Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Chapter Three Hundred and Forty-six: Family

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CHAPTER THREE HUNDRED AND FORTY-SIX

“Why did Ivan say he was Sissy’s husband?” Noelle asked.

“Um,” Aden said.

“I mean, he planned on screwing the stupid ballerina,” Noelle said. “Did you know she didn’t stop screaming until MJ told her to knock it off? Ms. Behur joked that she was glad she and Ivan didn’t… you know…”

“Screw?” Aden asked with a grin.

“Right,” Noelle said. “Why did she say that?”

“She probably thought the ballerina would be loud,” Aden said.

“Oh,” Noelle said. Aden glanced at his daughter. As was typical, Noelle was so focused on her own puzzle that she ignored the whole loud thing. “So after Sissy died and the paramedics gave her shocks and Ivan said he was Sissy’s husband and got in the ambulance with Sissy and the ambulance took off. Whirrrr!”

Noelle imitated the noise the ambulance made.

“She was still screaming?” Aden asked.

“Yeah,” Noelle said. “MJ slapped her and told her to stop screaming. And you know what she did?”

“She got mad?” Aden asked.

“How’d you know?” Noelle asked. Aden shrugged. “She started yelling about Ivan being Sissy’s husband and MJ being a jerk and the guards not saving her and everything. MJ was mad. He grabbed her elbow and pushed her into the limo. When the door closed, everybody — you know like people watching on the street and the guards and stuff — they applauded.”

Noelle shook her head.

“Sounds like it’s good that she didn’t stay,” Aden said.

“I guess,” Noelle said. “If everything awful didn’t happen, she’d be here now.”

“There’s a thought,” Aden said.

“Makes me sad,” Noelle said. Her voice dropped to almost a whisper. “Sissy and me… She was going to stay in here last night so we could watch cartoons before she had to practice. We figured Ivan wouldn’t get up so super early. Ms. Behur’s housekeeper brings us breakfast in bed. Sissy gets to eat waffles and eggs and bacon on Saturdays. We were going to eat and watch cartoons and…”

Noelle fell silent. Aden went back to stroking her hair.

“Now, Sissy’s going to die,” Noelle said. She let out a heart-wrenching sigh.

“She hasn’t died yet,” Aden said.

Hearing Aden’s even tone, Noelle sat up and looked at him.

“I say we have waffles and eggs and bacon,” Aden said.

“And coffee with lots of cream,” Noelle said. “I didn’t say that because I thought you’d be mad.”

“Coffee with lots of cream,” Aden said. “We’ll watch cartoons to celebrate.”

“Celebrate?” Noelle asked. “What do we have to celebrate? Everything’s pretty awful.”

“We’ll celebrate that you’re alive,” Aden said.

“But …,” Noelle said.

“Sissy’s alive, too,” Aden said. “Your brother’s alive and Charlie is too. Tink and Ivy were targets, you know.”

“They were?” Noelle asked.

“They are doing just fine today,” Aden said. “It seems to me that this was a pretty unsuccessful attempt to get out of trouble.”

“You mean that guy in Arizona?” Noelle asked.

“According to Delphie, he’s getting his comeuppance today,” Aden said.

“He is?” Noelle asked.

Aden nodded.

“What’s that mean?” Noelle asked.

“No idea,” Aden said. Despite herself, Noelle giggled. Aden smiled at her. “Teddy said he talked to you last night.”

“MJ set it up.” Noelle nodded. “I just cried.”

“He’s pretty worried about you,” Aden said. “Nash wants to talk to you, too. So let’s send them a text to see if they’re up.”

“Can we talk to Charlie too?” Noelle asked.

“I don’t see why not,” Aden said. “That is if they’re awake. It’s two hours later there.”

“I bet they’re awake,” Noelle said.

“I bet you’re right,” Aden said.

There was a tap at the door.

“Come in,” Aden said.

Bestat’s head appeared in the gap of the door. She looked at Noelle for a long moment and then glanced at Aden.

“I’m so glad to see that you’re up,” Bestat said.

“We’re wondering if we can have waffles with bacon and eggs in bed,” Aden said.

“And coffee!” Noelle said.

“And coffee with lots of cream,” Aden said.

“Coming right up,” Bestat said.

“We were thinking of watching a few cartoons before going to see Sissy,” Aden said.

“I just got off the phone with Sandy,” Bestat said. “Sissy is being moved out of the ICU right now.”

“She is?” Noelle’s voice rose with excitement. Under her breath, she asked Aden, “That’s good news, right?”

“Very good news,” Aden said.

“We thought we’d go for a visit in an hour or so,” Bestat said. “Does that sound good?”

Noelle gave Bestat a solemn nod.

“Good,” Bestat said. “I’ll be right back with breakfast.”

“Are you going to join us?” Noelle asked.

“I usually hang out with my girls on Saturday mornings,” Bestat said to Aden. “Would that be all right with you, Aden?”

“Please join us,” Aden said.

Bestat gave him a toothy grin and closed the door.

“I’m going to…” Noelle pointed to the bathroom and Aden nodded. Noelle got to the bathroom door before she turned back to her father. “Why did Ivan say he was Sissy’s husband?”

“MJ said he wanted to get on the ambulance,” Aden said. “Why?”

“Oh, nothing,” Noelle said. She took a step into the bathroom.

“Nothing?” Aden asked.

“Just seems like he should be,” Noelle said. “Even the ballerina said so.”

“When she wasn’t screaming?” Aden asked.

Noelle giggled and closed the door. Aden gave a slow shake of his head and called Sandy.

~~~~~~~~

Phoenix, Arizona

“More champagne?” Otis asked. Naked, he was leaning against the bed board. Mari sat next to him.

“Sure,” Mari said.

Otis slipped out of bed and picked up the bottle they’d been drinking from.

“It’s empty,” Otis said. “Can I go out …?”

“Sure,” Mari said. “Why?”

“I thought we were in a time gap,” Otis said.

“We are,” Mari said.

“I don’t want to be caught out there with nothing on,” Otis said.

“Fair enough,” Mari said with a grin.

In hopes to drive a promise from her, he gave her a dark scowl. She shrugged. Shaking his head, he pulled on his pants and went out into the living area of the suite. He weaved his way around the living male statues to pick up two bottles of champagne. He made his way back into the room. When he got there Mari was smoking some kind of hand rolled cigarette.

“No smoking hotel?” Otis asked.

“Time gap,” Mari said with a smile. She held the cigarette out to him and he shook his head. “Do come back to bed.”

He opened a bottle of champagne and gave it to her. She set her cigarette down and took a drink from the bottle. Grinning, he dropped his pants and got in beside her. Lost in post-coital bliss, they drank champagne and thought their own thoughts. After a while, Mari sighed and put out her cigarette.

“My mother hates it when I’m like this,” Mari said.

“Like what?” Otis asked.

“Non-princess like,” Mari said.

“What is princess-like?” Otis asked with a smile.

She slipped out of bed. His eyes naturally followed her naked form, which made her smile. She grabbed her wand and held it over her head. She was transformed into a floor length maroon velvet dress complete with a tiara encrusted with diamonds in the family crest.

“Princess Mari, at your service,” Mari said.

She gave a deep courtesy. When she looked at him, Otis’s face seemed stuck in a partial grin.

“What?” Mari asked. “You look positively starched.”

“I’m wondering if you’re wearing lingerie under that dress,” Otis said.

He raised his eyebrows and she blushed.

“And if I’m not?” Mari asked.

“You should come over here,” Otis said.

“I’m beginning to see why so many people love you dearly,” Mari said.

Otis laughed. He beaconed her back to bed. Grinning at the idea, Mari crawled across the bed toward him. He slipped his hands under the velvet.

“No panties,” Otis said.

“Not for you,” Mari said.

“I like that,” Otis said.

“My mother will never approve,” Mari said.

“Of your drinking?” Under the velvet, Otis stroked her rear.

“No.”

“Your smoking?” He leaned forward to kiss her lips.

“Well, that too.”

“Then what?” Otis asked.

She leaned forward to kiss him. Their lips and tongues moved with hungry abandon. She pulled back.

“My mother will never approve of you,” Mari said.

“She might,” Otis said.

“She won’t,” Mari said.

“Is this a problem?” Otis asked. “We aren’t married.”

“No we aren’t,” Mari said.

“We’re not even dating,” Otis said.

“You never take me anywhere.” Mari mock hit his chest, and he grinned.

“We’re just enjoying a time gap,” Otis said.

“This is true,” Mari said.

She balled up the skirt of the gown so that she could slip onto him.

“Tomorrow, if there is one, we’ll decide if there’s a next,” Otis said.

“Suits me,” Mari said. “But it doesn’t change anything.”

“Your mother won’t approve of you whiling away a time gap with me?” Otis asked.

Mari shook her head.

“You’re making up your mind as to what to do with the men in the other room!” Otis’s voice was indignant.

“I’m indulging in carnal pleasures with a human,” Mari said.

“Is it our age difference?” Otis asked.

“Maybe,” Mari said. “How old are you?”

“Eighty-two,” Otis said.

“You don’t look it,” Mari said.

“I’m a healer,” Otis said. “My people have long lives. My father was two hundred and two years old when I was born.”

“Hmm,” Mari said.

“How old are you?”

“Um,” Mari said.

“Your brother Keenan was born in 400 AD,” Otis said. “That means you were born …”

“Before that,” Mari said. “Actually, quite a while before that.”

“So it’s not our age difference,” Otis said.

“Doesn’t mean she will approve,” Mari said.

“I’m hurt,” Otis said.

“You’re not,” Mari said.

“I’m not.”

Mari grinned and moved her hips.

“I bet your mother would approve of that,” Otis said.

Mari laughed.

~~~~~~~~

Olympia

“Whatever you have to say, you may say it here,” Zeus said. “You are my queen, my partner in everything.”

The crowd became very still. Hera looked out into the court for a moment before smiling at Zeus and nodding her head.

“Princess Tanesha is correct,” Hera said. “We owe your life to Hedone. She agreed to come with me to the Sea of Amber to freely trade her life for yours.”

“Trade Hedone for the great Zeus?” The ruler looked genuinely confused at the idea.

“The serpents wished to drive all love out of this world,” Hera said. “That was their mission. Since Eros gave Hedone his powers, her destruction would have destroyed love in the world.”

Zeus gave a slight nod to indicate that he heard Hera.

“She offered herself in replacement of you,” Hera said.

“What do I care?” Zeus shrugged. “I destroyed the entire serpent race and their Sea of Amber.”

“You would not be able to have done that if it were not for Hedone, my love,” Hera said.

“Hedone did what she should have to protect her Lord,” Zeus said.

Hera scowled at him.

“Don’t look at me like that, woman,” Zeus said. “The past is over. The serpents are dust. Hedone is here, and here she’ll stay.”

Zeus nodded to Hera.

“Isn’t that right?” Zeus said. He raised his hands and the crowd cheered.

Hera looked confused. She touched his arm and he turned to look at her. They communicated silently. Hera shook her head and Zeus just smiled. Finally, he nodded.

“If anyone can come up with a compelling reason Hedone should return to her human existence, speak now,” Zeus said.

Tanesha and Fin stepped forward.

“Not you,” Zeus said. “Who could possibly care about a human life? It’s so short and filled with so much suffering that just when you’re getting started it’s over. Your request is boring and nonsensical. Hedone is a Goddess.”

“Half,” Fin said.

‘For a fairy prince and a known warrior, you’re incredibly boring, Finegal, and you…”

He pointed to Jill.

“I don’t care if you did heal me, you’re as boring as they are,” Zeus said. “Plus, dinner will be served soon and my Hera would like some of my private attention…”

“Oooh, ” the crowd said to his innuendo.

“… before the feast,” Zeus said.

Zeus gave a lusty grin.

“Is there anyone?” Zeus asked.

Jill stepped forward to say something but was unable to speak. Tanesha tried to speak, but her voice was silenced. Fin tried to ask Tanesha what was wrong but his voice had been taken as well. Perses looked from Jill to Tanesha. He opened his mouth to speak.

“I’ll do it to you, Perses,” Zeus said.

“Then you’ll have a battle on your hands,” Perses said.

“Fair enough,” Zeus said.

He sneered in Perses direction, and the Titans appeared. They stood en masse with Perses as their point.

“Ah, shit,” Zeus said.

“Son,” Cronus said to Zeus, “you’ve over stepped your boundaries.”

“But father!” Zeus whined.

“Son, we’ve spoken about this,” Cronus said.

“Seriously?” Zeus asked. “You’re going to confront me in open court?”

Fin moved in front of Tanesha and Jill moved closer to Perses. The tension in the court rose. Jill felt someone move behind her. Turning, she saw an elder man who shared the look of her father. He gave her a kind, grandfatherly smile.

“Do you even know what the issue is?” Zeus asked.

Cronus glanced at Perses.

“I’ll tell you,” Zeus said. “Eros gave his responsibility and powers to his daughter Hedone.”

Zeus gestured to Heather.

“She was granted one human lifetime by Perses,” Zeus said. “Fair enough. But she’s been shot, and I want her back in court.”

“I see,” Cronus nodded. Her persed his lips and scowled. “Eros gave her all of his powers and responsibility.”

“Yes,” Zeus said.

“I’m sorry, Perses,” Cronus said. “I feel your pain, you know I do, but you see our dilemma.”

“I see a young woman who wishes to see her children grow up!” Perses said.

Jill sensed another presence. She glanced to her right to see a woman who looked almost identical to the grandfatherly man. She gave Jill a soft smile, and moved so that Jill was slightly behind but between her and her twin.

“These two,” the woman said in a low voice, “they never got along.”

Unable to speak, Jill nodded.

“The elder one killed our father,” the man said. “Then ate his children.”

“Despicable business,” the woman said. “This one managed to survive.”

“You can see why they don’t get along,” the man said.

Jill nodded. A woman wearing a gorgeous feathered gown and hat walked up to Perses and gave him a hard hug. He kissed her cheek.

“His wife,” the man said.

Jill looked surprised.

“Not a love marriage, child,” the woman said. “Arranged.”

Behind her father’s wife stood a younger woman wearing a gorgeous outfit that looked like it was made out of leaves with a pine bough across her waist. She wore a moon pendant. She winked at Jill and hugged Perses.

“Their child, Hecate,” the man said.

She touched Fin’s shoulder. He turned toward her touch and threw himself into her arms. They were talking and laughing.

“Father, you agree with me?” Zeus asked.

“I do,” Cronus said.

“They are really…” the woman near Jill said.

“… awful when they agree,” the man said.

Jill glanced at him. He nodded. She saw him wiggle his finger.

“I have something that might change your mind,” Tanesha said in a clear voice.

Tanesha stepped forward. She held up an old juice bottle filled with a grey mist. Jill gasped. Zeus sneered at her. He glanced at his father, and Cronus shrugged.

“How is it that you’re speaking?” Zeus asked. Shaking his head, he yelled, “Uncle Crius!”

“The child deserves to speak, Zeus,” the man standing near Jill said.

“You started this drama, dear,” the woman standing near Jill said. “Why shouldn’t this child speak?”

“Aunt Eurybia!” Zeus said. “Dad!”

Cronus turned to Crius and Eurybia. Brooding looks passed among the siblings.

“I will open this!” Tanesha said.

She put her hand at the top of the bottle.

“Why is she talking?” Zeus whined.

Hera turned her attention to Tanesha. One moment, the Goddess was at the throne and the next moment she was standing in front of Tanesha. Hera put her face next to the bottle. With her back to the court and Zeus, she gave Tanesha an impish grin before whipping around.

“My Zeus, Princess Tanesha is holding a bottle full of serpent dust,” Hera said.

Both the Titans and the Greeks gasped. The host of Gods and Goddess’s became silent. All attention was on Tanesha.

“I will use it!” Tanesha said.

“We should let her,” Crius said to his twin Eurybia. Eurybia laughed.

Jill scowled at her father’s parents and walked to Tanesha. She put her hand on Tanesha’s arm. Tanesha turned to look at Jill, who smiled. Jill glanced at her grandfather, Crius, and he nodded.

“Sir,” Jill said.

“Why is she talking?” Zeus whined.

Hera patted his hand in a “there, there” gesture.

“Sir,” Jill said again. “Why do you wish to keep Hedone here?”

Zeus looked at Jill. He glanced at Perses before looking at his father.

“Have you met her father?” Zeus asked.

Jill and Tanesha chuckled and nodded.

“Hedone is such a joy to have around,” Zeus said. “She’s funny and friendly. She always has something nice to say about everyone. She rarely hogs the limelight.”

“She’s wonderful,” Tanesha agreed.

“Her father on the other hand…”

Zeus shook his head. The host of Titans and Greeks groaned in agreement.

“It’s not more complicated than that,” Zeus said with a shrug.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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