Tres was walking to the door when Celia’s VC friend stuck his head in the door.
“We’re ready to talk to you.”
Tres, Aden and Sam filed out after the venture capitalist. Jacob stood from his desk then weaved. He plopped back down in his chair. Blane held Jacob’s nitroglycerin spray out to him.
“I’m all right,” Jacob said. “Just tired.”
“You look like crap,” Blane said. “Take your spray and don’t be such a martyr. Did you eat today?”
Spraying the nitroglycerin under his tongue, he shook his head.
“You’re such an idiot,” Blane said.
Jacob laughed. Using the desk, he pushed to standing.
“Come on,” Blane said. “They’re waiting for us. You just have to get through this then flop on your fluffy bed with your beloved. I’ll even drive you home.”
“That’s a deal,” Jacob said.
“One more thing,” Blane said. He stuffed two Nutter Butter cookies into Jacob’s mouth. “Chew.”
Seeing only concern in Blane’s eyes, Jacob did what he was told.
“I look that bad?”
“You look like I do when I have the ribavirin shots,” Blane said. Stopping at the door to the conference room, he said, “Whatever these guys say, we’ll be fine. I know you’ll figure something out.”
Jacob nodded to Blane then followed him into the conference room. The first thing he noticed was the laughing chatting venture capitalists. The next thing he noticed was Sam coming to hug him.
“It’s settled,” Sam said.
Sunday evening – 7:47 P.M.
“Are you all right?” Jill asked to Jacob. “You look terrible,”
“Just exhausted,” he said. “Listen, I’m going to miss dinner, but if you….”
“I’ll stay with you,” Jill said.
“What about your Mom?” Jacob asked.
“She was here for a couple hours. But Sandy was right. She’s overwhelmed by everything. She played with Katy while we talked. It was… nice,” Jill said. “Katy’s exhausted too. She’s already in bed. Have you eaten?”
“Two Nutter Butter cookies that Blane made me eat?”
“That’s not food,” Jill said. “Why don’t you take a bath and I’ll put something together.”
“I can cook, husband. Just because I haven’t, doesn’t mean I can’t.”
“Come on,” Jill said. “I’ll help you with the bath.”
Turning on the bath, she helped him undress. Even exhausted, he was aroused by her touch. She laughed.
“Maybe after you’ve eaten and rested,” she said.
“Will you say it again?”
“What?” Jill asked. “In the tub. Go on.”
“The husband thing?” Jacob stepped into the tub.
Jill pointed to his wedding band then her own.
“I’ll be right back, husband.”
Smiling, Jacob leaned back and let the warm water dissolve his fatigue. He was drifting somewhere between memory and dream when an incredible smell tickled his nose. His stomach rumbled and his mouth watered. Unable to stay in the tub, he wrapped himself in a terry bathrobe and followed the scent.
He wandered across the open space of their loft apartment to the kitchen. Jill was setting the dining room table.
“Would you like some wine?” Jill asked.
“I better not,” he said. “I’m too worn out. What smells so good?”
“I made one of my favorite chicken recipes,” Jill said. “I used to cook for us growing up. This recipe is from Costa Rica.”
“What did you make tonight?”
“Jerk chicken,” Jill said. “I don’t know if you’ve had it. I know you like spicy stuff so….”
“It smells like heaven.”
“I made some instant rice,” Jill said. “I wasn’t sure how long you’d….”
Jacob kissed her and Jill giggled.
“You have to eat,” Jill said.
Jacob wagged his eyebrows.
“Food,” Jill said.
“I’ll get dressed.”
“It’s okay to eat in your robe,” Jill said. “I don’t mind you eating naked, but Katy might wake up.”
“It’s our first meal at home as a married couple!”
Jill set a plate of saffron rice, jerk chicken, sweet potato fries, and a small salad in front of him. She set a plate for herself then poured him some water.
“You made all of this while I was in the bath?”
“Practice, my friend, practice. Try it!”
It seemed to Jacob that he just took one bite, but when he looked down, he had eaten everything on his plate.
“Would you like more?”
Jill filled his plate again.
“What happened with the company?” Jill asked.
“They reorganized the way we do business,” Jacob said. “And… I think it will be good. They’re going to take board seats. I’m disbanding the existing board tomorrow. With these guys as board members we’ll have the support we need. We’ll see how that turns out.”
“What about your bank? Your credit? All the stuff you’ve been so worried about?”
“We’re moving banks. The VCs are going to help us with the credit issue but we’ll still need a bank. They project by the middle of next year, we won’t need credit,” Jacob said. “The good news is that they liked our company, the people and the policies. They want to help us.”
“And the bad news?”
“Oh, I guess that we have to change, risk, grow.”
Jacob shook his head.
“You’re exhausted. Tomorrow’s another long day,” Jill said.
“Are you inviting me to bed, wife?”
“Yes, let’s leave these dishes. Come to bed with me, husband.”
Jill stood from her chair. She squealed when Jacob jumped from his seat to carry her through the loft. Tasting their spicy meal on her lips, his tongue continued a gentle exploration of her mouth. He set her onto their bed then helped her out of her clothing. She slid off his robe. He lay down beside her.
And fell sound asleep.
~~~~~~~~ One week and a half later Wednesday, November 26 – 4:30 P.M.
“That’s the end of our group work,” Colin Hargreaves said. “I want you to pick a partner that’s around your size.”
“Daddy, can I stay with Katy?” Paddie asked.
“Of course,” Colin said. “Teddie? You and Nash. Noelle? Work with Ryan again. Becky? Can you work with….”
“Steve, Mr. Hargreaves, I’m Ryan’s littlest brother.”
“Steve! Nice to meet you. You can call me Mr. Colin.”
“My other brother couldn’t come today,” Steve said. “But he’s going to come on Friday.”
“Great! The more the merrier,” Colin said. “Mike? Are you working with the ladies?”
“I’m on it,” Mike said.
Mike helped Jill, Heather, Tanesha, Sandy, Colin’s wife, Julie, and Valerie set up in a circle where they could work with each other.
“Ok, work with your partner now,” Colin said. “Slow and easy take the hand, bend the wrist, and turn to the outside. Slow and easy. Feel the lock.”
Colin moved to the edge of the room to watch the class.
“I’ve looked for you at lunch, but I never see you,” Nash said. He turned Teddy’s wrist until he felt it lock. “You go to Smiley, right? Seventh grade, right?”
“Yeah.” Teddy took Nash’s wrist and locked it in place. “I’m in the library. I’m behind in school. You should see the stack of work I have for this weekend. No holiday for me.”
“Oh,” Nash returned the wrist lock. “How come?”
“I didn’t go to school for a while,” Teddy said. “My Mom’s messed up. She’s in some program now. She’s supposed to be getting better.”
“My Mom’s in jail,” Nash said. “She’s supposed to go to prison.”
“Oh,” Teddy smiled. “I didn’t know you were a citizen of the country of fucked up.”
“HEY!” A big guy yelled from the doorway to the room. Nash gulped as the muscle bound man pointed to them. “Language.”
“My guardian,” Teddy said. “My Mom hates Miss Alex. Just hates her. But Miss Alex is the person who came to get us. At three in the morning. She came to get me and my sister and brother. You know, when things went to shit. Miss Alex walked through the chaos, the police, and whatever else to pick us up. Mom signed my guardianship to Andy.”
“He’s a little scary,” Nash whispered. “He has that prison tattoo on his eye.”
“Yeah,” Teddy said. “He’s been really great to me.”
“Where’s your Dad?” Nash asked.
“Good job everyone!” Colin said. “Let’s go back to simple escape. Kneel across from your partner. We’ll do this for ten minutes today.”
“My Dad’s taken care of us since we were little.” Nash grabbed Teddy’s wrists. Teddy shifted his hand to break Nash’s grip. “He’s a good Dad, you know, for a Dad.
“My Dad flies spy airplanes over the Middle East.” Teddy grabbed Nash’s wrists and Nash broke his grip. “He’s trying to get here, but…. If he doesn’t fly, men don’t get any time off. We promised him we’d be all right for a few months until he finishes up.”
They worked back and forth for a while.
“I saw that guy harass you. At school,” Teddy said. “What’s his problem?”
“He makes fun of my Dad’s girlfriend. Calls her a slut, and a whore and stuff. Everybody joins in. Even my ex-best friend Tommy.” Nash scowled. Shaking his head, he shrugged. “Sandy’s really great. Beautiful. Well, you can see. She’s in the middle next the Valerie, the movie star.”
“She has a pretty smile.”
“Yeah, kind of lights up the room,” Nash said. “I hope my Dad marries her so she can be my mom. That kid says awful stuff to get me mad then pushes me around.”
“Bully,” Teddy said. “I hate that. They always pick on kids like us.”
“From the land of the fucked up?”
Nash felt a hand grab the back of his shirt. The big guy lifted him from sitting to hold Nash’s in front of his big scary face.
“See this?” The big guy rotated Nash to look at the women at the back of the room. “Ladies present. Watch your mouth. You want to be a thug? Talk like a thug. You want to make something of your life? Speak like a gentleman. And gentlemen don’t swear when ladies are present.”
The big guy set Nash down on the mat.
The big guy returned to the edge of the mat.
“You Ok, Nash?” Colin asked.
“Yes, sir,” Nash said.
Leaning into Nash, Colin whispered, “He means well.”
“All right,” Colin said. “We’re done. Remember to thank your partner with a bow.”
Nash and Teddy bowed to each other.
“Have a great Thanksgiving! I’ll see you Friday afternoon.”
After collecting Noelle and checking in with Sandy, Nash ran to catch up with Teddy.
Teddy was walking down the hallway with his massive guardian. The boy turned around in the hall.
“I can help you catch up. With school,” Nash said. “We have this whole weekend. Sandy’s working every day but tomorrow. That means we’ll be at the Castle. Why don’t you see if you can come over? I can help.”
Teddy smiled then nodded.
“Great! They have our number,” Nash said. “Just give me a call on Friday.”
November 26 – 5:00 PM
“You don’t want the baby,” Honey’s therapist said.
“No. No. I want the baby,” Honey said. “I just don’t know how it will work. I mean, I can barely take care of myself. Steve bathes me, helps me go to the bathroom…. How am I going to care for a baby? When I can’t ….”
“Even care for yourself?”
“Yeah,” Honey said. “I don’t mind living at the Castle. I mean everyone’s really great. Nice. MJ loves it there. He feels like I’m safe because everyone will help. But… I need to care for myself, my baby, my life. And… I can’t.”
“You have a job. You pay your own bills. You….”
“I pay some of my bills,” Honey said. “Jake and the insurance company pick up the tab for most of it. MJ’s salary goes to his brother and sister, or most of it anyway.”
Honey fell silent.
“You were talking about the baby,” her therapist said.
“I feel stupid. I almost died. I easily could have died. And now there’s this new life… inside of me… and….”
“I think it’s very normal to feel overwhelmed. Most mothers feel that way.”
“Mother,” Honey snorted. “Even the word is foreign.”
“You can abort the baby, Honey. The doctor said you might be better off to wait. It’s only been a short time since… your injury.”
“Since my life was tipped upside down? I was going to go to college this Fall. I was going to work and go to college. Live in my little apartment.”
“Instead, you married a man you’ve loved since you were a young child. Remember, you thought you’d never see MJ again. You live with your brother in an almost fantasy house filled with love and support. You have lots of friends and work you like. And now you’re going to have a baby.”
“And this.” Honey gestured to her legs.
“What’s got your goat, Honey?” Her therapist pointed to Honey’s legs. “You’ve told me over and over again that your injury was the best thing that happened to you.”
“My sister’s trial is coming up,” Honey said.
“You have to testify soon.”
“I have to testify to everything.”
“Oh you know, what our childhood was like. My lovely sister’s defense is that she didn’t know any better because she was abused.”
“She did most of the abusing. She says that this was a one time event.”
“Which it’s not.”
“No. No. She’s always been like that. They’re hoping the jury will believe me over her. But no one’s every believed me over her.”
“That’s a lot of pressure.”
“Pressure? Yeah. Makes me wish I was never born.”
~~~~~~~~ November 26 – 7:30 P.M.
Laughing at Katy and Paddie’s re-creation of their martial arts lesson, Jill went toward the Castle side door to answer the bell. Aden yelled something and she turned to look at him. Everyone was happy, light, and excited about the Thanksgiving holiday. It was a Castle tradition to host a small dessert party. In Castle style, that meant small desserts and not a small sized party.
Expecting another friend, Jill opened the door.
“Who might you be?” The thin little man asked.
Glancing to see if the gate was closed, she shook her head at the man.
“Jillian Roper Marlowe? Or Heather Lipson? Or Honey Lipson-Scully? I know you not Valerie Lipson.”
“Jillian Roper,” Jill said. “What do you want?”
“I have a couple things for you.” The man gave her a stack of papers then pulled out another set of papers. “Is Heather or Blane Lipson here?”
Jill turned away from the door to look at her papers. Hearing her name, Heather came to the door.
“Did you need something?” Heather asked.
“I have this for you,” the little man tried to hand her papers.
“What is it?”
“You’re being sued,” the little man said.
“WHAT?” Heather tried to shut the door on the man. He stuck his foot in the door. “I’m just the server. Just doing my job.”
Mike came up behind Heather.
“What is it?”
“Some guy who says I’m being sued.”
Mike yanked the door open.
“He’s here,” Mike said. “Why don’t you just give me everything you have?”
“I don’t get paid if they don’t get them.”
The man tossed a stack of papers toward Heather. Out of instinct, Heather caught them. She was about to toss them back when Blane took them from her.
“What’s going on?” Jacob asked Jill. She was standing in the doorway to the living room staring at the papers.
“Lawsuits,” Mike said. “There’s one for you.”
Jacob held his hand out. The man set a stack of papers in his hand. Jacob put his arm around Jill and led her from the doorway. Delphie, Sam and Aden came to the door to see what was going on.
Mike tried to close the door but the server put his foot in the door again.
“There’s a couple more,” the thin man said. “One for Valerie Lipson.”
“I’ll take it,” Mike said. “I’m her husband. I handle this stuff. Anyone else?”
Aden reached past Mike to take his set of papers.
MJ stalked to the door. MJ’s dark look made the server gulp.
“You’re not Honey,” the server sputtered.
“Prove it,” MJ said. “Give me the papers.”
“Subpoena. It’s just a sub…subpoena.”
With a parting growl, MJ snatched Honey’s subpoena and marched away.
“Anything else?” Mike asked.
“Yeah, there’s one here for Chastity Grace Bell,” the man said.
“There’s no one by that name here,” Mike said. “You’re out of luck.”
Mike tried to close the door only to hit the servers foot again.
“Move your foot,” Mike said.
“There’s another name here.”
“What?” Mike asked.
“Chastity Grace Bell.”
“I told you there’s no one here by that name.”
“It says a.k.a. Oracle Taber.”
“Nope, you’re shit out of luck.” Mike tried to close the door again.
“There’s another name!” The server shouted.
Mike’s very being radiated his irritation. He motion with his hand for the man to say the other name.
Delphie put a hand on Mike’s arm. She smiled at the thin man and took the papers from him. She winked at Mike’s stunned face. The process server bowed and Delphie shut the door in his face.
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