Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Denver Cereal - Chapter Thirty-Seven : Time to shine?

CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN Friday evening, 4:30 PM

“God damn it!”

Valerie heard Ramon scream then the crash of his cell phone against the wall. She jogged the remaining steps to the sitting area where she, Jill and Jill’s friends were supposed to meet for their afternoon beauty treatments. From the doorway, she saw Sandy, Tanesha and Heather standing stunned in the opposite doorway. Ramon’s shoulders vibrated as he sobbed into his hands.

“What is it?” Valerie placed her hand on his arm. “What’s happened?”

“Oh Val,” Ramon said. “No one’s coming. Wes called the hair stylist, your makeup girl and the spa girl. He told them they would never work in Hollywood again if they came.”

“Really. He said that? What a windbag.”

“Val! They aren’t coming!” Ramon continued sobbing into his hands. “You’ll never get ready without your specialists. Oh Val…. And the lingerie woman? She’s a total no show. She must have had a call from Wes.”

“What happened?” Samantha Hargreaves walked into the room as if she owned the place.

“No makeup artist. No hair stylist. No wrap,” Val said.

“You’re going to lose your Martin’s contract.” Ramon wailed.

Samantha laughed at Ramon. “That’s not going to happen.”

“You don’t understand.” Ramon flashed with anger. “This is Val’s moment and she must shine. And Wes has destroyed everything.”

“Sandy does my hair,” Samantha said.

“I’m not a professional makeup artist, but I work at MAC,” Heather said. “I’ve won a couple awards. I don’t have….”

“Between Val and I, we have enough make up to put blush on every person within the city limits,” Samantha said. “Sounds like problem solved.”

“Valerie needs her wrap. She’s….”

“What did you say about the lingerie person? I assume you mean Cindy from SOL, right?”

“She must have had a call from Wes.” Ramon’s words were emphasized by his quivering lower lip.

“We’ve known Cindy a long time. I can’t imagine she gives a shit what that little man has to say,” Samantha said. “I’ll call her.”

While Samantha dialed SOL Lingerie on her cell phone, Valerie crossed the room to Sandy.

“I wanted this to be your fun day, not your work day,” Val said. “I could really use your help. Would you mind?”

“I’d love to do your hair,” Sandy said. “Ever since you came back, I’ve been trying to think of a way to ask or suggest. I’ll do Heather and Tanesha while you and Jill get your wraps.”

“Where’s Jillian?” Unwilling to give up his emotional out pouring, Ramon moved onto the next perceived problem. “Did she get a call from Wes?”

Sandy, Tanesha and Heather laughed at Ramon.

“She’s attending to some personal business,” Sandy said.

“Cindy’s stuck outside with the paparazzi,” Samantha said. “She’s been trying to get in for forty-five minutes. We need to get her in here.”

“Let’s get set up.” The expert in all things beauty, Sandy took over the situation with confidence. “Does anyone know someone who can do wraps? I can do them or the hair but I can’t do both.”

“My partner, Art, does them. His mother used to give beauty treatments in her home to make a little extra money. He helped her as a kid. He’s really good.”

“Oh Sami, he just returned to the country,” Val said. “You don’t want him to….”

“He’s good. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind,” Samantha said. “He has to be here because he works for Alex. When he and Alex are bored, you never know what chaos they’ll cause. This will keep him out of trouble.”

Ramon gasped dramatically as a tall, muscular caramel skinned man came up behind Samantha. Placing his hands on Samantha’s tiny waist, the man’s gray eye’s took in little Ramon. The women shifted back and forth in response to the striking man.

“What’s going on?” Arthur Rasmussen asked.

“Val needs a wrap. Would you mind?” Samantha said.

“I don’t remember how to make the….” Art’s eyes shifted from Samantha to Ramon. “Is he all right?”

“I’m fine. Just fine,” Ramon said.

Val wrinkled her nose at Ramon. Samantha looked up at Art. Smiling at her, he pulled tugged her closer to him.

“Sandy? Can you make the stuff that goes in a wrap?” Samantha asked. “He’s just used a kit when he’s done wraps on me.”

“Sure,” Sandy said. “I need to get my scissors and tools anyway. I have some here in Aiden’s apartment. Will you let Heather do your make up? She’s very talented. She’s always wanted to be a makeup artist, but she’s never been able to afford formal training.”

“Sure.” Valerie nodded. “How about a Valium, Ramon?”

“Valium?” Reaching into his handbag, Ramon flopped onto a couch. “That’s a great idea.”

“Then it’s settled,” Samantha said. “I’ll go get Cindy and we’ll meet back here.”

“What am I going to do?” Tanesha asked.

“Make drinks,” Heather said. “We’ll need them.”

~~~~~~~~

Jacob looked across the couch to Jill. Sandy, Heather and Tanesha took the ease and comfort with them when they left. Jill had withdrawn into herself the moment the door closed. He’d made a joke and a small comment, but Jill hadn’t responded. Clearing his throat, he decided to jump in with both feet.

“Would you like to see our room?”

Jill’s head jerked up from the blue blazer and her button to look at him. She stared straight at him, then slowly nodded her head.

“I saved this to show you in private,” Jacob said. He stood, then held his hand out. “Please.”

Jill took his hand and followed him into their new bedroom. In the middle of the room sat a King sized bed with a feather bed topper. The comforter and sheets had creamy butter yellow flowers that matched the walls. The bed rested on a cream colored rug similar to her favorite rug from her apartment. She could just see the tips of the mountains through the two double hung windows. She had sketched this exact room in her sketch book.

“Mike had your sketch book,” Jacob said. “We tried to match everything you had.”

Jacob opened one of the two walk-in closets. A Nordstrom’s gift card hung on the single hanger in the closet.

“That’s a gift from all of us,” he said. “Maybe this weekend we can replace your damaged clothing.”

“I…. “

Jill was gawking. Unsure of what to look at first, she walked in small circles. The room seemed to have jumped right out of her imagination. Here it was. For her. To live in. Every single day!

“We have our own bathroom. Would you like….?”

Jill threw herself into his arms. She cried and laughed at the same time. Jacob held on tight through the roller coaster of emotion.

“I also noticed that you don’t wear the Marlowe Beauty,” he said.

“It’s so beautiful. And so big. I’m afraid I’ll break it or lose it. I….”

Stepping back, he slipped a three carat diamond eternity band on her left finger. Her mouth fell open.

“What? I?”

“I thought you’d like to have something you can wear at Pete’s,” he said.

Jill threw herself at him again.

“I wanted so bad for you to be Katy’s father. From the moment I saw you at Trevor’s party. I thought, ‘Why isn’t that guy Katy’s father?’ But I could never hope. I would never have dreamed it even possible and then….”

“I knew the moment you entered Trevor’s party,” he said. “I felt that same pulse. But when I saw you, I realized you were the ‘Jill’ in Trevor’s bullshit ‘I have a child from a one night stand’ story. I never guessed that I was the one who had the child from the single best night of my life.”

“I’ve never felt so valuable as I did that night. It stayed with me. I mean it’s stupid,” Jill said. “One night stand and all. But after that night, I felt alive and….”

“Free,” he said. “Me too.”

“I’ve prayed that my wizard - that’s what I called you - was happy somewhere. I pray for my wizard every day. Because you healed my heart. No matter what Trevor did… no matter what, I could handle it.”

He smiled.

“And this ring is perfect.” Jill spun in place. “Every little thing is perfect. I keep thinking things will get hard. I mean, I know you’re still healing. And my apartment’s a mess. Hell, my life’s a mess. But I’m afraid it will get really hard. Because life can’t always be a fairy tale but…. I don’t care. If I can be this happy, I’m Ok to deal with whatever life has to offer. As long as I can do it with you.”

“Together. Yes, I feel like I can do anything when you’re around. Whole.”

She kissed his lips.

“We talked about me, you know, after that night,” Jill said. “What happened to you?”

“I stayed in the room… thinking… until I had to check out,” he said. “I felt that for the first time ever, my entire life opened before me. I flew back to Maine set on resigning from the stupid rehab, closing my business, packing my house and getting off the fence with my girlfriend. I bought a ticket to fly around the world at LAX on my way out of town. As long as I kept going in one direction, I could travel for two years. I planned to leave in three months.”

“Travel the world. That was your dream,” she said. “What happened?”

“My father arrived about two weeks later,” he said. “I hadn’t seen him in a year… or more, probably. He was a wreck. It took him a day to get around to what he wanted. And…”

He shrugged.

“I had always done what I was supposed to do. Always,” Jacob said. “For those two weeks? The ‘supposed tos’ disappeared and I was free. Because of you. It was the greatest feeling.”

“Your father took it away from you,” she said.

Jacob was silent for a moment.

“Come see the bathroom.”

He led her into a large spa bathroom. A modern claw foot tub, large enough for two, took up one side of the room. A spa shower with space and jets for two filled a corner. The toilet was tucked away in a vented closet. Jacob pressed open the French doors to a small balcony over looking the garden.

“Wow,” she said.

Coming out onto the balcony, she slipped her arm around him. They looked out over Delphie’s bountiful vegetable gardens and dwarf fruit trees heavy with ripening fruit. Delphie’s bees happily danced near the back privacy fence. The balcony had a small metal table, two chairs and a small metal bench.

“I guess these tiny balcony’s are popular in Paris,” Jacob said. “Alex told me about them and helped me get the furniture. Just enough space to sit and watch our world.”

“This is gorgeous. Even with the paparazzi, it’s gorgeous,” she said.

They sat watching the world for a few moments.

“My father didn’t take away my sense of freedom,” he said. “I think I realized that love isn’t enough. I was raised with the idea that love was enough. But with love comes great responsibility. Love takes real work. My father and I fought for three days. I was furious that he was doing this to me, just when I was almost free.”

Jacob chuckled.

“I couldn’t understand why he didn’t just sell the stupid company,” Jacob said. “But….”

He sighed.

“With love comes great responsibility and work,” he said. “I asked Delphie to come and help. Delphie helped me convince my father to let me do the work. He was… crazy. Work, I can do. Responsibility, I can handle.

“And now, I have love.”

Jill snuggled against him.

“You’re a good man.”

“Mike picked me up at the airport. We went to Pete’s and you were there,” he said. “You were pregnant and the hottest girl I have ever seen. Ever. God.”

He blew out a breath. She laughed at what she was sure was his exaggeration.

“You think I’m kidding?” He laughed. “Wait ‘til I badger you mercilessly when you get pregnant again.”

She chuckled.

“When are you dressing Katy?”

“After I get this wrap,” Jill said. “She was going to spend some time with Alex and Delphie.”

“Mike and I have to take care of something at on a job. Will you have time to talk later?”

“Yes. Oh yes.” Jill smiled at him.

Following him through her new home, she couldn’t help but beam. Everything was truly perfect. He stopped at the door for one last kiss.

“When you’re better?” Jill asked. “Can we book a trip to Santa Monica and stay in that hotel?”

Jacob laughed.

~~~~~~~~

Delphie had braced herself for the moment Paddie and his Dad, Colin Hargreaves, came into the room. And still, she was overwhelmed by the sight, sensation and delight generated by Paddie and Katy’s greeting.

First, they squealed with excitement at the sight of each other. The dogs barked at the sound. Paddie squirmed until Colin set him down. The moment he was on the ground, Paddie chased Katy while she giggled. Barking, Scooter and Sarah ran in circles around the children. Reaching the edge of the attic apartment, Katy chased Paddie around while he giggled. In a crash, they landed together in a pile where they squirmed while Scooter and Sarah licked their faces.

“Wow,” Alex Hargreaves said. “That was loud.”

“Happens every time,” Colin said.

“I haven’t gotten used to it. It’s like a bubble of joy.” Delphie laughed as Paddie ran over to hug her ‘hello’. “I hope they stay like that.”

“Friends?” Colin asked.

Delphie nodded.

“I’m friends with my Catholic school friends,” Colin said.

“So am I. We didn’t go to kindergarten or preschool here. Erin did….” Alex bent to hug Katy ‘hello. “She’s still friends with her preschool friends. I’m sure….”

“I had another dream about tonight,” Katy whispered to Alex.

“Oh great! I want to hear every detail,” Alex said. “But first, I thought we could play our wrestle game. And, I have a present for you.”

“Auntie Alex! What about me!” Paddie said. Sticking out his chest, he pointed to himself with his thumb, “I’m your Paddie!”

“You are my Paddie. Of course, I have a present for you,” Alex said. “What would you like to do first? Wrestle or presents or dreams?”

Katy and Paddie seemed to have to jump up and down in order to make a decision. The dogs barked and danced around at their movements. While the adults laughed, the children and dogs danced around, jumped up and down, and chewed on various body parts (thumbs for the children and tails for the dogs). When the chaos seemed to peak, the children screamed in unison, said, “PRESENTS.” Scooter and Sarah gave happy barks in agreement.

Laughing, Alex nodded to the soldier standing near the door. He brought her two boxes.

“This pretty necklace is for you, Miss Katy,” Alex said. “My friend Claire made your dress. She said this would match.”

Alex lifted a gold chain with a ruby cut in the shape of a heart from the box. Katy squealed and clapped her hand.

“It’s so pretty! And it’s mine! Forever?!?” Katy said. “But Mommy’s not here….”

“Your Mommy helped pick it out, honey,” Delphie said.

“It’s your birthstone,” Alex said.

“Can I wear it now?”

“I don’t see why not,” Alex said.

While Delphie held Katy’s hair, Alex put the necklace around Katy’s neck. Katy showed Paddie her necklace. They both squealed starting another round of happy barking from Scooter and Sarah. Turning back to Alex with expectant eyes, they watched her take a gold cross necklace from a box.

“That’s MY birthstone!” Paddie squealed.

“Moonstone,” Alex said. “Exactly.”

She placed the necklace around his neck. Delphie’s eyes flicked to the movement by the door. The soldier’s head tilted as if he was listening to something. Delphie watched Alex’s eyes shift to the soldier. Alex smiled when the soldier nodded. Alex and Colin seemed to share a look.

“I need you guys to do something for me,” Alex said.

Katy and Paddie’s heads bobbed up and down.

“Will you promise to not take your presents off today? Not for anything?” Alex asked. “You can get even get them wet.”

“I promise,” Katy said.

“Daddy, Katy promised? Can I promise too?” Paddie asked.

“I’d like it very much if you did,” Colin said.

“I promise too!!”

Paddie’s promise promoted another round of squealing, laughing, chasing, and barking. Somehow, over the mayhem, Delphie thought she heard the soldier say, “GPS in place” as he made his way down the stairwell to the Castle.

~~~~~~~~

“Damn, you guys have worked,” Jacob said. He, Mike and Colin Hargreaves had just entered the tunnels.

“It was the City of Denver,” Colin said. “They weren’t all that excited that you could get into the entire tunnel. They fixed the lights and put up the wood barriers. One phone call and it was done.”

“Who called?” Jacob asked.

“My big sister,” Colin said.

The men laughed at the great Alex Hargreaves dimished to ‘my big sister.’

“Where are we going?” Mike asked.

“I need to check something out,” Jacob said.

“Today? Uh huh, sure,” Mike said.

“Why did we sneak out?” Colin asked.

“Who’s sneaking? I’m just getting past the paparazzi and the news vans.”

Jacob punched in the security codes at the panel near the workshop. Mike opened the door to the workshop.

“We don’t need the car,” Jacob said as Mike reached for his Bronco keys.

“So we’re not going to a site,” Mike said. “Fuck Jacob, what are we doing?”

Jacob shook his head and opened the door to Detroit street. The men walked in silence to Colfax then turned East. They had walked a block before Mike started laughing.

“What am I supposed to do?” Jacob asked. “Val, her trainer, and Jill either got RID of the cereal in the house OR they watch over me like a hawk! Blane? He’s supposed to be MY assistant. Even Katy says, ‘Daddy can’t have cereal.’”

“Blane tossed all the cereal at Lipson,” Mike said. “He told me you almost hit him.”

“I haven’t had a bowl of Crunch Berries in a week!” Jacob shook his head as if he couldn’t believe it. “I ate more cereal while I was in the hospital.”

“A man needs his cereal,” Colin said.

Mike was laughing too hard to respond.

Colin went into The Shoppe assess any threat or danger. With a nod, the men entered the cupcake and cereal joint. After a laughing conversation with the clerk, they sat down on a couch to eat their cereal as God intended- watching Tom and Jerry cartoons on a wide screen television.

Denver Cereal continues next week….

~~~~~~~~

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