Tag Archives: chapter twelve part one

Plaster of Paris; chapter twelve, part one

“Let’s go talk,” Lyle says, grabbing me by the arm.  With a wave at the others, he steers me to the cafeteria.

“Isn’t it great, Lyle?”  I say, a goofy smile on my face.

“I forgot to tell you about Ursula,” Lyle says as soon as we sit down.  Neither of us is hungry, but I grab a piece of chocolate pie anyway.  Lyle has a monster cookie which he is munching.  Both of us have coffee as well.

“Ursula?”  I look at him blankly.

“Paris’s birthmother,” Lyle prods my memory.  “I never told you about our talk.”              “Shit!  That’s right!  Dish,” I order.  Lyle spills all he knows.  As we guessed, Ursula tried to feint and dodge, but Lyle’s charm finally won her over.  To a certain extent.  She confessed that she had talked to Paris’s birthfather ‘once or twice’ since the blessed event, but refused to divulge his name or where he lived, saying it wasn’t relevant.  She admitted to discovering Paris months ago, but sat on the information because she was nervous about facing him.  Plus, she had a deadline for the book she was working on, and she couldn’t afford to let anything interfere with that.  Her husband was still out of town, or so she said.  Lyle couldn’t see any traces of him in the living room or the kitchen, the two rooms he actually saw.

“She was tense,” Lyle says, frowning as he sips his coffee.  “She tried to cover it up, but I could tell.  Everything was just a hair off.  You know, laugh a little too loud; gestures a little too broad—that kind of thing.”  I know exactly what he’s saying; it was the same way when we met her in Luna Park.  An actor in a play of her own making—Lyle and I are just bit players on her stage.  The spell she cast over me when we first met has long since dissipated.

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Rainbow Connection; chapter twelve, part one

The next morning, I awake with a start.  I impulsively call out to my mother before remembering that she had returned home the night before after delivering the edict that I was to call her if anything untoward happens.  I had retorted that everything in my life these days was untoward so I would be calling her continuously.  This morning, I awake with my heart pounding.  I had another one of those nightmares where I can’t remember anything that happened, but I can still feel the aftermath.  I stumble out of bed to get ready for work, feeling less enthusiastic about it than usual.  I start thinking about changing my job.  I’m almost thirty and have been a receptionist at one place or another since I graduated from college.  Now, it’s fine to be a receptionist at my age if in your spare time, you’re a struggling writer or painter or musician, but not if you’re just a lazy ass who has no direction in life.

I used to derive some satisfaction for a job well done, but no longer.  Each day is excruciatingly long, and my coworkers are really getting on my nerves.  I see the director of the agency sit on his fat ass all day long, doing nothing more important that decide where to go for lunch.  My immediate boss works hard, but she only puts in five to six hours a day.  Of course, Alicia, the wonder counselor strolls into work late and is among the first to leave.  It bothers me that I’m the hardest working person in the place.  I know that nobody is getting paid much money, but supposedly, we’re working for a greater cause.  Some of the counselors and teachers have been there for years doing the same thing year after year, sliding by.  In some ways, it’s a cushy job without much pressure to improve on performance.  There are no concrete objectives other than to graduate kids out of the program, which is subjectively decided, anyway.  If it weren’t for the kids, I’d find the job intolerable.

I sigh.  The idea of scouring the classifieds or surfing mega-job sites depresses me.  That’s one of the reasons I haven’t quit my job—inertia.  As frustrating as my current position is, it’s the poison I know.  There’s no guarantee that a new job will be free of the corrosive office politics found at my current place of employment.  Most days, this argument is enough to keep me, not happy, but complacent.  I trudge to work, hunkered inside my coat.  I hate San Francisco weather, though the Mission is better than the rest of the truly windy city.  Other people scurry by, grim looks on their faces.  San Francisco is more laid-back than NYC, but it’s slowly growing more uptight.  Another reason I like the Mission—it still retains some residual funk.  One such funkster holds his hand out to me, boldly staring in my eyes.

“You are truly a vision of beauty,” he beams, his dark brown eyes glowing.  His frame is gaunt with his walnut-colored skin stretched tightly over his bones, as if he hasn’t eaten in days.  I have a bagel in one hand, a cup of untouched coffee in the other.  I thrust both at him, and he doffs his hat at me before accepting.  “God will show mercy on your soul, beautiful lady,” he laughs, taking a bite out of the onion bagel smeared with cream cheese.  He closes his eyes in delight as he washes down the bite with a sip of coffee.  I hurry away, not wanting to be the target of his fulsome praise.  I make it to work with a minute to spare.

“Did you read this?”  Quinn asks, tossing the Chronicle on my desk.  She hasn’t darkened my foyer since her futile attempt to procure me as a present for her ‘roommate’ but appears determined to make up for lost time.  I glance at the front page, disconcerted to see Mariah’s face splashed across it.

“Second-generation Death,” the headline runs.  I frown.  They really need better headlines to grab people’s attention.  Although, the picture of a dead Mariah clutching a rosary is more than enough to turn my stomach.  I skim the beginning of the article which seems to be asking the question if death can run in a family, much like blue eyes or fat stomachs.  I wrinkle my nose in disgust.  There’s nothing new in the article, and it’s clear they are just capitalizing on the tragedy.  I’m about to toss the paper back at Quinn when something else catches my eye—a sidebar interviewing Carol.  She offers her condolences but takes pains to add that she thinks the latest death indicates there is absolutely no connection between the therapy group and the murders.  She goes on in this vein for some time before sliding in the obligatory mention of her book.  My mouth tightens.  I can’t believe she’s done it again.

“It’s that maid’s daughter,” Quinn explains, her eyes round.  I snap back to the present, pushing Carol’s comments to the back of my mind.  I make a note to myself to ask Carol about the article at the next meeting and not to let her off the hook.  Then I let it go.  “Remember I told you about my friend who was blackmailed by that maid!”  I vaguely remember the story.  I wonder if Quinn has any more useful information.

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Parental Deception; chapter twelve, part one

“Remember to text me every ten minutes,” Rembrandt tells me as I pull up to Mr. Liang’s house. It’s an understated two-story Tudor, not at all in line with my idea of what a multimillionaire’s house should look like. There’s a silver Audi in the driveway, the only nod to luxury I can see.

“Will do,” I say, nodding at Rembrandt as I shut off the car. I’m pensive as I walk to the door because I don’t know what to expect. Mr. Liang had been quite imperious in his order for me to meet with him, and I don’t do well with autocrats.

“Ms. Liang. Come in.” Mr. Liang opens the door and gestures inside. He’s leaning on a solid metal cane, which indicates that he has some physical ailment. I step across the foyer and glance down. He’s wearing Chinese slippers, and there’s a rack of them to my right. I take off my shoes and put on a pair. He nods in approval as I do. I take a few seconds to study him as he turns to lead me down the hallway. He’s over six feet tall with a head of snowy white hair. Intense dark brown eyes and a large frame. He’s wearing a tailored gray suit, and I’m glad I chose to wear a black dress instead of jeans or even slacks.

“Mr. Liang. Nice to meet you,” I say to Mr. Liang’s back. He keeps it ramrod, and his gait is even, though it’s clearly costing him not to limp. I sense he’s a proud man who would not want to appear weak or hurt in front of a woman, and I wonder if he normally uses a wheelchair. He leads me into a living room that is sparse, to put it kindly. The ecru walls are bare except for one small portrait of a family. His, I presume, though he has black hair in the picture. There is a brown suede couch in the middle of the room, and there’s a matching recliner facing the couch. Mr. Liang gestures to the couch, and I gingerly lower myself onto it. Mr. Liang eases himself into the recliner and pushes it back so he can rest his legs. He rings a tiny bell on the side table by the recliner, and an older Taiwanese woman dressed in a drab gray uniform appears with a tray laden with a tea pot, cups, plates, cream cakes, and macaroons. She pours a cup of tea and hands it to Mr. Liang, and he nods his approval. She does the same to me, and I take a cautious sip. It’s oolong, black, which is just fine with me. She sets the tray on the coffee table before disappearing from whence she came.

“Go ahead. Have a cake. Mrs. Chang made them herself, and they’re marvelous.” Mr. Liang helps himself to several cakes and macaroons and tucks in. I do the same, and the cream cakes are light, fluffy, and simply melts in my mouth.

“These are fantastic. My compliments to Mrs. Chang,” I say, eating my third cake in a row.

“Ms. Liang. Why have you been inquiring about me?” Mr. Liang asks, his tone level. I can hear the anger behind the words, though, and I flinch inside. I don’t want to show fear, though, because I know a man like him will pounce on any perceived or real weakness. “I am a very private person, and I much dislike a stranger prying into my affairs.” Good Lord. This man should be part of a Victorian novel, not living in the 2000s. I keep that comment to myself, however, as I don’t want to get off on the wrong foot.

“It’s a long and strange story, but I need to give you some background so you understand my motives.” I wait until Mr. Liang nods before continuing. “A few days before Thanksgiving, a man showed up on my doorstep claiming to be my father.” I stop because I feel uncomfortable waving the family laundry in public. However, I sense that if I don’t tell him the truth, he’ll throw me out on my ear. “It turns out that he was lying. He wasn’t my father; he was someone else.”

“Why would a man claim to be your father?” Mr. Liang asks, sounding intrigued.

“My father left our family when I was three. That was over four decades ago. I haven’t seen him since.” My voice is even, but it still hurts to say, even this many years later.

“I’m sorry,” Mr. Liang says, looking directly in my eyes. I blink because I wasn’t expecting sympathy from him. “That has to have been hard on you.”

“Thank you, and, yes, it was.” I clear my throat and add, “The man who impersonated my father was George Tsai.” I keep an eye on Mr. Liang’s face, but it doesn’t change except for the slightest tic under his left eye.

“George Tsai. I haven’t heard that name in decades.” Mr. Liang’s voice hardened. “Until this week. The night he was killed—”

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Marital Duplicity; chapter twelve, part one

“Let’s go through the Sabre Form, as much as you know.” Lydia stands in front of me and guides me through the Sabre Form as far as I know, which is two-thirds of it. I struggle through a few of the postures that give me trouble. I am not as fond of the Sabre Form as I am of the Sword Form, but I know that I’ll feel better once I learn the whole thing. We go over a few of the postures that I’m having difficulty with, and within a half hour, we have it all straightened out. She shows me the next posture, then we go through the Sword Form, which is my personal favorite. She gives me a few corrections, which I practice until I feel comfortable with them. Afterwards, we sit down to have a good old-fashioned chinwag. I drink from my iced water bottle and mop my face with my towel.

“You’ve missed quite a few classes,” Lydia comments. “Everything all right?” There’s no judgement in her voice, just concern.

“I know. I’m sorry, Lydia. Believe me, I hate missing classes, but it’s for an important reason.” I briefly summarize what’s been going on with me, and Lydia is properly aghast when I mention Bob’s disappearance.

“That’s awful!” Lydia says, squeezing my hand. “Your poor sister. She must be in a terrible state.”

“She is. She’s upset, and she’s taking it out on me.” I sigh and rub my forehead. I don’t like talking about Jasmine behind her back, but I’m also feeling frustrated by her lack of gratitude. I’m not comfortable by that emotion, but I can’t deny it.

“Why? It seems like you’re the only one who’s doing anything about it.” Lydia is indignant on my behalf, and I’m warmed by her support.

“Because she’s freaked as fuck, and I’m the only one here.” I pause and add, “Plus….” I stop. I feel uncomfortable revealing Jasmine’s secrets to anyone. “She hasn’t been getting any sleep and isn’t eating very well, either. I should see if I can get her to come to class.”

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