If you think you recognize someone in this journal, you are wrong, as I have changed each enough that if you have a match, well then you don't. See? I made these changes knowing that anything written would eventually fall into the wrong hands. Oh yes, I did make this all up! It is fiction, you know.
My name doesn't matter. This is not about me. It is about one of the Girls.
It is part of an archive of stories that cannot, must not, be published for maybe another century, but needs to be recorded now, or the histories of these women, Jake's Girls, will forever be lost.
It is the hope of some of the Girls that laws will change and what they have lived will become legal. In the meantime, it is not legal and so these stories are for the ages, just not this age.
I won't describe who Jake's Girls are here. (Or should I say 'were'? If you are reading this a hundred years hence, they will all be dead. But what if the document is published too soon?) If you need to know, and this story will make no sense unless you do know, you should read Jake's Journal #2. I will assume you do know and go on from there.
Jezelle was a mother from the fourth graduating class of Jun's academy. Her daughter, Akiko, was a real stunner, but then all the daughters were. Jezelle married a Geoff Webster of Tivoli, New York. Geoff was a Civil Engineer, and by all accounts, a very good one. Their marriage was a good one too. There were no problems ... at least the girls say there were none, and that's all we have to go on. Geoff was, of course, in Jake's way, also 'married' to Akiko.
Akiko adored her father/husband. You can say she worshiped him. She knew where she and her mom had come from. She knew that she never would have had a chance to graduate from Red Hook High School. She wouldn't have been accepted to both Vassar College and Bard College and she certainly would not have been able to pay for either except for Geoff. She knew there was food and good food on their table every night. She never had to ask if there was supper, only what was 'for supper'. She had new clothes each season of the year. She had a soft bed on which to sleep, her own computer, and by seventeen, she had a driver's license and a car. None of those things would have happened if she was still living in the Nippa hut outside of Tacloban, on Mindanao, as she had been until she was selected to study at Jun's school. And even then, if it wasn't for Geoff, all the rest would not have mattered. It was Geoff who made all she had and was today.
Akiko knew right down into the marrow of her bones, why she was where she was, and what it took to get there. She never, ever resented it or rejected it. Geoff was her mother's one and only. Geoff was her one and only as well. Jun and Jake might have been the Saints who helped them find Geoff, but it was Geoff who caused the rains to come and the sun to shine. Geoff was their God. Akiko knew that.
For twenty years, Akiko was married to Geoff, as was her mother. They kept his house, did his shopping, washed his cars, did his laundry, cooked his food and gave him children. Geoff was their life and they never left his side.
For his part, Geoff knew that he was a very lucky guy. He loved his girls with a devoted ferocity that knew no bounds.
And then he was dead.
A heart attack took him in his seventy-sixth year. There had been no warning. He was at work in his office in Red Hook when he collapsed that late October day. He was rushed to Northern Dutchess County Hospital in Rhinebeck but it was too late. Geoff was dead.
Jezelle and Akiko were not poor now. Geoff had been a conservative man and he left them with savings, with the house paid for and a life insurance policy of three quarters of a million dollars. The girls were safe. If they had needed help, the network of Jake's Girls would have taken care of them anyway.
Jezelle was forty-five and Akiko was thirty-two at the time. Jezelle and Geoff's two sons, Brad and Charley, were nineteen and sixteen. Akiko and Geoff's daughter, Cynthia, was ten.
Brad was in his second year at Brown. Charley was a Junior in Red Hook High and Cynthia attended Mill Road Elementary School as a fifth grader. Brad took a week off from Brown and was home for the funeral, but Jezelle spoke to the counseling center at Brown and with their help, Brad returned to Brown, albeit with a lot of counseling services and many trips that year across the Mass Turnpike and then down the Taconic Parkway. Brad was a good boy, smart and agile.
Jezelle was adamant that he not allow his father's untimely death divert him from his path to success. Jezelle knew what it took to succeed and never stopped making sure her children got their shot at the gold ring. The money from the insurance policy allowed her to pay the tuition at Brown. It was not easy to see that much money just flow out, but it was an investment in her son and so it was done.
Charley was not forgotten either. With the help of a local clinical therapist, and the support of his mother and Akiko, Charley pulled through the Junior year without his grades falling and with a good shot at college.
Jezelle and Akiko did not work outside the home. There was no new money, but they were not worrying about that. They kept their eyes on Charley making sure he was OK. And he was. Charley had his mother's intelligence and every possible advantage society could afford him. His SAT's were good, if not perfect. His grades were strong. Charley applied for and got into the college he had hoped for, Oberlin. When his friends suggested that Bard was the same as Oberlin but a lot closer, Charley just winked and said, ' ... And your point is?' He knew, as did Jezelle, that he was ready to cut the apron strings. While it hurt, she was also proud that he had made the choice. So twenty-one months after the death of her husband she had two sons in college. It was making a dreadful impact on the family's finances, but she would get the boys through school. That's what mattered.
In this part of the country, folks take Halloween very seriously and decorations dotted the countryside with the season's colors and themes; making Washington Irving's tales seem to come alive. The local orchards were busy. Some apples picked for cider and others were the best for eating. Macoun Apples were so good to eat right from the tree but had no shelf life. When they came into season, which was right now, the girls could not get enough of them.
But the big house, overlooking the Hudson, on the west side of Tivoli felt empty that late October evening. Both boys off and gone to school, it was just the females at the dinner table.
The girls loved this time of year, but tonight as the shadows gave way to true night, they were feeling sad, more than a bit lonely, and very quiet. It was the second anniversary of Geoff's death. Jezelle and Akiko had been Geoff's bedroom partners for twenty years and they had more than enjoyed their matrimonial duties. Now for two years there had been no man for them, not that they had wanted one in the beginning, but by now they were sorely missing the joys of a happy bedroom.
Cynthia looked upon the dour countenances of her mother and grandmother and for the first time asked a question, she had wanted to ask ever since she was old enough to formulate it. Cynthia was now in seventh grade at Linden Avenue Middle School. She was twelve years old and her brain was on fire.
Mom, Gran, how did it happen? I mean how did you both end up being wives to Dad? And Gran, how can you be Mom's mom? You are only thirteen years older than Mom is.
Is there a good time for a child to ask such a question? Probably not. But this was possibly the most apropos time and they both knew it. The two women looked at each other over that huge harvest table and with eyebrows and pursed lips communicated as only two Filipinas do. To translate, the first eyebrow went up on Akiko. It was a question: Yes? Should we? Jezelle's eyebrows came up firmer and twice: Yes, we should. Then Akiko gently pursed her lips: Will you tell it? Jezelle pursed hers: You tell. Akiko pursed harder: No, you tell please.
Jezelle spoke in a way that Cynthia had not heard before. Her Gran, Jezelle, was a woman of very few words. But the tale that was woven that night over macoun apples, aged cheddar cheese, strawberry jam and potato bread was the stuff of old legends and gothic novels. Cynthia learned about Nippa huts, the town of Tacloban, the island of Mindanao, of grinding poverty and desperation; of a foreigner and his strange family who for special, bright and pretty girls and their mothers offered a way out of the desperation of lives without options and within months changed their lives forever. Cynthia learned about whom she was; how she came to exist and about the slippery slope, we call morals, which can tangle you up in knots if you allow it. No, no one was hurt. Cynthia's father had still been a good man. But, he was a good man with a secret, and Cynthia now knew she was the daughter of that secret. Now there were three women at the table sharing that one big secret.
And so it was, that a bond that had held two of them, was extended to and if not holding then at least touching and informing the third. But ... this is the beginning of their tale, not the tale itself. This is where they are at the end on one epoch and the dawning of a new one.
The holidays are a time when the Hudson River Valley finest dress up in their finest, cover that finest with heavy coats, get into 4 wheel-drive all-electric SUV's with all weather tires and head off to other fine homes in the valley for eggnog or a wassail bowl and assorted cakes and cookies.
It is a time of parties and good cheer to warm up the spirit as the snows and cold breezes make the drives slow and laborious. It is also a time for showing off one's home, all done up for the season; trees, ornaments, lights, garlands; and all done to tasteful perfection. Women are in their holiday best, men wearing casual, but not too casual slacks, with either dress shirts and casual sweaters or a top shelf Pendleton wool shirt. Good cheer and broad smiles applied to faces, sometimes revealing true hail fellow well met ebullience, and sometimes applied with a spackling trowel in a dimly lit room.
Geoff and Jezelle had attended such gatherings and hosted them for many years. It was simply part of the River Valley society two-step. When Geoff died, all that had stopped. Jezelle was not hosting anything and the invitations – though they certainly came in the mail, were always graciously declined, 'with regrets.'
Akiko would receive solicitous invitations from young men hoping for an intelligent, attractive companion for such a party. She also declined each offer with regret.
So it had been for two years, two years of missing Geoff and mourning his loss. But the loneliness was taking its toll and both women needed to find a palliative for the ache. Additionally, Jezelle, who had the responsibility for the family's finances, knew that something had to be done to staunch the drawdown of their funds. They were OK for now and would be for five to seven more years. But, now was the time to act, not later when the job would be harder and the situation more desperate.
This year the two women decided to rejoin the social swirl. Jezelle accepted each invitation with the note that she would be attending with her daughter Akiko. That put them both in play each time and meant Akiko was not relegated to wait for a date, and then be held to that date for the evening. The two even took a few days for a trip to the City. And so via train from Rhinebeck into Manhattan, they shopped for dresses and shoes. They wanted to look their best.
These were two beautiful women. They had been lovely twenty years prior and now Jezelle in her later 40's was still a stunning figure. Akiko, who had been the prettiest of adolescents, grew up to be a ravishing beauty in her own right. Both were full Filipina: small, under five feet, trim, delicate, with straight black hair and black eyes. They were exotic and at the same time approachable. After twenty years Jezelle's English was not perfect, but Akiko's was impeccable. Jezelle was a wonderful woman, an exquisite cook, an inspired home decorator, with a sixth grade formal education. Akiko didn't have her mother's cooking skills, but she did have a BS and a Master's degree in Geology.
In town, both were considered 'available' and if you asked any of the married women at the parties, they would be hard pressed to tell you, which was the greater risk to their own happy homes! Those other women had nothing to fear. Neither Jezelle nor Akiko was a home wrecker. It was the furthest thing from their minds. If they had been aware of the fears of some of their 'friends' they would have been mortified.
Jezelle and Akiko had lived and loved together with one man for twenty years. They could have chosen to split up and go their own way at this point and none would be the wiser if they had done so. But their need, desire, their complex mother/daughter/lover relationship made the willingness to do that more than unlikely. They were bonded together. They needed a new 'Geoff;' a man who would stay with them; a man who would be happy to be with both of them. A man they could share.
The first party of the season, by agreement between the two women, was just to get their feet wet. They intended only to look around and see who might be available. That did mean that they could play; they could even pick someone up to quench an immediate need; but that first night was just for openers.
They laughed and giggled for the first time in a long time as they selected what they would wear, as they did each other's hair, put on their stockings, did their makeup and finally put on their shoes. As they left the Master Bedroom, a room they had shared now for twenty-two years, they presented themselves to Cynthia. Cynthia just shrieked. Not out of horror, but out of 'holy shit' amazement. For her, Mom and Gran were just family, nothing special, and never, ever in her short life had she ever seen the two of them look anything like this! There were two incredibly – fashion model – beautiful women and it was Mom and Gran! So Cynthia shrieked and jumped up and down and the women laughed.
It was Friday night. Cynthia could stay up until ten thirty and then off to bed, even though Mom would not be home. Yes, Mom. Don't worry Mom. Have a good time Mom.
Off the women went east on county road 76 across US Route 9G at Kelly's Corner all the way to US Route 9, the old Albany Post Road, and then south to Red Hook. The stately home to which they were headed was three hundred years old. Some of the northern part of Dutchess County's best people would be there tonight. Over the last two decades, Jezelle had met and entertained many of them. She was liked and respected as a member of the community. Akiko was also well known. This was their town. These were their people – if not by blood and cultural heritage, then by volleyball, swim meets, school plays, band, school board meetings, zoning board meetings, and supermarket aisles. Their Geoff had been an important man here and that had to a large extent showered grace down on them.
So when the women entered the house it neither was for the first time, nor did they need to be introduced. No, it was just the opposite as person after person came up and said:
'How good to see you out again.'
'It must have been hard.'
'How have you been, we've missed you.'
'Are you OK. How are things?'
'I bet you miss him, don't you.'
And sweetest of all... 'Oh God, I have so much gossip to catch you up on! It's going to take hours!'
Jezelle took a lazy inventory of the men in the room. She knew many of them, not all, but those she didn't were probably going to be covered by the gossip she needed to catch up on. She was enjoying herself and feeling good. A number of men had given her appreciative glances. She knew she was looking good but not dangerous. That was her goal and she had succeeded. As she was reaching to fill her punch glass at the sideboard, she noticed Ben Whitting, one of Geoff's old clients. He was taking a good look at a woman in her twenties. The girl stood about five foot five with shoulder length red hair, and what looked like green eyes. Her figure looked athletic in her above the knee cocktail dress. Her legs certainly looked good in the sweet red pumps she had on. Yes, she was certainly pretty but she was flirting with men twenty to thirty years younger than Ben Whitting; and yes she might be fun to play with, but she was too silly and clearly not Ben's caliber. If the girl was fishing, it was in shallow water and she had her hook set for small fish.
Jezelle approached Ben.
Oh Ben, she is fun to look at and she might be fun for a roll in the sack for a night, but she couldn't carry it off for even a long weekend. Still, I wouldn't mind a bit of it myself.
Ben looked over at Jezelle and gave her a deep appreciative smile.
By God Jezelle, if that's the type of pillow talk Geoff got from you, I can see why he married you and stayed with you for all these years. Good for you woman! Good for you! Yes, you are just right. And that is exactly what I was thinking. I'd love to give her a toss, but how do I get rid of her after that? It would be a mess!
Oh, Ben there are always options.
Jezelle, not that I'm likely to follow up on those options, but what options?
Sweet Ben, I would tell you but then I'd have to either kill you or marry you!
State secrets! I see! Oh well, I don't want to die and I'm not marital material, but how about I date you? I'd enjoy having a woman on my arm with whom I could have these conversations without getting my face slapped.
Well Ben, that depends.
Oh, I know I'm going to regret this ... Depends on what Jezelle?
On a number of things Ben.
OK let's take them one at a time.
Are you married or involved with anyone, man or woman?
Jezelle are you inferring I might be gay? You are sweet! You don't want to break up a gay relationship! I love it! Jezelle, you have my solemn word, I am not in a relationship with anyone. I do date, but I am not in a relationship.
Have you ever hit a woman?
No Jezelle, I have never hit anyone. But I respect you for asking.
Are you an alcoholic or drug addict?
No to both!
Do you have any diseases I can get from you?
STD? Nothing dear.
Then I say OK Ben. You have a date!
That's it? You didn't want to know if I can afford you? Where I work? How much money I have?
No Ben. Geoff worked with you and trusted you. On that level, I know you are probably stable and that's all I need to know.
It doesn't matter if I am not wealthy?
Ben, I was very very poor as a child. Nothing that can happen to me now will be like that. Besides, we're just dating.
OK so how do I get that girl for a roll in the hay?
You want her tonight?
Sure, let's say I do.
Anyone at your house tonight?
Is it clean and picked up Ben?
Ha! Yes, Jezelle it is fine!
You are going to be a busy man tonight Ben. You are going to have two girls in your bed. I hope you can handle it!
Jezelle are you saying 'we' are going to have the girl together?
We are unless you don't want to. Do you Ben?
You and her, Jezelle? Is that who you are saying I will have in my bed tonight?
Well Jezelle, if you can pull it off then all the more power to you! Yes, sure I'm up for it!
Enjoy the party Ben. I'll catch up with you later, but do not leave until you see me again.
Jezelle worked the room but kept an eye on the redheaded girl. In the process, Jezelle learned the girl's name, Grace, and where Grace worked. She learned that Grace was unattached and just dating around. In the process, she caught up with Akiko and let her know that she might not be coming home tonight and if she left, then Akiko should just take the SUV home and they would catch up in the morning. Akiko made a brief comment that Jezelle sure was fast as hell. Akiko had hardly even gotten started.
Grace headed for a bit to eat, and she found herself at Jezelle's shoulder as she got to the table. Reaching for some finger sandwiches at the same time, they smiled at each other. Jezelle smiled with a big wonderful grin that just seems to require a big smile back.
Hi, someone told me that your name is Grace, is that right?
Yes, a'huh, sure is. And you are?
Oh, sorry, I am Jezelle. You are causing something of a heartache with my friend Ben.
That man over there.
Really? He's cute, but I'm too young for him! Are you serious? He wouldn't be interested in me!
Oh girl, he is! Really interested. It's the 'He'd like to take you home tonight, ' type of interested.
Wow, I've never been out with an older guy like that before. I'm not sure I wouldn't make a fool of myself. Is he nice?
Yes, Ben is a nice guy. If you like, I will introduce you to him and hang out to make sure you don't make a fool of yourself. But honestly, Grace, I think you will do fine. Maybe it will make him more comfortable at the party if it looks like he is with both of us and not you alone. That way neither of you raises any eyebrows. What do you think?
You'd do that for me?
No Grace, I'm doing it for Ben. OK?
Yes, and thanks for the honesty.
It's nothing, nothing.
Five minutes later Jezelle was introducing Grace to Ben and telling him about what Grace does for a living and when she moved to town, and that she had gone to College at Northwestern. Ben knew her employers and asked about how they were to work for and what her goals were. He asked about hobbies she might have. He asked her what sports she was interested in, either playing or as a fan.
After a while, Jezelle whispered in Ben's ear, but not so that Grace couldn't hear if she wanted.
Ben, why don't you offer to take us both somewhere, (and then in a voice the Grace could not hear, ) To your house.
Ben followed suit and proposed that the girls and he: Get out of here.
They both agreed and loaded in to his BMW SUV. Jezelle got in the back seat.
They head south to the junction with 199, and turning west on 199, south on 9G and then an immediate right on the Barrytown Road and left on to the cutoff over to River Road heading south. Not long thereafter, they turned down a drive that had been plowed by private equipment winding through what seemed like woods and fields to a large brick building. It was dark and not much could really be seen. The drive came to the front door at an acute and graceful angle. A portico shielded those embarking or disembarking from any inclement weather. Ben took a second to plug the SUV into the charging station by the entrance.
There were three steps up to the landing and another fifteen steps to the front door, all under the portico. Ben pressed a button on a fob attached to his keychain and a latch sounded as if it had released. Lights inside the house turned on. As Ben opened the door, he stepped back for the women to enter.
The Foyer was a good twenty by twenty and two stories high. The floor was maple parquet that shined in the lights from above. What looked like a Japanese 19th century lowboy stood not far from a 19th century French hall tree and umbrella stand.
Ben took the women's coats and hung them in a freestanding wardrobe on the other side of the Foyer. Grace was clearly somewhere she had never been before in more than a literal sense. This was deeper water than she had ever been in before; what her father used to call the deep end of the pool.
Jezelle had no idea that this was going to be where Ben lived. She honestly had not known anything about Ben's financial status, but it hadn't mattered for tonight. Tonight was a free pass, a scouting trip. She had been in some of the great homes along the Hudson. She understood something of the history because Geoff had tutored her on the history of the area. Geoff had not been fabulously wealthy but some of his clients had been and so this was not her first time at the polo grounds. The poor girl from Tacloban had indeed been around. It was a long way from those days and she knew where she was and what was happening. She was the conductor. It was Ben's track, but this was her train that Grace and he were riding.
Jezelle asked Ben if he had a boudoir attached to his master suite and if it might be used as a room to relax and have a drink?
Yes, he had and yes, it was a lovely room. He used it as a study and that is in fact where his liquor was, what a wonderful suggestion he said sotto voce to Jezelle as Grace was looking around in stunned awe.
He led the two women up to his study where they found an elegant but cozier room. It was cozier than the formal feel of the entrance, though the ceiling was still twelve feet high. Warm in temperature and color. Overstuffed chairs and couches. Floor lamps and table lamps provided more personal illumination to some areas while leaving others in dim outline. Ben asked Grace what she might like to drink and her answer was a bit of a surprise when she asked if he had any good single malt scotch. He did. How did she take it? Neat was her reply. Ben poured her two fingers of Balvenie 12 year old in a rocks glass and handed it to her. He was about to ask Jezelle but she just briefly shook her head. He poured himself two fingers of Old Bushmills 20-year-old single malt. They chatted for a while.
When Jezelle noted that Grace had made a nice dent on the scotch, she asked Ben to show them what the master bedroom looked like in this mansion. Ben took the cue, put his drink down and opened up the double doors into the master bedroom. The massive mahogany canopied bed made a statement in the middle of the room. The other furniture, dressers, wardrobes, chests, were all China export from the late 19th century. A large area rug covered most of the floor. Four floor to ceiling sash windows with massive drapes defined one wall. Great decorative radiators were in each room and they were in evidence here between the windows. There was a chandelier in the center of the ceiling and wall sconces all around.