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CHAPTER TWO HUNDRED and NINETY
Thursday afternoon—3:41 p.m.
“Hey,” Blane said as he walked into Tres Sierra’s office. “Do you have a minute?”
“Of course,” Tres said. “Please come in.”
Tres got up to move a stack of paper from the chair across from his desk.
“Sorry,” Tres said. “I’m in the middle of answering questions from the state audit.”
“Sorry I can’t help,” Blane said.
“No,” Tres said. “You’re doing something more important. You’re going to get well so you can raise Tink and Mack and your new son. There’s not much more important than what you’re about to do.”
Tres nodded, and Blane smiled.
“That’s actually what I wanted to talk to you about,” Blane said.
“You don’t have to worry,” Tres said. “I did not tell Enrique you were having this treatment.”
Blane gave Tres a vague smile.
“My brother would just want it for himself anyway,” Tres said.
“I’ve been very lucky,” Blane said. “My hope is that someday everyone can have this treatment. That is if it works …”
“It will,” Tres smiled.
“Actually,” Blane said. “I wanted to talk to you about Heather.”
Tres cleared his throat.
“I assume you still have strong feelings for Heather,” Blane said.
“Listen, I …”
“It’s okay,” Blane said. “I …”
“No,” Tres said. “Let me say this.”
“I have a deep respect for you and Heather,” Tres said. “You’re together because you love each other and you raise your children with that love. No matter what I feel, I would never …”
“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about,” Blane interrupted Tres.
Tres closed his mouth and looked at Blane.
“This treatment is far from foolproof,” Blane said. “It’s as likely that I’ll die or get cancer from the treatment as it is that I’ll recover and live virus free.”
“I’m wondering …” Blane took a deep breath for courage. “Would you look after Heather and the kids if … uh … something happens to me?”
“Yes,” Tres said.
“Good,” Blane said. “Heather has the same feelings for you as you have for her. You could be happy together if … Will you raise my children as your own?”
“When you’re well, we’ll laugh about all of this,” Tres said.
“But you’ll do this for me?” Blane asked. “You’ll stand by her while I’m in the hospital and be there if I don’t make it. Promise me.”
“I will,” Tres said.
“Thanks,” Blane said.
Blane got up and walked out of the CFO’s office. Tres stared at the spot Blane vacated and let out a breath. Nodding to himself, he went back to his spreadsheets. A few hours later, he heard Blane leaving the office. He went to his office door. Blane nodded to him and walked out of the building. Through the window, he saw Heather pick Blane up in the parking lot. Tres swallowed hard and nodded again.
He could do this.
Thursday afternoon—4:02 p.m.
“Are you sure you want to take care of them?” Jill asked her oldest sister, Megan, as they came out of the nursery. “You know they … move things.”
“Wait, why did you laugh?” Jill asked.
“Katy did the very same thing,” Megan said.
“What?” Jill’s shock made Megan laugh even harder. “What do you mean?”
“When Katy was a baby, things would move around. At first, it was just her mobile, you remember that thing that she loved so much.”
“With the zoo animals on it?” Jill asked.
“That one,” Megan said. “When she was about six months old, her stuffed animals would dance. Ryan loved to watch Katy sleep because all kinds of weird stuff would happen. Come to think of it, that’s probably why he’s so into the whole Star Wars force thing. He used to see Katy move things around.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Jill asked.
Jill looked so horrified that Megan hugged her.
“I’ve been panicked,” Jill said against Megan’s shoulder. “I can’t take the boys to daycare like this! They could destroy the place and we can’t afford for me to stay with them. If the business wasn’t in trouble, I could be home. I was supposed to be able to stay home with them, but now … even the kids are working.”
“Seems like everyone’s money is tight right now,” Megan said.
“Why didn’t you tell me about Katy?” Jill asked.
“You had so much on your plate,” Megan said. “Trevor, work, Trevor … Life was so hard and I didn’t want you to worry.”
“How did you get her to stop?” Jill asked.
“I reached out to her,” Megan blushed. “I guess, I healed her or at least helped her.
“What?” Jill asked.
“It’s a brain problem,” Megan said. “She didn’t have a way to turn it off. Remember how she wouldn’t sleep as an infant.”
“Yes,” Jill said. “I remember that.”
“She needed a way to turn it off,” Megan said. “Gosh, you know I’ve never thought about this much, but my kids never slept as infants. I had to … help them too. I wonder if all kids have this.”
“Honey’s baby Maggie doesn’t,” Jill said.
“You already helped Jackie,” Megan said.
Jill nodded, and then said, “I didn’t think my boys …”
“You never see what’s closest to you,” Megan smiled. “What about Steve and Leslie’s daughter?”
“She has trouble sleeping,” Jill said. “Or she did when she stayed here.”
“It’s probably our babies,” Megan said. “We’ll have to ask Mom if we did the same thing.”
“Listen,” Megan said. “We took care of Katy when she was an infant. Why don’t you let me take care of the boys?”
“You don’t … They can …” Jill fumbled with words. She never realized until Megan said it that this was exactly what she’d wanted. “I couldn’t … You’re done with diapers and … Uh … Mom was going to pay for the Marlowe school.”
“Can you get my boys into the Marlowe school?”
“Do they want to go there?” Jill asked.
“Sandy said she thought that Noelle would be able to stay,” Megan said. “They’re expanding the grade with the new school. Noelle’s only a little older than Ryan. And let’s face it, Ryan’s a weird kid.”
“He’s wonderful,” Jill said.
“He’s an exact copy of Mike,” Megan said.
“Who, it turns out, is an exactly copy of our father,” Megan said. “Eerie eyes and all.”
“That makes him a weird boy,” Megan said. “I’d rather he went somewhere that loved his weirdness.”
“Jake will get them in,” Jill said. “The best way to make sure you’re in is to help with the remodel, if we ever get the building moved …”
Megan nodded. Jill shrugged.
“That will happen sooner or later,” Jill said.
“I want to take care of your babies,” Megan said.
Jill smiled at her assertive voice and Megan grinned.
“You need the help,” Megan said.
“I do need the help,” Jill said. “I just feel … guilty. I feel so guilty for always burdening you with my … problems.”
“I’m your sister,” Megan said. “You are my problem.”
“Think of it this way,” Megan said. “We miss Katy now that she’s in school and Jacob’s here and everyone who loves her is right here to spend time with her. This is our chance to get to know the boys before their lives take off.”
“That’s nice of you but …”
“We used the money you gave us for Katy to pay the mortgage,” Megan said. “We can use the help again.”
“You’re just saying that,” Jill said.
“Ok, I’m just saying that,” Megan said. “But my offer stands. I want to do this. I can help.”
“Thanks,” Jill said. Through watery eyes, Jill repeated, “Thanks.”
Thursday afternoon—7:22 p.m.
“He seems warm,” Tanesha said.
After dinner at Yvonne’s house, Jabari had climbed up into her lap and fallen asleep. She and Jeraine had lingered over dinner while Jabari slept.
“Let me see,” Yvonne said. She slipped her hand on the boy’s face. “Gosh, he does seem hot.”
“I’ll get the thermometer,” Rodney got up from the table.
“He didn’t seem right after he saw his mother,” Yvonne said. She paced around behind Tanesha’s chair. “That woman …”
Yvonne gave Jeraine a hard look and kept pacing.
“I’m not supposed to tell you what happened with his mother,” Yvonne said. “But I will tell you that you should have been more careful about who had your children, Jeraine.”
“Agreed,” Jeraine said.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Tanesha said. “He’s pretty great. She might be a mess but … You can’t argue with such a great kid.”
Jabari gave a little moan.
“All that stress, all this hassle for a woman who …” Yvonne sniffed.
Rodney came back into the dining room. He gave Yvonne an “Are you okay?” look.
“No, I’m not okay,” Yvonne said. “Baby-Jabari is sick. How can I be okay?”
Tanesha grinned at her mother. Rodney gave Yvonne a quick nod before handing Tanesha the ear thermometer.
“I’ll do it,” Yvonne said.
They rolled Jabari’s head so his ear was exposed, and Yvonne took his temperature. Jabari whimpered, but didn’t wake up.
“It’s a hundred and two,” Yvonne said. “What do we do?”
“We need to call my dad,” Jeraine said.
“We can’t call Bumpy, Jer,” Rodney said. “They aren’t allowed to see Jabari. Only us, you, and his mother.”
“We can’t risk breaking any agreement or we might lose him,” Yvonne said. “I don’t want to lose him.”
“We can still call his dad,” Tanesha said. “That’s not him seeing Jabari. That’s just him talking on the phone.”
Rodney took out his cellphone and called Bumpy.
“Do we have the authority to get him to treatment?” Tanesha asked.
“I don’t think so,” Jeraine said. “We’d have to have full custody.”
“So we have to call his mother?” Tanesha asked.
“I don’t know,” Jeraine said. “I think so.”
“Call Jabari’s lawyer,” Tanesha said.
Jeraine nodded and made the call. Rodney gestured for Yvonne to take Jabari’s temperature again.
“It’s still going up,” Yvonne said.
“Is that a rash?” Tanesha gestured to redness around his cheeks and nose. “Or just the heat?”
Yvonne put her cool hand on the boy’s cheek.
“We need to get him to the hospital,” Rodney said. “Bumpy said there’s a provision for emergencies. The hospital will take care of him.”
Tanesha stood up with him.
“We have to take him,” Rodney held his arms out for the boy. “You can’t come.”
Tanesha felt as if her heart was being torn in half. She looked at her father with desperation.
“First step of being a parent is to do what the child needs,” Rodney said. “Even if it tears you apart.”
Tanesha gave Jabari to Rodney. Jabari started screaming the moment he was out of her arms.
“Drive fast,” Tanesha said.
“Come on, Jabari,” Rodney said. “Let’s get you some help.”
Yvonne looked at Tanesha for a moment.
“I’ll call Abi,” Yvonne said. “She’ll know what to do.”
Tanesha wrapped her arms around herself. Her mother touched Tanesha’s arm and they ran out of the house. She stood in the hallway until long after she heard her father’s car pull away. Jeraine came up behind her and put his arms around her. She turned around into his arms.
“You really love him,” Jeraine said.
“He’s wonderful,” Tanesha said.
“I love him too,” Jeraine said.
“What did the lawyer say?” Tanesha asked.
“He said what your father said,” Jeraine said. “Your parents have physical custody of him. They have to take care of him.”
“Even from the hospital?” Tanesha asked. “We can’t even wait for him?”
“There’s something else,” Jeraine said.
“The lawyer has to call Annette,” Jeraine said.
“You mean the Annette show is going to show up at the hospital?” Tanesha asked.
“Then we are going to be there,” Tanesha nodded. She stepped back from Jeraine and wiped her eyes. “I’m calling Jill and …”
Tanesha gasped when she realized what Jeraine was saying.
“I can’t be there?” Tanesha asked.
“Then you better drive fast, Jeraine Wilson,” Tanesha said. “You get your ass to that hospital before that witch takes over the place.”
Jeraine hugged her tight. Letting go, he walked out of the house. She listened for his car to leave. Hearing a sound, Tanesha looked up.
“Sorry,” Akeem said. “I didn’t mean to disturb you. I heard Rodney’s car and I thought I’d come clean up. Your Mom likes the house clean, especially when she’s upset.”
“Did you see …” Tanesha gestured to the room around her.
“I heard,” Akeem said. “And I’m sorry.”
“If it’s any consolation,” Akeem started to clear the table. “I was like Jabari.”
Tanesha shook her head like she didn’t know what he meant. He started clearing the table and Tanesha helped.
“My mother was crazy,” Akeem said. “My father was a drug dealer. He loved me but there wasn’t no way no body was going to give him custody. Um …”
“No one was going to give him custody,” Tanesha corrected because Akeem had asked her to.
“Thanks,” Akeem said. “No one wanted to give my father custody. I broke my leg when I was with him once. Fell out of a tree we were climbing. You’d think the world had come to an end. No one had the authority to take me. It was … just a mess. I had my first drugs then, kept taking them because of …”
He gestured to Tanesha’s pain. She nodded. They went into the kitchen where they started working on dishes.
“You know what I think?” Akeem asked.
“What do you think?” Tanesha asked.
“I think Jabari is pretty lucky,” Akeem said. “My dad was killed in a knife fight when I was ten. Nobody gave a crap about me after he was gone. Not a single soul cared if I lived or died until I met Rodney. Jabari has all these people who love him—even me. He ain’t gonna be no unloved, throwaway kid.”
She didn’t bother to correct his language.
“If his mother gets him back …” Tanesha didn’t finish that thought.
“We’re not going to let that happen,” Akeem said.
“Doesn’t seem like there’s much we can do,” Tanesha said.
“We can pray,” Akeem said. “Doesn’t matter what God you pray to or how you do it. It makes a difference, even if just to make you feel better.”
Tanesha nodded and they started the dishes. They washed dishes and cleaned the dining room.
“Thanks,” Tanesha said, when they were done.
“It’s how I pay rent,” Akeem said. “I’m grateful every day for Rodney. It’s the least I can do.”
“For telling me your story,” Tanesha said.
“I want you to know that you’re not unloved anymore,” Tanesha said. “For what it’s worth, you’re a part of our family now.”
“Thanks,” Akeem smiled. “Can I drive you home?”
“I’ll call one of my girls,” Tanesha said. “They’ll want to know everything anyway.”
“I’ll take Mr. Chesterfield for his nightly constitutional,” Akeem said. “If you’re still here when I get back, I can always take you then.”
“Thanks Akeem,” Tanesha said.
He left through the kitchen door. Tanesha nodded toward the door and called Heather.
Thursday afternoon—9:15 p.m.
“Sorry I’m late,” Ava said as she came into Seth’s piano room. She waited for him to stop playing before saying anything else. “Nelson wants to try out being a foster parent. They have a temporary placement that they think will be perfect so he had to get approved fast. We’ve all been there cleaning and making sure everything’s perfect. They’re coming tomorrow to inspect his house.”
“This wouldn’t by any chance be for Tink’s brother, would it?” Seth asked.
“How’d you know?” Ava asked.
“I am the great O’Malley,” Seth said. He pulled her onto his lap. She laughed and kissed him. “Sandy told me he needed a placement. Do you think he’s doing to impress Blane?”
“I don’t know,” Ava said. “He says he’s doing it to try it out, but I think that’s a ‘trying out to see if I could deal with living with Blane.’ But don’t quote me. I didn’t find out about it until I was coming back from the gym. You got my message though, didn’t you?”
“I did.” Seth nodded.
He kissed her again.
“What happened with Raz and Colin?” Ava asked.
“Oh, Raz …” Seth said. “I don’t know what he was before he was an agent, and I’ll probably never find out.”
“If I was a betting man, I’d bet he was a homicide detective,” Seth said. “At least he should have been. He’s very good. We went through the information twice. He insisted on calling in the FBI agent-in-charge of the rape cases. They were …”
“Blown away?” Ava asked.
“Worried,” Seth said.
“That’s the weird thing,” Ava said. “You’re cops and you’re worried.”
“There’s a lot of damage Red Bear can do,” Seth said. “Raz reminded me that the worst thing he can actually do is release a bunch of stuff with Sandy in it.”
“Or something awful on Andy,” Ava said.
“We’re kind of held hostage,” Seth said.
“Because you haven’t found where he’s running the operation?” Ava asked.
“Mostly, yes,” Seth said. “We don’t have a direct connection to Patty, Charlie and Sissy’s mother. We found the storage area where Andy kept everything, and where some of the computers are but …”
“ …didn’t find anything of Red Bear’s in that storage area,” Ava said.
“Right,” Seth said. “The storage area was one hundred percent Andy’s. The videos there were ones that were used to threaten her.”
“Used to keep her in line,” Ava said.
“Exactly,” Seth said. “Yeah …”
Seth’s head went up and down in a nod. He looked over Ava’s shoulder for a moment.
“What’s going on?” Ava asked.
“I just have this feeling that Andy wants me to do something,” Seth said. “To fix this. Get the bastard. But … I’m at a complete loss. I’ve been sitting here all afternoon trying to figure out what she’s trying to tell me.”
“But you didn’t call Delphie,” Ava said.
“What is it with you and Delphie?” Ava asked. “Half the time, you act like you hate her. She’s the same way.”
“She says we were siblings in other lives,” Seth said.
“I see,” Ava said. “That’s a good reason not to call the woman.”
“How about this?” Ava asked. “I’m going upstairs to see what Maresol left for dinner.”
“She didn’t,” Seth said. “I told her we were going out.”
“Then I was late,” Ava said. “Sorry.”
“No problem,” Seth said. “You want to order something?”
“How ‘bout if I cook something yummy?” Ava asked and then laughed at the look on his face. Seth smiled. “I’ll go upstairs and order something. You call Delphie.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Seth said.
He waited until she’d left the room before starting to play again. He told himself he’d play for only a minute but he started in on the piece he was working on. He was just getting going when the key cover on the piano slammed closed. If he hadn’t moved his fingers quickly, they would have been broken. He scowled.
“All right, all right,” Seth said. “Don’t get pissy. I’m calling!”
He looked around the room until he found his cell phone and called Delphie.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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