Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Denver Cereal - Chapter Thirty : Sheer Brilliance

CHAPTER THIRTY

Tuesday Morning, 8 AM

Jacob looked across his dining table at Jill. He worried that last night’s disaster would catch up with her today.

But she seemed happy.

Her matted hair was covered in a yellow bandana which brightened her face. She was beautiful. When he came up the stairs to have breakfast with them, she and Katy cheered. Jill set out bowls for cereal then settled Katy on her booster seat.

“What cereal would you like?” Jacob asked.

“I like the one with the smiley guy on it,” Katy said.

“This one?” Jacob pointed to the box. “Captain Crunch.”

“Uncle Mike calls it ‘the Cap’n.’” Katy clapped her hands together as if she made a joke.

“You have good taste,” Jacob said. He poured her a bowl of cereal. “What would you like, Jill?”

Standing next to Katy with the milk in her hand, Jill looked up to smile at him. Her arched eyebrow sent a shiver through him.

“Mommy?”

“Just a second Katy,” Jill said. She tapped her top lip as if she was making a difficult decision. “I must decide what to have.”

“But Mommy, you have to look.”

Jill’s head jerked to Katy. After last night disaster, Jill was on alert for any potential danger. Katy pointed to an object in her cereal.

“There’s something in my cereal.”

Jill took Katy’s bowl away from her.

“Is it poison?” Katy asked brightly. “Paddie says that sometimes people get poisoned. He will be so jealous if I get poisoned first!”

“Poison?”

Jill puzzled at Katy’s bright face. Paddie was Katy’s best friend at Catholic pre-school. Katy and Paddie played together last night when his father, Homeland Security Agent Colin Hargreaves, paid them a visit. Jill shook the bowl to see if she could see what Katy was talking about.

“Maybe it’s the prize,” Jacob said. Peering inside the cereal box, he said, “There’s another one.”

Jill snatched the box from him. She shook the cereal from side to side until she saw something. Using her spoon, she dug out the object.

“Mommy! It’s a pretty ring!” Katy squealed.

“Look at that,” Jacob said. “I wondered what happened to that.”

“I’ve looked for it with the other diamonds.” Jill flushed. She hadn’t wanted to admit that.

“That ring belongs to me,” Jacob said. He held his hand out and Jill dropped it in his left palm. “This diamond is the only diamond found in the Marlowe mine. Or so they say. There’s no record of a diamond find in Colorado. So who knows? But that is the legend. These aquamarines are indeed from the Marlowe mine. This ring has adorned the left hands of at least three generations of Marlowe wives. It’s called ‘The Marlowe beauty’. Of course, there has never been a more beautiful Marlowe bride than you.”

“What does it mean, Mommy?”

“It means that we’re getting married,” Jill beamed at Jacob. “But….”

She fished around in Katy’s bowl to find a child’s size imitation of her ring.

“I know it’s stupid, crazy, but we’re all getting married,” Jacob said. “I had it made. That’s why the Beauty wasn’t in it’s box at the hospital.”

“You had it made? From the hospital?”

“Technically, Aden had it made,” Jacob said. “On my instruction and he works for me and….”

Jill kissed him. He bent on one knee. Holding her hands, he looked up into her eyes.

“Will you marry me, Jill?” Jacob asked.

“Hmm…. I’m not sure. Let me consult with Katy,” Jill said. “Katy, should we marry Jacob?”

“YES, YES, YES, YES, YES!” Katy bounced in her seat.

“We will marry you, Jacob,” Jill said.

Jacob slipped the Marlowe Beauty on her finger then stood to kiss her.

“I can’t hold you and….” He whispered.

Jill let go of him. He took the tiny ring and slipped in on Katy’s pinky finger.

“That’s very pretty, Daddy,” Katy said. “I’m glad I picked Captain Crunch. I bet Paddie doesn’t have one of these! He’s going to be so jealous.”

Biting her lip, Jill’s eyebrows pinched together with worry.

“What if she loses it? She’s just a little girl. Jacob….”

“We’ll get her another.” He shrugged. “I only plan on getting married once.”

Jill gave him her ‘rich people are so weird’ look and he laughed.

“Well, now that’s done.” Jacob stood and made his way to the door leaving a stunned Jill. “Back to work.”

“DADDY!” Katy said. “You didn’t eat your cereal.”

Laughing, Jacob turned around and came back to wrap his left arm around Jill.

“Love you Jill,” he whispered in her ear.

She kissed his cheek then tidied the sling on his right arm.

“WAIT!” Katy said.

They both turned to her.

“What about the poison!?”

Jacob laughed at Katy’s bright smile and face. He bent to kiss her cheek. Sitting back down at the table, he began eating his Captain Crunch. After a few bites, he looked up to see Jill admiring her ring.

“It’s really mine?” Jill asked.

“Yes. Will you really marry me?”

“Yes. Oh yes.”

~~~~~~~~

Tuesday Afternoon, 1:25 PM

“Hey, what are you doing here?” Mike asked Colin Hargreaves. “And what are you wearing?”

Mike came from the back of the small storefront to find Colin in the waiting room.

“This, my friend, is a uniform,” Colin said. “It’s generally worn by people who work for the government particularly military or police. Firemen wear uniforms too.”

“That’s your Special Forces uniform,” Mike said. He pointed to Colin’s Green Beret which was tucked under a band on his shoulder. “You’re retired.”

“Hmm,” Colin said.

“Are you going to get your make-up done?” Mike asked. “That Michael Moore’s a nice guy.”

“I’m here to pick up Sergeant Michael Roper,” Colin said. “Did you see him in there?”

“Very funny,” Mike said.

Mike pushed open the glass door for Colin. Colin went through the door then turned to talk to Mike.

“How’s Jill?” Colin asked.

“Ok,” Mike said. “Thanks for your help last night. Bringing Paddie was sheer brilliance. With Paddie there, I don’t think Katy noticed the police. Did they find anything?”

“Yep. The handwriting on the mirror and the cat match. The cat was strangled. But get this…,” Colin said.

Mike stopped walking to hear what Colin had to say. Colin pushed him forward. They walked down Saint Paul Street toward the Cherry Creek Mall.

“Hear that sound. There’s a chopper waiting for you. So keep walking.”

“A chopper,” Mike said. He looked around at the quiet shopping district. “Here?”

“The Jakker,” the men said together.

“I don’t want to go anywhere, Colin,” Mike said. “Especially not with Zack Jakkman flying. That man scares the crap out of me. Always has.”

“Hmm,” Colin said. He pushed Mike along down the street.

“You were saying something about Jill’s apartment?”

“The blushing bride destroyed the photo albums. Her prints are everywhere. They must have thought Jill would never call the police. Idiots. We think they did this Friday before the rehearsal dinner. What kind of a woman helps her almost husband stalk his ex-wife?”

“Who knows?”

“I mean, there’s enough evidence in the refrigerator alone to convict them of breaking and entering, harassment, menacing, theft and destruction of property. The cat? Animal cruelty. And that’s not to mention the rest of the apartment or the acid in the hair conditioner.”

“What happens now?” Mike asked.

Closing in on the Cherry Creek Mall parking lot, Mike saw the Black Hawk. The wind from the helicopter whipped dust and trash from the parking lot. Mini cyclones battered the cars and pedestrians. Cars blew their horns and gestured at two soldiers with machine guns. Yes, the Jakker was a crazy man.

“They’ll pick up Trevor and his bride at DIA when they land,” Colin said. “This is a particularly nasty piece of work, a real attack on Jill. You sure she’s all right?”

“She says that they did her a favor by destroying her past. Now she doesn’t have to carry it around with her. Or that’s what she says. She’s pretty upset about her hair.”

“Julie would absolutely die if that happened to her,” Colin said of his wife.

Mike stopped walking at the traffic light on First Street. He watch a couple other soldiers jump out of the helicopter. One of the men waved at him.

“I think it will catch up to her,” Mike said.

“Well, Trevor and his gal would do well to stay out of the country,” Colin said.

“We can only hope,” Mike said.

The men crossed the street toward the Mall, and the helicopter.

“In you go, my friend,” Colin said.

Mike stepped up into the helicopter. While his eyes adjusted from the bright sun to the dark interior of the helicopter, Colin pushed him into an empty seat.

“What’s going on? Shit, you’re wearing your dress uniform too.”

“Yes, Sergeant Roper,” Alex Hargreaves said. “We have an appointment at Fort Carson. We picked up your dress uniform at the Castle. I think Mac Clenaghan has it.”

She pointed toward her second in command, Captain Mac Clenaghan. He held up Mike’s dress uniform.

“Alex….”

“Lieutenant Colonel Hargreaves.” The man sitting next to him hit his shoulder. “Have some respect.”

“Sir, I am needed at home,” Mike said. “You know what happened to Jill and….”

“We would all like to be at home, Sergeant,” Alex said. “Frankly, my better-halfs are backpacking right now.”

“That’s right! You, Max and John were going to the Black Canyon. How come….”

“Because someone is being interviewed by Oprah in less than two days.”

“Ah crap,” Mike asked.

“Command would like to have a word with you,” Alex said. “We are on fetch and babysit duty. All week. Buckle up.”

The helicopter lifted off from the parking lot and made it’s way toward Fort Carson, Colorado.

~~~~~~~~

Tuesday night, 6:00 PM

“How does it look?” Jill asked.

Sandy unwrapped the bandana Jill had tied around her head. Sandy’s face went white from shock then red with rage. They were alone at Sandy’s station. Jacob had arranged the appointment with Sandy, and since her schedule was always over-booked, she agreed to stay late to work on Jill.

“Trevor did this?” She asked.

“Actually, his new wife,” Jill said. “Or at least her finger prints were on the bottle. Trevor used to tease me about the conditioner, so I’m sure it was his idea. He knew how hard it was to grow my hair out.”

“What was it? Acid?”

Sandy picked through what was left Jill’s hair. Jill had burns on her neck and scalp in places. Sandy had never seen anything this awful.

“Yeah, some kind of acid,” Jill said. “It burned my back a little bit too.”

Jill pointed to a spot on her back. Sandy pulled Jill’s tank top back to look at her back.

“I wondered why you weren’t wearing a bra.”

“I can’t fasten it,” Jill said.

“Oh God, Jill,” Sandy said. “Why didn’t you call me? I was at home.”

“I didn’t want Katy to know. She’s been through so much. She was so excited to be home with her toys.”

“Bitch and Trevor didn’t do anything to her stuff?”

“Not that we can tell,” Jill replied. “She and her little friend Pat played together in her room until late. She fell asleep. I had to wait until they were done. They finished up about 1:30 AM. I took her to the Castle. She seemed happy to be at the Castle in the morning. The police checked her room today. Nothing.”

“Why did they leave her stuff alone?” Sandy asked.

“Honestly?” Jill asked. “I think he’s going to try to get custody.”

“What?”

Sandy was so disturbed by the idea that she began working on Jill’s hair. She sprayed abundant conditioner then tried to work her wide comb through the mess.

“He doesn’t want her because he loves her or values her or thinks she’s an amazing human being or….”

“Jill. Why would Trevor want Katy?”

“Money,” they said together.

“Either child support or a pay off. I don’t know,” Jill said. “They told Mike that he and his bride would be arrested when they come back to Denver so…. I’m sure he’ll say it wasn’t his fault.”

“Jill,” Sandy stopped working. She held Jill’s eyes in the mirror. “You have to have the doctor check out these burns.”

“I did. Jacob put me on his insurance plan. I went to see her today.” Jill visibly brightened. “I even took Katy to an allergy doctor. Blane thinks acupuncture might help. I was surprised when the doctor thought the acupuncture was a great idea. The doctor suggested….”

“Jill,” Sandy interrupted Jill. Jill was chattering to avoid dealing with her own pain, her own injury. “What about the burns?”

“Oh.” Jill’s face dropped with sorrow. “She gave me some ointment for the burns. Blane gave me some Chinese stuff too.”

Sandy’s face was a mask of pain as she attempted to work with what was left of Jill’s hair.

“Birth control?”

“The pill. And about a billion blood tests they do automatically for Lipson Construction,” Jill said. “No IUD because I used to get those bad cramps.”

“You’re going back on the pill?”

“Yep. Trevor always said they made me a depressed bitch but….”

“He just said that to control when you got pregnant,” Sandy said. “The IUD was sheer brilliance.”

“He never knew.”

Jill’s eyes caught Sandy’s in the mirror. Together, they had solved almost every problem in their lives. Jill knew that Sandy would be able to fix this one too.

“I’m sorry, honey. I’m going to have to shave off most of your hair. All of the back and most of the front. I….”

Jill’s eyes welled with tears. Giving Jill a box of Kleenex, Sandy went to work.

~~~~~~~~

Tuesday night, 6:35 PM

“How are you feeling?”

Delphie poked her head into the room. Sitting in a high backed chair in front of a raging fire, Jacob had been working on his laptop. Sarah, his yellow Labrador, was sleeping in front of the ornate tile fireplace. Jacob sighed then set the computer on the marble coffee table in front of him. Delphie came in the sitting room carrying two cups of tea.

“All right,” he said. “The acupuncture helps with the pain but I’m so tired and cold.”

He pointed to the fire.

“The fire light is nice,” Delphie said. “Even in summer.”

“That trainer? Valerie Waters? She had me ride the exercise bike, low speed for twenty minutes. I thought I was going to die.”

“It’s a long way back,” Delphie said.

She gave him the cup of tea.

“Thanks,” he said. “I can only sleep a few hours at a time. But I sleep like forty times a day.”

“What does the doctor say?” Delphie asked.

“Oh.” Jacob took a drink of tea. “I think they’re so used to seeing really sick people. If you’re moderately ill or better at all, you’re a miracle.”

“It is a miracle how well you’ve healed,” Delphie said. “You’re not even wearing your neck brace.”

“Only when I lay down,” he said. “Blane’s acupuncture and herbs are the miracle. Most of my bandages are off. The drains are out.”

Delphie gave a slight nod.

“You seem blue, Delphie,” Jacob said. “Is all this chaos too much? You’ve been caring for all these kids. Are we taking too much from you?”

“The children are a joy,” Delphie said.

“Clients?” Jacob asked.

Delphie shook her head.

“Come on, Delphinium. It’s me. Your Jakey. What’s going on?”

“I miss your mother.”

Delphie sat down in a wing back chair next to him. He held out his left hand which she took. They sat for a moment contemplating the fire.

“When you were… on the other side….” Delphie started then stopped. She turned from the fire to look at him.

“Delphie?”

“Your mother missed everything. She wanted so badly for you and Jill to get together. She loved Mike so much. She wanted Val and Mike to live their happily ever after. And Katy? She reminds me so much of Celia. She has her light and her temper.”

“Yeah,” Jacob said. “I don’t see it. When I look at her, I see Trevor’s dark eyes on her happy, bright face. The volunteers at the zoo said that she looked just like Mom.”

“Maybe that’s it.” Delphie nodded as if she could see what the zoo volunteers meant. “I love Katy, just love her and I only met her a week ago!”

Delphie wiped her eyes. They watched the fire.

“Your mother would have adored that child. All of the pain, all of the work, all of the worry, and she missed the best part.” Tears dropped from Delphie’s eyes. “She should be here. She made all of this happen.”

“You do her a disservice to think she’s not making this happen still,” Jacob said.

Delphie nodded.

“Did you see her?” Delphie asked.

Jacob nodded.

“Did she….”

“She misses you, Dad, and us,” Jacob said. “She said that you, Dad and she belonged together like me and Jill, me and Val, Val and Mike, and Jill and Mike. That’s what I remember. The four of us. The three of you.”

“Does she know….?”

“About you and Dad?” Jacob asked. “She isn’t upset or jealous. I think she loves both of you so completely that your relationship makes more sense to her than to either of you. Mom is… such a great being, so loving, so kind. I think all of that couldn’t be held in by a physical body.”

Delphie cried in earnest at his words. Jacob sat holding her hand and watching the fire. After a few moments, her tears began to slow.

“I usually feel so close to her, but since you were injured…. It’s like she’s mad at me that I let you get injured or….”

“She’s been with me,” Jacob said. “I’m…. Well, I’m not as well as I look.”

Embarrassed by her display of sadness, Delphie wiped her eyes. She drained her tea cup.

“Why don’t you go and talk to her?” Jacob asked. “She’s right here.”

“Thanks,” Delphie said. “Can I get you more tea?”

“I’d love some, but I can get some myself. Go talk to Mom,” Jacob said. “I didn’t tell you anything you don’t know.”

Delphie gave a slight nod.

“Do you think of me as a kind of parent?”

“You’re my Delphie,” Jacob said.

“Sam said that you and Val were always our kids - mine, Celia’s and Sam’s. I….”

“That’s true,” Jacob said.

“So Katy’s mine too? I’m her….”

“Grand-Delphie,” Jacob said.

Delphie smiled.

“Love you, Jakey.”

“Love you too.”

Delphie went to the door of the room. She stopped for a moment at the door. Turning to look back into the room, she was about to ask another question. Deciding against it, she went to her room to ask Celia instead.

~~~~~~~~

Tuesday night, 7:30 PM

“Uncle Mike? When does Mommy come home?” Katy asked.

“You just asked that, sweetie,” Mike said. He and Katy had spent the night playing Legos, laughing and watching cartoons. He was giving her a bath.

“Before I go to sleep,” Katy said. “Like always. Except when I stay with Aunt Megan.”

“Right,” Mike said.

“If I tell you something, will you promise not to tell Mommy?” Katy took the wash cloth from Mike to scrub her face while Mike washed her hair.

“Nope,” Mike said. “There’s nothing that you should ever keep from your Mom.”

“But if I tell her, she will cry and cry and cry,” Katy said. “I hate it when Mommy cries.”

“Rinse.”

Katy closed her eyes so that Mike could rinse her with the hand held tub sprayer.

“All done?” Mike asked.

Katy nodded.

After letting the water out of the tub, Mike wrapped Katy in a bath sheet. He carried her out into the sitting area of his and Val’s apartment. Val waited for them with mugs of hot chocolate.

“You can tell us anything. And we will always love you no matter what. But we won’t promise not to tell your Mommy,” Mike said.

Val took Mike’s warm bundle of Katy and rubbed her dry. While Katy weighed her options on her fingers, Val helped her into her pajamas. Val had just finished combing Katy’s wet hair when Katy sighed.

“Ok, I’ll tell you,” Katy said. “You know how I had another Dad?”

“Uh huh,” Mike said. He lifted Katy onto the couch then gave her a mug of hot chocolate. Val smiled when he gave her a mug of cocoa. He winked at Val.

“Well, he’s going to take me away from Mommy and make me live with him. I won’t ever SEE Mommy again.”

“Why do you say that, honey?” Mike asked.

“He told me.”

Denver Cereal continues next week….

~~~~~~~~

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