Chapter ONE-HUNDRED and EIGHTY-NINE
Monday evening — 6:57 P.M. MDT
Ava came out of her and Seth’s bedroom to find Dale laying drop cloths on the wood stairwell. Need to get to work, Ava scooted down the stairs to the first floor.
“Thanks,” Dale said and began laying out a drop cloth.
Seeing he needed help, she trotted up the steps to help him lay out the fabric on the wood stairwell.
“If you get paint on my stairs, I will be very upset,” Maresol called up the stairwell.
“Yes ma’am,” Dale said. “I will do my best.”
“You do that,” Maresol smiled. “I’m very excited to give this place some color.”
Dale smiled at her. Ava helped him place the last drop cloth.
“See you tomorrow,” Maresol said and moved out the door.
“Are you sure you can do this?” Ava asked. “It seems pretty slick with the cloths.”
“I’ll be careful,” Dale said. “I’m hoping to get most of the hallway done while you’re at work this week.”
“Seth’s going to be home again this weekend,” Ava said. “I hope he likes the colors we picked.”
“Maresol picked the colors,” Dale said.
“Hey! I’m the lady of the house,” Ava smiled. “I approved them.”
“I just have time for dinner then I’m off to work,” Ava said.
“Don’t let me stop you,” Dale said.
Ava jogged into the kitchen where Maresol has set out her dinner. She was just sitting down at the kitchen bar when the doorbell rang.
“Can you get that?” Dale yelled.
“Got it,” Ava said.
She ran to the front door and peeked through the peep hole. She shook her head at what she saw and looked again.
“Who is it?” Dale asked. Seeing the look on her face, he walked toward the door.
“My Dad,” Ava whispered.
Dale’s face soured.
“You don’t have to answer it,” Dale’s words were punctuated by another ring of the bell.
“Let’s do it together,” Ava said.
She whipped open the antique wooden door and pressed open the glass security storm door.
“What can I do for you?” Ava asked.
“Amelie?” her father, Colorado State Attorney Aaron Alvin, stepped back from the door. “What are you doing here?”
“This is my home,” Ava said. “What can I do for you?”
Her father spied Dale and his face expressed the distain he felt for her best friend Beth’s boyfriend.
“You live here with that free loader?” her father asked.
Ava closed the security storm door. She was closing the inner door when he spoke up.
“Wait,” her father said. “Just wait. I need to speak with O’Malley.”
“He’s not here,” Ava said. “He’s in LA.”
Her father opened the outer door.
“Why are you here?” her father asked.
“I live here,” Ava said. “Why are you here?”
“I need to speak with O’Malley,” her father repeated.
“Now that we’ve established why we are both here, I’m going back to my dinner,” Ava moved to close the door. Her father’s hand held the door open.
“Amelie really,” her father said. “Does it have to be like this?”
“There’s too much that’s happened,” Ava said. “You’ve done too many… awful things. Too much. And since you’re convinced that you’re right and won’t listen to reason, yes, it has to be like this. Now, O’Malley is not here. May I close the front door?”
He lifted his hand.
“Thank you,” Ava said.
She had almost closed the door when he said: “Your mother misses you.”
Ava rolled her eyes and scrunched up her face behind the door.
“You need to get on with your life,” he said.
Ava whipped open the door.
“I just created the first successful protocol for the First Responder’s Toxin. Something no one, including the UN, the CDC, or even the Israelis were able to do,” Ava said. “I’m moving into a new lab in the new DPD building. My life and my career are moving at rapid pace. Is yours?”
“What are you talking about?” her father scowled. “You’re little police career is over now that O’Malley quit.”
“Come on,” Dale shifted Ava away from the door. “Thank you for coming by, Mr. Alvin. Seth is inLos Angeles. Do you need his number?”
“Get out of the way,” Ava’s father said. “I was speaking with my daughter.”
“I’ll take that as a no,” Dale said and shut the door.
“That man…” Ava was so angry she was shaking. “That man…”
Ava went from clenched fist furious to sobbing on Dale’s chest in an instant.
“B-B-B-Beth…” Ava said.
“I know,” Dale said. “Beth would say that he was doing his best. He doesn’t know any better and stuff like that. I miss her today too.”
The doorbell rang.
“Come on,” Dale said. “Let’s eat and get you leave out the back for work.”
“What about painting?” Ava worked to control the tears that dropped from her eyes.
“It will all get done,” Dale said. “That’s what O’Malley says. One way or another, everything eventually gets done.”
“We’re lucky our friends are so wise,” Ava said.
“Makes it harder when they’re gone.”
“Beth would say that we shouldn’t give too much time to this…”
“Crap,” Ava nodded.
Ava followed him into the kitchen.
Monday evening — 8:57 P.M. MDT
“There you are,” Tanesha said as she entered the den of the Penthouse. Jeraine was sitting on the couch watching a final version of their interview. “What are you doing?”
“We have last right of refusal on this interview,” Jeraine said. “It’s something the Schmidtys are known for putting in their contracts.”
“Jammy had contracts prepared when Primetime said they wanted to catch us on Sunday,” Jeraine said.
“But my publicist is Jen,” Tanesha said. “She’s the one who called us after church.”
“Jammy worked with Jen,” Jeraine said. “Now we have to look at this to make sure it’s right.”
“I wanted to talk to you about something.” Tanesha sat on the couch next to him.
“Ok,” he said. “But let’s finish this then talk.”
“Jammy tagged a few places he wanted us to check,” Jeraine said. “I’ve been through it a couple times. The only place I’m stuck is here. Can you take a look?”
“Ok,” Tanesha said.
He clicked the remote control and the video began to run. She and Jeraine were sitting on the patio with City Park and the Denver skyline in the background.
“You know there are women who say they were… with Jeraine last night,” the host said. “Two women. They’ve posted some photos on Facebook. Have you seen them?”
Tanesha shook her head.
“How do you feel about that?”
“Feel?” Tanesha asked. “Confused.”
“I’m never sure why a woman would brag about something like that,” Tanesha shrugged. “I mean, this man has a problem. Two years ago, he told the world he had a serious sex addiction. And still girls brag about screwing him. I mean, what would the world say to a crack dealer who sold drugs to Robert Downey, Jr.? Broke his sobriety? Would he or she be on the cover of magazines? The topic of programs?
“We minimize sex addiction,” the host said.
“We’re all ‘oooh it’s sex’ like we’re in Junior High,” Tanesha said. “Have some self respect. I mean seriously. If these girls were with Jer last night, they broke almost six months of sobriety. Plus, he left here saying he didn’t want to be with other women. When we found him, he said he hadn’t been with other women. So, these ladies got together with a guy who was too high to know what he was doing. Nice. I bet your Momma’s proud now.”
“So you don’t think he just told you one thing and did something else?”
“I look at people’s intentions,” Tanesha said. “I don’t believe that he intended to get high. I don’t believe that he intended to be with those… women, if he even was. In the last year, he’s worked hard to change his life. That means more to me than some grainy cell phone picture from the inside of a limo.”
Jeraine clicked the remote control to stop the video.
“What’s wrong with that?” Tanesha asked.
“A lot of people will say you’re a fool,” Jeraine said. “That I’m a dog who won’t change his ways.”
“You are a dog,” Tanesha smiled. “But I like dog training. Hey, I wanted to talk to you…”
“So you’re all right with this?”
“I don’t care,” Tanesha said. “Do you?”
“Not really,” Jeraine said.
“So why don’t we give Schmidty last right of refusal? He can take out what he wants to take out and we can live our life. I think that’s what you pay him for.”
Nodding, Jeraine picked up his cell phone and texted Schmidty. He turned to face Tanesha.
“What did you want to talk to me about?” Jeraine asked.
“First, I wanted to thank you again for picking me up at school,” Tanesha said. “I was surprised when I saw my Dad’s truck and thrilled when you got out of the driver’s seat. Thanks.”
“Your Dad let us borrow the truck all week,” he said.
“For the tear out,” Tanesha said.
“Right,” he said.
“I also wanted to thank you for having everyone over tonight,” Tanesha said. “You had dinner ready when we got home and then wham, everyone was here. Jill and Katy, Jacob, Sandy and her tribe, Heather and Mack with Blane, Honey, MJ, Valerie, Mike, and Sam, your parents, and even my Dad and Gran and Delphie. I had a great time.”
“I wanted to celebrate your big day. Turned out, everyone had a big day,” Jeraine smiled. “Nice people. Well, except for Scully.”
“I saw you laughing with MJ,” Tanesha said.
“He’s still a wild man. Did you know he was in Special Forces and now he’s a Marine?” Jeraine shook his head. “And I can’t for the life of me believe he married his ‘sweet little Honeybee.’ He said, ‘You know Honey’ and gestured to her. My jaw dropped.”
“Jill was… uh… tentative about them living in the Castle,” Tanesha said. “I guess they were pretty volatile.”
Jeraine gave a vehement nod and Tanesha laughed.
“They’re crazy about each other now,” Tanesha said. “Baby on the way and everything.”
“It was great to see him,” Jeraine said. “We’re going for a run tomorrow morning. I feel like… I’m finally home. You know some nice people.”
“I know,” Tanesha said. “Pretty lucky, eh?”
“The barbecue was fabulous,” Tanesha said. “Did you make the marinade and sauce?”
“I did,” he said. “Aden mastered the grill though.”
“You were nice to let him do it,” Tanesha said. “He’s more comfortable when he has a way to participate.”
“Hey us guys have to stick together,” Jeraine smiled. “Jake and I are close to having our own secret handshake.”
“Hey, I saw you talking to Delphie.” When he didn’t respond, Tanesha let her statement linger.
Jeraine was silent.
“That woman,” Jeraine shook his head.
“She’s a trip,” Tanesha said. “Anything you’d like to share?”
Jeraine took a deep breath, looked at Tanesha, and let out his breath. He shook his head.
“Well, I wanted to see…” Tanesha’s eyes scanned his face. “I wondered what you’d think if we stopped talking about the past.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that talking about the past just brings all of that garbage into today,” Tanesha said. “I get hurt all over again. I’m tired of being hurt by things that are over and done with.
“I mean, I had this amazing day. Our house remodel started. I walked out of eight hours of med school orientation that I’ve dreamed of all of my life to find you waiting for me. We came home and all of my friends and family were here. I ate great food, laughed, and hung out with my friends and their families, our family. And now I end the day sitting on the couch with you. I don’t think it gets better.”
Tanesha beamed and then shook her head.
“I don’t want to talk about the past,” she said. “Because today is pretty great.”
“What if something comes up?” he asked.
“If it’s relevant in the present, then I want to talk about it,” Tanesha said.
“Ok, I have something,” he said.
“Go ahead,” Tanesha said.
“You say that I tricked you into getting married,” Jeraine said. “And, I told you I needed to change my name…”
“I was going to meet you at Jill and scumbag Trevor’s wedding. Right?”
“You met me at Jill’s wedding,” she said. “And you had the license and asked the Judge to marry us when they were done. They were all excited about being married and stuff I felt manipulated into doing it too.”
“Did you want to be married?” he asked.
“Oh Jer,” Tanesha sighed and rubbed her forehead. “I…”
“Sorry, I need to know,” he said.
She gave him a long look. Seeing that he needed an answer, she nodded.
“I wanted to be married to you,” Tanesha turned away from him and stared at the wall. “But I didn’t know that just eight hours before you’d screwed five girls and five more the day before and whatever other nonsense. I didn’t know you would do that whole ‘let’s enjoy the cheerleaders’ event on the football bus and then leave… and then leave… forever… a week later. I…”
She clenched her jaw to hold in her heart wrenching pain.
“I wanted a wedding dress and… nice shoes… and an engagement ring I could show off for a while,” Tanesha said. “I wanted my Gran to be there. Your parents… They’re like parents to me. I wanted flowers… and… a gospel choir singing Amazing Grace and… Well, mostly I wanted you – day in, day out, coming home, waking up to. I wanted you. You were my life, my soul, my every waking thought, my… everything.”
When she looked at him, he was crying.
“So did I want to marry you? Yes.”
He put his arms around her to touch the top of his head to her shoulder.
“I’m so sorry,” he whispered.
“I know,” she tipped his head up so he was looking at her. “I want to be right here, right now. You?”
“Then let’s just be here,” she said.
“What about all of that? How…” He shook his head as if to say even the words were more than he could make up for.
“Maybe the past doesn’t need to be made up for,” Tanesha said. “Maybe it just is – not good or bad or whatever. It’s all just stuff that happened.”
“Let it go, Jer,” Tanesha said. “It’s over and done with. There’s nothing we can do to fix it except live right now.”
“Will you wear your ring?” He held up his left hand to show that he was wearing the gold band she’d bought him when she was sixteen years old.
“I have been this whole time,” Tanesha pointed to the gold band on her right hand. “I put it on this hand and never took it off.”
“May I?” he asked.
She nodded. He tugged the ring off her right hand and slipped it on her left ring finger. She smiled.
“It looks good there,” she said. “Like it belongs.”
He smiled. For a moment, they held each other.
“I love you,” he said in a low tone. “More than you’d ever know.”
She kissed him and they hugged again. Knowing she had to do something to get them back on track, she took a breath and moved back.
“Well, I do know what I want right now,” she said. He looked up at her. “More of that cake. Did you see Sandy and Blane commenting on how good it was? And they’re our pros! Did you really make it yourself?”
She got up and walked out of the room.
“You know what would be really good? Some tea,” Tanesha said. “You coming?”
Smiling, he followed her into the kitchen.
Monday night — 9:57 P.M. MDT
“How are you feeling?” Mike asked Valerie when she got into bed.
“Uncomfortable,” Valerie said. She lay down on her back with her belly. He put a hand on her protruding belly. “But I had a nice time tonight. What a great distraction to go over to Jeraine and Tanesha’s house.”
“I’m glad you said that because I wasn’t sure if you had a good time.”
“I thought it was fun,” Valerie said. “The penthouse was really nice. I haven’t been to the Pinnacle before. It was kind of like ‘imagine your life.’”
“Would you want to live there?”
“No,” Valerie said. “But it’s fun to look.”
“Delphie is sure you’ll have the baby this week,” Mike said. “Everyone’s geared up. Do you think it will happen?”
“I hope so,” Valerie said. “I’ve had a lot of contractions and…”
“I keep thinking I see Mom,” Valerie said. “That’s what I was doing.”
“I thought you were cleaning the kitchen floor again,” Mike smiled.
“No, but that’s a good idea,” Valerie said.
“What were you doing?” Mike asked.
“I was coming up from the kitchen and I thought I saw Mom,” Valerie said. “I went to where I saw her and… nothing. So I started up the stairs again and I swear she was at the top of the landing.”
“That’s weird,” Mike said.
“I went to ask Delphie,” Valerie said.
“She just smiled and put her hand on the baby,” Valerie said. “It’s weird.”
“Sounds weird,” Mike said.
“I want Mom to be here so bad,” Valerie said. “I want her to be with me when I have the baby, to be a grandmother, and everything. I miss her so much right now. I wish she’d lived long enough to be here for this. She’d have wanted to be here.”
“I’m sure she wishes she was here now,” Mike said.
Valerie made some nondescript sound and pretended to go to sleep. Mike rolled over onto his side. He watched her face for a moment then fell sound asleep. Valerie opened her eyes when she knew he was asleep. She stared at the ceiling for a while.
“Is that really you, Mom?” Valerie whispered. “Or is it some kind of hormonal insanity? If it’s really you, can you give me some kind of a sign? Something only I would know?”
She waited for a moment and then looked around room. She hoped beyond hope that something would happened. But the nothing moved in the dim, quiet room. Turning over, she told herself she was imagining things and tried to get some sleep. A few hours later, a strong contraction woke her and Valerie opened her eyes. She was laying on her side facing away from Mike.
She was about to roll onto her back when she noticed a tattered stuffed white bunny with one missing button eye. Mr. Bilfry. She’d slept with the bunny every day of her life until she left for college. And even then, she slept with Mr. Bilfry every night she was home from school. She stroked the super soft pink inside of the bunny’s ear.
She’d left Mr. Bilfry at home when she’d gone to college. College wasn’t a safe place for such a precious and vital creature. But sadly, Mr. Bilfry disappeared when her mother and Delphie had moved to the Castle. Secretly, Valerie had searched through boxes to see if she could find him. She never had. Until now.
Mr. Bilfry had appeared right exactly when she needed him the most.
“Thanks Mom,” Valerie whispered and fell sound asleep.
The Denver Cereal will continue next week
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