Chapter Sixty Five

Chloe takes over sitting with the girl, the rest of us are back in the suite. It’s after two, Chloe and Amaya had lunch, we need a snack. We opt for tea and coffee, order a platter of fruit, granola and yogurt, we work on it while Tonya marinates.
“What happens with her? You deleted some memory, I felt that.”
Janah, “Have to wait and see. I couldn’t do a memory wipe as we’ve done with some of our targets. She’s not killing anyone, no reason she has to be zombied. As long a she doesn’t do the obnoxious stuff, it doesn’t matter. She may be more or less sexual than average, average is a moving target anyway. People have strong sexual urges for a time, they subside, new partners, change of atmosphere like travel or relocation can make things seem new and different, sexual energy perks up. Weight gain, weight loss, physical activity, even diet moves us around the libido dial.”
“People judge others sexual behavior based on their own, what’s normal and proper is subjective.”
“People gauge everyone’s behavior by their own. It isn’t always a clear line. One person thinks anything but intimacy with a marriage partner is taboo, then the same person has an affair or a divorce and the line shifts. Subsequent rationales are an attempt to explain their new behavior, justify it. Or they claim they didn’t change, circumstances did. It’s all confabulation.”
“I never understood the need for consistency in people’s self monologues. We’re always changing, consistency is a myth.”
“People want to hang a structure on themselves, I am this, I am that. In the end, it’s self imposed limitation, but people don’t see that.”
Amaya, “I have no experience with limitation, my world is unlimited.”
“You have a gift, perhaps a curse, that some of the rest of us have. We aren’t aging. Age is the ultimate limitation, a finite resource. People can try to take good care of themselves, keep learning, stay active, eat reasonably. But time, genetics and accidents invariably trump good behavior. If gene mutations or speeding cars leave them alone, they might add a few more years.”
Amaya, “If my genes betray me, I shall never forgive them.”
“You have our DNA, aging is dormant.”
Dasha, “We haf to decide when to get DNA. Sister ees thinking soon, maybe sixteen.”
“That is up to you.”
“How ees merging work?”
Janah, “Pretty simple really. You decide that it will happen, but don’t do anything else. Don’t work towards it, like learning math. Say ‘this will happen’ and skip effort towards making it happen. People believe they always have to do something to get something. You don’t do anything to wake up, or to breathe, or to make your heart beat. If one of those things doesn’t happen, it’s death. But they do happen, without any conscious effort on your part.”
Dasha is processing, she and Daria are looking at each other, it is quiet for a time. Dasha announces, “We make intending.”
Chloe texts, ‘tonya is stirring’
Janah goes to the room. Before Tonya can fully wake, Janah puts her back to sleep, then calls Extraction. The situation will be identical to the one that brought her to the ranch in Santa Fe, a girl who was promiscuous in the extreme. She will recall that, recall her parents giving up on her, recall her choice, the ranch or social services. Except this time, if Janah’s intervention takes hold, she will lose formerly uncontrollable impulses. She will, as we all do, concoct a self narrative that her former circumstances caused her behavior and now that she’s in different circumstances, she doesn’t need to do that anymore.
It didn’t take just to be removed from her home, she was still under the control of her compulsions. Janah’s mental rearrangement will, if things go well, allow her a recovery without guilt or recrimination. She will be with others kids who have equally disturbing stories, many worse. There won’t be any foster parents or their siblings or new kids at a school to whisper about her former life.
An older man and woman from Extraction arrive, he carries the sleeping Tonya out the side entrance to the waiting car.
Janah returns, “I’m bushed, need to get a couple hours rest. Don’t let me sleep longer than that, don’t need to be up all night.”
She goes off to the bedroom, it’s after three, we take a long walk around Santa Fe, it’s cool, not freezing, the sun is out. We aren’t sightseeing, just moving. An hour and a half brisk walk and we are nicely loose, return to the hotel. I wake Janah, we have late tea.
Janah does an hour of yoga with Chloe, the girls go off to shower, Amaya and I shower in her room, sit on her bed doing each other’s toes, then lay back, chill and wait for the polish to harden. When it does, Amaya decides I need to make love to her. Obviously, she’s brilliant.
Chloe comes in as I’m following Amaya’s direction, I feel her smile, she strips and showers. Amaya is nicely dreamy when Chloe returns.
Amaya, “Thank you Daphne, you may return to your room, I have a second plan for Chloe, she will soon feel as splendid as I do. Then we shall see over a cocktail what you have decided for dinner.”
I kiss Chloe to warn her up, collect my clothes and go to my room, crank up the laptop to fish around for places to eat.
We’d picked up vodka, a jar of olives and bitters on our walk, she makes two drinks, hands one to Chloe.
Amaya, “Girls, do you want a drink?”
Daria, “Vodka, like yours,” Dasha, “I will haf sip of sister’s.”
“I found a place called Café Pasqual, walking distance. There’s likely a line but they claim the food is worth it.”
I have the menu up on the laptop, they huddle around and study choices. When drinks are empty, we head out.
We’re primed by the time we sit, keep to our preference of ordering a variety and sharing when it’s served. While we wait, Amaya and Chloe have another round, with sneaky assists from our Belarusians. Janah orders a bottle of New Mexico rosé sparkling wine. I am my usual Diet Coke exciting self. Dinner consists of:
Two orders of Filet Mignon with sautéed porcini mushrooms, corn on the cob with ancho chile lime butter and a sauté of purslane, a leafy herb, and garlic.
Thai noodle stir fry sautéed with tomatoes, celery, ginger, cabbage, garlic, spinach, scallions, & Thai chilies served with tofu.
Caramelized onion and poppy seed tart with Shiitake mushrooms, spinach topped with bleu cheese.
 Two plates of pan seared haddock tostada with three salsas, tomato jalapeño, tomatillo and pico de gallo, sliced avocado, shredded cabbage, refried beans and Spanish rice.
Janah, “The noodles are terrific, Dasha, are the caramelized onions as good as yours?”
“Da, I like mushroom and chizz blue,” she passes the plate to Janah.
Amaya, “Steak is to die for, nice char, just red inside, like Daphne makes at home, here Janah, take this corn, I shall sneak a fork of Daphne’s haddock, and a chunk of avocado.”
We take our time, nowhere to get to, and this food is to be savored.
Daria and Dasha are looking at each other, must be mentaling, Dasha asks, “We did not see girl after.”
Janah, “That was something I overlooked, I should have gotten you back into the room with me, to get Daria’s opinion. Chloe was there, what did you see, Chloe?”
“She was just stirring, and Janah put her back to sleep, so the aura may not mean much, it wasn’t like she was fully conscious. Nothing in what I was able to see made me concerned. No obvious disturbance, she was mostly blank.”
Janah, “My thought was to get her moving to her new home. This isn’t going to be perfect, she may have flashes of impulse. The trick was to keep her clear on why she was at the ranch at all. I couldn’t delete memories of her promiscuity, then being there wouldn’t make sense. She has to recall her parents giving up on her, and why. The next job was to make her prefrontal cortex more active. The shortfall appeared to be there, not hormone or neurotransmitter malfunction, rather not being able to identify consequences. When her pleasure centers overwhelmed her judgment, she had no resources to back them off, she could only go with what felt good, not what was sensible.”
Dasha looks to Daria, then, “Daria says we are opposite from girl. Girl ees all emotion, we are no.”
Chloe, “You are not no emotion. The girl is not all emotion. She operates more on feelings than most people, you operate less, but it isn’t all black or all white.”
Janah, “That’s correct. Your lack of empathy gives you a certain strength. The price of that is the ability to flow easily with others. Every get has a give. You handle it by relationship with Chloe, Daphne and Amaya. For you, it is enough. And you are better off than Tonya, she over shares, some people take advantage of her, others are offended by her aggressiveness. It’s a no win situation for her. You and Daria require almost nothing from anyone, other people cannot manipulate you, you don’t want anything from them, feel no need to control. Tonya wants to control by controlling others, she goes about it inappropriately and hurts herself in the process. Neither you nor Daria cares if anyone likes you, you will do what is necessary to make them leave you alone. Tonya is vulnerable and dangerous, you two are just dangerous.”
Dasha, “Da. We will not permeet abuse people. If we haf not abandon by mother, Daria would put her away, she was making already plan. Then old people, harmless, but sell us to Russian. Sister will put him away, but Dahfoney, Nikko and Zi fix. We owe gud life to fahmahley. We do not permeet fahmahley to be hurt.”
Amaya, “Thank you Daria, thank you Dasha. If anything happens to Vesnushki, I will be devastated.”
Dasha, “Vesnushki ees strong, Daria knows,” she turns to her sister, “ what ees zhelezo?”
“Vesnushki ees iron, whatever ees happen, she does not break.”
Amaya, “I am relieved to know it.”
Dessert seems right, lighten the conversation. We split two orders of peach pie with vanilla ice cream and two more of three berry shortcake on a cornmeal biscuit with Chantilly cream, which is cream, sugar and usually vanilla, beaten into a light fluffy consistency, like in pastry filling.
Suffice it to say, if you find yourself in Santa Fe, get in line at Café Pasqual.
We walk off dinner in the chilly air, return to our rooms. Janah goes to bed, still reenergizing, I sit with the twins and watch a movie we picked up in the middle, the Taken sequel. Lots of action, Maggie Grace is hot in her tiny shorts, Liam gets things sorted out by killing everyone.
Dasha, “Russian always bad in movie.”
“Does that trouble you?”
“No, we know bad Russian men, always for money, girls.”
I leave them, go to our room and curl around Janah, she shifts slightly, asleep. I kiss her shoulder and descend into the dark.

Chapter Sixty Six

We’re taking today to go white water rafting, even Amaya is going which surprises me a bit. Getting soaked and bouncing around in a raft doesn’t strike me as her idea of fun.
Amaya, “Chloe wants to, so I sacrifice, everyone here has seen me dripping out of the shower anyway. If I use it in a book, better to have the actual experience.”
Hard to tell if the twins are stoked, but Chloe says the auras have, not excitement, sort of a curiosity.
I’m curious, “What does curiosity look like?”
“Like those drinks where they stack liqueurs on each other with different viscosity, so it makes colored layers, that’s sort of it. As if exploring varied tastes.”
Janah, “That actually makes sense.”  
Amaya is driving, her minor passion, it’s about an hour from Santa Fe and the meet-up is eight a.m. They provide the gear and lunch, just show up and ride. We arrive at seven thirty, meet our guide, Henri. I can see dear Henri thinks he’s won the raft guide Powerball, six girls who make hot seem inadequate.
He goes thorough the rules, basically don’t do anything stupid, yes we can all swim. We have on enough floatation stuff to jump into the Atlantic from the Queen Mary, plus helmets. It’s impossible to look chic in a white helmet, trust me.
The first part of the trip is relaxing and bland, Henri explains paddling, we shove the raft left and right in coordination, it’s not rocket science. If we fall out and move away from the raft, lay on our back, feet downstream until we either are rescued by the boat, or get close enough to shore to kneel on the sand. He tells us to be careful on the rocks, there are places that can catch your foot, you get trapped, maybe sucked under. It hard to see how with the life vest, but I’m surely no expert, seems prudent to take his word for it.
Paddling is straightforward, paddle left, turn right, straighten out, paddle forward, and vice versa. The idea is to avoid the big rocks ahead of time or the raft gets hung up, or it bangs so hard somebody spills out.
We learn about J strokes used to make slight turns, brace strokes, slap the paddle flat on the surface to rebalance ourselves if we’re falling out. Finally, paddle forward on one side and backwards on the other to rotate the boat if we wind up backwards.
We spend part of the float downstream practicing, how to use eddies behind rocks to propel the raft to the shore or back up river.
There are a few rather short stretches of whitewater, we dodge smaller rocks, bounce around. Get our first splash. The rafts are self bailing, which is most helpful. The weather is chilly, the water obviously cold, at least it’s sunny. When we stop on one of the sand banks for lunch, it feels good to get out of the gear and let things dry a bit. We have Dutch oven BBQ and grilled vegetables, nice food for sitting on a beach with the Rio Grande floating by.
“Henri, that was masterful, just delicious.”
Henri, “Thanks, it helps to have starving rafters, probably could serve cold scrambled eggs.”
Janah, “This seems better.”
We stretch, shake out the stiff stuff, pack up, regear and back in the raft.
The second half is not the first. Rushing water crashes against fat boulders, we fight to keep it from nosing straight onto the rocks, shuddering bounces lift us off our seats, we bang into a rock sideways, the boat lifts up and wants to throw us out.
Henri yells, “Move the weight to the river side,” we scooch over and settle the raft into the water, now it wants to pour over the side, half our crew moves toward center, we’re better balanced and ready to ease away.
Henri, “Paddle straight, the current will turn us quickly, don’t get thrown over.”
Janah, Dasha and I are on the upriver side, we paddle like crazy, deep hard strokes, the boat begins to inch forward, then we’re halfway out from the rock and the current takes over, the nose shifts downstream like a bullet, then it overshoots and  the tail of the raft starts to circle.
Henri, “Back paddle, keep the raft straight, the current will do the rest.”
Now we’re paddling back to front, resetting the nose so it’s downstream, I’m in good shape, but I have to say, it’s straining the bejesus out of my shoulders. I’m glad to have Dasha in front of me, all the years of tumbling, handstands and hand walking have made her shoulders and back built for the strain.
Mercifully, there’s a stretch of fast current, not whitewater, everyone is looking downstream for the next challenge.
Henri, “The next whitewater is worse than the last, the rocks are not so huge but harder to see. About a third of the way in, there’s a big one dead center, you’ll see it in time, but you’ll also be bouncing around and maneuvering. When I yell left, ease it left, when our rear is clear then straighten out and we should sail past the big guy.”
Cripes, what a ride, I spot the rock, “That must be it,” I yell back to Henri, “Yes, turn, turn, turn.”
What he neglected to mention was that the speed of the water makes what looks like lots of river into not much river. We turn like crazy, not enough, the right side tail of the raft bashes the boulder, the raft actually lifts up on our side and Dasha is thrown forward, her paddle falls in the river, she’s off her seat aiming straight for a face plant into crashing water.
Thank you owl, thank you years of martial arts, thank you reflexes. Just as she’s halfway out, I snatch the back of the vest and pull her against me, danged if she doesn’t giggle.
“Dasha makes for sweem, Dahfoney save again.”
“Girl, you near gave me a heart attack, here take this paddle and get to work, we have a lot of rapid left.”
Henri, “Great save up there, stay busy, we’ve more rapids to navigate.”
We collect the lost paddle and press on.
Yeow, this is like water judo, at least landings on the rubber raft are soft enough, we are drenched, yet I haven’t had such sheer fun in I don’t know when. I have to assume this section the canyon is as lovely as the first half, there’s no time to appreciate the view, just paddle and try to stay on board.
Then it’s over and we pull into the bank breathing hard and grinning like idiots, even Daria almost has an expression.
“Chloe, what’s Daria feeing?”
Chloe, “Fuzzy pink and purple, sheer joy for her.”
Amaya, “I am a drowned rat, but a happy one, Henri, that was remarkable.”
Janah, “Just splendid, Henri, we are greener than spring grass, but you got us through, thank you.”
Henri, “I get my reward, I have the best job, I get to have fun five days a week, although sometimes things get dicey, or rafters get dumb. Then I’m dragging them out of the water, but I’ve yet to lose a soul, once we had a cracked ankle. Foot caught in a rock trap.”
“Bet that hurt.”
“It’s inexperience. No matter how much we coach to just float downstream, people want to try and stop themselves. It is really quite nice floating along in the water. The vests won’t let you go under. But the speed in the rapids can panic people and coaching goes out the window.”
We’re brought back to our car, a little drier by the time we get there. The trip is one fifteen a head, there are six of us, so seven hundred rounded off, plus some equipment rental. I figure a two hundred dollar tip is good. Henri thinks it’s really good, we pile into our Escalade with him smiling and waving.

Chapter Sixty Seven

Amaya, “Put a bag over my head, I am a wreck, what if Chloe’s paparazzi are circling our hotel?”
“I don’t get paparazzi, there are so many pictures of me on the fan page and Google images, my photos are worthless.”
“You do not do it correctly. You should be going to clubs in micro miniskirts with no underwear, spreading your legs as you exit the limo. Then get into horrific fights with girls, load up on coke and get arrested. Either that get married, pregnant and divorced, preferably to a rapper, but a baseball moron will do.”
Chloe giggles, “How are you going to get me pregnant?”
“Immaculate conception. No sperm will ever pass your gates, I shall cut off delivery first, most painfully. I can be in your mind, you cannot creep around and be secretly bi, I shall know instantly.”
“And when have you ever gotten a bi vibe from me?”
It’s nearly six when we get to our rooms, shower off the day and hang up wet shoes and clothes to dry. We gather in the suite, Amaya breaks out vodka she left to chill in the refrigerator. She, Chloe and Dasha can have their very own vodka on the rocks, Daria opts for chilled, neat. Janah has white wine, I have you know what.
Janah, “I don’t get the sense anyone’s up for dressing for dinner, perhaps downscale.”
“Excellent, I surfed something called Shed Creative Cooking when I found Café Pasqual’s. It’s Mexican, sounds fresh and tasty and not far from here.”
In an hour we’re parked at a table, munching on warm tortilla chips and high grade guacamole.
Amaya and Chloe have shifted to frozen margaritas, Janah decides they look good, order’s one. The twins are mostly licking the salt, with sips of the drink snuck in. We order two appetizers of grilled shrimp and study the menu.
Amaya, “Charbroiled steak and enchilada.”
Dasha, “We will haf same, just one, and taco plate, cheeken, red sauce.”
Simple enough, Janah wants the blue cheese walnut salad and vegetarian blue corn burritos. The taco plate looks good, I get mine with beef, red chile sauce as well.
Margaritas are empty, the twins have done more than sip, another round. The place is simple, clean, orderly. It doesn’t take long, food is out, hot, smells yummy. We’re voracious, feed like starved wolves.
Dessert looks too good to pass on, French apple pie with walnuts and whipped cream, and dark chocolate hot fudge sundaes.
Dasha is scraping hot fudge from the bottom of the glass, “Ees gud, Dahfoney,” she sticks the spoon in my mouth, she’s right. I had the apple pie, most of it, Dasha the rest.
The restaurant closes at nine, it’s near that now, we pay up and start back to the hotel. We’re shuffling along, then noise halfway down the block, two men arguing with a woman, a car with the door open idling at the curb. I see them trying to drag her into the car, she’s giving them a fight.
“Stop here, Janah stay in front of the girls.”
Dasha, “I go wiz Dahfoney.”
“Stay just behind me then, let’s see if we can sort it out.”
One of the men smacks the woman, my first guess is it’s a prostitution thing, but she doesn’t have the look. They’re Hispanic, so is she, doesn’t matter, they don’t need to be hitting her.
“Gentlemen, enough macho, let her go.”
The men turn to me, one is big, not huge, maybe six feet, medium build. The other is chunky, round face, sweating from his exertions.
Medium says, “Mine joo beezness, puta.”
I walk up to him, stand between him and the woman, “You don’t want more trouble than you can handle, why two guys wailing on one woman?”
The woman is screeching in Spanish, Janah’s in my head, She says they’re kidnapping her.
I hear Chunk behind me, “Don’ ha no time for these bullsheet,” I feel his hand on my shoulder.
I look over my shoulder, his eyes widen, my head is almost one eighty, “No touching, that’s assault,” my heel plants hard in his gut, he smashes against the car, ooofff!
Medium takes a swing at me, I step into it, knife hand block his wrist, smash my elbow into his cheek. A millisecond later, my knee introduces itself to his privates. He folds in half, I snap kick him under the chin, he flips over, laid out cold on the sidewalk.
I hear a howl behind me and turn to see Chunk with a very messy nose and a knee that doesn’t want to support him anymore. The only reason he’s upright is that he’s hanging on to the open car door. He’s reaching into a jacket pocket, Dasha slams the car door and crushes his hand, “caramba!!”
His free hand pulls out a small caliber something, I grab his wrist and bust it, the gun clatters to gutter. I figure he’s better off out of it, put the squeeze on his carotid, lack of blood shuts down his brain and he falls towards the car door, bangs his skull on the top and slides face down to the curb.
I pick up the gun, pull the magazine and eject the round in the chamber.
The woman is shaking, “Gracias, gracias senorita,” she begins rambling in Spanish, Janah walks up to interpret.
After she settles, she says she’s the daughter of Francisco Valdez Calderon, who she seems to think we should know, we don’t. Janah explains that we are not from the area, she says that he is a very important man, one having issues with another Jeffe who employs the two punks. We’d stumbled on a kidnapping in progress.
Janah doesn’t want the cops involved, asks where her car is, she points down the block.
Janah carries on in Spanish, the woman is still shaking, “Senorita Calderon, are you able to drive?”
Calderon, “I must call my father, he will send people. He has been afraid of this, I did not think Tomas Menendez so stupid. It is I who have been stupid.”
Janah, “Call you father, but let’s move away from here, there are bound to be police soon. We need to get your car gone too.”
I wipe my prints off the gun and the magazine, stick it in Chunk’s hand, then wipe the car door where Dasha touched it. Amaya takes the keys to the woman’s car, a small BMW, won’t fit all of us. I stay with the girls, Janah and Amaya drive her few blocks to the hotel, we come along shortly after, wait in the lobby.
“Amaya, Chloe, take the twins up to our room. We don’t need to have everyone noticed, you can follow along from there as well as here,” guess it’s going to be busy in my head.
Twenty minutes later, we meet Francisco Valdez Calderon. He doesn’t look like a gang leader, he looks like a wealthy businessman.
His daughter rushes into his arms, weeping, apologies, reassurances from dad. Two guys with him resemble bulldozers, they don’t introduce themselves, they don’t say squat.
Senorita Calderon is pointing to me, they talk for a while, father comes over, unlike his daughter, his English is excellent.
He bows, offers his hand, I shake it.
Calderon, “I am deeply in your debt. Paloma has only been in this country a few days, to think I brought her here for her safety,” he shakes his head, “in Mexico, kidnapping for money, business disputes, revenge, is common. She lived in a small village, out of the city, I have to be in the US. She knows some English, I think tonight too upset to think in English, I am happy a Spanish speaker was able to help. You put yourself at great risk, although Paloma tells me you and another young woman handled the incident most efficiently, and bravely.”
“We have some experience.”
Calderon, “So it seems. I suppose asking what is not in order.”
“Better you don’t know, Jeffe.”
He nods, smiles, “And it is better you do not trouble yourselves about my business disputes,” he drops a hint, “but perhaps a fearless woman to protect Paloma might be more to her liking.”
“Sounds interesting, we don’t do that kind of work. We happened along, I’m glad we were able to help.”
Calderon, “Then would you accept a reward for such bravery?”
“A generous thought, señor , but unnecessary.”
“Please then, may I offer my card? This number is to my office directly, I apologize, I do not know your names.”
Janah, “If we call, we’ll say we met at the Rosewood under happy circumstances.”
“Then it will also do me no good to invite you to my home for dinner.”
“Again, most gracious, perhaps another time. We often find that new friends have a way of crossing our path again. Here’s what I can do, may I have another of your cards?”
He hands her one, she writes one of our several phone numbers on the blank side, “If your family has troubles here in the states, call. We may be able to assist when it is better to keep your known associates,” she nods to the behemoths, “out of it. It must only involve temporary protection or rescue of innocents. How you and your competitors resolve issues among yourselves is not our concern.”
Calderon tilts his head down just a fraction, “I understand. Perhaps we shall meet again,” we shake hands.
Paloma sees the conversation ending, comes over and hugs us both with many thank yous, she, dad and the two Mack trucks head out the door.
“I don’t know how the gorilla is going to fit inside that BMW.”
Janah, “Dad isn’t going to let her drive it herself, one of them will just have to scrunch in.”

Chapter Sixty Eight

“Dasha, you were splendid. How is your hand?”
She holds it out, “I hit with this part, like you say,” she taps her knuckles.
“How did you know to crack his knee?”
Dasha, “I watch you, Nikko, hit dummy on knee and make it buzz. Then I hit dummy.”
“I never saw you practice on them.”
“When Daria ees study money, boring, I keek dummy.”
Janah, “I’ve heard her in there, I assumed you knew about it, so much for my assumptions.”
“Doesn’t matter, I’m glad to know you’ve been practicing, really glad tonight. Chunk could have slipped up on me, thank you.”
“We protect fahmahley.”
Chloe, “Yes, you did. Let me say thank you as well, Dasha.”
Amaya, “You were awesome! We expect this from Daphne, I am so proud of you, just fearless. I shall put a weird Belarusian girl in my next book. She will be the heroine.”
“Make her Daria, sister would not haf let fat boy off so easy as Dasha.”
I don’t doubt it. Daria is as ruthless as Dasha is fearless. If she had been there instead of down the block, Chunk might be permanently extinguished.  
Chloe, “Fearless warriors need to sleep, it is after eleven and we fly home tomorrow.”
She corrals them to bed, goes off to her room with Amaya. I cuddle in to Janah. It’s been a long exciting day, rafting and roughhouse, we’re out in minutes.
We meet our plane at eight, lose two hours in time zones and four hours flying, but with our waiting car we’re gratefully back in our home for three. Traveling to upscale hotels is nice, getting home to our sweet familiar is better.
Nikko, “You managed to stay busy.”
“You know Janah, there’s never not busy.”
“I caught on to that game. Janah says she wants to go slow, but she can’t resist the challenges.”
Zi, “How did you enjoy white water rafting?”
“It was great fun, not something I need to do again anytime soon. As much as we like our Canadian cabin, the great outdoors is best kept occasional from my point of view. The people were nice, highly competent, if anyone asks, I’ll say give it a go.”
Zi, “Sounds right, martial arts training aside, our tribe likes its creature comforts.”
“Speaking of which, it’s tea time,” I mental Amaya, Think we can get some light entertainment during tea?
Amaya, Sure, we are about done unpacking, fifteen?
I set off to prepare, Dasha appears, “I make snack, maybe cookie, seemple.”
We’re seated around the low table, Amaya and Nishiko are swapping off shamisen, Chloe plays the flute. Such a nice touch, minds still, conversation stops. It’s a full hour before we stir from our reverie, relaxed from the travel hubbub.
Dasha and I clear up, go off to finish unpacking. While they hang up and put away, I haul the washables to the laundry room and leave the pile for later. If Janah doesn’t get around to it, Zi will. Back up the stairs to our room, Dasha is already there dealing with my stuff, how sweet of her.
Dasha, “Sister ees Jacuzzi bath, you will come to room and shower me, then hair drying.”
A half hour later, dryers screaming, lots of brushing, more wet towels for the laundry. The twins stretch out on their bed while I tidy up the bathroom, then collect towels. As I pass through the bedroom, Dasha is on her tummy, Daria next to her, hands drifting the territory. It’s clear they are mentaling, you’d say the conversation was serious from their expression, but that would be guesswork, they always look serious.
I drop off the towels, Zi is loading the washer, “Need help?”
Zi, “No, I figured there would be a pile from the trip, just throw the towels in the hamper, I’ll do them next.”
Good thing we have a commercial washer and dryer, eight girls, towels alone keep the things busy. I wonder how many sets we’ve run through over the years? If we save all the lint, can we get it made into more towels?
Chloe and Nishiko have been in the workout room banging around kendo bokken, so much for a relaxing tea.
Amaya comes along, “Good Lord Chloe, you are a sweaty mess, to the tub.”
Amaya is dramatizing, a flushed face and a hair out of place constitutes a sweaty mess in her world. She follows Chloe, I hear the Jacuzzi crank up.
Nikko, “She’s doing well, it’s harder for her to make gains, we don’t get to practice enough.”
“I don’t either, we need to carve out two hours and go at it, both kata and matches, twice a week. We can ease up on the other martial arts, if we haven’t got those down by now, we aren’t going to.”
“I agree. Shall I put something on the schedule every week? It has to be flexible, but I think one early day and one late afternoon might work.”
Zi, “We need more day in our day.”
Nikko, “What about Dasha’s gymnastics?”
“That’s morning or early afternoon, I’ll handle getting her there and back. She could go alone, but I like walking with her and she only goes once a week, the rest of it she does here. Janah has yoga on her own schedule, she does tumbling with Dasha.”
Zi, “We could spend all our free time practicing.”
“We have to ease up on it, particularly with us taking on responsibility for the Society. On top of that, Master Khan needs relief from his co-abbot duties, he’s not young.”
“What is Janah going to do? Has she figured out how to juggle it?”
“For the time being, she’s going to spend more time at the temple. She can operate Society business from there as well as here, I do a fair amount of detail, coordination of Social Skills teams, Extraction, Placement, Minders, Surveillance. She’s mainly the outside contacts’ contact. ”
Nikko, “What about the twins, you’ve mostly handled them.”
“First, they’re fifteen, they can function on their own. I think, though, Dasha will want to come with me, Daria will want to spend time on the businesses with you and Zi, but send her over to the temple after two or three hours. We’re going to work with them there.”
Zi, “On qi?”
“Yes, and they will study the texts, we’ll see how they relate to it, or not.”
Nikko, “You don’t expect them to learn compassion from reading sutras?”
I laugh, “Hardly, they’ll get an intellectual understanding of it at least, maybe we’ll have a bit of discussion. Frankly, I don’t know how socialized we want them to be. From a work point of view all they need is to separate the bad guys from the good guys. They don’t need compassion for that.”
Nikko, “They don’t want pals either, it would be good for them to learn to fake it, pretend to be interested in or conversational with outsiders.”
“There’s a point, sounds like something for Amaya.”

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