CHAPTER TWO HUNDRED and NINETEEN
Friday afternoon — 8:05 p.m.
“I really like that one,” Ava said.
“I thought you might,” Claire said.
“How did you know?” Ava shook her head.
“My husband met you when you had all that fuss with that horrible serial killer and Seth was ill,” Claire smiled. “He told me all about you. I saw your photo in the paper when you received the award from the FBI. It was pretty easy from there. May I?”
Claire reached for the dress Ava was lovingly holding. Ava had taken off the dress, but hadn’t quite been able to let go of it. Ava pulled the dress back a tiny bit before she realized what she was doing. Yvonne laughed. She put her hand on Ava’s shoulder.
“She needs to take it to make the alterations,” Yvonne said. “You want it to be perfect, don’t you?”
Ava looked at Yvonne and then nodded.
“How will I pay…?” Ava started.
“It’s all taken care of,” Claire said.
“I believe so,” Claire said. “Now, please.”
Claire lifted the form fitting, sheer lace dress from Ava’s arms. The dress had a boat neck, long sleeves, a scoop back, and flared in the back at her ankles. If Ava ever had a dream dress, this was it.
“Hurry now,” Claire said. “They are waiting for you.”
“They’re waiting for all of us,” Yvonne said. Claire smiled at Yvonne. “We’ll wait for you here.”
“Bien sur,” Claire left through the door at the end of the room with Ava’s dress.
“You look lovely,” Ava said.
“This is my dinner dress,” Yvonne twirled back in forth in her off-the-shoulder, light blue, full-skirt silk dress. “Have you ever seen anything more lovely?”
“Um,” Ava pointed to where Claire had carried away her dress.
Yvonne smiled. Ava went behind the screen to put on her regular, boring, jeans and shirt. Afraid to get rumpled, Yvonne stood by the door.
“You know,” Ava said. “I remember you.”
“You do?” Yvonne asked.
“I do,” Ava stuck her head out from behind the screen and nodded to Yvonne.
“Have we met before?” Yvonne asked.
“My Mom and sisters went to a ranch in Montana one summer,” Ava said from behind the screen. “I was supposed to go with them but I broke my leg on my BMX bike. I had to stay home. Dad had a trial so I stayed home with him. Beth was on the back of the bike when I crashed so she broke her arm. I think I thought I would spend the week with her.”
“Dad brought me to your house every morning,” Ava said. “I think he mostly wanted to see you and, truthfully, I was pretty bad off. I should have been in the hospital, but I pretended to be better than I was because I thought I’d get to see Beth.”
Ava came around the screen and Yvonne smiled.
“You don’t remember,” Ava said.
Yvonne shook her head.
“Well, I do,” Ava said. “You really took care of me, better than Mom would have. That’s for sure. You baked me cookies and made me sleep. Mid-week, I was better enough to go out. You talked Dad into letting me go to the Art Museum and Natural History Museum. You wheeled me around like I was a princess. Dad met us for lunch. It was like a dream, for me. I remember someone meeting us at the museum. I realize now it was Jeraine’s Mom, Dionne. My mother doesn’t really have women friends. I’d never seen two adult women friends. You laughed and chatted. I told you about Beth and you insisted on calling her. Beth and I spent the last couple days of break with you. It was an amazing week, truly amazing.”
“Because you were so beautiful and kind,” Ava said. “I love my mother, please don’t get me wrong, but she can be cold and calculating. Her biggest goal is for me to marry well, to look right, and improve my social standing. I was, I don’t know twelve, thirteen, when I met you. I learned that week that women can be a lot more than pretty objects. Beth too.”
“Are you and Beth still friends?” Yvonne asked.
“Beth was my best friend,” Ava said.
“She was killed this year,” Ava said the words before she realized what she was saying. She waited for the avalanche of sorrow. Under Yvonne’s kind attention, the sorrow seemed to transform from unbearable pain to a sad reality she could share with an empathetic listener.
“I’m so sorry,” Yvonne hugged Ava. “Some losses just never feel better.”
“She used to talk about you,” Ava nodded. “The beautiful woman who showed us the world. That’s what she called you.”
“That’s you,” Ava smiled.
“I’m sure I was delighted to have a little one to take care of,” Yvonne said. “If I’d have had my way, I would have had ten children.”
“You don’t because of my Dad.” Ava’s face shifted to disgust.
“I don’t because I don’t,” Yvonne shrugged. “That’s my life. And this is my life now. I can either focus on all the sad things that happened, but then I have to live in all that sadness. Or I can look at this amazing house, my beautiful dress, and think about all those people who want to celebrate with me and Rodney today. Which would you pick?”
“I want you to know that I’m really sorry,” Ava said.
“For what?” Yvonne smiled.
“For everything. I mean you…”
“It’s over,” Yvonne said. “And it wasn’t your fault.”
“But if I believe that than Beth is gone and I…”
“Love never disappears,” Yvonne said. “You love Beth?”
Biting her lip to keep from crying, Ava nodded.
“Then she lives in your heart all of your life,” Yvonne said. “Imagine your reunion when this part of your life is all over. Do you really want to tell her that you tried on your dream wedding dress and were miserable because she wasn’t here? What would she say?”
“She’d be mad,” Ava said. “Really mad. ‘You have to live for me, Amelie.’ That’s what she said while I was at the FBI. ‘I can’t go so you have to experience everything double and tell me all about it.’”
Lost in thought, Ava nodded.
“Are you ready?” Claire asked.
“We’re ready,” Yvonne smiled.
Claire slid open the sliding door and Yvonne followed her. For a moment, Ava stood lost in thought.
“Come along my dear,” Claire said.
Ava looked up at her and then at Yvonne. She gave the women a quick nod and followed them to dinner.
Friday afternoon — 8:05 p.m.
Wearing a new blue dress shirt and his best jeans, Nash jogged down the stairs from their apartment and into the kitchen. With her back to him, Delphie was talking to Jill in the kitchen.
“Delphie?” Nash asked.
Delphie turned to look at him. Aden stood near the stairs watching Nash.
“I’m sorry about today,” Nash said. “You asked for my help twice and I didn’t give it. I won’t make excuses, because Dad would kill me, so I’ll just say that I’m sorry.”
Delphie pulled the boy to her and hugged him tight.
“Are you feeling better?” she said in a low tone only he could hear.
“I think so,” Nash said. “Are you?”
“I think so,” Delphie said. She held on for another moment and let him go.
“Is there anything I can do to help with now?” Nash asked.
“Yes!” Delphie smiled and leaned in close. “Remember when we had the last wedding?”
“Yes, that’s right, your Dad and Sandy,” Delphie looked relieved. “Do you remember what I did with my incense and velvet alter cloth? I just assumed they were destroyed when the chapel was ruined but Jake said they weren’t there when we cleaned up. We had a big fight, which was awful, and didn’t solve anything because I don’t have a clue where they might be. I was hoping…”
“I know where they are,” Nash said. “Do you want your book and that crystal thingy maboper and the silver candle lighter thing and the blue snuffer and…?”
“Yes,” Delphie smiled. “All of that.”
“Sure,” Nash said. “Is Mr. Jacob mad?”
“No,” Jacob hugged Delphie. “Never.”
“See!” Jill smiled. “It all worked out.”
“Nash?” Delphie turned to look at the boy. “Go. Now.”
“Oh sure,” Nash ran out of the main Castle kitchen.
“Another day, another drama,” Charlie said under his breath to Aden as he walked past him. “As the Castle Turns.”
“Asshole,” Sissy pushed Charlie forward and he laughed.
“That’s three dollars,” Noelle ran around Sissy and Charlie to find Sandy. Sissy took off after her. By the time they got there, Sandy was holding her hand out for Sissy’s three dollars.
“It’s the truth!” Sissy said.
“Uh huh,” Sandy said.
“I don’t have it,” Sissy said.
“Here,” Aden gave Sandy three dollars.
“Thanks,” Sissy said.
“You can’t…” Sandy started.
Aden kissed her and went to talk to Rodney.
“It’s coming out of your allowance,” Sandy called after Sissy.
“I know,” Sissy said.
Charlie walked around them and into the dining room. He scanned the table. He knew that everyone had an assigned seat. Jeraine and Tanesha were sitting between his parents and Rodney. He was probably stuck somewhere dumb. He looked around the table until he saw…
“Tink?” Charlie squinted.
At least he thought it was Tink. There was a young woman who looked just like Tink except she had wavy black hair and a big smile. She was sitting next to Heather. She was wearing a light blue jersey halter dress that tucked tight to her waist. She looked beautiful.
“Tink!” Sissy ran up to her friend. Tink got up to hug Sissy. “What are you doing here? Are you supposed to be here? Can you stay?”
Sissy looked around to see if she could get the okay from Delphie.
“I have a name plate,” Tink pointed to the tag in front of her plate. “At least that’s what Heather says their called.”
The tag said: “TINK LIPSON”
“But…” Sissy leaned in and whispered. “That’s not you. You’re not a Lipson. I won’t tell anyone.”
“I am today,” Tink said. “Heather and Blane and Mack and I are doing a trial run at being a family.”
“You are?” Sissy ran to Heather. “She’s really great, Auntie Heather. I know you’re going to love her. Mr. Blane, she’s just the best, nicest friend anyone could have.”
Heather laughed at Sissy’s bubbly stream of words. Tink turned to look at Charlie. He was standing about six feet away just staring at her.
“Heya Pan,” Tink smiled.
Charlie blinked at her.
“Your tag is next to mine,” Tink said.
“But I want to sit next to you,” Sissy said.
“Do not mess with the name plates,” Blane said. “We were told to sit in our assigned seats and not to ask too many questions.”
“No switching,” Jeraine said from across the table.
“We tried,” Valerie smiled. “It was not pretty.”
Charlie managed to make it to his seat and sat down. Sissy and Tink chatted for a few more minutes before Aden guided Sissy to her seat. Tink sat down next to Charlie.
She smelled really good.
“Are you okay?” Tink whispered. “Are you high?”
“Are you kidding?” Charlie didn’t dare look at her. “I don’t want the kind of trouble that being high in this household would bring. They’re all psychics.”
“That would make it tough,” Tink said.
“Plus I have a lot of time clean and…” Charlie nodded. “My sobriety is important to me. It’s the cornerstone of my life.”
Tink laughed at his serious tone. Charlie smiled and snuck a glance at her.
“You look beautiful,” Charlie said.
“You’re not so bad yourself, Pan,” Tink said.
Heather said something to Tink and her head turned away from him. Under the table, he felt something. He looked down to see Tink’s hand close to his. It wasn’t so close that she would have to admit to actually wanting to hold his hand. It was kind-of-sort-of close in a “Do you want to hold my hand?” way.
Charlie felt a little weird. Here was a girl he’d known on the streets; a girl he’d slept with more than once. If they’d been on the streets, they’d be doing it right now.
But they weren’t on the streets anymore.
She was all cleaned up and even had a nice family. If Delphie put the name plate as Tink Lipson that was a sure sign Tink was going to be Blane and Heather’s forever daughter.
Then again, he was all cleaned up and had a nice forever family now too.
Charlie reached for her hand. He felt a kind of shock.
Tink shot him a quick glance. She must have felt it too.
He took her hand.
Blane cleared his throat. Charlie looked up at him. Blane gave him a “Watch yourself look” and Charlie nodded. Aden noticed Blane’s scowl at Charlie and looked over. Charlie gave Aden a guilty smile. Aden gave Charlie his “Don’t fuck up” look and went back to talking to Sandy. When all the scowling was over, Charlie was still holding Tink’s hand, which made him smile.
“Oh look,” Tink said.
Charlie couldn’t see because everyone stood. He stood up and saw Rodney kiss Yvonne. Everyone applauded. When Rodney stepped back, he saw Yvonne. Tanesha’s mother was the most beautiful woman Charlie had ever seen, even more beautiful than Valerie and she was a movie star.
“Heather says this dress is not her celebration dress,” Tink said in his ear. “It’s just her dinner dress. I think she’s very beautiful. You?”
Charlie nodded. Yvonne and Rodney hugged everyone as they came around the table. When they reached their chair, they hugged and kissed Tanesha and sat down. Everyone sat down.
Charlie reached his hand out and found Tink’s hand waiting for him. He smiled.
“Would you serve dinner?” Delphie asked the caterer.
The woman nodded and went to the back. Soon people appeared with plates full of really good food.
“Please everyone,” Delphie said. “Let’s share a toast.”
Everyone stood again. Charlie raised his glass of lemon fizzy water. He glanced at Tink and realized she had the same thing. Sissy whispered something to Tink behind his back. Nash told them to shush.
“To love!” Delphie said.
“To love!” they repeated.
Valerie and Mike were sitting across the table from him. They kissed. Mike stroked Valerie’s face and kissed her again.
“What’s with you two?” Sissy whispered to him as they were sitting down. “You and Tink look like you’re…”
Charlie blushed. In a way her very Sissy way, his little sister’s eyes raked over Charlie’s face.
“You better not hurt her,” Sissy whispered.
Everyone started to sit down.
“I won’t,” Charlie said.
Sissy’s face broke into a huge smile. She clapped her hands and sat down. Charlie scowled at her to get her not to tell, but as soon as Sissy sat down she was whispering to Noelle. Charlie was about to reach for his fork when he felt Tink’s fingers. He smiled to himself.
He’d have to eat with his left hand. He glanced at Tink. She smiled at him.
It was worth it.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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