Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Denver Cereal : Chapter Forty-Nine : Warm

CHAPTER FORTY-NINE

One hour later

Her first sensation was radiating warmth. Lazy, easy, happy, drenching warmth. She had no sense of herself as separate, no sense of her own body. Just warmth.

Then searing pain. She tried to scream but there was something in her throat. Jerking, her eyes opened to blinding light. She tried to move.

“She’s awake,” A woman’s voice said.

“Good,” Another woman’s voice said. “Nurse?”

She felt the tube move from her throat.

“Honey?” The second woman asked. “If you can hear me, blink.”

Honey blinked the light from her eyes.

“Good,” the woman said. “We’re almost done here. Do we need to put you out? Blink once for no, twice for yes. Good.”

She blinked the light from her eyes.

“Sir, you may take her hand again,” the woman’s voice said.

The warmth returned. Calm spread through her body. Closing her eyes, she slipped into the safety of his warmth.

~~~~~~~~

Tuesday morning, 5: 00 AM

Jacob and Sarah waited for a break in the traffic on Seventeenth before making their way into City Park. Starting their usual route, they ran past a silent Thatcher fountain toward the Martin Luther King monument. They were running past the early morning empty soccer fields when they caught up with a medium sized woman with salt and pepper hair and a gray standard poodle. Jacob slowed his pace to match the woman.

“Thanks for meeting me, Helen,” he said. “I know how crazy the Marlowe School is this time of year.”

“Thanks for making time for me today,” Helen Seigle said. “I’ve been at a loss for what to do since the Senator’s son dropped off a check for two years of full tuition.”

“Sorry about that. I should have assumed he would do that.”

“You can’t know everything, Jacob,” The director of the Marlowe school said. “But first, how is Honey?”

“She seems to have turned a corner,” Jacob said. “We won’t know for sure for a couple days but we’re hopeful.”

“Thank God,” the woman said. “Last I heard, the doctors didn’t think she would make the night. What happened?”

“It’s one of those funny things.” Jacob pointed to the path along Ferril Lake. They continued a slow jog east toward the Museum of Nature and Science. “Inour efforts to ensure that Honey felt like family, no one mentioned that she wasn’t my Dad’s biological child. And with all the trauma, the surgeons never noticed it.”

“Noticed what?”

“Honey has Crohn’s disease,” Jacob said. “We’ll find out today from her doctor whether she’s ever been diagnosed but I doubt it.”

“I’m not sure what that means.”

“We assumed that Honey’s infection was from her injury. But it’s more likely that it’s related to her Crohn’s disease. Untreated, undiagnosed. She’s right at the age to have her first flare up. We feel kind of foolish because she has all the symptoms - she’s so tiny, has always had some kind of digestive issues, and this infection. Anyway, they put her on a massive dose of steroids, and low and behold, she turned the corner. Her body couldn’t fight the Crohn’s and the infection and the injuries at the same time.”

“How did they figure it out?”

“Came to Delphie in a vision. You would have laughed. Dad stormed into the hospital and went all rich guy. The poor intern was so freaked out by Dad that she went over all the test results looking for Crohn’s. Took like the doctor like five minutes to find an ulceration and the inflammation. Bam, everything changed. She came running through the ICU yelling at the nurses. MJ was asleep next to Honey. She kicked him out of bed and began treatment.”

“Sounds dramatic.”

“Unbelievable drama. Turns out, the intern has an aunt with Crohn’s. She knew exactly what to look for. By the time the attending got to the ED from home, Honey’s fever was coming down, her vitals were improving and she was getting better. It was a miracle.”

“God, Jacob, how wonderful.”

“Honey’s biological father has Crohn’s. That was the missing piece. No one thought to mention it because we were all so sure that the infection was from her injury. Nope, she had it before the injury along with a few ulcerations in her colon. Poor kid.”

“Honey’s so tough,” the woman said. “Even as a little kid, she was tough as nails. It doesn’t surprise me that she could have ulcers or whatever and not know about it.”

“Looks like she’ll be home soon,” Jacob said. “Another project I need to get done.”

“What do you want to do about your daughter’s friend?” The woman asked.

“Paddie Hargreaves? Ah fuck, I don’t know,” Jacob said. “If I let Paddie go to the school, even if they pay double, people will say it’s favoritism. Especially now with all this crap going on in the company. I can’t risk looking like I’m favoring a non-Lipson child.”

“But Jacob, you pay to keep the school open,” she said. “If you and Val didn’t pitch in half the working budget, we wouldn’t have a school. That should entitle to you something.”

“I also own Lipson Construction that should count for something,” he said. “But according to our board, it means exactly diddley squat.”

They jogged in silence for a while.

“I was hoping you might have a great solution,” he said.

“You know what I think,” she said.

“If we opened the school to full pay non-Lipson kids, we could pay our bills and then some. We’d make enough money to expand,” Jacob said. “The problem is that our employees need real care for their kids. Rich kids can go anywhere.”

“Even Paddie?”

“It’s a lose - lose situation. If Paddie doesn’t go to the Marlowe school, Katy won’t go. Then I support a school that my own daughter doesn’t go to.”

“You could send Katy without Paddie.”

“Yeah, I’ll let you tell Katy that,” Jacob said. “You could start by telling her mother.”

The woman laughed.

“It warms my heart to see you in love, Jacob. Your mother would be so very happy,” she said. “When is your wedding?”

“Another good question,” Jacob said. “How long have you and Jerry been married?”

“Twenty-eight years,” she said. “He’s pretty nervous about the company.”

“I am too,” Jacob said.

“Why don’t we do this? Let ten non-Lipson students. Eight full pay and two kids like Honey.”

“From the motels?”

“Exactly. Those kids don’t go to school,” she said. “Let’s see how our staff does. If they start to favor the full pay kids, we’ll change something. If it works, we’ll talk about adding other kids.”

“How about half and half?”

“Then you’re going to have to cover the scholarship kids.”

“Three and seven,” he said.

“Fine, three scholarship kids and seven full pay,” she said. “Colin Hargreaves came in with another man. He wants his kids to go to the Marlowe school. In fact, I bet the Hargreaves and their friends might take all of your seven spaces.”

They ran in silence around the rest of the lake then down toward the duck lake. Turning toward the Martin Luther King monument, they ran past the purple castle playground. The woman slowed at the large field to finish their conversation. He let Sarah off her leash and the woman let her dog run as well. The dogs romped after the ball Jacob threw.

“You’ve wanted to do this for a long time,” Jacob said.

“I have. I think it’s time we became a real school. We’re the best Montessori school in the city. Best day care for infants. We win those awards every single year. Why shouldn’t we let people pay for it?”

Jacob shrugged.

“What are you afraid of?” She asked. “I’m sorry, if I over stepped….”

“I don’t really know,” Jacob said. “My Mom started the school. I wish I knew what she wanted. Aden would love it if we expanded to have middle school….”

“Which we should do. Our kids are resilient but public middle school is a real adjustment for them.”

“I guess,” Jacob said. “I just don’t want to dilute the mission of the school.”

“When does Valerie come home?”

“Next week,” Jacob said.

“What does she want?”

“To expand, to make it profitable,” he said.

“Maybe it’s time to let her take over your shares of the school,” the woman said. “You’ve got enough on your plate with the company. Let your sister do this for a while.”

Jacob threw the ball for Sarah then glanced at the woman. He knew that Valerie would expand the school and add paying kids. Why was he being so stubborn?

“I just wish I knew what Mom wanted,” he said.

“Your mother was one of my best friends, ” Helen said. “I loved her dearly. But Jacob, she’s been gone for almost ten years. Maybe it’s time to think about what you want.”

Jacob scowled and threw the ball again.

“I’ve over stepped my bounds.”

“Not at all,” Jacob said. “You’re right. I don’t have any idea what I want.”

“I’ll tell you this, Jacob Marlowe. Your mother would want you to be happy. What would make you happy with the school? With the company?”

“Another good question.”

~~~~~~~~

Tuesday morning, 8:30 AM

Sitting at the kitchen counter, Jill set her pen down and closed her journal. She’d never been a housewife. She’d never wanted to be one either. Yet here she was.

A housewife.

‘Bye honey, have a nice day!’ ‘What would you like for dinner?’ ‘Can I pick something up for you?’ ‘See you tonight!’ Ugh.

Yet, day two of housewifery, what surprised her the most was that she didn’t hate it.

All the Trevor crap kept her from enrolling in school this fall. She’s have to wait until next year to start college at Metro or UC Denver. She was pretty sure she couldn’t sit at this counter until then. Spinning her coffee cup, she wondered what to do with her life.

“Jill?” Delphie stuck her head into the attic apartment.

“Hi,” Jill whispered. “Katy’s still sleeping. Those visions seem to take so much out of her. She’s just exhausted.”

“She saved a life last night,” Delphie said. “You don’t mind that they are saying it was my vision?”

“Not at all. Katy doesn’t care either. She’s doing so many big and important things, but she’s a little girl first,” Jill said.

“I admire you for letting Katy be a little girl first. A lot of mothers wouldn’t do that,” Delphie said.

“What do you mean?”

“Katy’s a powerful psychic. More than I am or Celia. Maybe stronger than Jake.”

“Maybe?”

“Jake always wanted to be normal.” Delphie shrugged. “He had powerful visions as a child, like Katy does. As he grew older, he learned to tone it down. Celia and I never knew if the visions went away or he just covered them better. Do you have psychics in your family Jill?”

“I don’t really know. My parents moved here from Russia then they died when I was so little.” Smiling, Jill changed the subject by asking, “How is Honey?”

“She’s well on her way to recovering,” Delphie said.

“Can I get you some tea?”

“No, I wondered if you’d like to help me in the garden today?” Delphie asked. “But I don’t want to get in the way of your plans. I heard you talk about going shopping.”

“I never replaced my clothing from… the Trevor acid incident.” Jill brightened at the idea of helping in the garden. “I have the kids today. Paddie’s Mom has a doctor’s appointment around ten. She was going to drop him in about an hour. He’ll be here most of the day.”

“Oh great, so you would be available,” Delphie said.

“I’d love to help you but like I said I have the kids.”

“Kids love harvesting food,” Delphie said. “In fact, Jake will be jealous when he finds out Paddie and Katy got to help. Especially with the potatoes.”

“It’s worth a try. Those two have so much energy. It will be good to channel it somewhere,” Jill said. “What do we do?”

“Come down when Katy’s up,” Delphie said. “We’ll get started. I can use your help all week. I think it’s going to snow soon and we need to get everything harvested. Do you mind helping?”

“I love to garden,” Jill said. “I dreamed of owning my own home where I’d have vegetable gardens.”

Delphie smiled.

“I think our gardens dreamed of you,” Delphie said. “You’ll be the lady of the house someday.”

“Whoa,” Jill’s hands went up. “This is your home.”

“I’m just glad you’re here.” Delphie smiled.

~~~~~~~~

<

p align=”center”>Tuesday, 12 noon Downtown Denver

“You don’t have to do this,” Blane said. “Really. You’re welcome to stay with me.”

“I’m no freeloader,” Heather replied. She stopped walking so that Blane could open the door of the title company for her. “Val got this money for me and the baby. I want to own my home. Plus, with me buying half, we’ll have lots of money to remodel.”

“Blane Lipson,” he said to the receptionist. “We’re here for a signing.”

“You may take a seat,” the receptionist said. “They will be right with you.”

“You might want a condo or a house at Stapleton or….”

“I love our house,” Heather said. “Love it. It’s absolutely everything I’ve ever wanted. Well, it will be when Jill’s done. Are you saying you don’t want me there?”

“No, no, no.” Blane shrugged. “I guess I want this so much I want you to be sure.”

“Want what?”

“Whatever this is,” Blane said. “I don’t know how to explain it. I’m not in love with you.”

“I’m not in love with you,” Heather said.

“But I’m really excited about our family.” Blane blushed.

“Me too,” Heather said

“What if you… you know, find someone?”

“What if you do?”

Blane shrugged. His face clouded and he looked away from Heather. When Heather touched his arm, Blane turned to look at her.

“My Dad left my Mom and me when I was about eight years old. Just walked out. I never saw him again,” Heather said. “I always wanted a big noisy family. Brothers and sisters and … well family. Sandy, Tanesha and Jill are like sisters but just like sisters.”

“Jake’s like a brother to me, but just like a brother. I know what you mean.” Blane looked away from her again. “I never even had a Mom. I mean, Celia was like an angel and Sam’s really my Dad. But… I know what you mean.”

“When I sit in our house, I feel like its home.”

Blane nodded.

“I’d like it if we could build a family,” Heather said.

Blane’s head jerked to look at her. She nodded her practical sincerity to him.

“I was thinking the same thing,” he said.

“I’ve had a lot of encounters and near misses at love, Blane,” Heather said.

“Yeah? Me too,” Blane said. “I’m completely off the market until I find… what I’m looking for.”

“Oh! I’ll do that too,” Heather said. “We’ll wait for the real deal together AND have our family while we wait.”

Blane beamed at Heather as she smiled at her plan.

“It’s a deal,” he said.

“Deal.”

“I bought….”

“Sir? If you’d like to come this way,” the receptionist said.

Blane and Heather followed the receptionist down the hall to a conference room. Blane held a seat for Heather then sat down next to her. They both shook their heads at the receptionist’s offer of water or tea.

When the receptionist closed the door, Blane pulled a ring box from his pocket. He pushed it at Heather. Heather opened to box to see a three stone diamond engagement ring. Puzzled, she looked at him.

“I went with MJ on Saturday to order Honey’s ring. I saw that and bought it for you,” Blane said. “I know how vicious people can be about unwed mothers. Even now in modern times. I didn’t want you to….”

Weeping, Heather clutched him to her. He laughed.

“We talked about getting married so you would have legal custody of the baby,” she said through her tears. “I never thought…. I….”

“Let’s try it on,” Blane said. She took the ring out of the box and slipped it on her left finger. “It’s big.”

“That’s all right. I’m growing bigger,” she said. She hugged him again. “It’s perfect.”

“You know I’m not going to be your real husband.”

“I won’t be your real wife and someday we’ll find love and have real husbands. We’ll be a family first,” Heather said. “Besides, every girl needs a gay husband.”

Blane was so overwhelmed by her simple statement that he hugged her.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” the title clerk said as she walked into the room. “I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

“We just got engaged,” Heather said. She held her left hand out like she had seen all the starlets showing off their big rings. “See!”

He’d worried that he was being anti-gay. Since buying the ring, he’d confronted himself over again. Was he playing a straight guy? Was he like all those scumbag married guys that used to pay him for blowjobs when he was on the streets? Would he destroy her world like all the lying closet cases of the world? When Heather turned to look at him, she winked.

Nah, he was going to be her gay husband.

And she was going to be his straight wife.

Until they found love AND real husbands.

~~~~~~~~

<

p align=”center”>Tuesday evening, 6 P.M. Swedish Hospital, Denver, CO

“MJ!” Breaking the silence of her private room, Honey screamed again, “MJ!”

“I’m here.” Jumping from the chair he’d been sitting in, he leaned over her bed. “I’m right here.”

“I had the worst dream.” Tears dropped from her eyes. “I dreamed that I would never, ever see you again.”

Climbing over her to the empty side of the bed, he scootched over to her. He held out his arm and she nestled her head against his shoulder. He caressed her hair while she cried.

“I kept asking why? Why can’t I see him again? Why? And no one would tell me.”

“No one could tell you because I’m right here,” MJ said.

“Will you stop traveling and stay with me?”

“I’d drive you crazy in three seconds flat,” he said. “You’ll get better and have a whole big life like you’ve always had. I’ll be a part of that whole life. Do you remember Bambi offering you a job?”

She nodded.

“Do you remember Jake saying he was able to get the contractors in to make our home?”

She nodded.

“Do you remember Steve helping you before the wedding and how well that went?”

She nodded.

“A whole big life is waiting for you to leave this bed.”

Silent, she stared at the ceiling. After a few minutes, she said:

“Let’s not leave the bed for a while.”

“Okay.”

~~~~~~~~

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