Franz Xaver Winterhalter
Barbara Dmitrievna Mergassov Rimsky-Korsakova 1864
Edward Hopper Nighthawks
Andrew Wyeth Christina's World
and Ridges 1
René Magritte The Menaced Assassin
Georgia O'Keeffe Flowers
Chapter Forty One
The twins are long asleep, Amaya and Zi are waiting, Amaya says, “We followed along, Janah was right, he dragged the whole family into his sordid mess.”
“It appears from the files, he hadn’t much on Kylie, there are the nudes, no sex video or photos. I don’t know yet what’s on the cameras.”
Nikko, “I went through them while we waited, more shots of the girl, video of the girl alone, posing, dancing suggestively. The stuff he shot just before we got there. Mom sucking him, but the girl we got to just before she was pulled into the sex part.”
“Sheesh, sometimes you get lucky. Mini jumping into it quickly was a major help.”
Amaya, “Aren’t their lives going to be screwy?”
Janah, “Yes, if I pulled it off, and there is no real way to be certain, they will be foggy on the last week. I gave a go at implanting a memory that they had a virus, can’t be sure how it will register. The girl’s friends will talk to her about school stuff she doesn’t remember, mom stays at home, but I suppose a friend or neighbor will ask her about the incident and she won’t know anything. Mitch may forget something he was supposed to follow up on at work, but he pulls stuff from a warehouse and loads trucks, I doubt what happened three days ago factors much into his work life tomorrow. If the virus story sticks, it might buy them a pass.”
“Whatever happens will be better than the girl and mom on video. You know he was going to milk them for every dime they have, and still stick the stuff on the web.”
Janah, “I’m exhausted, we did what we could, I have to sleep.”
The energy Janah burns doing these things is almost incomprehensible. Think of a triathlon, the bike ride all uphill, the ocean rough, marathon in the desert. It’s one thirty now, she may not be up until morning after next.
Which turns out to be a good guess. The next afternoon she got up long enough to have tomato soup and a slice of cheese toast, then straight back to bed. Amaya, Chloe and I take the girls to MOMA, not too awful, it’s a weekday; still, the popular museums in New York are packed to the gills with tourists. We have memberships to everything, we can view before the masses make it impossible to enjoy.
I cut the driver loose, we’ll be a while and we can walk back or snag a taxi. We settle in for a long lunch at the Russian Tea Room. You can imagine the reception the twins get, Dasha nattering away in Russian, grilling the waiter about the menu until the chef comes out. We have borscht of course, here it includes pickled red beets, vegetables and dill in a short rib broth with a braised beef pirozhok, (a bun stuffed with meat or vegetables, in this case meat.)
Then the pièce de résistance, buckwheat blinis with sour cream, chopped boiled eggs, onion, parsley, topped with trout, salmon and white fish roe. I thought Dasha might actually have an emotion.
Chef asks if she enjoyed them, Dasha says, “Vy khudozhnik,” which further endears her, for calling him an artist. Every Russian man believes he has the soul of an artist.
Naturally we have to have Beef Stroganoff, red wine braised beef short ribs with thick noodles tossed in mushroom and black truffle cream sauce. Good Lord, it is exquisite. There are also orders of Vareniki, Russian-style ravioli, stuffed with a varied combo of sauerkraut, cheese, mashed potato, cabbage, meat, and hard-boiled egg.
The meal wouldn’t be complete without yet more blini in the form of cheese and cherry blintzes with vanilla ice cream.
Amaya and Chloe can’t gush enough, Amaya complains, “I shall not be able to ingest another calorie for at least three days, perhaps four. Beanpole won’t have a single bit stick to her.”
Dasha, “What ees beanpole?”
Daria, “Opora dlya gorokha.”
Dasha, “Ah, toshchiy.”
Daria, “Da, skee-nee.”
Chloe giggles, Amaya, “A new name, toshchiy, I prefer vesnushki.”
Dasha, “Eemaya and Dahfoney kukushka.”
Chloe and I laugh, Amaya huffs, “I know cuckoo when I hear it, brat twins.”
Dasha, “What ees braht?”
Dasha, “Uzh kto by govoril, a ty by pomalkival.”
I’m amazed, Daria actually laughs, just a sarcastic snicker, a tsunami of emotion for her.
Amaya, “What are they saying? It must be about me.”
Daria, “Pot calls kettle black.”
Chloe and I are hysterical, garner a few glances from the stuffier patrons, oh well.
Amaya smiles, “I surrender, yes, I am a brat, but Daphne is the kukushka one.”
Dasha, “Kukushka tweenz, not look same, act same.”
Amaya puts her hands to her face, “These two, they are adorably impossible, fortunately, my ego is impenetrable, I shall buy them something splendid.”
Chloe, “That’ll show ‘em.”
Dasha and Daria are invited to the kitchen while we have coffee and try to muster the energy to move. I have to bring Janah here. We’ve been once, a long time ago with Mrs. Epstein, it had been too long between visits. The girls will be a must to have along, Mrs. Epstein used to say she got so much better service when Janah and I went out to dinner with her. Now I see how it works.
“We’ll walk home, it’s less than three miles, at least some of the calories will disappear.”
Amaya, “I should run, but it would be unseemly and, worse, deprive my fellow New Yorkers of the full pleasure of watching my elegant stroll.”
“That would be heartless.”
I sign the credit card receipt, Amaya asks, “How much fun did we have?”
“It isn’t bad, lunch is reasonable here, dinner for our whole group, with wine, would probably stop a charging cape buffalo. The entertainment was worth twice the bill.”
Our twins reappear with Chef, “Dasha is quite the little chef, she says you are teaching her how to cook American.”
“She’s amazing, precise, our designated blini maker, she’s quite good, excellent sense of just done, great wrist action on the flip,” twisting my palm sharply to demonstrate, “they are also quite the caviar connoisseurs.”
Chef, “Perfect! Then be sure to have them here often, we look forward to another visit soon from our bliznets angelov.”
He waddles off, Amaya asks, “What is a blitzing angle-off”
Dasha, “Tween ahngyls.”
Amaya, “Good Lord.”
Amid farewells of, “Do svidaniya, Dasha, do svidaniya, Daria,” we hit 57th Street. It’s a good schlep to our apartment, but we need it; we hike 7th Avenue home.
Chapter Forty Two
Gosh the days fly. It was just spring, now we’re facing the end of fall, son to be facing a brisk chill winter in the city. It was a globally warm summer, we took off August and went to our place in the Canadian Rockies. Dasha loved bounding up the hill, bouncing off rocks for gymnastic practice, they both scooted up the mountain next to the falls like mountain goats. We visited the animals, our friends fascinated by two identical humans. They came everyday to play, the eagle visited, and the owl, who studied the girls for a long time. His head shifted from one to the other, owls can’t move their eyes, they have to turn their heads and can make a near two hundred seventy degree swivel. An owl transmitted the ability to me, Dasha is always asking me to ‘turn head around, Dahfoney.’
The owl told me they were like him, his black eyed intensity in their deep blue. He said he could transmit to them if I wished. I talked it over with them, told them about pain, in the end I told the owl to do small things, improve their night vision, strengthen their grip, but they are young and we would be back again next year, to go slow.
He stared at me in his owl way, asked if I thought he would take pleasure in hurting our young. He proceeded over three nights, the girls had headaches and sore hands, but they didn’t complain, fascinated by how much they could see. We tied a long rope to a high branch, Dasha did anyway, and she lowered herself to the ground, then immediately back up, hand over hand only, didn’t use her legs at all. Then Daria gave it a go, slower, but she made it up and back. Dasha’s shoulders are stronger from all the gymnastics, the owl adjusted only grip. They sat up nights to see what they could spot in the dark woods, Amaya insisted they made it up since she didn’t see anything but dark.
The advantage of being gone a month is that we weren’t around for much of the construction of our fifth bedroom and bath, we’d gotten back as the finish work started, then it is ready and it is wonderful.
The room has a second circular stair on the far side of the workout area, a doorway connects Dasha and Daria’s room to our new room, both have exits to the roof as well. We took the style of Chloe’s room, all the bedrooms have Jacuzzis and double rainfall showers, oversized king beds, we have a water rock, that makes the third one, Janah wanted a big shatterproof smoked glass desk, we finally have more closet space. Like the rest of the apartment, it has hardwood floors, solar panels on the roof , big bay window with a storage locker, no need to take up space with dressers or credenzas, the closet holds everything, another refrigerator and mini kitchen. Janah may never leave.
Amaya, “I would be jealous, but I sleep with Chloe so her room is practically mine, plus I have my own bedroom. If we keep it up, the apartment will be taller than Trump Tower.”
Dasha, “Eemaya would take whole apartment and we would leaf on street.”
“I am sure Lacy or somebody would take you in. Mrs. Epstein would in a heartbeat. You could live on Park Avenue, think of it!”
“I will leaf with Dahfoney and sister, you move to crazy girl’s house, six bedrooms one tiny girl.”
Amaya, “Joan Wayne would love to have me every night, anyone would. I shall never abandon Vesnushki, she would be lost, and God only knows her wardrobe would deteriorate. I could not bear it, all my work turned into sloppy jeans and ragged t-shirts. Her freckles would fall off in the agony of my absence.”
Dasha gives Daria a hopeless shrug, Daria says, “Dmitrievna Rimsky-Korsakova.”
“And who, may I ask, is that person?”
Dasha, “Russian Countess. She go to imperial costume ball in France, nothing but wrap around shoulder, naked. She make the joke at them for all their nose in the air better than anyone. They threw her out.”
“What does that have to do with me?”
“Phony bahloney talk about Eemaya ees to make the joke at people who think they are so great.”
Chloe, “They’re on to you.”
“You two are freaky, no one plays a role better than me. How did you figure me out?”
Dasha, “Talk ees talk, Eemaya this, Eemaya that, but you always do for Vesnushki, buy beautiful things for us, making up us beautiful. Never let Vesnushki leave house without peerfect, peek up her clothes, clean room. Always doing for somebody, like Dahfoney.”
Amaya, “I have to raise my game.”
Chloe, “Janah always says talk is just talk, truth is in action. The girls grew up listening to adults talk crap, then use them. They aren’t likely to be fooled by baloney, no matter how high grade yours is.”
“Perhaps I should go nude to a social gala.”
“But you wouldn’t get to wear your latest fashion.”
“My body is the ultimate fashion statement, unimprovable.”
Chloe, “I can only agree.”
The twins just crossed thirteen, now adolescents who are not adolescent anymore than they were children. They, as did Janah and I, begin menstruating on the same day, and end on the same day. Just more strangeness in the house of strange.
Chloe and I are on the roof, fall air crisp, Dasha is tumbling, walking the balance beam, a flip here and there. She’s walking on her hands at the moment.
Chloe, “We haven’t talked about it, I presume you are aware the girls share certain, um, intimacies.”
“You know how they are, they don’t hide things, they are brutally frank. I saw the beginning over a year ago, then they crossed over puberty. Daria started taking more interest in Dasha’s body when the gymnastic muscle began to kick in, like she was exploring the minor differences between herself and her twin.”
Chloe, “Dasha told you about it?”
“I saw it, I’d be doing something in their room, Dasha is fond of checking herself out in the mirror. Daria does it too, but when they are alone. Daria was dressed, sitting on the bed looking at Dasha look at herself, then Daria went over, felt her arms, her tush, up and down her legs, then a slow drift of fingers over her skin. I was there, didn’t matter to them.”
“Dasha explained at some point?”
“Right then, said her sister likes to touch her. I asked her what she thought about it.”
“I got a Dasha answer, ‘She ees seester, it feels anyway gud.’”
Chloe laughs, “That’s a Dasha answer. Anything else happen?”
“Daria hugged her, kissed her tummy, stood and kissed her cheeks, then on the lips. Not a peck, not a tongue swap.”
Chloe, “I was washing Daria’s hair, out of the blue she said, ‘I love Dasha’s muscle, skin is smooth. I like kissing,’ I asked how Dasha liked it, just fishing to see if it was reluctant or willing.”
“Got a Daria answer, ‘I would not do if she does not like.’ That was that.”
“Do you have any sense they have moved beyond that? I don’t.”
Chloe, “I don’t either. I know their auras are a perfect match, I think for them, to put it bluntly, it would be no different than, say, when any of us masturbate.”
“You mean they see themselves as the other.”
“Yes. They wouldn’t be having sex with their sibling, they would be having it with themselves, perhaps better said as an extension of themselves. I don’t mean to be ridiculous, they know they are two, that there is another person touching them. That heightens the sensation. When I see Daria reach for Dasha, the auras intensify. When they lie together in bed, there is only one aura.”
“I wonder how much weirder we can get?”
Chloe smiles, “Can hardly wait to find out.”
Janah joins us from our new room, it’s nice to have a door opening directly to the roof; in good weather, we sit and enjoy the evening together.
Dasha comes over, “I go bath, Dahfoney will wash hair.”
“Start the tub, sit and bubble, I’ll be in shortly.”
She goes to her room, Janah says, “I’ve been thinking about it. I don’t see any way of stopping it, I’m not for lectures, particularly in their case. Chloe’s reading of the aura, along with the rest of how they are, precludes pointless interference.”
Chloe, “What rest of it?”
Janah, “They hit puberty a year ago. When they didn’t show interest in making friends with other girls, or go on about boys, I didn’t think much of it. There were language bumps, new country, culture. But they’ve had time to acculturate more than they seem inclined to. And even after the hormone spike, there’s still no talk of boys, or girls. They are more adult with us than adolescent. I’ve decided that they wound up in the right world for them. We have, if not unique, at least an unusual household.”
“I would say unique. Who talks to birds, gets their mind adjusted by eagles and owls and reads thoughts and feeling with no conversation? Not to mention a samurai, two geishas, two Shaolin priests, a famous fashion model who reads auras, a girl who can mimic any voice, so gorgeous it stuns your eyes to look at her, and two photographic memories. We aren’t unique, we’re uniquely unique.”
Janah laughs, “Unique then. To the point, we are, as you say, a singular universe. Within that universe is another singular universe, the twins. Our job regarding them is to allow them to flower under our protection. Perhaps over time they may learn to socialize, but that time isn’t now. I don’t mean to be scary, or stick a psychological label on them, you know how I feel about that, but I think if they had been put into a different situation, they would have been sociopathic.”
Chloe, “Really? That explains something I’ve kept to myself.”
“You’ve read lack of empathy in their aura.”
“What does that mean? Like they hate people?”
“No, there is no hostility towards other people, they have no emotion about them at all.”
Janah, “It folds in coherently, Daphne. They not only have no interest in kids their age, they have no interest in people of any age, not many anyhow. The only difference is they don’t manipulate, but that could easily be because here they don’t have to, they are given more than they ever ask for.”
“If I had been treated the way they were treated, I’d either be psycho or cringing at every footstep.”
Janah, “As would almost anyone.”
“Well, duty calls, she’s probably parboiled by now.”
I go off to wash my not so little girl’s hair, it’s getting chilly now, Janah and Chloe head downstairs to join the others.
Dasha is bubbling away, perfectly content, “Dahfoney, after bathe, put polish on.”
I spray her hair with the shower wand, lather it up, “Amaya will do it, or I can do it tomorrow, we have to fix dinner, aren’t you hungry?”
“Da. Tomorrow, I like for you to put polish on, Eemaya can polish sister. Purple.”
“For you or Daria?”
“For me, Daria ees red and black together. I will have purple and black.”
“Purple and black it is.”
“Daria says Eemaya ees all about Vesnushki, sister likes her for making Vesnushki happy.”
“Chloe is happy all the time, it is her nature, Amaya and Daria make her even happier.”
“I make you happy Dahfoney,” this isn’t a question, it’s a statement.
I answer anyway, “You make be supremely happy, Dasha.”
I feel my heart melt for the thousandth time. It’s too bluntly genuine to be manipulation, even if it is, manipulate away, I can take it.
Chapter Forty Three
Our relationship life has morphed. It started a couple of years ago, longer, before the twins, when Zi confessed her feelings for Nishiko, and we left them alone to explore it without the complications of other sexual partners, then the girls came along and our all over the apartment freestyles had to go, then we got another bedroom for Janah and me. That means Janah and I aren’t sleeping in our former Chloe-Amaya, Nikko-Zi arrangements. We still do mix and match, Joan Wayne comes over but so far sticks to Janah and me. Chloe and Amaya have bonded, I get included from time to time, I get a Nikko fix regularly.
Maybe we aren’t aging, perhaps maturing, funny, I liked it when it was grab a girl and go, now I like it when it’s mostly the same girl.
Janah, “I feel as you do, of course I can’t feel any other way, but I don’t find myself wanting our former level of variety. I don’t think Amaya has any intention of letting you off entirely, she enjoys having two hot females all over her.”
“Maybe we’ll morph again, but I’m not sensing missing anything. I love Amaya and Chloe’s thing, they are the most adorable couple, sweeter than sweet Chloe, Amaya’s faux Queen Bee blustering. We have a wonderful family, Ange.”
Janah, who is Ange because Chef Villaume called her Ange Blanc, white angel, many years ago, “Except for the work, which is ugly, I couldn’t have ordered up a better life. But it’s the work that poured millions in our laps and allows us to maintain two free schools, a new place for unwanted, abused, children and provide for our own collection of abused girls. Things always come at a cost.”
“I don’t regret it, don’t care about justification, I care about abused women and children that our so called justice system doesn’t. Society’s approval is meaningless, I don’t approve of society, if the feeling is mutual, then I’m on the right track.”
“I can’t believe how fast the ranch filled up, we built for twenty and there’s been no room for a year.”
“You going to expand?”
“I have to talk to Nikko, we have positive cash flow from our newest property, it’s the only mortgage we have and it doesn’t make sense to pay it off, the rate is ridiculously low. We pay down more principal now than we pay in interest, so the interest is getting smaller too. Let’s round her up while there’s a break in the week.”
“She and Zi will be home in an hour or so. I’ve got to collect Dasha from gymnastics. Suppose we have a family meeting with cocktails before dinner? I can cook and we can discuss the state of our finances.”
Janah, “Just call Marconi’s and skip the cooking, Dasha will be tired from class and she’ll want to cook with you.”
“It’s a plan, I’m off.”
Dasha’s gym is in Soho, the school placed her in advanced nine to twelve, when she made thirteen she had to shift to private lessons, there’s no structured program from thirteen to seventeen, adult classes are for eighteen and up. Considering it’s Dasha, it works out better anyway, no other girls to fiddle with. Her instructor is Ramona, a former college gymnast, thirty now. Dasha likes her well enough I suppose, she hasn’t complained, she goes twice a week for an hour and a half. It’s easy for us, no school schedule to work around, the twins never went to school anyplace but home.
I walk over, Dasha’s flipping around the tumbling mat, Ramona comes over, “Hi Daphne, how’s things?”
“Getting cold out there, winter’s stumbling in.”
Ramona, “After the summer, I’m not griping, man it was hot. You guys have it figured out, take August off and go to Canada.”
“It’s good for the girls to be in nature, we love the mountains.”
Ramona, “I’m curious, hope you don’t think I’m being nosy, I like to get to know my students, about things away from gymnastics, so we don’t always have to talk gym the whole time, you know?”
Ramona, “When I ask Dasha, she is…what’s the word…vague?”
“You aren’t getting answers.”
Ramona, “No, at first I thought it was language, but then I thought that was wrong, she understands what I ask of her in the gym. Most of my students like to talk about their other interests. I mean, we don’t babble away all class, during a break, maybe a bit before and after. But Dasha…”
“Ramona, Dasha doesn’t socialize that way. She has compartments in her life, home, lessons, she’s a good cook, we cook together all the time, she likes gymnastics. But she doesn’t mix things together. For her, being here is for gymnastics, only gymnastics. You won’t get her to chat, chat isn’t on her menu.”
Ramona stares, then, “I see. That explains her former coaches’ comments, Dasha didn’t pal around with the other girls when she was in group class. The others thought she was, um, snobby.”
I laugh, “I can see how they would. It’s not snobbery, if it was, she would have an opinion about her status versus the other girls. She comes here to train. Once she enters the gym, all other conversation is irrelevant, a distraction. She knows she isn’t your best student, that doesn’t bother her. I’m certain she’s your most focused.”
“Gosh, yes, she is intense, and I never have to repeat an instruction.”
“Ought to make your job easier.”
“It does. I’m relieved, I thought it might be me.”
“If she didn’t think you a suitable coach, she’d tell you. She won’t tell you that you are a good coach either, her opinion is demonstrated by showing up.”
Ramona, “Okay, I’m clear, coach gymnastics and leave the rest alone.”
“That’ll do it.”
Dasha comes over, her bag packed up and slung over her shoulder, “We go now Dahfoney, gud-bye Rahmonya,” she walks towards the door.
Ramona smiles, “She sure doesn’t suck up.”
I relieve her of the gym bag, we walk home. She doesn’t relive her class, she doesn’t say anything until we are going into the Chapmans entrance to our elevator. I nod at the security guard, they’ve also learned that pointless chatter with the girls is, well, pointless. Anything beyond ‘Hi Dasha’ is a waste of breath.
The woman does say, “Hello Dasha,” and is rewarded with, “Privet, Rosa,” then says to me as she walks on, “Tea now, Dahfoney.”
It isn’t a command, she does her own in her room, sits cross legged in front of the water rock to drink it, Daria is already there. I unpack, collect her leotard, towel and underwear for the wash.
“Shower girls, we have a family meeting as soon as you are done, then dinner.”
Dasha, “What do we cook?”
“Nothing tonight, Marconi’s. Do you want pizza, or something else?”
“Only pizza, no tomahto sauce, tomato, how ees it, Margaret kind?”
“Margherita, Daria, is that good for you too?”
“Antipasto. I will have Dasha’s.”
“Got it. Get going, we want you to sit in on the meeting. Learn about family business.”
Dasha hands me her cup, they get up, undress, I take the washables. They’re good about their things, shoes will be put away, jackets hung up, their room is always neat, weird kids, but I was exactly the same, still am.
It’s already five thirty, no snacks. While we wait on the girls, I call Marconi’s and order for a seven o’clock delivery.
Chapter Forty Four
Janah and I did the same thing with the twins we’d done with Amaya and Chloe, which the temple did with us when we lived there as teens. Master Sung, the others, Masters Hue, Chu, Zhang, Kahn, watched to see how we handled ourselves. We weren’t special, they did it with all students and disciples. Janah was never a student, but they didn’t wholesale responsibility to her either. When they were satisfied that we did not gossip, complain or slack, we were offered greater responsibility. Further revealed temple detail, how things worked, teachings withheld from some students who may not have shown the maturity to handle them.
The twins have been with us long enough, they’re not going to babble anything to anyone, they barely communicate with anyone outside our immediate family, not even Susan, Lacy is over frequently, they are polite in their way, but not conversational. Lacy’s school is full of unusual girls, she understands kids who are different.
Drinkers have cocktail or wine of choice, Janah begins, “First, this is an introduction to Dasha and Daria about our investments and properties,” she turns her attention to them, “you may not have an interest in details, but we want you to begin to understand about money and real estate. If you want to learn more, as time goes by Nikko or Zi will give you more information about how it works. If you don’t, that’s fine. Amaya and Chloe have little interest in family finances, neither do I. You are already studying the math of interest rates, statistics and probability. Daria has most of it memorized by now.”
Dasha, “We will learn beezness of fahmahley.”
Janah, “And our family business is not to be discussed with anyone else. You don’t talk to anyone else anyway, but I want you to be clear, you understand?”
They both “Da.”
Janah, “Nikko, what’s what?”
Nikko, “We own six buildings outright, and one with a mortgage, about a million square feet overall. Gross revenue is thirty million a year, net revenue of six million after tax. We are just at or slightly under market on most of it, it keeps the properties ninety to ninety five percent full. That doesn’t count Fong’s. We have a million dollar loan to Ning and Chan, and another to my father and mother at no interest. They stay on the books for appearances, so they aren’t considered a gift. The loans don’t appear on credit reports anyplace, not that it matters, neither of them needs to borrow money from a bank. The properties I estimate at three hundred million, Mrs. Epstein says I’m low. It doesn’t matter, we aren’t selling or borrowing against them. If we sold all of it, I might manage three or four percent in this market, perhaps higher in the long run if I use stocks. Current income is virtually tax free due to depreciation. Earnings vary slightly year over year. That of course doesn’t account for property appreciation over time.
The reason I don’t sell and go for higher cash returns is simple. We have a lot of money in liquid investments already, we don’t need cash flow, we don’t spend a fraction the cash flow we have.
We have ten million in other loans for business development from our inmate program. They are being repaid reasonably, it is just a return of principal, we don’t charge interest on those. Unlike Chan and my parents, they do have to repay the principal.
Investment accounts total just under five hundred million. Our net worth is approaching the billion dollar area. I have an exact number for the brokerage accounts at the end of every day, but it changes daily. Last year we made twelve percent on the stocks, thirty million dollars, plus six on the properties, a few million in interest bearing accounts. I keep twenty million in a combination of index puts, short index and bond futures and short index derivative ETFs. If the market goes south, we’ll lose on the left hand and make a bit of it back on the right. I hope we lose money on the short positions, that means we’re making it in the long ones.
Amaya, “Why not just reduce the risk of the stock market funds by keeping less money in them?”
Nikko, “That’s what I used to do. The problem is, the markets are so in synch now, we can lose money in bonds, preferred stocks, municipal bonds and common stock all at once. And very quickly. If that happens, common asset allocation doesn’t help, the tide goes out everywhere. I have stop loss orders at twenty percent below market, but those are not guaranteed to be stopped out at exactly twenty percent. In a fast, ugly market, it could be substantially lower. The twenty million is like insurance, you hope you never need to collect on the policy.”
“How are the investments divided up, stocks, bonds, whatever else?”
Nikko, Two hundred million in three to seven year treasuries. Fifty million in what are known as TIPS, treasury inflation protections bonds. One hundred fifty million in various stock index funds. A hundred million in municipal bond funds amazingly paying us five percent a year tax free. Dividends got to short term treasuries. The returns suck, but it’s about as safe as investing gets. I am slowly moving more into municipals, we are paying taxes on the treasury bonds.”
Nikko, “No. We missed that ride, but I don’t like gold. It’s at a stupid price now, but all of India is gold obsessed and they will buy no matter how dumb the price gets. I don’t get gold. People say it’s a store of value if there’s a universal financial collapse. The problem is, if that happens, what exactly are you supposed to do with it? If you carry it around or keep it handy at home, and the world is in chaos, people with guns will steal it from you, you can’t eat it, if you have to exchange it for goods or services, whoever you’re dealing with will have to verify it isn’t fake. I don’t see the point.”
Janah, “Dasha, Daria, are you following any of this?”
Dasha, “You are reech.”
We laugh, I say, “Yes, we are rich.”
Daria, “Nikko will give me things to read, things on web. I will study.”
Nikko, “Good. I’m glad to see you take an interest. Tomorrow I’ll get you started.”
This is about as much as Daria has said to all of us in two years. An exaggeration perhaps, not a wild one.
Dasha, “Eat pizza now, if reech, I put more ikra.”
Amaya, “What is eegrah?”
Amaya, “That’s pretty funny.”
“No fuhney, I put more.”
Amaya puts her face in her hands, “One day, I will understand this girl.”
Chloe, “It’s easy Amaya, they are literal, they say what they mean.”
“Like I do not?”
“Only sometimes, most of the time, it’s drama.”
Dasha, “Eemaya is big dramatic, um,” she turns to Daria, “what is koroleva?”
We find this hysterical, especially Amaya, she wipes tears of laughter, “You are making my mascara run, I need more vodka.”
She makes her cocktail, another for Chloe, refills wine for the others. Twenty minutes and security rings up, Dasha goes with me to tote bags and boxes. Soon we are deep into Italian splendor, vegetable lasagna, creamy manicotti, plump ravioli, antipasto, Dasha is spooning ikra on her pizza.
Being in financial mode, we watch a Richard Gere movie, Arbitrage. Daria stays with it, snuggled into Chloe on the mat. Dasha falls asleep on the couch, her head in my lap. The movie ends, I get sleepy Dasha up to her room Daria and Chloe trail behind.
After tooth brushing, we tuck them in, one sleepy eye pops open, Dasha says, “You kiss me Dahfoney, then go,” easiest duty I’ve ever had. Chloe kisses both of Daria’s cheeks unasked, Dasha does her nightly routine, slides her arm around her sister’s neck, head on Daria’s shoulder, kisses the top of Daria’s head and strokes her soft cheek. Daria’s free arm flops over her twin’s chest.
Daria is bright, an incredible memory, speaks better English, but more fragile, Dasha’s strength comforts her. Warm and together, they are gone before we dim the lights to a bare glow.
I check the kitchen, Nikko and Zi have cleaned up, Janah must be in our room, “Thank you, I’m pooped, time for bad girls to sleep.”
Chloe, “Goodnight all,” she goes to her room, Amaya’s already in bed, I climb the other stairs and I’m soon spooned into Ange Blanc and unconscious.