Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Denver Cereal - Chapter Forty-Six : Who A-listed you?


Saturday, 1 PM PT Santa Monica, CA

“Val! Mike!”

A tan, good looking man with a bright smile leaned over to hug Val and kiss her cheek. Mike stood to shake hands with him. They were sitting on the patio table at the Hidden Restaurant, one of Santa Monica’s best and most eclectic restaurants.

“My better half is going to be a little late. She said we should start without her.”

“She called to let me know,” Val said. “We are waiting for our…. Oh there he is. Max!”

Val waved Max Hargreaves over to the table.

“This is our friend, Max Hargreaves,” Mike said.

“Wow, you look familiar to me,” the man said.

“I’m an identical twin,” Max said.

“I must have met him,” the man said.

“I believe you have.” Looking at Val, Max asked, “Have you ordered?”

“Not yet,” Val said.

“The menu has a little bit of everything on it,” Mike said. “What looks good?”

“I was going to wait for my wife,” the man said.

“She’s calling in her order,” Val said. “Producer’s prerogative, you know.”

“She has more irons in the fire than anyone I know.”

The man smiled, but shifted uncomfortably in his chair. His eyes gravitated to Max. Max smiled. The waiter took their order before the man realized who Max was.

“Your identical twin is a woman.”

“In fact, she is.”

“I thought that wasn’t possible.”

“People think lots of things are impossible,” Max said.

“How are the bees?” Valerie asked.

“All right,” Max said. “Delphie will probably only lose one hive, maybe two. That’s pretty good for this year.”

“CCD?” Mike asked.

“We’ve been hit hard the last couple of years.”

“What’s that?” The man asked.

“Colony Collapse Disorder,” Max said. “It kills honeybee hives during the winter. You never know what will happen until you visit the hives in the early spring.”

“You’re a beekeeper?” The man asked.

“My sister and I keep a few hives at our house. Val’s referring to the hives at her home in Denver,” Max said. “My twin and I helped with their hives this morning. I had to cut out early to get here.”

“What did you do about medications?” Mike asked. “Delphie and I researched that last spring. Did she decide to transition away from them?”

“Yep,” Max said. “Both of our apiaries are chemical free this year. It’s a crap shoot but worth the risk. We’ll see next spring. Alex wants to raise queens next year.”

“Gosh, beekeeping is fascinating,” the man said. His eyes drifted around the restaurant looking to see if his adoring public had noticed him yet.

“I think so. I have something for you,” Max said. Opening his briefcase, Max gave the man an ultrasound photo. “I’d like introduce you to your son.”

“Whoa. You’ve made some mistake. I’m not the father of any baby.”

“What pisses me off the most is that you thought you could come to MY home! MY party! And treat MY friends like garbage.” Valerie’s face was all smiles but her voice was pure rage. “Did you know that Heather slept at the airport? Carrying YOUR child! She was kicked out of her home. She has no where to live.”

“Of course, some girl lies and Valerie is on the case,” the man said.

“My FATHER told me,” Valerie said. “Heather had too much class to say a word.”

The man looked from Valerie to Mike then at Max. Clearly calculating his next move, he raised his eyebrows at his possible out.

“DNA results?”

“It was tough to get them so quickly,” Max said. “But my sister has a lab that processes DNA within twenty-four hours. Government connections, you know?”

“I never gave a sample,” the man said.

“Your DNA is on file,” Max said. He smiled his big ‘imitating Alex’ smile.

The man’s face registered surprise. Still trying to work another angle, his eyes shifted to look at Valerie.

“Val, please. You know I’d never do anything to upset or offend you… OR your friends. You’ve got to believe me. I was out of my mind! Freaked out!” The man’s voice rose. Realizing his adoring public might hear him, he dropped his voice. “One moment, I’m thinking that I had found my ticket out of the platinum handcuffs and the next I realized I’d lose everything. Not just the money and status, but my wife produces the soap opera we’re on. I had a panic attack in the restroom. I could barely make it home.”

“You managed to pack up her belongings and dump them with your doorman,” Mike said.

“I was out of my mind!” The man drained his wine.

As if on cue, the waiter brought their meal. They went through a round of ‘Would you like fresh pepper?’ and ‘How about some fresh parmesan?’ before anyone looked at each other.

“I assume she kept the baby?” The man broke the silence at the table.

“I bet you didn’t know my twin had the same security installed at the Castle as they installed in your home.” Max smiled.

“I’m not sure what that means,” the man said.

One at a time, Max laid four photographs in front of their guest. Taken of the videotape from the night of the party, the images showed this man and Heather in a variety of delicate positions.

“We also have the video.” Max held up a DVD with the video on it.

“In fact,” Valerie pointed to someone behind the man. The man turned to look. “See that guy”

Valerie waved. The guy waved back with a picture in his hand.


“Is it?” Valerie asked. “He looks very busy with his laptop.”

“But…. Valerie, please,” the man said.

“Shut up,” Max said. “You fucked up. Here’s what you’re going to do about it.”

“I’m not doing anything….”

Valerie raised her hand to wave Perez over to their table.

“Ok. Ok, what do you want?” The man asked.

“First you’re going to wire one million dollars from your ‘secret’ off shore bank account,” Mike said.

“How did you….”

“Alex would be here to explain,” Max said. “But she’s otherwise detained. Remember beehives?”

“Oh,” the man said.

“My computer is set up for the transfer,” Max said. “We have the codes, of course, but I’d like you to pretend that you are a decent chap. Make this right by typing in the codes.”

The man typed in a series of codes. Turning the laptop back to Max, he gave a smug grin.

“I requested that the money be deposited then returned.”

“Yeah, that only works if you leave the money sitting in one location for more than a second,” Max said. “Look all that money magically disappear.”

“How did….?”

“Sister? Government?” Max pulled a stack of papers from his briefcase. “You will sign this document. This document relieves you of your parental rights, responsibilities and duties.”

The man smiled. Letting out a breath, he picked up Max’s pen and signed the form.

“That’s it. A million dollars and a signature?” The man beamed. Looking from face to face, he laughed. “You’ve saved my ass! You have no idea how freaked out I’ve been. Thank you so much!”

Valerie opened her mouth to say something then shut it. She set her fork down.

“I’m sorry,” Valerie said. “I feel sick to my stomach. I don’t think I can eat any more.”

Mike put his arm around her. They shared a look.

“We need to get to Denver anyway,” Mike said.

“I thought you had another week on the soap?” The man asked. “I was looking forward to your dramatic exit. Car crash isn’t it? I narrowly escape to spend months in the hospital mourning your death?”

“My sister is getting married tomorrow,” Valerie said. “I need to be there tonight to help. I’ll be back on Monday.”

“Great! I’ll catch up with you then,” the man said. “And don’t worry about Perez. I’ve dealt with him before.”

While Max packed his belongings, Mike stood then helped Valerie with her chair. They were almost to the door when Valerie could not resist her urge to return to the gloating man.

“Your wife phoned me last night,” Valerie said. “She’s watched the video from your apartment and wanted to know what I knew. I didn’t hesitate to tell her everything.”

Turning in place, Valerie moved away from the man. He lunged at her, but ran into Mike’s muscular chest instead. He pushed the man back into his chair. Mike placed his arm around Valerie and they made their way through the dining room. Near the front, they met the man’s wife.

“Did he send the money?” The woman asked.

“It’s done,” Valerie said.

“If she needs anything….” The woman said.

“She’ll be all right,” Valerie said. “Thank you. For everything.”

“I feel awful. Poor child. And to think? I’m the one who supported and protected that jerk,” the woman said. “You’ll send me pictures and….”

“I will,” Valerie said.

The woman hugged Valerie. Squaring her shoulders, the woman gestured to three men in business suits. The men followed the producer into the patio where her show down with her soon to be ex-husband was documented for the world on the celebrity blog.

“Don’t you dare feel bad for him,” Mike said to Valerie as they pulled out from the restaurant.

“I don’t,” Valerie said. “I keep telling myself that people get what they deserve. I’m just never sure what I deserve.”

“Wedding cake?” Max asked.

Valerie laughed.


Saturday, 3 P.M.

Standing in the small basement room that held ‘her’ diamonds, Jill wondered what to do. Celia’s Marlowe diamond collection included ten loose diamonds. Jill’s heart told her to give MJ a diamond for Honey. MJ couldn’t afford a diamond for Honey and Jill had so many.

But there was that restriction: “The Marlowe diamonds cannot leave the Marlowe family.”

When Jill accepted the diamond bequeath, she never thought she would be in such a position. If she gave MJ the diamond this afternoon, he could have a ring made. The ring would be ready by the time Honey got out of surgery on Monday. In her mind’s eye, Jill saw Honey’s excited face as she woke up from surgery.

But Celia’s love for Honey did not make Honey a Marlowe.

Jill plucked a one and a half carat diamond from the group. Setting the stone in the palm of her hand, she admired its beauty.

But…. Crap! What should she do?

She was about to set the diamond down when the baby monitor in her pocket squawked. Katy screamed that she hated Paddie. Paddie returned the insult. Jill sighed. The toddlers had been fighting all day.

Jill slammed and locked the door to the diamond room. She took the basement stairs two at a time. Hoping to avert all out war, Jill left the napping toddlers with Delphie. Over the baby monitor, she heard Delphie’s kind intervention between the, now, screeching children.

In her heart of hearts, Jill knew that Katy was acting out this summer’s pain and anger with the person she loved and trusted the most. Seeing Paddie response, she was sure he was doing the same. Just a few hours ago, Jill spent an hour rocking them while they cried. Turning up the stairwell, Jill ran all the way up to her new attic home. She yanked open the door and stopped short.

Jacob sat in the middle of the apartment holding Katy and Paddie. Covered by what looked like applesauce, the toddlers where crying into his shoulders. Delphie stood nearby with a mop cleaning up the worst of an angry food fight. Breathing hard, Jill wanted both to intervene and to watch.

If any part of Jill hadn’t loved Jacob, if some part of her held out in mistrust or uncertainty, in this moment, Jill’s entire being loved this man. Dressed in an expensive business suit, starched shirt, and silk tie, Jacob sat cross legged in a pool of applesauce with a weeping child on each shoulder. Sensing her gaze, he looked up and applesauce dripped from his hair onto his face. He smiled his bright “I’m an idiot” Jacob smile.

Jill shifted to move forward, but Delphie touched her shoulder.

“Let him do this,” Delphie said softly. “The babies need him.”

“What about his big meeting?”

“He’s been late before,” Delphie said.


“Celia would like you to give the stone to MJ,” Delphie said.

Jill had forgotten about the diamond. She opened her hand to see the diamond still tucked into her palm.

“I promised….”

“She was much more rule oriented in life,” Delphie said. “Honey will be delighted. Especially knowing the diamond belonged to Celia. MJ will only accept the gift from you. Go now before he leaves.”

“What about the children?”

“It’s important for Jacob to do this,” Delphie said. “Don’t worry. They’ll need a bath soon enough.”

“Third today,” Jill said.

Delphie hugged Jill.

“You’re a great mother, Jill,” Delphie whispered in her ear. “Katy and Paddie are getting through this. Go on.”

Jill took one last look at Jacob. He winked at her. Beaming from ear to ear, she set off to bring a sparkly gem to the excited groom.


Saturday, 6 P.M

Lifting a strand of Honey’s hair, Sandy furrowed her forehead. She took a comb to look at the edges of the hair.

“Nail clippers?” Sandy asked.

Honey blushed. Sandy put her face right next to the back of Honey’s head.

“Pinking sheers?”

“Pruning snips,” Honey said.

Sandy nodded as if she understood why Honey cut her hair with something designed to trim plants.

“I’ve never been very good at… this.” Honey gestured around the hair salon. “I could never sit still long enough. I guess the jokes on me.”

“Sandy’s the best,” Heather said. She held up another color of makeup to Honey’s face. Heather was having a tough time matching Honey’s fair hair, eyes and skin. “We all hate to sit still but Sandy makes it fun.”

“I’ve never been very good at that, either.” Honey gestured to Heather’s makeup kit.

“I’ll be there tomorrow so you won’t have to be great,” Heather said. “Then we’ll practice. If you want….”

Honey nodded.

“What would you like your hair to look like?” Sandy asked.

“Hair?” Honey replied as if the answer was obvious.

Sandy returned to looking at Honey’s hair.

“Would you use a blow dryer?”

Honey shook her head ‘no’.


“Just after I shower,” Honey said. “I mean I used to. Now, the nurse brushes it after I shower then puts it up in the ponytail.”

“You have beautiful hair,” Sandy said. “It’s a gorgeous color of blonde, very soft. I bet it breaks off easily.”

Honey nodded.

“I need to think for a minute,” Sandy said. “Is there anything special you want for your wedding?”

“I hadn’t ever thought of it,” Honey said. “I’m still not sure what I’m wearing. I think Mom has something. I don’t know.”

“Do you want to do your own hair?” Sandy asked.

Honey fell silent. She’d never focused on her hair, makeup or even looking anyway other than clean. She left all of that to her pretentious mother and evil sister. But having spent the last day with Sandy, Tanesha and Heather, Honey could see that a few simple things made a difference. Tanesha smelled like Vanilla and Cocoa Butter. Heather had sparkly lip gloss. Their hair was beautiful, practical and, according to Jill, easy. Honey felt like she had entered a whole new world.

“Here’s what I’m thinking,” Sandy said.

“Ok.” Honey’s voice betrayed her nervousness.

“I think we cut it all off in a kind of modern Mary Lou Retton page boy,” Sandy said.


“But it won’t lie well if we leave it,” Sandy said. “Your hair is too soft.”

“Exactly,” Honey said.

“We need to add a little color to it to give it some structure - maybe a dark honey color.”

“Dark honey!” Heather said. “That’s the color I need.”

Honey laughed.

“Ignore her. Colors make her very excited,” Sandy said. “I have a product that lies on the hair so it gives fine hair a little more body. I don’t know if you’d want it but I was thinking for the wedding we could match some of MJ’s crazy red in the back. We’ll cut it out as it grows. I bet your hair grows fast.”

“It did,” Honey said. “I don’t know what it will do now.”

Sandy shrugged.

“But what will I do….”

“You’ll either come back here,” Sandy said. “Or I’ll come to you. When MJ’s gone or you’re feeling lazy, you can just comb it after a shower. Or blow it dry when you want fancy.”

“I don’t know how to blow dry….”

“I’ll show you. What do you say?”

Honey nodded.

Over the course of the next hour, Honey’s hair was washed, colored and cut all to Sandy and Heather’s chatter. Honey was under a dryer when Tanesha arrived. Before her injury, Honey had a lot of friends. But with the focus required to survive, she had lost touch with almost everyone. She had friends at Craig, but, outside of a few nurses, they were men. She missed the easy company of girlfriends.

“I brought something for you.” Tanesha pushed the dryer off Honey’s head. She opened her backpack and took out two packages. “Jill had these framed for you.”

Tanesha helped Honey remove the paper which covering the frames.

“We know that you’ll have pictures of tomorrow but Jill thought….”

“We thought you might want Jill’s drawing from when you and MJ talked about the wedding with her this morning,” Heather sat down on the edge of Honey’s seat. “They are beautiful. Aren’t they?”

“It was like magic. Jill took our feeble words and created this dream,” Honey gazed at the color pencil drawing of her wedding. “It’s gorgeous. Dad and Jake were going to make everything look….”

“They’re almost done,” Valerie said as she walked in the salon from the back. “Is she almost ready?”

“Just need to wash it out,” Sandy said.

Honey moved from the drying station to her ultralight wheelchair then followed Sandy to the washing station.

“Are you guys going out tonight?” Honey asked.

Laughing, Sandy washed Honey’s hair. Honey closed her eyes to enjoy the warm water and great smells. When she opened them, Valerie was holding a glass of champagne for her.

“When you’re done, we’re going to get you something to wear,” Valerie said. “Then it’s girl’s night out!”

“Mom has something for me,” Honey said. “You guys can just….”

Valerie laughed.


“This is your party, Honey. We know that you have a lot of friends, but during this transition we hoped you might let us be your friends,” Sandy said. “Jill would totally be here but given the Katy and Paddie war, she thought she better stay home.”

“I have her card!” Tanesha held up the Platinum American Express card.

“I thought every place closed,” Honey said. “Mom said I had to choose between my hair or my clothes.”

“For the little people,” Valerie said in a fake sophisticated accent. “I called a bunch of stores. They were delighted to stay open to help a STAR!”

“Who A-listed you?” Heather said. Her hand covered her mouth as if she could not believe she said that.

“Oh I know,” Valerie laughed. “They didn’t seem to know I was a D-lister wanna be!”

Sandy finished styling Honey’s hair. With everyone standing around, Honey saw her new hair and make up for the first time.

“I’m… I’m… pretty,” Honey said.

“You’re beautiful. Come on! Mike’s driving the limo. We thought shopping, dinner, then maybe dancing?” Valerie leaned close to Honey. Speaking softly, she said, “We can leave at any time. Just let me know what you’re up for.”

“Sounds fun,” Honey said.


Saturday, 8 P.M.

“Oh come on, Jerry! You know me. You know my father. Hell, you knew my mother,” Jacob said. “When have we ever cheated you?”

“Could happen,” Jerry the site manager said. “Economy this bad, I gotta look after my own.”

“The bottom line is this: we have three months to make our projections,” Aden said.

“Every site manager will hire an assistant of their own choosing to help them stay on target,” Jacob said. “Big Sam will be available to any site that might need the help.”

“We can choose anyone?” Bambi, Honey’s old site manager, asked.

“They have to fit Lipson requirements,” Aden said.

“But after that?” Bambi asked.

“Anyone,” Sam said.

“Aden needs the experience of running the company. We can give him that experience. Now. While Dad’s still available to help,” Jacob said. “By January, we’ll meet all the board’s requirements and begin the sale.”

“What if we don’t?” Jerry asked. “I heard you were going to sell to the Board.”

“It’s my company!” Jacob said. “If I say I’m selling to the employees, I’m selling Lipson Construction to its employees.”

The room fell very silent. The site manager’s looked at each other.

“Isn’t it Val’s company too?” A woman’s voice yelled from the back.

“Valerie owns a little more than ten percent of the company on paper,” Sam said. “She’s given the rights and control to her shares to Jacob. He’s effectively owned the entire company for the last four years.”

“I’ve said before and I will say again. My sister and I will fulfill our parent’s dream by selling their company to its employees or we’re won’t sell it,” Jacob said. “Period.”

“We have the best site managers in the city,” Aden said. “Jake and Big Sam are foregoing salaries so that you can have the help you’ve asked for. We can do this.”

Somewhere near the back of the room, someone began to clap. Standing next to Aden, Blane began clapping. The room broke into clapping and cheering. The site managers stopped to shake Jacob and Sam’s hands on their way out of the room. When everyone was gone, Bambi came forward to talk to Jacob.

“You said anyone. Right?” Bambi said.

“Anyone who meets our standards,” Jacob said. “Why? Who did you have in mind?”

“I want Honey,” Bambi said. Bambi shifted her shoulders back to enlarged her entire six foot frame. “Honey knows everyone at my site and everyone likes her. She’s really good with numbers and I trust her. Completely.”

When Jacob didn’t say anything, Bambi added, “Plus I have great bathrooms.”

“I don’t know Bambi,” Jacob said. “Honey has surgery on Monday and….”

“You said I could have anyone, Marlowe. I want Honey Lipson. Make it work.” Bambi flipped her hair and walked toward the door. Turning as she reached the door, she said. “Please.”

“We’ll see what we can do,” Sam said.

“Thanks!” Bambi wiggled her fingers in a flirty good-bye.

“Fuck,” Jacob said. Blane patted his back.

“When are the flowers delivered?” Aden asked.

“In a half hour,” Sam said. “We have quite a bit to finish tonight. Wanna join us?”

“Noelle would kill me if we didn’t help,” Aden said.

“Are you going to be all right, Jake?” Sam asked.

Jacob nodded.

“Then it’s back to work boys,” Sam said. “We have a wedding to make.”


Sunday morning, 3 AM

“Sexy panties and sexy sexy stuff under the very sexy dress AND….”

Honey giggled when MJ kissed her. He was carrying her up to a second floor apartment.

“You are very drunk,” he said.

“Yep!” Honey giggled. “My last night of freedom!”

“And?” He asked.

She kissed him with such fervor that he had to set her down. Pressing her against the wall of the second floor hallway, he devoured her mouth with unbridled passion. Honey’s ardor ignited him. Unwilling to continue in the hall, he jerked her back into his arms to carry her to the apartment. They kissed all the way though the apartment and into the bedroom where he ripped off her clothing. He helped her under the covers then he took his clothing off while he went around to the other side of the bed. Slipping under the covers, he moved to kiss her again.

Honey was sound asleep.

MJ laughed at himself. Pulling her tiny form toward him, he wrapped himself around her.


She would be his wife.

He fell asleep with a smile on his face.

Denver Cereal continues on next week….


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