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CHAPTER THREE HUNDRED AND THIRTEEN
Thursday night — 9:15 p.m.
Tanesha stood in the front doorway to their little yellow house. Every light was turned off and the house was still. She scowled and softly closed the front door.
It was Jeraine’s turn to make dinner. She walked into the dark kitchen and flipped on the light switch.
She’d talked to her mother before she got on the bus home so she knew that Jeraine wasn’t with Jabari. He wasn’t at his parent’s house because Dionne was with her mother, and Schmidty had gone back to California after court this evening.
Where did that man go?
She closed her eyes as her heart beat a familiar rhythm.
“He’s out catting around.” Tanesha’s rage ignited. “Again.”
“That man cannot keep his dick in his pants.” The pulse of her rage rose.
“He’s gone,” her mind whimpered.
She stuffed down her sorrow and went back to rage. She picked up her phone and called his cellphone. It rang somewhere in the house. He’d left his phone at home.
“Agggghhh!!” she growled.
She started to throw her cellphone against the wall and then decided against it.
“You have to trust me, he said,” Tanesha said out loud. “You have to believe in us, he said. And then he … he …”
What? He didn’t make dinner?
He went somewhere and didn’t tell her?
She poured herself a glass of water, and thought through the last day or so. Sure, it had been crazy, but he’d been on track, sober, and dedicated to his new life. Wondering if he’d fallen asleep, she went upstairs. He wasn’t in their bedroom or bathroom. He wasn’t in the guest room they were setting up for Jabari. She set her empty glass in the kitchen and went downstairs.
She almost never went down here. This is where Jeraine entertained his celebrity clients and friends.
“Not entertained,” the Jeraine in her head said. “Work. This is work. My work.”
She sighed and went down the stairs. Jeraine had been writing songs for one of those barely clothed female pop singers. She had an album due. They’d even recorded a few songs down here, which Jeraine had worked late nights mixing.
It was good money. It was work he could do while going to brain therapy. She just wished he didn’t do it with his ex-lovers.
She turned on a light and walked through the small recording area. He wasn’t in the sound booth either. There was a light on in his tiny office on the opposite side of the basement. She went toward the light. Through the glass panes in the door, she could see that he was sitting in a chair, his forearms on this thighs, staring at something on the floor.
She tapped on the door and he looked up. He got up to open the door.
“What’s going on?” Tanesha asked. Still angry from the wave of emotions she’d been through, she said, “I thought you were making dinner.”
“Dinner?” Jeraine nodded. “Sorry, I forgot.”
“You forgot?” Tanesha asked. She put a hand on her hip. “You forgot what?”
Her logical mind told her she was being stupid, but she couldn’t let go of the feeling that he’d betrayed her tonight. Instead, she piled all that hurt and all that anger onto the fact that he’d betrayed her by not making dinner.
He looked from the hand he had on her hip to the sneer on her lips.
“You thought I was out,” he said.
Sucking his teeth, he nodded and sat back down.
“What?” she asked.
“I deserve that,” he said.
“Yes you do,” Tanesha said. “You …”
She clamped her mouth closed against the horrible words that lingered on her tongue. For a few minutes, she stood there seething over nothing while he stared at the envelope on the floor. Eventually, she got tired of her own insanity. She took a few deep breaths to calm down.
“What are you doing?” Tanesha asked.
Her voice had less than half of the anger she’d felt upstairs. His head jerked up with surprise.
“You calmed down?” he asked.
“Not really,” she said. “But when am I ever calm?”
“What are you doing?” she asked again.
“Staring at an envelope on the floor,” Jeraine said.
Tanesha walked over to the envelope.
“May I?” she asked.
“Go ’head,” he said.
“Where are all your naked girlfriends?” The words came out when Tanesha was bending over.
“I don’t have any girlfriends,” Jeraine said. “And I haven’t seen a naked woman in days.”
“Whose fault is that?” she said as she stood up. He looked her up and down.
“I’m just saying that it’s been days,” he said.
She could help but laugh. He nodded toward the envelope and she looked down.
“Is this …?” she asked.
“Jabari’s DNA results,” Jeraine said.
“What …?” she started to ask.
She turned the envelope over and saw that it was unopened.
“You didn’t even look at it,” she said.
“What are you doing?” she asked again.
“I don’t know,” Jeraine said. “Really. I don’t. I was at court all day, dropped Schimidty at the airport … I got home about five. The envelope was in the slot with the rest of the junk.”
He gestured toward the built in mail slot next to their front door upstairs.
“I’m not really sure what happened next,” he said. “I got some water and came down here to read my email and catch up with the chatter. Valerie Lipson’s in the tabs again.”
“I’ll tell her,” Tanesha said.
“Something about one movie and another new movie. I couldn’t figure it out,” Jeraine nodded. “Anyway, I didn’t look at the mail until it was time to get dinner started. Then …”
“How’d it get on the floor?” Tanesha asked.
“I pushed my chair back and it fell off the desk,” he said. “Like it’s following me.”
“Ok, that’s weird, psycho,” Tanesha said.
He gave her a goofy grin. She gave him a “dare me” look and he nodded. She opened the back of the envelope.
“I was sitting here wondering how I got into this situation,” Jeraine said. “What am I going to tell Jabari? ‘Go fuck as many as you can?’ I think of Jabari in those situations — the women, booze, drugs, crazy shit, and I …”
Tanesha waited for him to continue. When he didn’t, she tugged on sheet inside the envelope.
“How did it get like that?” Jeraine asked.
She looked up from the envelope at him.
“Are you asking me?” she asked.
“I am asking you,” he said.
“Why do I think you got that way?” she asked.
“Right,” Jeraine said.
“You’re an addict,” she said.
“Besides that,” he said. “I get that I would have been an addict no matter what. But I could have easily just been a stay at home boozer like my uncle.”
“Why do I think you got that way?” she asked back because she didn’t believe he wanted to hear what she had to say.
“Lay it on me,” he said.
She sighed, and he waited.
“Ok, fine,” she said. “I think you got that way because you don’t value or appreciate the gift of your own talent. You didn’t believe you were talented enough to make it big, and when you were finally there? You did everything in your power to degrade yourself to prove that you weren’t so talented after all.
“That’s not to discount the role the record company played and all the rest of that. That was real.”
She nodded. He didn’t say anything for a while.
“Why do you think I got like that?” Jeraine asked.
“We’ve talked about this,” Tanesha said.
“Humor me,” Jeraine said.
“I think you grew up with incredibly talented people,” Tanesha said. “I’ve seen Seth intimidate world famous piano players. He’s … scary good. Your dad, too. And your mom? Her voice is still pitch perfect. Amazing.”
“She still sings for commercials and stuff,” Jeraine nodded.
“I know,” Tanesha said. “That’s a lot to deal with.”
“But LaTonya, she …”
“She’s not you,” Tanesha said.
She looked down at the half pulled out sheet.
“You want to know what’s on this paper or you want to stall some more,” Tanesha said.
He looked up at her and she pulled the sheet out.
“You read it,” he said.
She read the form. Her face went blank and she blinked a few times before folding it. She shoved the letter into the back pocket of her jeans.
“What are we going to do about dinner?” Tanesha asked. “Every place is closed.”
“Oh, sorry,” Jeraine said.
“Come on,” Tanesha said. “I’ll make sandwiches.”
She left his office. He caught up with her on the stairs. He tugged the letter out of her back pocket. Stopping at the top of the stairs, he opened the letter.
He was Jabari’s father.
Annette was not Jabari’s mother.
He read it again.
Annette was not Jabari’s biological mother.
“Lucky you have good lawyers!” Tanesha yelled from the kitchen.
At the sound of her voice, he looked up. Looking down, he read it again.
Annette was not Jabari’s mother.
Thursday night — 9:30 p.m.
Valerie paced back and forth in the main Castle kitchen. Everyone who lived here was either with Charlie or Blane or asleep. Of course, Valerie couldn’t go see Charlie or Blane. No matter how much she cared, her appearance created crazy crowds. In fact, Valerie was once again held hostage by the paparazzi.
“And why is that?” she asked her sleeping infant, Jackie, who was sleeping in her car seat on the counter. “That’s right — another stranger made something else up about me and my career.”
As if Jackie had responded, Valerie nodded. She went back to pacing back and forth for a few minutes. On a trip toward the back door, she walked to the door and opened it.
Mike was in his studio just beyond the garden. She peered out.
He should be here! He should help her! He should …
She scowled at herself. It was very rare for Mike to be caught up in a storm of inspiration. He needed her to be stable and calm. He’d asked her to give him a tiny bit of stable and calm time while he worked on this piece. Mike had given up a lot to be her husband. When she went back to work, he’d have to give up his studio.
He still came to bed every night, like he’d promised.
He still ate breakfast with her every morning, like he’d promised.
He still took care of Jackie in the afternoon while Valerie worked out, like he promised.
He’d kept all of his promised. She needed to keep hers.
Nodding to herself, she closed the door.
“Feeling a little crazy?” Jacob’s voice came from behind her.
She spun in place.
“What’s it to you?” Valerie asked.
“No wonder Mike left you for a younger woman,” Jacob said as he walked to the cupboard.
“Very funny,” Valerie said.
He took out the Cap’n Crunch with Crunch Berries. He held up the box to her.
“Want some?” Jacob asked.
“No! I do not want some,” Valerie’s voice rose with anger. “You know I’m dieting. I’ve got to get ready for this part! I have to lose five more baby pounds. Jeez, Jacob! Could you be less supportive?”
“I could,” Jacob nodded. “Sure. You want me to start now?”
“I can’t believe you, Jacob Marlowe.”
“I thought you were fired from that film,” Jacob said.
“Fired?” Valerie gaped at him.
“That’s what they say on the Internet,” Jacob said. “And that magazine whose editor wants in your pants.”
He shook the box.
Valerie picked up a kitchen towel and threw it at him. He laughed. Setting the box down, he got out the milk and a bowl. She went back to pacing, although now it was more like stomping from one end of the kitchen to the other. Jacob watched her for a moment before filling the bowl with cereal. He poured the milk and turned to put it back in the refrigerator. When he turned back, Valerie was mid-bite with his spoon. She smirked and put the cereal in her mouth. He got out another spoon and they shared the bowl.
“What’s got your goat?” he asked between bites.
“The tabloids have been saying crap about you for years,” Jacob said. “Why’s this a big deal?”
“They said that Mike and I are in a big fight,” Valerie said. “They said he won’t go with me to film the movie. They said he’s leaving and taking Jackie.”
His mouth full, Jacob wobbled his head back and forth to indicate that this was a common theme.
“I know,” Valerie said and took a bite of cereal. She chewed for a moment.
“Did you and Mike get in a big fight?” Jacob asked.
“Why’s Mike sleeping in his studio?” Jacob asked.
“He’s not,” Valerie said.
“So Mike’s not sleeping in his studio,” Jacob said. “You’re getting ready for the big romance movie. ”
“It’s delayed,” she said.
“So what?” Jacob asked. “The bigger the movie, the more likely it’s going to be delayed.”
“Yeah but they said it was because of the big fight, you know, the one Mike and I had,” Valerie said.
“Did you have a big fight?” Jacob asked.
“No, I just told you that.”
“Didn’t you take another part while you wait?” Jacob asked.
“Elizabeth Proctor, the Crucible,” Valerie said. “We’re filming in Salem for the next few months.”
Jacob refilled the bowl to keep from asking her again what was going on. She patted the cereal with her spoon to get it wet in the milk. Unable to stand it anymore, he set his spoon down.
“Why does this make you so mad?” Jacob asked. “These same websites and magazines have said you were gay, having orgies right here in the Castle, abandoning your family, anorexic, too fat to work … Mike’s supposedly left you a thousand times.”
“At least,” Valerie snorted.
“So …?” Jacob raised his spoon and shrugged.
She used the opportunity to eat a couple quick bites of cereal.
“Are you having your period?” Jacob asked the question he knew would make her mad.
Like she did when they were kids, Valerie knuckle punched him three times fast in the arm.
“Ow!” Jacob said.
They ate cereal in guarded silence. After a few minutes, he made a loud sigh and pointed to her.
“There aren’t a lot of parts for older actresses,” Valerie said. “If I have another baby, I’ll lose my one chance and I …”
“Another baby?” Jacob asked.
“I was thinking maybe …” Valerie nodded.
“What about this movie you crammed into your schedule?” Jacob asked. “What about the big romance and the blockbuster and the movie after that?” Jacob asked. “You’re booked out for the next three years!”
“I know,” Valerie said.
“But what if I get too old and can’t have babies?” Valerie asked. “I mean, you broke the curse and everything. I could have a son and …”
“Mom wasn’t exactly young when she had me,” Jacob said. “Or you.”
“I know,” Valerie said. “That’s why I should …”
“Have you talked to Mike?” Jacob cut her off.
“Yes,” Valerie nodded.
“About this? Having a baby right now?”
“No,” Valerie said.
Jacob gave a slight nod.
“Want more?” he asked and pointed to the empty bowl with his spoon. She shook her head.
“I know you’re thinking something and just not saying,” Valerie said. “What are you thinking?”
Jacob looked at her and sighed. To stall for time, he turned around and put the cereal back into the cupboard. She picked up the bowl so he couldn’t avoid her by putting it into the dishwasher.
“What?” she asked.
“I think you’re nervous about leaving,” Jacob said. “It’s been …”
“A long time,” Valerie said.
“Since you worked,” Jacob said.
“I did that animated movie,” Valerie said.
“On camera. Worked on camera,” Jacob said.
“Next week, you and Mike will leave for LA again. You’ll stay with Seth, sure, but you won’t be here. You won’t spend all day with Jackie. After a week or so, it’s off to Salem, of all places.”
Thinking about what he’d said, Valerie tapped her lips with the spoon.
“Do you want to do this new movie?” Jacob asked.
“It’s a good part,” Valerie said. “I’ve never been tapped for this kind of serious acting. It’s the kind of part that, if I’m able to do it, will change my career. I’d never have been asked if the actress they cast wasn’t in a car accident. They only asked because the romance was delayed and they were desperate. It’s kind of a movie of a lifetime.”
“I don’t want to leave,” Valerie said.
“Maybe they’d move the film,” Jacob said.
“Not a chance,” Valerie said. “Historical accuracy.”
Jacob held his arms out to hug her. She looked at him.
“What?” Valerie asked.
“I love you, too,” Jacob said. “We’ll miss you terribly.”
“But I’ll miss the boys’ first steps,” Valerie said. “And Charlie — how can I help him if I’m thousands of miles away? And Katy? Keenan and Ivy have been so busy learning to read, buy clothing, and getting settled that I have barely seen them. And Nash? I’ll won’t be able to play video games with him and MJ. And Maggie? She’s so perfect and … Sissy’s positively freaked out about going to the ABT and … Mike’s going to miss Noelle. Me too. I mean, my best friend just had her first child! What kind of a friend am I to just leave? And … You know, Dad’s not exactly a spring chicken, you know.”
“We’ll miss you too,” Jacob said. “We’ll Skype every week at the very least, and you can always come home when you have breaks.”
“Your life is stagnant here,” Jacob said. “You’ve participated in Lipson drama but that’s not enough for you. You need to do what you love.”
“So do I,” Jacob said. “So do Charlie and Nash and Katy and Keenan and Ivy and Noelle and Sissy. We have to be role models for Maggie and Jackie and even my boys.”
Valerie stepped close to him and he hugged her. She pressed her face against Jacob’s shoulder.
“You can’t live your life as half a person,” Jacob said.
“It’s the things you are passionate about which make you whole,” Valerie said. “Thanks Mom.”
Laughing, Jacob stepped back. He put the bowl in the dishwasher.
“Will you bring the boys and Katy to see me?” Valerie asked.
“Sure,” Jacob said. “Depending on finances, of course.”
Valerie nodded. Mike came through the backdoor. He looked at Valerie and then at Jacob.
“Hey,” Mike said to Jacob, who raised a hand and left for the loft. “What’s going on?”
“Tabloid stuff,” Valerie said.
“Again?” Mike asked. “You should have come to get me.”
“I didn’t want to bother you,” Valerie said.
“Thanks,” He gave her a peck on the lips. “Feeling better?”
She nodded. He grabbed the box of Cap’n Crunch from the cupboard.
“You wanna head up?” he asked.
She nodded. He put the cereal next to Jackie on the counter and came around. With ease, he lifted her into his arms. He set the box of cereal on her lap and even managed to grab the handle of Jackie’s car seat.
“What’s all this?” she asked.
“Time for bed,” he said.
He carried her upstairs to their apartment.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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