It's good to know powerful people

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"I can't believe you didn't tell me this already!" Anna gasped exaggeratedly. The wind tossed her hair around through the driver's side window as they cruised up, down and around the steep and winding Haad Rin hills in Jak's truck on their way to Thong Sala.

"I didn't think it was that big of a deal," Chara shrugged, suppressing a grin.

"Not that big of a deal!" Anna squealed, laughing. "Jak kissing you is a huge deal."

"Well, I put a stop to it. I'm not ready," Chara explained, looking out the window at the palm trees rushing past, along the roadside.

"Give it time," Anna sighed, as they rounded a tight corner that put them on the homestretch to the downtown area, where they were headed to the local home renovation shop to order new beds, sofa, a dining table, kitchen equipment, and all the trimmings they needed to renovate their new condo.

Jak had given them a wad of cash that morning. "Here's 50,000 Baht," he'd said, handing Chara around $1,500 USD worth of Thai currency. "Keep the receipts. If you need more, let me know."

Chara had been shocked by how trusting he'd been with his money, but he was right to be. Neither she nor Anna were the type of people to take advantage of his generosity. Clearly, he could sense that already.

The home renovation shop was altogether unimpressive compared to the imposing home centers Chara was used to back in New York. The two-storey interior was crowded and narrow, and the few short aisles didn't contain much selection. The home section upstairs featured a wide variety of furniture, but when it came to getting different sizes and colors, the response was always that they'd have to order it in and it would take at least a month to get here from Bangkok.

"That's absurd!" Chara cried.

But Anna, who wasn't surprised, simply raised her eyebrows and shrugged. "One of the downsides of living in paradise. You have limited selection and higher prices on everything."

She was right about the prices, too. While Chara had found that most things in Thailand were far less expensive than back home, the cost of tools and furniture was shocking.

"Luxury and import tax," Anna had explained. "It's astronomical here."

They spent a full two hours in the store, ordering everything they needed. They'd sat down and made a checklist the day before, after Jak had left, along with a plan of attack. Not surprisingly, they weren't able to get everything they'd hoped to, but they'd found compromises that would work in their places.

Most of the items they'd ordered would be delivered the next day, and they loaded what they could fit into Jak's truck. The trunk full with paint, rollers, cleaning supplies, a coffee table and some kitchen equipment, Chara and Anna used the netting Jak had shown them to secure everything in place.

"We don't want to lose anything going up and down Phangan's steep hills," Anna explained, as she pulled her end taught and secured it with a knot.

"I'm starving!" Chara exclaimed, climbing into the passenger seat. The interior was sickly hot like a sauna, so she left her door open, waiting for Anna to turn on the air conditioning.

"Me too," agreed Anna, fastening her seatbelt and flicking the air conditioning button to full blast. "Hey, since we're here, why don't we go for a drive up Phangan's West coast? It's the most beautiful coast on the island. You should really see it. We can grab lunch at a beachfront restaurant along the way."

"Let's do it!"

They drove out of Thong Sala along what Anna told her was the coastal road.

"How do you know so much about Phangan?" Chara asked her friend. "Haven't you been living on Samui?"

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