Two hours after takeoff and our big booms, we touch down. Janah and Chan are already here, ten minutes later Nikko and Amaya arrive. We thank our pilots, they lift away, we climb into the SUVs and drive to Flagstaff. Six meth labs are no more, no producers got stupid, the sample explosions saved their lives.
We leave the cars at the airport, board a private plane and fly directly to Teterboro in New Jersey. Cars are waiting. One for Black to go to Sonia in Brooklyn, the rest of us pile into the limo and in forty minutes, we’re in the apartment. Chan to his family, we shower, nibble from the fridge and collapse.
We decide to sleep together, Amaya curls next to Janah, me behind her, Nikko on the other side of Janah. We take all of ten minutes to fade to black.
I wake first, ease out of bed and start up tea and coffee. Just as I finish, Amaya is behind me, hands on my tummy, kissing my shoulders. I turn and we kiss gently, several times. She hasn’t bothered to dress, thankfully.
“Come and make me presentable while the coffee brews, the girls are going to stir soon, I don’t want to share you sooner than I have to.”
I follow her to her bedroom, into a silk t-shirt and espadrilles, no point in overdressing. I slip into snug cotton shorts, barefoot and a half t-shirt. Amaya kisses my tummy, I kiss her lips.
To the kitchen, start working on a serious mega-breakfast.
I call Lacy and Sis, “We’re home and Amaya and I are making scads of breakfast, you’re welcome if you have time.”
They make time. Soon the four of us are having overlapping conversations with Sis, Taylor, Kara and Lacy. They know not to ask about the work, instead we are reviewing the properties, investments, Chapmans. Dad’s already at the hospital, he has a real job, as does Lacy who has to leave to run her elite academy for weird and talented girls. Kara leaves to meet with Sarah Silverman, owner of the gallery that handles her art. A show is coming up in three weeks, Kara and Sarah are deep into invitation and display details.
Susan and Taylor leave for the condo, Janah and Amaya go to the roof with Ning and the kids.
David works with his birds, training the children of his friends to fly to points in the city and return with their stories.
Miyako is telling Amaya about her latest flame, a teenage boy she met doing parkour in the park.
“He’s so good, we raced around Washington Square Park, leaping the benches, the fountain, then down the side streets, up and over everything we could find. His parents are nice, his mom fusses about it, he broke an arm once. Sometimes we go to the skate park, ride our boards. He can’t believe the stuff I can do. He loves me.”
Amaya, “Kissed him yet?”
“All the time. Nothing else though, he’s been a perfect gentleman. He was a little hands on, then he met dad. Since then, he asks if he can kiss me. If I keep introducing boys to dad, I might become a thirty year old virgin.”
Amaya laughs, “It will not hurt to wait.”
“Didn’t see you waiting for Daphne.”
“I was fifteen, and I seduced her. And she isn’t a boy, no pregnancy.”
“I kissed a girl in my class. It was girl play, not sex. I didn’t get as worked up as when I kiss Alex. We made out a little, giggled like idiots about it. We called it practice kissing, but I think she’d like to do more than practice.”
“You are only fourteen.”
“No problem. I’ve discovered the joys of self stimulation. I do my pillow almost every night,” she blushes at her own frankness.
“There is no harm in making yourself feel good. Actually, it is rather good for you. Do you fantasize?”
“I guess, is it fantasy to think about yourself? I like to watch me in the mirror…,” she blushed again, “is that horrible?”
“Gosh no. I kiss myself in the mirror. I love me.”
Miyako puts her hand to her mouth, “I’ve done that, too. I thought I was being weird. So, I’m not alone in self fascination?”
“Hardly. Girls love to admire themselves. You are adorable, I cannot fathom it wrong to recognize it. You are alone, not bothering anyone, it feels good. I never apologize for my personal preferences, especially when it is me I personally prefer.”
“Does Daphne know you do it?”
“Daphne and I have no secrets.”
“I hope I find someone who I don’t need to keep secrets from.”
“You can only decide that as a relationship develops. Sometimes, it is best to keep things to yourself. You have to decide what the other person can handle. I think it is possible to have a very close relationship, but have things you keep in your own mind. Never pry into your partner’s business. He does not owe you an explanation of his life, nor of his every feeling. Nor do you him. In a way, being able to hold things in yourself is a sign of trust. Neither you or your friend need feel obliged to do a confessional.”
Miyako is thoughtful, “I see what you mean, but why do you and Daphne not have secrets? How do you know she doesn’t?”
“I know because the things we discuss are so open, if she had secrets beyond that, it would make no sense,” she doesn’t tell Miyako about mentaling and merging, that it precludes secrets if you can see into another person’s mind.
Amaya continues, “In any case, the decision will be plain based on the circumstance. It is certainly possible, for instance, to know something about someone else that it would not be proper to reveal to your friend or partner. It is not your role to tell things that are told to you in confidence. Do you see what I mean?”
Miyako, “Yes, that part makes sense. But how do you and Daphne handle it?”
“It would not occur to us to inquire into a confidence shared by another. There is a difference between keeping a private conversation private and keeping a secret. Daphne and I keep no personal secrets, things about us, from each other. She may well know things about other people she does not tell me. I respect that.”
This is a bit of misdirection on Amaya’s part. We couldn’t keep even those things secret. Ours is perhaps a special exception that won’t fit in the general confidentiality rule. Unlike Vegas, what happens in my mind can’t stay in my mind. Contrariwise, it’s one mind in our case anyway. Complex, yes?
This evening the four of us quietly enjoy the presence of each other. In our usual state of minimal dress, you might think we’d get immunized, or habituated, like a picture on the wall that you eventually don’t even see anymore, but it never happens, every time is the first time.
On a more down to earth level, it doesn’t hurt that our minimalist approach to household dress makes us libidinous. Thus, my dictum, it is good to give, and even better to receive.
Janah, “Daphinity can rationalize anything.”
“I prefer to think it genius. I am a hedonist. I take joy in erotica, joy in relationship, joy in pain, joy in giving, and real joy in giving it up for lust-bucket lesbians. My philosophy has, quite simply, the intricate beauty of an explanation of everything.”
“How can it be simple and intricate at the same time?”
“Because it is me. I am my own explanation. Watch me, understand not only the universe, but all those other infinite universes Brian Greene keeps babbling about.”
“I’ll settle for exploring those infinite legs.”
“All is yours for the taking.”
“Keep that thought.”
Nikko, “Janah, get your mind out of that gutter and bring your body over to my gutter. I’m feeling a need.”
While J and Nishiko lounge, I head off to Amaya’s room.
She’s seated on the edge of the bed, in a tiny t-shirt, she crosses her legs, pulls my panties to my knees, takes off her t-shirt, leans back on her hands. She watches my fingers while I watch her, then closes her eyes.
“I love to look through your eyes when you stare at me. I can both feel what you are feeling, and enjoy seeing me at the same time. I am scrumptious, I get shamelessly hot and hotter when I realize I’m going to be young and sizzling for a long time…ooooh, you are as turned on staring at me as I am. Narcissism suits me…you are getting steamy, not long now, I know just the thing to make your mind explode.”
She lays back on the bed, puts one foot on the edge, lets the other drip over the side, her knee slowly falls to the side, she touches herself, my mind explodes.
“Put your fingers in my mouth.”
I do, she sucks, licks, “You may kiss what fascinates you, one kiss.”
I kneel and very gently press my lips to her softness, hold it for a few beats, quiver.
Amaya lets out a soft screech, “It is like I kissed me there, it is splendid, yes?”
Amaya, “This is too good, lick me.”
Yay, I begin, soft slow, succulent.
“Oh God, I feel me on my tongue, more, slowly, take forever.”
Not forever, but I take a good long time, stay off the spot that would send her over until she’s frenzied, by the time I focus on the magic button, she’s near incoherent, I think she may have levitated.
“Daphne, it gets more remarkable the deeper we merge, no wonder you three are all over each other, you did not tell me about this part. Ah, on purpose, you let me discover for myself, that is genius.”
“We didn’t tell Nikko either. When it unveiled itself to her she was stunned. She just lay there and stared at the ceiling, I thought I’d need an ammonia cap to jumpstart her brain.”
“I am so glad I had no idea, Nikko is not the narcissist I am, did she think it weird at first?”
“Everyone self loves, I don’t see how it can be otherwise. You just admit it, turn it into an art form, play with it. People tend to think it’s something they shouldn’t do, even suppress the feeling. People who hate themselves hate everyone, people who accept and enjoy themselves are far more forgiving.”
“Far better than kissing the mirror, I can feel my own lips through you. Of course, you aren’t always right here, so I still need the mirror,” she laughs at herself, “kiss me, I am not done with me yet.”
We lay on the bed, make out for a while, merge for another while. When we come out of it, we join the others, only to find Janah and Nikko merged on the couch, must be something in the air. It’s getting late, we decide not to disrupt them, return to the bedroom. Amaya reads aloud, You & Me by Padgett Powell, we laugh over the observations, two older gents in aimless conversation, ‘I am in want of recreational drugs, untattered clothes, psychological counsel, carnal affection, a dog, and a child upon which to lavish trinkets and advice.
I fear for this child.
Not more than I.’
Mrs. Fong, who I assumed was immortal, is ill, hospitalized, the prognosis poor.
“Nikko, you are familiar with all the properties, records and whatnot?”
“Yes, I’m in regular touch with the accountants. It’s being handled.”
“Who is Fong’s accountant?”
“Jefferson and Wei, Charles Wei oversees the work.”
“With Mrs. Fong, soothing her, there’s not much to be done. Dad sent people over, she’s cancerous, too old to operate. Janah thinks she’s over ninety, probably north nineties, not south. Master Sung managed a visit, he’s not well himself. Amaya goes frequently, as do Ning and the children. The old lady won’t admit it, but when she’s lucid, it’s clear she’s gratified. Janah won’t leave until it’s done. Amaya is with her now.”
Naturally I’ve been regularly, do my blessing thing as a priest. Give Fong a chance to remind me of my obligations and laziness. Then she hugs me and whispers to guard White Angel and precious Amaya.
She lasts another three days, the extended family there at the end. Not all in the room, just the four of us, but Mrs. Fong had moments of lucidity up to the last and knows her adopted family is with her.
She dies holding Janah’s hand, Janah weeps.
The funeral is not extravagant. Mrs. Fong would have been furious at a noisy Chinese funeral, her dignity offended at such a wasteful display. Her body is cremated, her ashes spread in the bamboo of the temple with honors and three days of silent meditation. Black came, as did Chan. Amaya and Nikko joined us in the three days of silence.
The three days end too quickly, it is good to be in the temple, silence, meditation. Too often, we forget to take time to attend. Mrs. Fong’s passing is a reminder that there is more to life than doing. Being, for instance. Mrs. Fong would have verbally disagreed, but in her heart, she knew.
Based on her estimates, guided by Mrs. Epstein and the accountants, Mrs. Fong owned, free and clear, two hundred million dollars of real estate. That did not include the investment she had with our families, another hundred million plus in our four way partnership. We’ve paid off our bank loans. The property, hers and ours, is unencumbered.
Then the lawyer calls, a shock, a shocking shock. The beneficiaries are Janah, Nikko and me, a sizeable bequest to Chan and Ning. In addition to the property, Mrs. Fong has a hundred and fifty million in cash and securities. Thirty million to the temple, ten to Chan and Ning, the rest to the Sylk Trust. The trust donation requests at least twenty million accrue to the benefit of Amaya, David Li and Miyako. Mrs. Fong has made us, already substantially wealthy, incredibly wealthy, and insured that the children and Amaya are provided for plus.
I ask Janah, “You had no idea, as I had no idea, or you are able to keep secrets from me.”
Janah, “No secrets. A complete surprise. I thought she would leave us a bequest, but not everything. Susan and Nikko need to get busy, have Mrs. Walker handle probate, then get Mrs. E, Susan and Nikko involved in investing and distribution of assets.”
We visit our lawyers, Mrs. Walker, “Mrs. Fong had an insurance policy covering her life, five million, Janah is beneficiary. We set up the estate to avoid estate tax, which is steep, thirty five percent on amounts over five million. Essentially, it goes to the non-profit foundation you administer, which is connected to your schools. The property and excess cash is directed to the Sylk Trust. It’s designated for educational, charitable and scientific purposes, how you allocate salaries and expenses is up to you. For this amount of money, a million a year for salaries to administrators, you, Daphne, and Nikko is chump change.”
Janah, “Criminey, I knew she was wealthy, not this wealthy. Who do I hire to do the accounting? The current firm must be good or Fong wouldn’t have used them.”
Mrs. Walker, “They are excellent. They have a division that specializes in estate tax, they are the reason you aren’t paying any. There’s a give-up, you don’t have the property in your name. You can, as I said, pay yourself and anyone managing the property a healthy salary and bonuses.”
Janah, “I’m not sure Nikko wants to take on more. She’s been dealing with the buildings only because Mrs. Fong was ill. She can decide. What if you create a property management company, make her CEO, then she can hire on the ground managers. Likely monks.”
“Fine idea. What do you want to call it?”
Janah thinks for a moment, “Murakami-Sylk.”
“Yes, the schools will hire Black to teach, and the Sylk Trust will set up a string of non-profit martial arts schools in low income neighborhoods. Black will enjoy running them, and monks will be anxious to be able to get out of the temple and teach. I’ll leave the details of how that’s structured to you. I suppose it makes sense to get out from under the bookkeeping at the schools and turn that over to the accountants as well.”
Mrs. Walker, “Makes sense.”
Janah, “Can you oversee that in some way. I know you’re not accountants. I want Walker&Walker to keep an eye on everything, make sure the schools are properly insured, and oversee the accounting. I don’t want to lose assets to a lawsuit.”
“I’ll assign good people to it. Lawyers will be fighting for the account. If Daphne shows up regularly, my billing hours will plummet for all the free work she’ll get.”
Janah laughs, “She loves visiting, but she’s busy, I don’t think there’ll be much distraction. I don’t want to take up too much of your time.”
“No sweat, the meter’s running, stay all day.”
“Your meter has been extraordinarily fair. Susan says we get a bargain by Manhattan standards. Thank you for that. In this case, pay yourself as well.”
Mrs. Walker, “Hey, I’m a hotshot corporate attorney, an aging one, but I still extract my pound of flesh.”
Janah, “Then everyone’s happy. Good.”
They stand, Janah hugs her, Mrs. Walker wonders why she feels energized every time Janah is in the room, she thinks to herself, not for the first time, ‘What is the calming vibration I get when she’s around?’
We leave, well, it takes a while, I have to visit my legal pals, but Janah drags me out after an hour. Mrs. Walker calls in the attorneys she assigned to our work, sets them on clearing the estate and creating the new infrastructure. They bustle out, a gift, more billable hours from good clients. Mrs. Walker settles back in her chair. She thinks of the sheer stroke of luck that she had been shopping in the same grocery as Susan, who was with two young girls. The twelve year old white haired girl had caught her exact mood, and spent a half hour listening to a painful event in Deidre Walker’s life. And, when they parted, there was a refreshed clarity in her mind, she was at peace. How could one price such a gift?
I’m sitting next to Amaya on the couch, Nikko in a chair, Janah on the mat reading.
“Now that the dust is settling on our incredible good fortune, Nikko has had time to explore various driving schools.”
Nikko, “Paladin uses a school in Rhode Island, there is another I like better in Arizona, Bob Bondurant. It’s longer and deeper training, more suited to our needs. It’s in a suburb of Phoenix, place called Chandler. We were in Flagstaff, nearly two hundred miles away, and we were disguised. Nobody’s going to associate us with an operation months ago. I don’t see any reason not to go as ourselves.”
Amaya, “Great! When?”
“Dang, four days, so long, can we leave today?”
“I’m taking the training as well. Depending on what we think, Chan and Black may go later. Chan needs regular driving lessons, right now he uses the bulldozer technique.”
Amaya, “What about Janah?”
Janah, “Janah is going to occupy a fancy hotel room, yoga, read and display myself at the pool unashamedly.”
Four days later we board Blue Sky to Phoenix, no point in the misery of airport check in when you can fly privately. Car is waiting, an Escalade Platinum, we load and go.
Amaya drives us to the Royal Palms Resort and Spa, it’s a straight nineteen mile shot down I-10 to the Bondurant School. We’re in a beautifully appointed two bedroom villa called Alvadora, a flipping bargain at a thousand a night. A smaller place at Shutters in Venice Beach was twenty three hundred. Then, Phoenix isn’t exactly Venice Beach. It’s mid afternoon, we unpack, freshen up, hit the streets. The whole Phoenix metro is four million people, not Manhattan, but not tiny. Unlike Manhattan, it’s spread all over the place, forty miles from east to west. It’s desert, no reason to go up when you can keep going out.
We roam up and down I-10, get on and off exits to check the area. It’s Americana, the stores mostly recognizable, a fair number of independent businesses. The roads are spotless, there must be a rule that every parking lot has to be laced with speed bumps, and another rule that everything has to be painted desert brown with rust tile roofs.
“Well, ladies, we’d best press on. We’re near the hotel, time to eat.”
The restaurant is called T-Cooks, the menu is tasty. After ordering wine and a cocktail for Amaya, who always gets carded but is able to produce a driver’s license with the magic date, we take our time over Parmesan croquettes, antipasto, and seared foie gras, Amaya orders another vodka, Janah and Nikko share a bottle of Cabernet.
For entrees, tomato and fennel salad with grapefruit and feta cheese, Porcini mushrooms with poached lobster, tomato and garlic. Crispy cod with creamed corn, roasted asparagus. Amaya and Nikko do filets with ham polenta and we share
mashed potatoes with mascarpone, caramelized root vegetables and rapini, a leafy green with small buds that resemble broccoli.
“The filet good?”
Amaya cuts off a piece and feeds it to me, “Cripes, melts in my mouth, take a piece of fish, it said crispy, they meant it, nice and flaky inside.”
Amaya, “Yum, that is good, Janah, the vegetables look good.”
“Yes they are, Daphne can add caramelized root veggies to our at home menu.”
I pass her my asparagus, she’d ordered a second plate of the creamed corn that came with my cod.
Nikko, “Maybe we can do a mini dinner tour of Phoenix.”
Janah, “I’ll find spots while you guys wreck cars.”
Dessert is a unanimous choice of vanilla and chocolate filled éclairs, with vanilla gelato and warm fudge, yikes!
We walk the grounds, crisp spring air, easing the way to broiling desert summers. Then to the villa, it’s really quite splendid, enjoy the evening on our patio until time for bed.