The trip back home from the train station was strange. It was all my doing I knew. I’m the one who, thanks to aliens’ money, came up months ago with that idea to offer a contract for women to live naked, and a bit more, around old Mr. Me in my secluded house by the beach in this constantly warm Southeastern Asian Country.
At the beginning I thought I’d even hire three of them. But then I met May Linh, sent to me by Mrs. Wan, and May Linh and I had been living together since, as roommates so to speak. After three weeks in isolation, deep in the jungle, I thought May Linh was already giving me more than I ever expected really, and I wasn’t thinking anymore about bringing in anyone else. How absurd was it now that there were three of us in the car! And it wasn’t even because of me. May Linh had come back, yes, but with Lily.
“Do you speak English Lily?” I asked.
“Yes I do,” Lily said. “May Linh taught me.”
“Your English is good,” I said.
“Thank you,” she said.
Christ, Lily was one of May Linh’s students!
“Do you speak any French?” I asked.
“No. ‘Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir’, that’s pretty much all I know in French,” Lily said, laughing.
“So you’re French?” she asked.
“I guess. I guess I was,” I said.
“That’s alright,” she said. And I wasn’t sure to know what she meant.
I was driving and, much like usual, I didn’t quite know what to do or to say. So I didn’t say anything and I didn’t do anything other than watching the road. May Linh, on the front passager seat, was also watching the road and not saying anything. I didn’t turn the radio on and she didn’t either. Lily was in the back seat, in the middle, looking at the road too and looking at the scenery.
“It’s very different here than from where I live,” Lily said.
“Is your house far?”
“No,” I said.
I could see her face in my rearview mirror. She was quite pretty and knew it. More precisely I could mostly see her eyes in my rearview mirror. She had very pale eyes, a very pale shade of brown, almost green, pastel green. Incredible eyes, especially in that part of the world. I had never seen anything like it. Lily and I were kind of checking each other’s I guess and our eyes caught on several times in the mirror, May Linh acting as if she wasn’t noticing anything. There was something sweet in Lily’s eyes I thought.
“Is there food at home?” asked May Linh as we arrived in the village. I liked the way she said ‘home’. “Some,” I said, “mostly canned food, no fruits, and a frozen pizza,” and we smiled. Then May Linh knew I didn’t make much efforts cooking while she was gone but this she probably knew already. So we stopped at the market.
“Come with me,” said May Linh to Lily.
“Do I need to get flowers?” she asked me.
“No,” I said.
I saw her hesitate for a split second then she said OK and I watched them both go and I quickly lost them in the crowd.
I guess some of the merchants would be happy to see May Linh again but they probably would be just as surprised as I was at the train station when they’d see her with Lily. They would assume she was her daughter I guess. Shit, I’d have to know what May Linh was telling them and I’d have to tell her what Carter had said to me about us being the talk of the town. What will it be now with Lily!
They were gone quite a bit of time and I had plenty of time for a couple of beers and I was somehow becoming impatient. I saw them come back with a bunch of bags and groceries, smiling and talking. Lily was also carrying a big box. I knew that box. “Rubber boots?” I asked Lily. “Yes!” she answered very excitedly, “how did you know?” And she showed me the pair she had chosen, a bright red pair with yellow stripes. “Great,” I said. I wondered if there was also a Hello Kitty apron in one of those bags.
Shit, I realized that I, for one, didn’t seem to have a single say in this whole affair now and no one was asking me anything and this Lily was already buying boots as if she was living with us already and owned the place. What the fuck! And where was my resolution to be more assertive???? Then again, I knew May Linh was right, snake bites was the last thing I needed right now.
When we reached home, I parked in the garage, a bit away and above from where we lived. I opened the trunk and got the suitcases out, the leather one was kind of heavy. May Linh took her suitcase, told Lily to get hers and to follow her. And off they went down the path toward the back porch and the kitchen. And I was left with the groceries and I knew I would have a tough time to bring it all in one trip.
But, thinking of it, I figured this was the interval May Linh needed to get back in her house, especially having Lily with her on top of it. I was glad I had put flowers everywhere. So I figured I’d let them both discover the place without me and I took my time bringing in the groceries and did several trips. I could tell there was a lot of my favorite’s food in there and I could also tell there was food for three, it was heavier than for two and that’s a fact!
I left a bunch of stuff on the back porch table but carried some bags into the kitchen because, by now, I knew for example which ones were going directly into the sink. After that I went to wash my hands and, in my house with no door, I could sense May Linh was undressing. So I went in the kitchen to grab a beer and I was on my way to the front porch, passing through my shotgun house, when I arrived in the bedroom.
May Linh was totally nude, still with her bra in her hand and ready to put it away on her shelf, and I was about to get a good look at her. But when I got there, I saw that she was blushing. What the hell! Then I realized she wasn’t blushing because of me but because of Lily. Lily was still dressed up in her red pants and white blouse. She had only taken her red Converse sneakers off. There was in fact a look of total bewilderment on Lily’s face. I understood it must have been a lot easier for May Linh to show herself in the nude in front of me, a perfect stranger, and a man I guess, than it was to do it in front of a young woman whom she somehow already knew – a former pupil!!!! – and whom she had brought here and whom had probably never ever imagined ever seeing May Linh in the nude.
I was certain that May Linh had explained to Lily the terms of the contract but one thing is to talk about it and another to actually do it. In any case, I thought May Linh was very courageous to show herself in all truth while knowing this young woman right next to her was about to do the same thing soon: comparisons, for some women, could be cruel. Maybe May Linh felt self-conscious and that’s maybe why she was blushing.
And then Lily reddened too. And, again, not because of my presence, but because she realized she too will have to undress in front of this lady that could be her mother and had been her teacher. So it was odd for everyone and I decided I’d get out of the bedroom, in spite of my impatience to ogle May Linh anew and, I had to admit, my impatience to see Lily. I would have loved watching Lily undress.
So I went to the front porch with my beer and lit a cigarette. I could feel my heart was excited and I was staggered. Looking at the ocean and the big sky allowed me to calm down. Soon it would be dark anyway and somehow I figured that would help me deal with the situation. I could hear May Linh and Lily speaking in their own language. I imagine May Linh was showing Lily the house, where to put her clothes on the shelves in the bedroom, then the bathroom and the big Swedish shower – I think I heard the bang of a toothbrush hitting the glass, and another one a little bit later – then the office, then the huge kitchen. Lily probably saw there my stock of beer and wine and water.
I hadn’t prepared space on the shelves for Lily, of course. But when I went later to the bedroom, I saw all of our clothes put away neatly in three well defined equal spaces. I kind of liked the idea of May Linh moving my stuff with precaution (but without permission). So I knew, like she knew, that everything now would have to be divided in three, not in two anymore. And that went for air time as well… Then again, did May Linh tell Lily about air time? Probably not, unless she let Lily read the contract.
And, sure enough, one glass, three toothbrushes! Everything had changed already.
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