Chapter 21 & 22
At the family dinner table, Sethe was a welcome addition. His father was delighted to have both of his children together after a long time of separation, and spoke as soon as the filial greetings were complete.
“I wasn’t sure what you missed the most in Korea, so I had the cook make some of your favorite food.” He gestured at the table, and Sethe squealed happily.
“Burritos, nachos, chips and salsa, it all looks great, Bapa! Thank you!”
Her father waved away the praise with his good arm and beamed. “Tomorrow, if you like, we’ll have vegetable lo mein and broccoli with garlic sauce.” He ignored the groan from his son, who had a fondness for western-style beef. Listening to his children argue about vegetarian versus carnivorous eating habits, he felt better than he had in a while.
While they ate, Sethe chatted about her year-long stay in Seoul. Unbeknownst to her father, she had left Kuching nursing a broken heart, but her brother knew all the particulars and supported her decision at the time.
“I was just in Itaewon last weekend for a co-worker’s birthday party and it surprised me how much I enjoyed being somewhere where everybody spoke something other than hangeul. I also found this great outlet while shopping there, of nothing but shoes!” She laughed.
“But I curbed my spending to just a few pairs, including those.” She pointed back to the front door, where the blue sandals were lined up.
“I nearly fell when one of the straps became loose, but luckily someone helped me.” Sethe turned to her brother. “She works in Rickie’s new hush-hush department; I think her name is May?”
“Meaghan,” Rickie automatically said. “She’s our information analyst, coming from one of our subsidiary companies that coordinate our interests in the European markets. I think she’ll be good in the position.” There must have been something in his voice as both set of eyes focused on him.
“Well,” his father said a little gruffly, “is she pretty?” Next to him, Sethe gave a snort of amusement.
“She’s very pretty, Bapa, and friendly too. We talked a bit while waiting for Rickie to fetch me from the lobby. I hope you don’t scare her with your ‘Lord and Master’ attitude.” At Rickie’s glare, she smiled.
“Okay, okay. I do like her though.” Sethe brightened. “Maybe she’d be willing to go shopping with me next time. Rickie, do you have her phone number?”
Rickie pretended to think the request over carefully.
“Employee information is personal and not to be distributed to those deemed non-essential.” He grinned at his sister’s pout. “But for you, I’ll see what I can do.”
After dinner, Sethe wheeled her father towards the back of the house. He stopped her for a moment, gestured her to lean down, and whispered, “Tell me everything you know about En Meaghan.” He gave a conspiratory wink, and they both chuckled down the hall.
In his study, Rickie suddenly felt an ominous frisson along his back, gone almost as soon as he felt it.
And Meaghan sneezed on the bus, wondering if someone was talking about her.
Before going to bed, Meaghan finished cleaning the kitchen, and thought. Leaf’s birthday was Friday, but she was unable to find the coconut ice cream for the chocolate fudge cake, even after checking several markets after work. She still had three days, and vowed she would complete the list in her head to give her sister a proper 16thbirthday meal.
She heard soft feet padding towards the kitchen, and turned to see her sister. Tina’s towel-dried hair was sticking out at all angles. Her face was freshly scrubbed. She ran a hand through her hair, her nails sporting sparkly purple polish this time. In her pink Hello Kitty pyjammas she looked painfully young. Meaghan closed the distance and gave her a hug.
“Shouldn’t you be getting ready for bed, Leaf?”
Tina yawned. “Yeah, I know, but I wanted to talk to you before I do. This Friday, can I invite more people?” Meaghan had arranged a slumber party for six. She nodded.
“How many more?”
“Just one,” Tina said. “It’s a new friend of mine.”
With a nod, Meaghan agreed. “That shouldn’t be a problem, then. Anything else?” The younger girl shook her head, almost dislodging the damp towel from around her neck, but then looked at her sister.
“Meg, have you ever thought about falling in love? Or having a guy to call your own?” At this question, Meaghan searched the hazel eyes in front of her. Where had that come from? She thought of an answer, ignoring the sudden flash of Rickie’s smiling face in her mind.
“When it happens, it’ll happen. Do you have a boyfriend?” Meaghan asked Tina in an attempt to deflect the younger girl’s attention.
“Not yet, but I hope soon.” And with that parting shot, she headed back to her bedroom, leaving a bemused Meaghan standing in the kitchen.
After hanging up the drying cloths, she went to the desk in her bedroom and turned on her laptop, fishing the thumbdrive out of her bag.
Plugging it into the computer, she pulled up the mysterious file from Ivoire. It appeared to be the bookkeeping records from a French firm that was investing in markets in China and the southeast region of the world. Meaghan sat back and began to scan the data, looking for whatever had spooked Ivoire.
An hour later, she pushed back from the screen and rubbed her eyes. It appeared to be legitimate transactions between her company and the investment firm, but there had to be something in the records. Perhaps stepping back from it for a time would help; she decided to let it go for the evening and try to decipher the records later.
Snuggling under the covers, she wondered if the strange situation with Ivoire had anything to do with her new assignment.