Sixty Nine

We fried enough catfish to make Eggs St. Charles for breakfast, one of our most popular morning dishes. We’ve spoiled our tribe to anticipate it anytime we fry fish for dinner.
Clarissa, ‘Tetya Dafna will make us the fish with egg and fancy sauce, what is it called?’
Nadia, ‘Hollandaise.’
Clarissa giggles, ‘That’s it! And we get a Milk Punch too.’
They do, but with only a whiff of rum, Amaya makes them for the kids by wetting the spoon with the liquor before she stirs. The children like the milk cocktail flavored with vanilla and nutmeg, also like the idea they are having a kind of adult drink.
Zi, ‘The seafood gumbo seems to get better every time you make it.’
Dasha, ‘Ees same recipe, but Valeria makes the roux, she haf the golden touch, made wiz lard and clarified butter. She adjusts a lettle bit in search of peerfect meex. Her nose and eyes tell her if it ees working.’
Zi, ‘So roux is about color and scent.’
‘And texture, it has to feel right when stirring, look right in color, smell reech but not any scent of burning.’
‘Valeria takes an hour to make roux, which some chefs claim can be done in fifteen or twenty minutes. Which it can, if you want to turn up the temperature and risk burning the flour. Once the gumbo ingredients are added, most people don’t notice, but that isn’t acceptable to Valeria or Mama.’
Kota B passes by, a tray full of empty bowls, ‘The children want seconds on gumbo, and the cornbread is popular.’
She sets out fresh bowls, adds a bit of rice and covers it with gumbo, stacks cornbread chunks on the trays. She and Hypatia take them to the children’s table. We use way too many dishes, but Amaya demands that seconds go on fresh plates and bowls, with fresh silverware and napkins. She says there is no point in being absurdly wealthy, with robot servants, and eating off once used plates. She has a point, it is much more pleasant to get clean everything if we want a second serving.
Our evenings are sometimes spent with groups splitting off for this or that, children might go up to their dorm for a video Kota B or Hypatia found, bridge got popular with enough adults to make up two foursomes. I can’t partner with Amaya, Janah, Nikko, Dasha or Daria because I can mental with them. It’s fine, I’m not big on bridge anyway. I sit and kibitz, or watch something on the flat screen with the non-bridge girls. The children like to play Monopoly and poker, go figure, and Scrabble is still popular in the mid twenty first century. Of course, Daria, Dasha, Katya, Katja, and Valeria, our Russians, play chess. They got the children, Ukrainian, hooked and we have occasional tournaments, speed chess, blindfold chess, multi player games where Daria, the best human player, takes on half a dozen others. Nobody can beat the bots, Daria plays them to a draw occasionally. While Dahlia and Clarissa are American born, Clarissa is a formidable player and can usually beat all the children except Nadia. Since the advent of chess in our lives, the house has boards set up all over the place, we might pass for a chess museum. Naturally, Amaya had to get elaborate, and I must say, gorgeous sets, the jade set is amazing. 
Daria plays the bots with no board at all, sometimes Emma B passes announcing her next move out loud, ‘QN4’, apparently talking to the air until you realize she is on with Daria elsewhere in the house. 
Amaya announces the advent of The Scarlet Princess of Edo series to be streamed, free of charge, first in Japan, in Japanese.
‘If it catches on, I will stream it in English worldwide. Since the children are so made up, no one will recognize them.’
Lauren, ‘They barely go anywhere anyway. They have so much going on here, I never hear any requests to be elsewhere.’
Amaya, ‘True, they only appear in public when we travel from one house to another; that to get out of a car and onto a private jet. Maybe they would like more outings, Kota B, what do you think?’
‘The children see worlds and universes no one has ever seen, why would they want to slog around Disneyworld? They do not care for crowds either.’
‘Ah, of course, I feel positively under-traveled.’
‘Where would you like to go?’
‘I am there already. Chloe has been approached to return to Japan though. If the play is well received, perhaps we take the children.’
Nikko, ‘You going to bring Morshchiny? She won’t do well if the children are gone for an extended period of time.’
‘I had not thought of it, why not? What do the Mamas think?’
Dasha, ‘We want to talk it over, then ask the children. We will wait to see how the play is accepted. Will the Japanese be, um…insulted by children acting their most famous play?’
Amaya, ‘We contacted the Cultural Ministry, sent them an advance copy. The committee approved unanimously, honored by the fact that we made no significant changes, and that we did not Americanize it. They were quite complimentary regarding the sets, entirely due to Eloise and her crew, Lauren, and Britt. ‘
It is agreed, we will see how the play plays out with the public, then decide whether to visit. Maybe the Cultural Ministry is out of touch with the people, no point walking into plebeian hostility. On the other hand, one imagines maybe five percent of today’s Japanese have any idea that the play even exists.
I’m having a side conversation with Ellen, who says, ‘Sarah and I are off in the morning, I think it’s a three day trip, we have the target’s movement down well enough, people change their routines once in a while though.’
‘I don’t need to know, I hope it isn’t a political thing that has the FBI crawling around.’
‘It isn’t, Daria doesn’t like political work, the parties generally want it to look like something else. We don’t do something else, no poison, no accidents, we shoot, we leave. This appears to be business oriented, although there’s always the possibility a spouse wants to inherit the fortune and collect the insurance as well.’
‘If Daria is sending you, there must be complications, bodyguards at the least.’
‘Complications more than bodyguards, although there are guards. Target is a recluse, holed up at home, hasn’t left the grounds in five years, barely leaves the house.’
‘Ah, then the routine is a simple one, a stroll through the garden, morning swim in the pool. Guards deploy the perimeter, target does his bit, goes back inside.’
Ellen smiles, ‘This one is a little more interesting. Target has a twink, allegedly an assistant of some sort, actually a boy toy. There’s a separate building with apartments for the staff and guards. Twink has one of the apartments. Mr. Recluse goes over a couple times a week and does his thing on his knees, has a taste for twink cock.’
‘I see, well, he likes what he likes, not beating the guy up or anything?’
‘That wasn’t mentioned. The twist is, Mrs. Recluse also visits the twink, on different days of the week.’
‘Good gravy, the guy must double dose Viagra.’
‘He’s young, maybe twenty, more like eighteen. We saw photos, pretty boy. In any case, the couple’s sexual preferences don’t appear to be the motive. From reports, everyone is satisfied with the situation. There aren’t arguments, Mr. is fifty two, Mrs. is late twenties. She isn’t a recluse, goes to a tennis club, SPA treatments, lunches with a few other trophy wives. Mr. has one child from a previous, he’s thirty two and doesn’t live at home. He’s got a live in, a female, no kids. They visit the compound occasionally, no suspicion of any playtime between trophy wife and sonny, no reason to think he wants daddy dead. Like I said, it appears to be business related, not family, not that we care who pays us. We don’t want to know.’
‘Twink may be looking for a promotion.’
‘We snooped around on that, he doesn’t have the brains or the cash.’
‘So who benefits?’
‘Mr. Recluse has fairly broad and diverse business interests, electronics, partner in a VR company, sporting goods, a line of high end skis, snowboards and ski apparel. Does well, cash flow is good, minor legals one would encounter in any business, nothing meriting death.’
‘But he went into hiding five years ago.’
‘Yep, after a trip to Russia to explore expansion of his electronics business. The company makes common spy stuff, listening devices, hidden cams, things anyone can buy on the internet. Some average quality, some high end NSA grade.’
‘And he ran afoul of the Russian business approach, similar to the old Mafia, we want a piece, you will accept our terms.’
‘What we think, he spent three weeks in a hospital, went incognito.’
‘Amazing he’s managed to avoid termination for so long, Russians are persistent.’
‘Could have bought them off, the bots found a transfer of a hundred million to a Swiss account shortly after his trip. If the Russian issue has heated up again, it’s possible that there has been a new development, a breakthrough in the surveillance technology they want. It’s conjecture, but I doubt Patagonia is losing sleep over his apparel line.’
‘Must be the electronics, murder over ski underwear seems bizarre. But what do the Russians get if he’s dead?’
‘Good question, might be as simple as example, like, here’s what happens if you fail to cooperate. The business would go to others with a financial interest, different for each company. Sonny gets the businesses, but the others have the right to buy them at fair market value. Sonny doesn’t know from running big business, he knows from art. The new owners might decide selling to the Russians is better than a bullet to the brain, or taking on brutal partners who are only going to milk the enterprise anyway.’
‘Sounds like you might be killing Russians.’
Ellen smiles, ‘Nice catch.’
At first I wonder if Daria changed the plan, assuming any of our speculation is accurate. Hired by the Russians to off Mr. Recluse, then turning the tables. But no, that’s not how Daria operates. First she doesn’t know who hired them. And she or her girls kill whoever they are hired to kill, she doesn’t make up scenarios or seek justice. Daria’s Russian, not bothered by the prospect of killing Russians, she and Daria slit three Russian throats when they were eight years old.
If I guess correctly, Mr. Recluse hired them to get rid of dangerously persistent thugs and send his own message. Conflict resolution at its finest.

Seventy

This morning, while our girls savor fried catfish with a poached egg on top and a ladle of hollandaise topped with lump crab, Eggs St. Charles ala Brennan’s, a side of soufflé potatoes ala Antoine’s, Valeria’s fluffy buttermilk biscuits after a Milk Punch starter, Ellen and Sarah are in the air headed to someplace unknown. The bots will know where the plane is going, but we don’t, and we don’t ask. I do know a last minute detail must have come up because Mani went with them.
Amaya, ‘The play streams today, Friday here, Saturday in Japan, by this evening we shall know if we are persona non grata in the Land of the Rising Sun.’
Zi, ‘I can imagine no scenario where Chloe is not welcome in Japan.’
‘No, and she is not associated with the play, her name doesn’t appear even though she is responsible for most of the children’s coaching. In fact, there are no credits as such, dear Eloise, Lauren, and Britt got no credit for the sets, I used a nom de plume as producer and director, hiiro no ōjo, Scarlet Princess.’
‘That was slick.’
‘Thank you. I started to create a company, Scarlet Princess Productions, but the name translates to Sukāretto Purinsesu Purodakushonzu, which seems ludicrous.’
Nikko, ‘Just make it in English, it’s kind of a cool name actually.’
‘Can you set it up for me? I will use it for all new work.’
‘You and Chloe equal partners?’
‘Yes. In the event of our demise, all the assets to the Sylk Trust for the benefit of the children.’
‘I’ll get the lawyers on it, be a couple of days, it’s a simple Cayman Islands filing. I think we may actually own the Caymans by now.’
‘Speaking of islands, I’m feeling St. Martiny, how about a chill when Ellen and the others return?’
Nikko, ‘What about Tokyo?’
‘What do you think Amaya?’
‘It may be weeks before any trip. First, we need to get Chloe’s schedule arranged, there will be a half dozen commercials and TV shows. They need lead time. If Ellen returns in two or three days, we can go for a week. Anything that develops in Japan I can handle from St. Martin’s.’
‘Then after Ellen and the others return, Grace B will make reservations. I’ll call Sis and ask if they want to join us, but they’ve been to St. Martins three or four times since we last went. Might not be a big deal for them.’
Nikko, ‘If you think Sis is going to pass on a week at the beach with the children, you need to reintroduce yourself to your mother.’
I grin, ‘Didn’t think of that. And I doubt Felicia has been, I’d like to see her bikini free.’
Nikko, ‘Your lust knows no bounds.’
‘You know me well.’
Janah, ‘I suggest we skip St. Martin’s, We will have a long trip to Japan soon, Ellen, Sarah, and Mani will be back from a business trip tomorrow or day after, it’s a ton of organization to get thirty people down there, even with the bots, not to mention Morshchiny. When we go to Japan, Susan will have to look out for the dog, hauling her on a flight to Tokyo or Kyoto is almost mean. I know she’s a good sport, but still, then she needs to be taken out, fed and watered, it’s not like we can stick her on a leash and walk her through busy streets.’
Nikko, ‘Agreed, she’ll be fine with Susan and her pals, the children will understand, they look like kids, but they aren’t really. I know it’s hard for Daphne, but occasionally we have to do the mature thing.’
‘Maturity is overrated.’
‘How would you know?’
‘I read about it online, it seems boring. I do take your point, Morshchiny needs to stay. I reserve the right to pout though.’
‘I have a plan for the girl, she needs a pal, a four legged one. Let me make a couple of calls tomorrow.’
I drop it, immaturity notwithstanding, I don’t see how the dog can come with us, and if Nikko has a solution it will be a good one. 
Nikko and Zi take one of the cars, didn’t say where they were going, I turn my attention to Dasha, “Big breakfast, light lunch.’
‘Da, zoup, black bean wiz ohnyon a little, and zour crim.’
She pours the half dozen boxes of organic soup into a big pot, I chop onions, take out bacon and sizzle it on the grill. When I have a nice layer of grease, I drop the onions on just long enough to soak up bacon flavor, then transfer the pile to the pot.
‘Should I make cornbread?’
‘Da, it will go well wiz zoup.’
We make cornbread in cast iron skillets, my originals from Ms. Alva and one I’ve added since the family got so huge. One will have diced jalapeno, the second shredded cheddar and the third plain.
Slide the skillets in the oven, set the timer so we don’t end up with blackened cornbread, I plop on a stool at the island and flip through the news. After the 2020 pandemic, governments, always slow learners, ratcheted up emergency supplies of masks and ventilators, created a vaccine and things have been relatively calm since. Of course there are wars, mostly small stuff in backwater countries. Strangely enough, or maybe not so strange, after the scourge of Covid-19, there was a sense of global community. Not World Peace perhaps, but less cross country animosity. America finally decided throwing unlimited amounts of money at the military was maybe not the best use of resources, to the great dismay of weapons manufacturers. They no longer build planes the military has no use for, tanks are a thing of the past, the only boots on the ground are in rooms full of electronics. Most of the overseas bases are closed. 
With much of the atmosphere of fear dissipated, there has been a shrinking of religion, not just in Christianity, Islam is a shadow of its former self. Humans are still emotional and frequently irrational, hormones still exist and they still have little relationship to logic. Not all bad, creativity isn’t logical, passion even less so.
I hear a minor commotion outside, Nikko and Zi have returned, the children are in a tizzy. I walk out to the pool area, Uma has a ball of mahogany fur in her arms
‘Tetya Dafna, look! Tetya Nikko and Tetya Zi brought a kitten home! She’s so beautiful!
I’m not a cat expert, but I know a Burmese when I see one, golden eyes blink up at me.
‘Take her inside and give her a little space, she’s one kitten and we are a multitude. Set her down and let her explore her new home.’
‘What about Morshchiny?’
‘Introduce her and give the friend command, one of you hold her for that part, so Morshchiny can see her with you. In fact, take her to the dorm, where is Morshchiny?’
I get a snout poking my butt, ‘Ah, come along girl, we’re going to the dorm.’
Eight girls, Uma holding the cat, Morshchiny and I go up the steps, to floor two, then up more steps to three and the dorm.
‘Okay Uma, sit and let Morshchiny get a sniff.’
What happens next is one of those awwww moments. Uma lets the cat sit in her lap, Morshchiny steps up, Uma says, ‘droog,’ the giant dog sticks her nose up to the kitten, damned it the little thing doesn’t raise a paw, wave it back and forth and tap Morshchiny on the snout. She hops off Uma’s lap, and races across the floor, turns to see if Morshchiny is following, which she does. 
‘Kota B, you getting this?’
‘Streaming it to the family.’
They play cat and mastiff around the room, the kitten races through the mastiff’s legs, circles the fire pit that’s the center of the dorm, leaps up to Uma’s lap. Then Morshchiny lays flat, the Burmese hops to the floor, creeps up, snuggles between massive paws and promptly goes to sleep.
I go downstairs, Chloe is dabbing her eyes.
Grace B, ‘Well if that isn’t the cutest thing, damn mutt’s paw is bigger than the cat.’
‘Did you know Nikko, that it would work out?’
‘Burmese are playful, and like certain Shaolin, love loads of attention. I have a cat tree in the car, Eloise or someone can put it together, it’s eight feet high with lots of landings and hiding places. The people we got her from have several, they say the cats love them.’
‘Did you stream to Susan?’
Kota B, ‘No, I will do it now.’
Five minutes later Sis pops up on the video screen, ‘How adorable. I want to rush over but with thirty girls there already, I’ll wait until tomorrow. By the way, is Valeria around?’
Valeria gets on cam sight, ‘Hey Sis, what’s doing?’
Susan bites her lower lip, ‘Call me when you have a moment please.’
I know that lip bite, she’s used it on me, and it always works.
Valeria goes off with her phone, then outside, I see her take one of the golf carts we use to shuttle back and forth to Susan’s. 
Sis has been flirting lite with Valeria for a while, she likes young and Valeria is fourteen-ish, maybe thirteen, not sure. Mommy has had younger, I know from personal experience as both an observer and participant. Valeria is in for a lovely afternoon, as is Sis. 
Janah pops in my head, ‘Susan still loves to be bossed around by young girls, Valeria is Dasha-like, Sis will meet every demand.’
‘You liked her submissive.’
‘I still like her, and you, submissive, you’re both so good at it.’
I’m in the kitchen by myself, most of the girls are outside, the kids still upstairs. Janah walks in, she’s in her best outfit, nothing, leans agains the island counter. I know what she wants, I sink to my knees and give it to her.

Seventy One

Sarah and Mani go off to off…someone unknown. I mean, they know, Daria and Dasha know, not the rest of us. 
Valeria spent the night at Susan’s, she comes in this morning, late morning, ‘What do we do for lunch, Daphne? I was, um, occupied, haven’t given it any thought.’
‘You don’t look any worse for the visit.’
‘I wasn’t on the receiving end of the riding crop. It was just play, enough to sting, not to damage, Sis is too gorgeous to damage. Have you ever tied her to the bed?’
‘No comment.’
‘Thought so. She even grovels gorgeous.’
‘Lacy and Taylor around?’
‘We ordered take out, ate and had wine, they discreetly went off to whatever they went off to do.’
‘You made Sis beg?’
‘What do you think?’
I let it go, they had fun and frolic, good enough.
Dasha comes in, ‘Ees leftover gumbo enough for lunch,’ she pulls out a pot from one of the refrigerators and sets it on the stove, low heat, we have more than an hour.
‘Bread?’
Dasha, ‘The frozen kind will be good enough, it takes twenty minutes, Emma B will do it later.’
We started to put the cat tree in the dorm, but decided to stick it adjacent to the hallway that leads off the living area to the downstairs bedrooms. The kids name the cat Burma, for obvious reasons. Burma loves the tree, four landings connected by ramps, all covered in commercial carpet. She can hide in several nooks, or lay on a landing and watch the family come and go.
Otherwise she’s next to, on top of, or under, Morshchiny. I think the mastiff likes having the kitten plopped on her shoulders, a favorite curl up spot when the dog lays on her tummy, Burma even rides up there when the dog is moving through the house. For reasons known only to her, she will leap off Morshchiny, race around the room and zip up the cat tree. We finally figure out either the dog or one of us is supposed to look for her, when we walk past, she leaps off a landing and bonks us on the back or shoulder, then back to a hiding spot. I figure out we’re then supposed to find her and give her a scratch behind the ears.
At meals, when Morshchiny is curled up on her side studying the pool area, Burma worms her way against the thick chest and goes to sleep.
Leaving them when we go to Japan is no longer a concern. Susan, Lacy, and Taylor will stay at our place for the duration of our trip. Our grounds are predator proof, the slick walls take care of that, the only concern is from above, raptors live in the hood and the cat might be an easy target. For that reason we keep her inside. She’s cooperative, actually shows no interest in going out even when Morshchiny goes for her walk and potty break. Bots take care of kitty litter, Emma B and Hypatia B will stay here while we travel. Kota B has to come for the children, Grace B will bitch if we take her and bitch if we leave her, should have named her Bitchy B, but she’d only bitch about that too.
Our travel girls check in, flying home, they were scheduled for another night, I don’t know what the rush is, nobody is injured according to Sarah, she said she’d explain when they arrive.
Lunch comes and goes, Amaya reports that the streaming play has favorable reviews in Japan, the mystery of who created it has the internet buzzing in that slice of the planet. Young people in Japan may never have heard of The Scarlett Princess of Edo, it’s renewed interest in the play. The English version is finalizing production, mercifully, the children are both excited and exhausted.
Amaya, ‘It was more work than I anticipated, movies seem simple enough on paper, but the actual performances can be grueling. The children were determined to do well, but I think they have had enough of kimonos for a while.’
‘At least we backed off other training, we can gear up on gung fu and kendo after the trip, it should be enjoyable, fun, give them a chance to tourist and chill.’
Chloe, ‘Good. Amaya has me doing four, not six commercials, and two talk shows, down from four. We spend a week in Tokyo then move to the more relaxed Kyoto. We have nothing scheduled in Kyoto, glad of it.’
‘No fan day?’
Chloe, ‘No, a lot of organization, and we have many more girls on this trip, which means additional security issues. I asked Amaya to keep it low key, frankly I could skip both the commercials and the talk shows but Japan has been good to us, I should do something. We aren’t mentioning Scarlett Princess, nobody but family knows who produced it. Actually, the mystery has increased interest.’
Valeria, ‘Are Ellen and Sarah coming in time for dinner?’
‘They arrive at four thirty, I sent one of the cars, it’s at the airport now. What’s dinner anyway?’
‘Fried chicken, but it’s being droned in, we aren’t frying. Just the chicken, we’re making coleslaw, feel free to chop cabbage, we have shredded carrot, maybe two versions, one with mayo and one with peanut sauce. There are fresh beets, I can slice those and add to the peanut sauce version. Top with sliced almonds.’
Valeria and I while away the time making coleslaw, it isn’t complicated, we just need a lot of it. The children prefer the mayo version, our peanut sauce is spicy.
‘Do we have any box cake mix?’
Emma B, ‘Devil’s food or white, vanilla frosting in a can.’
‘I’ll bake both, then layer the white and chocolate cakes.’
Cake mix today is sugar free, as is the frosting, some food genius figured out how to make it taste great and rise light and fluffy despite substituting sweetener for sugar. The old sugar free mixes tended to bake dense, brownie-like, not cakey.
Ellen and Sarah show as I’m pulling the big cake pans out of the oven.
Ellen, ‘Smells lovely, you going to layer or have two kinds?’
‘Hey sweet, no injuries? I’m layering.’
‘Not a scratch, on us anyway. We beat a retreat home because we had to terminate the target and two bodyguards. Sarah took the target, the two others were a surprise, came out of nowhere. We had no clue about bodyguards. I suspect they were recent additions.’
‘Then there was a leak, someone knew the target was the target, maybe even the contractor couldn’t resist telling someone.’
Sarah, ‘What we figured. Whoever it was couldn’t keep their mouth shut. Extreme stupidity, if we set our mind to it, we could track them down and add one more body to the pile.’
‘People think using the dark net keeps them invisible. It doesn’t occur that figuring out who benefits if the target dies just isn’t that hard.’
Ellen, ‘We got a kill and got paid, Sarah won’t have homicidal urges for a while.’
‘We’re going to Japan next week, Amaya cut back on a couple of Chloe’s activities, the ones that would have necessitated a longer stay, it was a convenient excuse to avoid staying in Tokyo an extra week. We’ll be in Kyoto seven days, five in Tokyo, with travel it’s two weeks, long enough.’
Sarah, ‘We do prefer to stay in one home or another, don’t we? Rather than extensive travel I mean.’
‘Where do we go and what do we do that’s better than being at home? We’ve built our own theme park, race tracks, pool, gun range, beautiful mountains, an ocean nearby at our Malibu place, gorgeous lake and mountains in Canada.’
Grace B, ‘And bot slaves to pamper your too pampered asses. Speaking of, where is the luggage? I need to haul your shit to the laundry room.’
Sarah giggles, ‘We rolled it to the laundry room already.’
‘I do not suppose you bothered to take out the soiled crap.’
‘Why, we have you for that.’
Grace B offer up a sneer, walks to the laundry room mumbling, ‘I should bleach the damn jeans, see how the cunts like tie-dyed denim on their butts.’
Sarah, ‘You fuck up my clothes I’ll shoot your titanium ass.’
‘Good luck with that skinny bitch.’
Sarah giggles again, ‘I should shoot Amaya for making Grace B so mouthy, but Chloe would katana my neck and we’d lose the use of Amaya’s ultra-hot bod.’
Amaya, ‘You would all die of unrequited lust.’
She’s in a pair of snug stretchy shorts, wedges and a very happy half t-shirt, her pierced navel sports a ruby today.
Ellen, ‘Jesus Amaya, you make a bulldog break its chain.’
Amaya kisses her, ‘I should be in the Smithsonian, but the tourists would wail and gnash their teeth, there would be mass divorce, grown men would weep, all the women would become lesbians, and by the way Ellen, get out of those baggy jeans and into something more revealing, everyone needs inspiration, a model of leggy perfection, I cannot carry the hormone ball alone, well, I could, but it seems selfish.’
Ellen, ‘Your wish is my command.’
‘Of course it is.’


Seventy Two

We leave for Tokyo in the morning. Susan and crew are spending the night at our place, enjoying the children, then dinner, steak and potatoes basic. Bedtime enjoyments include Taylor giving it up for Amaya and Chloe, Lacy hands on Ellen, they move on to Ellen’s room with Janah. Sis and Valeria are with me.
Susan is voracious, takes me, then Valeria, after we’re delightfully climaxed, we double up on her and tongue dance the softness, followed by Valeria strapping up and driving Sis into delirium while I enjoy the performance aided by a buzzy toy while I lick Susan’s lips and suck her tongue.
We collapse, still tingly, Sis gets the middle, giddy grin on her face as Valeria covers one luscious leg with hers and I take the other, die until morning.
Showered, packed, girls fill two mini-buses, Lacy, Taylor, Sis, Morshchiny, and Burma in the driveway seeing us off. Getting the Burmese, in part for Morshchiny, was a great idea. Thanks to Nikko, the dog has a pal, Susan and the others will supply loads of attention as well. I feel okay with leaving the big girl. Emma B and Hypatia B will make sure everyone is taken care of.
The flight is long, but private is luxurious, we take off Friday at two thirty in the afternoon, arrive at Narita for four thirty in the afternoon, which seems bizarre, but we cross the dateline, so it’s four thirty on Saturday. At today’s faster flights it’s ten hours in the air, was closer to twelve in the old days. Now the game is to press on and get to bed by ten thirty or eleven. The children slept for a bit, most of us stayed up reading, watching movies, rather than sleep on the plane then try to sleep again a few hours later.
Our hotel is new, Tik Tok Suites, I have no idea about the name, even in 2039 Japan is still obsessed with cute. Like most everything in Japan, the place is immaculate. Given that we have thirty girls and two bots we take up fifteen rooms, all of which are sizable suites, each suite has two bedrooms and baths, essential for so many girls. Management is most accommodating, one suite has extra beds so the children can stay in a single suite. 
We had lots of food options on the plane, so we push back dinner and walk the streets until dark. Tokyo is a huge metropolitan city, except for signs in Japanese and absurdly clean streets, it could be any major city. We draw a fair amount of curious glances, ten little girls all of whom speak fluent Japanese although our dialect lends itself more to Kyoto than Tokyo. Now however, lots of the dialect subtleties have disappeared, we understand and can be understood, at least our Japanese speakers do, I have only a smattering, but Janah is fluent and I get the translation out of her head. Chloe, Amaya, Nikko, and the children can natter away with anyone.
We have dinner in a private dining room in the hotel, simpler and less confusion than if so many converge on one restaurant. 
Girls exchange sake toasts, lots of fish, Miso of course, sushi and sashimi, the children charm the wait staff, in between courses they sing a popular Japanese pop song and dance something choreographed by Amaya. Management appears and asks if they will perform tomorrow in the lobby, naturally the children are delighted. They pester Amaya to teach them one more number and a different dance so they will have two songs for whatever audience happens to be around.
Amaya, ‘I will find something and they can learn it in the morning. They want us in the lobby for afternoon tea. We have nothing scheduled for Sunday anyway.’
‘Why not let them do one of their Zycyryn dances, they already know the steps, and they sing during parts of those too.’
Amaya, ‘Thank you Daphne, that alternative went right over my head, you have saved me from creating a dance. I shall give you a splendid reward, but not tonight, tonight Amaya sleeps.’
‘So should we all, I know I am, Janah is a professional sleeper, we will be motionless until morning, and not an early morning either.’
The children’s dances for the Zycyryn are not as choreographed, like when they drive the karts, they make it up as they move, the precision of both the driving and the dance make them appear practiced. 
We spend the morning out, spread ourselves over a half dozen restaurants for breakfast. We’re in Shinjuku, one of the more upscale sections of town, packed with restaurants, bars, they still have the tiny bars that seat four or six people, and the bigger productions with garish neon and karaoke. How karaoke has hung on this long is a mystery, but it is still popular. What do I know? Bonding over sappy, or poppy, maudlin or sad music was and is a worldwide phenomenon. 
We visit the Samurai Museum, displays of armor, katana obviously, helmets, all the trash and treasure of samurai culture. A demonstration of the katana, tame and slow, he doesn’t slice through a pillar of intertwined bamboo, something Chloe had to demonstrate long ago on one of the late night talk shows. She sliced about six inches off the top, which flipped up in the air and she cut it in half while still airborne, then spun and lopped through the middle, nothing happened. The audience thought she’d missed until she poked the stalk and the second piece toppled to the floor. Thunderous applause for that bit.
Devona asks, ‘Tetya Nikko, is this all authentic?’
‘As far as I know, I’m not a historical expert on the culture, the katana appear authentic, as in made by an individual craftsman, not a machine. Valuable because nobody makes them anymore, not by hand.’
‘Tetya Chloe made three movies using the swords, very exciting, we watched all three more than once. Why didn’t she make any more?’
Amaya, ‘There is a limit, beyond which things can only go downhill, a character is fully explored, Chloe would be stuck in that character forever. I wrote scripts where she played other roles, a psychologist, another a philosophy professor and part time detective, avoided becoming a one dimensional actor.’
‘And the one where she was a crazy woman who murdered husbands for the money.’
‘That was a fun one, a long time ago, before I even knew Janah and Daphne, they had a mystery that gave me the idea. A woman did kill off four husbands, but not just for money, she liked being suspected then getting away with it. Janah fixed the real psycho by making her believe she was being followed by the spirits of the dead men. I took the first part, psycho killing off husbands, but didn’t use the bit about the gypsy who convinced the woman she had to atone. My character got away with it, flying off on a private jet while the detective who thought he had her stood mystified on the ground.’
‘The movie ended when she got married again, in England, and as she repeated ‘until death do us part,’ Chloe turned to the camera with a raised eyebrow and sly grin, it was great.’
‘Stroke of genius on my part, I am struck with genius frequently.’
Zofia, ‘Are you going to teach us another song?’
‘Daphne had a good idea, she thinks you should do one of the Zycyryn dances and the chants that go with it. They are beautiful and enthralling.’
Jesica, ‘We can do that, but what if the Gids come?’
‘The audience doesn’t know from Gids, they will think it some sort of special effect, sparkles in the air will just be sparkles in the air. And you wear the white chemises, they flow and flare perfectly.’
‘We dance barefooted, is that okay?’
‘Of course, you will be splendid.’
Amaya and Chloe spend two hours applying makeup, not a lot of makeup, enough to make eyes seem bigger, and identical sprays of silver glitter under the left eye, lip gloss, clear, no lipstick.
Amaya goes to the lobby to find the manager, they figure out where the performance should take place, outside in a gorgeous courtyard where tea is served in the afternoon, weather permitting. Today is permitting, seventy five and lightly overcast.
Amaya, ‘Serve the guests, once they’ve settled, announce a short performance. There will be two songs, the one your wait staff saw last night, and one additional. The whole thing is less than twenty minutes.
‘Do we request the audience remain seated, not move about?’
‘I think not, once the girls start, nobody is going anywhere. There are quite a few tables, is it usually full?’
‘Always, guests must reserve to be seated out here, We can accommodate eighty, one hundred if we squeeze in a few tables of six, most are set for four. As you can see, the center of the courtyard is empty, which will be the stage for the children, some guests will only see from behind the performers, can’t be helped.’
‘No, the children will perform in a circle facing out to all of the audience. Our group is large, but we will not take up table space, they will be happy to spread out behind.’
‘Arigato, and here come the first arrivals, excuse me.’
Amaya returns to the suite, checks out the children one by one, makes invisible adjustments to ribbons in their hair, checks nails, finger and toe, lacquered shiny red. Satisfied, we take elevators down to the lobby. The courtyard is full of chattering guests, a mix of Asians and Europeans, most tables are adults, a smattering of teens and kids.
The manager comes along, ‘Service will be complete in a few minutes, then I will make the announcement, do you need anything else? We don’t have microphones out there, can the children be heard?’
‘Will not be a problem.’
Ten minutes later we hear, in Japanese first, followed by English, ‘TikTok is proud to offer a short performance by a few of our younger guests. They did a song last evening in the private dining room that had the staff that had talking of nothing else. I am told that today, they will perform the same song, followed by another dance which has no name, they created it themselves. This is not a formal performing group, they have no stage name. Please, enjoy.’
He bows and moves off, there is a bit of applause as the children file in and take places in the center.
The pop song is a breezy thing about first love, if you live in Japan you’ve heard it, emphasis on cute. The children belt it out like pros, perfectly choreographed, little hips sway seductively, the circle of girls swap positions so the guests get a look at each. The response is enthusiastic, and they do an encore of the chorus in reply.
Once settled, Uma steps out from the group and announces an improvised dance and chant, ‘You don’t need to speak Japanese or English, the chant is in our own private language, I hope you will enjoy it,’ she says it in Japanese first, then English, which has guests both nodding and curious, a little girl with two languages. She could have, but didn’t repeat it in Russian.
The girls circle again, this time almost shoulder to shoulder. With no prompt or sign, they begin to sway, then to slowly spin, the circle widens a bit, they spin faster, the chant begins, not singsong little girls voices, contralto, not soprano. The chant is not somber, not playful, and the sounds change up and down the scale. Uma spins to the center of the circle, the others spinning around her, ankle length dresses flare out, then the spinning ceases and there is a perfectly coordinated set of steps like a line dance, the chant is soloed by Uma, the others shift so quickly between each other it’s hard to follow, almost a blur of white.
Uma raises her hands, her voice soars, clear and ominous, that it comes from a kid who isn’t seven is otherworldly, which of course it is, but the audience doesn’t know that.
She joins the line, two lines actually, steps in harmony, which is more amazing since half the girls face one way and half the other. How do they sift so quickly without banging into each other?
I survey the faces, the audience is rapt, some with open mouths, not quite believing what they see. 
Uma returns to the center, the children surround her, seven bodies that look like a figure skater spinning, the chant resumes, the Uma is surrounded by rose colored light, a column that reaches up past the surrounding roof, then a burst of the sparkles we’re familiar with, now a mixture of pure white and rose rains down on the children and over the entire courtyard. Any concern melts as it quickly becomes evident the magic glitter has no substance, no heat, doesn’t stick to anything, just blinks out.
The girls stop, circle outward facing the audience, bow deeply.
Whistles, hands bang tables, people stand and applaud, women dab weeping eyes with napkins. All in all quite the success. It’s Japan, several guest attempted to record the performance, Eloise anticipated that and jammed the things, they have video of static.
I go to the girls, Nikko and I usher them out of the courtyard and hustle up to the suites. Nobody gets an interview, not with the kids. Amaya will handle any comments and questions, she’s talented at being both charming and vague. I’ll find out later what she told them.

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