CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-SIX
Sunday afternoon — 4:14 p.m.
Kayenta, Arizona, at the hotel on the Navajo Reservation
“Hey,” Nadia said to Sandy, as she walked out onto the patio by the pool.
“Hey,” Sandy said.
With Rachel Ann in her arms, Sandy was standing in the shade near the swimming pool. Rachel’s face was bright red, her eyes wet with tears, and her fists were clenched.
“She okay?” Nadia asked.
“We got a little angry and sad this afternoon,” Sandy said.
“Oberwhelp’d,” Rachel Ann said.
“Overwhelmed,” Sandy said with a nod. “Too much fun. Too much sun.”
Grinning, Nadia had to look away to keep from laughing from the sheer sweetness of the little girl.
“We’re having a little break,” Sandy said. She kissed Rachel Ann’s hair. “How was your run?”
“Great,” Nadia said. “I …”
Sandy turned to look at Nadia.
“You know, when I’m at home, I think — ‘What the hell am I doing with …’” Nadia’s voice trailed off. “Well, you know.”
“With Nash,” Sandy said. She nodded. “I do know.”
“Then we get together,” Nadia said. “Just for a run after he got back from the site. And … I feel … in ways I cannot even begin to explain. I want more and more — time, conversation, laughter … It’s intoxicating and terrifying but mostly…”
Nadia looked at Sandy for a moment.
“Oberwhelping,” Nadia said with a grin.
“He’s really great,” Nadia said, with a nod. “I feel whole when he’s around.”
“I think he’d say the same thing,” Sandy said. “You saw the girls?”
Three teenaged girls were waiting for Nash to return to the hotel. He had a bevy of female attention the moment he stepped into the hotel.
“I did see the girls,” Nadia said with a nod.
Sandy chuckled while Nadia blushed.
“I mean, I saw them and was like: ‘He should be with kids his own age,’” Nadia said. “I don’t want to ever stand in the way of something he wants or needs. Ever.”
“God, I sound like Ivan. He used to say that all the time about Sissy.” Imitating Ivan’s accent, Nadia added, “She should grow at her own pace, not be saddled with old man.”
She uncomfortably looked around.
“You know, Nash has something to say about what he wants,” Sandy said.
Looking uncomfortable, Nadia looked out across the patio where two brand-new propane barbecues sat. Nelson was drinking a beer and talking Tres Sierra while he worked one of the grills. The other grill was run by Gando Peaches.
“Who’s that?” Nadia asked. “The tall guy talking to Nelson.”
“Tres Sierra,” Sandy said. “He works at Lipson Construction as their CFO.”
“Hot guy,” Nadia said. “Kinda young to be a CFO.”
“He’s good at it,” Sandy said.
“Is he here for …?” Nadia let her words hang in the air as Heather walked over to the men. Tres and Heather’s heads pressed together as they spoke for a few minutes. Tres kissed her cheek, and she smiled.
“Heather and Tres?” Nadia asked.
“Maybe,” Sandy said. “They’re trying things out this week.”
Nadia gave Sandy a long look and then looked back.
“Nelson knows,” Sandy said. “If that’s what you’re thinking. He’s a part of the ‘trying it out.’”
“He should be happy about that,” Nadia said. She put her hand over her mouth. “Sorry, that sounded shitty. I didn’t mean to be an ass. I just …”
Nadia turned to look at Sandy.
“I’m caught up in my own judgments of myself,” Nadia said.
“The entire situation is new,” Sandy said. “For everyone. Just because we keep our judgments to ourselves doesn’t mean we don’t have them.”
Sandy sighed and looked at Nadia.
“I’ve been friends with Heather since we were ten years old,” Sandy said. “She is the nicest, most grounded person I’ve ever known. When I’ve needed someone, she’s been there — no matter what time of day or night or even what I needed. She’s been there for me when … Well, when I couldn’t be there for me. All of the rest of this stuff?”
“The only thing that really matters to me my friend’s happiness,” Sandy said. “At the end of my life, I hope I can say that I participated in helping her live a happy life. Because she’s done that for me.”
“That’s where I try to stay,” Sandy said. “In my mind and heart.”
“Good thinking,” Nadia said with a nod.
“Sometimes, I… stray,” Sandy leaned into Nadia. “I’m mean, how many smoking hot men do you need?”
Nadia burst out laughing. At the same time, a cluster of men standing at the other end of the pool started yelling at each other. Squinting at the pack, Nadia picked out Blane, Jacob, Aden, Sam, and a group of other men she didn’t know.
“What’s that?” Sandy asked.
“Jake’s dad wants to start a business here,” Sandy said.
“So?” Nadia asked.
“Lipson construction is owned by the employees now,” Sandy said. “Or half owned. Sam can’t just decide to take a business risk on the company dime.”
“He wants to do it on his own, but ‘on his own’ means Jake and Blane,” Sandy said. “Five years ago? Six? That would have been easy to do. But Jake and Blane have young families and other things to do. Blane’s Chinese Medicine practice has really exploded. He’s busy. Jake’s just getting his feet under him from everything that’s happened. They can’t drop everything to keep a business running five hundred miles away.”
They watched the men argue for a moment.
“I think Sam misses it,” Sandy said. “Wants things to be the way they were. Things just aren’t that way anymore.”
Nadia looked at Sandy and nodded.
“They love Sam so much that it just kills them to say ‘no’ to him,” Sandy said. She looked at Nadia. “Heavy talk for an afternoon. Sorry.”
“Truthfully, this kind of arguing is fun for them,” Sandy said. “It’s uncomfortable for me. I kind of panic when the voices get loud, but it’s the way they communicate.”
“They?” Nadia asked.
“At least Sam, Jake, and Blane,” Sandy said. “Aden says it’s uncomfortable for him, but you’ll notice that he’s not backing down.”
“Give them a minute and they’ll be laughing again,” Sandy said.
Blane said something and Sam laughed. The men laughed.
“I understand this,” Nadia said. “My dad was eighty when my mom took over. He’d show up every once and a while and expect everything to be exactly like it was when he was there. Things change. It’s painful for everyone because you don’t want the person — my Dad, Sam — to feel old or useless, they just don’t fit in their old role. Sam has to find a new role for himself.”
“That’s a good way to think about it,” Sandy said.
“Who’s that guy?” Charlie asked as he walked out of the hotel.
Nadia’s business manager, Ian, hugged Nelson tight. When they separated, Ian put his arm around Nelson’s shoulders and kissed Nelson’s cheek.
“Whoa,” Charlie said. “You think they’re going to …”
Charlie looked at Sandy and then noticed Nadia. Charlie blushed.
“If you’re asking if Ian and Nelson are going to ‘get it on’ tonight,” Nadia said. “I sincerely doubt it, but you could ask them. You interested in joining them?”
“Me?” Charlie asked. Shaking his head, he added, “No.”
“Then why do you care?” Nadia asked.
“Hey, I didn’t mean anything,” Charlie said. “I just know that gay guys …”
“Not all gay men are sexually promiscuous. Not all gay men have a sexual addiction,” Nadia said. “Not Nelson, for sure. He’s very prim. When Ian was younger, he was pretty … busy. I mean, look at the man. But now, he and his husband are about to have their second child. I doubt he’d risk it.”
“I didn’t realize that Ian was married,” Sandy said.
“As soon as it was legal,” Nadia said. “They’d already adopted their daughter, Madison, from the Ukraine — you know, where Ian and my mother are from. Jeff, that’s Ian’s husband, is here with their daughter, Madison. Have you met them?”
Sandy and Charlie shook their heads.
“They’re probably resting,” Nadia said. “I’ll ask Ian. Jeff works in films. He wanted to meet Valerie to ask her if she’d work on his film.”
Nadia wiggled her eyebrows.
“Exciting,” Nadia said. “Do you think Blane would want to take on Nelson, Ian, Jeff?”
“Not at all,” Charlie said. “That’s not what I was saying …”
“Little homophobia coming out?” Nadia asked.
“Probably,” Charlie said. “Sorry.”
“Judgments,” Nadia said. “We were just talking about it. We all have them.”
“They catch us off guard,” Sandy said. “Blane hasn’t been with anyone since Enrique. So I don’t think any of us know what’s going to happen — with Blane and Nelson or Heather and Tres.”
“It’s all new,” Sandy said. “Everything is new, for all of us.”
“I’m really sorry,” Charlie said to Nadia. “I didn’t mean to be prejudice. I don’t have any problem with … well, anyone. When I was on the street, I had all kinds of friends. The gay kids stayed with us for protection. Tink would find the girls in bad situations. We don’t have a problem with how or who people love.”
Nadia smiled to him.
“It’s not you,” Nadia said. “It’s easier to point out your edges than have to deal with my own.”
“That’s the truth of it,” Nadia said. “Can you tell Nash that I went to take a nap?”
“Are you going to take a nap?” Sandy asked.
“No, I just …” Nadia said. “I was going to go for a swim but …”
Nadia gestured to the pool. Nash’s admirers were hanging out in the deep end. One thing was for sure — the girls did not like Nadia.
“Charlie, why don’t you show Nadia the spa?” Sandy asked. She nodded to Nadia. “Sam bought out the spa for the week. As long as they have time, we can use it. I happen to know that they are free. Jill was scheduled in a couple of minutes but she is … well, oberwhelp’d herself. Go. Get a massage. If you want to, you can tip them.”
Nadia opened her mouth to protest, and then she shook her head at herself.
“Lead on,” Nadia said to Charlie.
Charlie held out his elbow. Nadia hooked her hand and they went to the spa room. Sandy looked down at Rachel Ann. The child was sound asleep. Smiling at her little girl, she set Rachel Ann on her chaise lounge and sat down next to her. Jacob walked by.
“How’s the war?” Sandy asked.
“About the same,” Jacob said with a laugh. “Dad always gets what he wants. It’s hard for us to remember — but that’s the truth. The crazy thing is that he’s always right.”
“We just have to figure out how to match his idea with something livable for us,” Jacob said.
“We’ll get there,” Jacob said. “Do you happen to know where Jill is?”
“She went to your room,” Sandy said.
Jacob nodded and took a step toward the hotel.
“Jake?” Sandy asked.
Jacob turned to look at her.
“She’s not in a great place,” Sandy said.
“It’s Katy,” Jacob said. “Katy’s been out of her mind lately.”
Sandy tilted her head to the side.
“Oh, I see, you’re saying that Katy’s off because Jill’s not in a good place,” Jacob said. “Good to know. Thanks.”
Sandy smiled at him.
“I’ll do what I can,” Jacob said. “Wish me luck.”
“Good luck,” Sandy said.
Jacob grinned at Sandy, and she smiled. She’d just packed up all of the toys, sunscreen, water bottles, books, towels, and general “stuff” left by two teenagers, herself and Rachel Ann. Aden came up. He picked up her full bag.
“How is she?” Aden asked.
“She got oberwelp’d,” Sandy said with a smile. “She just needs a little sleep.”
Aden grinned at Sandy. He bent down and picked up their daughter.
“Where are the kids?” Aden asked.
“I think they’re in the room,” Sandy said. “It’s been a big day of sun and friends.”
Sandy and Aden started into the hotel. They walked passed Abi and her twins on their way to the barbecue. She waved, and they continued down the hotel hallway.
“How was Noelle’s time with Margaret’s grandfather?” Aden asked.
“Good, I think,” Sandy said. “She’s … Well …”
“Oberwelp’d?” Aden asked.
“Exactly,” Sandy said. “Nash came in from his run with Nadia and then had time to have a little meltdown. In private. Nadia doesn’t know.”
“Should I …?” Aden pointed toward the room where Charlie and Tink were staying.
“No, he’s in the room. The lights are off and the a/c is going full blast,” Sandy said. “They’re where they need to be. Luckily, Charlie was there to help when Nash lost it. Nash’s resting now.”
“What’s going on with Nash?” Aden asked.
Sandy’s eyes flicked to Aden. He raised his eyebrows and she nodded.
“The deadly disease of oberwelp’d has taken down another Norsen,” Aden said.
Sandy chuckled. Wanda and Ivy came rushing down the hallway past them.
“Wanda looks …” Aden stopped talking.
Sandy looked at him.
“Can I say that she looks great?” Aden asked. “Is that bad? In appropriate?”
“She does look great,” Sandy said. “Happy.”
Her eyes flicked to him.
“Right,” Aden said. “Happy. Erik’s here but Edith’s is on bed rest.”
“Twins on the way,” Sandy said.
“You think we should have another?” Aden asked and looked at her.
Sandy held her hand up, palm facing him.
“Oberwelping?” Aden asked.
Sandy laughed. They stopped at their door.
“Ready for some teen angst?” Sandy asked.
“You mean we can’t just go next door to our quiet, lovely tatty hotel room and lock the adjoining door?” Aden asked.
Sandy shook her head.
“Lead on, brave woman,” Aden said. “Lead on.”
Sunday afternoon — 4:44 p.m.
Kayenta, Arizona, at the hotel on the Navajo Reservation
Wanting to give Jill a heads up, Jacob tapped on the room door before going inside. He stuck in head inside the room and looked.
Jill and Katy were lying on the king-sized bed together. Both of his girls were crying their eyes out. Oblivious to the world, the twins were in their crib along the wall.
He felt like he’d been stabbed. There was nothing that felt more like a failure than when Jill or Katy cried. Here they were both crying. Never one to back away from a fight, Jacob stepped into the room.
Jill looked up at him. Her sad eyes tore at his heart. As he approached the bed, Katy looked up at him.
“’s all my fault,” Katy said.
Rather than respond, he got in the bed with them. He reached out to Jill and Katy. They clung to him while they both sobbed.
“I’m a bad girl,” Katy said. “I’m a bad girl.”
“No, no,” Jill said. “No.”
He squeezed them to him. After a few long minutes, Jill and Katy’s sobs slowed to simple tears.
“What’s going on?” Jacob asked in a soft voice that he hoped was kind.
“’s all my fault,” Katy repeated. “I’m a bad girl.”
“No, no, you’re not,” Jill said.
Their tears started to fall again. Always ready to solve problems, Jacob knew enough to be patient. He waited until their tears slowed again.
“Jill?” Jacob asked.
Jill looked up at him.
“Would you mind if we found out why Katy is upset?” Jacob asked.
Jill opened her mouth to say something. She paused for a brief moment before shaking her head.
“Katy, you’ve been really upset,” Jacob said. “You’ve had bad dreams and visions. I’ve been up with you almost every night this week. I know Jill has been too. When I’ve asked what’s going on, you won’t tell me. I know that Delphie has talked to you a couple of times, but you won’t tell her either. Now, you and your mommy are really upset. I can’t help you if I don’t know what’s going on.”
Katy leaned up to look at him. Her big, sad eyes gutted him, but he vowed to stay strong. He needed to get her to tell him what was going on.
“Will you please tell me?” Jacob asked.
Katy blinked. Her impossibly long eyelashes pushed her tears from her eyes. Tears ran down her face.
“You asked me to be your Daddy,” Jacob said. “When we got married, I asked you to be my Katy. Part of being your daddy means that I have to talk to you. Part of you being my Katy means that you have to talk to me. We have to talk to each other.”
With his words, he heard an echo of his father from years ago.
“I … um …” Katy started.
“What have you seen in your visions?” Jacob asked.
“No one loves me,” Katy said.
Jill gasped and moved to respond. Jacob squeezed Jill’s shoulder. She looked at him.
“You’ve had a vision where no one loves you,” Jacob said.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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