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First pages

Part 1

The Arrival – Bangkok, Thailand

The tuk tuk driver, undeterred by the maze of endless traffic, swerved in and out of cars, not noticing his passengers gripping their seats in fear. They whipped through the frenzy of Bangkok, stunned by the compact density of the streets. Edie and Coco tried to sort out their culture shock while coming to the revelation they had never seen anything like Bangkok.

After taking one quick glance at their room, they decided to splurge on the Bangkok Inn where a possibility of clean sheets existed. Neither one wanted to stay with the granola types crawling Koh San Rd. The Inn, tucked away from the busy street, exuded charm and opulence. Only once secured in the Jasmine Room, surrounded by tropical plants and bamboo dividers, did Edie finally allow herself to celebrate.

They showered and changed, determined to experience more of Bangkok in the remaining daylight. Edie stepped outside into the humidity and a middle-aged woman, pulling a cart piled high with steaming noodles, accosted her.

“Sawadeeka. Sawadeeka. Lady you want to buy,” she said. Her sun-browned face gazed at her from under a large straw hat.

Edie overcome by the heat, the smells, and the mad rush of cars and scooters, waved off the woman. She had the sensation of being trapped in a glass jar. They had officially arrived in the mess of Thai time and neither one of them fathomed where to begin.

“Where should we go?” Coco asked.

“ATM, then beer.”

“Are they driving on the wrong side of the road?”

“I think so. But, are they allowed to drive on the sidewalk?”

They headed down Koh San Rd., towards an ATM sign at the end of the street. In the short block, a Tuk Tuk driver hounded them to purchase tickets to view the Golden Buddha; experienced a foul odor unlike anything ever imagined; repeated excuse me, excuse me, just to get through the crowds, and barely avoided being flattened by a delivery truck overloaded with bananas. In three short minutes, they both decided Bangkok was dangerous.

After waiting in line for the only cash machine, Edie discovered she didn’t have her debit card. Sometime during the last twenty-four hours she had lost it. She never misplaced anything. Edie, usually the more responsible one of the two, prided herself on being punctilious. In answer to her problem they found a dive bar, on the strip and ordered a round of drinks and an order of fries. “Sawaaadekeee,” Coco repeated between sips of Chang beer. Edie convinced herself to relax.

“Sawaaadekee. Sawaaddakkeee. I’m not sure I’m saying the word right. I can’t believe how they drive here. I’ve never seen anything like this.”

“Yeah. All those scooters,” nodded Edie, still in a state of shock.

“Tell me about it,” she agreed. “Did you see the girl sitting sidesaddle in a miniskirt and high heels? And I thought we were crazy.”

“Yeah. For sure crazy. And we are crazy. It's amazing we’re here. And what about the guy driving down the road with twenty dead chickens tied to his scooter and talking on his phone?” Edie exclaimed. Culture shock had definitely settled in.

“I thought we’d entered Oz or something. I’m soooo excited. We have to make sure we do everything. I mean everything. Take the Golden Buddha tour; go to the floating market, whatever.”

“Did you even read the guidebook? Knowing us, we’ll never leave this spot.”

“Exactly. That's the best part.”

Her lost debit card popped into her head and a little voice reminded her what a bad omen her misfortune could portend. Edie shook off the negativity by drinking another beer and reminding herself to not let anything ruin her trip. After all, they were in Bangkok, tasting the local brew, wearing flip-flops with nothing but a year of exploring Thailand ahead of them. Pure unfettered pleasure. Nothing to worry about. Absolutely nothing.

“Why are we covering out tats again?” Coco asked

“Because we are bad people.”

“Not worthy of jobs or respect.”

“Exactly,” agreed Edie.

“You know I'm going to hate having to be something I'm not.”

“People pretend every day.”

“That’s uplifting.”

“I know.”

Edie had read how Thai people might assume they we’re in a gang because of their tattoos, so she refused to wear short sleeves. Coco, reluctantly followed suit and covered hers. They’d gotten tattoos together in Taos and viewed them as a map of their shared history. Their new company had informed them, as teachers, they couldn’t flash them at school.

“I’m having dejavu,” commented Coco, as she observed the room. “Isn’t that strange. It really seems as if I’ve been here before. Like I’m living in an echo of something. Even now when I speak everything vibrates.”

“It could be just nerves, but I’m having it too. This place is not like the movies.”

“I think we need another drink.”

“For sure.”

#

A few hours later they found a disco ten feet underground and ordered Pina Coladas. Travelers and ex-pats grinded to an electronic 80’s sound in a dimly lit cavern. Every once in a while Edie would recognize a beat or two from Thriller or Walk Like an Egyptian thrown in. The place didn’t seem like Thailand, rather some club in any city, anywhere. Capitalism at it’s finest. Even most of the signs were in English.

Coco glanced up and caught Edie’s eye.

“Let’s get fucked up,” she exclaimed. Edie traced her fingertips along the side of the bar, noticing the imperfections. She had moved past the point of tipsy. She leaned heavily against the bar.

“Do you want another?” the barman yelled, wiping the counter as he spoke. He had long dreads, a nose ring and wore a Bob Marley get up that he could have bought on E-Bay.

“Definitely,” they said together.

The barman returned with their drinks in frosted glasses and red umbrellas spearing pineapple. Some of the juices oozed down the side. Edie leaned in closer to Coco.

“Listen, you remember the time you got caught cheating on your Algebra test. Mrs. Shurter. What a whore. You never said anything. Even when she threatened to expel you if you didn't snitch on who helped you. You never once told her that it was me. Everyone knew. You can barely add two numbers together.”

“So?” Coco shook her head. “Where is this coming from?”

“I don’t know. Alcohol I guess. Being here,” answered Edie.

“Mrs. Shurter was like a million years ago. We were fifteen.”

“So what.” Edie leaned even closer to Coco and put her hand on her shoulder. “Fifteen or twenty-five you’re the only person I can trust. That's all I'm saying.” She then sucked down half of her drink, loving the iciness of the coconut juice.

Tears the size of glaciers welled up in Coco’s massive baby blues and threatened to ruin her mascara and cause a scene. She was the one who always cried. Edie preferred to cry alone, in the bathtub with the water on.

“Ladies, that will be 400 baht,” the barman said.

“How much is 400 baht in dollars?”

Coco shrugged and dabbed at her eyes with a bar napkin.

“I hate when you do this. Get all sappy and say shit that makes me cry. Is this guilt over taking the bed by the window?” Teased Coco.

“I deserved that bed. Hon, I just, I don’t know it feels good to be here. Taos was really getting me down. All I did was drink and smoke and was going nowhere. I mean nowhere. At least here I can be a failure without anyone but you knowing about what a loser I am. So, let’s shake it loose. We’re in Bangkok.”

Edie clinked her pina against Cocos.

Coco didn’t quite meet Edie’s eyes.

“Hey look me in the face when you drink. You're acting like you have a secret. Plus, chica it’s bad luck not to.”

“Sorry,” Coco said with more emotion than she meant to. She stared straight into Edie’s eyes and said without words, I am so sorry.

Going South - Krabi, Thailand
 

A week later they arrived in Krabi. Their head teacher Boom met them at the airport holding a sign with their names spelled wrong. Plump and of Chinese-Thai descent, she wore wire-rimmed spectacles, sweats, and a baggy t-shirt. Edie found it hard to estimate her age, guessing somewhere in her late thirties to early forties. She didn’t know what to expect but Boom couldn't have been more different. The past week had been an adventure to say the least. Every night they got drunk in Bangkok and never managed to take in any of the sights. Their training with International Kids, their new employer, had been something a little better than a joke. Quickly they learned that nothing was the complete truth in Thailand. After a week of miscommunication, they finally got on a plane, uncertain of where they were being sent and if they would be met at the airport. Nothing was turning out like they had expected.

“Superb to meet you.” Boom studied them in turn and nodded as if she had made a decision about something. “This is my nephew.”

She gestured to a young man standing next to her who had one long pinkie nail and three stringy hairs growing from his chin. Edie surmised he thought he sported a beard. He didn’t speak a word of English and only nodded in greeting.

“Did you bring anything else?” Asked Boom. They each dragged a giant roller bag and wore a backpack. Edie stared at her suitcase realizing everything she owned she either carried or pulled. The thought depressed her. The nephew picked both suitcases up at the same time and placed them in the trunk of an old Nissan Sentra.

“My nephew strong. Training to be a boxer.” Boom patted his shoulders.

Edie had decided she didn’t like riding in a car in Thailand because they drove on the wrong side of the road and no one used their blinkers when they passed another vehicle; they pulled out into traffic without looking, forcing the other cars or buses to accommodate them. The buses reminded Edie of the Freddie Krueger bus going straight to hell. If the buses didn’t kill you all the scooters loaded with chickens, families of five, or refrigerators swerving in and out of traffic, would.

Boom gave them a huge smile. “I think I'm lucky. I got two teachers my size. Very lucky. I think I’ve met you before. Maybe at McDonalds. Yes, lucky.”

Edie gave Coco a look. “Uh, thanks.”

Now to her this might have seemed like a friendly thing to say, but Edie and Coco found the comment strange. Edie wanted to die of shame. In the last three years she had put on an average of twelve pounds per year making her close to forty pounds overweight and she felt every inch of the extra love in Thailand. The night before, a Tuk Tuk driver wanted to charge them double because he claimed Edie was too fat.

Coco didn’t need to lose weight. She had one of those figures that made a burlap sack fashionable. Edie couldn't help but resent the fact she could eat like a race-horse, drink like a sailor and never manage to put on one extra sliver of fat. And she was blonde. She had long, silky hair with three different shades of platinum. Permanent highlights. Then came the eyes. Big, round and blue with lashes that swiped through the air like helicopter blades. But God wasn’t quite done. He gave her breasts the perfect size and weight; they made plastic surgeons model their patients after them.

Boom highlighted various commercial areas as they passed. “Now there’s the Lotus Tesco. KFC, cinema.” Her nephew sped past a bus, bypassed a scooter, and missed a mangy dog trying to cross the highway. Edie wondered why she pointed out all these Westernized stores. She could care less about a Tesco. She wanted to experience Thai culture, sip margaritas on the beach and work on her tan. She spotted a brown spot, behind Tesco up in the karsts, to what resembled a castle.

“What’s up there?” she asked.

“You mean up on the hill?”

Edie nodded.

“A Buddhist temple. You’re not Buddhist?”

“Oh, no. The Temple is gorgeous.”

“Well yes. You’re in Thailand.”

Edie smiled back, believing her.

Krabi Town, located along the Andaman served as a jumping off point for some of the most beautiful islands in Thailand. The Tsunami destroyed most of these getaways like Koh Phi Phi, but this didn't stop them from rebuilding faster than a colony of ants working overtime. They were now busier than before, almost in defiance.

Most tourists spend one or two nights in town before heading off to or back from an island. In this way Krabi benefited from tourism without the awful realities tourist dollars bring. The seaside village retained the true flavor of Thai hospitality and like most beach towns emanated a laid back vibe. The locals usually claimed to be either Buddhist or Muslim. In the far south the Muslims fight with the Buddhists and the Buddhists fight with the Muslims. In Krabi you’d never know this. It’s all flip-flops, Chang beer, Samsom, and girls on scooters.

They searched for parking in the center and found a spot close to Vogue Department store. Boom kept pointing out things to them. This is where the day market is, this is where you get the bus to go to Tesco, over there is the boat dock to get a boat to go to Koh Phi Phi, here is where you can get a tuk tuk to go to that beach, this is where the mini-vans come to take you to Ao Luek and this is where you can catch a bus to Ao Luek. She kept mentioning Ao Luek and this confused Edie. Where was Ao Luek and what did that have to do with them?

Boom led Edie and Coco to a street vendor selling curries and fried chicken. They took up seats at a plastic table and waited for their food. Coco flaunted her tattoo of the tarot card 'strength' on her arm. Edie tried to pull down her sleeve to cover it but Coco swiped her hand away. She also refused to dress up for their first meeting with Boom. Edie purposely wore a long-sleeved shirt and a tan skirt. She had read your head teacher could be your worst nightmare or your best friend. She learned through their crash course with International Kids, they should represent themselves as best as they could. As a woman they shouldn’t drink, smoke, and have tattoos or carouse with strange men. Coco and Edie were guilty of all of the indecent behavior and more and she wondered why they chose to come at all. In order to survive they needed to don new identities. They both wanted to quit drinking and smoking, and behave like proper young ladies, but they didn't have clue how to begin. Secretly, both of them feared they weren’t capable of being decent young ladies, but were willing to try.

Boom had ordered six dishes and kept piling more on their plates. Edie had no resistance for food, especially new cuisine, so she greedily ate as much as offered.

“How old are you?” Boom asked.

Her first thought was she needed to lie. She already had the suspicion she was too old to be in Thailand. “Twenty-nine. We’re twenty-nine.”

Boom seemed surprised. “Twenty-nine. They told me that both of you were twenty-three.”

Already, this wasn’t starting well. Boom studied Edie for a few minutes. “You look younger. The fat helps. Good. Tell them you’re twenty-four. Not too old, yet.” She ordered deep fried banana chips.

“Tell who exactly?” Edie asked.

“Well, the school. The students. We do this for the students. As for you,” she gestured at Coco’s tattoo. “You better cover your picture up. You’re lucky I picked you up. Some of the other teachers wouldn’t like it. They’d put you back on a plane. Send you home to mama. Does your mother know you have one of those? I expect she’s does. You’re American. I love America. We are one of the only countries left.”

Coco rubbed her tattoo in sympathy. Edie pulled down her sleeve, to hide hers. She didn’t dare reveal she had one too. She laughed nervously and gave Coco I told you so look. Coco swatted a fly and tried to smile. Boom piled more food on their plates and instructed them to eat.

After lunch, she showed them the bookstore where they could get a teacher's discount. Edie browsed in the English section and Boom found her.

“Do you have pot eyes?”

“What?” She thought she might have misheard her.

“Do you smoke marijuana?” She said again, this time slowly.

Her first reaction was to be honest and tell her that on occasion she had and she wasn’t against smoking every once in a while, everything in balance but truthfully pot makes her a little paranoid. So usually she doesn’t, unless she’s drunk, which is a lot, and then it sounds good. Controlling the urge not to smoke while drinking had taken her one entire summer. She believed after three agonizing months she finally controlled the desire.

She told her none of this. Instead she said not at all.

“Your eyes. They look stoned.” She moved in closer.

“No. No. I promise. I have squinty eyes, a trait from my mother. See. I got her behind too. My luck does not come from my genes. I’m good person.”

Edie must have spoken too fast because Boom appeared to be confused. Her English wasn’t as good as she thought.

“Really! No I do not smoke pot. My eyes are just small.”

Finally, Boom nodded in approval. “Good. The last teacher did. He was from Canada.

We all went on a trip to the waterfall and one of the workers at the park told me he smoked pot with him. I never said anything of course. At the end of the term I didn’t ask him to stay. We Thai people don’t like confrontation.”

“Oh, yeah.” Edie feigned understanding and made a mental note not to smoke pot with a stranger at a waterfall in Thailand.

“I will wait for you outside,” Boom smiled and giggled like a schoolgirl.

Coco came over from her post by the newspapers. “What did she say to you?”

“She asked me if I smoked.”

“Cigarettes?’ She whispered.

“No pot. Marijuana.”

“Keep your voice down.” Coco looked sheepishly around.

“No one can understand us.” Edie picked up a book anyway and put it in front of her face.

“True. Still. This is weird. What are we doing here?” Coco said. “She seems pretty cool though.”

“Yeah. Did you have to flash your tattoo?”

Coco rolled her eyes and stiffened up in her usual way that drove Edie crazy.

“Listen pothead,” she commented in her I'm superior than thou voice. “I’m not going to hide who I am.”

“I know but sometimes you just gotta. I kinda like being twenty-two again,” Edie whispered. “Twenty two wasn’t a bad year.”

“I think were supposed to be twenty-four.”

“I liked twenty-two better.”

“Was that the year you became a lesbian?”

“Be quiet. And you keep your trap shut about stuff. My intuition tells me Boom is everywhere.”

“Are we going to survive this?” Asked Coco. She twisted a blonde lock around her finger.

“Of course we are. The beach is like well somewhere close to here. She seems strange but approachable and we possess like ten dollars to our name. We’ll be fine. As soon as we are free lets find a bar and slurp a cold one.”

“I can’t wait. This place is starting to trip me out.”

“Please, can we at least pretend we are the marriageable type?”

Coco fanned her face with a newspaper. “I don’t understand how you grew up like you did and still care what other people think?”

Edie tried not to show her irritation. She didn't want to get in a fight in front of their new boss. “I’m not the one who grew up with a view of the 18th hole. And what are you talking about? You never had someone hold their nose as they walked by you. Is it so wrong that I want people to think I’m normal?”

“As if I experienced such normal childhood. I’m only saying that people like you for you. Don't you think its tiring being someone else? You got to stop putting on this façade.”

“Okay. Fine. I'll start revealing the inner me and you start taking care of your health.” Edie crossed her arms daring her to disagree.

“If they only knew what was wrong with me.”

“I have a pretty good idea.”

Edie glanced up to find Boom and her young nephew watching them outside. They waved at them through the window. They waved back.

“I guess that is our cue.”

“Truce?” Edie petted her arm.

“What are my options? We are stuck together. I need a drink.”

“Me too.”

Coco bought a paper and Edie bought a bookmark, both wishing for a beer. Outside, standing next to Boom and her nephew stood a stranger. Supalak introduced Wisa, a fellow English Anjan at Ao Luek Prachasan School. Again with the name Ao Luek. Edie started to really feel like a pothead. Wisa couldn’t have been more than twenty-five with a round face and full lips. Edie wouldn’t call Wisa pretty, but rather cute and conservative. In one hand she held tightly to an umbrella and in the other her purse. Her long, black hair so straight Edie would not have been surprised to learn she had ironed it. Her English seemed worse than Boom’s and she made it clear that she didn’t want to be there.

“Wisa is going to take you to the Mansion. Show you around. See her typical northern Thai nose. Notice how flat it is? That's from all the sticky rice she eats.” Boom laughed then spoke to Wisa in Thai. Edie and Coco stood in the heat and listened not sure what to do next.

“You have two days before school starts.” Boom held up two fingers. “Tomorrow around 11 you need to come in to meet The Director.” She giggled before speaking in Thai to Wisa again who only smiled shyly.

“What is Ao Luek?” Coco put one hand on her hip, flashing her tattoo. Wisa tried to not stare, but she couldn't peel her eyes away.

Boom seemed surprised and said something in flurry of Thai to Wisa, this time making them squirm in the humidity. Edie feared the worst.

After a bit of back and forth of Thai; Boom yelling and Wisa nodding, she faced her captives. “Ao Luek is where you’ll be living.” She said living slowly, stretching out the syllables.

They shook their heads no. They had absolutely no idea where Ao Luek was or even how to pronounce it.

“I can't believe no-one told you?” Boom gasped. “It’s about 45 minutes by Tuk Tuk from Krabi. You can live in Krabi Town but you’d have to commute every day. No problem. Mai Pen Rai. Living in Krabi is better too. Better food. I can tell you both like food.”

“I thought the school was in Krabi Town?” Coco didn't wait for the answer. “They told us Krabi Town.”

“You’re just 45 minutes away,” reassured Boom.

“We were told we were in Krabi.”

“You are. Close.” She smiled reassuringly. “Must hurry, there’s the tuk tuk. Wisa will help you from here.”

Seconds later they found themselves in a packed minivan squashed with no air conditioning and careening once again down a highway like bats out of hell. Wisa politely answered their many questions. Most of them she struggled to understand. They did gather she wasn’t exactly sure where the mansion was, but knew it was close to the school. She didn’t live there but on campus behind the English building. She grew up in Isaan in the north and had only lived in Ao Luek for three months. Beside one other English teacher from Australia, they were the first foreigners she had ever met. As the new teacher she was required to run around for Boom and do anything she asked. At Boom’s phone call she had been summoned from Ao Luek to come meet them in town and then ordered to take them to their accommodation.

“You know,” Wisa said. “I’m new like you. I’m a foreigner.” She straightened her spine and wrinkled her nose, as if the tip tickled.

Oh, they both nodded in sympathy, noticing this was the first real thing she had said to them. They glanced at each other and then away before Wisa could see that they were even more concerned than ever; perhaps they were being taken straight to Dante’s hell. The only reassuring part of the whole situation had to be the karsts out the window; giant hairy noses that couldn’t be anymore threatening than Santa Claus and his elves. If they were in hell, than it were stunning. For this reason alone they reassured themselves they hadn’t made a mistake.

Waiting Game – Penang, Malaysia

Edie wandered the hospital late at night, not able to keep still for long. She passed through general medicine, pediatrics, radiology, making a full circle back to surgery where she waited. After a while the waiting became too much, so she made her rounds again. She stumbled upon the cleaning crew enjoying a pre-shift dinner in the cafeteria. They all stared at her as she walked by.

She spoke to Coco’s mom right after she went into surgery, a conversation still fresh in her mind. Meredith, a woman she had known since childhood, had a polished phone voice earned from years of being a professional travel agent. She trained her voice to sound congratulatory and powerful with a touch of empathy. Meredith told her she shouldn’t worry about Coco, sounding as if she had sold her two tickets to Paris, not a trace of alarm in her words.

“Uh, huh, yes, I will. Yes, I won’t worry.” Edie pressed the phone into her ear and stared at the floor tiles. She just wanted to make it through the conversation. Her thoughts were actually selfish. She kept thinking if Coco didn’t recover she would have to tell that voice she hadn’t and she had a sinking sensation the voice would change.

She sat in a hardback chair contemplating the voice. When she couldn’t handle it anymore, she took another brisk walk around the hospital. She contemplated smoking outside but couldn’t muster up the courage. Smoking outside of a hospital seemed wrong. Also, she feared she would miss Coco coming out of surgery, so she ran back to her spot in the reception area and waited. She wanted her face to be the first thing Coco saw when they brought her out. Edie recalled Coco's last words before they rolled her away.

'You're living in my future. You’re my future.' The drugs they had her on, made most of what she mumbled incomprehensible. Still her words haunted Edie. What did she mean? What if she didn’t make it out of surgery?

#

After another hour, she became cold, so she ran upstairs to get her hoodie. The Malay family, Coco shared her room with, asked how everything was going. Taking one look at her pale face they tried to reassure her Coco would be just fine. Weakly she nodded in agreement, but she couldn't be certain. What if I have to tell the voice? What if I have to tell the voice? She had no one to call. Her parents were in Mexico leading a Mayan Retreat for Universal Peace and unavailable for the next two weeks. The only other person that came to mind was Simon, and she despised him. She contemplated calling Teddy, but she had no idea what to say.

Instead she wandered the hospital again; going in circles, before becoming fearful she would miss Coco coming out of surgery. She sprinted back, only to sit in agony. She pushed her fingers through her grimy hair, scratching at her scalp realizing she hadn’t showered in a few days and still wore the same clothes and underwear she had arrived to Malaysia in. Her teeth had grown a sweater and her hair had enough oil to fry tempura vegetables. Under the hospital bleach and road grime she smelled her own fear; the anxiety she would lose the most important person in her life.

“I hoped I would find you here.” Simon slid into the plastic chair next to her.

She hadn’t heard him approach. For a second, she thought he might be an apparition. He wore baggy black pants; a worn Rolling Stones t-shirt with Ray Bans perched on his head. His warm eyes emanated concern and before she could stop him, he encompassed her in a big hug.

“How did you know I was here?” She couldn’t believe he was real. She had to remind herself that she didn’t like him; in fact couldn’t stand the sight of him and she should disentangle herself from his grip. She couldn’t pull away. Just feeling his warm arms around her threatened to unleash tears she had managed to keep controlled by volition alone.

“Are you real?”

“As real as you want me to be.” He squeezed her tighter and refused to let go.

Goodbye George – Penang, Malaysia

They sat in silence while waiting for Coco to come out of surgery. After the initial excitement of not being alone dissipated, she settled back into her old feelings of resentment towards him. He kept gazing inquisitively at her.

“Why do you dislike me?” He picked lint off his t-shirt.

“This isn’t about you.” Edie didn’t want to fight in the hospital. “I’m thrilled you’re here. I was losing my mind. Walked every inch of this place, exploring all the nooks and crannies like a hungry rat searching for food. You're a gem in a field of rocks. I'm thankful you're here.”

“No you’re not. Why do you hate me?”

“I don't hate you.”

She tried to control the urge of wanting to shake him until his teeth fell out. She stood up, knocking over her chair. She paced in front of him. Stopped. Turned and went in for the kill.

“You son of a bitch. I wonder why I can’t stand you. Why? Huh? Please. I never realized how stupid I am. Until you. You’re so self-involved. Everything’s about you. You. I don’t give a flying fuck about you.”

Simon’s clenched his jaw. “Oh and you’re perfect. Your always so certain everything anyone does is a personal attack on you.”

“Go to hell.”

“Fuck off.”

They both sat back down and crossed their arms. Neither said another word.

#

Hours later, two nurses wheeled Coco out, chatting and laughing while she seemed stoned and miserable. She stared past Edie, not seeing her at all. Simon stood to the side out of her line of vision. The elevator was too small to hold two nurses, a hospital bed, Edie and Simon. Instead they ran up the stairs and met them on the 4th floor. Edie gave her most reassuring smile. Coco’s lips were dry and cracked.

“Water.” She smacked her lips together and clutched her hands to her throat.

Both of the nurses shook their heads no.

They got her settled in – adjusted the pillows, checked her IV, showed her how to use the morphine drip and brought in two more pillows. Edie gripped the metal rail on the side of the bed until her hands turned white.

“George’s gone,” Edie told her.

Coco nodded and closed her eyes. Tears squeaked out and she brushed them away. “I dreamt about you and Teddy. We were kids again.”

“Hey look who’s here?”

“My appendix?”

“Glad you still got your sense of humor. No someone better.”

Simon stepped forward to reveal himself. His glasses slipped down and covered his eyes. Coco blinked a few times, as if to make sure she wasn’t being tricked. She glanced between them. Edie nodded to reassure her he wasn’t a mirage in the desert.

“Tom Cruise. I can't believe it?” She said in a voice not louder than a croak.

“I’m not going to dance in my underwear.”

He cupped her hand in his and lightly rubbed her palm.

“Water.” Coco grimaced as she tried to pull herself up. Edie wanted to bring her a glass of water, imagining the thirst, ripping through her throat in agony.

“Maybe I can get you a few ice cubes.” She smoothed a few stray stands of hair away from her face.

Edie got up to leave, ignoring Simon who tried to catch her eyes as she exited. The night nurse reluctantly handed her some chunks of ice, making her promise she wouldn’t let her swallow them. She swore to only rub them on her lips. Once back in the room, she paused at the doorway. Simon had pulled up a stool next to the bed. She could see the Malay family in the space left open by the plastic curtain dividing the room into two. Mr. Malay gave her thumbs up, a gesture he must have seen in some Hollywood movie and yet, she found the sign strangely touching. She gave him a thumb’s up back.

Simon and Coco hadn’t noticed her return and continued to stare into each other’s eyes. She turned away, surprised at the pang in her chest.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Traveling and writing have always been my biggest passions. For over five years I lived and worked in Thailand and China. While living abroad I became a teacher and realized that education was my third. Hailing from a small town in Arizona, I’ve been blessed with many travel adventurers and have lived to write about them.Currently, I live in San Diego and work as a full-time faculty member teaching English as a Second Language at the University of California San Diego.

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
My time spent teaching in Thailand inspired me to create a fictional story based on my experiences. There is nothing like immersing yourself in another culture and having to come to terms with your own ideologies and personal failings. It will transform you and you'll never be the same again.
Q. Why do you write?
A.
Books saved me as a little girl and allowed me to escape into their realities. I want to offer this same solace to my readers by sharing my most intimate thoughts and feelings with perfect strangers and live to tell about it.
Q. What books have influenced your life the most?
A.
The two books that have influenced my writing the most are: The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough and The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. Both take place in exotic places with unforgettable characters and leave you wanting more.

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