Parental Deception; chapter ten, part two

“Did you know?” I demand, my voice hard.

“Excuse me, what?” Understandably, Mrs. Tsai is confused. “Who is this?”

“Megan Liang,” I say through gritted teeth. “Did you know that your husband bilked my sisters and me out of our inheritance?”

“What are you saying? I don’t understand.” There’s fear in Mrs. Tsai’s voice, and I don’t know if it’s because she’s hiding something or because I’m ranting like a crazy woman. I take a few slow and smooth breaths so I don’t verbally slaughter her. I’m mad at her husband, who is now dead. I shouldn’t take it out on her.

“Your husband was the executor of my father’s will,” I say, my voice dangerously calm.

“Yes, I know. He said Henry had given all the money to us.” There is nothing but sincerity in Mrs. Tsai’s voice, and I’m sorry I’m going to have to be the bearer of bad news.

“Did you see any of that money?” I ask. I know it’s a leading question, but I need to find out what she knows.

“No. George said wills take time. Probate and all that.” It’s clear she knows nothing and that her husband had been deceiving her as well. Suddenly, I wonder if I should tell her what I know because chances are, the will is in his house. I doubt he even submitted it to probate. I’m assuming there has to be a copy in legal land somewhere, but I’m not sure. If I tell Mrs. Tsai, she might destroy the will. Then again, Mr. Tsai probably already has. I need to call a lawyer and stat. First, though, I confront Mrs. Tsai.

“Your husband lied. My father did not leave his money to you—he left it to my sisters and me. I have proof,” I say, hoping she won’t ask me what proof and how I got it. “I’m assuming you didn’t know about this.”

“No! Are you saying George lied to me? He wouldn’t do that.” I stay silent, though it’s clear to me that her husband has lied to her about many things.

“Your husband also was the one stealing money from his partners, not the other way around.” I feel as if I’m pummeling her with the information, but I have run out of patience at this point. I’m furious that her husband was a piece of shit who decided to intrude upon my life. I really wish I hadn’t heard of him, but there’s nothing I can do about that.

“I can’t deal with this.” Click. She hung up on me! I stare at my phone in shock. I mean, it’s not that surprising given the barrage of information I’d given her, but it’s very un-Taiwanese behavior, especially for an elder. Then again, she’s lived in San Francisco for most if not all her life, so she’s more American than Taiwanese. I stifle my impulse to call her back because it won’t do any good. Instead, I read about the will again, and I get angry all over again. I call Viv and wait impatiently for her to answer. I know she’ll still be awake, whereas Jasmine has probably been asleep since a half hour after we returned home.

“What’s up, Meg? I was just about to start a piece.” Viv’s voice is distracted, and I know I have five minutes at best to keep her attention.

“I found out more information about our father,” I say, stepping outside to smoke. “He left all his money to us in his will.”

“His will,” Viv repeats, her voice uninterested. Then a few seconds later, “His will???”

“Yes. He made that man his executor, but Mr. Tsai decided not to fulfill his duties.” There is bitterness in my voice, and I don’t attempt to hide it. My rage needs to go somewhere, and I know Viv can handle it.

“You can do that?” Viv is as astounded as I was before I Googled the issue at hand. The number of people who’ve bilked their so-called loved ones out of the family fortune has disheartened me. I know families can be shitty to each other, but it’s depressing, nonetheless.

“Well, not legally, but the courts are so busy, they’re not always as on top of it as they should be. We need an attorney to look into this for us, preferably one who is knowledgeable about probate in San Francisco.”

“That snake,” Viv hisses, her tone matching mine. “I’m glad he’s dead!” I know I should rebuke her for her sentiment, but I feel the same way. He’s caused nothing but pain and trouble to us, so I’m meanly glad he got what he deserved.

“I’m certainly not going to miss him,” I say in agreement. “The question is, does this have anything to do with why he died? Oh! About his business.” I fill her in on the information I’ve learned about TAP. She’s outraged about that as well, although not as much as she was over the will.

“I gotta go. I need to work,” Viv says after twenty minutes.

“OK. Tell Jasmine, will you?”

“I will. I may stay a few more days. Talk to you later.” She hangs up without saying goodbye, and I slowly turn off my phone. I know I should read more of the information that Yuri had given to me, but I’m fed up. I want to pretend I’d never met this man, and I certainly don’t want to find out any more nastiness about him. I also don’t want to know more about my father. Even though he apparently cared about us and thought about us, at least in the early days, he never made room for us in his life. Had he made contact, even once, I doubt I would feel as bitter and betrayed as I do right now. I need to write about him, so I start a new post.

A big part of my identity is that I grew up without a father. As I’ve written about several times in the past, he left our family when I was three. My older sister was eleven, and my younger sister was barely one. Up until a few weeks ago, I would have said that I’ve made my peace with it, but now, I realize I merely suppressed it rather than dealt with it. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not as if my life stopped the day he left. Well, actually, it did, but it started again because it had to, didn’t it? I had to get up in the morning, and I had to go about my days somehow. In a weird way, I think it helped that he left when I was so young. By the time I became a sentient being, around six or seven, being without my father was the norm, not the exception.

If anything, I feel the sorriest for my older sister. She was our father’s favorite, and she’s the only one of us sisters who really remembers him. I saw how excited she was when she thought he had come back into our lives. It made me feel bad because even though she’s the one who was hurting the most, she had to put it aside and take care of my younger sister and me because my mother was incapable of doing it. When my mother wasn’t crying her eyes out, she was pickling her liver to death, and she was often doing both at the same time. Not only did Jasmine cook for us and make sure my sister and I did our homework, she cleaned up my mother’s messes as well. She had to grow up quickly, and she never really was allowed to be a carefree teenager. While other girls her age were partying and making out with boys, she was learning how to make wonton soup and radish cakes as well as mending our clothes when we ripped holes in them.

I’m still angry with my mother, even though she’s been dead seventeen years. Yes, she was dealt a heavy blow when my father left us to live his gay life in San Francisco, but she had responsibilities, damn it. She had three daughters who needed her desperately, and she couldn’t pull herself together enough to take care of us. I can feel some compassion for her because she loved our father so much, and she had to deal with the shame of him leaving her. It was unheard of among Taiwanese people, and I’m sure she felt she couldn’t hold her head up around her friends. She was the only Taiwanese woman whose husband had left her, and I know she dwelled on that every day of her life. The problem is, she never received help in dealing with her pain, so it became calcified around her until it was the only part of her identity left. She slowly dropped all her friends or were dropped by them until she had no one. I remember her sitting at the dining room table night after night steadily depleting a bottle of Chablis before reaching for another. I don’t remember her working, so I don’t know where she got the money for her booze or for the mortgage, actually. I’m guessing it’s family money, but I don’t know much about her nuclear family except they’re all still in Taiwan. Or were. Most of them have died by now.

I’m finding out more about the imposter than I care to know, and I don’t know how to process it. There’s still more to read, but I just can’t. I’m on information overload, and I don’t think I can handle anything else. I have to, though, because I need to figure out why that man was run down by a car. Or do I? That is the question I keep asking myself. Maybe it’s better to leave it alone, but I can’t do that.

I write for an hour before publishing. A few minutes later, MNborn replies. “Megan, I’m saying this with love, so take it in that spirit. Who died and made you queen of fixing your family? I know you feel you owe your older sister a debt because of all she did for you when you were a kid, but I think you’ve paid her back in full. First you found her missing husband, and now, you’re digging into the dirt that is your father’s life. Before that, you were hit with your best friend’s murder, which you probably haven’t properly grieved. I’m saying this as a friend. You don’t have to do this. You can just stop.” Tears fill my eyes, and I start sobbing. I can’t remember the last time someone has shown such outright care for me, and it touches me to my core. “Thank you, MNborn. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your concern. Sometimes, I feel alone in my feelings, and having someone reach out to comfort me is a gift that is priceless.” PortlandBound adds, “You have been hit with a double whammy that most people would not be able to cope with. A man impersonating your father. Your actual father dying. You need to give yourself a break. Not just an emotional one, but an actual one. Don’t read about your father or the fraud for the rest of the night. Make yourself a cup of tea and read a trashy novel. Pet your cats. Go to bed early. Let your mind just breathe.”

There are several more comments in that vein. I am buoyed by their concern, and I decide to do as several suggest and not think about that man or my father for the rest of the night. They’re right. I need a break, and I’m going to give myself one. MNborn is also right in that I would do anything for Jasmine because she gave up her teenage years for me, but she wouldn’t want me to tear myself apart over this. I have the feeling that Viv doesn’t care as much about finding out who killed that man, and she has no interest in our father. Why would she? She didn’t even know him. I lounge on my couch, watching old Friends episodes on Netflix. It’s a mediocre show about mediocre (and very fake) white hipsters in New York, but it’s allows my brain to just veg. I do like Phoebe, anyway, so it’s not a total loss. I go to bed around midnight because I’m fucking exhausted. My sleep is filled with fragmented dreams about mutilated ballerinas who are dancing on bleeding toes. I sit straight up, startling Onyx and Jet with my sudden movement. I stroke them each on the nose until they fall back asleep, and then I slip out of the bed. I go downstairs to smoke, and by the time I re-enter the house, Onyx and Jet are on the other side of the door staring at me. I go to the kitchen to get them some treats, then I take a quick shower. It’s four in the morning, and I’m wide awake, but exhausted. I need at least another hour of sleep, but I know I won’t get it. I go to the living room to read the comments on my latest post.

BattyforMatty writes, “You don’t need to be a superhero, you know, Megan. It’s OK to let others help you. You could split up the information among your sisters and each of you do a third of the work.” WhateverWhatever says, “Your mind is frazzled, and it’s no wonder! You have to ask yourself, is it really up to you to figure out what happened to that man? Presumably, the police are looking into it. I think if you must delve into your past, you should concentrate on your father.” There are a few people telling me to get over myself and quit whining, but I don’t publish those comments. It’s my blog, and I can whine if I want to, and oh, do I want to. I get up and take another shower. Once I’m out, I make myself a bagel and cream cheese for breakfast. My phone rings, and it’s Jasmine. I answer, though I do not want to talk about our father’s will.

“I’ve emailed Jordan for the name of a good probate lawyer in San Francisco,” Jasmine says as soon as I answer.

“What?” is my inelegant response. She has a bad habit of carrying on conversations in her brain and thinking she’s having it with someone else. I’ve talked to her about it several times, but it’s still something she does all the time.

“Viv told me about the will. I knew Daddy wouldn’t forget about us.” There’s triumph in her voice, and it saddens me. She sees our father’s will as validation that he actually loved us, whereas I see it as blood money given to us out of guilt. “Jordan is going to get me the name of a good probate lawyer in San Francisco so we can sort out this mess.”

“Good. I’m glad you’re taking care of it, Jas,” I say as I lean against the counter in the kitchen. I’m still hungry, and I’m thinking of scrambling some eggs. It’s not something I do on a regular basis, but I suddenly want scrambled eggs more than anything. I heat up a saucepan and put some oil in it. I crack three eggs, add cheddar cheese and mushrooms, and start scrambling as I listen to Jasmine prattle about the will. I add salt and pepper to my eggs as I listen with half an ear. Once I’m done, I plate my eggs and pour Sriracha sauce on them. Onyx and Jet look at me with large, begging eyes, and I give them each a bite of the eggs minus the hot sauce.

“I’m planning to fly out to San Francisco in a few days,” Jasmine informs me. “I think it’ll be easier to take care of this in person.”

“That’s a good idea,” I say, taking my plate into the living room. I start eating them because I do not like my eggs tepid or cold.

“You keep on researching that man in the meantime,” Jasmine says, her tone bossy. As usual, I bristle at her commanding personality, but I don’t say anything about it.

“Will do. Talk to you later.” I hang up the phone and concentrate on my eggs. They’re light and fluffy, and I gobble them down. When I’m done, it’s time to go to work. My feet are dragging as I enter the office. I have a hunch my time here is coming to a close. I like my job to be something I can do while I’m there, then leave it behind when I’m out the door. However, the sheer banality of telemarketing is getting to me, and I have a nice little nest egg that can cushion me being jobless for quite some time. If I can make a thousand dollars a month from my writing, I can quit this job comfortably. Actually, I can quit right now if I really want to, but I’m hesitant to do so. I know that left to my own devices, I’ll brood. If I brood for too long, I’ll spiral downwards into depression. That’s the main reason I like having a job—it gets me out of the house. It’s also one reason I started taking taiji classes three times a week, and it’s served me well so far. I decide to leave it as status quo right now because I can always quit later, but I can’t necessarily un-quit. As long as the job remains relatively painless, I’ll keep it.

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