On her way home that Friday, Carla had paid a visit to Ms. Tripletoes to get some training tips for her Macaw. After the visit, she was headed for Precipitation Station. She was madly bouncing two names for the bird about in her head when she realized she was near the building where Bian Nguyen lived. She decided to duck through a park rather than walk past the building. It harbored bad memories.
It was a small park with a playground and walks where mothers watched their children play. She saw young mothers pushing strollers and smiled inwardly remembering those days. She heard a strange noise and looked to see none other than Bian sitting on a bench.
Reflexively Carla stepped behind a tree. Her heart raced as she tried to choose the best way to get out of there without Bian seeing her. She then heard the Asian bear wail in grief. Carla glanced around the tree and saw how distraught the young female, not much older than Shelly, was.
Bian had picked up a newspaper on her way home from her job at the library and was reading it when a name in the obituary caught her eye, Randall A. Ursane. She staggered at the shock and dropped onto the nearest bench. She had carefully read about how he was succeeded by his sister Rebecca Lorin in Podunk and his daughter LoNN LtJG Shelly and his son, Daniel at school in New Amsterdam.
The betrayal of his lies to her overwhelmed her and left her sobbing. She thought he loved her, and she believed his heart-rending stories. First, she learned he didn’t own the house, then she saw him with another she-bear, now she learned he did have children, two grown.
As Carla watched the distraught female, her heart began to ache. She realized that Randy hadn’t just lied to and betrayed her; this girl had also been lied to and betrayed. Also, in this time of random savage attacks, no one was coming to Bian’s aid; she sat in a pocket of loneliness as others in the busy park avoided her. Bian needed a friend, so did Carla.
She squared her shoulders and hurried over to sit on the bench beside the small Asian Sun Bear. “Why are you so upset?” she would play the ignorant stranger. “Do you need help?” When Bian raised her eyes to Carla, Carla’s heart broke. “Oh, poor dear.” She pulled Bian into a motherly hug. “Sometimes talking to a stranger helps.”
Bian was sobbing and barely able to speak. “He told me he loved me.” Carla said nothing. “I loved him. I wanted us to spend our lives together.” Carla hugged her tightly remembering how her own similar dream had been dashed. “I was going to fix everything, so we could; but… (sob) it all went wrong.” Bian leaned into the sympathetic arms and wept.
Carla bit her lip at the rising anger toward Randall and herself. How many hearts and lives had he broken while she was ignorantly living in a dream?
Bian continued. “He told me his harpy of an ex-wife, those are his exact words to describe her, was keeping him from his house. He told me she was barren and angry and how he wanted cubs of his own, he told me how she had held him back from success.” Bian sobbed some more. “Then I learned it was all a lie. I learned that his ex-wife, who was not a harpy, owned the house. She even told me how to prove it. Then that same day I see him loving on a she-panda; I followed them to their love-nest.” Bian was trembling. “Then I must learn from the newspaper that he was murdered and never to hold me in his arms again. And the last lie.” She spat and shook the obituaries. “I learn his wife was not barren, that he had two adult cubs.”
Carla twigged onto something Bian said. “You said you saw him with a she-panda?” Bian nodded against Carla’s chest. “Oh, dear, you must tell the police. They must know that.” She pushed Bian far enough away to look into her eyes and bit her lip. “I have a confession to make. I am Carla Ursane.” Bian tried to pull away but Carla held her gently. “He lied to and betrayed both of us. I saw you with him the day I threw him out; that was about a year ago.” She forced a smile. “I felt the way you did when you saw him with the she-panda. But think, he lied to her too. How many have been hurt by his excesses?”
Bian reached up and touched Carla’s cheek. She felt the dampness of tears. “You say I must tell the police. Why?”
“Because Randall could have been murdered by her jealous husband or boyfriend. I thought it might have been your jealous boyfriend, but I see now that’s not true. The Police are looking for leads; that panda might be the lead they need.” Carla paused seeing resolve come into the stricken bear’s face.
“I carry our child,” Bian dropped the bomb and saw Carla’s momentary shocked expression.
She pulled her back into a hug. “Oh, dear cub. It wasn’t all lies he told you. After I had Danny, I couldn’t have any more cubs. I bought the house, but he put in a lot of work restoring it; you would be so pleased to see the quality and beauty of his work. I suppose he thought that made him part owner; but the law is not judged by the heart but by hard, cold facts. He had cheated on me for many years and I was blithely ignorant.” She leaned her cheek on the top of Bian’s head. “He did love little ones; all little ones. He would have loved your cub with an excess you cannot imagine.” As she held Bian, she told her about Randy and his two cubs and how children from all over Burgess County and Vulpington Commons would end up at their house with Randy organizing games; as a result, her two cubs now had many friends. She admitted how much she missed those days. She told how she was certain Randall would have done the same for Bian’s cub.
“How do your cubs feel about all this?” Bian asked pushing herself up right and wiping her tears. She couldn’t believe how much better she felt in this commiseration.
Carla chuckled. “They both say he behaved stupidly; but they love him. They have lost a father who loved them. Oh, you should have seen his silly expression when Shelly, in dress whites, accepted her diploma… Wait I have a picture.” She pulled out her phone and leafed through the photos. “There he is grinning like an idiot.” She showed Bian the picture. She put her arm around Bian. “Now neither Danny nor your cub will know that joyful pride.”
“I am ashamed,” Bian said shrinking from Carla. “I stole your beloved from you.”
Carla shook her head. “No, you didn’t; he took himself away from me as he was taking himself from you. As Danny put it, Randy just couldn’t keep his junk private; said there was a nickname for him, Randy Randall.” Carla was surprised she wasn’t angry or aggrieved, just resolved to the situation. “But you must tell the police about the panda. The 3rd Precinct is not far from here. I’ll go with you.” She stood tugging Bian’s paw.
“Now,” Carla urged in a motherly tone.
Bian forced a smile and stood, not letting go of Carla’s paw. As they walked beneath the early fall trees, Bian squeezed Carla’s paw. “I told my family about the baby; they are very angry at me and won’t talk to me.”
Carla shifted Bian’s paw into her other paw and put her free arm over her shoulder. “Give them time. They will come around. Are they nearby to help you?”
“Only my brother and his wife. They won’t speak to me. I am unclean to them.”
“Well, I’m here. I still have all of the cubs’ baby things. I was saving them for grandcubs but you will need them more. If you ever need me, call. There’s the police station.” Carla escorted Bian into the station and up to the desk. She explained to the sergeant why she and Bian were there.
“Ms. Ursane?” The detective, a small agouti in a crisp, new polo shirt and creased khakis, was quite surprised.
Carla liked him immediately; once past his surprise, he greeted the two she-bears graciously and listened attentively as Carla repeated why she had brought Bian in. He assured Bian was doing the right thing.
He wouldn’t let Carla escort Bian back, so Carla jotted down her cell phone number on a piece of paper and gave it to Bian. “If I can do anything to help you, you call.” She smiled. “Think of me as your other mother.” She kissed Bian on the cheek and waved as the detective led the Asian bear away.
Carla felt so happy, so elated, like a huge weight had been lifted off her shoulders. She almost skipped out of the Precinct building. She couldn’t understand the feeling at first. As she headed back for the green-line station, she analyzed her feelings. She was sitting on the subway when she figured it out. It was all behind her: the divorce, Randy’s infidelity, her shame, all of it. Yes, there was the sense of loss but not grief over the divorce. His infidelity suddenly had no power over her. She had nothing to be ashamed of; neither did Bian. She could still feel the grief at Randy’s death but that was almost more for Shelly’s and Danny’s loss, not hers.
Tomorrow she and the cubs were planning to drive out to Rourke’s Cliffs Falls, to do some fishing and hiking. Shelly had a driver’s license and was renting a car for the weekend. It would be a good time. Her cellphone rang, and she realized she was late meeting them at the J-Street station. She chuckled, she had some explaining to do.