CHAPTER TWO HUNDRED and ONE
Sunday morning — 5:15 a.m.
“Hey,” Aden sat down on the side of the bed next to Sandy.
Sandy rolled over to look at him. She smiled.
“I have to go in.” His voice was low and intimate so as not to wake Rachel sleeping in the crib nearby.
“On Sunday?” Sandy said.
“I didn’t get a chance to tell you before you left for dinner with Sissy.” His hand stroked her cheek. “And then…”
“You were on fire after playing paintball tag with the boys,” Sandy said.
“I thought that was you.” He leaned down to kiss her. “Plus, it was our boys, Teddy, all of MJ’s team and a few people from who knows where. Crazy game.”
“I should be back before the christening,” Aden said. “It’s at ten?”
“Ten,” Sandy said. “I’ll get everyone ready so we can just go.”
“How did it go with Sissy?” Aden asked.
“Good,” Sandy said. “But, Aden, those ballet people want her. Not just the American Ballet Theater either. After the photo of Sissy and Misty came out, I’ve been getting calls and emails from the New York Ballet, Chicago, LA… even as far away as London and Russia. Ivan sends them in my direction.”
“I love her so much that I want to keep her here,” Sandy said. “I want to keep her a little girl. God, she’s only fourteen.”
“Almost fifteen,” Aden said.
“Still a child,” Sandy said. “But… Seth bought his New York City apartment back from Jeraine so she would have a place to stay. It’s like we’re all waiting. And she’s ready to go. I hate it, but I bet she’ll be in New York dancing by the beginning of the year.
“I thought Wade would…” Aden said. “But now that he’s Wanda, she’s not much incentive to stay.”
Sandy looked so sad that Aden leaned his forehead against her cheek.
“They grow up,” Aden said.
“You mean like Noelle?” Sandy asked. “Our little girl is blossoming. Some boy followed her around at Lair ‘O the Bear. Mike had to chase him away. She’s…”
A fat tear ran down Sandy’s face.
“Nash’s voice has completely changed,” Sandy said. “Overnight. If Charlie wasn’t still trying to beat his hepatitis, I bet he’d move out pronto.”
Aden hugged her.
“How do I love them and let them go?” Sandy asked. “Can’t I just hold on to them a little bit longer?”
“I think they won’t go very far,” Aden said. “They love you, us, so much. They won’t go far.”
“But they will go,” Sandy said. “I see what Honey goes through every time MJ leaves. What if Charlie or Nash or Teddy join the military?”
“I think at some point, we have to let them live their lives,” Aden said. “We brought them this far; they have to fly on their own.”
“So you’re all right if Sissy leaves us?” Sandy began to cry.
“No,” Aden said. “I’m just saying the right things.”
Even with her sadness, Sandy laughed.
“Get some rest,” Aden said. “I won’t be too long. Just a few hours. With any luck, I’ll have time to pick up donuts and we’ll get to church.”
Aden kissed her again.
“Thanks for last night,” he said. “You are… incredible.”
Sandy smiled and watched him pick up his watch, tuck his wallet and cell phone into his pockets, and move toward the door.
“Oh, I almost forgot,” Aden said. “I talked to MJ last night. Turns out they did all the classes to get married, but with the baby, Honey wants to wait. He wondered if we wanted to join them in getting remarried at the Cathedral. What do you think?”
“Wow, really?” Sandy asked. “I didn’t think we’d ever be able to afford it.”
“He said Sam suggested it,” Aden said. “He’s going to try to talk Jake into converting. Fat chance, but we’ll see. Anyway, I didn’t say yes because I wanted to see what you thought.”
“Big dress, lots of flowers, huge cake,” Aden smiled.
“Sounds fun,” Sandy said.
“Love you.” He came back for one last kiss.
“Love you too,” she said.
She waited until he was gone before getting out of bed. With her eyes on the door, she kneeled down to get a box from under her side of the bed. She pushed aside the tissue to look at the gorgeous, hand sewn, hand beaded, full length white silk wedding dress. She reverently lifted the dress and carried it to the full length mirror on her closet door. The dress was tight on her hips, tucked in on her small waist, and blossomed out for her full breast. If she lost a few more pounds and it would fit her perfectly.
“Whoa,” Aden said from the doorway.
He drifted across the room to her.
“Where? How? I mean, we can’t…”
“It was Andi’s,” Sandy said. “She had it made to marry Seth and never got a chance to wear it. He has a tux to match.”
His fingers touched the fabric. She looked up.
“Jake thinks Jill will be put on bed rest tomorrow,” Aden said. “I keep forgetting to tell you.”
“She said something about it yesterday,” Sandy said. “Typical Jill. I was huge all over and still delivered two months early. Her babies are tucked close to her. She’s big but not elephant-like.”
“Yet,” Aden said. “I guess the babies gain most of their weight the last couple of months.”
“Let’s hope they go that long,” Sandy turned back to the mirror. “Do you think we’d be doomed if I wear the dress from Seth and Andi’s star-crossed relationship?”
“I think it would be a lovely gesture to have something from your Mom, the one who loved you and sacrificed so much for you, at our wedding.”
“Thanks,” Sandy said. “It’s…”
“Like something Princess Diana would have worn,” Aden said.
“Gorgeous,” Sandy nodded.
“Okay, I’m off,” Aden kissed her again and went out the door.
Sandy turned to look in the mirror. As with every time she held something that had belonged to her mother, she felt Andi’s overwhelming love for her. Smiling, she gently tucked the dress back in its precious box, checked on Rachel, and got back in bed.
Everything grows. Everything changes. She would have to let her little chicks go some day soon.
At least love lingered. She hoped.
Sunday morning — 8:15 a.m.
Seth swam to the edge of his lap pool and pulled off his goggles. Hearing the sliding door to the house open, he expected to see Ava coming to tell him how Lizzie was doing. When Ava stepped out, she turned to speak to the medium sized, dark skinned man behind her. He followed her through the door. He wore a black dress police uniform and had his hat in his hand. Seth hid a grin and hopped out of the pool.
“Get the hell off my property!” he yelled across the yard.
Stunned, Ava stopped walking. She glanced at the man with her.
“Put something on,” the man kept walking toward Seth. “That white skin is searing my retinas.”
“This is my backyard!” Keeping up his pretense, Seth limped toward the man. Ava’s eyes went from Seth to the man and back again.
“This is not your backyard. This is your Daddy’s backyard,” the man said. “And anyway, you’re in the City and County of Denver. Burning a man’s retinas is bodily harm and that’s a crime.”
“What’s it to you, Kentucky lawman?”
“Didn’t you hear?” the man asked. “I’m going to be the next police chief.”
Seth laughed and shook the man’s hand.
“Where’ve you been?” the man laughed. “In a coma? Sick with some unknown toxin? Hanging out with the stars in Malibu?”
Shaking his head, Seth patted his back.
“Good to see you, Munch,” Seth said.
“You too, Stoner,” he said.
Looking at Ava, Seth saw she was confused.
“We go back.”
“I see that,” Ava said. Turning the man, she said, ”Would you mind having a seat? Seth isn’t supposed to stand for long.”
“Thanks,” Seth smiled at her. Ava took Seth’s elbow and helped him to a lawn chair. “Can you get…?”
Smiling, Ava went to the pool house to get his clothing.
“I hear that’s Asshole Alvin’s daughter,” Munch said.
Seth nodded. He shook his head at Seth.
“I love her,” Seth shrugged. “It’s crazy. I know it’s crazy. Old man like me, but I do. And she’s…”
Seth leaned closer to the man.
“You heard about what happened in that barn?” Seth asked.
The man gave a curt nod.
“She’s amazing,” Seth said.
“She asked me to come here,” he said. “I toured the crime labs. They paraded her team and all of their awards in front of me like they were prized puppies. When I had a chance to speak with her, she suggested I talk to you.”
“Come on, Seth,” the soon-to-be Denver Police Chief said. “You know how it is. She takes the heat for your decisions.”
“Before you say it, he had no right to come between you two,” Munch said. “Two different divisions.”
“Just politics,” Seth said out of the side of his mouth. “Put pressure on her so she’ll put pressure on her Dad.”
Seth watched Ava come out of the pool house. She smiled at him.
“Well, you sure stuck it to them. You want to stay quit?”
“What did you have in mind?” Seth asked. Ava gave him his shirt and sat down next to him.
“Not a chance,” Seth pulled a T-shirt over his head.
“I heard you’re going on a concert tour,” Munch laughed. “Twenty cities?”
“They told me that over lunch,” Munch said. “I almost choked I was laughing so hard. Who would believe that?”
“My father,” Ava said.
“Ah yes,” Munch said. “Someone who doesn’t know Seth very well. I’ll tell you. If you come back, there’ll be no showboating on my watch.”
“You’re still mad about that,” Seth laughed. “It’s been…”
“Twelve years,” the man said.
“What?” Ava asked.
“I solved a case for them,” Seth said.
“He solved a case,” the soon-to-be Denver Police Chief imitated Seth’s voice. “Let me tell you how this went down. We’re busting our humps twenty-four hours a day for three months to find this creature who did some horrible crimes to more than a few nice people. Seth…”
“Good Lord, that’s right. And Mitch. Stoner and the glorious Mitch Delgado waltz by the department and say, ‘We got the guy. He’s sitting in interrogation.’”
“They had their own guy for the crime,” Seth said. “Trouble is…”
“Mitch and Stoner were right,” the soon-to-be Denver Police Chief laughed. “You know how they solved that case?”
“How?” Ava asked.
“The perp told them,” Munch said. “They’re looking over an old crime scene and a guy comes up and starts talking. Few minutes later, he’s walking them through what he did and didn’t do. That man bragged about the whole thing.”
“He didn’t know we were cops,” Seth laughed. “Mitch and I got in the night before to check in.”
“And so you could play jazz all night,” Munch laughed.
“Perp wanted to impress me.”
“Showing off his crimes to impress a celebrity?” Ava laughed.
“How dumb can you be?” Ava laughed.
“Fairly dumb,” the Munch said. “The press got a hold of it and…”
“How is that my fault?” Seth laughed.
Munch turned to look at Seth.
“How many offers have you received?” he asked.
“I’m not sure,” Seth said. Turning to Ava, he asked, “What did Schmidty say last night?”
“Ten,” Ava said.
“Ten police departments have cases they want you to look at,” Munch said.
“So far,” Seth shrugged. “So I’m thinking…”
“What if you work for us?” the soon-to-be Denver Police Chief asked. “We’ll take care of all those nasty details like who pays and how much. You’d get access to first class crime scene analysis. You could come in full time and get back with the union or be a contractor.”
“I have people who help me now,” Seth said.
“What’s it to you?”
“I heard you were using a psychic. That’s what it is to me.”
“And if I am?” Seth asked.
Munch’s head tipped back and forth as if he was weighting the situation.
“I suppose it doesn’t matter,” he said. “Is this person any good?”
“Why don’t you meet her and find out?” Seth smiled.
“I know that smile well enough to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Munch laughed.
“I’ll talk to the union,” Seth said. “They probably have some options.”
“You do that,” Munch said. “You know, you won’t be able to call me Munch anymore.”
“Why not?” Seth asked. “You still call me Stoner.”
The men laughed.
“It would be quite a feather in your cap to get Magic O’Malley back on the force,” Ava said.
Munch’s eyes reviewed her face before nodding.
“What do you say?” the soon-to-be Denver Police Chief asked.
“I’ll consider it,” Seth said.
“It’s a good offer, Seth,” the soon-to-be Denver Police Chief said. “You can do what you like – solve puzzles and write music – and we’ll take care of the details. You care about salary?”
“I should get at least the pittance I was getting,” Seth said.
“Why do you care?”
“Sandy manages all of his money,” Ava said. “He only has his salary to spend.”
“I guess I don’t have to ask you if you’re sober,” Munch said.
“You don’t,” Seth said. “You?”
“Very funny,” the soon-to-be Denver Police Chief said. “I’m going to follow through on this.”
“I’ll think about it,” Seth said.
“I won’t start until November,” the soon-to-be Denver Police Chief said.
“I probably won’t be able to pass the physical until then,” Seth said.
“Should I call old Schmidty?”
“I have a new Schmidty,” Seth said. “Son. But yes, he’ll take care of the details.”
The soon-to-be Denver Police Chief’s eyes reviewed Seth for a moment. He nodded.
“Nice to see you, but don’t ever call me ‘son.’” The soon-to-be Denver Police Chief stood up.
“Then get the hell off my Daddy’s property,” Seth laughed.
Without saying another word, the soon-to-be Denver Police Chief walked out the back gate.
“What do you think?” Ava asked.
“I think I better get ready,” Seth slowly moved to standing.
“About the job?”
“I think it’s a good offer,” Seth shrugged and they walked toward the house. “How’s Lizzie?”
“Jammy said she’s nervous,” Ava said. “They are on their way here.”
“It’s a big deal,” Seth smiled. “She’s very brave for going to Connor’s christening.”
“She’s your daughter,” Ava said. “What did you do about her mother?”
“Doesn’t know about it,” Seth said. “Colin and Julie adopted Connor. He’s their baby now.”
“She’s going to be his Godmother,” Seth said. “It was Julie’s idea. She says that Connor came to them from God through Lizzie. She will always be his Godmother.”
Nodding, Ava opened the sliding door and they went into the house.
“Where did all those music people go?”
“Aspen for Sunday,” Seth said. “Then the ladies go home. Miss them?”
“Not at all,” Ava said. “They weren’t here when I got home last night and I was glad.”
“Me too,” Seth nodded.
“Come on, old man,” Ava said. “Let’s get you showered.”
He watched Ava’s rear shift side to side as she trotted through the house and up the stairs. Grinning, he followed.
Monday early morning — 2:15 a.m.
Tanesha looked down Colfax before opening the door to Pete’s Kitchen.
“Sit anywhere you want,” the woman behind the cash register said.
Tanesha glanced at her and went to her usual booth in the back. She slipped in.
“What can I get you, hon?” the waitress asked.
“Coffee, water,” Tanesha said.
“You got it,” the waitress said.
In a few minutes, the waitress returned with a cup of coffee and a glass of water. Tanesha gave her a quick smile then turned her attention to the dark liquid in front of her. She never drank coffee. She didn’t like it. But this morning, it just seemed to fit her mood.
“Oh good, you ordered coffee,” Heather grabbed the cup as she scooted into the booth. “Caffeinated.”
“How?” Tanesha asked.
“You can’t have caffeinated coffee,” Jill pushed the cup back to Tanesha. Her belly was so big that they had to shift the table to help her get in. “Why did you order coffee?”
“Seemed like the right thing to do,” Tanesha said.
“For a med student,” Sandy stood at the end of the table. “Scoot over.”
Tanesha scooted over and Sandy sat down. For a moment, the women didn’t say anything.
“How did you know I’d be here?” Tanesha asked.
“Jill told us,” Heather said.
“You used to come in at this time when I worked nights,” Jill said.
“The year I worked four jobs,” Tanesha said.
“I get the coffee!” Sandy grabbed the cup from Tanesha and began fixing it with cream and sugar. The waitress came up to chat with Jill. While the other women waited, Jill and the waitress chatted back and forth until Jill placed their order.
“Why are we here in the wee hours of the morning?” Heather asked.
“I just…” Tanesha looked at Jill and Jill smiled.
The waitress came back with decaffeinated coffee for Jill and Heather, an iced tea for Tanesha, and cinnamon rolls for them to share. The women fell silent while they doctored their drinks and took bites of the giant cinnamon rolls.
“Do you ever wish things hadn’t changed?” Tanesha asked. “I mean it sounds stupid, but…”
“I do,” Sandy said.
“I sometimes wish the awful past was the horrible present,” Jill said. “You know how much I love my life, Jacob, Katy, the Castle, everything, but sometimes…”
“I miss the old days,” Tanesha said. “Everything was terrible. I was exhausted and unhappy. But…”
“I always knew who I was,” Sandy gave a sad smile.
“I always knew who I was,” Tanesha repeated.
“Who the hell is this girl who’s going to med school in a few hours?” Heather asked.
“Who’s the girl who works at Simply Moore, world famous makeup studio?” Tanesha asked Heather.
“Is the well loved, well taken care of college student about to have twins?” Sandy asked.
“Who is the mother of five children?” Jill asked Sandy.
“No really, who has five children?” Tanesha asked.
The women laughed and ate their cinnamon rolls.
“It’s not like I want to go back there or that I’m ungrateful,” Tanesha said. “I’m so grateful for everything I have now.”
“I don’t want to go back there,” Heather said.
“Uh huh,” Jill shook her head.
“Who in her right mind has five children?” Sandy asked and they laughed. They fell silent for a moment when the waitress came to refill their cups.
“It’s a lot of change, great change, but still change,” Jill said. “I feel like I don’t know who I am or what to do or… At least when Trevor was beating on me, I knew who I was and now, I have to make it up as I go along. I spend most of my days faking like I know what I’m doing.”
“One thing I know for sure,” Heather said. “I love you guys more now then before. I’m excited to be here with you. No matter what change comes our way. We handle it all together.”
“The one thing that hasn’t changed is us,” Sandy said. “Thank God.”
Tanesha reached out to grab Sandy and Heather’s hand. Sandy took Jill’s hand and Jill held Heather’s hand. Their eyes looked back and forth between each other.
“Thank God,” Heather said finally.
“In a few hours, we’ll be going to medical school on Tanesha’s shoulders,” Jill said.
“I can’t wait,” Heather said.
Tanesha glanced from face to smiling face and nodded.
“I can’t wait either,” Tanesha said.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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