Fifty Seven

It’s Friday afternoon, we’re at the Sylk Compound, besides the twenty eight girls, including nine children, who live in the main house, Daphne’s mom, Susan and her two girlfriends Lacy and Taylor are here. Daphne and her mom could be sisters, Susan birthed Daphne when she was fifteen, neither Susan, who Daphne calls Sis, nor Lacy look over forty, Taylor late twenties. 
Zoe C is in my head, 'These women are so young, the older ones are young, and Daphne and Janah look mid twenties but the dates they were in Lacy’s school, Chapman’s, doesn’t match up with their ages. They were either five when they graduated or something else is going on.'
'So I noticed, I mean, I didn’t know their school attendance dates, but I see what you mean. We can’t pry, if something comes along to explain it, fine, but these are highly intelligent and talented people. They understand Shadows and I suspect they’ve done vigilante work as well. Nobody told me so, a feeling I get, maybe my imagination is a bit too vivid, or it’s wishful thinking. We have endless abuse projects and we’re not even proactive, we wait until someone finds our site and contacts us. Any day in the news is another child abuse/neglect story. I’m going to bring up the subject if I can get Daphne and Janah alone.'

McKenzie comes over, “Janah would like a word in her office, you and Zoe C.”
Zoe C and I exchange glances…how in hell?
We follow Mac down a long hallway, left turn to the office. It’s functional, not frilly, comfortable chairs, a beautiful teak desk. No photos on the wall, no diplomas, no photos with the President, or even a Congressman. Chloe Sylk is famous, no photos of her either. Janah’s got no need to impress anyone, I doubt anyone but her family has ever been in here.
Janah and Daphne are standing, “Let’s have a seat around the table, McKenzie, you too.”
Zoe C, “Daphne, I see why you call your mom Sis. And Lacy is an adorable elf. I’ve seen Taylor someplace before but I can’t put my finger on where or when.”
Daphne, “Taylor is a former model, lots of magazines, runway, then digital work. When Lacy retired, they started traveling…everywhere. Well, not stupid places like the Middle East, although they get close, Greece is a favorite, but they like the Caribbean, not too much South America, but Europe and the far east. They use the homes in Canada and Arizona as well. Lacy may look petite, but she’s hell on wheels when she fishes the lake.”
“Then she’s Mickey and Zak’s pal, they get on the houseboat and roam the lake, always bring home good things for dinner.”
Daphne, “That’s why I saw Lacy and your two kids in conference, they were discussing fishing techniques. It looked pretty intense.”
“The dogs get along, two mastiffs and a Great Dane is a load of doggie.”
“Sis has fallen in love with Burma, she’ll have a Burmese before the end of next week. Did you tell her where you got it?”
Zoe C, “Yes, the breeder is a pro, only Burmese, absolutely purebred. And the setting she raises them in is pristine. In fact, I called, Susan is flying out next week to collect her new family member. Burmese are playful, love being around their family and will even swim in your pool.”
Janah, “I wanted a brief chat concerning less pleasant matters. We know where we are on Shadows, and Daph and I are happy to have found additional hunters. We have a huge family, but most girls don’t deal with Shadows. We also have a secondary project, abusers.”
Zoe C and I do a quick eye contact.
Daphne, “I see you’re familiar with the concept, you have also been doing your own version of attitude adjustment, we call it refocusing sometimes, as in getting the asshole to refocus his priorities away from beating women and children to something without violence, not even a raised voice.”
Janah smiles, “Except in extreme circumstances we don’t kill abusers, stalkers, or other bullies. We find the example effect more effective spreading the message.”
“Pretty much our approach, one of us makes the target incapable of continuing to abuse. And, as you say, people around them take notice. Nobody wants a permanent wheelchair, or missing digits. The others in our family have little to do with it, Akiko’s dealt with a couple of Shadows but hasn’t participated in attitude adjustment.” 
Janah, “May we call on you for help? We’re happy to reciprocate.”
“Absolutely, and we need to find those Shadows, the names we got in Lincoln, and particularly the Florida guy trying to organize our elimination.”
Daphne, “I take exception to their attempts to kill us just because we’re killing them.”
Janah, “Daphne’s got cognitive dissonance down to a way of life.”
Zoe C and I laugh, even Mac gets a hairsbreadth of a grin.
Daphne, “Just because I can hold two rationalizations in my head at once? I’d call that genius or….whatever.”
Janah, “I’ll run with whatever, you’re a martial arts genius, granted, the rest of your genius remains hidden.”
Daphne, “I don’t like to show off, it’s unseemly.”
Janah rolls her eyes, “I’ve had to live with her for nearly thirty years.”
McKenzie, “You met Daphne when you were eight, makes you thirty eight.”
Daphne, “We don’t do birthdays.”
Zoe C, “Not counting years leaves you looking like twenty somethings?”
Janah, “Not aging leaves us looking like twenty somethings.”
I turn to Zoe C, “I think they’re having us on.”
Janah, “You’ll learn. None of our family ages. We aren’t vampires, Nikko likes her steaks bloody, that’s about it. Staying up all night and sleeping in a coffin all day isn’t our style. Sloane has the teeth for it, but she’s not a vampire either.”
“Sloane is like Mickey, girl trapped in a boy’s body?”
Janah, “She doesn’t feel trapped, she’s a girl with a boy part. She thinks about the full transition but she’s much appreciated by a couple of our girls, they put the part to good use. She says she has the best of both genders and sees no reason to change.”
Zoe C, “Maybe Mickey will go the same route, she’s too young to be sexual of course, but she and Zak are bonded at the hip, brain too probably.”
Daphne, “Zackary is going to be quite the hunk, Mickey may want to transition. That’s a ways off though, they’ll go where their hormones lead them.”
Zoe C, “Could wind up like Chef and I, we’re as close as two people can get, not physical intimacy, psychological intimacy.”
Janah, “Deep intimacy, once you agree to share minds, nothing can be hidden. Think of what I have to hear going on in Daphne’s head. Although quite a bit of it involves me, I consider myself most fortunate. If she gets too bizarre, I can distract her with sex, she’s easily distracted.”
Daphne, “Are we getting into territory you’d rather McKenzie not wander around in?
“We don’t put walls around our kids’ minds, I suspect you are the same.”
Janah, “There is nothing healthy about making children adjust to a morbidly sick society.”
“Amen.”

Fifty Eight

We return to the others, a bunch of others, I call on Mac and Akiko to help with cooking. Ellen comes over.
“I’ll do creamed spinach, baked beans are in the oven, you did want bacon slices over the top, yes?”
“Perfect. You’ve fed them before, I guess you know how much to make.”
“Oh yeah, lots. Besides, the spinach and beans keep well, I’ve even frozen it. Microwave it back to life, tastes just fine. You want au jus with the steaks?”
“Be good, but I’m not putting them in any liquid to make the au jus.”
“I have a quart, keep a bit of that frozen too. I like it better than traditional gravy, no flour to add calories.”
Dasha passes, “I make already Boston cream pie, four, ees in extra refrigerating machine.”
“Wow, sounds delish, we’ve never made it, I know what it is though.”
McKenzie, “Yellow butter cake filled with custard and topped with chocolate glaze.”
Ellen, “McKenzie is as bad as Janah and Daria, they’re like Google except you don’t have to type in anything, you don’t even have to log-on.”
It’s a most pleasant day, a breeze off the ocean that smells of ocean, not dead fish. The children are screeching in the pool, the sounds of pure joy.
Lauren comes in for a bottle of water, “I thought Zak was blind.”
Zoe C, “He is.”
Lauren, “A joke, right? I watched him dive off the one meter, a dive, dive, he walks to the edge of the board, takes three steps back, then retraces them except he jumps on the third to get the spring. He even did a pike half gainer. He’s amazing.”
“He’s blind-sighted, he brain sees, his eyes don’t. It’s not perfect, he sees edges, outlines. If you ask him what he sees he says nothing, but ask him to cross a room full of furniture, he won’t bump into anything.”
Lauren, “Dang, even more amazing. Plus he’s sooo cute. When he hits sixteen you’re going to have to get a net to catch the girls buzzing around.”
“I think Mickey has staked out that territory, although she may not know it yet. The two of them are pair bonded right now, I suppose things can change, we’ll see.”
“Yep, she’s got her eye on him. She stood at the edge of the pool and let him know when it was clear for him to dive. Our little banshees applauded every dive.”
“And Zak came out grinning from ear to ear.”
“Time for cocktails?”
Ellen, “Who’s your bartender at home, here it’s usually Amaya, the crowd is bigger today though.”
Zoe C, “I’ll pitch in, I’m the bartender at our place. I like delivering glasses of chilled happiness.”
She goes over to the bar, Amaya shows up, they talk and laugh while prepping cocktail of choice.
Zoe C, “Who does the wine selection?”
Amaya, “Ellen, she has been trained both as a chef and sommelier. Our wine expenses could support a small country, but then we wouldn’t have any wine, that’s not happening.”
“Tell me about writing, your method. I don’t know any professional authors except you.”
Amaya smiles, “I write freestyle, no notes, no outlines, I have no idea where the plot is going. I sit, I type. It is different for something that will involve Chloe. Foremost in my mind is that Chloe look good, smart, talented, capable. She has to deliver snappy lines in style. That takes more thought. I have to hear her say the lines, rework things that don’t sound right. Chloe and I have worked together so long she knows what I want when she reads the dialogue. We still spend hours practicing things one way, then another. Now she adds dialogue I didn’t think of, so it is more of a collaboration.”
“She’s lucky to have found you.”
“Janah, Daphne and Zi found her, she was just an eight year old kid, they took her from Shadows.”
“Ah, and they’ve done it before and since.”
“Not just from Shadows, but yes, Janah has collected a group of people that enhance the whole family, saved some from nasty abuse or worse. Make a note, we do not talk about it. Nobody is ashamed, that’s not the point, we focus on now, no past, at least none before our life here. All we know is that Janah and Daphne saved us and gave us a life most people can only dream of. The ugliness we endured made us strong, and when we were free they never imposed any rules other than consideration, generosity and cooperation. Janah taught us, if we have those, we don’t need more rules.”
Zoe C, “Wise beyond her years I’d say.”
“And you are right. Janah and Daphne were never children, Daphne’s playful, but not childish. Daphne did gung fu at the Shaolin Temple that baffled experienced monks, baffled Masters as I was told. Told to me by Masters who saw it. And they took Qi to levels beyond all of them with the exception of one ancient monk, Master Tan. He’s gone a long time now, but he taught only three people before he died, Janah, Daphne and Chan, a monk who entered the temple when they did. He and his wife come out once in a while, we will have you over when they do. Chan is a rock, Ning is totally adorable, Janah is responsible for Chan finding Ning.”
“Janah stays busy.”
“God yes, she and Daph have the work ethic of an entire immigrant family. We notice and respect them for it, they elevate our game so to speak.”
The little kids come swarming through the house followed by Morshchiny. The mastiff takes a sharp right and sits in front of me, staring. I take it to mean she’s smelled steak.
“Is it okay to give Morshchiny a bit of steak?”
Ellen, “Sure, cut off a bite size chunk, not too much, she’s gonna swallow it whole, then tell her that’s all, she’ll go on up to the dorm.”
I do, she gently takes the piece from my fingers, leaves my fingers intact, swallow, gulp.
“That’s all Morshchiny, go to the children.”
“Huff!” She turns and thumps up the spiral staircase.
“Same as ours, they never chew, just swallow. I tried rawhides, neither of ours will lower themselves to lay around gnawing on them.”
Ellen, “Morshchiny is the same, her primary role is the children and they keep her occupied the bulk of the day. I think dogs chew stuff out of boredom, there’s no boredom here.”
I see Zoe C and Amaya laughing about something, my radar says she’s hoping to get Amaya into…well…bed, to be blunt. My mind briefly jiggles at the prospect of those two having a play date, I turn my attention to less volatile matters, grilling steak. 
Lots of help serving, everyone is seated and passing around the sides of spinach and baked beans. Steaks came out splendid if I do say so myself, actually I had Ellen and Akiko with an assist, thirty two steaks is a lot of juggling.
Nikko, the Japanese woman who’s known Daphne and Janah the longest, “Perfect, lots of runny red, thanks to whoever was in charge of mine.”
“I turned it over to Akiko.”
Nikko looks at her, “Akiko, beautiful name, sparkling child.”
Akiko grins, she’s always grinning but this one is a tad wider.
Nikko, “And she sparkles silently, good for her.”
I laugh with the others at our table, we’re spread all over, the children have their own table. The mastiff is parked on her side behind Uma and Sofia, the two youngest that appear to be six or seven. I also notice Morshchiny, while laying on her side, faces the patio door, not the children. She knows she doesn’t need to worry about the kids themselves, she’s focused on what’s outside. Zelda and Cilia are with Zak and McKenzie, they’ve been model visitors, but they did go around to catch the scent of the adults, from now on the girls will be friendlys, not suspects.
Amaya must be in full throttle, I hear regular bursts of laughter and can see her telling a story of some sort, must be funny, women are dabbing eyes with napkins while they screech. Zoe C has managed to claim prime property, Amaya on one side and Chloe on the other.
Chloe is beautiful in an angular and somewhat unique way. If I were to deconstruct, I’d have to say her eyes are a bit too far apart, nose a shade too long, she’s almost six feet tall and all of it lean. But if I lose my opinions and look at the girl, the whole girl, she’s devastating. It’s easy to see why cameras idolize her.
I channel Zoe C, 'I see you tactically maneuvered yourself into a prime spot.'
'Excuse me….Amaya parked me here, and I’m so happy she did.'
'Congrats, maybe more than halfway home, how about both?'
'Oh geez, I may have cardiac arrest.'

We disconnect. I could listen in on the conversation through Zoe C’s ears, but it seems…, well, unseemly.
I’m next to Daphne, Janah on her other side, then Nikko, Lacy Chapman, another seven including Oceane and Cassandra. This evening Cassie has decided to stay earthbound, she and Oceane are serenity itself. Cassandra doesn’t talk at all, Oceane may say things that have meaning for her but nobody else. Janah told me she is a water-baby, loves to swim, pool, ocean, lake, doesn’t matter. 
“I watched Oceane dive earlier, who taught her?”
Daphne, “We took lessons when we lived in Manhattan. Oceane takes to everything involving water. And the water and its creatures take to Oceane. She’s swum with dolphins, sharks and a blue whale.”
“Blue whale, that’s the biggest creature on Earth, in or out of the water.”
“It is, Oceane is maybe one fifteen, the whale goes a hundred fifty tons and almost a hundred feet long, we figured the whale barely noticed.”
“You don’t have limits, do you?”
“Not so far, but the game isn’t over yet.”
“If Janah’s not having me on, your game is eternal.”
“We don’t age, doesn’t make us invulnerable. A Shadow catches me off guard, I’m dead.”
“May I ask, and if it’s not my biz say so, the entire family is the age they are going to be ten, twenty or more years from now?”
“We don’t know how permanent this is, but yes so far.”
“My question is, almost none of you are biologically related, two sets of twins, but that’s it, right?”
“I’m pretty biologically related to my mom, Susan.”
I smile, “That would be biologically related. So, how is it with little common genetics, did this work out?”
Daphne grins, “My stock answer is moisturizer and vitamins. The real answer is telomeres. Janah and I have no telomere degradation, something to do with our RNA and proteins. We were able to capture those genetic markers and inject them into the family. They decide when to stop aging, puberty first, then they can receive the treatment.”
“Holy shift, you have the secret to immortality. That’s priceless…but you would never market it.”
“Of course not, we can’t. Too much has to be tested, retested and approved. That means way too many people knowing both us and what we are. One reason we live such an insular life, we keep contact with outsiders minimal.”
“You let us in.”
“Daria vetted you and your people, at least the three at the mall, Zoe C, McKenzie and Akiko. McKenzie and Daria began texting each other, Daria concluded that the rest of McKenzie’s family was a safe bet.”
I nod, “And if McKenzie trusted you your family was an equally safe bet for us.”

Fifty Nine

“So you’re letting the children mature before they decide.”
Daphne, “No, the children don’t age either, but not because we injected them with anything. They just don’t.”
“You don’t know why?”
“Not a clue, and we won’t subject them to tests, blood, DNA nothing. They are so tightly knit together, energetic and happy it seems pointless and intrusive.”
“Good, most people would be hauling them off to doctors….oh, duh, as if you and the others are like most people.”
She grins, “Probably not, neither are you guys, which is why you’re here. Janah will offer you the injections, you, Zoe C, Elle, Natalie, maybe McKenzie, but not the kids, not now.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“You can’t speak for the others anyway. Talk it over with them, then let it rest in your brains for a few days, or even weeks. We can do it anytime, or never if that’s what you and they decide. The only restriction is obvious.”
“Zoe C is going to do a back flip, I know her, she’s in before she’s in. Elle and Nat, I can’t imagine them turning it down, but perhaps there’s something in it that bothers or frightens them. McKenzie’s mind works differently, have no idea what she will say.”
“Talk it over tomorrow, we’ve had a fun day, the troops will be tired and tired isn’t the best state for making decisions. Tomorrow, when everyone has a clear head.”
“This might be an imposition, if it is, say so. Could you be there, might be questions I can’t begin to answer.”
“Sure. In fact, you likely need a designated driver tonight, even though it’s only a few miles. I don’t drink alcohol.”
“Great! Spend the night if you can, spare someone from following to bring you home.”
Mickey runs up, “Chef, the kids want us to spend the night, McKenzie and Akiko too.”
Daphne, “Even better, all of you spend the night.”
Zoe C tickles my brain, 'I’ve been invited to bunk with Amaya and Chloe, there is no chance of me turning that down.'
'Daphne suggested we all stay over, their kids invited our kids already. Tell Elle and Nat please. If they prefer to go home, Daphne will take them, she doesn’t drink.'
Natalie comes over, 'McKenzie and Akiko have been invited to spend the night, but McKenzie wants to go home. I can take them, I’ve only had two glasses of wine.'
'Good, saves Daphne a trip, I’m coming with, I’ll take advantage of an evening alone with you.'

When we get home, McKenzie and Akiko take the dogs around the property, Natalie and I have a closing cocktail. The girls are tired when they come in, up to baths and into bed. Natalie graces me with her body, I get it to quiver and moan, after which we dissolve into sublime unconsciousness.
McKenzie is up early, coffee’s made, she has steel cut oatmeal on the stove and eggs out to poach.
“Good idea, oatmeal and eggs, there are only the four of us today, why ten eggs?”
Mac, “Zelda and Cilia.”
The two dogs are on either side of McKenzie, Zelda looks up at me and huffs. I’m never quite sure what she’s trying to tell me, but I listen attentively and scratch her ears, that seems to do the trick. I move on to Cilia, can’t play favorites.
“Fed the dogs yet?”
“Yes, and they’ve been out.”
“Dang, what time did you get up?”
“Not until seven. The oatmeal is ready, you poach eggs, I’m going to the office and follow the numbers.”
She means trade stocks, but she only thinks of them as symbols and prices, she couldn’t tell you what the companies made or what service they perform. It works, in part, because she brings no biases to it. Sometimes people pick stocks for goofy reasons, the company HQ is in their town so they think they ‘know’ it. I’ve seen people who won’t buy stocks over twenty bucks because ‘you get more shares for the same money’, which makes no sense at all.
The more sophisticated, so they think, look at financials, PE ratios, gross and net revenue, EBDITA, all meaningless because they tell you what happened, not what will happen. The totally deluded try the voodoo of technical analysis with its exponential this and that, head and shoulders, MACD and other meaningless nonsense, you might as well throw chicken bones on a tin drum and read the ‘signs’.
Akiko comes along, gets a hug and pulls her stool to the stove. She cracks eggs and drops them one by one into the poacher cups I lined with clarified butter. When they’re done, they slide right out onto the plate. 
I fix myself a second cup and plop on a stool to watch the tiny wonder do her thing. She learned from watching McKenzie, which means things done in a certain order for a specified time. No exceptions.
Natalie shows up, “Just in time for oatmeal and eggs…and coffee.”
She pours a cup, drops in her preferred additives, parks next to me, “Had fun last night, after a fun day, different kinds of fun.”
“You were splendido, thank you. I wonder if Daphne or Janah is up?”
“You want to check on the kids?”
“No, I’m sure they’re fine, any problems someone would have called. We’re going to have a family discussion, but prefer to keep it small, so we’ll have it here.”
Rather than call, I text, if she’s occupied, at least there won’t be a ringtone distracting her.
A reply in one minute, ‘sure, Janah and I will come and bring the kids, although Janah may not want to return Elle. Zoe C hasn’t poked her head out of Amaya’s room, probably working on a screenplay or something.’
‘Studying the Kama Sutra?’
‘Trust me, Amaya and Chloe don’t need further sex education, they are sex education.’
‘Zoe C may never leave.’
‘It’s only a few miles, and she’s welcome anytime, as are the rest of you, what time works?’
‘Eleven, anytime really, I’ll have something for lunch, maybe fresh grilled fish and steamed vegetables, sound okay?’
‘Perfect, cu soon.’ 
I eat, Akiko’s poached are perfect, buttery steel cut oats with mascarpone.
“Nat, I need to get fish, let me talk to Mac first.”
I go to the office, McKenzie is staring at her Bloomberg. “Grilled fish for lunch, steamed vegetables, do we need any grocery stuff?”
Eyes don’t leave the screen, “No, I will tell Akiko to take out the veal, make lasagna tonight.”
I leave, find fresh sea bass, pick up healthy looking vegetables, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, asparagus. Mac says we’re good for anything else, a simple trip. I get the fish in the refrigerator, wash the vegetables and set them in a colander to drain. They only take a few minutes to steam to tender but not mush, McKenzie has her timing down.
At ten forty five, I hear the ding that tells me someone has opened the gate, two minutes later Mickey and Zak come blasting through, then the dogs, then Daphne and Janah.
Daphne, “Where’s Burma?”
“See the cat tree in the far corner, just before the hallway?”
“Yep.”
“Walk past, and be ready, she’s a samurai cat and loves to pretend she’s captured you.”
Daphne goes over, just as she’s about to the hallway, Burma pounces. Her pounce isn’t a claw thing, she bumps off Daphne’s shoulders, lands on the floor and zips back up to one of her hiding spots in the tree. 
Daphne’s laughing, “Janah, we have to get one of these.”
Janah, “Susan is already getting one, tell her to get two, both females, I don’t want to get into Burmese breeding.”
They sit at the dining table, I provide fresh coffee for Daphne, Janah has green tea. Burma can’t stand to be left out, she slips across the main room, hops into Daphne’s lap and stands with her face nose to nose with Daphne. Then her trademark move, one paw lifted ever so slowly, it waves around a bit, then taps Daphne on the nose, then again. She leaps in the air, does a back flip and jumps back into Daphne’s lap. 
Janah’s giggling so hard she has to dab her eyes with a napkin, “Amazing, and nobody taught her that? Cats are notoriously difficult to train.”
Zoe C, “Mickey didn’t do anything, Burma is Burma, life for her is one party after another.”

Sixty

Janah goes over with the girls what she told me yesterday. She answered most questions before they were asked, any side effects? Not so far, it’s been over ten years, nothing except not aging.
Daphne, “I don’t know if it’s a positive side effect, or has anything to do with the proteins, but none of us has ever been sick, no colds, no flu, no allergies, not so much as a cavity. We get injuries of course, Shadows and whatnot, but with Qi they heal quickly.”
Elle, “Damn, count me in.”
Janah, “Think it over for a week, call any of us with questions. Best we can tell, when it’s done, it’s done, we don’t know how to undo it.”
Natalie, “I’m tempted to yes, but I agree, wait a week and let it sink in, getting a week older won’t hurt.”
Daphne, “Sensible. McKenzie, have you started your period yet?”
“Last month.”
“Then give it at least six months, let the adolescent hormones do what they do. After that, your decision.”
Mac nods. She’s a ruthlessly sensible kid, product of Asperger’s maybe.
Janah, “I’m mildly autistic, but not obsessive, McKenzie and I understand each other. With Daphne it’s hard to be unsociable, she’s a people magnet. We had to shift grocery duties when we lived in Manhattan because Daphne would take forever, had to chat with clerks, butchers, neighbors, passing cops. She let ice cream melt in the grocery bag three times. That’s when Dasha started going along, to pull her away from a million acquaintances and friends.
“Funny, did people object?”
“No, they like Dasha, and they know her, she takes no prisoners.”
Daphne, “I’d be chattering away, Dasha comes along, ‘Dahfoney, we haf to shop for making dinner, no to shop for audience, come along now, you can make chitting and chatting later’. It made them laugh, which is sorely needed these days.”
“I guess people weren’t happy when you left town.”
“It was hard to leave, but Nikko wanted out of the property business. She, Daria and Zi were essentially on call twenty four seven. All the years we owned them, values kept rising until they skyrocketed. She sold out at astronomical prices. And it’s New York, people stay on the go, their lives chugged along and we’re eventually forgotten. We still get together with our temple friends, they like going to Canada.”
“And your mom and friends wanted out as well.”
“Sis wanted to be near the kids, and they travel a lot, being out here there’s people to look after her house.”
“You didn’t keep anything in Manhattan?”
“No point, we seldom go to New York, if we do it’s simpler to get a hotel room. We haven’t been in five years. Janah’s parents live there, but are moving here at the end of the year. Kara, Janah’s mom, can sell her art here as easy as Manhattan and James already has an offer to consult.”
“Who does he consult?”
“He’s a diagnostic psychiatrist, I’m told one of the best. The hospital calls him when they have conflicting diagnoses, or just can't figure out what to call the behavior, or what treatment regimen is called for, or if a treatment isn’t working, what to change.”
“Ah, I can see where that might be a thing, patients don’t come in a wrapper that says schizophrenic or bipolar.”
“And James doesn’t like the current treatment procedure, throw pills at it and see if anything works.”
“A genuine doc, of the old school who is creating the new school.”
“Yep, he never warmed to the middle school, the shift from talk to drugs. It’s a matter of cost. Insurance wants them cured by therapy in ten or twelve weeks, then they cut off payments. They’d rather pick up the bill for prescription drugs, which is understandable, particularly since they get kickbacks from the pharmaceutical companies. The patient receives no benefit from the kickbacks, the whole business, all of medicine in the US, borders on fraud.”
I smile, “And you beat the system by never getting sick.”
Daphne laughs, “Plus we’re rich, we self insure. So far we’ve spent nothing on doctors or hospitals in over twenty years.”
“That’s what I did. Our family has biologically unrelated members. They do quite well, Natalie takes the kids for dental checkups, the rest of us go once a year. Other than that preventative maintenance we don’t know any docs.”
“Janah’s dad will prescribe common stuff, antibiotics for instance. He’s already licensed in California, if your people need something obvious, you can get a scrip from him. He’s never prescribed opioids, and won’t. Fortunately it doesn’t come up much for a psychiatrist.”
“What does come up for me is lunch prep.”
McKenzie, “Akiko and I will do it.”
“Thank you, what to drink? We have almost everything, cold tea, green or black, soda, all diet, water, wine, whatever.”
Daphne, “Green tea for Janah and me. Can I help with anything?”
McKenzie, “Fish will have garlic and lemon butter sauce, you know it?”
“Sure do,” she stands to find a skillet, Akiko gets the garlic and lemon, clarified butter is out already.
Melt butter, sauté garlic and chopped onion. Spread on top of the fish while it grills, turn the fillets, layer with the sauce again, keep remainder of sauce for the table.
Akiko drizzles warm clarified butter over the vegetables, sprinkle of salt and paprika, lunch is served.
Janah, “Compliments to the chefs, the fish is flaky, tangy buttery sauce, vegetables warm with a nice crunch.”
Akiko smiles, McKenzie nods, despite her flat affect she likes to be appreciated, who doesn’t? 
We finish up lunch, “What can I get for anyone?”
Janah, “A nap, but I’ll do it at home.”
Daphne, “Janah stays absurdly busy, it might not look like she’s doing stuff, but she’s doing stuff you can’t see, in her head. Brains chew up a lot of energy. She would just push through, Dr. Daphne prescribes otherwise. What clean up can I do?”
Elle, “Don’t even, you’ve offered us immortality. Zoe C and I can handle dishes, most of it is rinse and in the dishwasher, easy peasy.”
Daphne, “Lemon squeezy…thanks so much McKenzie, Akiko, you did well.”
They take off. Elle grins.
Natalie, “What are you smirking about?”
“Last night, Janah took me off the planet.”

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