Marital Duplicity; chapter three

Chapter Three

“Hello?” My phone wakes me a half hour before my alarm goes off, and it’s Jasmine, otherwise I wouldn’t have answered.

“Megan! Bob never came home! Please come over now.” Jasmine’s voice is trembling, and I can tell she’s crying.

“Give me ten minutes, Jasmine.” I hang up and get up. I go to the kitchen to feed the beasties before going to take a quick shower. I dress in sweats, give the cats some love, then take off for Jasmine’s place, my mind whirling. I can think of a million reasons why he didn’t come home, and none of them good. The least worst possibility is that he went on a bender and had to sleep it off on his friend’s couch. That seems highly unlikely, but I’m clinging to it so I won’t have to think about worse possibilities.

“Megan!” Jasmine throws her arms around my neck and squeezes. It’s clear she’s been crying for hours, and she doesn’t have any makeup on for once. She’s wearing gray sweats, but they’re not meant to be exercised in. She probably paid more for the sweat suit than I pay in mortgage every month. I brush that aside because now is not the time nor the place. This is all about her.

“Jasmine!” I hug her tightly, stroking her back as I do.

“I’ve called him thirteen times between when you left last night and when I called you this morning.” Jasmine is blubbering, so it’s difficult to understand what she’s saying.

“Let’s go inside and talk.” I go into her house and close the door behind me. I take off my shoes and line them up on the welcome mat. I lead her into the kitchen and put a kettle on the stove. Once the water is boiling, I make us ginger tea. “When’s the last time you ate?” I ask, trying out my best mom glare.

“I can’t, Megan. I really can’t.” Jasmine sags to the floor, and I’m disconcerted at how much of a wreck she is.

“You can, and you will.” I stare into the fridge to see what she has in there. There are dumplings, noodles, radish cakes, and rice. Not exactly breakfast fare, but I’m beyond caring at this point. I heat up two bowlfuls of noodles, grab the necessary accoutrements, and go into the dining room. Once I have everything laid out, I go back to haul Jasmine’s ass in there as well. Once we’re seated, I start eating. Jasmine pushes the noodles around inside her bowl, but doesn’t eat. “Jasmine.” I put some steel into my voice, and she obediently lifts a noodle to her mouth. I glare at her until she starts masticating and swallows. I don’t let her talk until she’s finished half of her noodles. Then, I nod at her. Clearing her throat, she begins.

“As I told you, Bob has been acting strangely for the past three months.” Jasmine takes a deep breath and continues. “I asked him about it, but he said it was just work. His boss was pushing him to put in more time, despite his seniority.” Jasmine reaches for her glass and drains half her water in one gulp. “Two months ago, I caught him sneaking into the house at one in the morning. It was really bad.”

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Marital Duplicity; chapter two

Chapter Two

“Megan! How are you doing?” Jasmine hugs me hard before looking me up and down.

“Hanging in.” I’m glad I put on a nice pair of black pants and a red blouse before coming over. I’ve lived in my sweats for the past two weeks, but I know Jasmine wouldn’t take kindly to me showing up in tattered sweats. She’s wearing a blue dress that accentuates her curves. She has eight years on my forty-five, and yet, looks twenty years younger. As always, I envy her curls, which are as natural as her generous bosom.

“You can do this. You’re strong.” Jasmine ushers me inside. I take off my shoes before following her into the dining room, which is empty.

“Where’s Bob?” I ask, looking around.

“Working late. Again.” Jasmine’s lips purse together before she relaxes them.

“Something wrong between you two?” I ask, concerned. She and Bob seem to have a solid marriage, but who can ever really know for sure?

“He’s just been working too much lately. He says his boss is coming down hard on the team, but he has seniority, damn it. What good is seniority if it means you can’t have dinner with your wife every now and then?” Bob is on a marketing team, which means erratic hours. He was supposed to cut back on his hours last year in an agreement he made with Jasmine, but he claimed he couldn’t do it without jeopardizing his job.

“Oh, well. It’s just you and me. We’ll have some major sister bonding time.” I sit down at the table and start loading my plate with beef stroganoff, mashed potatoes, garlic bread, and salad. Everything smells good, and my sister is an excellent cook. I take a bite of the beef stroganoff, and it stays down. That’s another problem I’ve been having—not throwing up my food. The stroganoff sits well, so I take another bite, followed by a bite of mashed potatoes. Both stay down. I’m able to eat several bites of everything before my stomach starts to rebel. I set down my fork, not wanting to press my luck.

“That’s all you’re eating?” Jasmine asks, pausing before taking a healthy bite of stroganoff herself. “You used to put away three plates of my stroganoff by yourself without breaking a sweat.”

“I haven’t been eating much lately,” I say, staring down at my plate. Suddenly, the stroganoff doesn’t look as appetizing, and I push the plate away from me. I take a sip of water to keep my food down.

“I can tell. You’ve lost weight.” Jasmine’s tone is disapproving, even though she’s normally encouraging me to eat healthier and to work out. To her credit, she never comments on my weight in a negative way. Whenever I point out that her eating habits aren’t exactly exemplary, she laughs and tells me I should do as she says, not as she does.

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Marital Duplicity; chapter one

Chapter One

Taiji is my sanctuary, and I need it more than ever right now. I’ve had the worst few weeks of my life in which my best friend has been murdered and my lover has been brutally attacked. The absolute worst part is that their attacker is someone who thought she was in love with me and wanted to eliminate the competition. I haven’t slept since she confronted me at work, and I managed to fend off her attack with the aid of taiji. I’m barely holding on, and if I didn’t have taiji and my cats, I probably would have killed myself.

“Let’s do the first section,” Lydia says, and we all move to our places on the floor. We don’t have designated spots, but we all tend to go to the same place as we are creatures of habit. I take the front left corner as is my wont and wait for Lydia to start. I’ve been studying taiji for seven years, and I attend classes three days a week in part because I’m not as diligent as I should be about practicing on a daily basis. I’m better now than when I first started, however, as I never practiced at home during the first two years. “I’ll say the names of the postures; try to stick together. Take your time, and enjoy.” We start the first section of the Solo Form, and I try to empty my mind of all thoughts. It’s not easy, however, as the Solo Form is my least favorite part of taiji. It’s a shame because it’s the basis for everything else we do, but I can’t help what I like and don’t like. The Solo Form is mostly for health and meditation, two things that I don’t care about. I mean, I’m glad taiji is beneficial to my health and my mental health, but I care more about the applications. Although right now, my mental health could do with some shoring up.

I focus on my waist, making sure to turn it correctly. In taiji, the hands rarely move on their own—if ever. We’re supposed to turn our waist to move our hands as it gives more power to every strike, block, and chop. When I do it correctly, it feels as if I’m doing nothing. Lydia says that’s how you know you’re doing it right—when it’s effortless. Taiji is the lazy person’s martial art in which you want to expend as little effort as possible for the biggest possible result. I’m satisfied with my first section, though it’s not my best. Afterwards, we have a ten minute break, during which I sip water from my iced water bottle and listen to my classmates chatter about nothing in particular. I must be giving off a ‘don’t fuck with me’ vibes because no one tries to talk to me. I’m grateful as I don’t feel particularly conversational.

After the break, Lydia asks me to lead the more advanced students in the Sword Form while she works on the Solo Form with the newer students. The Sword Form is my favorite, so I relish any chance I get to practice it. I’ve taught myself the left side of the form at home because that’s the way Lydia’s teacher insists it be done. His rationale is that if you know the right side, you can teach yourself the left side. Any weaknesses you have on the right side will show up in learning the left side. I had little problem teaching myself the left side of the Sword Form, but I’m struggling with the left side of the Solo Form. How like me to prefer the hard to the easy, which is the reason the kick section is my favorite part of the Solo Form.

Once we’re done with the Sword Form, Lydia has us do the entire Solo Form to music. She’s doing it less these days since her teacher is moving away from it, but she still does it once in a while. I like it because it’s faster than we normally do the Solo Form, but many of my classmates disagree. We put the newbies in the middle of the group so they can have someone to watch no matter which way we’re facing. People think taiji is relaxing and meditative, and it is, but it’s also a real workout if you do it properly. My back always aches by the third section, and it’s something that I’m currently working on. I concentrate on making sure my back knee is over my toes, which is another bad habit of mine—overextending my knee. I’m tired by the time we’re done, but also satisfied. My back is aching, but it doesn’t hurt—I chalk that up as a win. After class, I wait for the rest of my classmates to leave so I can chat with Lydia for a few minutes.

“How’re you feeling these days, Megan?” Lydia asks as she goes behind a divider to change into her street clothes. “You’ve had a rough go of it these last few weeks.”

“I’m hanging in. I miss Julianna like hell, though, and I still feel terrible about Rembrandt’s eye.”

“I know it’s been tough on you, but you can’t blame yourself for either event. It was that crazy woman’s fault-not yours.” Lydia’s voice is muffled, and I can barely understand what she’s saying.

“I know, but it if wasn’t for me, she wouldn’t have attacked either of them.” That’s my prevailing nightmare, that I’m the one who brought the misfortune to my best friend and my lover. “How’re you doing?”

“I’m OK. Roger is worried because construction is down right now, but we’re scraping by.” Lydia emerges from behind the division, her face weary. We chat for a few minutes before leaving. I hug her and climb into my car, ready to go home.

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Blogging My Murder; chapter thirteen, part two

Chapter Thirteen; Part Two

We talk about other things for a few more minutes, but I’m eager to get home so I can think about Lydia’s revelation. Once I’m there, I feed my cats some treats before retiring to the living room. I pull up a Google tab, but then stop short. What am I supposed to Google? In order for a search to be effective, I need good parameters. I can Google tongues being cut out and eyes being gouged out all I want, but it’s not helpful if I don’t already have some connection between the two. Something hits me. I was so excited by Lydia’s suggestion, I overlooked one thing—if she’s right, the only thing that connects the two is me. Yes, Julianna and Rembrandt saw each other at the club when Rembrandt and I first met, but they didn’t even say ‘hey’ to each other. So, if the two attacks are connected, then it has to be because of me.

I slump back in the couch, stunned by my realization. I’d been so focused on who would want to kill Julianna, I developed tunnel vision. If Julianna’s murder has to do with me, then I have to recalibrate everything I thought I’d already known about this case. Wait a minute. If I’m the connection, then who the hell would want to hurt me by attacking my loved ones/friends? I don’t have any enemies that I know of, and more than that, even if I did, none of them would know I was dating Rembrandt. I only told a few people, and one of them is dead. The others are beyond reproach, so what does that leave? As I’m thinking about it, I decide to check my blog. As it’s loading, I realize that’s the answer. My blog. I wrote about Julianna the night before her death, and I wrote something about her voice being the first thing I was drawn to. Then, after my last date with Rembrandt, I wrote about his eyes. Whoever did this is reading my blog. The bile rises in my throat, and I race to the toilet just in time. I vomit until I only have dry heaves left. It’s my fault Julianna is dead and Rembrandt lost an eye. I dry heave some more until my stomach hurts. Once I’m done, I slump down, too exhausted to move. The tears well up in my eyes, but they refuse to fall. I know I have to look over those posts and see what I can find, but not just yet. If I’m lucky, I’ll find something in the comments. If I’m not, it’ll be a lurker who doesn’t comment who has been doing these terrible things.

I stand up, my knees weak, and wobble my way to the sink. My cats are on top of the counter, staring at me in concern. I try to smile reassuringly at them, but I can’t seem to get my facial muscles to work. I pour myself a glass of water and drink it quickly. I splash water on my face, but nothing seems to help. Someone is killing people I love or like because of me. I stagger to the kitchen and boil some water for tea. Once it’s boiling, I make myself a cup of peppermint tea. I need energy if I’m going to do something about this. I give my babies some treats and then go to the living room. I sit on the couch and wake up my laptop. I take a deep breath and go through my post about Rembrandt. I read the comments, but nothing really stands out. Except…I open another tab and pull up my post about Julianna, the one I wrote right before her death. I scan both the comments, and then I notice it. QueenBee’s comments. On the one I wrote on Julianna’s birthday, she said, “All bark and no bite. You can tell she’s got no substance, and her voice is ugly, too. I don’t know what you see in her.” After my post on Rembrandt, she wrote, “You couldn’t wait to move on, could you? Was what you wrote about Julianna a lie? Now you’re just taken in by a pair of pretty eyes.” There it is. QueenBee is the killer, and she has to be local.

I hear a noise outside. I stand up and grab my metal sword and phone before going down the hall. I punch in 9-1 before turning on the front porch lights and peering out the peephole. Nothing. I heft the sword in the air as I open the door and poke my head out. I don’t see anyone, but there’s a box on my doorstep. It’s wrapped, tied up with a pretty pink bow, and has a gift tag attached. This is not good. I hesitate, go back inside, lock the doors, grab a pair of latex gloves, then go back outside. I pick up the box and bring it inside, locking the door behind me. I take the box into the living room and set it on the coffee table. I stare at it in trepidation. Should I open it or should I call the police right away? I  probably should call the cops, but I’m curious. I pluck the tag from the box and I read it. “I will be your eyes and your voice.” Not good. It’s the killer. Do I even want to know what’s in the box? I suspect I know what it is, and I most definitely do not want to see. However, I also have to know, so I gingerly untie the bow and open the box. In it are a tongue and a brown eye, both covered in congealed blood. Even though it’s what I expected. I gag and drop the lid of the box before rushing to the kitchen sink. I retch, although I have nothing in my stomach. I call Detective Quentin, and when his weary voice answers, I blurt out what I’d found and what I think.

“Don’t touch anything.” Detective Quentin’s voice is energized, which means he’s probably been hitting his head against a wall up until now. “We’ll be right there.” I hang up and sit on the couch, numb. Onyx and Jet snuggle against me, and I pet their fur to soothe the agitation in my brain. Someone hates me enough to do this to me, and I have to figure out who it is. Soon, my doorbell rings. I go to the hallway with my sword in hand and peek out the peephole. It’s the cops. I relax my grip on my sword and lean it against the wall in its hilt before opening the door.

“Come in, detectives.” I open my door and gesture to the detectives. Even though it’s ten p.m., Detective Quentin looks as fresh as a daisy in a charcoal gray pinstripe suit. Detective Lorrimore, on the other hand, looks haggard and worn in her lime green pantsuit. After the case is over, maybe I’ll drop a discreet hint that she would look much better in solid and dark colors, but now is not the time.

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Blogging My Murder; chapter thirteen, part one

Chapter Twelve; Part One

The next day, as I’m driving to work, I have the strangest feeling that I’m being followed. I check my mirrors several times, but there’s nothing suspicious. I’m probably being paranoid because of everything that has happened in the last week, but I double-check again. Nothing. When I pull into the parking lot, I hunch my shoulders as I lock my door. I whip my head around, but there is no one there. I hurry into the building, irrationally glad to get out of the open. I go to the office floor and sit at my desk. I frown again. My coffee cup isn’t in the same place as where I normally put it, and several of my pens have been disturbed. I look at my computer, but nothing seems out of order there. I quickly check my files, but there’s nothing there. I still have five minutes, so I check the local news on my phone. The Strib. To my surprise, there’s a picture of Rembrandt on the front page. Does he have a show he never mentioned to me? I read the article, and my surprise turns to horror. He was attacked in front of his house early this morning on his way to his first client. He managed to fight off his attacker, but not before the attacker gouged out his (brown) eye. Rembrandt was rushed to Abbott Northwestern, and I have to get to him now. I run into Cara’s office. Fortunately, she’s not busy, so I tell her I need to take off. She’s not happy about it, but she lets me go. I promise her I’ll make it up to her, and I leave. My thoughts are racing as I speed towards Abbott Northwestern. How can this be happening again? Who the hell would attack Rembrandt?

“I need to see Rembrandt. Rembrandt DiCampo,” I say to the nurse at the front desk.

“Only family is allowed,” the nurse says, looking up at me. Her tone is brisk, but not unsympathetic.

“Can you at least tell me how he is?” I ask, my voice trembling.

“No, I can’t. I’m sorry.” The nurse nods at me. I’m about to leave when I remember that Simon is still here. I get a nurse to give me directions to his room and make my way over there. Trinity is in the waiting area, and I go sit by her as she dozes.

“How is he?” I ask Trinity, startling her into sitting upright.

“He’s bad, but the doctors say he’ll be fine,” Trinity says after she wakes up a bit. “If he stays off the drugs, stays away from old associates, etc., etc., etc.” Trinity and I exchange glances. We both know how likely that is about to happen.

“May I talk to him?” I ask Trinity, holding my breath. There’s no reason for her to say yes, but to my surprise, she does.

“Go on in. No one else has visited him.” Trinity’s shoulders droop, and I know she thinks she has to be there for him because he has no one else. It’s not my job, but I feel somewhat responsible for her.

“You don’t have to do this, Trinity,” I say, placing my hand on her shoulder. She leans into it before pulling away.

“He has no one else.” Trinity’s voice is weary, and I think she’s near the edge of leaving; I just have to find the right words to push her over, so to speak. I think about my options, then I speak.

“I know you feel responsible for him. I know you think he’s alone and has no one else. That can be a powerful drug for people who like to help other people.” I pause to see how she’s reacting. She’s looking at me and is leaning slightly toward me, so that’s a good sign. “The problem is, and this is tough love, a guy like that will drag you down before you can pull him up.” Trinity flinches, but she doesn’t say anything. “I have tried so many times. Lord knows. I’ve lost count. Every time I think I can save someone, not only have I lost that person, but I’ve lost parts of myself as well.”

“I need to leave him,” Trinity says softly. “I know that, but—”

“No buts,” I say firmly. “You’re going to say you should at least be there for him through this. But, there’s always something with a man like him. You know that.” I pat her hand before standing up. “I’ll be right back.” I stride towards Simon’s room and stop before entering it. I never told Julianna, but I smelled rot coming off of Simon the few times I’ve met him. I walk in, and the smell lingers. Simon’s head is wrapped, his arm is in a cast, and his face is all puffy. I can’t tell if he’s sleeping or if his eyes are just swollen shut.

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Blogging My Murder; chapter eleven

Chapter Eleven

“Megan, can we talk?” It’s Sara, and her eyes are red. She’s wearing a fuzzy pink sweater that doesn’t fit her very well over a pair of tight black pants that show off her thick thighs.

“No, Sara, we cannot.” I keep my eyes on the monitor, finishing up the paperwork on a previous successful call.

“Please. I have something to tell you. It’s important.” Sara looks at me beseechingly, and I can’t say no to her, damn it.

“OK. I can give you ten minutes during my break. Half an hour from now.” My tone is terse because I hate being manipulated into doing something I don’t want to do. I push it to the back of my mind while I continue my work. As much as I hate this work, I’m good at it, and I want to be as professional as possible. I go to the break room when it’s time, and there’s Sara with her hands wrapped around a mug of coffee. I sit down across from her and lean back. I’m sure she can sense I don’t want to be there, but I don’t care. I’m already kicking myself for agreeing to talk to her, and I wait impatiently to hear what she has to say.

“Have you ever loved someone so much you’d do anything for them?” Sara asks, her voice small. Oh god. I don’t want to be her Mother Confessor, and I don’t care about her tawdry personal problems.

“Grow up, Sara,” I say wearily. “You’re not a child any longer. That isn’t love—it’s codependency.” I stand up, suddenly tired of this conversation.

“I did something really bad!” Sara blurts out. “The person I love doesn’t even know I’m alive, so I did something to make them notice me.”

“I’m sorry you’re having such difficulties, but this is work. You need to get it together and keep this to yourself.” I stride out of the breakroom, furious at myself for falling for her bullshit again. I stop at the bathroom to avail myself of the facility and to splash water onto my face. I need to get my temper in check before I go back to work. Nobody will buy anything from an agitated, snappish bitch, so I take several minutes to get myself under control. Once I feel as if I’m OK, I walk back to the work room and slide into my seat. Sara is at her desk, and it’s clear she’s been sobbing hard. I really hope Cara fires her so I can have her out of my hair and life.

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Blogging My Murder; chapter ten, part three

Chapter Ten; Part Three

Wait a minute. Julianna left me all her money. Uncle said it was around three-quarters of a million dollars. If I invest carefully, I should be able to quit my job right now. Well, once the will goes through probate. I quickly Google how long it takes to process a will and find out it can take anywhere from a few months to a year. If someone contests the will, which I’m sure Eric will if he’s able, then it can take longer. In other words, I can’t count on that money any time soon. Then again, I have a healthy bank account, and if I’m very careful—I suddenly realize that I’m focusing on the money left to me by my murdered best friend. I start gagging, but nothing comes up. How could I be such a callous bitch as to spend my murdered best friend’s money? I put my face in my hands and weep. Onyx and Jet meep in protest, but they don’t follow me as I get up. Instead, they move together as one and curl up into a ball. I grab my smokes and go outside. I try to light one, but my hand is shaking. I steady it and light my cigarette. I take a long pull off of it and hold the smoke in my lungs. I deserve the punishment for being so cavalier about Julianna’s death. What’s more, I haven’t Googled anything else about it in a day. I made a promise to Uncle that I’d find Julianna’s murder, and I’ve been lax.

I go back to the couch and pull my laptop onto my lap. I Google Julianna’s murder and read a dozen articles. I don’t learn much that I don’t already know. She was killed in the wee hours of the morning by having her throat sliced and her tongue cut out. I learn that she was probably killed by some kind of hunting knife which the perp brought with him. Or her. I shouldn’t be sexist, though that kind of ferocity is more a dude thing. There’s a new tidbit—she was tied to her bed with her own scarves. Four scarves, one for each limb. The article lists the kind of scarves, and I realize I gave one to her for Christmas. It was a cashmere scarf from Nordstrom, and now it’s ruined. I brush that aside because it’s not relevant. OK. The perp planned ahead by bringing a knife, but he didn’t bring restraints? I’ve watched enough Criminal Minds to know that’s weird. Says to me that this person was, what? Impulsive? The person wanted to commit the murder, but didn’t think it through. Also, how did he know Julianna would be alone? Coincidence? I highly doubt it as Ramona had just left. Wait a minute. I sit up straight. The perp was watching Julianna! That had to be how he got her just after Ramona left. I scribble several notes to myself, my mind reeling.

Who would hate Julianna so much that he would stalk her? Who would have the time? Her ex-husband would have the time, probably, but not the means, I don’t think. What was the name of that woman who had plagiarized Julianna’s style at the Minneapolis Slammin’? Paula…no, that’s not it. Pamela…no. She’s a Latina…oh, right. Paola! I plug in her name and Minneapolis Slammin’. I come back with hundreds of hits, most of them related to her slam poetry. Her last name is Escobar, and she’s from New Jersey originally. She came here because the slam poetry scene here is second to none. Her boyfriend, Joey Simmons, came with her. This was three years ago, and they live in Loring Park in a two-bedroom apartment. He’s some kind of businessman, though there’s nothing explicit there. I raise an eyebrow at the fact that they have a yacht. A fucking yacht? He must be making bank for that kind of shit. What does she do? Not much. She claims to be a freelance writer, but I can’t find anything current written by her, at least not with a cursory search. That means she had plenty of time to stalk Julianna. What about Ramona’s husband? She said he didn’t work as hard as she did, and she was definitely lying about him being home that night. Goddamn it. This isn’t narrowing down my search at all. What about Eric, Julianna’s brother? On impulse, I call him. To my surprise, he answers.

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Blogging My Murder; chapter ten, part two

Chapter Ten; Part Two

My phone beeps. It’s a text from Rembrandt. “You left again. You keep doing that.” I can’t tell if he’s pissed or hurt or what, but I want to nip this in the bud. Then again, it is kind of rude of me to leave like that, so I start with an apology. “Sorry. I prefer sleeping in my own bed. Plus, I missed my cats. You pissed?” I hold my breath. I don’t want him to be mad, but I’m also pretty set in my ways. I’m not going to change just because I enjoy fucking him. It’s several seconds before I receive an answer. “No. Just hurt. I don’t understand.” I sigh. This is another problem with being unconventional. Most people assume that women want to move in, to be committed, to get married, whatever. I’ve had this problem many times. Guys who are at first upset because I don’t want to commit. Then, they get resentful, and finally, pissed. Do I even want to bother? I shouldn’t immediately put Rembrandt in the same boat, but that’s all I seem to run into. “Look. This is too complicated to text about. Can we talk about it? Maybe Tuesday or Wednesday night?” “Why not tomorrow?” The immediate response. Goddamn it. I hate it when people can’t respect my boundaries. “I’m busy.” My text is terse, but I’m not in the mood to make nice. This is why I don’t do well in relationship; I hate having to justify myself to someone else. I count to one hundred before Rembrandt responds. “Tuesday. Six. Where do you want to meet?” Not good. A step back might be what’s needed, though. “Grumpy’s. Washington Ave.” I’m sending my own message. Grumpy’s is loud, so intimate conversation isn’t easy. It should be OK at that time, though. I guess I’m hoping it’ll be loud, though. “Fine.” I decide not to answer that text because we’re going to spiral downwards from here. I set my phone aside, but it beeps again in a minute. It’s Rembrandt. “I hope you have a good night.” Some of my irritation melts. He’s a decent man. It’s not his fault that I’m not a decent woman, not in the traditional sense, anyway. “Thanks, Rembrandt. You, too.”

With that, I toss my phone onto the bed and sigh deeply. Two black lumps join me on the bed, snuggling into my sides. I ruffle their fur, taking comfort in their presence. Why do humans have to be so uptight about our relationships? Why can’t we just sniff each other’s butts and be done with it? Then again, I’ve read how cats have sex, and I don’t want any part of that. My cats have really cushy lives, but do I really want to just eat, sleep, and play with another cat? That doesn’t sound half-bad, actually. I think back to my text messages with Rembrandt and wonder if I could have handled it better. Hell, I know I could have, but I just didn’t have the patience. Let’s face it, if I wanted to avoid unpleasantness, I would have just spent the night with Rembrandt. Time for some hard truths. Do I want to date Rembrandt, or would I prefer if he was just a booty call? Truth to be told, I would be happy if he cooked for me two to three times a week before thoroughly fucking me, then I could go home and chill with my cats. I want Netflix and chill, but I have a hunch Rembrandt wants more than that. If that’s the case, should I just cut it off now? It wouldn’t be fair to him to fuck around if he’s wanting more. Then again, I like him. Not just to fuck, but talking to him and being with him. Maybe I’m sabotaging myself by nitpicking at everything, but I can’t help how I feel.

On the third hand, I have a tendency to overthink things. It’s both a blessing and a curse, but right now, it’s mostly a negative. Three days ago, I was looking forward to my date with Rembrandt and having sex with him. Now, we need to have a talk, and we’re not even a week into whatever this is. People like to joke about how women always want to talk, but I find that dudes want to do it more often than do chicks. Something about sex makes them think they own me or that I owe them something. Am I weird for not wanting to spend the night with him right away? My guess is that most women probably would stay the night, but I’m not most women, damn it. I hate being defensive over my preference of sleeping alone. It’s something I’ve taken shit for my entire life. Well, at least since I started dating. I’ve had to break up with more than one partner who didn’t believe that I didn’t want to move in with them. Let’s not even talk about marriage. Or kids. I am disgruntled, which means it’s going to be hard for me to get to sleep. I pull up my website and start a post.

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Blogging My Murder; chapter ten, part one

Chapter Ten; Part One

“Taiji is not just of the body, it’s also of the mind.” Lydia is lecturing on the principles of taiji, which I am sorry to say, I tune out. I’ve heard it a million times, and my mind is fractured today, anyway. I try to focus, but my thoughts keep drifting towards Julianna’s murder. Every time I put it to the back of my mind, it rushes forward again. I take several smooth, slow breaths as I try to remain on an even-keel emotionally. When I check back in, Lydia has moved on to the first section of the Solo Form. I hurriedly catch up to my classmates, not wanting to be caught daydreaming. After we finish the first section, it’s break time. I slump in a chair and drink water from my iced water bottle. I don’t want to talk to anyone, and most of my classmates seem to have gotten the memo. One of them, however, Betty Bowser (really, that’s her name), blithely ignores the strong ‘stay away from me’ vibes and sits next to me.

“That was a good workout!” She wipes her face with a towel, though I don’t see any sweat there. She’s wearing a fuchsia-colored sweatshirt that says ‘Girl Power’ and matching sweats. She even has a matching headband, for fuck’s sake. Of course, she’s wearing a full face of makeup and brand new Nikes, also fuchsia. Her fingernails match as well, and I’m getting nauseated just looking at her.

“Yes. It was a good first section.” I keep my tone brusque, hoping she’ll take the hint. She doesn’t.

“Your form looks so much better than mine. I don’t think I’ll ever be as good!” Betty fluffs out her (dyed) blond curls and cuts her eyes at our classmate, Kirk, who is chatting with Lydia. Kirk is barely twenty, but an ex-baseball player who was slated to go pro until he tore his ACL three times in two seasons. He has dark brown hair and warm hazel eyes, and I can understand Betty’s attraction to him. She’s almost twice his age, however, which is Mrs. Robinson territory in my book. Anyone under thirty looks like an unformed blob in my eyes. They can be physically attractive, but there’s no there there. I like my partners to have some mileage on their tires and to show that they’ve been on a journey.

“You’ve only been studying a year, Betty. I have six years on you and countless hours of practice. You’ll get there.” My tone is perfunctory. The last thing I want to do is hold this neurotic woman’s hand.

“But your form is so fluid. Mine is herky jerky!” Betty is still looking at Kirk who is blissfully unaware of her scrutiny.

“It’s because you have more information than your brain knows what to do with,” I say crisply. It’s something I’ve heard Lydia say countless times. With newbies, you can only teach them one thing at a time, namely, the postures. If you try to correct them on every little thing they’re doing wrong, they’ll try to fix all the things at once, which means they won’t be able to concentrate on anything at all. So, it’s best not to mention form problems unless they’re actively hurtful to the person  practicing. Unfortunately, that means that bad habits can become entrenched. I’ve had to work on not pushing my knees too far forward because I didn’t realize it was something I was doing for years. It’s a pain in the ass, and sometimes, I despair I’ll ever be able to correct it.

“You’re saying I’m stupid?” Betty looks at me, anger in her cornflower blue eyes.

“No. It has nothing to do with intelligence.” My voice is sharp. I’m at the end of my rope with Betty, though I’m trying to keep my temper. “We all think we’re good at multitasking, but we’re really not. That’s why it’s important to focus on one thing at a time. If you want to know more, ask Lydia.”

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Blogging My Murder; chapter nine, part two

Chapter Nine; Part Two

“Megan! Where are you?” It’s Jasmine. I don’t say anything, naively hoping she’ll go away if I don’t answer. It’s stupid, of course, because she’s not going to leave until she searches the house, but I still don’t have the will to answer. “There you are.” Jasmine sweeps into the living room, turning on all the lights. I blink as the lights flood into the room, and the cats meow in protest. They don’t move, however, the lazy bastards. “You’re brooding. You have to stop doing that.” Jasmine moves Jet to the couch before grabbing me by the arm and hauling me up into a sitting position. “Do you think Julianna would have wanted you to react this way?”

“I don’t know because Julianna is dead,” I retort. “I’ll never know what she wants again, will I?”

“That’s childish of you, Megan,” Jasmine says crisply, fluffing the pillow behind my back. “You know Julianna would be yelling at you right now for being self-indulgent.”

“Well, fuck her. She went and left me, so who fucking cares?” I can’t stop the horrible words from leaving my mouth.

“You don’t mean that. You know you don’t.” Jasmine clucks her tongue as she fusses over my clothes. She straightens them as best she can, but there’s not much you can do with sweats. “It’s the anger talking.”

“You’re fucking right it’s the anger talking. How could she fucking do this to me?” I am screaming by the end of the second sentence. “How dare she do this to me?” I throw a remote across the room, startling the hell out of my cats. I stroke their fur to calm them down, which allows my anger to dissipate somewhat.

“Megan. Listen to me.” Jasmine turns my head so I’m forced to look at her. “I know this is hard. I know you’re hurting like hell, but you cannot give in to this, you hear?” I don’t answer, so she shakes me once. “You went off the rails when Mom died. I do not have it in me to put you back together again for the second time.”

“Jasmine, I appreciate all you’ve done for me. I really do.” I pause as my eyes fill up with tears. She was the one who bought me pads when I first got my period. She was the one I confided in when I had my first serious crush—Ricky Stanton—I was fourteen years old. She was the one who bought my prom dress for me when Billy Jones asked me to prom my junior year. And she was the one who took on a second job so she could help cover my tuition at Carleton College when I could only get a partial scholarship. And when our mother killed herself with drink, it was Jasmine who held my hair back as I puked for three days straight. It was grief combined with too much booze. I couldn’t handle it, and she made sure I didn’t kill myself as well. “I don’t know how I’m ever going to repay you.”

“You can start by fucking living.” Jasmine says. I blink because she is not prone to swearing. I have a feeling she did it just to get my attention. “I did not nurture you this long only to have you give up now.” She touches her hand to the back of my face, and I tear up once again.

“I love you, Jasmine.” I say, my voice choking up. “I just don’t know if I can do this.” I pause and add, “I don’t  know if I want to.”

“I know.” Jasmine stares at me hard. “But, you don’t have a choice. You have to live for me, for your cats, for your friends, but mostly for me.” There it is. She’s calling in the chip I have owed her for so long. There is no way I can say no, and yet, I resent her for cashing it in. Then again, she’s playing for some pretty high stakes, so I can’t blame her for fighting dirty.

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