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CHAPTER TWO HUNDRED and EIGHTY-TWO
“Hi,” Jeraine said to Tanesha when she walked into the basement room where Heather was putting them up for the night. He was sitting with his back against the headboard with his laptop open on his lap. “Late night?”
“The last couple of days, I’ve been so busy,” Tanesha smiled at him. “I needed to catch up.”
“He’s behind too,” Tanesha said. “Plus, I wanted to spend tomorrow with you and your son. Does he have a name?”
“Jabari,” Jeraine said. “It means ‘brave’ or ‘strong’ and it has a ‘J’ for me and an ‘A’ for her. At least that’s why she said she named him that.”
“Jabari,” Tanesha repeated. “Heather said there’s some problem with his name?”
“His mother calls him ‘Jabber.” Jeraine scowled and Tanesha shook her head. “Did you see …?”
“How …?” Jeraine asked.
“Fin thought we should see it,” Tanesha said. “We watched it while we ate dinner. Jabari’s mother? Annette? She’s …”
“A complete nightmare,” Jeraine said.
“Special,” Tanesha repeated what she’d said before. “You have your computer out. Did you want to watch it again?”
Jeraine gave her such a sad look that she sat down on the bed next to him.
“Let’s take a look,” Tanesha said.
Tanesha leaned over to push the play button.
The scene opened with Annette, Jabari’s mother, talking to her lawyer about the new child support agreement. The lawyer explained to Annette that her child support was reduced due to Jeraine’s current financial situation. Annette started screaming the moment the lawyer told her the new amount of child support, and things went down from there.
While the cameras rolled, Annette marched out to the backyard, where Jabari was playing. She grabbed the boy by the arm and dragged him across the marble floors in her enormous house to his tiny bedroom where she told him to pack. When he got out his suitcase, she balked. She stormed out of his room and returned with a plastic bag. When he tried to pack any clean, wearable clothing, she would grab it from the plastic bag and throw it on the bed.
“Ima gonna sell dat,” Annette said to anything that looked wearable. Her voice was artificially accented with unintelligible English. “You of no use to me now.”
When the boy had a pair of tattered pants and a top, Annette took him into the bathroom where she changed him into diapers, “like the baby he is.” Clearly humiliated, the boy didn’t look up at the camera when he came out. He shuffled toward the door as if he’d gone through this before.
“You’s goin’ back to your daddy,” Annette said.
The boy looked surprised.
“What … What do you mean?” Jabari asked.
“Yo daddy put you in my life,” Annette said. “Yo daddy will take you out.”
“But … but … why?” Jabari asked.
“You ain’t worth a dime,” Annette said. “Not one thin dime, and I’m done with you.”
She gestured for him to pick up his plastic bag. Silent tears streamed down the boy’s face.
“You better stop that,” Annette said. “You know what happens when you cry.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Jabari said in a low voice.
Annette pushed the child out into the hallway. She nudged and badgered him down the grand stairway of her pink and white palatial home. At the bottom of the stairs, the boy turned to look up. A child, a year or so younger than Jabari, started to scream.
“They’s no reason for you to cry,” Annette said. “Yo daddy ain’t no broke-ass negro.”
Jabari’s eyes went round, and he looked at his mother. She pointed to the door and he walked out. Annette’s driver watched the whole thing from the sidelines. He grabbed a warm jacket from the coat closet and followed them out.
The ride to the airport was filled with Annette’s opinions about Jeraine and Tanesha. When they got to the airport, Annette bought the boy a plane ticket to Denver. Without saying another word, she dropped him off at airport security. The driver leaned down to help the boy with his jacket. The camera filmed the man stuffing money into Jabari’s pockets.
“Bye,” Annette said, and she walked off.
Jabari watched her go before going into airport security. The cameras followed Annette out of the airport.
Tanesha pushed the laptop closed.
“How could anyone do that?” Jeraine whispered. “She’s proud of … abusing … my … my … He could have … died … and …”
Jeraine looked at Tanesha and shook his head. Tanesha put her arm around him. He pressed his head into her shoulder.
“Mom, Dad, me, we’ve all tried to see him,” Jeraine said into her arm. “You have to know that I tried. It’s not like she said on the TV. I tried everything I could think of to get a chance to see him. So did Mom and Dad. She made up stuff and …”
He shook his head.
“And he’s … really great,” Jeraine said. “Funny, smart, and …”
Jeraine leaned back to look at her.
“Are you going to leave me?” Jeraine asked.
“Me?” Tanesha asked. “Are you dealing with your life?”
“Are you high?”
Jeraine shook his head.
“Are you sleeping around with who knows what?” Tanesha asked.
He shook his head. She smiled.
“Why would I leave?” Tanesha asked.
“Because Jabari is going to live with us in your perfect yellow house,” Jeraine said. “More wreckage from my fucked up life.”
“A child is not wreckage,” Tanesha’s response was immediate and her voice was harsh.
He looked up into her eyes. She wrinkled her nose.
“I always figured your kids would come live with us,” Tanesha said. “Sooner or later, if you got your shit together, they’d come live with us.”
“W-w-why?” Jeraine asked.
“I don’t know,” Tanesha said. “Women’s intuition.”
Jeraine smiled at her.
“But I do want to kill that Annette,” Tanesha said.
“But not me?” Jeraine asked.
“I’m pissed at you for being so careless as to have a child with that … thing,” Tanesha said. “But it’s done. He’s here, and according to everyone, he’s pretty awesome. Heather might not give him up.”
“She has to!” Jeraine said.
Tanesha smiled and he hugged her.
“She and Blane were kind to let me sleep here,” Jeraine said. “They didn’t have to, but I …”
“You wanted to be near him,” Tanesha said. “That seems pretty normal to me. What’s going to happen?”
“He met with his attorney,” Jeraine said. “He has his own attorney, and Jammy filed for immediate termination of parental rights—hers, not mine.
“Schmidty’s handling this for you?” Tanesha said.
“It’s part of his ‘clean up your act’ program,” Jeraine said. “Nothing’s going to happen until Monday. The TV show intervened and we have a court hearing first thing Monday morning.”
“How did they do that?” Tanesha asked.
“Jammy says that she planned this whole thing,” Jeraine gave an angry nod. “The TV people helped her.”
“Helped her abuse your son?” Tanesha shook her head. “I don’t know what to say about that.”
“I know,” Jeraine said. “She called after the show aired and squawked about wanting him back. She says it’s my fault because I …”
Jeraine looked into Tanesha’s face for a moment.
“You broke her heart,” Tanesha said. “Such drama. Shit, I could have written this story myself. Did you keep the letter she sent you? You know, the one that said that she got pregnant on purpose so you would have to pay her all of her life. The one you showed me?”
“I gave it to Jammy,” Jeraine nodded.
“I’m going to fight, Tanesha,” Jeraine said. “This is my child. I thought she was a great mother and he was better off with her.”
“She’s not,” Tanesha said. “He’s not.”
“Not anymore,” Jeraine nodded.
“What about the other one?” Tanesha said. “Jeraine Junior.”
“His mother called after seeing the broadcast,” Jeraine said. “I guess Jammy talked to her earlier in the day. She was really angry. Her mother’s coming on Monday with JJ. She has school, so she can’t come.”
“School?” Tanesha asked.
“She’s been studying to be a radiology tech,” Jeraine said. “She was just eighteen when she had JJ. She’s been in school most of his life.”
“Very liberated,” Tanesha said.
“Don’t be like that,” Jeraine said. “She told me once that having a baby by some rich man is the only way girls like her get out of the ghetto.”
“She’s the one who tricked you,” Tanesha said.
“Holes in all the condoms,” Jeraine nodded. “She’s apologized for it a couple times. And before you say it, it’s my fault. If I didn’t always have my dick out, I wouldn’t have been in that situation.”
Tanesha gave him a curt nod.
“I’m really trying, Tanesha,” Jeraine said.
“I know,” she said. “So both kids will be here Monday?”
“And we’ll be in court first thing Monday morning,” Jeraine said.
“And tomorrow?” Tanesha asked.
“Just us,” Jeraine said. “Heather said we could spend the whole day with Jabari.”
“Good,” Tanesha said. “He needs clothes and …”
“My Mom wants to spend time with him,” Tanesha said.
“He thinks she’s his angel,” Jeraine said.
“She did save him,” Tanesha said. “And got all this in motion. How’s your head? Usually stress gets it going.”
“I’m okay,” Jeraine said.
“Good,” Tanesha said.
She slipped off her clothing and got into bed with him. He shut his laptop and turned off the light. She kissed him. He watched her close her eyes and drift off to sleep.
“I love you,” Jeraine said. “I don’t know why you love me, but I hope you never stop.”
He put his arm around her and followed her to sleep.
Sunday morning — 7:35 am
“Why do I have to get up?” Charlie whined and pulled his comforters over his head.
“We’re going to a meeting,” Aden said, and pulled the comforters off him. “You laid around here all day yesterday. It’s time to get moving.”
“Just because you have to go to a meeting, doesn’t mean I …” Charlie caught a look at Aden’s face and stopped talking. Under his breath, he muttered, “Just saying.”
When he was sure Charlie was up, Aden turned away and grinned at Charlie’s grumbling. He went into the kitchen where he made a couple travel mugs of coffee and warmed up a couple of muffins. Charlie came out a few minutes later.
“You’re chipper today,” Charlie scowled.
Aden shooed him through the apartment, down the stairs, and out to his SAAB. He gave Charlie the coffee mug and Charlie smiled. Charlie took both muffins and Aden grinned. He started the car. They turned up Colfax Boulevard toward York Street.
“I have to go to work after this,” Charlie said.
“I know,” Aden said. “I figured I’d drop you off when we’re done.”
“Cool,” Charlie said.
Charlie drank some of his coffee.
“You hear what happened yesterday?” Charlie asked.
“With Jeraine’s son?” Aden asked.
“That was wild, but no, that’s not what I meant,” Charlie said. “I mean, who would be stupid enough to put all that crap on television?”
“Exactly,” Aden said. “What did you mean?”
“Oh,” Charlie said, and put an entire muffin in his mouth. He tried to talk, but Aden stopped him. After a bit of chewing, Charlie some something that sounded like, “Tink’s brother.”
“Tink has a brother?” Aden asked.
“A few years younger than her,” Charlie said. “Her step-dad finally figured out he was gay. I mean, it’s been obvious forever, but he’s such a pretty kid. We think the step-dad liked to show off the good looking kid.”
“What happened to Tink’s brother?” Aden’s voice raised in an effort to get information from Charlie.
“Oh, he got kicked out last night,” Charlie said.
“Where is he?” Aden asked.
“That’s a whole other mess,” Charlie said. Aden turned right on York Street.
“How so?” Aden asked.
“Oh, sorry, I’m not really awake yet,” Charlie rubbed his eyes. “Tink’s brother wanted to be with Tink, of course, but Heather just took in Jabari. The house is full. He got placed some place, and get this.”
Charlie put the second muffin in his mouth. Aden scowled and Charlie said something that sounded like, “You woke me up at the crack of dawn. I’m hungry.” Aden smiled.
“Get what?” Aden asked.
“He told the social worker, you know Tink’s social worker Risa?” Charlie asked.
“I know her,” Aden said.
“He told Risa that the other kid? The one they adopted?” Charlie nodded. “She’s autistic. She’s never been to school or anything because the step-dad is embarrassed of her. He says if she’s going to act like an animal, she should live like one. Tink told Risa that before, but it kind of got lost all this stuff with the rape case.”
“Risa took the kid,” Charlie said. “Man, don’t fuck with Risa. She was pissed off about Jabari and went on the war path with Tink’s mom and step-dad. Anyway, it’s a big mess.”
Aden turned on Thirteenth Street and found a parking spot near Garfield.
“They call you Pan right?” Aden asked.
“So?” Charlie drank his coffee and eyed Aden’s mug. Aden gave him the coffee.
“You just spent time with the fairies right?” Aden asked.
They got out of the car and started walking toward the York Street Club, the AA meeting house on the corner of Thirteenth Avenue and York Street.
“What’s your point?” Charlie asked.
“Lost boys?” Aden smiled. “You’ve got Jabari and Keenan. Now Tink’s brother. What’s his name?”
“Chester,” Charlie said. “He goes by Chet.”
“Now Chet,” Aden said. “You are the Pan.”
“You mean all the lost boys are coming to Never-Neverland because the fairies were here?” Charlie nodded as if he was thinking about it. “You know what I think?”
Aden turned to look at Charlie.
“I think you need a meeting,” Charlie laughed and went up the sidewalk to the clubhouse. On the porch, he turned to Aden and said, “We’ve been in Never-Neverland this whole time.”
“See why I think you need a meeting?” Aden said under his breath.
Charlie grinned and followed him into the club house.
Sunday morning — 10:35 am
Heather looked up when she heard a knock at their front door. Blane had taken Tink to see her brother, Chet. Jeraine had taken Jabari to Dionne and Bumpy’s house. Mack had spent the night at Heather’s mother’s house. She was going to meet Jill, Sandy, and Tanesha at mass. If it was possible, they were going to grab lunch before heading back to their families.
The doorbell rang.
Heather wasn’t expecting anyone. She stuffed her swollen feet into her shoes and went to the door. She looked out the peep hole and frowned.
The guy who worked for Ava in the crime lab was standing at their door. Heather opened the door.
“Hi,” Heather said.
“Uh …” the guy swallowed hard.
“I don’t remember your name,” Heather said. “You’re welcome to come in. I need to get ready for mass.”
“Oh,” the guy said. “Nelson.”
“Nelson?” Heather asked.
“My name,” Nelson smiled.
“Nice to see you again, Nelson,” Heather held the door open. He came in after her. “What can I do for you?”
“Well …” His head went up and down in a fast nod.
“Blane’s not here,” Heather said. “Tink’s brother got kicked out of the house last night. He took Tink to see her brother and …”
Heather turned to look for the man. He was standing next to the door.
“What’s going on?” Heather asked.
“I …” Nelson’s voice croaked. He cleared his throat. “Um.”
Nelson glanced at the door.
“What is it?” Heather asked.
“You remember when Blane and I bartended at the Church?” Nelson asked.
“When Jeraine was trying to figure out if his record company was drugging him?” Heather asked. “Sure.”
“I kind of … um,” Nelson nodded. “Fell for Blane.”
“Oh,” Heather said.
“He made it really clear that he doesn’t want anything like that in his life,” Nelson said. “He’s really happy with his life and …”
“I think so,” Heather said.
“I mean, I knew him … uh … before,” Nelson said. “Then my life changed and his life changed and anyway, I’ve been kind of whining about him and well … all of this, and O’Malley … uh.”
“He said if I was really interested in Blane, I should get to know you,” Nelson said. “He said that you’re a package deal with Blane and … Seth told Ava who told us about Blane’s liver and … everything.”
“And?” Heather’s eyebrows pinched together.
“I thought that maybe I could … Oh, I don’t know,” Nelson smiled. “I feel pretty stupid.”
“I can see that,” Heather smiled.
“I suppose that if Blane got involved with someone, I would be in the mix,” Heather said. “We’re really dedicated to being partners and parents—family. He’s really dedicated to being a family.”
“I know,” Nelson said. “I think that’s pretty neat.”
“And our situation?”
“I think it works,” Nelson said. “I mean it obviously works. He’s really happy.”
“Are you thinking that once he gets well, he’ll go back to his old life?”
“Oh, no,” Nelson shook his head. “I don’t think that’s really likely. Do you?”
“No,” Heather said.
“I just realized that Seth meant to be a little more subtle than this,” Nelson stuck his hands in the pockets of his jeans.
“Probably,” Heather laughed. “But you’re right. If you and Blane started dating, or whatever, I would have to get along with you too. I hadn’t thought about that.”
Heather gave Nelson a long assessing look before she shrugged.
“You seem nice enough,” Heather smiled. “What were you thinking?”
“Oh,” Nelson blushed. “I wasn’t really thinking anything. I just …”
“You must really like Blane,” Heather said.
“He’s … amazing,” Nelson said.
“He is,” Heather said. “Why don’t you let me think about it? The last few days have been a whirlwind of activity with Tink’s brother and Tanesha’s step-son, and Keenan and Ivy and …”
“That’s a lot,” Nelson nodded.
“We haven’t made a plan for Blane to start this new treatment they’re talking about,” Heather said. “If you want to help, you could probably help us then – or at least get a good idea of how weird and wild it is here.”
“Okay,” Nelson moved to the door.
“Maybe you won’t want to get involved,” Heather said.
“I don’t think so,” Nelson said.
“Because I really like you too,” Nelson said. “I feel this … desire to fight for what you and Blane have and that’s … new.”
Heather smiled, and Nelson grinned.
“I’m off to mass,” Heather said. “Do you want to talk later?”
Nelson nodded. He turned and walked out the door. Heather stared at the door for a moment before laughing. She grabbed her purse to leave. She was at the front door when there was another knock.
“My number,” Nelson held out a business card. He grinned as if he realized he’d forgotten to give it to her. “My cell is on the back.”
“Thanks,” Heather said. “I’ll call.”
Heather went through the door and locked it. Nelson walked to his car. Heather waved when she drove by. She had already reached Colfax Boulevard before she realized what had just happened.
For a second, her heart caught with panic.
This Nelson could ruin everything.
Stopped at light, she worked to catch her breath. As she did, her son kicked and the truth came to her.
No one was going to take Blane away from her. They were family.
Smiling to herself, she continued on her way to the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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