Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Denver Cereal : Chapter Ninety-Four : Late March Sun

CHAPTER NINETY-FOUR

Tuesday morning — 7:10 A.M.

Filtered by the barren winter trees outside, a renegade sunbeam fell across Delphie’s face. She stirred in the spot light. Only partially awake, she listened to the familiar sounds of her beloved home. Katy’s happy feet tapped back and forth over head. Jill’s feet padded after her child. Noelle whimpered about something down the hall. Mike’s big laugh came from downstairs. Her nose tickled with the smells of morning: coffee, tea, bacon… Someone made bacon. Sandy? No Valerie. Valerie loved bacon. There was a sweet smell on the air. Cinnamon? Honey?

The sounds and smells of love and morning caused Delphie to stir. Feeling movement near her, she opened her eyes then puzzled.

“You should be at work, Sam Lipson,” she said.

“I should be here with you,” he said. “I made your tea.”

She scooted to sit against the headboard. Looking around, she realized she didn’t know where she was.

“Where are we?”

“Jake finished this apartment just before… everything happened. I hadn’t seen it either,” Sam said. “Would you like a tour?”

“What happened to your rooms? Celia’s gorgeous room? Were they destroyed?” Delphie’s voice rose with panic and sorrow.

“Nothing, nothing,” Sam said. “Johansen wrecked the chapel. We won’t be able to stay there until Jake stabilizes the structure.”

“My chapel,” Delphie whispered. Her eyes welled. “I don’t remember…”

“Have some tea.” He held the cup out to her. “We can deal with everything later.”

“I told you, Sam. I don’t need to eat or drink since I’m dead,” Delphie said.

“Yes, you told me,” Sam said. “You always loved your morning tea. Maybe it’s something you’ll still enjoy. Like dinner last night or using the toilet or showering.”

Delphie puzzled at him then nodded. She took the tea cup from him and took a long drink.

“I do love tea,” Delphie said. “You made it just how I like it.”

He nodded. She leaned forward to kiss him.

“Thanks.”

“Sandy made some cinnamon rolls to celebrate your return home,” Sam said. “Would you like to try one?”

Delphie nodded.

“I’d like to see your new apartment,” Delphie said.

“Our new apartment,” Sam said. “We will stay here together until you’re feeling better. Then we’ll decide what’s next. The doctor said you need to take it easy.”

They heard a patter of feet down their hall, then the sound of little feet jumping. Once. Twice. Three time. The door knob to the apartment rattled.

“Katherine Roper Marlowe, you cannot just open someone’s door.” Jill’s voice came from the hall.

“Mooommmyy!!! NOOooooo!”

“Would you like to see Katy?” Sam asked. “She wanted to see you last night but fell asleep. I bet she’s been waiting for you to get up.”

Delphie gave a slight nod. Sam opened the door to find Jill carrying a kicking and screaming Katy away from the apartment.

“Jill?” Sam asked.

Jill turned to look at him.

“It’s all right. She’s awake.”

Jill looked down at Katy.

“Pleeeeeze Mommy. Pleeezzeeee.” Katy’s dark eyes were puppy dog round. Tears flowed from the child’s eyes.

“Ok, but be gentle,” Jill said.

Katy’s tears dried. The moment Jill set her down, Katy raced around the adults through the apartment door to hop onto the Queen sized bed. Delphie held her out her arms and the child threw herself into her arms. There was a noise in the hall. Turning toward the noise, Sam watched Sarah, Scooter and Buster barrel down the hall. Like Katy, the three dogs hurled themselves onto the bed and the woman they loved most. Delphie’s tea spilled all over the bed.

Delphie was overwhelmed with emotion. She laughed until she cried. Katy began a very long story about what happened when she was in the Chapel. Of course, Paddie was scared but Katy was never scared. All the while, the dogs scooched themselves closer and closer until they pressed against her on all sides.

Delphie’s had never felt so much joy.

She felt as if she’d always lived under some dark cloud. Maybe some long forgotten psychic connection to Levi Johansen had kept the darkness around. Whatever the reason, Delphie now felt a bubble of sheer joy. Looking up from Katy, she smiled when Sam gave her a towel to mop up her tea.

“I’m finally free.”

“Yes,” Sam said.

“Too bad I’m dead,” Delphie said.

Sam looked away to keep from rolling his eyes at her. Jill looked from Delphie to Sam and laughed.

~~~~~~~~

Tuesday mid-day — 11:30 A.M.

“Ok, I’ll see you in a month,” Sandy said as she escorted her client out of the studio.

“You’ll still be here?” a woman with perfectly coifed hair said.

“I promised my best friend that I would have the baby in Denver,” Sandy said. “Plus, the kids have to finish the school year.”

The woman hugged Sandy then left the studio. Sandy caught the door before it closed and locked. Standing in the doorway, she felt bright the late March sun on her face.  She was about to turn into the studio when she heard someone calling her name.

“Sandy?”

A tousled man wearing an expensive suit, starched shirt and expensive shoes waved at her. He was carrying a leather briefcase and a Styrofoam container.

“I’m sorry, sir. I only see people by referral and appointment,” she said. “The number is on the window.”

She turned to go inside.

“No, I’m here for your lunch break,” he said.

She turned back around.

“I have your lunch,” he said.

“Do I know you?” she asked.

“No, you don’t. I’d give you my card but…” He held up his hands showing his briefcase and the Styrofoam container. “May I come in?”

“Sure,” she said.

She stepped back to hold the bulletproof glass door for the man. He bustled into the salon and set his briefcase down on the waiting area couch.

“Wow, this is really nice,” he said.

“It is,” she said. “My friend Jill set it up for me. Her husband owns the space.”

“That’s a gorgeous color.” He pointed to the wall across from the mirrors. “Is it red?”

“It looks different at various times of the day depending on the light,” Sandy said. “I think of it as burnt orange. Jill found it.”

“It’s perfect with the wood floors. Makes them sparkle.”

Sandy smiled at the man. When he didn’t say anything, she said:

“Can I help you with something?”

“Oh, right,” he said. “I have your lunch. Pasquini’s Chicken Caesar Salad with fresh bread sticks.”

He gave her the Styrofoam container.

“Ah shit, I forgot the bread sticks in the car. I’ll go get them.”

He hopped to his feet.

“That’s all right,” she said. “Thank you for lunch. Did Aden…”

“Aden, yes,” the man nodded.

“Aden what?” she asked.

“Oh, right.” He smiled at Sandy. “You don’t know why I’m here.”

“I don’t,” she said.

“I’m a lawyer,” he said. He spoke in a rush of words. “I’m an associate at… Well I work for Max Hargreaves. I’m his associate. Well, one of his associates. In this economy, I’m lucky to be an associate anywhere but to work for Mr. Hargreaves is… Well, I’m lucky.”

Sandy waited to see if the man was done talking.

“Do you know him? Max Hargreaves. I mean, Mr. Hargreaves.”

“I do. We went to the same high school,” Sandy said. “Why does Max want me to have a salad?”

“Not Max,” the lawyer said. “Aden. May I sit down?”

Sandy nodded. The lawyer collapsed into the couch.

“Can I get you some water?” Sandy asked.

“Oh, water, yes, that would be nice,” he said. “I’ve been running around trying to get here on time. I’m sure I look a mess or like a crazy person. I’ve never had direct client contact before. Usually, I just do paperwork, but Mr. Hargreaves asked me to come and…”

Entering the back room, Sandy didn’t hear the rest. She took two bottles of water from her refrigerator. When she returned, the young man was still talking. She held out the bottle. He took it from her and drained it.

“I’m sorry,” Sandy said. “I only have forty-five minutes until the next client. I don’t have time for Aden’s bullshit right now.”

“I completely understand.” The young lawyer seemed revived by his water. “You have been through a lot. No question.”

“Why are you here?”

“Oh, right,” the lawyer opened his briefcase. “Mr. Norsen wanted me to bring you lunch.”

“Thank you for lunch,” Sandy moved toward the door.

“I have some papers for you to sign,” the lawyer said. “I spent the morning setting up a new bank account for you.”

“I don’t need a new bank account,” Sandy said. “I have a bank account.”

“This is a joint account,” the lawyer said. “With Mr. Norsen.”

“I can’t afford to give Mr. Norsen any more money.” Sandy’s voice rose in anger. She couldn’t believe Aden wanted more from her. “Will you please leave?”

“I’ve really messed this up,” the lawyer said. “Mr. Hargreaves is going to kill me.”

“I will kill you if you don’t leave,” Sandy said.

“Ok, wait,” the lawyer said. “Just wait. Before you kill me, hear me out.”

Crossing her arms across her heart, Sandy shrugged. The lawyer pulled a piece of paper out of his briefcase. He began reading from the paper.

“Mr. Norsen wants me to read this to you.”

The lawyer looked up and Sandy nodded.

“I realize that I have been incredibly selfish. From the moment I couldn’t control my anger, you have suffered the consequences of my actions. I see now the predicament I put you in. I am deeply humbly sorry. From this moment forward, I will do everything in my power to make this right for you, for me and for our children.”

“That’s pretty nice, right?” the lawyer asked.

“Same old bullshit,” Sandy shrugged.

“This morning, he put his Park Hill house on the market,” the lawyer said. “He said if he’s moving wherever you decide to live.”

“Doesn’t have anything to do with me,” Sandy shrugged.

“I set up this bank account so you could access his money,” the lawyer said. “He wants to take care of you and his children. There’s plenty of money in the account now. I just need you to sign…”

“I’ve taken care of our money problems,” Sandy said. “We don’t need his money.”

“I’ll leave these papers with you,” the lawyer said. “Mr. Norsen set up the books for your salon on Outright. It’s a website for small businesses. He said it’s all set up. You just have to put the numbers in. If you’d like him to do that, he said that he has time.”

“I’m aware that he has time,” Sandy said. “I, however, do not.”

“Listen, I know that I’m a mess,” the young man smiled at Sandy. “And I know that you’re angry. But I want to tell you one last thing.”

“What?”

“Mr. Norsen loves you. And even though he’s a fuck up, and really aren’t we all?” The young man flushed red with color. “He wants to make this right for you. You don’t have to call him or talk to him or email him or even friend him on Facebook. But that doesn’t change the fact that he loves you.”

Sandy bit her lip to keep from tearing up.

“He hired me to take care of you,” the lawyer said. “He’s going to get out really soon, only eight more weeks. And when he does, he wants to talk to you. I think what he really wants is to be your boyfriend… husband… partner… again. And now that I meet you, I can see why.”

“He told you to say all of this bullshit?”

“He told me all of this,” the lawyer said. “When he was in a coma, he said he had dreams about you and only you. You were the first thing he asked about when he woke up.”

“He asked where he was,” Sandy said.

“After that,” the lawyer said. “I used the word ‘thing’. You were the first thing he asked about. He loves you. And well, he should.”

“Anything else?” Sandy asked.

“Here’s my card,” the lawyer said. “Sign the papers and I’ll set everything up.”

The lawyer was standing in the doorway when he turned.

“One more thing,” the lawyer said.

He dug in his pocket for something then held out his closed fist out to her. Sandy held out her hand palm up. The lawyer dropped a pair of tear drop dangle diamond earrings into her hand.

“They match your engagement ring,” the lawyer said. “Mr. Norsen had them and… There’s some fancy blue box they go in, but it was too big for my pocket and I didn’t want to lose them. Sorry.”

Sandy stood in the late March sunbeam staring at the diamonds in her hand.

“Call me when you’ve signed the papers or need anything or the kids need anything.”

When she looked up, the lawyer was gone. She quickly closed and locked the door. She made a beeline to the bathroom where she cried her eyes out. Through watery eyes, she put on the diamond earrings. Four years ago, she’d seen these earrings on a starlet in some gossip magazine. She’d been reading the magazine at the gym while she rode the exercise bike. She remembered saying to Aden, ‘Someday when I’m rich, I’m going to have earrings just like this.’

Leaning back to look at herself in the mirror, she touched the right earring. It spun around casting light around the room.

Aden loved her.

It was what she wanted. She wanted Aden or Aden as he used to be before all this crap. But she couldn’t handle the criminal, flakey Aden. It was too hard and too painful. She was too tired. That’s what she’d told Valerie last night.

Sandy heard someone call her name. Her next client had arrived.

“Just a second,” Sandy said.

She wiped away her tears and went to face the rest of her day.

~~~~~~~~~

Tuesday evening — 8:35 P.M.

“Hello,” Jacob said. His tone was soft as he walked into the loft. “Jill?”

Jill came running out of her office. She jumped into his arms.

“That’s a nice greeting.”

He kissed her lips then set her down to kiss her further. Giggling, she stepped away. He shook his head at her tease.

“Long day at work!” she said.

“Dad’s out, Aden’s out, Blane’s out,” Jacob said. “Just me and a big company. I had to get a secretary to fill in for Blane. I’m so used to working with men. It’s weird to have a woman help me.”

“Should I be jealous?” Jill asked.

“Of what?”

“Your new secretary? Is she pretty?”

Knowing better than to answer the question, Jacob smiled at Jill

“You are my wife,” he said.

“Just seems like there’s so much cheating around,” Jill said. “Valerie’s been on the phone with one of her Hollywood friends all night. I just…”

“I’ve run the company by myself before,” Jacob said. “Hell, I ran it for six months while Dad was wacko and Blane cried in the basement. Aden was still a site manager. I’ll get rid of the secretary if she concerns you.”

“So I should worry?”

“You should not worry,” Jacob said. “I’m not a cheater. I don’t cheat on my taxes, my friends, and I’ve never cheated at hockey. I don’t handle my commitments that way. I never have, never will.”

Jacob sat down in a chair at the dining room table. Leaning his head on his hands, he closed his eyes.

“I’m very tired,” he said. “I need to get my heart checked. I don’t know if I’m worn out or something’s wrong.”

“I don’t think anything’s wrong,” she said. “Let me…”

She went over to where he sat and he pulled her onto his lap.

“Nice ploy,” she said.

“This is very nice!” His hands stroked her behind. “Did I miss Katy?”

“She waited up for you,” Jill said. “She can’t make it past eight.”

“At some point in the relatively near future, Aden, Blane and Dad will get back to work,” Jacob said. “How you would you like to take a trip to Santa Monica?”

“Should I stop taking the pill next month?”

“I’d like that,” Jacob said. “You?”

“Can I get some help so I can finish school?” Jill asked.

“You’d have to kill Delphie to keep her from helping,” Jacob said. “I mean, if she wasn’t already dead.”

Jill smiled

“In fact, that’s a great idea,” Jacob said.

“To kill Delphie?”

“She’s already dead,” Jacob laughed. “No, she loves infants. We should get the gorgeous Mack here. I bet that would wake Delphie up.”

“He was here last night for Delphie’s coming home party,” Jill said. “She didn’t even look at him.”

“The woman has completely lost it,” Jacob shrugged. His fingers moved to unbutton her jeans. “You are…”

He kissed her lips.

“Do you want some dinner?”

“No, my new gorgeous secretary made something for me,” Jacob said.

Jill punched him. She hopped off his lap.

“Don’t make fun of me. I’m serious! Trevor cheated all the time and…”

Jacob jumped to his feet.

“I’m not Trevor,” he said.

Jill stood with her hands on her hips. She stared at him. Shaking his head, he tried to pull her back into his arms.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“Oh, I don’t know. Everything is so new and really great. School. Even this house. I don’t want to lose it.”

He smiled.

“Valerie’s friend was so heart broken. I remember what that’s like. I felt really bad for her,” Jill said. “I never think of famous people as being fragile like… me, I guess. And everybody just laughs at them. It’s like the whole world is set up to steal happiness from people.”

“Some people don’t build lives. Instead, they spend their time being jealous of the lives other people have built. Their only focus is to destroy what other people have built and seize their happiness.”

“Makes me sad and scared. Will someone try to steal all of this from me?”

“Will you let them?”

She shook her head.

“You and I, we are building a life. Our friends are our friends because they’re building lives.”

“I’ve given my whole self, my whole life to you. I’ve never done that. Ever.”

“And I’ve given my whole self and life to you,” he said. “If something happened, I’d lose you and nothing’s worth that.”

“It’s scary to love you… so much.”

“Scary for me too.”

“Let’s take a bath,” he said. “I need to unwind.”

“What about dinner?”

“I’m hungry for other sustenance.”

She furrowed her brow at his lecherous grin.

“Fine,” he said. “What are you offering for dinner?”

“We have left-overs or I can make you a sandwich or…”

“Sandwich would be wonderful,” he said.

He stood at the kitchen bar while Jill made him a turkey sandwich. She watched him gulp down every bit.

“Happy?” he asked.

“Are you sufficiently restored?” she asked.

She laughed at his mock indignation. Turning in place, she started toward their bedroom. Laughing, he chased her.

~~~~~~~~

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