CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED and EIGHTY-SEVEN
Sunday early-morning — 2:42 A.M. MDT
While the kids were getting ready for bed, Sandy settled in to breastfeed Rachel on the couch of their apartment.Sandy looked up when Sissy started one of Jeraine’s songs. Noelle joined in. In a few minutes, they were laughing, singing, and dancing.
“You are getting ready for bed, aren’t you?”Aden said from his position in the doorway of the living room.
“Of course,” Sissy’s voice was high and excited.
“They’re just excited,”Sandysaid. “It was a fun night.”
He smiled at her. She winked at him. When Rachel made a sound, Sandy focused her attention on her baby.
“Can we come out?” Charlie asked. “You know, just for a minute… to talk?”
Aden glanced at Sandy and she shrugged in response.
“Yes!” Nash said. Nash and Teddy’s hands slapped in a high five.
“She’s breastfeeding,”Aden said.
The boys turned a little green.
“You’re such babies,” Sissy pushed past them in the hall. Noelle giggled. The girls sat on the couch next to Sandy.
“It’s not like you haven’t seen it before,” Charlie pushed the boys down the hall.
Aden set a soft fleece blanket over Sandy and Rachel. Nash sat on the ground with his back against the couch next to Sandy. Teddy sat on the floor next to Noelle’s feet. Noelle reached her hand out and he took it.
“Should we tell Rachel about our fun night?” Sandy asked.
“She didn’t get to go!” Noelle said.
“What was the most fun?” Sandy asked.
“Dancing,” Sissy said. “Definitely dancing.”
“You were really great,” Charlie said.
“Did you see all the boys?” Teddy asked.
“What boys?” Sissy asked. “Were boys making fun of me?”
“More like drooling,” Charlie said.
“In a good way, Sis,” Sandy said. “I have no doubt you were great.”
“She was beautiful,” Aden said.
“Oh? You think so?” Sissy smiled. “Thanks.”
“I thought you were amazing,” Noelle said. “We had so much fun. We got to sing and dance and…”
She smiled at Teddy and he beamed back at her.
“It was nice that Addy could come, Charlie,” Sandy said. “You haven’t seen much of her lately.”
“Her dad hates me,” Charlie said. “He wants you guys to go to dinner at their house to ‘discuss this relationship.’”
“Oh? When?” Aden asked.
“Tomorrow night,” Charlie said.
“You mean tonight,” Aden said. “Sunday night.”
“Tonight? Really?” Sandy asked.
“Sorry. I forgot,” Charlie said. “I said it was okay so she could come tonight. I checked the family schedule. You don’t have anything on it.”
“I was hoping to spend the night at home,” Sandy said. “I haven’t been home all week.”
“Sorry,” Charlie said. “He’s kind of a dick.”
“I got that,” Aden said.
Sandy looked up at him.
“I walked Addy to his car with Charlie,” Aden said. “I wanted to introduce myself. He wasn’t very cheery.”
“It was two in the morning,” Sandy said. “That’s pretty late for a kid to be out.”
“Sorry,” Charlie looked crushed. “You don’t have to go, but I can’t see her again until you talk to her parents.”
Aden looked at Sandy.
“It’s just a couple hours,” she smiled.
“Why don’t we take today off?” Aden asked. “We can sleep in and hang out all day.”
“School starts on Monday,” Sandy said.
“And Teddy goes home today,” Noelle said.
Sandy reached over to squeeze Teddy’s shoulder. He looked up at her.
“Dad’s coming about two with my sister and brother,” Teddy said. “I was hoping we could show them the gardens and bees and stuff. They were really excited. Dad says even Bestat, you know his girlfriend, wants to come to meet everyone.”
“Then it’s settled,” Aden said. “See, that’s easy. We’ll ask Zack and Bestat if they would like to hang out with you guys at dinner and we’ll go to dinner with Addy’s family. What time, Charlie?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Charlie said.
Squealing a laugh, Noelle threw a pillow at him. Rachel gave a little gurgle in response to her sister’s laugh.Adenpicked up Rachel to burp her.
“You’re awfully quiet,” Sandy ran a hand through Nash’s hair. “How was your night?”
Nash looked up at Sandy and then looked away.
“That bad?” Sandy asked.
“That good,” Charlie said.
“Melinda was there,” Sissy said. “They were holding hands. I saw them kiss.”
“I saw them kiss,” Noelle giggled. “More than once!”
“You don’t have to tell us,” Sandy said.
“But Rachel wants all the details!” Noelle giggled.
“Rules of dating – a gentleman never gossips about his date,” Nash said.
The kids fell over each other with laughter.
“Date?” Aden asked. “How did you manage a date tonight?”
Nash looked at him and smiled. Aden shook his head at Nash. He gave Rachel back to Sandy and sat on the arm of the couch.
“So you had fun?” Sandy asked.
“I’m glad,” Sandy said. “I wonder when we’ll be invited to Melinda’s parents’ house for dinner.”
“Oh yeah,” Nash said. “I forgot, that’s today for lunch. You don’t mind do you?”
“No,” Nash laughed.
The kids laughed.Sandyruffled his hair.
“Do you think Miss Tanesha and Jeraine are going to… make it?” Noelle asked.
“No idea,” Sandy said. “They’ve already been down a long road.”
“I hope they do,” Sissy said.
“Me too,” Noelle said. “She really loves him.”
“He’s a tool,” Charlie said. “Worse than me. Why would you want that for Tanesha?”
“I don’t know,” Noelle said. “They’re meant to be together.”
“We’ll see,” Sandy said. “It’s time for bed guys. I know we had a fun night, but we all need to rest.”
“Come on,” Aden said.
He herded the kids toward their bedrooms. Sandy stayed on the couch with Rachel for few more minutes before getting up to say good-night. She went from room to room until she ended in her own. She settled Rachel in her bassinette and then slipped in bed beside Aden.
“Tired?” he asked.
“Not really. What did you have in mind?”
He rolled over to show her what he’d been thinking of all evening.
Sunday early-morning — 2:42 A.M. MDT
“What did you think of Nelson?” Heather asked Blane when he pulled the car into their garage.
“Nelson?” Blane smiled at Heather. Getting out of the car, he went around to get Mack from his car seat. They walked in through their backyard to the house.
“So…?” Heather asked.
“Did you set me up with Nelson?” Blane asked.
“Maybe,” Heather smiled. “What did you think?”
“He’s nice, smart,” Blane said. “We realized that we’d met before. I guess he knew me when I was with Enrique.”
Heather took Mack from him and they went up the stairs toward their bedroom. He used the bathroom while she got Mack settled in his crib. She went into the bathroom and got ready for bed. When she came out, he was sitting on the edge of the bed.
“Why are you setting me up with men?” Blane asked.
“I want you to be happy,” Heather said.
“I’m very happy. You know that. Happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life,” Blane said. “Is there something else…? I mean, do you want to change… us?”
“No,” Heather shook her head.
“Then what’s going on?”
Heather’s eyebrows pinched together. Her face was a mask of sorrow.
“What’s going on, Heather?”
“I know you had a horrible time with Enrique.” Heather’s words spilled out. “I want you to have a better experience, be in love and… I can’t stand the thought of you dying and not every having a chance to be really in love.”
Blane’s eyebrows shot straight up. His eyes traced her face.
“I can’t stand the thought of you dying and having everything life has to offer,” Heather said. “Are you mad? Please don’t be mad.”
Blane jumped to his feet to hug her.
“I can’t think of a more loving thing,” Blane said.
“I’m going to miss you so much,” Heather whispered.
“Shhh,” he said. “I’m still here. We can still fight.”
“I won’t ever give up. Ever. Not until the last moment. Ever.”
“I won’t ever give up. You and Mack… you’ve made my life worth fighting for.”
“Delphie told me Val would have her baby next week,” Heather leaned back to look at him. “Wednesday.”
“I’ll fight to the end.”
“Me too.” She tucked her head into his chest. “Me too.”
Sunday early-morning — 4:37 A.M. MDT
Tanesha rolled over to look at Jeraine.
“Whatcha thinkin’?” He asked.
“I’m wondering why you didn’t divorce me,” Tanesha said.
“I think the better question is why you didn’t divorce me,” Jeraine smiled and got out of bed. He went to the window and opened the curtains. “It’ll be light soon. I thought we could watch the sunrise then get some sleep.”
“Sounds good,” Tanesha said. “I’d like some…”
“Tea,” he said. “You know, I tried that tea of yours. It’s good. Mind if I make us both some?”
“Sounds nice,” she smiled at him.
She slipped out of bed when he left the room. Hearing him bang around in the kitchen, she went to the closet. In the bottom of one of her drawers, she pulled out seven gossip magazines. She folded them to the page she wanted him to see and laid them out in chronological order with the oldest one on the left and the latest one on the right. She stepped back to look at them. Shaking her head at herself, she went in to use the bathroom.
“What’s this?” Jeraine asked when she came out of the bathroom. He set a tray with a pot of tea, some of Delphie’s honey, and a couple cups on his bedside table. “When did you start saving gossip magazines?”
“This is a small selection of the women people thought you were going to marry,” Tanesha walked passed him to pour herself some tea.
Jeraine picked up the one on the left.
“Insiders say new comer Jeraine and his lady are planning an April wedding,” he read out loud. “What happened to this one? It looks… torn and wet.”
“Tried to flush it down the toilet,” Tanesha said.
“Of course you did.” He gave her a big smile and set the magazine down. “Lies. They only print lies.”
“Look at the date,” Tanesha said. “Look at the ring on her finger. If you missed it, there’s a bigger picture of the ring near the bottom of the page.”
Jeraine became very still. His eyes blinked at Tanesha as if he was trying to work out what she’d said.
“You’re upset,” he said.
“I need to know,” Tanesha said.
He nodded. He picked up a pair of boxer briefs from the pile of clothing on the floor and put them on. He pulled on a clean T-shirt and picked up the first magazine.
“Let’s see…” Jeraine said. “God, I don’t even remember her name.”
“You look happy,” Tanesha said.
He shook his head at her and looked at the photo again. Tanesha pointed to the date. His face went ashen. He swallowed hard.
“Our year anniversary,” Tanesha said. “You were leaving your fancy house in the early morning with some girl you’d spent the night with. The magazine said you gave her that ring. Did you?”
“I don’t remember,” he said. “Probably.”
“Why didn’t you just divorce me?” Tanesha asked.
“Why didn’t you divorce me?” he asked.
“Because you begged me to marry you,” Tanesha said. “You tricked me into doing it at Jill and Trevor’s wedding. You wanted to be married so bad; you could damn sure pay for a divorce.”
Jeraine nodded at her logic.
“And these?” he asked.
“All women you were supposed to marry,” Tanesha said. “Minus some. I didn’t keep track for a long time after the first one. I wasn’t… well.”
“When you were at Howard?”
“This,” Tanesha snatched the magazine from him. “This right here? This picture is the reason I graduated early and went to college right away. My girls didn’t think I was going to survive. They shipped me out of Denver where everyone knew about you and me to some place where I could start over fresh. It was good for me to be away from here and you.”
“But I saw you when you were at Howard,” Jeraine said. “You came to see me sing.”
“You only thought you did,” Tanesha smiled. “I never went to a concert, answered a phone call, a letter, or… There was a girl who looked sort of like me. She took the tickets and went. She thought it was funny. No, Jeraine, I was free of you the entire time I was there. This girl, your perfect fiancé and her perfect diamond scratched out of this earth by some African child slave gave me the key.”
Tanesha dropped the magazine on the table.
“This is hard.” His voice was low and sad.
“I went to your rehab – twice – and listened to every single one of your exploits and transgressions,” Tanesha said. “You can at least answer a fucking question.”
“Why didn’t I divorce you?” Jeraine asked. “That’s the question?”
Tanesha nodded. He walked to the window to look out on the park.
“Were you going to marry any of these girls?” Tanesha asked.
He turned around to look at her. After a moment, he went to the table and looked at the magazines. He picked up the fourth magazine in and gave it to her. Tanesha looked down at the photo.
“That’s a nice slave diamond,” she said. “Pricey.”
“From the looks of it, I should have bought in bulk,” he said.
Tanesha looked at her own bare hand and at him.
“Yeah, like I’m going to buy a diamond some child slave scratched from the earth for you.” He turned away from her. “I’d never hear the end of it. You’re not that easy. You want something more than diamonds. God damn it, I wish I could just buy you some rock and…”
“So why didn’t you divorce me to marry…?” Tanesha looked at the magazine. “Do you remember this one’s name?”
“Annette,” Jeraine said.
“And how is sweet Annette?” Tanesha asked.
“How the hell would I know?” His voice cracked with frustration. He blew out a breath to stay calm. “Sorry. You deserve me to calmly and honestly answer your questions to the best of my ability. I promised I would do that when you said you’d give me one last chance.”
“So I’m the island of last resort? The one too dumb to dump you?”
“You’re the love of my life,” Jeraine said.
She gave him a skeptical look. She opened her mouth to ask the question again.
“Why didn’t I divorce you?” Jeraine asked. “I tried. I was going to have a fresh start with Annette. We were in the middle of making plans for a big wedding when my lawyer reminded me that I was married. Not like I forgot. I just… didn’t want… I don’t know. It’s like two worlds – my life with you and that other life. When I was in one, I had to forget this one.”
“You’ve been there?” Jeraine asked.
“Of course,” he said. “I never could figure out why you didn’t just get rid of me.”
“We’re not talking about me,” Tanesha said. “We’re talking about why you didn’t divorce me when you were going to marry the lovely Annette.”
“So why didn’t you?”
“The more you hesitate, the more you need to tell the story,” Tanesha repeated what she’d heard his therapist tell him. “Did you talk about this in treatment?”
He shook his head.
“Give me a second,” he said. “Can you just give me…”
He poured himself a cup of tea and held the pot out to her. She let him fill her cup. Setting the tea pot down, he turned to look at her.
“I came to Denver with the papers,” he said. “All you had to do was sign them. All I had to do was file them. I went to your Gran’s and she said you were running a summer camp at City Park. I thought I’d come over, get you to sign them, and be back on a plane to New York. One, two, three.”
He shook his head.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
“I remember you coming to summer camp,” Tanesha said. “I don’t remember any papers.”
“I drove City Park and parked in the lot,” he said. “I walked around for a while before I found you. You had twenty little kids hanging on you. God, you were so beautiful. You were hot, sweaty, and your hair was all huge natural afro wild but God… just gorgeous. I watched for about a half hour, maybe more. I don’t think I’d been in one place for more than five minutes at a time for… years… probably. When you finally got the kids to play a game, I came up and…”
“I remember that!” Tanesha shook her head. “But you didn’t say anything about a divorce.”
“I forgot all about it. I laid my eyes on you and just forgot it,” he said. “We talked. You agreed to meet me for dinner after work. I went back to my rental car and drove off. I was almost downtown when I saw the papers.”
“I started crying my eyes out,” he said. “I had no one… no one to call. My Dad was so mad at me. LaTonya wasn’t speaking to me. I called my mom. She came and… she sat with me while I cried. I don’t think she knew what was going on. She just knew I was upset.”
“Why were you so upset?”
“Because my life was jacked up,” Jeraine said. “Everything I ever wanted was playing with some kids in the park for minimum wage. I was there to get rid of you so I could… what? Live happily ever after? I felt so real, so right just standing there under the evergreen tree watching you with the kids. Then I go back to the car and… I… Anyway, you know what happened next.”
“What happened?” Tanesha shook her head.
“You already know! Mom got me to the Hyatt downtown. She thought I was going to kill myself. I might have but… She called you and you came and…,” he said. “You spent the next week with me. We didn’t leave the room for three days. ‘Til you had to work again.”
“When you went to work, I called Annette,” Jeraine said. “You know, I don’t think she gave a rat’s ass. She loved being in the spotlight, the paparazzi, the money, the food, the clothing, and every other thing; not me.”
“Oh shit,” Tanesha said. “Annette’s one of your…”
“Baby mamas,” Jeraine said. “Right. She told me she was pregnant on the phone. ‘Fuck you Jer. Now I don’t have to marry you. You’re going to pay, and pay well, for at least the next eighteen years.’”
“She looks really different now,” Tanesha peered at the photo. “Her nose and lips…”
Tanesha held her face still and folded over her ample bottom lip. He smiled.
“She’s had some work,” he said. “You should see her… assets.”
He held his hands a foot off his chest.
“You’re a pig,” Tanesha said.
“I am a pig,” he said.
“I met her when you were in rehab the first time. I didn’t recognize her as… this woman,” Tanesha peered at the photo again. “She’s… special.”
“She’s…” He shook his head.
“You were going to divorce me to marry her? Really?”
“I wanted to divorce me and have that other… life, be that other person.”
“Hmmm,” Tanesha’s eyes told him how crazy she thought he was. “And now?”
“I don’t know if I can do this, live this life… with you,” he said. “I don’t know if I’m not going to fall under the spell again, get all addicted again, but…”
He looked at her. Their eyes held in silent communication.
“Right now, this moment, I only want to be right here with you. Is that enough?”
“What do you want to do with these?” he pointed to the magazines. “You want a big diamond ring? Seven? Maybe a child slave to go with it?”
She picked up the magazines, tossed them in the trash, and went into the bathroom.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Getting ready for Mass,” she said.
“I thought we were going to watch the sunrise,” he said.
“I feel like going to Mass,” she said. “There’s one or two things I feel pretty grateful for. You?”
Without saying another word, he moved past her and into the shower.
The Denver Cereal will continue next week
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