Sixty Five

Girls are home again. One more Dead Shadow.
Sarah, “Sloaneeee! Miss me?”
“Well, certain parts of you anyway.”
“Close enough, tonight there’s a part of you I’ll use to advantage.”
Sloane grins. Sloane is a tranny, transgender, a girl with a boy’s private parts. She’s all girl, except for the fun stick, and she considered going full girl until a couple of her housemates decided the fun stick was…fun. Janah is a fan, Oceane from time to time, it had been a big hit with Sarah. She calls Sloane The Novelty Toy-Boy.
Katya, “We took girls to The Russian Tea Room yesterday, vodka, Beluga blini, Boeuf à la Stroganoff, Vareniki, Russian-style ravioli stuffed with sauerkraut, cheese, mashed potato, cabbage, meat, hard-boiled egg. Cheese and cherry blintzes with vanilla ice cream. We had to walk five miles after.”
Daphne, “Tea Room is always yummy, Dasha and Daria need a fix every couple of months.”
Katja, “Da, they are on first naming basis wiz everyone, we get extra caviar and chef comes to make toast.”
Janah, “What did you toast?”
“Za tvoyo zdorovie, also, za schast’-ye and za zhén-shsheen.”
Janah, “To your health, to happiness, to women.”
“Da, and a couple more, we haf to toast wiz every vodka, ees tradition.”
“No wonder you needed a five miler.”
Katya, “Not so bad, heavy meal, dessert, no drunks.”
The dual twin Russians are in the States since they were small girls, but their Russian genes make vodka a staple, like water.
What happens on trips, call them business trips, isn’t discussed. Oceane will have forgotten it, and even though Cassie can be in her mind, Cassie doesn’t talk at all.
Five girls flew off, five girls flew home, no girls were injured. Good enough.
Daphne, “It’s early, what’s on your minds, any special activities? The endless pool is on the roof, you might have to share with Oceane, it’s her second home.”
Ellen, “I think we’re fine hanging close. We trooped around a long time yesterday, just soaking up the vibe after lunch, we only had light appetizers for dinner after that amazing lunch.”
Mani, “It’s a splendid day, partly cloudy, seventy eight. I’m thinking it’s a day on the roof, something easy for lunch, I saw Daphne’s massive grill, perhaps grilled fish for dinner?”
Daphne, “I can do that. Ellen, let’s take a walk, I can check in with my pal at the market, she’ll steer us to the freshest. What do you want to accompany?”
Chloe, “Creamed spinach.”
“Good, simple too.”
Mani, “Baked potato, with lots of add ons.”
“Also easy, sound like enough? I’ll figure out dessert later.”
Ellen and Daphne go off to shop, the others have another coffee or tea, take it up to the roof and park around the tables, roll out the umbrellas for shade. Sure enough, Oceane is swimming in place, the flowing water a nice background, like a bubbly brook. While girls chat on the roof over coffee, Ellen and Daphne are roaming the aisles of Gristedes.
Daphne, “We’re here to get ingredients for a cake, I think I’ll dress up a Betty Crocker white mix and turn it into wedding cake.”
Ellen, “What’s added?”
“Vanilla pudding mix, couple of extra egg yolks, whole milk instead of water. The egg and pudding mix give it the extra density of wedding cake.”
“About as close to a wedding as I plan to get.”
“I figure cake is better than marriage. You can have different kinds of cake every week. Who wants the same cake over and over? I have no clue why people commit to eternal monogamy, a commitment they hardly ever keep.”
They move along to Citarella, better for seafood Daphne thinks. 
“Hey Evelyn, what’s good for grilling today?”
“Hi Daph, sea bass just swam in honey, we’re cutting the fillets now.”
“We have guests, this is Ellen by the way, my seafood advisor Evelyn.”
“How come all your friends are gorgeous?”
Daphne, “I believe in natural selection.”
“And Janah does the selecting?”
“Mostly, she’s pretty choosy.”
“How many you feeding?”
“Call it fifteen, half pound fillet each, and throw on ice please, just enough to keep it chilled for a bit, I don’t want the fish to get warm.”
Evelyn, “Appetizer? Got cleaned and cooked jumbo shrimp.”
“Good idea, and backfin lump crab to top the fish, may as well go seafood crazy.”
 “Want it delivered?”
“Nah, we’re headed straight home, thanks.”
Dinner items collected, they walk back to the condo.
Ellen, “Man it’s great, no drive to store, park, drive home. Just a few blocks on a beautiful day.”
“I do love that part.”
“Am I hearing don’t love in there?”
“Manhattan has gotten way to trendy, no neighborhood is exempt. The small independent’s have been kicked out to make way for big chains, residential rental has gone to condo, expensive condo. We don’t care about costs, our place is paid for and we own the entire building. We care about ambiance and that’s rapidly disappearing. Tourists cram everywhere, museums are packed, Broadway, which is not our thing, but tickets are outrageous. The streets are clogged eighteen to twenty hours a day and terrorists see it as a target.”
“What are you going to do?”
“It’s getting done. Murakami Sylk owns several major properties, Murakami Sylk Property Management has significant revenue running other people’s property. Foreign investors are paying incredible prices. Nikko is cashing in, or cashing out as the case may be.”
“Where you going?”
“Malibu, Nikko bought a swath of mountain a few years ago, time to put a house on it.”
“Wow, ultra cool, New York to California girls, quite a change, no driving to driving everywhere. Are you selling the condo too?”
“Yep. The condo alone is worth twice what we paid for the entire building.”
“Doesn’t that school lease from you?”
“We’re retaining control over those floors, Chapman’s will pay a nominal rent, about the only property we aren’t selling outright. There’s an educational trust, The Sylk Trust, it owns the property, we pay no tax.”
“You don’t think some devious developer will look for ways around that? Offer the school a ton to move out? You have three empty floors and no rent.”
“Sure, but Nikko has Daria and a gaggle of top New York lawyers. The contract will be so tight it won’t be worth the trouble. Nikko knows what she’s doing.”
“And Daria provides the death stare.”
Daphne grins, “She may have intimidated more lawyers than the Supreme Court.”
Lunch is cheese and crackers, white wine. They take that on the roof as well, girls wander off to nap or intimate play. Daphne and Janah nap until three, other girls wander in, Janah leads a yoga session for half until four and tea time.
Afternoons around four or four thirty, they have tea and a small snack, cookies or Japanese tea cakes. Sometimes Chloe and Amaya perform a tea ceremony, which is what they do today. Not formal, no kimonos, but powdered matcha, whisked into paste then hot water, no sugar. Since powdered green tends to bitter, Japanese sweets offset.
Chloe, “Today’s wagashi is Daifuku, rice cake filled with sweetened red bean paste made from azuki beans, those are dango, dumplings made from mochiko, which is rice flour. The ones that look like cookies are higashi, made with wasanbon, Japanese premium fine-grained sugar, very dry and crunchy.”
Katya, “Sweets are good, where do you get them?”
“Nikko’s mom and dad own a Japanese grocery, along with a chain of vegetable and fruit stands around the city. Nikko brings home odds and ends when she goes to visit, or we all go and have superbly prepared sushi, the store has a popular sushi bar.”
Sarah, “Oooh, can we go sometime?”
Nikko, “We can go tomorrow, although tonight is all seafood.”
“Doesn’t matter to me, but if everyone wants to wait a day or so…”
Katya, “Nikko will decide and tell us, we are not so few, they may need more notice.”
Nikko, “I’ll call in the morning, we will have lunch in the private dining room anyway. I need to check, they book it for a fair number of…business meetings.”
Sarah, “Great! Sloaneee, hand me one of those dumpling skewers please, so good.”
Nikko’s dad is samurai, a 9th degree kendoka, a rank no longer awarded. He taught Nikko, Chloe and Daphne kendo. Daphne and Chloe are quite good, Nikko is on a completely different level, she is pure Japanese samurai blood after all.
Oceane arrives when Oceane arrives, this time towards the end of tea. Katya, Katja, Ellen, Mani and Sarah sit with mouths agape, not sure they believe what they see.
Cassandra is floating above Oceane’s right shoulder, in a cross legged sitting position, but not sitting on anything.
Ellen, “Well I’ll be…damn, I don’t know what I’ll be, am I seeing what I think I’m seeing. You put something in the tea beside tea, right?”
Sarah, “Holy shift. How in hell…”
Cassie floats down next to Oceane who takes her place at the low table where they take tea. Amaya prepares two cups and passes them over.
Daphne, “Before you ask, we don’t know. She just started doing it one day. She can’t, or at least doesn’t, fly, she floats. It’s quite beautiful. I like to levitate Janah, but she only has small leaps off the bed, hardly as dramatic.”
Janah, “Works for me.”
Mani, “Then, I suppose this is a dumb question, why does she do it then?”
Daphne, “Because she can.”
Mani, “Duh me, if I could levitate I’d be up there all day.”
Katja, “She ees no distract by jabbering away like most girls wiz text, boyfriend, Jooston Beeber, silly girl things. Janah haf taught us to meditate for Qi, sisters are getting better, we will do twice a day now, not only one time. Maybe Katja and Katya will sit in air one day.”
They laugh, Janah, “Anything is possible with practice. People give up to easily, the best things take years, and that’s if you’re diligent.”
Katja, “Sisters learned many skills out of necessary. We leef on our own as children, but Katya haf peecture memory, she teaches sister English, math numbers, we learn to peek locks, shoot, drive first scooter, then car. We work at something every day when we are just homeless kid sleeping in vacant house.”
Janah, “Yes, like Daphne, Zi and I with years in the temple, practice, practice, practice, study, practice. Every girl here has unique skills they weren’t handed, they earned. Daria and I, like Katya, are eidetikers, but remembering a lot of stuff isn’t the same as putting it into action. Daphne has extraordinary proprioceptive skills, but they are worthless unless she applies them, in her case to martial arts, but it could have been gymnastics, or diving or skiing, any number of sports.”
Daphne, “I prefer to beat people up.”
“Thus Master of kung fu, taekwondo, hapkido and kendo.”
“I did kind of go overboard, it’s my thing, what can I say? Cooking and pain.”

Sixty Six

Ellen is prepping sea bass, coating with garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, lemon pepper, and sea salt. Daphne and Sarah take the fish up to the roof to grill, while it grills she melts butter with garlic and parsley in a sauce pan. When she turns the fillets, she adds lump crab to the butter sauce, stirs it to heat. As she puts fillets on the plates, she adds a serving spoon of the butter-crab sauce.
They’re having dinner on the roof, it’s cooler now but they have outdoor heaters spaced around. For the last half hour they’ve been enjoying cocktails and peeled shrimp with seafood sauce.
Ellen brings along creamed spinach and fluffy stuffed potatoes, additives spaced around the table. A particularly crispy sauvignon blanc accompanies.
Mani takes a bite of fish, “Geez Daphne, this is amazing.”
“Thank you, sea bass is a delicious fish, and anything tastes better with butter and garlic.”
Amaya, “Daphne makes everything gourmet, it’s a gift like Ellen’s. No, not a gift, Daphne worked at it for years, I presume Ellen’s put in her time with a spoon and spatula.”
Ellen, “Sweet, my tribe seems to enjoy my cooking.”
Katja, “Ellen ees top chef, better than going out.”
Ellen, “Thank you dear one, although we do enjoy Envie and Irene’s cuisine, Bon Ton and Galatoire’s.”
Sarah, “When we’re in the mood to roam a bit, we go to Parkway Bakery and pig on roast beef poboys.”
Daphne, “We have them at Ultra Violet, the only thing missing is that wonderful New Orleans French bread. Dasha did find an acceptable alternative.”
Ellen, “Leidenheimer’s, that is an institution in New Orleans. A German Jew makes impeccable French bread, go figure.”
Sarah, “That’s New Orleans, the city does the best cuisine mingling. A cultural gumbo is perfect for inspired food.”
Janah, “The country could learn from New Orleans. The city has its violence issues, but for such a relatively small town, they manage to pack in a variety of cultures and is incredibly diverse, not to mention accepting.”
Katja, “Da, like Lady Mary, transgender was een New Orleans before rest of country knows what ees transgender. Also gay, lazebian, black peerson, white peerson, everyone ees welcome to make second line.”
Janah, “I look forward to another visit. We haven’t seen Lady Mary’s show, and I’d love to visit with Gerard and have a Café Envie shepherd’s omelet.”
Katya, “Door is open anytime.”
Daphne, “We will come in April, what about Jazz Fest? We’ve never been.”
Sarah, “Then we have to go, book a hotel now though, I wish we had more room like you do up here, but…”
“Not a problem, we’ll get suites at either the Sonesta or Royal Orleans.”
Katya, “And we will arrange small bus for transportation to the site. No parking hassle, drop us at the entrance, waiting for us when we want to go home.”
Janah, “When is it?”
“Last week of April, first week of May, Thursday through Sunday both weeks. To enjoy food and ambiance, better to go Thursday and Friday, leave weekend for the crowds. But we can go then too, up to you.”
“Sounds like we play it by ear, doesn’t matter, there’s always something to do in New Orleans.”
Dinner winds down, girls help haul dishes to the kitchen, Daphne starts up the dishwashers, one commercial washer for plates and pots, a second for glasses.
Dasha, “What ees dessert Dahfoney?”
“Wedding cake, to celebrate the fact that none of us ever has to endure marriage.”
Katja, “What ees fascination wiz marriage?”
Janah, “Blind obedience to tradition. There is some minor economic advantage, but people don’t sign up because of that. It’s like saying I’ll join up for military duty because they will give me money for college. Won’t do you much good if you’re dead or disabled. The groom thinks he’s buying permanent possession, the bride thinks only of princess for a day, the dress, photographer, bridesmaids forced into absurdly ugly dresses, then a house, kids, after which the man can park his butt in the man cave, he’s not needed anymore.”
The girls stay on the roof for dessert. A clear crisp night, fat moon overhead. It’s Manhattan, the light levels mean a star show is out of the question.
Daphne, “You should come with us next summer to Canada. An entirely different environment. Forest, streams like small rivers, a gorgeous waterfall that’s a nice hike up the mountain.”
Chloe, “And fishing, don’t forget fishing. Fresh walleye, crappie, lake trout, catch in the morning, grill that night.”
Mani, “I’m in for that!”
Ellen, “Sounds idyllic.”
Zi, “It is. I like to cruise along in the houseboat while Chloe snags fish. It’s where Sloane met the wolf, and before that, Daphne met the owl and eagle, then Nikko met the snake, a beautiful rattler that gave her a strike speed that is unique.”
Sarah, “If I hadn’t seen the skills demonstrated, I’d swear you were having us on. Sloaney is impossible to keep up with and I’m no slouch as a runner.”
Sloane, “Don’t worry, I’ll be running after you, not away from you.”
Sarah grins.
Cognac and cake, then time to clear up, downstairs to the living area. 
Nikko, “Cripes, I lost track of time, it’s after eleven. Sign of good company. Oh, sushi day after tomorrow. I told them lunch. We can restock our Japanese pantry as well.”
Mani, “Yum.”
Girls are yawning, couples go off, one quadruple goes off, two sets of twins jumping each other, ultimate erotica. Before Daphne turns in, she escorts Oceane and Cassie to their room. Cassie has her own room but she seldom uses it, it makes for an extra bedroom, along with the guest bedroom and the extra one in what used to be Lacy Chapman’s condo.  
In Oceane’s room, Daphne sits with the two esoteric girls until they nod off. There’s no reason, although Daphne knows her presence reassures the sensitive Oceane, why is immaterial. Then she heads down to the room she shares with Janah.
“The kids asleep?”
“Close enough, Cassie drops off almost instantly, Oceane waits until Cass is gone, then she’s satisfied and falls away herself.”
Janah smiles, “We still have no clue what passes through those minds do we?”
“We don’t need to know, our job is to keep them safe. They have no way to navigate the world on their own. I sometimes wonder if they know there is a world.”
“Enough caretaking, come snuggle, I’m tired and want to sleep, I do it better when you wrap me up.”
“Your command is my wish.”

I think the story will end here…for now.