It’s a short walk to Noona’s Literary Café, a favorite spot for many university students. The owner couldn’t decide between her two loves in life, reading and eating, so combined them into one. Her collection of books is huge, covering a wide variety of topics and the patrons are welcome to peruse any of them while in the shop. The bookstore next door makes sure that Noona’s always has a fresh supply of new titles to feed the minds and Noona’s excellent cook is there to fill the bellies with delicious foods.
When Rome walks in the front door with Emma by his side, he barely has a chance to look around before he’s suffocated in a tight, warm hug.
“N’Rome!” Noona’s muffled shout tells him who is currently hugging him to death. Even though she and her brother have lived in Thailand for a few years now, her thick American accent is still present. “Why haven’t you come by to see me? You know you’re supposed to visit your noona as soon as you get back on campus!”
“Um, p’Lacey, I don’t think Rome can breathe.” Emma tries to save him but she gets pulled into the hug, too.
“Don’t think you are getting out of this hug, n’Emma,” With a last squeeze, Noona finally releases her victims…friends from the hug and they take a deep breath in relief.
“Noona, did you just say Rome is here?” A handsome guy about Rome’s height dressed in ripped jeans and a black tee shirt pops out from behind the swinging kitchen door with a toothy grin. He wipes his hands on the white apron wrapped around his lean waist and quickly walks over to them. “Hi! About time you showed up. Noona has been bugging me for the last week about when you’d be here.”
“That’s because I like them more than you.” Noona scowls and sticks her tongue out at the newcomer.
“Probably but you still have to love me more. I’m family.” He winks at the older woman.
“Brat.” Folding her arms, Noona can’t dispute the fact and is a little put out about that. She doesn’t like being bested by her younger sibling.
Honestly, if you didn’t know they are siblings, you never would guess it because they look nothing alike. Noona has auburn hair framing sweet rosy cheeks and big hazel green eyes with a pale complexion and a scattering of freckles over her nose. Jae, on the other hand, is obviously a mixed asian with his lightly tan skin and slightly slanted brown eyes. His straight black hair has a few subtle dark purple highlights and falls over his brows in a shaggy cut. They are practically opposites but there is no doubt that they are siblings in the way they treat each other.
After a one-armed hug with Rome, Noona’s brother picks up Emma in a hug and swings her around. “You get prettier every time I see you, Emma. When are you gonna run away with me?”
“When you decide to switch teams,” Emma laughs as he puts her down with an exaggerated pout. “You might have better luck if you hit on Rome.”
“He is a pretty one, too. What do you say, Nong Rome? Want to give it a go?” He waggles his eyebrows at Rome comically and gives him a wolfish leer.
“Jae! Quit flirting with my n’Rome! He’s practically your brother so it would be like incest.” Noona shoos her younger brother away. “Go back to the kitchen and cook up their favorites before you give your noona a heart attack!”
“Yes, Noona.” With a final flirty wink towards Rome and Emma, Jae saunters back to the kitchen. “My timeout room awaits!”
“What would you like to drink?” Noona ignores the antics of her brother and loops her arm through Rome’s, guiding them to the order counter.
“Noona’s special caramel cappuccino with extra whipped cream, please,” Rome answers easily, not even needing a moment to consider.
“Make that two, please, and add an extra dash of cinnamon to mine.”
“Coming right up!” Noona walks behind the counter to prepare the drinks. “Are you going to sit in your normal spot in the corner by the window?”
“I don’t know. We’re actually here to meet someone but I’m not sure if he’s here yet or not.” Reminded of their reason for coming, Rome looks around cafe the handsome face he remembers from yesterday.
“I’m hurt. You didn’t come here just to see me?” With a fake sniffle, Noona bats him on the arm before smiling widely. “Who are you meeting? Someone special, I hope. He better be amazing if he thinks to steal my n’Rome away.”
“It’s no…” Rome starts to protest but is stopped by someone calling his name.
“Hey, Rome! I’m not late am I?” Turning around, Rome watches as Noh jogs up to them from the door. “Ohm caught me as I was leaving and I couldn’t get rid of him.”
“You make me sound like a contagious disease, asshole.” The guy behind Noh steps up next to him and whacks him upside the head.
“Watch your mouth! Can’t you see the company we’re in?” Noh returns the head smack and nods towards his friend. “This is Ohm. Feel free to ignore everything he says.”
“Ouch! I’m hurt, man. Really hurt.” Slapping a hand to his chest, Ohm gives Noh a pained look.
“No, you’re not,” Noh replies matter-of-factly. “Ohm, this is my new acquaintance, Rome, and Rome’s friend who I haven’t actually met yet but I’m sure is very nice.”
“And pretty, too.” Ohm steps closer to Emma with an appreciative smile. “Hi, I’m Ohm and you are…?”
“Unavailable,” Emma replies dryly and moves closer to Rome.
“He’s taken, too.” Pulling Ohm away from her, Noh glares at his friend before glancing over Ohm’s shoulder with a smirk. “I’m sure n’Mick would be all too happy to remind him just how unavailable he is.”
“What do you….”
“P’Ohm! Can I have a word with you?” The voice is sugary sweet, but the cute boy behind the voice has a stony look in his eyes as he bares his teeth in a semblance of a smile. “Hi, p’Noh. I’m going to borrow my idiot for a while, if you don’t mind.”
“Take him,” Noh says and gives his friend a shove towards the door. When Ohm tosses him a betrayed glare, he shakes his head at his friend. “You brought this on yourself and I’m not going up against n’Mick when he’s pissed. Good luck, my friend.”
“Bae, I’m missed you!”
“Don’t you ‘bae’ me, p’Ohm! Let’s go have a little chat.” Mick grabs him by the ear and drags a whining Ohm out of the café.
Noona sets their drinks on the counter with an iced Thai tea and comes around to stand by Noh. Her hands ball up on her hips and she pouts in the direction of the door.
“Darn it! I wanted to give n’Mick a squeeze. Do you think they’ll be back?” She asks hopefully.
“Probably not,” Noh answers her and wraps a consoling arm around her shoulders. “Sorry, Noona. You’ll have to make do with this poor substitute.”
“As if anyone would consider you a poor substitute!” Noona snorts and wraps her arms around him, burying her face in his solid chest. “N’Noh, you’ve lost weight, haven’t you? Go sit down and I’ll have my Jae whip you up something tasty!”
“You always know the way to this man’s heart.” Noh gives a dramatic sigh and winks down at her. “Be careful or I might steal that cute brother away from you so I can eat his food all the time?”
“You wouldn’t last a week with him before bringing him back!” Scowling, Noona lets go of Noh.
“I heard that!” Jae yells from the kitchen window.
“You were supposed to!” Noona singsongs back to him and everyone laughs.
“Mean, Noona.” Leaning out from the kitchen, Jae sticks his tongue out at his sister before smiling at Noh. “Hey, Noh. Anything in particular you want to eat?”
“Surprise me,” Noh replies knowing that whatever that guy makes will be delicious.
“Will do!” Jae disappears into the kitchen again.
“Why don’t you three find a table and I’ll bring the food out as soon as it’s done.” Noona passes the Thai tea to Noh as the other two pick up their coffee drinks. When Rome passes by her, she whispers, “I approve of this one. Go get him, n’Rome! Su su!”
Before Rome can reply, Noona is gone behind the counter to help the next customer. He shrugs and follows Noh and Emma to a small square table in the back near the private conference rooms noona added when so many people started requesting space to hold group dinner meetings. It’s not that he is necessarily disagreeable to the idea of courting or being courted by Noh, it’s more that he thinks it’s unlikely to happen.