Thursday afternoon — 4:15 P.M.
“Dad?” Nash asked.
“Nash,” Aden replied.
Aden glanced at his son. He’d just picked Nash up from his orthodontist appointment and they were on their way to Nash’s martial arts class.
Nash didn’t respond.
“Were you going to ask me something?” Aden asked.
“Yeah,” Nash said. “I don’t know how to say it.”
“I get like that,” Aden said. “Is it something important?”
“No, not really,” Nash fell silent for a moment. “Well, kind of.”
“What’s going on?” Aden asked.
“There was this guy, you know, he got mad at his son for saying things about the family on Facebook,” Nash said. “And he banned computers from the house – forever.”
“After he mocked his child to the public on his son’s Facebook page,” Aden said.
“Oh,” Nash asked. “You heard about that?”
“I did,” Aden said.
“They were talking about it at the ortho and…” Nash stopped talking.
“And?” Aden asked.
“Well,” Nash paused for a moment before the words poured out of his mouth. “I have a Facebook account, right? And you know, I might have posted something pretty similar to what that guy posted and I might have complained about our life and our family and I might have said some sort of similar things and I wondered if you were going to make fun of me and get rid of my computer.”
Nash paused for a moment.
“And iPhone,” Nash said. “Because that would really suck.”
“Which time?” Aden asked.
“Which time what?” Nash asked.
“Which time are you referring to?” Aden asked. “Are you asking me if I’m going to get rid of your computer over the last time you complained about having to do your chores? The first time you complained about how lame your parents were? The one about a month ago where you said that Charlie hogged the bathroom because he was a dick? The time you complained about being grounded?
“Yeah, those,” Nash blushed.
“So are you going to do it?” Nash asked.
“Get super mad, post stuff to my account and get rid of my computers.”
“Why did you laugh?” Nash asked. “I don’t know if that’s an evil laugh or an ‘I already got rid of your computers’ laugh or…?”
“In the first place,” Aden interrupted Nash’s anxious rant. “I’m on probation. Violent attacks on inanimate objects are frowned upon.”
“Yeah, but who would know?” Nash asked. “It’s not like Jake’s gonna tell or Mike. I mean Mike is a crazy mof… um… guy sometimes.
“You’re worried I’ll destroy your property,” Aden laughed.
“This isn’t very funny,” Nash said. “I bought my laptop with my own money that I made working hard at Lipson. And Sandy gave me my phone because I worked really hard to get caught up in school. And…”
“Okay, okay,” Aden smiled at Nash. “To answer your question: No, I have no plans to mock you in public and take away your property.”
“Oh,” Nash said. “Why?”
“Ask yourself this,” Aden said. “Why haven’t you blocked me or Sandy from your Facebook account?”
“Because you told me you’d delete my account if I did,” Nash said.
“Respect,” Aden said. “You respect me; and I respect you.”
“Riiiiggghhht…. but saying all that stuff and complaining isn’t very respectful,” Nash said. “That’s why that guy was so mad. He felt disrespected.”
“Disrespected isn’t a word,” Aden said.
“No,” Aden said.
“Oh,” Nash said. “But I still do it.”
“Write disrespectful stuff on my Facebook page,” Nash said.
“Of course you do,” Aden smiled.
“Of course I do?”
“You’re thirteen,” Aden said. “Thirteen year olds feel burdened by life and responsibility. They complain to their friends about what they have to do. You complain on Facebook. I complained on the telephone.”
“Sandy said she never complained,” Nash said. “I asked her if she complained when she was my age. She said no.”
“Sandy is unique,” Aden said. “Think of her situation. She’d been living with her Dad for three years when she was thirteen. Her life was a lot better than it was before she met him. Would you complain?”
Nash was silent for a moment.
“I didn’t think so,” Aden said.
“Maybe I should be more grateful,” Nash said. “That’s what Melinda’s father says. We kids should be more grateful.”
“Maybe you should be,” Aden said.
“I’m not very grateful.”
“You’re thirteen,” Aden said. “There’s no question things haven’t been super easy for you or Noelle. But you’re just starting your life.
You don’t know anything about anything.”
“I know some things.”
“Okay,” Aden said. “Let’s make a deal. When you’re my age, let’s answer the question of how much you know now.”
“You won’t tell Sandy, will you?” Nash asked. “I really love her. A lot. And I’m really glad she’s my Mom. You won’t tell her about my disrespectful Facebook updates, will you? She’ll probably cry and…”
“How do you think I know about them?” Aden smiled. “Sandy checks your page every day. She checks all you kids Facebook pages and your email.”
“My email too?” Nash looked horrified.
“What did you think she would do when you gave her your logins?” Aden asked.
“I should change it,” Nash said.
“Do you trust Sandy?”
“Do you believe Sandy loves you?”
“She checks your page and your email to make sure you’re safe,” Aden said. “That’s all.”
“But what about when I disrespected her?”
“You mean, when you complained about her breast feeding Rachel on the living room couch? And all your friends agreed that it was gross? That time?”
“Does she still breastfeed on the couch?”
“Is it still gross?”
“Yes,” Nash said. “But why…?”
“Because Sandy knows that family-life is filled with things that make us uncomfortable. We complain when we’re uncomfortable. That doesn’t mean anything has to change. It just means that you’re uncomfortable.”
“Oh,” Nash said.
“She’s not going to get mad at you for complaining about the things that make you uncomfortable,” Aden said. “That’s your job as a teenager.”
“I’m kind of an asshole,” Nash said.
“Only kind of,” Aden smiled. “You could be a lot worse.”
“Right, I could be Charlie,” Nash said.
“Actually, he’s okay,” Nash said. “And really, everything’s okay. I like having Sissy and Charlie live with us and I love Rachel and Sandy and Noelle and… We’re okay.”
“Glad you know that,” Aden smiled. He pulled up to Colin Hargreaves’s house. “Love you Nash.”
“Yeah, whatever,” Nash said and got out of the car.
Laughing, Aden went to get Sissy to take her to dance practice.
~~~~~~~~ Thursday evening — 5:10 P.M.
“Why are we here?” Sissy asked. She was wearing what she called her dance uniform – black tights, a lycra top, sports bra, and a heavy gray cable sweater. “I’m not supposed to be here.”
“Ivan called to ask if you’d meet him here,” Aden said.
“We’re supposed to go to the Castle,” Sissy said. “We’re supposed to dance today. I have to dance today. I’m way behind and…”
Aden pulled up to the loading zone on Fourteenth Avenue.
“Why are you stopping?” Sissy’s voice screeched with anxiety. “Why are you stopping?”
“Because Ivan is standing right there?” Aden asked. “Next to the building.”
“Why are we here?” Sissy’s face was a mask of panic.
Aden put his hands on her shoulders.
“Listen to me,” Aden said. “Sissy, look at me.”
With her mind spinning stories of her worst fears, Sissy’s eyes glazed over.
“Did you eat your lunch?” Aden asked.
“I have it with me,” Sissy said.
“Let’s have it now,” Aden said. “We’ll eat our snack, take a few breaths, and go meet our friend Ivan.”
Aden leaned across her and opened the glove box. He nodded his head toward the box. Sissy looked over at the glove box. There was a pink napkin wrapped around something in the box. Sissy took it out and opened the napkin. Inside, there was a sugar cookie in the shape of a ballerina. Sissy smiled and bit the head off the girl.
“Good luck cookie from Sandy,” Sissy said. Flecks of crumbs flew out of her mouth. Aden held out a carton of milk. “Thanks.”
Sissy ate the ballerina’s feet then her arms.
“I can never resist these. Sandy’s made them for me all my life. But, wait.” Sissy finished the last bite. “Why do I need luck?”
Aden held out the protein bar that was her snack. Sissy opened it and took a bite.
“Ivan will tell you,” Aden said.
“I hope it’s not anything bad,” Sissy opened her mouth to show Aden she’d eaten her protein bar. Aden nodded.
“It’s something really neat,” Aden said. “Sandy will be here as soon as she finishes.”
“And everybody else?” Sissy asked.
“They’re waiting for you at home,” Aden said. “Sandy thought you’d might like it if she came alone.”
“Ok,” Sissy hugged Aden. “Thanks for the ride and the cookie and…”
Sissy turned to open the door.
“Do I have to go?” Panic returned to Sissy’s voice.
“No, you don’t have to go,” Aden said. “But, as scary as it is, you’ll be really glad you did.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m sure,” Aden said.
“Okay,” Sissy said. “Can you come with me?”
“Sure,” Aden said. “But we talked it over and Sandy and I think you’ll want Ivan to be there with you.”
“Okay,” Sissy said.
She hugged him again and got out of the car. She waved and he drove off. Ivan met her near the stairs.
“Did you eat?” Ivan asked.
“I just had my snack,” Sissy said.
“Good,” Ivan said. “That’s good. Come on. We have a very special treat.”
Ivan took Sissy’s elbow and they went up the stairs.
“You will be polite,” Ivan said in her ear. “You will do exactly what you’re asked to do.”
Having heard this speech before, Sissy nodded.
“You will do your very best no matter what,” Ivan said.
“And I won’t embarrass you,” Sissy smiled at him.
“You never do,” Ivan said. “Come on.”
They entered the Ellie Caukins Opera House. Sissy was so nervous, she had to focus on putting one foot in front of the other. Ivan opened the door to the auditorium and Sissy stepped inside. Terrified he would leave her, she flipped around. He smiled and came in after her. He touched her shoulder and took her arm again.
Sissy turned and looked up at the stage. A woman was standing under a stage light. She was small, short really, and had darkish skin as if she was Hispanic or maybe African American. She wore her long hair was in a ponytail.
“Who’s that?” Sissy whispered.
Ivan nodded toward the stage and Sissy turned back. The woman was muscular and curvy. Self conscious, Sissy put her hand to her own growing breasts. The woman went through a few warm up dance moves.
“She’s really good,” Sissy said. “But… she…”
“She’s a soloist,” Ivan said. “She came all this way to dance with you, Sissy.”
“But she’s not tall or skinny and she has big…” Sissy pointed to her chest.
“Doesn’t seem like that mattered to the American Ballet Theater,” Ivan said. “Your friend Tanesha’s father arranged all of this. This dancer is here to see you.”
Ivan took her arm and escorted her to the steps to the stage.
“Go, little bird,” Ivan said. “This is your chance to fly.”
He gave Sissy a little push and she went up the stairs.
“Hi,” Sissy was so nervous her voice came out as a croak. “I’m Sissy.”
“Misty,” the woman turned and gave her a big smile. “Would you like to dance?”
~~~~~~~~ Thursday evening — 6:10 P.M
“Tanesha?” Gran opened the front door.
Tanesha’s eyes were swollen from crying. Her lips were dry and red. The clothing Jeraine had forced on her was slightly twisted and her hair wasn’t combed.
“Oh Gran,” Tanesha walked into her Grandmother’s arms and began to cry.
“What did you do?” Gran asked Jeraine over her shoulder.
“Wasn’t me,” Jeraine said.
Her Gran gave him a dangerous, angry look.
“I swear,” Jeraine said. “It wasn’t me.”
Tanesha’s grandmother guided Tanesha into the living room. Tanesha never lifted her head from her grandmother’s shoulder. They sat her down on the couch.
“Get us some water,” Gran commanded.
“Yes, ma’am,” Jeraine said.
He trotted into the kitchen to get a couple glasses of water. When he returned, Tanesha was weeping with her head on her grandmother’s lap. Gran took the glasses. She set hers down on the side table and convinced Tanesha to drink some water. Tanesha had a drink and buried herself in her grandmother’s lap again.
“What is it that you didn’t do that has my baby so upset?” Gran gave Jeraine a hard look.
“It wasn’t me,” Jeraine said.
“Right,” Gran said. “This one time in all the billions of times she’s cried her eyes out over you; this time you didn’t do anything.”
“It was you.”
“You better watch yourself,” her Gran said. “I don’t have any problem throwing your behind on the street and changing the locks.”
“Tell her Tanesha,” he said.
“Tell me what?”
“Tell her what you see when you close your eyes,” Jeraine said.
“What’s that fool talking about?” Gran smoothed Tanesha’s hair away from her face.
“Tell her what you see,” Jeraine said.
“Would you shut up?” Gran said to Jeraine. “The girl needs some air.”
He held up his hands and backed into the dining room.
“What is it, baby?” Gran said.
“I see… I see… blood… everywhere… and this tattoo.” Tanesha sat up and made a crescent around her belly button. “It says Forever, in green script, but I think it says Forever Miss T. And someone’s crying and…”
“Oh.” Gran said.
“That’s it? That’s all you got?” Jeraine asked. “Your baby’s been crying her eyes out since last night. She barely makes sense. She won’t eat or sleep or… And all you can say is ‘Oh’?”
Gran gave Jeraine a dark look and Tanesha lay back down with her head in her lap.
“Tell me again,” Gran said. “What do you see?”
“I see blood…”
“Everywhere,” Rodney Smith stepped into the living room. “And a crescent tattoo that says Forever.”
Tanesha and Gran looked up at him. He nodded to Jeraine.
“It’s time,” Rodney Smith said.
“But…” Gran said.
“No more buts,” Rodney Smith said. “It’s time to tell Tanesha the truth.”
The Denver Cereal will continue next week
p style=”text-align: center;”>Denver Cereal is a serial fiction set in Denver, Colorado. You can get your daily dose of Denver Cereal at DenverCereal.com Chapters are posted on Saturdays on this blog.
Claudia Hall Christian is a novelist.
This work, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.