Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Chapter Two Hundred and Eighty: Cause...

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CHAPTER TWO HUNDRED and EIGHTY

Saturday—3:12 P.M.

Sandy grabbed a load of laundry and started out the door of their apartment. After all of the excitement of Jill’s labor, she had canceled her Saturday clients and forced her family to take a day off to rest. Of course, Aden had to be at the job site early. But the kids had slept in until almost noon. They got up for something to eat and were now sacked out watching movies. With Rachel in a carrier on her back, she had filled their apartment washer with Sissy’s ballet wear and was headed down to the basement laundry with another load of sheets.

A day of organizing and cleaning was exactly what Sandy needed. She moved slowly down the stairs and into the Castle main living room. Rosa and her team of cleaners had been through already today to put right what had been torn apart last night. She set her load down on a couch to open the door to the basement.

“Um …” Sandy heard as she came back into the living room. She looked around the room, but didn’t see anyone.

“Delphie?” Sandy guessed at who had spoken to her.

Delphie was leaning against the doorway to the room Charlie was using for school.

“Are you all right?” Sandy asked.

Delphie shook her head.

“Can I help?” Sandy asked.

Delphie nodded. Sandy gave Delphie a long assessing look. Delphie’s face was pinched with anxiety. Her shoulders were folded forward as if she was carrying a great burden. The woman’s happy go lucky, earth mother glow had been replaced with a muddy kind of darkness.

“Why don’t you come down with me to the basement?” Sandy smiled, knowing Delphie’s love of clean laundry. “I wanted to get some sheets done.”

Delphie face shifted into a bright smile. She grabbed Sandy’s laundry and started down the stairs to the basement. While each apartment had their own washing machines, Jacob had installed two large washers and dryers in the basement. They were perfect for doing large loads of sheets and comforters.

In the basement, Delphie and Sandy silently went through the piles of sheets and comforters Sandy had already brought down to create two loads for the big washers. Sandy was stuffing sheets into one of the washers when Delphie said something.

She leaned out of the washing machine.

“I didn’t hear what you said,” Sandy said.

“I know,” Delphie gave her a sad smile. “I …”

“Is this about Keenan?” Sandy asked.

Delphie nodded.

“And Ivy?” Sandy asked.

Delphie nodded. Sandy looked at Delphie and waited. Delphie’s head moved up and down in a slow nod.

“So …?” Sandy started.

“I remember that I was really afraid about Ivy.” Delphie’s words came out in a fast push. “How will I take care of her? What do I know? I remember feeling like that.”

“Do you feel like that now?” Sandy asked.

“No,” Delphie said. “I feel … excited. Happy.”

“That sounds like a really good thing,” Sandy said. She smiled and started stuffing the washer again.

“But …” Delphie said.

Sandy leaned back to look at her.

“But?”

“Why do you think I don’t feel anxious about it?” Delphie asked.

“Maybe you’re ready,” Sandy said.

Delphie shook her head.

“What do you think it was?” Sandy asked.

“Fairies,” Delphie said. “I feel like something is gone.”

Delphie’s hands moved around her heart and chest.

“Like a brokenness is lifted,” Delphie nodded and then scowled. “I know that I can’t raise the kids by myself. But I also know that Sam is going to be there and you and Jill and Val. They will be raised by all of us and teachers and … I don’t have to be their everything, just their something.”

Delphie gave Sandy a pensive look.

“I mean you said that before, and certainly Celia always said that,” Delphie said. “I really know that now.”

“That sounds like a really good thing,” Sandy said.

“But …” Delphie bit her lip.

“But?”

“How?” Delphie asked. “It’s like all that awful stuff is just gone … Not gone, like it never happened, but like it’s over.”

Delphie nodded.

“It is over,” Sandy smiled. “All the awful stuff I went through too. It’s over.”

Delphie gave Sandy a thoughtful look.

“Why would fairies want to help you?” Sandy asked. She gasped and covered her mouth. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean that like it sounds. It just seems like they are so … involved in what they want that something like taking away the negative effects of your trauma … Well, it’s too thoughtful for them, too kind.”

Sandy nodded. Delphie leaned forward.

“Do you notice anything … missing?” Delphie asked.

Delphie’s hands moved up and down her body.

Sandy cocked her head to the side. She thought for a moment.

“Now that you mention it …” Sandy started.

“There you are!” Valerie said, as she came into the laundry room. Valerie’s long dark hair was tied in a knot. She was wearing one of Mike’s old dress shirts and a pair of ratty old jeans. Her effortless beauty made her look like a magazine advertisement. She gave them a bright smile.

“I wanted to … you know, clean up,” Sandy nodded.

“I’ve been doing the same thing,” Valerie said. “Nothing like being jerked from your life to make you want to …”

“Clean,” Sandy laughed. She gestured to the machines, “Do you need these?”

“No,” Valerie said. “I used them this morning.”

Sandy grinned. Valerie lifted Rachel from the carrier on Sandy’s back. While Valerie played with Rachel, Sandy put the rest of her laundry in the washers and stood up.

“Listen,” Valerie said. She moved closer to them as if to tell them a secret. “Do you think the fairies did something to us?”

“I was just asking that,” Delphie nodded.

“Why?” Sandy asked, as she started one of the machines.

“I don’t really know,” Valerie said. “We slept in, like everyone did, but … Mike woke up this morning without his headache. You know the one he’s had since he was in Afghanistan? I mean, sometimes he doesn’t have the headache as bad, but he always has it when his mother’s around. His mother and father are staying here to help with the babies. And this morning? No headache. He’s smiling, laughing. He asked me if we should have another baby right away like other stars do. He … well, let’s just say he was excited this morning. Optimistic. About our life.”

Valerie nodded.

“Too thoughtful for fairies,” Sandy shook her head.

“I’m not afraid to raise the kids,” Delphie said.

“What?” Valerie asked. “Really?”

“I’m excited,” Delphie nodded.

“I’m so glad.” Valerie hugged Delphie.

“Do you feel different?” Delphie asked.

“Yeah,” Valerie nodded. “And no. It’s weird. Mike made breakfast this morning. He was talking and laughing and I felt … For the first time since we lived in Monterey, I felt …”

Valerie scratched her head. Delphie and Sandy waited for her to finish her statement.

“Hope,” Valerie shrugged. “I haven’t felt … hopeful, like I can build my own future like I want it. I don’t feel that oppressive, looking over your shoulder for the next doom that’s going to ruin everything. I don’t feel it. I mean, it’s not like all that stuff is gone.”

“Right,” Delphie said. “I remember why I was so afraid.”

“I remember Mike being gone and everything that happened after that and …” Valerie said. “It’s not like the memory is just gone. I just feel …”

Valerie looked puzzled. She shook her head as if to shake the thoughts around.

“I feel … good,” Valerie said. “Hopeful. I can have Mike, and a career, and a bunch of babies, and live here, and have a place in LA, and … I have to make choices, sure, but …”

“Do you think it’s … fairies?” Delphie asked.

Valerie made a disgusted face.

“I mean, I’m taking Queen Fand’s son,” Delphie said.

“I still think it’s too thoughtful for them,” Sandy said. “How would they know that Valerie had lingering doubt about her life because of what happened to Mike? They couldn’t know that. No one knows about Mike’s headaches except us. And how would they know that the darkness from Levi Johanson still cast shadows in your life, Delphie?”

Sandy shook her head.

“They wouldn’t,” Sandy said. She looked up to see Honey roll into the room. “Do you need these? I haven’t started this one yet, I can …”

“No,” Honey said. “Mike did ours while I was at work.”

Sandy started the second washer.

“How was the job site?” Valerie asked.

“Scary. Hard. So many people lost their lives.” Honey shook her head. “Now that it’s light, I can see just how stupid Rodney and I were to be out there in that pit.”

Honey gave a shiver and wheeled further into the room. Sandy pointed to Honey’s hands.

“What?” Honey asked.

“Your hands,” Sandy said.

“Yeah,” Honey nodded. “Isn’t that weird? It happened while I was at the site this morning. One minute, they were like they’d been forever, the next minute, they’re like this. They both work.”

Honey closed and opened both of her hands.

“There’s a little weakness but …,” Honey said. “I’ve been busting my butt—in PT and with Blane—to get even the slightest movement in my hands. And look.”

Honey picked up the laundry soap.

“It’s like they aren’t … um … broken,” Honey said. “At all.”

Honey stared at her hands.

“Do you think it’s …?” Honey started to ask. She looked at the women and fell silent. “MJ did the laundry and went back to sleep after I left. He’s just getting up. That’s six hours of solid sleep. Edie took care of Maggie today.”

Honey gave them a slow nod.

“He isn’t taking his sleep meds so he can hear Maggie when she wakes up,” Honey said.

“Did he get her last night?” Valerie asked.

“Sure,” Honey said. “He went to sleep with me but was up when she woke up. Val and I decided not to meet last night because the living room was kind of ripped up. Anyway, he didn’t wake me. He fed her and changed her in the middle of the night, and made breakfast for me this morning.”

Honey nodded.

“He hasn’t slept more than four hours a night since his injury,” Honey said. “I mean, the meds conk him out, but that’s not really sleep. And he’s been a lot more tired than he was this morning. The sleep thing, it’s one of the symptoms of his brain injury. I mean, he woke up to say ‘hi’ to me and then went back to bed!”

“We were both just saying that things are odd today,” Valerie said. “Delphie feels excited, not terrified, to have Ivy and Keenan. Mike’s headaches are gone, and he wants to have another baby.”

“Mike?” Honey asked. “What about ‘How can you bring a child into this evil world?’”

“I know!” Valerie said.

The women looked at Sandy.

“So?” Valerie asked.

“So?” Sandy replied.

“What happened with you?” Valerie asked.

“I remember my mom, Andy,” Sandy nodded. “I had dreams last night, all night, about her. And Seth and … how much they love me and how much they loved each other and …”

Sandy’s eyes welled with tears.

“I feel …,” Sandy gave a slight shake of her head, “ … loved.”

Sandy put her hand over her heart.

“Fairies wouldn’t have done that,” Sandy said. “How could they have known?”

“Who knew about my hands and Mike’s headaches and Delphie’s fear and Sandy’s mom?” Honey asked.

The women looked off in the distance for a moment.

“Jill,” they said in unison.

“But how?” Valerie asked.

“No idea,” Sandy said.

“I think we should just look at this as a gift and not question it too much,” Delphie said.

The women were silent for a moment.

“Why?” Sandy asked.

“I don’t know,” Delphie said. “Just seemed like the right thing to say.”

The women laughed.

“There you are!” Charlie came into the laundry room. His voice was raised with desperation. Sandy took Rachel from Valerie. “Ivy just called. She’s at the bus station. You said you were going to …”

“Let’s all go,” Valerie said.

Charlie looked from one smiling face to another.

“Good idea,” Delphie said.

“We can take our huge car, and …” Sandy was out almost up the stairs when she turned, “Charlie can you …”

Charlie was right behind her with Honey on his back. Valerie carried Honey’s wheelchair up the stairs behind him.

“What?” Charlie asked.

“Nothing,” Sandy said.

“Do you think Ivy will like us all being there?” Delphie asked.

“Yeah, I think so,” Charlie said. “I mean, this morning, she was furious at her aunt and talking about getting high and heading back out to the street. But just a minute ago, she was like ‘I’m here to start my cool new life.’ Then she babbled on about going to the Marlowe school and whatever. I asked her if she was high and she was like, ‘High? What do you mean?’ Like she’d forgotten she’s actually an addict. So … I don’t really know, but I would, so let’s go.”

At the top of the stairs, Charlie set Honey in her wheelchair. Sandy gave Delphie a knowing look before running upstairs for her purse.

“Do you think everyone got … fixed?” Honey whispered to Valerie.

Valerie shook her head and shrugged. Honey nodded.

“Do you wish you could walk?” Valerie asked.

“Sure,” Honey said. “But if I had to pick, I’d pick being able to use my hands over anything else. I haven’t been able to even change Maggie’s diapers. Now I can really care for her and MJ and my house. Hell, I can do laundry.”

Valerie smiled. They waited a few minutes before Sandy raced back down the stairs. They followed her to the car. When they got there, the kids were waiting. Everyone wanted to pick up Ivy. Valerie ran back for the keys to Jill’s new SUV. They filled two cars with people and headed out to welcome Ivy to her new life.

Looking up at the Castle before driving off, Sandy saw Jill looking down at them. She blew Jill a kiss and Jill waved.

Only Jill could have picked just the right thing to wish for everyone.

Sandy smiled and wondered what other wishes had come true today.

~~~~~~~~

Saturday—4:32 P.M.

“Now, you’re sure you don’t want me to go with you?” Rodney asked Yvonne. They were sitting in his truck across the street from Jeraine’s old condo.

“You are very sweet,” Yvonne smiled. “But I’ve got this.”

“There’s no shame in having me there,” Rodney said. “I can stay with you until Dionne comes.”

Yvonne smiled at him.

“I’d bet we could come up with something to do,” Rodney grinned.

Yvonne leaned over to kiss him.

“I’ve got this,” Yvonne said. “I can do it. It’s a good test to see how my memory is doing. There’s no down side. If I forget, Dionne will be right there to remind me. If I remember, I will know that my memory is really better.”

“Fair enough,” Rodney said. “What are you supposed to do?”

“What do you mean?” Yvonne looked confused. “About what?”

“You’re going to the apartment to …” Rodney started. He glanced at her. By her look, she was teasing him.

“I am going to meet the IRS man or woman and give them the keys to the apartment,” Yvonne nodded. “I don’t even have to go in. I just have to give them the keys.”

“Why isn’t Jeraine doing this?” Rodney asked.

“Jeraine is working,” Yvonne said. “Somebody famous … Did he ever tell us who?”

“One of those naked women singers,” Rodney said. “I saw her saunter into the house.”

“Oh … Do you think …?” Yvonne started.

“I think that Fin terrified Jeraine into lifelong fidelity,” Rodney said.

Yvonne laughed.

“You ready?” Rodney asked. “’Cuz I can always come in with you. No shame in that.”

“I got this,” Yvonne said. “You go on. You’re due out at Limon for dinner with one of your young men. That boy needs help and hope.”

Rodney gawked at her. Yvonne nodded.

“How did …?” Rodney started.

“Wrote it on my hand,” said Yvonne.

She held up her hand for Rodney to see. He laughed. She opened her door and leaned back to him.

“Love you, Rodney.” Yvonne kissed him.

“You know, I could …”

Laughing, Yvonne got out of the car and closed the door. She waved as he drove off. She checked her watch before walking across the street. She had twenty minutes before Dionne came to pick her up. She, Dionne, and Maresol were going to meet Delphie’s niece, Anna-Marie, or as she liked to be called Ivy. Smiling, Yvonne stepped into the underground parking garage. She stopped walking for a moment to get her bearings in the cool, dark of the garage.

“The elevator is on your left.”

Jeraine’s voice in her head told her where to go. She smiled at her memory. She walked past a line of expensive cars before turning toward the elevator. She saw what looked like a pile of clothing sitting next to the elevator. Jeraine had said there was sometimes weird stuff there and to just ignore it.

She pressed the elevator button before remembering that the problem was that the elevator code had already been changed. Jeraine didn’t have the code, and the IRS didn’t have the keys. She nodded to herself. That’s why Yvonne was standing here today. She glanced around the area. No one was around. She looked down at her jeans. No one was going to care if she sat down next to this wall while she waited.

She went around the blob of clothing and sat down a couple feet away. She was there only a minute when she heard a small voice.

“Hello.”

After the last few days, Yvonne expected a fairy or something equally other worldly. She looked over at what she thought was a blob of clothing. A tiny brown forehead and eyes peered out at her from under a thick coat. Surprised, Yvonne blinked.

“Hello,” Yvonne said.

She wondered why this child was here. Never having been around rich people, she reasoned that maybe he was waiting for his limousine or nanny or something very posh.

“What are you doing here?” the child asked.

“Waiting,” Yvonne said. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m waiting too,” the child said.

Yvonne nodded because she figured as much. She’d heard that rich people didn’t really care for their children. Just another thing to own. It was just a shame.

“Would you mind if I wait with you?” the child asked.

Yvonne heard his southern accent.

“I don’t mind,” Yvonne said. “You look cold.”

“I’ve been here a long time,” the child said.

Yvonne held her arm out and the child scooted over to her. The child had a grocery bag with tattered clothing in it. When he got close, Yvonne could smell his dirty diaper. She looked down at the child.

“I’m sorry,” the child whispered. “I smell.”

Yvonne was angry, no furious. Who would leave a child sitting in its own filth?

“How long have you been here?” Yvonne asked.

“Well …” the child said. “The taxi dropped me off … and it was dark. I took the red eye to Denver from Atlanta.”

The boy nodded as if his words told her exactly what she’d asked. Yvonne didn’t really know what he meant. She just knew he’d been there a long, long time.

“I tried the elevator but it doesn’t work. I just waited.”

“Why are you here?” Yvonne asked.

“I’m ’sposed to stay with my daddy now,” the child said.

“And who is your daddy?” Yvonne asked. Furious, she began to think of all the ways she was going to torture this father.

“J’raine,” the child said.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow…

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