CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE Saturday Morning, 3:30 AM
Jill spun the empty ceramic mug on the table in the main Castle kitchen. Not wanting to bother anyone, she sat alone in the dark. Without work, or Katy, Jill felt lost. Mike and Val had even taken Sarah and Scooter to the fishing cabin overnight.
And Jacob was out of the picture. The nurse caught him working yesterday afternoon and called the doctor. They sedating him until Sunday just to keep him still long enough to heal.
For the first time in her life, Jill just had Jill to think about.
“But Jill is so boring,” she said.
“Is she?” A male voice said from behind her.
Jill turned to see a man come into the kitchen. He retrieved a mug from the cabinet and poured himself a cup of coffee.
“You’re Celia’s hot boyfriend. That’s what she called you. Her ‘hot boyfriend’,” Jill said. “I used to see you guys walking when I got off work.”
“We walked you home a number of times,” he said. “I’m Sam. Sam Lipson. We passed in the hospital but with emotions high, I imagine you don’t remember much.”
He held his hand out for her to shake. Jill shook his hand.
“You’re Jacob’s father.”
“Valerie’s too,” he said. “It’s nice to see you again. Celia was in so much pain those last months. The only thing that helped was walking. We’d walk for hours. Celia was always excited to walk you home. You brought her a lot of joy that year.”
He held up the coffee pot and Jill nodded. He filled her cup then sat down next to her.
“You don’t seem very happy,” he said. “I can explain all the complications but my guess is that you aren’t sitting in the dark here wondering about my life.”
“Oh.” Jill nodded. “Yeah.”
“What’s wrong, Jill?”
Jill looked at the man sitting next to her. His eyes held the same patient receptive quality she found so attractive in Jacob.
“It’s been a tough week,” she said.
“You mean your normal doesn’t include your child almost dying, losing your job, injuring yourself and seeing your boyfriend attacked?” Sam laughed.
“What boyfriend?” Jill asked.
“Well that too,” Sam said. “I bet last week this time you were in a very different place.”
Jill nodded. She glanced at Sam. He easily summed up how she felt.
“I’m not working. And have no idea when I’ll work again. Katy’s gone. I don’t cook or clean for myself here. I can’t go home because Trevor’s stalking the apartment until he gets married to some other girl and leaves for his Honeymoon tomorrow. I’m supposedly engaged to this guy that I don’t even know. My best-friend is appropriately caught up in her own world.” Jill stopped talking as abruptly as she started. After a few moments of silence, she took a breath. “I can’t even work out!”
“Why don’t you come with me today?” Sam asked. “I spend Saturdays going from site to site. You could come along with me. You’d learn a little bit about our business. Maybe you won’t feel so strange.”
“Is there a lot of walking? I tried to shop and couldn’t really do that.”
“No,” Sam said. “Do you need to rest?”
Jill shook her head, “I think I’ve slept more this week than I have all of my life.”
“I need to say good bye to Ruth. Why don’t I meet you here in ten minutes?”
“Oh, that’s why you’re here… you and Delphie?”
“I live here,” Sam said. “I have a room on the ground floor. We’ve just missed each other this week. But, to answer your question, Delphie and I are seeing each other. We have for the last few years.”
“What about your wife and kids?”
“Surely, you know that my children live at the Castle, Jill. As for Tiffanie? My marriage-in-name-only will end soon. Thank God.”
Sam looked toward the door where Delphie stood in her bathrobe. He stood to hold her. They were still talking when Jill returned from Jacob’s apartment where she and Katy were staying. Delphie hugged Jill then went back to her apartment.
Because Valerie made a big show of leaving for the mountains, the paparazzi had retreated from the Castle. Sam and Jill went to his Lipson Construction truck parked in the driveway.
“Ruth thinks that you should go ahead with your plan for the walls,” Sam said.
Jill blushed. “How did she know I was doing that?”
“She thinks, and I agree, that you will feel more at home when you make it homey,” Sam said.
“That’s assuming this will be my home.”
“It’s odd for you and I. Val too. We fight against accepting what’s right in front of us. But be honest Jill. Don’t you feel like this is exactly where you belong?”
In answer to his question, Jill buckled her seatbelt.
“I’m glad you came along today. Saturday is my favorite day. We start with breakfast at four. Aden and Blane will meet us at the Gyro Palace. Although, now that you and Jacob are an item, we can go back to Pete’sKitchen. Jacob could never handle a workday after seeing you.”
“He really likes me?”
“He’s crazy about you, Jill.”
“You’re right. I feel like I belong. But…”
“I’m not sure why.”
“Welcome to my world,” Sam laughed.
Saturday Afternoon, 3 PM
“Who are you?” Mike asked.
He walked into the kitchen where a short, slim blond woman was riffling through the cupboards. The woman made a disgusted sound and began tossing the boxes of cereal in a five gallon trashcan.
“What are you doing?” Mike grabbed box after box of cereal.
“I’m cleaning the junk out of this kitchen. You must be Mike.”
Mike set the cereal on the table to grab more boxes from the trashcan.
“STOP.” Mike yelled.
The woman looked up at him with a bright smile.
“Like your cereal do you? Well, it’s not very good for you.”
The woman grabbed a box of cereal that Mike was holding. They tugged the box back and forth between them.
“Who are you?” Mike asked.
“Oh, I’m Valerie Waters,” she said. “Val calls me ‘Waters’. I’m her trainer.”
“And you know who I am?” Mike asked.
“You’re Lipson’s husband,” Waters said.
“How do you know that?”
“I figured it out. I mean come on. Lipson comes home from her ‘Colorado retreats’ all dreamy and happy. No amount of yoga does what a good man can do for your stress levels. Plus, she told me about you a long time ago.”
“What’s all this ‘Who is Valerie’s husband’ crap then?” Mike asked.
“I don’t know. I didn’t know there was any,” Waters said. She moved toward the stack of cereal boxes on the table, but Mike blocked her way. She put her hands on her hips and said, “This is not even food. Why are you protecting it?”
“Jacob eats cereal. He likes it. I like it too. We eat it together,” Mike said.
“Oh. I’m so sorry. I’ve never met Jake but I know what a great guy he is.” The little woman stood on her toes to give Mike a quick hug. “Should I put it back?”
“We don’t eat too much. We eat other healthy stuff too. We just like cereal.”
“Does Lipson eat it?” Waters said.
“I don’t,” Valerie said. “I eat only wholesome food prescribed by my awesome trainer. Hi!”
The women hugged.
“Mike, you know Valerie Waters. She’s the one who is responsible for….”
Valerie turned around and pointed to her high firm rear end. Mike’s raised his eyebrows in appreciation. Valerie Waters laughed.
“Waters is here to help me get ready for Friday,” Valerie said.
“You’re thin,” Waters said. “We have work to do.”
“Wait. If everyone knows about me,” Mike said. He looked at Valerie and she smiled. “Why is Wes so upset?”
“UGH! Wesford. He’s totally another story,” Waters said. “He’s always known that Lipson was married.”
“I told you that,” Valerie said.
“Drama. Hollywood. I don’t know,” Waters said. “I like him, Lipson. I like him a lot.”
“Oh good. I’m planning on keeping him,” Valerie said.
“Now, where’s the gym?” Waters asked.
“Basement,” Mike and Valerie said together.
“Bye, bye hot husband,” Waters waved her hand. “We have work to do.”
“Bye,” Mike said to the women’s backs as they retreated to the basement. “I have an appointment….”
Knowing they didn’t hear him, he shrugged, picked up a set of keys and left for the garage.
“Oh,” Jill said. She was sitting in the passenger seat of Big Sam’s work truck.
“Oh?” Sam asked.
“Well, I just realized why people say that Jacob is gay.”
“Because of Blane.”
“They look a lot alike. Is Blane your son?”
“No,” Sam said. “We think he’s either my brother’s son or my Dad’s son. My brother died of AIDS in the late 1980s. Even as an old guy, my father was fairly promiscuous. He died right after my brother. Blane was dropped at a hospital when he was about three months old. They never found his parents so he spent most of his life in foster care.”
“Did you do DNA?”
“Yes,” Sam said. “Celia insisted on it when she found him. She wanted him to know that we were his family.”
“He’s younger than Jacob,” Jill said.
“By a few years,” Sam said.
“Why does he look so old?” Jill asked.
“He has AIDS,” Sam said.
“Oh, that’s why….”
“What do you mean I have to undress?” Mike asked.
“How can I wax you with your clothing on?” Jessie Dillard asked. A small woman with long golden hair and a bright smile, she said, “Alex? Are you staying here?”
“Yeah, I’ll stay,” Alex Hargreaves said. “I’ve seen him buck naked before.”
“But… you see… I…” Mike sputtered.
“I’ll let you two work this out,” Jessie said. Standing with the door half open, she said. “I’ll be right back.”
Alex and Mike watched her pull the door closed.
“I don’t know about this,” Mike said. His eyes flicked toward the door.
“You want to fit into Val’s Hollywood world don’t you?” Alex asked. “How many men said you should get waxed?”
“Everyone I asked.”
“Did they say it would kill you?”
“No,” Mike said. “But it might.”
Alex plopped down in the armchair in the corner.
She pulled out the handgun she always wore at her sacrum and pointed it at him.
“You won’t shoot me.”
“Wanna bet?” Alex asked.
Mike sneered at her then took off his clothing. Alex pointed to the sheeted table and he lay down. She threw a towel at him to cover his genitals. There was a tap at the door.
“Shooting people?” Jessie asked.
“Oh sorry,” Alex holstered her handgun.
“What are we doing?” Jessie asked. She looked over Mike’s body. “Can you sit up?”
Mike sat up.
“What do you think?” Alex asked.
“The unibrow has to go. You’re seeing Michael Moore?”
“I’ll clean up the eyebrows but leave something for Mr. Moore to do. We should take off all the hair from his shoulders, back and butt,” Jessie said. She lifted the towel. “I think we can leave his chest hair. Arm hair too. There’s not too much of it. It’s just long. You’ll trim it?”
“Sure,” Alex said.
“Why do I have to do this?” Mike asked.
“You don’t,” Jessie said. “You’ll just look better on television and in photos. The hair presses your clothing off your skin.”
“Oh,” Mike said. He lay back on the table.
“We’ll get rid of this hair too.” Jessie touched his public hair.
“What?” Mike sat up again. “Why?”
“You’ll see,” Alex said. “Go ahead, Jessie. Do what you think is best.”
Mike sat up and rotated his legs to the edge of the table.
“You know Val has never complained. It’s not like we’ve EVER had any….”
Alex pointed her gun at Mike again. He dropped back to the table.
“I’m just saying,” Mike added in his defense.
Jill pulled the Lexus SUV up to Megan’s house. Before she could fully stop the car, Katy flew out of the front door. She hopped up and down until Jill got out of the SUV.
And Jill knew she was right where she belonged.
“Hi,” Val said. She ruffled his hair. “I wondered what happened to you.”
After Jessie, Mike received his first professional haircut from George at Luxe Salon. George clipped, trimmed and shaved until Mike’s hair hung in curls just below his chin. Alex then took him back to her house where he stood on the deck and had his remaining body hair trimmed. Alex dropped him at the workshop to shower.
“No, I mean it,” Val thread her hands around his neck. Her finger slipped under his shirt. She sighed into him. “What happened to you?”
“I asked some friends for help,” Mike said.
Val pulled off his shirt. Her fingers played with his trimmed chest hair. He had to grab her hands to stop her from taking his pants off in the middle of the main Castle kitchen.
“We’re supposed to meet with some designer.”
“Ramon already picked out three dresses for me. I don’t need another dress.”
“It’s for me,” Mike said. Breaking off from a kiss, he said, “Mostly. They want…”
Valerie kissed him. He stepped back.
“Oh,” Valerie said. “Ramon already picked out something for you too. Who’s the designer?”
“Um …. Sorry, Alex told me but I forgot. She wants to ask you if you’d like to be a spokesmodel for some clothing thing they have coming out. She hoped to talk to you while they were in town. They live in Paris.”
Val shrugged then kissed Mike.
“You’ll talk to her,” Mike said.
“I like meeting new people,” Val said. “When are we meeting them?”
“Tomorrow morning early.”
Val dropped his pants.
She dragged him into the sitting room.
Saturday, 9 p.m.
Sandy leaned her head against the rolled towel Aden slipped behind her head. In the warm safety of the hottub, he rubbed her feet one at a time. If she wasn’t so full, she would be completely limp.
Over the course of the day, her resistance to dating Aden had waned. Of course, a dozen white roses waiting on her doorstep, a large bouquet of spring flowers waiting for her at her station, AND her favorite lunch delivered from Pasquini’s - Caesar salad with chicken and no dressing - helped. He picked her up from work in a Saab sedan which led to the ‘Is this your car?’ conversation that made him laugh. And after all of that, he made her favorite dinner - cheeseburgers with homemade French Fries.
Turns out, Aden had paid attention all those years at the gym.
But for Sandy, the flowers and food wouldn’t matter if he hadn’t been so attentive. He listened to her stories about clients and laughed at her jokes. He charmed her by talking about his worries about taking over Lipson Construction.
And he’d wanted to go out with her almost as long as she wanted to go out with him. All those years that she thought he wasn’t interested, he was just going to school and raising his kids. In fact, he said that he thought SHE wasn’t interested. Just the thought made her smile.
And, outside of a little kissing, he hadn’t mauled her or expected some payback for his attention. At least he didn’t act like he wanted payback. He had been a complete gentleman. He even insisted they wear t-shirts and shorts in the hot tub.
When he brought up birth control, they had the most mature conversation Sandy had ever had about birth control. Condoms? He had ‘no problem’ wearing them. Even after he learned she was on the Depo shot! It was up to her.
Only Jill would be crazy enough to think about love. Love was something that happened to people who’s hearts weren’t permanently broken. Love didn’t happen to people like Sandy.
Watching the summer stars, Sandy felt a definite… like for Aden. She nodded at the stars. She definitely liked Aden. When he sat next to her, she rested her head on his shoulder.
“I spend every Saturday night right here,” he said. “The kids go to a sports camp on Saturdays so they’re in bed early. I sit right here. Just me and the stars.”
“What a great way to end the day,” Sandy said.
“I’m glad you’re here,” he said.
“Me too,” Sandy said. “Do you know the names of the stars?”
“Names? Yes, Sandy, we’re on first name basis. See that star?”
He pointed to the star right above his head.
“That’s Frank. He thinks you’re the most beautiful creature he’s ever laid eyes on.”
“Frank’s a little forward.”
“He’s just trying to get in your pants,” Aden said.
“You can never trust a star. Take Fred here.”
“Which one’s Fred?” Sandy asked
“Right over there. He’s a shy guy. Much more discrete than Frank. Still, his girl….”
“How did you know?!” Aden said. “Francine says that Fred’s a bit of a swinger. Likes the boys and the girls. LOTS of boys and LOTS of girls. Even Frank says….”
Two Denver Police officers came in the gate to Aden’s backyard. Aden popped to his feet.
“Are you Aden Norsen?”
Denver Cereal continues next week….
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