Carta Visa: 18th Round

Bold: The characters are speaking in English


Astana, Kazakhstan.

I staggered out of the BMW convertible with a sick feeling in my stomach, head dizzy like I was about to pass out. Even tiger balm didn’t help to lessen my torment, I swerved uncontrollably side to side like a person high on drugs, slumping against one of the large mosque pillars as Viktar eyed me with… um… worry (possibly).

I realized now what that hottie was going to warn me about in regards to Viktar. Initially, I assumed that bodyguard number two would be sharp-tongued and sarcastic like Isakov but who knew… Viktar was a man of little words… so little in fact that… I still couldn’t recall what his voice sounded like. Was he afraid of startling the trees or something? Moreover, he liked to make a dot dot expression, do you understand me? A ‘dot dot’ expression meant he thought neither good or bad about a single thing on this planet. Be it driving at the speed of light or freaking me out by cutting in front of a truck, followed by barely whiffing a granny selling flowers on the side of the road, Viktar still maintained his ‘…’ face. There was no trace of emotion on his face, in his eyes, or behind his words. Even with me nearly kneeling and begging for him to ease those feet of his, the guy simply answered:

“Mm.”

Before proceeding to lower the speed to two hundred and twenty miles per hour, yeah sure, thanks a lot man…

If he didn’t claim to be ‘His Excellency’s’ bodyguard, I would have thought he was a cross country race car driver instead (by this I mean crossing from this lifetime into the next).

The dot dot guy patted my shoulder and shifted his gaze towards the inside of the mosque.

“The ceremony is about is to start, go on.”

I took a deep breath, fine… hopefully God won’t punish me if I wind up puking in the middle of the mosque.

As part of Kazakhstan tradition, wedding ceremonies involved Islamic rituals and practices, this one proceeding smoothly and without a hitch. In fact it was fairly unceremonious, the number of guests attending the event was no small crowd either. Seeing the bride’s face glow with happiness I couldn’t resist smiling along. She wore a traditional Kazakhstan dress weaved with elegant silks and a cone-shaped hat with tufts of animal fur lining the edges–for those having difficulty picturing it, it basically looked like a party hat meant for a five year old; except this was their tradition. As for the groom, he merely wore a clean white shirt and matching white pants, layering on top a waistcoat stitched in silk and a short cylinder hat.

I can’t explain anymore than this but putting it briefly… the bride’s parents send her off, the elders give their blessing, and everyone prays together. In the meantime I was panning my eyes across the room, failing to find the woman in the red dress anywhere and so decided to continue reading the bride and groom’s background information which I had translated using Google Translate. Wading through the broken and disjointed translation–anyone familiar with using this service can probably relate–the bride’s history turned out to be nothing major. She was a regular girl from Ukraine who one day was given the chance to work in Kazakhstan’s ministry of foreign affairs, being assigned to a small position in the government. From there, the story of romance between the two of them blossomed like the fairytail Cinderella. A plain common girl found love with a man of high status. Now, she was wearing matching wedding rings with the son of the minister of foreign affairs, their story seems to have reached a happy ending.

Once the religious part of the wedding ceremony was over, everyone moved to the InterContinental Hotel on Abaya Avenue, changing their outfits in preparation to welcome the rest of the guests which trickled in to attend the evening celebrations.

The dot dot guy and I concealed ourselves among the group of thirty or so reporters which had come to get a scoop of the famous wedding couple. I tried to speak as little as possible to avoid drawing attention to myself since I had no idea who I was supposed to tail. Why did I have to tail her and was I really going to receive money in return? (this point was very important). In the end, the woman in question still hadn’t shown herself. The dot dot guy sat silently without any sign of being restless or frustrated, but as for me, I was starting to feel stressed. Frantic that this assignment was going to go on for much longer and make me miss my chance to go travelling, I secretly whispered a question at last.

Viktar merely shrugged his shoulders. “She’s not here yet so keep waiting, you should be accustomed to waiting.”

“But I don’t have a lot of time.”

“Whoever hires you to work for them becomes the owner of your time… If you aren’t patient, you won’t get hired.”

Oh, Viktar had a point. When I first started out as a photographer, I was used to waiting for several hours on end as I was still very new at the time. I didn’t have the words nor skill to bargain with anyone so I waited patiently and waited long. However, as I continued to work and as people began to recognize me more, my reputation in the circle of people whom I worked with was pushed to a higher level. I received jobs and praises so often that it began to feel normal, causing me to sometimes forget how to wait and have patience.

After all, if you want to take a photo of the rising sun, you’ll have to wake up earlier and wait for it…

 

A loud buzz of chatter emerged from the elegant red carpet at the entrance to the party. I relied on my thinner frame to duck into the crowd of reporters and appear again on the other side in front of the carpet. I instinctively hold up my camera to eye-level. The door to the lavish Bentley car opened wide along with the appearance of a long slender leg belonging to… oh my god!

I pressed the shutter subconsciously as the blinding flashes of several other cameras clashed against one another in a show of lights. A nameless woman in a long vermilion backless evening gown stepped down onto the carpet. Her skin was porcelain white like it was actually glowing. Blue eyes beneath the elegantly curled eyelashes shined bright like jewels… hey, what the hell was going on… was I seeing things or experiencing double vision, oh my god!

The person following closely behind was a drop-dead handsome young man with brilliant blue eyes capable of making hearts melt. The man exited the car in a Tom Ford suit (I don’t know why I knew, but I knew!–because it made Daniel Craig the current 007 James Bond look two times hotter than he deserved to be.) and waved at the reporters with a small smile. When the nameless woman and nameless man stood beside each other to have their photos taken, their blinding aura turned my eyes blurry, pressing the shutter by mistake several times. As for the reporters behind me, they were nearly clambering onto my shoulders in order to get shots of their own. Fortunately, the dot dot guy manoeuvred his way in, gathered my waist, and pulled me out just in time before I ended up getting trampled to death.

I was in such absolute shock that I couldn’t speak for two to three minutes; my eyes were still blurry as well. “Those two people, who are they? Why are they…”

“The elder twin used to be a supermodel in Russia, now she’s married to an old fart of a billionaire. Though currently, I think… she’s trying to get back into the entertainment industry with a breakthrough in Europe. As for the younger twin… you’ll find out soon enough.”

Twins!!! This fact was something which shocked me greatly. Importantly, what kind of pregnancy did their mother have to be able to give birth to a son and daughter with heavenly good looks such as this?

“What our eyes see… is often not the truth, remember this well. Go on, follow her…”

 

The evening party was lavish and grandiose to the point where I almost mistook it for the Academy Awards. Be it the horse-drawn carriage delivering guests, the celebration, or the location, everything looked luxuriously blown out of proportion, so much so that the bride appeared to be more flustered and excited than the groom who was welcoming guests with expertise.

However, when I glimpsed over at the relatives of the groom and bride… I saw only worry projected on these people’s faces. Each pair of eyes was fixed on the beautiful women in the red dress with strange unease.

The little bride… wasn’t only flustered now, she was holding in her sobs… What was going on…? Why did the appearance of one single person turn the romantic atmosphere so glum?

Or was she sad at the fact that her wedding had become a regular social gathering? An event for guests to discuss business, debate about politics and pit their wealth against each other? …Or was I over-exaggerating things…?

The entrance to the party went abuzz once more. From seeing the blinding lights of several camera flashes go off, I presumed that it was probably another high-profile person arriving. But since my gaze was still insistently following the woman in the red dress, I didn’t have a chance to take in the new arrival.

My ears twitched when I heard someone speaking Russian off in the distance say the word: Nazarbayev. Hastily I craned my head to look, finding the newly arrived guest to be none other than the lord almighty Alexey Nazarbayev exiting from a luxurious car costing several ten million baht. Wearing a sharp black suit, his figure looked even more dignified as he stood talking in a hushed tone with a nameless young man. Though Alexey’s mouth spoke to one person, his gaze was fixed to another. I had no idea what they were talking about but the distance between them… they were virtually hugging at this point…

The beautiful pair of lips which whispered something into that slim ear… unfolded into a smile… and then laughter… and from laughter back into a smile… did he find something funny or what? They didn’t have to stand so close to each other.

Alexey turned around and looked at me, his mouth pausing. The previously cheerful expression on his face now molded into cold displeasure as his glaring eyes said: Go do your assignment…

For a brief moment, my entire face went numb… unable to look away in time… Get a hold of yourself Petch, that nameless man’s identity and how chummy they were acting with each other isn’t any of your business…

I focused my attention back to the woman in the red dress while repeating in my head: two thousand dollars, two thousand dollars, two thousand dollars…

I heard people call her name from time to time and thus came to know that her name was Alicia; what a pretty name. However… the issue was, after stalking her like a paparazzi for half an hour I was starting to notice something strange. Why was she going to the toilet so often? And… that powder stuck to her nose…

“Do you have a better lens?” The dot dot guy asked all of a sudden. “Can you zoom in anymore?”

“The photo’s shaky…” I reply softly. “Actually I think my hand is what’s shaky…”

“Have you enabled IS yet?”

Oh yeah, I forgot…

I adjusted my camera lens and held it up against my eye once more, but she had vanished again… Haah, I was getting tired of this, might as well take a toilet break. It was cold as hell here and the party was so hectic that I forgot to pee, at this rate I was probably going to contract a UTI.

The dressing room of the wedding couple was off to the side, separated from the great hall and complete with a small personal balcony of its own. I briefly caught sight of a familiar shadow and hastily chased it down, except… the situation behind the slightly ajar closed curtains caused me to press the shutter in a hurry like my life depended on it.

The gorgeous Alicia didn’t seem very gorgeous right now. She was sufficiently high on cocaine and had begun causing trouble by invading into the wedding couple’s dressing room. Picking up the bride’s spare wedding veil–used in case the actual one got torn–she placed it lopsidedly on her head and started to prance around, blowing cigarette smoke into the faces of the various servants who were charged with preparing the room. With no men around she became even more brazen, yanking this and that off, shredding clothing into pieces before scattering them into the air. Her cheery laugh was like that of a psycho.

“What are you doing here!”

A scolding voice along with a large hand made me jump. It was Viktar. I quickly motion for him to see and we both conspired together to observe the situation for a long while until someone had summoned three giant bodyguards over to carry Alicia out of the party. The beautiful woman agreed to leave quietly and obediently after a single uppercut swing to the chin… it was really a fantastic method of dealing with troublesome problems.

I showed the secretly taken photos to Viktar, holding up two fingers with pride. The dot dot guy stared at it with a nonchalant expression as usual. “Let me see them closely.”

I was reluctant to hand over my camera since I was afraid Viktar would drop it. However, he took it gently, holding it in the proper way as well. After inspecting the photos for a moment, he spoke up. “A 17/55mm lens would have been more suitable.”

“You like taking photos too?”

“Nope. You took nice shots though.”

“Really?” I’ve heard such praises far too frequently, but never from these people before.

The dot dot guy didn’t answer, however a smile escaped when he looked at some of the photos (What are you smiling about? They’re paparazzi photos.). Viktar turned the screen back for me to see. “Especially this photo.”

The thing which appeared on the camera screen was a photo of two men stood talking with each other in a flirty manner. Alexey’s hand was brushing the strands hair which had fallen on the forehead of that nameless man, his grey eyes gleaming with warmth, likewise to the faint smile on his face.

Actually I had unintentionally taken this photo. Yet the outcome was a scene which almost looked dream-like… the warm atmosphere created by the orange tone of the photo seemed so real that it felt almost tangible.

“…”

“Not going to boast about it?”

Let’s change topics, I didn’t want to talk about this. “Why did you hire me to take her photo?”

“Because of the way she is when you saw her earlier. Sir Alexey needed to take care of matters, concerning her, and also her husband”

‘Take care of’ were words which sounded very frightening.

“And the younger twin?”

Viktar’s cheeks twitched. He returned the camera to me. “Are you hungry?”

“You didn’t answered my question.” I demanded.

The faithful bodyguard sighed. “Some things are better off not knowing about. How about it, are you going back inside the party to find something to eat?”
Should I go back…?

If I went back… I would probably be too distracted by trying to find a certain someone… I feared for myself that I was going to pick up my camera and take a photo… take, take, take… remember, remember, remember… bury it deep into my brain until I’m unable to sleep… especially seeing that smile of his… there will be sleepless nights where I won’t be able to force my eyes shut.

Viktar stared at me, not saying anything like usual but instead messing up my hair in a somewhat consoling manner. “I’ll treat you to something delicious nearby, can you… um… eat mutton?”

“Hm… hua! Are you crazy? Why would anybody eat cotton? People here eat that as well? That’s super weird.”

Viktar made a confused face. What…? Did I say something wrong? “Well… you said cotton didn’t you? It’s the thing written on pillow labels!”

Viktar smiled wide. “This blockhead monkey. I said mutton… you know, ‘lamb’?”

I pull a wry face, he was teasing me again. “Fine, be it pig, dog, crow, chicken or whatever meat, I’ll eat it all, bring it on.”

“I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.” Viktar cocked an eyebrow. “Oh, Sir Alexey also ordered me to find a gun for you, in case you need it for self-defence. Are you familiar with guns? Hopefully you know how to load bullets.”

“Sorry to say Viktar, other than loading photos into a memory card, I can only load food into my stomach.”

The bodyguard shook his head with exasperation.

 

 

The things I remembered in bits and pieces were the green and brown Irish pub, the fragrant wafting smell of the mashed potatoes, tobacco, delicious juicy steaks, and the sound of people cheering for football…

It was great and entirely worth the sweat and tears I expended in today’s work, I really love Viktar.

“Haah, completely wasted… this little monkey.”

Someone’s voice rang loudly next to me. If this was a normal situation, I would have known who the voice belonged to, however, after knocking back two bottles of Corona Extra and another four shots of vodka, not falling off my seat was fortunate in and of itself.

I felt my body being swept up, floating in midair, up and down, up and down, before my back hit something soft. And then I floated…

The sound of conversation in some alien language echoed closeby. Mm… it sounds just like Viktar… there was a smell of cologne too… mm… the smell was really familiar… eh…? Quit playing with the back of my ear, I’m ticklish… Hm? Something velvety and warm touched my forehead, it was soft.

Someone’s hand was touching my cheek as well. Uu… don’t pinch it woi! That’s a person’s cheek, not a meat bun. Pinching wasn’t enough, my cheek was slapped too. If it wasn’t for the fact that I was drunk to the point where I couldn’t open my eyes, I would have pinched them back.

“Viktar, where’s his camera?”

“Over there Your Excellency.” Your Excellency, who’s this guy? Do I know him? What a long name. Ugh… Viktar can you quit shuffling around? I’m sleepy, and also full from the lamb. By now the two kilo piece of lamb which I had eaten was probably swimming happily in a sea of alcohol… splish splash, splish splash, it sounds fun just thinking about it.

Hm, how curious, my English comprehension improved when I was drunk…

“Braver than I thought… what do you think Viktar?”

“Are you talking about ‘her’ Your Excellency?”

The car made a sharp right turn which nearly caused it to drift off the road. Viktar was the person driving for sure.

“I think… both of them look odd. That pathetic old man is constantly admitting himself into the hospital while letting his wife attend parties day in and day out. Normally she’s more cautious than this.”

“That old man may be ill but his ambition isn’t, he still wishes to sit in the prime minister’s chair one day before dying. I really hate this thought, how disgusting…. Regardless, it’s a small problem when compared to Alicia who shamelessly came to today’s party without having been invited–to add, acting as disgusting as usual.”

“Your friend is far too polite to chase her out sir.”

“I’ll make it so that she won’t dare to show her face anywhere ever again.”

“However Your Excellency… I don’t see why you had to come down and involve yourself in insignificant matters like this.”

“It’s pretty fun is it not…? Think of this as taking the little monkey on an eye-opening field trip, with the added bonus of some snack money.”

“But I think…”

“Who do you think I am? A politician with clean hands? I don’t need to play by the rules… I dictate the rules for other people to play… Interesting matters like this… intimidation won’t cut it, only scalding water can scare a pig…”

Viktar laughed. “Yes sir… I’ll handle it.”

“And don’t dawdle, I still have a lot things that need to be taken care of… especially… Ethan.”

A voice this ferocious could belong to no one other than Alexander Nazarbayev. I startle right out of my sleep, collecting my thoughts and… oh… I thought I heard that hottie’s voice earlier, he’s wasn’t here…?

“Are you awake? We’ve arrived at the hotel.”

“Just now, was I dreaming?”

“Hm?”

“I thought I heard Alexey’s voice.”

“He’s still at the party.”

O-oh… really? Was I hallucinating in my sleep…?

 

 

When I arrived at the room, the lamb which was swimming splish splash a moment ago wanted to get out of its swimming pool so suddenly that I couldn’t adjust in time. Stepping into the room, I flung myself and embraced the toilet seat like it was an old friend that I hadn’t seen for a long time before puking exactly like Jessica when she drank until she looked three months pregnant.

The dot dot guy who supported me up to the room stood speculating for a moment before coming to sit next to me, rubbing my back and shoulders until I felt better.

Despite this being a critical moment… I was secretly peering over at Viktar from a close distance. This… although his face looked a bit droopy, when he smiled it was a hell of a thing. Haah, if I wasn’t puking, I probably would have asked him for a photo and then recommend him to Editor Chid as a potential model.

“Are you okay? Do you feel better yet?”

I rinsed my mouth clean while looking at bodyguard number two stand arms crossed leaning against the doorframe. He had two gun holsters strapped to his waist. “Uu, ank ew”

“Hm?”

I spit out the water and reply clearly. “Thank you.”

The dot dot guy smiled. “See you tomorrow.”

Although it was through the mirror… I could see that Viktar genuinely smiling at me, his blue eyes also curving into two smiley arches… he really looked good when his smiled.

After Viktar had gone back… I sat in a dizzy trance on the bed, still exhausted from puking earlier… Reaching for my camera, I decided to browse through the photos which I had taken today… though someone had definitely tampered with the photos in my camera, if not, why were half of the photos missing? Specifically the photos of the incident in the dressing room–and it was probably the work of no one other than Viktar following his boss’ order. The final remaining photo in my camera was the one which that guy had used to tease me with.

Yeah… I don’t mean to praise myself but this photo was truly beautiful, from the two models to the lighting, colours, and composition… Yet for me, looking at it made me feel a sort of lonely emptiness…

Who was this guy…? He wore a Tom Ford suit too, it was stunning… oh, hey…
I hastily squinted my eyes, zooming closer into the photo. I must still be drunk, this was Kazakhstan, not the Academy Awards, who else in the party would be wearing a Tom Ford suit!? The person which the hottie had his arms wrapped around was the exact same person as Alicia’s younger twin, moreover he resembled…

I blink rapidly…

The younger twin… bright blue eyes, brown freckles decorating a prominent nose, and a smooth egg-shaped face.

There was definitely something wrong with my vision because this guy was–! They resembled each other more than two sheeps. No, no, two sheeps still had their differences. They were exact copies of each other, clones even!!! Oh my godddddd!

The realization which flashed into my mind rendered me completely sober. All of this was the same person… the man on the airplane… the ‘special person’ that a certain someone around here was… carefully looking after … attentively and meticulously… no wayyyyyyyy.

The door to room knocked softly. I yell out a response by accident.

“It’s me, open the door.”

He really didn’t die off easily… this thick-skinned hottie…

“Guests aren’t welcome tonight.”

“They aren’t welcome? Have you discussed it with Mama-san yet?”

(TN: Mama-san – slang for a woman who manages a prostitution shop)

“You idiot.”

“I’ve brought snack money as payment like promised.”

He was in a good mood… was he still not satisfied after spending time with that special someone?

“You can pay me some other day, I’m drunk right now and can’t count the money properly.”

“Then I’m here… to see the state of a drunk person. Also if you don’t take the money, I’m going to use it to roll a blunt.”

Underneath the door a paper envelope slotted through, complete with two large wads of cash causing me to jump straight of the bed and yank the door open. Hugging the money envelop close to my chest, I shouted. “Are you crazy! Money doesn’t grow on trees woi!”

“I know, after all you haven’t paid for my car’s paint repair.”

Hu… even digging up my debt from a century ago! “What are you worried about, it’s just a single car. You have several other Benz’s that you can use to pick up and send off a certain special someone from.

Alexey’s expression turned hostile, making me realize what I had just said out loud. The hottie pushed me into the room before locking the door. “Petch, don’t speak without thinking.”

“You’re right, I have a loose mouth… that wasn’t something I should have said, I overstepped my boundaries.”

I walk away to the bathroom, violently splashing cold water on my face so as to call back my senses.

“Don’t worry, I won’t spread any rumours about you, oh and don’t worry… I’m not jealous or anything.” Really? This is you being ‘not jealous’ Petch…? “I don’t need any special treatment… you sent me a convertible car when it was nearly below zero degrees and even made me risk my life with a truck, just this much has me thrilled. And I really wanted to sleep… but you sent me off to do an assignment across the entire city, plus forced me into accepting paparazzi work, having me chase after someone I know nothing about… Do you think I flew all the way over the ocean to participate in a triathlon? If you really think so then let me kneel and thank you deeply, I’m so touched that you see me as someone with superhuman toughness.”

“Are you being sarcastic?”

This was the first time I heard this hottie ask something stupid. Maybe I’m complimenting you, you f*cking… you… you… how should I curse him… you f*cking communist (was this even insulting?)

“Not at all… I’m really impressed. Also don’t send one of your followers after me tomorrow. I guarantee, regardless of what kind of trouble I end up in, I absolutely won’t call your name–here… want a beer?”

“Mm.”

“Ninety tenge, pay up, I’m not letting you drink for free.” I was nearly diving into the refrigerator for god’s sake. I didn’t want to see his face… I wanted to cry so badly… Was there any way to make this idiot leave the room?

“Haah… you’re misunderstanding things… when are you going to grow up?” A large body pressed up against me from behind, along with a strong embrace which left my body warm all over. “Let’s see… what beer do you have.” Your eyes should be looking inside the refrigerator woi, not staring at my face. “I don’t really drink local beer, which one’s good, recommend me one.”

“Well go ask… ask… ask your underling. Viktar knows a lot of good pubs– uu… get your face away from me… wawawawawa…” My body floated uncontrollably in mid air, slung over Alexey’s shoulder before ‘whoosh!’ I landed on top of the bed, seeing Sir Alexander the Great grin a mischievous grin over me.

“Ninety tenge for the beer… I can even give you one hundred times more than that.”

“As payment for what? I don’t want it woi, ninety is enough, they say greed is a sin.”

Grey eyes smiled endearingly at my whining. I hadn’t lashed out enough for being depressed the entire day to be worth it yet.

“Well I want to pay… for the hard work of a sulking little monkey.”

Hmph… his gaze had a gleam of playfulness to it, at the same time hugging me extremely tight. I won’t forgive you, you need to make up for hurting my feelings!!!

Uuuuu, don’t rub your nose in my neck you idiot!

 

Allow me to reinforce this point in case somebody hasn’t figured it out yet… I really hated this hottie, especially when he used various tricks to capture a masculine man like me.

Sweet saccharine grey eyes lured me into a deep intoxicating kiss. My consciousness was tossed to the side by the bizarre exercise which squeezed every drop of sweat from my body and transformed it into… do I really have to say this out loud? How embarrassing… into… um… a turbocharged engine that was powerful and easy to start, rubbing it here and there… woi! This is getting too obscene, I’ll be censored at this rate.

Once finished playing with my body and battered feelings, he cajoled me with sweet gentle words.

What I remembered before falling asleep was a soft tender kiss that trailed from my shoulder to my hip before returning back up to my ear, tickling me playfully.

“I think I’m crazy.”

“You just realized?” I made a sulky voice. “You’re a freak, plus a pervert who loves to create trouble for other people.”

“No, I mean I’m crazy to be here.”

If you weren’t hugging me here… who were you going to find and hug instead…? This was just my inner thoughts so I didn’t say it out loud.

However, he probably read what I was thinking since he started hugging me tighter… warmer… so closely together that I felt the rhythm of his beating heart… “But I think… here’s the right place to be.”

Look at this guy trying to cajole me… was this the most sentimental a man like him could get?

“So are you going to tell me…? Who is that guy?”

“Ask again and I’ll make you pass out on this bed.”

“Dodge the question and I’ll call the police and tell them that I was raped by a Kazakhstani civil servant.”

“The police here can’t speak English, sorry to say.” Alexey scrunched his brows together coupled with an expression of sympathy. “But fine, given that you’ve been bullied the entire day today.”

“More like bullied this entire lifetime.” I quickly correct him with the truth.

“Come on. Since you’ve been so obedient and endearing lately I’ll tell you… Ethan… mm… he will be your teacher and… will grant you many new experiences by working together.”

“Sounds grand.”

“That’s what I can do.” His large hand patted my head gently. “Go to sleep little monkey.”

Despite knowing that this hottie was intentionally evading my question, I was too exhausted to press on…

I wonder if I… will ever catch up to him one day…

 

And when I awoke next morning, Alexey had vanished as usual, leaving behind only a body which ached slightly and a heart that felt more refreshed; mine.

Wait! Wipe that grin of your face. I was feeling good because I finally got enough sleep, not because someone lulled me to sleep okay?

Glancing at the camera sitting nearby, I picked it up to play around with it casually. However, when I turned it on, my interest was piqued when I saw a photo of myself appear in the camera. My light skin contrasted against the soft thick duvet, sleeping soundly with a smile on my face like a child. Gentle sunlight peeked in through the room’s window blinds which was damp with condensation. The photo was like inside a dream… or rather like heaven on earth.

If looking from a photographer’s point of view… the photo was worthy of being offered and sold to a popular magazine. Everything from its clarity, lighting, shadow, composition, and mood was… perfect like the work of a professional.

But if looking from my point of view… I could do nothing but smile… hugging the camera against my chest… grinning and smiling gleefully to myself.

 

Oh… and have I told you yet… that I was starting to feel good about this vicious foul-mouthed gangster too.


Hello everyone, I hope you’ve enjoyed this chapter. Sorry that it’s a bit unpolished this time but I wanted to release it as soon as possible before my trip. I’ll be travelling for the next 11 days and won’t be able to work on Carta Visa so there will be a short break in updates.

In the meantime I hope you have a great week, and thank you to the people who comment regularly (you know who you are!), your words are a pleasure to read.

Carta Visa: 17th Round

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.”

Hua…

 

 

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.’

 

Ha…?

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 sipping 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 conversations come to a halt, so naturally I beamed them a 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 call 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… looking 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 look 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 bursted 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 scratch 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. Therefore 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 argue back though… don’t you dare underestimate me woi!

 

 

Bangkok, Thailand.

“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 P’Pun is more like a fretful wife.” Cup E Mild, the residential hardcore Y girl interjected. “P’Pun you coddle P’Petch too much, he’s on the verge of becoming cripple already. Leave him to 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 enable 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 this company she had fallen head over heels in love 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 giving him permission for a summer holiday in 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 knocked the female editor’s head with a loud ‘pok!’. “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 with exasperation, really, was he making a fashion magazine or a stand-up comedy one instead?

“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 when 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 it quietly.

“Okay, so what do you want to talk about?”

Haah…

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 soap operas, 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 love problem. “The problem is… uhh… uhh… you… 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 person 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 good in every way. He’s so good that… I sometimes wonder whether I’m dreaming or not. My life is full of many wonderful things 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, but 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’s appearance? …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 do if you want. You can come back to see that guy whenever you feel ready.”

“But he…” Pun sighed. “-that’ll be difficult to do P’Chid…”

Editor Chid thought so too. 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 jerked his feet back. “Uh… P’Chid.”

“Hm?”

“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 breaths 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 up to his heart’s content. “Embarassing… embarassing 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 instead. 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 finished, 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 the 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!

Sasha Gilliseva!

Carta Visa: 16th Round

Bold: The characteres are speaking in English


The sky outside was cast entirely in darkness. It was dark navy, as if made out of a velvet material, seemingly serene and peaceful. But in reality, the violent gales outside caused the airplane windows to shake incessantly. The cheek I subconsciously pressed up against a window turned numb to the point where pinching it didn’t even hurt. Looking over at the bald Japanese man whistling happily next to me, only then did I notice that his legs were missing… I wasn’t seeing things, he really had nothing past his knees.

The realization that he was a disabled person travelling alone troubled me greatly. How do I treat him? Do I call over an air hostess? Tell them to look after him carefully, not to bring up his missing legs, and have a special wheelchair prepared for him?

I’ve witnessed people whose disabilities have rendered them weak and feeble, their bodies in a near vegetative state. These people needed the attention of several caretakers, be it to carry, lift, or push them even though they clearly had the strength to handle certain matters by themselves. Rather, what lay at the heart of their problem was a lack of willpower. But at the same time, I’ve also seen skilled and brave people with disabilities; people more competent than any average guy. These people were capable of doing everything by themselves, refusing to let someone care for them scrupulously like a small child.

That said, which group did this uncle fall into?

“I don’t have any legs, but it’s okay, I can take care of myself.” His Thai sounded slightly off but he was capable of constructing proper sentences. I jump in my seat, face red as I had been accidentally staring at his missing legs. The man beamed a friendly smile at me.

“My name… Suzuki Taro… you can call me Uncle Taro, everyone calls me by this.” He hands me his name card which had three languages on it. On the name card was a disability symbol and a picture of himself smiling gleefully in a pink wheelchair.

“You… you can speak Thai as well Uncle Taro?”

“Yes, yes… my house is in Muang Thong”

“I guess you watch a lot of AF on television then.”

(TN: Muang Thong Thani – A large housing district one hour away from Bangkok. It has one of the largest stadiums in Thailand where ‘AF’, a popular singing reality TV show hosts its competition live every Saturday.)

“Yeah, but I like ASTV more” Uncle Taro laughed. “I’m a sales representative for ASTV fertilizer you know? Would you like some? It stimulates a large harvest, helps plants grow quick, and repels pests too.”

Your ASTV fertilizer even has an overseas dealer? How cool… hua! We’re getting off topic. “And… what is your name?” He asked.

“It’s Petch.”

“Pei-san?” I shake my head.

“Paae-san?” This one was too pitiful…

(TN: Paae means goat in Thai)

“Petch.”

“Pecchi-san?” He was getting close, Uncle Taro you can do it!

I was about to repeat myself again but recalled that the Japanese language didn’t have final consonants (according to my understanding that is). “It’s Pha-cha-ra.”

“Ah, Phachara-san, nice to meet you.”

I enquired as to who was picking him up but Uncle Taro told me not to worry. It turns out that Uncle Taro had come here according to an invitation by the Kazakhstan government who requested his help in a currently stagnating project for the disabled.

The airplane came to a complete stop in the middle of the runway, far from the airport building by roughly five hundred meters. Darkness encased the surroundings, leaving barely the orange lights lining the runway visible. It was motionless outside, as if the world stood still. A cold gust of wind which nearly turned my cheeks into solid ice slipped in through the now open airplane doors. Seeing a truck tow out a stainless steel staircase, it pulled over close to the entrance of the aircraft even though the seatbelt sign had yet to dim. Meanwhile, the voice of the flight’s captain blared out through the intercom. I witness as a beautiful air hostess started to yell viciously when one of the passengers tried to get up and open the upper storage compartment, intending to retrieve their belongings before anyone else.

What was up with them? The gangways adjoined to the building were unoccupied so there was no need to park in the middle of the runway… I thought to myself… were they mentally challenged?

Car headlights shone from a dark corner of the airport, the light composing of three police cars, a champagne SLK-Class Mercedes-Benz, followed by another three police motorcycles.

A short-haired man in full suit attire–seemingly the person in charge–exited out from the luxurious Benz car as the staircase gradually aligned to door of the aircraft. I crane my head up, seeing the air hostess by the business class exit compose herself stiffly polite.

Who were they coming to pick up? It definitely must be a VIP guest.

The air hostess motioned her hand towards the seats in my direction and the man in the black suit, resembling that of a bodyguard, strided over. He was coming closer… and closer… past the business class seats… the air hostess and large bodyguard spoke to each other in a low voice. Of course I had no idea what they were saying but I managed to catch one word… a very familiar word.

Nazarbayev…

Who else could it be other than Alexander Nazarbayev…

‘…Don’t worry, I won’t abandon you… a VIP car will be waiting at the Astana airport, keep your phone turned on as well. See you then.’

Alexey’s voice echoed in my ears… I have never felt so touched by his kindness before… My cheeks seared with heat, complete with a big smile which I was unable to control. My heart inflated like a balloon… Despite discarding and tossing around me like a toy, Alexey had organized a procession of vehicles to pick me up in true VIP style. I’ll love you forever you hottie!

Vrrrr… vrrrr…

I jump in my seat as my phone began to vibrate. Quickly pressing to pick up the call, I used a hand to cover my mouth, head ducking into my knees so as to not get scolded by the air hostesses and humiliated in public.

“He… hello…?”

“This is Isakov speaking… the car coming to pick you is experiencing a bit of delay, just wait in the arrivals lobby alright?”

Hua!!! Isn’t this the car?”

This car my ass… what are you talking about?”

“Well… this luxurious champagne SLK-Class Mercedes-Benz right here. It’s here, parked down below waiting for me. This is amazing, for the first time in my life is my butt going to experience such luxury.”

“A champagne SLK-Class… oh… that car isn’t for you, don’t dream of the impossible little monkey.”

“But… but I heard them say… Alexey sent the car to pick me up.” Saying this caused me to feel disheartened. So he really didn’t send this car to pick me up? My heart which inflated earlier now wilted like a leaking balloon.

“In your dreams.”

“Surely there aren’t many Nazarbayev’s out there.”

Isakov went silent… so silent that I felt anxious.

My gaze shifted up… seeing the black suited man come to a halt in the front of the economy class seats. He was speaking with a man who had obviously just woken up from a long nap. Though I couldn’t see the other’s face clearly, he seemed inexplicably familiar… tea-colored Armani shades concealed half of the man’s round egg-shaped face…

My fashion photographer’s intuition told me: This guy had to be a model… not just any ordinary model, but a professional one since he was capable of looking attractive no matter from what angle. The drowsy man removed the glasses fastened to his cocoa brown hair, magnetizing bright blue eyes on the egg-shaped face leaving me unable to pull my gaze away. He had a prominent nose with brown freckles decorating it faintly. As for the lips, they were a ripe color, set in a tiny smile at the corners.

If I had my camera in hand, I’d pay anything to get some photos of this man.

Eventually adjusting my eyes, the initial man in the black suit nearly made me fall out of my seat. He wasn’t a stranger, it was Leof! Didn’t he get off the plane at Almaty along with Alexey? Leof was staring at the stunning man with a blank gaze, his eyes void of any emotion.

“The car is waiting downstairs.”

The slender figure leaned over to look outside through the window, vibrant blue eyes sliding back to glare at Leof in anger. “What right do you have using that car? That car is mine.”

It was yours.” Leof corrected. He turns to me, our eyes coincidentally meeting before an irritating wink was sent my way.

“Keep your mouth shut and act obedient. Unless you want every taxpayer on this plane to get up and beat you to death for your father’s political corruption… shut up.

I swallow my saliva stiffly. Leof and I, even though we’ve never spoken to each other before, he smiled easiest among the three bodyguards. However, the Leof that I became acquainted to in this second was menacing and cold-blooded, no different from his boss.

“Petch, are you listening?”

“Sorry, what did you say?”

Isakov cleared his throat before selecting his words carefully.

“I said you’re half-correct, there aren’t many Nazarbayev’s out there… regardless that Benz isn’t there to pick you up…”

The owner of those blue eyes panned his gaze over the surroundings before turning back, exiting first out of the aircraft. I saw him duck into the beautiful Benz car, and then the entire procession rolled away gracefully from the runway..

…I didn’t know what I was feeling… maybe a bit dejected… only a tiny bit dejected, really…

…and was I stupid to hope for the impossible…?

“Phachara-san. Phachara-san, daijoubu desu ka?” (Are you okay?) It was only when Uncle Taro nudged me considerately did I realize what kind of expression I was wearing. Quickly, I revert back to my cheery self, though it was somewhat forced.

“Daijoubu, daijoubu.” (I’m fine.)

 

‘Daijoubu’, I think.

Astana… I was beginning to feel homesick…

 

 

Phachara-san, Phachara-san, is there someone coming to pick you up? You can come with Uncle if you want.”

Uncle Taro spoke up while we waited for other passengers to collect their belongings from the overhead compartment. The boisterous noise of people chatting here and there could rival a farmers’ market. I saw an airport bus pull over near the exit of the aircraft, but I couldn’t disembark yet. According to Uncle Taro, normally, the airline will wait until all passengers have filed off the aircraft before bringing out the disabled person’s wheelchair. Hearing this, I didn’t know what to feel. Pity maybe? Thus, I decided to keep Uncle Taro company until his vehicle (a cabin wheelchair) arrives to pick him up.

“Can you make it?”

Uncle Taro lifted up two fingers to confirm that he was okay. Although he was aging, bald, legless, and missing a tooth, Uncle Taro looked oddly adorable. So adorable that I wanted to pull out my camera and take a picture of him for keepsake. Next thing I realized, the final passenger had exited the aircraft. I hastily ran over to call one of the air hostesses.

“Miss, Miss, eck-cuse me… where is caebin wheelchair for my friend.” I didn’t know whether Uncle wanted to be friends with me or not but I already considered him one since earlier on.

The air hostess made a puzzled face, then exclaimed an ‘oh’ to conclude that she had forgotten, hurriedly apologising to me over and over again. “Please wait ten minutes.”

In the meantime, her other air hostess friends gradually filtered out of the aircraft. Even the captain and captain’s assistant left us to sit despondent on the airplane alone.

“There’s no cabin wheelchair.”

“Den… how can he…” get down… how do I say this word in English? “He, down duh plane.”

I thought there had to be something in between the words ‘he’ and ‘down’ but whatever, it’s probably all the same!

“He can walk.”

I was astounded when faced with this reply. And then I lost it. English suddenly poured out from my mouth. “Hey you, if you have eyes den see. Do you see? He has only knees! Knees, knees! Do you know dis word? Tell me how a person wit only knees can walk down. I don’t know how but you haf to find wheelchair for my friend.”

“Shut up! How dare you scold a lady!”

A reprimanding voice from behind made my jump, face whipping back, I saw… five really Russian-looking (why was I repeating this, of course they look Russian, I’m in Kazakhstan!) soldiers, each holding a rifle! The man with the most menacing face pressed his gun against my chest, shouting again, now in the local language. I broke out in sweat, retreating backwards my body hit the walls of the aircraft. “Uh, don’t misunderstand me. I jus… uhh… I jus want…”

“Who gave you permission to speak? If you don’t have any business here then get off, what are you loitering around for?” He didn’t simply chase me out, the soldier used the barrel-end of his gun to nudge me as well. As for the other four people, they slotted their huge bodies past me to Uncle Taro’s seat, the Japanese man was currently in an undeniable state of confusion. I heard him ask the whereabouts of his cabin wheelchair.

“Woiiiiiiiiiiii… dame, dame, dame, dame!!!”

(TN: Dame = ‘No’ in Japanese)

“Hey, what are you waiting for? Walk.”

The last thing I saw before the gun pressed hard against my back forced me away was a terrifying picture of four soldiers trying to carry a disabled person off the aircraft in a way akin to a sacrificial ritual. One person grabbed the left arm, one person the right arm, another the left leg (amputated), and the final person the right leg (also amputated). They lifted Uncle Taro up onto their shoulders, the hapless man laid face up staring at the ceiling of the airplane, shouting up a storm in Japanese before disappearing near the tail end of the airplane. My chest trembled, I was scared out of my wits. These Kazakhstan people solved a cabin wheelchair issue in the most barbaric way ever. Do I report this to the ‘Human Rights Watch’ NGO?

The other passengers had already gone ahead. Now I was the only person left, following the path to the passport inspection checkpoint. The more I walked, the more I realized how far it actually was. I didn’t walk, but fly to Kazakhstan right? Why wasn’t there a single person in sight…? I pressed my phone and dialed Isakov but there was no answer from the other end. Looking out the window, it was pitch black. The only thing which could been seen was a faint silhouette of the airplane and…

Hey… what’s that…?

An ambulance rushed over and pulled up beneath the airplane, along with two airport authorities and a man in a large coat pushing out a wheelchair. I stop to watch for a moment, seeing the same four soldiers slump the pitiful Uncle Taro down in the wheelchair like a sack of rice. From there, the entire wheelchair was lifted onto the car… the ambulance doors shut, then drove off, vanishing into the darkness… It was like a horror movie scene where somebody would get kidnapped to be slaughtered. Then again… umm… wasn’t Uncle Taro a guest invited by the government…? Can’t they treat him more like a VIP? Or was this already considered VIP treatment in this country?

I was beginning to fear what that hottie had sent to pick me up…

“Are you Mr. Phachara (Paa-shaa-ra)?”

In front of me stood one of the airport authorities, a dainty girl with a lovely face. She was wearing a wind resistant coat with animal fur decorating the rim of the hood. Next to her was also a large towering man, her partner perhaps. Although I wanted to argue that my name was Phachara–pronounced with short vowels–and not ‘Paashaara’, I still hadn’t gotten over the initial fear of having a gun pointed at me. It was better to shut up for now. “Yes ma’am.”

“Please show me your passport.”

I hand it over.

“What’s ya name?”

“Phachara Tanawisuthikul” You’ve got my passport so read it sister.

“Where was your visa issued?”

“Bangkok.” It was a bloodbath before managing to get here.

“How long are you planning to stay here for?”

“Two month.”

“I suggest you go home immediately after your business finishes.”

Hua! Why should I hurry back? The airplane tickets were expensive you know? With that price, I could have gone to Japan instead.

“His Excellency Alexander Nazarbayev has sent a VIP car to pick you up.” The girl continued to speak.

Overall, despite having a person of high and mighty status send a VIP car to pick me up, I still had to have my passport inspected. However, what bugged me more was the title in front of his name, the words: ‘His Excellency’. From my understanding, wasn’t this word used to refer to someone of very very high status, like a member of the senate, a prime minister, or a president? So why was this hottie–a consultant of politics and foreign affairs for a mousehole embassy–so highly respected…? Wasn’t he merely handsome and rich? Oh, and his personality was horrible too, he was evil, foul-mouthed, haughty, and greedy. Worst of all, he nailed and bailed (as if I would ever forget).

Or do the countrymen here grant this title to the mafia as well? If so, it would be no different from our neighbouring country’s government who gave away their consultant position to a twitter prisoner.

(TN: Twitter prisoner – After being driven out of the country, the politician Thaksin resorted to using Twitter in order to garner sympathy from the public, one of which was through a twitter conversation of Hun Sen, the Prime Minister of Cambodia)

Eh? But wait. Other than Hun Sen’s government, surely no one would allow an evil person into their ranks.

…Or was my judgement of that hottie too low… maybe he was an upstanding civil servant on stage but a weapons trafficking mafia behind the scenes. Hu… my imagination started to run wild just thinking about it.

“…Are you listening? Please exit this backdoor, a car will be waiting to take you to the VIP room.”

And then the duo disappeared in the blink of an eye. I turn back, faced with a door which read: ‘No Entry, Personnel Only’

 

A freezing gust of wind slashed against my face, causing a biting sting. I was devastated at the discovery of the personnel door locking automatically from the inside, it meant that I was stuck outside in the vast emptiness of the airport grounds…

I turn left, right, front, and back…

There was no one in sight…

There was nothing waiting for me, be it a car, a two-wheeled cart, an elephant, a horse, a cow, or a water buffalo…

On the left-hand side was a fence lined with barbed wire dividing the silent runway and the walkway.

Behind was a spotlight. However, barely anything was visible from where I stood at.

Every time the winds sailed past, I could feel a chill creep deeper and deeper into my bones… I could hardly take a step forward.

And more importantly… realizing only now… I didn’t know the name of the girl who sauntered off with my passport. I didn’t have any other documents on hand to confirm my identity too…

 

My heart dropped to the floor… If something happens to me in the middle of my journey to the VIP room… who was going to save me?

 

 

I still haven’t reached it… Was I walking to the VIP room or participating in the marathon world championships? It was damned cold. I pinched my own hand, failing to feel any pain. How many degrees was it right now? I didn’t even want to think about it. “Sh*t… when the hell am I going to get there?”

I cursed as I walked. Pinching my hand wasn’t painful so I started pinching my ears instead. Both of my ears were so numb that I nearly assumed they were fake ears. Were they going to shrink because of the cold? I had no idea. From my hand to my ears, from my ears to my…

Another gust of wind rushed past. It was extremely cold, like it had invaded into every fiber of my body. It was becoming increasingly difficult to move my feet forward. There was no one in front of me, there was no one behind me. If someone appeared right now…

“Ahkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk!!!”

My surprise almost made me pee myself (even if I really peed myself, it would have frozen into ice before coming out to greet the outside world). Suddenly, two soldiers appeared out of a dark corner! One person pointed a gun at my waist while the other seemed slightly surprised at my surprise. Seeing my face clearly, they then managed to confirm that I was human.

“What are you screaming for!”

I bore my eyes at them as if to say: ‘Who do you think decided to appear out of the darkness without making any sound then?’.

“The car’s waiting in that corner over there.” Can’t you be more polite? And put that gun away already!

…The corner he indicated meant that I had to marathon walk another hundred meters.

As I studied the car, I thought I was in a fever dream. This reason being: It was a BMW 507 Roadster, a luxurious classic car produced in 1959 and importantly… it was a convertible…

Driving a convertible in a temperature under ten celsius, as if this was appropriate!

That retard’s brain was definitely wired wrong! I cursed the hottie nonstop under my breath while peering inside to look at the front seats, finding my own passport resting still and undisturbed. As for Uncle Taro, he was sitting warm and comfortable inside the VIP room with his hot cocoa and personal pink wheelchair… I motion to walk towards Uncle Taro first, but the man in khaki-colors shifted the rifle aimed at my back over to the front, obstructing my path.

“That’s a guest of the government, you aren’t one.”

“And what did ‘His Excellency’ say?”

“No clue. His men simply gave orders to hurry you out of here… and for me to also turn a blind eye at the fact that you don’t possess an international driving permit.”

Uhuh… I’m so moved that my nose is running… aaaaachooo!!!

 

 

A VIP car… this refers to a car that arrives at the airport to pick you up… However, that hottie failed to inform me that there would be no chauffeur… was he right in his mind…?

“Just you wait… brrrrr… it’s so cold.”

I sat, teeth clenched and body freezing as I tried to direct the car slowly and steadily according to a google earth map that I had prepared before take off. Ugh… what four-way intersection? I couldn’t find it… and even if I found it, I wouldn’t be able recognize it since I couldn’t read the road signs. Google you liar, why is your map in English when the actual signs are in Russian woi!

There was also the fact that I was driving on an unfamiliar road at five-thirty in the morning. I wouldn’t even notice if a truck suddenly swerves into a utility pole on the side of the road. What should I do… should I call Alexey…?

‘You’re stupid.’ He was most likely going to scold me with a reprimanding voice and pair of sneering eyes, there was no doubt about it.

But Alexey… well… he probably wasn’t mean enough to leave me lost on my own… hopefully? Since he went to the effort of sending me a car (minus a useful Russian-speaking chauffeur), he surely didn’t want to get summoned to the police station to look at the corpse of a Thai man that had driven a convertible into a ditch and died… I made the decision to park the car on the side of the road and rummage through every compartment…  The entire vehicle produced only two pieces of paper.

The first piece was a phone number of the tourist police; the handwriting was unfamiliar.

The second piece was a faxed map of Astana, a very adorable-looking one too. Alexey’s neat and meticulous English handwriting filled in the space between each Russian sentence… Flipping it over, there was a sticky note attached to the back. The message was in Thai and seemingly printed from an e-mail.

 

I figured you’d need this. Don’t lose it.

Sincerely… me.

 

You have a lot of time on your hands don’t you? This sadistic hottie!

Admittedly it was cute, yet at the same time I wanted to drop kick Alexey… Regardless, this map was the sole reason why I managed to get to the rental apartment within twenty-five minutes time; coupled with a body temperature that was nearly in the negatives.

I lean over to look at the sign in front of the entrance, comparing it to a pamphlet I had printed out from the internet… In it detailed the following: This apartment was the equivalent of a three star hotel, a lavishly designed one at that. It featured a heater, hot water, breakfast, room service, English-speaking staff, and a beautiful lakeside view. Not to mention, it was located not far off from the civic center and several tourist attractions.

I stare at the establishment in front of me… umm… well they weren’t wrong… but… wasn’t this an advert from thirty years ago!!! The building I saw in front of me deserved to be registered as a UNESCO world heritage site. The lavish architecture translated to a ‘Soviet’ design to put it simply. It was a cardboard box with holes. Instead of windows, steel lattices mounted the walls. The exterior decoration consisted of several cracks all throughout the entire building. It was as if the building still stood standing because someone stuck superglue on it as a temporary measure. It was still dark out so I couldn’t see the aforementioned lake–but was that dome-shaped building on the other side a gigantic pool table or a stylish civic center? There was one thing left… English-speaking staff. I prayed for this point at least to be true!

Fine, so be it. I already paid the deposit, what else could I do…? I push the heavy wooden door of the apartment open. The window on the door was a muddy yellow color, to add, there was a crack on the bottom left corner. I saw my good friend, the spider, sleeping comfortably just a bit above my head…

“Hello… anybody here? Check-in please…”

Now that I mention it, actually, the interior of the building didn’t look too awful. Furniture from the Soviet era organized themselves neatly in front of a warm fireplace. There was also a black and white television set (which still seemed to be functioning), and a transistor radio. In another corner of the room was a small check-in counter decorated with photos of grim, serious-faced Soviet soldiers, Khrushchev the leader of Russia, and Yuri Gagarin stepping on the moon. Hua, did I time travel into the seventies?

The sound of someone’s feet dragging in a steady rhythm could be heard, along with a round circular silhouette… An amiable old woman in roughly her late seventies appeared out from the back. She smiles after seeing my face, showing off the golden tooth caps lining her entire mouth. “Hello, good morning.”

What a relief. I returned her smile.

“You can speak English? I want to check-in. My name is Pha…”

The old woman waves her hand dismissively as if trying to chase away a fly, before sending me an honest smile.

“English? Nyet, nyet. Вы говорить по-русски? *#$@*^$#@*”

 

I want to cry.

Can I sue the Kazakhstan ministry of tourism for deceiving a tourist? Huu….

Carta Visa: 15th Round

Bold: The characters are speaking in English.


Cutting the incident of setting my home on fire by cooking minced pork and basil stir fry short: After shouting and making loud ruckus for a while, the fire had begun spreading to the built-in food cupboard above my head; it was as if I was destined to die. But all of a sudden Isakov came in with a fire extinguisher!!! This had me completely shocked. “Hey how’d you know?”

Despite being somewhat confused, I felt inexplicably touched–that was until Isakov sprayed the fire extinguishing foam at the gas stove, and me…

…Okay, it’s a relief that the fire was put out and all, but I wasn’t the one being burnt here. What did you spray me for? Isakov made a surprised face (though he was clearly sneering inside) and I almost decided to forgive him if not for the fact that my eyes spotted a small sticky note stuck to the fire extinguisher.

‘Good night, moron.’

Hmph, Alexey.

But Isakov… you’re going to be the first to die!!!

With spite, I lunged for the fire extinguisher and sprayed it back with full force at the brutish bodyguard, his entire body soaking in foam. Altogether, this ordeal concluded in a brawl as we got down to exchanging blows like a couple of crazy fools. This bodyguard’s body was pretty sturdy so he only sported a couple of scratch marks. However, as for the person who received a uppercut to the chin and nearly passed out, this person was none other than… (let’s leave this blank since you already know who).

Huuuuu… this world is so cruel…

 

 

Sunday morning. I woke up at two minutes past seven. Despite it being pretty early, I couldn’t go back to sleep since my body hurt all over. My lips also swelled slightly, although not because it was attacked by someone’s hungry lust (I’d shoot myself if it was that bodyguard’s doing). As I staggered drowsily to open the front door and get the newspaper…

“Sasha… wa… wait… someone’s going to see us.”

The owner of room 1206 paid no mind to the protesting voice, instead placing fervent kisses down onto that white neck, leaving behind a trail of bruises.  “Uu… no more. I need to go to work, what will people think if they see these marks.”

“If they’re brave enough to ask, tell them that you already have an owner… that your owner made these marks.”

“You’re speaking nonsense.” The pale figure wearing a plain t-shirt nearly turned entirely pink from the other man’s touch. His hands were ready to remove every piece of clothing, piling each article down on the floor.

“What nonsense…? If it’s about me wanting to eat you whole… that’s not nonsense, it’s very true.”

The fair and handsome face capable of making any girl squeal now turned a faint shade of pink. And as for the lips which were kissed over and over again, they turned a juicy crimson. “We’re in the hallway, someone can exit their room any second now.”

“Well you’re being naughty, refusing to go back to bed…”

“I need to give something to Petch and head to work, Sasha please, I beg of you.” Despite objecting, his voice was starting to tremble. “If I don’t hurry, my editor is going to kill me.”

“Then… stay over tonight Pun… I want you close, all day and all night long .”

 

 

I retreat back into my own room. I thought I was seeing things, but no, the sound of the two people flirting could be heard occasionally on the other side of my door. The more I listened, the more I wanted to shout an echoing cry across the entire earth that: Punnaphob was playing innocent!!! His mouth said no but he was quick to act. It was exactly as Mild said, pure on the outside, devilish on the inside. Who would have thought that opening the front door, I would encounter my senior and his new man, caressing and embracing each other so lovingly that it almost crossed the 18+ line. They had a room and the door to it was also wide open, so there was no need to be flirting right in the middle of the hallway.

P’Pun, I went to the effort of worrying about your male sovereignty when in actual fact you’ve rushed ahead by several miles already, hmph! What a waste of Petch’s trust. What a waste of his love and endearment for his sugar daddy! You’ve decided to renounce the likes of a mistress like me it seems. Next time I visit P’Pun’s house, I swear to reveal every single juicy detail about P’Pun and Sasha for Pudding to hear. Even though it was merely a stupid-looking wrinkly-faced pug, surely it could sympathize with someone demoted to second place like me.

Knock, knock.

I flinched, looking through the peephole I saw the source of my astounding surprise stood there with a smile, showing off his dimples and white teeth in front of my room. He held one bag of twenty baht chinese doughnuts, one bag of soymilk and another small paper bag stuffed with a soft thick scarf, two pairs of leather gloves, four pairs of very thick socks and a few camera filters.

“I had business around this area so I dropped by to bring you some gifts.”

Liar. Didn’t you escape from the clutches of a golden retriever just moments ago? Don’t even try to act smooth, we were only a wall apart from each other, hmph!

I tried to collect my thoughts, pouring soymilk into a glass but almost spilling it. “You had business near my condo at seven in the morning, really?” I questioned, sending him a suspicious look. Yet…

“Well the chinese doughnuts are going to get soggy otherwise.” The man replied, eyes bright and transparent as always. P’Pun, at this stage, there’s no need act innocent anymore woi! “And another thing, I hurried here because I feared you were going to forget to pack a few things, what if you freeze to death?”

If P’Pun was my boyfriend and I heard this sentence… I would have been extremely impressed. But as I was still in an unrecoverable state of shock, I sulked a little inside that he viewed bringing me gifts as just a secondary matter. I sat drinking my soymilk quietly since I didn’t have a clue of what to say.

My senior noticed I was acting peculiar, so he reached out a hand to squeeze my hair softly. “I’m going now, enjoy your trip.”

Hua, you’re going already?”

“Mm… I haven’t slept at all.” P’Pun turned his back and left, leaving zero room for anymore questions.

Seeing him yawn drowsily, I anticipate that when nighttime falls, there will probably be some ‘exercise’ happening near room 1206 again. As for me, I was extremely worried… I wonder whether my senior has figured it out yet, that his adorable golden retriever was clearly a wolf.

 

 

Two in the afternoon.

At last, I managed to cram everything into my twenty six inch travel suitcase with the close supervision of the maidyguard (my previous boxing opponent) and the noisy piercing voice from my phone which connected to Jessica–who continually nagged about things I shouldn’t forget to bring. Eventually, she was so irritating that I had to tell her to hang up before I start reconsidering our friendship. With this, Jessica complied and ended the call.

I shut the front door and drag my suitcase out–the bodyguard didn’t bother to help one bit (but I also didn’t know what he could help with, there was only one suitcase and a single camera bag after all).

I couldn’t resist making a sarcastic remark. “Give my regards to your boss too. With me away, Sir Alexander the Great’s ears will be at peace for a long time.”

Isakov chuckled. “You may be the one missing him instead.”

The answer I received jabbed painfully at my heart. “Oh I’m already missing him.” My mouth driveled on, but my heart… yeah where did he disappear off to? Would it hurt to give me a single word of farewell? How mean.

“You neck is as long as a giraffe’s. The boss isn’t here this morning, he has business at the German embassy.”

As if any embassy is actually open on Sunday… I thought to myself, making a frown by accident. Isakov smiled annoyingly. “If you want to talk to Sir. Alexey, why don’t you give him a call?”

Woi… why does a handsome, excellent, and perfect person like me have to make a farewell call to a man with a horrible personality like him!

Isakov waved bye bye with a hand. I wave back. Since when did we become friends? Either way, he really had an effect on me…

Especially his final words.

 

‘Why don’t you give him a call?’

 

 

I’ve kept this part of the story in for those of you who have never been to Suvarnabhumi before.

As a preface, I didn’t steal the following information from Wikipedia or some newspaper alright? Suvarnabhumi is the largest airport in Thailand and among other Asean nations, with it standing at the top of several categories such as the airport ‘notorious for its high levels of corruption’ since our forefathers’ era until now, ‘extremely silent’, somebody please tell me where the corrupt case about the CTX scanner used for identifying explosives disappeared to? But also ‘extremely popular’, a result of the Yellow Shirts shutting down the airport at the end of the 2008, an event which made no one want to travel to Thailand.

As soon as I stepped into the airport, I was amazed at the magnificence of the building which seemed to be constructed solely out of iron and glass. It looked beautiful and otherworldly (even though from some angles it looked like a bamboo food cover). Turning left and right, the building seemed to stretch on endlessly and the number of people here was innumerable. Air hostesses walked by briskly, dragging their suitcases past me in their gorgeous uniforms. I spent roughly fifteen minutes figuring out where I was meant to go, eventually arriving at the check-in counter after taking several trips up and down the building.

The Air Astana airline occupied only two counters. A group of giant athletic-looking foreigners were queuing up in front of me and spewing Russian at each other nonstop, it was as if their mouths were strapped onto rockets. I stood, gripping my e-ticket and passport, hands damp with sweat from anticipation…

What do I need to do…?

I lean forward to spy on the first person in line.

Point one, smile at the staff.

Point two, hand over the passport and e-ticket, then stand there and wait with a sheepish expression.

Point three, if she asks where you’d like to sit, definitely don’t answer: ‘in the center of your heart’.

Point four, this airline permits suitcases with a total weight of no more than twenty kilograms…

“Your suitcase exceeds the weight limit sir.”

The screen indicated 20.2 kg…

I tried to bargain with my eyes but the pretty lady refused to backdown. Eventually, I complied, opening my suitcase to grab a coat and my MacBook before attempting to close it back down again amidst the burning gazes of the other people waiting in line.

I made the observation that this country loved making things difficult. Be it the embassy (there were no seats and people were allowed in one by one), the embassy authorities (it was nearly a bloodbath before a visa could be obtained), or its national airline (the airplane was huge and yet they only opened two check-in counters).

“All done sir. You’ll be embarking at Gate C, the boarding time is 5PM, please be there ten minutes early.” The staff at the counter explained to me quickly and called for the next person in line. However, seeing my bright clueless eyes, she was forced to repeat her words once more.

I received the boarding pass with a trembling hand… probably the same reaction I would have if Liverpool won the Premier League cup. Alright, let’s do this. Hopefully some crazy guy around here won’t shred my boarding pass and make me miss the flight.

Then again, where do I go next…

 

 

I spent ages trying to find my way, finally discovering that everyone had to bypass the immigration checkpoint first.

The immigration checkpoint was a narrow corridor partitioned by opaque glass. Exiting out the other end were elevated counters, each resembling the Jade Emperor’s Throne; there were around ten in total. I paused, spending two minutes trying to pick a counter before one of the authorities walked over to nudge me.

“Youngster, if you’re Thai, go to that aisle over there.”

“Can I not queue in that one sir?”

“That’s the aisle for people with a diplomatic passport and the disabled.”

I had a revelation then that the immigration checkpoint was divided into zones depending on if one held an official passport, a diplomatic passport, or a foreign or Thai passport. The diplomatic passport aisle made exceptions for the disabled and their personal caretakers as there were very few people lining up, the queue was exceptionally short. I smiled sheepishly and waddled over to the green aisle (meant for Thai passports), then stood waiting… wait, waiting and waited…

That said… why was the authority stationed at the counter staring at my face so intensely…? Having studied me left and right… I hope my face didn’t resemble an FBI wanted criminal.

“Young man, lift your head and look at the camera.”

The female authority in roughly her early fifties spoke to me in a tone that was on the verge of commanding. “You keep looking down at the floor like a refugee fleeing into the country.”

I lift my head and attempted a smile at the webcam–or whatever they called the device sitting on top of the counter.

“Oh, you’re pretty good-looking. But quit observing your feet, it won’t make you any taller.”

Hua, you’ve been inspecting my passport for five minutes already auntie. Do you expect me to stare at the camera until I find true love or something? “Is this actually a real passport?”

“Of course it’s real.”

“Let me see your national identification card.”

“Is there a problem with my passport Ma’am?”

Others waiting to have their passports inspected behind me leaned over to look, eyes curious. There were a lot of flights departing this Sunday evening and people hauling their suitcases overseas filled the airport to the brim, can you just let me go through already? I felt the eyes of the group of girls waiting behind me as the tried to burn a hole through my head.

“The photo in the passport book, your face looks like Igor.”

“Uh… and what do I look like now?” I asked softly, brave but hesitant. If I made this auntie angry, I wonder if she was going to tear my boarding pass apart.

“You look kind of Burmese.”

“But I can sing the national anthem clearly Ma’am: Thailand embraces all people of Thai blood~♪”

“Enough, enough. I believe you.” The auntie laughed dryly, beckoning me with a hand to collect my passport. In the exact second that my hand touched hers, auntie leaned down from her throne to whisper something next to my ear…

“Truth is, I don’t really want to let you through. Your passport photo and your real self don’t actually match except for the ears, but whatever… you’re cute so I’ll let it pass. Enjoy your trip, young man.”

Let’s put it this way… I vow to never let someone bite my ear off. If something unfortunate happens to me and only my ears remain discernable, don’t forget to call this auntie over to identify the corpse.

 

 

“Welcome to Astana Airline #%^#$%T^^EE()__(&%$##WE&(GFDRHNJLLNVDSSS@@@… Thank you”

Having not even left Suvarnabhumi Airport yet, I was vaguely beginning to understand my communication problem. From just the message welcoming passengers onboard the flight announced in Russian and followed by English, I could only grasp two words, these being: welcome and thank you. I frowned while glancing at the blonde air hostess who seemed to be a mixed-blood Russian woman (by this, I mean a combination of Caucasian, Indian and Mongolian). My mouth was itching to ask a question, however I was unable to organize my sentence in English properly. My wristwatch displayed the time 20.15 but the airplane doors still hadn’t yet shut. Moreover, the air hostesses were instead preoccupied with their makeup, powdering their faces, re-doing their mascara and painting their lips, they were like retail workers stationed at department store makeup counters.

“Excuse me miss, it’s eight-fifteen and the final call has already passed, why don’t you hurry up and takeoff? Who’s going to take responsibility if I’m late for my connecting flight!”

A foreigner sitting in one of the seats to the front asked grumpily. A few other voices banded together in agreement but they didn’t make themselves known.

The air hostess detached her gaze from her brandname compact powder case and stared at the passenger with disdain, claiming that all passengers weren’t accounted for and therefore they had to wait.

This unhappy passenger was a large muscular foreigner and according to his voice, he was starting to get furious.

“Is this missing passenger such a hot shot? Do you have any idea who I am?”

If you don’t know who you are, then who else would know…? I thought to myself. I really hate it when people try to flaunt their high and mighty status in a place where it’s inappropriate to do so. I secretly pulled out my phone to turn the device off but…

Should I call Alexey…? Like, call to gloat at him and be like: I’m finally going to step foot on your homeland, you can’t bully me anymore!

Turning left and right, hm…? The location I sat in was odd. This flight was packed, yet why was there not a single soul in seats 33A to 33H? Not only that, rows 32 and 34 were also completely empty.

“Did no one teach you not to use your phone on the airplane?”

!!!

 

The airplane doors closed with a bang…

My hair stood on end… Hua, even though there was a possibility, why was the owner of that familiar voice sitting in economy class? How could someone as high-class as him willingly allow his suit to be tainted by a poor person’s breath like mine?

The source of the airplane’s half an hour delay eyed me reprimandingly. “You’re staring, do you have a problem?”

“I never knew you could act like a commoner too. Try being more punctual next time will you? Innocent people are waiting.”

“Where are these innocent people you speak of?”

Turning left and right, it was empty… I had a revelation then…

If this was your doing, you might as well just rent the entire plane and send me off to Kazakhstan alone woi.

It seemed he read my thoughts.

“I had planned to fly to Frankfurt for business at first, but thinking it over again… leaving you to wander around by yourself in Astana sounds like a bad idea. I finished clearing up these seats just now, that’s why I’m late.”

“I’m not a child.” I glared, unimpressed yet oddly relieved to have this guy beside me taking a huge yawn.

Alexey lowered his eyes at me with contempt. “You can’t speak English so it’ll be a problem if the police escorts a sobbing runny-nosed child back to Thailand for nothing…”

“With a cute endearing face like mine, who wouldn’t want to escort me back?”

“That’s one reason why I’m here…”

…I didn’t know why… but my cheeks seared with heat…

“That clueless idiotic face of yours, even if I didn’t want to, I’d probably have to drag you back either way.”

 

Okay… there was no damned reason for me to be embarrassed earlier!

 

 

Sky high above Almaty, the capital city of the republic of Kazakhstan, the local time was currently one-thirty in the morning. As there was a time difference of around one hour between Kazakhstan and Thailand, this meant that it was two-thirty in Bangkok; by this time I would have been fast asleep drooling on my pillow.

I sat eyes hollow and dispirited in seat 33A, thinking to curse the turbulent ‘atmosphere’ which seemed to be bullying me into not getting any sleep ever since taking off from Bangkok. There were two main causes for this:

One, an inopportune storm followed us along the entire flight path from Bangkok to Kazakhstan. As such, the plane was forced to fly through rain clouds, cloud clusters, nitrogen, UFO’s, or some other object. The aircraft shook violently, dipping down unexpectedly at times.

Two, the drop dead handsome man sitting beside me didn’t speak a single word.

He really didn’t speak. He didn’t scold, didn’t bite, didn’t cajole, and didn’t utter any sweet words… nothing at all. Although I tried to make small talk… ‘beep beep, the mobile number you have called is currently unavailable’. He looked to be in a good mood when he boarded the plane earlier, but now… um… what happened? I saw Alexey take out his laptop, his concentration focused on sorting through his unread emails. Suddenly, he knits his eyebrows together then turns to ask me:

“When are you going to Uzbekistan?”

“On…” I counted with my fingers. I planned to travel in Kazakhstan for two weeks, then hop over to Uzbekistan to take photographs for two weeks, and if possible, I wanted to see the Silk Road. “Today is the sixteenth, so I’ll be staying in Kazakhstan for two weeks and then fly to Tashkent on roughly the twenty-ninth. The dates are alterable since I haven’t bought the tickets yet.”

“And do you have a place to stay yet?”

“Sasha said he was going to make reservations for me, we already agreed on this since the day I went to collect my visa.”

“How is this related to that guy?”

“Well he’s the one who invited me to participate in the project promoting tourism in Uzbekistan–ah.

Damn, I couldn’t halt my troublesome mouth in time. Alexey stared down at me, his eyes flashing red.

“…A newbie like you invited to be Thailand’s representative… really?”

The hottie used the corners of his eyes to study me from head to toe. What other man was capable of staring with so much disdain that the gaze felt excruciatingly painful? I quickly flatten my ears and tuck in my tail, afraid of getting a lengthy earful, but unexpectedly… Alexey didn’t say a single word back–to which it made the storm outside the airplane creep even closer, intensifying the worry in my heart.

The more silent he became, the more horrible I felt, even though I had no idea what I was feeling guilty of. How was this different from booking through an agency…? Either way… this short tempered hottie was already angry.

 

Dear respected court of law, I really accepted Sasha’s offer with pure virtuous intentions. It was only afterwards when I figured out that this guy was trying to snatch and bed both me and Pun in one go; and so I had to distance myself (a lot). Hence, I request the court take this defendant’s plea into consideration as well.

Sincerely… Phachara… (Defendant. 1)

 

Outside, lightning flashed bright and blinding, the situation seemed ugly. I tried to sit still and not move around, peering at the hottie’s glass of wine which was on the verge of spilling over. My stomach felt upset, my hands were cold, and the airplane was shaking violently due to the storm outside. A large majority of the passengers had woken up. Cabin lights shined glaringly, complete with a loud announcement in Russian. In that instant, I felt a sharp drop–as if the seat under me vanished–amidst the screaming voices of the female passengers. My heart dropped to my feet, though I exhaled after  realizing that this was simply a case of the plane falling through an air pocket.

“Are you okay?”

The short tempered hottie spoke to me for the first time since we started playing psychological warfare for roughly half an hour. My cheeks stiffened. “I’m fine, there’s nothing wrong.”

Grey eyes shifted downwards. I followed his gaze and saw my own hand gripping his arm tight, his skin pale white (due to lack of blood circulation). I was about to pull my hand back, except it was pinned down with his own. The hottie’s face appeared hesitant, as if debating whether to speak or not (but if he was thinking to scold me, now was not the right time).

“I’ll get my secretary to find new accommodation for you.”

Ha? What are you scheming? And… and why are you staring so intensely into my eyes? Are you trying to hypnotize me? I avert my eyes, increasingly starting to feel like my body wasn’t my own.

“Even if you don’t agree, you’ll have to comply.” The hottie gathered both of my hands together. “That guy is sly.”

“Look, if you really hate you friend that much, wouldn’t breaking off relations with him be much easier than doing this?” I asked, though I was struggling and fidgeting in my seat. Let go of my hands already woi, what if someone walks past? Instead of stopping to appreciate my good looks, the first thought they’ll have is that I’m a crazy person.

Alexey observed me and let out a small laugh. Although I wasn’t looking in his direction, simply hearing him laugh was enough to make me feel like mountain was lifted from my shoulders. You’re finally in a good mood…

“Who says I hate him…? Rather, it’s just because…” His warm breath tickled my ear, lips leaning in to gently caress my left cheek. I sat, body stiff, heart pounding in anticipation for his following words. But I heard nothing else.

…You’re mine…

A cigarette-scented kiss… Though my lips caught the bitter acrid taste of cigarettes, my nose found the faint smell of burnt tobacco leaves oddly fragrant… Alexey bit my lip softly as if to tease me. I felt lightheaded when his large palms cradled the back of my neck…

…You’re mine…

Was I dreaming…? I didn’t imagine hearing these words right? For sure? Alexey’s tongue slid inside, tossing my thoughts into utter disarray… I thought to object at first… but eventually gave in after discovering how awfully I missed the other man… Alexey’s long fingers danced around the opening of my shirt, picking off the black buttons on my shirt with ease. I closed my eyes when a large palm wandered underneath my shirt and started to massage my chest, the likes of which was pounding rapidly, on the verge of bursting.

 

…I’m yours, and this kiss is your apology is it…?

“Air Astana would like to welcome all passengers onboard to Almaty, Kazakhstan.” The sound of the air hostesses’ announcement interrupted as the wheels of the airplane hit the runway with a loud thud. I jumped. Once my consciousness returned to its body, I slapped the hottie’s hand away and hastily buttoned up my shirt properly before one of the air hostesses weaved through the aisle of passengers. She was headed straight for seat 33B, greeting Isakov and Viktar on the way; apparently they were watching vigilantly from seats 32C and 34C.

The hottie stared at me with the corners of his eyes, adjusting his shirt collar slightly and clearing his throat. “We’re here. I’m heading off first, it’s urgent business.” The hottie reached for his suitcase and stood up as soon as the airplane came to a complete stop.

I was left with my mouth hanging open. In the corner of my vision was a luxurious car driving straight down the runway.

Hua, where are you going? What about me?” I grabbed his wrist just in time, but had to let go quickly as the air hostess was staring at me with green displeasure.

What are you looking at? Is this guy your husband or something!?

“I have business in Almaty to deal with first.”

“But… and… and…”

“Well you booked your ticket to Astana so hop on that connecting flight. Don’t worry, I won’t abandon you… a VIP car will be waiting at the Astana airport, keep your phone turned on as well. See you then.”

And then he slipped on his blazer, walking away briskly with his two bodyguards while leaving me to sit deserted on my own amidst the boisterous Russian chattering of every passenger on the aircraft.

I felt myself shrink to two inches… Um, he sat next to me, got angry at me, stopped being angry at me, kissed me, started to molest me, tried to bed me on the airplane… and then he left with a straight face? Ugh, I couldn’t keep up. I was starting to feel dizzy, does anyone have some tiger balm? This is urgent.

 

Dear respected court of law…

I would like to request a change to my position from defendant to plaintiff instead. As the mistress to an Uzbek man I would like to settle a divorce with my Kazakh man.

Sincerely… Phachara… (Ex-defendant. 1) Plaintiff.

 

 

Taking a connecting flight in the middle of the night at Almaty International Airport was a highly painful ordeal–especially for a hardcore fan of Thailand’s duty-free shop ‘King Power’ since the airport was very small… The airport in Krabi Province was probably even bigger than this.

I passed through customs without any problems. The drowsy-looking authority seemed to have little will left to work. After a significantly long wait, I finally collected my suitcase and dragged it out to the waiting area.

I surveyed around myself, feeling like an insignificant speck among the large towering foreigners walking past in the airport. I walked back and forth, circling the entire building, able to count exactly four bookstalls, four stores selling mobile phones, four banks, and a coffee shop; yet no one could speak English. Altogether, this made up the entire international airport. The overall state of the airport was fairly old, like an aged refrigerator from your mother’s era. Those capable of picturing it can probably guess that everything around me was a muddy color; though I wasn’t sure whether this was because it was old or because I was blurry-eyed from lack of sleep.

 

The time of the connecting flight was 3.30 AM. Currently only thirty minutes had passed. I was afraid to fall asleep, what if someone stole my belongings? My banana-yellow travel suitcase was especially cute and endearing after all. I thought to take a walk and survey the scenery outside the airport, but seeing as the rainstorm pounded against the windows of the building, I was afraid of being blown away by the wind. What a bad omen, it was as if this country didn’t welcome me.

After sitting drowsily for what felt like ages, I heard Thai being spoken faintly in the distance. My ears perked up as I turned to look, finding a group of men in large padded winter overcoats. They piqued my interest as though the temperature was fairly cold, it wasn’t that cold. Hastily rushing towards them, I said a greeting and made their acquaintance. From our short conversation, it so happens that I wasn’t the only insane person who wanted to come visit this crazy country. Apparently there were a lot of Thai people flying overseas to work here. In this case, these men were a bunch of laborers hired to excavate a mine in the northern parts of Kazakhstan.

“What’s the north like?” The ghost of a journalist possessed me as I pulled out a pen and paper to jot down some notes.

They explained that Kazakhstan was shaped like an upside down triangle. The north and a section of the west bordered the Caspian Sea. As for the east, it adjoined to China and Mongolia. Moreover, Kazakhstan is the largest country geographically and holds the most power among the CIS (Not the CIA or CSI dear readers, but a confederation of countries which used to be a part of the Soviet Union before it dissolved).  These Thai men were being sent north, near Mongolia which…

“Feels like you’re being frozen all the time.” One of the men explained as such. For a person sensitive to the cold (physically and mentally) like me, just imagining it was scary. “It’s like a really cold desert… people freeze to death all the time since they don’t take good care of themselves.”

I swallowed my saliva stiffly, inspecting the overcoats, scarves, and other articles of clothing that the men wore in preparation, sympathizing with them somewhat.

The man who spoke to me was a dock engineer. He had worked here for three years now and this was his last. “Once this contract expires, I’m heading back to the countryside young man. You risk freezing to death by working here.”

“Mister, mister, do you need to have your visa renewed every year?”

“Yes, though I don’t particularly want to. I got the company which hired me and the tourism agency to organize it in my stead. One week was enough to process all twenty of these guy’s visas.”

Hua… this meant that Alexey postponed my visa on purpose then, he intended to get me worked up from the beginning. If this was the case, I’ll make sure to note it down and get my revenge later…

“This country is developing fast but they need a lot of workers, Kazakhstan is lacking in workforce.” The man explained.

Then I’ll note this down as well. If I apply for a visa again, I should hand in a proposal to become a laborer as well so the visa can be processed easily.

…As if this is a good idea Petch, no!

We chatted for awhile and it was pleasant, my loneliness felt eased to some extent because at least I got to speak my mother tongue–oh, and speaking of languages, I posed a lingering question: “And… mister, how do you communicate? Can people here speak English?”

The man waved a hand. “Don’t even think about it. I’ve worked here for three years and can still only use hand signs. Once they realize you’re Thai, the people here will start setting exorbitant prices. For example, a phone refill card costs roughly one thousand tenge, and if you look like a laborer they’ll charge you two thousand tenge instead, isn’t it shameless?”

Scamming money out of foreigners was truly a worldwide issue, it was no exception in a desert (of ice) too.

“With that clueless-looking face of yours, be careful or you’ll get tricked. The citizens here are seriously ruthless let me tell you.”

I think so too… but, hm? We’ve only gotten to know each other for half an hour so how could this mister tell that I was a clueless person… do I look that much like an idiot!?

 

 

Finally it was time to board the plane. I managed to haul my body with its little energy remaining onto the aircraft, expecting to sleep comfortably throughout the entire two hour flight. However… the person sitting next to me was incidentally a Russian auntie with a gigantic backside (I really don’t know how else to describe her, so allow me to call her ‘Russian auntie’, she looked caucasian and couldn’t speak a word of English after all). From my experience as a fashion photographer, I’ll take a guess that this auntie’s girth was approximately forty-eight inches, close to the size of a five cubic Mitsubishi refrigerator…

More importantly… this auntie had removed her dentures, placing it down beside me… The disgusting object looked as if it had been dug up from some grave and the nauseating smell was similar to that of chemicals used to preserve corpses… Not to mention, this auntie used the remaining gums and four molars in her mouth to chat enthusiastically with her friend, not taking into consideration that it was three in the morning and that half of the passengers hadn’t yet slept.

It wasn’t long after the airplane took off that I decided to remove my seatbelt, leaping over to sit in an empty seat while at the same time desperately trying to suck in oxygen. The person sitting next to me asked whether I was alright or not. Thanks but there’s no need to be alarmed, I just had a true taste of Kazakhstan for the first time that’s all…

Hmph… someone was laughing behind me. Yet it turned out to be a cheerful bald Japanese man in his middle years; who knows what he was in high spirits about. The man beckoned for me to sit closer and seeing as I had nothing to lose (at least I was confident in the dental hygiene of a citizen belonging to the samurais), I therefore sat down and said a greeting. Hm, what was ‘good evening’ in Japanese again…

Oh yeah, I remember, “Konbanwa…” My, my, I’ve still got this…

My travelling partner pointed at the horizon which was starting to brighten beyond the window and smiled. “Ohayo gozaimasu… demo ne…” (good morning… but), he yawned and smiled again, “Oyasumi” (good night). And then he covered himself with a blanket before going quiet. Hua, what the hell just happened…?

I scratch my head. Dammit, I was destined to meet nothing but crazy people in my life.

 

Yet I had no idea at the time… that this Japanese man was going lead me to… VIP situations… From here on out, several incidents would unfold…

Although… VIP doesn’t always mean ‘Very Important Person’, know that?


Sorry for the delay >.<

Carta Visa: 14th Round

Bold: The characters are speaking in English.


I carried my traumatized body and mind back to room 1204 with the help of Isakov; even though the room was only a few meters away.

Enough, I wanted to vomit. To put it shortly:

 

…I was shocked…

 

I’ve been scolded countless times before, but never by a person who could tear me apart so viciously and mercilessly.

I sunk down onto my bed. Admittedly, I sat there for nearly half an hour not doing anything at all, simply staring at the hand which punched Alexey, feeling confused. It was satisfying in that exact moment, an adequate reaction to his affronting words. Yet following that, his next words made me feel as if I had been slapped back.

Most painful of all… I thought what he said was correct… it was as if he had known me all his life. His cold gaze saw through me transparently. Even the blind spot which I intentionally kept hidden for no one else to see… he dared to uncover the truth about what kind of person I actually was…  Not to mention, he spoke it out loud. The shame I felt was unbearable.

This man was both ruthless… and scary…

“How long are you going to sit there despondent for?”

An odd Thai accent startled me from my reverie. Turning back, I was met with a ferocious-looking bodyguard stood legs spread in front my travel suitcase.

“What are you doing!” I snapped.

“Pack your bags. You’re going travelling in four more days and haven’t done anything.”

So that hottie still had some good intentions, sending a maid (?) to look after me.

Isakov looks at me with reprimanding eyes and folded up his sleeves. Blue-green tattoos wrapped around both arms. I swallowed my saliva stiffly when I saw the edge of Virgin Mary’s feet resting on a skull-shaped cloud. Clearly, faith flowed thick in the blood of the Russian mafia.

The bodyguard seemed to realise I was staring so he tucked it higher for me to see in full. Aiyah… scary.

“Why are you sitting still? Your hands aren’t rowing and your feet is dragging in the water Petch, hurry up and start helping.”

(TN: Hands not rowing and feet dragging in the water – An expression referring to a person that refuses to work and is also a nuisance)

I quickly slid off the bed. Umm… I’m scared of your tattoos sir…

“How many days are you going for?”

“Eight weeks.”

“Whereabouts?” His tone reminded me exactly of a teacher trying to interrogate their elementary school student.

I frown. Why did he want to know about where I was going?

As soon as I open my mouth to argue, the maidyguard (Maidyguard (noun): A combination of Maid + Bodyguard) made a difficult expression at my already-packed travel suitcase.

With swagger, he carefully uses the tip of his fingers to pick up a t-shirt before throwing it to the floor. “Useless.”

Next was a turtleneck shirt made out of cotton which had been worn for a total of seven years.

“This is also useless.”

The third piece was a pair of bleached jeans with its ankles frayed slightly, giving it an edginess.

“Absolutely unruly.”

He looks at my face as if to ask for permission, then went ahead and emptied out the entire suitcase, giving me no chance to speak, hua! My belongings lay tipped over in a disorderly fashion. Isakov ended up selecting a total of three pieces from the mountain of clothes. As for the rest… he stuffed them in a black bag, tied the bag tight, and used a pen to write in crooked Thai letters: ‘For Donation’.

“Hey are you crazy?” I hurriedly swiped away the black bag, hugging it close to my chest, before throwing it inside the closet. “All that stuff amounts to roughly ten-thousand baht woi!

My maid seemed puzzled. “Those clothes are better off given to the temple.”

Such a charitable heart you have!

I leapt up to grab the Nike shoes which Isakov was preparing to toss down the twelfth floor. “Hey! Can you not at least dispose of trash properly? What if it falls and hits someone’s head? Who’s going to take responsibility then?”

“Shoes that are a size too small, are you keeping it to scratch a lottery ticket or something?”

As expected of someone who used to have a Thai wife (though she’s moved-in with the gravekeeper now), Isakov used a comparison that was very fitting with Thai culture, he had my respect! “Probably.”

(TN: Thai people love playing the lottery. Some have weird rituals they go through before scratching the lottery)

Isakov seized my Nike’s back and threw them into another black bag. “Hand me those pair of shoes hiding underneath your bed too.”

I flinched. Was this guy a bodyguard or a spy from the KGB? He knew exactly what I had hidden and where. “There’s nothing there.”

“You’re not fooling anyone.”

A tall large figure with a white band-aid taped at the corner of his mouth–the result of my punch from earlier–grumbled as he walked into the room. Alexey bent down to snatch the hidden pair of shoes and threw it accurately to his underling. The corners of his eyes were staring at me with admonishment.

“Have you come to receive another free punch?” I take up a guarding stance, ready to fight.

The other party merely shrugged as if this matter was so insignificant that he didn’t want to clutter his brain with it. He turns to speak a few sentences to Isakov, before switching to Thai: “Finish dealing with this trash.”

My mouth was itching to ask about ‘who was dealing with who’ and what ‘trash’ he was referring to. However, I didn’t want to get lashed at, so I shut my mouth and looked away with disregard.

“Mr. Petch… Oops, Alexey, what a surprise to see you here.” The bright cheerful voice which belonged to Sasha summoned the attention of every pair of eyes. The Uzbekistan man with blue eyes sent a smile my way. “Everyone’s all present here… ah… you too Isakov…?”

“I’m doing my job.” The bodyguard casts his cold eyes at the newly arrived person, unfurls another black bag, and turns to speak to me. “Take only thick clothing. Where are your socks? Do you have a scarf?”

To conclude, he wasn’t a bodyguard or a maid, but rather a direct clone of my Mama!

Sasha squeezed himself into the room. With three large men plus me, the room was starting to feel cramped and stuffy. The tall large figure sat down beside me and made conversation with Alexey, talking leisurely despite the cold expression on the other man’s face.

I shut my ears, not interested in listening to their talk. Only moments later, Sasha exits with the menacing hottie (who probably already forgot about the purpose of his visit).

Isakov sneered as he followed my gaze. It reminded me of the day when the police officer came for interrogations and a curious question surfaced in my mind. My mouth shot him this question…

“Why do you look at him like that? Isn’t he your boss’ friend?”

“They’ve been friends for a long time… perhaps a little too long actually. It sometimes causes one to forget: Each person has their own individual duties to attend to and shouldn’t place their burden onto someone else.”

“How long have you worked with him for?” I thought of that wicked Dobby all of a sudden and decided on continuing to ask.

Isakov met my eyes. “My great-grandfather served his great-grandfather as a small soldier to his general. My grandfather worked for his grandfather who was the prime minister at the time. My father supported his family in seizing control of the government. What do you think, have I worked with him for a long time?”

“So why don’t you make him into another prime minister too… He’s already oh-so perfect, it won’t be difficult. What is he doing in a small, cramped embassy?” I couldn’t resist making a stern voice.

“He’s doing his job. No one can be big and powerful without having to do small miniscule work, be it an insignificant civil servant or Vladimir Putin.” Isakov explained with patience while tying the mouth of a bag containing items to be donated. I stare at it woefully. “You’re serious about this…? That shirt has only been worn fourteen times and although those Nike’s are a bit small…”

“So what if he becomes the prime minister? Are you going to gladly throw away these things and leech off of him? Buy a Lamborghini and drive it around to kill time? Use a dollar bill to roll up a joint of weed?” Although Isakov had a smile on his face, his eyes were deadly piercing.

“Are you crazy!?” I hastily retorted.

“Then what do you want to know for?”

Indeed, although I welcomed the idea of P’Pun treating me to meals and buying me snacks, if this hottie were to do the same thing… umm… just lending me two overcoats from Burberry and Alexander McQueen without setting an interest rate was already making me hesitant…

…The fact that we ‘make love’ doesn’t mean that I’m obligated to do anything for you…

…Doing nothing but take, doing nothing but ask, a lazy bum like you. Don’t even hope to gain anything from me…

The hottie’s words inserted itself into my dizzying mind. Combined with Isakov’s grating remark… I think I was beginning to understand Alexey around two millimeters more, shortening the twelve kilometer distance… which existed between us…

“I didn’t mean to ask, it just popped up into my mind, that’s all… And also, some things can’t be bought with money.” I cut our conversation short, turning back to look at my room with half of its belongings gone and sighed; I decided that ceasing fire with Isakov was a wise choice. “I’m going out to buy gloves, socks, uhh… a scarf…. and… umm… instant noodles… thermal underwear… what else? Help me think.”

“Food seasoning.” Isakov said, simultaneously writing it down on the same sticky note.

“Hah?”

“1 US Dollar is around 120 Tenge.”

Eh? What currency is that… Tenge? “Never heard of it before.”

“Let’s just say, food is thrice as expensive than in Thailand, save for alcohol, cigarettes, milk, bread and cheese. Gasoline isn’t included in the cost of the car rental and using the heater isn’t included in the apartment rent. With that plain and clumsy appearance of yours, you’ll likely starve to death because 99.99% of people there can’t speak English.”

Hua! My travel guidebook didn’t tell me about any of these things (actually I didn’t finish reading the book).

I fell into a state of shock. With the little funds and possessions I had, why did I think to stay in this guy’s country for a whole two months? And was I going to make it back to Thailand alive…?

I grab another wallet containing the cash I withdrew from the bank–hoping to use it exclusively as pocket money–and starting counting… The thought made my sweat drop.

“I understand now.” Isakov glanced at the cash in the wallet… then studied me from head to toe…

“Can you not look at me like that!?” The intense stare of disdain was an exact replica of his boss’. Being subject to it was always irritating.

“So what if I look?”

I return with a polite smile. “Maybe I’m embarrassed, you f*ck–” Yet inside, I was deep in thought. If my funds run out halfway through this trip… I bit my thumb and ruminated… it won’t be pretty. Also, asking to borrow money from my Pa would be…

Isakov handed me a sticky note, deliberately stuffing it in my hand and grabbed my car keys. “Wait by the car, you have five minutes.”

Hua, why the hurry?” I protested, eyes glued to my car keys.”And… what? You’re coming? I can handle a small matter like this on my own, I’m not a kid anymore.”

“Oh. Sure, a small matter.” Isakov shrugged. My eyes followed him till he exited the room. I was feeling better… however I still couldn’t put my finger on it. There was an odd feeling inside my chest and it was excruciatingly tight…

Scanning over Isakov’s handwriting, I nearly thought it was written in Russian. His Thai penmanship was thick and slanted to the right in an orderly fashion. Moreover, every letter was immaculately spaced out and even. On each sentence listed the items I needed, as well as some other things which I completely forgot about too.

 

Copy of passport and visa x 2

Photo ID x 2

AC adapter (I forgot)

Name card (This one too)

Give accommodation address + travel insurance documents to parents (Does he think I’m in elementary school or something?)

Print e-ticket x 2

 

I read it once more. Oh… right, e-ticket, I completely forgot. Despite punching that hottie out of anger, e-tickets can always be printed again from my email, can’t they?

So why did I punch that hottie just nowwww!

Uu, why did I act so thuggish? I was like a gangster!

The devil in my head whispered next to my ear, insistently telling me that the hottie deserved it. One punch didn’t even suffice when comparing everything the other man did to me. But incidentally, something beside my other ear was telling to me to be ashamed of my actions, for not being able to control myself.

When I exited my room, I saw the other man stood smoking a cigarette on the smoking balcony near the elevator. Our eyes met for a second and I decided to turn left, bounding down the fire exit stairs even though the elevator doors were already open and waiting. My ears picked up Sasha’s voice in the distance however I pretended not to hear it.

Between those twelve floors, I secretly hoped, deep inside… that he would come striding after me…

The phone in my pocket started ringing. Jessica was calling. I disconnect her.

Friend… I love you, but today, I’m not in the mood to talk…

 

 

“What were you doing? Tch, so slow.” Isakov complained while using a shoe to crush his cigarette into tiny pieces. It had been smoked till only the dull yellow filter remained.

“And aren’t you supposed to be tailing after your boss?”

“Leof and Viktar went together, everything’s sorted. Hurry up and get on the car.”

Isakov lit another cigarette, content to ignore my whining, then pulled out his ALDO sunglasses. The entire mafia look was complete…

“Get on, and if you make a tantrum I definitely won’t spare you. I’m not as soft on you like my boss is.”

“Then please inform your boss for me, thank you for being oh-so very soft.”

“Would it kill you to shut up for ten minutes Phachara!” Isakov glared at me. “Now my boss has to carry an injury to the wedding of the ambassador’s daughter… want to try having a black eye while you’re out shopping? Get on the car now! And if you speak one more word, you can bet your ass that I won’t treat you to a meal.”

I saw the ferociousness in his eyes and shrunk with fear… hastily and obediently getting on the car without saying a single word.  Fine! If don’t make it back alive to the condo tonight, hopefully the police will end up finding the suspect’s fingerprints on the black temple donation bags.

 

 

Sasha received a glass of crimson champagne from the waiter and took a sip. His gaze was focused on the bride and groom couple standing ten meters away. They suited each other ‘like a golden branch with jade leaves’. At first, he thought to stand closer to the front, but when he saw the Kazakhstan embassy’s consultant of politics and foreign affairs, his close friend and also love rival (some of the time) standing with a frown to one corner, he walked over to join the other man.

(TN: Like a golden branch with jade leaves – An expression to compare two things which look impeccably good together)

“You should have tagged along in my car, Mr. Oil Baron. Although you’re rich, what’s wrong with trying to prevent a bit of global warming?” His mouth chattered away but his eyes stared at the bruising red injury on the other’s face knowingly. An annoying smile decorated the Uzbekistan man’s face.

Alexey placed his champagne glass down on the table, grey eyes looking at the person who greeted him like it was unavoidable. Not to mention, he answered back in German. “In case someone is waiting in ambush to shoot you, I don’t want to be hit by a stray bullet. Are you not afraid?”

“You’re really concerned for me? Hearing this makes me oddly pleased.”

“If you want to know how I got ‘this’ then hurry up and ask.” He spoke of the bruising red injury with a band-aid plastered over it expressionlessly, as if talking about a mosquito bite.

The curious person burst out in laughter, playfully slapping Alexey’s back and shoulder. “So how did you go about getting that?”

“I merely slaughtered a chicken for a little monkey to see. The emotional little monkey was unimpressed so he threw a banana at me.” He was amused at his own words. Alexey finally laughed, shaking his head with exasperation. “So difficult to deal with.”

Sasha roared. “Are you really interested him?” He asked, trying to contain his laughter. But he was serious.

Alexey stared into his friend’s eyes with an expression that was difficult to read. “If you’re able to care for a little monkey, it’s best that you care for yourself first. Has Vivian’s lawyer called yet?”

“Don’t return my question, answer whether you’re serious about that person or not first.”

“Those two brats, next saturday is their birthday. I hope… she gets to see your face in Frankfurt.” The person with a band-aid plastered over the corner of his mouth lowered his voice. “Give my regards to her and the kids as well.”

“Alexey!” Sasha made his voice stern with displeasure. However, he didn’t dare to raise his voice as they were still in the middle of the wedding ceremony. “I warned you before to not get involved in this matter.”

“I’m their godfather.” Grey eyes flashed, equally refusing to back down. “And I’m also the brother of your legally-wedded wife! Even if we weren’t friends, I’d still be your brother-in-law.”

Some of the wedding attendees standing nearby whirled around to look, then hurriedly turned back as if nothing happened.

Sasha clenched his fist tight….

“What I think of him is my business… and what he thinks of you, I won’t interfere with…” Although Alexey spoke in a soft whisper, the word ‘brother-in-law’ echoed deafeningly in both of his ears.

“I’ll come over to hand you the gifts tonight. Tell the kids sorry on my behalf, for not being able to go visit.”

“I never said I was going.” Sasha impatiently seized the chance to speak. In his heart, he was thinking of something else, a certain someone he wanted to spend time with…

“Are you going to let the kids hold their birthday party with the absence of their father? Are you insane Sasha?”

The gaze which Alexey sent his direction made his cheeks feel almost numb. Grey eyes pointedly stared daggers at him. They were so identical to Vivian’s eyes. In spite of their relationship, he loathed these pair of eyes which saw through everything as much as he loathed having to lie to himself. He loathed those piercing words which seemingly intended to cut him, drench him in blood, and pour disinfectant over his raw wounds.

Nothing could escape Alexey. This guy knew everything, regardless of whether he was supposed to know it or not. Certainly, sometimes it came in handy (he didn’t need to give long-winded explanations), yet sometimes… he loathed this trait. Be it who he slept with while studying in university, who he escorted to dinners during his troublesome years in Germany, or even what presents he bought for who, it was guaranteed to reach this guy’s ears.

Alexey used the corner of his eyes to peer at him while giving an appreciating applause to the joyous wedding couple on stage. This guy knew he was drunk that day (no one could be blamed for this matter as everyone was dead drunk) and when he woke up the next morning, he found himself in bed with Vivian, his best friend’s little sister who had come travelling in Europe. Three months later, as you could probably guess… she was pregnant…

And that was also the first time he witnessed Alexey frozen in shock. After collecting his senses, he hurriedly called home to inform that Vivian had decided to continue staying in Germany for an extended period of time. While the youngest Nazarbayev did nothing but cry insistently on keeping those tiny cells, the big brother was left to handle everything else, finally deciding to tell their family the truth on the day the twins released cries which echoed through the labour room.

The person registered as the father of the kids was himself. Of course… if not… he’d surely be dead at the bottom of some river in Germany by now.

“I never imagined I would hear such god-awful words coming out of your mouth…” Grey eyes flashed with rage, yet he was still able to control his voice. “As your friend… let me warn you once again… take responsibility and do what is expected of you, and also don’t trade your future with… you know who. If it reaches a certain someone’s ears, you won’t be sitting comfortably in that chair.”

“Are you concerned for me or possessive of Mr. Petch, which is it?”

Alexey observed him from head to toe. “I didn’t realise you Uzbekistan’s had such low IQ. Next time I’m in Frankfurt, I better bring the kids to get their IQs measured.” He sneered from the corners of his mouth. “Afraid they might be stupid like their father.”

If he punches the consultant of the Kazakhstan embassy and doesn’t get reported back to the ministry in Tashkent… Alexey won’t be enjoying his beer for weeks!

 

 

One step… he was still looking at the shelf filled with foreign newspapers.

Two steps… he started to attentively read with interest.

Three steps… he flipped the pages over and studied the politics column.

“Petch… trying to escape from me in the supermarket won’t be that easy. Are you finished picking out groceries? We still have other places to go to.”

Isakov’s weary tone transfixed my two legs, halting them so suddenly that my head nearly lurched forward. I turn to bare my fangs.

“Who’s running away? I was just going to stop by that aisle over there.”

Jessica phoned in by chance, however I hurriedly press to disconnect the call because the brute in front of me seemed more important.

Isakov heaved a sigh, yanking the shopping list from my hand to see for himself. He returned some items onto the shelf and dragged me by the neck into the ready-to-eat meals section.

“You’re taking forever to decide on what lotion to buy, every bottle is the same, trust me, none of them will absorb into that thick skin of yours.” Isakov grumbled.

“But it’s cold isn’t it! How can I not apply lotion? Do you know how difficult it was for my parents to give birth to a handsome child like me?” I argued, snatching back the shopping list and grabbing one can of Pepsi instead. “And quit acting like a stingy housewife already, this is my money and life.”

“Just keep drinking those sodas, drink them until your bones become riddled with holes.”

I scratched my head. It felt like we were husband and wife, quarreling about what groceries to buy into our home. “Alright, fine mom. What else would you like me to buy mom?”

The Russian slapped my head with a loud ‘pap!’, putting me in a dizzy spell for thirty seconds. “Am I your playmate?” Isakov bared his fangs at me. He resembled the Rottweiler–his grey-eyed boss–closely. “There, seasoning packets. Whichever one your brain thinks it’s capable of cooking, get them.”

I grinded my teeth hard with resentment. And why was I complying to this brutish-looking bodyguard? I hadn’t a clue. Either way I complied, good grief. I yanked him down to squat next to me so that we could choose together. “I don’t know what to choose. You’re the one who has to help me.”

I shut my eyes and ears, managing to grab one packet. It was seasoning for minced pork and basil stir fry. Reading the back of the packet, the instructions seemed pretty easy so I took two more. On a nearby shelf were ready-made meals, minced meat salad, pork panaeng curry and chicken curry, yeah… I might as well take everything. “Isakov, go grab one bundle of basil leaves.”

“You’re cooking today?” His expression was of surprise mixed oddly with suspicion.

“If you quit dawdling around here, maybe I’ll make you some for you too!”

Hmph he really went over to select a bundle of basil leaves. Ahmarinated pork, garlic and fresh chilli… this guy had an unexpectedly good knowledge of Thai food.

That said, I wonder if I should warn him to buy anti-diarrhea medication just in case…

 

 

“So why exactly are we going to your house?” Isakov asked, turning the car around. “To ask your parents for money?” He looks at his watch. Hua… his watch was even more expensive than my SLR camera.

“What does your family do?”

“We sell the best grilled goose and chicken in Chinatown.”

“Yet you made instant noodles for Sir. Alexey?”

“Yeah, and what’s wrong with that? It’s instant noodles, not dog food.” I jutted out my bottom lip. What was so difficult? I had seasoning, basil leaves, garlic and chilli. As for meat, my family definitely had some… Just you wait you hottie, I’ll survive this trip and not die of hunger too, hmph!

Screeeeeeech.

“Распиздяй!!!” Russian swearing echoed loud from the red Honda Jazz which made a head-lurching brake in front of a popular grilled goose and chicken shop in Chinatown, beckoning the eyes of everyone inside to look this way. Isakov beeped the horn as loudly as my tiny Honda car could manage, poking his head out of the driver seat window and pointed at Phai, my younger cousin who cut in front of the mafia with his Fino motorcycle. “Moron! What manner of driving is this!?”

My eyes bulged. I hurriedly opened the door and dragged Phai who had fallen into a state of shock from being scolded by a foreigner inside the house, simultaneously raising my hand to greet Pa, Ma, Gramps, the employees and the customers, circling around the shop like a boxer entering the ring.

My Pa jerked his hand back from slicing a goose’s neck. He rested his cleaver down on the chopping board and wiped his hands with the cloth tied around his 44.25 inch tummy. “Is that a friend of yours Petch? You rarely visit but cause a ruckus every time.”

Hu, Pa, I’ll deal with it alright?” I said, voice pleading. Yanking the keys to the Fino from Phai’s hand, I quickly dashed to park the motorcycle before a certain Mr. Bodyguard could decide to go on a rampage.

Isakov clicked his tongue with irritation before delicately reversing the car into a parking spot, it contrasted to his earlier outburst. I hastily clung to the rolled-down window, vexed. “Why’d you have to go and make a ruckus! Look at all these startled customers.”

“Hurry up, you have five minutes. I have business to attend to with my boss.”

“Just go wherever you want to go, shoo shoo!”

“Four minutes and fifty-three seconds left.”

“I’m getting my mom to teach me how to make minced pork and basil stir fry, the pork won’t even be cooked yet in five minutes!” I protested.

“Perhaps you should start by learning how to make regular instant noodles first.”

“Petch, did you bring a friend with you son?” Mama appeared out from the back along with the smell of grilled goose clung to her body; a result of toiling work (grilling goose) since five in the morning. It was already eight-thirty at night and the smell of grilled goose hadn’t yet faded. I should really open a business selling grilled goose and chicken perfume, sounds like a good idea doesn’t it? “Bring your friend inside the house Petch.”

Isakov got out of the driver seat, placed his hands together and greeted my mom, it was unexpectedly polite for an ill-mannered foreigner like him. My mom received his greeting with a beaming smile (I think her smile got wider by 28% when Isakov removed his sunglasses, revealing a set of green eyes and a smile lining the corners of his mouth… it pulled at the heart-strings of the middle-aged woman. If he didn’t exit from a Honda Jazz, he probably would’ve been as handsome as the current 007 Daniel Craig.) I drag Isakov to greet my Pa, he obediently followed without any complaints. Seeing this made my Pa’s face relax a little.

“Have you eaten yet Petch?” Mama asked.

“No Ma, I just dropped by to get some things.”

“And when are you going overseas Petch?” Pa shouted a question from the goose chopping board, yet his eyes were fixed on Isakov.

“This Sunday.”

Pa grabbed a goose wing, chopping it up before throwing it on a plate. “Okay, carry this over to your friend–wot is yua name?” Pa raised this question out of nowhere. I was taken aback. Never in my life had I heard Pa speak English before. Even when there were foreign customers in the shop, he always sent his employees to randomly gesture out the menu.

Isakov smiled. I saw him truly smile for the first time; his fangs slightly peeked out too. “Isakov sir.”

Hearing the foreigner speak Thai, Pa’s expression turned delighted instantly. “Are you friends with Petch? Where do you work? How about your house?”

It was typical old people talk… he was determined to wring out every single detail.

“He’s a bodyguard for the mafia.” I answer thoughtlessly.

Pa’s cleaver made a loud impact on the chopping board. The customers in the shop turned their heads to look. “Petch, don’t you go falsely accusing others! Carry this food to the back of the house and serve your guest some water too.”

This world is so unfair. Isakov was shouting curses at Phai just moments ago, but when he went inside, his polite greeting and small utterance of Thai was enough to make Pa overjoyed, hui!

“He really is a bodyguard for the mafia. If you won’t believe me, who are you going to believe then? A pesky street dog?”

“Even the mutt nextdoor is more credible than you.”

To be compared like this… hurts a damn lot.

 

At the circular dining table, I handed over a list of items which Isakov ordered me not to buy, telling me to show it to my mom instead. “Here Ma, can you find these things for me? I don’t know if you have them stored or not.”

“Let me see clearly.” My mom pulled on her pair of reading glasses, staring attentively at the small slip of paper. “You handwriting hasn’t improved much since second grade Petch.”

The chopsticks which were about to stuff a piece of goose into my mouth flinched. I smiled from ear to ear.

“It’s this guy’s handwriting, not mine.”

Mama’s face went red, smiling as she met Isakov who replied with his own smiley eyes. My mom seemed to turn into a sixteen year old girl all of sudden. Hu… who knows what will happen if she meets that hottie during one of his good moods…

My mama tried to resolve the awkward tension but slurping her tea loudly like a true Chinese person.

(TN: A large majority of Thai people have Chinese ancestry due to endorsement of Chinese immigration and trade by the Thai king during the 18th century warring period.)

“No wonder it seemed slightly more beautiful than Petch’s in second grade.”

Mama! You’re siding too much with that foreigner, I can be angry too you know. “Here, these are the things I need but this nagging guy wouldn’t allow me to buy them.”

“Well our house already has everything, I’ve got Pa’s gloves and scarf too. What’s the use in buying them, it’s a waste of money.” She spoke while her chopsticks grabbed a large piece of grilled goose and placed it on the plate of the two-faced bodyguard; I was aiming for that piece too, hmph! “Thanks for look after my mischievous monkey dear, he just doesn’t know when to grow up.”

Isakov looks at my face and cocks an annoying eyebrow, mouth chewing heartily on a piece of goose wing. He seemed to be enjoying himself to the fullest. “He’s very stubborn isn’t he?”

“Stubborn like a donkey, wild like a monkey this son of mine.” This uninvited opinion was accompanied by a playful slap to Isakov’s shoulder. I saw him use the corners of his eyes to stare at my Pa’s hand. If this was a normal situation, my Pa would have already had his arm chopped off by this mafioso. “So how did you two become friends? It’s rare to see Petch bring home a friend. Other than Pun, no one else seems to want to befriend him.”

“I’m the one who chose not to befriend others Pa!” I argued next to him, face in a frown. “And P’Pun isn’t available today.”

“You guys are basically joined at the hip, it’s eventually going to make other people suspicious. People these days are mentally abnormal too, imagining all sorts of sick things.” Pa received a cup of tea from Mama, took a sip, then let out a loud belch. I really respected the foreigner in front of me for managing to maintain his composure. He showed no signs of surprise whatsoever at the ‘polite’ manners of a chinese family like mine.

Mama chased one employee to close up the front of the shop, shouted to call my dear cousin Phai down for dinner, and ordered Xiao Yu to tidy up and clean the kitchen. Pa was about to squeeze Isakov for details but the sound of a phone started ringing..

“Да… Да…”

Isakov’s bodyguard demeanor returned to its original place. Pa hurriedly shifted to sit near me. “Petch, your friend, what does he do for a living?”

I stare at Pa, fed up. “Like I said, he’s a bodyguard for the mafia.”

“Nonsense, why would he come with you then?”

“That’s cause I had an argument with his mafia boss Pa! Are you going to believe me yet?”

“Где…? Silom…? Да… Okay…

(TN: Silom – a sub-district in Bangkok)

Isakov ended the call, turning to stare at me, eyes unblinking.

“Two minutes.” Isakov informed, but Pa didn’t catch his words. I was intent on sluggishly taking my time. This was my house after all, there was nothing he could do about it…

My mom came downstairs with a large bag of items and the bodyguard took it to hold promptly; I didn’t even have to open my mouth and beg.

“Petch, Ma managed to get everything on that list, do you want anything else son?”

Uh… I had something else I wanted, yet was too ashamed to speak it.

Pa lowered his eyes at me. “How many days are you going for?”

“Two months Pa.”

It appears my Pa had understood. “And how much money do you have?”

“Uh, well… thirty-thousand baht and another two credit cards.”

He lowered his eyes further. Pa didn’t seem angry, however he didn’t seem pleased either. “And your company, how much are they paying?”

I became reluctant. Sh*t… when I first told Pa about the trip, it was under the premise of my company sending me out for work.

Pa heaved a sigh, walking to the cash register in front of the shop and the safe. He selected three stacks of one-thousand baht notes.

“You’re grown up now Petch.” Pa said only that and lit a cigarette, filling the room with smoke.

I stare at the three stacks of one-thousand baht notes on the dining table and looked around the shop with a feeling of shame… I felt guilty to the point where I didn’t have the guts to look at my parent’s face.

 

I was reminded a conversation prior to this…

“Where are we going next…?” Isakov asked as we drove out of the supermarket.

“My house in Chinatown.” I stared outside the window. I was so hungry that my intestines were in a twist, however, being as stingy as I was, I didn’t want to go to a restaurant. The additional charges which I just found out about had me stressed. If I started saving from today onwards (even though it may be a little too late now), I should probably have enough for the food expenses.

“Boss has the rest of the stuff in his storage, if you ask nicely…”

“I don’t want to use your boss’ possessions woi.” I protested, face contorting. “Expensive brand name stuff… I can’t use them. They give me rashes, I’m allergic to the upper-class.

“What crazy disease is that?”

“Upper-class allergy, it’s a disease that rich people can’t contract, now you know.”

Speaking of Isakov’s suggestion, he wasn’t considerate of my heart at all!  I really wondered what remaining self-esteem I had left, asking to borrow from a person who saw me as nothing but a scruffy loser.

“Suit yourself…” He replied. “That said, how is going back home to ask your parents for money a more respectable option?”

His words were correct…

 

I push the stacks of one-thousand baht notes back to Pa and made a face like nothing happened.

“Idiot, I didn’t come to ask for money from you Pa. I stopped by to give you a few documents that’s all, in case something happens you can still track me down.”

Honestly, beyond the money, I wanted Ma to teach me how to cook food for my survival, but how was I to bring this up? This family sold eat-and-takeaway food in Chinatown but their dearest son could only make instant noodles and egg dishes.

Pa raised his eyebrows high and looked at the documents laid out the table. It consisted of a book detailing my travel insurance policies, a copy of my E-ticket (the source of my argument with that hottie), and several different phone numbers my family could use to contact me during the two months. Pa said nothing, but Mama looked genuinely impressed. They hurriedly picked up the documents and started flipping it over.

“My, how nice. I thought I wouldn’t be able to contact you at all in these two months.”

Actually, concerning the travel insurance, the agency insisted that I apply for one. Do I seem like someone who would think to get insurance for myself? Yet when I saw Mama’s relieved face, the small sum of money I spent seemed worth it.

“There’s compensation for airplane delays over six hours, lost bags and passport books too, it sounds pretty decent Pa.” Fortunately or unfortunately, my mom’s approval called Pa’s attention over to the travel insurance as she blurted out in a thrilled voice: “Oho, dying gets us five million baht? This means if you kick the bucket, it’ll be worth it son.”

What a peculiar-sounding sentence. How would it be worth it if I end up dying!

“Ridiculous, I can’t die Ma…” I said weakly. Glancing at Isakov, he was peering at his watch for the third time.

“That’s true.”

Isakov interjected suddenly. I myself was puzzled at the direction of his words. He proceeded to yank the collar of my shirt from behind, using his other hand to push the money back to Pa along with a ferocious smile.

“This guy is heavily in debt to my boss… both damaging his body and possessions… Pa, your unbridled son definitely won’t be able to pay you back. It’s best you hold onto that money, this guy is nothing but a kid sucking on his thumb, never knowing when to grow up.” Green eyes glinted bright and the fangs he bared were sharp and pointed. “Say your farewells already, let’s go, I’m in a hurry!”

Mama’s face went ashen. As for Pa, his trembling hand was pointed at Isakov’s face. “What did you say?”

“Your monkey of a son already told you that I’m a mafia bodyguard did he not? And he’s currently having a quarrel with my boss. Pa, you don’t know how to listen. Your ears, are they for decoration!?”

Hit with this first blow, Pa nearly fell off his chair, breaking out in sweat. “You… you aren’t friends with Petch?”

“Nope/Nope.” We both answer together.

Pa looks at my face with alarm. It seemed apparent in his eyes now that this guy belonged to the mafia.

“Hey, let me go woi.

“You’ve wasted far enough time, I said five minutes did I not!? You tarry around like you don’t know what it means to be punctual, how did you survive this far?” Isakov lashed viciously, yanking me till I nearly fell out of my chair.

I tried flicking his hand away but Isakov had the back of my neck pinched tight. If he twisted his wrist a bit more, my neck would surely break right off.

Pa was pale-faced and shaking. To grab his cleaver and chop this foreigner’s arm off was tempting, but the chopping board was slightly too far away. “And… and, why did you force Petch to come here? You want money right? However much you want, just take it.”

“I’m the mafia woi, not a bank robber!!”

Ah, Isakov had a point.

“Blame your son for being an idiot. He could have ran in to get the items while I waited in the car but no, instead, dragging me inside the house to eat geese and chicken. This is good in a way though. If your son causes trouble for my boss again in Kazakhstan… I at least know the correct house to deliver his bones back to.”

Mama fainted. I hurriedly shook off Isakov’s hold to support her, meeting a devastating kick from the uncle of goose chopping board.

“To bring a criminal into our house, this gou zhong!”

(TN: Gou Zhong – An insult which is used to call someone a dog. The word is specifically Hokkien dialect, spoken by a large majority of those who have immigrated from China to Thailand.)

Hua. Pa, you’re wrong, I didn’t….”

Pa bared his fangs, placed a hand on his hip and started rattling out curses in Chinese like a machine gun. Isakov seized this chance to pick me up by my shirt collar and throw me back onto the car without any warning. He even had the nerve to gesture Pa a farewell, his ability to irritate others was second to none.

I was unlucky in every way. And didn’t I come home to ask Ma how to make minced pork and basil stirfry…?

 

 

Starving… I had only eaten two mouthfuls of goose wing.

My pocket money hadn’t increase by a single penny…

Pa’s brutal scolding crushed my feelings…

P’Pun wasn’t answering his phone… he wasn’t replying to my messages either…

Moreover, Isakov decided to don the spirit of a speeding chauffeur, darting from Chinatown to a luxurious hotel in the Bang Rak district within the span of four minutes and twenty-five seconds, rushing to pick up his boss who sat down beside, smoking a cigarette. As for the person clinging to his seat, body almost flying off… my insides were jumbled like it had been put through a fruit blender. Did my liver and heart swap places? I had no clue. I glance at the hottie and edged over to the other corner.

“Why were you gone for so long Isakov?” His mouth questioned yet his eyes stared at me as if knowing well the answer. I made a wry face, hugging the scarf bag which Mama gave me. “I never had to wait before.”

“My apologies sir.” The person driving answered flatly.

I squint, having anticipated that this bodyguard was going to pass the blame onto me. However, Isakov said nothing after that.

Alexey looks at me. I pretend not to notice, turning my head to another direction.

“Petch.”

“…”

“Have you finished sorting out everything?”

“…”

His enquiring voice was starkly different from the time he ripped my airplane ticket in half (slaughtered a chicken for me to see). Right now, he seemed to have more humanity… more gentleness…

Do you want to apologise to me? Come on, hurry up and say it…

Yet even after a long time, he said nothing. So I was forced to break the silence myself.

“You left with Leof and what’s his name? Viktar, did you not? Why wait for Isakov to pick you up?”

Grey eyes stared at me, lips raised in an oddly annoying smile. My emotions were smouldering inside. “Try having a guess.”

“I’m not here to play games with you.”

Me either. Using several cars is a waste of gas.”

Alas my good man! Now of all times, you think to save energy and reduce global warming?

I open my mouth to snap back at the other man but my troublesome stomach had to go and make a resounding growl. The goose which I nibbled on at Pa’s house was completely digested, none of it remained in my tummy.

“This is your fault, you jerk.” I complain loud, trying to hide my embarrassment.

The hottie raises his eyebrows and smiled knowingly. Seeing me send a look of displeasure, he turned his face away.

 

It was unknown as to when we returned back at the condo. I hurriedly grabbed all of my belongings and carried them down from the car on my own; even though the heavy weight nearly dislocated my shoulders. Leof and Viktar were already waiting downstairs, their faces blank with indifference. With a displeased and annoyed expression, I nod a greeting to the two men and walked past to the elevator.

While I fumbled with the elevator button, both hands occupied with stuff, the person I tried to walk away from closed in, body brushing up against mine.

“Do you know… being punctual is one of the first traits that a professional needs to have.” His mouth lectured yet his hands tugged, helping to carry two bags. Are you scolding or being a gentleman? Choose one and stick with it.

Listening to these words made me even more irritable. And what right did he have to teach me a lesson? I replied with a disdainful gaze, meeting Alexey who was waiting with a frigid smile on his face.

“Isakov probably told you from the start yes? About how much time remained. You should know how to manage it well.”

“Quit messing with my life already! You may be skilled and capable but that’s because you’re you. Sorry but, I can’t scramble up to your level.”

“Okay, it’s my fault… for setting such high standards.”

 

 

I was angry, annoyed and agitated. My heart hurt to the point where I wanted to cry and let it all out. His short meagre words, why were they keeping me awake? Eventually I got up to sit, blinking aimlessly in the middle of the night even though I was exhausted and dispirited, heart wrenched to its breaking point.

P’Pun had replied to my message. He finished packing and wondered if I needed help since he was currently free. As for the file which came attached… it was a photo of a certain super chill coffee shop in the Thonglor neighbourhood… as well as the handsome face of a golden retriever grinning in the top righthand corner.

I release a sigh, feeling inexplicably empty… not knowing whether I was jealous of P’Pun who these days stayed stuck to the wolf in golden retriever skin like a chinese doughnut, or… just lonely… having truly realized that for a certain someone… I never existed in his eyesight…

The words he intended to hurt me with, I knew… to scramble up to his level wasn’t beyond my capabilities… but I simply wondered….

In that spot up above, would there be anyone waiting for me?

The sound of the landline phone in my room started ringing, but I was too lazy to walk over and pick it up. When thirty seconds went by, the voice recording machine kicked in.

“Petch… this is Jessica, what happened to your phone? I can’t call you, did you drop it in the toilet hm? …I was hoping to invite you to dinner at the Oriental Hotel. You missed all the great food, it serves you right. Sir Alexander the Great went too–what an unbelievably cute man he is, sneaking out of the ambassador’s daughter’s wedding to attend a romantic dinner with…”

I hurriedly reached for the receiver. “Hey! Pae, don’t even try and lure me with men, especially not that idiot and his high standards”

“What are you talking about?” Jessica abandoned her soft sweet-sounding voice. It was now full-on manly, a tone she often used when scolding me. “Let’s talk about you instead hm? You had the nerve to bruise my darling’s handsome face.”

“Uhuh, did he come complaining to you?” My voice pitched higher. Hui, how pathetic. I barely injured him and yet he went complaining to this kathoey.

“His face is enough of a tell-tale sign. Nice people don’t go around punching good-looking faces, therefore only someone insane, crazy and a dolt like you would dare to touch a drop-dead handsome man. Precious things like him deserve to be stored in the ministry of fine arts.”

How unnecessarily greedy. “You called for this reason? I’m hanging up then.”

“Can’t you take a joke? This sensitive monkey. I’m calling to ask about when you’re flying.”

“The day after tomorrow.”

Jessica said she was going to help me pack my bags. Plus, she had an important and exciting surprise.

“Can’t you tell me now? I stopped being surprised a long time ago since a certain human went to court for swindling the country out of good faith.”

(TN: Low-key talking about the politician Taksin again)

Jessica guffawed at my grating words. “Nevermind if you don’t want to know, wait until you see it in Astana then.”

Hm? What did you say? “Hey, wait! Don’t tell me that you guys joined hands to bully me. Is little Petch going to be left all alone in Kazakhstan? Frozen to death without a single caring person in sight?”

“That’s absurd Petch!” Jessica was laughing nonstop. “Are you having sweet dreams about my darling? He’ll pick you up in a chariot, let you stay at the InterContinental Hotel, take you drinking with the president, and invite you golfing with Vladimir Putin, Stalin and Yuri Gagarin?”

“You’re the one that’s ridiculous. Okay, spill it out.”

“Here’s the deal… I’m going too! Surpriseeeeee~?

I could imagine her face. Right now, her eyes would be open wide to the size of goose eggs,  lashes curled with mascara fluttering as she blinks rapidly. From some angles she would look pretty. From some angles she would look like a siamese giant carp. I made a monotonous voice. “Okay, I guess I’ll be excited. I’m so so so surprised.”

“Idiot.” Jessica retorted, but then adjusted her voice to sound overly cajoling. “Okay, my husband is back. See you there. Goodnight.”

“Sh*t, I think I’m having a nightmare.” I said in a fit of laughter and hung up the call. In spite of my mouth, I felt happy to the point where my skin danced.

 

Jessica’s going too! Who said my tastes deviated? Although I’ll be accompanying a kathoey overseas, this trip was guaranteed to be fun. Oh, where was my spare memory card, my other battery, and my precious tripod? Come, come, into this bag you go, daddy is going to take you travelling~

Whatever that hottie had in store for me wasn’t important. Right now I desperately wanted to go travelling.

I hummed a cheerful tune while opening up the refrigerator, stomach making a loud echoing growl. My eyes glanced at the ready-made minced pork and basil stir fry seasoning which I intended to store away for later.

Fine… let’s give it a try, what could go wrong?

 

 

The smell of minced pork and basil stirfry…

Eh? Was it…? Why was the smell oddly burnt…?

The man detached his eyes from the legal document in front of him and swivelled to look around his luxurious living quarters. A burnt and bitter smell causing his nose to itch filtered in through the bulletproof windowpane located nearest to the neighbouring room.

Alexey swept his hand past the finger scanning console. The locks released with a ‘grik’ and he couldn’t resist smiling at the first sound he heard.

 

~Ahhhhhhhhhhk, don’t spread my child!!! Daddy doesn’t have the money to plead in court for a burnt down condo!!!

 

The smell of burnt basil leaves wafted to greet him for a second time.

“Is something wrong sir?”

Viktar asked from behind. His bodyguards were always circling nearby regardless of whether he required their service or not. He was used to it.

“That guy is making a ruckus again, can you tell him to be quiet?”

“It will be difficult sir… Isakov thinks so.”

“I think so too.”

 

But I will never miss an opportunity to teach you a lesson: To transform you from a pathetic dolt into the number one photographer like you’ve always dreamed… this is the promise I made to you… though you don’t remember it.

I’m going all out this trip, prepare yourself!


Alexey = The extreme definition of tough love.

Carta Visa: 13th Round

Bold: The characters are speaking in English.


P’Pun stared at the photos on the screen of my MacBook with a dumbfounded expression. Dark brown eyes beneath his glasses looked over at my face several times.

“Confess, puppy… who edited these photos for you?”

“I really did it myself!” I lift up two fingers like a boyscout to pledge that I wasn’t lying. “So is it good or not, senior?”

“It’s a damned ambush Petch.” P’Pun didn’t answer my question. Instead, he grabbed the stylus, sliding it around to alternate between each photo, impressed. “I hold back slightly and you’ve already rushed past me by several levels. With skills like these, I don’t think you need to borrow my new lens anymore.”

“You’re joking.” I sat squished on the same sofa, leaving P’Pun to pat my head and rub my tail. I felt very proud of myself.

“You don’t look very happy that I’m complimenting you though. Shouldn’t your tail be wagging side to side and jumping up and about by now?” P’Pun adjusts his glasses. I noticed the area under his eyes looked equally as fatigued as mine. “What’s wrong? Coming to me with drooping ears and a tucked tail, did P’Chid scold you on the phone this morning?”

“No.” I replied, mumbling. I was gearing up to explain but managed to hold myself back–P’Pun didn’t have a clue about me and that hottie after all. “I slept at four last night, so I’m a bit tired.”

“Then feel free to take a nap here.” The owner of the two-story house on Prasarnmit street offered in his usual warm caring tone. I immediately collapse down on P’Pun’s bed after he got up to his feet. “Don’t pass out yet though, I’ll be back, give me a minute.”

“Eating before bed is going to make me fat.” I murmur, feeling extremely drowsy. Curiously, whenever I visited P’Pun’s house, my eyes never stayed open for long. “It’s your fault that I got scolded.”

The owner of the room stilled. “Hm? What did you say?”

“Nothing, I was sleep-talking.”

Irritated, P’Pun walks back to pinch my nose hard, making me cry out loud; chasing away all traces drowsiness. “What did P’Chid call you about? Start confessing like a good puppy Petch.”

“He… ow, it hurts, let go first… he called me to say… don’t twist, don’t twist, it hurtsssssss…”

“Tell me.”

Tell P’Pun what? That a golden retriever was flirting with me!?

“P’Chid told me: Next time you’re working, don’t bring another man along, even he can get jealous too.”

 

Boom!

 

My senior flinched visibly. I saw his reaction and felt somewhat guilty. When it comes to trusting people easily, P’Pun was second to none. His smooth white face was pale as a sheet of paper. Seeing this, the devil hiding inside my head became restless. My hands were itching to pounce on the innocent prey in front me.

“You’re joking, Petch.”

Well I am joking. P’Pun, why do you trust me so easilyyy… at this rate, you’re asking to be teased!

“P’Chid… is very serious P’Pun. I… umm… it’s better if you don’t bring that foreigner along with you next time. Think of it as being considerate of P’Chid’s feelings okay?”

I recall vaguely that lying was a breach of the five precepts, however I wasn’t Buddhist, therefore this didn’t count as sinning.

“Fine, fine.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, it’s not as if Sasha and I are ‘together’. I guarantee it won’t happen a second time.”

“I didn’t realise that you cared so much for me and Editor Chid, I feel so touched.” I said cheesily, it was vomit-inducing.

P’Pun side-eyed me. “I guess so.”

I swallow my saliva twice. P’Pun really believed me, wow! If Editor Chid finds out that I used his name for such a tale, my neck was definitely getting slit. But killing two birds with one stone like this was way too worth it… Even though I felt a bit guilty, I couldn’t help holding back a smile.

“Oh Petch… you’re done applying for an Uzbekistan visa right?”

I nod. “And how about you, senior?”

Eh? …Something’s off. P’Pun was in a good mood earlier, so why did he seem oddly listless all of sudden? What was my senior thinking about? Scratching his ear here, scratching his head there, he seemed inexplicably worried. Or were P’Pun and P’Chid experiencing a hurdle in their relationship? With Sasha appearing out of thin air, has the situation transformed into a tragic love triangle? Hu… let me get my popcorn first.

“Changing the topic as soon as I tease you about P’Chid, P’Pun are you having a secret affair with P’Chid?”

“You prick.” P’Pun cussed blatantly. My, my, I wanted to poke my nose into other people’s business more, but… lets not. Having P’Pun as my personal sugar daddy was good enough, it won’t be pretty if another mistress (P’Chid???) gets involved.

“Oh… by the way, when are you heading back? I’ll send you off by car.” Changing the topic again. Forget it, P’Pun was already someone with a short fuse, delving further would risk me getting hit by the back of his hand.

“I drove here myself today.”

Hua, is that so?” Look at him make that disappointed face, my intuition was definitely not wrong.

“If you want to see Sasha that badly, just call him. There’s no need to beat around the bush by driving me back, senior.”

In front of me, the innocent spectacled man’s ears turned red. Dammit, I really love P’Pun. If you’re going to be this cute, I’ll offer you to the golden retriever on a plate right this instant!

“Hush, Petch. If this reaches P’Chid’s ears, I won’t let you off.”

I slap my knee. Saying this meant there was really something going on between the two of them, wahaha! The evil plan in my head was beginning to come together piece by piece. I’ll definitely be free from the golden retriever this time!

P’Pun, on the other hand, had no idea that he was falling into the trap of a mischievous little monkey like me. He was sitting in front of his MacBook, moving his mouse here and there to check my work.

“For real though Petch, don’t lie to me, who edited these photos for you?”

“Jessica.”

P’Pun smacked my head so hard that it dipped forward. “You can’t even tell me this much?”

He tried to wring an answer out of me but I was far too shy to tell P’Pun about me and that drop-dead handsome mafioso; my mouth was heavy as if weighed down by rocks. Importantly, I was starting to wonder about what exactly the other man wanted from me?  One second he’s fierce and menacing, another second he’s gentle to the point where my heart trembled.

A large hand, white and smooth like a cooked chicken offering grabbed my head, shaking it around playfully. A faint smile surfaced on P’Pun’s face.

I had no idea what that smile meant, the only thing I heard however was: “Sleep, your eyes are swollen from work. I’ll go buy you something delicious to eat.”

Huu, somebody get this ‘Gentleman of the Year’ out here.

Opening the door to the room, he halted his steps, turning back to send a sparkly aura my way.

“Oh, do you want some milk to cope with your hunger for now little monkey?”

“Is it school milk?” I made a clueless expression. “I don’t want spoiled milk.”

“Milk from a pair of breasts maybe.”

“Anything but milk from your breasts senior, I want it from the breasts of a pretty girl instead.”

A carton of milk hit its mark at the center of my forehead, smacking me upside the head and causing me to tumble off the bed…

Oh P’Pun… you really are innocent on the outside and ruthless on the inside. You even have the heart to hurt your own junior… I grumble inwardly while gingerly soothing my forehead. Look, there’s a bump now…

As for mentioning that he was a gentleman earlier, I take it back!

 

 

Allow me to show off a bit. Editor Chid was in utter shock for a total of thirty seconds with my god-tier retouching work and asked the same question as P’Pun (you guys know each other so well) about who took over for me. When told that it was my own doing, P’Chid stubbornly argued back, refusing to believe me.

“Where did you go to upgrade yourself?” He asked, eyes cautious.

“On Pantip probably! I just heaved my brain over to ask for a CPU and RAM upgrade, simple as that.” If you won’t believe me, I’ll answer with sarcasm.

(TN: Pantip – A Thai internet forum)

“Then you probably changed your brain from a Pentium II and 46MB RAM to a Core 2 Duo and 4GB RAM it seems.”

I was totally being looked down on… Seeing me frown, P’Chid hurriedly patted my head in comfort. Wasn’t this like slapping me then rubbing my back? Don’t even try to comfort me, I’m sulking!

P’Chid paid no mind, quickly beckoning Meuk–our expert photo editor–over to relay the rest of the work to her. Turning back again, I was still sulking so he sat down beside me. “Where’s Pun? Did he not come with you?”

“Why don’t you go call him yourself, P’Chid.” I said annoyingly. “Since you know each other so well.”

“I called but he didn’t pick up, so I thought you guys were together.” P’Chid got up to brew some coffee and asked whether I wanted some. For a hardcore editor like him, this was the extent of the kindness that he could muster in order to appease his juniors. “Want a cup, puppy?”

The smell of good quality coffee wafted up to touch my nose. I was still sulking, therefore I stared at him and refused to answer his question. “Did P’Pun hand in his work yet?”

“He sent it in several days ago actually, every photo was beautiful so there was no need for any touch-ups. That foreigner looks explosively handsome in those photos though, his bright aura turned all the girls in the office frail.” P’Chid was preoccupied with brewing coffee, not bothering to look at my face. “That said… he’s been travelling back and forth with Pun hasn’t he?”

I listen attentively. “You’re kidding me.”

“Didn’t hear the latest news I see, your daddy Pun has kicked you to the curb already.” P’Chid cackled, handing the coffee to me in a pristine white ceramic mug. The fragrant smell of brewed coffee wafted in the air. I received it, took a sip… the coffee was delicious, then glanced at P’Chid.

“So are you talking for real about P’Pun?”

“Oh come on, why would I lie, Pun is just feigning cluelessness… Mild was the one responsible for blowing his cover by inviting that foreigner inside the office. She assumed that he was one of the models we arranged a meeting with.” P’Chid stood leaning against the workdesk, casually stirring his coffee with a spoon. “It was only yesterday. When that guy came inside, your daddy…”

“Wait, wait.” I interrupted before the misunderstanding got out of hand. “P’Chid, P’Pun isn’t my husband!”

“Even if he’s not, he’s almost like one already Petch.”

How about I smack your forehead with my feet!

After that, when P’Pun saw Sasha walk into the office he started faltering, face red, ears red, stumbling over his words. To make matters worse, Meuk was just in the middle of looking through P’Pun’s photos. Putting two and two together, she realised that the deific foreigner in the photos and the foreigner sitting in the flesh without a care on the guest sofa was the exact same person. My poor P’Pun was therefore stuck in a difficult situation. With Sasha shooting him a deadly smile, it was like P’Pun’s brain malfunctioned, he was unable to work. Displeased, my senior in the end had to drag the other man outside to sort out their issue. But when the foreigner dropped sweet cajoling words on him relentlessly, Punnaphob lost his balance entirely.

Hu, P’Chid how did you come across these juicy details?”

“Well Mild’s the one who wrote it up on her blog. There’s more to it too.” P’Chid smiled. “Are you curious?”

I pretend to sigh. “Who would want to hear the story of their own husband with a new man?”

Waai! So it really is a tragic love triangle!” Mild exclaimed loudly. I flinch, meeting Mild stood hugging a folder up against her bulging chest and holding the door open. Everyone in the office turned their heads to look solely at me.

P’Chid laughed till tears formed in his eyes.

As for me… I was so embarrassed that I might as well go home crying to P’Pun. At this stage… if I claimed to be pregnant with P’Pun’s baby, everyone in this office would likely believe me.

P.s. Before heading back, I turned on the office computer to read Mild’s blog… I was shocked and had to read it again twice.

P.p.s. I found out that P’Chid was lying because he was there to witness everything unfold, including the first P.s.!

P.p.p.s. No wonder why P’Pun seemed awfully restless when I teased him about P’Chid being jealous this morning. Are you guys hiding a secret from me… hmm?

Kindaichi Phachara must solve this case, his grandfather’s name is riding on it!

(TN: Reference to detective manga ‘The Kindaichi Case Files’)

 

 

I thought about P’Pun the entire time while driving from the office to the bank, to the mall, to the currency exchange store, and so forth. I managed to conclude that my husband P’Pun was really feigning cluelessness. What dung beetle? That mark was clearly an allergic reaction to foreigners (But in that moment he looked truly clueless–this detail had me stumped).

I ring the doorbell of room 1202 and sigh.

Hu, one person was a gentleman with a hidden streak…

As for this conceited young master… he was menacing to the point where I wanted him as a guard dog.

To compare their ferociousness… Between a Rottweiler and Alexander Nazarbayev, I was beginning to feel unsure of which was scarier.

“Why are you here again.”

The tone was frigid and coupled with a deadly gaze. I wanted to take on the role of a tragic heroine with tears rolling down her face like in those romantic dramas but I didn’t have the heart to do so, that hottie wasn’t a stupid male love interest. The more realistic outcome would be getting kicked out of the room.

“I’m here to collect my belongings.”

“…”

Saying this out loud made me realize: Did this hottie think I was moving bases to room 1206? How do I fix this misunderstanding? “Um… last night I washed my underwear and left it to dry here… um… so I came take it back.”

The beautiful pair of eyebrows furrowed together and he heaved a sigh. “You didn’t take a bath last night though?”

Every murder case has its evidence. As for Petch the filthy monkey, what attested to his guilt was an unseemly smell!

Alexey shrugged but agreed to open the door and let me inside. His eyes seemed to be pondering something however his mouth stayed shut.

I slip through the door which was ajar just enough for the size of my body. Once the door shut, I felt like I was chased into a corner by his piercing stare. Alexey observed me from head to toe and shifted his sight to stop at the MacBook in my arms. “Did you send in your work yet?”

“I sent it in already.”

“Good.”

“My editor was very pleased…” I inhale fully into my lungs, raise my face to meet those pair of eyes, and pursed my lips tight before continuing to speak. “No one believed that it was my own work–uhh… uhh..”

Say thank you, say it! Just tell him Petch!

“Well it does beckon suspicion.” The hottie interjected, expression still as cold as ever.

There it goes, my mood to reconcile with him!

“So I replied, Petchy Potter had a creative block and fell asleep, but Dobby the house-elf helped finish up the rest of his work. After waking up, Harry–I mean Petchy Potter hastily went to deliver his work before a certain person called into his phone…”

They say you will end up in hell if you lie. Hopefully heaven is sympathetic enough to prevent P’Chid from finding out that I’ve used him in another excuse again, amen!

“A good morning call.” The hottie finishes my sentence, glaring at me as if wanting to eat my flesh and blood. It was in this second which I realized, this hottie had horribly misunderstood. This character belonging J.K. Rowling, are we talking about the same one? Moreover, he shouldn’t be of Uzbekistan nationality! I open my mouth to correct myself but it was too late. “Not long after that… Dumbledore with his fabulous beard called him and said, ‘Goodmorning my dear Petchy, did you sleep well last night?’ …That guy has twin sons in Frankfurt, they’re four and a half years old, would you like to help produce more heirs Petchy Potter?”

I almost fell off my chair. “Hah? Four and a half years old!?”

“A man in his mid-thirties having two children, there’s nothing weird about it.”

Mid-thirties. Two children.

(The number of wives weren’t revealed, and how about the bed partners!!!)

And… and… and what about making P’Pun blush up to his ears, travelling back and forth together, not to mention chasing after me as well, how do you explain this?

Beneath his golden hair, blue eyes, and bright face was too pitch black for me to want to explore. It was better to not trust that golden retriever.

The hottie looks at my face… his expression blank… so blank that I feared for my heart.

“Uh…”

“So why are you here?” He asks, pulling me back into this topic unprepared. I noticed now that this hottie looked oddly relaxed today. He wasn’t wearing a suit, wasn’t wearing a necktie, actually… with that appearance didn’t he just get out of bed! How does the Kazakhstan embassy operate if the ambassador’s consultant wakes up at four in the afternoon?

“I’m.”

Alexey raises his eyebrows high.

“Um… I brought a sock to thank you Mr. Dobby for saving my life.” Those pair of grey eyes had a glint of intrigue. I say in a soft voice: “Thank you.” Albeit it was more like a whisper to myself.

Alexey laughed ‘hu hu’…

“Sorry Potter, but one sock isn’t enough.”

I flinch, face frowning. “I can take off the one on my other feet too, if you want.” I know we were playing around, but what did he need the other side of my sock for? A sock that I’ve been wearing entire day, far too smelly and sour to bear, let me have a sniff to make sure…

But wait…

Why was he speaking so closely, whispering next to my ear…?

Could his nose not pick up scent or what, playfully brushing it near my ear…

And… that mouth… was he going to kiss me or not… teasing and tempting… causing my heart to falter.

The drop-dead handsome man in front me stared with a glint in his eyes, as if about to devour me whole. I was sucked back into the real world where the Russian version of Dobby was way more ferocious than the children’s fiction version.

Alexander Nazarbayev pulled something out of his back pocket. I glance over and flinched. Hey! That was my E-ticket!

“Where did you get that from?”

“The messenger from K Line delivered it.” Do not misunderstand, K Line isn’t some gay hotline, but a Japanese agency whose services I regularly used to buy my airplane tickets from. If you can’t think, ask K Line, call 02XXXXX68–Hey! That airplane ticket is mineeee…

“And why is it with you?”

Alexey sneered. Being this handsome and sinister turned entire concept of Dobby upside-down.

“How about it Potter? …Now what are going to compensate me with?”

I swallow my saliva stiffly… If I danced the ‘Grilled Chicken Dance’ as compensation, I wonder if this hottie was going to tear my airplane ticket into pieces?

(TN: Grilled Chicken Dance – A popular silly dance based off of a children’s song, here is a demonstration)

“With… with…” My wretched face flared with heat as I thought of obscene things… don’t… can you not move away from me a bit? I can’t breathe… I was lost entirely to those stunning eyes.

“I’ll give you three seconds.”

Three seconds ended in what felt like lie.

“I don’t know…” I admit, voice pleading sympathy. “Whatever you want, just take it.”

“The time for playing games is up.” The frigid voice and deadly piercing gaze returned to his face. The hottie yanked the airplane ticket, separating it into two… ‘kwaek~’.

 

Noooooooooooo

 

“@#$$%^&&*Y(**)&)_*__)+)_(_*()&*&&^%^%$^#$#”

If I was J.K. Rowling…

I would trash the original Harry Potter and write a dark version instead… make Voldemort into the protagonist and Dobby the little house-elf into a scoundrel. What’s the use for feel-good literature when the real world is several times more cruel?

I went weak-kneed, slumping down on the floor and eyes brimming with tears. The airplane ticket was torn in half, anger made my entire body numb. Alexey made an annoying sneer. The vein on my forehead twitched uncontrollably… I must not punch him…

“I really want to know… how you managed to survive this far when you can’t even handle your own matters. All you do is make a fuss, waiting for other people to do ‘this’ and ‘that’ for you…”

I must not punch him…

“As for yesterday, I wasn’t angry at anything but rather annoyed at the sight of you… it was also a bit pitiful.”

I must not punch him…

 

“Only losers dream of being a professional despite never thinking to make an effort with their own ability… remember these words well.”

 

The sound of a punch cut through the air with a loud whiz. My fist made contact with the left side of his face. However, Alexey merely stared at me with amused eyes, as if the punch which I swung at him didn’t irritate his skin in the least…

“Oh, another thing, the fact that we ‘make love’ doesn’t mean that I’m obligated to do anything for you, understand this too.”

I was doubly shocked at what I was hearing. Yet it seems that my surprise was according to Alexey’s plans–he who did not care, was not interested and… saw me as worthless.

“I’m not like Sasha who would gladly offer up all sorts of things to others–especially to people with bad personalities, doing nothing but take, doing nothing but ask, a lazy bum like you. Don’t even hope to gain anything from me… I’ve told you before so let me refresh your memory again, with that personality of yours, you need to be taught a lesson. Remember this and stuff it in that thick skull of yours!”

His thumb swiped carelessly at the blood seeping slightly from the edge of his mouth. Stunning grey eyes flashed but his lips were stretched in a sneer, as if satisfied that I fell for his game… I stared at those pair of eyes with anger… Seeing him not bother to evade my attack made me shake even harder with pent up rage. Yet, his words stabbed my heart in all the right places, I couldn’t object.

 

Last night I asked myself: What was I to the other man…

A bed partner?

 

…Before this, yes. But now….. I was nothing but a loser!


Alexey, you’re so goddamned mean T_T. There’s a reason for his actions I assure you, but you’ll have to stick around for the next chapter (It’s lengthy again, see you in a week+)

Carta Visa: 12th Round

Bold: The characters are speaking in English.


One hour later, Alexey invited me to work inside his room for safety measures–to which I pondered heavily about who would want to blow my brains out, even Hannibal Lecter wouldn’t find my flesh palatable. But either way, at least I’d get to save my electricity bill, so I willingly migrated to room 1202.

RRR…RRR

P’Chid was calling me. I picked it up and enabled the speakers, too lazy to hold the phone up to my ear; turns out, this was a horrible decision.

“Petch woi, the magazine deadline is about to close, how long are you going to spend editing those photos?”

His protestations from the phone was so loud that the person working in a separate corner of the room was forced to look up. Alexey adjusts his rimless reading glasses and casts his eyes to me, perking his ears to listen in on every word.

Editor Lookchid, the publishing house’s pitbull terrier was rushing to get a hand on the magazine photos before I headed off on my trip this coming Sunday.

“I haven’t found all the ones which I like yet P’Chid.”

“Just select a pile and we’ll decide the rest on our end… I’ll even have Meuk edit the photos for you if you want, but I’m taking it out of your paycheck.” P’Chid wasn’t making much sense, he probably had a cigarette in his mouth.

Hua.

“By the way, a little birdie told me that Pun’s taking a man with him too. Remember, you’re going for work, not to flirt with each other Petch.” I was stumped at my editor’s words. If P’Pun was taking a man with him, why was P’Chid lecturing me?

“Although I hear this man is dashingly handsome isn’t he? If you’re not pleased with the model in your team, feel free to use him instead.”

“P’Chid are you crazy? …That man belongs to P’Pun, I can’t ask him.”

“Well according to someone, he’s also been brushing up to you–this means you’re the perfect person for the job Petch… I’ll leave it up to you. See you on thursday, don’t be late.”

“Brushing up to me? As if.”

“Are you not riled up at all Petch? I hear he’s as handsome as a god descended down from heaven.”

“Okay, I admit, he’s damned handsome… his name is Sasha… if you really want him as a model, I’ll try asking.”

“I knew it, behind that innocent face you’re secretly a casanova aren’t you? Pun fell for it, that god-like hottie too, and I hear there’s another foreigner wrapped around your finger too.”

Hua…

“In any case, don’t forget to ask Mr. Sasha–your new husband–for permission. It’ll be a problem if we publish his photos and end up getting sued later on, foreigners are especially cunning after all.”

I glance to look at the person most suited to be called a ‘cunning foreigner’ sitting not near or faraway, feeling a cold shiver run down my spine. I corrected myself just moments ago did I not? Why was this matter resurfacing again hm~?

God definitely did not love me. Instantly, after hanging up the call with P’Chid, Sasha called into the room’s landline telephone asking for me. As you can probably guess, the hottie sitting green-eyed nearby was ready to tear me into pieces.

Of course, Sasha made it even worse. His nice-guy attitude made me feel so guilty that I offered to treat him to dinner as thanks… finding trouble for yourself again Petch.

 

 

The weather forecast at 24:25 in Bangkok: Rain clouds blanketed over the twelfth floor, strong gusts of wind swirled around, and a tornado forming out of nowhere was predicted to surface from the Bay of Bengal and reach Phetchaburi road within the next ten seconds.

I glance over to assess the situation, then averted my eyes away. Making a face of disregard, I shut my eyes and click, choosing eighteen photos from the total of eighty or so that were taken. Good grief… like I had the face to tell P’Chid that I couldn’t take any decent photos due to my lack of sleep. I was blurry and exhausted with sweat after ‘exercising’ on the van. Moreover, I took the wrong lens with me too. Sending substandard work to my editor was therefore like destroying one’s own rice pot.

(TN: Destroy one’s own rice pot – An expression referring to an act that is against one’s interest or is damaging towards oneself)

Regardless, it was entirely my fault. Look at P’Pun’s photos for instance, they were flawless, be it the lighting, the angle or the pose. Even the photos which P’Pun took for fun… every photo of Sasha was tinged with soft lighting, especially the photo of him smiling… exactly how did P’Pun manage to make this guy look as handsome as a deity?

“I demand an explanation. What you told me earlier, it seems to not be the case Petch.”

I smile sheepishly. “Can this wait? Right now I’m… uh… like… busy with work… I can’t think… I’ve been sitting here looking at these photos for ages and still haven’t edited any of them.”

Alexey’s eyes flashed rage. Anyone who has raised a dog before can probably imagine that I was no different than a puppy caught red-handed at stealing grilled chicken off the dinner table. I made an expression like my ears were drooping and my tail was tucked, searching for an excuse inside my hollow brain.

“Look, I’m not skilled at Photoshop okay? I normally use it only once a month since I have other assistants to help me–with urgent work like this, it’s bound to take some time… can you give me a while to deal with this first?”

I swear on my pride as an ex-boy scout, an ordinary puppy and little monkey that I was better at using Photoshop than speaking English by a tiny margin. Would this hottie believe me?

“Do you think this farce will buy you time?”

…I knew it, this guy didn’t believe me.

“You’re a compassionate enough person to understand me… right?”

I had no idea why but the edge in my voice sounded oddly challenging, and he seemed to read it that way as well. The hottie retaliated by throwing me a hardcover book which was the size of a Bible. The front cover wrote the following: Idiot’s Guide to Photoshop CS5.

Um… from my understanding, it said ‘Photoshop CS5 Guide for an idiot like you’. Did I over-translate? I wasn’t sure, however I felt weirdly put-down.

“If you don’t have a brain to think for yourself then open that book and follow the instructions.”

It felt as if he was rubbing salt into my wounds but I opened the book anyhow. Seeing the English, my eyes turned dizzy. “I can’t read it.”

“Your husband from room 1206 should be glad help you.” Look at him speak, using that frigid tone again.

Alexey grimaced. “Should I call him over for you?”

I wonder if he knew… what I thought of his words? Or did he only care about himself? Whether ‘he’ was satisfied or not. It was never about what ‘I’ felt.

Fine. I can’t count all twenty-six letters of the English alphabet from A to Z but I can read this much at least.

 

‘If you want to verify this, use the Eyedropper tool to measure the bottom line where the lines cross and where they don’t cross. Doing so, the values will be 64 and 128 respectively.’

 

What I underlined were the words which I couldn’t translate. When I was born, the doctor told my mother that my English gland was defective from birth. Luckily my mother was in a state of confusion so she didn’t tell the doctor to bury me in the ground right then and there.

I stamp out of the room and return with bright red talking dictionary. Sitting down, I press the keys with a ‘pip pip’ sound, and use a pencil to write down the translated words on a notepad which I also went to grab from my own room. Once done translating the paragraph, I followed the instructions. I succeeded some and failed some, but whatever. If I couldn’t do this much, Alexey was going to accuse me of pretending to be weak at English and simply waiting for the golden retriever next-door to come to my aid…

So then why won’t this hottie help me instead?

Although, why would he even need to help me? …We weren’t ‘anything’ to each other…

Oh… bed partners maybe. If I acted too haughty then forgive me… and this was probably the reason why he never bothered to listen to any of my words too!

These idiotic questions swirled around in my head like a goldfish swimming in a glass bowl, from a whisper it grew louder and louder until my thoughts became overcrowded, unable to think of anything else. I jerk back the hand which was in the middle of writing down the translated word and relaxed it open. Although the room was cold due to the air conditioner, my hand was damp with sweat.

There was no explanation for it.

“Petch.”

“…”

“Petch.”

 

‘Figure 6.3

Brushes have variable settings like size, hardness, and opacity. Different effects can be achieved by modifying these variables.’

 

Like I could read this, I’ve been copying Jessica’s English tests since elementary school up till my undergraduate year after all. I note down the wrong translation, erase it, write it again, it was wrong, then erased it for the second time… what the hell.

I fling the eraser hard. Go die instead of that hottie, you!

“I didn’t mean to say those words.”

If you didn’t mean it, why did you say it out loud to hurt the feelings of the person listening hah?

Alexey walks over to sit across from me. I look somewhere else, close the book, turn off my MacBook, then went to brush my teeth. Returning to the sofa, I grabbed a pillow… then slept.

“Forget it, I’m going to sleep.”

Whatever he viewed me as was his business. I won’t care anymore too, you black-hearted person.

 

 

I pull up the blanket over my head and lay, eyes blinking for a long while, hearing the sound of the hottie fumbling around, doing something nearby. I wanted to know, but my obstinate self prevented me from getting up to look. Half an hour later, I felt the lights turn off and the hottie leave the room… I heaved a sigh of relief, looking up at the clock. What was I acting crazy for? Why was I acting self-centered like a kid sucking on his thumb? Wasn’t there only a few days of work left? And why was I using nothing but emotion to deal with things, it was ruining my productivity.

And finally…

Why did being near that hottie always cause my emotions fluctuate? This isn’t good Petch, you’re becoming overly dramatic.

Enough, it was time to quit being crazy!

I calm my nerves, take a deep sigh, and turned on my MacBook once again… The whitish light made what was once a darkened bedroom glow bright. A big thick book lay next to my stylus. I squint to read the title of the book in the darkness and flipped through its contents, assuming that it was a guide aimed at novices for editing photos like a professional. When I got down to reading however, I discovered that the hottie had given me a German book. Should I be thankful or angry?

Only when I got up to turn on the lights did I see that nearly every page was covered with someone’s handwriting. It was in English, and annotated each and every step. From just guessing blindly, following the instructions, the photo in front of me appeared more professional in the blink of an eye

The photos which I sat there working on till my eyes became sore earlier was retouched until they looked stunningly beautiful. If Editor Chid didn’t like them, I was really going to spray insecticide down his mouth and poison him dead this time.

The work was finished without my realisation. Looking at the clock again, it was already eleven-thirty. I sat there reading the big book in my hand casually, my eyes finding that some of the chapters had an unusual handwriting in them. It was written in German, however it felt inexplicably familiar.

A polaroid photo sat in the second-to-last page of the book. Giving it a once-over, I could tell that it was taken by a professional-level photographer. They were able to draw out the fearsome charisma of the owner of those deep blue eyes which shone brilliantly in the photo, even if only one side of the face was captured. Actually, I recalled vaguely that I had seen this photo somewhere before. It was used as a contact lens advertisement by a giant brandname corporation in Europe. The photo was displayed on billboards across England and several other countries in Europe, as well as published in a variety of magazines in Thailand too… it was roughly four or five years ago.

 

This eye was really beautiful… for God’s sake.

 

I try to visualize the rest of the facial features… Dark eyebrows like mine, the color of cocoa. The nose, prominent with a rounded tip, arrogant-looking. Lips which could only be seen a little, what color were they? Smiling licentiously like a ‘Bad Boy’, was the real person even half as fierce?

I admired the photo for no less than fifteen minutes… To use a polaroid camera relied entirely on skill to draw out the spirit of the person being taken and convey it to audiences one click away.

Awesome… Both the photographer and the model… they were damned awesome.

I turn over the photo. 24.11.06 was written on the back. There was no name or signature. I wanted to know more about the photographer, what should I do… and when was that hottie coming back?

I slide the polaroid back in place, reopen the photos which I had just finished editing, then flipped the book again to begin reading attentively. Some of it I understood, some of it I didn’t. However, I was starting feeling better about myself.

When I dove down into the blankets… suddenly, the answer to my idiotic questions from earlier dawned on me. It wasn’t that the hottie didn’t believe me when I tried to correct myself… rather, it was because he ‘believed’ and ‘understood’ that he threw that god-tier graphics book at me, so that I could learn to do things with my own ability and not go begging for someone else’s ‘help’.

It was a shame that I fell asleep before he returned, in my sleep, feeling a pair soft lips brush against my cheek…

“…”

 

 

Okay, okay, so you want to know what that guy said? Let’s play a guessing game to see what exactly I heard which made me startle out of my sleep.

A. It was a shame that I fell asleep before he returned, in my sleep, feeling a pair soft lips brush against my cheek… “I didn’t mean to hurt you, my dear. I’m sorry.”

If it’s option A, then that’s too cheesy. Let me suggest a second choice, option B instead.

B. It was a shame that I fell asleep before he returned, in my sleep, feeling a pair soft lips brush against my cheek… “You’re quite the flirt, little monkey. If I ever catch you cheating, you’re more than dead.”

Option B still sounds a bit weird doesn’t it? Let’s try one more, option C.

C. It was a shame that I fell asleep before he returned, in my sleep, feeling a pair soft lips brush against my cheek… And then he shifted to bite my ear! What is this, since when did this hottie transform into Mike Tyson!!!

I bounce right up, hand cupping my ear and eyes brimming with tears after getting a true taste of BDSM. “Woi!!! What the hell are you doing!”

The hottie seemed slightly surprised at my loud outburst, however his expression was oddly content.

“Waking up someone that likes to fake sleep.”

Having not anticipated this answer, I couldn’t reply back. “You… you… are you crazy? Do you know how late it is?”

“I didn’t give permission for you to sleep, therefore you can’t sleep yet.” He said annoyingly, complete with a sneer to get on my nerves. “Are you finished with your work, little monkey?”

“It’s done already!” I made a stern voice, ear still throbbing with pain. When morning arrives, I swear I’m going to Khao Din! I’m going to complain to the director of Khao Din that a poor little monkey was being abused by the Russian mafia! “Can you leave me to sleep in peace already? I’m dead tired.” I flip my body over to face inside the sofa and pull the blanket over my head.

(TN: Khao Din – A popular zoo in Thailand)

Ah, wait. I shouldn’t leave this hanging.

I flip my body back to look. Although I wanted us to speak nicely, I was still feeling resentful about having my ear bitten. “Um… thanks for the book, it was very helpful.”

“You read it?” Alexey’s expression softened.

“Mm, I couldn’t read it–but I don’t want to ask for help from the neighbouring room either, afraid that a certain someone is going to accuse me of being lazy, that I’m waiting for the deity from room 1206 to come down and grace me.” I glare at him, then pulled the blanket over my head again. “Good night.”

(TN: Petch, why is your mouth so stubborn =.=)

Five.

Were my words too harsh?

Four.

But wasn’t this equal treatment to all the times which this hottie had scolded me?

Three.

Wh… what to do. To apologise now didn’t seem appropriate too.

Two.

For f*ck’s sake, I didn’t really mean what I said. That hottie probably understands right?

One.

Crap… he’s not replying at all… Petch is going to die because of his mouth again everyone.

 

The blanket was yanked away, sofa sinking from the weight of the eighty kilo body which transferred onto it. A black shadow towered over my body which in turn, shrunk to two inches. Grey eyes flashed.

“Nicely said.”

I close my eyes tight. There’s no need to be violent, I’m sorry okay? I’m the one who’s wrong.

“The new keycard console has been installed. If tomorrow, you want to move back or move to some other room, be my guest. I’ve had enough of dealing with you. Good night.”

 

Alexey went to bed at two. As for me, before I could force my eyes shut… it had become four in morning.