CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED and SEVENTY-THREE
Sunday morning — 6:41 A.M. MDT
“Who’s that?” Sissy asked.
Standing on the sidewalk of Pete’s Kitchen, Charlie flipped around to look at her. Behind his back, a young woman slunk away.
“What did she give you?” Sissy asked.
“What’s it to you?” Charlie sneered at her and tried to press by. Nash stood in front of him.
“Knock it off,” Nash said. “She asked you a simple question, brother.”
Charlie scowled at Nash and tried to get around him. The boys stood face to face. Even though Nash was younger, smaller and slighter, Charlie couldn’t get by.
“Can’t you just leave me alone? For once?” Charlie’s exasperated voice rose.
“No,” Sissy said. “You’re our brother. We care if you’re using.”
“Empty your pockets,” Nash said.
“What?” Charlie asked. “Who do you think you are?”
“I’m the person who’s going to turn around and tell Dad that I saw you using.” Nash flicked his head toward the restaurant where Aden was paying the bill. With Rachel in a sling on her shoulder, Sandy was standing with Noelle and Teddy. She looked up to smile at Charlie. “You know what’s going to happen if Aden thinks you’re using? Run that tape.”
Charlie rolled his eyes at Nash’s use of AA language, but his mind ran the tape. Aden would grab him by the scruff of his neck. They’d spend the morning at Denver Health. Even if he was clean, he’d have to go back to rehab. They’d have the ‘you can’t stay with us anymore’ talk. Sandy would cry her eyes out and… Charlie closed his eyes and emptied his pockets into Nash’s hands.
“She gave you a piece of paper?” Sissy asked.
“She gave me her phone number. Her parents kicked her out,” Charlie said. “She’s been on the streets a week. She got beat up last night. And yeah, she’s high. You would be too if you’d had to…”
Sissy ran to catch up with the girl. While Charlie and Nash stared, Sissy hugged the girl then gave her all the money she had in her wallet. The two girls talked for a minute then Sissy ran back.
“What was that?” Charlie asked.
“I wanted to see if she was okay,” Sissy said.
“Why’d you give her money?” Charlie asked. “She’s just going to use it for drugs.”
“Because I know what it’s like to love someone and have them on the streets,” Sissy stood right in Charlie’s face. “I know what it’s like to cry every night because you don’t know if you’ll see your brother again. I asked. She has a big brother and a little sister. I know that right this moment, they’re praying she’s all right; hoping they might see her one more time; begging God that she’ll live through the terrifying night; but they know in their heart that some day the police will show up to tell them their sister’s dead.”
She turned to go to the car but Charlie grabbed her. He turned her around and held her close.
“I’m sorry,” Charlie said.
Sissy began to cry. He put his hand on her head to hold her closer.
“Isn’t that Tink?” Sandy asked. “Nash, go get her.”
Incredulous, Nash looked at Sandy.
“We can at least give her a meal and a shower,” Sandy said. “Go.”
Nash ran to the girl.
“What’s going on?” Sandy asked Charlie and Sissy.
“I was apologizing to Sissy,” Charlie said. “I haven’t been the best brother.”
Sandy hugged him.
“What’s going on?” Aden asked.
“Remember I told you about Tink? Charlie’s friend?” Sandy asked. “She’s right there.”
Raising an eyebrow, Aden looked at Charlie. Charlie gave a slight shrug. His eyes went to Nash standing with Tink and trying to convince the girl to come with him. His eyes took in Sissy’s tear stained face. Teddy and Noelle joined them on the sidewalk. Without saying a word, Aden’s razor beam eyes bore a hole into Charlie. Aden nodded toward Tink. Charlie left to go talk to her.
“She’s high,” Aden said.
“She is,” Sandy said.
“We can’t take her in,” Aden said.
“I know,” Sandy said.
“But we can help,” Sissy said as tears fell from her eyes. “Please. Charlie’s only alive because strangers helped him. Please.”
Aden held out his arms to Sissy and she hugged him.
“We’ll do what we can,” Aden said.
Sissy began to sob. The simple idea that Aden and Sandy would help Sissy with her greatest pain was almost more than she could comprehend. The more Aden held her, the more she cried. Sandy put her hand on Sissy’s back in support.
“Dad!” Nash yelled. “Help! Dad!”
Aden’s head jerked over. Tink was having a seizure.
“Sissy,” Aden nudged her back.
He pointed toward Tink and they ran to her side. He kneeled down next to the young girl. The seizure stopped and Aden put his hand to the girl’s throat.
“She doesn’t have pulse,” Aden said. “Charlie, CPR. Do it now! Nash, give her breath. Teddy, you count. Sandy?”
Adenturned to look for her. She was already on her phone.
“Good,” Aden said. “Noelle: give me your sweater. Sissy: hold her legs.”
Within minutes, the paramedics arrived and Tink was whisked off to Denver Health. The family stood on the sidewalk where she had been. Stunned, they walked to the car and got in.
“Can we go to church to pray for Tink?” Sissy asked when she got in.
“I’m not baptized,” Noelle said.
“No one cares,” Teddy said.
“Let’s go,” Aden said.
Nodding, Sandy smiled at him and they drove down Colfax to the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.
Sunday morning — 9:41 A.M. MDT
Tanesha stopped to talk to Sandy and Rachel on her way out of the Cathedral after mass. Sandy had called Tanesha, Heather and Jill. They met at the eight-thirty mass to pray for the girl Tink.
Jeraine had insisted on coming along. She looked over the pews to smile at him. He was surrounded by young people wanting to talk to him. Feeling her eyes, he looked up and winked at her. She smiled at him.
“You wouldn’t happen to be Tanesha would you?”
Tanesha and Sandy looked up to see a handsome, well dressed, young man standing near them. Sandy turned to look at Tanesha.
“If you had a second, I’d love to chat with you?” The man smiled a white toothy smile.
“Sure,” Tanesha said.
Shrugging to Sandy, Tanesha followed the man outside. They went down the steps to the sidewalk. Tanesha looked up to see Sandy, Jill and Heather watching her.
“Sorry, I just have a second,” Tanesha said. “What can I help you with?”
“You can leave Jeraine alone,” the man leaned close to her. “I know you think you’re in love, but that man is incapable of giving you what you want. The sooner you see that, the sooner he can get on with his life.”
“What’s it to you?” Tanesha asked. “You come here to my place of worship and tell me what’s going to happen in my life? No. I don’t think so.”
“Jeraine’s life and career are my business,” As if he was trying to intimidate her, the man leaned over her. “You are not going to get in the way.”
“Get in the way of what?” Tanesha crossed her arms and looked him up and down. “Your love? Because I can tell you, the man is famous, but he is not gay.”
“I’m his agent,” the man said. “I created every aspect of his life and career. Everything was set up for him. All he had to do was finish his time and his career would pop.”
“For that girl,” the man said.
“The girl who killed herself?” Tanesha asked. “You’re talking crazy. Why would Jer go to prison because some girl killed herself? How could that make his life and career pop? Unless you mean like popcorn?”
Hearing Tanesha’s raised voice, Sandy, Jill and Heather made their way to her side. The man looked away from her.
“You set him up,” Tanesha’s voice shook with rage. “That’s what you’re telling me.”
“All he had to do was do his time,” the man said. “But no. Little Miss Intrusive gets in the way and it’s: He loves Tanesha. He’s going to quit his career for Tanesha. He’s going to become a doctor like Tanesha. You must feel pretty special, Tanesha.”
Tanesha scowled at the man.
“You know how many women that man has had? Prettier women. Bustier women. Thinner women. Thousands,” the man said. “You nothing but a skinny, nappy haired, hood rat from a cow town.”
Furious, Tanesha looked down Colfax Boulevard. Thinking he was gaining some ground, the man pressed forward.
“You think you’re going to get your man? You think he’s going to start school in a few weeks? You think he’s going to settle down to a normal happy life?” The man’s finger poked her chest. “ You’re nothing but a jump-off. You’ll never going to be a Queenbee. That man is all the Queenbee he can stand. He needs the spotlight. He needs the adoration of fans like you need water. One woman will never satisfy him. If he starts school, which I doubt, he’s going to lay down with every woman on campus before the month’s out. And then he’ll move on to greener pastures.”
“Why do you care who he sleeps with?” Heather said. Tanesha raised her eyebrows. “Something you want to share about your feelings for Jeraine. We don’t judge gay people.”
“Go away, little woman,” the man said. “We’re talking business here.”
“Just a second,” Tanesha said to Heather. Their eyes locked for a moment. Seeing Tanesha’s rage, Heather gave her a slight ‘go ahead’ nod. Heather turned away from Tanesha.
“Jeraine is a star. He’s headed toward his destiny,” the man said. “He belongs in the spotlight. Your chances of understanding a man like Jeraine are as likely as a crack whore getting into heaven.”
“I have something to say,” Tanesha said.
“There’s nothing you can say or do that’s going to change the reality of your situation,” the man said. “You’re pathetic.”
“Jeraine is a free man,” Tanesha said. “He can choose to do and be whatever he wants to do and be. If he wants to lay every girl at med school, that will be his choice. If he decided to come home to me, that’s his choice.”
“He’s not like you,” the man said. “He thinks only about his needs. And there’s no way you’re ever going to fulfill those needs.”
“Have you said your peace?” Tanesha asked.
The man nodded.
“Then get the hell out of here,” Tanesha said.
“I’m waiting for my man, Jeraine,” the man said.
“There you go again with the gay stuff again,” Tanesha said.
“You watch what you’re saying little girl,” the man said. “You don’t know who you’re talking to.”
“No,” Tanesha said. “You don’t know who you’re talking to. I’m not your slave and you’re not my overseer. You have no right to whip me with your words.”
Clearly offended, the man sneered at Tanesha.
“And Jeraine?” Tanesha pushed the man away from her. “He’s a free man. He can make his life however and where ever he wants to. He doesn’t belong to you. He doesn’t belong to anyone.”
“You just don’t get it,” the man started.
“Hey man!” Jeraine came up behind her. “Nice to see you!”
The manager’s demeanor changed. Still furious, Tanesha had to look away while Jeraine and the man went through a dance of handshakes and back pats.
“Did you meet Tanesha?” Jeraine asked. He looked at Tanesha’s angry face. “What’s going on?”
“Nothing,” Tanesha said. “Listen Jer, I’m going to head to the Castle with Jill and Sandy. Do you want to meet us there later?”
“I’ll be there,” Jeraine took her hands and kissed them. She smiled and he nodded.
“My car’s around back,” the manager nodded toward the parking lot. Jeraine’s eyes quizzed Tanesha but she smiled.
“See you later,” Tanesha said.
Jeraine nodded and went with his manager. He was a half block away when he turned back to look at her. She smiled again, but he knew something was up.
“We’ll talk later?” he mouthed to her.
She nodded. They were just about to turn the corner to the parking lot when Jeraine’s manager tripped and fell.
“Oops,” Jill said.
They worked to keep straight faces until Jeraine and the manager turned the corner. The women broke into laughter.
“What was that about?” Heather asked.
“That’s his manager,” Tanesha said. “He wanted to scare me away so he could have his property back. You would not believe even half of it.”
“What happened?” Sandy asked.
“That devil said Jeraine was in prison to boost his career,” Tanesha said. “His manager set him up.”
“Does Jeraine know?” Heather shook her head at the idea.
“Let’s ask Seth,” Sandy said. “He’ll know.”
“You know what I think?” Tanesha’s eyes went to the place the man fell. “I think Jeraine trusts the wrong people. That’s what I think.”
“You don’t think he’s an asshole?” Jill asked.
“Oh no,” Tanesha gave a rueful chuckle. “He’s a fool. That’s for sure. I’m just wondering…”
Jill, Sandy and Heather turned to look at her.
“I’m wondering if all these things I’ve been mad at him about,” Tanesha said. “Maybe they’re not his fault. I keep asking ‘Why are you like this?’”
A deep blue BMW drove by. Jeraine waved to her. They waved back.
“What if the reason he’s like that is because of that devil?” Tanesha asked.
“That’s not any better,” Jill said.
“No,” Tanesha shook her head. “It’s not.”
Sunday afternoon —1:41 P.M. MDT
When Sandy got up to check on the kids, Jill nodded to Tanesha. She got up to check her email on Jill’s office computer.
“Did get them to leave with your…?” Heather pointed to her temple then around the room.
“No,” Jill smiled. “We talked about it before you got to church.”
“I wanted to talk to you alone,” Jill said. “They wanted to know what happened. This was our compromise. Our friends are nosey.”
“It’s nice to see you smile,” Jill said.
“I know what you’re going to say,” Heather said. “But we’ve already decided what we want to do.”
“We think Katy figured out why she was positive on the tissue typing,” Jill said. “And why I wasn’t.”
“Why?” Heather asked.
“Katy calls it cuddles,” Jill said. “Basically, I can cure Blane.”
“What do you mean?” Heather asked. “You tried.”
“No buts,” Jill said. “We went in yesterday and were all retested.”
“Why did you do that?” Heather asked. “You know how we feel!”
“Because we love Blane. We both have deep respect for your life and your decisions,” Jill touched Heather’s hand. “You know that.”
“If you respect us so much why did you go behind our backs?” Heather asked.
“We knew what you’d say,” Jill said. “We had to be sure, Heather. That’s all. We had to be sure for ourselves. We couldn’t let Blane die without turning over every single rock to see if anything will help.”
“Oh Jill.” Heather hugged Jill.
“We think Katy and Jacob’s tissue typing will come back negative,” Jill said into Heather’s shoulder.
“What?” Heather leaned back.
“We think it’s me or something about me that will help,” Jill said.
Not wanting to cry, Heather looked away from Jill for a moment.
“I want you to consider what I’m saying,” Jill said. “I know you’re heart broken. I know you’ve had your hopes up before and nothing has come through.”
Heather’s tear-filled eyes turned back to Jill.
“We don’t know how or why, but we think I’ll be able to help him,” Jill said.
Heather bit her lip and nodded to Jill.
“Are you mad?” Jill asked.
“Desperate,” Heather said.
“Don’t feel desperate,” Jill said. “We’ll work it out.”
“I hope so,” Heather said.
Jill hugged her.
“Okay, you can come out now,” Heather said.
Tanesha and Sandy ran over to join them. They each hugged Heather.
“We’ll work it out,” Jill repeated.
“Promise,” Sandy said.
“We’re going to do this thing,” Tanesha said. “You’ll see.”
Unsure of what to say, Heather nodded.
Sunday night — 6:21 P.M. MDT
Sandy looked across the main Castle dinner table at Noelle. Her eyes were swollen and her face red from the meltdown she’d had only an hour before. Sandy smiled when Noelle laughed at something Mike had said.
Sandy glanced at Charlie. He’d spent most of the day anxiously pacing the apartment. He was so distracted by his worry for Tink that he hadn’t finished his assignment on fairness. She tried to catch his eye, but he was busy worrying. Since they weren’t Tink’s family, they only received the most minimal details. Tink was alive and on life support. The seizure was from the beating she’d received the night before. She was lucky they were there when she collapsed. Tink didn’t seem that lucky to any of them.
Sandy sighed. Aden looked at her. His eyes asked if she was all right. She nodded. Using his chin, he pointed to Nash. Noelle wasn’t the only person missing Teddy. Nash kept looking at his watch. They were going to call Teddy at exactly eight o’clock so he could listen in to story time. Nash didn’t want to be late. Teddy was truly a part of their family now.
Sissy’s laugh caught Sandy’s attention. Sissy and Jill’s mother, Anjelika, were deep in conversation about ballet. Under Anjelika’s kind attention, Sissy had blossomed. Sandy could see the prima ballerina just begging for Sissy’s insecurities to let her out.
At the end of the table, Jacob laughed at something Katy said. Jill was pretending to be offended. When Delphie laughed, Jill laughed. Sandy was so happy to see her best friend so happy. Even Jill’s hair was growing in. Valerie came in from her latest trip to the bathroom. For such a small person, she was truly huge with baby. She stopped to kiss Mike and went to sit near Sam. They fell into their on-going conversation about some mine they owned.
Honey caught her attention. She crossed her eyes at Sam and Valerie’s ongoing argument about the mine. Sandy laughed. MJ leaned over to say something to Honey and they laughed. Sandy knew Jacob and Jill had finished rehabilitating an entire floor of Jill’s old building. They were waiting until every detail was perfect before surprising Honey and MJ with their new apartment building for paraplegic people.
So many people. So many worries.
Sandy was always amazed at how much laughter there was around this dinner table. No matter what happened, they came together at the table to enjoy each other and laugh. Rachel squirmed in her sling and Sandy looked down at her.
“Can I?” Noelle asked.
When Sandy nodded, Noelle came around to take Rachel. The baby smiled when she saw Noelle.Adenput his arm around her and they watched Noelle make Rachel laugh.
Sandy’s phone rang with “Moves like Jagger”, the latest Maroon 5 song. Sandy gave Nash a hard look. He laughed. Earlier, he’d snuck “Cheers” by Rihanna on her phone. She’d told him to get rid of it this afternoon but he’d clearly replaced it with another pop song. Shaking her head, she answered.
“Sandy?” Ava’s voice sounded frantic. Sandy heard airport noise in the background.
“Ava? What’s going on?” Sandy stood up to walk out of the room. “Has something happened?”
“Are you off tomorrow?” Ava asked.
“Yes, I don’t work Mondays,” Sandy said. “Did something happen to Seth?”
“No, no,” Ava said. “Seth is fine.”
The noise in the background disappeared.
“Listen,” Ava said. “Seth got a heads up call from someone at the FBI. They’re coming tomorrow morning to pick you up.”
“I’m not sure,” Ava said. “Seth called them back but didn’t catch them. I called my friends there and they said it was ‘nothing good.’”
“For you,” Ava said.
Sandy felt as if all of the light, all of the joy, and all of the laughter faded. Her awful past had risen up again to blot out her sun. Ava continued talking. Sandy glanced into the dining room. Everyone continued eating and laughing.
But all Sandy heard was the pounding of her own heart. The shadow of her past overwhelmed her. Again.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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