Parental Deception; chapter eight, part three

Chapter Eight; Part Three

Predictably, I start getting antsy, but I don’t want to disturb our fragile détente. I breathe smoothly and slowly, trying to expel the tension from my body. I roll my neck around, which helps. My leg is falling asleep, but I don’t want to move it because it’ll disturb Onyx. Rembrandt’s breathing slows down, and when I peek at him, I notice that he’s fallen asleep. He and Ginger are snoring in a compatible rhythm, and I wish I could join him in la-la land. I put Onyx on Rembrandt’s lap next to Ginger and move Jet’s paws off my thighs and onto the couch. I ease away from Rembrandt without waking him, then go outside to smoke. I’m not pleased with the way our conversation went, even though Rembrandt was more gracious than I had any right to expect him to be. What I wanted was for him to say he was fine with us being open, but I knew that was unrealistic before I even brought up the subject. I also know he won’t be happy that I left the couch, but what does he expect? For me to sit around meekly waiting for him to wake up? I’m working myself into a snit, and somewhere in the back of my mind, I know it’s because I’m panicking at the commitment I’ve made to Rembrandt, as limited as it is.

“Hi, honey,” Rembrandt says, putting his arm around my waist. “It’s a bracing night, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” I say leaning back against him. He puts his arms around me and holds me close. I can feel his heart beating against my back, and it’s strangely comforting. He doesn’t say anything, and neither do I. I can feel the tension draining out of me as all the strawman arguments I had created in my brain melt away. Rembrandt is such a sweetheart, and any woman would be happy to have him doting on her. What the fuck is wrong with me? Maybe I shouldn’t even be dating if I’m dithering this much about having a wonderful man care so much about me. I push the thoughts to the back of my mind and try to stay in the moment.

“Can I stay the night?” Rembrandt asks, his voice tentative. I can feel his cock digging into my ass, and my body responds accordingly.

“Yes.” I turn to face Rembrandt, kissing him hard on his lips. He grabs my head and kisses me in return. There’s a fierceness to his kiss, and I know I’m in for a night of raw sex, which is fine with me. Sometimes, I want slow and gentle loving, but other times, I just want to be fucked. That’s what I want now, and Rembrandt is more than willing to oblige. We race upstairs, tearing off each other’s clothes as we go. By the time we reach my bedroom and close the door on three inquisitive cat noses, we’re naked. We hit the bed with a thud, and there’s little conversation between us. We’re totally focused on the business at hand, and I’m more than ready to fuck him. Normally, I like a fair amount of foreplay, but not tonight. I want his cock in me as soon as possible, and I push on his arm to indicate it’s time. He rolls a condom down his erect cock and thrusts all the way into me in one go. I bite down on his shoulder, leaving a distinct bite mark. He returns the favor on the back of my neck, and I moan in pleasure. I turn us over so I’m on top. I’m in the mood to ride him, and ride him I do. I slam myself down on his cock, clenching around him with my muscles as I do. He has his hands on my hips, but he’s letting me set the pace. I lean forward and kiss him on the lips. He bites my lip, and I bite his in return. Then, he grabs one tit in his hand while sucking on the other nipple. I know I’m close, so I speed up. I need to come now, no delayed gratification for me. My orgasm hits me in an explosion, and Rembrandt isn’t far behind. I’m screaming something as I come, but I’m not sure what. Once I’m done, I collapse on him. I have no energy or strength, not even to roll off of him.

“Girl,” Rembrandt croaks, his voice hoarse. I don’t know why as he didn’t say much as we were fucking, but I dismiss it as not important. After a few seconds, I flop onto the bed, a silly grin on my face. I hear the cats meowing to be let in, but I can’t make my legs work. Rembrandt rolls himself off the bed, staggers to the door, and lets them in. They scold him as they jump onto the bed, smack dab in the middle. The three of them twine around each other and promptly fall asleep. Rembrandt laughs and lies next to them. They are between us, acting as a barrier. I want to cuddle, so I move them, one by one, to my other side. Predictably, they don’t approve of that, but they begrudgingly comply. I scootch over to Rembrandt. He puts his arm around me and falls asleep. I’m content to lie in his arm for several minutes before I need to move again. I slip out from under his arm and go to the bathroom. I take a quick shower to wash away the sex funk, and it feels good. As much as I like sex, I don’t like to wallow in the fluids. When I whisk back the curtain, I see my cats staring back at me. I assume Ginger is still with Rembrandt, which is fine by me. I go down to the living room to check on my blog. I’m still receiving comments on my post on families, and I know it’s time to write my next post. I decide it’s going to be on sex.

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Parental Deception: chapter eight, part two

Chapter Eight; Part Two

I am still thinking about it as I drive home. I list all the reasons it’s a bad idea, but there’s a small voice in the back of my head saying, “I don’t care. Fuck his brains out.” I try to shut it up, but it refuses to be quiet. Should I even mention it to Rembrandt? I mean, if it’s just going to be one night, why bother? I know I’m rationalizing, however, because I don’t want to deal with the drama of discussing it with Rembrandt. The fact that I want to fuck someone else only a month after starting to date Rembrandt suggests that maybe I need to cool things down with Rembrandt. I’ve already started to feel restless after spending three nights with him, so maybe this is a sign.

“Meow!” Onyx launches herself into my arms, and I catch her effortlessly. I snuggle her to my chest as I slip off my shoes. Jet bumps his head against my shin, and I reach down to ruffle the fur on his head. I’m having dinner with Liz at Sen Yai Sen Lek at six, which means I have to about fifteen minutes before I have to leave again. I’m excited to see Liz because I haven’t seen her since she left for Philly a year and a half ago. I give my babies their treats and lots of fuss before taking off again. I arrive at Sen Yai Sen Lek at ten minutes to six, which means I have to wait for at least ten minutes, and probably twenty. Liz is perennially late for social events, and it’s something I tease her about to this day. Fifteen minutes later, she walks in. Her red curls are swept up on top of her head, and her emerald eyes are sparkling behind her glasses. She’s wearing a deep green dress that brushes her knees, and she looks fantastic.

“Megan!” Liz calls out, a wide grin crossing her face.

“Liz!” I jump up, run over to her, and hug her hard. We both start babbling at each other as we make our way to the table I had already snagged.

“How was your Thanksgiving?” Liz asks as she studies the menu.

“Surprisingly good,” I reply. I’ve already decided on my order, so I don’t pick up my menu. “I met Rembrandt’s mother and brothers plus partners and children for lunch, and then I brought him to Jasmine’s for dinner. Which was fine except that man was there. How about you?”

“Thanksgiving was fantastic! It was my family and Frankie’s family, which was about fifty people. Hey, he’s Italian, and so is my mom.” Liz sets her menu aside, and the server rushes over to take our order. Once she’s gone, Liz continues. “Day after Thanksgiving with my father wasn’t as fun because we flew out at the crack of dawn to LA, and he was stinking drunk. I think he was nervous being around Rosa for the first time in a few years.”

“Sorry. That must have sucked.” I sip at my Diet Coke, then at my water.

“I was glad to leave, I can tell you that much.” Liz drinks her Thai iced tea and sighs. She’s had a rocky relationship with her father since he left her mother for another woman when Liz was ten years old. It’s one of the things we bonded over—our fathers leaving our families.

“I bet.” The server comes with our appetizers, fried tofu and chicken skewers. We both take a few minutes to heap our plates with both.

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Parental Deception chapter eight, part one

Chapter Eight; Part One

“Meow!” Onyx hurtles through the air, and I catch her as if she’s a football thrown by Fran Tarkenton. Back before he became a Republican asshole, but that’s neither here nor there. She tucks her head under my chin and purrs loudly. Jet saunters over and whaps my shin with his paw. He immediately follows it up with a gentle rub of his head against the same shin, so I allow the hit this one time.

“Time for treats!” I carry Onyx into the kitchen with Jet trotting behind us. I set Onyx on the ground before giving her and Jet their Temptations. I grab a Diet Coke from the fridge before bringing it to the living room. Then, I go upstairs to change into sweats and heave a sigh of relief. It’s been a lot of interaction over the past few days, and I’m happy to be on my own again. With my cats, of course. Who are prancing around me in glee now that I’m home. We go back to the living room, and I check my blog. There are several heartwarming stories of family reconciliation and reunions. BearlyThere writes, “Before this year, I hadn’t talked to my brother or sister in over ten years even though we all live in Denver. Our family fell apart after my mother died because we all felt we deserved certain heirlooms that our mother promised us. Unfortunately, she promised a particular painting to all three of us—not out of maliciousness, but because she didn’t want to disappoint any of us. Unforgivable words were said by all three of us, and we all went our separate ways. A few months ago, my sister called me and said that she was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. That shocked the hell out of me because in the back of my mind, I had all the time in the world to reconnect with my brother and sister. I didn’t, and we had Thanksgiving together for the first time in ten years. It was awkward and sad, but also heartwarming and joyful. I got to meet two nephews and three nieces I’d never met before, plus my sister’s wife and my brother’s girlfriend. It was fucking amazing.”

SinsationalShivers reminisces, “I’m from a large Italian family. Our way of showing love is to shout at each other. I’m married to a Norwegian woman, and the first time I met her family, I was floored at how quiet they were. Afterwards, I asked my honey if her family hated me, and she just laughed and said that’s how they are. Conversely, when she met my family, she was wide-eyed as they screamed back and forth. It’s taken five years for us to truly understand each other’s family and by extension, each other. This year, we had a mixed Thanksgiving with her family and mine, and her uncle hooked up with my cousin.” PizzaHo adds, “My mother walked out on us when I was eight. My father told my brothers and me that it was because she hated us. Not him, just the kids. It wasn’t until this year, fifteen years later, that we found out it’s because he was terribly abusive. She always meant to come back for us, but any time she tried, he beat the shit out of her. It’s only because he died a few months ago that she was able to reconnect with us. I couldn’t be happier.” BetterOffTed shares his story as well. “I grew up dirt poor, the fifth out of seven kids of a single mom. Our father died when I was six, and my mom worked three menial jobs just so we could eat—barely—every day. My oldest sister was the mom around the house, and she did all the cooking, cleaning, and tucking us into bed. My oldest brother has had a job of some sort since he was a paper boy at age eleven. We didn’t have much in terms of material goods, but what we had was a shit-ton of love. My mom remarried this year to a man who treats her like a queen, and she’s finally able to take a breath now and then. They’re going to London for a three week vacation, and I could not be happier for them.”

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Parental Deception; chapter seven

Chapter Seven

“You ready to go?” I ask Viv, cradling the phone on my shoulder as best I can as I look in the closet. I’m only going out with my sister, but I still want to look my best.

“Almost. Jasmine can’t make it. Bob is having a bad night.” Viv’s tone is so acerbic, I have to ask what her problem is. I know she doesn’t like Bob, and she has a good reason, but this is over the top even for her.

“I know you have a beef with Bob, but what’s up with the attitude?” I pull out a see-through red top over a tank top and black jeans. It’s the perfect combination of sexy and casual, and I struggle into them as I’m talking on the phone. Onyx and Jet are mewing at me, and I shake a finger at them to quiet them down. It doesn’t work, of course, so I give up and let them meow to their hearts’ content.

“I just don’t like the guy,” Viv says, breathing out in a loud exhale. “He’s a self-righteous prick.” She pauses and adds, “Look, I know he’s gone through a difficult time what with being kidnapped and all, but that doesn’t meant I have to like him. He was fine all day until Jasmine said she was going to go out with us. Then, all of a sudden, he had a panic attack, and she decided to stay home.”

“That sucks,” I say, choosing my words carefully. “But, you know, panic attacks come out of the blue. I saw him the night I rescued him. It was a terrible experience, and I think his panic attacks are real. That said, I wish Jasmine could have come out with us.”

“Yeah, I’m probably being too hard on Bob,” Viv agrees. “I’ll be ready when you get here.”

“I’ll be there in half an hour.” I hang up and finish dressing. In the back of my mind, I’m hoping to get my flirt on. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’m feeling a bit antsy after spending three nights with Rembrandt. I had plan on coming home last night, but I stayed one more night. It was really cozy, and Onyx and Jet love playing with Ginger, but I was worn out by the time I got home this morning. Am I sabotaging my relationship with Rembrandt? Probably. Should I? Most definitely not. Am I going to? That remains to be seen.

“Meow.” Onyx stands in front of my with her ears flattened to the side. She and Jet are not pleased that I’m going out, even though I’ve given them several Temptations each.

“I’ll be back before it’s too late, guys,” I say, kneeling to pet both of them. “I promise.” I boop Onyx on the nose and stroke Jet between the eyes. I grab my purse and slip by them, squashing my feeling of guilt. I make it to Jasmine’s in good time, and I go up to the door ten minutes early.

“Hi, Megan. Come on in.” Jasmine opens the door, a strained smile on her face.

“You ok, Jasmine?” I ask, stepping inside. She’s pale, and there are circles under her eyes.

“I’m ok,” she says automatically. “Bob had a rough night last night, and he had a panic attack today.”

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Parental Deception; chapter six, part two

Chapter Six; Part Two

“Hey, babe. How did it go?” Rembrandt looks up as I enter the living room. He has some Swedish movie on the TV, but he’s actually dozing. Ginger is on his lap as usual, and Onyx and Jet are flanking his thighs. Onyx squeaks when she sees me and launches herself at me. I catch her and cradle her to my chest.

“How’s my baby?” I coo as I rock her back and forth. Jet hauls himself off the couch and pads over to me. He butts his head against my shin, and I scratch him between the ears. Ginger blinks at me from the couch, and I blink back at her. Once I’m done greeting the babies, I go over and kiss Rembrandt on the forehead. “It was interesting. Not nearly as painful as I feared it would be, but there were also a few questionable moments. Let me go change, then I’ll tell you all about it.” I set Onyx down on the couch before going upstairs to change into sweats. I go back downstairs, make a detour into the kitchen, grab a Diet Coke, then go into the living room. I sit next to Rembrandt with Onyx and Jet between us.

“So it wasn’t bad?”

“No, it wasn’t.” I pop open the Diet Coke and take a swig. “He’s not a bad guy, except he’s hiding something.” I relate as much of the conversation as I can remember. He listens avidly, giving me his full attention. He doesn’t interrupt except when he needs clarification. When I’m done, he heaves a big sigh.

“He’s not telling you everything, is he?” His voice is sorrowful, and I know it’s because he wanted so badly for this to be good for me. I had told him the conversation as unbiased as I possibly could so I could get his opinion on it. I’m glad he came to the same conclusion, but I’m sad because it means that I can’t just accept that man at face value. I’m going to have to dig beyond his façade, which means we’re going to have to go to some uncomfortable places.

“No, he’s not. It bugs me that I don’t know if he’s lying about trivial things or about something important.” I pause and add, “Do you know of anyone who can unscrub a history online?” I go through my mental rolodex, but I can’t think of anyone. Julianna would have known someone, but I push that thought from my mind.

“I may have a friend of a friend.” Rembrandt yawns and his eyelids droop. “I need a nap, I think.”

“Me, too.” I carefully move Onyx onto my lap and Jet to the other side of my so I can lean against Rembrandt. He puts his arm around me, and pulls me close. I should go home, but I don’t have the motivation to leave. Also, even though I won’t admit it out loud, I like snuggling with him. It makes me feel comfortable and safe. I press my head against his chest, and he strokes my hair slowly and methodically. I close my eyes and fall asleep. I dream of fairies trying to stab me in the back with their claws, and it’s not a peaceful sleep. I awake with a start, my heart pounding. Onyx, Jet, Ginger and Rembrandt are nowhere to be found, so I’m betting they’re in the kitchen. I haul myself off the couch, stretch my back, and go to the kitchen. Just as I thought, Rembrandt and the cats are in there. Rembrandt is heating up some leftovers on the stove, and the cats are on the counter, their noses quivering. Ginger and Onyx are near the sink at a safe distance, but Jet is uncomfortably close to the stove.

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Parental Deception; chapter six, part one

Chapter Six; Part One

“I’ll take a large latte with skim milk,” I say to the barista at Ye Olde Diamond Shoppe. “And this zucchini pineapple bread.” He sighs and pushes himself away from the counter as if I’m asking him to murder his mother.

“That’ll be six-seventy-five,” he says, a scowl on his face. He’s tall, skinny, with a scraggly blond beard and thick, horn-rimmed glasses. He’s given me attitude every time I’ve been in the café, and if it weren’t so close to my taiji studio, I would never go there. I pay him then go to wait for my latte. That man isn’t here yet, and a part of me is hoping that he won’t show up. We’re supposed to meet at one-thirty, however, and I’m five minutes early. I’ll give him those five minutes and ten minutes more before giving up. I get my latte and put raw sugar in it. As I’m stirring, that man walks in. He spots me and gives me a huge smile. He points at the front counter, and I nod. He orders, pays, then walks over to me.

“I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this weather,” he says, shivering despite wearing a heavy coat, a scarf, and gloves. He looks at me, and his eyes widen because I’m just wearing a sweater over my shirt and no coat. I had been wearing gloves, but they are in my purse now. “Where’s your coat?”

“I don’t need one yet,” I say with a false smile. “I like cold weather.”

“You should wear one! You might get hypothermia.” He’s clucking over me, and resist the impulse to tell him to can it. I wouldn’t take that from him even if he were my father who had been present for my whole life, which he’s not—and hadn’t been.

“It’s not even freezing,” I inform him, keeping my voice even. “I’ll be fine.”

“What did you order?” He asks, peering at my cup. “I got just plain coffee. It’s hard to find these days.”

“A latte with skim milk,” I say. “I order it any time I’m at a coffee shop because I get overwhelmed by too many choices.”

“Plain coffee.” The jerk holds out the cup of coffee, a sneer in his voice. That man goes over, takes it and adds sugar and cream before putting a lid on it. I have an impulse to take him outside, but that would be cruel. I take him to the front room instead, and we sit on the couch and sip at our coffee. It doesn’t appear as if he’s going to say anything, but he’s the one who wanted to meet, so he can start the conversation whenever he’s ready. I’m content to drink my latte and eat my zucchini pineapple bread. After several minutes, he finally talks.

“My husband died two months ago,” he says without preamble. I blink because that’s not what I’m expecting to hear. “Larry. Larry Sato. We’d been together thirty years.”

“I saw a picture of you with him. At Pride!” I pull out my phone and find the image again. “Is this him?” That man glances at the pic and smiles.

“Yes. That’s Larry. Wasn’t he handsome?” His eyes linger on the phone before I put it away.

“You two look happy together,” I say, finishing my latte.

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Parental Deception; chapter five

Chapter Five

“Mrrrreow!” Onyx leaps in the air, making me drop the bag I’m holding in order to catch her. Jet and Ginger are hanging back, but just as eager to see us.

“Silly girl,” I say, scruffing Onyx behind the neck. She mewls in pleasure, her eyes turning into slits. I shift her into one arm so I can pick up the bag with my opposite hand. I carry the bag and her into the kitchen, setting her on the floor. She huffs in displeasure, but quickly loses the attitude when I give her, Ginger, and Jet some Greenies. Rembrandt has followed me into the kitchen, and we put away the leftovers. I am not hungry at all, but the cats twitch their noses at the enticing smells that are emanating from the bag. I take a piece of turkey out of the Tupperware and give a morsel to each cat. They gobble the turkey down, then look at me in unison for more. I give them each another bite, but then I stand firm in denying them a third.

“You going home tonight?” Rembrandt asks, his voice casual. There’s an intensity behind the question that makes me uncomfortable. I had been planning on staying, but now, I’m not sure I should. I shake off the doubt as it’s been a good time, and I wouldn’t mind staying another night.

“I thought I’d stay tonight, if that’s OK with you,” I reply, my tone even. I do not want a fight, not after such a lovely day.

“Sounds good to me.” The relief in his voice is evident, and I’m glad he didn’t make a big deal out of it. “I’m going to take a shower,” Rembrandt says before disappearing. Ginger trots out of the room behind him. I go into the living room, as do Onyx and Jet. I check my blog, and there are several more comments on my insomnia post. One common thread throughout them is the inability to put down technology and go to bed at a reasonable hour. It’s a vicious cycle in that when you can’t sleep, it’s easy to pull out your phone and check your social media. What you find there agitates you, making it more difficult to sleep. I know that experts recommend that you turn off all technology at least an hour before you sleep, but I doubt many people do it, including me. I take my phone to bed with me, and I can’t imagine doing without it for any appreciable amount of time. That makes me smile, albeit wryly, because seven years ago, I refused to have a cellphone at all. I didn’t want to be tethered to a piece of technology, and it took Jasmine nagging me for a month solid before I actually bought one. She was concerned about me breaking down on the road and not being able to call someone. It’s reasonable for a Minnesota winter, and I finally gave in. I told her I would keep it on me, but it would be off, and I would only use it for emergencies.

“I was so naïve,” I inform Onyx and Jet, who are flanking me on each side of the couch. I’m tied to my phone as surely as if there is a piece of string on it. Onyx nods her head at me, and I swear she understands what I’m saying. Jet rolls over on his back and wave his paws in the air like he just doesn’t care. I risk my life and limb by scratching him on the belly. He growls and swipes a massive paw at me. I laugh and quickly withdraw my hand to keep it intact.

I quickly check my latest post, and there are several more comments on it. I knew insomnia was a hot topic, but I didn’t know how hot. The sad thing for me is that there isn’t a suggestion in the comments that I haven’t tried before. Well, except for the ‘rub avocado over your face before going to sleep’. I haven’t tried that, but I’m pretty sure it’s a troll. I pull up a new post and begin typing.

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Parental Deception; chapter four, part four

Chapter Four; Part Four

That cut me to the core, and nothing Jasmine could say mitigated the pain. That’s when I mentally checked out of my relationship with my mother, and after that, I had as little to do with her as possible. She never mentioned her remark again, and I bet she didn’t even remember saying it. I stayed out of her way for the next two years, and once I moved out to attend college, I never looked back. I attended Carleton College, which was only twenty minutes away, but I rarely went home while I was at college. I felt bad for leaving Vivian on her own, but I rationalized it by telling myself that she was my mother’s favorite, so she wouldn’t suffer as much as I did. Even then, I knew it was bullshit, but I had to do whatever it took to survive. I talked about it with Vivian many years later, and she understood why I had made that decision. She said she would have done the same thing, but it still hurt her, I could tell. Jasmine went back as often as she could, but she was a mother with kids of her own—they had to come first.

My mother’s health deteriorated rapidly after that. Every few years, Jasmine would say that we needed to have another intervention. Vivian went to Boston U when she turned eighteen, and she loved Boston so much, she made her home there. She’s only been back a few times in the twenty-five years since, and once was for Mom’s funeral. Whenever Jasmine would call her, upset about Mom’s behavior, Vivian would sympathize, but refused to come home. She didn’t see the point, and, quite frankly, I didn’t blame her. My mom was a lost cause, and each of us sisters had to find a way to cope with her alcoholism without letting it ruin our lives. I did a few more interventions with Jasmine, but none of them amounted to anything. If anything, they just made Mom worse. When I was twenty-eight, Jasmine wanted to do another one. I refused because I was done with that. I hated how I’d get my hopes up, even though I knew better, only to have them crushed once again as my mother spiraled downwards for the next few days. That was the pattern after each intervention—my mother would drink twice as much as if to say, “You’re not the boss of me.” Jasmine did it on her own, and it went about as well to be expected.

Three weeks later, Jasmine went over to our old house where my mother still lived after not hearing from our mom in several days. Jasmine was the dutiful daughter, calling or texting Mom every three days like clockwork. No matter how drunk Mom was, she’d call or text back within a day, two at the most. When Jasmine didn’t hear from her in nearly a week, she went over to the house and let herself in. She found Mom face down on her bed, congealed blood crusted at the temple of her head. She had been drunk, of course, tripped, and hit her head on the headboard on the way down. That’s not what killed her, though. She had a heart attack, and that’s what actually did her in. As complicated as my feelings were about her, I did find solace in the fact that she probably didn’t suffer much as she died. Jasmine was devastated, of course, and for decades, she blamed herself for our mother’s death.

“I should have checked on her!” Jasmine wept, burying her face in my chest back at her house after the funeral. She’d had two glasses of wine, and as she normally didn’t drink, she was pretty tipsy. “It’s my fault she’s dead!”

“How could you have known, Jasmine?” I asked, patting her back in sympathy. “You couldn’t watch her twenty-four/seven.”

“I knew something was wrong when she didn’t call back. Selfishly, I just couldn’t deal with it. Robbie was sick, and I had my hands full dealing with that.” Jasmine continued to sob, and I handed her a box of tissues. She took several and blew her nose loudly as she still sniffled.

“She’s the only one who’s responsible for her death,” I say, my ire rising. Not at Jasmine, but at our mother for doing such damage to her daughters. “She hasn’t been to a doctor in at least a decade, and she knew she was drinking herself to death.”

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Parental Deception; chapter four, part three

Chapter Four; Part Three

“Dessert tonight is compliments of my sister, Megan,” Jasmine informs the table.

“Rembrandt did most of the work,” I say, smiling at Rembrandt across the table. “He’s a true gourmet in the kitchen. I basically sat around and looked pretty.”

“That’s not true,” Rembrandt protests. “You made all the pie crusts, which is arguably the hardest part.”

“It was fun, especially as you’re such a patient mentor,” I reply, winking at Rembrandt. I notice that Viv is smirking at me, and I smirk back at her.

“Let me know what you want,” Jasmine says, holding up her spatula.

“Sweet taters!” Ing-wen says, holding out her plate.

“Pumpkin!” Michelle chimes in, holding up her plate as well.

“Blueberry!” Jason gives his opinion, and he’s quickly followed by Jenny.

“Grammy, pumpkin and blueberry, please.” She bats her eyelashes at Jasmine, who smiles at her in return. She turns to look at Jordan, who nods his head.

“Just a small piece of each, Ma,” Jordan says. “We don’t want her to get over-sugared.”

“I understand,” Jasmine says, nodding her head. She does exactly as Jordan requested and gives Jenny a sliver of each of the pumpkin and blueberry pies. She’s been giving each of the kids ice cream with their pie, too, which they all like.

“Pumpkin?” Jonathon asks it more like a question than a statement. Jasmine cuts him a piece and he thanks her gravely.

“Henry, what would you like?” Jasmine ask, turning to that man.

“I’d love a piece of the sweet potato pie,” Henry says. “And, is that real whipped cream? I’ll take a scoop of that as well.” Jasmine cuts him a generous portion of the sweet potato pie, much to my dismay. I was counting on having leftovers because the last time I brought one, I was the only person who ate a piece. That was four or five years ago, however, and it was before half of these people became a part of the family. Jamal also requests a piece of the sweet potato pie, and it’s down by half by the time Jasmine gets to me.

“Sweet potato and pumpkin with whipped cream for me,” I say, holding out my plate. Jasmine cuts small pieces of each and puts them on my plate. I don’t protest because I can always have more later if I have room for it. I take a bite of the sweet potato pie, and I almost regret asking for a piece of each. I take a bite of the pumpkin pie, however, and it’s just as good as the sweet potato pie. I close my eyes so I can fully appreciate the complex and delicate flavoring of the pies. I notice that conversation is at a minimum around me; I assume that everyone else is preoccupied with their pie as well.

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Parental Deception; chapter four, part two

“Megan!” Henry moves forward to hug me, but I hold my hand out and force him to shake hands instead. He has a hurt look on his face, but fuck him and his expectations.

“Hello,” I say stiffly. “Come on in.”

“I brought some jiaozi,” Henry says, holding out a bag. “Pork.” He steps the hallway and takes off his shoes before putting on a pair of slippers that are on a rack near the door.

“I love those,” I say, my voice polite and take the bag from his hand. I thaw a bit when I smell the dumplings because they really are a favorite of mine. “Follow me.” I take him into the kitchen because I know Jasmine will want to make sure I let him into the house.

“Henry!” Jasmine throws her arms around Henry and hugs him hard. He hugs her back, and I’m sure he’s grateful at least one of us is happy to see him.

“He brought dumplings,” I say to Jasmine, handing her the bag.

“Perfect! What’s a Taiwanese meal without them?” Jasmine smiles at Henry, and he smiles back at her. I leave the kitchen so I won’t vomit on the two of them. I stomp into the living room, quietly stewing as I sit next to Rembrandt. He’s talking to Jamal about chess, and I’m listening with half an ear. Viv cocks an eyebrow at me, and I shake my head slightly. I turn to watch the kids who are now playing with Duplo blocks on the floor. I close my eyes and doze until it’s time to go into the dining room. Jasmine has name cards on each plate because she’s a control freak. She’s placed me between Henry and Viv because she has the old-fashioned belief that people and their partners shouldn’t be seated next to each other. She’s across the table from Henry, of course, and I hope she’ll keep him occupied. My eyes widen at the sight of the table. I had thought Stephanie had gone all-out, but this is epic. There is a thirty-pound turkey, maple-glazed yams, chunky smashed potatoes dripping with butter, bread stuffing and rice stuffing, Brussel sprouts in butter, a cranberry salad, rustic loaves of bread, sausage gravy, dumplings, sticky rice, wonton noodle soup, Chinese spare ribs, Chinese spinach, glass noodles and carrots, radish cakes, and Chinese sausages. There is also a sizable plate of almond cookies, which makes me smile. One of my best memories of my mother was when she was sober and decided to bake almond cookies. My sisters and I would sit on stools in the kitchen, eager to be the first to eat a cookie. When they were done, my sisters and I would eat dozens of them while our mother beamed at us in happiness. My sisters and I eat almond cookies on the rare occasions when get together, and I’m touched that Jasmine made them. I know everyone contributed to the meal, but I also know Jasmine did most of the cooking. She is a champ.

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