Our 2nd Place winner of the Romantic Shorts™  Summer 2021 Writers’ Competition comes to us from our own Geoff LaCasse. Geoff’s style and male perspective always make for a memorable read, and this romantic short story is a perfect example. His pacing and unique one-sided dialogue, his characters and exotic settings, and his mastery of the sweeter emotions that spark true romance make this one a must-read!

Welcome. And, enjoy!

A Flower By Another Name

by Geoff LaCasse

Thailand was hot. Hot and foreign. What in hell’s name was he doing here, a country he knew nothing about and, at this moment, wanted nothing to do with. His brief overnight at Bangkok had been bad enough, but at least it had offered a reasonable semblance of nightlife and many beautiful local ladies. A couple of nights at Chiang Mai for meetings were tolerable given the large English speaking ex-pat community. But Mae Hong Son? As far as he was concerned, the place reminded him of a hovel. A third world hovel. In his mind, there were few redeeming aspects to what his company’s project sheet pompously referred to as a city – a city of no more than 7000 people. He understood now why the company had been unable to entice any other employee to volunteer.

He’d done it to himself. The company had explained patiently and without malice that, despite his noteworthy value to them, his after hours relationships were becoming a public relations embarrassment. Their solution? Take the job in Mae Hong Son or lose the good pay and benefits of his current employment. It didn’t matter to his superiors that his extra-curricular activities had never interfered with his ability to do the job.

So on to Thailand.

The company translator was another disappointment. The expected she was a he, spoke poor English, and either was unable or (more likely) unwilling to help his general manager by acting as a conduit to the workers. The fact that the assistant also had no interest in showing him the town or introducing him to the local attractions made him doubly useless. Unlike what he’d seen in Bangkok and in Chiang Mai, the Thai girls here were generally darker, round-faced, shorter, and heavyset. Not really his type but he’d hoped for some choice amongst them.

The lack of an effective translator was a major handicap. Building 1100 houses in a first world country is a demanding process. Building that number in the middle of nowhere with fewer resources and no knowledge of the local language multiplied the problems ten-fold. As his bosses had noted in a corollary to his formal notice: do well or be put in charge of renovations in Tierra del Fuego or some equally remote hell-hole.

The project was a mess given that the previous manager had left under mysterious circumstances (rumours of prostitutes and drugs were unsubstantiated, albeit common knowledge). Approximately one quarter of the houses were close to completion but lacked finishing touches, and the rest ranged from not started to somewhere in their construction. Thai houses are not like their Western counterparts: different layouts, different needs, different construction methods. Even an experienced project manager needs time to grasp these distinctions. A good translator is a must in a world that doesn’t speak much English. Why this moron had been hired, he hadn’t the faintest notion. His first firing.

When he asked the staff, some of whom seemed to understand a little English (it had been difficult to know how much given the former translator’s arrogance and dominance), for recommendations for a new translator, there was some whispers amongst themselves before he was handed a piece of paper with what was probably a name in Thai and a phone number. “She speak Anglick good.”

He wasn’t even going to try to pronounce the name from the slip of the paper. “Hello, my name is Jeremy Devers and I work for International Homes. I have been looking for someone who speaks good English and can act as my translator for the duration of the project. My staff gave me your name. Do you think we could meet to discuss the job? Tomorrow? What time works best for you? Okay.”

He found her home on one of the side streets amongst a row of what looked like tin shacks, unprepossessing, and something he had not seen since his days in the Dominican Republic. These places, scattered all about Mae Hong Son, were the residences of the poorest of the poor, and for a moment he wondered if had made a mistake coming to this place and if he should just call her and cancel.

When she opened the door on his knock, he saw a youngish woman, slim, not precisely pretty but with a vaguely interesting face, dressed in typical Thai female garb of long shirt over short pants. Clean but not expensive, and definitely not new. A traditional Thai ‘wai’ and ‘Sawadee ka’ in greeting. “Please come in, Mr. Devers.” She spoke English with a slight British accent.

Her world inside was a stunning contrast. The interior was immaculately clean, the plastered walls hidden behind tastefully patterned, brightly-coloured curtains, the tiled floor worn, but comfortable looking couches and chairs and rugs. There was no wealth here but what seemed like a lot of love.

She was just as soft-spoken in person as on the phone. “I am sorry I could not meet with you yesterday. My daughter has been home sick for a few days and I needed to look after her. That is why I asked you to meet today. She is better and sleeping comfortably.”

“How old is your daughter, Miss …? I’m sorry, I don’t know your name. My employees wrote it down but I don’t read Thai.”

She laughed lightly. Pleasantly. “I do not think you could pronounce my family name, Mr. Devers. Please call me Kannika, and my daughter Nin is 6 years old.”

“Miss Kannika, is there nobody else that can help you with her care? Husband? Family? Friends?”

“There is nobody else. I am not married. My parents died when I was a teenager, and I have no brothers and sisters, or even close relatives. I have looked after myself for a long time.” This said with pride. “Even after my boyfriend left me when he found out I was pregnant.” She forestalled the obvious question by holding up her hand. “I was 23 years old.”

He knew that the average Thai earned very little. And with a young daughter … “I think it must have been more challenging than you’re telling me.”

She smiled but did not answer. Instead, “Would you allow me to prepare a small meal? I need to get something ready for my daughter, and I am sure that you would enjoy something before we begin our discussion. I hope you like Thai food, and I promise it will not be too spicy. I know farang – sorry, foreigners – do not like it too spicy.”

As she cooked dinner in an alcove, outside the main part of the house – something he had seen elsewhere in Thailand, although his company’s houses did not use this layout – he glanced around casually. A single bedroom in one corner, a bathroom next to it, a little sitting area that doubled as the eating place, the kitchen, what looked looked a tiny backyard with garden, and that was it. Perhaps 35-40 square meters. No wealth indeed.

As he glanced back to Kannika, he heard the bedroom door open near him and a young girl in pyjamas – obviously Nin – peered out at him. She looked at him in astonishment, eyes wide, and gave him a grave ‘wai’ before disappearing back into the room. Kannika must have heard the sound of the door because she called out softly in Thai, and her daughter stepped back into the sitting room and sat down on the couch across from him. Another incomprehensible sentence from Kannika, an inaudible reply from Nin, and a pleased Kannika before she turned back to explain. “I thought my daughter had been impolite by not introducing herself to my guest, but she tells me she did so. Please let me finish preparing the meal, and then the three of us can sit down to eat.”

The simple meal was excellent. As they ate, he could see Nin – quiet, still – watch her mother as to how to behave when guests were present at a meal. He guessed this probably did not happen often. He said nothing during the meal but was conscious of Kannika, in turn, making sure her daughter ate at least a little before sending her back to bed. She apologized again for not meeting yesterday. “I need to get back to work but my daughter’s health always comes first.”

Although he was not accustomed to children, he thought he understood what she was saying. Not his way but as a successful administrator he was able to empathize superficially with workers, potential or real. “Miss Kannika, no need to apologize. Incidentally, your English is excellent. Where did you learn to speak it so well?”

“When I was with my boyfriend in Bangkok, I worked for the tourist agency. They gave us very good training and I had a chance to practice often.” She forestalled his next question. “I came back home when my boyfriend left me. I wanted to bring up my daughter in a good place.”

At this point they were interrupted again, Nin coming out of the bedroom to sit on her mother’s lap, Kannika unconsciously smoothing her hair with her hand while she continued to talk to him. True, unlimited, love of mother for her child.

“Let me get right to the point. I’m looking for a translator for the company for the next 12-18 months if all goes well.”

Kannika blanched before replying. “I am sorry. That will be a problem for me. I run a cleaning company with my best friend, and I do not think I can abandon her right now. I also need time for my daughter and need to take her to and from school.”

The two of them discussed at length about the difficulties of running a business locally. As they chatted, he was impressed with her English, her knowledge of business, her balance of work and family – in his mind, a good candidate for the position and a much different conclusion from his initial impression outside her front door. So much better than the idiot he had fired. He was decided. But he needed to convince Kannika.

He tried to allay obvious fears. “A couple of things. First, the company has a daycare for our office workers with young children. They would look after your daughter after school until you finish for the day. Second, I’m also looking for another cleaner for the homes under construction, and we could hire your company and find someone to help your friend. That would provide work for her for the foreseeable future.”

Kannika dropped her head so he couldn’t see her face. But he thought he understood what was going through her mind. The Thai as Buddhists lived in the present. More would be better – more for Nin, more for her. She gave a quiet, “Thank you.”

When Kannika arrived for work the next morning, he didn’t recognize her at first.

 Yesterday’s subdued shirt over short pants, a practical solution for the typical weather conditions at Mae Hong Son, had been replaced with heavy makeup, stylish blouse and skirt tandem, and high-heel shoes. Very professional and, unfortunately, completely unsuited for today’s worksite visit.

She replied quietly, “I am sorry, Mr. Devers. I did not think to ask. I borrowed these clothes from a friend because I had nothing nice to wear.” Few words, volumes meant.

He smiled at her embarrassment. “No need to apologize. This is a last-minute change and you couldn’t know. Let me take you home so you can change. No … it’s no problem.” As they drove back to her place, he explained more fully what he expected, that they would work off a schedule, and the schedule would tell her what clothes she might need for the day. She could keep a set of clothes at the office if she needed to change.

When she reappeared, dressed more appropriately for today, he said, “After we get back to the office, go see Human Resources. They will give you some money for work clothes. No, it won’t cost you anything.” He could see Nin in Kannika when she glanced up at him.

At first she had used her old scooter to take Nin back and forth to school and daycare, often arriving at the office soaking wet given that this was the rainy season. He put a stop to that the first time both mother and daughter caught a cold and were bedridden for a couple of days. It was easy enough for him to pick them up and drop them off each day since Kannika generally shared his hours, and her home was not far out of his way. From her initial wonder, he doubted Nin had been in a car before.

Kannika was an excellent translator, complimented by a rare ability at dealing with all people – basic workers to managers – competently and diplomatically. Despite the intense workload and onsite learning about the job, he thought she thrived in her new environment, growing both professionally and as a person.

He was changing as well. The shock that had been Mae Hong Son was an epiphany.

 Where previously he had spent his nights partying and chasing women, now he had little time for such activities and, in fact, felt little desire to fall into his old life. Part of it came from the management load – long days, long weeks, long months to fix the initial mess – but also because he felt a greater inner peace surrounded by the Buddhist way of life in Thailand. Much of that came through his relationship with Kannika.

 Hiring Kannika solved a couple of problems for him. Teamwork was critical, and her skills enabled him to deal directly with the trades onsite without the worry that what he was saying was being misinterpreted or, worse, not followed at all. This, in turn, allowed him to revamp much of the administration for greater efficiency.

The high workload meant that they spent all weekdays together, occasional evenings and weekends as meetings dragged on, and sometimes overnight when he needed to meet with staff or suppliers or contractors outside Mae Hong Son. On those overnight trips, Kannika found it simpler to bring Nin. When they had time all three of them would go for walks, Nin frolicking and laughing, Kannika quietly and patiently trying to help him learn Thai. He was a better person because of those that now surrounded him. His work ethic had always been very good, but his character was substantially improved.

“Jeremy, I know that it is short notice, and I know that I am imposing, but can you look after Nin this evening?” For the first time in a while they were back in the office early, and he knew Kannika had a planned date with girlfriends, probably a welcome relief from the long hours she had been working lately.

Nin had become a part of his life with the time he spent with Kannika. “Of course, Kannika. I wasn’t doing anything special tonight. What time would you like me at your place? Okay. And don’t worry about staying out late. Saturday tomorrow. Any work we need to get at can wait until Monday.”

When he arrived, he found Kannika beautifully dressed in traditional Thai costume. When he heard that she was taking her new scooter for the date, he suggested that because there was a chance of rain he could drop her off and pick her up at her friends using his car.

Nin was still the same young girl from the first time they had met, but she had become more comfortable around him over the past few months. As they waited for her mom to call, he helped with Nin’s homework from school, did an English lesson together, and played games on the computer. When Kannika phoned for pick up, they were in the midst of some terrible Thai TV game show where Nin proclaimed that she was smarter than him because she knew all the answers.

Kannika’s friends were a diverse group of women of various ages from early 20s to 50s, all seemingly curious to meet this farang babysitter. As he waited for Kannika to get ready, a couple of the younger ones flirted discretely with him, probably trying to match what they had been told to what they saw. When he looked over, he could see Kannika trying to suppress a laugh.

Back at the house, Kannika asked, “Jeremy, would you like to stay for a drink?”

He was surprised. Any lunches and dinners they had shared had been part of the job and never anything outside of the office. “Sure, as long as it’s not too alcoholic.” That had been another substantive change in his life. He was drinking much less. Couldn’t remember the last time he had been drunk.

“Please sit down and make yourself comfortable. I will put Nin to bed.”

When she returned, she had changed into something more comfortable, similar to the first time they had met, albeit updated to new and chic. As they sipped at their drinks, he could see her struggling to say something. As if she was embarrassed. He suspected it was personal and was puzzled. Their relationship had progressed to where he thought they could laugh or cry or argue about politics or friends and family or Thai language (which he had yet to master) or Nin. Morning and evening drives could be lively and enjoyable.

She did not look at him. “I think you understand why I took the job offer. I wanted a better future for Nin and perhaps selfishly for myself also.” She held up her hand to stop him replying. “You gave that to me with this job, and I think I only realized how much when you picked me up from my friends tonight. I do have a better life now. I think I have been spoilt. And thank you for looking after Nin as well. She told me you two had fun tonight.”

“Kannika, it’s been a pleasure working with you. I had few expectations before I hired you, but you’ve proven to be a great employee and indispensable to the company. I’ve watched you develop as a person, with more skills, more knowledge, more confidence. I think you can do anything, that the talent is in you. A rare trait amongst any of us.”

She flushed red and did not reply.

He continued. “Last week, I recommended to the company that you be kept on as administrator once the project is completed, and they have accepted the proposal. Essentially you would replace me and manage all the units. I know you can do it. I’ll be in Mae Hong Son for maybe another year so I’d suggest that you and I start working on a plan of action.”

Kannika’s mouth dropped open, before she gave him a wai. He held up his glass of beer, matched to her glass of wine, and said ‘cheers’.

“What happens to you when the project ends? Will you stay in Thailand?” she murmured.

“It’ll depend on my company but probably not. If I do well here, they’ll assign me another project. That could be anywhere in the world.” He watched her face change expression but could not guess at what she was thinking. Pensive? Sad? Something else?

 She hesitated for a few moments. “I heard something about you I wanted to ask about.”

The personal question she had been bursting to ask when she invited him in. Ominous.

“Some of the staff were saying that you have a reputation for the ladies. That you nearly lost your job with the company because of that.” She paused again, blushing. “I only learned this tonight from one of my friends. I am sorry. I think it is none of my business.”

He scrutinized her, no longer smiling. “You’re right, it’s none of your business. But because you and I spend so much time together you deserve an explanation. You need to trust me in all situations, especially when I’m around your daughter. It’s true. I had a reputation for being a lady’s man. The company didn’t like it and shipped me out here partly as punishment. Maybe they were right to do so, but I’ve never let that part of my life intrude into my work or hurt anyone because of my actions. And since being in Thailand, I haven’t been involved with anyone inside or outside the company.”

She seemed to relax into her chair, a stiffness in her neck and back no longer evident. “Thank you for telling me. I was not worried about my daughter. I know that you take good care of her. Both of us. I did not believe my friend when she told me because I have worked with you for many months and have never seen any of this. Perhaps you have changed?”

They sat in a comfortable silence for a few moments. “I’m certainly not the same person now compared to when I first arrived. And,” he added gallantly, “I have you as my work wife.” He laughed when he saw her quizzical look. “A work wife is someone you would work with closely at a company. Usually the two share chats and experiences and laughs and meals with the exception of sex. Essentially, she is the wife in the daytime.”

Kannika laughed in embarrassment, probably at his mention of sex. He had little clue about what she thought of him as a person and a boss, but he had spent some time thinking about her because he needed to understand the health and welfare of all members of his team. Tonight he was happy she had found casual time with friends. Nobody can be wrapped up in children and work at the pace of the past few months without some outlet. But her questions tonight made him wonder about any male relationships. He had never seen any sign of a man in her life, or had her mention anyone in casual conversation. Nin’s father didn’t seem to be in the picture.

When he looked up, he wondered if she was thinking along the same lines. Perhaps the comment about ‘work wife’ or about ‘sex’ had given her pause about their relationship. They had come a long way from the awkward first meetings. They smiled at each other, not saying anything more, knowing this was not the time for anything more than sharing a pleasant moment over a drink, not with a young girl sleeping only a few meters away. Or boss-employee relationship. But an unexpected step forward for him.

That first babysitting duty seemed to relax the two of them, to be repeated perhaps once a week with drinks and appetizers and laughter afterwards over the next few months. In his mind they were not a couple but the next best thing – colleagues and good friends at and away from work. He had thought Kannika a nice enough person with valuable English skills when they had first met. Now he better appreciated her calm and quiet Thai demeanour, her inner (and outer) beauty, her intelligence, and that something more that was difficult to define. What Kannika thought of him continued to be very much a mystery, although he occasionally caught her looking at him pensively. Was she thinking about his past? His current? His relationship with her daughter or herself? The company’s approval of her new role of heir-apparent? He couldn’t guess.

“Kannika, we have a serious problem at our site in Pai. We need to leave immediately, and we will be staying overnight. Do you have your bag here or do you need to go home? Okay, take the car and come back as soon as you can. Why don’t you pick up Nin from school at the same time. You’re welcome.”

In Thailand, crises are never solved by screaming or threats. The Thai don’t like either and will rebel quietly but effectively if someone tries, especially if the person is a farang. It took all of his skill, complemented by Kannika’s translation diplomacy, during meetings deep into the evening, to solve the problem. They celebrated success with a simple meal that included Nin, before heading off to our respective rooms for a much deserved sleep.

He was so exhausted that he didn’t hear Kannika knock on his door, but only woke up when she started shaking him. “Jeremy … Jeremy … Nin is really sick. I think we need to take her to the hospital. She is complaining about her stomach and is in a lot of pain. Please wake up!”

He could see Kannika leaning over him, one hand clutching the front of her nightdress, hair dishevelled, runnels of tears streaking her face. When he crawled out of bed clad only in a pair of boxer shorts her face flushed red with embarrassment before she spun around and sprinted back to her room.

When he reached Kannika’s room, he told her to get dressed while he looked at Nin. Nin was running a high fever and when he touched her where she indicated she moaned in pain. He guessed appendicitis. He had seen the same symptoms years ago with his younger brother.

He looked to Kannika. “Ready? We have to get to the hospital. Now. Do you know where it is? Okay, let me carry her to the car and you direct me.”

The staff at Pai Hospital were useless. Worse than useless. The one doctor on call was dealing with an emergency, had taken the only ambulance, and was not expected to finish for at least another couple of hours. The nurse’s best suggestion was to keep Nin calm and hope for the best. But her struggles were getting worse and they couldn’t wait for the hospital to get its act together.

“Kannika, tell the nurse to phone Mae Hong Son to be ready for Nin in less than 90 minutes. I am going to take her myself.” He could see Kannika saying something to the nurse, her face suffused with anger. He had never seen her like this before. As they walked quickly toward his car, Nin in his arms, he looked back at a nurse on the phone, gesturing frantically.

Pai to Mae Hong Son is roughly 100 kilometers. It is a bitch of a highway at the best of times – a series of slow curves relieved only occasionally with a few places where he could exceed the nominal speed limit of 80 km/hr. and would be that much more difficult now, in the middle of the night, although traffic would be light. Normal driving time was more than two hours. It was going to take all his skill to get to Mae Hong Son in 90 minutes, safely.

Each time he looked back, he could see Kannika sitting in the back, tears continuing to fall, holding onto Nin and mopping her brow or gently soothing her stomach. Occasionally, he would catch Kannika’s eye and give her a hopeful smile. He pulled into the hospital ground right on 86 minutes, the fastest trip he knew about, to be met by a stretcher and doctor for Nin.

Kannika threw herself at him, relieved and ecstatic simultaneously, before exclaiming, “Thank you, Jeremy,” and kissing him on the lips. “I want to ask you something …”

He was so exhausted he could no longer concentrate on the world near him, missed the significance of a first Kannika passionate kiss, and interrupted the implicit question buried in her words. “Kannika, I really need to get back to my apartment to catch a few hours sleep. I’ll come back later to check on you and Nin.”

Kannika’s eyes opened wide, her face went blank, now silent. Even in his exhausted state he saw a desperately dejected person, aside from Nin’s condition.

They agreed Kannika could keep the car, and he would walk home. Come back later. As he staggered out of the front entrance, she had already disappeared into the bowels of the hospital.

He didn’t find Kannika at the hospital or at home the next morning and received no answer to his text message or phone call. Nin was still in intensive care – doing well according to the nurses – and he was not allowed to see her. As he arrived at the office, he caught a glimpse of Kannika standing beside his car but before he could pay off the taxi driver she was already outside the front entrance, presumably having dropped off the car keys with the staff. As he was about to rush over to say good morning, a car with an unknown Thai male inside pulled up alongside her. The man jumped out and gave Kannika a quick hug, and both drove off together.

He had no idea what it meant.

Kannika called him a few minutes later, her voice cool, her words foreboding. “I am sorry, Jeremy, about not contacting you earlier. Nin had successful surgery and is doing well. She will probably remain in the hospital for a few more days. Thank you again for saving her life.” She paused for a few seconds – in the way he knew so well – to collect her thoughts. “I texted my ex- boyfriend to let him know about Nin, and he arrived early this morning to help. He wants to talk about things so I will not be back into the office until Monday. If anything changes I will let you know.” Kannika did not give him a chance to speak.

He continued to stare at his phone after she hung up. He hadn’t realized how much he would miss her – her sense of humour, calm attitude in the midst of chaos, even the way she spoke with her hands, and a sneaking suspicion of a personal interest – after just a few hours. Other than a few free weekends over the past year, they had been together very much along the lines of any other couple in a relationship – with the exception of the intimate. What was she doing right now? What did the appearance of the ex mean? Was she with him again? He had no claim on her in any form, professionally or personally, and no idea what it meant for her new role as administrator going forward. So many questions, so few answers, for him and for the office.

He wondered if the sideways glances from the staff should tell him something, if they knew more about what was happening.

Kannika was waiting for him in the car-park early Monday morning, looking serious. She asked him in a quiet voice, “Can we get away from here to talk?” They walked over to the field that bordered the offices, out of sight of the other workers, saying nothing, not touching.

She faced him. “I want to apologize, Jeremy, for going away for a few days. I needed to look after Nin and, for a moment at the hospital, I thought you were ignoring me when I desperately wanted to show my appreciation for saving her life. You disappeared and I was hurt … I needed to be away from the office to think things over, to arrange my thoughts. I …” She went silent.

“Is this about the man I saw with you at the office?”

She look momentarily discomfited. “I didn’t know you saw that. That was Nin’s father … my ex-boyfriend.” She looked down to her feet. “Jeremy, I never told you this before but I talk to my ex-boyfriend whenever Nin is involved. I texted him about her operation, and he decided to come up from Chiang Mai.” She held up her hand to forestall his questions. “It was his decision, not mine. I decided to spend some days with him to resolve some issues.”

She put her small hand into his. “I think after this year that I can read you a little now, Jeremy. It is not what you think. He and I are not involved in any way. Pon is married with another daughter but he is also Nin’s father. He worries about her care and has offered to take her into his home many times. But I realize now that I have the confidence to not only look after myself but to look after Nin as well.”

She continued, “And I have you to thank for that. I wanted to tell you something at the hospital before you disappeared but I am glad that I did not have a chance then because I needed to work out in my head some feelings. And seeing Pon brought back memories of those needs.” She took his other hand. “Jeremy, please let me finish speaking because this is difficult for me. Being around him reminded me of the good times before Nin was born, but they also reminded me that Pon is the past and not the future. I know now what I want after what has happened the past year, and especially the past week. And I needed to give you a chance to resolve your own thoughts about Thailand and about me.” She looked up at him expectantly.

He was surprised at her candour given she was Thai, but not stunned by her admission. “Kannika, when I came to Mae Hong Son I didn’t know what I would find with the Thai and what it would mean for me. But I’ve come to appreciate your world and thank it for teaching me patience and peace and love. But most of my appreciation goes to you for moulding me into a better person. You and Nin – she the precious daughter I never had, you that special woman in so many ways – directed me, helped me. Lately, I had thought about where I was going but too many things seemed to be happening too quickly lately. I didn’t like not having you around for the last few days but I also needed some space to think. And decide.”

“What did you decide?”

 He smiled. “You asked me once what would I do once the project here was complete. This might explain things.” He handed over a sheath of papers, the company letterhead prominent at the top of each page. As Kannika began to read, he explained, “A month ago I asked my company where next and if there was a possibility I could remain in Thailand or nearby. It turns out that they were thinking about setting up a subsidiary in South-East Asia, based in Mae Hong Son, and would I be interested.”

He continued. “I said I would accept the position if you were part of the package.”

“Do you love me? Do you love Nin?”

“Yes.”

“Prove it.”

He smiled to himself and reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a small box. “Would this be sufficient proof?” Kannika covered her face with her hands as she realized what was about to happen.

“Kannika Sribhanasakulchai, will you marry me?”

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