Reflection of the Sun
Chapter 3: Broken
The words p’Bright said are ringing in my ears, the name “Namtarn” repeating like a litany. I remember vividly what p’Arthit said in the store so many month ago when I met her for the first time. I remember the way his eyes lit up when he saw her and the way his gaze lingered as she walked away. After my first botched confession when he was avoiding me, I also remember his smile as he sat across from her in the coffee shop. She is his first love who he was always waiting for.
When p’Bright mentioned the coffee shop, I knew which one it had to be. My feet walked the familiar path with my eyes downcast to same spot where I had seen them before. A deep breath and then another and I still don’t want to look up, too scared of what I might see if I do.
This is p’Arthit, my p’Arthit. He chose to be with me. He kissed me first and said he loved me first. He was the one who announced to all of our friends that we’re dating. There’s no way he would do all of that if he wasn’t sure. P’Arthit isn’t that kind of person.
In the darkest corner of my heart, I hear a whisper that I try to ignore. The whisper that makes it hard to raise my head and look in the large picture window. The whisper that tells me that I was p’Arthit’s second choice because he couldn’t have Namtarn.
I have to know. Trembling, I look up and my whole world stops. There is no sound, no color, no life. There is no breath left in my body and no heartbeat. All is still as I watch my boyfriend’s eyes dip close, his arms around someone who isn’t me, his warm lips pressed against another’s. I blink once and again but the scene doesn’t change.
P’Arthit ends the kiss and holds Namtarn close as she snuggles into his chest. I can see the small smile playing across his face and everything inside me shatters. When his eyes open, he looks directly at me and that smile disappears in an instant. He says something but I can’t hear him. I can’t hear anything.
Unable to bear anymore, I turn and start walking. I don’t know where I’m going and I don’t care. Anywhere is better. Anywhere but here. Numb to my surroundings, I just keep walking as far as I can.
A large hand wraps around my wrist and jerks me back just as a piercing horn blares out and a delivery truck passes inches in front of my nose. That same hand pulls me back further until I’m safely back on the sidewalk. Another hand grasps my other shoulder and shakes me.
“Are you trying to get yourself killed, Kongpob?!” This shout is loud and angry. The hands shaking me beg me to wake up from this nightmare but I’m not asleep. “Answer me, 0062!”
“No.” A raspy voice I don’t recognize answers. Was that me? It doesn’t sound like me.
“You could have fooled me.” His voice is slightly calmer and the hands that were shaking me drop away.
“I wasn’t.” The same raspy voice answers and I know it’s mine.
“Come on, Kongpob. Let’s go back to campus.” Wrapping a gentle arm over my shoulders, p’Prem guides the way and I follow without complaint. I just don’t care as long as he doesn’t go to that place or to that person.
“Do you want me to call M for you or one of the others?” He stops at one of benches tucked under a large shade tree and pushes me down onto it before taking a seat next to me. “I can…”
“No!” I can’t face them right now. Their sympathy, their pity will break me even more. “Don’t call them. Please. Please, don’t call them, p’Prem.”
“Alright, I won’t. Calm down. I won’t call.” He looks over at me and I can tell he’s concerned but he doesn’t say anything. With a heavy sigh, he leans forward and rests his elbows on his knees as he stares at the fountain across the way. He doesn’t touch me and stays quiet. Somehow, his presence is comforting and safe.
Slowly, feeling returns to me. The blue of the sky and the green in the trees stand out sharply. I can hear birds chirping and cars passing nearby. Taking a deep breath, the scent of fresh cut grass tickles my nose and my heart beats painfully in my chest. I’m still alive.
A wave of nausea hits me hard and I bend over, clutching my stomach. I gag but nothing comes out except dry heaves which end with a rough cough. P’Prem rubs my back but removes his hand as soon as I sit back up. He still doesn’t say a word and leans against the back of the bench.
The image of p’Arthit’s soft smile after that kiss is burned into my mind. I can’t get past it. I can’t ignore it. He looked so… satisfied… so happy. He had the girl he had always loved in his arms.
That thought that I keep in the darkest part of me hits me again, harder. I was p’Arthit’s second choice. How can I compare to the girl he has loved for more than eight years? She has everything right about her. She’s the right person, the right age, the right gender, and now the right relationship status.
“P’Prem… I want to go home.” It’s a quiet whisper but he hears me and nods.
“I’ll take you.” We stand up and he starts walking ahead. Panicked that he’d leave me behind, I quickly follow and grab the back hem of his shirt. He looks back at me in question but I don’t let go. Right now, p’Prem is my only anchor keeping me grounded. I can feel the waves of blackness creeping up on me but he is keeping it at bay and I don’t want to lose him just yet. I will be strong enough soon but until then, for just a little while longer, I need to borrow his comfort and his strength.
I don’t know if he understands or not and it doesn’t matter. With another nod, he continues walking with me attached to the bottom of his shirt, barely a half step behind him. My eyes focus on each step he takes and I don’t look up until we are standing outside of my door. Finally releasing him, I reach deep into my pocket and pull out my key. The door unlocks with a soft click and we walk inside.
My school bag drops to the floor and I freeze as I stare out the wide window directly into the dark room of p’Arthit. My stomach twists. P’Prem pushes pass me and yanks the drapes closed, blocking the view. Gasping I collapse onto my bed and slide down to the floor, wrapping my arms around my knees. My whole body shakes and my vision darkens but the tears won’t come. There’s so much pain and not a drop falls from my eyes.
“Kongpob!” P’Prem sounds muffled even though he’s standing next to me. Dropping to his knees, he grabs my shoulders. “Kongpob?”
I want to answer him, I can hear the worry in his voice, but I can’t. Nothing will come out. I can’t form the words. He sits and wraps an arm around me. Pulling my head to his shoulder, he pets my hair. The action sooths me and I can feel myself fall apart. Silent, salty tears leave a wet trail down my face, finally released from the prison of my eyes. The kiss and the smile haunt me, the last image I see as my mind blacks out.
The annoying beeping of my alarm clock jars me awake and I automatically reach over to shut it off. Burrowing deeper into my covers, I fight to go back to sleep but it’s a losing battle. My eyes pop open of their own accord and I sit up, throwing the blankets back. Stretching, I try to work the kinks out of my muscles and realize that my throat feels rough. My head isn’t too clear either.
On the bedside table, I notice a glass of water with medicine sitting next to it. I don’t question it and quickly down both, relieved that I didn’t have to go searching for them. Beside the clock is my phone which I pick up with a smile. A warmth fills me at the thought of my cute p’ sleeping across the way. I need to send p’Arthit his wake up text. Oddly enough, the phone is shut off but I don’t remember turning it off. Confused, I press the power button and unlock the phone with a swipe. I bring up my boyfriend’s number and his dimpled smiling face appears on the screen.
My heart slams my chest and the phone drops out of numb fingers. The memories from yesterday wash over me and I’m drowning. P’Arthit kissing Namtarn. P’Arthit hugging Namtarn. P’Arthit smiling sweetly over Namtarn.
I can’t breathe. Gasping, I run into the bathroom and splash water on my face trying scrub away the images but it barely helps. I go into the shower and turn on the spray, letting it beat on my face and drenching my clothes. The cold shocks me and my lungs fill with needed air. Leaning against the wall, I take deep breaths and regain my balance.
As the water warms, I strip off my clothes from yesterday and let them drop in a sodden pile on floor of the shower. There’s no saving them so they might as well be washed right along with me. Soaping up, I scrub every inch of skin until it burns and then do the same to my clothes. After a thorough rinse, I wring everything out and throw it over the shower door before drying myself off.
The flow of my routine in the morning continues until I am standing next to the patio door with the laundry basket of wet clothes clutched in my hands. My hand shakes as I reach for the handle and I back away. I don’t want to go out there. I don’t want to chance a look at the place across the way. I don’t want to chance being seen. I won’t go out there.
Putting the laundry on hangers, I hang them off my closet door. That will have to do. It may take longer but the clothes will dry eventually.
Sitting on the edge of my bed, I watch a single drop of water fall from the sleeve of my shirt and notice the appetizing smell of breakfast for the first time. Sitting on the small table near the window is a box of takeout and a cup of iced coffee. I walk over and pop open the container. A small note flutters to the table, written in messy script.
I know you may not be hungry but try to eat. Call me if you need anything. -Prem
I need to thank p’Prem next time I see him. He saved me. Picking up the utensils, I spoon a bit of the food into my mouth as I read the note again. As I spoon another bite, music fills the room and my forgotten phone lights up on the rumpled bed. I drop everything into the container and slowly walk over to the bed. A familiar face smiles at me from the screen and the bite I had just eaten comes back up with a vengeance. I barely reach the toilet in time.
After rinsing my mouth out and brushing my teeth again, I head back into my room. The music has stopped but several chirps inform me that a text has arrived. Gritting my teeth, I pick up the phone and find the notice of a missed call, a voice message, and 3 text messages. Only one text wasn’t from the same person. I ignore the rest.
You ok? P’Prem’s two word message greets me.
I’m alive. Thanks. I quickly text back, resolving to thank him properly later.
The phone starts ringing in my hands and that person’s face flashes before my eyes. I can’t deal with it. My stomach churns and I press the power button. Throwing my phone on the desk, I climb back into bed and bury myself under the blankets until everything is dark. For today, I don’t exist.