First Chapter preview




Bangkok. The largest city of Thailand: a place where many millions of people live, work, and play. Amongst all of those people was a certain one and, as he did most mornings those days, he rushed out of the house while saying goodbye to his mother. The act of scrambling to grab his briefcase and put on his shoes almost caused him to run into the door before he had the chance to open it.

“The door!” his mom warned him.

Raeng turned the knob and swung the door open just in time for his momentum to carry him outside.

“Thank you,” Raeng said.

She heard those words fade while the door closed behind him. Such a good boy, she thought. He always stopped by and helped out every morning before he went to work. She really appreciated the fact that he had been coming to her house for the last year to take care of her before her caregiver arrived.

That typically hot and humid morning, with the sun beating down and no clouds in sight, was just like all of the rest except this time he was later than usual for work. Bright and early he made the trip from his house to see to it that his mom was doing well and taken care of. He felt that the night was too long for her to be alone, but they could not afford twenty-four hour care for her. He did the best he could. She was at an age where it was hard for her to get around and do life’s daily chores. She took care of him growing up and it was now his turn to take care of her. This made for even more chores that he had to finish before he started his workday at the office.

Lately he noticed that as time went by her condition got worse. Day after day it seemed like everything hurt her and kept her in a weakened state. And that bothered her, for she wanted her son to have his own life and not have to be burdened with her problems all of the time. She insisted that he should not worry about helping her so much, but he was a very good son and it did no good to try and persuade him to stop. He would do anything for his mom.

Who was that model citizen? He went by the nickname of Raeng, and his last name was Keunmai. It seems that every Thai person has a nickname and he was no different. When he was born his father decided the name was perfect for him, since he had so much energy. And the name proved to be fitting, for as he grew up, he always displayed much energy in everything he did. Raeng was an average Thai man. He was thirty-two, single, and had been at the same job for many years. He owned his own house and lived alone. A few years ago his father died and he was an only child growing up. His parents raised him well, raised him to be good mannered and always polite. He would do anything to help out others without expecting something in return.

With his father gone there was no one else to take care of his mom. Her name was Sahlee, and even though she was elderly she was still sharp as a tack. His mom had a quick-witted mind and would always speak her peace without a second thought. And, of course, as she got older she cared less and less about what a person thought about her. But for the last year or so she had had many complications that forced her to be mostly house-ridden. She hated that, and everyone knew it since she was not one to pretend to like sitting around all day. She was once a very mobile woman and always took care of herself. But with the sickness she had she could barely walk on certain days. So it was her only child, Raeng, to the rescue.

“That’s the last of the morning chores,” Raeng said. “Is there anything else you need before I go?”

“You have done way too much already,” Sahlee replied and then looked at the clock. “Oh. Look at the time. I’ve made you very late again.”

“Don’t worry Mom, you know you come first,” Raeng said and afterwards gave her a smile. “But you’re right, I am late.” He quickly looked over at the clock. “Very late!” He rushed over to his mom to give her a hug and kiss goodbye.

“Hurry up now,” Sahlee said. “But be careful.”

He dashed to the door and turned to take one last look at his mom. “I will,” Raeng said.

He put his hands together, fingers pointing up with palms together, and bowed his head with his hands in front of his face. This was the traditional way of greeting and saying goodbye with the words “Sawasdee krup.”

The mad dash began. As Raeng rushed outside he heard the bus in the distance and he stumbled through the small front yard to the gate and fence that protected his mom’s row house. With his briefcase in both hands, he stretched it out in front of him, pushed the gate open and burst through to the street. He quickly looked both ways for oncoming cars. The coast was clear. Good, because he ran like crazy for the bus stop that was located down and around the next corner.

Many cars were parked along the sides of the soi (alley), making it barely possible for even the smallest car to drive down. As he rounded the corner he saw the bus take off with a cloud of black smoke spewing from its back exhaust pipe.

“Stop! Please stop!” Raeng yelled while trying to pick up speed in a desperate attempt to catch the bus that continued to go.

That, of course, was not the first time he missed the bus. He stood there in the middle of the soi and looked in desperation at the bus while it turned a corner and drove out of view. It had become a regular event and so he learned to find other routes to the many stops the bus would make in the area.

No time to be looking pitiful in the middle of the street, he had to hightail it to the next stop. He would cut it close, but it was possible to take somewhat of a shortcut and get there before the bus left again. He turned around and sprinted down the next soi for a few blocks. Then he turned left at the next intersection, past a small food stand that had been open all night.

The owner of the food stand watched Raeng run by. Raeng looked ahead and saw his next turn, which would put the bus in view. He could barely hear it at that moment and, not knowing if it was stopped or not, he tried to listen carefully during his all-out sprint. Either way, with the next right turn he should catch it no problem. But he forgot what day it was. He was more worried about catching the bus than anything else and when he rounded the corner he almost ran into the front grill of the garbage truck that blocked the entire soi.

“Tuesday!” Raeng said as he skid to a stop. “Why does today have to be trash day?”

He tried to see if there was a way around the metal monster. To the left was a long wall and to the right were parked cars. Raeng rushed to both sides to see if there might be a way around. The only way was to run over the top of the cars, but he would never do that. So, with no way forward, he looked over the cars and saw the bus drive away. Not to worry though, this happened every Tuesday. He tapped his chin and then his eyes lit up as he thought, I have one more chance to catch the bus at the next stop. Again he turned around and ran. He had to backtrack a couple of blocks to make his plan work. He passed the food stand again and the owner looked at him in wonderment.

“Every Tuesday, just like clockwork,” the food stand owner said to himself. And after Raeng ran by he went back to his business.

Raeng raced down the soi at the speed of light, or so it seemed. He really felt like he would make it that time. A few more blocks here, a few more turns there and then, to his amazement, the bus was in view and it had just stopped at the end of the block where many people waited. It was a miracle in the making for him.

Raeng didn’t want to take any chances so he ran as hard as he could. He reached into his pocket with his right hand to pull out the baht (Thai money) and have it ready for boarding. He didn’t want to waste any time and mess up his chance of catching the bus at this particular stop. The bus door opened and Raeng yelled, “Wait!”

His fingers grasped the baht and he quickly pulled his hand out of the pocket. This caused him to stumble while trying to do too many things at once. His right hand opened as he threw it forward to catch his balance and the baht flew into the air. With astonishment in his eyes, Raeng watched the bill slowly sail to the ground.

“No!” Raeng said in disgust while he ran past the falling baht. He came to a sudden stop. “Hold on a second!” he yelled to the bus.

Raeng ran back a few steps and bent over to pick up the baht while trying to keep an eye on the bus. He watched the people get on board.

“Wait!” Raeng yelled to get the bus driver’s attention.

He stood up and watched the last person step through the door as it closed behind her. The bus spewed more thick black exhaust and went into motion.

If only he had more baht with him, then he could have kept going and left the dropped baht on the pavement. If that were the case he would now be on the bus. But that was not his life. He stood defeated in the middle of the street and tried to catch his breath.

It was time to worry, for this had never happened before. He always made it to this one and was never this late. With frustration he looked at the baht in his hand, crumpled it up and stuffed it into his pocket. He bowed his head and began his long walk to work.

Raeng was late for work again. He walked into the insurance office and saw his fellow employees quietly working at their desks. What made this day seem out of place was that many of them were packing their personal belongings into boxes. And many of them were missing, as if they had not yet come into work today.

As Raeng stepped through the entrance one of his coworkers walked by and said to him, “Glad you could finally make it.”

“Ha! Ha! Very funny,” Raeng replied in a sarcastic manner.

It being a small company, everyone knew each other. There was sort of a close bond between them all, so jokes like that were a common thing and no one really took offense at them.

Just in front of the entrance was the receptionist desk and as usual, Dottie sat there with hardly anything to do but greet everyone who came in. She was barely out of high school and worked the job so she could afford to take night classes at a community college. Only problem was that she treated the job like she didn’t care if she lost it or not. She would always show up when she felt like it and did not give any notice for when she would be absent. The boss didn’t care either, because he really didn’t have much for her to do and she came at a cheap rate.

Dottie flipped through one of her fashion magazines and then looked up at Raeng. “Morning, ah, is it still morning?” She looked down at her watch then back at him. “Anyway, Mr. Tyrant wants to see you.”

“Okay,” Raeng said. He continued to walk to his desk. He figured he would put his briefcase away first.

I wouldn’t bother going to your desk if I were you,” Dottie said and pointed towards the boss’s door. Raeng stopped and turned towards her with a questioning look on his face. “He wants to see you right away, as in right now!”

This doesn’t look good, Raeng thought. He got a very bad feeling that made his stomach go queasy. He looked at Dottie and paused.

Then off to the right side the boss stuck his head out of the office door and looked around to make sure everyone that was still employed with the company was working. He saw everyone abiding by his rule of always keeping busy, and that made him somewhat happy. Then he saw Raeng just standing there, which did not make him happy.

“Raeng! Get in my office, now!” Mr. Tyrant yelled.

This startled Raeng and he quickly looked over to his boss’s direction.

“Well!” Mr. Tyrant said to Raeng. He looked out at the employees to make sure the commotion had not distracted anyone, and it had not, so his head disappeared through the doorway back into his office.

Raeng walked to Mr. Tyrant’s room and when he got to the door Dottie said smug like, “Told you so.”

Raeng looked back at her unhappily for he knew what was about to happen was not going to be good. He then opened the door and walked in. He was ready to face his dismal fate.

Raeng entered the boss’s chamber, which was an average room with nothing fancy. In fact, there was nothing fancy in the entire company office. Maybe he did it so his room and the office would match. Who knows? This made his employees wonder what he did with all of his baht because he sure didn’t spend it towards the company very often. Best example—his idea of taking everyone out to lunch was forgetting to bring his wallet and making his employees chip in and pay for him. In the room there was his desk, a couple of chairs, some filing cabinets, and a small table up against the wall.

Mr. Tyrant sat at his desk. “Close the door, but don’t slam it,” he said.

Raeng obeyed the boss’s orders and gently closes the door behind him. Oh, he was not looking forward to this. He looked out at his coworkers before the door was fully closed. He greatly wished he could have been out there with them instead of in the executioner’s chamber, because behind him at the desk was his boss, who still waited.

Boy was Mr. Tyrant a piece of work. He meant well by employing all of those people but had a very hard time showing it. He talked down to everyone as if they were children. Maybe it was because he didn’t have any children of his own and that was his way of making his employees a part of his family. Either way, none of the employees like it, but they were all too afraid to say anything that would lead to them losing their jobs.

Raeng turned to face his destiny. With his courage up, he walked over to the center of the room and could feel a slight breeze from the slow turning ceiling fan. A chill slowly ran down his spine.

“Have a seat,” Mr. Tyrant said and he motioned to one of the chairs on the other side of the desk.

Raeng, thinking everything might be okay, pulled the chair out and started to sit down.

Then, as if he had changed his mind, his boss said, “Oh, don’t bother, you’re not going to be here for very long.”

Just when you put your guard down Mr. Tyrant comes back with something to belittle you with. That was always the case, and Raeng should have known better.

Raeng asked in puzzlement, “Sir?”

“No sense in you sitting down,” Mr. Tyrant replied. “This will only take a minute.” He looked up at Raeng. “In fact, maybe I should stand.” He thought about it for a second, and then as if it was a great idea, he said, “I think I will.”

Raeng slowly pushed the chair in and took a step back while the tyrant stood up and began to pace back and forth behind his desk. With each pace he glanced over at Raeng and eyed him for a second. This went on for a few paces but in Raeng’s mind it seemed like more. First he brings you down, then he makes you wait, causing your mind to play tricks on you. Mr. Tyrant stopped and looked at Raeng.

Do you know why you’re here?” Mr. Tyrant said and began to pace again.

Raeng wasn’t sure why, but he figured it was because he was very late. He began to apologize, “Yes, I was late again. But I assure you it will not happen again. I’m very sorry, sir.”

Mr. Tyrant stopped pacing and looked at Raeng. “Hmmm,” he muttered.

This made Raeng even more nervous. Mr. Tyrant began to pace once more. “What do you think makes this company work?” he asked.

Raeng searched his mind for the answer but could not find one. That was okay because his boss didn’t really expect an answer.

Mr. Tyrant got tired of waiting. He continued, “Don’t know, eh? Well, I’ll tell you. Pride and responsibility.” He looked at Raeng and stopped pacing. “Do you have those qualities?”

Raeng didn’t say anything.

Mr. Tyrant stepped over to a table where glasses and a pitcher of ice water sat. He poured some water into a glass. “Thirsty?” he asked.

Raeng figured he had been quiet too long. “Well, I, ah—” he started to say and then was interrupted by his boss.

“Well I sure am, especially since I have been doing all of the talking,” Mr. Tyrant said. He looked at the water in the glass. “As a matter of fact, the rest of the company should also, since they have been doing all of the work.” He took a swallow of water. “Ahhh, that is good.” He put the glass down. “Now where was I? Pride, yes, yes, and responsibility. You know what those words mean?”

That was another thing Mr. Tyrant always did, ask you a question and not give you any time to answer as he continued to talk in the same breath. “Long story short, my friend, the people who are packing up and the ones who have already wandered out of here sure wish they possessed them.”

He looked at Raeng and shook his head. He walked over to the window where he looked out to the city and continued with his speech. “You see, without every one of my employees having these qualities it is hard to compete. And if we cannot compete, we lose business; we lose business, we lose baht; we lose baht we lose—and that’s where you come in.” He turned to point at Raeng. “I’m sort of like a parent and you are my children.”

I knew it! Raeng thought. He does think we are his family.

Mr. Tyrant paced back and forth behind his desk again. “Remember when you were young and you wondered how your parents knew about every little thing that you did? Say you were in the next room, and even though they could not see you they still knew what you were up to. I know everything you do, from the time you wake up in the morning until the time you go back to sleep. Oh yes, I know.”

He walked across the room to the door and Raeng slowly spun around so he was always facing his boss.

“It is well known that for the last three weeks you have been coming in later and later,” Mr. Tyrant said. “And that, my son, is a lack of responsibility. Your responsibility is to get here on time like the rest of them.” He opened the door and pointed out towards his employees in a sweeping motion. He looked out again to make sure everyone was working. Everyone was busy as usual, so he closed the door. “Am I forgetting something?” He looked up at the ceiling, thought for a moment and then looked at Raeng. “Pride! Taking pride in your job and doing it correctly, so you will not lose it, which is the real reason why we are talking today.”

Mr. Tyrant walked over to the side of Raeng and put his arm around Raeng’s shoulder. Raeng flinched. He then went into a frozen state and hoped his boss didn’t notice him trembling.

Mr. Tyrant explained, “Times are tough, my friend. Business is becoming scarce and the competition is killing us. So I have to make some cuts and I have to evaluate each of you. And at this time you are not showing the qualities I am looking for.” Mr. Tyrant patted Raeng on the shoulder. “Sorry to do this to you kid, but as of now I have to let you go.”

“I understand, it’s business,” Raeng responded with sorrow.

“Business?” Mr. Tyrant said in disbelief. “Haven’t you been listening to a thing I’ve—Awww, go on, get out of here you knucklehead.” He put his hand on Raeng’s head and messed up his hair. “It’s been nice having you around, wish things could be different,” he said while putting out his hand, and then they shook.

The whole time Raeng was puzzled by this. “Me too,” he said.

“Stop at the receptionist and she’ll give you your pay,” Mr. Tyrant said. He turned and went over to the window. Raeng fixed his hair and walked out the door. “We’ll miss you,” his boss added in a low voice.

Should I feel glad or be sad? Raeng wondered.

Glad to finally be out of the same room as that man but very sad to have lost his job. As he walked past the receptionist’s desk Dottie handed him an empty box to put his personal belongings in.

Raeng grabbed the box. “He said you have my pay.”

Dottie turned her attention to the fashion magazine and flipped through the pages. “Look in the box,” she said.

Raeng looked into the box and saw an envelope with his last paycheck inside. He thanked Dottie. From there he made the long painful walk to his desk, where he would see it for the last time. He saw his fellow coworkers busily doing their jobs, which took on a whole new meaning as he moved slowly past many of them. It was as if he had become numb to seeing the same thing day after day. What he hadn’t noticed before, he then noticed in great detail. Like the little knickknacks some had on their desks or the articles of clothing each and every one of them were dressed in. Some of them, when he walked by, looked up and gave him a smile. Then they either wished him luck or said they were sorry to lose him.

He arrived at his desk. The fact that he had just lost his job hit him and he wondered what he would have to do next.

“The damage is done, nothing left to do but move on,” Raeng said.

He put his personal stuff in the box. He didn’t really have too much there, so the one box was more than enough.

While going through one of the desk drawers he overheard Mr. Tyrant call out, “Dottie, get in here! And bring something to write on, and with!” Raeng looked in her direction and saw Dottie slide back in her chair.

“Coming right away,” Dottie said.

She scrambled to his office, but turned back and grabbed the pen that she forgot from the front desk. From inside the boss’s office she and the entire office heard, “I’m waiting!” Dottie rushed into the room and closed the door behind her.

As he went back to packing his stuff, Raeng noticed an envelope in one of the drawers. He opened it up and pulled out a card that was signed by most of the people who still had their jobs and a few who didn’t. Raeng read the good luck card and all of the special messages that everyone had written on the inside. He smiled while reading them and his smile got bigger and bigger with each message he finished. He looked up to those in the office and told them thank you. In return most of them siad, “Your welcome,” and wished him the best. He told them he would be fine and that they will all be missed.

Even though Raeng had just lost his job, he felt good inside. It made him feel special that everyone did that for him. Just moments before his feelings were down, but now, because of this, his spirits were up. As he put more of his stuff in the box some of his coworkers walked up and personally shared their feelings with a shake of the hand or a pat on the back. With these interruptions it took Raeng longer than expected to pack up his things. He didn’t mind though, he wasn’t in any rush to leave just yet, because it wasn’t his decision to have to leave his friends and work after so many years.

In the midst of his packing he heard the door open and close and saw Dottie scurry back to her desk. He really didn’t know what to think of that girl. Maybe she was always short with him because of their age difference. They were probably at least twenty years apart, he would have guessed. But he didn’t understand why she pushed him away when he tried to be nice and get to know her.

After he put the last of his stuff into the box he slid his chair in and looked around to everyone. He said goodbye and waved his right hand while holding the box with his left. In return they all said goodbye and told him to take care. With the box in both hands he walked towards the elevator. Then unexpectedly, Dottie rushed out from behind her desk and stopped in front of him. This caused Raeng to step back and try to figure out what was going on. He could see, though, that she was shy in what she wanted to do as she stood there with her head bowed down.

“Raeng, I’ve always liked you the best,” Dottie said in a quiet voice.

To his surprise, she moved in closer to him and hugged him around the box and his body. Not sure of what to do, he checked to see if anyone was watching, but he didn’t see anyone looking over at him.

After a moment of the embrace Dottie said, “I’m going to miss you.”

He would have hugged her back if he could have, but he held the box and was in a state of shock that would not wear off until she let go of him. All along he thought that she didn’t like him, but in the end it seemed it was just her way.

“Thank you,” Raeng said. “I will miss you also.”

She let go and stepped back to where she could see Raeng smiling at her. This made her happy and she smiled back in return.

With one hand free Raeng pushed the elevator button and waited for the door to open. He looked back in Dottie’s direction and watched her walk over to her desk. Ding! The elevator chimed and the floor number lit up as the doors opened. There was no one inside so he walked in and pressed the lobby floor button. While waiting for the door to close, he saw Dottie sit down. She looked up at him. With a couple of his fingers free he waved goodbye. She noticed it and waved back just before the doors closed.

Now that made his day—never in a hundred years did he think that would ever happen with her. It made him wonder, if he was her favorite, how did she treat everyone else in the office? Or was it because, since she liked him, she was mean and distant, in a way similar to when children hit the person they like to put up a guard and not let their real feelings be known. Now he felt that she was another friend he could add to his list. There was an instant trust he just developed with her. To him that was a big deal, because friendship was something he did not take for granted.

Ding! That time he was a bit startled by the sudden sound since he was in such deep thought about the morning’s events. The doors opened and he walked into the lobby past a few people waiting to get on the elevator. He carried his box and exited the building out to the hot humid air. Then he made his way to the bus stop where many people stood waiting.

Raeng stopped amongst them and set the box on the ground. He checked his watch and saw that it would be many minutes before the bus arrived—and that was if it was on time, which was rare. It figured, when he was ready for the bus it would show up late, but if he was not there then it would be on time. The extreme heat caused him to sweat, so he reached into his back pocket, pulled out a handkerchief, and wiped his forehead.

“Why stand here and wait for a bus that may never show up?” Raeng asked himself quietly.

The bus never waited for him, so he decided he was not going to wait for it. Raeng put the handkerchief back into his pocket, picked up his box, and started for home. As Raeng left, some of the people in the area looked at him and wondered why he did not wait for the bus.

It was early afternoon and the sun was at its highest, making it the hottest part of the day. Could his day get any more imperfect? Raeng quickly found out that it could. He had such a long walk home while carrying the heavy box that it made the trip that much more unbearable. There were not too many shadows to walk in where it might have been a bit cooler. No, that was not his kind of luck that day.

During the last part of his trip home through the heat, struggling to keep the box in his hands, he thought about what just happened that morning. He lost his job. How was he going to provide for himself and for his mother? Should he tell her? Maybe he could wait awhile and see if he got a new job. But what if he didn’t tell her and he wasn’t able to find a new job and the baht ran out? His mom counted on him and never before had he let her down. Who was he kidding? He could never hide it from her. With his mind made up, he continued to walk in the direction of his mom’s house. How do I tell her? he wondered. He went over the situation and the many different ways of breaking the bad news to her.

Raeng stopped for a second to put the box down and to wipe away the sweat that dripped down his face. He looked out into the distance and noticed that he was only a few blocks away from the row house. Checking his watch again, he saw that it had been a couple of hours since he left the office.

“Where did the time go?” Raeng said to himself.

He had to think fast of what he would tell her. Raeng picked up his box and marched on. But before he knew it he was at the front gate. He opened it up with one hand and balanced the box on his knee with the other. As a matter of fact, he had been in such deep thought that he could not remember anything about walking there.

Time to go in. First he thought about leaving his box outside so as not to startle his mom, but afterwards he decided that he should take it in, that way she would ask about it and he would have no choice but to spill the beans.

He entered the house and shouted, “Mom, it’s me. I’m home early.” He did this while opening the front door to warn her that he was coming in and not some stranger. Raeng figured this was the proper thing to do since she did not expect him to be back so soon.

He closed the door behind him and turned to see his mom sitting in the front room in her chair with a bright happy smile. The light shined through from the front windows and lit up the room. Raeng stood in front of the door with his box of belongings. Sahlee noticed that he did not look all that good. His hair was messed up and he wore a shirt half soaked from the sweat he produced on the hot walk home. Sahlee was happy to see him but she was also very curious as to why her son was home early and looked the way he did.

Sahlee put the book down in her lap. “Sawasdee ka,” (which is hello for females), “it is good to see you, but why are you home so early?”

The smile faded away and he looked down to the box. He thought he was prepared for it, but he was not. He didn’t know if he ever would be. How many times did he work the conversation out in his mind? He thought he had a plan, but then the situation was real and he stood in front of her. He didn’t say anything and his mom sensed that something was wrong with her son as he held his box.

“Is everything okay?” Sahlee asked. “Why do you hold your office stuff with you?”

Busted! Or so it felt, like when he was a child and was caught doing something bad. He shook his head and did not look up at her.

“It’s okay, you can tell me,” Sahlee said, trying to sooth his worries. “Whatever it is we will work it out.”

Raeng took a deep breath, raised his head to look at her, and said, “I lost my job today. I am so sorry to have to tell you this.”

“There, there, son,” Sahlee said. “We have been through much worse and we have always been able to get by. We are still doing well. Look at a few years back when your father died. Those were hard times, but we made it through.”

“Yes,” Raeng replied, “but you were not sick and didn’t need caring for.”

“You are right,” Sahlee said. “But your father cannot be brought back. As for your job, you will find a new one. I know you will.”

“I worry it might not be that easy,” Raeng said. “The economy is bad and many people besides me are loosing their jobs everyday. We may run out of baht before I am able to find anything.”

“We will think of something,” Sahlee said. “It is only the first day. We have some time and we will do whatever it takes to save baht.”

He knew she was right and that he had to stop feeling sorry for himself. “I know,” he said. “Tomorrow I will start to look for a new job.”

Sahlee smiled again. “That’s my boy,” she said. “I have faith in you. You know, you have always been a good provider and will continue to do so.”

Raeng placed the box down. “Thank you for being so understanding,” he said. “First I am going to get a drink of water. Then I will go upstairs and get to work, looking for work.”

“Good for you,” Sahlee said.

Raeng walked into the kitchen and got a drink of water. Drinking the cold liquid felt and tasted so good after being in the extreme heat for so long. After gulping that one down he poured another glass to take upstairs. He went to the front room.

“I’ll be back down in a bit to check on you,” Raeng said.

“I won’t be going anywhere,” Sahlee said with a smile, and she continued to read her book.

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