CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED and SIX
Saturday evening — 5:45 P.M.
“There you are,” Sam said to Delphie.
She had just entered the door to their second floor Castle apartment. Still wet from a post-work shower, he had a towel wrapped around his hips. He helped her with her coat and kissed her hello.
“I was getting worried,” he said. He walked back to the bathroom.
“Worried?” Delphie asked.
Delphie went into the small galley kitchen and opened a bottle of red wine. She’d just poured two glassed when Sam came out wearing jeans and a T-shirt. He took the glasses and wine from her.
“All of this.” Sam carried the wine to their sitting area. “I worry that it’s too much.”
Sam waited for her to sit down, and then he gave her a glass of wine.
“I’m having a great time,” Delphie said. “I mean, not a great time… People are dead and their loved ones… But I like feeling useful.”
“Yes, I know,” Sam said.
“What are you worried about?” Delphie asked.
“So much death,” Sam said. “There are… How many bodies?”
“Twenty-four bodies so far,” Delphie said. “They span the last three decades.”
“That’s a lot of death,” Sam said.
Sam looked away from Delphie. They sat in silence for a moment.
“You can just say what you need to say,” Delphie said. “I’m not reading your mind.”
Sam smiled. She had to work extra hard to stay out of his head. She only did it because he asked.
“You’ve been happier, more active, involved with everyone, since this whole thing happened,” Sam said. “Like marrying Aden and Sandy. I don’t think you would have done that before. You would have left it up to the Goddess or waited until someone asked you.”
“I wouldn’t have married them like that before,” Delphie said. “I’m glad I did though.”
“I’m glad too,” Sam said. “It makes me happy to see you so alive. Especially after all that happened and almost losing you…”
“Why are you worried?” Delphie asked.
“You’re very sensitive and this is so dark,” Sam said. “I worry the dark will…”
“I have lots of experience with darkness, Sam,” Delphie said.
“I know.” Sam looked away from her. “I know.”
He fell silent. Delphie touched his chin and he looked at her again.
“I understand what you’re saying,” Delphie said. “And I hear the wisdom in it. It’s true, I am sensitive. I’ve always walked the line between dark and light. It’s been a rough journey.”
“I don’t think I was aware of how much Levi had affected me,” Delphie said.
“He had a hold on you all this time,” Sam said.
“I wasn’t aware of that,” Delphie said. “If I ever had an inkling, I discounted his influence.”
“You used to talk as if you knew he was affecting you.”
“I knew and I didn’t,” Delphie said. “Now that he’s gone, I feel light as a feather. There’s no barrier to the light now. I wake up every morning flooded with joy and light. I’ve never had so much energy or been as happy. I’ve wondered if it’s something Jill did for me.”
“Have you asked her?”
“I have,” Delphie said. “She said she can only restore what’s there, not create something that wasn’t there.”
“Levi took a lot from you,” Sam said.
“Yes he did,” Delphie said. “He also kept me from enjoying a lot of my life by blocking me from the light. I belong in the light.”
“Will you tell me if it gets to be too much?” Sam asked.
“I will,” Delphie said. “But I may not know. I have a pretty high tolerance for darkness so… Your concern is a helpful reminder to me.”
“You’re not a police officer,” Sam said. “You never said you wanted to work like this.”
“I don’t,” Delphie said. “But I’m not sure what I want to do with this half of my life. With the girls helping out at the Castle, I have more time to do other things. The freedom and light are new to me.”
Sam put his arm around her and she rested on his shoulder.
“I’ll tell you,” Delphie said. “I love helping these families. We met with fifteen families today. It was hard work, exhausting, but at the end, I felt like I had made a real difference in their lives. The Coroner said that without my help, they might not have found out these kids’ identities. Their families would have been in limbo forever.”
“I always feel really good when I help people,” Sam said.
“It’s hard to be out in the world, though,” Delphie said. “I’ve lived most of my adult life within these few blocks. I walk a block to work and come home. The dogs and I walk to the park every day. Outside of three or four trips to Maine, City Park is the farthest place I ever go. In the last week I’ve been all kinds of places. It’s uncomfortable and a little scary.”
“Do you want to learn to drive?” Sam asked.
“I was thinking about it,” Delphie said. “Would that be all right?”
“Sure,” Sam smiled. “You’re like a new Delphie.”
“Is that bad?” Delphie asked.
“I think it’s pretty normal,” Sam said. “I’m just excited to get to know the new adventurous you.”
“Shall we join the kids for dinner?” Sam asked. “Jill said we’re having…”
“Val’s Green Chili stew,” Delphie said. “I’m not that far out of the loop!”
“Sandy made homemade tortillas,” Sam said.
“Sounds wonderful,” Delphie said.
Setting down his empty wine glass, Sam stood. He held his hands out to her and pulled her into his arms.
“Just promise me you’ll take care of yourself,” he said.
“I promise,” Delphie said. “One near death experience is enough.”
He kissed her forehead. Taking her hand, they walked toward the door.
“Does this new Delphie want to get married?” he asked.
“I had to ask,” he said.
“I love that about you,” she said.
Smiling, he opened the door to their apartment.
“This Delphie says…” she said.
“You’re so traditional!” they said in unison.
Laughing, they went down the hall to join the others for dinner.
Sunday evening — 5:50 P.M.
“We’re just waiting for your Dad,” Sandy said. “Val made her fabulous green chili and Jill ordered the cake. You can go down if you want to.”
“We’ll wait with you, Mom,” Nash said.
“Can you check on Noelle?” Sandy asked.
Noelle had a rough afternoon. Around three, Noelle had a lack of sleep meltdown. Sandy, Jill and Katy had persuaded Noelle to take a long nap. She had been sleeping since then.
“I’m here,” Noelle’s eyes were swollen from tears but her smile was bright. “I feel better.”
Sandy held out her arms and Noelle came to give her a hug.
“Where’s Dad?” Noelle asked.
“I don’t know,” Sandy said. “Sam got home about an hour ago. Your Dad was supposed to come with him. Let’s go down to dinner. I’m sure he’ll show up. Can you help me carry the tortillas down?”
Sandy loaded Nash with a stack of flour tortillas wrapped in aluminum foil. She gave another stack to Noelle.
“These smell yummy,” Noelle said.
“They are!” Nash said. “I helped Mom make them.”
“I miss everything!” Noelle whined.
“We’ll have plenty of time to do everything,” Sandy said. “There’s never enough time to rest. Ok, let’s go before we’re late.”
Nash opened the door and started down the hall with his stack of tortillas. Noelle was about to follow when they heard: “Dad!” Nash followed Aden back to the apartment. Noelle hugged her father. Nash joined their hug.
“Sorry I’m late,” Aden said. “I was called in to Department of Corrections for a drug test. I’ve been there for the last couple hours. I tried to call but you didn’t answer.”
“We turned the phones off so Noelle could sleep,” Sandy said. “Sorry.”
“I had a meltdown this afternoon. That’s what Sandy, I mean Mom, calls them. A ‘meltdown’,” Noelle said. “Mrs. Jill told me that Katy gets them when she doesn’t sleep enough too.”
“Sorry sweetie.” Aden kissed the top of her head. “What made you so upset?”
“I was upset because I thought Sandy married another guy,” Noelle said.
“Instead, she became our Mom!” Nash said.
Aden flushed at the word. He looked at Sandy and she nodded.
“They’ve been calling me Mom all day,” Sandy said. “Now, we don’t want to be late for dinner because Big Sam loves green chili. We might not get any.”
Nash started out the door with his tortillas.
“Wait!” Aden said.
Nash turned around.
“I had to get my drug test because I got permission to take your Mom to dinner,” Aden said.
“Fancy dinner?” Noelle asked.
“Kevin Taylor’s fancy dinner,” Aden said.
“Nice,” Sandy said.
“Then we’re going to stay the night at the Hotel Teatro,” Aden said.
“Wow, really?” Sandy asked. “Are you sure you won’t get in trouble?”
“I have to call at each stop and go in again tomorrow morning. I figured it was worth it,” Aden said. “Jill said she’d be happy to take care of Nash and Noelle. Is that okay with you guys?”
“Sure,” Noelle said. “It’s so romantic!”
“Will you ask Mr. Jake…?” Nash started to ask.
“I’ll ask him,” Sandy said.
“Nash wants to play some X-Box 360 game with Jake,” Sandy said. “Jake said he would play with Nash, but he hasn’t had a lot of time.”
Aden gave her an infectious smile. She smiled in return.
“I need to change and pack a bag,” Sandy said.
“I’ll take the kids down to dinner,” Aden said. “And do the same. Meet you back here. Fifteen minutes?”
Sandy nodded. She gave Aden her stack of warm tortillas. Following Nash, Aden and Noelle carried their tortillas down to dinner. Standing in the little apartment, Sandy spun in place.
Her husband was taking her to dinner tonight. Her husband was taking her to the gorgeous Hotel Teatro. She ran to her bedroom. After a two minute shower, she slipped into a dress she’d bought to entice Aden before the awfulness took away her joy. Even pregnant, she knew she still looked great. She flew through doing her hair. She put on just enough makeup to cover the bruise under her eye without looking too fake. Into the stilettos and…
“Oh my God,” Aden said. “You’re a vision.”
Sandy turned around to see that he’s put on one of his good suits
“So are you,” she said.
He kissed her and held her close.
“I’d planned on giving you the earrings as a wedding present, but you already have them.” Aden touched the dangling diamonds. “So I owe you one.”
“Tonight is enough,” Sandy smiled.
“Come on my love,” Aden said. “The night awaits.”
Aden took her travel bag from her. Taking her hand, they hurried from the apartment to start their night.
Sunday night — 8:37 P.M.
“You’re very quiet,” Valerie said.
She came around their couch to sit next to him. Mike smiled at her and took her bare foot in his hands. He began rubbing her foot.
“How was fishing?” she asked.
He smiled at her.
“How was Beaujos pizza?” she asked.
He nodded. She wrinkled her nose.
“How was the green chili?”
“Are you going to say something?” she asked.
“I’m waiting to see how many questions you’re going to ask,” he said.
She punched him. He gestured for her other foot which she gave him.
“Let’s see,” Mike said. “Fishing was good. We were in the water for about two hours before Jake returned to normal. The crap with that secretary has really gotten to him.”
“Jake’s never cared what anyone said about him,” Valerie said.
“Yeah,” Mike said. “I guess this is different. He feels stupid getting trapped by her. Mostly he’s terrified he’ll lose Jill over this.”
“He told you that?”
“Over pizza,” Mike said. “Even when he was the high school heartbreaker, he’s always had such integrity in his relationships with women. It’s important to him. This is something he would never do… has never done.”
“Poor Jake,” Valerie said.
Mike nodded. He tugged on Val’s feet. She scooted over to sit on his lap.
“The green chili was awesome,” Mike said. “I love that Delphie had the chilies ready for roasting. That’s different.”
“I like the new Delphie,” Valerie said. “Where’d you go this afternoon?”
“Jake roasted the chilies for me,” Valerie said. “He said you had to take care of something.”
Mike buried his face in her hair.
“I love the way your hair smells,” Mike said.
“You’re not going to tell me?”
“I’m trying to increase the anticipation,” he said.
“I made something for you,” Mike said.
“Can I have it?”
He gave her a taunting smile. She laughed. He patted her hip and she got off his lap. He went to his large leather canvas bag and pulled out a medium sized frame. The frame and painting were wrapped in brown paper. Valerie popped to her feet. He held the painting out to her. When she reached for it, he pulled it back. She put her hands on her hips and he laughed. He gave her the painting. She ripped the paper off and stared at the oil painting.
A pair chubby toddler boys were sitting in a field of red poppies. The boys wore blue jean overalls. As if to give the flower to someone, one boy held out a white Shasta daisy. The other boy was laughing so hard he’d fallen over. The painting had an infectious bright light to it.
Confused, Valerie looked up at him.
“Our boys,” Mike said. “The ones we lost.”
Her sole focus on the painting, Valerie dropped down on the couch. Her eyes reviewed the blue eyes of the laughing boy and the darker eyes of the boy holding the flower. They were an even mix of Mike’s Prussian and Valerie’s American mutt features.
“Jake has me paint cherubs of people’s soon to come babies,” Mike said. “It’s one of our special services. The babies look like the cherubs most of the time.”
“Which one is which?” Valerie said.
“The laughing boy is the one we lost when your mom died,” Mike said.
“Why is he laughing?” Valerie asked.
“Because he was your secret,” Mike said.
“He’s beautiful.” Valerie reached out her hand to touch the oil painting. “Why is Jack giving me a flower?”
“He has a sister,” Mike said. “I think it’s kind of like, you don’t have me but you have my sister. I don’t really know. I just paint what I see in my head.”
“It’s perfect,” Valerie said. “Do you mind if I…?”
“Go ahead,” Mike said.
He sat down on the couch. She sat down next to him and he put his arm around her. Valerie’s focus returned to the painting. She cried for a while. She laughed a couple times. She sat and stared at the painting for over an hour. Mike held her until she fell asleep with the painting in her arms.
Sunday night — 10:37 P.M.
“I was thinking…” Jacob said.
He was sitting on the side of the bed waiting for her.
“Shh,” Jill pulled the door to their bedroom closed. “I just got Noelle to sleep. If she hears you she’ll be up again.”
“When did she get so hyper?”
“She’s very excited about getting a Mom,” Jill said. “She wanted to know everything about being a daughter. What do daughters do? What happens if she doesn’t do it right? What do mothers do? She had fifty billion questions.”
“Poor Noelle,” Jacob said.
“We had it hard, but at least we had Mom,” Jill said. “Noelle’s never had a mother. She and Nash have always wanted one. Nash is more subtle, but Noelle is over the moon.”
“They have a great mom in Sandy,” Jacob said.
“Sandy’s one of the most loving people I’ve ever met,” Jill said. “When do you leave for hockey?”
“About a half hour,” he said.
“Hmm… what would you like to do in the next half hour?” she asked.
“It’s more like where would I like to do it,” he laughed.
“Again,” she said. “Because nap time was fun. I’m liking the non-Lipson Construction Jacob.”
Standing, he pulled her into his arms. He gave her a hard kiss.
“I was thinking we should take our honeymoon,” Jacob said.
“Six months later?”
“Ok, it’s a little unconventional,” Jacob said.
“After next week, I’m off school for a couple weeks,” Jill said.
“I know,” Jacob said.
Jill rested her head against his shoulder.
“Where were you thinking of going?” Jill asked.
“I was thinking we could go to Mexico. It’s not too hot yet,” Jacob said.
“Actually, I was thinking we could spend a night at that hotel in Santa Monica. You know the one where…?”
“We conceived Katy?”
“Had the best, most amazing sex I’ve ever had in my entire life,” he said. “That’s what I was thinking.”
“Better than nap time?” Jill asked.
He laughed. She smiled at him.
“Everyone will say you’re doing it because of that awful woman,” Jill said.
“They may,” Jacob said. “But you and I will know that I’m doing it for the sex.”
“You asked if we could go back there,” Jacob said.
“I was excited about spending time with Katy while I was off school,” Jill said. “I feel like she’s growing up so fast and…”
“Katy! Jill! When will we get time together?”
Jill pushed away from him.
“Jacob Marlowe, you have no right…” she started. Looking up she saw he was teasing her. “Well, you might have been serious.”
“Yes, I transformed into Trevor while we were fishing,” Jacob said.
“Could happen,” she said.
“Come back.” He held out his arms and she tucked herself into them again.
“You already have a plan,” Jill said.
“I do,” Jacob said.
“Do I get a say?” she asked.
“If you’d like,” he said. “In a couple weeks, I thought you and I could go to Santa Monica for a night. Val and Mike agreed to take Katy to Cabo San Lucas. We’ll meet them there the next night.”
“Val will be done with the movie,” Jill said.
“She wants some beach time before she gets huge,” he said. “Her words, not mine. So don’t get mad again.”
“I like your plan,” Jill said. “When do we leave?”
“Two weeks,” he said. “Delphie and Dad might join us.”
“It’s part of her ‘whole new Delphie’ campaign,” he said. “She wants to visit Mexico. If Val’s there, Delphie will want to be there.”
“We’re honeymooning with your entire family? Really Jacob. That’s not very romantic.”
He laughed. She looked up to see that he knew she was teasing.
“It sounds fabulous,” she said.
“Are you sure you don’t want a trip with just us? A cruise to Fiji or Greece or Thailand or…”
“This suits us better,” she said.
“I’ll try to make up for the lack of romance,” he said.
“You already have.”
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