Don’t Rayne On My Parade; chapter two, part three

Chapter Two; Part Three

“You’re next,” Inspector Robinson breaks into my reverie and nods at me.  I hop up with a start, nearly choking on my water.  I set down the glass and follow her, leaving a dejected Max to grapple with Officer Clark.  We settle on couches opposite each other, and she pulls out a notebook.  “What is your full name?”

“Rayne Liang.  R-a-y-n-e L-i-a-n-g,” I say, then remember that it’s not exactly true.  “Um, that’s not my full name.  It’s what I go by.  Is that good enough?”

“Full name, including middle,” Inspector Robinson repeats, tapping her pen against the notebook.

“Rainbow Freedom Liang,” I say reluctantly, cursing my mother as I do any time I have to divulge my name.  I wait for the comment that inevitably follows my revelation—‘Your parents must have been hippies!’—but it doesn’t come.  Inspector Robinson writes it down before continuing with her questioning.  After receiving mundane details such as my address and age, she starts asking more substantive questions.

“How long have you known Ms. Bowers?”  Inspector Robinson asks, her eyes trained on my face.  I have the uneasy feeling that I have a glob of toothpaste in the corner of my mouth, but I resist the urge to lick it to see if it’s true.

“I met her at the party tonight,” I say.  I open my mouth to add something, but don’t.  Just answer the questions and nothing more.  That’s what I’ve heard to do when talking to the police.

“Your friend, what is his name?”  Inspector Robinson waits.  She has a habit of sitting completely still, which is distracting.

“Paris Frantz.  F-r-a-n-t-z.  No middle name.”  Surely, this will get a rise out of her.  I am wrong again.

“Mr. Frantz is friends with Ms. Bowers, then.”  It takes me a few seconds to realize that she’s asking, not telling.

“Not exactly friends,” I hedge.  “He’s her personal trainer.”

“Where?”  Inspector Robinson’s voice is brisk, but not hurried.

“‘N Sound Shape on Valencia.”  I make a face as I say the name.  I catch a glimpse of a similar reaction on Inspector Robinson’s face before she can mask it.  “I know, I know, horrible name, but a great place to work out.  The owner really care about you.”  Jimmy Benedict, the owner, is a fixture in the Mission District, one of the many characters. Easy on the eyes, too.  He’s in his forties, but could pass for early thirties.

“It doesn’t sound like her kind of place,” Inspector Robinson frowns, looking at her notes.  “Why would Ms. Bowers frequent a health club not up to her standards?”

“I don’t know,” I stare at Inspector Robinson with respect.  She actually knows ‘N Sound Shape, which means she probably uses it herself as it’s not well-known.  “Maybe she likes to support locally-owned businesses.”

“There’s a Starbucks mug in the kitchen,” Inspector Robinson says with a hint of a smile.  “I don’t think Ms. Bowers has much difficult patronizing chains.”  Is that a joke?  I wonder if I can let my guard down. “Ms. Liang, why did you accompany Mr. Frantz here?”  Her tone is deceptively mild, but I can sense the quickening of her interest.

“He asked me to,” I reply simply.

“Do you do everything he asks?”

“Do you have a best friend?”  I don’t wait for an answer.  “He’s done so many things for me.  It was the least I could do.”

“Are you two lovers?”  The question comes out of left-field, but it doesn’t bother me.  I’m used to people questioning my relationship with Paris.

“No.  We’re just friends.”

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Don’t Rayne On My Parade; chapter two, part two

         Chapter Two; Part Two

“Hello?  Paris here.”  He has one of those phones where a person standing near by can hear almost everything the other person says.

“Oh –y God, Pa—s.  It’s Ma—………..looking for Moira…….broke down the door….she’s de—.  You have to…….right now!”

“Max, calm down.  Are you sure about that?”  Paris looks concerned as he cradles the phone to his ear.

“She…..bed…..not moving.  Mur— .  Some—.  I want you…….now!”  Her voice rises hysterically as she talks.  It sounds as if she’s not even trying to control herself any longer.

“Ok, Max.  I’ll be right there.  Drink some water and take deep breaths.  Remember, stress is your enemy.”  He clicks off the phone and turns to me.  I’m eagerly waiting for the news, though I can piece together most of it from the excerpts I overheard.  “It’s Moira.  She’s been murdered.  Max’s going crazy.  We gotta go.”

“Who’s we, white man?”  I retort, trying to ignore his other words.  “She asked for you, remember?”  I do not want to see Max again, and I definitely do not want to see a dead Moira.

“I need you there with me,” Paris says soulfully, putting on the puppy-dog eyes.  “I need you for moral support.”  He leans over to kiss me on the cheek which breaks down my defenses.  Every time, I vow to be strong.  Every time, I fail.

“All right.  Let me pull on some clothes first.”  I walk toward my bedroom before something strikes me.  “The police will most likely be there.  Do you think this is a good idea?”

“I have to go,” Paris says simply.  “I want you with me.”  That seems to be the end of that.  We both throw on some jeans and long-sleeve shirts before jumping back into his car.  We are silent on the way there.

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Don’t Rayne On My Parade; chapter two, part two

Chapter Two; Part Two

 “I’m telling you, she’s the best art teacher there is.  She knows everything!”  A young woman in her early twenties with ratted dyed black hair and heavy raccoon eyes gushes to her friend who is so nondescript, I barely notice her.  “If Moira says it’s true, then it is.”

“That’s bullshit, Brenda,” the other woman says heatedly, her face flushing.  Her shoulder-length mousy brown hair falls in her eyes no matter how many times she brushes it back.  She finally gives up and peers at her friend from behind a veil of hair.  “She’s a charlatan who gives good mouth.  Her stuff is crap, and her advice is crap.”  Her hands are clenched into fists, and her receding chin is thrust out as far as she can.  “The bitch thinks she’s all that.”

“You’re so wrong, Tansy,” Brenda says earnestly, touching her friend on the arm.  Tansy?  I have never heard a more inappropriate name.  Dorcas, maybe.  Or perhaps Zelda, but not Tansy.  “Moira really cares about people’s talent.  She talked to me for fifteen minutes about my charcoal sketches in the caf one day.  She didn’t have to do that.”

“She probably just wants to shag you,” Tansy says cruelly, her face a dark red.  I watch in fascination at the scene developing.  “You know her reputation, right?  She likes them young and stupid.”

“Is that why you slept with her?”  Brenda shoots back, her own face pinking.  “You certainly fit the stupid part, though you’re no longer young.”  The two of them glare at each other, and I’m wondering if I should step in.

“Here you go,” Emil smiles, holding out a glass.  “Rum and coke, just as you ordered.”  I accept it from him and take a sip, choking as I do.  It is definitely not as I would order, being heavy on the run and nonexistent on the coke.  “Oh dear, what are those two young women arguing about?”

“Moira,” I say simply.  I’m beginning to think that everyone has a Moira story to tell.  I recall the sway of her hips as she saunters around the room.  I think about the curve of her lips as she smiles, dreaming about kissing those lips.  I stop.  Where have I seen her before?  For the life of me, I can’t remember.

“—Don’t you think?”  Emil is looking at me, but I haven’t the slightest idea of what he has said.  Noticing my befuddled look, he repeats himself.  “I said, Moira is going to get herself in trouble one of these days, don’t you think?”  He’s shaking his head, but he can’t keep the gleam out of his eyes.  He is looking forward to the day Moira gets in trouble.  He is hoping that he’ll be there to witness it.  Slightly sickened, I drain half my drink.

“There you are, hon!”  Paris exclaims as he breezes up to me and Emil.  “Emil!  How the hell are you?  How’s academic life?”

“Tedious, Paris,” Emil says with a smile.  “I am taking a sabbatical next year, and not a moment too soon.  Nobody cares about true learning any more.  The students only want to know what’s ‘relevant’ to life.”  He twists his lips in distaste before smoothing them out again.

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Don’t Rayne On My Parade; chapter two, part one

Chapter Two; Part One 

“Max, baby, who is this?”  The woman is talking to Max, but looking at me.  There is something oddly familiar about her, but I can’t believe that I would have forgotten this woman if I’d ever met her.

“Moira, this is my trainer, Paris—you remember him, and his friend, Rayne.  Paris, Rayne, this is Moira, my girlfriend.”  Max’s tone is smug as she presents Moira to us.  I am mesmerized by Moira’s beauty and cannot look away.

“Paris, nice to see you again,” Moira says rather perfunctorily before turning to me.  “Rayne!  Such a pleasure!”  Moira’s smile dazzles me, so unexpected is it.  “You are a very stunning woman, you know?”  I am taken aback.  It isn’t every day that someone compliments me like that, especially one who looks like her.  Especially when Paris is around.  By the look on his face, he is not pleased to take the backseat for once.  “I would love to sculpt you some time, if that’s all right with you.”

“Excuse me?”  I am not usually easily flustered, but Moira is keeping me off-balanced.

“Come, talk to me,” Moira says and sweeps me away.  I turn to wave to Paris, and I glimpse a look of rage on Max’s face before she can wipe it away.  Moira links her arm through mine, pulling me closer.  “Rayne.  You have such exquisite bone structure.  I bet your parents are stunning, as well.”

“My father is dead,” I say lamely, not sure what I’m supposed to say.  I’m aware that I am breathing harder than normal, and I try to calm myself down.  No matter how much I want this woman, she is off-limits by virtue of being Max’s partner.  I don’t mess with other people’s monogamy even if I’m elastic about my own.

“I have got to feel these cheekbones!”  Moira stops and faces me.  I stop, too, uncertain what to do.  Before I have time to think, Moira has her hands up and on my cheeks.  I flush at the contact of her warm flesh on my flesh.  I want to kiss her now.  Just as I am about to do something foolish, she pulls away.  “Just as I thought.  Perfect.  I have to have those cheekbones, and you must give them to me.”  Uneasy images of unwilling surgery float through my mind.  “I can be quite ruthless when I need to be.”  She throws back her head and laughs.  Her laugh is high and thin, not magical enough to match her exterior.  It allows me to break from the spell she’s weaving around me, much to my relief.

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Don’t Rayne On My Parade; chapter one, part two

Chapter One; Part Two

Over the years, our friendship has been forged through fire as well as through happiness.  He was there for me when my father died in a car accident.  A drunk driver plowed into my father’s car at three in the afternoon.  The driver had eight previous DWIs, but hadn’t spent any real time in jail.  Killing Dad netted him a year behind bars.  A year!  He took away a man’s life, and he got a year.  It was disgraceful.  I was a sophomore at Berkeley and almost went insane.  I had been Daddy’s girl since I was born, and his death hit me hard.  If it hadn’t for Paris, I would have been in horrible shape.  He was the one who held my hair—it was waist-length then—while I puked night after night of heavy drinking.  He would go to the parties with me, though he rarely drank himself, making sure I didn’t get myself into trouble.  He’s the one who kept telling me that it was going to be all right when I felt as if I had no more heart or will to go on.  He was the one who stopped me from slashing my wrists at one especially low point that year.  My mom adores him.

In return, I was the one who ran interference between him and his mother.  She sent him letters every week while we were in college just as she does now, but he wasn’t as inured to them then.  Each letter would upset him for days.  Unlike me, he didn’t realize he was attracted to both males and females until he was a junior in high school.  His mom caught him kissing a boy that year.  Ever since, she has been preaching to him, trying to save his soul.  After reading each letter, he would rush to our apartment and sit in the dark for hours, not moving from whatever position he was in.  Paris became so distraught after one letter—where his mom wrote she’d rather see him cut off his testicles and become a eunuch than for him to fornicate the way he did—he refused to speak for days, even in class.  I decided to take matters into my own hands.  His mother’s letters arrived on Friday without fail—I wouldn’t put it past her to have calculated when she’d have to send the letter from Memphis to get it there on Friday just so his weekend would be ruined.  I intercepted the next one and opened it.  I refused to let him see it, then read the innocuous parts to him such as how his mother was doing.  That’s how we read the letters until Paris felt strong enough to read them on his own.  I was also the one who kept him together after the love of his life died from AIDS, but I don’t like thinking about that.

“What are you thinking so hard about?”  Paris asks softly.

“Family,” I reply.  “Us.”  I take a deep breath before continuing.  “Do you ever think how much easier it’d be if we were a couple?”  We’ve talked about this before, but it’s a subject we revisit from time to time.

“Yeah, no doubt,” Paris sighs, ruffling my hair.  I move so that I am in his arms, rather than lying in his lap.  It’s not like we haven’t tried.  Paris was my first kiss from a boy.  I had been very unpopular in high school, more teased than dated.  The only physical contact I had was when a boy snapped my bra then ran away.  I messed around with female friends from time to time, but boys left me strictly alone.  Paris was popular, but had been gallant enough to take me to our junior prom.  When he dropped me off for the night, he kissed me on my front porch.  My parents had left the porch light on, but that hadn’t daunted Paris.  In some ways, it’s still my most cherished kiss.

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Don’t Rayne On My Parade: chapter one, part one

Ed. Note: I wrote this nearly twenty years ago while I was getting my MA in Writing & Consciousness in San Francisco. It’s the first of a trilogy, and I had a lot of fun writing it. Let’s see how well it’s aged, shall we?

Chapter One; Part One

“Rayne, we have got to get up out of here!”  Paris snaps his fingers in my face, something he only does when it’s just the two of us.  We have been best friends for so long, he knows I won’t misinterpret the gesture as bitchy or overly queer.  Same with his pattern of speech.  When it’s just the two of us, he can be Miss Thing with major attitude.  When we are out in the world, he tones down the camp.  It’s not because he’s ashamed of being bisexual or anything stupid like that, but because he hates being labeled just about as much as I do.  Besides, it amuses him to observe people trying to discern his sexual orientation then get flustered when they realize he knows what they’re doing.

“Stop that,” I say crossly, waving his hand away.  I am in the middle of Armistead Maupin’s new book, which frankly, I am not enjoying very much.  Why don’t I put it down, then?  Because it’s the ‘in’ book of the moment for queers to have read, and I hate not being able to talk about the newest trends, even if only to bash them.  It’s the same way I feel about voting—I do it so I have the right to bitch.

“Ooooh, it’s Armistead,” Paris simpers, peeking over my shoulder.  “The King of the Castro.  What does the big bad bore have to say?”

“I dunno,” I frown, turning the page.  “I just started, and I’m not liking it already.  Who would talk about sex with a child who had suffered horrible sexual abuse?”  Wisely, Paris doesn’t comment on that as he knows there’s no suitable response.  I try to read a bit more, but, frankly, I have never liked Armistead.

“Listen to me,” Paris pouts, his voice taking on that whiny note that I dislike so much.  “I am going cuckoo being holed up in here!  We need to get our groove on!”

“Uh, huh,” I say absentmindedly, my mind in the story.  I already don’t like the little kid, which I feel guilty about as he’s dying of AIDS.  I have the uncomfortable feeling that if I keep reading the book, I’ll end up hating him which would make me the biggest bitch on earth.  I mean, what kind of person hates a kid who has endured sexual abuse from his parents and various other adults and after escaping them, discovers that he has AIDS?  Only the meanest-hearted person on earth.  Which is me, I guess, because I really can’t stand the little brat.  “Paris?  Do you think I’m mean?”

“Yes,” Paris retorts, folding his muscled arms over his nicely-sculpted chest which can be seen under his tight, black mesh shirt.  “You’re being mean to me now.”

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Parental Deception; chapter fifteen

Chapter Fifteen

“Ms. Liang? I’m Connie Wang.” A slim, but shapely Taiwanese woman holds out her hand as she approaches the table I’m seated at. She’s looks to be about my age, although I know she’s a good ten years older. Her determinedly black hair is carefully crimped and swept in a knot at the back of her neck. She’s wearing a Vera Wang red dress, and I’m glad I’m wearing an emerald dress instead of slacks and a shirt. She’s stunning, and I’m a little intimidated.

“Mrs. Wang. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” I stand up and shake her hand. Her grip is firm, but not crushing. “Please call me Megan.”

“I’m Connie. Mrs. Wang makes me feel like I should be walking with a cane.” Connie laughs as she sits down, and I laugh with her. We don’t talk as she studies the menu. I’m still determined to order the olive burger and fries, so I don’t need to look at the menu. Once we’ve ordered, Connie’s face turns serious. “You want to talk about George Tsai?” Her full red lips compress, and her eyes are displeased.

“Yes. I know it’s probably not something you want to talk about, and believe me, neither do I.” Taking a deep breath, I give her an abbreviated version of why I want to talk about George, and her eyes narrow until they’ve disappeared.

“That is so like him,” she says between clenched teeth. “He was a selfish man who didn’t give a shit about anyone but himself.” I blink at her swear, not because she’s Taiwanese, but because she’s so refined in appearance. “Did he really tell his wife it was for your sisters and your good?”

“Yes, he did. According to her,” I say, glancing at her face. I want to see her reaction to Mr. Tsai’s wife, but her face remains blank.

“Believe it or not, I feel bad for her. She loved him so much, and he treated her like trash.” Connie sighs, and it’s filled with unhappiness. “I know that sounds hypocritical of me because we had an affair, but once he ran back to San Francisco, it was as if the fog had cleared. I was so intoxicated with him while we were lovers, but I was embarrassed once we were through.” She’s very open about her affair, so I decide I can ask her some very frank questions about it. We’ll see if she remains honest and open about it.

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Parental Deception; chapter fourteen; part three

Chapter Fourteen; Part Three

“Mrrreow!” Onyx launches herself at me as soon as I walk in the door to Rembrandt’s house, and I catch her without dropping anything. Jet head-butts my shins repeatedly as I cradle Onyx to my chest. I carry her into the kitchen, dropping my weapon bag along the way. Jet trots behind us, his tail sticking straight up in the air. I feed them four Greenies each, and Ginger pops her head into the kitchen, demanding her share. I give her four as well, and Rembrandt ambles in behind her.

“Hey, babe.” Rembrandt hugs me, and I can feel his hardness against my thigh. “How was class?”

“Good,” I say with a smile. “I had to turn down an offer for hot sex with a twenty year old, but no regrets.” I laugh at the bemused expression on Rembrandt’s face as he processes what I told him.

“You what?” He lifts an eyebrow as the cats mill around our ankles.

“There’s a young man in my class, Donny, who is a big fan of the Sword Form, as am I.” I pause and grab a Diet Coke from the fridge. I pop the top and take a big swig. “Apparently, he’s a big fan of me as well. He wants to be bed partners as well as practice partners. I told him I was amenable to the latter, but not the former. He’s not sure about it, so we’ve agreed just to practice together in class.”

“I can’t blame him,” Rembrandt says, a gleam in his eye. “There’s something incredible hot about a woman who can handle her wood.” I lose it, laughing uproariously at his double entendre.

“My sword is metal, but I get your point,” I say, hugging him with enthusiasm. The cats meow in unison, and I laugh at them staring at Ginger’s cupboard.

“Wanna practice sex with me?” Rembrandt asks, offering his hand. I grab it and follow him up to the bedroom. We spend the next hour in a satisfactory fashion, then Rembrandt falls asleep as is his wont. I let in the cats, and Ginger hops up on his chest. She curls herself in a tight ball and flicks her tail around her nose. Onyx and Jet flank Rembrandt’s thighs, and I go back downstairs because he promised me pancakes. There aren’t any, of course, so I rummage through the fridge for something else to eat. There’s a Tupperware of tortellini, so I dish up a generous portion and heat it up in the microwave. It feels a bit strange not to have the cats begging me for food, but I guess sleep trumps sustenance for once. I take the tortellini and another Diet Coke to the living room to eat. I check my blog while I’m at it, and I start another post.

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Parental Deception; chapter fourteen, part two

Chapter Fourteen; Part Two

“Hi, Megan. How’re you doing today?” Donny asks, smiling at me as I enter the studio. He has his sword in his hand, and he’s lightly sweating.

“I’m OK!” I say brightly, smiling back at him. I can see a sparkle in his eye that suggests he wouldn’t be averse to practicing together, and I don’t mean taiji. I’ll have to nip that in the bud because I do not like mixing business with pleasure. Besides, he’s young enough to be my kid, and despite what Betty intimated, I’m not into teenagers at all. The older I get, the more unformed anyone ten years and more younger than I am appears. I like my partners with some wear and tear on them, preferably scars that tell the tale of their life journey. “Practicing your sword?”

“Yes! I can’t get enough. Would you mind?” Donny waves his sword at me, and I nod my head as I pull out my metal sword. We go to the middle of the floor, and I lead Donny in the Sword Form. I say the names, but not the counts, and he’s doing a great job keeping up with me. I glance at him out of the corner of my eye from time to time, and he’s struggling once we get past the part he’s already learned. He doesn’t give up, however, and he follows me as best he can until the end.

“Good job.” I hold my hand out and shake Donny’s. He’s sweating more heavily, but he’s beaming as he enthusiastically pumps my hand up and down.

“Thank you so much! That was fantastic.” Donny’s eyes are shining, and I know it’s not all because of the sword. He swallows hard and asks, “Do you think it’d be possible for us to practice outside of class?” I hesitate. I actually wouldn’t mind having a practice partner, but I can’t shake the feeling that he is developing a crush on me. If that’s the case, then being practice partners would complicate things. On the other hand, maybe I’m being too arrogant in thinking he wants me. I have to make sure he knows it’s nothing but taiji if I agree.

“Donny, I’d like that. However, I need to ask you a delicate question.” I glance at his face, and he’s flushed red.

“OK,” he mumbles, his eyes glued to the floor.

“Is there a reason other than our mutual love for the sword that you asked me to practice with you?” That’s about as gentle as I can ask, and it’s enough to allow him to keep his composure. Just to make sure, I add, “I don’t mean to be presumptuous, but I have to ask.”

“I think you’re very attractive,” Donny says softly. He risks a peek at me before looking down again. “I wouldn’t mind dating you.” I’m flattered, but not interested. How do I let him down gently? I have to find a way and quick. Should we be practice partners if he wants to fuck me? I decide to tackle one issue at a time.

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Parental Deception; chapter fourteen, part one

Chapter Fourteen; Part One

“So. Sushi. School me.” Rembrandt says as we are seated at our table in Fujiya. He glances around him in appreciation at the bright and lively room around him. It’s busy as it always is, but the noise level is low.

“My favorite is unagi, which is barbecue eel,” I say. The look on Rembrandt’s face tells me he’s not on board, and I hasten to add, “It tastes just like barbecue meat, I promise. I know you’re hesitant to try raw fish, but hamachi, or yellowtail, is so fatty and good.” My mouth is watering, and I control myself with difficulty. “They also have noodles and tempura if you’re really against trying raw fish.”

“No, I want to try it. There’s no reason to go to a sushi place if I don’t.” Rembrandt sets down the menu and looks at me. “Tell you what. You order for the both of us, and I’ll trust you won’t pick anything that’ll kill me.”

“Sounds good to me!” I order pork gyozas and salmon cream cheese wontons as appetizers. I order a variety of sashimi, nigari, and rolls as entrees, making sure to include seafood ones in case he hates the raw fish ones. I order two miso soups and edamame as well. We talk about nothing in particular while waiting for our food. The appetizers come out in record time, and Rembrandt can’t stop raving about the salmon cream cheese wontons.

“These are amazing!” He exclaims as he gobbles down a second one. “We may have to order another helping because three might not be enough.”

“Wait until after we eat our sushi,” I counsel. “You may enjoy it so much, you won’t want more salmon wontons.”

“I will always want more salmon cream cheese wontons,” Rembrandt says, his eyes dilated in pleasure. “Thank you so much for bringing these into my life. I have to figure out how to make them.” I am pleased that I could give him something that brings him so much joy.

His eyes further widen when our sushi is brought to us. It is attractively arranged, and there is plenty of it. I have the Taiwanese curse of ordering four times more food than we can possibly eat. I act as his tour guide, pointing out the different fish and seafood. He gamely tries a bit of each, and soon, he’s gobbling down the sushi as fast as I am. I beam at him as I eat because I love it when I can widen the horizons of other people, especially with something as delicious as sushi. There’s no shame in not knowing something or not having tried something, but your real character shows through in how you respond to the challenge of trying something new. I have to admit that I’m not always open to change, but I’m trying to be more flexible. Taiji helps, quite a bit, in fact. Rembrandt and I are quiet as we devour piece after piece of sushi. By the time we slow down, there’s still plenty left. I don’t like bringing home sushi because it goes bad so quickly, but I admit defeat while there’s still a third of what I ordered left. We order green tea and sip it while our server boxes our leftover sushi. I have a hunch we’ll finish it tonight so it won’t go to waste.

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