CHAPTER EIGHTEEN Friday morning, 8: 07 A.M.
“Sorry I’m late,” Jill said. She scooted into the booth next to Sandy at Snooze. Every Friday for the last two years, she’d met Sandy, Heather and Tanisha for breakfast at Snooze. “I had to take Katy to school. She’s still a little sick so she’s slooooowwww.”
“Jill!?!” The waitress asked. “Are you all right? Oh my God! I saw the news….”
“Hi Chantel,” Jill nodded. “Yeah, I’m Ok. Thanks.”
“I….,” the waitress started speaking, then realized the women were staring at her.
“Sorry, I just can’t really talk about it,” Jill smiled.
The waitress made a sympathetic face and touched Jill’s arm. “I’ll just bring some coffee.”
“Hey, we’re buying your breakfast,” Tanisha said. “So you can actually eat this time.”
“It’s a bribe,” Heather said.
“Bribe?” Jill asked. The waitress set a cup of coffee and a glass of water in front of Jill. “Thanks.”
“You can’t talk about Monday, right?” Heather asked.
“Criminal proceeding and all,” Jill said.
“We want every single detail about Sunday night with His Hotness,” Tanisha said.
“And your date last night,” Sandy added.
“Oohh a date with His Hotness!” Tanisha said.
“We want to know what really happened on Monday, but….”
“Sorry,” Jill said.
“You can talk about the edges. The paper said Jacob came….”
Sandy trailed off as the owner of Snooze, Jon Schlegel, came up the table. A tall thin man, he had to bend over to set a Pineapple Upside Down pancake in front of Jill.
“Hey Jill, this is our way of saying that we hope you’re Ok.”
“Thanks Jon. With a little luck, everything will work out.” Jill pushed the plate sized pancake to the middle of the table. “We’ll share it.”
“Well, good luck,” Jon said. “I wanted you to know that you’re always welcome to work here.”
“Thanks Jon,” Jill said. “My feet are pretty messed up. I can’t work anywhere for a while. Even Pete sent me home.”
“Just so you know,” he said.
The moment Jon turned his back, the women dug into the pancake with gusto.
“How did you have a date with Jake Marlowe last night?” Heather asked. “Isn’t he like in the hospital?”
“Mm’hmm” Jill swallowed a bite of delicious pancake. “He stopped taking pain meds mid-day so he could talk to me. He had someone from Sasa Sushi bring dinner for me. He had….”
“Cereal,” the women said together.
“Exactly. Captain Crunch. He wanted me to try sushi since I haven’t tried it before. He had a bottle of rice wine for me… um, Sake? I think it’s called. It was really good… nice.”
“I told you,” Sandy said. “Sasa is fabulous. Did you have the chocolate lava cake?”
“Yep, we shared one.” Jill blushed.
“And?” Heather prodded
“He’s in a hospital. We just talked,” Jill said. “The nurse put Jake to sleep around ten and I went to the Castle to get Katy.”
“Uh huh,” Tanisha said. “And blushing girl, what did you and His Hotness talk about?”
Heather and Tanisha screamed with laughter.
“Details! We need details!” Sandy said.
“I’m sorry, Jake. I wish I had better news.”
Dr. Lionel Smuyth had been Jacob’s orthopedic surgeon since he fixed Jacob’s knee in high school. Jacob asked him to come to review his situation and help him determine options.
“Your entire shoulder girdle is held together with more metal than bone. Your shoulder blade is…. Well, time will tell.”
“What does that mean, Lionel?” Jacob asked.
“Long term?” Dr. Smuyth went back to the x-rays. He held up x-ray after x-ray then reviewed the MRIs. “I’d replace the head of your humerus. When your bone fills in, you’ll need surgery to reattach all of these tendons. The surgery notes say that they found all the tendons and tucked them away. They may be available when you’re ready.”
“How long before I can work?”
Dr. Smuyth’s eyebrows shot up at Jacob’s question. His eyes were kind but Jacob’s stomach dropped when Dr. Smuyth’s usual bright smile fell. The doctor picked up Jacob’s right hand.
“Tell me what you feel,” Dr. Smuyth said.
He ran a capped ball point pen over Jacob’s hand.
“I can feel that,” Jacob said.
Dr. Smuyth shook his head.
“You have sensation, Jacob. And that’s really a miracle.”
“You’ve never sugar coated anything for me, Lionel,” Jacob said. “What is going on?”
“You’re having a neck fusion tomorrow.”
“I don’t feel confident in the innervation in your arm,” Dr. Smuyth said. “I won’t say, ‘never’ but you have a long way to go before you’ll swing a hammer with that arm.”
“I’m not going to give you a doctor hex, Jake. Don’t ask me for dates, times, and what will happen. We have to take this one step at a time. You have two broken transverse processes in your neck. Two!” Dr. Smuyth shook his head like he couldn’t believe the question or conversation. “Tomorrow you’re neck will be fused. If everything goes well, and by some miracle you take it easy, you should be able to go home on Monday or Tuesday. Then it’s six week, at least, before your neck heals. Your bone may have filled in enough that we can replace the head of your humerus and reattach your ligaments. Then, maybe, you’ll be able to start rebuilding strength in that arm. But….”
“That’s six months from now?”
“At least. Every step depends on the success of the last step. Any infection, slow healing, bad guesses, not to mention surgeon foul up….” Dr. Smuyth returned to look at the x-rays. “This is a vicious injury, Jake. You’re lucky to be alive.”
“I’m not ungrateful, Lionel. I know how lucky I am.”
Jacob closed his eyes for a moment trying to formulate the thought or question in his mind.
“You’re saying that this injury… that just like that…. I’m not going to be normal again.”
“Yes, I’m sorry,” Dr. Smuyth said. “I’d tell you that you still have use of your left arm. You’re still very young. I can also tell you to never say never. I’ve seen amazing things happen with hard work and a positive attitude. But you know all of that.”
The rest of Dr. Smuyth’s visit was lost on Jacob. From the moment the doctor said, ‘you know all of that’, Jacob worked just to get through it.
When the doctor patted his left shoulder and walked from the room, Jacob took a full breath.
And broke down.
The thoughts flew through his head: He wasted the last four years babysitting his father; he threw away his last chance to do the work he loved; he would never be a carpenter again; he’d have to sit back now; he’d sit on the sidelines like a sad fuck while other guys played hockey, ran or lifted weights; he was almost free of his Lipson Construction albatross; NOW he’s incapacitated; How could this happen? While he cried, his mind spewed catastrophe after drama after ‘my life is over’ scenario.
Out of nowhere, he heard Celia’s voice: “Why haven’t you stepped into your wisdom?”
Wiping his face and nose on the sheet, he blew out a breath and cleared his mind. Closing his eyes, he stretched his being. Not quite sure of what he was doing, he remembered Delphie’s childhood instruction - clear your mind of thought, create an open space, breathe, let the images come….
The image of Jill walking across hardwood floors came to his mind. Her naked body was covered with goose bumps and her nipples erect. The beeswax candle she carried shook side to side with her shivers. The candle light reflected off the square cut diamond on her left ring finger. Catching his look, and lust for her, she tipped her head sideways and smiled.
“Hey Molly.” Jacob opened his eyes to his concerned bookkeeper. “Is it eight thirty?”
“Yes. Are you Ok? Should I get the nurse?”
“I’m Ok. Thanks,” Jacob said. “There’s something you could do for me.”
Aden Norsen slowed his SUV to the curb at a small bungalow near Old Towne Aurora. Getting out of the driver’s seat, he went to the back hatch for his kids’ backpacks and suitcases.
His children were supposed to spend two months with their mom in the summer. She reminded him of that legal arrangement just last night. Of course, her “visitation” only happened when she was in town, when she felt like having them and when whatever else that was more important than her children was over. This year, Nuala wanted their kids today.
If this visit went the way of every other visit, the kids would get on Nuala’s nerves in a couple of days. She’d “tough it out” for a couple of weeks then the phone would ring. Aden would take them home. His home. Their home in Park Hill. Even though he KNEW this visit would be like all the others, he always hoped things would be different.
“Bye, bye Daddy,” his ten year old daughter, Noelle said. She hugged him then took her backpack and suitcase from him. “I’ll call you tonight.”
“Bye Dad,” his twelve year old son, Nash, said. He hugged Aden. “See you tonight?”
“Soccer practice. I’ll be there,” Aden said. He gave Nash his backpack, suitcase and skateboard. “You’ll….”
Nash smiled a half smile, “I’ll call.”
Noelle was halfway up the driveway when she turned and ran back. She threw her arms around Aden. Too cool to initiate the hug, Nash wrapped himself around Noelle and Aden.
“Love you so very much,” Aden said.
Standing with his arms around his precious babies, he prayed for their safety. Every year, he walked away with a knot in the pit of his stomach. Every year, he brought two silent children home. Every year, he sat with them night after night while they cried their hearts out. Aden let out a breath and let go. The God that brought these beautiful creatures to his life will care for them.
Nash picked up Noelle’s suitcase. Noelle carried Nash’s skateboard and the children began their walk toward their mother’s front door. As they approached, Nuala opened the front door. With a lit cigarette dangling from her lips, and an infant on her hip, Nuala was all class in her stained tank top and no bra. She raised an arm to wave at Aden.
Working not to flinch at Nuala’s hairy armpit and flopping breasts, Aden smiled. He watched his babies greet their mother then turn into the house. He made it back into the driver’s seat before he was overwhelmed with emotion - rage, sadness, helplessness, shame. Swatting the tears from his eyes, he turned down Colfax toward Denver.
He was due in Jake’s hospital room at ten.
Stopping at a traffic light, Aden marveled at how life worked out. He never planned on having kids. In fact, he never thought he liked kids. But when his crazy, wild girlfriend got pregnant, he did the right thing and married her. In a desperate attempt to keep them off the streets, he started as a day laborer for Lipson Construction.
Lipson was good for him. Nuala was not. Fourteen months and another baby later, she was gone.
But Lipson stuck. He worked his way up one job at a time, one year at a time, to become a site manager. He loved being a site manager. He thought he’d retire as a site manager.
Four years and three months ago, Jake appeared at the job site. Aden had worked at Lipson almost ten years. He had seen Jake around the sites, but hadn’t spoken to the owner’s son before. After all, Jake was a carpenter, a college boy, not an underground man. He wasn’t even a Lipson. Aden swaggered over to talk to the kid.
“I need a good man to help me out,” Jake said. “Interested?”
“Hire an assistant.” Aden said. “I don’t mean to be rude, but I’ve got to get back. We’re expecting….”
Aden stopped talking when Jake laughed. Aden shook his head at the kid and started to walk back toward the site trailer.
“You’d get to set your schedule.”
Aden spun around to look at Jake. He was about to walk away when he realized what that kind of freedom would mean for his children’s lives. He could finally coach a soccer team, participate in Noelle’s art classes… and…. He squinted his eyes at Jake.
“What do you want?”
“I told you. I need a good man to help me out. I’m sure money’s not that important to you but the job comes with a fifteen-hundred dollar raise.”
“A year?” Aden asked
“A month.” Jake smiled.
Aden did the math in his head. Fifteen hundred dollars was chunk of change but less than a third of he was making. How serious was this kid?
“Two thousand,” Aden said. “And annual raises. This doesn’t cap my salary.”
And the rest, as they say was history.
He’d worked for about six months before he realized Jake was grooming him, Aden Norsen, to take over Lipson Construction. Jake made him finish college and forced him through an MBA program. Scumbag, loser, dropout Aden Norsen was an MBA. The thought still made Aden laugh.
Pulling up to the Detroit Street workshop, Aden made his way through the tunnels to the Castle. He tapped on the kitchen door and was met by Delphie. Delphie gave him a small box and a hug.
“They’ll be all right?” Aden asked.
“They’ll be home tomorrow,” Delphie said.
“Tomorrow night late.”
“Thanks.” Aden hugged her again.
“Enjoy yourself today!”
Delphie raised an eyebrow then closed the door on his face. Aden made an irritated face at the door. Delphie always told him just enough to relieve his anxiety and peak his curiosity. She always saved the full story for later after it was all over in a kind of ‘I told you so’.
Anyway, he planned to work today then drink himself to sleep tonight. That’s what he did every time he left the kids at Nuala’s house. In fact, he already told Jake he was going to be hung over tomorrow. Laying in that hospital bed, wrapped in gauze, and sprouting tubes like hair, Jacob Marlowe laughed at him.
Aden tucked the box into his pocket and went through the tunnels to the workshop. Back in the car, he worked his way down Colfax to Colorado Blvd. He had just enough time to run a couple errands before getting to Jake’s room.
Valerie waved from the side door of the Castle. Her publicist, Jennifer Lowe, weaved through the paparazzi with expert ease. Valerie hugged her publicist. Jen pulled back to give Val a long look.
“I don’t know about this whole marriage thing, but you look great,” Jen said. “A little thin. How’s your brother?”
“Better, thanks. Yeah, I’ve lost weight this week,” Val said. “But I feel good. Really good.”
“You’re sure you want to go out in public with this guy?” Jen asked.
“My husband?” Val asked. “Yes. I want him to be a part of my life. I thought we could introduce him to everyone at a party next week? Maybe Friday?”
“What about Wes? He’s sure acting like he wants you back something awful.”
“Awful is the word.” Val shook her head. “That’s all over. Plus he texted me to say he has a new ‘girl.’” Val imitated Wes’s voice, “No hysterics, Val. I can’t wait for you forever.”
Jen shook her head. “Will you….”
“I’m exactly where I want to be” Val said.
“Ok, let’s take a look at this guy,” Jen said.
“Right, your husband,” Jen said. Under her breath she added, “You’re going to have to say that a million times.”
“He’s painting in his studio out back,” Val said. “I have to call him.”
Mike answered immediately and said he would be right over.
“I love this house, Val,” Jen said. “It’s very… gothic modern. Is this his house?”
“My mother bought it before her death. Mike and my brother fixed it up. Of course, Mike did the murals, ceilings and detail work,” Val said.
“He’s very talented.”
“He is. I’m here probably six months out of the year. A week here… a week there. We have our own private apartment, plus all of this.”
Mike came in from the kitchen wiping his hands on a rag. Seeing Val, his face lit up in a bright smile.
“When did you get back?”
As if drawn by a magnet, Val fit under the arm he wrapped around her. He kissed her head.
“Jen wanted to meet you,” Val said.
Jen had to wipe the stunned look from her face. Mike was almost the exact opposite of any of Val’s other men. He was big, muscular, and very hairy. He looked like the kind of person you’d find at the end of a hockey stick or maybe on top of a John Deere. He was not the kind of man you’d find standing next to a movie star. Jen shook her head.
“He’s not going to work,” Jen said.
“What?” Mike asked. “Why?”
“We need to get Ramon,” Jen said.
Turning right, Aden parked in the lot behind Denver Health. On the elevator to Jake’s room, he went through the list of things they needed to accomplish. With Ashforth’s swinging straight pipe wrench, Lipson Construction ceased to function. Every job site closed. Everyone - employees and clients - held their collective breath in hopes that Jacob would survive. They had to restart Lipson Construction. Today.
Then he’d get drunk. On Jack Daniels? No maybe Johnny Walker. One night a year, Aden allowed himself a serious drunk. Of course, every year for the last four, Jake happened to have some emergency the night of his planned drunk. Tonight, Jake was in the hospital. Four years of sobriety would be broken tonight.
“Hey Molly,” Aden said. “Jake.”
“How are you?” Jake asked. Molly gave Aden a hug on her way out of the room.
“I’m… all right,” Aden said. “See you Molly.”
“How did it go?” Jake asked.
“It sucked. It always sucks,” Aden said. “Delphie says they’ll be home tomorrow night.”
“You need to renegotiate that custody.”
“Tell me something I don’t know,” Aden said. “I just keep hoping she’ll go away.”
“That’s not likely,” Jake said. “Did you get it?”
“Yep, when does the illustrious Jill get here?” Aden asked.
“She and a friend are stopping by,” Jake said.
“Should we get started?” Aden asked. “Or wait for them to come and go?”
“Let’s see what we can get done,” Jake said.
Aden began setting up their laptop computers. He was almost done when the door to the room opened. Turning to catch a first look at Jacob’s Jill, he gasped. The door slammed shut.
“That’s the girl,” Aden whispered.
“We start at Nordstrom’s and we’ll work our way to Macy’s.” Sandy outlined their shopping plan on the elevator up to Jacob’s room. “After all, you need all new clothing for your new lifestyle.”
“What about my feet?”
“What about your feet?” Sandy asked. “You can get a personal shopper!”
“Personally, I think I deserve a few pairs of shoes myself. You know, best friend tax. Can’t you hear Jimmy Choo saying come and get me!?” Sandy said. “It’s a Platinum American Express card?”
“I’m going to pay him back!” Jill exclaimed. “It’s just for Katy… her meds….”
“But he told you to take it shopping today?” Sandy asked. Stepping off the elevator, she followed Jill to Jacob’s room. “Do I have to watch you pay him back because I like the details but I’m not really….”
Sandy pushed the door open. Standing in the doorway, she saw a man kneeling by an electrical plug. When he looked up, she gasped. Sandy grabbed Jill and pulled her from the room. Sandy slammed closed the door.
“What?” Jill asked.
“That’s the guy.”
Denver Cereal continues next week….
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