Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Chapter Three Hundred and Four : Coffee cup

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CHAPTER THREE HUNDRED AND FOUR

Monday morning — 6:25 a.m.

Yvonne touched Rodney’s shoulder and he looked up at her. She held out a Styrofoam cup of coffee to him. He took it from her and went back to staring at the wall in front of him. She smiled, kissed his cheek , and sat down in a cloth covered metal chair next to him.

“Do you want to talk?” Yvonne asked.

He looked at her and gave a slow shake of his head. They were sitting in the waiting room of the animal hospital while Mr. Chesterfield was in emergency surgery.

“That usually means you need to talk,” Yvonne said.

“Oh yeah?” Rodney asked in an amused voice.

She smiled at him and took Jabari’s favorite soft elephant out of her purse. Rodney noticed the toy and nodded. She rubbed the elephant’s big floppy ears and let the silence drag. He sniffed and swallowed down the tepid coffee.

“That’s disgusting,” he said.

“Worse than prison?” Yvonne asked.

“Yes, actually.”

He snorted something like a laugh, and she laughed. Her laugh always sounded to him like the tinkling of bells. He glanced at her. Even in moments like this, or maybe especially in desperate moments like this, he liked to just look at her. Her smile always made him feel like there was hope. His lips went up in something like a smile before he turned to stare into space again.

“I’d be happy to go find out …” she started.

He slipped his hand through her elbow and held on tight.

“Don’t,” he said.

She smiled, and they sat in silence. Sam Lipson came in with DeShawn. Sam checked in with Rodney and Yvonne before talking to the woman at the desk.

“Any word on Jabari?” Rodney asked DeShawn.

DeShawn shook his head. Rodney nodded. Sam came back from the desk.

“What did the police say?” Yvonne asked Sam.

“Someone tampered with the alarm,” Sam said. “It looks like they planned well in advance. The police think it’s possible they were there when you got home.”

Sam raised his eyebrows as if to ask the question and Rodney shrugged.

“If it was so well planned, why didn’t they expect Mr. Chesterfield?” Yvonne asked. “That dog has barely left the boy’s side since he arrived!”

“No one knows,” Sam said.

“And Jake?” Rodney asked. “What does he say?”

Sam furrowed his brow and gave a vague nod. Rodney sighed.

“How is Mr. Chesterfield?” DeShawn asked.

“We don’t know,” Yvonne said. “One of those nice policemen rushed him over here with the siren on. The doctor was waiting for us. ”

“He’s been back there since we got here,” Rodney said. “We don’t know about the boy. We don’t know about….”

Rodney completed the sentence with a sniff. Sam sat down next to Rodney and DeShawn went to the coffee pot.

“How does this happen?” Rodney asked.

“I don’t know,” Sam said.

“This type of thing…” Rodney spit out. “It’s so foul, so horrible… Steal a boy, beat a dog, …”

“Who does that kind of thing?” Yvonne shook her head for emphasis.

Sam nodded.

“Bumpy and Dionne are with Jeraine and Tanesha,” Sam said. “No one really knows what to say…. Or do.”

Rodney nodded. They lapsed into silence. DeShawn came back with a few Styrofoam cups full of coffee. Sam took one, but Rodney and Yvonne declined with a rueful shake of their heads. Sam took a drink from the cup, scowled at the liquid inside, and set it down on the floor next to his chair.

“You think Annette’s behind this?” Sam asked as he cleared his throat.

“Who else?” Rodney asked.

Sam nodded. With nothing else to say, the room filled with silence again. Time lagged. A half hour became an hour. The day began to warm up outside, and people arrived to start their day at the Veterinary Clinic. The veterinarian came out from the back in a long, blue paper gown.

“Mr. Smith?” the veterinarian said.

~~~~~~~~

Monday morning — 8:25 a.m.

“That was nice of you to make Miss T go to school,” Dionne said to Jeraine as she walked into his living room from the kitchen.

She held out a mug with a huge yellow smiley face. Jeraine looked at the mug. His old Ecstasy supplier had given him the mug to advertise his product. Miss T had packed the mug up in a box with his “drug things.” She’d told him to throw it out but he hadn’t gotten around to it.

Clearly, his mother had been busy unpacking boxes today. Dionne raised an eyebrow to encourage him to take the coffee. He took the mug and looked inside.

Coffee with a little cream.

He set the on the coffee table and looked up at her.

“Miss T?” Dionne asked.

“Oh,” Jeraine said. “We don’t know anything so she may as well go.”

Jeraine nodded to reassure himself. Dionne sat down next to him on the couch.

“It was nice of you,” Dionne said.

Jeraine picked up the mug of coffee and took a drink. He smiled. His mother made a good cup of coffee. She took his smile as a compliment and smiled in return. The moment passed and their smiles faded.

“Listen …” Dionne started at the same moment Jeraine said, “Schmidty …”

Jeraine smiled and nodded to let her talk.

“I was going to say that we will find the boy,” Dionne said.

“I …” Jeraine gave a slight shrug and looked away.

“What is it, son?” Dionne asked.

“I haven’t even known him,” Jeraine said. “All this time. He was just … something that belonged to me, not a real person, a real boy, not my boy. Then, WHAM!”

Jeraine smashed his hands together. His motion tipped the yellow smiley mug, and coffee splashed onto his mother’s arms. She smiled and got up to get a towel. When she’d returned Jeraine had retreated into silence. She mopped up the coffee from the table and held it out to him. He took the towel from her and set it on his knees.

Dionne picked up the smiley mug and disappeared into the kitchen. She returned with the mug refilled with coffee and set it back onto the coffee table. She sat down next to him. He drank the coffee for a moment.

“Then wham,” Jeraine said in a soft voice. “He’s here and amazing. I …”

Dionne put her arm around her son as if to protect him from the demons she knew lived inside his head.

“Are you thinking of using?” Dionne asked.

“Sure.”

Dionne sniffed her surprise at his honesty. She looked at him and he shrugged.

“I’m always thinking about using,” Jeraine said. “Just an old solution to a new problem.”

Dionne shook him a little and he smiled. There was a noise at the door and Schmidty came into the house. Jeraine’s agent and attorney caught sight of the yellow smiley face mug on the coffee table and stopped short. He gave Jeraine a hard look and picked up the mug. Without saying a word, he took a drink of coffee.

“You make the best coffee, Mrs. Wilson,” Schmidty said with a smile.

“Would you like a cup of your own?” Dionne asked.

“No,” Schmidty said. “I’ll take this one.”

Schmidty gave her a smile and walked the offending mug back into the kitchen. They heard the water in the kitchen come on and the cabinet open. Schmidty returned with a mug of coffee from Miss T’s collection. He set the new mug in the place of the old mug.

“Is there something wrong with that mug?” Dionne asked.

“It’s a gift from his MDMA dealer,” Schmidty nodded to Jeraine.

“And you didn’t get rid of it?” Dionne shook her head at Jeraine. “Miss T is going to …”

Jeraine raised his hands as if he surrendered and Dionne chuckled.

“You are your father’s son,” Dionne said.

“I am that,” Jeraine smiled. He picked up the fresh mug of coffee, and said, “You forgot the cream.”

Schmidty laughed, and Jeraine smiled.

“What do you know?” Jeraine asked.

“The minor Jabari Wilson was taken into protective custody by Atlanta Child Protective Services this morning,” Schmidty said.

“What?” Jeraine said. He and his mother sat up straight.

“The Atlanta Family Court has petitioned Denver Family Court for records,” Schmidty said. “Atlanta is saying they are taking jurisdiction.”

“Where is my son?” Jeraine asked.

“He’s in Atlanta General,” Schmidty said. “The stress of last night seems to have caused some kind of relapse.”

“Or?” Dionne asked. “I know that look, Schmidty Junior. Your father always had it when there was an ‘or.’”

“He was drugged,” Schmidty said. “And that caused some kind of relapse.”

“How did my son get to Atlanta?” Jeraine asked.

“Would you like to see what Annette says?” Schmidty asked. He nodded toward the television. “She’s explaining everything to Good Day Atlanta right now.”

“No,” Jeraine shook his head. “What does she say?”

“She says that she received a call from you last night,” Schmidty said. “You supposedly told her that you wanted a healthy child. You didn’t want to deal with a sick child. If she wanted him, she could have him. Did you speak with Annette last night around nine?”

“No,” Jeraine said. “I picked Miss T up from school and we went to a crazy party at her friend Heather’s mother’s house. Miss T’s parents were there with Jabari. They left early because the boy was tired. We went back inside a little while later. We didn’t get home until late.”

“And Annette?” Schmidty asked.

“I didn’t speak with her,” Jabari said. “I haven’t spoken with her directly since you told me not to after Yvonne found Jabari.”

“That’s what I told them,” Schmidty said.

“But?”

“She has a phone record showing that someone from your home phone number called her cell last night,” Schmidty said.

“We weren’t home,” Jeraine said.

“She has a tape,” Schmidty said.

“She hired someone who sounded like me to make that call,” Jeraine said. He pointed to the phone sitting on a table in the hallway. “From that phone.”

“It’s likely.” Schmidty nodded.

“What is she doing?” Dionne asked. “She doesn’t want the child. She told me she didn’t want the child.”

“She put him on a plane without a care for what happened to …” Jeraine swallowed back Jabari’s name, “ … my son.”

“She claims to be a pawn in some game you’re playing,” Schmidty said. “After all, you’re the drugged out pop star and she’s just the baby-mama.”

“She works for me,” Jeraine mumbled.

“What?” Dionne asked. She turned to look at Jeraine.

“It’s something she says,” Schmidty said. “She works for Jeraine. She’s his slave. He tricked her into getting pregnant and then abandoned her at the altar for Miss T. Jeraine’s strung her along because he’s a control freak.”

“I hold all the cards because I hold the money,” Jeraine said.

Dionne sniffed with anger. She picked up Jeraine’s mug of coffee and drank it down. They sat in a kind of stunned silence.

“Why now?” Dionne asked. “She stopped coming to the custody hearings in Denver the moment the judge kicked out the cameras. Why is she doing this, Schmidty? It makes no sense.”

Schmidty nodded. Jeraine cleared his throat. His mother and Schmidty turned to look at him.

“She gave DNA yesterday,” Jeraine said, and nodded.

Dionne gawked at him, and Schmidty nodded.

“Did she give a sample yesterday?” Dionne asked.

“I believe so,” Schmidty said. “Let me check.”

Schmidty got out his phone and placed a call. He turned his back to them and spoke in quiet tones on the telephone. When he turned around, he clicked off the call and tucked the phone into his pocket.

“She fulfilled her subpoena yesterday morning,” Schmidty said. “The DNA evidence is already on its way to be tested. But …”

Schmidty nodded.

“But?” Dionne asked.

“Her doctor’s office was broken into last night,” Schmidty said. “All outgoing mail and samples were stolen.”

“Including Annette’s?” Dionne asked.

Schmidty shook his head.

“What?” Jeraine asked.

“I had her sample picked up the moment she gave it,” Schmidty said. “It arrived at the lab this morning. I have the receipt right here.”

Schmidty took out his phone and tapped around for a moment until an email from FedEx came on the screen. Schmidty smiled.

“I guess that’s something,” Jeraine shrugged.

“All of this is to cover up the fact that she’s not Jabari’s mother?” Dionne asked.

“We knew that,” Jeraine said.

“What it means is that this situation will be resolved,” Schmidty said. “What it means is that this is a legal matter to be handled by your attorneys.”

Jeraine shrugged.

“What is it, son?” Dionne asked.

“I just want my son back,” Jeraine said.

Shaking his head, Jeraine got up from the couch and went to the back of the house.

~~~~~~~~

Monday morning — 11:25 a.m. ET

Atlanta, Georgia

“He’s sleeping now,” the doctor said to Annette. They peered through the small rectangle of glass in Jabari’s door. “I’m sure you’d agree that he should sleep.”

“Of course,” Annette said. “Of course. I just wanted to see my baby …”

She turned toward the reality star nearest to her and sobbed into the woman’s bony shoulder. The doctor nodded to the orderly who pushed Annette, her friends, and the camera crew from in front of Jabari’s hospital room.

Only the machines made a sound.

Jabari opened his eyes. He looked at the window panel in the door. Seeing no one, he smiled. He rolled onto his side and continued playing cars with the cups he’d snagged from the airplane. One cup smelled like coffee, which reminded him of Yvonne.

“Vroom! Vroom!” Jabari said.

With his hand on one cup-car, he moved the other cup-car in front of the first car. The car in his hand smashed into the second. Jabari made a big crash sound and giggled. He immediately shushed himself with a few “Shh, shh!” He looked at the window again. Seeing no one, he looked around the room until he spotting something tiny and pink.

“I know you’re here,” Jabari said.

No one said anything.

“I can see you,” Jabari said.

In her Fairy Corps size, Abi stepped out from behind a cup-car in his hand. Jabari nodded.

“Are you a good witch or a bad witch?” Jabari repeated what he’d heard in a movie.

“I’m not a witch at all,” Abi said.

“Oh,” Jabari’s eyes welled with tears. “I thought maybe you could take me home.”

“I can’t take you home but…” Abi made a show of reaching behind the cup. She pulled out Jabari’s favorite soft elephant. She’d barely gotten the elephant out when Jabari grabbed it. He pressed the stuffed animal against his face and began to cry.

Abi did her best, but it was oddly difficult to be comforting in a tutu. She didn’t dare get big or she might get caught by someone at the hospital or worse, by Annette, or even worse by her camera crew. When the tears stopped, the boy’s huge eyes —larger than the size of Abi —looked over the grey soft elephant at her.

“If you’re not a witch, you can’t take me home,” Jabari said.

“I’m a fairy,” Abi said. “We’re more powerful than witches, older, nicer.”

“I know. I’m an expert on fairies,” Jabari said. “My daddy read me some books about fairies.”

“I’d expect that you are an expert then,” Abi said.

“Do you know who I am?”

“I do,” Abi said. “You’re Jabari the fierce.”

Jabari mouthed “Jabari the fierce.” After a moment, he nodded as if he liked the moniker.

“What do you want to know?” Abi asked.

Abi righted a drinking cup-car and leaned against it.

“Does my mommy know I’m here?” Jabari asked.

“She does,” Abi said. “She and her mommy, Ms. Yvonne, are getting on a plane to come here right now.”

“And my daddy?” Jabari asked.

“He’s with them,” Abi said.

“Is Mr. Rodney coming with them?” Jabari asked.

“He’s staying behind this time,” Abi said.

“Because he hates me?”

“He doesn’t hate you,” Abi said.

“Yes he does,” Jabari said. “I killed Mr. Chesterfield so Mr. Rodney hates me.”

“You did not kill Mr. Chesterfield,” Abi said.

“They told me if I wasn’t quiet, they would kill Mr. Chesterfield,” Jabari said. “I tried to be quiet but then they were taking me and I …”

Jabari’s big eyes filled with tears.

“Mr. Chesterfield didn’t want me to go,” Jabari said. “He bit a guy and the guy … and I …”

Jabari started crying in earnest. He was crying so hard that the nurse came in to check on him. The nurse cuddled Jabari for a while until he stopped crying. She straightened the child’s covers and set the stuffed elephant and Jabari’s his cup-cars on the counter. When the nurse had gone, Abi flew out from behind the cups and onto the bed.

Jabari looked longingly at his elephant so Abi flew back for it. Jabari took the elephant from her and rubbed it against his face. He looked the elephant over to make sure that, in the brief time they’d been a part, no one had injured his stuffed friend.

“I’m going to call him ‘Toto,’” Jabari said.

“It’s a good name,” Abi said. “I think Toto loves you, Jabari.”

The boy looked up from the elephant to Abi.

“So does your mommy, Ms. Yvonne, Mr. Rodney, your daddy, gosh, everybody I know,” Abi said.

Jabari’s eyes went back to look at Toto the elephant. His head went up and down.

“Do you really have a queen?” Jabari asked.

“I am Abi the fairy, at your service. I’m a loyal servant of Queen Fand, the queen of the fairies,” Abi curtsied. “Pleased to meet you.”

“I don’t think I’d like having a queen,” Jabari said. “My daddy said he wouldn’t either.”

Abi smiled at the child.

“Did you fix Mr. Chesterfield?” Jabari asked.

“No,” Abi said. “The human animal doctor fixed Mr. Chesterfield. Now, he has to sleep and take his medicine. Soon he’ll be all better. Know anyone like that?”

Without looking up from the elephant, Jabari touched his chest.

“Do you think Mr. Chesterfield will still be my friend?” Jabari asked. “Even though I got him hurt.”

“I’ll tell you,” Abi said. “I happen to have an in with Mr. Chesterfield.”

“You do?”

“I do,” Abi said. “Mr. Chesterfield told me specifically that you did not get him hurt.”

“I didn’t?”

“Nope,” Abi said. “Mr. Chesterfield sent me all this way to make sure that you knew that he is most certainly your friend.”

“Mr. Chesterfield sent you?” Jabari asked.

“He did,” Abi said. “But I’ll tell you what.”

“What?”

“He is not going to be friends with the mean man who hurt him.”

“Oh, that was Annette,” Jabari said.

Before she could stop herself, Abi snorted with indignation.

“She’s not very nice,” Jabari said.

Abi nodded. Jabari kept his eyes on the elephant and didn’t look up.

“You think Mr. Chesterfield is going to be okay?” Jabari asked.

“I do,” Abi said.

“You think I’m going to be okay?” Jabari asked.

“I do,” Abi said. “But I do think you should get some rest.”

“Will you stay with me?” Jabari asked.

“Me and Toto,” Abi said.

Jabari put his arm around the stuffed elephant. Abi pulled the covers up around the little boy. Jabari smiled at the tiny pink fairy and fell into a deep sleep.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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