Two days later Sunday night — 11:20 P.M.
Jill woke up in an empty bed. Grabbing her warm bathrobe, she wandered through the loft looking for Jacob. Not finding him, she was about to head down to the Castle when she saw light coming from under the door to Jacob’s old apartment. She wandered through his old bathroom until she stood at the door to his apartment. Her eyes searched the dark room until she found him. Jacob was sitting in his sagging old leather chairs by the window. Not wanting to disturb him, she hesitated to move forward. She was about to go back to bed when she heard him say, almost as an exhale:
Smiling, she moved forward to him. She took the hand he lifted to her. So unlike Jacob, he continued to stare out into the night. She was about to ask what was wrong, when he shifted to pull her onto his lap.
She yelped with surprise then laughed. He buried his face in her neck.
“What’s going on?” Jill whispered.
He pulled back to look into her face. Giving her a soft smile, he kissed her slowly first, then with deep and rising pressure. She responded to his passion. Out of breath, she pulled away to look at him. He shrugged at the question in her eyes, then returned to looking out the window. Not wanting to push it, she rested her head against his shoulder. They silently watched the night sky. After a while, Jacob sighed.
“I used to sit here, like this, hoping, wishing, longing. Right here. In this chair. A lot.”
He fell silent. Jill kissed his cheek. Trusting him to tell her when he was ready, she rested in the warmth and comfort of his lap. He sighed again.
“I ached for you, for a chance at a life with you. I longed for family, children, joy. I wished for Val to come home and want to be my sister again. I hoped my father would survive the loss of my mother. I begged a thousand times to be relieved of the burden of the Lipson albatross.”
He sighed and became quiet again.
“You have almost everything you wished for.”
“The moment you entered my life, I got everything I’d ever wished, hoped or longed for,” he said. “And Katy? I never thought I could love a single being so much, laugh so hard, and get so angry – all in the same moment.”
“That’s a good description of Katy.” She kissed him under his chin.
“Tomorrow, the first round of Lipson Construction shares will be sold to the employees,” Jacob said. “It’s all happening.”
She nestled into his lap.
“Is it everything you’d hoped for?”
“Oh.” Jacob shifted to look into her face. “It’s more than I hoped for, more than I could ever dream of. I’d never expected to be so happy and feel so complete… whole.”
He pressed her head back to his shoulder then kissed the top of it.
“Why are you here in the middle of the night?” she asked.
“I’m not sure… Marking the moment, I guess,” he said. “After so much longing for such a long time, I’m not very sure what will happen next.”
“A psychic, I know.” Jacob kissed her forehead. “It’s hard to explain. I wanted all of this to happen, but I wasn’t sure it would.”
“Can’t know your own future?” she asked.
“Exactly,” he said. “I can stretch out to see what’s next, but it’s out of context. I don’t really get what it means. For some reason, there’s a gaping hole in the middle of it – like I’m not allowed to see a part of it.”
“Sounds like Delphie’s issue a month ago,” Jill said.
“Good point,” Jacob said.
“What about babies? Just a few months ago, you were excited to have more babies but lately, you’ve been reluctant.”
“Seems like Katy keeps our hands pretty full,” he said. “I’m glad she’s feeling better.”
“Me too. It’s like a switch — one moment she’s was sick, the next she’s all better,” Jill said.
“She’s very strong, like her Mommy.”
“Like her Daddy.” Jill touched his face. “Katy is not the reason you don’t want to get pregnant. I know it’s not it. You see something.”
“I see something,” he said.
“I wish I knew.”
Monday morning — 8:16 A.M. Anschutz Hospital
“So that’s it?” Blane asked. He looked over at Heather’s smiling face. “We’re done?”
“That’s it,” his doctor said. “We haven’t found Hep C virus in your system since the end of last year. We’ll check again in a month, two months, then six months.
“But he can stop taking the Ribavirin now?” Heather asked.
“Stop taking the Ribavirin and interferon. For all intents and purposes, Blane is cured.”
“Of course, we’re delighted,” Heather said. “It’s just that he’s been so sick this month.”
“It’s going to take your body a while to adjust, but I bet in a week or so you’ll feel better,” the doctor said. “Looks like it’s just in time. When’s the baby due?”
“Next week,” Blane said.
“There’s no treatment like this for HIV?” Heather asked.
“The interferon helped reduce his overall viral count,” the doctor said. “So far, there’s no cure for HIV. There isn’t even a lot of money going into that kind of research. A lot of people think it’s impossible.”
Heather shifted her body in such a way as almost to protect Blane from the information.
“We won’t give up hope,” Heather said.
“No, we’d be foolish to give up hope,” the doctor smiled at her protective stance. “I’ve seen too much to believe that it’s impossible. There are a couple of interesting trials here at the University. Would you like me to look into it?”
“I have a lot to live for,” Blane said. “I want do everything I can to make that happen.”
“Big changes in your life,” the doctor smiled.
“First, you must recover from the Ribavirin,” the doctor said. “You need to get strong and healthy again. That has to happen now. Use your acupuncture. Get back to exercising. Stay on your clean eating diet. No alcohol. No drugs. No junk food. These things make the biggest difference. When you’re strong again, we’ll look at our options with treatment.”
“We’ll do it,” Heather said.
Blane stood to shake the doctor’s hand.
“When are you finished with your program?” the doctor asked.
“Six weeks,” Blane said. “As soon as I feel better, I’m planning on seeing more private patients.”
“Do you have an office?”
“We have one in the house,” Heather said. “Why do you ask?”
“I have a lot of patients who could benefit from acupuncture with someone who can understand what it’s like to live with chronic illness,” the doctor said.
“Happy to help,” Blane said.
“I’ll see you in a month for the next blood draw and we’ll talk about it then.”
Blane followed Heather from the doctor’s office. They stopped to make an appointment for next month, then wandered through the building. Outside, they began the hike across campus to the patient parking lots. Blane opened Heather’s door then went around to the driver’s seat. He pulled out onto Colfax.
“You’re awfully quiet,” Blane said.
“I was wondering what would happen now that you don’t need me anymore,” Heather said.
“You mean because the Ribavirin treatment is over?”
Heather nodded. Her hand instinctively went around her big belly.
“I thought we were a family,” Blane said.
“I’m really just a freeloader,” she said. “I’ve lived in your house, eaten your food… I should really get on my way.”
“We’re married. I was going to be the father of the baby.”
“Oh come on! That was just on paper.”
“Heather,” Blane pulled over to the curb. “What’s going on?”
“Please tell me what’s going on,” Blane said. “You’ve been a rock for me. Every step along the way, you’ve been positive and confident. What’s happened to ‘We’re a family’?”
Heather shrugged. Lost in her own thoughts, she looked away from him.
“Sandy’s going to live at the Castle for a while,” Heather said. “I can live at her place until I get on my feet again.”
“Please stop this,” Blane’s voice echoed the panic he felt inside. “You’re making all of this up. I don’t want you to go. You’ve been through hell and back with me. Please Heather talk to me. What happened?”
“I saw my mother yesterday,” Heather said. “She saw Sandy on the television and said she wanted to talk. I went over…”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“You’ve been working to finish getting the Lipson sale ready. I didn’t want to bother you.”
“What did your mother say?”
“That gay boy is going to break your heart.” Heather looked over at him. “Mark my words, he’ll abandon you and the baby to go sex it up around town. Then where will you be?”
“Like I’ve sexed it up so far?” Blane’s rage and indignation echoed in his words.
“You’ve been sick,” Heather said.
“That’s what you think? I’ve made all this commitment to our life together because I’ve been sick?”
Heather looked away from him. Staring out on Colfax, she watched a group of homeless men leaning against the boarded front door of an abandoned restaurant. As if moving in slow motion, the men shifted in the morning cold.
“I know it’s dumb. I believe what Mom says,” Heather said into the passenger window. “Even though I know she’s bitter and angry with me, I still believe her.”
Heather turned back to look at him.
“Are you going to abandon me?”
“No,” he said. “I don’t abandon people. I never have. I never will.”
“What if you and Enrique get back together again?”
“What if you and the doctor start dating?”
“My doctor? Back there? You haven’t noticed?”
“Noticed what?” Heather asked.
“He’s totally hot for you,” Blane said.
“He is not,” Heather said. “Look at me? I’m a cow! I’ve never been this huge! I…”
“You’re gorgeous,” Blane said. “Listen, you have to listen to me. Just listen.”
“There’s an idea about gay men,” Blane said. “We’re all promiscuous, fuck each other anywhere, any time. And some men are like that. But some straight men are like that too. I had my fill of it when I was a kid. Since I’ve been clean, and had a choice, I have been sexual within the context of my relationships. No orgies, no bath houses, no book clubs, no sex through a wall or whatever. MY choice. Long before I met you.”
“But we don’t have sex,” Heather said. “Isn’t that hard on you?”
“No,” Blane said. “If you were a man, and we were in a relationship, that would be hard. Is it hard on you?”
Heather shook her head. He tilted his head to ask again.
“I mean, I miss it,” Heather said. “But not the one night stand sex.”
“You thought you’d be with that guy,” Blane said. “The tool.”
“The sperminator. I guess with the baby coming, I think about him,” Heather said. “I didn’t think he would be such an ass. God, this custody crap is just stupid. Now, he has to pay child support and will have to prove he’s capable of custody. Social services doesn’t care about the money he gave me already. What an idiot.”
“He’s pretty dumb,” Blane said. “The social worker told me that he keeps saying that he wants to stop the proceedings. But once they know he’s the father, he’s going to pay for the next eighteen years of his life.”
“Or think he will,” Heather said. “We’ll let him off the hook when you adopt the baby. If you still want to…”
“Adopt my baby? I’m so excited to meet him. I can hardly wait.”
Blane beamed at Heather and she smiled in return.
“I want what Jacob and Jill have, what you and Enrique had,” Heather said.
“Enrique’s with a guy named Calvin,” Blane said. He moved the car into the Colfax traffic. “I saw them together at the acupuncture clinic. The guy told the desk clerk that Enrique quit smoking for him. I checked Enrique’s file. It says they’re living together.”
“So he’s been with this guy all along?”
“Yep,” Blane said.
“Are you all right about it?”
“I’m not broken up about it, if that’s what you mean,” Blane said. “I have too many great things in my life to worry about him right now.”
“We have shitty taste in men,” Heather said.
“We have shitty taste in men.”
“I’m glad we have each other,” Heather said.
“Can you trust me? Is it possible just to trust me?”
“Do you trust me?” Heather asked.
“After the last three months? I trust you with my life,” Blane said. “I’m tired of talking about me being gay and you being straight. We have so many great things to talk about. This gets just stupid.”
“You’ll tell me if…”
“I will,” Blane said. “The second I fall in love, you’ll be the first to know. You’ll tell me?”
“And we won’t talk about it again?”
“I won’t,” Heather said.
“Good. I won’t either,” Blane said. “And we’re a family right?”
“You’re my only family now.”
“You’re my only family,” Blane said. “I don’t have to be in until noon. Let’s go get your car. What did you pick?”
“Subaru Outback,” Heather said.
“That’s not very fancy.”
“I’m not a very fancy girl.” Heather said.
Blane smiled and turned the car down Havana toward the dealership.
p align=”center”>~~~~~~~~ Monday afternoon — 4:11 P.M.
“That’s the best we can expect, Aden,” Samantha Hargreaves said.
“One year in county, one year work release, three years probation,” Aden said. “It doesn’t seem like much of a bargain.”
“Third degree assault has a possible sentence of two years in county. A year sentence is a reduction. You should be out in six months with good behavior,” Samantha said. “You’ve had a lot of press attention. The Denver Post is calling you a hero. If they don’t prosecute, the police and D.A. think there will be more vigilante justice. With all of these men arrested for child pornography, they have to lay down the law. That’s what they say.”
“I’m an example.”
“You’re being used as an example,” Samantha said.
“And if we take it to trial?”
“The DA is pissed off, Aden,” Samantha said. “He’ll come at you full force. Plus…”
Closing her mouth, Samantha shook her head.
“This is the best we can expect,” she said.
“Have you ever heard of Judge Howard Alberts?”
“The hanging judge? Yeah, he was the judge on my last case. He scared the crap out of me. He told me that nothing pissed him off more than to see someone capable ‘shit their life away.‘ Said if he ever saw me again, ever like even in the grocery store, he would give me the maximum sentence on my case and throw in a couple charges just for sheer stupidity alone. My PD told me he was the hardest, meanest judge on the bench. He’s probably the single most influential person in my life. I was so terrified of him that I got clean, let Nuala go, and the rest is history.”
Puzzled, Aden’s brows furrowed.
“Why?” he asked.
“He’s the judge on this case. Your case, Sandy’s father’s case, and the rest of the guys. He’s a senior judge now. He’ll decide what happens in all of these cases. He’s chosen to try your case. He specifically said he would preside over your case.”
“Fuck is right, Aden,” Sandy said. “The DA told me that because a senior judge has chosen to take the bench, he’s going to personally prosecute your case. If we take this to trial, we…”
“We’ve already lost,” Aden said. “Wow, I really fucked up my life.”
“I’m sorry.” Samantha’s baby blue eyes relayed her empathy. “We’ll get through this together.”
“Yes, thank you for everything, Samantha,” Aden said. “As always, I’d be lost without you.”
“We’ll take the plea?”
“Yes, we’ll take the plea,” Aden said. “How long do I have?”
“Not long,” Samantha said. “The DA wants you gone and fast. I’ll try to stall but I bet they’ll want to do this by the end of the week. You need to get ready.”
“Crap,” Aden said.
“No point putting off the inevitable,” Samantha said.
“What’s that mean?”
“I don’t know,” she smiled. “It’s something my Dad used to say all the time. We’ll get through this. Jake said you’ll have your job when you get out. You know how to do easy time.”
“I’ll miss almost two years of my kids lives! Noelle will be a teenager by the time I get done. My unborn baby will be a toddler. God, Nash will grow up without me,” Aden said. “Judge Alberts has final say on sentencing. He can give me the maximum. What’s the maximum?”
“He can insist that it’s a first degree assault – intent to do serious bodily harm and doing serious bodily harm – rather than what we’re pleading to, third degree assault – knowingly or recklessly causing bodily harm,” Samantha said. “First degree assault is mandatory ten years. At the minimum. We can claim self defense because you believed you were protecting Noelle. If he refuses the plea and goes with first degree assault, we’ll have to go to trial. No choice.”
“At least ten years!” Aden said. “He’s going to give me the maximum. I just know it.”
“One thing at a time,” Samantha said. “We can always make a big media fuss. The DA isn’t going to want that kind of attention.”
“But he took my case, right?”
“He did,” Samantha said.
Tuesday morning — 2:30 A.M. Czech Republic
Mike set Valerie down to open the apartment door. She stumbled into the living room and flopped on the couch. He helped her out of her clothing then carried her to the bathroom. By what the media called her ‘diva demands’, their plush apartment came with a large bathtub. She dozed against him while he started their bath.
He helped her into the bathtub then stepped in behind her. She rested against him for a while. When she roused, he asked:
“How are you?”
“Very happy,” Valerie said. “I had a great day and this is a dream come true.”
He pulled her against him. They fell asleep in each other’s arms.
Denver Cereal continues next week….
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