Twenty Five

Home, yay! Lauren comes running and leaps into my arms. I kiss her soft cheeks a dozen times.
“Mom, we have a whole new family, except I’m not the baby anymore. Sis will quit spoiling me.”
“She hasn’t quit spoiling me yet.”
“Good thought, I’ll show everyone around. Girls, I’m Lauren, let’s look around.”
They’ll have to adjust a little, we can’t put them all in one room. We don’t want to split them up, at least not in separate places, like some with Susan and others here. Lauren is on her own, one or two can use her room. We shuffle Cassie to Oceane’s room, Sloane will bunk with whoever, Amaya will be in Chloe’s room. That gives us four bedrooms and baths for eight kids, or if they wish the smaller ones can triple up in the super king beds we all have. Often there are three, sometimes four of us in one bed for multiple intimacies. 
Nikko, “I assume we need to build a dorm.”
“I asked Nadia, she says they prefer it. For them, there’s no such thing as too much togetherness.”
“Sound like us, maybe we should have a dorm.”
“Even I don’t want that much togetherness. Where do we put it?”
“On top of the bedrooms and workshop. When we added rooms, the roof was reinforced to handle substantially more weight that we have up there now.”
“Their dorm wasn’t huge, maybe twenty by forty, including the common bathroom.”
“The workshop and the twins room is more than that. We can go fifteen hundred square feet easy, even two thousand, give them some elbow room.”
“We can get them more couches, a long table for meals or fiddling with tablets or laptops. I’ll leave the design and furnishing to Amaya, check with her, she’ll know how much space they need.”
I find Nadia with Tasia and Valeska, they’re figuring out who rooms with whom.
“We can a dorm for you on the roof, on top of bedrooms already there, do your best to adjust while we get it done.”
Valeska, “These rooms are beautiful.”
“And Amaya will make your dorm equally beautiful. Talk it over with the others first. Make sure you want a dorm, we can build something with more rooms, two girls each, it could be connected, like the hotel.”
Nadia, “Thank you for all of this.”
“You are welcome dear one. Let’s see how the girls feel about being in separate rooms. They’ve never had anything but the dorm, maybe more personal space works better for them. We’re happy to do it either way.”
I leave them to explore. They’re like swallows, one leads, the rest follow in synch. Lauren and Sloane follow along to answer questions.
Dasha, “Cooking for twenty now.”
“Sheesh, it hadn’t registered with everything else going on. The kitchen can handle it, what else?”
“Ees okay, Emma B and Grace B will take care of setting things out and clean up. We will haf girls at low table, it will seat all of them.”
“Good, they stay glued together anyway, they’ll like their own table.”
“Speaking of which, what’s on the menu?”
“I order from Fong’s, they will deliver at six thirty. Tomorrow we will make breakfast, tea ees already passed, time for cocktails.”
“You want appetizers?”
“Nyet, we will haf spring roll, six fifteen already, food will be here soon.”
She goes up the stairs, out to the roof, Some of the kids are asking about the balance bean and uneven bars, the endless pool is a fascination. The rest are watching a feed from the drone Oceane is flying over the city.
Dasha says in Russian, “Time for dinner little ones, you will wash up and come downstairs.”
Faces freeze, stare at Dasha, Nadia asks in Russian, “You are Russian?”
“Da, now go, do not make everyone wait.”
She’s surrounded by eight kids all asking questions in Russian, where she’s from, how long has she been here, was she in an orphanage?
“We will have time to talk later, you will wash up and come down for dinner. Lauren, Sloane, get them organized.”
Uma asks, “Are you going to be our mother?”
“Do you want me to be your mother? Why just only me, sister is Russian, Janah and Sloane speak Russian, so does Oceane. All of us can be your mother, you will see. You will be anyway American girls, practice English, but you can also use Russian.”
Tasia, “They would not let us speak Russian, we did when we were alone.”
“You are here, not there, we do not have so many rules, show up on time for meals, be neat and organized. Enough, go now.”
The swarm swarms to the rooms, they are still Russian, Dasha’s direct no nonsense personality is part of their DNA.
Grace B and Emma B go down with me to collect dinner, tip the delivery boy, Ning never charges us for meals. We made she and Chan millionaires and gave them an operating business, which they grew and expanded to a second restaurant. Never underestimate the work ethic of a Chinese family. We also gave them and their two kids our weird live forever RNA and protein markers. They’d feed us every day if we wanted them to.
The Bs deliver spring rolls, dipping sauce and sparkling water to the girls. 
“I think they like the low table, we may lose our tea table.”
Dasha, “They will participate in tea, we will let them have it there, we can sit around the room or at the big table. Chloe ees to do geisha wiz Eemaya tomorrow, surprise welcoming for girls.”
“What a lovely idea. I will kimono up with them and serve. Do we have the sweets?”
“Da, Mrs. Murakami ees send tomorrow, everything ees arrange. Tonight, you will come and make me feel gud Dahfoney.”
My lip trembles, the message is she’s missed me. It’s not so much about sex, it’s about intimacy. But I’ll make her squirm and moan anyway, Dasha is a tasty treat.
I kiss her gently, “My pleasure will be your pleasure my angel.”
She turns to check on the food warming, talks to herself, a Dasha quirk, “I am always Dahfoney leetle anjul, ees gud for me to be Dasha.”
I brush a tear.
Janah, “Another of your hearts touching your heart I see.”
“I am blessed beyond blessed.”
“I’ll occupy Daria, you can have your anjul all night.”
“Daria is demanding.”
“Yes, wonderfully so.”

Dinner goes well, the girls have had Chinese before, Vancouver has lots of Asian variety. Spring rolls disappeared during cocktails. Fong’s is the premiere Chinese restaurant in Chinatown, which means it’s one of the best in New York. What they haven’t had is Ning’s Peking Duck, crispy skin on tender duck wrapped up in crepes with scallion, cucumber and sweet bean sauce.
They remind me of Oceane and Cassie, feeding each other rolled crepes after Zi showed them how to put them together. And they do it with chopsticks after a lesson. 
Nikko, “They are so careful, no wasted motion, no hurry.”
“Reminds me of a Japanese girl I know.”
With all the hubbub, they haven’t seen Dasha and Daria together. Dasha goes to their table to ask if they want seconds, Daria is off to her left. The girls stare.
Devona, “Jesica, there are two Dasha’s.”
Dasha, “Not two, one Dasha, one Daria,” she points to her sister, “twins.”
Jesica, “How is possible, you are the same, v tochku.”
“Yes, exactly, you haf never seen twins?”
“We will explain on eenternet later.”
There’s a confab in Russian, Nadia  says, “Dasha was to be our mother, now we have two mothers. How do we tell them apart?”
Daria, “My sister speaks with  an accent, like most of you. I don’t.”
“Why one with accent and the other without?”
“So we can tell each other apart.”
Nadia thinks it over, “U nas yest' dve mamy, kotoryye pervaya mat'?”
“No first or second, we are identical, what one says the other says, no difference.”
Apparently Dasha’s comment that all the family were like moms didn’t register. The twins’ fluent Russian is the connection they want.
“Looks like you had a family when you weren’t looking.”
Daria, “Better, beautiful children, no pregnancy and all girls.”
Dasha, “They will grow up, then what?”
Oceane, “They will not grow up.”
Oceane doesn’t say much, when she does it’s sometimes jarring.
“You mean they will take the treatments when they are older.”
“They will never be any older.”
“Oceane, help us out, what do you mean?”
“The girls do not want to be older, so they will not be.”
She smiles her best enigmatic, heads for the steps to her room, Cassie floats along behind her.
I ask Nadia, “Did you just decide not to age? I’m not sure it works that way.”
“How does Cassandra sit in the air?”
“We don’t know, she just does.”
“And we just won’t, you will see.”

Twenty Six

Nikko, “Just when I thought Janah had rounded up all the crazies, she comes home with eight more.”
We turn to Janah, her face a mask of pure innocence, which means she’s guilty.
Nikko, “Sheesh, it was bad enough with you never growing up, then Oceane and Cass, now this.”
Janah laughs, “Daphne’s mature enough when we go after abusers and Shadows, that’s all the maturity I need from her.”
Nikko kisses me, “I’m going to read science fiction, something more grounded than life around here.”
The flock is content to hang out at their private dining table, the bots are busy cleaning, Later I’ll sneak off with Dasha for playtime, for the moment the twins are seated with the kids nattering away in Russian. They know English a bit better than Russian, they were taken so young their vocabulary isn’t extensive. The twins will get them there.
Amaya, “What if Oceane’s right?”
“Then you have children to dress for your eternal life. May I make a suggestion?”
“Fire away.”
“Zi doesn’t see them as going out much, perhaps not at all for a while.”
“Chloe told me the same thing. Instead of a wardrobe, I’m doing basics, a very few. The rest of it will be more like costumes, perhaps cosplay, I have other ideas, think princess, or maybe vestal virgin.”
“How did you come up with that?”
“I didn’t, Chloe did. She said the only part of their ‘performances’ they liked was dressing up. And they leaned towards it when they tried on digital overlays from the website. We have a gauzy dress up line, primarily for preteens. Little girls like the fairy look, despite the fashionable and wrongheaded effort to push boy and girl things together. Chloe Couture is not unisex. I’m going to take them through the site again tomorrow, gauge reactions. It will also give me ideas for their room, or rooms, depending.”
Eloise, “Lauren and I are going to build another bot, one for the girls. If there is travel, and we take Grace B, that leaves only Emma B. I think a bot programmed to both serve and guard them may be helpful.”
“Good idea, Amaya, you have another skin to design, you’re going to be a busy hottie.”
“Easy, she’s going to be Dakota Rose, or her Japanese avatar Kotakoti. Think of it, a bulletproof young girl that can crush a man’s skull with a single punch, how adorable is that?”
“As a basket of kittens.”
“Time to make ready for bed, Chloe is feeling frisky and I shall allow her to frisk me as long as she wishes. Goodnight.”
Eloise, “Lauren, I’m going to get a jumpstart on the bot, feel like working?”
“Sure, when will Daria have the code?”
“Susan is coming over tomorrow to meet the children, they can start then. Daria’s been plundering Leclerc’s accounts.”
I ask, “Forgot about that, any money?”
“Forty million, she thinks two for the house, some miscellaneous stuff, another couple hundred thousand. The girls have a nice jumpstart.”
“Good, although if Oceane’s right, they will still be preteen by the time Nikko grows it to a couple zillion.”
Eloise, “I leave finances up to the business girls. Come on Lauren, we have a project.”
Lauren kisses me, “Night mom, we’ll be late, if we don’t make breakfast you’ll know why.”
They go off to do whatever they do when they build bots, I go off to find my anjul. She’s in my room, deliciously nude on her tummy. I start in on the curvy muscle part, which is all of her.
True to her guess, Lauren and Eloise must have gotten absorbed, everyone is at breakfast except them. Big girls absorb caffeine and an opener of smoked salmon with capers and lemon slices. Little girls have berries with crème fraiche, followed by soft scrambled and French toast.
We duplicate scrambled and French toast for big girls, Amaya complains about sugar and calories but eats a slice anyway.
“What are the children up to today?”
“Still letting them settle in, they’ve made a rather large environmental jump, appears they made in separate rooms okay.”
Sloane, “Not exactly, this morning Nadia and Valeska were in with Uma and Zofia. Tasia, Devona, Jesica and Karol in another bedroom. Two room weren’t slept in, mine and Amaya’s, or t least they started there but moved during the night.”
“Okay, Lauren, take Amaya’s room, they can go four and four in Cassie’s and yours.”
Nikko, “A silent vote in favor of the dorm.”
“Give it three more nights with them in two rooms. Then they can tell us what they want.”
Knock on the door, It’s Sis, Taylor and Lacy. Sis is my mom Susan, I’ve called her Sis forever because we look so much alike. My one shot father’s sperm contribution made no difference in how I look, maybe I was a virgin birth.
Susan, “Lacy and Taylor had to have a peek, we won’t corner the girls for long, don’t need the overwhelmed with people.”
“Coffee, breakfast?”
Taylor, “We ate, but coffee would be great.”
Emma B pours, Grace B has already cleared the kids table, she’s working on ours.
Lacy, “The children are entirely too cute, I see the two smallest soak up a fair amount of attention.”
Uma and Zofia are holding court in a blend of Russian-English, the others make occasional comments. They all touch each other frequently, hand on a shoulder, an arm, fingertips to cheeks.
Taylor, “So affectionate, they like that all the time?”
“Soft spoken, it’s only been a couple of days but never a harsh word, only tenderness.”
Amaya, “At first I wanted a little drama to spice things up, it does not happen.”
Taylor, “You can do the drama, you’re good at it.”
“Thank you, it is only the truth.”
The girls glance at the newcomers, but quickly return to their mini-verse.”
Sis, “Good thing rejection doesn’t crush my ego, it’s like we’re invisible.”
Chloe, “They don’t speak unless they’re spoken to. Nadia does a bit, the designated spokesperson. Zi and I got engagement at the hotel. They’re a bit like Oceane, you have to ask a question.”
Susan, “I’ll defer conversation until they’ve had a chance to adjust. I very much doubt a million questions is anything they need.”
“We haven’t interrogated either, for the same reason.”
Nadia stands, a signal for the others, they rise and swarm up the steps.
Lacy, “They always move in a pack?”
“So far. We put them in four rooms last night, this morning they were in two, the two closest together upstairs.”
Sis, “Daria and I have planning to do, shall we go to the workshop?”
Daria, “Da, the operation will be different. The new bot is part assistant, part bodyguard.”
“Cool, I can do that. Emma and Grace B have protection coding, as does River B.”
Taylor, “Amaya, did the girls go to the roof?”
“Would they mind me sitting around and observing? When you called, you mentioned costuming, or at least a different kind of wardrobe. If I see them interact it might generate a few ideas.”
“I shall join you, they will hardly notice us. We can lurk and watch.”
They go upstairs. Nikko and Zi have gone off to attend to our business interests, all the restaurants are reopened.
Lacy, “At least the military is off the streets, New York felt like a war zone I’m told. At least we got to hide out in Canada. James was most grateful for the monks looking out for him.”
“The vigilantes were outgunned and out manned. And when it turned out the terrorism was homegrown, it turned the rest of the public against them.”
“What a horror show, the rest of the thinks America is insane.”
“We are, just no more insane than the rest of the world. The whole thing was a stupid idea. Islamic extremists have been contained for the most part. The Middle East is a mess, but it’s been a mess for three thousand years.”

Twenty Seven

The girls have been here three months, never left the condo nor expressed any desire to. They study after breakfast for an hour and a half in the morning, four swim and the others do gymnastics light for a half hour, then they switch. After that, lunch followed by time in their new room, they opted for a dorm. It’s big, walls are in pastels, linens all white, including comforters. White leather couches face the TVs, desks are passé, they do everything on tablets. 
The floor is covered in beige martial arts mats, created by fitting together the two by two pieces to cover the open floor. It’s cushiony and quiet.
We got them the beds they were used to, adjustable Tempur-pedic, full size, we often find two or three girls in the same bed. No, they aren’t doing anything sexual, they just gather on one bed or the other at night to read, brush hair, or simply commune and end up falling asleep.
There are two flat screens they use for instructional programs, Russian and English lessons, basic math, a few dance instructionals they follow together and a bit of television, that is, Netflix or Amazon streaming. Amaya organizes plays, primarily written by her with ideas from the girls. They are rather creative in their imaginings, if a bit fanciful, their plays do not feature bad sisters, evil stepmothers or witches. There’s a lot of magic, but they don’t call it that. I suppose seeing Cassandra floating overhead eliminates the need to invent flying fairies.
None of their characters are adults, they never use the fairy, no princess, there is no royalty. They read stories about those things, but it doesn’t show up in their work. 
Oceane did a drawing of them, a big one, five wide and three high, biggest thing she’s attempted. It looks like a color photograph, which is how all her drawings look. She captured each girl perfectly. They are seated, dressed in chiffons and linen, short dresses, some with thigh high stockings, others bare legged with wedged heels. 
Amaya is teaching them to make each other up for the costume dramas, they love big eyes and a hint of blush, glossy lipstick. In the drawing they all wear white gloves and a variety of ribbons in their hair. Some wide with a big bow, others dangle down like glossy hair extensions.
The drawing got Karol, Jesica and Valeska curious, now there are easels and drawing pads in one corner. They watch Oceane draw, she doesn’t instruct them except by example. She can’t, Oceane says the pencils tell her what to draw.
Kara visits once a week to demonstrate shading and depth. The work is still primitive but she says they show promise. Unlike Oceane, they don’t draw things or people, it’s all abstract.
Three afternoons a week is dance, so cute in leotards and ballet slippers. We didn’t impose any of it, well, perhaps the educational lessons were more than a suggestion, but they don’t complain. They don’t complain about anything. 
The communal bath has a giant Jacuzzi, they sit and bubble frequently, rainfall showers line the open shower. The only separate rooms are four stalls for necessities. 
The girls are neat on their own, the new bot, Kota B, keeps the place pristine. She stands sentry all night, helps with language lessons during the day while she makes beds and cleans the bathroom. The bot looks perhaps fourteen, Kota B is the opposite of Grace B, genteel, like a beneficent governess. The girls don’t interact much with the rest of us, they talk to Dasha and Daria, listen to Amaya, talk to Kota B like she’s one of them.
They read no current fiction or nonfiction. Greek mythology, Victorian novels, obviously the Austen books are on the shelf. They will watch television if it’s about the same subjects. Strangely, I Claudius is popular, as is the other Derek Jacobi series, the Mystery series Cadfael about a monk in eleventh century Norman England. The Borgias is on their future viewing list in Netflix.
They like Sherlock Holmes and are working their way through the stories. I have the Jeremy Brett version for TV, but they haven’t started in on it yet. 
Nikko, “Any progress on figuring them out?”
“Just the things they enjoy, I suppose that says something about what’s going on in their heads. Nothing about today or even the twentieth century commands their attention. Not the music, not current TV, certainly not the news. While they like Russian, they have no interest in things Russian. I haven’t tried out Anna Karenina, maybe that. While they are gentility itself, violence on the bit of TV they watch doesn’t make them cringe. I Claudius is full of poisonings, bloody murders, incest and other debauchery. It rolls right off. Kota B says they like the scenery and costumes, how the characters are killed off isn’t a subject of conversation.”
“So they won’t be creeping around killing us in our sleep?”
“If Dasha and Daria didn’t do it, we’re safe with the children.”
“And they listen to their twin moms?”
“Daria helps them with math, Dasha issues orders, she wouldn’t be Dasha otherwise. The girls get it, Russians are matter of fact, even fatalistic. They respect strength. The kids don’t seem to take it personally, when she speaks, they listen and comply.”
“Dasha’s mother, such as she was, may have given the twins a perspective on the job. How not to do it, betray the trust all the way to abandonment, asshole bitch.”
“Fortunately we got to there before the Russian thugs abused them. You rely heavily on Daria in business, I reply absolutely on Dasha in the kitchen. Actually, more like report to Dasha in the kitchen.”
“And frequently in bed.”
“Not my fault, they’re devastating, responsive and dedicated to my orgasmic delight.”
“You are such a slut, thankfully.”
I kiss her, Nikko was my second lover after Janah, is my lover now when I can detacher her from Zi, or Janah, or Eloise, or my mom, or Amaya and Chloe. Nikko’s glass slick legs are a national treasure, except we hoard them for our personal gratification.
Nikko’s eyes tell me she knows what I thinking. She’s not an attention seeker, except when she wears her tiny snug cotton shorts. She doesn’t wear them long, one of us will happily slide them off at the first opportunity.
In fact, she’s wearing them this very minute. I spring into action, slide to my knees and slip the shorts off. She’s panty free, not an article of clothing any of us have much familiarity with. Seems like twice the work to get to the same place.
My lips roam the legs, at least until the magnetic attraction of her softness pulls them to the sensitive spot, my tongue dances, yummy.
I take my time, this isn’t fast food, it’s gourmet fare. Nikko doesn’t seem to be in any hurry either, her hands stroke the side of my head until she stops and holds it in place while she squirms then shudders.
“How perfectly wonderful,” she takes a deep breath.
“I was thinking exactly the same thing. Care to turn around for me?”
Nikko grins slyly, “I adore your nastiness.”
We’re in the bathroom, she turns, leans toward the vanity, I get busy on the other sensitive spot. I slide my finger along the crevice and use her lotion to paint the point of attack. In a few, I’m rewarded with the sensual sounds of climax two.
When she catches her breath, I’m instructed, “Strip and get in the bed.”
I’m lying innocently, thinking lascivious thoughts when she appears strapped up.
Ooohh, I’m in for it now. Fifteen delicious minutes later, my brains leak out my ears.

Twenty Eight

It’s post tea, Amaya, Chloe and Nikko performed to the delight of the girls. At their request, Amaya got them all kimonos and Chloe and I are teaching them tea ceremony. Now fluent enough in Russian and English, the new language instruction is Japanese. The three artists like drawing the kanji as much as speaking the language.
Chloe, “You should teach them calligraphy, Daphne.”
I blink, “Duh, how obvious is that? Where’s my brain?”
Amaya, “Right now it is on my legs, slutsky.”
“I thought I felt extra good.”
“You may kiss me.”
I do, that felt good too, I’m a bundle of dopamine and oxytocin. I fetch my ink, paper and brush, head upstairs and find the nymphs de-kimono-ing, as always, very careful with their things. Kota B hangs them in the mega walk in closet.
“Girls, I can teach this to you if you are interested, it’s called calligraphy, painting words with a brush,” I lay out the paper, dip the brush and draw the hànzi symbol for qi, 氣, which is the same for the Japanese ki in kanji.
Nadia, “You will show me.”
Lay another sheet, she holds the brush, I hold her hand, dip, let excess ink drip back I the well, move her hand to the paper and draw a more basic version of the symbol 気.
She smiles up at me, the others are studying the first sheet.
“We will make, um, what is?”
“Calligraphy. Shodō in Japanese.”
I don’t speak Japanese, I had to sneak into Nikko’s brain to get the word.
“What is Russian?”
I get into Dasha’s head and pull out, “Kalligrafiya.”
Unlike a lot of Russian, it’s pronounced like it looks, colley-grah-fia.
“Da, when do we begin?”
“You have a long table, we need a pad, something so it doesn’t get accidentally inked. You do calligraphy just like we did, standing over the paper, it’s not an easel thing, like drawing is sometimes.”
The three artists do both, sometimes easel, sometimes table. Like most of the girls’ activities, it depends on who sits where first. If  Devona starts in front of an easel, Jesica and Valeska use their easels, if Jesica starts at the table, the other two sit at the table. The drawing themselves aren’t communal, but they look at each other’s work as the progress, make comments, encourage, giggle.
Dasha comes in, the girls turn to her in unison, “Dobryy vecher mat' Dasha.”
“Dobryy vecher, deti.”
“Good evening mother Dasha, how sweet.”
Dasha translated in her head for my benefit, deti is children.
“Girls are to make calligraphy?”
“They want to give it a shot, I’ll get them materials and a folding pad to cover the table, Kota B can set it up and store it someplace when they’re done.”
“You will teach?”
“There’s the weight if the ink and the brushes. They are learning kanji, the order of the strokes is the same. I’ll post the rules, but as far as I’m concerned, they can play with it any way they want.”
“They will follow the rules, they are orderly girls, even if children only.”
Uma, “Kogda my stanovimsya Kazakova mat' Dasha ?”
“Zavtra dragotsennyye.”
Uma grins, the others applaud. They are going to be official sisters, not that they need any extra bond, they’re already superglued.
Let me explain. The twins’ surname is Kazakova, the kids have no surname, they are adopting the twins’, becoming sisters in the legal sense. Uma asked when they become Kazakova, Dasha replied, ‘tomorrow, precious.’
Dasha says in English, “We will haf celebration for officially sisters and new daughters, wiz cake and ice crim at tea. Dahfoney will find gud music, Eemaya will sing, you will perform the dance she taught you.”
Nadia, “All the rest are also fahmahley for us?”
Dasha, “Of course, everyone here ees fahmahley for you and each other.”
The girls surround Dasha and are hugged and twice kissed in turn.
“Now ees time for dinner, children will make ready and be downstairs in ten minutes, da?”
“Da, mat' Dasha.”
We leave them to prep, downstairs Dasha says, “Sister ees most happy now wiz eight daughters. She will be best mama ever, you will see.”
I think to myself, if she’s better than Sis, she’ll be mother of the millennium.
Grace B is stirring soup, “About damn time, I have things to do, you were about to let the soup burn all to hell.”
Dasha would never walk away from something on the stove that might overheat, Grace B is dramatizing, Amaya’s doing.
Dasha, “You can work all night, Eemaya ees making cocktail, go serve and be useful.”
“Cossack bully,” Grace B moves off to pass around drinks.
In fact, Kazakova means Cossack, guess she’s figured that out.
Janah, “I’m hungry.”
“You had three cookies at tea.”
“What’s that got to do with anything?”
“Soup is tomato basil bisque, light on the basil as we prefer. We skipped Habanero, you can add it, the girls aren’t up to our spice level. You and Oceane are having grilled vegetables with Tonkatsu and butter, same veg for everyone else, just with flank steak charred to perfection on the grill. Which I need to get charring.”
Janah, “You forgot to mention dessert.”
“Ben and Jerry’s vanilla, with chocolate sauce, or Milanos, or both. Slight extra charge for whipped cream and sliced almonds.”
“Warm chocolate sauce?”
“Is there any other kind.”
“Make mine with everything.”
“Can you wait until after dinner?”
“If I must.”
I find my helper, “Sloane, let’s get the meat upstairs, I need to grill, did you fire it up yet?”
“Probably melted by now.”
“Good, flank doesn’t take but a few minutes, where’s the electric knife?”
Grace B returns from waitressing, “It will be out when your ass is back down here, geez, all the bitches want everything right flipping now.”
I kiss her cheek, which is remarkably like a human cheek, “Thank you sweetie.”
“Kissing a bot, the authorities are going to institutionalize you. Nice gesture though. I won’t fry a chip and kill everyone for a few more days.”
“Your considerations is appreciated.”
“Piss off.”
Emma B is setting the tables, “She’s grouchy because I beat her at chess.”
“I didn’t see a board.”
“We have perfect memories, a board is superfluous. Tonight we play Go, much more difficult.”
Sloane and I decide hauling beef is more to our intellectual capacity.
Dinner is our usual success, my tribe isn’t shy about food. Nikko eats small portions, but I make her down a protein shake every day. Greek yogurt, berries and whey powder, enough skim milk to liquefy and ice to get it to smoothie consistency. Low in sugar, protein dense and tasty. She’s obliging, I hand it to her, she drinks it. I started to have to make a couple blenders full, Amaya likes them and insists Chloe drink one. 
Chloe could eat a tractor and not gain an ounce. Janah does eat a tractor and doesn’t gain an ounce. Amaya hates her.
“Janah has the metabolism of a garbage disposal, I hate her. I’m forced to dance until I drop to maintain my perfection. At least I can dance with the girls now, they are annoyingly energetic, I’m in need of oxygen when we’re done, they don’t break a sweat.”
“They’re six to twelve, you’re a creaky old sixteen.”
“Good thing I was smart enough to quit aging then, if I’d waited until I was as ancient as you, I’d drop dead from exhaustion.”
Dasha, “Eemaya ees always making ridiculous, Dahfoney can do an hour of forms, punch qi dummy then fight Nishiko. She ees top shape of anyone. Eemaya dances around on toes and pretends she ees practically dead girl.”
Amaya giggles, “You are ruining my drama, mama. Let’s see how you do chasing around eight mini-waifs  for a few years. If Oceane’s right, you have children forever. You could be a fat Russian mommy in a decade or so.”
The girls giggle, they never seem to be paying attention to our foolishness, but they do.
Janah, “What’s the movie?”
“Anna Karenina.” 
The Keira Knightley version we watched is mostly costume drama, emphasis on lavish dresses, fans and men in either uniforms or tuxedos. Everyone spends time at balls looking longingly at each other, or wistful, or hurt. Anna spends a lot of time looking up, like there’s a message on the ceiling.
None of it made the slightest diff to the kids, they loved the costumes and the sets. I didn’t get the impression the story meant anything to them. I did hear Tasia tell Valeska that I look like Anna. Resembling Keira Knightley doesn’t hurt my feelings any.
Jesica, “Mama, we want to get dress like they have in movie, it is possible?”
“You must ask Eemaya, she ees fashion peerson.”
“Can we Amaya?”
“I shall look into it dear one.”
Grins, they rise as one, pair off and begin to waltz. Do a pretty good job of it too.
Amaya, “Never knew children who could so easily entertain themselves. They do not even have phones.”
Zi, “I know it’s an exception, but the kids at the temple don’t have a problem filling their day. They do lessons online, but they don’t have personal phones.”
“You get them up at five to meditate and their day is filled with practically nonstop activity. Their days come pre-filled.”
Zi smiles, “All true. Yet they are always cheerful. The point, I think, is activity. Children stuffed into little desks at school and expected to all progress at the same pace is not unlike torture.”
“Agreed, it is a ludicrous system which we do not employ at our schools. Chloe is yawning, we shall repair to our rooms. After bed prep, I shall repair to Chloe’s room. She sleeps better with me at her side.”
Nikko, “Chloe sleeps like a kitten, Amaya sleeps better when Chloe’s there.”
Amaya, “That is what I said Nishiko, you misheard.” 

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