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CHAPTER THREE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-SIX
“Wait, I was gone?” Jacob asked.
“For a couple weeks,” Jill said.
Jacob shook his head. Jill knelt down to Katy and Paddie.
“You don’t remember?” Jill asked. She glanced at Jacob and he shook his head. She put a hand on Paddie’s and Katy’s shoulder and said to them, “I bet you two are hungry.”
“Brownies?” Katy asked and gave her “please” face.
“Why not?” Jill asked. “Paddie? What would you like?”
“Pizza,” Paddie said.
“But only cheese,” Katy nodded.
“Cheese pizza!” Paddie said.
“We have some frozen pizza,” Jill said.
“You have what?” Jacob asked. His voice rose with surprise.
“We slipped into some old habits,” Jill said with a smile.
“We love frozen pizza, Daddy.” Katy reached out her arms to him and Jacob picked her up.
“Frozen pizza and brownies it is!” Jill said. “But first, we need to call Paddie’s mommy and Auntie Megan. They’ve been worried.”
Jill picked up Paddie and they walked to the kitchen area. Jill found her phone and dialed Paddie’s mom, Julie. She gave Paddie the phone and went to start the brownies. After Jacob set Katy down, he stood in front of the freezer.
“I had to see it for myself,” Jacob said.
“Very funny,” Jill said. She took out the homemade brownie mix she and Katy had made and started putting the brownies together.
“Delphie’s been gone, Daddy,” Katy said. “And almost everybody. We eat by ourselves now. Well, the widdle bra-ders, too.”
“Brothers,” Jill corrected.
“Delphie? Everybody?” Jacob asked.
“Noelle and Sissy are in New York,” Jill said. “Charlie’s staying at Seth’s house. Tink’s with Heather and I think Ivy’s there or she was going to be there tonight.”
“I guess I remember that,” Jacob said. “I feel like I just went to sleep and …”
He looked at Jill and then at Katy. Jill shooed him away from the freezer so she could get some eggs and milk.
“I had the worst dream,” Jacob said with a smile.
He reached into the freezer and took out a frozen cheese pizza.
“I have a confession,” he said as he pulled the packaging from the pizza.
“You love frozen pizza!” Paddie said with a squeal.
“I do,” Jacob said and laughed.
With the brownies in the oven, Jill took the phone from Paddie and called Megan. She walked away from their happy kitchen to the sitting area. After a brief call with Megan, she sat down. She lightly tapped her phone to her chin. She heard Jacob chat with the kids as he put the pizza in the oven. After a few minutes, she looked over at him. He caught her eye and gave her a “what’s up?” look. Drawn to him, she walked back into the kitchen.
“I think you’re right, Mommy,” Katy said and nodded.
“How so?” Jill said.
“You need to go back,” Katy said.
“Serpents and evil men and fairies and …” Jeraine reached out to stroke Tanesha’s bare shoulder. “I don’t know whether to be jealous or frightened.”
They were lying naked in their bed. Tanesha was on her back staring at the ceiling and Jeraine lay on his side facing her. Jabari was asleep in his little room.
“Both,” Tanesha said. “I’m just glad Mom’s okay. Both of our mom’s.”
Jeraine gave a slight nod. He leaned over to kiss her lips.
“How was it to be in the fairy corps?” Jeraine asked.
“I wasn’t really in the fairy corps,” Tanesha said. “I was kind of their project. Plus, they sold me out in a heartbeat to that awful Celeste. Abi was furious, but they felt like they were doing the right thing.”
“You can’t be in the fairy corps anyway,” Jeraine said.
“And why is that?” Tanesha asked. She rolled onto her side to look at him.
“It would seriously conflict with the girlfriend-corps,” Jeraine said.
Tanesha was silent for a moment before she laughed.
“Girlfriend-corps?” Tanesha asked.
“You know, you and your girls,” Jeraine said with a smile. “You kill serpents and right wrongs and take care of kids and love your partners in a single bound. That’s a lot more than Superman does.”
Tanesha laughed and kissed him. She lay back on her back and stared at the ceiling for a moment. The air in the room became heavy and tight.
“What is it?” Jeraine asked.
“I just have this feeling that we need to go back,” Tanesha said.
“Go back where?” Jeraine asked.
“To the sea of amber,” Tanesha said. “To deal with the serpents.”
“That’s just crazy,” Jeraine said. “Why would you do that?”
“I don’t know,” Tanesha said. “That’s what bothers me.”
Jeraine watched her face for a moment.
“What bothers you?” he asked in a soft low voice.
“I don’t know if the call to go back is real,” Tanesha said. “You know like, ‘I have to be there to deal with this’ or …”
“The serpents are calling you back there,” Jeraine asked.
“Right,” Tanesha said. “I mean, what if Jill, Sandy, Heather, and I are uniquely suited to fight these creatures or at least come to some agreement with them?”
“What if you are?” Jeraine asked.
“Exactly,” Tanesha said.
“No,” Jeraine propped himself up on his elbow. “That was a question, Miss T. What if you and your girls are supposed to fix this?”
“Then we have to go,” Tanesha said. “We left King Manannán, Fin, and Abi to deal with the serpents.”
“Plus their army,” Jeraine said. “That’s what you said, their army was there.”
“They were,” Tanesha said.
“So why would they need you?” Jeraine asked.
“I don’t know,” Tanesha said.
“You don’t know?”
“I don’t know,” Tanesha said.
“But you’re going anyway?” Jeraine asked.
Tanesha shrugged and Jeraine flopped back onto the bed.
“What?” Tanesha asked.
“It could be a trap!” Jeraine said.
“I know,” Tanesha’s voice was low and sad.
“Why do you have to deal with this?” Jeraine asked. “We just got our life together. Jabari’s here. You’re in school. My head’s coming together. We are living in the wonderful, lucky yellow house. We’ve paid off half of our debts and then …”
“Would it be better if the serpents kill the fairies?” Tanesha asked.
“How is that our business?” Jeraine asked.
“It’s not,” Tanesha said. “And it is. Both.”
“Can I come with you?” Jeraine asked. “Maybe I could play some music that would put them to sleep.”
“Maybe,” Tanesha said with a grin. “You certainly have some snooze worth tunes.”
Jeraine grabbed a pillow from behind him and he hit her with it.
“Oh yeah?” Tanesha laughed.
She grabbed a pillow and hit him back. Laughing, they hit each other back and forth until Jeraine grabbed her. He flipped her so she was under him.
“You think you have time for another round before you go save the world?” Jeraine asked.
“I’d better,” Tanesha asked.
He kissed her.
Sandy sat on the couch with Rachel in her lap and Buster, the ugly dog, beside her. Rachel hadn’t breast fed in a while. On nights like tonight, when Sandy’s mind whirled with thoughts, ideas, and problems, she longed for the simple quiet of their old breastfeeding ritual. She looked down at Rachel.
Her baby had a habit of sleeping with one balled fist on top of her head. She was so incredibly adorable that Sandy wanted to get up to take a picture. She knew that if she moved even slightly Rachel would move her adorable hand. Instead of taking a picture, Sandy just looked at her little child.
She wondered if she had a cute habit like this when she was an infant. Andy had taking a lot of pictures of her as an infant, but nothing while she was sleeping. Andy probably didn’t want to wake Sandy, like she didn’t want to wake Rachel. The thought of this kind of symmetry with her mother made Sandy smile.
She heard the toilet flush in their bedroom. Aden was awake and looking for her. He was going to want to know what kept her up. He’d want to know how he could help or at least make things better for her.
The problem was that Sandy had no idea why she was awake. Hearing him move around, she watched at their bedroom door. A few minutes later, he opened the door. Noting her attention, he leaned against the door. She grinned.
“Why …?” Aden asked at the same moment Sandy said, “I don’t know.”
She looked away from him a little too fast. He came into the living room.
“That’s not exactly true it is?” Aden asked.
“I want it to be true,” Sandy said with a smile. “Does that count?”
Aden grinned. He sat down in the armchair. Sitting on something hard, he jumped up and pulled a video game controller from the seat of chair.
“I miss them,” Aden said and held up the video game controller. Sitting down again, he said, “I thought we’d never be rid of them, you know?”
“Rid of them?” Sandy asked.
“You know how much I love all of them,” Aden said. “I just dreamed of when it would be just us.”
“Rachel needs another seventeen years of our love and care,” Sandy gave him a chiding smile.
“I know,” Aden said. “I just …”
“I know what you mean, though,” Sandy said. “I’ve thought of it too. When the kids move on, we’ll get a home or maybe just rearrange this apartment or …”
Sandy looked down at Rachel.
“It’s kind of a way of looking on the bright side of sending our precious kids into the world,” Sandy said.
Aden nodded. His eyes traced her bowed head and the baby on her lap.
“And tonight?” Aden asked.
“You acted like this when you were first pregnant with Rachel,” Aden said. “Are you …?”
“No,” Sandy shook her head. “God, no. I can’t even imagine …”
“I can,” Aden grinned.
“Wipe that thought out of your head, Mr. Norsen!” Sandy said. “Our kids are coming home soon. Once they get that guy processed in Arizona …”
“The one Yvonne and Dionne helped catch?”
“Exactly,” Sandy said with a nod. “Charlie and Nash will be home.”
“Just in time for the summer,” Aden said.
“That’s right. Teddy will be here again,” Sandy said. “Noelle with be back in a month or so. And …”
“We’ll have a full house,” Aden said.
“That will be fun,” Sandy said. She beamed at Aden and he laughed. “We won’t have room for another baby. At least not for a while.”
“Want to practice?” Aden asked.
Sandy looked down at Rachel and back up at him. She gave him a quick nod.
“Will you tell me what you’re thinking about?” Aden asked.
“Oh,” Sandy said. Still carrying Rachel, she got to her feet. “It’s nothing.”
“Nothing doesn’t get you out of bed in the middle of the night,” Aden said.
As a way of putting pressure on her to respond, he stayed in his seat. She sat back down with a sigh.
“So?” Aden asked.
“I have this feeling …” Sandy touched her heart. Shaking her head, she said, “Never mind, it’s stupid.”
“I’ve never known you to worry about anything stupid,” Aden said. “If you have a feeling, I want to know what’s going on.”
“I have this feeling that we need to go back,” Sandy said.
“Not you and me,” Sandy said. “Me and Jill and Tanesha and Heather. I have this feeling that if we don’t go back the whole world will …”
Sandy shook her head.
“You know what?” Sandy asked. “It’s not my responsibility to fix the world. I’m just a woman who lives in Denver, Colorado. I’m not saint or angel or …”
“What if this was your responsibility?” Aden asked.
“What do you mean?”
“What if you’re the only ones who can fix this serpent thing?” Aden asked.
“Then we’d need to go,” Sandy said.
“Why are you saying that?” Sandy asked.
“I have the same feeling,” Aden said. “I had it the moment you reappeared.”
“Should we …?” Sandy gestured to the bedroom. “You know, before I go?”
Aden hopped to his feet and she followed him back to the bedroom.
“I feel crazy,” Heather said to Blane.
They were in his hospital room. He was sitting in the armchair on the other side of the protective glass.
“I know you’re not crazy,” Blane said.
Heather gave a little nod.
“Lay it out for me,” Blane said.
“It sounds crazy,” Heather said.
Heather took a breath and nodded.
“So, we killed this pair of serpents, right?” Heather asked.
“We all played some part in killing them,” Blane said.
“Right,” Heather said. “We killed the male out at the barn.”
“And the female under Sandy’s salon,” Blane said with a nod. “That’s right.”
Heather responded to his nod with her own nod.
“I grew up with the idea of the sea of amber,” Heather said and sighed. “The sea of amber was something that existed, like …”
“The Boogy man?” Blane asked.
“Sort of,” Heather nodded. “I never knew anyone personally who was caught in the sea of amber. It was something that affected my parents and their parents. Even Perses said he’d never known anyone who was caught in the sea of amber. The serpents were …”
“I mean, they existed, but no one had ever even seen one,” Heather said. “I know about Hera from my father. Zeus got caught there early on. It was kind of a cautionary tale for men who liked adventure and thought they were the ruler of this world.”
“They were like brown recluse spiders,” Blane said.
“You know they exist, and their bite is deadly, but you put on your old sneakers without even checking for them,” Blane said. “I mean, who do you know that’s been bitten by one?”
“That’s how the serpents were,” Heather said. “Me, the Graces, Mom …”
Heather shook her head.
“And now?” Blane asked.
“I’ve now seen three serpents,” Heather said. “More than anyone I know! And …”
“And?” Blane asked.
“I just have a feeling that there’s a reason for it,” Heather said.
“Like what?” Blane asked.
“Um …” Heather shook her head and looked away.
“Like you’re supposed to deal with them?” Blane asked.
“Like they’re moving to take over the world,” Heather blurted out. She blushed and looked at the floor.
“Really?” Blane asked.
“Think of it,” Heather said. “The breeding pair were here! In Colorado! If the female had infected people, they would have …”
“A head start,” Blane said. “Makes sense.”
“They invaded the fairy world,” Heather said.
“Through this Celeste,” Blane said.
“Right,” Heather said.
“Why would they do this?” Blane asked.
“What if … I mean, it’s crazy but …”
“What if?” Blane asked.
“Remember how I said that we were on a boat on the sea of amber,” Heather said.
“Then it was just a quarter,” Blane said. “Right.”
“What if we were actually on the sea of amber, just not in this time,” Heather said.
“You mean the sea of amber has shrank,” Blane said.
“Why?” Blane asked.
“Global warming?” Heather asked. “Rise of the ocean sea? Psychopharmacology?”
“Mental health meds?”
“The sea of amber grows with people’s depression and general despair,” Heather said. “If people are happier …”
“And they are,” Blane nodded.
Heather and Blane fell silent in their own thoughts.
“You have to go back,” Blane said.
“With the girlfriends,” Heather said.
“You should talk to Delphie,” Blane said.
“Why?” Heather asked.
“Didn’t someone say that Oracles and serpents …”
“Serpents hate Oracles,” Heather said with a nod. “Everyone knows that.”
Blane grinned at her idea of “everyone.” Heather smiled.
“I need to talk to Delphie,” Heather said.
“How can I help?” Blane asked.
“Do you know of any acupuncture sites that would make us less vulnerable to serpents?” Heather asked.
“Actually …” Blane nodded.
“Really?” Heather asked.
“Can you show me?” Heather asked.
“Of course,” Blane said.
“Once upon a time, there were serpents and dragons,” Delphie said. “And they ruled the earth.”
She was sitting with her head on Sam’s shoulder. They had spent the last few hours talking, drinking wine, and eating cheese and cookies.
“Like dinosaurs?” Sam asked.
“No,” Delphie said. “Dragons and serpents were the one of the first flying creatures to evolve from Titaalik, you know, the creature that went from water to land?”
“They aren’t counted because no one has found their bones,” Delphie said.
“Why is that?” Sam asked.
“It’s traditional for the serpents and dragons to burn their dead,” Delphie said. “Nothing to find after that.”
“They both fly?” Sam asked.
“Why don’t they still rule the earth?” Sam asked.
“Other creatures evolved,” Delphie said. “Dragons preferred to interact with humans as if they were one of them while serpents preferred to engage the world through violence and trickery.”
“You think they want their rule back?” Sam asked.
“From what I saw, the serpents are being crowded out of their last habitat,” Delphie said.
“Going extinct,” Sam said.
“Not if they can do anything about it,” Delphie said.
“So where is Keenan?” Sam asked.
“He went to warn his mother,” Delphie said. “The serpents intend to take over the fairy world and then conquer humans.”
“To rule the earth again,” Sam said with a nod.
Delphie fell silent.
“And the girls?” Sam asked. “They just seem like young women.”
“They are young and strong,” Delphie said.
“But why them?”
“They are half-breeds — Titan, Olympian, and fairy,” Delphie said. “All of them, except for Sandy.”
“But Sandy’s symphony …”
“The music is a love story from a mother to her child,” Delphie said.
“Sandy,” Sam said.
“That’s why she’s there,” Delphie said. “And the fact that Heather loves them.”
Sam nodded. They leaned against each other in silence for a while.
“Do they stand a chance?” Sam asked.
“If they don’t, none of us do,” Delphie said.
“You’ve decided to go,” Sam said.
There was a tap at Delphie’s apartment door.
“Delphie?” Jill’s soft voice came from the other side.
“How can I not go?” Delphie asked.
“You can’t,” Sam said.
Delphie got up to answer the door.
“You can’t,” Sam repeated. “Will you come home?”
“Goddess, I hope so,” Delphie said and opened the door.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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