“I think that might be all for today. Enjoy your weekend everyone!” “P’Seetian! We have something for you!” Tian watched as Ayi jumped out of his seat and run around the classroom. After Tian’s return, with a full teacher’s licence this time, the curriculum he taught was a little tighter, more focused on studying, but he still left Friday’s for the more creative class, and it was more playful day than anything else. It was no surprise for the children to just draw, build things, do little field trips. Tian watched as the children gave Ayi each a paper folded over before the boy brought it to the front of the class and handed the stack to Tian. “Is this a homework I forgot about?” Tian smiled as he tried to open the first paper, but Ayi quickly touched his hand. “You can’t open this here.” “Why?” Tian tilted his head; what were these little rascals up to this time? “You must open them with Chief Phupha!” Inta called over her shoulder. “Yes! It’s your present for being here a year now!” Chimed in Meejoo. “Wha-?” It was too late for Tian to ask any more questions as the children dispersed and left him in school alone. He looked at the hand written calendar hung by the blackboard. Has it been a year already since his return? It seemed to be., the dates aligned.
Tian was very grateful for his father’s connections; with his influence things went smoothly and quickly, and he was able to organise his doctor’s appointments. Once every three months he had to travel to Bangkok, but luckily Dr.Nam was allowed to write his medication prescriptions and do little regular check ups on Tian’s health. His wife Jeab relocated from Bangkok and set her own public medical practice there, as the town had many children, and she often visited the village to check up on children and teach them, and Tian, some medical things too. “A year anniversary gift huh…” “What are you mumbling about nong Tian?” Yod poked his head into the classroom, causing Tian to flinch. “Nothing, just reminiscing. Why are you here? Where is Rang?” Yod shook his head. “His girl came to visit, so it’s just me today. So what needs fixing?” Tian sighed. “The heater in teacher’s house. I don’t want to keep going to your base for a bath every day. It’s tiring.” He rolled his eyes. Yod grinned. “Are you sure it’s tiring sharing a bath with your man?” “P’Yod!” “Sorry sorry.” The man laughed and accompanied the young teacher into his house. Tian tried hard not to blush when Yod saw how couple-y the place became. Wide mattress, clothes clearly belonging to the ranger Chief, matching mugs. “P’Yod, is Phu- I mean, is Chief working tomorrow?” Yod chuckled. “It’s okay, why don’t you call him by the name?” Tian blushed. He did, but only in private.
When Phupha came over the following evening, he was surprised by the scenery infront of him. Instead of their usual dinner spot on Tian’s rockets table there was now a fancy spread on the floor, with candles and a bottle of wine next to a steaming hotpot. “What is this?” Phupha asked as he removed his jacket and sat on the floor across from Tian. The young teacher smiled. “Just dinner. I thought after a year of eating by that wobbly desk we could change it up a bit. Khama’s wife cooked for us.” “Has it been a year already? Wow, time surely flies. I haven’t even noticed.” “Me neither.” Tian shook his head. “Not until the kids reminded me earlier. Which also means it’s our one year anniversary, hence the wine.” He said, picking up the bottle and pouring them each a glass. Well, a mug. The red coloured alcohol paired very well with the meal and they both lazed around on Tian’s mattress, trying to settle the food down. “Oh, I almost forgot.” Tian sat up abruptly and reached for the stack of papers. “The kids told me to look at them with you. Quite pretty, wouldn’t you say?” He smiled as they went through the pictures. There were little moments of their lives Tian recognised, like the little field trip to the waterfall Kalae drew, or the time everyone welcomed Tian to the village firs the first time drawn by Meejoo. Each of the little moments were part of their lives, except for one.
A picture of him and Phupha that’s clearly been drawn by everyone, with their little signatures at the back, and a white string messily glued around the two figures. “Look, we’re wearing matching clothes, except opposite.” Tian smiled at the picture. They both had some traditional attire in dark red and gold colour, but Phupha’s was red with gold accents on sleeves and collar and belt, while Tian’s were reversed. Then there was the white string, threaded through the paper and glued to their shoulders. “I don’t remember this, what is it?” Tian curiously tugged at the string. “Don’t!” Phupha quickly stopped his hand. “Tian, do you really not know what this is?” He touched the string that clearly bound them together. “It’s uh…those clothes. It’s a wedding picture.” Phupha explained, his ears now completely red. “But we’re not…?” “I want us to be.” Phupha muttered as he set the picture down and took Tian’s hands to his own. He took a deep breath, bracing himself. Phupha has rehearsed his proposal many times before, but now that the moment has come, he forgotten all the words he wanted to say. “I will.” Tian’s hands trembled. “Huh?” “I said I will. I will marry you. Or…you weren’t going to ask me that?” Tian tilted his head to the side, quirking an eyebrow. Even he felt the blush creeping up his face, but the man infront of him was his everything, and he wanted to spend the rest of his life with him. “I was.” Phupha nodded. “I want to marry you. I want you to be my husband, and I want to be a husband to you too. Tian. Let’s get married.” “Let’s get married, Phupha.” The forest ranger leaned closer, his lips kissing Tian’s forehead as he was trying to hide the silly grin spreading across his face when Tian said his name.
“Tian, can we go for a walk?” “Now?” The question threw him off guard; weren’t they about to…? But Phupha’s eyes were pleading and Tian chuckled before agreeing. “Why are we going to the waterfall? You want to skinny dip?” Tian teased. Not that he was opposed to the idea of getting a little frisky with his now fiancé, but the water was definitely too cold at night to do so. Phupha took his hand and guided Tian to the narrower part of the stream they could easily cross by stepping on the large stones. Only after a few more steps between the trees Tian finally saw it. What used to be a thick jungle was now bare grass with several tree stumps, and smack in the middle of it was a house, about twice the size of the teacher’s house. Just like the rest of the village it was wood and bamboo, but it seemed very new. “I don’t understand…who’s house is this?” Tian looked around. It was late and very dark, but even in just the light of Phupha’s torch the house just looked beautiful. Phupha smiled again. “Ours. I promised myself not to show it to you until we get married, but…I built this for us. I know I’ll have to be on the base a lot, and that during teaching days you’ll want to stay in the teacher’s house, but I wanted us to have something together.” Tian couldn’t believe his ears. Was he hearing this correctly? “You built this? Yourself? All of it?” “You’ve been gone two years Tian. I did a little bit each day. So what do you say? Let’s have a wedding, and let’s live together.” “Until forever?” “Until forever.”