“How long are willing become such abomination? Just leave that place and get back here!”
“Mae! You know I can’t do that! This place is where I belong,” I said as I massaged my throbbing forehead.
“You still want to wait for that man?!”
“He has name, Mae! Off course I will wait for him! He is my husband!”
“How can you still called that criminal as your husband?! Just leave him! We will forgive you! Start your new life in here with us. He only brings bad luck for you! Don’t you think these are God’s punishment to you?! This is His sign for you to leave him and be normal again!”
I couldn’t believe my ears. After all this time they still being narrow-minded. I should know this when out of nowhere they suddenly called me when in these past few years they were never concerned about me. I thought they finally accepted my relationship with my husband, but turned out they were not. I knew I shouldn’t keep my hope too high.
“What? Are you felt wronged? What I said is true! So, be a good son and listen to your parents!”
“This conversation was not going anywhere. Whatever you or Por said, I will never change my decision! And if you called me only to lecturer me about leaving him, please don’t ever called me again.”
“I love you, Mae! Good bye!” I said before she could give another hateful word.
I huff a sigh. It was just nine in the morning but I already felt drained of energy. Before I could put my phone on the table it was suddenly ringing again. I closed my eyes as I pushed the green button.
“Kong! Are you alright?”
“I’m okay, Phi Warm,” I said to my older brother.
“Are you sure?” another voice entered my ears.
“Yes, I am, Phi Puen,” my answer to my second elder brother.
“Glad to know that you’re fine. We just worried for you when Mae asked for your number and said that she will give you a call,” said Phi Warm.
“Did she scold you?” asked Phi Puen.
“No… she was not. It just… she said a long hateful speech and asked me to leave this city, going back to Bangkok and started a new life without Phi Arthit.”
“I knew it! I don’t believe she will say something nice when she called you!” said Phi Puen with scornful voice.
“Just don’t take everything she said to your heart, Kong. They just still couldn’t accept the reality.”
“True! Don’t mind her, Kongy!”
“Yeah…. Sure, Phi! I just…. It had been seven years already. This is the first time she called me and all she concerns is for me be a straight person and back to them, leaving everything in here behind!”
“I know it was hard, Kong. Just know that I, Puen, and your sisters in law will always love and support you.”
“Yeah! We will always love you. Just keep believe that someday that old man and old woman of ours will opened their mind and make a peace with the fate.”
“Thank you, Phi. For always love and supported me,” I said and I didn’t realize there was a single drop of liquid rolled from the corner of my eye.
“Sure, Kong. That’s what brothers for.”
“You’re welcome, Kongy. Now wipe that tears off your face!”
“Phi!!! I’m not crying!”
“Yeah… yeah…. It’s not like I will believe you!”
“Alright! Alright! Stop your teasing on our crybaby brother, Puen!”
“Not you too, Phi Warm! I’m not a kid!”
“Yeah… yeah…. Whatever! For us you are still our little baby brother!”
I could hear their laughs on the other line and it brought a little ease on my heart.
“Okay… okay…. We better get back to work. Cheer up, Kong! Talk to you later!”
“Bye, Phi, and thank you for calling me!”
I was glad God give me with those twin brothers of mine who always supported me and never changed even after my parents disowned me. If only my parents could be the same as them. Alas! There was no time for mourning around! I still had a lot of things to do. I better started my day.
I was just had taken out the cookies from the oven and going to put another batch of bread s when suddenly the back door of my shop opened. A young girl around twenties entered the kitchen.
“Good morning, Phi Kong!”
“Good morning, Pang!”
“I will arrange them on the display, Phi. Just give me a minute!”
It had been more than half a year since I opened this bakery. She was the one who suggested me to open this shop. She and her mother were angels. I was glad to meet them. I took a short patisserie course before decide to started this small shop. Sure I knew a little about baking before, thanks to my late grandma who love baking and teach me about it when I was younger. And if it was not because those bunches of cookies and breads that I gave to Pang and her mother, this idea might be never cross her mind.
These nearly past three years could be considered as a hard time for me. As my mother had said, my husband was a criminal, for some people might be, but for me he was a hero. You might curious why he became a criminal. Let me told you, he was not became a criminal because he was a bad guy. No. He was a kind, brave, hard worker man. Good man with a good heart. Heaven just didn’t fair for him, for us.
He stayed there as an inmate after an unfortunate event that happened around three years ago just because he save a girl from some sexual assault when he was on the way home after working overtime. Little did we knew, not long after the trial began the assailant was died. My world crumbled. How could his act as self-defense end up a homicide? How could I continue my life from that moment if he wasn’t by my side?
At that time I was so angry to God. How could He do that to such a good man? Anger, sadness, frustrate that were all I could feel in my heart. If not because of Phi Tent, Phi Jorm, my twin brothers, my best friend Aim, Pang, and her mom supports, I might be not breathing today. Yes, Pang was the girl who my husband had saved that night. After the trial, she and her mother visited me often. At first because she felt guilty of what happened to my Phi Arthit, later because she felt thankful for his act. And now, she was just like a younger sister for me, and her mother was my second mother.
I was sad at the fact that Phi Arthit was behind the bar now, but at the same time I felt glad that he save Pang. Not many young girls or women saved from this kind of act nor there were people who willing to help them when that event happened. Egoism, cowardice, and ignorance beat the caring and bravery. If Phi Arthit didn’t save her that night, she might be no longer in this world. For that, I’m glad of his acts.
Many things happened and changed after they sent Phi Arthit to the correctional facility. Many were felt sad for what had happened to our little family, said that it was such a bad luck, asked me to keep strong. But there were not few who said that he deserved it. They bad-mouthing him as an abusive guy who didn’t has anger management, had a bad genes, cocky, loved to poke his nose to other business, doomed because of his sexuality, and many others. Rubbish! My husband was none of that.
One of our neighbors who others said were never liked Phi Arthit families, even tried to make me left this neighborhood. They threw rotten eggs or vegetables to our lawn for several times. They even spat on me too when I crossed them. If not they would said anything hateful when I was near them. Excuse me! I and Phi Arthit never did anything bad to you! If they want me to left this neighborhood, where should I stay? This is Phi Arthit late parents’ house, his home, ours. I couldn’t abandon it. I couldn’t back to Bangkok too and left everything behind. My heart and soul were here. Gratefully the other neighbors had fed up with their acts and decided to meet them. From that moments they never tried to do anything bad to me, well only gave me stinky eyes, and I didn’t care much about it now.
In the work place there weren’t different. At the time I visited Phi Arthit’s company to collect his stuff, there were some girls and boys who cursed and blame me for entering Phi Arthit’s life. If only he didn’t marry me and be with them instead, this kind of bad luck would never happen. Those people were had crush on him. Of course they were. Who wouldn’t be? My husband was not only handsome but also caring, polite, hardworking, and has a perfect body. It was not surprising if before he met me, he had many suitors.
At least there were still a good people like Phi Earth, Phi Tod, Phi Som-Oh, and Phi Danai from his division. Sometimes they visited me or Phi Arthit. I loved it when they came, beside from Phi Tent and Phi Jorm’s visitations, later Pang, and her mom. Being a newcomer to this city I didn’t had any friends. Sure I make friend with some of my coworkers, but mostly they were just an acquaintance for me. They said only truest and sincere friends that would still stayed with you even when you were on your lowest moments of life. And for that, I would always cherish them.
About my work place, that was complicated. For few first weeks of Phi Arthit’s incarceration sure I was became the talked around the company. Some would look at me with mocking or disgusted eyes. But as the time passing by they acted like nothing ever happened again. That was until my nightmare had come to the company. A nightmare that I wished I could erase from my life.
It was the beginning of the second years of Phi Arthit being away from me when he came to the company. He recently graduated for his post-grad degree from abroad. His name was Neo and he was the nephew of the CEO. As the higher-up didn’t want to give him a favor, the HRD placed him on the production team. From then on he became my coworker as this was my division.
Neo had an easy-going nature so in no time he got close to everyone. Even though he was the CEO’s nephew he wasn’t sniffy. Literally, everyone likes him. Let’s not forget that he was young, tall, smart, and quite good-looking too. But still, for me Phi Arthit was the perfect one.
This young man loved to follow me around, mostly because he was new here and Phi Yong, my manager, asked me to help him until he got familiar with this department. He was fast learner and it was nice to working with him. Sometimes, both of us work overtime together. Since then, he started getting close to me. He sometimes invited me to had dinner or hitting the bar together with our team, but all of time I refused it.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to mingle with them. But how could I if the love of my life trapped in that place? I didn’t have the heart to go on the spree. Luckily, they were understand and never tried to force me. Since I always refused to mingle with him after work, this young man started asked me to join him on lunch. For this one, I didn’t find any harm on it. Then he became my lunch buddy.
As the time passing, I found some changes in him. Some of my colleague said that they oven caught him staring at me with weird face. I brushed it off as maybe they just misunderstood with his gazes. But, later I found Neo had these touchy touchy habit. He liked to put his hand on my shoulders, sometimes forearm. At first I just took them as his friendly gestures as I was like that too with my friends back then. But it was getting weird to me as at that one time he put his hand on my waist and even touched my bum. I had scolded him at that time. I told him that I was not comfortable with how he acts. He said he was sorry and didn’t mean to make me feel that way.
I forgave him that time. But, his acts getting accelerate, he started to invade my personal space. I had talked with him, again, he apologized. Even Phi Yong had exhorted him to watch how he should acts in the work place. It was got into his mind. He acted better for the time being. Days turned to weeks then months. Sure Neo started acts properly, but there were some eerie feeling creeping into my conscience.
A week after my last visitation to Phi Arthit’s correctional center, my company decided to held an outing for all workers. We went to hiking in Doi Inthanon National Park. It was at the end of the year so that place was a little crowded with tourists. Although it was camping, but we didn’t stayed at the camping grounds. The company rent bungalows for us near the National Park. We shared the bungalows with 4-5 people and I stayed with Phi Yong, Phi Cherry, Nai, and Neo.
It felt so refreshing to enjoy the nature as I grown up in city with busy parents. They rarely took me and my brothers to do this kind of activity. If they took us, mostly it was to abroad and for business. Before that event, Phi Arthit already planned a short trip to this National Park for us. He even had made reservation. Sadly that plan never came true. I hope when he had released from that place, we could enjoyed the National park together.
Since this was 2D1N trip, the company listed many activities for us. After we put our bags in the room and took a short break, we trekked the Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail, visited the Twin Pagodas, and some waterfalls. At night we had a party. Little did I knew, that night would bring me a calamity.
As it was party, the company accommodated us with music, booze, soda, snacks. Everyone was having fun. I sat around the table with the others from my department. Yes, Neo was there with us. I sipped my soda when suddenly I felt a little dizzy. The night was still young. Maybe I too tired with today’s activities and just not feeling well. So, I told them that I would retreat to the room first.
I didn’t know how long I slept, but I had weird dream. Phi Arthit came to my dream. It might be because I missed him so much and in my dream he kissed me. But, I felt that those kisses were too real. My body felt heavy as if something had crushed on me. I tried to open my eyes and what I saw made me terrified. I saw Neo on top of me, running his hands around my upper body and kissed me. He was topless and my shirt had pried open.
I tried to push and avoided his dirty mouth but he didn’t budge. I screamed for help but he took it as a chance to kiss me deeper. I hit him on chest and he grabbed them, hold them tightly. I couldn’t move my hand so I started to kick him, and he only released me after I kick his balls. I took that moment to move my body and out from the room. But he had locked the room.
In this panicked state I didn’t remember where I put the key or my phone. I could hear the sound of music from the party still played out there. Neo was still groaning on the bed. I tried to call anyone to open the door for me. I called and called but my voice got weaker as my body started to burned up but still there were no one came. I moved my jelly legs to the bathroom, in hope that place could save me from that monster. He caught my hand before I could open the bathroom door and brought me to the bed again, pinning me under him.
This time he tried to pull off my short. He even covered my mouth so I couldn’t screams. I begged him to leave me. My felt so weak and I didn’t have any strength to fight him. All I could do was begging and crying. Maybe God still had some mercy for me. As Neo tried to enter me, my roommates opened the door. Seeing what happened in the room, Phi Yong and Nai launched at him instantly. They punched him black and blue. Phi Cherry who terrified came to the bed and covered my weak body with the blanket once his conscious finally hit him. Assure me that I was safe now.
Everything blurred to me. The only thing that I knew was that night Phi Yong and Phi Cherry brought me back to the city. They brought me to the hospital and suddenly Phi Tent and Phi Jorm were there with us. I cried in Phi Jorm’s arm as they came to me. The doctor said that I had been drugged. With Phi Tent advised, after we finished from the hospital, we went to the police station to fill a report for Neo’s act. Phi Yong and Phi Cherry gave their statements. And at the next Monday, I hand my resignation letter.
Nobody beside Phi Yong, Phi Cherry, Nai, and Neo knew about what happened that night. After came back to city, I stayed with Phi Tent and Phi Jorm for a while. They were afraid that Neo would come to my house and do any harm. And truly, just as I back to my home, Neo appeared. He said he just wanted to apologized, but the gleam on his eyes said differently. Luckily, Nai come to visit me that day. Neo didn’t have a chance to get near to me. Sadly, it happened not only that time, several days later Neo came again. I didn’t open my door. Later he came again and again and again.
One day, as I was going to sleep, he broke into my house. I called the police and Phi Tent. The police arrested his immediately as he was violating the law as I filed a restriction order. Later they released him. Benefit of rich people, as long as you had money, you could buy the law. The good thing was, after that moment Neo never appeared again. Phi Cherry said that the higher-up moved him to another branch. I didn’t really care where he moved as long as he didn’t come to me again.
Those few weeks were very hard for me. I felt that I cheated on Phi Arthit. I betrayed our love. I felt dirty from all Neo’s touches on me. I disgusted of myself. If Phi Jorm hadn’t woke me that morning and found those pills on the table, I might be six feet under the ground now. Yes, I tried to end my life.
My guilt was too deep. I couldn’t even gather my courage to come and met Phi Arthit. I knew we missed each other. Phi Tent and Phi Jorm had convinced me to go and met him. Said that he would still love me no matter what happened. They even said that they would go with me if I too scared to go there by myself. But I refused it. All I could ask was for them to keep their visitation, told him that I was doing well and too busy with work to came.
After my suicide attempt, Phi Tent and Phi Jorm became like a mother hen for me. So it was with Pang and her mother. Phi Tent and Phi Jorm had asked them to keep checking on me. Too afraid that I would do that stupid think again. They assigned me to join counseling, hoping that I would back to the old Kongpob Suttiluck Rojnapat that they knew. I was glad for having these people. Not even my twin brothers knew those terrible episodes of mine. I was too ashamed for being weak and didn’t want to put another burden on their shoulders.
The rest of story, besides that counseling, I took short patisserie course and with Phi Tent and Phi Jorm I opened this shop. They helped me a lot with the legal paper. They were beyond happy when I uttered the idea. They said that they finally found their old Kongpob.
Time surely flying fast and suddenly it was already the seven months since I opened the bakery. The business was good, too good if I could say. The bad news was, I didn’t have staff. It was only me and Pang who run the bakery. The shop was always busy that at the end of the day we were too tired let alone to do some interviews for the new staff. Maybe after Phi Arthit back we finally could hire new staffs.
“It’s tomorrow right, Phi?” asked Pang after the customer exited the door.
“Yes, it’s tomorrow,” I said. I couldn’t help to smile.
“There’re only some buns left. Why don’t we just call it a day, Phi? I can help you tidy up the house!” she said.
I was contemplating for a while. Since it was still noon, why not? I could finish my surprise for Phi Arthit faster.
“Okay! Help me packed those left over buns! I will joined you do the washing after I put the announcement and closed sign.”
Finally tomorrow I would reunite with the man that I love. Based on his letter that I received two weeks ago, Phi Arthit’s detention ended tomorrow morning. I neither visiting him nor answered his letters for this whole one year. He might be thought that I didn’t visit him because my love for him was no more. Sure that wasn’t my reason. How could I stopped loving him when every day I counted day by day till the time he would come back to me again? When he was the one who owned my heart, soul, and mind? I didn’t answer his letters because even though there were a lot of things that I want to tell him I couldn’t pour it into the paper. Besides, the guilt was still there. But it didn’t matter anymore. Soon he would know everything. I would make it up tomorrow.
With Pang’s help, I finished all the remaining things that I need to do before the night had come. I had sent her home few minutes ago despite she wanted to stay a little longer. And as I was alone, I couldn’t help to felt jittery now. Few hours from now my sun will back.
My heart burst in joy as I watched the yellow ribbons that I tied at the flame tree’s branches. They looked great together with the green leaves. In his last letter, Phi Arthit stated that if I still wanted him in his life, I must tie a yellow ribbon on the tree. Why only tied one if I could tie hundred? Even in our next life, I would still choose and love him.
I stood by the fences. My watch showing it was half past seven now. Phi Arthit would arrive in any minutes. My neck soon would be snap in two as I turned it in every seconds. I count six red-cars had passed through this road since I stood here but Phi Arthit wasn’t one of the passengers. My heart was going to explode from how fast the beating.
Then, another red-car had appeared on the corner. Faintly I could hear that the passengers were screaming. Not long after, the red-car stopped. One of the passengers must had been my sun. But, why didn’t he step down from the songthaew? Did I guess wrong? Wasn’t he there?
There was a hollow in my heart now. Suddenly, I saw one man step down from the rot-daeng. He wore a yellow jumper. His skin was fair with black locks. My heart swelled in happiness. It was him. My sun, my Phi Arthit had back.
Wide smile plastered on my face. I could feel my eyes started to brimmed with tears. He walked to our home with his smile. That dimpled smile that I love. His gaze met mine. I opened my arm to welcome him. In no time he engulfed me in hug. I could feel a kiss landed on my hair. I hold him tight.
“I’m home, Babe.”
“Welcome home, Phi.”
And now I felt complete.