Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Chapter Three Hundred and Sixty-two: Getting ready

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CHAPTER THREE HUNDRED AND SIXTY-TWO

Saturday morning — 8:11 a.m.
Denver, Colorado

Ivy kicked her legs against the wooden picnic table post and sighed. With her elbow on the table, she leaned her head on her hand. The workbook on the table had gone from fun and challenging to boring in the last ten minutes.

“What’s wrong?” Edie asked.

Edie was wearing what Jill called her twin sandwich with one twin on her front and the other on her back. The twins were sound asleep. Maggie was sleeping in the front compartment of a double stroller. Mack was running with the dogs on the Castle backyard. James Kelly gave the boy the string end to a kite and Mack ran around the backyard trying to make it fly.

“I wish…” Ivy shrugged.

“What is it, sweet pea?” Edie asked.

Ivy looked up at the fairy. Edie looked like she hadn’t slept in a week. Her usually tidy braid was frayed and small fly away hairs had escaped. Edie’s shirt had spots of spit up from the boys and her makeup was smudged. Ivy shook her head and looked down.

“It’s hard to be left behind,” Edie said.

“I just…” Ivy looked up at the sky before looking at Edie again. “Why didn’t I get to go?”

“You have a reading class all afternoon today and tomorrow,” Edie said.

“Oh, yeah, reading,” Ivy said with an exaggerated roll of her eyes. “Like that matters over Sissy’s life!”

“Sissy is going to be fine,” Edie said.

“Why did the other kids get to go and I have to stay here with the babies?” Ivy’s voice rose with indignation. She glanced at Edie. She’d expected Edie to look more tired but Edie just grinned.

“Why indeed!” Edie said.

“You don’t know?” Ivy asked.

“I know that you have a reading seminar,” Edie said.

“Oh,” Ivy said. “Why do I have to go?”

Her voice had such a whining pitch that Edie had to grin. Ivy saw Edie’s grin and smiled herself.

“I guess that’s pretty whiney,” Ivy said.

“What’s happening on Monday?” Edie asked. When Ivy didn’t respond, Edie added, “Anything important?”

Ivy shook her head.

“Could it be that those who love you wanted you to stay home, practice your reading, so that you are safe and rested for Monday?” Edie asked.

Ivy looked down at her hand.

“Maybe?” Edie asked.

“Maybe,” Ivy said grudgingly. “But…”

“I know,” Edie said, cutting Ivy off. “That doesn’t make up for being left behind.”

“Like a baby,” Ivy nodded. “With the babies.”

“Indeed,” Edie said.

“I wish…” Ivy looked up at Edie and stopped talking.

“What do you wish?” Edie asked.

“I wish I was a fairy,” Ivy said. “Then I could do my reading class and be in New York. I’d get to be a good reader and be with everyone.”

“Being a fairy’s not all it’s cracked up to be,” Edie said.

“You’re immortal!” Ivy said.

“We have a very long life,” Edie said. “That is true.”

“That’s awesome!” Ivy said.

“I had to learn to read, just like you,” Edie said. “But I had to learn to read in Latin, Greek, and a bunch of languages you wouldn’t recognize now.”

“Oh.”

“We were at war for almost three thousand years,” Edie said.

“But you didn’t die!” Ivy said.

“War is war,” Edie said. “It was awful, just horrible.”

Ivy gave her an unconvinced look.

“We can only have children every thousand years or so,” Edie said. “My younger sister is Mari and my mom is just now going to have another daughter.”

“I heard it was a son,” Ivy said.

“From whom?” Edie asked.

“I don’t know,” Ivy said. “Charlie probably.”

“They never tell me anything,” Edie said.

Edie scowled so hard that the twins work up. The twin facing her put his hand on her face and she smiled. He nodded. He grinned to his twin before dropping off to sleep again.

“Don’t quote me,” Ivy said.

Edie cleared her head with a vigorous shake.

“Well, you can see being a fairy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” Edie said.

“Hmm,” Ivy said.

James cheered and they looked up to see the little kite take flight. Edie cheered and Mack screamed with laughter. Ivy looked up. Ivy couldn’t help but smile at the little boy’s glee. Ivy clapped.

“Oh good, you’re clapping,” a woman’s voice came from the side of the house.

Terrified of someone else trying to kill her, Ivy ducked under the picnic table. Edie jumped up and put her arms around Ivy.

“I’m so sorry,” the woman said. “I was… oh gosh, is everything ruined?”

“We’re just a little nervous,” James said.

Ivy heard James pick up Mack and the boy giggle. She felt James move toward them.

“James Kelly,” he said.

“It’s all right, love,” Edie whispered. She kissed Ivy’s cheek, and whispered, “This is why you didn’t go to New York.”

Ivy froze.

“Come on,” Edie said. “We’ll take a look together.”

With her hands on Ivy’s shoulders, Edie forced Ivy to look to see who had arrived.

“Auntie Gracie!” Ivy exclaimed. She jumped up to hug her aunt. “What are you doing here?”

“I promised I would be here when you testify,” Grace said. “Delphie suggested I come a bit early so we could spend some time together. Is that okay, Ivy?”

“That’s more than okay!” Ivy said. She looked at Edie. “You kept a secret from me.”

“I did,” Edie said with a smile. In that instant, Edie’s braid straightened as did her clothing. The exhausted look on her face evaporated.

“You tricked me!” Ivy said with pure delight.

“I did,” Edie said.

Ivy clapped and laughed.

“Her bag is packed and…” Edie said.

She turned toward the door to show where the bag was.

“I’ll get it,” James said. He set Mack down and jogged to the kitchen with Mack on his heels.

“Are we going somewhere?” Ivy asked.

“Sam Lipson is letting me borrow their cabin,” Grace said. “I thought it would be nice to get some fresh air and rest before the drama of next week. Does that work?”

Ivy answered her with a broad grin.

“What about my reading class?” Ivy asked.

“Fairy,” Edie pointed to herself.

“You mean there isn’t a reading class?” Ivy looked both delighted and surprised.

“Not this weekend,” Edie said.

Ivy clapped the tips of her hands together in a kind of mocking applause. Laughing, Edie curtseyed.

“Is the cabin…” Ivy scowled. “Safe?”

“I checked it out myself,” James said. “You’ll be safe and have a wonderful time. The only risky time is getting there, and you have an escort.”

James pointed toward the side of the house. Colin Hargreaves waved to them.

“They have a cabin nearby,” James said. “His family is waiting in the car. He’s going to take you up and bring you back.”

“Hi Mr. Colin,” Ivy said.

Ivy looked happier than she had since Delphie left for New York. Ivy hugged Edie. Leaving Maggie in the stroller, Edie walked Ivy to Colin’s SUV. James swung Mack onto his back and followed them. They helped Ivy and Gracie get in the SUV and waved them on their way.

“Well?” James asked.

He leaned over and kissed Edie. She smiled at him.

“Let’s go home,” Edie said. “We have the whole weekend to ourselves and…”

“As you wish,” James said.

He leaned over to kiss her again. When he leaned back, he was standing in the open field that served as her backyard on the Isle of Man. Her goats bleated in hello. Mack squirmed his way to the ground and began chasing after the goats. Scooter, Sarah, and Buster, the Castle dogs, ran around the little boy. Maggie and the stroller were sitting on the deck next to the back door.

“It’s nice to be home,” James said. “Come on, Mack!”

The little boy led the dogs into the house. James grabbed the stroller. They made it inside just as it started to rain.

“It is nice to be home,” Edie said.

~~~~~~~~

Saturday morning — 10:30 a.m.
New York City, New York

They had argued for about an hour before Jill decided to split them up into groups. The outcome of the groups was disappointing. No one believed there was anything Jill could do to protect Katy from the Trickster. In fact, the overall opinion was that Katy needed the opportunity to defend her soul.

“This is why my mother wanted to keep Katy,” Mari said summing up what the fairies thought.

Jill scowled at her. She sent a dark look to the rest of the room and went into the kitchen. Sandy, Tanesha, and Heather sheepishly followed.

“I know you’re frustrated…” Sandy whispered.

“The trial starts on Monday!” Jill said. “If I don’t find out today…”

Jill glared at Sandy, who grinned at Jill’s gloom.

“If you ask me…” Heather said.

When Jill scowled at her, Heather immediately shut up. She shrugged as if she didn’t care.

“I think she’s already asked you,” Tanesha said in a low voice.

“Oh, sorry,” Heather said with a smile. “You’re asking a question that’s never been asked before.”

Jill looked up at Heather and scowled.

“It seems like everyone is going on tradition,” Heather said. “And the tradition is that when a child reaches the age of five, his or her soul are open for collection by the Trickster. It’s up to the child to set herself free.”

“That’s such BS,” Jill said. “There’s got to be another way.”

“You have to teach a child to walk,” Sandy said in her most helpful voice. “I wonder if we could figure out what everyone learned from the Trickster, you know, what Katy needs to learn. Maybe we could teach her what she needs to know.”

The girlfriends turned to look at Sandy. She blushed.

“It was just an idea,” Sandy said.

“A great idea,” Tanesha said. “We’ve learned from, well, everyone, that Katy needs to learn some skills. These skills are usually taught by this creature they’re calling the Trickster.”

“If you keep her away from the Trickster, she won’t learn the skills and be attacked by him later in life,” Heather said. “Boy, there’s tons of stories like that.”

“There are?” Sandy asked.

“Sure,” Heather said. She opened her mouth to tell them what they were when she noticed Jill’s scowl. She hugged Jill instead. “Why don’t you let me lead this part?”

“You would do that?” Jill asked.

“Of course,” Heather said. “I’m happy to help.”

“Me too,” Sandy said.

Tanesha nodded.

“That settles it,” Heather said. “We’ll split them up into three groups…”

“I can do one,” Jill said with a nod.

“Four groups and we’ll get them to figure out what they learned from the trickster,” Heather said.

“Then we’ll figure out how to teach it to Katy,” Tanesha said with a nod. “Good plan.”

Sandy nodded in agreement.

“Jill?” Heather asked.

“Let’s do it!” Jill said.

They went out into the living area. Standing together, they were such a formidable group that everyone in the room fell silent. All eyes fell on them.

“Here’s what we’re going to do,” Heather said.

~~~~~~~~

Saturday — 10:30 a.m.
New York City, New York

Sissy awoke to the sound of Nadia laughing. She tried to look to her left, where Ivan’s bed had been, but didn’t see anything. Then she remembered that Ivan had been moved out of this ICU earlier this morning. Sissy was supposed to sleep all day today so that she too could get out of this private ICU, and getting out of the ICU was the first step toward getting out of this horrible hospital. Feeling a wave of frustration, Sissy sighed.

“I know that frustrated sigh,” Ivan said. “She is awake.”

Sissy saw his hand grope around on her bed again. Before he found the controller, Nadia appeared. She kissed Sissy’s cheek, lowered and sat on the edge of the bed.

“I thought I had to sleep today,” Sissy said. Her voice filled with frustration and sorrow. “If I’m awake, I have to stay here.”

“That would suck,” Nadia said with a smile.

“What is wrong?” Ivan asked.

Nadia replied in fluent Russian. Sissy had the overwhelming feeling that Nadia was really Ivan’s soul mate and she was just a stupid, little girl. Her dreams were vanishing before her. She looked away from where she now knew Ivan was sitting.

“No,” Nadia said, as if she could hear Sissy’s thoughts. She leaned over Sissy. “Don’t go there.”

“But…” Sissy’s bottom lip vibrated with sorrow.

“It’s the anesthesia,” Nadia said.

“And the trauma,” Ivan said.

Sissy refused to look at him. Nadia leaned over so her face was inches from Sissy’s. She gave Sissy a soft smile.

“We have been here waiting for you to wake up,” Nadia said.

“But I’m supposed to sleep today!” Sissy’s voice rose with frustration. “Or I’ll never get out of this fucking place.”

At her swearing, Ivan’s eyebrows rose and his mouth clamped closed to keep from laughing. Nadia owed Sissy none of that kindness.

“Did you curse?” Nadia laughed.

Sissy scowled at her. Nadia kissed her cheek again.

“Take a deep breath, Sissy,” Nadia said in a low intimate voice. “Can you feel it?”

“What?” Sissy glared at her.

“You can breathe,” Nadia said.

Nadia’s face disappeared from in front of her. Sissy took a breath, and felt nothing. No pain. No stiffness. No immovable phlegm. No constriction. She took another breath. She’d never felt so happy to do something so incredibly simple. Sissy’s eyes welled with tears. She felt Ivan’s big hand grab hers. As always, she was steadied in his tight grip. She looked at him for the first time. He smiled.

“There you are,” he said in a low voice. She smiled. Nadia lowered her bed so that Sissy could see them out of the corner of her eye.

“The doctors are taking credit for it,” Nadia said. “But it’s Otis and Jill.”

Nadia nodded at Sissy.

“Miraculous,” Nadia said. “I grew up hearing about the miraculous Russian healers. Frankly…”

Nadia’s face appeared over Sissy again.

“I thought it was complete bullshit,” Nadia said. “My mother, God rest her soul, and I fought over this very thing. ‘The only healing is science!’ I’d say. ‘You know nothing!’ she would say. And guess what?”

“She was right,” Sissy said.

“She was right,” Nadia said with a snort. “Who knew?”

Nadia looked down to see Ivan holding Sissy’s hand. She smiled.

“We should get down to business before the doctors come to brag about their awesomeness,” Nadia said.

“Business?” Sissy asked.

“Nadia has a proposal for us,” Ivan said. “Well, for you mostly.”

“For me?” Sissy asked.

“You are all set to return to Denver,” Nadia said. “And Ivan will go where you go, so it’s really up to you.”

“You have family,” Ivan said with a nod. “I have you and Nadia.”

“What are we talking about?” Sissy asked.

“I’d like it if you’d consider staying in New York,” Nadia said. “We can easily remodel Ivan’s place to accommodate your hospital bed, if you still need one.”

“If you are here, you are close to the ballet,” Ivan said. “We can go to watch ballet every single night while we heal.”

“Now that sounds like fun,” Nadia said with a roll of her eyes.

Ivan chuckled and shook his head at her.

“Eet vill git you reedy for dance,” Nadia said in an imitation of Ivan’s accent. Sissy couldn’t help but giggle. Ivan laughed.

“I don’t know if I’m ready to… um…” Sissy blushed. “You know, to live with Ivan and… I’m still sick and…”

“You would have your own rooms,” Ivan said. “We agreed to go slow. This will not change our agreement.”

Nadia nodded.

“How big is your place?” Sissy asked.

“I have a whole floor,” Ivan said.

“How?” Sissy squinted her eyes at him.

“I bought floor when I moved to US,” Ivan said.

“The building was falling down around him,” Nadia said.

“It was fine for me,” Ivan said.

“You were in Denver,” Nadia said. She smiled at him and looked at Sissy. “It’s how we met. My father’s company, which means my mother, wanted to rehab the building. She’d been able to buy all of it but had this ‘Russian bastard on the tenth floor’ who wouldn’t budge. My mom pressured me to talk to Ivan because I was young.”

“She was too embarrassed at her situation,” Ivan said. “She knew of me from the Bolshoi and thought I would judge.”

Ivan snorted a laugh and Nadia gave him a grateful smile.

“I didn’t sell,” Ivan said.

“The company rehabbed the building around him,” Nadia said. “It’s very nice now.”

Ivan shrugged.

“So we have space,” Nadia said with a nod. “You could have as much or as little room as you’d like. You can get well and when you’re ready, you can train right there.”

“She is right, Sissy,” Ivan said. “This is a better plan to get you on your feet again.”

“If you go to Denver, you’ll still have a chance to heal and a chance to train,” Nadia said. “The actual difference is very small. It’s just that if you stay here, you’ll be here — in New York City, with us.”

“Can I think about it?” Sissy asked. “Sandy would be so upset if…”

“This isn’t a secret,” Ivan said.

“We’ve spoken with Sandy,” Nadia said.

“She said it was okay?” Sissy asked.

“She said she would wait to talk to you before saying anything,” Nadia said with a shrug. “We have another option.”

“Okay,” Sissy said.

“Ms. Behur has offered to have you continue to stay with her,” Ivan said. “She said you were welcome there as long as you want to stay.”

“Seth O’Malley said you’re welcome to stay in his apartment,” Nadia said. “He said that was the original plan.”

“Before we knew someone was trying to kill us,” Sissy said with a nod.

“The question is…” Nadia started and then looked at Ivan.

“Would you like to stay in New York City?” Ivan asked. “Or go back to Denver?”

“Gosh, I…” Sissy said. She blushed.

“Why don’t you think about it?” Nadia asked.

“But…” Ivan said.

Nadia gave him a hard look.

“No, we have to decide…” Ivan said.

“Sorry, Sissy,” Nadia said. “Ivan needs a moment.”

Nadia winked at Sissy and Sissy smiled.

“Mostly, I wanted you to know that you’re welcome here,” Nadia said. “In our family, I mean. As Ivan’s love, I mean.”

Nadia’s face flushed.

“Nadia needs a moment,” Ivan said with a wink.

Sissy smiled.

“Thanks,” Sissy said. “It’s all just been… a lot.”

“Miss Delgado?” Sissy recognized her doctor’s voice. “Are your sister and aunt here?”

“We are,” Nadia said brightly.

“Dr. Kerminoff,” Sissy’s doctor said. “Ivan.”

“You can talk in front of them,” Sissy said.

She suddenly felt overwhelmed and exhausted. She waved her hand for the doctor to continue. He started talking about the wonderful things he and his team had done to save Sissy’s life. The more he talked the more Sissy checked out.

Ivan wanted her to live with him. Nadia was going to be her friend and family. She could stay in New York! Sissy’s heart fluttered as the glimmer of her original dream of being a real ballerina with a real company appeared in front of her. She glanced at Ivan, and he smiled at her. She felt such a well of strong emotions that she had to break her eyes away from him.

The doctor kept talking. Sissy glanced at the clock, and hoped Sandy would be back soon. Sissy took a clear breath. Her life was starting again. Grinning, she tried to listen to the doctor. Her eyes flicked to Ivan. He had been watching her. When he saw her eyes on him, he flushed. Sissy realized that she’d seen him do this before. In that moment, she realized that Ivan had always loved her, not in some creepy way. He just loved her. The thought made her smile.

“I’m glad you’re smiling, Miss. Delgado,” the doctor said. “You have a lot to smile about.”

Ivan squeezed her hand.

“Yes, sir, I do,” Sissy said.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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