We met Chai at the same restaurant on Bay Street, which was within walking distance of where Adeline and I had spent our afternoon. She was dressed to impress, although I wasn’t sure which of us was the target. A floor-length black dress with a woman and the moon printed on the front —left her freckled shoulders bare for the world to admire. Not a fancy gown by any means, a very casual dress more like a full-length t-shirt. I’d never seen an adult wear anything quite like it. She had on her goddess pendant, with a moonstone earring in one ear and a three-hoop design—probably a variation on the triple goddess theme—in the other. Black shoes with a thick cork wedge added inches to her height. She was classy . . . and stunning.
Mr. Lust groaned his appreciation.
Chai was seated when we got there, but rose and gave me a slightly-better-than-sisterly kiss. “Ah, Rick. I’ve missed you, truly I have. And you must be Adeline Foster.” She kissed Adeline’s cheek as well, treating her to a whiff of that omnipresent patchouli and orange.
“I’ll have one of those,” I told the waitress who was standing there patiently while we went through the kissing and sniffing ceremony.
“What are we drinking?” Adeline wanted to know. “Martinis? I don’t think I’ve had a martini since my first divorce. Chandler always hoped martinis would compensate for a shallow, conventional mind and somehow make him more urbane. I’ll have one as well.”
“That’s exactly why I started drinking martinis. Hoped it would make me more like James Bond and less like a geeky high school newspaper reporter.”
Adeline treated us to her bell-like giggle that I hadn’t heard in weeks. And reminding me that she’d already had quite a bit to drink. “I’d say it worked.”
“At least nobody could accuse our Rick of having a shallow, conventional mind.” Chai added.
When our drinks came, Chai solemnly hoisted hers. “Ladies, I’d like to propose a toast. Here’s to men with deep, open minds who don’t need martinis to drink outside of the box.”
“Here, here,” Adeline agreed with a giggle, draining about half of her glass.
Bringing Chai up to date lasted though our oysters Rockefeller appetizers and well into dinner. Not to mention three more rounds of martinis, at least for the women—I’d seen the graffiti on the wall and long since switched to iced tea.
“So in a little less than three months, you’ll finally get to see your father,” Chai spoke after I’d finished. They’d both been surprisingly quiet during my whole recitation, mostly letting me talk without interrupting. When I’d originally set up this date, I thought we’d be picking Chai’s brains for answers, but the journal had pretty much made that moot. “You’ve got to be both thrilled and scared out of your mind at the same time.”
“I’d say that pretty much describes the state I’ve been in ever since Rick told me that he’d seen Daddy.”
“And you might get to meet your stepsister on top of all that.”
“Who might be Merlin’s daughter,” I added. “Not to mention, after all this time, you might have a real sister.”
“My god, I hadn’t even thought of that. I’m going to need another martini. Better make it a double.”
“Just let it go, sister. You can get smashed in safe company tonight, we’ll sort it all out in the morning. By the way, we say ‘my goddess,’ not ‘my god.’”
“My goddess,” Adeline repeated dutifully, then again with more enthusiasm. “My goddess!”
Everyone declined dessert, with my dates opting for a Grand Marnier instead while I stuck with coffee.
“So, darlings.” Chai voice was deep and suggestive. “Do you have any idea what you’re in for at Beltane on the island?”
“My goddess!” Adeline was pretty plotzed, and her voice was loud enough to attract a glance from the next table over. “Daddy described it . . . how did he put it, Rick? An orgy with the blessing of the church, something like that. Wild drinking and dancing and then everybody pairs up and heads off to fuck in the woods. Kind of like a Delta Tappa Keg sorority party was supposed to be but never actually was.”
“Not to mention that the island is already a pretty erotic place.”
Adeline nodded. “I felt that pretty strongly, Chai. Like a slow burn in your panties. I would have gotten right down in the dirt and done it with Rick and consequences be damned if he had quit being such a gentleman and just asked me.”
“Funny. He wasn’t that much of a gentleman with me. Maybe because I did the asking.” Chai aped an exaggerated leer and winked at Adeline. “And you’re not even going to invite me, are you. Ah, well. Perhaps next year.” Chai looked a little sad, but quickly shooed it away. “So are you taking your little waitress?”
“Here’s my theory,” I replied, sidestepping Chai’s question for the moment. “I don’t think the island is erotic on its own. I think it just intensifies whatever it is you’re already feeling or experiencing. My biggest reaction to being out there has always been pure wonder. Sabrina and I spent the night lying together on the ground and didn’t even make out. Probably because we were so blown away by the mysteries of Imbolc that we’d experienced.”
“So how do you explain how horny I was out there?” Adeline wondered, liberally punctuating her question with her giggle-bell.
“And I as well,” Chai agreed.
“In Chai’s case, I think, um, sensuality is always present. So I’m not surprised. And when I was with her, it certainly, um, worked out that way for me, too.” I wasn’t altogether comfortable talking about this in a crowd, particularly a crowd that included Adeline. But I didn’t seem destined to be allowed to avoid it.
“‘Worked out that way for me’ is a bit of an understatement, I’d say. You were a fucking machine.” Chai seemed determined to keep the conversation in the gutter, and to hell with my embarrassment.
“Yeah, well. But I don’t know you well enough to guess why you felt the same urges, Adeline. Maybe it was residual emotional essence of Chai? Or possibly because I’m irresistible.”
“My goddess! I’ve resisted pretty well, I think.” Adeline laughed all out of proportion to how funny that was, with Chai joining in and me looking a little embarrassed.
“So, you never did say if you’re taking Sabrina.”
“Chai, I honestly don’t know. I wouldn’t know the answer if Beltane was tomorrow, and I sure as hell can’t predict three months from now.”
“Well, if it doesn’t work out, you have my number. I kind of think you owe it to me anyway, but I’m taking the high road here.”
“Yes, you’ve been more than supportive. And I totally appreciate you.”
“I’d rather be well used than totally appreciated, but I suppose that will have to do.” She leaned over and kissed me on the lips, a kiss with both decorum and promise.
The waitstaff was hovering and looking more than a bit impatient; with all the frank conversation, I hadn’t noticed that we were the last people in the restaurant. Adeline handed our waitress her credit card, then excused herself.
“So, Rick, how are you going to handle the logistics tonight? Driving Miz Adeline to Charleston could easily be a winning proposition if you were in the market to get laid, but since you appear not to be, it’s going to be a real pain in the ass.”
“I’ll see how she feels about it, but Plan A is to try to talk her into staying in a hotel tonight and driving home in the morning. Then I was going to drive you to your place, graciously avoid your passes, and let you call a cab to get your car tomorrow.”
“How boring. Why don’t you take us both to my house? We’ll have a little sleepover. Share some girl secrets. Don’t look so shocked, dear. I don’t normally walk on that side of the road, although she’s quite a woman. I think you missed out not making that pass.”
About that time Adeline rejoined us. I’d thought maybe she was feeling nauseous, but that didn’t appear to be the case.
Chai didn’t give me a chance to speak. “Darling, Rick is going to drop us both at my house since neither of us should be driving. We’ll spend the night telling secrets while he drives down that long miserable excuse for a road in the dark. Fantasizing the whole way home about what he missed by not staying with us. We can catch a cab to pick up our cars in the morning.”
“A pajama party. How deliciously wicked. My goddess! Are you going to seduce me too, Chai?” The hostess looked up in shock as Adeline’s voice level included her in the conversation.
“Probably not, dear. But who can say for sure?”