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Prija from Chapter One of the novel                    Sea of Sorrows

We talked about Bangkok, Thailand in the old days when it was called Siam, and the shipping business she was involved in. 

The crowds thinned out after 4 a.m.

“I must go now, so—” I was interrupted.

“What are you doing with him?”

She came from behind, startling me. I spilled the last of my drink in my lap.

 “He was—”

She grabbed Siskit’s arm, turning it for a look at the purple bruise. “He did this to you?” She spoke in Thai, almost shouting.

“Prija, he—”

“You stupid fucking American old geezer!” she shouted in English. “You think you just can come to our home country, hurt our girls, then buy them coffee and shit to make better?”

Thinking she was about to come at me, I stood and backed away.

Siskit caught her wrist, holding her back. “Stop it, Prija. He didn’t do it.” They both spoke in Thai.

“Who, then?” She glared at me. “If not this American old bastard.”

Siskit told her about the men who’d tried to drag her away.

Prija narrowed her eyes on me as her sister told the story. Her face softened a little, but not much. Her eyes, like glowing dark embers, started to cool.

Prija was a very pretty brunette with a shapely, petit figure accentuated by her tight tan skirt. Without the scowl, her face was more pubescent than the countenance of a young woman.

 

Siskit stood and reached for my hand. “I thank you for that you did. Them mens would want to hurt me so much.”

“Yeah.” Prija flipped her hair back over her shoulder. “Thanks. Sit now.” She took the other chair next to Siskit.

“It was only four men.” I spoke in their language, smiling at Siskit. “Not six. And just one gun.” I sat and watched Prija’s face.

It took her a moment to respond. “You call that Thai?”

“You speak our language so well,” Siskit said. “Where did you learn?”

“Here.” I nodded toward the street, where the daytime vendors were beginning to filter in. “In Ladprao.”

“Do you live here?”

“No. I’m just a visiting American old bastard.”

“You came to find nice young girl,” Prija said, “to have fucking fun time you can’t get in your own fucking country.” Her eyes flared, ready to burn if I got too close.

I stood and shoved my chair back, then took money from my pocket, peeled off some 100-baht bills, and dropped them on the table.

Ratri swasdi, Siskit (Goodnight).”

“That’s too much for two teas,” Prija said in Thai. “You have change coming.”

“Keep it.” I stared at her for a moment, then turned to leave. “You need it more than I do.”

I smiled as I walked away.