Marital Duplicity; chapter thirteen, part three

I go into the living room, Onyx and Jet hot on my tail. I pull up my website, and I’ve gotten a lively set of responses to my post about secrets and lies in relationships. MNborn writes, “My marriage was a hot mess of secrets, mostly on my husband’s part. He was fucking anything in a skirt that moved—but he vehemently denied it if I ever brought it up. It was crazy-making for me—I knew he was cheating on me, but he would never admit it. Talk about gaslighting! He also gambled away his earnings and mine. When I divorced him a year later, I was poorer in the wallet and in friends—because he fucked them—but richer in mental health.” NYOnMyMind muses, “My mother raised me to believe that my first and only goal was to be a wife and mother. That’s all she was, and she was miserable, though she would never say that out loud. My father was a good man, but ineffectual against her rages. He would disappear in a book when she went off on a rant, and I learned to follow suit.” CallMeJoe adds his two cents. “My father was having an affair with my mother’s younger sister. My aunt was barely eighteen at the time. None of us knew for five years, including my mother. We only found out when he left my mom for my aunt, whom he then left a year later for their oldest sister. This was twenty years ago, and me and my five siblings haven’t talked to our father ever since.” InSaneIty shares, “It was an open secret that my mother was in and out of mental institutions for most of her adult life. My father would say she was away at a cousin’s, resting or some shit, but my three sisters and I knew the truth. We could see it in her behavior leading up to the lock-up. She’d swing from mania to depression in the blink of an eye, and she tried to kill herself on more than one occasion. She died five years ago while on one of her ‘rests’. I was sad about it, but also relieved. She was hard to live with when she wasn’t locked up.”

There’s a small group of commenters who insist that their relationships are completely honest, transparent, and free of lies. The other commenters take them to task, but I don’t bother. If someone is deep in denial, it’s dangerous to take that away from them. One thing I learned in Psych 101 was that you don’t remove someone’s coping mechanism if you don’t have anything to replace it with. Even bad coping mechanisms are better than nothing. In addition, who am I to say that they’re lying? I’m sure there are relationships that are mostly honest and healthy, but I haven’t seen many of them. My friend Liz and her husband, Frankie, are as close as it gets to a great relationship. Before the last few weeks, I would have said Jasmine and Bob also had a solid relationship. Now, I know better. It’s not to say they can’t recoup what they once had, but it’s going to take work.

Speaking of Bob, I need to read his emails. The last time I asked Jasmine for his password, however, she got mad  and refused to give it to me. She might feel differently this time because she’s more desperate now, but I wouldn’t count on it. I decide to be sneakier about it, even though it makes me feel slimy. I know his Gmail account is bobcheng224@gmail.com. My bet is that he’s not very creative with his passwords. I try Jasmine, and I’m in. I make a mental note to tell him to change it later, but for now, I shake off my feeling of discomfort and read his emails. Most of them are mundane and about church or business. He doesn’t have them in folders, so it’s a slog to scroll through them. I see a thread from Hayley, and I open it up. I start from the beginning, which was three weeks ago. In her email to him, she’s whining about her husband and having to stay home with her baby. His response is compassionate and thoughtful, but with a tinge of impatience. I have the feeling that he’s heard it a million times before, and he’s getting tired of it. I would be, too, if I were him. I have little patience for people who want to wallow in their own misery.

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Marital Duplicity; chapter thirteen, part two

      Chapter Thirteen; Part Two

After lunch, I do the dishes while Rembrandt goes up to take a shower. I don’t mind him still being in the house, much to my surprise. I would have thought I’d be itching to have him leave by this time, but I’m not. It’s only having him in my bed that I’m not keen on, but the rest of it? I’m not unpleased to have him around. Ginger, Onyx, and Jet are chirping at me as I go to the living room. I chirp back at them. I throw a catnip mouse to each of them, and I watch in amusement as they go nuts over their prey. Onyx starts zooming after ingesting her nip, whereas Jet lies on his back and waves his massive paws in the air. Ginger’s eyes are dilated as she chases after Onyx. I laugh as Ginger pounces on Onyx, and Onyx whaps Ginger across the nose. They scrap with their claws retracted, so I let them have at it. Jet is rotating his paws in the air, and I start giggling helplessly at how ridiculous he looks. He has a goofy grin on his face as he waves ‘em like he just don’t care. Five minutes later, Rembrandt comes down the stairs, shirtless. I eye his chest with appreciation as he towels his hair.

“Look at the crazy cats!” I say, pointing at Onyx and Ginger, who are still scrapping. Jet is still waving his paws in the air, and Rembrandt laughs with me as he sits next to me on the couch. We both check out phones as we cuddle, but there’s not much going on. I’m still ignoring politics, and I don’t really care about football because I’m a Vikings fan, albeit a casual one. No matter how good they are in the beginning, they find a way to fuck it up in the end. Onyx and Ginger race around us in circles while Jet gives up his ‘dancing’ and falls asleep. He always crashes hard after a nip high, and he sleeps for a very long time. Onyx and Ginger tire themselves out after a half hour, and they collapse in a heap next to Jet and promptly fall asleep.

“This is nice,” Rembrandt says, nuzzling my cheek and placing his hand on my thigh. He squeezes it affectionately, but there’s no lust in it. I rub his knee as I nuzzle him back.

“It is,” I say, a hint of surprise in my voice. I’m not much of a domesticated person, but there’s something to be said about having someone to cuddle with.

“We could do this more often if we moved in together,” Rembrandt says casually. I stiffen at the suggestion, but I don’t want to argue.

“I’m not ready for that,” I say with a gentle smile. I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready for it, but I don’t tell him that.

“OK. I just want to put it out there that I wouldn’t mind.” Rembrandt squeezes my knee, but doesn’t press the issue.

“Duly noted,” I say, kissing him on the cheek. I’m relieved that he’s not being a dick about it, and he has the right to state his needs. I have the right to say that I don’t want to live together, too. It’s not a huge problem right now, but I know it will be soon. He’ll start pressing for us to spend more time together, and he won’t be satisfied with stayovers every few days. I can maybe put up with having him spend the night two to three times a week, but not much more than that. I sigh a small sigh, but Rembrandt hears me.

“I’m not pushing—honestly,” Rembrandt says, kissing me on the forehead.

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Marital Duplicity; chapter thirteen, part one

Chapter Thirteen; Part One

“Gah.” I sit upright as my phone bleeps Jasmine’s ring. “What?” I glance over at Rembrandt, who is as still as if he’s dead. I poke him in the shoulder and am gratified to see him roll over so I know he’s not dead.

“I got a note. Under my door. I can’t believe it, Megan!” Jasmine’s voice is hysterical, and I yank the phone from my ear. It’s fucking seven in the morning, and I didn’t fall asleep until after three in the morning.

“A note? What note?” I’m not tracking because I’m not fully awake. I need to be up for at least two hours and have five cups of coffee inside of me before I can form a sentient thought.

“A note from some woman! It says Bob is with her and that I should stop looking. Otherwise, I might end up like Reverend Yang!” Jasmine bursts into tears, and I can barely understand her. “Megan, will you come over and go to church with me? Reverend Yang won’t be there, of course, but we will have a service.”

“Jasmine—” I stop. I have no good reason not to go, except that I don’t want to and I’ll have to miss my taiji class. “OK. I’ll be there in an hour.” I get up and write a note for Rembrandt who is still out cold. I tell him that I have to go to church with my sister and that I’ll be back later. I let him know he can stay for as long as he likes. I put it on the nightstand next to his side of the bed before taking a quick shower. I put on a plain black dress and coil my hair on top of my head. Silver hoops, and I’m done. I give the cats more Temptations before slipping out of the house. I’m on my way to Jasmine’s house, and I make it in good time.

“Megan. I’m so glad to see you.” Jasmine grabs me in a bear hug, and she seems disinclined to let me go. She’s weeping all over my dress, but I don’t do anything. I allow her to squeeze the stuffing out of me for several more minutes before I step away from her. “I’m a mess,” Jasmine says, mopping her eyes. “Here.” She thrusts a folded piece of paper in my face, and I take it from her. I unfold it and read it. “Dear Jasmine, you don’t know me, but I know you. Your husband is with me, and there isn’t anything you can do about it. Stop looking for him; he doesn’t want to be found. If you or your sister keeps asking questions about him, you’re going to end up like Reverend Yang.”

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Marital Duplicity; chapter twelve, part two

Chapter Twelve; Part Two

I’ve been thinking about sex a lot lately. It’s supposedly a natural act, and yet, we make such hash about it. By we, I mean we humans. We make it convoluted and complicated, sometimes sucking the joy right out of it. We’ve infused it with sanctimony and put ridiculous constraints on it. It’s a wonder we have sex at all.

I’ve been told I’m not womanly because I don’t think sex has to be coupled with love in order to be enjoyable. It’s a tired trope that men can have sex without feelings, but that a woman cannot. I once told a female friend of mine that I would look at people on the street and think about whether I would have sex with them or not. She was aghast and told me women didn’t do that. I looked at her as if she had grown another head. She was saying to my face that what I said I did, I didn’t actually do. Or else, she was telling me that I was not a woman. Later, in talking to another female friend, she said she did the same thing. I shouldn’t have needed the outside collaboration, but it was a relief to know that I wasn’t the only one. I feel like a freak much of the time, and I don’t need someone calling me a liar to my face.

I learned a long time ago that I think about sex differently than most women. I have a high libido, and I would love to have sex every day. I’ve been very upfront with potential partners about how much I love sex, and most men are intrigued and titillated—at first. But, then when they realize I actually mean what I said, they freak out. They get hung up on thinking that they can’t satisfy me, and nothing I could say would reassure them. Sometime in my thirties, I realized what produced this gap in expectation. Many of my male ex-partners have been with women who weren’t truthful about how much they liked sex. They made their partners feel like twice a week was a lot. So, when I said I wanted sex every day, they assumed I was exaggerating. Then, when I proved I was actually as horny I said I was, that threw my partners for a loop.

It’s frustrating as hell to not be taken seriously. I don’t know if my ex-partners were just too happy to get into my pants to pay attention to what I was saying or if they really thought I was exaggerating, but I learned pretty quick not to take a man at face value when he said he loved a woman with a high sex drive. I’ve only had one male partner who matched me in that department, sadly. Ironically, I’ve had no problems with my female partners, which is my anecdotal proof that women are just as into sex as men are, if not more.

I write two more thousand words because I have plenty to say on this subject. I wish I had known when I was in my early twenties that my high libido wasn’t a fluke or a flaw. I wasted too many years worrying about hurting my (male) partner’s ego in the sack, and I refuse to do it any longer. Any man who feels threatened by my ‘insatiable’ need for sex isn’t welcome in my bed. So far, Rembrandt has been willing and able every time I want to have sex, but we’ll see if that continues. In several of my past relationships, the sex had been plentiful and hot in the first few weeks before it fell off. It’s hard to tell with Rembrandt because we met under inauspicious circumstances. We met at First  Ave, and then Julianna was murdered a few days later. I saw Rembrandt a few times after that, but then his eye was gouged out in an attack by my stalker. He spent most of his time the week after rehabbing, but he managed to squeeze me in a few times. We didn’t have sex that first week he was home from the hospital, but we did, carefully, the second. I still don’t know how often he’d prefer to have sex, but I’ve made it clear that I want it as often as possible.

I get several responses to my latest post. SassyBrunette writes, “I’m a woman in my late thirties, and I only date guys in their early twenties because they can get it up early and often. The one time I dated a guy my age, he was in bed by ten-thirty after watching the news, and he was satisfied to have sex three times a week. I dumped his ass after three months of that bullshit. Right now, my paramour is a twenty-year-old sophomore studying biology. MINE!” AloneButNotLonely says, “I’m a single woman in my late fifties. Back when I was a teenagers, girls were supposed to say no whenever they were pressed for sex. The trouble was, I never wanted to say no; I always wanted to say yes. Which I did more often than not. That got me in trouble with my parents who didn’t want a slut for a daughter. They sent me off to boarding school for the rest of high school. Girls only. There were teachers, though, and some of them were male—and willing to get it on with a randy teenage girl. Fast-forward thirty-plus years, and you’ll find me on my couch watching the NFL more often than not, alone. When I do have company, it’s only for a night—two at the most. I like my privacy and plenty of legroom.” JackinIt contributes, “I am a guy in my forties, and I’ve always had a hard time with the idea that men are supposed to want sex all the time. My last three girlfriends dumped me because I’d rather talk about Nietzsche and Flaubert than have sex any day of the week. One of them called me a faggot, saying I must be into men because I wouldn’t even look at her. Truth be told, she disgusted me with her voracious appetites for Iris Johansen books and reality TV shows. I’m better off when I’m alone.”

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Marital Duplicity; chapter twelve, part one

Chapter Twelve; Part One     

“Let’s go through the Sabre Form, as much as you know.” Lydia stands in front of me and guides me through the Sabre Form as far as I know, which is two-thirds of it. I struggle through a few of the postures that give me trouble. I am not as fond of the Sabre Form as I am of the Sword Form, but I know that I’ll feel better once I learn the whole thing. We go over a few of the postures that I’m having difficulty with, and within a half hour, we have it all straightened out. She shows me the next posture, then we go through the Sword Form, which is my personal favorite. She gives me a few corrections, which I practice until I feel comfortable with them. Afterwards, we sit down to have a good old-fashioned chinwag. I drink from my iced water bottle and mop my face with my towel.

“You’ve missed quite a few classes,” Lydia comments. “Everything all right?” There’s no judgement in her voice, just concern.

“I know. I’m sorry, Lydia. Believe me, I hate missing classes, but it’s for an important reason.” I briefly summarize what’s been going on with me, and Lydia is properly aghast when I mention Bob’s disappearance.

“That’s awful!” Lydia says, squeezing my hand. “Your poor sister. She must be in a terrible state.”

“She is. She’s upset, and she’s taking it out on me.” I sigh and rub my forehead. I don’t like talking about Jasmine behind her back, but I’m also feeling frustrated by her lack of gratitude. I’m not comfortable by that emotion, but I can’t deny it.

“Why? It seems like you’re the only one who’s doing anything about it.” Lydia is indignant on my behalf, and I’m warmed by her support.

“Because she’s freaked as fuck, and I’m the only one here.” I pause and add, “Plus….” I stop. I feel uncomfortable revealing Jasmine’s secrets to anyone. “She hasn’t been getting any sleep and isn’t eating very well, either. I should see if I can get her to come to class.”

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Marital Duplicity; chapter eleven, part two

Chapter Eleven; Part Two

“She took the money after much discussion. She didn’t want it, but I insisted.” Reverend Yang’s eyes tear up, and I can tell he’s not over Katie yet. He takes a deep breath and blurts out, “Can I trust you, Megan?” It’s clear there’s something burdening him, and I’ll say whatever he wants to hear in order to get him to reveal the information.

“Yes, Marcus. I’m a very good listener, and I know how to be discreet.” I squeeze Reverend Yang’s hand, and he squeezes it in return.

“She’s here. In St. Cloud. With our daughter.”

“What?!” I shriek, snatching my hand away. I stare at Reverend Yang as if he’s spoken Greek, though I’m fairly sure he hasn’t.

“I pay for her apartment, discreetly, and I go up once a month or so to see our daughter.” Reverend Yang continues. “She’s so smart and pretty and just the best thing I’ve ever done.” Reverend Yang’s eyes are shining, and it makes me sad that he’s living a double life because he doesn’t have the courage to be his own man.

“I take it Sharon doesn’t  know,” I say, though I don’t need confirmation.

“No! She would kill me if she knew.”

“Do Katie’s sisters know?”

“No. They all think she’s living in Orange County.”

“Marcus. How have you been able to keep it a secret for so long?” I am flabbergasted. Whatever I was expecting, it wasn’t this.

“Sharon and I don’t really talk, and, well, none of my family are here, so it’s easy to keep them in the dark.” Reverend Yang runs his hand through his hair and slumps against the couch. Suddenly, he bursts into tears, and I pull him to my chest.

“There, there, Marcus,” I say, stroking his hair. “Let it all out.” That only encourages him to cry even harder, which he does for several minutes.

“I really can’t do this any longer,” Reverend Yang says. “It’s such a charade.”

“Marcus, I’m sorry about your situation. I know it’s rough on you, but we really need to talk about why I’m here.” I pull back and straighten my shirt. There’s snot on it, and I’m not sure it’ll come out.

“Sure. What do you want to know?” Marcus is a broken man, and I don’t feel comfortable grilling him, but I soldier on.

“I need to know what happened with you and Hayley Wu. The truth.” I squelch my misgivings, trying not to see his hangdog look.

“Lee,” Reverend Yang says, his voice coming alive. “She was the first woman to make me feel alive in a long time, but….”

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Marital Duplicity; chapter eleven, part one

Chapter Eleven; Part One

I dress in a pair of nice black slacks and a high-neck red blouse before going to the kitchen to patch together a semblance of a dinner. There’s some macaroni and cheese from the deli, and I make some boxed mashed potatoes as well. I don’t care what anyone says—I love that shit. I toast two piece s of bread, cut up an orange, and call it a day. After I’m done, I wash up the dishes. I used to let them sit in the sink until the flies started circulating, but I turned over a new leaf once I got sick of my own slovenly ways. It’s a little thing, but I admit it makes me feel better when I see the empty sink and the clean counters. I give the cats a few more treats before vegging on the couch for a half hour. Then, I leave to visit Mrs. Yang at the church. Once I’m there, I gird my loins to enter the belly of the beast. Reverend Yang is a malleable man, but I have a hunch that Mrs. Yang will not be as easy to manipulate. I take several smooth, slow breaths before entering the church and heading for Reverend Yang’s office. I hesitate, then I knock on the door. It’s promptly opened, and Mrs. Yang is staring at me with steel in her eyes.

“Come in.” Mrs. Yang holds the door wider and steps backwards. She is wearing a low-cut ice blue blouse and a tight black miniskirt. Her hair is swept up in a high bun, and she looks fantastic. I’m a little puzzled, however, as to why she’s so dressed up. Maybe she’s meeting someone after me, someone of the male persuasion. Maybe that’s why she doesn’t mind about Reverend Yang’s affairs.

“Thank you for seeing me, Mrs. Yang.” I step inside and close the door behind me.

“Please, call me Sharon.” Mrs. Yang places her hand on my arm and rubs. I blink at her. If she were a guy, I’d say she was hitting on me. “That’s what my friends call me. Come. Sit down.” She sits on the couch and pats the cushion next to her.

“Thank you.” I sit next to Sharon, but I keep a healthy space between us. “To be frank, I’m surprised you agreed to talk to me after what I emailed you. Why did you? Agree, I mean.”

“Curiosity, more than anything,” Sharon says, her eyes fastened on mine. “I wanted to see Marcus’s latest. See what you had that I don’t.” She looks me up and down, and a slow smile creeps on her face.

“Excuse me?” I say, sure I’d heard her incorrectly.

“You have bigger tits, true, but I think my ass is better than yours.” Sharon’s still looking at me hungrily, and I’m confused as to what she’s trying to do.

“Sharon, you’re misinformed,” I say, keeping an eye on her. She doesn’t seem angry, but that could change on a dime. “Reverend Yang and I are not having an affair.” Sharon starts laughing, and she can’t stop.

“How did I know you’d say that? Can’t you at least be original?” Sharon stops laughing abruptly, and her eyes are cold.

“Sharon, it’s true. I am not sleeping with your husband.” I stare at Sharon, and our eyes are waging a private war. “I don’t poach other people’s property.”

“Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mind that Marcus has his dalliances—it takes the stress off of me. We have an agreement—we both look the other way as long as nothing gets too serious.” Sharon’s eyes shift from cold to seductive. “I can understand his attraction to you. You’re quite different from the hausfraus at the church. I’ve heard that you swing both ways.” She leans forward and plants a kiss on my mouth. It’s not unpleasant, but I have no interest in her. OK, that’s not completely true, but I don’t want to complicate the matter even further. Then she places her hand on my tit, over my shirt, and I remember how much I miss the touch of a woman. She unbuttons my shirt and slips her hand under my shirt and over my bra. When she tweaks my nipple through my bra, I come to my senses.

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Marital Duplicity; chapter ten, part two

Chapter Ten; Part Two

“Do you know what time it is?” Jasmine screeches as she answers the phone. Bob’s disappearance is really doing a number on her, and I try not to take it personally.

“I have to ask you something. Did you threaten to kill Bob?” I ask, too tired to be delicate.

“Did I what? Have you lost your darn mind?” Jasmine is shouting, and I yank the phone away from my ear.

“I just talked with Hayley Wu, and she said you threatened to kill Bob over his affair with her. Is that true.” My voice is taut, and I’m on the edge. I have been busting my ass trying to help her, and all she’s done is yell at me.

“What affair? Hayley what? I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Jasmine’s voice is entering dog whistle territory, and I’m about to blow my lid myself.

“I am coming over. We are going to have a long talk. You are going to tell me every damn thing you know.” I hang up the phone, give a few Temptations to the cats, then leave in a huff. I reach Jasmine’s house in record time. “Jasmine, let me in.” Several minutes later, the door opens. Jasmine looks like hell with dark circles under her eyes.

“Get in.” She yanks me inside and slams the door shut. She barely gives me time to take off my shoes before she pulls me into the living room. She must be rattled because she doesn’t offer me any food or drink. She pushes me into the couch and plops down next to me. “Bob was not having an affair with Hayley. I did not threaten him. I did not have an affair with Reverend Yang. What else do you need to know?”

“Hayley said Bob told her you were upset that they were having an affair.” I frown as I recall my conversation with Hayley. “Wait. She didn’t say they were having an affair; she said you were upset because you knew about them.”

“Knew what about them? He never even mentioned her.” Jasmine has calmed down a bit, and so have I. “Megan, we were having our problems, but I swear to God I never threatened to kill him.”

“Then why would Bob say you did?” I shake my head. A week ago, I would have said Bob was one of the most honest men around. Now, I don’t feel as if I know him at all.

“I don’t know,” Jasmine says, brushing her hair from her face. “I just want him home so I can chew him out! Are you any closer to finding him?”

“I have a lot of information I didn’t have before, but I’m not quite sure what to do with it.”

“The police are no help. They keep telling me if a grown man wants to leave, there’s nothing they can do about it because there’s no sign of foul play.”

“Have you heard anything from Geoff?”

“No. He’s as baffled as I am.” Jasmine looks unhappy as she adds, “He’s trying to be supportive, but he’s getting pressure from upper management to let Bob go.”

“What?” I’m aghast, though I know human nature is what it is. “It’s only been a week, and Bob has been with them for ages!”

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Marital Duplicity; chapter ten, part one

Chapter Ten; Part One

For the first time in weeks, I sleep soundly. Onyx and Jet behave themselves for once and don’t sit on my face in the middle of the night. In fact, when I wake up, they’re sleeping on the couch besides me, curled up in a ball. I slide out of bed and take a quick shower. I go through my routine, and by the time I’m done, Onyx and Jet are yammering for their breakfast. I give them their wet food before slipping out the door. I’m early to work for once, but I don’t want to make a habit of it. I focus on my job, then I leave it at the door at the end of the day. I make my way to Mrs. Tsai’s house with the help of Agnes, my not-Siri. I get there with ten minutes to spare, and she welcomes me with a warm smile. I enter her house, and I’m overwhelmed by all the delicious fragrances that remind me of my childhood. When my mother was sober and in a cooking mood, she made the tastiest dumplings. Steamed and fried. I can tell that Mrs. Tsai is making the fried kind—my favorite.

“Megan! Come in, come in.” Mrs. Tsai grabs me by the arm and guides me inside.

“Thank you, Mrs. Tsai. It smells terrific.” I step inside and take off my shoes. I slip on a pair of slippers that are hanging on the guest rack and follow her into the kitchen.

“Oh, please. Do call me Lisa. Mrs. Tsai is my husband’s mother. That dragon lady.” The last is said under Lisa’s breath, so I pretend not to hear it. She leads me into the dining room which is attractively set with good china—for two. “Harry, my husband, is out of town on business. It’ll just be the two of us tonight. Please, have a seat.” She points at one of the seats, and I sit down. She hurries back into the kitchen, and I look at her décor. The walls are a warm marigold, and there are nature paintings all over them. There’s a mahogany sideboard in the corner of the room, and I find the whole effect homey and charming. “Here we go!” Lisa returns bearing a tray laden with fried dumplings, radish cakes, wonton soup, fried rice, and other Taiwanese delicacies. I pick up my chopsticks expectantly, and she serves me a very generous portion of everything. I wait until she says grace before digging in. Radish cakes are one of my favorite dishes, and she makes them better than any I’ve had in decades.

“Lisa. Your cooking is fantastic. It takes me back to my childhood.” I gobble everything in sight, not bothering to pretend I’m dignified or restrained. Lisa is looking at me with an indulgent smile because in Taiwanese culture, there is no higher compliment to the chef than to eat as quickly as you can and ask for more. In addition, we can’t talk about business until we’ve eaten our fair share.

“Thank you. I love cooking, though it’s not much fun with no one here to eat it.” The corners of Lisa’s mouth turn downward, and I suspect there’s trouble in paradise. She might have said she and her husband’s relationship was just fine, but I doubt that’s true.

“Lisa, let me be frank. I’m here because Bob’s missing, and I think your church has something to do with it.” Again, I would prefer to be more delicate, but I don’t have the time nor the patience.

“My church?” Lisa’s mouth drops open; fortunately, there isn’t any food in it.

“Yes, your church. Reverend Yang to be more specific.” I stare at Lisa, and she visibly flinches when I mention the reverend’s name. Interestingly enough, she doesn’t rush to protest as I thought she would.

“Reverend Yang is a wonderful man,” Lisa says slowly. “He brought great comfort to me in my time of need.”

“But?” I say, my ears perking.

“My circle of friends thinks he walks on water. I have a hard time not speaking out when they start singing his praises, but I know they will be upset if I do.” Lisa fiddles with her wedding ring, refusing to meet my eyes.

“I understand. Women can be so cruel to each other.” My carefully curated comment elicits exactly the response I want.

“At first, I thought he was wonderful! He listened to everything I said and was so understanding when I talked about my problems with Harry.” Lisa’s lower lip starts trembling, and I’m afraid she’s going to cry. “Oh, he was assiduous with his attentions. He was so understanding, he talked me out of my clothing and right onto his couch. Of course, he urged me to keep it to myself, which I did. Until Sally told me in confidence that she was sleeping with Reverend Yang. You can imagine my surprise after Reverend Yang told me how I was the only woman who understood him. He told me I was different and special. What a fool I was.” Lisa tears up, but she doesn’t give in to them. She wipes her eyes, and it’s clear that she’s not over the affair yet.

“He’s a very charming man, Lisa. You can’t blame yourself.” I pause, then add, “When was your affair?”

“It ended a few months ago. Three or four months. He started making excuses to cancel our sessions or to delay them. When I confronted him, he just shined me on.” Lisa dabs her eyes with a napkin and pushes her plate away. “I’ve suddenly lost my appetite.”

“I’m sorry for bringing up painful memories,” I say, patting her hand.

“My husband was staying at work later and later, and I couldn’t help but notice that his secretary was half his age and had legs up to her neck. He came back with lipstick on his collar one night, and he made some dumb excuse. I didn’t push it.” Lisa looks ashamed of herself, and it makes me sad. So many women put up with philandering husbands, then feel ashamed of themselves for doing it. It’s as old as time, and it’s ruined so many lives. “He finally confessed to me a month ago after she dumped him. I told him I forgave him.”

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Marital Duplicity; chapter nine, part two

Chapter Nine; Part Two

I’m feeling out of sorts as I download the information from the flash drive onto my computer. I need to return the flash drive before Reverend Yang knows it’s missing. I call him before I can think about it, and he’s still at the office. I pause. Does he ever go home? He tells me he can meet me any time, so I quickly dress and leave. I don’t bother dressing up—I just wear a plain shirt and slacks. My only goal is to return the flash drive without getting caught, and maybe I’ll use the same trick I used the last time.

“Megan. I’m so glad to see you.” Reverend Yang grabs me at his office door and pulls me into a long hug. I get the sense of a drowning man clinging to a life saver, not of a leering Lothario. Given that it’s not even an hour since I last saw him, I know he’s in deep.

“Reverend Yang. You looked stressed. Anything I can do to help?” I look into Reverend Yang’s eyes, and I see that he’s deeply exhausted. In fact, he looks as if he’s about to keel over. “Sit down, Reverend. You’re tired.” I push him onto the couch, and he sinks into it obediently. To my consternation, he starts crying.

“This can’t go on, Megan. It just can’t. I haven’t slept in a week. I throw up whenever I eat. I never thought it’d be this hard.” Reverend Yang throws his arm over his eyes, and he bawls. I put my arm around him and hug him tightly. He leans against me, and he’s trembling. He needs to talk, and it might as well be to me.

“Reverend Yang, whatever it is, you have to get it out. It’s not good to keep it bottled up inside.” I pat his shoulder, and his tears eventually subside.

“I have a problem, Megan, and I need help.” Reverend Yang says, shifting his eyes off mine. He takes a deep breath and says, “I can’t stay away from other women. I’m sure you’ve noticed.” I nod, and he continues. “I love my wife. I really do. She’s been my bedrock through all this. I just…it’s the chase. I’m addicted to it.”

“Reverend Yang. Marcus.” I take his hand and squeeze it. “You are a human being, which means you have weaknesses. The fact that you can acknowledge it is a big first step.”

“Thank you, Megan. I can’t talk about this with anyone, including my wife. Understandably.” Reverend Yang’s eyes close, and within minutes, he’s asleep. I quickly pull out the thumb drive and put it back where I found it after deleting the files off of it. I look around the office, but there’s nothing else that catches my eyes. I pull on my gloves and quickly race through his computer files again. I want to find something that indicates who his most recent woman is, but I can’t find anything. Somewhere in the bowels of his computer, I find an email from his wife. My eyebrows shoot up because conceivably, they could just talk to each other at home. Feeling like a heel, I read it. It says, “Marcus, we need to talk. They’re breathing down our necks. You need to rein in your dick, and I need to be more creative with the books.” My eyebrows are about to fall off my face. She knows about his dalliances. She either doesn’t care or she’s accepted it as part of her lot in life. That’s hard enough for me to believe, but the fact that she just blatantly states she’s cooking the books is mind-blowing. Wait a minute. Reverend Yang said he couldn’t talk about his affairs with his wife, but it’s clear she knows. What accounts for the discrepancy, or is he lying to me? If he is, why?

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