Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Chapter Four Hundred and Twenty-eight : An Accord

CHAPTER FOUR HUNDRED and TWENTY-EIGHT

Wednesday — 10:24 a.m.

“Goddess?” Abi asked when she opened her apartment door.

Heather gave her a sour look.

“Eve?” Heather asked.

The two women stared at each other for a moment before Abi nodded.

“You’re right,” Abi said, with a sigh. “It’s lovely to see you, Heather. Won’t you come in?”

“Why thank you, Abi!” Heather said. “I come bearing gifts.”

Heather held up a plate of lemon blueberry muffins. She carried Wyn in a sling.

“Blane?” Abi asked.

Nodding, Heather gave Abi the plate. Abi set the plate on the kitchen counter. She gestured to the bar seat next to the kitchen bar. Heather sat down. Abi went to turn on the electric kettle for tea.

“I brought some honey,” Heather said.

“From Olympia?” Abi asked, her voice lifting with delight.

Heather set a small glass container onto the counter.

“Don’t tell Delphie,” Heather said. “I love her honey and her bees, it’s just that …”

“Olympian honey is a true gift,” Abi said. “Where did you get it?”

“Aristaeus,” Heather said.

“Really?” Abi said.

“His dad, Apollo, is still trying to make up to me for what my dad made him do,” Heather said with a shrug. “It’s kind of dumb, especially since Eros and Psyche have finally worked out some of their crap. But Apollo insists that Aristaeus shares what he has with me.”

“I thought you and Aristaeus were close,” Abi said.

“We had some fun an age ago,” Heather said. “Aristaeus lives a pretty rustic life. Now that I live here, it’s hard to deal with even the way he smells. Plus, he’s married again. They have a bunch of children. He is very generous with his honey and cheese.”

“You have Olympian cheese?” Abi asked.

Heather laughed and shook her head. Abi smiled.

“How do you know all of this Olympia crap?” Heather asked.

“Gilfand,” Abi said.

“He does have a seat on the court,” Heather said.

“He loves gossip,” Abi said.

The electric kettle clicked off and Abi got up to make their tea. Her baby made a noise and Heather got up to comfort her. She left Wyn with Abi’s baby and came back to the counter.

“I figured they should get to know each other,” Heather said.

Abi looked over and nodded.

“I’ve heard talk that your Wyn will take Eros’s place,” Abi said.

“Certainly the half-breed girl can’t do it,” Heather said with a sniff.

“Isn’t that the truth!” Abi said, as she brought the cups to the counter. “I think you’re doing a great job.”

Heather shrugged.

“I really only want to be a great mother,” Heather said. “The rest of this stuff is kind of … archaic, I guess.”

Abi nodded. They added honey to their tea. Abi brought soft butter and they doctored their muffins. For a few minutes, it was silent.

“You know that you’re in danger here,” Heather said after a drink of her tea.

Abi nodded.

“Too bad you don’t know anyone who can help you,” Heather said.

Abi gave Heather a long look. She finished her tea before she looked like she was going to say anything. Heather gave her a little smile and Abi laughed.

“You really are a child of this century,” Abi said.

“I like it here,” Heather said. “It’s really Tink and Blane that work on me to give up my archaic ways.”

Abi nodded.

“I’m wondering … uh …” Abi said. “I’m not sure how to proceed.”

“You could ask for my help,” Heather said.

“Help?”

“It seems like there’s a lack of love between you and the Queen,” Heather said. “It smells bad. I thought I might take a look but I don’t want to do anything against your wishes.”

“You would look into the situation between me and Queen Fand?” Abi asked. “Truly?”

Heather nodded. Abi squinted.

“Why?” Abi asked.

“I would have done it because you asked me,” Heather said. “But since you didn’t …”

“I could use your particular kind of help,” Abi said. “I just didn’t know that I could even ask.”

“You can always ask, Abi,” Heather said. “I’m happy to help. Plus, in this circumstance, I need your help.”

“What help could I possibly be to you?” Abi asked.

Heather laughed.

“What is funny?” Abi asked.

“You are the mother of us all,” Heather said. “The oldest living being on this planet. You are deeply powerful and incredibly wise. And you wonder what help you could be?”

Abi waved away Heather’s words.

“Your situation with Fand has gotten to you,” Heather said.

Abi’s eyes welled with tears and she nodded.

“Why don’t I tell you what’s going on and you can see if you can help?” Heather asked.

Wiping her eyes, Abi nodded.

“My Blane ran into an earth anomaly,” Heather said. “It seems to be on his life path. I wondered if you could take a look and help him with resolving this particular issue.”

“Me?” Abi asked.

“You know more about this planet than any being,” Heather said.

“What did he find?” Abi asked.

“Something called ‘The Fires of Hell,’” Heather said.

“There is no such thing on this planet,” Abi said.

“That’s what I said,” Heather said. “He still found it. Delphie and Sam, too. In fact, Delphie had such an experience with it that she was lost for a moment.”

“The Oracle was lost to this Fires of Hell?” Abi asked, her voice lifting with concern. “Is she all right?”

“He was able to get her out of there,” Heather said. “Will you go with Blane to take a look?”

Abi fell silent. She glanced at Heather for a moment.

“You have to say the words,” Heather said.

“I will go with your Blane,” Abi said. She swallowed hard and then said the words that were hard for her, “Only if you will help me with my situation with Fand.”

“Done,” Heather said.

“Done,” Abi said.

They fell silent drinking their tea and eating their muffins. After a moment, Abi looked at Heather.

“Certainly such an accord deserves to be celebrated with the cheese in your pocket?” Abi asked.

Laughing, Heather took a block of Aristaeus’s cheese from her pocket.

~~~~~~~~

Wednesday — 11:24 a.m.

“So what do you think?” Honey asked the inspectors standing in front of her.

Towering over her wheelchair, the men looked at each other. Not one to be intimidated, Honey gave them hard looks. The older man nodded.

“Tell us again what you’re doing here,” the older man said.

“The idea is that people could live independently in their own apartments,” Jacob introjected.

Jacob stepped in front of Honey forcing the men to back up.

“Who would live here?” the younger man asked. “Old people? Sick people? So basically assisted living?”

“We already have a waiting list of young men and women, mostly Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan,” Jacob said. He shifted to the side so that the men had to turn away from Honey. “Tell you the truth, we could fill three of these buildings tomorrow.”

“So it’s a hospital,” the older man said.

“Most people in wheelchairs need a lot of assistance in the morning,” Honey said. “The cost of this care is so prohibitive that young, vibrant, often educated, people are forced onto disability just to cover it. As you may know, they cannot work on disability. We’ll be able to provide morning care at a fraction of the cost because the nursing staff will be here and not have to come to them. We can give the care they need to get going in the morning and allow them to return to the workforce.”

“Because the nursing staff will be right here, we’ll keep their medical files,” Jacob said.

“It’s not uncommon for wheelchair bound people to have medical issues,” Honey said. “When wheelchair bound people call for help, emergency services doesn’t have any idea what their specific medical issue might be. It happens that wheelchair bound people get paramedics who’ve never dealt with specific issue of being wheelchair bound. Every year, disabled people die due to their caregiver’s lack of knowledge about their specific medical history. We’ll have that information and be able to facilitate better overall care. With that, we reduce reliance on emergency services.”

“We can help to make sure they have their medications on time,” Jacob said.

“We’re right on bus lines,” Honey said. “We’ll also have a concierge to either connect them with a shuttle or one of the services. This allows young people to get out, get to work …”

“Is there work for … people like you?” the younger man asked.

“Of course,” Honey said. She had to swallow her pride to add, “Computers give us easy access to working in almost every industry. Wheelchair bound people are in every profession across the board.”

“We expect that a lot of people will work at home,” Jacob said. “Internet access will be included in their rent.”

Jacob and Honey stopped talking. They watched the inspectors try to work it through.

“But …” the younger man started.

“What is the confusion here?” Jacob asked. “We’ve answered all of your questions. Shown you around the building. You agree that the building complies with the strictest hospital standards. You both agree that it matches code. What is the hold up?”

The inspectors looked at each other again. This time the younger man started speaking.

“The problem is that we don’t have a specific code structure for you,” the younger man said. “I can easily clear you through as an assisted living facility, but that would mean …”

“No cooking in the apartments,” Jacob said.

“Or any of the other independent living features you have here,” the younger man said. “It’s a great place. I’d love living here — great gym, pool, easy access to down town, movie screen in the basement — and I don’t need the nursing.”

“And we can’t license it under an apartment building,” the older man said. “Because of the nursing.”

“We can’t call it a hospital,” the younger man said. “Because, I imagine, you don’t want to kick some guy out because his girlfriend isn’t disabled.”

“Or vice versa,” the younger man said.

Jacob nodded.

“What can we do?” Honey asked.

“Devon already spoke to us about this,” the younger man said. “He also spoke with the VA. You think you can fill three buildings? They have thousands of young men and women who would love a chance at a site like this.”

“Our plan was to post everything online so people can start these businesses all over the country,” Jacob said.

“That’s a great idea,” the older man said.

“That doesn’t get you up and running,” the younger man said.

“Give us until the end of the week,” the older man said. “We’ll see if we can’t push through a new category. It sound be straightforward.”

“But if it was easy, we’d have done it already,” the younger man said.

“Okay,” Jacob said. He shook the men’s hands. “Thanks.”

The men made a point to shake Honey’s hand as well.

“Well, what do you think?” Jacob asked.

“I …” Honey sighed. “I was about to say that this place was never going to open. But they seem to get the need and like the place.”

Honey shrugged.

“Who knows?” Honey asked.

“I’ll talk to Dad,” Jacob said. “He can talk to the Secretary of State again. See if that helps.”

“Good thinking,” Honey said.

“Can I drop you?” Jacob asked.

“Nah,” Honey said. “I need to get back to work. Thanks though.”

Honey tried to seem positive until Jacob left. Getting into her van, she let a few tears fall. This had been the best, most frustrating project of her life. She hit the dashboard.

“This is going to happen,” Honey said.

Laughing at her own fierce exuberance, she pulled out of the parking lot and called MJ to update him.

~~~~~~~~

Wednesday — 12:04 p.m.

“Hello Delphie?” Abi asked as she walked into the kitchen.

Delphie was standing in the middle of the main Castle kitchen. Heather came down the stairs behind Abi.

“I didn’t know you were here, too,” Delphie said.

“Really?” Heather asked.

“No,” Delphie said. “I just thought it might be a polite thing to say when someone brings Olympia cheese into my house and doesn’t share it.”

While Abi looked embarrassed, Heather grinned at Delphie.

“That’s pretty manipulative, even for you!” Heather said.

Abi gawked at them. Delphie held her hand out. Heather set the cheese in her hand.

“You wouldn’t happen to have some honey too?” Delphie asked.

Laughing, Heather gave her the rest of the jar of Olympia honey.

“Why, Heather!” Delphie said. “You shouldn’t have.”

Abi laughed. Delphie went to the counter. She cut a piece of cheese and dabbed it in the honey.

“I was just wondering, do you …?” Abi asked.

She pointed from Delphie to Heather.

“All the time,” Heather said. “It was worse when no one knew I was Hedone. Delphie used to torture me for treats to keep her quiet. Like anyone could do that anyway.”

Delphie grinned like she’d won a medal. She took a bite of cheese.

“This is something I don’t wish to share,” Delphie said. “While we’re on the topic, did you ask Aristaeus about coming here?”

“Oh, Delphie, I know you want him to come take a look at your bees, but …” Heather started and then stopped. “You know all of Apollo’s kids are …”

“Monsters?” Delphie asked.

“Hot heads,” Heather said.

“Ah,” Delphie said. She thought for a moment. “Great in bed, but impossible to have a conversation with?”

“Let’s leave it at you don’t really want to spend time with him,” Heather said.

“She did mention something about the way he smelled,” Abi said. She winked at Heather.

Delphie nodded that she understood. She gave them a sly look and ate another piece of cheese. She stuck her finger in the honey and sucked the sweet nectar from her fingers.

“What are you girls up to?” Delphie asked.

“I was leaving,” Heather said. “Abi wants to ask you about the Fire of Hell”

“Oh?” Delphie asked with a nod. “Oh, that is a good idea. If it’s a natural phenomenon, Abi will be able to help. If it’s some of Levi’s bs, she’ll know right away.”

Heather nodded. She started to walk out of the kitchen.

“You will make it in time if you leave now,” Delphie said. “Heather?”

Heather turned to look at Delphie.

“Yes?” Heather asked.

“You have to go now,” Delphie said. “You’ll just make it.”

Heather looked at her and blinked. She glanced at Abi, who shrugged.

“Are you feeling okay?” Heather asked. She walked back to Delphie and put her hand on Delphie’s head. “Should I call someone?”

“If you don’t leave know, you’ll miss your window,” Delphie said.

“Delphie, honey, we’re not sure what you’re talking about,” Abi said.

Looking exasperated, Delphie sighed in Heather’s direction. She turned to look at Abi.

“Do you know anyone who loves Blane completely and has the ability to move easily through time?” Delphie asked Abi. “Gosh, I don’t know anyone who fits that bill.”

“What are you talking about?” Heather asked.

“You have to get there at the moment she lets him into the house,” Delphie said. “He’ll be too caught up in her to notice that you’re there. You just walk right in behind him. She’ll see you but not say anything. She knows instinctively what’s going to happen and why you’re there.”

“She? He?” Heather asked and shook her head. “Blane …?”

Heather mouthed everything Delphie just said. She lifted an eyebrow and looked at Abi. Shaking her head, she looked Delphie. She opened her mouth to ask.

“Wh … Oh,” Heather said when she realized what Delphie was saying.

Delphie gave a little clap of her hands and jumped up and down. Heather looked down at Wyn.

“Delphie, would you mind looking after Wyn for a bit?” Heather asked.

“Of course, Heather,” Delphie said in a sweet as punch voice. “Anything for you.”

Heather gave Wyn to Delphie. Heather touched the side of her son’s face. With a nod, she disappeared.

~~~~~~~~

Twenty-nine years ago

Don’t ask where; you don’t want to know

Heather was pretty sure that she’d never been so scared in her entire life. Everything she knew about Sam Lipson’s brother told her that she should not be here.

But here she was — hiding under the open cement stairwell of a rundown apartment. It was the middle of an unseasonably hot day. While there were children’s toys around, no child was outside in this heat. She looked up. The woman in apartment 201 had opened her door to let in air through her wooden framed screen. The woman stopped to make sure the screen was latched closed. Heather could hear the soft refrains of an off tune lullaby sung by a young mother to her beloved child.

Heather swallowed hard.

A car door slammed in the parking lot. A bead of sweat rolled down, Heather’s neck. And, her father appeared at her side. He carried his bow and his quiver was full of arrows.

“What are you doing here?” Heather asked, meaning rather than on vacation with her mother.

Her voice betrayed her general irritation that Eros had begged her to take his position and then couldn’t leave it alone.

“What’s that? Does the liar speak?” Eros asked. “Don’t answer that. It’s only the child of my loins — lying Hedone.”

Surprised, Heather turned to look at him. She looked at his shoes and his clothing. He was definitely dressed for work. She blinked.

He gave her an angry stare.

“What’s wrong with you?” Eros asked.

“What are you doing here?” Heather asked, out of curiosity this time.

“Why do I ever come looking for you?” Eros asked, his voice filled with rage. “I want to know where my beloved wife is!”

“Where your …?” Heather asked.

It hit her like a ton of bricks. She’d gone back in time. Eros was moving in the other direction. He had no idea that he and Psyche had connected and were currently on vacation on Perses island. To him, he’d just run into his daughter again.

“Where is she?” Eros asked.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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