Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Denver Cereal - Chapter Forty-Three : I choose


Three days later

“Do you mind if I join you?” Delphie asked Jill.

Jill looked up from her cup of coffee and smiled. She was sitting on a quiet balcony overlooking the lake. The house in Maine was set back off the lake among the tall evergreen trees. She was watching their nearest neighbor from across the lake teach Katy, Noelle and Nash to fish.

“Please,” Jill said.

“I’ve missed you, Jill,” Delphie said.

“I’ve missed you, Delphie. I…. Yeah.”

“You don’t seem like you’re doing very well,” Delphie said. “When I look at you, I see a kind of darkness hanging over you. It doesn’t seem to belong to you or be a part of you, just connected in some way.”

“Is it Trevor’s ghost?” Jill asked.

“No, honey,” Delphie said. “He’s gone.”

Jill felt a wave of relief. She nodded to Delphie.

“Would you like a cup?” Jill asked. She held up a thermos of coffee.

Delphie shook her head. “I have some green tea.”

“It’s so beautiful here,” Jill said. “Have you been here often?”

“No, I don’t like to travel much,” Delphie said. “I guess we come here once a year or so. Of course, I was here when Sam bought this place.”

“You were?”

“Jacob was rehabilitating this property for some difficult people,” Delphie said. “He didn’t know what to do with Sam, so he brought him along. Sam took one look at the place and had to own it.”

She shrugged.

“When they weren’t arguing, Sam and Jacob worked on this place together. I sometimes think this house is part of the magic that brought Jacob back to Denver.”

“Complicated rehab. That’s what he said. This is it?”

“This is it,” Delphie said. “They’ve worked on it off and on over the years. It’s rented out most of the year by a fishing and hunting outfit. They do most of the upkeep.”

“Jacob makes beautiful spaces. I forgot. I….”

Jill shook her head. Her eyes drifted back to the children and their fishing rods. She dreaded the moment they actually caught a fish. She had warned the neighbor that Katy would not like it if the fish died. He assured her that they would release it into the pond. Still, Jill was alert to a Katy meltdown.

“I know you feel guilty about Honey,” Delphie said. “Honey and her sister have fought since her birth. It was always in their path that this would happen at some point. Celia helped Honey get prepared.”


” Honey was one of Celia’s favorite people. Like you. Blane. Aden. And a few others.”

“It’s my fault though! Trevor came for me! For Katy! He brought his monster of a wife with him. If he….”

“No Jill,” Delphie said. “I understand what you’re saying. But you’re wrong. Honey’s sister was always going to hurt her, possibly kill her. Honey has a long road ahead, but she’ll do just fine. Especially now that she has MJ.”

Jill’s eyebrows raised. She opened her mouth then shook her head.

“You know them?”

“They were like nitroglycerine. They were either screaming at each other or screwing. Always a flash of heat. You never knew what you’d get,” Jill said. “I was on the outskirts of one of their incidents. After that, I wouldn’t have anything to do with either of them. I didn’t realize that Honey was MJ’s ‘sweet little honeybee.’”

“They’ve grown up a little bit,” Delphie said.

“The hospital hasn’t burned down yet,” Jill said. “That’s very good.”

Delphie laughed.

“Why didn’t you go into town with your friends today?” Delphie asked.

“I feel like I need to sit in one place for a while,” Jill said. “It’s hard to explain.”

“Try me. I’m not doing anything, Jill.”

“Thanks,” Jill said.

Jill’s eyes drifted to the lake again. Katy was giggling at something Nash said. Nash and Noelle had been such good friends to Katy. After the last horrible months, Jill worried that Katy would be scarred in some way. She seemed like her same old Katy self. Jill startled when Delphie touched her arm.

“You can talk to me,” Delphie said.

Jill’s eyes took in the woman next to her. Her wise eyes and crazy red hair gave her an air of weird older lady. But Delphie’s open acceptance of Jill radiated from the woman’s very being. Jill sighed.

“I lived as this person - a girl with parents. Then WHAM! I didn’t have parents. For longer than I had parents, I lived as Trevor’s woman. Then WHAM! Trevor divorced me. My parents… Trevor…. I had no choice and my life was turned upside down. Just happened.”

Jill was silent for a few moments.

“When Trevor left, it was awful and a huge relief. I fought my way out of that hole. Of course Trevor sent me an invitation to his engagement party. He never thought I would actually go. I think Tanesha came up with the plan of going and presenting our history at Trevor’s engagement party. It was terrifying… exhilarating. That whole night - meeting Jacob, giving my little presentation, then people clapping? It was like… I AM WOMAN!”

Jill smiled.

“Meeting Jacob,” Jill sighed. “I was so excited. I told everyone about the hunky guy at the party. He started showing up at work and I… “

“Ignored him,” Delphie said. “I’d have done the same thing.”

Jill laughed.

“Everything was so wonderful, like a fairy tale.”

“For a day,” Delphie said.

“Yes, it was awful when Jacob was hurt. And he was there because of me, but again… that was something someone else did to ruin everything,” Jill said. A huge smile lit up her entire face. “We got through it. I know that Trevor burned my hair and all of that later, but I had Jacob. Katy was so happy. I’ve never spent a whole weekday with Katy - and we spent day after day together.”

“Sounds like a dream,” Delphie said.

“That became a nightmare,” Jill said. “I don’t know why I did it.”

“Did what?”

“Took care of Trevor and his parents and all of that crap,” Jill said. “I became helpless Jill who has to be rescued over and over again. All the strength and power and hope I felt had just… evaporated. At the airport, I couldn’t even pay for my own hamburger. How pathetic is that!”

“Why didn’t you pay your bill, Jill?” Delphie asked.

“Trevor’s parents stole my cash!”

“But, Jill, you had that Platinum American Express card, debit card to your own accounts, the joint account with Jacob….”

Jill opened her mouth to say something then shook her head.


“I forgot,” Jill said. “I just forgot. Katy and I sat in that airport for hours because I forgot, lost track of time, everything, and had to be rescued. AGAIN!”

“You’re angry with yourself.”

“Furious,” Jill said. “And….”

“You need to speak about him some day,” Delphie said.


“I don’t know what you call him,” Delphie said. “Have you ever talked to anyone about him?”

“Never.” Jill shifted her body to look at Delphie. Jill reassessed Delphie. She knew that this woman was a psychic, a powerful psychic. “How did you know…?”

“I saw you talking to him at the party,” Delphie said. “He’s very loving, like a fatherly angel to you. I wanted to meet him but he just disappeared.”

“He’s skilled that way,” Jill said.

“What did he say?”

“That I looked beautiful. He liked Jacob,” Jill said. “We just chatted. Since he brought me back from Costa Rica, he shows up maybe once or twice a year. We chat, have lunch or whatever. I didn’t think…. I….”

“There’s no way you could have known he would kill, Trevor,” Delphie said.

“Trevor beat me up once, really bad. Katy had just turned two. Trevor was so out of control that I hid Katy in my closet. I don’t know how he found out about it. It’s not like anyone knew. I mean, Sandy knew. I stayed home from work until I wasn’t so bruised.”

Jill stopped talking. Squinting her eyes, she saw Katy laughing at something Noelle said.

“About a week after it happened, Trevor went out for something. I don’t remember what. Clove cigarettes, I think. Trevor was gone for two days. I thought he had left me. When he came back, he was completely freaked out. Begged me to forgive him, swore he would never, ever, ever hit me again. And he didn’t. Well, not until after we were divorced.”

“That doesn’t sound like Trevor,” Delphie said. “What changed?”

“Later, maybe six months before he left, Trevor was really drunk. He told me that he got picked up by this scary man. He wouldn’t tell me what exactly happened but he was terrified. He told me that every time he wanted to hit me, he remembered that he would get a bullet in the head.

“So you see, it is my fault that Trevor’s dead.”

“I understand what you’re saying,” Delphie said. “But it sounds like Trevor knew what would happen if he hurt you again.”

Jill’s eyes slid over to Delphie from the lake. It had never occurred to her that Trevor held any responsibility. Like always, Jill was certain it was her fault. She raised her eyebrows at the new thought.

“You know that I believe that soul mates are in our lives to teach us something.”

“And when we’ve learned the lesson, we have a choice to either keep them in our lives or end the relationship,” Jill said. “You told me that when you gave me the reading. Remember just before I married Trevor.”

“That’s right,” Delphie said. “I’m glad you were paying attention.”

The women sat for a moment watching the lake, the trees, and the laughing children.

“And?” Jill asked.

“I used to think that you needed to learn how strong you really are,” Delphie said. “But you’ve had to be pretty strong to deal with Trevor. And even after he’s dead, you’re still burdened by him. What do you think you need to learn?”

Jill looked at Delphie. Delphie was watching something very intently. Following her gaze, Jill saw an eagle hunting over the water. The eagle made several low runs over the water before it struck. Within a few feet from the boat, the eagle lifted a fish from the lake. The neighbor and the children cheered for the eagle.

“I choose,” Jill said. “I chose to stay with Trevor. I chose to take up this burden again.”

“And you can choose to set it down,” Delphie said.

“Will I be… penalized for setting it down?”

“You’re only penalized if you hold on too long to what doesn’t belong to you,” Delphie said. “Sometimes that’s an idea of yourself or a person.”

“Like being Trevor’s woman,” Jill said. “I could choose be Jill or Jill’s woman”

“Yes, dear. That’s it exactly.”


“Ok Honey, you aren’t making any sense,” Jacob said. He and Honey were video conferencing over the internet. Since going to Maine, he called her once a day to chat. They were working on getting to know each other, slowly. He actually enjoyed her black sense of humor and take no prisoners attitude. Today, she was so upset that he had to get Sam to interpret. “Can you slow it down a little bit?”

Honey took a piece of paper. Between palms, she held the paper to the webcam.

$1.35 million dollars a year

“For your care,” Jacob said. “I know. Remember we talked about this at the family conference. Your insurance will cover some and we’ll get the rest.”

“But Jake, I can’t live like that,” Honey said. “I can’t live as a burden to you all of my life. I should have died.”

“But you didn’t,” Jacob said. “And I’m glad you didn’t.”

“That doesn’t include all new living facilities, new showers, new cabinets, every fucking thing. I’ll kill myself if I have to move in with Mom and the girls. I can’t go back to my apartment. Jake, what am I going to do? They want to release me in a couple weeks!”

“I promised you that we would take care of you,” Jacob said. “We will work this out.”

“Honey.” Sam leaned over Jacob to be on camera. “Let us get back to Denver. We have a couple of options that we think you’ll like.”

“I’m not your child!”

“No, you’re not,” Sam said. “But I am your father. And you are my friend. I won’t leave you hanging, Honey. You know that. What do you need today that’s going to make any of this better?”

“Hope,” Honey said. “I want to live my life like a person and not someone’s pathetic PUPPY or PROJECT.”

“I hope I can live my life like that too,” Jacob said. “Trust me?”

Honey nodded.

“We’ll be home in two days,” Jacob said.

“We’ll talk about this as soon as we land,” Sam said. “How is the infection?”

Honey screwed up her face in disgust. While her scars had healed, she hadn’t been able to kick an infection, probably brought by the knife slicing through her intestines.

“Another antibiotic,” Honey said.

“And surgery?” Jacob asked.

“Maybe. They won’t tell me. I’m just a screaming infant here. God damn it.”

Honey’s anger and sadness was almost too much for the men to watch. She had been so brave and strong. But now that the topic of discharge was on the table, she had melt down after melt down.

“What would help?” Jacob asked.

“Make this all go away, Jake,” Honey said through her tears. “Make me whole again.”

“I wish I could,” Jacob said. “You know I would. Should I call MJ?”

“He’s gone again,” Honey said. “Just as well. I’m a wreck. Promise me Jake, you’ll help me find me something I can do with my life.”

“I promise you that together we will build a fulfilling life for you,” Sam said.


“I promise,” Jacob said.

“Ok, I have to go to therapy,” Honey said. “Good time to do it. Bye.”

Sam turned to Jacob when the screen went dark.

“Do you have a plan?” Sam asked Jacob.

“Right here.”


“The worst thing about living with you is….” Val said.

Laying on the hood of her Mercedes sedan, they were watching the stars and listening to the pounding Malibu surf from a spot in a beach parking lot.

“You make it sound like there are a lot of problems living with me,” Mike said.

“Oh, no. Well just one,” she replied.

“What’s that?”

“I don’t get to look forward to seeing you,” Valerie said. “About five weeks into being here, I’d get this little flutter in my chest. ‘I get to see Mike in three weeks’ I’d think.”

He leaned over and kissed her. They lay in silence watching the stars for a while.

“I hate it here,” Valerie said.

Mike laughed.

Denver Cereal continues next week….


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