Monthly Archives: June 2019

Parental Deception; 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

“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

“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

“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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Parental Deception; chapter thirteen, part two

“Mrrrreow!” Onyx launches herself at me, and I drop my purse so I can catch her.

“Onyx, stop doing that!” I scold her. “One day, I won’t be able to catch you, and then what will you do?” Onyx purrs up at me, her face full of trust and love. I nuzzle her face with mine, inhaling her catlike goodness. I feel something bumping against my shin, and it’s Jet, of course. I reach down to scratch him behind the ears while setting Onyx down on the ground. I go into the kitchen to put away the chocolate roll and to give my cats some treats. I grab a Diet Coke while I’m at it before going into the living room. I check my blog because I feel as if I’ve given it short shrift over the past few days, understandably so. It’s time for a new post, so I start one.

The Hippocratic Oath states that first you must do no harm. I think that’s a good motto for life in general. Too many times, we do something we think is for the good of others, and, yet, the result is catastrophic. I think it would be better if before acting, we asked ourselves, “Is this going to harm anyone?” If the answer is yes, then we should proceed with caution, if at all. The problem is, most of us aren’t savvy enough to recognize our shadow sides and we’re convinced that what we’re doing is out of altruism.

Take the man who impersonated my father, for example. He convinced himself that he was carrying out this deceit for the benefit of me and my sisters. He thought he could give us some comfort by bringing our father back into our lives. Putting aside the fact that he wasn’t actually our father, even if he were, would we have been better off with him in our lives? I can’t speak for my sisters, of course, but for me, the answer is a resounding no. I have friends and other family members whom I love and who enrich my lives. I have a job that allows me to pay the rent. I have my cats who are a constant source of joy, love, and amusement, and I have my writing, which is my outlet for my frustrations as well as my creativity. I have taiji which is beneficial to my mental and physical health as well. I have a lover who is just the frosting on my own personal cupcake. To put it bluntly, I don’t need a father figure in my life right now—especially not one who comes with so much baggage.

If that man actually cared about my sisters and me, he would have done some serious soul searching before perpetuating this fraud. He didn’t, though—and how could he? He didn’t know us—so it’s clear he did this for purely selfish reasons. I don’t care how he rationalized it to himself—he never should have done it. I think most of you will agree with me. I didn’t want to know him while he was alive, and now that he’s dead, I resent having to spend so much time learning about him. What I’ve learned so far has made me fervently glad that he’s not my father.

I finish the post in record time and publish it. I think about how someone two weeks ago I didn’t even know existed has come to dominate my life, even in his death. To be fair, I could be done with him right now if I wanted, but one of my fatal flaws is my curiosity. I’m compelled to figure out why he did what he did, even if it’s not possible to completely understand it. I’m looking into his death at Jasmine’s behest, but I would be doing it, anyway, even if she hadn’t asked me to. I call Mrs. Tsai, and she answers on the fourth ring.

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Parental Deception; chapter thirteen, part one

“Good evening, Ms. Yu. Or do you prefer Mrs. Milton?” I hold a hand out to the tiny woman in front of me, feeling like a behemoth as I do. She’s as fragile as a porcelain doll with her dead white skin and small hands. She’s wearing a sapphire blue dress that is high-necked and reaches her knees. Her abundance of hair is French-braided and wound around the nape of her neck.

“Please, call me Linda. I’m not old enough to be a mizz, let alone a missus!” Linda smiles, displaying perfectly white and even teeth. She holds out her hand, and I take it hesitantly. I don’t want to hurt her, but her grip is firm.

“Linda. I’m Megan. Thank you so much for seeing me.” I release her hand and step into the hallway. I take off my shoes and put on a pair of the slippers on the guest rack. I’m surprised someone who’s younger than I am carries out this tradition, but I don’t question it. Again, I’m glad I wore a simple black dress as I would feel underdressed otherwise.

“George Tsai. A name I haven’t heard in thirteen years.” Linda says, her voice frosty. “Until last week.” She breaks off and adds, “Let’s go to the living room so we can sit down while we talk. Would you like some tea and some chocolate roll?”

“Yes, please.” My mouth salivates at the thought of it. There are few desserts better than a Taiwanese chocolate roll, and I haven’t had one in ages. She shows me to the living room before disappearing. I inspect the room, not sure what to make of it. The walls are a pristine white, which indicates there probably aren’t any children or animals in the house. There’s a stillness surrounding us that corroborates my theory, and I don’t see any evidence of another living being. There are paintings of flowers on the walls—they’re watercolors and not really my style. I’m sure they’re expensive, though, because they are in gold frames. Everyone knows that you only put expensive paintings in golden frames. The room is mostly bare, otherwise. There’s no television or media center of any kind. There’s a bookshelf by the black leather couch, which is filled with business books. There’s no fiction or poetry that I can see, not even a memoir.

“Here we go.” Linda comes into the living room with a tray that has a tea pot, cups, and a giant chocolate roll on it. Plates and forks, too, of course. Linda sets the tray on the coffee table before pouring us each a cup of tea. Green tea by the smell of it. Not a favorite of mine, but I’ll drink almost any kind of tea. Except Lipton because that shit is foul. I thank her for the tea and watch as she cuts me a thick slice of the chocolate roll. I put my fork to it, and it’s so tender, it nearly falls apart. It’s delicious. Dark, chewy, dense, with just a hint of ginger. Linda sits on a high-back chair that is opposite the couch, and her posture is ramrod straight.

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Parental Deception; chapter twelve, part two

Rembrandt and I do the dishes before going into the living room. We sink down on the couch and snuggle with our three cats strategically placed on top of us. Ginger is on Rembrandt’s lap as usual, and Onyx is on my chest. Jet has his paws and head on my thigh, but the rest of his body is on the couch. I have my head on Rembrandt’s chest, and he has his arm around my shoulders. I periodically check my phone to see if Yuri has responded, and after an hour, he does.

“It took some doing, and I can’t tell you how I did it, but I found out about Linda Yu and George Tsai. Warning, it’s not a pretty picture. As for the investor reimbursement, Mr. Liang was telling you the truth. He and Mr. Huang repaid the investors up to ninety percent of their investment. Between seventy-five and ninety percent each, with the top-tier investors receiving less, and the lower-tier ones receiving more. They weren’t obligated to do it, but they did it, anyway. I’ve included all the sums. Hope this helps.” I download the attachment and skim the numbers. It’s as Yuri reported—Mr. Liang and Mr. Huang returned most of the money to their investors, and it was pro-rated in a backwards way. The more an investor gave, the less they got back. Those who gave $100,000 to $500,000 received 90% of their investment back. The $500,000 to $1 million tier got back 83%, whereas the $1 million to $10 million crowd ‘only’ recouped 75% of their investment. I’d like to think Mr. Liang and Mr. Huang gave the small investors more money because they realized that people with less money need it more, but the cynical side of me notes that this rating system means more money for Mr. Liang and Mr. Huang. Hey, just because I like Mr. Liang, it doesn’t mean I think he’s a saint. He wouldn’t have been able to accrue the fortune he has if he weren’t a ruthless businessman.

“Look at this.” I point at the numbers to Rembrandt.

“That was really decent of them,” Rembrandt says, surprise in his voice. “It seems to rule out the money motive, doesn’t it?”

“I would say yes, except, you know how funny people are about money. Even if they got back most of it, it’s not all.”

“True,” Rembrandt says, nodding his head in agreement. “Pride is a big factor, too. People do not like being conned. At all.”

“Plus, Mr. Tsai isn’t the one who returned the money, so they may still hold a grudge against him,” I say, pursing my lips as I think it over. “In fact, given what I know about him, I can see him trying to defend himself with a disgruntled investor, and the investor seeing red.”

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Parental Deception; chapter twelve, part one

“Remember to text me every ten minutes,” Rembrandt tells me as I pull up to Mr. Liang’s house. It’s an understated two-story Tudor, not at all in line with my idea of what a multimillionaire’s house should look like. There’s a silver Audi in the driveway, the only nod to luxury I can see.

“Will do,” I say, nodding at Rembrandt as I shut off the car. I’m pensive as I walk to the door because I don’t know what to expect. Mr. Liang had been quite imperious in his order for me to meet with him, and I don’t do well with autocrats.

“Ms. Liang. Come in.” Mr. Liang opens the door and gestures inside. He’s leaning on a solid metal cane, which indicates that he has some physical ailment. I step across the foyer and glance down. He’s wearing Chinese slippers, and there’s a rack of them to my right. I take off my shoes and put on a pair. He nods in approval as I do. I take a few seconds to study him as he turns to lead me down the hallway. He’s over six feet tall with a head of snowy white hair. Intense dark brown eyes and a large frame. He’s wearing a tailored gray suit, and I’m glad I chose to wear a black dress instead of jeans or even slacks.

“Mr. Liang. Nice to meet you,” I say to Mr. Liang’s back. He keeps it ramrod, and his gait is even, though it’s clearly costing him not to limp. I sense he’s a proud man who would not want to appear weak or hurt in front of a woman, and I wonder if he normally uses a wheelchair. He leads me into a living room that is sparse, to put it kindly. The ecru walls are bare except for one small portrait of a family. His, I presume, though he has black hair in the picture. There is a brown suede couch in the middle of the room, and there’s a matching recliner facing the couch. Mr. Liang gestures to the couch, and I gingerly lower myself onto it. Mr. Liang eases himself into the recliner and pushes it back so he can rest his legs. He rings a tiny bell on the side table by the recliner, and an older Taiwanese woman dressed in a drab gray uniform appears with a tray laden with a tea pot, cups, plates, cream cakes, and macaroons. She pours a cup of tea and hands it to Mr. Liang, and he nods his approval. She does the same to me, and I take a cautious sip. It’s oolong, black, which is just fine with me. She sets the tray on the coffee table before disappearing from whence she came.

“Go ahead. Have a cake. Mrs. Chang made them herself, and they’re marvelous.” Mr. Liang helps himself to several cakes and macaroons and tucks in. I do the same, and the cream cakes are light, fluffy, and simply melts in my mouth.

“These are fantastic. My compliments to Mrs. Chang,” I say, eating my third cake in a row.

“Ms. Liang. Why have you been inquiring about me?” Mr. Liang asks, his tone level. I can hear the anger behind the words, though, and I flinch inside. I don’t want to show fear, though, because I know a man like him will pounce on any perceived or real weakness. “I am a very private person, and I much dislike a stranger prying into my affairs.” Good Lord. This man should be part of a Victorian novel, not living in the 2000s. I keep that comment to myself, however, as I don’t want to get off on the wrong foot.

“It’s a long and strange story, but I need to give you some background so you understand my motives.” I wait until Mr. Liang nods before continuing. “A few days before Thanksgiving, a man showed up on my doorstep claiming to be my father.” I stop because I feel uncomfortable waving the family laundry in public. However, I sense that if I don’t tell him the truth, he’ll throw me out on my ear. “It turns out that he was lying. He wasn’t my father; he was someone else.”

“Why would a man claim to be your father?” Mr. Liang asks, sounding intrigued.

“My father left our family when I was three. That was over four decades ago. I haven’t seen him since.” My voice is even, but it still hurts to say, even this many years later.

“I’m sorry,” Mr. Liang says, looking directly in my eyes. I blink because I wasn’t expecting sympathy from him. “That has to have been hard on you.”

“Thank you, and, yes, it was.” I clear my throat and add, “The man who impersonated my father was George Tsai.” I keep an eye on Mr. Liang’s face, but it doesn’t change except for the slightest tic under his left eye.

“George Tsai. I haven’t heard that name in decades.” Mr. Liang’s voice hardened. “Until this week. The night he was killed—”

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