CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY-THREE
Tuesday early morning — 1:05 a.m. MT
Blane stifled a yawn as he walked with Nelson through the Castle.
“Do you want to stay?” Blane asked.
He nodded to Tres while Nelson said, “See you, man.”
Tres nodded. He and Heather walked out to the front holding hands.
“I have an early morning,” Nelson said. He looked at his watch. “Whoa. I didn’t realize the time.”
Blane nodded. Edie came by with Wyn and Blane took the toddler from her. Mack appeared at Blane’s side. Nelson looked at one child and then the other.
“Family takes a lot of time,” Blane said.
“I wanted to ask you …” Nelson said. He looked at the sleepy children again.
“Mommy! Mommy!” Mack said and ran off to greet Heather as she returned from the front.
Heather picked him up.
“I’ll take him downstairs,” Heather said.
Blane nodded. Wyn rested his head against Blane’s shoulder.
“We’re close to Wyn’s feeding time,” Blane said. “I need to get him fed and back into bed.”
“He’s still eating at night?” Nelson asked.
“Just a little bit,” Blane said. “It’s pretty normal for kids this age.”
They stood there looking at each other for a long moment
“You were saying something?” Blane asked.
“I just wondered …” Nelson started again.
“Okay,” Blane said.
“Would they be there for you if you had a strong feeling or were in an overwhelming situation?” Nelson asked. “All of these people got up in the middle of the night. Is that normal for here?”
“I haven’t done it before,” Blane said. “But overall, I’d say ‘yes.’ The core of this group is the girlfriends. They are in each other’s business all the time. Jake and Delphie have lived there the longest and they are like that.”
Blane stifled another yawn.
“But would they get up at night?” Nelson asked. “Just because you felt badly?”
“If I needed that,” Blane said. “Yeah. I think they would. I haven’t needed something like this.”
“What have you needed?” Nelson asked.
“I needed a stem cell transplant and they made it happen,” Blane said. “Jake came every day. So did Aden. Heather. The others came when they could. I wasn’t alone a lot even though I was in isolation. It was a huge commitment but no one complained. They just made it happen.”
“When Chet died …” Blane’s breath caught. It was the first time he’d said those words out loud. “ …and then Tink’s mom, they …”
Overwhelmed with emotion, Blane nodded.
“They were there for us,” Blane said. “Gave us a place to stay. Helped with the cleanup and all of the police and … Tink …”
“I’ve been through a lot. Heather too,” Blane said. “They’ve been here for me. I’ve been there for them. It’s how this family works.”
“They’ve been there for you too,” Blane said. “You’re a part of this family.”
Nelson gave a vague nod.
“Are you saying that you have an overwhelming situation,” Blane said. “Are you in some kind of trouble?”
“Yes,” Nelson said with a nod. “No. Really I don’t know.”
Nelson opened his mouth to speak but noticed that Blane was yawning again.
“We can talk about this later,” Nelson said with a shrug. “It’s not urgent.”
“I’m sorry, I’m dead on my feet,” Blane said. “I need to rest, feed Wyn, all of that. Would you like to stay?”
“Nah, I have to get up in a few hours,” Nelson said. “You remember that we’re flying to the Western Slope this morning. I’ll be there for the rest of the week.”
“I do. It sounds like an interesting case,” Blane said.
“Thanks for coming,” Blane said. “It was really beyond the call of duty.”
“I wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” Nelson said. “I found it … deeply moving, stirring in some really primal way.”
“Call me when you get settled in Grand Junction?” Blane asked.
Nelson nodded. He leaned over to give Blane a peck on the lips. Blane watched him walk out of the Castle. Blane sleepily brought Wyn downstairs to their apartment.
“You look exhausted,” Heather said.
“Dead on my feet,” Blane said.
“Are you sick?” Heather asked. Her hand went to his forehead. She shook her head. “You’re not too warm.”
“Just worn out,” Blane said, slipping off his shoes.
“It’s not so long ago that you were ill,” Heather said.
“I don’t feel sick,” Blane said. “I really don’t. Just …”
“Let me take him,” Heather took Wyn from Blane. “You, get back in bed. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
“How was Nelson?” Heather asked as Blane went into the bathroom.
“I’m not sure,” Blane said. The toilet flushed. “He’s been weird since his dad called from Poland.”
“Weird?” Heather asked.
“I’m not sure,” Blane said. He yawned. “It’s like there’s something he wants to tell as much as he doesn’t want me to know. You know?”
“He’s been like that with me too,” Heather said.
“It’s probably just some dumb Templar stuff,” Blane said at the same time Heather said, “Templar crap.”
Blane pulled off his pants and fell into bed of the fold out couch.
“Mack’s …?” Blane asked.
“He’s in bed already,” Heather said. “Wyn will follow him shortly.”
They used the bedroom area of the studio apartment for the children’s’ sleeping area. They slept on the couch next to the door.
“Sleep,” Heather said. “I’ll be there in a minute.”
Even though the kitchen was only feet away from the bed, Blane was asleep the moment his head hit the pillow. Heather fed Wyn a little bit of yogurt before putting him back in his crib. Like his father, Wyn fell over and went to sleep.
After such a dramatic night, Heather was sure she could not sleep. She slipped in next to Blane and opened her eBook reader. She fell into a sound asleep.
Tuesday morning — 7:05 a.m. MT
“Hello Princess Edith,” Heather said as Edie entered the kitchen.
Blushing at the formal greeting, Edie looked around to see who might have overheard Heather.
“No one else is here at the moment,” Heather said evenly.
The electric kettle turned off and Heather went to pour the water into a pot to brew tea.
“You knew that,” Heather said, looking up at Edie.
“I did,” Edie said.
“How can I be of service to you, Princess?” Heather asked.
“I … uh …” Edie swallowed hard. “Can I talk to you as Hedone?”
“We are one and the same,” Heather said.
“Ah, I’ve never been sure,” Edie said.
Heather nodded. She set the teapot onto the kitchen table and went back to the cabinets for mugs.
“Milk?” Heather asked.
Edie shook her head. Heather poured Edie a cup.
“I know you don’t like it very strong,” Heather said.
“It’s not that I don’t like it strong,” Edie said with a nod. “I’m just not used to it. For most of my life, tea has been a luxury only available at court. Even then it was very weak.”
“Me, as well,” Heather said with a smile.
“Oh.” Edie chuckled. “Right.”
“I am not as old as you, though,” Heather said, her voice lingering over the world “old.”
Edie laughed outright, and Heather grinned.
“We only have a few more minutes alone,” Heather said. “What can I do for you, Princess?”
“You know how there was almost a war between the Fairy Queens?” Edie asked.
“I remember,” Heather said.
“Um, well, the Fairy Queens are still on retreat,” Edie said. “Abi thinks they will never return from retreat. Mari says that she went to see our mother, but Queen Fand didn’t recognize her. Didn’t recognize her!”
Edie shook her head.
“All of that is fine, of course,” Edie said. “The Fairy Queen sisters need time together or maybe they were always supposed to be together or whatever …”
Edie took a breath and lost confidence. She looked down at her hands.
“There are still three entire, separate communities that have built up over the millennia,” Heather said.
“The fairy communities are in chaos,” Edie said. “I mean, in our Queendom, the fairies are coping. Fin spent the summer creating a kind of ‘Board of Directors’ to advise what might be best for our community. But we are lucky. Mother has five capable, adult children. Our father is still there. And Fin is able to keep the community going while going to school here. The other communities aren’t so lucky. There has been a lot of fighting.”
“And a lot of death,” Heather said.
Edie’s head jerked up.
“So, you know,” Edie said.
“The heads of the Fairy Armies have been meeting in secret. I … I know them. I would even say that we were friends before all of this … happened. Now things are …” Edie paused. She shook her head. “More complicated. The other Generals want to combine the communities into one nation-state. They want our stability as well as the prosperity that’s come from that stability.”
“How do you feel about that?” Heather asked.
Edie sighed and shook her head.
“I was all for it before …” Edie stumbled on the next words, “…the other communities tore their worlds apart. They have killed each other and …”
Edie shook her head.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in all of my long life,” Edie said. “We’re fairies, not mobsters.”
Edie looked so upset that Heather put her hand over Edie’s to stead and comfort her.
“And our Queendom, my mother and father’s? The one I grew up in?” Edie asked. “They don’t want to give up what we have for other Queendoms in disarray. If we combine, we will tear our world down. If we leave them to rot, their chaos will eventually affect us.”
“What would you like to ask me, Princess Edith?” Heather asked.
“My … well … I …” Edie said.
“Please be frank,” Heather said.
“Abi believes that I can unite the Queendoms,” Edie said. “I am by far the most powerful fairy, in any of the Queendoms. Ever, probably, at least that’s what Abi says.”
“She would know,” Heather said.
Edie looked at Heather for a moment.
“If I made the decision to lead, there would be nothing anyone could do about it.” Edie sighed. “But I …”
Edie shook her head.
“What do you think?” Heather asked.
“Some days I think it would be fun challenge,” Edie said. “I like fairies. I’ve been around Jake enough to know the joy and challenge of cleaning up messes. Mari and Fin would definitely help me, as would Keenan.”
“And your sister, The Blue Fairy?” Heather asked.
“I talked to her,” Edie said. “She is so focused on her own challenge that she can’t fathom all of this other stuff. I don’t think she’d know if the entire fairy world ended.”
“As long as it wasn’t children in grave danger,” Heather said.
“Exactly,” Edie said with a nod. She opened her mouth, but then shook her head. “Other days, I have no desire to leave the nursery and the babies. I want to settle down with James. Have a brood of my own and …””
“I understand,” Heather said.
Edie scowled. Heather opened her mouth to ask how she could help again, but Edie began to speak.
“The other Fairy Generals believe that I could do this thing — combine all three communities,” Edie said. “My mother’s Queendom will follow what I say because Fin will back me. And, I do think it will be a fun challenge, but definitely a worthy challenge. And, if I can’t do this thing, who could?”
Heather took a breath to speak but Edie continued.
“And really, what challenge worth doing isn’t very hard?” Edie asked. “I’ve spent these years here in Denver learning from Abi. I know how to run a country — even a country as large as ours. I know how to set it up so that things will run smoothly. More than anything, but uniting the Fairy Queendoms we will create a lasting peace which will allow us to raise the quality of life for every fairy, including the ones in my own Queendom. But I …”
Edie abruptly stopped talking. She looked up at Heather.
“I cannot offer,” Heather said. “You must ask me.”
“Oh,” Edie said, sitting back in her chair. “You’ve been waiting for me … You know all about this and I’ve been blathering on. I never would have thought to ask if it hadn’t been for last night with Ivy and everything.”
Edie stopped talking. She and Heather shared a long look.
“I need Olympia behind me,” Edie said.
Heather nodded. With her hand, she encouraged Edie to ask the question.
“Could you help me get approval from Olympia?” Edie asked. Heather blinked at her for a long moment. Before Edie knew what she needed to ask, “Will you stand with me?”
“Easy enough,” Heather said. “Shall we?”
“What about …?” Edie asked.
“The children are set to go to the Marlowe School today,” Heather said.
“Everyone knows this is going on?” Edie asked.
“Of course,” Heather said. “Will you give me a moment?”
Heather stood. Edie dropped to her knees.
“Thank you,” Edie whispered.
“Don’t thank me yet,” Heather said. “It will take a full council to get this kind of approval from Olympia. You’re going to have to deal with my grandfather, Ares, and Zeus, not to mention Athena and the twins and whoever else has an opinion.”
Edie lifted her chin.
“I can handle it,” Edie said.
“Of course you can,” Heather said with a smile.
Heather nodded to Edie and started back to her apartment just as Jill came down the stairs. The coffee maker went off automatically.
“Are you off?” Jill asked.
“Good luck,” Jill said. Jill kissed her friend’s cheek. “Oh great, there’s tea.”
Jill went to get a cup of tea, as Heather walked away.
“I believe in you, Edie,” Jill said.
A moment later, Hedone walked through the kitchen. Jill waved as Edie and Hedone disappeared. Jill was taking a sip when Abi appeared.
“Are they gone?” Abi asked.
“They just left,” Jill said. “Are you going?”
“In a moment,” Abi said. “You have things covered here?”
“Of course,” Jill said. “It’s my honor to help.”
Abi grinned at Jill and went back into their apartment.
“Moooommmmmy!” Katy yelled from upstairs.
Jill swallowed down her mug of tea and jogged up the stairs to the loft.
Tuesday morning — 11:05 a.m. MT
“You’re sure you’re going to be okay?” Aden asked.
Sandy gave him a slight nod.
“Okay,” Aden said. “Call me. No, scratch that. Don’t try to talk. Text me. I’ll come right back.”
Sandy gave him a slight smile. He shot her a worried glance, kissed her forehead, and left the room. Sandy listened as he made his way through the building. Finally, the front door opened and closed.
She was alone.
The children were all in school. O’Malley was in the basement playing his piano. Ava was at work. Even Maresol was out shopping.
Sandy sighed. This was the first time that she’d been really alone since everything had happened. She took a breath and then another.
The deep sorrow she’d pushed down came rushing forward. Tears rolled down her face, slowly at first, but soon she was sobbing.
She could hear herself at ten or possibly two saying: “Why do I have to hurt? Why does this happen to me and only me? What did I do?”
Past and present mixed. Her adult mind tried to put the brakes on the flood of images and pain, but she was on too much medication. Her resistance was too low.
Her dad — the one who’d rescued her and taken her from hell — was dead.
Her mother — the one who’d tried to keep her whole when she was being sold to have sex with men — was dead.
She was alive. She was in pain. Life is pain. Pain is life.
There wasn’t going to be anyone to help Sandy — not now, not ever.
Her body shook with sobs.
She would never get over this pain. She would never get well. And even if she did, something else would happen and she would be right here, all alone, in desperate, unspeakable pain.
She heard a sound and opened her eyes. Before her stood a brilliant light.
“You are never alone,” the light said.
It was her mother’s voice. Sandy was too stunned to remember her pain or her sorrow. She gawked at the light.
“I am with you,” the light said.
It was what her real mother, her birth mother, used to say to her every week when she’d have to return to hell.
“You are never alone. I am with you. Always.”
“Go to sleep,” the light said now. “Your soul is exhausted. Rest now.”
Sandy fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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