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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

CHAPTER 2:

It wasn’t a huge funeral. Grandpa hadn’t had many close friends. All the immediate family members showed up. A few neighbours. Some grey-heads from his church. Great Aunty April had not, but had sent a bouquet of daffodils. Sara sat between her mom and Tiffany. Mom had cried softly while holding Sara’s hand. Tiffany’s mom, Linda, had brought her new husband, more to annoy Ned than out of respect. Aunty Kat wailed throughout the service, clutching Selina’s fattest and youngest child to her chest. Sara didn’t know anyone who spoke during the service, and barely listened to the words anyway. Her mind was so intently on who was seated behind her that she couldn’t even concentrate on what was happening around her.

She’d strolled in behind Herb wearing a dark grey pantsuit and an ivory blouse. Her hair was pulled back into a bun, making her look even more elegant than usual. She’d obviously done some shopping for dad as well. He was wearing a dark brown, wool suit with a mustard tie. He even seemed to have lost some weight. He looked good…well, better than his normal, dumpy self. She felt Herb’s hand squeeze her shoulder, and then he had whispered something into mom’s ear. They then sat down behind them. Sara could smell the Angel’s perfume. It smelled like lilacs and was suffocating. She could hear dad’s familiar, heavy breathing…almost like a person taking a deep breath before speaking, but without the words, and the same deep breath every time.

A grey-haired woman stood up and sang a mournful tune. Everyone started tearing up. Kat’s wail became thunderous. Two men in dark suits came forward and removed the bouquet of tulips from the top of the coffin. Who had chosen tulips? Grandpa would have hated them. Everyone knew he loved roses. Common sense…a man who tended a rose garden in his spare time would want God damned roses at his funeral. Then one man opened the lid. Kat started screaming and a glum looking Selina led her from the chapel through the side door. Her wails could still be heard clearly through the walls. An usher came to the first pew and Sara helped her mom to her feet. Maybe she didn’t look as grand as “the angel,” but mom really looked smart in a simple black dress, cardigan, and red-wine scarf. Ryan and Ned came up behind them and they walked to the front of the small chapel. Sob-inducing organ music started to play.

Sara had seen a dead person before, so there really was nothing to be shocked about. Grandpa looked pretty much the same as always. He was in his army uniform. Colleen quickly looked down then turned away quickly. She grabbed for Ryan’s arm and whispered “I need to get out of here.” Ryan escorted her to the same side door that Kat and Selina had used. Sara followed, but walked down the hall toward the exit. Aunty Kat’s sobbing could still be faintly heard, coming out of a room probably built for such purposes. Sara spotted an exit and headed outside. The weather was still beautiful. Strange for Victoria. A small garden stood off to the side of the funeral home and Sara went over there and lit up a smoke.

“Excuse me! Please don’t smoke in the garden!  There’s an area in the back!” An old crow had poked her head out of a side window and stared scornfully. Sara headed towards the rear of the building. As she turned a corner, she spied an old granny smoking one of those skinny “cigarettes for ladies” near an aluminum trashcan.

“The fools. One would think we’re criminals these days!  Relegated to alleyways and the backs of buildings,” the old woman complained.

“You’re telling me. It’s not even enough that you smoke outdoors anymore.”

“Yes, quite ridiculous. Cars drive down the street producing bucketfuls of fumes, and yet it is the smoker that is the bane of existence.”

The old woman looked up at her face and smiled. Sara quickly gave the woman a “once-over.” A thousand ancient lines hid what was once a beautiful face. Yet the checks were still blushed and the lipstick applied immaculately.

“Why, you must be Sara. You look a lot like your Aunty Kathleen. Well, back when she was about 100 pounds lighter.”

Sara looked at the woman for a moment, and caught a scent of familiarity.

“Yes, I’m Sara. Sorry, but I don’t…”

“Of course you don’t,” the woman extended a skeletal hand wearing three, huge rings. “I’m your Great Aunt April. We’ve never met.”

Sara shook her hand, scared she would snap it like a wishbone.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I uh…why aren’t you inside?”

The old woman shook her head. It was hard to tell if it was voluntarily. “No, no. He wouldn’t want me in there.”

“I’m sure he, uh…”

“No, that much I am certain of. We are too much alike. I know I wouldn’t want him at mine. Well, I take that back. I wouldn’t mind so much anymore.”

“But I’m sure everyone else would be happy to see you.”

“Oh, it’s enough for me just to see you. What a pretty thing you are too!”

“Thank you. You should come to the reception though.”

“Reception? Back in my day they called it a ‘wake.’ Oh no. I just wanted to come and make sure the old fool was actually dead.” she smiled.

There was a short pause while both women took deep drags off their cigarettes.

“May I ask…uh, well nobody ever really says, so I was just wondering…”

“You sound just like your father!”

“Yes, a lot of people tell me that.”

“What did you want to ask me?”

“Uh, never mind. It wasn’t important.”

“I think you wanted to ask me why your grandfather and I are estranged.” The old woman’s face crinkled up into a smile.

“I know, it’s none of my…”

“Oh, don’t worry about it. Well. Oh my. Well, it had something to do with a piano that belonged to our brother. Your grandfather wanted it for your mom, but Roland had left it to me in the will. I said I wasn’t giving it up. So, that’s the official story. The unofficial story is that I also went off to Korea during the war. That’s right, an army nurse. I was hotter than Hot Lips Hoolihan in those days! We both survived, but then Roland died less than a year later. Your grandfather was close to his brother. He was so angry after Roland died. So angry. I think he resented me for living. He was a very cruel man back then. Was just awful to your grandmother and Kathleen. I think he saw a lot of his brother in Colleen though. She never got much of his ire. And l was never around when Joseph was born, so I don’t know about him at all. Anyway, after Roland died I never really saw anyone again. He totally cut me off. I got married and had my own children.”

“Did they come with you today?”

“No. Edward passed away about ten years ago. Lung cancer. Evelyn lives in Calgary. My Fiona lives in town and she brought me here. I told her to pick me up in half an hour.”

Sara lit up a second cigarette then offered one to the old woman. The skeletal claw reached out again and accepted it.

“So, do you live in town?”

“Well, up in Sidney. Not far away. I have a cottage there.”

“You really should stay for a bit. I know people would be really happy that you came.”

“This is your grandfather’s day. Another time perhaps. I hadn’t planned on coming at all. I sent some flowers.”

“What changed your mind?”

“Oh, who really knows? Last night I was walking down by the waterfront and I just remembered your grandfather and I beachcombing for bits of glass. You can still find pieces of glass that have, at some point, been tossed into the ocean. Their sharpness gets worn down with the passage of time until they resemble a polished jewel. We collected them. Greens and browns were easy to find…and we always got excited when we found a cobalt piece or violet. Our mother kept a basket in the front room full of the stuff.  That’s all. Just some foolish memory. So I called Fiona and asked her to bring me down.”

“You’re very poetic. It’s actually a really beautiful metaphor.”

“Ha-ha. Aren’t we humans a strange breed? We hold on to a grudge for years. Over nothing. I’m not blaming your grandfather. I could just as easily picked up the phone or written him a letter. Such pride. We were both so proud. I suppose that comes from the old country. Our mother was a very proud woman. Anyway, I’ve chewed on your ear enough. You had better get back inside. It sounds like things are coming to a close.”

The faint organ music had gotten a bit loader. Sara reached out to shake the old woman’s hand. Instead, the two claws grasped her body and held her in a quick embrace.

“It was so lovely to see you. I truly mean that. Perhaps we shall meet again?” The old woman smiled. “Now get going! People will wonder where you are.” Sara walked back around the corner. A few guests had already exited the chapel. She felt the moisture welling up around her eyes. Finally.

____________________________________________________________________________________

There was no graveside ceremony. The family came back to the old house. The kitchen table was filled with egg salad sandwiches, strawberries and cream, some squares and tarts. Some wine, whisky, and juice were arranged on the kitchen counter along with glasses and an ice bucket. Tiffany and Tak-Sin had discovered grandma’s old hats from the back room and were trying them on. Mom busied herself in the kitchen…in spite of there being nothing else to prepare or clean up. Kat sat at the kitchen table not caring if anyone noticed that she had already eaten half of the sandwiches. Joe and Wes sat in the front room chattering about something political. Ned, Ryan, and Rupa had all gone off for afternoon naps. Landon had taken Selina and the girls to the airport. Sara found it difficult to sit still. She kept walking into the different rooms, checked out the attic guest room…nosed around in the basement…poked her head out into the garden. It was raining lightly.

The phone had rung about 30 minutes ago. Joe had answered. Dad and Joanne were on their way. They asked if they should bring anything. Sara had started her pacing.

“Would you just sit down please? You’re making everyone uncomfortable,” Colleen finally snapped at her.

Sara sat across from Fat Aunty Kat, and absently picked up a strawberry.

“Did you have a sandwich? They’re real good,” Kat said with her mouth full.

“I’m not really hungry.”

“Well, you should eat something.”

“Later.”

Tiffany snuck up behind Sara and plopped a pink pillbox onto her head, then squealed with glee.

Aunty Kat laughed too…but much too loud for it to be authentic.

“Jackie O!  Look Colleen!  She looks just like Jackie O!”

Mom turned, and gave Kat a forced smile.

“Who’s Jackie O?” Tiffany inquired.

“Onassis!” Kat replied.

“I don’t know who that is either.”

“You know, the first lady.”

“What’s a first lady?”

“The president’s wife! Like Michelle Obama.”

“So, she’s American?”

“Well, she’s dead now.”

“Was she black too?”

“No!  She was…uh, WESLEY!  What was Jackie Kennedy?”

“I thought you said her name was Jackie Onassis,” Tiffany said with a scrunched up face.

“Whadda ya mean ‘what was she’? She was another damn woman!”

‘You KNOW what I mean, Wesley!  She was Greek, wasn’t she?”

“Aunty!  You said she was American!” Tiffany again interrupted.

“She wasn’t a damn Greek!  Remember, her name was ‘Bouvier.’ That’s French!”

“Oh. So, she was French, Tiffany.”

“Well, I still don’t know who she was.” Tiffany snatched the hat back off Sara’s head and went back to Tak-Sin who was now sporting a lovely, green, feathered number.

“You guys be careful with those!  Colleen is going to put them on E-Bay!” Kat scolded. Mom finally discovered that there was nothing more she could possibly tidy up in the kitchen, and sat down at the kitchen table. She looked to her sister.

“I’m really surprised Aunty April didn’t show up. I thought after all these years they would have been able to put that business behind them,” Kat mentioned absently.

“Well, you know how ornery some old folks are. She did send those pretty daffodils though.” Colleen gave Sara a quick, strange glance.

Sara nibbled on the strawberry and kept silent.

“It was a nice service though,” Kat mumbled, absently toying with another sandwich.

“Looks like Herb is here,” Joe called out. They listened to the footsteps coming up toward the front door. There was a light knock and the door opened. Dad walked in with the Angel close behind him wearing a London Fog overcoat.

Nobody shouted out “hey” or “hello” this time. Wes jumped up to take Joanne’s coat. Sara stayed planted at the kitchen table. Colleen went to put on the kettle for some tea while Kat thrust plates of food into Herb and Joanne’s hands before they’d even managed to sit on one of the aging couches.

“Grandpa!  Look at all of Nana’s old hats! Joanne, did you see this one?” Tiffany put on a bright yellow sunhat.

“Oh!  Aren’t they lovely!  That looks like an Easter bonnet!” Joanne exclaimed with a bright smile.

Sara stared at them quizzically. Obviously the Angel had managed to integrate herself more into the family since she’d last been home.

“Sara, we. uh, I got you, uh something. Picked em up at a yard-sale…”  Herb tossed her a plastic sack across the room. It landed with a ‘thud’ at her feet. She picked it up and opened it. Romance Novels…and the really trashy ones with shirtless dullards clutching massive amounts of female cleavage to their perfectly sculpted torsos.

“Yeah, uh, thought you’d like those!  I know how much you like to read!”

“Yeah. Thanks.” She set the bag onto the floor.

“Did your mom tell you about our business, uh our thing we got going?”

“Yeah, she did.”

“Yeah, it’s uh, workin’ out real good.”

“That’s good.”

“Colleen? Got some real good Sharon Rose salt and peppers on the way down. Stopped by that, uh, thrift store in Abbotsford.”

“Oh, that’s good,” mom replied rather cheerily.

“Don’t forget about the Aynsley!” Joanne whispered.

“Oh yeah!  And a couple of those Aynsley salad plates! Joanne found those on Sunday at this church rummage sale.”

“Really? Great!  How much did you pay for the salt and pepper?”

“Eight dollars. But you sold a pair before for nearly fifty, didn’t you?” The Angel was now speaking directly to mom. Yes. A lot of things had changed. Another thirty minutes of chatter about old dolls, vintage purses, and Nana’s old hats followed. Landon’s return from the airport woke Ned up from his nap, with Ryan and Rupa following soon after. Damn…Landon looked even hotter in a suit and tie.

During a lull in the conversation Joe suddenly walked over to the China cabinet and opened a drawer. He pulled out a large envelope.

“Well, guess now is as good a time as any to get this done. Dad gave me a copy of his will before he was admitted. Guess he knew what was coming.”

Everyone became quiet. Kat started crying, but tried to keep the tears to a low blubber. Uncle Joe opened the envelope and pulled out some papers. He put on his reading glasses and scanned through the first few pages.

“Well, it’s all pretty normal. The house is to be sold off. He’s got some bonds as well. Still has about ninety grand in savings. The house and property was appraised at about $540,000. He’s left 30 percent each to Kat, and I. Colleen? I guess you’ve made some arrangement with him with your house. Six percent each to Sara, Ryan, and Landon. Eleven percent each to Ned and Selina, with the additional funds to be used for your kids’ education. Let’s see…jewellery to be divided between Colleen, Kat, Sara, and Selina. Oh. Mother’s pearls go to Aunty April. Wow. Didn’t see that one coming.”

Sara’s ears suddenly perked up.

“Also, he’s asked that Uncle Roland’s piano go to her as well.” Uncle Joe shook his head, then took his glasses off and looked toward his sisters. “All these years. I really don’t understand why he just wouldn’t extend an olive branch. Honestly!”

He looked back down at grandpa’s will. “Instructions are that we can select what of the furniture and knick knacks we want to keep. The rest will be sold. Total value of the estate is about 900 grand or so. Half of that will go for taxes. Anyway, that’s about it.”

“Lucky!  Come back here with that you damn mutt!” Wes shouted and chased the dog down the hallway, who’d managed to grab the Jackie O hat. The rat, who had been hiding for a nap under the coffee table, started to yap.

The rain finally let up. The ladies cleared up the luncheon and chatted in the kitchen…Joanne and Tak-Sin included. Herb held court with Joe and Wes in the living room.  The young folks went out back into the garden for some smokes, fresh air, and “herbal” refreshment. Tiffany stormed off in a pout when she was told she had to stay inside.

Landon pulled out a couple joints and leant up against the rear of the house. He’d taken his jacket off and unbuttoned his shirt. His trousers were tightly fitted and Sara could see the faint outline of his…”Ack!  Gross, gross, gross! Stop it!” she again screamed in her mind. Soon the joints were lit and being passed around. Rupa didn’t take it when Sara passed it to her.

“What? You’re not having any?”

“Yeah, I haven’t being doing that for a while.”

“What, are you pregnant?” Sara joked.

There was a pause and Rupa quickly looked over to Ryan. “Yeah, but we don’t want to say anything yet. I mean, I lost the other one so we just want to wait and, uh…”

Sara hadn’t heard about the miscarriage. Not a word. “Well, uh, OK. Hope for the best, I guess.”

Ryan stepped in and quickly changed the topic. “So when are you headed back?”

“In two days. Can’t stay long. Couldn’t get any more time off work. Deadlines.”

“Oh yeah. You gonna come up to the valley?”

“No. Probably just stay here and head over to Vancouver.”

Landon stretched, making the outline of his abs even more visible through his shirt. Sara couldn’t bring herself to look away. “So, how much money do you think we’ll end up getting?” Landon asked, letting his muscular arms fall to his sides.

“Fucking government will take most of it,” Ned mumbled. “Be lucky if we get a couple thousand bucks each.”

“Better than nothing. That fucking Sherry took everything I had,” Landon whined.

Sara melted into the bench and put her feet up on the low, patio table.

“So what’s the deal with dad’s girlfriend?” she asked to nobody in particular.

“Whaddya mean?” Ryan responded.

“Well, seems like she fits right in now. Amazing what can happen in a couple months.”

“She’s not so bad,” Ned mumbled.

“Well, that’s a real change of tune.”

“Actually, I think she’s been really good for your dad,” Rupa added. “She just adores Tiffany. And I think this E-Bay thing has really been good for all of them. I mean, your mom and him still argue like cats and dogs over that shit…but at the end of the day they both seem pretty happy. Dad even went over there when it snowed and kept the driveway ploughed. Did your mom tell you about Harold?”

“No. Who’s that?”

Ryan chuckled, and Ned smirked.

“Your mom has an admirer!” Rupa laughed. “He’s a young guy too!”

“Well, he’s not YOUNG,” Ryan explained. “In his mid-fifties. You probably remember him. Used to run that fruit stand over on Swan Lake? Well, him and mom have been going out.”

“I see.”

“Come on, Sara. It’s all good fun. I think she’s having the time of her life!” Ryan poked his sister under her arm.

“Don’t you think it’s all a bit too fast?”

“Ah, who cares? Let her have her fun. Don’t be so judgmental.”

The joint had been passed back to Sara.

“She’s probably jealous cuz mom is gettin’ more than her!” Ned pointed at her and laughed loudly. Everyone started to chuckle.

“You can all just fuck right off!” Sara responded half-jokingly.

The back door opened and the Angel stood on the top step. She’d changed from her funeral gear to some jeans and a comfortable turtleneck of Avatar blue.

“Oh, don’t mind me. I just came out for a smoke.” She walked gingerly down the steps and seated herself next to Landon on the bench opposite the girls. There was an uncomfortable silence, as Sara self-consciously removed her feet from the table.

“Why so quiet? Were you talking about me?” Joanne smiled.

“No, no. Just talking about how Sara doesn’t have sex anymore!” Ned cackled.

“Oh shut up!” Sara barked.

“Well, nothing wrong with that. Although, don’t wait for too long. You don’t want to turn into your grandfather who became a pussy-hound at the ripe age of 90.” Joanne smiled at her kindly.

“Did you hear about that?” Rupa suddenly sat straight up and grabbed Sara’s leg.

“What?”

“Your mom caught grandpa having sex! Guess she came to the island for a visit. Knocks on the door and there’s no answer. So your mom goes on in. There’s grandpa and some old, redhead goin’ at it on the couch.”

“Ah, Ruby.” Sara replied, nodding her head knowingly, then wondered to herself why she hadn’t seen an old redhead at the funeral.

Everyone turned and looked at Sara. “What? Grandpa told me about her at Christmas.”

“Grandpa TOLD you he was shackin’ up?” Ryan asked.

“Yes. Basically said grandma was frigid and that he wanted to have a lot of sex before he died.”

They all burst out laughing. Ned had a coughing fit. The laughter brought the two dogs to the back door and they started barking. Wes started shouting from inside the house.

The boys decided to go rustle up some drinks, and Rupa left to use the bathroom. Sara started to stand up and follow the boys, when the Angel caught her arm.

“Stay out here a bit. We can finish off that roach. Besides, you and I haven’t really had a chance to talk.”

Sara wanted to make a run for it, but the strength of the Angel’s grip informed her that she wasn’t being asked to stay, so much as commanded. Sara sat back down. Joanne picked up what was left of the second joint from the ashtray and lit it. She inhaled deeply, closed her eyes. She looked like one of those yoga women. A stream of smoke came out from between her immaculately painted lips, and she then passed the roach to Sara.

“Don’t be scared. I’m not the Wicked Witch of the East.”

“Oh, I’m, uh…I’m fine.”

“Don’t worry. I don’t blame you for hating me. And I certainly don’t blame you for being angry with your father.”

Sara blew out a puff of smoke. “Look. It’s not about you. I mean, I don’t approve of your going after a married man. I actually find it disgusting. But that’s your business. And as far as my dad goes, well, he’s done a LOT worse. Trust me. I’m sorry if I cannot just accept all of this as easily as everyone else. But I just can’t. Maybe everyone is right and it all HAS turned out for the better. I don’t know. But I couldn’t really care less about you. Sorry if that sounds callous…but I am much more concerned about my mom. You don’t understand our family’s history.”

“Fair enough. As cliché as this might sound, I really just want your father to be happy.”

“And maybe that’s the thing, Mrs. Lowry. I really DON’T want him to be happy. Why should he find happiness? He caused so much misery for others…why should I jump for joy now that he’s happy?  He could have been happy with my mom if he had treated her with any respect.”

“Perhaps.”

“I know, this all probably sounds really awful to you. You probably think I’m a royal bitch.”

“No, no I don’t. But I think you spend a lot of time upstairs in your own head. Sometimes it’s just good to get out of there for some fresh air. Leave the past in the past once in a while. Gosh, I don’t mean to lecture. That’s neither my forte nor my place.”

“You’re right. It’s not your place.” Sara stubbed out the miniscule remainder of the roach on the armrest of the bench. “Look, I can see you are a really nice person and that everything seems to be working out for the better for everyone. And, ya know, I can treat you with civility. I’m sorry again for what happened at Christmas. But we are never going to be buddies. I just don’t have it in me. I don’t hate you. Really, I don’t. That’s such a strong word anyway. I don’t even know you. And I don’t think we need to get to know each other better. I’m fine if you’re around, and am not going to bite your head off, but I’m not going to run to you with hugs and kisses either. That’s I’ll I can offer at this point, eh?”

“There’s no rush Sara.”

“But ya know? I may never change. I’ve got a lot of that stubborn Bell blood in me. And you will just have to accept that. Things don’t change overnight for me.”

“Accepted.”

“Good.”

“Where are those drinks?”