CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED AND NINETY-FOUR
Friday morning — 9:12 a.m.
Sitting in her bed in Seth O’Malley’s “healing room,” Sandy listened for any activity outside the room. Aden was traveling to check on a sewer and road project outside of Center, Colorado. The kids were at school. Ava was in Grand Junction working on a case. Seth was in New York for a meeting with the World Jewish Restoration Organization and a team from the US Holocaust Museum in Washington. He’d taken his father, Bernie, with him. Maresol had left a half hour ago to join them for the weekend.
Sandy was completely alone in the house.
She’d promised that she would be “good.”
She’d promised that she wouldn’t “hurt herself.”
But over the last week, the items from the Polish salt mine had started to arrive at the house. Last night, with the help of Teddy, Noelle, and Nash, they’d opened the crates that could be opened to take a look at what was inside.
Sandy had been too exhausted and in too much pain to see what they’d uncovered. She’d sat in impatient frustration as the kids talked about the paintings and swords, books and a whole host of marvelous things. Within weeks, many of these items would be returned to their rightful owners.
If Sandy didn’t look at them now, she might never get a chance.
Today was her day. This was her private time.
She could do this!
She had it all planned. She’d taken her meds at exactly the right time so that she was in exactly the right level of pain management. She’d done her PT exercises for weeks.
By God, Sandy was ready to walk again.
Nodding to herself, she strapped on her leg brace, ankle brace, and grabbed her canes. She was going to walk out of this room and into the den where most of the art was being stored for now.
It wasn’t even very far.
The floor was smooth oak so easy to slide across in her sock slippers.
She rotated so that her feet hung off the bed.
“Yowl!” Cleo the cat said. She stepped across the bed to where Sandy was sitting.
“Now, none of that,” Sandy said. She smiled at Cleo and ran her hand over the cat. “I can do this.”
Sandy slipped off the bed. Her feet hit the floor and she stood up.
“See,” Sandy smiled at the cat.
“Yowl!!” Cleo said.
Shaking her head at her worrywart cat, she made sure her canes were solid in her hands.
“Here goes nothing!” Sandy said.
She planted a cane and took a step.
“So far so good,” Sandy grinned.
She took another step and another step. Sweat began to drip down her back. Pain ripped through her body and pulsed in her brain.
“I’ve totally got this,” Sandy said out loud to cheer herself on.
She took another step and her leg went out. She crashed to her knee. Years of core work allowed her to catch herself with her hands. She collapsed face first to the ground making sure to protect her still healing jaw.
Panting from the pain, she rested her cheek on the cool floors. Cleo jumped off the bed to lie next to Sandy.
“I’ll just lay here until I can catch my breath,” Sandy said.
Minutes turned into a half-hour.
“If I’m going to do this, I’d better get going,” Sandy said.
It was only then that she realized — she had no idea how to get up from this spot.
She tried moving her leg, but her braced leg couldn’t move like that and her other leg was tucked under her from the fall. She tried to press up, but after a few moments of sheer, mind searing pain, she lay back down on the floor.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a woman’s bare foot. Sandy turned her head toward the foot but it walked out of her sight. The woman was walking around her.
“If you are some fucking fairy coming to kill me, you should know that I have the full protection of Olympia,” Sandy said as loud as she could muster.
The woman knelt down to Sandy.
“Good thing I am not a fairy, then,” the woman said.
The woman’s accent was familiar — possibly British, maybe Mediterranean. Her accent reminded her of someone but she couldn’t put her finger on it. Sandy looked into the woman’s face. She was also oddly familiar, but Sandy was sure she’d never seen her before.
But then she had also been really sick.
“Remind me,” the woman said, “why should I care what Olympia says?”
Sandy’s heart began to pound in her chest. She was in blinding pain and utterly helpless on this cold wood floor. She cursed herself for being so stupid as to try this.
“Are… are… are you going to kill me?” Sandy asked.
Laughing, the woman sat cross legged on the floor near Sandy’s head. Cleo hopped onto the woman’s lap.
“You don’t remember me,” the woman said.
“No,” Sandy said. “You look familiar.”
“I am Hecate,” the woman said.
Relief coursed through Sandy’s veins. She let out a heavy breath.
“You are Sandy, am I right?” Hecate asked. “My sister’s best friend?”
Sandy had to do some fast calculations before she came up with the fact that Jill and Hecate were sisters.
“Yes,” Sandy said. “But Hedone and Tanesha’s too.”
“I understand,” Hecate said.
Neither one said anything for a few minutes. Hecate was petting Cleo and making soft sounds to the cat.
“Listen…” Sandy said at the same time Hecate asked, “What are you…”
They laughed uncomfortably.
“Go ahead,” Sandy said.
“My mother tells me that you wanted to walk,” Hecate said.
“Stupidly,” Sandy said her self-rage coming through her words.
“Ah,” Hecate said. “Here I thought that you were doing some kind of human exercise.”
“What is Pilates?” Hecate asked.
Sandy could only smile.
“You never know,” Hecate said. “I didn’t wish to interfere. But it seems as if you could use my assistance.”
“If you could help me back to bed,” Sandy said. “That would be…”
“What about seeing this thing you so long to see?” Hecate cut Sandy off.
“Wasn’t meant to be,” Sandy said with a sigh.
“Meant to be?” Hecate laughed. “My sister must be a wonderful person to have you as a friend.”
“She is,” Sandy said with a smile. Sandy groan with pain. “I’m sorry. The pain is…”
Hecate’s hand touched Sandy’s hair. The pain seeped out of Sandy so easily and completely that Sandy couldn’t help but weep. Hecate rubbed Sandy’s back while she cried.
“You have been in pain a long time,” Hecate said.
“I fell down the stairs,” Sandy said. “I should have died but Abi brought me back. Sometimes…”
“Yes, I understand,” Hecate said, cutting Sandy off.
Hecate laid face down on the floor so that her head was right next to Sandy.
“What would you like to do?” Hecate asked.
“How long will I be out of pain?” Sandy asked.
“Oh,” Hecate said. “I wish I could take it all away but you’d hurt yourself.”
Sandy sighed. Hecate rubbed her back.
“I can help you see this thing that you wish to see,” Hecate said.
“Why did you come here?” Sandy asked.
“My mother called to me,” Hecate said.
“There’s supposed to be protections on the house,” Sandy said.
“Oh,” Hecate smiled. “You can’t keep me out. The fairies can’t get in, if that’s what you’re concerned about. This home is fairy-proof.”
Sorrow and helplessness overwhelmed Sandy and she began to cry in earnest.
“Now, now,” Hecate said softly. “Let’s get you up.”
“How?” Sandy asked.
“Lean on me,” Hecate said.
Not sure what that mean, Sandy did her best to lean on Hecate. The Titan seemed to surround Sandy. She leaned against the strength and she was standing. The next moment, she was walking.
“Oh, I see,” Hecate said.
“What?” Sandy asked.
“You are still healing,” Hecate said, vaguely. “How about this?”
A wheelchair appeared. Hecate helped Sandy sit down in it.
“I hate this thing,” Sandy said.
“That’s because you believe it’s better to walk,” Hecate said.
“Isn’t it?” Sandy asked.
“I will tell you that rulers of old were carried like this,” Hecate said. “Used to be thought that a rulers feet should never have to touch the ground.”
“Really?” Sandy asked. “Why?”
“Who knows?” Hecate grinned. “I think that you are very regal sitting there.”
“It’s just hard to get used to,” Sandy said. “One moment, I was healthy, well, in the middle of my life and then next moment I’m…”
Sandy gestured to herself.
“And that’s after Abi and Jill worked on me,” Sandy said. She sighed. “I know how lucky I am. I do. And I’m not complaining. I’m just…”
“I understand,” Hecate said. “It takes a while for the mind to catch up to where the body is. Your mind is still thinking that you were pre-fall Sandy.”
“I’m not her anymore,” Sandy said.
“You’re not,” Hecate said.
“How is Ganny?” Sandy asked, changing the subject so she didn’t have to consider that she would never be pre-fall Sandy again. Those thoughts were for a more private time when she could weep and scream with rage.
“Ganny is…,” Hecate paused. She gave Sandy a soft smile. “Happy. The business is well and he is… well, I am very happy with him.”
“So what will it be?” Hecate asked. “Shall we roll to look at these things you wish to see?”
“Okay,” Sandy said.
Hecate picked up Cleo. Putting the cat on her shoulder, Hecate began to walk toward the door. Inexplicably, Sandy’s wheel chair rolled by her side.
“That’s a cool trick,” Sandy said.
Hecate opened the door and they rolled out into the den.
“You are your friends,” Hecate turned to look at Sandy, “none of you were witches?”
“Us?” Sandy asked. She shook her head as vehemently as her condition would allow. “Never. No.”
“Hm,” Hecate said.
“I think it’s over here,” Sandy gestured to her right.
They continued to roll in that direction.
“Why did you ask if we were witches?” Sandy asked.
“I am the Queen of Witches,” Hecate said. “Many women worship me for my powers. But you would only let me push your wheelchair.”
“Oh,” Sandy said. “Sorry?”
“You cannot conceive of how powerful I am,” Hecate said in a laughing voice.
“Good for you?” Sandy asked.
They both laughed.
“I would very much like to be your friend, Sandy,” Hecate said.
“Why?” Sandy asked, surprised.
“You are wonderfully human,” Hecate said. “Yet, you ask for nothing. You expect nothing. You simply live. I can see why my mother loves you so much.”
“What should I ask for?” Sandy asked. “What do most people ask for?”
“Money,” Hecate said. “Power.”
“Eh,” Sandy shrugged. “I… uh… when I was a kid, I…”
Neither woman said anything for a moment.
“Let’s just say that I have seen what money and power bring,” Sandy said. “I’m happy just to live my life. Love as much as I can. Be good. Do good. Or at least try to. Try not to be an asshole.”
Hecate nodded. She leaned down and kissed Sandy’s cheek. Sandy smiled.
“Let’s look at this art,” Hecate said.
“Swords too,” Sandy said. “So many that Templar guy was drooling over them.”
“Pierre?” Hecate asked.
Sandy nodded. Hecate gave Sandy a knowing look.
“If you ask me, I will tell you everything I know about any object,” Hecate said. “Would you like that?”
“I most certainly would!” Sandy said.
“Yowl!” Cleo the cat said.
“My mother reminds me not to wear you out,” Hecate said. “Will you tell me when you get tired?”
“I will,” Sandy said.
Sandy awoke in bed hours later when she heard the front door slam indicating the kids were home from school. She wasn’t sure what had happened. Had she actually tried to walk? Had Hecate taken her through all of the art work from the salt mine? Had she actually laughed at Hecate’s stories about the artists? Had they chatted and gossiped about the art?
“It felt so real,” Sandy said out loud.
Hecate’s hand reached out and squeezed Sandy’s.
“Should I go?” Hecate asked.
Tears in her eyes, Sandy shook her head. The door burst open and Nash, Teddy, Noelle, and Rachel fell into the room. The kids noise and chaos made Hecate laugh. When the kids tumbled out of the room to get something to eat, Sandy turned to Hecate.
“Did you show me the art?” Sandy asked.
“We have had the most wonderful afternoon,” Hecate said. She patted Sandy’s hand. “Don’t worry, Sandy. You will be walking soon.”
“When do the kids go to sleep?” Hecate asked.
“About ten,” Sandy said. “Why?”
“I thought we could continue exploring your collection,” Hecate said.
“Really?” Sandy asked.
She sat up quickly and gasped with pain. She fell back. Hecate patted Sandy’s hand until she could breathe easily.
“Mom?” Rachel Ann asked.
“I’ll be right there,” Sandy said.
“I will see you soon,” Hecate said with a wiggle of her eyebrows.
The word “thank you” was on Sandy’s lips but the Goddess disappeared. Cleo jumped onto the bed and settled in next to her. Sandy sighed.
She got out of the bed and into the wheelchair. Rolling to Rachel Ann, she picked up the little girl and set her on her lap. Rachel hugged her mom and kissed her cheek. Sandy held her daughter close.
“Where’d your friend go?” Rachel Ann asked.
“She’s busy,” Sandy said. “What would you like to have for snack?”
“Chick’n,” Rachel Ann said. Cleo jumped on the child’s lap. “Cleo!”
Rachel Ann cuddled the cat for a moment.
“Chick’n fingers it is,” Sandy said with a laugh.
They rolled into the kitchen and together started working on heating up some chicken fingers for snack.
Friday afternoon — 2:22 p.m.
Colin pulled the fish out of the river. Paddie and Katy cheered wildly from the bank. Laughing, Colin gave a bow. Julie and Jill were sitting on a blanket with Conner. An open picnic basket sat behind them. Tanner and Bladen were by the edge of the river playing with child’s fishing poles with Jacob.
The day was warm and beautiful. The light glistened off the river.
“Put it in again!” Jacob said.
Colin took the hook out of the fish’s mouth and he let it go. The fish swam away.
“Bye bye fishy!” Katy said.
This was a Gold Medal Water which meant it was catch and release. Colin cast his line into the river again.
For all of the tension and strife of the last few days, today was absolutely perfect. When Colin looked up again, Paddie was holding the Sword of Truth and Katy was holding the Vanquisher. The blades were pointed up in the air.
“Catch some fish!” Katy and Paddie said in unison before they squealed with laughter.
Colin couldn’t help but laugh.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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