Chapter Fourteen; Part One
“Hello? Is this Margaret Wang?” A British voice filtered through my cell phone, causing me to perk up. It was Wednesday night, and I’d just been ready to turn on the television to watch a little sports when the phone rang.
“Yes, it is. Is this Alan Rickman?” My heart beat a bit faster. What other Brit did I know? None.
“Yes, it is, love. How are you?” Alan Rickman, talking to me like we were friends. I had to breathe deeply a few times before answering.
“I’m just fine. You?”
“Smashing. I just wanted you to be the first in Minnesota to know that I’ve agreed to perform at the Guthrie. This fall. I shall be moving there, temporarily, of course, in a month or two. What do you think of that?”
“That’s fantastic,” I blurted out, not caring that I sounded like a star-struck teenager. I thought about it a second and realized that while it was, indeed, fantastic, it was also going to complicate my life somewhat. There was no denying I was powerfully attracted to Alan. Would I be able to keep my hands to myself? “What’s the play? No, wait, don’t tell me. I want to be surprised. It’s enough to know that you get the girl.” I was rewarded by Alan’s wonderful laugh. “Thank you for the orchids, by the way. They were beautiful.”
“I’m glad you enjoyed them,” Alan said warmly. “You know, you could ring me every now and then. I did give you my number for a reason.” My heart stopped at those words. He actually thought I’d dare to call him?
“I’ll try,” I said inanely. “I just know how busy you are, and well, I don’t want to bother you.”
“Listen, Margaret,” Alan said in his inimical voice. “I wouldn’t have given you my number if I didn’t mean for you to use it, all right?”
We chatted for several more minutes until he had to go. He promised he’d be in touch the minute he got to Minnesota which nearly gave me a heart attack. I hadn’t thought he was serious when he said he wanted to be friends, but apparently he was. I said goodbye in a dreamy voice, not caring that I was giving something away. I knew I’d have to be damn careful when he came into town, but I could dream, couldn’t I? There was no harm in that. I knew I was playing with fire, but I just didn’t give a damn.
“So, the Brit is coming back into your life, is he?” It was Lucifer, of course, and he was glaring at me. I was glad I had changed into sweats as soon as I got home so I wouldn’t be as appealing. Then again, it was easier access, something I did not need to think about.
“He has a name, you know,” I said dispiritedly. I wasn’t in the mood to fence with Lucifer as I wanted to savor my phone call with Alan.
“I know,” Lucifer said sharply, swooping next to me. The bastard actually flew the four feet or so it took to get from there to here. Showing off for my benefit, I guessed. I didn’t want to know. I couldn’t keep my eyes off him, however, as he was still magnificent. Idly, I wondered what Alan looked like naked, then flushed at my mind’s weakness. I was not going to sleep with Alan. I was not going to sleep with Lucifer. I was going to sleep with Ted. Once I had that sorted in my mind, I felt better.
“What is it you want, Morningstar?” I asked, staring right into his eyes. They were a soft green this time, catching me off-guard. I could see further into them than I’d ever had before. As he didn’t shut them down, I wondered if he meant for me to see. He had stopped trying to get me to tell him what God wanted with me, so I had to presume that there was another reason for his undivided attention.
“I can’t stop thinking about you, Margaret Marilyn,” Lucifer said softly, touching my jaw. It was a particularly sensitive spot of mine, and I shuddered at his intimacy. “You have bewitched me, and I must have you.” His finger slid down my neck, forcing a groan from me. “You cannot deny that you want me, too.” Lucifer stopped moving his finger and leaned forward to kiss me. I didn’t protest as his tongue touched mine; it felt right. “You do want me, don’t you?” Lucifer asked, his lips mere inches from mine. I pulled back slightly so I could answer.
“You know I do, Morningstar,” I replied, an edge to my voice. It was beginning to wear me out to have to fight him off especially as I had to combat my own desires as well.
“What do you think is going to happen if we fuck?” Lucifer asked before pressing his lips against my neck. He raised his head to look at me, his eyes a liquid silver. “You’re not going to burn in Hell forever unless you choose so. It’s not a mortal sin to have sex with the devil. It’s just sex, Margaret Marilyn.”
I wanted to listen; I really did. What he said sounded reasonable to me. Just because he was the Prince of Darkness didn’t mean he was all bad, right? Who the fuck was I trying to kid? I knew that having sex with Satan was perhaps the worst thing I could do to myself. How in the world could I rationalize fucking Lucifer? He was the embodiment of all things evil. He was the fallen one, the one who was outside of God’s grace forever. If I had sex with him, I would be in the same category. Wouldn’t I? I had to be. Granted, Lucifer was God’s son, but he was the fucking devil for God’s sake. Pete’s sake. Whoever’s sake.
“Please leave, Morningstar,” I said with real sadness and regret as I stared into Lucifer’s golden eyes. He really was a chip off the old block what with the lightshow and all.
“Our coupling is inevitable, Margaret Marilyn,” Lucifer said, pulling me to him. “Don’t you feel it here?” He pressed his hand against my left breast, leaving a burning sensation where his hand lay. “You are connected to me, and you know it.” His hand slid down the front of my sweatshirt as if the material wasn’t even there. With one smooth move, his hand slipping inside my sweat pants and my underwear until it was cupping my pussy. “You’re wet, Margaret Marilyn. You’re ready for me.”
Against my will, my hips pressed into his hand so his fingers slid inside of me. I was wet for him, all right, and he was using it to his advantage. He placed his other hand on the back of my neck and started massaging. I moaned as I bit into his shoulder—which tasted like honey. His wings were gone. I felt his back to see if there were holes anywhere, but there were not. I concluded they must just dissipate when he didn’t need them, or else he had really good retraction skills. He had really good other skills as well as he worked me to a peak before backing off.
“Margaret Marilyn, I am going to ask you one last time,” Lucifer whispered into my ear, biting the lobe afterwards. I was panting, not even sure what he was saying. “Do you want me to leave?” That resonated somewhere in my overheated brain and with supreme effort, I pushed him away.
“Yes, Morningstar, I want you to go.” I stared defiantly at him, trying to ignore the buzzing between my legs. Lucifer shoved one finger into my mouth so I could taste myself.
“I’ll be back.” His wings unfurled, and he was off.
That weekend, I did nothing other than mope around the apartment. I wouldn’t talk to Ned or Wind, no matter how much they tried to break through my self-imposed shell. I had had a shitty week at school. Hakim hadn’t shown up, and he wasn’t answering his cell. Kids dropped out all the time, but this was Hakim. He was one of my favorites, though I was careful not to let it show. I even stopped by his house on my way home from school Thursday, but he wasn’t there. Nobody was there, at least nobody was answering the door. I had scrawled a note and left it in the mailbox along with his homework, but I didn’t hear from him yesterday, either. I was worried out of my mind that his auntie had died, and I felt helpless to do anything about it. I tried calling the hospital, but they refused to give me that information. I didn’t see it on the news, not that I expected them to report on yet another drive-by on the North side.
To top things off, Amy had called me last night to ream me out. Oh, not in so many words because she was too nice to do that, but it was clear Mom had recruited Amy to her side now that Liz was out of it. Amy was a sweet girl who hadn’t had much real experience in life. She still thought in terms of black and white, and homosexuality was definitely wrong. It was on the tip of my tongue to tell her to try it before she condemned it, but I didn’t want to get into that particular fight. My sex life was my own business, and besides, I knew that if I ever ended up in a real relationship, it would be with a man. Women, to me, were fine as friends and as lovers, but not as long-term partners.
“You’re breaking Ma’s heart,” Amy yelled, clicking off without giving me a chance to respond. If I could, I would have said that Mom’s heart was too thick to ever break. That would have gotten us into a bigger fight, however, so I’d let it go. Not five minutes later, Josh called me from Boston.
“Not you, too,” I said in exasperation. I wasn’t up to my third and closest sister yelling at me as well. To my surprise, she had called to say she supported me.
“Margaret, Mom’s wrong about this. You and I both know it. Hang in there. I’m rooting for you.” That was all she’d said, but it made me feel better to know that she was on my side.
I made myself a mug of peppermint tea, hoping it would revitalize me. I felt something jolt me from the inside out, and I wondered what it was. It took me several seconds to realize it was the baby—she was finally making her presence known. I was sitting on the couch watching the Timberwolves getting clobbered. I rubbed my stomach, urging Gwen to do it again. It occurred to me that perhaps I should see a doctor just to make sure everything was going all right. I should also tell my family, but I cringed at the thought. I wanted to put that off for as long as possible because I knew it meant serious fireworks, especially when I refused to tell them who the father was. As if I could tell them. “Mom, Amy, Liz, Josh—God is the Father of my child.” Yeah, that’d go over really well.
I groaned out loud when I thought about telling Ted. Even though it had nothing to do with him, it wouldn’t be fair for me to leave him in the dark much longer. If he wanted out, now would be the time. I didn’t want to get any deeper into it with him if he was just leaving, anyway. I tried to imagine his reaction to the news, but I couldn’t. As much as I liked him and as much as we got along, I didn’t know enough about him. I had no idea if he’d be pissed, elated or what about the news. Me, I would be freaked out. I didn’t think I could handle that kind of surprise, and I hoped Ted was made of sterner stuff than was I.
I leaned back on the couch, closing my eyes. I hadn’t slept well since God imparted the bundle of joy in my stomach, and I was desperate for a few hours of solid sleep. I knew I had to take care of my body for this baby, however much I didn’t want it. Her, I corrected myself before God could. While I was fairly sure I couldn’t die until the baby was born, I didn’t want to push my luck. The bulge was beginning to feel obvious to me though it still wasn’t visible, which meant this was really happening. Until now, I had managed to half-convince myself that this was an elaborate joke. Now that the unmistakable signs were starting to sprout up, I had to reluctantly concede that I was, indeed, pregnant with God’s child.
The Virgin Mary. What the fuck did God see in me that compared with her? She was a teenage girl who’d never had sex in her life—so the story went. I was a woman in my thirties who’d fuck anything that moved if I so desired. She was a pious girl by all accounts. I hadn’t even believed in the Christian God before this blessed event occurred. I doubted that the Virgin Mary ever had the dubious privilege of meeting the devil whereas I’d had to fight him off with a stick. I had no idea what God saw in me that made him decide I would be the ideal mother for the next Savior of the World, but I didn’t want to think about it any longer. What I wanted more than anything was to get drunk and forget that this whole thing ever happened. I couldn’t do that, however, as Ted was coming over in a few hours for dinner.
I got up and surveyed the living room. After talking to two out of three of my sisters last night, I had burst into a cleaning frenzy. It was something I did when I was agitated because cleaning soothed me. As a result, the apartment was cleaner than it normally would have been. I had gone to the nearest Cub at four in the morning as well because I couldn’t sleep. There was nobody there, so I was able to zip through in record time. The only thing that would stop me from shopping repeatedly after midnight was that the night cashier person was an oddball who gave me the willies. Otherwise, it’s the perfect time to get my grocery shopping done.
I checked my watch and saw that I had three hours and counting. I went into the bathroom to take a shower because I felt grungy from all the cleaning last night. I hadn’t been blessed with a visit from either side lately, and I was grateful. I wondered if they were being nice to me on purpose or if they were just too busy to visit. I shook off the thought as I was sure they had more important things to do than to bother me. Then again, it didn’t exactly seem that way from the last few months. Every time I turned around, one or the other was there. It was enough to make me want to scream, I tell you. I showered quickly so I’d have time to dry my hair and cook. Yes, I could cook though I rarely did it. Why bother cooking for one when it was so much work? Oh, I knew I could freeze it and eat it all week long, but that wasn’t my style.
I moseyed into the kitchen, gathering what I needed to cook. I had cheated somewhat by buying a few things from a local Asian market in case my cooking turned out to be inedible. Since I didn’t do cook often, it was prudent for me to have a back-up plan. I peeked into the freezer, comforted to see the egg rolls, dumplings and other such tidbits sitting there. I had already cooked a sticky rice dish last night, and it had turned out wonderfully. Now, if I could just get the long-life noodles to work as well as the wontons I was making, I wouldn’t have to rely on my stash to impress Ted.
I hummed as I cooked, trying to jolly myself into a better mood. I didn’t want to be a sourpuss when Ted arrived, so I knew I had to brighten up now. It was hard, however, when I had had my first bout of morning sickness this morning. Hanging over the toilet puking my guts out wasn’t my idea of a good time. I had cursed God in between rounds of retching, throwing a few evil thoughts Lucifer’s way as well. No, he had nothing to do with my being pregnant, but it made me feel better to lump him in with God. The two of them had caused me more grief in the past few months than I’d experienced in my entire life. I dearly wished they’d leave me along and find someone else to pick on, but that didn’t look as if that was going to happen.
Now, however, I felt much better after emptying out the contents of my stomach this morning. I had eschewed anything other than crackers and Sprite the whole day which meant I’d be able to eat my fair share tonight. Provided I didn’t get queasy again. Even though it was called morning sickness, it could come at any time. I prayed it wouldn’t show up again tonight. I knew I had to tell Ted sooner or later, but I’d rather it be later and on my own terms. That was the least God could do for me as I was being forced to be the vessel for His seed. I still hadn’t reconciled myself to the idea of not having freewill, but I tried not to think about it. It would drive me mad if I dwelt on the injustice of my situation—better to keep my mind on my cooking.
Everything turned out perfectly, and I had an hour to spare. I put everything in the oven to keep it all warm while I went into my bedroom to change. I wanted to look irresistible tonight, but I had to find something to accommodate my burgeoning breasts and thickening waist. The former was considerably more noticeable than the latter, but that would change over time. I discarded dress after dress, finding minute flaws in each one. I didn’t want to wear slacks because I couldn’t bear the elastic pressing against my abdomen. I knew I’d have to go shopping for new clothes soon, but I didn’t want to do it more than once. I figured I’d balloon out at six or seven months, which meant I had a few months to go. As long as I stuck to dresses and sweats along with two of my more forgiving pants, I should be fine.
I picked out an eggplant-colored dress that swooped low in the front and back and flattered my stomach. It had almost no back and fell to my knees, which was a good length for me. It was sleeveless which meant I’d have to be careful serving the food, but the effect was too smashing to be resisted. I twirled in front of the mirror, marveling at how a well-cut dress could take off ten pounds. I still didn’t look like I was pregnant as long as I wasn’t naked. I figured when we reached that part of the night, I’d turned off the lights to conceal the bulge. Besides, Ted should be too heated to notice a little thing like a growing stomach. I twirled again, watching as my hair flew out around me. I added lipstick, earrings, and a necklace before declaring myself done. I didn’t want to go too fancy because we were spending the night in, after all. It occurred to me that we’d only gone out on one real date, but there was plenty of time for that later. At the stroke of eight, the buzzer rang. After ascertaining it was Ted, I let him in.
“You look beautiful,” Ted said admiringly, holding a bouquet of purple hyacinths in one hand and a box of Godivas in the other. “These are for you. The flowers match your dress.”
“Thank you,” I smiled, stepping back to let Ted in. I waited for him to take off his shoes before ushering him into the living room. “I’ll be right back. Can I get you something to drink?”
“Beer, if you have it.” I nodded as Ted settled himself on my couch. I took the booty to the kitchen, my heart skipping a beat. He was so damn handsome in his black khakis and maroon button-down. I wanted to skip dinner and go straight to dessert, but I’d worked too hard cooking to do anything so foolish. I tossed the Godivas on the counter, resisting the impulse to have one right away. I arranged the flowers in a vase, grabbed two beers, and retreated with all three to the living room. Ted jumped up to give me a hand before sitting back on the couch.
“They’re beautiful,” I said, admiring the hyacinths as I set them on the coffee table.
“You’re beautiful,” Ted repeated, pulling me to him. After a thoroughly satisfying kiss, we settled back on the couch. Neither of us felt the need to talk as we cuddled, which was unusual for me with someone I still didn’t know very well. Usually in this situation, I would either gab my head off or be uncomfortable with the silence. With Ted, I was content just to be. After a few minutes, I got up to check on the food. After all my hard work, I didn’t want a disaster on my hands.
“Time to eat,” I called out as soon as I had everything on the table.
“Looks and smells great,” Ted said, sitting down with alacrity. “Ah, just like my nanny used to make.” He laughed at his comment, so I joined in. I tasted the sticky rice, relieved that it’d turned out perfectly. The Chinese sausage I’d used was one of my favorite guilty pleasures, and I only ate it on rare occasions. The long-life noodles had just enough kick from the chili peppers I put in to pleasantly sear the tongue whereas the wontons were gingery and succulent.
“Not bad, eh?” I asked, gobbling everything I could.
“Terrific,” Ted declared, helping himself to more plain rice. “My mama never cooked like this.”
“My mother did,” I said with a groan. “She taught my sisters and me how to make every Chinese dish known to women by the time I was ten. My youngest sister wasn’t even born yet, but I’m sure she came out cooking.”
Ted and I ate, chatting easily as we did. There was no rush; we had no place to go. Sure, the ultimate destination was my bed, but we were in no hurry. Part of the pleasure was the anticipation slowly building over the evening. When would we? How would we? Each glance pregnant with meaning; each phrase a double-entendre in its own way. Occasionally, our feet would entwine under the table, jolting me each time. The electricity between us was almost palpable as we continued eating. I wouldn’t be surprised if we—literally—shocked each other when we finally did have sex.
“That was fantastic,” Ted said, pushing back from the table with a groan when our feeding frenzy had slowed.
“I hoped you saved room for dessert,” I replied, getting up from my seat.
“Always,” Ted said gamely, sipping at his tea.
I flashed him a smile before trotting into the kitchen. Opening the freezer, I pulled out a few packages of mochi. Green tea, mango, and coconut. OK, so I cheated. I didn’t make Asian desserts because they were so easy to buy. I had found these at a Korean grocery store. They were hideously expensive, but well-worth it. I had first tasted mochi ice cream balls when I was on a trip to San Francisco, and I’d lusted over them ever since. I’d pay any price to capture that taste again. I arranged the mochi balls on two plates and brought them into the dining room. Ted’s face brightened when he saw what I was carrying.
“Mochi ice cream balls!” He exclaimed, holding out his hand for his plate. “I haven’t had these since I lived in San Francisco for a year.” I laughed at our similar reaction to the dessert as I handed him his plate. “Mmm, you have my favorite—green tea. Where did you get these?” I told him between bites of mango, my personal favorite. “You’ve outdone me, that’s for sure. What am I going to cook for you that can top this?” It was on the tip of my tongue to say that he had other ways of thanking me, but I didn’t want to be that crude.
“Leave it,” I said as he made move to clear the table. “I’ll take care of it later.” I didn’t want to interrupt the mood by doing anything as prosaic as bussing dishes. “Want more tea? Coffee? Beer?”
“I’ll have some coffee,” Ted said, giving in on the dishes decree. “Sugar, but no cream, please.” He returned to the living room while I went into the kitchen to make our coffee. I knew I’d pay for it by sleeping poorly tonight, but I didn’t care. I loved coffee almost as much as I loved tea, but only drank it when others did. That was my way of monitoring my caffeine intake as I drank mostly herbal tea. Of course, when my parents brought me milk tea from Taiwan, I had to drink it, caffeine be damned.
I brought the tray out, setting it carefully on the coffee table. Ted was perusing the books I had in my bookshelves which ranged from Banana Yoshimoto to Laurie R. King. Mostly women, mostly Asian, I still had a wider variety in my taste than did most Americans. Yes, I even read a dead white guy every now and then if someone recommended one to me. However, since I spent so many of my formative years reading such ilk, I prefer to catch up on what I’ve been missing all this time. When someone called me on it, I pointed out that I still had probably read more dead white men than they had female authors of color. That usually did the trick.