Chapter Nine; Part Two
I settled back to watch the movie, enjoying being with ‘my people’. Oh, I knew that was more fantasy than reality, but it was nice to be surrounded by Asians. Even better, people had no compunctions about yelling things at the screen, so it was more of an interactive experience than if we’d gone to an American cinema. I booed lustily every time a bad guy came on screen, and I whistled with enthusiasm for my girl, Michelle Yeoh. When Donnie Yen tried to put the moves on her after realizing who she was, well, I almost lost it then and there. The two of them were favorites of mine, and so damned good-looking. The only thing that would make it even better would be if Tony Leung Chiu Wai were in the movie as well. Maggie Cheung, too. Oh, and Jet Li, of course. That would be a dream come true.
“Wow, she’s really good,” Ted commented, whistling through his fingers as Michelle executed yet another complicated maneuver. We enjoyed the rest of the movie in a very vocal manner.
“What’s the second movie?” I asked, stretching at the end of the first. I was fading slightly, but I knew I’d perk up for something good.
“Irma Vep,” Ted said, glancing at the paper in his hand. It was a poster for the evening, but I didn’t know where he had gotten it. “Maggie Cheung is hot in black leather.”
“Yeah, but I don’t like the flashing lights.” I shrugged. “It’s up to you. We have to at least go to the concessions so Tamara can make her move.” Ted laughed and playfully socked me in the arm. We grabbed our jackets from our seats so they wouldn’t be stolen. Ted grabbed my hand and marched me into the lobby. I saw the two girls who’d been dissing me in the bathroom standing in line for popcorn. I nudged Ted in the side and nodded at the girls. He hesitated before taking me over to the line and standing a few people behind them. He radiated so much personality, I was surprised the people in front of him didn’t get singed. He pulled me closer to him as the two girls turned; I was meanly glad to see the expression on their faces when he draped his arm around my shoulders. I snuggled against his chest, tilting my head up so I could look seductively at him. That was enough to spur Tamara to walk over to us.
“Teddy! It’s so good to see you!” Tamara squealed, nudging me out of the way. Even though she was ninety-five pounds soaking wet, she packed a mean elbow. I moved to the side so I could enjoy the show. The other girl was watching, too, as well as a half dozen other people. Tamara raised on her tiptoes so she could plant a wet one on Ted’s lips. He pulled back quickly, smiling down as he did. I stifled a laugh at the sight of red lipstick smeared across his lips. “Oops, I marked you.” Tamara used her finger to rub sensuously against Ted’s lips. By the looks of the erection building in his pants, he wasn’t totally adverse to her charms. Like a snake honed in on its prey, Tamara noticed Ted’s reaction as well.
“Tamara. It’s been a while.” Ted held his arms slightly in front of his body to protect himself from Tamara’s advances. I suppose if I were a good person, I would extricate him from the situation. However, I was enjoying myself much too much to do that, so I watched Ted suffer without doing a damn thing. “This is my date, Margaret Wang. Margaret, this is Tamara Huang. Her friend is Natalie Wu.” Two more big-shot families in the Taiwanese community. Big fucking deal.
“Wang? Are you related to Andrew Wang?” Tamara asked sweetly, knowing full well I wasn’t. Andrew Wang was perhaps the most well-known business man in the Taiwanese community, and I was sure Tamara knew his family history by heart.
“Nope,” I said cheerfully. “I am related to Peter Wang, however. Does that count?” Tamara’s mouth dropped open at the name of a notorious criminal in Taiwan. He was on their top ten most wanted list and had been for fifteen years. He was well on his way to becoming an urban legend over there. “He’s a second cousin once removed or something like that.”
“Oh, how interesting.” Tamara looked as if she wanted to say something far less banal, but good breeding stopped her. Of course, she hadn’t display the same taste in the restroom, but she hadn’t realized I was there, either. She turned back to Ted, subtly blocking me from Ted’s view. To her shock and my amusement, Ted reached around her and pulled me to him. I didn’t mind, and it gave me the opportunity to show Tamara my pearly whites.
“Have you seen Lucinda lately?” Natalie blurted out, earning a dirty look from Tamara. I understood Tamara’s frustration as it was hard to work somebody over if he were distracted by the name of his former fiancée.
“Nope, not for a while,” Ted said easily, placing his hand on the small of my back. He began caressing the skin there, much to the discomfort of Tamara and Natalie. I, however, was becoming turned on. “Except when I go to my parents’ church, obviously.”
“She misses you a lot,” Natalie continued, seemingly oblivious to the growing ire of the alpha female named Tamara. I might have to reassess my conclusion that Natalie was the follower because she was sure stomping on Tamara’s toes. Maybe she was a loyal toady of Lucinda’s and was only hanging out with Tamara because Lucinda wasn’t available. This was better than any Chinese soap opera, and I didn’t even have to pay to watch it. I waited to hear what Natalie would say next. “She cries about you all the time, you know. She’s even seeing a therapist to understand why she messed up so badly when she was with you. She’s really trying, Teddy.”
“I’m glad for her,” Ted said politely. He turned to me and said, “Margaret, do you mind if we skip the second movie? I have the sudden urge to blow this joint.”
“No problem,” I said promptly. “We can have a nightcap at my place.” The look on Tamara’s face was indescribable, and I knew that she would lie awake at nights thinking how to ensnare Ted and rip my heart out at the same time. Natalie, on the other hand, just looked sad. I think she really believed what she said about Lucinda and was secretly rooting for Ted and Lucinda to reunite.
“Then let’s go,” Ted said, grinning at me. “Nice to see you again, Tamara, Natalie. Have a good evening.” He waved at them before steering me out of the theater. The minute we were around the corner, he apologized to me for being so highhanded. I assured him it was fine, and we walked silently back to his car. It wasn’t a bad silence, however, just a comfortable one. When we reached his car, I stopped and turned to him.
“I meant it, you know. I would love to have you come over for a nightcap.” I didn’t know why I’d said that as I hadn’t even been thinking it. Of course, I’d like him to come over, but I didn’t want to have sex with him on our first date, did I? It wouldn’t bode well for our future.
“I’d like that,” Ted said, unlocking his car doors. “As long as it’s not charity.” There was a vulnerable quality to his voice which hadn’t been there before. It let me know that he wasn’t so sure of himself, which endeared him to me.
“It’s not,” I said firmly. “I’m not that nice a person.”
We talked about the movie on the way to my car. Ted opened up a bit about his ex-fiancée, but he didn’t get into the gory details. He also didn’t paint her as a total bitch, which I appreciated. Even if she was the one who cheated on him, there had to be something in their relationship which drove her to it. I wasn’t trying to make excuses for her, but something like that didn’t come out of the blue. Ted admitted that he had stayed with her more out of familial duty than true love. It was only after she’d cheated on him numerous times that he realized how damaging his behavior was. That’s the reason he broke up with her, more so than because of her affairs. Of course, she refused to believe it and kept telling him she’d change if he’d only come back to her. He’d hated hurting her like that, but he knew it was better for both of them in the long run.
I told him about Gary, and the sting of it still bit into my flesh. Ted booed at the appropriate times, for which I was grateful. I had come to realize, however, that I hadn’t been the best girlfriend, either. I took Gary for granted much of the time, and I rarely showed him how deeply I loved him. Again, I wasn’t making excuse for his behavior as it was truly heinous in betraying the trust of his students. However, I knew I wasn’t totally blameless in the break-up, either, as no one ever was. It was nice to be able to talk about it with someone who understood. Even Ned, as sweet as he was, didn’t quite understand the mixture of guilt, relief, and rage I felt when I caught Gary with his nubile eighteen-year old.
“Follow me,” I said to Ted when we reached my car. As I drove back to my place, I thought about how messy my apartment was. I hadn’t cleaned it since my mother came over—that’s when I tended to clean—and I wasn’t the neatest of people. I hadn’t planned on having Ted come over tonight, and I was ruing my big mouth as I pulled up to the curb. “It’s a mess,” I warned Ted as I opened the door to my apartment. To my relief, it wasn’t quite as bad as I remembered it. Sure, there was stray clothing here and there, but at least the dust wasn’t visible to the naked eye. One advantage of living alone—dirt took longer to build up.
“Nice digs,” Ted said, glancing around. I wasn’t the homiest of women, so I hadn’t decorated much. A few knickknacks here and there, a random painting on the wall. The most I’d done was paint the walls of each room a different vibrant color—with the permission of my landlord, of course. “Very comfortable.” I figured that was his way of saying messy without being mean about it. I could live with that. We took off our shoes and walked into the apartment.
“Can I get you something to drink? I have MGD, some vodka, some rum. I also have tea if you’d prefer.”
“I better take the tea,” Ted said after a moment’s hesitation. “Don’t want to be sloshed for the drive home.” I appreciated the fact that he didn’t assume he’d be spending the night. I ushered him into the living room before retreating to the kitchen. I decided to have a rum and Diet Pepsi since I didn’t have to be anywhere in the morning. I waited for the water to boil before making the tea.
“Here you go,” I said, handing the mug over to Ted. “It’s oolong. Hope that’s OK.”
“One of my favorites,” Ted smiled, holding out his mug. “To a great hostess and an even better person.” I clinked my glass against his mug before sitting next to him on the couch. Immediately, I realized that might not have been the smartest move if I wasn’t planning on sleeping with him tonight. He was emitting strong waves of pheromones, as was I. I scooted away from him a couple inches before taking a healthy slug of my drink. This was going to be a test of wills.
“So, uh, tell me about your poetry,” I said hastily, trying to get my hormones under control. I listened closely as Ted talked, relishing the passion with which he spoke. I had to admit I wasn’t paying as much attention to his actual words, but I got the gist of what he was saying.
In the middle of our discussion, somehow, we ended up kissing. It was a nice kiss, though nothing like the ones I’d shared with Lucifer. However, there was a comfortableness I felt with Ted that hadn’t been present—obviously—in my intimacies with Lucifer. We kept kissing for several minutes before breaking apart. We looked at each other for a few seconds before kissing again. I felt his hardness against my leg as I slipped my arms around his back. I pressed harder against him as we kissed and almost ended up in his lap. I could feel his hand straying down my back, and I caught my breath. This was the moment of truth. If we didn’t stop now, we were going to have sex. I was trying to decide what I wanted to do—and if I had condoms in the house—when Ted broke away from me.
“I better go,” Ted said, his breathing labored. He set his mug down on the coffee table and stood up with alacrity.
“Did I do something wrong?” I asked, confused by his behavior. I thought we were getting along just fine, and now he wanted to go?
“No, not at all.” Ted took my hand and squeezed it. “If I stay, we might go further than I want. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just….” He trailed off, not able to articulate what he was feeling. That was OK with me, however, as I knew what he meant. I squeezed his hand in return and walked him to the front door, watching as he put on his shoes. He straightened up before saying, “I had a really good time tonight. May I call you?”
“Yes, I’d like that.” I gave him my numbers in case he had lost them, and I made sure I had his as well. After one last passionate kiss, he was gone. I took a shower and went to bed. Ned would have to wait until tomorrow—later today—for a report from me.
“Delivery for Margaret Wang.” It was twelve-thirty Saturday afternoon, and I had just gotten up ten minutes ago. Fortunately, I was dressed when the buzzer rang.
“I’ll be right there.” I knew better than to buzz in a delivery man, especially when I wasn’t expecting anything. I opened the door cautiously and peeked out at a bored-looking delivery guy with the most gorgeous arrangement of orchids I’d ever seen. Were they from Ted so soon after our date?
“For you.” He thrust the flowers at me, tipping his cap as he left. I hurried upstairs and into my apartment before looking for a card. It took me a few seconds to find it buried among the flora. It read, ‘Margaret, thank you for the lovely time Wednesday night. Until we meet again. Fondly, Alan.’ Alan! Alan Rickman had sent me flowers! I swayed in the hallway, unable to comprehend my reality. Coming to my senses, I went into the kitchen to put the orchids in a vase so I could enjoy them properly. When I was through arranging them, I carried them into the living room and set them on the coffee table. I couldn’t believe he’d sent them. When the phone rang, I answered it before I could think twice about it. It was my mother.
“So, you say you’ll call and then you don’t. Are you avoiding me, Meg?” Her tone was strident, but I could hear the hurt underneath.
“I’m sorry, Mom,” I said with as much sincerity as I could muster. I loved my mother, but I found it tedious to talk to her when I had so many things going on in my life. “I’ve been busy.” Wrong choice of words.
“Too busy to call your mother who’s had to suffer in the community because of your thoughtlessness? I don’t know how you could be so cruel to Ned.” She was still on that? I thought I’d gotten through to her that Ned and I had never been engaged; obviously, I was wrong.
“Mom, once and for all, Ned and I are just friends. We have never dated, and we’ve never been engaged. Anything you hear is misinformation. Understand?” I struggled not to sound sharp, but I didn’t quite succeed. I loved my mother, but I didn’t always like her.
“Why are you lying to your own mother? I heard from many people about you and Ned. I know you went to a party at his parents’ house to announce your engagement. You tell others before you tell your own mother, and then you break up the same night! It’s too much.” My mother’s voice had risen as she ranted, causing me to hold the phone away from my ear. As she went on and on about her shame and my ingratitude, I suddenly became fed up. Not only did I have to deal with the Almighty knocking me up and the devil trying to seduce me, I had to listen to my mother berate me for something that never really happened.
“Mom, enough,” I interrupted, not caring that it would anger her further. “If you stop talking for five seconds, I’ll tell you the real story.” An outraged silence met my edict. I knew she was offended, but I was counting on her insatiable desire to know the truth to outweigh her miff. I was right because not one minute later, she ordered me to tell her.
Taking a deep breath, I spilled it all. I told her that Ned was gay, that I’d been covering for him for these many years, and that he’d told his parents the truth the night of the party. Yes, his parents had thought we were engaged, and yes, I showed up to the party ostensibly as Ned’s fiancée—however, none of it was true. I had acted abominably at the party so the other parents would be glad for the Changs when Ned and I ‘broke up’. It was an elaborate farce which was why I never thought it necessary to tell her. I had forgotten how thorough the Taiwanese gossip line was, however, and how some Taiwanese rejoice in the misfortune of others. Especially the elite who interpreted someone else’s shame to mean their own increase of glory. In short, I had never been engaged to Ned. I underscored that point several times.
“Mom, you still there?” I had finished my tale to dead silence, and I couldn’t tell over the phone if my mother was shocked, angry, disgusted, or all of the above. I was waiting for a reply when I heard a solitary click. She hung up on me! My mother had hung up on me! That was a first in our relationship and oddly disturbing. I contemplated calling her back but decided against it. I knew my mother, and I knew better than to talk to her when she was in a snit. I shrugged and called Ned who shrieked when he heard my voice.
Great. Now I had a drama queen to placate as well. I made soothing noises while reminding him that I had gone out at nine o’clock at night. I knew he probably would have been up when I got home from my date—or out—Ned was a night owl—but I’d wanted some time to savor my first date with Ted before dishing it to death. Ned grudgingly backed down when he realized that I spoke the truth. He allowed me to tell my story, interposing comments when he saw fit. When I told him about Tamara and her bold attempt to cut me out of the picture, he hissed.
“Oh, girlfriend did not even try,” he sniped. I could practically hear the finger-snaps he would have done to accompany his words. “What was she thinking, dissing you like that? Good thing Ted stood up to her, bee-yotch.”
“I like him,” I admitted, the words sounding strange to my ears. After I had caught Gary with his pants down, I had vowed never to be hurt like that again. Funny, then, how I was ready to jump into the dating pool so soon after the end of my long-term relationship. If I were to be honest, however, I’d have to admit that Gary and I were done long before Miss Limber-Limbs entered the picture. She was merely the exclamation point I couldn’t miss.
“He’s one of the good ones,” Ned said, dropping the camp. “Do you know what he said to me at the party after you went back inside?” I didn’t because I hadn’t wanted to ask. I knew Ned would tell me if he wanted me to know. “He said that since we’d been friends for such a long time, he only wanted one thing for me. To be happy. Then he gave me a hug and a pat on the ass.”
“He did not!” I said, my tone indignant. “Not that I would care, but I think you’re making shit up.”
“A boy can dream, can’t he?” Ned retorted, laughing like mad. He sounded better than he had in a week, which raised my spirits as well.
“Listen, you better not wear him out when you go out tonight, you here? I want the boy in fighting shape the next time I see him.” I was about to add something when my cell phone rang. Picking it up, I saw that it was Liz. “Ned, I gotta go. It’s my sister.” I hung up with Ned before picking up my cell phone. “Hey, Liz. How’s it going?”
“Margaret, Mom just called me.” Liz’s voice was strained, which meant that she was about to get in the middle of an argument again. She was the designated mediator in the family, and it was a role she did well. However, if she was going to talk about Ned, well, then we might have to go at it. “She’s pretty upset. I couldn’t understand everything she was saying, but I gather that Ned is gay?” She made it a question, not a statement. What’s more, she waited for me to answer.
“Yes, he is.” I intended on making this as hard as possible as I was pretty upset with my mother, myself. I knew it wasn’t Liz’s fault or fight, but she’s the one who chose to interfere. Or, as she would call it, intervene.
“Mom thinks you shouldn’t be friends with him any more. She’s worried that he might be a bad influence on you.” Sure, he was, but not because he was gay. I knew better than to argue, but I had to say something.
“What do you, think, Liz? Should I turn my back on my best friend who isn’t any different than he was yesterday just because he’s gay? Is that what your God would have me do?”
“It’s a sin, Margaret,” Liz said, her voice still taut. “It says so in the Bible.”
“It also says we shouldn’t wear synthetic fibers and that a man should marry his dead brother’s widow,” I pointed out. “Do you think we should follow those verses as well?”
“It’s not the same thing,” Liz protested vehemently. “It’s immoral what he’s doing. He’ll go to Hell.”
“What the religious right is doing in Africa is immoral,” I said, my own voice rising. “What the conservatives are doing in this country is immoral as well. Whom Ned loves is not immoral!” How I wished I could tell her what God had said on the subject, but she’d only think I was blaspheming. Or, she’d see it as more proof that I needed to be saved. Funny, wasn’t it, that the most devout among us were usually the last to believe in true miracles?
“Look, Margaret,” Liz began, her tone placating. It was her nature to try to ameliorate a tense situation, but I wasn’t biting.
“No, you look, Liz,” I interrupted, still steaming. “I’m sure you’ve met gay people at the U. Do you honestly think all of them are going to Hell? What about Hitler? He was Catholic. Is he in Heaven?” The conversation was making me sad and cranky. “I have to go, Liz.”
“What should I tell Mom?” Liz’s voice was small as she forced out the question.
“Anything you want.” I hung up with Liz, feeling infinitely worse for the wear. What was it about family that could tear you down in no seconds flat? The buzzer startled me as I still wasn’t expecting anybody.