CHAPTER TWO HUNDRED and TWELVE
Friday early morning — 12:15 a.m.
Tanesha rolled over in bed and tried to let the events of the evening play back on her eyelids. Sedated the moment she reached the emergency room, she recalled only a series of flashes.
Flash: She, Rodney, and Jeraine were hustled through the hospital. Star struck nurses gave way to worried doctors and frantic hospital administrators. She was pumped full of pain meds, her jaw was wired together, and they were slipped out of the hospital. She pictured the face of her friend and mentor Dr. John Drayson, when came to check on her, but she couldn’t remember if he’d actually come to see her or when that happened. She remembered getting in the extended cab of Rodney’s work truck and then…
Flash: She had a vague recollection of arguing with Jeraine and her father. They wanted her to go back to the condo. They wanted her to rest. Unable to speak, she tried to get her point across - she wanted to see her parents get engaged. She must have won because…
Flash: She remembered standing at the doorway to the Castle living room with her girl, Heather, at her side. Some strange men in ugly blue suits were pawing through her mother’s private journals and her mother was in the small sitting room with the French lady who made Valerie’s dresses. She remembered seeing a very pregnant Samantha Hargreaves waddle passed them. She sat down with Katy on the couch because…
Flash: Furious, Yvonne stormed out of the small room and then…
Tanesha wasn’t sure what happened next. In her memory, her mother, wore only a slip and a battered bra and glowed like a super hero. Her mother was angry, no… really angry.
“Why was my mom so angry?” Tanesha wondered.
“She didn’t like that you weren’t taking care of yourself.” A woman’s voice came from the side of her bed. Tanesha rolled over to see Delphie.
“Why can I talk?” Tanesha asked through her wired jaw.
“Jill,” Delphie said. “She was able help. But because of the boys, she had to hold back. She can’t push her body to help you heal completely.”
“Yes,” Delphie said. “You’re upstairs in Jacob’s old apartment. Jeraine’s been here but had to get back to work on the score for the movie. Your Mom was here until about an hour ago. I convinced her to sleep in my old apartment. Your Dad’s with her there.”
“Did I miss the engagement?” Tanesha asked.
“No,” Delphie smiled. “The police didn’t come for her either. We thought they’d be there tonight, but it seems that his friends moved faster than we guessed. They’ve arranged for him to slip into Witness Protection. They’ll come for Yvonne tomorrow.”
“Why were those men looking at my mom’s journals?”
“Yvonne was a favorite among many of the most powerful men in the state, well, and the country really,” Delphie said. “Alvin used her to garner favors from his friends. Because she couldn’t remember, they spoke freely in front of her. They shared all the intimate details of their activities. Those arrogant sons of bitches even asked for her advice. Called her their secret advisor and…”
Delphie swallowed hard to control her rage. Tanesha gave Delphie a vague nod.
“She took notes and drew pictures. Do you remember she used to draw and paint murals?”
“No,” Tanesha shook her head.
“Yvonne is an impressive artist,” Delphie smiled.
“What about her hand?” Tanesha asked.
“She’s left handed,” Delphie said. “Like her daughter.”
“Yvonne didn’t realize she was left handed until she couldn’t use her right hand,” Delphie said. “Yvonne grew up in a world where good people believed that left handed people were devils. Her Aunt, NeNe, the woman who raised her, was afraid for her and made her to use only her right hand. When she couldn’t use her right hand, Yvonne taught herself to draw again, to write. Your mother is… amazing.”
“Great Aunt NeNe lived with Gran,” Tanesha looked confused. “She died just before I went to Howard.”
“She came to keep an eye on you when your mother was… taken,” Delphie smiled. “You know how Sam says that we’re all interconnected, right?”
“NeNe is part of the web,” Delphie smiled. “Celia too. Celia knew that Alvin would never let Yvonne go. She came up with a plan for Yvonne to win her freedom. Yvonne agreed to keep track of what she heard and saw. Celia gave Yvonne those composition books. You remember the books?”
“Yvonne played it off as trying to remember, but she kept track of everything. She even drew accurate pictures of the things she witnessed and the men she saw.”
“But her keeper read her books,” Tanesha said. “I saw him take her book from her, threaten to beat her if she wouldn’t give it to him, and…”
“She kept two sets,” Delphie said. “She gave the second set to us – to me, Maresol, or Dionne. We’d meet her around town every couple of weeks to get them. I kept them here at the Castle for her. Only Jake knew where they were.”
“I know that you’ve only known your mother as… well, diminished and small, but Tanesha, she’s actually very smart and tough. You probably don’t remember, but when she saw you were sitting in the Castle living room and not in bed?”
“Let’s just say, she’s a great mother,” Delphie said. “You were up here about a minute after Yvonne heard you were sitting on the couch with Katy.”
“The last years?” Delphie smiled. “She knew she had to survive until Rodney got out. She’s played a game, turned down her light, to survive. Give her a month, Tanesha. You’ll see what an incredible person she is, especially with Rodney back in her life. They fuel each other.”
Unsure of what to say, Tanesha rolled onto her back. In the last week, her entire life had shifted. Of course, everything that happened was what she’d hoped and dreamed of. It was just a lot of change.
“You should rest,” Delphie said. “I know you want to go to class tomorrow.”
Tanesha groaned. She’d forgotten about medical school. Delphie chuckled.
“Sandy and Valerie will be here with Rachel and Jackie about two-thirty and Jeraine said he’d be here around five to help you get ready for school,” Delphie said. “I’m supposed to give you more pain meds and talk you into sleeping. Will you sleep some more?”
“Have to,” Tanesha said.
“This is Katy’s. She wanted you to have it,” Delphie gave her a Tinkerbell sippy cup with juice with her liquid meds mixed in. “Tomorrow is not going to be an easy day – for any of us, really. But we’ll get through it.”
“Can I ask you a question?” Tanesha asked.
“Of course,” Delphie said.
“Why didn’t you tell me that my mom was going to be all right?” Tanesha asked. “Tell me where she was. You’ve never been shy about butting right into the middle of everything. But the day my Mom might get free, you had to work?”
“Because I didn’t know if she’d be all right,” Delphie said. “Everything that happened wasn’t set in stone. Yvonne had to make the choices to get through the day. Jeraine had to meet up with the donkey so he would look familiar to Yvonne’s keeper but still unrecognizable. Bumpy had to reconnect with his son so he could call Rodney and convince him to come to Yvonne. Jeraine had to find her at the exact moment her keeper didn’t have time to kill her. I had to make her keeper think he had to be in Saint Louis by dawn. And you had to look for her.”
“It was… horrible.”
“For everyone,” Delphie said. “But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t exactly what had to happen. Jeraine closed his bank account, right?”
“He helped someone else without regard for himself, right?”
“That’s exactly what he needed to do to grow into the man he needs to be,” Delphie said. “You needed to stand your ground and commit to finding your mother. Everyone involved from Charlie and Tink to the boys with your father at Sand Creek, they needed to experience the frantic loss of someone they didn’t know but loved anyway. The whole experience gave Rodney the courage to stay with Yvonne the first night. Your actions reforged your family.”
“And it was hard,” Delphie said. “It was awful for me. I saw all of the possible paths. Jeraine missed the donkey so the keeper recognized him. Yvonne insisted on finding you and her keeper killed her and dumped her body in an alley off Franklin. Your despair was too great to launch the rescue so the boys that helped your father never experienced the panic their families felt every time they disappeared. I could see them all. I had to believe and trust that everything would fall into place.”
“And, in a way that can only be described as a miracle,” Delphie said.
The strong pain medications pulled Tanesha toward sleep. She forced herself to stay present.
“Did you make it happen?” Tanesha asked.
“No, I’ve never had that kind of power,” Delphie said. “If you ask me, I think love made it happen. You love your mother even though she’s disappointed you. Rodney desperately loves Yvonne, but, like his years in prison, she was taken from him by a power much great than himself. Jeraine loves you. You love him. Bumpy loves his son. Each of you felt cut off from what you loved and powerless to change it. You couldn’t have your mother. Rodney couldn’t have Yvonne. Jeraine wasn’t able to connect with you and you with him. Bumpy felt like his son was dead to him. And even Yvonne’s keeper. On some level, he loved her too much to kill her.
“Step by step, love made it happen,” Delphie said.
Smiling at the idea, Tanesha slipped into medicated sleep.
“Let’s just hope love will carry us through the next few days,” Delphie whispered to herself. “Because anything can happen now.”
Delphie’s brow furrowed with worry. She shook the worry out of her head and said a prayer to the Goddess. She had to believe that every thing would work out for the best like it always had. Nodding to herself, she returned to her knitting.
Friday early morning — 2:15 a.m.
Sound asleep, Jill rolled onto her side.
Jill jerked awake. Who said that?
A surge of nausea overcame her. Jill clamped her mouth shut, hopped out of bed, and put her hand over her mouth for good measure. She made it to the bathroom doorway before throwing up. Unable to control herself, she fell to her hands and knees and threw up again.
Jacob knelt down around her and touched her back. He held her shoulder length hair out of her face. She threw up on the floor until she began to dry heave.
“You have to stop,” he said.
“I can’t stop.”
“Try the breathing exercise the midwife taught you.”
Jill took a breath in and threw up again.
“It’s from the break in Tanesha’s jaw,” she said. “I don’t know what happened but…”
Jacob stepped over her heaving body and began to fill the tub with warm water. He threw in a handful of Epson Salts. Moving as fast as he could, he ran to the kitchen and grabbed the ground ginger. Not remembering how much to put in, he dumped some in the bath. He went back to Jill and pulled off her vomit covered nightshirt. He carried her to the bathtub and set her in.
Like a magic trick, Jill stopped vomiting.
“What is this?” she asked.
“It’s a powerful detox bath,” Jacob said. “I used to have to take them when I was a kid.”
“I’d get overwhelmed,” Jacob said. “Everything going on around me would get caught up inside me. Just a walk home from school – the guy in the car who was mad at his wife, the lonely dog stuck in his yard, the lawn mower whose wife was still in Mexico or really anything I ran into I’d take on. I felt so frustrated – I wanted to do something, make everything better, or even change one thing. But I was just a kid. I couldn’t do anything to make any change anywhere. My body systems would shut down. I’d throw up and…”
“I shouldn’t have helped Tanesha, I just…”
“You did the right thing. I can only imagine how upset you’d have been if you couldn’t help. This is just a combination of you and the boys. Tanesha’s injury, for lack of a better way to say it, clogged your pores. It’s going to happen.”
“It’s never happened before,” Jill said.
“You’ve never been pregnant with Marlowe boys,” Jacob smiled.
“I’m sorry,” Jill said.
“Don’t be,” Jacob said. “The boys would want to help Tanesha. We all love Tanesha. Even Katy even gave Tanesha her favorite sippy cup.”
“The one Paddie’s Auntie gave her?”
“Her Tinkerbell sippy cup.”
“Wow,” Jill said.
“I know the boys feel the same way,” Jacob said. “Tanesha is family. You would have been heartbroken if you couldn’t help her. We would be too. You’re just… more fragile now.”
“Fragile, fragile,” Jill’s voice was glum. “I’m sick of lying around up here in my chamber above the Castle. If I had long hair, I’d throw it out the window and pray some handsome prince would save me.”
“Yes my princess,” Jacob smiled.
She smiled at him and then frowned.
“I’m going kind of crazy,” Jill said. “Talk about impotent. My one of my best friends in the whole wide world needed my help looking for her Mom and all I could do is sit here.”
“I know,” he said. “You just have one more day alone then everyone will be home for the weekend. Everyone’s coming to help harvest the rest of the garden. I bet Mike and I, we can get you down the stairs.”
“What about Rodney and Yvonne’s wedding?” Jill asked. “Delphie said it was tomorrow.”
“Something else is going to happen,” Jacob gave her a vague look. “I don’t know what.”
“Something bad?” Jill asked.
“Feels like something magical.”
“Let’s hope so,” Jill said. “That family could use some magic!”
“I know,” he nodded. “I thought you were using salt water or something to purge the to toxins accumulate from healing people.”
“That was Delphie’s idea,” she said. “Instead of using other people or objects.”
“Does it work?”
“Sure,” Jill said. “It’s actually really great. I focus moving the illness or injury from the person into the salt water. Then I toss out the water and wash the glass with salt. But it didn’t work this time.”
“Any idea why?”
“I’ve been kind of stagnant,” Jill said. “I should probably do one of these baths every day.”
“How long do I stay in here?” Jill asked.
“Twenty minutes, no more, no less,” he said. “Then you shower and scrub with the soft brush. After that it’s lotion and sleep.”
“You going to scrub my back?” she asked.
He leered and she gave him a worried look.
“What?” he asked.
“Are you getting deadly sperm back up?” Jill bit her lip.
“What?” he laughed.
“Meg told me that most men have affairs when their wives are about eight months pregnant because all their sperm back up and they go crazy.”
“You’re only seven months pregnant.”
“You know what I mean,” she said.
He laughed. Seeing she was serious, he smiled.
“Seems to me that I haven’t had a chance to get backed up,” he said.
“I guess that’s true,” she blushed. “What if you do?”
“Let’s deal with one thing at a time,” he said. “Are you ready to shower?”
She nodded. He stripped off his clothing.
“What are you doing?”
“Joining you,” he said. “For deadly sperm backup preventative purposes.”
Laughing, she got out of the tub and followed him into the shower.
Friday early morning — 4:15 a.m.
Yvonne’s eyes opened the moment the bathroom door closed. Sitting up in bed, she looked around the room. She scanned the bedside table for her book. She got up and walked to the door for her book. She always left her book either right beside her or next to the door. Her eyes flicked from table to dresser to mantle.
Her book was not in this room.
Where was she?
She heard a sound in the bathroom. Someone was taking a shower.
Feeling a tightness on her left hand, she looked at her hand and gasped. She was wearing her wedding ring.
The spider tried to cut her finger off the last time she was wearing this ring. He would surely kill her if he saw her wearing her wedding ring again.
Was it Saturday?
Her heart pounded in her chest.
Where was her book?
Who was in the bathroom?
How did this ring get on her finger? She’d given it to… someone. Delphie? No, Maresol put it in one of those safes at Seth’s house. And…
There was light knock at the door. She opened the door a crack and peeked out.
A small woman with enormous hazel eyes and long black hair was standing at the door. The elfin looking woman was holding a tiny sleeping baby, possibly a newborn. Yvonne blinked. The woman gave Yvonne a radiant smile.
“Good morning,” the woman said.
Yvonne lifted the corners of her mouth in a slight smile.
“You don’t remember me,” the woman said. “I keep thinking you will but…”
“I’m Celia’s daughter, Valerie,” the woman said. “You used to babysit me and my brother Jake when we were little. You told me that because I was pretty, it meant that I had to work extra hard to be…”
“Smart and kind,” Yvonne smiled. “Because pretty women…”
“Are underestimated,” Valerie beamed. “We have to work harder and be twice as great as they expect.”
“I remember babysitting this tiny little rat,” Yvonne said. “Was that you?”
“I’m no rat,” Valerie said with the same indignation she had when Yvonne had said that to her as a child. They laughed. Yvonne leaned out the door.
“Where am I?” Yvonne whispered.
“You’re at the Castle,” Valerie said. “Or we call it the Castle. Mom bought this house for Delphie and Jake fixed it up. We all live here.”
“I know you don’t have your book because you left it when we were trying on dresses. Don’t worry, though. It’s safe. It just doesn’t have your morning information. That’s why I’m here.”
“Why were we trying on dresses?” Yvonne asked.
“I need a dress for a movie premiere,” Valerie said. “And you are getting married.”
“I’m already married.” Yvonne’s words came out automatically. Then panic slashed through her heart. Yvonne gasped. Her hand went to her mouth in horror. Her face fell with sorrow. She began to cry.
“What did I say? What happened?” Valerie said.
“Rodney’s dead,“ Yvonne said. “I have to marry the spider.”
“No, he’s not and you’re not marrying the spider and…,” Valerie said. “Oh crap, Delphie’s going to kill me.”
As if they were never there, Yvonne’s tears stopped. She squinted her eyes.
“How do you know Delphie?”
“She was my mother’s best friend,” Valerie said. “She’s like a mother to me. You’re in her apartment.”
Yvonne glanced at the room behind her then gave Valerie another suspicious look. As if she was casting a spell, this woman’s words pulled at her. But Yvonne knew all the devil’s tricks. If this little woman was trying to make a fool out of her, she was going to have to do better than that.
“Look around,” Valerie said. “Doesn’t it look like Delphie?”
Yvonne looked around the room. The little woman was right. The room did look like Delphie.
“I’m disoriented today,” Yvonne said.
“You only slept a couple hours and didn’t have your sleeping pill.”
“Who did you say you were?”
“I’m Valerie Lipson, Sam and Celia’s daughter,” she lifted the sleeping baby in her arms. “This is Jackie.”
Yvonne’s eyes blinked at Valerie for a moment.
“You look like Sam,” Yvonne said.
“Jake and I,” Valerie said. “Both. You’ll meet Jake’s daughter Katy today. She looks more like Mom.”
Yvonne nodded. Hearing a sound, she turned to look at the bathroom.
“Who’s in the bathroom?” Yvonne asked.
“Your husband.” Thinking she’d said exactly the right thing, Valerie smiled.
Yvonne began to weep into her hand.
“Oh crap,” Valerie said. “Rodney. Your husband, Rodney. He’s in the bathroom.”
“Rodney?” Yvonne asked. “Is it 2020? No wonder I’m so disoriented.”
“Go look,” Valerie said. “I’ll stay right here.”
“Go on,” Valerie’s words pushed Yvonne toward the bathroom. “Just peek in.”
Yvonne didn’t trust the little woman or her words. But she wanted to know who was in the bathroom. At the bathroom, Yvonne looked back at Valerie. She nodded and Yvonne opened the door. She glanced at Valerie then went into the room. Terrified she’d see Aaron Alvin, Yvonne bit her lip before pulling back the shower curtain.
Rodney stood under the stream of water.
“Yvie?” he asked.
Drawn like a magnet, Yvonne stepped into the shower to hold him. Valerie smiled and pulled the door closed. She met Delphie at the stairwell.
“Did you do it?” Delphie asked.
Nodding, Valerie smiled.
“Thank God,” Delphie said. “Let’s get breakfast ready.”
Valerie moved down the stairwell.
“Before you ask,” Delphie said. “I’d do it for you.”
Seeing Mike standing in the middle of the kitchen, Valerie said, “You already have.”
The Denver Cereal will continue next week
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