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I’ll carve a way out for us

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I’ll carve a way out for us

 

Sometimes, Mae realised, her back burning with the sensation of having Ter close, fate was choosing the weirdest paths.

There she was, on her way to revenge her boyfriend and partner, the love of her life and instead of thinking of only this one goal, she was being bothered by another man.

A man who had clearly been in love with Phon as well, if she’d read his fury and grief right.
A man who could barely control his own anger and aggression, didn’t even seem to want to.
A man who was storing so much heat in himself, it seemed to burn her, just lying close, without them touching.

She had asked for this, had been brave when she’d overstepped the line, but now she was lying wide awake, staring at the wall opposite of her, too aware of the man behind her.

Ter.

Sometimes he seemed like a puppy with a gun. Too innocent and young, while also being too cold-blooded at the same time.

It made her care for him, as well as fear him, even though she had never been afraid for herself. Not once. Not when Phon had still been alive and not now, with him by her side.

But her chest hurt when she thought of the look in his eyes, the mirror of her own pain in his every move.
The same, but different.

It made her forget Phon for a bit. The memories didn’t disappear, but they got pushed into the background and made her wonder about the present for once. The future. Her future and Ter’s as well.

Where would this end? What would happen once they’d kill Phon’s murderer? What would come after that? Where would she go? And what about Ter?

Her own path seemed clear. She would either be tried for murder or go back to her old life, trying to bring some light into it after the darkness had settled over it. Work, make money and become herself a bit more with each day.

And she would accept both, no questions asked.

But what really frightened her, was to think of Ter. What would happen to him? Without Phon’s guidance or his revenge? She could only imagine him sliding deeper into the violence of Thana’s business. Fewer restraints and even fewer reasons not to.

It made her heart squeeze into a ball, knowing how important it had been to Phon to hold Ter back. Just a bit. Add one more step before he might overstep a line. A bit more hindrance before he might lose the last bit of humanity he still had.

A shudder ran through Mae’s body thinking about the possibilities. About Ter’s gaze and the way he sometimes walked and talked.

Just a few months ago she’s been wary of him, wanting Phon to be away from all of this. From people like Ter. From Ter himself.

But it hadn’t been Ter who’d shot Phon, but a random guy who was on the run now after kidnapping Thana’s son.

“Are you okay? Do you need a blanket?”

The soft voice startled Mae and she turned, out of reflex, her shoulder meeting Ter’s, who was also leaning back.

“No”, she mumbled, her voice hoarse, “I’m good.”

“You’ve been shuddering”, Ter stated, with no judgment in his words or his voice, just saying what he’d observed.

Mae turned her gaze back to the wall, their shoulder losing the touch while still being closer than before.

“Just thinking about everything that has happened, don’t worry. It’s really too hot for a blanket, especially with you being close.”

The stunned silence made her realise she’d said it out loud and Mae felt the heat rise in her cheeks.

“Sorry”, the words seemed rusty, coming from Ter, “You want me to switch beds again?”

“No!”

Mae turned swiftly, their shoulders now pressed together, skin against skin. She didn’t care.
Or she cared too much.

“That’s not what I meant. Your body heat is enough, I don’t need a blanket, really. And it’s not too much, just right, okay?”

Ter, who had been halfway off the bed already, sank back down again, slowly and hesitantly. As if he didn’t dare to believe or trust her and she didn’t wonder. The very fact that he trusted her enough to sleep in the same room, the same bed, was already a lot.

“Tell me something about yourself”, she muttered suddenly, the pressure in her chest getting too much.

It took him a second to respond, probably out of surprise.

“About me?”

“Yes”, her hands felt sweaty suddenly, “Your time before you worked for Thana maybe. Your childhood?”

If anyone knew how painful such memories could be, it was her, but she still asked.
And she didn’t take it back.

“I ...”, he started and she could feel the nervousness rolling off of him in waves. Nervous and awkward. But he still tried.

“There’s not much to tell you. I mean I’ve been growing up with my grandmother almost my whole life.”

“Why?”

They shared some pain already, they could share even more.

“I wasn’t planned. My parents left me at her place and went away.”

“So, they’re still out there somewhere?”

“No”, the bed wiggled as he shook his head, “I don’t remember when, but my grandmother got a message that they apparently died in a crash. I don’t even know what kind of crash or in what country they were. To be honest, I don’t even care.”

“Makes sense”, Mae nodded, remembering how she had left her own home and family behind her forever, not looking back once. She’d been able to do it because of Phon. Also because of herself, but he’d been her family for a long time.

“So, how was life with your grandma?”

The chuckle which gripped Ter for a few moments surprised not only her but him as well.

“Wild”, she could hear his private smile, “And she’s still alive. Always trying to keep up with the youth while confusing the purpose and use of it and then getting angry when I do it.”

“So you’re fighting a lot?”

“Always”, he hesitated for a small second, almost as if he’d only waited for someone to ask him, “One time we got into a huge fight over the flowers I had planted in her little garden. They were apparently the wrong kind of pink, but I refused to get others. They were pretty enough already. Then we proceeded to not talk for three days while cooking for each other.”

“You can cook?”

“She would have my ass whipped if I hadn’t learned it till now. She’s been teaching me since forever, I think. Not sure if it’s any good, but I’ll survive.”

For a moment, Mae thought about Phon and how his food had always turned into a mess, no matter how hard he had tried.

“You see?”, he’d always said bashfully, “I need you to survive.”
And she’d rolled her eyes, never truly believing his incompetence but glad she could care for him this way.

But then she was back again. Back in the present. Back in bed with Ter, only centimetres apart, their body heat intermingling.
And Ter was still talking.

“When I was a kid we would do cooking competitions. Each one of us had to cook the portion for the other and we would rate each other. Even if it was only rice. On her birthday we still do it till today.”

It was weird how those two images of Ter seemed to clash and merge at the same time in Mae’s mind. The aggressive one with no impulse control and the soft one, who had lived his whole life with his grandma, loving her and Phon alone.
Slowly, Mae felt herself relax, her muscles losing their tension word for word as she continued to listen and Ter continued to talk, not waiting for another question or reaction.

“We also try to marry each other off”, he said and his chuckle turned into a giggle, his back touching her each time he took a breath, “Whenever I see a new old guy, I will ask her how she rates him and if he says anything above 2, I will talk to him. Once she threw a shoe at me, but she does the same to me.”

“She wants you to marry?”

The thought alone seemed weird. Ter ... married. Would he still stay with Thana though? Would he marry, even if he still loved Phon?

“Not really, no. We just do it for fun.”

“That sounds nice”, Mae replied, realising she was by now smiling as well.

“It isn’t. She’s like a wild beast, always telling me what to do and how to better myself. And she’s really afraid that I might die before she does. Which makes sense. She’s going to be 200, I have no chance to top this.”

By now, their backs were firmly pressed against each other, the warmth of the touch making Mae dizzy and sleepy.

“She also made me sew, but I’ve always been horrible. Not patient enough, she tells me each time. But she keeps every piece I’ve ever sewn. As a reminder, she says, and to see the development, even if it’s tiny as fuck.”

Mae imagined it. The house full of pictures of Ter and whatever he had made in those many years of his life. It was warm there, in her imagination, Ter and his grandmother nagging constantly while helping each other out, supporting the other one because they were the only family left.

Ter seemed far away by now, talking about smashed windows and running away together because his grandma had been the one to smash it.

And slowly, she fell asleep, Ter’s voice like a lullaby, rocking her to sleep, his warmth like a comfort blanket.

 


 

Mae had lived through many moments of decisions.
When she’d decided she’d had enough.

Enough to move out of her home, away from her parents.
Enough to finally be who she had always been.
Enough to quit her job.
Enough to start a new one.
Enough to seek revenge for her partner.
Enough to stop getting revenge.

She’d wanted control over her own damn life for once.
Be openly angry.
Punishing the person who had taken away who she’d loved to death.

But when Ter put a weapon into her hand, telling her to shoot a stranger, it all vanished.
As if someone had drained her, the rage dropped and all that stayed was the dread in her stomach, forming a cold knot, telling her of what would become of her.

This man hadn’t killed Phon.
This man didn’t know anything, probably.
This man should be her start.

Looking at Ter, the weight of the gun heavy in her hands, she couldn’t read his mind for once.
There was only rage, but even that seemed rather calm right now, almost subdued.
Did she even know this man?

“No.”

There was no movement seen in his face, not even a twitch.

“What do you mean?”

He had taught her how to load and unload a gun. And maybe, she thought, this had been the best idea from the start. With one practised movement, she emptied the gun, throwing the bullets away the next second.

“Mae! What the fuck?!”

“We won’t kill him, Ter”, she said with a voice as calm as possible. Even though her heartbeat was through the roof already, making her wonder what would happen no.

“And I tell you we have to”, he replied with gritted teeth, but hadn’t moved even a bit, “He will recognise us.”

“And he might not tell anyone if we let him go.”

“That’s naive.”

“I know”, she looked at him, sure of her decision now, “But we can run.”

“Run? Where?”

“Away”, she shrugged, “Just somewhere, so no one can find us.”

“We can’t.”

“We can.”

“He’ll get my grandmother.”

“Thana.”

“Yes.”

“We’ll take her with us before he can even know what happened.”

“Mae ...”

“I won’t take a life, Ter. Not today and not tomorrow. And I won’t let you do it, again.”

“It’s my life.”

“I know. It was Phon’s life as well. And see where it got him.”

Ter’s hands were curled into fists, but he still hadn’t moved, rooted to the spot, averting his gaze now.

Carefully, she stepped closer, holding on to his wrist, wrapping her hand around his fist.

“Let’s live, Ter. For Phon.”

“No. I will do it. I will shoot him. With or without you.”

His words were steel, but they lacked everything, especially determination.
Gently, as if they were at a dance instead of on their path of revenge, Mae pulled him into a hug.

“You won’t.”

“Why?”

“Because I am with you from now on. You’re not alone anymore, Ter.”

Finally, finally, Ter looked at her again, helpless and lost, not knowing where to go, what to make of this.

There were so many questions in his gaze, so much wonder, but he didn’t say anything, didn’t respond when she led him away, his hand warm in hers.

Only when they started driving away, Mae in the driver’s seat, did he let out a deep sigh as he stared out of the window. As if a weight he’d carried for a long time, had finally left his shoulders.

 


 

“I didn’t care anymore when Phon died”, Mae confessed, lying again back to back with Ter on a motel bed, “But I do. A do care about living and having the life he wanted me to. Living my own life to the fullest.”

She could feel him twitch behind her, restless again as if he regretted going with her.

“But why didn’t you leave me?”, he finally asked, after she had waited long enough, her pulse surprisingly calm.

Ter sounded unsure, almost like a little child, surprised that he was being wanted instead of abandoned.

Mae counted down from 10 and took a deep breath before she turned. More out of surprise than on purpose, Ter turned as well, so they faced each other, one shy and the other determined.

“Because”, she took his warm hands into hers again, “Now I care for you as well.”

 


 

“Is this your girlfriend?”

Ter’s embarrassment was almost palpable and Mae started grinning as he tried to explain that she was Phon’s girlfriend and what had happened and why they had to go. Now.

She helped pack but looked around while doing so, taking in the sight of Ter’s childhood home. There they were, the pictures of a grumpy, small child, a laughing one as well, framed pieces of fabric, too ugly to use, but too full of memories as well.

Mae felt surprisingly calm as she watched them interact, Ter’s whole face opening up, emotions pouring out. As if he’d never been a hitman.

He had started to let go, she realised. Not of his grief and not of his hate, but of his fear.
The fear of being left alone, of having nowhere to go. Of this life being the only one he was allowed to live. The only one he was worth living.

“On a scale from one to ten?”

“Grandma!”

The whisper was barely audible, but Mae stopped, next to the kitchen, listening in.

“Say it or I’ll marry her.”

“What?!”

“Yes?”

“No.”

“Why are you so stubborn? Who raised you?”

“A dragon.”

“Then you shouldn’t be afraid of such a question. So, one to ten?”

“Ten”, Ter murmured and Mae could imagine his flushed face, darker than usual, his eyes shifty.

“Good boy! Now, about the wedding ...”

Mae went away again, as quietly as possible, her face hurting from the smile she couldn’t stop, her heartbeat on the tip of her tongue, making her almost jump with each step.

Suddenly, she felt as if he was fifteen again, at the beginning of a ridiculous crush and with new hope for her future.

She wasn’t alone anymore and somehow it felt as if Phon was directly next to her, smiling as well.

It was her life to live and she would do so.
This time though, she wouldn’t let anyone take something from her.

Neither her happiness nor her partner.

Mae would make sure of that.

 

the End