It is March 15th, but no need to worry about the Ides of March when we have a special blog tour for one of our FIRST members! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) Normally, on the FIRST day of every month we feature an author and his/her latest book’s FIRST chapter! As this is a special tour
About the Author:
Camy Tang is a member of FIRST and is a loud Asian chick who writes loud Asian chick-lit. She grew up in Hawaii, but now lives in San Jose, California, with her engineer husband and rambunctious poi-dog. In a previous life she was a biologist researcher, but these days she is surgically attached to her computer, writing full-time. In her spare time, she is a staff worker for her church youth group, and she leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service.
Sushi for One? (Sushi Series, Book One) was her first novel. Her second, Only Uni (Sushi Series, Book Two) is now available. The next book in the series, Single Sashimi (Sushi Series, Book Three) will be coming out in September 2008!
And Now…The First Chapter:
Trish Sakai walked through the door and the entire room hushed.
Well, not exactly pin-drop hushed. More like a handful of the several dozen people in her auntyâ€™s enormous living room paused their conversations to glance her way. Maybe Trish had simply expected them to laugh and point.
She shouldnâ€™t have worn white. Sheâ€™d chosen the Bebe dress from her closet in a rebellious mood, which abandoned her at her auntâ€™s doorstep. Maybe because the explosion of red, orange, or gold outfits made her head swim.
At least the expert cut of her dress made her rather average figure curvier and more slender at the same time. She loved how well-tailored clothes ensured she didnâ€™t have to work as hard to look good.
Trish kicked off her sandals, and they promptly disappeared in the sea of shoes filling the foyer. She swatted away a flimsy paper dragon drooping from the doorframe and smoothed down her skirt. She snatched her hand back and wrung her fingers behind her.
No, thatâ€™ll make your hips look huge.
She clenched her hands in front.
Sure, show all the relatives that youâ€™re nervous.
She clasped them loosely at her waist and tried to adopt a regal expression.
â€œTrish, you okay? You look constipated.â€
Her cousin Bobby snickered while she sneered at him. â€œOh, youâ€™re so funny I could puke.â€
â€œMay as well do it now before Grandma gets here.â€
â€œSheâ€™s not here yet?â€ Oops, that came out sounding a little too relieved. She cleared her throat and modulated her voice to less-than-ecstatic levels. â€œWhenâ€™s she coming?â€
â€œUncle picked her up, but he called Aunty and said Grandma forgot something, so he had to go back.â€
Thank goodness for little favors. â€œIs Lex here?â€
â€œBy the food.â€
Where else would she be? Last week, her cousin Lex had mentioned that her knee surgeon let her go back to playing volleyball three nights a week and coaching the other two nights, so her metabolism had revved up again. She would be eating like a horse.
Sometimes Trish could just kill her.
She tugged at her skirtâ€”a little tight tonight. She shouldâ€™ve had more self-control than to eat that birthday cake at work. Sheâ€™d have to run an extra day this week â€¦ maybe.
She bounced like a pinball between relatives. The sharp scent of ginger grew more pungent as she headed toward the large airy kitchen. Aunty Sue must have made cold ginger chicken again. Mmmm. The smell mixed with the tang of black bean sauce (Aunty Rachelâ€™s shrimp?), stir-fried garlic (any dish Uncle Barry made contained at least two bulbs), and fishy scallions (probably her cousin Lindaâ€™s Chinese-style sea bass).
A three-foot-tall red streak slammed into her and squashed her big toe.
â€œOw!â€ Good thing the kid hadnâ€™t been wearing shoes or she might have broken her foot. Trish hopped backward and her hand fumbled with a low side table. Waxed paper and cornstarch slid under her fingers before the little table fell, dropping the kagami mochi decoration. The sheet of printed paper, the tangerine, and rubbery-hard mochi dumplings dropped to the cream-colored carpet. Well, at least the cornstarch covering the mochi blended in.
The other relatives continued milling around her, oblivious to the minor desecration to the New Yearâ€™s decoration. Thank goodness for smallâ€”
A childish gasp made her turn. The human bullet who caused the whole mess, her little cousin Allison, stood with a hand up to her round lips that were stained cherry-red, probably from the sherbet punch. Allison lifted wide brown eyes up to Trishâ€”hanaokolele-youâ€™re-in-troubleâ€”while the other hand pointed to the mochi on the floor.
Trish didnâ€™t buy it for a second. â€œWant to help?â€ She tried to infuse some leftover Christmas cheer into her voice.
Allisonâ€™s disdainful look could have come from a teenager rather than a seven-year-old. â€œYou made the mess.â€
Trish sighed as she bent to pick up the mochi rice dumplingsâ€”one large like a hockey puck, the other slightly smallerâ€”and the shihobeni paper theyâ€™d been sitting on. She wondered if the shihobeni wouldnâ€™t protect the house from fires this next year since sheâ€™d dropped it.
â€œAunty spent so long putting those together.â€
Yeah, right. â€œIs that so?â€ She laid the paper on the table so it draped off the edge, then stuck the waxed paper on top. She anchored them with the larger mochi.
â€œSince you busted it, does it mean that Aunty wonâ€™t have any good luck this year?â€
â€œItâ€™s just a tradition. The mochi doesnâ€™t really bring prosperity, and the tangerine only symbolizes the family generations.â€ Trish tried to artfully stack the smaller mochi on top of the bottom one, but it wouldnâ€™t balance and kept dropping back onto the table.
â€œThatâ€™s not what Aunty said.â€
â€œSheâ€™s trying to pass on a New Yearâ€™s tradition.â€ The smaller mochi dropped to the floor again. â€œOne day youâ€™ll have one of these in your own house.â€ Trish picked up the mochi. Stupid Japanese New Year tradition. Last year, sheâ€™d glued hers together until Mom found out and brought a new set to her apartment, sans-glue. Trish wasnâ€™t even Shinto. Neither was anyone else in her familyâ€”most of them were Buddhistsâ€”but it was something they did because their family had always done it.
â€œNo, Iâ€™m going to live at home and take care of Mommy.â€
Thank goodness, the kid finally switched topics. â€œThatâ€™s wonderful.â€ Trish tried to smash the tangerine on top of the teetering stack of mochi. Nope, not going to fly. â€œYouâ€™re such a good daughter.â€
Allison sighed happily. â€œI am.â€
Your egoâ€™s going to be too big for this living room, toots. â€œUm â€¦ letâ€™s go to the kitchen.â€ She crammed the tangerine on the mochi stack, then turned to hustle Allison away before she saw them fall back down onto the floor.
She almost ran over the kid, who had whirled around and halted in her path like a guardian lion. Preventing Trishâ€™s entry into the kitchen. And blocking the way to the food. She tried to sidestep, but the other relatives in their conversational clusters, oblivious to her, hemmed her in on each side.
Allison sidled closer. â€œHappy New Year!â€
â€œUh â€¦ Happy New Year.â€ What was she up to? Trish wouldnâ€™t put anything past her devious little brain.
â€œWe get red envelopes at New Yearâ€™s.â€ Her smile took on a predatory gleam.
â€œYes, we do.â€ One tradition she totally didnâ€™t mind. Even the older cousins like Trish and Lex got some money from the older relatives, because they werenâ€™t married yet.
Allison beamed. â€œSo did you bring me a red envelope?â€
What? Wait a minute. Was she supposed to bring red envelopes for the younger kids? No, that couldnâ€™t be. â€œNo, only the married people do that.â€ And only for the great-cousins, not their first cousins, right? Or was that great-cousins, too? She couldnâ€™t remember.
Allisonâ€™s face darkened to purple. â€œThatâ€™s not true. Aunty gives me a red envelope and sheâ€™s not married.â€
â€œShe used to be married. Uncle died.â€
â€œSheâ€™s not married now. So youâ€™re supposed to give me a red envelope, too.â€
Yeah, right. â€œIf I gave out a red envelope to every cousin and great-cousin, Iâ€™d go bankrupt.â€
â€œYouâ€™re lying. Iâ€™m going to tell Mommy.â€ Allison pouted, but her sly eyes gave her away.
A slow, steady burn crept through her body. This little extortionist wasnâ€™t going to threaten her, not tonight of all nights.
She crouched down to meet Allison at eye level and forced a smile. â€œThatâ€™s not very nice. Thatâ€™s spreading lies.â€
Allison bared her teeth in something faintly like a grin.
â€œItâ€™s not good to be a liar.â€ Trish smoothed the girlâ€™s red velvet dress, trimmed in white lace.
â€œYouâ€™re the liar. You said youâ€™re not supposed to give me a red envelope, and thatâ€™s a lie.â€
The brat had a one-track mind. â€œItâ€™s not a lie.â€
â€œThen Iâ€™ll ask Mommy.â€ The grin turned sickeningly sweet.
â€œI wouldnâ€™t do that if I were you.â€ Trish tweaked one of Allisonâ€™s curling-iron-manufactured corkscrews, standing out amongst the rest of her straight hair.
â€œI can do whatever I want.â€ An ugly streak marred the angelic mask.
â€œOf course you can.â€
â€œBut if you do, Iâ€™ll tell Grandma that I found her missing jade bracelet in your bedroom.â€ Gotcha.
â€œWhat were you doing in my bedroom?â€ Allisonâ€™s face matched her dress.
Trish widened her eyes. â€œWell, you left it open when your mom hosted the family Christmas party â€¦â€
Allisonâ€™s lips disappeared in her face, and her nostrils flared. â€œYouâ€™re lyingâ€”â€
â€œAnd you know Grandma will ask your mommy to search your room.â€
Her face whitened.
â€œSo why donâ€™t we forget about this little red envelope thing, hmm?â€ Trish straightened the gold heart pendant on Allisonâ€™s necklace and gave her a bland smile.
A long, loud inhale filled Allisonâ€™s lungs. For a second, Trish panicked, worried that sheâ€™d scream or something, but the air left her noiselessly.
Trish stood. â€œSee ya.â€ She muscled her way past the human traffic cone.
She zeroed in on the kitchen counters like a heat-seeking missile. â€œHey, guys.â€
Her cousins Venus, Lex, and Jenn turned to greet her.
â€œYouâ€™re even later than Lex.â€ Venus leaned her sexy-enough-to-make-Trish-sick curves against a countertop as she crunched on a celery stick.
â€œHey!â€ Lex nudged her with a bony elbow, then spoke to Trish. â€œGrandmaâ€™s not here yet, but your momâ€”â€
â€œTrish, there you are.â€ Mom flittered up. â€œDid you eat yet? Let me fill you a plate. Make sure you eat the kuromame for good luck. I know you donâ€™t like chestnuts and black beans, but just eat one. Did you want any konbu? Seaweed is very good for you.â€
â€œHow about Aunty Eileenâ€™s soup? Iâ€™m not sure whatâ€™s in it this year, but it doesnâ€™t look like tripe this timeâ€”â€
â€œMom, I can get my own food.â€
â€œOf course you can, dear.â€ Mom handed her a mondo-sized plate.
Trish grabbed it, then eyed Venusâ€™s miniscule plate filled sparingly with meat, fish, and veggies. Aw, phooey. Why did Venus have to always be watching her hourglass figureâ€”with inhuman self-control over her calorie intakeâ€”making Trish feel dumpy just for eating a potsticker? She replaced her plate with a smaller one.
Lex had a platter loaded with chicken and lo mein, which she shoveled into her mouth. â€œThe noodles are good.â€
â€œWhy are you eating so much today?â€
â€œAidenâ€™s got me in intensive training for the volleyball tournament coming up.â€
Trish turned toward the groaning sideboard to hide the pang in her gut at mention of Lexâ€™s boyfriend. Who had been Trishâ€™s physical therapist. Aiden hadnâ€™t met Lex yet when Trish had hit on him, but heâ€™d rebuffed herâ€”rather harshly, she thoughtâ€”then became Christian and now was living a happily-ever-after with Lex.
Trish wasnâ€™t jealous at all.
Why did she always seem to chase away the good ones and keep the bad ones? Story of her life. Her taste in men matched Lexâ€™s horrendous taste in clothesâ€”Lex wore nothing but ugly, loose workout clothes, while Trish dated nothing but ugly (well, in character, at least) losers.
Next to her, Jennifer inhaled as if she were in pain. â€œGrandmaâ€™s here.â€
â€œNo, not now. This is so not fair. I havenâ€™t eaten yet.â€
â€œItâ€™ll still be here.â€ Venusâ€™s caustic tone cut through the air at the same time her hand grabbed Trishâ€™s plate. â€œBesides, youâ€™re eating too much fat.â€
Trish glared. â€œI am not fatâ€”â€
Venus gave a long-suffering sigh. â€œI didnâ€™t say you were fat. I said youâ€™re eating unhealthily.â€
â€œYou wouldnâ€™t say that to Lex.â€ She stabbed a finger at her athletic cousin, who was shoveling chicken long rice into her mouth.
Lex paused. â€œShe already did.â€ She slurped up a rice noodle.
Venus rolled her eyes toward the ceiling. â€œAll of you eat terribly. You need to stop putting so much junk into your bodies.â€
â€œI will when Jenn stops giving us to-die-for homemade chocolate truffles.â€ Trish traded a high-five with Jenn, their resident culinary genius.
â€œBesides, chocolateâ€™s good for you.â€ Lex spoke through a mouthful of black bean shrimp.
Venus, who seemed to know she was losing the battle, brandished a celery stick. â€œYou all should eat more fiberâ€”â€
Trish snatched at a deep-fried chicken wing and made a face at her. â€œItâ€™s low carb.â€ Although sheâ€™d love to indulge in just a little of those Chinese noodles later when Venus wasnâ€™t looking â€¦
She only had time to take a couple bites before she had to drop the chicken in a napkin and wipe her fingers. She skirted the edge of the crowd of relatives who collected around Grandma, wishing her Happy New Year.
Grandma picked up one of Trishâ€™s cousinâ€™s babies and somehow managed to keep the sticky red film coating his hands from her expensive Chanel suit. How did Grandma do that? It must be a gift. The same way her elegant salt-and-pepper â€™do never had a hair out of place.
Then Grandma grabbed someone who had been hovering at her shoulder and thrust him forward.
What was Kazuo doing here?
Her breath caught as the familiar fluttering started in her ribcage. No, no, no, no, no. She couldnâ€™t react this way to him again. Thatâ€™s what got her in trouble the last time.
Trish grabbed Jennâ€™s arm and pulled her back toward the kitchen. â€œI have to hide.â€
Jennâ€™s brow wrinkled. â€œWhy?â€
Jennâ€™s eyes popped bigger than the moon cakes on the sideboard. â€œReally? I never met him.â€ She twisted her head.
â€œDonâ€™t look. Hide me.â€
Jenn sighed. â€œIsnâ€™t that a little silly? Heâ€™s here for the New Yearâ€™s party.â€
Trish darted her gaze around the kitchen, through the doorway to the smaller TV room. â€œThere are over a hundred people here. Thereâ€™s a good chance I can avoid him.â€
â€œHe probably came to see you.â€ A dreamy smile lit Jennâ€™s lips. â€œHow romantic â€¦â€
A mochi-pounding mallet thumped in the pit of Trishâ€™s stomach. Romantic this was not.
â€œWhatâ€™s wrong?â€ Venus and Lex separated from the crowd to circle around her.
â€œReally?â€ Lex whirled around and started to peer through the doorway into the front room. â€œWe never met himâ€”â€
â€œDonâ€™t look now! Hide me!â€
Venus lifted a sculpted eyebrow. â€œOh, come on.â€
â€œHow does Grandma know him?â€ Jenniferâ€™s soothing voice fizzled Venusâ€™s sarcasm.
â€œShe met him when we were dating.â€
â€œGrandma loves Kazuo.â€ Lex tossed the comment over her shoulder as she stood at the doorway and strained to see Kazuo past the milling relatives.
Venusâ€™s brow wrinkled. â€œLoves him? Why?â€
Trish threw her hands up in the air. â€œHeâ€™s a Japanese national. He spoke Japanese to her. Of course sheâ€™d love him.â€
Jennifer chewed her lip. â€œGrandmaâ€™s not racistâ€”â€
Venus snorted. â€œOf course sheâ€™s not racist, but sheâ€™s certainly biased.â€
â€œThatâ€™s not a good enough reason. Donâ€™t you think thereâ€™s something fishy about why she wants Trish to get back together with him?â€
Venus opened her mouth, but nothing came out. After a moment, she closed it. â€œMaybe youâ€™re right.â€
Trish flung her arms out. â€œBut I have no idea what that reason is.â€
â€œSo is she matchmaking? Now?â€
â€œWhat better place?â€ Trish pointed to the piles of food. â€œFatten me up and serve me back to him on a platter.â€
Venus rolled her eyes. â€œTrishâ€”â€
â€œIâ€™m serious. No way am I going to let her do that. Not with him.â€ The last man on earth she wanted to see. Well, that wasnâ€™t exactly true. Her carnal body certainly wanted to see him, even though her brain and spirit screamed, Run away! Run away!
â€œWas it that bad a breakup?â€ Lex looked over her shoulder at them.
Trish squirmed. â€œI, uh â€¦ I donâ€™t think he thinks weâ€™re broken up.â€
â€œWhat do you mean? It happened six months ago.â€ Venusâ€™s gaze seemed to slice right through her.
â€œWell â€¦ I saw him a couple days ago.â€
Venusâ€™s eyes flattened. â€œAnd â€¦?â€
Trish blinked rapidly. â€œWe â€¦ got along really well.â€
Venus crossed her arms and glared.
How did Venus do that? Trish barely had to open her mouth and Venus knew when she was lying. â€œWe, um â€¦ got along really well.â€
Jennifer figured it out first. She gasped so hard, Trish worried sheâ€™d pass out from lack of oxygen.
Venus cast a sharp look at her, then back at Trish. Her mouth sprang open. â€œYou didnâ€™t.â€
â€œDidnâ€™t what?â€ Lex rejoined the circle and the drama unfolding. She peered at Jenn and Venusâ€”one frozen in shock, the other white with anger.
Trishâ€™s heart shrank in her chest. She bit her lip and tasted blood. She couldnâ€™t look at her cousins. She couldnâ€™t even say it.
Venus said it for her. â€œYou slept with him again.â€
Lexâ€™s jaw dropped. â€œTell me you didnâ€™t.â€ The hurt in her eyes stabbed at Trishâ€™s heart like Norman Bates in Psycho.
Well, it was true that Trishâ€™s obsessive relationship with Kazuo had made her sort of completely and utterly abandon Lex last year when she tore her ACL. Lex probably felt like Trish was priming to betray her again. â€œIt was only once. I couldnâ€™t help myselfâ€”â€
â€œAfter everything you told me last year about how you never asked God about your relationship with Kazuo and now you were free.â€ Lexâ€™s eyes grew dark and heavy, and Trish remembered the night Lex had first torn her ACL. Trish had been too selfish, wanting to spend time with Kazuo instead of helping Lex home from one of the most devastating things that had ever happened to her.
â€œI just couldnâ€™t help myselfâ€”â€ Trish couldnâ€™t seem to say anything else.
â€œSo is Kazuo more important to you than me, after all?â€ Lexâ€™s face had turned into cold, pale marble, making her eyes stand out in their intensity.
A sickening ache gnawed in Trishâ€™s stomach. She hunched her shoulders, feeling the muscles tighten and knot.
Her cousins had always been compassionate whenever she hurt them, betrayed them, or caused them hassle and stress by the things she did. She knew she had a tendency to be thoughtless, but she had always counted on their instant hugs and â€œThatâ€™s okay, Trish, weâ€™ll fix it for you.â€ But now she realizedâ€”although they forgave her, they were still hurt each and every time. Maybe this was the straw that broke the camelâ€™s back.
â€œWhereâ€™s Trish?â€ Grandmaâ€™s refined voice managed to carry above the conversations. â€œIâ€™m sure she wants to see you.â€ She was coming closer to the kitchen.
â€œI canâ€™t face him.â€ Trish barely recognized her own voice, as thready as old cobwebs. â€œI canâ€™t face Grandma, either.â€ A tremor rippled through her body.
Venusâ€™s eyes softened in understanding. â€œIâ€™ll stall them for you.â€
Out the other doorway into the living room. She dodged around a few relatives who were watching sports highlights on the big-screen TV. She spied the short hallway to Auntyâ€™s bedroom. She could hide. Recoup. Or panic.
She slipped down the hallway and saw the closed door at the end. A narrow beam of faint light from under it cast a glow over the carpet. Her heart started to slow.
Maybe she could lie down, pretend she was sick? No, Grandma might suggest Kazuo take her home.
She could pretend she got a phone call, an emergency at work. Would Grandma know there werenâ€™t many emergencies with cell biology research on New Yearâ€™s Eve?
The worst part was, Trish hadnâ€™t even gotten to eat yet.
She turned the doorknob, but it stuck. Must be the damp weather. She applied her shoulder and nudged. The door clicked open. She slipped into the bedroom.
A couple stood in the dim lamplight, locked in a passionate embrace straight out of Star magazine. Trishâ€™s heart lodged in her throat. Doh! Leave now! She whirled.
Wait a minute.
The man had dark wavy hair, full and thick. His back was turned to her, but something about his stance â€¦
The couple sprang apart. Looked at her.
Kissing a woman who wasnâ€™t her mother.
Taken from Only Uni, Copyright Â© 2008 by Camy Tang. Used by permission of Zondervan.
My Two Cents:
I’ll be posting a review soon. In the meantime click on Camy’s photo to check out her website, click on the books’ titles or Only Uni cover for the books’ Amazon pages and check out other FIRST Member Posts. There’s a FIRST member list under the button in my right sidebar. Here’s my review of Sushi for One