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CHAPTER THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTEEN
Friday morning — 10:15 a.m.
Sitting at the kitchen table, Delphie looked up from her cup of green tea. She’d heard a sound like the side door had opened. She looked expectantly at the door to the kitchen before sighing. Today was the first day in a long time that Valerie hadn’t been able to have mid-day tea. It was the first day with many, many days to follow.
Valerie was leaving to do her movies. Rightly so, she was taking Mike and Jackie with her.
Delphie nodded to herself. It was a lot better than when Valerie left in a huff and Mike sulked here. No, Mike and Jackie belonged with Valerie.
Delphie sighed. She missed them already.
For the last few months, she’d been so busy with Ivy and Keenan that the only time she could count on seeing Valerie, or anyone for that matter, was at mid-day tea. Ivy and Keenan, with their unique issues, had taken up every extra thought Delphie could muster. But, as of today, Ivy and Keenan were spending the mornings at the Marlowe school. This morning, they took their first steps toward integrating with other people.
Delphie smiled. She was grateful they were ready. And certainly, she was ready for a break. She sighed.
Today was the first morning she had off, and Valerie was working. Jacob was working too, as were Sam and Aden and Sandy and Honey. Even MJ had left town for a trip to Europe. All of the adults were working and the kids were all in school.
The first day Delphie had any time at all, everyone else was gone. Even Seth had taken Ava to Malibu for the weekend.
Blane’s hospital visits were restricted to Heather only, so Delphie couldn’t go see him. Charlie was in some God-awful therapy today. The doctor had forcefully suggested that they let him get through it on his own. They were all going to visit tonight.
No, there was no one who needed Delphie today.
She’d never felt so lonely.
Tomorrow, they were meeting to plan out this year’s garden. Tomorrow, the house would be full of life. Tomorrow, she had a brownie date with Katy. That was after she dropped Noelle, Ivy, and Tink at Heather’s house for a day of shopping. Nash and Teddy were planning an adventure with Aden — camping in Dinosaur National Monument, she remembered. They were leaving tonight. Tomorrow, Jacob and Mike were going to do the early season dirt work so that it was done before Mike left. Tomorrow, Valerie, Honey, Sandy, and Jill were spending the afternoon with Delphie to get their quarterly Tarot readings.
Tomorrow, the Castle would be full of love and life and noise and activity. Someone was sure to have a meltdown. Someone was sure to laugh. Someone was sure to break something. Someone was sure to apologize. Someone was sure to forgive. Someone would be mean. Someone would be kind.
Someone was sure to need her.
But today, Delphie sat alone with her green tea in a quiet house.
She looked at her smartphone. Her friends were busy with their lives. Maresol was at the doctor’s today to find out her prognosis. She’d invited Delphie to go with her, but Delphie had turned her down.
She’d been sure someone would need her today.
Yvonne had her hands full with Jabari. Dionne was working at the clinic.
Delphie checked the time. Maresol would already be on her way to the doctor’s office.
“Shoot,” Delphie said out loud. She’d missed Maresol.
Delphie had all but quit her job reading fortunes at Herbs and Arts. She’d even cut back her time with some of her regular clients. Ivy and Keenan had needed every moment her time.
And now they didn’t.
Delphie sighed. Nodding to herself, she decided to take a nap. She drained her cup and carried it to the sink.
When she turned around, Tanesha was standing in the doorway to the kitchen. Delphie yelped.
“Did you finish your tea?” Tanesha asked.
“I … uh …” Delphie looked at her cup. She loved tea. If Valerie had been there, she would have had another cup or two. “Would you like some?”
“Not green tea.” Tanesha lifted her lip and shook her head. “Yuck. I never got the taste. But …”
Tanesha held up the tea she and her mother drank. Delphie smiled and turned on the pot. Tanesha reached into her backpack and took out two antique china tea cups with saucers. She set them on the counter.
“I bought these for you when I was in Atlanta,” Tanesha said.
“Oh my Goddess!” Delphie said. “These are beautiful and look …”
Delphie opened her special china cabinet and took out two tea cups with the same pattern but in different colors.
“Yours match these perfectly,” Delphie said. “How did you …”
“Finding spell Fin taught me,” Tanesha said.
“Oh.” Delphie raised her eyebrows.
“I’m joking,” Tanesha said. “I don’t do any of that crap.”
“Not consciously,” Delphie gave her a knowing nod and Tanesha laughed.
Delphie took the tea. Tanesha took down a pot from the cabinet and filled it with warm water. Delphie got her green tea from the cabinet. They waited while the water heated.
“I know the tea is designed to mute my fairy powers,” Tanesha said.
“I just like it,” Tanesha said. “Mom does too.”
“She does,” Delphie said with a nod. “As much as I like your company, Tanesha, I’m wondering …”
“Why I’m here?” Tanesha asked.
“Don’t you have school?” Delphie asked.
“We had a test this morning,” Tanesha said. “I’m off until the afternoon session.”
“I came because I wondered if you knew who Jabari’s mother was,” Tanesha said.
“Not his spiritual mother,” Tanesha said. “His biological mother.”
“Oh no you don’t,” Tanesha said. “You don’t get to go all ‘crazy hippy lady’ on me!”
“Crazy hippy lady?” Delphie laughed.
“You know, ‘I gots my cats and my green tea and …’” Tanesha started to laugh. “You know you do it.”
“Mystic,” Delphie said. “I prefer ‘mystic’ over ‘crazy hippy lady.’”
“Shoe fits,” Tanesha said.
Delphie laughed. She held out her arms and hugged Tanesha.
“What was that for?” Tanesha asked.
“You,” Delphie said.
“Are you going to answer my question?” Tanesha asked. “You know, I can sic my girlfriends on you.”
Delphie burst out laughing. Tanesha chuckled. Delphie poured hot water into her cup. She poured out the water to warm Tanesha’s pot and filled it with hot water and tea. When she finished, she carried their tea to the table. Tanesha took a seat across from Delphie. She waited until Delphie had settled and taken a drink of her tea.
“You’re not going to tell me?” Tanesha asked.
“I already did,” Delphie said.
“You answered …” Tanesha said. She sighed, and shifted to a tactic that worked with her grandmother. “Tell me again. I must have missed it.”
“You are Jabari’s mother,” Delphie said.
“You’re saying I’m Jabari’s biological mother,” Tanesha said. “No. I’m sorry, Delphie. I really am, but no matter how much I wish it was true, that’s just not true.”
“You’ve tested your DNA with Jabari’s?” Delphie asked.
Tanesha mouth opened and closed a few times before she scowled. She took a breath and opened her mouth.
“You never ran out of money when you were at Howard?” Delphie asked.
“I had a full scholarship,” Tanesha said.
“That’s not an answer,” Delphie said. “Someone paid for your mother’s bill for the swanky psychiatric hospital where she went for rehab. We both know it wasn’t her mother or that awful Alvin.”
Tanesha blushed and cleared her throat.
“What hospital bill?” Tanesha asked.
“The one after she tried to kill herself with drugs,” Delphie said. “I know it was you because you’re the one who called me and Dionne and Maresol. You’re the one who made sure we helped your mother. In fact, all of those journals and drawings are because you insisted she start drawing again. You saved her life.”
Tanesha gave a slight nod.
“How’d you pay off that bill?” Delphie asked.
“I …” Tanesha said. “But …”
“What did Jeraine tell you?” Delphie asked.
“About Annette?” Tanesha asked.
“About breaking it off with her,” Delphie said.
“Um, he said he called and she told him she was pregnant,” Tanesha said.
“She wasn’t,” Delphie said.
“But …” Tanesha said.
“She got all that money for such a long time,” Delphie said. “Jeraine probably knew at some point, but he didn’t remember or didn’t care as long as he didn’t have to deal with her.”
Tanesha scowled. Delphie drank her tea and waited for Tanesha to think it through. Tanesha gasped.
“The reality show,” Tanesha said.
“She needed a baby for the reality show,” Delphie said.
“How does she do everything?” Delphie asked. “How did she steal Jabari?”
“Paid some desperate folks a lot of money,” Tanesha said. “Dr. Bumpy says they didn’t realize what they were doing until it was too late.”
“She snooped around and found the fertility clinic where you donated eggs,” Delphie said.
“But how …?”
“Doesn’t Jeraine have a song about how the woman he loves won’t take his money?” Delphie asked.
“Sure, but …” Tanesha started.
“You know those women, the one’s stalking Jeraine? They’ve been tracking you too.” Delphie cut her off. “It wouldn’t have been too hard to call around to the clinics and look for a dark skinned, college educated, smart, thin woman. You’re quite beautiful.”
“Could be anyone,” Tanesha said.
“It wasn’t,” Delphie said.
Mortified, Tanesha cleared her throat and looked away.
“Oh come on,” Delphie said as if Tanesha had asked the question out loud. “She might not have screwed Jeraine, but certainly he was giving away his sperm to any woman who wanted it.”
“She paid someone for …”
“Condom without spermicide,” Delphie said. “Think of it. Is there a better ‘screw-you’ than to have IVF with your eggs and Jeraine’s sperm?”
“Why do you keep saying that word?” Delphie said.
“It’s just crazy,” Tanesha said in a low voice. “Crazy.”
“Look at who you’re talking about,” Delphie said.
“Why didn’t you say something?” Tanesha asked.
“Why didn’t you ask?” Delphie asked.
“Hmp,” Tanesha sniffed.
“He’s younger than the brother he grew up with,” Delphie said. “If you ask the boy, he’ll remember her being pregnant with Jabari.”
Tanesha closed her mouth rather than say “But” again.
“Fin must have guessed,” Delphie said.
“He says he’s no oracle,” Tanesha said. “He believes you are special, one of a kind.”
“Nice when a handsome man thinks you’re special,” Delphie smiled.
“A prince, no less,” Tanesha said.
Delphie laughed. They drank their tea in silence for a while.
“What do we do?” Tanesha asked.
“Run another test,” Delphie said. “Bumpy can do it for you, or Dionne if that’s better for you. In fact, why don’t I go with you? They’ll do the test and I can drop it off.”
“You can what?”
“I just realized that Maresol needs my help,” Delphie said. “Dionne’s too.”
“Not Mom’s?” Tanesha asked.
“That’s where we’re going,” Delphie said. “You have to test Jabari, too.”
“I thought you didn’t get brain waves about people close to you,” Tanesha said.
“I don’t,” Delphie said. “I’m reading you. You love your mother and your mother loves Maresol and Maresol needs my help.”
“There’s that word again,” Delphie said.
“Do I tell Jer?” Tanesha asked with a wry smile.
“You can,” Delphie said. “It won’t make a difference. The crazy one in this equation already knows.”
“Oh, right,” Tanesha nodded.
“Call Schmidty, though,” Delphie said.
“You’re due for another round of stupid,” Delphie said.
“Shit,” Tanesha said.
“We should go now,” Delphie said.
To Tanesha’s surprised, Delphie jumped to her feet and walked out of the room.
“Just leave that,” Delphie called. “Come on! We have to go.”
Tanesha hopped up and jogged to catch up.
Friday morning — 11:45 a.m.
“Marlowe!” an employee-owner yelled over the intercom from his post on an excavator. “You’d better get out here.”
Jacob crawled out from under the desk in the jobsite manager’s trailer, where he’d been hooking up the site computer. He managed to hit his head on the edge of the table as he got up. He grabbed his head.
“Can you finish this up?” Jacob asked DeShawn.
“We’ve got this,” Jason said.
Jacob smiled. The team of Jason, DeShawn, and Pete had been formed to replace Rodney when he was out with Yvonne. They’d done such a great job that they were each offered their own individual site. They’d refused. They preferred to work together as a team, and they were a great team.
“Thanks,” Jacob said.
He patted Pete on the back as he came into the trailer carrying an inkjet printer. Jacob stopped at the door. DeShawn gave him a walkie-talkie with a clip on microphone. Jacob nodded his thanks and put the walkie-talkie in his back pocket.
“Oh the phones …” Jacob started. DeShawn clipped the walkie-talkie microphone into Jacob’s front pocket.
“We won’t have them until end of day tomorrow,” Jason said. “Our cellphones are on every employee’s speed dial.”
“Owner,” Deshawn corrected. “Every owner’s speed dial.”
“The intercom’s working,” Jason nodded to the box.
“Good,” Jacob nodded and left the trailer.
“Jake!” a man yelled. He pointed to the jobsite entrance.
Jacob scanned the entrance to the jobsite and saw Valerie’s Mustang coming up to the site. He scowled at the four paparazzi on motorcycles trailing behind her.
“Jake!” yelled one of the women from the sign team.
“Go ahead,” Jacob said into the walkie-talkie microphone.
“What about the photogs?” the man on the excavator said via the walkie-talkie.
“Chase them out of here,” Jacob said.
“Done,” the man said.
The woman from the sign team opened the chain link gate and Valerie drove in. The paparazzi came onto the site and were immediately escorted off by the excavator.
“You must have been expecting me,” Valerie said.
She swung out of her ancient Mustang carrying an equally ancient yellow hard hat. Jacob’s scowl deepened. He knew her breezy beauty this morning was a direct result of spending the last few hours at Sandy’s salon.
“How are you, brother dear?” Valerie asked.
She kissed his cheek and laughed.
“Well say something,” she said.
“So, you’re here,” Jacob said.
Valerie laughed. She punched his shoulder and he laughed.
“When’s it get here?” Valerie asked.
“What?” Jacob asked.
“The house!” Valerie said. “When’s it …”
They heard a low rumble of a large truck. They turned toward Colorado Boulevard. A truck pulled an enormous, ornate house across the I-70 bridge. The sign team leader whistled to her people and waved toward the street. The young men and women ran out into the street to direct traffic. Valerie beamed.
“What?” Jacob asked.
“It’s very beautiful,” Valerie said. “You’re sure about this?”
“It’s done.” Jacob glanced at Valerie and looked back at the house. “The Marlowe School purchased the home and property from me.”
“I purchased the home and property from you,” Valerie said.
“You in the guise of the head of the Marlowe School,” Jacob said. “The school holds the mortgage and made the down payment.”
“I am the President of the Marlowe School,” Valerie said. “And the person who made it profitable.”
Jacob looked away so that Valerie wouldn’t see his grin.
“I got a steal,” Valerie said.
“On labor, too,” Jacob said.
“I’m brilliant,” Valerie grinned.
“You’re sure it’s on the up and up?” Jacob asked.
“It’s only possible because Lipson Construction no longer does government work,” Valerie cleared her throat with a loud “ahem.” “It’s perfectly legal for two private entities to work together to get a worthwhile project done.”
“Hmm,” Jacob said.
“Did anyone at Lipson protest?” Valerie asked. She batted her eyes to relay her pure nature. Jacob laughed. “Well?”
“No,” Jacob said. “Nor would they since their kids get to go here basically for free.”
“Exactly,” Valerie beamed.
Jason and Pete joined them to watch. The truck turned the tight corner into the site and stopped at the entrance. Jacob started toward the entrance, but Pete and Jason beat him to it. They moved the chain link fence on either side to make enough space.
Jacob and Valerie held their breath as the truck rolled over the cement curb and into the jobsite. Aden pulled up just as the house crept over the curb. He parked on the street and ran to Valerie and Jacob. They stood in awe as the historic home passed a foot in front of them. Towering three stories, the ancient structure had once been home to the serial killer, Saint Jude. They looked up at the windows
“Wow,” Aden said.
Jacob nodded. He waved to the female ghost looking at him from the third story window.
“Ghost?” Aden asked. He waved to be friendly.
“Why didn’t you send her on?” Valerie asked.
“Seemed kind of mean after she told me what was going to happen to Noelle,” Jacob said.
“That’s right,” Valerie said. “You met her when you were being a big baby.”
Jacob’s eyes slid over to look at her. He was about to say something cruel, but Valerie’s face was lit up with delight in the gorgeous building.
“You sure you can rehab this?” Valerie asked.
“With Jill’s help,” Jacob said. “It’s a lot but …”
“With the right people anything’s easy,” Valerie and Jacob repeated in unison something their mother used to say.
The truck came to a stop near the edge of the property. Because Lipson Construction owned the truck, the plan was to leave the house on its bed until the foundation made it through inspection. Jacob nodded toward the street where the building inspector was standing.
“Let him in,” Jacob said into the walkie-talkie mic.
Jason opened the gate for the inspector. Cheering, the sign team came back into the site. Jason closed the gate. He shook the inspector’s hand and they walked toward Jacob.
“I just can’t believe it,” Valerie said under her breath.
“What?” Jacob asked.
“It all worked out,” Valerie said. “What are you going to do with the money?”
“Ease some of the pressure at home,” Jacob said. “Rehire Rosa to clean. The kids have been great but I really can’t deal with … Never mind.”
“Toilets,” Valerie said. “My baby brother hates dirty toilets.”
“Hmm,” Jacob scowled. She nudged his shoulder and he laughed.
“Sandy said they’ll keep their chores,” Valerie said.
“And that’s great,” Jacob said.
“At least the toilets will be clean,” Valerie said.
“At least Charlie won’t have to work to pay our food bill,” Jacob said. “We won’t have the kind of money we had before, but we won’t be flat broke like we’ve been.”
“Jacob Marlowe!” the inspector said. “I didn’t realize you were involved in this!”
“The school is owned by my father’s construction company,” Jacob said.
“You mean the one that’s employee owned?” the inspector asked.
“I’d like to get in on that!” the inspector started, then noticed Valerie for the first time. He flushed and looked down.
“Hi, I’m Val,” she said.
“Howard,” the man mumbled.
He glanced at Aden and gave him a nod.
“What about this foundation?” the inspector asked. “You know I need …”
“We have all of that ready for you,” Pete said. “If you’ll follow me.”
Steadily avoiding looking at Valerie, the inspector nodded to Jacob and followed Pete toward the trailer.
“I just can’t believe it,” Valerie beamed.
Jacob and Aden laughed.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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