Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Chapter Two Hundred and Ninety-Three : Change Forever

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CHAPTER TWO HUNDRED and NINETY-THREE

Friday afternoon—4:25 p.m.

“How late are you working?” Heather asked Sandy.

Heather was talking to Sandy on her cellphone while she drove to pick up Blane. Heather turned right off South University Boulevard onto Buchtel, and got over into the left turn lane.

“Eight,” Sandy said. “Seth is my last person. Colin and Raz are here until I’m done. They’re going to take me and Rachel to Seth’s house. We’ll stay there tonight. Hopefully this will blow over by tomorrow. The kids are at Alex’s house, and Aden is going to stay with them.”

“Tink’s at Alex’s tonight too,” Heather said.

“So she can be with Charlie,” Sandy and Heather said in unison. They laughed.

“It’s really nice of Alex,” Heather said. “Alex just said she owed Blane from when he helped cure her sepsis.”

“And Mack’s with Jill?” Sandy asked.

“Yeah,” Heather said. “If I get done at the hospital or don’t stay or whatever …”

Heather paused as she turned into the Denver University sports complex. She went around the driving circle and looked for parking.

“I’ll probably sleep there tonight,” Heather finished her sentence. “If I don’t stay at the hospital. Just depends.”

“I wish I could be there for you,” Sandy said.

“I wish I could be there for you!” Heather said. “But …”

“What you’re doing is very important,” Sandy said. “I’d rather you take care of Blane than deal with this stupid stuff.”

“I know what you mean but …” Heather pulled up in front of the Joy Burns Arena where Blane was playing one last hockey game with Mike, Jacob, and their team.

“Don’t worry,” Sandy said. “They’ll catch this guy and I’ll be at the hospital with you tomorrow morning. Promise.”

“I hope so,” Heather said.

“Any word from Tanesha?” Sandy asked.

“Jabari is coming home,” Heather said. “They think he’ll be released tomorrow morning.”

“Wow, things must have really turned around from when you were here at lunch,” Sandy said.

“I guess his mother gave him some drug,” Heather said. “She said he was getting a headache so she gave him some of her migraine medicine.”

“And it gave him lupus?” Sandy asked.

“Lupus-like symptoms,” Heather said. “Now, they’re wondering if she’ll be charged with child abuse or just stupidity. Of course, we think she did it for the television show. Schmidty’s looking through all the seasons to see if she’s done it before. The hospital said that his file shows that Jabari’s had a couple other incidents like this.”

“That woman …” Sandy growled. “So she knew it would make him sick?”

“I guess she wanted to be the big mommy who swoops in to save him,” Heather said. “At least that’s what Tanesha says.”

“And she’s always right,” Sandy said. “That woman …”

“I know,” Heather said. She saw Blane and Jacob come out of the ice arena. They stopped near the doorway to talk. “Ok, he’s here.”

“Good luck, sweetie,” Sandy said. “I’ll be with you in spirit.”

“Love you too, Sandy!” Heather said.

Jacob gave Blane a hug. Mike came out of the arena and he hugged Blane. The three men walked toward Heather’s car. Jacob hugged Blane again and Blane got into the front seat of the car. Mike opened the back seat and threw Blane’s giant duffle bag stuffed with his hockey gear in the back.

“We’ll see you tomorrow,” Jacob said.

Mike gave Heather a worried and sad look. Heather smiled. Blane waved to the men and Heather pulled out. She retraced her driving and pulled out onto Buchtel Boulevard. She crossed a few lanes to get into the turn lane at South University Boulevard.

“How was …?” Heather started at the same time Blane said, “How did …?”

They laughed. He leaned over and kissed her cheek.

“Thanks for picking me up,” he said.

“How was hockey?” Heather asked.

“Very fun,” Blane said. “All the guys showed up. Jake put together a team out of a few guys from almost every team. We … It was really fun.”

“You won,” Heather said.

“Well, they didn’t really have a chance,” Blane said. “They aren’t on the same team and …”

“You really won,” Heather said.

“Yeah,” Blane smiled. “It was fun to be out on the ice … healthy. It was fun to be healthy.”

“I’m really glad you went,” Heather said.

“Jake made it happen,” Blane said.

The light changed and they were able to turn left on South University Boulevard. They drove University Boulevard into the heart of Denver. Every block she past brought them one block closer to the hospital where their lives might change forever.

“How is Sandy?” Blane asked.

“Freaked out,” Heather said. “I mean, she’s holding it together. After all, she helped kill a demon in her hair salon basement. Still …”

“This is really much more personal,” Blane said.

“Yeah,” Heather said. “Do you think it makes sense to not have Aden around?”

“He’s absolutely crazy,” Blane said. “Angry, anxious, furious. He wants to kill the guy. So yes. I think it’s best. Is Sandy mad that he’s not around?”

“No,” Heather said. “I think she doesn’t want to have to deal with his anger. I mean, he’s still on probation. If he kills the guy, he’s back in prison. She doesn’t want that. It would destroy their whole life.”

“But?”

“I just would be mad,” Heather said.

“Yes you would,” Blane smiled.

Heather grinned at him.

“And Tanesha?” Blane asked. “Did she end up killing the baby-momma?”

“Not yet,” Heather smiled. “But Jabari gets to come home—maybe tonight, but probably tomorrow morning.”

“That’s wonderful,” Blane said. “And Jill?”

“What do you mean ‘and Jill’?” Heather asked. “Did Jake say something was going on?”

“No, not at all,” Blane chuckled. “It’s just that we have this going on. Sandy’s dealing with the guy who made her life hell. Tanesha’s step-son is in the hospital and the baby-momma drama is high. It seems like something has to be going on with Jill too.”

“She’s upset about the twins,” Heather said.

“What about the twins?”

Heather slowed to a stop at the light at Alameda Boulevard.

“They make things move when they’re sleeping,” Heather said. “Megan, her sister, you know?”

“I do know Megan,” Blane smiled.

“She’s trying to help, but that just makes Jill feel even worse,” Heather said.

Blane nodded.

“So you were right,” Heather said. “You can gloat.”

Blane laughed.

“Tink’s staying at Alex’s tonight with Sandy’s kids,” Heather said. “Tink and Charlie, well …”

Blane nodded.

“Does that bother you?” Heather asked.

“Not really,” Blane said. “You?”

“No,” Heather said. “They find ways to be together regardless. This way, it’s more out in the open. Plus, Teddy’s going to be there so his beefy guardian will be there too. That will put a wrench in their plans.”

Blane laughed.

“Do you want to stop for anything before …” Heather said.

“I should bring my stuff home,” Blane said.

“If you want to stop by home, that’s cool with me,” Heather said. “But I can bring in your hockey gear.”

Blane nodded and swallowed hard.

“I have your bag,” Heather said. “Or really our baby bag.”

Blane smiled. He was using the overnight bag they’d packed when she was going to have Mack.

“I’ll have to finish up before the baby’s due and you need the bag,” Blane said.

“That’s right, mister,” Heather said.

They laughed. Heather saw the light was about to change at Sixth Avenue. Rather than speed up to catch the light like she always did, she slowed down to stop at the light. She wanted to get there, but she was in no real hurry. Blane reached over to hold her hand.

They drove the rest of the way in silence. Neither one wanted to burden the other with their worried thoughts. This was one of life’s dividing moments where they were now in the “before”. In a few minutes, the “after” would start.

Heather pulled into Saint Joseph’s parking garage. Blane got out and grabbed the overnight bag. He put his arm around Heather and they walked into the hospital. They went down the hall and took the elevator to the floor where Blane would spend the next month.

“Mr. Lipson,” the patient advocate said. “Nice to see you.”

Blane nodded. He glanced at Heather and she smiled at him.

“Shall we get started?” the patient advocate asked.

~~~~~~~~

Friday evening—6:42 p.m.

“You’re mad,” Jeraine said.

Sitting at the dinner table, Tanesha looked up at him. She passed him the salad bowl rather than respond. He took the bowl and started plating his salad.

“Just admit it,” Jeraine said. “You’re mad.”

“I’m mad,” Tanesha said. “Does that make you feel better?”

“No,” Jeraine said. “But at least it’s honest.”

Tanesha sighed. She looked down at her dinner. He’d roasted a chicken while she’d made the salad. They’d made the biscuits together. In the kitchen, everything was light. They’d worked together as a team. But sitting here in the dining room, the tension between them returned. They sat like warring countries glaring over an ill-conceived peace treaty.

“Why are you mad?” Jeraine asked.

Tanesha sighed.

“Is it because Annette poisoned Jabari?” Jeraine asked. “Or because of this morning?”

Tanesha shook her head, but wouldn’t look up from her dinner plate.

“Or is it something else?” Jeraine asked.

He swallowed his food and looked at her.

“It’s me,” Jeraine said. “I screwed up again.”

Tanesha looked up at him.

“What?” Jeraine asked. “You know I can’t stand the silent treatment. It makes me crazy.”

“I don’t know what to say,” Tanesha said. “I really don’t. I feel …”

“Mad.”

“Defeated,” Tanesha said. “I get it, I do. One night, you were high and doing your idiot thing and you got these women pregnant. One night. One incident and now they are in your life forever. Period.”

“I shouldn’t have been there,” Jeraine said.

“No, you shouldn’t have,” Tanesha said. “But you were. And they’re …”

Tanesha scowled and shook her head.

“And we don’t have any idea if sweet Jabari is going to be our baby boy or if he’s going back to Atlanta with horrible Annette,” Tanesha said. “Have you ever spent any time with Jeraine Junior?”

“No,” Jeraine shook his head. “We’ve tried. My parents tried, but the courts haven’t allowed it to happen.”

“Why?” Tanesha asked.

“He has a whole life in Mississippi,” Jeraine said. “Her father and mother raised him as their own son. His mother is more like a sister. He doesn’t really need a dad or more grandparents. He’s pretty happy as he is. At least that’s what all the social workers and investigators’ reports say. Having me or Mom and Dad intervene would be too much of a disruption to his life.”

“We don’t know anything about him,” Tanesha said.

“I get reports. Pictures,” Jeraine said. “Schmidty has set up a way to make sure he’s doing okay and …”

Jeraine threw his silverware down and looked at her.

“It’s all pretty stupid,” Jeraine said. “I know more about my stock portfolio, or lack thereof, than I do about my own children. Your dad was right.”

“My dad?”

“He said I was no kind of father,” Jeraine said. “Or something like that. I’ve been trying to … but really he’s right. I’m no kind of father to these boys. I’m just a …”

“Paycheck,” they said together.

Tanesha nodded and he looked away. She reached for his hand and he looked back at her.

“Why not let her parents adopt Jeraine Junior?” Tanesha asked.

“And give up my parental rights?” Jeraine asked. “No way.”

“What parental rights?” Tanesha asked.

Jeraine scowled at her.

“You’re talking about a child, a life, a human being,” Tanesha said. “Not a property or a business. If he’s happy where he is, and you’d just mess that up, why not leave him there?”

“They don’t want that,” Jeraine said. “I’d stop paying then.”

“Have they asked to adopt him?”

“A couple times,” Jeraine said. “They want to set up a trust for him. I’d pay into the trust and they’d save the money for him when he grows up.”

“Who gets it now?” Tanesha asked.

“His mother,” Jeraine said.

Tanesha nodded. They settled into eating again. Jeraine’s chicken was good. She took a bite of chicken and gave him a smile. He gave her a sly smile in return. She nodded.

“What?” Jeraine asked.

“I went to see Sandy today,” Tanesha said. “Today, she’s trying to end this thing in her life. This detective guy killed her mother. The police also think he was behind most of what happened to her as a kid. I mean the guy she thought was her father was a perv, but …”

Tanesha shook her head.

“Anyway, she’s down there right now, trying to end this thing,” Tanesha said. “Heather took Blane to the hospital about an hour ago. He’s doing everything in his power to get well, to heal, from his horrible traumatic life and this horrible disease. Both.”

Tanesha nodded.

“Even Jill’s facing her fear that the twins aren’t right and trying to deal with things so they’ll have a better life,” Tanesha said. “Jake and Aden are working all the time at Lipson to make up for not having state contracts. Everyone’s pitching in. Right now, all of my friends are risking everything to move on in their lives.”

“I’m doing my brain exercises and treatment and therapy and …”

“Right,” Tanesha said.

For a moment, their eyes held.

“You think I should talk to her parents about giving them custody,” Jeraine said.

“I think it’s time to end all this confusion in our lives,” Tanesha said. “Let’s get custody of Jabari and be done with Annette. Let’s sort this out with Jeraine Junior so there’s no confusion. Let’s just end this stuff.”

Jeraine gave her a slow nod.

“But not us?” he asked.

“Don’t be dumb,” Tanesha said.

He laughed and she grinned.

“How ’bout I think about it?” Jeraine asked.

“We go to court on Monday,” Tanesha said. “Let’s decide by Sunday.”

“Okay,” Jeraine said.

“Okay?”

“Okay,” he said. “I’ll do it. If it’s the right thing for my son, I’ll do it.”

Tanesha smiled.

~~~~~~~~

Friday night—7:51 p.m.

Heather looked up from her 5280 magazine. She glanced at Blane to make sure he was all right. He had settled into his hospital bed, reading Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brien. He’d chosen to read the Master and Commander series while he was in bed this month. Jacob and Jill had bought every book in the series in electronic form. Aden and Sandy had bought him an e-Book reader. Since he was going to be stuck in this room for a month, everything had to be sterilized before it came into the room. That’s why he had an ereader.

Heather was sitting in an armchair near the bed. The private room had a fold out couch for her to sleep on. The chair was more comfortable than the couch. She went back to looking at the magazine.

A few minutes passed and she looked up again.

“Are you okay?” Blane asked.

“I just …” Heather scowled and nodded. “You remember how Abi said I wielded the power of love.”

“I remember thinking she was right,” Blane grinned.

“I just …”

“What?”

“I can’t shake the feeling that Sandy needs me,” Heather said.

“She has all those big guys!” Blane said. “I don’t want to diminish you or your amazing capacity to love, but …”

“No, I know,” Heather said. “I thought the same thing.”

Heather scowled and looked off into space.

“I just …” Heather shook her head. “But I must be wrong.”

“I’ve never known you to be wrong,” Blane said.

“What are you talking about?” Heather asked. “I’m a total worry wart. Every little thing …”

“This is different,” Blane said. “Isn’t it?”

Heather nodded.

“If I wasn’t in here, what would you do?” Blane asked.

“I’d go there,” Heather said and instantly wished she hadn’t. “But I want to be here with you and …”

“You should go,” Blane said.

“But …”

“They’re going to put me to sleep in a few minutes,” Blane said. “I’ll be here sleeping. You can go, check things out, and tell me all about it.”

“But …”

“You have to promise me though,” Blane said.

“What?”

“You have to be safe,” Blane said. “You won’t risk yourself in anyway. If you see something, you’ll call the police right away or better yet, call Alex. You have her number?”

“On my speed dial,” Heather said.

“What?” Blane shook his head and looked confused.

“From when she was so sick,” Heather said. “I just kept it because … she’s like the most important person I’ve ever met.”

“Besides Val the movie star?” Blane asked.

“You know what I mean …powerful,” Heather said.

“I do,” Blane said. “You’ll call Alex?”

“I won’t risk myself or our baby,” Heather said. “I would never risk our child.”

“Good,” Blane said. He lay back and picked up his book. “See you later.”

Not fooled by his act, she waited. He looked at her.

“Why don’t you call me when you get there?” Blane asked. “You can video what’s going on.”

“We’ll do it together,” Heather smiled.

“Like everything,” Blane said.

“I’ll be back tonight,” Heather said.

“Then I’ll see you later,” Blane said.

Heather grabbed her bag and ran out of the hospital. She jogged across the street and got into her car. Biting her lip, she focused on two wishes. First, she hoped that she was wrong. And second, she hoped she made it there in time.

~~~~~~~~

Friday night—8:11 p.m.

“We haven’t seen or heard him today,” Colin said to Sandy.

Sandy was gathering her things together to head to Seth’s house. Raz was standing in the doorway to the back alley looking out. Seth was settling Rachel into the baby sling he had over his shoulder.

“Isn’t that a good thing?” Sandy asked. “Maybe he was scared off.”

Colin nodded, but Sandy could tell that he didn’t think Detective Red Bear was scared off. She glanced at Raz and Seth.

No, these men thought Detective Red Bear was going to try to take her. Soon.

Sandy swallowed hard and nodded. She looked at Raz. He didn’t look concerned. She glanced at Colin. He gave her an impish grin as if he lived for this kind of thing.

“I’m ready,” Sandy said.

Raz turned and smiled. She stood right behind him and Colin stood right behind her. Seth stood to the side.

“We’re going across this small parking lot to our vehicle,” Raz said. For some reason, his New York Queen’s accent was more pronounced tonight. “You can see that our friend Chris is driving.”

The large, very white man raised his hand to wave at her.

“Got it?” Raz said.

“I’m ready,” Sandy said.

Her voice trembled so much that Raz turned to look at her. She smiled at the handsome man. Raz took a step forward and Sandy followed him. Colin came out to her left and Seth to her right.

Her cellphone rang inside the shop.

“Shit,” Sandy said.

“What happened?” Seth asked.

“I left my phone in the shop,” Sandy said. “I don’t really need it but my kids and Aden and …”

“I’ll get it,” Seth said. “Where is it?”

“On my station,” Sandy said.

“I’ll be right back,” Seth said.

“We’ll hold,” Raz said.

Seth nodded to Raz and slipped back inside the shop.

Sandy was looking inside the shop when she heard a sound. Not a quiet sound like you hear on TV, but not a gunshot sound. She turned toward where the sound came from.

Raz dropped to the ground.

Colin fell next to her.

And Sandy knew.

She was in real trouble.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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