CHAPTER FOUR HUNDRED and THIRTY-THREE
Friday morning — 10:15 a.m.
Still in a wheelchair, Sissy carried one large bundle of flowers through Denver International Airport, while Ivan rolled a trolley full of flowers. Nadia had the other large bundle of flowers. Just behind them, Seth rolled a separate trolley that held the flowers for the brides and grooms. Their little parade was brought up by one of the airport valets rolled a trolley with their luggage.
Sissy hadn’t planned to go to the wedding. But when Candy had called Seth for help with the flowers, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to help out and also attend the wedding. Nadia came along as a surprise. They would get there in time to help with the rehearsal dinner. They went out to the sidewalk where Seth had arranged for a van to take them into town. The flowers were loaded into the back and the people in the middle. They were soon on their way to the Castle for the wedding celebration.
“You seem nervous,” Sissy said to Ivan.
“It’s the first time I am seeing your family since we have become closer,” Ivan said.
“He’s afraid they will burn him at the stake,” Nadia said.
“If anyone was going to do that, it would have been Charlie,” Sissy said with a shrug. “Plus, there will be so much other stuff going on, no one will even notice.”
Chuckling, Seth caught Sissy’s eye in the rearview mirror.
“Why is that funny?” Sissy asked.
“There’s always time for dumb drama,” Seth said.
“Well, I refuse to worry,” Sissy said. “This weekend is about Sandy and Jill and Honey. I want it to be perfect for them.”
“I’m sure it will be,” Ivan said.
Nadia nodded. Grinning to himself, Seth kept driving.
Friday mid-day — 12:01 p.m.
Sandy pulled closed the door to her shop and locked it from the outside. She stopped for a moment and looked through to the shop. The afternoon sun brought out the red in the oak floor. Everything inside was clean, beautiful, and waiting for her to return. She smiled to herself and started walking home.
Her walk home was sometimes her favorite part of the day. She was able to mentally shift gears from the busy chaos of caring for kids and their lives. Her cell phone rang.
“Hello?” Sandy asked into her cell phone.
“Did you make it?” Aden asked. From his voice, she could tell he was calling from the car.
“I’m walking home right now,” Sandy said. “You sound like you’re in the car.”
“I’m almost there,” Aden said. “Would you like me to pick you up?”
“Nah,” Sandy said. “I think this is the last moment I have to myself for at least a week.”
“Enjoy it,” Aden said. “See you at home.”
Grinning, Sandy hung up the phone. Smiling to herself, she remembered the first time Aden had called her. They’d gone to dinner the night before, but that was it. She and the girlfriends had bets on whether he’d call her again. Of course, Jacob made Aden call. Sandy smiled at the memory. He’d wanted to know if she’d had a nice time the night before. When she’d hung up the phone, she wondered if that dinner would end up here.
In less than forty-eight hours, she and Aden were getting married at the Cathedral Basilica of Immaculate Conception.
Sandy’s smile widened. The Cathedral was a dream. No one she knew ever had gotten married there.
She and Aden were. In just a few hours!
Tonight, they had fifteen minutes on the schedule at the Cathedral to rehearse the wedding. Everyone had to be there at exactly the right time or they’d lose their space in the schedule. Then they were coming back to the Castle for a good old fashioned barbecue. Sandy had finished the desserts before work this morning. Jeraine and Mike were taking care of the meat. Valerie was handling the salads.
All Sandy had to do was show up. The rehearsal would end in the party. They had Saturday to beautify and Sunday to show up. In between, they’d enjoy the moment with family and friends.
What awful thing was going to happen to make this dream not come true?
The thought came out of nowhere but was so strong that Sandy stopped walking. She turned around to see if someone behind her had said these words.
Sandy heard her old therapist’s words:
“This is going to chase you for the rest of your life,” her therapist had said all those years ago. “Every time something good happens, you’ll be certain that something awful will happen.”
“It always seems to,” Sandy said.
“No, not really,” the therapist had said. “Think it through, Sandy. Don’t let your PTSD ruin the good things in life.”
Sandy tried to think it through.
Everyone was safe. Everyone was cared for.
She and Aden were getting married and going on their amazing trip. Noelle, Nash, and Teddy were staying at the Castle because they had school. They were also help with Rachel and Jill’s twins. Charlie was going to the Marlowe School now and doing a great job. And Sissy was safe and happy in New York.
What could possibly happen?
“I won’t let PTSD take away the good things in my life,” Sandy said under her breath.
She turned onto Race Street and went through the Castle gate at the same time Aden drove in.
“What could possibly happen?” Sandy asked under her breath.
She went to greet Aden when out of the corner of her eye, she saw Sissy standing outside the door.
“Sis?” Sandy asked. “What?”
Sissy and Sandy hugged.
“Surprise!” Sissy said.
Sandy laughed and her worry slipped to the back of her mind. She kissed Aden and they all went inside the Castle.
Friday afternoon — 2:01 p.m.
Jill had wanted to spend all day Friday with Katy. But Katy didn’t want to miss school. They agreed to spend the afternoon together. Jill waited outside Katy’s classroom at the Marlowe school.
As much as Jill hated to admit it, she missed the bad old days when Katy was just hers. She didn’t miss Trevor. No, she did not miss him. She wouldn’t change her life now for their life then. No way.
She just felt like …
She wasn’t really sure how she felt.
The door to Katy’s classroom opened and the kids started streaming out. Katy came in the middle of the pack. As always, Katy threw herself at Jill.
“Mommy!” Katy said.
For the briefest second, Katy pressed her face into Jill’s collarbone like she had when she was a baby. Katy squirmed to be let down.
“We learned about electricity today,” Katy said. “It doesn’t just come from inside the walls, you know.”
Jill smiled. She took Katy’s hand as Katy told her all about what she’d learned.
“We get it from the sun at our house,” Jill said as they left the school.
“We talked all about that,” Katy said. “Scott the snot said electricity was magic. I told him that it certainly was not magic.”
“Scot the snot?” Jill asked.
“That’s his name,” Katy said.
“How did he get that name?” Jill asked.
“From the naming game,” Katy said. “You know the one where I’m Katy the lady.”
Jill scowled but nodded. She helped Katy into her car seat and went around to the driver’s seat.
“Where are we going?” Katy asked.
“I was going to ask you where you’d like to go,” Jill said. “It’s just you and me this afternoon.”
“Oh,” Katy said.
Jill pulled out of the Marlowe School parking lot.
“I thought you would like that,” Jill said. “Some Mommy-Katy time.”
“Okay,” Katy’s voice was vague.
They drove in silence for a while.
“Mommy?” Katy asked.
“Yes, Katy-baby,” Jill said.
“Are you sad?” Katy asked.
“Sad?” Jill asked.
“You seem sad,” Katy said. “Don’t you want to marry Daddy?”
“I do,” Jill said. “How about you?”
“I love my Daddy,” Katy said. “I want you to marry Daddy.”
They drove in silence for a while. Jill turned up Colfax Boulevard to go to their new favorite ice cream shop.
“Why are you sad?” Katy asked.
“I’m not sure I am sad,” Jill said.
“You seem sad,” Katy said.
Jill nodded. She pulled into the parking lot of the ice cream place. When she went around to get Katy, the girl was already out of her car seat. Katy held out her arms and Jill hugged her.
“I guess I miss the good times we used to have when it was just you and me,” Jill said.
“Yeah, but don’t we have more fun now?” Katy asked. “I used to never even see you ‘cos you worked so much. I love Auntie Megan, but I’d rather be with you. Now that we live with Daddy, we get to do a lot of stuff, even ride horses!”
“I know,” Jill said. “It’s just …”
“You always say that I’m going to be your Katy-baby, no matter what,” Katy said.
“Then Katy and Mommy time goes on forever and ever,” Katy said.
Jill grinned at her wise daughter.
“Can we get ice cream and go home?” Katy asked.
“We can do anything you want,” Jill said.
“I wanted to tell the babies about electricity,” Katy said. “Plus, they like ice cream too. And they never had Katy and Mommy time.”
Jill grinned at her.
“Does that hurt your feelings?” Katy asked.
Jill shook her head. They went inside and ordered ice cream for the whole family. Katy got a small cone to tide her over on the trip home. Katy climbed into her car seat and let Jill buckle her in.
“When we married Daddy, you told me that just because things change, doesn’t always mean they change for the worst,” Katy said.
“I can’t believe you remember that,” Jill said.
“It really helped me,” Katy said. “Because I was really scared that everything would be bad. You were right. I was wrong.”
Jill nodded and started driving toward the Castle.
“Seems like you’re scared that things will be bad,” Katy said.
Jill scowled for a moment before nodding.
“I guess so,” Jill said. “It feels like a big change.”
“We should expect great things after change,” Katy said in an imitation of Jill. Jill laughed. “After all, we can always …”
“Change back,” Jill said with Katy.
“No, I don’t want to change back,” Jill said. “You?”
Jill looked at Katy in her rearview mirror. Katy shook her head. They stopped at the light at Colorado Boulevard.
“Did you know that electricity makes that light go on?” Katy asked. “The same electricity that makes the tea kettle work and …”
Jill grinned as Katy picked up her excitement about electricity. Katy continued through the rest of the drive home. When she parked the car, Katy got out and ran into the Castle. Jill got the ice cream and headed inside. Katy ran to her in the middle of the Castle main living room.
“I love you, Mommy,” Katy said.
Before Jill could respond, Katy ran off to find her brothers. Smiling to herself, she went into the kitchen.
“Hey, thanks!” Delphie said. She took the ice cream from Jill. “I was just thinking of having an ice cream social for the little kids.”
“Of course you were,” Jill said.
Friday evening — 6:56 p.m.
Honey waited for MJ in the foyer of the Cathedral Basilica of Immaculate Conception. The last time she’d been in this area of the church was for her sister’s wedding to Jill’s ex-husband. She shook her head to try to clear the horrible memory.
Jill and Jacob came in carrying the boys. Katy ran behind.
“Are you coming?” Jill asked.
“Waiting for MJ,” Honey said.
“He’ll be here,” Jacob said.
He touched her shoulder for support. His warm gesture was no match for the horrible sinking feeling that was forming in her stomach.
MJ was going to be late.
They were going to miss the rehearsal.
Jill and Sandy were going to get sick of our bullshit and I wouldn’t be able to get married here.
People like me don’t get married at fancy places like this.
Sam and Delphie came in.
“Would you like a roll?” Sam asked, assuming Honey was stuck there.
“I’m waiting for MJ,” Honey said.
“I’ll come back and check before the time come,” Sam said.
Honey nodded and gave him a confident smile. She looked up at the clock.
The door opened. Sandy and Aden came in with Rachel. A moment later, Noelle, Nash, Teddy, and Charlie came in after them. Sissy came in on Ivan’s arm. Honey smiled at them.
“Honey?” Sandy asked and pointed inside.
“I’m waiting for MJ,” Honey repeated.
“Uh.” Sandy pointed behind Honey.
Honey spun her wheelchair around. As if he’d been there all along, MJ was standing behind her. His boss, Alex, and his partner, Margaret, were standing just behind him. They waved.
“I was waiting for you,” Honey said with a smile.
“No, I was waiting for you,” MJ said.
He leaned over and kissed her.
“There starting!” Katy ran out of the church to tell them. “Hurry!”
“Here we go!” Honey said.
They raced inside the chapel for the rehearsal.
Saturday early morning — 12:06 p.m.
Charlie woke up in his closet in the apartment at the Castle. In the last few months, he’d been in the hospital, at Seth’s house, and even in Ivan’s lovely apartment in New York City. Nothing made him happier than to be at “home” with his family — Noelle, Nash, Sissy, Rachel, Teddy, Aden, and of course, Sandy. He loved this little closet.
Turning onto his side, Charlie settled in to go back to sleep. He was drifting off when he heard the sound that had awakened him — whispering.
Charlie got up. He pulled on a pair of boxers and a T-shirt.
He went to the girls’ room and listened. Noelle and Sissy were asleep.
He crept to Nash and Teddy’s room. Nothing.
Yet, he still heard the whispering.
Sandy and Aden were asleep. He quietly opened the apartment door and crept out into the small hall. He looked down the hallway. Delphie’s apartment was silent. At Valerie’s door, he heard Mike low rumble, Valerie’s laugh, and a splash of water. They were clearly in the bathtub.
He still heard the whispering. He crept downstairs.
He was walking past Abi and Fin’s door when the door jerked open. A firm hand grabbed him and yanked him inside.
“Wha …?” Charlie started.
Abi held her index finger over her mouth. Charlie nodded.
The whispering voice passed by the door. Charlie opened his mouth and Abi shook her head. Frozen like statues, they stood silently listening. After a few minutes, Abi nodded.
“What was that?” Charlie whispered.
“Eros,” Abi said.
“Eros?” Charlie asked in an irritated voice. “That can’t be good.”
“He’s out of his mind,” Abi said. “I can’t tell if this is Eros himself or a shadow of him. Either way, he’s here to destroy this weekend.”
Charlie flushed with rage.
“What are we going to do?” Charlie asked.
“You must wake Hedone,” Abi said. “Uh, Heather. Tell her what’s happened.”
“I can’t drive,” Charlie said. “How …?”
He was standing inside the doorway at the little yellow house. Tink was asleep on the daybed just a few feet away.
“Tink!” Charlie whispered. He walked over to her. “Tink!”
While his whisper didn’t wake Tink , he heard movement from downstairs and upstairs. A few moments later, Jeraine was standing at the top of the basement stairs and Blane was standing at the bottom of the upstairs.
“Charlie!” Blane said with a laugh. “We told you that you and Tink …”
Charlie looked at himself and realized he was just in his boxers. Tink woke up and blinked at him.
“Charlie?” Tink asked.
“You can’t fault the boy for trying,” Jeraine said with a snicker.
Charlie was so embarrassed by getting caught that he didn’t know what to say. Tanesha’s hand came from behind Jeraine. She pushed Jeraine aside.
“What is it, Charlie?” Tanesha asked.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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