Saturday morning - 7:00 AM Dozen’s Restaurant
Jill and Sandy looked up when Heather trotted into the restaurant. With her big belly and happy smile, Heather was her own planet of happiness. And, as she always added, swollen feet.
“Sorry I’m late,” Heather said.
“We just got here,” Jill said.
“Well, I know Sandy has to work today….”
“And yesterday,” Jill said.
“And tomorrow,” Heather said.
“Just that time of year,” Sandy smiled. “At least this year I’m going to go to some of these parties, not just work getting people ready for them.”
“Oooh that’s right,” Heather said. “You have one tonight?”
“At the Brown Palace,” Jill said. “There’s a tea mid-day tomorrow, but Sandy can’t go.”
“I’ve never been to high-tea at the Brown Palace,” Heather said.
“I haven’t either,” Sandy said.
“This will be my first time,” Jill said. “Let’s plan to go before Christmas.”
“Go where?” Tanesha asked.
“TANESHA!!” The women said in unison. They stood to hug their friend.
“I thought you had to work?” Jill hugged Tanesha.
“I quit all those jobs,” Tanesha hugged Sandy. Turning to hug Heather, she said, “Jeez, look at you!”
“I’m an elephant,” Heather said.
The women laughed. They were so delighted to see Tanesha that they stood for a moment just looking at her. Embarrassed at the fuss, Tanesha indicated that they should sit down.
“There’s a story here,” Sandy said. “How did you quit all those jobs?”
“There’s really not much to tell,” Tanesha said.
The waitress came over to see if Tanesha needed coffee and refilled the other’s cups.
“How is that possible?” Heather asked. “I haven’t seen you in months. Well, except for the wedding when you could only stay for the ceremony.”
“She’s trying to say that we’ve missed you,” Jill said. “A lot.”
The women nodded their heads.
“Really?” Tanesha asked.
“A lot,” Sandy said.
Tanesha looked from Jill to Sandy, then to Heather whose head bounced in a nod. Tanesha smiled.
“Thanks. I missed you guys too.”
“How did you quit your jobs?” Heather asked.
“Someone bought my gran’s house,” Tanesha said. “I came home from work yesterday and my gran told me that everything worked out. She even got money to fix a few things.”
“Wow,” Heather said. “Just wow.”
“Yeah, wow. I made my gran show me all the papers and the check,” Tanesha said. “It’s all legit. We pay a kind of rent until gran dies. When she dies, the owner will work out what we owe against the equity in the house. We’ll have a chance to sell the house or buy out the equity. If gran can hold on until I’m out of med school, which she says she can, we’re fine.”
“That calls for a celebration!” Jill exclaimed.
“We’ll have to see how it turns out. I mean, you never know. But I’m hopeful.”
The waitress came to take their orders. To celebrate, Jill ordered cinnamon scones for everyone.
“So what are you going to do now?” Sandy asked Tanesha.
“I called school. I can’t go next term but I’m in for fall,” Tanesha said. “I’m going to sleep for about a month, then look for another job to tide me over.”
“Don’t you worry that someone is going to rip off your gran?” Heather asked.
“You mean because she’s a poor stupid black woman?” Tanesha asked.
“No, Tanesha, I….” Heather gasped.
“She is a poor stupid black woman. She calls herself a stupid black woman for getting into that other mortgage.” Tanesha laughed. “I checked all the paper work and called our old mortgage company. It’s legit. I even looked up the company. It’s called MLR properties. Have you heard of it?”
The women shook their heads.
“They own Jill’s old building,” Tanesha said.
The woman looked at Jill. Embarrassed, Jill focused on her food.
“Anything you’d like to tell us, Mrs. Marlowe?” Tanesha asked.
Jill shook her head.
“How did Jacob Marlowe come to buy my gran’s house?”
“He asked me what I wanted for a wedding present.” Jill blushed. “I asked him to buy your grandmother’s house so you wouldn’t have to work so much. I guess he did.”
“Really?” Heather asked. “You didn’t ask for something fun or glamorous? A house in Aspen? Or Malibu?”
“I asked for the best present I could think of – the return of my friend Tanesha.”
“Thanks.” Sniffling at her tears, Tanesha took Jill’s hands.
“I’m sure you’d do it for me.” Jill nodded.
The women nodded.
“I have good news,” Heather said. “Blane asked me if I would manage his acupuncture practice. He says I did such a great job with our finances that he wants me to help him. He’s not done with school but he already has a bunch of clients.”
“Yea!” Jill, Sandy and Tanesha said.
“So you can quit at MAC?” Sandy asked.
“In a month or so no more dirty looks from old ladies!” Heather laughed.
“You don’t think that’s too much… togetherness?” Sandy asked.
“Oh maybe,” Heather said. “But we’ll work something else out. This way we can both be with the baby.”
“Is he quitting Lipson?” Jill asked.
“He’s cutting back to ¾ time,” Heather said.
Sandy reached for Tanesha and Jill’s hand. Tanesha and Jill took Heather’s hands.
“Next year is going to be awesome!” Sandy said. “Tanesha is finally going to med school. Heather is going to start her new career. Jill will go back to school and….”
Sandy took a breath to suppress her fear.
“I’m getting married.”
The women screamed with excitement for Sandy. They laughed and talked at the same time.
“Next year is going to be amazing,” Jill said.
Monday morning – 8:12 AM
“How the FUCK is this possible?” Jacob yelled.
“It’s America, Jake. Anyone can sue anyone for anything,” Max Hargreaves said. “Your former board members believe you breached your contract by disbanding the board.”
“What contract? God damn it.”
Jacob walked away from Max to stand at the wall of windows. From Max’s office in the Cash Register building, he could see most the mountains sparkling with morning expectation.
“Will this stop the sale of the company?” Jacob asked.
“I don’t know how,” Max said. “They sued you and Lipson Construction. It’s a separate matter. It would make a difference if you didn’t own the company out right.”
“So why would they bother?” Jacob asked. “Just to harass me?”
“Well, there are other concerns,” Max said.
“Just give it to me straight, Max. What is this about?”
“It’s about money and ego.”
Monday morning – 8:12 AM
Across town in a converted Victorian, Jill was having a similar conversation with her lawyer.
“How is this an issue?” Jill asked her lawyer, Diane Radman. “Jacob is Katy’s biological father.”
“Trevor’s parents don’t know that,” Diane said.
“Let’s just tell them,” Jill said. “You can write a letter with the DNA results and that’s that.”
“Not really,” Diane said. “Trevor’s parents acted as grandparent to Katy for almost three years of her life. That gives them a case.”
“Pfft. Acted as grandparents,” Jill said. “They never spent even one day with her. They never ever brought her a gift, even at Christmas. They don’t like her, and she doesn’t like them.”
“We’ll need a special advocate,” Diane said.
“To evaluate custody,” Diane said.
“Trevor’s parents have a legal grandparents rights,” Diane said.
“So I have to pay for a special advocate to evaluate their custody. If they get custody, I have to pay them child support, right?”
“Yes, you will.”
“Why now? That’s my question. Why now? It’s been almost a year since Trevor divorced me and left Katy and me without a penny. His parents sure didn’t have anything to say about that. They didn’t want anything to do with Katy then.”
“When did your television ad start playing?”
“Couple weeks ago,” Jill said. “It’s a holiday promotion. We have another one coming out in January. Why?”
“These papers are dated a week ago,” Diane said.
“You’re saying that they want custody of my Katy because she’s in a TV commercial?”
“No, not that exactly.”
“Money. And….” Diane looked off into space.
Monday morning – 8:12 AM
Down the hall from Jacob, Valerie and Mike met with her entertainment attorney.
“So you’re saying this is about money,” Valerie said to her lawyer.
“Probably,” her lawyer said. “Personally, I think his ego is bruised.”
“That’s not all that’s going to be bruised,” Mike said.
“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that,” her lawyer said.
“Money and ego,” Valerie said.
“You can counter sue him.”
“Yeah, how much does that cost?” Mike asked.
“More money,” her lawyer said.
“To chase after more ego,” Valerie said.
Monday morning – 8:12 AM
On Capital Hill, Heather and Blane met with a child custody specialist that Jacob found for them.
“He signed away his parental rights,” Heather said. “I have the paper right here!”
“He’s saying that he was coerced into signing this document,” their lawyer said.
“Coerced my ass. He said, ‘Oh thank God’ to Val. It’s on YouTube,” Blane said.
“We’ll have to get a copy of that,” the lawyer said.
“Can’t we just ignore the whole thing? I’m going to put Blane down as the father,” Heather said. “Blane with be my baby’s father.”
“Doesn’t work like that legally, unfortunately,” the lawyer said. “He has the DNA results.”
“What does he want?”
“After I got your call, I did some digging. This guy has lost everything. His wife divorced him. He’s fired from the soap opera. He hasn’t worked and, according to a friend in LA, he’s not going to work again. His life is effectively ruined. He hired a PR firm to help repair his reputation.”
The lawyer indicated the papers.
“This is probably part of that reparation. You said that he’s suing Valerie?”
“Yes,” Blane said. “For defamation of character.”
“If he looks like the victim, he can win sympathy. He’s not stupid.”
“So harass me to repair his reputation? But everyone will know every detail of what a jerk he is!”
“Yes, but he can say he was ‘out of his mind.’” the lawyer nodded. “Coming to his senses, he realized he couldn’t live without his child.”
“You’re saying that he doesn’t plan to win this case,” Blane said. “He plans to go through the motions to make it look like he’s decent fellow?”
“It’s all about ego,” the lawyer said.
Monday morning – 10 AM
“Thank you, sir,” Aden said to the corrections officer.
He was led to a small room with a plastic picnic table in the middle. Uncomfortable with being locked inside, he looked at every wall before sitting down at the table. He’d come to the Denver Women’s correction facility to talk to Nuala. He hoped that she would be reasonable.
But, he assumed she’d be her crazy self.
Aden stood when the corrections officer led Nuala into the room. Nuala furrowed her brow at him then sat down at the table. They glared at each other for a moment before Aden broke the silence.
“I received your request to have your parental rights restored,” Aden said.
“Oh, I thought you came because you loved me.” Nuala sneered.
Aden’s face pinched with his distain for her. Remembering Jake’s suggestion to be kind but firm, he let out a breath.
“I know that you do not want custody of our children.”
“And how do you know that?” Nuala asked. “You don’t know me at all.”
“In ten years, you’ve never made it through an entire visit. Not once,” Aden said. “Come on, Nuala, you never ever wanted these kids.”
“I changed my mind,” Nuala said. “My psychiatrist says that I’m bipolar. That’s why I do drugs and stuff.”
“You’re not making sense. You’re bipolar so you should have our children? That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”
“My rights were violated. You had no right to take away my custody. No right. Those kids need their mother.”
“Like a hole in their heads.”
“Bipolar disorder is genetic. Who will be able to help my babies when they get bipolar? You?”
“Your babies? The babies you tried to prostitute less than six months ago?”
Aden and Nuala returned to glaring at each other. Determined to get this resolved, Aden tried another approach.
“How were your rights violated?”
“A mental illness is a disability. My rights were terminated without consideration of my disability. My lawyer from National Association for the Mentally Ill says that I’ll get my custody back.”
“Nuala, you never wanted kids, any of your kids. You’ve lost parental rights on all of them. Why come after our kids?”
“I would need some support, you know. It’s going to be hard to stay clean when I’m out. You have lots of money.”
“Money. This is about money?”
“Yes. I mean no! That’s not all it’s about.” Nuala tried for charming. “I love my Nash and… um….”
“Her name is Noelle,” Aden said.
“Noelle.” Nuala smiled. “I have a little brain damage from the drugs.”
“When will you be out of prison?”
“Six years,” Nuala said. “With good behavior.”
“Why don’t we deal with this in six years?”
“Because my baby Nash will be eighteen by then and….”
“Noelle will be sixteen. That’s too late.” Showing more gums than teeth, Nuala smiled. “When my rights are restored, they will visit me in prison at least once a month.”
“So I’m supposed to bring our children to prison so you can ‘parent’ them? Is that a joke?”
“You’re so hard, Aden. Nash and Noelle need me. Especially during their teen years. Their bipolar disorder will start and ….”
“Why do you insist that they will become bipolar?”
“Because that’s what happened to me. I was mentally ill and took drugs to self medicate. I wouldn’t be here now if my parents understood my disability. If YOU understood my disability.”
Aden shook his head. Nuala had found another way to get out of being responsible for her life.
“We’ll have to go to court,” Aden said.
“Fine, it’s your money,” Nuala said. “You’ll have to pay my lawyers fees because you infringed on my rights.”
“Your rights were taken away by the court, not me. You got those rights taken away by YOUR actions,” Aden said.
“If you’re going to be like that, then we will go to court. You’ll see. Maybe YOUR parental rights will be taken away. How would you like that?”
Without another word, Aden stood and knocked on the door. The corrections officer led him through the facility to the door where he retrieved his watch and other belongings. He jogged through the light snow to his car. Turning onto left Smith road, he made the almost immediately right to the Sand Creek Open Space.
Aden knew he would not stay sober if he held onto his rage and helplessness. Despite the bitter cold, he ran the Sand Creek trail. Screaming and crying, he vented the feelings that always arose around Nuala. By the time he returned to the car, he felt more like himself.
Nuala wasn’t going to get the best of him. Not now, not ever.
Monday morning – 11 AM
Delphie and Sam had been waiting for more than two hours in estate lawyer’s wood paneled waiting room. Delphie’s fingers clasped a metal box on her lap. The box held all of her legal papers – her birth certificate, her name change documents, and everything else. The box should clear up this mess.
Sam insisted on driving Delphie to Leadville to ‘just deal with’ this nonsense. With each passing moment, Delphie felt more lost. She was losing track of time, losing track of herself, even losing track of Sam’s warm presence.
Sam got up to refill their water glasses. She looked up to take his offered glass.
“Do you want to visit anyone while we’re here?” Delphie asked.
Sam smiled. She’d asked this question two or three times already.
“Oh right,” Delphie said. “Let’s get this done and see what’s next.”
Sam took her hand. Hearing a sound behind them, they turned to see two Leadville Police Officers come into the waiting room. They had a quiet conversation with the receptionist then stood near the door.
“Ms. Delphinium?” A gray haired man came out from the back office.
Shocked, Delphie popped to her feet. She gawked at the man.
“Officers, you may arrest this woman,” the gray haired man said.
“Surely there’s some mistake.” Sam stood to block the men from Delphie. “Listen, I’m Sam Lipson. I went to high school with both of you. Chet? You remember Big Sam?”
The older police officer nodded to Sam.
“This woman stole a valuable asset from the Johansen estate. We generously offered her some leeway in returning the item.” The man sneered at Sam. “She didn’t bother to bring the item with her.”
The police officers moved toward Delphie.
“Officer’s please,” Sam said. “This is clearly misunderstanding.”
“Where is the Chastity Bell?” The gray haired man asked. “WHERE IS IT?”
Delphie cowered from the man. With Sam in front of her, and the police closing in, Delphie did the only thing she could think of – she called for Celia.
There was a popping sound. The lights flickered then went out.
“Holy crap! There’s only one reason the lights go out around Big Sam Lipson,” Chet, the police officer said. “There’s a Marlowe here. No stolen property is worth running afoul with a Marlowe.”
“I’m not waiting around to meet him,” the other police officer said. “Sir, you can come down to the station to fill out a missing property report.”
Delphie heard the door open then shut. A moment later the lights came back on. The gray haired lawyer moved toward Sam.
“You belong to me, Chastity Bell,” the man said.
“I belong to myself.” Strengthened by Celia’s gift, Delphie’s voice was strong and true. “The Chastity Bell belongs only to herself. But already know that don’t you, Levi.”
“This is Levi Johansen?” Sam’s rage ignited. “You will never take her from me. Ever.”
“You can’t hide behind the Marlowes any longer,” Levi Johansen sneered. ”Delbert Marlowe was the last male Marlowe. No one can keep you from me now.”
“I can. I’m Jacob, Celia’s son.” Jacob walked into the waiting room. “Sorry I’m late.”
“Celia Marlowe had a son?” Levi Johansen recoiled.
“A stronger, more capable son,” Sam said. “My son.”
“I’ve taught him everything,” Delphie said. “Since he was a small child. You are no match for him.”
Levi Johansen raised his hand to Jacob. With a blink of Jacob’s eyes, the man flew against the wood paneling. The man tried to move but he was pinned against the wall. Rising, he slid along the wall until his feet dangled off the ground.
“Let’s go home,” Sam said.
Holding the door for Delphie, Sam nodded to Jacob.
“I’ll release you when we reach the highway,” Jacob said. “In the meantime, you might consider this a small payback for trapping Chastity.”
“This isn’t over!”
Laughing, Jacob left the waiting room.
Denver Cereal continues next week….
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