“How was he injured?” Mike asked.
“He was injured in the middle of committing an unspeakable act of cruelty.”
“That doesn’t really answer the question,” Mike said. “What…?”
“I shot him,” Jill said.
Jill collapsed into herself as Candy, Megan, Steve and Mike began talking all at once. Candy jumped from her seat to hug Jill.
“We don’t have to talk about this,” Megan said. “Ever. It’s over. He’s dead. That is it.”
“I want to know!” Steve demanded. In a softer voice, he said, “I have to know.”
“Well Jill can’t tell you,” Candy said to Steve. “Grow up.”
“Children,” Anjelika said.
Steve started yelling at Candy. Candy yelled back at Steve. Megan and Mike tried to yell over Steve and Candy.
Stunned, they stopped arguing. They looked at their mother.
Without hesitation, they returned to their seats.
“If you must know, you must hear the entire thing,” Anjelika said. “It is neither a pretty story nor a short one. And our dinner is getting cold. Your partners are waiting for you. Megan, why do you want Jillian to be silent?”
“I don’t want her to get in trouble or go to jail or….” Megan shook her head. “Jill would only hurt someone as a very last option. She must have had to shoot him.”
“Always the little mother,” Anjelika said.
“The only mother for the last fifteen years,” Megan said.
“Yes, you are correct,” Anjelika said. “I must apologize. We’ve been insensitive to your experience and struggle. You are each…”
Anjelika looked from face to face of her adult children.
“You are each such wonderful human beings. We over look how hard the last years have been.”
“We’ve been a little in awe of each you. That maybe why our interactions have been brittle,” Perses said. “You are amazing people.”
“We must decide. Shall we finish our dinner or finish our story?” Anjelika asked. “You are adults. We must decide together.”
“I want to hear the whole story,” Mike said. “The whole thing.”
“I do too,” Megan said. “I feel like I deserve that.”
Candy and Steve nodded.
“Tonight?” Perses said.
“No, I’d rather do it later when we have time,” Mike said. “Can you hold out Steve?”
“Then tomorrow? Meg and I are done with school at three o’clock. We can meet here?” Jill asked.
“Tomorrow at three will work for me,” Steve said. “Candy?”
“I’m done at the bakery by two,” Candy said.
“What about the children?” Anjelika asked.
“They can stay at the Marlowe school until six,” Jill said.
“Then it’s settled,” Perses said.
“Good,” Anjelika said. ”Shall we get your partners?”
“I’ll get them,” Jill said.
Jill went into the kitchen to find Valerie sitting on the kitchen counter entertaining everyone with stories about movie stars. The laughing group followed Jill back into the dining room.
She wasn’t sure what she expected to find. She was relieved to find everyone laughing at Perses’s story of being chased by a lion in South Africa. Even Steve was laughing at his description of climbing to the slimmest branches to get away.
Mike stood to hold the chair for Valerie then sat down. When there was a break in the conversation, he said:
“We have news,” Mike said. “Val’s pregnant.”
Everyone cheered. Anjelika got up to kiss Valerie’s cheek. She hugged Mike.
“We’re having twins,” Valerie said. “One girl, one boy.”
Perses made a toast to Leslie and Valerie’s babies. The group laughed their way through dinner and dessert. It wasn’t until the family left, that Jacob asked:
“What are you going to do?”
“We don’t know,” Valerie said. “I was going to talk to Delphie but they left before we had a chance. Tell me Jake, what do you see for me? Am I going to die?”
“Someday,” Jacob laughed.
Valerie punched his shoulder.
“No, I don’t see you dying,” Jacob said. “Congratulations.”
p align=”center”>The next day Tuesday – 11:15 A.M.
“Thanks for bringing the kids,” Teri, the special advocate said to Aden. “I know it’s hard to have them miss school. This was the only time Nuala was available.”
“Yes, I’m sure she has a full schedule.” Aden couldn’t keep the bitter sarcasm from his voice. “Incarceration is time consuming.”
“I understand how you feel,” Teri said. “Actually, she’s being moved to Canon City this afternoon. We wanted to catch her before you had to pay for her and her guards to travel from there. We could also have waited and done this there, but I thought this would be less challenging on the kids.”
“You can leave the kids. We’ll probably be a couple hours,” the special advocate said. “We just want to see them interact. I’ll call you when we’re done.”
Aden nodded. Going out into the waiting room, he held Nash and Noelle to him.
“I can’t stay here,” Aden said. “Not while you’re with your Mom.”
“Nuala is not our Mom,” Nash said.
“You know that, and I know that, but we have to let the courts figure that out,” Aden said. “I won’t be far away. You know how to get a hold of me if you need me. So does Teri.”
“It’s okay, Dad,” Noelle said. “The sooner we get this over with, the sooner Sandy can be our Mom.”
“Ice cream when were done?” Nash asked.
“You bet,” Aden said. “I realized we’re close to the Dumb Friend’s League here. I was thinking we might get a dog.”
“Yea!!” Noelle said.
“I’ll look while you have your appointment. We can go together when we’re done.”
Aden kissed both of their foreheads then ushered them into the room. Nash and Noelle would spend the next few hours interacting with their biological mother. If Teri thought they got along, Nuala would retain some custody. If they appeared to have no relationship with their mother, her parental rights would be permanently terminated.
Pulling closed the office door, Aden said a silent prayer that this would finally be over. He didn’t look up when Nuala passed with her prison guards. Instead, he kept his mind and heart focused on his future life.
A new dog would fit right in!
Tuesday – 11:40 P.M.
“Sandy! It’s great to see you!” Sandy’s gynecologist said as she entered the room. “How did Christmas go for you this year?”
“A little crazier than usual.” Sandy stood to hug her doctor. “Since doing Valerie Lipson’s hair, everyone wanted her ‘look’. I was swamped. How was your party?”
“Thanks to you, I looked marvelous! My hair was perfect and you were right about the Claire Martins dress. It fit perfectly. No one had the same dress and everyone asked where I got it. Even Annabel Bowlen. THAT’S exactly what a girl needs!”
“Your file says you missed your last depo shot,” the doctor said.
“I don’t think so.” Sandy searched her memory for when she had been in last. “I always make my appointments.”
“Yeah, it’s very unlike you,” the doctor said. Laughing, she said, “It’s probably an error.”
“I haven’t gotten my period,” Sandy said.
“I’m sure it’s just an error. We’re always on the girls to keep up with the files, but it gets out of control here sometimes,” the doctor said. “Looks like things are going well with Aden.”
The doctor took Sandy’s left hand to admire her engagement ring.
“Isn’t it gorgeous?” Sandy asked.
“Gorgeous. So is he! You’re quite a pair.”
“I just hope we can be happy like you guys are,” Sandy said.
“Yeah, we’re pretty lucky,” her doctor said. “Ok, let’s get this done. I have to catch a baby in about ten minutes. I’ll do your Pap. Then we’ll have to do a pregnancy test. You know, just to be sure. The nurses will give you the Depo. Does that work?”
“Sure,” Sandy said. “But I’m not pregnant.”
“Ok,” the doctor said. “Either way, I’m here for you. We’ll just take it one step at a time.”
Laying back on the paper covered table, Sandy let the doctor do her work. Her mind was drifting when the doctor said,
“Okay, we’re all done. I’m off to catch a baby,” she said. Taking off her gloves, she said, “I’m invited to the wedding, right?”
“Of course,” Sandy said.
“See you in a bit,” the doctor said as she left the room.
Sandy was almost dressed before she realized what the doctor had said. Puzzled, she went out to talk to the nurse. The smiling nurse took her to get the test and took vial of blood then led her back to the exam room. Grateful she wasn’t pressed for time, Sandy picked up a People magazine to read the latest about Valerie Lipson.
Tuesday – 12:10 P.M
Aden walked past row after row of dogs and cats. Overwhelmed by the sheer number of pets up for adoptions, he blew out a breath.
“Overwhelming, isn’t it?” the Dumb Friend’s League attendant asked.
“Very,” Aden said. “I don’t know how to choose.”
“Well, the best place to start is with the pets that have been here the longest,” the attendant said. “That’s over here.”
“I want a dog that’s good with kids and other dogs and can join our family and…”
“There’s a few of those over here,” the attendant said.
They were walking down a hallway with animals in spacious pens. The dogs pressed their noses against the cage to see what was going on.
“Why haven’t these dogs been adopted then?” Aden asked.
“They’re either too excitable or, in one case, too ugly,” the attendant laughed. “Great dogs though. A couple have been fostered and we know they’re great with kids. How old are your kids?”
“Ten and twelve,” Aden said.
He looked at five dogs in the corner pen and knew immediately which dog was too ugly. There was a mottled brown dog whose proportions were all wrong. Medium sized, he had short stubby legs and a brown sausage body. His face was textured brown, black, white and who knows what. He had one blue eye and one dark eye.
“I see what you mean,” Aden said.
“Yeah, Buster’s not attractive,” the attendant said. “He’s about a year old. His owner had to give him up because his girlfriend wouldn’t be seen with him. He was fostered at a house with four dogs and four kids.”
Dismissing the ugly dog out of hand, Aden evaluated the other dogs. There was a black muttish looking dog, a small hyperactive dog that reminded him of Noelle, a yellow midsized lab-mix and another bigger black dog. Glancing over the dogs, his eyes locked with the ugly dog.
The dog gave a sharp bark.
And Aden knew he was in the wrong place.
“I’m sorry,” he said to the attendant. “I have to go.”
Turning on his heel, he raced through the Dumb Friend’s League trailing the attendant.
“But… sir! Sir!”
Turning at the door, Aden said, “I’d like Buster, the ugly dog. Can you reserve him for me? I’ll be back.”
Aden ran to his car. He wasn’t sure why he left the kids with Nuala. He only knew it was a mistake. He drove like a mad man to Teri’s office. Jumping out of the car, he took the stairs two at a time. He ran through the office to the observation chamber. Breathing hard, he saw the kids through the one-way glass.
Nuala was asking Noelle to stop talking. Anxious, Noelle’s voice raised and her words came out faster.
In a flash, everything went wrong.
Nuala slapped Noelle hard across the face. Noelle fell back from the blow.
And Aden was in motion.
As he ran into the room, Noelle began to scream. Teri moved to help Noelle but Noelle scooted away from her. Nash got front of Noelle to protect her. Nuala screamed for Nash to move away.
And Noelle was in Aden’s arms. He lifted her from the ground and held her to him. Screaming, screeching and crying, Noelle dissolved into him.
Teri ordered him to put her down.
“She’s neurologically highly sensitive. Any pain is magnified one hundred fold by her nervous system,” Aden yelled over Noelle’s screams. “Her mother smoked crack while she was pregnant. She… I’m taking her to the hospital.”
Nuala lunged at Aden but Nash held his ground. Using his martial arts skills, he was able to keep Nuala back. Teri screamed for Nuala and Nash to stop fighting.
Finally the prison guards intervened. To the soundtrack of Noelle’s screams, Nuala was pushed to the ground, cuffed and shackled.
Aden held his hand out for Nash. Nash took his hand. They sprinted toward the door. Teri caught up with them near the door.
“You have to leave them here! They haven’t completed their time.”
“In your care?” Aden asked. “Never again. I was a fool to leave them in the first place.”
Holding Nash’s hand, and Noelle in his arms, Aden made it to his SAAB sedan. He laid screeching Noelle in the back seat, Nash in the front then raced to the front of the car. Aden jumped in. He took Iliff Avenue to Havana Boulevard then shot down Colfax Boulevard to Children’s Hospital Emergency. Lifting Noelle from the back, he grabbed Nash’s hand and they ran into the emergency room.
The hospital workers came running to Noelle’s screams. He laid her on a stretcher then kissed her forehead. The stretcher moved his precious daughter away from him. Still screaming, Noelle was wheeled back into emergency.
Out of breath, Aden and Nash watched Noelle disappear behind the doors.
p align=”center”>~~~~~~~~ Tuesday – 12:35 P.M.
“What do you think?” Valerie asked Delphie.
“It’s too early for me to make a connection with them. That’s all right. Right now you have to focus on making really healthy vessels for their souls.” “Oh.” Valerie was crestfallen.
“Your mother is thrilled,” Delphie said. “We’re going to have a house full of babies very soon. I do love babies.”
Valerie’s lips turned up then dropped into an anxious line.
“Can Mom help?”
“No, Valerie,” Delphie said. “You’re doing the very best thing by eating well, exercising, and taking good care of yourself. Let Mother Nature do what she needs to do.”
“Mother Nature?” Valerie bit her lip.
“How far along are you?” Delphie asked.
“Less than a month,” Valerie said.
“Why don’t you give it a couple weeks?”
Valerie shook her head. Lost in thought, when her cell phone rang she answered it.
“Val?” her agent asked.
“Hey, what’s up?” Valerie asked. She rolled her eyes to Delphie.
“The movie’s on. They want you there by Friday,” her agent said. “Someone leaked what happened to you to the production team and they kicked the producer off the film. I’ve heard he has to leave the studio.”
“Wow,” Valerie said. “Just wow.”
“They were quite contrite. Offered more money up front and percentage points later,” he said. “But you have to get to the Czech Republic ASAP.”
“And I can bring Mike?”
“They requested him,” her agent said. “He’s not in the movie but they wanted you to be comfortable. They asked if he could come with you.”
“Wow,” Valerie said. “There is one thing….”
“What’s that?” her agent asked.
“I’m pregnant. Twins. It happened after we thought the movie was lost.”
“Less that a month.”
“I don’t see a problem, Val,” he said. “You’ll be in the Czech Republic for six weeks, do post production in LA for four weeks then can announce to the world that you’re pregnant. I’ll let them know. If they’re serious about wanting Valerie Lipson, and the director said he had to have you, they won’t care.”
“Oh, wow,” Valerie said.
“Should I call you back for your decision?”
“Give me a couple minutes,” Valerie said. “I’m going to talk to Mike.”
“Good thinking,” her agent said. “Let’s let them sweat.”
“Talk to you in a half hour or so,” Valerie said.
“Movie?” Delphie asked. “Looks like our misfortune is shifting.”
“I hope so.”
Tuesday afternoon — 1:40 P.M.
“Aden! There you are,” Sandy said. Sandy leaned back against the couch in her living room. Tanesha and Heather looked up. “I’ve been calling all over for you.”
“Yeah, sorry,” Aden said. “I’m used to you working all the time. I forgot to check in.”
“Did you pick out a dog?”
“Yeah,” Aden said. “Sandy, I’m at Children’s.”
“What? What happened?” Sandy said.
Her raised voice brought Jill in from the kitchen.
“Aden’s at the hospital,” Sandy said to the women.
“Nuala hit Noelle in the face,” Aden said.
“Oh my God,” Sandy said.
“That’s not the worst of it. She cracked Noelle’s cheek bone and gave her a concussion. They put Noelle out and want to keep her overnight. I’ve been here with Nash. Noelle’s in pretty bad shape. They’ve scheduled every test known to mankind. She’ll be here at least overnight and maybe a couple days depending on the test results. There’s a chance her eye is injured.”
Aden’s voice cracked. He blew out a breath.
“What can I do? Shall I come there?” Sandy asked.
“Please come. We haven’t eaten and…. I know Noelle will love to see you when she wakes.”
“Gosh, Aden, of course, I’ll be right there.”
“Oh thank God,” he said. “I’m sorry I didn’t call earlier. I didn’t know really what to say. I never should have taken them this morning. It’s all my fault.”
“Don’t be silly,” Sandy said. “How would you know? It will take me twenty minutes to get there.”
“I didn’t even think of that,” Aden said. “I was so desperate for you to come I didn’t think you wouldn’t have a car.”
“Jill’s here,” Sandy said. “I’m sure she’ll either take me or I can take her car.”
“Jill’s there? Why is Jill there? I thought she had school.”
“Just a girl’s lunch,” Sandy kept her voice breezy. “See you in a few.”
“Ok. Thanks. Love you, Sandy.”
“Love you too.”
Sandy hung up her phone.
“The ex hit Noelle and cracked her cheekbone. They think she might have injured her eye.”
“Oh my God,” Jill exclaimed as the women gasped.
“He wants me to come there. How do I look?” Sandy asked. “You think he’ll know?”
“That you’ve been crying all afternoon? Yes, I think he’ll know,” Jill said.
“No, he won’t,” Heather came in from the kitchen. “I’ll drive. You can put some teabags on your eyes. We’ll do a quick make-up before we go into Emergency. He’ll never know.”
“But you’re going to tell him, right?” Jill asked.
“He’s got all this going on. I can tell him later,” Sandy shook her head.
“You tell him when you’re good and ready.” Tanesha hugged Sandy.
Sandy nodded. She’d tell him when she was good and ready. She just wasn’t sure when that would be.
Denver Cereal continues tomorrow….
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