CHAPTER TWO HUNDRED and SEVENTEEN
Friday afternoon — 4:25 p.m.
Heather drove her Subaru toward the nondescript warehouse where a few teenaged kids stood near a door smoking cigarettes. Seeing the entrance to the parking lot, she went pulled in and parked. She bit her lip and worried for a minute before getting Mack from his car seat. With Mack in her arms, she got to the door just as a teenager was leaving the building. He sneered at her but let her pass inside the Urban Peak homeless shelter. Once inside, she had no idea where she was or what to do. Mack squirmed and she set him down.
This had seemed like such a good idea. She wasn’t sure now.
Holding Mack’s hand, she started down the hallway. On her left was a large room filled with picnic tables. There were a few kids sitting in groups around the tables talking or working on homework. A crew of volunteers appeared to be making dinner in the kitchen at the far end.
On her right was a computer lab. Teenage boys and girls were diligently working on computers. She and Mack stood at the glass looking into the computer lab. The kids were of every race from the palest white to the deepest black and every where in between. The youngest boy seemed to be about ten years old and the oldest girl was almost twenty.
“Ta,” Mack patted the glass. “Ta.”
He patted the glass harder this time and the kids turned to look.
“Ta,” Mack laughed and patted the glass even harder.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a girl get up and come around to them. Sure she’d done something wrong, Heather grimaced and picked up Mack.
“Heather?” the young woman asked.
Heather shook her head as if she couldn’t believe the sight. Tink’s frizzy dark hair lay in wavy curls. Her blue eyes and skin were clear. The girl was wearing a top that Heather recognized as a hand me down from Sissy.
“What are you doing here?” they both asked at the same time and laughed.
“You first,” Heather said.
“I live here,” Tink said. “You?”
“Oh,” Heather bit her lip. “My husband and I got approved yesterday to have one foster child to ‘evaluate for adoption.’ We know how even one day can make a difference so we wanted to get the process started right away. We were supposed to meet a guy here at six but Tanesha’s parents are getting remarried and…”
“Isn’t that neat?”
“Very neat,” Heather smiled. “Of course, we’re right in the middle of it all.”
“Of course,” Tink said.
“Anyway, I called the guy this morning and told him I could be here now and not later, but I never heard back,” Heather said. “They’re kind of…”
“I wasn’t sure what I’d find here,” Heather said.
“The office is like that,” Tink said. “But here at the shelter, it’s really great. I can show you around if you’d like.”
“You don’t mind?” Heather asked.
“Not at all,” Tink said. “Let me go sign off the computer. If I don’t, no one else can get on.”
“Thanks,” Heather nodded. Mack squirmed again and she set him down. He ran to the glass to watch the older kids. When Tink came out again, he hopped up and down. “Mack likes you.”
“I play with him at the Marlowe school sometimes,” Tink said. “I work there a few hours after school. I help with pick up and after school snack.”
“Sounds like a good job,” Heather smiled.
“I really like it,” Tink said. “I get to play with the kids and I’m snack lady so I’m kind of a hero to the littlest ones.”
“Do you mind?” Tink pointed to Mack. Heather shook her head and Tink picked up Mack.
“Ta!” Mack patted Tink’s face. His voice echoed off the metal ceiling and he squealed with laughter.
“He always seems so happy,” Tink said.
“We’re very lucky,” Heather said. She looked up to see Blane jogging toward her. “Do you know my husband?”
“Mr. Lipson? Yes,” Tink blushed. “He usually picks up Mack.”
“Hi Tink,” Blane said.
Blane kissed Heather’s cheek and touched Mack’s head.
“Da da da,” Mack said.
“He’s just learning his words,” Heather said. “He gets so excited when he knows the word to match the person.”
Mack squawked. The sound echoed off the ceiling and a few kids looked to see what was going on. Mack squealed and laughter.
“And he can make a big noise,” Blane said. “Is the guy coming?”
“I don’t know,” Heather said. “Tink said she’d show us around.”
“Oh great,” Blane said. “Thanks.”
Mack squirmed in Tink’s arms and she set him down. He took off down the hall.
“I can show you while we follow,” Tink said. “This is the dorms. We sleep in bunk beds. Mine is way on the end. I sleep on the bottom because I have seizures.”
She pointed to a room next to the dorm.
“That’s where the counselors work,” Tink said. “I have a really great one. He keeps track of my school and my doctor’s appointments. I even see him once a week for counseling.”
“That seems really great,” Blane said.
“I love this place,” Tink said. “I was really lucky to get a bed.”
Mack stopped short at the end of the hallway, turned around, and ran back to them. Blane leaned down and picked him up.
“What were you looking for?” Tink asked.
“I feel kind of dumb now that we’re here but…” Heather started.
“We can adopt a child out of foster care,” Blane said.
“Why not get a baby?” Tink shrugged. “That’s what everyone does.”
“I’m having another,” Heather put her hand on her belly. “And…”
“It’s something we both wanted,” Blane said. “We wanted to make a home for an older kid.”
“Specifically a teenager,” Heather said.
“I was on my own at that age,” Blane said. “I know what it’s like. The office said we could meet kids who were eligible for adoption and see if they might fit into our family.”
Blane looked at Heather.
“We were so excited to be approved, we wanted to get going right away,” he said. “But boy, now that we’re here, it feels weird.”
“Like the stock show?” Tink asked. “Yeah, that’s how they are at the office. They show us off like cattle to raise money. Don’t get me wrong, whatever works, and showing us off seems to work, it’s just…”
“Feels weird,” Heather said. “We were going to cancel today, but Delphie told us we needed to come today. The guy’s not here and… Maybe we should…”
“I can introduce you to kids who are up for adoption,” Tink said.
“You know who can be adopted?” Blane asked.
“We all know,” Tink said. “Mostly because, well, most of us are. I mean, I am, but it’s not likely that I would get adopted.”
Blane glanced at Heather. She closed her eyes in a kind of nod.
“Why?” Blane asked.
“I’m not super cutesy and I have a lot of medical problems,” Tink said. “I still have seizures from… well, I guess you know about all of that. I’ve never done really well in school. And I need counseling and stuff and… You know what? It’s okay. I’m really glad to be here. I’m getting better and I’m going to school and I have good friends like Sissy and Wanda and…”
“Your parents terminated their rights?” Blane asked.
Tink scowled to cover the sorrow on her face. A fat tear dripped from her eye.
“See,” she pointed to her tears. “I’m a mental case.”
“What happened?” Heather asked.
“They got another baby,” Tink said. “Named her Tiffanie, like they’re redoing their mistake – me.”
Heather hugged Tink.
“Oh great, you made it,” A handsome young man said as he reached them. They turned toward him.
“I was just showing them around,” Tink said.
“That’s nice of you.” The young man gave Tink the kind of saccharine smile some people dole out to those they think are pathetic. She sneered at him. “I arranged for…”
“I think we’re okay,” Blane said. “Thank you though.”
“What do you mean?” The young man looked surprised. He gave Tink a hard look and she shrugged.
“We’ve figured out what we want to do,” Blane smiled at Heather. “Haven’t we?”
“I think so,” Heather nodded.
“What…?” The young man gave Tink another hard look.
“Who would we have to speak with to have a child spend the weekend with us?” Blane asked.
“Why… uh…” The young man looked confused.
“You’d talk to their counselor,” Tink said. “Did you pick someone?”
“We did,” Heather said.
“That blonde boy sitting next to me at the computer lab?” Tink asked. “I figured he’d get adopted right away.”
Heather shook her head.
“Who?” Tink asked.
“You,” Blane said.
“What do you mean?” Tink asked.
“We were wondering if you’d like to come to live with us,” Heather said. “If it works out for us and you’re happy, we could be a permanent family. I mean, we have Mack and you know he can be a handful. I’m pregnant again so we’ll have another baby in a little more than six months. And you know that Blane is ill.”
“You’d have to work and help out at home,” Blane said. “But you would have your own room and…”
Blane looked at Heather and she smiled.
“What do you think?” Blane asked.
“But I have lots of medical problems and… and…” Tink started. Her eyes welled with tears. “Are you messing with me?”
Heather and Blane shook their heads.
“You’re sure?” Tink asked. “Because I couldn’t really handle it if you were joking or whatever.”
Heather and Blane nodded.
“Really, I don’t think…” the young man stepped in front of Tink. “You need to think very carefully before…”
Heather stepped around him.
“Thank you for your thoughts,” Blane shook the young man’s hand. He used his body to effectively block the young man from their conversation.
“I can call my counselor right now,” Tink said. “He’s on call this weekend.”
Tink ran to the office. Heather, Blane and the young man followed her. While they waited for Tink’s counselor, they played with Mack and young man pretended he had set the whole thing up. The counselor helped them fill out the paperwork, gave them Tink’s weekend medication, and in what seemed like a blink of an eye, they were standing in the parking lot.
“You know what’s happening tonight?” Heather asked.
“Sissy said there’s some kind of a wedding and a big party,” Tink blushed.
“Would you be okay to go?” Heather asked.
“I don’t have anything to wear,” Tink said. “Sissy gave me some of her old clothes but that’s all I have.”
“Why don’t you two go shopping?” Blane asked. “I’ll take Mack and head to the Castle.”
“Jill’s on baby duty because she can’t really do anything else,” Heather said.
“I could take care of the babies,” Tink said.
“No you can’t,” Blane smiled.
“Why? I like babies and they like me.”
“He means that you’re coming with me to get some things to wear,” Heather said.
“Don’t forget the basics,” Blane said to Heather. She nodded.
“Really?” Tink asked.
“Really,” Blane said. “We can’t say anything for sure, because we need to give everyone time to see how it works, but how about if for today you think of us as your parents? If it doesn’t workout, we were just your interim parents like… aunts or uncles.”
“Or Godparents,” Heather said.
“You’re sure,” Tink asked.
“We’re more than sure,” Heather said. “Come on Tink.”
Blane and Heather hugged goodbye. He got Mack situated in the back of his car and took off.
Two hours after she and Mack had arrived at the shelter, Heather was sitting in her Subaru with her soon-to-maybe-be her very own teenage daughter. She knew that Sandy had become a mom overnight, but she never thought she’d be so lucky. Heather smiled and glanced at Tink.
“What?” Tink asked.
“I’m happy we found you,” Heather said. “Now do I call you Tiffanie? Or Tink?”
“Tink. I like that better.”
“What will you do when you’re forty?” Heather pointed to Tink’s seatbelt.
“Well hopefully, I’ll be married and have my own kids and they’ll just call me Mom,” Tink pulled on her seat belt. “Maybe I’ll come here and find a kid who needs a home too.”
“I’m not forty,” Heather said. “I’m not even thirty.”
“You seem old,” Tink said.
Heather laughed and started the car.
~~~~~~~~ Friday afternoon — 6:25 p.m.
“Sorry,” Sam said to Honey as he came in her office. “I know it’s late. I was hoping you could take a look at something.”
“I was just about to head home,” Honey said. “What’s going on?”
“I’ll explain on the way,” Sam said. “That is, if you don’t mind.”
“I don’t mind at all,” Honey said. “I didn’t drive though. MJ brought me. I was supposed to call him when I was done here.”
“Great,” Sam said. “We don’t have to work out cars. You can just come with me.”
“Sure Dad,” Honey said. Sam seemed so worried and weird that Honey hurried. “See ya tonight Bambi.”
Honey waved to her boss as they passed her office.
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Bambi nodded to Sam who waved.
Sam helped Honey into his truck. He took her wheelchair, stuck it in the back and got in the driver’s seat. They drove in silence for a while before Honey shook her head and looked at him.
“What’s going on?” Honey asked.
“What do you mean?” Sam glanced at her.
“You said you wanted me to look at something,” Honey said. “I assumed we were going out to the big site by DIA. I heard Rodney’s site managers are a little restless.”
“They’re worried,” Sam said.
“DeShawn? Do you know him?” Sam asked.
“I’ve met him at our Site Manager assistant trainings, but I don’t know him well,” Honey said. “Why? What’s wrong with him?”
“He used to be a big drug dealer on Capital Hill,” Sam said.
“Yeah, he worked Pearl Street, I think,” Honey said. “Is he dealing again?”
“No, of course not,” Sam said. “At least I don’t think so. Do you?”
“No,” Honey smiled. “You were talking about the site and DeShawn.”
“Oh right,” Sam smiled at her. “DeShawn was pretty good at his business, I guess. Never got caught.”
“I thought he did jail time,” Honey said. “Has a felony. We’ve had to do all this fancy footwork to make sure he’s not around anyone else with a felony.”
“He turned himself in when his ‘woman’ got pregnant,” Sam chuckled. “I can tell you Celia would have had a fit if I called her my ‘woman.’”
“Delphie too,” Honey laughed.
Sam gave a mock shiver. They drove in silence for a while.
“What’s wrong with the big site?” Honey asked.
Sam took the York off ramp off I-70. Stopped at the light by the Purina Pet Food factory, the car filled with the chalky odor of dog food.
“Oh right,” Sam said. “I was just imagining calling Delphie my ‘woman.’ Got distracted by my own terror.”
“DeShawn thinks there’s something wrong,” Sam said. “Jason too.”
“What’s got their backs up?” Honey asked.
“They’re not sure,” Sam said. “Something about us leading the project for the other contractors. They think we’re being set up ‘like punks.’”
Sam said the last words in an imitation of DeShawn. Honey laughed.
“Why is being a punk a bad thing?” Sam asked. “When Jake was a kid, he listened to that punk rock music. He was a punk.”
“In prison culture, it means getting gang raped,” Honey said.
“That doesn’t sound too good.”
“I thought Aden said…”
“You know about that?” Sam asked.
“He talked to me about it,” Honey said. “Since Bambi and I are moving out to the site in a couple weeks, he thought we could keep an eye out. He thinks that because we’re women, we might see something others won’t.”
“That’s what Rodney said about DeShawn and Jason,” Sam said. “Sounds like we’re all on edge.”
“With good reason,” Honey said.
Sam turned down Eighteenth Avenue.
“Are we going home?” Honey asked.
“Home?” Sam glanced at her. “Yep, that’s where we’re going.”
“What’s going on?” Honey asked.
“I know you know about the ‘celebration of love’, that’s what Delphie’s calling it, tonight,” Sam said.
“Rodney and Yvonne are getting married again,” Honey said. “A vow they don’t have to break.”
“Right,” Sam said. “Do you know about the chapel?”
“No,” Honey said. “What’s going on with the chapel?”
“Jake got a call from Jim the stained glass guy. He finished the windows,” Sam said. “I haven’t seen them but Jake says they’re gorgeous.”
“Are they in already?” Honey asked.
“Yep,” Sam said. “Installed them today.”
Sam turned left on Race Street and stopped at Seventeenth Avenue to wait for the traffic to pass.
“That’s amazing,” Honey said. “So we won’t have the ceremony in the back?”
“Nope,” Sam said. “We’re consecrating the chapel with the love ceremony.”
He gave a wry smile and drove across Seventeenth Avenue.
“What?” Honey asked.
“I don’t mean to make fun,” Sam said. “Love is really important to me. Certainly it’s made my whole life…”
“Worth living,” Honey said. “Mine too.”
“It just sounds a little… goofy,” Sam said. He clicked his remote control. When the metal gate opened, he pulled into the lot. “Like some hippy love in.”
“What are we going to do with all the people who are coming?” Honey asked.
“They’ll go out back,” Sam said. “It’s supposed to be a warm night. Delphie told me to tell people to come at four, rather than go to work, you know.”
“MJ and I can take care of the hordes.”
“Oh no,” Sam said. “You are on the must be there list. And trust me, you do not want to run afoul of Delphie today. Really ever. Yes, don’t ever run afoul of Delphie. I mean I’ve known her since we were kids and… well, just don’t do it. And really don’t do it today.”
“She’s on a tear?”
“That’s one way of saying it,” Sam said.
He got out of the truck and got her wheelchair. She had the door open and was ready for his help when he got there. He set her in her wheelchair and grabbed her purse. They moved across the driveway.
“What did you want me to see?” Honey said.
Pushing her wheelchair, Sam headed toward across the driveway to the side door. At the very last moment, he ducked left onto the patio outside Honey and MJ’s old apartment home.
“What…?” Honey started.
The door to their apartment was open and he slipped her wheelchair inside.
“Oh my God,” Honey said.
When she turned around, Sam was standing at the door.
“But…?” she started.
He gestured for her to look around and closed the outside door. She rolled through their sitting room then backed up to check extra bathroom. Everything was clean and beautiful. As if they’d always been there, fluffy towels and soap sat ready to be used. She spun around and checked their bedroom. The bigger bed was new, as were the comforters. A bassinette like Sandy’s sat on Honey’s bedside table. She bit her lip, closed her eyes, then got up the courage to spin in place. Wheeling as fast as she could, she left their bedroom, went through the doorway to their sitting room, and passed their tiny kitchen that ran across the wall to her right. She stopped at the door to the new rooms. She’d talked to Jake about putting in a nursery and an shared office. She closed her eyes and said a small prayer.
Pushing open the door, she saw MJ. He turned around when he heard her.
“You won’t believe…” MJ sniffed at unshed tears. “It’s…”
Honey wheeled past him and into the baby’s room. The room was painted gorgeous mint green. Mike had painted ducks and bunnies dancing along the wall under a tree that could only have been painted by Noelle. A light wood crib with bedding that matched the room stood against the far wall. A green hand knitted baby blanket lay over the railing. There was a low bureau and changing table along the side wall.
“It’s full of clothes and stuff. Alex said it’s not all new, but a lot of it is new. Hand me downs,” MJ said. “My team, the wives, your family, my brother and sister, they…”
He gestured around. Honey was too surprised and overwhelmed to speak.
“There’s a half bath with a toilet and sink in here, wheelchair height,” MJ said. “Jake said sometimes it’s nice to have one close when you have a baby. There’s another door to the main house on this side too, just in case we need help and someone needs to come right away. There’s a panic button by the door. If we need help, the bell rings all over the Castle. Just in case I’m not here and…”
MJ gestured down the hallway. Honey opened a drawer to the bureau. Her fingers caressed a tiny baby onesie.
“Our office is at the other end,” MJ said. “It has computers and stuff. All super secure, of course. Raz and Troy were still here when I got here. They went through everything with me so I can show you.”
Honey pulled the hand knitted baby blanket off the crib. There was a tiny tag with a picture of a blue delphinium. The blanket was knitted by Delphie. Of course. In all of her life, she’d never felt so loved and understood. She sniffed back a tear.
“Say something,” MJ said. She turned to look at him. “What do you think?”
“It’s… it’s perfect,” Honey said. “Amazing. You?”
“We’re really going to have a baby!” MJ said.
He kneeled down to hug her and she cried.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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