Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Denver Cereal - Chapter One Hundred and Eighty-Two : Commitment

CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED and EIGHTY-TWO

Saturday early morning – 2:45 A.M.

“Hey,” Jeraine said when Tanesha came out of the bathroom.

He was sitting on the edge of bed. He set his phone down when she came out. Naked, she gave him a smirk and put on her nightshirt. He kissed her.

“Did you have fun tonight?” Jeraine asked.

“Is this about the small dick thing?” Tanesha smiled. “Because that was a joke.”

“I know,” Jeraine said. “I meant at the club and, I guess, everything.”

“Didn’t it seem like I had a good time?” Tanesha asked.

He nodded.

“What’s got you all insecure all of the sudden?” Tanesha asked.

“I wanted to tell you something,” Jeraine said.

Tanesha sat down on the bed.

“Have you ever wanted something so bad that you feel like you’d do anything for it?” Jeraine asked.

“Sure,” Tanesha nodded.

“I felt that way about making it big with my music,” Jeraine said. “I didn’t want to be my Dad’s kind of star or Seth’s. I wanted to be big, huge even, successful, popular… And…”

“You got kind of stuck there,” Tanesha said.

“I didn’t realize I had already gone way past what I thought I wanted,” he said. “And lost everything I loved.”

“And now?”

“I’m not going to lie,” he said. “I still want to be a star. I thought I’d be a star doctor or a star surgeon. But…”

“Music is your life,” Tanesha said.

Jeraine nodded. He reached out to take her hand.

“Is that okay?” he asked.

“I think we have to figure it out,” she smiled.

“There is a difference now.”

“Oh yeah?”

“I don’t only want to be a star now,” he said. “Being a star isn’t as important as having you in my life.”

“I’m glad,” she said. She touched his shoulder and got under the covers.

“What have you wanted so badly?” He shifted to look at her.

“Med school,” Tanesha rolled onto her side to look at him. “When I wasn’t able to go last year, I… It was hard.”

“Yeah, I know that feeling,” he said. “It’s like whatever you do, no matter how hard you try, your dream is still just out of reach. I felt that way about you.”

“Me?”

“You,” he said. “This time, these weeks, days, they’re like a dream come true for me. I dreamed and wished and wanted just this, just tonight – dinner, dancing with friends, making love with you and…”

Tanesha held her arms out and he fell into her embrace. They held each other for a moment.

“It’s about commitment,” he said. “I didn’t get it until this morning. If I want something, I have to commit to being and having the thing I want. That’s the way it really works.”

Tanesha kissed his forehead.

“I didn’t know that before,” he said.

“I know,” she said. “And now?”

He closed his eyes and she shook her head.

“Still can’t do it,” she said. “Even now when your dream has come true. I do not know why I waste my time.”

She moved to get up. He held her in place.

“No, that’s not it,” Jeraine said. “No. I was trying to think of how to say it.”

Watching his face, Tanesha fought with herself. Her instinct was to run away from this heart breaker as fast as possible. That was her part in this dance. They’d danced it a hundred and one times. But tonight, she saw something new on his face. She waited for him to find the words.

“I think I’ve always been committed to you, to us,” Jeraine said. “I remember like it’s in crystal – our first kiss, our first date, the first time we spent a whole night together. My commitment has always been to you but…”

“But…?”

“It made me anxious,” he said. “I didn’t know I could have you and… I thought…”

“It was one or the other,” Tanesha said.

He nodded.

“You put us, me, in the way of your dream,” she said.

He nodded.

“So you had to destroy us to have your dream,” she said.

He nodded.

“You’re a fool,” she said.

“I am?” he asked.

“Your dreams come from us, from this,” she gestured to him and to herself.

“It does?”

“Go look at those fancy records on the wall.”

Getting out of bed, she took his hand and led him out of their bedroom to the hallway. She flicked on the light. The light flashed on the gold and platinum albums and singles that lined both walls in the hallway.

“Look at the singles,” she said. He looked at her. “Go on.”

He didn’t move. She pushed him toward the wall.

“What am I looking at?” he asked.

“What are these songs about?” she nodded toward the wall.

He looked at her and looked at the wall.

“Just look at them,” she said. “I’m going to make some tea.”

Tanesha went into the kitchen. The tea pot was already warm from the cup she’d made when they got home. She took out a chamomile tea bag and her favorite mug. She had just poured the hot water when he appeared.

“They’re songs about you,” he said.

“About us,” she said.

“And?”

“We are your creative power,” Tanesha said.

Putting her tea up to her lips, she watched the thought work across his face.

“I’ve been fighting against myself, the source of my own strength,” he said.

“How many songs have you written since I’ve been staying here?” she asked.

“About thirty,” he said.

“That seems like a lot.” She wasn’t sure if it was the drugs that addled his brain or that he literally didn’t get it. He gave her a blank stare. “Is it normal for you to write so much?”

“No but I’m not…”

“And why aren’t you?”

His eyes blinked. He was silent so long she wondered if he was having a stroke.

“You do this to me,” he said.

“We have a power, a strength that we can only access through each other,” she said.

“Oh.”

“Imagine what you could do if you really committed here,” she said. “You think about it. I’m going to take a bath to wash some of this man off me.”

Carrying her tea, Tanesha walked around him to the bathroom. She filled the tub with the bubblegum bubbles Katy had given her for her birthday. She was just getting settled when he came in.

“You’re right,” he said. “I’m not as successful as I could be because I don’t have us.”

“Of course,” she said. “What are you going to do about it?”

“I’m going to learn to stop fighting my commitment to you and us,” he said. “I left a message for my therapist saying I want to talk about this so I don’t forget or chicken out.”

Tanesha nodded. Lost in thought, he stood by the side of the tub.

“Are you coming in?”

“You’ll just get more man on you,” he said.

“Maybe I just want some more of that power that comes through you,” Tanesha smiled.

Shaking his head at her, he joined her in the tub.

~~~~~~~~

Saturday early morning – 2:45 A.M.

“Finally,” Ava said when she saw Seth at the entrance to her lab. She ran to let him in. They hugged.

“I have a few things to finish,” Ava said.

“No problem.” Using one cane, Seth followed her to her lab bench. “Why is your door locked?”

Ava was cataloging a rack of test tubes in front of her.

“Too many visitors,” Nelson said.

“You had visitors in the lab?” Seth asked.

“No one likes the fact that the great Magic O’Malley quit.” Fran pulled her jacket on to leave. “They’re blaming our Ava.”

“They are?” Seth asked.

“The poor girl has been inundated with bitchy policemen whining about your resignation. The temp that’s taking Leslie’s place while she’s on maternity leave lasted an hour tonight.”

“Yeah but she didn’t like how we work,” Ava said. “With am emphasis on work.”

“And the stream of angry cops.” Ever the mother, Fran’s voice was scolding. “You should have thought it through O’Malley.”

“Fran,” Ava said.

“Well he should have,” Fran squeezed Ava’s shoulder. “See you tomorrow.”

“These are ready for next shift.” Nelson gave Ava a test tube rack filled with samples.

“I’ll add them to mine,” Ava said.

Standing next to Ava, Nelson gave Seth a bright smile.

“Did you really quit?” Nelson asked. “Or did you do it as a power play to get them off your back?”

“What are the odds?” Seth asked.

“Twenty’ll get you fifty,” Nelson said.

“With what else?”

“You got a job offer in LA,” Nelson said. “Everybody’s talking about it. They made an arrest in that case you’re working on.

“They did?” Seth asked.

“You didn’t know?” Nelson smirked at the idea he knew something Seth didn’t.

“My daughter had her baby today,” Seth said. “I’ve been with her.”

“I forgot. Ava said something,” Nelson said. “Your daughter. She’s okay?”

“She’s doing well,” Seth said.

“New grandchild?”

“Colin Hargreaves and his wife adopted him,” Seth said. “Everyone is happy, healthy and well.”

“Good,” Nelson said.

“You were telling me,” Seth said. “The LAPD arrested the gal?”

“How’d you know?” Nelson asked. “That’s the kicker. The strangler is a woman, wife of the chief suspect. They matched her DNA after they brought her in. LA Weekly is saying you solved the case.”

“They had female DNA but they thought it was another victim,” Seth said. “That’s good work. I’ll have to give them a call.”

Nelson smiled at him.

“What?” Seth asked.

“So which is it?” Nelson asked.

“How much do you have riding on it?” Seth asked.

“We all put in ten bucks,” Nelson said. “Everyone but Ava. Bob put in her ten bucks.”

“And what does Ava say?”

“She says that O’Malley does whatever O’Malley wants to do,” Nelson said. “So?”

“I quit,” Seth said. “Ava’s right. I don’t do power plays and there’s too much celebrity drama at the LAPD.”

“Good,” Nelson said.

“That’s what the lab money is on?” Seth asked.

“Yes sir,” Bob’s booming voice came from the back of the lab. He came up carrying his briefcase. Bob shook Seth’s hand. “Nice to see you Seth.”

“See you tomorrow,” Nelson said.

Ava and Bob waved to Nelson.

“Today was bad?” Seth asked.

“Pretty rough,” Bob said. “And who are we going to call? The police? That would only bring more angry cops.”

“They say that I’m responsible for the end of luck at DPD,” Ava said.

“Magic O’Malley brought the DPD luck,” Bob said. “Let’s hope no one dies tonight. You’re going to walk Amelie out?”

Seth nodded.

“Nice to see you up and around Seth,” Bob said. “Few more days and I bet you won’t need that cane.”

Seth waved. Ava continued working.

“You’re mad,” he said.

“Mad’s not exactly the right word,” Ava said.

“Are you mad at me?” Seth asked.

“By association,” Ava said.

“You could quit too,” Seth said.

Turning, Ava gave Seth a strong dark look and went back to her test tubes.

“Yeah, bad idea,” Seth said. “What are we doing this weekend?”

“How’s Lizzie?” Ava asked.

“She’s good,” Seth said. “They think she’ll be well enough to go home tomorrow if she wants. Schmidty wants to take her to the beach house. If she gets out, they’ll go tomorrow. What would you like to do?”

Ava kept working.

“You are mad,” Seth said. “What can I do?”

“What are you going to do with yourself, Seth?” Ava asked. “And don’t tell me you’re going to stay at home. You won’t. You’ll either go on some cockamamie Seth-a-palooza music tour or…”

“I’m going to finish the movie,” Seth said. “I’m going to get better and I’m going to get married. That’s enough to fill up the rest of this year and some of next.”

Ava sniffed.

“To you, if you’re wondering,” Seth said. “And when all of that is done and we’ve celebrated and settled back in, I’ll see what’s next.”

Ava set the racks of test tubes in the refrigerator.

“I told you all of that when we talked a few days ago,” Seth said.

Ava got her purse and jacket.

“So why are you mad?” Seth asked.

“What am I supposed to do while you do all of this?” Ava asked.

“Pursue your dreams,” Seth said. “Work here or where ever you want to work. Grieve the loss of your best friend in the whole world. Play with our puppy Clara. That’s enough.”

Ava shook her head at him and went toward the door.

“So what’s wrong?” Seth asked.

“It’s not my fault you quit,” Ava said.

“No, it’s not,” Seth said.

“Will you tell the men that?” Ava asked.

“I don’t know what good it will do, but I will do what I can,” Seth said. “Anything I can do to make it better for you?”

“Dinner,” Ava said.

“Dinner is waiting for us at home.”

“Hot tub?” Ava asked.

“Done,” Seth said. “Anything else?”

Ava gave him a wry smile. Without saying another word, she left the lab. Smiling, he followed her out.

~~~~~~~~

Saturday afternoon — 2:15 P.M.

Tanesha looked up when the doorbell rang again. She watched one of Jeraine’s ‘people’ answer the door. The penthouse was filling with men who were there to help Jeraine get ready for his event. His hair had been cut. He’d had a facial and was sporting a fashionable beardlike line of growth along his chin. He was trying to decide whether to wear four hundred dollar jeans and a four thousand dollar shirt or a ten thousand dollar silk suit. She felt like she had a backstage ticket to the Miss America pageant. She’d even overheard a conversation about the best eyeliner for men with ‘dark complexions.’

He’d gone through this almost every single day of his former life. Reviewing his finances, he’d spent enough money on his face alone to build a couple schools inCentral America. He said it was necessary to ‘participate at this level of life.’ She thought it was dumb and excessive.

The people moved around the penthouse as if she wasn’t there. As far as they were concerned, they belonged and she was replaceable furniture. Tanesha scowled at the thought and went out onto the balcony over the park. She’d been out there an hour or so, when he arrived wearing the fancy jeans and expensive shirt. He had a gold chain around his neck, huge diamond earrings in his ears, and heavy diamond and gold bracelets on both wrists.

“We’re about to leave,” he sat down in the chair next to her. She ignored him. Leaning over to her, he said, “Ok, that whole drama was dumb.”

“You’re shirt cost more than my car,” Tanesha said.

“We should get you a better car,” he said.

She gave him an angry look and he laughed.

“One more night,” Jeraine said. “Then we figure out what’s next.”

Tanesha watched his face.

“I just have one more night of this, Miss T,” he said. “Tomorrow, we’ll go to church and have brunch with your friends. You have orientation for med school Monday and I have orientation on Friday. We start demo on our house Monday morning bright and early.”

Tanesha nodded.

“After tonight, we’ll get on with our lives,” he said.

“Are you going to bring all that trash here tonight?” Tanesha asked. “’Cuz I’ll stay at my Gran’s.”

“No,” Jeraine said. “I’m going to do a couple promotions for the radio station, have dinner with record people, and go to the event. I should be done by eleven. Midnight at the latest.”

“Are you bringing a bunch of skanks here?”

“Why would you even say that?” Jeraine asked.

Shaking her head, Tanesha rolled her eyes at him.

“Ok, fine,” he said. “I will be here at our penthouse by midnight, clean, sober and ready to get on with our life. What are you doing?”

“Tres and I are having dinner at the Castle,” Tanesha said. “Jill’s grandfather’s in town so they’re having everybody over. Tres and I might go to a movie later.”

“Are you bringing him back here when you’re done?”

Tanesha gave him a dark look and he laughed.

“Love you, Miss T,” Jeraine said. “I’ll see you in a few hours.”

She stood to kiss and hug him. When he stepped away, she sat down. She listened while his ‘posse’ made their way out of the penthouse and, she hoped, out of her life. She stayed on the balcony for a few more minutes before going into the bedroom and packing a bag.

Her heart already knew what would happen tonight. Her eyes and mind didn’t want to see it. She gave this life one last look and went to her Gran’s house.

~~~~~~~~

Saturday afternoon — 4:15 P.M.

“You sure you want me to be there?” Ava said.

She and Seth were driving down Broadway toward the downtown Denver Police Headquarters.

“If you want to make sure no one blames you, you should be at the press conference,” Seth said. “Jeez, what’s that?”

Seth pointed to a line formed around the Church nightclub.

“They’re waiting to see Jeraine,” Ava said. “You’re sure we have tickets?”

“We have tickets,” Seth said. “That’s a lot of people.”

“The station’s been playing his music non-stop,” Ava flipped on the radio and ran the dial to the station. Seth groaned when the heavy base kicked in. Her hand moved to turn it off.

“Wait,” Seth said. “What’s that?”

“Jeraine’s new song,” Ava said. “Someone slipped it to someone at the radio station. Very hush, hush. Everyone says Jeraine can’t leave the life but… Isn’t that Tanesha’s voice at the end? You know where she says, ‘Jer? Whatcha doin’ out here?’ and he says ‘Nothing.’”

Seth sat listening to the song.

“I like the orchestra,” Ava said. “It sounds like something you’d write.”

“I need to make some calls,” Seth said.

The Denver Cereal will continue next week

~~~~~~~~

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