Motive by HC Hsu
HC Hsu is author of the short story collection Love Is Sweeter (Lethe) and essay collection Middle of the Night (Deerbrook), which has been nominated for the Housatonic Award, CALA Award and Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature. Memoir competition winner and The Best American Essays nominee, he has written for Pif, Big Bridge, Iodine, nthposition, 100 Word Story, China Daily News, Epoch Times, Words Without Borders, and many others. He has served as interpreter for the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China, and his translation of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo’s biography Steel Gate to Freedom was published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2015.
When she arrived, he was already sitting at the table.
‘Sorry,’ she said. ‘I got held up at work.’
‘That’s all right,’ he said, and smiled. It was their usual table, and on it her favorite wine had already been poured, the candle lit, and everything was so familiar and wonderful.
He handed her his napkin, smiling.
She noticed her hair dripping water onto the table, making small wet spots on the white tablecloth.
She took the napkin and patted her hair with it. The waitress already arrived with another napkin.
‘That’s all right.’
He looked gently and lovingly into her eyes. He was always so considerate and forgiving.
She excused herself to go to the restroom. The waitress cast her a glance.
She checked herself in front of the mirror.
Did he know? All of a sudden she became scared.
How could he not know? The constant lateness, the flimsy excuses, the hair still wet from a shower…everything was just as she had planned.
She thought about coming clean, but she had done that already before. He said he appreciated her even more for her honesty, and that he should work to try to rekindle the romance between them, and so they began having weekly dates. How could she leave someone so considerate and forgiving?
She walked back to the table. Her wine was still sitting there, the candle still soft-lit, and he, still smiling.
She took a sip of the wine; for some reason the astringency made her wince this time, as if she were enduring some kind of punishment.
‘I took the liberty of ordering for you this time,’ he said, his smile overflowing exuberantly from his eyes. ‘I hope you don’t mind.’
She began to suspect his motive.