My name is Marguerite. I am living with a man who is my guardian, sponsor and lover. We met two years ago when I was still in high-school and living with my grandmother who passed away shortly after.

I was in Barnes & Nobel and browsing in the Religion section when I sensed that someone else was there. I glanced up from the book I was skimming through and my heart skipped a beat when I found myself staring up into the face of a very attractive man. He looked to be in his early to mid-thirties and was very well dressed. He smiled at me and I smiled back.

He looked the book I had in my hand. “That looks like a very interesting book about forgiveness.”

“Yes, it is. The author answers the questions, How is it possible to move beyond the pain of a terrible, life-altering event? How can you go on when the person you love most is the cause of your hurt? And she how her belief in God and the act of forgiveness freed her to live the happier life she ultimately deserved.”

“Forgiveness isn’t an easy thing. It takes a lot of a person to forgive.”

“Yes, it does.”

“Are you going to buy it?”

“No. I don’t buy hardcover books. I find that they’re usually expensive. I’ll check back another time to find out if they have the paperback in stock.” She placed it book back on the shelf and found another one. “I think I’ll get this one instead. It’s why I’m here in the first place.”

He looked at it. “The Hiding Place by Carrie ten Boom. I watched the movie years ago. It was very good.”

“I watched the movie too but always wanted to read the book.”

“I’ve always wanted to read this,” he said, showing her a copy of Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ. 

“I saw the movie and I liked it very much.”

We stood there talking for a while and then, he introduced himself and invited me to have a cappuccino with him. I accepted. We paid for our books, left the bookstore and walked to a nearby cafe where we spent hours talking. Before we parted, he asked me on a date.

I found out that he was married after I moved in with him in his house in Seattle. By then, I was head over heels in love with him and couldn’t imagine my life without him. I was devastated when he told me that he was married, though. His wife lived in Da Nang but she visited in the summer. The first time she came, he told her that I was his live-in maid. She believed him but I could tell that she wasn’t pleased about it. We hardly exchanged any words.

When she visited, she slept with him in his room. I would lay in my bed and cry because I could hear the sounds she made as they had sex. I would put the pillow over my head and plug my ears so that I couldn’t hear anything. While she was there, he didn’t come to my room and he wore his wedding ring. We couldn’t make love until after she was gone and she was there for a whole month.

After she left, he would come to me and tell me, “She’s my wife. I have to be a husband to her.”

I told him that I hated that he was having sex with her even though she was his wife. It didn’t help that she was beautiful and resembled Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi from the movie, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.

He cupped my face between his hands and looking me straight in the face, he said, “While I’m having sex with her, I’m thinking about you. I close my eyes and imagine that it’s you I’m making love to. I have to have sex with her or she would get suspicious. She mustn’t know about us–at least not yet. Do you understand?”

“Yes, I understand.” I understood that when she was around, I had to keep my emotions in check and keep my place. When he wasn’t around, I had to bite my tongue because of the way she treated me. I wouldn’t be surprised if she asked him to get rid of me and hire another maid–some one older and Asian.

It’s a Friday afternoon and I’m sitting on the front steps. I’ve finished cleaning the house and doing the laundry. When I go back inside I will get busy preparing dinner. In two hours he was going to be home and on Monday evening, his wife is flying in from Da Nang. I wish I could go somewhere else when she was here. I can’t stand being around her. She made me feel like an intruder. I hope she doesn’t decide to move to Seattle. If she did, I would have to move out and find somewhere else to live.

I was grateful that they didn’t have any children but what if she decided that she wanted to. She was in her early thirties. He and I were always careful to make sure that I didn’t get pregnant. Getting pregnant would only complicate an already complicated situation. And I had my education to think about. I am beginning my first year of university in September and am really looking forward to it.

During the summer, I didn’t work. I stayed at home and took care him and the house. Sometimes, I went shopping and bought clothes and other essentials with the allowance he gave me. Sometimes, I went for walks or to the library. Last week, I went there to borrow Painted Words. It’s the story of a mute artist who falls in love with his muse. The words he couldn’t verbally express to her, he painted. It was the most beautiful and romantic story I have ever read. I finished it last night.

I write poetry. I have filled an entire notebook and am half-way through another. I have written poems about nature, God, people, relationships, death, life and love. I showed them to him and he was very impressed. “You should get them published,” he said. I never thought of doing that. Maybe I will–one of these days.

I left the door slightly ajar so that I could hear if the phone rings. It’s ringing now, so, I scramble to my feet and hurry inside to answer it.

It was him. “Hello,” I say.

“Hello. Pack an overnight bag. You and I are going to spend the weekend at Cedarbrook Lodge.”

“Really?” I was surprised. He and I never went anywhere outside of Seattle because he was always so busy. “Have you ever been there before?”

“No. A colleague told me about it and I googled it. It’s an award winning hotel. I visited the website and based on what I’ve read and seen, I think we will enjoy our stay there. So, pack an overnight bag. I’ll pack mine as soon as I get in and then, we’ll head out.”

“All right. I’ll pack a bag right now.” No need to prepare dinner. It was going to be his favorite dish. We spoke for a while longer and then we ended the call. I rushed upstairs and began to pack.

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Thao switched off his cell and relaxed on the sofa in lobby. He was in Kent on business. He hoped it wouldn’t take long. He was anxious to go home. It was that morning when he thought of how nice it would be for him and Marguerite to go away for the weekend. He didn’t know where they would go and it was a chance remark made by his colleague, Arthur, that he learned of Cedarbrook Lodge. He googled it and it looked like the perfect getaway.

Marguerite had sounded excited over the phone and that pleased him. He wanted to make her happy. She meant the world to him. If only, he had met her before he married Linh.

He hadn’t planned on getting involved with anyone. He took his marriage vows very seriously and he was a Christian but when he saw Marguerite, the attraction was immediate. He had to talk to her. So, he approached her as she stood there in front of the bookshelves, looking at the book in her hand. And the moment they started talking to each each other, he knew that he wanted her to be with her. He courted her and then, after they became lovers, he asked her to move in with him.

Life for them was blissfully happy until Linh announced that she wanted to visit him every summer. In all the years they had been married, she had never come to Seattle and the arrangement was that he would make annual trips to Da Nang to visit her. Theirs was a long-distance marriage which suited them both. His business was there in Seattle and her career was in Da Nang.

When she announced that she was going to come and visit him, he couldn’t turn her down or she would have become suspicious so he agreed. And it was then that he was forced to tell Marguerite that he was married. She was understandably upset–devastated and he was afraid that she would leave him but to his relief, she didn’t. Nevertheless, he regretted the situation and wished that he could have continued to keep his life in Seattle separate from his marriage.

He hated having sex with Linh because he wasn’t attracted to her anymore and he knew how much it hurt Marguerite but if he didn’t, Linh would get suspicious. He had sex with her a couple of times and each time he imagined that it was Marguerite. He was always relieved when Linh returned to Da Nang. They never saw each other for Christmas. He spent it there in Seattle with Marguerite and Linh spent it in Hanoi with her family.

No one at the office knew that he was married. He kept that part of his life private. They didn’t know about Marguerite either. As far as they were concerned, he was single. And he wanted to keep it that way. He didn’t know how much longer he could continue like this, though.

Posted for February 2021 Writing Prompts – #15 – Painted words

Sources: The Culture Trip; Vacation Idea; Barnes & Noble

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