It was a Tuesday. King hated Tuesdays. Tuesday was the one day a week that the alarm was set in his condo. Not his alarm. His alarm.
King rolled over in bed and grabbed the other pillow. It was cool on his face. That’s how long ago Ram had woken up and left the condo. There wasn’t even the lingering warmth of the other man’s body for King to snuggle in.
King hated Tuesdays. Tuesdays were when Ram left to volunteer at an animal shelter not far from campus. He wasn’t really sure what he did there, but whenever Ram returned home, he went straight to take a shower before King was allowed to hug him.
King rolled back to his nightstand and refreshed his SMS. No reply. He’d asked Ram what he wanted for dinner three hours ago and still hadn’t received a response.
For lunch, King took his nephews to meet with Bohn and Ben for ice cream at the mall. They watched from a nearby bench as Kew and Kram took Ben through the children’s play area in the middle of the open-air courtyard. It was a good way to get through the sugar rush for the younger kids. Duen and his little sister met them just after noon and Daoheni ran happily to play with her friends.
“Bohn. P’King. How long have you been waiting?” Duen asked. Shyly, the other man allowed Bohn to grab his hand.
“Too long,” Bohn insisted as he hugged Duen’s arm with his free hand.
King hated malls unless he was on a mission to buy something. Anything longer than an hour wore on him and he needed to seek out a bit of greenery to recharge. He usually took over the bench near the golden shower tree whenever his friends or family dragged him here. But now he hated it more when he was forced to watch his best friend cuddle his boyfriend in front of him and Ram wasn’t here at all to suffer with him.
“P’King, what flavor are you having?” Duen asked when he joined him on the bench. He had sent Bohn on an errand to buy ingredients like a good boyfriend.
“Spumoni. I used to eat it with my grandma.” King spun his spoon around in the pink and green swirls. “You?”
“I ordered cherry nut, but Bohn already ate half of it,” he complained. He flashed a dirty look at his boyfriend who gave him a cheeky grin before walking into the store across the way.
Ugh. King couldn’t believe how cheesy his best friend had become since dating Duen. It was great that they were over their fight, and he was happy for him, but Bohn was seriously putting off waves of cringe the past few months.
Of course, it didn’t help that he missed Ram while he watched these two be lovey-dovey.
“Hey, P’King.” Duen’s voice startled him out of his reverie.
“Thanks for bringing them to play with Ben.” Duen pointed over at Kew and Kram with his chin. The boys were helping Ben ride on one of those mechanical horses while Daoheni pretended to steer a Jeep.
“They play together all the time,” King said in confusion. “Ever since Bohn’s sister moved back.”
“I know. Bohn told me. But my sister’s teacher said none of the other children will play with him and Kew and Kram are older and at another school.” Duen went on to say, “At least his classmates don’t bully him as the other kids did with Ram, but being an outcast is still hard.”
King turned sharply to stare at Duen but didn’t want to say anything in case he stopped talking. He took a big spoonful of the spumoni and nodded like he knew what Duen was talking about. Please keep talking.
“It was easier for Ruj since he was born here, but Ram, well...his Thai wasn’t that great at first,” Duen continued.
King’s mind raced as he tried to think of something that would help Duen keep talking about this and threw out the first words that came to mind. “It’s good that he met you when he did.” He had absolutely no fucking idea when they met. Ram never spoke about his past.
“Hmmm,” Duen nodded as he watched the kids start to play some random game of tag. It seemed to have everyone and no one “it” at the same time.
King turned his attention back to the kids. Ben shyly ran around after Kew and Kram, smiling, laughing - and not talking. Was this how Ram was when he was little? Is this why Ram is so quiet?
Another boy ran over to the play area and tried to interrupt their game, shoving Daoheni out of the way. Duen lurched to his feet when he saw that but paused when he saw little Ben rush the strange boy and push him to the ground. Duen sat back down and nervously watched the kids work it all out. There were a couple of tears and the other boy’s father rushed over to drag him out of the play area with an apologetic nod.
King nodded his head towards the children. “You okay with that?”
Little Ben was patting Daoheni’s shoulder while giving her a hug. “It’s okay, honey,” Ben said in a small voice. Bohn had told King that the two kids liked to play family.
Duen’s lips tighten into a thin line. “I don’t have to like it, but I think my sister has a bodyguard for life.”
King looked down into his sundae cup at the melted ice cream and hazarded a guess. “Just like you with Ram?”
He remembered the night that Ram and Bohn ‘fought’ for Bohn’s right to date Duen. It was completely and utterly ridiculous and the most hilarious thing he’d ever witnessed. That night was also the first time he got a good look at some of the other tattoos on Ram’s body. He was so handsome, he’d never seen a man look so beautiful before.
What really stood out to King from that night though was the intensity in Ram’s voice when he said If you ever hurt my friend, I will kill you. Ooof. That level of loyalty was hot.
Obviously King had grown close with Ram over the past few months but the friendship he had with Duen was very strong. King found himself feeling both jealous of their bond and relieved that Ram had such supportive friends at the same time.
When he got home from the mall, the dogs began scratching at the door in the extra room. King cracked the door and three huge wet noses pressed into the opening. He let it fly open and he backed against the wall and let them escape into the rest of the condo. They quickly sniffed around and discovered their favorite person wasn’t home with King. The biggest dog took over the sofa and rested his muzzle on his paws with a big sigh. Yeah, he felt the same way when Ram wasn’t home.
It was almost dinner time when Ram came home from the animal shelter. King didn’t even let him hang up his bag before wrapping him in his arms and resting his chin on one shoulder. Ram returned the hug one-armed while he used his other hand to pet the dogs that pushed around King to say hello.
“Come on, I need a shower before we eat,” Ram complained as he tried to push back from the hug.
King made a show of sniffing loudly in Ram’s shirt. The sour smell of dog slobber and stale piss seemed to have soaked into his clothes. King leaned back and looked Ram in the eyes and gave him a quick peck on the lips.
“You should walk your dogs first,” King suggested. “They’ve been waiting for you.”
A dog never bullied a kid for having a funny accent.