Twenty One

The shoppers barge in, they’ve been busy, half a dozen bags plus the food.
“Show us the outfits while we have tea.”
Zackary, “And describe them for the blind kid.”
Skirts, tops, shoes, the kids outgrow shoes every six months but there’s a lot of barefoot or sock foot around here. Mac got a couple pairs of silk pants and blouses to match, and they picked up rings, platinum of course, with a variety of stones, opal, ruby, sapphire and emerald. Real, not colored glass, but the stones aren’t mega, the rings aren’t ‘heading to Vegas’ gaudy.
Zoe C, “McKenzie looks so elegant in her silks, Mickey wanted skirts and platforms, she needs to practice walking in them, she’s been a sneaker girl up until now.”
Mickey, “I wanted to show off my legs, it’s a girl thing.”
Mickey’s transgender but if there a more girly girl on the planet I’d like to meet her.
Zoe C, “And for Zak, new sneakers, black on black, no whitewall soles, slip on, no laces to fool with. Ultra soft yoga pants, two black, one white, made of something called modal fiber, whatever that is, and a bit of spandex.”
McKenzie, “According to Wiki, modal is a type of rayon, a semi-synthetic cellulose fiber made by spinning reconstituted cellulose, often from beech trees. Modal is used alone or with other fibers like cotton or spandex in clothing and household items such as pajamas, underwear, bathrobes, towels, and bed sheets.”
Zak laughs, “McKenzie knows everything, my mega-brain sister.”
The children are unrelated, call each other brother and sister anyway because…I don’t know, because they want to. Even Mac says brother and sister and it isn’t out of sentimentality, Mac doesn’t do sentimental.
Zoe C, “And, I hope this fits, a stylish fedora for Zackary in black with a small silver band around the crown.”
She puts it on his head, only slightly large, which is good, he’s got a long way to grow.
Mickey, “You totally got it going now Zacky,” she turns to us, “brother is so handsome.”
Universal agreement, Zak beams under his sassy fedora.
Elle, “That was a good idea, who’s responsible?”
Natalie, “Zoe C is to blame if all the girls start following Zak around the mall.”
Zackary, “Thanks mom.”
Zoe C blinks, quick swipe of a tear, she leans over and kisses his cheek, then the other one to even things out.
Zelda wanders up, she’s looking at Zak in his hat, head tilts left, then right, then she has to sniff it so plunks her paws on his shoulders while her sniffer goes over the hat. Satisfied he’s still Zackary, she thunks to the floor with a dramatic ‘Huff!’.
We take tea inside today, dark clouds have gathered, distant thunder rumbles, lightening bolts over the ocean, the gravelly crack! arrives a few seconds later.
Elle, “Oooh, we’re getting rain, good, rain has been on vacation, we could use a drenching.”
“Mickey, Zak, get the dogs out before the rain makes it, and don’t fool around, this storm is bringing lightening with it.”
They don’t hesitate, the dogs could go on their own but I’d rather the kids were there to hustle them back in. They show up again in ten.
Mickey, “They did their thing and straight back, sensed the need for speed I guess.”
Two minutes later the rain starts, it doesn’t creep in, one minute nothing, the next it’s like a waterfall out there.
“Maybe a good sign, fast moving, the wind has picked up considerably.”
McKenzie is in the kitchen stirring. She’s made chili, the kind with smalls hunks of sirloin first browned on the griddle, then into a pot of beef broth until fall apart tender. She spooned the meat into the chili base, leaving most of the broth to be dumped down the drain, we don’t want watery chili.
“Anything I need to do?”
McKenzie shakes her head, “Chili is complete, nothing to add, cornbread is ready, maybe shredded cheese on the side.”
There are no beans in Mac’s chili, there are no beans in authentic chili, I can only assume people started adding beans as a cheap filler as the price of beef climbed and grew to like it with beans.
Zoe C, “Beer with chili, but I opened a red in case, your choice.”
She hands out beers, the kids have a splash of red with seltzer, Zak wants to try beer, I pour some of mine in a glass and hand it to him.
He sips, “Good,” a few more sips, “a little more please.”
I give him half a glass, “Sip, you don’t get any more, I don’t care how handsome Mickey thinks you are.”
He grins, “Sister looks out for her little brother.”
“Not so little, you’re bigger than your big sister Mickey, catching up to McKenzie.”
The thunderstorm is peaking, trees sway outside, intermittent lightning bolts, lots of thumping thunder. Burma usually hangs around while we eat, tonight she’s invisible in her cat tree.
Mickey, “Burma’s sensitive, doesn’t like thunder. The two beasts don’t pay it any mind.”
Zak, “They’re bigger than thunder, go get Burma, she needs you to let her know it’s all okay.”
Mickey goes over, searches around, “There you are sweetie, come to me, nothing will hurt you, the storm will be over soon.”
Mickey returns to the table, sits, Burma in her lap, damned if the cat doesn’t instantly go to sleep.
Zak, “Told you.”
Elle, “How does Zak know…oh, he sees what Mickey sees even though he can’t see…that’s so….magical.”
Natalie, “It is, isn’t it? We have sorcerers for children, pretty cool…not exactly Harry Potter but still…”
“This chili is magical, and the cornbread has actual corn plus chopped jalapeno, super job McKenzie, our resident food sorceress.”
Zoe C, “With those electric hands, she’s more than a food sorceress, a multi talented sorceress, and her two students, the witch and the wizard.”
Mickey, “A witch….cool…Mac can show me witchy things and show Zak wizardry stuff. Flying would be fun, what do you think Mac?”
“No flying, a few energy tricks only.”
I smile, “McKenzie, what you call a few energy tricks is wizardry to the rest of us.”
She shrugs, “Practice.”
Mickey, “And that’s what Zak and I are doing. My sister gets us started, then we try and generate Qi. So far it’s sah-loowww going.”
“What’s the rule for learning, or for doing any complex work?”
Zak, “Small increments.”
“Why small increments?”
“It won’t seem so…what’s the word, like…too much?”
“That’s it, so it doesn’t seem overwhelming.”

Twenty Two

In the office this morning, McKenzie is clicking around the brokerage account, buying or selling something she’s tracking on her Bloomberg. I have a message from one of our contacts, a social worker in Anaheim. 
‘Too long for a message, call me.’
She picks up in two rings, “Sophia Cullen.”
“Hey Sophia, it’s Chef.”
“Ah, good, thanks for calling. I have a situation, maybe you can help.”
“A girl, four, is proving difficult to place. Her father is unknown, her mother abandoned her, left her with a neighbor and never returned.”
“Motherhood isn’t always motherly.”
“Tell me about it. The difficulty is, she’s an albino…sort of.”
“How can one be sort of an albino?”
“Good question, actually you can’t, but there are degrees of albinism. This girl has the common characteristics, solid white hair, and I mean white. Eyes have the reddish cast, but the iris, the colored part, is a gorgeous violet. She has no other… I don’t like the word defects, her skin is naturally without melanin, very fair. Oh, she’s nearsighted, also a common trait. Otherwise, she is not intellectually affected. Albinos have problems at school, partially due to vision problems but primarily due to the other kids.”
“Lot of bullying I imagine.”
“So I’m told, this girl isn’t in school yet, but I can’t foster her, nobody wants to adopt. I know you have kids already, too much of an imposition?”
“Hell, I do almost nothing, there are three moms here and three kids who have their own unique traits, which include being highly protective of each other. We home school,” which is a minor fib, we don’t have classes or even study sessions, the kids educate themselves.
“Can you take a look? Meet her? She’s withdrawn, understandable when people look at her like she’s a freak. She not a freak, she has genetic pigmentation issues, none of which is her fault.”
“Where is she?’
“With us for now, but the other kids waiting on foster placement…”
“Pick on her.”
A sigh, “Yes, and she doesn’t know what she’s done wrong. In her own way, she’s beautiful, if we don’t place her with the right people, she’s going to deteriorate, that is, withdraw completely. No reason for it but ugly human nature.”
“Anaheim is a couple hours from here, Zoe C and Natalie can be there by noon.”
She gives me the address, we ring off, I round up the family.
I regurgitate what I was told, Natalie says, “You ready to drive Zoe C?”
These girls, how did I luck onto them, they don’t jawbone about problems, or what if, or who will do what. A kid needs help, that’s that.
Zak, “I can’t make fun of her, I can’t even see her, well, unless I cheat with Mickey.”
Elle, “None of us will do anything but treat her like family, assuming they decide to bring her here. There could be deeper issues I suppose, although it doesn’t sound like it.”
“Sophia would have said so, there’s no point in trying to cover up anything, she loses cred.”
“Maybe McKenzie should have gone along.”
“I thought about it, but we don’t need Mac in front of too many people, she may do something brilliant, or be too blunt. Either way, she attracts unwanted attention.”
“Good point, so we wait. Lot of LA driving, only sixty miles but in the worst stretches of LA freeways. Let’s see, two hours there, an hour at the office, two back. They won’t return until three or so.”
“I’ll do a light lunch for twelve thirty, cold cuts, McKenzie, what’s dinner, do you know yet?”
“Little kid coming, macaroni and cheese, one with diced ham, one plain.”
“Good, we can grill mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower…no, wait, suppose we make fried vegetables, everyone likes that.”
She nods, goes back to her tablet, I peer over, she’s looked up albino and albinism. I shake my head, McKenzie will be an expert before the little girl gets here. Always prepared, Mac is likely ready for the Zombie Apocalypse.
All our kids grasp different, they all are, except to us, to us, they’re unique, and uniquely perfect.
Mickey, “She’s only four?”
“What I was told, I didn’t ask if she’s just made four or almost five or in between, we’ll find out later.”
Zak, “This is kind of exciting, a new little sister, I won’t be the youngest anymore, just the most handsome.”
Mickey, “Shut up, it’s my job to say you’re handsome, you can’t see you.”
“I can when you look at me.”
“Then I’m never looking at you ever again, so there.”
Zak grins, “You can’t help yourself.”
“Didn’t I tell you to shut up?”
“I wonder if we need to get her a dog, or a cat.”
Mickey, “She can share Cilia, I don’t mind.”
Zak, “I guess you don’t, you have Burma.”
She sticks her tongue out at him, which, of course he can’t see…or...
Zak, “Don’t poke that little tongue at me girly boy.”
Mickey giggles, “I’m a girl…with a wrong part, one day, it will disappear.”
Elle, “You don’t want to be one of those Ladyboys?’
“Not a chance, I’m going hormone, then it gets chopped off and I’m all girl.”
“You’re all girl now."
“Thank you Chef…and Zacky, go find something quiet to do, we’ve had enough commentary from you for one day.”
We laugh, those two are tighter than the Olsen twins.
Lunch comes and goes, I figure a lie down this afternoon sounds right. I go to my room, what the others get up to I have no idea, likely there will be pool time, take the dogs around the property. After last night’s deluge, today is Malibu sunny and fair.
I read a Robert Parker Spenser novel for a half hour, then doze off. I’m awakened by Natalie.
“Come meet your new ward big boy.”
“She have a name?”
Natalie rolls her eyes, “Her fucking mother called her Whitey Toad, how shit is that?”
“As shit as it gets, how’s she otherwise?”
“Quiet, big eyes, but I held her coming back, she nodded off , she must have been exhausted.”
“Or just felt comfortable, maybe for the first time in a long time.”
I get dressed, go down, the girl is surrounded by Mickey and Zak on the couch, McKenzie is cross-legged on the floor facing them, Zelda lying in front of her, eyes on the child. 
“Welcome, I’m Chef, you met everyone else right?”
I stand back, I’m a big guy and she’s a small girl, standing over little kids is intimidating.
She looks up at me, no expression but at least she’s not scared.
Natalie, “We’re ditching her birth name and surname. In the next couple of days she’ll pick a name and one of our surnames, it doesn’t matter which one, maybe whatever fits best with her given, or I should say, taken name.”
Mickey, “She’s going to be five in a month Zoe C said.”
Still staring at me, I smile and sink to my knees a few feet from the couch, now we’re eye to eye, “I love your hair, and beautiful violet eyes, we’re so happy to have you here.”
She looks at Mickey, “See, I told you, you are a cutie.”
“She hungry?”
Natalie, “Hasn’t said. We could have stopped for a quick something in the car but she was asleep and I didn’t want to wake her for a crummy burger.”
“Tell you what, take her for a walk, let her see the property, move around a little, she’s been stuck in a dorm. Oh, sunscreen and something to cover her head, sunglasses too.”
McKenzie stays, we have tea to make, then dinner, although tonight is total simplicity, bit of prep for the fried vegetables, mac and cheese is a no brainer. 
The troop of kids and big dogs returns, black or green tea, shortbread cookies are on the table. 
Mickey gets the girl arranged, “You like tea, let it sit, it’s hot,” she puts a cookie on a napkin and sets it in front of the girl, “have a cookie, cookies always make me feel good.”
A tentative bite, then another, sip of tea, so far, so good.

Twenty Three

McKenzie came up with a list of names, the girl heard her commanding the dogs in Japanese, McKenzie came up with Akiko, Japanese for bright, crystal, sparkling. She takes no surname.
Mickey takes over reading and math duties, Elle teaches her to swim, which she does in the evenings to avoid the SoCal sun. She loves the dogs and can be found reading on the mat in front of the fireplace, head resting on Zelda, feet propped on Cilia. Reading is easy, she’s nearsighted, visit to the ophthalmologist yields three sets of glasses for distance, each with varied shading, light to dark. Good luck too, Akiko is nearsighted but has none of the other eye problems that can occur with albinos. Doesn’t mean never a future problem, she’ll be at an ophthalmologist at least annually forever. It’s okay, there are implants if her lenses get foggy, cataract surgery is hardly surgery, doc sticks a needle in and sucks the cataract right out, patient doesn’t feel a thing and the world isn’t orange anymore.
Elle bought a couple of hats, a fedora like Zak has would be stylish, but there’s almost no brim, useless for blocking the sun. A wide brim straw hat for hikes outside, and damned if Elle doesn’t find a few floppy Cloche hats that Akiko loves, fedora style with more brim.
The child came to us with a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, sneakers that had seen better days and were two sizes too big. Now she has several outfits, including dresses, new sneakers and wedges. It’s touching, Elle and Akiko surfing the shops, giggling half the time, whispering secrets the other half. 
Elle, “What a charmer, she might have been withdrawn before, not now.”
Natalie, “We don’t treat her as an oddity, we treat her like a young girl developing her own style, she lived in darkness, at least figuratively, opened up beautifully when she found the light. She’s not a mushroom, she’s an orchid, exotic, enchanting in full bloom.”
Mickey brushes the shoulder length white hair every day, Elle imparts good hygiene habits, McKenzie is the wardrobe coordinator, Akiko looks as near perfect as Mac. The only difference is, for reasons unexplained, Akiko likes black and white, no colors. I would have guessed just the opposite, shows you what I know.
She did accept a platinum necklace with an amethyst stone (amethyst is violet like Akiko’s irises, antic cut, square with rounded edges and multiple facets). She loves it, first thing on in the morning, last thing off at night unless she swims. Then she’s careful about putting in her little jewelry box.
I’m in the kitchen prepping a couple of flank steaks, a little Worcestershire, bit of salt and pepper. McKenzie did scalloped potatoes and we’ll whip up creamed spinach, a simple few minutes to make and best if served immediately.
Zoe C hands me a vodka rocks, Akiko stands next to me watching.
“These steaks will go on the grill for a bit, they cook quickly. You see how the grain runs, the little lines?”
Akiko, “Uh huh.”
“When they’re done, cut the slices thin and across the grain.”
“The slices are tender that way, easier to chew. If I cut them the other way, lengthwise, then it’s tough. In this pot, I point, is a light gravy called au jus, for flavoring. We also generally use ketchup, some of us add horseradish, but it’s pretty spicy, you may want just ketchup.”
McKenzie comes over, the potatoes have been cooking in a square Pyrex baking dish, she covers them with Panko bread crumbs and a little clarified butter, then back into the oven to brown turning scalloped into au gratin (sprinkled with breadcrumbs or grated cheese, or both, and browned).
I turn to Akiko, “Time to grill the steaks, want to help?”
She follows me out to the mega grill, the thing was nearly twelve grand and could probably launch a nuclear missile with a few alterations.
“The grill is hot, touch only the handle for the lid, see, like this,” I open it, heat washes over us.
“Okay, take the tongs,” I put them in her hand, squeeze click, click, click, so she can see what they do, “take like so,” my hand over hers, we snag one steak and plop it on the grill, sizzle.
“Then the next one, you do it,” she carefully takes the steak, raises it and lays it on the grill, more sizzle.
“Two minutes on one side, turn the timer to two, when it dings, we’ll flip them over.”
Ding! She gets them flipped, resets the timer without being told, how ‘bout that?
I grin down at her, “You’ve got it.”
A smile that hijacks my heart.
Second Ding! I hold the clean platter up, “Set them on the platter, then we go inside to slice after they’ve rested for a bit.”
While she transfers the steaks, she asks, “Why do the need to rest, are they tired?”
I smile, “It means let them sit and do nothing, cool down a bit, easier to cut cleanly.”
Violet eyes blink up at me.
“Okay, I’ll sharpen the blade a little, watch this time, the blade is very sharp and we don’t need to cut little fingers. See, I pin the steak down with a fork just behind where I want to slice.”
The others are at the table, Mac has the potatoes and creamed ready, sets the pan of scalloped and the bowl of spinach on the table, Zoe C pours cabernet.
“A toast to Akiko, she grilled the steaks,” I raise my glass, the others follow, “to Akiko.”
“To Akiko!”
We sip our wine, if our new addition’s smile gets any wider she’s gonna need more face.
Zoe C, “How utterly uncomplicated it is to make children happy.”
“So true, and why people don’t pick up on it baffles me, too self absorbed I suppose.”
“They want to mold the kid, as if they know better what the child should be. They choke off curiosity and creativity, they miss so much, kind of sad really.”

Zackary, “You will be glad to know I’ve got a chapter of The Blind Detective written.”
Zoe C, “Congratulations, getting started is half the job. How’s it feel, I mean like work, play, in between?”
“In between. This part seems easy, how did he go blind? I went with me, blind from birth. Then a little…what did you call it Mickey?”
“Back story.”
“Yeah, how he got to where he is and how he gets around blind. Now I have to think of a mystery for him to solve, and we decided he needs an assistant, it isn’t like he can drive himself anyplace. Maybe if self driving cars were more available.”
Natalie, “I like the assistant, or perhaps sidekick, but there’s no reason you have to set it in current time. If you futurize it a bit, say ten or fifteen years, then there would be self driving cars, but maybe it gets too science fictiony.”
Zoe C, “And you’d have to come up with stuff that doesn’t exist today, which you might enjoy, or it might get in the way of just telling a good story.”
Zak, “I hear what you mean, I’m new at this, maybe under-complicate and keep it current.”
Mickey, “Recording first works well, I can listen, ask questions, make a few notes then type it out.”
“Out of curiosity, how many pages for chapter one?”
Mickey, “Four pages of Word, fourteen point type, single spaced. McKenzie showed me how to have an unnumbered cover page, then start with page one. I use the spell check but not the grammar check, a novel will have lots of ungrammatical sentences, characters don’t use perfect grammar and I’d get all sorts of suggested corrections that don’t need correcting. It’s bad enough with spell check.”
“Does the blind detective have a name?”
Zak, “No, McKenzie said to try leaving him nameless, if it doesn’t work, I can go back and stick a name in.”
Mickey, “Excuse me, I’ll have to go back and stick a name in.”
“That’s what I said.”
Akiko giggles, “Mickey and Zak make me laugh.”
Elle, “Never quit laughing sweetie, life can be absurd and most of it deserves to be laughed at.”
Cilia gets up, probably getting bored, she pokes Akiko in the side and groans.
McKenzie, “Let them out, take a walk, they like company.”
“I can go on my own?”
Elle, “The dogs will keep you safe, and the lights on the fence will come on, you won’t be in the dark.”
As they move to the patio door, Burma screams over from the cat tree and leaps into Akiko’s arms, paws around her neck, Akiko gets the giggles.
Mickey, “She doesn’t like to be left out, she usually walks on her own, you can put her down if you want.”
Off they go, two dogs, each bigger than Akiko, a spoiled cat she’s carrying.

Twenty Four

It’s early, just seven. I walk past the gym door, it’s open, our doors slide into the walls, not over the walls, in between. McKenzie sits with Akiko, they are alone in the gym, facing each other cross-legged on the mat. Mac’s fingers are tracing Akiko’s face, not touching, following the contours. 
After a few minutes, McKenzie’s fingers glow, as she moves her hands, the glow transfers to Akiko. Her head is outlined in soft blue light. Mac drops her hands, the glow remains. They sit dead silent for twenty minutes, Mac rises, reaches out her hand and pulls the child up, the blue dimmed and disappeared. 
McKenzie, “Breakfast.”
She means time to make it, the three of us cross the big room to the kitchen area.
“What do we want today?”
“Pancakes, soft scrambled, bacon.”
“I’ll do…”
“We will show Akiko.”
We is collective, but my role is to sit at the island with coffee and watch. Must be Zelda and Cilia’s role too, they surround the girls, intent on the preparations, particularly the bacon.
Burma leaps in my lap, sits facing the cooks. She paws my hand, signaling my duty to scratch her head. Our lives are run by four kids, two dogs and a cat.
McKenzie says almost nothing, demonstrates making pancakes, into a warm oven. Then bacon, fried up crisp, also in the oven. Cooking and fresh coffee brings the adults, Mickey and Zak still in bed?
“Zoe C, can you round up the other two?”
“I passed their rooms, both are awake and moving, be down in a bit.”
I’m dying to ask about the session in the gym, but Mac will explain when she does.
Elle, “Yum, pancakes, good idea Chef.”
“I don’t have to get ideas anymore, this is all Mac and Akiko.”
“Good idea girls.”
Mac nods, all the acknowledgement Elle will get, she laughs, “Nice chatting with you McKenzie,” no acknowledgement at all.
Natalie leans in and kisses Mac on the cheek, “McKenzie speaks by her actions,” then she strokes Akiko’s head and delivers another kiss.
Breakfast served and consumed, Zoe C and Elle handle clean up, McKenzie turns to me, “Office.”
I’m thinking she’s headed there to trade stocks, but she indicates I should follow. Mickey, Zak and Akiko go with the dogs for a morning property tour in case aliens have landed up the mountain, or zombies have collected around the fence.
In the office, Mac and I sit across from each other, she clicks on the Bloomberg but doesn’t pay attention to the feed, she’s looking at me.
“What did you discover this morning…in the gym?”
“Akiko has no ego.”
I blink, wait for further explanation, don’t get it.
“What do you mean?”
“There is no self in her.”
“I got that McKenzie, how does she…function then, from what perspective if not self-referentially?”
“Her brain and body operate like any other, we are not selves either, but she knows it like I do, there is nothing but Qi, out of which everything manifests.”
“You may say so, everyone is enlightened, it is obscured by ego.”
“What does that mean for Akiko?”
“Nothing visible or even comprehensible.”
“Does it give her…what…powers?”
“Yes but not yet.”
“What powers?”
“Unknown until they manifest.”
“Then we pay attention and wait.”
She spins the chair, instantly absorbed by the flow of numbers. I won’t find out anything else, refocused on trading, our conversation is not only over, for her it’s forgotten. I return to the kitchen, empty, everyone’s off someplace.
Zoe C pops in my head, “McKenzie left a grocery list, Elle and I are headed to Sprout’s, then Trader Joe’s. I’m in search of veal shank and vegetables for osso buco tonight. 
We blink off, our weird world, talking with her mind to mind. Dinner is settled, that leaves lunch.
McKenzie comes in from the office, “McKenzie made three thousand two hundred fifty two,” she opens the refrigerator, then the freezer, then the pantry, back to the freezer.
Plunks down a container of frozen tomato bisque with black beans, ham hocks and sausage. We had it a week or so ago, she froze the rest. It can sit out for a couple of hours, then in a pot to finish thawing and heating.
Akiko joins us, “Can I cook?”
McKenzie, “Only heating soup, I will show you how to make cornbread in the skillet.”
I’m dismissed, decide a few dozen laps are in order, to my room, change to swimsuit and down to the pool. Natalie is out, not sunning, at the patio table under the umbrella with a book.
“What’s the read?”
She holds it up, Living Nonduality by Robert Wolfe.
“Trying to get a handle on what McKenzie appears to be about, I have one by Nisargadatta upstairs called I Am That.”
I lean in for a kiss, “You could write one, I Am All That,” she’s nude, I know what I’m talking about.
“Got time to service my needs later?”
I grin like a lecher, “Anything you want, anytime you want it.”
“Right answer, now go swim and leave me to explore the Absolute.”
McKenzie says we’re all the Absolute, but I’m not going to quibble with a sleek sylph who wants me to make her quiver and moan. I dive in and start stroking.
I make a half hour of motorboat, Zoe C and Elle return as I’m toweling off, I go inside. 
I go upstairs to shuck wet bathing suit and a rinse in the shower, as I’m getting out, Natalie is there, hands me a towel.
“I had an interesting conversation with McKenzie, it seems our newest has no self.”
Natalie, “What? I mean, I’ve read enough to understand what she means, the Absolute, but Akiko is six.”
“I know, and I don’t know if the blue aura is something McKenzie did or something she brought out in Akiko.”
“Lunch is ready, some things stay normal around here despite otherworldly children,” she heads downstairs.
Mac is lading out bowls of soup when I show up, the skillet of cornbread is on the counter cut into healthy chunks. There is butter and mascarpone to slather on, plus sour cream to add to the soup.
Zoe C, “The soup held up well in the freezer, still delicious, and who made the cornbread?”
Akiko, “McKenzie taught me.”
“Compliments to both of you.”
Akiko smiles, all the reply needed. I decide to broach a subject Natalie and I have kicked around lightly.
“What do you think about us buying a place in Canada, the Canadian Rockies? A house on a lake, no neighbors. We’d need a boat of course.”
Elle claps, “That is the best idea I’ve heard in a while, can Zoe C and I shop for it?”
Natalie, “You aren’t leaving me out of the shopping. We need to find an agent who knows what’s what, look at things online, or what the agent sends us, then obviously pick a couple and go check them out.”
Mickey, “Like a cabin, in the woods? Cool.”
Zoe C, “What are we talking about Chef? Rustic?”
“Rustic as long as it have modern appliances, lots of hot water and a big fireplace. I don’t want to camp out, I want all the modern conveniences.”
“Whew! I thought we might be talking survivalist.”
“You know me better than that. A lot of land, anyone who decides to build around us will have to do it a couple miles away, minimum.”
The girls are excited, the two kids, Mickey and Zak are in a frenzy to see what the Canadian Rockies look like, they race off to a laptop.
Zoe C, “Kids warmed to the idea instantly. Well, it’s hard to tell with McKenzie, excited is not in her operating system and I doubt Akiko grasps Canadian Rockies, or woods for that matter.”
We wrap lunch, most of the crew surfs the web, first to get an idea of the Rockies, then to hunt for places that might suit. Natalie and I steal off to play, God she’s stunning, laying nude on her tummy. I have to stop, take her in. Geez, my erection has an erection. It’s okay, I have a plan, it involves making her lose her mind.

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