Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Two Hundred and Eighty-Eight : No matter what

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Wednesday evening—6:15 p.m.

“This is nice,” Tink said.

She looked around Annie’s Cafe before looking back at Charlie. He took her hands and smiled. They were sitting at a small two person table near the windows. Charlie’s family and Tink’s family were having dinner with Seth and Ava near the middle of the restaurant behind the partition.

At first, Charlie had thought they were all going to dinner, which was great because he was excited to see Tink. When they had arrived he found out that Seth had arranged for Charlie and Tink to sit at a table by themselves.

“Seth’s pretty nice,” Tink nodded. “For a cop.”

“Retired,” Charlie said.

Tink nodded.

“He’s like my uncle,” Charlie said. “He and my dad were partners at the police forever and they went to Vietnam together.”

“Really?” Tink asked.

“Yeah,” Charlie nodded. “They met in high school. We used to stay with Seth a lot. I mean, after he moved home to his dad’s house and stuff. Sissy and me and Dad, of course, lived with him the last few months my dad was alive.”

“Why?” Tink asked.

“I don’t know,” Charlie said. “I mean I was pretty little. I remember we lived in this cool hotel with a pool and everything and then we lived with Seth. Then Sissy and me lived with mom.”

“Your mom didn’t live with you when you lived with Seth?” Tink asked.

Charlie shook his head.

“She wasn’t with your dad when he died?” Tink asked.

Charlie shook his head.

“That’s kind of sad,” Tink said. “I’d want you to be there when I was dying.”

Tink realized what she’d said and blushed. Charlie smiled.

“I don’t think we have to worry so much about that anymore,” Charlie said.

Tink gave him a big smile.

“Did you get braces?” Charlie asked.

“I’m just starting with them,” Tink said. “I told Heather that I wanted to be just like you.”

Charlie flashed his own metal filled smile and she laughed.

“I guess my teeth are pretty messed up so I can’t do the invisible ones like Sissy and Wanda are doing,” Tink said.

“Mine are super messed up,” Charlie said. “But … um … It’s kind of hard at first, but it gets easier.”

Tink nodded. The waitress came up to ask if they wanted something to eat. Charlie was nervous, but the waitress was a true professional. She helped them pick out an appetizer to eat while they waited. Charlie knew what he wanted for dinner, but Tink needed help. While the waitress talked to Tink, Charlie couldn’t help but notice how pretty Tink looked. Her hair hung in waves and she wore a sweater which matched her eyes. She caught him looking at her and he blushed. She smiled.

“I thought you did a good job today,” Charlie said to distract himself from wanting to kiss her.

Tink scowled.

“It was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be,” Tink said.

“It was hard,” Charlie said. “I kind of sucked.”

“I bet you did better than you think,” Tink said. “The prosecutor thanked you for your help when we were leaving.”

“She thanked you too,” Charlie said.

Tink nodded and Charlie smiled.

“They seemed to like what you said about being hurt and getting better,” Charlie said. “That you get better because that’s what you do, but you don’t get hurt because of something you do. You get hurt because of what someone else does, and that’s not right.”

“I didn’t realize I almost died,” Tink said. “I mean, you said it before, and I guess Heather said that too, but I didn’t …”

Tink nodded.

“Seeing the pictures was really hard,” Charlie said. “I was glad Sissy wasn’t there. She would have cried.”

“I didn’t remember that I was with Sissy when I had the first seizure,” Tink said. “She told me on the way here.”

Charlie nodded.

“I … feel kinda …” They heard laughing from their families’ table and they looked over in that direction. Tink grabbed Charlie’s hand, and he looked back at her. “I’m trying to say thank you.”

“For what?” Charlie asked.

“For being there,” Tink said. “For always being there. I remember waking up, you know after, and … I knew I had to find you because I didn’t feel … right … and then there you were and …”

Charlie nodded.

“That must have been hard for you,” Tink said.

“I don’t think I really got what was going on until Anjelika and I went to see you in the hospital,” Charlie said. “I thought …”

Charlie scowled and looked away. The waitress stopped by with their sodas and fried zucchini appetizer. Charlie took a bite but it was too hot. He fanned his mouth and Tink laughed. He smiled.

“I’m just glad you’re better,” he said with his mouth full and then he was embarrassed. Tink didn’t seem to notice. She gave him a nice smile.

“Do you think it will ever be … over?” Tink asked.

“You mean like happily-ever-after over?” Charlie asked.

“I guess so,” Tink said.

Charlie scowled and took a drink of his soda.

“You know what I think?” Charlie asked.

“What?” Tink asked.

“I think it’s all just life,” Charlie said. “I think we had hard stuff early so we don’t have to have it later in our life. If I can stay sober, and you can stay sober, everything will be just fine.”

“And if we can’t?” Tink asked.

“I don’t know,” Charlie said. “Aden says you have to get your sobriety right first but …”

The waitress came up and took the appetizer plate. She brought their dinner. Charlie was having a juicy hamburger with a mound of French fries. Tink was having a salad and her favorite food in the whole world, a tuna sandwich. Charlie took a bite of his hamburger and chewed.

“I think I’d love you no matter what,” Charlie slipped in there between bites and French fries.

Tink was so surprised that she said, “What?”

Charlie nodded because he knew that she’d heard what he’d said. She became very flustered. She focused on her tuna sandwich to keep from having to look at him.

“I want to be sober,” Tink said. “I think Aden’s right.”

“Me too,” Charlie said. “But I didn’t want you to think that I’d love you less if you relapsed. We just have to keep trying to be sober because that’s where life is good.”

“I … um … I love you too,” Tink blushed bright red and looked really cute.

Charlie leaned over and kissed her even though she tasted like tuna sandwich.

“Hey!” Sissy said as she walked to the table. “None of that.”

Charlie leaned back in his chair. Sissy and Tink started talking. Noelle and Ivy came over. Charlie watched Tink light up when she talked to her friends. If possible, she looked even more lovely. Heather came over to check to see if Tink was okay. And he saw Sandy taking a peek at him.

Charlie just played it cool.

After all, he was in this nice place with Tink. In a few minutes, Sissy and Noelle and Ivy would go away and he’d have Tink to himself again. Sure enough, Sandy gestured to the girls and they went back to their table to eat.

“Sorry,” Tink said.

“For what?” Charlie asked.

“It’s our date and … they …” Tink said.

“I like to see you happy,” Charlie said.

Tink blushed. Charlie had just put a French fry in his mouth when Tink leaned over the table and kissed him. He almost choked, but it was totally worth it. She grinned at him.

“I think this is happily ever after,” he said.

“I think you’re right,” Tink said.

Charlie grinned.


Wednesday evening—7:42 p.m.

Rodney kneeled down next to the bathtub to help Jabari. He could have easily bathed the small boy in the big kitchen sink. But the child wanted to be treated like a little boy and not a baby. Rodney thought that any child who was as brave as Jabari deserved to be treated however he wanted to be treated.

Jabari ducked his head under the water of the tub and popped back out. Rodney laughed. He lathered up a washcloth and began scrubbing the child.

“How come you’re still so dirty?” Rodney asked.“I know Yvie’s scrubbed you down a few times.”

“I don’t know,” Jabari said. “I didn’t have to take baths at my mom’s house.”

“Why is that?” Rodney asked.

“She said that boys as dark as me didn’t show the dirt,” Jabari said. “So it was a waste of her time to bother.”

Rodney nodded.

“You’re a lot darker than me,” Jabari said.

“That’s the truth,” Rodney said.

“Do you take baths?” Jabari asked.

“Showers,” Rodney said. “Sometimes twice a day.”

“How come?” Jabari asked.

“I like the warm water and the feeling of being clean,” Rodney said. “Plus, you’ve met my wife?”

Jabari gave him a big smile.

“Yvie likes it when I smell good,” Rodney said. “I want her to be around me.”

Jabari nodded like he understood.

“I think we’re making progress on you, Jabari,” Rodney said. “One more bath like this and you’ll be good as new.”

The little boy fell silent and Rodney kept scrubbing.

“Could I stay here and be your little boy?” Jabari asked.

“I think you’re Jeraine’s little boy,” Rodney said.

“I know, but …” Jabari looked at Rodney. The boy’s eyes filled with tears. “I like it here.”

Rodney nodded. The little boy looked into Rodney’s face.

“I’ll tell you,” Rodney said. “You’re welcome to stay here as long as you want. I’d bet your daddy’s going to take you home soon, though. Then you’ll live with him and our Tanesha.”

“But what about you?” Jabari asked. “Don’t you need a little boy?”

“Tanesha is our little girl,” Rodney said. “If you live with Jer and Tanesha, you’ll be our grandbaby. That means you could come over any time you want. You could stay in the guest bedroom and sleep in the big bed and hang out with Yvonne.”

“And Mr. Chesterfield?”

“I think Mr. Chesterfield wouldn’t hear of anything different,” Rodney said. He confirmed the idea with a nod.

Jabari imitated Rodney’s nod.

“Is Tanesha also called Tanni?” Jabari asked.

“Only by her mother,” Rodney said.

Jabari smiled.

“Tanni is your little girl,” Jabari said. “So I’d be your little boy because she’ll be my mom.”

“That’s right,” Rodney said.

Jabari seemed to like that idea. He squealed and Rodney laughed.

“But you don’t want to call her Tanni.”

“How come?” Jabari asked.

“It’s a name her mother uses,” Rodney said. “She doesn’t like it much.”

“My mommy calls me Jabber,” Jabari said.

“That doesn’t seem very nice,” Rodney said.

“Is it like Tanni?” Jabari said.

“No,” Rodney said. “Tanni is a little girl’s name and Tanesha isn’t so little anymore.”

Jabari nodded.

“Do you think she wants to be my mom?” Jabari asked.

“Do you want her to be?” Rodney asked.

Jabari nodded.

“Sounds like everything is going to work out really good for you,” Rodney said. “I’ll tell you. Jeraine’s parents are my best friends. They can’t see you now because of the fight with your mom, but trust me. You’re going to love them.”

“You mean Daddy Bumpy and Mama Dionne?” Jabari asked.

Rodney nodded.

“I get them too?”

“You do,” Rodney said.

“That’s really good,” Jabari said. “I’m glad I came all this way.”

“You know what?” Rodney smiled. “I’m glad you did too.”

Jabari laughed like that was the funniest thing he’d ever heard. He laughed so loud that Yvonne came in to see what was going on. The little boy just kept laughing. Rodney got him out of the tub and Yvonne helped him into his new soft pajamas. They tucked the child into big bed together.

“If I’m your grandbaby,” Jabari said. “That means I belong to you.”

“That’s right, we all belong together,” Rodney said.

“You won’t forget me?” Jabari asked.

“When would we forget you?” Yvonne asked.

“When I have to go back and live with my mom,” Jabari said. “She had lots of money and she gets whatever she wants.”

“I’ll tell you this,” Rodney said. “I have lots of money.”

“You do?” Jabari looked so surprised and delighted that Rodney laughed.

“And lots of friends,” Yvonne said.

“And lawyers,” Rodney said.

“We won’t ever forget you. We’re family now.”

“We are?” Jabari said. “Real family?”

“Do you love us?” Rodney asked.

Jabari nodded.

“We love you,” Yvonne said. “That’s what makes a family.”

“Even if I wet the bed?” Jabari asked.

“We put on your special pants so if that happens, it’s no problem,” Yvonne said.

“But we’d love you even if it we had to throw the mattress out,” Rodney said.

“You would?” Jabari looked astounded at the thought.

Yvonne kissed the boy’s cheek and Rodney tucked the covers in around him. They went outside the room and turned off his light.

“What do you think?” Yvonne asked.

“I think that I’m going to fight like hell to make sure that he doesn’t have to go back to his mother,” Rodney said.

Yvonne smiled.

“What?” Rodney asked.

“I knew you’d love him,” Yvonne said.

They walked down the hall to their room.

“There’s one thing, though,” Rodney said.

“What?” Yvonne asked.

“That boy is not four and a half,” Rodney said.

“That’s what Jeraine says he is,” Yvonne said.

“He looks like Jer,” Rodney said. “No question. It’s just …”

“He seems like maybe he’s three or maybe younger,” Yvonne said. “Except he’s so mouthy.”

“Like Jeraine was,” Rodney said. “Remember?”

“That boy could talk your ear off when he was two years old,” Yvonne laughed.

“Just another mystery,” Rodney said.

Nodding, Yvonne followed him into their room.


Wednesday evening—8:35 p.m.

Jill stuck her head out of the nursery and listened.

The loft was silent.

No twins crying. No Katy laughter-tears-screams-giggles-conversation. Jacob was working in the office they shared.

The twins were fed and asleep. Katy had given her last kisses and special hugs and was now sound asleep. Everyone was safe, tucked in, and cared for.

Jill sighed.

She wanted to do something—watch a movie, go for a run, head downstairs to talk to Sandy about the Grand Jury and what happened with Seth, call Heather and find out what was happening with Blane, hear the latest about Jabari from Tanesha, or maybe just make popcorn. She just couldn’t decide what she wanted to do. She just wanted to do something.

She’d been taking care of babies for too long. Tonight, she was going to have fun.

She sat down on the cozy loveseat outside the nursery and tried to pick something. Scooter jumped up on the loveseat and settled in next to her. He put his head on her lap.

“Jill?” Jacob came out of his office a few minutes later. “Jill?”

She was sound asleep. Not wanting to wake her, he covered her with a blanket and went back to the office.


Wednesday evening—9:02 p.m.

“How’s Tink?” Heather asked Blane in a low voice.

She was sitting on the bed rocking Mack.

“Asleep,” Blane said. “She and Charlie had a nice time tonight.”

“After that awful hearing …” Heather started and shook her head.

Mack was asleep in her arms. Blane held his arms out for his son, but Heather shook her head.

“He just fell asleep,” she said. “Let’s give him a few minutes.”

Mack opened his large blue eyes. He looked at Heather and she smiled at him. He looked around until he saw Blane. He laughed like he’d just found something special. Then, he looked back at Heather. She rocked him.

“I’m sorry about Chet,” Blane said.

“I know,” Heather said. “We can’t take him and have you get your treatment. Risa is looking for a temporary placement so Chet can move here after the first of the year.”

Blane nodded.

“How do you feel about … everything?” Heather asked.

“Everything?” Blane asked.

Heather watched him.

“I feel grateful for you and my life,” Blane said. “I feel a fierce heart wrenching love for our children—Mack, Tink, and our baby boy on the way. I go back to feeling deeply grateful for you. I love you.”

She smiled and he sat down next to her on the bed.

“And of course, Jake and Sam and everything else and all the awesomeness in my life,” Blane said.

“I know, it’s pretty great,” Heather said. “Do you want to run through the procedure again?”

“Tomorrow, I’m going to confirm with the doctor that we want to go through with treatment,” Blane said. “I will schedule the procedure in the next two weeks. In the meantime, I’ll wrap up at Lipson, and in my acupuncture practice, and go into the hospital. They will destroy all of my bone marrow. They will then seed my system with Tanner’s cord blood. I will lay in bed and try not to go completely crazy. I will stay there and hope the cord blood reseeds my bone marrow. If not, they’ll try with Bladen’s cord blood.”

Heather nodded.

“What are you going to do?” Blane asked.

“Worry a lot,” Heather said.

He smiled.

“Tink’s going to help me with Mack,” Heather said. “Jill and Sandy are going to help too. Sandy’s going to pick up Tink from school and keep her at her house until I can come get her. Jill and Honey will help with Mack so I can stay with you as much as I can. I know Jake, Sam, and Aden are going to be there too. Delphie too. We’ll do what we can to keep our lives going. But we’ll miss you horribly. I’ll miss you horribly. When the month is over and you’re disease free, you’ll come home to us and our lives.”

Heather smiled.

“Our whole world revolves around you, Blane,” Heather said. “You have to get well.”

“My whole world revolves around you,” Blane said.

They hugged around Mack. When he didn’t stir, Blane picked him up and took him to his crib in the corner of their room.

“We should get to sleep,” Heather said. “Tomorrow’s the start of some very big days.”

Blane held out his hands and Heather let him pull her from the bed. He hugged her tight.

“Thank you,” he said.

“You made all of this,” Heather whispered. “You just have to get well … You just have to.”

“Then I will,” Blane said.

“Everything starts tomorrow,” Heather said.

“Tomorrow is going to be a very good day,” Blane said.

“I hope so,” Heather said.

“Me too,” Blane said.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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