CHAPTER TWO HUNDRED and EIGHTEEN
Friday afternoon — 7:25 p.m.
“Mom?” Tanesha pushed open the sliding door to a room off the main Castle living room. Her voice was low and slurred by her wired jaw. “Mom?”
Tanesha stepped into the room and looked around. A rack of dresses hung on the right. She heard laughter and Claire Martins came out from behind the privacy screen which covered the fireplace.
“Cherchez-vous votre mère?” Claire said.
“Uh…?” Tanesha shook her head.
She found these French people to be nearly impossible to understand in English and her French was lost somewhere in a Jeraine-induced high school fog. Claire smiled at her.
“I’m sorry,” Claire said. “Your mother and I were speaking French. I forget myself around her. I feel as if I’ve known her all of my life.”
Claire gave Tanesha a bright smile.
“Yvonne?” Claire looked into the screen. “Votre fille est ici.”
“Tanni?” Yvonne asked. “Do you have a dress for her too?”
“Oui,” Claire said. “I’ll get it.”
“You are a dear,” Yvonne said.
Tanesha watched her mother’s arms as she hugged Claire. The French woman smiled at Tanesha and left the room through a door at the end. Yvonne came out from behind the screen. Even though her face was clear of make up and she was wearing only undergarments, Yvonne looked radiant. Tanesha smiled. Yvonne hugged her.
“How is your jaw?” Yvonne gave her jaw a light touch.
“Hurts,” Tanesha said.
“Fine,” Tanesha said.
The sliding door opened and Jill’s sister, Megan, appeared. She was holding a glass of water in her hand.
“I was sent here to ask if you’d like to have flowers for everyone in the audience or just for you or…”
Megan walked to them and then, almost as if she tripped, she touched Yvonne’s shoulder. Yvonne looked up into Megan’s eyes.
“You can remember now,” Megan said.
“What do you think about flowers?” Without removing her hand from Yvonne’s shoulder, Megan looked at Tanesha.
“I don’t think we care,” Tanesha smiled.
“I didn’t think so either, but you know Delphie.”
“She seems a little up tight,” Tanesha said.
“Everything is gorgeous,” Megan removed her hand from Yvonne. “Wait until you see.”
Megan gave a little shrug of her shoulders and left the room. Tanesha and Yvonne stood together for a moment.
“Now don’t get me wrong, Tanni,” Yvonne said. “I like your friends and I’m so grateful for… everything, but that Jill and her family?”
“They’re pretty amazing,” Tanesha smiled.
“Clumsy,” Yvonne said. “I think I’ve seen every one of them today. They all seem to fall over then say the same thing.”
“You can remember now?”
“Strange,” Yvonne said. “Nice people, but very strange.”
“You seem to remember them,” Tanesha said.
As if she was trying to understand what Tanesha had said, Yvonne looked at her daughter. She gave a slow nod.
“Listen,” Tanesha said. “While we’re alone, I wanted to talk to you about something.”
“What’s going on?” Yvonne asked.
Tanesha took a breath. Her jaw hurt. Talking hurt. But she had to tell her mother before anything else happened.
“You know Dad had a tough time when he was first in prison,” Tanesha said.
“He has HIV,” Tanesha said. “He got it in prison.”
“He told me,” Yvonne said.
“What?” Yvonne asked.
“You remembered something for more than an hour.”
Yvonne smiled and hugged Tanesha.
“I don’t remember any details,” Yvonne said. “But I gather it was pretty awful. Do you want to tell me what happened?”
“I don’t know exactly either,” Tanesha said. “He doesn’t talk about it. He takes medication, eats well, and stays fit. But tonight…”
Yvonne smiled at Tanesha.
“What?” Tanesha asked.
“You’re trying to tell me to not get sick,” Yvonne leaned over to kiss Tanesha’s cheek. “I don’t think I saw it until this very moment.”
“I’ve been your child,” Yvonne’s eyes welled with tears.
“No, not child,” Tanesha said. “My beloved mother.”
“Who is a mess,” Yvonne said. “But… I’m going to be all right now. Your Daddy too. He said you take care of him too. You…”
A tear dripped from Yvonne’s large eyes.
“Thank you,” Yvonne hugged Tanesha. “I love you. Your Daddy does too. Don’t worry. We’re going to be just fine. Plus…”
Yvonne leaned back to look at Tanesha’s face.
“We’ve been doing this since before you were born,” Yvonne said. Tanesha laughed.
“O’Malley!” Delphie’s voice came through the sliding door. “Where have you been? We have an entire party to set up. You have work to do.”
Tanesha and Yvonne turned toward the noise. Seth’s voice was a low rumble.
“Ava, Claire has a dress for you,” Delphie said. “Go. In there. Go.”
They heard more of Seth’s low voice.
“I’ve never seen Delphie like this,” Tanesha said.
“I have,” Yvonne said. “The only one who could calm her down was Celia. I bet Jake and Val are hiding. Sam too.”
Yvonne chuckled and shook her head.
“Delphie feels like she has to do everything,” Yvonne said. “Celia would sit her down with a cup of Chamomile tea and tell her to pull herself together. She wouldn’t let her up until she’d drunk all the tea.”
“Pull herself together?”
“Delphie is incredibly powerful,” Yvonne said. “You and I, we can’t even conceive of how powerful she is. But when she gets overwhelmed, her energy scatters everywhere and she’s ineffective. Know anyone like that?”
Yvonne gave Tanesha a sly smile.
“I’m no Oracle,” Tanesha said.
“Yes, but you just finished your first week of medical school, haven’t slept but a few hours every night, worried over everything and everyone, and here you are trying to help me and your Daddy.”
Yvonne kissed Tanesha’s forehead.
“You need to rest,” Yvonne said.
“SAM!” Delphie yelled.
“You think there’s anything I can do…” Tanesha pointed to the main living room where Delphie was yelling.
“Good idea. Make Delphie a cup of tea and tell her what Celia used to. You can tell her I sent you.”
“You’re sure you’re okay here by yourself?” Tanesha asked.
“I’ve never been happier in my entire life,” Yvonne said. “Go on and then promise you’ll rest?”
“I promise,” Tanesha said. “I’m supposed to go hang out with Jill while they set up.”
“JACOB MARLOWE!” Delphie’s voice echoed off the walls. “GET DOWN HERE.”
“I’d better…” Tanesha said.
Yvonne waved her on her way. Tanesha gave her mother one last smile and left through the sliding door. From where she stood, she heard Tanesha’s voice as she tried to talk to Delphie.
“What?” Delphie’s voice was irritated. “But…?”
There was a low man’s voice, probably Sam’s, Yvonne smiled. She heard Delphie protest again. Yvonne realized she should have taken care of this herself.
“Poor Tanni,” Yvonne said out loud. “I always expect her to do so much.”
Shaking her head, she pressed open the sliding door and ran right into… Yvonne screamed and tried to slide the door back.
“Wait!” Ava held the door. “I…”
Delphie, Tanesha, and Sam ran to them.
“It’s the spider!” Yvonne screamed in horror and fainted.
“Oh no,” Ava began to cry. “She…”
“Now, now, dear,” Delphie hugged Ava. “It’s not you.”
“She has a brain injury,” Tanesha said. “It makes her super jumpy and anxious. She takes medication at night for it, but she’s missed a couple of doses this week.”
Tanesha kneeled and helped her mother up. Yvonne shivered with fear and cried into Tanesha’s shoulder.
“Mom,” Tanesha said. “Mom!”
Yvonne moved away from Tanesha.
“This is Amelie,” Tanesha said. “You know, Seth’s fiancé?”
“Not the spider?” Yvonne whispered.
“No,” Tanesha said. “Remember he’s in jail.”
“Spider’s in jail,” Yvonne whispered. “I didn’t remember.”
Her eyes flicked to Tanesha.
“You’re sure?” Yvonne asked.
“I’d never lie to you,” Tanesha said.
Delphie put her hand on Yvonne’s shoulder. Yvonne turned and the women hugged.
“I don’t have to…” Ava’s voice cracked.
Hearing Ava’s voice, Yvonne turned to look at what had frightened her. The girl was no more than twenty-five. Her hair was short and the same color as the spider’s hair. Yvonne could see the spider’s face in the hills and recesses of the girl’s face. But the girl in front of her had none of the spider’s gloom and darkness. Her eyes were caring and warm. Yvonne reached out to hold Ava’s hands.
“I’m so sorry,” Yvonne said. “It’s a big day and I’m… I’d say I’m not myself, but I’m kind of like this.”
Yvonne gave Ava a bright smile. Ava seemed to stand a little taller in the light of Yvonne’s smile.
“You can ask my daughter,” Yvonne said. “She’ll tell you.”
Yvonne looked at Delphie and Sam. She gave Tanesha a nod and then turned back to Ava.
“I know Claire has a few dresses here for you to try,” Yvonne winked at Delphie. “Let’s go find what you like. You can help me bring Tanni’s dress up to Jill’s later.”
Yvonne put an arm around Ava’s shoulder and guided her into the room. She slid the door closed behind them.
“You’re right,” Delphie said. “I need to pull myself together.”
“That’s a very good idea,” Sam said. “I’ll go lay out the rug in the chapel, like you asked. I’ll also get Val to work on the candles. Tanesha, will you help Delphie with some tea?”
He glanced at Tanesha and she nodded. Sam kissed Delphie and went to do what she’d asked. Tanesha took Delphie’s arm and they went into the kitchen to make some tea.
Friday afternoon — 7:25 p.m.
“Why aren’t you dressed?” Aden asked Nash from the doorway.
Nash was lying back on his bed in an old, more-dirty-than-not T-shirt and shorts. His hair was filthy as were his feet. He was reading a thick paperback copy of the Three Musketeers. Sandy’s cat Cleo was curled up near his pillow. He looked up when he heard his father’s voice, scowled, and went back to reading.
“Watch out,” Noelle said as she walked by in the hall. “He’ll bite your head off.”
“Nash,” Aden came into the room. “What are you doing?”
“Reading,” Nash said.
“Why aren’t you getting ready?” Aden asked. “You know there’s a big dinner in…”
Aden looked at his watch and groaned.
“Twenty minutes,” Aden sat down on Nash’s bed. His son reeked of dirt, body odor, and rampant hormones.
“I wasn’t invited,” Nash said without looking up from his book.
“You were too,” Aden said. “You’re on the must be there list.”
“I uninvited myself,” Nash didn’t look up.
Aden hooked the book with a finger and pulled it from in front of Nash’s face. They did a little tug of war until Aden got the book from Nash. He set it down open To the page Nash had been reading.
“You’re going to break the binding,” Nash said.
“It’s my book,” Aden said.
“What’s going on, Nash?” Aden asked. “You’ve been pissed off ever since you heard about this event. Delphie’s asked you twice to help her and you haven’t.”
“She been crazy,” Nash said.
“Crazy or no, you always help Delphie,” Aden said.
Nash scowled and looked away.
“What is all of this?” Aden asked.
“Charlie acts like this all the time,” Nash said. “I can’t just be in a bad mood and I get the twelfth degree.”
“How does his bad attitude work out for him?” Aden asked.
“You grab him by the neck and make him do what he’s grumbling about,” Nash said.
“Why does Charlie act like that sometimes?”
“He’s testing your authority and your love for him,” Nash said. “That’s what Sandy says.”
“Are you testing my authority?” Aden asked.
“Are you feeling insecure about my love for you?”
“I don’t belong at a love thing,” Nash said.
“Everyone loves you,” Aden said. “Everyone who’s ever met you loves you. What’s this about?”
“Yeah but who have I ever loved?” Nash asked. “I mean Charlie has Addy or whoever. Noelle and Teddy, sure. Sissy loves ballet. You and Sandy and everybody in this house. Everybody loves somebody but me.”
“Sure, I like her,” Nash said. “And she’s fun to hang out with and stuff, but love her? I don’t know Dad. I just don’t know.”
Nash looked so sad that Aden couldn’t help but hug him. He regretted his decision the instant Nash got close.
“Yeah, I stink too,” Nash said.
Aden laughed and Nash gave him a sly smile. Feeling he had made his point, Nash leaned back onto his bed and reached for his book.
“I’ve never met a more loving person,” Aden said.
“You should get out more,” Nash said.
“No, listen to me,” Aden said. “We wouldn’t be sitting here if you hadn’t encouraged me to ask Sandy out. Teddy would have never lived with us if you hadn’t reached out to him when he was in trouble. Charlie either. You’re the one who said that Sissy should live with us and convinced Noelle to share her room with her. You even made the schedule for everyone to help with the Kangarooing of Rachel when Sandy was sick. You set it up so everyone got email and text reminders and… You’re the very loving center of our family.”
“I know that it’s tough,” Aden said. “You’ve gone from your own room, your own house, your own Dad, to all of this…”
They heard someone laughing upstairs in Jill and Jacob’s loft.
“It’s noisy and crowded,” Aden said. “And I’m distracted by Sandy and Rachel and everything else.”
“I really like it here,” Nash said. “Everyone is so happy. And even when they’re not, they work it out with each other.”
Aden smiled at Nash.
“Why did you smile?” Nash asked.
“Because that’s a very loving thing to say,” Aden said. “The ceremony isn’t about just romantic love. It’s about all kinds of love – love for your family, brothers and sisters, love for the world…”
Cleo got up from her spot at Nash’s head and delicately walked toward Aden.
“Cats, dogs,” Aden said. “Can you honestly say you don’t love Cleo? Or Buster?”
“He’s very ugly,” Nash smiled.
“So you don’t love him?” Aden asked. “You take him out at night, go for runs with him, and he waits at the top of the stairs for you and only you to get home from school.”
“Sounds like love to me,” Aden said.
Nash shook his head.
“Will I ever…?”
“I was almost forty Nash,” Aden said. “I think we’re late bloomers.”
“Or patient,” Noelle said from the doorway. “We wait until we find what we really want. That’s what Dad did.”
“Love you, Nash,” Aden said. “But please…”
“Shower,” Aden said. “Oh my God you smell.”
Nash hopped up and went to the doorway of the bathroom he shared with Noelle and Sissy.
“Thanks for… seeing me… for me.”
“I can’t believe you guys aren’t dressed!” Sandy said as she came down the hallway. “I’m dressed and I baked and helped Candy frost the wedding cake this afternoon!”
Charlie hopped up from his bed. Sissy scrambled toward the bathroom.
“Stop!” Aden said.
Everyone turned to look at him.
“Nash is a biohazard,” Aden laughed. “He showers first.”
They laughed and Nash closed the door to the bathroom.
“Sissy my shower,” Sandy said. “Go now or you’ll miss everything.”
“I’m all ready,” Noelle said.
“You’re a lovely girl,” Sandy said. “Can you trot downstairs and see if Mrs. Honey needs any help. She wants to thank you for the tree.”
Noelle stood up a little straighter and skipped out of the apartment.
“Charlie?” Aden asked.
“It’s time to learn how to wear a tie,” Aden said. “Come on, we’ll practice while we wait.”
Sandy smiled at him, picked up Rachel from her bassinette and went to the couch to breastfeed.
Nash was stepping into the shower when he finally got what his Dad meant.
This was his life. It was pretty great.
And he was right in the middle of everything. He smiled to himself and turned on the water.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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