Warning: Mildy mature content
Sunday, June 5th, 2016
“Stop, they’re going to be here any moment now,” Arthit laughs, pushing a very affectionate Kongpob off of him so that he rolls over with a grunt onto the bed. The boy pouts before shifting onto his side, drawing small circles into the soft material of Arthit’s T-shirt over his chest. He watches its steady rise and fall, still slightly heaving from their activity just moments ago.
“I was doing some of my best work,” he jokes, finally pulling his eyes away to look back up at Arthit’s flushed face. His remark earns him a gratuitous eye roll. Arthit pulls at the finger that’s tickling his chest and with it, the attached arm across his shoulders.
“While I will always reluctantly volunteer to be on the receiving end of your handiwork, there are literally only ten minutes before you told the others to get here.”
“Hey, this entire thing was your idea, remember? Let’s open our results together, guys! I’ve been itching to check my results all morning and I swear I’m about to get a fucking rash, I’m so anxious.”
“I can scratch it for yo—ow!”
His arm gets flung back over to him, smacking himself in the face.
“Seriously,” Arthit pushes himself up to sit cross-legged on the foot of Kongpob’s queen-sized bed. “How are you so calm right now? Are you that confident?”
“Of course not,” he reaches up to wipe at Arthit’s reddened bottom lip, still slightly wet from where he’d gently tugged at it with eager relish. “You know how difficult that paper was. I’m pretty sure I saw someone crying when they came out of the exam hall.”
“I don’t think Oak is really a good determiner of how difficult an English paper is.”
Kongpob shakes his head in amusement, sitting up now, too. His laughter simmers out into a faint smile, which doesn’t go unnoticed by his boyfriend.
“You’re doing it again.”
In the last two years during which they’d spent almost every waking hour and then some together, Arthit had begun to memorise every creased brow, every playful smirk that was up to no good, every lingering pinky against his that ached to hold his hand, and every clouded gaze that would flit longingly between eyes and lips at the end of a long day, before their homework and study notes would fall to the side in favour of learning each other’s unspoken affections.
Now, Arthit recognises this particular variant of anxiety among his myriad of emotions.
He runs mindless fingers through the downy hairs along Kongpob’s legs, twisting some of them together into knotted plaits.
“I’m just thinking about how I might feel in any given case,” he finally says after a moment. “If I don’t have the grades I need for the translation programme—”
Arthit is sure of it. Not only had Kongpob maintained the top grades in both English and Thai for two consecutive years in their cohort, he’d done enough volunteer work, internships and run the English club at school with such mastery that their teachers hadn’t so much as hesitated to draft up their recommendation letters. When he’d subtly boasted about it to his mother in passing, Prae had stood at the sidelines with wide eyes and a shit-eating grin.
Still, he’s come to learn just how much his boyfriend takes it upon himself to surpass everyone’s expectations, even if nobody asks it of him. Between all the different responsibilities they’d both taken on in the last year, it was a wonder that they even managed to get a moment alone together on a regular basis. A stolen kiss here, a hidden clasp of the hands there, and the occasional afternoons spent in each other’s room with the door open about as wide as their intentions to study were pure.
“But if I don’t, then…that would mean I would probably be studying engineering, just like my parents wanted all along. Stop that,” he pulls Arthit’s fingers away before they permanently tangle his leg hairs into dreads.
“I thought that your sister was training with your Por to join the company?”
“Yeah. But P’Nam is still only finishing her freshman year, and who knows if it’s what she’ll end up wanting to do,” Kongpob pastes on a tight-lipped smile. “But if I do go to engineering school…” he pulls Arthit’s hands into his lap, pressing his thumb into each dimpled knuckle. “I’ll get to see you all day, every day, just like now.”
“Yuck,” Arthit snarls in mock disgust. “Let’s hope you get into that translation programme. Don’t want my future classmates thinking that I brought my boyfriend along as a comfort blanket.”
“You would love having me around. We could…” Kongpob inches forward again, donning a lip bite and slight raise of an eyebrow that Arthit knows all too well.”…share a dorm room.”
“That’s it. You need to be spritzed with holy water.”
Arthit clamps a hand over his boyfriend’s mouth to block eager lips. Kongpob’s laugh is muffled into Arthit’s palm, and he kisses it anyway with a smile.
“Kong,” he says again, softer this time as his boyfriend presses another kiss against the pad of his thumb. “Promise me, okay?”
“Make a decision that you really want for yourself, whatever that is.”
Kongpob looks up, eyes still with question.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean,” Arthit sighs. “You’ll probably do well, so you’ll have options. But I also know you would let other things get in the way of your decision-making process. Just…you should choose what you think will be best for you, and you alone.”
“You don’t want us to go to the same school?”
“No, that’s not what I mean. Of course I want you around.”
“I’m saying that I shouldn’t be the reason you end up choosing that school, if I even get in. And your Por has already said he supports whatever you choose, so don’t let your parents decide for you, either.”
“I know. But what if I end up making the wrong choice?”
“Then…” Arthit twists his lips to the side. “Then you start again. There’s no shame in making changes in your life if they’ll ultimately benefit you.”
And if the past year or two had taught them anything, change—welcome or not—brings with it opportunity to make important decisions.
Kongpob fondly tracing the sharp outline of Arthit’s nose with his gaze, then nods. “You’re right. And…you, too. If you don’t get in through central admissions, I’ll help you study for the other tests for direct application.”
“You? Help me study?” Arthit scoffs, jabbing a finger into his boyfriend’s chest. “You’re half the reason I barely get any studying done to begin with.”
“I can concentrate when I want to.”
“If I had five baht for every time you’ve tried to distract me from doing homework with…not homework, I wouldn’t have had to tutor you or sell moo-ping anymore to pay for university,” he furrows his brows, but softens his expression at Kongpob’s smile. “But thanks; that’s very thoughtful of you.”
Kongpob’s mischievous grin dampens into something that’s almost sad after a few moments, and he shuffles sideways before lying back into Arthit’s lap to stare up at him, his neck warm against the fabric of Arthit’s shorts.
“There are only two months left,” he says quietly. “And then we won’t see each other all the time.”
“You say it as though we’re studying in completely different cities,” Arthit muses, playing with the collar of Kongpob’s T-shirt. “Our first choice schools are less than an hour apart.”
“It doesn’t mean I won’t miss you.”
He knows. Of course he knows.
From the day that they’d been advised to start doing research into further studies, Arthit had watched Kongpob miserably fail at hiding his attempts at scrolling through the arts programme at Arthit’s first choice school, despite its reputation not being quite as stellar. There had been a few times that he’d thought about bringing it up, but then it would seem almost accusatory, and there was just no need to fuel the flames of Kongpob’s already fragile anxiety.
Still, the part of Arthit that realises how his boyfriend is troubled with the idea of their time together diminishing struggles to fathom the idea of knowing he won’t see Kongpob first thing in class each morning, or have him walk him home after school. Indeed, he would sorely miss his endearingly clingy presence, sneaking pink milk and iced coffee into the library in the early mornings, and doodling secret messages on each other’s thighs in class when they thought nobody else was watching.
Once upon a time, Arthit might have kept up a pretence of being shy and reserved about letting Kongpob know exactly how he feels. Occasionally, he still does, just to tease him and delight in the way Kongpob’s bottom lip would jut out ever so slightly, both relishing and hating how cute it was.
His mind drifts back to the week they’d both turned eighteen, just a few months ago, and Arthit had stayed behind after the others had left to help clean up after the party. Kongpob’s parents had said something about going for a walk, and when the lock on his bedroom door had clicked shut, both boys had stumbled backwards, a tangled mess of limbs and bruising, open-mouthed kisses like a heartfelt gift that only the two of them could exchange.
What had started out relatively innocent had ventured into a hesitant, wandering hand slipping under the back of Kongpob’s shorts to explore previously untouched territory. There’d been a brief gasp coming from Kongpob, who pulled back slightly as Arthit’s fingers had grazed over one particular spot, silently asking permission to explore further. Several seconds of painstaking arousal had passed between them, and then Kongpob had leaned down to recapture Arthit’s lips, a whimper occasionally spilling from his own when the foreign sensation consumed him beyond the ability to contain his pleasure or concentrate on his own hand down the front of Arthit’s boxers.
The room is as quiet now as it had felt then, and while neither of them have plans of breathing in each other’s secret sounds, Arthit’s chest suddenly aches a little with the envisioned longing for the pure elegance of his boyfriend’s touch, his own name whispered against his lips, the comfort of his easy laughter always next to him, and very much so the thrilling rush of adrenaline that he would feel from the most ridiculous conversations among their small group of friends.
Change had once injected his life with pure joy, and starting afresh while trying to hold on to the existing parts of his life he had only just come to explore would pose a challenge he wasn’t quite ready to face just yet. But he has to believe in the strength of his present, or everything will fall apart before he even sets foot through a new door.
Kongpob lolls his head against Arthit’s tummy at one point during their mutually silent contemplation, distractedly fiddling with a hangnail before ultimately chewing it off.
Just then, the aggressive and repeated ringing of the doorbell sounds from downstairs, indicating their friends’ boisterous arrival. Kongpob sits up, patting the back of his hair down, then holding his hand out to Arthit.
They’re huddled around the kitchen island now, typing their login details on the central admissions system’s page. Prae had practically brought Chinatown with her, bags full of moo-ping, scallion pancakes, frozen pineapple and enough icy drinks to feed a small army. Or, apparently, just M and Tew, who have already worked their way through half the bag of skewers in the fifteen or so minutes since they’d arrived.
“How much longer do we have to wait?” M garbles through a mouthful of pancake, already reaching for one of the pineapple slices.
Kongpob shakes his head. Where the food all goes, he has no idea.
“About five minutes.”
“Why? We’re all here already,” Prae sips on her drink.
“Well, it doesn’t make for a very good story to tell if you say that you received your results on a June Sunday at 1:55 PM.”
“I can’t believe you’re making us wait to check almost two hours after everyone else has already gotten their results. My mae has been a nervous wreck all morning and asked if she could check for me instead,” Tew frowns at his phone, tapping away before a hint of a smile creeps up on his face, as he’d been doing a lot recently. M leans over slightly to peer at his screen, before raising his eyebrows upon seeing the words P’Tew krub~ towards the end of the most recent message.
“Hey, I wanted all of us to check together. And at least we won’t be making the server crash with how many people are checking at the same time.”
“Prae, why are you here? I thought you were taking a gap year,” M sulks as she pulls the bag of skewers away from him.
“Enough, you pig. Save some for the rest of us,” Prae shoves the fragrant bag towards Kongpob, who happily pulls out a pork skewer. He takes a bite before holding it out to Arthit, who shakes his head, but allows Kongpob to rest his hand on his hip from behind him. “And yes, I’m still saving up, but I figured this was one of the last times we’d be able to hang out like this before…you know… y’all fuck off and leave me to rot alone.”
“Aww, Prae…” M cranes his neck to look at her fallen gaze. “I promise we’ll never stop being your favourite pains in the ass. None of us are leaving Bangkok. We’ll come and buy food from yours and Arthit’s carts for the rest of time.”
“Such an honour,” she plasters an artificial smile on her face before sneaking a questioning glance at Arthit. You haven’t told them yet? she raises an eyebrow at him. He bites his lip, shaking his head before taking a deep breath.
“Oh…uh, actually, guys? Just letting you know…” his gaze darts between their curious expressions. “I’m selling the cart at the end of the summer.”
Tew is the first to react.
“Wait, what? Why? When?”
“You are? But I thought you were going to just cut down on hours or something,” M adds, genuinely surprised. Arthit’s stall had become like a landmark of their friendship, where he and Tew would stop by almost every day after school to get their fill of protein after practice, and had served as the kindling of his friends’ romance.
Kongpob, who’d been the second person after Prae that Arthit had informed of this, simply rests his chin on his boyfriend’s shoulder.
“I…uh, well. Long story short,” Arthit smiles to himself. “It was just time. Mae and I have been talking about it for a while, actually. I’ve already saved up enough money to cover my first two years of university, and I can just work part-time to cover my daily expenses and save for the other two years. Mae has been saving up, too, and we got a loan from the bank, which means…” He pauses mid-ramble to watch his friends’ expectant faces. “…which means we’re moving the grill indoors.”
“Holy shit, dude!” M’s mouth falls open. “That’s amazing!”
“Yeah, it is,” he places a hand over Kongpob’s on his waist, clutching at his fingers. “Piggy Bank will be up and running in Chinatown by October, if everything goes smoothly.”
“Piggy Bank? Is that what you’re naming it?”
Arthit nods. He’d not thought too much about it, but once it had come to him, it stuck.
“What does it mean?”
Kongpob smiles against Arthit’s shirt, sharing in the secret tale of a notepad filled with two years of transactions, a record of their journey that’s only just begun.
Before M or Tew even get the chance to pry further, though, Kongpob’s phone buzzes on the table, drawing all of their attention towards it as the alarm echoes throughout the kitchen.
They exchange nervous looks, and Prae grabs onto M and Arthit’s shoulders, her own palms clammy with second-hand restlessness. Then, with breaths held in their throats, phones in their numbing hands, their fingers hover over the Login button.
“You guys ready?”
Kongpob says, barely a whisper.
They all nod.