Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Three Hundred and Seventy-nine: Family affair

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Saturday evening — 5:35 p.m.

“Hello?” Abi asked as she came through the Castle’s main living room.

“We’re here!” Delphie called from the kitchen.

Abi gave Delphie a hug when she got to the kitchen.

“Where is everyone?” Abi asked.

“Backyard,” Delphie said. “The teenagers are in the hot tub.”

“What about Charlie’s casts?” Abi asked.

“Sandy was wise enough to get fiberglass,” Delphie said. “I wrapped it in a bag just in case.”

Abi smiled.

“Sam’s running the barbeque,” Delphie said. “Aden and Rodney aren’t home from work yet. Tanesha and Fin are due here any minute. Sandy said she thought she wouldn’t get home until seven. Edie and the babies have taken up the grassy area of the grass. Katy and Paddie are upstairs with Jill getting changed. I don’t think Jake and Blane are back.”

Delphie nodded.

“I think that’s everyone.” She gave Abi a vague smile. “Maybe.”

Mike opened the door from the tunnels. An exhausted looking Noelle followed him into the house.

“Is my mom here?” Noelle asked.

“Not yet, honey,” Delphie said.

“I’m going to take a bath,” Noelle said. “In her bathtub. You think she’ll mind?”

“I doubt it,” Delphie said. “Sounds like a good idea.”

Noelle wandered toward the stairway to their apartment.

“How about a ‘Thank you, Mike’?” Delphie asked.

“Thanks Mike,” Noelle said as she stumbled up the steps.

“Big day?” Abi asked.

“Long,” Mike said. “But really great. We had a lot to look at. She was wired until we got to the car.”

“I hear you’re having a big day, Abi!” Valerie said as she came in from the back.

Mike grabbed her and held her tight. He kissed her neck.

“Oh yeah, Val was bringing meat to Sam for the barbeque,” Delphie said with a nod.

“Me?” Abi asked. She put her hand on her chest and shrugged. “Same old boring stuff. I just went to work.”

“You’re not having your baby today?” Valerie kissed Mike’s lips.

Surprised, Abi shook her head.

“I love you guys, but when I have a child, I want to be with my family — Fand, Liban, and Gil,” Abi said. “Maybe Ne Ne.”

“Not Fin?” Delphie asked.

“Huh, never occurred to me that he’d even want to be there,” Abi said. “He wants us to be a modern Queendom. I guess he spends most of his time with Tanesha and she would insist on it.”

“Where was he when Ne Ne was born?” Valerie asked.

“Fighting the war,” Abi said. She lifted a shoulder in a vague shrug. “He’s a prince.”

“If you’re not having a baby, then why is…?” Valerie started.

Aife made a beeline from the back to Abi. She latched on to Abi before Abi could say a word. Abi held Aife tight. Having changed out of the blue, Aife’s skin was milk chocolate brown and her hair nearly blonde. Aife looked like a skeleton compared to Abi’s full belly and vibrant health. Over Aife’s head, Abi gave Valerie a sad smile.

“Aife, my dear,” Abi said and helped her move back. “How are you?”

“I came like Mom told me to,” Aife said. “Then I met the child and was threatened by the Sword of Truth and then… How come you didn’t get stuck in the Sea of Amber?”

Aife’s blue, wide-set fairy eyes looked like saucepans in her nearly skeletal face. Abi hugged her again.

“I’m so sorry you were frightened,” Abi said. “Paddie is very protective over Katy.”

Aife sniffed and began to cry. Abi looked at Delphie and then at Valerie.

“Is there a place that we…?” Abi asked.

“Of course,” Delphie said.

She led Abi to the room Charlie used for school. She was just pulling the sliding doors closed when Fin, Tanesha, and Cody came into the Castle. Fin took one look at Abi and Aife. He walked into the small room and closed the sliding doors in Delphie, Tanesha, and Cody’s faces. Edie came up behind them.

“Excuse me,” Edie said.

She went through the sliding doors and closed them behind her.

“What was that?” Cody asked.

Mari appeared in the Castle living room.

“Whoa,” Cody said. Turning to Tanesha, he said, “Did you see that?”

Mari gave Cody an irritated look. She pointed to the closed doors.

“They’re in there, dear,” Delphie said.

“You’d better come,” Mari said to Tanesha.

“Me?” Tanesha asked.

“It’s a family affair, after all,” Mari said. She gave Cody an evil look. ” Are you keeping her here?”

Tanesha stepped in between them.

“No.” Tanesha raised her index finger and pointed it to Mari, who shrugged.

The sliding doors opened and Fin stuck his head out.

“Late, again,” Fin said to Mari.

“You have to excuse my brother,” Mari said. “He’s an asshole.”

She gave Cody a finger wave and swished her way into the room. She pointed to the doors and they began to close. Fin’s arm came out of the room. He grabbed the front of Tanesha’s shirt and dragged her inside the room. The doors closed with a firm click.

“Well, I guess that’s that,” Delphie said to Cody.

“What’s what?” Cody asked.

“No idea.” Delphie shrugged. She started walking toward the kitchen

“Your brother’s in the hot tub with the kids,” Delphie said. “Would you like to…”

“Where’s Brian?” Cody asked.

Delphie turned to look at Cody. The young man’s eyes were flicking back and forth while his eye lids blinked. Clearly, one of the fairy’s had clearly altered his memory.

“Cody?” Delphie put her hand on his arm. His eyes cleared and he looked at her.

“Do you have any idea where I am?” Cody asked.

“Welcome to my home,” Delphie said with a twinkle in her eye. “Your brother’s out back.”

“I’m inside the Castle?” Cody asked. “Can I get a tour? I saw it this morning and it’s… wow.”

“Of course,” Delphie said. “But I promised Brian that I would take you to him as soon as you got here.”

Cody grinned. He followed Delphie to the back.

“Do you know happen to know where Tanesha went?” Cody asked.

“She and Fin had to take care of something,” Delphie said with a smile. “Family stuff.”

“Jeez, at least she could have told me,” Cody said.

“It was rude,” Delphie said.

“Probably just Fin,” Cody said. “He’s kind of a dick.”

“He is,” Delphie said. “It’s good to meet you, Cody. We’ve had such a nice day with Brian.”

She patted his back and they went out to the backyard.


Saturday evening — 6:55 p.m.

“I wondered if I might have a word,” Ivan said as he approached Charlie.

Charlie was sitting in an orthopedic chair in the main Castle living room. Tink sat on the chair’s leg rest and Dale was standing next to him. Dale glanced at Charlie before putting his arm around Tink’s shoulder.

“Come on, Tink,” Dale said. “Let’s find out what Sandy made for dessert.”

Tink leaned over to kiss Charlie before getting up and leaving with Dale.

“Sorry, did I break up something?” Ivan asked.

“No,” Charlie said with a smile. “We were making bets on what Sandy made for dessert. You just made them go check.”

Charlie looked off for a moment. When he looked back, Ivan could see that he was in pain.

“I overdid it today,” Charlie said.

“Can I get you something?” Ivan asked. “Ice, medications,…”

Charlie waved his hands in front of his face and Ivan stopped talking.

“I’m sick of all of that,” Charlie said. “It’s nice to be here. Awake.”

“Yes,” Ivan said.

“Plus, Honey will kill me if I get all drugged up again,” Charlie said. “She’s been helping me get moving again.”

“You’re coming with us on Sunday, right?” Ivan asked.

Charlie nodded. He looked off for a moment and then grinned.

“You’re saying that come tomorrow, you will be in charge,” Charlie said with a laugh.

“Something like that.” Ivan laughed.

“Is that why you wanted to talk to me?” Charlie asked. “Because I’m ready to get moving. Sissy too.”

“Actually, I wanted to speak with you about your sister,” Ivan said.

Ivan flushed with color and looked at Charlie. Charlie smiled. Ivan had known this boy almost the boy’s entire life. He’d given Charlie money when Charlie had no where to turn. He’d lent an ear when Charlie was upset and bailed him out of jail. He’d even let the boy stay with him when Charlie had no where else to go. Looking at Charlie now, Ivan saw all of that history wrapped in Charlie’s easy smile.

“There isn’t anything you have to say,” Charlie said.

“What do you mean?” Ivan asked.

“I guess, to me, you’ve always been my sister’s… partner,” Charlie said. “I mean I know that…”

“Nothing has happened,” Ivan said. “I can assure you that…”

Charlie raised his hands in submission. Ivan stopped talking.

“Sissy told me that you’re still smarting from the spanking they gave you at her first eating disorder treatment,” Charlie said.

Ivan scowled and gave him a nod.

“I never thought you molested or groomed Sissy,” Charlie said. “I always thought… well, I don’t know what I thought. I guess I just saw you as family. Our family — Sissy’s, mine, and Sandy’s.”

Ivan looked at Charlie out of the corner of his eyes.

“I’m trying to say that I don’t have a problem with you and Sissy,” Charlie said with a nod. “I hope you’re very happy. Sissy’s over the moon. I’ve never seen her so happy — even with the injury. My Dad would have really wanted Sissy to be happy.”

Ivan gave Charlie a curt nod.

“I’ve seen Sissy with you,” Charlie said. “All of my life. You make Sissy really happy, even when you’re being controlling and bossy. And Sissy… She’s…”

Ivan turned to look into Charlie’s face.

“Special,” Ivan and Charlie said together.

“Yes,” Ivan said.

“Hard,” Charlie said. “Tink’s easy. I can spend days with her. We laugh and just have fun. But Sissy? She wants to know the why of everything. ‘Why are you doing this?’ ‘What does this mean?’ And she wants to do things the right way or she won’t do it. And I can tell you that she was like that even before you knew her.”

Ivan nodded.

“Sandy tells this story about Sissy just learning to walk,” Charlie said with a smile. “I was ready to move, get going, so I stumbled around until I could run. Sissy didn’t want to take even one step if it wasn’t done the best way.”

“Correctly,” Ivan said in agreement. “Yes.”

“Plus,” Charlie smiled, “I was there when Seth brought you from the Gulag. You didn’t see me because I was playing with my cars on the floor. Sissy was on Dad’s bed telling him one of her nonsense stories. She still tells those, by the way.”

“She does?” Ivan grinned.

Charlie gave a fast nod.

“So Seth opened the door and Sissy stopped talking,” Charlie said. “We all turned to see what was going on. And you walked into the room or crutched. I realize now that you must have been in tremendous pain. Your eyes were like stuck on the floor. And Sissy said…”

“There you are,” Ivan said with a smile.

“It’s about time,” Charlie said. “Or something like that. All of us were so surprised that we just stared at you. I don’t think you realized because it was happening to you.”

Charlie smiled.

“You were made for each other,” Charlie said. “Who am I to disapprove of that?”

“So it won’t bother you if your sister and I become more than teacher and student?” Ivan asked.

“I’m surprised you aren’t already,” Charlie said.

“And if we…” Embarrassed, Ivan looked away.

“You mean sex?” Charlie asked. He looked disgusted. “I’m still her older brother.”

Ivan laughed.

“I don’t want to hear it or know about it,” Charlie said.

Ivan smiled.

“I will return the favor,” Charlie said.

Ivan laughed, and Charlie smiled. After a moment, Ivan squinted his eyes.

“You plan to find others?” Ivan gestured toward where Tink had gone.

“No,” Charlie said. “That’s never been my thing.”

“You’re not eighteen!” Ivan said. “Your thing may change.”

“Nah,” Charlie said. “I know myself. My Dad was too afraid to have what he truly wanted. That’s not me. Plus, I like Tink too much to cheat on her, to hurt her in that way. She’s been hurt enough.”

Ivan nodded.

“You?” Charlie asked.

“No,” Ivan said. “Your sister was all I have ever wanted.”

“I’m certainly not going to get in the way,” Charlie said.

Ivan smiled. He looked up to see Tink and Dale watching to see if they were done talking. Ivan nodded to them and they came up.

“Chocolate cake,” Tink said with a smug smile. “Pay up, buddy!”

“Then why does he have coconut?” Charlie asked pointing toward Dale’s plate.

“And cookies!” Dale said. “And brownies!”

“Sandy made all of that?” Charlie asked.

“Valerie and Blane,” Tink said. “The chocolate cake is from Blane. I’d kill for this.”

Despite what she had just said, she got a big bite of cake on her fork and gave it to Charlie. Ivan smiled at the sweet gesture.

“Wow,” Charlie said. “But what did Sandy make?”

“Nothing,” Tink said. “I was just kidding.”

They laughed. Ivan smiled at them. He nodded his good-byes and went to find Sissy. She was sitting on the edge of the deck watching the sprinklers water the new beds. The ugly dog, Buster, was resting lying next to her with his head on her lap. When Ivan approached, the dog lifted his head to look at him. Ivan sat down next on the other side of Sissy and the dog dropped his head.

“Where are your friends?” Ivan asked.

“Wanda left to take Frankie home,” Sissy said. “They were taking Cody and Brian home, so Wanda and Frankie went with them. Frankie seems really good, don’t you think?”

“Solid,” Ivan said. “Stable. It’s nice to see.”

She turned to look at him.

“I like to watch the water hit the dirt,” Sissy said. “It’s like hope for what will come.”

Ivan smiled.

“I can use some hope,” Sissy said. “Did you talk with Charlie?’

“He said that he supports… us,” Ivan said. He turned to look at her and she smiled.

“It’s still illegal for us to get married,” Sissy said.

Ivan grinned. There were many easy ways around the law, but Sissy would never hear of it. She would only ever do what was legal and fair. Remembering what Charlie had said, he had to look away to keep from laughing.

“What?” Sissy asked.

“Oh, Charlie reminded me that you like to do things the correct way,” Ivan said.

“I do,” Sissy said. “That doesn’t mean we can date and stuff.”

“And stuff,” Ivan said. He looked at her for a long moment and then turned to look at the gardens. “Are you sure you want to leave all of this?”

“It’s really hard to leave, but I have to,” Sissy said. “Following my dream means I have to leave.”

“We could easily get work here at the Denver Ballet,” Ivan said.

Sissy’s looked at Ivan’s face for a moment before turning to look at the garden again.

“What?” Ivan asked.

“I think we have to try to do it in New York,” Sissy said. “You know, if I can make it there, I can make it anywhere.”

Ivan smiled.

“Right?” Sissy asked.

“Sure,” Ivan said.

He took her hand and they watched the garden sprinklers for a while.

“Charlie tells me you still tell those great stories,” Ivan said.

“The ones that don’t make sense?” Sissy smiled. Ivan nodded.

“Will you?” Ivan asked.

“About the garden?” Sissy asked.

“Sprinklers,” Ivan said as a challenge.

“Well…” Sissy launched into a goofy story.


Saturday evening — 7:00 p.m.

“What do you think is going on in there?” Jill asked as she brought a stack of dirty dishes into the kitchen.

Delphie looked up from where she was stacking dirty dishes on the counter. Jacob was washing dishes in the sink and the dishwasher was chugging away.

“The fairies?” Delphie asked.

Jill nodded and set down the dishes.

“Anyone know anything about this Aife?” Jacob asked.

Delphie turned her head to look at him. Before she said anything, Jill took a breath to speak. Delphie’s eyes flicked to Jill.

“I looked her up online,” Jill said.

Delphie looked at Jill.

“It said that she was a great warrior,” Jill said. “That some dude overcame her. But she’s a fairy, right? How likely is it that he overcame anything. Anyway, dude got her pregnant then left for Ireland. He told her to send her son when he was seven. The son should wear his ring. Of course, the dude kills the seven year old because the dude feels like a seven year old is a threat to him. Only then does he see the ring.”

Delphie nodded and looked down at what she was doing.

“You’re being weirdly silent,” Jacob said.

“I just told you what I knew,” Jill said.

“Delphie,” Jacob said.

“Oh,” Delphie said. She put a hand on her heart. “Me?”

Delphie remained silent. She looked at Jacob and then at Jill again.

“I guess I am a little quiet,” Delphie said. She nodded as if she was thinking. “I think…”

Delphie lapsed into silence. Heather came into the kitchen with another stack of plates. Delphie gave Heather a wistful look and Heather scowled.

“What are you talking about?” Heather asked.

“Aife,” Jacob said from the sink.

His back was to Heather so he couldn’t see the silent exchange between Heather and Delphie. Heather scowled when Delphie gave her a sly look.

“Spit it out,” Heather said in a hard voice that caused Jacob to turn to look at her.

He assessed Heather before turning to Delphie.

“What are you up to?” Jacob asked.

“Well…” Delphie said.

“Don’t be angry with the oracle,” Edie said as she came into the room. “I asked her not to say anything.”

She put her hand on Heather’s arm.

“And you’re right to be suspicious, Heather,” Edie said. “We concocted this plan when you received your father’s gifts.”

“Fairies,” Jacob said as if it was a curse under his breath.

“I know,” Edie said with a smile. “We do ask a lot.”

“One thing is for certain,” Heather said. “I’m not doing anything until we know what’s going on.”

“What’s going on?” Sandy asked as she came into the kitchen from work. “What do the fairies want now?”

Heather raised her eyebrows at Edie, who nodded.

“I’ll tell you everything,” Edie said.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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