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CHAPTER THREE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-SEVEN
Saturday early morning — 3:11 a.m.
Bzz! Tweet, tweet, tweet! Bzz! Bzz! Tweet, tweet, tweet! Bzz! Bzz!
Tanesha groaned. Jabari loved to change her phone ring to what he called “tweetie birdie.”
Tweet, tweet, tweet! Bzz! Bzz! Tweet, tweet, tweet! Bzz! Bzz!
She looked at the clock. Scowling, she answered the phone.
“It’s three in the fucking morning,” Tanesha said.
“Miss T! This is Shane D…”
Tanesha clicked off the call. She looked at the object in her hand. This phone was her private, non-registered cellphone. The only people who had this number were Jeraine, her mother, her father, Fin, and her girlfriends.
Bzz! Tweet, tweet, tweet! Bzz! Bzz!
She looked at the phone. It said “Undisclosed.” She clicked ignore. She would just turn the phone off, but she wanted to be available in case Jeraine or Jabari needed her.
Bzz! Tweet, tweet, tweet! Bzz! Bzz!
It was someone with a Florida phone number. She clicked ignore.
Bzz! Tweet, tweet, tweet! Bzz! Bzz!
California number. She clicked ignore. There were soft footsteps of someone coming down from the bedroom upstairs.
“What is it?” Tink’s sleep-filled voice came from above Tanesha’s head.
Bzz! Tweet, tweet, tweet! Bzz! Bzz! Tanesha clicked ignore.
“Probably just Jeraine being an ass,” Heather said in a low voice.
Tink chuckled and slipped across the hardwood floors toward the bathroom. The door to the basement opened and the stairs creaked as Heather came down them.
Bzz! Tweet, tweet, tweet! Bzz! Bzz! Tanesha clicked ignore. She flicked on the light above her bed so that Heather could see her. Heather stopped at the end of the stairs and turned to look at Tanesha.
“What did he do?” Heather asked.
“No idea,” Tanesha said.
Bzz! Tweet, tweet, tweet! Bzz! Bzz! Tanesha clicked ignore.
“Did they say anything?” Heather asked.
“I haven’t let any of them talk,” Tanesha said.
Heather nodded. She made a gesture with her hand and Tanesha moved over. They sat in sleep deprived silence while Tanesha’s phone rang and she clicked ignore. After a few moments, Tanesha turned the phone off.
“How’d they get your number?” Heather asked.
“How do they always get my number?” Tanesha asked. “From you.”
“Not me,” Heather said. “Jill, I’m always sure it’s Jill.”
They were silent for a few moments before they laughed.
“Ugh,” Tanesha said and lay back on the bed.
“Don’t you want to know what he did?” Heather asked.
“Does it matter?” Tanesha snorted a laugh. Heather chuckled.
“HE’S A DICK!” Tink yelled from above their heads. Heather and Tanesha laughed.
Mack wailed from upstairs and they looked up.
“Mama! Mama! Mama!” Mack screamed from upstairs. “T-iiiiinK! T-iiiiinK! T-iiiiinK!”
They heard Blane’s deep mumble.
“Who’s a dick?” Blane asked down the stairs.
“Jeraine!” Tink yelled back.
“We thought about naming the baby ‘Jeraine’ or maybe ‘Jerry’,” Heather said.
“Why?” Tanesha asked with a sneer.
“He’s been really nice to us,” Heather said. “But Tink said she’d only call the baby by his formal name, ‘Richard’.”
Tanesha laughed. The door to the basement opened.
“I thought I’d make some pancakes,” Blane said at the top of the stairs. “Is it enough to lure you from your basement lair?”
Tanesha made a grumbling noise and Blane laughed. They sat staring at the wall for a few moments. They heard Blane set up the baby gate at the basement stairs. Mack stood at the gate saying, “Ma-ma” over and over again.
“What do you think he did?” Heather asked.
“Use your senses,” Heather said. “Pretend you were standing right next to him when he did it.”
Tanesha closed her eyes and let out a breath. Her eyes popped open. She shrugged.
“And?” Heather asked.
“Nothing,” Tanesha said. “I don’t think he did a damned thing.”
“Me, too,” Heather said.
Tanesha shook her head. Heather scooted off the bed.
“Good thing they can’t find the house,” Heather said as she went up the stairs.
“Aunt Phy’s spell gets them lost as soon as they turn onto the street,” Tanesha said.
“Let’s hope it holds,” Heather said.
Heather nodded to Tanesha. She reached the top and Mack squealed with delight at seeing her. Heather’s laugh made Tanesha smile. She got out of bed to use the bathroom in the studio. Pulling a thick sweatshirt over her head, she went upstairs.
“Isn’t that your mom?” Tink asked.
She held out her smartphone. Tanesha took the phone and looked at the image. Heather came to her side and Blane looked over her shoulder.
“I think it’s Yvonne,” Tink said.
The picture was of Jeraine leaning forward and his lips were puckered as if to kiss the woman standing next to him. The woman’s back was to the camera. The woman’s hair was reddish-brown and straightened. The skin on the woman’s neck looked white or maybe suntanned under flash. She was wearing a dress that was more suited for the Dick Van Dyke show than 2015.
“Looks like her,” Tanesha said.
“Why would Jeraine kiss Yvonne?” Heather asked.
“Jabari’s in her arms,” Tanesha said. “I bet this is from before he went on stage. Kiss the kid; go on stage. Mom would have wanted to be there.”
Tanesha looked at Tink.
“You’re right,” Tanesha said. “That’s my mom.”
“Doesn’t mean he’s not a lying, cheating DICK,” Tink said.
“Absolutely,” Tanesha said and they all laughed. Tink moved over on the day bed she’d been sleeping on. Tanesha sat next to her. Mack tottled by and wanted up. Tink pulled him on the bed between them.
“Who’s up for waffles?” Blane asked from the kitchen. “I just found a waffle iron.”
Heather’s infant let out a hearty scream and she went to get him. She returned to sit in an armchair nearby. The baby was wide awake and looking around at everything.
“Well?” Heather asked.
There was a screech of tires on the street outside. They looked toward the blinds. Another screech of tires and a few motorcycles pulled up.
“I should probably call him,” Tanesha said.
“Call Schmidty,” Blane said. He appeared in the kitchen doorway. He was stirring some beige goo in a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon. “His job includes dealing with this.”
“Good idea,” Heather said. “My phone’s in the kitchen.”
“Use mine,” Tink said. She held the phone out to Tanesha.
“You don’t want to text your friends?” Tanesha asked.
“Friends don’t text friends in the middle of the night,” Tink said. “They’d kill me. Take it.”
Tanesha took the phone and dialed Schmidty.
Saturday early morning — 4:17 a.m.
A blue light flashed in Katy’s eyes and she opened her eyes. She stared at the pictures of her family that Uncle Mike had painted on her wall for a while before closing her eyes again. The bright blue light appeared. When she opened her eyes, the light went out.
Katy closed her eyes again. The blue light appeared again but this time Katy kept her eyes closed. The light lingered over her before moving across the room. Since Katy was no longer sleeping with Scooter, Jill had traded her Queen bed two twins. At Jill’s insistence, Paddie was sound asleep in his own twin bed. The blue light hung over Paddie before moving toward Katy.
“Touch her and I will slice you end to end!” Paddie screamed.
Katy opened her eyes to see an adult sized blue fairy leaning over her bed. The fairy was wearing the blue tutu of the Fairy Corps, but she also had blue skin and hair. She had a funny wand and some weird hat on her head. She shone with an inner blue light. Katy heard Jill and Jacob jump out of bed and run toward Katy’s room. The fairy looked terrified.
“Back up!” Paddie yelled.
The fairy backed up but didn’t dare stand up.
“Paddie?” Jacob asked from the door of the room.
Jill pressed past Jacob. She wedged herself between Katy and the fairy.
“What do you want?” Jill asked.
She held her hands in front of herself. The fairy looked at Jill’s hands and gasped. The fairy looked so scared that Katy thought she might throw up.
“Mommy?” Katy asked.
Katy pulled Jill back just in time to avoid the fairy’s vomit.
“What the hell?” Jacob asked.
“She got scared,” Katy said.
Paddie deftly jumped from his twin bed onto Katy’s bed. Jacob walked to the fairy. He tugged on her and she collapsed. Jacob looked at Jill and she shrugged.
“Oh no,” Edie gasped from the doorway. She came to the fairy’s side. “Did she hurt you?”
Edie looked at Katy and Jill, who shook their heads. Seeing the vomit on the floor, Edie snapped her fingers and it disappeared.
“She was gonna touch, Katy!” Paddie said. His front teeth were missing so he lisped every word.
Edie looked at Paddie. Noticing his sword, she scowled.
“He has the Sword of Truth, Edith!” the fairy on the ground said.
“Yes, yes,” Edie said. “Maughold gave it to him when they were putting the queendom back together.”
“Maughold,” the fairy gasped. “But the child… The child… he told me he would…”
“Slice you end to end,” Edie said. “Yes, yes, Finegal has been working with him.”
“And she….” The fairy pointed to Jill. “She… she….”
“She’s a healer from the line out of Russ. Yes,” Edie said. She looked at Jacob. “Can you help get her up?”
“Sure,” Jacob said.
With Jacob’s help, Edie was able to get the fairy on her feet. Once she was standing, she shone bright blue.
“Tone it down,” Edie said. The light dimmed. “This is my elder sister, Aife. She is second in line for the throne. She acts as the blue fairy.”
The fairy curtsied.
“What do you want?” Jill asked with a scowl.
“I… well, I…,” the blue fairy said. The fairy turned to look at Jacob. “You look just like my brother, Finegal.”
“He looks like me,” Jacob joked.
“No,” the blue fairy said. “He is much, much older than you, and you are human or mostly, and…”
“That was a joke,” Edie said to the blue fairy.
“Oh.” The blue fairy gave an awkward smile. Even her teeth were blue.
“She doesn’t interact with a lot of people — well, anyone, really,” Edie said. “Come on, Aife. Let’s get you changed.”
“No,” Jill said with such power that Edie and Aife stopped walking. “No fairy comes to our world without wanting something. Does your mother wish to steal my daughter again?”
Edie gave Aife a hard look. Aife shook her head. Edie gave her a harder look.
“No,” Aife said. “I came because…”
Aife nodded to Edie and Edie looked surprised.
“You’re sure?” Edie asked.
“Sure of what?” Jill asked.
“Abi’s going to have her baby soon,” Edie said. “Today or tomorrow.”
“I’m just early,” Aife said. “I thought I’d come to see the child, you know the one Mom talks about. You were asleep so…”
She looked at Katy and gave her a small smile.
“Sorry,” Aife said. She looked at Paddie and gave him a terrified nod. “Really, I didn’t mean for all of this.”
“I’m so sorry, Katy,” Edie said.
“I’m okay,” Katy said with a shrug. “Paddie?”
“I’m okay,” Paddie said.
Edie gave the children a nod and started walking toward her room.
“Abi’s having her baby?” Jacob asked. “What does that mean for us?”
“Abi will have to come here,” Edie said. “It’s the only secure place on this continent.”
“And the Fairy Corps?” Jill asked.
“Oh, yeah, they’re coming,” Edie said. “The moment Mari realizes that Aife is here, she will arrive. With great fanfare. Of course. And Keenan?”
Edie looked at Aife.
“Mom’s keeping him home,” Aife said. “The last time he was here, he got stuck in the Sea of Amber. The Sea of Amber, Edie. Is that going to happen to me?”
Edie sighed and shook her head.
“Now you know why she’s here,” Edie said to Jill and Jacob. “I’m sorry. I need to help my sister. She’s not as weird when she changes out of blue and gets something to eat.”
“Go ahead,” Jacob said.
Edie put one arm under Aife’s shoulder and they walked toward her room.
“Can I see the twins?” Aife asked.
“No!” Jill yelled.
“Not just now, dear,” Edie said.
She nodded to Jill and they went into Edie’s room. Jill took her first real breath when Edie’s door closed.
“That was fun!” Paddie said. “What are we gonna do now?”
Jacob looked at Paddie and laughed.
“You saved the day again,” Jacob said. “You get to choose. Would you like to go back to sleep or have something to eat or…?”
“Um,” Paddie yawned.
“Come on, Paddie,” Katy said.
Katy lifted the covers and Paddie crawled in beside her. Tucked up against each other, they were fast asleep in seconds. Jill gave Jacob an irritated look. He smiled and shrugged. Jill turned off the light. She and Jacob went back to bed.
Of course, Jacob fell right to sleep while Jill stared at the ceiling for a while. Just when she was sure she would never get to sleep, the alarm was going off and day two of turn-the-beds-weekend had already begun.
Saturday morning — 8:05 a.m.
“Oh no,” Nadia said. “No. No. No. No.”
The sound of her voice launched Nash in her direction. From the main Castle kitchen, he ran through the living room. Passing Ivan on the way, he raced down the stairs to the suite where Nadia was staying. He tapped on the door. While he waited for an answer, Ivan caught up to him. Ivan gave him a nod.
“She is almost never naked,” Ivan said. “You can go in.”
Ivan pressed open the door. When Nash lingered in the hallway, Ivan grabbed the front of his shirt and dragged him into the room.
“Chto proizoshlo?” Ivan asked. Nash’s pigeon Russian translated to “What happened?”
Nadia held up her phone to him. Ivan took the phone. He scowled and gave the phone to Nash. There was a picture of Mike helping Nadia into the limousine. From that angle, it looked like Mike was Nadia’s date. The headline read… something Nash couldn’t translate. He held it out to Ivan with a questioning look on his face.
“Valerie’s greatest pain,” Ivan said. “Implies Mike and Nadia…”
He waved his hand in Nadia’s direction. Nash blinked at Ivan. Nash looked at Nadia for a moment.
“I’ll take care of it,” Nash said.
He sped out of the room. He jogged down the hallway and took the stairs two at a time. Valerie had been standing in the kitchen when he’d left. He sped through the living room and slid into the kitchen.
“Nadia,” Nash said. He had to stop to pant. He bent over, his hands hitting his knees.
“Nash?” Valerie went to him. She put her hand on his back.
“There’s a…” Nash panted.
“What’s happened to Nadia?” Valerie asked.
“Picture,” Nash panted. “Reason… paparazzi.”
“We were just talking about how crazy they seem today,” Valerie said with a shrug. “Are they after Nadia?”
Although a small woman, Valerie was a force to be reckoned with. She glared toward the front of the Castle.
“What did they do to Nadia?” Valerie asked. Her voice threatened rage.
“They took a photo of Mike helping Nadia into the limo,” Nash said, swallowing hard. “It’s in some Russian paper.”
Valerie shoulder and shrugged.
“They think Mike’s with Nadia,” Nash said. “It says ‘Valerie’s heartbreak.’”
“Cheating on me with the beautiful heiress is my heartbreak?” Valerie laughed.
“I’m so sorry,” Nadia said from the entrance to the kitchen. Ivan stood just behind her.
Valerie put her head back and laughed. Nash, Nadia, and Ivan looked at Valerie as if she’d gone mad. Mike came in from the garden.
“What’s so funny?” Mike asked.
“The papz are here to catch a photo of you with your new girlfriend,” Valerie said.
“Noelle?” Mike asked. “Fucking pervs.”
“Nadia,” Valerie said. “It says, ‘Valerie’s greatest pain.’”
“The article says you can’t get out of bed,” Nadia said. “Your family is concerned you will kill yourself.”
“Why is that funny?” Nash asked.
“Because they think that some mix-up could possibly be worse than Mike going off to war or getting captured,” Valerie said. “They have no idea what military families live with every single day.”
Valerie gave them a nod.
“What do you want to do?” Nash asked.
“I think we take it to the papz,” Valerie said. “We release a statement that says that Nadia is a dear family friend. And that my greatest pain was losing Mike as a casualty of war. Whatever happens, Mike and I will work it out. He’s alive and breathing. We’ve proven that so far. But our military families deal with the greatest pain imaginable. To say this mix-up is my ‘greatest pain’ only serves to diminish their tremendous sacrifice.”
Valerie gave Nash a nod. She smiled at Nadia.
“Sami will be here around noon,” Valerie said. “Are we still on?”
“I… I…” Nadia gave vigorous nod. “Are you sure you want to go… with me?”
“Of course,” Valerie said. “Sami’s already mapped out our afternoon — shopping, snack, spa. But first, we help Delphie with the fruit trees.”
“I would love that,” Nadia said.
“Great,” Valerie said and went upstairs to Jill and Jacob’s loft where Jackie was playing.
“One good thing,” Nadia said.
Mike lifted an eyebrow at her and Nash turned to look at her.
“The matchmaker left a message saying that since I was with a ‘good Russian man’ she would back off,” Nadia said with a smile.
“Mike?” Nash asked.
Nadia nodded. Mike grunted.
“I’m ready,” Noelle ran into the kitchen. She stopped short, and said, “Did I miss something?”
“I’m having an affair with Nadia,” Mike said with a glare.
“Oh?” Noelle asked. “Nash will kill you.”
“Mmm,” Mike said.
He nodded to Nash and turned in place. They grabbed their jackets at the door and went down into the tunnels.
“Are they angry?” Nadia asked in a quiet voice.
“Not at all,” Delphie said as she came in from the backyard.
Nadia’s eyes flicked to Nash and he shook his head.
“Why not?” Nadia asked.
“It’s happened before,” Nash said. “They’re always trying to make it seem like something’s wrong between Mike and Valerie.”
“Sells papers,” Ivan said.
“I think they’re jealous,” Delphie said. She washed her dirty hands before turning on the electric kettle.
“What can I do to fix this?” Nadia asked.
“Did you make up the story?” Ivan asked.
“No, but…” Nadia said.
“Then there’s nothing to do,” Delphie said. “Valerie will call her people and they will release a statement.”
Nadia dropped down into a chair at the kitchen table.
“You seem upset,” Delphie said.
“I’m just…” Nadia’s began to softly cry. Ivan pushed Nash forward to her. He knelt down beside her. He put his arm over her shoulder. “This is… And she…”
Nadia gestured up the stairs.
“I don’t have… female friends,” Nadia said. “And she… and Sami… They… and all of this. It’s like a dream. Everyone so dear…”
“You’re welcome here,” Delphie said. She put her arm around Nadia. In a low voice, she said, “Welcome home.”
Nadia glanced at Nash, who nodded. She looked up at Delphie before starting to weep in earnest.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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