Tag Archives: chapter ten part one

Duck, Duck, Dead Duck; chapter ten, part one

I slid into my mother’s Honda, determined to drive it.  I slowly backed out of the garage and started down the street.  I decided to go to Grand Street in St. Paul to shop because they had many eclectic shops on that street.  I hated malls with a passion, and I never went to the Megamall unless someone came to visit from out of town.  Without exception, visitors always wanted to be taken to the Mall.  I had the radio on MPR—the only station I could stomach.  They were interviewing Jonny Lang and playing his newest release.  I hummed along to it as it was undeniably catchy.  Hard to believe he was only twenty-two with a full-throated growl like that.  He was cute, too, but apparently married.  I shook my head to rid myself of these random thoughts and concentrated on the road.  It wasn’t easy to do as my arm was screaming at me to stop moving, but I managed to make it in one piece.

I parked in what used to be The Ruminator’s, nee, Hungry Mind’s parking lot, missing Hungry Mind fiercely.  I put my sling on before I forgot it, then got out of the car.  I walked into Avalon, studiously avoiding looking at the space where Hungry Mind used to be.  In Avalon, I wrinkled my nose at the scent of jasmine incense lingering in the air.  I liked incense as much as the next person, but it was a bit too heavy in Avalon to be comfortable for me.  I held my nose as I looked through the cards.  I hated ninety-five percent of the tripe that was being marketed, but Avalon usually had a good selection.  This time was no exception.  After I chose a card, I headed for the magnet section.  I knew that I wanted to get him the ‘erotic’ kit, but I also had to find something that he could open in front of the family.

I walked through the whole store, looking at postcard packets, candles, little books, body lotions.  Nothing that spoke to me of Rafe.  I knew that I could go to Victoria’s Secret and buy a teddy, wear it for him, and he’d be perfectly happy.  That wasn’t what I wanted to do, however, especially not with my arm bandaged as it was.  I went over to the journal section and took a look.  Not that Rafe had ever expressed an interest in writing, but I thought he had a bit of the poet in him.  Avalon had a nice collection, but they seemed mostly geared towards women.  I highly doubted that Rafe would feel comfortable with an ‘Emily’ journal or one with a quote about women on the front.  Not that he would be embarrassed, exactly, but his vague sense of machismo would be slightly offended.  Then he would feel guilty since he believed himself a feminist and would tote the damn thing around everywhere to prove a point.  No birthday gift should inspire that kind of guilt, so I circled the store one more time.

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Plaster of Paris; chapter ten, part one

“I’m going to see Paris,” I say defiantly, striding towards the room.  I positively itch for a confrontation, but this officer, yet a different one, lets me in as soon as I give her my name.  I sit down. “It’s a mess, Paris.  I’m no closer to finding out who did this to you, and worse yet, I quit my job today.  Sort of.”  I pour out everything, not wanting to bottle up my feelings.  As I’m talking a glimmer of something comes to my mind, but it’s gone.  I don’t try to push it because I know it’ll come to me sooner if I let it simmer.  I want more than anything for Paris to open his eyes, for him to smile at me, for him to come home.  “Oh, god,” I sob, my head dropping forward.  How much longer can I stand to see Paris like this?  I long to shake him by his shoulders until he awakes.

“Ma’am, it’s time.”  The officer carefully places her hand on my arm, her eyes showing sympathy.

“Mom, let’s get out of here for a bit,” I say to my mother in Taiwanese.  “Just you and me.”

“What about Lyle?”  My mother asks, casting a worried glance at Lyle who isn’t paying any attention to us.  “We can’t leave him here by himself.”

“That’s rude, you know,” Mr. Jenson says suddenly, interrupting our conversation.  “Talking in a foreign language in front of people who don’t speak it.  Besides, this is America.  Speak English.”

“There’s no mandate that says we have to speak English,” I say heatedly, a flush creeping up my neck.  We had been rude, but I am too edgy to apologize.

“Rayne and I are going to run back to her apartment for a bit,” my mother says evenly.  “Lyle, would you like to come with us?”

“I’ll stay here,” Lyle says, glaring at the Jensons.  Mrs. Jenson avoids his eyes, but Mr. Jenson glares right back.

“You sure, honey?”  Mom asks Lyle, squeezing his arm solicitously.  He nods, not taking his eyes off Mr. Jenson.  My mother and I reluctantly leave them.

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Rainbow Connection; chapter ten, part one

The next few days are a blur of work and talking on the phone with Lyle and Paris.  Despite what he said, Paris is grateful that Lyle made the trip to Memphis, even if it means Lyle staying at a nearby Holiday Inn.  Mr. and Mrs. Jenson refuse to allow Lyle to stay in their house which pisses Paris off no end.  Lyle is the one who calmed Paris down, making him see that it wasn’t the time nor the place for a hissy-fit.  The funeral is set for Wednesday.  It will be a quiet, family affair, and there is a battle raging on whether Lyle will be allowed to attend or not.  Paris has already threatened not to go if Lyle is barred from the proceedings.  Half of me is glad that I escaped the drama while the other half is sorry that I can’t be there to support Paris and Lyle.  When I’m not on the phone with them, I’m worried about them.  For all the good I’m doing the agency where I work, I might as well have made the trip South.

Tuesday, I’m keyed up for group.  I don’t want to be the cops’ spy, but I don’t have much choice.  I drink cup after cup of coffee at work to get through the day after a terrible night of not sleeping.  It discourages me that I am regressing back into the land of nightmares after I thought I had put it behind me forever.  I have four nightmares Monday night, each scary enough to wake me with a pounding heart and dry mouth.  It takes a half hour to fall back asleep after each one.  Needless to say, when the alarm finally rings in the morning, I don’t greet the day with enthusiasm.  In fact, I seriously consider skipping work, but as I said, my cred at the agency has maxed out.

“Hello, everyone.”  Carol is smiling her usual smile, but it’s frayed around the edges.  Even she is finding it difficult to keep up her soothing therapy voice in the midst of the drama that is our group.  “I hope you’ve all had a restful week.”  The group members are stealing looks at each other, but no one is saying anything.  Carol has her ubiquitous notebook out, which doesn’t help the confidences flow.  Carol sighs but tries again like a good facilitator.  “I think we need to clear the air before we can get back to what this group is really about.  Who wants to talk about what’s on her mind?”

“I will,” Sharise says, thrusting her chin out defiantly.  “It be hard to think about what we here for what with all this murder business going on.  I come here thinking, ‘Am I going to be next?’  I be looking over my shoulder all the time, waiting to get KO’d, you know what I’m saying?  I’m thinking this be my last time here.”  She sits back, folding her arms across her chest.

“Ok, Sharise.  I’m glad you’re being open.  That’s what the group is for, after all.”  Carol nods encouragingly.  “I’d like to remind you that you were against shutting down the group last week.  What changed your mind?”

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Marital Duplicity; chapter ten, part one

For the first time in weeks, I sleep soundly. Onyx and Jet behave themselves for once and don’t sit on my face in the middle of the night. In fact, when I wake up, they’re sleeping on the couch besides me, curled up in a ball. I slide out of bed and take a quick shower. I go through my routine, and by the time I’m done, Onyx and Jet are yammering for their breakfast. I give them their wet food before slipping out the door. I’m early to work for once, but I don’t want to make a habit of it. I focus on my job, then I leave it at the door at the end of the day. I make my way to Mrs. Tsai’s house with the help of Agnes, my not-Siri. I get there with ten minutes to spare, and she welcomes me with a warm smile. I enter her house, and I’m overwhelmed by all the delicious fragrances that remind me of my childhood. When my mother was sober and in a cooking mood, she made the tastiest dumplings. Steamed and fried. I can tell that Mrs. Tsai is making the fried kind—my favorite.

“Megan! Come in, come in.” Mrs. Tsai grabs me by the arm and guides me inside.

“Thank you, Mrs. Tsai. It smells terrific.” I step inside and take off my shoes. I slip on a pair of slippers that are hanging on the guest rack and follow her into the kitchen.

“Oh, please. Do call me Lisa. Mrs. Tsai is my husband’s mother. That dragon lady.” The last is said under Lisa’s breath, so I pretend not to hear it. She leads me into the dining room which is attractively set with good china—for two. “Harry, my husband, is out of town on business. It’ll just be the two of us tonight. Please, have a seat.” She points at one of the seats, and I sit down. She hurries back into the kitchen, and I look at her décor. The walls are a warm marigold, and there are nature paintings all over them. There’s a mahogany sideboard in the corner of the room, and I find the whole effect homey and charming. “Here we go!” Lisa returns bearing a tray laden with fried dumplings, radish cakes, wonton soup, fried rice, and other Taiwanese delicacies. I pick up my chopsticks expectantly, and she serves me a very generous portion of everything. I wait until she says grace before digging in. Radish cakes are one of my favorite dishes, and she makes them better than any I’ve had in decades.

“Lisa. Your cooking is fantastic. It takes me back to my childhood.” I gobble everything in sight, not bothering to pretend I’m dignified or restrained. Lisa is looking at me with an indulgent smile because in Taiwanese culture, there is no higher compliment to the chef than to eat as quickly as you can and ask for more. In addition, we can’t talk about business until we’ve eaten our fair share.

“Thank you. I love cooking, though it’s not much fun with no one here to eat it.” The corners of Lisa’s mouth turn downward, and I suspect there’s trouble in paradise. She might have said she and her husband’s relationship was just fine, but I doubt that’s true.

“Lisa, let me be frank. I’m here because Bob’s missing, and I think your church has something to do with it.” Again, I would prefer to be more delicate, but I don’t have the time nor the patience.

“My church?” Lisa’s mouth drops open; fortunately, there isn’t any food in it.

“Yes, your church. Reverend Yang to be more specific.” I stare at Lisa, and she visibly flinches when I mention the reverend’s name. Interestingly enough, she doesn’t rush to protest as I thought she would.

“Reverend Yang is a wonderful man,” Lisa says slowly. “He brought great comfort to me in my time of need.”

“But?” I say, my ears perking.

“My circle of friends thinks he walks on water. I have a hard time not speaking out when they start singing his praises, but I know they will be upset if I do.” Lisa fiddles with her wedding ring, refusing to meet my eyes.

“I understand. Women can be so cruel to each other.” My carefully curated comment elicits exactly the response I want.

“At first, I thought he was wonderful! He listened to everything I said and was so understanding when I talked about my problems with Harry.” Lisa’s lower lip starts trembling, and I’m afraid she’s going to cry. “Oh, he was assiduous with his attentions. He was so understanding, he talked me out of my clothing and right onto his couch. Of course, he urged me to keep it to myself, which I did. Until Sally told me in confidence that she was sleeping with Reverend Yang. You can imagine my surprise after Reverend Yang told me how I was the only woman who understood him. He told me I was different and special. What a fool I was.” Lisa tears up, but she doesn’t give in to them. She wipes her eyes, and it’s clear that she’s not over the affair yet.

“He’s a very charming man, Lisa. You can’t blame yourself.” I pause, then add, “When was your affair?”

“It ended a few months ago. Three or four months. He started making excuses to cancel our sessions or to delay them. When I confronted him, he just shined me on.” Lisa dabs her eyes with a napkin and pushes her plate away. “I’ve suddenly lost my appetite.”

“I’m sorry for bringing up painful memories,” I say, patting her hand.

“My husband was staying at work later and later, and I couldn’t help but notice that his secretary was half his age and had legs up to her neck. He came back with lipstick on his collar one night, and he made some dumb excuse. I didn’t push it.” Lisa looks ashamed of herself, and it makes me sad. So many women put up with philandering husbands, then feel ashamed of themselves for doing it. It’s as old as time, and it’s ruined so many lives. “He finally confessed to me a month ago after she dumped him. I told him I forgave him.”

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Blogging My Murder; chapter ten, part one

Chapter Ten; Part One

“Taiji is not just of the body, it’s also of the mind.” Lydia is lecturing on the principles of taiji, which I am sorry to say, I tune out. I’ve heard it a million times, and my mind is fractured today, anyway. I try to focus, but my thoughts keep drifting towards Julianna’s murder. Every time I put it to the back of my mind, it rushes forward again. I take several smooth, slow breaths as I try to remain on an even-keel emotionally. When I check back in, Lydia has moved on to the first section of the Solo Form. I hurriedly catch up to my classmates, not wanting to be caught daydreaming. After we finish the first section, it’s break time. I slump in a chair and drink water from my iced water bottle. I don’t want to talk to anyone, and most of my classmates seem to have gotten the memo. One of them, however, Betty Bowser (really, that’s her name), blithely ignores the strong ‘stay away from me’ vibes and sits next to me.

“That was a good workout!” She wipes her face with a towel, though I don’t see any sweat there. She’s wearing a fuchsia-colored sweatshirt that says ‘Girl Power’ and matching sweats. She even has a matching headband, for fuck’s sake. Of course, she’s wearing a full face of makeup and brand new Nikes, also fuchsia. Her fingernails match as well, and I’m getting nauseated just looking at her.

“Yes. It was a good first section.” I keep my tone brusque, hoping she’ll take the hint. She doesn’t.

“Your form looks so much better than mine. I don’t think I’ll ever be as good!” Betty fluffs out her (dyed) blond curls and cuts her eyes at our classmate, Kirk, who is chatting with Lydia. Kirk is barely twenty, but an ex-baseball player who was slated to go pro until he tore his ACL three times in two seasons. He has dark brown hair and warm hazel eyes, and I can understand Betty’s attraction to him. She’s almost twice his age, however, which is Mrs. Robinson territory in my book. Anyone under thirty looks like an unformed blob in my eyes. They can be physically attractive, but there’s no there there. I like my partners to have some mileage on their tires and to show that they’ve been on a journey.

“You’ve only been studying a year, Betty. I have six years on you and countless hours of practice. You’ll get there.” My tone is perfunctory. The last thing I want to do is hold this neurotic woman’s hand.

“But your form is so fluid. Mine is herky jerky!” Betty is still looking at Kirk who is blissfully unaware of her scrutiny.

“It’s because you have more information than your brain knows what to do with,” I say crisply. It’s something I’ve heard Lydia say countless times. With newbies, you can only teach them one thing at a time, namely, the postures. If you try to correct them on every little thing they’re doing wrong, they’ll try to fix all the things at once, which means they won’t be able to concentrate on anything at all. So, it’s best not to mention form problems unless they’re actively hurtful to the person  practicing. Unfortunately, that means that bad habits can become entrenched. I’ve had to work on not pushing my knees too far forward because I didn’t realize it was something I was doing for years. It’s a pain in the ass, and sometimes, I despair I’ll ever be able to correct it.

“You’re saying I’m stupid?” Betty looks at me, anger in her cornflower blue eyes.

“No. It has nothing to do with intelligence.” My voice is sharp. I’m at the end of my rope with Betty, though I’m trying to keep my temper. “We all think we’re good at multitasking, but we’re really not. That’s why it’s important to focus on one thing at a time. If you want to know more, ask Lydia.”

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