Chapter Two Hundred and Forty-nine
Five days later
Saturday — 4:45 a.m.
Katy opened her eyes when the door to their loft closed. She scowled. That sounded like her Daddy leaving for work. But her daddy wouldn’t work on today of all days.
She closed her eyes and stretched out her mind to see if she could find him. He was listening to the news in his truck and . . . going to work!
Katy’s eyes welled up.
Why would he go to work on today of all days?
Didn’t he remember what today was? She’d reminded him last night.
She wasn’t direct about it. When he was tucking her in, she’d just said that she was excited to spend another year with him. He’d smiled and kissed her cheek. How could he forget from last night to this morning?
Katy stared at the starry ceiling above her. Mommy had said that each of the little lights would remind her that she and Daddy love her. Well, she didn’t feel very loved right at this moment. She stared at the ceiling until she heard Mommy moving around.
This is what it was like to be an older sister.
She had better get used to it because pretty soon there would be two little brothers for her mommy to take care of. Not that Katy wouldn’t matter anymore, she’d just matter less.
This was an example of Katy mattering less.
Katy nodded to herself.
She got out of bed and went to the bathroom by herself. After all, she was five years old today. She could go to the bathroom by herself. She did it at school. She just usually liked to have Mommy there to tell her about the dreams she had last night. But today, she could take care of it herself.
She could even dress herself. She’d never done it before, but she was five today, and an older sister soon. She went to her closet and looked.
“Katy, honey?” Jill peaked in her room. “What are you doing?”
“I’m picking out my clothes. After all I’m FIVE.” When Jill didn’t respond, Katy added, “Today.”
“Ok, well, hurry along,” Jill said. “We have a busy day getting ready for your party tomorrow.”
Her mommy pulled the door closed. Katy was so surprised that she stood in front of the closed door with her mouth open. She stretched out to read her mommy’s mind.
Katy found Jill’s mind full of lists — things to buy for the party, things to get done before the babies come, and more lists of grown up stuff.
Disgusted, Katy sat on the corner of her bed.
She wasn’t going to like being an older sister very much.
“MOMMY!” Katy yelled.
Jill stuck her head in.
“Why aren’t you dressed?” Jill asked.
Jill came in the room and began pulling things out of the closet for Katy to wear. She stacked them next to Katy on the bed.
“Get dressed,” Jill said.
Katy glared at her. Jill smiled and left the room.
“MOMMY!” Katy yelled.
Jill stuck her head in the room.
“Can we send the babies back?” Katy asked. “I don’t want to be an older sister anymore.”
“You’re so silly,” Jill smiled. “Come on, let’s get dressed. We have a full day!”
Katy scowled at the door for a while. She glanced at what Jill had set out. These were new clothes. Mommy and Auntie Sandy had gone shopping on Friday and come home with some cute clothes for Katy and Noelle. Katy liked it when Mommy bought stuff for her.
A generally cheerful child, Katy couldn’t stay grumpy for very long. Especially when she had these cute things to wear. Katy put on her new jeans that looked like Daddy’s and pulled on her new purple-the-color-of-psychics top. She stepped into her just-like-a-real-cowboy boots and went out to have Mommy do her hair. Mommy gently combed Katy’s long hair and braided it into two low braids.
“Where is Paddie today?” Katy asked.
“Gosh sweetie, I don’t know,” Jill asked. “I know you’ve asked a few times. His Daddy said he just couldn’t play with us today. That’s why we’re having your birthday party tomorrow. Remember, you wanted Paddie to be there.”
“But . . .” Katy started but Mommy was on to something else.
She went to the kitchen counter where Mommy had laid out her not-very-special breakfast. Katy felt like she was going to cry.
Where were the “I don’t recognize you because you’re five now”? They’d done those every every every year since she could remember.
Where were presents?
What about birthday cake?
“MOMMY!” Katy yelled.
Jill stuck her head out of the bedroom.
“Um,” Katy said.
She saw how tired her mommy looked and she decided not to ask about birthday cake. Jill smiled and went back into the bedroom. Katy moped through her regular oatmeal and regular fruit and regular milk. Because she was a big sister now, she put her plate in the sink instead of waiting for Mommy to do it.
Plus, they lived with lots of people. Katy smiled. She bet people were downstairs waiting for her and Mommy was just faking.
“Thanks putting your dishes in the sink, sweetie,” Jill kissed her head. “Ready?”
Katy nodded. They went down the stairwell to the kitchen.
The kitchen was dark and silent.
“Where is everyone?” Katy asked.
“Let’s see,” Jill said. “Daddy, Mr. Aden, Mrs. Honey, and Mr. Sam went to work. Aunt Val and Uncle Mike are in LA.”
“Oh,” Katy shuffled through the kitchen.
“Noelle, Charlie, Tink, Ivy, oh gosh, all of them are at the police station today,” Jill said.
“Again?” Katy asked.
“Wanda just got out of the hospital,” Jill said. “They want all of them together when they look at the boys they arrested. I think Auntie Heather took Tink and Ivy there too. Of course, Delphie is with Ivy.”
“Oh,” Katy had forgotten about Delphie. Hearing Delphie’s name, Katy felt a wave of sorrow. Even Delphie, her favorite adult in the entire world, had forgotten that this was her big day. “And the rest?”
Jill looked down to see Katy crying. She knelt down to hug her. Katy sobbed against her mommy’s shoulder. Mommy didn’t ask any questions. Her mommy rubbed her back and whispered that she loved her. Hearing Katy’s sorrow, Scooter appeared out of nowhere to nudge Katy from the other side.
“I’m afraid it’s just you and me, baby-girl,” Jill said. “I’m glad to have the chance to spend time with my baby.”
“Big girl,” Katy said automatically, but she liked that Mommy still called her “baby-girl.”
“You’ll always be my baby-girl, I’m afraid,” Jill said.
“What if you have a bunch of girls after the boys?” Katy asked.
“You’ll still be my baby-girl,” Jill said. “Even when you’re ancient like me and have a pack of kids of your own.”
“I love you, big-girl,” Jill said.
“Love you, Mommy,” Katy said.
“Why don’t we take Scooter with us?” Jill asked. “Would that be nice?”
Katy nodded. Mommy helped her blow her nose and they went out to their new, huge, ready for the stupid-should-be-returned twins, SUV. Mommy helped her into the back seat. Katy got into her car seat and let Mommy buckle her in.
“Paddie doesn’t have a car seat anymore,” Katy said for the umpteenth time.
“Paddie is quite a bit bigger than you,” Jill said.
“I’m getting bigger,” Katy said.
“You’ll be in a new car seat soon enough,” Jill smiled. “Remember, we bought a booster already.”
Katy gave a solemn nod.
“I thought I’d have it today.” Hoping Mommy would remember, Katy emphasized the today.
Jill smiled and went to the driver’s seat. Katy waited while Mommy got situated.
“Boy, I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be able to drive,” Jill said and started the car. “It’s pretty tight here.”
They started driving down their street. They turned on the bigger street.
“Boy, look at that rising sun,” Jill said. “It’s pretty like you, Katy-baby.”
“Very pretty,” Katy said to the back of Jill’s driver seat.
The drove up the big street past the park. Katy saw Sissy’s school and remembered Mommy hadn’t said where she was. Maybe Sissy was planning something special for Katy.
“Where’s Sissy today?” Katy asked.
“I think she’s doing ballet,” Jill said. “Or she’s with Wanda. No Wanda’s at the police station. Gosh, Katy, I don’t know. Everything is a little weird since Monday.”
“Noelle’s home,” Katy said.
“Right, both Noelle and Wanda were able to go home from the hospital,” Jill said. “You know, I think Wanda’s with her friend Frankie. That’s it. He’s moving into Denver Children’s Home today. Wanda and her dad are there to help him get settled, and then they go to the police station. Or maybe they go to the police station first.”
“Auntie Sandy? Rachel?” Katy held out hope that someone who loved her remembered that today was her special day. “Auntie Tanesha?”
“Let’s see,” Jill stopped at the light at Monaco Boulevard. “Auntie Sandy has to work today so Rachel is at school. Auntie Tanesha is studying. Did you meet her lab partner yesterday?”
“Uh huh,” Katy said. “He’s looks like one of Aunt Valerie’s friends.”
“He is very handsome,” Jill chuckled. “I loved the look on Jeraine’s face when he met him.”
“He was jealous,” Katy said.
“About time, that’s what I say,” Jill laughed.
“Did Auntie Tanesha pick him as her partner?” Katy asked.
“No,” Jill said. “They were randomly assigned. He does look like a model. Pretty yummy, I’d say.”
Katy thought that talking about a man like he was food was very funny so she laughed. Once she started laughing, she laughed and laughed. All of her sorrow transformed into giggles. Mommy watched her in the rearview mirror. Mommy gave her a broad smile and pulled to a stop at Quebec Boulevard.
“Oh shoot,” Jill said. “Katy-baby, I just remembered that I was supposed to drop off a check for some plants over by that path Daddy runs on. Do you mind if we stop off? I know we have a lot to do today, but we’re right here.”
“It’s okay, Mommy,” Katy said. “I’m just sitting here.”
“Thanks Katy-baby,” Jill turned left on Quebec and started toward the highway.
“Big girl,” Katy said.
“You’ll always be my Katy-baby,” Jill said. “Would you like to listen to some of your music?”
“No,” Katy said. “I want to talk to you.”
Jill sent her a smile via the rearview mirror.
“Where’s Uncle Seth?” Katy asked.
“That’s a big deal. Did you hear about it?” Jill asked.
“I heard something but I didn’t understand,” Katy said.
“Uncle Seth is still too sick to go back to the police force,” Jill said. “He was supposed to start that job a few months ago, but he’s still too sick.”
“Is he going to die?” Katy asked.
“Not right now,” Jill said. “Eventually, like all of us, but he’s just too sick to be a police officer.”
“Will that hurt Charlie or Noelle or Wanda or Tink or Ivy or Frankie or . . .?”
“I don’t think so,” Jill said. “But I know Sandy was really worried. He’s going back to LA with Ava. You remember Ava?”
“Uh huh,” Katy said.
“He might take Charlie with him,” Jill said. “Depends.”
“Why would Charlie go to LA?” Katy asked.
“Some bad people are mad at him for telling the police what they were hurting people,” Jill said.
“Noelle too?” Katy asked.
“Maybe, we don’t really know,” Jill said.
“That dragon should have eaten them,” Katy said.
“Remember we don’t talk about the dragon,” Jill said. “No one remembers the dragon.”
“Because the dragon made them not remember,” Katy giggled.
“You only know because you read your daddy’s mind.”
Jill gave Katy a stern look in the rearview mirror and Katy blushed.
“You’re not supposed to do that,” Jill said.
“But . . .” Katy started.
Jill gave her another hard look and took the on ramp onto the I-70. They drove in silence for a few minutes.
“I didn’t tell anyone,” Katy said.
“Oh, I told Paddie,” Katy giggled.
“Mmm,” Jill smiled at Katy.
“Paddie won’t tell anyone,” Katy said.
“Then why do I know that Paddie knows?” Jill asked.
“Because you read his mind?” Katy giggled.
Jill shook her head and smiled. Katy thought her joke was very funny, so she laughed and laughed. Jill took an off ramp that Katy had never been, and she fell silent.
“What’s that?” Katy pointed to a large building surrounded by barbed wire.
“That’s the Denver Jail and the women’s prison,” Jill said. “People who make big mistakes have to spend their life there.”
Katy nodded. Her eyes went wide and she felt a little scared. Her mind could feel all the rage and despair coming from the building. Mommy stopped the SUV and turned away from the prison. Katy rotated around to watch at the prison and Mommy turned into a small parking lot. It was full of cars, but Katy didn’t look at them. She was too worried about the prison to care.
“Why don’t you come out with me?” Jill asked.
“Yes,” Katy unhooked her strap.
Katy didn’t want to be here in this parking lot near the prison. Jill came around to the door and let Katy out. She took Katy’s hand and they walked into what looked like a little farm. There were sheep and goats and cows and . . . lots of animals. Katy kept track of all of the animals on her fingers. There were so many animals that Katy ran out of fingers. Jill pulled on the door to the office and found it locked.
“Shoot,” Jill said.
Katy looked up at Mommy.
“Katy, can you stay right here?” Jill asked. “Don’t move or leave with anyone or anything. Can you do that for me?”
“Okay, Mommy,” Katy said.
“And you’ll be safe?” Jill touched her heart with worry.
“I will be careful Mommy,” Katy nodded to show her sincerity.
“Ok,” Jill gave Katy a worried look and trotted around the corner.
Katy waited and watched. A couple of girls about Noelle’s age were dropped off by their moms. They came by Katy on their way to a big pig. Katy giggled when the pig snorted. She felt a hand on her shoulder. She looked up at her Mommy.
“Excuse me,” Jill said. “Have you seen my daughter? I just left her for a moment.”
Katy wanted to scream with joy.
“What does she look like?” Katy asked.
“She’s about your height,” Jill tapped her chin. “She’s four . . .”
“It’s me, Mommy!” Katy beamed. “Only I’m five!”
Mommy gasped and took a step back.
“Katy-baby! It is you,” Jill said. “I bet all these people are waiting for you!”
“What?” Katy’s eyes welled with tears.
Jill held out her hand and Katy took it. They walked around the corner to find every person in her family and in Paddie’s family standing around talking.
“Katy! Katy!” Paddie ran forward. “You’ll never guess what!”
“What?” Katy jumped up and down with excitement.
“We got horses!” Paddie said. “For us! You and me!”
Katy gasped. Paddie grabbed her shoulders and they began to jump up and down. Paddie’s mommy came to get him and Katy looked up at Mommy.
“You’ve been reading everyone’s minds,” Jill said. “This was the only way to surprise you.”
Jill crouched down to Katy.
“I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings,” Jill said.
“I love surprises, Mommy,” Katy said. “But how did you keep a secret, Mommy?”
“Mr. Colin,” Jill said. “You’ve wanted a horse since before we came to live with Daddy. You and Paddie had so much fun riding the horses in the last couple months that Jacob asked Mr. Colin to find one for us. He did better than that. He found two gentle horses and a couple of younger horses. We’ll share horses with Paddie’s family so you can ride with me or daddy or any of Paddie’s family or our family.”
“Oh Mommy,” Katy held out her arms and hugged Jill tight.
“Are we late?” a woman’s voice said.
Katy looked up to see Valerie ran around the corner. Mike followed her carrying Jackie in her car seat.
“Auntie Valerie!” Katy screeched.
“Who are you, child?” Valerie arched a perfect eyebrow. “Why are you speaking to me?”
“It’s me, Auntie Valerie!” Katy said. “You don’t recognize me because I’m five!”
“Katy! Happy Birthday!”
Valerie picked up Katy and carried her into the party.
Jill stood back and watched her Katy-baby re-introduce her way through the crowd of people who loved her. Her mother, Anjelika, re-introduced Katy to Katy’s great-grandfather, Otis, the aged Russian Mafioso. Otis played it off with perfection insisting Katy introduce herself in Russian. Katy fumbled the words and beamed with joy when he threw his head back and laughed.
Most of the adults were drinking coffee and eating pastries made by those Irish bakers. Sam picked Katy up and twirled her around. Like Tanesha did every year, she carried Katy off to a private corner where she gave Katy her special present — this year, a lovely set of single pearl earrings and a promise to take her to get her ears pierced. Jill felt a hand on her shoulder and glanced over to see Jacob. Aden and Blane came in behind him. Honey zipped around them to the crowd.
“How did it go?” Jacob asked.
“She cried,” Jill said. “But look.”
While Katy beamed, Heather pulled a red T-shirt over Katy’s head that said: “Keep calm and ride horses.” The T-shirt was just on when Charlie came up behind Katy and lifted her onto his shoulders. They sang a rousing “Happy Birthday to Katy” while Charlie carried her around. As if to punctuate the song, Paddie’s brother Conner howled at the end of the song and all the adults laughed. Sandy helped Katy cut her special chocolate-chocolate-chocolate cake that Sandy had made for Katy every birthday since she was six months old.
“It’s a good party,” Jacob said.
“She won’t be my baby for much longer,” Jill said.
“Just the rest of our lives,” Jacob said.
“Are we ever going to ride our horses?” Paddie asked.
“What do you think, Jake?” Colin asked. “Are you too battered to ride today?”
“Never,” Jacob moved into the crowd.
“Happy Birthday, Katy-baby,” Jill said under her breath.
“Mommy! Come see me!” Katy yelled.
Jill ran to catch up.
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