Chapter Ninety Seven
And life rolls along, Chloe and Amaya to LA for preliminary meetings on the movie. Since we'd hired the jet, Nikko and Zi join them. In LA, Amaya and Chloe are met by a studio car, Nikko and Zi continue on to San Francisco to visit our property management arm there. In a couple of days, they'll reverse the trip.
Janah is sitting by the pool, Oceane is swimming. It's just girls, no swimsuits.
Janah, "Wonder what our Shaolin think of a nude Abbess?"
"Oceane always swims nude, they've seen her. The rest of us don't wear much around the house, Danika came to dinner in a t-shirt only. Su wore a robe a couple of days and shifted to the dresses Amaya bought for her. Su is a bit more body conscious than the rest of us, doesn't stop her from admiring the other bodies."
Janah, "I noticed. We have a situation, you and I may need a road trip."
"An eight year old transgender boy. Mom deceased, dad trying to force the child who feels like a girl to be a boy, force as in physical abuse."
"It gets worse, he's looking to sell the child."
"That's worse. How'd we come on it?"
"Started with a rumor. I sent Surveillance, they monitored conversations. We have evidence of beatings, which slacked off when dad decided to monetize the child. No marks on the merchandise fetches a higher price. He's talked to two people so far, has an appointment with a third, wants a bidding war I suppose."
"When do we leave?"
"Third prospect shows up on two days, I want the child gone before then."
"San Diego, we leave in the morning. If it plays right, we can fly back with the others, they can pick us up in San Diego."
"The child is coming with us."
"Houseful of girls, where better?"
"This is more complicated, what about one of the ranches?"
"They are less equipped to deal with transgender issues, never had one. They have some gay kids, but transgender isn't gay."
"Do we need anyone else?"
"Not really. It's just the guy, he's average size, no evidence of guns, no oversize pals hanging around. We go to his house, deal with him, I talk to the child."
Dasha, "Seester and Dasha also will travel, we will drive, watch. No need for Minder."
"Okay, stay invisible, no more faces than necessary."
I get the serious Dasha face and a blink, silently letting me know she's got it covered.
At dinner, Janah tells the rest of the family at home, I've already spoken to Amaya and Nikko.
Su, "I've seen a program on a transgender child, Barbra Walters I think."
"Yes, a girl named Jazz, with an amazingly supportive family."
Su, "How does it work? I mean, this child was born as a boy physically, but is self identified as a girl. What happens?"
Janah, "They transition, do all the girl stuff, only have a penis. Eventually, there’s hormone replacement, somewhere around puberty. The operation, if they get it, doesn't happen until their body has matured. Dad has prevented the first steps. She has to wear boy clothes, boy toys, use the men's room. School was accepting of the child, dad wouldn't allow it, so home schooled. We have no idea what that means in this case."
Eloise, "If she's going to be here, in Arizona, what happens in this school system?"
Janah, "Arizona is struggling with it in Arizona's typically heavy handed way, resulting in anger and confusion. Some parents want to force the issue and encourage the child to use whatever bathroom they want. The problem is, transgender doesn't mean homosexual. If a girl with a penis is interested in boys, she may prefer the girl's restroom on one hand, but use her 'boy' credentials to check out boys in the boy restroom. It may not happen much, but everything happens. Now the boys are upset, the parents are upset on both sides. The short answer is we are going to avoid that, no school in Arizona. In New York we're fine. We own a private girl's school that is first through sixth. We live over a private girl's school, Chapmans, that will welcome a transitioning child. We have Susan, Lacy and Taylor to help, not to mention Chan and Ning or Black and Sonia. We may see if she prefers the temple."
Su, "Then she will be fine."
We jet off to San Diego, don't plan to stay overnight. Instead of getting on the same plane with an additional child, we decide it's best to rent a car and drive to LA. A one night stay and all of us fly back from LA.
Dad lives in a middle class San Diego suburb, not a gated community, just a stucco house in a quiet neighborhood. His name is Bob Mortenson, the child is Robert Jr.
Daria, "I will knock, put father out, Janah can deal with the child."
Dasha and I are just ride-alongs, keep an eye on the neighborhood. We're in a standard rental SUV, like you see all over the place, ours has California plates, just not the plates from the rental company.
Daria and Janah go to the door, knock, the door opens and Daria's inside. Bob's out before he has a chance to think up a question. Janah’s past them, shuts the door. Dasha drives around the block, we don't want to sit in one spot.
The girl is naturally confused, Janah's gentle presence is reassuring, she doesn't panic, "Who are you?"
"You are having trouble being yourself, yes?" She smiles softly.
"My father won't let me."
"And what if you lived someplace where they would let you, away from here, away from your father."
"He's already planning that. Two perverts showed up, I had to undress, they took pictures."
"How do you feel about that?"
She starts to cry, "I can't help who I am, why doesn't he understand?"
"He named you after himself, what do you think that means?"
She brushes a tear from her eye, "He wants me to be like he is."
"Good call. He has an idea of a son. Because of your body, he thought he had one, but he has a girl. He can't accept that."
"So are you buying me?"
"No, there will be no buying by anyone. You may stay with your father, I can monitor him, but I can't fix his anger so easily. I can take you to a place where you can be a girl, completely."
She looks at Janah, "Really, just a girl."
"Just a girl."
"What happens to him? What if he looks for me? Probably be glad I'm gone."
"He won't look."
She studies Janah's face. There's no angelic white hair, we have to do these things disguised. As normal in our interventions involving children, Janah's calm temperament keeps the children calm. This one has been through such turmoil, and even at eight, knows there's nothing but more turmoil ahead. She’s cautious, but not scared. Scared is where she lives now.
"What happens to him?"
"We help him forget, one reason he won't look for you, you will be only a vague memory. Even if he did look, in a couple of weeks, you won't be a boy anymore. In a year, he won't know you if he passes you on the street."
"Really. Here's the last thing. Once you're gone, you don't see him again. When you are grown, eighteen, if you want to look for him, we won't stop you."
"Why would I want to see him? He's a monster. All he does is tell me how I let him down, embarrass him."
"You can't take anything."
"All I have is boy stuff I don't want. It's not like I have any friends," she starts to cry again, Janah holds her.
Daria has Bob nicely drugged and is implanting false memories, hypnotic suggestions enhanced by David Li's pharmaceuticals. She'll need about two hours to make sure Bob is good and fogged. Janah brings the child to the car, I get out and go to the house. Dasha will drive them around, get lunch someplace until time to pick us up.
While Daria does her thing, I begin to make Robert Jr. disappear from the premises. Trash bags of clothes, toothbrush, everything remotely personal. Cleaners will come and dispose of it. I crack dad's computer. The usual porn history I leave. There are e-mails about Jr. I delete, change passwords and close the accounts. I search for files relating to the child.
Bob is a self employed accountant, good, filed his own taxes. I send his returns to the Society account. Daria will hack the IRS and make his tax returns evaporate, California too. Or we may just call one of our contacts and make the records disappear from inside. For fun, I wipe his drive, find his phone and clear all the contacts, numbers called, texts. Then I change the password and lock it. Next to file cabinets.
Birth certificate, hard copies of tax returns, old, he kept recent ones digitally. Nothing else speaks of Jr. Cleaners will scour the attic and basement, wipe down all the obvious fingerprint spots, strip the bed, dump anything 'kid' from the refrigerator. All while Bob sleeps, drugged to the nines for twelve hours.
It's overkill. First, he's going to be very fuzzy on Jr. Second, there will be no record of a Robert Mortenson Jr. being born in San Diego.
Daria mentals Dasha, we'd walked down the block, around the corner and over two blocks, Dasha pulls up, and we're gone.
At a convenience store, Janah and the child go in to buy a soda. When they come out, we're in an identical SUV, just not the same SUV. Jr. doesn't notice. We head up I-5 to the 405, then to I-10 and three hours later we're at Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica.
Chloe and Amaya are already there, having tea in The Living Room.
Janah, "This young lady is joining us, we haven't decided on a name, a few came up on the ride."
Amaya, "Hello, I am Amaya, this is my friend Chloe."
Jr. "You’re Chloe Sylk, I go to your fan page all the time."
Chloe dazzles her smile, "How wonderful, thank you, you like it then?"
"Yes! The thing in Japan, decora, I love those outfits."
Chloe, "One of our girls at home is into it, she's adorable in her dresses."
Janah orders tea, they already have a selection of tea cakes and finger sandwiches.
Janah, "Take whatever you want, we only had a quickie lunch."
She snags a sandwich, "What happens now?"
"Now we go to our room, unfortunately only one night. We have to get home."
Jr., "Guess I'm stuck in these jeans for a while."
Amaya, "Certainly not. I picked up a couple of things, Daphne, um, called and gave me the sizes. Once you are scrubbed, we will have you in proper clothing for a young girl. Then dinner and a movie in the room."
She looks around, "This place is beautiful."
"We like it here. For now, best for us to keep a low profile. I doubt anyone will recognize you, still, better to avoid a problem."
We go to our rooms, Amaya and Chloe are in a suite, the rest of us are in two standard rooms. The girl, she’s allowed to be all girl now, will stay with Amaya, the suite has the better fold out bed and the clothes are there. After a shower, we meet in the suite. Amaya hands Daria and Dasha vodkas, one for Chloe and herself, a glass of red for Janah.
Voice from the bedroom, "Done showering."
Amaya, "Excuse me, need to put her together."
While she's getting the young lady dressed Chloe recounts the meetings, "Went well, I'm wanted, there was no haggling, Amaya was clear before we agreed to meet. The meetings were to schedule filming dates. I need to be here for a couple of weeks, then another ten days a month along."
"We need to keep the girl out of California for a while, even with a new look. maybe the twins can come over for a stretch, Oceane will like that."
Dasha, "We will take Oceane, she will be safe. She can sweem in ocean, talk to feesh."
We laugh, Oceane talks to animate and inanimate things, the other day she had a dialogue with a scotch pine.
Amaya comes out, "May I present Sloane, last name to be decided."
Chloe, "Beautiful name for a beautiful girl, and look at that dress, sooo cute."
Sloane, "Hair's kind of short."
"Hair grows, and it's blonde, like Amaya's, it will be lovely."
Amaya, "Of course it will be lovely, I shall select her style."
Sloane, "Amaya says she will polish my nails on the plane tomorrow."
"And your toes."
Sloane grins, "I can be who I am," her eyes mist up.
Amaya wipes them, "Tears of joy, the best kind."
Sloane sniffles over a wide smile.
We have dinner in the suite, then watch the Nemo animation, have to make allowances for our young lady. Sloane makes it to the end, but with tired eyes. I start to make up the couch.
Amaya, "Don't worry about it. I think she will best with us for tonight, if she wakes, it might confuse her."
We take off for our rooms, in the hall Dasha says, "Dahfoney, you will slip wiz me, Daria will make sex wiz Janah."
Janah smiles, "What a splendid thought."
Dasha also has sex on her mind, yay! We play lesbian hunger games for an hour, then curl in together. I stayed out of Janah's mind, I assume she had fun with the other delectable twin.
Chapter Ninety Eight
Nikko and Zi land, we board, strap in and take off. Sooo much simpler flying private. The TSA doesn't care if we blow up our own jet, we kept our shoes on the whole time, laptops stowed securely in their cases, no full body scan or pat down, I even have a pocket knife.
"Nikko, Zi, meet Sloane, the new most adorable girl in our family."
Sloane grins, "Amaya said I can be second most adorable, or most adorable under twelve, she has to be first most adorable. She also said I haven't met Oceane yet."
Nikko, "Ignore Amaya, except in fashion, makeup, accessories and hairstyles. Then just do what she says."
Zi, "You are precious. Have you flown before?"
"Once, I went to see my mother's parents. They didn't like me."
Zi, "Their loss."
"And the plane was full of people, everything took forever, not like this."
Amaya, "Okay, we're at cruising altitude, hand flat on this book, be still."
She gets nails polished, Hey Baby from OPI, a shiny pink. They serve lunch, grilled fish, mixed vegetables, a brownie. We pre-ordered to keep it light. Dasha and I will cook up something good for dinner.
Sloane cleans her plate, good sign, appetite. Amaya sits on the floor with Sloane's foot on her knee and finishes the polish job. Sloane’s face may distort from the grin.
"Keep still until it dries, don't bump your toes on things."
She sits with feet on the edge of the seat and studies her shiny nails. How simple it is, let a girl be a girl.
"How's business up North?"
Nikko, "They do such a great job. I'm expanding the client list now that we have experienced management in place. In San Francisco we can apparently charge anything we want for rents, it's astounding. And we don't even do residential, which per square foot is even more outrageous."
"Maybe you should, we get a percentage after all."
Nikko, "That's what we're expanding to. First up is a three hundred unit complex. I can't do smaller. Apartments are management intensive, two or three people have to be there during office hours, landscape, maintenance is different than commercial, more move ins and outs. We will only take on luxury, no mid range or lower. Better class of tenants. They expect more service, but they pay for it and they are less likely to trash the place."
Janah, "What if we built affordable units, new. Will land and construction prices support it? Demand is a given."
Nikko, "Zi mentioned the same thing. I'm considering it. The apartments would be small, need to maximize land use. And I would put in place and enforce rigid tenant requirements regarding occupants. Two people to an apartment, even two bedroom. No pets. Other places, people get a two bedroom and put four or even six people in it. I've heard of eight, they make the living room a bedroom. Beats hell out of appliances, toilets and baths. Washer dryers get triple the use. And no sublets, otherwise it would take about a month to fill up and none of the tenants would be the actual tenants, just people paying lower rent and up-charging the sublet."
"Cripes, sound like a lot of trouble."
Nikko, "Exactly. I like the idea of giving at least a few people a nice place they can actually afford, we do it in New York. It came up in meetings, the staff would move there if we do it. We pay well and they still have to come from outside the city. We can buy in the city and renovate, won’t make much money for a while."
"That’s not a priority, and good to have our own people on the premises."
Nikko, "I agreed to let them scope out property, then run numbers against construction costs, we'll see. A preliminary spreadsheet indicates it can be done profitably, just, even if we borrow eighty percent of the money. Borrowing at today's rates makes the leverage better and kicks up the returns."
Nikko understands that part of our business is not necessarily to make the largest return, but to give people a break. Competing landlords get antsy, but Nikko likes them antsy. They resort to gimmicks, two months free, referral rebates, free carpet cleaning. People aren't that stupid, those 'bargains' aren't bargains at all. Nikko considers those carrots too trivial, almost insulting.
We'd coached Sloane about interactions with outsiders. She's in a fragile stage recognition-wise. She is polite with the attendant, but doesn't converse. I turn on a movie for her, the Little Mermaid, don't ask me the plot, I have no clue. She seemed to enjoy it, I heard giggles from time to time, a few sighs. By the end, the plane is descending then we're out and off. Su has the Escalade, Eloise drove Amaya's Corvette.
Su, "We needed both cars, the Escalade is still going to be full."
Eloise, "Sloane can sit in my lap, Amaya will take us."
That settled, we pile in, it's only a twenty minute ride from the small Prescott airport, Amaya is there and inside before we arrive.
Sloane comes running, "This is the coolest place ever. It's gigantic, look at the pool, two diving boards. This is where you live?"
"Part of the time, we have a condo in Manhattan."
Sloane, "I know that, from Chloe's fan page, but there are no photos, lots of pictures of Manhattan. Am I going to live there too?"
"You are going to live where we live. We're here for a few months, then back to Manhattan. We have a school, you are just the right age, it's a girls' school."
She knots her brow, "Are they going to be okay with me?"
"You are going to have more friends than anyone. Our girls come from all over the world, from all kinds of families. You aren't even the first transgender."
Sloane glows, "There's another girl, like me?"
"Yes, and she's terribly popular, always invited to sleepovers, parties, a regular queen bee."
Her hands go to her mouth, more tears, "I never thought...."
"Those days are over angel. Time to start figuring out the real Sloane, the cute one with all the friends."
Amaya comes in, Sloane jumps in her arms, "I'm going to have friends, girls."
Amaya, "When I get you properly outfitted, teach you manners and polite conversation, you will be Princess of Manhattan. I am Queen, I cannot be replaced or overthrown. Don't worry, I rule with benevolence and am universally loved. Now, pick out a bedroom."
There are three options, two in the guesthouse and what was going to be the guest bedroom in the main house. That was before Janah decided we need another family member.
Janah, "I didn't know when we built the house. There's nothing but land out here, we could build twenty homes on the property we already own."
She's right of course. Arizona has a zillion acres of dirt and we already have a hundred twenty five.
After visiting, Sloane says, "The bedrooms on the guesthouse have a view of the pool, the main house bedroom looks out on the pond and waterfall. I don't know what to pick."
"Try them both, you will settle on one eventually. Amaya will have to wait to decorate, but that's okay."
Amaya, "Amaya already knows what she wants, over the next few days, Sloane and I will surf websites. When she chooses a room, we'll have it properly accessorized. Tomorrow, we shop. She needs more than a couple of dresses and shorts."
Nikko, "She's still growing, don't go nuts."
Amaya, "I am master of matching combinations. I can make three outfits into a dozen. I'll skimp on shoes, her feet will grow most quickly. Do you swim?"
"Yes, in San...I mean where I used to live, everybody swims."
"Good. We'll get a swimsuit, Oceane can check you out. She's a master swimmer, like a fish."
Dasha, "Dahfoney, we are to make dinner now."
I look at the time, gosh, were does it go?
"Tea time, Chloe, can you orchestrate? Dasha and I have dinner prep, things got jammed up with the travel."
Danika comes in, is introduced, they circle the low table for tea. Dasha and I across the room dealing with dinner prep.
Dasha, "We will haf filet steak, Nikko favorite. I will make au gratin potato, you will make creamy speenach wiz nootmaig. Also grill garden burger for Janah and Danika. Su ees Korean, they like meat. She haf enough vegetable een temple already."
"Good catch Dasha. I've seen her eyeing the bacon and ham at breakfast, our burgers. She's a proper Buddhist, put the steak in front of her, she'll eat what she's given. In her case, she'll love it."
Naturally Sloane has questions, a few million. During cocktails and over dinner, we tell her about ourselves. To keep it less self aggrandizing, each of us tells her about the interests and activities of another. I talk about Janah, Janah me, Amaya Chloe, like that. We steer away from Sloane's former tribulations, if they need to surface, better with one of us. She will gravitate to someone, like Daria to Chloe, Dasha to me. Our approach to all the family when they came to us young is the same. Lots of hugs, lots of freedom, lots of listening, overlaid with a fair amount of activity, athletic and scholastic. So far, so good.
Su, "Thank you Dasha, my first meat in years. I love the temple, but for me vegetarian was hard gung fu."
Danika, "I'm happy Janah is a vegetarian, I can ride along."
Sloane, "What is the temple? Why is it vegetarian?"
She gets a brief introduction into Shaolin, that Danika, Su, Zi and I are Shaolin monks, Janah is the abbess of our temple.
"When we return to Manhattan, you will go there, meet all our friends, learn by observing."
Sloane, "You guys sure do a lot of stuff."
"And you will get to do as much or as little of it as you like. Well, except school, that's not optional."
Sloane, "I want to go to school, make friends, be in a classroom, be normal."
Amaya, Nobody here is normal.
She's not dumb, the difference between us and the outsiders she meets will become evident. Right now she wants stability, which she calls normal.
After dinner, Danika and Oceane go off, to the grounds, maybe the roof. They don't mental with any of us, no idea what they talk or don't talk about.
Janah, Easy to assume they have similar temperaments, both see, sense, the world differently. In the temple, Danika was almost invisible. I've spoken with her over the years, whatever she feels she doesn't talk about much. Our conversations were pretty ordinary, same thing I'd talk over with any monk, progress, a few dharma discussions, her scholastic work. She didn't do much of that, enough to meet our basic requirements, she was always elsewhere.
I recall. I don't know her skill set, is she Tan, mini-Tan, Tan+? Chan gets the vibe she's got high level mental skills and qi. She's never openly demonstrated them. Zi never tried to read her out of respect for her privacy.
Guess we'll know when we do.
Sloane, "Oceane is going to check out my swimming tomorrow, after shopping with Amaya."
Amaya, "I doubt there is much to my taste in Prescott. We shall surf, I know all the right online stores, then we shall order things for your room. While you swim, Su will take me around town to refresh her driving skills a bit more."
"I thought she was doing fine."
"In the Escalade, we're taking the Corvette. She needs to know both."
"Take her to Bondurant while we're here, you can do racing again, she can do tactical. Three days ought to do it."
Amaya, "Good idea, I will make arrangements, that is, assuming Su wants to go."
Su, "Dasha gave me my orders while we made breakfast, she said, "Eemaya ees gud driving person, you will go to Bondurant school and learn how to drive fahmahley."
We laugh, "That would be Dasha."
Sloane giggles, "I love to listen to Dasha, and when she talks to Daria in Russian. She is going to teach me."
Janah, "Cool. It's good to speak another language, learn to read and write it. Cryllic is not the English alphabet though. Maybe learning to converse is enough."
Dasha, "We haf Cryllic keyboard for computer, she will learn. Then she will read Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, learn how to make beeg dramatic, like Eemaya."
Amaya, "Sneaky attempt to convert her to Communism, subversive Slav."
Sloane giggles again, "I will learn Russian ahczent, then Eemaya will haf two of us."
Amaya groans, "Listen kid, remember who is going to make you gorgeous, and furnish you room exquisitely. Get on my bad side and you will be in high top Nikes, baggy jeans, slathered in Axe deodorant, dirt under your nails and a cowboy motif for your room."
Sloane, "You wouldn't dare!"
Sloane smiles, "You wouldn't be able to stand it."
Amaya, "Lucky for you girly girl."
Chapter Ninety Nine
After breakfast, Amaya and Sloane surf clothes, shoes and accessories, "Do you want pierced ears?"
Sloane, "Can I, really?"
"Sure, we will go soon. Your paperwork should be ready in a day or so, did you choose a last name? I am just Amaya, Oceane is just Oceane."
"I am Sloane Sylk, daughter of Daphne Sylk."
I'm on the phone with Susan, my mom, who I call Sis, "Hey granny...again."
Sis, "Don't tell me."
"If you insist, good talking to you."
"Tell me idiot."
"I have a fresh new eight year old daughter, daughter-ish."
Sis, "What the frick is daughter-ish? No, wait.....let me think...oh, she's in transition."
"Yep, all girl with the wrong appliance. Other than that, so girl it's scary. She makes Amaya look like a tomboy."
"That would be impossible, send me a photo immediately, what's her name?"
"So you did adopt?"
"In process. For the first time in recorded history, there will be a girl in the house that likes boys. I guess anyway, she hasn’t actually said."
Sis, “She’s only eight, besides, you have the largest pride of lesbian lionesses on the planet. Hang on, it's coming over...geez, she's adorable, blonde as blonde, soft grey blue eyes and a smile to match Chloe. I'm flying out with Taylor and Lacy, she needs to meet all her grandmothers. James and Kara too."
"Text me arrival, we'll pick you up. Fly private, New York to Prescott is a giant pain on commercial. Have to go to Phoenix and drive up. Use the Blue Sky account, Teterboro direct to Prescott in three hours of pampering."
"Spoiled-R-Us, see you soon, what great news, I gotta tell the others, bye."
Janah, "Wow, first houseguests. I'll get Su and Danika to prep the rooms."
Dasha and I create a light lunch, sandwich variety, chop the crust finger sandwich style. Egg salad, three cheese, chicken salad, thin sliced roast beef, chopped red cabbage with tahini dressing, cracked pepper chips.
Today lunch is informal, announce over the speaker system when the food is ready. They come and get what they want, some stay around the table and chat, others are working and take a plate to their desks or wherever their laptop or netbook is.
Janah and I take plates to the roof with Oceane and Danika.
"Are the mystic and the mysterious bonding?"
Danika, "It may be difficult to explain. We are not the same. I can operate on the material universe, including the material brain. Oceane feels the energy of the person, the object, the air, water and earth. She does not affect, only receives apart from the energy she generates I her hands. The best way I can say it is, she can harmonize with anything, living or what people call inanimate. Nothing is inanimate, but people don't understand that. I can upset, disorganize harmony, or use it, or turn it into chaos. Daria is telekinetic, as am I. We are disruptors of gravity. Oceane senses, but doesn't interfere. She is the anti-Heisenberg, her observation creates no interference, she does not collapse the wave function."
Janah, "Your explanation is clear."
"Maybe to you."
"You know enough quantum physics to grasp the idea. Danika can use quantum physics to alter probabilities, Oceane sees the quantum interaction, but perceives only, does not interact or interfere."
Janah attracts some strange mamajammas.
"I can see the benefit to what you can do, or Daria. I am telekinetic, so is Chan, but Tan transmitted the skill to us. You apparently learned elsewhere."
"Ah, of course. But what is the benefit of Oceane's non-interference?"
"Do not think in terms of benefit, nothing is beneficial or harmful, it only appears that way in duality."
"Yes, that I understand. Some of our girls suffered, then we came along. We wouldn't have come along unless they suffered, now they have new lives. Suffering enabled the absence of suffering."
Danika, "And you cause suffering to relieve it."
"You are saying Oceane's perspective need not be good or bad, it just is."
"It will be necessary. Her role is indeterminable, unknown, thus real. The real is always unknown, all else is illusion."
"Oceane, what does this feel like?"
"Nothing, I will swim with Sloane."
She goes off, we sit on the roof and contemplate nothing, what's the point? Life's going to come along and we will deal with it. Sloane and Oceane dive in, Oceane nude as usual, Sloane has a bikini bottom, understandably ambivalent about her physical discrepancy. Over time, she will find we have no fascination with her boy part, parts is parts. Although I do find Oceane's long slim legs to be...such a nasty monk. I need clean up my libido and the lunch dishes.
Downstairs, I find the industrious Dasha is ahead of the curve, I rinse the plates I brought, stick them in the dishwasher and fire it up.
Dasha, "We will haf exercise this afternoon Dahfoney."
"What do you want to do?"
"Qi, heavy bag, then for diving."
Sounds good. Daria joins us and we do rounds on the heavy bag. I've ordered Qi dummies, should be in next week. For now we work up a sweat whacking the seventy pound bags, then sit on the floor and play our qi game. We try to roll tennis balls out of an imaginary ring, and try to stop them, with our minds. Sloane comes in from the pool, big towel wrapped around her.
She stands with her jaw dropped, "What makes the balls move?"
Distracted by her question, one of Daria's shots rolls past me, "The brain can be trained to manipulate matter."
Sloane, "It's a trick."
We stop, "Try to stand motionless, right there is good. Daria, push her back just a bit, easy now."
Sloane feels pressure on her chest, she takes a step back, "She pushes me with her brain?"
"Catch the tennis ball, that one."
The ball rises slowly then slowly flies to her, she grabs it, "Awesome. It's like you're witches."
I laugh, "That's one way to look at it, good witches mostly. We don't use witchcraft, or have spells or magic wands. We learned to manipulate energy, that's all," I skip the part about magic pharmaceuticals for now.
Sloane, "That’s all! Does everyone do it, I mean everyone here?"
"No, just some of us. And you must never mention it to outsiders, okay?"
Sloane, "They would just think I made it up. I'm strange enough on my own."
"Strange is more fun, at least more interesting. You have a strange family, you aren't strange to us at all."
Sloane, "I love my strange mom, mom."
Mom, crikey, she's seized my heart with a word, I stand and snatch her up, "And you are the perfect daughter," I kiss her soft cheek.
Sloane grins, "I have two cheeks," I kiss the other, then forehead, then nose, then a snug hug.
There are tears on my cheek that don't come from my eyes, she hugs me tight, "Thank you for saving me."
Out to the pool, Dasha, Daria and I do a few rounds of standard dives on the one meter, Oceane has Sloane at the edge of the pool showing her the basic bend over and dive in bit. When we start with flips, she sits on the edge to watch and applaud.
We move to the ten meter, single and double front flips. Forward pike, full twist, half and full gainer. We land most of them, not like a pro, there's more splash, over or under rotation. Doesn't matter, the sheer act of flying and acrobatics is energizing.
Sloane, "You guys are good. Will you teach me, mom?"
"Tomorrow, after lessons. Janah will get you set up in the morning and make a schedule. You don't want to start school behind."
Chapter One Hundred
Grandparents arrive, so good to see everyone. With their retirements, they spend a fair amount of time out of the country or at our Canadian home. Kara, Janah's mom, likes the solitude. James enjoys fishing and hiking.
Wish they were around more often, happier they are enjoying life. Sooner or later, you have to let parents leave the nest and find their way.
Sis, "Photos of this place don't do it justice, it's....big."
"Lots of girls now, thirteen, we're going to start a country. Amaya will be the dictator."
Sis, "Let's get to the important thing, my granddaughter."
"She was in the pool, be along in a minute. She chose the bedroom in the main house, you guys are in the guest house, let's take the luggage."
James, "Gosh, this is a guest room? Glad to be a guest."
We let them organize, lunch is casual, a buffet of salads, cold cuts and bread. They were fed on the flight, enjoy the house for the afternoon, maybe swim, then cocktails and dinner.
When they return to the main house, everyone is there. They've met Danika and Su, albeit briefly at a temple function. The star attraction is sipping a Coke Zero on the couch, "Sloane, meet our moms, Susan and Kara, our friends Lacy and Taylor, and our dad, James."
Susan squats down, touches Sloane's cheek, "I saw your photo, even more adorable in person, look at the soft blonde hair."
Sloane, "I'm going to grow it like Amaya's, shoulder length. I have a way to go."
"Sloane is the designated tour guide, if you're set, she'll take you through the house."
Sis, "Goody, let's go," she takes Sloane's hand, they lead the procession, first to Sloane's room, then upstairs.
They are gone over twenty minutes, "Wonder if they got lost?"
A few minutes later Sloane leads them back in.
Taylor, "Amaya's hand is everywhere, the bedrooms are gorgeous. Sloane's room is girl heaven."
Amaya, "It was designed as a guest room, so we girlified it."
Lacy, "The whole place is incredible."
"Amaya and Nikko figured the layout, Amaya did the decorating, you'll notice she got a private office."
Amaya, "Just compensation."
Sis, "You did splendidly Amaya, even the best decorator couldn't do better."
Amaya, "True, I am unmatched."
Dasha, "Eemaya ees always haf to be best. We haf to be best or she will make a production and nobody can leaf house until we are feex peerfect."
Taylor, "Tell me about it, I work with her, used to."
Amaya, "I miss it, we had to let go of all the Chapmans and personal shopping. My time is sucked up making Chloe a star and chasing after Dasha. She tried to sneak out the other day in cutoffs and sneakers, with a t-shirt! And no makeup. I told her we do not have spring break, we are not drunken college girls surfing for boys full of beer, sweat and sunburn. How tacky."
Lacy laughs, "I see it's business as usual."
"Dasha does it to see if she can slip past Amaya. Even though she knows there are cameras in the common areas and around the entrances. Amaya calls them Dasha detectors."
Amaya, "Eloise built it into the system. If Dasha goes out, I get a beep on my phone and the video comes up. When she's poorly dressed, I click a button and the cars won't start."
James, "How do you know it's Dasha and not Daria?"
"Child's play, Daria would never go out dressed like trailer trash, it's not possible. She is one of three faces of Murakami Sylk. Out of the question."
Taylor, "Looks like they have you surrounded Dasha."
"Ees okay, Eemaya makes fussing, then dresses and making me up. Then I am beautiful girl in grocery store. I haf always to blow off boys, but no mahter."
Susan, "How do you blow them off?"
"Speak Russian only."
We laugh, "That would do it. Although in Arizona I'm surprised the cops haven't shown up. Foreign languages here are a foreign concept, except for Spanish, which automatically brings suspicion."
Lacy, "It was a bit of a surprise, you guys building here. Arizona is Republican to the core, and lesbians are another suspicious foreign language."
Janah, "All the more reason. Arizona needs our diversity. I must say, for all its political foot dragging into the twenty first century, the place works. Roads are well maintained, things are orderly, almost too orderly. There isn't trash or graffiti all over the place, staff and service people are polite and prompt. All at half the price of New York."
Susan, "Tell me about it. Manhattan is pricing itself out of existence. Our condo would sell for twenty times what Chris' dad paid for it. Your place and Chapmans has skyrocketed."
Nikko, "We had an exploratory inquiry for the place last year, big shot developer, his attorneys and an architect."
Lacy, "Not going to succumb I hope?"
Nikko, "Never, for any reason. Certainly not to gut it and turn it into condos and dweeb bistros. That was the proposal. We supply the building, he was going to do all the dismantling and new construction. Sell off luxury condos, lease the ground floor to something pretentious, take the profit and run."
Sis, "How'd he react to your rejection?"
Nikko, "I didn't say anything. A minute passed in absolute silence while he squirmed under Daria's death stare, then she said, 'Why are you still here?'"
They laugh again, Sis, "And he slunk away never to be seen again."
"Actually, he and two lawyers grabbed paperwork with both hands, snapped briefcases shut and practically ran out the door. The architect left his rendering on the easel. He did a good job, just one that's never going to happen. I may use him for something else."
Amaya, "Tea time in a half hour. Chloe and I will entertain."
They go off, the parents take time to visit, spread around in small groups in the living area. James is talking to Danika and Janah, Susan with Zi, Su, Nikko and Daria. Kara visits with Oceane, Lacy and Taylor are chatting with Sloane and Eloise. I'm making tea and snacks with Dasha.
"Our tea table won't fit this many, just remain where you are, Dasha and I will serve. Chloe and Amaya can take center stage."
They didn't have time to do geisha, they perform in basic kimono while Dasha and I bring cups of tea and plates of sweets.
Amaya starts with a simple shamisen, to calm the atmosphere, then Chloe joins with flute. Amaya stands, and while Chloe accompanies on flute, she sings a poem in Japanese. It doesn't matter that only a few us speak the language, Amaya's fan flutters, her expression and vocalization tell the story of tragedy and redemption. Following that, and tears from the parents, Chloe dances to Amaya's flute and Nikko's shamisen. It's a lighthearted dance, fan snaps, she twirls and hops, clearly a dance of joy. Don't want to end the performance on a downer.
They earn a standing ovation, Sis is Sis, crying, Lacy wipes away her own tears, Taylor hugs Amaya. Sloane dabs at her eyes, I wipe her soft tears, kiss her softer cheek.
James, "Amazing. I doubt you have much time to practice, but the performances seem to get better and better."
Amaya, "Thank you. We discovered that if we play and sing, even sporadically, it comes back rather quickly. We only spend a couple of hours a week, but we never skip a week."
James, "There is research to back up your method. They found that, rather than intense cramming, we remember better if we break up learning and have to struggle a bit to recall what we learned. It supports the view of study periods over time as opposed to preparing in an intensive session. The extra work to recall gains in the prior session appears to improve long term memory."
Amaya, "Then, as usual, I am right even when I do not know why. Take note communist."
Dasha, "Eemaya ees frustrate when I am asking why this or that way. 'Because I said so,' same answer every time."
Amaya, "And now there is scientific research to justify my response. They just could have asked me and saved all the trouble."