Seek Ye Whore

Students have been taking up this increasingly hard-to-find story, so I’m placing this here until my second collection comes out. “Seek Ye Whore” was first published in Rogue magazine in July 2008, then in the anthology Connecting Flights.

Seek Ye Whore
by
Yvette Tan

WEEK 0

Foster remembered, exactly, when he got it into his head to get married.

It was the time he leaned over his cubicle to see Donovan taking a bite out of a dripping, overstuffed roast beef on rye too big, too thick, and too appetizing to have come from the cafeteria

“New restaurant?” he asked, trying to sound as nonchalant as possible. He had a weakness for roast beef on rye. Heck, he had a weakness for food in general, especially when they looked like they had come straight out of Bon Appetit, the bread just the right shade of brown, the beef sliced in equal thinness.

“Nope,” Donovan said. “My wife made it.”

Donovan took a big, sloppy bite, getting a bit of gravy on his cheek. Foster found himself wiping his own cheek but catching drool on the back of his hand instead. He wasn’t distracted enough though to remember what Donovan had just said. That was news to him.

“Since when have you been married?” he asked.

“Officially? Two weeks ago,” Donovan said, mouth half full.

Foster was surprised. Donovan had always struck him as the perpetual bachelor type.
Receding hairline, puppy-dog eyes, cheeks that were slowly turning into jowls, and the carefree manner of a frat boy, he was forever sending the receptionists into giggling fits over one thing or another. As a cubicle neighbor, he was okay, never bothering Foster except for the occasional paper clip or a little of the small talk that was essential to corporate survival.

“Congratulations,” Foster said. He would have shook one of Donovan’s hands, but they were currently busy with the sandwich.

“Thanks,” he said.

“So what’s it like?” Foster asked, “Being married?”

“It’s great! Donovan exclaimed, spewing out pieces of roast beef. “It’s like a vacation. I wake up, the wife’s made breakfast and packed my lunch. I eat, she kisses me off, I go to work. I get home, the house is sparkling, the wife’s made dinner, and has a Bud chilling in the fridge for me. Some nights, we chill and watch TV, but most of the time—” he paused, then said, with eyes closed as if remembering, “We fuck like rabbits. It’s a really sweet deal.”

Foster stared at him. “Did you just step out of the 50s?” Either he was making it up, or he had found the most perfect, most gullible woman in the world.

“Wanna see her picture?” Donovan asked, popping the last of the sandwich in his mouth and licking his fingers.

This was the longest conversation Foster had ever had with his neighbor, and now he knew why: the man was a self-centered misogynist. But he had piqued his curiosity, him and his goddamned sandwich. Foster didn’t even realize that lunch hour was almost over, and he hadn’t gone out to eat, focused as he was on Donovan.

Donovan wiped his fingers on the napkin (that his wife, no doubt, had packed for him) then, out of habit, on his pants before fishing out his wallet from his back pocket. He flipped it open. Foster found himself staring at a photograph of Donovan with his arms around the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. She was either Filipino or Thai, with long black hair, big expressive eyes, milk chocolatey brown skin, and lips you could lose yourself in. She was wearing a satin spaghetti-strapped blouse and no bra, her nipples hard through the fabric. Foster could imagine Donovan’s swarthy hands groping her even as she smiled devotedly at him, and he could tell that it would be very easy indeed to “fuck like rabbits” with her. That she could also cook almost blew his mind.

“She’s hot,” he said before he could stop himself.

“Isn’t she?” Donovan agreed. “She’s perfect.”

“She’s way out of your league. How did you get her to marry you?”

“Found her on the Internet,” Donovan said.

“You mean you met her on the Internet.”

“No, found. She’s a mail order bride from the Philippines. You know how hot those third-world chicks are to marry white guys. I picked her out, paid for her to come over, married her, and now I live like a king.”

His statement didn’t sit well with Foster. How pathetic did you have to be to buy a bride online? Yet as one side condemned the practice as subhuman, another part of him was thinking about what a good deal it was.

“What’s the URL?” Foster asked.

“Siquijorbrides.com.”

“Seek-ye-whore?” Foster repeated. “This isn’t a porn site, is it?”

“It’s a province in the Philippines, asshole,” Donovan said. “Go ask Santiago.”

Santiago was the Auditing Department’s token Flip. He had initially been brought in to fill the government quota for minority employees but was soon doing better than most at the department. He was up for a promotion next month, just after a year in the company.
Foster didn’t want to ask Santiago about something as silly as a bride-supplying province, but he wanted to make sure that Donovan wasn’t pulling his leg, either. He excused himself and found Santi just returning to the office after lunch.

“Hey, Santi,” he said, falling in step with him.

“What’s up, Foster?” Santiago asked. “Looking for the files on the Thompson Account?”

“Nothing like that,” Foster said, then paused. “It’s not work-related.”

“What is it then?” Santiago asked.

“You grew up in the Philippines, right?”

“No,” Santiago said carefully, “I grew up in Georgia. My parents brought me here when I was two. What’s this about?”

“Have you ever heard of a province called Seek-ye-whore?”

Santiago thought for a minute, then said, “Yeah, my parents used to scare us with it when we were kids. It’s famous for being bewitched. People believe that everyone who lives there has some nasty occult stuff going on. Why?”

“Helping my niece with homework,” Foster said. “Thanks, man.”

Santiago shrugged. “Not a problem.”

That’s how Foster found himself checking out siquijorbrides.com.

And that’s when he decided that he wanted to get married.

The name of the website was misleading. That was the first thing Foster realized. The women on the site didn’t look like whores. Beautiful, all of them, with smooth brown skin and big gorgeous eyes framed demurely by a curtain of dark lashes and soft lips that invited you into their long, slender arms. Their headshots, though inexpertly done, looked more like model name cards than ID pictures. Their full body shots had them in tank tops and tiny skirts or hot pants indulging in domestic duties like cooking and cleaning and doing the laundry. It would have been absolutely ridiculous if the girls weren’t so hot. The site was written in substandard but passable English, with the women grouped according to their domestic specialty—cooking, housekeeping, laundry, and so forth.

Foster studied their profiles, wondering if he should pick Nora, who loved to clean house, or Vilma, who was first in her high school English class, or Gloria, who “loved to laundry,” if only because the statement made him laugh. He was beginning to call the whole thing off, to chalk it up to a silly disconnect in his brain when he happened on Luli. The perfect girl. He didn’t know what it was that made her stand out, that drew him to her. Maybe it was the mischievous twinkle in her eyes, or the slight upturn of her mouth that made it look like she was neither smiling nor frowning, or her sweet, innocent face that made it look like she needed saving.

In her full-body picture, she was bending down against an open oven, caught in the act of bringing out a Thanksgiving turkey.

Foster felt his pants tighten. Her shorts were so tiny he could see the lower part of her ass, while her low-cut tank top showed off her ample cleavage, which despite the downward angle seemed to defy gravity. The turkey she held in her hands was plump and perfectly browned. Foster could almost see juices bursting from inside it, its stuffing cooked just right—something to truly give thanks for. Luli listed her talents as cooking and singing, and her interests as “learning new recipes.”

Before he knew it, Foster was clicking the “Marry Me” button under her picture and inputting his credit card number into the processing form. She didn’t come cheap, but overall, he spent less than what he expected, especially on her travel expenses. He was told that his transaction was a success and that he should be expecting his first shipment in three to six weeks, or after the papers were processed, whichever came first.

Foster did a double take. Did he just get conned into spending three months’ salary for a blow-up doll? Or maybe they were going to ship her stuff first then have her come by plane later. Or did they treat the women so much like stock that they actually referred to them that way? And what did “first shipment” mean? Was there a second? A third? Did she have so much stuff that they couldn’t fit it on a plane? Foster needed to know, but he didn’t want to come off like a fool. In the end, he swallowed his pride and asked Donovan about it.

“That’s right,” Donovan said when asked about the packages. “It’s like some miracle of science. That’s why the shipping cost is so low.”

Foster pressed further.

“I don’t want to spoil it for you,” Donovan grinned. “Only don’t fucking freak out. Oh, and just add water.”

Foster spent half of the next three weeks in excitement over Luli’s arrival and the other half in jealousy of Donovan and his daily lunches. One Monday, it was a giant pastrami sandwich with cob salad and a peach. Tuesday, it was a greasy, heart-stopping Sloppy Joe with home fries and homemade applesauce. Wednesday, it was a Caesar chicken sub with oversized homemade chocolate chip cookies. By Thursday, Foster had taken to staying longer in the cafeteria so that he wouldn’t have to be tortured by the sight of Donovan munching on his appetizing meals made by his appetizing wife.

WEEK 1

The first package came early, nineteen days after Foster had clicked “Marry Me.” It was long and thin and labeled FRAGILE. At first, he thought that it was from someone else, like his mother maybe, or that it had been sent to him by mistake. But it had his name and address on it, as well as the siquijorbrides.com logo, a stylized head wearing a veil, but no name or address. He opened the package, his hands trembling in anticipation.

And then he began to scream.

It was a leg. A human leg. A woman’s right leg and foot, her toenails clipped short and painted bright red. Foster held it in his hands, not knowing what to do.

And then it flexed.

Still screaming, he threw it across the room where it hit the edge of his coffee table before falling onto the rug. He backed away, thoughts of murder and going to jail running through his head. He noticed a letter that had fallen out when he opened the package. He remembered Donovan’s warning about freaking out, forced himself to stop yelling and to reach, hands really trembling, for the letter. His hands were shaking so much that he almost tore the envelope in two, almost destroyed the letter inside. Somehow, he managed to get it open. It said:

Dear Mr. Foster,

Congratulations on your almost marriage!

We at siquijorbrides.com would like to commend you on your excellent choice of life partner. Luli is a wonderful cook and can easily be taught your favorite American dishes.
Unfortunately, due to the high cost of travel, we are forced to send her on an installment basis. We assure you that this will not lessen the quality of her work or her health. We wish you all the best on your marital journey.

Yours,

Siquijorbrides.com

Behind the letter was a set of instructions on the “Handling and Caring for a Transit Body.” The instructions were simple enough. There was a brief introduction about how one should care for the parts as if they were already a whole, and that even though she had come by mail, the bride must be loved, cherished, and so on before going on to the instructions themselves.

Submerge body part in a large vessel filled with room-temperature water. This is to be the Transit Body Sanctuary. Whenever a new part arrives, place it inside as well. Do not worry about “proper placing” as our Ultra-Konek technology ensures that the Transit Body will be assembled in the correct way. Make sure the vessel is kept in a cool, dim area where it will not be disturbed. The assembly of the Transit Body will take eight to nine weeks under appropriate conditions. All parts come with a one-year warranty. Log onto siquijorbrides.com/warranty for more details.

Foster looked at the leg. It lay where he had thrown it, in the space between the sofa and the coffee table. He walked over and slowly picked it up. It lay unmoving in his hands. He turned it around, examining it. It looked like a mannequin part, the area where it would have connected to the lower torso smooth, just like the rest of it. A bruise had blossomed where it had hit the coffee table. It flexed again. It took all of Foster’s willpower to keep from throwing it away again. He took a deep breath, thought of Donovan and his lunches, thought of Luli. “Don’t freak out,” he breathed, “Just add water.”

The leg looked healthy, a realistic replica instead of a dead limb. Foster shrugged. He had paid good money for a wife, and if following strange instructions was the only way to get her, then who was he to judge? If in the end, Luli did turn out to be a sophisticated sex doll, then maybe he could get a good price for her on eBay.

He took the leg to the bathroom and placed it in the tub. The leg recoiled when it touched the cold porcelain but otherwise lay still. He turned on the faucet and let the water run. The leg seemed to throb when the liquid touched it, the skin taking on a ruddy, healthier glow, while the water began to take on a reddish hue, not unlike rose champagne. Not knowing what else to do, Foster turned off the lights and closed the bathroom door, leaving his bride to be by herself.

WEEK 2

The second package arrived a week later. Foster was expecting it this time, and the sight of the left leg didn’t faze him one bit. He put it in the tub next to the right one, where the two limbs drew close, rubbing against each other, the water around them turning redder, the color of Sangria. Foster didn’t know whether he should feel aroused or sick.

In any case, he left the legs alone and tried to concentrate on work.

Concentrating on work was harder than Foster expected. He had taken to looking over at Donovan’s cubicle more often than he would have liked and had began to notice that his neighbor was beginning to look a little worse for wear every day. He didn’t see it at first glance, but over time, he could sense that something was different. It was as if he was slowing down. He would come in a little later than usual, his eyes looking more and more tired even as his lunches got more and more elaborate, the overstuffed sandwiches being replaced by warm meals like rack of lamb with mint jelly and pork steak with gravy as well as a Filipino dish called sisig, what looked like minced animal parts that Donovan raved about, even though he wasn’t sure what his wife put in it.

Envious, Foster had sought out Santiago and asked about what was inside the mysterious dish.

“Pig parts you don’t normally eat,” Santi had replied, “You know, like their cheeks and ears. It’s great with beer.”

“You’ve got to be shitting me!”

“Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it,” Santi replied

WEEK 3

The third package arrived right on schedule. The square box with the siquijorbrides.com logo waiting for him on his doorstep made Foster’s heart leap. He quickly opened his door and rushed inside his apartment, box in tow. He ripped open the packaging, his hands flying until they had found the treasure contained inside. Even though Foster had an idea of what it was he would be receiving, the sight of the real thing blew him away. It was the lower half of Luli’s (he had already begun to think of the parts as Luli) torso—her waist small and slim, her pubic hair dark and inviting. Foster caressed her upper mound before slipping his finger into her vagina, which made sucking motions as it welcomed his finger inside. This made him feel dirty, so he pulled his finger out, now wet with her juices, before marching to the bathroom and placing her in the tub.

Her legs moved to make way for their new body part, positioning themselves in their proper places. Between them, her pubic hair flowed like seaweed in the ocean. The sight of it cheered Foster. Either he was losing his mind, or this must be some sort of advanced science because they didn’t seem like parts of a sex doll to him. The legs began rubbing against each other again, and this time, with half a torso to put things in perspective, Foster felt his hard-on come fast. He had barely pulled down his trousers and boxers when it was all over, and he was left panting by the tub. He could’ve sworn that Luli, even though it was just part of her that couldn’t even see him, was laughing.

—–

“You want this, man?” Donovan asked, handing Foster his tin-foil-wrapped lunch.

“Isn’t this your lunch?” Foster asked stupidly, his heart hammering in his chest.
Donovan shrugged. “Yeah, but I’m getting sick of it, you know? I was never into that gourmet stuff, and that’s all that she seems to be cooking now.”
Foster tore off the foil to reveal medium-rare Wagyu steak paired with seared foie gras and glazed baby pears. He almost wanted to berate Donovan for his ignorance, but decided to count his blessings instead.

“Thanks,” he said.

“So how’s your wife coming along?” Donovan asked.

“I just got the third package,” Foster said. “I’m still trying to get used to the whole thing.”

“Ah, the third package,” Donovan smiled. “That’s where the fun begins, you know.” He walked away, leaving Foster to enjoy his lunch.

The steak was juicy, it’s rareness just the way Foster liked it, almost raw and not quite cooked, the Wagyu beef melting in his mouth like the foie gras, their fatty flavor almost overwhelming but tempered by the baby pears. Somehow, Donovan’s wife had managed to keep everything warm. Foster finished the whole thing and had to restrain himself from licking the container. He shook his head at the sight of Donovan heading back to his desk with a ham sandwich from the cafeteria. Some guys just don’t know how lucky they are. He thought of Luli, wondered if she could cook like Donovan’s wife. He would be grateful if she had even half the culinary talent of Donovan’s spouse, but somehow, he knew that this was something he didn’t have to worry about.

“Luli, I’m home!“ Foster said playfully as he entered his apartment. He set down his briefcase and wandered into the bathroom. The water in the tub had turned into the color of Merlot, making it seem that he was looking at Luli’s lower half through rose-colored glasses. The legs twitched as he entered, turning in the direction of his voice.
Foster felt a little bit guilty at eating Donovan’ lunch. Would Luli be jealous of that? It’s not as if she could cook yet, anyway.

“You’ll like it here,” he said, slipping his hand inside the cool water. Her legs moved towards him, so he began to stroke them with his fingers. “I’ll give you whatever you want,” he said. “I’ll make you a queen.” She shifted against his hand, rubbing against him. He took his hand out and went to make dinner.

That night, Foster, half-asleep, felt something rubbing against his crotch. His penis jumped to life, straining against the cloth of his pyjamas, trying to get at the soft wetness that waited outside. He came anyway, a force that jolted him awake. But when he looked around, the room was empty, save for himself and his messed up bedclothes. His bed was wet though, as was the part of the carpet that led out of his room, down the hall, all the way to the bathroom. Inside, Luli lay in the bath, still and silent, more mannequin than human, legs relaxed, her pussy grinning at him.

Afterwards, Foster made sure that the floor that led from bath to bed was always lined with towels. He also started sleeping naked with his bedroom door open.

“Enjoying the third week, huh?” Donovan asked him two days later.

“I must be a perv,” Foster said, shaking his head.

“Hey,” Donovan said, “You don’t question pussy.”

Foster winced. He turned to look at his neighbor and was startled by what he saw. “You look like hell, man. Are you okay?”

There were dark circles under Donovan’s eyes, and his cheeks were sunken. His face had a grayish pallor, and when he smiled, his gums seemed to draw back, emphasizing his teeth. The effect was eerily skull-like.

“Wife kept me up all night,” Donovan said, making the statement sound like a complaint and a boast at the same time. “I think she’s still sore about me giving you my lunch, and this is her way of taking it out on me.

“I’m not complaining,” he grinned. “After all, she did list ‘lovemaking’ as one of her talents.”

“Sorry, man,” Foster said. “I didn’t mean to cause trouble.”

“It’s cool,” Donovan said dismissively. “She’s back to preparing sandwiches.”
Foster decided that he had enough weirdness for one day, so he returned to his paperwork.

WEEK 4

The fourth package came a little late, just as the week was ending. Foster was frantic with worry, pacing the apartment unable to concentrate on work, sending one email after another to the website and getting the same answer each time: wait, wait, wait.
The package arrived on Saturday. Foster was home watching TV, trying to get his mind off the package that clearly was not arriving anytime soon when the sound of the doorbell made him literally jump from his La-Z-Boy.

“Oh, good, you’re in!” the delivery guy said as he handed Foster a clipboard to sign.
“What is it now, your fourth week?”

Foster eyed him suspiciously. “What do you know about this?” he asked.

The delivery guy shrugged. “The company’s been delivering these things for some time now. Eight installments, yeah? Weird that guys would be buying from a wedding company. I thought only chicks digged weddings. Your fiancé must be very lucky.”

“Yes, she is,” Foster said weakly. “How many of these do you deliver, anyway?”

“We get a couple of orders every month,” the guy said. “Regular enough that you get to notice little things about the guys receiving them.”

“Little things?” Foster asked.

“You don’t have to deliver to the same guy to see it,” the man said. “I mean, most of the time we just leave the packages on the doorstep as ordered but . . .” he paused, “sometimes you catch them at home, and you can usually tell what week they’re on, even if you didn’t look at the package.”

Foster raised an eyebrow. “How did you know this was my fourth week?” he asked.

“Biggest package always comes during the fourth week,” the guy said. “What is it you guys are buying anyway, an assemble-it-yourself wedding gown?”

“Something like that,” Foster said. “Was it just the size of the package that clued you in?”
The man nodded. “You don’t seem like the others,” he said. He looked at his watch. “I have to go,” he said. “Got deliveries to make.”

“Wait,” Foster said. “Maybe Ben Franklin and I can convince you to stay.”

The delivery guy smiled. “I guess those deliveries can wait,” he said. “The first-timers are always puzzled. I have no idea why, but it always happens. I’ve seen it a couple of times, and the other guys have seen the same thing, too. Second week, they’re all excited, like a kid waiting to open gifts on Christmas morning. Third and fourth week, it’s become like a drug to them. You can almost see them trembling. I figure their fiancé really likes the stuff they’re getting and have been extra, um, kind to them as a result. But the fifth week,” he paused, unsure about going on.

“Come on!” Foster wailed, “I gave you a hundred bucks!”

“It’s not that,” the man said, clearly uncomfortable now. “I just don’t know if I should continue, this being your fourth week and all.”

“Just do it!”

“All right,” the delivery guy said, “No need to get nasty. Fifth week’s either one of two things: either they’re happy to get the packages or they’re not, but they accept it anyway. Sixth week, those that aren’t happy are trying to give the packages back. They either wait for us to come by, or they try bringing it to the post office. Both don’t work. We’re under strict instructions not to take any of those things back, and the post office, well, they can’t return a package to a place that has no name or address, right? Seventh week, they’re either trying to hug us or trying to kill us. But the eighth—” the guy shook his head.

“It amazes me every time. No two guys are alike, you know what I mean? I had someone try to shoot me with an Uzi once, a fucking Uzi in a high-class suburban neighborhood, can you believe that? But there was this other time when a guy was so happy he gave me a Cuban cigar and a thousand-dollar tip.” He smiled at the memory. “Whatever he bought must be making the girlfriend really happy.”

He looked at his watch again. “Listen, man, I really have to go.” He handed Foster the latest package. “Good luck with the girlfriend.”

Foster watched him get back into the delivery van and head off before looking inside with the package. He opened it to find Luli’s naked upper torso; her belly was smooth and flat, her breasts full and round, just like in her picture. He gave her a hug and ran his hands over her belly, massaged her breasts—the nipples hardened at his touch. There were only one of two reactions, the delivery guy had said. Foster knew which category he fell under. He pinched a nipple and licked it, delight running through him when he felt it shiver underneath his tongue. He went to place the newest piece of her in the tub. He sat there watching her, watching her body slowly fuse together, watching the water run red, the color of beets. Even though she wasn’t whole yet, he could see that she was perfect.

That night, he wasn’t surprised when Luli joined him in bed. Her body was warm against his, rubbing against him before impaling herself on him and riding, riding him in a way that left Foster breathless. Foster kept his eyes closed, pretended to be asleep the whole time. The thought of a half-formed woman making love to him still unnerved him, but not enough so that he didn’t enjoy it. He fell asleep soon after, her name on his lips, his dreams haunted by the culinary wonders she would make for him.

Donovan was absent the next day. He had called in sick but would be back tomorrow. The next time Foster set eyes on Donovan, it was all he could do to hide his shock.
It seemed as if the man had aged over the weekend. His hair was streaked with white, and he looked more worn-out than ever. He barely even managed a “hello” when
Foster greeted him.

“You okay, man?” Foster asked, realizing that he was asking Donovan that question more nowadays.

Even in his state, Donovan managed to grin. “I’m cool,” he said. “Wife and I got into an argument. Wouldn’t let me sleep until I said she was right, which was never. Not that I’m complaining, mind you.” he wiggled an eyebrow suggestively.

“Don’t tell me she . . .” Foster began, aghast.

“How’s yours coming along?” Donovan asked. “She should be half-done by now.” His grin got wider. “You be careful, they don’t like it when they don’t get their way. But , oh, is it fun!”

“You’re crazy!” Foster said. “You should call in sick and check into a hotel. You need sleep.”

“I’m fine,” Donovan said before disappearing into his cubicle.

WEEK 5

“You seen Donovan?” Santi asked, popping his head into Foster’s cubicle.

“Hey, Santi,” Foster said, looking up from the game of Solitaire he was playing on his computer.

“Since when were we part of Auditing?”

“Since when did anyone talk to Donovan about work?” He paused, “You okay, man? You look tired.”

“I’m fine,” Foster said. “Haven’t seen Donovan today. Funny,” he continued, “don’t think I’ve seen him all week.”

“Probably schlepping out on the five hundred bucks he owes me,” Santi said.

“It’s not the first time Donovan’s disappeared,” Foster said. “If he weren’t so good at what he does, he probably would have been let go a long time ago.”

He tried to sound as nonchalant as he could, but deep inside he was worried. Donovan had a reputation for disappearing, something that didn’t use to bother Foster, but now he found himself affected, as if Siquijor.com had marked them as comrades.

“How long has Donovan been gone?” he asked.

“You should know,” Santi said, turning away. “You work beside him.”

Foster stared at his computer screen. He was tired. Luli had been keeping him up all night now. The first week after she had gotten her lower torso, she would fuck him every night while he slept, so gently that he barely felt it; he only realized it when he woke and saw his sheets stained pink from her bathwater, the pink trail on the towels that led from his bedroom to his bath, and finally, the sight of her lower body smiling—no, laughing—at him from inside her sanctuary. It had been soothing at first, her nightly visits making him wake refreshed, languid, wishing that night would come soon so that he could feel her wet warmth around him once again.

But the week her upper torso came, something changed. After that first night, she would wake him, her breasts pressed against his mouth, asking to be licked, sucked. She would rock herself against his face, her pussy insisting he taste of it, not relenting until he had gone down on her once, twice, depending on her mood. It was fun at first, and oh, did she taste good, but having fun with her meant that he was losing sleep, and it was beginning to take its toll at work.

But . . .

It was the middle of the fifth week, and he knew what that meant. He wondered what sort of dishes one could prepare with one arm, one hand, and the thought that he would soon be drowning in dishes that rivaled Donovan’s lunches excited him no end.
Toast, he counted, and pancakes, if you make them real slow. Maybe a steak. No soufflés yet because you needed two hands to take it out of the oven, at least if you wanted to do it properly.

She could probably manage a curry, and a stew shouldn’t be hard to do, if he prepared the meat and chopped the vegetables.

Foster laughed at himself. Could Luli even see what she was doing? One arm was the minimum you needed to cook, but didn’t you need eyes as well? But then she always seemed to know where to go.

Sure enough, the package was waiting for him when he got home. Her right arm was smooth and lovely, her fingers long and slim, her nails cut short, unpainted, her beautiful hands marred by what looked like a fading burn scar—the mark of a true cook. He squeezed her hand. She squeezed back. Foster was elated.

“You took a long time arriving,” he told Luli as he placed her arm inside the bathtub, “But I’m glad you’re finally here.” He watched her arm fuse to her right shoulder, then reached into the water, found her hand, and raised it to his lips.

“I’ve stocked the pantry,” he said, kissing the back of her hand, “You will make me something tomorrow, won’t you?”

Luli’s hand shivered, which he took to mean that she was giggling.

Luli was extra frisky that night. Foster didn’t realize how much the addition of one arm meant. Foster found himself turning the light on and fucking her with his eyes open, the first time ever since she climbed into his bed three weeks ago.

It was oddly exhilarating, making love to a half-formed body. He cupped her breasts, his thumbs grazing her nipples. He ran his right hand over the stump of her neck, the smoothness of it strangely exhilarating. She pushed her body forward when he did this, her hand taking his free one and placing it on her neck, her fingers closing over his until he understood what she wanted of him. Slowly, he moved his right hand so that it mirrored his left, strangling her. She urged him on, thrusting herself on him harder the harder he squeezed, until he was sure that if she had been alive, he would have killed her by now. He found himself coming fast, his fingers letting go of her neck, leaving faint blue-black bruises, his mark on her.

Foster didn’t know what time he fell asleep, only that he woke to the Thursday sun streaming into his window and the smell of breakfast waiting for him in the kitchen.
She had set the table and brought out what passed for his best flatware and cutlery, the mismatched plates containing delights such as old fashioned pancakes (made from scratch), eggs Benedict, French toast, coffee just the way he liked it (two sugars and some cream), freshly squeezed OJ, hash browns, bacon almost burned, and scrambled eggs so fluffy he almost cried with delight.

Foster found himself excited to get to work, his tiredness and lack of sleep more than compensated by what he knew was in his lunch bag: a club sandwich with fresh apple butter, vegetable salad with a light vinaigrette, and a blueberry muffin.

“You’re awfully happy today,” Santi said when they passed each other in the hallway.

“The wife’s in a cooking mood,” Foster said, surprised that calling Luli his wife was so easy. The words had come unbidden, and it pleased him to realize that in his mind, she had been his wife for quite some time now.

“What’s this, an epidemic?” Santi laughed.

“What do you mean?” Foster asked.
“First Jacobs, then Donovan, and now you.” He shook his head. “It’s like your whole department’s gone wedding-crazy.”

“Jacobs, as in Frank Jacobs?” Foster asked incredulously. Jacobs’s cubicle was next to Donovan’s. He was quiet and slightly weird, his half-hearted attempts at flirtation the butt of the receptionists’ jokes. The only time he ever spoke to Foster was on the day he left over three months ago, when he endorsed to Foster all his accounts. The man had seemed tired, but deliriously happy. Foster had chalked the tiredness up to burnout and the giddiness to relief at finally being able to leave the office. Foster went pale. Did that mean Donovan was going to do the same to him as well?

“I didn’t even know Jacobs was married,” he said. “Jacobs wouldn’t know what to do with a woman even if she came with instructions.”

“You’re one to talk,” Santi snorted. “Jacobs married a Filipina, I hear. That’s why he quit so that he could move to the Philippines with her.”

“Donovan’s wife is Filipina, too,” Foster said. “Actually, so is mine.”

Santi laughed again. “I think he introduced Donovan to his wife,” he said.

“How come you know so much?” Foster asked.

“You should try hanging out by the water cooler sometime,” Santi said as he walked away.

It wasn’t until Thursday that Foster noticed that Donovan hadn’t been in for at least a week now, and only because he didn’t show up for their monthly Department meeting. Their boss had thrown a fit and had tasked Foster to pick up Donovan’s slack, something that put Foster in such a bad mood that not even his lunch of Chilean sea bass lightly flavored with truffle oil could change.

As a result, Foster had to work overtime, something that he foresaw happening for the next few weeks unless Donovan showed up. He came home grumpy, ignored whatever it was Luli had cooked for dinner, and went straight to bed.

“I’m not in the mood,” he said when she came to him that night. When she didn’t listen, he pushed her away. “What part of go away didn’t you understand?” he yelled. He felt better afterwards, happy to be able to vent his frustrations on something, someone.

Immediately, he felt bad, thought that he should at least apologize, but the next thing he knew his alarm clock was ringing, and it was time to go to work.

Lunch that day was shepherd’s pie, one of Foster’s favorite dishes. Foster uncovered the dish’s foil top, breathed in the rich aroma, and dug in, his spoon releasing a heady, meaty scent as it broke through the potato crust. Foster scooped out a big chunk of pie, everything coated with rich, thick gravy. He placed the spoonful in his mouth.

A few seconds later, he started to gag.

—–

“You’re lucky the piece of glass you bit into was a big one,” the nurse said, “Any smaller and you’d be in real trouble.”

“I don’t understand how your wife could have been so careless,” the doctor said.

“Better talk to her about keeping her kitchen clean.” He took one last look at Foster’s tongue. “The damage isn’t big, but I’m putting you on a liquid diet for a couple of weeks. Anything other than soups or juices is going to worsen your condition.” Foster groaned.

The office had given him the rest of the day off, so he went home, straight to the bathroom, ignoring the soup bowl and the tureen that waited for him on the dining room table.

“Bitch,” he hissed at Luli’s body, which was resting quietly in the tub, surrounded by water that was now the color of blood, “What the fuck did you do that for?” The words came out funny, the product of a broken, swollen tongue.

Luli’s body shivered. She was laughing at him, Foster realized. The thought only made him angrier. “Shut the fuck up!” he screamed, even though Luli was technically incapable of saying anything.

Luli rose, her one hand grasping the side of the tub, using it to pull the rest of her up and out. Foster was scared but stood his ground. Luli came at him, red water slipping down her skin, leaving pink stains in places, her one hand reaching for his belt, trying to unbuckle it. Foster had enough of her fucking him whenever she wanted. His hands closed around her throat, pressing down. Luli thrashed about, her hand grabbing hold of Foster’s wrist, her legs trying to keep from slipping on the bathroom floor. Her knees gave way, and she fell, Foster falling with her until she was on her back on the bathroom floor with him over her, one knee on her belly, his hands on her neck, still squeezing.
Luli struggled under him, her whole body going slack, then rigid. Foster felt a ripple run through her body, felt her shudder underneath him. She’s coming, he realized. Here I am, trying to kill her, and the bitch is coming. He let go, stood up, sighed. Fuck it, he thought, and went to see what she had made for dinner.

WEEK 6

The sixth package arrived early Monday morning. Foster brought it in, put it on the coffee table, left for work.

Donovan still hadn’t shown up, which meant more work for Foster. It actually wasn’t hard to pick up where Donovan had left off—for all the man’s reputation as a goof-off, his reports were meticulous and impeccable. He really was good at what he did. Foster actually found himself admiring the man. But that didn’t mean he could get away with not working. Besides, there was talk of letting Donovan go because of his absences, and Foster was genuinely worried about that.

Lunchtime came, and instead of sitting down to his homemade meal (soup), he searched the company’s online employee databank for Donovan’s details. He didn’t know why he didn’t think of it before, or why, after years of working beside each other, he didn’t so much as have Donovan’s cellphone number. He took down Donovan’s address and phone numbers, then returned to his desk, his lunch forgotten.

When he got home, the kitchen was a mess, but there was pumpkin soup waiting for him, the orange liquid haphazardly ladled into the tureen that held it, the gunk of the breakfast smoothie in his glass still unwashed from breakfast. The floor was littered with cardboard and butcher paper, and when Foster checked inside the bathroom, he was not surprised to see Luli with both arms now attached to her body.

“You could have waited,” he said, “We could have done this together.”

Luli lay still, the water around her barely rippling. She looked more like a doll now, her limbs slack and her chest still.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “I should have known better. It won’t happen again.”

He left to have dinner, and when he tasted the soup, he found that she had burned it.

He tried texting Donovan the next day. There was no reply. Lunchtime came. Foster opened his thermos to find cold broth, what he suspected was yesterday’s untouched lunch. He threw the liquid down the drain, and for the first time in a while bought himself a cafeteria lunch.

After a series of texts over the next two days, all of them unanswered, Foster tried calling Donovan’s cellphone.

Someone picked up on the first ring.

“Donovan?” Foster said.

“He’s on vacation,” a woman’s voice said before hanging up.

He tried calling Donovan’s house afterwards. No one answered. By this time, management had listed Donovan as AWOL and was pretty much operating around his absence. There was talk of hiring someone to replace him. Meanwhile, Foster was stuck with all his work, backlog included.

He thought of Donovan over his lunch of carrot soup, wondered why he should be so concerned about the man. Luli had been in a good mood lately, once again preparing dishes (well, soups—his tongue had not quite healed yet) with secret flavors that sent Foster into raptures. She even let him get some rest, her nightly visits once again reduced to what they were on the third week, slow, gentle nudges in his sleep that made him wake refreshed, that made him forget that Luli was ever mad at all.

Luli’s attention made Foster want to go home early again, except doing Donovan’s work as well as his own meant leaving the office late every day. When Friday came with still no word from Donovan and still no replacement from Management, Foster decided to take matters into his own hands.

The thought of tracking down Donovan excited him, made him feel that he was a private eye in a noir film. In fact, he was so excited that when he got home, he went straight to the bathroom.

Gently, he lifted her out of the tub. Luli wrapped her hands around his neck, pushed her breasts against his chest as he carried her, bride-style, to the bedroom. He kissed her breasts, but her hands gently pushed him downwards, until he was giving her head. She was wet, and not from the bathwater. As he lapped at her, Foster realized that his tongue felt less swollen, had in fact stopped hurting. Before he could collect his thoughts, she was urging him deeper inside her, her hands pulling at his hair, her legs wrapped around him so that she was all around him, and all he could see, smell, feel was her.

There was a big breakfast waiting for him the next day—steak and eggs, a Spanish omelet, waffles with whipped butter, fresh baked bread. Foster took a bite of the omelet and realized that his tongue was completely healed. He wasted no time in demolishing the rest of the food, making a mental note to drop by the grocery to pick up more supplies. But first, he had other errands to run.

It wasn’t hard to find Donovan’s apartment. Foster rang the doorbell. The door opened after the second ring.

“Yes?” a female voice, the one he heard on the phone, said. Behind her, Foster caught a whiff of what he thought was roast chicken.

“Is Donovan in?” Foster asked “It’s Foster from work.”

“Come in,” the woman said, opening the door just wide enough for Foster to slip in. A mixture of smells assailed him, the pot roast joined by curry and chocolate chip cookies—and those were just the scents he could decipher.

“The cookies just came out of the oven,” she said, “Want some?”

The apartment was dim, giving just enough light for Foster to make out the features of Donovan’s wife. She was the woman in Donovan’s photo all right, her long hair tied into a neat bun, her breasts barely hidden underneath the apron she wore over her tank top and denim cutoffs. She was barefoot, her toenails painted a dark color, the same one, he guessed, that adorned Luli’s.

“What’s your name?” he asked as she led him to the sofa, put a plate of fresh-baked cookies and a glass of milk in front of him, lingering long enough for him to catch sight of the top of her breasts.

“Nida,” she said. “I’m making pot roast for dinner; you must stay.” Her English was impeccable, though heavily accented. Foster found himself wondering what Luli would sound like.

“Will Donovan be long?” Foster asked, one hand automatically reaching for a cookie, the other for the milk.

“He’s resting,” was the reply. “You must stay for dinner. I’ve made so much food.”
She wandered into the kitchen, where he could hear her preparing dinner.
Foster finished the cookies—sweet and warm and chewy—and downed the milk. Still no Donovan.

“Nida?” he called, but there was no answer.

He was about to get up and investigate when Nida came out of the kitchen. She had let her hair down and had changed into a short, tight black dress with a plunging neckline that showed off her ample cleavage, and heeled sandals that pushed her butt upwards and accentuated her shapely calves. The smell of fresh-baked cookies lingered around her, making Foster salivate.

“I just slipped into something more fitting for company,” she said, “Dinner’s ready, Donovan will be out in a bit.”

She led Foster to the dining room, where he found a feast waiting for him. It was a mishmash of cuisines; there was pot roast, steamed crab, ratatouille, bouillabaisse, mushroom risotto, kani salad, and assorted cakes and pastries. Foster’s nose flinched. Underneath the mingling of the scents of the feast in front of him was a stench, not of rot, but of something soured, like bile rising in one’s throat just before a vomit. Nida had laid out Donovan’s best china—real ones that matched and cutlery that felt as if it was real silver.

“Is Donovan going to be long?” Foster asked as Nida ladled the bouillabaisse into three bowls.

“I’m sorry,” Nida said, “He’s taking a while, isn’t he? Let me get him.”

Foster heard a creaking on the hallway. The stench grew stronger, assailing his nostrils, overpowering the smell of the food.

“Donovan?” he asked, “Nida?”

“Forgive me,” Nida said, pushing a wheelchair into the dining room, “I forget my manners sometimes.”

Foster stared at the person in the wheelchair. Donovan smiled back at him. Or at least one side of his face did. The other side sagged, drool pooling at the side of is mouth. He had gained an enormous amount of weight over the weeks so that his once fit frame was now bloated, his flesh sagging over the wire that kept him in place, parts of it cutting deep grooves into the fat. He was dressed in boxer shorts, a wifebeater, and socks. He had wet himself recently, the stain on his crotch still wet, the stink still new.
His skin was covered in sores, some of them ripe, some of them oozing a thick, greenish liquid. His limbs were thin from lack of use. His left leg looked gangrenous, as if it was being eaten alive from the inside. And yet Donovan’s smile, despite being half paralyzed, was genuine and sane.

“Hey, Foster,” Donovan said, except it came out in a slur.

“Fuck!” Foster said, instinctively pushing his chair back from the table, “What did you do to Donovan?”

“I’ve made him very happy,” Nida said, “Please sit down, Foster. Your dinner will get cold.”

Donovan smiled at him. “Nida is an excellent cook,” he said. His eyes turned up to look lovingly at his wife. “Not to mention a great fuck.”

“You’re crazy!” Foster said, standing up and heading towards the door. No one made any move to follow him.

“It’s like a vacation,” he heard Donovan say after him.

Foster ran out of the apartment, got into his car, and didn’t stop driving till he got home, trying not to think about what had just happened. What kind of crazy bitch had Donovan married? What the fuck had she done to him? His mind flashed to the dark house, the strange feast on the table, the smell of good food that masked Donovan’s stench. His mind kept wandering back to Donovan’s smile. It was, Foster realized, the happiest he had ever seen him. He took a deep breath and got out of the car.

When he got to his door, there was a package waiting for him. Luli’s last installment had come early. Foster picked it up, tore the packaging, and lifted the lid of the cardboard box. Luli’s face stared up at him, dark eyes framed by long lashes, lips as red as blood. Her long black hair had been arranged so that her head rested on it, making her look more vulnerable somehow. He smiled at her. She smiled back. He bent his head so that his lips touched hers and gave her a kiss. She responded immediately, her tongue invading his mouth, her lips soft and velvety. She tasted sweet. From experience, he knew her cooking would taste even better. Smiling, Foster took his wife, opened the door, and carried her over the threshold of his apartment.

yvetteuytan

Yvette Tan is a multi-awarded author of horror fiction and a lifestyle writer for major local and international titles.