CHAPTER ONE-HUNDRED and EIGHTY
Thursday afternoon – 6:15 P.M.
“What happened to your face?” Bumpy asked his son, Jeraine, as he walked into his living room. He kissed his wife, Dionne, and squeezed his pregnant daughter, La Tanya’s shoulder. “Son? I asked you a question.”
“I have a gig on Saturday,” Jeraine said. “I have to grow out my beard so they can style it.”
The room became absolutely still and silent. No one dared move.
“Style it?” Bumpy’s eyebrows went up with surprise. “Style what?”
Tanesha suppressed a giggle. Her laughter was infectious and everyone laughed.
“This is serious business,” Jeraine’s words were defensive, but his voice was filled with laughter. Covering his mouth with one hand, La Tonya’s husband Ben tapped Jeraine’s arm with the back of his other hand. “It’s really your fault.”
“My fault?” Bumpy’s eyes did the indignant parent blink.
“Diddy gets his beard done in a new style every day,” Jeraine sniffed. “If you had a better beard, I wouldn’t have to grow it out for days ahead.”
“Diddy’s father was a pusher who died on the streets,” Bumpy said.
“Your point?” Jeraine raised his eyebrows.
Bumpy put his head back and laughed. He held his arms out. Jeraine hopped to his feet to hug his father. When they pulled back, Tanesha saw tears in Bumpy’s eyes.
“Nice to see you son,” Bumpy said. “You clean?”
“Am I here?” Jeraine asked.
Bumpy laughed and hugged Jeraine again.
“Nice to see you, Miss T.” He held his arms out for Tanesha. Tall and slender, she felt engulfed by Bumpy’s bear hug. He kissed her cheek.
“Are they staying for dinner?” Bumpy asked Dionne.
“Jer is,” Dionne said. “Tanesha needs some help.”
“Anything,” Bumpy said. “What can I do?”
When the big man’s steely eyes turned to Tanesha, she blushed and looked away. Jeraine put his arm around her.
“You remember Mitch Delgado?” Dionne asked. “His daughter wants desperately to be a ballerina.”
“Sissy?” Bumpy asked. “Seth’s talked about her dancing. He says she’s very talented.”
“Dad,” La Tonya said. “She’s getting big.”
La Tonya gestured to her own ample chest.
“You remember how curvy Patty is,” Dionne said.
“Sissy has an eating disorder. Bad. She almost died last year,” Tanesha’s eyes filled with tears. “She’s been starving herself to keep from having curves like her mom. She told Sandy she’d rather die than not be a ballerina. She…”
Jeraine hugged her when she broke down.
“She tried to cut her breasts off this afternoon,” Dionne said.
“Good Lord,” Bumpy said. “How is she?”
“They stitched her up and she’s at home,” Dionne said.
“I’ll drop by after dinner,” Bumpy said.
“Tanesha asked if I would go to assess her,” La Tonya said. “They’re concerned maybe there’s an underlying mental illness that they missed at the eating disorder clinic.”
Bumpy smiled with pride at his psychiatrist daughter.
“Seth’s coming home,” Dionne said.
“Of course,” Bumpy nodded.
“We were at the hospital, Dad,” Jeraine said. “And I remembered that you’ve met Misty Copeland, you know the prima ballerina for the New York Ballet.”
“She’s a curvy ballerina,” Dionne said.
“I met her through Rodney,” Bumpy said. “Miss T, did you ask your Dad?”
Tanesha shook her head against Jeraine’s chest.
“Here’s what we’ll do,” Bumpy said. “We’ll have dinner. La Tonya and I can go visit with Sissy. Seth would want me to do that anyway. I’ll call Rodney and we’ll see if we can’t get Misty Copeland to give Sissy a visit. How’s that?”
“Sounds good,” Dionne stretched up to kiss her husband. He smiled.
“If it’s all right with you, sir,” Tanesha said. “I’d like to go to the Castle now.”
“Of course, of course,” Bumpy said.
“They’re waiting for me,” Tanesha said.
“We’re not the kind of people who stand between a person and what’s on their plate,” Bumpy said.
“How can we help?” Dionne asked.
“I think you already have,” Tanesha smiled.
“Son?” Bumpy nudged Jeraine. “Why don’t you take her? We’ll wait dinner for you.”
Jeraine nodded. He put his arm around Tanesha and led her to her car. Tanesha had pulled so far into herself that Jeraine kept silent most of the drive. He parked in front of the enormous house onRace Street.
“We should get a house like this,” Jeraine joked. “Big, beautiful, and…”
“I like the house by my Gran’s” Tanesha said.
Seeing how upset she was, Jeraine didn’t continue his joke.
“We’re doing a walk through with Jake and Jill tomorrow right?” Jeraine asked.
Tanesha nodded. He stroked her face and she looked at him.
“What’s got you?” he asked.
“Self loathing,” Tanesha said. “Sissy has everything I wanted as a kid. She’s white, pretty, talented, smart, she even has a loving family. I mean, her Dad’s dead and her mother’s crazy, but she has Sandy and Aden. I would have given an arm to have that or even someone like me who cared. But all of that stuff I wanted so bad… inside she feels like I felt.”
Moved by her words, Jeraine could only look at her. Tanesha was lost in thought. He touched her chin. She gave him a soft smile.
“I’m going to do something about this in my life,” Tanesha said. “And you’re going to write a song to help people with it.”
“If you say so,” Jeraine said. “I think I’m going to be pretty busy with school.”
“Maybe the best way for you to help people is to keep making music,” Tanesha said.
Not willing to defend her statement, she gave him a peck on the lips and left the car. Surprised, he watched her go through the gate. She waved at the door and disappeared.
It had never occurred to him that he might be able to make music and have Tanesha in his life. He gladly gave up music to be with her. She was all that mattered to him.
What if he could have a whole, full life with her and have music too? His father had never been able to do it. When Jeraine was in treatment, Bumpy had attended a few of his therapy sessions. His father had told him of his own struggles with sex and drugs while he was a touring musician. Bumpy’s choice was to have a family and a medical practice over his music career.
But Jeraine wasn’t his father and Tanesha was not his mother.
He stared at the door she’d disappeared through for another moment. Shrugging, he made a U-turn and headed back toward five points. Stopping at Seventeenth, he felt his hands tap against the steering wheel. His mouth hummed a tune. By the time he reached his parents’ home, he had the hook. If he wrote a song for Sissy, it would sounds something like…
Smiling at himself, he went to have dinner with his family.
Thursday afternoon – 6:35 P.M.
Knocking on her father’s hotel door, Anjelika glanced down the hallway. Her father was staying at the Warwick Hotel courtesy of the CIA. She wasn’t sure what he was going to do with the rest of his life. She knew he hoped to spend his time inDenverwith her and her children. They were his only remaining family and he was aging fast.
The door opened and his bodyguard filled the entryway. He gave her a grudging nod and moved aside so she could step into the suite.
“Leave us,” she said to the bodyguard in Russian.
The bodyguard looked at her father and he nodded. The man went out onto the patio to smoke.
“You are angry,” her father said in Russian.
“The child got so anxious about meeting you that she tried to cut off her breasts,” Anjelika said in Russian.
Her father nodded as if it was expected.
“She cannot be a prima ballerina with her shape,” her father said. “Ivan has been very concerned. He has been watching her diet and keeping her exercises up.”
“Watching her diet?” Anjelika felt the blood rush to her face. “Keeping her exercise up? The child has an eating disorder.”
“Most of them do,” her father shrugged.
“She almost died!”
“Greatness requires great sacrifice. She has the potential for greatness.”
“Still the same old monster,” Anjelika spit at him. Spinning in place, she walked toward the door. “You are not welcome here. Without our help, you shall rot in prison where you belong.”
“You’re angry with me,” he said. “For this child? Or for everything else?”
Anjelika stopped in her tracks.
“For everything,” he said. “You are such a child.”
She turned to him. They shared a long angry moment.
“What could you possibly know of greatness?” Anjelika asked. “Greatness is a human endeavor and we both know you are not human.”
He nodded. She wasn’t sure if he was agreeing with her or simply acknowledging her anger. She watched his face. He shrugged.
“We have had a lot of… trouble,” he said.
“I am the only child you have left,” Anjelika said. “All of my siblings, every last one of them, is either dead or in prison. You stole my children from me. They suffered unspeakably. I suffered unspeakably.”
“To live is to suffer,” he said.
“Nietzsche?” Anjelika asked. “You stand in front of your only remaining blood relative and quote Nietzsche?”
“I’ve been with the CIA for a month,” he said. “It has… worn my manners. Please, my angel, sit down with me and share some tea.”
Unsure of his motives, but not willing to back down, she poured herself a cup of tea and sat down on a couch in the sitting area. He watched her movements and repeated her actions. He sat on the couch at an angle to the one she was sitting on. He took out a flask and offered it to her. She shook her head and he poured some into his tea.
“You’re an alcoholic now?” she asked.
“No,” he said. “Trying to stabilize myself for our conversation. I’ve always found our arguments to be difficult. You’re smart and cunning like me, but beautiful like your mother. You have her voice. I find Vodka steadies me.”
She gave him a hard smile.
“Yes, fuck me,” he said. “Do you hate me, Anjelika?”
“No,” Anjelika said. “You did what you had to do because of who you are, where you came from and the situation at hand.”
“I wish you were a different man,” Anjelika repeated something she’d heard her mother say. Nodding, he acknowledged the thought and her mother.
“I wish I was a different man too,” he said. “Your mother… She always saw the whole of life and death and love. It was one big package and she made every decision from that place. Me? I have always dealt my cards right here, right now. It wasn’t until she was gone that I understood our difference. It wasn’t until you were gone that I saw the gaping hole in my life.”
“Why did you decided to leaveRussia?” she asked. “Why are you here?”
“Mikhail, actually,” he said. “He also sees the whole of the world – life, death, goodness, badness, humanity. Like your mother. He didn’t know who I was. We played chess while his Valerie was a super hero on a movie set. We argued, a lot. Like his mother, he doesn’t back down or feel intimidated. He looks so much like your mother and Perses. Both. I don’t know, Anjelika. Out of the mouth of your son, I finally understood what I needed to know.”
“Which is what?” Anjelika asked.
“To your original point,” he smiled at her. “Believing perfection is possible is almost like believing in fairies and goblins. I have insisted on perfection all of my life. I have created hell every being that came near me.”
“And this garbage about greatness?” Anjelika asked.
“That’s experience,” he said. “What do you know about greatness?”
“I grew up around greatness all of my life,” Anjelika said. “The greatest violin player. The greatest ballerina. The greatest artist. The greatest murderer. The greatest thug. The greatest…”
“Yes,” he said. “And?”
“Greatness belongs in the world of your fairies and goblins,” Anjelika said. “There is only now, only people doing their best every day. And the world has changed. What was great is no longer.”
“Yes, I have learned that,” he said.
“Sissy will be a great ballerina,” Anjelika said.
“Is that what you’d like me to do? Make that happen?” he asked. “All of this is over this child?”
“You don’t need to do anything,” Anjelika said. “She will do it on her own.”
“Then why are you here?” he asked.
“Do you still have your gift?” Anjelika asked.
“We can heal her wound,” Anjelika said.
“And mine as well?” he asked.
“Your wound?” Anjelika asked.
“You could ask anyone to heal her,” he said. “Mikhail can do it. He says Jillian is stronger than he.”
“Why do you think?”
“Because I have a lot in common with this Sissy,” he said. “Because you don’t want to spend the rest of my life with a father who craves only perfection.”
“And you won’t spend a minute of time with my children and their family if you don’t let go of this… fantasy,” she said. “Not one minute.”
“You’ll make that so?”
“I will not allow them to be broken by your insanity.”
“You are your mother’s daughter, then,” he said.
Unsure of what he meant, she focused on her tea.
“And Perses?” he asked. “You know he brought me in.”
“I asked him to,” Anjelika nodded.
Her father was so surprised that he stopped moving. He couldn’t look at her or speak for a moment. He held the tea to his lips then set it down.
“Thank you,” he said.
His eyes held unshed tears. In this moment, the monster was gone leaving an frail, lost old man in his place. He was like a remnant from a time when wars were cold, fought with propaganda, and missiles waited patiently on desolate plains to destroy the world. She smiled.
“Shall we go see the girl?” he asked. “Mikhail and Valerie asked if I would stay for dinner. If you will give me your permission.”
“They live with Delphie,” Anjelika said. “She is an Oracle, a true phenomena. She will know everything. Even you won’t be able to hide.”
“I managed to avoid her when I was here before,” he said.
“You won’t this time,” Anjelika said. “And Bruno?”
“He’s here because, like myself, he has no where else to go,” her father said. “He and I are relics looking for a museum to rust in.”
Anjelika nodded. He went to sliding door to get his bodyguard.
“They call you Otis,” Anjelika said.
“So does my passport,” her father smiled. “I am Otis now.”
Nodding, she moved toward the door.
“You can still call me Papa,” he said.
He touched her back. For the first time in almost twenty years, they embraced.
“Welcome toAmerica, Papa,” Anjelika said. “Now behave.”
Laughing, he followed her and Bruno out of the suite.
Thursday evening – 7:35 P.M.
“That’s five,” Charlie said from his position at the window in Noelle and Sissy’s room. Biting her finger nail, Noelle came to the window to look out.
“There’s two more police cruisers,” she said.
“There six cruisers over here,” Nash yelled the kitchen window.
“What exactly did you do?” Sandy turned to look at Seth.
“I quit the police force,” Seth said. He was sitting on Sissy’s bed holding her hand.
“Why did you quit, Uncle Seth?” Sissy asked.
“I didn’t want to do it anymore,” Seth touched her face. “Some day, you’ll be sick of being a ballerina.”
“If I ever get a chance to be a ballerina, I’ll never get sick of it,” Sissy said. “Never. Ever.”
“Oh you will,” Seth said. “You might never get sick of dancing or performing or using your body in this way. But some day, you’ll get tired of doing the stupid stuff to make some insecure boss happy.”
“What did they want?” Sandy asked.
“End it with Ava,” Seth said. “It’s probably a smart thing to do. She’s young; I’m old; whatever. But I almost died in the service of my city and the Chief wants to control my private life?”
“I didn’t want to do it anymore,” Seth said. “So I quit.”
“Why are the police here?” Aden came in from showing Anjelika and her father down to dinner. He looked from face to face. “Charlie?”
“Not me,” Charlie pointed to Seth. “There here for him.”
“I’ll go out in a while to talk to them,” Seth said. “Right now, I’m enjoying my time with Sissy. Was meeting Otis hard?”
“No, he was really nice,” Sissy said. “He said he knew Ivan from Russia and that Ivan brags about me and… I can’t wait to be dancing again.”
Sissy gave a bright smile then a shadow came over her face.
“I feel kind of stupid,” Sissy said.
“We all do stupid things,” Seth said. “Some day I’ll tell you about some of mine.”
“Are you going to be all right?”
“I think I’m going to be all right,” Sissy said.
With her words, Noelle dove onto her bed to hug her. Charlie flopped at the end. Nash and Teddy were close behind.
“They’re like puppies,” Seth said.
Smiling, Sandy nodded.
The Denver Cereal will continue next week
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