Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Denver Cereal : Chapter Ninety-One : Wish we didn't have to


Sunday — 11:16 A.M.


Blane yelled as he ran in the house. Slamming the door, he ran toward where he could hear her voice.


“We’re in here,” she said.

He jogged toward the den off the kitchen. Heather was sitting in a rocking chair with Mack on her shoulder.

“Hi,” she said. “How are you?”

“Missed you guys,” Blane said. “Can I?”


Standing, Heather held Mack out to him. Impulsively, Blane hugged them both. Heather laughed. He kissed her cheek then took Mack from her. Mack made a happy sound in recognition of Blane. He kissed Mack’s face then settled him on his shoulder.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

“I’ve been at the hospital with Sam and…. I’m just happy to have you guys.” He smiled at her. “That’s all.”

She hugged him.

“Sorry you missed church,” Blane said.

“Mack and I went with the girls. We just got back,” Heather said. “He was an angel.”

“You fed him before you went?”

“In the car. Like his Mama, he’s happy with a full belly,” Heather laughed. “Can I get you something?”

“No, I’m just home for a shower. I have to help Jake today. Does that work for you?”

“Of course,” Heather said.

“Jake’s has a big mess today. The sites were closed yesterday and the Castle’s falling down and… Oh it doesn’t matter.”

Blane kissed Mack’s cheek and held his arm out for Heather. She tucked herself into him.

“How’s Delphie?” Heather asked.

“She still thinks she’s dead,” Blane said. “If we weren’t so freaked out for her, it would be pretty funny. She comes home tomorrow.”

“Are you working at the Castle?”

Blane nodded. Shifting away, he gave Mack back to her.

“I should keep moving. Let’s have dinner tonight,” he said. “Just us. I’ll make something yummy.”

“It’s a date,” Heather said.

“You’re sure you’re all right? You seem a little blue.”

“There was a note from Enrique when I got back,” Heather said.

“Oh? What did it say?” Blane asked.

He pointed up the stairs to the shower. She followed him up.

“I didn’t open it,” she said.

“Go ahead.”

While he got ready to shower, she and Mack went back downstairs to get Enrique’s note. He was in the shower when she returned.

“He says that he’s been sober for four days. He moved out of his house and Calvin is moving out at the end of the month. He starts with a therapist tomorrow.”

“Anything else?” Blane asked.

“He loves you,” she said.

“Why would a note from Enrique make you blue?”

“Oh,” Heather said. “What am I going to do when you and Enrique get back together?”

“You’re my wife,” Blane said. “He’s my past. I don’t get the conflict.”

“You wouldn’t,” Heather said. She was halfway down the stairs when he caught up with her.

“Hey! Don’t do that,” he said. “Please. We don’t do this. We’re honest, say what’s on our minds. We don’t play these games.”

She nodded. Naked and dripping water, he took her hand and led her back to the bathroom. He pointed to the toilet and she sat down. She settled Mack in her arms while he finished showering. She gave him a towel when he stepped out of the shower.

“What’s going on?” Blane asked.

“I’m feeling sorry for myself,” Heather said.

“The doctor said we should watch for post partum depression because you’ve been depressed before. Is this the same?”

“I just…”

Blane wrapped the towel around his trim waist. Heather fussed with Mack to keep having to admit her sadness.

“Delphie told me today that you and I are soul mates,” Blane said.

Heather’s head jerked up.

“It sounds crazy,” he said. “But she says there are types of soul mates that aren’t lovers or romantically involved or whatever we’re doing. She said your soul and my soul are linked. We’re supposed to be together, to make a family together. That’s why it took one conversation on a plane and we’ve been happy ever since. You’re happy, right?”

“Very happy,” Heather said. “That’s the problem. I’m terrified it will go away. You’ll get together with Enrique and I’ll…”

“I’m not going anywhere. Do you want to go anywhere?”

Heather shook her head.

“I’ve never been this happy,” Blane said. “I’ve been at that hospital all weekend. Before you and Mack came along, I was completely alone. Even with Sam and Val and Jake and everyone else, you make my family. If I get involved with someone else, he’ll just have to deal with that. You and I are soul mates. Does that feel true?”

“Delphie told me we were meant to be together on the plane,” Heather said. “She just seemed so odd that I…”

“She’s much odder now that she’s convinced that she’s dead. She won’t speak directly to anyone but Sam and Jake. She makes commentary to the rest of us. ‘Oh Jake, you know Blane and Heather are soul mates.’ It’s pretty odd.”

Heather nodded.

“Are you depressed?”

“I don’t think so,” Heather said. “I’m tired.”

“It’s a lot – a newborn and all this drama. Do we have Molly’s kids again today?”

“No, Pete and Aden are moving to Canon City this afternoon. Molly’s home with them.”

“I can stay home today…”

“No, go. Jake wouldn’t ask for help if he didn’t really need it,” Heather said. “They’ve been really amazing since Mack was born.”

“Why don’t I make some brownies before I go?”

“On the diet again,” Heather shook her head. “I’m still have twenty pounds to lose.”

“Tell you what,” he said. “Tomorrow, we’ll workout together. Running, lifting, only healthy food. But today I’ll make you…”

“Chocolate cake?”

“Coming right up,” he said. “Can you take it easy today? Watch movies and hang out with Mack?”

“He’s not too much work,” she nodded.

“Should I call the girls?”

“No, you’re right. I just need a break.”

He nodded. Sitting on their bed, she followed him into their bedroom and watched him get dressed.

“Do you want to move back into your bedroom?” she asked. “You’re not sick anymore and Mack…”

“No,” Blane said. “I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life. Do you want your own bedroom?”

She shook her head.

“Let it rest, Heather,” he said. “Everything is fine. Come on, let’s make a cake.”

He picked up Mack’s bassinette and carried it to the kitchen. They settled him on the counter and laughed their way through making a cake. Blane frosted one layer of cake in the pan. He gave her the frosted warm cake.

“I never did this for Enrique,” he said. “I would only let him have a completed project. No samples. You get anything you ask for. Ask me and it’s yours.”

“Do you love me?”

“I do,” he said.

“Oh, really?” she blushed.

“Yes,” he said. “Do you love me?”

“Yes, a lot,” she said. Her eyes welled with tears.

“And sex?”

“Not since we tried it that time,” she gave him a watery smile. “Too weird.”

“Weird is a word for it,” he laughed.


“No buts. Let’s just enjoy it.”

“No buts.” She nodded.

He held her tight, kissed her cheek, squeezed her hand then went out the door. Heather smiled.

Everything was fine. She was loved. She was happy. He was happy. She’d just have to get used to it.


Sunday — 1:35 P.M.

Jill looked across the kitchen table at Sandy and Honey. Valerie sat down next to her at the table.

“I asked you guys…”

There was a crash from the living room where Jake, Blane and a crew of men worked to clear the wreckage from the incident with Levi Johansen. The women looked toward the kitchen door. They were filling a second roll off dumpster with debris and furniture.

Honey, MJ and Sam had moved out of their wing of the Castle. With the Chapel destroyed, a portion of the Castle was no longer structurally stable. Sam had moved into an apartment on the second floor while MJ and Honey had moved into an apartment in the basement. Jacob had installed a stair lift so Honey could get to the gym. She would be able to get up and down the stairs to the basement when MJ wasn’t home.

Valerie got up to switch off the screaming tea kettle.

“Tea?” Valerie asked.

The women shook their heads. Valerie made herself some peppermint tea and sat back down.

“Why did you want to talk to us Jill?” Valerie asked.

“Delphie usually cooks all our meals,” Jill started.

“She puts groceries in our refrigerator,” Sandy said.

“Ours too,” Honey said. “I haven’t been to the grocery store since we moved in here. Delphie has taken care of all of that.”

“Right,” Jill said. “I think we need to assume she won’t do that for a while.”

“What do the doctors say?” Sandy asked.

“Her brain damage, plus her psychic predisposition, have precipitated in a mental state…” Valerie stopped. Her eyes welled with tears. “She thinks she’s dead. They don’t know if she’ll get better. There isn’t a med or a therapy or…”

Overwhelmed with sadness, Valerie stopped talking. A fat tear slid down her beautiful face. Jill put her hand on Valerie’s shoulder. Valerie wiped her face.

“We need to start taking care of some of the things around here,” Jill said. “Like the dogs, the house cleaning, the cooking, the shopping, and eventually the gardens. Did Mike turn the beds yesterday?”

“He’s doing it now. He’s worried about me and Delphie… He’s nervous about tonight’s art opening,” Valerie wiped her eyes. “We need to find someone to take care of the bees.”

“Is Nash still taking martial arts?” Honey asked Sandy.

“I was just thinking I could ask Colin about the bees,” Sandy said. “Good idea Honey.”

“What should we do about dinner? Do we still want to eat together?”

“I really like it,” Honey said. She blushed at her own exuberance. Valerie squeezed Honey’s hand. “It’s the best part of my day, especially since I’ve been doing this trial or when MJ’s gone.”

“I like it too,” Jill said. “Sandy?”

“Absolutely,” Sandy said. “It’s nice not to have dinner to worry about. Honestly, I don’t know if I can afford groceries for us. We still don’t have Aden’s money and probably won’t.”

“I can cover it,” Jill and Valerie said at the same time. They smiled at each other.

“We’ll get it covered,” Valerie said. “You need groceries for…”

“Breakfast, lunch, baking and dinners for nights Nash has soccer or Noelle has art class,” Sandy said. “With the kids, it’s probably a thousand, fifteen hundred a month, maybe more. These kids aren’t used to American cheese and hot dogs.”

“Ok, so someone needs to do the household shopping or organize a list if we want it delivered,” Valerie said.

“I don’t think the delivered stuff is as good,” Honey said.

“It’s expensive and you don’t get to pick your own vegetables,” Jill said.

“I’ll shop,” Honey said. “I think it would be fun.”

The women gawked at her. Sandy shifted uncomfortably.

“What?” Honey asked.

“Can you shop?” Valerie asked.

“Of course I can shop!” Honey said. “At least I think I can. Just because I’m in this wheelchair and have limited use of my hands doesn’t mean I can’t do it.”

“How about this?” Sandy asked. “Honey organizes the shopping and Jill or I will go with her to help.”

“I can go,” Valerie said.

“You and a billion photographers,” Jill said.

“I can still go,” Valerie said. “The photographers can’t go in the store.”

“Ok, one of us will go with Honey to help,” Sandy said. “Does that work?”

“I wonder if we could get Blane to cook dinner for us,” Valerie said. “He’s an amazing chef.”

Jill and Sandy gave Valerie a puzzled look.

“He went to Chef’s school. He used to be a Sous Chef at the Capital. He’s really amazing. Have you had his chocolate cake?”

“To. Die. For.” Jill said. Sandy nodded.

“He’d probably do it,” Valerie said. “But with Mack and everything, it’s kind of a lot to ask.”

“I can cook,” Jill said.

The women looked at her with doubt.

“Really,” Jill said. “I used to cook all our meals when I was a kid. That was my household job. I’m not a Chef, but I can cook. With school and working for Jake, I have time to do it.”

“I’ll make bread and pastries,” Sandy said. “That would be fun for me.”

“I’ll work out a menu for the week,” Honey said. “I’ll coordinate everyone’s contributions into a schedule and do the shopping.”

“Wow, that’s a lot Honey. Are you sure?” Valerie asked.

“I want to do it,” Honey said. “MJ and I… We really like living here. It’s the least I can do.”

“What will I do?” Valerie asked.

“You’re going back to Prague, right?” Jill asked.

“Next Sunday. But I’ll be home in four weeks. Then I’m here until we have the baby.” Valerie’s face clouded again. “If we have the baby.”

Jill hugged Valerie. Valerie sighed then pushed her sadness away.

“When I get back, I can help run the household. If Delphie’s not better, we’ll need to plant the gardens, mow the lawn, take care of the maintenance, and…”

“Delphie does a lot for us,” Sandy said.

The women nodded.

“We need to do this for her,” Jill said.

“We can do this,” Honey said. “I’ll get everything organized. Maybe I’ll ask Blane if he could cook Sunday dinner.”

“That’s a great idea,” Sandy said. “We can have everyone here for Sunday dinner. I’d like that.”

The women nodded in agreement to Sandy.

“We can do this,” Jill repeated.

“I wish we didn’t have to,” Honey said.


Sunday afternoon — 2:45 P.M.

“You know you’re alive,” Celia chided Delphie.

“I know nothing of the kind,” Delphie replied.

They were sitting outside on a small patio. Delphie had begged for some time to herself. Sam had helped her to the patio then left her to her self. She’d spent most of her meditation arguing quietly with Celia.

“Can you feel pain? Sadness? Rage?” Celia asked.

“Yes,” Delphie said.

“Then you’re alive,” Celia said. “Why would you want to be dead?”

“I’m dead like you,” Delphie said.

“Then why can Sam see you?” Celia asked. “Talk to you? Hold your hand?”

“What are you? The alive or dead police?”

“I’m your best friend,” Celia said. “I want you to live every moment of this life to its fullest. It’s a miracle that you’re still alive.”

“No, I’m not.”

“It’s unlike you to be so stubborn. What’s going on with you?”

Delphie looked at the apparition of her best friend, her beloved Celia. She had no logical response to Celia’s sincere and loving question. Delphie’s mind drifted to the crushing moment she felt completely alone. Lying on the Castle living room floor, Delphie knew she would be alone for an eternity. Losing everyone was the most horrible thing that had ever happened to her. Delphie shook the loss from her head.

“Why is it better to be dead?” Celia asked.

Like a tiny spark, her mind replied: ‘I can’t lose them again.’ The spark was gone before Delphie was even aware it.

“It’s not better. It just is,” Delphie said.

Celia laughed.


Sunday evening — 5:15 P.M.

“But why can’t I take out Melinda?” Nash whined. “Dad would let me date.”

Nash had returned from snowboarding angry and ready for a fight. He’d been needling Sandy for weeks about dating. Tonight he would not let up. Noelle had tried to intervene, but finally gave up and went to her room.

“Your father is not here,” Sandy said. “Get dressed. We’re leaving in a few minutes.”

“You think of me as a child!” Nash shifted into a full blown rant. “You want me to be a little itty baby. I’m not a baby. I have a job! I want to have a girlfriend! How hard is that?”

“Nash,” Sandy touched the boy’s shoulder. He shrugged her off. “Why are you so angry tonight?”

“Why do you care? You just want me to do what I’m told and shut up. Well, I’M NOT GOING TO SHUT UP.”

With all her might, Sandy wished Delphie was here. Delphie always knew how to handle Nash when he was angry.

“Good to know,” Sandy said.

“I HATE you” Nash gestured at her with his cast. “And I HATE this!”

He stomped down the hall to his room. The apartment vibrated when he slammed his door. Sandy plopped down on the couch. She heard Noelle try to talk to Nash. He screamed at her. Dressed in her best dress, Noelle came out to sit on the couch next to Sandy. The little girl and the woman sat on the couch staring at nothing for few moments. Sandy sighed.

“I better go talk to him,” Sandy said.

Sandy went down the hall and to Nash’s bedroom. Opening the door, she found him lying face down on the bed. She sat next to him on the bed and softly stroked his back.

“Nash,” Sandy said. “Dating is a big deal. If you want to take Melinda, or any girl out, you have to have the skills to do it well. Otherwise, it’ll just be hard and awkward.”

“Why do you think I don’t have the skills?”

“I don’t know if you do or don’t,” Sandy said. “We need to figure out what you need to learn. When you’re ready, you can ask Melinda out. You didn’t give me a chance to say that before you got so upset.”

“She probably hates a loser like me anyway,” Nash said.

“She’s going to Mike’s art opening tonight,” Sandy said. “You could see if she hates you there.”

Nash didn’t move or say anything.

“I know this has been really hard on you,” Sandy said. “It’s hard for all of us. But it only works if we’re a team. When you’re upset, we’re upset. Do you really hate this?”

Sandy leaned forward when she heard a ‘No.’

“We’re all heartbroken about Delphie,” Sandy said.

Nash’s back began to heave.

“She’s coming home tomorrow.”

Nash rolled over. He threw himself into Sandy’s arms. Sandy held the crying boy.

“I should have done something,” Nash said. “I didn’t do anything for Dad and I didn’t do anything for you and I didn’t do anything for Delphie and…”

“You did something for all of us,” Sandy said.

“No I didn’t,” Nash said. “I let you get hurt and…”

“You loved us,” Sandy said. “That’s all that matters to me, your Dad and Delphie.”

“It’s not enough,” Nash said. “Dad’s in a coma and Delphie’s in the hospital and…”

Hearing a noise, Sandy turned to see Noelle standing in the doorway. Crying, Noelle ran to the bed to join their hug. She held the weeping children.

No amount of cookies or brownies would fix this situation. Sandy was at a loss for what to do to make things better. She just hung on for dear life. After a few minutes, she sighed.

“We need to get ready to go,” she said. “This is a big day for our friend Mike. He’s asked us to be there with him. He’s pretty nervous. I think we would be crummy friends if we let our own problems keep us from being there for him.”

Nash and Noelle nodded.

“Sometimes, we have to just put away what we feel so we can be there for someone else,” Sandy said.

“Is that what you do with us?” Nash asked.

“Sometimes,” Sandy said. “Sometimes I feel sorry for myself and eat Girl Scout cookies.”

“What kind of Girl Scout cookies?” Nash asked.

“Any,” Sandy smiled. She stroked his hair then hugged him. “Are we all right?”

“Yeah,” he said.

“Are we all right?” Sandy hugged Noelle.

“Of course,” Noelle said. “Nash, you have to get dressed. Fancy dress.”

“I do?” Nash returned to whining.

“Dating skill #1,” Sandy said. “You have to be able to dress up even when you don’t feel like it. And fast. You have five minutes.”

Nash hopped off the bed and began rifling through his closet. Chuckling to herself, Sandy led Noelle from his bedroom. Five minutes on the mark, Nash arrived from his bedroom in dress pants, a nice shirt and a jacket. Sandy helped him with his tie.

They jogged down the stairs and out to the driveway where they joined Jill, Jacob, Katy, Honey, and MJ in the back of a limousine.

“Everything all right?” MJ asked Nash. “You seemed a little upset.”

“I need to learn dating skills,” Nash said.

“Don’t we all,” Jacob said.

At that moment, the driver took off from the Castle. They were off to Mike’s big event.


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