Getting Prince Fluffy out of the shed proves to be a challenge. The dog is in a bad mood and won’t stop barking. Steph is going on in her high-pitched cutesy voice and it’s giving Taeng a headache.
“Let me try,” he says and takes Prince Fluffy from Steph’s arms. “Hey, Prince.”
The dog looks at him with big, brown eyes and licks his nose. Taeng chuckles.
“We wanna take you out for some fun but you gotta be quiet or your mommy will be caught and get into serious trouble.”
Prince Fluffy sniffs at his neck and collar for a bit, then settles down and leans against Taeng’s chest and shoulder without a single bark.
“I think he understood me,” says Taeng with a bright smile while Steph shakes her head in disbelief.
“Well, that makes you his daddy. You’re legally responsible for him now.”
“Yeah. See? He listens to you. He likes you.”
Happiness bubbles up inside Taeng’s chest and he nods. “I like being his daddy too.”
“Well, Daddy, you gotta hide Prince in your hoodie or something.”
“Don’t you have a better plan than this?”
Steph shakes her head. “You got a better idea?”
Taeng shakes his head too. “I guess he’ll fit into my pocket.”
“We’ll take a secret way out of school anyway. Nobody will see us.”
The good thing about a school as big as Soo Man High, is the fact that one cannot possibly guard every single inch of the perimeter. According to Steph, there is a corner of the surrounding wall that isn’t covered by the CCTV. That is to be their way out. There is just one problem. He has to climb it.
After giving Steph a leg up, Taeng is blushing. He didn’t mean to but he got an eyeful of the situation under Steph’s skirt as she clambered up onto the wall.
“Be careful. Prince is in your pocket.”
Taeng hands the dog to Steph. “Hold him for me.”
With Prince Fluffy in Steph’s arms, Taeng backs up and jogs a little to the wall. He jumps when he is close enough and managed to catch hold of the edge. But that is where the story ends. His arms are too weak to haul him up so there he hangs, fingers losing strength with each passing second.
“I can’t,” Taeng grunts.
“Pull yourself up.”
“I . . . can’t.”
“Dude, you need to work those arms out more. What are you gonna do when you enlist in the army?”
“I . . . don’t . . .”
“You don’t know?” Steph finishes for him and clucks disapprovingly. “I’ll pull your right arm up. Try to get it over the top.”
“O . . . kay.”
Steph’s pull is surprisingly strong and Taeng throws his arm over, hooking it where it bends.
“The . . . o-other . . . side.”
Another pull later, Taeng has his chin and arms on the top of the wall. It gives him just enough leverage to haul himself up and swing a leg over. “Thanks,” he pants as he straddles the wall, facing Steph.
There is laughter in Steph’s eyes as she regards him.
“What is it?” he asks.
“Your face.” Steph bursts into giggles.
“What? My face?” Taeng pats his face and rubs his cheeks. “Is it dirty?”
Steph nods and hands Prince Fluffy back to him. He takes the dog into his arms and freezes when Steph rubs his jaw gently. For five long seconds, Taeng stays perfectly still until Steph withdraws her arm and smiles.
“You’re good to go now, big boy.”
Taeng touches his jaw absently. “Er, thanks.”
Steph smiles and nods at the ground on the other side. “You jump first and catch me if I fall.”
Taeng grins. “No problem.”
The landing is smooth and Prince Fluffy only barks softly once as he is passed between the two of them. Incredible. Once they are both on solid ground again, Taeng looks at Steph.
Steph grins and takes his hand. “Follow me.”
Hyoyeon is in her family’s car, waiting for them. She grins and opens the door for them when they arrive.
Steph slides into the middle and Taeng closes the door after them.
“Hi, Hyoyeon. Hello, Uncle. I’m Hyoyeon’s friend. My name is Steph.”
“And I’m Taeng.”
“Hello. Remember to strap on your seatbelts.”
“Doing it right now,” Steph says with a grin.
Hyoyeon grins too. “Okay, we can go home now, Uncle Park.”
Hyoyeon’s house is a nice size, although Taeng is used to a much bigger space. He reminds himself that his royal home cannot be compared with the home of an ordinary citizen and looks around, taking in the interior of the three-storey house.
“You have a very nice home, Hyoyeon.”
Hyoyeon grins. “Thanks, Taeng. Come on, let’s go up to my room.”
“Are your parents home? We should greet them first,” says Steph.
“They’re out at work now.”
“Okay, so let’s go to your room, quick. I wanna see your pup!”
Taeng follows the two girls up the stairs to the third storey where Hyoyeon’s room is.
“It kinda sucks to climb up so many stairs every day but I get my room all to myself up here,” says Hyoyeon.
“Wow, it’s very nice and cosy,” says Taeng as he looks around at the soft creamy colouring the walls around them. And the welcoming bed covered in bright yellow sheets.
“Thanks,” says Hyoyeon with a grin. “Just wait here while I bring Barbara over.”
“Okay,” Taeng replies and he sits on the floor, setting Prince Fluffy between his legs. The dog wags its tail and scoots around the room, sniffing and barking at everything.
“Prince, no!” Steph reprimands when the dog tries to put his paws on the trash bin. She nudges him away and points her finger at him. “No digging in trash, Prince. Bad puppy.”
Prince Fluffy seems relatively unaffected however. He simply moves on to the next interesting object and Taeng grins as Prince Fluffy half-pads and half-skids across the floor.
“I’m coming for you, Prince,” he says and crawls over to play with him.
“Are you his daddy or his buddy,” Steph asks, her tone amused.
Taeng looks up with a grin. “Both. I’m his daddy buddy.” Taeng barks and Steph laughs while Prince Fluffy stares at him, head cocked to one side.
“Prince doesn’t understand what you’re saying,” says Steph with a laugh.
Taeng barks a few more times and laughs too, as Prince Fluffy barks once and trots away to sniff at the table leg.
“You know, you two are cute together.”
Taeng and Steph turn to Hyoyeon who has just appeared at the door with her dog.
“W-What?” Taeng stammers.
Steph, on the other hand, giggles and puts her arm around him. “Really?”
Hyoyeon rolls her eyes and puts her dog down after closing the door. There they sit as Barbara runs to Prince Fluffy to investigate the presence of a new dog in her house. Taeng is highly amused by how they end up walking in circles to sniff at each other’s butt. He laughs so hard that he’s rolling on the floor and the dogs, satisfied with each other, run over to him and paw his shirt.
“Barbara likes you,” Hyoyeon observes.
Steph smiles. “Cos he’s a nice guy.”
Hyoyeon gives Steph a look and giggles. “Nice guy, huh.”
Steph nods and smiles. “Yeah, nice guy.”