“Tin, I know you don’t like him, but he’s my soulmate. Can’t you at least make an effort?” whispered Pete, peering at him from beneath his lashes, the picture of innocence Tin knew he no longer was thanks to the appearance of his soulmate.
Just the thought of soulmates made him shiver.
What he had never told Pete, never told anyone, was that he was marked as well. Something that was so rare and so revered, was present in his best friend and himself. Of course, most believed the appearance of the mark was the work of some higher being. Tin didn’t know what to think about it, mostly he just tried not to.
Tin hadn’t even noticed the mark that had appeared between his shoulder blades around the time of his fifteenth birthday. His then roommate had spotted it one day when Tin was changing. The next day the whole school had known about it. Just another reason for them to pick on him for being different for no other student in the school had a mark but everyone knew what it meant.
At the time he’d fantasised that his soulmate would be the friend he had had since they were in nappies, Pete. They came from similar backgrounds, they understood each other, but as far as he knew then, Pete did not have the mark. Only the ‘lucky’ few were ever marked, something like 0.01 percent of the population. When his mark had first appeared, he had researched the worldwide statistics. He had even worked out that there were only must be only around six thousand people, on average, in Thailand.
Most made it through life without having their choices taken away by some greater force that despite centuries of research, no one had ever come up with why it happened or a ‘cure’ for those affected.
Pete was fortunate, despite being an uncouth Thai Program, Ae was a good guy, he’d never let Pete come to any harm. Not everyone could be destined to be with someone ‘good’.
Part of Tin longed to find his soulmate, someone destined to love him unconditionally, part of him feared it. It was inevitable they would find one another, fate made sure of it. However, fate couldn’t make his mate love him, he was certain of that.
“I am making an effort,” Tin said in response, voice low so that the others around the table couldn’t hear. “I said hello didn’t I?”
Pete sat back and raised an eyebrow to say that is what you call an effort? Tin widened his eyes. Yes. It’s the best I can do. Pete rolled his eyes and looked away as Ae approached carrying a tray containing his and Pete’s lunch. Tin scowled when he noticed that Ae was not alone.
Can. Tin hated that kid. The brat had already tried to punch Tin twice, both times held back by members of the football team, so the punch had never landed. Tin had only expressed his disappointment that Pete’s soulmate was a Thai Program and he had flipped. Okay, so Tin had started by expressing his distaste for Can himself after a stray football had slammed into his chest. Perhaps he deserved his punishment.
“Sorry, sorry!” the Thai Program had said, skidding to halt in front of him at the end of his pursuit for the ball. “My aim is a little off today. Are you hurt?” He’d held his hands out for the ball and shot Tin a stunning smile that had knocked the air from his lungs, a sensation he did not appreciate.
“Save your apology, Thai Program,” Tin had spat back, feeling uncharacteristically rattled, showing the footballer his cold face. “You’re lucky I’m unharmed because—”
“Hey, Can, come on! Just take the penalty already!” The owner of the voice was the Thai Program that Pete had aligned with.
“Of course, you’re friends with that ingrate,” Tin had sneered, and thrust the ball into the footballer’s chest, causing him to stagger back a step. “Poor Pete having to slum it for the rest of his life—”
He’d found himself with the ball shoved right back at him with force. “Say what you like about me you stuck up asshole, I can take it. Trash talk my friends and I’ll end you!” For someone so diminutive he certainly had a high-volume setting. Tin’s ears would probably be ringing for hours after the encounter.
Feeling an exhilarating spike of adrenalin at the fire in the little guy’s eyes Tin hadn’t been able to help himself. He’d smiled. “I question that sanity of anyone who wants to be friends with someone as uncouth as you. If you even know what the word means.”
By then a small crowd of football players had begun to congregate behind his opponent, which was fortunate for Tin, because the one in front of him pulled back his fist and it was a centimetre from his face when he was yanked back by two of the players, fist still swinging, cheeks puffing up like a hamster.
Tin had smirked and walked away, verbal abuse following him until he’d turned a corner and out of the line of sight of the fireball athlete.
Unfortunately, that had not been his last encounter with Can.
The second time had resulted in another near miss when he’d taken a swing for him again and been stopped by Ae.
“Thanks, Ae,” Can had said, glaring at Tin as his friend held him back. “Saved me from getting bruised knuckles! He’s not worth it.” He’d shaken his friend off and walked away, leaving Tin and Ae facing one another awkwardly. Ae had just nodded and followed his friend. Tin figured he was making the effort for Pete’s sake, as Tin had been trying to do in return.
Tin had watched Can walk away and join the rowdy group of Thai Programs who had taken over a couple of tables at the far side of the courtyard.
He’s not worth it. Wasn’t that the truth?
Now, a few weeks after that incident, and several less violent but always verbally aggressive run-ins with Can later, he watched Can approach the table with Ae he realised with dismay that there was only one open seat. Ae would automatically take the seat beside Pete, which left the one opposite Tin open for Can. Great.
It seemed Can was having the same realisation as he reached the table and his face fell. He muttered something to himself under his breath that sounded very much like fuck my life.
Tin considered leaving but there was no way he was going to play into Can’s hands by making things easy for him. He’d started to really enjoy these encounters and the reactions he could earn; he’d just rather it did not happen at the table.
It was almost cute the way Can came to a halt in front of the open seat and pointedly did not look at Tin. Tin enjoyed watching the internal struggle. If he was truthful with himself there was something about the guy that fascinated him. He was slight and his face was pretty, but that was generally ruined by his potty mouth. He also hated Tin and never tried to sugar coat or hide it. Aside from Pete, this was probably the most honest relationship he had and what did that say about his life?
He watched with a smirk as Can placed his tray on the table and slid onto the end of the bench. Without acknowledging Tin, he took a long gulp of a disgusting looking bright green drink and began shovelling food into his mouth like he was a prisoner ending a hunger strike. Tin felt the jigging of his leg as he bumped his under the table.
“You eat like a pig,” Tin said, watching him in anticipation for a reaction.
“Tin!” Pete hissed, kicking him, hard. “Do you call this making an effort?”
Without taking his eyes off Can’s - disappointingly - still bent head Tin replied, “I’m making an effort with your soulmate. You didn’t specify that I had to extend my efforts to his…acquaintances.”
Wordlessly Can picked up his tray, walked to the other end of the table and said, “Shove up. That asshole is putting me off my lunch.” Everyone obliged and Can sat down next to the girl who was half of the only other couple in the group. She immediately patted his hand consolingly and leant in to whisper something in his ear that caused an instant grin followed by a head shake and a pretty pout.
Tin pushed his own lunch away, appetite gone.
He really hated that kid.
Later that day, when he went home after his last class, he spent an hour in the gym before swimming fifty lengths of the pool, just as he did at least four days a week. When he climbed out of the water Dira was waiting for him by the door. She bowed politely and said, “Your father wants to see you in his study.”
Tin groaned internally, but politely thanked the maid and went to get dressed. His father would not be happy if he went to meet with him wearing a robe. Meetings with his father were irregular and made Tin feel like he used to back at boarding school when he’d been sent to see the headmaster following another infraction that he’d somehow been blamed for but had had nothing to do with. He’d stopped denying his involvement in the end, deciding to keep his energy for battles that he could win.
Once he was seated before his father Tin waited patiently for the old man to stop whatever he was doing on his laptop to give Tin the attention that he’d been summoned to receive. His father was a cold man. Tin couldn’t remember ever getting as much as a hug from him. Not that his mother had been anymore loving. Any hugs Tin had received when he was growing up had been from his older brother or his nanny. Turned out only the nanny’s affection had been anywhere near genuine, and she’d been paid to care for him.
Tin sometimes wondered what his father was like before he lost his first wife, his brother Tul’s mother, in a car crash when she’d been visiting family in England. Had he been a different person then? Warmer? Loving? The whole saga was a sorry tragic tale that resulted in Trai Medthanan marrying Tin’s own mother, the heiress Rasaa Kayotna.
Rasaa didn’t have the excuse of loving and losing someone. She was self-absorbed and shallow all on her own.
“Tin, with the break coming up I need you in the Seoul office to oversee the Skyrocket project. Tul is going to be in London longer than we anticipated and it would be an insult to the investors if we didn’t send a Medthanan.”
“I— Thank you, Father.” He’d been heavily involved in the Skyrocket project, as much as he could be anyway with studying full-time. Despite what had happened when he’d been in England and his parent’s reaction to the whole thing, he’d still be expected to take up a role in the company when he graduated. His dream of studying architecture had been dismissed as a whim. It had been International Business or nothing.
“This is your chance to prove yourself, Tin.”
“I appreciate the opportunity. I promise I won’t let you down.”