Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Chapter Three Hundred and Fifty: Getting back to normal

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CHAPTER THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY

“I think we’ve established the fact that you’re an idiot.” Tanesha smiled.

He grinned and kissed her. She patted his shoulder and went back to packing her backpack.

“I did not purchase a human being,” Jeraine said to her back.

“Fine,” Tanesha said. She glanced at him and then back to her backpack. “Does Dad have to pay you back?”

“No,” Jeraine said. “I don’t even know how much I gave the man.”

“You cleared out that account,” Tanesha said.

“It was most of that,” Jeraine said. “Do you care?”

Tanesha looked at him for a moment. Her eyes moistened and she sucked in her full bottom lip. She stood up straight and looked at the wall for a moment before looking at him again.

“It’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me,” Tanesha said. She sniffed back a tear. “I still can’t believe it sometimes.”

She nodded to keep from weeping. He gave her a slight smile. When he turned to look at Jabari, Tanesha turned with him.

“He looks just like Rodney,” Jeraine said. “You’ve seen his hands?”

“I know,” Tanesha grinned. “They are big.”

She bent over to pick up Jabari. He fussed for a moment and went back to sleep. Jeraine put his arms around them.

“Are you home for a while now?” Jeraine asked.

“I think so,” Tanesha said. “I need to wrap up this year of school and get on with my degree. This fairy nonsense is really eating into my medical school experience.”

Jeraine nodded.

“What?” Tanesha asked.

“I wondered if you’d like to go to the Grammys with me,” Jeraine asked.

Tanesha watched him.

“I was nominated,” Jeraine said.

“You were?” Tanesha asked. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

She gave him a half hug and went to put Jabari in his bed in their room. She returned to give him a real hug.

“I was nominated for best song of the year for that song I wrote for you,” Jeraine said. “Seth and Dad were nominated too. I was also nominated for writing it.”

“Congratulations!” Tanesha said. “When are the Grammys?”

“Next weekend,” Jeraine said. “You want to go?”

“Sure,” Tanesha said.

“You can wear your velvet,” Jeraine said.

“That old thing? I’m not wearing that!” Tanesha asked with a dramatic flip of her hand. Jeraine grinned at her and she smiled. “I’m going to look nice.”

Jeraine grinned.

“What?” Tanesha asked.

“You’re going to look nice,” Jeraine asked. “Are you going to wear the tiara?”

“Damn straight,” Tanesha said. She clapped her hands. “Got to represent the queendom!”

“It’s not such a big deal,” Jeraine said. “I’ve been to the Grammys a bunch of times.”

“I know,” Tanesha said.

“You know?” Jeraine asked.

“Of course, I know,” Tanesha nodded. “You always bring some woman with almost no clothing on.”

“God!” Jeraine clenched his fists and looked up to the ceiling. “I’m such an asshole.”

“Uh-huh.”

“It never occurred to me that you would see that,” Jeraine said.

Tanesha raised her eyebrows at him.

“You’ve seen it every time?” his voice rose with the question.

“You mean did I see you screwing around with that girl at your dinner table,” Tanesha said. “Oh yes. I saw it. You can ask Heather about the time you went down the red carpet with a half-naked woman under each arm and an inflated breast in each hand. She has a lot to say about that one. “

“The girlfriends watched all of those Grammys, too?” Jeraine fell onto the hardwood floor and landed on his back. He covered his face with his hands.

“Of course they did,” Tanesha said.

“Every time I was at the Grammys?” Jeraine’s voice begged her to say they hadn’t seen all of them. “Surely, you missed the time I…”

“Every single moment from your red carpet sass to shenanigans in the middle to winning awards and the ‘Ima gonna do her’ press conferences to the after party,” Tanesha said with a smile. “Me and the girlfriends watched every single one.”

He groaned. She nudged his side with her right toe.

“Are you dying?” she asked.

“Of shame.”

“Ah,” Tanesha said. “Well, I don’t mean to intervene in your drama, but death by shame is not covered in your life insurance.”

“And?”

“You have a wife and child to support,” Tanesha said. “That’s not to mention JJ’s trust fund. If you’re going to die of shame, we’re going to suffer.”

“And?”

“You’d best get over it,” Tanesha said.

He was quiet for a moment. His body began to shake. Concerned that he was crying, Tanesha knelt down. She moved his hands and found him laughing. He grinned at her and hopped up. He helped her up and hugged her tight.

“Love you,” he said.

“The question is…” Tanesha stepped away from him. “Are you the kind of asshole who can afford to get me a nice dress?”

“Some designers called,” Jeraine said. “Schmidty set it up.”

“We can’t afford designers.” Tanesha scowled and shook her head at him.

“It’s free,” Jeraine said. “All the big names want to dress the illustrious Miss T. You’ll be a walking billboard for their clothes.”

Tanesha turned to look at him.

“You’re a big deal,” Jeraine said. “Schmidty’s already turned down interviews for you.”

“Me?” Tanesha asked.

“You’re a big hit,” Jeraine said. “I’m small potatoes compared to you.”

Tanesha squinted at him.

“You’re a fairy princess,” Jeraine said. “And I am merely one of the many who bask in your glow.”

“No one knows I’m a fairy princess.” Tanesha shook her head at him. “Right?”

“I haven’t told a soul,” Jeraine said.

“That had better be true because Fin will…”

“The man, or whatever he is, terrifies me,” Jeraine said. “You don’t have to make threats about what he’ll do. I’m pretty sure he’ll eat me alive.”

Tanesha laughed.

“Ready for bed?” Jeraine asked.

“I was wondering if you wanted to bask in my glow,” Tanesha said.

“Absolutely,” Jeraine said.

Tanesha laughed and led him to bed.

~~~~~~~~

Monday morning — 6:35 a.m.
Denver, Colorado

“Noelle?”

Aden leaned into Noelle’s bedroom to see if she was up. Her face a mask of sorrow, Noelle propped herself up on an elbow.

“You’ve been up a while,” Aden said.

“New York is two hours earlier, Daddy,” Noelle said.

“You’ve been up crying for hours,” Aden said.

Noelle gave him a sad nod and lay back down. Aden sat down on the edge of Sissy’s bed, next to Noelle’s.

“What’s going on?” Aden asked, trying to keep his panic at bay.

“Everything’s wrong, Daddy,” Noelle said. “Sissy and I went to New York to launch our careers! Now I’m home in disgrace and Sissy…”

With tears easily flowing down her face, Noelle gave him a solemn nod.

“Are you pregnant?” Aden asked.

“Daddy!” Noelle said in a shocked voice.

“That’s just usually what people mean when they say a girl went home ‘in disgrace,’” Aden said.

“Oh,” Noelle said with a fierce shake of her head. “That’s not me.”

“I hope not,” Aden said.

Deep in thought, Noelle stopped crying. She glanced at her father.

“I didn’t even make it until Mike came!” Noelle said. She leaned toward Aden. “I’m embarrassed.”

“Well,” Aden leaned forward. In a low tone, he said, “Lucky for you, Mike is coming here.”

“He is?” Noelle sat up straight.

“Seems that they would have made it to New York, but Val’s been in hiding with her best friend, Samantha Hargreaves.”

“Mike’s been with Val,” Noelle’s head went up and down. “Oh, I see.”

“They should be home in the next day or so,” Aden said.

“He’s not disappointed with me?” Noelle asked.

“Not in the least,” Aden said. “He told me that you were very brave.”

“Me?” Noelle’s face marked her surprise. Her hands pointed to her chest.

“You are very brave,” Aden said.

“Oh,” Noelle said. She leaned forward and in a soft voice, she said, “I don’t feel very brave. I feel like a stupid little girl.”

“Yes,” Aden said. “I know what you mean. I’ve felt like that myself. Well, not the girl part.”

Noelle smiled.

“Speaking of brave,” Aden said. “Wanda is coming over for breakfast.”

“Really?” Noelle asked.

“Tink, too,” Aden said. “You know, Tink was almost shot at as well.”

“I know,” Noelle said with great enthusiasm. “We both almost died!”

Aden turned away to keep her from seeing his smile.

“I, for one, an really glad that you didn’t die,” Aden said.

“Me, too,” Noelle said.

“Do you think you can get up? Get dressed?” Aden asked.

“I’ll do it,” Noelle said. She flipped off her covers and then stopped. She stared straight ahead. In a soft voice, she said, “How is Sissy?”

“Good,” Aden said. “She’s still in the hospital, but she’s progressing well.”

“What does that mean?” Noelle asked.

“I don’t know,” Aden said with a smile. “We’ll ask Sandy at breakfast.”

“Mom’ll be here?” Noelle asked. “What about Sissy?”

“She’ll be here by computer,” Aden said. “She and Delphie will both be here by computer.”

“Why…” Noelle’s face lit up in a smile. “That’s great.”

“Of course, your brother and his friend will be there,” Aden said.

“Teddy’s coming for breakfast!” Noelle bounced with excitement.

“Teddy and Nash,” Aden said. “You remember your brother Nash, don’t you?”

Noelle waved her hand at Nash’s name and Aden smiled.

“They’re moving back in this morning,” Aden said. “And we’re all going to visit schools this afternoon.”

“Regular old school,” Noelle said. “I wish I went to the Denver School of the Arts.”

“I know, sweetie,” Aden said. “Your Mom and I still think you’re better off at the Marlowe School.”

“Nuala?” Noelle asked.

“Sandy,” Aden said.

“Oh, that makes more sense,” Noelle said. “For a minute there I thought you were saying Nuala thought about me. And I knew that wasn’t right.”

Noelle laughed and went into the bathroom. She was just closing the door when she opened it again.

“You don’t think it’s bad that I think that about Nuala,” Noelle said. “Am I become a bitter artist? Nothing’s worse than a bitter artist. ‘They have all this talent, all these gifts, and they feel slighted. Pathetic.’ That’s what Mike says.”

“I don’t think so,” Aden said. “I think you’re growing up.”

“And getting to be a bitter hag?”

“And getting more realistic about people,” Aden said with a shrug.

Noelle nodded and closed the bathroom door. Aden had just stood up when he heard pounding on the other side of the bathroom.

“Hey! Get out of the bathroom,” Nash yelled. As it he’d never been away, Nash continued in the same indignant tone, “You’re hogging the bathroom.”

“I just got in there,” Noelle said. “Wait your turn!”

Aden grinned and counted silently, “one, two, three…”

“I…” Nash screamed and banged on the door “…don’t…” Nash banged on the door, “…want…” Nash banged on the door, “…to…” Nash gave the door another bang, “…wait!”

“Everything okay in here?” Aden asked as he leaned into Teddy and Nash’s bedroom.

Teddy had a hand full of clothing which he was putting in his chest of drawers. He raised a hand in hello to Aden.

“Nash?” Aden asked.

“Fine, Dad,” Nash said. He shook the door again.

“Uh…” Aden said.

“Just want her to know that we missed her,” Nash said with a nod to Aden.

“Don’t you think this might make her wish she’d never come back?” Aden asked.

Nash was so struck with the idea that his mouth fell open.

“She had her own suite in New York,” Aden said. “A chef to cook her everything she wanted. A queen sized bed…”

“So what?” Nash scowled. “We’re here.”

Teddy nodded at the truth in Nash’s words, and Nash kicked the door again.

“Well, that will wake the house,” Aden said.

“Dad!” Nash looked shocked. “You know I’d never do this is everyone wasn’t awake. Even Rachel’s in the playpen in the living room! Jeez, it’s not like I’m inconsiderate.”

“Hmm,” Aden said. “You can use our bathroom if you need to.”

“We don’t need the bathroom,” Nash said. “Teddy?”

Teddy shook his head.

“I see,” Aden said.

He closed the door to keep them from knowing he was laughing. He was almost to their bedroom when the door opened behind him. Nash leaned out of his room.

“Dad?” Nash asked.

Aden turned around.

“When’s Charlie coming home?” Nash asked.

“We’re not sure,” Aden said. “We have so many stairs.”

“Oh,” Nash looked at the ground for a minute, before looking up, “and Sissy?”

“Not sure,” Aden said. “She’s still pretty sick.”

“Maybe we should move to one of those suites in the basement,” Nash said. “We’d only have one staircase and it still has that stair elevator from when Honey lived down there.”

“Maybe so,” Aden said. “I’ll talk to Sandy about it.”

“We’ll go ask Jake,” Nash said. He started out the door and then stopped. “Is that okay, Dad?”

“Sure,” Aden said. “We can tour possibilities this afternoon after we get back from school.”

“Great,” Nash said. “Come on, Teddy!”

Teddy nodded to Aden and followed Nash out of the suite. A few minutes later, the door to the bathroom banged open.

“I’m done!” Noelle yelled.

“They’re gone,” Aden said.

“Of course,” Noelle said. “They just do that to annoy me.”

“Because they love you,” Aden said.

“Because they love me,” Noelle said with a smile. “Since they’re gone, would it be okay…”

Her voice fell off. She looked very lost and sad.

“What?” Aden asked.

“Can I take a bath in your big tub?” Noelle asked. “That would help my grief.”

“Of course,” Aden said. “Would you like me to get it ready like I get Sandy’s bath’s ready?”

“Would you?” Noelle gave him a bright smile.

“Of course,” Aden said.

“Do we have time?” Noelle asked. “I don’t want to miss breakfast.”

“We have time,” Aden said.

There was a small knock on the apartment door.

“But…”

“What?” Noelle asked.

“Katy would like to see you,” Aden said. “She’s been by a couple of times.”

“Katy?” Noelle’s face brightened. She jogged to the front door and threw it open. The little girl was standing at the door. She was wearing a yellow dress and holding a tattered bunch of flowers. Noelle “Katy!”

Noelle hugged the little girl. She took the flowers and gave them to Aden.

“Thank you!” Noelle asked.

Her sorrow miles away, Noelle talked a mile a minute as she led Katy back into her bedroom to finish getting dressed. Aden smiled and picked up Rachel.

Everything was getting back to normal, and that was very good.

~~~~~~~

Monday morning — 8:22 a.m.
Denver, Colorado

Jacob pulled up to the construction entrance for the new Marlowe School building. He waved to the guard at the front and pulled into the dirt parking lot. By the time he got out of the truck, DeShawn and Jason were waiting for him.

“Where’s Pete?” Jacob asked about their third wheel.

“He’s inside,” DeShawn said.

“Waiting for us,” Jason said. A man of few words, he gestured to the school.

Jacob nodded. He looked up the ornate exterior of the once dilapidated building. A team of carpenters led by his father Sam Lipson had replaced every window. They had fixed what they could and re-milled what weather, insects, and wind had destroyed. Jill and Heather had selected shades of blue and grey which gave the building such delicate character that everyone now called the building “The Grey Lady.”

It was a beautiful sight. A little overwhelmed, Jacob took a quick breath and nodded to the site managers.

“Overwhelming, isn’t it?” DeShawn asked. He leaned into Jacob. “To tell the truth, each of us has shed a tear for the Grey Lady.”

Jacob looked at the former gang member and, second only to Rodney, the hardest person he’d ever met. DeShawn gave him a nod. Jacob’s head moved up and down.

“Pete cries like a little girl,” Jason said.

“I do not!” Pete yelled from a window somewhere above.

“She’s beautiful,” Jacob said. He waved to Pete and they started toward the entrance.

They had decided to replace the wood stairs with safer for little feet concrete. Jill and Heather had stained the concrete to match the house. They’d found concrete artists from Mexico who’s worked the concrete to look like tile. The entryway was gorgeous.

“Gorgeous, isn’t it?” Pete asked. Jacob nodded.

They walked up the stairs. Jacob had personally stripped and refurbished the original front doors. The doors matched the features of the building. They were thick and heavy. He’d spent the better part of two days hanging these doors.

“We added door openers because they were so heavy.” DeShawn told him what he already knew.

The doors soundlessly opened. Jacob grinned. He glanced at the site managers. DeShawn moved his hands in a gesture to push Jacob forward. The site managers stepped back and allowed Jacob to step through the doors alone.

He stepped into the entryway. For a moment, the entire building seemed to hum. He swallowed hard.

It was perfect. Every dream, every silent wish, every promise had been fulfilled. The building had been a private residence. It was becoming a school. He turned to see the beaming faces of the site managers.

“Now.” Jacob cleared his throat. “Valerie is going to be here tomorrow. She’s going to want to know what’s left to do.”

“We’re on target to open in six weeks,” DeShawn said.

“We’d better be!” Jacob said. “We’ve sold out junior high and high school spaces for the summer term.”

“My sons are signed up,” Jason said with a nod.

“We’re on target to open,” DeShawn said.

“Don’t worry, Jake,” Pete said. “We’ve got this.”

“Where is the list?” Jacob asked.

Jason took out his smartphone and they started down the list of problems and things to finish. They’d gone a few feet down the hallway when Jacob glanced back at the entrance. The resident ghost — a mother who had succumbed to the Spanish Flu only a few weeks after arriving in Colorado — was hovering in the entryway.

“It’s beautiful,” the resident ghost said. “I can’t wait until the children are here!”

Jacob smiled.

“Thank you,” she said.

Jacob nodded.

“Jake?” Pete asked.

Jacob smiled at Pete.

“What’s first?” Jacob asked.

And they started through the new Marlowe School.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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