Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Chapter Three Hundred and Sixty: On the swings

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CHAPTER THREE HUNDRED AND SIXTY

“He made you love someone you would never possibly meet,” Hedone said.

“Ivan,” Sissy said.

Hedone nodded.

“But Delphie found Ivan,” Sissy said. “We were going to start dating! He even kissed me twice! And it was… amazing!”

“This time,” Hedone said.

“This time?” Sissy asked. “Have there been others?”

“Many, many lonely lifetimes,” Hedone said. “I tried everything to get him to change his mind, remove the arrow, but he refused.”

“Arrow?” Sissy asked.

“My father, Eros,” Hedone said. “He went through this dark phase where he’d only create soulmate love in people who could never possibly meet. It was like a game to him. Could the people find each other? Was it possible? He loved it when two love-arrow struck humans pined away for loves they would never know. He thought it was hilarious.”

Hedone snorted.

“For all I know, he still thinks it’s funny,” Hedone said with a nod.

“That’s not very nice,” Sissy said.

“He’s not very nice,” Hedone said.

Sissy let her babysitter push her on the swing for a while.

“But Ivan is here now!” Sissy said, the words bursting out of her.

Sissy stretched out her feet to stop the swing. She was surprised to find that her legs didn’t touch the ground. Hedone stopped the swing. Sissy tried to get off, but her babysitter held her in place.

“You’ll have to leave Olympia if you get off the swing,” Hedone said.

Rage pump through Sissy’s veins.

“Ivan’s here now!” Sissy yelled. “We’re going to start dating.”

Hedone nodded.

“He loves me!” Sissy screamed.

Hedone nodded.

“I love him!”

Sissy kicked her legs and bat her arms, but didn’t dare get off the swing. She looked over and Ivan was gone. She stopped moving and sat very still.

“What’s happening to us?” Sissy asked.

“I’m not sure,” Hedone said. “Ivan’s been stabbed, and your stitches ripped when you tried to save him. On earth, you are both dying.”

“Oh.”

Her babysitter gave her a little push and Sissy started swinging again. She felt the desire to swing as high as the swing would take her. She longed for the bright blue sky and the rush of air. She looked at Hedone and her babysitter smiled.

“Are we waiting for the man?” Sissy asked.

“No,” Hedone said. “He’s otherwise occupied.”

“Then what are we waiting for?” Sissy asked. “Let’s go back so Ivan and I can have our happily ever after.”

“I’d like that.” Hedone gave Sissy a lovely smile.

Sissy started her ascension to the horizon. She pumped her arms and swung her feet. She felt the sensation of merging with the blue sky. When she looked down, she saw Hedone was having a quiet conversation with a tall, thin woman with dark hair and beautiful features. The woman was so gorgeous that she had to be a Goddess. Her babysitter and the Goddess seemed to be good friends. The woman gave Sissy a beautiful smile. When Sissy swung backwards she heard Hedone say:

“But I don’t know how!”

“It’s not about how,” the Goddess said.

The air filled Sissy’s ears. She turned her head to see if she could see what her babysitter said next but Sissy was too far away. She reached the top of the swing and began to descend. She swung past the perfect sand and…

Sissy opened her eyes to the blazing overhead light. She closed her eyes but the light was so bright that her eyelids shone bright red. Her ears filled with the sound of screaming machines. She sensed people around her — moving, arguing, working. She opened her mouth to say something, anything, but found her mouth covered with some kind of mask.

The machines were silenced at the same time. She opened her eyes. There was a feeling of palpable tension as the people moved at lightning speed.

“She’s back!” an unfamiliar man’s voice near her head said. He leaned into her. “Sissy?”

Sissy tried to speak. The man looked at someone who nodded. The man removed a mask from her face.

“Sissy?” a shadow with Sandy’s voice asked. “Sissy? Can you hear me?”

“Sandy?” Sissy whispered.

“I’m here.” Sandy grabbed her hand and held it to her chest.

“Ivan?” Sissy whispered. “You have to tell me — how is Ivan?”

“Who?” Sandy asked with a little shake of her head.

Sissy felt life flow out from her. The machines started screaming again. A mask came over her face…

… and Sissy was on the swings in her four year old body. She felt Hedone’s hand on her back and turned to look. Her babysitter smiled and gave her a little push. Sissy started to swing again. She pumped her arms and swung her legs until she felt like she was flying. She was descending toward the sand when the beautiful Goddess appeared again.

“That didn’t work,” Hedone said.

“I noticed,” the Goddess said. “You know, she might just be…”

“You saw what happened,” Hedone said. “She won’t live without him. Not now. Not since she’s had a chance to know him. Not since they’ve kissed.”

“They’ve kissed?” the Goddess asked.

Hedone nodded. The Goddess said something else, but Sissy couldn’t hear her. She was flying too high and too fast to catch what the women were saying now. She was descending toward the sand again when the Goddess hugged Hedone.

“You should have told me,” the Goddess said as Sissy zoomed by.

“I thought you knew,” Hedone said.

Sissy’s heart dropped when she saw that her babysitter was crying. Next to Sandy, her babysitter was the most important person in Sissy’s world. Her babysitter was tough and strong and still loving and kind. If her babysitter was upset, then something was seriously wrong. Sissy put her feet down to stop the swing. When she slowed, Hedone looked up at her. Sissy opened her mouth to ask what was wrong…

…and she was in a long, dark tunnel floating toward the screaming health monitoring machines. Sissy opened her eyes to the blazing overhead light. She saw shadows moving around the overwhelming light. She closed her eye. She sensed people around her — moving, arguing, working.

The machines were silenced at the same time, but the light blazed on. As the light invaded her skull, her eyelids shone bright red. There was a feeling of palpable tension as the people moved around her in a silent play of light and shadow where speed was of the essence.

“She’s back!” a loud, unfamiliar male voice near her head said. He leaned into her. “Sissy? Miss Delgado?”

Sissy tried to speak. The man looked at someone who nodded. A hand stretched out to remove a mask from her face.

“Sissy?” a shadow with Sandy’s voice asked. “Sissy? Can you hear me?”

“Sandy?” Sissy whispered.

“I’m here.” Sandy grabbed her hand and held it to her chest.

“Sandy,” Sissy whispered.

She felt more than saw Sandy’s tears. She tried to reach out to comfort Sandy, but the movement was too much effort. She closed her eyes.

“Ivan?” Sissy whispered. “How is Ivan?”

When Sandy didn’t respond, Sissy opened her eyes. Sandy’s eyebrows were pinched together. Sandy’s tear reddened eyes squinted to keep her tears from falling.

“Tell me,” Sissy whispered. “I have to know.”

“I’m so sorry, Sissy,” Sandy said. “He’s gone.”

“Gone where?” Sissy asked.

“Ivan is dead,” Sandy said. “He didn’t survive surgery.”

Sissy felt as if she’d been punched in the gut. She tried to speak but instead spat out blood. The machines started screaming and Sissy felt herself fade again. She lost the strength to hold onto Sandy’s hand, and…

…Sissy was flying through the baby blue sky again. The white puffy clouds were so perfect that Sissy wondered if they were painted by a masterful artist. She looked on the horizon to see if she could see the Castle. Strangely, a perfect carpet of green grass stretched out from the edge of the sand to as far as she could see.

She turned around to see if she could see her babysitter. The Goddess and Hedone were standing next to the hunter-green swing supports. The women were shaking their heads in a kind of “I don’t know what to do” way. From her swing, Sissy could tell that her babysitter was crying. Sissy wanted to stop and ask what was going on, but her babysitter pointed for her to turn around. Sissy loved her babysitter so she did what she was told. She pumped her arms and swung her feet to keep flying high.

A man appeared just as she zoomed past her babysitter and the Goddess. It was the same man who used to yell at her babysitter when they came here a long time ago. It was the man her babysitter had said was her father. The man had a smug look on his face. When she reached the top of her swinging arc, Sissy wrenched around to look. Hedone was crying and the man was laughing. The Goddess looked angry. She said something and the man looked more pleased with himself.

Sissy heard the Goddess and the man yell at each other in some language. The more angry the Goddess became, the more scary she became. The air filled with electric tension. But the more angry she became, the more the man laughed. After yelling at the Goddess, the man started in on Hedone.

Sissy got mad. No matter what, her babysitter did not deserve to be yelled at, especially by her useless father. Sissy remembered Tink talking about what a selfish jerk he’d been at Hedone’s mother’s house. Nodding to herself, Sissy slowed down. She needed to stop this man from hurting her precious babysitter.

By slowing down, she garnered the man’s attention. He said something in the foreign language and pointed at Sissy. Hedone gasped and stepped between them. Whatever the man had done bounced off her babysitter. The man howled with rage. He took a step toward Hedone. Sissy screamed because she was afraid that the horrible man would hurt her babysitter.

Another man appeared. Sissy recognized him from the Castle. He’d been there when Jill was having her perfect twins. While Sissy couldn’t remember his name or who he was, she thought he looked an awful lot like Mike. Sissy liked Mike a lot.

The man winked at her and Sissy started swinging again. It wasn’t that she thought about swinging. All of the sudden, she really, really, really wanted to swing. She wanted to swing more than even finding out what was going on.

She pumped her arms and used her legs. This time she even arched her back until she was high above the arguing adults. Swoosh, she was up in the clouds. Swoosh, she could hear the adults argue as she swung by. Swoosh, she was touching the baby blue sky. Swoosh, she rushed past the sand.

“This is none of your business,” she heard the horrible man say.

“You made it my business by telling me you were taking a break,” the man who looked like Mike said. “You’ve been begging for a break for centuries. You found Psyche and left to spend a hundred years in love, together, on my island! You gave your powers to Hedone. Let her get on with it.”

“Haven’t you heard?” the horrible man asked. “Hedone has my powers and has made a complete cock up of things.”

“Maybe she just needs help,” the man who looked like Mike said.

Swoosh, Sissy was heading toward the sky again. Sissy thought about her father. He was so handsome and funny. He’d loved her very much. She reached the top of the swing and thought about her mother. She scowled. She was swooshing past the sand when she thought of Sandy. Sissy smiled. Glancing at the adults, she saw her babysitting point her hand to the ground and stand up very tall. Even the baby tucked to Hedone’s breast gave the horrible man a dark look. Sissy smiled.

Sandy and Hedone were her heroes.

As she flew past the adults, she saw the man who looked like Mike winked at her again. Sissy did her best to wink back. As if on the wings of his wink, she zoomed higher and higher until she was surrounded by white puffy clouds. Fully expecting to hit the end, she braced herself for her descent to the sand, but the end never came. Instead…

Sissy awoke with a gasp. She tried to sit up, but was too weak to make it happen. She fell back to the bed. The room was dark and quiet except for the even beat of a few heart rate monitors. She felt air push through her nose. Sissy lay still for only a moment before a nurse appeared. The nurse smiled at Sissy and checked everything. Sissy’s eyes followed the nurse in a drugged blur. After a moment, Nadia’s face appeared. She gave Sissy a kind smile and grabbed Sissy’s hand.

“Sandy,” Sissy whispered.

“I sent her home,” Nadia said with a smile. “Doctor’s orders. She’s been with you every moment since…”

Nadia nodded and swallowed hard. Sissy got the impression that whatever had happened was fairly awful. Sissy tried to figure out what the doctor could be talking about.

“Do you remember what happened?”

“Ivan?” Sissy asked.

“He’s here,” Nadia said with a nod. “He…”

“He’s dead?” Sissy asked.

“Not a chance.” Nadia smiled at Sissy. “It takes more than a little steak knife to kill off our Ivan.”

Sissy felt a flood of relief. A large smile spread across Sissy’s face as tears streamed down her face. Nadia leaned over and kissed her cheek.

“It’s been quite a day,” Nadia said. “Night. Actually.”

Nadia smiled.

“Suffice it to say, young lady, you are a very lucky girl,” Nadia said. “And Ivan… He’s not going to be dancing anytime soon, which will make him and everyone around him crazy. But he is alive, which is a miracle. With luck and hard work, you will dance the Nutcracker together this Christmas.”

Sissy smiled or tried to smile.

“Hedone?” Sissy whispered.

“Eros and Psyche’s daughter?” Nadia shook her head. “From the myth?”

Sissy looked confused and Nadia gave her a practiced assuring smile.

“I will tell you that your sister’s friend Heather made quite a stir,” Nadia said. “She appeared out of thin air with her baby. Everyone was relieved.”

“She’s my babysitter,” Sissy said.

“Yes, she said something like that,” Nadia said. She leaned close. “She said to tell you that she would take you to the park when you were feeling better.”

Sissy grinned.

“Oh, good,” Nadia said. “I wasn’t sure how you would take it.”

“I love the swings,” Sissy said.

“That’s what Heather said,” Nadia said. “Personally, I think you were pretty lucky in your choice of babysitters. I had these horrible Russian grandmothers who smelled like cooked fish and lectured me on the importance of virginity.”

Sissy tried to laugh, but her lungs rebelled. She coughed.

“Watch it or you’ll get me kicked out!” Nadia said with a smile.

Nadia checked Sissy’s wounds to make sure nothing had opened.

“You rest,” Nadia said as she worked. “You’re not out of the woods yet. You need to rest. Don’t worry. Someone will be here with you the entire time. You and Ivan are our miracles. We’re not leaving you alone now.”

Sissy fell into a sound sleep long before she was done.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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