There seemed to be no surprise at the horizon. It was another warm, sunny and lazy southern California day. No people around and no sidewalks: just cars rolling through the wide streets of Van Nuys, blue skies, palm trees and bougainvillea. Perhaps the only hint of trouble was in the overwhelmingly sensuous scent of the blooming jasmines.


The skinny girl had gotten off the bus at Chandler Boulevard. She had a ponytail and a backpack. She was coming home walking slowly, with little enthusiasm. Her house was the one with the messy front yard. There, grass and flowers had died, survived or thrived on their own.


At home, the girl opened the door to her bedroom and saw her father in bed with a woman. The woman was on top of him and was not her stepmother. The girl smiled to herself. She closed the door and thought. Perhaps they had broken up. Perhaps the stepmother would be gone from her life. The new woman could not be as annoying. She could even be funny. She looked funny the way she was holding her father down by the neck.


The girl went to the kitchen and prepared some tea. She took a teapot, put three teaspoons of dry mint leaves in the strainer and added boiling water. She set the timer. Five minutes later she removed the leaves. She put some honey in her cup, poured the hot tea then threw in many ice cubes. She sat on the sofa and started to drink her tisane. It was good but she was confused.


What about this woman and her father?


Time was passing and nobody was coming out of her bedroom. Apparently, lovemaking was still in progress. How long could it possibly go on? She had never thought of her father as a lover. He had been, as he put it, “in a relationship” with her stepmother for as long as she could remember. That was the official version. Her own mother had been gone forever. No reason had ever been given. She did not even know what she looked like or if she was alive. If she were dead, it didn’t seem to matter.


The girl was again asking herself why her father was screwing some unknown woman in her bedroom, when the front door opened and her stepmother came in.


The stepmother was a tall woman with too much makeup: black eyeliner, mascara which held the eyelashes together in clumps, bright red lipstick that contrasted with a thick layer of light foundation. Her hair was a California blond, frayed from too much bleaching or perhaps from the sun. Nobody could tell if she was ugly or beautiful, but anybody could see that at the moment she was perturbed. It made her eyes smaller and highlighted the wrinkles around her mouth.


The girl looked at her with uncommitted despondency. Why was she still here?


“Is your father home? I’ve been trying to reach him all afternoon. His phone is off.”


So they had not broken up. The stepmother was still around. That also explained why her father was in her bedroom. What to do? She had long ago decided to stand in the way of her stepmother. Now, she even liked the idea of her father having a lover.


“He just went out,” she said.


“The car is here.”


“He must have gone for a walk.”


“A walk? I bet he went to the India Tandoori Restaurant.”


“That’s possible.”


“Why is he going to the India Tandoori Restaurant? Has he money to throw away?”


“That’s possible, too. But most likely he went because he likes tandoori.”


“He doesn’t like my food, does he?”


“Don’t know. Do you like tandoori? Perhaps you should join him there. He would like to have your company.”


“Sarcastic? I will drag him back.”


The stepmother left, slamming the door. The house shook. Now what? Should she go and alert the lovers of the potential imminent danger? Was it worth it?


No need. Her father came out of the room and hugged her. He looked exhausted and smelled of sex.


“Thank you, honey. Sorry about your bedroom. I will change the sheets.”


This is surreal, thought the girl. She looked at him and asked. “What is going on, are you breaking up with my stepmother?”


“Your stepmother? Me? I don’t know.” He was smiling. He seemed happy but surprised. She continued to look at him. He was in his late fifties with long curly gray hair. He had seductive green eyes and an interesting mouth. Did women find him attractive? She had never thought about that. Her stepmother was her stepmother, she had always been there. She must have found him attractive at some point fifteen years before. But now, what about this new woman?


“Natasha is still in your room.” He said softly as if to answer her unspoken question.


Natasha, the woman who spent two hours making love to my father in my bed, is still in my bedroom, thought the girl.


“If your stepmother comes back before she leaves just introduce her as your friend, Natasha. She won’t mind.”


“Who won’t mind?” asked the girl.




“Who is she?”


“A woman,” he paused then smiled shyly.


“Your lover?”


“I suppose so. My lover.”


“Ever since when?”




“Where did you meet her?”


“At work.”


“A colleague?”




“A patient?”


There was no answer. He was looking away. Out of the window and into the distance of the clear sky where an airplane was passing. He seemed to follow the line of the blue and red plane descending towards the Burbank airport.


“Southwest Airlines, every five minutes. Why do they like Burbank so much?”


“Ever since when do you sleep with patients?”


“Today. She is a former patient.”




“She finished her therapy today.”


“And you went after her immediately?”


“No, I did nothing. She came after me. She looked and looked at me. Then pinned me to the wall of the hospital staircase as I was going out for lunch and kissed me. She put her hands up and down my body. Everywhere. I won’t tell you where exactly. Then she ran away and I followed her.”


“Why would she do that?”


“I don’t know. She did, though.”


Natasha appeared in the living room. She had walked in quietly, her feet like cats’ paws. She did not seem to care about the conversation between the girl and her father.


The girl looked at Natasha. She had not been able to see her when she was intertwined with her father in bed. She was a young looking older woman. Maybe fifty. She was probably her stepmother’s age. She had very short hair and looked like a punk, but she wore a gold ring on her finger that looked incongruous.


There was a certain theatricality to her.


“I am leaving, love,” she said embracing the girl’ s father and kissing him leisurely on the mouth.


She likes to be looked at, thought the girl.


Natasha walked to the door. As she was about to open it, the stepmother walked in. She turned and waved towards the girl “Bye, see you tomorrow.”


“Bye, Natasha. I am not sure about tomorrow,” said the girl.


“Well, whenever then.”


“Who is she?” asked the stepmother.


“My friend Natasha,” said the girl.


“She looks like a lesbian.”


“She is not a lesbian.”


“How can you be so sure?”


“I am not hundred per cent sure. Maybe she is bisexual or a punk. ”


“And you? You were not at the Indian Tandoori Restaurant.” Said the stepmother turning to the father who was standing at the kitchen counter pretending to fix himself a drink.


“Who said I was there?”


“Your daughter.”


“I did not. You said it. Can I invite my friend Natasha to the spring party?”


“The lesbian? If you must.”


“Maybe she will come with her husband.”


“She is married?” asked the girls’ father.


“I believe so. Didn’t you see the ring on her ring finger?”


“I am going to take a shower” he replied.


“Remember the sheets.”


“I will.”





The girl was in the kitchen drinking ice tea. It was late afternoon. She looked out of the window towards the swimming pool in the backyard. The palms fronds moved in the Santa Ana winds. Some of their large dry leaves dangled perilously from the summits, ready to fly away at the next gust. Her father lying on a lounge chair. Natasha kneeling next to him. Her head on his hips. She wore a short summer dress.


All that was happening because it was Wednesday. The stepmother came back late on Wednesdays.


The girl, who was not sure if she should continue to observe the scene, looked away for a moment then looked towards her father again. Now, he was alone on the chair.


Natasha was standing. She seemed to be talking to him. Her legs were wiry and tanned. Her arms and shoulders muscular. Then she walked away and came into the kitchen. She leaned on the counter next to the girl.


“Can I have a glass of water?” Natasha’s voice was deep. She had a foreign accent.


The girl looked at Natasha’s dress. It was of a light crêpe de Chine of many colors. It was obvious that she wore nothing else underneath.


The girl handed Natasha a glass of water then added, “I hate my stepmother.”


“I can’t help you with that. I don’t go there,” apologized Natasha.




“Nowhere there is drama. I only live in the here and now.”


“But you must help. You seduced my father.”


“He seduced me. He came into my dreams, repeatedly and without permission. ”


“But you made love to my father in my bed.”






“Not today.”


“But yesterday and the day before and probably tomorrow and the day after.”


“As I said, I’m not interested in drama.”


“And my father?”


“That is up to you.”


Natasha left the kitchen and went to sit by the girl’s father. She kissed and touched him again and again as the girl continued to look on. The warm smell of the jasmines was hanging in the air.





The day of the party, Natasha came early. She rang the bell and the girl opened the door.


Natasha stood still at the door, staring in, with the sun behind her back. She was attractive. She had the body of an adolescent and was smiling.


The father appeared in the back. Without a word, he took Natasha by the hand and led her into the girl’s room.


The girl lingered at the door. She was annoyed. All this lovemaking was leading nowhere. The stepmother was still there, and worse, she was unaware. She was in the yard setting up for the poolside party.


Perhaps, as Natasha had said, it was up to her. Her father was passive, taking what was passing by. And Natasha was passing by. She, instead, was stuck.


The stepmother called the girl, repeatedly. She wanted to be helped.


“There are balloons to be tied to the trees and colorful napkins, glasses and plates to be tastefully arranged on the tables,” she bleated.


“Tastefully? Why tastefully?” replied the girl “Everything is excessively festive here.”


The palms were still moving in the wind and the pool was blue, when the guests started to arrive, one by one, or two by two.


“Pedantic pathetic bores,” muttered the girl.


“Where is your father?” asked the stepmother.


“In my bedroom, screwing Natasha,” replied the girl.


“As if it were possible for your father to screw anybody. Beside, she is a lesbian.”


“Perhaps she is, but he is still screwing her.”


“How do you know?”


“They have been using my bed for a while.”


“And you have said nothing?”


“I told him to change the sheets.”


“That’s all?”


“What else was I supposed to say?”


“I don’t believe it.”


“Follow me.”


The girl opened the door to her bedroom. Her father was behind Natasha cupping her breasts with his hands.


“The lesbian is fucking my man!” screamed the stepmother.


There were inaccuracies in the statement, but the basic fact seemed undeniable.

Some guests silently assembled at the door of the girl’s bedroom. There were murmurs of disapproval. Someone thought about giving a speech about personal responsibility, but decided otherwise.


The girl’s father removed one hand from Natasha’s breast revealing a scar. The stepmother tried to pull Natasha’s hair, but it was too short.


Natasha said: “Chemo. But it is growing back. Just give it a few months and I will have a full set of hair. You can try again then.”


The stepmother stormed out and away, arms to the sky, red in the face. The guests dispersed in the house and continued to sip their drinks. Commenting. But that was understandable.


“We will be out in a minute,” said the father to his daughter.


The girl giggled and closed the door of her bedroom. Then, she went to the front porch and looked outside. The stepmother was gone. On the empty road, under the setting sun, the jasmines continued to bleed their perfume, their petals now a little wilted. “Goodbye and good riddance” said the girl to herself “sometimes good things just happen.”





Yu Yan is the pen name of someone who teaches Chinese art and dabbles in fiction.




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