CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED AND NINETEEN
Wednesday night — 9:15 p.m.
They had just wrapped up dinner when Sam had arrived home with Ginger and her sons. There was a quick shuffle and, much to the visiting fairies delight, the table filled with food again. As soon as it was determined that the children weren’t going to school tomorrow, the kids and adults stayed up late talking and eating in the now full dining room.
Jill, Aden, and Honey had to be up early, so they were the first to leave for bed. Otherwise, everyone else was still up.
Abi, Asclepius, and Fin were deep in conversation on one end of the table. Ares was talking to Nelson Weeks next to them. Heather, Sandy, Tanesha, and Yvonne were deep in conversation about Jeraine’s new opportunity. Rodney and Jeraine were talking quietly in a corner of the room. Ginger’s boys, Geoff, Gary, and George were taking everything in from their position in a corner of the table. The visiting fairies were happily eating everything in sight. Ginger and Sam were catching up.
Edie had returned in a foul mood. It seemed that the fairy armies were selfish jerks. Knowing what it was like to deal with selfish fairies, Jill sent Edie to her home on the Isle of Man to rest and recover. Edie swore she’d be back in the morning to help with the children. Sandy pressed a tin of cookies into Edie’s arms, Jill called Edie’s boyfriend, and the fairy disappeared.
The older kids were talking and laughing by themselves. Charlie had his arm around Tink while Noelle and Teddy’s heads were pressed together. Valerie’s daughter, Jackie, was sitting on Tink’s lap listening and watching everything that was going on. Nash and Ivy were working through something on his laptop.
Jacob sat apart in a quiet corner of the room. The babies were asleep in the play pen next to where Jacob sat. Katy had been exhausted but hadn’t wanted to miss out. She was sound asleep on his lap. Mack had finally fallen asleep where he was standing. Blane had picked him up and sat down next to Jacob. After a few minutes, Nelson Weeks came to sit next to Blane.
“That guy,” Nelson said.
“Ares?” Jacob asked, raising his eyebrows.
“I can’t tell if he wants to fuck me or eat me,” Nelson said.
“Probably both,” Jacob said.
“Seriously?” He looked at Blane and then Jacob.
“Probably,” Blane said.
“God?” Nelson asked.
“Heather’s grandfather,” Blane said.
“But he’s the God Ares, right?” Nelson asked.
Jacob and Blane nodded. Nelson gave a short shake of his head.
“Is something wrong?” Jacob asked.
“I have this desire to say something like, ‘How many Gods are there?’ but I know there are …”
“Thousands,” Blane said.
“Thousands,” Nelson said. “And they just … show up?”
“Perses is Jill’s father,” Jacob said. “He’s not around a lot but he does stop by.”
“Ares is new,” Blane said. “He held a conference about this fairy war. Heather went to defend the human interests. Every war is run through the committee in Olympia. ‘You can’t have a good war without their approval.’ Or so Heather has said.”
“What’s a good war?” Nelson asked.
“There’s a question,” Jacob said with a nod.
“I’ve never met him,” Blane said. “Ares. I met him today.”
“We’ve met Heather’s father,” Jacob said with a sneer.
Nelson looked at Jacob and then at Blane.
“I take it that didn’t go well,” Nelson said.
Jacob opened his mouth to say something about Eros, the shade he created to curse them, and everything Heather’s father had put them through. Instead, he just shrugged. Nelson nodded.
“Family,” Nelson said. “No matter how great they are, they still suck sometimes.”
“True,” Jacob said.
“So if he’s family, should I …?” Nelson started.
“No,” Jacob and Blane said in near unison.
They laughed. Across the room, Jabari climbed up onto Tanesha’s lap.
“Boundaries,” Blane said. “It’s what keeps everyone happy and makes everything work.”
“Mr. Weeks?” Maggie, Honey’s daughter, came over from where the kids were playing.
“Yes, dear,” Nelson said.
“Can I sleep on your lap for a while?” Maggie asked. “I’m really missing my daddy tonight.”
“Where’s your daddy?” Nelson asked.
“Af-rik-a,” Maggie said.
Nelson leaned down and picked up Maggie. She situated so that her chest was against Nelson. With a sigh, the tiny red-haired girl fell asleep. Overwhelmed, Nelson looked up at the ceiling. Blane put his hand on Nelson’s shoulder.
“What is it?” Blane asked.
“Just great,” Nelson said. He gestured to the child in his lap. “My family kicked me out, a long, long time ago. I thought I’d never …”
Nelson looked at Blane and smiled.
“Thank you,” Nelson said.
“Wait until it’s diaper time,” Jacob said, gesturing to the babies next to him.
“So what?” Nelson asked, with a shrug.
“Good attitude,” Blane said.
Blane and Jacob looked at each other before saying, “Newbie.”
The men laughed. Their laugh brought Rodney over to them. They watched Jeraine pluck Jabari off Tanesha’s lap. Rodney got a chair for his son-in-law and they sat down next to Jacob. Jabari settled in and was soon asleep.
“I wondered if we could talk,” Rodney said to Jacob.
Jacob, Blane, and Nelson turned to look at Rodney. Embarrassed by the sudden attention, Rodney looked down.
“This is Rodney,” Jacob said to Nelson. “He’s Tanesha’s father. He runs a large site for Lipson Construction.”
“That’s the construction company you own,” Nelson said.
“A little less than half,” Jacob said.
“We like to focus on the fact that the employees are slowly buying the company,” Blane said.
Nelson nodded. He held out a hand to Rodney. They shook hands.
“I think you’ve met Jeraine,” Jacob said to Nelson.
“At the Church,” Nelson said of the time they were trying to catch drug dealers.
Jeraine raised a hand in “Hello” to Nelson, and Nelson nodded.
“What’s up?” Jacob asked.
“Tanesha said you own a lot of apartment complexes,” Rodney said.
“A few,” Jacob said, evenly.
“A few?” Blane asked, shaking his head. He looked over at Rodney. “He owns enough to make any man crazy.”
“There was a time in Denver where a lot of ‘smart people’ were getting out of affordable housing,” Jacob said. “I bought apartment buildings so people like our employees would have a safe, clean place to live.”
“Preach it,” Blane said with a laugh.
Smiling, Jacob continued, “It seemed dumb to me that we needed all of these people to work our site and they couldn’t find housing.”
Rodney nodded. Nervous, Rodney scratched at his neck, just under his chin.
“Listen,” Jacob said, reading Rodney’s gesture. “Do you need a place to live? We certainly still have space here. Every apartment has a guest bedroom, and …”
“No, no,” Rodney said with a laugh. “Everything’s fine with me and Yvonne.”
Rodney put his hand on his heart in reference to Yvonne. He sighed.
“Honey was telling me about the place you helped her and her husband put together,” Rodney said.
“That place has really come together nicely.” Jacob nodded. “It’s a miracle, really. We’re putting one together south of here, near Craig Hospital. We haven’t even finished that one and they’ve asked us to make another — for families of injured.”
Jacob shook his head.
“Crazy,” Jacob said. “The demand is crazy.”
“I see,” Rodney asked. He nodded his head for a moment.
Seeming to have heard his answer, Rodney fell silent.
“He wants to make a place like the one you made for Honey and MJ,” Jeraine said.
“He does?” Jacob asked.
Blane turned to look at them. Seeing he had both Blane and Jacob’s attention, Jeraine continued.
“He wants to make one for the men coming out for prison,” Jeraine said. “You know, they are letting out all of these dudes caught on a weed charges. Since weed is legal and all.”
Jacob looked at Rodney. Jacob had worked with Rodney for a long time. He’d seen Rodney look just like he looked right now — as if he wanted to melt into the floor with shame. Jeraine pressed on.
“Some of these dudes went in when they were kids,” Jeraine said. “They’ve got no skills and sometimes no education. They are poor, come from poor families, were in gangs or went to gangs for protection in prison.”
“These boys have struggled with every pestilence known to man,” Rodney said.
“Just men?” Jacob asked.
“Women, too,” Rodney said with a nod. “But the men … they …”
Rodney flushed with overwhelm. Jacob glanced at Jeraine.
“He wants to start with the men,” Jeraine said. “Men — only at first and then maybe families. But for now, he wants to help them when they get out of prison, get them ready for the world, you know, life skills and some legal way to make money.”
“Education,” Rodney managed to say.
“Is there state money for it?” Jacob asked.
“I can pay,” Rodney said.
“No matter how much money you have, we’d run right through it in no time,” Jacob said. “We’d need something to sustain it.”
“I don’t know,” Rodney said. “I just don’t know.”
Jacob put his hand on Rodney’s shoulder. Rodney looked up at him.
“It sounds like a good idea,” Jacob said. “Let’s see if we can work up the numbers. Figure out how it might work.”
“I told him that I’d have a concert to raise money,” Jeraine said. “I know a bunch of guys who would pitch in.”
“Would you be willing to put up the plans on the Internet so other people could do it?” Jacob asked. “Or are we forming a national corporation?”
“No corporation,” Rodney barked. “That’d just be another kind of private prison.”
“Plantation,” Jeraine said.
Jeraine and Rodney nodded.
“Okay, then let’s be sure to document every step so people can follow behind us,” Jacob said.
“How do we do that?” Rodney sounded miserable.
“I’ll start a blog,” Blane said. “That’s what we did with Honey and MJ’s project. I wrote updates every week or so. We published the plans when we were done.”
“You’d do that for me?” Rodney asked.
“In a heartbeat,” Blane said. “Anything. I think it’s a great idea.”
“I do, too,” Nelson said.
Surprised, Rodney looked at Nelson and then at Blane. Blane nodded. Rodney looked at Jacob.
“We just need to figure out how to make it work,” Jacob said. “That’s all.”
“You probably don’t want to give up those apartments,” Rodney said. “They must be gold mines now.”
“Let’s figure out if we want to,” Jacob said. “We might be better off buying another property and build to fit. It’s hard to imagine but there are still buildings to be had. Let’s take look at it.”
“When?” Rodney asked.
“Jill has her finals tomorrow,” Jacob said. “I need to be here for the kids and pick up any slack.”
“I have work.” Rodney looked at his watch and swallowed hard.
“Friday? Saturday?” Jacob said with a shrug. “We’ll get it going.”
Rodney nodded and stood up. He’d walked across the room before turning and walking back.
“Thank you,” Rodney said. “I’m sorry that I …”
“Don’t be sorry,” Jacob said with a grin. “It really is a great idea. If we do a good job making it happen, the idea could spread across the country. Re-adopt these men and women into our country. But we have to do it right, first.”
Rodney gave Jacob a stiff nod and went to get Yvonne. Their departure encouraged everyone to head up to bed. Since Tink was sleeping in Honey’s guest bedroom, she took Maggie from Nelson and went to bed. Nelson, Blane, and Jacob made quick work for all of the diaper changes. They were almost done when Jeraine appeared with Jabari.
“Jabari wants to be with Mack, Rachel Ann, and Jackie,” Jeraine said.
Jabari’s sleep filled eyes blinked at Jacob, Blane, and Nelson.
“Need a diaper change?” Jacob asked.
“No, he’s good,” Jeraine said.
“I’ll take him,” Blane said.
They began carrying the infants and toddlers up to the loft nursery. When they’d finished, Jeraine left with a wave, and Jacob nodded to Nelson and Blane leaving them to figure out what was next for them.
Jill turned over when Jacob got to bed.
“How was second dinner?” Jill asked.
“Good,” Jacob said. “Rodney wants too …”
He stopped talking when he noticed that Jill was asleep. He took a quick shower and went to bed. For the first time in what felt like years, he lay down in his own bed and fell sound asleep.
Mari was not the most powerful child of Queen Fand. She was definitely the cleverest and certainly the most stubborn of Queen Fand’s children. Mari worked for less than a day before she found the trail of her mother. She bounced around the world until she zeroed in on her mother and the other fairy queens.
She arrived inside a gorgeous crystal cave deep inside the earth. The air was moist, but not too humid. Somehow, the crystals reflected the light of the stars. For a moment, Mari stood where she’d landed. She breathed of the warm, moist air.
She almost chickened out. Gathering her courage, she set off across the cavern to where the fairy queens were lounging beside a warm salt bath.
“Mother,” Mari said, as she approached.
Queen Fand looked up at her.
“Before you say anything, I want you to know that I am aware that you planned to have me killed in the last war,” Mari said. “While I understand that I am not in the line of succession, I deeply resent you throwing me away like garbage. I have spent my entire life in the service of your every whim.”
Mari felt such a rush of betrayal that she had to swallow hard to keep speaking. Queen Fand scowled and opened her mouth.
“You have no right to dispose of me,” Mari said. “I am your child, your flesh and blood, who had worked her entire life to do your will and bidding.”
Mari panted with rage. Queen Fand gave her a blank look.
“I am here to tell you that I have had enough,” Mari said. “You wish me dead; I am dead to you.”
“But …” Queen Fand said.
“Don’t tell me that there is no longer any war,” Mari said. “How long will it be before you decide you need another war?”
When Queen Fand didn’t respond, Mari snorted.
“I figured as much,” Mari said.
Without saying another word, Mari turned in place and stalked away from the group of fairy queens. She disappeared from where she started.
“Any idea who that might be?” Queen Shanti said.
“None what so ever,” Queen Fand said.
The fairy queen sisters giggled with laughter.
“She did seem very upset,” Queen Fand said.
Queen Fand looked toward where Mari had disappeared. Shrugging, she got up and went into the salt bath.
Wednesday night — 9:45 p.m.
“Well …” Nelson said.
Blane looked at Nelson for a long moment. He opened his mouth to say something.
“I should probably go,” Nelson said. “I’ve got work tomorrow.”
Blane closed his mouth and gave Nelson a nod.
“I’ll walk you home,” Blane said.
Nelson grinned at the idea that Blane was going to walk him to his house across the street and four houses away. Blane shrugged. Rather than object, Nelson put on his jacket and they left through the side door. Blane was closing the outside gate when Nelson turned to him.
“Why do you think this is so hard for us?” Nelson asked.
Blane squinted at Nelson.
“I mean, I can tell that you like me,” Nelson said. “And I really like you. I don’t know why …”
“I don’t know,” Blane said.
Blane opened his mouth to say what he thought, but Nelson continued talking.
“I mean,” Nelson said. “I remember when you were with Enrique. You were so free, so …easy. Nothing seemed to bother you. You kissed people when they came into the house. You were ready for a hug or a back rub. I … I mean, you didn’t have sex with any one of us, except maybe Enrique, but you were so open, available. Now, it’s like there’s this wall between us.”
Nelson glanced at Blane.
“Sorry, to just vomit words,” Nelson said. “I’ve just … It’s just …”
“I’ve wanted to say something for a long time,” Nelson said. “I don’t want to lose this, lose you, but I don’t know how to scale the wall!”
“I don’t know how to either,” Blane said with a sigh.
Blane jammed his hands into his pockets. They started walking. They passed Nelson’s house turning up 16th Avenue toward City Park. Blane stopped walking at the crosswalk on 17th Avenue.
“Do you mind walking for a bit?” Blane asked.
Nelson pointed back to his house and then where they were. Blane grinned. When the light turned, they walked across the street. They were well into the park when Blane spoke.
“You mention, Enrique,” Blane said.
“I … That whole thing …” Blane sighed. “You know, he came to the hospital and harassed Heather when I was in the ER. He told them that he was my true partner and Heather was …”
“Heather couldn’t have possibly cared about that,” Nelson said.
“Oh, she wasn’t upset,” Blane said. “He just made everything so damned hard. It’s like … I mean …”
Blane swallowed hard.
“Enrique destroyed my life,” Blane said. “Destroyed me. He would have killed me if it weren’t for Jake. Well, Delphie too. As it was, he took away my home, my possessions, my livelihood, all of my friends, and … even my own sense of who I was. Then I finally build my life back, have a real home and children and everything, and he’s there telling everyone that what I want was him.”
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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