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.”