Chapter Fifty Three

The next months are spent in our usual unusual. The twins continue their lessons, Daria is more of a student than Dasha, but like Janah and I, Dasha can peek into Daria’s brain if she needs answers and she is more focused on her physical skills than finance or probability. For exercise, Daria is content to dance, contemporary and ballet lite, it’s not a career. She isn’t interpretive, Lacy or Amaya says turn this way, move your hand like this, she does it as instructed, and she will practice hard for one hour, not a second longer. When the hour is up, she doesn’t say I’m leaving, or goodbye, or thank you. Even if they’re in mid routine, she takes off her dance shoes and comes home.
Nikko and Zi take care of the property, Daria tags along frequently to observe, learn the difference between reading about cash flow and depreciation versus actually operating commercial property.
Nikko followed up on Mrs. Epstein’s offer and started a separate property management company staffed by monks, some out of the temple and wanting a career, digital recordkeeping is done in the temple as a way for monks to have real world business experience. Are we using free labor for our business spreadsheets? Yes, and no. Monks in the temple volunteer, they have to study something as students and disciples anyway. The MBA monks Nikko hired are well compensated, including a retirement plan and health care benefits. She has more applicants than she has work.
Amaya is always working on a book, another movie deal came along, she advises a bit on the screenplay but a professional screenwriter is doing the script. She does get to nix stuff, part of the contract she insists on as did Chris. Some of her situations and dialogue are funny, but she doesn’t want her work turned into slapstick. She’s flexible on what she considers minor changes, add a character for atmosphere, or take one out that isn’t essential to the plot. She knows a novel is four hundred or more pages, a screenplay is a hundred twenty. And she knows not all written dialogue can be turned into screenplay dialogue, sometimes the screenwriter says something better than she wrote it, she’s good with that.
Then a new development, the director approaches her about appearing in the movie, a bit part. It isn’t common, but sometimes the author or, as in the case of Hitchcock, the director appears in the film. 
Amaya, “I am inclined to take it, the girls will have a chance to go to a movie set, it is being filmed partly in Hollywood, at least the little piece I would play. Chloe can get photos of herself on a movie set for her fan page.”
Dasha, “Dahfoney, you will go.”
“Yes, Janah will come as well.”
Janah, “Might be fun. We can do the SoCal thing, be tourists, it can’t take but a day or two for Amaya’s bit.
A month later we’re in Los Angeles, booked at Shutters on the Beach, which it is. A splendid hotel, two suites, a zillion bucks a night, oh well.
The director has never met Amaya, he’d only seen the head shot taken from the side on her book jackets. The role is only an anonymous woman in a bar scene involving the main character, a gay private eye having a drink with a prospective client. He’s being reluctantly persuaded to take on a case of philandering husband, or I should say philandering marriage partner, they’re both men. Gay couples cheat too. The plot revolves around three threads, the private detective has three cases going, none related to the other. He’s just wrapping up one, and the second is on hold, the new case fills a hole while he waits on developments in case two.
Unlike movie PI’s, our hero has no qualms about domestic investigation, it pays like any other, and he’s morally flexible in how he goes about it. In fact, he’s had sex with the philanderer recently, a fact he fails to mention to his new client. Amaya’s detective is a hunk and it’s hardly the first time he’s gotten propositioned. He likes having his schlong attended to and he doesn’t care if the attendant is married, or even if he is married to a woman. Naturally, the plot twists around, the client soon turns into a deceased client, and our PI is framed for the murder. He didn’t do it, but there’s no butler to blame, not even a hair stylist.
When Amaya and Chloe show up for her meeting with the director, Carl Childers, the plot thickens.
Childers, “Amaya, great to meet you, my assistant, Amanda Allen.”
Amaya, “Mr. Childers, Ms. Allen, this is my companion, Chloe.”
Childers, “Oh my, violet eyes, amazing violet eyes, just lovely, Amanda, do you see?”
Amanda. “Geez, I hate you already.”
Chloe giggles, big smile, “They came with me, I didn’t do anything for them.”
Childers turns to Amaya, “I’ve followed your books, you are somewhat of a ghost I hear.”
“I do not do book signings, readings, trot around to book clubs. I am grateful someone finds the work entertaining, but I have no need to hawk them like the sample lady in the supermarket.”
Childers laughs, “Can’t say I blame you. I’m not sure what I would do, we’re a low key indie film company, apart from a couple of indie blogs, no one asks me to tout our films. I am delighted you agreed to give us a shot.”
Amaya, “It is better for me, frankly. Big studios fish around, want options, but they want too much creative control. I appreciate their concerns, costs, target markets, but they generally want to shy away from gay and lesbian, push it to a corner or completely off the table. I understand the plots will work if the leads are straight, gay bar becomes a regular club, a straight hero can get beat up as easily as a gay one, girls swooning over men rather than each other. But that is not what I write about, and the woman who gave me this opportunity would not have wanted those changes.”
Childers, “Yes, I read the originals by Ms. Fischer, your style is remarkably similar, the subsequent work reads like the same author.”
Amaya, “Thank you, that is my intention.”
Childers, “Amaya, you only go by the one name I understand, I don’t mean to be too informal,” Amaya, “I do not mind,” he continues, “since I’d never met you, I thought to include you in the film as a little surprise for the viewer. We weren’t going to make a thing out of it, rather list you in the credits and see if anyone catches on.”
“I have no objection.”
“Well, that was before I saw you. I had no idea how stunning you are. Your jacket photo is attractive, but the entire package, if I may put it that way, is gorgeous, even by Hollywood standards.”
“Thank you.”
“I would like you to consider a different role than seated in the background of a restaurant. It’s, um, a little risqué.”
“My books are a lot risqué.”
Childers laughs, “This role is for the dancer in the strip club, the scene isn’t long, two scenes, first she’s shown working, typical pole dance, topless, g-string.”
“No problem, and the second?”
Childers, “We’re including the part you wrote where in the dressing room, flirts with another dancer, who then um…” Childers hesitates.
Amanda, “You already know what happens, for the filming point of view the shot is from your front, so the girl’s head is between you and the camera. She pulls off your g-string but the only frontal nudity is your breasts. Simulated oral, it’s a quick shot, just to get the point across.”
“In my book, it degenerated quite nicely and took a couple of pages.”
Amanda, “We do it like you wrote it we go to X, we’re borderline now and may cop an NC-17.”
Childers, “We’ll wind up R, I know where the lines are.”
Amaya, “What do you think, Chloe?”
“I think you’re going to be a hit.”
“She is generously supportive.”
Childers, “Great! This is an unexpected bonus. You do realize this doesn’t pay for squat.”
“I like to dance.”
Amanda lets out a little screech, not from Amaya’s joke, “Oh shit, Chloe, violet eyes, you’re Chloe Sylk! Carl, you know who this is?”
Childers, “The name rings a bell….model, fashion model, I’ll be damned. I thought you guys only dated rock stars.”
Chloe, “I would, as long as they look like Amaya.”
Amanda, “Carl, we have to write her in someplace, I mean, if she’s willing. The box office multiplies if her name is on the credits.”
Childers, “What do you think, Ms. Sylk.”
“Much of my fan base is adolescent girls. I don’t consider myself anyone’s role model, don’t misunderstand, but I can’t do a part like Amaya’s.”
Amanda, “No, no, of course. I’m thinking we have a scene of a modeling shoot, our lead passes by, he and one of the other characters stop and watch, it’s you and a guy in evening wear. Our lead will make some comment about the male model, something innocuous, he’s hot, or whatever. You’re just doing what you’d do on any shoot. Even better, we have you getting out of a car, going to an opening, we can get lots of extras to line the carpet for their favorite model. You don’t mind something slinky, slit that shows some leg when you exit the car?”
Chloe, “I’ve done a version lots of times.”
Amanda, “Carl, we may actually breakout with these two.”
Childers, “We use character actors or unknowns, the closest thing we have for names are you two. It is most fortunate for us. Amanda will get with our screenwriter and figure out details. You can stay a few extra days? We were planning on the bar shot to take twenty minutes for your ten seconds of background. This will take more time, a day or two to write and set up, I think we can arrange to get both of your parts in one day.”
Amaya, “We are with friends at Shutters in Santa Monica. Our twins are with us, and we are planning a week here anyway.”
Amanda, “Shutters, you guys know how to travel.”
Chloe, “It’s a lovely place.”

Chapter Fifty Four X

We’re into our third day, I hadn’t checked with Nikko, I mental her an update.
Nikko, Looks like the girls have stepped into a new arena.
Well, it’s an indie flick, I guess Chloe’s fans will like it, maybe nobody goes, this isn’t a big budget operation.
The twins will enjoy it, if anyone can tell.
Chloe can, she said they are loving the hotel, we took them down to Venice Beach, they wanted to see everything. How’s the world in Manhattan?
Zi and I are taking time to do things we normally don’t. We went to Villaume’s for dinner, to Le Bernardin tomorrow with Mrs. Epstein, after an early morning members visit to MOMA to avoid the crowds. Tonight, we’re going to Old Homestead with Sis and Taylor. Zi has me all dressed up, she went rummaging through Amaya’s closet. It has her sparked, the sex has been great.
She likes having you to herself.
Have to check out, we just finished at the office and need to get home, chill and dress for dinner.
Have fun, see you soon.

Dasha, “When do Eemaya and Vesnushki make movie?”
“We will haf dinner on beach.”
That means the Shutters restaurant, 1 Pico, nice view of the beach, food is excellent, they get to dress up.
“Daria and I shower, you will polish me, Eemaya will polish Daria.”
“Okay, we have time, we’ll do it on the balcony.”
I give Amaya a heads up, We’ve been assigned nail polish duty after the girls shower. It will be nice on the balcony.
What are they wearing?
Ivory wedges, the silk skirts, one dark maroon, one sapphire blue, ivory blouse, light grey blouse.
I’m glad they packed those, sophisticated, not flashy.
Only a little, skirts are mid thigh, they’ll be devastating.

I hear the shower going, go to our room to check with Janah, she’s finishing up a Skype with one of our Society contacts. Mrs. Epstein has been introducing her around. The call was to a woman in the State Department. They made small talk, no talk of the Society, just to put faces and names together. She’s a twenty year vet, knows the ins and outs of the place, allegedly a mid-level bureaucrat, but in fact the primary liaison to Homeland Security and the NSA. If you met her you’d think she was someone’s assistant, anyone on the outside would blow her off, that’s the idea.
“We’re having dinner at seven thirty, Chloe and Amaya need an early night, the twins can sleep in here with us.”
Janah, “You’re taking the twins?”
“Yes, they’re all into it, at least that’s what Chloe says.”
“Good to know, they always look neutral, I catch some of their expression, it’s so micro I really have to pay attention. I’m staying here, I have a few more calls to make tomorrow, then I’m going to the spa and get pampered. I can follow the action through you.”
“We’re doing nails, then I’ll be in to dress.”
I go back to Chloe’s room, the twins are showering, Chloe is already on the balcony, sitting with Amaya, having a Coke and enjoying the air. I go to the bedroom and pull out their clothes, accessories, shoes, tap into Dasha.
Through her eyes I see Daria up against the shower wall, Dasha’s hand between her legs, Daria gasps an orgasm, shudders, shuddering at Shutters, guess they can’t use that on the website. Mumbling something in Russian, she kisses Dasha, the shower runs over them.
I get the Sensuality Sisters’ hair dry, they don’t dress identically, but they have identical hairstyles. Natural platinum blonde, cut to the shoulder, one parted left side, the other right, straight to the shoulder. They slip on shirts and go to the balcony for fingers and toes. We go with colors matching the dresses, no shatters, no two tones.
While nails dry, I shower with Janah, dress, we’re all set, head down the elevator to 1 Pico.
Amaya and Chloe are jaw droppers by themselves; with Janah’s pure white hair, add the twins in mid-thigh snug skirts, leg muscle highlighted by wedges, slight swell of breast, nonexistent waistlines, it is no exaggeration to say every eye is on us. Particularly with Amaya and Chloe holding hands, smiling flirtatiously. Diners lean to each other, whispering comments they don’t know my hearing can pick up like a microphone.
“Good God, where to they make those people?  Do you see the twins, devastating. How do you dye hair snow white? It’s not dyed, dear, it is natural, there’s not a root in sight. Who is the tall girl with the knockout? She looks kind of familiar. Mom, duh, that’s Chloe Sylk. Here? I thought she lived in New York? They make these things called planes mom, you get on, they take you places.”
“Well, well, All That, even in SoCal.”
Janah, “Good thing you didn’t wear a short skirt, wives would be stabbing their husbands with steak knives.”
We are seated, perusing menus, the waitress comes over and reels off a couple of specials. Janah orders champagne, Chloe and Amaya have vodka, Dasha and Daria are between me and Chloe, Janah to my right, Amaya on the other side of Chloe next to Janah to complete the circle. The drinks are served, we skip appetizers, the twins get lobster fettuccine, I go for my favored sea bass, Chloe scallops, Amaya a rib eye, Janah butternut squash cappellacci, a flower shaped pasta. She adds a roasted beet salad with feta and arugula.
While we wait, a teenager approaches tentatively, clearly wanting to speak to Chloe.
Chloe blazes her big white smile, says hi, emboldened, the teen says, “I am such a fan, I know it’s totally obnoxious but could I get your autograph? God I feel like such a dweeb bugging you.”
Chloe, “Tell you what, I don’t do autographs, but I do photographs, you have a mobile?”
The girl digs in her purse, “Yes! I mean, really, it’s okay?”
“Sure, Daphne, could you get in a couple of shots? Maybe out on the porch, beach in the background.”
I take the phone, we go outside, Chloe, “Daphne, this is Jamie, she’s a sophomore, visiting relatives in Santa Monica. She’s from Portland.”
“Hi Jamie, I hear it’s a nice town, never had the pleasure.”
“It rains a lot, and it’s fah-reezing right now, I’m so glad we got out for a couple of weeks.”
I start taking pictures, Chloe talks to her so they look conversational, not mugging for the camera, “It’s cold in Manhattan, too. Glad we could come out to California, the weather is wonderful.”
I move them so their back is to the restaurant, click off a few more, Chloe holds Jamie’s arm like they are besties.
I give her the phone, Chloe walks back to the teen’s table and meets the family, I hear her reassuring, “No, it is absolutely no trouble, I appreciate it, how many people get to have fans? They send me the most wonderful comments and encouragement. ”
One of the women asks about her being in California, Chloe says, “My companion is here to do a bit part in a movie,” a question, “thank you, I’ll tell her you said so, she is a performance artist, not a film actress, it is by accident. She wrote the book the movie is based on.”
Another comment, “Yes, that’s Amaya, I’ll tell her she has her own fans here tonight. I see our dinner is arriving, Jamie it was so kind of you to stop by. If you wish, and it’s okay with your folks, send me the photos and I’ll get them on the page and tell everyone about the adorable girl and her family I met in Santa Monica.”
Jamie actually screeches, “Oh God, mom, can I be on Chloe’s page, you have to say yes or I’ll die.”
“I don’t see why not, I’ve seen the page. It’s very professional.”
Chloe, “Thank you, I’ll pass that along to Mayumi and Katsumi, they actually do most of the work.”
Jamie, “Those are two girls Chloe met in Kyoto Japan. I totally want to go to Kyoto. They are sooo cute.”
Chloe, “I look forward to getting the email, just use the one on the site, I read as many as I can, but I’ll be on the lookout. Mayumi always checks them for photo attachments she can add to the page. What’s your e-mail address?”
“Cute, thank you, enjoy your evening, bye now.”
She returns just as the waitress finishes up, Amaya, “How nice, you stumble on your and my fans at the same table. I would get my own fan page, but I don’t want to crash Google in the onslaught of signups.”
Chloe, “Thoughtful.”
Dasha blinks up at me, “Vesnushki ees making happy.”
“Yes, she is.”
Eemaya ees making ridiculous.”
“Yes, she is, and that makes Vesnushki happy.”
Dasha stares at me, blank, blinks, “We are eating now Dahfoney. You will give me feesh.”
I cut of a hunk of my sea bass and put it on Dasha’s plate. In return she puts a chunk of her lobster on mine, sharing…something that wasn’t much in evidence early on, it isn’t really sharing now. They aren’t possessive or greedy, it simply doesn’t occur to them. They’ve seen us swap tastes every time we go out, they see it as part of our dinner ritual, not social, just what happens. Good enough.

Chapter Fifty Five

Dasha sleeps with Janah and me, Daria wants to be with Chloe, they don’t seem to mind sleeping apart, they can mental, Dasha’s content with that and content to know that Daria is with Chloe.
She’s in the middle, up against me, and decides I need stimulation, her hand finds its way between my legs does its thing. She’s getting good at it, learning the pressure, what to do in, what to tease out. She likes making me squirm and moan, and I do, finishes me off with finesse.
I make Dahfoney happy, she surprises me, licks her fingers, she’s not done that before.
She doesn’t comment, I wonder if she’s ambivalent about it, then, Dahfoney ees gud,” pops in my brain, my self esteem remains intact.
Janah, She has sophisticated taste, champagne, caviar and Dahfoney.
This morning, we are out and gone early. It isn’t a big deal movie set, there aren’t carts of granola and yogurt, no egg white omelets, no red almond M&Ms, no specialty coffee for the stars, there aren’t any stars. We have a car and a driver, courtesy of us, paper cups of Starbucks.
I chat with the lead, a guy named Frankie Fontella, very nice, very queer, he’s pleased to find out we play on the same team, different positions. He plays Frank Falcon. Amaya’s latest series are Falcon titles, first names are a coincidence. Falcon Hunt, Falcon Vengeance, Falcon Prey is the one being filmed now.
Frankie, “I gotta tell you, I am thrilled about Amaya writing about queers that aren’t limp wrists. I don’t care if guys want to be that, that’s not my point, but every gay character seems to be five nine, a hundred and forty pounds and in some screwy relationship. We aren’t all like that.”
“We don’t fit the model of lesbian. None of us do dyke or butch, we’re all femmes. I’m with you, we don’t care if women want to do butch, but lesbians in movies are too often dykes or anguished girls with short hair and clunky shoes. I like girl clothes, I don’t want to be an imitation man. I’m mystified by women who claim to hate men only to dress and act like one.”
Frankie laughs, “You have a good attitude, and I can see you don’t take queer seriously, like it’s a cause.”
“We relate to queer problems, discrimination, bullying, general aggravation, but no, it’s not a religion with us. It’s how we are, straight isn’t sacred, queer isn’t sacred.”
Frankie, “I notice Amaya doesn’t use gay in her books.”
“Nope. We’re lesbians, queer is fine, men are homosexual. When Amaya took over from Chris, she kept the style, Chris didn’t like gay. She said it sounded….gay, like silly, lame, not serious. Sometimes it comes out when we’re talking about the issue.”
“So Amaya picked up the books when Chris Fischer passed, shame about that. She had her head screwed on tight. I get the point about gay, I don’t use the term much myself. Did you know her?”
“Chris was one of my moms. My birth mom is Susan Sylk, I was an accident, my father was a one night stand when my mom tried to play straight to please her parents. When I was four or five, Susan met Chris. The only parents I knew were Chris and Susan. Chris was the rock of our family, the heart and soul.”
“No shit, you’re Chris Fisher’s daughter? That is cool, I worship her.”
“She had that effect. If you were up front, and not caught up in gender bullshit, she would kill for you, if you were a homophobic asshole, she would kill you. C-mom wore the velvet-iron glove.”
“Where did all the girls come from? Amaya is gorgeous, Chloe is not so much beautiful in the Amaya sense, more striking, you’re a black haired Amaya, too stunning to be real, and the twins are obviously aliens, not of this Earth.”
I laugh, “My heart and soul, Janah, has an inexplicable ability to collect the most interesting people. Not all of our tribe is queer, good friends are hets and married, some are Chinese, Japanese, African, Caucasian, Korean. Some have families, some not. Our extended tribe is Jamaican, Italian, Latin and Greek. I don’t think we’re tight with any Eskimos.”
“You lack proper American biases.”
“Our deficiency.”
Frankie stands, “Excuse me, Amaya is going to dance, I have to be chatting with my drug dealing contact.”
Childers has no way of knowing Amaya has danced for years, he figured he’d get two minutes of a beautiful girl gyrating around a pole, good enough for the atmosphere he wants, which was only to show that Frankie is in a strip club. He would pare that down to twenty or thirty seconds, and stick the rest in the background over Frankie and his contact.
The lights dim, music starts, club stuff, electronica mixes of Lady Gaga, ancient Madonna and dub step. Amaya is in only a g-string, it isn’t designed to be a strip show from entrance to exit, the idea is she’s already into her set, past the take off her top part. She begins, the music pounds, lights blink, stage lights on Amaya shifting from front, to side, to back, she makes love to the pole, slinks across stage, sinks to her knees, humps her hips, stands and gives the pole a hard on, she drops the fuck me heels, slides up the pole until she’s in a vertical split, then she wraps her leg around it and spins slowly, prances around stage collecting bills from the extras who serve as audience, stops to stick it in one guy’s face, turns and does the booty wiggle, her hands run up and down her thighs, over her tummy and up to her breasts, head back grinding hips, four minutes passes, five, the music finally ends.
The crew isn’t large, they are noisy, applause, whistles and shouts, Amaya bows. To her, being up there in nothing but a g-string is just performance art. If people see her naked, it’s nothing to her. The funniest is Chloe, she’s standing on a table, whistling through her fingers, a skill I had no idea she possessed.
Frankie, “Holy godamn, Childers, if that isn’t in the movie, I ain’t gonna see it.”
Amaya, still in nothing but the g-string, is shooting the breeze with the extras, they don’t appear anxious to leave.
Childers, “I had no clue, won’t be any edits, the film can run five minutes longer. Take fifteen everyone, we’re gonna do the dressing room scene and none of you are invited.”
Groans from the crew.
The camera rolls, there are two, one to the side, one behind. The other actor, Sondra Tyler, comes in. She’s in a baby doll top, white against her dark skin, clearly mixed race, Asian African, medium length straight black hair, dark eyes, bouncy breasts. Her skin is rich coffee and cream, lush.
Amaya is leaning against the dressing table, Sondra sitting next to her, the cameras roll, Sondra’s fiddling with eyeliner, she pops the cap back on, eyes Amaya up, down and back again.
Amaya’s line is, “See something you like?”
Sondra stands, “Only everything.”
Her hands run up from Amaya’s hips to her chest, she stands, kisses Amaya, long and deep, kisses her down the torso, when she’s kneeling, hands run over tight thighs, more kisses, pulls down the g-string. Sondra’s head is doing a yes, as if she’s going down on Amaya. She looks up, Amaya bites her lip, puts her hands behind Sondra’s head and pulls it close. Sondra’s tongue makes more than incidental contact. Amaya’s head rolls back, eyes close, breathy gasps.
Childers says, “Cut, great work ladies, beautiful, very sensual.”
Sondra stands, whispers to Amaya, “Anytime you want me to finish, just call.”
“Not sure how long we are staying, give me your number, maybe we can work out something.”
Sondra smiles, dictates a number, Amaya taps it into her phone.
“I see Chloe Sylk hanging out with the twins, she a friend of yours?”
“Better be, we live together.”
“Get out! Like, share an apartment, or what?”
“Share a bed, in an apartment, the twins are our daughters, the tall honey lives with us, her girlfriend and two others.”
“Hold up. You have, let’s see, two, four, twins, six women and two teens in an apartment?”
“It is a large apartment condo actually.”
“You and Chloe don’t even look legal, the other woman, she don’t look but mid twenties, the ones back home, they all babes too?”
“Chloe Sylk, damn, and you…hotter than a nuclear meltdown, um, Chloe don’t mind, you know, if you..”
Amaya laughs, “We mix and match at our place, mostly we partner, but there is no rule. If a girl is handy and willing, we seize the moment. Two girls in bed is great, three is splendid, four, say no more. If we get a chance to connect, Chloe or Daphne or Janah, or all of them may want in, is that a problem?”
Sondra, “Problem? Sounds like a damn banquet. Where do I sign up?”
“Look up Chloe’s fan page, there’s an e-mail address on it. If we cannot connect here and you happen to be in Manhattan, check in, we can work it out then.”
“Sometimes I get TV in New York, you want me to let you know, for sure?”
“I would never have said so if I did not. We have, how shall I say it… guests, once in a while. We like to meet new friends, and they are particularly welcome if they bring delicacies like yours.”
Flirtation over, they hug and a sweet kiss, Amaya dresses and we say our goodbyes to the cast and crew. Not sure how much of Amaya will be on the big screen, but she had fun.
Back in our room now, Janah still in the spa getting facialed or massaged, I’d checked in a few times while we hung out at the set, she was able to see Amaya’s performance through my eyes, then went off to her spa appointment. Daria is napping on the couch, the rest of us are out on the balcony.
Amaya, “That was great! I am not sure I even care if the thing shows up in the movie. I had no idea how much I liked parading around nude in front of people, even if those people are men.”
Dasha, “You are gud dahnzer, beautiful body, why not?”
“My thoughts exactly, dear one. If I wanted to be up until all hours, I could be a dancer in a club. I have other things I prefer, being here with you for instance.”
Dasha, “And Vesnushki.”
“Of course Vesnushki! Chloe is not permitted to be far from me or Daria. Her time is spoken for. She may go to the occasional fashion shoot, but that is it.”
Dasha, “Sister will go with Vesnushki to photographics. She likes to study it. She is always making the question, then she must look for answer. Why does Chloe turn like this? Why does she make a frown, then make a smile? How does camera make peekture? How is makeup working? Why so much lights? Why so much people to take peekture? Why take so many peekture to put one or two in mahgazin or eenternet?”
Amaya, “I never heard her ask all those questions.”
“Daria does no ask, she watch, then figure out it.”
“Would it not be simpler to ask someone?”
“Daria no ask.”
“Why not, Dasha, why does Daria not ask?”
“When sister ees leetle, she ask meeny question, always to know why. Mother no like questions, beat sister many times. Daria ees no ask any more question. She still want to know about every things, so watch.”
Janah has been following from the massage table in the spa, Why didn’t we figure this out? We knew her mother hit her. God, I’m so stupid sometimes.
Ange, we found out now, good enough. Look, we gave her access to the internet, language labs, she’s brilliant, we opened up the world so she can find her own answers. Now that we are clear on the cause of her reticence, we can start to take down the wall, slowly, gently. We have all the time it takes.

Janah sighs, Okay. I guess it’s better that she’s still only fourteen. But such a waste of an incredible brain.
Her introversion could easily been a blessing in forced focus, making her pay closer attention than she might have if she’d been supplied with somebody’s answers. We can’t just decide anything was wasted.

Janah brightens, I must be slipping, of course, you’re right. Thank you. Maybe better not to do brick removal, unless she does it herself.
Amaya is teary eyed, the revelation touches her deeply, Chloe, the Sensitive, is actually more sanguine. She understands more about Daria than any of us, and has already been loosening the bricks.
Chloe, “We need to go slowly. She is adjusting as time passes. Daria is strong inside, yet brittle, like a kind of steel than has strength to withstand enormous pressure, but lacks the strength to be stretched.”
Janah, Compressive strength versus tensile strength. A piece of steel may be able to stand up under almost any amount of weight, but will snap if it’s pulled apart or bent, I relay Janah’s comment to the others.
Chloe, “Yes, that’s it exactly. She ‘s started to ask me questions, a few. If she asks any of you, don’t patronize, just answer, or, particularly important, if you don’t know, say so. Offer to help her find out, but if she turns you down, let it go.”
Simple enough.

Chapter Fifty Six

Childers squeezes Chloe in the next day, Amanda had no trouble lining up a bunch of teens to line a red carpet, like she’s going to a premiere. The male is a Johnny Depp-ish look alike, fedora and all. Chloe exits the limo, long leg out the slit of her full length gown, the driver taking her hand as she steps out, then the actor emerges. Chloe takes the walk, stops to visit fans. Her escort is discreetly near, not in the way of the camera on Chloe, she is radiant, big smile, dazzling violet eyes, she waves, cell cameras and videos everywhere. Screeching girls make my ears ring. The camera pans over to Frankie for his line, his eyes on our Depp clone, Chloe talking to a TV celebrity show microphone about her excitement over the premier, a few quickie questions about her upcoming projects and her fan page. She takes the opportunity to thank her fans, how much their support means, that she loves them all, then a shot of her back as she enters the theater.
Scene done, she spends a half hour visiting the extras, who ask if Not Depp is her boyfriend, he isn’t. She doesn’t have to answer many questions, most of the time is photos, she beams her eternally blissful smile. Next day she’s on Huffington Post and the LA Times, got the movie mentioned, Childers and Frankie interviewed. Maybe somebody will actually go see it.
We decide to take two full days to enjoy Venice Beach and the Santa Monica Promenade, broach the subject of Disneyland, mercifully, the twins decline. The prospect of standing in hour long lines for four minute rides is mind numbing.
After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, we prowl the two and a half mile boardwalk, chock full of beachgoers, vendors of everything, a snake charmer, outdoor reflexologists, bodybuilders, cyclers and roller bladers. If I wasn’t such a Greenwich Village girl, I could handle this as a place to be.
We’re all in bikini tops, shorts, sneakers, I have a huge bias against flip flops. We sunscreen, wear floppy hats and sunglasses, the twins are très chic. Since they’re in hats and sunglasses, and Dasha is a shade more muscular, they aren’t recognized as twins.
Right now, they’re examining cheap beaded necklaces with Amaya, trying on this and that, Chloe says, “The girls are quite happy, the sense of freedom one feels here. I’m getting auras similar to what I see when we’re at our place in Canada. This is not so still, and there are lots of people, but the crowds are at play, not the work hustle of Manhattan. Even the people selling things are casual, relaxed.”
I see Amaya pay for a couple of items, the girls put them around their necks and walk over, Dasha, “Daria ees meeny colors, I haf same color.”
She is blinking up at me, I’ve learned it means she expects a response, “The blue matches your beautiful blue eyes, Daria’s is like a brilliant rainbow,” I kiss her cheek, brush her hair back.
Dasha, “She has raining bow in her head.”
Janah, “What do you mean Dasha?”
“Daria has colors in her head, affray thing ees a color, today yellow, number five brown, Toosday red, Sahturday ees white.”
Janah, “And so what is fifteen?”
Dasha cocks her head, like Janah is a slow learner, holds up her left index finger next to her right hand, five fingers splayed , “White, brown.”
Janah, Dang, a synesthete, criminey, I’m getting slower by the hour.
It’s the first time it’s come up, how were you supposed to know?
Her memory. I chalked it up to her nature, like people with Asperger’s or full blown autism sometimes have extraordinary memory capability.
She has those characteristics. If she was examined, you thought she might be tagged with Asperger’s. Although, I guess not, the new DSM did away with Asperger’s.
Yes, I also think there’s something else going on, just don’t know what.
It’s a lovely day, do the heavy thinking some other time, we need to feed.

We go to Figtrees, a popular spot on the beach. It’s after one, the lunch crush waned enough for us to snag a table on the patio.
While we look over menus and order drinks, Janah asks Daria, “How many beads are on your necklace, Daria.”
She doesn’t look up from her menu, “Forty nine.”
“How many colors?”
“What do they colors add up to?”
“One hundred ninety six.”
“If you wrote it out, not added, what would the number be?”
“7, 2, 1, 3, 6, 5, 4, seven times.”
“What do you call a number so big?”
“A big number.”
Janah laughs, “It doesn’t have a formal name. A 10 followed by 48 zeroes is called a… let me think…”
Daria, “Quindecillion.”
Janah, “That’s it, thank you Daria.”
Chloe, “Daria, that’s amazing.”
Daria, “LA burrito.”
Amaya, “Is that the name of a bigger number?”
Chloe giggles, “It’s the name of her lunch,” she points to it on Amaya’s menu.
Amaya, “Me too Daria, sounds good.”
Dasha, “Tour-key burgher.”
I get a Mediterranean chicken salad, Janah a veg Dagwood, Chloe orders grilled turkey tacos. It’s all excellent, Janah’s veggies are grilled firm, not mush, I don’t have to send out a search party for the chicken in my salad, the girls’ plates are empty, I got a slice of Dasha’s turkey burger, very tasty. She ate a third of my salad, lean muscle beast, not so little anymore, a healthy five six, Janah’s height, maybe a couple more inches this year.
We decide on a mix of three desserts, apple pie, cheesecake and a brownie sundae and share around. Full, not bloated, we return to our stroll for another two hours. Circle the boardwalk, with frequent stops for the girls to watch muscle heads, handball games or to look over the infinite offerings in open shops. We walk the pier, gawk at the monstrous sea lions lounging.
Amaya, “The hat and sunglasses spared you the quivery teenage girls today.”
Chloe, “I don’t mind, so far I’ve met only nice people, Today I’m happy to be just another tourist, with a steaming hot companion.”
“Good call, you might get lucky tonight.”
“I am all anticipation.”
“Another good call, you will definitely get lucky tonight.”
Chloe takes her honey’s hand, Daria has already commandeered the other one, Dasha is between me and Janah behind them. We piddle our way back to Shutters for long showers, followed by late tea and balcony gazing out on the Pacific Ocean.
It’s seven, I fish the internet for restaurants, Dasha is parked next to me and spots one called Bar Chloe, “Chloe restaurant, what ees food?”
I pull up the menu, it’s small plates and burgers, I go to the gallery, elegant small plates and burgers.
“Dasha has decided we will dine at Bar Chloe, a short walk.”
Amaya, “What, no Amaya Palace?”
“Maybe Ning can open one.”
“Perfect. I shall mention it to her.”
We are in casual elegance, silk pants, skirts for Chloe and Amaya, the twins in the blue and red dresses they wore a few nights ago to 1 Pico. This time, Amaya does a bit more makeup, dark mysterious eye shadow, fiery red shiny lip gloss, three rings each, platinum filigree, black velvet chokers with a glass pendant, one ruby, one sapphire. They sizzle. I have to drag them away from the mirror.
We’re seated immediately, it’s a weeknight, the promenade is busy but not weekend busy.
Amaya and Chloe are feeling frisky and order a vodka gimlet and a vodka martini, get carded, neither of them looks close to twenty one, but their licenses say they are. Janah has rosé sparkling wine, I’m in for sparking water, as are the twins. They surreptitiously sneak most of Janah’s wine, she orders another. Daria tastes Amaya’s vodka, then Chloe’s gimlet, vodka, lime juice and powdered sugar, likes Amaya’s better, she adds a drop of Angostura Bitters, gives it a nice bite. Amaya orders another, Daria downed most of the first one. She’s Russian, it’s vodka.
The food is splendid, a tasty cheese board with honey and walnuts, fried calamari, naturally Chloe has to have the Chloe burger, cheddar and caramelized onions, Daria has the same, I opt for the blue cheese burger, Dasha wants the same, Amaya and Janah have bruschetta, we have two orders of fries with malt vinegar and an order of onion rings.
Amaya and Chloe have an Argentine red with dinner, Janah goes though three more sparking rosés, of which she actually got one, you know who sneaks the rest.
Janah, “That was good, very good, what did you think Dasha?”
“Sparkle wine ees gud.”
Chloe, “My namesake burger was heavenly, maybe I can get Dasha to start making caramelized onions at home.”
“How ees make, Dahfoney?”
“Onion sliced in strands, not chopped, olive oil, butter, a bit of sugar, cook very slowly until they are rich and brown.”
“I make Chloe ohnyon for burgher.”
“They are also good in onion soup.”
Janah, “I love onion soup, stringy mozzarella, crispy croutons, black pepper.”
Dasha, “Gud. Dahfoney, at home, you will buy ohnyon, we will make caramel ohnyon. ”
“I will buy onions, dear one, and you will make the best onion soup ever.”
Dasha stares at me, “Da.”

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