His kids would often ask him what he did while he was away, but they were too young to really understand the kind of work their father did. He was a businessman, and he spoke to a lot of men in suits, carrying briefcases and getting into big black cars. Daddy brought home the bacon, and that’s what mattered.
Sometimes, his children liked to pretend that he was some sort of superspy, like the ones they’d see in the movies. Maybe he wasn’t really away on business trips – maybe he was actually out saving the world.
Their mom would always chuckle a bit as she hung the pictures on the door of the fridge. She loved having kids with so much creativity. Sometimes, she wondered which side of the family they got it from, because she was sure that she didn’t have a creative bone in her body.
Her kids were so imaginative, and whenever their father announced that he’d be going on another one of his business trips, they would smother him under a pile of drawings and hand-written notes. It was as though he was leaving for the first time every time – like he would be gone for months on end, even though he’d only be away for a week at most.
“Angela,” He would cry to his wife as his children buried him under hugs and kisses. “Help me, they’re trying to kill me!”
His children would laugh, and he would play-fight with them until they were exhausted, and he would carry them both to their room, one five-year-old under each arm. When their friends had told them that it would be difficult to have twins, they weren’t kidding. It was double the trouble, but also double the fun. And Kevin sure was a fan of getting double of everything.
Angela had warned him about it in the past – if he kept eating so much, he’d get fat and die; if he kept drinking so much, his liver would get fat and die; if he kept buying so much, he’d go broke and die. Kevin knew it was just a kink in her personality – just something to work around. He was never one for moderation, and he would go after as much as he could, for as long as he could.
So when he met Hazel, a vulnerable 27-year-old working a shitty job in a PR firm, also in China on business, he decided to take his chances. Never one for moderation, to him, it was all about getting as much as he could, for as long as he could.
After that, it was all a matter of sneaking in “business trips” to China, and finding himself in Hazel’s small two-bedroom apartment in Mandaluyong for a week at a time. He’d told his friends about Hazel, the lonely little woman living in an apartment away from her parents in Batangas, and they’d all whooped and cheered for him – all except one: Anthony.
Anthony, a small man in his thirties with ears too large for his head, had always been one of the more stuck up people – one of those holier-than-thou types who didn’t seem to have a single fucking strand of DNA of fun in his body. He’d bitch and moan about every single fucking thing that went wrong and when things didn’t go according to plan, they would never hear the end of it.
“I don’t think having an affair is anything to be proud of,” He would say, matter-of-factly, like anyone gave a shit what he thought.
“I don’t think I asked you anything, did I?” Kevin would snap, to the sniggers of his friends.
Anthony had debated whether to tell Angela or not. They’d met a few times in the three years that Kevin had worked for the firm, and she’d always struck him as a kind and gentle soul. She seemed like the kind of woman who would do anything and everything for her husband, without regard for her own pride or dignity.
Anthony had heard her speak about Kevin before, about how wonderful he was as both a husband and a father, and that sometimes she wished he didn’t have to go on all those business trips, but she knew that a good wife shouldn’t stifle her husband’s growth. Anthony choked on his own tongue and almost told her about Hazel, but he thought better of it. It wasn’t his place to be involved in the marital affairs of colleagues.
Come to think of it, it wasn’t his place to be involved in their extra-marital affairs either, and he left it at that as much as he could. On the rare occasion that he found Kevin’s arrogance overwhelming, he would shoot an off-handed remark about the need to compensate for “short”comings and always wanting a bigger and better package, and he’d see Kevin gritting his teeth from the bar.
Of course, had Anthony asked Hazel, he would probably have been vindicated. Whatever “short”comings Kevin had definitely warranted compensation in other areas, and if it weren’t for his bank account and the promise of a job with his architectural firm, she wouldn’t even bother.
She would laugh with her friends too, about how oblivious Kevin was, and how he probably bragged to his friends about the poor little girl he’d swept off her feet that night in Beijing. She laughed with her friends about how Kevin didn’t even question why such a young and beautiful girl would be found hanging out in a seedy bar with her mascara smudged and her hair so unkempt. They laughed at how serendipitous it must have seemed to him, and how quickly he fell for it – hook, line, and sinker.
She would sometimes help him fake booking confirmations and flight itineraries to help him get out of his house and spend time with her. She would never admit it, but she did get kind of a thrill but being wanted so much. Sometimes she felt bad for the woman he came home to after they’d had their week of fun, and how clueless she was. But she told herself that it was her own fault, for never noticing her own husband’s shady dealings.
But then again, she was sure that Kevin had gone on business trips to China before, and that he’d done it often enough for it to never be suspicious for him to go almost once a month. She helped him book a flight to Beijing and made plans for the week that he would be “away”.
Kevin kissed Angela good bye as his twins stuffed drawings and hand-written love letters into the pockets of his suit, and into every nook and cranny they could find in his luggage. “I’ll be back before you know it,” he told her.
Angela nodded, and she noticed a whiff of something different about him, like a new perfume, or the kind of change someone undergoes when they get a haircut they really like. She looks him over and sees that nothing’s different, and she pats him on the shoulder, tell him to “Be safe, and Skype whenever you can.”
He leaves her and gets a cab, giving the driver directions to Hazel’s apartment complex. When he gets there, she’s waiting for him, with a bottle of wine and nothing but. The first night goes as planned, and he wakes up in her bed the next morning with a dull headache and nothing but.
He paces around his apartment but can’t find her. She’s not in the bathroom, nor is she in the small kitchen fixing breakfast like she’s supposed to. He walks towards his luggage to get his phone, but he’s surprised to find that it’s not there. His phone is gone, along with all of his things. All of his bags and clothes – even the suit he’d worn the night before – are gone.
He sits on the dingy sofa as a cold sweat breaks over him, rolling down his bare skin.
Across town, Hazel sits in a café, looking through the mess of drawings and hand-written notes she’d found in Kevin’s things. The drawings paint a picture of the perfect family, of a loving husband and father, his two kids and his darling wife. She grits her teeth, as the phone sitting on the table next to her coffee starts ringing again.
On the screen is the name “Angela”. She wonders if that’s his wife, or just another one of those defenseless women he’d picked up in seedy bars, thinking they didn’t know any better. She rejects the call, and takes a sip of her coffee before crumpling the drawings into balls in her hands.
The television set in the corner of the room is flashing news about the tragic plane crash that claimed the lives of four hundred people traveling to Beijing. A small man in his thirties looks up at the screen, as he reaches for the phone that’s just started ringing in his pocket. “Angela?” He says, “Yes, I’m watching it right now. Are you sure it’s the same flight?”
Ensemble - write a story with a large cast of characters, and include many of their perspectives in the narrative.