Author Archives: Minna Hong

Marital Duplicity; chapter nine, part two

Chapter Nine; Part Two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Marital Duplicity; chapter nine, part one

Chapter Nine; Part One

“Megan, I’d love to meet you for a cup of coffee after work. Seward Cafe at six?” It’s an email from Lee Bradley, and it’s the first thing I read when I get up. I dash off a quick yes, and I’m pleased to have made progress. I get through work with minimal mistakes before heading for Seward Cafe. It’s in South Minneapolis, which means I don’t get there often, but I like it’s homey atmosphere. Lee Bradley is already at a table, and I take a minute to look her over. She’s tall—five-foot nine inches, and she’s got a booty that would make Nicki Minaj envious. She’s wearing a pinstripe suit with a knee-length skirt. It’s clear she’s trying to minimize her curves, but to no avail. Mother Nature certainly took her time with the creation of Lee. Today, she has finger waves pulled up in a high ponytail and big gold hoops. She’s tapping her magenta-tipped fingers on her coffee cup. I order myself a large coffee and a chocolate croissant, then head to Lee’s table.

“Lee? I’m Megan.” I hold my hand out to Lee, and her grasp is firm and hearty.

“Megan. I’m so glad you emailed me. Please, sit.” She gestures to the seat across from her, and I sink into it. I take a bite of my croissant, then wash it down with a sip of coffee. I’m trying to think of my approach, and I decide the truth is for the best.

“Lee. Let me be honest with you. As you know, Bob is missing.” I sip my coffee again while watching Lee’s reaction. She’s nodding, and her eyes are reddened.

“I can’t stand it. It’s driving me crazy.” Lee’s hand is trembling as she picks up her coffee cup. “I did a little research of my own, but I can’t find shit.”

“Same here. It’s mostly fluff.” I sip some more and set down my cup. “Except.” I feel shitty for saying this, but I have to. “We have reason to believe he’s having an affair.”

“Bullshit!” Lee says, slapping her hand on the table. “Bob adores that sister of yours. You can take that to the bank.” She nods her head several times, and there’s nothing but sincerity in her voice.

“We determined her name was Lee.” I keep my eyes trained on Lee’s face, and there’s nothing but surprise on it.

“Me? You think he’s stepping out with me?” Lee flutters her fingers at her chest, and a second later, there’s guilt and/or anger on her face.

“I didn’t say that.” I spread my fingers to show her I mean no harm.

“Nah, but you sure as hell implied it.” Lee grips the edges of the table before relaxing. “I ain’t ashamed to say I wouldn’t have minded, but he was stuck on Jasmine like flies on—glue.”

“I really don’t mean to be disrespectful, but are you sure he didn’t say or do anything untoward?” I sound like a dime store romance novel, and I’m not proud of myself.

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Marital Duplicity; chapter eight, part two

Chapter Eight; Part Two

“Hello, Megan. It’s so good to see you again.” Reverend Yang clasps one of my hand in both of his. He’s wearing a nice Armani suit, black, and he’s quite a dashing figure. I’m wearing a black dress, but one with a high-cut neck. It falls well past my knees, and it covers most of my assets. I have my hair up in a severe bun, and I’m wearing gold studs in my earlobes. I’ve taken pains to look as plain as possible, but it doesn’t stop the gleam in Reverend Yang’s eyes. I sigh internally. I was hoping to do this the easy way, but, no.

“Reverend Yang. Yes.” I shake his hand before extracting mine. I sit on the couch and put my purse next to me. Whatever else he might be, Reverend Yang is not stupid. He pulls up his chair and sits across from me. I soften my tone a bit and say, “I keep thinking about what we’ve talked about. My relationship. The troubles. You know, my sister and her husband have been my inspiration as far as relationships go. They’ve been married thirty years.”

“Oh, yes. Bob and Jasmine are marital role models to us all.” Reverend Yang’s smile is forced, and his eyes are grim. “May we all be so lucky in love.”

“I know you can’t talk about your counseling sessions, but you must know Bob is missing.” I pat Reverend Yang’s hand, and he reflexively squeezes mine in return.

“As you said, I cannot talk about what is revealed to me in my counseling sessions,” Reverend Yang says. His presses his lips together tightly, and I realize I’m going to have to ratchet up the pressure. I start by unbuttoning the top button of my blouse, and Reverend Yang swallows hard.

“I know, Reverend.” I caress Reverend Yang’s hand. “But, it’s just, Jasmine and I are so worried about Bob. Anything you can tell us about it will really help.” I feel a flash of distaste at my methods, but whatever will get me the information I need.

“I really shouldn’t….” Reverend Yang’s voice trails off as I undo another button. I am not above using my feminine wiles to get what I want, even if I don’t like doing it.

“It’s rather warm in here.” I smooth my hair down and unbutton one more button. I better get what I want soon otherwise I’ll be topless. “I don’t want you to breach confidentiality, Reverend, but I’m at a dead end with my research. I need more information, and I would bet you knew him better than most.” I mop my chest with my handkerchief, and Reverend Yang can’t keep my eyes off my tits.

“Yes, well.” Reverend Yang clears his throat several times before continuing. “I really can’t break a confidence, but I can tell you he was having problems with alcohol.” I blink. I know that, but it’s not what I was expecting. I’m also not sure it has anything to do with Bob being missing. “He admitted that once he starts drinking, he can’t stop. I was trying to help him create a plan to combat that.”

“Is there anything else you can tell me?” I lean forward, giving him a healthy glimpse of my cleavage. He definitely appreciates that, and it takes him several seconds to respond.

“I can tell you he was having a personal problem at work. With a woman.” Reverend Yang places a hand on my thigh, and I let it stay there for a minute before pulling away.

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Marital Duplicity; chapter eight, part one

Chapter Eight

“Morning, Darla. How’re you doing?” I wave at my coworker as I enter the office. I’m in a good mood for no apparent reason, but I’m not going to question it. I’ve had enough days filled with pain, sadness, and grief, so I’ll take what I can get.

“Girl. I so do not want to be here this morning. I had a late night, if you know what I mean.” Darla laughs heartily, her eyes sparkling.

“That new man of yours must be quite something to wear you out.” One thing Darla and I share in common is our high libido. We’ve often commiserated over our inability to find a partner who can keep up.

“He can’t get enough of me,” Darla says, blushing bright red. She’s wearing an attractive sapphire blue pantsuit, and this is the happiest I’ve ever seen her. She clears her throat and adds, “What about your new boyfriend?”

“He’s not my boyfriend,” I say, restraining a sigh. “It’s more complicated than that.”

“You’ve said the sex is great,” Darla notes, eyeing me up and down.

“It is. I’m just not sure I want more.” I power up my computer and wait for it to start.

“Let me guess. He’s making noises about taking it to the next level.” Darla nods knowingly, and it’s another thing we have in common. We both like to be single and living on our own, though I have a hunch this might change for Darla. Her last boyfriend dumped her because she turned him down when he proposed. Even though they weren’t living together, and even though she repeatedly told him she didn’t want any kind of commitment, he proposed. In public. In a restaurant, involving the staff. That didn’t go over well Darla, and she never saw him again after that.

“I’m spending the night tonight.”

“All night?”

“Yes. Me and my cats. We’ll see how it goes.”

“You’ll be moving in together before you know it.”

“Bite your tongue!” I say in mock horror. “You’re making me break out in hives.” We laugh uproariously before focusing on our work. I’m relieved that things are uneventful and that I don’t have to be constantly looking over my shoulder. I’m very productive, and Cara nods at me approvingly as she passes by me. I feel like I’m back in the groove.       Continue Reading

Marital Duplicity; chapter seven, part two

“Reverend Yang. Thank you so much for seeing me. I know it’s late.” I hold my hand out to the reverend, and he shakes it with enthusiasm.

“Megan. It’s good to see you.” His eyes are glued to my admittedly impressive bosom, which I have on prominent display. I’m wearing a snug-fitting, bright red dress that falls just below my thighs. The good reverend’s eyes travel downwards and settle on the tattoo of my left ankle.

“They’re the initials of my best friend,” I offer. “She was…she died a few weeks ago.” Tears spring to my eyes, and they’re genuine.

“I am so sorry for your loss,” Reverend Yang says, forcing his eyes back to my face. “Please. Have a seat.” He gestures at the black velvet couch in the corner of his office. His wife is nowhere to be found, and I don’t ask. I sit on the couch and arrange my legs so my dress falls to the side. As he’s distracted, I pull out my phone and place it, camera-side up on the couch in the crack between cushions. Reverend Yang pulls his ergonomic chair next to me and stares into my eyes. Normally, I would find that off-putting, but it’s soothing coming from him.

“I know I only met you this morning, Reverend, but I feel as if I’ve known you forever.” I bat my lashes up at Reverend Yang, and, predictably, he melts.

“Call me Marcus.” He pats my shoulder several times before removing his hand.

“I can’t do that, Reverend Yang. It wouldn’t be respectful.” I lean forward so Reverend Yang can see that I’m not wearing a bra. I can tell he appreciates that mightily as his cock stiffens under his chinos. Something is rising in this church, but it’s not Jesus. Reverend Yang clears his throat before speaking.

“Megan. Please tell me what has brought you here this evening.”

“It’s my boyfriend, Reverend Yang,” I say, forcing tears to my eyes. “I’m afraid he’s…seeing another woman.” I touch my eyes with a newly-bought handkerchief, careful not to smudge my mascara. Yes, I even put on makeup for this occasion. I should take a picture for posterity.

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Marital Duplicity; chapter seven, part one

Chapter Seven; Part One

“Megan. You look good.” Jasmine eyes me critically as she opens her front door. I’m wearing a black dress that covers all my assets as well as my tattoos. Jasmine is wearing a flowered pink dress, and she actually has on a matching hat.

“Don’t worry. I won’t speak out of turn, and I’ll try not to piss off anyone.” I press my lips together so I won’t say anything else.

“Good. I do not want to be embarrassed in my own church.” Jasmine’s words are crisp as we get into her car. We don’t talk on the way to the church, but it’s not entirely uncomfortable. I’m just thinking about what I’m going to say, and I don’t know what Jasmine is thinking. Bob’s been missing for three days with no word from him at all. I’m sure Jasmine has left several messages and texts because I sure as hell would if someone I loved was missing. “The cops still are sitting on their asses,” Jasmine says, her voice soft. “They say they’re looking, but they’re not.”

“That’s why I’m doing this, Jasmine. Someone at your church has to know something.” I look out the window and marvel at how green it still is, even though it’s almost Halloween. Jasmine pulls up to the curb of the church and parks the car. She turns to face me, her eyes serious.

“I need to know what happened to Bob, but I also don’t want to be the gossip of the church.” Jasmine stares hard at me. “You need to be discreet.”

“I’ll do my best, Jasmine.” I restrain a sigh and get out of the car. I look at the church, which is pretty drab and nondescript. Whatever flaws Reverend Yang has, ostentatiousness is not one of them. As Jasmine and I walk into the church, Reverend and Mrs. Yang are there to greet us. I inhale sharply because Reverend Yang is even more handsome in person. He has a way of looking at you as if you’re the only person in the world. Mrs. Yang is lovely, too, but I’m uncomfortable by the way she keeps her eyes fastened on her husband.

“Jasmine. It’s so good to see you.” Reverend Yang clasps Jasmine’s hand in his. I watch as my sister’s posture changes so she’s almost thrusting out her chest at him.

“Reverend Yang! It’s good to see you, too.” I blink because my normally sensible sister is practically simpering. Mrs. Yang is glaring daggers at Jasmine, though my sister doesn’t even notice. “This is my sister, Megan.”

“Megan. How good of you to come. Jasmine has told me so much about you.” Reverend Yang takes my hand in turn, and I have to tell myself sternly to not be suckered by his charm.

“It’s nice to meet you, Reverend Yang.” I shake his hand quickly before extracting my own.

“Jasmine, where is Bob this morning?” Mrs. Yang asks, her voice frosty.

“He couldn’t make it.” Jasmine smiles falsely at Mrs. Yang before adding, “We should go in and make sure we get a seat.” Jasmine marches me into the nave and up the middle aisle. I prefer sitting in the back if I attend church at all, but Jasmine seats us in the third pew on the left side. I groan because I won’t be able to doze off– even if I want to.

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Marital Duplicity; chapter six, part two

Chapter Six; Part Two

I hang up and take a few notes on my phone. I feel a bubble of excitement because finally, I have a lead. Granted, it’s second-hand, and it’s flimsy, but it’s still more than I had ten minutes ago. I think about what I’ve learned. Bob was concerned about improprieties at his church. He wanted to talk to Reverend Yang about it, and he said something had been going on too long. Put that together with the fact that Reverend Yang was recently reprimanded for canoodling with a parishioner, and it seems the sexy, virile reverend is up to his old tricks. I don’t know how as he’s supposed to have his wife in every session with a female parishioner, but there are ways around that, I’m sure.

The question is, what am I going to do about it? I can’t just call him up and say, “Hey, Rev. You schtupping your lady parishioners?” Oh, yeah. I’m sure that’ll get the results I want. What do I do? I can go to church with Jasmine on Sunday for starters. I’ll have to skip taiji, but it’s for a good cause. Then, maybe I can make up some story about having a troubled relationship and see where that goes with the reverend. I have  hunch Jasmine won’t be pleased about that. She’s gushed about him in the past, and I know she’s protective about her church. I don’t think she’ll be happy to find that there’s something hinky about the church. I remind myself not to get ahead of myself because I don’t know for sure it’s the reverend who’s done something wrong.

I’m upset. I may not be a fan of religion, but I know it brings comfort to many afflicted souls. I don’t like it when religious leaders take advantage of their flock. I pull up the church’s website, and it’s full of bland platitudes. ‘Seeking a higher truth’. ‘Loving is letting go.’ I roll my eyes at the inanity. I would expect something deeper or more insightful from a church, but I don’t know why. There are plenty of shitty churches, and maybe this is one of them. I push back these thoughts and try to remain open-minded. Just because I have a problem with platitudes and empty promises, it doesn’t mean they’re bad people. I skim the rest of the website, and there’s an emphasis on the counseling aspect. There are testimonies from several women claiming that the reverend helped save their marriages. “My husband and I were barely even talking before I went into counseling,” writes Mrs. Chiang. “We just celebrated our 25th anniversary, and we couldn’t be happier.” A young Mrs. Li adds, “I just got married a year ago, but we were already having problems. He worked later and later, but he refused to talk to me about it. A few sessions with Reverend Yang helped me get my marriage back on track.” Mrs. Wu raves, “Reverend Yang is a gift from heaven! He has a voice like an angel, and the patience of a saint. He counseled me three times a week for a year. Now, my husband and I are better than ever.”

I read a half dozen more testimonials, all in a similar vein. All of them from women. There are none from men, which makes me suspicious as well. I also notice how all the testimonials are aimed solely at Reverend Yang. None of them mention the church otherwise. So, they’re not really fans of the church—they’re fans of him. I shut down the tab, feeling suddenly old. I have no doubt that Reverend Yang has been messing around with his female parishioners, and I think he’s still doing it. I also think it might have something to do with Bob’s disappearance, but I’m not sure how. I don’t think I can ask Jasmine about it, so I’m just going to have to follow my plan of going with her to church and practicing some subterfuge. I don’t feel good about it, but it has to be done. I swallow hard and call Jasmine.

“Megan. You going to ask me more impertinent questions?” I can hear the frost in Jasmine’s voice, but I don’t care. I’m going to help her despite herself, damn it.

“Nope. I just want to know if I can go to church with you on Sunday.” I say it as casually as possible, but Jasmine’s not fooled.

“You want to come to my church and spy on my friends? Megan! How can you stoop so low? I raised you better than that!” Jasmine’s voice is shrill, and I try to block it out as best as possible. Technically, I don’t need her permission to go to her church, but it would make things easier.

“I just want to get a feel of your church. You and Bob spend a lot of time there, and all of your friends are there. Maybe they know something about Bob’s disappearance.” I take a deep breath and add, “I’m not going to grill them, Jasmine. I’m just going to have a few casual conversations.”

“You can come. But if you say anything to upset one of my friends, I’ll never forgive you.” With that, Jasmine hangs up. I try to tell myself she’s under a lot of stress, but that’s going to get old soon. I’m only doing this because she asked; the least she could do is be supportive. I glance at my phone and see it’s nearly eight. I call Doug, and I’m relieved when a cheerful voice answers.

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Marital Duplicity; chapter six, part one

Chapter Six; Part One

“Girl, it’s good to see you!” Darla Quinn, one of my coworkers flashes a smile at me as I walk into the office. I call it an office, but it’s more like a bunch of desks in an open room. Darla’s dishwater blond hair is pulled back into a high ponytail, and she’s wearing makeup for once. Instead of her shapeless shirt and pants, she’s wearing a pair of tailored beige pants and a denim shirt. Her nails are perfectly manicured instead of bitten to the quick. She looks good, which means she’s probably getting some.

“You, too. You seeing anyone new these days?” I ask, sliding into my chair. I’ve noticed that she’s smartened up over the past few weeks, and I know it has to do with a man. I thought she would have told me by now, but she hasn’t. It’s up to me to ask, which I do.

“Mmmmhmmmmmm. Jimmy. He’s six-feet nothing and a long, tall, cool drink of water.” Darla pauses before adding, “And he can go for hours. He’s Italian.”

“Like a stallion!” I chortle, and Darla laughs with me. “I’m happy for you, girl.” I smile at Darla, and she smiles back. I instinctively look around, but my stalker is sitting in jail awaiting trial. I don’t have to worry about her any longer.

I quickly check my blog, and the outpouring of love is tremendous. Many of them tell their own stories about their siblings. SeeNoEvil writes, “I’m the oldest of five boys. Five! Every Saturday morning, we’d get up before our parents, and I’d make them pancake from a box. I’d shape them like Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and other Disney figures. They’d always eat the heads off first before gobbling up the rest. I made myself regular round pancakes because I thought they tasted better.” PizzaEveryDay adds, “I’m the baby of three kids. My brother and sister are at least a decade older, so I often felt like an only. Until my parents died in a plane crash when I was ten. Then, my brother took me into his family, and he and his wife became my second parents. My brother died this year at the age of fifty. I miss him every day.” GallopingTrot reminisces, “I was an only, but I had a cousin who was my BFF growing up. We would giggle over the cute boys at school, and she’s the one who held my hands while I cried over my first love breaking my heart. She now lives in Paris with her husband, but we still talk to each other every day.”

This is why I write my blog posts. Not only do they help me figure out what I’m thinking, but they connect me with other people who feel the same way. I’ve had people write me, thanking me for putting into words what they’re feeling but cannot express. It’s a big, cold world out there. It helps to know that others know what you’re going through. It makes me feel a little less alone. Nothing will ever take away the sting of losing my best friend, but this helps. I shut down the tab and concentrate on my work. Others have taken up my lists in my absence, but it’s time for me to hit the ground running. I’m one of the best workers—I sell the most Groupon coupons almost every day. I want to keep it that way. I’m willing to give myself a mulligan this month, but I don’t want to make a habit of it.

I check my emails periodically. I get one from Doug in the early afternoon. He says he’s willing to talk about Bob whenever I want and wherever I want. I Google him, and I find out that he’s in his late sixties and a widower. He’s a retired engineer, and he spends most of his time gardening. I ask him if he’s willing to talk to me tonight around eight, and he agrees with alacrity. He knows about Bob’s disappearance, and he’s concerned. He says the last time he talked to Bob was three days ago, and it wasn’t about anything in particular. I have to go, so I tell him I’ll talk to him later tonight. Twenty minutes later, I get an email from Samuel. He’s not as forthcoming, and he tells me he has nothing to say. When I mention Bob’s disappearance, he responds that it’s probably nothing. The tone of his emails is off-putting, and I think he’s hiding something. I manage to convince him to talk to me tonight, but he’s adamant that it’s before six o’clock. I agree because I’ll say anything to get him to talk to me.

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Marital Duplicity; chapter five

Chapter Five

“Lee. Taiwanese Evangelical Church in the Twin Cities.” I groan as the results come back to me. My sister and her husband belong to has over 200 members, and Lee is a very common last name for Taiwanese people. This isn’t going to work. Instead, I search for their online directory. Once I have it, I isolate it to 14 people with ‘L’ first names. They only show the initial and not the whole first name, which makes my job harder. Without thinking of it, I pick up the phone and start calling. When someone answers, I say, “Hello, may I speak to Lee, please?” Eight people actually answer their phones and tell me there’s no Lee there. I leave messages on the other five people’s VMs. Two call me back within an hour to say there’s no Lee there. And then there are three. I don’t hold out any hope, but at least it’s another checkmark in my notes.

Next, I Google Matthew Brewer, Minneapolis, and attorney. The results are astronomical. That might not even be his last name. I quickly email Jordan, and he emails me back immediately. Michael Bowman. Attorney to the rich and not-so-famous in Edina, which is just how they like it. Michael Bowman. What am I going to say to him? I can’t just ask him to betray the confidence of his clients, can I? That has to be against the law. Then again, it can’t hurt to try. I pick up the phone once again and call the number Jordan gave me.

“Michael Bowman. How may I help you?” I blink because his rich, plummy, British voice isn’t what I was expecting.

“Hi, Mr. Bowman. My name is Megan Liang. Jordan Cheng is my nephew. He gave me your name and number. Please hear me out.” I say it all in a rush so he won’t hang up on me.

“You have five minutes, Ms. Liang. Go.” I imagine him starting a timer, then dismiss the image from my mind.

“Jordan’s father is missing. Jordan said he asked about divorce laws, so Jordan referred him to you. Is there anything you can tell me about that?” I count to ten, slowly, before he answers.

“You know I can’t break confidentiality, Ms. Liang, but I can tell you that I did talk to Mr. Robert Cheng for quite some time about divorce lawyers. That’s really all I say. Goodbye, Ms. Liang.” Mr. Bowman hangs up without saying anything else. I make a note of it, though it doesn’t tell me much more than I knew before. Rather, it confirms what I’ve been told. Bob was talking about divorce. Jasmine is adamant that it’s not about their marriage. What if it was, though? What would Jasmine do if Bob told her he wanted a divorce? I stop, appalled. Am I really having this thought about my sister? I can’t help but remember the time she got into a fight with her best friend when they were sixteen. Over a boy, if I remember correctly. Jasmine started punching Sandy repeatedly in the gut until Sandy started spitting up blood. Goddamn it. My sister is not a killer or anything like that. I am ashamed for even thinking it. Still. The way her eyes go from warm to deadly in less than ten seconds. The way her body goes rigid when she’s trying to hold in her temper. The way she goes preternaturally still when she’s upset.

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Marital Duplicity; chapter four, part two

“Auntie!” Coral throws her arms around me and squeezes me hard. She’s still dressed in her black business suit, and I feel a flash of envy at her luxurious curls, which she inherited from my sister. Plus, she has a figure that makes grown men cry. “Come in, come in!”

“Auntie!” Michelle and Ing-wen (named for the First Lady and for the Taiwanese president, respectively. Ing-wen is called Ingrid by Americans), scream as they both tackle my knees. They are adorable, chubby, two-year-old twins with black curls and enormous brown eyes that tilt slightly at the edges. They have cocoa-colored skin that I could just eat up. They’re wearing matching jumpers, both dark blue, and they’re tugging at my hands. “Come play with us!”

“Girls, let Aunt Megan get in the house first.” Coral scolds her daughters, but lovingly. The girls back up and allow me to enter.

“Ms. Liang! Megan! So nice to see you. So sorry it’s for a sad reason.” Jamal Harrington fills the room as he enters. He’s a behemoth of a man, but all muscle. His dreads reach halfway down his back, and he fills his suit nicely. He also loves chess and has trounced me in it a few times.

“Good to see you again, Jamal.” I shake his hand before taking off my shoes. I follow the girls into the living room where they have two jigsaw puzzles for kids strewn across the floor. One is of kittens and one is of puppies. About half the pieces of each puzzle are filled in.

“Ooooh, I love puzzles!” I sit on the floor and study the pieces. Of course, I know where the pieces go, but I pretend to study them intently.

“Look!” Michelle picks up a piece and crams it into a space where it doesn’t belong.

“Not there, silly!” Ing-wen pries the piece out and puts it in the right place. Michelle immediately socks her in the arm, and Ing-wen starts crying.

“Girls.” Jamal folds his arms across his chest and looks sternly at his daughters. “We do not hit in this house.” This is directed at Michelle. “We also don’t make fun of others.” This is aimed at Ing-wen. Both girls mumble a ‘sorry’ before going back to their puzzles.

“Hey, girls. Does this piece go here?” I pick up a kitten piece and point at the puppy puzzle. Both girls burst into giggles, their spat forgotten.

“That’s not a puppy piece!” Michelle covers her mouth with her hand, but she can’t stop laughing.

“It’s a kitty piece!” Ing-wen claps her hand in glee.

“Oh, right! I think it goes here.” I make a great show of putting the piece in its right place before smiling at the girls. They smile back at me before returning to their puzzles. I look at them fondly, then see Jamal looking at me speculatively. Not in the, ‘I’d like to bed her way’, which would be flattering if not awkward, but in a ‘I’m not sure what to make of this woman’ kind of way. I’m pretty sure it has to do with the fact that I’m good with his girls, but I don’t have kids of my own. Maybe I’ll tell him why one day. Maybe. The doorbell rings, so Coral goes to answer it. I’m sure it’s my sister, so I keep playing with the girls.

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