Marital Duplicity; chapter one

Taiji is my sanctuary, and I need it more than ever right now. I’ve had the worst few weeks of my life in which my best friend has been murdered and my lover has been brutally attacked. The absolute worst part is that their attacker is someone who thought she was in love with me and wanted to eliminate the competition. I haven’t slept since she confronted me at work, and I managed to fend off her attack with the aid of taiji. I’m barely holding on, and if I didn’t have taiji and my cats, I probably would have killed myself.

“Let’s do the first section,” Lydia says, and we all move to our places on the floor. We don’t have designated spots, but we all tend to go to the same place as we are creatures of habit. I take the front left corner as is my wont and wait for Lydia to start. I’ve been studying taiji for seven years, and I attend classes three days a week in part because I’m not as diligent as I should be about practicing on a daily basis. I’m better now than when I first started, however, as I never practiced at home during the first two years. “I’ll say the names of the postures; try to stick together. Take your time, and enjoy.” We start the first section of the Solo Form, and I try to empty my mind of all thoughts. It’s not easy, however, as the Solo Form is my least favorite part of taiji. It’s a shame because it’s the basis for everything else we do, but I can’t help what I like and don’t like. The Solo Form is mostly for health and meditation, two things that I don’t care about. I mean, I’m glad taiji is beneficial to my health and my mental health, but I care more about the applications. Although right now, my mental health could do with some shoring up.

I focus on my waist, making sure to turn it correctly. In taiji, the hands rarely move on their own—if ever. We’re supposed to turn our waist to move our hands as it gives more power to every strike, block, and chop. When I do it correctly, it feels as if I’m doing nothing. Lydia says that’s how you know you’re doing it right—when it’s effortless. Taiji is the lazy person’s martial art in which you want to expend as little effort as possible for the biggest possible result. I’m satisfied with my first section, though it’s not my best. Afterwards, we have a ten minute break, during which I sip water from my iced water bottle and listen to my classmates chatter about nothing in particular. I must be giving off a ‘don’t fuck with me’ vibes because no one tries to talk to me. I’m grateful as I don’t feel particularly conversational.

After the break, Lydia asks me to lead the more advanced students in the Sword Form while she works on the Solo Form with the newer students. The Sword Form is my favorite, so I relish any chance I get to practice it. I’ve taught myself the left side of the form at home because that’s the way Lydia’s teacher insists it be done. His rationale is that if you know the right side, you can teach yourself the left side. Any weaknesses you have on the right side will show up in learning the left side. I had little problem teaching myself the left side of the Sword Form, but I’m struggling with the left side of the Solo Form. How like me to prefer the hard to the easy, which is the reason the kick section is my favorite part of the Solo Form.

Once we’re done with the Sword Form, Lydia has us do the entire Solo Form to music. She’s doing it less these days since her teacher is moving away from it, but she still does it once in a while. I like it because it’s faster than we normally do the Solo Form, but many of my classmates disagree. We put the newbies in the middle of the group so they can have someone to watch no matter which way we’re facing. People think taiji is relaxing and meditative, and it is, but it’s also a real workout if you do it properly. My back always aches by the third section, and it’s something that I’m currently working on. I concentrate on making sure my back knee is over my toes, which is another bad habit of mine—overextending my knee. I’m tired by the time we’re done, but also satisfied. My back is aching, but it doesn’t hurt—I chalk that up as a win. After class, I wait for the rest of my classmates to leave so I can chat with Lydia for a few minutes.

“How’re you feeling these days, Megan?” Lydia asks as she goes behind a divider to change into her street clothes. “You’ve had a rough go of it these last few weeks.”

“I’m hanging in. I miss Julianna like hell, though, and I still feel terrible about Rembrandt’s eye.”

“I know it’s been tough on you, but you can’t blame yourself for either event. It was that crazy woman’s fault-not yours.” Lydia’s voice is muffled, and I can barely understand what she’s saying.

“I know, but it if wasn’t for me, she wouldn’t have attacked either of them.” That’s my prevailing nightmare, that I’m the one who brought the misfortune to my best friend and my lover. “How’re you doing?”

“I’m OK. Roger is worried because construction is down right now, but we’re scraping by.” Lydia emerges from behind the division, her face weary. We chat for a few minutes before leaving. I hug her and climb into my car, ready to go home.

I think about Julianna the entire drive back. I still can’t believe she’s dead, and every day, I wake up missing her with all my heart. I tend to brood, and she always had the ability to take me out of myself. I firmly believe that I’m still alive because of her—and my cats. Speaking of my cats, they greet me enthusiastically as I enter the house. Onyx throws herself in my arms, and I catch her with ease. She’s been doing this since she was a tiny kitten, and I’m used to it by now. She and Jet, both black, are sister and brother, and I’ve had them for eight years since they were six months old. Onyx is tiny, and Jet is huge, but she’s the princess, and he’s her muscle. They’re spoiled rotten, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I go into the kitchen to feed them their Temptations and to make myself a turkey sandwich. I take the sandwich into the living room and pull up my website,, on my laptop. I start a new post about Julianna, pouring my heart out as I take a bite out of my sandwich. It tastes like ashes, so I give up.

The last two weeks have been the hardest of my life. Not only have I lost my best friend and the man I’m dating has been attacked, but I’ve lost my faith in humanity. Writing is my safe haven, and I hate that it’s been violated.

A woman I worked with for three months, one I’ve had coffee with, was so obsessed with me, she followed me around town and tracked me through my blog. She commented on every post I wrote for my blog, and while I thought she was strange, I never gave it much thought. Until I put two and two together and realized she was the four. She left clues in my blog posts that she was the attacker, but I was too dense to pick up on it until it was almost too late. When I realized what she had done, I was horrified. My blog, my sanction, is what made her do what she did. Well, not made her, but it was the impetus that set her craziness off, and I wish I could take it back. I really do.

I feel guilty from the moment I open my eyes in the morning until the minute I fall asleep at night. If I just hadn’t written those blog posts, my best friend would still be alive, and the man I’m dating would have both his eyes. Even as I write this, I hesitate. Should I say this? Should I reveal this vulnerability to strangers on the internet? The words used to flow freely from my fingertips to the blank page. I used to make them dance to my bidding, and now, I’m afraid. I stop before I write every sentence; I agonize over each word.

I need to get through this, but I’m not sure how. Do I continue to fumble with my words, which seem so foreign as they fall onto the page, or do I shut down my blog? I would hate to do that, but it’s not bringing me the comfort it once did. It’s tainted, and shutting it down may be the only way to get past it.

I publish the post, and I’m immediately flooded with responses. As to be expected, many of the commenters urge me not to shut down my blog. A few tell me they can’t wait to see me go, but I don’t publish them because they’re filled with ‘filthy whores’ and ‘dirty sluts’. MNborn says, “Megan, you’ve been through some heavy trauma. This is not a good time to make a major decision. Keep the blog going, but take a hiatus if need be. We’ll be here when you get back. Just keep us updated.” ComingIn writes, “Your life is more important than your blog. Don’t get me wrong. I love your writing, and I read your blog every morning with my coffee. But, it’s not worth your peace and your happiness. Do what you need to do. We’ll understand.”

I tear up because the support is overwhelming. It’s been a rough two weeks with Rembrandt still recovering from his injury and the absence of Julianna. Yes, she’ll always be in my heart. Yes, it’s better to love and lose than to never love at all, but, oh, how I miss her. Every day, something happens, and I text her before I can stop myself. I pick up my phone to make plans with her, only to remember that she’s dead. My favorite time of the day is the first two seconds I’m awake because in those two seconds, Julianna is still alive. Onyx and Jet hop up on the couch besides me and head-butt me in the thigh. They knead my bare flesh, then cuddle together and fall asleep.

I sniff my arm pits. It’s Saturday, and I can’t remember the last time I took a shower. Wednesday? Thursday? I certainly hope it wasn’t Tuesday, but my odor tells me otherwise. I squirm away from my cats and go to the bathroom. I’m usually pretty on top of my hygiene, but the last two weeks have taken their toll on me. I step in the shower and let the steam wash away my aches. Guilt, not so much. I can’t get over how I led the killer to my best friend and my lover. It’s of some solace that I figured her out before she could do even more damage, but still. I feel like an idiot, and more to the point, I’m mad that I can’t bring Julianna back. I start crying, my tears mixing with the water streaming down my face. I’m shaking, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop. I slide to the floor, wrapping my arms around me as I sob.

After several minutes of crying, I finally pull myself to my feet. I’m shaky as I leave the shower. Onyx and Jet are on top of the counter as usual, staring at me in unison. I pet them, but my heart isn’t in it. I pull on some sweats and go back downstairs. I should probably grab something to eat, but I’m not hungry. When was the last time I ate? Last night? Yesterday morning? Wait. I made that sandwich before writing my blog post. I go to the living room, and there’s my sandwich on the coffee table. I methodically eat it because I should. I don’t taste it as I eat it, but it’s fuel. That’s all. My phone rings. It’s my sister, Jasmine.

“You’re coming over for dinner tonight. I’m making beef stroganoff, mashed potatoes, and a nice salad. Be here by six-thirty.” That’s Jasmine’s way of saying hi, which I don’t necessarily hate.

“No.” I cradle my phone as best I can as I peel an orange. I like to have some citrus every day because it’s good for lactic buildup.

“Yes. This is not negotiable. You haven’t left your home for two weeks except to go to work and taiji and maybe the store, and you missed the first three days after…it happened. You’re coming.” Jasmine is using her no-nonsense voice, which I’ve always had a hard time resisting.

“Fine.” My voice is surly, but I can’t do anything about it. I don’t like being told what to do, and I like even less when I feel I can’t say no.

“Good. See you then.” Jasmine hangs up without saying goodbye, which is also her style. I click off and finish peeling my orange. I eat it, then go back to the living room to check my website. More positive comments and only a few negative.

I close my eyes, exhausted. I haven’t slept well since I apprehended the killer. Every time I close my eyes, I see her brandishing a knife at me. It happens now, and I open my eyes with reluctance. Even though I subdued the killer and managed not to get hurt, I still feel the fear I felt at the time as if it were happening all over again. I actually feel more fear now because I didn’t know what the hell was happening at the time. In my dreams, she plunges the knife into my stomach and twists it before I force myself awake. She’s in jail awaiting her trial. I know she’s not going to come after me. And, yet, I’m still afraid. I know it’s a normal reaction, but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. My phone beeps, and it’s Rembrandt texting me.

“Just texted to say hey. Went to the doc yesterday. He said I’m making good progress.”

“That’s great! I’m so glad to hear it.” I’m overly effusive because it’s my fault he got his eye gouged out. His brown eye. He got to keep the green one because he was able to fight off his attacker.

“Still can’t take photos worth a damn. It’s frustrating.” Rembrandt is a professional photographer, so this injury has really wreaked havoc on his profession. Fortunately, he has several months of savings and his clients are very loyal, but he needs to get back in the field before too long.

“I’m sorry, babe. That really sucks.”

“Wanna come over for dinner tonight? I’ll order us a pizza.”

“Can’t. My sister’s making me have dinner with her. How about tomorrow night?”

“Great. Six?”

“Perfect!” I feel marginally better after texting with Rembrandt, but still out of sorts. We had only dated three times before he got attacked, and we already had a talk. I left his house after we fucked the first two times without telling him, though I did leave a note each time, and he was, understandably, not pleased about it. The problem is, I had just broken up with my cheating ex-girlfriend three weeks before I met Rembrandt. My girlfriend of five years. The last thing I want right now is a relationship. I want Netflix and chill, which is not what Rembrandt wants. He agreed to try, however, which is where we are now. I’ve seen him a few times since the attack, but he’s in no shape to sex it up. Yet. I’m not mad about it because he’s been through a traumatic event, but I do have to ask myself if I am satisfied with just cuddling for now. I feel like a shit for even thinking about it, but I also don’t want to lead him on. Then again, he’s a big boy, and I’m not responsible for his feelings. He can take care of himself.

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