Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Chapter Three Hundred and Twelve : Tiniest firefly

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CHAPTER THREE HUNDRED AND TWELVE

Thursday morning — 10:05 a.m.

Edie was a fairy. In fact, she was the eldest daughter of Queen Fand herself.

“I have a crown and everything,” Edie said to the twin she thought might be Tanner. “You need to drink this!”

Edie put the bottle’s nipple into the baby’s mouth. In a blink of her eye, the bottle smashed against the wall. The baby laughed. His brother laughed. Edie scowled.

“I’m the daughter of a fairy queen!” Edie said out loud.

The babies seemed to think that was the funniest thing they’d ever heard. Edie turned away from them. She closed her eyes and crossed her arms over her chest.

She was failing miserably.

Katy’s father, Jacob, had taken care of her for the night, so Edie only had to focus on the infants. She’d been able to get the sweet Rachel and Mack to sleep with a simple lullaby. Little Maggie needed a tiny bit of snuggling and she was out like a light.

But these twins …

She felt like a complete idiot. She’d begged for this job. She wanted to help these fairy-human babies. She was charged with training Katy in the simple ways of fairy. Gilfand had promised Jacob that he would teach him how to use his skills. Gilfand’s promise was Princess Edie’s command.

Damn it! She’d even sold her house on the Isle of Man. What would she do if she lost this job?

“I just want to do a good job!” Edie said to herself. “I always do a good job!”

“They’re just playing with you.”

Edie opened her eyes to Katy’s voice.

“They do this with Jill?” Edie asked.

“Oh, no,” Katy smiled. “Mommy’s different. She’s only human so we’re nicer to her. But you …”

Katy pointed above Edie’s head. The twins had levitated a baby blanket above her head. It fell on her head when she looked up. The babies squealed with laughter. Edie yanked the blanket off her head and spun around.

The babies stopped laughing. Edie nodded like that was better. Hearing something, she turned to see Katy had her finger to her lips. Edie scowled at Katy.

I’m supposed to do it!” Edie said.

“Okay,” Katy said. “Go ahead.”

The twins started howling. Edie squinted at Katy.

“How did you do that?” Edie asked.

“I did what Mommy does,” Katy said.

“What’s that?” Edie asked.

“I told them what to do,” Katy said. “You have to say, ‘Drink this bottle now.’ ‘Go to sleep now.’ Stuff like that.”

“I did!”

“I bet you didn’t,” Katy said. “You probably said something nice like, ‘Here’s your bottle. Hope you like it’ and stuff like that.”

Katy nodded and Edie blushed.

“That works for Rachel and Mack,” Katy said. “They’re really nice babies.”

Edie squinted at Katy.

“We’re not that nice,” Katy said with a grin. She trotted up to the edge of the crib. “Here, I’ll show you.”

Katy picked up the bottle of breast milk.

“Drink this,” Katy ordered. Katy held up the bottle. The twin closest to Katy looked at the bottle and then at Katy.

“You have to put it in their …” Edie started to say.

The bottle of breast milk floated out of Katy’s hand. It flew over the crib railing and into the mouth of the twin closest to the edge.

“Drink it,” Katy said. “Now.”

The twin started drinking.

“What about the other one?” Edie whispered.

“Do the same thing,” Katy said. “I’ll get one.”

Katy ran out of the room and appeared a moment later with another bottle of breast milk. She held the breast milk out to Edie.

“It’s not warm,” Edie said to Katy.

“Aren’t you a fairy?” Katy asked.

“Oh,” Edie said.

She put her finger to the bottle and the milk warmed up. Emboldened by Katy, Edie turned around and held the bottle to the second twin.

“You have to be firm.”

Anjelika’s Russian accented voice came from the doorway. Edie groaned to herself. Now everyone knew how lame she was. She glanced at Katy’s grandmother. Anjelika smiled at her.

“It’s not you,” Anjelika said. “It’s them. Mikhail and Megan drove my mother to tears.”

“Drink this,” Edie said.

The baby looked at Edie. The next thing Edie knew the baby was drinking the bottle.

“They’re hungry,” Anjelika said. She put her hands on Katy’s shoulders. “They’d just rather play than eat.”

“She was being too nice,” Katy said.

“Oh, yes,” Anjelika smiled at Edie. “They are good children, mostly. But they must know what you require of them, up front. Otherwise, they get up to mischief.”

“Why?” Edie asked. “Rachel and Mack, they …”

“Who knows?” Anjelika shrugged.

“It’s Grandpa’s fault,” Katy said in a conspiratorial voice.

“Perses?” Edie asked.

Anjelika nodded. Edie looked at the twins. They had finished their bottles.

“See!” Katy said. She zoomed out of the nursery.

“I’m going to burp you now,” Edie said.

She reached in and picked up the closest twin and then the other. She walked around the room with the infants on her shoulder.

“You’ll do just fine,” Anjelika said.

“You think so?” Edie asked.

“Look,” Anjelika said.

The babies were asleep. Edie smiled. She set them down to change their diapers. When she looked up, Anjelika was gone. She had changed the twins, and put them in new outfits when she notice they were looking at her. They smiled at Edie, and Edie felt a well of love for these tiny babies. She smiled.

“We’re going to sleep now,” Edie said in her best commanding voice.

The babies were sound asleep on the changing table. She ferried them to the crib. One feeding and one changing down. Smiling at herself, she sat down in the armchair by the door and fell asleep.

Tanner and Bladen woke up and looked for Edie. Bladen looked at Tanner. They both grinned at each other. Katy appeared in the doorway.

“Go to sleep,” Katy said.

They dropped back to sleep. Nodding to herself, Katy left the room.

~~~~~~~~

Thursday morning — 11:15 a.m.

Charlie opened his eyes and scowled. He had no idea where he was.

“Hello?” Charlie croaked.

Jill came into his view. Charlie smiled at her familiar face. Sandy’s girlfriends had been around so much when he was growing up that they were like his older pseudo-sisters. He couldn’t imagine it any other way.

“Hi Charlie,” Jill said. “Honey had to go into Lipson for a while, and Sandy’s at the police station with that Red Bear.”

“Where am I?” Charlie asked.

“You just had another CT scan,” Jill said. “You’re in the waiting area. They want to check the scan before sending you to a room.”

“A room?” Charlie asked.

“You’re leaving the ICU,” Jill said. “If the scan’s clear.”

“I don’t know what that means ‘scan’s clear,’” Charlie said. “Clear of what?”

“Bleeding,” Jill said. “Your liver has been bleeding from where it’s injured. John thought it would settle down, but we’re checking to see if he’s right.”

“I feel … better,” Charlie said. He glanced at Jill. “Did you …?”

“Did I what?” Jill asked.

“Give me a whammy,” Charlie said. “You know like you did with Honey and Aden and Sandy and Pete and Blane and …”

Jill cleared her throat and Charlie smiled.

“What if I did?” Jill asked.

“Um …” Charlie closed his eyes for a moment. “Thanks. I’d just say thanks. I think I needed it.”

“Well, if that happened, then you’re welcome,” Jill smiled at Charlie.

Charlie tried to give her a dashing grin, but he mostly groaned. Jill smiled.

“Can I ask you a favor?” Charlie asked.

“Sure,” Jill said.

“Will you tell me what’s wrong with me?” Charlie asked. “No one will say. I mean, maybe they told Sandy, but not me.”

Jill looked away from him for a moment and then looked back.

“Okay,” Jill said.

“Okay?” Charlie asked.

“Your legs are broken as are your arms,” Jill said. “You have some broken fingers and a couple bones in your hands and one in your feet. You have a few broken ribs. Your insides are … bruised. They were in worse shape, but they’ve healed remarkably well.”

Jill raised her eyebrows and cleared her throat. Charlie smiled at her.

“Why did I have more surgery?” Charlie asked.

“John did surgery because you ripped a bunch of veins where they all come together for your arm,” Jill said. “He said you shouldn’t have any more trouble, but it may also be a problem.”

“I’ll never play basketball again,” Charlie said as a matter of fact.

“Maybe,” Jill said. “Personally, I think you’ll heal.”

“Why? Why would you think that?” Charlie’s voice rose with pain. “My life is over.”

Jill took his hand.

“You’re not going to try to talk me out of it?” Charlie asked.

“I’m not,” Jill said.

“Are you supposed to?” Charlie’s voice rose with pain and indignation.

“Maybe,” Jill said. “What would I say?”

“That my life is my life,” Charlie said. “No one is guaranteed a free ride. That I’m young and healthy and have all the opportunities in the world and I’m loved and …”

Charlie’s eyes flicked to Jill’s face. He raised an eyebrow.

“That was either brilliant or lazy,” Charlie said.

“Lazy,” Jill nodded. Charlie laughed.

Jill leaned back away from Charlie. He grabbed her hand. Jill leaned over him again.

“What am I going to do?” Charlie whispered. “I was getting caught up in school and working and Tink and … everything. I can’t get up the stairs at the Castle if I go back there. And my brain … and …”

Jill kissed his cheek.

“What am I going to do?” Charlie whispered.

“You’re going to do what we all do,” Jill said. “You’ll just live one minute at a time. We’ll help. Sandy’s traded hairstyling for help from a PT. The PT’s going to start working with you as soon as you’re home.”

“What about school?” Charlie asked.

“My mom’s not going to let you slip,” Jill said.

“I can’t pay her,” Charlie said.

Jill squeezed his hand.

“What?” Charlie asked.

“You’ve already paid her,” Jill said.

“How?”

“All those choices you’ve made,” Jill said.

“What?” Charlie asked.

“You’ve stayed sober,” Jill said. “You’ve worked really hard in school. You’re reading has improved a lot. You decided to testify and helped Tink and the other girls.”

“So?”

“That’s all my mom cares about,” Jill said. “She’ll be here as soon as you get in your own room.”

“Oh,” Charlie said. “But I’m sick.”

Jill smiled. Charlie grinned.

“It’s not going to be easy, Charlie,” Jill said. “But we’re all here to help in any way we can.”

Charlie stared at the ceiling.

“What’s been happening?” Charlie asked.

“You mean you want an update?” Jill smiled.

When Charlie was a little boy, he used to like it when the girlfriends gave him “updates” on their lives.

“Just an update not the whole thing,” Charlie repeated what he used to say. “Just the interesting parts.”

Jill smiled. She took a breath to start, and Charlie interrupted her.

“Well? I haven’t got all day,” Charlie said what he used to say

“I’ll get right to it, then,” Jill said with a smiled.

Charlie nodded.

“Sissy’s excited and nervous about going to New York,” Jill said.

“Tink?” Charlie asked.

“Oh poor, Tink,” Jill said. “She’s devastated about what’s happened to you. She’s upset about Blane. She’s been sleeping in your little closet at the Castle just to be close to you.”

Charlie’s mouth was set in a grim line.

“But Tink’s tough,” Jill said. “She’s ready for you to come home and start getting better. That’s what she says. She’s really ready to move forward in her life.”

“Without me?” Charlie asked.

“I don’t think so,” Jill said.

“Why?”

“Because she’s been here every chance she can be,” Jill said. “She’s sleeping in your bed.”

“Oh,” Charlie cleared his throat. Trying to change the topic, he asked, “How’s Nash?”

“Nash-like,” Jill said.

“Annoying and great?”

“Yes,” Jill said. “He’s come up with a grand plan of how to get into the Science and Tech school. He and Teddy think they have a chance. We’ll see.”

“I remember,” Charlie nodded.

“You haven’t actually been here that long,” Jill said.

“I haven’t?” Charlie seemed genuinely surprised.

“Just a few days,” Jill said.

Charlie fell silent and stared at the ceiling.

“You okay, Charlie?” Jill asked.

“Just feels like a lifetime,” Charlie said. “Like there was a before time and then a now time, a before-Charlie and a now-Charlie.”

“I bet,” Jill said.

“That means Noelle is still obsessed with her new painting,” Charlie said.

“Exactly right,” Jill smiled.

“Just hard to fathom,” Charlie said.

Jill nodded. A radiology technician came into the room and Jill looked up.

“The radiologist says we have all we need,” the technician said.

“And?” Jill asked.

“They’re getting a room ready for him,” the technician said. “But you should know …”

“Yes?” Jill asked.

“They will only keep him in a room for a couple days,” the technician said. “You’ll need to find a long term care facility.”

“Why is that?” Jill asked.

“He’ll need care for a long time,” the technician said.

“Yes,” Jill said. “I guess that’s true.”

“I asked the nurse to get you a list,” the technician said.

“That’s not necessary,” Jill said.

“They won’t release him without a care facility,” the technician said.

“We’ll just bring him home,” Jill said.

“It’s a lot of work,” the technician said. “He’s really better off in a facility.”

“We’ll just split it up,” Jill said. “There’s a lot of us.”

Jill glanced down and Charlie was crying.

“Well, just let me or your nurse know,” the technician said.

When the technician was gone, Jill leaned over Charlie.

“What is it?” Jill asked.

“I want to go home,” Charlie said. “I want to go home so bad I can taste it.”

“Then it’s all settled.”

Jill sat back. After a few minutes, an orderly came to take Charlie to his own room. When he got there, the room already had flowers and balloons from people wishing he was well.

Another orderly came in. They carefully moved Charlie into the bed. The nurse came in to get him hooked up to all of the machines.

“Did you see …?” Jill whispered.

“You can only have one at a time,” the nurse said. “Until he’s settled.”

“I’ll go,” Jill said. She leaned over and kissed Charlie’s cheek. “He can’t see you. You have to lean over him. Go on.”

Staring at the ceiling, he heard the door closed. A moment later, Tink’s face appeared.

“Tink!” Charlie said.

She just smiled.

~~~~~~~~

Thursday morning — 1:15 p.m.

Blane had been asleep.

At least, he thought he’d been asleep because the feeling was so weird and so real.

He opened his eyes. He was looking at the ceiling of his hospital room. Before the room was closed to non-medical people, Heather had taped an digital photo frame right there. He clicked the remote and watched a bunch of pictures of Mack and few of Heather. There were pictures of their home and even a sonogram of their son-on-the-way.

Blane closed his eyes.

The feeling was still there.

It was like the tiniest of tiny lights had been turned on of him.

“Flea sized firefly,” Blane said out loud to no one.

He didn’t open his eyes.

The feeling was like the tiniest firefly in the world had been turned on inside of him. In his dream, he watched the light grow into a full blown flame. And he felt …

…hopeful …

…energetic …

…positive …

…like he could do anything. He opened his eyes.

He felt like one of those stupid inspirational posters he refused to post at Lipson Construction.

“It only takes the tiniest spark to create the hottest flame,” one of the posters had said. The photo was of a campfire. Blane had argued that the tiniest spark was also responsible for forest fires which destroy habitats and lives. Jacob had laughed.

Now, here he was — lying in his hospital bed hoping the tiny spark, this little firefly would grow into a full blown fire.

He couldn’t remember a time when the oppressive exhaustion of HIV wasn’t with him.

He couldn’t remember a time when he hadn’t had to fight against a wall of sickness.

He couldn’t remember a time when tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that seemed possible.

He closed his eyes again.

The spark was definitely there.

He opened his eyes and watched the photos of his incredible life.

“Only you can prevent forest fire,” he said out loud.

As if on cue, his nurse came into the pre-chamber of his room. She dressed in sterile scrubs and came into the room.

“Are you ready for lunch?” she asked. “I checked at noon and you were still asleep.”

“I’m hungry,” Blane said.

“What?” she was so surprised that she laughed. “I’m sorry, I thought I heard you say …”

“I’m hungry,” Blane repeated.

Even though he could only see her eyes, he could tell that she was smiling.

“What would you like to eat?” she asked.

“Hamburger, no, cheeseburger, french-fries, and a shake, no, chocolate shake,” Blane said, and laughed. “I’d probably throw them up.”

“You would,” she said. “But it’s really good that you want them.”

Blane nodded.

“How ’bout if we start with some broth and crackers?” the nurse asked.

“Work our way to cheeseburgers?” Blane asked.

“Good plan,” the nurse said.

She changed his IV and helped him to the bathroom. He waited in an armchair by the window while she changed his bed. The whole process took about a half hour.

“So what do you think?” the nurse asked. “Are you still hungry?”

“Starved,” Blane said.

The nurse smiled.

“We’ll start with broth,” she said.

“And crackers,” Blane said.

“And crackers,” she smiled. “If you’re still hungry, we’ll get you more.”

Blane nodded. She helped him shuffle back to his bed. Exhaustion overcame him. He fell against the bed. She squeezed his arm and left the room.

He closed his eyes.

The spark had grown. The firefly was now the size of a tiny fly.

Blane smiled in anticipation of his broth and crackers.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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