by Richard Norway

The Pacific Ocean appeared rather calm today with the sun's early afternoon brightness reflecting off the gentle swells. To shield my eye, I donned my usual large dark sunglasses; that's the way I wanted them.

I was on vacation on this sunny Saturday morning and wanted to take in the sights of Southern California. The Strand along Redondo Beach was a perfect place to stroll enabling me to forget my career as a photographer along with the hustle and bustle of deadlines, complemented by the hassle of getting payments from clients. As an ironic coincidence, my biggest client was a tourism magazine featuring Southern California.

I had just about forgotten my career when I chanced to scan the horizon and saw the outline of Santa Catalina Island in the distance. I had never been there and started wondering why I hadn't taken the opportunity to see the island. It's only twenty-six miles off the coast, and the newer passenger jet boats made the trip in well under an hour.

I looked again at the island. I knew it was a great tourist attraction and thought the photo opportunities should not be ignored, strictly from a business point-of-view, of course. I called the San Pedro-Avalon Transit company and learned that the next boat was scheduled to leave San Pedro in an hour and a half, so I booked a one-way ticket. I asked the agent about hotel accommodations on the island; he recommended the Catalina Island Inn in downtown Avalon, telling me it was both comfortable and close to Avalon Bay and the beaches. I booked a three-night stay. Ninety minutes gave me plenty of time to grab some clothes and my over-night kit from my apartment in Manhattan Beach and hail a taxi to San Pedro, a thirty-minute ride. I was now set for my spur-of-the-moment adventure.

I sat in the lounge area of the boat, having a cup of coffee and watching people around me when one couple caught my eye. His looks obviously pegged him as being from Thailand, as I was, whereas she could have been from anywhere in the United States. Most Thai boys look younger than their biological age, and I guessed him to be my age at twenty-three although he looked like he was only sixteen or eighteen. She appeared to be the same age as the Thai boy.

We exited the boat, the couple following shortly behind me, but instead of checking into my hotel, I decided to take in the sights leading from the pier and finding a place for a late lunch. I had two wallets in my back pocket, one for my cards and money, the other filled with pictures that provided me with a remembrance of times gone by. I checked my itinerary for the hotel's earliest check-in time; I still had an hour to go and replaced my wallets, or so I thought.

Within moments, the Thai boy came running up to me.

He was looking through my remembrance wallet, probably looking for an ID for a name of whom the wallet belonged to when a questioning look came across his face.

"I believed you dropped your wallet, sir," he said as he was handing it to me. "I'm sorry, sir, I didn't mean to go through it, but I was looking for a name by which to call you."

Being from Thailand, he folded his hands in prayer formation, raised them to his chin, and bowed his head toward me.

"Thank you, young man," I said and followed with the traditional Thai greeting of bowing my head to him. I then removed my sunglasses to get a better look at him.

His eyes widened as he looked at me.

"โอ้พระเจ้า นั่นคุณหรือเทียน ?" (Oh my God. Is that you, Tien?) he asked me in Thai.

"นั่นคุณศักดิ์ชัยจริงๆหรอ ?" (Is that really you, Sakchai ?) I asked him, returning the Thai.

"We should talk in English. My girlfriend doesn't speak Thai," he said. "Let me introduce you to her," as he turned around, grabbed her elbow, and brought her forward.

"Tien. This is Mary Ann Holling, my fiancé. Mary Ann, this is Tien Chakan. He's an old friend of mine from university back in Bangkok."

"I'm happy to meet any friend of Sakchai, Tien, I hope I pronounced that correctly."

"Here in America, I use the name of Thomas, but call me Tom, please."

"Well, it's nice to meet you, Tom," she said.

"I see you kept the wallet I gave you," Sakchai said to me, smiling.

"And I see you're still wearing the watch I gave you."

"It's still keeping perfect time; it only needs batteries once in a while.

"What have you been up to, Tien?" he asked me. I haven't seen you since we graduated."

"Not much. I left Bangkok shortly after I graduated. I worked in engineering for a couple of years here at McDonnell Douglas but found I really didn't like engineering much, so I left."

"But you got your degree in engineering. What have you been doing since?"

"I took up something that I really enjoy. I became a photographer. It's the artistic outlet that engineering never afforded me."

"What are you doing, Sakchai? You graduated in English. Are you using it?"

"Yeah, I do. I'm a feature writer for the L.A. Times. That's where I met Mary Ann."

"Are you just visiting the island, then?" I asked.

"Yeah, we've booked a room at the Catalina Island Inn. What about you, Tien?"

"Me, too, but I can't check in for another hour."

"We can't either. What say we get a couple of drinks to waste an hour?"

"I'm up for that," I said.

I forgot about a quick lunch, and we headed for the lounge in the Catalina Inn. I looked around and found several empty tables.

"Mary Ann, let me escort you to our table," I said holding out my arm for her.

"You are such a gentleman, Tien. I'd be delighted to join you two old friends."

She looked back at Sakchai. "Come along, dear, you may learn something."

Knowing Sakchai, I had to laugh at Mary Ann's comment, but I also sensed some hostility in the air.

We found an isolated table in the lounge at our hotel. We each ordered a whiskey with 7-Up, but Chuck had his straight-up with ice. I was a little surprised as back in school, Sakchai wasn't much of a drinker. We had both played sports at the time, he with soccer and me with volleyball, and had tried to keep in shape.

After three rounds, it became obvious that Sakchai was getting inebriated. Mary Ann left to go to the lady's room, and Sakchai leaned into me.

"We need to talk later," he said before leaning back. I knew what he wanted to talk about. He and I had been close, very close, back then.

We were engaged in small talk when Mary Ann returned; she didn't join in and then yawned.

"You boys get caught up with each other. I'm tired and off to bed. Don't make too much noise when you come in, Sakchai."

"I won't," he said, and we watched her walk away. He then turned to me.

"Sakchai, when did you start drinking so much?" I asked him.

"I don't know. I never used to. Mind you, I haven't touched my latest drink on the table in a while, so I'm feeling better. You wanna go outside? Fresh air always helps me when I've had too much. We can walk on the beach."

"That's a good idea. My butt's getting a little sore from just sitting."

I paid the bill, and we left on a block and a half walk to the beach where we settled onto the sand.

Sakchai looked up to the sky.

"You remember the first time we met?" he asked me.

"Vividly. That was the day you knocked me unconscious ;" I said.

Five years earlier - Bangkok, Thailand

My first day at the university, and I had no idea where I was going. I was thoroughly lost and was having no luck at all finding the dormitory that I was assigned to. At one point I found myself walking along the track circling the soccer field when I heard someone yell.

"Watch out," I heard at the same instant I was hit on the side of my head with a soccer ball. I was unconscious from that moment on, knocked out instantly because I never even felt my body hit the ground.

My next feeling was a God-awful smell in my nose. Someone was giving me a smelling salt. I hadn't smelled that before and hoped to never smell it again.

"He's coming around," a woman's voice said.

When I opened my eyes, I saw a woman in a white smock staring down at me. Around her were three boys, all watching me.

"I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to hit you," one of the boys said.

"Can you try to sit up, Tien?" the nurse asked me.

When I managed to sit up on the edge of the bed, while the first boy was repeating over and over, "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry."

"How'd you know my name?" I asked the nurse.

"You had your school schedule in your back pocket. It gave us a lot of information about you."

I tried to jump off the bed, instead felt dizzy and staggered, a little unsure of my footing and leaned into Sorry-Boy.

"If someone could direct me to my dorm, I would really appreciate it," I said.

"Let me help," Sorry-Boy said and grabbed my school schedule. He read for a few moments until his eyes widened. He looked up at me.

"You're Tien Chakan" aren't you?"

"Yes, that's me."

Sorry-Boy looked down at my schedule again for a few moments before looking back at me.

"I'm Sakchai Anurak," he said and bowed his greeting to me. "If you can believe it, I'm your roommate in the dorm."

I bowed my greeting back to him, marveling at the vagaries of fate.

"What am I to expect from my roommate? You tried to kill me once, and now living with you will give you opportunities to do it again."

"I really am sorry, Tien. I didn't mean to kick the soccer ball at you; it was an accident. Forgive me, please."

"Okay, I forgive you, this one time," I said to him, fabricating a scowl.

I couldn't help but forgive this extremely cute boy.

"I have to get back to soccer practice, but I can show you where the dorm is first. I'll lend you my key, or you can stop by the office and get your own."

"I'll get my own key," I told him.

"Okay, see you after practice," he said and was off.

I checked in at the desk in the lobby and scored my room key. I was in room 312, and when I opened the door, I didn't like what I saw. I'm a neat freak and this room was a total mess. There were dirty clothes on top of dirty clothes. The remnants of someone's lunch on one of the desks and appeared to be a few days old.

My clothes were in a locker in the Student Union building, but I wasn't about to bring them up until I had adequate space to store them. I had to start cleaning.

I had just started when Sakchai entered the room.

"I see you got here all right," he said. "That's your bed," he pointed out and started to remove underwear and tee shirts from the bed. Of course, they landed on the floor.

"I've got to take a shower after practice. Make yourself at home. I'll be right back," he said as he grabbed a towel and a pair of underwear from the floor.

I had to shake my head at him and smile. I don't know why, but rather than finding him obnoxious, I was starting to like this slob. No matter where he was, he always had a smile on him. His antics made me laugh.

While he was in the shower, I started picking up the room; I put dirty clothes in a pile to be washed, trash and other debris in a plastic bag I removed from the trash can, and what clothes appeared to be clean (there weren't many) I hung on hangers in his closet. We didn't have separate closet rooms but we each had free-standing cabinets against the wall.

Sakchai came out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around him and stopped. His head moved from left to right, surveying what I had done to our room.

"How 'm I supposed to find anything?" he asked looking at me.

I couldn't help but laugh. " It's still all here," I said. "I just put them away where they're supposed to be."

"You're too much, Tien," he laughed. "So, where's my clean underwear?"

"Now, that's a problem. You don't have any that's clean. I'm planning on doing laundry tomorrow, so you'll have to wear the ones you picked up from the floor before you took your shower for right now."

"You mean I'll be wearing dirty underwear?"

"I think so."

"Shit," he said and looked away from me. "Well, they feel clean, so I guess I'll be all right for another day."

I couldn't help myself and had to laugh again at him. He seemed so easy, to just go with the flow without being too bothered by anything.

"Wanna get some noodles?" Sakchai asked me. "I'm getting hungry," .

Thai food is heavily based on rice and noodles in a broth. Its reputation for being spicy is unfounded. Two favorites among college students are shrimp noodles in a broth and Shrimp Pad Thai, containing a few more vegetables.

"Yeah, me too," I said, and we headed to Sakchai 's favorite noodle tender close to the campus. Being new to campus, I had never been there before.

I recognized two seated boys as we approached the outside tables. Although we had not been formally introduced, I remembered them as the pair who'd been with Sakchai at the campus nursing station. They invited us to sit with them, so now, by Thai customs, formal introductions were required.

"Tien, these are my friends, Prasong Ananada and Earth Boonya. Gang, this is my roommate Tien Chakan," Sakchai said.

We all bowed our greeting to one another.

ชากาญจน์ นามสกุลที่เก่าแก่ที่สุดแห่งหนึ่ง (Chakan, that's one of the oldest surnames.)," Prasong said.

"English, please, Mr. Ananada. And, yes, it is. Remember, back in 1913 when we were Siam, King Rama VI decreed that all permanent residents of the country must adopt a last name. Until that year, Thai people did not use surnames, but after that, they all had to choose their unique last names. For this reason, you will not find many popular Thai last names. My great-great-grandfather chose Chakan because it means 'able-bodied.' He was a tradesman at the time," I said.

They had finished their dinner and were about to leave when Sakchai leaned over to me and whispered in my ear.

"You better watch out for Prasong. He kept his eye on you all evening."

"I don't think I have anything to worry about with him. He just likes my good looks, that's all," I said with a laugh.

"Do you know what Prasong means?" Sakchai asked me.

"No, I don't know what it means," I answered.

"It means desire, Tien. Prasong desires you. It was in his eyes."

We settled and commenced enjoying our noodles with shrimp. Sakchai said he was getting full and passed his noodle bowl over to me.

"What're you doing that for?" I asked. "You're the one that ordered three bowls. Now finish what you ordered," I said to him as I pushed his bowl back.

"I just want the shrimp," he said as he picked out one in my bowl with his chopsticks and shoved it in his mouth.

"That was mine, you idiot," I said.

"I'm out of shrimp, and you still have plenty."

"And they're all mine," I told him.

He again reached into my bowl and grabbed another shrimp and was about to put it in his mouth when I grabbed it out of his chopsticks with my own chopsticks and gobbled it down. It reminded me of Mr. Miyagi, in the movie Karate Kid, when he was trying to catch flies with chopsticks. Granted, flies are much smaller than shrimp, but I gloated at him with my capture anyways.

"Oh, look," he said. "I found one more in my bowl," and picked it up. "I should probably give this to you."

"Yes, you should," I said.

He started to lean the chopsticks toward me, and I opened my mouth in anticipation. Just then he pulled the chopsticks back and ate the last shrimp. I just stared at him, dumbfounded.

"Prick," I said to him. "You did that on purpose, didn't you?"

"Well, I wanted it."

We both laughed at each other.

"We should probably be getting back to our room," he said to me. "I'm getting tired from all those noodles."

"Serves you right," I said. "You ate enough for both of us. Including some of mine!"

When we got back to our room, Sakchai slipped off his sandals, threw himself on his bed, and pulled the duvet over himself. I watched him from the doorway, slipped off my sandals, sat on my own bed, and watched him. He slipped the duvet down so his face was now exposed. When he was asleep, I continued to stare, fascinated by the look of that angelic face, not able to look away, not getting it out of my mind.

I slipped off my bed and stood next to his. I couldn't help myself as I lowered my head to his. I wanted to kiss him, badly. As I got closer, he turned his head towards me, exposing those pink lips.

I was within inches of his lips when I stopped. I knew it was wrong to kiss him, not having known him long or while he was asleep. A kiss should be consensual, and this wouldn't be. I backed off. I went back to my own bed, took off my shorts, and crawled under my duvet. I continued to watch him sleep, as I smiled at him. I was beginning to like him more than I had ever imagined when I met him after his first homicidal attempt. Well, I hope it was his first, and last, anyway.

The next morning, I awoke and turned to look at him again, but he wasn't there. I searched the room (not a difficult task), but no Sakchai . I got up and slipped on my shorts, wondering where he had gone. It was then that I heard shouting from outside the window. I walked over and looked down. Sure enough, Sakchai was there playing soccer with a bunch of boys. I thought it was a good time to think about rearranging the room, so I began moving furniture. I created a sitting area out of the sofa, coffee table, and chairs, a study area out of our desks and bookcases, and a sleeping area out of our beds, side tables, and lamps. Now it looked orderly to me.

Just then I heard a key slip into the door lock. Sakchai came in and looked around the room. He stepped back outside, looking at the room number on the door. I saw him frown, shake his head and come back inside.

"What've you done, Tien? This looks great. I'd thought about rearranging the room, but it looked like too much work, so I didn't."

"So, you like it this way?" I asked him.

"I love it. You really have a great eye for functionality. This room setup or arrangement or layout or change is great," he said.

That afternoon it started raining, not just drizzling but a downpour.

"Damn it," Sakchai said as he watched the rain outside the window. "We've got a soccer practice this afternoon. I need to call and see if it's been canceled."

He made his call, and the only thing he said when it ended was, "Fuck. They're still having it."

"You gonna go?" I asked.

"I have to, Tien. I'll just get wet is all."

"You sure you want to go out in this weather? I don't want you to get sick."

I won't get sick. It's just a little rain, really."

I watched through the window as I saw the team slipping and sliding on the wet grass, knowing I couldn't do anything to stop their madness. I felt so sorry for Sakchai.

To occupy my time, I decided to do our laundry. I picked up all the dirty clothes, making sure there was enough underwear left for my boy, and headed downstairs to the laundry room. Earth Boonya was the only other person in the room. I started loading the first load into a washing machine when he came up to me.

"Tien, I need to talk to you, if you have some spare time," he said to me.

"I've got plenty of time, now. I'm here for the duration of our laundry."

"I don't know how to tell you this, but Prasong is scaring me."

"What's going on, Earth?"

"Okay. I caught Prasong masturbating in our room the other day after we had dinner with you."

"What's so unusual about that? We all do it at one time or another."

"Tien, he was looking at your pic on his cell phone while he was doing it."

"Mine?" I asked.

"Yes, yours. He wants you, Tien." He looked at me, knowing that I had seen him and the pic he was using.

"I asked him, why you? He told me that he saw you and Sakchai making eyes at one another. He's convinced that you two are getting it on, and he wants part of what you two have."

"We're not doing anything like that," I said. "I haven't even kissed him."

"You're not going to convince him of that, and this is the hard part of what I have to say. He told me that if you won't give in to him, he's going to take it."

"What?" I almost yelled.

"I'm sorry for having to say that to you, Tien, but you need to be careful around him. Personally, I think he's crazy."

I wanted to forget the laundry and find Sakchai to tell him what Earth had just told me, but I realized he was outside playing soccer in the rain. Instead, I put the first load in the dryer and started the second load in the washer. I sat down, wondering what to do.

Earth looked over to me and mouthed the words, 'I'm sorry.'

I looked over at him and nodded my head in understanding. I waited until the laundry was complete and then brought it back to my room, setting the basket on my bed.

I didn't know what to do about what Earth had told me about Prasong. Was I scared of him? In a way, I was. The thought of being raped was what was scaring me.

Just then, Sakchai came into the room, dripping water on the floor. He did not look so good. Before coming any further into the room, he asked me to get him a towel. I grabbed a clean one from the laundry basket and brought it to him. His eyes lacked their normal joyous sparkle and seemed dull to me. I felt his forehead and it seemed a bit warm, giving rise to the idea that he might have a fever.

"Let's get you into bed, Sakchai," I said to him. "You're not looking too great."

I knew that Tylenol was needed to reduce his fever, but we didn't have any. I put his blanket over him, tucking him in, grabbed my wallet and headed out the door.

As I was heading out the dorm front door, I stopped at the front desk and asked where the closest apothecary was located. The guy I asked didn't know, so I hurried into town looking for one. I was being drenched by the rain but felt I had to keep going. I had to get some medication for Sakchai. I turned one corner after another, looking down each street for an apothecary. I had been running for what seemed like fifteen minutes when I spotted one. I ran inside, not caring if I was dripping water on their floor.

I was obviously noticed because a lady came rushing over to me.

"Can I help you with anything?" she asked.

"I've got a friend who was out in the in this rain for way too long and now has a fever. Where's your Tylenol?"

"That's what you need. Let me show you where it's shelved," she said and led me to the pain reliever aisle.

"Watch the dosage," she said. "Try washing him with cold water. That should help, too. When his temperature comes down, keep him warm."

"That reminds me, I don't have a thermometer," I said. "Where can I find one?"

"Follow me," she said.

I followed her to a shelf under the pharmacist's counter and picked one out.

"You seem a little panicked right now. Give him the Tylenol, like I said, and he'll be alright. You need to calm yourself. He's going to be fine."

I paid for the meds, left the store, and began my run back to the dorm. While I was running, it dawned on me that I had never referred to Sakchai as a guy, but she kept saying 'him' to me. How did she know?

When I returned to my room, I immediately filled a glass with cold water and brought it back to the side table next to his bed.

"Sakchai, I brought some medication for you. Let me help you sit up for a second so you can drink some water while you take these pills."

I put my arm around his shoulders, helping him sit up. He looked up at me with no expression on his face and simply stared at me for a moment. His eyes remained dull.

He took two Tylenol tablets I put in his mouth and drank two sips of water to help him swallow. I then checked his temperature with the thermometer. It was 38.9 degrees Celsius, higher than the normal 37.5C.

"Stay sitting where you are for moment. I'll be right back."

I hurried into the bathroom and filled a basin with cold water, grabbed a washcloth and hurried back to him. He was still sitting up when I got back. I removed his tee shirt and began washing him with the wet washcloth. He again looked up at me while I was rinsing his back. His face still showed no signs of life, and no indication that he knew I was there or what I was doing.

I then wrapped my arm around him and began rinsing his chest. A realization came over me while I washed him. I was in love with him. He was a guy, and I was in love with him. And it had happened in only one day. Last night I was attracted to him, then today, in love. Tears swept from my eyes like the rain torrent outside. At that moment, I didn't care if he was a guy; I was in love with him, period!

I gave the Tylenol forty minutes to work and checked his temperature again. It was now 37.8 degrees Celsius. I was elated because it was coming down. I continued to wash him with cold water to help his temperature reach normal.

I laid him back down and continued washing him, his chest, his face, his neck, and his forehead. I wanted to keep touching him.

Twenty minutes later, he opened his eyes and looked up at me, and he smiled! I couldn't believe it; he was smiling at me, and his eyes were bright and focused.

"How do you feel, Sakchai?" I asked him.

I feel better. Have you been with me this whole time?" he asked.

"Yes. You had quite a fever when you came back from soccer, but I gave you some Tylenol. That seemed to work, along with the cold water washes I gave you. Your temperature's just about normal. Let me check again." I slipped the thermometer under his tongue. It now read 37.1 degrees Celsius, perfectly within the normal range.

"Your temperature's normal now," I said.

"Where'd you get the Tylenol? We don't have any."

"I know. I had to run to the apothecary to get some."

"You ran out in this rain?"

"I had to. You needed it."

He was silent for a moment, then said, "I guess you care for me, don't you?"

I had to bite my tongue. I wasn't sure I could tell him I had deep feelings for him. So, I chose the easy way out. I ignored his question.

"Now that your fever is down, they told me I needed to keep you warm. You may feel chilled, but my duvet will help you keep warm."

"You don't have to do that. You'll need it yourself," he said.

"Just, shut up. I'll do what I have to do."

"So, now you're the one taking care of me. After yesterday, I thought that would always be my job."

He looked up at me, and I saw the full extent of that wonderful smile of his.

"You need to get some sleep; that's what you need right now. And that's what I'm going to do, too."

"Yes, bossy master," he said, that smile not leaving his face.

I tucked him into bed, placing my duvet over him and crawled into my own bed.

I turned to look at him.

"If you need anything tonight, remember, I'm right next to you," I said to him.

He answered with a slight 'mm.'

It must have been an hour later when I heard his bed shaking. I looked over to him and saw that he was shaking from the shivers he was experiencing. I knew what had to be done. I climbed out of my bed and slipped under our duvets on his bed and cuddled up to him, placing my arm over him to give him maximum contact of our bodies. It must have worked because within minutes he stopped shivering. I was about to move back to my bed when I realized how much I loved being this close to him. I stayed the remainder of the night holding him.

The rain stopped sometime during the night, and the warming sun was shining through the window on us. I felt Sakchai turn toward me, slipping out of my arm around him. I turned my head and saw that face smiling down at me.

"Good morning, Tien. Were you here the whole night?"

"Most of it," I said.

"I know you did it because I was shivering, and you know what?"


"I really liked you being with me."

"I liked being with you, too," I said.

"We should probably get up. I've got soccer practice again today."

"Ah, do you really have to go? It's crazy to go out again after getting sick yesterday."

"I should, you know. The coach gets pretty upset when his players don't show up. No excuse is good enough for him."

"I was thinking of spending the day with you, just you and me. We haven't done that."

Sakchai looked at me, probably thinking about how to answer me. I knew I had him thinking.

"Please?" I begged him with a slight whimper.

"Oh hell. One missed practice won't kill me. So, what'd you want to do today?"

"I don't know. Anything you want to do."

"Well, first we need to get up and shower."

Sakchai got out of bed and grabbed a towel from the basket of clean clothes that I hadn't put away yet and headed to the bathroom, but he stopped at the door and turned to me. In his eyes, at that moment, I saw a yearning, that he wanted something. I knew what he wanted; he wanted us to shower together. He didn't know how much I wanted that too, to be with him, to let him know of my growing love I was feeling for him. I almost got out of bed to ask him if I could join him. I knew that he loved me by the way he acted toward me after I'd cared for him, but I had to tell myself, no. It wasn't time yet. I looked at him and slowly shook my head.

I saw the defeat in his eyes as his smile disappeared from his face. He walked into the bathroom and closed the door.

I was mad at myself for not having the courage to accept his overture. Why was I reluctant to love him openly? I sadly asked myself.

I got out of bed and started folding the clothes from the basket. I laid out his tee shirts and decided to iron them. I got out the ironing board and started, one tee shirt at a time, each time looking at his name embroidered over the left breast. I folded each one, wondering, why am I so weak. The question continued to plague me.

When I got to his underwear, I ironed them, too, then neatly folded them and put them in his drawer but leaving one pair out for him to wear after his shower. I laid it on his bed.

I looked up from my work as I heard the bathroom door open, and he stepped into the room with his towel wrapped around him. He noticed his underwear folded on his bed and looked at me.

"Thank you," he said to me. "You really do care for me, don't you?"

"Yes, I do. It's what I want to do," I replied.

He walked over to his bed and retrieved the underwear, then to my total surprise, dropped his towel. I was looking at the boy that I loved, totally naked in front of me. I think my heart skipped two beats as I watched him. And then I got another surprise; he turned around and faced me while he slowly slipped on his underwear. My heart stopped at the beauty I was seeing. He was the most gorgeous thing that I had ever seen. I knew I had to leave immediately because at that moment my desire to kiss him was overwhelming. I grabbed my towel and left for the bathroom. When I returned, he was still in his underwear. I walked over to my drawer, retrieved a pair of underwear for myself, and stood watching him.

"I can't take it anymore," he said to me. He walked over to me, put his arms around me, and planted his lips on mine. I couldn't believe that he was giving me what I had wanted for what seemed to be ages but in fact, was only two days. My towel fell to the floor, leaving me naked in front of him. I didn't care. I was finally kissing the man that I was in love with. He broke our kiss to look at me.

"I've been wanting, hoping for this since we met," he said. "I've always wanted to find a loving man, and despite the short time we've known each other, Tien, I'm in love with you, and I have been since I first laid eyes on you. I know you're in love with me, too, just from the way you look at me and took care of me."

"I was scared," I told him.

"What? Of me," he asked.

"No, not of you. I think I am just scared. I'm afraid that if I come on to you too strongly, I'll be rejected because I'm not worthy of you."

"Don't ever be afraid of that, Tien. That will never happen."

I started to cry. To hide my tears, I grabbed him and kissed him again. He pulled away after a minute or so and looked down at me. It was obvious to him that I was aroused. I looked down at him, and through his underwear, I could see that he was, too.

"Tien, I want to make love to you," he said to me with tears in his eyes.

"I want to make love to you, too. I want to show you how much I love you."

"Can you wait until this evening? I want our first time to be special."

"No," I said to him. "I want you now, but I can wait. But I really don't know if I

can last the whole day without you."

"Let's get dressed and make this day just for us, you, and me together."

I slipped on my underwear and a pair of shorts, a tee shirt, and socks. I went to the front door and slid into my sandals. I noticed that he was watching me the whole time.

"You better get dressed, too or otherwise I'm going to jump your bones right now."

"Okay, okay," he said, and I watched him dress. I could watch that scene all day long, I said to myself.

When we were ready, he asked me, "Where do you want to go?"

"I want to be out in the sun. We could go swimming or just run through the fields. There are some fields south of here where the locals have grown food for the food markets in town. There are some beaches, too. Sadly, I don't have a car."

"I do," he said. "It's not much, but it gets me around."

"You don't mind? I'll pay for petrol."

I walked with Sakchai to get his car from the student parking lot, and we were off. Our first stop was at a field that looked fallow some 19 km south of Bangkok in Sumut Prakan. It was just a grassy field. We ran through it, grabbing at each other, him trying to run away from me, me trying to catch him. We stopped at a white wood fence that surrounded the property to catch our breath. I leaned my back against the fence while he stood in front of me. The next thing I knew he was kissing me again; then I was kissing him back; we couldn't get enough of each other. When we broke our kiss, I heard a voice.

"ผมเฝ้าคุณสองคนอยู่, " ("I've been watching the two of you,") it said.

"We speak English, do you?" I asked.

"Probably better than you do. I'm from the United States."

"Is this your property? If so, "we're sorry. We didn't mean to trespass," I said. He looked to be in his forties.

"Oh, I don't care," he said. "You love each other, don't you?"

"We're happy to be with each other," Sakchai said.

"It shows. You make me feel young again. I was married until my Jack passed away last year. You don't know how happy you two have made me feel, watching two people in love. I want to thank you for that."

"You live here year around," I asked him.

"Yeah, I do. Jack and I bought some land here ten years ago. We built our house here. It was supposed to be our forever home."

"I'm really sorry to hear about Jack," I said.

"My name's Keith," he said.

"I'm Tien, and my boyfriend's Sakchai. We're from Bangkok."

"I thought you might be Thai; you both look Thai. Jack and I spent a few years in America until he convinced me to move back to his home here in Thailand. California's where I met Jack. His Thai name was Juan. It sounds Chinese, but he was full Thai."

"We're going to spend a few more days here seeing the sights. Would it be okay if we could come to see you again?" I asked. "We don't know any people around here."

"Of course, you can. You're more than welcome. I live in that house just beyond this fence."

He pointed in the direction of the furthest fence.

"Just knock on the door; I'm always home. In case you want to call first, here is a business card with the business name, Siam Winery on it."

"You work in a winery?" I asked.

"Sometimes," he said. "Actually, I own the winery."

"I don't see a winery around here," Sakchai said.

"The winery's not here; it's about 100 km south of here in the Hun-Hin District on the Gulf of Thailand side."

"Where do you get your grapes," I asked.

"I grow my own. Next to the winery are 162 hectares of vineyard. I grow mostly pokdum grapes for Thai wines."

We left Keith, knowing we had made a friend.

"You wanna go swimming? I'd like to," Sakchai asked.

"I'd love to. I wanna throw you in the water," I said laughing.

"You'd better catch me first," he said as he took off running toward the beach.

I looked back at Keith for a moment before I took off after Sakchai. He had a smile that filled his face.

We didn't have any swim trunks with us but decided that our shorts would work just as well. We lay on the sand to soak up the sun before hitting the water. I was almost asleep when I felt water dripping on my face. I opened my eyes to see Sakchai standing over me, water dripping from his hands.

"You're dead," I yelled at him and jumped up. He was already running toward the sea. He stopped when he was knee-deep in the bay, and I caught him, grabbed him around his waist, and threw him in the water with a loud splash. He quickly jumped up and was after me. I tried to run away from him, but his physical ability from playing soccer was too much for me. I quickly was thrown back into the water. He laughed at me, and I had to follow suit and laughed back at him. We were having fun, much of it due to just being with each other.

We didn't have blankets, so we spread out on the sand, relaxing from our physical activity. Sakchai propped himself on his elbow, looking at me.

"We don't have anything planned for this evening, so you wanna go back and visit Keith? I think he liked us, but he seemed lonely."

"I like that idea, but we should probably go back to our dorm room and change first," I said. "And give him a call asking if we could come by tonight."

Dusk had started to filter into the sky when we showered, and yes, we finally showered together. The shower in the dorm room wasn't made for two people, but we made the best of it. I was trying my best not to get aroused, but I failed. So did Sakchai. I washed him and he washed me, and all the while we kept bobbing around. We spent the evening with Keith, and I knew what would come later between us.

It was starting to cool as dusk approached, so we dressed in long pants and made sure we had our windbreakers with us. The short ride back to Keith's was easy as we knew the route from earlier. As we approached the house, my eyes bulged. The house was huge; it almost looked like a mansion but was on one level.

Keith knew we were coming so he was already on the front veranda when we arrived.

"I thought you might call, and I'm glad you did. I hope you'll stay for dinner. I don't get many visitors, and I used to do all the cooking for Juan and me. I hope you don't mind lobster. I'm making Lobster Pad Thai for you. You're probably tired of shrimp in broth by now and would enjoy a bit of real Thailand this evening."

Oh my God. He's making Lobster Pad Thai for us! I thought to myself. My mouth was now watering. I elbowed Sakchai and he smiled back at me. I think Keith saw our reaction and smiled, too.

"Are you of age to drink? Thai men always look younger than they really are, so I'm checking before I offer."

"We're both eighteen now," I said.

"Legal age here is twenty, but if you're eighteen or over, no one seems to care, so what would you prefer? I have most anything you'd like. I even have some Thai whiskey I can serve with any soda you'd like."

We both looked at each other.

"We are on a mini vacation, you know," Sakchai said to me.

"I haven't had a good Thai whiskey in a long time," I said to Keith. "I like mine with coconut milk and some sugar," I added.

"Sakchai?" Keith asked him.

"I'd like the same."

"Okay, coming right up. Come inside and relax, and I'll get the drinks."

When we walked inside, the sheer magnificence of the palatial home instantly grabbed my attention. It seemed to be on a scale fit for a king. The furniture was modern with many touches of gold trim, matching what I was used to at home in Bangkok. We removed our sandals at the front door, as did Keith, and he led us to ornately carved wood sofas and chairs facing a large fireplace.

"Relax, and I'll be right back," Keith said to us.

Sakchai and I sat on one of the sofas together, ogling the room we were in.

Keith was back just moments from the bar at the far end of the room with a tray containing three glasses of whiskey and three smaller pitchers of coconut milk with sugar. We were able to mix our drinks as we wished, our choice.

Keith sat in one of the wing-backed chairs across from us.

"It may seem to you that I'm putting on a show for you, well …I guess I am. I don't have many guests, and I'm honored to have you here."

He then folded his hands prayer style, raised them to his chin, and bowed to us. Seeing his formal greeting, I felt like I was back in Bangkok, and Sakchai and I both returned the polite Thai thank you and greeting to him.

"I'm glad to see that you haven't forgotten what it means to be Thai. Many people your age who have moved out of the country and back again seem to quickly forget their heritage and become Americanized. I may be old to you, but I've never forgotten what Juan taught me about respect for others."

A tear slipped from my eye as I watched him.

"I know we're both from Bangkok, but you make me homesick for my country, you know," I said to him.

"Never forget," he told us. "Now, I have a toast for you."

He poured some coconut milk into his whiskey glass and raised it in the air toward us. We followed suit and raised our glasses.

"I want to make my first toast to you two. I see the love between you, and I envy that love. I had it once and have not forgotten it. When you disagree with each other, disagree with each other, but don't let your disagreement overshadow your love for each other. When one of you becomes ill, please, one of you, take care of the other. You have a short time on this earth, make the most of it."

I couldn't raise my glass to drink at that moment. I had never heard such a heart-wrenching toast before in my life. And of course, my tears were streaming down my cheeks now. I took a sip from my drink and set it on the coffee table in front of me. I got up and walked over to him as he rose to meet me. I wrapped him in my arms and hugged him.

"Thank you so much for that," I said to him.

Sakchai also rose and joined us in a group hug.

"Enough of that now," he said to us. "We still have a few more drinks to finish before dinner will be ready. Let me get us a refill."

With that, he headed to the bar for more drinks.

When he returned, Sakchai and I had already finished our first drink. I wasn't feeling anything from my first drink, and the second one seemed to go down much faster. Thai whiskey with coconut milk and sugar is a sweeter drink than whiskey straight.

Keith checked his watch and looked up at us.

We have a few more minutes before I have to tend to dinner. Would you like another drink before I have to leave and tend to my chef duties?"

I looked toward Sakchai who was already nodding his head in the affirmative.

"Okay, one more," I said. "But may I join you in the kitchen? I like to cook, too, and I'd like to see how you make your Pad Thai"

"Of course. Both of you can join me. I'd enjoy the company."

We joined him at the bar for our third drink and then took them with us when we followed him into the kitchen. The kitchen wasn't just huge, it would rival a master chef's kitchen in the fanciest restaurant.

He had most of the ingredients already lined up on a monstrous island in the middle of the room. It appeared that he had two sauces waiting in bowls, and the flat rice noodles were already soaking in ice water. He had a large wok already heating on a gas burner, one of six, ready to go. The green onions were already julienned in a bowl and the egg mixture was ready.

He didn't seem to have anything that I wouldn't expect for a good Pad Thai. It was now time to watch the master.

As he heated peanut oil in the wok, I had to have another sip of my drink in anticipation of what I was about to witness. Sakchai also had a sip of his every time I took one. I was so enthralled with the master chef that I hadn't noticed that I was getting a little tipsy.

Now he began to move faster, stir-frying ingredients in the wok. By the time Sakchai and I had finished our drinks, the Pad Thai was ready. He even had limes sliced for garnish.

"Ready to eat?" he asked.

Keith had set the table for us in his dining room. Like the rest of the house, the dining room was huge. The center table could accommodate sixteen people, easily. A gorgeous centerpiece arrangement of flowers dominated the table. I didn't recognize most of the flowers, but I did see orchids and frangipanis, flowers that are native to Thailand.

"Where did you get these?" I asked.

"I have them delivered from Bangkok weekly. I especially like the many orchids they have there that we can't get locally."

"Damn you, Keith. You're making me homesick again."

Then, I realized what I had said to our host.

"I'm sorry, Keith. I shouldn't have said what I said to you."

"That's okay, Tien. I get homesick too."

"But you're an American; you were raised there."

"Yes. I was raised in Southern California, but my roots have been in Thailand ever since I met Jack. You see, he taught me a better way of life, a life built on respect. We did travel to Thailand from California many times, and almost moved here once."

"What stopped you?" Sakchai asked.

"This may sound stupid to you, but because of that 1913 law, I had to choose a unique surname to be able to take up residence here. No matter how hard we tried, we couldn't come up with one."

"But you could have chosen Juan's last name for your own. That would have been acceptable to the law," I said.

"I know, but Jack wouldn't hear of it. In Thailand, the male head of the family is the ruler of that family. Jack's dad is a wealthy man, and the man thought that by taking his family name would show disrespect for him. He couldn't take the loss of face associated with that. As a matter of fact, he forbade me to see Jack anymore.

"You have to understand Jack, as well. He was a stubborn and fiercely independent man. His dad and he never got along. His dad wanted him to be what he was and make a lot of money. Juan could have cared less about money or fame. All he wanted was to be with me.

"After their last ill-tempered screaming argument, we left and went home to America. Since Jack's death, I've moved back here, and I've taken Jack's surname of Suwan. There are almost 40,000 Thais with that surname, so Jack's father won't lose face, since there's now no direct link to his family."

"But this fabulous house, where did that come from?" Sakchai asked.

"Oh, that. My dad was well off, too, and when he passed away, he left his property to me. We were able to sell it off and buy this land. Most of my property is about one-hundred kilometers south of here. I've got a grape orchard and a small winery that bottles our wine. The hills and mild temperature are ideal for grape growing."

"But why do you live up here," I asked.

"I don't need to be down at the vineyard or winery. I have a very trustworthy manager who oversees the vineyard and winery for me. Oh, I go down there every so often to show my face and enjoy a good bottle of wine with him.

"Speaking of, I forgot to ask you two if you'd like a glass of wine to go with the Pad Thai. A Riesling goes well with this dish. The slight sweetness mellows out the spice of the chiles."

I knew I'd had too much already, but the way Keith described the wine, I had to try it.

"Is this your own wine?" I asked.

"No, we don't produce a Riesling wine from our grapes. This one came from the Willamette Valley in Oregon."

"Then, in that case, I would love to try it."

"Sakchai, you too?"

"Of course," he replied.

The wine was as he said. The spiciness of the Pad Thai had mellowed, and it was the most wonderful Pad Thai I had ever eaten. I think…at least I think, I must have had three glasses of wine to go with the meal. I was no longer tipsy; I was—with all the alcohol I'd consumed, I can't be sure—on the verge of drunkenness.

I tried to stand to thank Keith for the meal but fell back onto my chair. Sakchai tried to come over and help me but tripped on one of the chairs and landed on the floor.

Keith saw what had happened.

"You boys have had too much to drink tonight, and that's my fault. I shouldn't have offered you so much. I can't let you drive home tonight. I sure don't want you to have a run-in with the police. You two can share one of the guest rooms."

In the state Sakchai and I were in, we couldn't refuse.

The room he led us to sported a king-sized bed in it that drew me to it. I undid my pants and slipped them off, leaving them on the floor. Next came my tee shirt and socks. I looked at Sakchai and he was already in just his boxers as was I.

I heard laughter at the door and saw Keith watching us.

"You both make me laugh," he said. "And not to worry. I'm not into boys; I prefer my men a little older. Right now, I want you to get a good night's sleep."

With that, he closed the door.

I stumbled into Sakchai's arms.

"I'm sorry, Sakchai. This was supposed to be our night."

"I know. But right now, I couldn't get it up if I wanted to."

"I can't either," I said. "Everything's spinning. Maybe we should just sleep."

"Can I cuddle with you? he asked.

"You'd better," I said.

I tried to jump into bed, but all I did was wind up on the floor. Sakchai came over and tried to help me get up, but as I pulled on his hand, he wound in the floor next to me. We looked at each other and broke into laughter.

"We need to try to get into that bed," Sakchai said to me.

"I know, but how?"

"Let's take it easy and crawl."

That worked. We finally were in bed together, and Sakchai wrapped himself around me. The last thing I heard from him was, "ฉันรักคุณ Tien." (I love you, Tien.) Him being next to me was so comforting that I was asleep before I knew it.

It must have been late morning when I awoke because the bright sunlight was shining into my eyes. I tried to sit up, but the pounding in my head drove me back to my pillow. Sakchai didn't try to sit up as I had, but I knew he was awake because his hand was over his eyes, and he was moaning.

"How do you feel this morning, Sakchai?" I asked him.

"How do you think I feel? I feel just like you do, like shit."

Just then, I heard a knock on the door.

"I think that's Keith," I said. "He's the only other person in the house."

"Should we let him in or try to get some more sleep?" he asked.

"We should probably let him in. After all, he is our host."

"Okay. "You wanna open the door, or do you want me to?"

"I'll do it. I'm probably more awake than you are."

I eased out of bed, shielding my eyes from the sunlight, and opened the door. I was still only in my underwear, but I didn't care.

"Good morning," Keith said as he bowed a greeting to me.

I bowed back to him.

"Good morning, Keith," I muddled out.

"I hope you boys slept well. I let you sleep in a little because I think you needed it. I brought you something to help with the hangovers, which I'm sure you have. I know I would if I'd had as much as you boys had last night."

He held out his hand with four pills in it.

"This is Naproxen. I want you to take two each. It should help ease the pain. But more importantly, you are both dehydrated."

He reached down and picked up two glasses that looked to be filled with water.

"I want you to drink these. It's a mixture of sugar and soda to help balance electrolytes. When you've showered and dressed, come to the dining room. A good breakfast will make you feel a lot better."

Sakchai was out of bed now and came over for his glass of sugar water. "Breakfast will be served whenever you're ready," Keith said.

"Can I ask what you're serving?" I asked.

"You'll see when you come down," was all he said.

Sakchai and I both made our way to the bathroom, turned on the shower to be as hot as we could stand, and slipped under the hot water. In our condition, there was no way we would become aroused, and it proved to be so.

As the day was warming, I wanted to wear shorts, but we only had the long pants we came with. Dressed, we headed to the dining room. When we got there, I saw another reminder of Thailand. He had prepared jok for us. Jok is a Thai rice porridge with an egg omelet buried in the rice. Along with that he had patong o, Thai sweet doughnuts. I was in heaven seeing my beloved Thai breakfast food.

"Please eat as much as you like, especially the doughnuts. The sugar will help you. I have more in the kitchen if you want them."

We all sat at one end of the long table and started in. McDonald's breakfasts held no comparison to what we were eating.

"You've done it again, Keith. Staying with you has made me homesick again for the fabulous Thai food that you made for us." I told him.

I watched Sakchai eat his fourth doughnut as I was finishing my jok.

"There are more patongo in the kitchen if you'd like, Sakchai," Keith said.

Sakchai nodded his head, smiling.

"Please," he said.

Keith went into the kitchen and returned with four more patongo.

Sakchai bowed his head to Keith in thanks.

"Eat up, guys. This'll help you through the day," Keith said. "Speaking of which, what are your plans for today?"

"I have soccer practice this afternoon," Sakchai said.

"I think I'd like to go swimming again," I said.

"I've got an Olympic-size pool out back if you'd like. There's also a hot tub there. Sorry, though; there's no sand beach."

"We don't have bathing suits," I said.

"Go skinny dipping if you want. I don't care. I'll be in my office all morning going over the vineyard accounting."

I looked at Sakchai and saw him smiling.

"If you don't mind, we probably will do it," I said.

Keith showed us to the backyard, and he was right. That pool was huge. Keith left us then after laying out two towels on one of the tables on the deck surrounding the pool.

I smiled at Sakchai while stripping off my tee shirt and pants. I stood in my briefs watching Sakchai. He looked at me and also stripped. We stood looking at each other, and then simultaneously took off our underwear.

"I like this," I said.

"Me too," he said back to me. "Last one in's a rotten egg. "He turned and jumped into the pool.

I followed, trying to bomb him with water. We played around dunking each other until we both became tired from the activity.

"Wanna try the hot tub," he asked.

"Yeah. I can see bubbles in the water there and it looks inviting."

We both jumped out of the pool and headed for the hot tub. I checked the water temperature with my foot to make sure it wasn't too hot. It was perfect. Sakchai slipped in first, and I followed taking my place across from him. Plastic seats had been formed to make our lounging very relaxing while jet bubbles danced across our bodies. I lay my head back on the edge of the tub and closed my eyes.

I could have slept there, but I began feeling something other than bubbles on me. I looked up and saw a wicked smile on Sakchai's face. I looked down and saw his foot moving up and down between my legs.

"You know you shouldn't be doing that," I said to him.

"You like it, though, don't you?"

"Well, yeah, I do, but this isn't the place for that."

"But you're getting hard, I can tell."

"Sakchai, stop that, please," I said to him.

"I want you; don't you know? Seeing you naked makes me horny."

"Well, you just made me horny by what you're doing. We can't, though; not here. What if Keith comes out and sees us?"

"Spoilsport," he said and pulled his foot away from me.

"Tonight, then?" I asked.

"If I can last that long."

Keith then appeared at the edge of the hot tub.

"What time's your practice, Sakchai?" he asked.

"It's at 2:00 this afternoon."

"Well, you'd better get going then. It's almost 1:30."

He looked down at us, and I remembered that we were naked.

"I'll go inside and wrap some of those patongo for you as a snack on the way back to Bangkok," he said before turning and walking away from us.

"I told you he was going to come out, didn't I?" I said to him as we jumped out of the hot tub.

It didn't take us long to dry ourselves and get dressed. Keith was ready and handed us our snacks as we were about to leave.

"Keith, we need to thank you for everything you've done for us, and we need to apologize to you for getting drunk last night, too. Last night's meal was a dream to us, and we overdid it. Breakfast was great, also."

"You don't need to apologize, because I enjoyed having you here; make sure you come to see me again."

We bowed politely to him, which he returned with his own bow.

Of course, we had eaten all of the patongo before we had traveled five kilometers.

"What're you going to do while I'm at practice?" he asked.

"I've still got all that unfolded laundry to take care of."

"Boring," he answered.

"Maybe so, but it's gotta be done."

Sakchai parked his car back in the student parking lot, and we walked back to the dorm. Sakchai changed into his soccer gear while I started folding clothes. Having sat so long, many were now badly wrinkled, so I got out the ironing board and started.

It didn't take me as long as I anticipated, so when I put the last of Sakchai's shirts in his closet, I decided to take a shower. The chlorine from the pool water was making my skin itch.

I took a long, hot shower. When I came out of the shower and was about to wrap my towel around me, I realized that I was alone. Sakchai wouldn't be back for at least an hour or probably more. I continued to dry my hair as I stepped into our room. I was slowly twirling around as I dried my hair when I saw that someone was in the room. It was Prasong.

"What are you doing here?" I asked him.

"You are here alone?" he asked.

"Yes, I'm alone. What do you want?"

"I want you."

He grabbed the end of my towel and held it. With my towel stretched out, I realized he had a perfect view of my naked body.

"Hey, what are you doing?" I asked shouting at him, irritation in my voice.

I didn't trust Prasong as far as I could throw him, and he was taller than I was by at least five centimeters.

"What do you mean, 'you want me?'" I asked.

"I want you just one time, Tien."

He grabbed my shoulders and slammed me back against the closet and stepped closer to me.

"What the hell are you doing?" I asked him again.

"Just one time, Tien."

I pushed him away from me.

"What the hell!" I yelled at him.

"Why don't you give me just a one-time?"

Prasong pushed me back on my bed, and I remembered what Earth had said about him, what Prasong wanted to do to me. Terror engulfed me.

"Just one time, Tien, just one time," he said again.

He tried to lie on top of me, but I pushed him aside. We wrestled, each trying to control the other, him finally winding up back on top of me.

"Don't be so stubborn, Tien. It's just one time."

"NO!" I screamed at him.

"Tien, it's the same as what you and Sakchai are doing."

"No, it's not, you bastard."

"Yes, it is. I just want one time."

I tried to push him away from me, but I couldn't. That was when he hit me high on my cheekbone. My feeling of terror rose to a higher level.

"If you're going to be so stubborn, Tien, I'll just have to do this the hard way."

Prasong leaned back and stripped off his tee shirt. While I was still recovering from when he hit me, Prasong stripped off his shorts and underwear. We were now both naked.

He was already aroused, and ready, and he turned me over on my stomach.

The next feeling I had was excruciating burning pain in my ass. I let out a scream that almost deafened me. I began hysterically crying because I knew what he had just done to me.

He pulled my head back so far that the sound of my crying refused to come out of my mouth. He hit me again, in the face. I felt no more terror; it was gone. All I now felt was shame.

He plunged in again, this time deeper, and I screamed as loud as I was able to. Prasong then also screamed as he reached climax.

"What the fuck!" I heard from across the room. I turned my head to see who it was, and I saw Sakchai enter the room.

Sakchai didn't hesitate. He grabbed Prasong and threw him off the bed and halfway across the room. When Prasong tried to get up, Sakchai hit him in the face, sending him back to the floor.

I crawled to the head of my bed, leaned against the wall, and wrapped my body in my arms to hide my shame as much as possible. I couldn't stop my eyes from crying or my body from shaking.

Sakchai then grabbed Prasong's shoulders and slammed him upright against the wall. He repeatedly pounded his face until it was completely covered in blood. He let Prasong fall to the floor, unconscious.

Sakchai rushed over to me and wrapped a blanket around me.

"Are you okay, Tien?" he asked.

My lips trembled, but I finally managed, "No."

"What happened, Tien?"

I looked up to see sympathy in his eyes.

"He raped me. That's what happened," I softly said in an attempt to hide my shame.

I lowered my head to his neck, needing all the comfort he could give. He wrapped his arms around me, giving me what I needed.

"It's going to be all right, Tien. I'm here for you now," he whispered in my ear.

"No, it's not," I said back to him. "I'm used now. Why would you want me? I'm dirty."

"Because I love you, unconditionally, that's why."

He turned my face toward him.

"Kiss me," he said to me.

"Why would you want me to do that?"

"I need to show you that you are loved. I need to be the one to show you because it's me that loves you."

He looked at me for a moment.

"Please," he said.

I couldn't help myself; I threw the blanket off and wrapped my arms around him.

He kissed me, not passionately, but lovingly. At that moment, I truly felt his love for me.

"I need you right now. I'm a wreck," I said.

"That's why I'm here, Tien. I always will be here for you."

Tears started to flood my eyes, happy tears.

"It's going to be all right, Tien, I promise," he said to me.

The door suddenly flew open and Professor Channarong, my English professor, entered the room.

"What's happened here," he asked as he surveyed the room. "I was alerted to someone screaming."

He saw me and asked, "Are you all right, Tien?"

"Yes. No. I'm okay, but you may want to check on that guy on the floor," I said, pointing to Prasong. "He raped me before Sakchai got here."

Dr. Channarong pointed to an assistant behind him, snapped his fingers and then pointed at Prasong. The man behind him instantly went to Prasong and kneeled beside him.

"He's alive, but badly beaten," the assistant said.

He turned to a third man and said, "Get someone from the university hospital to take care of him."

He then walked over and sat on the bed next to me but turned his attention to Sakchai.

"You're Sakchai, aren't you? he asked.

"Yes sir."

"I've heard your name before. Your Tien's boyfriend, aren't you?"

"How did you know that?" Sakchai questioned.

"Don't worry. I just know."

He looked at me, seemed to notice my nakedness f or the first time and then Presong's nakedness.

"I'd like you to come to my office tomorrow morning early. I'd like you to tell me exactly what happened here. I can see that it might be embarrassing if we talked now. Tien, I want you to go to the university hospital right now to have them look at you. From what I think happened here, you need to see them right away."

"Yes, sir," we both said.

Sakchai walked me to the hospital right after that. Evidently, Professor Channarong had called ahead as they were expecting me. I was immediately led to an exam room, but I asked beforehand if Sakchai could go with me.

"Is he a relative?"

"Yes, of course he is. He's my brother," I lied.

"Okay, he can come too."

We waited for only five minutes before a man in a white smock came in the room.

"I'm Doctor Sirichai," he said, introducing himself to us and bowing.

We bowed in return.

"You'll need to remove your shorts and underwear and then hop on the table on your stomach, young man. Let's have a look."

He opened my butt cheeks and looked around and probed inside. Then he took a cotton swab and shoved it up my butt, swiveled it around a bit, removed it, and stuck it a glass test tube. He let me sit up then.

"Professor Channarong was correct. You've had a sexual experience recently. I saw some slight tearing of your colon walls. Did you see any blood from your rear after the sex?"

"No, I didn't," I said.

"Good. Those should heal on their own. If you do see any blood, you come see me right away. The cotton swab was to collect semen samples to test for any sexually transmitted diseases."

"Can I go home, now," I asked.

"Yes, you can. We should have the test results back day after tomorrow. DNA tests for the donor should be back in a few more days after that. I want you to wait at least another day before you have sex again to give you some time to heal and be sure to use protection until we know if you have gotten any STDs."

"I felt like I was raped all over again," I said to Sakchai on the way back to the dorm. But when he felt inside me, I didn't feel like it was Prasong. The doctor was doing it to help me. Prasong didn't care if he was hurting me or not. He was doing this for his own pleasure."

We didn't talk of my doctor's visit again until we reached the dorm. I had been thinking about school.

Sakchai, I want to go back to school tomorrow."

"Why? You don't have to."

"Yes, I do. I know there'll be gossip, but I'll just have to get used to it. Some people will ask me about it, and it may be hard on me, but they have to know the truth."

"I'm the one who's supposed to be taking care of you, but you're the one showing more bravery than I have."

"Oh, you're brave, Sakchai. You showed that when you saved me and then took care of me. And didn't stop loving me."

We made love for the first time the next evening. He wanted to wait one day so our love making would not happen on the same day I was attacked. My first day back to school was a tough one for me but nobody said anything about my attack. I was a little grumpy when I got back to our dorm room. What I saw had me in shock when I opened the door. Sakchai had almost one-hundred small votive candles lit all around the room with the overhead light turned off. The scene was surreal and quite romantic.

Sakchai was seated Indian style in the center of the room waiting for me. I noticed an unopened bottle of pokdum Thai wine and two empty glasses next to him. It was difficult getting to him because candles weren't just on counters or tabletops, they were spread all over the floor.

"Where'd you get the wine?" I asked.

"I called Keith when you weren't here. I was so excited about this evening that I let it slip that this was going to be our first time. He sent us a bottle of his wine to help us celebrate. By the way, he was devastated about you being raped, but very happy that I'm staying with you."

"What a thoughtful man he is," I said.

Before I sat down next to him, I went back and locked the door. By the time I returned, he had already poured our wine.

He raised his glass in a toast.

"This is to us, two souls hopelessly in love."

We both took a sip.

"My second toast is to you, Tien, the man who watches out for me, and when needed, takes care of me. You are my angel sent from heaven."

"You're making me cry," I said.

We only finished half of the bottle of wine before we were lying in bed naked holding each other. When he entered me, I couldn't help my tears from escaping my eyes. I felt his complete love for me overtake my body. This was not Prasong. This was me giving myself to Sakchai, the only man I have ever loved.

"Why are you crying?" he asked.

"Because I've never in my life been as happy as I am right now."

Our sleeping entangled our bodies as much as was possible. I couldn't get enough of his closeness. We were two people hopelessly in love with each other.

School returned to normal after I was attacked. I never heard any rumors or comments, which pleased me, until my lunch break two weeks later. I was alone at a table outside the Student Union eating a bowl of dry rice noodles and broth when Earth walked over to me.

"How're you doing, Tien? I heard what happened to you. Are you okay?" he asked as he sat across from me.

"Yeah, I'm fine," I answered. "I got the test results from the hospital yesterday."


"I'm fine. I have no STDs. They're trying to get a blood sample from Prasong, but he's not being very cooperative."

"Speaking of, you hear what happened to Prasong?"

"No," I said, questioning him. with my eyes.

"The university canned him. When he was released from the hospital, he was thrown out of school."

I looked up at Earth with a slight smile on my lips.

"I need to ask you; did you have anything to do with that?" he asked.

I knew he saw my smile broaden, but I didn't say anything for a couple of moments.

"Yes," I finally admitted to him.

He got up, sat next to me, put his arm around my shoulder, and looked into my eyes.

"You know you're a hero around here, don't you? People are talking about you."

"Why?" I questioned.

"Because you got rid of that psychopath for us."

"I'm famished," I said and got up. "Have you eaten yet?"

"Yeah, I ate earlier." We were headed to our afternoon classes when I noticed a boy two tables down from us stand and look at me. I stopped and wondered why he was watching me.

He very slowly raised his folded hands to his chin and bowed his head to me. I watched him for a moment and then returned his gracious gesture. When he raised his head, his hand shot in the air with his thumb extended. The other three people at his table stood and began applauding me. I wasn't sure what to do, but knew I had to return with another bow to them.

They weren't the only ones; two other tables rose and joined the first table's applause.

What was going on here? I had to ask myself. They were applauding me, ME... almost a nobody. Being a polite Thai, I returned a bow to the other tables.

"See, I told you, Tien. You're a hero now," Earth said to me.

I looked around the room and my tears showed my emotions, seeing the gratitude all around me.

"Heroes don't cry," Earth said as he put his arm around me and led me out of the lunch area. "Heroes are proud and noble."

"Well, maybe not this one," I said, hoping I wasn't blushing.

"I want a boyfriend like you," he said. "Know of anyone that's single and looking?"

"Oh, shut up," I told him in between sniffles.

Volleyball season was approaching, and I told Sakchai about it.

"You gonna join?" he asked me.

"Of course. You've got soccer and I want to play volleyball."

"You know volleyball used to be just a girl's sport, don't you? It's not anymore. Those girls are just as rough, if not more so, than the boy's teams."

The next afternoon, I went to the volleyball courts to observe. There were two courts with just girls and one court exclusively for boys. This was called beach volleyball; the court was simply beach sand. Running in sand is way more difficult and tiring than on a hard surface, though you can dive a bit more forcefully on sand without getting scuffed up. Beach Volleyball had its origin in Hawaii and Southern California. It was not considered a sport by most schools as their funding usually went to football and basketball. I was amazed that our university had three teams, enough to compete in regional competitions.

I sat on the sidelines and watched the boys play. I had played volleyball all through high school and had been considered quite good at it. Watching these boys, it was obvious to me that they didn't know what they were doing. The boys' coach would scream and holler at them and eventually throw up his hands. To my surprise, he came over and sat next to me.

"I don't know how to get through to them," he muttered to no one, shaking his head, and looking down at the sand.

"I guess you need to start with the basics," I suggested to him.

He looked up and turned to me.

"You know anything about volleyball?"

"A little."

"How little?"

"Well, I played in high school."

"How little in high school?"

"All four years."

Now I had his attention.

"Tell me, how would you have me start?"

"First off, they're using their fists to just knock the ball around. They need to know how to use their forearms to hit the ball so they can direct it to where they want it to go. They'll never be able to set up their teammates this way."

"Would you like a job as my assistant coach?" he asked me.

"No, sir. What I really want is to play."

"What's your name, if I may ask?" he asked me.

He was running his eyes over my frame, evaluating me and maybe my potential.

"It's Tien Chakan," I answered.

"Tien Chakan? I don't know why I don't know that name. We usually watch all the high schools for upcoming stars. We don't have the money for athletic scholarships to get the good ones to come here, though."

"I'm not a star. I was never a forward, a spiker, where the glory is. I just set people up."

"I'm Coach Thanaphol Chaiya but call me Coach Tae. I'd like you to go to the Athletic Office. Tell them I sent you and they'll issue you school uniforms. Those are only for tournaments; but you can wear whatever you'd like during practices. When you come back, your first job will be to teach people how to hit the ball."

I couldn't believe it. I had only been there ten minutes and I had already met the coach and had a player/teaching job.

When I returned with my new uniform, Coach Tae had already lined up six boys for me to start teaching. There was another boy who stood off to the side watching me and the six students. I walked over to him and asked if he'd like to join us.

"Not really. I know how to direct the ball already."

"So, you know what I'm trying to teach?" I asked him.

"Yeah," he answered.

"Can you show me? I'll stand at the net and throw you a high ball, and you direct it to me. I threw a high ball to him, and, oh my God, his return was a perfect set up for me to drive it across the net. I didn't, though. I just caught the ball and walked back over to him.

"What's your name?" I asked him.

"ฉันชื่อวินด์," (My name's Wind.) he answered in Thai.

" =คุณพูดภาษาอังกฤษได้ไหม?" (Do you speak English?) I asked him back in Thai.

"I do. Everyone in Thailand has to learn English."

"Okay, we need to speak English here. That okay with you?"

"It's okay. I need the practice, anyway."

"So, you've got one of the Element Theory names." I said. "By the way, I'm Tien."

"Yeah. My dad named me Wind because he wanted me to be a doctor."

"Do you?"


"Wanna be a doctor?"

"Not really."

"So, what then?"

"I wanna be a writer. I wanna write novels and publish my stories. That's why I'm majoring in English and Journalism.

"Wow! That's impressive. I'm an engineering major."

"That impresses me."

"What grade you in?" I asked.

"I'm just a freshman. You?"

"I'm a Junior."

Then I glanced over and saw we were being watched.

"Coach is looking at us, so I'd better start teaching," I told Wind. "First, though, I need to talk to him. Wait here a moment. I'd better tell coach what we're doing; be right back."

I walked over to Coach Tae and explained to him about my assistant-assistant coach.

"I saw the way he returned the ball to you; a perfect setup. Good to see you're using him."

"Thanks, Coach," I said and walked back to Wind. You're now my assistant. We need to teach these guys how to control the ball.

"You take three and I'll take three, and let's get started."

Wind was a great help. We taught the boys how to direct the ball for the rest of the afternoon. I noticed that Wind's three boys were learning faster than my three. When practice was over, Wind came up to me.

"See you tomorrow," he said and started to walk away.

I grabbed his arm to stop him.

"You doing anything right now?"

"No. I've got a little homework in English, conjugating some verbs; shouldn't take me long, though."

"Why don't you come up to my dorm room? I'd like to introduce you to my roommate."

He looked at his watch and then looked back to me.

"Yeah, why not? You seem kinda cool."

"So's my roommate; you'll like him."

When we got to my room, I was greeted with a complete surprise.

"What took you so long? I've missed you," Sakchai, said and pulled me into a hug and planted a kiss on my lips.

I pulled away from him, wanting to see Wind's reaction. His eyes were fully open watching us.

"That must mean you two are gay," Wind said.

"Wind, meet my boyfriend, Sakchai."

Sakchai bowed his head to him and put out his hand.

Wind returned the bow and the two shook hands.

"I'm not, you know," Wind said to me.

"Hm?" I said questioningly.

"I'm not gay."

"I didn't think you were. I hope that we are doesn't bother you," I said.

"No, it doesn't. A guy tried to hit on me once, though."

"How'd that turn out?" Sakchai asked.

"Truth is, he scared the shit out of me because I didn't know how to react. He was a nice guy, and I wondered what it would be like to be gay for him but knew I couldn't."

"I like you, Wind," Sakchai said. "Know why?"


"Because you've got an open mind. They're all kinds of people out there, and you're willing to accept them for who they are."

Wind lowered his head, but I could still see the red blush on his cheeks.

"Thank you," he said.

"So, who's your favorite band," I asked.

"That's gotta be Hollywood Undead."

"You like them?" I asked.

"Some of their lyrics are full of angst but some are full of tenderness and optimism."

"As I said, Tien, I like this guy," Sakchai said.

We talked for the next two hours finding out about each other, school subjects, school professors, favorite sports heroes, favorite foods, other favorite bands (he named Caskey), and you name it.

Wind then said he should be getting home. We exchanged cell numbers, and he left the dorm.

"I think we've made a new friend," Sakchai said.

"I think so, too. He seems like a nice guy," I said.

We practiced forearm placement for the rest of the week, and they got it. By the end of the week, their accuracy had improved so much that they looked like an advanced school team. Wind and I were extremely proud of all of them.

The next week we practiced finger-tip placement of the ball for the forwards. This seemed easier for them, and they learned it more quickly than they had forearm setting. I think they were getting used to the way I was teaching them, or it could have been that they were just tired of using their forearms.

Coach Tae, Wind, and I were standing along the sidelines watching them practice when the Coach turned to me.

"You two are good teachers, you know. You don't holler or yell at them. You actually encourage them, and it shows; they're doing their best trying to please you," Coach said.

"They're becoming a team; working well together," Wind said.

Coach Tae had been working with the rest of the team teaching the same basics that Wind and I had. He shifted to the forwards, hitting the ball over the net, slamming the ball through a hole, or tapping it so it would just fall over the net. Wind and I shifted to techniques of the serve.

Within another week, we had a competitive team. I gathered the whole team around me to talk to them.

"I am so proud of you guys. You have all worked so hard, and it shows. You are all now Tigers for the University of Bangkok. Gimme hands."

They all put their hands on one another in the center.

"Let me hear who we are," I yelled.

"TIGERS!" rang out as they threw their hands in the air.

As the team dispersed and headed to the showers, Coach Tae came up to Wind and me.

"You two have done an amazing job, a feat I didn't think was possible when you first started. You think we're ready for our first match with Kasetsart University next week?"

"We're more than ready," Wind said.

"Wanna join us to celebrate what we did with this team, Wind?" I asked.

"I wish I could. My dad and I have issues with each other, and he wants to talk to me after practice."

"You sure?" I asked.

"I'm sure. Dad's the head of our family, and you don't say no to him."

Sakchai and I were enjoying a beer back in our dorm room when I heard a knock on the door. It was so quiet I almost didn't hear it. When I opened the door, my eyes opened wide. Wind was standing in front of me, and he had tears rolling down his cheeks.

"What's wrong, Wind?" I immediately asked.

"Can I come in?"

"Yes, yes. Come in"

He walked in, slid his feet out of his flip-flops, walked over, and sat on the edge of my bed.

"What is it, Wind?' Sakchai asked him. "What's wrong?"

"I don't know if I should ask, but can I stay with you guys for tonight?"

"Of course, but what's happened, Wind?" I asked.

He lowered his head to his hands and began crying again. Then he looked up at me.

"It's my dad. He asked me how my premed classes were going. I had to tell him I'm not taking any of those classes. Then he asked me why I wasn't, so I told him I'm taking English and Journalism classes. I told him I wanted to write.

"He asked Mom to leave the room because he wanted to talk to me privately.

"When we were alone, he told me that I had to change my major back to premed, and that I was going to be a doctor. This is where I slipped up. I told him no.

"He looked at me for a moment and then asked me how that was going to reflect on him if I didn't become a doctor.

"I told him, I didn't care and that I had to do what I needed to do because it was my life.

"Dad then told me to leave, that he didn't want me as his son anymore.

"I tried to talk to him about who I was, but all he said was, "Get out now; leave."

Wind was again on the verge of tears. I went over, sat beside him, put my arms around him, and pulled him into me.

"I'm so sorry, Wind," I said as Sakchai sat on the other side of him. Wind slowly looked up at me.

"You two are my only friends, and I didn't know where else to go," he said.

"Of course, you can stay here. I'm glad you came over," Sakchai told him.

Wind stayed with us for the next week until our first match with Kasetsart University. He slept with me that first night because he needed my comforting contact with him. The next night, and thereafter, he slept on the floor on some bedding we laid down to make it at least a bit less uncomfortable.

We won our first match, twenty-one to fifteen, twenty-one to ten and twenty-one to fourteen, but I could tell Wind wasn't himself. For the first time, I heard him yell at the team.

Coach Tae came over to me.

"What's with Wind? I've never seen him act like this before."

I had to explain to Coach what had happened to Wind.

"Shit," was Coach's answer, and he then went to talk to Wind. I couldn't hear what they talked about, but Wind was almost back to his normal self when they had finished.

Both soccer and volleyball missed the regional finals by one game each in our junior year, but the same teams were challenging each other in our senior year, our last year at the University of Bangkok

Sakchia's' soccer team had done well, and both our teams were scheduled for the regional finals. Of course, my team was scheduled to play against Chulalongkorn Universit y, which had been undefeated in the past seven years. Sakchais' soccer team was also scheduled to play against Chulalongkorn University. Our matches were going to be the matches of the century, and it seemed the entire school came out to watch the Tigers and the Chamchuri Trees, a mascot named by the King.

. The gaiety and pride for our teams went through the roof when we both won our regional finals. It was the first time I had seen beer being consumed on the streets of the campus, and of course, Sakchai, Wind and I had to join in on the festivities.

Five years later - Catalina Island, California.

"You still remember our regional finals?" Sakchai asked me.

"Yeah! That was a time, wasn't it?"

Sakchai looked down at the sand around him and when he looked back, I saw that yearning in his eyes I had seen so many years ago.

"What happened to us, Tien?" Sakchai asked.

"We graduated, and we found jobs, and then it seemed so natural to simply go our own ways after that. I came to California, and you followed shortly after I did. We talked on the phone a lot those first few months, promising each other we'd get together, but something always cropped up and we never did. Why didn't we, Sakchai?"

"I don't know, Tien. I think we got too wrapped up in our own careers and our new lives in America. I was a fool for leaving you," he said looking into my eyes.

"What's with you and Mary Ann? You're getting married soon, aren't you? Are you bi? If you are, I didn't know that."

"ฉันเดาว่ามันทำให้ฉันเป็นคนโง่เป็นสองเท่าใช่ไหม?" ("I guess that makes me twice the fool, doesn't it?") he said to me.

"I love it when you talk Thai to me. You still have that sweet voice I remember," I said.

"You wanna take a walk?" he asked. "I have something I wanna tell you."

"Yeah, let's do it. I need to shake the sand out of my crotch," I grinned at him.

He looked at me again with those yearning eyes and then turned away.

"What do you wanna talk about?" I asked him.

"Not yet," he said. "I need to get my thoughts straight in my head before I can talk."

We walked into town and past the front of the Catalina Island Inn. Sakchai looked upward toward their room for a moment and then looked back at me. He had tears in his eyes.

"Can we go back to the beach and walk along the shoreline?" he asked.

"I'd like that."

When we got to the beach, he stopped and pushed me hard, so my back was up against a brick building, and he came close to my face.

"Tien, I have never forgotten you. I loved you so much then and love you so much now . I hate that we grew apart."

He moved in and passionately kissed me. We broke our kiss, and I knew how serious he was by the tears in his eyes.

"But what about Mary Ann?" I asked him.

"I'm going to have to break up with her. I have to because it's you I want to spend the rest of my life with."

"And it's you I want to spend the rest of my life with, if you'll have me," I said to him.

I didn't hesitate at all. My heart was pumping faster than it had in years.

We walked slowly along the beach hand in hand. At one point, I raised his hand and held it close to my chest. He squeezed my hand as he looked over at me.

"I love you, Tien. I never ever want to leave you again."

"You should get back to have that talk with Mary Ann," I said.

"No, I would like you to be with me if you can. You're the reason I'm breaking up with her."

"If you want that, I'll be by your side. I'll always be by your side."

We walked back to the Catalina Island Inn and went up to his room. Mary Ann was standing out on the balcony when we walked in and turned around when she heard us enter. I saw the tears in her eyes when she walked back into the room.

"Are you okay, Mary Ann?" Sakchai asked her.

"I'm okay now since I've had time to think. Sakchai , I've watched you two ever since we met Tien the other day. You've talked about him constantly for the past two years. You love him, don't you?"

Sakchai lowered his head but then looked back up at her.

"Yes," he said.

"I saw you two walking by the hotel, and then I saw you kiss him."

"I'm sorry, Mary Ann, I…"

"Don't be sorry, Sakchai," she interrupted him. "I saw the love between you and Tien that you and I never had. In a way, I'm happy that you found him again. I mean that, Sakchai. I really am happy for you."

He walked over and hugged her. Now the tears were in his eyes.

"What are you going to do, Mary Ann?"

"I'm going to find a man who will love me as much as I see you and Tien love each other."

"I'm sorry, Mary Ann…"

"Don't say that Sakchai," she interrupted him again. "The only thing you need to be sorry about is that you almost let him go."

He turned to me and said, "I am truly sorry about that, Tien."

"I am, too, because it was partly my fault," I said back to him.

Before we left, Sakchai went up to her and kissed her on the cheek.

"Thank you," he said to her.

"You take care of yourself and Tien," she said to him.

With that, we left the room.

When we got to my room, I had to turn to him.

"Why did you get engaged in the first place, Sakchai?"

"It was my dad. We were vacationing in Thailand when he met her, and it was his hope that we would get married. Ever try to tell the head of your family, no?"

"Not that I can recall, and I doubt I'd live through it," I said.

"Right!" he said.

We moved into my apartment in Manhattan Beach. I was beside myself with joy when we slept together that night. I had missed that so much.

I awoke the next morning to the false ring of my cell phone. I was cuddled by Sakchai and had no intention of leaving him.

"That's your cell, Tien. You'd better get that," Sakchai said by nudging me.

I roughly threw the comforter over him and got out of bed. I was still blurry-eyed but managed to find my cell phone on the nightstand beside me and see the alarm clock reading 9:00 AM.

"Hello," I managed to say.

"Guess who this is," the voice on the other end asked.

"I'm not playing twenty questions this early in the morning. Just tell me who you are."

There was silence on the other end for a moment.

"This is a voice from your past," he finally said, but the voice sounded vagally familiar.

"Are you Wind?" I asked.

"You finally got it; I see. What are you guys doing this morning?"

"Trying to sleep. Where are you?"

"I'm in L. A. I've got an interview at the L. A. Times this afternoon. If you're not too busy, I'd like to see you guys before my interview."

I was now fully awake.

"I've got a better idea. Why don't you come by after your interview and have an early dinner with us? We can catch up with each other then."

"That sounds better to me. That way I won't be worrying about the interview while we're meeting."

"How long have you been in L. A?

I've been here almost a week."

"A Week? And you haven't called us before now.?

"I've actually been visiting my fiancé's parents."

"You devil you. When did you get engaged?"

"It was just before I left Thailand. You'll get to meet up when I get there. The interview's at 3:00 this afternoon and shouldn't take more than an hour. We're staying at The Westdrift in Manhattan Beach. I hope it's not too far from your place."

"We live in Manhattan Beach. You're only about fifteen minutes from us."

"Wow. We should be there around 4:30 then."

"Have you had any good Thai food since you left?" I asked.

"Unfortunately, no. That's something I've been missing."

"Well then, be prepared for it when you get here."

I gave him our address and apartment number.

"See you around 4:30 then," I said.

"Who was that?" Sakchai asked.

"You won't believe it. It was Wind. He and his fiancé are here in L. A. They're coming for dinner at 4:30 this afternoon."

"What are you planning for dinner?"

"We'll start with Dragon Fruit Martinis followed by Coconut Marinated Pork Satay Strips with peanut sauce. Then for the main course, I'm making Thai Coconut Curry over Coconut Rice."

"We'd best be doing some shopping then."

I was able to prepare most of the meal ahead of time to be able to spend time with Wind again and meet his fiancé.

4:30 rolled around and we heard a knock on the door. I opened it to find Wind standing alone.

"เข้ามา พระเจ้า ดีใจจังที่ได้พบคุณอีกครั้ง วินด์ ("Come in. Lord, it's good to see you again, Wind.")

"Tien และ Sakacai เพื่อนสนิทสองคนของฉัน คุณเป็นอย่างไรบ้าง ?" (Tien and Sakacai, my two best friends. How are you?")

"คู่หมั้นของคุณอยู่ที่ไหน เราอยากเจอที่นี่ " ("Where's your fiancé? We'd like to meet her.")

Wind turned away from us.

"Come on, Peter don't be shy," Wind said, and Peter stepped out from behind the door.

Both Sakchai's' and my eyes budged as a very cute eighteen-or nineteen-year-old-looking boy stepped out in front of us.

"Peter, this is Tien and his boyfriend Sakchai. They were the only friends I had back in Bangkok. Guys, this is Peter Henderson. He's originally from Sweden, and he's got the sweetest accent you'll ever hear."

"Come in, Peter and welcome," I said.

"I don't speak Thai," Peter said.

"Not to worry. Even though he's from Bangkok, Sakchai doesn't speak it very well either."

That got me a smack on the shoulder.

"I hope you like Thai food, Peter," I said.

"I've never had it before, and I'm looking forward to it tonight."

"How old are you, Peter? I was planning on serving Dragon Fruit Martinis before dinner, but it has vodka in it.?"

"I'm nineteen but I'll be twenty next month. Go ahead and make your martinis but leave the vodka out for Wind's and mine, if that's all right with you."

Tien and I are twenty-three. I hope you don't mind if we have a stronger martini," Sakchai asked.

"It's okay with us," Wind answered.

I made the martinis, and we all sat in the living room.

"How did you guys meet?" I asked after getting comfortable.

"We met in our senior year in high school," Peter said. "My dad was working in Bangkok for the American Embassy, and I went to high school there. I knew he wasn't gay, but I started having a crush on him right away. Then I asked him one day if he'd like to go out with me and watch a movie. I was surprised when he said he'd like that."

"We dated like that a couple of times," Wind jumped in. "I was really starting to like this guy. So much so that a thought crossed my mind. I wondered what it would be like to kiss him."

"He did one night after we were playing miniature golf. Believe me, it was the thrill of my lifetime."

"Remember when I told you about that guy that was hitting on me?" Wind asked.

"Yeah, I remember. You said you liked him and wished you could be gay for him", I said.

"I had the same feelings for Peter, and after I kissed him, I knew I was gay."

"What a round-about way of finding a boyfriend," Sakchai said.

The dinner fascinated Peter with the variety of Thai foods he'd never had before.

"That meal was fantastic," he said after having three helpings. "Where did you learn to cook like that?"

"I've been cooking like that all my life," I said.

"I know Wind likes Thai food, and I want to learn how to do that for him."

I raised my martini glass in the air.

"I'd like to make a toast to you two, Wind and Peter. Here's to a long and happy relationship. I can see in your eyes that you have feelings for each other. I toast you."

We all took a sip of our drinks.

"I'm sorry. I forgot to ask, how did your interview go, Wind?"

"I got the job starting tomorrow. Let me look and I can tell you whom I'll be working for."

Wind went through the stack of papers that Human Resources gave him until he found the name.

"I'm going to be working for someone from Thailand named Chuck. He's a feature writer for the L. A. Times. I couldn't pronounce his Thai name…I….I.

He looked up from his paperwork and looked at Sakchai.

"It's you, isn't it? I'm going to be working for you."

"Yup. They told me about you before your interview but didn't tell me who you were. Looks like we'll be working together."

"Wow. I can't believe it."

Our friendship lasted over the years. Wind and Peter finally got married, and they adopted a six-year-old boy from Thailand who seemed to fit in with our Thai family and one from Sweden. No matter the origin, we are family.

The End

I couldn't have written this story without the tireless work of my editors. I am indebted to them.

If you liked this story, or if you didn't like it, please let me know.

Richard Norway


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