She’d been up on the stand for almost two hours. Since she was the last girl to be assaulted, they had wanted to start the trial with her testimony. In answer to the District Attorney’s questions, she’d gone through all of the horribleness. She’d broken down twice and started to shake violently about a half hour ago. She’d just finished talking about her head injury and how she almost died. She’d just talked about being in a coma for nearly a month.
“We ask the court if we might recall this witness if we need her,” the District Attorney said.
“So ordered,” the judge said.
The District Attorney gave Tink a warm smile and a nod. Tink swallowed hard. The next thing that would happen was the cretin’s defense attorney would ask her questions. Feeling movement, Tink watched Samantha Hargreaves move up to the District Attorney’s table. Samantha was acting as Tink’s attorney. Samantha had told Tink that she would be there in case the Defense Attorney was a real jerk. Samantha had said that the Defense Attorney wouldn’t risk being too mean because he could alienate the jury. Samantha gave Tink a toothy grin. Tink smiled back at her.
“Ms. Lipson?” the judge asked.
Tink turned to look at him.
“Sir,” Tink said.
“Do you know what’s going to happen next?” the judge asked.
“The jerk’s attorney is going to try to make it seem like it was my fault that they beat me up and gang-raped me,” Tink said.
For the briefest moment, the judge flashed her a smile before giving a solemn shaking his head.
“He’s going to ask you questions about what happened,” the judge said. “All we want here is the truth.”
The judge looked at the Defense Attorney, who was moving toward Tink.
“I will not put up with any witness baiting, grandstanding, or storytelling,” the judge said. “I have no problem putting you in contempt of court.”
“Me?” Tink asked in a horrified voice.
“Him,” the judge said.
“Oh,” Tink said. “Sorry.”
The judge smiled at her.
“If you have any questions — any at all — don’t hesitate to stop and ask me,” the judge said. “You remember how to do this?”
“I listen to the question,” Tink said. “Think and then answer.”
“Exactly,” the judge said. “Not too fast, not too slow. Don’t let him bully you into saying something you haven’t thought through.”
Tink nodded. The judge gestured to the Defense Attorney.
“You may begin,” the judge said.
“So, Tiffany, you’re a prostitute,” the Defense Attorney said.
“I am not,” Tink said.
“Objection,” Samantha jumped to her feet.
“Fine,” the Defense Attorney gave her an evil smile. “Tink is a prostitute and Tiffany is not.”
“What?” Tink gave the Defense Attorney a baffled look. “My fairy name is Tink. My father named me, Tiffany. I have two names.”
“Overruled,” the judge said. with a nod to Samantha. “It’s better for her to do this.”
“So you’re a prostitute,” the Defense Attorney said.
“I am not,” Tink said.
“Objection, your honor,” Samantha jumped to her feet again. “The Defense Attorney is badgering about my client!”
“Your pimp is Charlie Delgado,” the Defense Attorney said. “This trick got out of hand and you expect my client…”
“Are you insane?” Tink asked.
“Give her a moment,” the judge said to Samantha. To the defense attorney, he said, “Ask a question or sit down.”
“Yes, your honor,” the Defense Attorney gave the judge a sickening smile. “Are you a prostitute?”
“No,” Tink said.
“Were you ever a prostitute?” the Defense Attorney asked.
“No,” Tink said.
“You expect me to believe that?” the Defense Attorney asked.
“Mom?” Tink asked in a loud whisper from the stairwell.
She rounded the corner into the sitting area by the kitchen. Seeing Blane and the new infant, she stopped short. He was holding a bottle for the baby. She glanced up the stairs.
“Hi,” Blane said.
“Sorry,” Tink said. “I thought Mom was here.”
“just me,” Blane said. “I figured she could use a break. She’s been up every night with him.”
“I know,” Tink said. She looked up the stairs.
“What’s going on?” Blane asked.
“Nothing,” Tink said. She started up the stairs.
“Why don’t you keep me company?” Blane asked.
“I don’t… I mean… you want me to?” Tink asked.
“Sure!” Blane said. “I haven’t seen you in a month.”
“It seems like forever,” Tink said. She stood in place for a moment before going toward the kitchen. “Mom usually makes me tea.”
“I can,” Blane said. He tried to get up. The bottle fell and the baby cried.
“It’s okay,” Tink said. “How ‘bout I turn on the pot and come right back?”
“Great,” Blane smiled. He sat down and resituated himself with the baby and the bottle. “This takes some practice.”
“It does,” Tink said. “Just a sec.”
When she came back, he smiled at her.
“I had it down with Mack,” Blane said. “But that was like gassing up a moving vehicle.”
“Yeah,” Tink smiled. “Mack is a wild kid.”
“This little guy was inside Mom, you know,” Tink patted her belly, “when Mom took over her role in Olympus.”
Blane thought for a moment and then nodded.
“Do you think that’s why he’s so mellow?” Tink asked.
“Probably,” Blane said. “He’s very sweet.”
Tink nodded. The kettle whistled and she got up to make tea. She returned with a cup of peppermint for Blane and some relaxing tea for herself.
“I like that you call Heather ‘Mom’ now,” Blane said.
“She took a bullet for me,” Tink said. “She made me go with Tanesha.”
“She’s a good mother,” Blane said. “Do you think I’ll ever be ‘Dad’?”
“Do you want to be?” Tink asked.
“Yeah,” Blane said. “It surprises me but I do.”
“Okay,” Tink said. “We’ll try it out. But if it doesn’t fit…”
“Fair enough,” Blane said.
They sat in silence for a few minutes.
“Are you anxious about tomorrow?” Blane asked.
Tink nodded. Knowing there was nothing he could say to help, Blane gave her an understanding nod. Tink drank her tea. After a while, she was falling asleep and the baby finished his bottle. Blane touched her leg. She got up and went up the stairs. He followed her up. At her room, she stopped.
“Good night, Dad,” Tink said.
“Good night,” Blane said. “How was that?”
“Really good,” Tink said with a smile.
She waved and closed her door. Blane went in their bedroom. He dropped the baby in his bassinette and checked on Mack. Slipping into bed, he sighed.
“Did you want to talk about Jeraine?” Tanesha asked.
“Yes,” the rapper said. “I spoke with Schmidty and we ironed out a schedule that might work.”
“Okay,” Tanesha said.
“I think he’d like to tour with my wife,” the rapper said. “She travels with her mother and our daughter. If it works for you, Jer can bring his mother or father with him until you’re out of school. He can bring Jabari, if that’s not too much trouble.”
There was a tap at the door, and Rodney came in the door.
“Miss T?” Rodney called from the door.
“Oh, my God, that’s Rodney Smith,” the rapper said.
“I’m in here,” Tanesha said. She got up. “This is my father.”
“Your father,” the rapper said. “I… I… Oh Lord…”
Rodney hugged Tanesha in hello. He scowled at the rapper.
“You are a great inspiration to me, sir,” the rapper said.
“Me?” Rodney asked.
“Your interviews from prison,” the rapper said. “You forgave everyone. You got on with your life. You and your wife — are you…?”
“Yvie’s waiting for me at home,” Rodney said. “We just took our grandson to the park for a picnic.”
The rapper beamed at Rodney. Feeling movement in the house, Rodney looked up as Fin came down the stairs.
“Rodney,” Fin said.
He held his arm out. Rodney grabbed Fin’s forearm. Fin returned the gesture. With the other arm they hugged.
“How is he?” Rodney asked.
“His head is…” Fin said. He noticed the rapper. “You are still here.”
“Knock it off,” Tanesha said. “He wants to tell me about a plan for Jer and you’re all ‘I’m the Prince.’”
Fin laughed at her imitation of his voice. Fin patted Rodney on the back.
“Shall we listen to the plan?” Fin asked Rodney.
“I need to get clothes for Jabari. And Toto,” Rodney said. He looked at Tanesha. “Jabari said that Toto doesn’t like school, so he stayed home. But Toto can’t sleep without him.”
“Oh,” Tanesha said. “I washed Toto. He’s…”
She was about to get the stuffed elephant. She stopped short and pointed at Fin.
“Behave,” Tanesha said to Fin.
“You have my word,” Fin said.
She left with Rodney. When they returned, they found Fin and the rapper drinking beer and smoking cigars on the back porch.
“He says Jer can bring someone with him to help,” Fin said. “I guess, James Schmidt has already spoken with the gorgeous Dionne and Leroy…”
“Who’s that?” the rapper asked.
“Bumpy,” Tanesha said.
“Really?” the rapper asked.
“I’d be happy to let the man know you think that about his name,” Rodney said.
“I meant no disrespect, certainly not to the best bassist in the world,” the rapper said. “I’ve just never heard his name.”
Rodney gave the man a firm nod. Tanesha smiled.
“Looks like it’s all handled,” Rodney said. “That’s good.”
“When you’re done with school this summer, you can come along,” the rapper said. “He’ll be in Europe. Jabari can come with him or come with you. Either way, he’s welcome.”
Tanesha raised her eyebrows.
“You’ve never been?” the rapper asked.
Tanesha and Rodney shook their heads in unison.
“Well, you’ll both have to come,” the rapper said. “On me. We’ll show you the sights. It will be fun.”
“What if Jer gets sick?” Tanesha asked. “Or can’t handle it? Or both?”
“That’s the beauty of it,” the rapper said. “He’s not on the bill. He can do as much or as little as he wants. When we get an idea of how he’s doing, then we’ll let people know or maybe just let the Internet do it’s magic. Either way, the chance that he’ll be there will help us to sell out the tour.”
“If I come to the Isle of Man, will you show me around?” the rapper asked Fin. “To all the secret places and shit.”
“It would be my pleasure,” Fin said. “Especially to show you the shit.”
The rapper laughed. Fin smiled.
“I need to get back,” Rodney said. “Yvie’s waiting on me.”
Tanesha showed Rodney out. He kissed her cheek and left the house. When she returned to the back porch, Fin was grilling steaks and the rapper was laughing. She settled in to have a beer. She was so relieved that all of this had worked out that she didn’t mind the late night or the grilling. She just relaxed and let Fin do his thing.
Tanesha was just starting the dishwasher when there was a knock on the front door. The doorbell rang . Tanesha looked up the stairs to see if the noise had awakened Jeraine. There was no sound from upstairs. She wasn’t surprised. Yesterday had been a huge day. She slid across the hardwood floors in her socks. Very carefully, she opened the door and peeked out.
Her favorite rapper and record company executive was standing on their front porch. She put her finger to her lip and he nodded. She opened the door and stepped out. Crazy Aunt Phy was no longer sitting on her front porch. She looked across the street. Aunt Phy waved to her and went inside her gran’s house.
“How did you get past the fence?” Tanesha whispered.
“I told it that I have made an agreement with Jammy,” the rapper said.
“Hrmpt,” Tanesha scowled at him. He might be her favorite but that didn’t mean he could be trusted. She had to ask, “And Aunt Phy?”
“Gave her a Cuban,” the rapper said.
“A cigar?” Tanesha asked.
The rapper shrugged. Still scowling, Tanesha nodded.
“I did make an agreement with Jammy,” the rapper said. “He said it was up to you. If you agreed, he’d draw up the contracts.”
“If I agreed?” Tanesha asked. “What about Jeraine?”
The rapper chuckled.
“It’s his career!” Tanesha said.
“That may be true, but Jer doesn’t give a shit about anything in this world other than you,” the rapper said. He nodded. “I did four years on tour with him and three others off and on. I will tell you that no matter what that man says or does, he belongs to you.”
Tanesha frowned. She nodded toward the door. The rapper nodded. She opened the door and he went inside. For a moment, he stood on the threshold.
“Wow,” the man said.
“Wow?” Tanesha asked.
“I wish my wife could see this,” he said. “It feels so…”
Fin appeared out of nowhere.
“Hey I came as soon as…” Fin said to Tanesha.
The rapper dropped to his knees.
“Prince Finegal,” the rapper said.
Tanesha and Fin were so surprised that they both gawked at him.
“What?” the rapper asked. “Did I do it wrong?”
“Do what?” Tanesha asked.
“Show respect,” the rapper said. “Jammy said that if a big guy with brother dreads appeared out of thin air that I was in the presence of a fairy prince. Prince Finegal. He said that Prince Finegal looked like a nice guy but he’d just as soon kill me as have a conversation with me.”
The rapper gave Fin a vague smile.
“I’d rather not die tonight,” the rapper said.
“Fair enough,” Fin said.
Fin nodded to the rapper. He held his hand out and helped pull the rapper to his feet.
“Are you truly a prince?” the rapper asked.
Fin cocked his head to the side and his clothing transformed to his court attire. Overwhelmed at the sight, the rapper fell to his knees again.
“She is a princess,” Fin said.
Before she could stop him, Fin transformed Tanesha into her court attired complete with jewels. The rapper’s mouth fell opened.
“Enough!” Tanesha said.
They instantly transformed to their usual clothing.
“Excuse me,” Fin said. “I need to check on Jeraine.”
The rapper gave his an odd nod. He was gone a few minutes before the rapper got up off his knees.
“You’re having a strange night,” Tanesha said.
“Different,” the rapper said. “Magnificent.”
“Did you wish to speak with me?” Tanesha asked.
“Yes,” the rapper said.
She guided him into the living room.
“Did I tell you how much I love this house?” the rapper asked.
“No,” Tanesha shook her head.
“It feels so… warm,” the rapper said. “It’s as if the house were alive. We are safe, warm…”
The rapper nodded.
“We’ve been very happy here,” Tanesha said.
“That’s not surprising ,” the rapper said.
“Did you want to talk about Jeraine?” Tanesha asked.
“Yes,” the rapper said. “I spoke with Schmidty and we ironed out a schedule that might work.”
“How you doing there, Mikey?” Lieutenant Colonel Alexandra Hargreaves asked over the intercom. They were flying to Denver in a Blackhawk Helicopter.
“He threw up again,” Sergeant Margaret Peaches said in reply.
“Jeez, Mike,” Captain Andrew “Trece” Ramirez said. “I went through it. I survived. How bad can it be?”
“B-b-b-ad,” Sergeant Michael Scully, Junior said.
“He’s stuttering, again,” Captain Zack “the Jakker” Jakkman said from the cockpit.
“Man up, Scully!” Chief Royce Tubman said.
“Col, can you give him something?” Alex asked.
“Not and be sure he can safely parachute,” Captain Colin Hargreaves said.
“You can jump with me, MJ,” Captain Chris “The White Boy” Blanco said. “We can strap you on my back. I don’t mind.”
“F-f-f… shit,” MJ said. “Kiss my ass, Blanco.”
“See! He’s better,” Trece said.
“Magic,” the White Boy said.
“Holy, holy, holy!” Zack sang over the intercom.
Colin, Alex, and Captain Vince Hutchins picked up the song.
“Ok, whoever is going better get in position,” Zack said.
“Who’s going?” Major Joseph Walter said.
“Colin, me, MJ, Trece,” Alex said.
“I’m assisting, Scully,” White Boy said.
He stood up and wrapped his arms around MJ’s waist.
“Get off me,” MJ said.
“He’s really a lot better,” Trece said. “Keep up the good work.”
“Thanks, man,” White Boy said.
“You’d better jump if you’re going to,” Zack yelled.
They stood up and grabbed their parachutes. Their partners — Raz for Alex, Margaret for MJ, White Boy for Trece, and Joseph for Colin — checked their parachutes and gear.
Colin jumped first followed by Trece. MJ jumped after Trece. Alex watched them drop before following them from the helicopter. Late, they dropped fast only to slow just before the ground. They landed in the parking lot of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on Colfax Boulevard in Denver. Alex grabbed MJ’s parachute and Colin unhooked him.
“Come on!” Colin yelled. “I’ll show you the way.”
Colin took MJ’s arm and they ran into the Cathedral.
“D-d-don’t know,” MJ said when they reached the priest’s office.
“What’s the problem?” Colin asked in a low tone. “You love your life. You love Honey. Why are you so freaked out?”
“Sinner,” MJ said and pointed to his chest.
“Eh,” Colin lifted a shoulder in a shrug. “Just go to confession. You’ll be fine.”
Colin walked MJ down the hall. The priest’s door was open. Near the door, Colin pushed MJ into the room. Stumbling, he tripped over the threshold.
“Michael!” the priest said. “Welcome! I believe you know everyone.”
MJ saw Jacob, Jill, Aden, and Sandy. Honey smiled at him. His mouth fell open with surprise.
“You’re here too?” MJ asked. “How?”
“We’re getting married together,” Honey said.
“Would you prefer it was just you and Honey?” the priest asked.
“No,” MJ said quickly. “No. This is…”
He looked at the two other couples.
“This is great,” MJ smiled. “You didn’t tell me because…”
“We didn’t know either,” Aden said. “Jake didn’t tell me and I didn’t tell him. We left the same work site. You can’t imagine my surprise to pull in to the lot right after he did.”
Jill, Sandy, and Honey beamed at each other.
“Surprise?” Honey smiled at him.
Chuckling to himself, MJ leaned over to kiss Honey.
“Shall we start?” the priest asked.
“Sure,” MJ said. He pulled off his helmet. “Sorry I’m late. We were… oh, never mind.”
“Nothing you can prove,” Aunt Phy said. She wiggled her nose and the phone stopped smoking. “Why do you think it was me?”
“Because I surely didn’t do that,” Tanesha said.
“No, you just tried to burn down the entire town,” Crazy Aunt Phy said. “Damn Tanesha. Drink the tea!”
“I had three cups!” Tanesha said.
“You did not,” Crazy Aunt Phy said.
Tanesha stomped to the kitchen sink where her cup was sitting. She shoved the cup at Aunt Phy. Her Aunt took the cup and ran her finger over the brim. She scowled. She stuck her finger inside the cup to taste the remnant of tea.
“Damn,” Crazy Aunt Phy said.
“Well?” Tanesha raised her eyebrows and looked at the woman.
“Three cups and you’re still popping?” Aunt Phy asked.
“Looks like our little girl has grown into a strong fairy,” Aunt Phy said. Her eyes welled with tears. She gave an exaggerated sniff. “I’m so proud.”
Tanesha scowled. Seeing her scowl, Aunt Phy laughed.
“What are we going to do?” Tanesha asked.
We aren’t doing anything,” Aunt Phy said. “I’m going to sit on your porch and keep guard. You are going to study your school work and take care of your man.”
“I have to pick up Jabari in an hour,” Tanesha said. “Jer is out for the night.”
“Your mother can pick up the boy,” Aunt Phy said. “In fact, she’s just about to call and ask if she can keep the child for the night.”
Tanesha’s phone rang. Shaking her head, Tanesha answered. Her mother had called to ask if Jabari could spend the night. Rodney was getting off work early. They wanted to take him and Mr. Chesterfield for a picnic in the park. Her mother was delighted when Tanesha agreed to the plan.
“How did you do that?” Tanesha asked Aunt Phy after she’d hung up.
“Do what?” Aunt Phy gave Tanesha a cockeyed blink of her eyes.
Tanesha smiled. She was just about to say something when they heard the slamming of a car door.
“Uh oh,” Aunt Phy said.
She gave Tanesha a little wave before jettisoning out the door. Tanesha watched the door for a moment. She heard Aunt Phy settle into a rocking chair on the porch. Shaking her head, Tanesha took out her text book. She was about to sit down when she heard Aunt Phy yell, “Have another cup of tea.”