Category Archives: Murder Mystery

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

Chapter Nine: Part One

“Rise and shine, Rayne!”  I hear a voice from a distance and desperately try to block it out.  I lie very still, rationalizing if I act dead, it may leave me alone.  “Come on.”  The tone turns from cheerful to cajoling.  “It’s after twelve, Rayne!  Time to get your lazy ass out of bed.”  It’s Paris, of course, and he’s standing over me.  When I do not respond, he reaches down and rips the covers off me.  I let out a shriek as a) I’m naked and b) it’s freezing.

“Paris Frantz!  You give me back my covers!”  I curl into a ball as I wait for him to comply.  Instead, he hands me a pair of sweats and a sweatshirt while waiting for me to get up.  When I realize that he’s a) not going away and b) eyeing my naked body, I quickly slip into the sweats.  Once I am covered, I fall back into bed and ignore Paris.

“Vashti called.  She wants to see you tonight.”  Paris frowns as I make no movement to get up.  “I’ll make you pancakes if you get up this very minute.”

“Chocolate chip pancakes?”  I ask, my voice muffled from the pillow I have placed over my head.

“Yes, Ms. Sweet Tooth,” Paris sighs loudly.  “Now get your ass out of bed.”

“Why are you so mean to me?”  I emerge from under my pillow to gaze dolefully at Paris.  “Why do you never show me any love?”

“I tried the other night,” Paris quips.  “You rebuffed me, remember?”  He waits until I sit up before slipping out of the room.  I yawn as I contemplate going back to bed.  I don’t understand why Paris has such a thing about me sleeping past noon.  He considers it a great failing of mine that I like to sleep in.  At least he didn’t shake his head sadly this time.  I would have had to clock him one, pancakes or no pancakes.  I shuffle out of bed and head to the bathroom.  I take a shower, brush my teeth, the usual things.  I wash my wound and put more gauze on it, best I can.  It isn’t red or weeping, so I assume it’ll heal.  I slip the sweats back on and go to the kitchen.  It’s only Paris, so there’s no need to look my best.  Besides, he’s wearing sweats, too, only his are gray and mine are black.

“Smells good.”  The fragrance of the chocolate chip pancakes perks me up.  There are few odors I like better than baked goods.  Especially ones with chocolate in them.

“Pancakes a la Paris, coming right up.  How’s the neck?”

“Come take a bite and find out,” I reply with a wink.  Paris laughs, but stays focused on his cooking.  I decide to call Vashti while he’s doing his thing and hunt down my cell phone.

“Hello?”  As usual, her voice makes me think of molasses and honey, with blindfolds and gags thrown in for good measures.

“Vashti?  It’s Rayne.  Glad that you called me back.  Sorry we’ve been playing phone tag.  Can you believe it about Max?”

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

Chapter Eight; Part Two

“I’m not really sure.”  He still won’t look at me.  “She wouldn’t talk to me after that.  I assume Moira told Annie I confronted her.”  The truth, but not all of it.  He is sweating again, so I push the issue.

“What did you talk to Moira about the night before the party?”  I have definitely caught him off-guard.  There is a look of panic on his face, and I haven’t even asked him about the supposed attempted rape.

“Who told you I talked to her then?”  The words tumble out of his mouth before he can stop them.  “The bitch!  I wouldn’t have thought she’d have the nerve to tell anyone.”  So it is true.  I look at him expectantly, hoping he’ll fill in the blanks.  It’s a well-known trick of the cop trade to stay silent, forcing the perp to talk.  It works.  “It wasn’t enough that she seduced my daughter, oh no.  She couldn’t be satisfied with just that, could she?  No, she had to do more.  Moira did cocaine once in a while.  Crack.  I bet you didn’t know that.”  I didn’t, but I keep quiet.  Now that he’s finally talking, I don’t want to do anything to stop the flow.  “She only did it recreationally.  I think she thought it made her cool or something.”  I see where this is going, but I want to hear him say it.  “She gave some to my Annie.  Imagine that!  The girl is only twenty-three, and this barracuda gets her hooked on crack.  ‘Just try it,’ she says.  ‘It’s like nothing you’ve ever felt before.’  So my Annie, my innocent daughter who is so in love with Moira, does what she is told.  Before she knows it, she’s shooting up daily.”

“How did she get that kind of money?”  I ask.  Crack, while cheaper than its glamorous cousin, cocaine, is still not cheap if being done every day.

“My ex gave it to her before she realized what Annie was doing with it.  Once it became clear that Annie was using, Ginny—my ex—refused to give her any more money.”  A font of information up to this point, Emil stops.  He doesn’t want to tell me anything else, but I wait him out.  There’s no contest, and he breaks.  “Annie started hooking to make the money to feed her crack habit.”  It is what I’m expecting to hear, but saddens me, nonetheless.  Any residual good feelings I had for Moira drain away; I’m glad I never went on that date with her.

Emil hadn’t been able to put Moira’s treachery out of his mind which is why he met with Moira the night before the party.  He had been brooding about his daughter almost nonstop for three months, and he couldn’t take it any more.  His work was suffering from his lack of concentration; he was having difficulties sleeping at night; he’d lost ten pounds because he couldn’t eat.  It was one reason he was taking a sabbatical next year.  He had to talk to Moira again, if only to give him peace of mind that he’d done everything he possibly could to help his daughter.  He said Moira wasn’t so high-and-mighty when Emil threatened to tell the department about her conquests.  In fact, she looked absolutely panicked until she realized that she had something to threaten him with, too.  She told him she’d turn Annie in to the cops if Emil ratted on her.  Emil’s nostrils flare as he starts breathing harder.  His skin is ashen, and he is panting slightly.  I worry that he will have a heart attack in front of my eyes.  I won’t be able to handle the guilt if I send this man into cardiac arrest.

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

Chapter Eight; Part Three

“Let’s go,” he says when he appears, forty-five minutes later.  He is looking straight ahead, his lips set in a thin line.  I buckle myself in as he takes off with a screech.  Paris is a good driver, but when he’s angry, he becomes more aggressive.  I wisely keep my mouth shut as I do not want to aggravate him further.  Most of the time, I can jolly him out of a mood, but even I know my limits.  Neither of us speak the entire way home.

When we reach our place, he shuts his door with a slam and marches up the steps to our apartment in silence.  I follow him meekly, not wanting to set him off.  Inside, I head for the fridge and grab two Molson Ices.  I pop the tops and hand one to him.  He strides into the living room and sits on the couch, flicking on the television and rummaging through the channels.  He presses angrily on the remote at the rate of three clicks per second.  I sit next to him, but abandon any hope of actually watching anything.  We sit in silence, drinking our beers.  I sneak glances at him, wondering if I should say something.  I want to be supportive, but I also don’t want to get into his business if he would rather I butt out.  We have been friends long enough for me to know that talking things out is not always the best thing to do with him.  Sometimes he needs to brood before he feels able to discuss the problem.  I let him ruminate all he wants, giving him a wide berth.

“You know what pisses me off?”  Paris finally says, settling on MTV where there is some asinine reality show on.  “The assumption that I took advantage of a lonely older woman, that I’m nothing more than a gigolo.  That damn inspector actually thinks I tried to swindle Max out of her money!”  Paris’s eyes reflect the hurt he’s feeling.  An easygoing guy, he really gets steamed when his niceness is called into question.  Because he is so impossibly good-looking, people have a hard time believing that he could be interested in someone less than gorgeous-looking her/himself.  It’s a stereotype Paris has had to fight all his life, and it ticks him off every time.  The fact that it’s true for the most part doesn’t make it hurt any less.

“Did she say that?”  I ask cautiously. I  don’t want Paris to think I’m questioning his interpretation of events.

“Over and over.  She asked if I was in Max’s will, if I thought I should be, if I was angling to get put into Max’s will, if I knew the contents of Max’s will.  The way she was harping on the will, you’d have thought I wrote the damn thing.”

“It’s her job,” I counsel, wanting to calm Paris down.  I glance at the VCR clock and see that it’s seven-thirty.  “Shit!  I promised Emil I’d go over to his place at eight.”  I jump up from the couch and hurry into the kitchen.  I’m starving, and I want to eat something before I skedaddle.  I grab a Tupperware and open it.  Paris made fajitas for lunch, and there are two left over.  I heat them up, then scarf them down.

“You have one hour,” Paris says sternly as I pass by the living room.  “If I don’t hear from you in an hour, I’m coming after you.  Understand?”

“Are you ok, Paris?”  I ask, pausing.  I hate to leave him while he’s in such a state, but I need to talk to Emil.

“Go,” Paris orders me.  “Now.”

“Let me give you Emil’s address,” I sigh.  I scribble it down along with Emil’s number in case Paris threw away the number and hand the scrap of paper to Paris.

“One hour,” he reminds me, shaking a finger in my face.  I give him a look that tells him what he can do with that finger.  It’s a fifteen-minute walk to Emil’s place, and I savor the night.  Some people refuse to walk in the Mission District by themselves at night, but I relish it.  I like seeing the diverse population that roams the streets—so different from the increasingly homogeneous crowd that litters the Mission during the day.  The tourists still haven’t infiltrated the Mission, but unfortunately, the yuppies have.  However, the Mexicans are loud and proud as well.  I hope they keep the upper hand, but I am doubtful that they will be able to live in peace.  I make it to Emil’s place with five minutes to spare.

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

Chapter Seven; Part Three

“Libby Liang,” she says briskly in a tone much different than the petulant tone she takes with me.

“Lib, it’s me.”  I pause as I feel the freeze emanating from the phone.  “Look, you didn’t give me a chance to respond.  You know I’m three hours behind you and I don’t get into work until eight-thirty or so.  I’m sorry that I haven’t gotten back to you, but you did say I had two weeks.”

“To put the order in!”  Libby snaps.  “Not to respond.”  That isn’t how I remember it, but I let it slide.  “What do you want?”

“I wanted to let you know that I’d be happy to be your bridesmaid if you still want me, but that I have some issues with some of your requests.”  That’s as diplomatic as I get, so I wait to see if she’ll accept it or not.

“Fine,” she says shortly.  “Tell me about it.”  Taking a deep breath, I read my list to her.  I am met with glacial silence.  “Out of the question,” she snaps.

“What is?”  I ask, a bit impatiently.

“All of it.”  Apparently, my sister has yet to learn the fine art of compromise.  “Rayne, this is my wedding.  I will not have you ruining it.”

“Let me ask you a question, Libby.  If I got married and you were my bridesmaid, would you do whatever I told you to do?”  I know the answer to that one before she says a word.

“We can cross that bridge if we ever get to it,” Libby says snidely.  “I don’t see that happening to you any time soon.  What’s the longest you’ve been with a guy?  Five months?  You seem to have a tiny problem with commitment that precludes getting married.”  She has neatly sidestepped the question by going on the offensive.  She doesn’t know that I’m bisexual and that my longest relationship of a year has been with a woman.  Somehow, I don’t think telling her that will help the situation.

“You’re being unreasonable,” I say softly.  “I’m willing to give in on most of your points, but you’re not willing to budge at all.”

“It’s my wedding!”  She’s beginning to sound like a broken record.  I can see how this is going to be her mantra for making people do outrageous things.  “You have to do as I say.”

“That’s not how it works, Libby.”  I am beginning to get angry myself.  “You can’t just order everybody around like they’re your minions.”

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Don’t Rayne On My Parade: chapter seven, part three

Chapter Seven; Part Three

When I am through, I shut down my computer.  Ten o’clock.  Early to be going to bed, but it’s been a long day.  After getting ready for bed, I slip under the covers next to Paris.  I have a king-size bed because I like space as I sleep, but the bed feels small with Paris in it.  I am wearing a t-shirt and panties and still feel overdressed.  I turn on my side away from Paris so our butts are facing each other.  He turns over and snuggles up next to me.  We fit together well.  I listen to his even breathing as I drift along.  Just as I’m about to fall asleep, I feel his hand move from my waist down to my hip.  His fingers are curled over so they are brushing the crease that separates my thigh from my groin.  I don’t know if he’s doing it on purpose, but he’s crossing the danger zone.  I pick up his hand and put it back on his own hip.  A minute later, it’s back on my thigh.  I turn around to face him.

“Paris Frantz, you stop that.”  I am fierce with him, knowing it’s the only way to nip this in the bud.  I have miscalculated, however, since turning around puts my face inches away from his.  Even in the dark, I can feel him looking at me before I sense him moving forward.  His lips meet mine squarely, and his tongue separates my lips.  A moan slips out of my throat as he continues to kiss me.  I know I should put a stop to this, but it feels too good.  His hand is on my other thigh and rubbing in slow circles.

“Rayne, I need this,” he whispers after breaking off the kiss.  I can taste the alcohol and the toothpaste, and it’s a strange combination.  I feel his breath on my cheek as his hand moves up my thigh, over my waist, under my shirt and settles on my breast.  It’s as if I’ve been branded with an iron.  Jolts of electricity shoot through me.  Our lips meet.  Suddenly, I am angry that he is putting me in this position yet again.  He knows that I lust over him.  He knows that while we have always been very good at this, it’s inadvisable for us to have sex.  He knows all this, and yet, he doesn’t care.  Even as my body responds to his touch, my mind is quietly fuming.

“Paris, you have to stop,” I whisper back, my voice ragged.  Paris rolls me onto my back and props himself up over me.  My thighs part out of their own volition and the fingers of his left hand are sliding under my panties while his right hand is still occupied with my breast.

“Shh, darling, don’t say anything.”  Paris covers my mouth with his.  I know this is wrong.  I know we shouldn’t be doing this, but I am past the point of stopping.  I finally submit, deciding to deal with the consequences after it is over.  He moves his right hand to my arm and starts the slow, steady stroking that drives me so wild.  He is poised over me when I realize what he’s about to do.

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

“If I wanted a man, I’d be with one,” Quinn explains.  I sigh, not wanting to get into an argument about why butches are not men.  It seems all we do is argue philosophy and beliefs.

“If you like the black woman, go talk to her,” I say.  “That’s what we came here for, right?”

“What do I say to her?”  Quinn starts sweating at the thought of being so bold.

“Say, ‘Hi, my name is Quinn.  What’s your name?’  I guarantee she’ll say something.”  I am being sarcastic but serious at the same time.  I am not into game-playing and find the straightforward approach, pardon the pun, refreshing.  Quinn looks as if she’s going to argue with me, but doesn’t.  She stands up, straightens her shirt, then walks over to the black woman.  I am too far to hear what they’re saying, so I decide to watch the baby butch play pool instead.  The woman who is playing against her slaps her on the ass, so I decide to look elsewhere.  A motion by the door catches my eyes.  It’s my favorite bartender, and she’s looking good.  She’s the miniature, female version of the male bartender from the 500 Club, except she manages to be feminine while still being tough.  She is wearing a black t-shirt and black jeans, and she looks hot.  I know her name is Vivienne, she’s half-French and from Canada.  Quebec, to be precise.

“Viv!”  A teenage-looking girly calls out to Vivienne.  The latter flips the former a wave, but doesn’t reply verbally.  Vivienne takes her place behind the bar.  I finish off my drink and saunter up to the bar for the next one.

“Hey, darling,” Vivienne grins at me.  She has the darkest eyes for a non-Asian person, and she uses them to her advantage.  “What can I get you?”

“I’d like a Cape Cod,” I say, unable to take my eyes off her.  Why have I never asked this woman out, besides the fact that I have a policy of not hitting on someone at the place of their employment because she can’t walk away?

“Viv.  I gotta roll.  See you back at the crib?”  A stunning bi-racial honey leans over the bar to peck Vivienne on the cheek.  The kisser has a head of curly black hair I would kill for, skin the color of molasses, and curves that look just as sweet.  Oh yeah, that’s why.  Vivienne is a married woman.  She’s been with girlfriend for seven years, I believe I’ve been told.  I sigh as I watch Vivienne’s better half leave.  I turn back to the bar, catching Vivienne as she watches me in amusement.  I have a feeling she knows that I am hot for her, but I won’t do anything about it as long as she’s with her girlfriend.  I may not be the most monogamous gal myself, but I don’t mess with other people’s monogamy.  Even if she and the gf aren’t monogamous, it’s too messy a situation for me to want to get into the middle of that.

“Here you go, sweetheart,” Vivienne places my drink in front of me with a flourish.

“Thanks, Vivienne,” I say with my best smile and a sizable tip.  I always call her by her full name because I think it’s beautiful.  She winks at me as she scoops up the money.  I return to my table and covertly watch as Vivienne serves other women.  She doesn’t call anyone else those pet names, so I start fantasizing about what that means.  Before I can get too far, Quinn returns.

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

Chapter Seven; Part One

“Rayne, got a minute?”  It’s Quinn, waiting for me by my desk for the second day in a row.  Her skin is wan and her smile is thin, tacked on with more than a dollop of willpower.

“Sure, Quinn.  Just let me grab a cup of coffee first.”  I go downstairs to get my steaming cup of java, then return to my desk.  I hang up my coat on the rack near my desk, then sit down.  After turning on my computer, I finally turn my attention to Quinn.  “What’s up?”  I had thought about it this morning and decided the best strategy for dealing with Quinn is to be pleasant but professional.  After yesterday, I have no desire to date her.  I am too old to be in a relationship with someone who obviously is in need of deep fixing.  When I was a teenager, I thought it was a sign of love to be willing to work on a person’s issues with her/him.  It is to a certain point, but Quinn’s problems go deeper than I have the patience to deal with.  I know myself well enough to know that it can only end badly.

“I wanted to apologize for my behavior last night.  It was atrocious.”  She pauses, as if to allow me a chance to contradict her, but I remain silent.  “I am so embarrassed that you had to see me like that.  It must seem like I have this huge eating disorder, but I don’t really.  I’m just dieting.”  Unfuckingbelievable.  I don’t know if she’s trying to convince herself or me, but she’s backtracking from what she said yesterday.

I tell her that I’m not going to debate the stupidity of dieting or discuss the nuances that differentiate between dieting and eating disorders, but in my opinion she’s crossed the bridge from the former to the latter.  She counters that every woman at least thinks about sticking her finger down her throat, which causes me to hoot in derision.  I stare at her in disbelief, but also in sadness.  Here is a bright, beautiful woman who thinks there’s nothing wrong with shoving her fingers down her throat after eating.  She blusters that it’s easy for me because Asian women are so tiny.  Her voice is rising and mine is, too.  I tell her it’s worse for Asian women because we have two cultures that revere thinness even though not every Asian woman is tiny.  I am considered huge by Taiwanese standards as my sister is so kind to point out as often as she can, but I do not even think about sticking my fingers down my throat.  It’s such an anathema to me, especially after loving Claudette.

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

Chapter Six; Part Three

“Ok, baby,” I say, touching his cheek.  “I’ll do my best.”  Paris leans forward and touches my lips with his.  He presses his body against mine, and I can feel his hard cock digging insistently into my thigh.  It would be so easy to have sex with Paris, and it would feel so good.  That’s precisely why I gently push him away.

“Come on, Rayne,” he mumbles into my hair, not letting me go.  “You know you want to.  It would comfort me a great deal.”  He slips a hand down my back and rests it just above my ass.  It has been a long time since I’ve had sex, and I can feel my body responding.  Paris is the best lover I’ve had, beyond compare.  I bury my face into his shoulder as Paris starts to slowly massage my back.  It takes the last ounce of strength I have to push him away, not as gently this time.

“Paris, you know you’ll regret this in the morning.”  I quickly stand up to put some distance between us.  Paris stands up, too, and gives me the puppy-dog eyes.  I feel my resolve begin to crumble as he starts stroking my arm.  Because he’s Paris, he knows that a slow, sensual stroking of my arm is the quickest way to arouse me.  “I think, oh God, I am going to my room.  You are not following.”  Before he can stop me, I race into my room and shut the door.  I feel guilty for turning him down, but this is not the way I want him.  I don’t want the manifestation of his grief to be the driving force of him falling into my bed.

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

Paris has stopped massaging my neck and is slowly stroking it instead.  I close my eyes and let the magic of his hands do their work.  I am melting under his expert touch—just what I need at the end of a long day.  I sigh and let my head drop further forward.  Paris is patiently working out the kinks and the knots.  I wonder how many people he’s seduced with these magical hands of his, but I don’t ask for fear he will stop.  I let the tension and frustration of the last few days slip out of me, trying to empty my mind as well.  I don’t want to think about anything more than how good it feels to be touched.  It’s not sex that I miss so much as a friendly touch.  Although, sex would be nice, too.  My mind flits from subject to subject, but I just let the thoughts flow in one ear and out the other.  One refuses to leave, however, and buzzes persistently in my head.  Suddenly, I pop my eyes open.

“Paris!  I forgot to tell you about the email Vashti sent me about Max’s ex-hubby being at the party!”

“What?”  Paris is so startled, he stops massaging me.  “How did she know that?”

“From a friend of a friend.”  I pause.  “What was his name again?”

“Harry.”  Paris makes a face.  “Harry Seavers.”

“Harry?”  I frown.  “Emil called him something else.”

“His full name is Harrison, but he goes by Harry.  He’s one of those haute couture screenplay writers who talks about it more than he actually does it because he doesn’t have to make money doing it.  He sells insurance by day.”  Paris has a sour look on his face.  For some reason, the name Harry is resonating in my brain.

“Screenplays, Harry,” I mumble under my breath, closing my eyes again.  They pop open again against my volition.  “I remember him!  He had a hard-on for Guy Ritchie!”

“That sounds like him,” Paris makes another face.  “He likes to think he’s so deep and philosophical, but he really likes the shallow, flashy guy directors.”  Paris seems to be feeling low as well.  I know something that will make him laugh, however, and tell him the horror story that is my sister’s wedding.

Before I can stop him, he goes camp on me, flipping his hand up and waggling his neck.  He cannot believe ‘that heifer’ had the nerve to tell me to lose weight, not to mention her other demands.  He is up and stomping before I can stop him, but at least he’s lost the glum look.  I let him have his say, rather enjoying his defense of me.  When I tell him that she wants me to spend over a thousand dollars for this ordeal which includes me wearing mauve, well, let’s just say he loses his ever-loving mind.  He rants and rave about how selfish she is because any fool can see that ivory is clearly a better color for me.  He cusses Libby out while questioning her genealogy but in such a way that he’s not questioning mine as well.  He is in high camp, and he has me crying from laughing so hard.  It is nice to have a friend who cares so much about me.

Once he’s calmed down, he settles next to me again and resumes massaging my neck.  We diss Libby some more because it’s a national pastime with us and because she deserves it.  When we were in college, we devised an elaborate points system to see who could put her down harder.  It was no contest; I am the reigning champion of dissing Libby.  “She gets put on hold when she tries calling her conscience,” I say, to cap off the contest.  We both laugh uproariously at that before subsiding into giggles.  Paris wants to make sure that I’m not going to listen to ‘that heifer’, but I’m not paying attention as he is melting me with his fingers.  He lectures me to put my foot down or Libby will run roughshod over me, which I know to be good advice but which I also know will be difficult to follow.  He is still massaging and lecturing as the buzzer rings.

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

My parents would try to make it better by buying me little treats or whispering in my ear how special I was in my own way.  My father would take me for walks, just the two of us, holding my hand so I wouldn’t get lost.  We’d stop off in Chinatown to buy some special dumplings or pastries filled with barbecued pork or red beans or whatever.  My absolute favorite were the buns filled with a sweet custard.  My dad would buy two and let me eat them all by myself.  He never said a word about saving one for my sister or my mother.  He would buy two, along with a bottle of sweetened soy milk, hand me a bun and the bottle while he held the other.  When I was done with the first bun, he would hand me the second and smile in pleasure as I gobbled it up.  I invariably ended up with a stomachache after finishing the two buns plus the bottle of milk, but it was worth it.  We’d walk home with bags bulging with food, but no custard-filled buns.  Those were mine alone, and I dearly loved my father for making that treat exclusively mine.  It didn’t take away the sting of my sister’s beauty, but it helped mitigate it.

I grimace as I think of him.  Even though it’s been nine years, I still ache to see him again.  He was my confidante as well as my father, and he listened to me better than anyone else ever had.  He would look at me, focusing his entire attention on what I was saying.  No television, no radio, nothing to distract him.  Sometimes, if a problem was especially tough, we’d hop a bus to Chinatown and buy some buns.  Strolling through the heart of Chinatown, we’d eat, drink soy milk, and talk about my problems.  I spoke mostly Taiwanese with my father, as he preferred it that way.  My father was patient and wise, telling me exactly what I needed to hear.  It may not have been what I wanted to hear, but it was invariably what I needed to know.  He never pulled punches with me or tried to sugarcoat the truth, for which I was grateful.  I knew that if my father said something, he meant it.  I appreciated that quality about him.

“Rayne!  I need ten copies of this yesterday!”  Alicia tosses a pile of papers on my desk, a scowl creasing her fat features.  Everything about her is round from the bun of gray hair on her head to her cheeks to her body.  Her cheeks are so fat, they push her eyes into slits.  I look away as she has a morsel of tuna melt clinging to her lower lip. I briefly entertain fantasies of telling Alicia off, but I tamp down the irritation.  I know much of it is residual from Libby’s emails, so I try to let it go.

“Not a problem,” I say, standing with documents in hand.  I walk over to the copier and punch the proper buttons.  It collates and staples for me before I can even whistle a happy tune.  I detour to Alicia’s office and drop it on her desk.  She just grunts at me before turning back to her work.

“How are the invoices coming along?”  Sandra, my supervisor, is at my desk when I reappear.  “There were a couple last week that you were late on.”  Because the counselors didn’t get them to me until after the deadline, I want to say, but hold my tongue.  Sandra doesn’t like excuses.

“It won’t happen again,” I shrug, but don’t apologize.  I have already decided that I’ll email Alicia once a week for the invoices, saving a copy in my send folder, which is known as covering my ass.  She’ll hate me for it, but I don’t care.  I don’t like being chided for something that isn’t my fault.

“Good.”  Sandra nods before returning to her desk.  Since her desk is in the room just off the ‘foyer’, I can see her firing up a movie on her computer.  I can only assume the director is doing the same.  I do a slow burn, but manage to keep my mouth shut.  I work on the invoices for the next couple hours, making sure everything is up-to-date.

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