CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED AND NINETY-SEVEN
Saturday morning — 10:10 a.m.
“Hey,” Nash said, coming into the laundry room.
“Hey,” Heather said, looking up from a basket full of folded clean clothing.
Heather turned and pulled a load of towels out of the washer and shoved it into the gas dryer.
“What’s up?” Heather asked, when Nash hadn’t said anything.
“I was looking for you,” Nash said.
“You have found me,” Heather said, turning on the dryer.
“I thought Valerie ran the laundry when she was home,” Nash said.
“She and Mike had a doctor’s appointment this morning,” Heather said. “I thought I’d get in here and work through some of the bigger loads so she’d have less to do.”
Heather gestured to what looked like a load of toddler clothing. Each piece of clothing had some kind of spill on it.
“Can I help?” Nash asked.
“Sure,” Heather said. “Grab a garment. Check the spill and…”
“Yeah, I know the drill — dab or soak or brush but never ever wipe or scrub or you push the stain into the fibers,” Nash said.
Heather grinned at the young man. They worked in silence until the basket was about half full.
“Did you bring your laundry?” Heather asked.
“Maresol does it,” Nash said. “I think.”
“You think Maresol does it?” Heather asked with a grin. “Or Maresol does it?”
“It’s weird,” Nash said. “I take off my dirty clothing, put it in a pile ready to carry to the laundry, and it disappears. Then it shows up clean. I know that Sandy’s not doing it. Dad’s certainly not.”
“Your Dad does a lot of laundry,” Heather said in mild reproach.
“Dad folds things weird,” Nash said. “And anyway, some of my clothes are ironed. The rule is always, ‘If you want it ironed, do it yourself.’”
“What?” Nash asked.
“Ava loves to iron,” Heather said. “They’ve been working on a tough case. She’s probably up late ironing.”
Nash grinned at Heather.
“Good to know,” Nash said, grinning.
“Dale loves to iron too,” Heather said. “He and Ava have ironing contests.”
“Oh, Dale. Yeah, that makes more sense,” Nash said. “Ava’s been in Grand Junction.”
There was a shuffling sound and a grunt. Buster, the ugly dog, arrived in the doorway trailing Blane.
“Buster!” Nash yelled and dropped to his knees.
The next moments were filled with boy giggles and dog slobber. Blane gestured to Buster and Nash.
“Mystery solved,” Blane said, gesturing to Nash and Buster. “He started running in this direction at East High!”
“True love.” Heather grinned. “He’s really missed the kids.”
Blane pointed upstairs, and Heather nodded. He jogged up the stairs. Heather kept working on the toddler clothing while Nash and Buster caught up. When Nash stood up, he was grinning from ear to ear. Heather chuckled. They settled in to work on the toddlers clothing.
“Did you want to talk to me about something?” Heather asked.
Nash cleared his throat.
“I wanted to ask you…” Nash started.
He looked at Heather and stopped talking. He shook his head and dropped back down to pet Buster. Heather gave a quick shake of her head and went to put all of the pre-treated toddler clothing into a free washer. Mike appeared at the doorway.
“Hey,” Mike said to Nash.
Heather looked over at Mike after she turned on the washer.
“Val is coming down to dominate,” Mike said. “Or at least that’s what she told me to tell you. She said to leave the toddler clothing.”
Heather pointed to the washer.
“Already going,” Heather said.
“Thanks, that’s a big job,” Mike said. “I’m supposed to help but…”
Mike pointed upstairs. Heather nodded, and Mike disappeared.
“You have about five minutes before Val and a whole lot of chaos arrives in this room,” Heather said. “What did you want to talk about, Nash?”
“I wanted to know if you could take off the Black Arrow,” Nash said. “You know, the one that hit me and Nadia. I know that it’s worked out great for Sissy and Ivan — they are very happy and all — but I think you should take the arrow away.”
Heather looked at Nash for a long moment. She picked up a basket of dry clean laundry and hefted it out of the room.
“Get the towels,” Heather said.
Nash grabbed the basket of warm, dried towels. He followed Heather down the hallway to her apartment. Buster came along at Nash’s side. She gestured for Nash to take a seat on the couch. He set the basket of laundry on the coffee table and sat down. Heather set the basket of laundry onto the table. She filled a bowl of water for Buster and set it on the ground before sitting next to Nash on the couch. The dog jumped up on the couch between them, pushing Heather and Nash up against the armrest. They sat in companionable silence for a few minute as they began to fold.
“I can’t,” Heather said finally.
“You can’t what?” Nash asked, completely forgetting what he’d asked.
“I can’t remove the arrow,” Heather said.
“What do you mean you can’t remove it?” Nash’s voice rose with anger and panic. “You’re a full goddess now! You can do all kinds of amazing things.”
“I can,” Heather said. “I just can’t do that.”
Nash’s hands dropped into his lap. His head dropped.
“Why can’t you do it?” Nash asked, his voice high and whiney. “Is this one of those stupid Olympia rules?”
“I can’t do it because I can’t,” Heather said, keeping her voice even. “And, you’re right. Those rules in Olympia are mostly stupid. Archaic. From a time when humans were barbarians.”
“Can someone else do it?” Nash asked. “What about that Hecate? She seems powerful and not as crazy as her father.”
Heather snorted a laugh which made Nash grin.
“Well, can she?” Nash asked.
“No,” Heather said. “I’m sorry, Nash, what has been done cannot be undone.”
As if he’d just received a death sentence, Nash stared straight ahead. Heather touched his arm.
“Why don’t you tell me what’s going on?” Heather asked.
Somewhere between angry and sad, Nash simply shook his head.
“Do you not like Nadia?” Heather asked.
“No, Nadia’s perfect,” Nash said. “I think about her all the time. When I see her, even on the computer screen, it’s like the whole world stops. Everything I thought of before I see her simply vanishes. It’s like what people say about wearing glasses. Everything gets clearer, easier, when she’s there. And, then she’s gone and I…”
Nash shook his head.
“And you?” Heather asked.
“I’m just some dumb kid,” Nash said. “Don’t say something otherwise. I really am a dumb kid. I haven’t done anything with my life. I don’t know anything. I haven’t even had that much life! And she…”
Nash shook his head.
“I understand,” Heather said.
“You do?” Nash asked. “Could you explain it to me?”
Heather chuckled and put her arm around him. He leaned over the dog and into her. Buster panted happily.
“No really,” Nash said. “Explain it to me. I really need… something to…”
Heather gave him a sideways look for a long moment before given a slight nod.
“I have actually been your age a number of times,” Heather said.
Surprised, Nash pulled back to look at her. Heather nodded.
“My mother would let me age until I was in my twenties or so, and then yank me back to being ten again,” Heather said. “She thought that if I could just grow up the right way, we wouldn’t need my father or grandmother. Particularly my grandmother. We hid from Olympia for more than a thousand years until my grandmother figured it out.”
“I think that my grandmother went looking for us because my father was really losing it,” Heather said. “The Black Arrows were part of him losing his mind.”
Heather shook her head.
“I’m losing the point,” Heather said. She sighed. “My point is that I know what it’s like to be on the verge of adulthood, but still be a child. I’ve done it in almost every human time. It’s always hard. Very hard. You don’t know what you’re going to be or do, but you feel like there’s something you need to do, something you were born to do.”
To contain her stronger emotions, Heather reached for a towel. Mimicking her, Nash began folding the warm towels with her. She didn’t say anything for a moment.
“In some eras, sixteen is an adult age,” Heather said.
“Some countries right now,” Nash said.
Heather nodded and continued.
“In the 1930s, we’d start working when we were three or four years old…” Heather said.
“What?” Nash asked.
“By the time we were sixteen, we were so old and tired that…” Heather sighed. “It was a really different world. Sixteen was an adult. But now, kids go to school. They have a chance to grow up. It’s a mark of the growth of human civilization that most countries have ended this kind of child labor, that kind of extreme poverty.”
Nash had so many questions, but he knew that Heather was saying something he should listen to. He also knew that this friend of his Sandy would listen to all of his questions when the time was right. He held his tongue.
“None of this has anything to do with you,” Heather said. “You’re sixteen now. You’re in this relationship that’s uncomfortable and raises a lot of eyebrows. You want to take care of yourself, grow up right, and also move forward with great speed.”
“These things — having people judge you, being uncomfortable, wanting to be true to yourself, grow up, and move forward — these are the things that can only be resolved through love,” Heather said. “Your love for Nadia will resolved every bit of this. Her love for you will help you and also help her. Love is more powerful than you can even imagine.”
Heather fell silent. Nash waited to see if she would say anything else. Heather sighed.
“My father was retired because of these Black Arrows,” Heather said. “I was assigned the task of researching the Black Arrows. I’ve spend the last year or so looking at each arrow, who it affected, and what was the outcome. The arrows are… almost cruel. They demand more than any person should be asked to do or achieve.”
Heather shook her head ruefully.
“I…” Heather sighed again. “I know that you don’t want to hear this but, from my study of these arrows, my father shot them at souls who needed them. You need this. Your very soul needs to grow in this specific manner. Yes, without the Black Arrow, your soul would slowly and eventually grow into where you would start a relationship with Nadia. This life, next life, another life… You will eventually get there.”
“And if I reject it?” Nash asked. “Push Nadia away? Insist that she get on with her life?”
“Do you want to do any of that?” Heather asked.
“That’s not the point!” Nash said, his frustration rising so high that Buster sat up and licked Nash’s face. Nash pressed his face into the dog. Heather waited until he was calmer.
“Okay, what happens if you push Nadia away?” Heather asked.
“To people who’ve done that,” Nash said.
“Oh, I see, what’s happened to people who’ve done this?” Heather asked. “It is true that not everyone has been successful in their Black Arrow. Some have lived their entire lives longing for the person they didn’t know existed. With the wars, many people left for war rather than have the relationship.”
“What happened to them?” Nash asked, his mouth an inch from his dog’s ear.
“It’s an interesting question,” Heather said. “Let’s see. As I said, some of them spent their lives longing and lonely. Other’s got married to someone ‘more appropriate.’”
“What happened to them?” Nash asked.
“They lived their lives,” Heather said.
“Were they miserable?” Nash asked.
“Not all of them,” Heather said. “They didn’t grow. They lived a safe, secure life until it was over.”
Heather looked at Nash.
“You don’t strike me as someone who wants to live a safe life,” Heather said.
Nash didn’t respond.
“I might be able to help better if you tell me what’s going on,” Heather said.
Nash shook his head but didn’t say anything.
“Pretend that I’m a Goddess and you are talking to me in my shrine,” Heather said, her grin obvious in her voice.
Nash chuckled and looked at Heather.
“It’s complicated,” Nash said.
“I am a Goddess,” Heather said. “I’ve lived thousands of year, experienced thousands of lives.”
“Someday I’m going to write a book called ‘The Goddess who folded the towels,’” Nash said.
Heather grinned at him. After a moment, he sighed.
“Okay,” Nash said. “You won’t tell Sandy?”
“I won’t keep a secret if you’re in danger,” Heather said.
“Fair enough,” Nash said. He thought for a moment before nodding. “Okay. Nadia and I are at this place where what we’ve been doing doesn’t work anymore. We spend all of this time talking about stupid stuff and not enough time really getting to know each other. It’s like standing in place on a treadmill. Nadia says it’s like treading water in the ocean but I’ve never done that. She says you keep going under water and then popping back up. Mostly what you remember is being battered by the waves and your time underwater.”
He glanced at Heather and saw that he had her full attention.
“Nadia talked to Bernie on the way back from Poland,” Nash said. “Bernie said that he told Nadia that we needed time together. He’s willing to buy a place — an out of the way place — for Nadia and I to meet that’s away from the press and spotlight. This would give us real time together.”
“The next thing I know, I’m hearing from Jake that we can go to his place back East. You know, the one on the lake,” Nash said. “He said that he’s transitioning it into a high end hotel.”
“So it’s empty,” Heather said.
“Right,” Nash said. “It needed some serious repairs — roof and plumbing and stuff. So he closed it to do the repairs and then Jill decided to redo it. Most of the big structural repairs are done. The remodeling continues. Otherwise it’s empty for now.”
“It certainly is beautiful there,” Heather said. “Quiet.”
“Right,” Nash said. “We just have to agree to do it and then do it. I can bring someone with me. Seth has all of these nice people around him. Maresol, Claire, even Dale or Bernie — they’ve offered to go with me as a chaperone or whatever. Sam and Jake said they would too.”
“Blane would go with you,” Heather said.
“I know!” Nash said. “I know! I am not without helpful people who want to support me.”
“Oh the curse,” Heather said.
Nash rewarded her with a laugh.
“And the problem is?” Heather asked.
“I…” Nash sighed. “If things go well, and Nadia and I get married, or whatever, my mother is going to want money from me and… that’s not really it.”
“What is really it?” Heather asked.
“I… uh…” Nash rubbed his head in such a way that his hair stood up on end. “I kinda want to stay a kid. I mean, Sandy’s became my mom like a minute ago and Rachel Ann’s still little and Noelle and…”
“You’ve always been a man in a boy’s suit,” Heather said.
“Right, but…” Nash said.
“You don’t want to give up what you have for some fantasy,” Heather said.
“Why would you have to give up being a kid?” Heather asked.
Nash looked at Heather as if he’d never thought of it.
“Sandy’s not going to push you,” Heather said. “Your father either. I can’t imagine Nadia cares. She’s so busy with her businesses and career, why would she mind? And anyway, most kids in functional families never really leave the nest. Look at Jake and Val. Sam’s right here with them.”
“I don’t know any functional families,” Nash said.
“Isn’t that what your father and Sandy have built?” Heather asked. “I mean, Sandy’s living at her father’s house while she heals.”
Nash looked at Heather for a long moment. He sighed.
“What if it doesn’t work?” Nash asked. “What if she hates me or I can’t stand her or…?”
“What if it doesn’t work?” Heather asked with a shrug. “I thought I’d found my prince charming when I met Mack’s father. Turns out he was a jerk. If I hadn’t met him and gotten pregnant, Blane and I wouldn’t have moved into together. Everything that happened after that — having Mack and Wynn, Blane’s treatments and now health, becoming a Goddess, our old home, adopting Tink, Tanesha living with us, Tres and Nelson joining our family — none of that would have happened. But you’re right.”
“About what?” Nash asked.
“I would have stayed safe,” Heather said.
Nash threw himself at Heather, and she held him tight. After a minute, he jumped up and ran out of the room.
“You are so welcome,” Heather said with a laugh.
“Talking to yourself?” Tres Sierra asked at the doorway.
“Nash,” Heather said.
“I just saw him go,” Tres said. “Everything okay?”
“It will be,” Heather said. “What is going on upstairs?”
“You mean our man-meeting?” Tres asked.
“Hockey,” Tres said. “We’ve decided that Jake’s boys are old enough for him to return to hockey.”
“What does Jake say?” Heather asked.
“He’s fishing,” Tres said. “Mike says that if we decide to reform the team, Jake will go along with it.”
“Does Jake go along with anything?” Heather asked.
“Hey, can you help me put this laundry away?” Heather asked.
“Anything,” Tres said with a grin.
Heather smiled at him. He picked up the basket of folded towels and they left the apartment.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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