Wednesday early morning — 5:20 A.M. Castle kitchen
“I see that we’re running out of things,” Jill said to Honey.
Jill was standing in the middle of the kitchen pantry. Honey and her sport wheelchair were in the doorway.
“No Captain Crunch with Crunch Berries, no chips, no chocolate chips, no dried mango, and less of everything else?” Honey asked.
“Yep, that’s what I see. We’ll be out of peanut butter by tonight.”
“You watch.” Honey wheeled backward to let Jill out. “This pantry will be full by the time we return from work.”
“I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation,” Jill said.
Honey raised an eyebrow.
“It’s not magic,” Jill said.
“Not like objects that fly through the air or people surviving death or knowing the future…” Honey squinted her eyes at Jill.
“But this is food.”
“Uh huh,” Honey said. “And I’m telling you that’s a magic cabinet.”
“How did it get to our apartments?”
“Exactly. How did it get to our apartments?”
Wednesday morning — 7:25 A.M. Castle
Ring! “Ah fuck.” Sandy heard the phone ring while she was in the shower. “Noelle can you get that?”
“You owe the jar five dollars,” Nash yelled at her. “No f-bombs.”
“Fine,” Sandy said. “Will one of you answer the phone?!?”
Sandy tried to finish washing her hair. Her head was under the water spray when she heard her name.
“It’s Daddy but they won’t let us talk to him.” Noelle extended the portable phone in her direction. “Has to be an adult. Please, please, please can we talk to Daddy. Please?”
With the shower curtain draped around her, Sandy grabbed the phone from Noelle.
“Are you an adult?”
“Last time I checked,” Sandy said.
“Will you accept the charges from Aden Norsen in Canon City Correctional Facility?”
“Yes,” Sandy said.
“Sandy? Sandy? Don’t hang up! Sandy?” She heard Aden’s voice as she pushed the phone to Noelle.
“Daddy? It’s Noelle. She’s in the shower, Daddy.” Noelle’s eyes welled with tears. “But…”
Noelle held the phone out to Sandy. Turning in place, Noelle ran off to her room.
“Great job, jerk-off. You just broke the child’s heart. What do you want?”
“I have to talk to you,” Aden said. “We’re getting out, Pete and me.”
“Because of the fight and the fact that we’re better. They’re putting us on house arrest. Ankle bracelets.”
“Good thing your house hasn’t sold,” Sandy said.
“I want to come home to you and the kids.”
“I want a billion dollars. We don’t all get what we want,” Sandy said.
“Sandy, please. If you don’t agree, I have to stay here,” he said.
“You don’t get to upend our lives on a whim again,” Sandy said. “We already have a very full day. We don’t need to add you to our list.”
“I don’t want to upend your life. I just want to see you,” Aden said. “Hold you. Love you.”
“I’m going to finish my shower,” Sandy said. “Why don’t you talk to your children? You do not have my permission to discuss this with them. And I’m reminding you I am their full legal guardian now.”
“I won’t. Sandy, I…”
“Try to ask them about themselves. They miss you. God knows why…”
Holding the phone, and his bullshit, away from her head, Sandy grabbed her terrycloth bathrobe. She stomped down the hall to Noelle’s room. Noelle was laying face down on her bed crying.
“Sweetie, your Daddy wants to talk to you,” Sandy said. “Can you do that? Are you okay to do that?”
Tears streaming down her face, Noelle nodded. Nash came to Noelle’s door.
“Hi Daddy,” Noelle said. “It’s okay, Daddy. I only cried a little bit.”
Sandy closed Noelle’s door. Walking back to her bedroom, she returned to the shower. As she pulled the curtain closed, she felt nothing but the cold chill of her wet wandering in their apartment.
Then, like the water falling on to her head, a wave of desperate sorrow overcame her. After working her butt off for the last month, everything would change. The children would go back to their father and she…
Her mother would never speak to her again. Her father was dead. Her condo was rented by Elizabethe. Her private secret was spread around the world and back again. Everything she once had was gone. Everything she’d worked so hard for was gone.
She had nothing.
She was nothing.
With each tear, her sorrow transformed to resolve. Today she would get Nash back into school. Tonight, she would move out. Aden could have his house, his children, and his life back.
She would tell no one. Not even Jill.
She’d just leave. She would disappear from Denver. Forever.
Stepping out of the shower, she felt calm and ready. She dried off and combed her hair. She had a plan. Now all she had to do was work her plan. She nodded to herself in the bathroom mirror.
It was for the best.
Opening the door, she stepped out into her bathroom.
“It’s not for the best,” Delphie said.
“I thought you were dead,” Sandy said.
“I’m not dead enough to let you do something stupid,” Delphie said.
“I’m not being stupid,” Sandy said. “There’s nothing left for me here.”
“The children love you,” Delphie said. “Aden loves you. Jill would be devastated if you disappeared. That’s not to mention Heather and Tanesha and all of your clients and everyone in this house and even me. What’s wrong with you? Why would you hurt all those people?”
“You wouldn’t understand,” Sandy said.
“Try me. You’d be surprised at what I can understand.”
Sandy sniffed at Delphie. She moved around the woman and started to get dressed.
“I get that you’re mad at Aden. He’s been a complete ass. But that’s his path, Sandy,” Delphie said. “He has to discover himself.”
Sandy scrapped the hangers around in her closet.
“And making my life and the kids life a complete mess is how he ‘finds’ himself?”
“Sadly, yes,” Delphie said.
“Not fair,” Sandy said. “And I don’t really like it that you read my mind. It’s very rude and intrusive.”
“I’m trying to keep you from doing something dangerous and stupid,” Delphie said.
“Dangerous?” Sandy pulled on underwear and a pair of black pants. The pants wouldn’t close. She groaned. Taking off the pants, she put on a green broom skirt and pulled a purple long sleeve shirt over her head. “How is it dangerous?”
Delphie patted the bed next to her. Sandy sat down.
“You’re still in danger,” she said. “Not from other people, but from inside you. When you and Aden connected, you let your heart open. If you close your heart now, it will never open again, even for your child.”
Sandy looked deep into Delphie’s eyes. After a moment, Sandy shook her head.
“I can’t do it,” she whispered.
“Yes, you can,” Delphie said. “You and I… We’ve suffered under the hands of selfish men. I lived with that shadow all of my life. Your shadow is gone. You could live the rest of your life in the glow of everyone who loves you. But you have to let go of the shadow.”
“What shadow? You sound crazy, Delphie.”
“The shadow of what happened to you,” Delphie said. “You lived a lot of years sucked dry by your cruel father and selfish mother. Now, when you feel exhausted, you relive those experiences, like a shadow.”
“Is that why you think you’re dead? Because your shadow is gone?”
“I am dead,” Delphie said.
Delphie glared at Sandy to prove her certainty. Sandy shrugged.
“Give Aden a chance,” Delphie said.
“I don’t know how…”
“We have plenty of room,” Delphie said. “Let him take a room in the basement. Let him prove himself to you and the children. If he can’t do it, then move on. But at least give him a chance.”
Sandy shook her head slightly.
“I can’t think about this now. I have a hearing in…”
Sandy went to the door of her room.
“We have to leave in ten minutes!” She yelled.
“Ok,” Nash yelled.
“I’m ready,” Noelle said from the living room.
“The children love you,” Delphie said. “You’re their mother, for now and always. It’s a soul contract. Don’t abandon them.”
Delphie hugged Sandy.
“You’re a good woman. You’ll make the right choice,” Delphie said.
“Speaking of choice,” Sandy said. “Can I do your hair? Dead people really need better hair.”
“They do? I hadn’t thought of it.”
“Of course, dead people need near perfect hair,” Sandy said. “You haven’t noticed that Celia’s hair is better now?”
“It is better,” Delphie said. “You’re right.”
“How about tonight?” Sandy said. “I’m working on Val’s hair. I can do it tonight.”
“What about Aden?”
“He’s not disrupting my plans,” Sandy said. “You want to be his dead guardian, knock yourself out.”
“I like the way you think,” Delphie said.
Wednesday mid-day — 12 noon Lipson Construction
“I was just about to order your lunch, Mr. Marlowe,” Evette, the new secretary said.
Jacob looked up from the bid he’d been reviewing. Wearing a skin tight pink silk dress, his new blonde secretary swished her way across his office until she stood next to him. She shifted her hip so it brushed his arm. He rotated his chair back and away from her.
“Thank you, but I’m having lunch with Blane. He and his wife are bringing Mack into…”
“Hey,” Blane said at the doorway.
Evette wrinkled her nose at Jacob then swished out of the office. Blane stepped aside for her to leave.
“What was that?” Blane asked.
“I asked for someone to fill in while you’re out,” Jacob said. “The office manager said Evette was really eager to help out. She’s a little too eager. You know?”
“Glad Heather didn’t see that little interaction,” Blane said.
“Nothing happened,” Jacob said.
“You’re bright red. Her hip is pressed right into your face. When I walk in, you move away from her,” Blane said. “Yeah, it’s not what happened it’s…”
“She’s not even a great secretary,” Jacob said. “Can’t type, gets my appointments messed up…”
“Get rid of her,” Blane said.
“Who’s the bitch at your old desk?” Heather asked. She came in the room with Mack in his car seat. “Hey Jake.”
Jacob shook his head.
“What happened?” Blane asked Heather.
“I asked if you were in Jacob’s office and she gave me this whole line about how ‘Jake was a busy man’ and ‘Jake shouldn’t be bothered with women like me.’”
Jacob and Blane looked at each other then at Heather.
“What did you say?” Blane asked.
“I told her that Jacob was a married man. And that if she thought she was going to get her claws into him, she had another thing coming. She wouldn’t like Jill when Jill’s was angry.”
Jacob and Blane looked at each other again. “I’ll talk to Heather,” Blane said. “You need to get rid of her.”
“Talk to me about what?” Heather asked.
“I think Jake needs me here,” Blane said.
Heather looked at Blane then looked at Jacob. She raised her right index finger and pointed to Jacob.
“You better watch your p’s and q’s, Mr. Bachelor of the year. You have no idea the misery you will feel if you fuck up. Jill talks about what Trevor did to her, and he was brutal. But he was always having some mysterious thing or another cut off him. He never figured it out, poor bastard.”
“I haven’t done anything,” Jacob said. “I don’t plan on doing anything. I’m not interested. I don’t cheat!”
“Better keep it that way,” Heather said.
Wednesday afternoon — 2 P.M.
“I missed a day of work for nothing!” Nash said. Sandy put her arm over his shoulder. She, Nash and Noelle were walking out of the Denver Public Schools office. Teddy, Nash’s best friend, and his father, Captain Zack Jakkman, walked just behind them.
“I missed a day of school,” Noelle said.
“That whole thing sucked,” Teddy said. Imitating the school official’s voice, he added, “If you hadn’t gone to the papers, we would have more options.”
Noelle ran ahead to hit the handicap button for the exit doors.
“If we hadn’t gone to the papers, we’d still be in the same position,” Nash said.
“Not really,” Sandy said. “They freed you to go to another Denver Public School. We can go look at them tomorrow and pick one.”
“We still can’t go back to Smiley,” Nash said.
“That sucks,” Teddy said. “All our friends are at Smiley.”
“Sandy, Teddy can go to Machebeuf,” Zack said. “His brother and sister go to Catholic school already. He doesn’t want to because…”
“I won’t go without Nash.” Teddy had obviously he’d said this many times before.
“I’m not Catholic,” Nash said.
“Actually, you were baptized Catholic, Nash,” Sandy said. “Your Dad did it when you were born. Nuala didn’t want Noelle baptized in the heathen religion or something like that. That’s more than I had when I went there. I had to start from scratch.”
“I would start from scratch,” Noelle said. “I don’t mind.”
“It’s not a bad idea, Sandy,” Zack said.
Sandy looked into the intense blue eyes of the handsome pilot.
“Hey kids,” Zack said. “Can you give us a minute?”
“Why?” Noelle asked.
“We don’t really…” Nash said.
“Here’s my phone,” Sandy said. “Why don’t you decide what you want to do to celebrate: Movies? Ice cream?”
“Dave and Busters?” Zack added.
Nash snatched Sandy’s iPhone from her. Arguing, the kids wandered toward Zack’s car.
“What’s up, Zack?”
Zack fingers touched Sandy’s cheek. He moved a renegade piece of her hair behind her ear.
“You look very tired,” he said.
“After all this time, I…” He smiled. “I missed the carefree Sandy.”
“I thought you and your girlfriend…”
“I’m in intelligence now. I’ve learned that you do that to intentionally fluster me,” he said. “If I had known that when we…” “You’d never have left Tina, ever,” Sandy said. “Plus, you and Bestat belong together, no question.”
“That’s very kind of you,” Zack said. “Bestat is… Yeah, you’re right. It doesn’t change the way I felt or feel about you.”
Sandy kissed his cheek. She moved to meet the kids.
“Aden seems like a nice guy,” Zack said. “You’re cute together.”
“You didn’t tell him,” she said.
“Did I tell your boyfriend that I was going to leave my wife and children for my beloved sixteen-year-old pen pal but she wouldn’t let me? No, only Alex knows that.”
“You really loved me?”
“Still do. You know that,” Zack said.
Sandy nodded her head slightly.
“You’re not yourself. Haven’t been since all the crap happened with your father,” Zack said. “The Sandy I know would have laughed this school stuff off and found a new solution.”
“What solution, Zack? I’ve tried everything I can think of,” she said.
“This is me, Sandy,” Zack said. “We’ve known each other too long, and been through too much heartache, for you to lie to me. What’s going on with you? Not with Aden, or his kids, or the baby, but what’s going on with you?”
He put his hand over her heart.
Sandy shook her head at him. She shifted to walk to his car. He held her in place.
“I’ve always been the person you could talk to, about everything, even when things were awful,” Zack said. “I’m still that person.”
Sandy’s pursed her eyebrows then shook her head.
“We have these kids to take care of.” She tried to move again.
“They’re fine,” Zack said. “Did you notice Teddy and Noelle?”
“What about them?”
“They’re like us,” Zack said. “Quick looks, blushing, very cute.”
“I wondered why she wanted to spend time with them. But… I hadn’t noticed.”
“See what I mean,” Zack said.
She moved to leave and he pulled her to him in a hug.
“Tell me,” he said in her ear.
“Everyone knows now, Zack,” she whispered. “Everyone. You heard what the school administrator said about me. Everyone knows. The newspaper reporter fumbled all over himself before he asked if he could interview me about… my life.
“I fought so hard to be something… more. Now, I’m just some stupid pregnant whore,” she whispered. “Bad enough she was fucked by her father on video. But look at her now, the idiot’s pregnant by some criminal.”
“Oh Sandy, it’s so easy to judge. Why take this on? You never cared what people thought of you.”
“I cared enough to keep the stuff that happened a secret,” she said.
He shook her a little bit.
“I don’t want to be taken advantage of anymore,” she said. “I get taken advantage of all the time.”
“Aden,” she said.
“Only if you let him,” Zack said. “And before you say it, you didn’t let your father take advantage of you. You didn’t let those men take advantage you. And, much to my chagrin, you’ve never let me take advantage of you.”
Laughing, Sandy shifted away and punched his chest.
“Ow,” he said. “Knowing you, loving you, changed my life forever. Don’t let them steal your shine.”
Zack laughed. He held out his hand, and she took it. They walked to the car where the kids were arguing.
“Hey I didn’t know you knew each other,” Teddy said.
“We’re old friends,” Zack said.
“Is she one of your ladies?” Teddy asked.
“Your mother’s paranoid fantasy ladies?”
“I am,” Sandy said. “Tina hates me.”
“It’s okay, Sandy,” Teddy said. “She hates me too. She really hates Nash because he’s my friend.”
“My mom hates me too,” Sandy said.
“Welcome to the…” Teddy started
“Country of Fucked Up,” Teddy, Nash and Zack said together.
Noelle laughed and clapped her hands. Blushing, Sandy laughed.
“It’s a crowded country but we take immigrants,” Zack said.
“Immigrant? I’m a founder!” Sandy protested.
Zack opened the passenger door and helped her inside his SUV. He went around to the driver’s side.
“We want to know if there are cute girls at Blessed Sacrament,” Nash said.
“I went there,” Sandy said.
“Then I’ll go,” Nash said.
“Me too,” Teddy said.
“Let’s go look,” Zack said. “We can check out the girls and boys for Noelle.”
“Noelle doesn’t need any boys,” Teddy said.
Noelle giggled and batted her eyes at Teddy. He blushed. Leaning against the seat, Sandy felt a moment of peace.
Maybe Delphie was right. She was loved.
Wednesday evening — 5:25 P.M. Castle kitchen
“You were right,” Jill said. She was in the middle of making meatloaf for dinner. “Pantry’s full.”
“I told you!” Honey said.
“Our household pantry’s full too,” Jill said. ”Yours?”
“I was here most of the day.”
“Magic,” Honey said. “It’s got to be magic.”
Wednesday evening — 7:30 P.M. Castle
After the Department of Corrections checked the Castle, its telephone connection, radio coverage, and attached the device on Aden’s leg, they released him to Sam’s custody. Sam hugged Aden, then retreated upstairs. Jacob picked up Aden’s bag and carried it into the Castle living room.
“Thanks,” Aden said. “Where is everyone?”
“They wanted to let you get settled before you felt like you had to do anything,” Jacob said. “Come on. We made a place for you in the basement.”
Aden started down the basement stairs after Jacob.
“I can’t thank you enough,” Aden said. “I…”
Sandy and the kids stood at the bottom of the stairs waiting for them.
“I’ll leave you in good hands,” Jacob said.
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