Three years after coming to work for my father, Elsa nanny for my sisters, was invited to attend the high school graduation of her former employer’s oldest granddaughter. After that she began to visit the younger of her former charges on a regular basis, often taking me along. The eldest of the two girls was 3 years my senior. She was a well bred and educated young lady, and both physically and mentally attractive young woman, though in a rather bland, blue-eyed, bleached blond sort of way.

The younger of the two, however, was from a different father and not at all cut from the same cloth. Ginger was younger than I, by a year, far brighter and more adventures than her older sister. She was also much supple of figure and refined of face, with waist long, raven black hair and lapis lazuli eyes. She was also more social, less obnoxious, and aggressively seductive for her age. In a word she was a beauty, and I immediately fell madly, deeply, desperately, passionately, self-destructively, irretrievably in love with her.

As time went on Ginger and I often found ourselves together wandering alone on her grandfather’s estate. Whether this was simply an oversight on Elsa’s part or because of her closer personal relationship with the older daughter, I don’t know. But eventually picking flowers in the gardens was replaced by hiding together in dark, walk-in closets where we would kiss while fondling one another through our clothes.

I also began to wander alone through the wondrous halls and chambers of the great house, placing small treasures in my pockets: golden Griffins, Lions Rampant, and Two Headed Eagles, all familiar symbols of royalty which by no other means might ever be mine. Among these was a miniature figurine of Empress Catherine the Great, bearing a surprise revealed only by its opening, a Fabergé Easter Egg. All such nefarious activities were rote and reflexive throw-back behavior patterns of my youth that served somehow to make me feel valued and safe, but alas in the end only sealed my fate.

It was during this time that I first became aware of my ability and propensity for achieving lucid and totally memorable dreams. In the Ambassador’s garden one night, my naked feet sank in his moist lawn, my arms filled with treasures pilfered from his estate, and as the moon rose its silvery light dissolved my pilfered treasure into the lithe body of the girl I loved.

All too soon my fantasies and nightmares came true. One day a matched pair of miniature Colt six-shooters, lustily lifted from a half-life scale Remington bronze of a mounted cowboy caught in mid-gallop along the Ambassador’s dining room table disappeared. I, of course, was both accused and guilty. I had not realized that in disarming the rider I had greatly diminished the esthetic detail and intrinsic value of the statue, faults soon discovered by a maid charged with the cleaning and care of it.

Strangely, it was this theft that occasioned the first meeting between my father and Ginger's mother, and served in time to bring all of us together under one roof. Somehow the two adults got past their initial embarrassment, fell in love and were married within a year. After the wedding my father and Ginger’s mother went away on a lengthy honeymoon to Europe and North Africa, leaving all four children, his two and her two in Elsa’s capable hands with the fond hope and expectation of finding on their return that both households had been forged into one.

To ingratiate myself to Elsa in her daunting task of this grand amalgamation and to satisfy my own curiosity, I offered to help unpack my new stepmother's personal belongings, while the temporary head of the household put them all away. It was through this surreptitious invasion of my stepmother’s privacy that I discovered that she had suffered a bout of tuberculosis when she was a teenager and spent a year in an Arizona sanitarium. While there she kept a diary, wonderfully written, that was to prove the basis of most of my future understanding of her. While ill she read books, most sent to her by her father as he traveled the world. Among them were autographed first editions, including the complete works of Rudyard Kipling, bound in leather and inlaid with carved ivory elephant heads offset in such a fashion that when shelved, they would lock together only in the order of their publication. Another carton yielded “A Thousand and One Arabian Nights” bound in red Moroccan leather, embossed in gold; a collection of Edgar Allan Poe first editions; and the works of Richard Halliburton, which took me back to my own youth.

There was also art: paintings by masters whose works I knew from field trips to the Corcoran and the National Gallery of art; silver and gold Icons from Czarist Russia; and white jade parrots from Cathay. And in the bottom of one box, a folder of loose original Aubrey Beardsley Art Nouveau grotesque erotica in black and white, against a white background.

In the six weeks our parents were away Elsa worked wonders in blending these treasures together with my father's own classic colonial Americana, and I soon found myself living in an odd homogeny of Paul Revere and Catherine the Great. Together these treasures held me spellbound and entertained me for years to come.

As a child I was never allowed to play with neighborhood kids. The reason, I was given, was that “They are not cut from the same cloth as you,” an admonishment I took to mean that I was not good enough for them. Thus I resigned myself to a world of school mates, adults, and family friends, or entertaining myself alone in my room. Between my mother’s death and my father's re-marriage I spent much of my free time alone, reading or listening to hundreds of old LPs collected by my father during his college years as he wandered the world during his summer vacations, working as a travel guide. By the time my mother died, I was familiar with the music of most of the countries of Europe, the middle-east, Asia, the Caribbean Basin, and much of South America.

With my father’s new union, however, my loneliness and isolation abruptly came to an end. Ginger saw to that. From the beginning she brought popular music into my world and with it emotions that had eluded me most of my life. Its rhythm and rawness made me want to laugh or cry for absolutely no reason at all, other than that it felt so damn good. In fact, it was with “doo-wop” in my head that Ginger eventually lured me to her bedroom where she ultimately taught me to dance to her own special tune.

One night, long after everyone else had gone to bed and were soundly asleep, Ginger and I were holding tightly to one another drifting slowly around her bedroom to some wonderful, meaningless love song when her body suddenly felt hot, as though it was melting where her stomach met mine. I could hear her breathing and felt the pounding of her heart, both in synch with my own. Then we were kissing. The next thing I knew my stepsister collapsed heavily against my chest where she lay for awhile, trembling as I struggled to keep her on her feet.

A little frightened, thinking she was perhaps ill, I whispered, “What's the matter?”

“I'm all wet,” she whispered, pressing her mouth against my ear.

I immediately held her at arm’s length. “I'm sorry,” I said, unknowingly. “Did you pee on yourself?”

“No, silly,” she giggled, letting her breath out at the same time, making a soft, purring sort of sound. “It's quite another thing.” Then she stepped back, pulling me with her, and turned out her bedside lamp.

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