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CHAPTER THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-FIVE
ivan was standing in costume and full makeup. His face was covered in a light sheen of moisture and there were wet spots on his costume. He was slightly older than he had been in the last memory. He was turned away looking for someone.
“Sorry,” a woman dressed in matching costume and makeup. “I had to pee.”
Ivan nodded. He held out his arm and she laid her forearm across the top of his. They went to stand at the edge of the stage, next to heavy curtains.
“I hate these things,” the woman said.
“Yes,” Ivan said.
“You won’t leave without me, will you?” the woman asked.
“It’s likely that you will leave without me,” Ivan smiled. “I love them so much.”
She looked up at him and saw her own reflection in his clear eye protection. Her eyes scanned his face. He winked and she smiled.
“It was a real pleasure to dance with you tonight,” she said. “I’d heard of you, but…”
“I’m sorry your partner fell ill,” Ivan said.
“I’m not,” she said with a saucy smile.
“And now…” A booming voice came from the stage. Ivan nodded to the woman and they stepped onto the stage. “Please welcome the stars of our performance.”
The stage had been transformed into a dining area with round tables, white table clothes, and wealthy patrons.
“May I?” the ballet director asked.
Ivan smiled and the ballet director steered his prima ballerina toward the wealthier patrons. Ivan stood in place for a moment.
He turned in the direction of a woman’s voice to see his ex-girlfriend, Katia. She was wearing a floor length gown with diamonds in her ears, around her right wrist, and her left ring finger. He held out his hands and she took them. She leaned forward and, in the way he’d taught her, let him kiss her cheeks. Feeling movement, he looked up to see a young man standing behind her. The young man looked almost too comfortable in his tux; he gave Ivan a cocky grin.
“Kate,” Ivan said.
“Katia,” she corrected. “Justin, this is Ivan. You remember me talking about Ivan.”
“The aged ballereen-o with the Denver Ballet?” The young man lifted his chin in a kind of nod. He lifted an edge of his mouth in a smile. “Aren’t you out of your league here?”
“I work for the Ballet Federation,” Ivan said. “I am on-call to fill in when a male dancer cannot perform.”
The young man looked Ivan up and down. Ivan had the distinct impression the look was more sexual in nature than to assess his capacity to dance. Ivan looked at Kate.
“This is Justin,” Kate said. “My fiancé.”
“Nice to meet you,” Ivan said.
He gave Kate a nod and turned to move away. She held onto his arm. He turned back to her. Unsure of what she wanted, he asked the first thing that came to mind.
“How is law school?” Ivan asked.
“I’m almost done,” Kate said.
“We’re waiting to get married until she’s finished,” Justin said. “Of course, she won’t practice. This law thing is just a phase.”
Ivan’s eyes flicked to Kate. He saw the same desperate striving in her eyes that he’d known when they were together. She gave him a slight smile which indicated that she was now striving for something big. He looked back at the young man.
“That’s right,” the young man said. He stood a little straighter but still wasn’t as tall as Ivan. “My family is one of the wealthiest in the country. She’ll use her legal skills to help with the family businesses.”
“How nice,” Ivan said. “If you will excuse me…”
Kate continued to hold onto his arm. When he looked at her this time, her eyes were a mask of sorrow.
“Justin, would you mind getting us a drink?” Kate asked.
“Of course,” the young man said. “Now, no funny business. I’ll just be over there.”
He touched Kate’s shoulder and moved away.
“You’re marrying him?” Ivan asked.
“Of course not,” Kate said. “He’s gay. I’m not going to spend my life shackled to some gay dude.”
Ivan smiled. Kate was no fool.
“You should have heard him,” Kate said in a low tone. “The entire performance he was talking about your ‘package.’ So gross. I’m sorry I ever told him about you.”
Ivan gave her an uncomfortable smile.
“How long have you been here?” Kate asked.
“A few years,” Ivan said.
“Why didn’t you call me?” Kate asked.
“You were pretty clear that you were done with me,” Ivan said.
“There’s done and then there’s done,” Kate said. She looked up at the uncomfortable smile on Ivan’s face. “What about your little ballerina? The one you were in love with?”
Ivan shook his head like he didn’t know what she was talking about.
“Sissy,” Kate said through her teeth. “I’m talking about Sissy.”
“She no longer dances ballet,” Ivan said with a note of finality.
“Oh.” Kate’s sarcastic smile fell. “I’m sorry. I know how much…”
The young man returned. He held out a drink for Kate, which she took.
“It’s wonderful to see you,” Ivan leaned down to kiss her cheek. “I must leave. I am accompanying the star of the show.”
The young man held out his hand to Ivan.
“A pleasure to meet you,” Ivan said.
As he moved away, he felt a tug. Kate had slipped him her phone number. He looked down at his hand. The young man had also given Ivan his phone number. Ivan stopped at the first trashcan and dropped the phone numbers inside. He found the ballerina deep in conversation. With her permission, he left the party.
He quickly changed out of his costume and wiped off his makeup. He took a taxi to a private Russian Bath where he took a long sauna followed by a soak in the bath and a massage. A few hours later, he was back in his street clothing and into a cab. He stopped at a gorgeous apartment tower in Manhattan. He greeted the doorman and took the elevator upstairs. Once in his open loft apartment, he drank a protein smoothie and changed into a tank-top and exercise pants. The lights were dim, so he took off his eye protection. He went through an hour of Pilates stretches. He had just grabbed a towel and a cold bottle of water when there was a knock at the door. He checked the time — 2:55 a.m. Smiling, he went to open the door.
The door opened to a dark haired woman with steel blue eyes accentuated by her doctor’s blue scrubs. Her name tag said, “Dr. Nadia Kerminoff, Emergency Department.” She carried a small duffle bag over her shoulder. He squinted at the light in the hallway.
“I come bearing gifts,” she said in perfect Russian.
She held up a plastic bag with to-go containers inside. He smiled and stepped back to let her in. As she passed, she stretched up to kiss his lips. His hand caressed her behind and she came into the apartment.
“How was the Emergency Department, Nadia?” he asked in Russian.
“When?” she responded. “Today? Yesterday?”
She shook her head.
“I’m losing track of days,” she said.
“It’s been three,” he said with a smile.
“Three days,” she said. “Gone.”
She shook herself like a dog and he smiled. He started taking containers out of the plastic bag. She sniffed him.
She squinted at him. She turned away from him to get plates from the cabinet.
“How was the performance?” she asked in an overly casual tone.
“Good,” he said. “Don’t worry, doctor. The massage and sauna were merely preventative. I am in fine health.”
His voice was laced with innuendo which made her smile.
“You are not a young man anymore,” she said.
“Yes, I am aware, doctor,” he said. He turned around and hugged her from behind. “Thank you for caring about me.”
She turned at looked at him. She hugged him tight.
“I worry about you,” she said in perfect American English.
“I know,” he said in his Russian accented English. “I am grateful for your care.”
She smiled at him and carried the plates to a small dining room table. Lights from building surrounding them glittered in the plate glass windows. The table seemed to be hanging air.
“Did you have to stay?” she asked.
“Yes,” Ivan said.
He brought the to-go boxes to the table and sat down. He started opening the boxes.
“Was it awful?” she asked as she filled her plate with sushi. “Sashimi’s there.”
“Yes,” Ivan said with a nod of thanks.
He opened the box and put some on his plate. He offered it to her. She shook her head and pointed at the sushi with an end of her chopsticks.
“I loved those things as a kid,” she said. “All the beautiful ballerinas standing right there…”
She put a piece of sushi roll in her mouth and looked at him. She smiled and he returned her smile.
“I saw Katia,” Ivan said.
“Katia — the one who let you get away?” she said. “That Katia.”
“Da,” Ivan said.
“And?” she asked in Russian.
“She is engaged to a wealthy, homosexual young man,” he said in Russian.
“Who is paying for her schooling?” she asked.
“I assume,” he said. “And everything else. Diamonds, expensive clothing… Expensive apartment, I’m sure.”
“And you?” she furrowed her brow. “How did it feel to see her again?”
Ivan shrugged. She reached out and covered his hand with hers. He looked at her. She raised her eyebrows to encourage him to talk. He looked confused.
“I ask because I want to know,” Nadia said. “I care and I am listening.”
“I was exhausted, sweating, sore… my ankles ached and I felt ancient,” Ivan said. “She was ridiculous. Reeked of cigarettes. Gave me her number, but so did he.”
“You weren’t tempted?” she asked.
He gave her a long look before smiling.
“What?” she asked.
“I was wondering why you ask,” he said.
“So you were tempted!”
“Don’t put words in my mouth,” Ivan said. “And, anyway, why do you care? You want this to be…”
“Casual,” Nadia switched to American English again. “I don’t want anything serious. I wouldn’t have time for it now anyway. My first and deepest love is for my work. So, as much as I love you, I cannot…”
“Own you,” Ivan finished her sentence in English with her. “Yes.”
“Plus, your heart and soul belong to Sissy,” she said with a smile.
Ivan’s face flushed. He was so flustered that he looked away from her. She touched his hand again.
“I love you,” she said. “You love me. And we are not each other’s destiny. Right?”
“So were you tempted?” she said with a laugh.
He laughed and shook his head.
“Not even by the fiancé?” she asked. “He sounds like a real prize.”
He smiled again.
“Before I forget,” she said. “There’s a message for you on the voicemail.”
He turned to look at the phone, and then turned back to look at her.
“As you know, I love voicemail,” she said. “Thank you for leaving me those messages.”
She gave a shiver and he grinned.
“I love getting sexy messages in my mother’s native language,” she said. “Makes me feel filthy and so hot. My colleagues know they are from you and they are jealous.”
“My pleasure,” he said in Russian.
“The message was from a ‘Sandy,’” she continued in English. “She said she would like to speak to you about Sissy.”
Ivan turned to look at the phone again.
“She is dead?” Ivan asked.
“She is very much alive,” Nadia said with a smile. “I checked with a colleague in Colorado. Sissy is in treatment again. The awful mother is out of the picture.”
“Thank you,” Ivan nodded. He used his chop sticks to take a bite of sashimi.
“That’s how I remembered her name,” Nadia said.
“I wondered,” he said.
“Names are not my specialty,” she said. “If you love her, then I love her.”
He looked up at her.
“That’s just how I am,” she said. “Plus, she saved you from the gulag. How could I not love her?”
“I am,” she said.
“I may leave here,” Ivan said.
“I assumed,” she nodded. “I will miss you.”
He reached across the table to stroke her cheek. He cupped her cheek. She closed her eyes and rested against him.
“I will miss you as well,” he said in a low tone. “I do love you, this.”
“I know,” she said.
“Come,” he said. He stood in place. “Let me show you.”
“In Russian?” she asked.
“Pozvol’te mne pokazat’ vam,” he said.
“So hot,” she said with a smile.
She got up from her seat and they went into the bedroom.
“Did you recognize her?” Delphie asked.
Sissy shook her head.
“Who was she?” Abi asked.
“She was Sissy’s doctor when we first came in,” Sandy said. “I remember thinking that she acted like she knew us. She seemed to know my name and Sissy’s history with the eating disorders. I was just grateful for her help, so I didn’t question it.”
“She got you right into surgery, Sissy,” Delphie said.
“She stayed until you were out and made sure you were well taken care of,” Sandy said. “She’s come by a few times to see if you’re all right.”
“Like family,” Delphie said.
“I will love her,” Sissy said with a croak.
Delphie, Sandy, and Abi turned to look at Sissy.
“She loves Ivan,” Sissy said. “I will love her, too.”
“Who?” Ivan asked from the doorway.
The women gave him a guilty look. The room became uncomfortably still.
“Dr. Nadia,” Sissy said. “You still love her?”
Ivan gave something between a shrug and a nod.
“Then I love her too,” Sissy said.
Ivan’s eyes welled with emotion. He clenched his jaw.
“Family,” Sandy said. “She will be a part of our family.”
Ivan looked at Sandy for a moment.
“She has none,” Ivan said. “Her mother was Russian bride from an agency. Her family said it was shameful and disowned her. Nadia’s American father was quite wealthy, elderly. He died when Nadia was young. Her mother was killed in a car accident when Nadia was at university.”
“She has family now,” Sandy said.
Delphie and Abi nodded.
“Is that all right with you?” Sandy asked Ivan.
“Is she downstairs?” Sissy asked.
“I’ll go,” Sandy said. As she passed Ivan, she kissed his cheek, and whispered, “Thank you for loving Sissy.”
“Please,” Delphie said. “Come in.”
Ivan sat down next to Sissy’s bedside. They sat in silence for a moment before Delphie cleared her throat.
“How are the men?” Delphie asked Ivan.
Ivan shot her a look of gratitude.
“They are good,” Ivan said.
He told them a funny story about his work with the men’s troupe. He was finishing when Nadia stood in the doorway to Sissy’s room. Abi disappearred. Ivan smiled at her and waved her inside. Sandy came in after her.
“I’m Delphie,” she said standing.
“She’s an Oracle,” Ivan said. “You can ask her anything. She will tell you what will happen or what has happened in the past.”
“What might happen,” Delphie said. “We still have choice.”
“Really?” Nadia asked. “Would you know if my mother and father are united in heaven?”
“Of course they are,” Delphie said. “It’s hard to imagine two more different people — I mean your father’s eyebrows alone should have kept your mother away — but they do truly love each other.”
Nadia gulped a breath.
“Don’t be overwhelmed but there is also a full blooded fairy here,” Ivan said.
“A real fairy?” Nadia asked.
Abi appeared behind Nadia and touched her shoulder. Nadia turned around. She looked at Abi’s wand and her pink Fairy Corps suit.
“General Abi,” she said and held her hand out.
“Princess,” Delphie said.
“Princess Abi, wife to Finegal…” Abi said.
“From Queen Fand’s court?” Nadia’s face lit up.
“At your service,” Abi courtsied.
“How…?” Sandy asked.
“Nadia loves fairies,” Ivan said. “She knows everything about them including…”
“Rubbing pregnant belly,” Sissy said.
“Very lucky,” Nadia said. She leaned into Abi, “That’s Manannàn, he’s not the powerful one, is he?”
“Compared to the Queen?” Abi shook her head.
“Knew it!” Nadia said under her breath.
“Welcome to the family,” Sissy said.
Nadia blinked and looked at Ivan. He shrugged and she looked at Sandy. She smiled.
“Well, I guess I’m not the weirdo anymore,” Nadia said with a smile.
They laughed. Ivan gestured to a seat and Nadia sat down. They talked until the nurse came with Sissy’s sleep medications. Afterwards, they went to a nearby diner where they talked for hours.
Wednesday morning — 4:30 a.m.
“No, I will not calm down,” Jill said in a terse whisper.
She was standing at the counter in their little loft kitchen. Jacob was in the process of making a pot of coffee.
“I didn’t ask you to calm down,” Jacob said and pressed on the coffee maker. “I’m a jerk, but I’m not that much of a jerk.”
“You want me too,” Jill said.
“No,” Jacob shook his head. “I want to understand what you’re talking about. I wasn’t there. I didn’t see or feel this thing. I can’t see or feel anything now, probably because it’s so close to me. I don’t know what it was.”
“Something had a hold of Katy,” Jacob said. It was clear he was repeating what she’d told him. “You were able to dispel it from her, but it chased you from school to the hospital to here. Mike and Honey were able to chase it off.”
“It looked like my father,” Jill said.
“To you,” Jacob said. “Mike said it was crows.”
“You talked to Mike?” Jill asked.
“Of course I talked to Mike,” Jacob said. “I talked to Honey too.”
“Oh.” Jill gave him an embarrassed grin.
“I care,” Jacob said. “My daughter had an incident — possibly medical, possibly fairy, possibly something else altogether. I want to know everything I can about it.”
“Sorry,” Jill said. She looked down.
“Don’t be sorry,” Jacob said. “You saved our daughter from who knows what? There’s nothing for you to be sorry about.”
Jill gave a slight nod.
“And?” Jacob asked.
“I’m sick of this,” Jill said. “I’m sick of getting sucked into this bullshit.”
“Bullshit?” Jacob asked.
“An adventure on the freakin’ Isle of Man? The end of the creepy serpents? Some drama in Olympia of all places?”
Jacob nodded that he understood.
“I’m not living in some television show where once a week someone I love is possessed by a demon,” Jill said. “I’m need to find a way to protect my children, us, everyone from other beings… bullshit. We have lives to live. Katy is just a little girl! She needs to be a little girl!”
Jill paused to catch her breath.
“No more,” she said.
“No more am I going to leave us hanging out there for any freak to take over our lives,” Jill said. “I’m going to find a way to protect us from demons and fairies and whatever else.”
“How can I help?” Jacob asked.
Jill looked confused. The coffee maker burbled the last drops of the pot. He turned to pour her a cup of coffee.
“Who would know how to do this?” Jill asked.
“Your dad,” Jacob said. “Delphie.”
“Otis,” Jill said.
“The fairy siblings,” Jacob said.
“Edie and Fin,” Jill said with a nod. “Abi too.”
“My dad,” Jacob said.
“Your dad?” Jill asked.
“He’s not magical but he’s really good in a pinch,” Jacob said. “Val too.”
“The girlfriends,” Jill said with a nod. She picked up the cup of coffee and started toward her office.
“What are you going to do?” Jacob asked.
“I’m going to hold a meeting of the minds,” Jill turned to look at him. “Someone knows how to do this or we’ll figure it out together.”
“And if they won’t come?”
“Oh, they’ll come,” Jill said and closed her office door.
Jacob shot a worried look after her and left for work.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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