I sat in the leather wing back chair in the headmaster’s private office, waiting. He was in the room next door talking to the school secretary. They were probably trying to get ahold of my parents, good luck with that. I wouldn’t have been left here at Bayou Academy the swankiest boarding school in Houston’s River Oaks neighborhood if my parents had wanted to be bothered with raising me.
“She’s been found, unharmed. Very good. Send me a bill for any expenses you incurred.” His conversation with the headmaster consisted of but fifteen words; well CEO’s like my father are busy men.
“Where have you been for the last three days, young lady?” That was the question that Mr. Ezell wanted an answer to when he returned. He was completely unaware that my “unauthorized absence” from campus began at the end of sixth form on Friday, not with my inexplicable absence from first form on Monday. I had been gone for 66 hours before they had even noticed I wasn’t there.
Well Lynn and Marcie, our senior residents, had the habit of just marking everyone down for everything, just assuming that they were somewhere on campus where they should have been at lights out on Friday, and over the weekend.
Here it was the middle of my last semester at Bayou, half-way between my eighteenth birthday and graduation and I just disappeared for almost six whole days. So, I guess asking for an explanation is reasonable. I wish I had a reasonable explanation. It was a weird weekend. Maybe I should just go with the truth.
“Well see, Headmaster Ezell, this beautiful exotic wisp of a 26 year-old Chinese lady my uncle dates held me captive in my grandfather’s boat house for five days. But it wasn’t bad, I rather enjoyed it and she taught me how to make love to a woman.
“Oh, it’s not like she raped me or anything, we were both a little tipsy. I wasn’t asked, but I probably could have said ‘no.’ I’m really glad I didn’t because it was so nice. Which is pretty funny when you think about it. I mean I live at an all-girls boarding school. One would think there would have been multiple opportunities for me to learn those sorts of skills without ever having to leave campus.
“And strictly speaking I wasn’t actually being held prisoner, although Guo did tie me up a few times, and Uncle Mike did once too. It’s more that my uncle had just stolen my car and I didn’t feel like walking. Besides which, where would I go? I don’t actually know anybody who lives in Texas City. And before he took my car, Uncle Mike took all of my money, so I couldn’t very well take a cab back here. And I couldn’t use the phone in my grandfather’s cabin, because then I would have had to explain why I was there.
“And that would likely lead to more questions. Such as why it was that his boat which hasn’t seen the surface of Galveston Bay in two or three years is crammed full of boxes of women’s apparel, hats, belts, purses and other fashion accessories. As is most of his boathouse, well at least the part of it that my uncle isn’t shacked up with Guo in.
“Well Uncle Mike, he didn’t really steal my car. He just borrowed it without asking me when I came over to give him the money that I owed him. He had to leave rather quickly because he had to go out to raise more money to keep a few of his business associates from beating him up. See he had borrowed money from them to pay his girlfriend’s family back in China, but there is this really big ocean between Taiwan and Texas, just ask Mr. Sinclair, and things sometimes get delayed.
“But I don’t want you to think that Mike is a bad influence. He doesn’t usually deal with dangerous sorts. But banks are sorta iffy about issuing letters of credit to college dropouts who want to buy thousands of dollars worth of dresses overseas on a handshake deal through intermediaries in order to ship them across an ocean, and then hide them in a boathouse you’re not supposed to be living in. So that you your girlfriend and your niece, who is three years younger than you, can sell them to other rich girls. Like the ones at her swanky boarding school.
“Mike is really considerate, he sold his car to raise cash not mine. And he and Guo cook for his father who is still pissed-off at him for dropping out of A and M, and they make sure that grandpa gets all of his meds, and gets taken to all his doctor’s appointments. And they aren’t making me sell their stuff, I wanted to learn about the business, besides they sell a whole lot more of it than I do anyway.
“Mike certainly could have got a lot more for my car than for his old Camero. But he didn’t, and that’s only partly because mom’s name is the one that is actually on the title for my car. Mike has ingenuity and can usually skirt a technicality like that with ease. And while my mom, his big sister, could probably kick his ass. That’s just because he’s a gentleman and wouldn’t fight back. I knew he’d bring it, I mean my car, back. Someday...
“And he didn’t really steal my money. He is good for it. Mike just took it because he needed it. We needed it for our business. Even with everything Mike, Guo and I had and after selling the Camaro, he was nearly four thousand dollars light. Like Mr. Mitchener teaches, it takes money to make money.
“Well I don’t actually know that Mike’s partners were going to ‘cut him up’ for not having the money on time. Guo might have actually said ‘cut him out,’ like out of the deal, or ‘cut him off,’ say from additional shipments. Like I said we were both pretty tipsy from drinking that brandy that we were unable to sell because the labels were in Chinese while we were waiting for Mike to get back.
“You know I should mention that to Mr. Mitchener, if you try to sell something in the good ole ‘US of A’ it really helps if the labels are in English. That way people don’t have to take your word for it, what’s in the bottle. Guo, she has this really adorable accent, I think I was kinda mesmerized by the way her lips moved, and her delicate facial expressions. I just wasn’t listening especially well. I guess Mrs. Johnson is correct when she says I do, or is it don’t do that sometimes in class.
“I mean I am not selling anything illegal here on campus. Dresses, hats, purses, scarves, although strangely nobody will buy the shoes. Even though they are exactly the same quality as the ones that get sold in the big department stores because they were made in the same factory from the same material by the same workers. They just don’t have the same labels.
“Mrs. Donaldson might say there is a certain kismet in my getting spending money out of purses. And it’s not that my parents don’t provide spending money. But dad would understand, he’s a businessman, why should I ask him for money. I can show him that I know how to use the education he paid for. The education that I am receiving here, to figure out how to make my own money.
“Our enterprise is sort of an extra credit, extra-curricular business project, a form of self-directed Junior Achievement. Even if Mike and Guo aren’t students here, I mean they would make good students here. Uncle Mike is a real hustler, and I mean that as a complement. He always has three or four business operations going at once.
“Mike is mom’s little brother, well half-brother technically. He is only three years older than I am, and he didn’t really flunk or drop out of A and M. What had actually happened was that he just got so busy applying what he had learned there that he forgot to go to his classes. Yeah, you know I can see how that could happen.
“And Guo, she speaks four or five languages and is a math whiz. She knows, or rather her extended family know, those folks who run the factories back in Taiwan and Singapore. Oh, and they are both top notch at...”
My brain functioned well enough to tell my lips to stop moving as I thought about just what it was Guo and Uncle Mike were so very, very good at. Things like tying me up and making my body do things that it had never done before. Wonderful things that left me drained and ecstatic, sleepy and wanting more all at the same time. Things that proved to me the existence of God.
As my mind was savoring the carnal delights that I had just discovered, Headmaster took the opportunity to speak, and give me his trademarked bizarre combination of positive messages.
“Young Lady, you are an adult. You should comport yourself as an adult. You are very nearly finished with your secondary education here. Until Monday you had never given us the slightest cause for concern. Now I understand that once you Fourth-Year-Uppers have university acceptance letters in hand there is a natural tendency to relax. I just hope that you resist that urge and push to finish the race strong.”
“And while I thoroughly enjoyed your whimsical little tale. As I was listening to it I thought that you had missed an opportunity. You should have written it out as a creative writing assignment for Ms. Kinney.
“In the future you might just want to say ‘it was a personal matter Headmaster.’ There is no need to make up something, even something as entertaining as that was.”
And that was it. My two-form penalty was over just as if it had been a Green Card on the hockey field. As I walked to Spanish for my sixth form my mind was not on school. I was thinking about the last few days and how they had changed my life forever.
It was right after school on Friday afternoon when I got to grandpa’s boat house. As soon as I arrived Mike asked me for all the cash I had and then he took off in my car with Guo following him in his purple Camaro. I didn’t expect for them to be gone for nearly as long as they were. By the time they returned I had already looked through all of the inventory in the place twice and had made a stack of what I thought I could move.
I was wondering where it was that they could have gone when Mike returned driving my car. He quickly dropped Guo off at the curb before leaving. Guo came in and opened a bottle of that plum brandy which we had bought way too much of. She seemed briefly surprised at my presence, as if she had forgotten I was there, but quickly recovered and poured me a glass as well.
It was Chinese, I guess that stands to reason, it’s why all of the labels were in Chinese. Guo could read them, and she read them to me then she told me how the brandy was made. Those who passed on the opportunity to buy this at cost were idiots who don’t have any idea what they missed out on.
I didn’t realize it on Friday, but Guo was worried. That’s why she was so talkative. She was normally very shy and reserved. Not unfriendly, but hard to entice out of her protective shell. She was worried about Mike, who was really more like my big brother growing up than an uncle. So that was the first subject of our evening’s conversation.
After a few glasses of brandy, and hours of conversation, she kissed me. The first kiss was light, delicate, and incremental. Asking the question, but allowing for a polite decline to her offer. While I had never been kissed like that by a girl before, it wasn’t unexpected given our conversation. She was missing and worried about Mike. It’s like I was a part of Mike. I did not push her away.
We watched the Bay and the lights of Galveston across the water that night, staying behind the sea wall to the north side of boat house so that we could not be observed from the cabin. It’s a weird but loving arrangement Mike and my grandpa had. Mike is grandpa’s youngest child, by his third wife. Does that make him a half-uncle?
Grandpa was in his mid-fifties when Mike was born, he’s almost eighty now. Either Mike or Guo drop by the cabin each day to cook him something. Usually at lunchtime, to bring him groceries, help him sort out his meds, take anything he needs to the cleaners, drive him to any appointments. We should all be so lucky when we get old.
But grandpa doesn’t know that they are living in the little efficiency apartment inside the boat house, and he wouldn’t approve if he did know. Grandpa is a ‘make it on your own guy,’ he just doesn’t see that Mike really has made it on his own. Mike is like a younger copy of grandpa, and would tell you that apartments are a waste of money. To get ahead ownership is key, nobody has ever made it working for anyone or paying anyone rent.
I saw then in her body language Guo was a mess. She was worried about Mike and it was getting worse hour by hour. Drinking to calm herself down, the brandy was loosening her tongue considerably. By early afternoon we are through with all of the day’s work, and since we didn’t have a car, we just spendt the afternoon talking. As before we started by talking about Mike. We had become really familiar and were having more of that excellent yet unsellable brandy. Guo was surprised that there isn’t more ‘girl stuff’ at Bayou.