Archive for February, 2011


CHAPTER THREE:

They were up at eight to go with mother-in-law, granny, and sister-in-law to the beauty shop. “Bob” had already left the apartment and wouldn’t be seen until the wedding in the early evening. Mother-in-law had insisted that Aunty Kat come along as well. Sister-in-law drove them all to a little parlour next to a 7-Eleven. An older woman with purple highlights and a flaming, middle-aged man with dyed-blonde hair and tight pants were there to greet them with green tea. The two immediately started fussing over Sara. She hated it. She wore makeup once in a blue moon, and often cut her own hair. There were only three barbershop chairs in the little shop, and mother-in-law and Colleen were seated in the other two. Sister-in-law and Kat sat on a couch near the front door.

“I really don’t think I need to do anything with my hair, do you Colleen?” Kat queried. The bouffant had been the same since the 1960s so it was doubtful that it ever would change.

“Just get it washed and set. That should be fine.”

“You’re probably right. MI-YOUNG? YOU CAN TELL THEM JUST WASH AND SET. OKAY?”

“Pardon me?”

“YA KNOW, JUST WASH AND SET.”

“Set? Set where?”

“NO…SET…DO YOU KNOW THAT WORD? LIKE STYLE!”

“ Aaaah! Style!  You onry want washee and style.”

“YES! DO YOU AND YOUR MOTHER COME TO THIS SHOP OFTEN?”

“Yes. This our shop. We are coming many times. Owner is mother priend.”

“OH! YOU MEAN FRIEND!  I SEE. IS HER FRIEND THE WOMAN OR THE HOMOSEXUAL MAN?”

“Pardon me?”

Kat motioned to the woman who was brushing out Sara’s hair and the man who was tying a cover around mother-in-law’s neck. “YOUR MOTHER’S FRIEND IS THAT LADY OR THE HOMOSEXUAL MAN?”

“I don’ understand.”

“Sara, I don’t think she can speak English very well.”

“I’m solly. My Englishee no good.” Mi-Young covered her mouth in embarrassment.

But it seemed the woman with purple tints had understood something, and she quickly translated to everyone else.

“Yaka yaka yaka. Yaka yaka homo yaka yaka yaka.”

All the Koreans burst out laughing, apart from the “homosexual” man.

“YAKA!  YAKAYAKAYAKAYKAYKAYKAYKAYAKYAKYKAYAKYAA!” He shouted.

“WHAT? WHAT’S WRONG?”

“You thinking Mr. Park is homo?”

“WELL, THAT’S NOT REALLY A PC TERM NOWADAYS, IS IT?”

“Mr. Park no homo. I think he angry. Yaka yaka yaka!” All the Korean women laughed again. Mr. Park was not amused, and flung his faux-blonde locks in protest.

Suddenly Sara noticed that Ms. Purple-tints had placed a strip of white cloth on her forearm. With one graceful swoop, the cloth was ripped off her arm, pulling out every single hair with it.

“Whaaaaa! MOTHER FUCKER! WHAT THE FUCKING HELL!” This made Mr. Park laugh. Mi-Young came running. Mother-in-law kept on asking “Yaka yaka yaka?”

“Sa-La! What is wrong?”

“What the HELL was that? My God!” She cradled her stinging arm up to her chest.

“Oh, Mrs. Lee do waxing. Foreigner woman have many hair. She take it out. Now she do other arm.”

“No WAY!”

“Well, honey you will look rather silly if you have one hairy arm and the other hairless.” Mom patted her on the shoulder, also grinning slightly at her daughter’s misfortune.

“I don’t care!”

“Sara? You should do it for your wedding day.” Kat added.

“Okay. Okay. Just give me a minute to prepare. Mi-Young, don’t let her do it until I’m ready.”

“Yes. I tell her. Then after we can do other part.”

“What other part?”

Mi-Young smiled. “Yaka yaka yaka,” she said to the others. They all laughed. Mr. Park pointed to his own crotch area and winked.

“NO!” Sara’s response was heard all the way to China.

Two hours later they left the beauty parlour. Kat was thrilled with the little “pearls” Mr. Park had glued into her bouffant. Sara had thought that for a ‘straight man’ he had seemed a bit too enthusiastic about doing it. Mother-in-law had insisted that Sara put her hair up saying something that sounded like “Tea-Ah-La!” Somehow Ms. Purple-tints had managed to convince mom to lose the red streaks, and her hair was no a pleasant tint of mocha. Sister-in-law looked like a vestal virgin with her hair pulled up and back, and falling in ringlets down her neck. They all climbed into sister-in-law’s car. Well, Sara had hobbled.

“Sara, you hardly look like an excited bride. It wouldn’t hurt you to smile,” mom whispered.

“You try smiling after someone has ripped every hair off your pussy!”

“Sara!  Language!”

“What am I supposed to call it then?”

“You can just say something like ‘my private area.’”

In the front seat, mother-in-law and sister were deeply involved in a discussion. It seemed like a very serious matter. Sister-in-law then turned back to face Sara.

“Sa-La?”

“Yes?”

“My mudder has thing to speak you.”

“Oh, okay.”

“Solly my Englishee no good. But I try speak por my mudder.”

“Yaka? Yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka.”

“Mudder say many woman scare of wedding night.”

“Yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka sex-uh yaka yaka yaka.”

“She say make the sex uncomportable some woman.”

“Yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka.”

“But you must to do it, even though the pain.”

“Yaka yaka yaka.”

“You must…uh…endure.”

“Yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka sex-uh yaka yaka yaka sex-uh yaka yaka.”

“Even if peeling is very torture, you must endure. Man need a sex or he go to prostitute. And sex make a baby.”

“Yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka, sex-uh yaka yaka yaka yaka.”

“But if your peeling is can’t survive the sex because pain…”

“…yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka.”

“You can try the mouse pressure.”

“Excuse me?” Sara asked.

“Uh…bery embarrass I am peeling. You can try mouse pressure.” Mi Young covered her face with her hands and giggled. Granny cackled too. But mother-in-law seemed quite serious about the whole issue.

“MI-YOUNG, SHE DOESN’T UNDERSTAND YOU!  CAN YOU SPEAK IN ENGLISH?” Kat hollered.

“Oh my God.” It was mom. Mom never used profanity…well, almost never.

“What?” Sara asked, turning to face Colleen.

Mom whispered in her hear “I think what she’s saying is that you can always give ‘mouth pleasure.’ And you thought our family was nuts.”

“I get it!” Kat exclaimed. “She means a blow job!” Colleen and Sara’s necks whipped around to stare at Aunty Kat.

“But don’t do that Sara. I tell Wesley just on birthdays and at Christmas-time. Or just when he gets really cranky. It calms him right down. What? Why are you staring at me like that? Tack-Spoon told me about it. He says it always lifts Joe’s spirits right up.”

Sara looked to her mother, “Yeah, well I still think our family gets the gold medal for nut-jobs.”

____________________________________________________________________________________

The wedding ceremony was over within 30 minutes. All the preparation of hair, dresses, photographs, flowers, instructions…and everything was over in 30 minutes. The minister spoke in Korean, so Sara didn’t understand a word. “Bob” had to nod at her when she was supposed to say “I do.” Her husband was very dashing in his tuxedo. Well, apart from the makeup. Why did they put makeup on him? And the white gloves? Okay, so the truth was, he looked like a valet. But his smile was the most important thing. Aunty Kat bawled softly. Even dad had whispered “if he ever does anything to hurt you I’ll cut off his balls” as he walked her down the aisle. Everything was perfect. Mom looked stunning in her Korean hanbok of lilac. The wedding dress was still hideous, and Sara had learned in the afternoon that “tea-ah-la” had meant even tackier tiara.  But mother-in-law and granny had cooed in admiration when they saw her in it for the first time. In the mirror Sara thought she looked like Jean Benet Ramsay.

When they were finally pronounced husband and wife “Bob” lightly brushed her lips with his and they turned to face the guests. The Bells were to the left. Dad wore a navy suit and deep red tie, obviously purchased for him by the Angel who was a vision of beige crepe. Uncle Wes had polished off his silver bolo-tie and looked like a dashing sheriff sitting next to…well, what can only be described as a fat Benazir Bhutto. Kat was wearing a full-on Shalwar Kameez. Mom said that Kat explained to her that she was going to wear “traditional Asian clothes” because it was an Asian wedding. It wouldn’t have been so bad, apart from the fact that the dress was lime green and the pantaloons were yellow…and she had sewn pink, silk flowers across the front. Before the ceremony in the dressing room, Rupa had started to explain to her aunt that the outfit was from Pakistan…but then she stopped and just shook her head and said “you look nice.”

Rupa and Ryan smiled at her from the audience and Tiffany held up a camera to take a picture. Uncle Joe beamed with joy and Tak-Sin looked like he had been crying. Sara held onto “Bob’s” hand even more tightly then turned to him.

“We did it.”

“I know. We are married.”

“I mean we survived two whole days with our families. When can we leave?”

____________________________________________________________________________________

There was no honeymoon. “Bob” had taken another job at a marketing firm and so he was not eligible yet for long vacations. His boss had promised him a week in January so they could go to Bali. Sara took three extra days off as Uncle Joe and Tak-Sin were going to travel around Asia a bit and wanted to visit for a couple days in Osaka.

They all spent one more day in Seoul. The in-laws took them all to the palaces in Seoul which Uncle Wes declared to be “nothin’ but a bunch of brightly coloured barns” and to a temple. Of course Aunty Kat wouldn’t go into the temple as “My God is a jealous God and I don’t think he’d want a member of his flock in a place filled with idols.” She pouted when nobody else agreed to stand up for her religious convictions. And throughout the day Tak-Sin was in a foul mood and kept punching Uncle Joe in the ribs from time to time as they toured around the city.

“Why are you doing that?” Sara asked after she saw him jab Joe in the side while they were walking through the art district.

“He is a dirty old man. I see him looking all these cute Asian boys!”

“Whatever. It’s okay for me to look at the menu as long as I don’t order anything.” Joe defended himself.

“No! You don’t look at the menu either!”

“What the heck? You haven’t cared before. In fact we even look at guys together at home!”

“That’s different. Here there are too many cute Asian guys. Korean guys are tall and handsome…too many handsome guys here. I don’t like it.”

“You’re just jealous.”

“Of course I am jealous! When I am NOT jealous then maybe there is a problem.”

“Ouch! What the Hell?”

“You were looking at that tall boy’s bum. I saw!”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Seems to me YOU were looking at the tall boy’s bum.”

“See Sara? Your uncle is dirty old man. I think he was even looking at Bob. You should be careful.”

Sara laughed. Tiffany called Tak-Sin to come and see some hair accessories that a woman was selling on the street.

“You guys really inspired me, ya know?” she said to her uncle.

“How so?”

“Well, after all these years you’re still so much in love with each other.”

“Of course. Why wouldn’t we be? We loved each other from the beginning.”

“But you guys have been the one constant for me. The couple that I could look up to and see that relationships do last.”

“Oh good grief. Don’t get all mushy on me. You know, I never give people advice. I don’t think anyone listens anyway, and usually it comes off as condescending to give others advice. But I will tell you one thing. There is one thing that everyone can do to make sure a relationship will work. Of course it is only my experience. Are you ready for it? The magic advice?”

“What, are you expecting a drum roll?”

“That would be nice. Anyway, it’s very simple. Don’t hurt your partner. That’s it. Don’t do anything that you know would hurt him. Sure, unintentionally we may do things that are hurtful. But if you ever find yourself in a position where you know that something you are about to do or say would hurt them…don’t.”

“You get that from Oprah Winfrey?”

“Oh no, my dear. Someone much older and wiser. Joan Rivers.”

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CHAPTER TWO:

The hotel was a typical chain hotel on a small mountain near Seoul Tower. Traffic was insane getting there. Colleen loudly proclaimed that she could “never drive in this city.” Sara glanced at her and cringed at the low-cut, red blouse she was wearing. Sara had never seen her mother’s cleavage in 37 years, and wished that she would never have to. Not only were there red streaks in her hair now, but she had started wearing lipstick. Apparently, someone at The Bay’s cosmetics counter had told her the colour of the season was “orange.”

“I really wish my dad was still with us. He really wanted to see you get married.”

“Well, I don’t know mom. He really wanted to see me get married to a nice, WHITE boy.”

“Eh? I don’t think he really cared either way. It was all a bunch of show. He always liked Rupa well enough.”

“Well, apart from the time he asked Ryan when he was going to give up playing around with that ‘darkie’ girl and find himself a proper woman to marry.”

“Oh Gosh. I was so embarrassed. She was sitting right there too! But he did warm up to her later on.”

“I guess so.”

“You were his favourite grandchild, ya know?”

“Really?”

“Yes. He saw a lot of his brother in you.”

“He always said I looked like Aunty Kat.”

“Well, back in her day…”

“I know. Bette Davis, Ann Margaret.”

____________________________________________________________________________________

A private dining room had been reserved. Sara had insisted. Not so much for their own privacy, but so that they wouldn’t disturb the rest of the diners with the circus. It was a moderately sized room overlooking the river and a large portion of the almost sci-fi-looking city. Several other Korean relatives had already arrived and were trying to communicate with Uncle Joe, Dad, the Angel, and Ryan. Rupa wore a green sari and had her feet propped up on a stool. Tak-Sin was giving her a foot massage, to the chagrin of mother-in-law who did not seem to approve. Tiffany ran over and grabbed onto Sara’s arm and held on tightly.

“Aunty? Don’t leave me alone. These people are scary.”

“Why? What’s wrong?”

“They keep touchin’ me. That lady over there tried to make me eat an octopus leg. I kept saying ‘no-thank-you’ but she wouldn’t listen.”

“Tiff, they are just trying to be friendly.”

“How can they eat octopuses? That is just gross. And I don’t understand anything they say. But that lady over there gave me some money. Look!  It’s like 10-thousand dollars!” Tiffany held out a 10-thousand won note.

“Sweetie, that’s worth only about ten bucks.”

“No, it’s not. Look. It says 10-thousand.”

“They have different money here and it isn’t worth the same.”

“So what can I get for 10-thousand dollars here?”

“About the same as you can get for ten bucks at home.”

“Well, that’s not really fair.”

Dad waved from where he and the Angel were standing in front of a bay window. He’d lost even more weight and had grown a beard. Angel was wearing a beautiful, rust-coloured, cocktail dress with a gold wrap. Her hair and makeup…flawless.

“I’d better go talk to your grandpa,” she said to Tiffany.

“I’m comin’ too. I told you not to leave me!”

“I won’t!  Come on Joon Yong. Time to meet my dad.” She grabbed the arm of her man and pulled him away from some old crone wearing a traditional Korean hanbok that he was talking to.

Herb gave her a hug and shook “Bob’s” hand a bit too enthusiastically. The Angel knew better than to give Sara a hug or kiss on the cheek, and in Dear Abby fashion reached out lightly and touched Sara on the shoulder exclaiming “You look just radiant Sara!  And such a handsome groom too!”

“So, you’re my future son-in-law, eh? Sara’s, uh, told uh…and I’m so glad we can finally meet you. So your name is Joan-Yawn, right?”

“Bob” cast Sara a knowing look of triumph then turned to Herb and Joanne. “My Korean name is Joon-Yong but English name is Bob.”

The Angel chuckled. “Well, that will certainly be easier to remember.”

After about ten minutes of polite chit-chat with dad and the Angel, “Bob” excused himself and dragged Sara along by the arm when mother-in-law screeched at him from across the room. Fortunately, the little leach niece decided to stay with her grandfather…well, it looked like she had decided to stay with the Angel who offered her a tube of Chapstick to try out.

Sara was introduced to dozens of smiling men and women. Most of the older women wore the traditional Korea hanbok and the men were in shiny, silk suits. They almost resembled eels in the slithery fabric. The younger relatives and friends were immaculate in their best Chanel, Burberry, and Gucci suits. She nodded and smiled until her neck and face hurt. She laughed along with the relatives who pointed to her cleavage, and accepted soft handshakes, and offers of wine and cocktails. They posed for countless pictures with dozens of different relatives until Sara could take no more and insisted on sitting down for a moment at a small bench near the bay window. “Bob” came and sat beside her, setting his big hand softly on her knee.

“What the Hell is this? It was supposed to just be a small dinner for our families,” she hissed at “Bob.”

“These are my family.”

“All of them?”

“Some are like family. My father has many business partner.”

“I thought your father was retired. Christ. I really need a smoke.”

“Bob” leaned in and whispered into her ear. “I love you.”

And in Han Solo fashion, she leaned back and whispered “I know.”

She snuck out a side door, and over toward an exit to an outdoor terrace where she could see a small group of well-dressed gentlemen enjoying their post-dinner cigarettes. She wished Ned had been able to come…well, she wished that he had been there at that moment to supply her with a joint. “Bob” did not approve whatsoever of any “herbal refreshment” and almost cried when she told him that she’d smoked weed many times before.

“You must promise never to do again.”

“No. I’m not going to promise that.”

“Why? Why?”

“Because it’s a promise I can’t keep.”

“But I don’t want you become drug addicted.”

“Sweetie, that is not going to happen.”

“Drugs is terrible!  You must stop. I insist you!”

“Oh do you? Big, tough, man now, are you? You have a lot to learn about Western women.”

Conversation amongst the men on the terrace stopped the moment she stepped out the door. She lit up her cigarette then suddenly realized there were about half a dozen pairs of eyes staring at her. Wow. Really? The skirt was new; a fitted, black number with a modest slit up the side. The top was dark green silk covered by a lighter green cardigan. She did look good, and had taken some extra time with her makeup. But she didn’t think she had looked THAT good. Maybe she had been wrong. The eyes continued to stare but now they started having a discussion.

“Yaka yaka yaka.”

“Yaka?”

“Yaka! Yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka.”

“Aaaah. Yaka!  Yaka yaka.”

Suddenly one of the gentlemen coughed something up from his throat and spat it out onto the ground on the side. Then an older man started shoving one of the younger men in her direction. The younger man protested with wails of “YA-KAAAA!” It seemed he finally caved in and walked in her direction bashfully. He didn’t look her in the eye and stared off to the left.

“Excuse me? Can I ask you a question?”

“Sure.”

“How are you?”

“Uh, fine. Is that your question?”

“Hahaha. You bery punny!  You are prom Russia?”

“Uh, no. I am from Canada.”

“Oh my GAW!  I so solly. Bery solly.” He scuttled back to his cohorts and quietly repeated the converstion:  “yakayakayakayakayakayakayakayakayaka.” They all responded with loud “oohs” and “ahs” then immediately stubbed out their cigarettes, bowed, spat, and scampered out the door, each one saying “solly!” as they passed her by.

Sara smiled, and decided to have a second smoke.

“Hey.”

“Hi handsome. You need a break too?” She handed “Bob” the newly-lit cigarette. “The strangest thing just happened…” She recounted the story of the smoking gentlemen.

“They ask you if you are Russian?”

“Yeah, but I explained…”

“WHERE they go?”

“I don’t know, honey. They just left.”

“I KILL them!  Mother-puckers!”

“Hey! Calm down!”

“They think you are prostitute!”

“No, they didn’t. He just asked if I was Russian.”

“In Korea same-same. Russia girl and prostitute is same.”

“That’s quite offensive.”

“Aish!  Sara, you so dippicult!  You must prease try to understand Korean culture.”

“Why do they think I am a hooker? I thought I dressed rather conservatively, actually.”

“I think because you are woman in hotel smoking the cigarette.”

“Well, for your information I cost $1000 per night and you have to pay extra for a blow-job.”

“Bob” laughed. “You are so weird.”

“Oh, I’m not kidding sir. Get your cash out!” She discreetly put her hand inside his front pocket.

“Oh my, sir. That’s a big wad of cash.”

He gave her a discreet kiss, a wink and a smile and they headed back into the dining room where it appeared people had been waiting for them. Everyone applauded as they entered the room. Sara blushed and beamed, then seated herself next to Colleen while “Bob” ran off to mother-in-law who was beckoning.

“What on Earth is she wearing?” Sara whispered to her mother, looking in the direction of Aunty Kat. Everyone had settled down at four long tables positioned around the room. “Bob’s” relatives took up three of the tables, while his parents, sister and her husband, and granny sat with the Bell clan at the fourth.

“Oh, it’s just awful, isn’t it? She showed me that stupid hat before we left. I told her the thing was ratty and old but she says that it kind of looks like the hats farmers over here wear in the rice-paddies. I say to her that it looks ridiculous. So, she just ties that stupid, pink scarf around it and thinks it looks like a million bucks. And I told her that dress was tacky.”

“What is it supposed to be? A parrot?”

“I know!  It’s a butterfly. That’s what she says. She’s all into this new batik phase. Good grief, you should see the blouse she made for me. It looks like rainbow vomit. And did you see her earrings?”

“Kinda hard to miss.”

“Dollar store. I’m not kidding. They aren’t even earrings. They are candle-holders. She glued them onto an old pair of clip-ons she had.”

“Well, at least they look a bit more like butterflies.”

“Wait til you see what she’s wearing to the wedding.”

Suddenly, father-in-law stood from his feet and shouted out “Yaka!” Conversation stopped. All the Bells listened politely and were quite sure that he must have made a nice speech, but the only words Sara understood were “Sa-La,” “Ken-uh-duh” and “Joon-Yong.” When he was done everyone smiled, clapped, and drank the last of their champagne. As folks were just about to go back to their conversations another voice was heard shrilly over the din.

“HELLO EVERYONE? HELLO? MY NAME IS KATHLEEN. YOU CAN CALL ME KAT…NOT LIKE A KITTY-CAT, BUT KAT! HAHAHAHA.”

“Oh good God. Mom, PLEASE make her stop.”

“Don’t be silly. This should be fun!”

“I AM COLLEEN’S…sorry, I mean…I AM SARA’S AUNTY. HER MOTHER IS MY SISTER. Wesley! Get your hand off me…leave me alone, I am trying to make a speech!” She swatted at Uncle Wes’s hand which was trying to pull her down to her seat.

“YOU HAVE A VERY BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY. THE BELL FAMILY IS VERY THANKFUL FOR YOUR HOSPITALITY. AND BOB IS A VERY FINE, YOUNG MAN AND I HOPE JESUS WILL BLESS THEIR MARRIAGE AND THEY WILL BE FRUITFUL AND MULTIPLY…DO YOU UNDERSTAND ‘MULTIPLY’? IT WAS A LITTLE JOKE. I GUESS NOT, BECAUSE NOBODY IS LAUGHING. Sara, do they talk English? ANYWAYS, CHEERS TO SARA AND BOB. I HOPE YOUR MARRIAGE IS AS HAPPY AS MINE. WELL, NOT THE FIRST ONE ‘CUZ WE GOT DIVORCED, BUT LIKE ME AND WESLEY! BUT EVEN THOUGH MY FIRST MARRIAGE ENDED IN DIVORCE I GOT MY LOVELY SELINA OUT OF…”

“Okay, woman, that’s enough. Cheers to the bride and groom everyone!” Wes yanked fat Aunty Kat down into her seat causing her hat to fall off, then raised his empty champagne glass with the other hand. Thankfully, the Korean crew had understood about as much as the Canadian crew had understood of father-in-law’s speech, and they also clapped politely and drank.

“Wesley!  You are so rude! I prayed to the Lord for you to behave on this trip. I see that he has decided to test my patience once again.”

“Woman, if there is anyone whose patience is constantly tested, it’s MINE. What don’t you have some of that there bread. Keep your damn mouth busy with something other than mindless yapping!”

“You know I am trying to watch my figure Wesley! You shouldn’t be cruel and tempt me with that stuff.”

“Only more of you to love, peaches.” Wes shoved a buttered chunk of bread into Kat’s mouth.   

“Well, Ryan, looks like, uh, it’s uh your turn now,” Herb butted in out of nowhere. Ryan glanced up at him from across the table.

“My turn for what?”

“Get married, of course.”

Ryan and Rupa gave each other annoyed glances.

“Maybe.”

“Whaddya mean ‘maybe’? You got a kid coming now.”

“Herb, I don’t think this is…” the Angel tried to interject.

“We already told you that we don’t believe in marriage.”

“What’s not to believe in? It exists. How can you not believe in it?”

“Whatever.” Ryan snapped a breadstick in two.

“A child needs a mother and a father, eh?”

“Our child will HAVE a mother and a father.” Rupa nearly hissed at him.

“Yeah, uh, but the bond. You know, you need that…”

“Dad, are you really going to start lecturing us about the sanctity of marriage?” Ryan glared at him.

“What’s that s’posed to mean?”

“Sara, why don’t you tell Joanne about the traditional dress you’re wearing for the reception?” Mom interjected, trying to change the conversational course.

“You know EXACTLY what it means. And, by the way, I don’t see a ring on Joanne’s finger!”

“That’s, uh, that is a totally different stor…situation.”

“ENOUGH!” Sara could hardly believe the sound of her own voice. She rarely spoke above a whisper. “Seriously. Enough. It’s my wedding and I want you two to just knock it off. Please.”

“What knocking? I heard nothing.” It was “Bob.”

“Honey? Just…look, I don’t have the patience for an English lesson right now. Everyone just needs to calm down and enjoy themselves. Please drink heavily everyone.” She raised her glass, as did everyone else at the table. The Korean relatives also spied what was happening and raised their glasses as well.

Herb pushed himself back from the table, an uncomfortable look on his face.

“Oh, come on dad! Please? Just sit down and…”

“Uh, no, it’s not that…uh, the urge. I got the urge. Just comes out of nowhere…uh, restroom?”

CHAPTER ONE:

“Why on Earth did they have to bring their stupid dog?” Sara muttered to her mother while watching Wes chase Lucky around the marbled floor of the arrivals area at the airport.

“You know how they are. That dog is their child.”

The dog ran toward a group of three Japanese girls surrounded by luggage, and immediately there were screeches of “Kawai!” as they all bent down to give the pug some attention.

“Damn mutt! Lucky! You come back here!” Wes hollered as he jogged toward the dog with Kat jiggling her way behind him. Two Korean security guards also spied the ruckus and started running in that direction as well shouting “No, no!”

“There they are!” Colleen pointed to the sliding doors from the baggage claim as three figures emerged. They all looked tired.

“Aunty!” Tiffany broke out into a run and catapulted her way past the assortment of baggage carts and new arrivals, throwing her arms around Sara’s waist.

Ryan and Rupa trailed behind her pushing two carts filled to overflowing with suitcases. Rupa was huge. It looked like she had been eating for triplets, but she was smiling brightly as only pregnant women can. She hugged Sara tightly and Ryan said “hey.”

Kat waved from across the terminal then motioned in the direction of the two security guards watching Wes as he attempted to shove the now angry Lucky back into one of those plastic-prisons that dogs stay in during a flight. The dog began to howl.

“Why the heck did they bring that dog?” Ryan asked.

Nobody bothered answering.

“Excuse me!” Colleen stammered loudly to an older Korean woman who had just shoved her out of the way to push past the group. “Good grief. For a race of such little people they sure are pushy!”

“Mom!” Sara exclaimed.

“I’m just sayin’ is all.”

Wes and Kat hobbled back with the dog securely back in its box. The howling had died down to a whimper.

“Where’s Bob?” Wes asked.

God, she hated that name. Joon-Yong had decided that he would use an English name with her family as he was CERTAIN they would never be able to pronounce his Korean name.

“You cannot choose the name Bob!”

“Why not? It’s a good name.”

“It’s a joke!”

“Why that name is funny?”

“It just is. Just use your Korean name. It really isn’t that difficult.”

“Foreigner cannot say my name properly.”

“Eh? Well, we have the word ‘June’ and we have the word ‘young.’ What is so difficult?”

“Those word are not the same.”

But he insisted…and “Bob” he became.

Sara’s mobile phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Come outside Gate 7.” CLICK. Typical “Bob” behaviour. God forbid that you wait for any type of response. The clan was soon moving in a pack toward the exit. Kat immediately grabbed onto Rupa’s arm and started yet another of her one-way conversations.

“We flew in on one of the Korean airlines. Gosh, their stewardesses were so pretty! Not like at home. Oh, I’m not sposed to say ‘stewardess’ now, am I? What’s the word they use now…WESLEY, what do they call stewardesses?”

“What are you yapping on about now woman?”

“Ya know…stewardesses. What are they now?”

“What the tar-nation kinda question is that? They are human beings!”

“You know what I mean Wesley!”

“Aunty Kat? I think they call them flight tenants,” Tiffany explained.

“Oh! That’s it! Right. Anyway, their flight tenants are just so pretty! I think Joe and Tuck-Shin flew with them too. They were sooo good! Anyway, guess Bob is going to drop you guys off at the hotel. We are staying with Bob’s sister cuz of the dog. I don’t understand why they won’t let the dog in the hotel. Honestly, he’s just a little dog! But I think we’re all meeting his family later for supper. I just hope it’s not some funny food. Wesley can’t handle funny food and I have to be careful what I eat too. They eat real spicy stuff here, ya know? And Colleen says they don’t do wedding rehearsals here. Isn’t that funny? Oh, Sara, Selina is so disappointed she couldn’t come. But she sent you a real nice present. Ryan, did Ned send a present for Sara too? I know he wanted to come too, Sara, but ya’ know he doesn’t have much money. That Linda takes all of it, eh?”

“Kat!  Little ears?” Colleen interrupted while covering Tiffany’s ears with her hands.

“Oh!  Oh, Tiffany, I didn’t mean anything bad about your mom. She’s such a nice girl! It’s just that…well, I think she gets a bit greed…”

“Put a cork in it woman! You’re just digging yourself a deeper grave.”

“Bob” got out of the minivan they’d rented and spied the group.

The “Bell crew” made a rather motley group. The look of terror on Bob’s face confirmed it:

A fat woman with a platinum bouffant, wearing a baggy sweater with Asian parasols on it, along with a pair of purple leggings.

Next to her, a tall man with glasses, a craggy face, a scowl, wearing a cowboy hat, and holding a plastic cage that was whining.

Next to him, a young girl whose hair looked like a rat’s nest, wearing what appeared to be her lunch on a pink jacket.

Next to her, an unshaven, younger man with tattoos up both arms which were holding onto two baggage carts.

Next to him, a more-than-pleasantly-plump Indian girl who looked like she’d swallowed a watermelon. Whole.

Next to her, an older woman who now had red streaks in her hair and seemed to have started shopping at the Blanche Devereaux fashion boutique. 

And next to her, Sara.

Hands were shaken, hugs were offered, and a wet, lip-sticky kiss from Aunty Kat was given. “Bob” turned bright red and laughed his laugh, which was always a bit too forced and loud when he was nervous. He immediately grabbed one of the carts from Ryan and pushed it towards the minivan.

His hair flopped down in front of his eyes, and his arm muscles strained to push the loaded cart. Sara studied his large hands grasping the cart handle then realised he was looking at her. He gave her one of his rare, but ever-so-sweet smiles. God, how she loved him.

It had all happened so easily. She had finally decided to ask him out herself. She always caught him glancing at her in the office, blushing then turning away. Sometimes he built up enough courage to come chat with her when they both happened to be outside having a smoke during a break. There were only five non-Japanese staff in the office, so they were both “outsiders” somewhat. He had laughed his nervous laugh when she asked him out for a drink one Friday. Then there were dinners, movies, walks in the park, a day-trip to Kyoto, and a fun afternoon at Universal Studios. Finally, there was the first kiss…which not-so-surprisingly led to the first fuck. He was bigger and taller than Japanese guys. She teased him calling him her “Mongolian Warrior.” He started sleeping over more often. Soon, it was almost every day. Then he moved in. Weeks turned into months which became more than a year.

Bob was scared to tell his parents in Seoul about her, as he didn’t think they would react well to the news that not only was he living in “sin” but doing it with a “white devil!” Sure enough, Sara endured many an evening of “Bob” on the phone listening to his screaming and wailing mother. And when mother-in-law was told they were engaged, well, hell hath no fury like a Korean mother scorned. After some time, the storm calmed down. But then the idea of getting married in Korea came up. Sara was far from thrilled.  

“I think it will help my family to like you more.”

“Could they like me any less? They’ve refused to even meet me!”

“Prease try to understand my culture, Sara.”

“I do understand your culture. Apparently, in your culture, racism is acceptable and parents are allowed to treat their children like their personal property.”

“You are so dippicult! They try to be nice and invite us to get marry in Seoul. It will make them be happy.”

After months of arguing, he wore down her resolve. Her family was informed, and mother-in-law-to-be took it upon herself to make all the arrangements.

“My mother says you will wear traditional Korea dress for reception.”

“Okay.”

“And your mother too.”

“Okay.”

“She want to know your dress size for wedding dress.”

“What? She’s NOT buying my wedding dress! I will be choosing my own, thank-you very much.”

“Sara, you are so dippicult!  You must understand Korean culture.”

“NO. She is NOT choosing my dress.”

“I cannot say that to my mother.”

“Fine! I’ll tell her myself.”

“You cannot. She don’t speak English.”

When they had flown over to Seoul a few days before the wedding, mother-in-law, father-in-law, brother, sister, and granny were at the airport to meet them. From the screaming on the phone Sara had expected mother-in-law to be a she-devil. But this little woman wearing enough make-up for Rupaul, short-permed hair, and a flowery blouse bedazzled in rhinestones hardly looked like a harpy. In fact, the smile couldn’t have been more gracious or genuine. The wedding dress, on the other hand, was the thing nightmares are made of.

Back at the apartment which was on the 16th floor of an apartment building amongst a field of identical apartment buildings, father-in-law, brother, and “Bob” sat on the floor of the living room while sister brought out trays of food, beer, and whiskey. Mother-in-law motioned for Sara to come into one of the bedrooms.

“Yaka-yaka, yaka yaka!  Yaka!  Puh-ree-tee! Yaka yaka yaka!”

Mother-in-law opened the door of a huge wardrobe made of lacquered wood and mother-of-pearl. Her little hands pulled out a pink, plastic, clothing bag. She smiled proudly as she undid the zipper. Out poured metre after metre of chiffon-looking polyester ruffles with “dazzling” rhinestones (although they looked even cheaper than rhinestones if that was possible). The bodice was floral lace with more rhinestones and plastic pearls. Two puffy sleeves shot out from the rather conservative-looking neckline.

“Yaka? Yaka yaka yaka? Puh-ree-tee?”  

“Oh, it’s interesting.”

“Eh? Yaka yaka yaka? MI YOUNG!  YAKA YAKA YAKA!”

She understood that “Mi Young” was the sister’s name. Soon, a “puh-ree-tee” girl in her twenties appeared in the doorway.

“Yaka yaka yaka…” mother-in-law quickly explained to her daughter.

“Sara, she want to know you like the dress,” daughter informed Sara.

“Ah, well, it’s, uh…” her mind went back to “Bob” pleading with her on the flight over to try and get along with his mother.

“It’s pretty.”

“Yaka yaka puh-ree-tee yaka yaka yaka,” sister-in-law translated.

“Aaaaah!  Yaka!” Mother-in-law gave her a big hug. Then there was a pause. The little woman pushed Sara back from her clutches and stared at her chest.

“Yaka? Yaka yaka yaka?” Two hands, as fast as lightning, suddenly latched onto her boobs. Sara stood in shock while the woman pushed them down, then up, then to the left, then over her shoulder like a continental soldier.

“Uh, is there a problem?” Sara asked.

“My mother say you have very big bosom. Dress maybe no fit.”

Eureka!  Such wonderful news!

“Yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka.” mother-in-law chattered.

“My mother say no problem. Grandmother can sew very well. She make size of dress more big.”

“YAKA!  HAL-MO-NI!!!” mother-in-law screeched again. Soon “halmoni” also appeared in the room. She was the most adorable granny Sara had ever seen. Her wrinkles were scrunched up into a constant grin, and her hair was pulled back into a bun held together by a thick stick of jade. She wore a traditional jacket and ankle-length skirt and white hose on her legs and feet.

“Yaka. Yaka yaka yaka yaka?” Mother-in-law grabbed halmoni’s hands and positioned them on Sara’s breasts.

“Ooooooh!  Yaka YAKA!” Granny proclaimed.  Then all three of the Korean women cackled.

“What?” Sara queried sister-in-law.

“Oh…I don’t know how to say in Englishee. Grandmother say many Korean mans like you because you are having prostitute bosoms!”

“I see. How nice.”

Back in the minivan Ryan sat with “Bob” in the front. Kat, Wes and the mutt were jammed into the rear seat and Tiffany was squeezed between Sara and Rupa.

“Wesley! Look there!  Korean trees!”

“A tree is a tree woman.”

“They aren’t like the pine trees at home though. BOB? ARE THOSE KOREAN TREES?”

“Pardon me?”

“THE TREES!”

“Yes. They are trees.”

“I don’t think he understands me. Sara, can he speak English?”

“Yes. He’s speaking English to you now.”

“BOB? ARE THOSE TRADITIONAL KOREAN TREES?”

“For cryin’ out loud woman!  They can hear you all the way to China!”

“Pardon me?”

“TREES!  TREES!  DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE WORD ‘TREES’?”

“Bob” looked at Sara in the rear-view mirror and mouthed the word “what” to her.

“Yes, Aunty Kat. They are traditional Korean trees,” Sara answered for him, hoping to end the pointless conversation.

“See Wesley? I toldja so. Wow. Look at that. All the buildings look the same. I guess that’s because of the communism.”

“They ain’t commies here, woman.”

“What do you mean?”

“Good God, didn’t you learn nothin’ in school? This here is SOUTH Korea. Commies are up north.”

“I know that. And you don’t have to yell.”

“Then why didja say what you said?”

“I just got confused!”

“That’s the understatement of the century.”

“WESLEY!  This is s’posed to be a happy occasion!  Our Sara is getting married, and you don’t have to be so mean to me on a happy occasion!”

“Your own uncle and aunt fought in the God-damned war. You’d think you’d know better!”

“Wesley!  Language! BOB? DID YOUR RELATIVES FIGHT IN THE WAR?”

“Pardon me?”

“Sara, I don’t think his English is so good.”

____________________________________________________________________________________

Rupa had to be woken up when they arrived at the hotel. Uncle Joe and Tak-Sin were there to meet the new arrivals. Soon the rest of them in the van were off to sister-in-law’s house to leave Kat, Wes, and the mutt. Arriving at an apartment that looked nearly identical to the one mother-in-law lived in, Mi-Young and her husband bowed to their guests politely. Yet sister-in-law’s look of terror at the site of her guests was even worse than “Bob’s” at the airport. Sara mouthed the words “sorry” to her sister-in-law before she got back into the minivan. “Bob” started driving off and Sara sat in the front seat with her mom behind her. Colleen started playing with her hair.

“I am so happy you grew your bangs out. Especially for your wedding. Are you going to wear your hair up?”

“No, I think I am just going to curl it and wear it loose.”

“Actually, mother will take you and Mrs. Bell to beauty shop tomorrow.”

Sara glanced toward “Bob.” “Thanks for the advance warning.”

“What? Don’t worry. She will pay.”

“That’s not what I’m worried about. I don’t want her messing with my hair!”

“Ah, you are so dippicult!”

Colleen reached out and put a hand on “Bob’s” shoulder.

“She gets her stubbornness from her father. Speaking of which, when do they get here?”

“I guess they’re here already. They’ll come for dinner tonight at the hotel.”

“You haven’t seen them yet?”

“Well, we just got here yesterday ourselves. We’ve been busy.”

“Sara…”

“Mom? Just leave it alone. The fact that I invited them at all should count for something.”

____________________________________________________________________________________

Father-in-law was already passed out on the floor from too much drink by the time they reached the apartment in “Legoland.” Granny had gone to bed and mother-in-law was spooning out bits of bright red stuff into tiny, white bowls and setting them on the table.

“YAKA!  Yaka yaka yaka yaka!  Yu-bo!  YU-BO!!! Yaka. YAKA!!!” Mother-in-law kicked father-in-law until he woke into a dazed stupor. Hands were shaken, and then “Bob” led Colleen into a guestroom.

Sara snuck out onto the balcony for a smoke amongst father-in-law’s collection of plants and orchids. Father-in-law was none too pleased when she had joined him for a cigarette on the balcony last night. Later “Bob” had said that father-in-law believed only women of low morals or prostitutes smoked cigarettes.

“He’ll just have to get used to it.”

“Prease try to understand our culture.”

“PREASE try to understand mine!”

Father-in-law scowled at her for several hours until she had given him the bottle of sake from Japan. His eyes lit up at the sight of it, and suddenly he became her best friend once again.

While “Bob” got Colleen settled in the guestroom, Father-in-law joined Sara on the balcony for a smoke. Unlike mother-in-law, he managed to get out a few words of English.

“You mudder? Beaur-di-pul!”

“My mother? Oh!  Thank-you!”

“Sara beaur-di-pul because mudder beaur-di-pul.”

“Oh, I see.”

“What see?”

“No, I mean I understand.”

There were hints of “Bob” in his father. The eyes and the darker skin. He wasn’t as tall as “Bob” and he always pulled his trousers up halfway to his armpits.

“Joon-Young say you brudder marry dark-uh Indo woman. Yes?”

“Hmm?”

“You brudder wipe is Indo woman?”

“Oh, my brother’s wife? No, they aren’t married. But, yes, she is ethnically Indian. But she was born in Canada.”

A look of confusion crossed father-in-law’s face. Obviously she hadn’t been understood.

“Joon-Yong SHI!  Yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka?”

“Bob” appeared at the balcony door.

“Uh, father say he don’t understand what you say.”

“Well, he asked if my brother was married to an Indian woman. I explained that they aren’t married but that she IS ethnically Indian, but she was born in Canada.”

“Uh, I cannot tell father that.”

“What? Why not?”

“That they are no married. Because they have a baby soon, my family not understand that. They are Christian people.”

“Uh, so is my family.”

“Is different for Korean people.”

“If you tell me to try to understand your culture again I am going to punch you in the balls!”

Suddenly father-in-law burst out laughing.

“Punchee!  Punchee balls!  Sa-La, you bery punny woman!”

Great. Of everything she had just said, he had to understand THAT!

Part II Chapter 3: Towels

CHAPTER 3:

Sara and Tiffany slept on mats and sleeping bags in the front room. They chattered and giggled away until Tiffany finally fell asleep. Sara lay awake. It was creepy knowing that grandpa was no longer in the house. Nobody was sleeping in his room. Rupa and Ryan had taken Joe’s attic room. Mom was in her old bedroom and Ned and Landon were in Kat’s. Uncle Joe and Tak-Sin had decided to get a motel room along with dad and Joanne. Naturally, Kat and Wes were in the motor home. The rat had curled itself up between Sara’s legs. She felt trapped…not wanting to move and wake up the little thing. The pot had worn off and now she felt sensitive to everything once again.  A thousand and one questions kept spinning around in her head.

“Is mom really okay, or is this all a big show?”

“Did grandpa really blame his sister for the death of his brother?”

“I wonder if Lucky and the rat have tried to fuck each other.”

“Has Tiffany had her first period yet?”

“Why didn’t anyone tell me about Rupa’s miscarriage?”

“Which couch did grandpa bang Ruby on?”

“When they cremate people, do they burn the casket with the body in it, or do they reuse it?”

“How does dad’s mind even operate? I mean, what is the actual mental function of his…ah, never mind.”

“I wonder how big Landon’s cock is? AAAH!”

“Does Selina even realize she kind of has a moustache?”

“Did I turn the gas off before I left my place in Tokyo?”

“With all the food Kat eats, does she have to take a shit more often than other people?”

“I wonder if I would get in trouble if I took a couple days extra off of work.”

“How can Joanne find dad even remotely sexually attractive?”

“I wonder who will buy this house.”

“Should I ask for that ring of grandma’s with the birthstones? Would it be selfish, since I already got the wedding ring?”

“Whatever happened to that girl Ned was dating…what had Tiffany said her name was?”

“Who the heck is this Harold person mom’s been seeing?”

“Where have I put my passport?”

“How come none of dad’s family came to the funeral?”

“Does mom REALLY like this little rat, or does she just pretend she does?”

“I wonder if Landon’s neck is salty.”

“Should I bring back presents for my coworkers at the office?”

“How much longer should I stay in Japan?”

“Should I go out on a date with that Korean guy from work? He’s got such big hands.”

“Do I really look that much better without short bangs?”

“What colour are Kat’s pubes? Oh, YUCK!”

“How long had those egg salad sandwiches sat out before they were eaten?”

“Was grandma really a frigid, old, shrew?”

“I wonder if you can still find those polished bits of glass on the beach.”

“Has a ferry to Victoria ever sunk?”

“Did the little rat fart, or was that Tiffany?”

She finally gave up. She picked up the little rat, which let out a tiny whimper, and set her on a pillow. The dog hadn’t been woken and curled up into a tight ball.  She crept into the kitchen and got a glass, then headed toward the China cabinet. She grabbed a bottle of brandy and poured herself a generous drink. Tiffany turned and mumbled something about “mufflers” in her sleep. It was just loud enough to wake the little rat, who sat up and spied Sara in the kitchen. The tiny thing stood up and stretched, then padded across the floor to Sara. It stopped for a moment and squatted in front of the fridge, letting out a stream of hot pee.

“Geez!” Sara whispered. She grabbed a tea towel and mopped up the mess. Then she scooped up the rat with one hand and tiptoed out the back door.

The moon was bright. It was cool, but not cold. The rosebuds in the garden had closed for a good night’s sleep. And they weren’t the only things sleeping: Aunty Kat sat on one of the benches in her housecoat and slippers. A Bible sat open next to her. She was snoring. Sara went down the steps and set the rat down, who ran over to sniff at Kat’s feet. Sara walked over and lightly shook her aunt’s shoulder.

“Aunty? Aunty Kat?  It’s too cold out here.”

“Huh. Uh. Oh. Oh, Sara. I musta…just came out here for…” she yawned loudly. “Just came out here for my devotions. Guess I dozed off!  Glad you found me. Coulda caught a cold. Still recovering from my surgery, so that wouldn’t be good. What on Earth is the time?”

“Let’s get you back to the motor home.” Sara reached out to help her up. God, she weighed a tonne! Actually, was it just her imagination or was she now a bit less than a tonne?

“Yeah. I’m fine. I’ll just go back…what are you doing up?”

“I couldn’t sleep.”

“Ah. Just don’t think about it. It’s hard for us all. Just say a little prayer.”

“Actually, I think it’s jetlag.”

“Oh yeah. That too. Well, I’ll say a little prayer for you too.”

Kat wobbled off down the side of the house. Sara grabbed the rat before it could run after her.

“Sara!” a voice loudly whispered from above. Sara looked up and saw her mom’s face peering down at her from a bedroom window.

“Why don’t you come up here?”

“OK.” she whispered back.

She took the dog back into the house and climbed up the rear stairs, then opened the first door on the left. Mom was laying on top of the covers, still wearing the same clothes from the funeral.

“Can’t sleep?”

“No. Jet lag.”

“Me neither. Too bad your visit isn’t a happier one. Seems every time you come home there’s some sort of disaster.”

Colleen patted the mattress, motioning for Sara to come lay down. She set the dog on the floor then curled up next to her mother. Colleen played with her hair.

“I guess you finally got to meet your Great Aunty April.”

“How do you know?”

“Well, I saw you guys talking behind the chapel. I was in the ladies room and heard the two of you talking. I looked out the window and saw you guys. How come she didn’t come inside?”

“Oh, she thought grandpa wouldn’t have wanted her there.”

“Two peas in a pod.”

“Yep.”

“So, how have you been doing?”

“I’m okay. A bit tired.”

“You have a little chat with Joanne?”

“Well, we tried.”

“Good. All we can do is try.”

“The boys say you’re seeing someone.”

“Yeah, right. Harold. Hmm. No, not really. I think he might be gay, actually. Doesn’t that beat all?”

“How do you know?”

“Oh, well, we go to the shows and stuff. That, and the fact that he can’t keep his eyes off of other men. But we have a blast together. His wife left him years ago. Think he’s lonely. He’s a lot of fun.”

“What about you?”

“What about me?”

“You feel lonely?”

“Sometimes. I keep busy. It’s been nice though. Don’t have to worry about doing everything for two people anymore. I can do what I want and when I want. Speaking of which, I AM coming for a visit this summer, so you’d better be prepared for it!”

“Sure, no problem. When?”

“Probably early July. I really miss you sometimes.”

“Me too.”

“We girls have to stick together.”

“I know.”

____________________________________________________________________________________

She woke up alone in the bed, covered with an old quilt. Immediately she felt a pain in her gut and then her bladder contracted. She had to pee like nobody’s business.  She threw off the covers, flung open the door, ran down the stairs and then the hall, and swung open the bathroom door.

His broad shoulder muscles bulged, while two big hands held a towel drying off a mop of dirty blond hair. The pits had a bushy down of dark brown hair. The chest was wide, and the nipples wet and erect. Drops of water converged in the canyon of his spine and flowed downwards to the lighter coloured skin tone of two, big, firm butt-cheeks. The body was hairless but for a faint moss sprinkled from his navel down to a bush of almost black hair surrounding his penis, uncut, with water dripping off the end. The thighs were bulky and gave way to two round calves, then slim ankles.

“Oh SHIT!”

She slammed the door shut.

“Um, sorry!” She heard a low chuckle, which almost sounded dirty, coming from the bathroom. “Don’t worry about it.” Landon boomed through the door. Momentarily the urge to pee dissipated.  

“Sara, you can use the one in the motor home!” Kat’s cheery voice rang out from the kitchen. Sara rushed out the front door, down the steps and over into the safety of the tiny lavatory in the motor home.

“Shit. shit, shit!” she said out loud, feeling her cheeks burn with shame.  Why was God so CRUEL?

She took her time in the bathroom, not looking forward to the walk of shame back to the old house. She finally emerged from the motor home and plodded up the front steps, then walked in through the door.

“Aunty, do you want strawberries on your pancakes or just syrup?” Tiffany had put on one of grandma’s long aprons, which almost looked like a full-length skirt on her. Mom and Kat were busy at the stove while Rupa filled some small glasses with orange juice.

“Oh, nothing for me yet.”

“Your Aunty needs her coffee and a smoke first, Tiffany.” Colleen spoke to her granddaughter then turned to Sara. “I’ll put a pot on.”

As she headed down the hall toward the back door, the bathroom door opened and Landon appeared, still glistening from his shower…but this time fully clothed.

She felt her cheeks flush again. “Uh, sorry about that…actually, lock the fucking door next time!” Sara shouted and stormed out into the back yard.

“What bug crawled up her ass?” She heard Landon mutter behind her.

Outside, her smokes were still on the patio table and she shakily grabbed the pack and threw a cigarette between her lips. The morning dew had made the lighter wet, and it wouldn’t light.

“God DAMNIT!”

She headed back into the house and climbed the stairs up to the attic. Ryan was still snoring and Rupa was just putting on some socks.

“You have a lighter?”

“Nope. But check Ryan’s jeans.”

She spied a pile of clothing on the floor and grabbed the jeans on top and started going through the pockets. She pulled out a large, circular disk-type thing. Rupa spied it in Sara’s hands, and her eyes widened in horror. She snatched it from Sara.

“Those are MY jeans!”

“What the…why are you…”

Rupa put a finger up to her lips indicating silence and motioned for Sara to follow her downstairs. Sara first grabbed Ryan’s jeans and found a lighter, then followed Rupa downstairs and down the back steps until they were safely in the garden.

“I thought you were pregnant!”

“Shut up! No, I’m not pregnant.”

“You’re on birth control!”

“Lower your voice!”

“Does Ryan know any of this?”

“No.”

“What the Hell is going on?”

“Look, I’m not ready to go through that again. You have no idea how it feels to lose…or maybe I’m not meant to have kids yet. I just can’t…I don’t want to go through that…”

“But is this really the best way to handle it?”

“He just wants a baby so much.”

“And this is your solution? Just lie about it? What are you going to say when you don’t start showing?”

“That I lost this one too. I just need time, ya know? But he doesn’t get it. That’s all he ever talks about. Kids, kids, kids! At least this shuts him up about it. And you absolutely, CANNOT say a word to anyone!”

“Rupa!  You can’t be serious!  You guys are grown adults! Talk it through, for Christ’s sake!”

“I can’t. He’d be furious. I mean, how would you feel if someone had lied to you like this?”

“Good point.”

“Or I can just wait another week or so and say it was a false alarm.”

“And after that?”

“Gosh, I dunno.”

Sara lit up a cigarette. She inhaled the first breath of toxins. “Shit.”

“I don’t know. I told you before I thought I wasn’t the maternal type. Maybe God knows this and it’s his way of telling me that I shouldn’t be a mother.”

“Come one. It’s got nothing to do with God. Just give it some time. Sometimes I feel that way too.”

 “Feel what way?” Uncle Wes appeared from around the corner with the crazy mutt in tow.

“Oh, uh good-morning!” Rupa said brightly.

“What’s with all these secret meetings goin’ on this morning? Good God, you women-folk. I smell coffee. LUCKY!  Come on ya damn mutt!” Wes stomped up the back stairs.

“We’re coming too!” Rupa said sweetly. Apparently the pregnancy conversation was OVER. Sara followed her up the steps and then down the hall and into the kitchen. Joe and Tak-Sin were just removing their coats.

“Where are Herb and Joanne?” Wes inquired.

“Uh, they actually took off. They wanted to catch the first ferry. They said to say ‘goodbye’ to everyone and thanks for the hospitality,” Joe answered. Yeah, right. Herb would NEVER use the word “hospitality.”

“Oh, and your dad wanted me to give you this,” Joe handed Sara an envelope.

“What’s that?” Tiffany hollered from across the table.

“Just something for your Aunty Sara.”

“I KNOW that. But what is it?”

“I don’t know,” Sara mumbled, shoving the envelope into her pocket.

“Well, open it up and find out!” Tiffany offered logically.

“Later. I need some coffee first.”

Soon they were all gathered around the table. A silence fell as Kat piped up and said “Who wants to pray?” Nobody responded but Lucky, who barked for another piece of scrambled egg which Wes kept sneaking to him. “No problem. I’ll do it. Let’s bow our heads.” Aunty Kat waited until every head was bowed and every eye was closed.

“Dear Heavenly Father. We thank you for your bounties and all the wondrous gifts you’ve given us. On this beautiful spring morning we see the flowers…”

“Oh good grief…”

“Wesley!  Shush!  You’re being irreverent!  I apologize, dear Lord, for that. And we see all these beautiful things you’ve given us which are but a hint of what you have in preparation for us in Heaven. And speaking of Heaven, please do take care of our dear father who was taken away so quickly from us and hold him close to your bosom…”

“For thine is the kingdom, and power, and glory forever. AMEN!  Let’s eat!” Wes interrupted again.

“WESLEY!  You are so RUDE!” Kat slammed her fist onto the table.

“Good God woman, you don’t have to rattle off the whole Old Testament!  We have young, hungry people here! Pass the blessed pancakes!”

Kat crossed her arms and stared lasers at her husband. Colleen passed him the pancakes. Sara reached towards the eggs, but stopped as she saw Landon’s tanned arm reach in the same direction.

“Oh get over it!” Landon smirked.

‘What? What is it? What happened?” Tiffany asked.

“Nothing,” Sara whispered.

“Why did Landon say you have to get over something?”

“Mind your own business you little snoop!” Sara tried to sound like a tease.

Rupa took one pancake and Ryan added another one to her plate and gave her a wink.

“I just want ONE,” she snapped.

“Yeah, but you’re eating for t…” Ryan caught himself and shut up.

“What’s she eating for?” asked Tiffany again.

“Uh, nothing. Just a little joke.”

“Why won’t anybody tell me anything? Gosh!  It must be sex stuff again.”

“Tiffany!  Enough!” Ned hollered at her.

“Kat and I were talkin’ last night. After we’re done here we may head on up North. Thought we might even go up to Alaska. You should come along Colleen.” Wes warbled with his mouth half-full of eggs.

“Oh, that sounds nice. I don’t know, though. There’s a lot of loose ends to tie up here.”

“Oh! But we will stay here with you until everything gets done. We could have an estate sale next week and get everything cleared out. It might do us all some good to get away for a bit. You could use the rest, Colleen.” Kat added.

“No, no. I’m just going to go home after this. Lots of stuff waiting for me at home.”

 “Suit yourself. I think I’ll have another pancake…just one though. I’m watching my figure.” Kat snatched the largest one off the platter.

“What, are you watching your figure expand?” Wes snarked. Ned sprayed a mouthful of juice across the table, spattering Tak-Sin.

“WESLEY!  Why do you have to be so CRUEL?  I put up with enough of that from my father…and I am not putting up with it from you!” Kat slammed her fist on the table again…this time the dishes jumped.

“Oh calm yourself woman!  You’ll have a stroke!  You know I love you!” He planted a big, wet, eggy kiss on his wife’s cheek.

“Oh get off!!” She swatted Wes away…but everyone could see she was secretly loving it.

“Actually, Colleen, I was wonder that I can have one of those hats?” Tak-Sin spoke up.

“Oh, of course!  Take a couple if you want.”

“We wasn’t sure, because you say you want to put them on E-Bay.”

“Oh!  Take that yellow one Uncle Tak-Sin!” Tiffany rubbed her hands together. “And grandma, do you think I could have the Jack-O one?”

“Come again?”

“She means Jackie O, Colleen. She wants the pink one.”

“Of course you can.”

The question of jewellery came up and Sara asked for the ring she wanted. She got it. Kat got the bulk of the jewellery, and nobody argued with her due to the issue of grandma’s wedding ring. Breakfast was finished and Sara started clearing the table.

“Oh, [11] just leave that for us,” Colleen fussed. “Go get a bath. You look a sight!”

Sara walked down the hall and opened the linen cupboard and took out a towel. She went into the bathroom and made sure the door was tightly locked.  She turned on the water in the tub then looked around for an extra toothbrush. There were none. Some of grandpa’s old, partial dentures sat alone on the top shelf of the medicine cabinet. Sara squirted some toothpaste onto her bare finger and tried brushing her teeth without a brush. She suddenly spat everything out. That was grandpa’s toothpaste. She was using the toothpaste of a dead man.  Then she felt bad for her reaction, and quickly washed the evidence down the drain. He had always been so nice to her. Why had everyone else thought he was such a tyrant? She got undressed and quickly washed out her panties, then hung them on the towel rack. She climbed into the tub and let the hot steam float up her nostrils. The door to the bathroom was thin, and the wall between the bathroom and the kitchen was even thinner.

“I don’t know. He doesn’t tell me nothin’ about it.”

“But I thought they were really set on that move.”

“I think he wants to be around the kids, ya know? I mean, who’s gonna go visit him all the way down in Mexico? Ryan and Rupa might. I don’t think Ned could ever afford it. You know Sara wouldn’t go down.”

“No, she wouldn’t. She barely even spoke to him this time.”

“Guess her and Joanne had a little chat. Would’ve loved to be a fly on THAT wall!”

“Oh really? What did she say?”

“Wouldn’t tell me much about it. Whatever. That’s her business.”

“Yes, it is.”

“She asked me if Harold and I were dating!” Both women burst into laughter!

“Remember how we used to call him ‘Homold’? Oh, that’s just too much!”

“He wanted to come down for the funeral, but I told him not to.”

“Oh, you shoulda brought him!  That’d really have gotten tongues wagging!”

“For sure. Anyway, I hope you know I am not going on that trip to Alaska.”

“Oh, of course not. But Wes suggested it, and it’s not often he tries to be nice. So, I didn’t want him to feel like it was a stupid idea. I don’t wanna go myself, quite frankly. The only moment I get to myself is my devotions!”

“That’s why you spend so much time in prayer.”

“Colleen!  That’s not true!  And I hope you’ve started reading that book I gave you.”

Daily Devotions for Women?   You know I don’t read those kinds of things, Kat.”

“I know! But it helps me so much.”

“I don’t need a book to help me pray.”

“Each to their own. Oh, why did you let Tak-Sin have mother’s hats?”

“Why not? He likes them. He’s part of the family too.”

“I know that…but you know what those people are like.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, they get dressed up like trampy ladies in their nightclubs.  You know, they calling it ‘dragging.’ Mother would roll over in her grave if she knew some homosexual was wearing her hats.”

“Kat, Tak-Sin is not going to be doing drag in mother’s hats! And even if he was, so what? What’s mother going to do about it now? And Tak-Sin is not just ‘some homosexual.’ He’s Joe’s partner, and you need to respect that.”

“I don’t need a sermon from you Colleen!  I know that. I just find it weird sometimes.”

“Well, keep those feelings to yourself.”

“I mean, what do they do? I just picture them doing stuff to each other and it almost makes me gag.”

“I’m sure the thought of you mounting Wes makes them gag as well.”

“Colleen! You’re disgusting!” But she laughed as she said it. In fact, they both laughed.

Sara never did understand the closeness of her mother and Aunty Kat. They were both so different, yet there was such a strange bond between the two. Ryan and Ned seemed to have it as well. It was the curse of families with three children…one was always left out. There had only been one person ever that she had that kind of connection with, where you could almost finish each others’ sentences; Blake. But as it turned out, she might have been able to finish his sentences, but was unable to read his mind. She hated to admit it, but there were times when she missed him. Cuddling up in their tiny Vancouver studio with a bottle of wine. It hadn’t been all bad.

She got out of the bath and wrapped herself in a towel. She looked into the mirror. It was all steamed up. She liked it that way…she looked mysterious. And you didn’t see how her tummy had a bit of a paunch, and how the cellulite had started forming just under her bum. And the lines on her forehead were just a fuzzy blur. She didn’t hate her body…they just weren’t buddies.

She sat down on the toilet and reached for her cardigan, pulling the envelope from the pocket. She tore open the end. There was a piece of hotel stationery folded around a fifty dollar bill. A note was written in Herb’s scrawl:

Sorry I didn’t get to spend more time with you. It was good to see you though. You’re looking good. We’re headed back early. Joanne has a couple cats, so we don’t want to leave them alone for too long. We left extra food for them. I’m real sorry how things ended last time you came home. I feel real bad about that. I know I made a lot of mistakes with you. I regret that every day. And I’m sorry for your mom too. I was never a very good man to you guys. I hope you don’t hate me forever. Maybe someday you can forgive me. I hope so. Anyway, got to go. Money is for you to get something nice for yourself. Love, Dad