Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Denver Cereal - Chapter Forty-Five : A solution or three.

CHAPTER FORTY-FIVE

Friday evening

“Jill lived in this building for a long time,” Jacob said. He entered the building followed by Honey, in her lightweight wheelchair, and MJ. “Her apartment is on the second floor. There are a couple of empty apartments together on the third floor. We can combine them into a suite.”

Jacob pointed in the direction of the elevator. They made their way down the hall.

“Why did Jill live here?” Honey asked.

“It’s very affordable,” Jacob said. “She and Trevor lived here for six years I think.”

“Oh, I forgot,” Honey said. “Seeing you and Jill together? It’s like you’ve always been together.”

MJ pressed the elevator call button and the ancient doors opened.

“I think everyone would rather forget Trevor,” Jacob said. He punched the three button.

“I would,” MJ said.

“I heard that you were buddies,” Jacob said.

The elevator lurched up a couple times before it crept upward.

“He thought we were,” MJ said.

Honey looked up at MJ. She reached for his hand. Taking hold her hand, MJ smiled.

“Thailand?” Jacob asked.

“I was in Special Forces training that entire year. And the one before that,” MJ said. “I don’t remember but my LC checked. Leave Special Forces training? You’re out. I graduated. That, I remember.”

“He was more friends with Jill and Tanesha because they ran track,” Honey said. “MJ was a jock. I never met Trevor until my sister brought him to meet Mom.”

After lurching, the elevator came to a complete stop. The doors slid open.

“The elevator’s not too great,” Jacob said. “I’ve looked at replacing it but I’d have to evacuate the building. Asbestos. The residents say it’s okay, so I just keep it running. I’ll probably do something about it in the next year or so. I didn’t think I’d keep this building but….”

“Why do you own it, Jake?” Honey asked.

“That’s a very long story,” he said. “The benefit to this building is that it’s accessible right away. You can get in the front door, there’s an elevator and the doors are wide enough for your wheelchair. We gutted these apartments last month, so they are ready to be converted to wheelchair accessible.”

He opened the door to one of the apartments. Honey rolled in first followed by MJ. Jacob closed the door.

“Jake, please don’t take this the wrong way,” Honey said. “But this place is a shit hole.”

Jacob laughed.

“I’m serious. We lived in better places when I was a kid,” Honey said.

“It’s pretty bad,” Jacob said. “I’ve made improvements but people who live here don’t like a lot of change.”

“A wrecking ball would do it,” MJ said.

“That’s what Jill says,” Jacob said. “People need safe places to live.”

“Nice places. Clean places,” Honey said. “Why did you gut this apartment?”

“I’m hoping to eventually redo all of the apartments,” Jacob said. “When they become available, I gut them. If I need one, I put in new material. The building is awful, but you’d be surprised what a little work can do. There aren’t rats or roaches any more. I was able to get all the appliances to work.”

He shrugged.

“Would you like to at least see it?” He asked.

“Sure,” MJ said. “It’s nice of you to take the time to show us around. We don’t want to seem ungrateful, Jake.”

“It’s a shit hole. Now,” Jacob said. “But we can make the apartments what we want. Eventually, the building will convert.”

Jacob escorted them through what once was a two bedroom apartment.

“There’s a vacant one next door. If you need more space, we can combine them,” Jacob said.

“You said there was another option,” MJ said. “I’d worry about Honey being here by herself. Even with a nurse’s help, she’ll be alone here a lot of the times.”

“Until I find work,” Honey said.

“Until she finds work,” MJ said.

“I wanted to show you this first. I know how independent Honey has always been. This apartment would offer real independence. You could come and go as you please. Once you’re ready for a van, you can park in the lot.”

“Jake, I know you’re trying to be positive and helpful,” Honey said. “But…. I don’t think I can live here. Just the smell….”

“Ok, moving on,” Jacob said.

They retreated to the elevator.

“I make good money, Jake,” MJ said.

“MJ helps support his brother and sister too,” Honey said.

“But I make enough for us to live on,” MJ said.

“Plus, I’ll find a job,” Honey said.

Jacob smiled at Honey’s insistence on working.

“We’ve looked at a couple of other apartment buildings that might work,” MJ said. “So don’t worry if we can’t make this work.”

“I’m glad you looked.” Jacob nodded. “Let’s take a look at the other place before you decide. The other place isn’t wheelchair accessible right now.”

“Where is it?” Honey asked.

“The Castle,” Jacob said. “Would you be okay going back….”

“The Castle is gorgeous,” Honey said. “I mean, it’s your family home. You wouldn’t want….”

“You are family, Honey,” Jacob said. “You guys wanna get a bite to eat before we look at the Castle? I was thinking….”

“Cereal?” Honey asked.

“If you insist,” Jacob said. “The Shoppe?”

The elevator slammed to the bottom, jerked up, bounced, and the doors creaked opened. They returned to MJ’s SUV. MJ lifted Honey from her chair and gently placed her in the passenger’s seat. Jacob folded the wheel chair and stuck it next to him.

“If it’s all right with you, Jake, I’d like to see what’s available at the Castle,” MJ said. “I don’t want to get in the way of your cereal consumption. Is the cereal ban still in effect?”

“What cereal ban?” Jacob’s smirk indicated his lack of compliance with the ‘No-Captain-Crunch’ health program.

Honey laughed.

“What’s available at the Castle, Jake?” MJ asked.

MJ turned left at Colfax Boulevard then took an immediate right onto Race Street.

“We’ve finished a couple apartments. There are a couple others that rotate uses. Aden and his kids like one. Blane stays in the studio when he’s sick. Jill and I just moved into part of the attic so where I lived is vacant.”

“How big is the Castle?” MJ asked.

“You can just go up to the gate.” Jake pointed to the metal gate. “How big is the Castle? Honestly? I don’t know. The building was originally about eight thousand square feet but there’ve been additions. Last year, we found a bunch of underground rooms. We found the ball room about six months ago.”

“Why are things hidden?”

MJ turned left into the Castle driveway. Jumping out, Jacob punched in the code for the gate.

“Lots of reasons,” Jacob said. “There was speakeasy in one section. That was shut off from the rest of the house. Also, in the bust years in Denver, people would break into these old mansions and steal stained glass, doors … anything they could sell. We found the original owner’s diary. He talks about sealing off rooms to protect the details of the house but there are few specifics and no plans that show any additions or changes. We found crazy stuff, like a room filled with the original doors. I keep hoping I’ll find the original chandelier. He says he packed it away.”

MJ parked the SUV on the wide concrete in front of the garage. They looked out onto the vegetable gardens and fruit trees. The Indian Summer had extended the growing season at the Castle. Fruit hung on the trees. Tall corn lifted toward the sky. Burdened tomato plants gave a back drop to blooming rose bushes, purple cornflowers, and bright yellow yarrow. Bright colored asters and mums lined the driveway.

“The gardens are beautiful,” Honey said. “I don’t think I’ve seen those.”

“Delphie designed and maintains the gardens. We help, but only on her instruction.”

MJ went to get Honey’s wheelchair.

“I am sorry but right now it’s probably easier if you’re carried,” Jacob said. “We can easily fix the access but today may be tricky.”

MJ lifted Honey from the passenger seat of his SUV.

“I don’t mind having a man servant,” Honey said.

MJ flushed opened his mouth then shut it. Jacob laughed. Jacob grinned when they kissed.

“I hope you don’t mind,” Jacob said. He nodded toward Delphie, Jill and Katy. Sarah and Scooter bound toward them with a happy wagging greeting. “They wanted to see what we were thinking of doing with your space.”

“Where’s Dad?” Honey asked.

“He’s opening the rooms,” Jacob said.

While Jill kissed Jacob, Delphie said her hellos. Jacob picked up Katy.

“Rooms?” MJ asked.

“We have three garden level rooms. They’re next to Dad’s area. They’ve been used for storage. The original plans show that they were interconnected by doors. We’ve cleared out one of the rooms and made some progress on the second.

“There’s Dad.” Jacob pointed to his father. The group continued to move toward the Castle. “He’s standing near the outside door. If you decided to move here, we have a number of options including creating a little private patio for you, pouring a sidewalk to connect you to the driveway, or whatever makes sense.”

“When is the wedding?” Delphie said.

Honey blushed. MJ kissed her nose.

“We’re not sure,” MJ said. “We’d like to get married before Honey’s surgery but it doesn’t seem quite possible.”

“Why is it impossible?” Jill asked.

“You know,” Honey said.

“The Catholic thing,” MJ and Honey said together.

Jill nodded.

“What does that mean?” Jacob asked.

“Catholics have to take classes before they get married,” Jill said. “Didn’t help me much, but…. I wonder if we could find someone who would do it anyway.”

“I can marry people,” Delphie said. “I could marry you and you could get remarried in the church.”

“See, I knew we’d find a solution,” MJ said. “Whoa….”

They were standing in front of an open door. Even with battered wood floors and dusty plaster walls, the room was beautiful. A tile fireplace stood on one side of the room while built in book shelves lined the other.

“It’s pretty, isn’t it?” Delphie put her hand on MJ’s arm. “Maple floors, shelves and moldings in this room. Sam’s rooms are all birch. The room next door is…. I don’t remember. What is it, Jake?”

“Oak,” Jacob said. “The diary says that this level was to celebrate the American forest. I would guess that the last room is pine or cherry. I thought there was another room on this level, on the other side of Dad’s room, but we haven’t found a way in yet.”

MJ and Honey wandered around the room. Jacob opened a door leading to the adjoining room. Even partially full of boxes, the inherent beauty of the room was apparent. A fireplace made of similar tile stood on the opposite side of the wall. Jacob opened the next door and they could see stacks of boxes, doors, and other household items.

“Dad and I worked on plans to combine these rooms into a sitting area, a couple bedrooms, a small office and a nice sized bathroom. We can also add a little kitchen if you’d like one.”

“In total, it’s a little more than a thousand square feet.” Sam opened the exterior door of the second room. There were a number of overgrown trees just outside the door. “With a little outside space, there’s room to live here.”

“It’s gorgeous,” MJ said. “What do you think?”

“Wow,” Honey said. “Can you really convert it? I mean, you don’t mind me living here?”

“We’d be happy to have you,” Jill said.

“It’ll take a bit of time to do the conversion, Honey,” Jacob said. “We’ll work to get it done by the time you need it. If it’s not done, Dad said you can stay in his room until your area is done.”

“Can I see that?” Honey asked.

“Sure,” Sam said.

They followed Sam through a hallway into his rooms. He opened the door to his birch paneled room. Outside the tall leaded windows was a small patio with a couple of chairs.

“God, that’s gorgeous,” MJ said.

“You’ll have access to most of the first floor,” Jacob said. “Everyone uses the main kitchen and the rooms downstairs. There’s a gym in the basement so we’ll have to figure out how to get you down there. We keep private spaces private, so you’ll have to respect that. But it’s pretty easy.”

“Wow,” Honey said. “What do you think?”

“Wow,” MJ said. “This is really gorgeous. What would you rent it for?”

“The building’s paid off,” Jacob said. Gesturing to everyone, he said, “We split the grocery bill, cleaning, and help out to keep things going. Like we’ll harvest and bottle honey this weekend.”

“We’d want you to participate in the household,” Delphie said. “We take care of each other.”

“What happens if we can’t?” MJ asked. “I travel a lot and Honey’s just starting to figure out what she can and can’t do.”

“Why don’t we cross that bridge if the cows get out?” Sam asked.

Shaking his head at Sam, Jacob asked, “Would you like to see the plans?”

MJ looked at Honey and she nodded.

“Hey.” A male voice said from the doorway.

“Steve!” Jill ran over to hug her brother.

“You’re home, sis?” Steve asked. Kissing her cheek, he said softly, “How did it go?”

Jill shook her head.

Knowing that everyone was watching them, Steve said, “We’ll catch up?”

Jill nodded.

“Hi everyone. Hey Honey.”

“Hey Steve,” Honey said from her perch in MJ’s arms. “Did you ever meet MJ?”

“I don’t think so,” Steve said. “I’ve heard a lot about you. It’s nice to finally meet you.”

“How do you know them?” Jill asked Steve.

“Remember I used to tutor people when I was in high school? Honey was one of the people I tutored,” Steve said. “I saw her after I graduated too.”

“He bullied me through most of high school,” Honey said.

“Nice to meet you, man,” MJ said.

“I’m so sorry to hear about what happened,” Steve said. “I’ve been heart sick about it.”

Honey nodded.

“We were about to look at plans for Honey’s new home,” Jacob said.

“Oh sorry, I don’t want to interrupt. I drive by on my way home from the hospital but no one’s been here,” Steve said. “I was hoping to catch Mike.”

“He’s in LA,” Jill said.

Steve sighed.

“What’s up?” Jill asked.

“Leslie’s pregnant.”

“Oh Steve, that’s wonderful!”

While Delphie hugged him, everyone beamed. Sam patted his back.

“We’re absolutely to the moon thrilled. But the doctor thinks that Leslie will have to stop teaching. High risk pregnancy and all,” Steve said. “I’ll need to find another job. I thought I could get more hours at the hospital, but with the economy, they don’t have the extra hours for new nurses.”

“What are you going to look for?” Jill asked.

“I was thinking I would get a private job. You know work for a service checking on homebound people. I could work around my hospital schedule.”

Jacob laughed. Delphie hugged Steve again.

“Why is that funny?” Steve whispered to Jill.

“Honey needs someone to help her in the mornings and at night,” MJ said.

“No way.” Steve’s head jerked to Honey.

Honey nodded.

“Would you be all right with Steve?” MJ asked.

Honey’s eyes welled with tears.

“Next thing you’re going to tell me that we can get married this weekend,” Honey said.

“Even the slightest chance is still a chance,” Delphie said.

“We didn’t want to overwhelm you,” Jacob said.

Honey turned her face into MJ’s chest. He kissed the top of her head.

~~~~~~~~

4:30 AM Saturday morning

“Are you sure you don’t mind?” Colin Hargreaves whispered.

They were standing at the side entrance to the Castle. When Jill held out her arms, he passed a dirty, sound asleep Paddie to her.

“Not at all,” Jill whispered. “I was planning on taking care of the kids today anyway. I know Katy wants to see Paddie.”

“Even after their big fight?” Colin asked.

“Katy misses Paddie,” Jill nodded.

“Paddie kept saying over and over again that he ‘gots to see Katy ‘cuz Paddie hurts her feelings. Bad.’ He made me promise I’d bring him here after he got out of the hospital,” Colin whispered. “He’s had an awful summer.”

“I think we all have,” Jill whispered.

“I’ll tell you, Jill. Katy saved the day. Paddie did everything Katy told him to do from what she saw in her…uh… dream.”

“Is Julie going to be all right?” Jill whispered.

“The doctors think so,” Colin said. “She needs rest, quiet and safety. She’ll be in the hospital at least for today.”

“Losing a baby is really hard,” Jill said.

“She was four months along. It’s a miracle she survived,” Colin said.

Jill hugged him.

“I feel like I’m dumping my precious son on you. Our team’s been gone. With the wedding, I need to fill in at the bakery and Julie….”

“Paddie’s welcome here,” Jill said. “He can stay as long as you need.”

“I’ll come to get him as soon as I can,” Colin said. “I packed everything I thought he might need in the backpack. If you need to get something, we’ll pay….”

“Take the time you need,” Jill said. “Really. He’s perfectly safe and welcome here. It sounds like you and Julie could use some time too.”

“Yes,” Colin said. “Thanks Jill. If he gets to be too much Alex and Max will be here today to take care of the bees, they can….”

“Don’t worry, Colin. I have your number,” Jill said.

“Well, thanks.” Colin leaned in to kiss Paddie’s head. “Love you, Paddie.”

Wiping his eyes, he nodded to Jill then walked back to his car. Jill turned to carry Paddie up the long stairwell to the attic. Rather than waking Jacob and Katy, she filled the apartment bathtub to give Paddie a quick bath. In the way of very young children, Paddie let Jill go through the motions of bathing him without actually walking up. Jill dressed him in a clean cotton footie from the backpack and carried him into the apartment.

Of course, Jacob was waiting for her just on the other side of the door. He went with her into Katy’s room. Katy opened her eyes when Jill set Paddie in herbed.

“Paddie!”

“I sorry, Katy,” Paddie said. “I so sorry. I hurted your heart.”

“I’m sorry for hurting you too.”

“I love Katy.” The toddler’s blue eyes welled with tears.

“Don’t cry!” Katy said sniffling at her own tears. “I love you, Paddie.”

Paddie snuggled into Katy. Within moments, the toddlers were asleep.

“Are you all right?” Jacob asked when they snuggled back in their bed.

“I’m relieved,” Jill said.

“Relieved?”

“Katy and Paddie had this huge fight last summer,” Jill said. “Just before we left for Ohio. Katy had a dream that Paddie’s Mom would start bleeding and Paddie would have to save her. She told Paddie and he got really mad at her. Katy was heartbroken.”

“Where was I?” Jacob asked.

“You were getting your shoulder surgery,” Jill said. “Poor Katy. I’ve never seen her so upset. I don’t really know what happened but it sounds like it all went down in the last couple days.”

Jacob held out his arm so that Jill could snuggle up against his chest.

“We need to do this marriage thing,” he said.

“Yes,” she said.

“When do we go off the pill?” He asked.

“I should get my period next week,” she said.

“Let’s wait to go off the pill until we’re married,” he said.

“Such a traditionalist.”

“Want to get married this weekend?” He asked.

She laughed.

“I’m serious.”

“I know,” she said. She kissed his lips. “I love you for that.”

“But?”

“I want Honey to have a really wonderful day that’s just about her and MJ,” Jill said. “She deserves that.”

“And you? What do you deserve?”

“My own perfect wedding,” she said. “You deserve that too.”

“Would you like to practice?”

“Practice?”

“Baby making,” he said. “You know for when we’re off the pill and married.”

“Oh yes,” she said.

~~~~~~~~

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