Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Denver Cereal – Chapter One-Hundred and Eighty-Three : Song


Saturday afternoon — 4:15 P.M.

“You seem happy today,” Sandy said.

Standing behind Sissy at a station in her salon, Sandy ran a comb through Sissy’s long hair. Noelle was sitting behind them with aluminum foils in her hair. Charlie sat at the station next to them with a cloud of warm, eucalyptus-drenched towels over his face. Teddy and Nash were playing video games while they waited their turn. Rachel was sound asleep in her crib in the back.

“I had a good day,” Sissy said. “Don’t tell anyone but it’s actually kind of nice not to be dancing all the time.”

Sandy smiled.

“You won’t tell will you? I don’t want them to think I’m not committed,” Sissy said. “It’s just nice to take a break.”

“Everyone needs a break now and then,” Sandy said. “What are we doing with your hair? A trim, for sure.”

Sandy held up an inch of the end of Sissy’s hair.

“How long has it been?” Sandy asked.

“Since the beginning of the summer,” Sissy said.

“What have you been doing to your hair?” Sandy asked.

“It’s the heat. Blow drying. Curling,” Sissy said. “That’s what you used to say.”

“The life of a ballerina is fraught with split ends,” Sandy said.

Sissy laughed.

“Anything else?” Sandy asked. “Something pretty for school?”

“What did Noelle get?” Sissy asked.

“Pink,” Sandy said. “Along the back. But you’re going to high school.”

“I want pink too,” Sissy said. “But not all of it.”

“Just underneath?” Sandy asked.

“So you can see it like a peppermint candy when I put it up in a bun,” Sissy said.

“What will Ivan say?” Sandy asked.

“I don’t know,” Sissy said. “Mrs. Anjelika is mad at Ivan. She doesn’t want me to dance with him anymore.”

“She told me,” Sandy said. “I wanted to ask you about it.”

“Why me?”

“Because it’s really up to you,” Sandy said. “It’s your career, your time, your dancing.”

“Oh,” Sissy said.

“Why don’t you think about it while we get your hair washed?” Sandy asked. Sandy nodded to her assistant. “Can you give her the deep conditioning treatment? Her hair is pretty dry.”

Sandy’s assistant took Sissy to the back to wash her hair and Sandy moved over to Charlie.

“How’s the soak going?” Sandy asked.

“Why does my face hurt?” Charlie asked.

“Dad was pretty hairy,” Sandy said. “I don’t know about Patty’s Dad but I bet he was too. You’re going to have a full beard in a few years.”

“But why does it hurt?”

“Just the hair going through the skin,” Sandy said. “The heat helps. Shaving helps. You’ll get through it.”

“Gives me pimples,” Charlie said. “I hate that.”

“You’re doing great,” Sandy said. “The products we’re using are helping. The treatments are helping. You can barely tell. What do we want to do with your hair?”

Charlie didn’t say anything.

“If you don’t say anything I’ll cut it all off.” Sandy flipped through his mop of shoulder length hair. Charlie didn’t say anything. “Ok, but don’t be mad later.”

Working fast, Sandy trimmed the sides down to his scalp to expose his rich chestnut hair color. She left the top front about two inches long and layered it back until it was close to his head. Looking up, she saw her assistant come back with Sissy. She nodded her assistant toward the station next to her.

“Wow,” Sissy said when she saw Charlie’s hair.

Unwilling to leave Charlie alone, Sandy pointed her assistant to the blonde highlights left over from Noelle’s hair. Sandy put the rest of the blonde dye through the top of Charlie’s head.

“Five minutes,” she said to her assistant.

“Got it,” the woman smiled.

Sandy squeezed Charlie’s shoulder and shifted toward Sissy. Charlie grabbed her hand and pointed. His friend Tink was walking toward the salon.

“Do you mind?” Charlie asked. “She’s looking for a job and her hair’s like a rat’s nest. She…”

“I’m glad she’s here,” Sandy said. “Noelle?”

Noelle looked up at her with gossip-magazine numbed eyes.

“Can you let Tink in?”

Noelle looked at the door.

“Now?” Sandy asked.

“Oh, sorry. I was thinking about something.” Noelle got up and jogged over to the door. ”You know the Valerie Lipson they talk about in this magazine isn’t anything like Mike’s wife. Do you think they’re the same person? Hi Tink.”

“They may as well be two different people! Those magazines are filled with lies that only stupid people and little girls believe,” Charlie said. “Hey Tink.”

“I’m not a little girl,” Noelle said. “I don’t believe them.”

“It’s okay?” Tink asked.

“Of course,” Sandy said. “Do you mind waiting?”

Tink shook her head.

“You can sit by me,” Noelle said. “Oooh! I like this song! Turn it up!”

Noelle ran over to turn up the music.

“I promised you…” Noelle and Sissy sang together, “I promised you…”

Sandy put her hands on Sissy’s shoulders.

“I can’t cut your hair if you wiggle,” Sandy said. To her assistant, she said, “I need the same pink for Sissy.”

“You bet,” her assistant smiled.

“Is this too much?” Sandy asked.

“I love family day,” her assistant said.

Smiling, Sandy started cutting Sissy’s hair. The song Noelle loved permeated the salon. A man crooned about making all these promises to the woman he loved and breaking every one of them. Sandy smiled at Noelle and Sissy’s teenage resonance with the songwriter’s pain. Then she heard:

“Jer? Whatcha doin’ out here?” in Tanesha’s voice. Stunned, she stopped cutting.

“Nothing,” the man said and the song was over.

Sandy walked over to the stereo and turned it down.

“What is that song?” Sandy asked.

“It’s a new song from Jeraine,” Sissy said. “You know Auntie Tanesha’s boyfriend?”

“I know who he is,” Sandy said.

“They’re saying it was leaked to the radio station,” Charlie said. “But he has a concert tonight. I heard it wasn’t sold out until they leaked it locally. Just another bs ploy to get attention.”

“Did you hear him at the radio station?” Noelle asked. “They asked him about the song and he said, ‘What new song?’ I don’t think he knew.”

“Yeah, if I was trying to pump my fame, I’d say the same thing,” Charlie said.

Angry, Sissy spun her chair toward Charlie and the argument began. Noelle and Sissy believed in poor Jeraine. Charlie thought he was a fame whore. Nash and Teddy came from the back to join in. Hearing her siblings voices, Rachel gave a rousing scream.

Sandy went to the back of the salon to get Rachel and her phone.  With Rachel crying in one arm, Sandy dialed Tanesha. Her phone clicked over to voice mail.

“I know you’re hiding out today,” Sandy said. “But you’ve got to hear this song. Someone’s trying to screw you. Love you, T. Call me back.”

Sandy heard the salon door close and the kids stop arguing. Peeking out, she saw Aden standing in the doorway. His presence put a quick end to their argument. She went out to give him Rachel and a kiss.

“Ok, Sis,” Sandy said. “Let’s get this done.”

For the next few hours, Sandy worked on the kids hair. She was just finishing Aden’s shave when she realized she hadn’t heard back from Tanesha. She checked her phone. Nothing.

Tanesha was out of touch. Sandy made a quick call to Heather who confirmed that Tanesha had turned off her phone today to avoid Jeraine. Heather agreed to go to Tanesha’s Gran’s house and to call Jill.

Something was definitely up and her dear friend Tanesha was smack dab in the middle of it.


Saturday evening — 6:15 P.M.

“Why do you watch that trash?” Bumpy asked his wife,  Dionne.

He stood behind the couch. Dionne looked up from the evening news.

“I’m waiting to see your son,” Dionne said. “Don’t be such an ass. You know you want to see him really do this – clean, sober, saying good-bye to all the toxic in his life.”

Bumpy scowled at her. She patted the couch next to her. He gave her a hard look. She patted the couch and he came around to sit down.

“There he is,” Dionne grabbed the remote control and turned up the volume.

“He’s high,” Bumpy got up from the couch. “He’s really high. And look at the women… I can’t watch this.”

“Don’t you dare go anywhere,” Dionne said. “You know what he said.”

“He’s an addict,” Bumpy said. “He’s back to the same old bullshit.”

“Do you really not remember what happened?” Dionne jumped up to stand in front of him. A small woman next to his massive frame, she gave no ground. “To us?”

“What are you talking about?” Bumpy’s voice was hard and dismissive.

“You know exactly what I’m talking about,” Dionne said.

“That was different,” Bumpy said. “I wanted to get out of the life. I wanted to be with you and create this life. Haven’t I done that?”

“And what did the record company want?” Dionne asked.

Bumpy looked down at Dionne.

“And what happened?”

“We lost the baby,” Bumpy said.

“Why did I lose our son?” Dionne asked.

“Because of them,” Bumpy said. “I had to finish the last three months of my contract. We couldn’t afford to get out of it.”


“I got high and…” Bumpy said.


Bumpy looked away from her. She tugged on his shirt and he looked down at her.

“That was different,” Bumpy said.

“Why?” Dionne asked. “They slipped you hard drugs. They lied to me and told me you wanted to see me. And what happened?”

“You saw me with a bunch of women,” Bumpy said. “You got so upset that you lost the baby.”

“They blamed me when you wanted to change your life,” Dionne said. “They did everything to break us up.”

“That didn’t happen,” Bumpy said.

“It’s happening to your son right this very instant,” Dionne said. “Your living son will lose his life today if we don’t do something. The only thing he cares about is Tanesha. She’s the only thing that keeps him going. He will lose her today if we don’t do something.”

“Did you hear the song?” Bumpy asked.

“What song?” Dionne asked.

“Our son wrote a song he told me and Seth was for Tanesha,” Bumpy said. “We worked our butts off and…”

“It’s playing on the radio?” Dionne asked.

“He must have leaked it.”

“Oh grow up,” Dionne said. “You know exactly what happened. Someone stole it and now he’s high. Someone did this to our son specifically to destroy his life with Tanesha. You know that.”

He gave her a curt nod.

“What are you going to do about it?”


Saturday evening — 6:35 P.M.

“I’ve been trying to get you for hours.” Seth gripped the phone as he limped back and forth across his living room. Bumpy sat on the couch watching Seth pass in front of him. Ava tried to get him to sit down, but he was too angry to stop pacing.

“Sorry about that,” Schmidty said. “I turned off my phone when we got to the airport.”

“How is Lizzie?” Seth asked.

“Tired,” Schmidty said. “We just got settled at the house. I think she’s relieved to be here. Thanks for suggesting it and making it available.”

“I’m glad things are working out,” Seth said. “Colin and Julie took Connor home right after you left. They’re in baby bliss.”

“I’m glad. I’ll tell Lizzie. She’ll be happy,” Schmidty said. “Listen, you called five times. I thought I’d call you rather than listen to the messages.”

“No problem,” Seth said.

“What’s up?” Schmidty asked.

“Remember that song Bumpy and I were helping Jeraine with?”

“The one for Tanesha?” Schmidty asked.

“That one,” Seth said. “It was leaked it to the radio station.”

“Oh shit,” Schmidty said.

“My buddy at DPD cyber crime says someone hacked Jeraine’s email box,” Seth said. “Said they worked on it for almost two days before they got in. They’ve been able to track the IP address, whatever that is.”


“Last management team. You know the one connected with the record company.”

“He’s sure?”

“He’s sure,” Seth said. “The song’s gone viral. Ava’s found three videos on YouTube.”

“Must be a great song,” Schmidty said.

“It’s very touching,” Seth said.

“I’ll call the lawyers.”

“I don’t mean to be an old fart,” Seth said. “But are you up for this? Should we call your Dad?”

“I live for this kind of thing, Seth,” Schmidty said. “Seriously. Great fun. It’s why I went to law school. Leave it to me.”

“You remember the studio…”

“Trust me, I haven’t forgotten that the studio owns everything you work on this month,” Schmidty said.

“I used the orchestra,” Seth said.

“That’s even better.”

“It is?”

“Leave it to me, Seth,” Schmidty said. “No one fucks with my artists.”

“No one fucks with your artists,” Seth repeated slowly.

“Don’t worry old man,” Schmidty chuckled. “Give me a couple hours. What are you going to do?”

“I’m not sure,” Seth said.

“I have a couple messages from Bumpy,” Schmidty said. “Maybe you should talk to him.”

“He’s here,” Seth said.

“Any idea where Jeraine is now?”

“He’s having dinner with the record execs,” Seth said. “He’s due at the club in a couple hours. And Schmidty?”


“He’s high,” Seth said. “He told me this thing when he was in prison. I thought it was just an excuse, you know, an addict’s lie.”

“Anything we can use?”

“He told me that he’d tried to get clean a few times,” Seth said. “He’d clean up, stop using, stop the women, then bam as soon as he was touring again it would start again. I said something about being an addict or whatever. He said it wasn’t like that. He never remembered drinking or getting high. That’s what he said happened the night the girl died. He was black out high and had no memory of getting that way.”

“Yeah but if he was black out…”

“Trust me, Schmidty, when you wind up in a black out, you know the road you took to get there. You remember the starting the party,” Seth said. “He had no idea how he got so high. He said it happened a lot. He’d just suddenly be high. When he’s high, he wants women. That’s how he decided to get rid of his entourage. This stuff only happened when they were around.”

“And he’s high now?”

“He looks high,” Seth said.

“He’s high,” Bumpy yelled in the background.

“Any ideas how that happened?” Schmidty asked.

“A few.”

“Well, don’t do anything crazy,” Schmidty said. “I’ll be in touch.”

Schmidty clicked off the telephone call.

“So?” Bumpy asked.

“He says he’s going to take care of it,” Seth said.

“He’s a child,” Bumpy said.

“Let’s give him a chance,” Seth said. “Doesn’t Regis still own the Church?”

“Far as I know,” Bumpy said. “I’ll call him.”

“Schmidty said we shouldn’t do anything crazy,” Seth said.

“When has a Schmidty stopped us from being crazy?”

Seth laughed.


Saturday evening — 6:35 P.M.

“Yeah, Heather came by,” Tanesha said as she closed her Gran’s front door. “She and Blane are going to be at dinner.”

“You okay?” Tres Sierra asked.

“No,” Tanesha walked out to the street. “Did you see him on TV?”

“Yeah,” Tres said.

“He’s high,” Tanesha said. “God, Tres, he’s high! And the women clinging on him… I…”

“You want to meet at the Squire for a drink before we go to the Castle?”

“I think a drink will send me right over the edge,” Tanesha opened her car door and sat down.

“Okay, I’ll meet you at the Castle,” Tres said. “But we can get out anytime.”

“See you there.”

Tanesha clicked off the call and closed her car door. She had the desire to run back inside and hide under her covers like she had most of the day. Sighing, she started the car. The radio blared. She drove down her street toward Twenty-Third.

“Here it is,” the announcer said. “The song you’ve been lighting up our lines to hear. ‘I promised you,’ by our own Jeraine.”

Tanesha looked at the radio. Jeraine might be a drug addict, womanizer and a liar, but he was an amazing business man. He’d agreed not to release any music until his recording contract was complete. Tanesha was there when he and Jammy went over his contract. She saw Jeraine’s head nodding to Schmidty telling him to take a year off. He wanted the year off.

So what the hell was this song?

The song began with a sorrowful violin. The moaning was joined by a standup base beat and an orchestra picked up the beat.

“How can I make a promise to you?” Jeraine said. “When I’ve promised you the world and failed every time.”

For the next few minutes, Tanesha felt outside of time as she listened to Jeraine detail every promise he’d made and broken. Stopping at the light on Broadway and Seventeenth, she glanced at the car next to her. A woman was crying her eyes out. Feeling Tanesha’s eyes, she turned to look. The woman’s passenger window went down

“Jeraine?” the woman yelled.

Tanesha nodded.

“Breaks your heart,” she said.

The light changed and the woman raised a hand in a wave.

“Jer? Whatcha doin’ out here?”

Tanesha heard her own voice come from the radio.

“Nothing,” he said.

Her mind transported to the moment he’d recorded. She saw herself leaning against the doorframe of the den in the Penthouse. She’d been watching him for a while. He wore expensive headphones and was working on a song. She could see the music move on his mixing program. Humming this tune, he was looking at a picture his Mom had taken of them on his eighteenth birthday. When she’d asked her question, he closed his laptop and they’d gone to bed.

Tanesha blinked.

“That was the new song from our own Jeraine,” the radio announcer said. “We’re not saying who, but someone leaked the song exclusively to…”

Tanesha turned off the radio.

“You can fight this thing with me, on my side, instead of against me.” Jeraine’s words echoed in her mind.

“Are you willing to fight for his soul?” his mother’s words followed Jeraine’s.

Turning onto Race  Street from Colfax, she saw her girls waiting for her in the driveway. She pulled in and parked behind Tres’s car.

“How are you?” Heather hugged Tanesha tight.

“I just heard the song,” Tanesha said. “My song. The one he wrote for me. As a present just to me. My private apology is all over the world for strangers to hear.”

“Oh honey, I’m so sorry,” Sandy hugged her.

“No, they’re the one’s who’re going to be sorry,” Tanesha said.

Sandy stepped back to look at her.

“Those jerks messed with the wrong girl,” Tanesha said. “Will you help me?”

“Anything,” Jill said.

“It’s time to get even,” Tanesha said. “And get my man back.”

“We’re in,” Heather said. “What do we do?”

“I know just the thing,” Tanesha said.

The Denver Cereal will continue next week


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