The small velvet box has been tucked discreetly in Arthit’s back pocket for several weeks now.
He just needs to find the right time to give it to Kongpob.
Arthit can’t believe that he’s the one doing it, either. While he would have scoffed at the idea of doing anything so grossly cliche in their early days, the past few years has seen Arthit become gradually less apprehensive and allergic to allowing himself to openly love his extremely charming boyfriend. Of course, he does still pretend to cringe and roll his eyes when Kongpob is being particularly corny or childish. He wouldn’t have it any other way, though.
He knows deep down and so strongly in the pits of his stomach that he wants to spend the rest of his life being on the receiving end of Kongpob’s constant, unwavering love. Even almost nine years later, he still feels the faint flutter of his heart every time his annoying pest of lover does such small, simple things like kiss him goodnight on the forehead or leave a bottle of pink milk in the fridge on the mornings he has to leave for a business trip.
His friends had been somewhat in awe of how their cool, aloof, and verbally aggressive ex-hazer had slowly morphed into a giant puddle of goo around his boyfriend. Tootah calls it his ‘pregnancy glow’, which usually earns him a coaster being thrown at his head. Knot and Prem had exchanged raised eyebrows when they’d all hung out at Bright’s bar one night, and Arthit had allowed himself to be pulled into Kongpob’s lap without protest, even sneaking a few tiny kisses throughout the evening. Maybe it had been the alcohol, but one thing remains true.
Arthit is a total sucker when it came to Kongpob Sutthiluck.
But Arthit surprises even himself when, one afternoon, he’s on the outskirts of Bangkok for a meeting, and finds himself stopping in front of the window of a jewellery store on the way home, gazing at the hundreds of twinkling gems sparkling like neon lights reflected on the river. He further surprises himself by going in for a further look.
“Welcome, sir, how may I help you?”
The saleswoman approaches him shortly after she spots him pondering over the large glass display case of rings.
Arthit looks up and rubs the the back of his neck, a shy smile forming on his lips. He catches a glance of her name pin: Ploy. A tall, slender woman, probably in her forties, with kind eyes like his mother’s.
How does one explain that they’re buying an engagement ring for another man? Surely he wouldn’t be the first to do so. Even though he isn’t exactly scared anymore of acknowledging the love of his life in social contexts, he’d not exactly been in a position where he’d had to come out to a complete stranger simply for the purpose of buying something.
Aunty, can I get a half-pound of lean pork ribs? They’re for my boyfriend.
No, no. The entire thing would be ridiculous in any other context.
“Are you buying for yourself or is it a gift? Perhaps an earring and necklace set? We have some great new collections this season.”
It’s late November, and Arthit has had their anniversary marked in his phone calendar for several weeks from now. Naturally, this would be the most opportune day for Arthit to ask Kongpob to be his forever.
He could take him to dinner, somewhere classy and sophisticated, and discreetly pop the question before dessert. He’d buy him roses and dress up a little, and they’d take a quiet stroll through the park where they’d first kissed, hands laced together under the twinkling lights of the bridge.
Arthit is a simple man who would honestly prefer to do it in the privacy of their humble apartment, but he knows his Kongpob loves the sappy, romantic elements of being in love, so if that’s what it took then Arthit would willingly oblige.
“I’m…looking to buy a ring,” he finally settles on these words.
“Popping the big question, then?” Ploy grins. “How exciting!”
Arthit flushes and nodded slightly, not necessarily embarrassed, but pleasantly shy at the thought of Kongpob’s brilliant smile when he potentially says yes.
Would he say yes? Arthit certainly hopes so, but there’s a reason the question has to be asked in the first place.
“Do you have any particular styles or a budget in mind? We have an excellent selection of princess cuts on this side.”
She gestures to a row of dainty silver rings, each with varying shapes and sizes of diamonds perched on the top by a tiny claw. Some of the glimmering rocks are as big as almonds, worth more than his car, apartment, and life savings collectively. They’re stunning, but certainly not what Arthit is been looking for.
“Um…those are nice. But I was looking for something maybe…a little less…flashy?”
He’d vaguely eyed the other end of the glass case, his attention caught by a corner of decidedly more masculine-looking pieces.
“Oh, well we do have some more affordable options, if that’s a concern.”
Ploy visually scans the display, automatically searching for something she could recommend, like she’d done many times before, until she catches his gaze focusing on a particular section. Realisation dawns upon her and she steps away from the other end of the display. She unlocks the case and slowly pulls out the velvet ring holder tray he’s studying, placing it on top of the glass.
Arthit just looks at her in surprise. He’d been caught staring.
“Do you know his ring size?” she says, her voice low and her smile kind.
The pinkish hue in his cheeks gives him away and he mentally slaps himself. God, why couldn’t he have just said what he meant to begin with?
“Size 7,” he murmurs, eyes darting along the tray of rings.
He knows this only because on the night of M and May’s wedding, when Kongpob had had one too many drinks and passed out in bed, he’d slyly wrapped a piece of string around the circumference of his boyfriend’s ring finger, and measured it. Arthit knows it seems like a completely insane thing to do when he could easily have just taken one of Kongpob’s existing rings and measured the size, but he knows that his boyfriend likes to wear them on different fingers sometimes, so Arthit wants to be extremely sure that the ring he buys will fit that exact finger.
There are a few rings in the tray that have a thick silver band with one large diamond held in place at the tip of a mountain-like peak, but they look more like something a bulky mafia boss would wear to complement his gold tooth rather than a promise of eternal love for his sweet, gentle wouldn’t-hurt-a-fly boyfriend.
He takes his time pondering over each and every ring, occasionally picking one up and holding it to the light and trying to picture what it would look like on Kongpob’s tan, slim fingers.
“How long have you been together?”
Ploy adjusts each ring in the tray so that they’re perfectly aligned with each other. She knows it’s probably a bit nosy, but listening to customers’ heart-warming stories behind their gifts is the most satisfying part of her job.
“About eight years,” Arthit replies, smiling fondly. “We met in university.”
“Wow! Eight years is no small feat. He must be one hell of a guy for someone as adorable as you to want to marry him.”
Arthit blushes at her remark, but lets out a chuckle, shaking his head.
“Actually, he’s insanely annoying. He’s an outrageous flirt and never leaves me alone; he keeps texting me a load of cheesy nonsense when I’m supposed to be at work. Oh, and he’s so picky, especially about food. I’ve never met anyone who alphabetises their spice rack in the kitchen. Honestly, and he treats me like I’m a child sometimes. Like, I can fix my own tie, you know? And -“
He looks up when he hears Ploy giggling slightly, and mashes his lips together to stop himself. Again with the verbal diarrhoea.
“Sorry, I’m just rambling. He’s okay, I guess.”
“It just sounds like you two love each other a lot.”
Arthit just gives a small smile in response, and draws his attention back to the rings. Ploy picks one up and observes the details before handing it to Arthit.
“I get the feeling you might like this one.”
It’s not at all flashy – a narrow, flat, white gold band with a short line of five tiny, round-cut diamonds embedded in a leaf-shaped gap along one side. The delicate gems catch the light just enough to give an air of finesse, but they’re not so blinding that the piece draws too much attention.
Arthit’s wide smile is all the answer that Ploy needs as confirmation.
“I’ll wrap it up for you.”
He sucks at his teeth and his wallet winces when she hurriedly talks him through the total cost – 52,000 THB! – warranty, and refund policies, and places the ring with a gloved hand carefully in the box and in a tiny red shopping bag.
It’s not that Arthit is hard pressed for money, as he is generally quite frugal and has plenty of savings, but it’s still definitely more than he’d expected.
“Oh, I hope it goes well!” Ploy says as he’s about to leave, practically gushing with her hands placed flat on her chest.
“Thanks, I hope so, too,” he fiddles with the handle of the bag as he leaves the store.
The idiot had better say yes, or Arthit isn’t above asking for a refund.
There you have it. Our cutie shy boy Arthit is gonna ask Kong to marry him :3
I’ve based their anniversary off of the night of Tum and Fon’s wedding in the original series, which is December 17th, 2016, according to the date on Kongpob’s phone when Ple texts him to say she’ll pick him up later.
Also, 52,000 THB is roughly 1670 USD. It’s not actually that much for a diamond ring, but it’s still worth about 2 months rent for a small apartment in Bangkok (from what I Googled).
The day of their anniversary starts exactly like any other weekend.
Kongpob had been the one to wake him up that day, much to Arthit’s protests – certain things never change – and they’d had a simple brunch in bed, intermittently snoozing between hushed conversations about everything and nothing, just basking comfortably in each other’s company.
After slow, lazy kisses had turned into tenderly making love among bagel crumbs and a coffee stain that Arthit would later receive an earful about, they’d finally decided to get out of bed at 3PM.
While Kongpob cleaned up, Arthit had quickly popped out to ‘run an errand’, returning with a small bouquet of five red roses and four red carnations wrapped in simple brown paper. He’d wanted to get nine roses, because he’d read the significance of the number somewhere online, and had hoped his sappy boyfriend might get at least a hint of what was to come. This would have to do, though.
“Uh…they were short on roses when I got there. I should’ve gone earlier, I guess,” Arthit says sheepishly.
“I love them, P’Arthit,” Kongpob flashes a brilliant smile. “Thank you.”
Arthit bites his bottom lip shyly before leaning over and pressing a furtive kiss to his lover’s cheek.
“Happy ninth anniversary, Kong.”
“I didn’t know you could be this romantic, P’Arthit,” his boyfriend says with twinkling eyes, pulling him closer by the waist.
“Yeah, well, I’ve got a brat that needs spoiling sometimes.”
Kongpob just grins and plants dozens of kisses all over Arthit’s face until he’s pulling away in protest, unconvincingly pretending to be grossed out.
“Thank you, P’Arthit.”
Arthit just smiles, and Kongpob presses their foreheads together before angling in for another gentle kiss that threatens to become something more. It’s soft and a bit saccharine, but Arthit stops himself before he feels the urge to drag his lover back into the bedroom.
“Hey, hey. Enough of that. Come on, get ready, or we’ll be late.”
“Ok, let me just put these in water, then I’ll go shower first.”
When he hears the water running, Arthit pulls the ring box out of the bottom of his briefcase, where he’s been hiding it at home, certain that Kong wouldn’t really go digging through his work papers out of the blue.
He takes a quick peek, as if the ring might somehow look different since the last time he’d gazed at it. It’s still there, of course, but Arthit feels his heartbeat quicken in pace and a tightness twisting in his stomach.
Today’s the day, he tells himself, and he can’t stop smiling as he tucks the box into the inner pocket of his jacket.
“So are you going to tell me where we’re going?” Kongpob muses as Arthit pulls the car out of the apartment building’s carpark, adjusting the rear view mirror.
“If I told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise, would it?”
Kongpob just chuckles and adjusts the strap on his seatbelt.
“I’m really not used to you pampering me like this.”
Arthit says nothing as they hit the main road, feeling a faint pang of guilt.
It’s true that Kongpob has always been the more proactively expressive of the two, taking it upon himself to do all the outwardly romantic things that people did in relationships. Every milestone in their relationship had been adorned with beautiful gifts and elaborately planned dates, heartwarming words of love written in sophisticated penmanship, and whispers of sweet nothings to make Arthit blush and smile so hard he thought he might implode.
Arthit, on the other hand, had used up most of his creative ideas of wooing Kongpob in their early years, and there were only so many ‘surprise’ homemade lunches he could have delivered to the younger’s office and love songs he could play on guitar before he’d begun to just call it tradition to make himself feel better.
“I’m sorry, Kong,” he says, not once taking his eyes off the road.
“No, no, that’s not what I meant, P’,” Kong places a hand on Arthit’s lap. “I know you love me. It’s just that…this isn’t really your love language. I’m just pleasantly surprised.”
Arthit doesn’t know how to respond to this, so he just smiles briefly, before groaning, the car slowing to a halt.
“Shit, I knew we should’ve left earlier.”
Oh, Bangkok and it’s ever-persistent traffic. This in addition to the fact that it’s nearing the holiday season means that the usual build up along Silom Road has increased twofold. The pace at which they’re moving is painfully slow and Arthit can feel his anxiety bubbling with each second passing. He begins checking his watch every half a minute or so, tapping his fingers nervously on the steering wheel. It’s now 5:54, six minutes until their reservation, and Arthit is praying for a miracle; for the traffic to part ways like the Jordan River, Bruce Almighty style.
Kongpob, sensing his boyfriend’s state of anguish and frustration, carefully takes his hand in his, rubbing soothing circles into Arthit’s stiff palm.
“P’, maybe you can call the restaurant and let them know we’ll be late.” he tries calmly, his voice steady and comforting.
Arthit heaves a sigh and nods, pulling out his phone.
“Hello, this is InLove on Krung Kasem. How can I help you?”
“Yes, hello. I’ve made a reservation for two under the name Rojnapat for 6:00. We’re stuck in traffic at the moment…could we push our reservation until 6:30?”
“I’m sorry, sir, but we’re fully booked for tonight. If you can’t be here by 6:05, I’m afraid we’ll have to give your table to another customer.”
Arthit feels like his blood is leaving his body. Is this really happening? Today of all days? He pinches the space between his brows and squeezes his eyes shut.
“And nobody else has cancelled?”
“I’m afraid not, sir. Would you like to make a reservation for another day?”
“No, no,” he runs his free hand over his face in disbelief. “I understand. Thank you.”
“We’re sorry, sir. Hope you have a good evening.”
“Yes, thank you.”
He hangs up, dropping the phone in his lap and leaning onto the steering wheel.
“Fuck!” he hisses to himself, before pulling out his phone again, quickly pulling up the maps app. He turns to Kongpob, who’s squeezing his shoulder in sympathy. “I’ll call around and see if any other restaurants nearby have any openings.”
Kongpob nods and pulls out his own phone.
“I’ll do that, too.” he smiles reassuringly. “Don’t worry, P’Arthit.”
Traffic seems to have come to a screeching halt as the two of them make phone call after phone call.
“We’re sorry, we’re fully booked for tonight.”
“Not for the next week or so, I’m afraid.”
“We have an opening for tomorrow instead.”
“Sorry, reservations have to be made two weeks in advance.”
After what seems like the 50th phone call, Arthit finally chucks his phone in frustration into the backseat, puts his face into his hands, and…cries. A pounding headache begins to work its way into his skull, which now feels ten times heavier. He’s full on sobbing, his shoulders shaking and his nose stuffy, making it difficult to breathe. The car suddenly feels incredibly small.
“P’,” Kongpob reaches over to unbuckle Arthit’s seatbelt and cradles his head into his chest. “Come here. It’s okay, P’Arthit.”
Arthit looks up and shakes his head.
“No! No it’s not!” he chokes out between sobs. “I had it all planned out, Kong! I was going to buy you the right flowers, and I was – I was going to take you to this really nice place I found! And it had the most gorgeous view of Rama VIII, and then I was going to -” he stops himself and shakes his head before he gives away too much. “I made all these plans, Kong, but they’re all ruined now, and it’s all my fault!”
“Shhhh,” Kongpob holds Arthit’s face now, gently wiping away tears. “Look at me. It’s really okay. I really do appreciate what you’ve done. Please don’t feel bad. I love you, okay?”
He gazes into Kongpob’s eyes, kind and loving, and Arthit wonders what he’d ever done to deserve someone like him.
Arthit, still snivelling, wipes his eyes on his sleeve, and exhales loudly.
“God, this is so embarrassing.”
Kong gazes out the window before turning to Arthit.
“I’ll be right back. Just wait here, okay?”
Arthit looks at him questioningly as Kongpob climbs out of the passenger seat and out onto the street. He disappears towards Silom Complex, about twenty metres from which the car has stopped, his back fading into the crowd of shoppers as Arthit watches him.
They’d not moved even an inch in the last 20 minutes, and looking at his phone’s map app, dark red lines extend like a million tiny blood vessels throughout the bleeding heart of Bangkok’s city central. Deciding that they’re unlikely to improve anytime soon, he keys the engine off and pushes his own door open, before stepping out into the warm open air, ignoring curious glances from neighbouring vehicles. The fresh air (well, as fresh as it can get for urban Bangkok) helps to clear his nasal passage, and he sighs as he takes in his surroundings.
The entire road is elaborately decorated with twinkling lights and glittery red and white displays, neon tubing spelling out Season’s Greetings! And Happy New Year! in every direction you look. It really is quite beautiful against the backdrop of the fading sunset, although Arthit can’t help but think it’s not nearly the same as being under the more subtle sparkle of lights under the bridge. Their bridge.
He leans against the hood of the car and places a hand over his pocket where the ring box still sits, exhaling his disappointment. Maybe tonight just isn’t the right time.
Arthit looks up and laughs when he realises what Kongpob is carrying.
“What can I say? You spoiled me with flowers, I’m returning the favour with fried chicken,” he holds up the signature red and white plastic bag.
Kongpob joins Arthit in leaning against the the car, placing the bag with the bucket on the hood. Reaching inside, he pulls out a piping hot drumstick and holds it under Arthit’s nose, the spicy, savoury scent wafting into his nostrils.
Arthit pulls a bite off of the drumstick, licking his lips as he chews.
“I really wanted tonight to be perfect,” he says quietly, swallowing the last morsel of his bite.
“It is perfect,” Kongpob grins flashing sparkling white teeth and dropping the bare bone into the bag. “I’m enjoying a delectable meal, surrounded by dazzling lights, and I’m here with my favourite person in the world, dressed to the nines. I’m good.”
“You’re such a cheeseball,” Arthit snorts, digging around for a napkin.
“Actually, right now, I’m rather spicy,” Kong waggles his eyebrows, shifting closer to Arthit.
Maybe it’s the lights, and maybe it’s that Arthit is overwhelmed with how much he just loves this annoyingly handsome man, but Arthit feels a surge of bravery wash over him.
Wiping his own hands on a wet towelette, he takes Kongpob’s left hand and slowly takes one of his fingers into his mouth, all the while watching his boyfriend’s expression transform from mischievous to darkly clouded with pure want. The normally composed man swallows, watching with fascination as each finger disappears between soft pink lips. Arthit slowly and deliberately licks the salty, piquant seasoning off of each digit, and Kong’s mouth softly hangs open, breathing shallowly at the tantalising sensation.
“P’Arthit, you keep doing that, and the next thing I’m going to search up is the nearest hotel.”
Arthit laughs and gives Kongpob his hand back.
“It is finger licking good.”
As another of many turns of events, Kongpob blushes, barely able to suppress his smile. They lean towards each other, sharing a slow, open mouthed kiss that tastes of fried chicken and the familiar comfort each other.
“I love you so much, Kong,” Arthit whispers, their noses still nuzzled together.
“I love you, too. More and more with time,” Kongpob looks at him through long eyelashes. “And I mean it. Tonight really was perfect, because I got to spend it with you.”
Almost perfect, Arthit thinks, feeling the subtle weight in his jacket.
The moment is interrupted by the sound of car horns blaring behind them, indicating that traffic is picking up again.
“Move, lover boys!” an irritated shout comes from someone several cars away.
Laughing, they scramble back into the car, and Kongpob places the bag of remaining chicken in the backseat. They slowly make their way home, loudly singing along to every love song on the radio.
At least it would still be an anniversary to remember.
Poor Arthit. There will be other opportunities.
I’m a paranoid stickler for details, so I actually looked up restaurants near Rama VIII as well as every KFC within a 20 minute-drive radius. Google Maps is a life-saver.
Anyway, hope you enjoyed Arthit’s first failed attempt at proposing to Kong.
“Remind me again why we spent an absurd amount of money on this bottle of wine that we don’t even get to enjoy?”
Arthit inspects the label on the stupidly expensive bottle of Merlot for which they’d driven two hours to a specific wine boutique. They’re standing in the front room mirror, Kongpob adjusting Arthit’s shirt collar.
“I already told you; we can’t show up to the party empty-handed.”
“We’ve been to your parents’ house dozens of times, Kong. Why is this any different?”
Kongpob sighs, resting his arms on Arthit’s shoulders and linking his hands behind his neck. Both men are donned in crisp white shirts and near-matching navy suits, Kongpob with faint silver pinstripes in his and Arthit’s with thin white checkered lines in the blazer. They look like the picture of young royalty, about to announce the name of their newborn child.
Frankly, Arthit feels a bit out of his own skin in these tailored suits and Italian leather shoes from brand names he can barely pronounce, but being associated with the heir of a major conglomerate, some things are inevitable.
“There are going to be a lot of really important people there tonight. My parents aren’t snobs that way, but some of the people my dad does business with scoff if the smoked salmon is only ‘half Norwegian’, whatever that means. We’re under constant watch whether we like it or not.”
“Aww, no sneaking off to make out in your old bedroom then?” Arthit pretends to pout.
“That I make no promises for. I may just have to drag you off and have you for dessert.”
“That’s not very Norwegian of you, Khun Kongpob.”
Kongpob inches closer, smirking as he licks his bottom lip.
“If I recall correctly, we’ve had our fair share of very un-Norwegian adventures. Remember that time before midterms when we still had rooms facing each other and we -“
Arthit shoves him away and places a hand over the younger’s mouth.
“I think that’s enough reminiscing,” he rolls his eyes. “Let’s go before we disappoint these business hotshots with our tardiness.”
Kongpob grabs the car keys off of the front table and slips on his best leather oxfords.
“Ready?” he holds out his hand after he’s done tying the laces.
Arthit pauses a moment, eyeing the briefcase under the dining room table.
“Uh…you go ahead and start the car first. I’ll meet you downstairs in a few minutes. Just need to make sure I’ve sent an email.”
“You sure? I can wait.”
“No, no, it’s fine. It’ll save time. Go!” Arthit smiles a little too big and practically shoves him out the door.
Kongpob raises an eyebrow, clearly a bit skeptical, but shuffles around the door anyway.
“Okay…see you in a bit then.”
Once the door clicks shut, Arthit practically sprints for the briefcase, digging around in the bottom. Of course, both ring and box are still there.
Tonight will be the night. They’ll be leaving on time, and they don’t have to drive as far this time, so traffic isn’t an issue. They will be at the Sutthilucks’ all evening, and there will definitely be food to eat.
Nothing can get in Arthit’s way tonight.
He takes a deep breath and tucks the box into his inner blazer pocket, patting it for reassurance, before locking the door behind him.
“Email get sent through?” Kong says as he adjusts the side view mirror.
“You said you had to send an email.”
“Oh! Right, yes. It got sent. All good.”
The car starts with a rumble, and they’re on the road, traffic fairly smooth.
“You really should take a break sometimes. It’s New Year’s Eve, P’. You keep working overtime, and I’ll have to ask Por to pluck you from Ocean Electric and work for him instead.”
“Right, like you never work late.”
“Guilty as charged. But I feel like Por is just expecting a lot from me lately. He keeps telling me ‘Son, one day you’re going to have to handle this on your own.'” Kong imitates his father’s stern, serious-business mode voice. “I mean, I’ve always known that, but it just feels like he’s really pushing my nose to the grindstone these past few months.”
“I’m sure he’s just proud of you, Kong.”
“Yeah, I know. But somehow I get the feeling everything’s going to change overnight.”
Arthit says nothing and looks out the window, resting his elbow on the car door.
“Mae’s probably fussing over napkin shapes by now,” Kong chuckles as the car slows to a stop.
The Sutthiluck house – no, mansion – is one of many lavish properties in Sukhumvit, complete with a wrought iron gate and a well-kept front lawn flourishing with bauhinia bushes and bougainvillea trees.
Rolling down the car window, Kongpob presses the button for the intercom.
“Welcome back, Khun Kongpob, Khun Arthit,” the voice of comes buzzing through the speaker.
“I’ve told you a million times, P’Shin, drop the ‘Khun’. You’ve literally seen me run around the house in a diaper,” Kongpob shakes his head.
“Yes, of course. Your parents are in the kitchen with the caterers. I’ll let them know you’re here.”
“No, that’s fine, we’ll go greet them ourselves.”
“As you wish.”
The gates slowly open, and Kongpob steers the car into the far end of the driveway, parking in an empty space next to his father’s car.
The front foyer is dripping with twinkling lights and silver garlands. The words Happy 2026! in large, glittery lettering hang on the front door.
Multi-coloured streamers are hanging from the ceiling of the enormous living room, and the sofas have been pushed to the very edges of the sunken floor to make room for guests to mingle. Caterers and decorators are bustling around every corner of the house, setting up food towers and platters of what Kongpob’s mother had called ‘orders’ (Arthit can’t remember the actual spelling but he knows it’s French for ‘appetizers’).
“Wow, they really went all out this time,” he mutters, taking in the extravagance of their surroundings.
“Mae? Por?” Kongpob calls as they enter the kitchen. It’s like Friday night on Khaosan Road; bodies shuffling past each other, delicious scents pouring from every direction, hectic in all the best ways.
A head of dark hair, held back with an embroidered pin, spins around to face them, waving past the 20-odd catering staff.
“You’re early!” Kong’s mother, from whom he clearly inherited his dazzling smile, calls out as she weaves her way to the kitchen door.
“Hi, Mae,” the three of them exchange wais and hugs, pressing cheeks together in greeting.
“The place looks great, Mae.”
“Oh, you two look so handsome!” she spins them around to get a better look. “Oooh! You got the Merlot. Kong, go give that bottle to Shin and then go say hello to your father. He’s in his study.”
No fewer than three seconds after Kongpob disappears down the hallway, the anxious lady is pulling Arthit closer by the arm, bringing her voice down to a whisper.
“Have you asked him yet?” her eyes searching, eager for an answer.
Arthit sighs, shaking his head. He’d had a feeling she would bring the subject up.
“Aww, why not? I thought you were going to ask him a few weeks ago. I got worried that he’d stupidly said no when I didn’t hear from him!” Her shoulders sagging in disappointment.
“Sorry, Mae. Things didn’t really go according to plan,” he presses his lips into a tight smile. “Something came up and the entire thing just got swept from under our feet.”
She pats his face before sighing.
“Well, I was hoping to announce my future son-in-law to everyone tonight, but I guess it will have to wait.”
You might not have to wait long, Mae, Arthit smiles to himself.
Arthit had paid Kongpob’s parents a visit the same afternoon he’d bought the ring, telling his boyfriend that his meeting had run late, and that he would have dinner before returning home. His hands had been sweaty and shaking as he pressed the intercom. They were definitely surprised by his unplanned visit, but had welcomed him in nevertheless.
“Mae, Por. You’ve been so kind to me all this time. And I came here today because…”
“Because…what? Oh, Arthit, you’re not planning to break up with him, are you? You make him so happy. Please, whatever it is, you can-“
“No, no! It’s nothing like that. The opposite, in fact.”
“What do you mean?” Kerkkrai had wrung his hands together, his eyes expectant.
“I’m…I want to ask permission from you…to ask Kong to marry me. If that’s okay, I mean,” he’d added. “Of course, I respect any decision that you make, and-“
If the crushing hugs and tears that ensued had been any indication, Kongpob’s parents had greatly approved, excitedly talking wedding plans, his mother already babbling about flower arrangements and napkin colours, asking to see the ring and gushing over how cute it was.
“Well, it’s about time. I thought I would have to wait until I was too old to eat solid food!” was all his father had said, a huge grin on his face as he patted Arthit on the back.
Arthit had been relieved, to say the least. The first time he’d been introduced to them as Kong’s boyfriend, Khun Kerkkrai had stared in confusion, trying to connect the dots between the young man at Ocean Electric he’d admired so much and the man who his son was now calling his lover.
After a long minute of earth-shattering silence, he’d stalked off to his office, leaving Kongpob almost on the verge of tears and Arthit frozen in his seat. There was always the chance that their respective parents wouldn’t accept them.
While Arthit’s father has simply joked Well at least you can’t get each other pregnant by accident! and his mother had asked Kongpob what he even saw in her oddball of a son, asking acceptance from one of the most publicly recognised entrepreneurs in Thailand was like hovering a clipper in shaking hands over the wires of a ticking bomb.
Several moments later, Kerkkrai had stormed back into the dining room, gesticulating wildly in his son’s direction.
“Five years? You waited five years to tell us that you’re in a relationship?! That is not how I raised you! Are you so ashamed of Khun Arthit here that you couldn’t tell your own parents? I taught you to always be open and honest with us, and you hide something like this? Unbelievable!”
The distinguished businessman had stood there, arms akimbo, huffing out his anger before siding a glance at Arthit, gesturing for him to stand. Arthit had obliged, trembling slightly before being pulled into a tight hug.
“Welcome to the family, Arthit. Look after my son, he’s not exactly the sharpest tool in the box,” he’d said, before his wife and son erupted into chuckles of relief.
Arthit now sees Kongpob returning down the hallway with his father, who is dressed in a crisp new suit, a deep crimson red, with a silk black bow tie.
“You look lovely, dear,” he kisses his wife on the cheek, admiring her matching red cocktail dress.
“Gross, Por. Go make out with Mae somewhere else,” Kongpob groans, pulling Arthit next to him by the waist.
“Like you two youngsters are any better. Besides, you’ll find out soon enough what marr-” he’s abruptly cut off by Kong’s mother, who pulls him into the kitchen before he can finish his sentence.
Kongpob brings his other arm around Arthit’s waist, and they just gaze at each other for a few seconds.
“Ready to ring in the new year?”
“Not sure, actually. I still have to put a cross through my entire resolutions list from this past year.”
“Eh, you were never going to actually learn Japanese anyway.”
“That Duolingo owl is one scary asshole.”
They busy themselves by trying to identify all the mysterious bite-sized food items, bowing with wais and saying hello to each and every guest and relative that comes their way. Kongpob’s mother announces the opening of the lavish buffet spread, and they’re grateful for the opportunity to stuff their mouths with good food, the perfect excuse to not have to talk to anyone.
Slowly but surely, the guests trickle back into the living room, where soft jazz music is playing over the speakers. They exchange reluctant sighs before joining the crowd. Each slightly awkward interaction with some marketing executive or another is nursed by several refills of pink champagne in Kongpob’s glass until Arthit finally excuses himself, claiming he needs the washroom. Instead, he steps out onto the patio by the pool, sharply inhaling the fresh air and notable tranquility.
In the past hour or so of networking with over fifty different people – some he recognises from work, others friends or employees of Kongpob’s father or their relatives – he’d had to subtly come out to over half of them. It’s one thing to do so in familiar company, but Arthit has never been one for crowds, especially one mostly full of strangers.
Setting his glass down, he seats himself on the raised edge of the pool, focusing his gaze on the slight ripples where the breeze is blowing over the dimly lit water.
“P’Arthit?” Kongpob, with his own glass, sits next him, linking their hands together. “Sorry, I know these events can be kind of overwhelming.”
“It’s fine. It’s good for business, I suppose,” he downs the last of the strawberry cordial in his glass. “Although if I have to hear the words ‘incredible opportunity’ or ‘great investment’ again tonight, I’m going to drown myself in this pool.”
Kongpob breathes a soft laugh and watches the guests laughing and dancing under the living room chandelier, their voices and the slow music dampened by the patio doors.
Smiling, he stands up, holding out his hand. Arthit looks up at him, an eyebrow raised.
“Dance with me.”
“Really? Out here?”
They’re the only ones outside, the only light coming from the pool and the stars above.
Arthit hesitantly gives his hand to Kongpob, who sharply pulls him up and flush to his chest with the other hand. They say nothing, gently stepping from side to side, not really even following the music. They simply breathe in each other’s presence, eyes only half open, noses bumping together and their lips occasionally meeting softly in the middle.
This is it, Arthit says to himself.
“Kong,” he practically whispers. “I want to start this year off right.”
Kongpob says nothing, continuing to lead them in their gentle waltz.
“You…you mean more to me than I’ll ever be able to put in words. And I know you keep saying I shouldn’t apologise, but I really am sorry that I suck at letting you know that I love you.”
Kongpob pulls away slightly, only to look at him. Arthit sucks in a breath. He’s never really gotten over just how good-looking his boyfriend is.
“P’Arthit, I know you love me. You’re always showing me, even if you don’t realise. When you spent all those nights studying with me, when you know I have to drink at these events so you stay sober so you can drive us home. I know you love me when you push and argue with me so I don’t stay close-minded. When we’re in bed and you -“
“Let’s not get carried away.”
“What? I was just going to say that I love that you let me cuddle you when I’m sad, even though you usually complain that it’s too warm.”
“Uh huh,” he rolls his eyes, but he’s smiling. “I just want to be sure.”
“Sure about what?”
“I want to be sure that…”
He reaches into his jacket pocket, reaching for the ring box…before they hear the patio door swing open, and a screeching voice call out,
Their heads snap up, looking towards the house. It’s one of Kongpob’s aunts, waving at them, her jiggly arms swinging as she does so.
No, this can’t be. Not again.
Arthit can feel his blood bubbling to a boil, and he clenches his jaw, eyes squeezed shut, trying his best to breathe through his nose.
“Come back inside! Your Por is about to give his speech and do the countdown!”
Kongpob’s eyes flicker briefly at Arthit, full of questions and concern.
Why? Why is this happening to him?
“Everything alright, P’?”
Arthit heaves out a breath, choking back the painful lump in his throat. He’s not going to freak out and cry. Not again.
“I’m fine. Go. Let’s go.”
“Kooonnngggg! Come on! It’s almost time!”
“Yeah, just…” he gestures lamely at the house. “Your father is waiting.”
He looks everywhere but at Kongpob, and Kong nods slowly before taking Arthit’s hand and leading them back towards the house. All the guests are gathered around the living area, some sitting on the sofa, others clutched to their partners to the side of the room. Arthit settles next to a table of bite-sized desserts, and Kongpob quickly presses a kiss to their joined hands.
“We’ll talk later, okay?”
Arthit just nods before Kongpob hurriedly joins his parents and sisters at the front of the room.
“Ah, there you are, Kong.”
Kerkkrai hands him a fresh glass of champagne before turning to his party.
“My friends, it gives me such pleasure each year to be able to ring in the new year with all of you. I’m so glad to say that, first of all, I am so blessed to still have the love of my beautiful wife, my daughters and my wonderful son. They always remind me that kindness and honesty take priority above all else,” he places an arm around each of them, his eyes crinkling as he smiles.
“My girls are like their mother – stubborn, opinionated, and likely smarter than me,” he continues.
“Por!” one of his daughters chides, rolling her eyes.
A few guests chuckle. “I’m still a little bitter that they didn’t want to take over the company for me, but they’ve both always done what makes them happy, and there’s not much more I can ask for than that. My beautiful grandchildren are just the cherry on top.
“I’m also fortunate in having so many opportunities to work with my son this year, for the fourth year running. He’s brought so many innovative ideas to our company, including the introduction of biodegradable alternatives, which have not only significantly reduced our carbon footprint and health risks in the labour force, but also been a saving grace in fulfilling demand since the plastic bag ban in 2019.”
The guests clap politely, and Kongpob smiles shyly. Arthit, despite himself, smiles too, proud of his lover’s hard work and achievements.
“He’s really proven himself to be the kind of man I always hoped he would become, and I’m so proud of him. And so, friends, it is here that I announce that come June, I will be officially retiring from Siam Polymer, and handing the ropes of being CEO to my son, Kongpob.”
Gasps fill the air, and a slow but steady burst of applause erupts across the room, many reaching over to Kerkkrai to shake his hand and congratulate him.
Kongpob, on the other hand, looks shell-shocked. Arthit jolts out of his senses, trying to digest the last twenty seconds of events, before going over to the family, sharing in the sudden revelation.
“Por…what?” Kong looks over at his mother and sisters, who are equally dumbfounded. His mother shrugs, in disbelief of what’s just happened.
Kerkkrai, after entertaining the niceties of various guests, turns back to his family and Arthit, who are in various states of surprise and shock.
“Por, are you sure?” Kong is shaking his head, still trying to wrap his head around the idea.
“Is my name Kerkkrai Sutthiluck? Son, I’ve never been more sure of anything.”
“What if I’m not ready? I’m not even 30 yet.”
“Of course you’re ready. You’ve more than proven yourself to be suitable, everyone at the company loves you, you have the support of your family and Arthit. What more is there to question?”
Arthit, as if trying to reaffirm his words, puts an arm around Kongpob’s waist, squeezing his hip slightly. Kongpob cautiously bites his lip, lost for words.
“Stop fretting already. If it makes you feel better, I’m still going to stop in and check on you every now and then. I’m not dropping you into the deep end. Now, come on, or we’ll miss the countdown.”
Kerkkrai turns back to his guests.
“Everyone, join me outside as we count down to the year 2026!”
The guests pour out onto the patio, all gazing up at the night sky. Shin, the family’s butler, has set up a large digital clock that currently reads a little past 11:58.
Kongpob and Arthit hang back at the patio door, arms wrapped around each other as they wait.
“Hey,” Arthit tilts Kongpob’s chin up to look at him.
“I’m fine, just…it’s a lot, you know?”
“I know. But like your Por said, we’ll get through it together. I don’t think he trusts you for no reason.”
Kongpob exhales through his nose and nods.
“P’Arthit, what was it you wanted to talk about earlier?”
Arthit, reminded of how they’d had their moment stolen from them yet again, shakes his head briefly.
“It’s nothing, really,” he presses a kiss to Kong’s forehead. “I just wanted to say that I love you, and I’m glad I get to spend yet another year with you.”
“Me too, P’.”
The sparkle returns to his eyes, and Arthit feels the dull pain in his chest fading.
“Happy New Year, Kong.”
“Happy New Year, P’Ai-Oon.”
“You haven’t called me that in years.”
“Yeah, well, I’m feeling pretty warm right now.”
They smile, laughing into their kiss as cries of Happy New Year! echo around them, the loud bang of fireworks popping intermittently. Breaking apart, they watch the light show for a few moments before Arthit takes Kongpob’s hand.
“Homeward, Mr. CEO?”
“Homeward, my love.”
They sneak through the living room and out the front door, driving away without anyone’s notice.
Next time, Arthit thinks. Third time’s a charm.
Whew! That was a super long one, I felt. I may have carpal tunnel from typing for so long.
I hope some of the references and allusions made sense; some of them are a bit obscure. Happy to explain things if necessary.
Yes, Arthit could easily have just gone ahead and asked despite the failed plans. I just think that to my understanding of Arthit’s character, he’s a perfectionist in his own way, in that once he commits to something, he’s either going to commit fully and exactly as he intends, or he won’t commit at all. In each of these instances, it takes so much courage for him to build up to the moment in the first place, that once the moment is gone, I find it hard for him to then just wing it as if it’s so easy.
Mid to late February, for Arthit, is always a mentally exhausting and unnecessarily complex clusterfuck of celebrations and holidays that his hermit tendencies just cannot keep up with.
Trust Arthit to have fallen in love with someone who not only shares the dilemma of having a birthday a mere week after Valentine’s Day, but this year, their birthdays both fall within the week of Chinese New Year.
“At least red remains the constant theme?” Kongpob had offered lamely when Arthit had pointed this out.
“How exactly is red applicable to our birthdays?“
“We…could get red velvet cake this year?“
This is not to say that Arthit doesn’t treasure every milestone he gets to reach with Kongpob, but planning for and executing these festivities always taes a psychological toll on the intrinsically nervous man. He just doesn’t need the added stress of having them crammed so closely together.
Since they’d discovered that their birthdays were only four days apart, they’d settled on just celebrating together on the same day, smack in between. They’d started a long-running tradition of buying each other a slice of cake from a café half an hour away from their university, an accidental discovery they’d made in Kongpob’s sophomore year.
Every year, they’d get a different type of cake, Arthit usually more adventurous in his selections (the mango chili cheesecake is weirdly amazing) and Kongpob sticking with the classics (you can’t go wrong with devil’s food cake).
“No way, I have my sights set on the raspberry gin cake with the popping candy.”
“Ew. That’s still red, though, I guess.”
Both a blessing and a curse, Arthit had had to take a short trip for work to Chiang Mai for Valentine’s Day, saving both of them the trouble of doing any celebratory planning. Neither of them really care that much for the frankly arbitrary commercial cash cow anyhow. If they do happen to celebrate, they keep it simple, cooking at home and getting slightly tipsy on wine. He’d been silently grateful for having avoided the imminent craze this time, still slightly bitter about the way their anniversary dinner had turned out.
Instead, he had video-called Kongpob from his hotel room, and they’d talked all evening, putting the most ridiculous filters and stickers on each other’s faces, laughing until their sides ached. Kongpob, drained from taking on extra work to go forward with the handover following his father’s announcement, had drifted off as Arthit rambled on about hypothetical social conformities in a world where humans have tails.
“…like if you think of it as another limb, then I guess you would leave it exposed like you could with an arm or a leg. But if it’s considered a somewhat private body part, then do you tuck it into your pants or would pants come with a separate sleeve for it? Think of all the fashion statements! Also, what would its function even be?”
After several moments of quiet thought, he’d turned his attention back to his laptop screen to see his boyfriend’s peacefully sleeping face, mouth slightly pressed ajar where his cheek laid on the bed. He still had his glasses on, lopsided so one of the temples caught on a stray wisp of hair. Arthit had smiled, watching him breathe softly for a few minutes before blowing a kiss at the camera and hanging up.
He’d brought the ring with him, not intending to propose on camera, of course, but simply because he couldn’t risk Kongpob accidentally finding it in his absence. He had yet to do so thus far, but the mishaps that had arisen during his last two attempts had Arthit erring on the side of caution and scrupulously deliberating any potential scenarios of interruption.
Chinese New Year, as usual, had involved more socialising than our painfully introverted protagonist cared for.
Kongpob’s parents had held an admittedly simple dinner at their house with their three children, along with Kongpob’s brothers in law and their children. Arthit’s acute awareness of his impending age further had come to a head when his boyfriend’s 14 year-old niece had unceremoniously asked them,
“So, like, what ancient dating app did you guys meet on? Tinder?”
After Arthit stammered through tinted cheeks that he and Kong had met through the hazing events at university, she’d said,
“Oh, like you guys just winged it without knowing anything about each other first? That’s so cute and old school!”
Arthit had promptly stuck his nose into his wine glass while Kongpob squeezed his other hand in sympathy.
Arthit’s family gathering had been its own brand of overwhelming. Being half Chinese on his mother’s side, the entire ground floor of his parents’ humble townhouse had been jam packed with potentially his entire bloodline of living ancestry. They’d come in from numerous Thai provinces as well as abroad, all greeting each other loudly with wishes of good health, fortune and prosperity.
He was now several days away from turning 30, and yet aunts he had no recollection of ever meeting in his entire life thought had thought it was funny to say things like N’Ai-Oon, you’ve grown so much taller! Such a big boy now! and You were such a cute baby! What chunky legs!
Kongpob had busied himself with giving out angbaos and herding all the children running circles around the kitchen island before returning to Arthit’s side with a small plate of kanom keng, a sweet but futile attempt to ease away his lover’s blatant discomfort with dessert.
“Let’s never see people again. I’m going to become a recluse. I’ll grow a beard, read philosopy books, and write deliberately vague poetry about inanimate objects. Join me?” he’d said dryly, after flopping face-down onto the sofa the minute they’d entered their own apartment.
“First of all, you don’t even own a razor, with what little facial hair you have. Second, while the prospect of staying in bed with you for the rest of time is incredibly enticing, I do have to keep a roof over our heads even if you decide to quit your job.” Kong had sat on the edge of the seat, playfully smacking Arthit’s butt.
“Nyyergnhhhh…bed.” he’d whinged in response.
True to his albeit previously sarcastic proposition, they’d stayed in the comfortable confines of the apartment for the next two days, only getting out of bed to use the bathroom and to answer the door for food deliveries. By Saturday evening, they’d almost lost track of what time of day it was, having binged and periodically napped their way through at least fifteen movies and four boxes of pizza, working off the calories every third movie or so.
They didn’t usually shut themselves away like this, their weekend afternoons often occupied by volunteering at the animal shelter for which Siam Polymer is an investor, or squeezing in a quick routine at the gym between various home errands. But every now and again, they would turn their phones off and live like misanthropes, Kongpob temporarily leaving his neat-freak tendencies at the proverbial door.
Now, their heads are at the foot of the bed, and Arthit, still naked and half lying on top of Kongpob, props himself up on his elbows. He runs a quick hand through his hair, tousled and messy from his boyfriend’s grip. Yawning, he reaches for the last slice in the box at the foot of the bed.
“Don’t. That’s from the first box we ordered. Two days ago.” Kongpob scrunches his nose in disgust.
Arthit just shrugs, as he takes a bite out of the stale and now-cold crust, tomato sauce dripping out from under the hardened cheese and onto his boyfriend’s chest. He bends down to slurp it off and Kongpob sighs deeply.
“You look ridiculously sexy right now, you know that?” He reaches up to play with a strand of Arthit’s hair.
“At least let me finish this slice before you try to maul me again,” Arthit says as he chews a mouthful. “I’m getting old and need to preserve my energy and strength.”
“Is this what turning 30 is like? Now I’m concerned.”
“You’ve still got another two years. After that, you start growing random grey hairs on your chest, you get random body aches and dizzy spells, and you actually have to exercise regularly to be able to eat all this junk.”
“Can’t wait,” Kongpob laughs. “Okay, get off me. I can’t feel my legs.”
Arthit rolls off of his stomach, pizza still in hand, then sits on the edge of the bed, finishing the slice off. With the last bite gone, they both pull their boxers on, picking up the remaining evidence of their sequestered weekend. It had felt nice to escape from the real world, even if just for a little while.
“You shower first. I’ll do the laundry and then take out the trash.” Arthit says as he pulls the stained and tangled blue sheets off of the bed.
The room now looking decidedly more like a responsible adult’s than that of a rabid college kid off of their parental leash, Arthit turns his phone back on, almost dropping it at the flood of vibrations from dozens of notifications pouring in, most of them messages from friends and family wishing him a happy birthday, and one from Kong’s mother asking for an update.
It had been his actual birthday today. He’d grown so used to their joint birthday of convenience that he sometimes forgets, occasionally even filling in forms incorrectly.
He types out Thank you! 🙂 once, and hits Send to All.
Eyes bleary and his body worn, he falls into his first deep, peaceful slumber as a 30 year-old. Perhaps the next time he fell asleep, he would have a fiancé.
Arthit awakens the next day with a slight headache and an uneasiness in his stomach. He narrows it down to his body foreshadowing his nervous jitters of what is to come that day, and thumbs over his temples.
Rolling over onto his side, he notices Kongpob has already gotten up, his side of the bed cool to the touch without his warm body. Arthit rubs the sleep out of his eyes and trudges into the kitchen, where his boyfriend is talking on the phone through an earpiece, a mug of coffee in one hand. Arthit pads closer to him, his slippers shuffling on the tile, before wrapping his arms around Kongpob’s waist, nuzzling his face into the crook of his neck.
“Yes, I understand,” Kongpob absentmindedly twirls the fuzzy hairs at the nape of Arthit’s neck between his fingers. “I’m out of office as it’s a Sunday, but I’ll have the papers sent over first thing tomorrow morning…Yes…of course…you’re welcome. Goodbye.”
He rolls his eyes as he pulls out his earpiece, pressing the button to hang up.
“Why are you talking shop on a weekend? A Chinese New Year weekend, no less?” Arthit mumbles into Kongpob’s collarbone, playing with the hem of his shirt.
“One of our partner companies is compiling their annual report, but one of their employees, probably some rookie kid, lost an invoice from us so now they’re asking for the numbers to meet a deadline.”
“You call this guy a rookie like you’re 40 with a dad bod and a penchant for desk toys.”
“Yeah, like that swinging pendulum thing. Or the little tray of sand with the tiny rake.” he snickers, raking his own fingers down Kongpob’s abdomen, gently tickling before his hand gets swatted away.
“Guess I know what I’m getting you when you turn 40.”
I would love to still be yours in ten years, Arthit smiles to himself.
“It’s Sunday. No more work, okay? You’re the one who keeps telling me I need to stop clocking in overtime.”
“I know, I know. But I don’t think the business world really cares much for how much I love my Sundays, especially with my newly announced title.”
“Ah, yes. ‘The young new president of Siam Polymer Group takes the weekend off to go and eat cake with his boyfriend like a mere commoner.'” he muses. “Such a scandalous headline.”
He snorts at his own remark, but he’s not joking about some of the rather interesting headlines they’d been featured under over the years. They’d managed to escape the attention of gossip columnists during the early years, enjoying the relative privacy of common folk. However, Kongpob, being the unnaturally handsome son of the Kerkkrai Sutthiluck, officially joining his father’s company meant that it had became increasingly commonplace to find grainy photos of themselves plastered across the pages of trashy magazines and social media, paired with exaggeratedly enthusiastic captions of their mundane, everyday lives such as:
Arthit’s perfect prince: Kongpob holds the door open for his beau! Exclusive pics inside!
The Love of Siam: Kongpob and Arthit share a bingsu at Siam Paragon!
And some utterly fallacious ones from more imaginative writers:
Kongpob the hypocrite: Siam Polymer heir seen openly sharing a KFC bucket with his boyfriend just days after retweeting an article condemning animal cruelty.
(Yes, apparently they’d been noticed that day, thousands of photos of him sucking on Kong’s fingers having circulated among his friends, much to his embarrassment)
Kongpob the abuser? Rumours of domestic violence as Arthit sports a black eye.
(He’d pulled too hard on a loose thread and accidentally punched himself in the face)
Indeed, he’s still weirded out by the attention, but the content is rarely vicious about their relationship, and Arthit would be remiss to say he wasn’t thoroughly entertained and amused every time Som-oh sent him link after link of her latest findings.
“Come on, then. Let’s give them something to talk about. Maybe I can feed you and they’ll write about how you’ve tragically lost the use of both your arms.”
“Do I at least get a cool cast with an arm sling?”
“Only if I get to sign it first.” Kongpob winks, kissing his forehead.
And so their joint birthday celebration comes as a welcome change of pace from rubbing elbows with thrice-removed cousins and being grilled by minors. Finally, it would just be the two of them, and Arthit prayed that no more chubby aunts or seasonally induced traffic jams would get in the way of finally putting the damn ring on Kongpob’s finger. It would be calm, simple, and just the two of them. Nothing fancy, no reservations nor elaborate gifts.
Just them, some cake, and possibly the rest of their lives together.
The familiar drive to the café feels longer than usual. Arthit still feels unusually queasy, his temples brimming with a foreign tension. He shifts in his seat, the ring box digging slightly into him in his back pocket. Slightly gassy, he rolls the window down and quietly burps a few times, but manages to keep it together for the duration of the ride.
“You ok, P’Arthit? You look a little pale,” Kongpob glances sideways. “I can pull over if you want.”
“No, I’m fine. We’re almost there anyway.”
I’m just nervous about tonight.
The café, on the corner of a quiet street that meets the main road, looks exactly as Arthit remembers it. A stone path leading to the entrance of the cafe, tall trees lining the way and towering over the single-story structure. Mismatched furniture runs throughout the shop and a modern but cosy aesthetic dons the interior.
They sit at their favourite table by the window, two leather-seated chairs facing each other on either side of a vintage wooden coffee table with a glass top, pieces of a broken decorative china plate scattered strategically in the shadow box.
The owner recognises them and makes her way over, wishing them both happy birthdays, before taking their orders: a slice of red velvet cake for Kongpob, and the raspberry gin fizz cake for Arthit.
Kongpob takes about thirty photos of their food before Arthit calls him a ‘basic Instagram bitch’ and demands that he be allowed to eat his cake. They each take a forkful of cake and clink them together.
“To us,” Arthit says.
“To us, and another year of getting older together.” Kongpob smiles.
The raspberry topping on Arthit’s choice is tart and tangy, blending unusually well with the gin-soaked sponge cake, but he can’t seem to take more than two bites before he feels his insides convulsing again, and a painful pressure building in his frontal lobe.
He tries to focus, willing the nerves to go away. He knows that he has to follow through with his objective tonight, or he may not have another optimal chance. Arthit doesn’t know why his entire body is reacting so divergently, when he hadn’t even been nearly as trepidant with his previous two attempts.
Then his eyes fall on Kongpob, who’s contentedly licking a dollop of cream cheese frosting off his fork. Sunlight through thin branches cast a gentle, fluttering shadow on his face, warmly hitting his skin with specks of light that peek through, and Arthit feels his heart pound in his chest and sweat prickling all over his skin, and it’s all too hot all of a sudden.
He reaches out and takes his lover’s hand, fingers trembling, clammy with sweat.
“Kong,” his voice comes out a little strangled.
“Yes, P’Arthit?” Kong looks up, his eyes bright before his expression morphs into a concerned frown. “Are you sure you’re alright? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
He reaches up to feel Arthit’s forehead.
“I’m fine, really,” Arthit insists.
“P’, you’re boiling up!”
“Kong, listen to me. There’s something I want to tell you.”
“What is it? Are you sure you don’t need to see a doctor?”
“No, I’m fine. Listen. I’ve been…ah, I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now, and I feel like now is the right time.”
Kongpob, sensing the seriousness in his voice, tentatively places his hand over Arthit’s and looks straight at him, eyes waiting and questioning.
“What is it, P’?”
“Kong, I -“
Arthit feels his vision swirling, and he can’t bring himself to force out another word before he feels the bile surging up his throat.
A hand clasped over his mouth, he stumbles out of the cafe and out into the open, and the entire contents of his stomach purge onto the soil beside the stone path.
I’m leaving this chapter like this because it was just getting way too long. So the next chapter will essentially be a continuation of this one. I think I just got a little carried away with explaining why they were celebrating so many things in February, as well as how Arthit got food poisoning. I also wanted to show different angles of their relationship, this chapter seeing them be imperfectly domestic hermits.
I realise the irony of this story being a Valentine’s Day special yet they don’t even really celebrate it. I guess my objective when I started this fic was for Arthit to try really desperately to be the boyfriend he thinks he should be because he’s extremely insecure, and especially after the events of SOTUS S, he really wants to put in all his effort to make sure Kong feels loved. He has it in his head that he needs to do all these elaborate things to be on par with Kongpob (but of course he doesn’t).
That being said, I skipped over Valentine’s Day partly because I felt like his plan would be extremely similar to their anniversary and therefore not terribly interesting to read, but also because it feels impersonal to them, as it’s a day where everyone is celebrating their love rather than one that’s their personal milestone.
As for why I’ve put their birthdays so close together, again, it’s a further insight into the unique dynamic of their specific relationship. That in tandem with the idea that I’ve always felt like both of them are Pisces Sun babies, Arthit with a Virgo rising and Kongpob with a Cancer rising (if you believe in astrology, that is). Not that I’m really huge on that kind of thing, but it made for a fitting title, I think.
The entire car ride to the hospital had hung thick with the tension of anticipating when Arthit might violently throw up yet again into the plastic bag that the café owner had so kindly offered them.
Kongpob had been hesitant to speak, focusing on driving as slowly and carefully as the agitated honks behind them would allow, not wanting to create any more sudden movement than necessary. Still, he’d had to pull over briefly to allow Arthit to retch and hurl a couple of times into an isolated bush at the side of the road.
He’d rubbed Arthit’s back in slow, soothing circles, meekly attempting to pacify the burning in Arthit’s oesophagus. What does one even say in this situation? Are you okay? If Arthit’s pained heaving and pale lips were any indication, that would have been an incredibly stupid question.
“I’ve got you, P’,” he says, the first he’s spoken since he’d helped Arthit into the car.
Arthit wipes at his mouth and gasps for as much air as he can manage, becoming increasingly frustrated with himself when his head remains hotly clouded with fever, and his insides convulse with the need to expel what he’s not even sure is physically capable of being left inside of him. Where is all this liquid even coming from?
Eventually, his stomach has settled enough that he manages to swerve clumsily back to the car with Kongpob’s assistance. He’s holding him up as though Arthit has jelly for bones, an image that may as well be true, his entire body numb and exhausted with persistent nausea.
He throws up two more times in the waiting room at A&E before they finally enter the doctor’s office, where Arthit is met with query after query about his recent medical and travel history, any allergies, and any odd changes in diet or lifestyle.
“I’m not dying, am I?” Arthit groans after what feels like the fiftieth question, his vocal cords sore with the acidic taste of his own bile. He just wants to go home, crawl into bed and forget that this day ever happened.
The doctor merely chortles at this, shaking her head.
“No, nothing quite so dramatic. Just a nasty case of food poisoning, probably. Have you eaten anything irregular from your usual diet lately?”
“Not that I can recall.”
“Anything that might have been past its expiry date? Sometimes food goes bad before it looks like it does, especially when you don’t refrigerate it.”
“Don’t. That’s from the first box we ordered. Two days ago.”
It hits him like an ice cold bucket of water. Kongpob’s warning rings clearly in his memory, always the voice of reason.
If Arthit had been feeling shit about yet another failed attempt just seconds ago, he now wishes to walk directly into oncoming traffic, cursing internally for having brought it upon himself. A dull aching forms in his chest, wrapped in disappointment and self-hatred.
Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.
Maybe I’m the problem.
Maybe…I don’t deserve him.
“Uh…I don’t know,” he mutters, barely paying attention anymore.
“Well, either way, I’m going to get you some electrolytes to replace the lost fluids, and something for your fever. Take it easy for a couple of days, drink plenty of water and try to eat plain foods for a while.”
“Thanks, Doctor,” he manages before his mouth is filling up again, and the doctor, completely unfazed, simply pulls a bedpan from one of her desk drawers and holds it under Arthit’s chin, as if she’s rehearsed for this exact moment.
Kongpob extracts a tissue from his pocket, reaching out to wipe Arthit’s mouth, but Arthit haughtily snatches it from him, wringing the soft fibres in his hand. If Kongpob flinches at the rejection, Arthit doesn’t notice.
“Keep an eye on him,” the doctor says to Kongpob. “If his fever doesn’t subside by tomorrow, you should bring him in again.”
“Yes, thank you,” Kongpob gives her a wai, and tries to help Arthit to his feet.
“I’m vomiting, Kong, not crippled,” he pushes out of the chair and makes a beeline for the door.
After brushing his teeth of the vile flavour in his mouth, Arthit slips out of his jeans in the bedroom, kicking them to the side before he remembers the box he’d tucked into the back pocket that morning. Crouching down, he takes it out and snaps the box open, tracing the the velvet-lined casing with a fingertip.
How could he ever have thought that he was capable of being the one to propose? How dare he think that he could be the romantic one? Each and every attempt had gone like rainwater down a flood drain and it was his own damn fault for taking too long and making poor choices out of egotistical laziness; he couldn’t even just listen to people once in a while.
All this time, he’d blamed it on exterior influence and unfortunate coincidences, when it had all been his own doing all along. He’d not left in time to beat traffic. He’d been the one to selfishly assume he could take advantage of someone else’s party. He’d been the one who’d eaten expired food when he knew it was a bad idea.
This is karma for not being expressive enough, not sociable enough, not responsible enough, just not enough for Kong. Beautiful, sweet, caring, selfless and widely loved Kong.
I’m so sorry, Kong, he thinks. I couldn’t even give you the perfect proposal you deserve.
His throat aches, a lump forming, but Arthit is sure it’s not because of the nausea. He takes one last look at the ring, the gems not quite so brilliant now, its previous light fading along with what was once a beautiful dream.
He closes the box and tucks it away in a storage bin under the bed, along with other forgotten items of past memories, and curls up under the covers. He stares blankly at the window, a warm breeze sifting through Venetian blinds that fails to comfort him. Angry worms eat at the deeply enamoured butterflies in his stomach until their bodies lay lifeless and their wings are torn to shreds.
“P’Arthit?” He hears Kongpob come into the room, a glass of water mixed with electrolyte powder and the plastic baggie of pills for his fever in hand.
He sits on the edge of the bed and smiles gently, placing the glass on the bedside table next to Arthit, who hasn’t even looked up at him.
“Don’t say it.”
“Don’t say what, P’?”
“Don’t say I told you so. I don’t want to hear it right now.”
“What? Why would I say that?”
“The pizza, Kong. You warned me, and I didn’t listen. You don’t need to remind me.”
Kongpob reaches out to stroke Arthit’s hair, but he rolls over, shifting away from his touch. Allowing himself to be loved like this just doesn’t feel right anymore.
“P’, I wasn’t going to. You really think I’m going to try and be petty when you’re in pain?”
“No, of course not. You’re not like that,” it comes out almost scathing and spiteful.
You’re fucking perfect and I don’t deserve you.
He hears a drawn out release of breath behind him, and Kongpob is quiet for a moment, sensing the hint of derision in Arthit’s remark.
“P’Arthit…what is this really about?”
There’s a slight tremble in his voice, uncertain and completely thrown off guard by the dramatic pivot in Arthit’s entire demeanour. Such an occurrence hasn’t graced their relationship in years. They’d had their tiffs and disagreements, of course, Arthit driving the mothership of jealousy and insecurity, and Kongpob with his neurotic fussing and slightly overbearing tendencies.
But there’s an underlying weight to this particular episode that Kongpob has sensed gradually whittling to a point for about a month now.
Arthit pushes himself up in a seated position, grabbing the glass and pills before downing the contents of both in one go, not taking a single breath until the entire glass is empty.
“Nothing. I’m tired. I’m going to sleep.”
He slides himself down again, not once looking at his…well, if they aren’t getting engaged, then what even are they anymore? Arthit pushes the thought away and pulls the blanket up to his chin, closing his eyes.
Kongpob remains seated next to his lying figure for several more quiet minutes, until eventually, Arthit feels a weight lift off the mattress, and a hesitant kiss being pressed to his forehead. Several moments later, he hears the bedroom door click shut.
Thankfully, his fever does subside after a night of cold sweats and recurrent trips to the bathroom. By morning, he no longer feels like emptying his stomach every ten minutes. He calls in sick anyway, waking up at 8AM and finding that Kongpob had spent the night out on the living room sofa.
“Kong,” he nudges the sleeping man, curled into a ball on his side.
Kongpob stirs, wincing slightly at the ache in his back. He rubs his eyes, shifting to sit up.
“P’Arthit, you’re up. Are you feeling better this morning?”
Arthit, still a little queasy, but mostly from exhaustion, nods slowly.
“Yeah, but I called in sick at work. Why are you on the couch?”
Kongpob rubs at the back of his neck, tilting it from side to side to loosen the cricks, emitting a resounding crack of tense joints. Dark circles have formed under his eyes from getting up every half hour to press his ear to the bedroom door, worried that Arthit might still be throwing up.
“Oh…I uh, I didn’t hear you vomiting anymore after several hours so I figured you’d finally gotten to sleep. I didn’t want to wake you.”
Arthit says nothing in response, and glances at the clock.
“It’s past 8 now. Don’t you have to go to work?”
“But you’re sick. I’ll stay and look after you,” he smiles, gently reaching out for Arthit’s hand.
“I can look after myself. Go to work.”
“Really, it’s fine! I can just tell Por-“
“I’m not a damn child, Kong. Just go to work.”
Another pregnant silence hangs between them, witty and playful banter replaced by painfully clipped conversation. Today feels like the wrong day to be pushy and it sits like bricks on Kongpob’s chest that Arthit is in no mood to humour his usual antics. He finally stands up, gazing briefly at Arthit before tentatively wrapping his arms around his middle in a careful embrace. Arthit tenses, but reaches up to gently place cold hands on his back.
“You sure you’ll be fine?”
“Yeah. My fever is gone, anyhow.”
“Okay. But can you please call if you need anything?”
Arthit exhales slowly through his nose, hating himself for making it awkward, but if he were to explain his behaviour, it would be near impossible to do so without providing details of the root of his troubles. Kongpob never needs to know that he tried and failed to ask what seems like such a simple four-word question, but which has laughed in his face at least three times now.
“Yeah, okay,” he nods, before pulling out of Kongpob’s grasp.
Kongpob sighs, unsure what to do with his hands or where to look, finally settling on shifting his gaze unsteadily at Arthit’s face.
“I’ll be back as soon as I can. You should get some more rest.”
Arthit nods. He feels awful for how his emotional awkwardness has resulted in the looming discomfort between them, but he’s not sure how to salvage it, not really even knowing how to apologise without giving too much away.
“Kong,” he starts. “I’m sorry about yesterday.”
“Hmm? What do you mean?” Kongpob looks surprised by this shift in tone.
“All of it. Ruining our birthday. Snapping at you. I know you wouldn’t rub it in my face. I was just…cranky from being sick.”
That, and I’m an unworthy piece of shit.
“You didn’t ruin it, P’,” Kongpob runs his hands down Arthit’s arms reassuringly, the frowning crease between his brows finally subsiding, replacing his terse expression with a tenderness that is uniquely the Kongpob that Arthit is still so desperately in love with. “Let’s focus on getting you fully better first, okay?”
“I love you.”
His eyes, as they always are, are deep and sincere, and Arthit thinks maybe the flutter in his stomach might not be the food poisoning.
“Love you, too.”
He blinks, allowing Kongpob to kiss him briefly, before he turns around and goes straight back to bed, a tear escaping onto the pillow.
Oh boy, I struggled big time writing this particular chapter and actually had to cheer myself up by writing the next chapter before coming back to this one. My writing style in combination with my usual portrayal of them having witty, sarcastic nonsense rapport had to take a backseat here and it killed me because it was so not fun to write 🙁
I hope it’s at least clear to you guys that Arthit isn’t just randomly being a jerk here. He’s just really easily down on himself and he always feels like he’s to blame for everything that goes wrong, and it manifests itself in the form of being closed off and slightly standoffish. Of course he wants Kong to love him, but he just doesn’t believe he deserves it, a thought that I think has plagued him for years now. In other words, he’s a dumb insecure hurting baby.
Edit: At the risk of making this author’s note even longer, I want to point out something that’s really important. Please don’t think that Arthit’s behaviour in this chapter is conducive to the actions of a mentally healthy person. To my understanding of his entire demeanour in the series, Arthit is someone who suffers anxiety(OCD)/depression to some degree. That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have good days or even weeks and months, but the journey to good mental health isn’t a straight line, and he needs a lot of consistent support. I don’t like when authors make a depressed person’s lover the answer to their problems, but I will say that Kongpob has definitely pushed gently and gradually for Arthit to take steps outside of his comfort zone and fears so that he can experience more of life without irrational anxieties. This chapter is deeply personal to me as a fellow OCD sufferer, and I really hope that young readers understand why it’s gone this route.
The following weeks between Arthit and Kongpob vacillate between painfully polite, half-heartedly playful, and at times, deeply uncomfortable.
Arthit would play along with Kongpob’s attempts at their usual brand of nonsense banter at times, but it had felt inauthentic and like extra effort that he just didn’t have the energy for. Occasionally, Arthit would unintentionally start a petty argument, but would offer a grim apology soon after. Kongpob was not completely obtuse, maintaining his distance where he felt Arthit needed space, and gently offering affection when he seemed to be up for it.
He dives headfirst into his work, busying himself with menial tasks that could frankly be left to interns, taking extra care in sifting through the details of each and every spreadsheet and document. Some evenings, he would still be at his desk at almost 8PM, when he would normally have been home for at least two hours. While management is incredibly pleased with his added efforts, someone sits at home on those nights, waiting for the familiar unlocking of the front door.
Earth, Tod and Som-Oh bear witness the unusual tension between the two lovers at odds with each other’s emotions, when, one evening, Kongpob decides to stop by the office at exactly 5PM, hoping to pick Arthit up from work.
“I brought your favourite,” he says, holding up the cup of pink milk. Arthit stares at it briefly before taking it and placing it on his desk.
“Thanks,” he nods, turning back to his work without even taking a sip. He tenses as Kongpob presses comforting circles with his thumbs into the back of Arthit’s admittedly sore neck.
“Awww, I wish my boyfriend would be so sweet to me,” Som-Oh pouts, filing her nails.
“Som-Oh, you don’t have a boyfriend. Just a different crush every week,” Earth rolls her eyes.
“I mean hypothetically,” Som-Oh retorts. “N’Arthit, you are such a lucky man to have N’Kongpob. He’s like a fairytale prince!” she gushes, fluttering her lashes.
Arthit continues typing, silently agreeing. I don’t need reminding. He’s tired and doesn’t really want to engage in his colleagues’ usual rapport.
“P’Arthit, are you ready to go?”
Arthit glances up, turning briefly towards Kongpob, who’s still standing behind his desk chair, waiting expectantly.
“Uh, I don’t know. I’ve got some, uh…”
He gestures vaguely at his screen at the spreadsheet he has open, for which he’s been manually colour coding page after page of data by their numbers, each colour representing a range within multiples of five. It’s rather impressive and visually appealing, if a bit pointless. His actual work had been finished at least two hours ago, having skipped lunch to stay at his desk.
“I’ll finish it up, Mr. Sun! Go!” Tod grins, completely oblivious to Arthit’s hesitance.
Arthit is backed into a corner, several pairs of eyes on him now.
Et tu, Bonus? He eyes the crimson fish, staring at him from his undersized tank.
“Okay, just let me tidy up then.”
Kongpob takes his hand as they enter the lift, lacing their fingers together. It takes a few seconds before Arthit properly tightens his clasp around his boyfriend’s palm. It’s warm and soft, and despite everything, makes him feel safer.
“How was your day?” Kongpob says as the numbers on the display descend with the elevator.
“Fine, I guess. A bit busy.”
“You guys just got some new interns, right?”
The corner of his mouth turns up just a tiny bit at this, recalling the days when they’d gone to work together every day, struggling with the fax machine and navigating office politics.
“Yeah. One of them has already found themselves in Khun Paga’s bad books. Apparently he called her P’Paga right off the bat. I’m pretty sure he came back having pissed himself.”
Kongpob breaks into a grin at this.
“She’s really not so bad.”
“Says you. I think you’re the only person she’s ever taken a liking to.”
“Yeah, well, I learned my lesson after pissing off a really harsh hazer,” he winks.
Arthit doesn’t say anything, simply leaving a hint of a smirk on his face.
As they make their way through the lobby, Kongpob stops in his tracks, taking Arthit’s other hand as well.
“Do you want to eat out tonight or get takeout? I don’t really feel like cooking.”
“Um, we can eat out, I guess.”
“Japanese. I don’t even want to see a pizza right now.”
Arthit immediately regrets choosing to eat out. The restaurant is packed, a large group of particularly overzealous tourists pouring in after they’re seated. Every major restaurant or market district has been flooded with tourists since mid-week, many hoping to partake in the Songkran festivities after the weekend.
“Linda, I saw a McDonald’s down the road. Why can’t we just eat there?”
“We didn’t come all the way to Asia to eat McDonald’s. This is the whole package, Josh! We’re eating authentic Japanese food in an Asian country!”
“We’re in Thailand, Linda.”
“Yeah, well I don’t like spicy food!”
They both try to suppress snickers as they peruse that evening’s specials.
“Do you want to go somewhere else instead?” Kongpob regards him over the top of his menu.
“No, it’s fine, let’s just eat quickly and go.”
Arthit asks for the bill quite literally as he’s shoving the last spoon of rice in his mouth, and Kongpob just bites his lip. He’d been hoping they could talk tonight, perhaps subtly bring up the elephant that had laid occupancy in their idiomatic room for the past month. Or something. Anything. But he hands over his card wordlessly.
“You going to shower first?” Arthit loosens his tie as they unlock the front door.
“Yeah,” Kongpob slips his shoes off and dumps his briefcase down on the floor, turning to rubs Arthit’s tie between his fingers. “Or you could join me,” he tries, his face feigning innocence.
He’s being cute and coy, and Arthit can’t bear the fact that it’s directed at him, feeling anything but attractive lately. Kongpob has made more than a few attempts at being intimate with Arthit in the last few weeks, but is usually met with a sarcastic dismissal, or claiming that he’s not just feeling it.
And it’s true. Whereas Arthit’s body usually takes on a life of its own when they’re in such close proximity, lately, he hasn’t even bothered to take matters into his own hands. He looks at Kongpob now, detecting lust and pent up frustration in the flickered gazes at his mouth, as well as confusion over why their usually fruitful and exciting sex life has taken an unannounced hiatus.
He feels guilty. It’s not that he doesn’t want it, but every time Kongpob begins his physical worship, what fills his mind is literally anything else but what’s being lovingly done to his body, and he lies flat and still, completely unable to enjoy himself.
But he wants to try.
“Okay,” he says, and the blatant shock in Kongpob’s expression sends another pang of guilt through Arthit’s chest.
“Yeah?” Kong says, his voice hopeful.
“Yeah,” he gives him a soft smile, and Kongpob back-walks to their bathroom, dragging Arthit with him.
Their lips meet, slowly and patiently, as they undress each other and step into their shower.
Dense steam and the sensation of their mouths against each other has Arthit’s heart racing, and oddly, it calms his mind, clearing it of thoughts of work, of his dwindling self-worth, and his nagging guilt.
For the first time in a while, he feels good, and allows himself the pleasure of being kissed and held and taken care of, Kongpob’s hands and mouth hungry with exploration.
Then Kongpob brings his mouth back up to his, and whispers desperately,
“You’re so beautiful, P’Arthit. I can’t believe you’re all mine.”
A diamond ring.
Five roses and four carnations.
Car horns in the distance.
Slow dancing by the pool.
A diamond ring.
Cake. A stone path.
A diamond ring.
Arthit gulps and his hands fall to his sides, eyes wide and blood rushing back through his torso. He looks at the man in front of him, eyes searching and searching, until realisation dawns on him that the moment has gone.
Just like that.
“I’m sorry, Kong,” he says for maybe the twelfth time in the last month.
He slips out from between Kongpob and the shower wall, sliding the door open and wrapping himself in a towel before stepping out in the bedroom.
Neither of them hear the other shedding frustrated tears.
The weekend comes and goes without so much as a word spoken between them nor a single touch despite sharing their suddenly too-small bed.
It’s Sunday evening when they both receive a text in their friends’ group chat, asking if they want to carpool to Silom the following day, and telling them to bring an extra water gun.
Kongpob looks up from where he’s sitting on the couch at Arthit, who’s sat on one of the kitchen barstools with his laptop.
“Are we joining them?” Arthit says finally, after several moments of silence pass.
“I was going to take my motorbike.”
“Where are you going to park?”
“Probably on the corner of Naradhiwas.”
“So close to the bridge?”
“Well, it’s where we’re meeting your friends, right?”
“I guess, yeah.”
“So we’ll park along that road.”
“Why can’t we just carpool?”
“Are you planning on staying out late?”
“No, I just…never mind. We’ll take your bike.”
“You can carpool with them if you want. Can’t fit six people anyway, so I’ll just go by myself.”
“It’s fine, Kong. We’ll take your bike.”
“Well you want to go with them, right? So just go.”
Arthit hops off the barstool and exhales loudly.
“We’re taking your bike. End of discussion,” he says before stalking off down the hallway to their bedroom.
They don’t speak again for the rest of the evening.
One of Bangkok’s busiest roads, usually occupied for miles with cars and motorbikes, is currently flooded with probably two thirds of the city’s population and thrill-seeking tourists. They’re dressed in vibrant hues across the entire spectrum, girls with their hair in plaits and men in colourful Hawaiian shirts.
Vendors under colourful umbrellas line the sides of the road, selling scented water, elaborate flower garlands, and assortments of water toys. Upbeat music blasts from various corners and pedestrians are climbing onto the concrete road divide under the bridge.
Bright barely makes it out of Knot’s car before someone has already sprayed him in the face, leaving him sputtering and his shirt soaked.
“Hey! I know I’m hot shit but at least buy me dinner before you put out my fire!” he shouts, heading straight in the direction of a group of laughing girls.
Knot shakes his head and locks the car door, walking over to where Kongpob and Arthit are sitting on the edge of the pavement, about the length of a large dog of space between them. They’re already soaked from head to toe from passersby shooting at them and smearing coloured chalk on their faces.
“Why are you two just sitting here? You could’ve just gone ahead first.”
“That’s what I said,” Kongpob mutters. “But he…never mind.”
“I said you could go ahead first and I would catch up when they got here.”
“Yeah, well we came together, so it doesn’t make any sense for me to just go around by myself, does it?”
“They’re my friends, Kong. Not yours.”
Kongpob just looks at him and nods, his expression unreadable. He gets up, heading down the road and stopping at one of the large water barrels, queuing behind a group of other pedestrians for a refill.
Knot eyes Arthit, who just sighs, fiddling with the pump on his water gun.
“You want to share whatever that‘s about?”
“I thought you were going to propose to him like half a year ago. What happened? I never heard you say anything about it after you first mentioned it.”
“It didn’t happen,” he shrugs, the last thing he wants to be reminded of.
“Wait, he said no?” Knot looks genuinely alarmed.
“He hasn’t said anything,” Arthit stands, leaning against a lamppost. “I never got around to asking.”
“Why? You have the ring, just ask him.”
“I tried, okay? Our anniversary, New Year’s Eve, our birthdays, and a few other times I considered it. Every time, I somehow fucked it up and it didn’t happen.”
“Why didn’t you just do it at home?”
“You know what he’s like. He’s into all the sappy, romantic shit. You know, flowers, dinner, sparkly lights and all that. I couldn’t just pop the question while we’re on the couch watching Cougar on the Prowl.”
“Why the hell not?” Knot scoffs in disbelief. “Arthit, I don’t know Kongpob that well, clearly, but I do know he’s been insanely in love with you since whatever weird thing you guys had going on in our hazing days. You guys have been together almost ten years, and he is still literally the heart eyes emoji around you. And I know you feel the same about him. At this rate, I’m pretty sure you could yell Marry me? from the bathroom while you’re taking a shit and he would still be over the moon.”
Arthit is quiet, scraping the sole of his sandal against the edge of the wet pavement.
“What if he says no?” his voice is quiet, the question urgent.
“He’s not going to say no.”
“But what if—”
“Fucking hell, ‘thit. Just talk to him already. This whole self-loathing, I-don’t-deserve-shit nonsense isn’t funny to watch anymore. You deserve happiness, do you hear me?! If you still love him and you want even the slightest chance of keeping him then go over there and work your shit out.”
Knot sighs, clapping a hand to his friend’s shoulder.
“Go. Get your man,” he says, shoving Arthit in Kongpob’s direction.
“Okay, okay, I’m going,” he holds his hands up in surrender.
Kongpob is fiddling with his sandal when Arthit hesitantly approaches the water barrel he’s been waiting his turn at. He pauses a moment when he stands and realises the company he’s in.
“I didn’t mean that they’re not your friends, too,” Arthit says, his voice small. “Sorry.”
He picks the scoop up from inside the barrel and begins pouring water into the opening of the water tank in his gun.
“You’re supposed to just dip the entire thing in the barrel and let it fill up.” Kongpob says, taking the gun from him and submerging it in the water.
“It’s a toy, Kongpob. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to do it.”
“I’m just saying it’s easier.”
“Why are you picking a fight?”
“I’m not picking a fight. I’m just telling you that – you know what? Never mind.”
“Well, you started it, with your know-it-all dip it in the barrel thing!”
Kongpob blinks hard in frustration, and shoves the water gun back into Arthit’s hands.
“I started this? You’re the one who’s had a fucking chip on their shoulder for the past few weeks and I can’t say or do anything anymore without worrying that you’re going to get upset with me one way or another!”
Kongpob rarely raises his voice, much less swear in public or use informal pronouns, but Arthit is too determined to be thrown off and walk away from this fight. Not this time.
“Why would I be upset with you?!”
“Gee, I don’t know! Maybe because ever since we left the hospital, you’ve barely spoken to me except out of necessity or when I initiate conversation? Maybe because you’re suddenly staying at work until ridiculous hours even though I know for a fact that you don’t have any major new projects lately, given that I’m your supplier? Or maybe because every time I try to touch you, you push me away, or we try and it goes nowhere! I don’t even know what I did that was so wrong!”
“You? You never do anything wrong! It’s me who’s the problem! I can’t go anywhere or do anything without being reminded of how fucking perfect you are!”
“Oh, here we go again. I’m not perfect—”
“Not in the things that don’t matter. Are you kidding me? You look like a fucking Disney prince, Kong, and you’re one of the most successful bachelors in Thailand. You charm the pants off of every fucking person you cross paths with, your family literally are the nicest people I’ve ever met, and just to top it all off, you’re good at basically everything you try! I don’t even understand why the fuck someone like you bothers to put up with my sorry ass!”
Arthit is full on yelling now, drawing the attention of a few nosy passersby. Kongpob’s expression softens slightly.
“P’Arthit, that is not how I—”
“No! Nothing I do ever makes me feel like I can ever be on your level. I’m only average-looking, I’m stubborn, and I’m moody, and I fuss and worry over the dumbest shit! I’m not rich, my family is weird as fuck, and maybe it’s because I’m the only child but I don’t know how to care for other people or talk about how I feel like you do.
“Don’t you get it? Everyone who meets you, falls madly in love with you, myself included, and you literally could have anyone in the world. And yet here you are, shackling yourself to the shitshow of a human being that I am. Why? You’re constantly taking care of me and doing all these amazing things to make sure I feel loved and yet I can’t do a damn thing in return because I don’t know how and fucking hell, Kong, why the fuck are you even still with me?!”
His face is streaming with tears, and he’s heaving through shallow breaths now. Kongpob just stares at him, tears welling in the corners of his own eyes. He swallows painfully, restraining a sob that threatens to escape.
“What are you trying to say, P’Arthit?” His voice is strained and he’s not really sure if he’s ready to hear the answer. He fears that it will be exactly what he’s been suspecting.
As Arthit ponders his next words, a very large, very tall man in a crop top and denim shorts running one of the many water toy vendors starts dancing behind his table. He’s been pumping a particularly grating dubstep track throughout the afternoon, and he’s waving his arms in delight as nearby pedestrians spray at him with their guns.
It’s completely ridiculous, Arthit realises.
But with everything that’s happened, and Knot’s words swimming through the hurricane of self-loathing thoughts that is his brain, he just doesn’t care anymore. For once, he knows exactly what he wants and he doesn’t want to waste anymore time planning or thinking.
“You deserve happiness, do you hear me?!”
He’s exhausted from all the running and dodging.
“What I’m trying to say is…” he starts.
Crop Top guy, however, takes this as his opportunity to crank his subwoofers up to full volume, climbing onto a chair, drawing the attention of those nearby to his animated dancing. Arthit can no longer tell the difference between his pounding heartbeat and the low, steady roll of the bass.
Kongpob is thrown off, squinting as though it might help him hear better.
“What I mean is,” he tries again, louder this time. “that I want to—ow!”
The top of Arthit’s head is met with a soaking wet sponge thrown from the bridge above them, cutting him off mid-sentence and drenching his entire upper body. Arthit ruffles his hair, trying to shake the water out of it, rubbing the excess moisture out of his eyes. The speakers emit sound waves so reverberant that they can feel the ground quaking beneath their sandals.
Kongpob leans in slightly, cupping his ear.
“What?! I can’t hear you!” he yells back.
“I said, I want—”
The crowd around them seems to gravitate towards the music now, pushing and shoving past, between and behind them to get closer to the vendor’s table.
Arthit is rapidly losing his cool, and by some miracle, manages to grab a hold of Kongpob’s arm before he becomes interwoven with the swarm of dancing bodies around them.
All it takes is one more clumsy bump from a slightly tipsy and heedless celebrant into Arthit’s shoulder, and
“Oh for FUCK’S sake! Will you FUCKING MARRY ME, KONG?!!!”
He hasn’t taken on this level of volume or projection since he was a hazer, and yet instead of pushing back with a witty comeback, Kong freezes, mouth hanging open in bewilderment.
“What did you say?” he says, barely breathing as the question sinks in.
Crop Top guy seems to have caught on to their comparatively inconspicuous moment in the raging sea of coloured shirts and sporadic fountains, and turns the music back down, pausing his movements to watch. Even pockets of the immediate crowd around them have stilled their actions, breaths held in curious anticipation as the two stare fixedly at each other.
“I said,” Arthit huffs out a sigh, pushing wet hair out of his face. “Will you marry me, Kong? Because I’ve been hiding the damn ring for —what is it?—six fucking months now, and trust me, I really tried,” he snorts at his own affliction. “At least three times. But every time I tried to plan for it and make it happen, something would get in the way and even now, I’m being interrupted by shitty nightclub music,” he pointedly gestures at the vendor, who looks mildly offended.
“And I’m standing here in the middle of fucking Silom Road of all places, I’m soaked from head to toe, wearing a Hawaiian shirt and flip flops and I have chalk all over my face, but I don’t give a shit anymore, okay? All I wanted was to for once do something romantic for you and make you understand just how much I love you – alright, Kong? I fucking love you so much that it’s eating me alive, so go ahead and make me your damn wife, because—”
Arthit halts his tirade, staring into deep brown eyes that gradually crinkle at the sides with how hard Kongpob is smiling. The thudding in his chest reaches his ears, and his breathing is shaky.
“I said yes. A thousand times, yes, Arthit. I’ll marry you.”
Kong is still crying, but his tears are falling over his beaming grin now, and Arthit feels months of congested tension leaving his body. My beautiful Kong, he thinks. Mine.
His water gun falls abandoned on the street next to his feet as he pulls Kongpob’s face in to meet for a fervent kiss, picking him up by the legs and twirling him around.
He hasn’t felt this alive in years.
The hundreds of people above and around them erupt into applause and cheers, and the water fights resume, some spraying the kissing couple as they laugh into each other’s mouths, water mixing with the taste of salty tears.
“I can’t believe it,” Arthit slowly lowers his boyfriend – no, fiancé – to the ground. “All this planning and sneaking around and this, this is how it happens. I’m so fucking -“
Kong silences him with another kiss, rubbing away some of the blue chalk on his cheek.
“You know, for someone who claims they’re bad at showing how they feel, you sure talk a lot.”
“I hate you,” he shoves at him slightly, but he’s smiling.
“Well you’re stuck with me for life now, hubby.”
“Gross. No pet names.”
Kongpob just laughs and wraps his arms around Arthit’s neck, holding their foreheads together. They smile so hard that their cheeks hurt, but they don’t care.
“This is going to be all over the internet, isn’t it?”
“Now the whole world knows you’re mine.”
And if this were a movie or TV episode, the camera would slow pan out from them, giving an aerial view of the entire of Silom Road, vibrant with colour and laughter, water splashing to wash away past troubles and welcome a new era.
Ahh, it’s been an emotional rollercoaster for both myself and these two dummies in love, but I hope you’ve enjoyed following me on this journey with them. I hope I did them justice, even though I know have the tendency to wax poetic. Arthit will always have mental battles that he has to overcome, but I have no doubts that each of them will build each other up each step of the way. After all, they now have the rest of their lives ahead of them.
Don’t forget to read the epilogue! Thank you for the very eye-opening discussions about the previous chapter. Mental illness is a very real thing that so many people struggle with to different degrees, and doesn’t always manifest itself in the ways we think. I’m glad that for some of you, my Arthit has been someone you could relate to, but I also hope that his struggles serve as a reminder to look after ourselves, too.
It’s a little past 9AM, and for once, Arthit is wide awake.
He inspects himself in the mirror of the dressing table in his hotel room, fidgeting with a stray tuft of hair. I look like a fucking penguin, he thinks, although he admits that it’s definitely a step up from his usual party attire.
Straightening up and rolling his shoulders back, he takes a deep breath, shuffling nervously and shaking his clammy hands of jitters. It’s as he’s adjusting the thistles of his bow tie that a soft knock comes on the door.
Sighing, he peers through the peephole. It’s Knot.
“Hey.” he says, opening the door to let him in.
“Damn, bro, you look red carpet ready.”
“The only red carpet I’ll be walking on is one covered in my own blood from when I bleed out and die of anxiety.”
“You’re getting married, not castrated. Breathe. And stay hydrated,” he points to the bottle of water on the desk. “But not too much, or you’ll have to pee halfway through the ceremony.”
“Shit, what if I need to pee during the ceremony?” Arthit clicks his tongue and sets the bottle down before he even takes a sip.
“Okay, stop spiralling and just drink maybe a third of the bottle. Besides, it’s just going to be your parents and closest friends. You’ve done far more embarrassing things than pee yourself in front of us.”
“M said in the group chat that there are already paparazzi parked outside the hotel.” he grumbles. “How do those shutterbugs even know? We literally put this together in a week and told like, twenty people.”
He takes a seat in the desk chair, fiddling with the corner of his collar and exhaling sharply.
“Stop touching that. It looks fine. Speaking of tabloids, Twitter is still reeling with clips of your showdown at Songkran. You’ve gone viral,” Knot smirks, reading out each headline as he scrolls through his feed.
Fight and Make Love: Arthit’s Hot, Wet, Proposal
“Is that from an adult magazine?”
Calm after the storm: Arthit and Kongpob’s Rocky Engagement
Do we hear wedding bells? Nope, it’s the sound of Arthit’s screaming.
“I wasnot screaming. I was just…enthusiastically…projecting.”
Sorry ladies! Bangkok’s cutest couple *ring* in the new year!
“Ugh, there’s always one with a shitty pun…”
“Will you f*cking marry me, Kong?”: Arthit’s furious proposal – Click to watch the video!
“You hopeless romantic, Arthit. Oh, this next one is my personal favourite.”
“Oh, fuck off,” Arthit chucks a pack of pocket tissues at him.
Knot dodges it, still laughing as he continues to peruse each amusing commentary.
“At least people in the replies are happy for you two.”
“Speaking of happiness, this,” he reaches inside his jacket and hands Arthit a small white envelope. “Is from your Disney prince husband himself.”
“He’s not my husband yet.”
“Just take the damn thing,” Knot rolls his eyes. “I’m going downstairs to make sure your mom hasn’t bitten Bright’s head off yet. See you in a bit.”
Arthit is left alone in the room once again. He picks up the ivory stationery, the front of the envelope printed with Kongpob’s neat handwriting:
To My Sun
“Corndog,” he mutters to himself as he extracts the letter and unfolds it.
Sunday, April 19th, 2026
My dearest P’Arthit,
The first time I wrote you a love letter, I thanked you for your kindness, for always looking out for me, and for making me smile on otherwise ordinary days. I promised to make you my first priority and to love you forever.
I may have only been 19 then, but in hindsight, I really knew what I was talking about, if I do say so myself. Don’t roll your eyes at me (I know you are); it’s true. You asked me why I’m still with you after all these years, and if we’re spending the rest of our lives together, I really want you to know. I might have told you over a million times that I love you, but perhaps I’ve neglected to let you know what exactly I love about you and why.
“You just like my butt,” Arthit smirks.
Why yes, I do like your butt. It’s very white and cute.
On a more serious note, though, I love who you make me. I love you because you don’t see me the way that everyone else does. I grew up being taught to be a certain way, to always be perfectly courteous, and prioritise my work first, to stand up for those less fortunate and remain disciplined and focused at all times. From an early age, everyone around me has always seen me as the kind of do-no-wrong, polite and polished, heroic, unreal alien from a wealthy family.
I always thought that that was just how things were, and for the longest time I believed that it was who I was supposed to be. I didn’t care what I wanted. I stayed quiet and reserved, doing everything that others expected of me, moulding myself to their impressions of my supposed flawless image.
And then I met you, and it was like putting on glasses after years of wandering through blurry outlines of the world around me. From the first moment we met, you spoke like I was anyone else, like I wasn’t special for upholding my rigid principles. You scolded me and made me do jump squats and run laps, and called me an annoying and pretentious show-off. Nobody else had ever told me before that I was wrong, or challenged me to think outside of the way I was raised, or tried to mess up my spice rack.
“You and your damn spice rack…”
You made me want to break all the rules, make all sorts of beautiful mistakes and do all the things I never realised were options. You made me want things for myself that I never thought I could have, and for the first time I gave a crap about something. If not for you, I would never have tried tom yum, become a hazer, gone abroad to study, or had the guts to present my unorthodox ideas at the company. I would never have done so many unspeakable things with you in our dorm rooms…and otherwise.
P’Arthit, you make me feel like the real and best version of me, and begin to love parts of myself that I didn’t even know were there. You make me feel so…alive. I feel like I’m finally breathing when I’m with you.
So yes, I know you love me. I’ve always known. I feel it so deeply. I never needed you to do the same things. I don’t need flowers, or dinner reservations, or fireworks, or even a ring to want to spend the rest of my life with you. I want to come home and embarrass you with compliments, to make fun of reality TV with you, to eat fried chicken with you in holiday traffic, to run away from stuffy parties with you, to become a recluse and eat pizza in bed with you, and rub your back when you’re throwing it up the next day. I want to bicker with you over stupid things, then kiss and make up, knowing that we’ve grown together. No, you’re not perfect and neither am I. But I still want you. I want it all.
A tear escapes from Arthit’s eye, dripping onto the page. He feels warmth, only warmth, because for the first time, his love feels understood. Received. Accepted. Treasured.
You still surprise me every day with your unique language of love. I was so sure and terrified that you were going to leave me at Songkran, and you have no idea the relief I felt when it was completely the opposite. I know you don’t always tell me what you’re thinking, and I understand. Both of us still have a lot to unpack and I guarantee it won’t be easy, but forever is a long time, and I’m all ears.
I love you, my sun. And I want you to love you, too. Trust me when I say that you are more than enough for me. Now hurry up, get your cute butt downstairs and marry me before Bright accidentally tries to flirt with my underaged niece.
Yours, forever and always,
Arthit smiles and tucks the letter back into the envelope, leaving it on the desk. He’s a little on edge still, but he knows that with Kongpob at his side, well, fuck the fear. He would brave all the worries in the world for a lifetime of happiness.
A small, velvet box has been tucked carefully into Arthit’s back pocket since early this morning.
La pequeña caja aterciopelada ha estado cuidadosamente guardada en el bolsillo de Arthit durante ya varias semanas.
Sólo tiene que encontrar el momento adecuado para dársela a Kongpob.
Arthit no puede creer que sea él quien lo está haciendo. Aunque se habría burlado de la idea de hacer algo tan cliché durante sus primeros días, los últimos años han visto a Arthit sentirse poco a poco menos nervioso y reacio a permitirse amar abiertamente a su extremadamente encantador novio. Por supuesto, aún finge arcadas y gira los ojos cuando Kongpob está siendo particularmente cursi o infantil, aunque no lo cambiaría por nada.
Sus entrañas saben bien lo mucho que quiere pasar el resto de su vida siendo quien recibe el amor constante e inquebrantable de Kongpob. Incluso casi nueve años después, sigue sintiendo el leve revoloteo de su corazón cada vez que el pesado de su pareja hace cosas pequeñas y simples como darle un beso de buenas noches en la frente o dejarle una botella de leche rosa en el refrigerador durante las mañanas en las que tiene que salir a un viaje de trabajo.
Sus amigos estaban algo asombrados por la forma en que su frío, indiferente y verbalmente agresivo exhazer se convirtió poco a poco en un gran charco de baba alrededor de su novio. Tutah lo llama su “resplandor del embarazo”, lo cual suele ganarle un posavasos directo a la cabeza. Knot y Prem se habían visto el uno al otro con las cejas en alto cuando, una noche que salieron a pasar el rato en el bar de Bright, Arthit se había permitido ser traído al regazo de Kongpob sin protestar, robándole incluso algunos pequeños besos durante la velada. Tal vez fue el alcohol, pero una cosa sigue siendo cierta.
Arthit está por completo loco por Kongpob Sutthiluck.
Pero Arthit se sorprendió a sí mismo cuando, una tarde, estaba a las afueras de Bangkok por una junta y, de camino a casa, se encontró frente a los escaparates de una joyería, observando los cientos de gemas resplandecientes como luces de neón reflejándose en el agua. Más adelante, se sorprendió a sí mismo al entrar a la tienda para mirar más a fondo.
—Bienvenido, señor, ¿en qué puedo ayudarlo?
La empleada se había acercado a él poco después de verlo pensante frente a una gran vitrina con anillos.
Arthit levanta la mirada y se frota la nuca, con una tímida sonrisa formándose en sus labios. Echa un vistazo a la etiqueta con su nombre: Ploy. Es una mujer alta y delgada, quizá en sus 40, con ojos amables como los de su madre.
¿Cómo explica uno que comprará un anillo de compromiso para otro hombre? Seguramente él no es el primero en hacerlo. Aunque ya no estaba con exactitud asustado por reconocer al amor de su vida en contextos sociales, no ha estado exactamente en una situación en la que tuviera que salir del armario ante un completo extraño con el simple propósito de comprar algo.
Señora, ¿puedo comprar un cuarto de kilo de costillas de cerdo? Son para mi novio.
No, no. Todo eso sería ridículo en cualquier otro contexto.
—¿Compras esto para ti o es un regalo? ¿Tal vez un juego de aretes y collar? Tenemos unas colecciones geniales para esta nueva temporada.
Era finales de noviembre y Arthit había tenido su aniversario marcado en el calendario de su teléfono ya por varias semanas. Desde luego, ese sería el mejor día para que Arthit le pidiera a Kongpob ser suyo para toda la eternidad.
Podría llevarlo a cenar a algún lugar elegante y sofisticado y preguntarle discretamente antes del postre. Le compraría rosas y se arreglaría un poco, y lo llevaría a dar un tranquilo paseo por el parque en el que se besaron por primera vez, con sus manos entrelazadas bajo las titilantes luces del puente.
Arthit era un hombre sencillo que, siendo honestos, prefería hacerlo en la privacidad de su humilde apartamento, pero sabía que Kongpob amaba los elementos cursis y románticos de estar enamorado, así que si eso era lo que quería, entonces Arthit se lo daría.
—Quiero… comprar un anillo —se decide al fin por esas palabras.
—Entonces, ¿harás la gran pregunta? —Ploy sonríe. —¡Qué emocionante!
Arthit se sonroja y asiente con ligereza, no necesariamente avergonzado, más bien agradablemente tímido por pensar en la brillante sonrisa de Kongpob cuando probablemente diga que sí.
¿Diría que sí? Arthit desde luego que lo espera, pero hay una razón por la que la pregunta debe hacerse en primer lugar.
—¿Tienes en mente un presupuesto o algún estilo en particular? Tenemos una excelente selección de cortes princesa de este lado.
Ella señala una fila de delicados anillos plateados, todos con variadas formas y tamaños de diamantes en la montura. Algunas de las brillantes piedras son tan grandes como almendras, tan costosas como su auto, apartamento y ahorros de toda su vida en conjunto. Son impresionantes, pero no lo que Arthit está buscando.
—Uhm… son bonitos, pero estaba buscando algo quizá menos… un poco menos… ¿ostentoso?
Él mira vagamente el otro extremo de la vitrina, le había llamado la atención la esquina con piezas que sin duda alguna se veían más masculinas.
—Oh, bueno, tenemos opciones más económicas si eso te preocupa.
Ploy echa un vistazo a la vitrina, buscando algo que pueda recomendar justo como lo ha hecho tantas veces, hasta que atrapa la mirada de Arthit enfocada en una sección en particular. Entonces lo entiende y se aleja del otro extremo de la vitrina. Abre la puertilla y con lentitud saca la base aterciopelada que está observando, colocándola sobre el cristal.
Arthit la ve, sorprendido. Lo habían atrapado mirando.
—¿Sabes la talla de él? —Dice en voz baja y con sonrisa amable.
El tinte rosado en las mejillas de Arthit lo delata y se golpea mentalmente. Cielos, ¿por qué no pudo sólo decirle lo que quería desde un principio?
—Talla 8 —murmura, con sus ojos escaneando la bandeja con anillos.
Sabe esto sólo porque, en la noche de la boda de M y May, cuando Kongpob bebió mucho y se desmayó en la cama, él había atado en secreto una cuerda alrededor del dedo anular de su novio y la había medido después. Arthit sabe que eso parecía algo por completo descabellado cuando bien pudo haber tomado uno de los anillos de Kongpob para medir la talla, pero sabía que a su novio solía gustarle usarlos en diferentes dedos, así que Arthit quería estar extremadamente seguro de que el anillo que comprara le quedaría exactamente a ese dedo.
Hay unos cuantos anillos en la bandeja que consisten en una gruesa banda plateada con un gran diamante que se sostiene en la punta de una terminación elevada, pero parecen más como algo que usaría un corpulento jefe de la mafia para complementar su diente de oro en lugar de una promesa de amor eterno para su dulce y gentil novio que no dañaría ni a una mosca.
Se toma su tiempo reflexionando sobre cada anillo, tomando uno de vez en cuando y sosteniéndolo a contraluz en un intento de imaginar cómo se vería en los morenos y delgados dedos de Kongpob.
—¿Cuánto tiempo han estado juntos?
Ploy acomoda cada anillo en la bandeja para que estén perfectamente alineados el uno del otro. Sabe que es probablemente un poco entrometido de su parte, pero escuchar las conmovedoras historias de los clientes sobre sus regalos es la parte más satisfactoria de su trabajo.
—Alrededor de ocho años —responde Arthit, sonriendo con cariño. —Nos conocimos en la universidad.
—¡Vaya! Ocho años es bastante. Debe ser un gran chico como para que alguien tan adorable como tú quiera casarse con él.
Arthit se sonroja por su comentario, pero suelta una risita, negando con la cabeza.
—En realidad, es increíblemente molesto. Es un coqueto intolerable y nunca me deja en paz, insiste en mensajearme con cursilerías cuando se supone que estoy trabajando. Ah, y es tan quisquilloso, en especial con la comida. Nunca había conocido a alguien que ordena el especiero de la cocina por orden alfabético. Y en serio, a veces me trata como un niño. Ey, puedo atar mi propia corbata, ¿lo sabías? Y…
Levanta la cabeza cuando oye a Ploy riendo ligeramente y aprieta los labios para detenerse. Ese fue él de nuevo con el vómito verbal.
—Lo siento, sólo estaba divagando. Supongo que es aceptable.
—Es sólo que suena a que ustedes dos se aman mucho.
Arthit sólo le dedica una pequeña sonrisa en respuesta y regresa su atención a los anillos. Ploy toma uno y observa los detalles antes de dárselo a Arthit.
—Tengo el presentimiento de que te gustará este.
No es para nada ostentoso. Es una banda de oro blanco, lisa y delgada, con una pequeña línea de cinco pequeños diamantes de corte redondo incrustados en un espacio con forma de onda a un costado. Las delicadas gemas reflejan la luz sólo lo suficiente como para dar un aire de elegancia, pero no son tan deslumbrantes como para que la joya llame mucho la atención.
La amplia sonrisa de Arthit es todo lo que Ploy necesita como confirmación.
—Lo empaquetaré para ti.
Aprieta los dientes y su billetera se estremece cuando ella le habla apresurada del costo total (¡52 mil bahts!), de las pólizas de la garantía y las del reembolso, y con una mano enguantada coloca cuidadosamente el anillo en la caja y luego en una pequeña bolsa roja.
No es que Arthit tenga apuro por el dinero, pues en general es bastante moderado con sus gastos y tiene bastante en sus ahorros, pero esto definitivamente es más de lo que había previsto.
—Oh, ¡espero que todo vaya bien! —Dice Ploy cuando está a punto de irse, hablando entusiasmada con sus manos sobre el pecho.
—Gracias, también lo espero —juguetea con las asas de la bolsa mientras sale de la tienda.
Más vale que ese idiota diga que sí porque Arthit no se va a complicar pidiendo el rembolso.
Allí lo tienen. Nuestro lindo y tímido Arthit le va a pedir a Kong que se case con él. :3
Basé su aniversario en la noche de la boda de Tum y Fon en la serie original, la cual es el 17 de diciembre de acuerdo con la fecha en el teléfono de Kongpob cuando Ple le envía un mensaje para decirle que lo recogerá más tarde.
También, 52 mil bahts son alrededor de 1670 dólares americanos (N/T: alrededor de 35 mil pesos mexicanos). En realidad no es mucho por un anillo de diamantes, pero sigue siendo lo mismo que dos meses de renta en un apartamento pequeño en Bangkok (según Google).
El día de su aniversario comenzó exactamente igual que cualquier otro día de fin de semana.
Kongpob había sido el primero en levantarse ese día a pesar de las protestas de Arthit (algunas cosas nunca cambian) y tuvieron un simple desayuno tardío en la cama entre silenciosas conversaciones sobre todo y nada, simplemente disfrutando de la compañía del otro.
Luego de que los besos lentos y perezosos se convirtieran en una dulce sesión de hacer el amor entre migajas de pan y una mancha de café que a Arthit le ganaría un regaño, ambos se decidieron al fin por salir de la cama a las 3 de la tarde.
Mientras Kongpob limpiaba, Arthit salió para “hacer un mandado”, regresando después con un pequeño ramo con cinco rosas y cuatro claveles rojos envueltos en un papel café. Quería comprar nueve rosas porque había leído del significado del número en algún lado de internet, y esperaba que su cursi novio tuviera al menos una pista de lo que estaba por venir. Esto tendría que ser suficiente.
—Uh… casi no tenían rosas cuando llegué. Supongo que debí haber ido más temprano —dice Arthit, tímido.
—Me encantan, P’Arthit —Kongpob le muestra una brillante sonrisa. —Gracias.
Arthit muerde su labio inferior con timidez antes de inclinarse y presionar un beso furtivo en la mejilla de su pareja.
—Feliz noveno aniversario, Kong.
—No sabía que podías ser así de romántico, P’Arthit —dice su novio con ojos brillantes, acercándolo por la cintura.
—Sí, bueno, estoy con un niño que tiene que ser consentido de vez en cuando.
Kongpob sólo esboza una sonrisa y da docenas de besos por todo el rostro de Arthit hasta que este se aleja en protesta, fingiendo estar asqueado de manera poco convincente.
Arthit sólo sonríe y Kongpob junta sus frentes antes de ladear la cabeza en busca de otro suave beso que amenaza con volverse algo más. Es tierno y algo empalagoso, pero Arthit lo detiene antes de que sienta la urgencia de arrastrar a su pareja de regreso a la recámara.
—Oye, oye. Es suficiente. Vamos, alístate o llegaremos tarde.
—Está bien, sólo déjame poner estas en agua y después iré a ducharme.
Cuando oye el agua correr, Arthit saca la caja del anillo del fondo de su maletín, que es donde lo ha estado escondiendo en casa con la certeza de que Kong no buscaría sus papeles de trabajo así como si nada.
Le echa un rápido vistazo, como si de alguna forma el anillo fuera a lucir diferente desde la última vez que lo vio. Sigue allí, por supuesto, pero Arthit siente que su corazón se acelera y también un apretado nudo en su estómago.
Hoy es el día, se dice a sí mismo y no puede dejar de sonreír mientras guarda la caja en el bolsillo interior de su chamarra.
—Entonces, ¿me dirás a dónde vamos? —Reflexiona Kongpob mientras Arthit conduce fuera del estacionamiento del edificio de apartamentos, ajustando el espejo retrovisor.
—No sería una sorpresa si te dijera, ¿cierto?
Kongpob sólo ríe y ajusta su cinturón de seguridad.
—En serio que no estoy acostumbrado a que me consientas de este modo.
Arthit no dice nada mientras salen a la avenida, sintiendo una ligera punzada de culpa.
Era cierto que Kongpob siempre fue quien era el más expresivo de los dos, asumiendo la responsabilidad de hacer todas las cosas románticas que la gente hacía en las relaciones. Cada peldaño de su relación estaba adornado con hermosos regalos y elaborados planes de citas, de conmovedoras palabras de amor escritas en una sofisticada caligrafía y de palabras dulces en forma de susurros que hacían que Arthit se sonrojara y sonriera tanto que pensaba que explotaría.
Arthit, por otro lado, durante sus primeros años había usado todas sus ideas creativas para enamorar a Kongpob y ya había tantas comidas caseras “sorpresa” que entregaba a la oficina del menor y tantas canciones de amor que tocaba en su guitarra antes de que comenzara simplemente a llamarlo una tradición sólo para sentirse mejor al respecto.
—Lo siento, Kong —dice, sin sacar los ojos del camino ni una sola vez.
—No, no, eso no es lo que quise decir, P’ —Kong coloca su mano en el regazo de Arthit. —Sé que me amas. Es sólo que… esta no es realmente tu forma de expresar cariño. Sólo estoy gratamente sorprendido.
Arthit no sabe cómo responder a eso, así que sonríe brevemente antes de gruñir. El auto reduce la velocidad hasta detenerse.
—Mierda, sabía que debimos haber salido antes.
Oh, Bangkok y su tráfico de nunca acabar. Esto, además del hecho de que se acercaban a las fiestas de temporada, significaba que el tráfico usual en las avenidas principales se había incrementado al doble. El ritmo al que se movían era dolorosamente lento y Arthit podía sentir su ansiedad crecer con cada segundo que pasaba. Empieza a revisar su reloj cada medio minuto, tamborileando con nerviosismo los dedos sobre el volante. Ya son las 5:54, faltan seis minutos para su reservación y Arthit está rezando por un milagro, para que el tráfico se parta en dos al estilo del Todopoderoso.
Kongpob, percibiendo el estado de ansiedad y frustración de su novio, toma con cuidado su mano entre la suya, frotando relajantes círculos en la palma tensa de Arthit.
—P’, tal vez puedas llamar al restaurante para hacerles saber que llegaremos tarde —intenta decir con calma y una voz firme y reconfortante.
Arthit exhala un suspiro y asiente, sacando su teléfono.
—Restaurante InLove de Krung Kasem, buenas noches. ¿En qué puedo ayudarle?
—Sí, hola. Hice una reservación para dos a las 6 bajo el nombre de Rojnapat. Estamos atrapados en el tráfico… ¿podría mover nuestra reservación para las 6:30?
—Lo siento, señor, pero estamos llenos esta noche. Si no llegan para las 6:05, me temo que deberemos darle su mesa a otro cliente.
Arthit siente que el alma se le sale del cuerpo. ¿De verdad está sucediendo? ¿Hoy, de entre todos los días? Presiona el espacio entre sus cejas y aprieta los párpados.
—¿Y nadie más ha cancelado?
—Me temo que no, señor. ¿Le gustaría hacer una reservación para otro día?
—No, no —se pasa la mano libre por la cara, incrédulo. —Entiendo. Gracias.
—Lo lamentamos, señor. Esperamos que tenga una buena noche.
Cuelga la llamada, dejando caer el teléfono en su regazo y apoyándose sobre el volante.
—¡Mierda! —Maldice para sí mismo antes de volver a tomar su teléfono para abrir con prisa la aplicación del mapa. Se gira hacia Kongpob, quien estruja su hombro en apoyo. —Haré algunas llamadas para ver si otros restaurantes de por aquí tienen mesas disponibles.
Kongpob asiente y saca su propio teléfono.
—También lo haré —le dedica una sonrisa reconfortante. —No te preocupes, P’Arthit.
El tráfico parece haber llegado a su punto máximo mientras ambos hacen llamada tras llamada.
—Lo lamentamos, estamos llenos esta noche.
—No hasta la siguiente semana, me temo.
—Pero tenemos una reservación para mañana.
—Lo siento, las reservaciones deben hacerse con dos semanas de anticipación.
Luego de lo que parece la quincuagésima llamada, Arthit finalmente arroja su teléfono en frustración a los asientos traseros, se pone las manos sobre el rostro y… llora. Un fuerte dolor de cabeza empieza a instalarse en su cráneo, el cual ahora se siente diez veces más pesado. Está llorando a todo lo que da, con sus hombros sacudiéndose y su nariz congestionada, haciéndole difícil respirar. De repente, el auto se siente increíblemente pequeño.
—P’ —Kongpob se estira para desabrochar el cinturón de seguridad de Arthit y sostiene su cabeza contra su pecho. —Ven aquí. Está bien, P’Arthit.
Arthit ve hacia arriba y niega con la cabeza.
—¡No! ¡No está bien! —se ahoga entre sollozos. —¡Lo tenía todo planeado, Kong! Te compraría las flores correctas e iba a… ¡iba a llevarte a este lugar genial que encontré! Tendríamos la más hermosa vista del puente Rama VIII y luego iba a… —se detiene y niega con la cabeza antes de decir demasiado. —Planeé todo esto, Kong, pero está arruinado, ¡y todo es culpa mía!
—Shhhh —Kongpob ahora sostiene el rostro de Arthit, limpiando suavemente sus lágrimas. —Mírame. De verdad está bien. En serio aprecio lo que has hecho. Por favor no te sientas mal. Te amo, ¿de acuerdo?
Arthit mira a los ojos de Kongpob, cálidos y amorosos, y se pregunta qué hizo para merecerse a alguien como él.
Arthit, aún lloriqueando, se limpia los ojos con la manga y exhala audiblemente.
—Cielos, esto es tan vergonzoso.
Kongpob mira fuera de la ventana antes de volverse hacia Arthit.
—Ya vuelvo. Sólo espera aquí, ¿de acuerdo?
Arthit lo mira inquisitivo mientras Kongpob baja del asiento del copiloto y sale a la calle. Desaparece dentro del centro comercial Silom Complex que está a algunos 20 metros de donde está detenido el auto, su espalda se pierde entre la multitud de compradores mientras Arthit lo observa.
No se han movido ni una pulgada en los últimos 20 minutos y, al mirar a la aplicación del mapa en su teléfono, hay líneas color rojo obscuro que se extienden como millones de pequeñas venas hacia el corazón que es el centro de Bangkok. Decidiendo que es poco probable que se muevan pronto, apaga el motor y abre a la puerta y luego sale al aire libre, ignorando las miradas de los vehículos vecinos. El aire fresco (bueno, tan fresco como puede ser por la urbanizada Bangkok) le ayuda a despejar su nariz y suspira mientras observa los alrededores.
Todo el camino está minuciosamente decorado con titilantes luces y brillantes arreglos en rojo y blanco, y a donde quiera que ves hay tubos de neón que dicen ¡Felices fiestas! y ¡Próspero Año Nuevo! Realmente es bastante bello en contraste con el atardecer de fondo, aunque Arthit no puede evitar pensar que para nada es lo mismo que estar bajo el más tenue resplandor de luces debajo del puente. De su puente.
Se recarga contra el capó del auto y, exhalando su decepción, coloca una mano sobre el bolsillo donde está aún la caja del anillo. Quizá esta noche no era el momento adecuado.
Arthit levanta la mirada y ríe cuando nota lo que Kongpob está cargando.
—¿En serio? ¿KFC?
—¿Qué puedo decir? Me consentiste con flores, te estoy devolviendo el favor con pollo frito —alza la característica bolsa plástico de color rojo con blanco.
Kongpob se une a Arthit al recargarse contra el auto, colocando sobre el capó la bolsa con la cubeta. Alcanza el interior y saca una humeante y sazonada pierna de pollo para sostenerla bajo la nariz de Arthit, enviando el picante y sabroso aroma a sus fosas nasales.
Arthit le da una mordida a la pierna de pollo, lamiendo sus labios mientras mastica.
—Realmente quería que esta noche fuera perfecta —dice en voz baja, tragando el último trozo del bocado.
—Es perfecta —Kongpob sonríe, mostrándole sus brillantes dientes blancos y arrojando el hueso limpio a la bolsa. —Estoy disfrutando de una deliciosa comida, rodeado de luces deslumbrantes, bien vestido y con mi persona favorita en el mundo. Estoy bien.
—Eres tan empalagoso —resopla Arthit, buscando una servilleta.
—En realidad, en este momento soy más bien picante —Kong mueve las cejas, acercándose hacia Arthit.
Tal vez son las luces y tal vez sea que está abrumado por lo mucho que ama a este hombre molesto y guapo, pero Arthit siente una oleada de valentía recorrer su cuerpo.
Limpiando sus propias manos con una toalla húmeda, toma la mano izquierda de Kongpob y lentamente se lleva uno de sus dedos a la boca, todo mientras observa la expresión de su novio transformarse de una traviesa a una nublada con puro deseo. El usualmente tranquilo hombre pasa saliva, observando con fascinación mientras cada dedo desaparece entre los labios suaves y rosados. De forma lenta y deliberada, Arthit lame el sazón salado y picante de cada dedo; la boca de Kong está algo entreabierta, respirando superficialmente por la tentadora sensación.
—P’Arthit, si sigues haciendo eso, lo próximo que haré será buscar el hotel más cercano.
Arthit ríe y le devuelve su mano a Kongpob.
—Sí que está para chuparse los dedos.
En otro giro más de las cosas, Kongpob se sonroja, apenas capaz de contener su sonrisa. Se inclinan hacia el otro, compartiendo un beso lento que sabe a pollo frito y al familiar consuelo del otro.
—Te amo tanto, Kong —susurra Arthit, con sus narices aún acariciándose.
—Yo también te amo. Cada vez más y más con el tiempo —Kongpob lo mira por entre sus largas pestañas. —Y lo digo en serio. Esta noche de verdad fue perfecta porque pude pasarla contigo.
Casi perfecta, piensa Arthit, sintiendo el ligero peso en su chamarra.
El momento es interrumpido por el sonido de los cláxones de los autos detrás de ellos, lo que les indica que el tráfico vuelve a fluir.
—¡Muévanse, tortolitos! —Un grito irritado viene de alguien a varios autos de distancia.
Riendo, ambos trepan de regreso al auto y Kongpob coloca la bolsa con los restos del pollo en los asientos traseros. Lentamente, hacen su camino a casa, cantando en alto al compás de cada canción de amor en la radio.
Al menos, seguirá siendo un aniversario para recordar.
Pobre bebé Arthit. Habrá otras oportunidades.
Soy una maníaca con los detalles, así que realmente busqué restaurantes cerca del puente Rama VIII así como cada KFC en un radio de 20 minutos en auto. Google Maps es un salvavidas.
Bueno, espero que hayan disfrutado el primer intento fallido de Arthit por pedirle matrimonio a Kong.
—¿Recuérdame otra vez por qué gastamos una absurda cantidad de dinero en esta botella de vino que ni siquiera vamos a disfrutar?
Arthit inspecciona la etiqueta de la estúpidamente costosa botella de Merlot por la cual condujeron dos horas hacia una licorería en específico. Están de pie frente al espejo de la sala, con Kongpob ajustando el cuello de la camisa de Arthit.
—Ya te dije, no podemos llegar a la fiesta con las manos vacías.
—Hemos ido a la casa de tus padres docenas de veces, Kong. ¿Por qué es diferente esta vez?
Kongpob suspira, descansando los brazos sobre los hombros de Arthit y entrelazando sus manos detrás de su cuello. Ambos hombres están vestidos con impecables camisas blancas y bastante parecidos trajes en azul marino; el de Kongpob tiene unas apenas visibles rayas plateadas y el de Arthit un patrón de cuadros a finas rayas blancas en el saco. Se ven como la viva imagen de la realiza joven a punto de anunciar el nombre de su recién nacido.
Para ser francos, Arthit se siente un poco fuera de lugar con este traje hecho a la medida y zapatos elegantes de marcas que apenas puede pronunciar, pero algunas cosas eran inevitables al ser asociado con el heredero de una gran corporación.
—Habrá mucha gente realmente importante allá esta noche. Mis padres no son en sí unos esnobs, pero alguna gente con quien mi padre hace negocios se burlará si el salmón es sólo “mitad noruego” o lo que sea que eso signifique. Nos guste o no, estamos bajo un escrutinio constante.
—Oww, ¿entonces no nos escaparemos para besarnos en tu antigua habitación? —Arthit pretende hacer un puchero.
—No prometo nada. Aunque bien podría traerte conmigo y tenerte como mi postre.
—Eso no es muy noruego de su parte, Khun Kongpob.
Kongpob se acerca, sonriendo mientras lame su labio inferior.
—Si lo recuerdo bien, hemos tenido una justa cantidad de aventuras para nada noruegas. ¿Recuerdas esa vez antes de los exámenes trimestrales cuando aún teníamos nuestros dormitorios uno frente al otro y…?
Arthit le da un empujón y coloca una mano sobre la boca del menor.
—Creo ya fue suficiente de recordar —gira los ojos. —Vayámonos antes de decepcionar a los peces gordos con nuestra tardanza.
Kongpob toma de la mesa las llaves del auto y se coloca sus mejores zapatos de cuero.
—¿Listo? —ofrece su mano luego de terminar de atar las cintas.
Arthit hace una pausa, mirando el maletín bajo la mesa del comedor.
—Eh… adelántate y enciende el auto. Te veré abajo en unos momentos. Sólo debo asegurarme de que envié un correo electrónico.
—¿Seguro? Puedo esperar.
—No, no, está bien. Ahorrará tiempo. ¡Ve! —Arthit sonríe un poco más grande de lo necesario y prácticamente lo saca a empujones.
Kongpob alza una ceja, claramente un poco escéptico, pero de todos modos camina hacia la puerta.
—De acuerdo… entonces te veo en un rato.
Una vez que la puerta se cierra, Arthit prácticamente corre hacia el maletín, rebuscando en el fondo. Por supuesto, tanto el anillo como la caja siguen allí.
Esta noche sería la noche. Se estaban yendo a tiempo y esta vez no tenían que conducir tan lejos, así que el tráfico no era un problema. Estarían toda la noche en la casa Sutthiluck y en definitiva habría comida.
Esta noche, nada podría interponerse en el camino de Arthit.
Toma un gran aliento y guarda la caja en el bolsillo interior de su saco, dándole palmaditas como reafirmación antes cerrar la puerta detrás de él.
—¿Se envió el correo electrónico? —Dice Kongpob mientras ajusta el espejo retrovisor.
—Dijiste que tenías que enviar un correo electrónico.
—¡Oh! Cierto, sí. Se envió. Todo bien.
El auto arranca con un murmullo y están en la calle, con el tráfico bastante fluido.
—De verdad deberías tomarte un descanso de vez en cuando. Es la víspera de Año Nuevo, P’. Si sigues trabajando horas extras, tendré que pedirle a mi padre que te saque de Ocean Electric para que mejor trabajes para él.
—Claro, como tú nunca trabajas hasta tarde.
—Me declaro culpable, pero últimamente siento que mi Por espera mucho de mí. Él sigue diciéndome “Hijo, algún día tendrás que manejar esto por tu cuenta” —imita Kong la voz de negocios firme y seria de su padre. —Quiero decir, siempre lo he sabido, pero sólo se siente como si en estos últimos meses realmente me estuviera cargando con trabajo.
—Estoy seguro de que sólo está orgulloso de ti, Kong.
—Sí, lo sé, pero de cierto modo tengo el presentimiento de que todo cambiará de la noche a la mañana
Arthit no dice nada y mira hacia afuera por la ventana, apoyando su codo sobre la puerta del auto.
—Es probable que Mae ya esté agobiándose por las formas de las servilletas —Kong ríe mientras el auto reduce la velocidad hasta detenerse.
La casa Sutthiluck (no, mansión), es una de las lujosas propiedades en Sukhumvit, con todo y un portón de hierro forjado y un jardín delantero bien cuidado que florece con arbustos florales y árboles de buganvilias.
Bajando la ventanilla del auto, Kongpob presiona el botón del intercomunicador.
—Bienvenidos de vuelta, Khun Kongpob, Khun Arthit —la voz se oye por el altavoz.
—Te lo he dicho un millón de veces, Shin, deja el “Khun”. Literalmente me viste correr por la casa en pañales —Kongpob niega con la cabeza.
—Sí, por supuesto. Sus padres están en la cocina con los del servicio de catering. Les haré saber que están aquí.
—No, está bien, nosotros iremos a saludarlos.
Las puertas se abren lentamente y Kongpob conduce el auto por la larga entrada, estacionándose en un lugar vacío junto al auto de su padre.
El vestíbulo está adornado con luces titilantes y guirnaldas plateadas. Las palabras ¡Feliz 2026! cuelgan en la puerta delantera con letras grandes y brillantes.
Coloridos banderines cuelgan del techo del enorme salón y los sofás se movieron hasta las orillas del piso a desnivel para hacer más lugar para que los invitados anden por allí. Los decoradores y los del servicio de catering se mueven ajetreados por cada esquina de la casa, armando torres y platos de comida de lo que la madre de Kongpob había llamado “órdenes” (Arthit no podía recordar la verdadera palabra ni lo que significaba realmente).
—Wow, de verdad lo dieron todo esta ocasión —murmura, contemplando la extravagancia de sus alrededores.
—¿Mae? ¿Por? —Llama Kongpob mientras entran a la cocina. Es como una noche de viernes en la calle Khaosan, con cuerpos pasando por aquí y por allá y con deliciosos aromas que vienen de todas direcciones, ajetreado de la mejor forma.
Una cabeza de cabello oscuro recogido con un prendedor bordado se da la vuelta para mirarlos, moviéndose entre los veintitantos empleados de catering.
—¡Llegan temprano! —La madre de Kongpob, de quien él heredó claramente su deslumbrante sonrisa, llama mientras hace su camino hacia la puerta de la cocina.
—Hola, mamá —los tres intercambian wais y abrazos, juntando sus mejillas a manera de saludo.
—El lugar luce genial, Mae.
—Oh, ¡ustedes se ven tan guapos! —Ella los gira sobre sus pies para verlos mejor. —¡Ohhh! Trajeron el Merlot. Kong, ve a darle esa botella a Shin y luego ve a saludar a tu padre. Está en su estudio.
No menos de tres segundos después de que Kongpob desapareciera por el pasillo, la ansiosa mujer acerca a Arthit tirando de su brazo, bajando el volumen de su voz hasta que es un susurro.
—¿Ya se lo pediste? —Sus ojos indagan ansiosos por una respuesta.
Arthit suspira, negando con la cabeza. Tenía la sensación de que ella sacaría el tema.
—Oww, ¿por qué no? Creí que se lo pedirías hace unas semanas. ¡Me preocupó que haya dicho que no cuando no lo oí de él! —Sus hombros se hundieron en decepción.
—Lo siento, Mae. Las cosas no fueron realmente acorde al plan —presiona sus labios en una tensa sonrisa. —Algo surgió y la oportunidad se fue delante de nuestras narices.
Ella da unos toquecitos a su rostro antes de suspirar.
—Bueno, esperaba presentarles a mi futuro yerno a todos esta noche, pero supongo que eso tendrá que esperar.
Tal vez no deba esperar mucho, Mae, Arthit sonríe para sí mismo.
Arthit había visitado a los padres de Kongpob la misma tarde que compró el anillo, diciéndole a su novio que su reunión se había atrasado y que cenaría antes de regresar a casa. Sus manos sudaban y temblaban cuando presionó el intercomunicador. Ellos estaban definitivamente sorprendidos por su inesperada visita, pero lo recibieron de todos modos.
—Mae, Por. Han sido tan amables conmigo todo este tiempo y vine aquí hoy porque…
—Porque… ¿qué? Oh, Arthit, no planeas romper con él, ¿cierto? Lo haces tan feliz. Por favor, sea lo que sea, pueden…
—¡No, No! No es nada de eso. En realidad, es lo contrario.
—¿A qué te refieres? —Kerkkrai junta sus manos y su mirada es expectante.
—Quiero… Quiero pedirles permiso para… para pedirle a Kong que se case conmigo. Si les parece bien, quiero decir —añade. —Por supuesto que respeto cualquier decisión que tomen y…
Si los apretados abrazos y lágrimas que le siguieron fueron alguna pista, los padres de Kongpob lo aprobaron enormemente, hablando emocionados de los planes para la boda, con su madre ya parloteando sobre arreglos flores y los colores de las servilletas, pidiéndole ver el anillo y hablando entusiasmada sobre lo lindo que era.
—Bueno, ya era hora. ¡Creí que tendría que esperar hasta ser demasiado viejo como para comer comida sólida! —Fue todo lo que había dicho su padre, con una gran sonrisa en el rostro mientras le daba palmaditas a Arthit en la espalda.
Arthit estaba aliviado, por decir lo menos. La primera vez que había sido presentado ante ellos como el novio de Kongpob, Khun Kerkkrai se lo había quedado mirando confundido, intentando hacer la conexión entre el joven de Ocean Electric que tanto admiraba y el hombre que su hijo ahora le llamaba su pareja.
Luego de un largo minuto de un silencio ensordecedor, él se había escabullido hacia su oficina, dejando a Kongpob casi al borde de las lágrimas y a Arthit congelado en su lugar. Siempre había la probabilidad de que sus respectivos padres no los aceptarían.
Mientras que el padre de Arthit simplemente bromeó con un “Bueno, ¡al menos no se quedarán embarazados por accidente!” y su madre le había preguntado a Kongpob lo que vio siquiera en el raro de su hijo, pedir la aprobación de uno de los más públicamente reconocidos empresarios de Tailandia era como maniobrar con manos temblorosas para desactivar una bomba de tiempo.
Un rato después, Kerkkrai había vuelto furioso al salón comedor, gesticulando alterado en dirección a su hijo.
—¿Cinco años? ¡¿Esperaste cinco años para decirnos que tienes una relación?! ¡Así no es como te criamos! ¿O te avergüenza tanto Khun Arthit que no podías decirles a tus propios padres? Te enseñé a ser siempre abierto y honesto con nosotros, ¿y escondes algo así? ¡Increíble!
El distinguido hombre de negocios se había quedado allí de pie, con las manos en la cintura y resoplando su ira antes de mirar a Arthit, señalándole que se pusiera de pie. Arthit había obedecido, temblando ligeramente antes de ser atraído en un apretado abrazo.
—Bienvenido a la familia, Arthit. Cuida a mi hijo, no es exactamente el chico más listo de mundo —había dicho antes de que su esposa e hijo estallaran en risas de alivio.
Arthit ahora ve a Kongpob regresando por el pasillo con su padre, quien está vestido con un impecable traje nuevo de un obscuro color escarlata y un corbatín de seda negro.
—Te ves encantadora, cielo —él besa a su esposa en la mejilla, admirando su vestido que combina en color rojo.
—Qué asco, Por. Vaya a besuquearse con Mae en algún otro lugar —se queja Kongpob, trayendo a Arthit a su lado por la cintura.
—Como si ustedes dos jóvenes fueran mejores. Además, descubrirán pronto lo que el matrimo… —es interrumpido abruptamente por la madre de Kong, quien lo empuja hacia la cocina antes de que pueda terminar la frase.
Kongpob envuelve su otro brazo alrededor de la cintura de Arthit y sólo se miran el uno al otro por algunos segundos.
—¿Listo para recibir el año nuevo?
—En realidad no estoy seguro. Aún tengo que tachar algunas cosas de mi lista de propósitos de este año.
—Eh, de todos modos nunca ibas a aprender japonés.
—Ese búho de Duolingo es un imbécil aterrador.
Se entretienen intentando identificar qué son todos los misteriosos bocados de comida, ofreciendo wais y saludando a todos y cada uno de los invitados y familiares que se topan en su camino. La madre de Kongpob anuncia la apertura del magnífico banquete y ellos agradecen la oportunidad para llenarse la boca con buena comida, la excusa perfecta para no tener que hablar con nadie.
De forma lenta pero segura, los invitados regresan al salón, en donde una suave música jazz se oye por los altavoces. Intercambian jadeos reticentes antes de unirse a la multitud. Cada interacción pequeña e incómoda con alguno de los ejecutivos de mercadotecnia o alguien más significa más champaña rosa en la copa de Kongpob hasta que Arthit por fin se excusa diciendo que tiene que ir al sanitario. En su lugar, sale al patio cerca de la piscina, respirando el aire fresco y la notable tranquilidad.
En más o menos la última hora de relacionarse con alrededor de 50 personas diferentes, algunos que reconoció del trabajo y otros como amigos o empleados del padre de Kongpob o bien sus familiares, tuvo que salir del armario discretamente ante la mitad de ellos. Hacerlo con conocidos era una cosa, pero Arthit nunca fue alguien a quien le gustaran las multitudes, menos una en su mayoría llena de desconocidos.
Deja su copa de lado y se sienta en la orilla elevada de la piscina, enfocando su mirada en las leves olas de donde la brisa sopla sobre el agua ligeramente iluminada.
Kongpob, con su propia copa, se sienta junto a él, entrelazando sus manos.
—Lo siento, sé que estos eventos pueden ser algo abrumadores.
—Está bien. Supongo que son buenos para los negocios —toma lo último de la bebida de fresa en su copa. —Aunque si tengo que oír las palabras “increíble oportunidad” o “excelente inversión” de nuevo esta noche, me ahogaré a mí mismo en esta piscina.
Kongpob exhala una suave risa y observa a los invitados riendo y bailando bajo el candelabro del salón. Sus voces y la música lenta se oyen atenuados por las puertas del patio.
Se levanta sonriendo, ofreciéndole su mano. Arthit levanta la mirada hacia él con una ceja alzada.
—¿En serio? ¿Aquí afuera?
Son los únicos afuera y la única luz viene de la piscina y de las estrellas sobre sus cabezas.
Con duda, Arthit le da su mano a Kongpob, quien lo levanta rápidamente y tira de él hacia su pecho con su otra mano. No dicen nada, se deslizan lado a lado de forma suave, sin seguir realmente la música. Sólo respiran en presencia del otro, con sus párpados apenas entreabiertos, sus narices rozándose y sus labios juntándose con suavidad de vez en cuando.
Este es el momento, Arthit se dice a sí mismo.
—Kong —prácticamente susurra. —Quiero empezar bien este año.
Kongpob no dice nada, aún guiándolos en su suave vals.
—Tú… tú significas para mí más que lo que algún día podré decir con palabras. Y sé que sigues diciendo que no debería disculparme, pero de verdad lamento ser un desastre al hacerte saber que te amo.
Kongpob se aparta un poco, sólo para mirarlo. Arthit contiene el aliento. Nunca ha superado realmente lo atractivo que es su novio.
—P’Arthit, sé que me amas. Siempre me lo demuestras, aunque no te des cuenta. Cuando pasaste todas esas noches estudiando conmigo, cuando sabes que tengo que beber en estos eventos y tú te quedas sobrio para llevarnos a casa. Sé que me amas cuando me presionas y discutes conmigo para que no quedar como alguien de mente cerrada. Cuando estamos en la cama y tú…
—No nos dejemos llevar tanto.
—¿Qué? Sólo iba a decir que amo cuando me dejas abrazarte cuando estoy triste, incluso cuando por lo regular te quejas de tener calor.
—Ah ajá —gira los ojos, pero está sonriendo. —Sólo quería asegurarme.
—¿Asegurarte de qué?
—Quiero asegurarme de que…
Mete la mano el bolsillo de su saco, buscando la caja del anillo… antes de oír que la puerta del patio se abre una chillona voz llamando:
Levantan sus cabezas, mirando hacia la casa. Es una de las tías de Kongpob, haciéndoles señas; sus brazos se sacuden mientras lo hace.
No, no puede ser. No de nuevo.
Arthit siente que su sangre empieza a hervir y tensa la mandíbula. Cierra sus ojos, haciendo su mejor intento por respirar por la nariz.
—¡Regresa adentro! ¡Tu Por está a punto de dar su discurso y de empezar la cuenta regresiva!
Los ojos de Kongpob miran brevemente a Arthit, lleno de preguntas y de preocupación.
¿Por qué? ¿Por qué le estaba pasando esto a él?
—¿Todo bien, P’?
Arthit exhala, conteniendo el doloroso nudo en su garganta. No va a alterarse y llorar. No de nuevo.
—Estoy bien. Ve. Vayamos.
—¡Kooonnngggg! ¡Vamos! ¡Ya casi es hora!
—Sí, sólo… —hace un débil gesto hacia la casa. —Tu padre está esperando.
Mira hacia todas partes excepto a Kongpob y Kong asiente lentamente antes de tomar la mano de Arthit y llevarlos de regreso a la casa. Todos los invitados están reunidos en el salón, algunos sentados en el sofá, otros amontonados con sus parejas en los extremos. Arthit se acomoda junto a una mesa de pequeños postres y Kongpob da un beso rápido a sus manos unidas.
—Hablaremos más tarde, ¿de acuerdo?
Arthit sólo asiente antes de que Kongpob se apresure a ir con sus padres y hermanas al frente de la sala.
—Ah, aquí estás, Kong.
Kerkkrai le ofrece una copa de champaña antes de volverse hacia sus invitados.
—Mis amigos, me complace tanto celebrar el nuevo año con todos ustedes. Me da tanto gusto decir que, primero que nada, he sido bendecido al tener aún el amor de mi hermosa esposa, mis hijas y mi maravilloso hijo. Ellos siempre me recuerdan que la amabilidad y la honestidad son prioridad sobre todo lo demás —coloca su brazo sobre cada uno de ellos, con sus ojos arrugándose mientras sonríe. —Mis hijas son como su madre: obstinadas, testarudas y probablemente más inteligentes que yo —continúa.
—¡Por! —regaña una de sus hijas, girando los ojos.
Algunos invitados ríen.
—Sigo un poco resentido porque no quisieron quedarse a cargo de la empresa, pero ellas siempre han hecho lo que las hace feliz y no hay más que pueda pedir además de eso. Mis hermosos nietos son la cereza en el pastel.
“También soy afortunado al haber tenido tantas oportunidades de trabajar con mi hijo este año, el cuarto año consecutivo. Ha traído muchas ideas innovadoras a nuestra empresa, incluyendo la implementación de alternativas biodegradables, las cuales no solamente han reducido nuestra huella de carbono de forma significativa además los riesgos en la mano de obra, sino que también nos ha ayudado a cumplir con la demanda desde la prohibición de las bolsas de plástico en el 2019.
Los invitados aplauden con cortesía y Kongpob sonríe tímido. Arthit, pese a sí mismo, también sonríe, orgulloso de los logros y del trabajo duro de su pareja.
—Realmente ha probado ser que el tipo de hombre que siempre esperé que fuera, y estoy tan orgulloso de él. Así que, amigos, es aquí que anuncio que el próximo junio, me retiraré oficialmente de Siam Polymer y le cederé la responsabilidad de ser CEO a mi hijo, Kongpob.
Jadeos llenan el aire y un lento pero constante estallido de aplausos se oye por todo el salón, con muchos estirándose hacia Kerkkrai para estrechar su mano y felicitarlo.
Kongpob, por otro lado, se ve conmocionado. Arthit regresa a sus cinco sentidos, intentando digerir los eventos de los últimos veinte segundos antes de acercarse a la familia, participando en la repentina revelación.
—Por… ¿qué? —Kong mira a su madre y a sus hermanas, quienes están igual de perplejas. Su madre se encoge de hombros, incrédula por lo que acababa de suceder.
Kerkkrai, luego de atender varios invitados, se vuelve hacia su familia y Arthit, quienes se encuentran en varios estados de sorpresa y estupefacción.
—Por, ¿está seguro? —Kong sacude la cabeza, todavía intentando comprender la idea.
—¿Es mi nombre Kerkkrai Sutthiluck? Hijo, nunca he estado más seguro de nada.
—¿Y si no estoy listo? Ni siquiera he cumplido los 30.
—Por supuesto que estás listo. Has hecho más que probar que eres apto, todos en la empresa te aman, tienes el apoyo de tu familia y el de Arthit. ¿Qué más pruebas quieres?
Arthit, como si intentara reafirmar sus palabras, coloca un brazo alrededor de la cintura de Kongpob, estrujando ligeramente su cintura. Kongpob muerde su labio con cautela, sin palabras.
—Ya deja de preocuparte. SI te hace sentir mejor, seguiré yendo a supervisarte de vez en cuando. No te dejaré a tu suerte. Ahora vamos o nos perderemos la cuenta atrás.
Kerkkrai se vuelve hacia sus invitados.
—¡Todos, encuéntrenme fuera para dar la bienvenida al año 2026!
Los invitados se vuelcan fuera hacia el patio, todos mirando arriba al cielo nocturno. Shin, el mayordomo de la familia, ha instalado un gran reloj digital que ahora mismo marca poco más de las 11:58.
Kongpob y Arthit se quedan cerca de la puerta del patio, con sus brazos alrededor del otro mientras esperan.
—Oye —Arthit levanta el mentón de Kongpob para mirarlo.
—Estoy bien, sólo… es mucho, ¿sabes?
—Lo sé. Pero como dijo tu Por, saldremos adelante juntos. Él confía en ti por una razón.
Kongpob exhala por la nariz y asiente.
—P’Arthit, ¿de qué querías hablar hace rato?
Arthit, recordado de cómo volvieron a robarles el momento, niega brevemente con la cabeza.
—No es nada, de verdad —presiona un beso en la frente de Kong. —Sólo quería decir que te amo y que me alegra pasar otro año contigo.
—Yo también, P’.
El brillo regresa a sus ojos y Arthit siente que el dolor en su pecho se desvanece.
—Feliz Año Nuevo, Kong.
—Feliz Año Nuevo, P’Ai-Oon.
—No me habías llamado así en años.
—Sí, bueno, me siento bastante cálido en este momento.
Sonríen, riendo entre el beso mientras los gritos de ¡Feliz Año Nuevo! hacen eco a su alrededor junto con fuerte estruendo de los fuegos artificiales explotando de forma intermitente. Apartándose, observan el espectáculo de luces por algunos momentos antes de que Arthit tome la mano de Kongpob.
—¿Volvemos a casa, señor CEO?
—Volvemos a casa, mi amor.
Se escabullen por el salón y salen por la puerta principal, alejándose en el auto sin que nadie se dé cuenta.
La próxima ocasión, piensa Arthit. La tercera es la vencida.
Sentí que ese fue uno muy largo. Quizá tenga el síndrome del túnel carpiano por teclear tanto.
Espero que algunas de las referencias tengan sentido. Añadí mis propios comentarios en donde las referencias pudieron haber sido algo extrañas.
Arthit bien pudo haber seguido adelante y preguntar a pesar de su plan fallido. Yo sólo creo que, según mi entendimiento del personaje de Arthit, él es un perfeccionista a su manera y, una vez que se propone algo, lo hará tal y como tiene pensado o no lo hará en lo absoluto. En cada uno de estos casos, le tomó mucho coraje desarrollar el momento en primer lugar, y una vez que ese momento se fue, veo difícil para él el sólo decirlo como si fuera tan sencillo.