Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Denver Cereal : Chapter Ninety-Seven : Stealing happiness


Friday morning — 3:20 A.M.

“Don’t talk,” Jill said.

“But…” Jacob said.

“Not one more word,” Jill said. “My head is going to rotate off my shoulders.”

“You don’t get to dictate…”

“QUIET,” Jill said. “I need to get my head straight.”

Jacob stood up from their living room couch. He opened his mouth. Jill shook her head.

“Shhhh,” Jill said.

Jacob closed his mouth and walked to their kitchen. He filled two glasses of water then carried them back. Her eyes glanced up at him. She took the water then returned to staring out the front window. He sat down next to her. When he touched her, she moved away from him.

“Listen…” he started.

She glared at him then looked away. Jacob shook his head and leaned back on the couch. After hours of screaming at each other, he should be grateful for the peace and quiet.

He’d never seen Jill so angry. Thinking they would have a romantic night, he’d opened a bottle of wine, lit some candles, and set out her favorite snack. Romantic was not a word for this night. The fact that Katy was still asleep was a miracle.

He looked over at Jill. Even angry, she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever met, known, touched, talked to, or slept with. He would never risk losing her. Never.

She’d already said she was leaving tonight. He should be happy she was still sitting here.

“I’m going to talk,” Jill said. “And you’re going to be silent.”

“Why don’t I get to talk? You’re not some queen here, Jill. I…”

Shaking her head, she got up from the couch.

“I can’t do this,” she said. “I’m tired of fighting with you. I’m going to pack my things. I’ll sleep with Katy tonight. We’ll be gone in the morning.”

“You cannot take my child from me.”

“Maybe you should have thought of that before you fucked your secretary!”

“Jill… I never ever…”

“Save it for someone who believes your bull shit. I’m not doing this again,” Jill said. “I will not subject my child to anger and hostility because of some lying cheating… bastard.”

Jill turned to face him. She opened her mouth, then shaking her head she walked to their bedroom.

“STOP!” Jacob said.

And everything stopped.

Unable to move, Jill was stuck in place. Tears began to roll down her paralyzed face. Jacob let out a breath and everything began moving again.

She flew at him.

“How dare you?”

She came at him with her palms out. He caught her hands to keep them away from his body.

“I didn’t know I could do that,” he said. “I’m… sorry. I’ve never done that before. I’ve never felt this desperate before.”

“Let go of me!”

“Don’t infest my body with some horrible cancer.”

“Cancer? Why? Are you afraid your girlfriend will get it?”

“Please, Jill, please. This is me, Jacob, not Trevor. Me. I have a lot of baggage. I’m not perfect. I am a deeply flawed individual but I don’t cheat. I’ve never cheated on anyone, ever.”

“Then what is Miss Precious going to tell the papers?”

“We’ve been around and around about this,” Jacob said. “I don’t take my phone with me when I go to lunch with family. I went to lunch with Blane and Heather on Wednesday. I met with Aden’s probation officer on Wednesday afternoon. That’s the time that those texts were sent. I didn’t send them. I didn’t even see them until you found them.”

She turned her face away from him.

“Think about it Jill,” Jacob said. “Have I ever said the kinds of things that are in those texts? Have I ever sent you texts like that?”

“Clearly you’re more passionate about the whore!”

“No, Jill, no,” he said. “I’m more passionate about you than I’ve been with anyone, ever, in my whole like.”

“Then why don’t you send me texts like that?”

“Because my mother would chop my hands off!” Jacob said. “Even now, she would wash my mouth out if I ever was so crude.”

Jill scowled at him.

“And anyway, that’s not love. It’s disgusting.”

“I don’t know you very well,” she said.

“Think Jill, think! I have all these powers. Why would I leave something secret on my phone for you to find?”

“You thought I wouldn’t look,” she said.

“We trade phones all the time. Why would I let you have my phone for a week if I was sexting some girl?”

“You have powers…” she said.


“And Katy’s not a bastard,” Jill said.

Jacob held his breath. Jill seemed to be calming down. But every time he’d thought that tonight, she got angry again.

“And you are my husband,” she said.

Jacob nodded.

“And why did you keep her?”


“Ava, the secretary, you moron!”

“I didn’t,” Jacob said. “I needed help. She’s only worked for me since all this crap with Johansen. Aden’s been in prison. Blane’s home with Mack. With Delphie crazed, Dad’s been home. It’s just me running the whole company. AND I ASKED YOU…”

He bit his lip to keep from screaming in frustration.

“You asked me what?”

“If you wanted me to get rid of her,” he said. “I asked you on Tuesday. You didn’t mind her then. Now that she’s made up lies about me, suddenly I should have done something or known something.”



Breathing hard, they stood nose to nose.

“God, how many times do I have to say that?? Delphie can’t either. You think she would have sent the dogs to the groomer if she knew Johansen would come that day? Do you honestly think she knew what was going to happen and just risked everyone she loves? Katy? Do you think I did?? I had no idea. None. I cannot see my own future. And Katy won’t be able to see hers either.”

“Can you erase texts from your phone?”

“Watch me,” he said.

He looked at the phone. The Blackberry blinked.

“Check it now,” he said.

The texts were gone. In his rage, the Blackberry went from cool to hot in an instant. Jill dropped it.

“Ow,” she said. She sucked on her singed fingers.

The Blackberry began to smoke. Flames burst from the phone. Jill threw her water on it. He picked up the phone and threw it in the trashcan.

“I’m never carrying one of those again,” Jacob said.

Jill gave him a steely, unbelieving look. She went to refill her glass. At the sink, he watched her shoulders slump forward and her head bow with sorrow. But when she turned around, she was all rage again. Hoping to stem more of her wrath, he began talking.

“This happened to us,” Jacob said. “Not to you. Or to me even. To us. I’ve been working my ass off to keep everything going while everyone else has needed some personal time. I’ve just worked. And fuck me for asking for some help.”

Jill raised her eyebrows and scowled at him.

“You don’t get it,” he said. “There are people in the world who steal happiness. They’ve been doing it to Valerie for years. They will trick, cheat, steal and manipulate to make sure they steal your happiness. That’s what this woman has done.”

Jill crossed her arms and shook her head.

“And you? You are letting her,” he said. “What about standing by your man? What about trusting me? What being on MY side? How do you think I feel that she said awful things to MY daughter? I was ready to kill her when she hurt Katy.”

Jill gasped. He shut his mouth.

“She what?” Jill asked. “What did she do to Katy?”

“She slapped her,” Jacob said.

Jill’s mouth dropped open in rage and shock.

“She blocked Katy from going into my office. Katy did one of her marital arts moves. She slapped Katy.”

Jill shook her head at Jacob and walked back to the couch. Feeling like a puppy dog, he followed her but his pride wouldn’t allow him to sit down. She rubbed her face.

“What?” he asked. “What now?”

“I believe you.”

“Why? I mean…”

He was so shocked he tripped over his feet and landed on the couch. Jill laughed. For a moment, her laughter was like a gift from the gods. He wanted to weep with joy.

“This is going to get really, really messy,” Jill said. “‘You must build a fortress around your love.’”

She turned to look at him.

“Your mother told me that,” Jill said. “I thought she was talking about Trevor and me. I didn’t remember until you said the woman slapped Katy. Your Mom must be here, right?”

“She came in about fifteen minutes ago…. When you were ready to give up on me.”

“Well, Celia, I’ll do my best,” Jill said. “But the doubt is…”

Jill shivered and collapsed into herself. Jacob risked putting a hand on her shoulder. She threw her arms around his neck.

“We’ll do it together. You and me. We’ll stand together,” he said.

“People will laugh at me again,” she whispered. “Everyone made fun of me because of Trevor. I was the butt of every joke. I always thought they were just jealous but… they were right. I was a fool.”

“Sandy didn’t make fun of you or Heather or Tanesha. No one that matters to you would ever make fun of you,” he said. “And I’ll never make fun of you. Never.”

“I feel so stupid, so ashamed.”

“For trusting me?”

“For being in this situation again,” she said.

“I wish I could make it go away,” he said. “Can you trust me?”

“No,” she said. “But I can try.”

“Try works. We’ll learn together.”

Her eyes carressed his face. Slowly, she began to nod. Their eyes connected and she whispered.

“I’ll try.”


Friday early morning — 4:15 A.M.

<“Dead.” Valerie whispered. “He’s dead.”

Mike rolled onto his side to look at her. With her back to him, Valerie was tucked up into a tight ball, sound asleep and weeping.

They had spoken only once about losing their son. Valerie had said she didn’t have anything more to say. Yet, every night, she cried for her son in her sleep.

“My baby’s dead.”

Mike wrapped himself around her. He had no idea how to help. The first couple nights, he’d awakened her. But awake, she had little memory of her sorrow. Even confronted by her tear stained face, Valerie denied being upset. She insisted that she was excited to be pregnant. Her due date was international pirate day and she’d been researching girl pirate names.

Awake, Valerie was all spice. She wanted to make love, workout, play with the kids and gossip with the girls. They’d been skiing, sledding and hiking. When she was awake, he could hardly keep up with her.

Asleep, she sobbed her heart out.


“I’m here,” he said.

He leaned around her head to see if she was awake. Her eyes were closed.<

“I love you,” he said.

“Baby… Mike, our baby…”

He rested his head on his pillow. Her crying brought up his own sorrow. He kissed her neck.

“I was going to call him Jack…” the rest of her words were lost in her sobs.

He held his breath. She was almost done.

“Jack’s dead… Mike, Jack’s dead… Mike?”

“I’m here,” he said.

“Mommy says Jack’s in heaven.”

He looked to see if she was awake. Her eyes were closed. As if something had been resolved, there was a sweet smile on her face. He leaned back on his pillow.

“I love you,” he whispered.

When she didn’t respond, he settled in to sleep. Every night it was the same. She wept over the loss of her child. She would eventually tell him that she’d named him Jack and finally that Jack was in heaven. In the morning, she would remember none of this. He waited for her last words.

“Jack’s in heaven.”

He couldn’t possibly love her more than he did right now. His son was in heaven, placed there by the biggest hearted, most amazing person he’d ever know, Valerie. He fell asleep with a smile on his face.


Friday mid-day — 12:10 P.M.

“Sorry I’m late,” Blaine said in Spanish.

Enrique stood to greet him. It was a warm day. He’d been sitting on the patio at Lime XS on Sixth Avenue. Unsure of whether to shake his hand or hug him, Blane nodded then sat down at the chair across from Enrique. Enrique followed Blane’s lead.

<“How is everything?” Enrique asked in Spanish.

“Great,” Blane said.

“You’re working?”

“Jake asked me to come back to work after some psycho chick messed everything up. I’ll work half days for a while,” Blane said. “Boy, it was hard to leave Mack and Heather this morning.”

“Thanks for meeting me for lunch,” Enrique said.

“I wanted to hear how you were doing,” Blane said.

The waiter came to take their order. When Blane ordered the shrimp fajitas, Enrique laughed.

“What?” Blane asked as the waiter walked away.

“You’re just very different,” Enrique said. “You used to be all steak all the time.”

“I don’t eat that much meat anymore,” Blane said. “We’re trying to eat a little better,” Blane said. “Lose the baby weight.”

“Did you gain weight too?”

“Of course,” Blane laughed. “Our last couple months of being pregnant, I was just off the Ribavirin. Any food was good food.”

“You look good, healthy,” Enrique said.<

They leaned back so the waiter could set down their iced tea.

“You wanted to see me?” Blane asked.

“I did,” Enrique said. “I’m going to stay at my brother’s home. Not because I’m still with Calvin. Calvin has moved out. We’re over and done with.”

“Then why not move home?”

“Tres is helping me with my sobriety,” Enrique said. “He’s going to meetings with me. Just knowing he’s going to be around helps me stay on the straight and narrow.”

“He’s your codependent now?”

“Good of you to ask,” Enrique laughed. “No, Tres doesn’t put up with my bullshit. He’s much saner than I am, more grounded. He started at AlAnon when I moved in. It’s only been a few weeks, but it’s going well.”

“Did you get a sponsor?”

“Yes,” Enrique said. “And therapist. I don’t like therapy much, but it’s good for me. And before you ask, I’m going to sell our old home.”

“Our home?”

“The one you made for me,” Enrique said. “The doctor says I have one year left at the most. I’m going to sell the house and use the money to get happy. I figure…”

The men leaned back to let the waiter set down their meals down. The men chatted back and forth with the waiter before he left.

“He’s cute,” Enrique said.

“I didn’t notice,” Blane said.

“Marriage has changed you?”

“No, Enrique, you changed me,” Blane said. “Being a father changed me. Being around someone as loving and kind as Heather has changed me. Getting my Chinese Medicine doctorate changed me.”

Enrique flushed.

“I don’t look at people for what I can get anymore. I look at people for what I can do for them,” Blane said. “I appreciate my life more and I understand how precious life is. What’s changed you?”

“I don’t feel changed,” Enrique said. “I feel… desperate.”

“Why are you desperate?” Blane raised an eyebrow.

“Little time left, sick… I don’t know, I feel out of time,” Enrique said.

“When you threw me out, you told me that you didn’t care if I lived one more day,” Blane said. “And for a long time, if you didn’t care if I lived, I didn’t care if I lived. Then I realized that all I really have is this day. One day became two. One year became four and… here I am.”

“But the doctors…”

“Don’t know everything,” Blane said. “Why not just live?”

They fell into silence while they ate their lunch. When the bill came Blane insisted on paying. They walked out to the parking lot together.

“Why don’t you call Heather and set up an acupuncture appointment?”

“I’d really like that,” Enrique said. “What time?”

“She keeps my schedule so I have no idea,” he said.

“I’ll see you soon then?”

Enrique held out his hand for Blane to shake. Blane hugged him.

“I’ll see you soon,” Enrique said.

Blane was almost to Lipson construction before he realized what had just happened. Finally, after all these years, he was over Enrique. Enrique wasn’t the love of his life. Enrique wasn’t his personal demon. Enrique was just a man.

Blane wondered what that meant.


Friday afternoon — 2:43 P.M.

“Now Delphinium, why would you want to be dead?” Jim Watts from Commercial Arts Glass asked.

<“I don’t want to be dead, Jim,” Delphie said. “It’s just something that happened.”

“Why can I talk to you?”

“Because I want my old Chapel put back the right way,” she said.

“You’re never going to use it,” he said.

“I’m planning on haunting the Chapel,” Delphie said.

“But Delphie…”

“Jim,” Sam shook his head. “Let’s talk about the windows. What condition are they in?”

“We can repair two maybe three of the windows,” he said. “We’ll have to start from scratch with the rest.”

“You still have pictures from when you repaired them?” Sam asked.

“You want to replace them as they were?” Jim asked. “We won’t be able to replace most of the glass. It’s old Kokomo glass. They are still in business so we can get close to the same thing, but not exactly the same.”

“I think that’s what we want,” Sam said.<

“You want the twelve stations of the cross?” Jim asked. “That’s what was there before. Delphie, do you want to haunt a room with Stations of the Cross windows?”

“Weellll,” Delphie said.

Sam and Jim looked at Delphie.

“I really hate the crucifixion and the one where he bleeds and…” Delphie said. “Which ones were saved?”

“The last two – death of Christ and the burial,” Jim said. “I have them in my truck. Do you want to check them?”

“No, I remember,” Delphie’s voice became stronger. “I would like to replace the windows with something beautiful from every religion.”

“You want new windows,” Jim said. “Now, that’s the Delphinium I know. Which religions?”

“I don’t know,” Delphie said. “I have to think about it.”

“Why don’t I start on the repair and you let me know about the others,” Jim said.

“That will be fine,” Sam said.

“I can see your garden is ready to plant,” Jim said.

“My garden?” Delphie gazed at the turned beds.

“What about your bees?” Jim asked. “How are they doing this spring?”

“I don’t have beehives,” Delphie said. “They flew away when they heard I was dead.”

“They look like they’re going to town to me,” Jim said.

Delphie walked past the turned empty garden beds to the beehives. She kneeled down between two of the hives to watch the bees come in and out.

“My bees,” Delphie said. “Didn’t leave.”

“Doesn’t look like it to me,” Jim said.

“Sam, why didn’t my bees leave?”

“Because you’re not dead,” Sam said.

Delphie blinked at Sam. She looked at Jim. Without saying another word, she turned in place and walked back to the house.


Saturday morning — 4:25 A.M.

Sandy opened her eyes. She’d felt something brush against her face. Rolling over, she jerked back.


Where was she? Where were the kids?

Moving to get up, she realized she was naked. Aden was naked.

Ah crap.

Denver Cereal continues next week…


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