§ § § - February 15, 2007
During her rounds the following day to prepare for the upcoming weekend, Leslie dropped in at the island hospital to visit Tabitha, who was still there with her newborn son. She already had guests, as it turned out; Camille and Lauren were there, and as Leslie said hello and took a seat, Myeko came in. She had to stand, but it didn't matter anyway, as she was here to get a quick story on the birth of little Rafael Ordoñez for the paper's "Island Happenings" section.
"So how was the party?" Tabitha finally asked after answering at least two dozen questions about Rafael, who at the moment was sleeping soundly in her arms.
"Yeah, and what was the deal with that dwarf with the eagle's wings I kept seeing all over the room?" Myeko put in, turning eagerly to Leslie. "I figured it must've been one of Mr. Roarke's cute little embellishments, but I saw you talking to him, so I thought, wow, there's more to this than it looks like."
Camille shot her a skeptical look. "Are you saying you thought at first it was some kind of animatronic android?"
"Like you'd know all about it," Myeko retorted. "Here's our chance to find out from the closest source we've got. It's just like the old days at school every Monday lunch period. Cough it up, Leslie, we're dying to hear."
Leslie peered at the notepad she held and said, "Just so long as it doesn't show up in tomorrow's paper." The girls laughed and Myeko obligingly put away the pad before settling on the edge of Tabitha's bed. "Well, let's put it this way. Father thought it might be a good idea if he had, uh…outside help."
Tabitha, Camille and Lauren looked at one another, but Myeko suddenly snapped her fingers and lit up. "I knew that guy looked familiar last night! The tall, dreamy-looking tanned dude with the suit and tie, hanging all over that airheaded model Marishka Ilyanova last night. Man, no wonder I was so jealous for no reason. That was Eros, wasn't it?"
This got her piercing stares from the other girls, while Leslie looked on, trying to squelch a smile. "What would you know about some old Greek god?" Lauren demanded.
Myeko realized what she had said and cleared her throat, glancing at Leslie. "Well, uh, I…to tell you the truth, I met him once, before I met Nick. We, uh…" She let her voice trail off, then smiled dreamily as her gaze lost focus. "What a night."
Lauren and Camille exchanged glances, and Tabitha's head jutted forward. "You did not," she said, astounded.
Maureen walked in just then, having overheard this. "She did not what?" she asked.
Myeko turned to her. "Hey, Maureen, you can corroborate my story. Remember that time when we came to the main house, when Noelle and Brianna were little, and we met all those peculiar-looking creatures having beer and snacks on the terrace behind Mr. Roarke's office? You know, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, and Mother Goose and Lady Luck, and Jack Frost and Mother Nature?"
Maureen had to think back, judging from her expression, but Myeko was visibly gratified when their friend's face revealed that she did remember. "Oh yeah, that's right…and I seem to remember there was one artificially handsome guy there who claimed he was Eros. I couldn't believe it when you agreed to a one-night stand with him."
Three identical gasps filled the room, making the baby stir. "Get out!" Lauren blurted.
"A one-night stand with a total stranger?" Camille asked in disbelief. "In this day and age? When the heck was this, anyway?"
Maureen chuckled. "Brianna and Noelle were about three at the time. Myeko and I brought them over to the main house to ask Leslie something, and there she was out back with Mr. Roarke, having what looked like a tea party with all those entities we always thought were only childhood stories. Not just Santa and the Easter Bunny and all those others, but there were a few more, I think. I know Eros was there, and…hey, wait a minute, there were two flying whatsuses. Cupid was one of them, but I can't remember…"
"The Tooth Fairy," Leslie supplied, still trying not to laugh.
"Yeah, that's right," Maureen and Myeko said in perfect chorus. "The kids just took advantage right off the bat," Maureen added, beginning to grin. "Brianna was making the rounds with Santa and the Easter Bunny, and Noelle climbed right onto Mother Goose's lap and begged to have a story read to her. And there was Eros, trying to hide behind a bench, and when Myeko saw him, her tongue fell out like a carpet unrolling and it took her three days to stuff it back into her mouth."
"Like I said, this was between husbands—way before I met Nick," Myeko said with a smile that was only slightly sheepish. "Clark was drifting away from me, Hachiro had been making one of his periodic halfhearted campaigns for visitation rights, and I was feeling like a worn-out dust mop. So when Eros actually showed interest in me, I had no resistance. It was worth it. It was the best night I ever spent in all my life." She yanked herself erect all of a sudden, meeting each of her friends' gazes in quick succession. "But promise me, you guys, don't you ever tell Nick. I'd never be able to explain it, much less live it down."
"Why, because you just said this one-night stand was better than Nick?" Camille asked, half skeptical, half laughing. "Myeko, you're priceless."
"You realize you've just given us perfect blackmail material," Lauren said.
"Oh, come on," Leslie finally said, unable to hold back her laughter in the end. "That's just cruel. Give the girl a break. She wasn't really attached to anybody, and it's like she said, that Clark Mokuleia had his eye on some other woman. If any one of you claims you'd never have succumbed to the urge if you'd been in her shoes, I won't believe a syllable."
Camille and Lauren shot her mock glares, but they both began to laugh after a moment; Tabitha was already grinning broadly. "Okay, okay," Lauren said, raising her hands in capitulation. "So you saw him at the party last night? Did he recognize you?"
"He never even looked at me," Myeko said, rolling her eyes. "At first I was mad, but then I got sensible after I thought about it. Considering I had Nick and all, well, you know."
"Yeah, we know," Camille agreed. "But if you got mad and then had to think about it, I'm sure Nick noticed and started asking questions."
"I hid it," Myeko said loftily. "Don't forget, I took drama in high school. I learned how not to show my real emotions. Nick never suspected a thing. Although I'm still a little bit bummed that the guy never even knew I was there."
"There were too many people there," Leslie said, "and like you said, he was hanging all over that Russian model. He wouldn't have seen anybody at all, including Father."
"Probably not," Myeko agreed good-naturedly. "So what about all the unattached liabilities in everybody's families, who needed partners? Any success?"
"Phenomenal," Lauren said, chuckling. "Deborah finally did hook up with a guy. His name's Ian Malloy and he's on the island for about three weeks, and it turns out he's a Hollywood hairstylist. Deborah said he's met a whole raft of hot young stars, and that they stayed at the party till four in the morning. When I went in this morning to see if she'd had any luck, she was there, but she was snoring in her styling chair. I had to wake her up and make her tell me about it. Once she was conscious, she wouldn't shut up about him. So my parents have some hope after all."
The girls laughed, and Leslie said, "That's great. Camille, have you heard from Jonathan or Julianne? I saw Julianne a couple times, and it looked as if she'd really hit it off with the DJ Father and I hired for the post-midnight part of the party."
"Yeah, she was there till the very end and said she helped the guy close up shop and get his CDs and stuff packed," said Camille. "I don't think she slept all last night, and she was still going strong when she dropped in at our house this morning after the boys left for school. I guess this Adam Ryerson's just moved to the island and will be on the radio."
"Yeah, he told me he was just hired for a vacant spot there," Leslie said. "What about Jonathan? Did he find anyone?"
"Get this," Lauren said with a laugh. "Brian's niece got together with him. Dania was talking about him this morning as if he was the only thing that ever happened in the world. I think she's smitten. Good thing—it'll be easy to vouch for him when Brian and I have to report back to Jenny and Rodney."
"What about Sayuri?" Tabitha put in. "You mentioned she was going."
Myeko nodded. "She found a very nice Japanese businessman. You know, this is how much I know my little sister these days—she's been taking online courses in Japanese for the last six or seven years now, and never told us about it. It's entirely possible that she could end up with him in Japan. Which would be cool—it'd give us all an excuse to go visit, and it would be my father's first trip back since he left in his teens. He might like it."
"What about your nanny, Leslie?" Tabitha asked. "With any luck, Brian's niece will help Jonathan finish getting over her."
"Her boyfriend came in from Lilla Jordsö and he's staying at the hotel," Leslie said. "I think he leaves this weekend—he couldn't stay long. But I suspect he'll be there for her when she's ready to leave us; they really looked as if they'd connected."
They talked a little more, till eventually Tabitha yawned rather loudly, making her friends freeze with guilt. "We've been in here too long," Maureen immediately said, casting a glance at the wall clock. "I guess we better get going. He's adorable, Tabitha."
Tabitha smiled. "Thanks. I'm just relieved that Rafael and I can go home tomorrow. I can't stand this hospital food."
"Who's gonna cook for you, anyway?" Camille asked.
"Cristina, of course. She's ten, she can handle quite a bit," Tabitha said. "It'll make life with a new baby much easier. Oh, Leslie…I, uh, I heard this morning through the newspaper that Mr. Roarke deported some woman who had brought a stash of black lightning onto the island with her. Is that true?"
"Every word," Leslie said ruefully. "Turns out she was a Brit who's already buried four husbands, and all for the same reason—amakarna poisoning. When Father confronted her this morning and told her that it would be impossible to kill him in that fashion, she just broke right down and confessed everything. She said she's been taking amakarna since her infancy, just like Christian's nieces, and that the first husband's death was an accident. She didn't know anything about the stuff and thought it would be beneficial to his health, so she gave him a little bit with his supper one night. Of course, it killed him. She inherited everything he had, but when she started to run through it, she needed more and ended up making a sort of career out of marrying wealthy guys and then doing them in with amakarna. She's been on black lightning for a few years now, too. Father dispatched a written testimonial with her signature on it to the authorities in London, and when she steps into Heathrow they'll arrest her."
"I thought I saw him dancing with her last night, though," protested Lauren. "And this was shortly before we all left around midnight."
"By then Christian and I had gotten some information and enlightened him as to what the story was. He was lulling her by pretending he knew nothing and asking all sorts of questions designed to bring her out. From what I hear, they worked. This morning he asked her how she got all her energy, and she made the mistake of showing him the black lightning. And when he told her that stuff's illegal and grounds for instant arrest here, she just caved right in. I think maybe she felt guilty the whole time."
"How'd he ever fall under the spell of a woman like that?" Camille asked. "I always figured Mr. Roarke was just…well, you know, not like us."
Leslie grinned. "Normally not, but Cupid told me Father's susceptible to his arrows on Valentine's Day, and he just wanted Father to have fun at his own party."
"But how? Even on Valentine's Day, how?" Myeko persisted.
"Because, very simply, Father's in love with love and everything about it," Leslie told her, smiling. "Which may make him vulnerable, but overall, it's a good thing. Heck, even a guy who grants other people's fantasies needs to have one of his own now and then."
"Sort of like Helena," suggested Lauren. "I still remember that."
Leslie nodded. "Maybe someday he'll find someone he can be happy with for the rest of his life, but till then, Cupid better take care that we don't come after him!"
My apologies that it took so long to get this thing written and posted…there's a lot going on in my life now, not the least of which is planning my wedding. I do have an idea for the next tale, so with luck that will go up within another couple of weeks or so (and be completed faster!). Thanks for your patience and all the kind reviews!