Tuesday afternoon – 3 P.M. The Castle
Jill opened the Castle side door to let Anjelika and Perses in. Her siblings had been there for a half hour. Each person seemed more nervous than the last. Gratefully, Candy brought a variety of cookies from the bakery. Megan had made a pot of coffee. Focused on their own thoughts, her siblings sat munching cookies and drinking coffee in the main Castle living room.
Jill hugged her mother and Perses. They followed Jill into the Castle. Megan and Mike got up to hug their mother. Candy went to the kitchen for more cookies and Steve nodded.
Candy and Steve seemed the most upset by everything. Arriving first, Candy told Jill that she and Steve felt like they were going to be kicked out of the family. They were the only connection to their abusive father. They both felt ashamed and a little rejected. Jill could only hug Candy and tell her that she would never kick her out of her family.
But one thing was true. Whatever happened today could change Jill’s family forever.
Tuesday afternoon – 3 P.M.
While most of the medical tests came back negative, Noelle still had a cracked cheekbone, a concussion and retinal tear in her eye. A normal child would be awake and going home soon. But every time they tried to reduce Noelle’s medications, her blood pressure rose and her heart raced. Her nervous system went on overload. The plan was to keep her unconscious for at least tonight and maybe all day tomorrow.
When Sandy arrived, Nash and Aden seemed heart broken. Both blamed themselves for Noelle’s injuries. She had to bully and badger them to get something to eat. They seemed to recover a little bit after a few bites of cafeteria food.
Social Services had come for a long visit while Noelle was getting her tests done. Sandy wasn’t sure what the outcome would be, but a child abuse report was filed against Nuala. Teri, the special advocate, had taped the session. While the social worker couldn’t promise anything, it looked like Social Services would recommend terminating Nuala’s parental rights.
And maybe for good this time. Aden was guarded, but hopeful.
Because Nash was on probation at school, he had to go to check in with the assistant principal and pick up his homework. He could take the rest of the week off to be with Noelle. Aden insisted on staying with Noelle, so Sandy agreed to take Nash to school. Before they left, Aden took her in the hall and held her to him. She felt his warmth and heat. He kissed her lightly, with promise, then thanked her for being the blessing in his life.
Even a half hour later, she was still warm and tingly from his embrace. Driving Aden’s SAAB sedan, Sandy pulled to the curb near school.
“Your Dad called ahead,” Sandy said. “Your homework for the week is at the office. You just have to give them the note and you’re out all week. That seems like a great deal to me.”
“But I get to go to Mr. Colin’s martial arts class, right?” Nash asked.
“I think so,” Sandy said. “We’ll see. Hopefully, Noelle will be home tomorrow. You’re Dad and I will trade off taking care of you guys.”
“You don’t have work?”
“It’s pretty slow,” Sandy said. “I’ve moved some people around to have a few days off.”
“Great!” Nash smiled.
“Remember, just to the office and back,” Sandy said.
“Yeah, like I want to go anywhere but to the office,” Nash snorted.
Hopping out of the sedan, he ran down the block. He turned on the cement path and ran up the steps of the school. While he was in the office, the bell rang and excited kids started streaming from the school. Sandy got out of the car so she could see the school doors over the kids heads. After a few minutes, she saw Nash come out of the office door. Waving to Sandy, he looked down at his papers, then shoved them in his backpack.
Nash was down the stairs and half way down the cement path when Sandy saw a group of six bigger boys move toward him. Focused on Sandy, Nash didn’t see them.
The boys were upon him. The first boy punched Nash in the back of his head. The second boy punched his face. Nash fell forward but found his feet. As he turned to defend himself, Sandy ran down Holly Street. Even running as fast as she could, she could see that the boys were too many and too big for Nash.
Screaming, taunting kids surrounded the fighting boys. A big boy grabbed Nash from behind but Nash was able to shake him off. She neared the school when Nash’s friend Teddy Jakkman came running out of the school. Teddy fought his way to Nash. Nearing them, Sandy lost Nash and Teddy in the crowd.
She pushed her way through the crowd of kids. As she neared the fight, she heard a boy yell, “Look! It’s the slut.” She felt something hard across her face. She would have fallen backward but she was buffeted by the crowd of kids. The kids pressed her forward into her attacker. A boy hit her over the head.
Sandy fell unconscious to the ground.
Tuesday – 3:10 P.M. The Castle
After a few minutes of uncomfortable chit chat, Megan and Mike settled into armchairs. Candy and Steve sat next to each other on the couch between the armchairs. Angelika and Perses sat on the opposite couch. Jill wasn’t sure which side of the room to sit on – her beloved Mama’s side? Or her loyal loving siblings? Refusing to choose sides, Jill brought a chair from the dining room to sit in between.
“You were going to…” Mike started just as Megan said, “Mom, what…?” They laughed.
“I will start,” Anjelika said. Perses kissed her cheek then took her hand. “It’s your story, your life, but it starts with me.”
“You know that my family was involved in organized crime. Bratva, brotherhood, that’s what we called it. At the time, in Russia, there was either government crime or organized crime. If you wanted to live well, you had to be involved in either or both. Like his father and grandfather, my father was involved in government and organized crime. He married early to the girl he was supposed to marry. They had five boys. He was almost forty when he met my mother. His first wife was ill, alcohol I think, but I don’t really know. My father had fooled around the edges of his marriage for a long time. He met my mother and…”
“My mother used to say he loved her more than anything in this world. And, I guess I believe her. My father was still married when she had my older brothers. His wife had died by the time I was born. I remember them — my mother and father. My mother would get dressed for my father’s arrival. And my father would almost skip into the house after his day. We were very happy.
“I grew up with a doting father and mother. I knew there was poverty. I knew people struggled. But I felt none of it. I had everything I could possibly want – ponies, private instructors, beautiful dresses, gourmet dinners – truly everything I might want. I was very sheltered and spoiled.
“I still am.” Anjelika looked at Perses and he laughed.
“I am my father’s only daughter. I think that explains a lot of things. My brothers and half-brothers are all a part of the Bratva. But I was sheltered. I was kept like a trophy on a shelf. My father would bring me out for parties. I would play the piano or sing. He adored me.
“When it was time for me to marry, my father insisted that I marry for love. I went to University but lived at home. I dated but nothing significant. I met Perses at one of my father’s parties. I was twenty-one years old.”
“She wasn’t very impressed with me,” Perses said.
“I wasn’t,” Anjelika laughed. “I was so pursued. It seemed like every man wanted a piece of my wealth or family standing or beauty or… I had no time for men. I was almost done with school. I was going to travel the world for a while with a girlfriend, then see what was next.”
“But we fell in love,” Perses said. “We were married a year later. We had this amazing wedding. The celebration lasted a week. We honeymooned in Greece and…”
“We were very happy. My father bought us a house near their home,” Anjelika said. “Perses worked and I made house. Or organized the help. We had so much fun. Megan came then Mikhail.
“It was like a fairytale. I loved being a mother. My mother would come over in the mornings to play with the kids. Perses loves babies. He was home early just to be with the babies. Then one day, Perses left for work one day and…”
“I didn’t come back,” he said. “At least not for a while.”
“A year passed then two. My girlfriends told me he had left me for another woman. My mother told me never ever to give up. My heart told me he would return. But…”
Anjelika sighed and fell silent. Knowing what would come next, Jill held her breath. Steve and Candy stiffened. They would now learn about the man they called ‘Dad.’
~~~~~~~~ Tuesday – 3:11 P.M. Smiley Junior High School
Sandy woke when she hit the ground. Opening her eyes, she saw a bevy of pink and purple backpacks flying above her. Teenage girls were yelling and hitting her attacker with their backpacks. A girl kneeled down to her.
“Are you all right, Sandy?” the girl asked.
“Melinda. I forgot you went to school here.” Sandy sat up with the help of her teenage client.
“That guy has done that to other girls. He’s disgusting,” Melinda said. “He did it to our friend and told her he would kill her if she told. So she didn’t. Mom said that she would kill me if I didn’t tell.”
Melinda’s girlfriends kneeled down to Sandy.
“This is your hairstylist?” one girl asked. “Is she Nash’s Mom?”
“Yep,” Sandy said. Hearing the police sirens, she said, ”You better clear off.”
“Nash is really cute,” one of the girls said.
“So is his friend Ted,” another girl said. “I’ll stay with you.”
“I’m staying with you,” Melinda said. “Mom would kill me if I didn’t.”
“Then let’s see if we can help Nash,” Sandy said.
As police cruisers pulled up to the campus, the kids began to scatter. Police officers ran up to the school. As the bigger boys ran off, Sandy and her group of girls were able to get to Nash and Teddy. She was hugging Nash and Teddy when the Assistant Principal caught up with them.
“Arrest this woman!” the Assistant Principal yelled to the Denver Police. “She started this entire fight.”
“SHE DID NOT!” Melinda said. “I saw the whole thing! Just like LAST TIME!”
“This woman?” A patrol officer pointed to Sandy.
“Yes, that woman is BANNED from our campus. She caused this horrible fight AND…” The Assistant Principal’s face turned bright red with rage. “Jakkman? Norsen? You are expelled!”
Tuesday – 3:35 P.M. The Castle
“About two years after Perses left, my mother started to fatigue easily. I didn’t think anything of it. She was always so healthy. Just a rock. My rock. One morning, she came over as usual. I left the room to get more coffee and… When I came back, she was dead. Heart attack.
“My father lost his mind with grief. As if they planned it, my step-brothers descended on the business and the finances. My step-brothers exacted their revenge for their mother’s betrayal. I was removed from my home. We lived in a few rooms in my father’s home. My brothers were shipped off to the worst parts of the country. My oldest brother was killed.
“A few months after my mother died, I was told that Perses was dead. They tried to force me to marry their bookkeeper. I was lost, so very lost, confused, and very stupid but I knew that I couldn’t marry within the year of my mother’s death. Wouldn’t look right.
“But once the year was over, I was married. The bookkeeper was your father, Stephen and Candace. I thought I would be happy again. But we couldn’t make it work. I wasn’t what he wanted.”
“When they married, Anjelika didn’t know that he was a homosexual,” Perses said. “He was Anjelika’s step-brother’s lover. Anjelika was a front for them.”
“At some point, he realized he needed children to complete the picture,” Anjelika said. “I do love children. I was so happy when I was finally pregnant with Stephen. I was so naive. I was sure things would finally be better. We had a baby on the way!
“My father woke up and realized what was going on. I’m not sure how or why, but suddenly he was aware of everything that had happened. Over the course of six months or so, my step-brothers were removed from the businesses.”
“Killed or literally removed,” Perses said.
“At this time, my father told me I didn’t need to stay married to this… man. He put an end to his son’s relationship with my husband,” Anjelika said. “In return, my husband stole two billion dollars from my father. And then he stole me.”
Tuesday – 3:45 P.M. Smiley Junior High School
“What’s going on, Sandy?” the patrol officer asked.
“Hi Arterio,” Sandy said. “Nash came to pick up his homework and was attacked by these bullies. I came to help. Teddy got there first.”
“THAT’S what we saw too!” Melinda said. Her friends nodded their heads.
“Of course, the LYING SLUT has a connection to the police. Picked her up before?” the Assistant Principal sneered. “SHE….”
“Why don’t you step over here?” Arterio, the police officer pushed the Assistant Principal to away from Sandy.
“Wow, what did I miss?” A slim man with blue eyes and short military cut dark hair said.
“DAD!” Teddy Jakkman threw himself at his father.
“Sandy, your head’s bleeding. Are you all right?” Zack Jakkman asked.
“Hey Zack. I’m okay,” Sandy said. “I thought you were flying spy planes or something.”
“I just got in,” Zack said. “That must have been one hell of a fight. You boys are pretty banged up.”
He nodded toward a police officer. The police officer gave them chemical ice packs. One at a time, Zack shook them up to make them cold. He gave one to Sandy first, then Nash and Teddy.
“Paramedics on the way, Sandy,” the police officer said.
“Jeez, Sandy, you know everyone,” Nash said.
“Cop father.” Sandy put the ice pack on the bump on her head.
“Hi Nash,” Melinda said. Her friends giggled.
“Melinda and her friend’s helped me,” Sandy smiled. Nash blushed at the girls’ attention.
“SANDY!” A woman ran up to them. “Oh my God! Are you all right?”
“Thanks to your daughter!” Sandy laughed.
“Sandy, the paramedics are here,” a police officer said. “We need your statement, the girls, and the boys.”
“Why doesn’t Melinda give her statement while you get looked at?” Melinda’s mother said. She hugged Sandy. “When you said you needed to move my appointment, I didn’t think it was for a junior high brawl!”
Sandy laughed. With her hand on Nash’s shoulder, Sandy led Nash to the paramedics. Teddy and his father followed them to the back of the ambulance. While the boys sat inside, Sandy chatted with Zack.
“Ma’am?” the paramedic asked. “Nash says his sister is at Children’s? We can take him and his friend, but if you’re going it will save you some money and hassle.”
“They need the hospital?” Zack asked.
“Nash’s arm is broken. Looks like Teddy separated his shoulder. That must have been some fight,” the paramedic said. “Ma’am, can I check your head?”
Sandy sat down so the paramedic could check. He pressed on her head, looked in her eyes with a light, then bandaged the wound.
“It looks like a simple head wound,” the paramedic said. “But you should get it checked out. That’s the kind of thing that can get worse fast.”
“I can take the kids, Sandy,” Zack said. “I renewed my Colorado driver’s license and everything! Can I call one of your friends for you?”
“I will,” Sandy said.
They went through the formality of Nash and Teddy giving statements to the police before they were able to leave. She hugged Nash goodbye at Zack’s SUV. After all the chaos and activity, Sandy stood on the quiet sidewalk by herself. She walked back to Aden’s SAAB then drove to St. Joseph’s emergency.
Tuesday – 3:45 P.M. The Castle
“The money was stolen through some accounts that were in my name. Of course, it looked like I had stolen it. At that time, I knew nothing about money. Not one thing. To get away with his crime, he became an informant for the CIA in exchange for asylum in the US.
“I didn’t know any of this when we left. I thought we were going on a vacation. My step-brother was behind the entire thing. He wanted me to suffer because I was married to his lover. My father had him killed right before we left. I don’t think my husband every got over the death of my step-brother. They were together when he was killed.”
“You don’t need to make excuses for him,” Perses said. “The children are here to hear the truth.”
“My father believed that I was involved. So much money, I must have been involved. I knew nothing. Not one thing,” Anjelika said. “I was very naïve. Anyway, our names were changed to Roper and Stephen was born. My husband worked for the CIA, mostly, and did some bookkeeping on the side.
“I’m not quite sure why, but my husband started beating me,” Anjelika said. “He hit me a few times when we were home, but I guess fear of my father kept him in check. My father wasn’t in Denver. I’d never been disciplined, never hit, or even yelled at. His behavior was… foreign… to me. I became overwhelmed.”
“Yes, depressed,” Anjelika said. “I had just had Candy when things got really bad. I’m not sure why he was so angry that day. He was furious. After he left, I packed everyone up and left for church. I was going to leave you with the Catholic Charities. I planned to kill myself. My Perses was dead. My mother was dead. I wanted to be with them. I was sitting in church with you guys around me when Perses found me.”
“I’d been in Denver for a couple of years, watching, waiting,” he said. “Anjelika’s step-brothers had kept me from her. When they were eliminated, I came to find her. In the church, she was injured. She needed a hospital but she was too afraid. You may remember, Megan? Mikhail? I took you to a cabin in the mountains for a week. We played in the snow while your mother healed from her injuries.”
Megan’s eyes went vague.
“Did we have pizza every night?” Megan asked.
“Not every night, but a lot,” Perses said. “It was your favorite. You kids were so traumatized by everything that went on, I just tried to give you what you wanted. The babies, Stephen and Candace, were like little soldiers not children. We had some wild times.”
“We went more than once,” Mike said. “A couple times a year for a while? Is that right?”
“Yes, my husband didn’t really care that I was gone or that I returned,” Anjelika said. “I told him I was on retreat in the mountains. He either didn’t care or believed me. He enjoyed the time we were away. He would say it was his only chance at peace and quiet.
“Perses and I saw each other every day,” Anjelika said. “And a few years after Candace was born, I was pregnant with Jillian. My husband didn’t care. I think he was relieved that he didn’t have to produce a child. He beat me, of course, but otherwise, he didn’t care.”
“We had to stop our mountain retreats when Jillian was born,” Perses said. “Megan and Mikhail were older and…. With Jillian in the picture, we were more afraid of being found out.”
“And that’s about it,” Anjelika said. “My husband didn’t know about Perses or that Jill was Perses’ child. I lived in a fantasy world. I assumed that we would continue on until you children were grown.”
“Until he booked the trip to Costa Rica,” Perses said.
Denver Cereal continues next week….
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