Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Denver Cereal : Chapter Seventy-One : He just left.

CHAPTER SEVENTY-ONE

The next day Wednesday – 4:30 A.M. The Castle

Bundled with a thick sweater over her pajamas, Jill waited for her brother Steve in the main Castle living room. Steve arrived around 4:30 in the morning to help Honey get ready for her day. Hearing a key in the lock, Jill stood to greet him.

“Jill! Hi!” Steve hugged Jill then took off his jacket.

“I wanted to check to see how you were doing, you know, about last night.”

“Not so great,” Steve said. “I should get to Honey.”

“MJ got home late last night,” Jill said. “She’s usually slow when he’s home.”

“She’s very slow when MJ’s home.”

“You’re not wearing Dad’s watch.”

“I thought…” Steve’s face clouded.

“What’s got you so upset, Steve? It’s not just Mama or Dad. You’ve been like this for weeks.”

When Jill’s eyes searched her happy-go-lucky brother’s face, he looked away.

“What is it?” Jill asked again.

“I’m going to have a baby… in less than two months. Jill, I never would have gone through this if I’d known, really known, about… my father.” Steve spit out the last words. His face darkened with anger. “All those great memories I had of him? Turns out that was Perses.”

“I wondered about that.”

“I… I don’t know what it means to be a father or even a man. I’ve tried so hard and…”

“You’re a wonderful man.” Jill hugged him. “You’ll be a fabulous father.”

“I’m not! I could easily beat Leslie or the child! I don’t…”

“You aren’t Dad,” Jill said.

“I want to run away, Jill,” Steve said. “I do. After all the expense and trouble, I want to run as far away as possible from Leslie, my child, my work… everything.”

“I’ve felt like that,” Jill said.

“Mostly, I want things to be what I thought they were. We had great parents. They died. And we made it through.”

“We did have great parents. They were dead to us and we did make it through.”

“You know what I mean,” Steve said.

“I do,” Jill said. “He was our Dad, Steve. I loved him. No matter what - I loved him.”

“I loved him too.” Steve gave Jill a soft smile. “Thanks for that. I guess I feel weird for loving him.”

Jill hugged him again.

“Maybe Perses can help,” Jill said. “If your good memories are with him, why not talk to him? Mama said he would be here for a while.”

“I’m supposed to see them today after work,” Steve said. “Mama’s worried about me.”

“I’m worried about you,” Jill said. “You’ve always been the kindest, nicest person. Always. Why would being a father be any different?”

“Ah Jill, I don’t know,” Steve said. “It seems more important than anything else.”

Jill smiled.

“Yeah, I know that smile,” Steve laughed. “I’m being a freak.”

“Not a freak. No,” Jill said. “The fact you care so much means you’re already a great father.”

Steve’s face flushed red. Unable to trust his words, he gave Jill a curt nod.

“I should go.”

“Love you Steve.”

“Love you Jilly.”

Jill watched Steve walk down the hall to Honey and MJ’s apartment. She smiled when she heard Honey laugh. With one last ‘I hope he’s all right’ look, Jill went back upstairs.

~~~~~~~

Wednesday – 12:20 P.M. The Castle

Not quite awake, but not really asleep, Katy lay in the guest bedroom next to Jill’s office. She’d developed a fever overnight and had to stay home from the Marlowe school. And today, of all days, Uncle Mike had decided to finally paint the walls of her room.

She was stuck in this plain boring room. Katy rolled onto her side. Scooter was taking up the whole bed! AND there were no fairies in this room. Katy flopped on her stomach.

“Are you awake, Katy-baby?” Jill asked. She came in to sit next to Katy on the bed. “How are you feeling?”

“Mommy, I can’t sleep without fairies!”

“You’ve slept for a long time without fairies,” Jill laughed. “You can get up if you’re awake.”

Katy shook her head at her mother. Scooter rolled over to put his head on Katy’s stomach.

“All right then. Just rest.” Jill leaned over to kiss Katy’s cheek. “I’ll check on you in a bit.”

Katy flopped on her side. Certain she would never get to sleep, she flipped onto her back.

And fell into a trance.

~~~~~~~~

Wednesday — 1 PM

“I’m not afraid Dad,” Noelle said. “I’ve seen ugly things before and I don’t care if Buster is ugly. I mean, he’s our dog. I hope he’s going to be my dog. My special friend. I could really use my own dog.”

Aden was wheeling Noelle through Children’s Hospital in a wheelchair. A nurse walked beside them. Sandy, Buster and Nash were waiting for them outside on the sidewalk.

“Your dog?” Aden asked.

“MY dog! I don’t know. I want him to like me most. Even if I have trouble with my eye and my face is all messed up. Dog’s don’t care about that. Do they, Dad?”

“No, dog’s don’t care and when did you start calling me Dad?”

“I’m almost eleven, Dad. Daddy is for little girls. Not for big girls like me. Big girls who have their own dogs and their own rooms AND their own Moms.”

Aden laughed and Noelle giggled.

“Don’t worry, Daddy. I was just trying on the whole tween thing. That’s what it’s called you know tween. That’s when I get to be snotty and mean to everyone and… I don’t know, Daddy, I don’t think I can do it. Do you think Sandy was like that when she was a tween?”

“I doubt it but we can ask her.” Aden pushed the blue wheelchair button for the doors to open.

“I’m going to have my eye fixed today right?” Noelle asked.

“Sandy’s going to take you to the ophthalmologist to have her do a second procedure,” Aden said. “I have to go to…”

“Work,” Noelle said. “Daddy, you should have worked yesterday. Why didn’t you work yesterday?”

“My baby was in the hospital.”

“Will they fire you?” Noelle asked.

“No,” Aden said. “Val’s still in town. With Jake, Sam and Val, there’s a lot of us to run the show. But I have to go this afternoon.”

“Daddy, what about Buster? What will Buster do when I’m at the doctor or school or…”

At that moment, Sandy, Nash and Buster came into view. Nash let go of Buster’s leash and the dog ran up to Noelle. Putting his front legs on her lap, Buster licked Noelle’s face. She squealed, laughed and cried.

“But… but… “ Noelle said though her laughter.

Sandy leaned down to hug Noelle and kiss her cheek. Nash hugged Noelle. He gave Noelle her favorite Teddy Bear. Aden hugged Sandy.

“Buster’s not ugly at all!” Noelle said.

“It’s love at first sight,” Aden said.

~~~~~~~~

Wednesday — 1:35 P.M.

Jill had gone in to check on Katy and found her in a trance. Unsure of how to help her baby, Jill climbed into the bed. Sitting with her back against the headboard, she moved Katy onto her lap. Scooter snuggled close to both of them. An hour passed. Katy’s trance had lasted longer than any Jill knew about. Jill was about to call Jacob when Katy woke screaming.

Wrapping Katy in blankets, Jill carried her to Celia’s rocker by the front windows. The afternoon sunlight shone on Jill and Katy rocking in the chair. When Katy’s tears began to slow, Jill asked:

“What happened Katy-baby?”

With watery eyes, Katy looked at her mother, shook her head and started crying again.

“Should I call Daddy?”

Katy shook her head against Jill’s chest. Katy tucked her face against Jill’s neck and cried. Kissing Katy’s warm forehead, Jill rocked her until she fell asleep. Unwilling to leave her alone, Jill carried Katy into her office. Katy usually slept like a stone for at least a half hour after these trances. Jill settled her baby on the couch in her office then slowly started back to work on her school project.

~~~~~~~~

Wednesday —2:05 P.M.

Valerie set her empty suitcases on her living room floor. As if she’d never seen them before, she opened them then sat down on the couch. She was chewing on her thumb when Mike came down from Katy’s room.

“What’s going on?” Mike asked.

“I’m packing.”

Mike looked at the empty suitcases then raised an eyebrow to Valerie.

“I can see you’ve been working hard,” he said.

“I don’t want to go.”

“What? Why?”

Mike sat in an armchair next to the couch. Valerie got up from her spot to sit on his lap. With the question lingering in the air, they sat cuddling in the armchair.

“Are you nervous about doing the movie?”

“No.”

“Are you worried about the babies? Because the doctor said you’d be fine.”

“No.”

They sat in silence for a while.

“I don’t want to go,” Valerie said.

“I’m not sure why? We’ve been here for almost five months. That’s longest you’ve lived in Denver since…”

“High school,” Valerie said. “Yeah. But…”

“But…?”

“I’ve been really happy. You know, the last five months, here … with you… Now we have babies on the way. I don’t want to screw it up and…”

“I’m going with you to Prague, Val,” Mike said.

“What about your show?”

“We’ll come home that weekend then turn around and go back. Your agent’s already set it up. They’re going to do publicity for the movie at my show,” he said. “Remember?”

“I guess.”

“You love being an actress, Val.”

“I love driving an excavator.”

Mike laughed.

“Don’t laugh,” Valerie said. “This is a big time for the company. They need me here to help.”

“And you have helped,” Mike said. “You’ll be able to Skype in for meetings. Nothing really changes. You can drive an excavator all summer.”

Valerie didn’t say anything for a while.

“You’ll come with me?”

“Of course,” he said. “I’ll even go to the set with you, if you want. I’m not leaving you – never by choice.”

“Never by choice.”

She threw her arms around his neck and cried.

~~~~~~~~

Wednesday — 2:16 P.M.

Katy woke up when Jill left to go to the bathroom. Sitting up on the couch, Katy saw Jill’s cell phone on her desk. She picked up the cell phone. Remembering how her Mom called Auntie Megan, she dialed.

“Hello?” Katy said into the cell phone.

“Hello,” A nice man’s voice said back. “Who this?”

“I’m Katy. I wanted to talk to Paddie.”

“Paddie?” The man asked.

“I pressed the ‘P’ letter on Mommy’s phone so I could talk to Paddie,” Katy said.

“You must be Katy Marlowe.” The man laughed. “I’m Paddie’s grandfather.”

“Oh. Sorry.”

Katy’s voice fell. She had been so sure that Paddie would be there.

“Did you know that I was called Paddie?”

“Really?” Katy asked. “Like my Paddie?”

“Just like your Paddie. He’s not here but I can give him a message.”

“Can you ask him for the dragon skin for my Auntie Sandy? His Auntie has some and my Auntie needs it today.”

“How soon does your Auntie need it?”

“Well, right now, but….”

“KATHLEEN ROPER MARLOWE! What are you doing?” Horrified, Jill picked up Katy. She took the cell phone from her hand.

“Hello? This is Jill Roper. I’m very sorry to have disturbed you. My daughter’s been ill today and she….”

Jill stopped talking when she heard a man laugh.

“Hello Jillian. It’s Patrick Hargreaves. Katy called looking for Paddie.”

Jill gasped. Senator Patrick Hargreaves! On her phone! She glared at Katy. Katy wrinkled her nose in return.

“I’m so sorry, sir. I’ve had this number since you gave it to me when….”

“Yes, we returned from Costa Rica,” he said. “How is your mother?”

“She’s well, sir,” Jill said. “She and her husband are here in town for a while.”

“They’re a lovely people. I’m going to be in Denver this weekend. I’ll have to make sure to see them,” the Senator said. “Listen, Katy asked me for something very specific. Would you mind dropping by my daughter’s home? Someone will meet you at the curb.”

“She’s just a little girl, sir. If she bothered you in anyway….”

The Senator laughed.

“In my family, when Katy speaks, we respond,” Senator Hargreaves said. “She’s saved more than one life. Would you like someone to drop….?”

“No sir, we will go there right now,” Jill said.

“We get to see Paddie?” Katy clapped her hands together.

“Actually, Paddie is coming to my house this weekend. Would you like to join us? Of course, your charming husband as well,” the Senator said.

“Yes, sir.”

“Why don’t you call us and let us know if you can make it?” The Senator asked. “Nice to speak with you, Jill. My guess is that you have a busy afternoon ahead.”

“Thank you sir. I apologize again if we….”

“She reminds me of my twins – precious pains in the rear,” he said. “I hope to see you this weekend.”

“Yes sir,” Jill said then clicked off the phone. “Katy! What?!”

“Mommy something very bad is going to happen.”

“Something bad is always going happening.” Jill tickled Katy. “And something wonderful. That’s life.”

“But Mommy, it’s going to happen to Auntie Sandy,” Katy said.

“What? What do you mean?” Jill asked.

~~~~~~~~

Wednesday — 2:20 P.M.

Sandy was driving Aden’s car with Nash, Noelle and Buster in the back when her cell phone rang. Glancing at the number, Sandy passed the phone back to Noelle.

“It’s your Dad,” Sandy said. “He wants to know how your surgery went.”

“Daddy?” Noelle asked into the phone.

“Hi Sweetie! How did it go?” Aden asked.

“It was awful, Daddy,” Noelle said. “My lady doctor wasn’t there. There was a man doctor and… he was shocked at my face. I could tell. He thinks I’m ugly.”

“Oh honey. Did he say that?”

“No, he didn’t. Sandy said he was just shocked at the bruise. Sandy says my bruising is shocking. Is it shocking, Daddy?”

“It’s shocking, honey, but you’ll heal up. Remember the doctor at the hospital said in a couple months you’ll never know it happened.”

“But Daddy, I need to look good now!”

“Oh honey, no one cares.”

“But Daddy, I was going to be in a movie. And now I’m too ugly!”

“What movie? What are you talking about?”

“It was supposed to be a surprise,” Noelle said. “Sandy’s Dad was going to put me in a movie and…”

Sandy pulled the car to the curb. She stared at Noelle in the rear view mirror.

“What? What’s going on?” Nash asked.

“What do you mean, Noelle?” Aden asked. “This is important.”

“It was a surprise,” Noelle started to cry. “I wanted to surprise you. For Christmas. Sandy’s Dad said I would be the star in a movie. Now I won’t be able to! And don’t say he wasn’t going to. He was Sandy’s Dad. He wouldn’t lie!”

“Okay, honey, okay. Don’t worry. You have plenty of time to be in a lot of movies. Mrs. Valerie is a real movie star. She wasn’t in her first movie until she was at least twenty. I bet she would tell you all about being a movie star.”

“Mrs. Valerie is really pretty Daddy,” Noelle dissolved into tears. “And I’m disgusting…”

Sandy came around the car to hold Noelle. Buster tried to lick Noelle’s face and Nash rubbed Noelle’s hair. Noelle cried her eyes out. By the time Sandy got the phone from Noelle, Aden had hung up. Back in the driver’s seat, she tried to call Aden. He didn’t answer. She dialed Lipson Construction.

“Hi Tammy, I was looking for Aden.”

“He just left Sandy,” Aden’s secretary said.

“I have his car,” Sandy said.

“He took a Lipson truck.”

“Did he say where he was going?”

“Not to me,” Tammy said. “He talked to Jake then left.”

“Okay, thanks.”

~~~~~~~

Wednesday — 2:35 P.M.

“Auntie Sandy needs our help,” Katy said.

Jill scowled at Katy then answered the phone.

“Hi honey,” Jacob said.

“How are you?” Jill asked. With Katy on her hip, she wandered the loft looking for her handbag.

“I had an odd question for you,” Jacob said.

“What’s up?” Jill pulled a fleece jacked over Katy’s head. She put her handbag over her shoulder.

“Aden just quit his job,” Jacob said. “I wondered if you knew anything about that.”

“Nothing. What happened?”

“He walked into my office and said, ‘I can’t work here anymore. Sorry.’ He took a Lipson truck and left.”

“Jacob, what’s going on? You must to know.”

“Aden’s going after Sandy’s father,” Jacob said.

~~~~~~~~ Wednesday — 2:40 P.M.

Unsure of what to do, Sandy took the kids to the Castle. She knew they felt comfortable there and Delphie or Jill would take care of them. Sandy couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that Aden was going to do something stupid. She needed to find him.

Her sense of panic increased when Delphie met them at the gate. Jill was standing with Katy on her hip at the side door. The women pretended everything was cool until Noelle and Nash were settled in front of Monsters, Inc. in a sitting area off the main living room. Sarah, Scooter and Buster flopped on the floor around them. Doped up on pain medication, the kids zoned out to the movie.

“I’ll stay with the kids,” Delphie said. “But you need to go.”

“What’s going on?” Sandy whispered.

“Jake says Aden’s gone after your father,” Jill said. “Katy says you need some dragon thing from the Hargreaves house and…”

“Let’s go,” Sandy said.

~~~~~~~~ Wednesday — 2:40 P.M. Aden wasn’t really sure what happened. When Noelle said the words ‘movie’ combined with the words ‘Sandy’s father,’ he only saw what he had to do. It was almost as if the words were a magic spell or triggered a natural cascade. He felt a strange kind of calm. And a deep sense of rage. Nothing would deter him. He might not be able to protect Noelle from a court ordered visitation. But he could protect her from this. He had set the phone down, walked into Jake’s office to quit his job, and walked out of the building. Somewhere in his mind, he realized that driving a Lipson truck was dumb. But his rage shut down all logical thought. At least Sandy had his kids. Whatever happened today, his kids would be safe. All kids would be safe from this monster after today. When he and Sandy started dating, they had driven around to look at all the places they had lived. Aden took her to the street corner he panhandled, the vacant lot that once held the last known residence of his parents, and the variety of apartments and houses. Sandy showed him her mother’s house and, after much cajoling, her father’s home. Pulling up to the curb in front of the Mayfair bungalow, he was glad he remembered where the asshole lived. Aden saw the curtain move. The asshole was home.

~~~~~~~~

Wednesday — 2:55 P.M.

Jill pulled up in front of the large rooming house in South City Park. Alex Hargreaves and her identical twin Max were standing in their front yard. Alex opened the back of the Lexus to get in. Seeing Katy in her car seat, Alex leaned back and whistled. Colin Hargreaves and two other men came to the car.

“Hey Jill,” Max said. “Would you mind if Katy played with Paddie this afternoon?”

“She has a fever,” Jill said. “Blane has strep and we think Katy might have it.”

“Paddie’s been sick too,” Colin said. “Of course. He’s terribly bored. Katy will be a welcome distraction.”

“Mommy, can I play with Paddie??”

“Are you sure you don’t…?”

Katy was out of her car seat and into Colin’s arms. Jill got out of the driver’s seat to say good bye to Katy and the big guy who was Teddy Jakkman’s guardian got into the driver’s seat. Max and Alex got into the back of the car.

“Sorry Jill,” Alex took Katy’s car seat out of the back of the Lexus. “You better sit this one out.”

“But…” Jill said.

She watched the back of her Lexus SUV move down the street.

Denver Cereal continues next week….

~~~~~~~~

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