“Oooh that looks fun,” Valerie said. She pointed to a red bite mark above Sandy’s left breast.
Valerie, Jill and Sandy were looking at dresses in the second floor of Mike’s art studio. The entire floor had been converted to Valerie’s designer dress storage. Since Jill was going to wear one of Claire’s gowns, Valerie was acting as personal shopper for Sandy. Jill was zipping Sandy into a royal blue silk Dior gown.
“Sandy is dating Aden,” Jill said.
“ADEN!” Valerie squealed. “Really!”
“Yeah, why?” Sandy asked. “Am I too fat for this dress?”
“The zipper’s jammed,” Jill said.
“Mike’s fault,” Valerie said. “He drives me to all these events then… well….”
She lifted and dropped her eyebrows to indicate how Mike had jammed the zipper. The women laughed.
“I had it cleaned but they didn’t unstick the zipper.” Valerie held the fabric so Jill could work loose the zipper.
“Wait. Why did you react like that about Aden?” Sandy asked.
Sandy’s natural mistrust had returned full force at church. She already told Jill that she was not going to see Aden again. Jill worked to keep her friend open to the possibility of Aden, but was losing the battle.
“He’s one of your men.”
“Aden?” Valerie was so surprised she stepped back. “I’ve never been with Aden. I don’t know anyone who has.”
“So why did you squeal?”
Sandy felt an overwhelming desire to run away, get out of the warm closet of this spoiled rich girl. Before she could run away, Valerie put her hands on Sandy’s shoulders and looked into her eyes. While Val never had an ounce of psychic capacity, she was very emotionally intuitive. She felt Sandy’s aching, frightened heart as if it was her own.
“I squealed because he seems like he would be very fun. I’ve known him a long, long time. I’m excited for him to find someone great. Mom used to say….”
Valerie clamped her mouth shut. She spun in place and moved into the sea of dresses.
“Oh no you don’t.” Sandy caught Valerie’s wrist. “What did your Mom say?”
“Celia used to say that we had to get Aden ready for when he met his baker,” Valerie said. “She thought it was a funny turn of words. I stopped talking because you’re a hairdresser, right?”
“Mike and I thought it might be Candy, you know, because she is a pastry chef. But, Candy’s gay.” Valerie looked away. “I didn’t want to tell you because you’re not a baker….”
“Sandy’s a great baker,” Jill said. “She can make anything just by feel. She does it to relax, so didn’t want to do it for work..”
“You baked the scones for breakfast?”
Sandy nodded. With her eyes wide, Valerie squealed again.
“YOU’RE THE BAKER?!? Oh Jake will just die!” Valerie looked around the upstairs then shook her head. “Get out of that dress.”
“But it’s nice,” Sandy said. “It fits.”
“We’re going shopping for something very special, very sexy to seal the Aden deal. That’s a man you don’t want to get away,” Valerie said. “Not that he would. I bet he’s smitten. Still, I’m sure Jill will let you wear some of her diamonds.”
Valerie clamped her mouth closed again.
“What diamonds?” Jill asked. “Jake said that: ‘Val has your diamonds’. I thought he was hallucinating.”
Valerie clapped her hands together like Katy did when she was excited.
Jacob opened his eyes to a silent room. He knew he was in the hospital. He just couldn’t remember why. With deliberate care, he wiggled his toes, then his fingers. His right arm felt funny. With his left hand, he felt the gauze on his right shoulder and arm.
Shoulder injury. Ok.
He wracked his mind for details. How did he get here? Hockey? Shooting accident? No, hunting season is in the fall. Judging from the light, it was still summer. Had to be a construction accident.
He should know this.
“So you’re awake,” the nurse said.
Ah great, Nasty Nurse. Why do I remember her and not why I’m here?
“When will I be released?” Jacob managed.
If Nasty Nurse knew he was foggy, he wouldn’t make it home. Every cell in his body wanted to be at the Castle.
“Today,” she said.
“It’s Sunday?” Jacob guessed.
“Right,” the nurse said. “You want me to call someone?”
Jacob calculated. Dad would be at Trevor’s wedding. Aden and Blane too. Valerie was in LA faking an engagement to that producer. Delphie doesn’t drive.
“Yeah, can you call my friend Mike?”
“What about your girlfriend?” The Nurse sneered.
The nurse snorted at him.
“I figured as much. That sweet girl’s just one of a crowd, eh?” She sneered. “You men are all the same.”
“Ok,” Jacob said. “Mike’s number should be in my file.”
“You can call him yourself.”
“I don’t seem to have my phone.”
The nurse curled her lip at him. With her hands on her hips, she seemed to cackle.
“You’ll get your phone after the doctor takes a look at you.”
The nurse slammed the door behind her.
“Ok,” Valerie said.
She was on full actress mode. Her audience? Jill and Sandy. They picked up Sam and Mike on their way through the kitchen.
“Is this going to take long? The limo is due here in….”
Valerie mock glowered at Sam and they laughed. Mike held a clipboard in one hand while his other hand ran over Val’s round behind. She leaned into him. They were standing near a fireplace in the basement of the Castle.
“How long have you been divorced?” Valerie asked Jill.
“Um…. Trevor asked me in January. It was supposed to go through in three months but he screwed up the paperwork. It was a big mess but my lawyer sorted it all out then resubmitted the paperwork. The engagement party was three weeks ago. The divorce was final the next day. ”
“Six months since Trevor originally filed?” Valerie asked.
“Almost seven,” Jill said. “Right?” She looked at Sandy for confirmation.
“Almost seven months,” Sandy repeated then added in a mock whisper, “Thank God.”
“It’s not exactly right. She’s supposed to be divorced for six months, but…” Mike looked at Valerie then Sam. “Objections?”
“Sounds fine to me,” Sam said.
“I don’t care and I know Jake could give a shit.”
“Ok, check,” Mike said.
Valerie cleared her throat. “Mr. Mc Guinsey no longer has access to any of your financial records or accounts?”
“Mike set that up,” Jill said. “Wait. Mike insisted on that.”
“Check,” Mike said.
“Mike will you read the instructions,” Valerie said. “See, I’d make a great game show host.”
“Maybe when you’re ancient and wrinkly.” Mike kissed her.
“Wrinkly? Like that’s going to happen,” Valerie laughed. “Rules.”
“Jillian Roper is to inherit my entire diamond collection. However, they are willed in trust.”
“What are you talking about?” Jill asked.
“Celia wanted you to have her diamonds, Jill,” Sam said. “There are conditions on the gift. That’s what they’re telling you.”
“I can’t take her diamonds!” Jill said. “What about Val!? Gosh, you must be so…”
“Excited,” Valerie said.
“Let them finish,” Sandy said. She whispered to Jill, “We’ll sort it out later.”
Jill nodded. She and Sandy could work out anything.
“I’ll be good,” Jill said.
“Basically,” Sam said. “Celia willed you her diamonds. But you were only able to know about the inheritance, and receive the diamonds, when you were financially separate from Trevor. Celia was afraid that he would take the diamonds or the money from you.”
“What does the trust thing mean?” Jill asked.
“The diamonds aren’t allowed to leave the Marlowe family,” Mike read. “Jillian Roper can sell the diamonds within the Marlowe family or bequeath them to a Marlowe. However, the diamonds will remain with in the Marlowe family.”
Jill looked at Sam.
“Val wants to buy some,” Sam said. “That’s why she’s so excited. She’s waited nine years to get them.”
“Oh,” Jill said. “Why would I sell them? Val can just have what she wants.”
“Nope,” Valerie said. “Doesn’t work like that. Mike?”
“There’s a hand written note here Jill. It says, ‘Welcome to the family’.”
“Celia worried that you would feel intimidated by all this money. She wanted to give you a chance to be on a little more even footing.”
“Of course, it never occurred to Mom that you and Trevor would be married for so long. She believed you and Jacob would marry and live happily ever after. She just wanted to ease the way there,” Valerie said. “Don’t worry Jill. I’m not jealous.”
When Valerie’s face lit up, Jill saw Celia’s daughter. Pure and simple, Valerie was the kind, generous, open hearted daughter of Celia Marlowe. Jill was so struck by seeing her dead friend in another person that she failed to notice what Valerie was doing until Sandy gasped.
“Pretty, huh? Mike and I set them up for you. We thought we’d give them to you Monday but…. Jill?”
Mike caught Jill before she hit the ground in a dead faint. He cradled her head.
“What happened?” Valerie asked.
“She faints when she hasn’t eaten,” Sandy said. She kneeled down to hold Jill’s hand. “Did you see her eat yesterday?”
“She said she was sick to her stomach,” Sam said. “She just drank coffee.”
“I didn’t see her eat today,” Sandy said. “She said she ate with Jacob but we’d have to ask him how much she actually ate.”
“Does she have an eating disorder?” Valerie asked.
“Yeah, it’s called poverty,” Sandy said. “If she can’t pay, she won’t eat. We tried to bribe her into eating Friday morning but outside of a few bites, she wouldn’t eat. She’s been like that since we were kids.”
“Blane said she wasn’t eating because she couldn’t pay,” Sam said. “I just couldn’t believe it. I’d buy her anything. I don’t care.”
“She cares,” Sandy said. “I doubt she’s eaten much this week. She just had enough money for Katy to eat. She traded for the paint. She painted as a way to pay for her rent this week.”
“Oh God,” Valerie said.
Mike stood up with Jill in his arms.
“I’ll deal with this,” he said. He moved out of the basement leaving a guilt stricken group. Standing at the bottom of the basement stairs, he turned, “There isn’t anything you can do. My parents were very strict about this kind of thing - no charity. Val can you lock up?”
Mike carried Jill up the stairs as Noelle Norsen, followed by her brother Nash, came down the stairs.
“SANDY! Daddy, Mr. Lipson’s down here with Sandy! Hi Sandy! I didn’t know YOU would be here!”
“Hi honey,” Sandy said. “What’s going on?”
Aden jogged down the stairs.
“Blane can’t make it,” Aden said. “He’s having a bad day. He asked if I would go in his place. Delphie’s with Katy but she said she would watch the kids. I….”
Aden saw Sandy for the first time. His face flushed with emotion.
Valerie giggled at his reaction. She put her arm over Sandy’s shoulder.
“Wanna go to Trevor’s wedding?” Valerie asked Sandy.
“I don’t have any thing to wear,” Sandy said. She looked from Valerie’s delighted face to Aden’s blushing face. “Plus he didn’t….”
“I’d love it if you would come with me. We’re filling in for Jacob,” Aden said. “We’re just there to pay the bill and support Sam. We won’t stay for the reception. Just the wedding.”
“Val can get you dressed,” Sam said. “Can’t you?”
“Of course,” Valerie said. “How much time do we have?”
“Twenty minutes at the outside,” Sam said. “Aden’s tux is here.”
Valerie grabbed Sandy’s wrist and dragged her through the basement.
“Twenty minutes,” Valerie yelled back to the men. “And I get Delphie.”
“Wait for me.” Noelle ran after them.
Sam looked up to the ceiling when Delphie and Katy cheered overhead.
“Time to get dressed,” Sam said. “I wondered why your tux was in my closet. Delphie had it cleaned.”
“Of course,” Aden said. “You want to come with us, Nash?”
“Sure,” Nash said.
“Maybe you could help me find my cuff links.”
“Hi,” Mike said to Jill.
He had carried her to Jacob’s apartment and laid her on the bed. Jill sat up with a gasp.
“Drink this,” Mike said. He held a glass of chocolate milk out to her. “Do it.”
Jill took a sip and set it down.
Jill sighed and drank the milk.
“I can’t help it. I feel awful. I don’t have a job! I don’t have a way to take care of my child! And all this bull shit. I’m going to be some spokes model and marry some rich guy I don’t even know. The guy I almost got KILLED because I’m too incompetent to even keep a job. And diamonds? I mean come on….”
Mike hugged her to him.
“I’m sorry,” Mike said. “I’ve been so caught up in Val being home I never thought to ask if you had money.”
“I’m not your responsibility,” Jill said.
“You’re my sister, Jill. Yes, you’re my responsibility. So is Katy, but I can’t imagine you’ve let her suffer at all.”
Jill shook her head.
“Sandy said you painted as a way to pay for your rent. Is that true?”
“I’m no freeloader. It’s nice that they let me and Katy stay here but….”
“How did you pay for it?” Mike asked.
“I know the guys at Belcaro Paints. They give me seconds and returns.”
“And you give them?”
“I work as a color consultant,” Jill said. “It’s easy and…”
“JILL! That’s what your third job?” Mike was so exasperated he could barely speak.
“When did you eat last?”
“At Pete’s on Wednesday. I always eat at Pete’s when I work. It’s one of the reasons I work there. But Pete won’t let me work so…. What am I going to do Mike?”
“You’re going to let me give you money,” he said. “I make really good money, Jill. When your feet are healed, and you take in all that’s happened, you’ll decide what you want to do.”
“I will pay you every penny back,” Jill said.
“You will not. I won’t let you.”
“Dad was wrong, Jill. About so many things, just plain wrong. He never would have let me marry, Val. Never. Not because she wasn’t good for me or didn’t love me or even because she isn’t even Catholic. He wouldn’t let me marry Val because he was afraid. He didn’t want us to have friends or make connections here. He was afraid that they would get…”
“Discovered,” Jill said.
“You remember what happened?”
“I’ve always remembered what happened. But whenever I talked about what happened, I was told that I was wrong.”
Mike hugged Jill again.
“Do you want…”
“I don’t want to talk about that now,” Jill said.
“When you’re ready, I know someone who has all the answers about our parents.”
“Ok,” Jill said. “I can’t deal with it today. Is that all right?”
“Of course. What’s going to make this better, Jill?” Mike asked. “If I had known how hard it was to be with Trevor, but I would have helped you. I….”
“I know,” Jill said. “I just couldn’t let you help. I mean, I begged Megan to let us get married. One week into it, I wanted to come home. I screwed up. Then it was one tiny step at a time into a complete nightmare. I….”
“I don’t know.” Jill sighed.
“What would you eat?”
“You know, I’d love to go to Pete’s. I really miss it,” Jill said.
“Let’s go,” he said.
“Do you mind….”
“I know how hard it is to believe, but normal people don’t care about paying for a meal or helping out. They want to do it.”
“Are you saying you’re normal?”
Sandy wasn’t sure what to make of Aden. Ever since she came flying down the stairs from Val’s apartment, he had this weird smile on his face. He was so awkward and odd that she was sure she’d offended him. He just held her hand like a prom date.
But she didn’t dare ask him in front of Sam.
Tucked into the blue dress, she was synched, bolstered, pressed and made up to where she looked like… a movie star. She was even wearing a pair of Valerie’s Christian Loubouton black pumps. Her toes stretched into the toilet paper Val stuffed into the toes. As long as she didn’t have to pee, or sneeze, she was in good shape.
Yep, Sandy was prettified.
And Aden was weird.
They dropped Sam in front of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Colfax. The limo driver turned onto Logan Street before Sandy said something.
“You are acting very strange,” Sandy said.
Aden pressed the back of her hand to his pants.
“Oh,” Sandy said.
“I’m a little uncomfortable,” Aden replied. ”No blood flow to the brain.”
The limo driver pulled over on Logan Street to let them out.
“I’m not wearing underwear.” The driver opened the door for her and she scooted out of the limo. Under her breath, she said, “Can’t have panty lines.”
“Now, that’s just unfair,” Aden said.
Sandy giggled. Aden followed her out of the limo. Kissing her on the sidewalk, his hands moved to check the underwear promise. She grabbed his hands.
“You’re very beautiful.”
She smiled. Hearing the music for the wedding, they hurried down the sidewalk and up the stairs into the Cathedral where Trevor’s wedding was about to start.
Denver Cereal continues next week….
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