I dress in a pair of nice black slacks and a high-neck red blouse before going to the kitchen to patch together a semblance of a dinner. There’s some macaroni and cheese from the deli, and I make some boxed mashed potatoes as well. I don’t care what anyone says—I love that shit. I toast two piece s of bread, cut up an orange, and call it a day. After I’m done, I wash up the dishes. I used to let them sit in the sink until the flies started circulating, but I turned over a new leaf once I got sick of my own slovenly ways. It’s a little thing, but I admit it makes me feel better when I see the empty sink and the clean counters. I give the cats a few more treats before vegging on the couch for a half hour. Then, I leave to visit Mrs. Yang at the church. Once I’m there, I gird my loins to enter the belly of the beast. Reverend Yang is a malleable man, but I have a hunch that Mrs. Yang will not be as easy to manipulate. I take several smooth, slow breaths before entering the church and heading for Reverend Yang’s office. I hesitate, then I knock on the door. It’s promptly opened, and Mrs. Yang is staring at me with steel in her eyes.
“Come in.” Mrs. Yang holds the door wider and steps backwards. She is wearing a low-cut ice blue blouse and a tight black miniskirt. Her hair is swept up in a high bun, and she looks fantastic. I’m a little puzzled, however, as to why she’s so dressed up. Maybe she’s meeting someone after me, someone of the male persuasion. Maybe that’s why she doesn’t mind about Reverend Yang’s affairs.
“Thank you for seeing me, Mrs. Yang.” I step inside and close the door behind me.
“Please, call me Sharon.” Mrs. Yang places her hand on my arm and rubs. I blink at her. If she were a guy, I’d say she was hitting on me. “That’s what my friends call me. Come. Sit down.” She sits on the couch and pats the cushion next to her.
“Thank you.” I sit next to Sharon, but I keep a healthy space between us. “To be frank, I’m surprised you agreed to talk to me after what I emailed you. Why did you? Agree, I mean.”
“Curiosity, more than anything,” Sharon says, her eyes fastened on mine. “I wanted to see Marcus’s latest. See what you had that I don’t.” She looks me up and down, and a slow smile creeps on her face.
“Excuse me?” I say, sure I’d heard her incorrectly.
“You have bigger tits, true, but I think my ass is better than yours.” Sharon’s still looking at me hungrily, and I’m confused as to what she’s trying to do.
“Sharon, you’re misinformed,” I say, keeping an eye on her. She doesn’t seem angry, but that could change on a dime. “Reverend Yang and I are not having an affair.” Sharon starts laughing, and she can’t stop.
“How did I know you’d say that? Can’t you at least be original?” Sharon stops laughing abruptly, and her eyes are cold.
“Sharon, it’s true. I am not sleeping with your husband.” I stare at Sharon, and our eyes are waging a private war. “I don’t poach other people’s property.”
“Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mind that Marcus has his dalliances—it takes the stress off of me. We have an agreement—we both look the other way as long as nothing gets too serious.” Sharon’s eyes shift from cold to seductive. “I can understand his attraction to you. You’re quite different from the hausfraus at the church. I’ve heard that you swing both ways.” She leans forward and plants a kiss on my mouth. It’s not unpleasant, but I have no interest in her. OK, that’s not completely true, but I don’t want to complicate the matter even further. Then she places her hand on my tit, over my shirt, and I remember how much I miss the touch of a woman. She unbuttons my shirt and slips her hand under my shirt and over my bra. When she tweaks my nipple through my bra, I come to my senses.
“We can’t do this.” I pull away and button my blouse. “You’re an attractive woman, but this is too much.”
“I don’t see why not. If you can fuck around with my husband, why not me?” Sharon asks, her eyes hard again. There’s an undercurrent going on that I don’t like, and I don’t want anything to do with this volatile woman. I stand up, suddenly exasperated.
“Sharon. I am not having an affair with your husband. I am not going to have an affair with you. I don’t know the game you’re playing with your husband, but I want no part of it.” I start toward the door, but she stops me by placing a hand on my arm.
“Megan, I really don’t care if you’re sleeping with my husband. I know he’s not serious about you. He was never serious about anyone here except—” Sharon stops, and I curse her for not supplying me with the name, if only to confirm my suspicions.
“Hayley Wu,” I say, tired of her tap-dancing.
“Yes,” Sharon says before she can stop herself. “That slut wouldn’t leave my husband alone, even after he broke it off.” There’s venom in her voice, and I recoil from it. I’m also unsure if I should believe her because of the emails I read from both Reverend Yang and Hayley Wu.
“I need to go.” I don’t want any part of this because there’s something seriously wrong with this woman.
“Don’t go,” Sharon says, grabbing my arm again. “We can have such a good time.” She kisses the back of my neck, but all I feel is disgust.
“No, Sharon.” I pull away and hurry out the door as fast as I can. I glance behind me, but Sharon has apparently stayed put. I make it to my car without further bother, and I lock the doors with alacrity. Sharon Yang is an attractive woman, but there’s something rotten at her core. It seems I was wrong about her being jealous of Reverend Yang’s affairs. They have some sort of sick game going on, and I want absolutely no part of it. I do believe Sharon when she says that she only cares if Reverend Yang becomes too attached to someone, and the last someone was Hayley Wu. Damn it. I forgot to ask her about cooking the books, which may be another reason she hit on me in the first place. She’s a cold-hearted woman who is looking out for number one, and I don’t want any part of her. I also wouldn’t be surprised if she did something to Bob if he threatened her way of life, but where’s his body then?
I’m still rattled by the time I get home. I feed the cats their treats, go upstairs to take a quick shower, and change into sweats. I make myself a cup of chamomile tea in the kitchen and take it to the living room. I don’t bother looking at the comments on my last post because I need to write. I pull up my website and start a new post.
Marriage is complicated by any standard, and it’s not something I understand at all. When I was a child, my father walked out on us when I was three. My mother never recovered from it, and she slowly drank herself to death. My older sister, who was eight years older, took care of me and younger sister as best she could, but she was still a child herself.
You can understand why I never took the ‘til death do we part’ business seriously at all. I’m not bitter about it, but I do have a healthy suspicion of eternal love. It’s probably why all my relationships have come to shit, and I’m not sure how I can change that. I go into every relationship thinking that my lover is going to betray me at some time. I feel as if I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop, so I start pushing away my lover before she or he can walk away from me.
It’s a vicious cycle. I expect people to hurt me, and then I do everything in my power to make sure it happens. Then, I can be grimly smug in my assessment that love is bullshit while I sit alone on my couch with my two cats and my laptop to keep me company. The sad thing is I’m aware of my flaws, but I seem unable to act differently. I pride myself on my intelligence, but it gets me in trouble, sometimes, too. I believe I can think my way out of anything, and then I get frustrated when I can’t. If it’s my brain that gets me into trouble, then it’s not going to be my brain that won’t get me out of it.
Do I even want a romantic relationship? It’s hard to say. I want sex and companionship, but I also like sleeping in my own bed alone with my two cats. I have said it before, and I’ll say it again. I don’t want to get married. Ever. That’s the one thing I do know. Most marriages I’ve seen have soured me on the idea, and I think it’s antiquated to boot. I’m not saying I can’t be in a committed relationship, but I don’t see why the state has to get involved.
I write for another half an hour. It seems I have a lot to say about marriage. I don’t publish it yet because I’m not done, but I have more thinking to do. My recent exposure to Reverend and Mrs. Yang has left me cold. I need to talk to Reverend Yang, but I can barely bring myself to have anything to do with them. Reluctantly, I call Reverend Yang, and he answers on the first ring.
“Megan. So nice to hear from you.” Reverend Yang’s voice sounds automatic, but I chalk it up to stress.
“I need to talk to you, Reverend Yang. As soon as possible.” My voice is cold, but I can’t put on the butter for this man any longer. I don’t mind him so much, but his wife gives me the creeps.
“I can give you fifteen minutes if you come here now.” Reverend Yang says. His voice is just as terse as mine.
“I’ll be there as soon as possible.” I stifle a groan at having to go out again and to the same damn place, but it can’t be helped. I’m going to confront the reverend with everything I have, then I’ll get the hell out of there. Briefly, I wonder where he was when I was there earlier, but then dismiss it as unimportant. I quickly change into black slacks and a plain black blouse then slip out the door. I make good time back to the church, and I march myself to Reverend Yang’s office.
“Come in.” Reverend Yang motions for me to go inside the office before closing the door behind me. His rumpled red tie with thin black stripes is unknotted and dangling from his neck. I’ve never seen him so flustered. “Have a seat.” Reverend Yang gestures at the couch, and I sit down. He sits next to me, but not too close. He doesn’t say anything, and for a minute, neither do I. I’m tired of the lies and the innuendoes, and I need this to be over.
“Reverend Yang. We need to talk, and I need you to be honest with me.” I stare at Reverend Yang, but he refuses to look into my eyes. “Your wife just hit on me not an hour ago, and I want to know what the hell is going on with you two.” It’s not really what I want to talk about, but it’s foremost on my mind.
“We have an agreement. We look the other way at each other’s peccadilloes. It’s served us well so far.” There’s a tic under Reverend Yang’s eye, and he looks as if he hasn’t slept since I last saw him.
“What about Katie Parker?” I ask. I am leaving it all out on the table tonight. “Your wife, excuse me, girlfriend at the time, didn’t overlook that.”
“That was a mistake,” Reverend Yang says, his eyes frosty. “She told me she was on birth control, but she was clearly lying. Sharon just set her straight about it, that’s all.” He’s still not looking at me, and I’m tired of it.
“Reverend Yang, stop lying to me. I’ve had enough, and it’s unseemly for a man of the cloth.” My tone is curt, and I’m an inch from exploding. I take a smooth and slow breath, but it doesn’t help. My brother-in-law is missing, and everyone from his church is giving me the run around. I stare hard at Reverend Yang, and, predictably, he caves.
“Megan, I knew from the minute I met Sharon that she would be the perfect wife for me. We were so compatible, we never fought.” He takes a deep breath and slowly exhales. “Then Katie came along. She was so intense and intelligent—frighteningly so. And passionate? No one could touch her. She made me feel alive in a way no one has since.” I look askance at Reverend Yang. He sounds more like a love-struck schoolboy than a grownup pastor. He could be writing a Harlequin Romance with that kind of drivel. I don’t say anything, however, as I don’t want to stem the tide. “I loved her, Megan, I truly did. When she told me she was pregnant, I was stunned, but also over the moon. I was going to leave Sharon and marry Katie.”
“What?” I sit up in shock and gape at him. For a prospective pastor, that would have been career suicide. Reverend Yang correctly interprets my stare and continues.
“I didn’t care about my career at that point. I didn’t care about anything other than Katie and our child. I wanted that dream more than anything I’d ever wanted in my life up until that point.” Reverend Yang’s eyes are full of longing as he explains what happened next.
“Marcus, we need to talk.” Sharon stepped into Marcus’s apartment and closed the door behind her. She had a determined look in her eyes, one Marcus well recognized.
“Sure, Sharon. Come on in.” Marcus opened the door and stepped backwards, allowing Sharon into the hallway. Once Sharon removed her shoes, they go into the living room. Sharon refused refreshments and got straight to the point.
“You need to drop Katie. Now.” Sharon crossed her legs and stared at Marcus until he looked away. “It was fine when it was all fun and games, but now that she’s pregnant, it’s a different story.” Sharon leaned forward and waited for Marcus’s response, but he stayed quiet. “That was our agreement, remember? We would break things off if they became cumbersome. I would say this qualifies.” Still, Marcus didn’t answer, and Sharon turned bright red. “Marcus. Don’t be stupid. Don’t throw your life away over this.”
“I’m sorry, Sharon,” Marcus began, his eyes sorrowful. “You are a wonderful woman, but—”
“Don’t say something you can’t take back.” Sharon digs her talons into Marcus’s arm, and he winces. “You don’t want to disappoint your father, do you?”
“My father is the chairman of the board of the LA branch, our parent branch. He was the head pastor until last year,” Reverend Yang says before returning to his story.
“Sharon, Dad wouldn’t want me to be a pastor just to follow in his footsteps. He wants me to be my own man.” Marcus pulled back from Sharon, but she wouldn’t let go of his arm.
“Do you really want to do this, Marcus?” Sharon hissed, her eyes black. “Do you really want me to bring up Texas?”
“What happened in Texas?” I ask, cutting into his recitation. He’s taking his sweet time, but I don’t want to rush him in case he shuts down completely.
“A misunderstanding,” Reverend Yang says firmly, but his eyes cut away from mine once again. I poke him in the arm with a stiff finger, and he adds, “There was a girl. She told me she was sixteen, but she was three weeks shy of that.” He flushes, and it’s the first time I’ve seen him truly ashamed. “I was eighteen and horny at summer camp.” I can connect the dots. The girl was underage, which technically is illegal, but fifteen and eighteen aren’t that far apart, and there are extenuating circumstances sometimes. I don’t know if this is one of those cases, though.
“How did Sharon know about it?” I ask, keeping my opinions to myself.
“I told her on our third date. Foolishly. She’s held it over my head ever since.” Reverend Yang’s mouth twists into a bitter smile. “Megan, Sharon is a perfect wife in many ways, but….” His voice trails off.
“So you gave in on Katie?” I ask, shifting in my seat. This is a sordid tale, and while it gives me more background on the Yangs, I’m not sure it has anything to do with Bob’s disappearance. Still, I find the vagaries of the human heart fascinating, and I’m eager to hear the rest of Reverend Yang’s story. He doesn’t answer for a minute, and I’m puzzled as to his silence. He’s been forthcoming up to this point, so why hesitate now?
“I talked to her that night.”
“Katie, we need to talk.” Reverend Yang stepped into Katie’s apartment and shut the door behind him. He leaned his forehead against the door for a minute before turning to face Katie. She was wearing a loose shift dress, and she was glowing in that way that pregnant women had. Her lips were set, however, as if she knew what was coming.
“Come in, Marcus. Would you like something to drink?” Katie’s voice was formal, as if she and Marcus hadn’t been intimate in the recent past.
“No, I’m fine.” Marcus took off his shoes. No matter how many times Katie had told him it wasn’t necessary, he couldn’t break out of the habit. They walked into the living room, sitting side by side on the couch. Katie made sure to leave plenty of room between them, and she refused to look in his direction. Marcus cleared his throat and said, “I have to break things off, Katie. I’m sorry.”
“You really are sorry, Marcus,” Katie said coldly. “Can’t cut the apron strings, can you? She has them wrapped firmly around your neck.”
“Sharon’s a good woman,” Marcus said automatically. “She’s just looking out for my best interest.”
“No, she’s looking out for her best interest,” Katie retorted. Her face was flushed, and she looked as if she were about to cry. “You’re dumping me? Fine. Me and the baby don’t need you.” She stood up, staring down at Marcus with her fists on her hips.
“Katie, let’s not be hasty.” Marcus stayed where he was and pulled Katie back onto the couch. She stumbled and fell in his lap, and she noticed he was hard. Despite her ire, she couldn’t help but get aroused. They might argue like cats and dogs, but they never had problems in bed. She climbed off Marcus’s lap and sat back on the couch.
“You said you wanted to break up with me, so what else is there to say?” Katie asked, most of the heat gone.
“I want to know what you’re going to do about our child,” Marcus said, nodding at Katie’s belly.
“None of your business now that you’ve dumped me.” Katie wasn’t giving an inch, which was one reason Marcus had fallen for her in the first place.
“I want to make sure you’re taken care of, no matter what you choose to do.” Marcus said and patted Katie’s hand. “Would a hundred thousand cover it?” He pulled out a check and handed it to Katie.
“You think you can pay me off?” Katie jumped up from the couch and glared at Marcus. “Just because I don’t come from money, doesn’t mean I’m cheap.”
“I want to do right by you and our child,” Marcus said.
“If you really wanted to do that, you’d wouldn’t be dumping me.” Katie’s eyes were sad and her voice serious. “But, I understand. I don’t fit your lifestyle, do I?”