I’m home. Drive safe.
Taeng can’t help smiling when he sees her message. The date had gone way better than he’d expected. Especially after being stuck in traffic and losing their table. But Sunny had been easy enough to appease and he is appreciative of that. While he hadn’t placed too many assumptions on CEO Sunny Lee, this woman has proven to be surprising, to say the least. Or is it a case of him dating too many prima donnas in the past?
I’m home too. R u sleeping yet?
Not yet. What about u?
Soon. Why aren’t u sleeping?
Work. Enough said.
Don’t let me hold you back then. Don’t
work through the night, ok? Have a good rest.
I won’t. I will. 🙂
Taeng smiles, content with the way things are. “A door closes, a window opens,” he says to himself as he puts his phone away. Time to get ready for bed.
The next few days at work are hectic as usual. And the project manager called as Sunny said he would. Taeng made sure to raise his tone to sound happier and the project manager is still none the wiser. With this deal in his pocket, Taeng goes about the production of his concept of two sides of a woman finding each other. It is symbolic of a person coming to terms with oneself and Taeng feels deeply on this topic. He is aware that this concept is subtly biographical—a story that tells his story of how he found his niche in life—but it’s a story that is applicable to everyone. It’s a story that everyone can relate to.
He works hard, hour after hour and by Wednesday afternoon, a first draft of the promotional video is drawn and coloured. It will have to be outsourced to the animation experts but his art and concept will be the basis for the video clip. He sends a sample to the project manager and all that’s left for him to do is wait. This isn’t the only project he is working on, however, so he sets to work on the others.
Time seems to have slowed down to a crawl. Taeng looks up from his computer screen to rest his eyes and leans back to relax a little. Eight o’clock seems so far away. If only the seconds would go by faster. Taeng returns to work after a short break but time seems to have sped up because the next time he looks up, it is already twenty to eight. He is in danger of being late. Again. Taeng curses silently as he hurries to save and backup his project before switching off the machines. Then, he grabs his satchel and makes a run for it. He says a hurried goodbye to his co-workers and ignores their curious questions, reaching his car in record time. A quick look at his watch tells him he has fifteen minutes left. With no time to lose, he gets into his car and drives off, tires squealing in protest.
Taeng makes it. Barely. He murmurs a quick thanks to the traffic light deities, thanking them for blessing him with a smooth drive. He pulls into the parking lot and pulls his phone out from his jacket to tell Sunny he has arrived. A few minutes later, a pair of bright eyes appear at the side and Taeng opens the door for her with a wide smile.
“Hello stranger,” he says. “Guess what? I’m on time today.”
Sunny responds with a giggle. “Yes, you are.”
“It was a close shave though. I was blessed by the traffic light fairy.”
“I hope you drove safely.”
Taeng grins. “I kept to the speed limit.”
“Please be safe. I don’t want you to speed because of me.”
Taeng blinks, taken aback by the distress he hears in Sunny’s voice and hastens to calm her. “Don’t worry. I won’t drive dangerously even if I’m late. Promise.”
“Road safety has been on a downhill trend. One of the people in my office lost her husband in a car accident recently.” Sunny shakes her head as though she’s trying to get out of a bad dream. “It’s just too sad. Life is precious. Even more precious when you have someone who relies on you.”
“Two,” Sunny says with a sigh. “It’s all very tragic.”
Taeng nods. He reaches for Sunny’s hand and squeezes it to offer his consolation. “Life is fragile.”
“It is. That’s why we have to appreciate what we have. Enjoy the simple things.”
Sunny smiles and nods. “Enjoy the simple things.”
“Simple things are holding hands,” says Taeng, rubbing his thumb over Sunny’s fingers. “Simple things like looking into a pretty woman’s eyes.”
Sunny blushes. “You’re a sweet talker. I should be wary of you.”
“Me? No, I’m an honest man.”
“A man who says that usually can’t be trusted.”
Taeng feigns a wounded expression. “I can’t believe you just said that.”
Sunny giggles. “Alright, I believe you. For now.”
“Fair enough.” Taeng smiles. “And I’ll give you more reasons to believe me by taking you to the bottle shop to buy our entry pass to your much anticipated pork belly.”
“That’s a good place to start.”
Entry to pork belly wonderland is smooth. The alcohol supply is accepted with open arms and the pork belly is served. This time, Taeng joins Sunny in pigging out on a gigantic plate of pork belly. Once again, he is amazed by the seemingly endless stream of somaek that makes its way into Sunny, the bottomless pit. Knowing his limit, Taeng doesn’t drink more than a mug of it, an act which Sunny acknowledges with a kiss of approval—on his cheek. With more cheek and courage than Taeng realizes he has, he puckers up his lips and points at it. For a moment, he sees the hesitation in Sunny’s eyes and wonders if he has gone too far. But Sunny squelches that doubt with a sweet kiss right on his lips. Their eyes meet after the kiss and they are grinning like kids caught doing something forbidden and getting away with it. Indeed, in the isolation that is the backroom, Taeng feels less inhibited and he thinks Sunny might possibly feel the same.
Feeling more and more comfortable with Sunny, Taeng begins to ask more personal questions. “So, tell me more about yourself. What was it like growing up?”
“This sounds like a question a reporter would ask me.”
“Oh my God. How did you know? I’m actually an undercover reporter for This Patch. Please don’t tell anyone.”
Sunny rolls her eyes. “You are such a kid.”
“I’m a curious kid.”
“Well, what’s there to say . . . I think my childhood was pretty normal. Although it strange to have sisters yet not have sisters.”
“What do you mean?”
“My sisters are a lot older than me so sometimes it feels more like I have three moms or something.”
“I see. So you’re the precious baby daughter, well loved by everyone.”
“I did receive a lot more love, since my sisters were old enough to take care of me.” Sunny smiles. “What about you? They say that the middle child is usually kinda unique in their ways. Are you?”
“Define unique.” Taeng chuckles. “But I wasn’t a middle child until much later. For a large part of my childhood, I was the little brother.”
“Were you the naughty sort?”
“Not really . . . although I did get into a fight once.”
Sunny’s eyes open wide and she leans forward on her elbows, visibly excited. “What kind of fight? A fist fight?” Taeng nods. “Did you win?”
“I would consider it a draw but the other boy never did bother me again.”
“Was it over a girl?”
Taeng shakes his head. “Nah, the boy was a bully and I got sick of him picking on a classmate.”
“My hero . . .”
“Now you’re just mocking me.”
“I’m not. I like people who aren’t afraid to stand up for what they believe in.”
“Does that mean you like me?”
“If I didn’t like you, I wouldn’t have come out with you again.”
“So that means you like me.”
“Yes, you can say that.”
Sunny’s answer makes Taeng a happy man. He puts a succulent piece of pork belly on Sunny’s plate and says to it, “Soon, I’ll surpass you in ranking and Sunny will choose me over you.”
Sunny bursts out laughing and thumps the table with her hand. “You’re unbelievable, Taeng. You really are.”
Taeng doesn’t say anything in reply. He simply pops a piece of pork belly into his mouth and chews with a smile as his heart begins to take to the woman sitting across the table from him. This woman who popped into his life, unannounced and a complete surprise. But this is one surprise that he likes very much.
Two weekends later, Taeng is out with Sunny on their fourth date. This time, to a movie. It is a blockbuster, popular at the box office and Taeng is stoked to watch it. So with Sunny’s hand in his, he shuffles lower in his seat, leans his head back and settles down to enjoy the movie. Sunny leans close and after some time, her head ends up on his shoulder. That puts a smile on his face and his arm on her shoulder, allowing her to snuggle closer.
“Have I ever told you that I love how small you feel in my arms?” he whispers.
“This is the first time you’re telling me.”
“I really like this. We fit so well together.”
“Mmm, your shoulder is pretty comfy. It’s just the right height.”
Taeng presses a kiss on Sunny’s forehead. “You’re the perfect height.”
“Most people say I’m too short.”
“Who cares about what most people say. You’re the perfect height for me.”
Sunny lifts her head and Taeng sees the curl of her lips. This is it. This is the moment. He lowers his head and meets her lips with his. It is a sweet kiss that sends him a warm buzz from head to toe and the urge to go in for another when they part is strong. Instead, he resists and they share a smile before turning back to watch the movie. It is hopeless, really. Taeng’s attention is mostly on the weight of Sunny’s head on his shoulder and the way she fits nicely with him. His mind is also busy running through a number of ways to get himself invited for a cup of coffee at her place.
The movie ends eventually and Taeng holds Sunny’s hand as they leave the cinema. They stroll to Taeng’s car with him trying to recall what the movie was really about as she rattles on about the characters. How does Sunny manage to watch the movie with such rapt attention when all he can think about is how soft her lips are? Why isn’t she affected by the kiss like him?
He puts that thought out of his mind as he drives out of the parking lot. It is a short drive to Sunny’s apartment and he leans to plant another kiss on her lips before she gets out. With a smile, Sunny looks into his eyes and asks, “Would you like to come up for a drink?”
“Don’t you have to have an early night?” Why am I even asking this? Just go on up already!
“Not tonight. I can afford to sleep in tomorrow.”
“In that case, I’d like to go up for a drink.” Finally!