“I can’t believe it took us this long to finally make the trip,” said Khun Neary, pulling Chet from his musing of the lone semi-ruined cottage in the middle of a green field.
“Oh, yes, considering how much our friends tease us,” he replied, head shaking slightly thinking about the hundreds of times they’ve heard the phrase, “Chao Chet and Khun Neary” by literally everyone who knew their names, even by that quirky colleague at work upon receiving their wedding invitation a week ago.
In a way, it seemed like they had been made for each other.
God was a cruel playwright. Chet learned this when his father died of a needless traffic accident twelve years ago. He supposed from then on, he might have subconsciously setting himself up to meet his soul mate, his Khun Neary.
She would be the woman of all his dreams- pretty, witty and bold. The young Chet grew up waiting for his lead actress, the goddess to complete his shrine. His life would not start, Chet felt, not unless he’d found his other half.
And when a charming-looking new colleague introduced herself as Khun Neary, Chet knew at once. This was her. This sweet looking woman with black flowing hair and a hint of permanent smirk on her face who spoke with a tilted Siem Reap accent was literally the Khun Neary to his Chao Chet.
Chet looked back at his newly-made wife, bathing under the warm September morning sunshine which was sipping stealthily into the tiny car they’d rent for their trip to Pailin. Arrays of light made her rosy cheek a shade darker, like a rose ready to bloom. In a way, she had always looked like a rose to him, full of thorns, but beautiful, oh so beautiful, to behold.
To call her his was probably what it felt like to be the master of a garden full of perfect roses- proud and content.
Struck by a thought, Chet rummaged through his backpack to find his forgotten treasure, a single white rose which he’d manage to purchase this morning without Khun’s knowing. His wife’s brown sultry eyes lit up with surprise. Hand grasping for the flower, she gave him a quick peck on the lips- a noiseless thank you to a noiseless offering.
They did not need further acknowledgement; both knew the other was content.
With Khun laying her petite head on his shoulder, Chet steadily fell into an easy nap to the rhythm of his wife’s cute little snores, and the silent hum of the car’s engine. If this was what being in love felt like, he could easily do it every single day for the rest of his life.
The couple were woken up by the soft persistent call of the driver. Of course, they’d just got a flat tire, in the middle of lunch time, no less.
“I’m so sorry, sir,” apologized the driver, sweat running down his cleft lips. “I’ll fix it as soon as possible.”
Grumpily, Chet nodded. They both decided to get out of the small rented taxi to sit under the shade of a huge umbrella tree near the road. The heat was prickling on Chet’s back, and he felt like despite the enormous amount of gel in it, his hair would shoot up like bed springs any minute now. As if she’d read his thoughts, Khun smoothed his sweating head in a familiar gesture, perfected by regularly practices. She’d always liked it sleek- simple and sleek. Controllable, predictable, not like his originally curled black locks, wild and full of literally surprising twists.
This was not supposed to be how it should go. They were supposed to have a smooth ride to Pailin, the province where their respective fictional characters had fallen in love and fall in love all over again. This taxi was not supposed to stupidly die in the middle of everything!
“We should get something to eat,” urged Khun, peeking from under the big pink scarf he’d given her on their first month-versary. To this day, nearly 6 months later, Chet still felt that moving sensation in his breast every time he saw the batting coal-black eyelashes of his wife’s, or the way she scrunched up her eyebrows every time she was troubled.
Again, Chet was shot with a pang of ecstasy. This wonderfully beautiful woman. She’s all his. She’s all his.
They had the rest of their lives to be happy.
“We were supposed to stop at the provincial town for lunch. Now, what?” Khun asked again, now with an unmistakable tint of frustration laced in her smooth voice.
If only you knew how to cook, then we’d not be sitting here and complaining about food, thought Chet. Though he knew better than to say it out loud. It shouldn’t have bothered him, her not knowing how to cook, but it was hard to ignore the nagging disapproval of your heart when your stomach was also in the chorus.
“Did you know that white roses are considered to be the opposite of red roses even though they are both roses?” Chet asked, looking at the snow white rose Khun kept in her pale, veined palm.
“You know I love your literary musings, but I’m really not in the mood for story times right now.” But Chet could not stop. He had to go on; he had to. He felt like he was being chased by an invisible monster close behind his heels. His wife had always been fond of his idle musings, and now he was afraid, incredibly afraid that if he stopped now, the monster would catch up.
Must go on. Must go on.
“Red roses symbolize love whereas white roses symbolize… death.”
Khun glanced at him and steadily held her gaze for a good solid minute. Her face went from pure wide-eyed surprise, to puzzled, then to surprise again. For some reason, Chet knew. He knew she’d also seen the monster. The monster which was chasing them both.
Tap, tap tap.
Hundreds of droplets of rain suddenly fell from the seemingly clear sky. Chet and Khun hurriedly scurried back into their small grey taxi. Panting, Chet tried to desperately combed back his unruly curly hair back into its place. It was no use, the angry locks shot up from the roots of his head like bamboo sticks, coiling like springs in every direction imaginable.
He glanced up, half astonished, half ashamed to see mascara-stained eyes looking back at him. Underneath the eyes, powder and blush all blended in and rushed away from Khun’s cheeks like a city under flood.
They both laughed.
The monster had caught on.