The International Tarts meet in Paris to elect a new leader!
As usual, the text from President Custard Tart to the other members of the International Tarts Society was short and very much to the point: “Time to elect a new president. Meet in front of the Leda statue in the Louvre November 1.”
Tarts all over the world planned their stay in Paris to be as pleasure-filled as possible. Great was the excitement as they packed for the journey, making sure to leave plenty of room in their luggage for the naughty lingerie they meant to buy. Many of the Tarts arrived a day or two early, the better to sample the delights of the most romantic city in the world.
On the appointed morning a gaggle of giggling Tarts gathered at the base of the Leda statue in the famous museum.
“Custard, do not tell me you flew to Paris!” Almond Tart said, eyeing Custard’s very large pregnancy bulge.
“Of course not,” Custard said. “El Capitan and I came by Eurostar through the Chunnel.”
“Good,” Almond said. “Ah, are you having twins?”
“Good guess! Yes, but fraternal, not identical. Boy and girl.”
“Congratulations!” Cries of delight filled the air as the Tarts gathered round their president and kissed her cheek or pressed her hand.
“We don’t have to reenact Leda and the swan at the meeting, do we?” asked French Tart from Montréal in tones of horror. “Middle-aged foreign ministers are one thing, but I do draw the line at animals!”
“No, no,” Custard hastened to explain. “Not at all! This is just my little joke. You all know that I’m turning thirty this month, which means mandatory retirement from the International Tarts Society…”
“Haven’t you already stopped work?” asked Strawberry Tart, whose titian tresses, green eyes, and milky skin proclaimed her country of origin as clearly as if she’d been wearing its national flag.
“Yes, I stopped at Summer Solstice. Anyway, because of my retirement we’re meeting here to elect a new leader of the I.T.S. Of course, I’ll have to drop the title of Custard Tart and revert to my real name.”
“Which is?” Cherry Tart lifted an eyebrow. “I can’t imagine calling you anything but ‘Custard.’”
“My real name,” Custard said with a shudder, “is Phyllida. Naturally I shortened it to “Lida” as soon as I was old enough to make a fuss. That’s why we’re meeting at this particular spot today: here you are with “Lida,” which is myself, to elect a new leader. Get it?”
Chocolate Tart was still studying the statue. “I do not understand how Leda and the swan were able to engage in…”
“The swan’s beak,” explained Custard, who’d taken a First in Greats at Lady Margaret Hall. “Of course, it was really Zeus disguised as a swan.”
“Only you, Custard,” Kiwi Tart said, rolling her eyes. “Who else could think up something as involved as that? By the way, who’s replacing you with your politician?”
“Oh, you’ll meet her this afternoon before the election,” Custard said.
“I am very excited about the erection,” said Lychee Tart, who’d always had trouble pronouncing the letter “l.”
“We always are,” Lemon Tart, known as Tarte aux Citron in Paris, agreed. “That’s why we’re Tarts.”
“Well, two of us have other views on that,” Cherry Tart said, with a wink in the direction of Cherimoya Tart from South America. “The lesbian love scene is quite different, as you might imagine.”
After gazing at every nude statue in the Louvre, the Tarts returned to their hotel to have luncheon before meeting in Lemon Tart’s room at two p.m.
“Goodness, Lemon, how do you rate a suite?” Apple Tart asked, looking round at the living room, balcony, bedroom, and opulent bathroom.
“Suites to the sweet,” Lemon Tart said with a smirk. “I have an ‘in’ with the owner of this hotel. Or should I say he has an ‘in’ with me.”
“Putting in a little Tartish overtime, are we?” Strawberry Tart asked as everyone laughed.
Lemon Tart shrugged. “Not really. My cabinet minister was an hotelier before he went into politics.”
“Where’s Peach Tart?” Custard asked, looking around the room. She had arranged herself on the love seat and indeed, took up all of it. In the enormous green silk caftan covering her baby bump she looked rather like the Emerald Buddha.
“Here,” Peach said, sitting up and yawning from her pile of cushions in the corner. “Not enough sleep—too much fraternization avec les garçons.”
“Peach, you do not have time to date every handsome young waiter in Paris before we leave,” Cherry Tart said impatiently.
“Ya think?” said Peach, who’d woken up the previous morning with Michel, enjoyed room service with René for lunch, and finally petered out with Pierre at two a.m. “Guess what, poor Pierre had never had you-know-what with Pop Rocks®!”
All the Tarts looked astonished. “You’re kidding!”
“Naturally, I always carry some with me when I travel,” Peach Tart continued. “So I deployed them in the usual way and he loved it! He begged me to get ‘fizzical’ with him again.”
The other Tarts giggled at the thought of poor Pierre’s newfound ecstasies, and Custard privately resolved to order Pop Rocks® to fizz up her sex life with El Capitan. It was becoming distinctly dull now that her pregnancy had reached the six-month stage.
The door opened again as Kiwi Tart, devoid of makeup and with damp hair, came in. She gave a start as she looked at the others in the room. “Lingonberry, you’re here! I thought you were the moaner in the sauna.”
“No, here I am, as you can see. Anyway, the sauna would be too small for my favorite position, the Starfish—it requires a bed, or at the very least a flat surface.”
Strawberry nodded. “So does the Irish Garden position.”
“I wonder who it is,” Kiwi said. “I sweartagoddess, the moans, groans, and little shrieks of excitement followed me all the way down the hall from the swimming pool.”
“Well, then, who was it?”
“It has to be Chocolate,” Almond said, doing a quick count of the assembled Tarts. “She’s the only one missing.”
Just then the door opened again and Chocolate sashayed into the room looking very pleased with herself. “The most marvelous thing has happened! I went to the little tabac on the corner to buy a newspaper from home and a really dishy guy was buying Le Figaro. When we both had our newspapers he said, “Bonjour, mademoiselle, comment allez-vous?”
“And you said…” French Tart prompted.
“As-tu déja pris du chocolate chaud?” Chocolate said. “Have you ever had any hot chocolate?”
“What did he say?”
“Non, pas encore,” Chocolate replied. “No, not yet.”
“I didn’t know you spoke French, Chocolate,” Kiwi said.
“It’s the official language of Mali. Closely followed by Bambara, of course.”
“So what happened after that?” asked Custard, by now as fascinated as everyone else.
“We went into the sauna. It was hot and I’m Chocolate, so he had his fill!” Chocolate threw back her head and laughed.
When the Tarts quieted down, Custard rang a little bell. “All right, let’s begin the meeting. The first order of business is to introduce my replacement. Tarts, I give you Felicity, Queen of Lubricity!” Custard nudged the newcomer forward. “Hereafter to be known as Bakewell Tart.”
Bakewell looked round the group and smiled. Her straight brown hair was parted in the middle and drawn back from her face. With her blue eyes, pale lips, and tightly buttoned pink cashmere cardigan, she looked the epitome of a Sunday choir singer.
“Funny, you don’t look Tarty,” Peach said, eyeing Bakewell with disfavor.
“What does ‘Bakewell’ mean?” Payasam asked.
Bakewell smiled again. “Wait and see.” She went out of the room. When she returned she looked different: her newly waved brown hair tumbled to her shoulders, hiding one eye. Shocking pink lipstick drew attention to her blue eyes, fringed with black eyelashes, and her black tank top showed a charming décollétage. The Tarts murmured their approval.
“These are Bakewell Tarts,” she said, handing round a tray of them. “Try one.”
“Oh, I see,” Cherry Tart said after taking a bite, “bland white icing on the outside, but hot and sweet inside!”
“And runny,” Strawberry Tart said as she wiped warm plum jam off her chin.
Bakewell smiled and winked. “Satisfied?”
“Very,” Strawberry said with a grin.
“All right, Tarts!” Custard rang the bell again. “Do pay attention. You know the rules for electing the new president: she must be no older than twenty-seven and must have been a member in good standing for at least two years. After she’s elected she will serve until the age of thirty, which is, as you know, the mandatory retirement age for Tarts.
‘Now, please look at the whiteboard, where I’ve written the names of the eligible Tarts and their ages.”
Everyone’s eyes turned to the board, which listed Tarts Cherry, Almond, Apple, Lingonberry, Lemon, Payasam, and Kiwi. Cherry, at twenty-seven, was the eldest; Almond, at twenty-three, the youngest.
Custard distributed pens and paper for the Tarts to write down their choices, and five minutes later Bakewell Tart collected them. Custard unfolded and read each ballot while Bakewell kept a running score.
Fifteen minutes later a beaming Custard stood up and declared, “The new president is Payasam Tart!”
Everyone applauded as Payasam proudly walked over to Custard to stand beside her. “Thank you! Thank you all!” she said. Payasam was wearing a pearl-colored silk sheath that set off her dark brown eyes and dark skin. Shaking back the glossy black ringlets that fell to her shoulders, she looked round the room. “I am deeply sensible of the honor you have bestowed on me and will do my best to uphold the ideals of our society.”
“Hear, hear!” the Tarts said, clapping again.
“And now we can proceed with the I.T.S. mission of saving the world through sex,” Payasam said. “No president or foreign minister is going to sacrifice naughty nights for lethal fights! Even if they sat comfortably in War Rooms all over the world instead of dispatching young people to die on the front lines, they wouldn’t have time for the comforts we provide.”
“True, that,” the Tarts agreed.
“So let us depart, Tarts, and remember, our next meeting will be in India—land of lingam—Kama Sutra country! We’ll have a ball!”
“Make that two balls,” the Tarts chorused in unison. “We can’t wait!”
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