“Wake up, Scar.” I heard an annoying buzzing in my ear which I tried to block out by placing a pillow over my head. “Come on, Scar. Get up.” There was shaking involved, and I was ready to seriously hurt whomever was rousing me from the land of sleep. “Scar! Get your ass out of bed this instant!” Someone was shrieking at me, and I didn’t appreciate it.
“Go ‘way,” I mumbled, burrowing deeper under my sheets. “No Scar here. Sorry.” The pillow was plucked from my head, and light poured into my room. I pried one eye open and saw Matt standing by the foot of my bed, his hands on his hips. He was only wearing a pair of shorts which was nice, but he was glaring at me, which was not. “Too early, Matt,” I groaned, pulling the covers up again. “Go away.”
“Scar, Kayla got a note. It was taped to her newspaper. She found it this morning.” Matt pulled the covers from me and tugged on my arm. “I have to tell you about it! Get up! I made pancakes.” Pancakes! Well, why didn’t he say so in the first place? I loved pancakes, and Matt made the best pancakes I’ve ever tasted. I hoped he put strawberries in them because those were my favorite.
“Hand me my robe,” I said, rubbing the sleep from my eyes. I slept in the nude, and I wasn’t about to get out of bed in front of Matt without some kind of covering. All right, I knew it was ridiculous because he’d seen me naked before, but it was one of my rules. If we weren’t having sex, I wasn’t going to be naked in front of him. He didn’t have the same compunctions, but I wasn’t worried about that. Matt snatched my robe from the floor by the door—I shed it the second I walked into my room—and threw it at me. I shrugged into it, trying not to display any gratuitous flesh. Matt had a slight smirk on his face as he watched me struggle to protect my virtue. I stuck my tongue out of him as I successfully covered myself. When I was robed, I got out of bed and followed him into the kitchen to grab some food.
“Mmmm, strawberry pancakes,” I said happily, the delicious aroma greeting my nostrils as we walked into the kitchen. Matt plated three pancakes for me, drizzling maple syrup over them. He knew that I liked just a hint of syrup with my pancakes whereas he preferred to make sure not an inch of pancake remained uncovered. He handed me my plate plus a glass of milk. We went into the living room where we ate all our meals. He had already laid out napkins and silverware on the coffee table so that I had nothing to do but eat. I did so with relish, enjoying every mouthful. Matt thoughtfully waited until I’d taken the edge off my hunger before relating what had occurred this morning with Kayla.
She had gotten up at eight—it was eight-thirty now—and went to the front door to get her paper, as usual. She only got the Sunday edition of the Strib because she felt that she didn’t need to be inundated with more news than that in a week. As she was about to pull the paper out of the plastic bag, she noticed a single sheet taped to the inside of the bag. Thinking it was an advertisement, she pulled it out, prepared to throw it away. To her surprise and horror, it was a note from Danny’s kidnappers—typed, of course. It said, ‘I have your kid. You have something of mine. Unless you give me back what belongs to me, you don’t get your kid back. In case you don’t believe I have him, his middle name is Reynolds. Oh, one other thing. No police or no boy.”
“He has your last name as his middle name?” I asked in astonishment. Though I knew it wasn’t that important, I had to ask about it, nonetheless.
“Yeah, isn’t that a kicker?” Matt laughed, though there was little mirth in it. “Kayla never told me; she just said he had no middle name. She didn’t even tell Bobby.”
“She obviously told someone,” I exclaimed. “How else would the kidnapper know?” I was excited as this was a real breakthrough. Matt looked anything but chipper, however, so I reined in my enthusiasm.
“You have to understand, Scar. When Kayla is in her other world, well, there’s no telling what she might do or say. The thing is, I’m not even sure Reynolds is Danny’s middle name. It might have just been something she made up for one of her johns.”
“It doesn’t matter if it’s really his middle name or not,” I said, impatient with Matt’s downbeat tone. “All that matters is that someone thinks it’s his middle name. To whom did Kayla tell this?”
“That’s what I’m trying to tell you!” Matt’s voice rose in frustration, but he immediately tamped it down. He was one of those people who got mad easily, but he usually got over it fairly rapidly as well. “She doesn’t know who she told that to. She thinks she might have told Gentleman Caller, but she thinks it’s also something she told half a dozen other guys, including her boss.” He noticed my look of confusion because he added, “She does him from time to time in lieu of the rental fee.” I remained silent, unable to hide my distaste for such a lifestyle. I was far from a prude, but there was something inherently sad about Kayla’s usage of her body as her sole commodity. “Anyway, it was one of the stories she told her johns while they did her. Most of them liked to hear stories about her life, so I wouldn’t put it past her to have made it up.” I was glad Matt didn’t call them ‘dates’ as did Kayla, but I was discouraged that our clue seemed to run to nothing.
“So she didn’t tell you anything useful?”
“She gave me several names, but I’m not feeling very hopeful about it.” He pulled out a sheet of paper from his shorts and unfolded it before handing it over. I glanced at it with little enthusiasm. Though Kayla had been more forthcoming than before, she was still holding something back. What the hell could be worse than stealing from a trick? I had a feeling that I was going to find out fairly soon.
“These pancakes are super,” I said to Matt hopefully, giving him the puppy dog eyes. Though I could ill-afford eating another one, it was a rare day when Matt made them, so I was going to have as many as my stomach could house. I would pay for it later, but who gave a fuck? It would be well worth it.
Matt took my plate from me and walked back to the kitchen with me following close on his heels. I watched his ass because it was a fine ass as I may have mentioned before, but my mind was still on Kayla’s problem. I frowned because I didn’t like giving so much head space to that head case. What the fuck was wrong with her that she wouldn’t be telling us everything she knew? If it were me, I would be blabbing about the time I stole a candy bar from the grocery store and how my mother made me return it. I would be telling the excruciating details of how I lost my virginity at my senior prom—what a terrible cliché. I cringed just to think about it—to a boy who knew less than I did about sex. I would be reciting every little misdeed I’d ever done in my life in hopes of getting my child back. What was Kayla doing? Obfuscating and resorting to subterfuge.
“Did she tell the police?” I asked without hope.
“No. I suggested it, but she got hysterical because of what the note said.”
“She might as well tell them,” I said. I didn’t add that chances were Danny was going to be killed regardless, so it would be better to involve the cops. I was sure Matt knew that as well as I did, but there was no reason to say it out loud.
“You’re talking to the converted.” Matt sighed, turning around with my pancakes. There were two on the plate, and though they were small, I wasn’t sure I could fit them both in. Matt had made three more for himself, and we returned to the living room.
“Damn, boy,” I sighed in ecstasy. “You sure can cook when you put your mind to it.” We ate for a few minutes in silence, and I was forced to stop between each bite because my stomach was protesting mightily. I had eaten more for breakfast than I normally did in two meals, but I figured I could just run a couple miles to make up for it. I wasn’t nearly as fanatical as Matt about exercise, but I did try to squeeze in aerobics five times a week, lifting three times a week and stretching every day. I hated exercising, but I couldn’t deny it made me feel better afterwards.
“I told Kayla we’d stop by in an hour,” Matt said, licking syrup from the corner of his lips. “I didn’t tell her that I wouldn’t be going.”
“Do I have to?” I asked, setting down my fork. I hated it when I whined, but I figured this situation warranted it. “You know how I feel about her.”
“Actually, Scar, I don’t. I mean, I understand you don’t like her, but what makes you dislike her so?” Matt looked at me questioningly. I hadn’t told him what happened the one time Kayla and I were alone because I hadn’t wanted to cause a problem between them. I had to tell him now, though. If I were to work with Kayla, Matt needed to know why there was such friction between us. I looked at him, hesitating because I didn’t want to further ruin any good feelings he had about her. True, it wasn’t my duty to monitor his emotions, but I couldn’t help feeling a little guilty for what I was about to tell him.
I took a deep breath and spilled the story. I told him everything, how Kayla had started out by asking where I was from. I hated that question and everything it implied, but I gave her the benefit of the doubt. I told her I’d been born and raised in Minnesota, seeing what she’d do with that. Ninety-nine percent of the time I answered that way, the inevitable, ‘No, where are you really from?’ question followed, and this was not the other one percent of the time. I told her I was really from Minnesota, but my parents were from Taiwan, and I hoped she would leave it at that. I already didn’t like her, and I didn’t want more ammunition for my negative feelings. Matt had been dating her for about six months at that point, and he really seemed to like her.
Unfortunately, like many in the majority, Kayla didn’t know when to quit. She asked if I’d had sex with Matt. When I refused to answer, she went on to say how she knew most white guys fantasized about Asian women because we were so exotic. I gave her my standard answer which was that I was about as exotic as lutefisk, but she blew right by my comment. She said she’d asked Matt about me, but he wouldn’t say, either. She thought he had an Asian fetish which was why we were friends. He wanted to get into my pants to find out if what they said about Asian women was true. By this point, I’d heard more than enough, but she was far from finished.
Using a sugary-sweet tone of voice, she said she’d heard from a male friend of hers that Asian pussy was slanted, just like our eyes, and was it true? Was it true that we knew secrets to pleasing a man that we learned from the concubines in our past? She didn’t understand the big deal as we had ‘slanty eyes and no bridges on your noses.’ Sure, we might have tight cunts, but so did virgins. At this point, I realized that she was under whatever it was she was using—even if it was just alcohol, and I walked out of the room. She followed me, cornering me before I could make it to my room. She ranted about Asian women until Matt came home, instantly turning off the hatred and on the charm. I made pains never to be alone with her again.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Matt asked, his face devastated. I shrugged, not knowing what to say. Looking back on it, I should have told him, but it was something I dealt with almost daily in the land of ten-thousand plus lakes—though not usually that blatantly. It wasn’t something I liked to talk about because there was nothing I could do about it other than avoid the people who perpetrated such behavior. Sure, I could lecture about racism or whatnot, but what good would it to with an ignorant person like Kayla? When I was younger, I used to get into the face of anyone who made a racist comment. As I grew older, however, I learned to reserve my energy for those who were most likely to engage in a thoughtful debate. This was for my sake as it used to drive me crazy when someone I was arguing with refused to look at my side of things.
“I’m sorry, I probably should have,” I finally said. “I just didn’t, oh, I don’t know.” The problem was that a part of me was ashamed of what she’d said. Even though I was more enlightened than I used to be, there was still that part of me that reacted like a little girl being called a chink for the first time. It’s a sad legacy of racism—or any kind of bullying—that the victim internalized some parts of the vitriol, no matter how vigilant the person was against such a thing. No, I didn’t really believe that I was inferior because I was Asian or that I was some kind of fetish object, but I knew that some people viewed me that way.
“Shit, if I knew that at the time….” Matt’s voice trailed off as he shut his eyes. Even though it was still morning, he looked like he was ready to go to bed.
“Sorry,” I said softly, not wanting to intrude. Matt waved off my apology with a sigh.
“It’s not your fault. I should have seen what a bitch she was, only….” Matt’s voice trailed off again, this time as his face flushed bright red. I could guess what he was thinking, even though Kayla hadn’t been a stripper at that time. Or had she? Matt had always been cagey about where he’d met Kayla, and maybe that was why.
“Water under the bridge,” I said firmly. “What’s important is finding Danny.”
“You gotta go,” Matt said, glancing at his watch. Even though it was only a ten minute drive to Kayla’s place, I had to get ready.
“I have to do the dishes first,” I said, moving to the sink. Matt intercepted me before I could reach my destination.
“I’ll do it. You need to go.” Matt folded his arms over his chest which indicated that he was serious. Reluctantly, I nodded and went to my room to change.