Thirty Seven

Tough is fine, ruthless is better.
The Psychopath Code

They had their fun with each other last night, then we died to the world and didn’t stir until after nine. They’re bikini’d, I might need my Glock to keep the boys away, but we didn’t bring weapons, not even the knives. Not much point, no place to hide anything in the mini-kinis.
They pull on t-shirts, we head out to a late breakfast.
CC, ‘Cripes, is there anything they don’t have on the buffet?’
It is extensive, variety of fresh fruit, scrambled eggs or omelets to order, toast, muffins, croissants, bagels, smoked salmon, waffles, yogurt, numerous other offerings.
The girls stick to fruit, scrambled, and a couple strips of bacon. I get a veg omelet, a croissant, and a few coffee refills.
Fueled, we find a spot on the beach, loungers and a big umbrella. The girls walk the beach, a woman and two kids set up next to us. She’s in a bit more demure bikini than the girls, her kids are young, one of them might be a friend, one girl, six or so, looks like mom, the other girl is approximately the same age but doesn’t resemble her. Mom is one of those remarkable women who, even after giving birth, have no stretch marks, no sign she was ever pregnant. She’s one of the well kept I mentioned earlier, very well kept, sleek, hot.
I stand and strip off my shirt, toss it on the lounger. I’m facing mom.
She looks me over, ‘Wow.’
I grin, ‘Wow yourself.’
She smiles, ‘You have children here?’
‘Two, they’re down the beach being sensational.’
She laughs, row of perfect teeth, like I said, well kept, I imagine hubby to be a hedge fund manager type. If this is his trophy wife, he’s won first prize.
I stretch out in the sun, nice breeze, mild day, spot the girls a hundred yards down talking to a couple of boys, maybe fifteen, the moody mid-teens. Whatever they chat about doesn’t hold the girls’ interest, I see them wave bye and walk in my direction.
As they approach, they don’t come up towards me, instead test the water to about knee high, their suits are made for show, not so much for swimming.
The woman says, ‘Those two girls, down by the water, where in hell do they make them, they’re stunning.’
‘Same place they made you.’
She laughs, ‘Thank you.’
The girls start up to us, the woman says, ‘Don’t tell me.’
‘Okay, I won’t.’
Zero plops on a lounger, CC on the side of the one I’m on, ‘Daddy, we want something to drink.’
‘Bar’s just there,’ I point, ‘sign it to the room, I’ll take a diet Coke,’ ask the mom if she wants anything, she declines.
They stand and stroll over. Normally, they’d expect me to do it for them, but they have enough sense to know our dominance game is for us in private, not in public.
The woman says, ‘Daughters? You have them when you were fifteen?’
I smile, ‘Seventeen.’
‘Where’s mom, or is that a tasteless question?’
‘Which mom? I’m not much for marriage so I didn’t marry either of them. One died of cancer, the other never wanted children, I took sole custody, haven’t regretted a second. They are my sun and stars. They’re too polite to act it, but they have me wrapped around their long fingers.’
‘Gosh, so sorry about the one, hard for the girl?’
‘She was only two, no memory to cause her grief. They’ve grown up together and are inseparable, like twins, just not twins. One can tell you what the other is thinking.’
The girls return, Zero hands me my Coke, ‘Here you go dahdee.’
The woman says, ‘I’m Clarissa.’
CC, ‘Nice to meet you,’ she turns to me, ‘Clarissa is hotter than Scarlet Johansson.’
Clarissa beams, ‘How sweet, thank you.’
The compliment deflects the need to cough up our names, and is further deflected by the two little ones running up to mom.
Clarissa, ‘Come here, sunscreen, I promised Mindy’s mom there would be no sunburn, you too Dahlia, every thirty minutes.’
‘Okay mommy.’
‘And hats, put them on please,’ they do, run off to the shoreline.
CC, ‘Reminds me,’ she dips into the bag she brought, pulls out two folded straw hats, wide brim, stylish black band, she shakes them out, hands one to Zero.
Clarissa, ‘Cool, where’d you get them?’
‘My sister is an Amazon junkie.’
Clarissa, ‘Glad to hear it, my husband bought a pile of stock when everyone thought Walmart would crush them. Now we can vacation at swanky resorts.’
‘He here?’
She smiles, ‘Golf dweeb, I’m the trophy wife, his second.’
Zero, ‘Dweeb won first prize then.’
Clarissa, ‘I’m getting more fond of your girls by the minute.’
Zero, ‘Good thing you’re married, daddy’s only allowed two girls in his life, if you were single I’d have to shoot you.’
Clarissa laughs, ‘I knew a husband was good for something besides money. He also got me a delightful daughter, I shouldn’t be too cynical. I am basically eye candy, not complaining, he’s ruthless, but generous. I do my thing, as long as I play the good wife when he hauls me out to events, my time is my own. Not sure why he brings me, he gets jealous if I talk to a man alone.’
‘Rich and insecure.’
She laughs again, ‘You know him?’
‘I know his type, he thinks he bought you.’
She grimaces, ‘There are always other trophies at the events, they say the same thing. At least I can talk to them instead of standing around avoiding advances of hungry sharks, that I’m wearing a ring fazes them not at all.’
‘Besides showing you off, perhaps it’s a test.’
She frowns, ‘I hadn’t thought of that, you make a good point.’
From behind us, I hear, ‘Hitting on my wife, stud?’
I turn and face a man looking fifty-ish, shorter than me, almost everyone is, stocky, not fat, barrel-chested they call it.
Clarissa, ‘Rufus, we were talking about our children.’
Roofie ignores her, stalks up to me, pokes me in the chest with a fat finger, ‘Mind your manners boy, I know what you want, she’s off limits,’ he pokes again, ‘understood?’
Zero steps in between, ‘Bad idea to touch, I read it can be construed as assault.’
He looks down at Zero, ‘Nobody talking to you, kid,’ the stupid fuck actually takes her by the shoulder and attempts to move her aside.
‘Assault on a child,’ she kicks him hard in the nuts, he ‘ooofffs’, bends over, she flashes an elbow to his face, gets him square on the nose. 
Blood leaks down his lips.
Holding his mangled nose, he croaks, ‘You little fucking shit…’
CC hits him with the palm heel of her hand, just as I’d instructed, never hit a hard head with a closed fist, good way to break a knuckle.
She’s busted his jaw enough to create a bit of blood from his mouth, probably knocked a tooth loose.
Roofie sits in the sand, unsure of whether to touch his nose or his jaw.
I look down at him, ‘Maybe you’d have more luck with someone your own size.’
Clarissa giggles, Roofie mutters a slurred, ‘Shu-hup bisch.’
In the excitement, I didn’t notice the two kids had come up from the water’s edge, one says, ‘Rufus got beat up by two girls…that’s funny.’
Clarissa stands, ‘You’re impossible, I’m exercising the prenup, we’ll be divorced in a month. Advantage of a contract, nothing messy, everything spelled out. Oh, if you plan on making problems, I have your battle of the sexes on my phone. I’m sure your friends will be fascinated by your manliness.’
He tries to salvage a shred of dignity despite his dysfunctional mouth, ‘She tode tock me, I toud knock her ou wif a haf pungh.’
I squat down, look him in the face, ‘Not a chance, you have no idea who you’re dealing with Roofie. You’d chase her around until you were exhausted, then she’d be on you, a cat playing with her prey. Either girl, doesn’t matter, try both of them and you’re unconscious…maybe permanently. I know, I trained them, now get lost before you piss them off.’
He stands, shaky but he makes it, makes a gun with his fingers, points at Clarissa, ‘dis isn over, bisch.’
She says nothing, her narrowed eyes speak for her.
I grab his wrist and yank his thumb the wrong way, a satisfying crunch, thumb sort of hangs there, backwards. Roofie screeches like a teen in a horror movie.
‘No bitches here but you Roofie, and, yeah, it’s over.’
I tell Clarissa, ‘Put this number in your phone,’ I read off the number to one of my buy and flies, she taps it in, asks, ‘name?’
‘Any tag you’d like. Call if he gets even mildly belligerent, or creates legal problems.’
She nods, that I won’t give her my name tells her I’m serious, that things will go badly for Roofie if he gives her reason to call.
I turn and stare at him, he’s blank, but he gets that a large man and two ice blooded girls spell a world of hurt. He slinks off, the good hand holding the wrist of the broken one, too painful to mutter more threats.
Dahlia, ‘You really getting a divorce?’
‘I am totally getting a divorce, he has to pay me, and it’s more than enough to have a comfortable lifestyle.’
‘Do I have to see him?’
‘Nope, I’ll get sole custody, Mindy’s mom will be happy, she’s been after me to walk for months.’
Mindy, ‘Good, mom doesn’t like him at all, he grabbed her butt one time, she ignored it but she was really mad.’
‘I didn’t know that.’
‘Mommy said you had enough crap on your plate.’
Little girls, they seem invisible, but they see and hear everything.

Thirty Eight

Clarissa and the girls leave after thanking CC and Zero profusely, and a hug for me. The girls take another walk up and down the beach, the guy who shuttles drinks back and forth from the beach bar comes over with a cold beer.
‘On the house, sir. That man insulted staff, made a pass at a housekeeper, and made an all round ass of himself. If you care to visit the restaurant again, there’s a cold bottle of Dom waiting for you and your girls.’
‘This evening if you can find us a spot.’
‘Your table will be waiting, say…eight?’
‘Thank you, most generous, and thanks for the beer.’
He nods, moves along, other guests need their sugar bombs refreshed. 
The girls return, they’ll want a shower and a nap. They don’t go on about the event, no reason to be self congratulatory, I tell them they did well and we drop it.
After the delicious nap, we start moving around four, spend the time on our terrace, partly reading, mostly taking in the breeze and the ocean, which has calmed to barely a ripple.
Cocktails at seven, then dress for dinner. This evening the girls are in snug stretchy shorts, wedges, they painted each other’s toes, fingernails to match. Zero has dangling diamond earrings and a black choker, CC a platinum necklace and diamond ear studs. I see a hint of eye shadow and pale pink lip gloss on CC. Zero’s eye shadow is darker, and her lips dark rose, a bit Goth, she looks mysterious, both of them are gorgeous, like the perfect child models that pop up online in fashion layouts.
Maitre’d, ‘Mademoiselles Zero and CC, welcome, your table is ready, this way,’ we follow along, table is center stage, men’s eyes on long legs, women’s on flawless faces.
Nobody pays much attention to me, but I’m not wearing tiny shorts, makeup, and nail polish. 
The waiter from last night must be off, our waiter makes no attempt at French, he does, however, speak Champagne. The bottle is buried in ice next to my chair.
‘Shall I open and serve?’
I nod, someone must have clued him about the girls, he pours glasses for them as well.
Grilled sea bass, prawns, mixed vegetables, Brabant potatoes, enough to fill, not to gorge.
CC, ‘That was good, can we get sea bass at home?’
‘Yes, Zero can grill it, sometimes it goes in fish soup, but I’m not fond of fish soup. It seems odd, I prefer fillets, grilled or breaded. We haven’t made breaded catfish, which can be fried, but turns out fine by baking it and there’s no added oil.’
The waiter offers dessert, the girls decline, I sign the tab, add twenty five, we make our way out. The girls thank the Maitre’d, he gives them a slight bow, ‘Bonsoir mademoiselles.’
They go off to wander the lobby.
He leans toward me, ‘The young ladies, they are models? Actors? They are both gracious and self-assured. Several guests inquired on their way out.’
‘No, but they are well traveled, have a wide variety of interests and are inseparable. Part of it may be that they don’t go to any school, they are self taught and diligent about it. Being in middle school would only slow them down and they have no interest in common twelve year old activities, no pop music, no social media, happy being with each other. I see no reason to torture then with an American education.’
He nods, ‘C’est vrai, we get a fair amount of children, the Americans are frequently ill-mannered and, if I may say, rather dull with their phones and games. Sitting still and enjoying fine dining seems beyond them. Even the parents stare into phones during dinner.’
‘Too bad, they miss the whole point of vacation. Thanks again, the Champagne was a treat.’
I go off to find the girls, they’re sitting on a small couch, legs crossed towards each other, talking. If they’re aware of the fascination they create, you can’t tell by looking at them. 
‘Ready?’
Zero looks up, ‘Yes, that was fun, what did the maitre’d want?’
‘To compliment you, but he told me in case you would be embarrassed. He doesn’t know you don’t do embarrassment. He wondered if you were models.’
CC giggles, ‘How could we be, we don’t smoke or coke, date rock stars, or go to clubs and get wasted.’
‘He doesn’t know that, and asking you directly might appear improper, you know, fifty year old guy telling young girls how beautiful they are. The girls wouldn’t mind, but their parent might object. Then he’s got complaints to management. He doesn’t need the grief.’
We repeat the prior evening, on the terrace enjoying the ocean, the wind has picked up and there are waves tonight, the ebb and flow of the water is soothing.
CC, ‘I don’t know which I like better, the Caribbean or the mountains in Canada, I must like them both equally if I can’t make up my mind.’
Zero, ‘We should have a house on the ocean, maybe not, the Pacific isn’t clear blue like here, I don’t think any of the coastlines surrounding America do.’
‘No, they don’t. We can come back, maybe Bermuda next time. Resort towns in Mexico have blue water, both on the Atlantic and Pacific sides, Hawaii as well. Greece is nice, and a completely different culture.’
‘CC and I will research possibilities, and we want to learn to snowboard, either in Canada or one of the places in the states.’
‘We can go to Vail, it’s a huge ski area, and Beaver Creek is right down the road. I’ve been to both, never hit Aspen, but it’s supposed to be nice. It’s the middle of winter there now, suppose we fly to Vail from here instead of going home. Try it out for a week and see if you like it.’
CC, ‘That would be awesome, we don’t have any ski stuff though.’
‘It’s a ski resort, there are shops everywhere. Tomorrow you can check it out online, see what you think.’
Zero, ‘You are spoiling the crap out of us.’
‘My pleasure. You work at your studies, you’re learning French, exercise like professional athletes, know how to shoot. And I don’t have to nag about any of it.’
‘How many days should I book?’
‘A full week, a day to get acclimated and shop, then book boarding lessons, snowboarding is popular with young people. They have group lessons, the instructors are good, I took lessons at first.’
‘You snowboard?’
‘No, ski, I’m kind of oversized for a board and it wasn’t such a big deal when I learned. You can decide to go with skis, but stick to one or the other at first, the techniques are different.’
‘I’m for bed.’
Lean over and kiss the tops of two sublime heads, pick up the clothes and head for bed. I take a minute to hang their things and mine, brush and flush, slide into cool clean sheets.

Thirty Nine

The final days of our trip pass without further incident, no bully husbands to discipline, boys took their shots, missed every time. Our sun and swim is interrupted only by evening trips to different restaurants, we’ve had enough fish, shrimp, and lobster for awhile. This morning we pack up and get to our plane.
Twelve hundred miles from St. Martin to Miami, short refueling stop, seventeen hundred to Vail. We land at Eagle County Airport at three. Our car is waiting.
Zero, got us a condo in Vail, the ski resort itself, we can walk everywhere, which is what we do after checking in and dropping off our luggage.
It’s cold, had snowed buckets the prior evening, and we have no suitable clothes for the weather. Time to shop.
CC, ‘It’s so beautiful, I’ve never seen this much snow.’
‘Fat grey clouds on the horizon, looks like more this evening. You guys get what you need, I’ll get to the men’s stuff, use the credit card. Aside from clothes and hats, you will need goggles, sun off the snow is blinding.’
A girl of perhaps nineteen walks over, ‘Can I help you?’
‘Yes, the girls need everything, we made a last minute decision to come after being at the beach. They’ve never skied, going for boarding lesson first thing tomorrow.’
She smiles, ‘Sure thing, if you haven’t taken care of it I can set up lessons as well, I assume you need rental items, board and boots.’
‘Go for it, I’ll collect my own stuff, turn to Zero, ‘stay around here, I’ll likely be done before you.’
She nods, hugs me, ‘Thanks dahdee,’ CC dittos, I go off to find a ski appropriate jacket and the other ski paraphernalia.
Men are easy, takes me forty minutes including a stop for coffee. When I return to the shop, the girl waves me over.
‘Still trying on, but we’re almost there. I assume two of things like pants, coats, the under layers, CC said you have a condo with a washer dryer.’
‘Did you get them snow boots as well?’
‘Yes, the things they like so far are stacked on the counter, including the boots. Nice that they are both close in size, both of them favor dark colors, most girls want bright,’ she laughs, ‘and they said nothing pink or even red. At least they know what they like, some of the girls their age can never decide, and they never like what mom likes.’
‘No mom to worry about, I don’t presume to interfere with their clothing choices, I’m clueless.’
‘Your daughters are adorable, and one is named Zero, I never met anyone named Zero.’
‘She decided her name, so did CC. Zero is like Cher, or Beyoncé, one name, no surname. CC chose a surname, Blank.’
‘Blank is like zero, CC Blank, sounds like a YouTube star.’
‘They’re quirky and independent.’
‘So I’ve discovered, must not be dull at your house. Are they French, they spoke to each other in French.’
‘Never dull, no we aren’t French, they decided to learn the language, so they did.’
‘Private school?’
‘You could say that, they self-educate, neither of them has ever been to school, they are their own teacher and student.’
‘Wow, wish you had been my dad. Good way to keep the boys away, those two would have half the school following them around all day.’
‘They have no interest in boys, but they’re only eleven and twelve. Maybe when puberty kicks in.’
I skip saying puberty will never kick in.
The girls come out, hand things they want to the clerk, besides ski wear, they got leggings for casual wear, one set they have on now along with the snow boots.
The clerk says, ‘Don’t recall two girls picking out things so quickly, actually CC did the selecting.’
‘She buys their clothes at home; as you noticed, they can wear each other’s things.’
‘Sisters who don’t mind sharing?’
‘Not at all, they don’t do yours and mine, with them, everything is ours.’
‘Maybe nobody should send their kids to school.’
‘Tests and social hierarchy, this or that club, AP courses, the mad rush to resume build, teaches only competitiveness, win at any cost. Competition is violence prettied up as challenges and goals. The idea that every kid of a certain age should learn the same things at the same pace is preposterous on the face of it.’
‘You a teacher, or were?’
‘No, teachers and administrators are the problem, CC and Zero would never fit in to such a scheme.’
‘What about college?’
‘Another manipulation arising from false competition. The expensive ones are rip-offs and should be dismantled. Let’s not into the horror of student loans.’
‘How do they get jobs, good jobs, without a degree?’
‘Ask Bill Gates, Zuckerberg, or Steve Jobs if he wasn’t dead, all billionaires with no college degree. Then look at all the post-docs working for a pittance.’
She looks thoughtful, then, ‘I’m in the process of applying for loans.’
‘Why?’
‘So I can get a degree,’ she laughs, ‘one you say I don’t need.’
‘But why borrow money? Look at it this way, you have a job now, not the one you want forever, but it pays you something. Instead of borrowing money, work your way through school. Does it really matter if it takes you six years instead of four? That way you graduate with no debt.’
She scrunches her lips, ‘You may have saved me thousands.’
‘Good, and don’t sign anything that requires repayment, never borrow. Credit cards paid off every month, whatever crap you think you need, you don’t.’
The girls have finished checking out, lots of bags, but there are three of us, we schlep it to the condo.
Zero, ‘I’ll fix drinks while you guys hang the stuff, they took the tags off at the store. I don’t see any point in washing all of it, we’ll be falling down in the snow most of tomorrow.’
CC, ‘I’m pumped, the class meets at nine.’
‘We’ll do an early to bed, get up with enough time to have a good breakfast, you’ll need it.’
‘Glad we made a grocery run, at least there’s coffee and breakfast stuff, eggs, bacon, bread for toast.’
‘When you go to your ski lesson, I’ll do a bigger grocery hunt. You’ll eat lunch with the people in the class, dinner we’ll eat out, trust me, you won’t feel like cooking much.’
Ski apparel arranged, we find a bar and grill, have a burger and onion rings, then a walk around. Even in leggings, a pullover and ski jacket, the girls turn heads. 
CC, ‘I’m feeling all that, and there are a bunch of quite attractive girls. Her Blondeness has already made an impression, one woman asked if she was somebody named Kristina Pimenova. Apparently she’s a Russian child model, reputed to be the most beautiful girl in the world. I looked her up on my phone, I can see why. She’s perfect.’
She shows me the photos, ‘I see why they mistake Zero for her, Zero is blond-er, her hair is white, the girl in the photo is not that blonde, but they have similar facial features.’
Zero, ‘Flattery will get you a nightcap, then your assassins are going to bed, travel, shopping and freezing temperatures have depleted our batteries.’

Forty

After getting the girls organized, reminding them to keep an eye on their gloves, people are constantly dropping them from a lift or leaving them on a chair at a restaurant. Give them both a hundred in twenties, Zero has a card if she needs more, they’ll have to buy lunch, then to the meeting spot. Easy enough to find, there are groups of varying ability in circles near the lift.
No adults in the board group, kids smaller than Zero and CC, a couple of girls about their age, a boy maybe eight or nine. 
They go off to the beginner’s slope, I have my skis, catch the gondola up the first leg.
Two hours of ski, coffee, ski, then a text from Zero.
‘going to lunch still in practice area after we go up a regular lift for more doing ok some butt plants did you bring liniment’
‘yes i need it too text me when ur done’
‘ok’
Well, they haven’t broken anything, I’m at the restaurant mid-mountain, place is packed. I manage a loaded baked potato and a Coke Z, take my time. I recall too much ski on day one can make the next day less enjoyable. I stick to blues and greens, will hit blacks after getting my ski legs calibrated. I’m no expert, or even an accomplished intermediate, never could manage moguls and not going to try.
On one afternoon run, I’m on a chairlift with three people, a man, a girl of maybe sixteen, and a boy ten or eleven. It’s a dad and his two kids from the way they talk, and from someplace in the northeast around New York, they have the patois of Queens or Brooklyn. 
The man said they were going to pick up friends tomorrow from an airport, he asked if the kids wanted to take the expressway or the scenic route.
The girl said, ‘Scenic schmenic, you seen one mountain, you seen ‘em all.’
Jewish, direct, sarcastic, hilarious.
I quit around three thirty, skied about half the time, coffee and chill the other half. My legs feel good, didn’t overdo. Drop off my skis at the condo, it does feel nice to get out of the clunky ski boots and into snow boots.
As I close the door to go wait on the girls, I get a text, ‘done going to condo’.
Good, I can wait here. A few minutes later they come clonking up the steps, carrying the boards.
Boards stowed, boots off, Zero, ‘That was amazing, CC picked it up sooner than I did, but in the end we made it down greens without too many falls. CC has a crush on our instructor.’
‘Do not, well, a little, she’s hot, does the trick stuff too, fly off a jump, three sixty in the air, even flips.’
‘She demonstrate?’
‘No, one of the girls saw her at an exhibition the instructors put on one night.’
‘How was the company?’
‘Everyone is new to it, we all laughed at each other, the little kids caught on right away, they are so cute in little helmets all bundled up like teddy bears.’
‘Yeah, I got passed by the tiny terrors, they don’t give them ski poles, they go rocketing by, heads bobbing when they hit little bumps, fearless.’
CC, ‘We saw that too, they are adorable.’
‘If you want liniment, let’s do it now before you shower.’
They strip, I haul the clothes to the washer and crank it up, get the dit dow and work it into stressed muscle.
They slather me, use fingers and knuckles to mash the muscle and kick in blood flow to carry off built up lactic acid, the stuff that makes muscles ache.
‘You stayed hydrated?’
‘Yes, the instructor reminded everyone, besides water we had one of the sports drinks at lunch, power something.’
I let girls shower first, when I’m done Zero has wine open, cheese and crackers on a tray.
CC, ‘Look, it’s starting to snow! So beautiful.’ 
We leave the balcony blinds open and enjoy the silent powder restocking the slopes.
‘It’s just five and change, you guys hungry, or wait until our normal dinnertime?’
Zero, ‘Wait, we have nibbles, are you hungry now CC?’
‘A little, but better to go later, what about you?’
‘I’m good, what did you have for lunch? I had a loaded baked potato, they even had sliced mushrooms as one of the additives. We ate seafood most nights in St. Martin, how about steak?’
Double yeses, Zero searches restaurant in and around the town.
‘Lancelot, steaks, various pasta dishes, veal, they have seafood as well, good ratings, it’s apparently been around a long time, they must do something right. I’ll book a table.’
‘Check the booze and wine offerings if they’re listed.’
She taps the tablet, ‘Sparking wine and Champagne are outrageously priced, but they have red by the glass, and a full bar.’
‘I’ll get Champagne at the liquor store where I got the vodka and wine. I was going to shop after you went to lessons but I got caught up wanting to ski. Do it tomorrow.’
‘We don’t need much here, there’s a breakfast place across the way, maybe let someone else cook, we can eat lunch and dinner out too. You’re right, nobody wants to face cooking after a day on the mountain.’
Booked for seven thirty, the restaurant is walking distance, short wait for our table. I get a vodka rocks from the bar, a few minutes later we’re seated.
It’s peak season, everything open is busy. We keep it simple, two filets, one twelve ounce cut of prime rib, side of sautéed mushrooms and steamed broccoli. I get a glass of house red I don’t drink, the girls sneak sips until it’s gone, another glass with the steaks.
No dessert, I pay the man, we walk to the condo. The streets are crowded, bars full, prosperity reigns as vacationers party, spend freely to do it. 
We shed the jackets and boots, I make a drink, ‘You guys want wine?’
‘White, light, a little seltzer.’
Girls have their heads together looking at something on one of the tablets. I stoke the fire, plop on the couch and watch snow fall. Active day, warm fire, the girls fall asleep on the blanket they’d laid on the floor. I collect the glasses, decide to forego another drink. 
I stroke Zero’s forehead, she blinks up at me, ‘Do bathroom things, then bed.’
She nods, taps CC, go first to brush and flush. I set up the coffee pot for the morning. By the time I transfer clothes to the dryer they’re asleep again. I take one of the twin beds rather than disturb them.

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