The minute I got home, I got to work. First, however, I laughed at the bouquet of daffodils that Matt had left for me on the dining room table, wishing me luck with my date. He ended the note with a terse, ‘You were right’. I knew we’d have to talk about it, but I didn’t want to think about it just now. I stowed the daffodils in my bedroom, not wanting Martinez to get the wrong impression. I changed out of my clothes and quickly called Martinez to make sure he knew about the dead woman—he did. Then, I hurried to the kitchen to get cracking. I made dumplings and egg rolls, having procured the skins from the Asian market near my apartment. I kept glancing at my clock because I’d need at least half an hour to make myself beautiful. I pulled out the radish cake my mother had given me from the freezer as well as the sticky rice. My mother was a fantastic cook, and she always made me take stuff with me when I left her place. I had to eat it quickly, however, or Matt would finish it off for me. He loved my mother’s cooking.
Once everything was well under way, I took a quick shower—not leaving the stove on—without washing my hair. Afterwards, I put on a red silk tank top that emphasized my breasts and a black skirt that fell to my knees. I didn’t put on shoes, of course, as I was Asian. We didn’t wear shoes in the house—it struck me as ludicrous to do so. I added gold dangly earrings and a few gold bracelets and considered myself accessorized. I didn’t wear makeup for the most part and grudgingly consented to put some clear gloss on my lips. I brushed my shoulder-length hair until it shone, then nodded in satisfaction. It struck me funny that I was entertaining Martinez—Carlos—at my place for a first date. Normally, I’d be too leery of a guy to do that, but he was a cop, for God’s sake. Plus, he was so fucking cute. I went to the kitchen to check on the food. As I started setting the table, the phone rang.
“Hello?” I picked up the cordless so I could continue setting the table.
“A-ya! You can’t even call your mother to tell her about the news? That girl is dead, and you don’t bother calling?”
“Mom,” I sighed, vowing I’d check Caller ID from now on. “It wasn’t her.”
“What?” My mother screeched, her voice nearly piercing my eardrum.
“Listen, I can’t talk right now. I’m watching Banana for the weekend while Julia—tends to some business in New York. May Matt, Banana and I come for dinner tomorrow night?”
“Of course,” Mom said, her attention easily diverted. “How is poor Matt? And dear little Banana!”
“Both are having a rough time right now. Banana can’t wait to see you, though. She loves going over to your house.” My voice shook as I thought about not providing my mother with progeny. I pushed the thought away and focused on the presence. “Mom, I have to go. I’ll call you tomorrow, ok? Or shall I just meet you at your place at, say, six?”
“You have a date,” Mom exclaimed, her voice slightly disapproving. Only my mother would be unhappy that I had a date with someone other than Matt. I didn’t know how she knew, but I didn’t want to talk about it with her.
“Yes, I have a date. With the detective on the case.” I knew if I didn’t give her that much, she would hound me until I gave in, anyway. Much easier to acquiesce right away.
“The detective! Is he American or Taiwanese?”
“He’s Latino,” I said, waiting for a reply. I knew that she would rather me date someone Taiwanese and that Matt was the only white guy she liked, but I had no idea how she felt about Latinos.
“Latino,” she mused, falling silent for a minute. “Well, at least it’s better than black.”
“Mom!” I said in protest. I knew she didn’t care for black people no matter how hard I tried to convince her that she was just buying into what society told her, but I couldn’t stop trying. “How would you feel if someone said that about me because I was Asian? I mean, what if someone’s mother didn’t want him dating me because I wasn’t white?”
“That’s silly,” Mom said, her voice huffy. “And it’s totally different, anyway.”
“Ok, Mom,” I said, cutting her off. If I couldn’t change her mind, at least I didn’t have to listen to her. “I’ll see you tomorrow at six.”
“Good luck with your Mexican. I hope you know what you’re doing.” That was my mother’s way of saying good-bye, and there was nothing I could do to change it. I sighed and hung up the phone, pushing thoughts of my mother’s racism to the back of my mind. I didn’t want anything to ruin my time with Martinez, and dwelling on my mother’s prejudices would definitely do that.
I blinked as I realized I never told Martinez where I lived. Hell. Wait, he’d been here already to question me about my involvement in the case. He could find me again. I looked at the table and decided that I’d done as much as I could. I knew from experience that the more I fussed, the worse things got. I went into the kitchen to check on the food, which was coming along nicely. I just hoped that Martinez wouldn’t be delayed. I knew it happened all the time, but it’d be nice if we could have our first date without being interrupted. Date. I was going on a date with a cop. A cop. I wondered if he voted for Bush. If so, we might have to end it before it even started. There were few things I’d consider deal breakers, but that was one of them. Maybe I wouldn’t ask him until I’d fucked him at least once.
With a start, I came back to my senses and glanced at my watch, surprised that it was a quarter to eight. Everything was in control, however, so I went to the living room to watch some sports. My mind was in a jumble from everything that’d happened lately, and nothing chilled me out more than watching my boys take it to whomever they were playing. Tonight, it was Anaheim, and the game was just starting. It was the bottom of the second with Santana pitching. Not only was he cute, he still had the best heater in the game. I had worried that after winning the Cy Young, he would fade into oblivion. Instead, he was better than ever, if that were even possible, and he was on his way to winning a second Cy Young in three years. He should have won last year as well, but the lack of run support really hurt him. The doorbell rang exactly at eight, which made my estimation of Martinez jump. Hey, I may be Taiwanese, but that didn’t mean I ran on Asian time. I clicked off the television and raced to the door, giving myself a minute to calm down before answering.
“Hi, Mart—Detec—Carlos,” I said, blushing as I opened the door. Great way to start, Scar. I couldn’t help gaping at Martinez as he looked fine in a pair of forest green slacks and a black shirt.
“For you.” Martinez held out a bouquet of gladiolas. I accepted them with a smile. This seemed to be my day for receiving flowers, and I was just glad they weren’t roses. “For us.” Martinez held up a bottle of Chianti. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I was allergic to wine. “If I tell you how beautiful you look, will you let me in?”
“Sure,” I said, reddening further as I stood aside to let him in. “Sorry for being an idiot. It’s been a while since I’ve gone on a date.”
“Me, too,” Martinez said, stepping into the apartment. Glancing down at my feet, he took off his shoes without even being asked. I was halfway in love with this guy already. “Before we go any further, I’d like to say one thing.” I looked at him enquiringly, wondering what made him so serious. “I’d like not to talk about the case tonight, if that’s ok with you.”
“That’s fine,” I said, more relieved than anything else. Even though I would be missing a prime opportunity to pump the well, so to speak, I didn’t want this to be anything but pleasure.
“Great,” Martinez said, breaking out into a smile. “Something smells wonderful.”
I led him to the dining room and made him sit while I took care of the flowers and dished out the food. It wasn’t that I believed in serving my man—hell no. I just firmly believed that a guest was a guest and didn’t have to lift a finger to help. If Martinez ever wanted to return the favor and cook for me, I’d be more than willing to sit on my ass and do nothing but look pretty. I even had half a glass of the wine he brought, and it wasn’t bad. I knew I’d pay for it later, but it was a sacrifice I didn’t mind making for Martinez. He loved everything I set before him and had second helpings all around. When I told him my mother had made the sticky rice and the radish cake, well he wanted to go over to her house right away. I considered asking him to accompany Matt, Banana, and me tomorrow night, but decided that was being too presumptuous.
I told him about my family, growing up the eldest of four kids—the youngest who had managed not to end up in jail though she cut it pretty close many times. It always amused me that Mel turned out to be such a soccer mom when she’d been as rebellious as they came in her early years. Bret was the moody one whereas Ash was pretty quiet. He got overlooked more than once with the rest of us clamoring all the time. He turned out to be the best-adjusted out of the four of us, however, so he got the last laugh. Even though our family life had been chaotic, I never doubted that my parents or my siblings loved me. My parents were still together, thirty-three years later, and they still held hands. I wanted to be like them when I grew up.
Martinez, in turn, had been the only boy with three older sisters. Needless to say, he’d been spoiled rotten, and a mama’s boy to boot. His dad had been a CPA, but passed away when Martinez was sixteen. Fortunately, Martinez Senior had socked away enough money to take care of the family if they lived frugally. Mrs. Martinez worked as a Spanish teacher at Martinez’s senior high school in Philly, but he pretended not to know her when he saw her during school. She passed away when Martinez was twenty-four, leaving him without parents, but still with his older sisters. After his mother died, he decided to move out of Philly despite his sisters’ objections. They wanted him to marry a nice Latina girl and settle down. He didn’t think he was ready—nor was he sure he wanted children. That was partly how he ended up in Minnesota.
We talked extensively, learning that we had similar taste in literature. He didn’t read mysteries on the whole, but he liked some of the same female authors as did I. He disdained shoot ‘em up movies as he had to deal with that in his real life. He didn’t like chick flicks, either, preferring foreign movies. He’d never seen a Hong Kong film, and I promised I’d watch his favorite foreign movie with him if he watched a Jet Li flick with me. He didn’t care much for Jet Li’s American films, but I told him he couldn’t judge Jet Li by those standards. He was infinitely superior in his Chinese movies, and I wished he’d stick to them. Martinez didn’t watch television except for sports, and he was delighted to know that I was a sports’ nut, too. Turned out that he went to Twins’ games if they ever played the Phillies, and we decided to go to a game soon. I managed to find out that he voted for Nader last election which was better than Bush. As Kerry had carried Minnesota, I couldn’t really fault him for voting Green.
For dessert, I had bought a German chocolate cake because I didn’t have time to make something Asian. I didn’t like most Asian desserts, anyway, so I had settled for a safe standby. To my surprise, Martinez liked chocolate almost as much as I did and ate two pieces. He ate with gusto, a man who enjoyed sensuous delights. It boded well that he didn’t watch every morsel that entered his mouth as more men were doing these days. He caught me looking at him and smiled, his full lips curving lazily. I knew then that I had to fuck him—if it was the last thing I did. I spent more time watching him than I did eating my cake, which indicated how gone I was on him. Nothing but nothing got between me and my chocolate cake.