Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Three Hundred and Fifty-eight: Down the Rabbit Hole

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Friday morning — 9:43 a.m.
Denver, Colorado

Not wanting to make a sound, Tanesha scowled rather than sighing. The stylist was so freaked out by the pressure of dressing “Miss T” for her first-ever Grammy’s award ceremony that he was hanging on her every sound and movement. Even though the man reeked of marijuana, she was sure a simple sigh could easily send him to the hospital.

The problem was that Tanesha looked horrible in everything the young man had brought. Most of the dresses were designed for curvier women. Tanesha patted the dresses D sized cups. She did not have the breast mass to pull off this dress. She grabbed a handful of fabric at the waist of the dress. Her waist and hips were too narrow. Her butt and thighs looked enormous as they pulled at the seams of the dress. She looked like a clown.

To make matters worse, she was alone. Sandy was still in New York. Jill was immersed in doing research on how to protect her children. And, even with Jill’s intervention, Heather was simply too ill to help. As for her fairy family, Abi was still in New York and Fin was covering for Tanesha in class. Her mother was caring for Jabari. Very simply, no one was available to help Tanesha with this life milestone.

Of course, Jeraine had been all high fives and fist bumps with some stylist he called “bro.” Tanesha scowled at herself again. She needed help and fast.

“Did you hear that Valerie Lipson was in town?” the stylist asked.

“Mmhm,” Tanesha said.

“I heard that you were friends with her,” the stylist said.

“From whom?” Tanesha asked.

“What?” The stylist’s voice rose with panic.

“From whom did you hear that I was friends with Valerie Lipson?” Tanesha asked.

“Oh, no one,” he said.

Tanesha nodded to herself in the mirror.

“I just figured that you’re such a big star and she’s such a big star, and this is such a po-dunk town,” the stylist said. “You must know each other. I’d give my eye teeth to meet that husband of hers.”

“Mike?” Tanesha asked.

“That man is gorgeous,” the stylist said with an exaggerated sigh.

Tanesha bit her lip to keep from saying that Mike was like an older brother to her or that Valerie would be here right now but she was, in Valerie’s words, “busting balls” at the new Marlowe School.

She sighed and turned sideways. Feeling someone looking at her, she looked up to see the stylist’s eyes over the edge of the changing room. Her eyes caught his in the mirror.

“Okay,” he said, “it’s pretty awful.”

She turned to look at him.

“Everything I brought is hideous,” the stylist said. “I know. I just thought you’d be…”

He gestured to her chest.

“Why didn’t you get them done?” he asked.

“You mean, ‘Why didn’t I disfigure myself so that I could look like a cartoon instead of human female?’” Tanesha said. “Gee, I don’t know.”

“He likes them big,” the stylist said.

Tanesha shook her head.

“Don’t be mad,” he said.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” she said. “What are we going to do?”

“I don’t know,” the stylist whined. “We need a fashion fairy.”

“Fashion fairy?” Tanesha asked. “I don’t think Queen Fand’s queendom has a fashion fairy. In fact, I’ve heard Abi…”

Mari stood in her dressing room. Her long hair was back in an intricate design that only magic could have made possible. She wore her tiara and diamond earrings which matched the ones Tanesha received in Olympia. She was dressed in a tight, bright blue mini-shirt, pale blue stockings, and a teal silk blouse. She wore what looked like an artic fox stole over her shoulders.

“You rang?” Mari asked.

Tanesha looked at the stylist. His eyes were wide and his mouth flapped like a fish out of water.

“My aunt,” Tanesha said.

Mari curtsied to the stylist. His eyes disappeared from the top of the changing room. The door flew open. Tanesha and Mari looked at the stylist and then back at each other.

“What are you doing here?” Tanesha asked Mari.

“All you have to do is wish for me,” Mari said.

“No really,” Tanesha said.

“Jabari wants to host a tea,” Mari said. “You mother asked if I could find you.”

Tanesha nodded.

“But I can help with your dress,” Mari said. “Where are you going?”

“Award ceremony,” Tanesha said.

Tanesha turned to show her the dress. Mari tugged at the fabric.

“Not in that you’re not,” Mari said. Turning to the stylist, she pointed her finger accusingly. “That’s horrible!”

“Why are you here?” Tanesha asked again. “Besides the tea thing?”

“There’s a confab tomorrow with your little friend, Jill,” Mari said. “Edie and Fin are going to be there. Otis too. I couldn’t allow them to soak up all the adoration.”

“What about the blue fairy?” Tanesha asked. Her eyes flicked to the stylist who was still drooling.

“Oh, God,” Mari said. “Fin never should have told you about her. And anyway, she hates us. Precious blue fairy. Baah. Her name is Ysbel. We used to call her ‘Izzy’ when we were growing up. Now, she’s too cool for a nickname. Have you ever seen her and Fin together?”

Tanesha shook her head.

“It’s ugly,” Mari said. “I don’t think she’s going to be there. The one you call Keenan, either.”

“Where is he?” Tanesha asked.

“I’m sorry to interrupt,” the stylist said and gulped at the hard look Mari gave him. “But, who are you?”

“My aunt,” Tanesha repeated.

“And how did you…?” the stylist asked.

“She’s a magician,” Tanesha said at the same time Mari said, “You asked for a fairy.”

The stylist looked from Tanesha to Mari and then back to Tanesha.

“Fine,” the stylist said. “I’m a native Californian. You guys have legal weed, of which I have had plenty. If anyone asks, I’ll just say that I had a bad trip. So go ahead. I’ll play along.”

“Play along?” Mari asked. Her voice shifted to the harsh tone Mari usually took with humans. Tanesha groaned. “Listen, you…”

The stylist raised his hands as if she was going to shoot him.

“I was just thinking that if you were really a fashion fairy, we could use your help,” the stylist said.

He bat his eyes in an easy rhythm. Mari squinted and raised her hand to turn him into something awful.

“Don’t,” Tanesha said. She pulled Mari’s hand down. “He’s not doubting you. We’re just stuck. I have to go to this thing on Sunday. I’m kind of hard to fit, so it takes a while. I was planning on going shopping tomorrow, but Jill’s thing is tomorrow.”

Mari looked at Tanesha. She raised her hand and flicked her fingers. Only a couple sparks flew out.

“You are powerful girl,” Mari said.

“What?” Tanesha asked.

“You told me not to curse this toad and …” Mari flicked her fingers again. There were no sparks this time.

“Maybe you simply don’t want to,” Tanesha shrugged.

“How likely is that?” Mari asked. She leaned toward the stylist. “What did you want?”

“If you’re a fashion fairy, what should Miss T wear to the Grammy’s?” the stylist asked.

Mari crossed her arms. Her right finger tapped her lip for a moment before she pointed at Tanesha. Tanesha was dressed head to toe in bright red satin.

“Ew,” the stylist said. “Makes her skin look… ew.”

Mari snapped her fingers and Tanesha was wearing a 1980’s cocktail dress in bright blue. The stylist grunted. Mari snapped her fingers and Tanesha’s dress changed again. They went through twenty different dresses before Mari shook her head.

“Your skin is dark,” Mari said.

“And?” Tanesha asked.

“And it has your mother’s shine,” Mari looked at the stylist and nodded. “It’s tough, but…”

Mari snapped her fingers and Tanesha was dressed in a floor length white dress. The dress was made out of a material that was form fitting and sheer enough to show details without being pornographic. The long sleeves were tight on her fit arms and widened at the wrist. The boat cut collar showed the top of Tanesha’s strong shoulders while skimming the edges Tanesha’s breasts, revealing the top of her nipple. Tanesha turned sideways. Her legs looked strong and her rear looked sexy in this dress. But one thing had to go.

“Too low,” Tanesha said.

Mari snapped her fingers and the fabric grew a half inch. Tanesha gave her a hard look and she added another half inch. Tanesha nodded.

“So plain,” the stylist whined.

Mari snapped her fingers and Tanesha was wearing her tiara, diamond earrings, a diamond necklace, with a triple band of matched diamonds around each wrist.

“Too sparkly,” Tanesha said.

Mari snapped her fingers and the dress had white fur cuffs.

“I don’t want…” Tanesha said.

“Relax,” Mari said. “It’s not animal fur. Fairies cannot harm the creatures of this earth. That is law. It’s fairy faux fur. This is too.”

She gestured to the stole around her neck.

“I look like something out of White Christmas,” Tanesha said.

“Hmm…” Mari said and tapped her lip.

“Just make it less sparkly,” the stylist said.

“Too many diamonds?” Mari asked. “Is that even possible?”

Tanesha nodded. With a snap of Mari’s finger, the fur was gone. A single strand of fresh white pearls with a knuckle sized diamond in the center appeared around her neck. She was wearing her tiara and matching earrings.

“I like it!” the stylist said.

Mari gave him a slight smile and snapped her fingers. A thin band of fresh white pearls alternating with matched diamonds appeared in a low slung belt around Tanesha’s waist. Tanesha’s hands went to the belt. Mari looked at Tanesha and she nodded. Mari smiled.

“You’ll have fun,” Mari said.

“I hope so…” Tanesha started to say. Mari snapped her fingers and Tanesha was wearing her jeans, T-shirt, and sweater. The next thing Tanesha knew, she was standing in her mother’s dining room with Mari.

“Why look Jabari!” Yvonne said as she looked down the stairwell. “Our guests have arrived!”

Mari winked at Tanesha. Jabari ran down the steps and Tanesha picked him up. She grinned her thanks to Mari, who winked at Tanesha.

“We’re having our tea party in here,” Yvonne said and gestured to the kitchen.

Akeem came in the back door and they followed Yvonne into the kitchen.


Friday afternoon — 2:53 p.m.
New York City, New York

Ivan ran through the hospital. Sissy was leaving New York this afternoon and he’d been held up in a Ballet Foundation board meeting. He stood at the elevator for a moment. All eight cars were on a higher floor. Spinning in place, he ran to the stairwell. He took the stairs two at a time and was on the fourth floor in no time. He spun around the corner and slid into Sissy’s room.

Sissy was sitting in a wheelchair talking to someone on his right. Her hair was loose on her shoulders and she wore a lovely blouse, skirt and tights. When she saw him, her entire face brightened.

“Ivan!” she said in a soft voice.

He couldn’t take his eyes off her. He smiled at Sissy. Feeling movement, he glanced to see that Delphie and Sandy were sitting on the hospital bed surrounded by Sissy’s things. The women were smiling at Ivan. He blushed at their eyes.

“I’m sorry I was late,” Ivan said. “I had this meeting and…”

He glanced back at Sissy.

“You made it,” Sissy said.

He smiled at her and looked back at Delphie and Sandy.

“I had meeting,” Ivan said and realized he was speaking in pigeon English. He swallowed.

“We heard,” Sandy said. “It sounded like a real brawl.”

“How…?” Ivan started.

“Bestat called a minute ago,” Sandy said. “Plus, Nadia’s been by.”

“How did it turn out?” Sissy asked.

“Nothing,” Ivan said. “All this worry and fuss and…”

Ivan shrugged his shoulders.

“I should be grateful but…”

Sissy held her hand out and he took it. He smiled at her beaming face.

“How are you?” Ivan asked.

“High,” she said with a snort. “I can see why Charlie got addicted to this stuff. It’s pretty awesome.”

“Do you think you will be…” Ivan started.

She shook her head.

“It’s just for the trip,” Sandy said.

She gestured to Delphie and they started to leave the room.

“You have the call button?” Sandy asked Sissy. She held it up. Looking at Ivan, Sandy added, “Just in case she needs something.”

Sandy hugged Ivan and kissed his cheek.

“What…?” he asked.

“Welcome to the family,” Sandy said. “We’re hopping a ride back to Denver with some friends. We need to go find them to tell them we’re ready to go.”

Delphie gave Ivan a broad grin, and they disappeared. He stared after them.

“Are you all right?” Sissy asked.

“I…” Ivan turned back to her. “That woman unnerves me every time.”

“Sandy?” Sissy asked.

“The Oracle,” Ivan said. He shook himself. “She always looks like she’s… I don’t know.”

“I think she looks like the Cheshire Cat,” Sissy said.

“From Alice in Wonderland?” Ivan asked.

Sissy smiled, and Ivan knelt down to her. They shared an awkward moment before he leaned forward to kiss her. Like last night, Sissy felt as if every cell in her body sang out loud. Her heart raced. She had to pull back to take a breath.

“Do you think that will change?” Sissy asked.

“God, I hope not,” Ivan said.

He grinned and she returned his smile. For a moment, they looked at each other. Sissy lifted a shoulder to shrug, and clutched her side in pain.

“Feels kind of weird,” she said.

“It’s different,” he nodded. “We’re different.”

“Feels kind of awesome,” she said.

Her hand hadn’t left her side. His fingers brushed her arm.

“Are you in pain?” Ivan asked.

“Yes,” Sissy said, with a slight nod. “But, as you know, I am accustomed to pain.”

“Every dancer’s best friend and worst enemy,” he said.

She smiled at his oft repeated saying. He blushed.

“I cannot go with you,” Ivan said. “Not today. I will be in Denver — Tuesday, Wednesday, this week — then back to New York. Every week is different.”

“We’ll just play it by ear,” Sissy said. “The plane trip and getting settled will be a lot for me. I’ll probably sleep until Tuesday anyway.”

Her voice was positive and strong. He knew her face well enough to know that she was scared and sad. He gave her a partial smile and she nodded.

“I feel very…” Sissy started. She took a breath and then nodded. “… young, I guess, today. Are you sure you…?”

“Yes,” Ivan said. “That is if you…”

“Oh yes,” she said. “Of course.”

“I’m glad,” he said and she smiled. “I brought with me… I don’t know, I guess it’s silly but…”

“What?” Sissy asked.

“I wanted to give you something personal of mine, something important,” Ivan said. “I want you to have something to remind you that I am rooting for you.”

He swallowed hard and nodded.

“That I love you,” he said. “It’s not very…”

“What is it?” Sissy asked.

“My mother’s wedding ring,” Ivan said. “It’s a ring from the time of communism, so it’s not very special or fancy. It’s certainly not a big American ring with many diamonds and beautiful things you deserve. But it was hers. Just a band, really, and…”

Sissy held her hand out. His hand slipped into the front pocket of his jeans. He pulled out a thin band and he placed it. She smiled.

“It’s perfect,” she said. “Which finger do you think?”

“In Russia, we would use the right for marriage,” he said.

“It’s the opposite here,” Sissy said.

He nodded. She slipped the ring onto her right hand. Much to her surprise, it fit perfectly. He smiled.

“It’s perfect,” Sissy said. “I will cherish it. Thank you.”

“Belongs there, obviously,” Ivan said.

“I got…” Sissy looked up at him. “I guess I was thinking the same thing.”

“You were?” Ivan’s face flushed.

“Sandy gave me Dad’s ring,” Sissy said. “Not his wedding ring, because that’s most likely a biohazard and would kill you outright. She gave me the ring that Dad bought when he adopted Sandy. He called it his commitment ring. He wore it to show his commitment to Sandy and later, Charlie and me.”

“It sounds very special,” Ivan said. “Are you sure you would like me to have it?”

“Sandy agreed too, and Charlie doesn’t care,” Sissy nodded. “We thought it might show my commitment to you, or really our commitment because I’ll need Sandy’s help and…”

Ivan’s face flushed red and his eyes welled with tears. She took the ring off her watch band and set it in his hand. He looked at the ring for a moment. It looked as if it was the same material as his mother’s wedding ring. He glanced at Sissy and put the ring on his left finger.

“You don’t want to do your right?” Sissy asked.

“I’ve been wedded to you the moment we met,” Ivan said.

The ring was big on his thin finger, so he put it on his middle. He glanced at Sissy and she beamed at him. He gave her a peck on her lips.

“So it is true,” a woman’s voice came from the door.

“Kate,” Sissy said in a whisper.

Ivan glanced at Sissy and started to turn around.

“NO!” Sissy screamed.

Ivan was in the process of turning toward her when Kate plunged a sharp pointed steak knife into his back. The knife landed near his shoulder blade with the tip pointed down. Screaming as loud as her injured lungs would allow, Sissy mashed on her nurse call button. Ivan’s body slumped forward onto Sissy’s lap. His face planted in her skirt, between her legs.

“That’s what you did to me!” Kate said. Her hands were still on the knife handle. “Stabbed me in the back. And now you’ve ruined my life and…”

Sandy rounded the edge of the door. She jumped onto Kate’s back with all that she had but Kate was taller, stronger, and furious. Kate easily sloughed off Sandy, who fell to the ground. Kate reached for the knife to seal Ivan’s fate by pulling the knife out.

“NO!” Sissy screamed.

Sandy set her stance and attacked again. She raised her left foot and smashed her sneaker into Kate’s knee. Kate stumbled and her hand pushed the knife further in. The knife jammed against his ribs. Sandy smashed her knee into Kate’s face. Gathering her strength, Sissy wrenched her wheelchair, and Ivan, away from Kate’s reach.

Sandy’s face was calm and her moves calculated. She stepped over Kate’s shoulders. Sandy squeezed her knees together to cut of Kate’s air supply. Kate scratched at Sandy’s knees. Running footsteps moved in the hallway outside the room. Kate had almost passed out when MJ lifted her away from Kate. Sandy screamed with rage as he swung her away from Kate. Colin Hargreaves’s massive foot pinned Kate to the ground.

“Help! MJ! Help!” Sissy yelled.

She had placed her hands around the knife blade to stem the flow of blood from Ivan’s back. Her breath was ragged and her bandages had bled through. She began to cough up blood.

“Help!” Sissy’s final help came out in a fluid filled mumble.

Her head slumped forward.

“Sissy?” Ivan whispered. “Please God.”

He passed out.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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