Chapter Four, Part Three
“How dare you,” Mr. Chang boomed, the minute everybody was gone. He turned his wrath upon me, and it was pretty awesome to behold. Unfortunately for him, I didn’t scare easily. Besides, I’d done battle with the Angel of Death and came out of it no worse for the wear, so really, what could Mr. Chang do to me? On top of that, I couldn’t die, so I figured I could handle anything else. “You embarrassed Mrs. Chang and me in front of our dearest friends. Edward, I’m not sure you should be marrying this girl. She’s no good for you.”
“Dear, I agree with your father,” Mrs. Chang said, nodding her head several times. “While I’m sure Margaret is a lovely girl,” she sent an insincere smile my way; “she just doesn’t fit in with the family, you understand?”
“I understand,” I broke in. Might as well go for broke. “I have too many of my own opinions to be a satisfactory Chang wife. I don’t know how to keep my mouth shut and my legs spread.”
“That’s exactly what I’m talking about,” Mr. Chang shouted, his fact turning red. I wanted to tell him to sit down so he wouldn’t have a heart attack, but I figured it was Ned’s turn to speak. Which he did after an eon.
“Mom, Dad, I need you to sit down and listen,” Ned said, struggling to keep his voice steady. He stood ramrod straight, clutching my hand as if it were a lifesaver. His grasp was clammy, which meant he was experiencing abject fear. Mr. and Mrs. Chang looked at each other before simultaneously lowering themselves on the divan. Mrs. Chang peered expectantly at Ned whereas Mr. Chang looked as if he was waiting for a bomb to drop. I squeezed Ned’s hand to give him strength, which spurred him to continue. “I have something to tell you. There’s no easy way to say it, so I’m just going to blurt it out.” He took a deep breath, looking from his mother to his father. “I’m gay.” He tensed his body as if awaiting a blow. Knowing what I knew of Mr. Chang, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility. He believed in ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’.
“What did you just say?” Mr. Chang asked, starting to rise. I tensed my body as well, prepared to get Ned the fuck out of there if things got too dicey.
“I heard what you said,” Mr. Chang interrupted, on his feet by now. Mrs. Chang, looking shell-shocked, stayed frozen in place. “You come into my house and start talking that kind of filth? Your mother and I didn’t raise you like that.” He was advancing towards Ned who watched his father approaching as if his father were a snake. “It’s this girl, isn’t it? She’s been a bad influence on you—got you thinking things that aren’t true.” I almost laughed at that one. Who got me drunk the first time? Why, Ned, of course. Who took me to get my first tattoo? Ned again. Who scoped out the boys to make sure I didn’t fall for a gay boy? Ding, ding, ding! It wasn’t I who corrupted Ned but the other way around. Besides, why the hell would I want Ned to be gay? That didn’t benefit me in any way.
“Dad, please,” Ned said, holding up a hand. I was glad to see him not backing down, but I thought it might be prudent to leave so his parents had time to digest Ned’s proclamation.
“Ned, maybe—” That was as far as I got before Mr. Chang reached me and pushed me to the ground.
“Shut up!” He screamed, totally out of control. “It’s all your fault, you stupid cunt, for making him this way.” I sat on the floor in shock, stunned that he’d actually pushed me over, not to mention him calling me a cunt. I paid no attention to what else he was saying as it didn’t make any sense, but I could feel my tailbone bruising.
“Dad, no!” Ned shouted, his eyes flashing.
“Edward, what are you doing?” Mrs. Chang asked, one eyebrow raised. As both father and son were named Edward, it was difficult to know to whom she was speaking. I didn’t particularly care, however, as a very angry, very big man was looming over me—his foot poised to kick me. I rolled out of the way in time just as Ned tackled his father, bringing him to the ground.
“Dad, back off!” Ned barked, sounding eerily like his father.
“Get off me, you ungrateful boy!” Mr. Chang thundered, struggling to free himself as I staggered to my feet. It was like watching a rite of passage with the younger man triumphing over the elder. Mr. Chang wasn’t going to take it docilely, however, and began swinging with the hand that wasn’t grabbing behind Ned’s back.
“Ned, come on,” I urged, not knowing if I wanted him to fight his father or extricate himself and leave. I suspected it was the latter with a bit of the former thrown in for good measure.
“You do not treat my friends like that,” Ned said, swinging at his father’s face. He hadn’t aimed well, and the blow glanced off the side of Mr. Chang’s cheek. Mr. Chang growled as he continued to try to hit his son. It looked like someone was going to get seriously hurt if I didn’t jump in the melee—as Mrs. Chang was still keening and moaning from her perch on the divan—so I waded in on my three-inch heels.
“Knock it off, both of you!” I grabbed each man by the neck and began to pull. Now, I couldn’t have hoped to physically tear them apart as they each outweighed me by at least sixty pounds; I just wanted to jostle them out of their rage. It worked. The minute I touched them, they deflated. I pulled Ned off his father and patted him down to make sure he was in one piece. OK, I confess that wasn’t the only reason I patted him down, but it was the primary one.
“Get the hell out of my house,” Mr. Chang thundered, scrambling to his feet. His face was an unhealthy shade of purple and his cheek was beginning to swell, so I rummaged through my purse for my cell phone in case I needed to call 9-1-1. “Don’t come back until you’re over this foolishness and until she is out of your life.” Of course, he had to be a drama queen—so that’s where Ned got it from—and point at me, even though it was perfectly clear whom he meant.
“With pleasure,” Ned snarled, looking nothing like his normal debonair self. He grabbed me by the hand and started pulling me out of the living room. Ham that I was, I couldn’t resist the last parting shot.
“Wait, what about our gifts? Do I get to keep them?” Ned and I were almost out of the living room when Mrs. Chang’s piercing wail stopped us.
“My mother’s ring!” The thought of losing that much money was enough to do what the sight of her husband and son fighting hadn’t—galvanize her to zoom across the room at an incredible speed. She grabbed my left hand—which, fortunately, wasn’t the one Ned was grasping—and started tugging the ring off my finger.
“Mom!” Ned was horrified at his mother’s crass behavior and tried to gently push her away from me. She wasn’t having any of that, however, as she was determined to wrench that sucker off my finger with little regard to the health of said finger.
“Mrs. Chang, please, allow me,” I said gracefully, extricating my hand from hers. With one sharp twist, I had the ring off and in her waiting palm. For once, I didn’t make a smart comment but simply turned on my heels and marched out of the living room with my head held as high as possible. Neither Ned nor I said anything as we got into the car. It was a good ten minutes later before Ned spoke. He was speaking so softly, I had to strain to hear him.
“Is this what God wanted to happen when I told my parents? What kind of God would give me to parents such as that? Was that really God? Or was it the devil?” He kept muttering these statements along with others which were equally despairing. I braced myself for the showing of the All Mighty to defend himself as He seemed awfully sensitive, but He didn’t appear.
“Ned, you had to tell them,” I said, wisely refraining from commenting on God. “We’ve pretended long enough. What was next, pretend getting married to satisfy your parents? It wouldn’t have been enough. They would have wanted grandchildren, and you know there’s no way you could make that happen.” The one time we tried to have sex, he couldn’t even get an erection. He tried thinking of Brandon Lee (who was alive at the time) naked, but even that didn’t get him excited. We knew then that he was one-hundred percent homo.
“I know, Margaret. It’s just, well, couldn’t God have warned me? I expected them to freak, but not like this.” Ned’s lip was beginning to swell, but it didn’t have anything on the bruised look in his eyes.
I didn’t say anything as I patted his hand. There was nothing to say to alleviate his agony. All I could think of were clichés and trite bon mots. I had the tendency to be flippant at the wrong time, which was exactly what I didn’t want to be at this moment. However, my wit was my last defense. I didn’t know how to react without it. I satisfied myself with patting Ned’s hand as it lay in his lap. I knew it wasn’t enough, but it was all I could do. Ned clutched my hand and held it as he drove me home. We didn’t say anything else the rest of the drive.