tagMatureThe Chinatown Affair Ch. 02

The Chinatown Affair Ch. 02

byBatteryOperated©

Mei hardly slept at all the night of Mark's promotion. And even after visiting his sister's house for comfort, she only returned home feeling more depressed than beforehand. Over the last several years, Mei had gotten used to feeling hurt and definitely neglected by Mark, but this was the first time in their marriage that she actually felt hated. She had always believed that somewhere deep down inside Mark did love her, but now Mei was forced to question that belief. Whatever respect he may have once expressed for her was gone, lost somewhere between the extra dress size she had gained in the last 6 years and her husband's increasingly controlling attitude.

It wasn't as if divorce had never crossed her mind, but wasn't giving up on a marriage supposed to be wrong? It was all Mei ever heard as a young girl in Chinatown, spending most of her time in the kitchen, while absorbing both culinary and social lessons from the women in her family. Originally, she had been eager to marry outside of her culture, hoping to escape some of the restrictive values that she had grown up with. However, it seemed as if some of those values had managed to sabotage her anyhow; like ignoring signs for divorce and sweeping them under the rug for the sake of tradition. But was it wrong to be optimistic about a bad marriage? Or was it even more wrong to ignore the writing on the wall?

Mei had created so many reasons to stay with Mark such as religion, the birth of Rachel, and unconditional love. But as time passed, her reasons seemed more like convenient excuses to avoid change and possibly spending the rest of her life alone. She was older after all, not young like Amber or any of the other girls Mark openly gave compliments to instead of her. She worried that it was too late to ever fall in love again. No one would want her.

And although it wasn't easy, Mei decided to distance herself emotionally from Jonathon. She was grateful for the brief glimmer of confidence that he had once given her, but life was complicated enough without leading herself on. There was no way that such a young guy could actually feel attracted to her anyway. Instead, she made yet another appeal out of many to Mark about getting some professional help to preserve their relationship.

"Marriage counseling?" Mark sneered while washing his truck in the driveway. "No."

"But Mark, don't you see that we're already headed toward a divorce?"

"I'm not gonna pay someone a hundred dollars an hour to tell me about problems that I don't have. My only problem at the moment is that you're distracting me from washing my truck and I'm trying to get this done before the game starts. So if you could leave me alone, I'd appreciate it," Mark insisted smugly.

"Fine." Mei stormed inside the house and began packing a suitcase. Mark could see her through the bedroom window as he made his way around the garage to wrap up the garden house. She usually just packed a small duffle bag if she planned on leaving for a while, so this was strange. But he was positive that she was just putting on another show and felt like adding a little dramatic effect. The quickest way to resolve the situation in time for her to be willing to make him dinner was to pretend as if he was actually interested in hearing her out. He wiped down the truck one last time before going inside.

"Need any help?" Mark asked sarcastically, trying to call her bluff. But Mei said nothing. "You'll be back," he said. "You'll stay at Linda's for a day and then you'll come right back. You always do. So why don't we just skip all that, make up, and go back to normal?"

Mark's reasoning didn't work. Mei kept up the silent treatment and once she was done packing, she and Rachel were gone. Her husband stood at the end of the driveway watching as her car took off down the road.

"She'll be back."

****

"You can't keep doing this forever," Linda reminded her sister in-law as they had a seat on the couch. "Rachel is only in kindergarten now, but she's also about that age when kids start puttin' the pieces together. She's gonna figure out that y'all ain't just having sleepovers at Aunty Linda's house for fun. She'll realize that you're running from Mark and one day she's gonna resent you for it, whether she knows all the details or not. Know what I mean, honey?"

"Yeah, you're probably right," Mei sobbed into a fresh tissue. She'd been crying since the moment they got to Linda's house and her head was beginning to hurt.

"Listen, honey. We're best friends, aren't we? Why don't you just hang out here for a while and clear your head? If Mark still hasn't learned how to give 100 percent, maybe you really shouldn't go back to him again. There's nothin' worse than being in a relationship by yourself."

"Tell me about it."

This was a conversation they'd had more than once, but separation was easier said than done.

****

It wasn't out of the ordinary for Mei to become fed up with her husband and flee to his sister's house for the night. But she'd always come back and during times when she was being particularly stubborn, Mark knew just how to break her.

"But we have a daughter," or "I can change," he'd say. And for a couple of weeks he'd pay attention to her, tell her nice things, but it always ended the same. He'd go right back to his old self. However, Mei was wise to that trick now and it just wasn't working.

By the third day of Mei's absence, her husband still wasn't sweating it. Sure, it was a record for her, but nothing special. It wasn't until the fifth day when he actually began to think that his wife might be serious about leaving him. But he had a quick remedy for that. One phone call to his mother in-law would have Mei back home by way of guilt trip within 24 hours. Searching through the family address book that his wife kept in her study, he found her mother's number.

"Mama Kwan," Mark said into the receiver, hoping that his fake smile was transferable across the line.

"I'm sorry. Mr. and Mrs. Kwan are still away in Guangzhou right now. Can I take a message for them?" asked a strong male voice.

Mark paused for a moment as he tried to gather his thoughts. "Still away?" he asked.

"Yes, from June through August."

There was a pause between them.

"No message," Mark answered slowly and hung up. It didn't take long to figure out that according to the timeline, Mei's parents hadn't been home the night of the reunion when she slept over at their apartment, but the man he'd just spoken to probably had been. He thought back to the nervous stare that his wife had given him upon returning to the hotel the next morning, as if she had something to get off of her chest. He wondered if the reason that she'd been gone to Linda's house for so long was because she actually had a reason to stay away now. It was one thing to lose Mei temporarily because she was fed up with him; it was another thing to lose her forever to another man.

Digging through mail that had arrived the previous day, Mark found a cell phone bill, something he usually let his wife handle. He ripped open the envelope and emptied the papers inside. There in black and white, date and time, he read where phone calls had transpired between his wife's cell number and one from a 415 area code that he did not recognize.

As the saying goes "You never miss your water 'til your well runs dry." And Mark was finding that out first hand. He had taken Mei's loyalty to him for granted year after unchanging year and for the first time, he felt as if she might not be willing to offer it up anymore. Another man threatened to end the comfortable, one-sided lifestyle that he had created for himself and his wife.

Like most men, Mark had a fragile ego. An to him, the worst part about this situation wasn't that Mei seemed to be interested in someone else, it was that he felt as if his masculinity was being challenged. He'd been with Mei since college, married her, sired her only child...hell, he practically owned her and now somebody else was trying to steal his property.

Although he would never actually admit this to her, Mark genuinely believed that he was the best Mei could do. Obviously she believed it too or else she would have divorced him by now instead of annoying him with idle threats. But maybe she was on the verge of believing something new.

Once he had the chance, Mark drove to Linda's house, sneering at the sight of her hard-to-miss front yard. If the big plastic flowers, lawn gnomes, or pink flamingoes didn't give her location away, the Christmas lights from years come and gone that hung from her roof like bare bones bleaching it the sun might do it.

"Daddy!" the man heard a little voice squeal as he knocked on Linda's front door. Rachel could see him on the front porch through the living room window. Soon afterward, Mei came to the door.

"This is a surprise..." the dark haired woman began. "C'mon in," she said politely, civilly, as if he were nothing more than a door-to-door salesman instead of her husband. Rachel ran up and gave him a squeeze before returning to her seat in front of the television.

Mark immediately noticed that Mei's suitcase was near the front door as if she had expected him to show up any minute now to take her home. He smirked, feeling it was obvious now that she was eager to leave with him and his cocky attitude returned.

"So," he began. "You ready to leave this dump or what? Get the kid together and let's go," the man said after reaching over to pick up her suitcase.

"Put that back!" his wife demanded.

"But..." Mark stopped mid-sentence, wide eyed and confused by the look of contempt on his wife's face. "Then what's it just sitting here for?"

"I told you five days ago that I was still considering going to California and the conversation we had before I left the house last week has been my deciding factor. I'm leaving Wednesday night."

"Going to California for what?" the man's heart pounded in chest. Was this it? Was she going to admit to him now that she was cheating? He prepared himself, thinking of a dirty name to call her after the confession; bitch, cunt, slut, maybe all of them!

"Dammit, I told you that my parent's house is halfway burnt down!" Mark jumped a little at the ferocity of his wife's voice and hoped that she hadn't noticed. He wasn't used to hearing Mei raise her voice. She was really mad. "And don't worry about having to take care of Rachel by yourself, Linda already offered to do it if I decided to leave."

Mark was quiet at first. Not being the one in control was a new and frightening experience for him.

"This stuff is pretty serious."

"What d'you care?" the man's wife snapped. "You said to just let my parent's handle it. 'That's your Mom and Dad's problem,' remember saying that?" Mei replied in a mocking voice and squinted her eyes.

"Well, I just thought that, ya know, maybe I should go with you. Like I said, this is serious. You're gonna need someone to help you out, especially when it comes to finding the right repairmen. You're a female and people might try to take advantage of you," Mark swallowed, hoping that what he'd said was believable. His real motive was to tag along in case there was a potential chance to ruin any type of relationship Mei might have with whoever it was that he'd spoken to on the phone earlier.

"You don't have to go if you don't want to." Mei was clearly still upset, but her voice was slightly softer now and that meant that Mark's offer had touched her. It wasn't often that he acted like he cared.

"No, no. I definitely want to go. I mean, last time we were in San Francisco we didn't really get to enjoy ourselves. But that was my fault. And, and uh...I'd like to make it up to you." Mei tilted her head suspiciously, but couldn't stifle the teasing feeling at the corners of her lips as they drew upward into a small smile. "And make sure to pack that black dress, looks like you've lost a little weight recently."

Mark's weight loss comment was the oldest trick in the book, but Mei was still ready to take any kindness she could get.

"Well, I'll get online and see if I can snag you a ticket on my flight. You should start packing so we don't have to rush when it's time to leave. And when Linda gets home I'll tell her that we're both gonna be outta here for a few days."

"It's settled then," Mark grinned. His wife practically dove into him as she outstretched her arms for an embrace.

"Thanks," she mumbled into his chest. It really didn't take much to make a woman like her happy. If only her husband could learn to respect that fact.

****

Mei sunk into the rickety mattress of their motel while her husband fished through the tattered, complementary phonebook for a contractor. Someone was supposed to have met them earlier, but the couple was stood up and found out later that he had been arrested the previous night with a DUI charge.

Looking up at the ceiling Mei stared at the brown stain above her and shimmied out of its path with a groan. They'd left Texas in a hurry and it was the middle of summer vacation for most people, so a cheap "roach-motel" was the only immediate vacancy they could find near the airport.

"You get what you pay for," Mei whispered to herself. The recent smell of bug spray didn't help her impression of the motel. She and Mark found themselves leaving its cramped quarters before they got the chance to settle in; as if anyone would even want to.

Seeing as it wasn't even past noon yet, Mei tried to make the best of their time by stopping at the office of her family's insurance agent, Mr. Woo.

Linda's advice had been right. Things usually don't translate over the phone they way they might in person and Mei felt glad that she had made the last minute decision to come to California. One thing the agent had not explained to her in their previous conversation was that the tenants of the downstairs souvenir shop had an annual lease, plus a business contract with her parents and because the fire had displaced them from said business, they had the right to sue if repairs were not be made within a timely manner as outlined in the written agreement. There really wasn't a moment to waste.

"Well, let's go see the damage," Mei insisted after they emerged from Woo's office. Upon arriving in front of her parent's building, she was surprised to see that it was already under construction. Men in well-worn coveralls and baseball caps were coming in and out of the downstairs shop with wood, tools, or buckets of paint in hand.

"What's all this?" Mark asked as he parked the rental car.

"I dunno. Give me a minute to investigate." Quickly, Mei rushed over to find out what was going on. She could hear the men speaking in Chinese, but it wasn't a dialect that she could understand. The woman silently cursed herself for not learning Mandarin when she had the chance as a teenager. "Ni hao...uh...Zao ahn," Mei called out hesitantly, not sure if she was even making sense. Finally, she just decided to use body language, waving her arms to get someone's attention. After making eye contact, a man wiped his hands on a rag and started walking over. "Hey, what's going on? I didn't arrange for anyone to come out here yet," she told him, hoping English would be okay.

"Mr. J. He say do the work."

"Mr. J?"

"Jonnaton."

"Jonnaton?" the woman whispered to herself thoughtfully. "Oh, Jonathon!"

"Yeah, that's what I tell you. He say do the work. Landlady say okay."

Mark snuck out of the car while his wife made conversation and began looking around the worksite feverishly, wondering which one of these men might be his competition. Jonathon, that's the name he had heard wasn't it? But everyone just looked like hired help, much too fresh off the boat to match that name and the clear voice he'd spoken to on the phone.

"The landlady, alright," Mei nodded, acknowledging that the workman was referring to her mother's approval. "Keep going then," the woman said as she began walking back to the car. "Mark," she called. "We can go now. It's okay." But her husband was still nosing around and looking inside of the unfinished shop. "Hello, Earth to Mark!"

"Huh? Oh, sure. Let's get outta here."

For lunch, Mei and her husband went to a favored cafe on the pier.

"Your food okay?" the dark haired woman asked. It was hard to ignore that Mark seemed mentally preoccupied as he just picked at his food and stared off into space. His thoughts were on Jonathon. "Well, you better eat all you can if you don't want to be hungry during the movie. It starts pretty soon, ya know."

"Sure..." her husband mumbled with a still vacant expression across his face. Mei couldn't help but feel concerned about Mark. He just didn't seem like his usual self and although that wasn't necessarily a bad thing, it made her feel curious. His behavior had been different in general these last several days. He'd been so helpful, so thoughtful. If she didn't know any better, which Mei unfortunately didn't, she'd determine that Mark was in the process of some soul searching in terms of their marriage. With any luck, it was just a matter of time before he turned over a new leaf completely.

Cautiously looking from side to side first, Mei slipped off one of her heels and gently placed a foot between her husband's legs, under their table. Mark became alert as her toes massaged his private area. It was something she used to do all time when they were dating. Usually, he was put off by her attempts to be sexy with him. Marriage and certainly motherhood had really killed his attraction to her. But at the moment he couldn't be more aroused. Feeling like he was in control again did that to him. The way he saw it, Mark was slowly winding her back up around his finger where she belonged and the more attention she gave to him, the less she'd be able to offer his competition. This was one game that he was in the process of winning.

After lunch, the couple walked out to the parking lot hand in hand. Mark had rarely seen her smile so much and honestly he was beginning to like it again, that smile he had stopped appreciating long ago. But to him it looked better when she wasn't so fat. What was her dress size by now? Her waistline must have bordered around 28 inches, not the 24 that he used to wrap his hands around. No, that just wasn't very attractive. She looked much better before Rachel.

At the theatre, Mei wanted to continue holding Mark's hand during the movie like old times, but he was busy chewing at his fingernails and hardly paying attention to the screen. He had a plan and was still trying to work through the details in his head.

"I'll be back," the man whispered to his wife and exited the room quickly. In fact, he left the movie theatre entirely, practically running to the car. Knowing that the rest of the film wouldn't last for more than an hour, he high-tailed it Chinatown where he had some unfinished business to take care of.

When Mei's childhood home came into view, Mark was already smiling like the Grinch as he watched a young man climb up the apartment stairs.

"Gotcha!" Mark said to himself. If his wife was seriously trying to pull the wool over his eyes, she had another thing coming. No one was allowed to have the upper hand but him.

Mark parked the rental car and with all of the arrogance he could muster, stamped his way up the apartment steps. He barely got a knock in before the front door swung open. A man with long hair and a handsome face stood before him in the threshold.

"Are you Jonathon?" Mark asked.

"Yep, that's me. I've been expecting you."

"Oh, you have, have you?" Mark said rhetorically, wondering if Mei had advised him to be on the look out.

"Of course, especially when it comes to matters of the heart! I had a feeling that someone would eventually come by," Jonathon explained before walking back into the living room and returning with a white box made of thin material. Mark accepted it without thinking. He didn't understand what was going on anymore. "Sorry for not dropping it off earlier."

Report Story

byBatteryOperated© 2 comments/ 18030 views/ 3 favorites

Share the love

Report a Bug

Next
3 Pages:123

Forgot your password?

Please wait

Change picture

Your current user avatar, all sizes:

Default size User Picture  Medium size User Picture  Small size User Picture  Tiny size User Picture

You have a new user avatar waiting for moderation.

Select new user avatar:

   Cancel