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CHAPTER TWO HUNDRED and EIGHTY-FOUR
Tanesha bristled when the bailiff called the mother of Jeraine’s other child. Tanesha hated the woman. She knew her hatred was inappropriate and a stupid waste of time. Fin had told her so last night. It didn’t stop Tanesha from hating her. This woman had stolen Tanesha’s spot as the mother of Jeraine’s first child.
Yes, Tanesha knew that it was first and foremost Jeraine’s fault.
Yes, Tanesha knew the girl was not worth her energy or effort.
Yes, Tanesha knew that hatred was not good for her health or her piece of mind.
She still hated the woman.
She remembered exactly where she was when she’d learned that Jeraine’s first child had been born. She had been standing in the visitor’s line at Cañon City. She’d turned twenty-one just six days before. As a birthday present, her gran decided to tell her about her father. Prior to her twenty-first birthday, Tanesha had no idea her father was alive or wasn’t just one of her mother’s many johns. After her gran set her straight, Tanesha was able to book an appointment to see her father the very next Saturday.
In the six intervening days, she’d read everything she could about her father and the murder he’d committed. She’d even visited her mother to ask her. Her mother had been high, and unable to speak coherently. Yvonne had been like that a lot then. The day before Tanesha stood in the visitor’s line, she’d told her mother to clean up her act or she wouldn’t spend time with her. The broken look on her mother’s face had spurred her, kept her fortified and patient in the cold on that day. She’d probably killed her mother; why not kill her father too?
Heather had driven her to Cañon City. She wasn’t supposed to tell Jill and Sandy, but of course, they were sitting in the back seat of Heather’s car when she’d picked Tanesha up from her gran’s. Tanesha had made her girlfriends stay in the car. Tanesha was going to meet her poor excuse of a father on her own.
There she was, standing in that line, when she’d heard that Jeraine was a father. She’d turned to look. She hadn’t wanted to. If it had been any other day, she would have looked away, but there on the television screen was a picture of Jeraine and that woman. The announcer yammered on about R and B star Jeraine Wilson’s new baby. The girl had gone to see Jeraine in concert for her eighteenth birthday.
“Went to a concert, left with a baby. Not a bad deal,” Tanesha could still hear the radio personality’s wretched laugh. “Happy Birthday, girl, you’re having Jeraine’s baby.”
Even all these years later, Tanesha’s heart stopped at the memory. She gave Jeraine a dark look and watched Miss Thing saunter up to the witness stand. When the young woman raised her hand to swear in, Tanesha grabbed her purse. She was in the hallway before the woman started giving her testimony.
Because the judge had limited the court access to people directly involved in the custody hearing, Tanesha’s girls weren’t with her. She felt like she was about to cry. She glanced at one of the guys Jeraine had hired as bodyguards. He nodded to her. The man followed her as she walked quickly to the bathroom. She found a stall and dropped her head into her hands.
For the first time in a very long time, she wished she’d never come back to Denver.
She wished she’d never gotten involved with Jeraine again.
She wished she could wish upon a star and get to be that special person in Jeraine’s life, or even a special person in Jeraine’s life. But she was just another in a long line of stupid women who got involved with Jeraine.
“Get the fuck out of my way.” Tanesha heard her father’s voice outside the restroom.
The bodyguard said something in a low voice. Tanesha got up and went to the door to look out.
The bodyguard let Rodney step around him and enter the restroom. He hugged Tanesha.
“This is the woman, isn’t it?” Rodney asked. “The one who had her baby the day you came to see me?”
“You remember,” Tanesha said.
“Of course I do,” Rodney said.
“I … I …” Tanesha shook her head. “What the hell am I doing? He’s … and she’s …”
Rodney stepped back to look in her face.
“Family,” Tanesha said. “They are his family and I’m … nothing.”
Tanesha nodded at her logic.
“What am I doing here?” Tanesha whispered.
“You’re doing what you always do,” Rodney said.
“Letting that man trample on my heart?” Tanesha asked.
“You’re standing up for what’s right,” Rodney said. “That little boy needs you.”
Tanesha shook her head.
“What happened when his mother started in on her bullshit?” Rodney asked.
“He was using me. Just another needy Wilson male,” Tanesha said.
“That boy climbed up your legs so you would hold him,” Rodney said. “He hid his face on your shoulder and held on tight. He chose you, not his mother or your mother or Jeraine or Dionne or even me. He wanted you. He didn’t let go until his mother was escorted from the room. You’re here standing up for your family—and that child is a part of it.”
“You don’t think I’m just another ghetto whore hanging on Jeraine’s star?” Tanesha asked.
“Where’d you get that?” Rodney laughed.
“Reporter,” Tanesha said. “When we were coming in.”
“I’m not going to grace that with a response,” Rodney smiled. Tanesha shrugged.
“That Annette hates me,” Tanesha said.
“Of course she does,” Rodney said. “You’re everything she wants to be and isn’t. She wants to be you so badly she can’t stand being around you.”
“Hmm,” Tanesha said.
“You’ve got to let the past go,” Rodney said. “You have a right to be angry at Jeraine and both of these women. There’s no question about that, but …”
“But?” Tanesha asked.
“Are you really willing to give up today for yesterday?” Rodney asked. “Your Daddy was in prison. Your Momma was on drugs and trapped. Jeraine was crazy. Was that so great that you’d rather give up your great little dream home, the love you two clearly have, medical school, and every other thing to get back at some little girl who’s only career option was to have a baby with a stranger?”
“I’m not you.” Tanesha gave Rodney a hard look.
“You know how I was able to let bygones be bygones after I got out?”
“No, Dad, I have no idea how you did that,” Tanesha said.
“It was because of you,” Rodney said. “I could hang on to my justifiable, righteous indignation or I could live in the present with my beautiful daughter by my side. The past can’t compete with you.”
Tanesha looked up at him.
“Answer me yes or no,” Rodney said. “You like going to medical school.”
“I do,” Tanesha said.
“You have good friends,” Rodney said.
“My girls are awesome,” Tanesha said. “Fin is a good friend, too.”
“You love Jeraine,” Rodney said.
“I do,” Tanesha said. “I always have.”
“You have a great life now,” Rodney said.
Tanesha gave him a long look.
“A life worth fighting for,” Rodney said.
Tanesha sighed and dropped her head in resignation.
“Come on,” Rodney said. “Let’s go fight for your fabulous life.”
He put his arm around her and they left the bathroom.
“What’s going on over there?” Ivy asked Delphie.
They were waiting in line to get into the court building. Ivy had been subpoenaed to speak with the Grand Jury.
“You remember Tanesha?” Delphie asked.
“Sure,” Ivy said.
“Her husband’s son is coming to live with them,” Delphie said.
Ivy stared at the reporters, cameras, and the press of fans. Delphie put her arm around Ivy’s shoulder to keep her close.
“It doesn’t look good,” Ivy said.
“Good?” Delphie furrowed her brow and looked down at the small girl.
“You know, for the kid,” Ivy said.
“To live with Tanesha?” Delphie asked.
“All of this,” Ivy said.
“No, I don’t think it’s very good,” Delphie said.
Delphie helped Ivy through the metal detector and went through herself. The coordinator from the Denver DAs office waited for them just beyond the metal detectors. The woman talked a mile a minute.
They were meeting to talk about the rape case with the Grand Jury. The Grand Jury was helping the DAs office determine what charges needed to be filed and against whom. They’d wanted to see Ivy first because, as the youngest victim, her case carried the gravest charges with longest sentences. They’d had to leave Keenan with Valerie to get down to the courthouse first thing. Charlie was scheduled to testify in the afternoon.
The coordinator led them to a quiet hall outside the courtroom. They settled in to watch Jeraine’s fans press forward, and the reporters trying to get the latest dirt.
“What’s his name?” Ivy asked.
“Jabari,” Delphie said.
Ivy nodded. They fell silent.
“I thought my situation was bad,” Ivy said.
“What do you mean?” Delphie asked.
“My mom’s dead. Dad too,” Ivy said. “And my …”
Ivy’s voice caught and she looked very small and sad. Delphie put her arm around the child.
“Well, you know,” Ivy said. “But everyone loved me. Mom. Dad. Even Aunt Gracie …”
“You. Pan. My friends. Honey,” Ivy nodded. “Nobody would have left me if they hadn’t had to, you know? But that kid …”
“You can feel that too?” Delphie asked.
“I do too,” Delphie said.
A reporter ran across the hallway and all the reporters started talking at once. A ranting and raving woman was escorted from the courtroom by the Denver Police.
“You have no idea who you’re messing with!” the woman screamed. “You stupid …”
Seeing the reporters, the woman swooned and the police had to hold her up. The cameras flashed and the reporters screamed questions. The woman answered their questions in a weak voice. From her answers, it seemed like Denver County social services had contacted the Atlanta social services and the woman’s other children were being “stolen from her.” Other fathers were filing custody papers in other courtrooms. The woman had lost all of her children and it was “that evil man’s” fault. The woman screamed and swore.
“Jabari’s mother?” Ivy asked.
“I think so,” Delphie said.
“I was really lucky,” Ivy said in a low voice. She looked up at Delphie. “I am really lucky.”
Delphie smiled at the irony of Ivy feeling lucky on the day she had to testify about being horrifically abused.
“Ma’am? Ivy?” the coordinator peered out from the courtroom. “They’re ready for you.”
They got up and followed the coordinator into the chamber.
“Oh, no, you don’t,” Valerie said to Keenan.
Valerie was getting chicken pot pies together for dinner in the big Castle kitchen. Keenan had been helping her roll out the pie dough at the big kitchen table. She’d turned her back to put the pie crust in the oven when he started juggling oranges with his mind. She batted the oranges out of the air.
“Hey!” Keenan said. “I was playing!”
“That’s not play,” Valerie said.
He tried to make the orange move, but Valerie used her own skill to block him.
“How did you do that? I mean …”
“You think you’re the first person with ‘powers’ I’ve dealt with,” Valerie sniffed. “Why do you think Delphie asked you to stay with me?”
“I won’t put up with your crap,” Valerie said.
“I’m not doing anything bad!” Keenan yelled.
“Yes you are!” Valerie said. “What do you think kids are going to say when they see you can move things around with your mind?”
“Let me tell you,” Valerie said. “They’ll call you a freak and a weirdo. They won’t want to play with you and you’ll be miserable.”
“The more you use your skills, the more you’ll be used to using your skills,” Valerie said. “You won’t be able to play with normal kids. You won’t have any friends.”
“You think I’m kidding?” Valerie asked.
“You don’t know anything,” Keenan said.
“JAKE!” Valerie yelled. “JAKE!”
The door to the loft flew open and Jacob ran down the stairs.
“What happened?” Jacob asked. He gave Keenan a frantic look. The boy shrugged. “What happened?”
“Keenan thinks kids will think he’s cool, because he can move stuff with his mind,” Valerie said.
“That’s the emergency?” Jacob asked.
“You remember what happened when you went to pre-school?” Valerie asked.
“Well, now, Val …” Jacob gave her a patronizing nod.
“You’re saying you don’t remember,” Valerie said.
“It was a long time ago and …” Jacob looked at Valerie and swallowed hard. “Remind me.”
“You came home crying every single day,” Valerie said. “The kids made fun of you, called you a freak. They played kill the witch with you as the witch.”
“That happened?” Keenan asked.
“It wasn’t that bad,” Jacob said. “I got through it.”
“After you were kicked out of four schools,” Valerie said. “And …”
“That’s right,” Jacob nodded. He grimaced.
“Val learned to stop me from thinking about using my skills,” Jacob said. “Mom thought she could do that. She worked really hard to block me. Did she do that to you?”
“It was the only way I could stop doing it,” Jacob said. “I didn’t really know how to do anything without moving things around with my mind. I thought it was so cool that I didn’t do anything else. The kids were … brutal.”
“Horrible,” Valerie added. “Mom thought they might kill you.”
“I thought they might kill me,” Jacob said. “Dad was …”
“Upset,” Sam said, as he entered the kitchen from the stairwell to Delphie’s apartment. “It was my fault, mostly.”
“Your fault?” Keenan asked.
“I thought his skills were pretty cool,” Sam said. “I encouraged him to use them all the time. He really didn’t know how to do a lot of things without them. He had to relearn how to do almost everything. It was really hard on him, frustrating. And the kids … It was horrible. Jacob Lipson was blocked from Denver Schools. We had to enroll him under Jake Marlowe.”
“That won’t happen to me,” Keenan said.
“Oh yeah?” Valerie asked. “Why not?”
“I’ll make them like me,” Keenan nodded.
“That’s never going to work,” Jacob said. “You have to let people like you—you can’t make them.”
“I’m a fairy,” Keenan said. “I can do anything I want.”
“Oh yeah,” Valerie said. “Try to move the orange now.”
Keenan tried to move the orange. Nothing happened. He got more and more frustrated.
“That’s unfair!” Keenan yelled.
“It’s for your own good,” Valerie said.
“Hello!” They heard from the living room.
“We’re in here, Anjelika,” Valerie yelled.
“I’ll go,” Sam started toward the door.
“You can’t do this!” Keenan said. “How are they going to like me now?”
“They will,” Jacob said. “You’ll see.”
He looked so sad that Valerie hugged him.
“What’s happened?” Anjelika asked.
“Keenan’s worried about not being liked,” Jacob said.
“Sounds like I got here just in time,” Anjelika smiled at Valerie and Jacob. “Are you ready to start, Keenan?”
The little boy looked at Anjelika and gave a slow nod. Anjelika held out her hand. Keenan let go of Valerie to take Anjelika’s hand. When they’re hands touched, he looked at her hand and then at Valerie.
“I understand,” Keenan said.
Anjelika led Keenan out of the room.
“What was that?” Sam asked in a low tone.
“No idea,” Valerie said. She looked at Jacob, “You?”
Jacob shook his head. They turned to watch Keenan and Anjelika walk to the dining room.
“She can be very intimidating,” Valerie said.
“Tell me about it,” Jacob said.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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