Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Denver Cereal : Chapter Fifty-Four : To us?


Saturday – 3:15 A.M Pete’s Kitchen

“Do you want to marry me?”

Her eyes searched his face. She nodded. He stepped back. Holding his hand out he said:

“Come with me.”

Without thinking, Jill took his hand. Jacob picked up her overnight bag. They were near the door when the manager touched Jacob’s arm.

“See you in an hour?” The manager asked. He held the door open for them.

“Hour and a half will work,” Jacob said.

“See you then.”

Jill jerked to a stop just outside the door.

“Didn’t you read the postcard? I can’t marry you! I can’t. I can’t. I can’t I can’t.” Jill’s voice rose with each ‘I can’t’. “I’m not some prize or trophy that you win. You can’t just decide something is going to happen then….”

Jacob dropped her bag to hold her close to him. She batted at him with her fists but he held on. When her storm of anger had passed, he let go, stepped back, picked up the bag and held out his hand to her.

“Come with me.”

Flushed from her anger, she looked him up and down. She shook her head, crossed her arms across her chest and looked away from him.

“Come with me. I’ll explain everything. But not here. Not on Colfax with an audience. I’d rather not be after-hours entertainment for the hookers and drunks.”

Her head turned to look at him. She let out a breath and took his hand. He lifted her hand to his lips and kissed the fleshy part between her thumb and index finger. They walked to the corner, then Jacob turned right. Jill stopped walking.

“Where are we going?” Jill asked. “Aren’t we going home?”

“I came straight from work,” Jacob said. “I have a Lipson truck in the parking lot. Plus I wanted a chance to talk to you before we got to the Castle.”

He opened the passenger side door of the truck then helped her into the big truck. Going around the bed of the truck, he allowed himself a moment of ‘What the fuck does a guy have to do?’ When he reached the cab, he was calm again. He started the truck. Leaving the parking lot, he turned right on Colfax.

“Where are we going?”

“We’re going to the workshop,” Jacob said. “I want a chance to talk to you without being interrupted.”

Jill leaned back against the seat. Jacob was the most thoughtful person she knew. She should have assumed that he’d want to talk to her alone and in quiet, but…. Her mind was so paranoid, so frightened, so fragile. Pressing her head against the side window, she wondered if she wanted Jacob to leave so she could go back to her familiar world of suffering and loneliness.

“Hey.” Jacob’s voice broke her spinning thoughts. “We just take life one moment at a time.”

He stopped the truck at the stoplight at York then held his hand out to her. She smiled at him.

“I’m sorry I get so crazy,” she said.

“I think we are all crazy sometimes. I wasn’t exactly sane this morning. I’m grateful you didn’t give up.”

She leaned over for a quick kiss before they went through the light only to stop at Josephine, the very next street, and the very next stoplight. He leaned over to kiss her. They became so caught up in each other that he didn’t notice the green light until the car behind them beeped their horn.

Jill giggled.

Holding hands, they drove past East High School to turn left on Detroit Street. He turned into the workshop driveway then drove into an open spot in the garage.

“Where’s Mike’s Bronco?” Jill asked.

“He likes to drive it,” Jacob said. “It’s at the Castle.”

Jacob hopped out of the cab and went around to help Jill climb from the truck. They walked hand in hand through the stacks of wood and machinery to the small office in the back. Jacob situated Jill on the couch, then took a bottle of vintage Dom Perignon from a tiny refrigerator. He opened the bottle and poured two glasses.

“To us?”

“To us,” she said. Taking a sip of her champagne, she said, “It’s important to me that you understand why I can’t marry you.”

“Ok,” Jacob said.

“My Mama’s life is in danger. People want to kill her. And now she wants to come to my wedding,” Jill said. “She knows all about you because I tell her everything in my journals. Well, that, and her husband was at the big party. You know where Trevor….”

Jacob watched Jill’s face. As she spoke, she seemed to age in front of him. Her hands rubbed at her face as if to rub out her youth and beauty in order to confront the ugliness that burdened her.

“Well, I say her husband because I was really raised by my Dad. But I don’t know if he was my Dad,” Jill said. “I asked Mom once, but she never said. You should see them together – Mama and her husband – they are perfect, so in love, even now all these decades later. You can just tell. Like your Mom and Sam. I guess I want that but….”

“I think you have that,” Jacob said.

“I hope so.”

Smiling, Jill took a drink of her champagne then nodded.

“My Dad wasn’t a very nice man,” Jill said. “He was angry. A lot. He’d yell and hit us. He’d just get mad. Soon he’s be screaming and hitting us. He was meanest to Mike. If Mama got in the way, he’d hit her. That was too horrible for any of us to tolerate. We’d make it so he hit us and not her.

“Our Mama was one hundred percent for us…. Is one hundred percent for us. But he… acted like he hated all of us. Or… I don’t know. Mike wants me to talk to some friend of his about Dad and Mama and her husband but… I feel ashamed even speaking any of this out loud. Even to you. Even here where it’s so safe and quiet.

“I feel like I’m betraying my Mama.”

Jill shook her head. She got up from the couch and went to the water cooler. She poured two Dixie cups full of water and brought them back. Jacob thanked her when she handed him a cup.

“I’ve always thought your mother must have been wonderful. You’re so amazing with Katy. And Katy’s not easy.”

“No Katy’s not,” Jill said. “Dad used to say that Mama allowed us to be difficult. Mama just allowed us to be… us. I get letters from her… every month or so. After I send her a journal. Did I say that? I send my journals to Mama.”

Jill fell silent. For all of her words, all of her thoughts, it was in her deep sigh that Jacob heard the weight of her pain and loss.

“So, you see, I can’t marry you.”

Jacob nodded.

“Do you remember Delphie making me meet some new teacher they wanted to hire?”

“You were pissed,” Jill nodded. “You’d been working sixteen, seventeen hour days and Delphie wants you to meet some teacher. But you never say ‘no’ to Delphie.”

“Uh, I do too.”

“You don’t,” Jill said. “It’s just how you are with her.”

“Anyway, the teacher was your mother, Anjelika,” Jacob said.

“WHAT?” Jill’s eyes welled with tears. “But it’s not safe. Oh Jacob, she will get herself killed! You must have said no. Please tell me you sent her home.”

Jacob picked up Jill’s hands and kissed them.

“Let me finish, please?”

Jill nodded. He poured her more champagne. In her nervousness, she drank down her full glass.

“You remember, Samantha Hargreaves, right?”

“She’s my lawyer for the Trevor crap,” Jill said.

“You remember her boyfriend, life partner, whatever? She calls him Art but everyone else calls him….”

“Raz,” Jill said. “He’s gorgeous. They make a beautiful couple. Wow. Together, they’re like living, breathing, moving art.”

“Right,” Jacob said. “He works for the government. He went to Russia to speak to your grandfather when Mike and Val were going to be on Oprah. He was able to come to an arrangement with the Bratva… the Russian Mob. They agreed to leave you and your family alone. While Raz was there, he found out that your grandfather had been offered a woman who looked very much like his daughter. Anyway, that’s how they found out what my step-sister was up to.”

“She was going to sell me to the Russian Mob,” Jill said. “Wow, I thought that was just a… story. And Katy?”

“Same thing,” Jacob said.

“But why would he want us when he rejected Mama?”

“He’s old and lonely, mostly,” Jacob said. “Your mother was his favorite child. After Raz left, and Mike and Val were on Oprah, your Grandfather went to visit with your mother. They had a kind of reunion… painful, but good. Your mother’s no longer in danger.”

“Why didn’t she tell me?” Jill asked.

“She had an idea that you were mad at her, that all of her children were angry with her. She told me that she wanted to meet her grandchildren before her children told her she couldn’t. Are you angry with her?”

“No,” Jill said. “I’m not mad. I’ve told her that we aren’t angry. I think she’s angry with herself.”

“That’s what I thought,” Jacob said. “I hired her to work at the Marlowe school.”


“Remember Katy talking about the pretty lady who has her exact name?” Jacob asked.

“She even knew Katy’s bedtime song.” Jill nodded. “Little Grey Wolf. It’s a common Russian lullaby so….”

“Katy was talking about your mother,” Jacob said. “Delphie’s tried to tell you or get you to talk about your mother.”

“She’s brought up my mother about ten times in the last few months,” Jill said. “I always change the subject. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Your mother didn’t want me to,” Jacob said. “I would have told you eventually. She wasn’t sure how she’d do in ‘the real world’. She’s been in Costa Rica for a long time. But the Marlowe school kids adore her. Especially the children from the motels. She speaks their language on so many levels. Everyone at the Marlowe school loves her.”

“Of course,” Jill said.

“I want to show you the postcard and ask you if you notice something,” he said. He gave her the postcard. “I assume you got this on Halloween?”

Looking over the postcard, Jill nodded.

“What am I supposed to notice?” Jill asked.

“There’s no address, no stamp.”

“But the mailman gave it to me,” she said.

“The mailman gave you some mail,” he said. “This was in the box. He must have stuck it in with the mail so you’d get it.”

“Oh,” Jill said. “It just has my name. There’s no mark on it at all.”

“Your mother thought you would notice that and realize she was in town,” Jacob said. “She assumed you would show me the card and I would tell you.”

“That’s pretty different from what happened.”

Jacob nodded.

“Where’s Mama now?”

“She’s waiting for you at the Castle,” Jacob said. “She waiting to help you get dressed.”

“Get dressed?”

“I thought we’d get married this morning,” Jacob said.

“But my family. I want my Katy….”

“They’re waiting for us at home. Mike told Megan, Steven, and Candy about your mother today. They’ve spent the day with her.”

“Oh,” Jill said. “Candy called about noon, but I’ve been so upset.”

“Everyone we know is waiting for us. Val set it up.”

Jacob’s hand cupped her face.

“Marry me this morning.”

Jill stood from the couch. She held her champagne glass out to Jacob which he filled. She made a gesture with her hands and he stood.

“Let’s get married this morning.”

He hooked his elbow in hers and they drank. Giggling, Jill threw her arms around him.

“This is the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard of,” Jill said.

“You know Alex and John got married thirteen hours after they met.”

Jacob took her hand and they made their way through the workshop.

“I said romantic not insane. Alex and John are a little nuts, you know,” Jill said.

Jacob laughed. He punched the numbers into the security lock and they made their way down the stairs to the coal tunnel.

“I do have some bad news,” Jacob said. “I’d planned to whisk you away on a Honeymoon, but I can’t do that now.”

“Because of the financing?” Jill asked.

“I knew you read my texts,” Jacob said.

Jill blushed then nodded.

“Yes, and everything else,” Jacob said. “All of Lipson Construction is closed today, Saturday, but we have to work tomorrow.”

“At least we have today,” Jill said.

“I was hoping you would say that,” Jacob said. “I also didn’t get you a wedding present. You can ask me for anything and I’ll get it.”

“I didn’t get you one,” Jill said.

“You are the present,” Jacob said.

“Oh. I can ask for anything?”


“I want to know why you don’t want to be a psychic,” Jill said.

“When we have more time, I’ll tell you the whole story. But that doesn’t count as a wedding gift. Any thing. The key being ‘thing.’”

Jill fell silent as they walked the rest of the tunnel to the bottom of the stairway to the Castle.

“There is one thing,” Jill said. “Tanesha’s grandmother is going to lose her house. Tanesha was supposed to start med school this fall but she deferred school to save her grandmother’s house. Could you buy it for me?”

“I meant some thing for you.”

Jill raised an eyebrow at him. He laughed.

“You’re amazing. Consider it done,” Jacob said.

They climbed the wooden stairs to the Castle.

“I won’t see you until we are at the alter.”

Jill beamed at him.

“I’ll be there waiting for you,” he said.

She threw herself into his arms. He held her tight.

“Don’t change your mind,” he said.

“I won’t,” she said. “I love you.”

They were kissing when the door to the Castle opened. Within moments, Jill was rushed off to their attic loft. Jacob followed Mike to his apartment. He was under the shower jets before he realized what was truly happening.

His dream was coming true.

He would marry Jill today.


Between Sandy’s blow dryer and Heather’s makeup brush, Jill couldn’t hear or see anything. As if it was every day life, her mother had chatted with her through a fast shower. While they both cried, she helped Jill dry off. In the next half hour, Jill went through some version every beauty treatment known to human kind – nails, hair treatments, pedicure, waxing, facial, you name it.

Samantha had even arranged for her boyfriend to give Jill a wrap but Jill declined. One gorgeous man with all these women? That was bound to be a mess.

Tanesha kept Jill’s champagne glass full while her mother and Megan kept her giggling with funny stories. Candy popped her head in to say ‘hi’ then ran off to take care of the cake. Val arrived with Jill’s dress and Claire Martins! Like old friends, Claire and her mother hugged then went to work getting Jill into her wedding dress. Thigh high cream silk hose with a seam up the back, Spanish lace cream colored boy shorts, and a from Paris French bustiere under a magnificent cream colored strapless dress with cream lace roses. Her toes were adorned in cream colored Paris purchased Christian Louboutins to match.

More than once Jill was ordered not to cry.

But the moment Katy ran across the apartment wearing her matches Mommy dress, Jill burst into tears. Looking from face to face of the women who loved her, took care of her, stood beside her in joy and pain, she saw how blessed she has always been.

Before she knew what was happening, the women had slipped out of the loft taking Katy with them. Jill and Sandy stood alone in the middle of the loft.

“I’ll help you down the stairs,” Sandy said.

“Can you believe this is really happening?” Jill hugged Sandy.

“Yes, I can,” Sandy said. “You deserve it.”

“So do you,” Jill said.

“I know. Someday I’m going to have my own perfect wedding.”

“To Aden?”

“I hope so,” Sandy said. “He’s asked me a bunch of times but….”

“You have to get used to the idea?”

“Let’s say, I’m warming to the idea.” Sandy laughed at how well Jill knew her. “Take off those stilettos so you don’t fall. I’ll hold the dress. Do you need to pee?”

“I’m all right,” Jill said.

They walked toward the door to the long stairway to begin the journey toward the Chapel. Before they got to the door, Jill stopped.


“Yes, hon.”

“Thank you for being my forever friend.”

Sandy clutched Jill to her.

“Thank you for being my forever friend. Let’s do this. There’s cake waiting for us.”

“God, I love wedding cake,” Jill said.

“Me too. Especially for breakfast!”

Sandy opened the loft door.

Denver Cereal continues next week….


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