Town and Country
He leans back against the fence, admires this latest acquisition, a prize white stallion from the stables of the Sultan of jai alai. The horse rears back and thrashes its head. Nero blows smoke, laughs, and pours himself a glass of Pastis. He has houses on the coast, both sides of the Atlantic, a private reserve of some of the world’s best Cognac. The Miami house has a hanging sculpture garden straight out of Hollywood Babylon. He races cigarette boats down in the Keys, a traveler on private jets and late model bullet trains. He shares the life with a real doll named Jamaica. She threw out her old clothes when she moved into the palace with its bottomless wardrobes and sprawling outdoor baths. In the evenings, when she steps out of the water, standing on the wet stones in the cold open air with her hair in a towel, she can see all those eyes in the dark turning on and off like fire flies.
Nero’s been spending a lot of time down in the Keys, racing the cigarette boats, but usually watching from the stands, a beautiful Cuban doll on each arm. He’s got on the bombazine summer suit with the Panama hat and Dominican cigar, sometimes lit and sometimes hanging by a threat, wet and disfigured, mortification of the ash. The cross hanging around his neck is pure gold with sparkling diamonds. The girls are from the choir. Their hearts are in their lockets. They sing like angels and chatter like canaries. The girls, the cigars, everything is a write-off. He doesn’t even have to carry a gun anymore, not since that time he drove the convertible through a tornado, the top down, and the cigar didn’t even get blown out. All he lost was the hat and two or three back seat drivers. He picks up the phone and gives Jamaica a ring. The Cuban girls sing along to the radio, some tropical flavored number with castanets.
“Baby, you’ll never believe what just happened. I dropped a red cent and picked up a five and dime. So have another cherry lollypop on your old sugar daddy. I’ve got jai alai at a quarter till and lawn darts at half past. The dog track at midnight and the cockfights at dawn. You’ve got to get down here sometime.”
He waits for her response. Her voice is like blown smoke: “Sounds like a regular sportsman’s paradise.”
He puts away the phone, one hand on the wheel—the Cuban girls in short summer dresses that flap in the breeze. He slams on the brakes, opens the door and jumps out. An alligator lies across the viaduct, big, motionless, and alive. Nero lights the big cigar, takes a puff, then throws it on the black top and stamps it out. Jai alai seems miles and light years away. Jamaica married a gambling man. She knows that—what man worth his salt was not? She knows a trick or two herself. This fur she’s wearing is an exquisite fake—Chinchilla, looks just like the real thing. The handbag came right off the arm of the mannequin named Yvonne Decarlo, the famous actress, along with a chi chi cosmetics kit, silver cigarette case full of breath mints, silk scarf, a tiny camera and a neat stack of casino chip in large denominations. The silk stockings she wears were a gift from Nero. In the beginning she got a lot of nylons, and then one day came the diamond on a platinum band followed by a thoroughbred horse and an ivy covered manor house the size of a palace.
She had a past and never bothered to hide it. Either he knew or never mentioned it—a man of the cross he had looked the other way. Jamaica was a woman and a half. She had nice looks and an open heart—the villagers called it a door mat. She knew they were out there, the hunters, back in the trees, drinking their Schnapps, waiting for a glimpse of blond hair and bared skin. Nobody knew where she came from. She wasn’t a Nordic. American? Canadian? South American? Take your pick. What turned into an estate started out as a picnic. Nero threw out the blanket, and Jamaica got caught in the net. Tins of foie gras, caviar. An assortment of aromatic cheeses. Black diamond truffles right out of the ground. Two or three bottles of red wine. After that she lost count. She fell into his arms, and they tumbled down the hill to the Chateau Marmont, a celebration of their engagement, a pool party with two or three hundred of their most famous friends. The band was already playing.
Nero sat at the end of the diving board with a saucer full of cocaine. Their famous nude friends swam up one at a time for dispensation. He touched them with his cross, splashed a little holy water, their eyes smarting from the chlorine. Jamaica sang with the band. She used to be a back up singer for some of the big names. Her voice was a little hoarse from the cigarettes and crying. A man dressed up as an Indian chief walked up and dowsed her with Champagne. I’m on a wire, I’m on a wire, she wept, red lipstick smearing the surface of the rippling water, her reflection shaking to the rhythm of the sound as her nude friends glided by.
“Have you chosen a dress?” asked the woman, standing at the edge of the pool in a long white outfit.
“We already had the wedding,” said Jamaica, rolling over onto her side. “It was on a boat on the Adriatic.”
Unlike many of the guests, Jamaica was not nude but was wearing a long black 1920s bathing dress. The woman in white admired it, holding her tall drink in both hands.
“Not for your wedding,” she said. “For the day he petrifies. It is the fate of all women to be widows. You don’t believe me now. But you will see.”
Jamaica climbed out of the old bathing suit from her grandmother’s attic and slipped into the water, her nude body gliding together with the bodies of her famous friends. Nero was giving a sermon from the lifeguard stand, the usual hell fire and stock tips, taking bets from the bully pulpit. Somebody drove a red Ferrari into the pool. Nobody was hurt. The driver climbed out before it sank—a young movie producer, wearing large black sunglasses, a black blazer, and a white T-shirt. Several of his friends helped pull him out of the water. The car looked good at the bottom of the pool, like it belonged there. A small crowd gathered to admire it.
“Don’t worry,” said a man in a beard. “We’ll have it towed out in the morning. Probably have to let it bake in the sun for a couple of hours, but other than that…”
“I’d leave it,” said another man, a fashion designer. “It’s gorgeous down there.”
He held up his camera and reeled off a string of flashes.
“Alex can teach under water driving lessons.”
“How long can he hold his breath?”
“Forever,” said the fashion designer. “Forever and a half.”
“One problem.” It was Chet the record exec. “I like to smoke while I drive.”
“Braggadocio,” said the fashion designer.
“How long you think that red hot paint job’ll last?” said Chet. “That quarter million’ll be a bucket of rust in no time flat.”
“Quarter? Try point three five. For mint?”
A whistle from Chet.
“A slowly rusting Ferrari,” said the fashion designer. “Like the picture of Dorian, a monument to the immortal sports car driver. There he is now.”
The young producer had gotten out of his clothes and was mid-air, laid out over the water. The fashion designer caught him with the flash.
The producer’s reclining form broke the surface of the pool.
“Maybe I’ll put out a pool table book,” said he fashion designer, “for the chaise lounge. Nobody uses the coffee table at my house.”
The caterers in white shirts and bow-ties set up fondue stations at pool side along with cheese and fruit platters and a white clothed table with tall flutes of bubbly. One of the musicians, a man with long hair and a leather vest, threw his electric guitar into the pool—right before it hit the water the cord came out. It landed in the pool with an acoustic splash.
“That could have been a regular southern Alabama fish fry.”
“He does that at every party. I’ve seen him do it a hundred times.”
“Has he ever fucked up?”
“Have you ever seen a knife thrower fuck up? It’s part of the act. Wait till the encore. The drummer takes off that big ass wig—he’s a dead ringer for the Dalai Lama. You can’t tell with the big hair, the makeup, the flashy rock and roll outfit. It’s the spiritual climax of the whole performance. All of a sudden, this wild man drummer is a small bald Chinese man in a robe. It mellows everybody right out, especially after the high wire act.”
A number of people had passed out in the pool, their famous nude bodies drifting in the water. People were already starting to pull them out. A detail of well-dressed security types with walky talky headsets led the guitarist away from the stage.
“That was part of the act, too. The whole security thing. Hold on. Here comes the part with the hair. Check this out.”
The drummer was standing on his chair. He held out his arms, striking a pose. Nobody seemed to be paying attention except Jack and Tommy. The drummer ripped off his shirt and turned around on the chair. Covering his entire back was a tattoo of Chairman Mao.
“What does that guy think he’s fucking Mike Tyson?” said Tommy, moving in on the stage. “You take the legs. I’ll catch him when he comes down.”
The drummer tumbled into Tommy’s arms, big hair and all. Tommy grabbed a handful of hair and pulled like he was trying to make off with the scalp.
“What gives?” said Jack, lying on the ground as he put the drummer in a figure four leg lock.
“I guess he grew it out,” said Tommy.
“This guy doesn’t even look Chinese,” said Jack. “I thought he was supposed to be the fucking Dalai Lama or something.”
“It’s the rock and roll hair,” said Tommy. “But forget about it. Come on, let me buy you a drink.”
They made their way to the bar. The bar tender, a hottie in a white blouse, had blonde hair and red lipstick.
“Check this out,” said Tommy, laying down a hundred on the bar top. “Two vodka Sprites. Keep the change.” Raising his drink “Cheers. It’s hammer time.”
Nero was wearing a loose white robe, the gold cross hanging out in front of his chest. The partygoers came up to him in a procession—and he gave them benediction, a pat on the head, the dispensation of a wafer soaked in every kind of drug on the planet, a kiss on the cheek, a blow to the forehead with an open hand—she falls back—he opens his hand and blows the powder, blowing them out like a kamikaze, like a divine wind. They rise back up, trick birthday candles. He blows them out, crossing his arms against his chest. He hikes up his robe and gets into the pool, the robe floating out around him like a fan. The nude partygoers come to him in the water. He says a few words, crosses himself, and dunks their heads.
“Except you,” he says, holding the man by the ponytail. “You I have to sacrifice.”
“What did I do?”
“It’s not what you do, it’s what you do not.”
Nero drags the man to the side of the pool, where two burly security types in black suits pull him out onto the tile. The man is naked, wet, shaking, confused. He’s young, early 20s, with a good gym body, wet slicked back hair.
“Whose son are you?”
“I’m the son of the CFO. Big Time. But hey, I’ve got my own career.”
“Soundtracks. I’m a composer, man.”
“I don’t know. Fucking electronic.”
The two security men—now wearing white robes—drag him to the mock altar, a bronze sculpture of a tortoise. Nero shows the young man his hand.
“I’m going to beat you to death with these rings. Ritual sacrifice is my all time favorite party game.”
Nobody says a thing. The partygoers stand by in stone silence, fearful, anxious, electrified. Nero pulls back his fist. The young man, his arms held back by the two robed goons, looks Nero in the eyes.
“Kid, you’re the life of the party.”
Nero squirts water into the young man’s face through clenched teeth. The robed goons drop him like a sack of potatoes and head to the bar for a drink.
“I give, I take away,” says Nero. “Like this party. I give it, I take it away. You think that’s an empty threat? I’ll turn off the tap, I’ll cork the bottles, I’ll drain the pool, I’ll pack up that sand and send it back to the valley of the shadow of death.”
An old man walks up to Nero. He’s about half a foot shorter than Nero, bald, with navy blue swim trunks, dripping wet, in black horn rim glasses.
“Congratulations. That Jamaica is a hell of a gal, a real woman, like from another era. You’re a lucky man.”
“Thank you, my son,” says Nero, shoving the man’s face back.
Nero whirls around and settles into the mock throne of the lifeguard stand. He hangs the life ring around his neck and slumps in the chair. On Jamaica’s finger perches the Toucan. Meanwhile, back in France, Jamaica makes the rounds of all the big spender habitat—tables without limits, Michelin stars, exotic boutiques, and yacht parties in the harbor at night. They know her, but they can’t remember her name. She belongs, like an Yves Saint Laurent on a castle phantom or a papier machete dragon lady hanged by her own string of diamonds. The bird lifts its wings and tries to speak.
“Sorry, you’re no parrot,” Jamaica says. “Even with that wonderful beak.”
Heads turn, on the yacht, in the casino, on the boardwalk, at the late night cabaret, that beautiful creature and the magnificent bird she wears like a ring. A man with long hair in a ponytail and a dinner jacket with the collar up and the sleeves coming out past the cuffs of the jacket runs both hands over his hair then scratches the scruff on his cheek with a knuckle, one eye following Jamaica, her long blond hair and long legs generously displayed by the high slit gown, legs like a thoroughbred, movement like a jungle cat, a blonde like the mountain lion. The Toucan hops down onto the hand bag, a rhino with a shoulder strap and a bird on its back. Jamaica is a 10 in any language—the man with the ponytail is Yugoslavian. He has tan skin and stands about 6’10”. He played professional basketball in Italy and Greece, had a nice stroke from the outside and the no-look pass. Now he’s into diamonds and white tigers and deals made in Riviera cafes over white table cloth, sealed with an air kiss and the no-look hand shake. He puts his hand on Jamaica’s back. She never saw it coming—he looked her off, the hand from outer space. She lets him keep it there, big as a tennis racquet. He runs his hand along the curve of her back. He appreciates the supple feline feel of her back, the soft skin, the muscles fine and sensual like a jungle cat. What kind of cat? Despite the color of her hair, the fairness of her skin, he fingered her for one of the dark ones, not a house cat, a panther. Somebody owned her but she liked to roam. Anyway, he didn’t see any tags.
“I have to make a phone call,” says Jamaica.
She opens the phone and dials. The Yugoslavian removes his hand.
“Are you having a good time, dear?” she says into the phone. “I want to phone in a bet.” She cuffs her hand over the receiver. “Who do you want and how much have you got?”
“Manchester United and the spread. Ten of these little casino chips.”
She regards the stack, large denominations. Jamaica slides her hand off the receiver and places the bet.
“I’ll be back in ninety minutes. I’m leaving this as good faith,” she says.
The Toucan hops down from the hand bag and takes a sip out of the man’s martini glass. He throws the bird some nuts and takes back his glass.
Several hours later, Jamaica returns to the man’s table. The martini glass lays on its side. The bird is passed out. The man is stooped over in his seat, eyes far away, quietly singing to himself in some provincial dialect.
“You owe me the ten chips,” says Jamaica. “Plus one more for the bird. He’s your responsibility now. Look at him, he can barely speak.”
“He’s a Toucan,” the man slurs. “Toucans can’t speak. And the bird owes me a drink.”
Jamaica swipes a drink from a passing tray and sets it down in front of him. The man reluctantly pushes over the chips. She sweeps them off the table and drops them in the rhino skin hand bag.
“If you teach him a few words, I’ll give the chips back,” says Jamaica. “Two or three words. Any language.”
The man turns away.
“Would it make you feel better if I went to bed with you?”
The man slowly turns back around. He nods.
“Well, I don’t feel like it. Not tonight anyway. I’m married. And besides, I have to make my rounds.”
Nero floats on his back in the pool—the guests have long since vanished along with the party favors. Nero picks his hand up out of the water and regards the golden wedding band and thinks about this latest wife. He’d always had a weakness for private nurses, and this Jamaica was the comeliest of the lot, long legs in white stockings, shapely breasts, womanly hips—he couldn’t resist putting his arm around her and drawing her in. She went in for his gold tooth smile and sparkling eyes—she had a weakness for fatally flawed men and this one was a man of the cross besides and a wild eyed addict with loose lips and a smile like a dragon who talked a mile a minute about fast cars and hotel bars at the tops of high rises in high rent districts, parties for movie stars and assassinations by exploding cigar. He liked to talk up his paramilitary days defending the banana land despots against a revolving door of revolutionary peasant armies led by the radicalized Western-educated children of the ruling elite, wars of containment and stalemate, kid gloves and hand grenades. In those days, he smoke a lot, drank a lot, fought, and sold guns and drugs, spent more money on getting high and living under than any man had a right. Then he found the cross. It was in the middle of the jungle, in a clearing, deepest darkest Guatemala. He woke up with a splitting headache, remembering nothing, and found himself nailed to it, not literally nailed, but tied at the wrists and ankles. He figured he’d been meant to die like that, by whose hand and for what reason he could scarcely imagine. There could have been hundreds, thousands. The parrots, beautifully feathered in red, blue and gold, would inevitably swarm down and peck out his eyes while standing on his shoulders and head and cawing in some ancient tongue like old Aztecan. Instead of the parrots, a lone Toucan landed on top of his head and remained there, and during that time the birds and creatures of the forest did him no harm. He spent the day like that, and a night, Nero and the Toucan. All that night he had visions, memories of his childhood in Manhattan, prep schools in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, Oxford for a year, then Cambridge, followed by a stint teaching German Romantic philosophy at the Sorbonnne, and the memories gave way to visions of another place and time, children covered in mud, a landslide, the side of the mountain like a collapsed lung, the forest on fire, ritual orgies in stone temples, feasts of unimaginable excess of all manner of beast and fowl, enormous casks of wine, men and women in robes and sandals running from a dust cloud, a city washed away by a luminous orange tide, a thousand hands passing him to the top of a great stone pyramid, his bride-to-be eclipsed by a veil of dust—Nero opens his eyes. He’s lying on the ground, the Toucan standing by his head. His wrists and ankles burn. He looks around. The cross is gone, vanished. Around his neck is a gold chain with a gold cross encrusted with gems. He picks it up off the dusty earth and holds it in his hand. He kisses the cross and closes his eyes, pressing the cross to his forehead. His eyes fill with tears. Not tears. He opens his eyes. It’s started to rain.
To the bird, he says, “Come. I will take you to the watering holes of the Riviera.”
The bird and the man make their way through the forest, and the forest turns to farmland, and the farmland to cities, and the cities to white sandy beaches. Nero collapses in the sand, his white suit stained with a fortnight’s journey through marshes, brush land, urban ghettoes, and sprawling residential subdivisions. A man in a black vest and bow tie takes a drink from his tray and sets it on the sand next to Nero’s desiccated lips. It’s a tall blended drink the color of pureed mango with an umbrella in it, in real glass. Nero turns onto his side, the side of his face covered with sand, and puts his cracked lips to the straw. He takes a sip and licks his lips, pondering the taste. He takes another sip, and another. Gradually he feels his strength coming back. He removes the straw and holds it out so that the bird can try some, too. Very soon they are both drunk, Nero and the Toucan.
“That’s what happens when you drink on an empty stomach,” says Nero.
A shadow crosses over him. He looks up to see, standing over him, a young girl. She’s wearing a yellow sun dress and sandals. He catches himself staring at the sandals, older and more worn than the girl.
“Are you a guest at the hotel?” she asks.
“Me or the bird?”
“You of course.”
“Why would I be lying on this sand if I weren’t a guest? Can you not see that I’ve had a hard night and need to rest? Do you question all guests like this?”
“Where’s your suit?”
“What, you don’t like the cut?” He looks over his bespoke suit, showing the wear of travel. “I’ll take it up with my tailor.”
“Your bathing suit,” she says, impatient.
“I already went swimming.”
“So did I, through shark infested rivers.”
“What’s his name?”
Nero looks over at the bird.
“He doesn’t have a name.”
“Everybody has a name. What does he like to eat?”
“Insects, I guess. Seeds and berries.”
“Can you make him talk?”
“What am I, a ventriloquist?”
“He’s a parrot.”
Nero scrutinizes the bird.
“Kind of a long beak for a parrot, don’t you think? Is there a casino on this beach? I need to cash in some chips.”
“Do me a favor. Bring me a pack of cigarettes?”
He hands her the credit card.
“Get yourself some candy.”
“They don’t take credit cards. You have to give them your room number.”
“Give them yours. Tell them the cigarettes are for your old sugar daddy.”
The girl returns with the pack of cigarettes and a book of matches from the casino. Nero takes out a cigarette and strokes a match. He takes a long drag. The girl sucks on a lollipop.
“What country is this?” he asks.
“It’s not a country. It’s an island.”
“You don’t look like a China girl.”
“My parents are British, but I was born in Sri Lanka.”
“An island girl.” He smokes. “Your phone.” He holds out his hand. “I have to make a call.”
The girl gives him a doubtful look.
“Do you like riddles?” he asks. “Here’s a riddle for you. Three succubi appear to you in three hot tubs. By you I mean me. You choose one, but they choose you. You choose the red head with curls in her hair, but the one you get is the brunette named Jennifer White.”
“That’s not a riddle.”
“Of course it’s a riddle. You’ll figure it out.”
He holds out his hand, fixes her with his eyes.
She hands him the phone.
“Don’t talk too long. I’m almost out of minutes.”
Nero opens the phone and presses the digits.
“Babe…yeah, I’ve been missing you, too. I’ve had a change of heart. Let’s tie the knot okay, on the Pacific side. We’ll need a holy man, a band, and a couple crates of English gin…How about this Saturday? … It is Saturday. Sunday then. I’ll catch the next flight out. Ciao.”
He closes the phone, pushes down the antenna, and hands it back to the girl.
“I’m getting married.”
The girl starts to tear up. Nero rises to his feet. He puts his hand on her shoulder.
“I know how it is. But you can’t expect me to wait around forever. I just had a revelation. You see this.”
He pulls the cross out from under his shirt.
“I’m a man of the cross. I’m born again. I was ash and now I’m blood and fire. I was baptized by the kiss of a woman. One day you’ll have that kind of power. Then you’ll understand.”
“You’re going to take the bird away,” she cries.
Nero looks down at the bird pecking in the sand with its long many hued beak.
“I tell you what, I can see you’ve become attached. You can have the bird. He’ll give you something to remember me by. Take care, doll.”
Nero tips his hat then wades into the early morning light.
Jamaica wants nothing more than a Pashmina shawl for this cold season. She’s walked up and down the boulevards, the avenues, the drives, in high heels, a tiny green purse hanging from a spaghetti strap. Her high heels click on the sidewalk. Her full red lips and rouged cheeks draw attention from the ladies of leisure and men about town and elegant shop keepers. Bridget Bardot had a walk like that, Jamaica’s soon-to-be famous derriere popping that little red dress. The Pashmina shawl she wants belongs to a countess who lives in a chateau on the cliffs of Monte Carlo. She wears it to parties, restaurants, and black tie balls. She wears it to the table, especially at night, no matter what the season. When she eats, the blood rushes to her stomach, which makes her shiver. The same shawl, night after night after night, luxurious Pashmina the color of cream, no designer label because it’s one-of-a-kind. To Jamaica, an irresistible temptation. How many nights has Jamaica worked the streets for a chance to unwind it from the countess’s delicate neck. She imagines the feel of the countess’s Pashmina against her skin. This is something not even Nero can provide her, Nero who has given her everything, clothes, jewelry, her own Provencal chateau with footmen and chambermaids. Jamaica’s larcenous prowls along the promenade, lifting the occasional purse or feathered hat, are purely for kicks or the force of habit. There’s nothing to be ashamed about. She eats everything she kills. Her high heel boots are made from the faux skins of diamond back rattler. She savors the looks from the top hat and feather boa set, their adoring eyes sweet as Maraschino cherries, the whipped cream of their smiles, hauteur dripping like crème de menthe. Eyes that know a thoroughbred when they see one, the kind that grows wild and that only oil money can saddle. They worship her strength and form, the erotic beauty of her motion, her perfume of Cognac and flowers. They worship the ground they fall upon, the air she walks on, a wild mare in a hot red bridle. The grand delusion of her past life flashes in the chill air before their petrified eyes until the sound turns back on, the cars, the noise of the traffic, the wind whistling, the crush of bodies on the sidewalk. She presses against the door, it’s starting to get dark. She’s locked out. The shawl is only a color, a dull cream turning to water in the shop window while the countess with her dark hair and olive skin carves the bird under glass, the gloss of red wine and canard on her lips illuminated by silver stick candles, the flame that knows only one name, desire. Her belly burns, not from want of fire but from lipstick the color of red wine. Her own lips leave their mark on the glass, and the rouge from where her cheek was pressed, for she, Jamaica, is far fairer than the countess, and seeing her red lips and flushed cheek on the window is like seeing a Venus made of glass in exactly the right proportions and seeing through her into the world outside. Jamaica sits at the edge, her feet dangling in the water, looking down at the red sports car at the bottom of the pool. She watches as a young man climbs out of the open window and swims to the surface with a bottle of Champagne. He whips back his hair, rips the foil off the top of the bottle, and pops the cork. A froth of Champagne erupts from the bottle, the tiny bubbles spreading on the surface of the pool. The young man, treading water, fills her Champagne flute. He takes a long swig from the bottle then climbs out of the pool, fully dressed, soaking wet. He pours out the rest of the Champagne. A blonde actress tips her head back and catches the last drizzle in her mouth. Jamaica opens the door to her chateau and steps out. She knows the hunters are out there with their smoking guns. She collects the dead rabbits from the door step, an offering, a tribute to her translucent beauty. She shuts the door and retreats into the warmth of the chateau. There is a fire in the fire place, she takes the poker and stokes the burning coals, green eyes lost in the embers that spark and crackle. She picks up the phone. There’s no ring, but she knows. Nero from the coast. He’s on the phone, they’re racing the cigarette boats. She can hear the girls laughing in Cuban accents.
“This afternoon I bet on a horse. The horse was named after the color of your eyes. Emerald Isle. I dropped every penny I had. The most beautiful race of my life. I was so overcome with emotion I had to close my eyes. It was a photo finish. I’m looking at it right now, the rear on this animal, the grace, the raw power, with that long mane, the head held high. A three year old Philly with all the poise of a young Grace Kelly.”
Jamaica sits on the edge of the pool, her feet dangling in the water, hands set back on the tile behind her, the phone cradled between her cheek and shoulder. She moves, and the phone drops into the pool. She watches it sink to the bottom. Out in the middle of the pool Nero floats on his back, legs together, arms stretched out, so still and perfectly posed. She can hear the phone ringing from the bottom of the pool. They are alone. The sun is out. Jamaica pulls her sunglasses down over her eyes. The sun glints off the pools of dark glass. The ring of the phone drowns like a sinking stone. She rubs oil into hot skin, hands moving over the glistening surface, up one thigh and over a bent knee. The red Ferrari sits at the bottom of the pool, admiring the reflection on the surface above through headlights—blond hair, bright skin, eyes cold and immaculate.
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