Chapter Eight; Part One
“Meow!” Onyx hurtles through the air, and I catch her as if she’s a football thrown by Fran Tarkenton. Back before he became a Republican asshole, but that’s neither here nor there. She tucks her head under my chin and purrs loudly. Jet saunters over and whaps my shin with his paw. He immediately follows it up with a gentle rub of his head against the same shin, so I allow the hit this one time.
“Time for treats!” I carry Onyx into the kitchen with Jet trotting behind us. I set Onyx on the ground before giving her and Jet their Temptations. I grab a Diet Coke from the fridge before bringing it to the living room. Then, I go upstairs to change into sweats and heave a sigh of relief. It’s been a lot of interaction over the past few days, and I’m happy to be on my own again. With my cats, of course. Who are prancing around me in glee now that I’m home. We go back to the living room, and I check my blog. There are several heartwarming stories of family reconciliation and reunions. BearlyThere writes, “Before this year, I hadn’t talked to my brother or sister in over ten years even though we all live in Denver. Our family fell apart after my mother died because we all felt we deserved certain heirlooms that our mother promised us. Unfortunately, she promised a particular painting to all three of us—not out of maliciousness, but because she didn’t want to disappoint any of us. Unforgivable words were said by all three of us, and we all went our separate ways. A few months ago, my sister called me and said that she was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. That shocked the hell out of me because in the back of my mind, I had all the time in the world to reconnect with my brother and sister. I didn’t, and we had Thanksgiving together for the first time in ten years. It was awkward and sad, but also heartwarming and joyful. I got to meet two nephews and three nieces I’d never met before, plus my sister’s wife and my brother’s girlfriend. It was fucking amazing.”
SinsationalShivers reminisces, “I’m from a large Italian family. Our way of showing love is to shout at each other. I’m married to a Norwegian woman, and the first time I met her family, I was floored at how quiet they were. Afterwards, I asked my honey if her family hated me, and she just laughed and said that’s how they are. Conversely, when she met my family, she was wide-eyed as they screamed back and forth. It’s taken five years for us to truly understand each other’s family and by extension, each other. This year, we had a mixed Thanksgiving with her family and mine, and her uncle hooked up with my cousin.” PizzaHo adds, “My mother walked out on us when I was eight. My father told my brothers and me that it was because she hated us. Not him, just the kids. It wasn’t until this year, fifteen years later, that we found out it’s because he was terribly abusive. She always meant to come back for us, but any time she tried, he beat the shit out of her. It’s only because he died a few months ago that she was able to reconnect with us. I couldn’t be happier.” BetterOffTed shares his story as well. “I grew up dirt poor, the fifth out of seven kids of a single mom. Our father died when I was six, and my mom worked three menial jobs just so we could eat—barely—every day. My oldest sister was the mom around the house, and she did all the cooking, cleaning, and tucking us into bed. My oldest brother has had a job of some sort since he was a paper boy at age eleven. We didn’t have much in terms of material goods, but what we had was a shit-ton of love. My mom remarried this year to a man who treats her like a queen, and she’s finally able to take a breath now and then. They’re going to London for a three week vacation, and I could not be happier for them.”
I’m a cynical person, but these stories warm my heart. I’m a sucker for an authentically happy ending, even if I expect things to go to shit most of the time. It gives me faith in humanity, which I sorely need right now. I’m terrified at the thought of a President Trump in part because I have no idea what he is going to do. Wait, let me clarify. I know that he’s a raging egomaniac who is only looking to benefit himself. I also know he’s thin-skinned and intensely afraid of people laughing at him, which makes him easily manipulated. So, anything he does will be with an eye to making a profit off it and to make him look good in the eyes of people he gives a shit about at that moment. I’m starting to hyperventilate just thinking about it, so I read more comments on my blog post instead. MNborn writes, “My family was deeply fucked up, but there was also a lot of love. It took me twenty years of therapy to realize that my father’s habit of constantly giving me gadgets he considered useful, like a tire wrench, was his way of showing he loved me. My mom’s a worrier, and when she frets about my health, that’s her way of showing she cares. It’s liberating to be able to accept others’ love, even if it’s not the way you preferred to be loved.” SackofEggs says, “This really hit home. I haven’t commented in a few weeks because my grandmother suddenly passed away. I love my parents, but my Oma was always my personal cheerleader. She didn’t speak much English, and I didn’t speak much German, but we knew each other’s hearts. She was my biggest cheerleader, and I miss her like hell.” I’m touched. SackofEggs is one of my most stalwart commenters, and I was wondering what happened to him. I write back, “My deepest condolences on the loss of your beloved Oma. Your grief is a testament to how strong your love was for each other. You know you can always comment here if you need to vent or get some support.”
My mind wanders back to that man. There are still too many unanswered questions for me to accept him at face value. Do I think he’s my father? I’m not completely convinced, but I’m less suspicious about it now than when he first told me. If he is my father, what do I want that to mean to me? Let’s say he is my father. That doesn’t mean I have to have a relationship with him. I could just say, “Yes, you are my father, but I don’t want anything to do with you,” and be done with him. On the other hand, I could try to have a limited relationship with him. Emails. Coffee every other week or so. Maybe a phone call now and then. Many people treat their families in this manner, so it wouldn’t be out of bounds. A third option would be to wholly embrace him as my father. I don’t see that as a viable option right now—there are just too many years of silence to overcome in one leap. I think the second option is the one I’m going to pursue. There are still questions I need to ask him before I can fully accept that he is my father, but I realize that in my mind, I’m already thinking of him as my father.
“Hi, Megan! How’re you this chilly winter day?” Betty chirps at me as she bounces on her toes. She’s dressed in pink as usual, and she’s beaming at me for all she’s worth. I know she’s just trying to be friendly, but I want her to go away.
“I’m fine.” I nod at her before turning back to my shoes. I ‘m taking them off because they’re wet and sandy, which is bad for the studio floor. I pointedly ignore Betty, but she doesn’t seem to notice. She plops down in the chair next to me, chattering away at a hundred miles a minute.
“I hurt my shoulder again!” She says, laughing her tinkling laugh. “I’m such a ninny. I can’t stop myself from lifting heavy things. Paul, that’s my husband, you know, he keeps telling me to wait until he gets home, but I’m an in-the-moment kind of girl. If I want to do something, I just do it!”
“Mmmmhmmmm.” I’m not paying attention to what she’s saying, but I’m not feeling up to telling her off, either.
“It’s a good thing I’m coming to tai chi! It really helps with my shoulder.”
“Excuse me.” I stand up and walk towards Lydia. She’s talking to Jennifer, a petite brunette who makes it difficult for me to concentrate on my meditation. I don’t think she swings my way, and even if she did, I wouldn’t want to muddy up my taiji practice. Besides, I’m in a relationship that is implicitly monogamous. I need to talk to Rembrandt about that, and I have a feeling it’s going to be a difficult conversation. He’s shown no indication that he’s anything but a one-woman man, and I have a hunch he will not respond well to the suggestion of an open relationship. I have to ask myself why I want one, anyway. Tessa and I didn’t have an open relationship except for when I wanted to bonk my supervisor, and, apparently, when she wanted to bonk her dog walker, although I didn’t know about that openness until I found them in her bed together.
“Megan! How’re you doing?” Lydia gives me a quick hug, smiling at me at the same time.
“I’m doing fine. You?” I smile back. “How are you, Jennifer?”
“I’m fine,” Lydia says.
“Me, too,” Jennifer chimes in, batting her eyelashes at me. I think it’s an automatic response, and I tell myself sternly not to read too much into it. Still. I can’t help but notice how pert her tits look under her red tank top and how shapely her hips are in her white yoga pants. She’s smirking at me, and I have a hunch she knows exactly what I’m thinking.
“Let’s get started,” Lydia says, clapping her hands. I can feel Betty drilling holes in the back of my head, but I studiously ignore her as I bow to Lydia. She takes us through the warmups, and I allow my mind to wander. As much as I want to focus on what I’m doing, I have a hard time keeping the thoughts from flitting through my mind. Lydia has told me to think them and let them go. Trying to keep myself from thinking is futile as it just made the random thoughts worse. “Now, it’s time for the six postures meditation.” I restrain a sigh because I have a difficult time with meditation. When my brain should be peaceful and emptied of trivial thoughts, all I can do is think, “My ass itches” “I have a cramp in my foot.” “I’m going to sneeze.” I wouldn’t be so irritated if the thoughts were actually important, but they aren’t. I’ve given up and taken to writing blog posts in my head as I ‘meditate’. It’s not the best way to meditate, but I’ve written many blog posts in this manner. I start thinking about my next post, which is going to be about my mother. I rarely write about her other than mentioning her alcoholism and how much I resent it. I need to get over the bitterness, and I think if I write about her as a whole person, that might ameliorate some of the old hurts. She and my father met while attending grad school at the U of M, he in…philosophy? Yeah, probably. She in sociology. I don’t think he finished his thesis for his PhD, but she got her MA in sociology. They met because of mutual friends, and after Mom got her degree, they married. Jasmine arrived less than a year later, and then there were eight years between her and me. I don’t know why, so I’ll have to ask Jasmine to see if she knows.
“Megan, we’re ready to do the first section of the Solo Form,” Lydia says, snapping me back to the present. My classmates are all gaping at me, and I flush in embarrassment.
“Sorry,” I mumble as I move to my spot on the floor. I hate being singled out for any reason, and I vow to concentrate on class, not on my personal shit. I listen as Lydia calls out the postures, and I focus on using my waist to move my hands. My mind is wandering, but I rein it back in before it can go too far astray. Once we’re done, I plop down in my chair and drink half of my iced bottled water. I give off strong ‘stay away’ vibe, and my classmates all ignore me—even Betty. After a ten minute break, Lydia has us do the second section while she watches us. That means I have to be in the front as Lydia likes the advanced students to cover the four corners so that the newbies can have someone to look at no matter which way they turn. I cruise through the first part of the second section without enthusiasm, but then we reached my favorite part at the end of the same section—the kick section. No one else enjoys it, but I like to challenge myself. Once we’re done with that, Lydia offers critiques to everyone. Refinements for the advanced students and basic criticism for the newbies. I notice that Betty scowls as Lydia tells her to work on her bow stance, which is something she should have gotten down in the year she’s been practicing. I’ve heard Lydia tell her to widen her bow stance on several occasions, and Betty would do it for the rest of the class, but then forget it by the next class.
Lydia launches into a short lecture on how the basics are the most important aspect of taiji. She reminds us that the postures that seem easy are often the most difficult to master because of their simplicity. I know exactly what she means because I’ve had postures I’ve considered a snap come back to give me shit months later, sometimes years. One of the hardest postures is Fist Under Elbow, and I hated it with a passion. I railed about it several times, but that made me work harder on it. When I finally stopped being pissed by it, I knew it better than some of the other postures I considered easier. Learning the left side of the form has shown me the places I took the right side for granted or glossed over possible problems. I hate learning the left side, but it’s certainly helped me tighten up the right side.
“Class is over.” Lydia bows to us, and we bow back. I pull on my sweatshirt and grab my weapons bag. I’m disgruntled with my performance, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I wait until my classmates thin out so I can talk to Lydia alone.
“How’s life outside of class?” I ask turning my phone back on.
“OK. I have a possible new client. She’s ninety-three years old!” Lydia smiles before slipping behind the divider to change. “She’s a friend of a friend, and she recently broke her hip, so she wants something to help her recuperate from it.”
“Nice!” I say, raising my voice. “I hope I have that much spunk when I’m ninety-three.”
“No kidding! She voted for Clinton and was devastated when she lost.” Lydia’s voice is muffled, and I’m assuming she’s changing shirts. “I can’t mention Trump in her presence or she goes batshit.”
“A soul sister!” I massage my right shoulder as it’s a little tight.
“She even joked that she’s glad she won’t be around for all of his regime.” Lydia emerges from behind the division, dressed in tight black jeans and an emerald green turtleneck sweater. “Roger’s still worried about his job,” Lydia says, her eyes somber. “Another coworker got let go on Friday, and Roger is sure he is next.”
“You told me he’s one of the best workers on his team.” Roger is a construction worker, and he’s highly motivated and reliable.
“He is. That doesn’t stop him from worrying.” Lydia sighs as she pulls on her jacket. “I think he’s fine, but we’ll have to see.”
“I hope he doesn’t lose his job,” I say, patting her on the arm. “That would really suck balls.”
“No shit. We’re barely paying the mortgage as is.” Lydia sighs again and makes sure everything is the way it should be before we leave. I feel better after class, even though I hadn’t wanted to leave the house in the first place. For the rest of the day, however, I’m just going to snuggle on the couch with my cats and chill.
“Girl, did you hear? Cara got fired!” Shandra Colson, a coworker of mine, informs me gleefully as I walk into the office on Monday morning. Her black hair falls to her waist in dreads, and her large brown eyes are shining. She’s wearing a crimson blouse that complements her cocoa skin nicely, and I don’t know how she types with her three inch crimson nails.
“Are you kidding me?” I gasp. “What the fuck happened?”
“She was caught giving discounts to her family and friends. Plus, she was fudging her hours on her time card. Also, she was calling in sick when she wasn’t really sick.” Shandra loves dishing the dirt, and in this case, I’m all ears.
“Holy shit. I can’t believe I didn’t know.” I’m agape because I never would have suspected it from Cara.
“She was very good at hiding it. No one knew.” Shandra widens her eyes as she carefully looks around her.
“Who’s taking her place?” I ask, shocked by the revelation. It seems to have come out of the blue, and I wonder how long she’d been in the crosshairs.
“Do you remember James Quincy? He worked with us about a year ago, then was promoted? He’s going to be our temporary supervisor until they fill it permanently.” Shandra glances at her computer clock before adding, “I gotta get cracking.”
“Sure,” I say distractedly, my mind reeling by her revelation. Not that Cara got fired, though that’s shocking, but that James Quincy is going to be our temporary supervisor. When he was our coworker, I took a break from my relationship with Tessa so I could fuck him. It turned out to be a disaster when he prematurely ejaculated and blamed me for it. We cleared up the mess, but agreed it was better not to try again. He was transferred into middle management soon after, and I pushed him out of my mind after that.
“Megan? I’d like to talk to you in my office.” Speak of the devil. It’s James, and he’s looking as fuckable as ever. He bears an eerie likeness to Chris Pratt, who is a guilty pleasure for me. I’m not normally a big muscles type of gal, but something about Chris Pratt’s affableness is a huge turn on. James has the same kind of personality and muscles.
“Of course.” I sternly banish the lascivious thoughts from my mind as I follow James into Cara’s office. Well, his, technically, but I can’t help but think of it as Cara’s. I sit in the chair office the desk and wait for him to speak. When he doesn’t, I add, “Congratulations, James, on your promotion. Or, wait. Is it a promotion?”
“It’s a lateral move at the moment,” James replies, flashing a brilliant smile in my direction. “How’re you doing, Megan? You look as good as ever.”
“Same to you, James.” I pause and add, “Or should I call you Mr. Quincy?”
“James is fine,” he replies, laughing heartily. He’s giving me a look, and I hope it’s not going to be uncomfortable working for him. I can’t deny I want to fuck him if he’s dealt with his personal problem. My hope is that he’ll be out of here fairly soon so I won’t have to deal with the sexual tension that is crackling around us.
“Did you want to see me about something?” I ask, keeping my voice brisk.
“Not really. I just wanted to make sure you’re OK with working for me.” James puts on his professional voice as well, but there’s still a gleam in his eyes.
“One-hundred percent,” I say, nodding my head. “As long as you are fine with it.”
“More than fine.” James leans forward and grabs my hand. He massages my thumb, and I swallow hard. As much as I want to fuck him, I don’t want added drama at work. I gently extract my hand without making a big deal of it and stand up.
“I should get to work,” I say. “Good to see you again, James.” I nod at him before turning around and leaving. I’m conscious of his eyes on my ass, and I stop myself from swinging my hips to give him a show. I go to my desk and sit down, but I don’t actually turn on my computer. I can’t help thinking about how good James looks in his gray pinstripe suit, and I spend several seconds tamping down my libido. I’m acting like a teenage girl swooning over a rock star, and I’m irritated with myself. I’m dating a wonderful man, and the last thing I need to do is sabotage that by fucking James.
I manage to push him to the back of my mind and concentrate on my work for the next several hours. I’m always aware, however, of the closed door at the back of the office floor. Any time he leaves his office, I perk up and make sure I look extra-busy. I scold myself for being a brown-noser, but I can’t stop myself. It’s stupid, really, because it’s a job anyone can do in her sleep. With a huge effort, I keep my mind on my work and actually forget that James is in the office in the back of the room.
“Megan. Would you like to have lunch with me?” It’s James, and he startles me by materializing next to my desk. I look at my computer clock, and it’s a quarter after twelve. I’m ravenous, but I don’t know if I should have lunch with James. I’m conscious of the other women glancing my way, some in envy and some in amazement.
“Sure, James. That’d be lovely.” Lovely? Since when do I use words like lovely? Since I have a shit-ton of hormones coursing through my body, I guess.
“Wonderful. Shall we go to Maya Cuisine? I wouldn’t mind a burrito.” James asks, seemingly unaware of all the eyes on him.
“I love Maya Cuisine!” I say with enthusiasm. My opinion of him kicks up a notch at his suggestion because while Maya Cuisine has one of the best burritos in town, not many people know about them.
We walk to Maya Cuisine in silence. I don’t know what James is thinking about, but my mind is whirling with contradictory thoughts. On the one hand, I am dating a wonderful man who is kind, understanding, and a thoughtful and generous lover. On the other hand, I have never been as hot for a man as I am for James. I try to temper that by reminding myself of our disastrous encounter, but it’s no use. Whatever pheromones he’s emitting are hitting me directly in the pussy so I can barely think. Even now, I want to jump his bones right here on the street. I stuff my hands in the pockets of my slacks so I won’t maul him.
“You’re not cold?” James ask, looking at my coatless state with a lifted eyebrow.
“No,” I say, smiling at him. “ I don’t get cold.” That’s not strictly true, but it’s close enough for this conversation.
“You are a fiery one, aren’t you?” There’s that tone again. I know I should tell him to keep things strictly professional, but I don’t want to. Goddamn it. I should not have agreed to lunch with James. I really need to nip this thing in the bud.
“Watch out or you might get burned.” I stare into James’ eyes, and I can’t stop a sly grin from creeping over my face.
“I like playing with fire,” he counters. We reach Maya Cuisine and order our burritos, pork for me, and chicken for him. After we sit down, I ask James the question that’s looming in my mind.
“You seeing anyone?”
“Yes. Cynthia. She’s a wonderful woman, and we’ve been dating for six months. You?” James is eating his burrito, so he doesn’t see the look on my face. If he’s dating someone, what the hell are we doing here? Then again, I’m dating someone, too.
“Yes.” I take a bite from my burrito, but I’m suddenly sick of the game we’re playing. I want to know why he asked me to lunch, so I ask, even though I risk looking presumptuous. “James, is this a thing? Us having lunch? Because it very much feels like a thing.”
“It is,” James says, staring me in the eyes. To his credit, he doesn’t obfuscate or deflect, but it means we actually have to address this. “Part of the reason I took this position was so I could see you again.”
“Really?” I set down my burrito, suddenly too uncomfortable to eat.
“I can’t stop thinking about the night we had together and how badly I fucked it up.” He hesitates and adds, “I got therapy for it, and I’m much better now.”
“Good for you,” I say sincerely. It’s a good thing when therapy helps someone, but I’m at a loss as to why he thinks I need to know this.
“Look. I’ll be real with you. Cynthia is a wonderful woman, and I’m thinking of asking her to marry me. However, I really want to have one night with you. That’s it.” James spreads his fingers and leans back. He’s eying me, and it’s scrambling my thoughts.
“One night. One and done. That’s all you want?” I stare hard at James, and he nods his head.
“I think we could be electric together,” he says, eating more of his burrito. “We were fantastic together. It’d just be better now that I’ve gotten my problem under control.” He sets his burrito down again and adds, “I want you to know that it’s OK if you say no. I’m not going to power trip you or anything.”
“That’s good to know. Let me think about it.” I smile at James, and he winks at me in return. I get a jolt, and I know I’m probably going to fuck him, even if it’s not a good idea. Hell, I know it’s a terrible idea, but I’m probably going to do it, anyway.
We talk about other things for the rest of our lunch. We stroll back to the office, taking our sweet time. I find out that he’s applied to be in middle management for Cost Co, and I wish him good luck with that. Our company wants to keep him, and they’re offering him a VP position to sweeten the pot. I listen more than I talk because I don’t want to discuss the recent events in my life. Just before we reach our building, James stops me by placing his hand on my arm.
“I’d like us to be friends, no matter what you decide. I feel comfortable around you.” For once, James isn’t smiling, and his eyes are serious.
“I’d like that, too,” I say, much to my surprise. I’m not sure I really mean it, but I do like him enough to have coffee with him now and again.
“I have an errand I need to run. See you later.” James kisses me on the cheek, and I flush all the way down to my toes. I float back to my desk, and I go through my lists without really knowing what I’m doing. All I can think about is how hot James’ body is. I remember the night we spent together, and up until the premature ending, it was raw, animal sex.