Chapter Thirty Seven

Morning, I start moving before Janah is awake, there will be a small crowd in three hours. First things first, pick up the various toys we left laying around after last night’s playtime. Janah and I had a round, then Zi came along and made me do the most licentious things while J worked over Nishiko. It was dreamy delicious.
Now for coffee and tea, put out breakfast light, croissants, almond poppy seed muffins, yogurt, fruit. We’re having brunch, but not until eleven. I'm reviewing the dishes, plotting what needs to go out first, what needs to be heated when I hear Amaya's voice, I tune into her.
She's nude in front of Chloe's mirror, a full three way similar to the one I got for her, I see through her eyes that Chloe is sitting on the bed behind her.
Amaya is reciting a poem she altered, How Do I Love Thee by Elizabeth Browning.

How do I love me? Let me count the ways.
I love me to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love me to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love me freely, as men strive for Right;
I love me purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love me with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love me with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, --- I love me with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,
I shall but love me better after death
'Except for me there is no last breath.' (Amaya's addition)

Chloe is laughing so hard she keels over on the bed and curls up, wiping tears from her eyes.
Amaya kisses herself in the mirror, “The humor escapes me.”
Chloe starts up again.
Amaya turns in fake huff and straddles Chloe and starts tickling her, “I shall give you something to laugh about, freckled one.”
Chloe is squirming under her, trying to hold her arms around herself to escape Amaya's long fingers, it isn't working. Chloe giggles maniacally. Amaya relents and kisses Chloe's still wet face, runs her thumbs under Chloe's eyes, leans down and gives her lips a slow lick, then a soft kiss. She traces Chloe's nose with her tongue.
“That little spray of freckles is delicious, you are the most adorable thing ever, almost me. I am justifiably jealous of those incredible eyes.”
Chloe pulls Amaya to her, gives her a long kiss, “My joy to kiss perfection. You can stand naked in front of mirror and recite anything you wish as long as I get to watch. You don't even have to entertain, just stand there.”
“I knew you were intelligent, now I find you are genius.”
Chloe giggles again, “Your aura is sea green with sparkles when you get in extreme self admiration mode, the green is your appreciation for what you are, the sparkles are the play you bring to it. You somehow adore yourself, yet don't take it at all seriously. You have Daphne's sense of self esteem and self depreciation both in the same instant. No wonder you fit together so well.”
Amaya sniffs, “She is MY bitch.”
“Tell it to someone you can sucker, I know better.”
“Your arrow into the depths my mind is most annoying.”
“It's only a short arrow, your depths are not that deep.”
Amaya laughs and lays down on top of Chloe, “I also resent your wispyosity. It ought to be illegal to remain slim so easily. I shall consult our attorney, Mrs. Walker, and get a court order requiring you to be heavier than me.”
Chloe smiles, “You don't feel very heavy, you feel really good. Just lay there for a while.”
Amaya lays her head on Chloe's pillow, they remain stacked like a tongue depressor on a Popsicle stick, Amaya's legs alongside Chloe's, torsos fused. Amaya's left hand strokes Chloe's cheek tenderly. They stay in a pile for twenty minutes, unstack and get in the shower.
Amaya, “She is such a gem. I wish she did not own my heart so I could give it to her again.”
“It's in a safe place and genuinely treasured.”

I feel Amaya sigh as she washes Chloe's hair, hear Chloe singing one of her Geisha songs in Japanese. The song stops, I hear a soft moan. I look through Amaya’s eyes. She’s hugging Chloe from behind, shower flows over them. I see Amaya’s hand sliding between Chloe’s legs, the source of the moan. Then Chloe’s neck as Amaya kisses it. I tune out, my concentration on brunch will be shot to heck if I stay for the finale.
Nishiko arrives, we have coffee, then Zi shows up right behind Chloe and Amaya, Janah is the only one not in motion, good, let her rest.
There is little to do in the apartment, I’m a neat freak. Amaya came along and she requires spotlessness. I know I talk like she doesn't lift a finger, but it's not true. She makes me keep her room pristine, and her pristine, but she does Chloe’s room, keeps the kitchen showroom new and has dusted everything a thousand times. While she likes me to clean her bathroom, I've seen her on all fours making Chloe's sparkle. Nishiko is pure Japanese, she murders dust with a glance. Janah is more casual, but she has a lot on her mind. And she has me to keep things tidy, now five girls to pickup forgotten tea cups, move laptops their normal spots, carry plates from wherever Janah leaves them when she wanders off to explore some new project or answer another of a zillion calls or texts she gets every week.
Janah comes in from the bedroom, I pour tea, she has decided something. I haven't been in her head so it will be news to me along with everyone else.
Janah, “We are way overdue a month in Canada.”
She's right, splendid idea. Summer is on us, it will be stuffy in Manhattan, Chloe has never been to the cabin on the lake. It's hard to believe it has been so many years, six. Chris was alive when we went last. Good God, where does the time go?
Chloe, “What's in Canada?”
Zi, “A big cabin, on a crystal blue lake. There is silence and nature. A hike to a hundred foot waterfall, splendid animals, fish to be caught and for Daphne to turn into delicacies.”
Chloe's eye sparkle, “Sheesh, when do we leave?”
Janah, “This time, just us. Sometimes Chan's family or the moms go. Chan and his family went two years ago. Susan, Taylor, Lacy, dad and K-mom went last year. We were working. Now, it is our turn. Daphne, please arrange things, all of July.”
Nikko stacks plates and silverware on the table, we'll brunch buffet style. There's room at the table for twelve, but it gets too busy with 'pass this, pass that.' I call Transportation and ask them to set up the cabin, give them the count, six, all female, provisions for a month. Now for family fun.
Brunch is casual, a jeans day, Zi turns on the satellite radio to jazz, the lights are soft. Lacy shows up first, then the moms, Taylor and dad.
The Chloe magnet is fully energized, I wonder why the rest of us are even here. She's on the couch, surrounded by Lacy and Sis, Taylor and Kara in chairs across from them. She heavy into detail about tea ceremonies, she and Amaya have dressed in kimonos, I'm assuming they've plotted entertainment for later. Zi and I fill champagne and wine glasses, the conversations moving in a zigzag. Zi slides in next to Susan on the couch. Janah, Nikko and I get dad, not such a bad tradeoff.
James, “At the risk of being a nuisance, is everyone fully recovered?”
He is referring to our last very ugly work on Eduardo and his pals.
Janah, “Yes, I've checked wiring on everyone, they've done the same for me. As much as we'd like to find some other alternative, we haven't been able to. Amaya, unfortunately, witnessed the scene in the hotel.”
James, “I talked to her the other day, she was waiting on Taylor, so I took the opportunity to visit. She was open, I didn't detect any subtext or disturbing nuance. She likes the technical side, happy she hasn't had to participate in the violent side. Her former life has no bearing on her decisions today. She isn't resentful of her parents, she doesn't regret what she did. Her attitude is that she was incredibly lucky. The bad stuff resulted in her being here now.”
“She and Chloe have both been resilient, almost incredibly so.”
James, “The people who freed them are responsible for their resilience. They went from being used as objects to being enveloped in unconditional love. No amount of therapy can touch that. A therapist is a paid listener, sometimes advisor. Many do a good job, but it’s a job. There is a vast gulf between being compensated to pay attention and attending out of caring and compassion. If either of them had gone to therapy, particularly Chloe, my guess is that they would still be in therapy. Instead, they are delightful, complex, and free to be themselves.”
Janah, “I never had to work on their minds, didn't need to pull out bad memories, no significant angst. Amaya jumped right in, but she had far more socialization. Chloe was quiet and introspective for a while. She had her first eight years of non-learning to make up. We kept her busy. She soaked up things like an infant. Aside from manual labor, she was uncluttered by the education meat grinder.”
“Then perhaps onto the more pleasant matter of what Daphne has for us to eat.”
I make the commencement address, “Plates are on the table, the prelims, antipasto, shrimp, caviar and the accessories, cheese and crackers are ready. You got your first drink served, self service from now on. Champagne is strategically available in various buckets, wine open on the table. Additional requests will be considered by the refreshments committee, that would be me. It's buffet, jump in at your convenience. Hot dishes in due course.”
The grazing proceeds, I contradict my own rule and serve more champagne to Janah and Amaya
Amaya, “Daphne, I should like two spoons of antipasto, four crackers with caviar, chopped egg, a teensy bit of onion and capers and a half dozen shrimp.”
Susan, “I understood this to be self service.”
“Daphne is me, she is merely serving herself. Even if she was not, I am the exception that proves the rule,” she smiles up at me while I hand her the plate and a napkin.
Susan rolls her eyes, Chloe laughs, “Queenie is actually subdued today, you should see her when she gets in Her Highness mode.”
Lacy, “And Daphne complies?”
Chloe, “Like a well oiled machine.”
“I want a Daphne.”
Amaya, “Like she doesn't wait on Chloe hand and foot.”
“I don't order her around, she anticipates me, that's all.”
“Hah! Daphne come bathe me, Daphne can you find me something to wear, Daphne I would like tea, Daphne, do my sheets need changing, Daphne can you do my toes?”
“Oh please, I do not ask her to change my sheets. You change them every other day like clockwork, just like she does for you.”
Lacy, “Wait, Amaya does your sheets, but Daphne does hers?”
Chloe, “And Daphne cleans Amaya’s room, Amaya cleans mine.”
“And what do you do?”
“Cheerlead and appreciate them.”
Amaya, “Freckles doesn’t have our touch. And she is held to high standards by the Murakamis, learning languages and actually working part time. Enough for growing young ladies.”
Lacy, “Ah, consideration in action. How….considerate.”
Chloe, “When we do things for others, we do them better than if only for ourselves. When Daphne does Amaya’s rooms, they sparkle, and when Amaya does mine, the same. It’s like a giving a gift, it has to be just right.”
Lacy, “Of course! That’s so simple, why don’t we all figure that out?”
Susan, “Does that mean someone is going to fix my plate?”
“That would deprive you of examining all the selections, not the same as bathroom cleaning.”
Kara, “I took matters in my own hands, the shrimp are wonderful and the antipasto is magic, I love antipasto. Let's see, ah, a champagne bucket, just the thing.”
Once I see everyone returning empty plates and resettling, I check on the hot food. Today, we are having meatloaf, tomato or brown gravy, mac and four cheese, green beans, white beans with hot sausage or white beans vegetarian, veg fajitas. Buttery garlic bread.
I wait about an hour to announce the main courses, let people digest and re-up appetites.
Zi moves the music to world beat, not loud, just a change in tempo. The flat screen plays a loop of martial arts movies with no sound. Mostly Asian, so there are subtitles if anyone paid attention. Actors flying through the air, executing triple flips, landing on outstretched swords, any manner of ridiculous acrobatics the director can think up, cartoon martial arts with live actors.
Kara, “Daphne this is divine. Home cooking at its finest, Ms. Alva's recipe for meatloaf?”
“Of course, and her recipe for both green and white beans. I made up the macaroni, but it's pretty standard mac and cheese. The trick is gooey consistency. A chunk of mac and cheese should stand on its own, not slump into a puddle like a teenager, but be moist, not dry.”
James, “And this is the perfection of the art. I heard that someone opened a restaurant with only varieties of macaroni and cheese. It is quite successful I understand.”
Janah, “Dad, you need to get out more. It's called S'Mac, for Sarita's Macaroni and Cheese and it's on 12th street in the East Village. They have a dozen kinds, plus you can make up your own.”
“Right down the street? They do takeout of course.”
“Yep, order online. We use it, it's quite good. I don't know why it never came up before, you like mac and cheese as much as I do. Daphne doesn't have near the cooking time she used to.”
Sis, “Too busy waiting on the local royalty.”
Chloe, “Excuse me, I need to make a few preparations,” she doesn't explain, goes off to her room.
James, “I'm checking it out when I get home. Although, after today, S’Mac will have to have very high standards.”
“Thank you.”
Amaya, “I think we should get Chloe a separate apartment, on the upper West side, or perhaps Harlem. She is carving out Daphne's time meant for me.”
I say, “You would only have to spend additional time traveling to clean her bathroom, wash her hair and apply her makeup.”
Amaya looks thoughtful, “That is a consideration.”
Susan, “Wait, back up. Are you implying that the Queen does this other stuff too?”
“I imply nothing, I state facts. Amaya is also a kitchen cleaning wonder. Nothing ever has a speck of dust on it, the refrigerator is sanitized, germs run away. I probably have no functioning immune system from under utilization.”
Nikko, “She makes Daphne look disorganized.”
Susan, “The things I misunderstand, the talk is all for show.”
“Sis, you can hardly be called inattentive for things you can't know. You don't see what we do, you only hear us talk.”
Zi, “Domestically, Amaya, Daphne, Nikko and I take care of housekeeping. Janah does most of the laundry for six girls, she finds it meditative. Chloe has greater responsibilities.”
Susan, “Greater? How?”
James, “May I field that one?”
Janah smiles, “Go for it.”
“By being Chloe.”
It is quiet. Kara pours champagne, refills wine glasses.
Kara speaks, “Susan, you don't think of it when she is at our condo, but we all take care of her the entire time. She doesn't ask, we just do. She brings something I cannot describe, by her presence.”
Susan, “True. I never thought of doing otherwise, it just happens.”
James, “She carries joy and sprinkles it around like fairy dust. Fairy Princess is not just an endearment, it arose from her personal magic.”
Lacy, “That may be the most beautiful thing I've ever heard.”
Amaya, “Excuse me, there's the sound of my voice to consider.”
We laugh, Amaya is outrageous.
Chloe's voice comes from her room, “Ah..My….Yah.”
Amaya, “Skinny drill sergeant,” gets up and goes to her.
Nikko and I rinse dishes, stack them in the dishwasher, leave the overflow for later. The family is sitting around the room chatting about Chapmans, a half hour passes.
Lacy, “Where are the girls?”
“Coming, I believe we are to be entertained.”
Taylor, “Wow. Dinner and a show, free.”
Zi turns off the music. Chloe comes out, makeup more Japanese, she's not Geisha yet, so no white face, a tortoise shell comb is in her thick hair swept up behind her head. It spills out from the comb around her ears, youthful elegance.
I help with tea utensils, the family gets in a circle on the mat, sitting on thick throw pillows around the low table. The circle is left open on one side.
Chloe prepares tea in the formal way. The cup is passed, each one admires it, turns it to see all sides, takes a sip, wipes it with the cloth, passes it. Normally a tea ceremony is five or six guests tops, we're expanding the rules a bit, there are eight, I’m off to one side to assist. Amaya is still in her room preparing.
After the first round, our guests stand walk around, enjoy the art on our walls, pieces of sculpture we've very selectively added over the years. I invite them to sit at the water rock in Chloe's room, four at a time. They spend a quarter hour contemplating the near silent beauty, near silent splash as the water gurgles over rocks in the pool. The pump is soundproofed, no hum or vibe.
Then back around the table, Chloe prepares thin tea, the next step in the ceremony; passes tea bowls around, delicate ceramic. I hand her sweets which she places on front of her guests on a small dish. They are made of bean paste or colored rice flour, sweet with sugar. We have squares of tri-color rice paste, and cheerful little balls of bean paste on a skewer. The sweet is to cut the taste of the tangy green tea, which is never served with additives.
As they enjoy round two, Amaya enters, full Geisha regalia, white face and all, she bows head down demurely.
Taylor's hand goes to her mouth, I hear her whisper, “Oh my.”
Pretty much sums it up.
Her fan pops open, she dances while Chloe plays the shamisen, the song changes and she sings a love song in Japanese, dancing and fluttering her fan. Her voice is low and secretive at one moment, high and crystal the next, then so sorrowful as to bring tears. Chloe finishes on one note that lingers in the air as Amaya bows and sits on her knees, fan folded in her lap. Bows from an appreciative audience.
The shamisen starts again, accompanied by Amaya on the flute, there is a long introduction, interplay of flute and string, Chloe stands and sings a playful song in Japanese, with her fan opening and snapping shut, fluttering, waved like a baton, her smile intoxicating, her joy palpable. She finishes with her hip out to one side, bent forward with her fan closed propping up her chin, and a wink.
The audience can't stand on formality any longer, applause bursts out, Susan is laughing and crying, she's hardly alone. Even stoic Nikko's eyes are damp.
Lacy, “One wonders what to say, words seem so totally inadequate. I am beside myself in gratitude for being allowed to participate.”
Amaya and Chloe are hugged to death. The day is coming to a close, reluctantly time for everyone to go back to the plain world.
Kara is talking to Amaya and Chloe, they are nodding, Susan and Taylor decide to have a drink with Lacy, James and Kara get one more round of hugs and head for home, a whopping couple blocks away.
All in all, I'd say things went well.

Chapter Thirty Eight

Chloe and Amaya are in Chloe's room undoing kimonos, deconstructing hair, I hear the shower start, lots of makeup to wash off.
The four of us make short work of cleanup, I won't have to deal with dinner, there are white beans and macaroni and cheese left, the meatloaf disappeared, as did the green beans.
“Sheesh, I don't guess anyone has to eat for a while,” I turn to see Janah cutting a piece of mac and cheese,
“While's up.”
I kiss her forehead, “I blurt things out without thinking to whom I blurt.”
“Great job with the food, always my favorite cafe. You've been feeding me forever. I'm keeping you on and giving you a raise.”
I curtsey, “As madam wishes.”
We sit around the table, in my head I hear Chloe squeal, then see her face giving Amaya a kiss, it feels really good, I taste her lips. Come on Amaya, kiss her back. Then I see Chloe's face again, Amaya closes in, they kiss, oooh, I feel her tongue in Amaya's mouth, a thrill chill runs through Amaya, me too. Bad girls. I tune out, give them some privacy to explore.
Amaya, “You need not go offline, she knows you feel it, she's teasing you, and making me squirmy.”
“I can see how that might happen, don't be much longer, I need to fix on your legs.”

Amaya, “CU,” she gives Chloe another hot kiss, I feel Chloe's arms around her, hands pulling Amaya's head closer, yeowch that's steamy.
I refocus on the women at hand.
Janah, “Nikko will have to think up some new business enterprises or find something to do with an additional three hundred million plus, our end of Eduardo. There’s more, but I told Mrs. Epstein to keep it in Society accounts and we wouldn't hesitate to travel in ultra-style.”
Nikko, “We don't have time to run any more property, certainly not to operate other businesses, not if we want to have a life. I suggest we put it in the brokerage accounts and buy index funds with half, intermediate Treasury bonds with the rest. We already make more in interest and dividends than we can possibly spend, even with Amaya's buying habits and the travel we pay for. A hundred million to the Sylk Foundation seems right.”
Janah looks at me, I say, “That's between Nikko, Sis and Mrs. Epstein. What are we up to, six hundred million?”
Nikko, “More. If we earn just three percent, it's eighteen million a year. We don't spend a million a year. It just keeps stacking up.”
“Cripes, what do people do with billions? There are six of us and we didn't spend the income on what we had before this.”
Janah, “They get it to have it. There's no other point. They have an even bigger problem than we do, their money keeps earning money, which earns money. If we spent ten thousand dollars a day, every day, it wouldn't put a serious dent in our earnings. Before this latest addition, we'd have to spend twenty five thousand dollars a day to use up the interest. Now, double that. Wealth becomes relative. It's why somebody spent a hundred twenty million on one of Munch’s Scream paintings. Not even a very good one. They have so much, a hundred million on a small canvas doesn't register.”
Nikko, “We have no rent, just insurance and utilities, we don't own six homes, gamble or fly off to exotic lands. We have other interests, and now we don't even have travel expenses.”
Janah, “Ning is in Ning heaven running the restaurant. Does she want another place? Nikko do your mom and dad want to expand? Or do something else? We need to finalize plans for Kyoto by the way. I guess we’re flying off to one exotic land.”
Nikko, “I'll find out. I’ll go next time with Chloe, then ask Ning. I have to be at the property office tomorrow anyway.”
Janah, “I'll ask Lacy if she wants to remodel something at her place or downstairs. Neither Sis or my folks need money, maybe David needs something at the schools. The Temple is already loaded, they don't spend any of the principal in their accounts either.”
Amaya and Chloe come in, Amaya sits next to me, tight legs flashing, delightfully distracting.
Amaya, “Good girl, focused right where you need to be. You have excellent priorities.”
“You have excellent everything.”

She takes my hand and thoughtfully lays it on her crossed leg, nicely lotioned for my tactile gratification.
Chloe grins, “Daphne's pinked out.”
Zi, “Amaya is blushed as well.”
Amaya, “I have no idea to what you refer. Daphne only does her duty, seeing to my well being.”
“Yeah, like that, keep your nose out of my aura.”
Janah, “Somebody bring me up to date on the schedule, I haven't checked the site.”
Nikko, “Chloe goes to Hanshi for two days, Zi and I have work at the buildings. We'll see Ning at lunch, then back here. Daphne and I are working on a variety of things, Zi may wish to join us. Wednesday Chloe has a job, Thursday calligraphy starts for a couple of hours.”
Chloe, “Excuse me, Nikko. I almost forgot. Kara wants to immortalize Amaya and me. We agreed to sit for her, we can do it Thursday before or after calligraphy. ”
“Wow, you inspired a Kiersted, no small accomplishment.”
Amaya, “We are inspiration itself. She has an idea she will call Geisha, that would be me, and one she shall call Tea Ceremony, that will be both of us, and a third titled Joy, I forget to whom that refers.”
Chloe giggles.
“Even Janah and I didn't inspire three Kiersteds.”
Amaya, “I cannot grasp the relevance.”
Janah and Zi crack up, Nikko groans, “You are officially worse than Daphne.”
“Beg pardon, I am Daphne's better, one cannot be worse and better.”
That starts Janah and Zi again.
Chloe sits in Nikko's lap and kisses her cheek, “Do not dismay, I will speak to her most forcefully. She is blinded by her beauty, a tragedy in three acts.”
Nikko, “A tragedy in perpetuity.”
Amaya laughs, “The samurai is most amusing. Perhaps we can find a permanent place for her.”
Janah and Zi are wiping tears away, Janah, “Okay, the river of bullshit is drowning me, can we get back to the week please?”
Nikko, “Wednesday Chloe has a fashion shoot, Amaya will likely spend the day staring in the mirror, there's nothing specific for the rest of us. No doubt things will come up. This family of queers can seldom stick to a more rigid schedule.”
Janah, “You are, of course, right, it's only a month until Canada. The time will pass too quickly. We really do need a getaway, at least I know I do.”
Amaya, “We all do. I never thought it possible to have such a schedule, I do have class with Taylor posted, and I have a shopping trip scheduled with one of the Chapmans moms. She's gearing up for a summer cruise in the Aegean. I'll have a five grand payday at the least.”
Amaya charges a thousand an hour to accompany shoppers. It’s less expensive than a percent of purchases, and people are people. If they paid a percentage, they wouldn't buy much on shopping day and go back and get it without her. She doesn't begrudge them that, it's typically human. Might as well be irritated by some teenage girl crying in a sappy movie. On her end, she doesn't stretch out the time suggesting one place after another. She knows her clients, she knows where she wants to take them. If they decline her suggestions, she doesn't take it personally. She gets paid to give advice, if they don't take it, their loss. Amaya makes their best features shine, tucks away the poorer ones. And equally important, she keeps them from looking like circus clowns, homeless people, or the worst, NYU students.

Chapter Thirty Nine

Nikko and I are at the Murakami's, Chloe is training with Hanshi, we’re having tea. I am years past the point with the Murakami's of desultory conversation eventually leading to the point. We have traveled those trails, in short, we can cut to the chase.
Nikko asks her mother, “You have never mentioned any interest in expanding your business or starting another. This may be a meaningless offer, but we have more money than we can use. It sits in brokerage accounts making more money. If you see opportunities, we can supply the funding. No interest, repayment is at your discretion as income allows. Perhaps you have no interest in being busier, I am letting you know the funds are available.”
Ari is thoughtful, “I will talk it over with your father. I have often thought of trying an expansion with one store. Beyond just produce, to make a full market of Japanese food. Now we operate profitable stalls and small shops, sell a few incidental items, soft drinks and such things. But an entire market, in a good location, with authentic Japanese goods, even prepared foods, that would be an interesting challenge.”
What that means in American speak is that Mrs. Murakami longs to take on such a project but lacks the resources. Their produce stores make good money. That money supports a comfortable life, but it does not allow for major investment. If you don't have the cash on your own, it means banks and loans and interest payments. Food market margins are small enough. Fresh food spoils with nothing to do but throw it out, shoplifting, bad checks and, if you aren’t watching, employees who help themselves or give stuff away to their friends. The product, and the small profit, walk out the door. But to have interest free financing, and no set schedule for payment of principal, that intrigues Ari.
We leave, our driver drops me at the apartment, picks up Zi, she and Nikko head to Chinatown. I go up and find Janah and Amaya reading Le Figaro and discussing French politics, which best I can tell revolves around strikes of outraged workers and what the President's wife wore at recent appearances. There's also some dweeb who apparently tries to nail every hotel maid he can lay his hands on. I can't even figure out why it’s still a country, but politics isn't my thing. It isn't Janah and Amaya's thing either, they’re just practicing fluency, which includes current phraseology and usage, not just textbook travel junk, which the French would love if American tourists just gave up.
Anyway, while they voulez-vous in outraged tones, I decide a visit to Mini is in order.
“Dear ones, I'm going to scarf coffee and something tasty at the Village Diner. Train leaves in five minutes.”
That puts a quick end to French politics and fifteen minutes later we are sitting in a booth with my legs being admired by friendly representatives of the NYFD. So, in a spirit of public support, when I exit the booth to go visit with Vinnie and Captain McGuire, I offer a long enough flash of panty to be memorable. They know me, I've flashed them before.
Vinnie, “Red, I like red.”
“In support of the NYFD, of course.”
McGuire, “You ought to be ashamed, distracting public servants on their way to work. A fire could break out and we'd be lost in fantasy.”
“I thought I was being inspirational, think of what you might save.”
I'm sitting next to McGuire, he looks down at my legs, which he can see almost in their entirety, McGuire, “Those, I would enter a burning house naked for.”
“See, inspiration. How's things in my favorite department?”
McGuire, “You told the detectives your favorite department was the NYPD.”
“It is, when I'm flashing cops, now I'm flashing the fire fighters. It’s all about visual appreciation.”
“You are one of a kind.”
I kiss his cheek, “And you keep saving lives big guy. If I wasn't queer, I'd let you show me your hook and ladder.”
“You come around the station they gonna let the buildings burn. Just pass by, give the boys your killer smile and keep moving.”
Vinnie, “Only rank gets to look at the legs, what about the workin' stiff?”
I move to Vinnie's side, slide my skirt up so far up he can see by belly button, “God Daphne, you are a work of art. I'm dreaming.”
I kiss him too, get up, let them have one more look, McGuire says, “Daphne, are your legs hurtin' you?”
“No, why?”
McGuire, “Cause they're killin' me.”
I laugh like I'd never heard it before, doesn't matter, I like it every time.
I wiggle my hips back to our booth, Janah is laughing, “You are despicable.”
Amaya, “Next time, it's my turn.”
“Deal, but I'm not responsible for any heart attacks, it's on you.”
Janah, “Before you two undress completely, can we order?”
The good men of the NYFD stand to leave. I cross my legs slowly, very slowly, skirt at the top of my thighs. McGuire stares, looks at Vinnie staring, shakes his head, they stop to tell Janah and Amaya hello, take another lingering look. They make no effort to pretend they aren't, I’m putting on the show voluntarily after all, I want them to stare. Sometimes I am totally trashy, a cheap thrill is better than no thrill at all. Best of all, Nishiko is in my head; she is going to discipline me to insensibility for my exhibitionism.
Nikko, “Filthy slut...prepare.”
Now I'm really getting steamy.

Chapter Forty

When we get home, I hit Amaya's bed after taking off what little I have on. I hear Janah tapping on the keyboard, Amaya comes in as I'm doing myself on the bed.
She sits on the side, watches me play. I'm so hot it takes mere minutes until I'm breathing hard, gasping, then ignite.
She undresses while I lick my fingers, her clothes in a heap on the floor, straddles my face. I don't need to be told what to do.
I make it last longer for Amaya so it will last longer for me, then we’re laying together, make-out light. I'm admiring her everything.
Amaya, “I get off when you do that.”
“Play with myself or exhibit myself?”
“Both. Do you think the men feel, what, that you are slutty?”
“I don't know what they think, I know what they do, they look as long and hard as they can. They know we’re lesbians, and they are never rude, playful, but not rude. I’m the one creating the event, they don't ask me to.”
Amaya, “What if they did. What if you are at the firehouse and one says something, 'what color panties do you have on today,' like that.”
“Presuming I'm in a skirt, I would probably lift it up and look, then answer the question. Then maybe string it out, keep the skirt up and ask them if they think it's robin's egg or sky blue. That would cause a discussion, while they examined the color I'd have to keep showing.”
“Think you would take them off, if they asked?”
I ponder, “I'd probably want to, but no, not for men.”
“Maybe we can find an all girl fire brigade.”
We laugh, I say, “I suppose I should be more demure. I think I do it occasionally because society says I shouldn't. You may have noticed, we aren't much for social convention. I'm not going to lift my skirt in the middle of the street, or at a dinner party. So my social improprieties have limits. What happens is, I'm in a short skirt at the diner, men I know, have swapped lies with for years, enjoy. They know I don't mind, we even joke about it. I get warm, things go from there. It's so outrageous, they know I'm playing. That's why I don't do it with strangers. In any case, it's just panties, hardly different than a bikini.”
“I say I would do it, I do not have the sauce. I have done it in our work, which is not the same, that is a tactical distraction.”
“No, that has nothing to do with my foolishness. You also don't know these guys as long as I have. McGuire was rank and file when I met him, I was maybe fourteen and always in short skirts. I didn't flip them up then, but they admired just the same. Always polite, but they didn't pretend they weren't noticing. We joked about it then, I never felt harassed. Wasn't PC, like I care. I liked the attention then, I like it now.”
Lacy drops by for tea, she and Amaya are going to Lacy's for dance. After a cup, they head down the hall. Nikko's phone rings, it's her mom. Nikko listens, asks a few questions, hangs up.
Nikko, “Good timing, I wanted to discuss what Ning said, and my mother has requested funding for a full Japanese market.”
Janah, “Great, what's the deal?”
“Ari would like a line of credit, up to a million. She has only a rough idea now, she will have more concrete numbers for us in a week. Soichi will talk to contractors, mom has her eye on a location, I should negotiate the lease I think. If the family agrees, they will begin.”
“Of course they should do it.”
Nikko, “Ning wants a high end place, Asian Fusion, not Chinatown, perhaps Gramercy Park or on our side, meat packing district. It had been on her mind, and she has actually started to look into it. The thing is, they have the money from Mrs. Fong, so they don’t need us to make a loan. It is also time to refurbish Fong's. Since the work will close the place, she asked if she might take additional space upstairs.”
“What’s up there now?”
“Offices I can relocate to our other buildings quite easily and give them a good deal for the inconvenience, and a healthy build out allowance. They’ll jump at it. Closing the place for remodeling will give her time to get the new place going.”
Janah, “How does she plan to manage all this?”
“Chan says there are two monks ready to leave the temple, they haven't decided what to do, but it is time for them to be out in the world. One, Daphne knows, she’s running the kitchen at the temple now, the other is a business student with an MBA.”
Janah, “Monica Madison and Chaunli Huang, Li Huang.”
“Yes, good team. Monica runs an exemplary kitchen, Li is a solid citizen.”
Janah, “Are they up for it? Perhaps they want to travel.”
“Chan's sense is yes, no mention of any travel. They have talked with him about jobs in general. They have been in the temple, not experienced with employers. You train them in the etiquette of the outside world, and they are monks, polite to a fault or you would not be allowing them priesthood.”
“There's that.”
Janah, “Chan can follow up, Monica tests in two weeks, Li in a month. They are not to know they are testing however, Chan knows to wait until Monica tests. There’s no reason he can't ask Li to look over the business end from the temple. He can tell Li that if he enjoys the work, then whenever he tests he can continue outside. Do we need to delay Canada?”
Nikko, “No. If fact, it’s a good time to go, everything will only be in planning stages. I may be able to negotiate Ari's lease beforehand, Ning needs to scope out sites for the second restaurant. Maybe I should buy the space for my parents instead of them leasing, we’ll see. And if you will excuse us, Zi and I have need for a bit of relaxation.”
Zi gets a teeny smile, she loves to jump Nikko, who doesn't? Sleek samurai thoroughbred. They beat a retreat to the bedroom and close the door. I'm tempted to follow the action in Nikko's head, but I decide I've been randy enough for one day.
Janah, “I should say so. Put yourself on display at the diner, then sex half the afternoon. You are getting as bad as me.”
I look at her with a 'duh expression, she giggles, “Okay, you are me. I see I've been a good bad influence on you.”
Janah and I spend the next hour in the meditation loft, then a half hour merged, a soft glow pours out from the loft, no one there to see it, no one to sense the soft vibration.

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