Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Denver Cereal - Chapter Two Hundred and Forty-One : Crux

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Recap of what’s happened so far and character summary

CHAPTER TWO HUNDRED and FORTY-ONE

“Let’s go take a look,” Jill said.

“But…” Jacob started.

“I put the sleeping bags in the back this afternoon and some blankets,” Jill said.

“You did?” Jacob asked.

“Of course I did,” Jill said. “I bet we could camp out here for days if we wanted to.”

Jacob smiled. He put Katy on his hip and held out his hand to Jill. They walked onto the solid porch. Jill noted the signs of Jacob’s small repairs. Jacob opened the heavy oak front door and they went inside. The home smelled like wood, cinnamon, and love. Jacob flicked on the light and Jill smiled. The house was just as he’d said, solid and beautiful.

“The other houses are rented by a couple of Amish families,” Jacob said. “But they’ve already told me they want to move to the San Luis Valley or maybe up by Craig. There are large Amish communities there. They want to be with their own people. The family that was renting this house has gone to buy a farm for them. The way the world is now, I don’t blame them for not wanting to be out on their own like this.”

“This is where the new city is supposed to go,” Jill said.

Jacob gave a curt nod.

“The rooms are small, of course, for heating,” Jacob said. “Unlike the Castle, the house has all of the original fixtures. He nodded to the glass paned doors and the sliding doors in the living room. There were stained glass windows on either side of the fireplace mantle and every transom held the same happy stained glass theme.

“The fireplaces work and there’s a cord of wood in the back,” Jacob said. They walked toward the back. “I replaced the furnace a couple years ago. It needs a new kitchen, but what house doesn’t?”

Jill nodded.

“You feel like you have to give up your dream in order to make the new city,” Jill said.

“I feel like I’ve lost myself in work,” Jacob said. “I don’t know if I’m too scared to really have the dream – you, me, a bunch of kids, a nice quiet life – or…”

“The dream has changed?” Jill asked.

“Maybe,” Jacob said. “I’m bound up with Delphie and the Castle and the drama of this stupid company and all the people who… expect something for nothing because they imagine that other guy is getting something for nothing or… I don’t know what.”

“You’re tired,” Jill said.

“I’m tired of defending my right to sell the company,” Jacob said. “I’m tired of defending my decisions to the people in the company I sold to. I’m tired of seeing my father look so old and exhausted. And mostly, I’m tired of living without you and Katy and our boys in the center of every minute of every day. I want a quiet life.”

Jill smiled.

“You think I’m crazy,” Jacob said.

“I think you’re tired,” Jill said.

He leaned against her for a moment.

“I also think you’re a person who needs a lot of stimulation,” Jill said. “A person who has a lot of energy. Sure, you’d love living here for a while, but once the farm was set up, the cows and goats purchased, and the people hired to work the fields, you’d get restless. It wouldn’t happen right away but soon you’d want to fix up this house or someone else’s house and you’d be away from us again.”

“I hate that about me,” Jacob said.

“I love you, Daddy,” Katy said. “Just the way you are. Would Delphie live in one of those other houses? Would Mr. Colin and Ms. Julie take the other one so Paddie could live next door?”

Jacob kissed Katy’s forehead and closed his eyes. Jill watched him breathe in their daughter’s sparkle and let it go. Katy put her hands on his face and he opened his eyes.

“What’s wrong, Daddy?” Katy asked.

“I don’t know,” Jacob said.

“Can you take tomorrow off?” Jill asked.

“I already told Aden I couldn’t do any more,” Jacob said. “He told me to take tomorrow off. Blane’s going in. Dad’s not leaving until the afternoon. They’ll survive without me.”

“Then let’s just rest here tonight,” Jill said.

“What about dinner?” he asked.

“It’s in the cooler in the back of the SUV,” Jill smiled.

Not sure what to say, he smiled.

“Go on now,” Jill said. “I’ll get us settled while you move things inside.”

“We have to be back for Val’s cyber premiere,” Jacob said.

Jill smiled.

“What?” Jacob asked.

“Nothing,” Jill said. “Would you mind getting the things from the car?”

Nodding, he set Katy down and left to get their overnight gear. Jill turned to Katy.

“What do you think?” Jill asked.

“I think our plan was perfect,” Katy smiled.

Chuckling, Jill gestured toward the stairwell and they went up.

~~~~~~~~

Friday early-afternoon — 5:15 a.m.

Jacob kissed the back of her neck and her bare shoulders. Even after all this time, and in her bulging condition, his strong hands brought her waves of bliss. To her surprise, she continued to enjoy the gentle movement and deeper probing of his skin tight against hers. She turned her head for one last kiss before she got up.

“If you think I haven’t noticed that this house has recently been cleaned, I have,” Jacob said , “I noticed last night.”

“Clean?” Jill feigned ignorance. She went through the bathroom to check on Katy. The little girl was sound asleep in the room adjoining the bathroom. She stopped in the bathroom.

“Is everyone coming here?” Jacob asked.

“Yes,” she stood in the doorway to the bathroom.

“When?” Jacob asked.

His eyes followed her. She dove under the sleeping bags and blankets of their makeshift bed.

“After five,” Jill said.

“Caterers?” Jacob asked.

“Two,” Jill said.

Jacob lay on his back staring at the ceiling. She rolled over to rest her head on his shoulder.

“Are you mad?” she asked.

Jacob shook his head and stared at the ceiling.

“It’s the crux of my problem,” Jacob said. “I don’t want to miss Valerie’s premiere. She’s taking this huge risk by bringing Jackie to the premiere. Sure, she has her co-stars support and they’re bringing their kids, but it’s a big deal. She needs my support, our support. I would never miss that, but man, I want to.”

“It’s a web that ties you down,” Jill said.

He nodded.

“What weighs so heavily on your heart?” Jill asked.

“When I was a kid, Dad used to say that my actions had consequence,” Jacob said. “There was no way to know how the ripples of my actions would affect others. I had to just do my best and…”

He shrugged.

“I guess I feel the weight of all that responsibility. Whatever I do now affects so many people – at home, at Lipson, you, Katy, the boys,” Jacob said. “I long to shrug it off like a cloak and… I don’t know, move back to Maine, open a wood shop in the forest, and…”

“Would you be happier there?” Jill asked.

“Would you move to Maine with me?”

“Sure,” Jill said. “But that’s not what I asked.”

He didn’t respond. She leaned up to look at his face and he was sound asleep. She moved to get up but he held her in place. She looked at him again.

“Just tired,” he said.

She smiled and lay down against him. For this moment, they could just lie here, together, in peace.

~~~~~~~~

Friday mid-afternoon — 2:15 p.m.

Delphie turned on the electric kettle and sat down at the table in the main Castle kitchen. For the last few months, she’d met Valerie at this very table at 2:30 p.m. for tea and chat. They would talk about nothing until Jackie woke up or the kids came home from school.

But today, Valerie was in Los Angeles and she was alone.

She could have gone with Valerie. In fact, Valerie had almost begged her to go, but Delphie felt like she was needed at home. After all, the rapists had threatened Sissy and Jill would be having her grandsons soon. No, she was needed at home.

Plus, there was the cyber celebration of Valerie’s new movie tonight. Delphie knew she should be calling the caterers and checking everything. It was her job to make sure everyone was ready for the party. But today, she didn’t feel like taking care of everything.

Today, she wanted to have tea with Valerie and talk about nothing.

The kettle clicked off at the same moment she heard the side door to the Castle open. She got up and went to the counter to make some green tea. Out of habit, she took a mug down for Valerie.

“Are you making tea?” Sam asked.

She turned to look at him. He was wearing the new tux and tails Valerie had bought for him for the cyber premiere.

“You’re dressed up,” Delphie said.

“Yes,” Sam said. “Wonder why?”

“Probably something out in the world-ish,” Delphie sighed.

“Yes, Eeyore, I have an ‘out in the world-ish’ event to attend,” Sam said. “Curious as to what?”

Delphie gave a small shrug and Sam smiled. He came up behind her and put his hands on her shoulders.

“I’m here to pick up my princess for the ball,” Sam said.

“Celia’s gone, Sam,” Delphie said.

Sam raised his eyebrows in amused surprise. He kissed her cheek and whispered in her ear: “You’re my princess.”

She shrugged him off and finished making her tea. She went around him to slump back into her seat at the kitchen table. She set her tea on the table and was sitting down when she saw a lovely purple gown hanging on the coat rack. The bodice was tight and the skirt was long and flowing. The purple matched his purple cummerbund. Unwilling to give up her gloom so easily, she glanced at him and sat down.

“What’s this?” she nodded to the dress and took a drink of her tea.

“This is your day gown or that’s what they said it was called,” Sam said. He came around the kitchen counter to stand on the other side of the table. “I know you miss Val and Jackie.”

“And Mike,” Delphie said.

“And I know that putting on another party is just a lot of work,” Sam said. “Especially since Val’s not here and Honey’s with Maggie and Jill’s pregnant with the twins and Sandy’s… busy. The whole burden falls on your shoulders.”

A little hiccup of a sob escaped Delphie’s guarded mouth. She put her cup over her betraying mouth.

“So we came up with a plan,” Sam said.

“We?”

“We, the unpsychic,” Sam smiled. “Me, Honey, Sandy, and Jill too. She’s only visiting your team. She’s still on my team.”

Delphie couldn’t help but smile at the idea of “Sam’s non-psychic team.”

“And Valerie,” Sam said. “Of course.”

Delphie looked up at him.

“You’re going to the premiere,” Sam said.

“But how?” Delphie’s sorrow hit her full force. “Val and I went over this a million times. She can’t come back today and I’ll never make it through security.”

“They changed airport security,” Sam said. “There’s been a bunch of media but Val didn’t realize it until she left. Seth and Ava are coming with us. They have a house in Malibu…”

“Val and Mike are staying there,” Delphie said.

“Exactly,” Sam said. “All you have to do is get up and come with me. We have a limousine and everything.”

“But my clothes and…”

“Jill packed them last night,” Sam said. “They’re in the car. I picked up your dress from the laundry.”

He nodded to the dress.

“You can change here and wear it all day,” Sam said.

“But…”

“There’s another dress waiting for you there,” Sam turned over his wrist to look at his watch. “But we have to get going or miss the whole ‘getting dressed with Val’ thing that you love so much.”

“But what about the cyber party?”

“They’re having it out at the house by the worksite,” Sam said. “Aden and Blane couldn’t get there otherwise.”

“But…”

Sam held out his hand to her. She looked at her tea cup and then at his hand.

“But…”

“But?” he asked.

“Oh hell,” Delphie got up from the table. “Why not?”

“That’s my princess,” Sam said.

“I’ll get dressed in the limo,” Delphie went to look at the dress.

“We’re picking up Seth and Ava,” Sam said.

“Then they’ll get a quite a show,” Delphie said. “Did you get shoes?”

“Your Birkenstocks don’t work?” Sam asked.

Shaking her head at him, she took the dress down and walked to the front door. Sam watched her go.

“Coming?” Delphie yelled before opening the door.

Laughing, he ran to catch up.

~~~~~~~~

Friday afternoon — 3:15 p.m.

Heather tried not to run over kids in her haste. She pulled up in front of where Tink, Sissy, and Wanda were waiting for her outside East High.

“Come on! Get in!” Heather yelled through the passenger door to Tink, Sissy, and Wanda. “We’ll be late if you don’t hurry.”

“What’s going on?” Sissy asked.

The girls scooted into the back seat of Heather’s Subaru.

“We’re going to the premiere,” Heather yelled. “And we don’t have a thing to wear!”

“We get to go?” Tink asked. “I thought all the seats were taken and…”

“Hop in, I’ll tell you everything,” Heather said. “We’re going to the cyber premiere. We’re getting dressed up and going to be on the Jumbo screen at the premiere of Val’s film.”

“What about Ivy?” Tink asked.

“She’s already on her way there with her Aunt Grace,” Heather said. She looked in her rearview mirror and pulled out. “We have exactly an hour to get you girls something to wear.”

“I get to go too?” Wanda asked.

“I talked to your Mom, she seemed excited for you,” Heather said.

The rail-thin girl smiled.

“She wants you to call her. But…” Heather pulled to an abrupt stop at Seventeenth Avenue. “We’re not going anywhere if you don’t have your snacks.”

Sissy diligently pulled out her protein bar and water. Wanda took out an apple and a small slice of cheese. Tink looked at her friends and then at Heather.

“I know right?” Heather asked. “No snack for Tink. Sandy made chocolate chip cookies. I have them up here, but you have to eat your apple first.”

Heather tossed an apple into the back. Tink smiled.

“All right ladies,” Heather said. “We’re going to have some fun tonight!”

Heather turned left at York Street.

“But we have to be fast!” Heather said.

~~~~~~~~

Friday afternoon — 4:15 p.m.

“Hey,” Aden said.

Charlie looked up from his book.

“Where’s Mrs. Anjelika?” Aden asked.

“She leaves at four on Fridays,” Charlie’s attention turned back to his book.

“Great,” Aden said. “Ready to go?”

“Where?”

“We’re going to Val’s premiere,” Aden said.

“I thought that was here,” Charlie continued to stare at his book.

“What are you reading?” Aden asked.

“Oliver Twist,” Charlie said.

“School?”

“Mrs. Anjelika,” Charlie said. “She thinks I can learn something from it or that’s what she says. I have to finish by Monday so we can talk about it.”

Aden nodded.

“Well, come on,” Aden said.

With his nose in the book, Charlie stood up. He grabbed his jacket and blindly followed Aden out of the house. He was sitting in Aden’s SAAB before he looked up. Aden started the car and left the driveway.

“Where are we going?” Charlie asked.

“Out by the airport,” Aden said. “Jill moved the cyber premiere out there.”

“Isn’t that right by your work?”

“It is,” Aden said.

“Why are you here?” Charlie asked.

“I’m here to take you to the party,” Aden said.

“And talk to me,” Charlie added before Aden could. “What did I do?”

“Nothing,” Aden said.

“Then why…?”

“Tink is going to be at the party,” Aden said. “It’s a small house and everyone’s staying there tonight.”

Charlie raised his eyebrows, but didn’t say anything.

“That’s exactly right,” Aden said. “Heather and Blane asked me to talk to you.”

“About what?” Charlie made an effort to be nonchalant.

“About Tink,” Aden said.

“What about her?” Charlie asked.

“You’re really not going to a make this easy, are you?” Aden asked.

Charlie smiled. Aden stopped talking and Charlie returned to his book. After they pulled onto I-76, Charlie looked up at Aden.

“You may as well spit it out,” Charlie said.

“What is it you think I’m going to tell you?” Aden asked.

“Don’t be a jerk,” Charlie shrugged. “Don’t embarrass us too much, stuff like that.”

“I’m actually going to talk to you about sex,” Aden said.

“Knock yourself out,” Charlie said. “Need some pointers? ‘Cuz I’m not going to talk to you about having sex with my sister.”

Aden laughed and Charlie smiled at himself.

“I know that you like Tink and that she likes you,” Aden said. “I even know that if something happens, it won’t be the first or even tenth time you guys have… been together.”

“But?”

“It would be the first time since she was assaulted,” Aden said.

“Oh,” Charlie said. “Is that a big deal?”

“It can be,” Aden said. “Her own physical sensation and feelings, you know, they can make her remember what happened and…”

“Wow,” Charlie said. “I would never want to hurt her.”

“I know,” Aden said. “I think we just want you to be careful, both of you to be careful.”

Charlie grunted and they drove for a while in silence.

“What do you think ‘be careful’ means?” Charlie asked.

“Good question,” Aden said. “I think you have to go slower. Be aware that she might want to stop at the drop of the hat. If she gets upset, be comforting.”

“What if I can’t stop?” Charlie asked. “Sometimes things get going and…”

He made a fist and then splayed his hand out.

“I mean stop touching her,” Aden said.

“Oh,” Charlie said. “How do you know?”

“I was single most of my life,” Aden said. “If you stay single, you’ll date girls who’ve been raped and assaulted. That’s just how it is.”

“That really sucks,” Charlie said.

“It really sucks,” Aden said. “And you know about Mr. Blane right?”

Charlie nodded.

“It happens less to boys than girls, but it still happens a lot,” Aden said.

“Even to girls who live at home?” Charlie asked.

Aden nodded.

“That really sucks,” Charlie said.

“It really sucks,” Aden nodded.

“What do I do?” Charlie asked.

“Be careful mostly,” Aden said. “Ask her if she’s all right at every step of the way and let her stop anytime she wants to. And, if she gets upset, be comforting. This is part of the package of being with a great girl like Tink. Some guys get really angry and blame the girl.”

“Some guys are assholes.”

“Don’t be like that,” Aden said.

“I’d be okay if she didn’t want to,” Charlie nodded. “But I don’t want her to think that I hold it against her or anything.”

“That’s right,” Aden said. “You have a condom?”

Charlie shook his head.

“There’s a couple in the glove box,” Aden said.

“Why do you have condoms in your glove box?” Charlie asked.

“I got them for you,” Aden said. “Sandy wanted to make sure you and Tink were protected. None of us are so stupid as to think that if you and Tink want to get together, you won’t find a way to do it. Blane talked to me about it today. Heather talked to Sandy and she wanted to make sure if it happened, it was all right.”

“For Tink,” Charlie said.

“For you,” Aden said. “Sometimes things go… off the rails. It’s the kind of thing you never forgive yourself for and never forget.”

“Every adult knows that Tink and I might do it tonight?” Charlie asked. “That’s just… embarrassing.”

“Realistic,” Aden said. “Don’t you think?”

Charlie shrugged.

“What was your first thought when you heard everyone, including Tink, was going to stay at the house tonight?” Aden asked.

Charlie blushed.

“Exactly,” Aden said. “We’d be fools to think it was anything else.”

“Does this count as my date?” Charlie asked.

Aden laughed and pulled into a long driveway. The end of the driveway was littered with cars.

“Sandy has our clothes,” Aden said. “The only thing I ask is that you help out where you can and try to be gentle with Tink.”

“I can do that,” Charlie said. “What about the babies? Tink really likes the babies.”

“Honey and MJ are already here,” Aden pointed to MJ’s truck. “They brought Maggie. Sandy’s picking up Rachel and Mack and everybody else. Maybe you could help out with them.”

Charlie nodded.

“Wanda’s coming too,” Aden said.

“So?”

“I just thought you should know,” Aden said. “Are you nice to her?”

“Nice?” Charlie asked. “Whatever. I don’t really get what’s going on with her, but I think it would totally suck.”

“Yes it would,” Aden nodded.

Aden pulled the car to a stop. Charlie took the condoms out of the glove box and stuffed them into his pocket.

“There’s Sandy,” Aden pointed behind him. “Let’s help her bring everything in.”

Charlie picked up his book and got out of the car. He was unloading the suitcases when Heather pulled up. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched Tink, Sissy, and Wanda glide into the house. He swallowed hard.

“You can do this,” Aden picked up two suitcases and a backpack and went into the house.

Nodding to himself, Charlie followed.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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