CHAPTER FOUR The non-date looms….
“Four more hours.”
Jacob tapped his alarm clock to make sure it was working. In four hours, seven minutes, and thirty seconds, he would pick up Jill and Katy for a trip to the zoo.
Sick of staring at the ceiling, Jacob got out of bed. Sarah, his three-year-old yellow Labrador retriever, lifted her head from the covers to watch him walk across the wood floors to the bathroom. Sarah’s tail thumped a rhythm against the bed when he returned. He wandered across open space to the refrigerator. Retrieving a bottle of cold water, he plopped down in a sagging arm chair. The pre-dawn light greeted him through the ancient leaded glass windows. Sarah wandered over to him.
“Ok, I’m nervous,” Jacob said.
Sarah shook her entire body then barked one sharp bark.
“You’re absolutely right,” Jacob said.
Pushing himself from the armchair, he went to his closet to dress. A few miles pounding the pavement would help. He could burn at least an hour running in City Park.
Jacob and Sarah jogged down the long flight of stairs from his third floor attic apartment to the front door. Sarah sat while Jacob fumbled with the door then the security door. Like a gentleman, he held the door for Sarah. She romped to the slip of grass lining the flagstone sidewalk. Jacob locked the doors then stretched while Sarah finished her business.
Turning on his heart rate monitor, Jacob noticed that he had wasted another fifteen minutes. He groaned at his own impatience. He waited eight years to even talk to Jill and today….
Unable to finish the thought, he whistled for Sarah. Passing through the iron gate, they set off down Race Street. They walked one short block. Turning right onto Sixteenth Avenue, they took off toward East High School. Jacob and Sarah fell into a slow, time burning jog to warm up. They made their way down the City Park Esplanade. Nodding to the grand lady of the Thatcher fountain, they ran into the park.
The exertion helped unravel his anxious mind. As his feet worked the pavement, his mind drifted to memories of Jill.
His mother, Celia, and her best friend, Delphie, had gone to Pete’s Kitchen every Friday night after their Herbs and Arts Spiritual group. They prayed for Celia’s health from six to ten then celebrated with pancakes, eggs, and sausage. As a professional tarot reader, Delphie’s cards said that his mother would meet someone significant that night. Celia joked that she would meet a handsome man who would fill her last year on earth.
They met Jill.
Jill had just started working at Pete’s Kitchen. She was young, bright and always smiling. His mother and Delphie watched her blossom. Jill used to tell Celia and Delphie that they were replacements for her mother. Like good surrogate mothers, they bought the puppy Scooter as a wedding present.
Every Saturday morning, Mom and Delphie regaled Jacob with Jill’s latest adventure. From arguments with Trevor over having a baby to whether or not she should quit high school, Jacob had a ring side view to ‘the infamous Jill’s’ life.’ That’s what he called her, ‘the infamous Jill.’
But Jacob could care less.
Freaked out by his family’s implosion, he focused playing high school sports, getting laid, and partying with his friends. Sure, he moved into his mother’s three story money pit he called ‘the Castle.’ Yes, he knew that cancer ate the very core of his mother. Of course, he went to visit his father’s sec-witch-ary’s day old infant.
These family matters were simply a break between sports, sex and friends. See the sec-witch-ary’s baby, start as a safety for the East High Angels and trounce their arch-rivals Montbello High. Go with Mom for chemo, get laid. At eighteen-years-old, Jacob was handsome, popular, and completely self-absorbed.
Turning up Twenty-third Avenue to run steep incline of the Park Hill Golf Course, Jacob remembered the day he met the ‘infamous Jill.’
The doctor told his mother she wouldn’t see Easter. In response, his sister refused to return from UCLA for her “fucked up family.” Of course, his parent’s divorce was final so Dad was marrying his sec-witch-ary.
And Jacob tore his ACL playing weekend warrior Ultimate Frisbee. Surgery and rehab kept him off the track field that spring. Angry and bored, Jacob filled dumpster after dumpster with Castle junk. Pulling up moldy carpet, Jacob realized that the carpet continued into an almost hidden room. Jacob yanked, pulled, and pushed his way into a gorgeous birch paneled office space.
Climbing roses and Virginia Creeper, covering the lead windows, gave the room a green cave like feel. Bright birch peaked through decades of dust on the floor and the bookshelves that lined the walls. After a week of cleaning, and filling the shelves with cut flowers, he and Delphie moved his frail mother’s hospital bed into the gorgeous room. To celebrate, they walked to Pete’s Kitchen.
Jacob racked his brain. He didn’t remember the walk to Pete’s, the wait for a table or even what he ate. He only remembered Jill. Jill was so excited to see his mother and Delphie that she never looked at him. Her hair was short, her hips were round, and….
Was it love? That’s what he called it now.
His mother never left the house again. After her death, he couldn’t handle her favorite restaurant, Pete’s Kitchen. He graduated from high school and left Denver forever. Or so he thought.
He picked the farthest college away from Denver, Bowdoin College in Maine. As he had during high school, he played sports during the school year and worked as a carpenter in the summers.
But he remembered the girl. That amazing girl.
He spent time with a lot of girls, but no woman held his attention for long. His last girlfriend told him that he was haunted and should ‘get help.’ It wasn’t until he moved back into the Castle, and started playing midnight hockey, that he saw Jill again. She was pregnant, exhausted, and more beautiful than he remembered.
And today he was going to spend the day with Jill and Katy. Just spend the day. That’s all. Zoo and lunch. Easy.
Jill liked to get up early. When Trevor lived here, he grumbled through the morning, and a pot of coffee, before leaving for school or work or studying or, as she knew now, the rich girl. The cool quiet morning was a gift of Trevor’s betrayal. Even though she slept only a few hours, she woke up early to steal an hour for herself.
Jill loved Sundays. Megan and Tim kept Katy while Jill worked at Pete’s. Sundays were a ritual of breakfast with Meg, church, then free time with Katy. Sometimes, they just ran errands. Other times, they spent the day at the park. Katy talked non-stop about every little thing that was happening around her. Yes, Sunday was absolutely Jill’s favorite day of the week.
So why did she say she would go to the zoo with that guy?
Her mind went blank. It was just something that happened.
He was cute. Turning on the shower, Jill grinned. He was very cute.
But, the Megan in her mind reminded, so were a lot of men. Stepping under the blast of water, Jill tried to imagine another man in her life. Nope. No men. She pressed her hand against her heart.
Still, she felt good when she was with Jacob. Safe. Warm. He held her hand when he walked her to the apartment last night. She was prepared for him to want a kiss or to come in. But he kissed her hand in a funny, shy way, right at the base of her thumb, then said ‘good night.’ He waited until she waved from her window then walked down the street. She watched him until he walked out of sight.
With Jacob, she didn’t feel the flash intensity of Trevor. Hot or cold, Trevor was an in your face person who demanded everything he wanted. He wanted Jill morning, noon and night. As almost a conditioned response, her body leapt to attention when he turned his mind in her direction. For nine years, early Sunday mornings were spent rolling around in bed with Trevor.
Trevor was in bed with someone else this morning.
And Jill was alone.
Stepping from the shower, Jill was gripped with anxiety. What was she going to wear?
And why did she care?
After running stairs, doing a half hour of body weight exercises and throwing the ball for Sarah, Jacob was out of time wasting ideas. Plus he was getting hungry. The lure of the Cap’n drew Jacob and Sarah home. Turning from Sixteenth Avenue onto Race Street, Jacob noticed two things at once - Dephie’s car, parked in front of the house, and Jill’s brother Mike, sitting on the front steps waiting for him.
Pushing open the metal gate, Sarah ran forward to say ‘hello’ to Mike. With a nod of his head, Mike followed Jacob up the stairs to his apartment.
“You know the front door doesn’t work,” Jacob said.
“Maybe you should install a bench for your waiting visitors,” Mike said.
Jacob unlocked the door at the top of the stairs and Sarah bound into the apartment.
“Damn Jake, you stink,” Mike said.
Jacob gave Mike a dark look. Mike had come straight from a night of driving drunks around Denver in the limo. He stank of beer, cigars, and boredom.
“Hey, I just got off work,” Mike said.
“Breakfast?” Jacob asked.
“You know it,” Mike said.
Mike went to the cabinet to get Sarah a dog treat. While Mike and Sarah played ‘find the treat,’ Jake pulled out box after box of cereal from the cabinet. Mike grabbed the gallon of Royal Crest Milk from the refrigerator.
“You cleaned up a bit,” Mike said. He gestured around the apartment. “Nervous about something?”
“Very funny.” Jacob set two bowls on the table.
“It has been requested of me to ask you to be very nice to my sister,” Mike said. “Where’s the Crunch Berries? I’ve never known you to not have Crunch Berries.”
“Get it yourself.”
“I’m a guest! Sheez.”
Jacob made a face at Mike then retrieved another box of cereal from the cabinet.
“How did you find out?” Jacob asked Mike.
“You told Jill that you play hockey. Megan asked me about you after your step-whore’s party.”
“And you said?”
“Jake’s a good guy, plays hockey, eats lots of cereal.” Mike shrugged as if there was nothing else to say about Jake.
“Candy heard Jill say that she’d go somewhere with you. She called Megan…. Shit man, you’d know how this worked if you ever talked to your sister,” Mike said. “What’s it been two years?”
“Hey, we swap Christmas cards,” Jacob said.
“Yeah,” Mike said. “Like I said, you’d know how this thing worked if you ever dealt with your family.”
“I deal with my father every single day,” Jacob said.
“Yeah, at the company you own. Why did you tell Jill it was ‘your father’s company’?”
“Because it is my father’s company.”
“That you own,” Mike said. “What are you doing today?”
“Zoo, lunch, that’s all,” Jacob repeated his mantra.
“Yeah right,” Mike smirked. “Well, be nice. She’s really had a tough time of it. I know you saw that slideshow. It makes everything look so hunky dory. But Trevor was a hard person to live with. Jilly’s whole life was consumed by that guy. You know she worked two jobs so he could go to college. Then wham. He’s off screwing your step-whore. And….”
Jacob held his hand in front of Mike’s face. Mike stopped talking. He poured a second bowl of Crunch Berries to finish the box.
“You heard all of this before,” Mike said.
“When it was happening.” Jacob nodded his head. “I will do my best to be nice to your sister. Scout’s honor.”
“Pfft, you were never a scout,” Mike said. “Shit college boy, you weren’t even in the military. Hey can I shower here? I got to get to Mass.”
“Help yourself,” Jacob said.
“Damn, you are nervous,” Mike yelled from the bathroom. “I could eat off the tile.”
Jacob shook his head and returned to the sagging arm chair. The sun was up now, only a couple hours to go.
“When are you meeting him?” Jill’s best friend Sandy whispered in Jill’s ear. The music was starting for Mass.
Jill held up ten fingers.
Sandy fanned herself with her hands as if she was hot.
“That man is gorgeous,” Sandy whispered. “And very rich. Did you see February’s 5280? He’s ‘Bachelor of the Year.’ Third time! They said that it’s rumored that he owns that construction company. I do anything he wanted just to get a piece of that… change.”
Jill hit Sandy’s leg.
“Church?” Jill said between her teeth. She gave Sandy her ‘shut up’ stare.
“You should have let me do your hair,” Sandy said.
Jill gave Sandy a strong look then shook her head.
“Oh right, you don’t care what you look like. It’s not a date,” Sandy whispered. “I bet you’re wearing those sexy undies Tanisha got you.”
“I knew it!” Sandy whispered. “Just do him and cash in for a while. Why not? Not everything is soul mate love. Plus, you’ve got to be horney. What’s it been? Seven months. I can’t go that long.”
“Have you seen Jake’s hands? Carpenter’s hands. I’d let him hammer on me….”
And the priest began Mass.
“You’re home early,” Jacob said. He stepped aside to allow Delphie to enter his apartment from the Castle. “How’s Sam?”
“Sam is very fun,” Delphie said. She flushed in her flamboyant way. “Very passionate. Very Aries. They don’t call him ‘Big Sam’ for nothing.”
Jacob dropped his head and held up his hand. He really didn’t want to know about Delphie’s sex life.
“You should try it sometime,” Delphie said.
Delphie moved into the Race Street Castle when his mother was ill and never moved out. When Jacob was in Maine, Delphie hung on as the Castle fell down around her. After four years of Jacob’s Castle refurbish, she lived in a comfortable, safe apartment of her own on the second floor of the house.
“I’m not a virgin, Delphie,” Jacob said.
“Could have fooled me,” Delphie said. Looking in a mirror, she fluffed her bright bottle red hair. “Some Bachelor of the Year.”
“I didn’t ask for that award. I wouldn’t even let them take my picture. How is it my fault that they stalked me? Fuck.”
Delphie turned from the mirror. Her eyes assessed Jacob.
“Stop psychicing me. Just spit it out,” Jacob said. “I have to be somewhere.”
“Ah Jakey, can’t a girl come visit her best-friend’s son?”
“No,” Jake said.
Like a five year old, Delphie twirled back and forth causing her flowing gauze skirt to flip from side to side. Jacob smiled at her.
“You’re glad I made you go to your step-horror’s engagement party,” Delphie said.
“Yes, Delphie. I never would have gone if you hadn’t made me go. Thank you. Now what?”
“Have a big day today?” Delphie asked.
“You know I do, so why ask?”
“What are you doing?”
“I’m taking Jill and Katy to the zoo. We’re going to get lunch. That’s all. No date. No hanky panky. Just lunch and zoo.”
“Uh huh,” Delphie said. “The cards say that the day isn’t exactly what you planned.”
“What ever is?” Jacob said. He picked up his wallet, keys and phone. “You did not leave ‘Big Sam’ to tell me that I’m not the master of the universe. What is it?”
“Jill is equally attracted to you and frightened of you. Be your self - honest, true, kind. And you’ll do fine. Remember that soul mates are just people who arrive to teach you something. Jill is still learning the lesson Trevor came to teach her.”
“Thanks Delphie, I’ll be myself.” He bent forward to kiss her cheek. “You’re a gem.”
Walking to the door of his apartment, Jacob saw the clock on the wall.
“Ah crap, I’m late.”
Flying down the stairs, he heard Delphie yell, “Don’t worry, she’s late too.”
When he reached the bottom of the stairs, he turned to wave ‘good-bye’ to Delphie.
“And Jakey? Katy’s allergic to bees.”
He was just locking the door when he heard Delphie say, “She’ll die if you don’t get her to the hospital.”
Shaking his head at Delphie’s never ending drama, he ran to his Lexus SUV. After six hours of waiting, he was late.
“Rich people call it being ‘stylishly late’, Jilly,” Tim said from the driver’s seat of the family van. “He’ll think you’re stylish.”
They were stuck in traffic on Colfax Boulevard. Road construction left only one lane open in the four lane boulevard. And that lane was jammed with cars. Their direction waited while cars heading downtown used the lane.
“It’s not polite. That’s all,” Jill said. “He’s nice enough to take us to the Z-O-O. The least I can do is be on time.”
“Mike says he’s a nice guy.”
“He was Bachelor of the Year!” Jill gave the information that freaked her out the most. The information she just learned from Sandy.
“Now Jill. Did you see that article?” Megan asked. “My boss gets that magazine, 5280. The magazine couldn’t get him to do an interview or sit for a picture. The picture with the article was a telephoto shot of him running. They call him the ‘mysterious Bachelor of the Year.’ A guy like that isn’t going to care if you’re a few minutes late.”
“I thought 5280 singles were all gay,” Tim said.
Megan smacked Tim on the arm. He laughed.
“Mommy, what’s gay?” Katy asked.
“You don’t know what GAY is?” Megan’s oldest son, Ryan asked. “Are you a retard? Gay is where boys like boys. It’s gross. They do it everywhere all the time.”
“RYAN!” Megan yelled from the front seat. “In the first place, that is not a very nice thing to say. You wouldn’t like it if someone said you were gross. And in the second place, we do not have prejudice in this family. Gay people love each other just like I love Daddy and Daddy loves me.”
“Yes, Mom,” Ryan said. He made a face at Katy and mouthed “gross”.
“Mommy, what’s gross?” Katy asked.
Jill looked at Katy. She couldn’t help but laugh at her sincere question. Tim and Megan joined Jill’s laughter as did Megan’s three kids. The van started to move and within minutes they arrived at Jill’s apartment.
Hopping from the back of the van, Jill rushed to the front of her building.
No Jacob. Her stomach dropped.
Behind her, Jacob stepped from the driver’s seat of his SUV. When she turned, she bumped right into him.
“Sorry I’m late,” they said in unison.
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