"You crazy Oni," Petal shouts from behind bugged eyes in that way of hers when she loses her patience with me. She has found me squatting near a thick lotus overgrowth that shoots up from the pond. I shush her to lower her voice.
"Coming here everyday to spy. I could set my clock by you." She waves her finger at me. "You shame your family, you know that?"
"I know," I admit and frown. Debris from the wide tree branches overhead slide from my stiff apron as I rise. "But for a child like Jarang, you would do the same, I know you would."
We lean in to sneak peeks across 7th Street, our thin bodies.perfectly hidden by the massive palm that is our shield. I feel the early morning air brush against my sleeveless arms. Petal glances at her watch. Though despairing still, her face softens. I am grateful for such kindnesses that she so often gives me.
Its cloth top closing, Kyung's green convertible speeds past us. Then it circles into the school's driveway. The engine quietens as he eases his buffed frame from the passenger's side, picking up Jarang as he does. Petal shakes a disapproving head at him and then one toward me. I can tell she wants to lash me with words that I know she holds inside. Still she does not express them. And too, Petal is more Cool L.A. than I can ever hope to be. My temper in this matter is likely to be my harsh undoing one day.
Kyung turns toward the park where we hide ourselves. By reflex, we both stoop so that he does not spot us. It is always like this.
Yes, always. His Nancy Wong behind the wheel. My sweet Jarang fighting. I feel that she senses that I watch over her even now. And Kyung, always fretful. On his face is that stare he gets when he is uncertain just what he should do with our daughter. That Nancy Wong, some mother-to-be.
Parting the school's double doors, the nursery lady rushes into the yard. She takes Jarang who is wailing breathlessly, and shushes the other two away.
"Go, please, " the woman says. "She always quiets down as soon as you drive off."
Nancy Wong busies herself by continuing to lower the top of the convertible. Kyung puts dark sunglasses over his face and look up to a cloudless sky. Quickly, he slips back into his pretty car's white leather seat. I recognize the depth of his frustrations as I am sure Petal does mine. The green pretty car speeds past our tree as though a tiger with great hunger chases them.
Once Long Ago
Petal and I once tailed them from the nursery.
Nancy Wong led us to her cousin's KIA dealership on Beverly Boulevard. Its show windows were so propitious that Petal refused to turn the corner in her old wreck. Nancy Wong bent over and kissed Kyung before walking onto the lot. My heart bled from all the loss that this person had stolen from me.
Yet, in that moment I wanted to be so L. A. cool for Kyung. I watched him throw his head back laughing before darting again into the morning traffic. In those days, he managed his father's video shop over on Olympic .
Happy with his Nancy Wong's attention and late for work as usual, Kyung drove down Vermont Avenue Three cars back, Petal's fractured-everywhere jalopy followed his shiny creme colored sports two-seater south to Olympic Boulevard. She, annoyed and silent while I tried hard not to cry, but failed.
That video store was the first of the many commerces my father-in-law would purchase in this so called city of the angels--Los Angeles. Remembering how Kyung and I had met there, I looked out of the window on my side of Petal's bruised car and blew my nose. Yes, Kyung Yin, Sr. was the one who got us in this mess.
"I'm not following him onto Olympic," Petal managed to announce. "Everybody knows this car of mine,"
"Okay," I said.
Now, I must go to work. Petal is watchful that I am not broken by our distant contact with my ex-husband.
"Okay?" she asks.
We stroll in silence to the other end of the park where we will unlock her family's do-nut shop. There we will spend the rest of the morning making fritters and bear claws--and there I will try in silence, not to think of Kyung and Nancy Wong.
"Yes, okay," I lie.
Excerpted from 'Morning Song'
A Short Story
Copyright 2009 PW Dowdy. All Rights Reserved.