Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Four Hundred and Twenty-four : Stinkin' Thinkin'


Monday night — 7:35 p.m.

“I just wanted …” Aden said. He exhaled his frustration in an “Ahgg!”

MJ patted Aden’s shoulder from the back seat.

“Let it all out, man,” MJ said. “Don’t want to keep that in. Causes cancer and small testicles.”

“I’m all for keeping it in,” Mike said with a grunt, from the seat next to MJ. “Small testicles are sexy.”

“We need your rage for hockey tonight!” Jacob laughed from the driver’s seat of their SUV.

“He’s got enough festering rage for a million matches,” Mike said.

Aden turned around in the passenger seat to look at MJ.

“Small testicles?” Aden asked.

“I’m pretty sure I read that in an Army manual,” MJ said. He shifted his voice to a fake nerdish voice, “Studies show that internalized rage causes sure death and small testicles.”

The men laughed. They were on their way to play pick up hockey.

“Sandy’s never had anyone, ever, do anything just for her, including me!” Aden said. “I just wanted to give her everything she dreamed of — perfect wedding, amazing surprise honeymoon trip … I mean, I even got her a locket in the same pattern as her wedding ring as a bride’s gift.”

“Wait, you need to give a bride’s gift?” MJ asked. “What about me? Aren’t I the gift?”

Aden was so surprised that they turned to look at MJ. Jacob looked in the rearview mirror and laughed at MJ.

“You mean you really didn’t get anything?” Aden asked MJ.

“He got her a portrait of Maggie painted by a world famous artist,” Mike said. “Paid for it in cash, after the family discount and extensive groveling.”

Aden blushed.

“That’s really a better present,” Aden said.

“It’s not a competition!” Jacob said. “The necklace is lovely. Sandy will love it.”

Aden turned around to Mike.

“Can you paint a portrait of Rachel by the wedding?” Aden asked.

“Sure, I’ll just pull it out of my ass,” Mike said. “You don’t mind if it’s brown do you?”

The men laughed. Jacob glanced at Aden and shook his head.

“You have good instincts, Aden,” Jacob said. “Especially when it comes to Sandy. The locket is very beautiful. Plus, it gives her something to show her clients and keep next to her heart. It’s a better gift for Sandy.”

Aden scowled.

“Honey would take one look at a locket, and chuck it in the drawer,” MJ said. “Just not her thing.”

“What did you get Jill?” Aden asked Jacob.

“I’m still working on it,” Jacob said.

“What?” MJ and Aden asked. Mike just laughed.

“I’ve been a little busy!” Jacob exclaimed. “I have a few days with nothing planned, no Sea of Amber in my future, I’ll get it done.”

The men laughed.

“What’s got you so freaked out?” Jacob asked.

“I just wanted to make it perfect!” Aden said.

“Listen, man,” MJ said. “One thing you learn in the military — the more you try to make everything perfect, the more likely it is to fall to complete shit.”

“Ain’t that the truth?” Mike nodded in agreement.

“Why not tell her what you’ve planned in broad strokes?” Jacob asked. “You can plan little surprises every day.”

“Why do you care so much?” Aden asked with such intensity that the mood in the car shifted.

“I’ve been spoken to by no less than two girlfriends and Honey,” Jacob said.

“She’s now a girlfriend,” MJ said.

“Heaven help us all,” Mike said. “Can’t a man just be an asshole?”

The other men nodded. Mike chuckled to himself.

“Anyway …” Jacob cleared his throat in pretend irritation. “The girlfriends say that Sandy thinks that you’re not really into marrying her. That’s why you canceled your much promised, oft cancelled, not as yet delivered …”

“That’s got to be Tanesha,” Mike said.

Jacob nodded.

“ …honeymoon,” Jacob finished. “She thinks you’d rather work than spend time with her. And if you’d rather work than spend time with her, then why bother going through with this ceremony at all?”

“What?” Aden asked.

“She’s convinced that you got freaked out by the priest from our classes,” Jacob said. “Remember when he said, ‘Marriage is about the every day celebration of love’ and you looked kind of green. Sandy’s convinced you don’t want to celebrate your marriage every day because you don’t love her.”

“What?” Aden’s voice rose with ever more panic.

“That’s just what they’re saying,” Jacob said.

“Do you remember the priest saying that?” MJ asked. “Because I don’t.”

“No,” Aden said. “I was working fourteen hour days and Jacob had just left and it was my first time leading the company and … The room was so hot and I was so tired. I was probably trying to stay awake!”

“So you agree that you’re not very interested,” Mike said.

“No!” Aden’s voice rang with misery. “I’m not uninterested.”

He slumped in the seat.

“I see what you mean,” Aden said. “Then Sandy finds out that I canceled our honeymoon trip and I try to be a cool guy by telling her that I have to work — you know make the surprise that much better … Oh God! I’m such an idiot.”

“Welcome to the club,” Mike said with a laugh.

“If Sandy doesn’t go through with the ceremony, Jill won’t either,” Jacob said.

“Honey will cancel just not to break the sisterhood of brides solidarity thing,” MJ said.

“It took my dad every favor to get on the schedule at the cathedral,” Jacob said. “If we miss Sunday, it will be at least a year, maybe two before we get a time slot again. We’ll probably have to take those classes again.”

“Oh,” Aden said. He sighed. “When does I get to do my own thing on my own wedding?”

“When did you get to be such a girl?” MJ asked.

They laughed.

“Sandy will be asleep by the time we get home,” Aden said. “She sleeps so little that I hate to wake her.”

“Why don’t you drop us off and head home?” Jacob asked. “Sort your business out with Sandy and come back if you can. If you can’t come back, that’s okay. We’ll understand.”

“And don’t want to wait another year to get this marriage thing in the bag,” MJ said.

“What do I say?” Aden asked.

“Just tell her the truth,” Mike pipped up from the back seat. “I’ve been married a long time. And, sure, we’ve had a lot of problems. But one thing I know for sure, it never works if we’re not brutally honest.”

“Plus, it’s part of your sobriety,” Jacob said.

“My sobriety?” Aden asked and then groan. “Of course, that’s what this is. It’s stinkin’ thinkin’. Trying to over complicate and control everything.”

“Sounds about right,” MJ said.

“Wow,” Aden said. “If you’d asked me when I got in the car if I was close to relapse I would have said ‘No’, but if I’m trying to control everything and defending my thinking? A drink is not far away.”

They fell silent and drove for a while.

“Where’s Blane?” Mike asked.

“He wanted to talk to Delphie,” Jacob said with a shrug.

“About what?” MJ asked.

“When did you become such a gossipy girl?” Mike turned the tables on MJ.

MJ laughed so hard that he fell over. Aden and Jacob chuckled. Jacob pulled into the parking lot of Big Bear Ice Arena on Lowry Boulevard. The men got their gear from the back and Aden took the driver’s seat. Aden waved to them as he pulled out.

“You think he’s going to pull this off?” Mike asked.

“I hope so,” Jacob said. “I really do.”


Monday night — 7:35 p.m.

“Sorry I’m a little late,” Blane said when Delphie answered his knock on her door.

“No problem,” Delphie said. “I was just getting set up.”

She waved him in the door, and went to her alter to light the candles. The electric kettle made a happy sound of warming water.

“Set up?” Blane asked.

He lingered in the space between her tiny kitchen and the living room. Ivy waved to him and closed the door to what he knew to be a walk-in closet. He watched a black and white bunny hop around the room.

“I assumed you wanted a reading,” Delphie said. “Since you have a whole new life — no Hep C, no AIDS, done with Chinese Medicine School and Lipson Construction. I figured you’d want to see what’s next.”

Delphie flicked a deep purple silk cloth over her coffee table and went to the desk for something.

“Uh,” Blane swallowed hard. “Sure. That’s very nice of you, but I also came for another reason.”

Delphie set two decks of Tarot cards on the table and went to get a large candle.

“Oh yeah?” Delphie asked. “What’s that?”

“I wondered if you knew who my mother was,” Blane said.

Distracted by her need to set up, Delphie shook her head.

“Why would I know that?” Delphie asked. She shook her head again. “I’m sorry Blane. I’m too close to you to get an image and …”

“Jake and I were born on the same day around the same time,” Blane said.

Delphie was so surprised that her face went completely blank. She sank down in the chair.

“You were?” She managed to get out.

“At the same hospital, even,” Blane said.

Delphie didn’t respond. She was so quiet that Blane became concerned.

“Are you all right?” Blane asked. “Delphie?”

Her eyes flicked to him and she gave him a searching look.

“Listen, if you’d like to do some tarot, that’s …” Blane said.

“I …” Delphie nodded. “Um …”

“Sam suggested that I should ask you about it,” Blane said. “It was just an idea. I think he thought you’d remember because he didn’t remember anything other than fighting for Jake. So, if you don’t remember or …”

“I remember every single thing about that day,” Delphie said. “I’m just trying to put the pieces …”

She moved her hands until her fingers entwined.

“Together,” Blane said. “Yes.”

Delphie didn’t say anything else.

“And what do you come up with?” Blane asked.

Delphie didn’t respond. The electric kettle clicked indicating that the water was boiling. Delphie didn’t respond. He knew that this kind of silent thinking was a part of her process so he tried to be patient. The bunny hopped at her feet and reached up to scratch her calves. She didn’t respond. When Blane couldn’t stand it any longer, he cleared his throat. Her eyes flicked to look at him. Her head went up and down in a slight nod.

“I guess I do know who your mother is,” Delphie said. Her voice was vague and her eyes unfocused. “All this time. I’ve always known. But …”

She stopped talking again. Sam had always told him that with Delphie, it was best to wait it out. Blane tried to wait it out. After a few minutes, he felt like beating the woman to get her to talk. Delphie sighed.

“I can’t tell you, Blane,” Delphie said. “At least not tonight. I’m so sorry.”

Delphie sighed again and began to cry. Blane had never seen Delphie cry. For him, it was like watching the last Redwood tree fall or the Niagara Falls stopped running.

“Please don’t cry,” Blane said.

Delphie’s head went up and down in that weird nod, but she didn’t stop crying.

“I’m just sorry, so sorry,” Delphie said.

“Why are you sorry?” Blane asked.

“It’s my fault that you were left at the hospital,” Delphie said. “Everything that happened — all of it — is my fault.”

Blane got up from his seat and put his arm around her.

“No one has that kind of power, Delphie,” Blane said. “No one.”

Delphie continued to weep. After a few minutes, Ivy came out of her closet. Her eyes went wide when she saw Delphie weeping.

“Ivy, can you get Sam?” Blane asked.

Ivy gave him a solemn nod and ran out of the room. Sam came in a few minutes later. He gave Blane a questioning look and Blane nodded. Sam gave Blane a sad, but comforting smile. Blane let go of Delphie and let Sam take her.

He went to the door and stopped. Turning, he saw Sam holding Delphie and Delphie weeping. He sent Delphie a kind thought and left the apartment

No matter what Delphie told him, he could never be angry with her. She was just doing what she thought was best at the time. Plus there’s no way to know that life with his biologic parents wouldn’t have been worse.

At least he hoped that he wouldn’t be mad at Delphie. He shot a look in the direction of Delphie’s apartment and left the Castle.


Monday night — 7:46 p.m.

“Sandy?” Aden called from the doorway to their apartment. When she didn’t respond he went in to the apartment. “Sandy?”

He went into the kitchen and then into their bedroom. Sandy was standing at the end of their bed. There was a partially full suitcase on the bed.

“Oh, hi,” Sandy said. Her tone indicated that she was annoyed. “I thought you were at hockey.”

“I wanted to come home to talk to you,” Aden said.

He sat down on his side of the bed near the pillows. He was too afraid of her answer to ask her what she was doing so he just ignored it.

“Oh yeah?” Sandy looked up at him as she folded a pair of underwear. “What’s going on?”

“Seems like your people talked to my people and reminded me that I’m an asshole,” Aden said.

Sandy gave him a blank look.

“Okay?” Sandy shrugged. “Is this news?”

Aden laughed out loud.

“You don’t know what I’m talking about,” Aden said.

“Should I?” Sandy asked. “Clearly it’s pretty important since you’re missing bro’s hockey night for it.”

“Yes, it’s very important,” Aden nodded his head so much that he felt like a bobble head. “Uh …”

“What’s so important that you’d miss time with the guys?” Sandy asked.

“Remember how I told you that I couldn’t go on our honeymoon because I had to work?” Aden asked.

“I remember when you lied to me and told me that you had to work,” Sandy said with a nod. “Honey said you’re marked off that whole week. And anyway, I always know when you’re lying. I don’t know why you bother.”

Sandy turned her back to him and walked to the dresser. She opened a drawer, stood over if for a moment and came back with socks.

“Lying to you?” Aden managed when Sandy was facing him.

Sandy shook her head and sighed. She gave him a look he’d seen her give their children when they lied.

“So you’re telling me that you have to work next week?” Sandy asked.

“No, I …” Aden said. He swallowed hard. “Oh hell. I was trying to surprise you. Give you everything you’d always wanted.”

“Okay,” Sandy said. “I still don’t see why you’re home from hockey.”

“Tanesha and Heather and Honey talked to Jacob and told him that you were thinking of not getting married this weekend because you thought that I didn’t love you enough. Jacob talked to me and so did MJ and Mike said …”

Having completed the list of people, he blushed.

“You sound like Noelle,” Sandy said.

She winked at him and went back to their dresser.

“I’m really anxious,” Aden said. “Can you please stop packing to leave me?”

Sandy spun in place and looked at him.

“Don’t go, Sandy,” Aden said. “I was just being an idiot. I wanted to make everything better and I just made everything awful. Now you’re not going through with our big wedding and …”

He looked up at her. She looked like she was smelling a dead skunk.

“What?” he asked.

“I’m packing our overnight bag,” Sandy said.

“To leave me,” Aden said. “Please don’t go.”

“For after the wedding?” Sandy asked. “You know, fancy hotel room that Sam bought for us? Honeymoon suite? Where Jill, Jake, Honey, and MJ are going to be? Or did you want to go commando in your tux when we go to our enormous Lipson Construction blow out wedding breakfast Monday morning? Give all those horny housewives a show?”

The absurdity of her words slammed into his panic and he began to laugh. He looked into the suitcase and saw two pairs of his underwear rolled up in a corner.

“Athletic to go running with MJ and Jake while we’re in the spa,” Sandy said. “Regular for breakfast with the company you now run.”

“But, Honey said …” Aden said.

“Honey’s right,” Sandy said. “I felt ridiculous when you lied to me. I was sure you were drinking again.”

“And that’s why I didn’t want to go on the honeymoon,” Aden said.

Sandy gave him a short agreeing nod.

“You didn’t want me to know you were drinking,” Sandy said.

Aden looked away from her.

“Are you drinking?” Sandy asked.

“No,” Aden said. “But I am trying to control every outcome and am clearly being codependent.”

“That was my next question,” Sandy said.

“What was?” Aden asked.

“Why you didn’t trust me to tell you something huge like, ‘I’m not going through with the wedding we’ve been planning for almost a year’?” Sandy said.

“Oh,” Aden said. “Trying to control …”

“ … the outcome.” Sandy said in unison with him.

“I see that,” Sandy said. “If I were to not go through with the wedding, I would be attempting to control the outcome.”

Sandy shrugged.

“I had lunch with Seth,” Sandy said. “Over the Internet, you know?”

“What did Seth say?” Aden asked.

“He said that there’s codependency and then there’s mess everything up freak out,” Sandy said. Quoting Seth, she added, “‘Be sure to get all of the facts before you freak out.’”

Aden scowled.

“So he helped me hack your email,” Sandy said.

“You what?” Aden asked with a laugh.

“It wasn’t that hard,” Sandy said. “It’s date Celia found the kids in the car — the day everything in your life changed for the better.”

Aden laughed.

“I saw the emails about the resort,” Sandy said. “We’re going to spend three days with Jill, Honey, Jake, and MJ, then spend the rest of the week on a kayak whale watching trip to the San Juan Islands! So fun!”

Sandy grinned. Aden gawked at her.

“I would have acted surprised,” Sandy said. “That was my plan.”

Aden shook his head.

“Are you mad?” Sandy asked.

“I am an idiot,” Aden said.

Sandy grinned at him.

“My wife is too brilliant to fall for any of my stupidity,” Aden said.

“Are you drinking?” Sandy asked again.

“No,” Aden said. “And I’m back on track. I’ll call Bob when we’re done.”

“Good,” Sandy said.

“Where is everyone?” Aden asked.

“Charlie took Rachel to the park for uncle-brother time,” Sandy said. “Nash is at practice with Teddy and Noelle is working on something in the garage.”

“You want to …?” Aden asked.

“No,” Sandy said. “This is my only time alone this week. I need to figure out our overnight suitcase and finish packing for our much promised, oft cancelled, not as yet delivered honeymoon.”

“Did Tanesha say that?” Aden asked.

“If she did, she was quoting me,” Sandy said.

“So you don’t …” Aden asked with a grin.

“Go back to hockey,” Sandy said. “Call Bob on the way.”

“Thank you for all of this,” Aden said.

“Hacking your email?” Sandy asked with a grin.

“Hanging in there with me,” Aden said.

“That’s what it means to be married,” Sandy said

Grinning, Aden kissed her good-bye and walked out the door. He was waiting at the light on Race and Colfax when he dialed.

“Hello Bob?” Aden asked.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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