CHAPTER FOUR HUNDRED and TWENTY-TWO
Monday morning — 7:11 A.M.
“Tink?” Heather asked through the bathroom door.
“I’m almost done!” Tink yelled. “Then you’re taking me to school, right?”
“Can I come in?” Heather asked.
“Why?” Tink yelled though the door.
Heather rolled her eyes. Tink was the nicest, kindest girl every moment of the day except when she was getting ready.
“I’m getting ready!” Tink yelled.
Heather crossed her arms and leaned against the wall. She supposed it wouldn’t kill her to wait for Tink to get out of the bathroom. After all, she was immortal. Then, again. Heather sighed and turned back to the door.
“Tink!” Heather said and pounded on the door.
“What?” Tink asked. The girl yanked the door open. “Can’t I have even a moment to myself?”
“No,” Heather said.
Tink was so surprised at Heather’s response that she jerked to look at her. Seeing Heather’s grin, Tink smirked. Heather waded into the heat of the bathroom. The fan was going full blast and Tink had a little fan blowing the steam out into the garden. Heather put the toilet seat down and sat down.
“Yes, mother,” Heather said when she was settled. “What could you possibly want from me this morning?”
“Bite me!” Tink said with a laugh. She leaned forward to put her mascara on. “But really, is it really too much to ask to have the bathroom for twenty minutes in the morning?”
“Twenty minutes?” Heather asked.
“Very funny,” Tink said. She wiped a smudge from under her eyes. “Did you want to tell me I’m doing my mascara wrong?”
“No,” Heather said. “You have your own unique style, which I like.”
Tink scowled. She wouldn’t admit it but Heather’s make up techniques had changed the way she looked completely. Gone are the dark zombie circles around her eyes. No bright lipstick. Tink thought she even looked a little pretty.
“Did you want something?” Tink asked. “Or do you just want to piss me off?”
“I need to talk to you,” Heather said.
“What?” Tink asked.
“You know how you were going to go to New York City?” Heather asked.
“In a twenty-three days and four hours,” Tink said.
When Heather didn’t say anything, Tink’s eyes flicked to her.
“Well …” Heather said.
Tink turned away from the mirror to look at Heather.
“You didn’t buy the ticket,” Tink said. “And now they’re a billion dollars and I can’t go.”
“No,” Heather shook her head. “You know we bought the tickets. We used the money from the Home Improvement loan.”
“You were with me with I bought them,” Heather said.
“Then what?” Tink asked.
“Charlie’s home,” Heather said. “He flew in late last night.”
“He is?” Tink asked.
“Dale’s having a hard time,” Heather said.
“Charlie said Dale kind of freaked out,” Tink nodded.
“Dale wanted to come home,” Heather said. “Since the trial’s over, Charlie thought he’d come home with Dale.”
“Oh,” Tink said.
Tink picked up a hairbrush and tugged it through her curly hair. Sandy had made her thick, curly hair just barely manageable, but the morning hair brushing was still a battle. Too much shower fog and her hair was frizzy. Too little and it clumped together. Heather got up and took the hair brush from Tink. She gently moved the brush through Tink’s hair.
“How do you do that?” Tink asked.
“Practice,” Heather said. “Are you disappointed about Charlie coming home?”
“No,” Tink said. “Not at all. I’m excited to see him.”
“What about New York?” Heather asked.
“Oh, I can’t go now?” Tink asked with a grin.
“You’d want …” Heather started.
Tink laughed. Heather grinned.
“Sissy still lives there,” Tink said. “Can we save the ticket and I can go at break?”
“I don’t see why not,” Heather said.
“When does Charlie get back?” Tink asked.
“Well …” Heather said.
Heather didn’t say anything else.
“Wait, he’s here?” Tink asked.
Heather nodded. Wearing only her bra, underwear, and unbuttoned shirt, Tink ran out of the bathroom. Charlie was standing next to the door and talking to Tanesha. Seeing Tink coming, Tanesha stepped aside. Tink threw herself and Charlie. Half little kids and half adults, Charlie and Tink were talking at the same time until Charlie planted a kiss on Tink’s lips.
“Okay, none of that,” Blane said with a smile. “Let’s eat. It’s Charlie’s first day at the Marlowe School. He needs our help getting enrolled. No underwear at the table!”
He pointed to Tink’s underwear. She scowled and looked at Heather.
“Why’s he going to school?” Tink asked. “He was going to the online school.”
“This seemed better,” Charlie said.
“Can we walk home together?” Tink asked.
“Can you put your skirt on?” Blane asked.
“Your fitting is after school,” Heather said. “Brides this morning. Bridesmaids this afternoon.”
“I brought my tux from New York,” Charlie said.
“I’ll drop Charlie to get the first round of tooth implants after I drop you and the other girls for your fittings.”
“What about you?” Tink asked.
“We’re going this morning with the brides,” Tanesha said.
“No underwear at the dinner table,” Blane repeated.
“Tink!” Mack squealed.
Having stripped off his shorts, Mack danced by in his white briefs. He squealed with laughter and ran around Tink and Charlie.
“I’ve got him,” Heather said.
Mack ran past a wide-eyed Jabari, standing on the landing of the basement stairs. Jeraine nudge his son forward. Still faced forward, Jabari looked back and up at Jeraine for a moment and then back at Mack. Jeraine’s gently encourage Jabari forward. In a flash, Jabari was off. He stripped off his shorts and caught up with Mack. Jeraine took off after him.
The two toddlers squealed with laughter and ran the circuit from the hall through the kitchen, out into the living room and back. The adults tried to keep up but the toddlers were slippery. Jabari and Mack would wiggle away and dance around in their underwear.
Tink looked at Charlie and he nodded. Tink stepped into the middle of the stream so quickly that Mack ran right into her. Charlie plucked Jabari from the floor. The toddlers tried to squirm away put Charlie put Jabari on one shoulder and Mack on the other. The boys were laughing so hard that Heather and Tanesha were able to come behind and get their shorts on.
“Go ahead,” Heather said to Tink.
Tink slipped into the bathroom and got dressed at lightning speed. When she got out, everyone was sitting at the dining room table.
“Sorry about New York,” Charlie leaned over to say.
“Later,” Tink said. “When we’re on break.”
“It’s a date,” Charlie said with a smile.
“Welcome home, Charlie!” Blane said.
“Good to be here,” Charlie said.
Tink looked at Charlie and knew he meant it. She smiled. He reached for her hand and pulled it toward him.
Monday morning — 8:11 A.M
Fin came down the stairs from the second floor apartments to the Castle kitchen to find Jacob and Honey working at the kitchen table. He stopped at the edge of the room and waited. After a few minutes, Jacob looked up at Fin.
“What are you doing?” Jacob asked.
“I’m not sure the rules of this court,” Fin said.
“Court?” Jacob asked.
“Isn’t that what this is?” Fin asked. “Your people bring you problems and you resolve them at this …”
“Kitchen table?” Jacob asked.
“This is your castle, isn’t that right?” Fin asked.
“This is a kitchen table and the Castle belongs to Delphie,” Jacob said.
“Very modest of you,” Fin said, “since you quite literally write the story of what goes on here.”
Jacob’s cheeks flushed and he glanced at Honey. She mouthed “dick” and Jacob smiled at her.
“What can I do for you?” Jacob asked.
“Yes, well,” Fin said. Now that he had Jacob’s attention, he wasn’t sure what to do with it.
“Does this have something to do with Abi?” Honey turned around to ask.
She turned back to Jacob.
“Abi’s concerned that Queen Fand with freak out over the baby,” Honey asked. “What did you name her?”
“We have a ceremony on her fourth day of life,” Fin said. “So we need a safe place to stay as well as a place to hold a ceremony.”
“Okay,” Jacob said. “I’ll talk to Delphie. As I said, it’s her home.”
“Do you have such a place for the naming ceremony?” Fin asked.
“Delphie has a chapel,” Jacob said. “It holds a lot of people and has a area in the front for ceremonies.”
“Very well,” Fin said.
“And your mother?” Honey asked.
“What about her?” Fin asked.
“What are you going to do to deal with her anger over Abi having her baby first?” Honey asked.
“What can one do?” Fin asked with a shrug. “Mother is jealous of Abi’s power. This has always been so.”
“She’s your mother,” Honey said.
“My mother is Abi’s oldest friend,” Fin said. “They’ve had worse arguments than this. I’m sure it will blow over when mother has her child.”
“Not before it gets worse,” Jacob said.
“Now how could you possibly know that?” Fin asked.
Jacob lifted a shoulder in a shrug. Honey looked at Jacob and then at Fin.
“You’re welcome to stay here,” Jacob said. “But you should know — after the last fairy meltdown, Delphie did hours of research through ancient documents. We’ve been able to fortify the Castle so that fairy magic doesn’t work well inside the Castle. I’m sure you’ve found that already.”
“Inside the walls but not outside,” Fin said.
“You’ll be safe here,” Jacob said. “But start some ridiculous drama here?” You’ll be out sooner than you can blink.”
“Ridiculous drama?” Fin asked.
“I’ve met your mother,” Jacob said.
“Yes, well …” Fin nodded.
“You can either stay in the basement or in one of the newer apartments,” Jacob said. “They’re on the first floor here. We’ve gutted them and finished the floors. I can get a crew and finish one up for you in a couple of days.”
“That would be very nice,” Fin said. “I’d appreciate it.”
“You can stay where you are for now,” Jacob said. “The bedroom off the medical offices is empty. There’s no kitchen, but most people use this one. There’s the large new bathroom there and a shower in the single.”
“For those of us who remember life before indoor plumbing, it’s very plush,” Fin nodded. “Might I help with the new apartments.”
“I think Abi is going to need you,” Jacob said.
Fin gave a slight nod.
“You know the rest of the rules?” Jacob asked.
“Breakfast is around 6, but attendance is not mandatory,” Fin said. “Dinner is at 6 p.m. and everyone is to attempt to make it. There’s a schedule for cooking. Everyone pitches in for food and upkeep. Public spaces are public, private spaces are private. Try to mind your own business. It’s okay to argue but all-out war is unacceptable.”
“Close enough,” Jacob said.
He stood up from his seat and held out his hand.
“Welcome Prince Finegal to life at the Castle,” Jacob said.
“Breakfast this morning?” Fin asked.
“There are muffins warming for you in the oven,” Honey said.
“Thank you,” Fin said.
He went to the oven. Mimicking what he’d seen done, he opened the contraption and peered in. He reached in and yanked his hand back. Honey wheeled around to help. Rather than doing it for him, she gave him a towel and helped him get out the muffin tin. She showed him where the plates were located and helped him get the muffins out of the tin. When he was done, Fin was grinning ear to ear.
“Modern life’s not as difficult as I thought,” Fin said with a smile. “Thank you, Honey.”
Honey nodded. He took the plate and some butter up the stairs with him.
“He forgot the coffee,” Honey said mildly.
“He’ll be back,” Jacob said. “Are we clear on what we need to do?”
“About Fin and Abi?” Honey asked.
“About our apartment building for wheelchair bound,” Jacob said.
“I am,” Honey said. “I have my fitting today at 10 then I’m in a meeting from 11 to noon. I can meet you at permitting at 1 p.m.?”
“I’ll go now,” Jacob said with a nod. “I can get a head start on everything. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be done by 1 p.m.”
Honey snorted a laugh. Jacob grinned.
“Good luck!” Honey said to Jacob as she rolled away.
Jacob sat at the kitchen table for a moment longer. In the last week, he’d been in the Sea of Amber, lived in his cabin made by love, and been focused on helping Blane. It was a great relief to be back in the general ebb and flow of daily life.
Just a Monday was exactly what Jacob needed.
Monday morning — 10:05 A.M
“Why’s that?” Tanesha asked Sandy.
They were sitting in a private fitting room at the Bridal shop. Sandy was wearing her mother’s gorgeous silk wedding dress. Jill wore the cream-colored strapless dress with cream lace roses that she was originally married in and Honey was wearing a cream-colored lace shirt and silk skirt Valerie had Claire Martins design for her.
“Why what?” Heather asked. She came out of a dressing room in a blush colored fitted sheath dress.
“Sandy was saying something about wedding ceremonies,” Tanesha said. She went into the dressing room Heather had just vacated to put on her matron of honor dress.
“I said that I wondered if all of this ceremony was a ridiculous waste of time and resources,” Sandy said.
“You mean because we’re all married already?” Honey asked as she rolled out of the dressing room.
Yvonne went to Honey and started plucking at Honey’s dress. Honey scowled at Tanesha’s mother and Yvonne smiled. Practiced at changing clothes, Tanesha was out of the changing room lickity split.
“You’ve lost a little weight with those medical tests,” Yvonne said with a smile. “Just want to make sure each one of you look your best.”
“Mom just got back from being on tour with Jeraine,” Tanesha said. “Jer said she did this before every performance, with every single person.”
“They all thanked me,” Yvonne said.
“Thanks Mom,” Tanesha said.
The other girls chimed in and Yvonne stood up a little straighter. One of the seamstress assistants came in. Yvonne pointed to Honey and she started working on the final changes.
“If you ask me, you can’t have too many weddings,” Yvonne said. “All of this ‘ridiculous waste’ is in celebration of love. How many times do we celebrate love?”
Yvonne nodded. Seeing the women looking at her, Yvonne blushed.
“I mean, we spend a fortune on all kinds of ridiculous things that matter so much less,” Yvonne said. “You have love. Why not celebrate it?”
“She makes a good point,” Jill said as she came out of the dressing room.
Yvonne went to pick at Jill’s dress. Carrying a bottle of champagne, Anjelika came in from the interior of the store.
“You look so serious,” Anjelika said. “What are you girls talking about?”
“The ridiculousness of weddings,” Yvonne said.
“They are fabulously ridiculous,” Anjelika said.
“See,” Yvonne said. She touched Jill on the shoulder. “You have just a few places that aren’t exactly right.”
The seamstress had just finished marking changes to Honey’s wedding dress. Jill went where she was to get her changes marked.
“What’s going on, Sandy?” Jill asked. “You’ve been so excited about this wedding, wearing your mom’s dress, beautiful flowers, doing it together, and having the big wedding in the big basilica.”
“What’s changed?” Heather asked.
“Nothing, really,” Sandy said. “I just …”
She finished the statement with a shrug. Another seamstress assistant came in and went to check Heather.
“Is something going on with Aden?” Heather asked.
“We can’t go on our honeymoon now,” Sandy said.
Jill shot Sandy a sad look.
“Why?” Tanesha asked at the same time Honey said, “What’s going on?”
“He has to work,” Sandy said. “I know it’s dumb, but I was looking forward to the whole package. You know, like you see on Facebook — perfect wedding, beautiful ceremony, amazing honeymoon. I have my bikini packed. I’m in the best shape of my life so I can post braggy photos on Instagram.”
“That’s sounds dumb when I say it out loud,” Sandy said.
Jill hugged her and Tanesha touched her back. The women were kind and comforting.
“It’s not like this isn’t enough,” Sandy said. “All of this is certainly more than I ever hoped for. And I’m so glad that we get to do it all together. I guess, since I can’t have it all, I figure …”
“I don’t want any of it,” Heather, Tanesha, and Jill joined in Sandy’s oft repeated words.
“Yes, for something new and different,” Sandy said with a sad smile.
Honey gave Sandy an odd look.
“What is it?” Yvonne asked in a low tone.
“Aden’s scheduled off for a week,” Honey said in the same soft voice. “If he cancelled, it’s not because of work.”
Yvonne and Honey glanced at Sandy and Honey shook her head.
“I’ll get to the bottom of this,” Honey said with a nod.
“Before we get undressed, and go about our day,” Anjelika said. “I’d like to propose a toast.”
Heather and Tanesha made sure that everyone had a glass of champagne. They raised their glasses for Anjelika to make the toast.
“To the best friends starting another chapter in the best story of their lives,” Anjelika said.
The woman clinked their glasses together followed by a hugs. They took turns changing out of their dresses. In a few minutes they were standing on the sidewalk.
“Everything’s on schedule,” Sandy said. “See you this afternoon!”
Squeezing these appointments between work, the women rushed off. Sandy waved and jogged to her car to get to the shop. Honey pulled out right after her to get to Lipson. Jill left for her next interior decorator appointment. Tanesha lingered a bit while Heather finished up her fitting.
“You heard what Honey said, right?” Heather asked Tanesha.
Tanesha shook her head.
“Aden is scheduled off next week,” Heather said as they got into her car. “He’s not working.”
“So why did he cancel their honeymoon?” Tanesha asked.
“I think it’s more like — did he cancel their honeymoon?” Heather asked.
Tanesha nodded. They drove in silence for a minute.
“You think Sandy canceled it?” Tanesha asked.
Heather shook her head.
“Aden’s screwing around?” Tanesha asked.
“No,” Heather said. “I think Aden’s giving Sandy the whole package, like she wanted when we were kids.”
“Surprise honeymoon?” Tanesha winced out the words.
Heather nodded. Tanesha swallowed hard.
“But Sandy doesn’t like surprises,” Tanesha said.
“That’s why he needs our help,” Heather said.
Tanesha squinted at Heather.
“What did you have in mind?” Tanesha asked.
Heather told her exactly what they should do.
“I’m in,” Tanesha said when Heather finished.
“I knew you would be,” Heather said.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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