Monday Morning, 4:00 AM
Sitting on her meditation bolster, Delphie let out a breath and bowed forward. A half hour of prayer would have to do this morning. Not for the first time, Delphie felt a longing for the days when she had the entire Castle to herself. But then, Sam wouldn’t be asleep in her bed and the kids wouldn’t be home. Things were better now.
She just needed more time to herself.
With care, she put out the candles but left her incense burning for Quan Yin. Smoothing her wild red hair in the mirror, she realized that she was lying to herself.
She didn’t need more time to herself.
She missed Celia.
Celia would love how things turned out. She would have teased Mike about his confusion over Valerie. Celia would spoil Katy to no end. Delphie could just see Celia in a corner of the dining room laughing with Jill and Sandy. Celia would revel in Jacob stepping into himself.
And Aden! Who would believe that drunken criminal Aden Norsen would turn into gentleman Aden?
Of course, Celia always believed in Aden. Blane and the others too. Delphie called them Celia’s puppies. The ones who’s lives really changed with loving support.
Delphie never had that kind of faith in people. Celia was special. She could see into people’s souls and see what they could be. Not that she was always right. After all, Tiffanie’s oldest daughter gave only misery in return for the resources and love she was given.
Moving toward the bed, Delphie sighed. She’d give up Sam to have Celia back. It would be hard because she cared deeply for Sam. But she’d do almost anything to have Celia back.
Delphie sat down on the bed next to Sam. He opened his eyes and touched her hair.
“It’s a little after four,” Delphie said. “You should work on getting up.”
“I’m sorry our chaos has interrupted your mediation,” Sam said. “You have clients today, don’t you?”
Delphie gave a slight nod.
“Sad?” He asked. He sat up to hold her.
Sam and Delphie held each other and cried. In each other’s arms, neither was afraid or ashamed to express the depth of their loss.
“We need to get moving,” Delphie said after a moment. “The kids are here and….”
She moved off the bed but Sam caught her hand.
“Everyone can take care of themselves, Delphie,” Sam said. “I know it’s exciting. It’s exciting for me. But we are all we have now, Delphinium.”
Delphie sniffed then sat back down. Sam wrapped himself around her. For a moment, she allowed herself to rest in his strength.
“Why don’t you continue meditating?” Sam whispered. “I can make the coffee.”
“Your coffee is much better. You’re right,” Sam said. “Your clients take so much from you. I take so much from you. I’d like it if you took care of yourself. For me.”
He touched her chin and she looked up at him.
“We’ve made it to the other side of nine years of garbage. I’d like to spend some years enjoying the peace and you.”
“Me too,” Delphie said. “And the kids.”
“And their kids,” Sam said. “Our grandkids and great grandkids.”
“Your kids. Your grandkids. Your great grandkids.”
“They’ve always been our kids. Yours, mine and Celia’s kids.” Sam kissed her cheek. “You must really miss her today.”
Delphie gave another slight nod. She stood so that he could get out of bed. He was halfway across the room before he turned.
“I’m deeply grateful for you, Delphinium. Thank you for the gift of this second life, and your love.”
Her eyes welled.
“Go on,” she said. “Delaying the inevitable….”
“Only creates another mess,” they said one of Celia’s sayings together. Laughing, Sam went into the bathroom.
Delphie returned to her bay window meditation nook. Relighting the candles, she noticed the paparazzi arriving for another day of stalking Valerie. A picture of Val’s husband was worth a couple hundred thousand dollars to these scavengers. At least. Not that they were going to get one.
It was going to be a good day.
p style=”text-align: center;”>Monday Morning, 6:30 AM Outside Chicago, IL
A small woman began jogging down the driveway of her estate home with a few of her dogs. No matter what her hectic schedule demanded, she loved the early morning quiet with her dogs. They settled into a steady jog down the driveway. Turning onto the quiet lane in front of her home, she heard a sound behind her.
Boots on the pavement.
Like something out of a movie, she could hear at least five people running in boots behind her. And they were fast.
Turning to look, she saw a group of short haired men wearing green t-shirts, digital fatigue pants and tactical boots running toward her. A man ran in the very middle of this pack of these men.
As they approached, her dog pack skittered uncomfortably. These men were twice her size, fit and muscular. Her mind shifted to the horror stories her guests had told on her own talk show. Glancing around, she realized how alone, how vulnerable, she was.
The men caught up with her then slowed their pace to match hers.
“Would you mind if we take your dogs?” A fresh faced young man asked.
“The General would like a private conversation,” a second man said. “We won’t harm them. Just take them so that you might talk.”
Before she could say anything, the young men reached for the leashes. She was about to call her dogs back when she caught sight of the man in the center of the pack. Stunned, she stopped running.
Standing in the middle of the quiet lane, she gawked at the US Army General.
“Shall we continue?” The General asked.
Each young man took a dog. They separated out in to a large circle giving just enough space for a quiet conversation. When the General started running again, she joined his jogging pace.
“I wanted to have a private word with you about Michael Roper,” the General said. “It’s my understanding that you’ll interview him this week.”
“Yes, sir,” she replied.
She cursed herself for not reviewing her schedule before leaving the house. In her mind, she flipped through her interviews and shows planned for this week.
Who was Michael Roper?
“He’s going to tell you a story that… well, could win you a Pulitzer Prize.”
“But it’s not true?”
“No, ma’am. Michael Roper will tell you a true story and one that needs to be heard, especially at this time. However….”
The General fell silent. He seemed to be choosing his words very carefully.
“I don’t doubt that you’ll notice a few details in Roper’s story are… fuzzy.”
“Unclear. I’m certain you ‘ll notice that he’s covering something or possibly diverting your attention. He’s not an experienced liar. We expect that you might notice areas of ….”
“Michael Roper is a true hero. He saved the lives of at least seven men and possibly more. He suffered unspeakable things during his service and he has never asked for acclaim or reward. In fact, he says that he was just doing his job. His story is absolutely one hundred percent true, even if the details are a little muddy.”
“You’re asking me to broadcast untruths?” Her voice betrayed her indignation.
The General stopped running. The group of men and dogs stopped running. A bird’s call broke the sudden silence in the lane. He turned to look at her.
“No, I am asking you to treat a true hero with the respect he deserves. He’s not a public speaker or even a very good poker player. He’s too straight of a guy. His story is true and deserves to be heard.”
“And these details?”
“You’re saying that he’s been coached. I’ll notice the coaching because he’s such a straight forward guy.”
The General started running again. They ran in silence while she processed his request.
“I won’t throw national security at you. However I would not ask if people’s lives were not at stake,” he said. “We can pull the interview. There was a suggestion to disrupt the satellite feed during your transmission of the show. A few well placed individuals, including myself, would like the world to hear Roper’s story.”
“With the details removed?”
“With a few details removed.”
“And the satellite feed? I don’t want to interview some guy and have it not go out.”
“A few high level people have used their authority to allow the interview with…”
“A few details removed.” She finished his sentence.
“Exactly. These people will be with Roper when you do the interview. You might notice them, but probably not.”
“If I do this, will you come on my show?” She asked. “Talk about the war? The soldiers?”
“You’ve asked before.”
“I’ve asked for five years,” she said.
“Treat Roper with the respect he deserves and I’ll seriously consider it.”
“I need to get back to the desert,” the General said. “Do we have an agreement?”
“Yes, sir,” she said.
The General gave a low whistle and the soldiers closed the circle. Within moments, she held the leashes of her dogs. Before they were out of earshot she shouted:
The General stopped running and turned in her direction.
“Who is Michael Roper?” She yelled.
“He’s married to Valerie Lipson,” he said. Laughing, he added, “Enjoy your Pulitzer.”
The men picked up the pace. Within moments, she was alone on the quiet lane. She ran for another mile then turned for home. Arriving home, her dog trainer took the dogs to feed and water them. She was about to head upstairs when she saw something slip under her front door.
Picking it up, she ripped open the manila envelope to find a single sheet of paper. Near the bottom, scrawled in a man’s handwriting was a note that said: ‘For background on Roper’. The sheet contained ten names, home phone numbers and private email addresses of top level people in government or retired military. There was even a curator at the Denver Art Museum. One name was someone she had begged to interview. More than once.
Looks like Valerie Lipson’s secret husband was more interesting than she thought.
Monday morning, 8:12 A.M.
“Ouch! Shit, Blane,” Jacob said. “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”
Blane was inserting acupuncture needles around Jacob’s sutures. When he wasn’t working as Jacob’s assistant, Blane was a student at the Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Three years into a Chinese Medical Doctor degree, he spent had the last week researching the right herbs, salves and points to accelerate Jacob’s healing. Not quite fluent in Chinese, yet, Blane was still a star pupil.
“Ya ‘cuz,” Blane said with the mock Hispanic accent he used to drive Jacob crazy. “Dis guy, he said to try dis thing and I figured….”
“This hurts,” Jacob said.
“You could just take your pain medication,” Aden said.
“Fuck you too,” Jacob said to Aden.
Aden laughed at Jacob. They were sitting in a small office at the Castle. They had spent the morning making sure every site manager had what he or she needed to get the job done today. Lipson Construction was humming like a well oiled engine.
Except for it’s President, Jacob Marlowe.
Although healing, his week old shoulder injury, and multiple surgeries, left him at half his capacity. Blane thought his acupuncture wonder might be able to help. At least ease some of the desperate pain.
“Hi,” Jill said. She poked her head in the door. “Am I interrupting?”
“Not if you’ve heard a few swear words before,” Aden said. He opened the door for Jill. “I’m going to check on my kids. I’ll be back in a few.”
“Katy wanted to say ‘good-bye’ before she went to school,” Jill said. She came into the room carrying three year old, Katy, on her hip. Pointing to the hundreds of needles in Jacob’s shoulder and neck, she added, “Oooh, that doesn’t look good.”
“Mommy? He’s touching the white gauze,” Katy said. “Uncle Blane? Do you know what you’re doing?”
“Good question,” Jacob said.
“Hi sweetie,” Blane said. He came around the chair to kiss Katy on the cheek. “I’m trying to help your….”
“Daddy,” Jacob said.
Blane beamed like the Cheshire Cat. He had been after Jacob about Katy since Trevor abandoned them. He knew what it was like to be abandoned. And he didn’t want anything bad to happen to sweet Katy.
“I’m helping your Daddy get better.”
“My Daddy needs help,” Katy said.
“Yes, he does,” Jacob said.
Jacob held his left arm out and Jill set Katy in his lap. Katy gently hugged him. She kissed his cheek.
“I have to go to school,” Katy said.
“See you this afternoon,” Jacob said.
Holding Jill’s hand, Katy was almost to the door when she ran back. She climbed onto Jacob’s lap then whispered in his ear. Jacob flushed, held her close then kissed her cheek. She jumped off his lap and ran to Jill. Jill picked her up. Katy waved ‘good-bye’ before Jill closed the door behind them.
“What was that?” Blane asked. He returned to putting needles into Jacob.
“She said that she loved me.” Jacob’s eyes filled. “It’s like a dream.”
“I told you. She’s a great kid,” Blane said. “Ok, one more. That should….”
Jacob felt a whoosh of relief. His pain had all but vanished.
“They’re both great girls,” Blane said. “You’re a lucky son of a bitch.”
“I know. I keep thinking I’ll wake up and…,” Jacob said. “God, Blane, that’s great.”
“We’ll keep them in for twenty minutes or so,” Blane said. “Then we’ll do it again this afternoon. When we can, we’ll start some of the salves on those scars.”
“Thanks, Blane. Really.”
“Well, shit, Jacob,” Blane said. “You got me off the streets, gave me a place to live when I needed it, paid for my school, fed me, gave me this job, even take care of me when I’m sick…. This is the least I can do.”
“You’re family,” Jacob said. “Speaking of family,” Blane said, “your step-sister is waiting to see you. Sorry, I told her that it would be a while. Then I forgot her.”
“Which step sister?”
“Honey. The awful one is in Thailand. I made sure that she and that tool got on the plane myself,” Blane said. His face flushed bright red with rage. “Bitch. Can you believe….”
“Getting angry only makes you sick.” Jacob put his hand on Blane’s forearm. “Did Dad give you the divorce papers?”
“No, I have them,” Aden said coming back into the room. “No anger, Blane.”
Blane nodded. He walked to the window to calm down. The virus had injured his liver so that every time he got enraged, he got very sick.
“Promise me this,” Blane said. “That’s going to happen for me… what you have with Jill… what Aden has with Sandy.”
“Celia said that when you were better, you would find love,” Jacob said.
“What would I know?” Jacob said as if he didn’t know what Blane was talking about.
“Fuck you Jacob Marlowe,” Blane said. “You have this gift and you won’t share it?”
“Sorry, force of habit,” Jacob said. “I don’t know how to describe what I see. I see you with a family that is your family. Children, love, and very happy. But I also see you not sick. No HIV. No Hep C. Nothing.”
“So it will happen?” Blane said.
Aden put his hand on Blane’s shoulder. Blane turned to look at him.
“He’s saying you will find love and more,” Aden said. “But first, we have to get you well. No anger.”
Blane nodded his head.
“Family problem number one? Honey Lipson. Or family problem number two? Your father’s ridiculous divorce papers,” Blane asked.
“Is Dad still here?” Jacob asked.
“I’ll get him,” Blane said. “Should I get Honey?”
“Let’s talk to her when Dad’s here,” Jacob said. “Is she….”
“She’s been crying,” Blane said. “She seems very upset.”
Jacob nodded. “Family problem number One.”
“Coming up,” Blane said.
Jill pressed open the side door. The Castle buzzed with activity and various Lipson employees. She looked longingly at the apartment door, but turned into the Castle living room. She was supposed to….
She stopped walking. She had no idea what she was supposed to do. Time for a mental list.
Laundry first. Move out? She grimaced. She and Jacob had argued about it last night and this morning. She thought she should return to her apartment. Jacob begged her to stay.
Groceries? No, they have groceries delivered. Val asked her to…. God, rich people live in some foreign land. Who knew that groceries could be delivered?
List of groceries! That’s right, that’s what Val needed.
Jill was meeting Sandy at her condo in… three hours for a girl’s day of hair styling and….
“Excuse me,” A woman wearing inexpensive but professional dress said. “Are you Jill? Jillian Roper?”
“I am,” Jill said.
Lawyer? No, Jacob’s lawyers were expensive. They’d wear better shoes.
“Oh great. Mr. Marlowe said you were coming back….”
“Here I am,” Jill said. Jill smiled at the woman.
The woman’s voice was professional but a little rude. Maybe she was a lawyer.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I’m Patti,” the woman said. “I am work in Human Resources at Lipson Construction? Mr. Marlowe has some papers for you to sign.”
“Insurance papers? For you and Katherine?”
The woman blinked, blushed, then said, “You have no idea what I’m talking about or who I am.”
Jill shook her head.
Patti laughed. She put her hand on Jill’s arm.
“We had this idea…. Mr. Marlowe’s never even dated anyone,” Patti said. “Then all of a sudden, there’s a girl and child and well…. When Blane told us to get this together, well, we thought….”
“Gold digger?” Jill asked.
“Please don’t tell him. He’ll be furious,” Patti said. “Is he really adopting your daughter?”
“He wants to,” Jill said.
“He’s great with kids. He’s like an uncle to all the Lipson kids. He stops by the school to read to them at least once a week. Will Katy go to the school?”
“Let’s start by getting these papers signed.”
“Health, dental, life, extended care,” Patti said. “For you and Katherine.”
Patti looked at Jill’s confused face then smiled.
“Do you have a cell phone?”
“A cell phone?”
“Mr. Marlowe has a new phone for you,” Patti said. “Come on. I’ll explain everything.”
Monday morning 9 AM
“You wanted to see me?” Jacob asked.
In an attempt to look like he was working, he sat sitting behind a desk. He was zonked by the acupuncture needles. Aden sat in a chair next to him and Blane stood behind him. Sam Lipson stood to the side of the desk. If Jacob fell over, he was pretty sure one of them would catch him.
“You have NO RIGHT! NO RIGHT at all,” Honey said. She stood in front of the desk. “I… I….”
Honey collapsed into a chair to cry. While she looked like her mother and older sister, she was almost an exact opposite. She wore blue jeans, work boots and a button down blue shirt with “Lipson Construction” stitched on the pocket. Her white blond hair was pulled back in a simple pony tail.
“What happened?” Sam asked. He put his hand on her shoulder. “Honey, we don’t have any idea what’s going on. Can you tell us?”
“Mom told us last night… the whole thing… about the trusts, I mean.” She popped to her feet and loomed over the desk. “And I don’t give a CRAP about any trust. I don’t want your money. And just because my father is in prison and my mother is an idiot and my sister is a jerk. None of that has anything to do with me. You can’t FIRE ME because of them!”
“Fire you?” Jacob asked. “Who fired you?”
“YOU DID,” Honey screamed. “And it’s so UNFAIR. I’ve worked really hard and I’m really good on the roads. Everyone likes me. AND I’M NOT GIVING THE NAME BACK.”
She crossed her arms and plopped back down in the chair.
“Dad?” Jacob asked. Sam shook his head.
“Aden?” Jacob asked. Aden shrugged. Jacob knew that Aden was against hiring Honey when shegraduated from high school. But Honey had proved to be a great employee. She worked really hard, never complained and had become integral part of a road team. Jacob squinted his eyes at Aden to ask if Aden had fired her while Jacob was in the hospital. Aden shook his head.
“Blane?” Jacob turned to see Blane looking at Honey like she was insane. Blane had such bad experiences with the step-whore that he refused to speak to Honey.
“Honey, we don’t have any idea what’s going on,” Jacob said. “This is my first day back. Can you slow down and tell us what’s going on?”
“Oh,” Honey said. “You don’t?”
The men shook their heads at her.
“Oh,” Honey said again. “I’m still not giving the name back. Sam’s the only Dad I ever had.”
“Ok, we have that in common,” Jacob said. “He’s the only Dad I’ve ever had too.”
Honey gave Jacob a watery smile.
“What happened today, Honey?” Sam asked. “You started to tell us. Your Mom told you about the trusts last night. And….”
“I was asked to report to Human Resources. I figured I was getting fired, so I just came here.” The young woman stuck her chin out in stubborn defiance. “You want to fire me, you have to do it to my face.”
“OH SHIT!” Blane exclaimed. He flipped through a stack of papers. Pulling out packet of papers, he slipped it in front of Jacob. “Sorry Jake. It’s in the stack of papers to sign.”
“We haven’t figured out how to sign the papers yet.” Blane gave Honey a weak smile. “He can’t hold a pen and….”
Jacob looked at the papers.
“You’ve been approved for the scholarship program, Honey,” Jacob said. He flipped through the papers. “Wow, your high school grades are excellent. I had no idea you did so well.”
“Your mom told me that, ‘Every day, we must work hard, take every opportunity and suck the marrow out of life’,” Honey said. “I do that. Every day. Suck the marrow. But I don’t actually suck marrow out of bones. I tried that? And it was kind of gross.”
“Yeah, it’s gross.” Jacob wrinkled his nose. Aden and Blane nodded as if they also had tried marrow sucking. “You know how this works?”
Honey shook her head.
“I just want to go to college. And I want to pay for it myself. I mean, Mom said that Dad would pay for it, but I want to do it myself. But I can’t afford it so I applied. That’s like doing it yourself, isn’t it?”
“Very much so,” Aden said. “You have to work full time, and go to school. I mean it’s a lot but that’s how I paid for college and my MBA.”
“Me too,” Blane said. “Only Jake had the free ride.”
“You have to pay for the first semester.” Jacob kept talking as a way of ignoring Blane’s comment as the ride never felt very free. “You can take whatever you want. If your grades are good, like over a B, we reimburse you.”
“Oh,” Honey said. “I can’t pay for the first semester. I had to replace my car and my apartment….”
“I’ll give you the money,” Sam said.
“If you give me money, then, you’ll have to give money to….”
“I’ll do it,” Val said. She was standing in the doorway. “I’ll give you the money. And I’m Ok if you keep the name.”
Honey jumped to her feet. Valerie had never spoken to her. In fact, she hadn’t ever been in the same room as her famous actress step-sister.
“And he’s the only Dad I’ve ever had too.” Val nodded. Walking forward, she held her hand out. “I’m Valerie Lipson.”
Honey shook Val’s hand.
“Thanks,” Honey said.
“You’re a part of the Lipson family,” Val said. “I… I’m glad to meet you….”
Honey beamed at Valerie.
“Finally,” Sam said.
Denver Cereal continues next week….
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