Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Three Hundred and Sixty-three: Skills

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Saturday afternoon — 3:48 p.m.
New York City, NY

When Bestat, Fin, Abi, Mari, and Tanesha laughed, Jill looked up from where she had been coloring with Katy. She glanced to the back to see that Anjelika and Otis had their heads pressed together like they were plotting how to get back at Putin. Heather and Jill’s father, Perses, looked immensely civilized as they drank tea near the edge of the room. From where she sat, she could tell that Sandy, Sam, and Mike were engrossed in an out and out battle to the death game of hangman. A burst of laughter came from the kitchen where Seth and Delphie were supposedly putting together snacks.

“You think it’s time?” Jill asked in a low voice to Katy. The girl gave her mother a sincere nod. Jill smiled. “You want to stay here?”

With her eyes wide and luminous, Katy shook her head. Jill held out her hand and Katy took it with a smile. They walked to the front of the room. Katy leaned against Jill so firmly that Jill put her arm around the child’s shoulders.

“It looks like you’re done,” Jill said.

The room fell into a deep silence. Jill cleared her throat. Seth came out with a tray of mixed drinks which he started passing around the room. Delphie set out a tray of sliced meats and cheese.

“I’m wondering if you might have…” Jill swallowed hard. “Um…”

“We came up with one thing the fairies and Bestat learned from the Trickster,” Tanesha said.

“We have too,” Sandy said. “Just one though.”

“We have one,” Delphie said. She scurried over to sit back down in her spot. Seth sat next to her.

Otis raised his hand, partially stood, and nodded.

“If it’s not the same thing, then one is good, I guess,” Jill said. She looked from face to face. “Is it the same thing?”

“No,” Delphie said. “We are willing to teach Katy…”

“…all of the children,” Seth said with a nod.

“Right,” Delphie said. “We’re willing to teach all of the children our skill.”

“Yes, we will too,” Fin said.

“Same,” Otis said.

Sandy nodded. Jill glanced at her father and he gave her a sincere nod so similar to Katy’s that Jill looked down at her daughter. Katy smiled.

“We’ll go first,” Fin said at the same time Mari said, “Fairies first!”

Otis groaned and rolled his eyes. Delphie gave a little giggle.

“Does anyone mind?” Jill asked. She glared at her grandfather, “Otis?”

“It’s fine,” Otis said.

Fin grinned at the sound of his voice.

“Let them talk,” Otis said.

Fin mouthed his words. Abi nudged him with her elbow. Tanesha looked embarrassed, and Bestat glanced at Otis.

“Go ahead,” Jill said to Fin.

“When the Trickster had me…” Fin said. “I… Well, it was a very long time ago.”

“Not longer ago than when he had me,” Perses said.

“Touché,” Fin said. He turned and nodded to Perses. “And you’re right. You’re a lot older than I am!”

Everyone laughed at the way he said the words.

“Please, little one,” Perses said. “Go ahead.”

Everyone laughed, and Fin cleared his throat.

“When my soul was taken by the Trickster, there were not guns or ammunition or planes or… toilets for that matter,” Fin said. “We had swords. And not great swords. We had big, heavy, dull swords. I went around and around and around with him until I learned to…”

“Stand your ground,” Katy burst out saying. She jumped up and down. “Stand your ground. Stand your ground.”

“What?” Jill looked down at Katy.

“He’s teaching Paddy to use his shiny sword,” Katy said with a giggle.

“Plant your feet,” Abi said in her distinctive Isle of Man accent. “It’s ‘plant your feet.’”

Katy danced around for a moment because she got it right. Jill looked up at Fin and saw the fairies grinning at them.

“The key is to make certain you are grounded,” Bestat said. “It’s not always where your feet are. Often it’s your mind and soul that are in the clouds. We must learn to ground to the earth. Without grounding, we have no traction.”

“We are unable to move with our feet on the ground,” Mari added.

“Our minds, hearts, and souls must be planted firmly on the ground,” Fin said. “This is what I learned when I was with the Trickster.”

Mari, Abi, and Bestat nodded in agreement.

“What do we think?” Jill asked.

Everyone applauded.

“So we have one thing to teach Katy,” Jill said. “Will you…?”

She looked at the fairies and they nodded.

“It would be my honor, as well,” Bestat said.

Jill beamed at them. She put her arm around Katy’s shoulder to stop her from dancing around.

“Grandfather?” Jill asked. “Will you honor us with your learned opinion?”

Hearing the sarcasm in Jill’s voice, Otis laughed.

“It was not such a long time for me,” Otis said. “So I have better memory. My angel is much younger than either of you old geezers.”

Perses and Fin laughed. Mari turned around on the couch to watch him. He grinned at her and she smiled.

“This will not be a surprise to you, Jillian,” Otis said. “It is the rules of our work as healers.”

Jill tipped her head to the side.

“You gain more if you use your gifts for worthy causes,” Otis said. “That is what I learned. My daughter, knowing my learning, was able to slip away from the Trickster. Her children weren’t disturbed by him at all.”

“How do you determine what is a worthy cause?” Mike asked.

“This is the question, no?” Otis asked. “You may give to someone with cancer, but only drive the cancer to grow faster.”

“And it’s not always about what you gain,” Anjelika said. “You can give a lot to a worthy cause and gain nothing. That doesn’t make it not a worthy cause.”

“Mmm,” Otis said. “Maybe it’s better to say ‘When you give to a worthy cause, it grows exponentially.’”

“That’s it,” Seth said in encouragement.

“Make more sense?” Otis asked.

“If you want to heal an entire family, cure the parents,” Otis said. “It will grow to the children.”

“Same for sick children,” Anjelika said. “Heal the doctor, the nurses, and the most sick child. The whole hospital will feel it.”

Anjelica and Otis nodded as if what they were saying made perfect sense. Everyone in the room looked at them in a kind of confused silence.

“What are you talking about?” Jill asked finally.

“I think we can help,” Seth said. He nodded to Delphie, who sat up a little straighter.

“The Trickster taught me that I didn’t have to give away my gifts to just anyone,” Delphie said.

Seth nodded.

“I can see anyone’s destiny,” Delphie said. “Anyone.”

“I don’t have to play for anyone who asks me,” Seth said. “My music is a gift, and I choose who gets to hear it.”

“First step,” Otis said with a nod. “You decide who gets your gifts. Your choice. Next step, pick those who are worthy and cause your gift to grow like compound interest.”

“I guess, I was trying to match what they said, with my own experience of the Trickster,” Abi said. “And I have to say…”

She glanced at Fin, who was watching her face. She gave him a soft smile.

“This kind of knowledge — who to use your magic with, who to pick — it’s taught in Fairy 101,” Abi said.

“I learned to ground before using the piano,” Seth said with a nod. “It was the first lesson my mother gave me.”

“Me too,” Delphie said with a shrug. “It’s something that must happen if you’re going to reach out to the ether.”

“This is really good,” Sandy said with a bright nod. “Everyone will be able to help.”

“Mom? Otis?” Jill asked. “Delphie? Seth? Will you teach Katy what she needs to know?”

“Of course,” Seth said at the same time Anjelika said, “Absolutely” and Otis nodded.

“Delphie?” Jill asked.

“Oh,” Delphie looked embarrassed. “I’m already doing that with Katy.”

Jill looked down at Katy, who nodded.

“You don’t give your precious brownies to just anyone!” Katy said with a grin.

Jill smiled at Katy’s oft-repeated statement and realized that Delphie was already teaching Katy valuable lessons.

“Will you continue?” Jill asked.

“Of course,” Delphie said. “Seth, me, Anjelika, and Otis — we’ll do it.”

“You can trust us, Jill,” Otis said.

Jill nodded her thanks and turned to Sandy, Sam, and Mike. They looked at each other until Mike pointed to Sandy. She nodded.

“We, um.” Sandy stopped talking as soon as she noticed that everyone was looking at her. She tucked a loose piece of hair behind her ear and swallowed. “We believe that the reason humans don’t have as much trouble with this Trickster is that we, humans I mean, know that love is everything.”

Sandy cleared her throat.

“Love is the most powerful force on this earth,” Sandy said.

“If Katy is able to keep loving, she’ll be able to vanquish her Trickster like that.” Mike snapped his fingers.

Sam nodded. The room was silent for a moment. Tanesha started to applaud and soon everyone was clapping.

“Brilliant!” Otis said and everyone nodded.

“Dad?” Jill asked. “What do you Olympians know?”

“There is no Trickster,” Perses said. “That is the trick.”

Every head turned to gawk at him.

“But… Katy and…” Jill started.

“It was one thing for me to be tortured, but when my daughter, Hekate, was tortured by the creature…” Perses scowled. Jill’s eyes flicked to Anjelika. There was not even a glimmer of jealousy on Anjelika’s face. Instead, she was listening to him intently. Jill turned back to look at her father. “I looked the world over for a millennium. I was intent on destroying this creature that dared to torture my beautiful daughter. I followed every lead, listened to every wise man, shaman, and even the infernal Plato. I promise you, there is no Trickster.”

Heather nodded.

“Then what is this thing?” Fin stood up and turned to face Perses. “I still have nightmares about my time with…”

Every head moved up and down in agreement.

“I still wake screaming,” Delphie said. She shivered.

“The Trickster is the dark side of our gifts,” Heather said. “This dark side must be resolved in order for us to use our gifts for good.”

“Are you saying Katy has some really dark side?” Jill asked. For her own comfort, she picked up Katy. Understanding her mother’s fear, Katy pressed her face into the crook of Jill’s neck. “My Katy?”

“That makes a hell of a lot of sense,” said Seth, ignoring Jill’s fear. He put his hand on Delphie’s shoulder. “You are so powerful that you would have a depth of shadow…”

“Like Jung’s shadow?” Sam said. “Celia and I went to a Jungian therapist to have our dreams analyzed. Delphie, you remember.”

“That’s actually the first time I got a handle on the entire business,” Delphie said with a nod.

“But Katy…” Jill said.

“We need to help Katy become whole without tearing herself apart,” Perses said. “These suggestions are useful.”

“But you’ll help?” Jill asked.

“Of course,” Perses said.

“I will do as I pledged,” Fin said. “Will you help our child?”

“I will,” Perses said.

Fin’s head went from person to person and saw that they all agreed.

“Then we are in agreement,” Perses said. “You will help, Katherine, as I will help your children.”

Some said “yes,” while others simply nodded.

“Good,” Jill said. “Thank you.”

Caught up in their own thoughts, everyone stared straight ahead. The warm companionship of the afternoon slipped away and they were merely powerful individual who happened to be the same place. The gathering was clearly over. Jill thanked each person individually as they left.

“How do you think it went?” Sandy asked as she left.

“I know what we need to teach Katy,” Jill said.

“Seems like something we should teach all of our kids,” Tanesha said. “Jabari could use it. Hell, I need to learn to plant my feet.”

“She’s right,” Heather said. “Tink could really benefit from knowing this stuff.”

The girlfriends nodded.

“Are you back to the hospital?” Heather asked Sandy.

“I need to find out what Sissy wants to do,” Sandy said.

“Any ideas?” Tanesha asked.

“She’ll stay here in New York,” Sandy said. She gave her friends a sad smile. “She’s on her way to her dreams. We are already in her rearview mirror.”

“Not until we teach her this stuff,” Tanesha said. She held out an arm and Sandy let Tanesha hug her.

“Sissy will need to know it,” Heather said with a smile.

Sandy gave them a sad smile.

“I should go,” Sandy said. “You want to share a cab?”

“Sure,” Jill said.

The solemn mood stayed with them long after they left the apartment. The girlfriends knew that they would each have to confront their inner demons some day soon.

At least, they would be able to do it together.


Saturday evening — 6:07 p.m.
New York City, NY

“It sounds pretty weird,” Sissy said to Sandy as they shared a contraband pint of butter pecan ice cream.

“It was weird,” Sandy said with a nod.

“And the final outcome was some Carl Jung stuff about the shadow?” Sissy asked.

“Exactly,” Sandy said. She looked into the ice cream container before setting it down. “All gone. Sorry.”

“It was delicious,” Sissy said with a smile.

Sandy smiled.

“I’m amazed at how well you’re doing, Sis,” Sandy said. “I really thought I’d lost you this last time.”

“I thought I was done too,” Sissy said. “Jill and her grandfather have saved my life.”

“Oh? Huh,” Sandy said.


“I think you saved yourself, they just helped the process along,” Sandy said.

“Why do you say that?” Sissy asked.

“I was reminded today that love is the most powerful force in the world,” Sandy said. She gave Sissy a soft smile. “You have Ivan now. There isn’t much you two can’t do.”

“But…” Sissy sighed and lay back on the bed.

“What’s going on?” Sandy asked.

“They asked me to move here,” Sissy said. “I guess you know that.”

“Ivan told me,” Sandy said.

“What do you think?” Sissy asked.

“It doesn’t matter what I think, Sissy,” Sandy said. “It only really matters what you think.”

“Oh,” Sissy said. She didn’t say anything for a few minutes.

“You love Ivan, right?” Sandy asked.

“I think so,” Sissy said.

Sandy grinned at her sister.

“What?” Sissy asked.

“You used to talk a lot more freely about loving Ivan when you were four years old,” Sandy said. “Do you remember?”

Sissy nodded.

“So…?” Sandy asked.

“That was before I knew about…” Sissy lowered her voice, “… sex.”

“Ah,” Sandy said. “You’re worried about sex.”

Sissy winced and Sandy smiled.

“He’s so…”

“Sexy,” Sandy said with a nod.

“And has been with lots of people,” Sissy said. “And I… He wants me to live with him. I’ve been really sick and I don’t feel ready to… you know, I mean I want to, but… maybe not for a while… I mean, I just had my first grown-up kiss. Well, second if you count that time under the mistletoe with Charlie’s friend, Carlos.”

“Carlos,” Sandy said. “That’s right. I’d forgotten all about him.”

“I haven’t,” Sissy said with a firm nod.

“Is Ivan pressuring you?” Sandy asked.

“Not at all,” Sissy said. “We agreed to go really slow. He says he doesn’t want to blow it now.”

“That sounds good,” Sandy said.

“I know,” Sissy said. She smiled.

“But if you live with him?” Sandy asked.

“I don’t know,” Sissy said. “Don’t you think I should date a little bit?”

“Well, dating is really about trying to find the right match,” Sandy said.

“What about random sex?” Sissy asked. “You used to really like that.”

“I…” Sandy shook her head. “I had a problem of committing to someone because I’d been hurt so badly by Mom and my father.”

“Oh,” Sissy said.

“When I was ready, I dated to find the right person,” Sandy said. “That’s what most people do. Do you feel like you need to find the right person?”

“No,” Sissy said. “Ivan is the right person for me.”

“I thought you’d say that,” Sandy said.

“So you’re okay with me, at fifteen years old, shaking up with some old guy?” Sissy asked.

“I’m okay with you staying in New York with your beloved,” Sandy said. “If stay in the same place is too much, let’s set up for you to stay at Ms. Bestat’s home. When you’re well again, you can move into Seth’s.”

“But…” Sissy’s hand moved to her heart.

“You want to live with Ivan,” Sandy said.

“I’d miss him,” Sissy said. “Plus, I’m going to be with him all the time anyway. Training, stretching, rehab,… But…”

“You’re not ready for sex,” Sandy said.

“Maybe I am,” Sissy said. “I don’t know. How do you know?”

Sandy shook her head. One of the disadvantages of having been molested as a child was that you never have the chance to choose when to start having sex.

“Oh Sandy, I’m sorry,” Sissy said.

“Don’t be,” Sandy said. “I’m so happy for you.”

“I’m happy for me too,” Sissy smiled.

“Aden wants to talk to Ivan,” Sandy said. “They’re supposed to talk tonight at…” Sandy gestured to the clock. “They’re probably talking now.”

“They are?” Sissy looked nervous.

Sandy looked up at Sissy’s heart rate monitor. She put her hand over Sissy’s.

“It’s going to be all right,” Sandy said.

“How can you say that?” Sissy’s eyes welled with tears. “Aden’s going to…”

“Aden and Ivan have spent a lot of time together in the last year, actually,” Sandy said.


“You forget that you’ve been living with us for more than a year,” Sandy said. “Ivan and Aden met when you moved in and he returned. They’re about the same age and get along well. Ivan goes fishing with Jacob and Aden.”

“Oh,” Sissy said. “So it’s not really new?”

“None of this is unexpected,” Sandy said.

“But you’ll tell me what they said?” Sissy asked.

“I will,” Sandy said. “Do you want to watch a movie? I have Seth’s phone so we can watch anything.”

“Will you stay with me?” Sissy asked.

“Of course,” Sandy said.

Sandy laced her fingers through Sissy’s. She held up Seth’s phone. They picked a romantic comedy to watch. Before long, Sissy was sound asleep. Sandy let go of Sissy’s hand and turned the phone off.

“I don’t want to lose you, Sandy,” Sissy whispered. Tears squeezed out of Sissy’s guarded eyes. “If I live here and get better and dance and… I’ll never see you. You’ll be way back in my past and not my future and I can’t stand that.”

“You can’t lose me,” Sandy said. “I’ll always be here for you — past, present, and future. Becoming who you are, growing up, doesn’t change that, Sis.”

“You are my home, Sandy,” Sissy said.

“I will always be your home,” Sandy said. She kissed Sissy’s cheek. “Would you like to watch or sleep?”

Sissy didn’t answer because she was asleep. Sandy smiled and settled in to watch the movie.

/Denver Cereal continues next week…

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