Two Denver Police officers came in the gate to Aden’s backyard. Aden popped to his feet.
“Are you Aden Norsen?”
“Would you mind stepping out of the hot tub, sir?”
Sandy stood when Aden hopped out of the hot tub. She watched the police say something to Aden. His mouth dropped open and his face blanched white. He shook his head back and forth.
Before they could tell her not to, Sandy got out of the hot tub to call Jill. Jill’s cell phone rang once… and ADEN WAS IN HANDCUFFS!!
Rang twice… and Jill pushed opened the glass sliding door from the house. In two steps, Jill encircled her best friend in a hug.
“You can hang up,” Jill said.
Terrified and humiliated, Sandy clung to Jill.
“I don’t know what happened. He was just telling me funny stories…. How did you get here so fast?”
“I live with a psychic who has Aden’s house key,” Jill said. “Let’s go inside.”
Dripping wet, Sandy and Jill went to the nearest bathroom for a towel. Jill wrapped the warm towel around her shivering friend.
“Stay here,” Jill said. She took another towel and left.
Sandy stood in the bathroom shivering from the shock. Just like every other experience in Sandy’s life, her moment of blissful happiness was shattered by something awful.
She wanted to cry.
She wanted to scream.
Instead, she felt the familiar sinking numbness. The image of Aden in handcuffs bounced around her brain. Once again, life confirmed that she did not deserve to be happy.
“They want to search the house,” Jill said. “Did you guys drink tonight?”
“No, he can’t drink. He’s an alcoholic.”
“Great,” Jill said. “Why don’t we make some hot chocolate? Aden’s in the backyard. I gave him a towel but I bet he’s cold.”
“He’s not arrested?”
“Not yet,” Jill said. “They’re checking the house for drugs.”
“They want us to stay in one area of the house. I told them we’d be in the kitchen.”
Jill helped Sandy dress in her clothing. Taking Sandy’s arm, she led her into the kitchen.
“Now what do I do?” Jill asked.
Sandy shook her head at Jill and Jill stepped aside.
The kitchen was a place of comfort for Sandy. Ever since they were kids, Sandy made hot chocolate for Jill when they were upset. While the police worked their way through the house with dogs, Sandy’s mind turned to the step by step process of cooking. Her anxiety unwound and her confidence returned in the normalcy of making hot chocolate for Jill. She even whipped up a pan of brownies. The police were still working when Jill and Sandy went to the backyard with mugs of hot chocolate and a plate of fresh brownies.
Jill opened the sliding door to the back door for Sandy to go through. Aden’s back was to the door while he talked to Sam. Feeling their movement, Aden turned. He was so delighted to see Sandy that he rushed to her. Sandy blushed at his unrestrained delight. Jill took the brownies from Sandy. Aden lifted her off the ground in a hug.
“Hi, I’m Sam Lipson,” he said to Sandy after Aden released her. “I love brownies. Do you mind? Delphie made some today. They disappeared with Katy before I could have even one.”
Sandy nodded her head. Sam took a brownie off the plate.
“What happened?” Sandy asked.
“They raided Nuala’s house,” Aden said. “I guess there was some drug something… making drugs… something… I don’t know. They found Noelle and Nash locked in a closet. Nuala said that I was her drug supplier. Well, they ran my record and…. I’m so sorry this happened to you. I… I’m sorry.”
“They were just going to arrest you?”
“That’s what happens,” Aden said. “I have a record for drug dealing and violent behavior. They restrain first, ask questions later. Luckily, Big Sam came by.”
“Aden left his phone at a site. I picked it up on my way to the rehearsal dinner,” Sam Lipson said. “I thought I would just drop it by on my way home.”
Sandy would have believed Mr. Lipson’s story if Jill hadn’t laugh when he said it.
“Is that what you told them?” Jill asked.
“Uh huh, you were supposed to meet me here,” Sam said.
Jill shook her head at him and he smiled.
“You wanted a full update from the rehearsal dinner.”
“Trevor’s rehearsal dinner?”
“You were at the engagement party,” Sam nodded and Jill laughed.
“How did Mr. Lipson help?” Sandy asked Aden.
“Please call me Sam.”
“They do drug testing at Lipson,” Aden said. “My last arrest was twelve years ago… the year I started working at Lipson. When Jake took over, he insisted on hair follicle testing every employee. We have a zero drug tolerance policy. Everyone knows that about Lipson. Big Sam offered to provide all those records.”
“We’ll probably have to, but….” Sam’s voice trailed off when a policewoman came out the sliding glass door.
A little boy pressed passed the policewoman followed by a little girl. They threw themselves at Aden. Aden held them both in a tight embrace.
Watching Aden with his kids, Sandy felt a strange pang in her heart. The children were crying and talking at the same time. These three people, the two children and their father, just fit together.
The Police stopped to speak to Aden and Big Sam before leaving. They didn’t find drugs. Yes, Aden would be available for questioning. No, he wasn’t going anywhere. His children hung on him the entire time. When the police cleared out, Aden took Noelle and Nash to their rooms.
Jill and Sandy set to work. The Park Hill bungalow had been turned upside down by the Denver Police. Together, the women righted the furniture, straightened what was amiss and swept up what was broken. By the time, Sam came for Jill, the house was in order.
“I’m going to leave my car,” Jill said. Sandy’s attention jerked to Jill. “You can go home whenever you want.”
“I’ll go with you. I’m sure Aden would like to be with his kids,” Sandy started.
Jill shook her head then hugged Sandy.
“I think he’ll need your special help,” Jill said in Sandy’s ear. “You know what it’s like to come home from an awful experience. You could really help. I bet Aden will need you when the kids get to bed.”
Jill gave Sandy the Lexus keys.
“Yeah, I just found that out. I guess Jacob bought it for me for our non-date.” Jill hugged Sandy again. “I’m going with Sam. Love you Sandy.”
Sandy stood at the front door to Aden’s house and waved. When she closed the door, Aden came running from the back of the house. Seeing Sandy, he skid to a stop.
“Will you stay? The kids are exhausted. Noelle’s already asleep. Nash should be out in a moment. I could really use… a friend.”
“Good.” Aden kissed her. “Thanks.”
On the living room couch of Aden’s Park Hill bungalow, with her leg tucked up under her, Sandy felt a part of her unwind or melt. Her soul listened to this man talk about his life. His eyes and mind turned to her with an open caring she’d never imagined coming from a man. She craved more - more connection, more warmth, more of Aden Norsen. With her head on his shoulder, she fell asleep on the couch. He woke her then insisted she stay in his guest bedroom.
Sandy came out of the small guest bathroom to find Aden asleep on the twin guest bed. He’d waited for her to say good night. His eyes opened the moment she was close.
In a rush of emotion, he scooped her up. After six years of longing, his simple gesture sparked a blaze inside her. She was swept away by her own passion for this man.
Lips pressed, hips merged and they joined in a dance of sensation. Her fingertips burned with the plush texture of his skin. Her body responded at the nip of his teeth against her nipples, her neck and her ears. Her mouth pulled kiss after kiss from his lips. Each pulse brought deeper waves of connection. Fast and slow, on top and under him, she felt only her fervor for this man.
Their final blaze of glory brought with Sandy’s long held pain. While his lips kissed her face and eyes, she wept. His arms held her tight through the passing of nameless pain and sadness.
When the storm passed, Sandy attacked. She pulled and pressed at him. She bit at his body and allowed her fingernails to rake at his flesh. Aden matched her with sheer animal passion. In this pure, honest physicality, Sandy felt her soul open to him. Her hands above her head, her body conquered, she called him to join her. Without hesitation, he followed her into oblivion.
Sandy felt her very being join his to dance among the familiar stars. Around and around they waltzed until, one breath at a time, they rejoined their bodies on the cramped bed in the guest room of his Park Hill bungalow. They fell spent to the bed. Wrapped around each other, they slept.
Mike had asked but Valerie didn’t want to go out. In fact, Valerie didn’t want to leave the bed. She wanted to be tickled, cuddled and loved. He got up at some point and brought Brie, strawberries and champagne back to bed. With her head in his lap, he fed her the fruit and cheese. Looking into her hazel eyes, he saw her love for him shining back. Around midnight, they migrated to the large bathtub.
“It’s been a week,” Mike said.
He slipped her hair over her shoulder to use a sponge on her back. She lay back into his lap. He kissed her lips and she smiled.
“Are you…. Do you…. I mean….” Mike scrunched his eyebrows together. Valerie’s thumb smoothed out the crease between his eyebrows.
“There’s only one time in my life that I’ve felt this right… complete.”
He pulled her between his knees. She tucked her arms over his knees then leaned back against his chest.
“Are you going to start….”
“Our usual argument?” Valerie finished his statement. “You always start our usual argument.”
“I do? How?”
“‘You’re just going to leave again’,” Valerie imitated his voice. “‘You may as well just go.’ Or, my personalfavorite, ‘If he’s that great, why don’t you just marry him?’”
“Ouch,” Mike said. “Wes?”
“The other two were just for the press,” Valerie said. “Yes, Wes.”
Mike stared at the wavy glass block window to the Castle garden. The moon hadn’t reached them yet. The distant street lights reflected off the glass creating a wispy dance of light. He sighed.
“Sorry. You just went on and on and on and on about him.”
“I did?” Valerie asked. “Really?”
“He was smart and sophisticated and went to all the cool parties and knew everyone and wore designer clothing and produced the best films and…. I figured you were already fucking him so…. Were you?”
“Not until you told me to leave,” she said.
She didn’t dare look at his face because she knew the pain she would see there. She wasn’t proud of herself or her actions. She and Mike danced this dance so long that she wasn’t really sure what were her decisions and what were his. Did he make her sleep with Wes? No. But he told her to. Or did he? She sighed.
“What’s wrong?” Mike asked.
“Oh, I was thinking about us.”
“What about us? Are you leaving again?”
She hit his leg with her hand and he laughed. She tipped her head up to kiss the underside of his chin.
“I….” Val started.
She shook her head. The thoughts bounced around her head like ping pong balls until a single image floated to the surface - Mike’s back as he left for basic training.
“I stood at the door for three hours hoping you would come back. You’d change your mind and work for my Dad. I was sure that you’d never, ever, ever leave me.”
Hoping she would continue, Mike let the silence lag. She almost never talked about herself, and never talked about this time in their life. She took a breath the let it out before saying anything else.
“I met the mailman at the door every day for three months. And when your random and rare letters came, I’d sit in my room for a day, at least, and read them over and over again. I was sure you’d be home in time to take me to prom or homecoming or… see me graduate. When you finally came home, you were so grown up, mature. You’d traveled all over the world. I could almost taste the women on you. I was just some stupid little small town high school girl and you were a man.”
“Val, I….” Mike started quickly then stopped. This was her turn, her story. He could wait. He kissed the top of her head. Leaning back, he stretched his long arms to reach her brush on the marble counter. She almost purred when he began brushing her hair. “I want to hear what you have to say.”
“When I went to UCLA, I was going to find someone else… someone who’d stay… with me. But I never did.”
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I was trying to be good enough for you… for you.”
“Push, pull, push, pull, push, pull.”
Valerie jerked around in the bathtub so fast that the hairbrush flew out of Mike’s hand.
“Tell me this.” Her index finger jabbed his chest. “Who have you loved? Who? Who? Tell me. WHO?”
“I’ve only ever loved you, Val.”
“THEN WHY DID YOU LEAVE ME?”
Her eyes blazed her anger and pain. He saw her at sixteen year old standing at the door waiting all those hours. He saw her clutching his half-assed letters. He saw her face the last time they made love before he left for basic. And the betrayal on that same face when he returned from his first tour. He’d changed. She hadn’t.
He’d left and never came back until long after she stopped waiting for him.
In that moment, her finger bruising his chest, he saw every twist and turn of their relationship. His big hand covered her hand and finger. He raised her hand to his lips then kissed it.
“I left because of me, and me only. I came back because of you. I’ll never leave again, Val and….” Mike stopped talking. His eyes caressed her face. “I’m sorry.”
“I will fight every day to stay right here… by your side….”
Their eyes held. She leaned forward and their lips touched. Sighing, she leaned against his chest.
“But if you want to be with Wes, fine. Hell, torture has it’s privileges. I can tolerate almost anything every once and a while as long as I don’t have to fuck him.”
Valerie smiled and shook her head. This was one of the things she loved about Mike. He could diffuse any situation with a tangential reference to something absurd.
“He can have you on Wednesday nights.”
“While I play hockey.”
“Yeah, he can spend a couple hours while I’m at hockey if that’s what you want but….”
Valerie kissed him quiet.
“But when we’re in tournament….”
“Stop,” she said. “I don’t want to be with Wes. I only want you. I love you.”
He kissed her lips.
“Please don’t leave me again,” she whispered.
“Never by choice.”
“Never by choice,” she repeated his vow.
Mike retrieved the hair brush from across the room. Turning on the hot water to warm the tub, he kissed her head and returned to brushing her hair.
“So no more hockey tournaments?”
“Now Val, be reasonable….”
Denver Cereal continues next week
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