Rhapsody of Death

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Chapter 58

The feelings of guilt spawned by the embittered words spoken to each other imbued in them a desire for reconciliation and served to strengthen the depth of their love. She confided in him that she was no longer interested in working at Yin Yang because she had no useful function there and that she wanted to find her own fulfilling career.

Subsequent to that night, her activities at the office were perfunctory and she began taking the afternoons off to have her hair and nails done and started finalizing wedding arrangements; in particular the selection of her wedding gown. This was a welcome respite for Qian now that he no longer had to look after her. He could focus his much needed attention entirely on the company affairs.

The one inescapable business related responsibility for Yan-Luo was socializing at company sponsored entertainment events. But even her performance at that was disappointing to Qian. He mused over the phenomenon that certain individuals were naturally gifted with social skills while others had no grasp of the talent and likely no hope of ever developing it; his fiancée falling into the latter category.

At age thirty, this lack of skill can be attributed to innocence and naiveté. At forty, the lack of social skill is an indicator of the absence of the mental acuity and perception required to perform the duties of a gracious host. At fifty years, he thought, there is no hope of ever acquiring these skills. He admitted to himself that it is a special character trait that takes many years to develop to perfection. He felt unfortunate that he was now inextricably connected to a woman that could not perform the social duties required by the wife of the CEO of a major corporation. Inwardly, he bemoaned his poor fortune and secretly wished that he could somehow figure out a way to have Kaori entertain his guests without evoking the wrath of Yan-Luo.

Yan-Luo was the antithesis of Kaori when it came to socializing with company clients. She was too self centered, had an aversion to small talk and refused to compromise herself by giving hypocritical accolades to the undeserving. Of course, she understood the importance of entertaining from her years of attending the Du family business functions.

But, memories of those days were largely responsible for her antipathetical behavior now. Her mother-in-law controlled every aspect of her participation in those events down to the minutest detail including choosing her wardrobe and hair style. What she resented most was the feeling that she was merely a token of beauty that the Du family put on display to impress their guests; with total disregard for her feelings. By contrast, her sister-in-law, Yan-Li was treated like royalty due to her family’s status in the village.

She knew that now her situation was different and as the future wife of a socially prominent business man she would have to attend all the major company sponsored parties and become familiar with Qian’s friends. Her reputation as the woman that captured the attentions of the most eligible bachelor in Taipei catapulted her to the center of attention at these events; more out of curiosity than intentions of developing any sort of meaningful conversation.

At one such event, a beautiful perky young woman approached her with an engaging expression on her face.

“You are Yin-Qian’s fiancée aren’t you?”

“How do you know me? I don’t recall ever meeting you before.”

“Everyone here knows who you are. The announcement of Qian’s engagement is sensational news in social circles. The room is abuzz with people trying to guess when the marriage will take place. By the way, I’m Ting-Ting.”

She was obviously a young model and it was common knowledge around Taipei that these young women were always attempting to elevate their status in social circles by getting close to rich influential men; a typical ‘gold digger’ tactic. Yan-Luo was pretty certain that she had come here with the first man that would take her only to abandon him in search for an eligible bachelor with more potential. But tonight, her prospects were not very promising due to the fact that, at this particular event, the men were mostly accompanied by their wives so she was extremely bored and was looking for some diversion.

She thought to herself that at least she was honest and her innocence somewhat appealing unlike, she supposed, the group of matriarchs clustered together under the crystal chandelier in the center of the main ballroom. She had noticed in passing earlier that the air was heavy with the scent of perfume so typical of old rich women. The fragrance brought back painful memories of her mother-in-law dragging her off to social events, that she was forced to suffer through for the good of the family business.

Ting-Ting noticed her looking at the group of ladies and motioned toward them with her chin. “The woman in the center is the wife of Ma Yi-Long, the president of the Information Technology Business Association. Yan-Luo was surprised that Ting-Ting was so knowledgeable about the guests at the party. She had obviously done her homework in preparation to achieve her goal of acceptance into the inner circle of society.

She nodded to the group of ladies but was hesitant to approach them since she had no idea of what to say to them. But in her moment of hesitation the decision was made for her as the group of ladies approached her. They gathered around her, aggressively edging Ting-Ting away from Yan-Luo.

Mrs. Ma was elegant in her black and white Chanel suit and an obviously expensive string of pearls. Again, recalling memories of her mother-in-law, she immediately became apprehensive. She introduced herself and her group of friends and attempted to start a conversation.

“I am Ma Yi-Long’s wife. Are you Yin-Qian’s fiancée?”

“Yes. I’m sorry that I wasn’t properly introduced to you. Qian is off chatting with his business associates and has totally ignored his duties as host. I apologize for his rudeness.”

“No need to apologize. Men are always like that. When they get together to talk business they don’t worry about their wives and girl friends.”

Yan-Luo inwardly mocked her. ‘I’m sure that your husband isn’t too occupied with business to pay attention to the women when they are at the hotel club’. The thought brought a smile to her lips.

“Qian is certainly the golden prize. You have a good eye for men! You can’t imagine how many women have tried to catch him. How did you happen to meet him?”

Yan-Luo was not flattered by the superficial praise and actually felt the comments were demeaning with the implication that she was exceptionally lucky to get a commitment of marriage from such an eligible bachelor.

“We met in college.”

“Why haven’t I heard of you before?”

“”I have just recently returned from abroad.”

“Which country?”

“Malaysia.”

Yan-Luo was starting to get really annoyed with all the questions. It felt like the interview her ex mother-in-law put her through before she married Du-Jie.

“Oh, I have a good friend there. Her son married a woman from Taipei. Perhaps you have heard of her.”

She was reaching the limit of her patience for dealing with the prying questions when Qian came to the rescue. He and Ma Yi-Long came over to them, chatting and laughing. When Qian saw Yan-Luo talking to his friend’s wife he suddenly smiled. Perhaps his negative assessment of Yan-Luo’s social skills was a bit premature.

“My apologies! I was so busy discussing business with your husband that I totally forgot to introduce my fiancée to the guests. I had better attend to that now.”

He escorted her through the crowd introducing her to all his associates. On the way back to their table, she overheard a conversation between Mrs. Ma and her group of friends.

“I wonder where Kaori is tonight. Has anyone seen her or know if something has happened to her”

“Yes, I was also wondering the same thing. There is an art auction next week and I wanted to consult her opinion about which items would be good investments. She is so knowledgeable about those things.”

Mrs. Ma cast a glance toward Yan-Luo as if she wanted to make sure that she was overhearing their conversation.

“Kaori was is so elegant and beautiful and always knows the right thing to say to make people comfortable. She is so skilled at socializing. Qian has no taste in women if he can choose his fiancée over Kaori. Does anyone know her family background?”

Yan-Luo was extremely irritated with their blatantly disrespectful gossip and wished that she had not come here tonight. She couldn’t understand what it was about her that seemed to cause old women to resent her.

Later on, she exchanged phone numbers with Ting-Ting thinking that she might be of use to her in the future. That and the fact that she was the only person she had met at the party that was friendly and sincere. She was frustrated with her total lack of knowledge about the habits of the socially elite crowd that comprised Qian’s circle of close friends and wished she could find a way to assimilate into that culture.

“What do those old ladies do when they get together without their husbands?” She hoped Ting-Ting could give her some insight into their social habits.

“I wish I could help you out but you can see that I’m not really in their age group and I don’t waste my time hanging out with old ladies. Sorry.”

When they arrived back home, another quarrel ensued over the subject of Kaori.

“Yi-Long’s wife and her group of old ladies made it a point to make sure I overheard them discussing Kaori. It sounds like she has always been an integral part of your social functions. Who the hell is she?”

“She has been a close friend and business associate for many years. Why, is that a problem?”

“I don’t believe you. Those old ladies were implying that she was your ‘mate’ before I returned and we became engaged.”

“There is nothing between us so there is no need to worry. Trust me.”

“No matter what you say, I can’t believe you. I know that you were with other women when I was in Malaysia for 10 years and I can’t deny you that right. But, this one seems to have been very important to you for a long time. How can I believe that she means nothing?”

The argument ended without resolution. Yan-Luo was still suspicious about Qian’s relationship with Kaori and he was beginning to wonder if their engagement was a good decision.

The next day, Yan-Luo went to the art auction thinking that she might catch a glimpse of Kaori or at the least find out more information about her. She wanted to be inconspicuous so she decided the best way to blend in with the crowd was to bid on one of the items for sale. A blue and white porcelain vase caught her eye and she put in a bid for 300,000 NTD and listed Qian as the responsible remunerator.

This turned out to be another disaster for their already strained relationship. The vase turned out to be a worthless counterfeit. Antique buying is risky business for seasoned collectors and folly for amateurs like Yan-Luo with no knowledge of the arts. Qian was beside himself. The sum was trivial and he signed the check to pay the debt just to save face but he was rankled by whole incident. Was she flaunting her recent access to a seemingly bottomless gold mine just to create an impression or did she deliberately buy the vase as retaliation for what she perceived as a betrayal? She knew how hard he had struggled in the past to repay the family debt and never expected that she would casually spend that amount of money without even consulting him. But, deep down his anger was somewhat tempered by the thought that this was redress to compensate Yan-Luo for his denial of his relationship with Kaori.

Ever since Yan-Luo had made new friends, her living habits changed drastically. She never came to the office any more and claimed she was busy with planning the wedding events. Of course he knew that every aspect of the wedding had been finalized for quite a while but he was to busy to be concerned with how she was occupying her time during the day. He rationalized that they were getting married soon so he should concentrate on making more money for her to spend as long as it made her happy and he could afford it.

But soon, the nature of her new life style was exposed. After retuning home from the office at 11:00 o’clock one night he was surprised that Yan was not home yet. He was frantic thinking of all the horrible things that could have happened to her. He waited up all night until the phone finally rang at 3:00 in the morning. She was obviously drunk and sobbing so hard that she could barely give the address where he should drive to pick her up.

Now his worry turned to extreme exasperation. How long would this behavior continue? The fresh innocent woman that he had fallen in love with long ago had died and was now replaced by a vulgar smoking drunk that spent his hard earned money all day. Likewise, his love for her was dying bit by bit.

If this had been all of it, he could have managed to cope. But, a month or two later the situation escalated out of control when several mafia types dressed in black barged into Qian’s office demanding to see the CEO. The security guards were unable to stop them and the office staff was scared witless and were puzzled as to what they wanted with Qian.

The answer became obvious when they showed him a marker for 3,000,000 NTD that Yan-Luo had signed. The loan was to be paid back in ten days along with 150,000 NTD interest. The note due date was today and they had come to collect. The casino was more than happy to extend the credit to her, knowing that her fiancée was the president of Yin Yang electronics. The mafia was always looking for ways to get their hooks into the wealth of the rich and famous.

The office staff started to call the police but Qian stopped them. He knew that any news like this could easily turn into a major scandal with serious consequences for the company. His brain was stunned and painful memories of the days when he was constantly worried about money came rushing back even though he was no longer the poor indebted man that he once was. The loan amount was still trivial to him compared to the vast resources of Yin Yang. He was more concerned with the impending drastic action he would have to take to end this downward spiral of repugnant events.

Just to be sure that he wasn’t being scammed, he called the house to make sure Yan was there and then sent his assistant to pick her up and bring her to the office so she could verify their claim. When she saw the casino collectors she realized that Qian knew about her debt and she collapsed in fear onto the floor sobbing uncontrollably. She realized what a grievous mistake she had made and knew that her future with Qian was over.

She tried to explain that she had lost a lot of money gambling the night she had called him to pick her up. She kept getting credit advances in hopes of winning back enough to cover her losses. The deeper in debt she became, the more she drank until she was incapacitated. Now she realized that she was probably set up so that the casino could dip into the Yin Yang coffers.

In any case, she knew him well enough to know that any amount of remorse would not change his mind. He quickly wrote out a check to wipe out the debt and with a heavy heart informed her that he could never marry her or forgive her for destroying what had been his one perfect love.

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