It’s wrong to say “my friend”, better to say Daniel’s. Sijitra was actually a child-lover petite lady whom Daniel, my 2-year boy, was interested in like his own mother. They found each other in the neighboring park where every other evening I was strolling Daniel to meet up with his playmates. She seemed bright and upbeat person trying to please others when I first met her. Her magic chemistry, more importantly, her caring towards the baby, had already won dad’s heart as well. Since she was fond of my son and so I was of her, no doubt I would manage to make my park going a regular program to meet her pretty often. However, despite her relation with Daniel, our personal relation never matured and went on as plain as its start until last week.
Sijitra had a very calm temperament. Her fine manners and maturity made hard to believe she was only 24. Her small mouth rarely opened to bother a question or start a conversation. Her full lips, looked like a couple of fat grain of brown variety of Thai rice, worked as real appetizer to keep conversation going. A black mole on the corner of her lips, seemed like a full stop as if it wanted to say “stop talking, enjoy watching”. You could see your image inside her large round eyes from a meter away and her arched eyebrows, moving up and down, made you feel she had control over your mind. Her round and short nose was her Asian feature and if it wasn’t for high cheek bones and long lashes, her thick, wavy, long dark brown hair, didn’t let you to recognize her from silhouette. Her smile, which was her default reaction to almost everything, projected warmth and honesty.
She usually took a good care of her appearance, but not by exotic make-ups, an exception was wearing perfume as my nostrils were being filled any time Daniel exchanged the cuddle of her to mine. Her beauty wasn’t the only reason I attracted for, I was impressed by her personality as well. I found no sign in her to be a user at all, as she had never even asked me what I was doing for a living or what brand of car I was driving. She was the only adult person, among almost a hundred people coming to that park each day, whom I hadn’t been interrogated with questions about Daniel’s mother. The kinds of inquiries which could drive me mad if I hadn’t already lived in Phuket for three years and being a bit familiar with Asian culture.
Daniel’s real mother left her son and all her Thailand’s affairs to further her education in China shortly after we had broken up, the event after which I became a single dad with no one to help and nowhere to turn. Since then my bonds with almost all aspects of normal life had been loosened, except with our little boy, whose bringing up in that critical age wasn’t an easy job at all. His birthday was on the horizon and I wanted to make it a memorable day from his childhood. But I was torn between several alternatives how I could make his special day and although more 3 days remained to June 15, I still undecided what to do or where to go. Then a meteor lighted my brain. What opportunity on the earth was better that to open a conversation about common interest, Daniel, with Sijitra?
Sijitra’s suggestion of taking a tour to Phi Phi Island seemed it was the thing we needed. I felt that the opportunity had knocked to be for myself as well. Then, in my surprise, she asked if she could come with us. I thought I was dreaming. I had been invited to the realm of fun, what kind of fool would I be to not accept? I could kill two birds with one stone, a little gratitude of her caring to my son didn’t hurt and a sip from the lake of affection she owned, as the way she was waiting on Daniel used to stimulate my jealousy. I imagined Daniel and I were going to have a perfect sweet holiday with this chocolate colored skin nymphet, having somebody to take care of us with heart.
“Are we going by speed boat or big boat?” Sijitra asked. I was okay either way. Then she went on. “Big boat is safer for the baby and he will enjoy more by having a lot of tourists around him. Besides, Kitlaphat, a good friend of mine, is working in Sea Angel Boat. We haven’t seen each other since taking that massage course three years ago. Neither of us followed that career. She is someone for herself on that ship now but I remained a hotel receptionist, I like my job very much though. At least I could learn English.”
I provided tickets the way Sijitr had instructed me. The only naughty job I did was changing one day tour to two. I readied a bag full of stuff, spare clothes in particular, for my son the night before. Awaiting Sijitra early morning to join and the van to take us to the pier, Daniel was full of joy as if he knew we were going to have fun. He was climbing up my shoulder and giving me kisses without request, the kisses that with them I had more than enough to live for. He left me at once when he saw Sijitra from the distance. She smiled at us so that I could see her perfect row of white teeth from 20 meters away. With those high heels, she considered no longer a petite. She looked marvelous in new attire. Her total outfit seemed like an ice cream in which chocolate portion surrounded by other flavors.
The van driver took narrow alleys and shortcut ways to compensate his being late. It was the first time Sijitra and I sat next to each other so close. I could smell conditioner from her hair. I tried to look into my heart carefully and ask what made her special to me. Was our common origin, India, which my ancestors left seventy centuries ago and did hers seven, attracted her to me? Daniel was switching her lap and mine constantly as if he wanted us get out of awkwardness of the first date. He couldn’t help laughing and singing in a way that I haven’t seen before. He was our third wheel as I had read somewhere “every date needs one”. Sijitra reached into her bag and handed him a small bar of chocolate. Then she showed him a seagull flying over the long row of boats.
Her friend gave Sijitra a bear hug. She kissed Daniel on the cheek and warmly shook my hand. Kitlaphat was in mid-forties and was about twenty years too old to wear that kind of make-up. Her pleasantries made me understand that to communicate with her I need Sijitra to translate things more than normal greetings. Other boat crew treated me as a guest of honor. It seemed, however, she was fluent in facial expressions and body gestures. A young man with a red t-shirt, boat’s logo embroidered on his left chest, toured me to all stories of the boat. Three floors, each with about 200 seats, and a roof top suitable for a school children’s football match, made me curious to ask my guide why they called it a “boat” and not a “ship”.
The seats were half occupied as most of the passengers were enjoying the scenery outside. Passing by other guests gave me the idea that Thai smile had been contagious. I could feel an international atmosphere, most of them were Indian though. Everybody seemed busy and energetic enjoy watching the landscape, greeting others and making new friends, sipping beer, or taking pictures. They were preparing themselves to embrace the adventures promised in the tour brochure, particularly trying on life jackets and testing snorkeling kits. I couldn’t help getting my hopes up to share an adventure inside the water with Sijitra.
I found Sijitra and her friend busy adjusting a small life jacket for Daniel when I rejoined them. They beckoned one ready for me as well. I was thinking that making Daniel enjoy swimming safely with angel fish wouldn’t be an easy job to manage, but seeing how well that little life jacket fitted him made me overcome my worriedness. Sijitra couldn’t help keep kissing Daniel as if she was seeing off her beloved one to a long journey. I couldn’t see in her any sign of getting prepared and that was weird to me. I just became convinced when I remembered that Thai ladies avoid swimming in sunshine. So I didn’t insist on. She managed to stay on the boat taking pictures of us, made me save all my hopes of intimacy with her for the night ahead.
Daniel could not help shivering of fear, mixed with over-excitement, as he found it too different from bath tub and striding in shallow beaches hands being held by parents. As the adventure became more exciting there was so much to see and feel with deep wonder. It didn’t take a minute that hundreds of nestling fish left their tiny holes and crevices in the coral, and the little hands of Daniel offering slices of toast became their main prey. He kept laughing and screaming when nibbled delicately at his fingers or touched by thin fins of those strange playmates flickering in that clear water like transparent butterflies. Feeling the warm water caressing our skin and the beauty of bright brilliant colourful schools of fish surrounded us faded completely away the fear of Daniel, but not Sijitra from my mind, as the simple play date of my son at that park were going to become my love story.
I was distracted by life guard blowing in his whistle and flagging the sign of “5 min left”. I handed Daniel to a life guard and clambered the floated ladder. Other travel mates seemed like a defeated army after that long adventure of swimming, snorkeling, and taking shower afterwards and I wasn’t an exception. Sijitra was dressing Daniel up. I felt so exhausted and starving that her advice to keep my appetite for the lunch ahead seemed meaningless unless her friend turned up and interfered. She instructed us to disembark the boat before the swarm of other hungry folks could change the narrow pathway into a running track. Taking Daniel upon my shoulder and Sijitra, both her hands already full of stuff as mine, we headed to the restaurant.
The lunch time was the proper opportunity for Sijitra and her friend to review their life since that two months course. “Did you know she is a great masseur?” asked her friend, blinking at me as though she was giving me a tacit permission to have a request later on. Could it serve as foreplay to quench my thirst of full intimacy with Sijitra at night? “Her hands are real healers. She was the best in our class.” Kitlaphat added, skipping my turn to answer her question. Showing interest in ongoing conversation and taking her comments as a green light I delivered a smile of appreciation and consent. My eyes were travelling incessantly from Sijitra’s hands, feeling they would touch my body and heart simultaneously, to her face searching for the reaction. “But I didn’t follow that career as I found my current job at hotel as soon as we finished the course. I have already forgotten everything.” Sijitra explained, getting out of primary flushness. “Me neither, but close friends are exceptions” her friend replied, giving me a big wink once more, making no effort to hide it from Sijitra.
It seemed we were the only passengers who had a plan to stay a night in the island as others had no luggage with them at restaurant. So I exchanged emails and Facebook ID with some of newly made friends before heading to our hotel room. We were welcomed by a very courteous woman at Phi Phi Princess Hotel. It had almost all comforts we needed with a reasonable price, although its facilities would be useless for exhausted guests seeking their pleasure in bed. Over the next two hours I wasn’t in a talkative mood to open a conversation and I was kind of hoping Sijitra might. But her sick fancy to make herself busy with Daniel affairs made me even more demotivated. I had been watching her ever since she came in the hotel room, bathing the baby, folding up his clothes and packing them in new order, made her seem busy like a bee. I had a narrow hope that the silent period served at least as a trust maker to show her I wasn’t just looking for physical needs.
Walking on the beach, just a stone’s throw from the hotel, entertaining Daniel with chasing tiny sea creatures on the fresh area left over by low tide for an hour, changed our mood into a positive state completely. Then window shopping in the local market afterwards took us a whole entire evening. I looked for the opportunity to heat up our relation and direct it to an emotional way by buying her a gift. But her excuses were more colorful than her interests. Our shopping was summarized to Daniel’s birthday cake that we failed to prevent him of putting his finger on it multiple times.
We ended up in a quiet restaurant with a distorted cake in her hands and a baby in mine. We had little success to make dinner a gay affair for trio as we were feeling exhausted. We shared the cake and Happy Birthday Song with the staff of restaurant for Daniel fallen asleep on her lap. His face, painted with chocolate and cream looked the same as FC Barcelona Football team, reminded me of his innocent side. Daniel had outgrown his bad behaviors completely the whole day. He left me with nothing but a big surprise how he had changed from having a sweet tooth into an obedient baby who gulped any glass of fruit juice, of whichever taste, with a single beckon of Sijitra.
By the time we arrived at hotel, I was in a special state of mind, full of desire but lost of words. I imagined I was in a fruit garden unable to even taste one. It seemed kind of quiet in there. I had known the face ladies put on when they want something but shy to tell it, but Sijitra’s face had left me with confusion by far. It was another half an hour before she was going to say something. “I have got to tell you something”. She seemed to be serious. I wondered what she was going to unveil. “Well, what is it you have got to tell me?” I demanded impatiently. “My friend gave your money back. Our tour is free of charge. It is a kind of promotion for the staff that every season they can have a free ticket for two persons and she gifted it to us”. It wasn’t that what I was looking forward to hear. “Oh, it’s very kind of her” I said to be polite anyway.
My mind was in a state that hearing or seeing anything from her, other than on the way of intimacy, was considered a dirty game and I hated this game. That reminded me of story my father had told me dated back to my childhood. The story was about a master and his indoor servant in a New Year event. Bowing in front of his master, the servant was sneaking a look at the hands of the master to give him a tip. Every time the master put his hand into his pocket, the heart of the servant was beating faster with excitement to see his favorite color of banknote. First was a key, then a handkerchief, next a piece of paper, and so a chain of trivial stuff which meant nothing but to kill the patience of poor servant.
That she hadn’t changed into night gown or more comfortable clothes by far wasn’t a good sign and that made me began to give up hope of ever having fun that night. I was wondering what she wanted from our relationship. Had it just been an unrequited love? Had I misconstrued her actions and she indeed, had fallen in love with a 2-year boy, whom his father was a big fool? Had it been all out of the goodness of her heart and she would treat anybody else the same? I knew that being pleasant to customers as a hotel receptionist was part of her job and she had probably found me difficult to please. But her sudden request of moving the bed to stick to the wall by the excuse of preventing Daniel from falling down made me stay hopeful, as the rest of the bed wasn’t too wide to prevent us from falling apart.
Clearly it was up to me to take action and at that time I had only vague idea what course of action to take. It was so quiet there that the drips of water falling from the trees outside could be heard clearly. I toned my voice down a bit as if I was telling a secret. I reminded her of being professional in massage. Then she offered me a smile and gave me a look as if she was cursing her friend to uncover that secret. Despite her way of consent I considered it as a big step forward. I couldn’t help getting my hopes up again. “Ok! Feel relax! Your back first.” she ordered. I lay on the bed, drowned in dreams.
Her hair in a perfect harmony with her childish hands movements, were patting my skin as if they were sweeping all my anxieties. Their touch was soft and gentle and so delicious to my skin that I felt a kind of mellow. The appetite to have more of her, the intrusive thought, didn’t let me to feel relaxed though. Then she started telling the story of being at hospital, looking after her sick mother, and how she had felt lonely in this world without her mother afterwards. Even though any story other than love story at that time was too long for me to hear, her story made me feel guilty of being too selfish for thinking only of my interests and not of hers. Plus, I had no choice but to show affection and understanding. I knew interrupting was wrong but what if there was a verbose storyteller that you have a plan to commit a sweet sin with? What would be more disastrous than ending up with tears and sadness? I wasn’t quite sure what to do next. I asked if I could turn over.
She put my foot on her lap started pushing my sole and stretching my toes. My eyes travelled over her body and landed on the back of her right shoulder where a bunch of glittering stars had been tattooed on. Her arm, bisecting her curls, was shining like a cake that had just been brought of stove, made her pretty and desirable. My patience was in short supply. I started rubbing her arm gently. She went on relieving fatigue from my foot indifferently as if she needed time how to react. I released my foot and sat next to her. The stars on her shoulder were the first spot I started kissing. Smelling apricot flavor from her hair was intoxicating. Our lips were just an inch away and I imagined how those tropical cocktails could soften my soul.
I was about to bend her back and make my arm pillow for her head that she got up suddenly. I wondered what she was going to do. I outstretched my right hand to invite her back. She put hers on it and shook it in the way that was too far from accepting an invitation. Then she said, “We are Pewan”, the Thai version for “Just Friends” meant no sex, no emotional kiss and touch. The words were like a punch in my stomach. I was absolutely shocked by her disobedient. I had been fallen into the “Just Friend” zone before but not after this amount of physical and mental proximity. All part of the scene after spending fifteen hours together seemed the point of no return with men that ladies have little control over.
The holiday wasn’t going forward the way I had planned. In minutes to come I was thinking about how I could get it back on track that we were startled by the sudden bellow of thunder followed by thousands of rain drops knocking at the window as a military march passing outside our room. That made Daniel awaken and he was so brisk I bet he thought it was morning. There was no point in questioning her any further. Sijitra shook her curls and burst to laugh. Then she addressed me; “You see? The thunder from the sky and Daniel from the earth have both come to save me. You know what? To be honest, at first I was kind of scared and I didn’t want to come with you. With Daniel involved I felt safe to give it a try.”
There was a big fight inside my mind. The most animal of my nature, was nagging at me and trying to convince me to do something, even beg. Another voice within me kept fighting the idea. “You get nowhere irrespective of kind of speech that will just lessen your self-esteem. Don’t be so selfish to damage her relation with your little boy! It’s not something you can accept as a mercy. You are not that country boy anymore.” I felt very hot despite air-con was on. I started fanning myself with the pillow but it couldn’t help. Finally, I jumped up, headed to bathroom and surrendered my body to cold water.
I reviewed all adventure in shower time. I had to go back to square one and figure out why I ended up with “We are just friends”. I was blameworthy. I was doing the same as when I was a brand new in Thailand, when I found these people speak like birds and write like ancient Egyptians. I had known the rules of the game but I was willing to bend it. I should have planted seeds to be harvested later and those simple greetings in the park were not accounted for this respect. I shouldn’t overlook the weapon that ladies all over the world use to differentiate themselves from bed-hoppers. And all these self-reproaches made me go off the idea of making any extra effort or think about another game changer to act in my favor on the way to achieve my ego gratification goal. Plus, I had the experience multiple times that if I could make it happen by any possible gimmick it made her feel sinful and that was poison for our relation.
Being back to bed I saw her lying down trying to make Daniel sleep again reminded me of my anxiety that kept me to be cautious not damage their relation. She had scars on both legs, legacy of scooter accidents, what most of Thai ladies had, reminded me stories I had been listening before on from working ladies in Phuket. Born to a rather poor family, they hadn’t given a very good early education. They usually live in a relatively poor area of the country and came to Phuket with hope to get out of the discomforts of life on their farms. They have to feed and clothe children, parents, and other people who depended on them for their livelihood. If they were chosen by a rich “Farang”, what they call white guys, a fortune may have its eye on them.
Even though I had little to feel good about I managed to keep my composure and showed her nothing important had happened. “I am not a bar lady, besides, those few touristic areas can’t be generalized to whole country. I have a good job and I am neither looking for your money nor seeking my luck in anybody else.” She was expressing herself in a most articulating way. “Are you sure I have any money? It’s just your attitude about Farang. Have I done anything offensive?” I asked. “We are not comfortable at first time even if we love somebody. We are not the same as Falang. And don’t take it to yourself. It’s not only about you.”
Receiving her message literally and getting her attitude about her potential lover gave me a better feeling that not to be hard on myself. I concluded that it hadn’t been my fault and she hadn’t been ready at all. It was the best opportunity to get lessons from her without middlemen but I was too tired to take advantage of it. “I am not upset. I respect you.” I tried to close the subject. “There is no need to go on about it. It’s time to be sleeping. Do stop it please!” I implored. “Let’s play a game! It’s called who can be quiet and fall asleep first.”
The next morning the rain had gone, so had my mood and romantic feeling. When I woke up there were no sign of Sijitra and Daniel in the room. It was almost noon and I had lost breakfast from Hotel. But when I came out of the bathroom, wrapped in a towel, they turned up and Daniel jumped to my hug so suddenly that the towel fell down and left me with embarrassment by the door. Sijitra narrated how Daniel had been playing with other children merrily after breakfast. I was looking at her face and thinking “How happy I was when I started this trip. Was my holiday ruined by her?” She started packing our stuff and warned me to rush and not miss the lunch as well. In the interim, I checked out with the cashier.
By the time we walked in the restaurant serving the food was just about to begin. Sijitra’s friend had reserved a table for us. I was so hungry that hadn’t even noticed the black kitten Daniel had put on his lap feeding. He hadn’t been so brave before. “How was your honeymoon?” I didn’t expect Kitlaphat could be so open with us. I saw Sijitra hiding her face from us as if she was guilty of what happened the previous night. “It was great!” I said. I disliked chatting over the subject anymore. “Come on baby! We can’t afford to wait for you playing with cats anymore!” I begged to Daniel. “My friend is a real angel, hope you appreciate her qualities!” Kitlaphat added, leaving us to urge the other passengers to embark.
Giving Daniel piggybacking, about half an hour later I was clambering the boat. All the faces around us were new, but resembled the day before. “In low season the combination of our guests are almost like this.” Kitlaphat explained. There were no sign of those adventurous and explorers. The passengers seeking more of a place to lie down, relax, or sleep. They were on no mood of enjoying, few were looking outside. Children fell asleep on their moms’ laps, wives leaned on husband’s shoulders, and husbands had no care for the rest of family. All the seats were occupied. They all have emptied their energy storage in the morning as we did the day before. Sijitra and Daniel were no exceptions as they shared the homey ward of her friend to compensate being early bird that day. I was one of the few passengers that still enjoying open air.
Feeling piece in mind that Daniel was safe next to somebody that no one else could be to him, I climbed up to the very top of the boat for a better view. I was thinking of him how he had been over-parented for two days and had been enjoying himself. Phi Phi island was almost disappearing from the view. Some passengers were sunbathing on the roof and a few groups of Indians enjoying the breeze on the far end of the boat. My sole aim was finding a cozy spot to spread my thoughts and get read of what I dislike.
On the roof top I had a bird’s eye view not only of the route but also on what passed me those couple of days, replaying every moment of it. The boat bisecting the see with a broad line of bubbles seemed like Milky Way on the sky at a full moon night. The sea had different shades of green from different sides of the boat, the same as what exactly existed in my mind. Tempting to call some of past bed buddies and spending a couple of days in bed with them was one reaction to what Sijitra had done to me. My nobler self, on the other hand, had different idea. Not giving up and refuging to a mediocre station but willing to be pushed and challenged, embracing even the failure in the pursuit of what I really wanted was its proposition.
Staring at white lazy clouds, paced like pregnant ladies, thinking what fragile message they were conveying, made me feel embraced by Mother Nature. I wasn’t judgmental any longer. It took no time for the sea breeze to blow off my thoughts and negative experience. But it took minutes to notice a hand had already landed my shoulder. A hand my body knew well. There before my eyes was a kind face embellished with her familiar smile. “I wandered where on earth you have been an hour long and what you were up to. I thought you were chatting with a beautiful girl that you forgot me and your son. I am not jealous!” She travelled her hand from my shoulder to my ear lops. “I am not her victim anymore” I told myself. “I have nobody except “just friends” in this boat” I teased her. “You know, I am a Thai lady and…”. She was about to give a long speech once more, or at least I guessed. “Do not wish to discuss it further, the subject is closed.” I interrupted her.
It took a minute or two before she looked up at me. I felt sad when I saw those fat tears pouring down her cheeks. “I am really sorry if I made you disappointed,” she said, pushing my hand in hers. I tried to change her mood. “I can’t thank you enough. We have had a good holiday and that because you have been part of it.” I said in an official manner. “It’s on me to thank you with all my heart for understanding me last night.” What did she mean by understanding? Not being pressured? Not making her to feel like a slut? I didn’t know and didn’t ask either. “I am serious. How I ever repay you?” I went on. “It’s easy” She said. “Invite me to dine together, and give me a drive to work tomorrow morning before 9am.” I shot her a double take. “Tomorrow? From where then?” I asked suspiciously. “From your house. I am calling on your hospitality for tonight. aren’t I?”
“Are you staying with us tonight? Just friend?” I was articulating the weird news I had just heard. She frowned and then broke into a grin. “Don’t throw that phrase to me anymore!” She said, nearing her finger to my lips. “No, I am not fool. I can’t live with a stupid illusion anymore.” I made it clear. Then she bent down my head, grabbing it with both hands, searching for herself deep into my eyes, and articulated. “We are not comfortable with bed time stories in bed let alone out of it in advance. We are not the same as Farangs. This is second lesson.” I saw no sign of that humble Sijitra I knew, but a talkative teacher. She had been completely turned on.
I bet she found me confused and still unconvinced that she put her lips to mine. A moment later I had neither doubt nor could breathe anymore, but feeling the numbness in all my body organs and curing my wounds by the elixir of love flowing through my blood stream freely. She took the opportunity to unleash her feelings and I took it to know what I had been obsessed by, ever since we had met. Her putty lips were real and natural. “You make me feel great.” She cooed. Then we made out again, carefree of other people were watching, what Thai ladies were usually sensitive about. She couldn’t see any other barrier at all.
We were startled by a familiar voice from behind. “Congratulations! It seemed you had unfinished job from last night.” It was kitlaphat. We looked at each other. I felt shyer than Sijitra did, as opposed to what happened the day before. “Oh, who’s taking care of Daniel then?” Sijitra asked. “He is still sleeping but it’s time to wake him up and get ready to disembark before other folks rush.” Her friend explained. Then I addressed kitlaphat: “I am really appreciated for all your caring and kindness? How could I ever thank you, particularly for your gift? It’s really very kind of you.” I went on. “It’s nothing. Don’t mention it! Just take care of my best friend! Hurry up! It’s getting late.” Her winks were going to be something to remember that holiday by.
Squeezing my hand in hers, Sijitra dragged me to the opposite corner of the roof. I didn’t think where I was going. I was following her not as a result of decision. No need to ask even, no need to articulate anything anymore. I sensed we were unattached organs of a single body, an extention of it. We were connected and understood each other unconsciously. There weren’t anybody on the roof top other than us. She leaned herself on the fence, reaching my arms above her shoulder, pushed them to her face so that my chin was leaned on her skull as if her curls were my long beard. I could feel her heart beats. Her eyes searching for something on the horizon, where the sea and the sky meet, and whispered: “I wish this moment lasted forever.”
Then she reached my wrist and touched my fancy bracelet which had the name of my weblog embroidered on it. I explained to her that I had set it up recently and I had intention to write a blog about our holiday. “Be careful to not post my real pictures there. Besides, tell your audience that Thai ladies are not just those who work in some Walking Streets. I wish they could change their attitude, especially those who explore Thailand for short trips.” She started with a smile and got serious gradually over the course of her speech. “And I wish you could change your attitude about Farang.” I said, blinking at her.