Denver Cereal Denver Cereal

Chapter Four Hundred and sixteen : Checking in (part four)

CHAPTER FOUR HUNDRED AND SIXTEEN

(part five)

Friday night — 7:55 p.m.

Jeraine returned from the kitchen with a bowl of chili in each hand. He went to the fire pit nearest the fence where the other men had congregated. He gave the bowl in his right hand to Fin before taking a seat nearby.

“Hey! What about mine?” Mike asked with a laugh.

“Your bowl was full when I left,” Jeraine said.

“We should bring the pot out here,” Aden said.

“I can have it here with a snap of my fingers,” Fin said.

“No,” MJ said. “If you use some cockamamie fairy crap to get it out here, we’ll turn into circus animals for your amusement. I’m enlisted military. I don’t need any one else telling me what to do.”

The men laughed. Mike got up to get the chili. Aden followed close behind. MJ grunted at Fin one last time before heading into the new bathroom off the garage. Fin snapped his fingers and a metal grill appeared over the fireplace.

“Have you decided to get over your anger with me?” Fin asked in an exaggerated princely voice.

Mouthful of chili, Jeraine snorted at Fin.

“This is delicious,” Fin said about the chili. “What is it?”

“It’s called ‘chili’,” Jeraine said. “I made it with buffalo …”

“Bison?”

“Bison meat,” Jeraine said.

He grinned at Fin’s need to be superior. Catching Jeraine’s grin, Fin gave a slight shake of his head.

“I was merely making sure your mind was working correctly,” Fin said. “I was … helping.”

“You were being a dick,” Jeraine said.

Fin grinned and looked away from Jeraine.

“There are few who speak to me in this way,” Fin said.

“In the last couple months, I realized that by doing what I do, being as popular as I am, I’m kind of a prince myself,” Jeraine said. “You might be a fairy prince, but you’ve got nothing on me.”

“If you say so,” Fin said.

“You really are a dick,” Jeraine said.

“And you are an insecure, egotistical child,” Fin said. “My Tanesha loves you, and you waste your time and talent on all of this worry about who might be better than you. It’s ridiculous.”

Fin’s words caught Jeraine’s full attention.

“What?” Jeraine asked. He leaned forward and squinted.

“I know that you heard me,” Fin said. “What are you asking?”

“You said something about wasting my talent,” Jeraine said.

“You are extremely talented,” Fin said. “You have power of music — the very sound of our universe itself — and you waste it on worry, jealousy, addiction, women, and all of this ridiculousness. If my granddaughter hadn’t grabbed you by the testicles, you would have wasted a real chance to ease the suffering on this planet.”

“She didn’t …” Jeraine started.

He looked down at the chili and took a bite. He glared at Fin while he chewed. Fin glared back.

“I was blamed for a murder …” Jeraine started.

“And why were you with this disturbed woman in the first place?” Fin asked. “Did I miss something? Modern culture can be so confusing. I was under the impression that you felt that Tanesha had stolen your manhood. Weren’t you attempting to retrieve your testicles by sleeping with strangers?”

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow…


Chapter Four Hundred and sixteen : Checking in (part three)

CHAPTER FOUR HUNDRED AND SIXTEEN

(part three)

Friday afternoon — 6:55 p.m.

“Did you finish the floor?” a small dark-haired man said in a heavy Northern Ireland accent. “We could lose everything if the even a piece of the floor isn’t clean and perfect.”

“God, Cian, really?” Colin Hargreaves said to the small man.

“That Health Department is no joke,” Cian said. “If we lose our license, we’ll have to close. Then we’ll go broke and Johnny will go broke and Eoin’s family will be on the streets and …”

“We scrubbed the floor,” Nash said.

“It’s ready for tomorrow,” Teddy said.

“Thank you, boys,” Colin said.

He glared at Cian. Over the boys heads, Colin and Cian had a silent pantomime of glares and shaking of heads.

“We’ll see,” Cian said.

“You have to forgive him,” Colin said. “He’s seen the worst of what people can dish out, particularly the government.”

“They don’t call her ‘Bloody Maggie’ for nothin’” Cian said.

“No one calls her ‘Bloody Maggie’ but you and your mates,” Colin said with a roll of his eyes.

“Bloody Maggie?” Nash asked.

“Something from a long time ago,” Colin said. “Our friend here is worried about his daughter, Ooljee, because she’s not here right now. She has a special gift which can make things hard for her. She and Cian are very close. He helps her stay even and she helps him stay sane.”

“How do we know she’s safe?” Cian asked.

“And safe,” Colin said. Turning to Cian, he said, “You could go see her. You were specifically invited.”

“I don’t want to interrupt the magic,” Cian said with a shake of his head.

“He is also suspicious of shamanic power,” Colin said. He put his hand on Cian’s shoulder. “You’re bat-shit crazy, man.”

“And proud of it,” Cian said with a laugh. “Now that our work is done, shall we head home for dinner? Or go upstairs and bother Eoin?”

Cian’s face lit up at the last suggestion.

“Upstairs!” Teddy and Nash said on cue.

“You boys,” Cian said. “So demanding.”

Cian winked at Colin and headed toward the back stairway.

“Are you coming, Colin?” Cian asked. “You’ll miss the fun!”

Colin scowled after Cian.

“Fun?” Teddy asked. “What fun?”

“You’ll find out,” Cian sang as he went up the stairs, “soooon.”

The boys grinned at each other before following him up. Teddy’s dad, Zack Jakkman, was standing at the top of the stairs.

“Dad!” Teddy stepped into his tight embrace. “What are you …?”

Zack was an active duty US Air Force pilot. He was usually on assignment this time of year.

“Happy birthday, Teddy,” Zack said. He kissed Teddy’s cheek and hugged him again. “I’m so glad you’re here.”

“Love you, Dad.” Teddy’s muffled voice came from Zack’s chest.

Teddy backed up and looked at Nash.

“Can you believe …?” Teddy started. He read Nash’s smile. “You mean you set this up?”

“I just did the reminding,” Nash said. “Noelle was really sad that she couldn’t come. I told her it was boys only. And you know like how they’re on a girls’ only trip.”

Teddy nodded.

“She said to tell you ‘Happy Birthday’ and that there’s a Sandy cake waiting for you on Sunday.”

“A Sandy cake?” Teddy asked with a nod and a grin.

“Lucky boy!” Zack said.

“I know,” Nash said. “I can’t wait.”

Teddy and Zack laughed.

“Come on, boys,” Zack said. “The party’s in there.”

Zack put his arm around his eldest son and they went into Eoin’s apartment for Teddy’s birthday celebration.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow…


Chapter Four Hundred and sixteen : Checking in (part two)

CHAPTER FOUR HUNDRED AND SIXTEEN

(part two)

“Just the snacks and some ice cream,” Wanda said. “You’re getting the pizza, Dad?”

“Pizza and salad coming up!” Erik said and got out of the SUV.

Wanda’s mother gave the girls another long look before getting out of the SUV. She leaned back in.

“No funny business, girls,” Edith said.

The girls didn’t say a word until Wanda’s parents had walked away from the SUV.

“I’m so excited!” Wanda said. She turned to look at Ivy, and asked, “What are you getting?”

“Getting?” Ivy asked.

“I’m sure Ms. Delphie would let you have a dog or a cat or a bunny or …?” Noelle asked.

“Really?” Ivy looked flabbergasted at the idea. “Who would pay for it?”

“Wanda’s dad will pay for now,” Noelle said with a nod. Knowing Sissy, Noelle knew how important it was to figure out these details beforehand. “But he’ll be reimbursed by, Ms. Delphie or my mom or my dad or Ms. Valerie or Mr. Sam — he’s a big animal lover — or Mr. Mike, or …” Noelle started.

“Really?” Ivy asked again.

“I’ve known Delphie a long, long time — most of my life really — and I can say that she would love any animal,” Noelle said. Tink gave a cheer into the phone. “Especially if you feel connected to it. You should call her.”

“Call her?” Ivy asked. “How?”

“With your cell phone,” Noelle said.

“Oh, I always forget about that,” Ivy blushed. “It’s just all new and I …”

Noelle hugged Ivy. They listened to Tink saying her good-byes to Heather.

“I took care of it,” Tink said.

“You’re getting a dog?” Ivy tried to be excited for her friend but her own mixture of anticipation and assumed disappointment was too great. She sounded disappointed.

“No silly,” Tink said. “Heather was standing next to Delphie. She asked Delphie for you.”

“What did she say?” Ivy asked, her voice laced with hope.

“She said listen to your heart,” Tink said. “If there’s an animal, any animal, for you, you will know it. But be sure it’s your animal. It’s a place with lots of animals who would all like to come home with you.”

“How will I know?” Ivy asked.

“She said that you’ve been working on it,” Tink said. Ivy looked off for a moment before nodding. “But for the rest of us, she said that we should listen to our hearts. I thought that was good advice for all of us.”

Tink turned around to look at Ivy.

“Before you ask how you’re going to pay for it,” Tink said.

“She already did,” Noelle said with a nod.

Tink grabbed Ivy’s hand and gave it a squeeze.

“Delphie said to remember that you have a credit card,” Tink said.

“I do?” Ivy asked.

“I’ve seen it,” Noelle said. “I have one too. It’s prepaid in case we need money but won’t mess everything up if we lose it.”

Ivy looked in her tiny Mexican hand weaved purse from Valerie for the card. Finding it, she looked up at Tink and nodded.

“One good thing,” Wanda said with a giant grin on her face. “If we get them together, they’ll all get along!”

Noelle clapped her hands. Tink beamed, and Wanda gave a little cheer. Overwhelmed, Ivy didn’t say anything. Noelle touched her leg.

“If I get an animal then …” Ivy said and stopped. “I mean that’s me adding to …”

“You’re family,” Noelle said. “That’s how it should be.”

Ivy began to cry. The other girls comforted her. By the time Wanda’s parents had returned, Ivy’s storm had passed. The girls were excitedly looking on the Dumb Friend’s League website on their phones to see what was available for adoption.

“Ready girls?” Edith asked.

The girls cheered. Laughing, Erik started the car.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow…


Chapter Four Hundred and sixteen : Checking in (part one)

CHAPTER FOUR HUNDRED AND SIXTEEN

(part one)

Friday afternoon — 6:15 p.m.

“Tink?” Ivy asked.

Tink turned around in the SUV to look at Ivy. Ivy was sitting in the far back next to Noelle. Ivy didn’t say anything else.

“Are you okay?” Tink asked.

Ivy nodded.

“You just said my name,” Tink said.

“Oh,” Ivy said. She wrinkled her upper lip. “Sorry.”

Tink reached her hand over the seat and Ivy took her hand. Ivy hated it when anything changed. She’d been like this when they were living outdoors. They were now driving to Wanda’s parents’ house to spend the weekend. Ivy had wanted to stay home. But, the younger girl had been a ball of anxiety since the Native American ceremony had started.

“I think it will be good for us to get away,” Tink said. “Too much weird energy. Especially for you.”

Tink tried to give Ivy a confident smile, like Charlie used to give her. Charlie was the only one who could calm Ivy when she was anxious.

“Are you okay?” Tink asked.

Ivy nodded. She smiled and Tink let go of her hand. Noelle leaned over to speak in Ivy’s ear.

“It’s hard to be around the older kids,” Noelle said in a soft voice.

Ivy nodded.

“I get kind of forgotten,” Ivy said.

“Sure,” Noelle said. She took Ivy’s hand. “Let’s make sure not to forget each other.”

Ivy nodded and squeezed Noelle’s hand.

“Have you done this before?” Ivy asked Noelle in a soft voice.

Noelle shook her head.

“Usually Sissy is with us,” Noelle said.

“Charlie,” Ivy said. She looked sad. “I miss him. Sissy, too.”

Noelle nodded.

“I have permission to call them tonight,” Noelle said in Ivy’s ear. “Tink doesn’t know. We get to call over the computer so we can see them.”

“Both of them?” Ivy whispered back.

“They’re waiting for us,” Noelle said in Ivy’s ear.

Smiling, Ivy gave Noelle a thumbs up, and Noelle put her finger to her lip. Ivy nodded.

“I was thinking Netflix and snacks,” Wanda’s father Erik said from the driver’s seat. “Is there something else you want to do?”

“Help Wanda pick out a dog,” Ivy said.

The words jumped out of Ivy’s mouth. She felt instantly embarrassed. She sunk down in her seat.

“What?” Wanda asked. “We’re getting a dog?”

“How did you …?” Erik asked.

Erik looked at Ivy through the rearview mirror. Seeing her large, terrified eyes, he gave her a warm smile. Ivy blushed and looked away.

“Now, Wanda, nothing’s been decided,” Wanda’s mom, Edith, said from the passenger seat of the SUV.

“I love dogs!” Tink said. “I know Heather and Blane wouldn’t mind if I get one. I’ll call Heather right now.”

“Dogs are the best!” Noelle said. “Buster’s been my best friend through losing my mom and my broken cheekbone and …”

Noelle rattled off all of the difficult situations that Buster had helped her get through. When Erik’s attention turned back to the road, Ivy watched Wanda’s father in the rearview mirror. He had an eye on her now — not in a bad way, but not necessarily in a good way. After this outburst, Ivy couldn’t pretend to be normal around him anymore. As if he’d heard her thoughts, Wanda’s father gave Ivy a kind nod. She couldn’t help but smile. Maybe she was wrong.

Wanda’s father pulled into the big parking lot on Colorado Boulevard.

“Anything else girls?” Wanda’s mother asked.

The girls shook their heads.

“Really?” Wanda’s mother asked.

“Just the snacks and some ice cream,” Wanda said. “You’re getting the pizza, Dad?”

“Pizza and salad coming up!” Erik said and got out of the SUV.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow…


Chapter Four Hundred and fifteen : Shifting wind (part six)

CHAPTER FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTEEN

(part six)

“I’ve visualized this moment for … years,” Tanesha said. “And here I … what the …?”

She pointed to the bodyguards standing in front of the door. Fin raised an eyebrow to her.

“Mommy!” Like a dream, Jabari ran to her screaming her name. “Mommy!!”

She picked him up and kissed his cheek. The child threw his arms around Tanesha’s neck. When she looked ahead again, the bodyguards had stepped aside to show Jeraine. He held a bottle of expensive champagne and a few dozen red roses. He took two quick steps across the hall to her.

“I don’t want to interfere,” Jeraine said. “I just wanted to be here to celebrate.”

Tanesha felt like she was floating. She looked at Fin, who smiled at her. He plucked Jabari off her chest to make room for Jeraine to hug her. Jeraine kissed her cheek and gave her the roses. Tanesha felt her eyes well with tears.

“Say something,” Jeraine said in a soft tone.

“It’s good to see you,” Tanesha said.

“There’s a mess at the Castle,” Jeraine said. “I knew if I wanted even a moment with you, I should come here.”

She leaned back and kissed his lips.

“It’s all arranged,” Jeraine said. “I’m staying with you in the little basement room. Fantastic, by the way. Jabari’s staying with my parents. My mom’s mad that she hasn’t seen him in a while.”

“Grandparents rights,” Jeraine and Tanesha said in unison and laughed.

“Blane’s not here,” Tanesha said.

“But I am,” Jeraine said. “I haven’t cooked in a good while.”

“What about Jake?” Tanesha asked.

“I was just about to say that,” Jeraine said. “We stopped there on our way into town. I made some marinade for the chicken. We got a list of what was needed and a couple of my guys have gone to pick it up.”

Jeraine grinned at her dumbfounded looked.

“I feel better,” Jeraine said with a shrug. “I was like this before …”

“Before the drugs?” Tanesha asked.

“The women, the booze, the rough living,” Jeraine said. “I’m really happy you’re here.”

“I’m going to need time to recover from all of …” She gestured to the school they were standing in.

“I know,” Jeraine said. “I just want to be here when you were done. To welcome you home, to us, again.”

Tanesha smiled. Jeraine put his arm around her shoulder and the entire entourage moved down the hall to the elevator. Fin was deep in conversation with one of the bodyguards as they got on the elevator. She was wondering if she should worry about what he was saying when Jeraine pulled on her.

“Let’s let them go ahead,” Jeraine said.

The elevator door closed and Jeraine hugged her. He held her for a long time.

“I’ve missed this,” Jeraine said.

“You used to go years at a time without it,” Tanesha said.

“I’ve always missed it,” Jeraine said. “And you.”

He kissed her lips.

“You want to make out?” Jeraine asked.

Tanesha laughed. He took her bag from her and put it over his shoulder.

“You know there are paparazzi out there,” Tanesha said. “They can’t get in the building but they wait for me every day. I guess someday I’ll tell them what they want to hear.”

“What’s that?” Jeraine asked.

“Fuck if I know,” Tanesha said with a laugh. “Where’s Mom? Dad?”

“We dropped her at her house,” Jeraine said. “Your Dad was there.”

“He’s been drumming,” Tanesha said.

“He wanted some time with his wife alone,” Jeraine said. “I can understand that.”

Tanesha winced.

“I have responsibilities to …” Tanesha started.

“I know,” Jeraine said. “I get it. They’ve been there every day for all of your life. They’ve been there for you and our family when we’ve needed them. Jake needs everyone now. It’s important.”

Surprised by his understanding, Tanesha could only nod.

“That doesn’t stop us from making out,” Jeraine said.

“Hey! Get a room,” said a male student standing behind them on the elevator landing.

Jeraine turned to look at the man.

“Oh, it’s you,” the man said. “Jeraine. Sorry. I didn’t know it was you.”

Tanesha laughed.

Denver Cereal continues on Monday…


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