CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-THREE
Tuesday afternoon —4:15 p.m.
Sitting in the tile lined, cold, hallway, Jill looked up at the clock and then at her advisor’s door. Her advisor was late.
Jill sighed. She’d felt out of sorts and spacy all day. She had to check everything at least twice.
Katy was at school. The boys were at school. Jacob was …
Her phone “dinged” to indicate she had a text. Yvonne had been sending out mass texts of photos of Rodney and his new project. Jill smiled at an image of Rodney and Sam standing inside a Roll-Off dumpster. They were up to their elbows in the destruction of the day — plaster, trash, old clothing, appliances, and what Jacob called “unusable construction crap.” The men were filthy and looked incredibly happy.
Glancing at the clock again, she slipped the phone into her purse.
A thought struck her out of the blue.
Her pulse quickened.
What if she were pregnant?
She loved kids, but the boys were such a handful. Katy was at such a precarious age. Half of the time, she was just a little girl. The other half, she was more Titan than anything else. Jill was pretty sure that Katy would just be an adult if Jill would let her — which she would not. The children she had right now needed as much as she could give.
Of course, she would have the child, but the pressure of having another child — how could they handle that? And, Jacob was just taking his “gap” year — which was turning into him going around with his dad and starting businesses for other people.
Another child would just be …
She’d had her period last week. There was no way she was pregnant. Plus, she was on birth control.
Why was she so spacy today?
The door opened. A red faced, weeping woman rushed out of the office. Jill’s heart went out to the poor woman. When she caught the woman’s face, Jill realized that she knew her from those big military parties at Katy’s best friend Paddie’s house.
“Jill?” her advisor asked. “You can come on in.”
Jill picked up her purse and her school satchel. The advisor stepped back. Jill shuffled sideways to get into the small office. Her advisor was a smallish woman with blonde-grey hair up in an easy knot. She wore what Tanesha called “the middle income uniform” — black boots, a straight skirt, some kind of plain shirt with a lovely floral silk scarf.
“I’m sorry about that,” her advisor said. “Her husband is in the military. He was just killed in Iraq. She’s not sure she’ll be able to stay in school. It’s so sad because school has really been the thing that has carried her through her husband’s deployment. Now, she’ll have to give it up.”
As her advisor slid into her chair at her desk, Jill’s heart clenched for the poor woman.
“It’s a crazy thing,” her advisor said. “She only needs a few thousand dollars — three, I think. But …”
Jill set her bag and her book satchel down.
“I’m sorry. I probably shouldn’t have said all of that,” her advisor said.
“I’m glad to know,” Jill said. “What an awful thing!”
“So many people don’t even remember we’re at war,” her advisor sighed.
“So.” Her advisor took a breath and smiled at Jill. “This is a little happier appointment.”
“You’ve done well in school, Jill.” Her advisor pulled Jill’s file out of a stack on her desk. “You’ve met all of your basic requirements. It’s time to declare your major and move forward into your profession.”
“I want to be an interior designer,” Jill said.
“Of course,” her advisor said. “I remembered that. But I like to talk to every student at this moment. It’s good to be clear and focus on what you want, at the same time, life is long. You may want to take a minor or a more general major so that you can have a broader base. Twenty years from now, you could need another skill and would draw on those skills.”
“Oh, I see,” Jill said. “If I focus up on just interior design, I might limit myself in the future.”
“Exactly,” her advisor said. “You’re already good at interior design, Jill. You and your husband rehabbed a friend of mine’s home. It was stunning. Truly beautiful.”
Her advisor caught Jill’s eyes.
“Why not learn something you don’t do as well?” her advisor asked. “Going to college is such a great honor. It’s unlikely that you’ll take this kind of time later in life to just learn. These last two years are a great chance to draw deeply into other topics. I’ve seen it really change lives — maybe not at first, but later as their passion for their careers matures.”
“Why not …?” Jill asked. She stumbled a bit in her mind. “Well, I don’t …”
Jill’s eyes caught the date on the “Quote-a-Day” calendar on the advisor’s desk.
“Is that the date?” Jill asked.
The advisor’s looked concerned for Jill. She nodded.
Jill felt the ground come up under her. Her feet were on solid ground again. She was steady again.
Trevor was killed three years ago tonight.
Ha. That’s what was wrong with me!
“I’m sorry,” Jill said. “You must think that I’m a complete nut. I’ve been really spacy today and I couldn’t figure out why.”
The advisor silently tracked her words.
“My ex-husband was killed on this date,” Jill said.
“I’m so sorry,” the advisor said.
“It’s a mixed bag really,” Jill said. “I would never be here if he was still living. I mean, you don’t want to celebrate in anyone’s death.”
“I understand,” the advisor said.
“So, what would you recommend that I spend time studying?” Jill asked.
“Oh,” the advisor dug around on her desk for a moment. “Good question.”
“I always think that people should study something near their profession but a little off from it,” the advisor said. “That way, you would know enough to lead a team of people who do this or start a business on your own. For you that would be …”
The advisor turned her attention to her desk. For a moment, Jill simply stared at the date. She smiled at herself.
Somehow, some way, she was right now living a dream life.
The advisor came up with the catalog and set it on top of other things. For the next ten minutes, they went through possibilities for Jill to either minor in or possibly major. The advisor thought manufacturing would be good, but Jill couldn’t imagine anything more boring.
Looking at the catalog this way, on this day, Jill saw that she had every possibility open to her. Instinctively, her eyes followed the path of the grieving widow.
“So you have some things to think about,” the advisor said.
“When do I have to decide?” Jill asked.
“You need to declare a major this quarter,” the advisor said. “But we can always change it.”
The advisor looked at Jill and nodded.
“But?” Jill asked.
“Well,” the advisor sighed. “Taking some time now will help you for the rest of your time here.”
The advisor gave an impish shrug.
“That’s all,” the advisor said.
“Absolutely,” Jill said. “Thank you.”
Jill got up from the advisor’s desk.
“When you know, let me know,” the advisor said. “I wouldn’t take too long, though. The term starts next week.”
“Let’s schedule for next Monday,” Jill said. “That will give me a week to think about it, go over it with my friends and husband.”
The advisor beamed.
“Good,” the advisor said. “That’s really good!”
They made an early Monday morning appointment. Jill left the small office. Outside the door, she past the next waiting student in the hallway. The student shot Jill a hard look, as if Jill was the reason the advisor was late. Jill smiled at the other student and continued down the hallway. She walked down to the payment office.
There was no one at the front desk. The smell of brewing coffee came from somewhere in the back.
“Hello?” Jill said in a loud voice.
“I’ll be right there,” the clerk said from somewhere in the back.
Jill took out her credit card. For a moment, she simply tapped it on the counter. Her heart of hearts told her that, no matter how long it took them to pay it off, Jacob would agree with this.
Plus, she thought it was a great way to celebrate the bitter sweet passing of Trevor Guinsey.
“May I help you?” the clerk asked.
“I wanted to pay off the tuition for …” Jill said.
She gave the name of the woman whose husband had been killed.
Tuesday afternoon —5:05 p.m.
Standing in his living room, Nelson poured an inch of whiskey into a tumbler. He gave it to his father.
This was one of the things they’d practiced when Nelson was a child. If his father drank the whiskey, even just a sip, there was nothing to worry about. If Pierre set the drink down, Nelson should be on guard.
Pierre nodded to Nelson, but set the drink down.
“Whiskey?” Nelson asked his aunt. “This is made right here in Denver.”
Martine nodded to Nelson. He poured an inch of the amber liquid into a tumbler and gave it to her.
“You are not drinking?” Martine asked.
“I don’t drink,” Nelson said. “I never really developed a taste for alcohol. Blane is sober, so it’s pretty easy.”
“Blane?” Martine asked. She looked at Pierre. “Do we know this Blane’s family?”
Pierre gave Martine a vague look before nodding. He glanced at Nelson to see the angry set of his son’s eyebrows.
“He is the consort of Hedone,” Pierre said.
Martine’s eyebrows rose in surprise. She took a drink of her whiskey.
“Father to her children,” Pierre continued.
“I had heard that Eros found his Psyche.” Martine looked at Pierre and then at Nelson. “He gave his assignment to his daughter.”
Because of his father’s drink sat untouched, and only because of that, Nelson didn’t respond.
“You have nothing to say?” Martine asked.
“Are you asking something?” Pierre asked.
Martine didn’t respond for a moment.
“Why are you here?” Pierre asked.
“I came to drop off the swords,” Martine said.
“And to kill my son,” Pierre said.
“Those were my orders,” Martine said. She gave Pierre a vague smile. “It appears that he is well protected.”
She took a fast step toward Nelson, and Mari appeared in front of him. Mari sneered at Martine. This time, Martine stood her ground. After a moment, Martine sighed and turned away from Nelson.
“Yes, the little fairy,” Martine said. Switching to French, she said, “You consort with fairies, Pierre?”
“My son has many friends,” Pierre said, mildly in French. “Some of them are my friends. Some I’ve just met.”
Pierre nodded to Mari. She gave him a wide, beautiful smile that sent sparkles around the room.
“Have you ever wondered why there is a ban on fairies?” Mari asked in French. “Why do the Templars hate fairy-kind?”
“They’ve met them?” Nelson asked mildly.
Mari laughed, and Nelson chuckled.
“I was serious,” Mari said. She looked at Pierre. “Why is there a ban on fairies?”
No one replied.
“They are not creatures of God,” Martine said finally.
“How would you know?” Mari asked. “Fairy-kind has been here long before your order or Bernard or even Olympia. We have been here long before humankind crawled her way out of Africa.”
Martine looked uncomfortable. She glanced at Pierre. He shrugged.
“She is correct,” Nelson said. “I’ve run her DNA. It’s similar to a part of the backbone of human DNA which makes them likely to be an ancient ancestor. At least, the line of Fand.”
“Your Bernard kept a fairy consort,” Mari said.
“How dare you!” Martine said.
Mari shook her head.
“Why are we wasting time on this person?” Mari asked.
“She came to kill my son,” Pierre said. “If she’s unable to accomplish this task, they will send another.”
“Who will fail,” Mari said.
Mari walked toward Martine until she stood just inches in front of Martine.
“Why do you wish to kill your kinsman?” Mari asked.
“I … Uh …” Martine said. “The order must continue.”
“Why?” Mari asked. “There were thousands and thousands of years of human existence before there was an order. There will be thousands and thousands of human existence after the order has ended.”
Pierre looked at Mari and then at Martine.
“Who are you to determine what is of God?” Pierre asked. His voice was hard. He stood up. “I am the head of the family now. I am the head of the order now. Isn’t that up to me?”
Martine turned her cool eyes to him.
“My orders should supersede any order you received,” Pierre said.
Nelson and Mari shifted in such a way that they were a little behind Pierre.
“And what are your orders?” Martine asked.
“I have ordered entire the armory shipped to the United States,” Pierre said. “To me.”
“I’ve brought what we have,” Martine said.
“You’re funny,” Pierre said.
He nodded to Mari. The fairy just grinned. Martine’s mouth dropped open.
“You didn’t,” Martine said with disgust.
“We have everything from the armory in France and England,” Pierre said. “Including the lesser work you brought. In spite of the efforts to go around us, we will take possession of the swords in New Mexico, my father’s sword and the rest.”
“Our father,” Martine spit at Pierre. “He was killed …”
“Attempting to murder my son, his family, and his friends,” Pierre said.
“They are all dead,” Martine said. “Have you bothered to ask yourself why?”
Martine gestured to Nelson.
“This abomination …” Martine started.
“They were killed because two Navajo Gods wished it,” Pierre said. “Or at least that is what I was told.”
Martine gave him a dark look.
“And you know this …?” Martine asked.
“I was informed by Perses,” Pierre said.
“The Titan?” Martine asked.
Pierre nodded. Martine looked to Nelson and then to Mari as confirmation.
“It’s my understanding that the French government has discovered the oversight which has granted the order possession of the Templar land,” Pierre said. “I was notified this morning that they demand that the land to be returned to France. I have agreed to comply. You will be allowed to live out your life in your home. Upon your death, your farm and land will go to France.”
“And our father’s home?” Martine asked in horror. “The head of the order’s home?”
“France has already filed for possession,” Pierre said.
“You should also be aware that the protection from our father’s sword has been broken,” Pierre said. “New evidence has come to light that you made and planted the bomb that maimed me and killed Nelson’s mother.”
Martine turned in place and started toward the door.
“They will be waiting for you when you land,” Pierre said. “If you stay here long enough, the Denver Police will come to get you.”
Martine stopped at the door. She turned to look at them again.
“You must know that it wasn’t personal, Pierre,” Martine said. “We didn’t know about the child and …”
“It was personal to me,” Nelson said.
He opened his mouth to say more but nothing came out. Martine looked him. Pierre held out his hand. Nelson walked into his father’s arms. Martine watched them for a moment and left Nelson’s home. Mari watched Nelson and Pierre for a moment before disappearing.
Pierre and Nelson hugged each other for a long moment. Pierre gave Nelson a hard kiss on the cheek before letting him go. They were just separating when they heard someone come to the door.
“Hello?” a woman’s voice called from the front door. “Nelson?”
Recognizing the voice, Nelson grinned at Pierre.
“You’ll never believe it,” Nelson said. He called toward the door, “Coming.”
He jogged down a few steps to the entry of his home. Honey Lipson-Scully sat outside the front door. Maggie was on her lap.
“Oh, Nelson,” Honey said with relief in her voice. She saw Pierre and said, “Mr. Semaines.”
Pierre looked at Honey and then back at Nelson.
“You remember, Honey, don’t you, Dad?” Nelson asked. “She’s married to Michael Junior. He goes by MJ now.”
“Really?” Pierre asked. His eyes asked Nelson the obvious question.
“We’ve worked it out,” Nelson said with a nod.
Glancing at his son, Pierre knelt down to Honey.
“Who do we have here?” Pierre asked.
“This is Maggie,” Honey said. She looked at Nelson. “I’m so sorry, Nelson, but Maggie is sick. She has been asking for you. I wondered if you’d mind keeping an eye on her. She has strep. Is that okay?”
Nelson picked the little girl from Honey’s lap. Red faced with fever, Maggie looked at Nelson and then at Pierre. Her large blue eyes blinked at Pierre.
“My father,” Nelson said softly to Maggie.
The girl smiled at Pierre before collapsing into Nelson.
“It’s strep,” Honey repeated.
“That’s okay,” Nelson said. “Is MJ traveling?”
“He’s here,” Honey said. “But I have that doctor’s appointment. You know, the one we talked about?”
Nelson gave Honey a quick nod.
“Heather’s on school pick up today,” Honey said. “She said that she can take her if …”
“Maggie is welcome here,” Nelson said.
Pierre silently watched his son’s face.
“I assume that if Maggie is sick then …” Nelson said.
“Yes,” Honey said. “The rest of the Wild Bunch are sick too. Val and Mike are taking them to the pediatrician.”
“They are welcome here too,” Nelson said.
“Oh, good to know,” Honey said. “Only Jabari isn’t sick. Maybe. That child is so hardy that you never know if he’s sick or not.”
“The doctor will sort it out,” Nelson said.
“Let’s hope so,” Honey said. “I just … You’re sure you don’t mind?”
“Not at all,” Nelson said.
“Thanks,” Honey said.
She turned in place to go.
“Good luck,” Nelson said.
Rather than respond, Honey sighed and started out the door.
“You’ve really connected with…” Pierre said.
“Let’s just say that you’re not the only person I had to forgive,” Nelson said.
“Oh yea?” Pierre asked with a chuckle.
Nelson looked at his father for a long moment.
“Once I forgave myself, it was all pretty easy,” Nelson said.
Pierre hugged Nelson. After a moment, Maggie made a sound.
“You’re squishing me,” Maggie said in a hoarse voice.
“Yes, I am,” Pierre said. He rubbed his hands together. “It’s been a while since I had a sick infant to care for. Do you have popsicles?”
“I’m not an inf’nt,” Maggie said. “I’m Maggie.”
Completely charmed, Pierre grinned.
“Why don’t you get comfortable and I’ll set everything up?” Pierre asked.
He gave Nelson such a big smile that Nelson dropped an eyebrow in “What?” Grinning, Pierre shrugged. Nelson went to the couch and sat down. He closed his eyes for a moment and opened them.
“It’s really a great life,” Nelson said softly.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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