Happy Romance Fiction

Early mornings at the Condo

The compound where her condominium was located was only a five-minute walk to the nearest shopping mall in an area that housed many cafes and international restaurants. It was a lively, enjoyable place in which to live. The pavements were squeezed tight with innumerable tourists from around the globe, and the cacophony of the various mother tongues could be heard in ebullient, loud tones. It was a happy, vibrant place, full of life—a blissful haven for Sofia as her encroaching sunset years began to beckon.

Nestled at the back of the compound, Sofia's condo offered respite from the noise of the Super Highway. Along the main road, the designated area of the compound boasted popular eateries, a boutique hotel, and numerous beauty clinics. A magnificent garden, meticulously tended by a dedicated gardener and his helpers, graced the heart of the compound. The peaceful garden was a riot of colours, hosting brightly coloured bedding plants. The whole area was overhung with the heady perfumes of magnolia, frangipani, and jasmine from the semi-tropical trees growing on the lawns. Occasionally, she could hear splashing and laughing coming from the compact swimming pool adjacent to the modest gym to the side of the boutique hotel.

Sofia's seven-story condo was a relatively new building overseen by Kwan, the female Receptionist, and her dedicated team consisting of the maintenance man, the housekeeper, and the twenty-four-hour security guards, Watt and Kla. When she’d first moved in, Sofia, a single foreign woman, had made every effort to cultivate friendships with the condo staff. Over the years, all her efforts had paid off, transforming her into a welcomed member of her adopted extended Thai family. Sofia's residency had seen her aiding Watt, the daytime security guard, in caring for Kwan's unruly dog, Shabu, until the dog was eventually sent to live with Kwan's parents for some much-needed discipline.

Access to the condo involved navigating the secure mechanical gate controlled by the vigilant security team. Security HQ consisted of a small hut housing chairs, shelves, and a fan. Watt and Kla were in charge of general security and the small but sufficient parking area for cars and motorised bikes. Each guard worked twelve hours and only crossed paths at the brief ‘handover’ time.

 Sofia had lived in the condo for eight years and was one of the few permanent residents. Most residents lived different lifestyles - digital nomads, writers, teachers, retirees, long-term tourists and short-term contract workers - and excluding Sofia, all were transient. Before COVID-19, Sofia had led quite a hectic social life and was rarely in her apartment in the condo. She could go weeks without seeing anyone, but since the pandemic, so much had changed in her hometown. Sofia had had to learn to settle down and become part of the condo residency. 

As much of an animal lover as Sofia, Watt began to look after a local feral cat who kept producing numerous offspring. Eventually, due to adoptions or unfortunate deaths, the condo site was left with only Mama the Whore, who had kept up the family tradition of constantly having kittens until she was finally taken to the Vet’s and spayed, and Nom, a delightful, affectionate, charming black and white male cat, a distant relative of Mama’s. 

As no pets were allowed in the condo building, Sofia began volunteering to look after Mama and Nom, and this required her to sit outside the security hut just inside the mechanical gate. During her daily cat-visiting routine, Sofia would engage in playful banter with the security guards and her feline companions - all of them using their native languages to chat with each other. Passing the hut, one would hear excited chatter being conducted in broken English or broken Thai and invariably interspersed with the miaows of the two feral cats determined to join in the banter. In high season, the condo would become a melting pot of residents from various corners of the world, and many would slowly become part of the close community of cat lovers. Sofia began to see more and more of her ‘neighbours’ and had developed quite good acquaintanceships with some condo residents despite difficulties caused by the many different languages being used. The cats had the ‘lion’s share’ of friends, as evidenced by Watt’s hut being full of gifts for the cats - food, toys, and blankets. If in doubt, the ‘gift givers’ handed over small amounts of currency - Watt always tried to refuse the gift, but the condo residents were always insistent.

Her daily cat-visiting routine meant that Sofia usually arrived at about 7.30 each morning to spend time with the cats. Sofia would sit on a chair she had snaffled from the security hut, place it next to the line of parked motorised bikes, and look out towards the compact swimming pool and the compound’s front garden. Despite the attractive view, her attention would regularly flick to the cats sitting at her feet whilst they tried to persuade her to lean forward and tickle them under the chin or stroke their cheeks.


One hot morning, Sofia was up and about much earlier than usual. The cats were her responsibility for the next three days as Watt was on vacation visiting his parents. Sitting on her chair at the crack of dawn, her tousled blond hair not brushed and wearing an old, unflattering dress, she looked dishevelled and untidy. She always dressed this way when popping out to visit the cats - why should she care - the security guards were hardly going to judge her for her clothes, and the cats couldn’t give a damn. After playing with the cats, she would disappear upstairs, shower, choose a flattering outfit, and then apply her makeup. An hour later, the woman who left the condo bore little resemblance to the woman the cats adored.

Sitting quietly outside the hut, the tranquillity of her peaceful morning was disrupted by a motorbike engine nearing the condo.

“Funny”, she thought as she heard the motorbike approaching, where she sat with two adoring cats at her feet. She was surprised as it was only six o’clock in the morning, and even at 7.30, all the motorbikes were still parked as the owners were not up and about yet. The sound of the motorbike got louder, and as it appeared, Sofia and the cats turned to look at the new arrival. 

He wore a helmet, a face mask over his nose and mouth, and sunglasses no doubt used as goggles. A man of indiscriminate years sat astride a bright blue and white bike, his feet balanced on the footwell; she guessed he must be a Westerner. He parked the bike and dismounted. The cats stared unblinkingly at him as he removed his helmet and mask and carelessly pushed his sunglasses to the top of his head. Sofia attempted to drag her eyes off him, but she was captivated by this unexpected early morning vision of beauty.

“Hi,” he said, waving cheerily as he passed her and the cats.

“Hi”, she replied, waving back and staring at his face.

Having checked that he was no longer in sight, Sofia whispered earnestly to the cats.

“Good looking man, eh? Have you seen him before?”

There was no point in persuading Mama the Whore to join in a conversation about attraction as this wasn’t Mama’s way. But Nom, who had not quite reached puberty yet, was a loving, affectionate soul, and he was the one Sofia leaned towards from her chair and, staring into Nom’s beautiful, receptive green eyes, said:

“Have you seen him before, Nom?’ Nom got to his feet and lovingly rubbed his head on her ankles, giving gentle miaows.

Sofia decided this was Nom’s way of telling her, ‘Yes, I have seen him before, and yes, he is handsome. Go for it, Sofia! But next time, don’t wear that dreadful dress and comb your hair!’ 

‘Thanks Nom. I bet that was the only time I’ll see him, but tomorrow I’ll make an effort …. just in case”.


On the second day of ‘cat sitting’, and determined to make a better impression, Sofia had carefully prepared herself for the arrival of the motorbike. The night security guard, Kla, was tidying his desk and about to do his final rounds of the property. Two cats were still asleep and lay stretched out on one of the shelves in the hut.

Kla smiled and immediately put her cushioned chair in place for her at the front of the bike line. Placing the chair down, he suddenly noticed something different about his friend and intently examined her face.

‘Madam, very beautiful today”, said Kla. She smiled and slightly inclined her head in acknowledgement of the compliment. 

She sat bolt upright, teeth brushed and glinting white in the pale sunshine of the pre-dawn light, her brushed hair gleaming, her light make-up reflected in the dawn sun, and her clean jeans and new t-shirt completed the overall image of an immaculately presented woman preparing to chat with the two feral cats who had just arrived at her feet.

As she sat, inwardly acknowledging her peaceful surroundings, her heart started thumping frantically as she heard the distant sound of a motorbike making its way through the compound, and seconds later, the bike appeared in the parking area. He swung the bike round the corner, carefully avoiding Sofia and the cats, and cut the engine after expertly parking his motorcycle. Unfazed by the engine noise, the cats sat upright, watching him disrobe his helmet and mask and stared at his every movement as he walked towards them.

“Hi”, he said, removing his sunglasses.

‘Hi’, she replied cheerily.

“Good looking cats, are they yours?”

“No, they belong to the site and think they are part of the security team”.

They both laughed, and Sofia thought what a pleasant, attractive face he had. 

“And who are you?” he asked.

“Oh, I’m Sofia” she smiled encouragingly, thinking “wow, this man is so good-looking”.

“Well, Hi, I’m Max”, and held his hand towards her.

She took his hand and shook it confidently.

“Have you been here long?” she asked.

“No, only a couple of weeks. I love these cats. They always welcome me home.”

“In the morning, you mean?”

“Yes, this is when I come home, and apart from the security guard and the cats, no one is usually around. I rarely get to meet my neighbours. 


She met Max again, and as their conversations unfolded, Max revealed his nocturnal work schedule for an American company, and Sofia told him of her daily routine visits to the cats. 

“I come and visit the cats every day and am usually down here at 7.30 before getting ready for work. But Watt is away on a three-day holiday break this week, so I am looking after them - hence my being here so early. The cats like an early breakfast.”


A few days later, Sofia wandered into the lobby. The Receptionist, Kwan, jumped from behind her desk and ran to Sofia in the Lobby.

“Do you know Max Sofia?”.

“Yes. Why?”

“He’s handsome, yes?”

“Yes, he is.”

“Good. He wants to know which apartment you live in and if I have your phone number. I told him I would ask you if it is OK to give it to him. Is it? OK, to say to him? 

Sofia grinned at her, “What a matchmaker you are! Yes, Kwan, please tell him.”


The following Saturday night, Max’s night off, Sofia and he had arranged to have a meal together. Sofia and Max walked past two cats lying on the car park floor, letting their food digest and having just completed their after-dinner body ablutions. The two cats looked intently at the attractive humans walking towards the restaurants, and as they walked, Mama and Nom could hear the gentle chimes of warm laughter and low giggles coming from them.

Mama and Nom looked at each other and said, “Aw,” and contentedly smiled at each other in the way that only two fat, contented cats can.

November 17, 2023 13:27

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Michał Przywara
22:17 Nov 19, 2023

Sounds like it's the start to something sweet! Sofia broke her routine - or adjusted it, anyway - and that let her meet Max. It sounds like she wasn't particularly looking for anyone, so it goes to show you, sometimes you don't know what you want until you see it. Critique-wise, the action seems to start the first morning of cat-sitting, when Watt was off. But, there's quite a lot of preamble before this - I wonder if it would read better, if we started the story closer to the action, and then mixed the background into things from there. T...


Stevie Burges
23:04 Nov 19, 2023

I cannot thank you enough for your comments. Since a close friend who provided critiques before I posted a story died, I have really struggled trying to work out how to put a story together. My anxiety to get the Show Don't Tell aspect clearly overwhelmed the story. I can see how much better it would work with moving the sections around. I am so grateful that you spent time and effort reading and critiquing. Many, many thanks.


Michał Przywara
21:58 Nov 20, 2023

Definitely, Stevie! We're all in this together :)


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Mary Bendickson
16:12 Nov 17, 2023



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