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CHAPTER THREE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-FOUR
Monday night — 7:25 p.m.
“She did what?” Yvonne exclaimed.
Yvonne was so surprised that she screeched into the microphone of her computer. Tanesha waved her hand to encourage Yvonne to lower her voice. Yvonne gave her a dark scowl. They were talking to each other on a video call over the Internet.
“You’re breakin’ my ears,” Tanesha repeated what she always said.
“Jabari’s with Jer in the kitchen,” Tanesha said. “They’re baking a cake.”
“What?” Yvonne asked. “That can’t be! You’ll lose the boy and …”
“Slow down!” Tanesha said. “Let me tell you what happened.”
Yvonne gave Tanesha another dark look, but nodded that she would be quiet.
“After all of that, the teacher insisted on calling the police,” Tanesha said.
“And did she …” Yvonne started.
“Let me finish!” Tanesha’s voice was firm but she laughed. Her mother loved Jabari completely. “The police booked her on assault on a child. Then …”
Tanesha leaned in.
“Turns out the DA has been working with Atlanta to put together a case,” Tanesha said. “They have a lot of evidence, but they were waiting for it all to come together. When this happened, they couldn’t wait anymore.”
“And?” Yvonne snorted her indignation. “Did they finally do something?”
“They charged her with child endangerment for sending Jabari to Denver,” Tanesha said. “They charged her for assault on a child for giving him the med that she knew made him sick. They charged her for hitting him at the school. And …”
“The judge was still there. You know, the one that’s on our custody case?” Tanesha said.
Yvonne nodded. Her eyes were wide while she took in everything Tanesha was saying.
“He and the judge in Atlanta did a final parental rights termination,” Tanesha said.
Dionne cheered in the background. Yvonne looked stunned.
“She still has a chance to get him back,” Tanesha said. “She has six months to clean up her act, but she’s already said she’s not going to take the parenting classes or anything.”
“And my baby Jabari?” Yvonne asked.
“He’s here,” Tanesha said. “At the house. We get him while you’re in Arizona, then we’ll share him after that. Dionne too.”
Dionne cheered in the background.
“The judge said that he’s never seen a child who had so many people who wanted to love him,” Tanesha smiled. “That’s our boy.”
Yvonne bit her lip and looked worried.
“You don’t seem happy?” Tanesha asked.
“What if she steals him?” Yvonne asked.
“She’s not going to be doing anything for a while,” Tanesha said. “She’ll be in jail here until she makes bail …”
“Schmidty filed the papers saying that she defrauded Jer,” Tanesha said.
“What?” Yvonne asked.
“We found his birth certificate, or Schmidty did,” Tanesha said. “Jabari is two and a half, just like you thought.”
“I knew it!” Yvonne said. “Jeraine was chatty like that, even when he was a little thing.”
“What did she say?” Dionne’s face came into view. “He’s not three?”
“Not yet,” Tanesha said.
Dionne’s face clouded over with rage.
“I know,” Tanesha said. “But we have to focus on going forward. Being angry isn’t going to make it better.”
Yvonne reached up and grabbed her friend’s hand. They exchanged a look and Dionne nodded.
“With the fraud case, they froze all of her assets,” Tanesha said. “She’s not going to be able to make bail.”
“What about the TV people?” Yvonne asked. “Won’t they …”
“They’ve been ordered out of this entire mess,” Tanesha said. “Um … injunction, I think that’s what it is. Anyway, Schmidty said they can’t even talk to her.”
A small smile crept onto Yvonne’s face.
“I don’t want to wish her bad,” Tanesha said.
“I do!” Dionne yelled from behind Yvonne.
“She’s Jabari’s birth mother,” Tanesha said to Dionne.
“I don’t care,” Dionne said in the background. “She gave up that right when she almost killed him.”
Yvonne smiled. Tanesha shook her head. Yvonne leaned into the computer.
“You think it’s over?” Yvonne asked in a low tone.
“For now,” Tanesha said. “As long as Jabari’s in our lives, it won’t be over because it’s never going to be over for him.”
“And who knows?” Tanesha smiled. “Maybe when he’s almost thirty, his mom will get her act together and everyone will be happy. Stranger things have happened.”
Yvonne gave her a broad smiled.
“For now, he’s here with us,” Tanesha said. “Sam’s upstairs finishing the small sleeping room so he can be up there with us. He and Jer already set up his room on this floor.”
“Ms. Yvonne! Ms. Yvonne!” Jabari ran into the dining room from the kitchen. He climbed onto Tanesha’s lap. “Guess what? Guess what?”
“What?” Yvonne asked.
“You’re not Ms. Yvonne no more,” Jabari said.
“Anymore,” Rodney said from over Tanesha’s shoulder. Jabari looked up at him. Rodney gave him a “say it” nod.
“You’re not Ms. Yvonne anymore,” Jabari said with a big smile into the computer camera.
“I’m not?” Yvonne gave her best surprised face. “Why … what am I then?”
“Ga’ma,” Jabari said.
Tears sprang from Yvonne’s eyes.
“What about me?” Dionne leaned over into the screen.
“You’re Nana,” Jabari said. “Is that okay, Nana? N-n-na-a-a-n-n-n-a.”
Dionne grinned at him
“Daddy told me I should call you that,” Jabari said. “But it sticks in my mouth.”
“Jabari!” Jeraine yelled from the kitchen. “The frosting’s done.”
Jabari gave a laugh and slipped off Tanesha’s lap. He went running back to the kitchen.
“He really looks just like …” Yvonne started.
“Jeraine,” Dionne and Tanesha said.
“Rodney,” Yvonne said.
Surprised, Tanesha scowled for a moment before she nodded.
“I think you’re right,” Dionne said. “How …?”
“Who knows?” Yvonne asked. She gave Tanesha a big smile. “Now I know you have to go. We’re due for massages. We’ve been positively slaving over the phones.”
“Slaving,” Dionne said with a laugh.
“Have fun!” Tanesha said.
“You happy, Tannie?” Yvonne asked.
“I am,” Tanesha said.
“Good,” Yvonne waved. “We’ll be home in a shake! Love you!”
“Love you!” Dionne yelled from the background.
“Love you!” Tanesha clicked off the computer. She got up and hugged Rodney.
“Can you believe it?” Tanesha asked. “It all worked out.”
“I can’t,” Rodney said. “You know what I think.”
“We should enjoy it because things will go to shit soon enough?” Tanesha asked.
“I couldn’t have said it better myself,” Rodney grinned.
“Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” Jabari called from the kitchen.
“Come on,” Rodney said. “Let’s go soak it up.”
They walked into the kitchen together.
Monday night — 7:45 p.m.
“So there’s no word from Jake?” Blane asked Heather through the glass wall that protected him.
“Nothing,” Heather said.
“How’s Jill holding up?” Blane asked.
“She seems fine, you know,” Heather said. “She’s focused on what has to be done while he’s gone.”
“But she’s okay?”
“Oh, no, she’s not even close to okay,” Heather said. “This is what she did when Trevor disappeared or whatever. She’d focus on what she could control.”
“Trevor,” Blane said. “I haven’t thought about him in …”
“Years,” Heather said. “I know. I haven’t thought about him either.”
“And no one’s heard from Jake,” Blane said.
Heather shook her head.
“It’s so weird,” Blane said. “Even when he lived in Maine, Sam used to hear from him at least once a week. And Val?”
“Has she heard?” Heather shook her head. “Everyone’s pretty worried.”
“Katy?” Blane asked.
“She’s really focused on passing this horse test,” Heather said. “They have to pass some safety test before they can ride in the mountains. Paddie’s already passed because he’s so much …”
“Bigger,” Blane nodded. “Poor Katy.”
“She’s been up crying every night,” Heather said. “You know how she gets.”
“Perfectionistic,” Blane said.
“Like Jake,” Blane said at the same moment Heather said, “Like Jill.”
“How are you?” Heather asked.
“Concerned about Jake,” Blane said. “He’s never gone this long without some kind of contact.”
Heather nodded. They fell into a worried silence.
“And you?” Heather asked again.
“Me?” Blane asked.
“I’m …” Blane sighed. “Sick of this room, lonely, wishing I was better, mad that I’m impatient, grateful, so so grateful for you, for everything. How is Mack?”
“He misses you,” Heather said.
“I miss him desperately, just after I miss you,” Blane said. “The nights are the worst. I miss you guys so much. I can hardly wait to get home.”
Blane coughed. Just a cough. But it so horrified them that they stared at each other in shock.
“I’m sure it’s noth …” Blane started.
“I’ll get the nurse,” Heather said.
The nurse came in to the room Heather was in. She dressed in hygienic scrubs, a hat, and a head mask. She stepped into the negative flow room before going into the room. Heather watched while the nurse took Blane’s temperature, some blood, and listened to his chest. After a few minutes, the nurse came back out of the room.
“I’m sure it’s nothing,” the nurse said. “I’ll get this to the lab and we’ll know.”
“I feel …” Blane nodded.
Blane shook his head. He tipped his head to the side.
“Jake?” Blane asked the air.
Heather was so horrified that she could only stare.
“I can hear him,” Blane said.
“Hear who?” Heather asked.
“Jake,” Blane said. “He’s calling me. He said …”
Blane had a seizure.
Monday night — 9:15 p.m.
Wrapped in a towel, Yvonne left the massage room. She wandered down the hallway in spaced out bliss. Dionne had to start later than Yvonne so she wouldn’t be done for a while. Yvonne had time for a bath in the room. She went into the locker room to change back into her lounge wear.
When she pushed open the door, the woman sitting on the bench turned looked up at her. The woman had long blonde hair and was wrapped in a towel. When she smiled, she was truly beautiful, but Yvonne could feel the survivor-vibe radiate off the woman. This woman had been through some bad, bad stuff. Yvonne nodded to herself and gave the woman one of her bright smiles. The woman blushed.
“Did you have a nice massage?” the woman asked. “I don’t get massages very much.”
The woman dropped the back of her towel to show Yvonne scars on her back and arms.
“People freak out,” the woman said. “You think they’ll …”
The woman gave a slight shrug and Yvonne instantly liked her. Yvonne sat down next to her.
“I think they’ll be just fine,” Yvonne said. She patted the woman’s knee. “Don’t you worry about that stuff.”
When the woman nodded, Yvonne realized that the woman looked familiar.
“You know, my memory is not very good,” Yvonne said. “Have we met before?”
“Nope,” the woman said. She leaned forward and took an envelope from the open locker in front of her. “I was asked to give you this.”
She held the envelope out to Yvonne.
“What is it?” Yvonne asked.
“A message from a friend,” the woman said.
Yvonne didn’t take the envelope from the woman.
“It’s what you’ve been looking for,” the woman said.
“A sure fire ticket to hell for the spider?” Yvonne asked.
“Sadly, no,” the woman said. “I wouldn’t mind one of those myself.”
“A way to get back at Annette for hurting Jabari?” Yvonne asked.
“Not that,” the woman said.
“The person who hurt Mr. Chesterfield?” Yvonne asked.
The woman smiled and shook her head.
“A way to eat everything I’d like and not gain weight?” Yvonne asked.
The woman laughed. She nodded toward the envelope and Yvonne took it.
“Smell it,” the woman said.
Yvonne held the envelope up to her nose. She took a deep breath and smelled sunshine, bees wax, and honey.
“Alex,” Yvonne said.
The woman raised her eyebrows.
“You don’t have a massage?” Yvonne asked.
“Oh, yes, I do,” the woman said. “I told them that if I was coming all this way, I was getting a massage.”
“You are truly the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen,” the woman said.
“You’re not so bad yourself,” Yvonne said with a smile. “Your daughter is a beautiful girl too.”
The woman beamed.
“She’s friends with Paddie,” Yvonne said. “My friend Delphie has picked her up at the Marlowe School to play at the Castle a few times.”
“Yes, she has,” the woman smiled.
“Leena?” the massage therapist came to the door.
“My turn,” the woman said.
She gave a little wave and left the locker room. Yvonne got dressed in her lounge wear. She was just about to leave when she saw the envelope on the bench. She picked it up and looked at it for a moment. Looking around the locker room, she decided she’d better bring it up to her room. She left the locker room and went to the elevator. The massage area was in the basement of their hotel. She had to wait for a elevator to come all the way down there. When it arrived, there was a tall, thin brown haired man standing in the back.
“Alex?” Yvonne asked.
“Max,” he said. “Would you mind if I hung out with you tonight?”
“Not at all,” Yvonne smiled.
She stepped into the elevator and stood next to him. The elevator doors close and they started to rise. Yvonne leaned in close to him.
“Do you have any superpowers?” Yvonne asked.
“I’m not a fairy,” Max said. “If that’s what you’re asking.”
Yvonne shook her head and Max grinned.
“You’re going to protect me,” Yvonne said.
“I’m going to protect you,” Max said. “And I’m going to finish this thing once and for all. My sister and I have a particular dislike for people who hurt children. But we get really mad when people we love get messed with.”
“You mean my handsome agent?” Yvonne asked.
“Sandy,” Max said. “You. Raz. Colin. The list is long.
“You’re Alex’s brother.”
“What gave it away?” Max asked.
He waved his hand up and down over his body. He grinned at her and she smiled.
“I am a lawyer,” Max said.
“That’s kind of a superpower,” Yvonne said.
The elevator stopped at her floor and the doors slid open.
“Come along,” Yvonne said.
They got out of the elevator together.
“Have you met Dionne?” Yvonne asked.
“I have,” Max said. “Dr. Bumpy was our childhood doctor. My sister Erin still sees him. We would too but we have to see doctors through our work.”
“Dionne does not like strangers. Too much time on the road as a singer. It’s good that you know her,” Yvonne said. She opened the door to the suite. “You sure you don’t have a super power?”
“Pretty sure,” Max said, and stepped into the suite. “Why do you keep asking?”
“I just have the feeling that you’re going to save the day,” Yvonne said.
Laughing, Max closed the door to the suite.
Monday night — 10:15 p.m.
Jill leaned up on her elbow to see if Katy was finally asleep. Katy had not passed her horse exam today. She was so upset that she’d cried almost all night. Jill had lain down with her in her bed to try to comfort her, but Katy needed was Jacob. He wasn’t here. After an hour of sobbing, sleep had caught up with Katy.
Jill got up from the bed and went out into the loft. Her bare feet padded across the cool wood floors. She went to the nursery. The boys were sound asleep. They would sleep for another hour or so, then want to be fed. Jill went to her bedroom and stood in the doorway.
She couldn’t bear another night in that bed without Jacob.
As she had the last few nights, she went to her office and settled in to work on the Marlowe School. She opened her laptop and pressed the button for it to come on. While she waited, she opened her project journal and went over her notes.
Hearing something, she looked up at her laptop. Her usual desktop image of Katy and the boys was gone. The screen was black except for a square in the middle. Jill leaned forward. In the center of the screen stood a small box with some kind of video playing. The image was a light orange with vague shadows, possibly sticks or trees, moving through the orange-yellow fluid. She grabbed her computer mouse and clicked the “make larger” button. The video filled her video.
She had no idea what she was looking at. She noticed the sound was off.
“He’s stuck,” Blane’s voice said.
Jill gasped. Blane had passed out while Heather was visiting him. They hadn’t been able to wake him. Heather was beside herself with worry. No one could explain what had happened to Blane. He seemed to have just fallen asleep.
“Jill!” Blane’s voice said. “No one can hear me. You have to listen.”
“Blane?” Jill asked.
“Jake’s stuck,” Blane’s voice said. “They’re all stuck. Delphie too. Your father. Keenan. Can you see it?”
“Orangey liquid stuff?” Jill asked. Thinking the orange was a great color, she hit print screen and saved a copy of the image. She cued the image to print.
“I can’t see it,” Blane’s voice said. “I can hear him.”
“What does he say?” Jill asked. Her printer began to print the image.
“He says it’s liquid amber,” Blane said. “He says they are stuck in it. Held outside of time. He has no idea why.”
“Fin too?” Jill asked.
“Finegal is there too,” Blane said.
“Shit,” Jill said. She hit print screen again to make sure she had a copy. “What did Fin get them into?”
“Jake doesn’t know,” Blane said. “But he thinks you, Edie, Tanesha, Yvonne … you have to help them.”
“And the boys,” Blane said. “Katy.”
“What?” Jill asked. She hit print again.
“Tell Heather that I’m okay,” Blane said. “I’ll wake up tomorrow morning and not remember any of this.”
“Okay,” Jill said.
Her computer made a buzzing sound. There was lightning across the screen and the laptop went dark.
“Shit,” Jill said.
She hit the one button but the lap top made a fizzle sound and started to smoke. She watched for a moment to see if it would burst into flame. When it didn’t, she went to check the printer. She carried the two sheets of paper back to her desk.
Not sure of what to do, she set the images down and went to bed. She was in bed dozing off when she felt an urgent need to get the printouts. She jogged to her office and grabbed the sheets. When she got to the bedroom, the first image changed. Jacob was staring at her through the orange. She smiled at him, and he grinned back. She laid the sheet on his pillow and got back in bed.
For the first time in days, she fell sound asleep and dreamed of orange seas of amber.
Denver Cereal continues tomorrow…
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