CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED and FIFTEEN
“You’re a prostitute right?” the only brunette at the table said.
“No, she was a prostitute,” the platinum blonde woman said. “Remember?”
“We certainly can see how you tricked Aden into marrying you,” the first woman nodded to Sandy’s belly.
“Tricked Aden? What are you talking about?” Sandy asked. “I met Aden…”
“As a prostitute. Yes we know,” the brunette woman said. “Can’t blame a single man for seeking a little company.”
“Aden’s never seen a prostitute.” Sandy jumped to her feet. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“It’s alright. We’re very liberal here,” the platinum blonde woman said. “We just don’t want your… values to influence our daughters.”
“Maybe you should speak with your daughters and not me.” Sandy turned away from the table and said, “I think…”
“Sandy!” Bambi, Honey’s boss, gave Sandy a hug. “I’m so glad to see you. I don’t know a soul. My goodness, you’re shaking like a leaf.”
Bambi toward the table.
“What did you do?” Bambi asked the platinum blonde woman. “This is Aden’s wife, the mother of his children.”
“We know what she is,” the brunette said.
“Oh my God,” Bambi said. “You haven’t gotten over it. Have you?”
“Gotten over what?”
“She has a terrible crush on Aden,” Bambi said. “Tell Sandy why nothing happened.”
Bambi stretched up to her entire six feet. The woman wouldn’t look at her.
“Fine,” Bambi said. “I’ll tell her. Aden told her what he has told every woman for the last six or seven years. He was in love with someone else. Remember. That’s what he told you.”
The woman glared at Bambi.
“That was Sandy,” Bambi said. “Aden’s been crazy about Sandy since my Ally was two or three. And you know they met at the gym.”
The brunette looked away. Bambi glared at the other women.
”You disgust me,” Bambi said to the women. “Come on, Sandy. There are plenty of free tables.”
Bambi grabbed Sandy’s arm and pulled her over to another table.
“Noelle?” Bambi waved to Noelle. “We’re over here.”
Noelle’s smile brightened when she saw Bambi. Bambi found an empty table and sat Sandy in a chair. Noelle set down Sandy’s plate of food then ran back to the buffet. Bambi’s daughter brought her a plate of food and ran after Noelle.
“They said I was a prostitute,” Sandy said when she caught her breath. “I tricked Aden into marrying me.”
“They’re just jealous,” Bambi said.
“You’re the boss’s wife,” Bambi said. “Their husbands are merely site managers. You know, not everyone was thrilled when Jake elevated Aden to CEO. Those hornets thought their husband’s should have the position. You watch. They’re going to try to make that happen at the owner’s meetings.”
“It was about you,” Bambi said. “No, it’s about Aden. They see how much the kids love you, how happy Aden is and they’re jealous. Plus, they know Aden beat up your father.”
“They said my influence made their daughter’s over sexual,” Sandy whispered.
Shaking her head, Bambi laughed.
“Those girls are as bad as their mothers,” Bambi said. “Whores. All of them. You think their husband’s can afford all those diamonds? Each one of them has some side action. They’re disgusting and the girls aren’t much better. Why did you sit there?”
“Noelle wants to be just like them,” Sandy said.
“Can’t blame her. She doesn’t know any better,” Bambi said. “Give her time. Now that she has a mom to talk to, I bet she’ll want to be something else. Certainly, we love having Noelle around our house. Ally and Noelle enjoy each other. Why don’t we set up some time over the summer?”
Sandy looked up to see Noelle and Ally chatting and walking back with full plates. For the first time, she looked around the room. There was at least a hundred women there with their daughters. She waved to a few of her clients. Turning back to Bambi, she smiled.
“Thanks for the rescue,” Sandy said.
“Anytime. I’m sure you’d do it for me,” Bambi said.
“In a heart beat,” Sandy said.
“If I’d known that was going to happen, I would have been on time,” Bambi said. “Between you and me? I dread these things.”
“A lot of these women don’t work,” Bambi said. “They aren’t fond of women working with their husbands. Celia Marlowe would roll over in her grave.”
“It’s nice to have a little solidarity here,” Bambi said. “This is the first one any of the Lipson women have come to. Look, there’s another woman site manager. Have you met the controller? She’s here with her daughter. Let’s wave them over.”
Sandy watched Bambi wave a few women over to their table. Their smiling faces put Sandy at ease. These women made a big fuss over Sandy’s big pregnant belly. They even seemed glad to see her. Bambi relayed what happened to Sandy and the women looked horror struck.
“One thing is for sure,” Bambi said. “I’m going to tell their husbands.”
“If you don’t, I will,” the other site manager said.
They clammed up the moment Noelle and Ally returned. Looking up, the controller waved another woman and her daughter over to the table. Soon the table was filled with laughing women and their daughters. Sandy let down her guard and joined in the conversation.
Noelle seemed to be in seventh heaven. Her eye’s big, she watched the women talk back and forth with each other. When the women laughed, Noelle laughed to. When they started the program, Noelle reached for Sandy’s hand. Sandy moved her between her legs so they could snuggle in the dark.
But when the lights came up, Sandy could see something had transpired between the other women at the table. When Noelle took their empty plates to the tub, Sandy asked what was going on.
“Will you ask, Bambi?” the controller said.
Sandy braced herself for whatever might come.
“We were wondering if you’d do our hair,” Bambi said.
“Your hair?” Sandy laughed.
“Well, yeah,” another woman said. “It’s the only reason I came.”
“Me too,” the controller said.
The other women nodded.
“Of course,” Bambi said. “Why do you think these women keep looking over here?”
“Just call me,” Laughing at herself, Sandy said. “I’ll fit you in.”
“She’s the best hair cutter in the city,” Noelle said.
Noelle grabbed Sandy’s purse and passed out her card. Once the cards came out, women began approaching the table. One after another, they asked about getting their hair done. When Sandy ran out of cards, Noelle started writing the number on napkins.
Stuffed full of cake, the girls went back to finish their school day. Sandy walked Noelle to her class then followed Bambi to the parking lot. Bambi gave Sandy a big hug. After promises for hair appointments and play dates, Sandy got into Aden’s SAAB. She sat for a moment, then started the car. She wasn’t out of the Marlowe School parking lot before her cell phone rang.
“Sandy, I…” Aden started.
But Sandy laughed.
“Some people are just awful,” Sandy said. “I think this goes with being the boss’s wife.”
“You’re all right?” Aden asked. “I can come home or meet you or…”
“I’m all right,” Sandy said. “Grateful for Bambi. Did she call?”
“She did,” Aden said. “I’m so sorry. I… Did they really say you were a prostitute?”
“I was a prostitute,” Sandy said. “The Denver Post broke that news.9News had a field day with it for weeks.”
His silence relayed his overwhelming guilt. Finally, he spoke.
“It’s okay,” Sandy said. “Noelle had a fabulous time. To me, that’s all that matters.”
“You’re amazing,” Aden said. “I owe you one.”
“Flowers? Candy? Or Diamonds?” Aden asked.
“How about dinner – just you and me – our house after we put the kids to bed,” Sandy said.
“You’re on,” Aden said. “I’ll make Chinese Food.”
“My favorite,” Sandy said. “Pete’s or Dragon Café.”
“My culinary skills are vast,” Aden laughed.
“Remember we are meeting Social Services at five tonight,” Sandy said.
“I’ll be there,” Aden said. “Love you.”
“Yeah, me too,” Sandy said.
Setting down the phone, Sandy drove to her shop. Pete met her at the door with a pint of her favorite ice cream to check to see if she was ‘really and truly okay.’ They laughed and ate the ice cream together. A few minutes later, the bell rang. A client was waiting and it was time to work. Straightening her maternity top, she smiled at herself in the mirror. It was a good day.
Thursday afternoon —3:02 P.M.
“MITZI!” Charlie yelled.
He jumped out of the back of the SUV and ran toward the tall, rail thin girl walking along the sidewalk. Defensive, she flipped around.
“Don’t call me that… CHARLIE!” Sissy said.
Charlie picked his sister up off the sidewalk in a hug. She was crying so hard he didn’t dare let her go. He held her tight.
“Charlie, I thought you were dead,” she said. “I thought you were dead. I… Oh Charlie.”
In a typical sister reversal, she shrugged him off her.
“Where have you been!?!” Sissy punched him in the chest. “I’ve been crazy with worry!”
In a classic brother move, he gave her a sheepish look and shrugged. Shaking her head, she continued walking. Charlie fell in beside her. She stopped walking when Charlie began to cough from the excitement.
“You need a doctor!” Sissy said.
“I… have… one,” Charlie said between coughing. “I got beat up… was in the hospital… for a… week… have pneumonia… Hepatitis…”
With Sissy banging on his back, Charlie coughed until he stopped. She held out her water bottle for him.
“I came to get you.” Charlie took a long drink from Sissy’s water bottle.
“I can’t go anywhere, Charlie,” Sissy said. “I have to go home. Mom will kill me if I’m not there when she gets home.”
“She doesn’t get home until five twenty three,” Charlie said. “We’re going for burgers and I wanted you to meet everyone.”
“You and your friends?” Sissy put her painfully thin arms on her thin hips. “Burgers and fries? You mean you want me to buy you and your friend’s lunch.”
“Me and our family,” Charlie said. “I’ve been staying with Sandy and her husband.”
“Sandy!” Sissy’s face brightened. For a moment, a beautiful young girl shone through her almost skeletal features. She repeated, “Sandy!”
“Come on,” Charlie pointed toward the SUV. “We can get burgers and fries and get you back before Mom comes home. Or at least that’s what Teddy’s Dad said.”
Sissy pulled a fist full of bills from her pocket.
“I’ve been saving all my food money for you,” Sissy held the money out to Charlie.
“It’s all paid for,” Charlie pushed her hand back to her. “You don’t have to save for me anymore. I’m going to take care of you for a while.”
With her hand still extended, Sissy shook her head at him.
“How?” she whispered.
“We’re going to live with Sandy,” Charlie said. “I have it all arranged with her husband, Aden. You’ll like him and the kids. Come on. Everyone is waiting for us.”
Charlie started walking toward the car.
“Everyone?” Sissy’s hands went to her face in horror. She began to shake.
“Come on, Sissy,” Charlie said. “They are really nice. They want to meet you. Plus…”
Shaking her head back and forth, Sissy’s eyes spoke her horror.
“God Sis, I hate this,” Charlie said.
Charlie’s impatience with his sister was palpable. He grabbed her arm and tried to pull her along. She was too scared to move. Hearing footsteps, he turned to see Noelle running out of the SUV. Noelle threw her arms around Sissy.
“I’m so excited to meet you,” Noelle said. “We’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting. We bugged Charlie but he couldn’t get here. And then Teddy’s Dad has us this afternoon because Daddy and Mom… Sandy, she’s my Mom now… They are meeting with Social Services to finalize having you come live with us. And we’re staying with Teddy. And Charlie asked if you could come. To lunch. And Teddy’s Dad said he’d like to meet you. And Nash is really excited too. See, he’s waiting by the car. That’s my brother. Teddy’s inside. He’s Nash’s best friend. He’s my boyfriend or sort of my boyfriend.”
“They haven’t been on a date yet,” Charlie said. “Dating rules.”
Sissy started crying again.
“Please come with us,” Noelle said. “I prayed and wished and hoped for a sister and here you are! You’re perfect and we want you to be our sister. Look, there’s Nash.”
Nash ran over to them. Not sure of how he could help, his hands moved like helicopters over the hugging girls. Charlie put his arms around Noelle and Sissy. Nash hugged the girls from the other side. They heard the doors of the SUV close. Teddy and his Dad came over to the children.
“We’d love it if you came to lunch with us,” Teddy’s Dad, Zack Jakkman, said.
“How will I pay for it?” Sissy said.
“It’s all taken care of,” Teddy’s Dad said.
The children shifted back so Sissy could speak with Teddy’s Dad. Sissy eyes took in the handsome man. Blue eyes. Dark hair. Nice smile. Fit, healthy, with an air of ‘can do.’ She blushed and pulled on her dress.
“You’re Sandy’s pilot,” Sissy said.
“I am,” Teddy’s Dad smiled. “It’s nice to finally meet you.”
“What about Mom?” Sissy asked. “If I live with Charlie, what will Mom do?”
Teddy stepped toward the girl.
“My mom’s a mess. Nash’s too,” Teddy said. “Dad just tells me to love her. That’s my job. And that’s what I do.”
“I do that too,” Nash said. “Even if my mom can’t love me, I can love her.”
“I love you, Sissy,” Noelle hugged her again. “You can share my room.”
“Let the adults work out what happens with your mother,” Teddy’s Dad said. “We adults are slow at getting it done, but we eventually get there. My understanding is that Social Services was already planning to place you in foster care. Staying with Sandy and Aden is a much better option.”
Trying to understand, Sissy held the man’s eyes. The man smiled.
“I’m pretty new to Denver,” Teddy’s Dad said. “Nash read a review of Encore Restaurant. I guess they have the best burgers in town. The kids wanted to try it.”
“It’s across the street from East High School,” Charlie said.
“And lots of cute girls,” Nash said.
Sissy nodded and Noelle let go.
“The boys always want to be around cute girls,” Noelle said.
“I know I do,” Teddy said. Noelle smiled at him and he blushed. “Well just one.”
“Please come to lunch,” Teddy’s Dad said.
Sissy nodded again. With a little more encouragement from Noelle, Sissy walked to the SUV. Nash and Charlie sat in the back so Sissy could sit with Noelle and Teddy.
“Off we go,” Teddy’s Dad said. “Anyone have a problem if I listen to country music?”
The kids groaned.
Thursday afternoon —4:02 P.M.
“There’s no mistake?” MJ asked the doctor.
They were standing next to the nurses’ station.
“No, Sergeant,” the doctor said.
“But last time…” MJ started.
“This isn’t last time,” the doctor said. “You must think positive thoughts. Your thoughts make the biggest difference.”
“You’re sure,” MJ said again.
“There’s no mistake, Sergeant.” The doctor looked up as Honey wheeled out toward them. “We’ll see you in a month?”
“Yes, sir,” MJ said.
Taking the handles, MJ wheeled Honey to the front desk where they made their next appointment. He helped her into the passenger seat of his SUV then went around the back to get in.
“I told you so,” Honey said. “We’re going to have a baby.”
“We’re going to have a baby,” MJ said. “You’re sure you want to have a baby with me? I travel a lot and…”
“It’s a little to late for that,” Honey smiled. “Everything is set up. We can do this.”
Laughing, MJ started the car.
Thursday afternoon —9:30 P.M. PDT Hollywood, CA
“And that’s a wrap!” the Director said. “A round of applause for the best cast and crew any Director could hope for.”
While champagne bottled burst open, the cast and crew applauded each other’s work. For a moment, Valerie was in a crush of hugs and pats on the back. Mike’s height and bulk moved easily through the sea of people that wanted to touch Valerie. He stood near her while she finished talking to the other actors and crew. When the crowd thinned, he took her arm and helped her toward the door. They were stopped near the door by the Producer. The Director and Assistant Director came over to talk with them.
“We’ll see you very soon!” the Director said.
Valerie waved and Mike made it to the door. He helped her into the SUV where she collapsed into the seat. She was asleep when he got in the driver’s seat. He drove through the Hollywood traffic to the Chateau Marmot. She roused when he carried her into their little cottage. He stripped off her clothes and settled her into bed. After using the bathroom, he got in bed beside her.
“I didn’t shower,” Valerie mumbled.
“You’re just fine.”
“I smell,” she mumbled.
With a smile on her face, she fell asleep. Mike turned on his side to watch her sleep.
She’d worked her butt off on this movie. The cast and crew loved her. The Director already hired her to do the voice in an animated feature when she was pregnant. The producer cast her in another movie for next year. According to her agent, she was the hottest property in Hollywood.
Mike felt like he was in the eye of the hurricane.
Hottest property or no, for the next few months, he wouldn’t have to share her with the world. She would put the same work ethic into making their daughter the best she could be. They would live and love at the Castle.
He felt a little sad that the ‘becoming a star’ phase of their life was over. His mind reviewed the years of work and the disaster that had been their relationship. He sighed.
“What is it?” she asked.
“Life is changing,” he whispered.
“Not us?” she asked. Her large hazel eyes opened then closed. Puzzling, she opened her eyes again to see him.
“No, not us,” he whispered. “Just life.”
“Oh good,” she said. “The way you sighed, I thought something was wrong.”
Mike smiled at a typical Val sentiment. As long as her relationships were good, Valerie could take on anything. He opened his mouth to say something but she was asleep again.
Smiling, he joined her.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
This work, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.