Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Denver Cereal : Chapter Seventy : ...could change everything

CHAPTER SEVENTY

Tuesday – 4:00 P.M.

“Until he booked the trip to Costa Rica,” Perses said. “We should have realized what he was doing, but we underestimated him.”

“What was he doing?” Mike asked. “We never took vacations. Not one. Then all of the sudden we’re on the beach in Central America.”

“He planned to sell the bearer bonds and get rid of the family. He had used Anjelika and you children for as long as he needed you,” Perses said. “He was willing to let you live there, on the beach at Costa Rica, but he wouldn’t allow the bastard to live.”

“Me,” Jill said.

“Yes,” Anjelika said. “We left you guys to go to the market. Or I thought we were going to the market. We were a couple miles from the house when he started yelling… screaming… hitting. He pulled over onto a cliff. While I fought with him, he broke Jill’s leg. He was going to shoot her but I got in the way. He might hit me, but he knew if he killed me, Perses would hunt him to the end of the Universe. While we struggled, Jill shot him.”

“I grabbed at the gun and it went off,” Jill said. “I didn’t mean to shoot him. It just happened.”

“He was trying to throw her over the cliff. She grabbed at him and got the gun.” Perses said. “The gun went off while she fell backward. The bullet hit him in the throat.”

“I grabbed for Jill and caught her little hand,” Anjelika said. “I didn’t know Perses was there until he finished my husband.”

“I remember Mama catching my hand,” Jill said. “And… I don’t remember what happened next. The last thing I remember was my hand slipping and…”

“I reached out for her…”

“They almost both went over,” Perses said. “I grabbed Anjelika who had Jill. I pulled them both back.”

“Jill went into shock,” Anjelika said. “Her leg was badly broken and the rest of this was too much for her mind. She just snapped. Perses set up the accident and paid off the police. We were near you the entire time. We hoped to reconnect but….”

“An old friend told us that we needed to hide,” Perses said. “The Russian Mob wanted their money and Anjelika. I had to sedate your mother to get her to leave you. She….”

“They would have killed you,” Anjelika said. “My father confirmed this when I saw him again two months ago. If I had returned, you would be dead. The thing that kept you safe was to be dead to you. It nearly killed me.”

“Jillian was in a trance. She didn’t wake up until long after her leg healed,” Perses said. “And I don’t think she really came to herself until she was home in Denver. She draws her strength from you.”

The horrible story told, they all stared at each other. No one knew quite what to say next.

“Do you have questions?” Anjelika asked.

“I… I mean, my father… He was….” Steve’s confused, sad face asked the question his words could not complete.

“I knew your father when he was young man,” Perses said. “He was fun, funny, joyful. Everyone loved him and everyone knew he was gay. I wish you had known him then. He was everyone’s friend. I barely recognized him when I saw him again.”

“Yesterday you said I was being like my father by running away,” Stephen said. “What did you mean?”

“Your father inflicted his loss and pain on other people,” Perses said. “I was wrong to say that yesterday. You are not your father. I’m sorry.”

“Losing his lover, my step-brother, destroyed him, Stephen. He wasn’t a bad man, just a heart broken one,” Anjelika said. “He took his anger out on me and you kids. For that, I cannot forgive myself. If I had been stronger, I would have left him but…”

“We don’t blame you, Mama,” Megan said. “We were all… unhappy.”

“Can you forgive me for all of this?” Anjelika asked. “I am very, very sorry. I have been in hell all these years without you. I….”

Candy got up from the couch to hug Anjelika. Mike and Megan joined. Steve took Jill’s hand as they went to join the hug.

~~~~~~~~~

Tuesday — 4:20 P.M. Lipson Construction

“That’s what I don’t understand, Jake,” Honey said. “We’re buying stock?”

Jacob looked out over the group of a hundred Lipson employees. The classes on Saturday were a huge success, but they found people had questions. In order to keep everything on track, Jacob set up smaller groups to meet for an hour. Today, he was meeting with a group from Bambi’s team.

“Stock is a piece of paper or an electronic transaction, Honey,” Jacob said. “What you buy is stake in Lipson Construction. Technically, you will be members of the corporation.”

“I’m a member of REI,” Bambi said.

“That’s a good example,” Jacob said. “But you have ownership rights as a member. We could have sold stock, but the problem is that the stock must be registered on the stock exchange. Anyone could buy it. Our goal is that the control and profits stay with the people who care about the company – the people who work here.”

“What happens if we leave?” Honey asked.

“You have an option to sell your shares back to the company or to hold onto them,” Jacob said. “The later is really an option for people who retire.”

“But how will anyone afford to get the stock, Jake?” Honey asked.

“We take the money out of your paycheck, like we already do for your retirement fund. Some people are investing in the company rather than their retirement fund. Some people are doing both. Some people one or the other. It’s up to you and what makes sense to you and your family.”

The people became so quiet that Jacob wasn’t sure what was going on. He had the sense that there was a problem, but no one wanted to broach the topic.

“What if we don’t do it?” A small woman near the back asked.

“Nothing changes,” Jacob said. “You will still work here, collect your pay check. What you miss out on is helping to decide important issues and your part of the profits.”

“Someone said that you would maintain control of the company. That we’re just giving you money, but not getting control. You get our money and keep all the control,” a fair skinned man said. “That doesn’t seem right.”

“We’re selling the company slowly so that people can adjust to the change,” Jacob said. “I will maintain majority ownership for the next couple of years. However, that doesn’t mean that I keep all the control. As soon as you buy into the company, you have a say in what goes on here, and a stake.”

“But you’ll still run it?” the man asked.

“My father, sister and I will remain involved in the company,” Jacob said. “When the employees have completed the sale, the employees will have the option of choosing whether or not we’re involved. We’ll become more like salaried employees.”

“And Aden?” Bambi asked. “What about him?”

“Our hope is that Aden will remain as the CEO,” Jacob said. “He knows the company from the ground up. He’ll have at least three years of experience running the company by then.”

“I like Aden,” Bambi said. “I think we all feel like this is going to work because Aden’s our boss. Or at least I do.”

The other employees nodded their head.

“He always seems like he’s on our side,” the fair skinned man said.

“Aden’s a great guy. We’re lucky to have him,” Jacob said. “Any other questions?”

The employees looked at each other then back at Jacob.

“Great! See you this Saturday if not before.”

Jacob led people from the conference room. Leaning against the door, he watched the end of the day routine at Lipson construction. With a sigh, he went into his office.

It never occurred to him that he would have to convince the employees to buy the company. Over and over again, he found himself faced with mistrust and paranoia. Their mistrust triggered an unfamiliar insecurity and a lack of faith in Jacob. Walking back to his office, he settled in for another few hours of work.

~~~~~~~~

Tuesday – 5:40 P.M.

Pulling up to their house, Heather passed a familiar car parked at the curb. Rather than ignore the gray Audi TT convertible again, she waddled over to the car. She tapped on the driver’s window and he rolled the window down.

“If you’re going to stalk us, you may as well help me bring in the groceries,” Heather said.

“Stalk you?” Enrique tried to sound insulted.

“You’re funny. Get out of the car and help me!”

Enrique did what he was told. He followed Heather to the back of the Lexus SUV.

“I thought this was your friend’s car,” Enrique said.

“I’m trying it out. Blane wants to buy a family car so I’m trying different people’s cars.”

Heather opened the back and Enrique picked up three reusable bags worth of groceries for each hand. Heather took the last two bags.

“You have a lot here,” Enrique said.

“I just get what’s on the list,” Heather said.

Enrique laughed. Heather set her bags down to unlock the door.

“Before we go in, Blane is sick today,” Heather said. “He should be asleep so be quiet.”

“Yes ma’am,” Enrique said.

“Why did you laugh?” Heather said in a soft voice. “About the groceries?”

“Blane loves to cook, hates to shop,” Enrique said. “I used to make him do it with me.”

“I don’t mind shopping,” Heather said. “I’m not much of a cook.”

They carried the groceries to the kitchen. She set them on the counter then read the note Blane left for her.

“The kitchen is an add-on. He can’t hear us here,” Heather said. “Please make yourself at home. I need to check on him.”

Looking back at Enrique, she saw him nod. She went upstairs to their bedroom. Blane had spiked a fever around noon. Jake called Heather around two o’clock. She picked him up after dropping Sandy at the hospital. He had been asleep all afternoon.

She hated that he was so sick. They’d slept in the same bed for more than a month so she could keep an eye on him at night. His doctors said he was kicking the Hepatitis C virus, but his AIDS was activated making him susceptible to every cold or flu. She hoped this was just a cold.

He groaned when she touched him. He was still hot.

“Blane?” she whispered

“Heather, I’m sorry I’m sick again,” he said. “Feels like strep. Again.”

“Don’t worry. Let me look at your throat,” she said. Looking down his throat, she saw the white blisters. “Looks like strep. I’ll call the doctor.”

Blane almost wept with weariness and illness.

“Hey,” Heather said. “We’re almost through this thing. Don’t give up!”

He gave her a soft smile.

“Enrique’s here,” Heather said. “He’s downstairs.”

Blane attempted to get out of bed. Exhausted, he fell back against the pillows.

“Just rest, Ok,” Heather said. “You need to rest. I’ll take care of Enrique and the doctor.”

“I owe you my life,” Blane said. “I’d never have survived this without you.”

She smiled. Opening her mouth to say something, she saw that he was asleep again. She crept out of the room. Going downstairs, she heard Enrique moving around the kitchen. He was standing with a cabinet door open when she arrived in the den next to the kitchen.

“How is he?” Enrique asked.

“Sick. What are you doing?”

“Putting the groceries away,” Enrique said.

“You must really stalk us if you know where everything goes,” Heather said.

“He kept things in the same place when we lived together,” Enrique said. “Did he make that cake?”

“Touch my chocolate cake and you will die!” Heather said.

“They are good,” Enrique laughed.

Heather made a stern face to Enrique then went to call the doctor. The doctor ordered the meds and Walgreens said it would be at least an hour. Going back into the kitchen, she saw Enrique had finished with the groceries. He was looking around the kitchen and den.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m just….” Enrique said. “This is really nice. Did you do this?”

“Do what?” Heather asked. “Would you like some dinner? We have some left over meatloaf from last night. Then I have to get to Walgreens in an hour or so.”

“Blane’s meatloaf? Yes, I would very much love that,” Enrique said.

“He had strep. You might catch it,” Heather said.

“For his meatloaf? I’ll risk it,” Enrique said. “This house is really a … home. It looks remodeled… I wondered if you did it.”

“My friend Jill helped, and Jake, of course,” Heather said. “It’s turning out nice.”

“Home,” Enrique said. “It feels like a real home.”

“That’s what we wanted. A real home,” Heather smiled. “Meatloaf?”

“Garlic mashed potatoes?”

“Coming right up,” Heather said.

Heather nudged Enrique out of the kitchen. In companionable silence, she made up two plates of left over meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Enrique was charming through dinner. He told her funny stories about his work and life. When they were through with dinner, they shared a piece of her chocolate cake. He cleaned up the dishes while she checked on Blane before she left. They were at the door when she asked:

“Why do you sit outside?”

“I don’t know, Heather,” Enrique said. “I get off work and my little car seems to drive here. I…”

“Why don’t you come in next time?” Heather said. “There’s always some left-overs. I know Blane would like to see you.”

“I don’t want to… create complication… with your… life,” Enrique said.

“You won’t.” Heather looked deep into his eyes. “Ever. Blane and I are a family now. “

“Blane is gay, Heather! He will never be able to be your straight husband.”

Heather laughed.

“Why do you laugh?”

“Because you’re so traditional. What’s a family? Heather asked. “Is it a man and a woman who marry early, don’t really like each other, have ten kids, kick one out because he’s gay, marry someone else, have more kids, then force a couple others to live double lives?”

“You know about that?” Enrique blushed.

“I know a lot of things about you,” Heather said. “Families are groups of people who love each other, share common values and goals. That’s Blane and I. He supports me in what’s important to me. I support him in what’s important to him.”

“But…”

“Family is what you make it, where you make it, Enrique,” Heather said. “I know Blane said the same thing to you.”

Enrique nodded.

“Maybe you need to be a little more flexible.”

“Flexible? Me?” Enrique laughed. “Never.”

Heather smiled. They walked out to their cars. He waved as he pulled away. Heather waved back. She was surprised at how much she liked Enrique. He seemed to like her too. Not one to worry or wonder about what anything meant, Heather shrugged and drove to Walgreens.

~~~~~~~~

Tuesday night — 8:25 P.M.

Noticing Aden’s number on her caller ID, Sandy picked up her phone before it rang.

“Hi,” Sandy whispered.

She closed the door to the room Nash was asleep in.

“Hi gorgeous,” Aden said. “How is he?”

“Asleep,” she said. “I gave him his meds and he went right to sleep. It’s been an awful day.”

“And Buster?”

“Oh Buster,” Sandy laughed. “He’s asleep on the bed with Nash.”

“And Miss Cleo?” Aden asked.

Sandy smiled. It was so like Aden to remember her long suffering cat.

“She’s doing fine. She gave Buster a snarl when he came in. He wasn’t impressed with her.”

“Sounds like a truce.”

“A guarded truce, yes,” Sandy said. “I clipped his long hair to match the shorter hair. We gave Buster a bath. He’s really pretty cute. He has a dark patch over his dark eye.”

“Just like us, he needed Sandy’s help to reach his full potential.”

Sandy laughed.

“How’s your head?” Aden asked.

“It hurts,” Sandy said. “How is Noelle?”

Aden sighed.

“She was up for an hour or so,” Aden said. “Poor baby. She’s in so much pain. I… It rips the core out of me.”

“Poor Noelle,” Sandy said. She plopped down on her living room couch. Cleo came out from under the couch to sit on her lap.

“You should have seen her, Sandy,” Aden said. “She was such a trooper. Tears streaming down her face, trying not to cry, she was chatting away about how excited she is to meet Buster. Even the doctor was completely charmed by her.”

“She’s a wonderful girl,” Sandy smiled.

“Who talks a lot,” Aden laughed. “I feel awful Sandy. I knew Nuala didn’t like Noelle. I knew it. She could never even remember Noelle’s name. I just… God, I feel like I’m your Mom.”

“My Mom?” Surprised, Sandy laughed.

“I knew Nuala was dangerous. I knew she didn’t like Noelle. And God knows Noelle talks a lot. I should have protected her!”

“Oh Aden… Oh honey,” Sandy said. “It’s not your fault. No one could have expected Nuala to behave like this – not you, not anyone.”

“It is my fault, Sandy,” Aden sighed. “I love these kids so much but I’m always a step behind in what they need. Celia would have scolded me about today.”

“Celia was a psychic,” Sandy said. “You’re not.”

“Just a man,” Aden said. “I know I’ve asked you but why didn’t they give you pain killers for your head?”

“They didn’t think I needed them,” Sandy said.

“You looked like you were in pain when I saw you…”

“That kid had something hard in his backpack.” Sandy rubbed her bandaged head.

“A few stitches worth! Maybe I should call…?”

“I have been taking Tylenol. I’ll be all right, Aden. Don’t add me to your worry list.”

“I feel like everyone I love is on the injured reserve.”

Sandy laughed.

“Thanks for getting Buster and taking care of Nash, especially when you’re not feeling well,” Aden said. “Noelle will be out tomorrow. I know she’d like to see you.”

“Nash and I will be there,” Sandy said. “We’ll bring Buster.”

“Want to have phone sex?”

“You’re in a children’s hospital!” Sandy laughed.

“It’s nice to hear you laugh,” Aden said. “Sleep well. I’m going to snuggle in to this cot and wish I was with you.”

“I’ll miss you too,” Sandy said.

“Good night.” They said together then hung up the phone.

Wandering through her apartment, Sandy settled into bed. Cleo curled up next to her. And finally this long day was over. They were both asleep in moments.

Denver Cereal continues next week….

~~~~~~~~

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