This short story came to me after watching this awful Thai lakorn called Mia Jum Pen, way back when I had just finished year one of my first job post-college. The lakorn was so silly and quite horrendous; the type of soap opera you cringe watching but can’t get yourself to stop. But I loved the two actors that played the roles and feeling that the lakorn didn’t do them justice, I decided to write a better love story that was still about bitter love that took years to overcome that was a bit less dramatic and less angry.
Another inspiration to this short story was hearing this piece on a flight back from Copenhagen. I absolutely fell in love with the music and really wanted to write a story that was as sad, as longing, and as desirous as this piece.
Soft murmurs began to settle down as darkness enveloped her surrounding. Her beating heart demanded for someone to hold her and ease the violent butterflies banging into the walls of her stomach. She closed her eyes and prayed to whatever being could help her make it pass through this performance…through this long, lonely…and cold night.
Everyone was counting on her…everyone wanted her to perform as if she’s never performed before.
Breathing in deep and long, she counted her steps onto the dark stage, her black satin dress sparkled with a trail of diamond coming from the nape of her neck, down her back and to the end of her train. She took a seat on the black leather bench and gently laid her fingers on C Major, barely pressing on the white keys. Slowly, everything erased from her thought but the music…the lessons…the heart-wrenching days that taught her to remember her notes…her passion.
A spotlight flashed over her. Thunderous applauds spilled through the hall and she allowed her fingers to work the magic that had built her life and paved the road to a lonely future.
When he first stepped back in the country, he found himself propelled to the orchestra hall for her first concert in two years. The hall was booked full for the next two weeks that she would perform. He was the lucky few to see her on opening night.
Money allowed that. And fortunately, he had lots of it.
Watching from his balcony seat, he had seen the jewels that draped her black silk dress, trailing like a gown for the royalty. When she sat down, the jewels glittered in the darkness and the clinging of bells echoed softly, flashing a memory of a charm anklet she often wore. And only he knew. When the lights shone on her, the soft chamber music thundered its way into his heart, tumbling him back to the first time he heard her play alone in the courtyard of Ban Levaine.
He never forgot her…the sweet, innocent beauty that took his heart and destroyed it with one single word. And he returned to take back his heart. And everything else she took from him.
The reception for her first show was held at the royal palace as a tribute to the queen who had begged for her return to the spotlight.
“A star is born to play and shine for the world to see,” the queen had exclaimed at the eve of winter. “And you, my dear, Daranee, are a star already discovered. Why are you hiding now? You’re still young, beautiful, and talented. My, how many other young ladies would envy your spot!”
Daranee did not say anything to that. However, her parents were all agreeing and excited that the queen had asked for such a request and placated Daranee to do so.
It was the first time she pleased her parents of her success. Over the years, they had been ashamed of her talent and tried to forbid her learning it, if not for the urges of a European governess, who had pushed for Daranee to become a pianist entertainer.
As a young pianist prodigy, she had won the hearts of all those women who never could imagine a young girl with such high upbringing could make a career for herself. At first, it had been controversial—an aristocratic girl earning a living by entertaining—but it soon catapulted into a sensation that launched her into stardom. For eight years, she had been known as the Star of Siam. Then she suddenly stepped down.
She came back now at one request.
It wasn’t just because her parents desired her to or that the queen had requested but because she heard news of arrival.
The soldiers had all returned from war. Admirals, generals, captains, lieutenants, and infantry men had returned with fortune and title, and hopes had filled her that someone out of the few thousand would take notice of her sudden comeback and allow her to see him once more.
She wasn’t expecting him on opening night. She didn’t believe in such great fortune on her side. Not after an awful separation ten years ago that had shattered her youth and pulled her against the somberness her music signified.
Mingling in the crowd of flatterers and friends, Daranee remained stoic and untouchable as a star in the sky. Nothing was amiss with her personality; everyone was still pulled to her side. She demurely smiled, kept few words with her audience, and went along with the company.
By the end of the night, the palace had emptied. But Daranee stayed on at the request of the queen and continued to play for the private party. Music was her comfort…her escape from the sadness and—even in the crowded parlor.
From an upper room of the palace, he heard her play and began to fall asleep to her sad lullaby. No one seemed to notice how sad her music sounded like. All they cared for was her famous presence that awed them.
But Kraipope knew. He always knew what her music…her rhythm was like. Ten years…a thousand miles…her sound haunted him and kept him from ever having happiness—not without her by his side. He loved and loved forever—faithful in heart and soul.
The sun was warmly shining down the rose garden that she had found herself in, trailing behind the queen quietly listening to her ramblings and comments that Daranee agreed here and there. Her thoughts though were on the rose in her hand. A yellow un-bloomed rose with a tinge of soft pink center. She remembered it was once a gift…her first romantic gift from the opposite gender.
It had been pressed and left in one of her music book for ten years. And up to that day, the scent still lingered whenever she took it out. Now surrounded by dozens of similar roses, she found her dreams here. She found that she could drift forever away to a place where she was young and in love.
“You are not paying attention to me,” the queen stated, bringing Daranee to the state of reality.
“I’m sorry,” she mumbled, holding the rose closer against her bosom.
“It is nothing. I know you are always like that. The drifting spirit of a musician. Anyhows,” the queen reflected, “you would be surprise to know that I have a special guest. He is a captain whom my son, the youngest prince, has become close friends with. He has begged an introduction with you, my dear. A grand admirer even with distance. Can you imagine?”
Daranee could only murmur a soft reply, but her heart suddenly lurched with anticipation to whom this captain was. Could it be him? Could he return? But no—why would he need an introduction? Maybe it was not as she had hoped.
It was him.
At the concert, she had played with her usual style. Once again, she wondered if anyone was tired of the sad and somber manner in which she always played.
By night, she was whisked away to the palace again and was introduced to the princes and royal lineage who had all returned from the war.
And then, she was brought to the Queen’s youngest son who stood beside his friend, the Captain.
“Let me introduce to you, my lady, Captain Kraipope Lebsontraov,” the prince spoke.
Her eyes jerked up as her heart fell onto the floor, spilling its blood for him to see that she never forgot him. But when he reached for her hand, she pulled back and bowed to him in the old-fashioned manner that left him almost hurt by her aloof manner.
“Pleased to meet you, Miss Daranee Tatchanook,” he murmured.
Her heart jolted at the sound of his voice, caressing her heart to the point where she almost lost her breath and break down and cry. But she didn’t do any of that. She just acknowledged the introduction and faded back into the crowd of people in the ballroom.
No matter the years, he still remembered her eyes. Those soft almond brown eyes that cried and begged for love. So innocent and so vulnerable. Though her features changed…blossomed into a young woman that one might not consider beautiful, her eyes remained the same, always reprimanding Kraipope to act like a gentleman.
When he looked at her—up-close after ten years—he saw the lines and sadness that had etched her face. The memory of her youth had disappeared and was replaced with a wiser woman who seemed to carry aches of the world. When her eyes had graced its presence on him, he saw the widen expression of her dilated pupils pulling him in to see that she had remembered him. Mayhap, she was haunted by the past as he was.
Though she did not talk…not even a word…and had parted from him like a haunting breeze, his eyes constantly trailed her throughout the room, watching her mingle with admirers of her music and watching her draw a façade as men gravitated closer to her by her hidden beauty.
Did he still have a chance?
“She has many admirers, Captain,” prince spoke, standing beside him.
Kraipope glanced at the man who had become his good friend and gave him a bland look.
“I didn’t expect less,” Kraipope answered. “She is the ‘Star of Siam’. There are bound to be admirers of her music.”
“I meant her beauty,” the prince corrected. “She may not be a goddess, but she is a human whose beauty shines from within.”
Kraipope did not argue that. He had once known her goodness and witnessed it ten years ago when she had not accused him of trespassing Ban Levaine’s sacred terrace. A poor boy captured by a musician who played so beautifully…so captivating. She had blushed at his presence yet allowed him to stay on and listen. That had been the start of their courtship—taking place in Ban Levaine…a house of manner…a house of love.
“She is the one who drove you to become a sailor?” The prince asked.
Kraipope silently nodded.
“’Tis only a dream that faded too soon,” he whispered to himself. Turning to the prince, he replied, “She and I were from different class. She had only been sixteen…a mere child who caught my heart and made me cupid’s slave. But in the end, summer’s love died with the end of my courtship at her request. I should have known better than to court pain.”
“Ah…the anguish of lovers and dreamers…” the prince noted. “But then, summer has come around again, my dear friend. Why, it has come around half a score’s time! Could it be possible that you were not the only one who courted pain? From her music, I can hear that she is quite sorrowful.”
“That is the style of her pieces,” Kraipope firmly stated as an excuse.
“Shall we see?”
It was almost a challenge that the prince offered on the plate though Kraipope barely knew an appropriate response. The prince only raised his eyebrows in mocking knowledge before he approached his mother, the queen, and whispered something in her ear.
“Play something you like,” the queen requested of Daranee. “Something that is your favorite. Romantic…if it must be.”
There was a glimmer of amusement in the queen’s eyes that Daranee had never seen before. But Daranee made no protest as she walked towards the parlor room where the grand piano sat waiting for a player. When she sat down, a small crowd began to surround her. A low scratch on the polished floor turned her attention back to the crowd and she saw Kraipope pulling a chair to sit down. As he did that, their eyes connected. Their hearts reached out beyond the cool surface of their irises to search…to test…to see if memories still had a chance.
However, one second was taken away from them when the queen situated herself between the two and begged Daranee to start. And so Daranee did. Or tried to, anyhow.
Her fingers could not start a song. Her mind was rushing her to begin but her heart was telling to her to take her time. Confusion slowly built to the point where she could not play anything. You must play, Daranee, she told herself. You must not let anyone down. You are the “Star of Siam.” You must shine. Whether you like it or not. Whether you must be hurt again or not.
She had meant to play the ballad of Swan Lake…but her finger refused to play that. Her fingers found the right tune…the memories prevailed and Schubert began to play what had been left in her heart for ten long forlorn years. The quietness that echoed slowly from the center of the piano drifted outwards to the only person in her audience. The only person whom Daranee had loved and lost yet continued to always play for.
Ten years of separation was based on inequality. It was based on cowardice, fear, and obedience. Daranee was a fool the whole time. She had lost everything when she did not follow her heart and stand up for what she wanted.
The tears in Kraipope’s eyes that night after she finished her piece were the same tears he shed ten years ago.
They were the same tears reflected in her eyes.
He loved her still. He loved her as she loved him.
Yet why was she not with him? Why had she never told him?
Pacing the guest chamber that the queen had set her up in, Daranee could still hear the music thundering in her heart. She could still see the outlines of her past. The memories of an innocent love that did not make sense but her entire world was composed of it.
And then she heard it. She heard the haunting whistle that drifted through the breeze. Timidly, she reached her window and stared out to the garden below. In the shadow of the night, she saw the moon bathing the sleeping rose garden and there she saw him.
Like a ghost, he was playing Schubert on an orca. Was it the same orca she gave him? Was it the same memory that he was conjuring up as she had conjured up?
Unbeknownst to all, she raced down the stairs. She raced out of her prison and told herself that she was capturing the things she lost. The love she rejected. The proposal she had thrown away at the request of her parents. The future she should have had if she hadn’t been so weak. This time, she will love and she will love bravely.
“Kraipope.” Out of breath, she stopped at the entrance of the garden and stared at him.
Moonbeam sparkled the tears in her eyes. It sparkled the jewel on the orca.
It was the same orca she gave him ten years ago. An orca she made herself and used her grandmother’s jewel to inset in it. Her only gesture that deemed love. Did he know?
“Daranee.” He raised a hand out.
Several silent moments passed. He patiently waited. “Come to me. Come with me, Da.”
This time she ran towards him, slipping her hand into his and embracing him into the circle of her warmth.
“I never forgot you.” She wept against his chest. Her sobs filled the silence of the garden and entered his heart. “I never meant to hurt you. Please forgive me, Kraipope. I was a fool.”
“I never thought you were. And I never stopped loving you, Da. Did you?”
“Could you not tell?”
He pulled away from her, his hands grasped around her arms. With her head upturned, she watched him probing her eyes and searching for the answer.
“I came back for you. Will you agree to come with me this time?”
Daranee was never more sure than anything in her life when she nodded. She smiled for the first time in ten years and accepted his proposal. This time, she did not allow anyone to stop her. Inequality no longer stopped her. Obedience and fear no longer existed when she knew that ten years had never ceased his love or faithfulness to her. She knew. He knew. They both knew that their love was meant to be. It was written in the stars since the day they first met one another. And their love lived on through their music. Their sweet, sweet love.