Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Chapter Three Hundred : Effects of bitter

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CHAPTER THREE HUNDRED

Monday evening — 6:45 p.m.

“Sweetie?” Alma Fontaine asked as she entered the small kitchen. Heather’s mother’s voice rose with sticky sweet irritation.

Heather looked up from the salad she was making.

“Mom,” Heather said.

Heather kept her tone flat and neutral. Her quick scan of her mother told her that her mother was upset.

“Sweetie?” Heather’s mother repeated. She put her hand on Heather’s shoulder.

“What?” Heather asked.

Alma leaned in so that her mouth was just an inch from Heather’s ear. Heather heard her mother breathe for a moment. Heather had to restrain herself from batting at her mother’s face.

“What’s going on Mom?” Heather asked. She moved to face her mother.

“Why are there all these …?” Alma stopped talking.

The woman bat her eyes for a moment. Heather internally cringed. She knew how prejudiced her mother was. She hadn’t realized that everyone she’d invited was African American until they’d all arrived.

“These what?” Heather kept her voice gruff to indicate she didn’t want to hear any of her mother’s prejudice.

“Never mind,” Alma said.

“You may as well spit it out,” Heather said. “You’re going to say it anyway. Why did you invite all these black people, Heather? Why don’t you know anyone of our own race, Heather? What’s wrong with white people, Heather? Well, you know what Mom, I didn’t notice when I invited them. In fact, I didn’t even think about it until I realized you would freak out.”

“Well, of course you didn’t notice,” her mother shook her head. “You’re so like your father, it’s eerie.”

“Whatever,” Heather said. “These people are my friends. You wanted to be supportive. Now’s your chance. Be supportive.”

“I just don’t know why you had to invite all these fairies, that’s all,” Alma said. “You know fairies always have their own agenda. If they do something for you, it’s just because it happens to coincide with something they want.”

Heather’s mouth fell open with surprise. Her mother sniffed at her, grabbed a bowl of chips, and left the kitchen. Heather’s mouth rounded out the word “fairies.” She shook her head and looked toward the doorway where her mother had disappeared. Tanesha appeared in the doorway.

“You look weirded out,” Tanesha said.

“My mother just asked me why there were so many fairies here,” Heather said.

“Fairies?” Tanesha asked.

“Fairies,” Heather said.

“That’s definitely weird,” Tanesha said.

Heather nodded.

“You want to hear one weirder?” Heather asked.

Tanesha nodded.

“She told me that if fairies do something for you, it’s because it happens to coincide with something they want,” Heather said.

“What Jake says,” Tanesha said.

Heather nodded.

“You think she’s really …?” Tanesha asked.

Heather shrugged.

“Come on,” Tanesha said. “No moping in the kitchen. Abi’s starting a game of Twister.”

“Twister?” Heather asked.

“Fairies,” Tanesha shrugged.

Tanesha picked up the salad Heather had made and nodded out the door.

“You think …?” Heather started.

Tanesha shrugged, and nodded again toward the outer room. Heather bobbed her head and went out of the kitchen.

“Fairies,” Tanesha mouthed and followed Heather.

~~~~~~~~

Monday evening — 7:05 p.m.

Heather laughed and reached over Tanesha. They had entered into a Twister challenge with Yvonne and Abi. So far, they’d mostly laughed and made fools of themselves. Jeraine had Jabari sleeping against his chest while he talked to Rodney. Tink played with Mack in a corner of the room. Fin was taking pictures of the Twister game with Abi’s phone for her Facebook page.

Alma came in from the kitchen and sat next to Fin.

“Prince Finegal,” Alma said.

“Psyche,” Fin said in a low tone.

“What are you doing …” Alma gestured with her hands, “ …here?”

Prince Finegal squinted at her.

“The last time we met, you were living in your mother’s Queendom and a member of her court,” Alma said in a low tone. “Three children? Lovely wife?”

“Killed by the Christians,” Fin said and cleared his throat.

“And Princess Sinè?” Alma asked.

“The same,” Fin said, in a deep croak. “We fought for more than a thousand years. Every day.”

“The war that just ended,” Alma said.

Fin’s eyes flicked to her. Tanesha had told him that Heather’s mother was a selfish, bitter woman consumed with resentment. She was not that today. Fin saw the beautiful, charming woman she’d been hiding beneath all of her dowdy makeup and ugly clothing. As if she could hear his thoughts, she nodded.

“My daughter went,” Alma said. “Isle of Man. With Perses’ daughter, Jillian.”

“Yes, Jacob lifted the curse,” Fin said. “My mother is back on the throne and my father is at her side. Order restored to our world.”

“Yes, I heard,” Alma said. “That must be a relief.”

“For everyone,” Fin said.

“I’m sorry to hear about Princess Sinè,” Alma said. “I always like her.”

“It’s been a few thousand years,” Fin said.

“But I’d bet it doesn’t hurt any less,” Alma said.

Fin nodded. Abi said something and he looked up. He smiled at her and took a photo of her and Yvonne playing Twister.

“And this one?” Alma gestured to Abi. “She’s no member of the court.”

“Fairy corps,” Fin said.

“I’d bet your mother hates her,” Alma said.

Fin looked at her.

“Mother-in-laws,” Alma shrugged.

“My mother’s been in pieces for the better part of an age,” Fin said. “She has no say or sway over my decisions. Abi and I are very happy.”

“Children?” Alma asked.

“One and one on the way,” Fin said. Fin nodded in Yvonne’s direction. “My granddaughter.”

“Tanesha has always had the look,” Alma nodded. “I wasn’t surprised when Heather brought her home the first time.”

Fin nodded.

“What has your mother done about …?” Alma indicated Yvonne.

“Nothing,” Fin said. “She knows better than to cross me. My daughter, Yvonne’s mother, is currently mother’s personal librarian as Queen Fand strives to catch up with the world. She’s been cursed for the better part of two millennia.”

“You are the better man than my husband,” Alma said.

“I saw my friend ripped to shreds over the cruelness of his mother,” Fin nodded.

Alma’s eyes filled with tears.

“Why here?” Fin asked.

“No one remembers us,” Alma shrugged. “It’s easier to live out in the open without my infernal mother-in-law pestering me all the time. Heather has been able to grow up in peace without the burden of … everything.”

Fin nodded.

“She never needs to know,” Alma said.

“He will find you,” Fin said. “He’s been looking. It takes most of his time. The Fairy Corps is assigned to help him.”

“Let him look,” Alma said firmly, and Fin saw some of the bitterness Tanesha had referred to. “You will not tell him.”

“If I do?” Fin asked.

“I will move,” Alma said. She nodded to Heather. “We’ve done it before.”

“You’d take Heather from all of the people who love her?” Fin asked. His voice reflected his horror.

“I’ve done it before,” Alma said.

“But her husband … her children …” Fin said. “Her friends? Tanesha, Jill, and Sandy?”

“Better than her grandmother killing her outright,” Alma said. “Better than having to deal with her weak and pathetic father.”

Fin swallowed hard. He knew by the set of her jaw there was nothing he could do to change her mind.

“She forgets after a time,” Alma said. “I mean, it always takes a while.”

Alma nodded.

“She eventually makes new friends,” Alma said.

“She’s an adult,” Fin said.

“For now,” Alma said. “I usually return her to an age when she’s happy — nine or ten.”

“And her children?” Fin asked.

“Oh, they stay with their father,” Alma said. “I’m no child killer.”

“Let’s hope it doesn’t get to that,” Fin said.

Alma gave him a sickeningly sweet smile, and Fin had the distinct feeling that Alma had already made a plan to take her daughter somewhere else. He swallowed hard.

“I won’t allow my only child to be injured like I was,” Alma said, before she got up from her seat.

Fin’s eyes followed her across the room. Alma picked up Mack. Heather’s mother laughed at something Tink had said. Heather looked up when Alma touched her child. Fin watched a wave of deep distrust flow from daughter to mother.

“I’ll change him, Mom,” Heather said.

Tanesha turned to look at Alma.

“It’s my pleasure,” Alma said, and carried the baby to the back to change his diaper.

Heather and Tanesha shared a long look. Just then, Abi and Yvonne fell over on the Twister mat, and it was Tanesha and Heather’s turn. Fin watched Heather wait for her mother to bring Mack back. It wasn’t until the baby returned that Heather engaged in the game.

“Did you talk to her?” Abi said in a low tone.

Fin nodded.

“And?” Abi asked.

“Nothing nice,” Fin said.

Abi looked at Alma and scowled.

“We’ll talk later,” Fin said. “You should play.”

Abi nodded and returned to the game.

~~~~~~~~

Monday evening — 7:26 p.m.

“Mommy?” Katy asked.

“Yes, Katy-baby?” Jill asked.

She pushed away layers of tulle to see her daughter’s face. Katy was wearing pancake makeup and bright blue eye shadow from the makeup kit they’d found in Valerie’s dress room above Mike’s garage painting studio. Katy had put on a big dress with a full skirt. She kept pulling the skirt over her head to show just the tulle.

“What do you think is happening at Auntie Heather’s house?” Katy asked.

“I don’t know,” Jill said.

She pulled the big skirt down and put a saucy hat on Katy’s head. Katy ran to the full length mirror to take a look. She laughed.

“Now you!” Katy said.

They went through the designer dresses until Katy picked a particularly gaudy bright pink dress for Jill to wear. Jill was afraid it wouldn’t fit, but Katy didn’t care about zipping the dress.

“You look very pretty, Mommy,” Katy said. “Let’s find a hat.”

Jill followed Katy to the hat stands.

“This one! This one!” Katy picked up a cowboy hat. “It’s like my horsey hat!”

Jill picked it up and stuck it on her head. Katy tipped her head back and laughed.

“Why did you ask about Auntie Heather?” Jill asked.

“’Cuz we need to go,” Katy said. “Let’s do make up!”

“What?” Jill asked.

“Make up?” Katy’s dark eyes blinked at her. “We have to have make up!”

“No, I mean why do we have to go over to Auntie Heather’s?” Jill asked.

“Oh,” Katy shrugged. “I don’ know.”

Jill gapped at her daughter. Katy smiled.

“I’ll do your make up,” Katy said.

“Wait,” Jill said. “Tell me now.”

Katy blinked at Jill.

“Now,” Jill said.

“Member when you had to go away to get Keenan?” Katy asked.

Jill nodded.

“It’s like that,” Katy said.

“What do you mean?” Jill asked.

“I don’ know,” Katy nodded. “I would tell you if I did, Mommy. Promise.”

Jill thought for a moment. She had some experience with foresight now. She thought about her experiences with knowing.

“Tell me what you see,” Jill said.

“I see Auntie Heather,” Katy said. “She’s yelling. Bad. Crying. But stuck. Some place bad.”

“When?” Jill asked.

“I think that happened before,” Katy said.

“But it’s going to happen again?” Jill asked.

Katy nodded.

“When?” Jill asked.

Katy shrugged.

“Tonight?” Jill asked.

“I don’ know,” Katy said. “I’m not s’posed to know.”

“What does that mean?” Jill asked.

“Um …” Katy broke away from Jill.

She ran around in circles for a while. She moved her hands like she was shooting arrows, and then she fell down to the ground as if she’d been stuck with an arrow.

“Like that,” Katy said.

“Heather’s going to be stuck with an arrow?” Jill asked.

“No,” Katy said. “Her mommy was stuck with an arrow.”

“Oh?” Jill asked.

Jill had no idea what Katy was talking about.

“Her mommy needs your help,” Katy said.

My help?” Jill pressed her hand into her chest.

“Cuddles,” Katy nodded.

“Uh,” Jill said.

“And Auntie Sandy too,” Katy said.

Jill watched her daughter closely. Katy was looking off into the distance.

“And me too, of course,” Katy said.

“And not Paddie?” Jill asked.

“Oh Paddie?” Katy asked. “That’s a really good idea. Let’s get Paddie.”

With that, Katy started to leave the room. Jill grabbed her. She wrangled the priceless designer dress off her daughter, and took off the one she was wearing. She noticed that some of Katy’s makeup had gotten on the dress. She set the dress aside in the “to be cleaned” pile. She was hanging her dress when she heard a car door slam. Looking out of the window, she saw that Katy was waiting for her in the car. Jill grabbed her purse and then ran to the car.

“Can we get ice cream after we get Paddie?” Katy asked.

“What about Auntie Heather and being locked away and her mommy shot with arrows and …” Jill started. A little out of breath from the dress wrangling and purse getting, Jill swallowed. “What about cuddles?”

“Oh,” Katy said. “Right. I keep forgetting.”

“Why is that?” Jill started the car.

“I’m not supposed to know,” Katy said. “It’s like a big shhh is wrapped around the whole thing.”

“Is that why Auntie Heather is in danger?” Jill asked.

“Yeah, Auntie Heather is in danger,” Katy nodded.

They drove down a few blocks toward Paddie’s house.

“We’ll get Paddie,” Katy said. “And then go to Auntie Heather’s house and then get ice cream.”

“What about Auntie Sandy?” Jill asked.

“She’s already on her way there,” Katy said. Jill’s phone rang. “That’s Auntie Tanesha.”

“Hello?” Jill asked.

“Jill!” Tanesha said.

“Don’t forget to tell her Paddie’s coming too!” Katy yelled from the back seat.

Jill looked into the rearview mirror. Katy still wore the bright blue eye shadow which matched her dress up dress. Katy gave her a bright smile.

“What’s going on?” Jill asked into the phone.

“You need to get here,” Tanesha said. “Pronto.”

“When you call Paddie’s mom, tell her we need Paddie’s sword,” Katy said.

Jill looked up at Katy in the rearview mirror. Katy smiled.

“We’re on our way,” Jill said to Tanesha.

~~~~~~~~

Monday evening — 7:35 p.m.

“Is something wrong?” Seth asked Sandy.

They were sitting in his downstairs piano room trying to decipher Andy’s symphony. Seth was sitting at the piano and Sandy was standing near the marble fireplace. Sandy had just gotten off the phone with Tanesha.

“You don’t look great,” Seth said.

Sandy looked at him and nodded.

“Can I help?” Seth asked.

“Have you ever heard of someone called Psyche?” Sandy asked.

“Sure,” Seth said.

“She has a daughter named …” Sandy started.

“Hedone,” Seth said.

“Right. Heather told Jill and Jill …” Sandy shook her head to keep from repeating the long string of activities of her friends. “Anyway, Tanesha says that Heather’s mother is Psyche, and Abi, you know the fairy, she said Heather is Hedone.”

Seth nodded.

“You knew that?” Sandy asked.

“No,” Seth shook his head. “It’s just weird enough to be something that involves Heather’s mother.”

“What do you mean?” Sandy asked.

“Uh …” Seth shifted uncomfortably. He looked down at the piano in front of him. His fingers moved across the keys. “What do you think of the piece so far?”

“We’ve only played a few lines,” Sandy shrugged. “And you’re not so sly. What did you mean about Heather’s mother?”

“Uh …” Seth said again.

“Seth,” Sandy scowled at him.

He made a sound somewhere between a grunt and a sigh. She kept scowling at him.

“Fine,” Seth said. He let out a puff of breath and then began speaking quickly. “When Mitch and I found you, we looked into everyone who knew you. Some of it was because the Captain was on our ass about you.”

“Me?” Sandy asked.

“He wanted us to ‘bring in the witness,’” Seth said. “We didn’t want to do that. Plus, Mitch met Patty and … all of that.”

Seth turned back to the piano and played the line of the symphony they’d decoded.

“What do you think about …?” he started.

“I think you’re not very funny,” Sandy said. “What’s this with Heather and her mother?”

“Uh …” Seth looked back at the piano. “You don’t want to …?”

“You’re acting like a child,” Sandy said.

“I know,” Seth said. “Is it working?”

“No,” Sandy said.

“So we looked into Jill and found General Hargreaves,” Seth said. “I’d worked with him to find Saul and the other MIAs, so that wasn’t a big deal. He told me the standard story. You know, ‘Jill’s mother and father were killed in Costa Rica’ and whatever else.I knew he was lying, but he’s a General. They’re usually lying about something. And Tanesha … Well, I’d known Yvonne and Rodney because I knew Alvin.”

“And Heather?” Sandy asked.

“That’s the question, isn’t it?” Seth asked.

“What’s the question?” Sandy asked. “What are you talking about?”

“Sorry,” Seth said and sighed. “We found a references for an A. Fontaine – Alma, Alice, Alete – and her daughter – Heather, of course, Hazel, Harriet, Helen.”

“How many did you find?” Sandy asked.

“I’m not sure,” Seth said. “I was a little drunk and high then.”

“More than a little,” Sandy sniffed.

“Yes,” Seth said. “Plus, Mitch looked into Heather. He confronted Heather’s mother. She told him something that convinced him everything was on the up and up. I don’t know what.”

“So why are you so … weird about this?” Sandy asked.

“The last time Allison Fontaine and her daughter Helen lived in Denver, Helen had a child,” Seth nodded.

“With whom?” Sandy asked. “Just say it.”

“With Sam Lipson’s father, Roger,” Seth said. “Helen and Allison Fontaine disappeared and left Helen’s son at the hospital.”

“You think Blane is Heather’s son,” Sandy said.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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