CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-TWO
Thursday night — 10:15 p.m.
Emotionally overloaded, M.J. and Honey watched in silence as Blane ran after Nelson. Jeraine shook his head.
“What the hell?” Jeraine asked. “I know you. If someone were to ask me if you could behave like this I would have said …”
“No,” Sam said cutting Jeraine off. Surprised, Jeraine shut his mouth. “I have to tell you both that I am beyond disappointed. I am truly shocked. Gay Semen?”
“His name is, was, I guess, Guy Se-main-es,” Honey said in an exaggerated English accent. “It’s French. It sounds like ‘G-ee Sea-men.’ M.J.’s mother changed it to the more cruel version. We didn’t make it up.”
“That didn’t stop us from using it,” M.J. said.
M.J. stood up from his seat.
“This is important, M.J.,” Sam said. “We are not finished here.”
“Yes, I realized that,” M.J. said. “But I need to check in. With work.”
Honey looked up at him and winced.
“We need to work this out,” Sam said. “Blane feels really strongly about Nelson. This is not something we’re going to sweep under the rug. We need too…”
“I agree with you,” M.J. said. “You have to understand. This situation? This thing right here? I am off the Fey team. Boom.”
He started toward the door.
“I have your cell phone,” Honey said. She held the phone out to him. “You gave it to me when we went outside.”
“What do you mean you’re off the Fey team?” Jeraine asked.
“I cannot have this kind of conflict in my life,” M.J. said. “It puts me at risk. If I’m at risk, the whole team is at risk and…”
No one said anything. M.J. looked up at the ceiling and tried to gather his words.
“I didn’t put this on my list,” M.J. said.
“Your list?” Sam asked.
“They make a list of potential life situations that could blow up,” Honey said.
“After Guy left, I never thought about him again,” M.J. said. “Not one thought until just now, when I was standing in the backyard.”
“Alex isn’t going to care about this!” Sam said.
“Alex isn’t the head of the Fey team anymore,” M.J. said. “I mean, she’s still the leader. It’s still her team, but the administrative head is a real stickler for the rules.”
“Just call Margaret,” Honey said, speaking of M.J.’s partner.
“I can’t,” M.J. said. “That’s the thing. It has to be someone assigned by the team head. And we just got home and …”
M.J. tried to breathe.
“Why are you freaking out?” Jeraine asked.
“You have no idea how many people are standing in line to be on the Fey team,” M.J. said. “Thousands. Hundreds of thousands. The moment I step aside, there will be a hundred more qualified, younger, fitter guys or gals who are ready to step in. People without brain injuries. People who have all of their limbs and college degrees and …”
Jeraine stood up.
“This is something I know a lot about,” Jeraine said. He gave M.J. a nod. “Do you wish to resolve this situation?”
“I do,” M.J. said.
“For more than to keep your job?” Sam asked with an uncharacteristic edge to his voice.
“Yes, for more than my job,” M.J. said. “I am a member of this household. If Guy is a friend of Blane’s, then he will be a member of our family. I need to work this out for myself and for my family.”
Jeraine opened his mouth to say something, but M.J. kept talking.
“I feel awful,” M.J. said. “I saw his face and bam! I was right back there. I … I feel a great weight over who I was and what I did. There’s no excuse, none. Honey was just a little kid. She …”
“That’s not really an excuse,” Honey said.
M.J. shook his head and dialed the phone. He turned his back and walked toward a quiet area of the living room.
“His language is really good,” Jeraine said in a soft voice as he sat back down.
“He’s been working on it,” Honey said. “Being on the Fey team has pushed him to be a better person overall. They’ve really helped him with his language and … well, really everything. He will be devastated if he loses this position.”
“We will deal with his situation later,” Sam said. “You are not off the hook, young lady.”
Honey winced at the tone in his voice.
“I want to know why you did this thing and what you intend to do about it,” Sam said. “This is an egregious act of violence against another person. I am deeply disappointed in you.”
Honey opened her mouth to say something.
“This happened while you were living under my roof,” Sam said. “That means that part of the responsibility is on me.”
Blane walked in the Castle. Without saying a word to them, he went downstairs.
“I don’t care what God or Goddess or Fairy or magical intervention we can call on to fix this, for us and for Nelson,” Sam said. “I want to know what you are going to do and I want to know it now. It’s a miracle that that boy is still alive!”
Sam turned the full intensity of his dark look onto Honey. For a long moment, Honey didn’t respond.
“I was nine when I met M.J.,” Honey said with a nod. “Nine. M.J. was fifteen. Guy left between the time I met and M.J. went into the army … He left when he was seventeen, almost eighteen. So, maybe a year or so after I met M.J., Guy left. I didn’t know that he was kicked out. I don’t think that M.J. knew. Guy was older than us. I didn’t know how much older, just older. I didn’t really think about him leaving.”
“I’d just started living with you around the time that Guy left,” Honey said. “I think I said something to you or around you about Guy or someone else being gay. You were furious. You ranted about love and people being who they were. You took me to meet your friend Jerry.”
“I remember that,” Sam said with a nod.
“Honestly, I know that it sounds like an excuse, but I don’t mean it as one,” Honey said. “I literally did not know better. I hated everyone, anyone, especially myself. I didn’t know what ‘gay’ really meant except that it was someone different. I knew that it was a put down. I knew I was being mean, putting Guy down. I didn’t really know what it meant to be gay or live gay or that people lived and loved and …”
Honey shook her head.
“I don’t think I thought of Guy as human because I didn’t think of anyone as human,” Honey said. “I mean other than me and the pain I felt, day in and day out. I just hurt, all the time, on the inside. I was so angry. So angry. It’s hard for me to even believe that I was so angry. But my sister …”
“Is that the ‘step-whore’?” Jeraine asked.
Sam looked up, and Honey nodded. Jeraine made a face to indicate what he knew about the woman. Honey continued.
“The only way I knew how to get out of the pain inside was to put other people down, to make myself feel bigger by making other people smaller. But I only made myself feel smaller and smaller and smaller. That’s all I knew.”
Honey looked at Sam.
“Until I lived with you,” Honey said.
Sam opened his mouth to speak. Hedone walked past them. In the kitchen, the fairies dropped to their knees as she walked past them to the backyard.
“I don’t know what to do,” Honey said. “I honestly don’t.”
Blane appeared in the living room.
“What the hell was that about?” Blane asked. He looked at Honey. “What kind of a monster are you?”
“I’m sorry Blane,” Honey said. “I truly am. If I had known …”
“Do you think that of me?” Blane asked. “All this time and I …”
“No,” Honey said, shaking her head. Her face was a mask of pain and sorrow. “No. I have been cruel in my past. I am sure that I am cruel now, sometimes. That’s true. I try to do better, to be better. M.J. too.”
Honey gestured to where M.J. was pacing and talking into his phone.
“What’s wrong with him?” Blane asked.
“He can lose his position over this,” Honey said.
“Oh,” Blane said. He scowled. “Seriously?”
“He feels really bad too,” Honey said. “I can’t speak for him, but I know that I didn’t know any better. I simply did not. When I think about it now, I am deeply … humiliated.”
Blane’s eyes raked her face.
“I am sorry,” Honey said.
Not sure what to say, Blane simply shook his head. He was heartbroken that Nelson had left and that it was his wonderful family that had been so ugly.
“I need to take care of the kids,” Blane said.
With that, he turned and went toward the basement stairs. M.J. got off the phone. Honey looked up at him.
“They are sending someone to speak with me,” M.J. said.
“What do we do?” Honey asked.
“We wait,” M.J. said. Before Sam could say anything, M.J. added, “Sir, I want you to know how badly I feel about this. I can assure you that I am not the person I was when I made those statements. I am horrified to remember the pain I inflicted by my own ignorance. Regardless of what happens, I would like to talk this through with Nelson. I need to know and understand to the full extent what I did to him before I can truly understand what might make it better.”
“Me too,” Honey said, meekly.
The stairs creaked, and they turned to see who was there. Sandy came down the stair holding little Maggie’s hand. When they reached the main Castle living room, Maggie let go of Sandy’s hand and ran to her mother. Honey picked up her daughter and hugged her tight. Oblivious to the heavy emotion in the air, Maggie started talking in her characteristically chipper tone.
“Mommy?” Maggie asked. “Noelle is having a sleep over for just the girls. Katy’s going to be there! The boys are in the loft, but Mommy — Noelle asked me to come too!”
Maggie gave her mother a big grin.
“Me and Rachel Ann,” Maggie said. “Even Jackie’s coming! We’re going to stay in Noelle’s room. Tink is sleeping in Sissy’s old bed and Charlie made little beds for us little kids!”
“Noelle and Tink thought it would be fun to have the girls sleep together,” Sandy said. “Heather’s boys, Jabari, Jill’s twins, Charlie, Nash, and Teddy are upstairs in the loft. Charlie, Nash, and Teddy wanted to talk to Jake about the trip to Poland and …”
“Are you okay with that?” Honey asked. “It sounds like a lot.”
“Of course,” Sandy said. “We’re all up so late, we figured this might be a fun end.”
“Daddy’s home, so you can sleep with him!” Maggie said.
The little girl gave her mother a big smile as if she’d thought of a special treat for her mother. Maggie jumped off Honey’s lap and ran to her father, M.J.. He picked her up and hugged her tight. He blew raspberries on her stomach until she was breathless from giggling. He set her down.
“Is there any way we can help?” Honey asked.
“We’ll be fine,” Sandy said with a grin. “I wanted to check if Maggie had any dietary restrictions.”
“She eats what I eat because it’s easier to feed her what I’m eating,” Honey said.
“Jackie can’t drink milk or wheat,” Sandy said.
“Oh?” Honey asked. “I didn’t realize that.”
“We’ll be fine,” Sandy said. “We were talking about doing some baking tonight, keep up with the fairies. We’ll make sure to make something she can eat.”
Sandy looked from face to face. She opened her mouth to ask what was going on but Sam shook his head. She nodded.
“Let me know if I can help,” Honey said.
“Feel free to send her home at any time,” M.J. said.
“You too,” Sandy said looking at Honey.
She bent over and hugged Honey. Assuming that Honey was upset about something M.J. had done, Sandy scowled at him. M.J. put his hand on his chest and shook his head.
“Sure,” Sandy said under her breath, which made M.J. laugh.
Sandy held her hand out to Maggie, but Maggie took off up the stairs.
“My cue,” Sandy said.
She followed Maggie up the stairs.
“Daddy?” Jabari asked as he and Tanesha entered the room.
He squirmed from Tanesha’s grasp and ran to his father. Not waiting on ceremony, he climbed up onto Jeraine’s lap. Unlike Maggie, he was acutely aware of the tension in the air. He settled in on Jeraine’s lap.
“What’s happened?” Jabari asked. “Who fucked up?”
“Jabari!” Tanesha said.
M.J. and Honey struggled to keep from laughing. Sam scowled.
“That’s what happened right?” Jabari said with a shrug. “So, did you screw around?”
He looked at his father and then at M.J. Shaking her head incredulously, Tanesha plucked Jabari up from Jeraine’s lap.
“But Mommy, they might need my help!” Jabari said as she carried him away. “Daaaddddy! You can come get me if you need help.”
They waited until the boy was out of hearing range before everyone laughed.
“He has a lot of experience with this kind of thing,” Jeraine said. “You know, from his mom’s house.”
“Daaaddddy!” Jabari yelled from upstairs. “You didn’t say ‘goood niiiiight.”
“The boy has a set of lungs on him,” Jeraine said. He got up and started toward the door. He stopped and turned back, “You know, Jabari’s mom is really cruel. She says horrible things to people all the time. My therapist says it’s because she feels like she’s powerless. She doesn’t remember what she says — to me, to Jabari, to Tanesha. We were supposed to switch to shared custody but she went crazy on Jabari. Again. She doesn’t feel bad about any of it. The fact that you feel badly means there’s a chance we’ll work this stuff out.”
“I agree,” Sam said.
Jeraine nodded and into the kitchen to head up to the loft. They sat silently for a moment.
“I don’t know what else to say I …” M.J. said.
The gate alarm buzzed and M.J. went to the closet where the gate video feed was seen.
“I have to go,” M.J. said.
“This isn’t done until we make it right with Nelson,” Sam said.
“Yes, sir,” M.J. said. “I agree. Thank you for your patience with us.”
“We’ll make it right,” Honey said to Sam. “I give you my word.”
“Good,” Sam said.
Honey rolled to where M.J. was putting on his jacket.
“Who is it?” Honey asked.
“One of my dad’s old teammates,” M.J. said. “Major Joseph Walter.”
“Good,” Honey said.
M.J. leaned down to hug Honey. They kissed and he left the Castle. She watched him greet his father’s teammate and his superior officer. They set off into the night. Honey sighed.
“What do I do?” Honey asked as she wheeled back to Sam.
“We have to set the intention that this will work out,” Sam said. “If we give it time and energy, we’ll get there.”
Sam leaned down to kiss Honey’s cheek. She watched him say good night to the fairies in the kitchen and head up the stairs to Delphie’s apartment. Sighing to herself, she rolled back to her apartment. She filled her bathtub.
Only when she was in the warm water did she let go and wept.
Thursday night — 10:20 p.m.
Nelson had stepped inside the door to his apartment and stopped walking. He may or may not have locked the door.
In his exhausted states, his mind began to fall apart. He’d carefully constructed his entire life in order to specifically to avoid any thought about his childhood and this person who was at the very center of his pain. He felt like a nuclear bomb had gone off in his psyche. Standing in the entryway to his home, he could feel his life crumble around him.
There was something wrong with his eyes. He couldn’t focus on the world around him. As if he was surrounded by a dark cloud, he only saw darkness.
He felt oddly blank.
A breeze came up from behind him. He didn’t respond. He didn’t care if some drug crazed criminal broke into his house and killed him outright. At this moment, he was more dead than alive.
The wind seemed to blow him into his kitchen. The next thing he knew, he was eating the best apple he’d ever eaten. He knew it was an apple by the taste and texture.
He blinked. His eyes were starting to clear.
“This must be what magic feels like,” he said out loud.
Then he did something he’d never done before — he ate the core of the apple. Another apple appeared in his hand. He found himself devouring the apple as if his life depended on it.
Only when he’d eaten the entire thing, core and all, was he able to take his first real breath since seeing M.J. again.
“Fuck,” he said out loud.
His eyes cleared completely. He saw that what he’d taken for his kitchen was actually some other kitchen filled a kind of golden light.
He closed and opened his eyes. Thinking it might help, he loosened his tie.
A blurry figure appeared before him. He felt such overwhelming joy in the presence of this creature that he fell to his knees.
And so Nelson Weeks began the second half of his life.
Before he was a forensic scientist with the Best Fucking Back Up Laboratory, before he was an emergency medicine doctor, before he was at the top of his fellowship, before he was the best person to ever gone through his residency program, before he was Summa Cum Laude in his medical school class at University of California, San Francisco, before he was Summa Cum Laude at Georgetown University, before he’d graduated at the top of his class at East High School in Denver, when he was simple old Guy Semaines, he was a human child whose mother had died a horrible death, and whose his father had never recovered from it.
That human child met the Goddess of Love one night.
For a while, he hung in the in-between.
And, then, his life started again.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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