Wednesday afternoon — 2:15 P.M.
“And?” Jeraine opened the sliding door and Tanesha followed him out to the patio of the Penthouse.
“And whoosh Jackie was born,” Tanesha said. “It was unbelievable.”
He set their iced tea on the table and pulled a seat out for her at the table. His lap top was open next to his seat.
“Why? After all that madness, actually having the baby seems kind of predictable.”
Caught up in her excitement and story, she didn’t notice the chair until he touched her arm. She sat down.
“Because Val had effectively lost her mind,” Tanesha said. “I mean, she was so crazy her Dad was afraid she’d had a stroke or something. But Camila, the midwife… I guess she’s seen it all before. And Val’s so fit that once she settled down to business, the rest was pretty straight forward.”
Tanesha gave him a bright smile.
“Camila set Jackie on Val’s chest and Val had this beautiful smile,” Tanesha said. “I mean, she’s gorgeous, right. But she looked… heavenly. Mike took her picture for her website. You can see her glowing in the picture.”
“They’re going to post the baby’s picture?”
“You can only see Jackie’s hand touching Val’s face,” Tanesha said. “Jackie is gorgeous. She opened her eyes for Mike and he cried. He just broke down and cried.”
“Delivering babies makes you really happy,” Jeraine said.
“And Blane?” Jeraine asked. “Did he get his treatment?”
“Camila really took over the place,” Tanesha chuckled. “His doctor came in to take care of the cord blood. Camila insisted on learning how to do it. She thinks she can get her ladies, that’s what she calls pregnant women she works with, to donate their cord blood for Blane.”
“How did the doctor respond?”
“He didn’t have much of a choice,” Tanesha smiled at the memory. “Blane gave himself some acupuncture while the doctor taught Camila how to extract the cord blood, clean it, spin it, stuff like that. Anyway, Blane had his first treatment for his liver today.”
“And how is he?”
“He seems fine,” Tanesha said. “It’s hard to tell. Blane’s a con artist. He spent most of his early life either on the streets or in foster care. He can look just fine and be really sick.”
“I bet he doesn’t fool Jake,” Jeraine made a gesture to his head. “Jake’s always had this connection…”
“He doesn’t fool Heather either,” Tanesha nodded.
“This is really it for you,” he said.
“Delivering babies,” he said.
“It’s wonderful,” Tanesha said. “I feel so alive when I’m there. Camila said I was good too. She asked if I was a mid-wife and gave me a pitch to become one. She said I could come with her any time. I may do that just for experience.”
“Is that okay?” Tanesha asked. “It means I’ll always be on call and I’ll have a crazy schedule.”
“I’ve had a crazy schedule all of my life,” Jeraine shrugged.
“We’ll be crazy together,” Tanesha said. “What did the doctor say? Was your mom able to make it?”
“She went with me. I recorded it on my phone so you could listen. We talked with my doctor then we went to a rehab guy. The rehab doc said he thought some of the damage was from those concussions I got playing high school football.”
“Didn’t you fall off the stage last year?” Tanesha asked. “They brought it up in rehab. The counselor thought you fell because you were loaded.”
“The stage was supposed to glide out over the crowd. I thought it was done moving but it jerked at the end,” Jeraine said. “I’d practiced on that stupid stage four times, used it for the show the night before, but when I got out there it jerked. I fell forward. The fans tried to catch me but I hit my head. I had a concussion but no one did these kinds of brain scan. The doctor asked. Mom was mad that I didn’t get the proper care. She went on a whole rant about the quality of care in the US.”
“I thought the brain damage was due to the drugs?” Tanesha asked.
“The concussions are only part of the problem. The drugs did the rest,” Jeraine said. “And, if I don’t give my brain time to heal, I can easily get worse. I have to go to brain rehab a couple times a week and do these brain exercises at home. No school. No work. No stress. No drugs. Good nutrition, exercise, sleep a lot, stuff like that. Lucky I have money.”
“Speaking of money,” Jeraine said. “I’m supposed to talk to Schmidty in a little bit. He’s had some accountant go over my finances to see what I still owe the record company and whatever else. When are we due at the Castle?”
“An hour or so,” Tanesha said. “They’re having a big party.”
“Val’s up for that?”
“Oh you know,” Tanesha smiled.
“Ever the actress?” Jeraine asked.
“Well that,” Tanesha said. “And in that household, she won’t see the baby until tonight. Everyone wants to hold her, touch her, take photos. The kids are out of school so they get to meet her.Rosais going to be Jackie’s nanny.”
“I guess Celia took care ofRosa’s boys when they were little.Rosawants to return the favor while Val’s in town. She’s there with Jackie now. Val’s sleeping.”
“It’s how they are,” Tanesha said. “Everyone’s connected to everyone else. It’s nice.”
“Sounds horrible to be that dependent on people,” he said.
“I think it’s nice.”
“Well, I thought I could talk to Schmidty,” Jeraine said. “Then we could stop by our not-yet-yellow house to see what progress they’re making and then go to the party.”
“I can sit in with Schmidty if that helps,” Tanesha said.
“Sure,” Jeraine said. “You’re going to help me with my finances right?”
“And we’re never going to spend another night apart, right?”
“What?” Tanesha laughed.
“It’s just something I thought of,” Jeraine said. “You know, Paul McCartney only spent one night apart from Linda. That was the night he was in jail for possession of pot in Japan. I think it’s a good idea for us.”
“I’ll think about it,” Tanesha shook her head at his manipulations. “You could have just asked.”
“Oh yeah?” Jeraine’s eyes scanned. “How likely is it that you’d say ‘yes’?”
“Seventy percent,” she said.
“I like those odds,” Jeraine said. “How do I make it one hundred percent?”
“I’ll let you know.”
He leaned over to kiss her.
“I’m going to deliver babies as a doctor!” Tanesha beamed.
Tanesha’s bright smile made him laugh. She kissed him. His laptop pinged indicating that he was receiving a video call. He patted his lap for her to sit on it. She pulled her chair over and he laughed.
“Hey Schmidty,” Jeraine said. “How’s LA?”
“Good,” the young man’s face was red from too much sun. His round face held a bright smile.
“Sun burned?” Tanesha asked.
“I’ve been out with Lizzie every morning,” Schmidty smiled. “Walking on the beach. I forgot sunscreen this morning.”
“How is she?” Tanesha asked.
“Good,” Schmidty said. “Regaining herself. I saw on TMZ that Val had her baby today.”
“Couple hours ago,” Tanesha said. “Jacquote, that’s her name. They’re calling her Jackie. She’s gorgeous of course.”
“Of course,” Schmidty said. “Seth wanted to come back but there’s too much going on here. He’ll be back this weekend though.”
“You’re staying?” Tanesha asked.
“Lizzie’s getting the help she needs here,” Schmidty smiled.
“Therapy?” Jeraine asked.
“And peace and quiet. She hasn’t had much of that. Maybe ever. She sleeps twelve hours a night and takes naps. When her Dad’s here, they talk for hours at a time. She’s…” The young man flushed with feeling. He swallowed hard and nodded.
Tanesha and Jeraine smiled at him. He cleared his throat.
“Do you know how Connor is doing?” Schmidty asked. “Colin and Julie?”
“Jill said they’re happy,” Tanesha said. “Connor is doing really well, growing. I saw them… when was that…”
“Friday” Jeraine said.
“Right,” Tanesha said. “I went to pick up Paddie. They seem in that baby bliss – happy and tired. Paddie’s using it at an excuse to spend more time with Katy, so it’s all good.”
“I’ll tell Lizzie. She’ll be happy to hear it,” Schmidty said. “I saw your email about your brain. No work for a year?”
“At least,” Jeraine said. “No school. No stress. A bunch of therapy and stuff. What did you find out about my finances?”
“There’s no easy way to say this but I have some bad news, some worse news, and some sort of good news depending on how you look at things,” Schmidty smiled into the webcam. “You look surprised.”
“I thought…” Jeraine’s voice raised a pitch. “This was just a formality.”
“I thought so too,” Schmidty said. “Sorry.”
“I think you should just tell us,” Tanesha said. “Jer’s not supposed to have too much stress right now. He gets these headaches and…”
“Got it,” Schmidty said. “What do you want to hear first?”
“Good news,” Tanesha said.
“You have enough money to fulfill your child support for the rest of the year,” Schmidty said.
“Bad?” Jeraine asked.
“You don’t have much else,” Schmidty said.
“You owe the IRS a lot of money,” Schmidty said. “That’s most of the problem. You haven’t paid taxes in at least five years.”
“Yes I have,” Jeraine said. “I’m always proud to pay my taxes. I love my country and I’m happy to pay my share. I write a check and send it to my accountant.”
“Who deposited in an off-shore account,” Schmidty said.
“He ripped me off?”
“Can we get it back?” Jeraine asked.
“He disappeared around the time your team from the record company was arrested,” Schmidty said. “You’re not the only artist in this position. Every single one of the record company’s artists are in the same position. The accountant’s been talking to the IRS this whole time. He told them it was you, all of you, who wouldn’t pay. It’ll hit the press tonight. It’s a big mess.”
“What do we need to do?” Tanesha asked. “Jer can’t work next year. What can we do?”
“You’ll have to sell your homes or let the bank take them,” Schmidty said. “You did a number of things right, Jeraine. You own the apartment in New York, the house in Aspen, and the condo you’re living in outright. You own a number of solid stocks and your investment in the LA restaurant is sound. You’re in better shape than most people we find in this position.”
Schmidty smiled at the panicked look on Jeraine’s face. When Jeraine didn’t respond, Schmidty pressed on.
“Our tax attorney spoke with the IRS today and believes they’ve reached an arrangement. They’ll take the houses as collateral until you sell them. Seth already said he’ll buy his old apartment back, so that’s one. I bet your Dad will buy the Aspen house. They used it five or six times a year and all week when he plays the Jazz Festival. So that’s two. We’ll arrange for you to stay where you are until your dream house is ready. Then the IRS will take the condo and you’ll be square with them.”
“And the rest of them?” Jeraine asked. “The beach house and…”
“You have so little invested in them, our suggestion is that you let the bank take them,” Schmidty said. “We’ve gone through the rest of your assets and believe we can come up with the rest of your debt. We’ll have to sell the stocks and your portion of the restaurant.”
“What debt?” Jeraine asked.
“Looks like food, hotels, bar tabs, clothing, for… six, seven people, two cell phone service contracts…”
“The record company paid for that,” Jeraine said.
“It’s not in your contract. It was in your contract until… um…,” Schmidty rifled through some papers. “Two years ago. You signed a new contract for more money. The record company charges an extra percentage point for those fees. They gave you the percentage point and you took on the debt.”
“You’re saying I’m broke,” Jeraine said.
“You have just enough to cover your child support contracts through the end of the year. You still own the rights to most of your songs. You’ll get royalties off that work,” Schmidty said.
“Royalties are nothing,” Jeraine said. “The record company takes…”
“Most of it,” Schmidty said.
“What do we need to do?” Tanesha asked.
“We’re going to have to negotiate your child support for next year. Why are you paying three hundred thousand a year?”
“I thought it was a percentage thing,” Jeraine said.
“No,” Schmidty said. “Twenty-five thousand dollars a month is not child support. It’s an executive salary.”
“They’re my kids!” Jeraine said.
“You can’t afford it now,” Schmidty said.
“But we can pay through the end of the year?” Tanesha asked.
“Right,” Schmidty said. “With your permission, we’ll mediate with the mothers. Do you have any custody time?”
“They won’t let me see my boys,” Jeraine said.
“Do you want to spend time with the boys?” Schmidty asked.
“Yes, absolutely,” Tanesha said. “Can you work that out?”
Jeraine looked at her and she smiled at him.
“We’ll add to the conversation,” Schmidty said. “See what we come up with.”
“How’m I gonna pay to sort that mess out?” Jeraine asked.
“I’ll take care of it. That’s what you pay me for,” Schmidty said. “We run a bill. You pay a percentage toward the debt off everything you make until it’s paid off. Easy. Takes a couple years.”
“We don’t want to owe you…” Tanesha said.
“It’s part of the deal. Don’t worry,” Schmidty said. “Listen, don’t be discouraged. You’d be surprised how many artists are in this position when we take them on. I’ve been an agent full time for three years and I’ve done it five or six times, at least, so far. My Dad has a whole system in place – lawyers, accountants, negotiators, stuff like that. I just make the calls and it all happens.”
“We appreciate your help, Jammy,” Tanesha said. “We’d be lost without it.”
“Of course. The one thing I didn’t see…” Schmidty rifled through some papers. “Did you pay for the new house yet?”
Jeraine shook his head.
“Who did?” Schmidty asked.
“Jake Marlowe.” Jeraine’s face was marked with panic. He pressed his hand against his forehead as if to try to make his words come out. “I’m I ‘sposed to pay him when he’s done. How’m I gonna do that, Miss T? How’m I gonna…”
“Listen Schmidty, we need to go,” Tanesha said. “Can you send me everything?”
“Sorry,” Schmidty said. “I know it’s rough. But trust me, in a few years, you won’t remember this ever happened. We’ll talk tomorrow?”
Tanesha nodded and hung up the video phone connection. Jeraine was rotating his head back and forth on the table.
“What is it?” she asked.
“I…” Somewhere between mad and sad, he shook his head and broke down. “Everything… everything’s fallin’ apart. Everything I worked all this time for. I…”
“Nothing’s falling apart,” Tanesha said.
“What do you mean?”
“We have each other,” Tanesha said. ”For the first time ever, we have each other.”
“Gonna be bad,” he shook his head.
“I was gonna be a doctor with you,” he said. “I was gonna take care of everything.”
Tanesha watched him struggle for words. He shook his head.
“What about your school?” he asked.
“My Dad is paying for school,” Tanesha said. “He agreed to pay for it after I postponed last year. He was really mad when I didn’t tell him we were out of money. But I didn’t know he had any money.”
“Your Dad has… money?”
“He got a big settlement from the state,” Tanesha shrugged.
“You don’ need me?” His face held a bone crushing pain.
“I don’t need your money,” Tanesha said. “I know it’s hard. I know that every plan you made has now fallen apart. But we’re all right.”
“What about our house?” Jeraine asked. “I was gonna buy you your own house and…”
“We’ll talk to Jake,” Tanesha said. “He probably already knew.”
Jeraine repeated the gesture he’d used before to indicate Jake had psychic powers.
“All this stuff – it’s our past,” Tanesha said. “Let’s sell what we can and get rid of the rest. We’ll start from scratch.”
“And the bills?” Jeraine shook his head.
“They’ll get paid,” Tanesha said. “I can still work at Denver Health. We’ll get help from our families.”
“No. No. No way,” he said. “I’d rather jump off.”
He hopped up from his chair and walked to the three foot high security wall on the edge of the balcony.
“Why?” Tanesha asked.
He looked over the edge at the ground twenty feet below.
“Why does it matter so very much to you?” Tanesha asked. “Why are you like this?”
“Saying that all this crap is worth more than us, than our life, than your life.”
“No,” Tanesha said. “It’s just stuff. Maybe you should try living without it for a while. You’d be surprised at how little of it you really enjoy.”
He shook his head at her.
“How about this? Before you jump off the building, why don’t we talk to Jake and see what he can do? We’ll talk to my Dad, your Dad, and our friends to see if they can help us. I know you don’t like to believe it, but we’re connected to all the people who love us. Once we know who we can count on, we’ll decided if we want to jump off the building.”
“We? Why’d you jump off the buildin’ with me?”
“You don’t really get it,” Tanesha smiled. “I already jumped off the roof.”
He shook his head.
“Just think about it.” She walked to him, took his hand, and led him off the balcony to their bedroom. She pulled the curtains and undressed him. He stood naked next to the bed.
“Why you treating me like a damn child?”
“Because your head hurts,” she said.
“How do you know my head hurts?”
“Because you’re talking like ignorant Mr. It, not my husband,” Tanesha said. “Now get in bed and I’ll get your meds.”
When she came out of the bathroom, he was in lying on his back in the bed.
“We’ll rest a while then go to the house and stop by the party,” Tanesha gave him his medication and some water. He took the pills while she undressed. She spooned around him.
“You jumped off the roof to be with me,” he said.
“Did you land yet?”
“Nope, still in flight,” she said.
“Then I’ll join you,” he said. “We’ll jump out of this life and into…”
He was asleep. Smiling, she rested her head on his shoulder. When every girl had a dream of Prince Charming taking her away to a Magic Castle, Tanesha longed for someone to grow old with. She reached up to kiss his cheek and held on tight.
The Denver Cereal will continue next week
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