Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Three Hundred and Three : What you are

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Monday night — 9:40 p.m.

“Was it really Eros?” Jacob asked as Jill came into their living room.

Jacob had bathed Katy and Paddie, and Jill had put them into bed. The children were fast asleep in Katy’s bed.

“It looked like the paintings of him,” Jill said.

“A cherub?” Jacob laughed.

“He certainly acted like a child,” Jill said. “But no, not a cherub. He had light hair, clear blue eyes … I guess he was handsome.”

“You guess?” Jacob asked. “He’s the god of love!”

“He was just so childish,” Jill shrugged. “He and Heather’s mother deserve each other. They are both self-consumed, spoiled children.”

Jill scowled. Jacob patted the sofa next to him. When she sat down, he tugged on her until she was sitting on his lap. He kissed her neck.

“They didn’t seem very god-like,” Jill said.

“What is god-like?” Jacob asked. “It seems like every god or goddess is a little childish. They have terrible temper tantrums when they don’t get what they want.”

“Certainly, the Christian God destroyed a few cities in the Old Testament,” Jill said.

“People used to throw their children into volcanos to appease angry gods,” Jacob said. “Why would a god be appeased by the death of a child?”

Jill nodded.

“Petulant,” Jacob said. “Powerful. The Vikings used to burn a young slave woman alive with the body of a Viking warrior. She usually had the ‘honor’ of sexually servicing the entire crew before she was burned alive.”

“Yuck,” Jill said.

“The weird thing is the written account says that the woman felt honored to be able to do it,” Jacob said.

“I bet that was written by a man,” Jill sniffed.

“Probably,” Jacob chuckled.

“How do you know about Vikings?” Jill asked.

“Isle of Man,” Jacob said. “I’ve been reading up to try to understand some of my experience there.”

“And?” Jill asked. Her eyebrows went up and she smiled.

“It still doesn’t make any logical sense,” Jacob laughed.

Jill laughed and nestled against him.

“Thanks for picking up the boys,” Jill said.

“It’s my pleasure,” Jacob said. “I’m amazed at how fast they’re growing, and how tiny they still are.”

“Miracles,” Jill said.

“Yes,” Jacob said. “How are you holding up with the feedings and parenting and healing and now dealing with a childish Greek God?”

“Good,” Jill smiled. “I’m tired, but … Katy and I had fun tonight. Boy …”

Knowing she needed to collect her thoughts, Jacob waited for her to speak. She sighed.

“What is it?” Jacob asked.

“She’s just growing up fast,” Jill said. “She’s five going on fifty. You should have seen her tonight. If I didn’t know better, I’d think she was the ring master and the rest of us were following her bidding.”

“Sounds like our Katy,” Jacob chuckled.

“It does,” Jill laughed. “I just love her.”

“Yes,” Jacob said.

“Do you think she’s growing up too fast?” Jill asked.

“No,” Jacob said. “I think we’re growing — all of us. It feels like she’s growing up fast, and the boys are huge, because we’re growing too.”

Jill sighed.

“I think it’s good,” Jacob said.

“I know,” Jill said. “But I kind of wish she was still my little baby.”

Jacob held her close. After a few moments, he chuckled.

“What?” Jill asked.

“What’s the deal with the sword?” Jacob asked.

“The wooden sword?” Jill laughed.

“It’s a wooden sword,” Jacob said. “I practically had to kill Paddie to get it away from him for his bath.”

“I heard you arguing with him.” Jill smiled.

“He said Perses told him no man would be able to take it from him,” Jacob said. “So the child is supposed to bathe with it?”

“Paddie is very literal.” Jill laughed.

“He’s four,” Jacob said. “He’s supposed to be literal. What was your father thinking?”

“It’s a special sword,” Jill said. “The Sword of Truth.”

“From the books?” Jacob asked.

“The fairy books. Right,” Jill said.

“Cuts both ways,” Jacob said.

“Paddie made the lie that Heather wasn’t here seem true to her parents,” Jill said.

Jill snorted, and became overwhelmed with emotion. Jacob kissed her cheek.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished that Heather was free of this stupid …” Jill sniffed at her tears.

“And now she is,” Jacob said.

“It’s like a dream come true,” Jill said. “Like you and the boys and Katy and Paddie and this place … Everything.”

Lost in her own thoughts, she fell silent.

“It’s like dreams come true,” Jill said.

“My dream certainly came true,” Jacob said.

She turned to look at him and he kissed her. She smiled.

“Come on,” Jacob said. “The boys will be …”

Tanner made a noise somewhere between a scream and a laugh. Bladen whimpered in response.

“Right on schedule,” Jill said.

She laughed. They started toward the nursery.

“What?” Jacob said.

“Dreams come true,” Jill said.

Jacob laughed.


Monday night — 10:40 p.m.

Heather let herself into the side door at the Castle and took a breath. Jill had left a lamp on for her in the Castle living room. From where she stood, she could see a note and a plate of chocolate chocolate-chip cookies on the table under the lamp. Heather smiled and went to look.

She picked up the note and a cookie.

“Welcome to your new life! Love you!” Heather read out loud, and grinned.

“You really are Hedone, aren’t you?” Tink’s voice came from Heather’s right.

Heather turned toward her voice. Tink was standing in the doorway of the room Charlie used for school. Jacob had set up a bed in there for her. Her hair was tussled and she wore her bed clothes, but the girl was wide awake.

“Would you like a cookie?” Heather asked.

Tink nodded.

“Let’s get some milk,” Heather said.

Heather started toward the kitchen. She set the plate of cookies on the table. Tink slunk in behind her and settled on a chair at the table.

“I don’t want to eat all your cookies,” Tink said.

“That’s okay,” Heather said. “I know where they hide them.”

Tink smiled. By the time Heather returned with milk and glasses, Tink had eaten two cookies.

“Are you hungry?” Heather asked. “I can make you something …”

“Nervous,” Tink nodded.

“Why?” Heather asked, and sat down across from Tink.

“I just …” Tink said. She leaned forward. “I’ve never talked to a god before.”

“Goddess.” Heather corrected automatically, and then grinned. “Half.”

“A half-Goddess,” Tink said. “Like half matters.”

“Oh, you’d be surprised,” Heather said. “In some circles, it’s all about who’s full blooded and who is not. For the record, I am not a full blooded Olympian.”

“Is that a big deal?” Tink asked.

“Not to me,” Heather said.

“Yeah, that’s what I don’t get,” Tink said. “I mean, when you asked me to read about Eros and Psyche, I thought it was just to learn about love.”

“And evil mother-in-laws,” Heather said.

“That too,” Tink said. “But I don’t have to deal with Charlie’s mother.”

“Sandy’s more powerful than you’d think,” Heather said.

Tink laughed. Heather grinned and took another cookie.

“I didn’t realize it was about you,” Tink said.

Heather nodded.

“Your dad’s a …” Tink started and faded out.

“At a loss for words?” Heather asked. “Asshole works.”

“At a loss for … what’s that kind of word called?” Tink asked.

“Adjective?” Heather asked.

“Right,” Tink said. “He’s lame, stupid, immature, selfish, spoiled …”

“I used to dream that he would come and sweep us away from poverty and despair,” Heather said.

“I used to dream that my real family would come and they would be …” Tink snorted. “Like you and Blane.”

Heather smiled.

“Blane’s pretty amazing,” Heather said. “Meeting Blane and living with him, that’s when I realized that my mom and dad … They’re just … what they are.”

“Big babies,” Tink said. “That’s what Charlie said they were.”

Heather nodded.

“We look to gods as if they are special — better than us,” Heather said. “It’s really humans who have all those god traits and …”

Heather’s eyes welled with tears and she nodded.

“You mean that people can love and be strong and be weak and be beautiful and …” Tink said.

“Everything,” Heather said.

“Don’t you think that’s because that Zeus guy was so …” Tink leaned forward to whisper. “Rapey.”

“Probably.” Heather laughed.

Tink smiled.

“You don’t seem to care,” Tink started and then scowled. “I don’t mean care, I mean …”

“I don’t care about this stuff,” Heather said. “I’m happy to talk to you about it as much as you want, but it doesn’t mean anything to me.”

“Being immortal doesn’t mean anything to you?” Tink asked.

“I don’t know if I’m immortal,” Heather said. “I’ve never had the chance to live a full life. My mother always yanked me out of wherever I was and I started over.”

“If you don’t care, why did you tell Tanesha?” Tink asked.

“She’s half fairy,” Heather said. “I thought she … was like me, you know, not really fairy, not really human, a half. It took me a long time to figure out that she wasn’t a part of the fairy world and … everything. Really, I wasn’t thinking very well. I’d just gotten here, become ten again, and … Catholic school is such a weird experience for someone like me.”

“Never been,” Tink said.

“There’s a good thing,” Heather said.

Tink grinned.

“Tanesha didn’t know anything about being a fairy,” Heather said. “Jill didn’t know about her father.”

“And Sandy?” Tink asked. “Is she half … something?”

“She’s fully human,” Heather said.

“Then why is she your friend?” Tink asked. “I mean, she’s amazing, awesome, and so pretty but …”

“I think I want to be like her,” Heather said. “She’s not special, you know genetically or whatever. That’s what makes her so amazing. She’s smart and tough and loving — God, she could really give my parents a lesson in love. She’s wonderful in every way. With Tanesha and Jill, you know, not knowing about their parents, I just …”

Heather shrugged. Tink cocked her head to encourage Heather to speak.

“I guess I realized that being ‘special’ isn’t such a big deal,” Heather said. “What you are, you know who made you, doesn’t matter very much, really.”

Heather nodded.

“I mean, look at my father,” Heather said. “He could have made this entire situation better, but he refused to use the power he had to change my life, Mom’s life. He was just caught up in his own dreams, his own games.”

Heather shrugged and Tink nodded that she understood.

“Look at Sandy,” Heather said. “She’s never had a break. No one ever said, ‘Let’s make life easy for Sandy.’ And look at all she does and has.”

Heather paused for a moment. She picked up a cookie and took a bite.

“I guess, I realized that what you are genetically, who you come from, matters a lot less than what you do,” Heather said. “I want to be known for what I do, not what I am. So I sort of cast off this stuff.”

“You don’t think it matters who you came from?” Tink asked.

“No,” Heather said. “Look at you. You’ve had a really tough time, and you’re taking your life one step at a time. By the time your life is over, I’d bet you’ll do a hell of lot more than my mother ever did in all of her thousands of years of life.”

Tink blushed. Heather nodded and finished her cookie.

“What you do is more important that where you came from,” Heather said, and nodded. “When I look back on my life, that’s the only thing that stands out as absolutely true.”

“What about being raped and thrown out by my parents and Saint Jude and all of that?” Tink asked.

“You have to get through it, that’s for sure,” Heather said. “Go to therapy and stuff. But you’re doing that.”

“But don’t you think that makes me … dirty?” Tink asked.

“No,” Heather said. “Did you want any of that stuff to happen?”

Tink shook her head.

“Did you make it happen with your actions?” Heather asked.

“My stepdad says if I was a better kid, they would have kept me,” Tink said.

“Is that true?” Heather asked.

“No, but …” Tink said.

“My dad says that because my mother looked at his face, she deserved to be tortured by his mother,” Heather said.

“He really is an asshole,” Tink said.

“He is,” Heather chuckled. “But we’d better stop talking about him. He might hear us and figure out he’s been duped.”

“Can he do that?” Tink asked.

Heather nodded.

“We won’t talk about them again,” Tink said.

The girl’s sincerity made Heather well up. She smiled through her tears.

“How’s Blane?” Tink asked.

“Good,” Heather said. “They think they’ll be able to start the treatment tomorrow or the next day.”

“He knows about all of this?” Tink asked.

“I told him when we started living together,” Heather said. “I didn’t know when Mom would take me again. That’s why we put Blane on Mack’s birth certificate. In case Mom took me.”

“It’s a secret,” Tink nodded.

“It doesn’t mean anything to me,” Heather said. “I don’t tell people because they think it’s a big deal.”

“Like being raped,” Tink said.

“Right,” Heather said. “You don’t tell everyone because it’s not their business.”

“Everybody’s gonna know if I testify,” Tink said.

“Do we care?” Heather shrugged.

Tink wobbled her head back and forth.

“Sort of,” Tink said.

“I know,” Heather said.

They laughed.

“We’ll deal with it when it happens,” Heather said.

“Sounds like Blane,” Tink said.

“It’s what he always says,” Heather said. “Are you ready for bed?”

Tink nodded.

“Can you sleep?” Heather asked.

“Will you stay with me?” Tink asked. She quickly added, “I know you need to see Mack and …”

“Mack’s with Honey and MJ,” Heather said. “He’s well cared for.”

Heather got up and they started toward the room Tink was staying in.

“You were very brave tonight,” Heather said.

“I was mad,” Tink said. “Your father is a jerk.”

Heather shrugged.

“Yeah, right,” Tink said. “Welcome to the club.”

Heather helped Tink into bed and lay down next to her.

“Love you, Tink,” Heather said.

“Love you, Heather,” Tink said. “Thanks for telling me.”

Heather stroked Tink’s hair until the girl was asleep. Rolling onto her back, she looked up at the ceiling and smiled.

She had one whole human lifetime before returning to the bullshit. It was going to be great.

Hell, it already was great.


Tuesday morning — 4:40 a.m.

“Yvie,” Rodney said in a loud whisper.

Yvonne gasped and pulled away from him. She gave him a look of sheer terror that felt like a gut punch. He rarely woke her because it was so upsetting to her.

“It’s me, Yvie,” Rodney said. “Just Rodney.”

“Rodney?” Yvonne asked. Her voice was so sweet that he smiled.

“Your husband,” Rodney said. He repeated what she needed to know every morning, “You’re safe and sleeping in your own pretty yellow home.”

Yvonne nodded. He held his hand out to her and she got out of bed. He led her to the blackboard wall he’d painted in their bedroom. Every night before bed, Yvonne covered the wall in everything she needed to remember. Every morning, she read her own words in her own handwriting. After a moment, she turned to hug him.

“Good morning!” she said.

She got up on her toes to hug him. He kissed her neck.

“Good morning,” he said.

“Why did you wake me?” Yvonne asked.

“Jabari’s not in his bed,” Rodney said. “And I can’t find Mr. Chesterfield.”

“What?” Yvonne’s voice rose with panic.

She ran out of the room and into their guest bedroom.

“Jabari!” Yvonne called.

She dug through the thick covers. Rodney yanked the blankets off the bed.

The boy wasn’t there.

“Jabari!” Yvonne called.

Yvonne went into the closet where he’d insisted on sleeping the first few days he was with them. Rodney turned on the closet light. Yvonne flipped through all of Jabari’s new clothing while Rodney looked below.

The boy wasn’t there.

“He’s never left this room,” Yvonne said. “We put him right in this bed. He was sick and … Did I forget and put him someplace else?”

“No, we put him in this bed,” Rodney said.

Yvonne went back to the bed to see if somehow he was hiding underneath.

The boy wasn’t there.

“Where’s Mr. Chesterfield?” Rodney asked.

“That’s right, the dog goes everywhere with the boy,” Yvonne said.

“Chesterfield! Come!” Rodney yelled.

They listened. There was no scratching sound of paws on the hard wood, no clanking of dog tags, and no creaking of Mr. Chesterfield coming up the stairs.

Mr. Chesterfield wasn’t there.

Yvonne flew down the stairs with Rodney right behind her. They raced through the little house screaming “Jabari” and “Chesterfield.”

Mr. Chesterfield wasn’t in the dining room or the living room or the little study or the milk porch.

Jabari wasn’t in the dining room or the living room or the little study or the laundry room.

“Oh no,” Yvonne said.

She slid across the kitchen floor to where Mr. Chesterfield was lying next to the door. The dog’s muzzle was red, as if he’d bit someone or something. In return, someone had kicked or hit the dog hard. The battered dog whimpered when she touched him.

Yvonne hopped to her feet to meet Rodney. She used her body to stop him from getting to the dog. He easily looked over her shoulder.

“Chesterfield!” Rodney wailed.

“He’s just hurt,” Yvonne said. “We’ll get Abi here and she’ll …”

Rodney set Yvonne aside and dropped to his dog. He lifted the old black dog onto his lap and began to wail.

“Jabari’s gone,” Yvonne said to herself. “Mr. Chesterfield is injured.”

Yvonne nodded to herself.

“I need the police,” Yvonne said.

She touched Rodney’s head and went to the phone. After calling the police, she went out in to the back to get Akeem. The boy ran across the backyard to the kitchen. Through the kitchen window, Yvonne watched Akeem pull Rodney away from Mr. Chesterfield.

Yvonne nodded to herself.

Jabari was taken by Annette. She just knew it.

Mr. Chesterfield was hurt by Annette. She just knew it.

“No matter where you hide,” Yvonne said out loud to the early morning dark. “I will find you.”

“I will get my Jabari back. He will be healthy, happy, and full of life. I will make sure Mr. Chesterfield is there to greet him.”

The stars seemed to bend down to listen to her wishes.

“You don’t have any idea who you messed with Annette,” Yvonne said. “You will regret the day you took my boy and hurt my dog.”

A police cruiser wailed to a stop outside the home. Yvonne ran to meet them.

Denver Cereal continues next week…


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