Author Archives: Minna Hong

Parental Deception; chapter four, part one

Chapter Four; Part One

The cats greet us with enthusiasm when we arrive at Rembrandt’s house. Ginger walks in a circle around Rembrandt’s legs, whereas Onyx and Jet paw at my legs with their front paws while standing on their hind legs. Rembrandt scoops Ginger up with one hand while cradling the shopping bag to his chest. We troop our way into the kitchen, and I give each of the cats a sliver of turkey. That’s enough to keep them occupied while we put the leftovers away. It’s almost four in the afternoon, and I’m still full. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to eat much tonight, but I know I have to put away my fair share or risk hurting Jasmine’s feelings.

“I need a quick nap,” I say to Rembrandt once we’ve put everything away. “Hopefully, I’ll burn off some calories while I sleep.”

“I think I’ll join you,” Rembrandt replies, shutting the fridge door. “I feel as if I could sleep for days.”

“We have to be at Jasmine’s by five-thirty,” I remind him. “Six at the latest. We run on Asian time.” I hate being late, but it’s part of my heritage. “We should probably get up by five at the latest.”

“An hour should do it.” Rembrandt and I link arms and go upstairs. The cats trail behind us, wanting to be part of the action. I contemplate changing into sweats before taking a nap, but I decide against it. I’m just going to have to get dressed again when I wake up, so I might as well save myself five minutes. Then again, I’ve already stained this blouse with strawberry juice, so it would probably be best to change my clothes before going to my sister’s, anyway. I strip off my clothes, which causes Rembrandt to eye me lasciviously.

“Down, boy,” I laugh, making the ‘stay’ motion with my hand. “We don’t have time right now.” I’m all for a quickie now and then, but I’m too old to fuck, take a shower, and grab a nap in an hour or less. I put on a pair of sweats and an Obama sweatshirt before lying on the bed. Rembrandt changes as well, and I ogle his ass before he pulls on a pair of sweats. He lies beside me and promptly falls asleep. Ginger jumps on his head, but I put her next to Rembrandt’s head so she doesn’t bother him in his sleep. Onyx snuggles next to Ginger, and Jet wraps himself around both of them. He is a true gentleman in that he looks out for the girl cats. They have adapted to the two household thing fairly easily, and for that, I’m grateful. I’m drowsy, but I can’t fall asleep. I glance at my phone, and I have several comments on my post about sleep. Normally, there is a variety of responses on my posts, but this time, the comments are exclusively lamenting how difficult it is to sleep.

BreadNotBed writes, “As you can tell by my username, I don’t like sleep very much. When I was a kid, I would sleep up to fifteen hours at a time. My mom got concerned and talked to her doctor about it. He told her not to let me sleep more than eight hours a night, but for whatever reason, my mom decided six hours was enough. I think it’s because she didn’t slept for more than four hours at a time and never wanted to be alone, but as a result, I automatically wake up after six hours of sleep, regardless if it’s enough sleep or not.” CountingSheep adds, “First time commenter. I can’t remember a time when I slept for more than two or three hours. There’s nothing physically wrong with me, and I’ve given up trying to change it. It’s great for productivity, but hell on my ability to hold down a job. Right now, I live on disability and sell crafts on Etsy. I sleep two hours every four hours or so, and I have no social life.” CaliforniaReaming contributes this thought. “I have major insomnia that keeps me up for days. It’s great because I can get projects done in a short amount of time, but when I crash, I crash hard. And I have terrible dreams. And I can’t sleep next to someone because I roll from side to side as I sleep. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.” I hate that other people have to deal with sleep as much as I do, but it’s also comforting to know that I’m not alone. I place my phone on the nightstand and close my eyes. I’m certain I won’t fall asleep, but I must have because what seems like minutes later, Rembrandt is shaking me awake.

Continue Reading

Parental Deception; chapter three, part three

Chapter Three; Part Three

We sit down at the table, which is loaded with food. A twenty-five pound turkey sits proudly in the middle, and it looks as if it’s done to perfection. There are huge bowls of mashed potatoes with garlic, yams, cranberry salad, stuffing (bread), steamed vegetables, and a fruit salad surrounding it. There’s also a platter of spare ribs, and another platter of assorted breads. Finally, there are three gravy boats placed strategically around the table so everybody can reach one. My pants will be in serious danger of bursting, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. I’m seated beside Rembrandt and Jacqueline, and the kids are on the other side of Jacqueline.

“I’d like to say a few words,” Stephanie says. No one replies, but I catch the guys rolling their eyes. That tells me they’re used to Stephanie speechifying, and they’ve realized it’s useless to protest. “In my life, I’ve been blessed with a loving husband, three terrific sons, Antonio, Jacqueline, Nicholas, and Beth. Now, Megan has been added to our happy family, and I feel even more blessed than ever. I don’t care for the traditional meaning of Thanksgiving, but I consider it a time to bring my family close to my bosom. I’m grateful you all live in Minnesota as well, so we can have these family gatherings with minimal fuss and/or muss. That’s it. Dig in!” Stephanie smiles at everyone, and I smile back. That was sweet and fairly short, so I don’t see the problem. Stephanie starts plating generous portions of food, then handing them out around the table. I get mine after Rembrandt, and my mouth is watering as the tantalizing smell of spare ribs greets my nose. I glance at Rembrandt and see that he’s waiting for the others to be served first, so I don’t pick up my fork just yet. As soon as Stephanie makes a plate for herself—I notice that she gives herself far less than she has doled out to the rest of us—I pick up my fork and eat as fast as I can without breaking social dicta. Everything is fantastic, and I can tell where Rembrandt gets his cooking chops from.

“You are a terrific chef, Stephanie,” I say when I’ve taken the edge off my hunger.

“Thank you,” Stephanie beams at me. “Francisco’s mom was a sous-chef in Italy, and he taught me everything he knew when we first got married. I couldn’t even boil water back then.”

Conversation peters out as we all concentrate on our food. I notice that the guys are putting a serious dent in the reserves, yet, there’s still more left than what they’ve consumed. Jacqueline alternates eating a few bites of her food with helping Beth eat. Stephanie is more interested in making sure everyone’s plate is full than in eating. Me, I’m doing my best to clean my plate, but I’m slowing down. As tasty as everything is, there is only so much food I can eat at one time. Normally, I eat small amounts several times a day, so it’s a challenge for me to eat this much food in one sitting. I have to do it a second time later tonight, but I don’t want to think about that right now. I finish the stuffing because it’s my favorite, and Stephanie quickly adds another scoop to my plate. I nod my head in thanks, but inside, I’m groaning. I still have more than half my plate to eat, and she keeps adding to it as soon as I finish one kind of food. I realize that’s the key—I have to eat some of everything and not let one particular kind of food get down to nothing. I put that to the test, and it works like a charm.

“Mom, can I have more mashed potatoes?” Gaugin asks, his mouth full of yams.

“Yes, you may,” Stephanie says pointedly. “And don’t talk with your mouth full.”

“Sorry,” Gaugin says after he swallows. He holds out his plate, and Stephanie fills a quarter of it with mashed potatoes. Gaugin happily digs in, unaware that Jacqueline is shooting him a dirty look.

“Honey, remember your cholesterol,” Jacqueline says, her voice stern. “You know Dr. Ellis wants you to be more careful with your diet.”

“It’s Thanksgiving,” Gaugin protests, barely taking a break in his eating. “No one watches their diet on Thanksgiving.”

Continue Reading

Parental Deception; chapter three, part two

Chapter Three; Part Two

“To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub.”

– Hamlet.

My version of the above quote is, “To sleep, perchance not to dream, damn it.” I’ve never been a big fan of sleep ever since I was a little girl. When I was four or five, my mother would try to put me to bed at six or seven, and I’d lie in bed staring at the ceiling for hours. When I got older and I could read, which was roughly a year later, I would put a towel in the door crack and read until midnight. Then, my mother would be puzzled as to why I was groggy at six in the morning, which is when she wanted me to get up. Of course, I couldn’t tell her what I was doing because then she’d put a stop to my late night reading adventures. I learned to live with not enough sleep at a young age, and I think it’s part of the reason my sleeping habits are so shitty now.

I have to get up for work at six-thirty. My body will not let me go to sleep before midnight, which means I normally don’t fall asleep until one in the morning at the earliest. I can survive on six hours of sleep, but anything less keeps me in a perpetual state of grogginess. I try to catch up on the weekends, but I usually stay up until four or five in the morning and get up around noon the next day. Yes, that allows me to sleep longer, but it throws my schedule off by a considerable amount. There’s the belief that people who work the overnight should stay on that schedule even when they’re not at work. I think this is wise, but I’m not disciplined enough to do it myself.

When I was in college, I used to go to bed at three in the morning and get up at seven for a seven-forty-five class. I used to drink six Diet Cokes a day to combat the fatigue, grabbing one right out of the mini-fridge the first thing in the morning to give myself a boost. One morning, I woke up late and couldn’t find my portable alarm. In desperation, I opened the mini-fridge to grab a Diet Coke, and there was my fucking alarm. After that, I set it across the room on the sink so I would have to wake up to turn it off. Of course, I could have gotten more sleep, but that wasn’t going to happen. Every time I’d go home during a break, I would crash on the first day for fifteen hours.

Sleep is a bitch. I hate it. If I didn’t have to do it, I wouldn’t. I envy people who enjoy sleep. I have one friend who loves to wake up and just luxuriate in the feeling of being mostly asleep. I have another friend who wakes up with a smile on his face because he’s so refreshed. I have several friends who like their dream worlds better than their real lives. I hate them all. I’m kidding, but I fear I will never have a positive feeling about sleep.

I get a solid half hour out of writing on this topic. I publish it and wait. It’s nearly four in the morning, and I’m still nowhere near sleep. Five minutes after I publish the post, there’s a response. It’s from MNborn, and she writes, “Sleep has been my nemesis all my life. I want to be friends, but it has spurn all my entreaties. Yoga, meditation, chamomile tea, melatonin—none of them work. Currently, I simply stay awake until I’m tired enough to drop dead, and then I sleep for three or four hours.” I write back, “My sister! I can’t tell you all the remedies that had failed for me. Chamomile tea, melatonin, St. John’s Wort, Valerian, hot baths, hot milk….None of it has done jackshit. I’m basically doing the same thing you are—staying awake until I’m falling over, then sneaking in a few hours of nightmare-laden sleep.”

“Hey, babe. Getting in your daily dose of chung-chung, eh?” Rembrandt materializes in front of me, yawning as he wipes the sleep from his eyes. The cats are here as well, and they’re all sleepy as well. Rembrandt sits on the couch next to me, casually placing  his arm along the couch in back of me. Ginger climbs into his lap and nuzzles his belly. Onyx claims my lap as her own, and Jet squeezes himself between us.

“It’s like crack. I can’t stop watching.” For several seconds, utter contentment washes over me. I’ve been thinking about family a lot lately, and this is the closest to my definition of the word. No, it’s not family in the traditional sense of the word. We’re not married; we don’t have children; we’re not even living together. I have trouble with us spending more than one night with him, for heaven’s sake. But, for just that moment, the two of us watching a shitty procedural with our three cats is as much family as I want to have. I drop my head on Rembrandt’s shoulder and close my eyes. I can still hear Sam Waterson spluttering indignantly in the background, and then I drift off into the ethers.

Continue Reading

Parental Deception; chapter three, part one

Chapter Three; Part One

“We’re going to Ginger’s!” I say to Onyx and Jet, keeping my voice cheery. They eye me in suspicion as I produce the carrier. Of course, they flee at the sight of it, so I have to do the song and dance of placing treats in it and then pretending not to pay attention. Jet saunters into the carrier and scarfs down the Temptations. Onyx peeks her head around the corner, and I place three Temptations a few feet from where she is. She inches forward and eats them. I repeat this pattern until she’s right in front of the carrier. She and Jet touch noses, and I gently push her inside the carrier. She howls as I shut the door, but settles down once I put more Temptations in the carrier. I’ve already put their favorite toy mice in there—but not the catnip ones. I grab my overnight bag, the carrier, and my purse before going to my car. I text Rembrandt to let him know I’m on my way, and he texts me back telling me to drive carefully. There are more people on the road than there were in the morning, so I have to pay more attention to my driving. I still make it in decent time, and Rembrandt and Ginger are at the door to greet me. Once I’m inside, I set down the carrier and release the beasts. They and Ginger sniff each other to everyone’s satisfaction before they tear down the hallway. I take off my shoes and line them up before giving Rembrandt a big kiss. He’s wearing black chinos and a forest green button down, and I’m tempted to have a shag before we start baking. However, I know if we do that, then he’ll fall asleep, which means we wouldn’t start baking for a few more hours. It’s better to get the work done first, then have fun later.

“Have you eaten yet?” Rembrandt asks, grabbing my hand as we walk into the kitchen.

“I had a sandwich an hour ago, but nothing much.” Suddenly, I’m aware that my stomach is grumbling, and all I can think about is eating.

“I have some leftover lasagna I made yesterday. I haven’t eaten yet, either.” He pulls out a covered pan with more than half a sausage lasagna in it, cuts two generous portions, and nukes them. The cats appear out of nowhere, probably because they can smell the sausage. They stare up at the microwave without blinking, and I pull out a bag of Greenies from a cupboard to divert them. They eat the Greenies, of course, but then go back to staring at the microwave. Most cats are very food-driven, and they are no exception.

“How was your day?” I ask Rembrandt after grabbing a Diet Coke from his fridge. He stocks them especially for me, which is considerate of him because he doesn’t drink much pop.

“Good! I think I’m finally getting my perspective back.” He smiles, and I smile back at him. “It’s not a hundred percent, but I’d say it’s roughly at ninety.”

“That’s terrific!” I beam at him, thrilled that his eyesight is so much better than it was right after the attack.

“I’m still thinking about opening a restaurant, though. I really enjoy cooking.”

“You can do both! It’d be a shame for you to give up your photography.” My mouth waters as Rembrandt pulls the lasagna out of the microwave. He grabs a loaf of garlic bread and cuts us each a big hunk. He arranges two plates, adding a small green salad to each plate. He drizzles a raspberry vinaigrette on the salads before handing the plates to me. I bring them to the dining room, and the cats follow me, meowing the whole way. I give them each a piece of sausage, and they meow for more. I shake my head because too much is not good for cats, but they don’t care.

“There’s plenty more if you’re still hungry after the first helping,” Rembrandt says as he comes into the dining room. He has a plate of cheeses and crackers in one hand, and a plate of fruits (grapes, orange slices, strawberries, and blueberries) in the other.

“I think this will be plenty,” I say, eying the feast. “Especially if there’s dessert.”

“There is. Dark chocolate gelato.” Rembrandt knows my weaknesses, and gelato is one of them. “How are you doing? What do you think about that man who’s claiming to be your father?”

“I’m meeting with him on Friday afternoon. He pestered me into it.” My voice is bitter, but I can’t do anything about it. I can’t help feeling as if he guilted me into meeting with him again, even if he didn’t directly pressure me. “I am pissed off that Jasmine invited him to Thanksgiving dinner, by the way. I don’t want to deal with him.”

“You’re not going to be rude to him, are you?” Rembrandt asks, his eyes trained on mine. I’m miffed that he asked me that, though it’s not an unreasonable question.

Continue Reading

Parental Deception; chapter two, part two

Chapter Two; Part Two

When I get home, I feed the cats some treats and make a ham sandwich for myself. The emails from that man are weighing heavily on my mind. I suppose I should respond because I’m starting to feel rude in ignoring him. I send him a brief email saying I can’t meet with him before Thanksgiving and leave it at that. He immediately emails back and asks if we can meet on Friday instead. I have hunch I’ll be spending Thursday night at Rembrandt’s as well as Wednesday night—our first two-nighter!—and I don’t want a time constraint on Friday. Then again, it’s a good excuse if I need one to skedaddle from Rembrandt’s place if I start feeling claustrophobic. I write back to that man and say we can meet Friday afternoon and suggest Diamonds Coffee Shoppe on Central any time after one. I’m a late riser if I don’t have to get up for work, and I don’t make appointments in the morning if I can help it. He agrees and says he can’t wait to see me on Thanksgiving. I don’t answer because I’m done with the conversation.

I eat my sandwich and check my social media. There’s not much that interests me because I’m in denial about our new president. I’m keeping myself abreast of all his insanity, of course, because it’s my civic duty, but I don’t see the point of hyperventilating over every idiotic tweet he makes. It’s something that’s always frustrated me about liberals—they’re addicted to the poutrage. There are several people on my Twitter feed who watch Morning Joe every morning and gripe about how awful he is. I always want to tell them, “No shit, he’s awful. That’s his shtick. Tell me if he says something reasonable—that would be news.” I decide it’s time to write a post, but not about Trump. My topic is going to be holidays and family. I’m still not sure I want to write about my current situation, but I have to write something.

The last month has been the worst month of my life, bar none. First, my best friend gets murdered by a crazy stalker woman who thought she was in love with me. She decided the way to get me to notice her was to get rid of the perceived competition. No, it doesn’t make sense, but that’s how she saw the situation. Then, after I started dating someone, she went after him as well with the intent to kill. Fortunately, he was able to fight her off, but unfortunately, she gouged out one of his eyes prior to being foiled.

A few weeks later, my brother-in-law was kidnapped by a delusional woman who thought they were meant to be together. She thought if she held him captive, she would be able to get him to see her point of view. Once again, it makes no sense, but she was a seriously disturbed woman.

Now, we’re coming up on Thanksgiving, and normally, I’m not a big fan of tradition and all that shit, but I’m feeling a bit wistful this year. Losing someone so close to me has made me realize that I don’t want to take my loved ones for granted. Yes, I can theoretically get together with them any time of the year, but it’s easier to do over the holidays.

I see my older sister on a semi-regular basis, but I haven’t seen my younger sister in years. She’s flying in on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, and staying for a week. I’m excited to have all three Liang sisters in the same place at the same time. I love my older sister who’s been like a second mom to me, but we are polar opposites in terms of our beliefs and our temperaments. Our younger sister is somewhere in between us, and she’s an efficient mediator when my older sister and I lock horns.

I write in this vein for another half hour without mentioning my current predicament. I’m not being coy for that man’s sake, but because I don’t want to air my family business in public. Yes, I blog about my life on a daily basis, but I try not to write about other people without their permission. I have made a tacit agreement with myself that my life will be an open book—to a limited extent—to my readers, but my loved ones have not made that same agreement. This isn’t my best post, but I publish it, anyway. I’d rather have something up that is pretty good than hold it back until it’s perfect because then it’ll never get published.

Continue Reading

Parental Deception; chapter two, part one

Chapter Two; Part One

“Man, I’m tired of this job,” Darla Quinn, one of my coworkers, grumbles, her fingers flying over her keyboard.

“Tell me about it,” I say, checking my lists to see what I need to tackle first. It’s too early in the morning for talking, but Darla is my favorite coworker, so I will give her the time of the day when I wouldn’t to other people. We are telemarketers who try to get people to buy shit they don’t need. We push a wide variety of products, but our best sellers are Groupon coupons.

“Jimmy says I should just quit. He makes enough for both of us.” Jimmy is Darla’s newest beefcake who is as smart as he is pretty. He’s an inventor of a gadget that makes it easier to tie your shoes, and he’s rolling in it. “The problem is, I don’t want to be a kept woman. He’s making noises about us moving in together, and I’m tired of finding reasons why we shouldn’t do it.”

“Girl, I feel you. Rembrandt has mentioned it already, and we’ve only been dating a month.” I sigh in sympathy. We look at each other and roll our eyes.

“I thought boys were supposed to be the commitment-phobes,” Darla says, pushing her bangs out of her eyes. She’s wearing a smartly-tailored pink blouse and a pale blue pencil skirt. Before she started dating Jimmy, she was a casual dresser. She’s certainly smartened up since she began banging Jimmy, I’ll give him that much.

“I haven’t found that to be true,” I reply, keeping an eye out for Cara O’Donnell, our supervisor. She’s pretty chill, but she doesn’t like us to waste too much of company time. “All my serious boyfriends wanted to move in together within six months of us dating. Some of my girlfriends were content to wait longer than that.”

“I would totally be into chicks if it weren’t for the cock,” Darla says, her grin wicked. “I can’t give up a good dicking.” We laugh heartily, then we return to our work. I have several lists I have to get through today, so I skip lunch to get it done.

When I get home, I have several texts from my sisters. The ones from Viv tell me that she’s unhappy about ‘that man’ coming to Thanksgiving dinner and that she’s staying in Minnesota for a week. I text her back and say that I’m not happy, either, but I don’t know what to do about it. We gripe about it for several texts before we call it quits. I also have a few texts from Jasmine. She talked to that man again today, and she’s more convinced than ever he’s our father. Speaking of him, he’s sent me an email saying he’d like to take me out to dinner tonight. I don’t remember giving him my email, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he weaseled it out of Jasmine. I ignore his email because I don’t want to go and because I have to leave for taiji in ten minutes. I feed the cats their treats, then rush upstairs to change. I grab my weapons bag, my iced bottle of water, and head to the studio. I make it there with two minutes to spare.

Continue Reading

Parental Deception; chapter one, part two

Chapter One; Part Two

“Hello, Megan. Didn’t we just talk?” Jasmine’s voice is mellow, unlike it was while Bob was missing.

“Yes, but something weird just happened.” I breathe smoothly and softly before adding, “A man claiming he’s our father was just here, and he’s on his way to your house.”

“What?!!” The ease leaves Jasmine’s voice, and she sounds like I did when the man made his announcement. “Are you making a joke, Megan? If so, it’s not funny.”

“I’m not! This old Taiwanese man showed up on my doorstep and said he was our father. He had a letter he wrote us to prove it. Mom sent it back unopened.” I blurt it out, not wanting to hold anything in.

“I can’t believe this,” Jasmine says, her voice taut. “I do not need this right now. Not after the last few weeks!”

“I know. But, he’s on his way, so you better prepare yourself—and Bob.”

“I guess. I’ll talk to you later.” Jasmine clicks off, and I call Vivian next.

“Hey, Sis. What’s up?” Her voice is distracted as it often is. “You caught me at a good time; I just finished a statement piece on the horseshit that is Donald Trump.”

“Better you than me,” I reply. “Are you coming for Thanksgiving? Jasmine said you might, but that you haven’t bought a ticket yet.”

“I’m coming. Pablo knows someone who works for Delta, so we won’t have a problem getting tickets.” Pablo is her lover, and he’s also an artist. Pablo’s not his real name, though. He adopted the moniker when he decided he wanted to be an artist. His real name is Peter Jorgenson, but he refuses to answer to anything other than Pablo. You wouldn’t think he was such a diva just by looking at him. He’s six-feet tall with blond hair and dark blue eyes. He has a muscular built, and he looks as if he belongs on the cornfields of Wisconsin—which is exactly where he grew up. He’s also fifteen years younger than Viv’s forty-two years, but I’m not one to talk as Rembrandt is thirteen years younger than my forty-five. “We’re coming Wednesday afternoon, and we’re staying with Jasmine.”

“That’s great! I can’t wait to see you.” I haven’t seen my younger sister in a few years, and I’m looking forward to her visit. “I have to tell you something. A man claiming to be our father came to my house tonight.”

Continue Reading

Parental Deception; chapter one, part one

Chapter One; Part One

“I know Thanksgiving is this Thursday, Jasmine,” I say, pacing my living room floor. “I can read a calendar as well as you can.” Onyx and Jet, my two black cats, sister and brother, pace alongside me. Onyx is mewing at me, and Jet is watching her back, as always. Onyx is five pounds of fluffy attitude, whereas Jet is close to four times her size and pure muscle. He’s content to take a backseat to his more vocal sister, however, which has been their pattern since I got them eight years ago when they were six months old. I fan my waist-length black hair away from my neck as I’m suddenly hot. Perimenopause is no joke, yo.

“You’re delegated to make the pies—whatever kind you like.” My older sister has been in charge of family functions since we were kids, and she’s not above bossing me around.

“I’ll make one pumpkin and one sweet potato. How many people are going to be there?” I make a note to myself because I’ll forget if I don’t. It’s my passive-aggressive way of getting back at Jasmine for being such a control  freak.

“Me, Bob, Coral, Jamal, the twins, Jordan, Joanna, and their three kids as well. Vivian said she’d try to make it, but she hasn’t booked her tickets, yet.” Vivian is our younger sister who lives in Boston and is an artist. She has no concept of time or responsibility to others. It’s not that she’s thoughtless, but that she’s focused on her art most of the time. Bob’s sister and her family lives out of state, and I’ve never met any of them. Jordan and Joanna live in NYC, so they must be flying out for the holiday. Jasmine’s other two kids, Robert Jr. and Michael, live in California and Florida, respectively, and won’t be able to make it this year. “Oh! Bring that guy you’re dating. It’s about time I met him. I want to make sure he’s a good match for you.”

“I’m not sure about that,” I demur. “We’ve only been dating a little over a month, so I don’t want to spook him.”

“You’re not getting any younger, Megan. It’s time for you to settle down.” Jasmine’s eight years older than I am, and she was a second mother to me after our father left when I was three, and my mother started quietly drinking herself to death. That’s why I put up with Jasmine talking to me as if I’m an idiot, but only for a limited amount of time.

“It’s been a month,” I reiterate, keeping my voice even. “He probably wants to go to his mother’s, anyway.”

Continue Reading

Marital Duplicity; chapter fourteen

Chapter Fourteen

“I hate Monday mornings,” Darla grumbles, a yawn swallowing most of her words.

“Me, too,” I say in fervent agreement. I’m on my second cup of coffee already, and it’s not going to be nearly enough to get me through the day. I barely made it to work on time, so I dive right into my lists. I don’t take a breather until lunch, and even then, I only take ten minutes to eat my ham sandwich. After lunch, I power through the rest of the afternoon, becoming increasingly nervous about the night’s adventure. I don’t want to fuck things up—I just want to bring Bob home. I clock out at five and grab a turkey sub from Subway on my way home. I’m not going to have time for a sit-down meal, so I need to eat whatever I can, quickly. I also stop at Cub to pick up some bottled water, a wrapped sandwich, and some fruit for Bob when I find him.

When I get home, I feed Onyx and Jet their treats before gobbling down half my sub. I give them each a sliver of turkey, so they’re happy campers. Afterwards, I take a shower and change into black slacks and a black turtleneck. I don’t know why I’m going into stealth ninja/thief mode, but it seems appropriate. I cuddle with the cats on the bed for ten minutes before going downstairs. My doorbell rings at exactly six, and I go to let Lydia in. She’s dressed in all black as well. Onyx and Jet jump up on her as she enters, and she spends a few minutes greeting them in a friendly fashion. Once they’re done, I grab my bag, and we take off in my car.

“How’re you feeling?” Lydia asks as I head up I-35W.

“Nervous. Tense. Hoping this is the end,” I say, keeping my eyes on the road. I don’t like driving when it’s light out, let alone dark. I have terrible night vision, and I find myself more reluctant to drive at night the older I get.

“Slow, steady breaths,” Lydia counsels, demonstrating for me. I join her, and I do feel minutely better. “Also, tuck your chin as you drive, and pull your head up by the topmost point. It’ll help you focus.” I follow her instructions, and I’m instantly more awake. We don’t talk much on the way up to the cabin. I’m too nervous to chat, and I think Lydia is respecting that. It takes forty-five minutes to reach the cabin, and when we get there, I shut down the car and turn to face Lydia.

“I think I should go in by myself to suss out the situation, but maybe you could stand guard at the door in case Hayley comes later?” I grab my bag as Lydia nods.

“Oh, hey. I have lock picks.” She pull them out of her pocket and waves them at me. “One of my students sometimes trades lock pick knowledge for lessons.”

“Cool.” We get out of the car and approach the cabin. There’s one light on, and I peek through a window. I gasp because I can see Bob tied to a bed, spread-eagled, with ropes, I think. He’s shirtless, but his pants don’t seem too grimy. Just as I thought, Hayley is keeping him in decent shape. I wiggle the doorknob, but it’s locked, of course. Lydia applies the picks to the knob, and after a minute, she pops it open. “Wait here,” I say to Lydia, and she nods in return. She assumes a relaxed stance, but I can see her eyes scanning the environment around her.

“I’m on it,” she says, and I’m reassured. Taking a deep breath, I open the door and go in.

“Bob, it’s me, Megan.” I brace myself for what I’m about to encounter, but it’s not as bad as I expected. The cabin is clean and heated, and there’s no piss or shit anywhere to be seen or smelled. It’s clear that Hayley comes every day, if not more often, and I don’t know whether to be relieved or upset by it.

“Megan? Is that really you?” Bob’s voice is hoarse, as to be expected.

Continue Reading

Marital Duplicity; chapter thirteen, part three

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

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

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

Continue Reading