Bold: The characters are speaking in English.
“Don’t you think our office is full of nothing but people deeply in love?”
“What makes you say that?”
“Well look… before this there was P’Petch who suddenly eloped away with that drop-dead handsome authority from the embassy… and then… there’s also P’Pun and his blonde-haired hunk with the blue eyes and playful smile…”
“But didn’t P’Pun already declare that they were just friends? I thought there was nothing special going on between them.”
“Meuk, are you blind? Don’t you see that even though P’Pun disappears from time to time, that blondie still comes to pick him up in a BMW nearly everyday… what kind of man gives a lift to one of their own gender on a daily basis?”
“A taxi driver of course.”
Smack! Being slapped, Meuk felt he should really consider his words more carefully.
“And look, even my Haru.”
“What? Your… Haru? Mild, you can’t say stuff like that, you’re tarnishing the boy’s reputation. With those trendy looks of his and a rich father, why would he end up falling into your hands?”
Mild sighed with exasperation. “Just look at Haru sitting there smiling to himself as daydreams about someone. Maybe he’s secretly thinking about me…? Oh just thinking about it makes me so embarrasseddddd.” Mild squealed as her body twisted left and right.
Editor Chid materialized silently from behind before using the long rolled up poster in his hand to give both of his underlings a rap on the head once each. “Quit mucking around, the deadline for the manuscript is in two days, are you almost done?” Then sharing his tough love with Haru as well. “You too, what are you smiling about? How’s your work going Haru?”
Haru smiled sheepishly and quickly went back to typing out his work again, albeit while still smiling. But come on… he was in a good mood alright? Happiness filled his heart to the brim and was almost on the verge of bursting out of his chest. After all, he had met the person he had been waiting for this entire time. Well, that’s the gist of it anyways. Come, come, sit close and listen up.
Oh… and by the way, this story happened a few days ago.
Putting bluntly, at that time Haru was at a complete loss at what do, seeing Alexey make his appearance at the airport… if he didn’t see Isakov dragging a bunch of travel suitcases after the man as well, Haru would have thought that he was dreaming.
“You… you…” Hundreds and thousands of words surged into his head, but he was speechless.
Those beautiful pair of lips curved up into an endearing smile… a familiar smile.
“You’ve… changed… a lot…” These were the smartest words he could muster from his mouth at this moment… before standing there helplessly in shock like he had been spooked by a ghost in broad daylight.
Well… wasn’t it not shocking? For a heavyweight bear with a giant’s physique, a ruthless attitude, and the impression of a thief (?) to reincarnate into a pristinely handsome and flawless gentlemen; even if he was just wearing a luxurious brand name t-shirt and a stylish pair of jeans (that Haru was sure… his grizzly bear Eisbär would not even be able to fit his legs into).
Alexey bent down to pick Kiril up in his arms and gave the boy a loving smooch on the cheek. His grey eyes appeared genuinely playful. “If you could be so kind as to help me look after the twins for three to four hours, I’ll explain.”
Haru couldn’t even remember what he said in reply, knowing only that he hastily grabbed Nikolai’s hand and led the boy to the car in a daze, as if having been struck by a spell.
The children were lively all throughout the course of the trip from the airport to the condominium on Phetchaburi road. As for Alexey, the man did not speak a single word to him at all, solely playing with the children until they fell asleep on the sofa in Sasha’s room.
Sasha’s room was similar in size to Haru’s place in Asok. However, there were several things inside that his eyes recognized, such as P’Pun’s old iPhone which was still plugged into a charging socket, P’Pun’s watch sitting on the bedside table, or P’Pun’s jeans among the pile of clothes delivered back from the dry cleaners… P’Pun really is tight-lipped like what P’Mild and P’Meuk had said. If he just admitted that they were lovers then that would be the end of that… why try to hide it when then evidence was already blatantly out in the open?
“You seem especially interested in this room.”
Haru flinched at being addressed out of nowhere. “Uh… it’s nothing.”
This reincarnated gentlemanly version of Eisbär made him feel uncomfortable, it was because of that magnetizing aura which made it difficult to detach one’s gaze.
“Get me a cup of coffee.”
Except the only thing which hadn’t changed was… that way of speaking… be it explaining, refusing, asking, or requesting, all of these sentences came out in the form of a command. Haru unconsciously shifted his body to do as was asked.
“I wasn’t talking to you, I was talking to Isakov.”
Ah, really…? Haru scratched his head abashedly and settled down on the opposite side.
“So where did you disappear to? My bags are still packed and ready for the trip to Budapest you know.”
The former heavyweight bear in front of him sighed.
“If I said… that I no longer take photographs, how would you react?”
Deep inside, Haru had a hunch that this was the case. However, by hearing it directly from the other man’s mouth, he couldn’t help but feel that his entire world was crumbling before his eyes. His heart which had been puffy from earlier now wilted like a balloon popped by a needle.
“Then… pay me compensation for my bicycle, my house’s front door… and the fine for causing a noise disturbance too. Ethan caused me such a hassle when you vanished.” In actuality, Haru just wanted to complain, he had no need for the other man’s money. Just getting to sit and chat in this familiar way already had him immensely happy.
“Why demand compensation from me? Ethan’s the offender so go get it from him instead.” This man’s way of speaking was as infuriating as ever. “Or you could go get it from that other guy too.”
“Ethan won’t pay me and ‘that guy’ is stuck in jail in Florence.”
“Aren’t the spare keys to the Maserati still behind that clock?”
This polar bear was planning to let Haru sell Ethan’s Maserati…?
“Don’t try to pretend that you don’t care. Isn’t it you who sold your house, sold your photographs, sold everything and vanished into thin air? Moreover, you even changed the lock to your house. That’s right… because of you, I was accused of breaking and entering too. I reckoned that the lock to your house might have broke so I climbed in through the kitchen window instead. But guess what? The real estate agent thought I was a thief and called the police, talk about bad luck. It’s a good thing though… that your friend Sasha managed to step in in time.”
The former god-tier photographer before him burst into laughter, almost spilling the coffee onto his leg. Once managing to stop laughing, his expression turned serious in an instant.
“I wasn’t lying you know, Eisbär no longer exists. You don’t need to keep following me around anymore. That path of mine has ended and will never return again… as for you, you have your own path to walk…”
“Your path as a physicist… will it be achieved by chasing after me and taking photographs, Haru?”
“But my dreams can only be fulfilled… by you.”
It finally escaped from his mouth. Haru’s body felt scorching hot and feverish, as if he had just confessed his love.
Those profound eyes bore directly into him… as if always intending to divulge his heart. If he had the chance to… someday, Haru wished to tell the person before him how truly beautiful his eyes were…
In that very moment… Haru was starting to feel unsure if he had chased after this man because of his photography skills, or rather because he was enraptured by these stunning eyes.
But the issue at hand happened to be…
“Hey!!! How dare you invade my place?” Someone’s voice blared out from a corner of the room, along with Haru who was lifted up from the sofa so high that his feet dangled in the air. This was because all of sudden, he was yanked up by the shirt collar from behind, like a cat being picked up by its nape, and then flung at the savior (?) who was standing at the back.
Sasha sent a sharp look. “What’s this? Alexey, why did you let this guy into my room?”
“Go ask your sons because they’re the ones who arranged this. When I went to pick up the kids at the airport, Haru was already there. Moreover, your sons were glued to him tight, should I have driven him away or what?”
The owner of the apartment stepped past the living room and into the bedroom. The two children were still fast asleep and clueless so he spun around with a glare. “Then your business here is over now, go home.”
However… a small voice spoke up first. “Kitty…”
“What is it dear?” The person who was their father replied automatically, but it turned out to simply be a case of sleepy murmuring, making the man at a lost at how to react.
Haru observed and sent him a mocking smile, walking out from behind his shield. “It might be wiser to let me look after your kids while you spend your time making up with the person who’s about to travel to Tashkent alone, Sasha.”
“We’re not arguing, and this isn’t something a third-wheeler like you has any business poking your head into.”
Hey, who are you blindly accusing a third-wheeler!?
Turning left and right trying to find his savior, it turns out that Mr. Isakov had already walked into the kid’s bedroom and shut the door. As for his polar bear Eisbär, he turned back to wave a farewell from the apartment’s doorway entrance. Wait! We haven’t finished talking yet!
“You’re not allowed to leave yet…” Sasha’s voice was extremely frigid. “Because we still have quite a lot things to clear up!”
“What do you mean by quite a lot? Aren’t they all stuff related to P’Pun?”
“Oh it’s quite a lot, because I saw you hugging him, don’t try to act like you’ve forgotten, it was at the office parking lot.”
He actually had forgotten about that already, don’t bring it up again!
“Go blame P’Pun for wanting physical contact. Haru was just being generous and offering him a hug. Also, quit being unreasonably jealous!”
“This isn’t funny, you overstepped Pun’s boundaries.”
“You’re the one who tossed him aside. Lovers are meant to be cherished, not left waiting on the side lines.”
“Lovers?” Sasha made a perplexed face.
Why was he making such a perplexed face? That handsome korean-looking man who’s about to board the plane to your home country Tashkent with his head hung low… is no one but your lover Mr. Sasha.
“P’Pun of course, he’s your lover is he not? Mr. Father of two?”
“You’re misunderstanding something. Pun is the one who decided for himself since the very beginning… that he didn’t want to be tied down by words like lover or boyfriend. Has he changed my status and informed you of it? This is news to me.” His voice was tinged with heavy sarcasm.
Hua! The situation was flipped over just like that.
“In case you might be misunderstanding something further, let me say out right… that Pun was the one who decided this himself… and I, accepted his decision because I’m still unsure how to tell him about my kids.”
“Just explain to him that they’re your sons, how is that so difficult?”
“And what if we break up and he goes to defame me on social media? If news gets out that Vivian Nazarbayev’s ex-husband is gay, what am I to do then?”
Sasha had a point, after all, there’s a common saying that ‘People say good things to three while people say bad things to three thousand’. More importantly… it’s impossible for information to be deleted off Google, therefore Sasha absolutely could not be careless. Haru understood the other man’s reasoning well… because no one can guarantee what will happen after breaking up.
Sasha raised both hands as if forfeiting. “Sit down, having someone to talk to might be good actually.” He let out a long sigh, fetching a cigarette but pausing as he looked towards the childrens’ bedroom. As such, Sasha himself offered for them to go chat on the balcony instead, letting the cold breeze sweep away the strained atmosphere. Both were quiet for a moment… but this was considered fairly normal between Sasha and Haru, even from the time when they were in Frankfurt.
“Do you want some beer?”
Haru nodded, receiving a cold can of beer to sip on gingerly as he closely eyed the troubled man.
“In case you haven’t caught up with the recent news… Vivian and I divorced not too long ago therefore I’m officially single right now.”
“Then why are you bringing the kids back?”
“Vivian has custody over the children, but she also wants to return to her work and travel across Europe. For this very reason that guy…. Alexey… thus suggested that the kids come back to live with their grandparents in Kazakhstan instead. But the kids need time to adjust first, otherwise they’ll be too shocked by their new surroundings.”
Haru nodded knowingly despite his dismay.
“The amount of immediate problems I’m currently trying to deal with is so overwhelming that I haven’t had time to think about Pun at all.”
“Are you serious about him?”
“What if I said that I was serious in an unsure way?”
“Why are you unsure when P’Pun’s reactions are already so obvious? He’s skipped work so frequently because of you that he’s on the verge of getting fired already.”
“Hm? What did you say?”
“You didn’t hear wrong. Not only is P’Pun skipping work but he’s also failing to submit his work on time as well. If he’s not wallowing around with you then who else is he wallowing around with?”
Sasha’s complexion changed.
“Haru… I swear that I arrive to work on time everyday and have never told Pun to skip work even once… The most I do is go pick him up from the office or photoshoot after hours whenever I get the chance to. I’m the one who should be asking you instead about where he’s been disappearing to, you’re with him more than me.”
“Huh…? They weren’t with each other? One of them disappeared while the other had no idea?
As if would Haru know dammit!
“Well you guys seem joined together at the hip. Everyone thinks that P’Pun is running off to see you. That’s why P’Chid is furious, scolding P’Pun for abandoning work and running to his lover.”
Despite normally being a cheerful golden retriever, from Sasha’s expression right now… it seems the golden retriever was capable of making a serious face too.
“Don’t joke with me.”
“Why would I be joking? Your boyfriend fails to come to the office on the days he’s being expected, nor is he submitting his work on time too. Haru is not with P’Pun all the time you know. Sometimes, Haru is even ordered to go back to the office alone.”
“With all honesty, I’ve always assumed that Pun goes to work diligently everyday.”
Silence seized the both of them at once.
“Then perhaps he might have something he doesn’t wish to tell you. I don’t know P’Pun as well as you do.”
Despite desperately wanting to head back to his own condominium, in the end, Haru had to keep the twins company in bed till morning, only discovering then that ‘Mr. Father of two’ had passed out with the bedroom door unlocked, hand still clutching onto a half-read document as well. Just as Haru was about leave, his eyes tripped over a note stuck to the front door.
Since you’re already here and all, look after my kids for one more day.
Find something for them to eat too.
Or if not, go find Isakov in room 1202.
Thanks (also you can’t refuse this request).
P.S. If I remember correctly, Kiril is allergic to cornflour and Nikolai doesn’t eat tomatoes.
P.P.S. Do not bother my friend next door, no matter what your excuse is.’
Haru read it and let out a chuckle. Sasha was still the same as ever. He even remembered incorrectly as well because the one allergic to cornflour was Nikolai, whereas Kiril didn’t eat tomatoes.
Upon reading the second postscript however, Haru was unsure of what he was feeling. He wasn’t necessarily sad, and even if he was happy, it was a painful kind of happiness.
Walking up to the neighbouring room and giving it a brief knock, after a moment, Isakov came to open the door.
“What do you want, Kitty?”
Haru handed the note over to Isakov and shrugged his shoulder. Despite cursing under his breath that Sasha was an utterly pathetic father, the bodyguard still agreed nonetheless to look after the kids for him.
“May I see Alexey? Just for a second, please?” He seized this chance and asked apprehensively.
In turn, Isakov shut the door, leaving him to wait outside.
What did Haru want you ask…?
Haru’s small modest wish was not in any way difficult to fulfill. He just wanted for this talented photographer to turn around and look at his work, and perhaps maybe comment on them a little.
Isakov returned again with a large photo album… “His Excellency hasn’t woken up yet, however, this album is for you. Truthfully, he’s been meaning to give this to you for a long time now but things became hectic.”
Haru accepted the album in a daze, and was even more astounded when he opened it up to see its contents. They were the photos that he had adamantly tried to email to Eisbär, ranging from when they still did not know each other in person… The first photo that he had ever taken… The first photo which granted him permission to cycle after Eisbär (?) along with Ethan to the studio… The first photo when he flew after the both of them to practically every corner of Europe… The first photo on his solo trip to Eastern Europe… Hundreds of photos which he had sent to Eisbär and waited on until he nearly lost hope.
Some pages had vanilla-colored post-it notes inscribed in German like: ‘The camera is good but you’re terrible.’ or ‘This photo, even a cat capable of pressing the shutter can take this.’. Whereas on some other pages, the comments were scribbled on either a coffee shop tissue napkin or a food brochure (with these harsh words, ‘Following me like this…has it not taught you anything at all?’)
The last seven to eight pages were the photos which Haru had taken when he was not chasing after anyone, truly free to do whatever he wished… Haru noticed only then, that the latter photos which he had taken were significantly more individualistic, more ‘him’ than when he was still chasing after Alexey… his had perspective changed… the colors, lights, shadows, mood, and way of thinking… none of these sported his idol’s hallmarks anymore.
“Can I please speak to him for just five minutes Mr. Isakov? I beg of you.”
Isakov stood still. The door shut once more. From merely this, Haru understood that he would probably not get to meet his idol. Therefore he hugged the photo album close to his chest, but then noticing a small white piece of paper sticking out from one end.
Consultant of Political and Foreign Affairs
Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan
Behind the fine white name card and written in a meticulous and orderly handwriting was a short sentence.
‘This is my invitation for good coffee, not for photography.’
Despite not being exactly according to his expectations… Haru believed regardless that this partly constituted as the man’s approval of him… and the thought of this made him smile with relief… finally understanding in the end, that the person capable of fulfilling his dreams, is no one but his own self…
And this was reason for his puffy inflated heart… which nearly lifted him off his feet.
Mild was curious? Sorry but Haru won’t say a word… it’s a secret!
Isakov spun around to look upon hearing a brief knock at the door again. Peering through the peephole, he discovered an utterly groggy-looking Sasha standing at the front door. “Sasha’s come sir.”
“Let him in.” The person who had just gotten out of bed ordered.
The owner of room 1206 came in with a difficult look on his face and a small note in his hand. There was a small doodle on it, along with a message written in German that oddly resembled Japanese script. “Is that Kitty here?”
“He went back ages ago.”
“Just take a look at this.” …Sasha was complaining.
“Hm, let me see?”
You owe me money for looking after your kids, 10 euros x 15 hours.
I’ll come collect it next week, don’t you dare runaway.
Also learn to devote your attention to the person beside you.
Regardless of what he sees you as.
Aside from looking after your kids, I don’t want to look after your lover as well.
Isakov exploded into a roar of laughter, in contrast to the owner of the name on that note whose face was wrinkling. As for Alexander Nazarbayev, he was chuckling low in his throat.
Aside from buying one truckload of pedigree dog food for Petch, it seems like he would need to buy some cat food for this babysitting kitty as well…