Thao’s wife arrived that afternoon and Thao had called Marguerite before leaving the office to let her know he was on his way to the airport. Marguerite had hoped that his wife have called to say that she couldn’t come this summer but, no such luck. She was going to have to put up with the woman for an entire month.
All week, she prepared the house for her arrival, making sure that there was enough groceries to make food for three people instead of two. She hated cooking for the woman and the way she acted like she was mistress of the place. It was really hard holding her peace when all she wanted to do was to give her a piece of her mind. Marguerite knew that the woman didn’t like her and it wasn’t just because she was black. Maybe deep down she sensed that there was something going on between this live-in maid and her husband.
After she finished doing the housework and cooking, she went outside into the garden to the quiet spot where she usually went to be alone. She carried the book she had borrowed from the library. It was filled with twisted tales and surprise endings but she just couldn’t seem to concentrate. She was thinking of the days ahead. The nights, especially, when she would lie in the dark, trying to drown out the sounds Thao’s wife made when they were having sex. It was sheer torture. Sometimes, she wished she had somewhere to go while the wife was visiting but she knew that Thao wouldn’t allow it.
She closed the book and got up from the bench. It was a beautiful evening but it brought her no joy. Soon they would be there and her nightmare would begin. She tried not to think about it but recalled their weekend at Cedarbrook Lodge.
It was an impromptu romantic getaway. The hotel was surrounded by lush gardens and seven restored natural wetlands. They went for walks in the evenings after dinner. They visited Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden where they enjoyed the beauty of roses and Japanese flora.
When they returned from their walks, they went straight to their room and make love. “I love you so much,” Thao moaned thickly as he gazed down into her face.
“I love you too,” she whispered as she ran her hands down his bare back.
He lowered his head and kissed her passionately.
The weekend getaway ended too soon and it was with heavy hearts that they returned to the house on Sunday evening. They had a candle light dinner and afterwards, they relaxed on the sofa while classical music played in the background. She was leaning against him and he had his arms wrapped around her. She closed her eyes, wishing that they could stay like that forever. How she wished that he wasn’t married. How much longer were they going to hide their relationship from his wife? Why couldn’t he just ask her for a divorce? Perhaps it just wasn’t as simple as that or surely, he would have done so by now. She didn’t want to consider that he might never divorce his wife.
It was after mid-night when they finally went to bed. It would be the last night for a month that she would be sleeping in his room. Their lovemaking was intense and urgent because a month would pass before they could come together like that again. His wife would be sleeping his bed for the next five weeks.
Monday morning came and after she showered, she made breakfast. Thao didn’t say much. He was always like that when his wife was about to visit. They kissed and then, he went off to work while she got busy cleaning the house, doing the laundry and cooking. And now she was outside in the garden expecting Thao and his wife to arrive soon.
“So, how are you, Thao?” Linh asked as they left the airport.
“Fine. And you?”
“Fine. You’re looking well, as usual.”
“Thanks. So, are you.”
“I love coming to Seattle.”
“Because you’re here.”
“You’ve never been interested in coming here before. The arrangement was for me to visit you in Da Nang.”
“I thought it would be nice to see where you lived. From what I’ve seen, Seattle is a nice city. I like it.”
“Yes, it’s a nice place to live.”
“What about Da Nang? Don’t you miss the sandy beaches?”
“Seattle has beaches too.”
“I’m sure it does none of those beaches are as beautiful as the ones in Da Nang. The beaches of Da Nang are known for their clean waters and sands. Remember how you and I used to go to Bai Bac Beach on the weekends? It was such a wonderful getaway from the city and after a busy work week. Don’t you miss that?”
“No. I like my life in Seattle. If I want to go somewhere, to get away from the city, I could go to the San Juan Islands or Whidbey Island or Bainbridge Island.”
“Maybe you and I can go for weekend trips,” she said. “That would be nice. We can go to one of all of those places you just mentioned.”
He tried to remain calm. The last thing he wanted was to go on any trips with her. “We can take day trips to all of those places.”
“All right, let’s do that.”
Relief washed over him. “Just let me know which one or ones you would like to visit and I’ll make the arrangements.”
“All right. It will be just the two of us, right?”
“Good. I don’t want that girl tagging along.”
“Her name is Marguerite. And she has better things to do than to tag along with us.”
“Better things like what? She’s a maid. All she does is clean and cook and things that maids do.”
“She has a life too, Linh.”
“Why did you hire her anyway?”
“Why shouldn’t I have hired her?” he countered.
“Well, for one thing, she seems a bit young and I don’t like her attitude.”
“What’s wrong with her attitude?”
“She doesn’t seem to know her place.”
“And what is her place?” he asked tightly, his fingers gripping the steering wheel.
“Well, she needs to remember that I’m your wife and therefore, her mistress.”
“She works for me, not you.”
“Yes, but when I visit, her duties should include taking care of me too, right?”
He didn’t answer.
“Why is she living at the house anyway? Doesn’t she have her own place?”
“She’s a live-in housekeeper, Linh. I needed dependable and full time help and now, I have a better work-life balance”
“Couldn’t you have hired someone older?”
“I could have but I hired Marguerite and she has been working out perfectly fine.”
They arrived at the house. While she got out of the car and stood there, admiring the sunset, he took her luggage out of the trunk. They went inside the house.
Marguerite was in the kitchen but she went to meet them. She looked at Linh. “Good evening, Mrs. Pham.”
“Good evening,” was the cold reply.
Marguerite turned to Thao. “Shall I serve dinner now, Mr. Pham?” she asked.
Thao looked at her. “Yes, thank you, Marguerite.” He wasn’t hungry but he knew that she had gone to a lot of trouble to prepare something for them.
Marguerite turned and walked away.
Linh followed Thao to the master bedroom. While he set the luggage down, she walked over to the window and looked out. The sky looked like it was on fire. “What a beautiful view.”
“I’ll leave you while you get ready for dinner.”
She turned to face him. “I’ll take a quick shower and then I’ll join you,” she said.
“All right.” He walked out of the room and closed the door behind him. He went to his study until Marguerite announced that dinner was ready.
While she was in the kitchen waiting to clear the dishes and then serve the dessert and coffee, he and Linh were in the dining-room enjoying her Teriyaki chicken served over rice with steamed broccoli.
“I have to admit, she’s a good cook,” Linh acknowledged. She herself was an average cook. She did it out of necessity rather than a love for it.
That’s one of the many things I love about her, Thao thought.
Sometime later, Marguerite went and cleared the dishes and returned with their dessert.
Linh stared at her plate. “Banh Trung Thu?” she exclaimed. She glanced over up at her. “This is the traditional Vietnamese Moon Cake.”
“Yes, I know, that’s why I made it.” She glanced briefly at Thao before she left.
He watched her go. She did all of this because of him. How he longed to get up from the table and go into the kitchen and show her how much he loved and appreciated her. When she came back she brought two cups of Expresso and while they had them in the living-room, she cleared the table, wiped it down and went out on the terrace where she sat for a while.
Since he had work the next day, Thao didn’t want to stay up past mid-night. While Linh went to the bedroom, he went into the kitchen with the cups. Marguerite walked into the kitchen as he was leaving. “Thanks for dinner,” he said quietly.
“You’re welcome,” she replied. “Good night.”
His expression was tense as he looked at her, aching to take her in his arms and hold her tightly. “Good night, Marguerite.” A muscle pulsed along his jawline as he turned on his heel and left the kitchen.
Marguerite stood there for a few minutes and then, she went over to the sink and washed the dirty cups and saucers. After mopping out the kitchen she went to her room. She had already resigned herself to the fact that she wasn’t going to get much sleep tonight or in the nights to come.
Linh was sitting on the bed when Thao walked into the room. She stood up and turned to face him. He could tell from the expression on her face what she wanted. Resignedly, he closed the door as she removed the robe and it fell at her feet. She drew back the covers and climbed into the bed, waiting for him to join her.
He got undressed and when he joined her, she rolled on to her side and ran her hands eagerly and possessively over him, her eyes filled with desire. “I’ve been looking forward to this for so long,” she murmured before she lowered her head and fastened her mouth to his.
He closed his eyes. In his heart and mind, he was kissing Marguerite. It was the only way he could go through with this now and for the next few weeks. Linh drew back, breathing heavily and straddled him, moaning when she felt him inside her. She surged against him with her head thrown back and her eyes closed as waves of pleasure washed over her. Her hands pressed hard into his stomach as she increased the tempo until she convulsed uncontrollably against him before collapsing on top of him. She lay there, fighting to catch her breath, her face flushed while he lay there.
She slid off him and rolled on to her back. He turned on to his side with his back to her, thankful that it was over. After a few minutes of silence, except for her heavy breathing, she turned her head towards him. “Good night, Thao.”
“Good night,” he mumbled.