Prissana – 01

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Since I'm posting this over on tumblr, I might as well cross-post it here for LJ readers.

I'm typing selected chapters to keep and share since I don't get to keep the books 😦  The 2000 lakorn adaptation was really loyal to the original source… the differences are only in details.  So although not all chapters will be posted, I think it's still a good complement to the drama watching experience.

by Princess Vibhavadi Rangsit
translated by Tulachandra

Chapter 01 – At Hua Hin

“And where are you going now?”

Their mother's voice sounded unusually sharp; it made Siri and Anong stop short in the middle of the stairs of their bungalow. They were prettily dressed and their manners had been gay.

Anong let her sister answer for both of them.

“We thought we'd go call on Kamol, mother.” Siri said. “She asked us to last week and we promised we would. Yesterday at the market she reminded us again. Now we can't very well get out of it.”

“Oh, yes you can. You'll have to, because we're going back to Bangkok this afternoon and you've got to start packing.”

“This afternoon!” Anong cried, her cheeks turning pale. But Siri was more demonstrative. One leap and she was there confronting her mother.

“You frightened me so, mother!” she said. “Please don't tease us like this.”

“But I'm perfectly serious,” Mrs. Samorn retorted, raising her voice a little. “Your sister Ubol is getting the tickets at the station, and we're definitely going back this afternoon. You didn't now about this because you were out!”

“What's happened? Why must we be in such a rush?”

“Because Prisna is arriving in Bangkok tomorrow morning. I don't know why she decided to fly from Singapore instead of sticking to her original plan – she was going to take a boat. By the way, who put the telegram in my room?”

“I did, mother,” Anong said.

“When was it delivered, dear?”

“I don't know, mother. Siri handed it to me this morning. I couldn't find you so I put it on your dressing table.”

“When did you receive it, Siri?”

“Oops, you won't like this. Since yesterday morning, mother. I happened to be at the station, and the station master gave it to me. I didn't even know it was a telegram – or anything urgent for that matter. It was just an ordinary envelope addressed in Khun Sak's handwriting. I put it in the pocket of my slacks and forgot about it until this morning when I was going down to the beach to have a swim. So I asked Anong to give it to you.”

“Now isn't that just marvelous! Really, Siri, you're so irresponsible. You're old enough to know better. It's lucky you thought of it this morning when we could still change our plans. But what if you hadn't? What would Prisna do? She doesn't know anyone in Bangkok… What's the matter with you, Anong? Don't stand there day-dreaming. Why don't you go in and pack? We'll miss the train if you don't hurry up.”

The girls stepped into their shared bedroom, Siri feeling guilty about the telegram and Anong moving as if in a trance. Pulling out a large suit-case from under the bed Siri began packing as fast as she could. After the closet had been cleared, she walked about looking for the rest of her belongings which she had left scattered all over the house. Coming back to find Anong sitting on the bed, she said, “I'm almost through, and so's Ubol. What about you, Anong? Hey, don't look so blank! Get a move on, and I'll go tell Chammien to see to the other things for you… Look here, Anong, what are you thinking of? Are you listening to me? Hurry up!”

She left the room. Anong rose from the bed, took out her two traveling bags and started to pack, but her heart wasn't in it.

At Tamnak Manorom, bright lights where shining, and the sound of music and laughter drifted out into the night. On the beach in front of the Tamnak, a young man sat frowning at the waves, ignoring all the merriment inside. He gave a start when a voice behind him said, “So it's you, Pravij. What are you doing here alone in the dark? The girls want to dance and they've been asking for you.”

They bore me, Your Serene Highness.”

Really? More interesting sitting out here?”

I like watching the moon, Your Serene Highness.”

His Serene Highness Tan Chai Bojnaprija gaze at the moonless sky and said, “Are you in love again, Pravij?”

Pravij gave his answer in a sigh. His friend looked at him with amusement, for it was as easy for Pravij to fall in love as it was for him to put rice in his own mouth. One look at the 'right girl' was sufficient to make him fall. But then some thing had always happened to make him fall out of it, and when it did, no one regretted it more than Pravij himself.

Who is it this time?” Tan Chai asked with a smile, realizing that even without this question Pravij would want to tell him everything anyway.

Her name is Anong. I met her here in Hua Hin. She's pretty, she's sweet, and she's so very nice, not like some of these 'modern' girls we know. You'd like her, Your Serene Highness.”

Her name was Anong. What her last name was, who her parents were, Pravij, not one to insist on details on such occasions, had forgotten to ask. He only knew she was unmarried, and had come to Hua Hin with her mother and two sisters – or maybe three, he didn't remember. It had not been a month since he first set eyes on her. He was staying then with his sister and her husband at their bungalow near Khao Takieb. Anong's bungalow adjoined theirs, and Pravij often saw her on the beach but more often around her own place, always busy at some household chore or another. From his bedroom window, he'd look out and see her sewing on the balcony, peeling vegetables outside the kitchen, or hanging up the laundry in the yard. He hadn't been particularly interested at first – homebodies weren't particularly his type, but he soon discovered, to his own surprise, that the sight of her made his day, that every movement she made in that unglamorous routine of hers had a rare delicate charm he'd never come across anywhere.

Then came the fateful day when he finally met her. His sister Narumol and her husband had gone to Cha-am, leaving their baby boy with the nurse. After she had put him to sleep, the nurse, too, left the house for a little outing of her own. Pravij had been reading when the baby woke up and began to cry for attention. What was he to do? He had never coped with an infant not quite a year old, and a crying one at that. As the crying grew louder and more threatening, Pravij thought of going after the nurse, but did not know where. In desperation he ran out of the house, found Anong standing behind the fence looking concerned and beautiful. He asked her for help. She went with him inside the house. Pravij did not know how she did it, but soon after she had been with him, the baby stopped crying and fell asleep. That's how he met her.

From then on they saw each other often. In the morning he'd accompany her to the market, and sometimes in the evening stroll down the beach with her. They had enjoyed each other's company, had had a lot to talk about, but somehow he'd never asked her who she really was, nor she him. She knew him as Pravij, and he knew her as Anong – it seemed that was all they needed to know.

Then his sister returned to Bangkok, and at the same time Tan Chai arrived in Hua Hin. Pravij came to stay at Tamnak Manorom. He loved her now, and could say with a degree of certainty that it was not a one-sided feeling.

Well, that's nice,” Tan Chai said. “You love her and she loves you. What next?”

She's gone back to Bangkok,” Pravij said in a tone of one who has lost all hope in life.

Is that all? We're going back to Bangkok, too, in a few days. You can go and see her then.”

I don't know where she lives in Bangkok.”

What! Didn't she tell you when you said goodbye?”

We didn't say goodbye. She just left.”

Decided to give you up, eh?”

Oh, no, you're wrong! I think she had to go because something unexpected had happened.”

How did you figure that out?”

Well, we were going to Khao Takieb this afternoon – for a picnic. I had something I wanted to tell her.”

Tan Chai smiled at this; Pravij did not see it, or did not care. After a pause he went on with the story, “So when the time came I went and waited at the gate. Then I began to notice that the house was unusually quiet, with all the windows closed and not a sign of anybody. I finally walked in, and found the care-taker. He said they had just left for Bangkok. I couldn't get anything more out of him, so I came back here. It's so noisy inside. I can't stand it.” He stopped abruptly and went on frowning at the waves.

When we get back I'll help you find her,” Tan Chai said. “Bangkok isn't such a big place.”

But she hardly goes out, Your Serene Highness! And how can we find her when I don't know who her parents are, or even her surname? There must be hundreds of girls named Anong.”

Even so, it won't be impossible. I'll do my best to help you. Now let's go inside. They're waiting for us.”

Let them wait. You don't know how unhappy I am.”

Tan Chai smiled. “You've been unhappy before. And didn't I tell you I would help? Come on, let's go. As I came out, the girls told me they wanted to dance, but Nai Chom and a couple of the boys voted for poker. They were having quite an argument and wanted you to referee.”

With another sigh Pravij rose to his feet, brushed the sand from his slacks and walked back to the house with his friend. Just before they reached it, Tan Chai said, “Forget about her for the time being, Pravij. You don't know where she is or what she might be doing now, so why waste your time worrying?”

You've never been in love!” Pravij said, almost pityingly. He made a silent vow never to forget her, and went on worrying.

Mrs. Samorn's house in Bangkok was modest, neat and tasteful. The same could be said of Mrs. Samorn herself. A widow past forty, she had a small income, a slender figure and an open mind. She was a wise manager of small income – the occasional seaside holiday for the family would not have been possible otherwise. She did not chew betel, and had very little time left for gossipping.

Mrs. Samorn's husband, Phra Vinij Montri, has been dead for over nineteen years, and Prisna, their youngest child, was born some months after he died. Mrs. Samorn's father-in-law, Chao Khun Devasuttha, now deceased, and his first and official wife, Khun Ying Devasuttha, still living, had forbidden their favourite son, then still the untitled Nai Vinij, to marry her. He did, and was turned out of the house, which fate he accepted calmly, even drawing from it an inspiration to work harder. When the title of Phra Vinij Montri was conferred upon him by the King, no one could say he had not earned it. After his death, Khun Ying sent word to her daughter-in-law to the effect that she would like to adopt the two older children, Ubol and Siri, and would give them the kind of education and upbringing befitting members of their class. Mrs. Samorn was adamant in her refusal to part with any of the children, thereby increasing the old lady's animosity toward her. When Ubol and Somsak, after their marriage, went to call on Khun Ying to pay their respects and receive her blessings, she acknowledged the respects, but instead of blessings gave them some spiteful remarks to take back to Mrs. Samorn. Had Ubol been under her care, she would not have had to choose an ordinary mate like Nai Somsak. She would have had her pick among the Princes, or at least the Chao Khuns. When Ubol told her about this, Mrs. Samorn said to heself that Khun Ying Devasuttha should try to find husbands for her three daughters first, before extending a helping hand to her granddaughters.

Chao Khun Devasuttha had many wives who, between them, had borne him close on twenty children. Khun Ying, his first wife, had six children, the first three being girls, Pis, Prers and Parn. Khun Ying had searched in vain for men who might make suitable matches for her well-born daughters. Now the search was probably over, for in their fifties it was doubtful if those ladies still entertained hope or even interest in the matter.

The fourth was a son, Phya Suttha, who had been carrying on the family's work in the legal field. After his younger brother Vinij had defied their parents by going off to marry Miss Samorn, a poor school teacher, Phya Suttha found himself in the middle of a problem involving his mother's honour. Khun Ying, it seemed, had been ready to present Vinij with a prospective wife, a girl she had carefully selected from among the ladies of the court. She had, in fact, as good as proposed to the girl's parents, and now Vinij's waywardness put her in an awkward position. There was only one way out, and she took it. She formally sought the girl's hand for her first son and was accepted. Thus faces were saved. It did not greatly matter if Phya Suttha already had a wife at the time.

Khun Ying's youngest son, Luang Viraj Rajkich, secretary at the Siamese Legation in Washington, had promised his mother he would not marry without her approval. So far she had not approved, and he remained a bachelor. Obedient son to his mother, he was also staunch friend to his sister-in-law and, with her consent, had taken her youngest child Prisna to Washington with him to care for, to educate, and to love like she were his own daughter.

The family arrived home from Hua Hin early in the evening. After dinner Mrs. Samorn went to see her mother, who lived in the same compound, leaving her son-in-law and three daughters to go on with their conversation.

They talked of this and that, and after a while the inevitable question came up.

I wonder what Prisna's like.” It was Siri who introduced the subject.

Isn't it terrible,” Ubol said. “How little we know about her, how we lost touch? We hardly wrote, and the only picture we have of her was taken when she was 14.”

Oh, yes, that funny picture,” Somsak said. “She looked so conscious of her long arms and legs.”

She may have grown to be a beautiful girl,” Ubol said, “but I'm not very concerned about her looks. What if she doesn't speak one word of Siamese, or doesn't want to? She might be one of those Siamese from abroad who think it smart to rattle on in English…”

Somsak did not agree with his wife. “She might be one of those,” he said, “who never rattle on in any language. She might be very quiet – wearing glasses, you know – like Anong.”

Anong wearing glasses?” Siri pretended not to understand.

I didn't say anything about Anong wearing glasses. I said Prisna might be a quiet type like Anong. And for all we know she might also wear a thick pair of glasses. But Anong is more than quiet today. That faraway look in her eyes intrigues me. Could Hua Hin have been the cause of this pensive mood?”

But Anong sat on in silence, unaware she was being teased. Then Ubol gave her a nudge and said, “Did you hear what Somsak said about you?”

What – did you say?” Anong asked.

Nothing, except that you don't wear glasses.”

What glasses?” the girl repeated innocently.

At this Somsak burst out laughing, and the two girls joined him. It did not seem funny to Anong. It only made her wish all the more for the privacy of her room. She rose to go, but was detained by Ubol.

We were talking about Prisna,” the eldest sister said. “What do you think she'd be like, Anong?”

Well, when she left us twelve years ago she had curly hair.”

I remember,” Ubol said, “we used to envy her curls, but she hated them.” She paused, and then resumed in a more matter-of-fact tone, “Where are you going to put her up – in your room, Siri? I suppose you could move in with Anong?”

Why should I give up my room?” Siri cried. “I've gone to a lot of trouble having new furnitures put in and everything, and now you want me to present it to Miss America. She can have Anong's room; I don't mind having Anong move in with me. The thing is, I'm a little afraid Prisna might turn out to be a stuck-up prima donna lording it over us just because she's been to America. Oh, I know! Why don't we have her share mother's room? That bed is big enough for two.”

Don't be silly, Siri,” Ubol said. “You know mother's always had that room to herself. You're getting to be so inconsiderate, and I don't like it!”

Prisna can share my room,” Anong spoke up, softly as usual. “It will be like in the old days before she went to the States.” Turning to Siri, she ventured an opinion, “I don't think she'll be anything like you said.”

We'll see for ourselves tomorrow what Prisna looks like, and what she is like,” Somsak cut short the discussion. “Come on, Ubol, I think it's about time we leave these peaople and go tidy up our own place.”

We can't leave without saying good-bye to mother,” Ubol said. “But we should go back, really – the house is in such a mess. And the baby – I hope Pao has already put him to bed.”

If you are worried about him, why don't we go home now, my little lotus?”

Don't translate my name!” Ubol flung a quick side glance at her husband. “I've told you so many times that I hate it!”

Somsak laughed, got up and said to the two girls, “Well, I'm leaving you, dear ladies. Please say good-bye to mother for me, will you? Are you still angry with me, Anong? Let me wish you a happy dream – a happy, lovely dream about Hua Hin. And may all your wishes come true.” He gave Anong a little bow before departing; and after picking up her things, Ubol followed him out, with the two girls accompanying her to the gate.

Let's go and see Khun Yai (maternal grandmother),” Siri said to her younger sister after Ubol had gone.

No, you go alone. I'll stay and close the windows downstairs and unpack.” Anong had no desire to see Khun Yai or anybody else at this moment.

The windows closed and locked – a nightly duty she usually shared with Siri, Anong went upstairs to her room, thankful for the opportunity to be alone. Slowly, mechanically, she opened the two suitcases, took out the clothes and hung them up in the closet. When the job was done, she looked at the empty suitcases and sighed thinking of what Somsak had said, “A happy, lovely dream about Hua Hin, and may all your wishes come true.”

Anong smiled sadly. “Somsak couldn't possibly have known. He wasn't at Hua Hin with us,” she murmured softly to herself. “And yet why did he say these strange things?”

She stood there for a long time, leaning against the window and gazing into the darkness outside. Then the silence was broken by the sound of her mother's voice, talking to Siri. They had come back from Khun Yai's bungalow and were about to come up the stairs. Anong turned from the window and went out to the landing to greet them.

2 thoughts on “Prissana – 01

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