Tiger Lily of Bangkok
by Owen Jones
1 Saturday Night
Lily was lying in the bath, the water as hot as she could bear, soaking for ten minutes and then scrubbing her skin for ten minutes more before repeating the cycle over and over again. She was trying to remove the smell of ‘pig’ from herself. That was what she thought it smelled like anyway and she couldn’t think of a viler smell in all the world. She was starting to become obsessed with it or many would probably say that she already was obsessed, but she couldn’t help that any longer. If there had been a time to conquer her obsession, it had long since passed.
So, now she was stuck with it no matter how long she soaked or how hard she scrubbed.
In the beginning, she had changed her name often in the hope that a new name would somehow cleanse her, but that had not worked either. She had been very superstitious, like many people from the countryside, but she was less so now, having seen that nothing seemed to help her odiferous predicament.
She thought about her family and wondered again whether it was a good thing that they were not there to help her or a bad thing. For Lily was not from Bangkok and knew hardly anyone there, although it was fair to say that no-one knew anything about her either, even if they thought they did. Except that she was a student, although not many knew that she was a medical student. If anyone knew the truth, then she would still have no friends, but she could not tell anyone her story, because she was too ashamed on the one hand and on a secret mission on the other.
Lily had arrived in Bangkok from a small village in Isaan near the Mekong River the year before when she was eighteen in order to study at medical college. Her father was dead now, but her parents had not been poor, as such. They were both of Chinese extraction and they had made their living from a small village shop. Their families had been in Thailand for more than a hundred years and the whole family felt Thai. The only concessions they made to their true ethnicity was to sprinkle a few Chinese words into their conversation and cook some dishes from back home every now and again.
However, people could tell that they were of Chinese descent, although that did not matter because no-one had ever held it against them in the village which was the only home that any of them had ever had since their great-grandparents had arrived. In those days, Lily had often joked in English that she was a ‘Thai-Girl Lily’ and she had used that nickname in Bangkok too one night. Now she could never use it again or she may give the game away.
Tiger Lilies were her mother’s favourite flowers – they had always been around the house and garden when they were in season.
Lily was small-framed – always had been – and had the cutest, pixie face anyone had ever seen. She was all in proportion too, as much as any teenager is, but she was small. At first people said that she was ‘small for her age’ and then they realised that she always would be. Even fully-grown at nineteen, she was only five feet tall and weighed just a hundred pounds.
That had never been a problem either and she did not mind being shorter and lighter and slimmer than her contemporaries. In fact it worked in her favour, not least because she could get cheaper clothes.
The only problem that Lily had ever had was from a man who used to help out in the shop when her parents were out buying stock. Her parents trusted him as a friend and she was told to call him ‘uncle’ as an honorary title. He would be there sometimes when she got home from school.
It started when she was eleven.
He used to compliment her; lift her up on to his lap and buy her sweets. She hadn’t minded that too much, but when he had started taking his thing out and getting her to massage it because it ‘was sore’, she knew that something was wrong.
She had tried to avoid him and even to say no, but he had threatened to tell her parents and then the whole village that she was a tease and had led him on with her natural beauty and seductive ways that ‘no sane man would have been able to resist’. However, she was not a stupid girl and she was well-aware that all the other men in the village had managed to resist her charms, such as they were, so far.
Nevertheless, she had not wanted her parents to find out and so she just carried on. She hated that man, but had not known what to do about it. Then one day, one of the boys in school was showing his friends a porn film which he was downloading from the Internet onto his iPad. Lily had not known what was going on, but she was curious and had wriggled into the group to see.
The scenes that she witnessed were of a woman kissing a man’s privates and then putting them into her mouth. She was quite shocked that anyone would want to do that, but the man in the film was obviously enjoying it and so were the boys around her. Lily had got out of the crowd quickly and gone about her routine school activities.
A few days later, when her ‘uncle’ had asked for a massage, Lily had knelt on the floor in front of him and copied what she has seen the lady in the film doing. Her uncle could not believe his luck. He got carried away and pulled Lily unto him until she was gagging then he hit her about the top of her head. Not hard, but hard enough so that if Lily had had any doubts about carrying out her plan, they soon disappeared.
His ecstatic moans got louder and louder until Lily bit down so hard that it came away in her mouth. Her ‘uncle’ had run out of the door screaming, blood spurting everywhere, but Lily had not planned what to do next. She went over to the open window, spat the thing out into the yard and just sat there looking at it, blood staining her face and clothes.
Pretty soon their chickens had found the bloody thing and were pecking away at it. When the police had arrived, Lily’s pink vest was covered in red blood like a poorly tie-died T-shirt and she still had congealed blood on her chin and around her mouth. She was crying silently, although the tears were real enough.
The man had been taken into a custodial wing of a nearby hospital and charged and Lily and her parents had been given two options of punishing him. The police would either lock him up for up to nine years, or he would be forced by the police to sell his land, give Lily the proceeds from three fields and leave the village for ever. Lily and her parents had chosen the money, so that she could have a decent education and that was why she was in Bangkok.
After that, no-one had blamed Lily openly, but her life had changed. Her father had died too, some had said of shame and she could not wait to get away. Bangkok had seemed so exciting and she liked the idea of being an anonymous student in the capital city where no-one knew her past.
She had a quarter of a million Baht in the bank, which might be enough for her to finish her three-year degree, but then there would be nothing left. Not only that, but she would have to live frugally during her years in college just to be able to finish the course, unless she asked her mother for help, which she didn’t want to do because she thought that Lily had lots of money. She just did not understand and seemed to Lily not to really want to either.
When she had been in Bangkok a few weeks she realised that the struggle was not over. She was on a three-year course, so she had approximately 80,000 per annum to live on plus a bit of interest and maybe a little from a part-time job during the holidays. She could manage about 120,000 a year, but the course cost 60,000 plus books and uniforms, so she was looking at a life in Bangkok on 1,000 Baht a week, which was far from an exciting prospect.
She did the only thing she could think of and found herself a boyfriend with money, which had not been difficult. By the end of the third month, she had four regular boyfriends and they were all making a contribution to her college fund. This brought in roughly another 8,000 a week and sometimes more, which gave her a comfortable lifestyle.
She had a lovely little apartment, which she would let no-one see on the pretext that her two female flatmates had made her promise that the flat would be permanently a boy-free zone. Although she lived alone, none of her male companions had ever questioned her motives and she had never taken a man back there either. She had even gone so far as to bribe the concierge to tell any and all male visitors for her that they were not allowed inside as a condition of the lease.
Lily told her friends that all the residents were either single women or married couples, and she was believed because there were such residences in Bangkok and Lily looked so innocent.
She was twelve months into the deception now and she had only lost one boyfriend whom she had easily replaced. Lily kept the weekends free, by saying that she had to go home every Friday night to help her sick mother run the shop, but she had not been back since the first day she had left it.
Lily gave it one more go with the nail brush, scrubbing and washing herself all over, before giving up on the hopeless battle of ridding herself of the smell of pigs. She got out of the bath, dried herself lightly with a towel, covered her body in sweet-smelling talcum powder and then wrapped herself in a huge, luxuriously-soft bath towel in the time-honoured Thai style. This was the best way that she had discovered so far of masking the smell that she knew surrounded her like body odour.
She went through to the lounge, put some music on the TV and rang Aeng, the most possessive of her boyfriends.
“Hello, darling, how are you?” she asked. “It is so nice to hear your voice again. I do miss you so when I am back with mum. I hate the village now. I wish I didn’t have to come back here. I would much rather be curled up with you.”
“Is that where you are now, Lily? At home? I can hear music in the background. I have asked you to move in with me. Are you still considering it, my dear?”
“Yes and yes, we closed the shop an hour ago. Mum had the first shower, then me and I have just sat down to watch some TV with her, but we don’t stay up late. The shop has to be open by seven every morning to catch people going to work. You know this, my love, I have explained it all to you before. Look, I mean listen, I’ll turn the TV up and change channels. See? I could not do that if I were in a karaoke bar, could I, you silly Billy!
“I wish you would trust me more. Anyway, I had better go, I don’t want to annoy mum, she wants a bit of peace and quiet too. I’ll see you on Monday night when I get back. I’ll ring you tomorrow, darling, sweet dreams.”
That was enough to keep him happy, and she could phone the others the next day.
Lily liked ghost and horror films and she had quite a collection of pirated DVD’s. She selected one, dimmed the lights, turned the volume on the large-flat screen TV up and hugged a pillow to her chest, ready to hide behind it when things got scary. As she lay on the couch, Lily planned her Sunday during the ‘boring bits’.
Sunday was always an inviolable day of rest, although she did have to do some studying. However, it was the only day of the week that she got completely to herself, so she often liked to go out shopping.
Lily always had a lot of shopping to do, because she needed lots of clothes and things to keep up all of her pretences.
You can buy Tiger Lily of Bangkok from the bookshop in the title bar.
by +Owen Jones