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Rainbow Connection; chapter two, part four

I am restless.  For the first time in the past month, I want to escape the apartment.  Up until this point, I have only left to go grocery shopping with Paris and to see my mother.  Each trip would have me panicking, seeking out possible killers.  One time I actually pulled Paris out of the Safeway and made him drive me home as fast as possible.  I spent the next hour curled up in a ball on the couch in the living room, covering my head with my arms.  Paris had sat next to me, patting me to reassure me that he was still with me.  Now, I want to leave.  I want to take a walk around the block, even at this time of night.  If Paris were home, I’d make him go for a walk with me.  He’d be ecstatic to do so at my behest, but I am not going to disturb his time with Lyle to take care of me.  For a minute, I toy with the idea of going on my own, but I know that would be folly.  Our neighborhood isn’t dangerous per se, but I certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable walking around by myself in the dark after what had happened to me.

Pizza sounds good.  Maybe I can order some from Dominos or Pizza Hut.  They must deliver, even at nine at night.  I remember that Paris had mentioned leftover meatloaf and hurry to the kitchen.  His meatloaf is actually a turkey loaf with oregano and basil and dill.  Lots of onions and a sprinkling of olive oil perk up the potentially dull combination.  He adds jalapeno peppers with a liberal hand even though he doesn’t like spicy food as a whole.  He bakes the whole thing to a crispy brown, and it looks as luscious as it smells.  Even reheated, it’s a smashing dish.  In addition, he has made homemade mashed potatoes with gravy.  Asparagus spears round out the meal.  I nuke it all except the asparagus which I like to eat cold with a dollop of mayonnaise.  I dig into the plate of comfort food, eating every bite.  It’s the first time I’ve cleaned my plate in weeks.  Paris would be proud of me if he were here to witness it.  I am tempted to have a second helping, but I do not want to gain back the weight I have lost.  I grab two cookies and a glass of fat-free milk instead.  It’s a satisfying ending to a great meal.  I remember that I haven’t eaten any fruit today, so I peel an orange.  It’s just the right combination of citric and sweet.  I do the dishes and return to the living room.

Television holds no interest for me, though I try to watch an old episode of Law & Order.  I used to love that show, but now I find it too painful to watch.  I can’t read mysteries any longer, either.  Even when I know it’s fiction, my heart starts racing and I flash back to my own terrible experience.  I’m sure the shrinks would call it Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome or Disorder, but whatever it is, I don’t need to subject myself to it.  I’d rather read a trashy romance than pick up a Marcia Muller these days.  Which sucks because I love Marcia Muller.  Even fiction with heavy themes such as any book by Alice Sebold stops me cold.  I used to enjoy reading the latest book so I could be up on the trends even if only to diss them, but I cannot force myself to read such books these days.  No Faulkner or Styron, either.  Even the poetic classic Night by Elie Wiesel must remain unread.

Instead, I turn to insipid romances that are comfortingly mind-numbing in their inane plots and predictability.  Harlequin romances and soap operas have become my best friends.  I will read anything with a cheerful ending, even when I know it’s a bunch of bull.  Lie to me, I say to literature.  Make me believe that everything will turn out for the best.  That I will someday be healed again, that everything will be ok.  I, who used to be the paragon of truth, who hated to lie or to be told a lie, now wants to be soothed, to be comforted, to be lied to.  I don’t even care if I know it’s a lie as long as it does what it’s supposed to be.  No, we’re not going to war.  No, Dubya is not a stupid frat boy masquerading as president.  No, there are not Democrats frothing at the mouth to fight those damn towel-heads.  No, the CEOs for many big businesses such as Enron have not systematically screwed over their employees, their shareholders, and the general public.  None of this is happening if I can become immersed in Danielle Steele’s world.  Judith Krantz is a favorite as well.

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Don’t Rayne On My Parade; chapter two, part four

“You’re next,” Inspector Robinson breaks into my reverie and nods at me.  I hop up with a start, nearly choking on my water.  I set down the glass and follow her, leaving a dejected Max to grapple with Officer Clark.  We settle on couches opposite each other, and she pulls out a notebook.  “What is your full name?”

“Rayne Liang.  R-a-y-n-e L-i-a-n-g,” I say, then remember that it’s not exactly true.  “Um, that’s not my full name.  It’s what I go by.  Is that good enough?”

“Full name, including middle,” Inspector Robinson repeats, tapping her pen against the notebook.

“Rainbow Freedom Liang,” I say reluctantly, cursing my mother as I do any time I have to divulge my name.  I wait for the comment that inevitably follows my revelation—‘Your parents must have been hippies!’—but it doesn’t come.  Inspector Robinson writes it down before continuing with her questioning.  After receiving mundane details such as my address and age, she starts asking more substantive questions.

“How long have you known Ms. Bowers?”  Inspector Robinson asks, her eyes trained on my face.  I have the uneasy feeling that I have a glob of toothpaste in the corner of my mouth, but I resist the urge to lick it to see if it’s true.

“I met her at the party tonight,” I say.  I open my mouth to add something, but don’t.  Just answer the questions and nothing more.  That’s what I’ve heard to do when talking to the police.

“Your friend, what is his name?”  Inspector Robinson waits.  She has a habit of sitting completely still, which is distracting.

“Paris Frantz.  F-r-a-n-t-z.  No middle name.”  Surely, this will get a rise out of her.  I am wrong again.

“Mr. Frantz is friends with Ms. Bowers, then.”  It takes me a few seconds to realize that she’s asking, not telling.

“Not exactly friends,” I hedge.  “He’s her personal trainer.”

“Where?”  Inspector Robinson’s voice is brisk, but not hurried.

“‘N Sound Shape on Valencia.”  I make a face as I say the name.  I catch a glimpse of a similar reaction on Inspector Robinson’s face before she can mask it.  “I know, I know, horrible name, but a great place to work out.  The owner really care about you.”  Jimmy Benedict, the owner, is a fixture in the Mission District, one of the many characters. Easy on the eyes, too.  He’s in his forties, but could pass for early thirties.

“It doesn’t sound like her kind of place,” Inspector Robinson frowns, looking at her notes.  “Why would Ms. Bowers frequent a health club not up to her standards?”

“I don’t know,” I stare at Inspector Robinson with respect.  She actually knows ‘N Sound Shape, which means she probably uses it herself as it’s not well-known.  “Maybe she likes to support locally-owned businesses.”

“There’s a Starbucks mug in the kitchen,” Inspector Robinson says with a hint of a smile.  “I don’t think Ms. Bowers has much difficult patronizing chains.”  Is that a joke?  I wonder if I can let my guard down. “Ms. Liang, why did you accompany Mr. Frantz here?”  Her tone is deceptively mild, but I can sense the quickening of her interest.

“He asked me to,” I reply simply.

“Do you do everything he asks?”

“Do you have a best friend?”  I don’t wait for an answer.  “He’s done so many things for me.  It was the least I could do.”

“Are you two lovers?”  The question comes out of left-field, but it doesn’t bother me.  I’m used to people questioning my relationship with Paris.

“No.  We’re just friends.”

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