowed down to a stop, the driver also waving happily at the two children. Oh how I really wished for my own city, Bangkok, to be as beautiful and endearing as this place.
It was fifteen minutes to two in the afternoon. To be honest I felt unbearably hungry, but if I arrived late to this meeting with Eeyore I was definitely going to get chopped up into pieces by either that hottie or Viktar. Thus, I decided to go on an empty stomach for now and follow the directions of my map. ‘Eeyore’s Cafe’ stood on a small nameless street covered in yellow-orange leaves of the elm trees lining the entire walkway. The building I stood in front of was right beside the ministry of defence, it was a partly old and partly new tenement which seemed to be freshly repainted with a mustard color not too long ago. The windows of every room on the second and third floor had ivy clinging to them, the green tendrils circling around the laundry which was set out to dry in the sun. ‘Eeyore’s Cafe’ wasn’t difficult to find even without a large sign on display since I was able to hazard a guess from the number of men sitting and drinking coffee outside, each of them blowing thick smoke out of their mouths like a tobacco factory. Entering the shop, my appearance made several heads turn and all conversation come to a halt, so naturally I beamed them the world famous ‘Thai Smile’. “I’m… here to see Eeyore.”
(TN: Thai Smile – Thailand is known as ‘The land of smiles’, apparently to foreigners we smile a lot!)
Obviously no one in this shop could speak English, but someone was kind enough to summon Eeyore at the top of their lungs for me. A man whose features seemed to be a mix between Caucasian and Chinese appeared on the other side of the window, his hands busy wiping a plate dry.
“Who’s he?” I assumed this was what he said–and it seemed to be the case as he switched to speaking German before eventually English. “Oh, you’re related to that guy who called me earlier aren’t you…? Have a seat, yes outside, the weather’s nice today.”
I do as he says. Eeyore yelled something to his wife, ordering her before limping over to me. I glanced down and noticed that his left ankle was a silver color… it really was silver. Eeyore walked with a limp because he had a prosthetic leg.
“It’s about time for lunch, you might as well eat here, my wife’s cooking is delicious.” His wife brought out a large bowl of potato salad and placed it down in front of me, coupled with a fragrant cup of Turkish coffee. The word ‘modest’ never existed in my brain since the beginning so I demolished the meal, leaving behind two slices of tomato which I couldn’t fit into my stomach anymore. As for Eeyore, he was silently smoking a cigarette next to me, not bothering to ask me any questions at all. I glanced at him… peering from the side, Eeyore extremely resembled Alexey’s most favourite bodyguard.
“Thank you very much for the meal.” Remembering my assignment, I hand the item which Viktar had specified over to the other man. Eeyore made a difficult expression, “That guy told you to buy this for me as a gift?”
I looked at the object in my hand–hua, this is the wrong one! I hastily correct myself by hiding the bouquet behind my back and handing him the box of cigars instead. Eeyore saw both items and busted out in laughter.
“Yeah… though white lilacs don’t suit my wife much, she’d be grateful either way.” He turned the box of cigars back and forth before lighting one right away. “Thanks for the cigars, you chose good stuff.”
I scratched my head bashfully. My, my, I have an eye for good cigars? The seller had a huge discount on this particular one so that’s why I wound up buying it.
“I’ve never seen you before, are you that guy’s friend?”
Uh… not exactly.
“He’s still working for His Excellency right? No, actually that’s a stupid thing to ask, what I mean to ask is…” Suddenly Eeyore flinched, his expression becoming hesitant. “Are you his underling?”
“Wait, wait. Who is who’s underling?”
“Well… you’re Viktar’s underling… are you not? Don’t tell me you’re His Excellency’s underling.” Why is his face so pale all of a sudden!
“I’m… a photographer… like, His Excellency sent me here to train so Viktar is looking after–hua… I mean giving me work to do.” I answered, tripping over my words slightly.
“Oh.” Eeyore’s face eased. “That’s a relief.”
(What do you mean by that!)
When I later asked Viktar about this strange conversation, he turned to me and exploded in laughter, tears and snot running down his face.
Dammit… as it turns out Eeyore was Isakov’s childhood friend, plus he had previously served as one of the hottie’s bodyguards. However, due to an unfortunate accident which caused him lose his left foot, he was forced to lay this career to rest, transferring into the intelligence unit instead. As such, when he saw my clueless face earlier he had misunderstood me to be a new bodyguard, explaining then his worried expression…
But I wanted to protest… don’t you dare underestimate me woi!
“I wonder how that puppy is doing~” A familiar voice spoke up amidst the sound of several typing keyboards. “He didn’t cause trouble and get kicked off of the plane by an air hostess right?”
The office which had been fairly peaceful due to the absence of Petch became noisy in an instant. “P’Pun, now’s not the time to worry about your little boy. P’Petch just took off yesterday, it hasn’t even been twenty-four hours yet and you already miss him?”
Editor Chid who had been sitting in ambush behind a ‘The Post’ newspaper lowered his reading material… It was Meuk speaking, he figured as much.
“Hey you, he’s my mistress so of course I have to worry, a sugar daddy like me dedicates his love to one person and one person only.”
Lookchid secretly chuckled. Pun was really something, he was very comfortable to play along whenever somebody teased him. Not limited to this office alone, it was common knowledge to everyone in this building that this charming dimpled-smile man had ‘something’ going on with a certain noisy pouty-cheeked chinatown boy. Whenever Petch wanted something from Pun, he would begin pleading like a puppy, flirting and buttering up to his senior without any shame.
“I think you’re more like a fretful wife P’Pun.” Cup E Mild, the resident hardcore Y girl interjected. “You coddle P’Petch too much, he’s on the verge of becoming cripple already. Let him explore the world for once, this way he can come back as a normal responsible adult like the rest of us.”
(TN: Y girl – Thai slang for fujoshi, a girl who likes yaoi)
It was unknown as to a how a whiny kid in a grown man’s body managed to activate Pun’s paternal (or was it maternal?) instincts. Pun adored him more than anything, who knows how many girlfriends he ended up breaking up with because he was too busy pampering Petch. Moreover, the number one hit dialogue was: ‘P’Pun, if you’re going to choose P’Petch over me, let’s break up immediately.’
Of course… someone as manly as Punnaphob would obviously answer: ‘I choose Petch, if you’re displeased then let’s part ways.’ Look at him, to say such a thing! No girl would endure such ridiculous words.
And what was so good about Petch…? Lookchid had been his boss for over three years now but still had no idea. Petch had talent but it wasn’t outstanding by any means. His personality was good though sloppy and self-centered at times, and while he was a responsible worker, he was more concerned about his personal leisure. As for his looks… well… when Mild first joined the company she had fallen head over heels in love with Petch, however after working together for roughly six months, she claimed that she would only take Petch as her husband if no other man was left on this planet… meaning that the quality of his looks did nothing to help his character.
As for Pun… this guy wasn’t any better. As of late he barely showed up to the office; and even if he did, he was unable to concentrate. His phone rang constantly despite him previously never being the social butterfly type, and as for the quality of his work… haah… Lookchid was beginning to regret allowing his summer holiday to Uzbekistan, he really wanted to drag Pun back and enroll him in an amateur’s course covering basic camera techniques instead.
Not to mention calling in sick once every week as well. The man had the shamelessness to say, ‘might as well use up the vacation days from last year’ too, you’d be stupid to believe that innocent face of his. Really, what kind of boss would be fooled by two troublesome employees like Pun and Petch? And Pun seemed absolutely fine, there was no sign of him being sick. If there was anything actually wrong with him, it was that he was heartsick, his mind occupied by a certain clingy but handsome foreigner. An undercover spy concerning all matters Y like Mild had been constantly giving Lookchid semi-daily reports about spotting the R-rated couple in several lovey dovey situations; that is, on the days when Pun actually came in to work. Even worse, one of the HR people from the ninth floor had come to report to him in person once, saying: ‘P’Chid, I saw your employee, the handsome-looking one with glasses kissing a foreigner in the elevator’. To have an outsider inform him about this, he really felt ashamed to be Pun’s editor.
“I don’t really want to get involved or anything, but…” Mild frowned. “P’Pun, if you catch fish with two hands like this… won’t all the good looking men be gone at this rate? You should think to be more considerate and save some for me, honestly what a waste of resources.”
(TN: Catching fish with two hands – An expression which warns against greed. If you aim to catch more than one fish at a time, you are likely to catch neither, it’s better to concentrate a catch one with both hands.)
“You idiot.” Pun rapped the female editor’s head loudly. “I only have one mistress.”
“But you have your own sugar daddy too… haah… I guess my beauty will wilt away meaninglessly then, it’s too late, the good men have all turned gay.”
The person who was secretly listening shook his head in exasperation, really, was he making a fashion magazine or a stand-up comedy?
“Stop it, enough is enough.” Suddenly Pun’s voice hardened, his eyes also glancing over to meet Chid’s. The raised voice now toned down slightly. “Joking around for fun is fine, but I’m not pleased if you keep repeating it over and over again.”
The eyes beneath those glasses glanced to look at him once more. Editor Chid flipped the page of his newspaper and continued to read the business analysis column…
Suddenly he felt the sofa dip down… Pun had come over to sit beside him. “Uh, P’Chid… can I talk to you about something for a bit?”
“What’s this ‘something’?”
Pun smiled, his canine teeth peeking out slightly as he adjusts the glasses on his face. “Oh, I want your opinion on selling insurance.”
Chid blinked rapidly, did he mistakenly see a glimmering boyband aura around the corners of his vision? This guy was unnecessarily handsome. “You idiot, can’t get enough of irritating me can you? Come, whatever you want to talk about, let’s do it inside.”
Pun followed him into the office. Yet once the door closed, he said nothing. The room fell into a momentary silence until Chid couldn’t bear it any longer and cleared his throat loudly. “Want a cigarette?”
“Sure.” He accepted the cigarette, lit it, and smoked quietly.
“Okay, so what do you want to talk about?”
Pun’s issue wasn’t anything major (yet why did he have to make such a worried expression?). To put it simply, Mr. Punnaphob here was going through an identity crisis between being an ordinary man and being either bi or gay. Of course, no matter what he was, they all had their own problems. For example, as an ordinary man he had to be at the beck and call of a demanding girlfriend, follow celebrity news, obsess over shopping, tune in to after hours dramas, and most bizarre of all, straight guys had to play football in the middle of the night. In terms of being bi… um… there wasn’t as many problems but life would certainly be more hectic. As for being gay (the likes of which Pun was beginning to wonder if he himself was one)…
“Ha? And what about you and Petch?”
Pun rolled his eyes. “There’s nothing between us really. Petch is fun to tease that’s all.”
“Then there’s nothing to think so hard about. So long as you don’t go doing something unseemingly in public with that blue-eyed handsome fellow then there’s no problem. Just explain it to your Pa and Ma and that’ll be the end of that.” Lookchid tried to answer neutrally but his heart felt strangely frustrated, he was surprised at himself.
“As if I would risk getting cut from the family inheritance.”
“Suddenly worrying about your possessions out of nowhere, your Pa would be proud if he knew.”
“I don’t mean it like that… look… I really don’t know but I… uh…uhh… li… uhh… nevermind.” His fair skin was beginning to turn a faint shade of pink. “Uhh… he and I… we go together pretty… um… well.”
“And does he think… the same as you?” Chid inquired, the tone of his voice muddy and unclear. It turns out, these words made his conversation partner nearly want to duck underneath the carpet.
“Uhh…” Pun nodded, his pink face turning bright red like a tomato. Seeing this, Chid wanted to roar out in laughter, this troubled man made a face like the world was about to end despite it being just a simple problem of the heart. “The problem is… uhh… uhh… you see… uhh…”
The other problem was that Pun currently felt restrained in his everyday life. Even though he wanted to resist, he was always defeated by the other man’s pleading voice and warm embrace. When Pun took the roundabout way of explaining things up to this point… a close friend of his was in love, but Chid didn’t feel happy at all…
“I feel like I’m living a married life.” Pun pouted. “It’s not that he’s no good… rather, he’s too good. He’s so good that… I sometimes wonder whether I’m dreaming or not. My life is great but why do I feel so oppressed?”
The fear of being tied down was a common problem faced by single men, Chid himself understood this well. He should be happy that Pun confided in him, however, he didn’t like what he was seeing nor hearing… not in the least. Perhaps because Chid was feeling a little displeased at the quality of Pun’s work lately, he saw his interactions with that blond man as an annoyance; meaning that it had nothing to do with how his junior was in love.
Lookchid pulled himself out of his thoughts to face the matter at hand. He was supposed to be a good listener, not a judge, it was only appropriate to separate his personal feelings from what the other had come to discuss.
“How about trying to live like you used to before that guy appeared? …You can come over for drinks at my house, go play football with Petch, accompany your parents to the temple, or wake up at 3 AM and drive out to the countryside, disappear for a week like you used to if you want. You can come back to see that guy whenever you feel ready.”
“But he…” Pun sighed. “-that’s going to be difficult to do P’Chid…”
Editor Chid thought so as well. Pun had already fallen hard, head over heels for the other man… letting go was difficult at this point.
“But thanks a lot P’Chid, I’ll think over your words.” Pun extinguished the cigarette. He was about to leave the room but stopped in his tracks. “Uh… P’Chid.”
“How did you happen to know about me and… Sasha?”
Chid cocked an eyebrow. “Well you’re working in mass communications aren’t you?”
Pun made a shocked face before opting to laugh boisterously as a means to hide his embarrassment, walking out of the room without looking back. Yet in doing so, he missed seeing Lookchid crumple his carton of cigarettes, the man hurriedly striding out to the balcony to smoke his cigarette with a feeling of annoyance that he himself didn’t know the cause of.
As he arrived at room 1206, he saw the owner of the room packing their clothes into a twenty-four inch travel suitcase. When those clear blue eyes lifted up to meet Pun’s, Sasha smiled, abandoning his suitcase and coming in for a hug… his smile, embrace, and gentle kiss… it was impossible for Pun to withstand it all.
“How was your day?”
“Not much happened. I didn’t have to leave the office for work today so it’s been relaxing.” Pun removed his shoes and placed it on the rack, staring at the clothes which lay strewn all over the floor by the bed. “Where you packing your bags to?”
“To Frankfurt, I have urgent business to attend to.” The answer came with a heavy kiss to the base of his neck. Pun retracted his neck, giggling at the warm breath which tickled his skin. The large hands wrapped around his waist slithered up to hook the edge of his pants. “It’s just for three or four days, please wait for me sweetheart.”
“Uu…” He had questions but lacked the chance to ask them, too preoccupied with warding off the handsome face which was trying to come closer. “No… don’t kiss–you leave marks every time, it’s embarrassing.”
“Embarrassing for who?” The owner of the blond hair and blue eyes tilted his neck to the side. Pun’s doubtful face was so adorable that he wanted to push him down and eat him to his heart’s content. “Embarrassing… embarrassing for the folks who will see it of course. Tonight I’m going to go play football… with… with… Meuk, it’s hot during the day.” Meuk’s house was in Bangkok Noi, what reason would he have to come all the way to Phetchaburi to play football? Pun couldn’t think up a name so he used his co-worker as an excuse. Sorry Meuk, Pun didn’t intend to get him involved.
“We’re lovers so leaving a few marks here and there is expected, or does Meuk not understand?”
“Who exactly is your lover?”
“You of course.”
“I never agreed to this, don’t just assume things on your own.”
The owner of the room made a pouty face. “Oh… is that so…?” With that said, he loosened his hold and returned to packing his bags until complete, as if nothing occurred just moments ago. It made the person who had come to visit him unsure of what to do next.
Fifteen minutes passed, but Sasha still said nothing. To add, he walked back and forth past Pun as if he wasn’t standing there at all. Pun observed the items in the suitcase, feeling surprised to find several things which seemed out of place given that the suitcase belonged to a bachelor. For example, there was a set of adorable toys from Japan, a set of figurines from the movie Toy Story 3, as well as a brand new Nintendo Wii which they had just bought together the other day.
“Hua? …You’re going to bring the game console with you?”
“Mm.” The short blunt reply indicated Sasha’s sudden strangeness, but since Pun didn’t catch this sign, he could only let out a sigh. Haah… so it was a gift for someone else. He had been gearing up to play it, even going out to buy games for the console… oh well, he could always buy a new one.
“So… you called me over to watch you pack, really?”
“You can go play football if you want, it’s not like I mind, you’re single after all”
Good lord… would it hurt to tell Pun that he was going through his menopause? This way he wouldn’t have rushed over from Thonburi to watch a man pack his bags…
“I just wanted to us to spend some time together, but it’s no big deal if you’re not free.”
Sasha had a penchant for acting like this… wearing a sulky expression while his eyes pleaded like an abandoned puppy. He would instantly sulk from the slightest lecture and wag his tail side by side from the slightest praise. With an adorable personality like this, how could Pun bear to disappoint the other man…?
“I never said I would be going right now… it’s fine if I’m a little late to the football game.”
The sulking person beamed a huge smile, gathering Pun up in a hug, kissing, caressing, and devouring him till his skin bruised.
…And it was because it was like this that Pun ended up unable to go anywhere. He couldn’t play football and wound up missing the motor show, even friends in his drinking circle were calling to ask whether he had turned over a new leaf now since he never showed up these days…
Or was this punishment for failing to keep his promise to Petch about not drinking during Buddhist Lent!
After devouring the adorable man to his heart’s content for one round, Sasha bade farewell and strolled out of condo happily. He had planned to head straight to Suvarnabhumi Airport and spend his time waiting for the flight in the VIP lounge, however, someone had decided to dial into his phone and disrupt his mood. The officer assigned to the case of the nameless Russian man who was murdered and thrown off the building the other day was calling him, so Sasha was forced to tell his chauffeur to switch destinations immediately.
These insects were really such a nuisance, be it the person at the top giving the orders or the person cluelessly chasing after a false lead at the bottom trading their sweat and tears for a meagre policeman’s salary. Don’t these Thai people know better than to stick their heads between a brawl among the mafia? Blood is washed with blood and life is traded with life, they were going to cause unnecessary trouble.
Those who rushed headstrong into conflict with any member of the Nazarbayev family were looking to get themselves killed as fast as possible. Sasha was in the dark about current underworld tensions but their aim was probably not Alexey. It was perhaps Clement instead, the naughtiest troublemaker and youngest of the Nazarbayev’s.
Regardless, the authoritarian older brother had thrown this burden onto Sasha instead. Although he wasn’t entirely willing, he complied anyhow. It wasn’t difficult to avert the police’s attention after all, he only needed to tangle their leads and confuse their train of thought. It was just a waiting game now to see when they would reach a dead end.
He smiled at the call from the police officer who was trying to do his work dutifully. The man had unfortunate luck, being assigned to a case which was impossible to win.
“Did you call me because you wanted to hear my voice? Or would you also like to see my face too Mr. Officer?”
“Ha?” The person on the other end of the call made a surprised noise.
“Hm? Isn’t it normal for people to call each other when they miss them? If you’re free, would you like to meet me at the airport? I want to treat you to a good cup of coffee.”
“Are you trying to flee the country?”
“Fleeing the radius of you charm is way more difficult than fleeing the country Mr. Officer.”
No one could remain still when met with such straightforward flirting, Sasha presumed the other man was curling up from embarrassment by now. When it came to courting men, he excelled at it the most and was nearly unmatched.
“Mr. Sasha Gilliseva, don’t try to stray from the topic, please drop by to give your testimony at our station in Huai Khwang district.”
A tough voice travelled through the other end of the call. The officer was trying to threaten Sasha to the best of his abilities yet he only managed to resemble a tiny barking chihuahua. For someone like Sasha… at this stage what was there to be scared of? His best friend from room 1202 was several leagues more menacing than this innocent-faced rookie policeman.
“I’ll be waiting for you at the Starbucks in Asok, in the Grammy building.”
“The station in Huai Khwang!”
“Allow me to reinforce our meeting place again: The Starbucks beneath the Grammy building. If not, then you’ll just have to wait till I return from Europe.”
“You have no right to go anywhere.”
Woof woof, bark bark, this puppy really had a sharp voice. Sasha distanced the phone from his ear and strode over to the front counter, studying the pastries behind the clear display window while smiling at the staff. He liked to handle small little things by himself instead of having someone to service him, things like shopping or ordering coffee for example. However, if it were those Nazarbayev’s, they only resorted to acting like commoners when in Germany. Once their life was sorted, a gangster in the mafia can never return to being an ordinary person ever again.
Sasha ordered his coffee and cleared his throat. “Guatemala Antigua coffee beans aren’t bad at all. Mr. Officer, you should sacrifice some of your time to come try it out. And as for preventing a witness from going overseas, that’s a little out of the ordinary. If you firmly believe that I am a suspect then please go ahead and issue me the subpoena… but think about it carefully first, because this will impact our diplomatic relationship.” Sasha smiled at the Starbucks barista. “Let me end our conversation with this, being able to drink good coffee with an adorable person is one thing I find pleasant about my life.”
He then disconnected the call immediately, knowing full well that the other party would be agonizing over it and eventually concede to Sasha’s suggestion.
The wait wasn’t long at all.. a white motorcycle pulled over next to the curb of the sidewalk (parking in the red-white indications too, it would be no surprise if its wheels got locked) along with a young policeman who walked into the coffee shop wearing a pout. “Tell me why I had to chase you all the way here in order to collect your testimony, the coffee’s expensive too.”
“Have a drink first.”
“It’s expensive.” The police officer complained, to which Sasha himself understood. The police in the crime suppression division toiled hard but received a humiliatingly meagre pay in return, it was wise to refrain from forcing the man into drinking Starbucks.
“It’s my treat then, just calm down okay? I’ll even promise to confess every single detail about what I saw that day.” Sasha leaned over and whispered next to the man’s ear. “Guaranteed, you’ll be able to picture it so clearly, to the point where you’d be tempted to try it yourself.”
The smooth cheeks of the crime suppression police officer turned red like cherries, both of his ears also turning a shade pinker… Sasha wanted to nip them, he could barely resist.
“You’re obstructing my duties Mr. Sasha.”
“I’ll be more than happy to reenact my testimony for you, if you want… what do you say?”
Sasha nearly fell to the floor laughing when he saw the officer’s nose start bleeding, blood trickling down the face of the young man in front of him. The man in question wasn’t aware of it at all until the red liquid had begun dripping onto the table, causing such a loud ruckus that every Starbucks employee in the shop went into a panic mode.
As for the real troublemaker… he stood there laughing and bent over in tears.
Okay, okay, he’ll give his testimony properly now; but it will just lead to a dead end alright?
“Pun… Pun… hey… what the hell is wrong with you?” The forceful elbow nudge from a friend in his football circle made Pun flinch. “What do you want to order? The staff is waiting.”
Pun turned back to look at the menu on the blackboard of the Starbucks shop and ordered a coffee listlessly. “I’ll get… anything is fine… an espresso frappe I guess.”
“Would you like whipped cream?”
“Small, medium or large?”
“Pun… Pun… what size do you want?”
But Pun heard nothing at all. What he saw before him was in fact the man who claimed to be ‘flying to Frankfurt tonight’ wiping the face of a young policeman with a deep-set look of concern.
Initially, he thought he was seeing things. He removed his glasses to wipe it clean yet the picture in front of him remained unchanged. The familiar owner of those bright blue eyes sent a sweet charming smile to the unknown stranger; not to mention also whispering into the other’s ear.
Pun didn’t need to stand any closer to know that Sasha was planning to ‘eat’, the innocent-looking golden retriever had grown a set of fangs and claws, turning into a wolf that was ready to ‘hunt’ its prey.
“What are you looking at… oh… isn’t that your boyfriend?”
Normally, Pun would instantly dismiss the man as his boyfriend, but in this second, he couldn’t speak, engrossed in staring at the scene before him with puzzlement.
He figured that his face was probably pale, the color in it drained. As his friend saw the situation turn south, he hurriedly prodded Pun’s back, forcing him out of the establishment.
Except, they weren’t as fast as the wolf… who managed to pull back his arm. “Pun…”
Pun pursed his lips tight, trying to repress his emotions. He didn’t want to quarrel with Sasha in public, it was humiliating enough as is. “I thought you were going straight to the airport…”
“I was, the flight is at 9.30 PM.”
“I didn’t know you had to go say goodbye to other people too… how many more are there, do you want me to send you off at their house?” Pun never knew he had this sassiness in him before. Yet his heart felt like it had been crushed, like it bursted with a loud ‘pop!’ …so loud that he felt embarrassed, unsure of whether the man in front of him heard the sound of his feelings breaking or not.
“Pun, I’m having a conversation with the police… can you see? He’s writing down my testimony.”
“But there’s no reason to be so close to each other.”
“’The police stays close to the people, serving them like family and friend’, have you not heard of this slogan before Pun? I see it all the time when I’m stuck in traffic.”
Look at his ridiculous excuses! Pun clenched his fist tight. If Sasha spoke another word, he swore he was going to punch him.
“Mr. Gilliseva, are you ready to continue providing your testimony?” The hardened voice of a little puppy sounded from behind Sasha. Seeing a young police officer whose cheeks and ears were red, accessorized with a bloody tissue that was stuffed up his nose, Pun nearly dropped his coffee.
“What’s this all about?”
Sasha Gilliseva, the master of pleading for attention, love and endearment turned to look at Pun with eyes which caused his heart to melt, lifting up his chin and pressing a soft light kiss on his lips amidst the eyes of everyone in the coffee shop before explaining gently:
“I was simply trying to explain to the police officer that… on the night of the incident, I was too preoccupied with an adorable person moaning sweetly on my bed like you, and so I didn’t have time to pay attention to a man jumping off the building. This police officer didn’t believe me, so I was planning to convince him with a practical lesson, would you like to help demonstrate it together with me Pun?” Finishing off his words with a wink.
It was in this second that Pun had a revelation in his head that this man was the most insincere smooth-talker in all of the three realms. Pun was going to forgive him this time since it involved a serious problem, but if he catches this happening again: Daddy is going collar and muzzle you so you won’t go flirting around with anyone else ever again!