Nothing is Eternal | Yadech


Is your "nom" Fai-approved?

Nothing is Eternal

Nadech as Athit
Yaya as Sasithorn

** Author's Note**
Will be reposting old chapters, some with revisions. Gosh there were so many typos. For anyone who read this ff when it was originally posted, the newest chapter starts at Chapter 19. I’m hoping to complete this fanfic this year. I’m even considering writing a part 2 starring a different couple. I couldn't find the old thread, so any admin, if it's still out there please help delete. Thanks much.

Chapter 1

Dead. That was the word that echoed through his head louder than ever as he stood outside the wat a week after receiving the call. The only person who had ever been his family was dead, as truly as the dirt lay beneath his feet. His eyes lifted to the gray sky, where the sun seemed to hide in shame.

He entered the wat and searched out the memorial area that contained his brother’s name and ashes. Only then did he catch sight of the flowers next to the memorial for the first time, and realized what they meant. The flowers meant that he was not the only one grieving for the loss of his friend and brother. His brother. The strangest thing was that he could not recollect anyone who would have taken the care to lay such beautiful flowers there. They were so clean that they must have just been laid out that very morning. His watch told him it was seven in the morning. Who would have woken up before the sun to grieve for Tawan other than Athit himself?


Athit’s eyes opened, the misty sky peeking through the slit between the curtains hanging over the window. It was still early, but he couldn’t sleep any longer.

‘Take a break. Have some time to soak in the news,’ was what Wattana had suggested. Athit wasn’t sure how much more he could soak up. Loneliness seemed to be endlessly generous, and grief all too willing company. And the duo was never complete without regret. Athit wished more than ever that he had spent as much time with Tawan as possible. But there had never been anything to suggest they wouldn’t have so much more time together.

Without knowing it, he was already on the road back to the wat. How mercilessly ironic. The person was gone and only now was lost time being made up.

Six a.m. Athit stood with hands shoved in his pockets, eyes on the red flowers, fresh as if each night the moon fed them with rejuvenating dew. Five days in a row he had come here and stared at these flowers that never wilted. Obviously they were being replaced every day.

Ambling back down the path on the wat grounds, Athit relived old memories. Their childhood, their education, the childish rivalry that only served to strengthen an everlasting bond. People said two suns couldn’t exist in one sky, but he and Tawan had proved them wrong. They never quarreled, they trusted each other with their lives. They’d kept in contact all the five years that Athit had gone abroad to work and never once was there a dip in their friendship. Except that five months earlier, he’d learned that Tawan had been keeping something from him. Upon hearing the news of what his brother had done, and who he had decided to work for, Athit had been adamant that Tawan back out. But Tawan insisted it was too late—Athit knew he was right too, and though his instincts told him to return home, Tawan swayed him into focusing on his work, promising his elder brother that nothing would go wrong, that their boss was taking care of him well.

And now, Tawan was gone.


Athit’s jaw stretched in a ferocious yawn. His curiosity was getting the better of him. He wanted to know who this person was who was visiting Tawan’s memorial every day, so he’d forced his butt out of bed at four a.m. and was at the wat dark and early, the sky just barely tinted with pink.

His tired eyes blinked several times when a silhouette came into focus. Someone was outside the building. It had to be the one. Yes, there were the flowers. Athit drew closer and then his footsteps slowed. The person was a woman. And more clearly still, she was pregnant. Athit thought he would find answers, but he was now more confused than ever.

The next morning he was back and watched as the woman offered her flowers to Tawan, and sat on a mat on the ground. Why was she staying so long? He could see her lips moving. Athit breathed a light laugh not of derision but of surprise. The woman was talking to Tawan and having quite an animated discussion too, by the way her hands flew about with gestures and her smiles. Athit wondered if she was crazy. No, he had seen true insanity before.

Deciding not to disturb her, he stepped outside, took a deep breath from the morning air, and returned to the car, stretching his arms. There were other matters for him to think over, he thought, as his hands clenched into fists.


For the next few days Athit continued to watch the woman from afar. He grew familiar with her face and her smile. She had large eyes and from his lookout spot, he wondered whether she was full blooded Thai. He could never catch any of her words clearly and without knowing why, he didn’t dare reveal himself. For some reason, he felt it would break some kind of spell, and the fact was, she looked so happy when she was sitting beside Tawan’s memorial, as if Tawan was right there next to her, that Athit felt like he could see his brother too.

Wattana asked over the phone, “Have any of the others contacted you?”

“No.” Athit hadn’t found it necessary to meet with any of his people in Thailand—at least not for now. But when he called for them, they would have a lot to answer for. He just wanted time alone at the moment. He yawned loudly.

“What’s up with you?”

“Tired. I’m going to bed now. Call if anything comes up.”

“What, already? It can’t be that late over there.”

Athit smiled. He still wasn’t used to his new sleep schedule, but was determined to keep up with the nameless woman.


“Damn.” He hurried into the memorial building. Panting from his rush, Athit arrived in time to see her push herself up from the ground. He still wondered how she could endure sitting on the hard ground for so long, but she never seemed to mind. Brushing her hands, then gathering yesterday’s flowers, she momentarily rested one hand on her slightly protruding belly and closed her eyes as if fighting off a dizzy spell. Athit put one foot out of the shadows, but the moment passed, and she strolled away in the opposite direction with a steady gait.

Standing in silence for a few minutes to stare at Tawan’s resting place, Athit finally decided to go back to the hotel. Nearing the wat’s entrance, he paused, with a strange ill-foreboding tingle sliding down his spine. What did it mean? He didn’t have a grasp on answers, but already, his feet turned around and retraced their way back where they’d come from. The memorial had a few other people, but the woman was gone. He tried one of the other exit routes. She was not yet in sight, but his feet didn’t stop moving, searching.

And now, they were running in reaction to the image that met his eyes –the woman had come into view. He witnessed the agonizing consequences of her feet halting, the forward motion of her body as it lost strength and the red flowers spilling across her body, trailing on the grass.



She opened her eyes to a half-darkness penetrated by soft light coming from a window. Bracing herself on her elbows, she blinked back the remainder of her grogginess and realized she was in a hospital room. That fact established, she instinctively pressed her hand to her abdomen, and relaxed when she felt the soft roundness.

“You’re awake.” Athit had been dozing lightly on the couch and only just noticed her movement. He swept his eyes around the room and then at the door. Satisfied that nothing was out of order, he turned back to her. She returned his gaze with curiosity so that he felt compelled to reassure her.

“Sorry I haven’t introduced myself. My name is Athit. I…” He noticed her eyes grew slightly rounder at the mention of his name, as if he had only just magically appeared. “I saw you at the wat when, you know, you fell, so I brought you here. How are you feeling?”

“Fine. Thank you.” She offered a gentle smile and he felt relieved that she wasn’t panicked or scared around him.

Having only watched her from afar before, he finally took note of her sharp yet delicate features—she was very pretty.

“I’m sorry to have bothered you. I should be going on my way now.”

“No!” He objected, seeing her about to push her blanket away. “You should wait until the doctor allows it. She said, er…” Athit winced sheepishly. “Sorry, we didn’t know who to call, and I happened to be there so she told me about your health situation.”

“My situation of being pregnant?” she asked in a deadpan voice.

He saw laughter in her eyes, and mentally laughed at himself for the roundabout words he chose. Biting back his own smile, Athit said, “It would be better if you rested well before leaving.”

She released a soft breath. “I’m grateful, but I can’t afford to stay here.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that. I’ll help you.”

“I couldn’t expect you to do such a thing, though I’m thankful for the offer.”

He watched in dismay as she slowly slid off the bed. “I’ve heard your voice before.”

His words made her pause. “Excuse me?” she asked.

Athit pursed his lips sternly. He was certain now, where he’d heard her voice. “Before you leave, let me ask you something. Why do you visit Tawan?”

She froze. They stared at one another as silence blanketed the atmosphere. “You saw me?”

He nodded. “Actually, I’ve watched you there for almost a week.” He stopped. “That…sounded a lot creepier than I meant it to.” As a smile stretched her face once more, he breathed a quiet laugh.

“So it was you.”


She lifted her eyes to him. “I kept having a feeling this past week like someone was present with me, and the aura was similar to Tawan’s, so I thought maybe his spirit was visiting me.” She seemed unembarrassed by her wishful thinking. “But no wonder your presence felt similar.”

“So you mean you know who I am?”

She hesitated, then nodded.

“So it really was you, who called to tell me that he died.”

Curious by this since she hadn’t given her name when they spoke over the phone, she asked, “How did you know?”

“I recognize your voice.”

Her eyes appraised him upon hearing this. “It’s just like what he told me about you. You memorize sounds well.”

This did not particularly please Athit. “Will you tell me your name? And how you met Tawan?” He made his way over and led her to sit back on the bed comfortably. “I don’t know how close you were to him, but he would never give my phone number to just anyone.”

She pleasantly complied. “My name is…Sasithorn, and…” She smiled down at her slightly swollen abdomen. “Can you guess how close I was to Tawan?”

Of course, he had suspected they’d been in a relationship of some sort, but Athit hadn’t allowed himself to take that suspicion seriously. As if reading his thoughts, even though his face had given nothing away, Sasithorn said with amusement, “You must be wondering how it happened.” Her eyes glowed at some vivid endearing memories. “All it took was a moment of chance for us to meet and from there, he and I both knew we would be together.”

But why would Tawan have never mentioned her to Athit? As soon as the question formed, so did the answer. Athit observed the fragile woman beside him, thin yet sturdy, small yet full of energy. Tawan must have wanted to keep her safe.

“You said he told you about me. What sorts of things did he say?”

“Oh, nothing much about your job or…” She fished around idly for a word. “Or your lifestyle. Just the important things, like your personality and passions.”

He couldn’t tell if she was serious or not. Anyone else would disagree that his “lifestyle” wasn’t important.

“There’s more I want to know.”

“I’m sure you have ways of finding more information than I could tell you.”

That was true, but those things could wait. He cleared his throat. “If you truly are Tawan’s woman, then as his brother, I wish to assist you as much as possible.”

“You must have more important things to take care of.”

“No. Nothing is as important as family…which is what you have become.” He firmly kept his eyes on her, serious and not wanting to hear any opposition. “Let me give you as much assistance as you need.”

“I guess I could use a hand.” She smiled and it made him feel like she was doing him a favor. “I don’t really have anyone else.”

For some reason, he had assumed she was alone ever since seeing her. Yet he didn’t get the sense that she was a lonely person. “It’ll be easiest if we simply stay together in one place. Are you okay with that? I’ll make arrangements so you’ll be comfortable. Is there anything you need to move? Otherwise, I can provide whatever you need.”

Her face grew stern for the first time. “No. If we’re going to be living together, we must live at my apartment.”

His brow puckered. “Your apartment?” as if he could not fathom her suggestion.

Sasithorn’s face lit up again, nodding like a child who was excited about her new playmate. Athit wasn’t sure how, but her warm smile had a calming effect on him, and he was slowly understanding why Tawan had chosen to be with her.

Chapter 2

Her apartment was clean and small, and he wanted to do whatever would make Sasithorn most comfortable, so he consented to staying at her place, though he wished she had allowed him to give her better residence.

“I’m afraid there’s only one room, so…” She glanced at the couch.

He nodded. “Thanks. This will do just fine.” He entered and set a duffel bag down, peering out of the window at the narrow road below that was busy with cars and taxis. There was a fire escape ladder near the window, but no other way to reach her apartment aside from the door. “Did Tawan ever come here?”

She joined him at his side. “M-hm.” Suddenly, she shook with giggles. “He used to complain about the geckos.”


“Don’t tell me you’re scared of them too?” she asked with fascinated eyes.

Athit snorted. “No.” Then he chuckled too, imagining Tawan paranoidly searching for small critters. “That wuss…”

“Are you hungry? I was about to cook dinner.”

He checked his watch. “You don’t have to worry about that.” Right then, the doorbell rang.

“Who could that be?”

“I’ll get it.” He made his way to the door and in came a solemn looking woman with bags of groceries. He acknowledged her with a nod. She inclined her head respectfully back at him, then at Sasithorn, before stoically moving to the kitchen.

“Who did you just invite into my home?” Sasithorn asked, more with interest than with fear.

“Your new cook. From now on, you’re not going to be doing any physical labor. I’m also delivering some furniture and tomorrow you have an appointment at the doctor for a checkup. Oh, and I’ve already informed your workplace that you won’t be employed for them anymore.”

For a moment, she stared in stunned silence.

. .

“Hey, let go!” Athit rubbed his ear in shock when Sasithorn released her death grip on it. After kicking out the cook, she had twisted his ear and dragged him to the table, forcing him down on a seat. It had been such a long time since he’d received physical punishment from anyone and especially someone who should have been so much weaker than him, that Athit was both indignant and in awe that Sasithorn had dared do it.

Hands on her hips, Sasithorn frowned at him severely. “Let’s make one thing clear. Just because I accepted your help and just because you have resources that I don’t, does NOT make it okay for you to run my life and make decisions for me.”

“But it was all with good intentions,” he argued.

“I understand that well, however, you cannot just change my life without informing me! And you better make sure I haven’t lost my job.”

“Look, I can afford these things, so it’s not like you need it—“

That only seemed to fuel her fury, as she narrowed her eyes to slits, which didn’t scare Athit, but he had to commend her for giving off such an authoritative air. “I’m not about to siphon a free living off of you. I accepted your offer to help while I am…not in optimal shape. BUT,” she snapped, “anything that has to do with my life, I can handle by myself. Is that clear?”

He stood up to tower over her darkly, but she didn’t back down and he wasn’t sure if that was just because she was a determined woman or if the child inside of her was hogging all her nutrition—because under normal conditions, anyone who received that look from him would have yielded to his demands. So he was forced to agree.

“Fine…” he said with a short sigh.

“And cancel whatever you ordered.” She made a face. “We don’t need any of it.”

He caught the stern glare from her and took out his phone to obey, against his better judgment. “But you still have to go to the doctor appointment.” He said this with his brow set strictly so that she knew he wasn’t going to budge on this subject.


He got up to go make his calls.

When he returned, he found her on a chair putting the groceries that the chef brought over in the upper cupboards.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” He went over and promptly lifted her down.

“Okay, what the heck?” she asked, looking up at him in confusion.

“Hello, there happens to be a child inside of you who is off-setting the balance of your body making it highly possible that you fall and hurt yourself and said child, who happens to be the child of my brother too,” he scolded. “You know what, I’ll let you off this once because I’m sure all the brain power that goes into feeding your common sense is being absorbed by the child, but don’t let me catch you without your feet planted on the ground again, got that?” He caught the amused expression on her face and narrowed his eyes to make sure she knew he wasn’t joking. “Got it?” he repeated in a low voice.

“Yes sir.” She saluted him with twinkling eyes.

He unfolded his arms and looked at the remaining groceries. “I can finish up here. You go rest.”

She scoffed. “Being pregnant does not make me a handicap. I’m not tired either. I’m hungry.”

“I’ll go buy dinner in a bit.”

“Why? We have all these groceries,” she pointed out.

“Well who’s going to cook? Cause the chef’s gone and I sure as hell can’t.”

She looked at Athit like he was slow. “I’M going to cook.”

He looked back at her like she was the slow one. “Let’s back up. I believe I stated very clearly that you are not allowed to be on your feet doing physical work.”

She blinked in disbelief. “But I’m hungry,” she repeated.

“That’s why I said I’ll go buy dinner.”

“I don’t want restaurant food, I want to eat a home-cooked meal.”

“But you can’t because it’s too much work.”

“No it’s not.”

“For someone of your…” he waved his hand at her, “…condition, it IS.”

She gave him a ‘WTH’ look at his vague description of her current pregnancy state. Sighing, she said, “I can make a quick meal.”

“Not gonna happen.” He shook his head.

“Oh my gosh, it’s no big deal,” she argued. “I can whip up a really simple dish for the both of us, just like that.” She snapped her fingers.

“I think it’s best if you follow my advice.”

Frowning stubbornly, she said, “Well I’m not going to.”

“Well you’re not cooking,” he responded unyieldingly.

“Then WHAT do you suggest, Mr. Athit?”



“Shit,” Athit cussed as he dropped the scalding pot-cover into the sink. After briefly blowing on his hands, he added some mutilated pieces of vegetables into the boiling water, which splashed unexpectedly at him, making him quickly withdraw his hands with another well-chosen swear word under his breath. Sweat draped his temples as he turned back to the island counter.

His inexperience and the heat from the stove making him edgy, Athit took his frustration out on the fish on the cutting board. Chop! Off with its head.

“Now rinse it and add it to the pot,” came Sasithorn’s instructions.

After Sasithorn realized he wasn’t going to give in, she came up with the idea for him to do the cooking under her direction, and after realizing that SHE wasn’t going to give in, Athit agreed. Of course, he wasn’t so sure he should have yielded so fast. Two fingers on his left hand were adorned with Mickey Mouse bandaids after the knife accidentally caressed them—not that they hurt or anything, but the band aids made his fingers stiff which got in the way of his already clumsy efforts at cooking. And this was only after he had failed to boil water, having carelessly turned on the wrong knob on the stove and made them wait a curiously long fifteen minutes before realizing why the water was not bubbling.

He leaped back when the slippery headless fish slipped from his hand and dived into the pot.

“You should have kept it on the cutting board and just slid it slowly in,” Sasithorn chided, shaking her head. “I could have gotten this done so much faster.”

He sent her a resentful glare for not appreciating all his efforts to make things easier for her, though if he had to admit—and NO ONE could make him admit it—he agreed with her.

“You’ve never cooked before, have you? You’re such a stereotypical man.”

“Excuse me?” He turned to her, hand on his hip. “I have indeed cooked before.” How did she think he and Tawan survived their childhood? “And for your information, I’m not ANY kind of typical in the world.”

“Okay, no need to get offended.” She raised a brow.

He tossed hair away from his forehead. “Anyway, it’s not like you’re not used to this. I mean, Tawan never cooked either.”

“He cooked all the time.”

If he’d been sitting, Athit would have fallen off his chair. “What?”

“You didn’t know?”

He shook his head in amazement, as if he’d discovered the eighth wonder of the world. “Tawan…cooking?”

“Why is that so hard to believe? I mean, look at you.”

Athit looked down at his apron and then up at the wooden spoon in his hand. He closed his eyes against how ridiculous he must look at that moment and was thankful nobody he knew was there to see him.

“Geez, it’s not such a bad thing being a man who cooks,” Sasithorn said, reading his mind.

“Well maybe not in your world, but in mine…”

She nodded understandingly. “You’d probably lose all your credentials if you went to work with ‘Kiss the Cook’ on any article of clothing you wore.”

He nodded back solemnly, before he returned his narrowed gaze to her. “And what would you know about my credentials? I thought you said Tawan never told you about my job.”

“He didn’t much. Anyway, add some salt,” she said.

Not fully content with her answer, he set aside his suspicion for now. There would be time later to question her about just how much she knew. Athit decided to focus on the task at hand and took hold of the salt container and daintily shook it over the pot.


He shook.


He shook.

“For goodness sake Athit!”

“What?! I don’t know how much is enough and I don’t want to overdo it.”

She creased her brow in amusement, certain that there were few things in life that he was this awkward at. Even if she hadn’t known him long, simply his demeanor that exuded self-confidence told the world he was used to being good at everything. Sasithorn leaned her elbows on the counter and observed his rugged features that pronounced the masculinity in him, while his concentration on the food produced an adorable side effect.

“Athit, you’re handsome.”

He looked her. “Sister-in-law, are you hitting on me?”

She rolled her eyes at him. “Uh, NO. I just like to give well-deserved compliments.” And he did deserve it, because as overbearing as he already was, he had been nothing but kind to her. If anyone was cruel, they could never be beautiful in her eyes. “Thanks.”

“What for?”

“For making dinner.”

“By the way, let me know when it’s ready, ‘cause if you leave it up to me, I’d judge based on the smoke alarm.”

“Let it simmer for ten minutes and then we’re gold.”

Finally, they sat down at the table for dinner. Sasithorn looked over and almost laughed out loud at the face he was making down at his bowl. He looked repulsed by what he’d created. The fish meat was broken in chunks since he’d over-stirred and the lumps of vegetables swimming in the bowl flaunted their ugly shapes.

Clearing his throat, trying to hide his embarrassment, Athit said, “You don’t have to eat it. I can quickly pick something up from—“ He stopped abruptly when seeing her chomp a spoonful of the stew. Great, he had poisoned Tawan’s girlfriend.

“Mm…” She made a thoughtful face after swallowing.

What was that, a moan of pain before she keeled over? Then Sasithorn couldn’t help it anymore. She burst out laughing.

Her giggles subsiding as he looked at her like she was crazy, she said, “Athit, you need to relax.”

“How can I relax when Tawan’s ghost will be haunting me tonight for feeding you this crap?” He scoffed in disgust with himself. “Let’s toss it.”

She stopped him from reaching for her bowl. “Whoa! You didn’t even try it, why would you throw it away. If there’s one rule you have to follow under my roof, it’s that we don’t waste food.” She pointed her spoon at him and motioned for him to taste the soup.

Hesitantly, he picked up his spoon and dipped it in his bowl, bringing up a chunk of meat. Grimacing, he forced himself to eat it and was surprised that it was actually…

“Not bad, Chef Athit.” Sasithorn beamed over at him, and helped herself to more. “Not bad at all.”

“Well,” he said, slowly coming to terms with the impossible. “I guess you’re right.”


“I mean, how can there be anything in the world that I can’t do?” Or maybe it wasn’t so hard to accept his newfound skill after all.

She shook her head at his inflated ego, but allowed him to gloat, since she knew it was his determination and sincerity that had made him so successful that night. Sasithorn mentally nodded in approval of her lover’s brother and knew at that moment that she could trust him.


Is your "nom" Fai-approved?
Chapter 3

They finished dinner and Athit volunteered to clean up the dishes. He was just wiping up the counter and sink when an ominous thump sounded from the bathroom. Tossing the towel aside, he hurried down the hall and stood at the bathroom door.

“Sasithorn?” He knocked. “Hey, are you okay in there?” When all he heard was an incoherent groan, he immediately opened up the door—and just as quickly, he shut it again.

“Athit?! Aren’t you going to help me?”

Fcuk, that’s right, he smacked his forehead. What the hell was he acting like a blushing maiden for. “Coming in!”

She had slipped on the water that dripped from the sink’s pipes but was thankfully unhurt. Athit went in, re-wrapped her towel around her, then carried her to her room.

When she was done changing, he came in to check on her.

“Be more careful next time, will you? Sheesh, we need to fix this place up.” Athit heard a suspicious cough from Sasithorn as she settled down in her bed. He gave her a narrowed look. True to his thought, she was stifling a laugh. “What is so amusing?”

“You Athit,” she giggled quietly. “You’re so cute.”

Athit blinked. No one in his life had been able to make him feel so embarrassed before, yet this little lady had him avoiding eye contact and unable to retort with anything. He agreed it was quite ridiculous. The female body was nothing new to him. But still.

“Are you really that shy?”

“Are you really NOT shy about it?” he asked and was surprised when she shook her head at him.

“It’s just a bit of skin and it wasn’t on purpose,” she said, referring to him having to see her naked.

“Well that’s like…like…” He screwed up his face. “I dunno, INCEST.”

For a second, she didn’t know whether to laugh or not at his declaration, seeing as he was a grown man who was so embarrassed over something that she herself was not troubled about, and making such a naïve comment.

Athit finally braved a glance at her and was further taken aback to see her touched eyes shining with unshed tears. “W-what’s wrong? Oh god,” he grimaced. “I didn’t mean it like that. You’re a very attractive woman it’s just that…”

She bit her smiling lips, which continued to confuse him. “Athit, it’s okay, I know you didn’t mean to insult me. Sorry.” She chuckled. “It’s just that I like the way you treat me like a sister. It makes me feel less lonely.”

Stunned, Athit was at a loss for words, and his heart tingled with warmth. Until that moment, he had not confronted the idea that he himself was also lonely, and being around Sasithorn felt…nice. They were both two people longing for a person who was gone.

“Hey,” he caught her attention with his gentle tone, “from now on, I’ll always have your back.”

She smiled at him. “Thank you.” She glanced at her hands.

“What is it?"

“Um…I have a request. Can you stay with me until I fall asleep?” Her long lashes glistened with a touch of tears, looking unabashedly hopeful up at him.

Athit nodded. “Sure.”

She lowered herself under the blankets and sighed a yawn. He smiled, seeing her so tired already, and reached to turn off the light, leaving a small lamp on. As she traveled further into dreamland, Athit looked around the room and noticed a single picture frame containing a photo of Sasithorn with Tawan.

“Damn it. How could you leave us so soon?” he whispered into the night.


Sunlight shined through his eyelids. He drew in a deep breath as his hand clutched something hard. The picture frame was in his grasp the entire night as he sat by the bed, it seemed. His senses told him Sasithorn’s bed was empty, effectively waking him up. Athit made his way out to the living area where a form on the couch stirred, causing him to instinctively grab the object nearest to him and raise it in defense.

Sasithorn’s lively face appeared from behind a book and she looked at him. “Well good morning to you too.”

Athit’s racing heart slowed as he realized he was holding a ceramic vase above his head. He lowered it back to the table.

“Sorry.” He stooped to quickly retrieve the flowers that had fallen out in the process and stuffed them back into the vase.

Sasithorn did not look in the least freaked out that Athit had nearly attacked her with the seemingly harmless piece of décor. “Please place those nicely back.”

“Are these like your favorite flowers or something?” He recognized the red flowers that were frequently offered upon Tawan’s grave.

She nodded toward the window sill, where she had planted another row of blood-red tulips, their petals drinking in the early sun’s rays.

“Why are you up so early?”

“Ever since I developed my CONDITION, I’ve been napping a lot and getting up early,” she explained, using his word. Setting her book down, she said, “And I wanted to visit Tawan today. I thought you might want to come.”

Athit nodded back silently. “Have you had breakfast? What do you want to eat?”

“Eggs and broccoli and…mango.”

He looked weirded out by this combination.

“I thought I’d wait till you got up so I wouldn’t get an earful again.”

“Good thinking,” he murmured at her light sarcasm.

“Chop chop! I’m hungry and there are two stomachs to feed.” She pushed him toward the kitchen.

“Someone’s taking advantage…”

Being a fast learner, Athit got the hang of handling the kitchen environment and successfully scrambled up some eggs with a side of broccoli and mangos for Sasithorn. “We should get back a bit early. You have your appointment at 10:30.”

“Where is it at?” She crunched through the broccoli.


Sasithorn whipped her head up at him. “What?”

“Bumrungrad,” he said again, unaware of her displeasure.

“Cancel it.”

“What?” He took his turn double-checking his ears and Sasithorn obliged.

“Cancel it. I have a better place.”

“Bumrungrad is the best in the country.”

“I didn’t say it wasn’t. I just said I have a better place.”

“But you can’t HAVE a better place than the best in the country,” he replied, voice dripping with exaggerated patience.

Unconcerned, Sasithorn insisted. “Trust me, I know what I’m doing.”

“I seriously doubt it.”

This time, she glared at him. “Athit, do as I ask you.”

He knew he had hit a dead end with her once again. “Can’t you just do one thing that I suggest?”

She remained adamant, and said, “I know my body and I don’t need to go all the way to Bumrungrad for something that can be easily taken care of closer to home.”

Now curious because she appeared so confident, Athit asked, “Really? Where is it?”

“Around the neighborhood. I have a very good midwife already.”

“Midwife? Okaaay,” he said slowly. “How about we do this? If we go see this…midwife…and they don’t meet my standards, I’m taking you to Bumrungrad tomorrow.” He got up to clear his dishes before she could argue again.



“Good morning Tawan dear,” Sasithorn sang when they approached the familiar memorial with its pure white marble stone shelf that held the remains of the person they both missed.

“Wait.” Athit stopped her from sitting, and spread out a blanket on the ground. “There.” He looked up to see her bright smile once more, so that he responded with a smile of his own without hesitation. He helped her sit.

“Ah!” Sasithorn kissed the tips of her fingers and pressed them to the stone. “How are you doing? Getting lots of sun? He was always very pale,” she said aside to Athit, who snickered in amusement. “And I bet there aren’t any tulips as beautiful as ours where you are, so here’s some just for you.” She patted the flowers, then sighed. “It might be a while before I get to come again, but it’s okay, because I’ll just keep thinking about you. You know that right?”

They two of them had agreed that she shouldn’t venture out this far as often as in the past because she would not be fit to keep walking here in the future. But she was untroubled, and continued to weave stories to tell to Tawan’s spirit.

“…he almost burned himself…” she laughed.

“Hey, don’t ruin my reputation in front of Tawan,” Athit said without even thinking, and then realized he was joining in on her talks.

Sasithorn grinned. “But your brother is taking very good care of me, so you don’t have to worry about anything. But Tawan, can you help him not be so stubborn?”

He spared her a look, before saying, “Tawan, can you help persuade her to listen to me more? She’s like a disobedient child.”

“Hmph, don’t listen to him,” Sasithorn urged.

Athit stepped out of his sleek black Mercedes, and slowly removed his sunglasses. It was lucky that he had decided last year to upgrade to an actual car in place of his old motorcycle. He could hardly escort Sasithorn around with the two-wheeler vehicle. “Why are we here?”

Sasithorn grinned over at him from the other side of the car. “This is where my midwife works.”

“Your midwife works here?” he asked, slack-jawed.

“Well, actually they LIVE here, but same difference.” She shrugged and started across the sidewalk towards the dwelling that was one of the many attached in a long brick structure down the street.

“Are you sure?” he inquired in the same tone that he thought she was once again, lacking common sense.

“Hurry up, slow poke.” She rang the doorbell and a few seconds later, a person opened up the door. Under an unruly head of dark hair, magnified eyes looked at them through over-sized glasses.

“Plerngkrit? Oh my gosh, I’m so glad you’re finally back from your trip. It’s me, Sasithorn,” she greeted enthusiastically.

The person smiled with pleasure. “Of course I know you. But your name—“

“Oh, you remember the good old times at school, and remember when we first met and I introduced myself as Sasithorn,” she motioned to herself, before turning to explain to Athit. “We went to school together. He’s a good friend.”

Plerng looked off to the side like he was bewildered by something, then shrugged and said, “Sup? How’s it going? Wow, you’re getting BIG!” He reached over and hugged Sasithorn, as they both squealed in glee. This reunion was interrupted when they were pulled apart abruptly.

“Wait…” Athit closed his eyes momentarily. “Your midWIFE…is a GUY!?”

“I am?” Plerng asked, before quickly correcting himself. “I mean, not the part about being a guy, cause that’s like, not even a question. But, since when did I become your midwife?”

The two men looked at Sasithorn for answers, and she just smiled innocently at them. “Plerng, you have extensive medical knowledge right?”

He nodded slowly. “I studied it a bit on the side in uni.”

“Well as you can see, I’m about to have a baby, and because someone here,” she glanced at a ruffled Athit, “thinks I need prenatal advice, I thought, who better than my best friend?”

The two paused for a second. Athit was about to say how ridiculous he thought she was being but was beat to the chase by Plerng.

“That’s a great idea! I’ve always wanted to be a doctor!” He and Sasithorn began excitedly talking again, ignoring Athit who was trying to get a word in, but they were already heading down the hall.

“Do you want anything to eat or drink?”

“Ooh, how about some chocolate milk?”

Athit, having no choice, had followed them, but froze at the doorway, assessing the kitchen. He took in the dirty dishes, the stains on the walls, brushes littering the counter that had a mixture of canned food and Chinese take-out boxes displayed in a line like trophies.

“Ok!” Plerng turned from where he was reaching for a glass cup, “W-wait! Where are you going?”

“Athit, stop this instant!”

“We’re leaving.”

“No, can you just wait—“

“There is no way that guy has the ability to be a midwife.” He scoffed the last word. They were outside and when Sasithorn kept struggling to break away from his grasp, he reached over and lifted her in his arms.

“Athit!” she yelped. “Put me down! We are going back in!”

“WE are going to Bumrungrad where the first thing they do will be to sterilize you from head to toe.” He thought of the mess in the kitchen they’d just encountered and grimaced.

“Oh please, it wasn’t that bad. Plerng just got back from a trip so he didn’t have time to clean up and his—“

“Speaking of which, why would you think I’d let that BOY take care of Tawan’s child?” He shook his head at her. “Unbelievable.”

She growled back. “You said you wanted the best and that’s what Plerng is!”

“Him? The one that hasn’t even hit puberty yet?” Athit nearly laughed, “Man, Tawan’s kid is definitely hogging all the—OW! Ah ah!”

“Put me down,” Sasithorn ordered and with his ear about to be twisted off, Athit didn’t take long to obey.

“Sasithorn, are you crazy? I almost dropped you!”

Glaring at him, she smacked his arm. “For your information, I have a perfectly good reason for choosing Plerng. He’s the best.”

“At what, musical chairs? That boy—“

“That boy is twenty five years old and graduated top of his class from Chulalongkorn.”

Athit’s mouth froze, giving him a flabbergasted expression. “What?”

“He looks younger than his age but he’s a grown man who is quite well-rounded and intellectual.”

Still not over the information she had dished out, Athit asked, “Whoa, wait. He’s not fifteen?”

She rolled her eyes. “Trust me, he’s perfect.”


“Athit,” she said impatiently. “I am not going anywhere else today. And that was really rude of you to just drag us out of his house.”

He had reluctantly followed her back to Plerng’s house.

“I’m sorry about that earlier,” Sasithorn apologized.

“Oh, don’t sweat it.” Plerng grinned.

She looked at Athit expectantly but when it was clear he wasn’t planning to apologize—seeing as he was giving Plerng completely distrusting body language, from his glare to his crossed arms—she continued on.

“I hope you don’t mind me imposing like this. Of course, if you’re busy I completely understand.”

“Girl, you know I would do anything for you. I’m actually in touch with my friend Dr. Phonboon, do you remember from year three?”

“Uh huh.”

“Don’t worry about a thing. Just leave it to me,” Plerng said enthusiastically, completely unaware of Athit’s intense scrutiny and distrust—or perhaps simply so confident in himself that he didn’t care.

Plerng was just as eager to help Sasithorn as Athit was eager to keep him away. But hearing Plerng get all worked up and talk about planning to help her with dietary necessities, the progress of her child’s growth, and this and that, Athit slowly realized that the boy really did know what he was talking about. He even told them about his trip abroad working as a physician’s assistant for a year.

As the hour passed by, however much Athit wanted to remain skeptical, he learned that Plerngkrit was a clever person, and artistic too. The stains on his kitchen walls were actually his own paintings in the process that Athit had been too quick to judge.

After the two friends talked and agreed to meet again later that week, Sasithorn and Athit were back in his car on their way to the apartment, where she filled him in on more of Plerng’s background.

“Whoa whoa whoa, so that kid—“ Athit stopped himself seeing Sasithorn’s warning glance, “I mean, that guy back there is a retired millionaire?”

“Plerng’s a good investor, so while he knows how to do a lot of things, he also doesn’t have to work. Anyway, you can’t judge him based on his house just like how you can’t judge him based on his appearance. Plerng really is a smart guy. I know he’ll take good care of me. Besides, he’s my best friend, and has experience with medicine, so I don’t care about any of your objections.”

Athit sighed to himself. He’d just have to wait until their first “appointment” with her “midwife” and then he’ll try to convince her that she needed more professional health care.

“Anyway, just so you know, I’m having people come over to fix this place up. Ah-ah!” He stopped her from protesting. “You nearly had an accident last night due to the leaky sink. I’m not sparing any chances on you getting hurt again, so this time you can’t argue.”

She lifted her chin, and smiled. “Well, I guess I have to thank you.” She knew she should have called for maintenance on her apartment a while ago but since Tawan’s death, she’d been too distracted to pay attention to anything but work.

“And even though you will keep your job, you’re taking time off, starting now,” Athit went on.

She decided not to argue with that either. “Fine.”

Instinctively, he reached over and patted her head with approval. The atmosphere was comfortable and warm, Athit sensed it with some awe, because it was so different from his normal interactions with people and left him feeling that this moment, along with the bond growing between him and Sasithorn, was precious.

“Make sure they don’t touch my flowers.”

“Yes ma’am.”

She beamed at his obedience.

Chapter 4

They returned from their first appointment with Plerng’s “medical services.”

Athit said, “I’m still not convinced about him.” Just because he didn’t want Sasithorn to be too smug. In fact, Plerng had impressed Athit with the extent of his knowledge and practical awareness of what he was doing, while Sasithorn discussed her pregnancy and all the physical side effects with Plerng.

“You’ll get used to him.”

True to her word, even with Athit’s wariness, after a few visits, he’d become very involved with consulting Plerng about Sasithorn’s health. Aside from his knowledge, Plerng was receptive enough to Athit that he cleaned his house up until it sparkled, giving the latter no reason to dispute.

“I’ve been meaning to ask you two. Are you the father of Sasithorn’s baby?” Plerng asked at their third meeting.

“No,” they both answered.

“She’s my sister-in-law,” Athit said, with a subtle undertone that said this should be even more pressure for Plerng to do well.

“Anyway, today we will be doing breathing exercises. Sasithorn, come sit on this mat. Athit, you sit on this mat.”

“What for?”

“It’s interactive. Both of you should participate.”

Yielding, Athit took his place beside Sasithorn.

“Now, we close our eyes and breathe in,” Plerng instructed. “Breathe in, breath out, breathe in, Athit you’re not following along, breathe out…”

“Why should I?”

“You need to participate.”

“I’m not the one giving birth.”

“Ah, but your understanding of this is just as important, being the closest to Sasithorn during this whole process. You’re going to be there when she gives birth right?”

“If…if she wants me to be.” They exchanged glances and Sasithorn smiled.

“Athit, it would mean the world to me if you were there.”

Her bright face, the amount of trust she spoke with, warmed his heart.

“See? And for you to give the best assistance possible, since she can go into labor without notice, you have to be aware of all of her vital signs.”

“Fine.” Feeling silly, as if there were people looking in on the three of them, Athit shut his eyes and breathed with the other two.

“Now we’re going to have Athit sit behind you.” Plerng gestured, and Athit obeyed, seating himself behind her and reached his hands around to rest on her stomach.

“Are you sure about this?”

“It’s okay Athit,” she reassured, still doing the relaxing exercise.

“The purpose is to be harmonized with one another. If you’re in sync with her feelings, you’ll be able to react quickly when things change, like if she starts having serious contractions. You won’t have doubts and delay going to the hospital.”

“Won’t it be pretty obvious when she’s going to have the baby?” Athit asked.

“Oh my gosh!” Sasithorn gasped and began breathing faster and faster.

Athit freaked out. “What! What is it? Ohmagod, the baby’s coming! Holy shit!” He began breathing fast like she was. “What do we do?”

But then his brow creased in confusion as her body shook with laughter.

“W…what the…You’re okay?!” he demanded.

When she finally calmed her giddiness, Sasithorn found a very grouchy Athit looking at her with his jaw dropped.

“You were just joking?!”

“I wasn’t joking…not really. I felt the baby move.”

“Excellent!” Plerng announced.

“What the heck?” Athit was outraged by her false alarm.

“Hehe. Sorry, but I wanted to test your confidence.”

Knowing he’d been proven wrong, he sighed in defeat. “Ok, I get it…”

“Let’s get back to work.” Plerng chuckled.

“Come on Athit.” Sasithorn bugged him as he stubbornly kept his arms crossed. “I won’t do that again.”

After giving her a stern look, he grumpily let her settle back in his arms. Just as his hand touched her stomach, Athit felt the most peculiar jolt. “Whoa.”

“What?” Plerng asked.

“I j-just…it moved. The baby! I felt it move!” Eyes lighting up in fascination, Athit stayed still and was once more amazed to feel a kick where his hand was. “Fcuk…” He looked down at Sasithorn, whose face was pure delight that he was in such awe, and he felt an unrestrained smile split across his face.

“Wow…Tawan’s baby. I can’t believe it.”


“Let’s watch a movie.” Sasithorn randomly pointed at a dvd cover. Athit put in the movie, ‘Just Like Heaven.’

“Tawan liked this movie.”

“He was always such a romantic.”

“I asked him once what he’d be doing if he had been born into a different life.”

“What did he say?”

Sasithorn’s eyes twinkled in the semi-darkness of the living room. “He said he didn’t believe that was possible, because people can’t escape their destinies. And he said it didn’t matter to him as long as one thing stayed the same.” The girlish grin on her face was full of love. “Meeting me.” She allowed a roll of her eyes before adding, “And being your brother. That was something he always made clear of being proud of.” Athit gave a half-smile. Hesitating before asking, she glanced over at him. “Athit? Where did you go this morning?”

For the first time since moving in with her, he’d told her yesterday that he had to go to work. If Athit hadn’t answered her, she wouldn’t have been offended, but he replied, “I was meeting with someone who had information I needed.”

“About Tawan?” She didn’t want him to be vague.


After a few minutes, she said, “I’d like to think I knew Tawan well. That’s why I think he would have preferred it if you weren’t too caught up in how he died.”

Athit didn’t let his face betray anything. “We both knew him well. And what you’ll learn is that I’m not as good of a person as he was. I can’t let this go.”

She peered over and found him focusing on the movie, but even if his face was a closed book, Sasithorn could read into his heart, because she understood his loss.

“Athit!” she whispered. He looked over. “Come here! Quick!”

Worried, he scooted closer to her on the couch and she took his hand and placed it on her protruding stomach. “Did you catch it?”

“Yeah.” When he placed his hand on her stomach, the sensation of some limb curving into his palm set his heart above the clouds. “Yeah, that little squirt sure knows how to make you miserable,” he joked.

“It seems to calm down every time you say something,” she noted with interest as she felt more movement.

“Really?” He leaned closer and spoke. “Are you sure?”

She smiled. “Yeah, I can feel him settling down now. Mm…” She quickly thought an idea. “Wait here!” Racing away at a speed so fast he didn’t have time to scold her for it, she returned with an object in her hands. “I’m sure it will help the baby go to sleep,” she said excitedly.

Athit shook his head. “Sorry, but it’s been a while. Too long that I’ve lost my touch.”

“Aw, please?” She pouted with rounded eyes. “Just once. Tawan told me you’re phenomenal with this, and if he’s already that good, then you must be exceptional. Please?”

“Sorry Sasithorn. I don’t feel up to it.” He determinedly avoided looking at the object she held and so she disappointedly leaned the guitar that had belonged to Tawan against the wall.

When she was back on her side of the couch, he stole a glance at her. “Sorry.”

“You don’t have to be,” she replied with that never-ending smile. “I’m sure you have your own reasons. But just to warn you, I’m very determined to hear you play at least once. Now, I’m going to tell you about when I met Tawan.”

He perked up with interest. His brother had not once mentioned Sasithorn’s existence to him. How the two could have struck up an acquaintance was not within Athit’s realm of imagination.

She had just gotten off the train after work and was passing through the station when her ears began picking up a melody echoing her way. Walking on further, she saw a man sitting on the ground, leaning on the station wall, playing the guitar. He played so beautifully, she barely noticed the rough noise of the engines and people around her.

His fingers sought out, plucking and pressing strings that sang out with hardly having to think about it.

Tawan glanced over and found a coin dropped into the hat he had set down beside him when he got there, totally not intended as a collection vessel. But he raised his eyes and beheld a much more pleasant sight. In front of him crouched a young lady, her face glowing with enjoyment of his music and a smile that made Tawan’s heart pump faster as if it had only come to life, greedy for the sweetness of air, at that instant when their eyes met.

Athit snorted out a laugh. “You thought he was a beggar?” She glanced at him sullenly and continued.

A few days later. Surprised when she saw the same man, she wondered if he meant to continue making a living at this very spot. Something in his eyes when he looked up at her made her feel he’d been waiting for her, and her breath shortened. Then she smiled. She placed another coin into his hat, but this time, also accompanied it with one of the tulips from the bouquet she’d brought home with her. He returned the smile in gratitude.

The next day, she was disappointed to see he was no longer there. She walked on towards the exit. But just as soon as disappointment had settled in her heart, she heard the guitar again. Turning, she stopped to see the man before her, grinning. He looked transformed, his previous ragged clothing were replaced with those of finer quality, from his black leather jacket to his boots, adding to his devilish charm. Fastened to his instrument was her tulip.

Tawan spoke first. “Miss, do you know the meaning of red tulips?”

Athit sighed in amusement. He could see it now, how simple coincidence had led the two romantics together. Tawan falling instantly for Sasithorn came as no surprise either.

“So what do red tulips mean?”

Sasithorn smiled. “You’ll know it one day.”

An hour later when Sasithorn had ceased to rustle about, Athit looked over and found her asleep. Gently, he carried her down the short hall to her room.


“Sorry, did I wake you?”

She merely smiled sleepily as he pulled the covers over her. “I have something I’ve kept from you.” She yawned, burrowing into the mattress. “But I’ll tell you tomorrow.”

He couldn’t help grinning to himself. She had such a way of making herself not guilty of anything, and it wasn’t intentional, but just her true innocent outlook on life which was paired with her innate toughness that had his heart growing devoted to her day by day. It would be hard for him to ever be mad at her. He tucked back the short hair away from her face.

“Good night.”



Stretching his arms over his head, Athit woke up to the pounding of the door. Throwing his blanket onto the couch, Athit hurried to the door and looked through the door-hole. An unfamiliar woman was on the other side.

Opening up the door, he raised a brow in question. “Who are you?”

The woman, dressed in starched shirt and blazer and dress pants with her hair twisted up in a bun, gave off an air of strong dislike for him, despite being a stranger. “My name is Sasithorn, and I believe my sister lives here.”

Chapter 5 *Introducing Margie Rasri as Ratree, whom Athit (and you all) thought was Sasithorn*

“Athit, who is it?”

“Ratree.” The woman standing upon the threshold turned to her, face set sternly.

“Sasi…” she gasped.

Athit’s eyes swung from one to the other, utterly perplexed.

“What are you doing here?” Sasithorn—Ratree?—asked.

Athit tried to ask, “What—“

“Surprised that I finally found you?” the stranger replied.

Athit held up a hand. “What do you mean—“

“No, I knew you would find me sooner or later.”

“Hold on!” Athit cut in. “What is going on here?”

The unknown woman who called herself Sasithorn merely shot him a look of disdain that spelled out she didn’t even find him worthy of talking to.

He started to say, “Sasi—“

“Athit, come here!” She quickly grabbed him and paused long enough to say, “Stay here, I have to enlighten him a bit about something,” to the other woman and then dragged him down the hall to her bedroom.

As he locked the door, Athit demanded, “You have more than a bit to enlighten me about. Who is that? Why did she call you by a different name? Did she come to the wrong place?”

Like a child caught telling a falsehood, she grinned sheepishly. “That’s what I told you last night that I was keeping from you. And I was going to tell you the truth today but my sister showed up and—"

“She’s your sister?”

She nodded, and even more like a child caught telling a falsehood, Athit was aware that she was not entirely too guilty, and expected to be forgiven. Slowly, he asked, “Alright…so she really is your sister.”


“And your name’s not Sasithorn?”


“Your name is Ratree.”


“Her name is…is Sasithorn.”


Still at odds with this revelation, he took a deep breath. “Why did you never inform me you had siblings?””

“Sibling,” she corrected his plural use. “And, well, you never asked.”

True, he thought. “Did Tawan know you as Ratree?”

“Of course,” she said, sounding mildly like she found him absurd for thinking she would lie to her lover.

“Then,” the most important question of all, “Why did you lie to me?”

She bit her lip in hesitance before answering. “Because Tawan made me promise.”

“What do you mean?”

“Tawan told me once that it’s crucial that if anyone who knew him approached me, I had to lie about my identity, because my safety depended on it after he started…his new job.” She eyed him earnestly, eager to make him understand her reasoning. “I mean, I trust you Athit, I honestly do! But I also trusted Tawan with my life, so when I recalled his words, I couldn’t help it. And—and it was the only thing I’ve kept from you, really.” As he continued to remain silent, she frowned worriedly. “Are you mad? I only did what I thought was best since Tawan wouldn’t have made me promise without good reason, right? Athit? Did I hurt your feelings?”

He breathed a short, sudden laugh. “My feelings?”

He shook his head, even now amused by her sensitivity, though he immediately softened his eyes seeing her still looking anxious. “You don’t have to worry about that. I’m not angry. In fact, I approve that you heeded Tawan’s caution.”

He fondly patted her hair, a reassuring touch that brought back the smile on her lips. “I’m sure he never counted on us meeting without him to introduce us. But I have to say, he’s right--aside from me, if anyone looks suspicious and says they know me or Tawan, you still have to lie about your identity. Understood Ratree?”

“Yes!” she said. “Whew! It sounds so much better to hear you call me my real name.”

“Anyway, what’s up with your sister? She made it sound like she was hunting for you?”

“Because I ran away from home,” she replied, shrugging nonchalantly.

Never having imagined Ratree as a truant who would run away, Athit looked doubtfully down at her.

She shook her finger at him. “Uh-uh, don’t judge me. I’m a grown woman and can make decisions for my life and have successfully been living on my own for two years now.”

More doubt arose. “Two years? Don’t tell me you haven’t seen her in all this time.”

“Yep. Oh! Let’s not leave her out there alone too long. I’m afraid she might have convinced the landlord to kick me out.”

Again, this raised more questions for him. Ratree set one of the pictures on her nightstand face down before she opened the door, and there stood her sister, lifting her eyes up from her watch as if she’d been exercising patience too long. She stepped in.

“You know, it’s rude to eavesdrop.”

“As if I would eavesdrop on anything you two were talking about.” The real Sasithorn inspected the room from her spot with a swift glance and sighed. She did not like anything she saw, apparently. “Which room is the landlord’s? You’re moving out today.”

Ratree gave Athit a told-you-so glance before replying, “Sasi, I’m not moving out and I’m definitely not moving in with you if that’s what your plan is.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. Of course you are. You’ve been stubborn long enough and it’s time that you stop this nonsense and return home with me.”

“Home?” Ratree gave an uncharacteristic scoff. “You mean that condominium that looks like a magazine catalog ad?”

“Compared to this, I don’t see what can be discredited about a catalog ad,” she gestured to their surroundings.

“THIS,” Ratree retorted, “is my home and it’s perfect.”

Athit didn’t necessarily agree but he had indeed become used to the cozy little apartment, so he felt a rising resentment towards this sister on behalf of Ratree—especially after he’d put in the efforts to fix up the place, it really wasn’t that bad.

Sasithorn turned to Ratree in disbelief. “Perfect? You call your aimless day-to-day living alone with no family perfect?”

“I’m not alone.”

“Oh I forgot. You have your deadbeat boyfriend with you. That’s just the icing on the cake,” she said, with a frown that said she was one of those people who disapproved of cake altogether.

Who did she think she was? Who in the world dared to call Tawan deadbeat? Athit opened his mouth to object, “I’ll have you know—“

“--That Athit is the dearest and most loving boyfriend in the world,” Ratree said, fitting her hand into his.

He turned in shock.

“Please, don’t exaggerate. He can’t even afford to give you a decent house.”

Before Athit could work up another rage, Ratree said, “That doesn’t matter to us. We’re starting a family and you have no right to break me apart from the love of my life.” She forced his arm around her shoulder, effectively making Athit both speechless and momentarily awkward, since he very much saw her as a sister-in-law.


“Yes honey?” She raised her sweet eyes up at him and let her lashes flutter. Her affections were interrupted by her sister.

“Can you please have some decency in front of me?” Sasithorn eyed Athit in his sweats and tank top and single gold earring peeking behind his shaggy hair with distaste, sticking her nose in the air.

“Decency? I’m just hugging my boyfriend.” Ratree’s grip tightened around his waist, once again surprising the hell out of Athit. “And this happens to be our bedroom where we sleep together every night.” Athit whipped his head towards her, gaping. She finished with, “So it’s you who has no decency, coming in here uninvited.”

“Look, will you just go back with me? I can take care of you.”

“I can take care of myself.”

“Well you happen to be pregnant.”

“OMG, I really had no idea!” Ratree exaggeratedly exclaimed. “Now that you’ve helped me discover that I’m pregnant, you can leave. And the father of my child is here to help me.”

“Don’t be so naïve. I’m trying to help you.”

“She said she doesn’t want to leave,” Athit broke in, annoyed enough to recover from his shock with Ratree’s last comment about him being the father.

“Stay out of this. I’m not going to let my sister ruin her life over a pathetic loser—“

“Sister? I had the impression you were her mother.”

“Who cares what you think, you have no right to interfere in our family.”

“You have no right to control her life. You don’t even know how she’s been living.”

“Not good enough, with you by her side!”

“Excuse you lady, but you don’t even know me!”

“I know that my sister would be better off without the situation you put her in!”

Their argument halted when Ratree stepped up and pushed her sister. Sasithorn steadied herself and looked at Ratree, shocked into silence. Athit, equally taken aback, realized Ratree was standing between them, red in the face.

“How dare you?” she said to Sasithorn, who was frowning in concern back. “How dare you make my child sound like some shameful ‘situation’ that should be erased.”

It was the same word Athit had first used too, but the connotations that her sister implied was quite different.

“R-Ratree,” Sasithorn stuttered regretfully. “No, I didn’t mean it like that—“

“Of course you did. This is not some result of me being irresponsible. I’m not some loose woman."

“I wasn’t saying that—“

“Then what are you saying? All our lives, you’ve nagged and suffocated me with your rules and intolerance for anything I wanted. And you really don’t know why I left?”

Hurt swimming in her eyes, Sasithorn tried to step closer but Ratree moved back and took Athit’s arm.

“And now you want to just barge in and separate me from someone I love? How dare you?” The fierceness in Ratree’s voice made her sister’s composure falter more. “You don’t ever listen to me, or care about what I want.”

“Of course I care! That’s why I’m always doing my best to give you everything—“

“I don’t need everything! I need you to give me space. Your way isn’t the only way to live.” Suddenly, Ratree cringed, breathing hard.

“Ratree!” The other two called worriedly.

“Calm down first,” Athit soothed, helping her over to the bed where she sat. His attention was too focused on her so that by the time he lifted his head, he discovered Sasithorn had left.

After Ratree’s shallow breathing returned to normal, and she’d roughly wiped away her tears, he waited for her to speak, but she didn’t. Unable to bear the silence, he made himself talk first.

“Ratree, should we—“

“I’m hungry,” she said. She tilted her face up to his. “I’m hungry, Athit.”

He understood that she wasn’t ready to discuss what had just happened; that, as naturally happy of a person as she was, there were some things even she could not make light of and bluntly talk about. Her earth-tinted eyes were silently asking him to wait before asking questions.

“Ok, I’ll make some breakfast.”

Before he left, he noticed the picture frame that was face down on the night stand. He remembered that it was a photo of Ratree with Tawan. If it had still been up, her sister would have seen through her lie right away. But why did Ratree have to lie that she was dating Athit?

They went about their day with unusually short conversation until it was time for bed. He sat upon the edge of her bed, and she asked, looking to the side, “Athit, am I a horrible person?”

He blinked for a second at her unexpected question. Since he didn’t immediately respond, she flitted her eyes his way only to scrunch up with a “Hey!” when he pinched her nose.

He looked at her stomach and said, “Kid, you have such a silly little mom. But you’ll get used to her in time.”

She pretended to be offended, but couldn’t help a small quirk of her lips as he continued. “I can guarantee to you that your mom isn’t a horrible person though.”

“Thanks Athit.”



“I think if…IF she comes back, you should talk to her.” Their eyes met and he knew she agreed with him.


Is your "nom" Fai-approved?
Chapter 6

The next day, they arrived at Plerng’s house. As he got out of the car, something dawned on Athit. “Is Plerng really your friend from school?”

She nodded. “Yeah.”

“Then how come he didn’t know your real name?”

Ratree’s eyes twinkled. “Plerng’s a really laid back person. He’s not one to question people, so when I told him my name was Sasithorn, I knew he’d go along with it without trouble.”

Shaking his head at her slyness, they entered the house.

“Well good afternoon you two!” Plerng’s jolly announcement welcomed them. “Sasithorn, I have something special for you today.”

“Oh Plerng, it’s actually Ratree now.”

“Oh, did you change your name back?” he asked without batting an eye, much to Athit’s incredulity. “I thought it was weird that you wanted to be named like your sister.”

Ratree giggled. “It’s complicated, but essentially yes, I’m Ratree again.”

“Anyway, as I was saying, I was able to borrow this handy machine from a friend who runs a small clinic.” Plerng pulled a white sheet off with a flourish to reveal an…

“Ultrasound system. Thought it was about time you found out whether it was a boy or a girl.”

“Wow!” she exclaimed. Before Athit could doubt whether Plerng even knew how to use the machine, she laid on the couch as Plerng applied the gel to her growing belly and used the sensor to find an image.

“Ah! The little guy looks healthy and just the right size that he should be.”

“He?” Ratree said breathlessly.

“Yep, that’s definitely a son you’ve got.”

“Damn, I have a nephew…”

Ratree slapped Athit’s bicep. “Don’t swear,” she reminded Athit.

“Oh, right.” He zipped his lips, as a flood of emotions filled his chest and threatened to be expressed in more blasphemously colorful language.

“What are you going to name him?” Plerng asked, just as pleased by the image onscreen as the two of them were.

She answered, “Tawan.” She met Athit’s smile.

A few days later, Ratree had drowsily fallen to an afternoon nap attack, so Athit slipped out to pick up some groceries. On his way, he pulled out his phone and dialed.


“Yes sir, I’ve returned for about a week and am settled into the headquarters here. So far, the only suspect is the one you’ve brought up.”

“Keep a close eye on him then. Have you found everyone who’s been around Tawan while I was gone?”

“The majority have been found, without any leads, but there are two more evasive suspects. They have the best protection around them, so I haven’t been able to touch them.”

Just as Wattana expected, his boss replied, “I expect progress.”

“Yes sir.”

He looked up at the people surrounding the streets and was sent back into a memory.

Athit restlessly walked around the street. He sighed. Last night, he had dreamed of his parents. But that was not the dream occupying his troubled mind. What he was thinking of was his brother’s dream, his brother’s lifelong dream to become a singer. Athit knew how much Tawan loved music. But they did not have the funds to have Tawan trained professionally or get him connected to the music industry. Tawan was already very good with the guitar and piano, but he was only given a few hours a day to practice because the instruments his brother used were school property. Plus Athit was barely making enough to keep the two of them alive here in the city, as well as getting Tawan through school. Tawan had only one more year before he would go into high school too.

Athit turned the corner, not bothering to look at where his feet were taking him. That was how he met…

He stopped by a 7Eleven but decided to wait until he came back to pick up milk.

Before reaching the market, Athit dodged around a corner inconspicuously, and disappeared.

Someone else approached the spot he had been occupying, turning around in bewilderment.

“Where’d he go?”

The woman was suddenly jerked into an alley where a blooming bush of flowers over the fence blocked her from sight of the street.

“Why are you following me?”

Sasithorn blinked up at the pair of dark eyes focused intently on her.

They were slightly unsettling, so that for a moment, she caught her breath. Looking away, she cleared her throat. “Can you move?”

At first, she thought he wasn’t going to, but he parted from her to allow them some space, though not enough for her to make a quick getaway.

“So? Why are your following me?”

“Just t-to see where you were going.”

“You could have just asked,” he replied, knowing full well she was actually spying, perhaps even hoping to catch him committing a crime.

“Alright, I’m sorry,” she muttered, not sounding particularly sincere.

Deciding he shouldn’t mind her until things had been cleared with Ratree, Athit betook himself to the street.

“Wait!” She collided with his back.

“What?” He turned.

“I want you to help me make my sister love me again.”

His features—handsome features, she thought—remained stoic. It was enough to make her mentally cringe, hearing herself stoop low enough and have to ask for this bum’s help.


“Because I want you to.”

“I’ll pass.”

“Wha…hey!” She quickly stood in front of his path. “Don’t just leave when I’m talking.”

“You talking doesn’t mean I have to listen.”

“Ugh,” she scoffed. She should’ve expected him to be useless like this. “Well I want you to convince Ratree to not be mad at me.”

“And why should I do that? Have you even tried going to see her yet?”

“Well if she won’t even pick up my calls, I highly doubt she wouldn’t slam the door in my face.”

He shook his head. “Ratree would never do that,” he said confidently. “I know her.”

She frowned. “Yes I’m sure. But you’re not me. She likes making my life hard.”

“If she makes your life so difficult, then why are you here?”

“Because she’s my sister. I’m not going to abandon her.”

Athit said pleasantly, “That’s understandable. I still don’t see why I’m necessary. Just come by the apartment and talk to her.” He walked around her.

Sasithorn screwed up her face before blurting, “I need your help!”

They faced each other once more, this time, he was clearly surprised.

“She …she trusts you. Completely.” Sasithorn obviously resented this. “And she hasn’t needed me in so long. But I want to be a part of her life.”

So was her forceful attitude her way of trying to squeeze into Ratree’s life? Well, the woman wasn’t very tactful, though he could at least give her credit for trying.

“But I don’t know how to get her to let me.”

“For starters, stop being so bossy.”

“I didn’t ask for your opinion!”

“You just said you needed my help,” he replied with placid amusement as she winced.

Sasithorn took a deep breath. “Okay, fine, I’ll try not to be…bossy.”

“And what do you mean she trusts me completely?”

“She goes everywhere with you and lets you live with her, duh.”

“Wait, you’ve been following us?”

She crossed her arms and admitted without an ounce of guilt, “Only for the past two days. You didn’t expect me to let some weirdo hang around my sister did you?”

“So I’m no longer a weirdo?”

Sasithorn ignored his joke and said, “Are you going to help me or not?”

He shrugged. “Depends.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“How much do you want to make up with her?”

“Oh, I dunno, I’ve only been searching for her like crazy for the past two years.”

“How do I know you’re not just doing this to save your own reputation as a sibling?”

She glared at him. “I care about Ratree, okay? She’s the only family I have and I hate that I didn’t even know where she was for two whole years. She called once in a while to keep me sane but that only made me more anxious that I might never get another call from her. I don’t even know what I did wrong but I’m willing to do anything for her. But I can’t do that if she doesn’t love me anymore.”

Athit watched her frowning. He understood her, and felt sorry for her. He too had been willing to do anything for Tawan’s happiness and safety, and even though he couldn’t imagine them being sisters, she obviously just wanted to take care of Ratree.


Sasithorn looked up at him. “Really? You’ll help me?”

“There’s a condition thought.”

She eyed him with suspicion.

“You have to do whatever I say.”


“What, you don’t trust me?”

Her silence affirmed this. He played it with indifference. “No deal then.”

“Wait!” she stopped him from leaving. “Okay.”

Athit bit back a smile of triumph. “First off, apologize for calling me deadbeat and a loser.”

“Why do I—“

“It was very insulting.”

She scoffed. “I’m sorry. There.”

“Second, stop stalking us.”


“Third, stop being so annoying.”

She glared.

“Now why don’t we both go back to the apartment and you can talk to Ratree.”

They made their way, side by side, down the road. “Hold on,” he said when they got to the 7Eleven store. “Hold these.”

“What? Why me?”

“Your hands are free.” He thrust the grocery bags at her so she was forced to take them. “I’m going to grab some things quick.”

“Don’t you have enough food here?”

She waited while he went in then came out holding a gallon of milk with a smile. “Ratree likes drinking milk before bed. Let’s go.”

Following, Sasithorn was surprised at how attentive he seemed towards Ratree, but shook the awe out of her head.

“By the way, I was wondering, what do you do for a living?”

“Do for a living?”

“Yes. Obviously you need money to pay for this stuff right?” She watched him closely.

“Oh we just live off of Ratree’s savings.”


He snickered. “I was kidding. How would I be able to do that to Tawan’s—“ Athit froze. “I mean, to Ratree?” He caught her suspicious look and said. “Look, you don’t have to worry about that. I have a stable job and I can take care of her.”

“So what’s your stable job?”

He smiled. “I run a business. Anyway, what do YOU do for a living?”

Sasithorn didn’t believe he really ran a business and was annoyed he wasn’t taking her seriously. “I’m an accountant. So what kind of business do you run?”

“Oooh, sorry but I think it’s better if you didn’t know.”

“Why?” Then her jaw dropped. “Don’t tell me you’re involved in illegal activities!”

“Okay, I won’t tell you.” He opened the front door and headed up the stairs, much to her irritation, especially since he hadn’t offered to take back the grocery bags, leaving her struggling by herself.

They entered the apartment and were met with Ratree’s cheerful voice. “Athit, where did you go?”

“To the market. I picked up a stray dog along the way.”

If Sasithorn’s hands hadn’t been filled, she might have smacked him.

Chapter 7

Ratree appeared in the kitchen where they were and lost the question she’d been about to ask, seeing Sasithorn looking at her quietly. Sasithorn was actually quite anxious inside but tried to hide it.

“I believe you know her, “Athit commented casually, stocking the fridge with his recent purchases, ignoring whatever tension was in the air. “I thought it’d be okay if I invited her for dinner.”

After a moment, Ratree gave a small frown and said, “I guess that would be alright.”

Sasithorn’s eyes lit up. “Really? Ratree, you’re letting me stay! Oh—“

“Only for dinner though.” She walked out to the living room.

Sasithorn was too excited to be affected by her coldness, and she made a small spazzing dance with her arms, but stopped abruptly when she caught Athit, leaning on the counter, watching with amusement. She cleared her throat loudly. “I’ll cook. You can just stay out of the way.”

He scoffed. Not even a small thanks huh, he thought. Well, at least he got her doing some of the labor.

“Oh! I’ll be right back! Don’t touch anything!” she ordered him.

Athit folded the newspaper together when he head Sasithorn reenter the apartment. She fled into the kitchen, eager to create a meal for her sister.

“What did you get?”

“Prawns and scallops.”

“Ratree can’t eat those.”

She looked at him like he was crazy. “Of course she can. She loves prawns.”

“The baby doesn’t. Other than fish, seafood makes Ratree sick.”

Sasithorn was about to argue but hesitated, since it was very probable he was telling the truth. After all, he had lived with her pregnant sister more recently. “Really?”

“Yeah.” He could tell she was disappointed. But then he noticed a different mood on her face, which was twitching as if in discomfort. “Are you okay?”

She snapped him a look of annoyance before begrudgingly asking, “So…so what CAN she eat?”

Athit realized that her discomfort was her reluctance to ask for his help, but she needed his help, so it was making her fidgety. He wondered how someone so headstrong had even gotten over herself enough to ask him for help.

“Just about anything else.”

“Okay then.”

Dinner was a quiet affair until Athit nudged Sasithorn’s foot. She caught his motion for her to say something to Ratree. She set her silverware down and said gently, “Ratree, I truly am sorry about the other day. I in no way intended to say those words out of context, I swear. I’m just…really worried about you, I mean, having a child is such a big step in your life, I wasn’t prepared for the news and just…came on too strong.” She took a deep breath. “But I respect your decisions and will stand by to support you.” She felt Athit nudge her foot hard. “And I won’t…won’t boss you around.” She sent Athit a brief side scowl before turning back to her sister. “Will you forgive me?”

Ratree slowly finished chewing and said, “I suppose…”

“You do?” Sasithorn held her breath.


“I’m so glad. I missed you a lot, don’t you know?”

Ratree spared her a nod and kept eating.

“So, so why didn’t you tell me the last time you called that you’re expecting?”

“I didn’t think it was necessary. You would’ve only flipped out on me.”

“But still, to keep this from me…” She felt Athit’s foot tap hers. WHAT? her eyes asked. He shook his head, telling her to stop. She obeyed with difficulty. “Anyway…um, so are you getting prenatal care?”

“As a matter of fact, I have a very capable midwife helping us right now. Isn’t that right, Athit?”

He still couldn’t bring himself to consider Plerng as a professional, but there was nothing he could do. “M-hm.”

And Plerng really was doing a good job, providing the right health advice and even offering Athit the contact information of his doctor friend whom Athit researched and found to be a respected physician in the city.

“Do you think I could go with you to one of your appointments with her?”


“Oh! Oh, a he…midwife?” Sasithorn puzzled this out. “Well, can I go?”

Ratree glanced at her sister. She knew Sasithorn was going to react to Plerng even worse than Athit had, but now that she was here, she couldn’t get rid of her easily. So Ratree resigned to getting the worst over with. “Athit, what do you think?”

“I don’t think there will be any harm.”



Athit’s face mirrored that of someone in deep agony. He stood with arms folded before Ratree, who was gazing up at him with the innocent light of a saint, which he was attempting—and failing—to deflect. “What?” he said in response her request.

“Just for a little while,” she said with her hands clasped earnestly. “Just until my sister leaves.”

“Which might be never.” This realization sent an unpleasant shiver through him. Holy shit, with the way Sasithorn was, she might really pester them for the rest of their lives. “Nooo…”

Ratree held her stomach in laughter, finding it hilarious that someone like Athit would be seriously concerned about her sister having any power over his life.

“You’re really asking me to give up my car?” That was the situation they were currently discussing.

“Mm,” she nodded. “I mean, Sasi thinks you’re a poor guy, would it make sense if you drove such an expensive car around?”

“Why do we have to maintain my image of a lowlife?” He growled at the image of Ratree’s arrogant sister. He could care less about her opinions, but Athit might have relished exposing his background to Little Miss Uptight and rubbing it in her face if he was the type to resort to such immature show of power.

“Because if she sees you driving that car, she’ll be suspicious, which will lead to endless questions until she discovers you’re not actually my boyfriend.”

“But I’m not!” he pointed out, for the first time expressing his displeasure at her lie about their relationship. It wasn’t that he was uncomfortable with her—it was quite the opposite. He had grown to see her as, well, a sister and there was also the fact that she was his brother’s girlfriend. To Athit, this lie was just a tad overboard.

“But I need you to pretend to be for now.”

“Pray tell why.”

“You’ve already seen the way my sister is. If she finds out I’m a single mother, there’s no way she’s going to step aside and leave me alone. She’ll do whatever it takes to make me live with her and follow her rules.”

“I thought you said you could handle her. And she’s really trying not to be pushy.” He attempted to reason weakly with her.

“Please Athit! Telling her we lied—“ She pouted and corrected herself at his fierce look. “Telling her I lied to her will fuel her unreasonableness and this time, there will be no stopping her. And! And she’ll despise you and make sure to keep me and baby Tawan away from you. Would you really want that? Can’t you take pity on me?” Her bambi eyes sparkled up at him. Damn she was good.

He sighed. “And then? I suppose we’ll just continue masquerading as a couple forever?”

“Oh that won’t be necessary. Once she accepts that I’m capable of taking care of my son, she’ll have to leave on her own. I mean, she has her job and stuff to take care of.”

Athit was sure Ratree was missing a crucial point in this game. “But she knows where you live now. She’ll keep checking up on you, and realize that we aren’t TOGETHER-together. And I’m not going to have you relocate just to keep up with this lie.” Especially since he had given Sasithorn his word to help them repatch their relationship. To have Ratree up and running away again would be counterproductive in the end.

“We can say we decided to see other people.”

He gave her a deadpan look. On top of lying that he was her boyfriend, she was going to make it seemed like he abandoned her too?

“Fine…” Her head drooped. “I guess I’ll just reveal everything to Sasi when she gets here. Thanks for all your help anyway.”

Athit kicked himself mentally for his weakness. “Okay, fine. It’s not like I won’t be around anyway, since we’re family now. Sasithorn doesn’t have to know the truth.”

“Yay! Thank you so much Athit!” She reached up and pecked his cheek. Even as he frowned, a pleasant warmth filled him at her child-like celebratory manners.


They looked aside and discovered Sasithorn, who had witnessed Ratree’s show of affection, but had luckily not overheard anything else. Athit got in Sasithorn’s car without reluctance, or even a sign that he was being forced to set aside his manly pride and take help from a woman he obviously didn’t get along with. But that was what Ratree appreciated about him. He didn’t see himself as superior to others and was patient with Sasithorn. Ratree turned to her sister and couldn’t help smiling a little too, because Sasithorn was driving with a smirk of satisfaction as if being the driver helped her one-up Athit. If she was honest, Ratree missed her. She missed her sister a lot. What was Ratree going to do with these two?

Chapter 8

Sasithorn stared in stunned silence after witnessing the trio—Ratree, Athit and Plerng—complete the “Lamaze” class Plerng had designed. The moment she’d met Plerng and learned he was the “midwife,” she’d been in too deep a state of shock to give a reaction. Halfway through the session, she was confused with her own feelings, seeing Plerng’s competence while not able to accept such a bizarre arrangement of him being an unofficial doctor.

Now that the class was over, her voice recovered.

“How old are you again?”

Plerng pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose in a half geeky, half childish manner. “Twenty-six ma’am.”

“Sasi, didn’t I say he’s my friend from school?” Ratree said in exasperation, knowing full well the disapproval that would follow.

“And? Why would you come here for medical care?” Then she turned to Athit. “WHY did you bring my sister here? Why didn’t you take her to an actual hospital?” She sighed and mumbled, “I knew I couldn’t rely on you…”

As afore mentioned, Athit didn’t find Plerng completely unworthy of this task, but he had actually been hoping Sasithorn would help him convince Ratree to see an actual doctor at least once. However, Athit did not appreciate her blame because after all, he was doing his best to provide everything she needed. “I’ll have you know that Plerng is the best in Thailand!”

Ratree and Plerng both stared in awe at his declaration.

Sasithorn scoffed. “If this is the best of your judgment, I won’t leave my sister’s medical necessities to you. No offense,” she said aside to Plerng, who brightly replied, “None taken.”

Ratree watched the two of them bicker, becoming alert to something interesting. She knew Athit had become used to her stubbornness and Plerng’s personality, without giving up completely on getting her to go to a big hospital. Yet with Sasithorn’s criticism, he had done a complete 180. The two of them were such obvious rivals that she felt sure she could use this to her advantage.

She cut into the ongoing argument. “You two, I’m sticking with Plerng, so there’s no point in arguing. Sasi, if you don’t like it here, you may leave.”

Sasithorn forced herself to hold in her flow of objections. “I’m staying.” She glowered at Athit, who eyed her with infuriation. She was used to being in control of the situation, but he too was someone used to being the authority, and though he had set that aside temporarily to accompany Ratree, it aggravated him to no ends to have him deemed incompetent by anyone.

Driving back to the apartment, Sasithorn asked Ratree, “Does he have that much time on his hands?” referring to Plerng’s accurate knowledge and adept skill with prenatal care.

“Plerng is good at everything. Besides, I’m receiving his help free of charge, so don’t badmouth him.” She sat up in the car as they passed a small night market. “I want to go there!”

Athit followed her gaze from the back seat at the night fair. There was a crowd milling about with game booths and food for sale along the colorful lit up street. “It’s getting late. We should just go back.”

“It’s not that late yet,” Ratree argued. “Besides, there’s nothing for us to do. Can we please?”

The car stopped and they got out.

Sasithorn crossed her arms. “There’s probably nothing interesting here Ratree. And you’d get tired walking around.”

While Athit was scoping the street out, Ratree leaned towards her sister. “Sasi, let’s stay na? You now, Athit doesn’t let me do anything because he’s overly worried. Don’t you think that’s silly?”

Just as Ratree expected, Sasithorn frowned at the unaware Athit. He didn’t know what he was doing, she affirmed silently, suddenly taking back her earlier decision to get back to the apartment early.

When he turned back to the women, she confronted him. “I’m taking Ratree through the market.”

He grew grim. “I thought you didn’t want to stay. We should really get back. It might be dangerous.”

She didn’t get what he meant and didn’t see anything dangerous at all with the silly fair. “There are plenty of lights here. What’s the big deal? Besides, exercise is better for her. We’re going. You stay if you don’t want to come along.” She and Ratree made for the crowd. Athit pursed his lips and followed closely behind them.

Ratree was amused by everything, from the clowns to the games and her face lit up the evening as brightly as the moon’s light. Athit found himself drawn to the trifle entertainment too, though every now and then he made sure to look around and kept them from getting too close to other people. Though he had objected before to them being there, he didn’t refuse anything Ratree wanted, whether it was toys or candy. He even played a dart game to win Ratree a teddy bear.

“Tch, what a show-off,” Sasithorn muttered, while Ratree cheered in victory before tugging Athit by the hand to look at a jewelry collection, leaving Sasithorn to trail behind.

“You like them?” Athit asked.

Ratree held up two, a silver chain with an angel wing pendant embedded with a rhinestone and a second with a heart pendant. “Which one is prettier?”

He tapped his chin. “Hmm…this one.” He pointed to the one with angel wings. “I’ll get it for you.” He glanced over to Sasithorn. “Would you like one too?”

She eyed the cheap necklaces with distaste. “No thank you.” She looked away arrogantly with her chin up. What was he trying to do, pleasing her with gifts? He obviously only wanted to look good in front of Ratree, she thought, resenting how he took up all of her sister’s attention.

“Nah, I’ll get you one. It’ll be my first present to you as my sister-in-law.” He grinned cheekily, enjoying her annoyance. Deliberating amongst the choice of necklaces, Athit’s eyes landed on a pink enameled rose hanging from a silver necklace. His fingers scooped it up for a closer inspection, and he decided in favor of it.

While he was paying, Sasithorn decided to steal some of Ratree’s time. “Ratree, wanna go look at the other merchandise?”

She nodded. A little boy ran into Ratree’s legs and adorably apologized. “It’s okay darling. Here.” She handed him her glow stick. His mom came up after him and thanked her and while the two conversed, Athit stood to her side and Sasithorn glanced off at the other people around. She didn’t notice more teenagers rushing in her direction, laughing hysterically amongst themselves, until they shoved her and Athit out of the way. Her high heel caught a crack in the side walk and sent her sprawling to the ground.


Athit had met the same unfortunate fate, feeling his arm throb from the fall. He felt something tickle his cheek—it was Sasithorn’s lashes fluttering her eyes open. They were heaped in a mess on the ground, he saw, as he pushed himself up, and found his hand that had protected her head was tangled by her long hair. He’d never seen Sasithorn without her hair meticulously twisted up and now it was all loose, trailing along her shoulders, until she stood up.

“You ok?”

“Yeah.” She dusted her skirt.

“Were you hurt?” Ratree asked frantically.


“Sasithorn fell really hard,” Athit interrupted. “I’m afraid she might be injured.”

Ratree turned her attention to a surprised sister, who glanced at Athit, confused. Hadn’t she just told him she was fine? Especially since he’d prevented her from any serious impact.

“Where? Sasi, where does it hurt?” Ratree was anxiously turning her sister to and fro.

“Um, I…”

“Her back must ache. Falling like that won’t be easy on an aging woman’s back,” Athit offered his suggestions, earning a scowl from Sasithorn for his jab. “She should rest at our place tonight.”

This succeeded in wiping the glare from her eyes, as she realized he was actually trying to help her.

“Is your back bruised? Can you walk ok?” Ratree asked.

“Ah…Oh, right! OW!” Sasithorn hissed in mimicking pain, placing her hand on her hips. She stretched to her left and groaned. “It really hurts.”

“Why don’t we all go back to the apartment? It’s getting late and Sasithorn shouldn’t drive all the way home when she’s hurt.”

“Should we see a doctor? Oh! Or take her to Plerng?”

“No no!” Sasithorn waved in rejection. “I really would just like some rest. But,” she tried to humbly lower her head, “if it’s too much trouble for you two to have me stay over, I understand.”

“We don’t mind. Come on…”




Athit raised a brow at the curt command. “Excuse me?”

“I’m sleeping there.”

“But aren’t you sleeping with Ratree?”

“No, I’ll be perfectly comfortable out here.” She was referring to the sofa that Athit had already supplied with his blanket and pillow that was used every night—this was not common knowledge to Sasithorn, of course.

“Go ahead and sleep in the bedroom.”

“I wouldn’t want to intrude any further than I already have.” She primly plumped up the pillow.

“Don’t worry about that. Just get some rest.”

“No, I’m the guest and I’ll sleep out here.”

“Being the guest, you should sleep on the bed.”

“If this is some kind of chivalry, I’ll spare you the duty. What, you think my aging back can’t handle the sofa?” she asked with a bite of resentment, which he turned away to chuckle at.

“I’m serious. Just go to bed.”

“I repeat, I’ll stay out here,” she replied, clearly losing her patience.

“Maybe I should sleep out here and you both can sleep in the bedroom.”

They turned to see Ratree’s impish smile that reflected the mischief in her words.

“Ratree!” They both said, not the least bit amused, though for different reasons-- that Athit would not tolerate Ratree losing comfort, while Sasithorn was outraged at both that AND the idea of sharing a room with her ‘brother-in-law.’

“Just kidding,” she giggled.

“I don’t appreciate your humor. Will you get him away already? I’d like to sleep now.” Sasithorn snatched the blanket from his hand.

“Come on Athit.”

His jaw dropped. “What?”

“Sasi will be fine, I’m sure. We should all get some sleep now.”


“Argh, will you stop arguing?” Sasithorn barked from under the blanket. “Turn off the light when you leave.”

Ratree gestured Athit to leave so he was left with no choice.


“She’s trying to thank you.”

He turned to see her smirking eyes. “What do you mean?”

“Sasithorn seems like she’s being stubborn, but she’s just trying to make it up to you for helping her earlier.”

So that was why she was so insistent on sleeping out on the couch. Little did she know that she was not doing him any favor, Athit shook his head.

“I’ll sleep down here,” Athit said when Ratree peered curiously at him spreading a blanket and pillow on the floor.

She laughed softly. “You don’t have to do that. Come on up here.”

He was at a loss for words, which made her laugh again. “I don’t mind, honestly. Unless it’s awkward for you, it doesn’t matter that we sleep on the same bed. Besides, I owe you for dragging you into this charade in front of my sister.”

He shrugged. “If it really doesn’t bother you.” He had to admit, floors weren’t his thing.

The two lay side by side, looking up at the ceiling.



“Is it okay if I hold your hand?”

He was not too surprised, but instead, touched by her request and he answered honestly, “Yeah.”

Her slender fingers slipped around his hand and he slightly curved his palm.


“Don’t mention it.”

“You make me feel safe, just like Tawan did. He was…” She smiled in the dark. “He was my favorite person in the world.”

The corner of his lips curved too, hearing her girlish declaration towards his brother. It couldn’t be said that he and Tawan were ever awarded such honorable titles. There were few who would mourn for them out of true loving care. “He was a pretty good guy.”

“Athit…I think you’re a pretty good guy too. You just don’t know it.”

Seconds of silence ticked by as he absorbed her words with a twinge of yearning for them to be true. Was he really a good guy? Ratree’s even breathing told him she was asleep, so he didn’t ask for any reiteration.


Is your "nom" Fai-approved?
Chapter 9

“Where did Athit go?”

“He just left for work.”

“Oh? Uh, hold on a second, ok? I forgot something in my car.” Sasithorn hurried down the stairs of the complex and out the entrance. She scanned the street, jogging down a little.


Sasithorn froze, and tried to casually turn around. “I thought Ratree said you were going to work.”

Arms crossed coolly, Athit answered, “I thought we agreed you would stop stalking?”

She bit back a retort. “I wasn’t stalking. As if I had enough free time to stalk you. I’m just going to my car to get my…my cell phone. I’m expecting a call from a coworker.”

Just then, a tune rang from her pocket. She looked down guiltily. Athit simply waited expectantly.

“Oh, ah, I…I guess I had it all along.” She pulled out her phone to silence the ringing. “Don’t let me keep you from your work.” She turned on her heel and headed back fast to the apartment.

Athit sighed. Sasithorn was too curious for her own good. He would have to remain vigilant in case she tried following him again.


“Is that really necessary? If you need anything, I can get it for you,” Sasithorn said the next morning.

Ratree stood her ground. “I want to go to the water market.”

“But why? There’s not much there, it’s just toys and food and cheap clothing for tourists.”

“Well I don’t exactly have a ton to spend at malls.”

“But I can,” Sasithorn repeated. “It’s ok to ask for help, you know.”

“I understand, and I truly appreciate it Sasi, but it’s not necessary to spend so much. I’d like to go to the local places.”

Sasithorn eyed Athit with exasperation, asking for help—just as Ratree knew she would. Previously, Athit hadn’t wanted her shopping cheaply.

Instead of assisting Sasithorn’s argument, Athit said, “You know what, it’s not such a bad idea. Let’s go to the market.”


“Sasithorn, it’s not a big deal. If Ratree likes going there then that’s where we’ll go.” He stood tall, the very image of unyielding grace. “Besides, if there’s anything else I feel she needs, I’m perfectly capable of getting it myself. Thanks.”

Ratree triumphantly smiled to herself.

Athit and Sasithorn once more bickered back and forth until Ratree was fed up and put her foot down.

Athit, Ratree and Sasithorn arrived at the water market. Ratree gazed longingly at the waterways where people were boarding their boats to get taken around the market. She turned to Athit with wide doe eyes, but he looked back at her sternly, so she lowered her head in disappointment.

“Aren’t we going on a boat?” Sasithorn asked.

“The sun’s too bright and there won’t be any shade out there,” Athit said. “Come on there’s plenty to see on land.” He took Ratree’s wrist and led them towards some of the merchants.

“Look!” Ratree released the straw in her mouth that was stuck in a coconut, picking up a feathery fan. “This is pretty!” Tilting the brim of the hat Athit had purchased earlier for her, she batted her lashes from behind the fan, making him laugh.

What a silly toy, Sasithorn thought.

“I’ll get it for you.”

“Really!? Thanks Athit!”

To Sasithorn’s dismay, Ratree giddily swished her fan around, making Sasithorn wish she had bought it for her sister first. They’d been shopping around for an hour with Ratree skipping here and there and Athit spoiling her, leaving Sasithorn feeling left out.

She asked, “Ratree, are you hungry?”

“Now that you mention it, I am!”

“Let’s go to one of the restaurants,” Athit said before Sasithorn could get in a word. They sat down and were served. Athit’s cell phone rang and he looked at them. “I’ll be right back, ok? Stay here.”

“Hmph. Who is he to order us around,” Sasithorn said under her breath. “Mm…Ratree?”

“Hm?” she asked, eating her noodles.

“So I’ve been wondering…what exactly is Athit’s work? I was just curious.”

“He runs a business.

Amazed at hearing the same vague answer, Sasithorn persisted. “Is that what he tells you? And you don’t want to know anything more? I mean, like, the details of his job?”

Ratree shrugged. “Not really.”

Her sister scoffed. “But what if he’s, I dunno, doing something illegal or…” she trailed off, meeting Ratree’s narrowed gaze.

“Look, what he does is none of our business.”

“But that’s ridiculous. He’s your boyfriend, right?”

Ratree realized her words weren’t that of a girlfriend. She knew she had no right to be against what Athit did as a living, but in front of her sister, she had to act a bit more involved in his life. “I meant…it’s none of your business. And if you can’t be around someone important to me without judging him then it would be better if you didn’t—“

“No no! I wasn’t judging him. I was just curious.” Sasithorn sunk in her chair. She didn’t want Ratree to kick her out of her life again. “Oh! If there’s anything you see that you like, I’ll get it for you, ok Ratree?” She perked up with a bright smile. She wasn’t going to sit around and let Athit shower her own sister with more gifts than herself.

Ratree glanced at the river. “There is something.”

“What is it!?”

“I want to ride the boats around the market but…Athit won’t let me.”

“Why not?” Sasithorn demanded with indignation.

“He thinks it’s dangerous. But the boats are the best part of the market. I really want to ride them. Will you come with me on one so that Athit won’t worry?”

“Geeze, how overbearing. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Let’s go Ratree!” They wouldn’t be able to accuse her of not allowing Ratree any freedom.

Athit returned to find their table deserted. Looking around in alarm, he heard his name.


There was Ratree waving at him from the boat. “Ratree!” He ran over but the boat had already taken off. “Ratree!”

“Don’t worry! Sasi will take good care of me. I’ll get you something nice ok?” She smacked her lips against her fingers and tossed him an air kiss. He sighed with discontent and caught Sasithorn’s smug look.

Sasithorn happily held up a mini battery-ran fan to keep Ratree cool as she snacked on some fruits. Her little sister looked up around her and smiled at everyone and everything.

“Remember when we came here with mom and dad a long time ago?” Ratree murmured, sunlight bronzing her cheeks.

Sasithorn contemplated those memories, so distant from the present. “And soon, you’ll have your own baby to feed and bathe and bring out to explore.” She glanced uneasily across at her sister. “Am I really that demanding? Am I really that hard to live with?”

Ratree eyed her sympathetically. “I don’t hate you, just so you know. But we’re just different. I don’t get why you keep trying to force us together when it would be better to have that space. It doesn’t mean I love you any less.”

To Ratree’s surprise, Sasithorn actually pouted. “But you love that Athit more than me.”

“That’s not true. I love you both equally.” She could honestly say this because Ratree was the type who was prone to loving and trusting others easily.

“How did you two even meet? In school?”

“Meet who?” Ratree asked, having been distracted by a display of trinkets.

“Him. The father of your child.” Sasithorn rolled her eyes.

Ratree indulged in a secretive smile because her sister had unsuspectingly described a completely different man from whom she was trying to refer to.

“I just met him on the subway home. He was very gentlemanly and said he’d noticed me for a while and finally had the courage to ask me on a date.” Once that initial meeting was over, Ratree easily told her sister stories of the sweet man who had won her heart, his persistent and tender wooing, though she was sad Sasithorn would never know the full extent of the man she loved. She would have liked for them to meet at least once.

Sasithorn wondered if she was perceiving things wrong. Why did Ratree sound sad when speaking about her boyfriend? Was he not there with her today, waiting on her hand and foot? Perhaps she was just being nostalgic.

“Anyway,” Ratree continued brightly, “I would really like it if you two got along better.”

“Oh, but he’s so insufferable,” Sasithorn groaned. “But I’ll try…” After all, he had helped her reunite with Ratree on a good note.

“Let’s go back before he worries.”

“Why is he so paranoid?”

“You have to know him well to understand why he’s overprotective. Athit has lost many loved ones before.”

“Oh.” Sasithorn thoughtfully mulled over this revelation. “Oh!”

Ratree was just reaching for some instruments displayed on the open wooden shelves but two boats rushed towards them, forcing their rower to push away from the display suddenly. Sasithorn quickly grabbed onto her sister to keep her from lurching overboard. They clutched the sides of the boats while some rowdy tourists had sandwiched them on either side, bumping and rocking their boat dangerously.

“Ratree!” she cried. “Are you ok? Are you hurt?”

“I’m okay,” Ratree gasped, frightened from the sudden motions and rocking.

“Row carefully please!” Sasithorn ordered.

“I’m trying miss.” Their rower waited for the boats to pass and theirs settled calmly upon the water again.

“Darn foreigners,” she said. “No sense of safety. Are you ok, Ratree?”

Ratree stroked her pregnant stomach, as though soothing her child. “I’m ok. Are we almost done? I’m getting really hot out here.”

When the boat was docked, Athit was there to help Ratree out and safely on dry land. Sasithorn scornfully watched, still peeved by his overbearing manners over Ratree. When he turned to her and extended a helping hand, their eyes met and she could see his hard disapproval, telling her he had witnessed the boats run into each other. She looked away with a drop of guilt. Even though it hadn’t been something she could prevent, she knew he was worried about Ratree’s well-being just as much as she.

Sasithorn refused his hand and got out by herself. Unfortunately, her nimble foot caught on top of her long skirt, propelling her forward, ending up flat on her face.

“Sasi!” Ratree exclaimed with a hand over her mouth.

“Ah…” She pried herself up, hissing in pain, before noticing the hand that was once again offering aid. Sasithorn scrambled to her feet, sighing huffily. “Why must I always get caught in accidents when you’re around?”

“This is because of me?” He raised a brow at her accusation. “Miss, have you heard of karma?”

“Are you saying I deserve all this because I’m a bad person?”

He only gave her another arch look, as if to say, You know the answer, before leading the way out of the market.

They had agreed to have Sasithorn spend another evening with them, so she followed them back into the apartment.

“You don’t look so good.” Athit patted Ratree’s forehead.

“I’m tired after today’s excursion,” she said. She yawned and flexed her arms in front of her, trying to cool herself.

“I told you not to go out in the sun.” He shook his head. “Go lay down.”

“Is Ratree not feeling well?” Sasithorn asked.

“I think the heat was too much for her,” he replied. “Leave this to me.”

The bags full of fresh fruits were lifted out of Sasithorn’s hands by Athit. She entered the kitchen after him and intended to help clear up what little messes there were but he stepped in front of her.

“I can clean this up. Go.”

Pressing her lips into a thin line, she replied, “I’ll help.”

He ignored her, much to her irritation.

Hands on her hips, she maneuvered past him and was about to unload the dishwasher when his hand fell upon the counter in front of her.

“That won’t be necessary. You’ve done enough for today.”

Incensed by the accusation she could hear in his words, she took one step forward to confront him. “I don’t know who you think you are but I don’t like being treated with that condescending attitude.”

Athit scoffed. “Ironic, considering you’re the most condescending and obstinate person here. Ratree was right.”

She followed him into the living room where he picked up the instruction manual for building the crib that they had bought earlier that week. “Right about what?” she demanded. When he didn’t respond, she snatched the manual from him.

He rounded on her. “I understand now why she wanted to live on her own. You always have to have things your way. You don’t even stop to consider the risks of your actions.”

“You’re the one who’s being demanding, always keeping her cooped up here. She isn’t even allowed to lift a finger!”

“I’m taking care of her to the best of my abilities and yet you come in here and think just because you’re a woman you know so much more than me?” He frowned fiercely at her when she bristled. This was his first time so clearly angry at her and she felt the need to defend herself. “You know what could have happened today.”

“I—“ she paused, knowing it was her fault, “but it’s not like I can predict what happens! I just want her to be happy.”

“I know how to make her happy without endangering her. You think I keep her cooped up because I enjoy it? Don’t you understand why I don’t let her do certain things?”

“I didn’t do it on purpose!”

“Then is it just some competition you have with me?” He advanced intimidatingly towards her. “If so, you can stop butting in. I promised to help you patch things up with her but if you’re going to keep coming between us, I won’t tolerate the risk of getting her and the child hurt.”

“I don’t want them to get hurt either! They’re my family!”

“Then stop with your hard-headedness!” He pulled the manual back.

She refused to let go. “You’re always making me look bad but you’re just as stubborn and bossy! I’m so tired of you!”

“Then get out!”

They struggled back and forth for the manual.

“What are you two yelling for?”

They continued arguing.

Ratree stopped in shock at the sound of a crash. They had stumbled back towards the window, knocking over the row of potted tulips that tumbled helplessly to the floor. Dirt and shards of pottery littered their feet. The tulips lied pitifully amongst the dirt like little hearts that had ceased to pulse.

The two rivals froze in their battle stances as Ratree’s eyes filled with tears. “Don’t you know what those flowers mean to me? I’m so sick of you two and your fighting! I’m not some child for you to battle over who gets custody of me!” She walked away down to her room and closed the door.

“Great, look at what you did!” Sasithorn hissed quietly at Athit.

“Don’t pin the blame on me.” He glared back, before turning to the hallway again. Sasithorn watched his wrathful expression melt into despair and suddenly felt a twinge in her chest at the clear way he must be worried about having upset Ratree. She bit her lip uncomfortably. Had they taken things too far?

Ratree looked seriously angry, this time to the point that she might not forgive them—and for some reason Sasithorn was more worried about Ratree not forgiving Athit than for her own pardon.

She frowned. Why should she care? Maybe Ratree would break up with him then, and if they broke up, Ratree would return to be with her. But she knew even if some force in the world could break them up, she’d never be able to live with herself. Argh, why did she suddenly feel at fault here? She silently fumed at herself while they both fixed up the living room. After they were done, Sasithorn left the apartment.

Chapter 10

The next day around noon, Sasithorn made up her mind to go to her sister. After she let herself into the apartment and ignored Athit, she purposefully turned towards the hall.

“Don’t knock.”

She looked over her shoulder. “Huh?”

Athit got up from the sofa. “Don’t knock on the door. It’ll disturb her.”

O…kay. Whatever, Sasithorn continued on to the bedroom and raised her hand. But she paused. Looking back towards the living room, she couldn’t see him. Why shouldn’t she knock? It was common courtesy, wasn’t it?

“Ratree?” she called softly. There was no answer. Sasithorn turned the knob and peered in before entering. There, she found her younger sister fast asleep. Tip-toeing out, Sasithorn floated in a trance to the kitchen where she frowned while watching Athit read a recipe book and clean vegetables at the same time.

“Can I help you?” He asked without raising his eyes.

“How did you know Ratree would be sleeping?” That was what he meant when he advised her about not disturbing Ratree.

“She always takes a nap before lunch.”

She was tempted to be irritated by how well he knew Ratree, but didn’t seem to have the energy for it that day. Why should she be surprised at this point?

True to his prediction, half an hour later, Ratree reappeared, ate solemnly, then returned to her sanctuary, leaving Sasithorn and Athit to wallow in their misery and shame.

“Will you be staying here all day?”

Sasithorn nodded. “Until she forgives me.” She expected him to object but he didn’t. Curious what he was so busy with, she turned sideways on the couch and watched him pack dirt into flowerpots. “What are you planting?”

“The flowers we killed.”

Well she wasn’t about to let him take all the credit. She went over and helped herself to the materials he had. He stopped her from taking a pot. She glared at him. For a few seconds, they silently and without movement, waged a war, until he huffed and let go. She planted her own seeds and covered it with dirt, adding it to the row lining the window sill.

After, dinner was a repeat of lunch, unsuccessfully gaining any of Ratree’s attention.

Night. The sky was filled with an inky color. Ratree got out of the shower and didn’t spare them a single look, though they both got up and tried to talk to her.

“She’s never going to forgive us.” Sasithorn planted herself on the sofa, crossing her arms. What was she going to do? She had just finally gained her sister’s friendship again and now this. “All because of some flowers?”

Athit looked at her sharply. “Those flowers are her favorite. She planted them with…” He stopped himself, while she looked at him, confused. He sighed deeply. He was worried enough without needing to let any secrets slip. Deciding there was only one last thing to try, Athit got up and picked up the forgotten guitar in the corner, brought it back and sat down again.

Nothing had prepared Sasithorn for the kind of music that flowed forth from the strings under Athit’s skillful fingers. She grew fascinated watching those fingers, but soon lost track of them as the melody took over. She didn’t understand it, because though the notes ringing in the air were melancholic, she felt soothed and uplifted. His song was almost like a lullaby.

Sasithorn looked up and to her amazement, Ratree was standing there, cheeks wet with tears but smiling earnestly. Athit stopped playing and set the instrument aside, whereupon Ratree hugged him tightly.

“Thank you Athit,” Ratree’s muffled voice said. He stroked the top of her head and sighed.

Sasithorn averted her eyes, though she found the scene quite heart-warming. It disturbed her, made her feel like she was intruding.

Ratree had invited Sasithorn to sleep over, and this time the sisters shared a bed, like when they were children, after their parents had gone.

During the night, rubbing her eyes sleepily, Sasithorn quietly sat up. Had she dreamed that Athit left the apartment? Tiptoeing out, she found the couch empty, pillow and blanket cold.

“So you’re here.”

Athit threw back a swallow of beer before looking up. Sasithorn stood before him in an old hoodie and sweats she had borrowed from her sister, looking rather unlike her usual polished self. “Are you still trying to catch me committing a crime?”

“Stealing, lying, selling drugs, I didn’t care what it was as long as I could prove that you were unworthy of Ratree. But,” she sat down with a resigned expression, “I bet she wouldn’t even be angry at you. To Ratree, you’re perfect. She loves you too much to be mad.”

They glanced at each other, free of resentment for once.

“Wanna join me?” he asked.

Sasithorn picked up a spoon and helped herself to the food on the table that stood close to the street. Then she placed it back down hard. Athit took a deep breath and braced himself for her true scolding, thinking he should have known things wouldn’t end this easily with her. She surprised him, however.

“I have to confess. The reason I disliked you at first was because I was jealous of you.”

He stopped mid-chew. “Why would you be jealous?” He eyed her closely, coming to his own realization. “You thought that she loved more than you?” The unhappy silence between them was her reply. He restrained a smirk at her naivety. “That’s impossible.”

“But!” Sasithorn adamantly refused to accept his simple proclamation, refused to be wrong even though she would have liked for his words to be true. “She doesn’t let me get close to her the way she does with you. She’s always taking your side and it’s clear how close you are. I was jealous because I wanted her to treat me that way.”

There was no simple way to refute this without revealing the deception of his and Ratree’s relationship.

“You don’t have to think that way. She’s your sister.”

“It’s not the same anymore. I’ve always taken care of her since we were young. Then our parents died and I made it my first priority to look after her. I know sometimes I was harsh but I want what’s best for her. Yet, the more I took care of her the more she pushed me away. I just don’t get it.”

Athit again resisted the urge to chuckle at the pout that filled her lips. He felt admiration for her. He could relate to her feelings, the desire to protect and give everything to a sibling. It was exactly what he had done for Tawan.

He looked at Sasithorn under the illumination of the street lamps. The memory of their accident during the night fair flashed in his mind, of her hair soft like silk and face unguarded. She was actually a very strong woman.

“Maybe you both pushed each other away without meaning to. When you become responsible for someone, you feel you have to make decisions for them, right? And no matter how much you want to please them, you don’t want to stray from what you feel is the absolute best for them, because that makes you think you aren’t capable of caring for them. So when you became responsible for Ratree, you became the adult and she the child. But even though it’s an honorable duty, you must have forgotten that she needed you as a friend also.”

“You mean…”

“I noticed that Ratree doesn’t call you ‘p’.”

She poked at her plate. “Yeah, it’s always been like that.”

“So she’s never treated you like a sister, because you don’t act like one.”

Her brow creased.

“And like a parent, it would have been easy for you to forget that Ratree would eventually grow up. It’s not that she no longer needs you. It’s just that she’s not solely dependent on you anymore.” He sighed, berating himself for being so insensitive in his pursuit to take care of Ratree. It was Sasithorn’s right to want to take care of her sister too. “I’m sorry for being so harsh towards you.”

She was astonished by his apology, though it was no longer so hard for her to see that he was capable of expressing such sincerity. In fact, she knew in her heart, that she was growing to trust him and was grateful for his presence.

“Like I’ve been saying, you want to help her as much as I do. I was just angry because I don’t ever want to lose her or the child. I must protect them at all cost.” He took another gulp of beer.

Sasithorn recalled Ratree telling her that Athit had lost many loved ones. No wonder he was so strict. She should have realized how much they had in common, no matter how different their personalities were, or how quick she was to judge him.

Athit looked up at the intriguing sound of her sniffling. Seeing Sasithorn cry made him stutter. “What’s wrong?”

She wiped away her tears. “Nothing. Th-this food is too spicy.” After a few minutes, she said, “Thank you.”

“What for?”

“Just…for inviting me to eat with you.”

He quirked one brow at her. “You’re welcome.”

When they were finished, they walked back side by side, a strange companionship hooking their steps in sync.

“So…” They both said at the same time.

“You first,” he said.

She had only wanted to break the silence and so was stuck for a moment. “Uh, thanks.”

He smirked. “You already said that.”

“I mean for keeping your word. For helping me with Ratree,” she added, “even though I must have been hard to get along with. We probably would have remained apart without you.”

“That wasn’t my doing. You don’t realize how much she misses you. I’m not a replacement for a sister like you.”

Though it was dark, and he wasn’t any more well groomed in his baggy clothing and the shadow of a beard on his jaw, Sasithorn’s heart fluttered several beats until her eyes left his face. What the hell?

“I’ll accept your thanks if you accept my gift.”

“What gift?” she asked.

He reached in his pocket and lifted out the necklace he had purchased at the fair, the rose dangling in front of her eyes. He shrugged modestly. “You don’t have to wear it if you don’t want to.”

She closed her fingers around it. “Hey, don’t take back gifts when it’s already in front of the receiver.”

He smiled, watching her touch the rose. “I picked it especially for you, you know.”

“Really? Why a rose?”

“I got Ratree a necklace with angel wings, because I’m sure she’s an angel that just got bored of heaven for a while and decided to come down here and make us all fall in love with her.” He caught her squinted face at his cheesy words and laughed. “And the rose is…it reminds me of you.”

They were underneath the light of the apartment’s entrance. Sasithorn peered up through her lashes at Athit. Was the night air warm suddenly? “Why is that?”

“Well,” he returned her gaze steadily, “it’s pretty…”

She gulped.

“…and it has thorns.” Then his eyes were lit with mischief. “Thorns that are sassy and a pain to deal with. And if your name was pronounced in English, it would be…Sassy Thorn.” He chuckled while she gaped at him.

“What!? That’s a hideous name!”

“I beg to differ. I think Sassy suits you just fine.”

She frowned fiercely. "Stupid!"

He gave it a moment's thought. "I kind of like that name. Come on Sassy."

“My name is Sasithorn!”

“That’s what I said.”

She grumbled and complained all the way to the door and when they were finally inside and he was still calling her ‘Sassy,’ she crossly stomped away from him.

“Hey, I was just kidding? See? See why your name is Sassy?” he teased. “Are you really mad?”

“Yes, and don’t think you’ll make me forgive you just by playing a few songs on a guitar. Stupid.”

He pressed his lips in a suppressed smile. “Not even if I wrote a song just for you?”

She gave him a doubtful look over her shoulder. “Are you capable?” She shook her head as she struggled to clasp the necklace around her neck.

“Here.” His hands were there, brushing the nape of her neck as he assisted and it was firmly in place.

Turning her head, the tip of her nose met Athit’s, and through the dim light, both recognized surprise on the other’s faces, while their breaths mingled.

The hall light flashed on. They froze in their awkwardly intimate position.

“What’s this? Did you two go out on a secret date without me?” Ratree said slyly, the hint of a smirk on her small mouth.

They took one look at each other before separating.

“Ratree! That is not funny at all!” Sasithorn felt her face flame up, and scolded fiercely to cover her embarrassment. “What has gotten into you? That’s not something to joke about.”

“Ok, calm down.” Ratree yawned.

“Why are you up?” Athit asked.

“I couldn’t sleep.” She softly rubbed her round stomach.

Concerned, he asked, “Are you feeling ok? Is the baby moving too much?”

She shook her head. “It’s nothing. Let’s go to sleep now.”


Athit watered the baby flowers on the sill. Sasithorn had brought some of her work to complete here and Ratree was taking a bubble bath. Suddenly, Athit looked up, heart racing. His brother’s voice was filling the apartment. When he slowly realized that the voice of Tawan that he was hearing was a recording, he stopped on his way to the bedroom, then continued slowly.

Sasithorn glanced over his shoulder when he came in.

“Oh, you.”

“What are you listening to?” he asked.

She held up a cd. “I’ve never heard of him but it seems like Ratree really likes this guy. He sounds pretty good, don’t you think?” The song echoed acoustically from the cd player. “Heh, she might just fall in love with this guy if they ever meet,” Sasithorn teased with a smirk at Athit. “But I guess that’s not likely.”

“Hm.” He retreated from the bedroom, swallowing a sigh. Sasithorn had unwittingly played Tawan’s one and only album that had released before everything had spun into a mess. Hearing his brother’s voice so suddenly had shocked Athit, but he shouldn’t be surprised. Ratree had been Tawan’s girlfriend, of course she would have supported him in his music aspirations, and then his decision to drop all of his past efforts. He clenched his hands tight.

“…so do you like the singer better or do you like that Athit better?” Sasithorn asked, coming into the living room with Ratree, who’s hair was still damp.

Ratree smiled cheekily. “I might like the singer a tiny bit more than Athit.”

“Ha.” Sasithorn looked triumphantly at Athit. When she turned away for a second, Athit and Ratree shared a conspiratorial smile. He gathered from her downcast eyes that she was also nostalgic after listening to Tawan’s song.


Is your "nom" Fai-approved?
Chapter 11

They finished another appointment with Plerng, and the women were chatting in Plerng’s kitchen.

“Is there anything you want to tell me?” Athit had not missed Plerng’s minute change in energy level that day. “What is it?”

“I wish I could be sure, but I’ve already returned the sonogram so I might be overanalyzing. I recommend you bring Ratree to the hospital. Meet with my friend there. He’ll be able to make sure there’s nothing wrong.”

“Is there?” Athit asked, alarmed.

Plerng glanced at the doorway, Ratree’s and Sasithorn’s voices floating in. “I noticed she was moving stiffly today. And when I checked, it felt like there was an abnormal pressure on her stomach. I’m not willing to make any wild guesses but I don’t have a good feeling about this.”

Athit nodded. He was especially worried as the due date was looming in two months.

While Plerng was giving Ratree a taste of the pastries he’d baked, Athit shared Plerng’s concerns with Sasithorn.

“We must have her checked up immediately,” she said.

“Ratree? What is it?” They heard Plerng’s voice. Exchanging worried glances, they rushed back into the kitchen. Ratree was doubled over on her chair where Plerng knelt.

“Are you ok?”

Her eyes were squeezed shut, but she nodded to reassure them. “I’m ok.” Finally she looked up at them, a little out of breath. “Really. Don’t look so worried. I’m fine.” They weren’t sure whether to believe her--even they could tell that her smile, sweet and amused, had a slight strain to it, and her eyes appeared more tired than usual--but she ate what Plerng had prepared with a hearty appetite and chatted animatedly. “When we get back, can I go in to visit my boss? It’s been a while and I’d like to drop by.”

“After you eat,” Sasithorn said in motherly fashion.

Ratree rolled her eyes. “I know.”

The three of them were outside when Athit’s cell phone rang. “Yes?”

“Sir. They’re on to us,” Wattana said. “And they’ve sent a clear message that they don’t like us tailing them.”

Athit swallowed a curse. “What’s going on?” he asked mutedly, turned away from the two women.

“I’m positive these are the guys responsible for Tawan’s death. But sir, the thing is, we caught one of their guys yesterday and he implied that they were working with others.”

“So even if I get them, it’s not over.”

“Afraid so sir.”

“Meet me in five minutes.” Athit hung up. “Sasithorn? You two head back first. I want to pick up a few items.”

“Can’t I go with?” Ratree popped her head slightly out the window of the car.

He shook his head. “You have to rest. Go on.”

Sasithorn nodded. “See you later.”

Athit’s right hand man was walking his way. A lean man, tanned face and stern eyes. “Sir.”

“There’s one to the left,” Athit murmured. He had immediately noticed that he was being watched.

“What do you want me to do?”

“Ignore him.” But the stranger had other plans. Athit watched from the corner of his eyes as the dark-clothed man crossed the street. The crowded sidewalk cleared for the shortest second. Athit hands formed fists, tension singing through his body. “What the hell…”

“What was he pushing?” Wattana questioned, but instantly followed as his boss took off towards the suspicious man. “He’s gone. He…he had a stroller?”

A baby stroller. “Fcuk!” Athit turned and ran.

The door of the apartment slammed open.

“Athit?” Sasithorn asked.

“Where’s Ratree?”

“She’s in her bedroom.” She motioned. Athit crossed through the hall to confirm this. He saw Ratree’s reclining figure on her bed and carefully closed the door. Then he went to the window and pushed the curtains open.

“What is going on?” Sasithorn demanded at his weird behavior.

“Was anyone here?”

“No, no one was here.”

Heart still racing, he took a deep breath.


“Sasi, do you think you could live here?”

“I…what?” she asked, taken aback. “Me?”

“I’ll understand if you can’t but my shifts at work are getting busier. It’d be great if you could stay to accompany Ratree while I’m gone,” he added, “so she doesn’t get bored.”

She paused for a moment. “Yeah. That would be fine.”

“Good. Thank you.” He took a seat on the couch, leaning forward in thought, hands clasped.

She frowned. “Is something the matter?”

“No,” he replied. Then he got up and took hold of her hand. Sasithorn blinked in surprise. “I have a friend in town I need to see. Thanks again. I really appreciate it.” He let go and left her to compose herself.

He returned late that evening, both frustrated and impatient. He had to catch the guys who had caused Tawan’s death. These things were not expected to be forgotten, especially in Athit’s world. But they knew he had a weakness now. They knew about Ratree and about Tawan’s child.


While Athit was clearing up their dishes, Sasithorn confided in Ratree. “Ratree, something strange happened yesterday.”


“Well, Athit rushed back here, and he looked kind of panicked. Like…like he thought someone had broken in here.”

Ratree glanced back to the kitchen. “Strange. I’ll talk to him later.”

“Me?” Athit asked, appeared in their midst, having heard his name. “Ask me what?”

The ladies exchanged glances. “I’ll go out to quickly get some water,” Sasithorn said.

Athit stretched his arms and fell back upon the comforter. “How are you feeling?”

“Good. Um, Athit? Sasi mentioned that you were acting strange yesterday. Maybe not strange, but worried about something?”

He took a moment to reply. “Yeah, just a few things on my mind.”

“Does it have to do with Tawan?”

He sighed. “Ratree. I don’t want you to worry about it.”

She frowned. “But you’re doing something dangerous aren’t you?”

“Don’t worry. I promise not to put you in danger.”

“I’m not worried about me,” she insisted. “I don’t want YOU to do something dangerous when it’s not necessary.”

“You don’t understand—“

“I probably don’t. But,” She went over and sat down in front of him, her large eyes imploring him to listen to her. “I don’t want anything to happen to you.”

“I can take care of myself.” It was her that he had to keep safe. He inwardly cursed himself for not being more cautious. What if his group was also aware he was back in Thailand? He paused before continuing. “But I want to take extra precautions. I think we should move.”

“Wait, move?”

“Yes. I want you to move into my house. It’ll be better for you and—“

“And allow you to go out and take care of your matters?” she inquired sharply. “I don’t like it.”

“Ratree, be reasonable.” He turned toward her with earnest. “I need for you to be safe.”

“But why can’t you just stop what you’re doing?”

“I’m not doing anything!”

“Don’t lie! You’re trying to avenge Tawan, I know you are.”

He looked away in frustration. Her words told him she was plenty aware of what he was doing, but he knew that SHE knew it wasn’t an easy matter to let go of either. She had always known what sort of business Tawan was in, so why did she have to start interfering? Didn’t she understand the code Athit was bound by, to avenge his brother?

“Athit, don’t do this. He wouldn’t have wanted you to.”

“How do you know?” he demanded. “The man I remember Tawan to be would have tracked those bastards down and spilled their blood.”

Her wide eyes froze, before setting her jaw in denial of his words. He sighed at her unyielding attitude. “I mean…Look, moving isn’t a big deal, alright? And it won’t be permanent.”

“How can you be sure?” she asked gently, staring into the hearth before her. “How do you know we won’t have to do something drastic again in the future? I don’t want to be a renegade. I don’t want my freedom taken away.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Then don’t go after them.” The look he gave her said that wasn’t something he could compromise. “I’m going to clear the rest of the dishes.”

Athit buried his face in his hands. She understood what was going on--that was danger in itself. He needed to clear this mess up and move her to safety.

“Athit?” Sasithorn had quietly slipped back in. “Is something wrong?”

“We were just discussing something.”

“Did you argue?”

“No, it’s just—“ They both looked up at the sound of a crash before rushing to the kitchen.

A plate lay in pieces on the floor, but that did not trouble them as much as Ratree who was gripping the counter, doubled in pain.

“Are you ok?” Sasithorn got to her first. They helped her to a chair. “I’m calling an ambulance.”

Chapter 12

“I really have to stay here?”

“Ratree, please don’t argue. You’re staying.” The doctor had relayed his grave concerns to them and there was no questioning this time that she needed more than Plerng’s help. “It’s serious this time,” Sasithorn gently said.

“I guess it can’t be helped. Sasi.” Ratree hesitated. Her sister leaned close. “Lately, I have been feeling tired.” Her face fell with anxiety; it was taking a lot of her courage to admit this. “Do you think he’ll be okay, my baby? Sasi, what if there’s something really wrong?”

“No, no, we shouldn’t get worked up,” Sasithorn soothed her. “Wait for the doctor’s orders.”

“Why is she so stubborn?” Of course, Ratree could not oppose this time, but she was not happy at all about being in the hospital.

Sasithorn sighed. “It’s our mom.” Athit looked up. “When she was giving birth to Ratree, there were a lot of complications. Our mom had to spend a long time in the hospital afterwards and there wasn’t much the doctors could do except wait and hope for luck. I think Ratree just doesn’t have faith in a place like this. And she must be scared of what might happen to her and the baby if they end up staying too long.”

Athit’s brow furrowed. It couldn’t happen to Ratree. She was too strong, too alive to put up with any weakness. And the doctors here were best, there was no reason for them to be overly concerned.

They went back into the hospital room. “Hey.” He sat beside the bed. “How are you doing?”

Ratree smiled at him. “I’m just restless.” But he could see on her face that she was worn-out. It spurred him even more to make sure she was moved from harm’s way, even if it was against her will.

“Are you hungry?”

“No. I want to go visit Tawan.”

“I think you should wait until you’re stronger before we visit again. There will be plenty of time for that, but I don’t want you getting hurt,” he said to Ratree, who frowned and reluctantly nodded.

“Sasi is going to work now, so you’ll stay with me right?” she asked.

“Yeah.” Athit had a suspicion he knew what Ratree was trying to do. For the past three days, she had done her best to keep him in her sight at the hospital. If she needed anything, she pleaded with Sasithorn to get it, and wanting to do whatever kept Ratree happy along with assuming that they wanted alone time, Sasithorn did not object. But it was really because Ratree didn’t want Athit going out and meeting with those people again.

Her knowledge of his plan for vengeance was more than he wanted her to know. The longer he stayed with her, the more time he was giving the other side to plan an attack. Athit did not like the situation at all, even with Wattana on guard, whom he trusted most.

He sighed.

“Hey.” Sasithorn joined him on a seat in the waiting area, where he had gone to get a drink. “Tired?”

“I’m ok. You?”

She gave a half-smile. Allowing a moment for them to settle into their shared space, Sasithorn looked around at the hospital. Nurses and staff walked with their fast and deliberate steps; patients roamed to stretch their muscles. She pushed away the memories of her mother coming here years ago and turned to Athit.

“I can’t help noticing that Ratree has become rather dependent on you lately.” Before, Ratree had been outright independent, exasperated by Athit’s obsessive care-taking. But things were suddenly different now. She side-glanced him. “Now, I don’t mean to pry, and I absolutely understand if this is none of my business but are you…involved in illegal activities?”

“How do you figure that?” Athit was not in the least alarmed hearing her question.

“Just a guess. I asked Ratree before and she didn’t seem to want me to know, but now I get the feeling she’s not too happy about it--if it’s true, I mean,” she added hastily. “But whatever you do is really your own business.”

He smiled wanly. This was not the same uptight and nosey woman he had first come into contact with. “I don’t suppose there’s any harm in telling you. Yes, I am somewhat involved in…those types of dealings.” He expected her to revert back to her old attitude of disgust. But Sasithorn merely took in a breath of air.

“It…it’s not my problem I guess. But I just hope whatever you do isn’t going to upset Ratree.”

Too late, he thought. “I’ll protect her. There has never been anything more important to me than keeping her safe, I assure you.”

She raised her shoulders. “There are people out there who do normal things who are far worse than you. I’ve come to trust you with my sister.”

“Thanks for that, Sassy.”

She tossed him a sharp look. “I’m going to check up her.” She had just gotten up when a code blue siren squealed above them. Athit’s stomach lurched, instinct pulling him to his feet. Without a word, they both got to the elevators and went up.

The hall that Ratree’s room was in was crowded and filled with loud voices.

“What’s going on?” Athit asked, but Sasithorn rushed forward, only to be held back by nurses.

“Miss, please get out of the way.”

“Where’s my sister?”

A doctor pushed past her and was swallowed in the hall.

“What’s happening?!”

“She’s started labor,” a nurse informed them, but when Sasithorn tried to move towards the room, she was blocked. “Please miss, this is very serious. You must stay out of the way so the doctor can correct—“

“What? Correct what?” Athit demanded.

“Her blood pressure is dropping…”

Hours later and Athit and Sasithorn were still waiting in the hall as Ratree labored without progress. There were regular reports from the nurses. No change. The doctor is trying to turn the baby. The mother is too weak to push. We’ve had to give her more injections. Progress is not coming along well. The doctor is worried for the mother. The mother is losing blood. We might perform a cesarean…The mother might not…

Athit stopped pacing long enough to notice Sasithorn’s shaking hands and wild expression. He forced himself to sit beside her. He clasped her hand in his and clenched her fingers between his so hard her bones might crush, but she welcomed the gripping contact.

There was a cry from a voice raw with the new force of life, making them both look up in awe. But just before they could begin to hope, to breathe with relief, the doors flew open, and a body was being wheeled towards them, now it was past them and neither Athit or Sasithorn could catch anyone to question them; they simply followed.

A nurse finally walked towards them, faced pinched with a severe expression of someone who bore bad news. “Are you the family?”

“Yes,” they both answered.

“The patient is under critical condition. We’re doing everything we can.”

But, Sasithorn thought, this is where she says but they cannot do anything more. And she hated herself for anticipating the worse.

Athit was saying, “I don’t care how much time or money it takes, just help her! Help her get better.”

“We’re trying.” The nurse’s voice was calm and soothing, but Sasithorn could see her eyes were frowning, trying not to betray pity for them.

And then they were joined by the surgeon. He didn’t bother to sugar-coat the situation, which is good, because Sasithorn never liked sweet things.

He is saying how there is little hope left and that they should be prepared.

Who could ever be prepared for this? But she squeezed Athit’s hand as they entered the strange room, a place that Ratree would never want to be in, would be bored of within five minutes. It’s foreign and boded ill, and Sasithorn wanted to run, but she couldn’t abandon her sister.

“Ratree.” Athit’s voice didn’t shake. The sick feeling in his stomach clenched at the sight of her motionless form. He thought he’d never feel like this again, this panic and rage and grief, after losing Tawan.

Her eyes flutter open. “My…my son?”

“He’s healthy. He’s strong.” Athit swallowed hard, slipping Ratree’s limp hand in his, compelling Sasithorn to take the other hand.

She smiled at them. “I know you’ll take care of him. Tell him…I love him.” Her strength seemed to give way, with just a barely audible whisper. “Tawan.”

Sasithorn had her hand pressed against her mouth to stifle her sobs, but she couldn’t hide her tears even if she tried. Athit couldn’t bear to look at her. He felt like he was going to be sick—and that was saying something, considering he was not someone weak of heart. He had witnessed death before, had taken lives himself. But this was unbearable. When a whimper of grief escaped Sasithorn, he felt something in him shatter.

Ratree was really dead.

Everything was his fault. He should have…well, there were many things he should have done. But what did it matter now when her body was lying cold in that room, the light extinguished from her eyes, her lips without a trace of that smile that so easily warmed him? He couldn’t even console himself with the thought that at least she was with Tawan again. It had been his job to protect her.

Sasithorn startled, looking up when she heard him yell. Athit had swung his fist at the wall. The plaster gave way, his hand buried in the wall. She moved forward to him, helped guide his hand out and gingerly cupped it in her own, her mind suddenly blank as to how to heal his bloody knuckles. She just knew that it was a part of his grieving. The pain needed to be relieved someway.

Her eyes were dry when she stood beside her sister’s still body once more. Now was not the time to cry. All she could hear was Ratree’s voice, I know you’ll take care of him.

She turned to look at Athit beside her. His head was lowered, eyes dull and lifeless. “Athit.” He blinked. “We should go see Tawan.”

The name seemed to jolt him to life. “Tawan.”

“Let’s go.” She placed her hand on his wrist and pressed softly.

Usually, the babies were placed in the same room as their mothers—that’s how Ratree would have wanted it, wouldn’t have had it any other way. But because of the way things were, baby Tawan was located in the nursery along with babies who weren’t strong enough. He was an early baby too, but he hadn’t needed any machines to get along.

The nurse allowed them to hold him. Sasithorn cradled the baby in her arms, intensely aware of his light weight, his warmth, his skin that was so soft and translucent, even though it was the same light caramel shade as Ratree’s. The black fuzz of hair that lined his head, his little upturned nose, and below that, the small mouth with its beautiful curve. His eyes were half closed in sleep. She couldn’t recall having ever seen anything so precious before. When she had visually feasted her share, she looked up at Athit and recognized on his face all of her own feelings for the tiny life in her arms.


His breath caught, as if holding the fragile baby was sacred, something he didn’t think himself worthy of. But slowly, she eased the baby into his arms, taking care to make sure Tawan was well supported. And when Sasithorn raised her eyes to Athit again, she saw him swallow hard, love etched intensely on his features.

“Are you okay, Athit?”

He nodded. “Yeah. You?”


They both knew it was an incomplete truth.


Ratree’s ashes were placed in a particularly splendid part of the temple, with Athit making specific instructions for her resting place.

A marble tablet marked her name. Sasithorn felt like there was just a hollowness inside her and she felt like she was being punished for being stubborn and inflexible, forcing the rift of two plus years between her and Ratree. And then when things were starting to get better, she lost it all again.

Chapter 13

They’d somehow come to an agreement that they would continue living at Ratree’s apartment. In the next few days as they tried to carry on a normal life, constantly clouded with the distinct absence of some vital part of them, Sasithorn and Athit grew into a routine. Once Tawan came home, they took turns caring for the baby. She would go to work while Athit watched over Tawan, and when she was back, they would both focus all on him. He didn’t cry more than the usual newborn did, but still, both shared a number of sleepless nights as he woke in hunger, or wanting to be changed, or simply to be held in their attentive embraces. Athit and Sasithorn, though tired, didn’t ever feel like each bottle fed and each minute of Tawan’s waking breath was enough; they both acutely felt their duty to Ratree, and they both loved Tawan unconditionally.

Plerng made regular visits as well in order to assist and keep the other two from dropping dead. They were grateful for his help, because he was also the one with most knowledge about medicine and health concerning Tawan.

About a month after Tawan’s birth, Athit was out buying groceries when he saw Wattana. He slipped over to the curb where Wattana was standing and without looking at each other, Athit asked, “What news?”

“Your grandfather knows you’re back.”

“He must have known for a while now.”

“Yes sir. He wants you to go see him.”

Well, it was about time, Athit thought. “Let him know I’ll meet with him tomorrow.”


“You’re back.”

“Yes sir.” Athit bowed respectfully to his grandfather, an aging but no less lively man who got up from his cushioned sofa and hugged Athit. Athit wasn’t actually the man’s blood relative, but he was the person most favored by the old man, and so was given the privilege of calling him grandfather.

Chanchai looked at him. “You should have notified me at once son. I admit I was surprised you allowed me to hear of your return through word of mouth.”

“I apologize, grandfather. I did not intend to hide my presence from you. I merely had business to tend to.”

“No matter. I am just glad you finally returned. Our clan needs your leadership. I’m sure you realize I am not growing any younger. Come. Dinner.”

Athit was glad grandfather did not pursue the subject of him taking over as the rest of the evening proceeded. Whenever the topic was broached, Athit tried to protest the leadership being passed on to him, though his words were always in vain.

“You received news of your brother’s death I presume? It is an unfortunate event to lose someone like that.”

“Grandfather, I hope you might be willing to answer me when I ask why his death was kept from me for so long.” He kept his tone even, giving no suggestion whatsoever of his feelings, except for regret.

“I assure you that I meant to inform you as soon as the time was right. But I will have you understand that I myself was devastated by the news. Not only did I wish to shield you briefly from the pain,” he closed his eyes, as if repenting his good intentions, before flashing them open with fierce bloodlust, “but I also meant to avenge your brother. I regret to say that I still have yet to succeed. You will forgive me?”

“Of course, grandfather.” Athit knew that Chanchai would not have sat still while one of his own clan was murdered, even though he still wished Chanchai had notified him immediately about what had happened.

When dinner was finished, his grandfather led him to the living quarters of the building. However, Athit stopped him.

“I have a favor to ask. I’d like to resume living at the house you bestowed on me. I hope you don’t mind.”

Grandfather smiled coolly. “It was moved into your name so you put it into use however you wish. Tell me, will you be returning regularly?”

“I shall come at your call.”

“You do not hope to make yourself a recluse?” Grandfather’s eyes were shrewd in observing him. Athit had a habit of retreating into solitude when he wasn’t on a job.

“Would I ever disappoint you?”

“No. Go on then. Rest well.”


Returning to the apartment, Athit went over to water the tulips that were growing steadily on the window still. They hadn’t colored yet. Athit hoped that they would grow to be just as beautiful as the ones Ratree grew, and he would be able to send some to her in the future. Finishing up, he went down the hall and entered the bathroom.


Athit quickly stumbled back out of the bathroom. “I’m sorry! I didn’t know you were in there!”

Sasithorn stormed out, wrapped in a robe, with her face red on fire. “How could you not know I was using the bathroom?”

He replied, “Well it was quiet in there, and the door was ajar.”

“I left it open a little in case Tawan cried and I didn’t hear.” She frowned and hurried away to the bedroom. Freaking Athit! Stupid, stupid, stupid! She was so embarrassed! Luckily, Tawan hadn’t stirred even at the loud scream from earlier.

When they sat down to dinner later that evening, Sasithorn went about her business setting the table while avoiding looking at or talking to Athit. He followed her lead, not wanting her to feel uncomfortable, so he was surprised when she spoke up.

“Someone called on you today.”


“I don’t know. They didn’t leave a name. They just said, ‘If one sun sets, another one can too,’ and then left. Isn’t that weird?” Sasithorn chanced a glance up at him. He had frozen in his seat, spoon and food forgotten. “Athit? Athit?”

Breaking out of his reverie, Athit cleared his throat and appeared unbothered. “It was probably a prankster.”

“If it was a prankster, why would he specifically ask to see you?”

He shrugged. “Well since they didn’t leave any name, we can just forget about it.”

A few minutes after, Sasithorn said, “Hey. You don’t have to hide it from me. I already said before that if you’re involved in illegal matters, then that’s your business.”

“Then why are you bringing it up?”

“Because that man seemed malicious. If you’re in some kind of trouble, even if it involves something like this, you’re not alone anymore. You have a son to look after.”

“I know that more than anyone. Let’s just drop it for now.”

Sasithorn bit back a protest, but agreed.

When Athit came in and picked up Tawan, she said, “I was going to put him to sleep.” Sasithorn held her arms open for Tawan, but Athit shook his head.

“It’s fine, I’ve got him. You should get some rest.”

“Come on, give him here,” she insisted.

“I said, it’s fine.”

She made a face and marched out of the room. Athit was taken aback by her sour mood.

An hour later, he went out to the living room where she was sitting, finishing some work, and sat beside her.

“Are you still mad about what happened earlier?”


“When I saw you na—“

“STOP!” she ordered, her face reddening instantly. “That’s enough. Don’t mention it again.”

Athit swallowed back a laugh, seeing her flaming face and stubborn pout. “Cute”

She swiveled to eye him sternly. “What did you say?”

“I said you’re cute.”

“Hey!” She turned to him. “You can’t say things like that.”

“Why not?”

“Because…because I’m your sister-in-law.”

Oh, that’s right. He shrugged at her.

She turned back to her work and tried to ignore him for the rest of the evening. It wasn’t that she was a blushing maiden or anything of the sort; if anyone else had seen her like that she would be embarrassed too. But for some reason, having it be Athit was even worse.


Sasithorn came back from work the next day and heard Tawan’s howling cry. “What’s wrong with him?” She went over to coo at the baby.

“I’m not sure.” Athit rocked Tawan. “I checked his temperature and fed him and changed him. There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with him.”

“You’re just not good at taking care of him,” she said, though they both knew it wasn’t true. Usually whenever he held Tawan, he quieted easily, but tonight it’s strange. “Give him here.”

She took Tawan into her arms, but he shrieks even louder, making both wince. “Oooh, sweetie don’t cry,” she yielded and gave him back to Athit. “Maybe he’s still hungry.”

“Wait,” Athit said. He noticed that when Tawan was back in his arms, he cried again, but while Sasithorn was passing him to Athit, Tawan stopped crying momentarily. “Come back here.”

“What?” She reached out, but Athit didn’t hand Tawan over completely. Her eyes widened in surprise when Tawan’s cries shrunk down to sniffles now that both their arms were under him.

Athit shook his head. “So picky tonight. He wants both of us with him.”

“So we have to stand here like this until he falls asleep?” she questioned.

“I guess so, unless you want the landlord to evict us for all the noise.”

She raised her eyes to scowl at him, just as he leaned down to kiss Tawan, so that their faces brushed one another. Athit leaned back a little to give her space, while she quickly dropped her eyes to not have to look at him. With her eyes downcast, Athit was given the opportunity to subtly observe her long lashes that hid her eyes. He watched her press her lips softly to Tawan’s forehead, and Athit found himself wondering how those lips, softer than the words that she usually spoke with, would feel. Then he reminded himself that, ironically, she was his so-called ‘sister-in-law.’

“Are you tired of standing?”

She shifted. “A little.”

“Let’s see how he’s doing.” Athit lifted Tawan away from Sasithorn.

Right away, he began to fuss and very soon cried again.

“Okay, okay, auntie’s right here.”

“How’s this? Let’s at least sit down.” They worked together to get over to the bed, with Athit climbing on first. “Are you comfortable?”

She nodded, leaning her side on the headboard.

Athit said, “It doesn’t look like you have any space to hold Tawan.”

“But if I let go, he’ll cry.”

“How about this, I’ll hold him, and you sit close to us, so your arms won’t be tired just being held up.” He shifted in order to lean back against the headboard. Sasithorn hesitated before scooting close to his side. He noticed how she kept her face turned away.

“Heh, it’s not like Tawan pooped, why is your face so far away?”

She scowled at him and turned her attention to the child. “Go to sleep, go to sleep,” she sang. Then she glanced up at the arch way he was watching her. “Sorry, I don’t have a very good voice. Hmph, it’s not like you’re any better.”

“You’re picking a fight again,” he scoffed. “I haven’t even said a single word.”

“Your eyes say it all.”

“Really? You were looking that deeply into my eyes?” he challenged and blinked his eyes widely at her, bringing his face close to hers. “And what do my eyes say now?”

Not yielding, Sasithorn stared at his eyes. The longer she looked, the gentler his eyes grew, reflected with playfulness, making her grow self-conscious until she finally looked away. “Nothing. Your eyes don’t say anything.”

He breathed a laugh.

“You don’t think anything’s wrong with Tawan, do you?”

“He seems fine as long as we’re holding him, there shouldn’t be anything to do with his health.”

“Still, I think I’ll give Plerng a call tomorrow.” She looked off thoughtfully. “You know, the first time I met Plerng, I didn’t think I’d ever accept him being Ratree’s midwife.”

“You weren’t any more reluctant than I was,” Athit admitted.

“I hope nothing’s wrong with you sweetie,” she crooned quietly at Tawan, who smiled sleepily at her.



“Nevermind.” Athit was just thinking that maybe Tawan craved their touch because somehow, his spirit knew that his true parents weren’t there.

The hour went by and he realized that Sasithorn had ceased making little noises at Tawan. Tawan had fallen asleep, and she had dozed off too, her head lolling upon his shoulder, with her arm resting over his arm.

Her sleeping face seemed to reveal so much of her gentleness, along with the stubborn shape of her brow that reminded him of Ratree. Slowly, he detached from her, sliding off the bed so he could go lay Tawan in his crib. Then he returned to the bed, pulled back the covers, and laid Sasithorn on the bed. Just as he was leaning down to cover her with the blanket, her eyes blinked open. Upon seeing him at her side, she raised herself on her elbows.

“What are you doing? Um, where’s Tawan?”

“He’s in his crib. I was just helping tuck you in.”

She ducked her head, embarrassed. “You don’t have to. I can do it myself.”

“You can do it yourself, except it’s already done,” he smiled. “I’ll get ready for bed. Good night.”

“Good night.”

He turned off the light and closed the door. She turned on her side and drifted back to sleep, sensing Athit’s eyes once more, but in a way that made her feel safe.


Sasithorn pressed the tips of her fingers to her temple, blinking hard. She’d just got back from work, and was preparing dinner, and mixing a bottle for Tawan.

“Here, I’ll finish this,” Athit assured her, seeing how tired she was. “You can feed Tawan.”

She gratefully accepted, and went to settle comfortably on the couch, feeding her nephew and then cuddling with him until he fell asleep. “Why are you getting so big already…” She lovingly kissed him.

Athit finished setting the table, and he paused to give himself a pat on the back for his handiwork.

“Sasi?” Appearing in the living room, he realized she had fallen asleep, lying on the couch with Tawan on the inside so he wouldn’t fall. Athit gently shook her awake. She turned to look up at him sleepily, before sitting up. He carried Tawan down the hall and set him in the crib. When he returned, he breathed a laugh, seeing her dozing off on the couch again. “Hey, let’s go eat.”

She mumbled, “I’m tired.”

“Well get up and eat, then you won’t be tired. Go.” He tugged at her arm.

She refused. “I’ll eat later.”

“No, you’ll just fall asleep.” She told him earlier that work had been so busy she had to skip lunch. “Go eat now, and then go to bed.”

“So tired…”

“Do you want me to bring it here to feed you?” he asked.

“Stupid…” she said, keeping her eyes closed.

He laughed. “Or…if you don’t like that, then would you prefer me helping you another way? How about I…feed it to you mouth to mouth?”

Sasithorn was about to mumble something, but the meaning of his words cleared up her groggy mind and she shot up in her seat. “What?!”

“Great, you’re up! Now let’s go eat!” He dragged her to the kitchen.

She groaned out loud.

“Stop whining and eat,” he ordered, heaping her plate with pasta as she rubbed sleep from her eyes. “Hm? What are you waiting for? Or did you really want me to feed you?”

She cried out, “No! Sheesh, you and your stupid joke…” She finally picked up her spoon and began eating, much to his satisfaction.

Athit snickered to himself, seeing her slurp her spaghetti so that it flicked some tomato sauce on her nose and mouth. “You got food all over yourself.”

She tried licking the sauce off the corner of her mouth.

“And your nose.” He used the tip of his thumb to rub off the sauce from her nose.

“Ratree used to eat messy like this too.” Sasithorn’s smile faltered. The memory was fond but also cut with an edge.

“There was one day she craved curry and vanilla cake.” Athit laughed. “She ate so fast that her face got red and white from the cake icing.” He had helped wipe her face with a napkin. Athit suddenly felt the injustice of the incident, of having the opportunity to enjoy Ratree’s presence when Tawan didn’t get that chance.

Sasithorn nodded. “She always loved dessert most. I could never understand how she stayed so thin.”

“Hm,” was his amused response. “You’re worried about getting fat? I think,” he leaned back and cocked his head, eying her up and down, making her frown curiously at him, “you don’t have to worry about gaining weight. Although, your hips are a little voluptuous…” Sasithorn’s eyes grew wide at his scrutiny, but he went on, “…but some people like curvy women…”


“And you could use a little more…push-up, you know?” he suggested.

She glanced down at her front. “Athit!”

“Hey!” Athit laughed, slowly pushing the fork that she was pointing at him away from him. “I was kidding!”

“Hmph,” she looked away grudgingly. “I’m not eating anymore.”

“Oh come on, I didn’t mean it. Okay? Okay pretty lady? You’re not too voluptuous, you’re the perfect shape, how’s that? And your breasts—“

“Enough,” she ordered. He bit back a smile and focused on his dinner.

When they were finished, he said, “First you didn’t want to eat, now you finished so much,” he pointed out.

“It was good, so of course I’ll eat it,” she replied.

“Thanks for the compliment.”

She hadn’t even intended to compliment him, but she realized he was good at cooking. As she watched him clear up the table and clean the kitchen, she felt a smile grow on her face. But when she heard him ask, “What are you dreaming about?” she snapped herself awake.

“Nothing.” She got up. “I’m going to bed. And, uh, thanks for dinner tonight.” Her attempt to smoothly exit was marred by carelessly tripping over the leg of her chair. Catching herself as she stumbled, she turned to see Athit giving her a quirked look, before hurrying away.

When she was safely inside the bedroom, she took a peek at Tawan to make sure he was sleeping peacefully, then prepared herself for bed. She sighed, snuggling deep in the mattress, thoughts filled with Athit and the way he peeved her so easily; Ratree and the last time Sasithorn saw her smile; and the random memory of once giving Ratree a piggy-back ride on their way back from school.


Is your "nom" Fai-approved?
Chapter 14

“…so you really have to consider all the different sides when going in and helping people of other countries. What’s considered good to you can be forbidden or offensive, and not being sensitive to these differences can cause things to move backwards, rather than forward as we intend.”

Plerng and Athit were having a discussion about foreign affairs, and the former was relating a few of his own experiences, having had the chance to travel to several different world regions.

“I’m considering going back to South Africa next year. There’s a medical conference that my past colleagues are holding there. Anyway, when little Tawan grows up, I bet he becomes a physician or philosopher. He has the look in him.”

Athit smiled. “Let’s hope so. As long as it’s something he enjoys, it can be anything.” He thought of the choices he had made in the past and how they had led him to the spot he was in now.

“I’ll head back now. Sasithorn’s probably going to get dinner started.”

Plerng walked him to the door. “Say hi to your wife for me.”

Athit shook his head at Plerng’s playful jibe--although it did make Athit curious what it would be like to have a wife. He’d never been in a long-term relationship before, it never appealed to him due to his “career”. But his mind wandered to Sasithorn and her dominant mindset, her take-charge attitude, and the rare moments he’d witnessed of her being oblivious to her usual chores while nestled up with Tawan, or lost in some historical novel with her fingers running along the chain of her necklace, the one he’d bought her. He wondered when this routine might change. The possibility of not waking up to her leaving him some note in the kitchen or the two of them preparing dinner together with her critiquing his cooking skills made Athit’s heart sink a little, though he knew such an event was inevitable.

Someone from behind him grabbed him by the shoulder. On instinct, Athit swung his fist around to hit the man who had stopped him. When the man pulled out a gun, Athit quickly kicked the gun out of his hand, then bent down and dragged the man up by his collar.

“Who the hell are you?” he demanded, before someone else yanked him back. He rounded and was clouted in the head. Looking up with wide eyes at the person he wouldn’t have expected to be attacking him, Athit muttered, “Wattana. What are you doing?”

“Something I should have done a long time ago.” Wattana aimed a kick at him.

Athit dodged and rolled onto his feet. He ran forward and pushed Wattana into the wall, punching and kicking both Wattana and the other guy. He looked down the street and saw more men advancing towards them.

“You can’t escape now,” the man threatened.

Athit reached for the gun hidden in his pant leg.


Athit looked around and in horror, found Sasithorn parked on the side of the street up ahead. “Fuck.”

“Come on!” she shouted, waving at him to get into the car.

With no choice, he fought off Wattana once more and ran. Getting into the car, he ordered, “Go!”

Sasithorn drove off and it wasn’t until they were several miles away that she slowed back down to normal speed and that was when Athit turned his attention to the car-seat next to him that contained Tawan, who gargled delightedly to see he had Athit’s attention now.

“You brought him?”

“Yeah, I was going to store,” she said, like it was a daily event to interrupt a mobbing while running to the store.

They reached the apartment and got inside. When Tawan was safely in his crib, Athit pulled Sasithorn out to the living room.

“What?” she asked.

“What were you doing over there today?” he demanded.

“I said I went to the store.”

He pressed his eyes closed to calm the ire that was rising in him. “Why did you stop the car? You should have kept driving.”

“And leave you there? So that you could get beaten to death?” She quirked a brow at him, sensing his obvious displeasure. “Look, I don’t understand why you’re so upset. Should we call the police or something?”

“No.” He turned away. “You shouldn’t have been there.”

“Well it wasn’t like it was planned, but I wasn’t about to leave you alone with those thugs. Did they take your wallet?” He remained silent. Sasithorn realized it wasn’t just a coincidental mugging. “What is going on?”

“Tawan was with you,” he snapped. “Why didn’t you just keep driving? What if they came after me and caught all of us there?”

“Then we would have called the police and gotten help,” she answered, eyeing him narrowly. “You make it sound like I’m at fault here. I was only trying to help you.”

Athit forced himself to breathe. He couldn’t believe how close Sasithorn and Tawan had been to getting into their hands. It wasn’t her fault--he couldn’t take his self-anger out on her.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

She turned back to him, nodding. “It’s okay.” She stepped closer, inspecting his face. “You’re all bruised.”

“I’m fine,” he dismissed her concern.

She pursed her lips and pulled him by the arm into the bedroom, making him sit on one side of the bed. When she had gathered the necessary treatment materials, she returned and sat cross-legged on the other side of the bed, facing him. Sasithorn jerked his chin straight so she had a clear view, then started applying some ointment on his cheek. He didn’t wince. Athit had endured worse than this. Sasithorn watched his expressionless face, and softened her touch, fingers trailing down his jaw. She took in the stormy look in his eyes and an anxious feeling settled in her stomach.

“Is there something wrong?” she asked.

“No,” he answered.

She resigned herself to his moody answer and lifted his hand to place it palm down on her knee. His knuckles were cut, so she cleaned them and stuck band-aids over them. Done with her work, she lifted her eyes in time to catch him wiping a smile off his face.

“What?” She squinted one eye at him.

He shrugged. “Nothing.” But she could tell he was amused by something. He relented by saying, “I just thought you looked funny.”


He nodded.

“You’re the one with a purple spot on your face.” To emphasize this, she pressed his bruise. Athit winced and leaned back, but she laughed and reached with her other hand so that he fought her off and caught both her hands in his. Sasithorn kept at it, pushing him down onto his side and attacking him, but he rolled around until she landed on top of him, both of them laughing.

Catching his eye, she was suddenly aware that her heart was hammering against her chest, hammering hard enough to break out and soak in air for itself. She pulled away and sat up.


They both looked up simultaneously at each other. She couldn’t help searching his face and finding it too much to her liking at the moment, she slid off the bed. “I’ll go prepare a bottle for Tawan.”

When she was gone, Athit looked in the crib. Tawan was napping soundly.

Sasithorn set the bottle down on the counter, pausing to catch her thoughts. What in the world was going on? Pushing her hair back to tuck behind her ear, she turned to go to the fridge and bumped into Athit. “W-what do you want?”

Her nerves were strangled more by his silence, as his eyes captured hers, and he took the bottle out of her hand, coming one step closer.


He noticed the way his ears had trained to recognize her voice, and this time the sound of his name came so soft from her. There was an ache inside him that wanted to bring him nearer to her voice. He wanted to taste that voice on his tongue, so he lowered his head.

The world beyond Athit had grown fuzzy to Sasithorn, as she concentrated on the contours of his jaw and chin and the sensuous way his lips parted with a slow sort of invite, one that she somehow knew she didn’t have to accept, but also knew she really wanted to, and so she slanted her face upwards.

The spell broke when they both heard a wail coming from the bedroom.

“Tawan,” she stuttered and, leaning away from Athit, Sasithorn discovered the way his hands were braced on either side of her and even more surprising, her fingers curled around the front of his shirt. She released her hold on him. Athit backed off and she turned around, abashed. “I-I’ll finish making the bottle. Go comfort him.” She peeked over her shoulder. Athit was peeking over his as well while making his way down the hall. She released a short breath, using the counter for support.


She was standing about half a foot away, placing clean dishes in their cupboards while he wiped up the sink. Even with that distance between them, why did he feel that she was right next to him, her arm brushing against his as she reached up, her hair sweeping against his shoulder as she turned her head away, her hand curved around his face the way she cupped the bowl she held.

“Athit?” Sasithorn repeated. Apparently he hadn’t been paying attention, despite how aware he was of her physical presence.

He turned to her, wanting to replace that interrupted moment with words, to somehow explain it. “Earlier…”

“It’s okay,” she said. Those two words fell short of her intended reassurance. “About earlier, I mean. I must be really tired and…and you were probably tired too.”

“Yeah, we were tired.” Athit’s mouth felt as dry as the words he spoke. He glanced at her lips, and for a moment, an image of completing the journey to her mouth and to her voice flashed through his mind along with the satisfying quench he might have achieved.

Blood rushed to Sasithorn’s face, forcing her to break from his gaze. How had she allowed herself to be hypnotized by his eyes, or his steady breathing, or the warmth emanating from him?

“I know you didn’t mean anything by it.” Her fingers lifted to graze along the edge of the cupboard, seeming to count all of the dishes, peeking at Athit from the corner of her eyes, before shutting the cupboard. She looked him squarely in the face. “Right?”

His eyes lingered on her, before he nodded. “Right.”

She frowned. “So today, when those people were attacking you. Who were they?”

She looked at him expectantly, and he knew it was useless to play ignorance, but he tried anyway. “I don’t know.”

“Athit, please.”

Sasithorn rarely asked him for anything. Now she was asking for the truth. He walked past her and sat down at the dining table. “The more you know, the worse it’ll be.”

Images of his brother ran through his mind. The poverty of their childhood, sprinkled with smiles because they had each other. The music his brother always proudly presented to him. The ashes that were his brother now. He didn’t want the same sad ending for Sasithorn or baby Tawan.

Athit was brought back to the present by a gentle touch on his shoulder. He looked up at Sasithorn.

“They’re my rivals in the underworld business and have been trying to interfere in my clan for years. They thought they could weaken me by…taking away someone I love. It’s not something I’m not used to, growing up with this dirty world,” he turned away bitterly.

“So you thought they were trying to harm Ratree?”

He nodded.

Sasithorn sighed hard. “How can they just do something like that out in the open and expect to get away with it? You’re risking yourself just stepping outside.”

He smiled. “They weren’t supposed to find me this easily. Turns out, one of my own friends betrayed me.”

She looked so baffled he almost laughed.

“So what now? You have a plan right? I mean,” she eyed him with all seriousness, “I can’t swoop in to save you every day.”

He stood up. There were arrangements he had to make, arrangements that he should have set in place much earlier. “Let me handle it. Do you trust me?”

From an early age, Sasithorn has learned that it was every woman for herself and she was solely responsible for those closest to her. She despised relying on others because more often than not, they had failed to follow through with their promises.

“Do I have a choice?” She tried to sound annoyed. But watching Athit retreat into the living room, she took his place on the chair and realized she had already taken that leap of faith shortly after meeting him.


Lying on the couch, Athit turned over on his side. The street lamp’s luminescence glowed through the window blinds, casting stripes on the coffee table, a secret nocturne message for him to decipher, if his mind didn’t keep wandering off down the hallway. It wandered through the doors and to the bed where Sasithorn sighed in her sleep, perhaps mumbling a dream word. Well, for sure she wasn’t talking in her sleep about him. For her dreams to admit him into them was unlikely. She knew now. She knew what kind of danger he was.

Chapter 15

“The water is too hot.”

Athit rolled his eyes and added a tiny bit of cool water to the tub, even though he had already adjusted it to make sure it was just the right warmth for Tawan. He’d grown used to Sasithorn’s compulsiveness and had learned that things got done quicker if he went along with what she wanted.

Sasithorn lowered Tawan into the baby tub, which sat on the sink counter, and the bath commenced. Athit shampooed Tawan’s hair while she soaped his body.

“Look at his little double chin. You’re so cute, yes you are.” She tickled his chin. Tawan splashed his fists in the water.

“Look at you. Elvis!” Athit had shaped Tawan’s soapy hair into a front coif.

“Are you going to be a singer, Tawan?”

“How about a gangster?” Athit formed a mohawk next.

“Hmph, no way. You’re going to be a scientist.”

“I don’t think he likes the comb-over you gave him,” Athit said. He laughed and made kissy faces.

Sasithorn gasped when Tawan splashed water and it got on. “Naughty Tawan!”

Athit was laughing until Sasithorn’s misdirected splash caught him in the face.

“Look at what your auntie did.” He glared while she laughed, then smudged soap on her cheek.


“Don’t splash!”

“Come here!” She rubbed soap into his hair. “No, don’t!”

“What was that? Auntie Sassy wants a hair-wash too?”

“Athit!” She shrieked when he picked her up, moving to toss her in the bath tub.


In response, she smeared soap in his eyes.

“Hey! You’re lucky this is baby shampoo!” Otherwise his eyes would be burning out of his skull.

“Wait!” she yelled before he dropped her in the tub. “I surrender!”

“Say Athit is the best person in the world!”

“Athit is the best blockhead in the world!”

He almost dropped her from laughing so hard. She was also breathless.

“Poor Tawan,” she said. “He has the most irresponsible dad and aunt.”

“Speak for yourself,” Athit said.

“This is for your naughtiness.” Sasithorn wiped her soapy hands on his wet shirt. He eyed her. She crossed her arms, raising her chin at him. Athit started slipping his shirt off.

“Athit! What are you doing?”

“Might as well finish this bath you started for me. Come on Tawan. Let’s take a bath together.”

“What about me?” she asked. She was already soaked as well.

“You can join us too,” Athit said with a smirk.

“That’s not what I meant!”

“Well then you’ll just have to wait your turn.”

“No. You wait and I’ll bathe with Tawan.”

“Hey!” He was pushed out of the bathroom by Sasithorn, who closed the door on him.


The trio was at a grocery shop.

“Athit, can you go grab some diapers?”

“Yup.” Athit had Tawan strapped on a chest carrier. He swayed Tawan from side to side as he walked past other shoppers. “Diapers for the little man. Here they are. Boy, I can’t wait until you’re potty trained.” Tawan removed his hand from his mouth and clapped. “We might as well stock up.” Athit stuck two packages of diapers under each arm.

As he turned, he nearly bumped into another person. “Whoops. Excuse me.”

“Oh no, it was my fault.” A woman with wavy short hair smiled at him. “How old is your little boy?”

“He’s hit his fourth month.”

“He’s gorgeous!” She let Tawan grasp her finger. “You and your wife are so lucky.”

“Oh, I don’t have a wife.”

“Really?” Her eyes flashed in surprise, and then she smiled. “Well, if you’d like to find your son a mommy…”

Athit was shocked at her forwardness. She laughed. “I’m just joking. But I do hope you and your son take care.” She shook Tawan’s little hand and waved at him.

“Athit, what is taking you so long?” Sasithorn appeared with the cart in tow. Tawan reached his arms out to her. “See? He misses me already.” She went over and kissed Tawan.

“I see you’ve already got it covered,” the woman said to Athit, and winked.

“Who was she?” Sasithorn asked.

“She was just admiring Tawan.”

Athit peered into the cart just before they reached the cash register. “How come you didn’t get more sweet potatoes?” He pulled out a jar of baby food. “Those are his favorites.”

“I know, but he needs different nutrient sources.” Sasithorn loaded the counter with their groceries. “I got him some spinach and carrots.”

He grimaced at Tawan. “Ew. Vegetables.”

“Oh please. Don’t teach him bad habits now.”

“Mom’s right,” the cashier said. “Dad should listen to her, so your baby will grow up healthy.”

Athit and Sasithorn looked at each other.

She replied, “I’m not—“

“Oh hey, let’s buy this too.” Athit put a chocolate bar on the counter.

“You’re not going to feed it to Tawan, are you?” She asked, suspicious.

“Uh, no,” he lied.

She shook her head. “No, we budgeted for the groceries only.”

“But I have a sweet tooth.”

“Athit, we have cookies at home.”

“But they’re not chocolate.”

“We’ll buy that next time.” She ignored his pout and paid the cashier.

Athit then remembered he had his own money and didn’t have to worry about their budget. “What the heck am I arguing for?” He chuckled and bought the candy bar.

“You’re going to give him cavities,” Sasithorn said. She looked on disapprovingly as Athit fed tiny chocolate bits to Tawan.

“He doesn’t even have teeth yet,” Athit said. He loved seeing Tawan’s eyes light up as he ate the sweets. Tawan’s bubbly laugh was what Athit aimed for every day.

“Well this isn’t going to help.” She looked at Plerng for some back up. He had stopped by to visit them. Unfortunately, Plerng was the laid back type.

“It’ll be fine. Chocolate is good for the heart in small doses.”

“Auntie Sassy’s just being an old grump, isn’t that right?” Athit said. “Maybe we should share our chocolate with her.”

“No thank you,” she said.

“Plerng, do you want to stay for dinner?” Athit asked.

“It was about time you asked. I already know what I’m going to make.” Plerng jumped up from the couch and pushed back his sleeves as he headed to the kitchen.

“Sure, Plerng. Just make yourself at home!” Sasithorn called over.

“I will!” he called back, so that she chuckled.

“As if you don’t relish taking a break from cooking,” Athit said.

“Here, give him to me. You’re the one that keeps coming home late.” She cuddled Tawan while Athit lounged on the sofa. “Plerng, do you want help?”


An hour later, Plerng’s head poked in and he said, “Dinner!”

Before he left, Plerng said to Athit, “I seasoned the food with basil and ginger. And make sure you eat some bananas.”

“Why?” Athit asked.

“Because I think it’d be a good idea to give Tawan a sibling. You should go buy some avocados too.”

Athit halted. “What are you talking about?”

Plerng grinned mischievously. “I fed Tawan a lot tonight. He’ll sleep through anything.”


“You know chocolate is a popular aphrodisiac, right?”

By the time Athit worked out what he was implying, Plerng had already reached the end of the hallway. Athit frowned. “Plerng!” All Athit heard was Plerng’s laugh in return.

“Did he forget something?” Sasithorn asked.

“No,” Athit said quickly. “Where’s Tawan?”

“Knocked out and sleeping still as a rock.” She yawned and stretched.

Athit averted his gaze quickly, feeling his face flame up.

“It’s feeling stuffy in here, don’t you think? Where’s that extra fan?”

“In the closet,” he pointed.

“I don’t see it.”

“Look behind the boxes.”

She found the fan and plugged it in, sinking into the sofa in front of it. Sighing with comfort, she rested her head on her arms. “This feels good.”

Athit glanced over her reclining body, noticing the flush on her bare arms and the fan blowing tendrils of hair across her forehead. He walked into the bathroom and splashed water on his face. Plerng couldn’t have been serious. He knew about Ratree and Athit’s fake relationship, he wouldn’t try to make things awkward with Sasithorn, would he?

Sasithorn knocked on the door. “Athit? Why are you in there so long?”

He opened the door.

“Are you feeling well?”

Athit told her not to worry about it. Then he smirked. “Why? Are you worried for me?”

She grimaced. “More like worried I won’t get to use the bathroom.”

He followed her back out to the living room. “Always so quick to shut down any hint of your goodness.”

“Athit! Are you saying I am bad?”

“You said it yourself, not me.”

She chucked a pillow at him. “I don’t know how Ratree put up with you.”

“It would have been easy. Ratree is lovely and gets along with everyone. Unlike some other person.” He chuckled at her face. “Pouting? I never thought I’d get to see a face like yours with a pout.”

“What’s wrong with my face?” she demanded.

“You want me to say it out loud?”

Sasithorn pounced at him, trying to squash him into the sofa cushions. Athit shouted and laughed and she gleefully continued sitting on him.

“Hey you, get off, I can’t breathe.”

“If you can’t breathe then you can’t insult me. The punishment fits the crime.” She crossed her arms and remained sitting. Athit grinned.

“Don’t blame me if I hurt you.”

“I dare you to try.”

Athit started tickling her. Caught off guard, Sasithorn jumped and fell on the ground.

“Ow! Athit!”

“I didn’t do it. You fell off on your own. You even said I couldn’t hurt you.” He laughed as she rubbed her head where it hit the ground. “Aw, come here. Let me take a look.” He pleaded with her as she shook off his hands. Finally, he managed to pull her onto the sofa. Sasithorn threw him a grumpy look. “Don’t be mad, okay sweetie?”

Sasithorn smacked his arm. “Say that again.”

“Ow, okay fine. I won’t call you that. Let’s just call you Sassy then. Let’s see, how’s your head?”

Sasithorn glanced his way and averted her gaze after seeing how close he was. “It’s fine. I said I’m fine.”

“Come on, just let me look.” His arms encircled her loosely, yet Sasithorn felt as if she was bound by a spell. She didn’t dare look at him again.

“I won’t die from just that,” she said. Athit blew cool air at her head.

“There, all better.”

“Good enough.” She wormed her way out of his arms. “I’m going to bed.”

“Hey! Aren’t you forgetting something?” She turned around and he pointed at his cheek.

Sasithorn stuttered. “What? Are you crazy?!”

Athit blinked in surprise. “What? I was just asking for you to blow my wound too. I took care of you just now.”

“What wound?”

“Don’t pretend to be innocent. Just before, you were trying to suffocate me and even slapped my cheek. You have to take responsibility.” Athit pointed at his cheek again. “Hurry.”

Sasithorn hoped she wasn’t as red as she felt right now. How could she have thought he was asking for a kiss? Intending to make things quick, she bent down, just as Athit stood up. Her lips grazed his cheek.

Gasping, Sasithorn pulled back. Athit had fallen back in his seat, surprised. Not knowing what to say and afraid of making things worse, Sasithorn grabbed a pillow and threw it at Athit. He caught it in his stomach. Sasithorn marched away into the bedroom.

Aside from his real grandson, only Athit had received the privilege of addressing Chai Theeradet as family. Everyone else in Chai’s clan was held at a distance, even as trusted employees. The clan dealt arms internationally, their Bangkok location serving as a prized transit station for the exchange of weaponry ranging from high grade ammunition to war missiles.

Tawan had focused all of his energy into music, until he had learned that Athit had leaped into illegal industries in order to support him in his music endeavors. Being the man Athit knew he was, Tawan would never stand by and let his older brother shoulder such dangerous responsibilities alone. Against Athit’s wishes, Tawan joined the clan, though he served only a short term before being murdered.

There had been no question that it was a cold-blooded murder. Wattana had sent Athit the photos of Tawan’s death. It didn’t help that Athit had turned out to be such a successful businessman. He had cultivated many enemies in his success dealing arms. Chai’s most hated rival clan, led by a man known as Saichon, was at the top of his suspect list, but ever since Wattana double-crossed him, Athit couldn’t trust any of the information they’d gathered against Saichon.

That evening, Athit discussed Wattana’s switch with Chai. Chai urged Athit to tighten security and return to their headquarters. When dinner was finished, his grandfather led him expectedly to the living quarters of the building. However, Athit stopped him.

“I need to go now. I will return if you need me.”

Athit did not waver underneath Grandfather Chai’s searching eyes.

The older man nodded.


Tawan had fallen asleep for the evening without fuss. Sasithorn was alone for the night with him, and she was just checking over her bills and wondering whether she should sublet her apartment, when a knock at the door stole her attention.

She frowned. Athit never forgot his keys. She peered out the peephole at the man standing outside. “Yes?” she asked him, not opening the door completely. Sasithorn froze when he aimed a gun at her.

“I’d like to have a conversation. You can yell, and make this painful, or you can invite me in.”

“How do I know you’re going to do as you say?” she demanded.

“Your call.”

If she shut the door in his face, he’d most likely shoot at it, waking Tawan up and giving him a second victim. If she yelled for help, he’d probably shoot her.

Sasithorn stepped aside. The man walked in.

“What do you want?”

“How’s the child?”

Her rigid body tensed even more. “That’s none of your business.”

He lowered his gun, keeping her in his sight. “I’m not here to harm either of you. You’re not the ones I want. But I’d like for you to inform Athit that I dropped by. Tell him if he doesn’t stop playing hide and seek, his nephew will be next. And that will be two Tawans taken out in the same year.”

Sasithorn thought this man was crazy.

He scoffed. “You look confused.”

“Athit doesn’t have a nephew.”

“That is where you’re wrong. Whose diapers do you think you’ve been changing?” The man pushed off the table he’d been leaning against. “I figured Athit needed a push before he’d willingly step up. So remember not to be the brave lioness and let him know Wattana is waiting for him.”

Sasithorn stood for what felt an eternity after the man left.


Athit paused outside the apartment door, then pushed the handle to enter. The unit was dark and silent. He entered the kitchen to get a glass of water. When he turned on the light and grabbed a cup, he noticed that the counter and dish rack looked empty. All of Tawan’s bottles were gone. Athit rushed down the hall.

“Sasithorn?” He knocked on the door, then knocked harder. Finally, he opened it and went inside. Even with the lights off, his suspicions were confirmed by the flat bed and empty crib highlighted by the hallway lamp.



Sasithorn bounced Tawan up and down in her arms. He sucked on his fingers and smiled at her. She smiled back, until her thoughts drifted to Athit. Last night she had made the immediate decision that the only way she could ensure Tawan’s safety was to move out them both out.

The doorbell chimed.

Sasithorn opened the door and came face to face with Athit.

“May I come inside?” He asked.

Hoping that all of this could be resolved in a civil manner, she nodded and opened the door wider. “Come in.”

Athit immediately reached out for Tawan, and she let him take the baby into his arms. “How are you, little guy?”

Once they settled into seats, Athit eyed her. “Sasithorn, I’m going to be straightforward with you. I don’t like that you took away Tawan. You had no right.”

She held herself up tall. “I have every right to protect and take care of him.”

Athit studied her as Tawan played with his cheeks. “Sasithorn, did something happen while I was gone last night?” He would never gage her as an impulsive person, and she had stuck with him this far. Something had to have happened.

Sasithorn decided not to mince words. “Yes.” Athit waited. “A man stopped by. He said…” She was still confused about the “conversation” that had occurred. “He said that if you didn’t stop playing hide and seek, he would go after Tawan next. He kept going on about something strange, like there was more than one Tawan—“

“What? Wait, say that again.”

Sasithorn said, “He said to tell you that Wattana is waiting. I don’t know who Wattana is, maybe he was that man. He threatened your nephew.” She narrowed her gaze at him. Athit swore silently. “He claimed that Tawan was your nephew. Either way, I don’t think that place is safe for any of us. You should move too.”

Athit understood that this was not an invitation, which was confirmed when Sasithorn added, “I have to put Tawan down for his nap. You should leave.”

“Sasithorn, you can’t be serious. You want me to leave? You really want me to leave you and Tawan?”

“Well perhaps you can enlighten me if there is a better way to go about this.” She wasn’t going to budge on her decision, he could see.

“Do you know what you’re asking?”

“Why did he say there was another Tawan?”

Athit paused. Sasithorn watched him, daring him to answer, daring him to share the truth again. He glanced at the Tawan in his arms and sighed.

“Remember when Ratree was in the hospital? She tried to keep me from leaving her. At the time, I thought I had found the person who murdered my brother.”

“Your brother was…” Sasithorn’s resolve staggered. “He was murdered?”

Athit nodded.

“Who was your brother?”

“A child, someone too young to think straight. His intentions…I know he was only doing it for me, but he shouldn’t have.” Athit lowered his eyes. Here was the toughest part. “His name was Tawan Sumoncha.”

Sasithorn struggled to process this. “He’s the singer that Ratree liked?”

“Loved. She loved him and he…he loved her.” Athit’s words died on his lips, his eyes meeting hers.

Her eyes narrowed. “What do you mean they loved each other? Ratree was with you, right?” But as she said this, she was working out the connections. “Why is it that your brother happens to be the namesake of my nephew?” She sat back. “Oh my god.”


She stood up and away from him when he reached out. “You were never with Ratree. You weren’t her boyfriend. No wonder.” She turned away in a half-frenzy then rounded on him again. “You two lied to me. All this time I thought you two were Tawan’s parents.”

“Let me explain.”

“I’ve heard and seen enough. I want you out of my apartment.”

Athit stopped in his tracks.

She rounded on him. “You were right. How can you think that Tawan can live with you when there’s a constant chance that you’ll put him in danger? We were almost killed out there! I’m not going to take any chances with my nephew, so don’t come near him again.” She pulled Tawan out of Athit’s arms.

He protested. “I can’t leave him. It’s my job to take care of him.”

“He has me. I think you’ll be doing your job by keeping your distance.”


She didn’t wait for his words, but moved to the door and opened it. “Leave. Or I’ll…” she sounded unsure, “I’ll call the police.” The words sounded wrong to both of them, but Sasithorn refused to meet his eye. She remembered last night, praying that the man wouldn’t hurt Tawan. Now she learned that Athit had spun even more lies. She didn’t know what he and Ratree had played at and she didn’t care at the moment. All she cared about was Tawan.

Athit stifled his arguments. Putting himself in her shoes, he knew his presence meant a lose-lose situation to her and Tawan.

“I’m sorry,” he said. Sasithorn blinked away her tears. He stepped outside.

She closed the door and he heard Tawan’s whimpers.

Athit was being backed into a corner he didn’t want, and it would hurt Sasithorn, but he had sworn to protect Tawan.


“What are you doing here?”

The lawyer took out an envelope. “This is a court summons for the trial determining custody of the child named Tawan Sumoncha.”


“It was ordered by Athit Sumoncha.” He stood and picked up his suitcase. “We will see you shortly ma’am.” With that, he left.

Sasithorn tore open the envelope and read through the summons.

“That bastard.” She clutched the letter. How dare he try to do this?

She crumpled up the letter and vowed silently that she would never let him succeed. She wasn’t going to let her nephew sink into the filthy world Athit had grown up in. She couldn’t. Just thinking about it reminded her of the upbringing that she and Ratree had. Tawan was an innocent child and he deserved better than that. She may not have proof of his illegal activities, but that didn’t mean a single man would ever be chosen as caretaker of baby over a woman who had a stable job and was blood-related to the child. She couldn’t let him get away with this.

Sasithorn had placed Tawan in Plerng’s care while she attended the court summons. She had rehearsed her case to the tee, confident that the judge would rule in her favor. No one should find a single fault in her ability to be caretaker to a six month old child.

There wasn’t anyone in the seats aside from herself and a hired attorney. The doors behind them opened. Form the corner of her eye, she saw three people settle at the opposing table. She couldn’t resist turning to look.

Sasithorn couldn’t believe her eyes. It was Athit in the flesh, he was real, but she had never seen anyone make such a transformation before, and yet she recognized him without fail. Gone were his sweats and grey shirts, replaced by the sleekest suit that fit his proportions perfectly. His hair that had been reaching past his ears was swept with elegance to one side. His gold earring remained in place. There was no doubt that this man was someone of authority.

The session began.

An hour later, after she had fought tooth and nail, even through her shock at discovering just exactly how much power Athit truly had, Sasithorn sat rigidly on a bench outside the court room in despair. She had lost custody. Tawan was going to be taken from her.

The doors opened once more. The moment she saw his face, Sasithorn leaped up and marched toward Athit.

“You, despicable, disgusting, evil, man.” She spat each word with a hit from her fist.

Athit motioned for his men to step away and caught her hands, forming shackles with his fingers. He led her away out of the building.

“Let go of me!”

He stopped outside, but didn’t relinquish her.

“Let go! You pig! I’ll never forgive you!”

“Sasithorn.” Even the way he spoke was different. Sasithorn didn’t know how she had ever thought she might trust the man in front of her.

She yanked her hands out of his grip. “How could you! How dare you take my nephew from me?”

“He’s my nephew too.”

She gave a short high laugh. “You’re not fit to look after Tawan.”

“The court thought otherwise.”

“Well they’re wrong! If they knew you were a criminal, if they knew what you were…” She was trembling with the passion of wanting to vent her anguish at him. “You have no right to take Tawan!”

He held her gaze until she had fallen silent. “They know what I am.”


“Criminals have a way of infiltrating even the highest of legal authorities. You’ll learn that the law is never separate from those they seek to punish.”

“Oh? I suppose you think being the leader of such a dirty world makes you feel righteous enough to do everything you want? I won’t let you do it! Tawan belongs with me.”

“I’m going to protect him.”

“Just like how you protected Ratree?” She saw his jaw stiffen, and for the shortest second, she felt regret, but then she reminded herself that it was his fault and he deserved to live with the guilt and if she was to ever live up to her name as a sister, she should never let him get away with what he was doing now.

“I’m sorry Sasithorn,” he spoke stiffly. “But I’m doing my duty. And it would be best if you didn’t get involved any further or you’ll get hurt too.”

Was he threatening her, or warning her?

“You can’t do this.”

He tried not to look at her, for she looked the most vulnerable that she had in days. Her words had been spoken almost pleadingly, and he hated that he was hurting her by taking Tawan, who was a part of her sister, was what she needed now that she had no one left. But he had a responsibility to look after his blood too, and it would be best if he took Tawan.

They looked up when they heard their names called. Plerng had arrived, Tawan in his arms.

“So? How did it go?”

Athit went over and reached out. Sasithorn, feeling helpless, tried to stop him. “Plerng, give Tawan to me.”

“Sasithorn, please don’t stall this any further.”

“So Tawan is going with you, Athit?” Plerng asked. Athit nodded. He didn’t relish seeing the anguish Sasithorn displayed but there was nothing he could do. Plerng was also looking grim. “Okay then.”

“Plerng—“ Sasithorn said.

“Sasi, this is what has been decided. Besides, you’ll see Tawan again. Right, Athit?”

Athit and Plerng shared a look. He silently received Tawan, who was oblivious to the turmoil going on between the adults.

“Sir.” One of Athit’s assistants stood at the door of Athit’s car. Athit went into the car with his nephew. He glanced out the tinted window at Plerng, who had a hand on Sasithorn’s shoulder. At the moment, Athit would give anything to erase the hatred he saw in her eyes. Anything except risk Tawan’s safety.


Is your "nom" Fai-approved?
Chapter 17

“Everything is set sir.”

Athit nodded to his assistant.

They drove into the drive way of a delectable house upon a good size of property that was gated and secured with the best protection. This was where his nephew would be, away from harm.

“Let me know if you hear about that person,” he said to his assistant who inclined her head, then took her leave.

With Tawan asleep on his chest, Athit strolled up the stairs and over to the right to the nursery that had been prepared. He set the baby down in the crib. Tawan stirred, turned his little fuzz-covered head and remained asleep.

Athit affectionately stroked the round soft cheek before covering him, then turning off the lights. Outside in the hall, he sighed, thinking back to all of Sasithorn’s words outside the courthouse.


Athit thanked his assistant and allowed her to leave. He checked on Tawan, resting in the nursery, before tugging off his tie and dropping onto the sofa. Only two weeks back in the business and he was already chasing an order delayed in the South China Sea. He had also been up half the night last night because Tawan had been extra fussy.

His cell phone rang and he ignored it, letting it go to voice mail. He had made specific orders to not be disturbed before heading back home. His phone rang again. Athit opened one eye and reluctantly picked it up.


“Athit, what’s your address? Can I come visit? I miss Tawan.”


“You’ve forgotten your favorite doctor already?”

Athit smirked. “Alright.”

When Athit answered the door for Plerng, Tawan was crying loudly. “Here,” Athit said, handing Tawan to him before running off to the kitchen where he had spilled a spoonful of formula while fixing a bottle.

“How’s Tawan? Oh, don’t cry, your daddy was clumsy, wasn’t he?” Plerng bounced Tawan around. Once the bottle was made and secured in Tawan’s grasp, the crying subsided.

“It’s good to see you,” Athit exclaimed, sitting back and spreading his limbs on the sofa.

“I figured you’d be plenty busy. Good thing my work team set me loose on sabbatical.”

“Doctors get sabbatical?”

“This one does.”

Athit didn’t think he’d ever truly understand what Plerng did with his life, but he seemed to make the most out of it and, more importantly, Plerng spent his life helping others. He had to admit, he’d been thrilled to receive Plerng’s call. It was as if he’d lived knowing Plerng and Sasithorn all of his life rather than the solitary life he had before all of them.

“Athit, you’re really not going to allow Sasithorn to see Tawan?”

“It’s not that I don’t want to. But knowing her, things will get complicated.”

Athit had confided in Plerng about everything. It surprised him how easy it was to share things about his life with someone else. But Plerng had proven to be the least judgmental person Athit had ever met. He didn’t blink an eye when Athit told him of Athit’s real life. He told Plerng about Ratree and about Tawan and Plerng had listened and offered his help without hesitation, unconditionally. “Sometimes life chucks lemons at you and you either let those suckers give you a black eye or you start making lemonade. I have no say over what you choose to do to help those you love.” That’s what Plerng had said and Athit had been grateful to not be shunned. “Just don’t tell me more than I need to know.”

“Can’t say I approve of this arrangement. But I know where you’re coming from. I understand that you don’t want outsiders getting in your business. But Sasithorn’s not an outsider.”

Athit knew it well. “Have you seen Sasithorn lately?”

“I saw her just yesterday. She didn’t look her best, but couldn’t have been her worst either.”

Athit didn’t even know he could feel crappier than he already was, hearing news about Sasithorn. Several times in the last few days he had been tempted to drive by her neighborhood in the hopes that he might catch a glimpse of her. She’d probably be furious if she saw his face though.


“Bring the car around,” Athit ordered through his cell phone.

“Yes, sir. There’s just a small problem down here we have to take care of first.”


“Nothing important. There’s some woman here who is demanding to be let in.”

Athit went over to the door that has a small screen monitoring the gates. The woman was unmistakable. “Let her in.”


“Go ahead. She’s someone I know.”

Sasithorn was led up to the house, taking in the grand style and luxurious furnishings of the building with a suspicious note. Finally, she was brought in front of the culprit himself—Athit.

He sat in his couch as cool as he pleased, but even though he was dressed differently and waved away his men with the grace of authority, she could still glimpse the kindness in his eyes. She pushed away those useless thoughts of the past and focused on the business that she had come to put forward, no matter how it went against her taste.

“Sasithorn, how are you?” It had been over a month since they had seen each other. Athit suppressed the urge he had to go hug her. It was time to stop pretending they could lead a normal life together.

She ignored this polite greeting, looking at him hard. “I’ve come to request something from you.”

“Please, sit first,” he gestured.

Biting back her impatience, she did as he bid, seating herself across from him.

“Now, what can I help you with?” he asked.

“There’s only one thing you have that I want.” She took a deep breath to calm herself. “I…I want to see Tawan.”

“That can be arranged.”

“I mean that I want to continue seeing him. To visit him and to have some kind of constant influence in his life.”

“I see.” Her motive was not lost on Athit. She still didn’t trust him or his ability to take care of Tawan. “But that poses a difficulty. You see, Tawan’s safety is my number one priority.”

“It’s my priority as well,” she said, her tone suggesting that her own idea of safety was superior to his.

“Then if you’re suggesting that I allow you to take Tawan from this house, I’m afraid I can’t make any agreements with you.”

“But I have the right as his aunt to take care of him,” she argued.

He sighed. “I’m sorry, but the only way that you’ll be able to see him on a regular basis is if he doesn’t leave this place. And unfortunately, that means you’ll be traveling back and forth often, which I can’t have you doing.” There were too many vulnerabilities if a woman like Sasithorn was seen coming and going from his house regularly.

“So you’re saying I’m not welcome here and that I won’t be able to see Tawan unless you give me permission?” she asked in outrage.

“Look, I don’t want to do this, but it’s for the well-being of Tawan. I don’t see any other way out.” He glanced up suddenly with an idea in mind. But no, she would never agree to something that far-fetched. “Unless…”

“Unless what?” Sasithorn demanded. At this point, she was growing pretty desperate. Seeing his hesitation, she insisted, “Tell me!”

“I’ll let you stay in Tawan’s life on the condition that you work for me.” He watched her wary expression turn bewildered.

“Work for you?” she stammered. “Doing what?”

He shrugged. “I’ll find something for you to do.”

“Work. For you?” she repeated incredulously.

“Full time,” he added, so that she rose into further disbelief.

“But…but that means I’d have to-to quit my job!” she yelled.

He simply tilted his head as if saying it was up to her.

“Athit this is ridiculous!” she shouted. “I demand that you let me care for Tawan!”

“You should see that I’m putting these restrictions up because of how much I care about him,” he replied with an edge to his voice. “If you’re not willing to meet these restrictions then I can’t do anything about it. I am not going to allow anything to harm Tawan, and if I have to forbid you from seeing him to do it, then I will.”

They were back at it, their silent little wars, each one unwilling to give up or compromise. But a voice in the back of Sasithorn’s mind urged her to step back just this once, otherwise she would lose everything all over again. She had no choice.


“Is there a need to draw up something as formal as a work contract?”

Athit was already regretting his offer. Once she entered his world, there was not way for her to go back.

He glanced up from his desk. “I thought you would want something like this. We can work out the details of pay and work duties more clearly.”

Sasithorn sighed with impatience. “Fine, do whatever you want. But the only job I will accept is taking care of Tawan. I will not be running errands for you or doing any of that illegal stuff. Got it?”

Athit smiled. “No worries. I wouldn’t trust you with those things.” Sasithorn scowled. “I agree that for now the most acceptable job for you is to watch over Tawan. You know him and understand what he needs. I will allow you to come into the house to look after him while I am gone. Now, on to the logistics. A new account will be created for you.”

“Why?” she asked.

“I would like for the source of your earnings to remain discrete.”

Sasithorn understood that to mean her payroll was going to be complicated and involved in the black market. She bit back her feelings of distaste. “Fine.”

“You will report to training with Neung every morning.”

“Training for what?”

“If you want to be my employee, there are things you have to learn.”

“I don’t want to learn them,” she said flat out. “I’m just here to take care of Tawan. Leave me out of your other business.”

“I’m afraid that’s not something you have a say in. I will not make you an exception to those in my employment.” He did not waver, did not blink.

She sat back and crossed her arms. “Fine.”

Athit suppressed a sigh. “Please prepare yourself and be settled into the employee living quarters.”

“What?” She slammed her hands on the desk in shock. “I have to live in employee quarters?!”

“That’s right.”

“I refuse.”

“Sasithorn, I thought you already knew what you were getting yourself into when you came here. If these are conditions you cannot agree to, then for the sake of my business and Tawan, I can’t let you in.”

“But it’s not necessary for me to be moved into a place like that.”

“You’ve never been there. How would you know what it’s like?”

He was right. But she didn’t care. “It doesn’t matter. I don’t need to know. All I know is that for me to take care of my own nephew, you do not need to go as far as putting me in a pig pen with strangers.” She thought and then blurted, “Just let me live here.”

Athit’s brow quirked. “Here?”

“What else would make more sense? My sole responsibility is Tawan. If I am here, you won’t have to worry about him either because when you’re working or resting I will be there for him. We all win in this arrangement. Isn’t that right?” Trump card.

“Are you sure you want to live here?” Athit asked. For some reason, he felt uneasy about it, which was ridiculous since they had lived together previously. And she was right. With her here, he wouldn’t have to worry about her getting pulled into the hands of another clan.

“I’m sure.”

Chapter 18

“You can leave that. I’ll take care of it.” Sasithorn turned away from the man who was about to carry her possessions through the hall. She kissed Tawan again. Ever since she had set eyes on him after her last meeting with Athit, she had no attention for anything else.

It was a few days after she and Athit had signed her work contract and she finally moved in, and more importantly, got to hold her precious Tawan again.

“Where do you want your things?” Athit asked. “Your room is across this way.”

She frowned at him. “I’m sleeping in the nursery with Tawan.”

“Suit yourself.” He paused to enjoy watching the two of them. “I have some business to get to. Make yourself comfortable and if there’s anything you need, I left a phone number for you to call. Remember, you’re not to leave the property.”

She sighed huffily. “Fine.”

Athit waited until she was settled on the couch, feeding Tawan before he stepped out.

Once the door closed and there were no more footsteps, Sasithorn finally looked up. She took a deep breath. Balancing Tawan on her hip, she took a round through the house. The place was tidy enough. The furniture was cozy, and each room had a color theme. Along the stairs hung a set of framed photos.

“This is the Tawan that Ratree loved?” She studied one of the photos, Athit with his arm around a man. They didn’t look alike, but in the photo, they possessed the same reluctant look of being camera-shy.

Up the stairs, she found a room with a crib, stuffed toys, and soft window curtains. Lined up in one corner were two guitars, standing like guardians. Tawan was asleep in her arms, so she laid him in the crib. Sasithorn leaned over and peered at him with adoration.

“There has to be a way for us to get out of here.”


“Don’t you have somewhere to be?” Sasithorn asked the next morning.

Athit was bouncing Tawan on his lap. “You sound like you’re kicking me out of my own home.”

She stood stiffly, looking away. “I’m just trying to do my job.”

“Don’t forget that in thirty minutes you have training with Neung. She’ll take you over to headquarters and give you a tour.”

“Then who will watch Tawan?”

“I had someone helping me before.” The doorbell rang. “There he is.” Athit got up and answered the door.

Plerng stepped in. “Morning!”

“Plerng!” Sasithorn said.

“Surprised you, huh? I hear the two of you have work to do. Chop, chop, then. I’ll take good care of Tawan. Come here.” Athit handed Tawan to him. “Have you had breakfast?”

“Yes,” Sasithorn answered.

“No,” Athit said.

“Tsk. I thought you were helping Athit out.”

“What he has for breakfast is none of my business. My sole duty is for Tawan,” she stated.

“No worries, Plerng. I’ll grab something on my way. I wouldn’t ask for anyone to unwillingly cook for me.”Athit glanced at her. “Let’s go now.”

Throughout the day, Sasithorn followed a woman named Neung, making rounds through the first two floors of a building she didn’t recognize.

“The rest of the floors are reserved for meetings and upper level personnel,” Neung said.

Sasithorn wondered what the point of a tour was if she wasn’t even allowed to see more than a glimpse of the building.

“Since boss says that you’re not going to be here often, I won’t describe the other departments too much. I’ll introduce you to the level one staff.”

“What sorts of departments do you have here?” Sasithorn asked.

Neung answered, “We have security departments, finance departments, shipping departments…”

She made it sound like they were running a normal legal company.

“We don’t focus much on customer service,” Neung said, smirking as though she had read Sasithorn’s mind. “If someone likes our partnership, they come back. If not, it’s not a big loss to us.”

“How long have you worked here?”

“About two years. I started off in the defense and security. Got this from one of my missions.” Neung showed a scar on her bicep.

“Is that from a bullet?” Sasithorn was horrified.

Neung nodded. “I still kicked butt though. Are you sure you don’t want to train for defense and security? It’s a great place to start working your way up.”

“I’m sure,” Sasithorn said faintly.

They entered a room where a few cubicles were set up. “Everyone, this is Sasithorn.”

A few heads looked up and nodded at them.

“She’s working closely with boss Athit on a special item,” Neung said.

“The eighty seven grenade case?” a man asked.

“Or was it the Osaki ammo trade?”

“She’s doing top secret work for boss,” Neung said. They all seemed to accept that vague answer and returned to work.

They were walking out of the door when Sasithorn asked, “They don’t wonder about their boss’ work?”

“Everyone here knows there is a limit to the knowledge that goes around. Only the top people like boss Athit know everything and everyone involved in the trades we run.”

“So you’re saying you could be doing work and not even know who or what the work is for?”

Neung shrugged. “That’s the way it is. We don’t want inside information to leak.”

A man caught up to them.

“How is it, Neung?”


He asked, “Is she with the BB case.”

“BB case?” Sasithorn asked.

“Baby,” Neung explained. “On this floor, only Chaithong knows about him.”

“I’m Chaithong,” he said. “So you get the special job of looking after boss’ nephew.”

“He’s my nephew too,” Sasithorn emphasized. She wasn’t ready for what he said next.

“I see. I worked with Tawan before he was killed. I’m sorry we lost him.”

“You knew Athit’s brother?”

Chaithong nodded. “I was stationed in Hong Kong for the past few weeks. I haven’t seen boss Athit or had the chance to give him my condolences. If the child needs anything, don’t hesitate to give me a call.”

As Neung led her away, Neung said, “Chaithong was Tawan’s trainer. Tawan was very talented. He knew numbers and trade rules. He could have successfully led a team on any trade operation with our biggest clients. He had natural charisma and an eye for the business. And I trained with him on the gun range. He was a top marksman.”

Sasithorn hummed to show she was listening. She couldn’t wrap her mind around the pride these employees showed at having such deadly abilities.

“Where are we going now?”

“We’re done for the day. Tomorrow, I’ll bring you back here and give you a rundown of our current business partners, our competitors, and the hierarchy here.”

Sasithorn breathed a sigh of relief that the session with Neung was so brief.

Once she was back at Athit’s place, Plerng left.

“Now that you’re all fed and clean, stay here while Auntie looks around, ok?”

Sasithorn set Tawan in a bouncing chair with his pacifier and toys dangling from the chair frame.

She went to the window. No one was inside the gates of the house. She knew there was a camera by the entrance but if she acted quickly, she could get them away and on a train somewhere.


Athit unlocked the door and stepped in. “I’m back.” Silence greeted him. He went into the living room and then the nursery. Athit sighed, seeing and empty crib.

Across the hall, Sasithorn’s room was also empty.


“Thank you so much for your help.”

“Don’t mention it,” Chaithong said. He reached over for the shopping bag that Sasithorn held but she held it firmly.

“It’s okay, I can carry this.”

“Oh, well why don’t we put it in the car?”

“Uh, I’m…” She stuttered. “I’m going to meet a friend here. You can go back home now. Thank you for your help. I can’t ever pay you back.”

“But won’t boss be expecting you?”

“We’ll be fine.” She had Tawan in a front carrier strapped to her shoulders and waist. He’d fallen asleep. “Really, you don’t have to wait on us. I’ve bothered you enough already.”

Chaithong hesitated. “Well, if you’re sure.” He looked over her shoulder and bowed his head. “Ah, you must have been waiting for boss.”

Sasithorn whirled around and much to her dismay, Athit was striding across the mall at her. He didn’t look pleased.

“Chaithong. Thank you. You can return now,” Athit said. Chaithong nodded and left.

Sasithorn grimaced. She had taken so much time to think of an excuse that would convince Chaithong to come get her and Tawan from the house. She had lied that Athit already knew where they were going and she hadn’t seen Chaithong call anyone to inform them either.

“Do you have anything to say?” Athit asked.

“How’d you know where we were?”

“A trick that simple, anyone could have seen it coming.”

Sasithorn glared at him.

“Although I didn’t expect you to try it so soon. Waiting a few days so I let down my defenses was what I thought you would do.”

They got home and Athit gave Tawan a bath and put him to bed. Sasithorn looked up when he came into the living room.

“Sasithorn, I don’t think this arrangement is going to work out after all.”

“What do you mean?”

He sighed. “I can’t keep being cautious with you. I’m sorry but after today, I want you to leave.”

“You can’t do that!” She stood up and went to him. “You know how much Tawan means to me. You know and that’s why you knew I would try to escape with him.”

It didn’t make Athit happy to say this but he was starting to regret allowing her to stay with them. “You’ll never trust me. And I don’t think I can trust you either.”

“Please Athit.” She took his hand in both of hers. Tears burned at her eyes but she didn’t care how stupid or pathetic she looked this time. Sasithorn would willingly let herself be a prisoner now rather than be parted from Tawan forever. “Please. I’m sorry okay? But I didn’t have a choice. I’ll do whatever you want from now on, just don’t hide Tawan from me. I can’t live the way I used to, when Ratree ran away from me. Please!”

Athit’s heart ached for her. There was still part of his logic that said even if he hurt her, he had to do it for everyone’s sake. But he had lived with this woman for too long, had seen her smile, laugh and cry. He loved Ratree as a sister and knew it would be unfair for Tawan to miss Sasithorn in his life.

She continued to plead with him. “He’s the only one I have left. I swear, I’ll follow all of your rules from now on. I’ll take the best care of Tawan and I won’t take him anywhere without your permission. I’ll look after everything here. Please.”

“Fine.” He sighed. “We’ll try again.”

Sasithorn nodded. She felt worn out. She had fought alone for so long. Now she had Tawan who was worth fighting for and she knew she had very little chances again. “Thank you.” She was angry. But Sasithorn would be lying to herself if she said Athit didn’t care just as much about Tawan as she did. She could hate him but she had to accept that he was Tawan’s legal guardian.

“What are you doing?” Sasithorn asked when Athit moved the crib.

“You can’t be trusted. I’m having Tawan sleep with me from now on.”

“What!” She marched to his room as he fixed the crib and went over to pick Tawan up from where he slept on the king sized bed. “I already promised that I wouldn’t do anything.”

“I know. But I’m still going to have Tawan sleep in here.”

“But I want to sleep with Tawan. It’s my job.” She stubbornly followed him back and forth through his room. “You have to let me sleep with him.”

“No, I don’t,” he simply replied.


“Don’t start complaining now. I can move you to the employee quarters if I want.”

She bit back another protest. “Fine.”

Athit hid a smile. It was like old times again.

When he got done with his shower and went into his bedroom, Athit was surprised to find sheets laid out on the floor where Sasithorn was tucked under a blanket.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m sleeping in here too.”

He scoffed. “You’re serious?”

“Yes.” She sat up and crossed her arms at him. “Wherever Tawan goes, I go.”

“Sasi, this is ridiculous.”

“Why? This way, we both get to be with him. You don’t think I can sneak him away right under your nose, do you?” She settled back into her makeshift bed and turned away from him.

“If the floor is your style, suit yourself.” He pulled back his blankets and got into bed. The lamp on his night stand remained on as he held a notepad up to read.

“Hey! Turn off the light.”

Athit looked over. “Do I have to remind you whose room this is?”

Sasithorn grumpily murmured something at him and pulled her blanket over her head. He grinned and kept reading the notes from work. When he finished reading, he could tell she had fallen asleep. Her still form on the floor raised a peculiar yearning inside of him. Despite her actions, he couldn’t seem to stay mad at her.

Athit reached over and turned off the light.


Is your "nom" Fai-approved?
Chapter 19

Sasithorn heard Athit greet someone at the door. She entered the living room and found him with Chaithong.

“Good morning,” Chaithong said.

“Good morning. What are you doing here?” she asked.

“Chaithong is going to watch over you from now on,” Athit said. He slipped on his jacket.

Sasithorn frowned, narrowing a glare at him. “Watch over me?”

“Yes. He’ll be here with you when I’m gone. If you need to go anywhere, he’ll accompany you.”

She knew this had to be because she had tried running away with Tawan.

“I’ll be back later,” Athit said. He walked over to her. She held Tawan, so he leaned in and kissed the baby. Then, Athit lifted his eyes to her. “Don’t do anything stupid.”

She huffed but otherwise ignored him.

When it was just her, Tawan and Chaithong, she took a seat. “So did you draw the shortest straw in the lot? Or do something to piss Athit off?”

Chaithong laughed. “No one’s dumb enough to piss Athit off. He’s my boss and if he says my job is to keep you safe, I’ll do my best even if it kills me.”

“Safe? You’re not just babysitting to make sure I don’t run away?”

“Oh, I’m sure that’s part of it.” He shrugged. “But there are people out there who want to overthrow Athit. The easiest way would be to find his weakness and blackmail him with it. We can’t have that happening.”

A question hung on her face, so Chaithong elaborated.

“You and Tawan. If any of our rivals discovered how much you two meant to Athit, they would make sure to use you to bring him to his knees.”

Sasithorn tried not to imagine what kind of people Athit’s rivals might be. Instead, she found herself repeating Chaithong’s words in her mind. Of course, Tawan was the world to Athit. But herself? She couldn’t mean that much to him. He didn’t trust her, that much was clear.

“I’m going to take a walk around the grounds.” She climbed upstairs to put Tawan down for his nap. When she returned, Chaithong was waiting by the door.

He said, “I checked the security monitors. We’re good to go.”

“You don’t have to come with me.”

“It’s why I’m here.”

“What about Tawan?”

“You’re more at risk being outside.”

“This place is surrounded by walls,” she said. “How much of a risk can it be just being outside?”

“Some weapons can strike from afar.”

She could hear the calmness in his voice but knew he was totally serious about the potential for danger.

Later, Athit returned.

Chaithong said, “Ann made dinner. It’s in the oven.” Ann was the lady who stopped by a few times a week to clean and make the meals for Athit.

“Thanks.” Athit entered the kitchen. Tawan was in his high chair playing with toys, while Sasithorn watched him. She looked up when Athit came in.

“Hey,” he said shortly.


Grabbing a glass of water, Athit joined them at the dining table. He looked across the table at Sasithorn. She seemed subdued. He noticed she had gotten a little tan, her tanktop revealing her bare arms and shoulders. Athit gulped down some more water, trying to reign in his wandering eyes.

“What’d you do today?”

“Went for a walk. Chaithong and I were outside a lot when Tawan napped.”

“That’s good. There’s a lot of space here and barely anyone gets to enjoy it.”

Her sullenness told him she didn’t think the space was nearly enough.

“You seem bored.”

“I am bored.”

Athit left then returned in some athletic wear. “Come with me.”


“Come,” he repeated.

Sasithorn eyed him warily but got up as he lifted Tawan into his embrace.

“Chaithong.” Chaithong readily accepted Tawan. “We’re going to be in the training room. Give me call if you need to.” Athit turned to Sasithorn, glancing down at her attire, then gestured for her to follow. “Tawan will be safe with Chaithong. Let’s go.”

“Where are we going?”

“To get some exercise.”

She followed him into what she had thought was a garage. The interior revealed sparring mats and gym equipment. The walls were decorated with weapons, knives of all sizes, guns, staffs, rope and more.

“What is this?”

“You’ll need to start training for self-defense.”

“Why?” But she knew why the moment the question left her lips.

“Sasithorn. I need you to understand something.” He turned to her, a dagger in his hand. “I know how much you love Tawan. I know it’s not your fault that you’re here with me right now. I know that given a choice, you would go to the farthest corner of the earth because the way I live disgusts you. But I love Tawan too and I have no choice but to protect him. And since you’re here, you don’t have a choice either. If you’re going to survive, if you want to protect Tawan, you need to learn some tricks.”

Sasithorn couldn’t deny it. In the unlikely event that she managed to escape with Tawan, she would always have to look over her shoulder. There was no going back.

Athit offered the dagger to her. Sasithorn steeled herself against her reluctance and took the knife.

“We’ll start with this. Come at me in any way you want. Try to touch me with the knife. Don’t be afraid of hurting me.” Athit stood with feet shoulder-width apart and waited.

Sasithorn gulped. She flexed her fingers around the handle of the dagger, finding the most comfortable grip. Then she ran and slashed at him. She cut through air and felt his fingers close around her wrist, her back hitting the front of his body. Athit released her.

“Try again.”

She took a deep breath, shaking out arms out.

Several attempts later, Sasithorn was lying on the mat. She’d lost the dagger to Athit and was pinned down by him.

“Damn it.”

They got up. He was too fast. She hated how easily he overpowered her each time she attacked. He wasn’t out of breath at all. Not surprising. The definition in his arm muscles, and the way his back muscles flexed told a tale of physical endurance and discipline. Sasithorn found him looking her over and realized she was doing the same thing. She pretended to be examining the knives on the wall next to her.

“That wasn’t bad for your first time.”

She side-eyed him. “I didn’t even touch you once.”

“I have a feeling you’ll get there soon enough.” He smirked, seeing the vengeance in her eyes. He was hungry and decided they could conclude the session. “Are there any exercises you like doing regularly?”

“I jog.”

He nodded. “Good. Starting tomorrow, you and Chaithong will run every day. You’ll also practice the knife with him.”

“Is that an order?” She rolled her eyes at the look he gave her. “Fine.”

“When Tawan is asleep, feel free to practice in the training room. I’ll install a monitor connecting to Tawan’s room so you can hear if he cries.”

Athit let Chaithong leave when they got back inside.

She stretched an arm over her head, feeling the muscles ache slightly. She switched to the other arm. Athit stretched too. He caught a glimpse of skin below the hem of her tank top. Looking upward, Athit reminded himself he had things to worry about other than admiring Sasi’s body.


Is your "nom" Fai-approved?
Chapter 20

Athit stood watching Sasithorn and Chaithong. They circled one another, then she feinted left and dived forward. Chaithong stepped out of the way, his hand twisting to disarm her. In the end, he held the knife against her throat.

“Close,” Chaithong said, stepping away.

Sasi retrieved the knife. When Chaithong stepped off the mat, she looked over her shoulder and found Athit behind her. His hands found her waist.

“Find balance in your core. It will help you with speed.” One hand ran down to her wrist, lifting it up in front of her face. “Keep one arm up in defense.”

She had watched Athit and Chaithong demonstrate some moves for her, but the motions weren’t coming naturally to her body yet.

“This time I’m going to come at you. Ready?”

“Yeah.” She nodded at him.

As soon as she spoke, he stabbed towards her. She barely had time to get her hand up, pushing his wrist away from her and jabbing her fist upward into his armpit.

“Nice.” Chaithong smiled from where he stood watching. “If you had a knife, he’d be bleeding out right now.”

“I doubt it,” she replied. She hadn’t stopped his jab with nearly enough strength. “You went easy on me. Someone who was attacking me for real would have found their mark.”

“Getting used to the motions is a good start. Strength and speed come with your other training,” Athit said.

Her legs still ached from the last few days she went running with Chaithong. “I hope so. I thought we’d never stop running this morning.”

The next day, Athit brought Sasi to a private indoor firing range. Only one other person was present. Athit chose their firearms and instructed Sasithorn on the precautions of a handgun.

“Have you ever fired a handgun?” he asked.

“No. But how hard can it be?”

“For a beginner, it’s important to remember not to carelessly aim a gun,” he said. She took the gun into her hand. “Now, grip it high with both hands. When you fire the gun, don’t count down to the moment it happens. Just do it.”

Sasithorn assumed a tall and stable stance, aiming the gun at the end range target. “What now?”

She felt his breath ghost against her ear.

“Squeeze the trigger,” he said.

Sasi started pressing the trigger. She tried not to anticipate the shot, like he had said, but she couldn’t help it. The bullet would shoot out any second now. It would hit something in front of her. She hoped she wouldn’t ever have to shoot anyone.

“Hey.” His voice vibrated against her ear. His hand squeezed her hip, distracting her from her nerves.

The gun gave a loud crack. Sasithorn didn’t flinch, though her heart pounded hard.

“Again,” Athit said.

He kept his hand on her hip. After the third time she fired, Sasithorn felt she was getting too comfortable with his touch. It kept her grounded, but she didn’t want to depend on him in any way for this.

“I need space,” she said.

Athit stepped away, eyes on her. After she emptied the barrel, she turned to him. For a moment, Sasi felt like she’d been caught staring into the eyes of a stealthy predator. There was a gleam in his eyes that thrilled her, but that she didn’t want to read into. He didn’t look displeased with her performance and she was surprised at how well that round had gone.

“Let’s try again,” he said, finally breaking his gaze from her.

When they finished, Athit stood back with his arms crossed. She’d done well. “Well then. Looks like you have a natural affinity for guns.”

“I don’t have a natural affinity for guns or any other killing machines,” she retorted.

He held his hands up. “It’s not like you need it, I guess. If looks could kill…”

She frowned as his teasing. “And you? Did this come to you naturally?”

He picked up a gun and stared at it in his hand. Then he whipped it to his right and shot three times at the target. A clean hole appeared in the center of the target, where all three bullets had entered. His lips curved into a mirthless smile.

“No, of course not. It took a lot of practice.”

He didn’t share where or with whom he had practiced with in order to become such a good marksman. He didn’t share the number of people he’d looked at with a gun aimed at them. Sasi noticed the clench in his jaw as he gathered their equipment.

He looked up at her, sensing her attention. “You weren’t scared?”

“Of shooting?” She quirked her brow at him, perhaps annoyed that he presumed she might be scared.

“A lot of people don’t even like holding a gun.”

“Guns are scary. But the people holding them are usually scarier.”

“I agree.”

They left it at that.

Back at home, Ann let them know Tawan was fast asleep. Athit and Sasi went upstairs to check on him.

Brushing Tawan’s soft cheek with a finger, Sasithorn thought about their session earlier at the gun range. She said quietly, “Is he going to grow up like this? Practicing?”

Athit’s eyes were dark, growing distant. “I don’t want him to.”

It was too late though. Sasi tried not to look at Athit. She tried to remember the lies he told her, the freedom he had forced her to turn from. But she couldn’t resist. She looked at the scars on his arm, the frown etched on his brow. She hated to admit it, but there was no denying his love for the child in front of them. The way he looked at Tawan, there was both reverence and a formidable shadow in his eyes, a mixture that spelled danger for anyone who dared to touch Tawan.


She blinked, straightening in embarrassment. “What?”

He reached for her, peering at her left arm, where a bruise formed from yesterday’s spar with Chaithong. Then he checked out her right hand, where the dagger had cut her. The thin cut was forming a rough scar. He breathed out deeply.

“Hey, don’t look at me like that. I’m not that pathetic.” She pulled back and moved to the bed so she wouldn’t have to look at those brown eyes of his. Her escape was in vain. He settled himself next to her.

“You should get some rest.”

Now that she was sitting down, Sasi realized how tired she was.

She yawned. “Tell Chaithong to cut me some slack. I’m not a mean fighting machine like him.” She wasn’t sure how long she could keep up those five mile runs.

Athit smiled and laid back in the bed. “No deal.” He felt her weight next to him as she laid back too.

Sasi grumbled. “Well, with all this training, I suppose one of these days I’ll finally get my knife past your defenses.”

“Just promise not to aim for my jugular.”

“No deal.”

He grinned. Turning his head, Athit found her falling asleep. He shifted onto his side and lay watching her as her breathing grew even and her body relaxed. She was beautiful. She was good. He didn’t deserve her.

Thanks for reading ;)


Is your "nom" Fai-approved?
Chapter 21

Sasithorn turned, growing more awake. She groaned, feeling muscles in different parts of her body ache from the various exercises in the past couple of days. Realizing she was in Athit’s bed, she lifted her head just as Athit came in from the walk-in closet. He finished buttoning his shirt, quirked a brow at her.

“Rise and shine.”

Sasi groaned again and pulled the covers over her head. Athit leaned over the bed and tugged at the blanket.

She mumbled, “Let me sleep. I don’t want to train today.”

“You’re not skipping training. Get up.”

“No. I’m going to sleep and then watch Tawan and then play all day.”

Athit lowered himself onto the bed. “Hmmm. If you say so. I might just have to join you in bed and start this play session early.”

Sasi popped her head out from under the blanket. Her eyes widened, coming face to face with him. “What did you say?”

“You know, you’re right. The bed is a good place for some very fun, very rigorous exercises.” His smile was pure evil.

“You’re crazy!”

“Uh uh.” He wagged a finger and pointed at the crib. “You don’t want to wake Tawan, do you?”

She grimaced at him. “Go away!” she whispered.

“I’d rather work out with you in bed.”

That was it. She didn’t care if Tawan woke up, she’d console him later. Sasi dove under the covers and shoved at Athit. “Get out!”

“Are you getting out of bed or not?” He grabbed her wriggling form, blankets and all.

“Athit! Let go!”

He hoisted her up in his arms. The blanket slipped off her as she continued kicking.

“I’m up! I’m getting up! Let me go!”

Athit laughed and deposited Sasi back onto the bed. “Chaithong is here already. Come on Sassy.”

She stumbled onto her feet and over to the crib. “Tawan’s not here!”

“He’s downstairs with Plerng.”

“But you said…” She rounded on him. His smile was a challenge to her. Sasi willed herself not to let him get to her. She pushed past him, marching to the bathroom.

She found Plerng and Chaithong in the kitchen. Each had a mug of coffee in front of them. Plerng was holding a bottle for Tawan in his arms.

“Good morning, Sasi,” he said.

“Thank goodness you’re here, Plerng.”

“Wow, missed me that much, huh?”

She grunted. “It is kind of nice to see your face again.” She leaned down to give Tawan a sniff kiss.

“Does that mean you’re tired of my face?” Chaithong asked.

Athit got off the phone and joined them in the kitchen. His sigh was grim as he took a sip from his own coffee cup.

“What’s up boss?” Chaithong asked.

“I’m meeting with Seua today.”

“You think he’ll try to pull some shit on you?”

“No.” Athit texted on his phone for a while.

“Who’s Seua?” Sasi asked.

“Boss Chai’s son, the one who thinks Athit is trying to depose him,” Chaithong said. He received a kick to his leg from Athit. “Sorry. Didn’t realize that was sensitive information. Everyone knows he’s out to get you.”

“So you’re not really trying to depose him?” Sasi asked.

Athit scoffed. “As if I didn’t have enough trouble to deal with, and he thinks I want to add being clan leader to the pile.” He started texting on his phone again.

“What are you going to do?” Sasi asked.

“They’ll put Athit down if he lifts a finger against Seua.”

“I haven’t done anything to further his suspicions,” Athit said. “If he doesn’t trust me, that’s his problem.”

Plerng’s voice actually hardened. “Athit, you can’t actually believe that. If he doesn’t trust you, you’re never going to be able to stop watching your back.”

“My loyalty is to Grandfather Chai. As much of a pain as Seua is, I don’t need to prove myself to him. Not after working with him for so many years.” Athit didn’t want to continue talking about this in front of Sasithorn. The distress on her face bothered him. “Chaithong, I’m leaving.”

A look passed between Chaithong and Athit.

“Where are you going?” Sasi asked, sensing tension.

“To work,” Athit said.

“Really?” She held his gaze. She didn’t typically care to interfere or even learn much about his work, but she sensed bad vibes going around.

Athit stood and left, giving Tawan a brief pat on the belly. “Take care of him, Plerng.”

Plerng and Sasithorn moved to the living room. He placed Tawan in the bouncy chair between them.

“It’s not fair. Why is it that you’re free to come and go, but Athit wouldn’t compromise with me at all?” she demanded sullenly.

He shrugged. “I can’t read his mind.”

She rolled her eyes. “But you’re supposed to know everything, Plerng.”

“Well I don’t. For example, I’m not sure why you looked so worried just hearing that someone had it out for Athit?” He turned to look at her fully.

There was more than innocence behind those glasses he wore. Sasi didn’t take the bait. She said, “It’s a normal response to hearing about something so dangerous. Athit might be confident, but he’s not a god. He’s not immune to a knife in the back or a bullet to his brain.”

Plerng said dryly, “What I’m hearing is you’ve considered stabbing and shooting him.”

She laughed. “Right. I seriously don’t want a whole clan of gangsters after me for killing one of their bosses.”

Athit got back late that night.

Chaithong rose from the sofa, alarmed by the blood on Athit. “Boss, what happened?”

“Chaithong. Where’s Sasi?”


“Here.” He handed over a cell phone. “I need you to fix this and recover any information from it that you can.”

Chaithong left just as Sasithorn came down the stairs. She took in Athit’s disheveled appearance and the evident blood on his arms and shirt.

“Athit, what happened?” She approached him slowly. He watched her, not moving. “Are you okay?”

The tips of her finger reached out for the slash in his shirt, stopping before she came in contact. Her hand rose, following a trail of splattered blood until her eyes landed on his face. His eyes were dark, as if his mind had retreated somewhere far inward. Thus far, she hadn’t touched him yet, but when she noticed a single dot of blood on his chin, Sasi rubbed her thumb across it. Instantly, his hand closed around her wrist.

“You shouldn’t touch me,” he said. The intensity of his gaze held Sasi where she stood. Gone was the emptiness. In its stead was fire.

“Why?” Her voice was steady.

“The next time I come back like this, you should run.”

“You know I don’t run from anything.”

His grip on her tightened. He pulled her flush against him. Sasi braced herself with a palm against his chest but didn’t push him away.

“Not even if I told you how many people I killed tonight?”

Sasi felt a knot tighten in her chest but she didn’t avert her eyes. “How many of those people would have killed you first?”

Suddenly, his lips collided with hers. Sasi gasped. He used that chance to deepen his kiss, sliding his tongue past her lips. Sasi’s instinct kicked in, kissing him back. Her free hand found the back of his neck and she pulled him closer. All too quickly, Athit wrenched away, holding her at arm’s length.

Athit couldn’t believe what he’d done. He looked at Sasi, but aside from a blush and some surprise, she looked fine. She didn’t seem disgusted. She didn’t move out of his grasp. He dropped his hands, turning away from her. Finally, he walked away, heading up the stairs.

Athit showered for a long time. When he finally stepped out, dried off and pulled on a pair of pants, he allowed himself to recall that kiss. His lips burned with yearning.

He heard knocking at the door and then it opened. Sasi came in.

“Why are you in here?” he asked. He had gone to another bedroom down the hall, hoping she’d gone to sleep.

“Thought you might bleed to death while you hid in here.” She held up a first-aid kit, eying the fresh wounds on his bare torso and arms. “Let me help you.”

He followed her and sat on a small sofa. She set the kit on the table and sorted through it. While she worked, Sasi stole glances at him. Each time, his eyes were on her, unwavering, as if she were an anchor holding his mind steady.

Sasi finished dabbing his biggest cut on his stomach, frowning. “You need stitches.”

“I’ll do it.”

“Shouldn’t you go to a doctor?”

He was already preparing a needle. She waited as he pierced and pieced his flesh together.

“You do this often?”


Sasi asked, “What happened tonight?”

Athit’s face closed off further. He finished up the stitches and got up. “You can stay in my room from now on. Go.”

Sasi went to stand in front of him. She waited until he looked at her. “What happened?”

He recognized the stubborn steel in her eyes. “I think I found out who was responsible for Tawan’s death.” Sasi’s lips parted in surprise. He drew in a deep breath, keeping his anger in check as the information from tonight rippled through him again. He felt her hand on his cheek. She hesitated before caressing him. Athit froze. He wanted nothing more than to lean into her touch.

“Athit.” Sasi stepped closer. “Are you going to avenge him?”

“Does that thought make you hate me? If so, you should do as I said. Run.”

She should hate him. He had told her to run. She should use that as a motivation to find a way for her to leave, and bring Tawan with her. Try as she might, Sasi didn’t want to imagine abandoning Athit. Despite his words, she knew Athit would be hurt if he faced this alone.

“I don’t hate you.”

“You should.” Self-hatred flashed across his face.

“I’m not going anywhere.”

Pressing his lips in frustration, Athit took hold of her and pushed her back onto the bed.


He held her in place, pressing her wrists above her head. “Why? You want to live dangerously? Fine.” He claimed her mouth. She twisted underneath him, legs kicking. He dipped his head into the crook of her neck, and she gasped feeling his mouth kiss her wetly, sucking on her skin.

“Athit, let me go.”

The feel of her warm body against his was almost too much for him. He wanted to touch every inch of her.

He pulled back and she stopped struggling. Both were breathing hard. Moments ago, he was out for blood. Now, all he wanted was to concentrate on the woman in front of him, the woman who drove him crazy with worry, laughter, and for the longest time, desire. He couldn’t resist. He kissed her again. Sasi flushed all over, craving his touch. His mouth was possessive, hungry. Finally, he broke the kiss and dropped his head onto her shoulder.

“Damn it, Sasi,” he said. Breathing in her scent, Athit pushed himself up and pulled her to her feet. She was still breathless and he was even more tempted to reclaim her lips. But no, he couldn’t take his anger out on her. Letting go of her, he said, “Get out.”

Holding her head high, Sasithorn gave him a gentle look that had him itching to hold her close. Then she left him.



Is your "nom" Fai-approved?
Chapter 22

Sasithorn peered into the living room. Athit stood near the window with Tawan held protectively against his chest. Her heart lifted at the serenity writ on his form. For Sasi, it was not difficult at all to acknowledge the blood Athit had shed, and still look past that at the selfless way he looked after Tawan, the same way he had looked after Ratree. She had lied awake half the night, running all the “shoulds” through her head. She should be cautious of Athit. She should not get close to him. She should remain far from his touch. She should not wait to hear him come home. She should pull a knife on him the next time he kisses her. She should not want there to be a next time.

But it was useless.

“Are you scared of me now?” Athit asked.

Sasithorn drew closer. “Is that what you want?” When he didn’t reply, she said, “I want to go out today.”

“Chaithong will be here soon. He’ll go with you while Ann takes care of Tawan.”

Sasi nodded. She had been wary of Ann at first, until she learned Ann was a retired agent in Athit’s clan. “And you?”

He looked at her. “It’s better if you didn’t know.”

“Then I want you to know this.” She rested a hand on Tawan’s back. Baby Tawan turned to give her a toothless grin. She smiled. “I’m not going anywhere. No matter how much you try to frighten me.”

He sighed. “Sasi…”

Chaithong knocked at the door and came in. “Good morning.”

“Chaithong.” Sasi turned. “I’m going out for a bit. We’ll train afterwards.”

He glanced at Athit, who didn’t object. “Okay.”

“So why are you getting flowers?” Chaithong asked. They were browsing a floral shop.

“I’ve been missing my sister. I want to bring home her favorite flowers.”

Sasithorn spoke with a store manager. While they were waiting for the bouquet, she heard someone call her name.

“Sasi!” A woman pulled off her sunglasses and came over, throwing her arms around Sasi.

“Leela.” She smiled at her friend. “How are you doing?”

“I’m so busy preparing for the wedding. Oh, I sent you the invitation but you haven’t responded yet.”

Sasi shifted, feeling guilty. “I’m not sure I’ll make it.”

“What!” Leela sighed. Then she glanced back and forth between Sasi and Chaithong, who stood tall and austere a few steps away. “Who’s that?”

“A friend.”

“But what do you mean you can’t come to my wedding? I’ve been planning for over a year, you know that. Did something come up?”

A lot of stuff came up. Sasi smiled. “I’m sorry.

“Last time you told me you couldn’t be a bridesmaid for me. Now you’re saying you can’t come to my wedding? You’re my friend.”

“I know and I feel terrible, but things are complicated right now.”

“Don’t tell you have a boyfriend now and you have to ask permission from him just to come to your own friend’s wedding?”

“Are you crazy? He’s not my boyfriend!”

“Ah hah! So there is a guy!”

“Shut up. I don’t have a boyfriend.”

“Fine, but I still expect to see you at my wedding.”

“Miss, your order is ready,” the clerk said from the counter.

“Leela, hold on.” Sasi went over and paid for her flowers. Returning to her friend, she said, “Look, I’ve just been busy lately. I’m sorry for not RSVP-ing to you sooner.”

“So that means you’ll come, right? We don’t even live that far apart, and you left work so suddenly. It would mean the world to me to see my friends at the wedding.”

Sasi could hardly say no. Leela had been a coworker and one of her only friends. She nodded. “Okay.”

“Yes! I can’t wait.”

“You’ll be beautiful that day, I know it,” Sasi said. “I’m sorry, but we have to get going.” She hugged Leela one more time, then left the store with Chaithong.

“Your friend?” Chaithong asked. He scanned the road as they walked to the car.

Sasi nodded. “She’s getting married in a few weeks.”

“You’re going to her wedding?”

“I told her just now that I would.”

He frowned. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”


“Things are rough now, after yesterday.” He glanced at her and shut his mouth.

Stopping on the passenger side of the car, she asked, “What? Chaithong?”

Inside, she persisted. “Chaithong, tell me what happened.”

“It’s not for me to say. Athit wouldn’t want me to.”

“Does it have to do with Tawan, his brother?” She leveled him with a stare. “You know, his brother was with my sister.”

“I know. Look, things are fucking messed up right now. The Chinese are after our goods. Athit has to deal with them AND manage another trade port.” Chaithong sighed. “Athit was betrayed.”

Sasi thought back to when a stranger had appeared at Ratree’s apartment. “By a man named Wattana?”

“No.” He glowered. “Someone worse. It’s testing my loyalty, and I’m sure as hell Athit feels even more shitty about the whole thing.” He refused to share anything more.


Sasithorn heard two voices in the living room. She carried Tawan into the room.

“You gotta show your face this time. Boss Chai won’t like it if you’re not there. It’d be like sending a ‘screw you’ to him and all his business partners.”

“Tell me something I don’t know. I’m not going to skip out. I can’t risk it.”

Chaithong knew the stress Athit was under, so he wiggled his brow with a smirk. “You sure you don’t want to bring Sasi with you?”

Athit was not amused. “She’d hate it there. Besides, I’m not exposing her to those idiots.”

“What are you two talking about?” Sasi asked.

“Nothing,” Athit replied.

Chaithong scoffed. “The new year’s party is not ‘nothing.’ It’s the biggest social of clan leaders and their loyalists.”

“Which is why it’d be stupid to bring a plus one,” Athit said.

“You just don’t want Sasi to see you with Mayuree or Anthika.” Chaithong very willingly turned to Sasi to explain. “The top boss has been trying to set Athit up with Anthika for a while now. She’s the daughter of one of our partner clan leaders.” He grinned in admiration. “She’s beauty, grace, and will shove a knife in the face of whoever looks at her wrong.”

“I’m sure Sasi couldn’t care less about this whole affair,” Athit said, hoping Chaithong would shut up before saying something that gave Sasi the wrong impression about him and these women.

“She doesn’t sound so bad. And Mayuree?” Sasi asked.

“She wants to be his baby mama,” Chaithong said, grinning slyly. “She’s hot.”

Athit glared at him, shaking his head. “It’s nothing, Sasi.”

Sasi shrugged. “Doesn’t matter to me who you hang around with. Just be discrete if you bring guests over.” She turned away to cuddle with Tawan.

Athit exchanged a look with Chaithong.

“What do you mean, ‘be discrete’?” Athit asked.

“I know this is your house, but I’m just saying, please be considerate of Tawan even if you’re not considerate of me.”

Athit growled. “Why don’t you spell that out more clearly?”

She finally rounded her own hard look at him. “If you insist,” she spoke clearly. “I’m asking you to let me know if you ever need some privacy here with Mayuree or Anthika.”

“Sasithorn.” Athit could barely believe his ears.

Chaithong laughed. “Sasi, you have nothing to worry about. Athit’s never brought anyone to his place who didn’t belong here.”

She and Athit kept their eyes on each other, daring the other to argue.

“Okay.” Chaithong stood up from his seat. “I’ll just shimmy out of here then. The tension’s so thick, even Sasi wouldn’t miss if she tried cutting it.” He waved at her with a cheeky smirk before leaving.

Sasi casually patted Tawan. “I have a friend who is getting married. I’m going to the wedding.”

“No you’re not.”

She gaped. “What?”

Athit checked himself. “I’m sorry. That came out wrong. I don’t think it would be safe for you to go.”

“None of her family are involved with your gang. Why wouldn’t it be safe?”

He clenched his jaw.

Stop playing house. That was what one of the bastards from the other night had said before Athit knocked him out. They knew about Sasi. He had known Sasi’s existence couldn’t be hidden forever. So now it was even more crucial that they didn’t take any risks.

“Look, I don’t want to scare you.”

“Funny, I thought that was exactly what you wanted to do.”

Athit glared. “I’m not exactly loved around here. There are assholes out there who know you live here with me. If they were to catch you out in the open, they would jump at the chance to use you against me.”

“Why would they do that? I hold no significance in your affairs.”

She was not a significant part of his work, but she sure as hell was a significant part of his life. Whether she didn’t know that, or was baiting him to openly declare it, Athit refused to say anything that would increase his vulnerability.

He chose to focus his vision away from her, turning to the flowers that had appeared on the mantel today. They were blood red, and intense in their beauty.

“Ratree’s favorite flowers,” Sasi said.

Seeing the red tulips, Athit felt hot anger course through him. They reminded him of Ratree and Tawan. Of the things that he had not been able to prevent. They reminded him why he had to remain steadfast in seeking justice for both of the people he had lost.

Sasi placed Tawan in his play pen. “Athit, I’m not going to pretend I know exactly how you feel. I never knew your brother. But I know how much it hurts to lose someone you love. To feel alone. I can’t change your mind about avenging Tawan.” She knew she didn’t have that kind of power over anyone. Sasi sometimes thought that if she had switched places with Athit, if Ratree had been murdered like Tawan, she would go to the ends of the earth to tear the murderer limb by limb. That sort of morbidity didn’t make her feel good, but she was not one to lie to herself. She was just as ruthless as Athit. “But you can’t control everything either. Even if Tawan and I never step foot outside again, we could still be captured if someone was determined enough.”

The thought seemed to excel his rage. “Anyone who touches either you won’t survive.”

Sasi kept her voice calm. “Things are never going to end if you keep that up. You know that.”

His voice was silky, menacing. “You think you know me. You think somewhere inside of me is mercy and kindness. Well look at me.” He pulled her close. “Look into my eyes. There is nothing there, nothing worth saving, nothing for you to hope for.”

She shook her head. “There is nothing there except pain.” He stilled when she raised a hand to his shoulder. “You know what causes the sort of pain I see in you? Love.”

Sasithorn had strode into his life with nothing but defiance. They had fought and argued and grudgingly accepted one another. But right now, she was opening herself up to him and he couldn’t bare the tender look in her eyes. He remembered Tawan’s companionship and he missed it like a vital organ had been torn away from him. Ratree’s smile flashed in his mind and he remembered how easy it had been to talk, joke, eat with her. Loving his brother had been natural. Loving Ratree like a sister had been easy. But loving Sasi felt like the biggest risk he would ever take.

Gently, Athit removed her hand from him. He looked over to the play pen, where Tawan crawled and rattled his toys. He hated himself for stepping away, but he couldn’t stay inside right now.

“I’m going out.”

Sasithorn took several deep breaths after he left. She pressed her eyes closed against the burning sensation of tears. At this time, she wished Ratree was here. Ratree would know what to say, or how to say what needed to be said. She went and picked Tawan up, hugging him. She breathed in his baby scent and promised she would never let anything happen to him.