Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Denver Cereal - Chapter Two Hundred and Twenty-three : Harvest


Saturday morning – 10:03 a.m.

Jill bit the cuticle on her right thumb and paced in front of her apartment door. Five steps to the window; turn; five steps to the wall. Back and forth she paced.

Katy was outside with the Castle family at Yvonne and Rodney’s big party. She had peeked out the bathroom balcony to see that everyone from Lipson Construction seemed to be at the party. Yvonne and Rodney had been smart to head out early or they would still be here.

Jacob had stopped by the party early before heading into work. He, Aden and their CFO Tres Sierra had planned to spend the day working on summer’s end financials. The Site Managers were meeting around noon. The party would probably go until the Site Managers left.

Jill had to be upstairs.

Jill needed her rest.

Jill couldn’t go to the party because she was on bed rest.

She was so exhausted after the emotional ceremony that she hadn’t argued about coming up here or missing a party. She was doing the hard work of building babies and needed her rest.

That was before Honey needed her.

She didn’t know how she knew Honey needed her. She just did. She’d gained this “ability” when she became pregnant with her twins. And, for the record, the whole psychic thing sucked. Jill was at the place where she couldn’t wait to have two gloriously healthy boys, to be able to see her feet again, and to be rid forever of this psychic curse.

There was a tap on her apartment door. Jill stopped pacing, thought for a moment, and then opened the door. MJ was standing on the top landing of the stairwell. Unable to speak under stress due to his traumatic brain injury, he held out a sheet of paper with a message in Blane’s handwriting.

Blane asked me to come to get you. Honey needs help.

“H-h-h-on-n…” MJ’s looked so desperate that Jill hugged him.

“You get the water,” Jill said. “It’s too heavy for me to carry.”

MJ gestured that he would carry Jill.

“My brother’s right behind you,” Jill pointed. Mike was standing on the landing of the stairs. “If you carry the water, Mike can carry me.”


“No,” Jill said. “I don’t need anything else. Mike will be there to help and so will Steve. If we need more help then we’ll call my Mom.”


“Really?” Jill curled her lip. “She’s waiting with Sam and Delphie?”


“She’s there to see the birth of her grandchild?” Jill groaned. “But Honey’s not her daughter.”

“I-i-s-s-s n-n-n…”

“She’s adopted Honey too?” Jill asked. “Oh God, I hope that doesn’t mean she’ll be around for…”

Jill nodded behind MJ.

“Hi Mom,” Jill said.

“I heard that,” Anjelika said. “And you’d better believe I will be there. Your father too.”

MJ gave Jill a knowing look and Jill scowled.

“Now be very careful, Mikhael,” Anjelika started.

“MOM!” Jill groaned.

Anjelika laughed.

“You have to come down for me to come up,” Mike said.

Jill started toward the stairwell.

“Not you,” Mike said.

“You can’t take the stairs!” Anjelika gasped.

“The soldier,” Mike said. “MJ come down.”

MJ turned in place and jogged down the stairwell. Mike came up and picked up Jill. He gave an exaggerated groan when she was in his arms.

“Jeez, are you gaining weight?” Mike asked.

Jill double tapped the top of his head and he laughed.

“Come along,” Mike said. “We’re on baby duty.”

Mike carried Jill down the stairs, through the main kitchen where the caterers were working on food for the party, and up the stairs on the other side. They passed Delphie’s apartment and the one Mike shared with Valerie before coming to the entrance to what Valerie dubbed “The Birthing Zone.”

“You ready?” Mike asked in a low tone.

Jill gave a quick nod.

“You’ll let me know if it’s too much?” Mike asked in the same low tone.

Jill nodded and he pushed the door open. They walked through a short hallway and into the office space. In the time since Valerie had her baby, the space had gone from a 1950s doctor’s office to a beautifully restored, clean, state-of-the-art medical office.

Mike set Jill down. MJ pointed to a stack of clean scrubs. Jill, Mike, and Anjelika dressed in scrubs as well. They followed MJ to the room where Honey was in labor. Honey was connected to a heart rate monitor for herself and the baby. Steve, Honey’s nurse and Jill’s brother, was moving an ultrasound wand around so they could see the baby on the screen. Camille the midwife was standing between Honey’s knees. Colin Hargreaves was standing at her head. Blane was moving around Honey twisting an acupuncture needle on her chest and removing one from her wrist. He looked up and smiled when they came in.

Jill leaned down to kiss Honey’s cheek.

“How are you doing?” Jill asked.

“Good,” Honey smiled.

“We’re really at our last chance for natural delivery,” Blane said.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t understand why you’re pushing for a natural birth?” Jill smiled at her little pun and took Honey’s hand. “I’ll probably have a C-section.”

“Because she’s in a wheelchair,” Steve said. “C-sections are harder to heal for people in a wheel chair and she’ll have an infant to care for. She’d have to be admitted for at least a day, maybe two just to get a jump start on the healing.”

“I don’t want to go to the hospital,” Honey grunted. “I’ve spend enough time there.”

Jill nodded.

“How can we help?” Anjelika asked.

“Honey’s getting tired,” Blane said. He pointed toward the screen. “So is the baby. We thought you might be able to give them a little healing boost.”

“Sure,” Jill said.

Jill put her hands on Honey’s belly and looked up at the monitor. The baby stirred. She felt something behind her as Colin set a chair behind her. Jill sat down. Mike stood across from her and put his hands between hers. Anjelika went to Honey’s head and put her hands on her head. Steve put his hand on her shoulder.

“Ooh, I feel warm!” Honey said before gasping. A contraction ripped through her.

“We’re moving now,” Camilla the midwife said. “Honey, can you wait for one…?”

Honey jerked up with the force of her contraction.

“This is our shot,” Camilla said. “You do this now or we’ll get the doctor. Si?”

“Got it,” Honey said.

“Blane?” Camilla said.

Blane removed a needle from her hand and placed a new needle in her head.

“Ready,” Blane said.

“Go Honey,” Camilla said. “Push, push, push, push…”

Honey groaned.

“Help her!” Camilla pointed MJ to Honey’s head. She nudged Jill with her shoulder. “Do more now.”

Colin touched Jill’s shoulder. Jill looked back at him to see he was holding the vase full of salt water she’d prepared. She lifted her left hand to touch the vase.

“Mike!” Jill said.

Mike looked up, saw the vase, and lifted his right hand from Honey’s belly to hold the vase.

“Mom!” Mike said.

Anjelika leaned over to touch the glass.

“Steve,” Anjelika said.

Steve set down the ultrasound wand and reached to touch the water. A connection seemed to be made the moment Steve touched the vase. Colin picked up the ultrasound wand so they could see the baby again. Honey bore down stronger and the baby moved.

“Good,” Camilla said. “Go Honey go! You can do this. Go!”

Closing her eyes to concentrate, Jill heard her own sons cheering for Honey and the baby they knew to be a girl. When she opened her eyes, the baby had crowned.

“One more!” Camilla said.

Margaret Celia Scully was born.


Saturday afternoon – 2:03 p.m.

Humming to herself, Valerie cleaned the main Castle kitchen. Tomorrow was Delphie’s annual Harvest Day. Valerie was in charge of making sure there was room in the refrigerator and kitchen to store everything they harvested.

Harvest Day was Valerie’s favorite day of the year. She had been here at the Castle for every one. Even when she wasn’t getting along with Mike, she’d come home to help dig out a potato or whatever. Valerie loved the glorious experience of finding one treasure after another. Now that she was home, she loved the idea that the tiniest seed could multiply into a glorious vine that created a bounty of acorn squash or pumpkins or watermelon.

When Celia had purchasted this house, Delphie’s first task was removing the asphalt. Valerie smiled remembering how Delphie had banged at the black mess with a sledgehammer. When Delphie went to work the next day, Celia had paid a team from Lipson Construction to take out the asphalt. Delphie had came home and the asphalt was gone. No one ever told her how the asphalt disappeared. But then, she’d never asked.

Valerie heard a sound and looked down. She was carrying Jackie next to her heart. Claire Martins had modified a Moby sling into a short sleeved top that crossed over in the front to form a kind of baby sling. Claire showed Valerie how she could set Jackie on one side with the fabric crossing from the other side. The third piece of fabric held Jackie tight in place. Claire had modified the wrap with a piece of lace to cover Jackie’s face if they were assaulted by the paparazzi.

Valerie wore a pair of Mike’s old overalls to make double sure Jackie wouldn’t fall out. Today was her first day trying this outfit and so far it worked really well. Valerie made a soothing sound to Jackie and kissed her face. Jackie went back to sleep.

Valerie grabbed the full trash bag from the can and went out the back door. From the deck, she could see Sandy’s kids helping to clean up from Yvonne and Rodney’s celebration. She was always amazed at the way Sandy and Aden could get these kids to do things. Sandy said it was a mixture of bribery and threat, but Valerie thought they were just nice kids.

“I can take that,” Nash said. He held out his hand for the trash bag.

“Great,” Valerie gave him the trash bag. “Thanks Nash.”

Nash blushed, nodded, and trotted off. He picked up a bag of trash near the end of the fence and went out into the alley. Taking in the warm day, Valerie stretched her arms and neck before returning to the kitchen. She had her head in the refrigerator when Nash burst in the backdoor.

“Mrs. Valerie! Mrs. Valerie,” Nash yelled.

Valerie stood up quickly. Nash’s yell and Valerie’s sudden movement woke Jackie. She gave a rousing wail. Valerie scowled at Nash and soothed Jackie back to sleep.

“Sorry,” Nash said. “I didn’t…”

“I know,” Valerie said. “What happened?”

“When I went out into the alley, there was a photographer on a ladder just behind the police video camera,” Nash’s voice came in one excited rush. “I threw out the trash and called the police. They must have been close because bam they were right there.”

“Great,” Valerie smiled. “Thanks.”

“But…” Nash’s face clouded.

“What happened?”

“The photographer saw me and yelled that he’d already sent the photos off…” Nash swallowed hard. “And Delphie told me to come in and tell you immediately. And Dad, well, he was really mad. He got Mike and Charlie and they went around to make sure there aren’t more photographers back there. And…”

“What did the photographers say?” Valerie asked.

“Now, I didn’t say this,” Nash said. “I’d never say this to anyone but…”

“The photographers are pigs,” Valerie said. “What did he say?”

“He said he’d already sent in photos of… um…”

Valerie waited.

“That pig Valerie Lipson,” Nash said. “He made a rude gesture like you’d gotten really, really fat. They were putting him in the police car when he yelled that you should be on the Biggest Loser.”

“He didn’t get a photo of Jackie?” Valerie asked.

“You can’t see her in the overalls,” Nash said. “I mean, I knew she was there. Sandy wears Rachel like that sometimes and really where else would Jackie be? But…”

“What?” Valerie asked.

“You look really fat in that outfit,” Nash said.

Valerie looked down at Mike’s old overalls.

“I know that’s not a nice thing to say,” Nash said. “Dad always says to never tell a woman she’s fat and Sissy has an eating disorder so we don’t talk about it in our family but… um…”

“I look pretty fat,” Valerie said. “So what?”

“Delphie said you should call your publicist,” Nash said.


“Something about the upcoming premiere and your next movie part?” Nash shrugged.

At that moment, Valerie’s cell phone rang.

“That’s probably them,” Nash gave her a guilty look and sped out the back door.

“Hello?” Valerie answered her phone.

“Have you gained five hundred pounds?” Jennifer, her publicist, said.

“No, I…”

Her phone beeped with her agent.

“Hang on Jen,” Valerie clicked over.

“Are you insane?” Her agent yelled. “Do you ever want to make another movie?”

As her agent ranted, Valerie looked up at the ceiling. Looking down, she saw Jackie and knew what to do.

“Listen,” Valerie interrupted her agent. “At least they didn’t get a shot of Jackie.”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“I’m carrying her under the overalls,” she said.

“You are?”

“Of course,” Valerie said. “And that’s how you’re going to spin this. Anyone who calls. You tell them I carry my newborn baby girl next to my heart in a hug hold like I should.”

“Good thinking,” he said.

“And furthermore,” Valerie said. “I’m going to bring her to the premiere.”

“What? Are you insane?”

“No,” Valerie said. “You’re going to make it happen.”

“But…” he started.

“Women bring their kids to European Parliament meetings. Premieres are a part of my work,” Valerie said. “Why can’t I bring her there?”

“Good point,” he said. “I’ll make some calls.”

“Jen’s on the other line,” Valerie said. “I’m going to tell her the same thing.”

“Go ahead,” he said. “My phone’s already ringing.”

When he hung up, Valerie smiled. She was going to turn this thing around. If they were going to watch her, stalk her, she was going to use that attention to help other mothers.

Valerie kissed Jackie. Jackie should be able to bring her children to work. Her work places should support families. Celia had made this a reality at Lipson Construction. Valerie was going to do her part to help make it a reality for Jackie and the rest of the world.

Nodding to herself, she clicked over to talk to Jen.


Saturday night – 7:03 p.m.

Honey opened her eyes. Not sure where she was, she pushed her way to sitting.

“How are you?” MJ asked. He was sitting in an armchair by the bed. He looked like he’d been reading a book.

“Where are we?” Honey asked.

“Our new bedroom,” MJ smiled.

“It’s very posh,” Honey said. “Where’s…”

MJ lifted his arms to show Maggie sleeping on his lap between his knees.

“The LC’s Dad told me about this position,” MJ said. “He said it was the only way to get the twins to sleep. She’s been out for a while. Do you want to try to feed her?”

“I didn’t think I could with breast feed because of all the meds I’m on,” Honey said.

“You can’t,” MJ said.

“Did you decide which formula without me?” Honey’s voice rose with indignation.

“No,” MJ shook his head. “We didn’t decide. So I figured we’d breastfeed.”

“But I can’t breast feed,” Honey said.

“Sandy and Valerie filled up our freezer with extra breast milk,” MJ said. “They both brought some by this evening after dinner.”

“They did?” Honey blinked back her tears of gratitude. “That’s… I mean…”

“Sandy said not to fuss about it,” MJ said. “You were family and they wanted to help our Maggie have her best start in life. Plus, Valerie said they’ll meet you tonight at 2:30 a.m. for a moonlight feeding.”

“Wow,” Honey said.

“I’m a little jealous,” MJ smiled.

“How long have I been asleep?” Honey looked around.

“Since right after we got back from the hospital,” MJ said. “I wanted you to sleep because having a baby is a big deal.”

“Are you saying the baby’s a big deal because you have to go back to work?” Honey asked.

“No,” MJ said. “I’m off for at least six weeks. I can stay off for up to six months but I have to tell the LC midway if we need more time. They aren’t going to replace me or they’re hoping not to. Anyway, she said we have a lot of work to do from Yvonne’s notebooks. We’ll be in town for a while. I’d just be going back and forth to the Federal Center or Buckley.”

Honey smiled and he returned her smile.

“How has Maggie been?” Honey asked.

“I think she misses you,” MJ picked up the sleeping infant and laid her in Honey’s lap. “I’ll get a bottle.”

Honey looked down at the tiny baby in her lap. The only babies she had been around were the ones in the family. Mack was big when he was born. He had clear white skin, bright blue eyes, a round face, and black hair. Everyone thought he was gorgeous. Jackie had a kind of European air to her. She had Mike’s thick dark hair and Valerie’s darker skin tone. Her eyes had already started to darken to hazel. In the last month or so, Rachel had just started to look like a regular baby. Rachel might still not have any hair but she had the prettiest smile. Of course, Honey had seen her little sisters, but she never really looked at them or held them in her lap like she had Mack or Jackie and she’d never kangarooed a baby before Rachel.

Little Maggie didn’t look like any of them. She was small like Rachel. She had a tiny tuft of reddish hair. Her skin was almost translucent white. She became red all over when she cried or squirmed.

Honey felt her heart swell with love.

Maggie was perfect.

Denver Cereal continues on next week…

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