“I don’t know why, but I get a funny feeling when I’m near her,” Chas said. He was sitting looking at his shoes. Not that his shoes were anything special. Scuffed school footwear.
“Yeah, I can see it in your face,” Patsi answered. “You fancy her, you've got no chance!”
Patsi, was Chas’s oldest friend at the school, his only friend. He and his family had moved from London to Thailand a year ago. He had struggled with his Thai tones, the other kids giggled.
“No, I don’t. There is something about her.”
Patsi looked at her shiny shoes. “Forget her. There are plenty of girls here that would love to have you as their ‘friend’. What about Dokmai, she’s nice?”
“I’m not looking for a girlfriend, it’s just… Oh, I don’t know.”
Patsi got up and joined the female gaggle walking past. Chas was alone and lonely. He played cricket, the Thai lads played tak rao, an athletic game, you needed to be a gymnast to be any good. Chas wasn’t. Too many pizzas, and not enough larb salad. He liked Sci-fi, the local boys watched soap operas.
“Hello, all alone? Can I join you?” The school’s prettiest girl asked.
“Is this a prank? Have you won a bet or something?”
“No, Chas, I want to invite you somewhere,” Anong said, leaning towards him and blowing in his ear.
“Now I know you’re joking.”
“As you wish.” She straightened her skirt and skipped away.
Chas trembled, he shivered, then quaked. “What the hell?” he said in English. Anong made him feel funny all over.
Patsi breezed up to him.
“Uh ha, what did she want?”
“She was hoping I’d fall for her game,” he answered.
“Yeah, what game?”
“Come on, what did she say?”
“She wanted to invite me somewhere? As I said, it was a trick.” Chas turned and studied his shoes once more.
“She never invites anyone, anywhere. Must be a silly stunt,” Patsi said.
“Do you think Anong is knock-down dead gorgeous?” asked Chas.
“Yes, she is the second most beautiful girl in the school.”
“You don’t mean, you’re the prettiest?” He laughed and was soon joined by Patsi.
Chas, serious again, asked, “But why has she no friends?”
“Could be that everyone fears her looks? They can’t compete.”
“Yeah, for the girls, but why no male friends?”
“Maybe they think she’s too good for them?”
“Yeah…” Chas drifted into memories of his English school. A girl who was also too good looking, she too had no friends.
Patsi bounced back to her friends. Chas strolled home.
Anong was waiting outside his door.
“Hello again,” said Chas.
“I want us to go somewhere, together,” she said.
“Where? When? I can’t go now, I’ve too much homework.”
She giggled, “Not now, I’ll let you know.” She turned, lifted her right hand as a farewell, and wandered away. “Say hello to Sharon.” She shouted over her shoulder.
He shivered, goosebumps danced the jig. His head was spinning.
“How the hell does she know what happened to Sharon?”
He went back two years in his head, memories play tricks, but not this one. Sharon was his first love, they were inseparable. She was gorgeous, friendly, and funny. She lived next door; they saw each other daily, same school, the same year, even the same class. Their parents were friends too. Until it all changed.
He pinched himself.
“Wake up,” he said to himself, "Get real."
It was hard to concentrate on his homework. He was behind all the other children in Thai lessons, that was expected, but at maths? He struggled. There was too much tinkering about with his thoughts.
“Did she ask about Sharon, or was I imagining it?”
His schoolwork was slammed back in his bag. He went in search of food.
“Hello dear, did you have a good day?” asked his mum. “There’s a curry on the table.”
He grunted and sat down.
“What’s the matter? You don’t look happy. Were the boys picking on you again?”
“No Mum, it was the gir…” he began.
“The girls? What happened?”
“Nothing Mum, forget it.”
“It is hard to forget what happened in England.”
Chas scraped his chair back and stalked upstairs.
Showered, and cool, he slipped under the duvet, trying to find sleep, it evaded him. Tossing, twisting his quilt into knots. Hours passed. A gentle tap at his window disturbed his dozing. Was he dreaming at last? No, the tapping continued. He looked at his clock, 5 am.
Anong’s face was against the glass, framed by a mist of breath.
“It’s okay, it’s me, not Sharon,” she said as the window opened. He gasped, tremors shook his limbs, she smirked. The murky first light made him squint.
“How do you know Sharon?”
“Never mind. Come on, I want to show you something.”
He pulled on shorts and a t-shirt and stepped onto the overhanging roof. They clambered down to the lawn. Silently, he checked if anyone was awake.
She led him away.
“Where are we going,” he asked.
“You’ll soon see.”
They left the main road ducking into a forest of rubber trees. She pulled him forward. The line of trees ended abruptly, sloped to the water’s edge. Still, except for the flutter of wings, a gentle splash, as the bird caught its early feed.
“What are we doing here?” he asked, looking around, expecting a prank.
“You do remember Sharon?”
“Of course I do. How do you know her?”
“She comes to me in dreams.”
“Did you find copies of the British press on Google? Is that how you know?”
“No, we are like sisters. We have a lot in common.”
“Don’t do this, it is not fair,” Chas shook uncontrollably.
They had been speaking in Thai, she then switched to English. Her chin jerked left, then right, her eyes were white marbles.
“You are my best friend, the best mate any girl could have.”
“Stop it,” he called. “She is dead! Stop it now.”
The beauty of Anong’s dark brown eyes returned.
“I want the same,” she said in Thai.
“I can’t,” Chas said, tears were rolling down his cheeks. “Please don’t do this.”
She pulled two tightly folded bags from her pockets. Made a show of unfurling the cloth and cracked them open.
“Help her complete her dream,” she said in English.
“Please, Sharon, no more,” he cried.
Soon the bags were stuffed with rocks and stones.
Chas turned to run, his feet were rooted. He watched in silence, as she tied the heavy sacks to her wrists.
The quivering and shaking became more violent. His hands pointed out across the still, flat water's surface.
Anong stood and faced him, her back to the water, her feet, dabbing the cool dampness.
“No,” wailed Chas.
Anong's body rose and floated a foot above the water. Gradually, she spun around to move to the centre of the lake, speed increasing.
“Goodbye, Chas. See you soon Sharon,” she called.
She glided to the middle, then a splash and she was gone.
Chas rolled into a ball and wept.
The workers found him, still trembling and moaning when they came for their rubber.