“Oh, YES.” Nadia tapped the cover of the DVD. “This will work just fine.”
“Nadia, you are out of your MIND if you think Sydney will let you play that on her TV. She’ll start in with the Judith Butler, and all the women’s studies lit that she read in school and then Vaughn and I’ll spend two hours trying to change the subject.”
“I don’t have to convince her—I won the game fair and square. Again.”
Nadia was squatting near the bottom of the “cult” aisle of Nick’s Video Emporium, and she peered up at Weiss with a jaw set that was familiar to anyone who knew any member of her family. She would not be denied.
“ Besides, ‘Foxy Brown’ is already checked out, so this will have to do.” She rose, turned on her heel and walked over to the checkout counter, Weiss trailing behind her.
“Can’t we at least get a Kurosawa or something to even it out?”
Nick’s was their video store because it was just around the corner from the apartment. But for Nadia it was her favorite, since it also had the entire Criterion catalogues of Truffaut and Bertolucci, and even the entire complete set of Almodovar, which she and Syd had used as background noise while they were just getting to learn about each other. “All About My Mother” had kept them drinking Two-Buck Chuck one Friday night until the sun rose over the canyon the next morning. A trip to the video store was never just that for Nadia—it was something to talk about that gave her more intel about people’s psychology than asking them pointblank about their attitudes towards money or guns--or women, for that matter. If she hadn’t been in the intelligence business, Nadia would have been very happy making movies and making up stories about people’s lives. It was easier than understanding her own.
All the way back to the car and on the walk home, Nadia steadfastly ignored Eric’s warnings about Sydney and his mysteriously eager protests about what the movie represents to most American feminists. She got tired listening to him and cranked the radio a little louder than necessary, pretending for the short ride home that it was a favorite song. She wasn’t sure why Eric was making such a lengthy case about it—it was a parody of sex at best, it had beautiful women taking control and wearing minimal clothing though no real nudity.
She couldn’t understand until the very moment they pulled into the parking spot and Weiss told her straight out that it was a movie he’d made it through most of puberty watching. She laughed and continued to ignore him.
“Come on, Nadia. It’s got underdressed women in vulnerable situations and they’ve got, well you know ….”
“What? Spell it out for me.”
“Really ginormous breasts. ”
Nadia silently stared at him, incredulous, and then exited the car, chuckling to herself.
“I can see the cover, Eric—I’m not that surprised. Or insecure.” She stopped in the vestibule and turned to him. “I would hope you could make the distinction between reality and fantasy.”
Nadia opened the door and practically skipped down the steps into the living room over to the couch. Weiss closed the door behind her and went over to where Vaughn and Sydney were peering into three large pizza boxes. He set the beer bottles onto the counter and they clanked inside the shopping bag.
“Just don’t say I didn’t try to change her mind.”
Vaughn slid two plates to Weiss across the counter and then grabbed two bottles from the bag. “Did she rent another Fred and Ginger musical? We over did it with “Top Hat” last week—I softshoed into the briefing on Tuesday and I think Jack noticed. ”
“No, worse. Much worse.”
Sydney’s cellphone rang. “Hang on—I don’t want to be surprised.” Her smile faded unconsciously into a stony grimace when she looked at the ID. “It’s my father. Just a sec.”
She walked over to the TV and grabbed the remote away from Nadia to mute the sound. She’d already started the movie, so Syd turned away from the TV to talk.
“Hi, Dad. What do you need?”
“Hello, Sydney. How are you?”
“I’m fine, Dad. Is something wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong.” Jack paused, strumming his fingers on the steering wheel. “I didn’t want to bother you and… your sister.”
“We’re just here watching movies, me and Vaughn and Nadia and Weiss.”
“Oh, I see.” Jack always wondering why he couldn’t just extract what he needed from Sydney and move the conversation on. “Well, I’ll go then. I was in the neighborhood and thought--”
Sydney was half-listening and she looked over at Nadia, who was silently blinking back tears of laughter. Weiss was blushing furiously and hiding his face in a throw pillow. Vaughn for his part just smiled laconically and pointed at the television. She turned to the screen.
“Oh. My. God.”
“Sydney what is it? What’s wrong?”
“I can’t BELIEVE you got this movie, Nadia. I am never ever letting you beat me at poker again.”
Jack could hear Nadia burst out in laughter. The similarity in her silvery cackle to Irina’s was uncanny.
“I’ve gotta go, Dad. My little sister needs a lesson in feminism taught to her.”
“Sydney, be nice to her. After she rescued me in Paris, I felt like I owed her.”
“What?” Sydney stared openmouthed at Nadia and beckoned to her with one curled finger.
“I gave her a few tips in counting cards. Anyway, she already knew your tells.”
“I won’t forgive either of you for this. Here, talk to your protégé—she’s right here to report on her success--”
Nadia coughed slightly before talking to Jack, who even now still made her strangely tense and eager all at once.
“Yes, to report, I beat Sydney fairly. I did NOT cheat.” She ducked the pizza crust Sydney threw at her.
“Remarkable restraint on your part.”
“To the well-earned victor go the spoils, I say.” She downed half the beer and burped quietly past the phone.
“So should I expect all of APO to break out in song next week, or are you choosing a more subtle form of punishment?”
Nadia smiled and watched Sydney chug half a bottle of beer. “Tonight I’m forcibly introducing Sydney to the work of Russ Meyer.”
It was so quiet that for a moment, Nadia thought Jack had hung up. She finished her beer and waited for him to say something.
He wasn’t sure what to say or how to feel about the way this conversation was going, so he punted with a little criticism. “Faster, Pussycat. An interesting selection. A lot of people can’t see the satire.”
“Not when Tura Satana’s cleavage gets in the way.” Nadia waggled her eyebrows at Weiss.
“It’s… distracting. But her shot-taking is quite admirable, as is her story, despite the ending.”
Nadia smiled. “Now don’t spoil it for me, Jack. I wanted to see a timeless parable about tough, beautiful women with exceptionally good killshots.”
“It’s satire, Nadia—you’ll do better telling that to Sydney now before she can take out her cinema theory paper on the ending of ‘Thelma and Louise.’ You’ll thank me later.” Jack smiled into the phone before disconnecting. “Good night.”
“Good night, Jack.” Nadia dropped Sydney’s phone onto the coffee table and squirmed onto the couch between Sydney, who was watching the movie, and Eric who was trying desperately not to and whispered in her ear.
“Conspiring with Sydney’s dad is big-time. Guess you’re really in the family now.”
“Shhh. I want to see this.” Nadia smiled as she watched Tura Satana coldly shoot rounds of hot lead into a crowd of twenty-odd men at a dusty gas station. “And how uncomfortable it makes you.”