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CHAPTER THREE HUNDRED AND TWO
“Mirth,” the man said to Tanesha.
“Splendor,” he said to Sandy. He turned to Jill.
“Where is my daughter, Good Cheer?” the man asked.
“In the first place,” Tanesha sneered at the man. “I’m not Mirth.”
“I’m not Splendor,” Sandy said. Her voice had an edge that made Charlie move to stand next to her. He took the arrows and held them close.
“I’m not Good Cheer,” Jill said.
The man stepped back to assess the women.
“Can you believe this guy?” Sandy asked Charlie in an artificially indignant voice. Charlie gave her a confused look.
“Dude here thinks we are the three Graces,” Tanesha shook her head. “We’re human.”
“You’re a fairy,” the man said. He gestured to Jill and said, “And she’s … Ah shit.”
The man hit his hands against his thighs and spun in a circle saying, “Shit! Shit! Shit!”
The man reached to take his arrows from Charlie just as Jill’s father, Perses, walked in the door. Charlie pushed the man away from him and the arrows.
“Hello,” Perses said. The man dropped to a knee.
He looked from person to person. Perses grabbed the front of the man’s tunic and pulled him to his feet.
“Did you aim an arrow at my daughter?” Perses asked.
“I …, uh …” the man said. “I am very sorry, sir. I didn’t realize she was your daughter. I thought she was a Grace.”
“So it’s okay to point your arrows at my aunt’s children?” Perses’s voice rose.
“No, no, no,” the man said.
Perses scowled. As if he was reading the situation, he looked from person to person.
“Put the blade away, Paddie,” Perses said to Paddie. “I will take care of this.”
“Not yet,” Paddie said.
With the man in one hand, Perses walked over to Paddie. The toe haired boy looked up at the man. For a moment, the child and the Titan stared at each other.
“May I?” Perses asked.
He easily took the sword from Paddie. Still holding the man in one hand, Perses held the blade before his eyes and looked down the blade.
“Nice sword,” Perses said. “Where did you get it?”
“From Maughold,” Fin said.
“Isle of Man?” Perses looked down at Paddie.
“It’s a magic sword,” Paddie said. “That’s what he said.”
Paddie pointed to Fin. Perses turned to Fin.
“What’s your stake in this?” Perses asked Fin.
“Stake?” Fin asked.
Perses looked at Fin and then turned to look at Tanesha.
“I never would have put that together,” Perses said. He smiled at Tanesha. “She’s been my daughter’s friend most of her life.”
“Yes, sir,” Fin said.
“G’mpa, give Paddie his sword back,” Katy demanded.
“Katy,” Jill pulled her daughter to her.
“No, she’s right,” Perses turned to Paddie. “That’s a very important sword.”
“Made by Manannán,” Jill said.
“Oh no,” Perses looked at Jill. He smiled. “It’s much, much older than that. More important.”
Perses turned to Paddie.
“Are you the man to own this blade?” Perses asked.
“I’m five,” Paddie said. He stuck his chest out in a gesture of pride.
“You’re not five!” Katy said. “You’re only four and a half!”
“I’m four and a half!” Paddie said. He stuck his chest out again.
“So you are,” Perses grinned. He held the sword, hilt first, out to Paddie. “It’s yours for life. No one will ever be able to take it from you.”
Paddie hopped up and down for a moment before taking the sword back. Perses gave a slight nod and touched Paddie’s forehead.
“Yes, sir,” Paddie said and smiled.
Perses grinned at the boy.
“Perses? If I may?” Fin started.
Perses turned back to look at Fin.
“You should let Eros up,” Fin said.
Perses raised his eyebrows at Fin.
“He’s just looking for his wife,” Fin said.
He gestured to where Seth held onto Heather’s mother Alma. Perses turned to look at Seth.
“Seth,” Perses said.
“Perses,” Seth said in a low voice.
“You know what you have there?” Perses asked.
“Think so,” Seth said.
“Good,” Perses said. “Can you hold on to that one for a bit?”
“I’ve got her,” Seth said.
“Don’t let her touch anyone,” Perses said.
Perses set the man he’d been holding onto his feet, and stood right in front of him. Perses patted the man’s shoulders which seemed to wake the man up.
“Eros,” Perses said to the man.
“Perses,” the man said.
“You know where you are?” Perses asked.
“No,” Eros said. “I’ve been looking for my wife, my daughter for …”
Eros gave a sad shrug.
“A few thousand human years,” Perses said. “Yes.”
“My mother …” Eros started.
“I want to know …” Tink said.
The girl walked up to where Perses and Eros were standing. They were so surprised by her intervention that they turned to look at her.
“Why did you let your mother do it?” Tink asked.
Eros looked at the girl and then at his captor. Perses gave a slight nod.
“How was I to know that my mother would be so cruel?” Eros asked.
“Oh come on!” Sandy said. “That’s the most pathetic thing I’ve ever heard. You abandoned your wife and child because of your ego.”
The mood in the room tightened with electric tension. The people turned on Eros.
“She broke a sacred promise to me,” Eros said.
“To not look at you?” Jeraine asked. “You think any of these women wouldn’t want to know who is in their bed? How stupid are you?”
“You couldn’t imagine that your mother would be cruel?” Tanesha asked. “What did she do the last time you fell in love?”
“Uh …” Eros said.
“You don’t deserve Psyche’s love,” Heather said.
“Hedone?” Eros’s was so surprised that he gawked at Heather. “Hedone?”
“She’s not Hedone,” Katy said. “That’s just dumb. She’s my Auntie. Her name is Heather.”
Paddie punctuated her words with a flick of his sword.
“I only came for my wife and daughter, fairy child,” Eros said. “You have no right to …”
“That’s my granddaughter,” Perses said.
“Shit!” Eros said. “Shit!”
“You really are pathetic,” Jill said. “You failed to protect your wife and daughter from what you knew your mother would do.”
“I …” Eros started.
“You’re saying you didn’t know?” Perses asked.
“Oh hell,” Eros said. “I knew she was mean, I just thought … I really thought she’d …”
The handsome Eros looked from face to face finally settling on Fin.
“I fucked up,” Eros said.
“Now there’s a truth,” Fin said.
“Then you know what you must do,” Perses said. “Tanesha?”
“He gets one,” Tanesha said. “I’m not going to have this fool shooting arrows around the room willy-nilly.”
“Fair enough,” Perses said.
Tanesha took an arrow from Charlie and carried it to Perses. Eros reached for the arrow.
“You know what those are?” Eros asked Tanesha.
“I read about you in high school,” Tanesha said.
“What’s high school?” Eros asked.
“Why don’t you go back to where you came from and we’ll get on with our lives?” Tanesha asked. “We won’t miss you.”
“I want my daughter back,” Eros said.
“She’s not here,” Tanesha said.
Eros scowled at Tanesha and jerked the arrow from her hand.
“Seth?” Perses said. “Can you turn Alma’s back to us?”
“What?” Eros asked. “That woman is not …”
Alma fought with Seth but he managed to turn her back toward Perses and Eros.
“Your shot?” Perses asked.
Eros looked at him for a moment before threading his arrow into the bow.
“Tink!” Heather waved for Tink to come to her. Tink picked up Mack and went to Heather.
“Katy! Paddie!” Jill pushed the children away from the action.
Charlie moved closer to Sandy and the rest of the adults moved away from Seth and Alma.
“I’m a good shot!” Eros said.
“Take your shot,” Perses said, and smirked. He winked at Katy, who giggled.
Eros shot an arrow into the back of the woman they knew as Alma. She collapsed against Seth. The arrow dissolved into her. Perses gave Eros a little push and the man fell into Alma. To catch himself, he put his arms on Alma’s. Seth let go and stepped out of the way.
Alma and Eros fell to the ground.
“Eros?” Alma asked.
Alma’s voice was soft. She blinked as if she’d been asleep.
“Psyche?” Eros asked.
“You found me,” Alma said.
Alma threw her arms around his neck. As they watched, Alma transformed into the beautiful young woman, Psyche. Her tight grey haired bun unraveled and her hair fell in long, black curls. Her body dropped forty pounds and her willowy figure appeared. Eros kissed Psyche.
“I’m so sorry,” Eros said.
“I’m sorry,” Psyche said. “I should have trusted you but …”
“Your sisters filled your head with nonsense,” Eros said.
“Never again,” Psyche said.
“I’ll never let my mother hurt you again,” Eros said. “I swear.”
Psyche threw her arms around his neck again. They both began to weep. Caught up in each other, they failed to notice Heather moving behind Tanesha, Jill, and Sandy. Tink hugged Charlie and they stood next to Sandy. Fin and Abi moved to stand next to Tanesha and Jeraine.
After a few minutes, Eros shifted away from Psyche.
“Where is Hedone?” Eros asked.
“She was here …” Psyche looked around the room. “She was right here.”
“Hedone is not here,” Jill said. She looked at Sandy. “Do you know anyone named Hedone?”
Paddie started playing with the sword again.
“No,” Sandy shook her head. “I don’t know anyone named Hedone. Tanesha?”
“You must have lost her,” Tanesha said.
“Lost her …” Psyche said.
“Maybe you should enjoy your reunion and then go look for your daughter,” Perses suggested. “There’s still a matter of your marriage.”
“Jupiter he …” Eros started.
“It’s all arranged,” Perses said.
Eros and Psyche looked up at Perses.
“Yes,” Eros said. He turned to Psyche. “Will you?”
“Yes!” Psyche said.
“May I offer my island?” Perses said. “You can enjoy your reunion beyond the prying eyes of the modern world. It’s a lovely place to be married.”
“Would you like that?” Eros asked.
Psyche leaned forward and they kissed. The room took on a pink glow. Slowly, Eros and his bride, Psyche, disappeared from the room. The room was silent for a moment before Tanesha began to clap. The adults cheered.
“Paddie?” Perses said.
Paddie put the sword away. Perses nodded to the boy. He leaned down to kiss Jill’s cheek and walked toward the door. As he passed Heather, he held up one finger. She nodded, and he left the house.
“Well, that was weird,” Charlie said. “What do we do now?”
“Can you help me clean up?” Heather asked as she stepped out from behind them. “I don’t think my mom’s going to be back for a while. And it’s too much for me.”
“I can do it,” Abi said.
She shrunk down to Fairy Corp size. Around them, furniture flew and dust rose. Sandy pointed out the dirty dishes to Charlie and they picked up a few dishes and walked to the kitchen. They were halfway to the kitchen when the dishes disappeared from their hands. In a few moments, Abi returned to normal human size and smiled.
“Thanks everyone!” Heather said. “I hate to push you out but it’s almost my time with Blane. I don’t get a lot and …”
She gave a soft smile.
“Ready Katy?” Jill asked.
Katy raised her arms and Jill picked her up. Paddie raised his arms and she lifted him too. Sandy set Jill’s purse around Jill’s neck. Jill smiled at Heather and they left.
Fin gave Heather a hug and kissed her cheek. He held out his hand to Abi, and they left. Tanesha hugged Heather and followed Fin and Abi.
“I’ll see you tonight,” Heather said to Tink.
“I’ll wait up,” Tink said. She picked up Mack and rested him on her hip.
“You don’t have to,” Heather said.
“I want to hear about Blane,” Tink said.
“I’ll come straight from the hospital to the Castle,” Heather said. “I love you, Tink.”
Tink gave Heather a quick hug. Charlie held his hand out and Tink took it. They followed Sandy and Seth out of the house.
And Heather was alone.
Heather went back into the house. She’d spent a lot of time in this house. She looked into her room and her mother’s. She went into the kitchen. Standing in the kitchen, Heather closed her eyes and felt the house.
She opened her eyes. She checked the back door to make sure it was locked. Checked that Abi had taken all the trash out and cleaned out the refrigerator, which she had. Heather smiled and walked out the door.
She went out the front door and locked it. She went to her Subaru and drove off.
“Are you going to tell me what happened?” Jeraine asked as Heather drove past his car.
Tanesha worried that Heather might need her, so she’d asked him to wait until Heather was on her way. He started the car.
“I don’t know what to tell you,” Tanesha said.
“Psyche is a human woman with whom Eros or Cupid fell in love with,” Jeraine said. “He lay with her night after night, which signified them being married.”
“In the myth, they don’t have a child until after he wakes her,” Tanesha said. “After the Gods approve their marriage.”
“But clearly that’s not true,” Jeraine said. He put the car into gear and started to drive. “He told Psyche that she must not look at his face, know who he was. But Psyche’s jealous sisters got her all insecure so after he fell asleep, she looked at his face.”
“A drop of oil woke him,” Tanesha said.
“Right,” Jeraine said. “He left, and she wandered the world looking for him. She found his mother instead. His mother gave her four trials.”
“The myth says that, after completing the fourth task, she fell into a death sleep,” Tanesha said. “But Alma … She seemed almost asleep to herself. Terrified of her husband’s mother, she ran from him and the world.”
“And wound up here in Denver?” Jeraine asked.
“This time,” Tanesha said.
“How …?” Jeraine asked.
“I’m going to tell you this because I promised never to lie to you,” Tanesha said. “But this is the only time I’ll talk about it.”
“Ever,” Tanesha said. “When the car gets to our house, I’ll never say another word about this.”
“Okay,” Jeraine said.
“I met Heather after they’d been here a week or something,” Tanesha said. “She told me this crazy story of living life after life, every time she was settled in and grown up, usually had at least one child, her mother would move them and Heather became a child again.”
“How many times had she done it?” Jeraine asked.
“Thousands, probably more,” Tanesha said. “She said they all kind of blurred together. But sometimes, I think she remembered all of them. World War II, the Romans, the Spanish Inquisition … That guy Maughold on the Isle of Man? He knew her.”
Tanesha gave an indignant snort.
“Heather never had a choice,” Tanesha said. “She left behind love after love, child after child. Every time she finally felt safe, wham, her mother would take her. She never knew when or where or even why, really. It just happened.”
“Such a horrible thing to do,” Jeraine said.
“She told me because she said I was more like her,” Tanesha said. “We met Sandy and Jill about a week later. Heather knew that Jill was a ‘Titan,’ and told her so. But then, she knew I was a fairy.”
Tanesha fell silent.
“Early on, I mean, we’d probably known each other a month or something, I promised Heather that if I ever got the chance, I would make sure her mother didn’t take her again,” Tanesha said. “Jill and Sandy pledged the same oath. We stayed up all night at Sandy’s house talking about what we’d do, how we’d fool them. I thought it was just something fun, a game, but …”
“You planned this?”
“When we were ten,” Tanesha said. “I guess it sounds foolish, but we were sincere. I couldn’t imagine a more selfish or horrible thing than what Heather’s mother did over and over again to Heather.”
“And Perses?” Jeraine asked.
“I don’t know how or why he got here,” Tanesha said.
“Seemed like he and Eros knew each other,” Jeraine said.
“Eros put Jill in danger,” Tanesha said.
“Looked like they had bad blood,” Jeraine said.
“Probably,” Tanesha said. “Katy must have known about the plan. That’s why Paddie … But the Sword of Truth, I …”
“The Sword of Truth is in those books, you know from Ne Ne?” Jeraine nodded. “I’ve been reading them to Jabari, so I remember.”
“Okay. What’s the deal with the Sword of Truth?”
“It cuts two ways,” Jeraine said. “Mostly, it cuts through falsehood to show truth. Only in the most dire situations, when protecting someone or something from a great evil, the sword can make a falsehood seem true.”
“You mean Heather’s parents believed she wasn’t there because Paddie made it seem true,” Tanesha said.
“For them,” Jeraine said.
“I bet that’s what Perses was agreeing with Paddie over,” Tanesha said.
“Does the child know?”
“I doubt it,” Tanesha said. “But he might. He and Katy are … like Kings and Queens of old or Saints or something.”
Jeraine smiled and pulled into the alley behind their house.
“The finger Perses held up?” Jeraine asked.
“We’re home,” Tanesha said.
“We’re still moving,” Jeraine said.
“I don’t know for sure, but my guess is that Heather gets one human lifetime,” Tanesha said. “One lifetime to live and love all the way through before having to go back. Her parents will stay on Perses’s island, wherever that is, until Heather’s lived this life, had her children, and been able to see them grow up.”
Jeraine stopped the car inside their small garage. For a moment, they sat in silence.
“Thanks for coming with me,” Tanesha said and got out of the car.
He sat for a moment while she went into the house. He ran through the entire story in his mind before smiling to himself. With a nod, He went inside.
Monday evening — 9:25 p.m.
“How did they know?” Blane asked.
His voice was low so that the nurse wouldn’t notice that Heather had snuck in to see him. Heather was sitting in a plastic chair on the other side of the glass.
“I don’t know,” Heather said. “Tanesha called Jill and Sandy. She might have reminded them then but I doubt it. I think they just knew. After all of these years, they just knew.”
“And they kept their promise,” Blane asked.
Heather nodded. Blane smiled. His eyes welled with tears. Seeing his tears, her eyes filled.
“So you’re here for a while,” Blane said. A tear ran down his face.
“One lifetime,” Heather said. “I’ll have to go join them after this but …”
Heather smiled and tears of joy fell down her cheeks.
“One lifetime is all I have too,” Blane said.
Heather chuckled and Blane smiled.
“You’ve beaten your death sentence,” Blane said.
Heather nodded. They’d called the eventuality of Heather’s mother taking her away as her “death sentence”
“Now it’s your turn to beat your death sentence,” Heather said.
“I’ll do it,” Blane said.
“I just can’t believe it,” Heather smiled. “I’m so grateful to Perses, Paddie, Katy, the fairies …”
“And the girlfriends,” Blane said.
“Always grateful for them,” Heather nodded.
“It’s been a good night,” Blane said. “What are you going to do with the rest of your one lifetime?”
“I don’t know,” Heather said. “Live it one day at a time. Be your wife, the mother of our children. It sounds like bliss to me. What are you going to do with your one lifetime?”
“Get well,” Blane said. “Have another son. Be the father to our children, and your husband. Nothing else really matters.”
Heather smiled and Blane laughed. He could have told her about playing cards with Jacob or finding out about her father coming or his treatments, but spending the first few moments of Heather’s free life was too profound for such trivialities.
Instead, they sat together relishing the silence of these few stolen moments, and the new promise of life.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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