“She took the money after much discussion. She didn’t want it, but I insisted.” Reverend Yang’s eyes tear up, and I can tell he’s not over Katie yet. He takes a deep breath and blurts out, “Can I trust you, Megan?” It’s clear there’s something burdening him, and I’ll say whatever he wants to hear in order to get him to reveal the information.
“Yes, Marcus. I’m a very good listener, and I know how to be discreet.” I squeeze Reverend Yang’s hand, and he squeezes it in return.
“She’s here. In St. Cloud. With our daughter.”
“What?!” I shriek, snatching my hand away. I stare at Reverend Yang as if he’s spoken Greek, though I’m fairly sure he hasn’t.
“I pay for her apartment, discreetly, and I go up once a month or so to see our daughter.” Reverend Yang continues. “She’s so smart and pretty and just the best thing I’ve ever done.” Reverend Yang’s eyes are shining, and it makes me sad that he’s living a double life because he doesn’t have the courage to be his own man.
“I take it Sharon doesn’t know,” I say, though I don’t need confirmation.
“No! She would kill me if she knew.”
“Do Katie’s sisters know?”
“No. They all think she’s living in Orange County.”
“Marcus. How have you been able to keep it a secret for so long?” I am flabbergasted. Whatever I was expecting, it wasn’t this.
“Sharon and I don’t really talk, and, well, none of my family are here, so it’s easy to keep them in the dark.” Reverend Yang runs his hand through his hair and slumps against the couch. Suddenly, he bursts into tears, and I pull him to my chest.
“There, there, Marcus,” I say, stroking his hair. “Let it all out.” That only encourages him to cry even harder, which he does for several minutes.
“I really can’t do this any longer,” Reverend Yang says. “It’s such a charade.”
“Marcus, I’m sorry about your situation. I know it’s rough on you, but we really need to talk about why I’m here.” I pull back and straighten my shirt. There’s snot on it, and I’m not sure it’ll come out.
“Sure. What do you want to know?” Marcus is a broken man, and I don’t feel comfortable grilling him, but I soldier on.
“I need to know what happened with you and Hayley Wu. The truth.” I squelch my misgivings, trying not to see his hangdog look.
“Lee,” Reverend Yang says, his voice coming alive. “She was the first woman to make me feel alive in a long time, but….”
“You’re breaking it off?” Lee says, her hands on her hips. She thrusts her finger in Reverend Yang’s face and shakes it. “You can’t do that, Marcus. We love each other. Why would you want to break it off?”
“You know it was only a temporary thing, Lee,” Marcus replies, placing a hand on Lee’s arm. “I’ve always been honest with you.”
“I have a question, Marcus.” I cut into his story. He looks disgruntled, but I’m past caring. “Who seduced whom?”
“She did.” Reverend Yang says. He sees my skeptical look and hurries to defend himself.
“Hayley, come on in.” Reverend Yang ushered Hayley into his office and shut the door behind her. He couldn’t help but notice that she was wearing a low-cut green dress that fell to her knees.
“Call me Lee, Reverend Yang.” Hayley breathed into Reverend Yang’s ear, placing a hand around his waist.
“Ok. Lee. You said you’re having marital problems?” Reverend Yang stepped back and guided Hayley to the couch. She sat down, crossing her legs so that her dress fell away from them. Reverend Yang sat next to Hayley, well aware of her proximity.
“My husband, Tony. He’s a brute.” Hayley leaned her head against Reverend Yang’s shoulder while placing her hand on his thigh. “He’s not a sensitive man—like you.” Hayley pressed a kiss on Reverend Yang’s lips, and he responded in kind.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Reverend Yang says. “I was more than willing to participate, but she was all over me from the minute I shut the door.”
“Funny. That’s not how she tells the story.”
“I’m sure she painted herself as the victim,” Reverend Yang replies, his voice acerbic. “That’s her specialty.” He sighs deeply, ripping the red-and-black striped tie off his neck. “I hate wearing a tie; it feels more like a noose.” I nod sympathetically, but my mind is focused on Hayley.
“Her husband abused her,” I say. “I saw him do it myself.”
“Tony is heavy-handed, and he’s not above manhandling Lee, that’s true.” Reverend Yang clears his throat, looking uncomfortable. “But, I think Lee isn’t above embroidering the truth.”
“You think she’s lying.” I press my lips together. It rubs me the wrong way when people automatically discount a tale of domestic violence. Yes, domestic violence is ugly, but it does happen, and it’s a disservice to pretend it doesn’t exist.
“I know she is.” Reverend Yang gets up and goes behind his desk. He grabs a bottle of Scotch from a drawer and pours himself a healthy shot. He sits back down, drains his drink, then sets the glass on the coffee table with a thump. “One time, she and Tony were arguing in the lobby after the service. No one was around, and she was giving as good as she got. She slapped him across the face, and when he grabbed her by the wrist, she immediately wilted. When she saw me looking, she started crying crocodile tears.” Interesting, but not exactly evidence. He must have seen my skepticism because he continues. “Another time, I saw her run into a table with her leg. Deliberately. Later, during a session, she claimed Tony hit her on the leg. The same leg she injured on the table.”
“Damn.” I look down at my hands, unhappy to hear what he has to say. There are false accusations, of course, and they make it harder to believe the real victims of abuse. I think of something and say, “It doesn’t mean he didn’t hit her.”
“No, it doesn’t. In fact, I’m sure he probably did.” Reverend Yang sighs deeply. “He is a proud man. He’s very possessive of his possessions, and I’m sure he saw Lee in that light.”
“So, if he knew she was having an affair….”
“He would put a stop to it—however he could.” Reverend Yang picks up the glass and turns it in his hands before setting it back down.
“Let’s talk about Bob. Tell me everything he said to you.” I stare at Reverend Yang until he starts squirming. “He knew about the books.”
“Yes, he did. But, that’s not why he was mad. He…he was upset about Lee. He said I had treated her terribly, and that he was going to report me to the parent church.” Reverend Yang exhales. “Which would mean to my father.”
“The same father who cut you off after the incident with Katie.”
“Yes. That father. If he’d heard about this, well, I shudder to think what he’d do.” Reverend Yang grabs my arms and stares into my eyes. I only see sheer desperation in them—and weariness.
“Marcus, I wish I knew what to say.” I extricate myself from Reverend Yang’s grasp, and lean away from him. He’s close to a breakdown, and I don’t know how to prevent it.
“You don’t need to say anything. It’s a comfort just to have you as a listening ear.” Reverend Yang closes his eyes, and I keep quiet so he can get some rest. He falls asleep in a few minutes, and I rifle through his desk once again. This is becoming a habit that I’m not proud of, but I need to find Bob, and soon. There’s nothing, and I sigh in frustration. I sit and wait for Reverend Yang to wake up, which he does a half hour later.
“What?” Reverend Yang’s eyes pop open, and he bolts upright. “Is it time to get up?”
“It’s me, Marcus,” I say, keeping my voice low and relaxed. “You just had a nap.”
“I had the weirdest dream,” Reverend Yang says, rubbing his eyes. “I dreamt that a succubus was eating me feet first.” Well, that’s not hard to interpret. I want to go home, but I have a few more questions to ask.
“Marcus, do you think Tony would harm Bob if Tony thought Bob and Hayley were having an affair?” I ask, training my eyes on Reverend Yang.
“Yes.” Reverend Yang replies, nodding his head. “There was a man who crossed Tony once, a business partner. That man was in a car accident a month later. He didn’t die, but he was seriously hurt.”
“You honestly think Tony was behind it?” I look at Reverend Yang, my eyes wide.
“Oh, yes. He as good as admitted it to me. I’ve steered clear of him ever since.” Reverend Yang goes back to his desk and pours himself another drink. “You definitely do not want to be on the wrong side of that man.”
“I don’t think Tony knew about Bob and Hayley, though.” I sigh because I still can’t see through the haze.
“He didn’t act like it in my presence,” Reverend Yang says. “He’s not the most observant of men.”
“Then it comes down to Hayley,” I say, leaning back against the couch. “If only by process of elimination.”
“Wait, you think she has something to do with Bob’s disappearance?” Reverend Yang looks upset, and I can’t blame him.
“I can’t think of anyone else,” I say, throwing up my hands. I’m not happy with my proclamation because I don’t have any concrete evidence she’s involved, but there simply can’t be anyone else. “Look, I have to go. Thank you for talking to me. If the information isn’t pertinent to Bob’s disappearance, I’ll keep it to myself.”
“Good, good.” Reverend Yang is distracted as he sees me out. The last thing I see is him picking up his phone, his brow furrowed. I chalk it up to the stress he’s been experiencing lately. He pecks me on the cheek before closing the door. I leave and make it home in record time. Onyx and Jet nip at my heels until I feed them their treats. Then, I take a quick shower and change into sweats. Afterwards, I pad into the living room, feeling disgruntled. I haven’t been to a taiji class in nearly a week, and my body is not happy with me. I write an email to Lydia asking if I can have a private session tomorrow morning. She emails back saying she can spare an hour at eleven. I agree, and then I start a new post on my blog.
Life is mundane most of the time. We go about our daily business, paying little attention to the world around us. There is so much in the world, but we tend to filter out most of it. Then, something happens that rocks our lives, and everything we know is turned upside down. First it happened when Julianna was murdered. Now, I’m dealing with a family crisis that has me questioning everything I thought I once knew.
I am not a religious person, but one thing most religions claim is that they are beacons of the truth. In the past week, I’ve had more religious people lie to me than I can even count. I know that being religious doesn’t automatically make someone a better person, but it’s dispiriting that they don’t even try. Sexual intrigue. Falsehoods. Jealousy. Rage. Not very Christianly of them.
I wouldn’t hold them to such a high standard if they didn’t lord their moral superiority over the rest of us. They look down their noses at the rest of us and wag their finger as they scold us. Meanwhile, they’re doing the same things they’re accusing us of doing. Forgive me for being harsh, but I am sick of this shit.
During this current crisis, I lost any respect I had for the religious. If I manage to bring this crisis to a close, it won’t be with any help from anyone who claims to be on the side of Jesus Christ.
I write furiously for another twenty minutes until I run out of steam. I’m tired of religious bullshit that is just pablum for the masses. I’m not anti-church in general, but I don’t care much for the way this one is run. I have some sympathy for Marcus, but I don’t think much of him as a pastor. Nor do I care much for his wife. I don’t think they’re qualified to lead a church, but it’s really none of my business as long as I get Bob back.
I get a text from Rembrandt asking me when he can see me again. I tell him tomorrow night. I suggest he come to my house, and I’ll cook him dinner. He agrees, saying he’ll bring Ginger and a bright smile. I am enthusiastic because I like cooking once in a while. I tell him I’ll make Taiwanese dumplings, wontons, rice, and barbecued pork. Chinese spinach as well and whatever else I can think of. We agree on six o’clock, and I’m feeling optimistic by the time we say goodnight.
I peek at my post to see if I have any comments; I do. MNborn writes, “I was raised in a Lutheran church. There was no joy in that place, only dirges and misery. Everyone walked around with a dour face and a nose stuck up in the air. I couldn’t wait to get out of there.” SatanNotSanta reminisces, “My parents were militant atheists when I was growing up. They lectured me about the evils of religion, especially Christianity. Talk about dogmatic—they were certainly it. I called them fundamentalist atheists, which drove them crazy. They hated anything that smacked of religion, but they were ideologues at heart. That’s probably why I’m a Unitarian now.” ContentedCanuck adds, “Religion isn’t as prevalent here as it is down there, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have our fanatics, too. My parents were two of them. They made us go to church every week and forced us to pray for hours on our knees. They washed our mouths out with soap, literally, when we swore, even something as mild as ‘gosh darn’. The minute I moved out, I forgot all that shit and am now happily living in sin with my girlfriend.”
As usual, I have several negative comments as well, calling me all variations of slut. There is one that goes on at length about how I’m going to hell for my harlot ways. It describes in vivid detail what the flames of hell are going to do to me, and it’s worse than any episode of Criminal Minds I’ve seen. I shudder and put it in the losers file. It’s the most disturbing hate mail I’ve received in quite some time and that’s saying something. I rub my forehead, wondering if I should keep writing in my blog. I appreciate the positive comments, but the negative ones are getting nastier and nastier. I don’t understand why people can’t be civil in their disagreement, but that’s just human nature.
I yawn and go to the kitchen to rummage through the fridge. There’s some leftover lasagna, so I heat it up. I give Onyx and Jet some Temptations while I’m nuking the lasagna, then I put it on a plate, pop a Lactaid, and take the lasagna to the living room. I eat it slowly, my stomach churning. The stress of the last week is getting to me, and I feel as if I’m on the verge of an ulcer. I give up after several bites and take the plate into the kitchen. I put the rest back in the fridge before returning to the living room. I lie on the couch and close my eyes. I’m asleep before I know it, and I dream about Bob tangled in a giant cobweb, and he’s struggling to get free. I wake up bathed in sweat, and I disturb Onyx and Jet as I jump off the couch. I race to the bathroom in time to throw up what little lasagna I actually ate back up into the toilet. Once I’m done, I wash my mouth out and return to the living room. This has been a long day, and I hope I can get some dreamless sleep.