Chapter Three hundred and Seven : Why you're here (part four)


(part four)

Tuesday morning — 10:05 a.m.

“I don’t understand,” Sandy said.

Aden put his arm around her shoulder to try to keep her calm. She looked like she was going to scream or cry or both. Of course, Sandy would never do anything like that. She glanced at him and turned back to the doctor.

“Charlie was supposed to die,” Sandy said. “That’s what you’re telling me.”

“He had massive internal bleeding,” the doctor said. “We removed his spleen. His liver is in shreds. He has a few broken vertebrae and …”

The doctor shook his head.

“We’ve opened his skull to relieve the pressure,” the doctor said.

“But?” Sandy asked.

“He’s still a very sick young man,” the doctor said.

“If he makes it today, you’ll have to go back in,” Sandy repeated something the surgeon had said last night.

“I’d encourage you to focus on today,” the doctor said.

“Because you still think he’s going to die,” Sandy said.

The doctor stared at Sandy. His eyelids flicked over his dark eyes like shutters. He swallowed hard. Blink, blink, swallow, followed by blink, blink, swallow.

“When would the surgery happen?” Sandy asked.

“Later today.” The doctor looked relieved to have something to say.

Sandy nodded.

“There’s nothing you can do but wait,” the doctor said.

“I’m sorry,” Sandy said. “But there’s everything we can do.”

The doctor looked at her as if she was covered in explosives and was showing him the detonator.

“We can be with him,” Sandy said. “Read to him, love him, pray for him …”

“Well, I …” the doctor said.

“You’re going to give us access,” Sandy said.

“I …”

Sandy gave him a stern look and the doctor flushed.

“That’s my little brother,” Sandy said. “You’ll give us access or … we’ll just take it.”

She sniffed at the man.

“One at a time,” the doctor said. “Fifteen minutes max. But if he gets worse or the visits are distracting to other patients, you’ll be cut off.”

As if he was in control of the situation, the doctor gave her an authoritative nod. She responded as if he’d given her a lollipop. He scowled at her and left the private family room. Sandy sneered at his back.

“Asshole,” Sandy said under her breath.

“What did you have in mind?” Aden asked.

“I want Heather and Jill here. Now,” Sandy said. “Sissy and Tink will stay here. Seth and Ava. Everyone from the Castle, of course. And we need to get that Akeem.”

“Rodney’s charge?” Aden asked.

“Him,” Sandy nodded. “You’ll make a schedule.”

“Uh …” Aden gave a quick shake of his head. “What?”

“We’re going hospital to hospital,” Sandy said. “While we’re here, the others will be there. We need a schedule. You’re good at making those. Organizing shifts.”

“Do I need to know what you’re doing at these hospitals?” Aden asked.

“Love,” Sandy said. “We’re going to infuse Charlie with love. Blane too.”

Looking up at him, she gave Aden a fierce look.

“Nobody dies today,” Sandy nodded.

She turned away from Aden to face the wall. For a moment, she rounded her shoulders and let her head fall into her hands. As if it had never happened, her shoulders pushed back. She turned to look at Sissy and Tink. The girls gave her an intimidated look.

“Nobody dies today,” Sandy repeated. “Now, where is my phone?”

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow…

Chapter Three hundred and Seven : Why you're here (part three)


(part three)

“Listen there’s something …” Heather started at the same time he said, “I’m sorry I …”

He gave her a sad smile and gestured for her to talk.

“My mom left,” Heather said in a fast, strident voice. She wanted to get the words out before she chickened out. “With my dad, so I think I’m going to be here for a while and …”

“Psyche left with Eros?” Tres looked genuinely surprised.

“How did you know?” Heather asked.

“I don’t know how,” Tres said. “I just know. Maybe Jake said something or … I doubt it though. I re-read the story when we met and again after Mack. You’re Hedone. I knew when we met that you were Hedone.”

His voice was so matter of fact that Heather nodded.

“Goddess Hedone,” Tres said.

“Half,” Heather said.

“And the other half?” Tres’s eyebrow went up suggestively and she blushed.

“My mom used to take me, whenever I got settled and …” Heather said in a flurry of embarrassed words. “I’m going to stay married to Blane.”

Tres nodded.

“Richer and poorer and all that,” Heather said.

“Wait. Are you saying we could …?” Tres’s eyebrows went up with surprise.

Heather nodded.

“And Blane?” Tres asked.

“He knows,” Heather said.

“I know he knows,” Tres said. “It doesn’t seem … polite.”

“It doesn’t,” Heather nodded. “But he’s already fallen for Nelson.”

“Nelson who works at Denver Crime Lab?” Tres asked.

Heather nodded.

“Huh,” Tres said. He looked at Heather for a moment. “That’s a lot to digest. You guys planned this?”

“No,” Heather said. “We planned that he would be my husband, father of my children, until my mom took me. But now that I can stay — one human lifetime, that’s the deal — we’ve made other decisions. For now …”

“Blane has to heal,” Tres said.

“Our first priority,” Heather nodded. “It can take up to a year for him to have full immune function, that’s assuming that he doesn’t reject the infection or get sick or…”

Tres grinned at her.

“What?” She asked.

“It’s so clean, all above board,” Tres said.

“That’s Blane,” Heather said. “No hurt feelings.”

Tres nodded. Their eyes held for a moment. Heather blushed and looked down.

“I should go,” Tres said.

“Me too,” Heather said. “I need to get back to Denver Health to bring Tink clothes and then get to Saint Joe’s see Blane.”

“A day of many hospitals,” Tres said.

Heather nodded.

“But we …” Tres said.

Heather nodded. Tres grinned. Without saying another word, he walked out of the house. Heather blew out a breath. She waited until she heard him drive off before picking up the duffle bag and her handbag on her way outside. Once in her car, she smiled.

He was definitely the bright spot in a very hard day.

She started the car and headed toward Denver Health.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow…

Chapter Three hundred and Seven : Why you're here (part two)


(part two)

“With everything going on I …” Heather started. She shook her head. “Wait. Why are you here?”

“Blane asked me to check in on you while he was in the hospital,” Tres said. He looked at Heather and shrugged. “I was over here to drop the month end reports off to Aden and thought I’d stop by to see how you are.”

“Aden told you about Charlie?” Heather asked.

“I got the call last night,” Tres said. “Lipson care line. I would have been here last night but I needed to finish the month ends. With the earthquake and all that crap, things are pretty tight. I needed to dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’.”

“Don’t you always do that?” Heather asked.

Tres grinned.

“How is Charlie?” Tres asked.

“As good as can be expected,” Heather said. “He survived the night, which is more than the doctors thought.”

Tres gave Heather a sad nod.

“I’ve known him since he was a little kid,” Heather said. “He’s like my little brother or … I guess it’s like that for all of us.”

“I picked Tanesha up at the airport last night,” Tres said. “She’s pretty broken up about Charlie too.”

“I know,” Heather said. Her voice was vague.

“Jabari seems to be doing well,” Tres said. “Any word on whether they got on the court’s schedule?”

“This afternoon,” Heather said. “In Atlanta.”

“I knew you’d know,” Tres said.

Heather smiled at him. He turned his attention to cutting the roses. She’d forgotten how handsome he was. At least, he looked really handsome today. Fit. She could see his biceps flex through his Lipson work shirt. He smelled good too.

“I think …” Heather started at the same time Tres said, “When are you …?”

They laughed.

“You can go ahead,” Heather said. “I’m just talking.”

“Me too,” Tres said. “I feel …”

He fanned his chest with the hand holding the knife.

“First-date jitters,” he said. “I mean, I know it’s not a date and … It’s just … you make me feel …”

“Me too,” Heather said.

Tres gave her a handsome grin.

“When are you due?” Tres asked.

“Oh,” Heather looked down at her belly. “Early next month. We’re hoping Blane will be out. He’s done well with the treatment. Did you hear he started the cord blood yesterday?”

“Got the infusion,” Tres nodded. “I did hear that.”

Tres cut the last rose. He went to the sink and ran water over the knife before putting it back in the rack. He turned back to look at her.

“You’re very beautiful,” Tres said.

Surprised, Heather could only nod.

“Listen there’s something …” Heather started at the same time he said, “I’m sorry I …”

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow…

Chapter Three hundred and Seven : Why you're here (part one)


(part one)

Tuesday morning — 9:25 a.m.

Heather grabbed her purse and started out the door of her and Blane’s home. She’d just run in to change her clothes and get a change of clothes for Tink. Mack was staying with Jill. With her hand on the door knob, Heather sighed.

Would Mack even remember who she was? She bit her lip. She’d been so focused on Blane and his recovery, her mother and her weird antics, Jabari and everything going on with him, and now Charlie. She spent every night with Mack, but was it enough?

She shook her head at herself.

“You don’t have time for these thoughts,” Heather repeated to herself what Blane usually said, and opened the door.

Tres Sierra was standing on the other side holding a bouquet of Heather’s favorite roses — white roses with deep red along the edges. She looked at him and then the roses. He blushed.

“I was just leaving,” Heather said.

“Oh,” Tres held the roses out to her. “I …”

She took the roses. For a moment, they stared at each other. She stepped back and let him inside the house. She set her purse and the dufflebag of clothing by the door so she wouldn’t forget them. He stepped inside. As he passed her, he took the roses out of her hands and walked through the house to the kitchen. Heather followed him.

“How do you know my house?” Heather asked the only thing she could think of.

“I used to come here when Blane was single,” Tres said.

“Enrique,” Heather said the name of Tres’s brother and Blane’s ex-boyfriend.

“Actually, I’d be surprised if Enrique has ever been here,” Tres said. “Blane’s always treated his home as his private sanctuary.”

Tres stood in their little den by the kitchen and looked around.

“It looks nice,” Tres said.

“Why did you come here?” Heather asked.

“Acupuncture,” Tres said. “I threw my back out. He treated me downstairs. Plus, we met here a few times for fantasy soccer. He used to play before … he had better things to do.”

With a nod to Heather, Tres went into the kitchen. He opened a few cabinets before he found a pitcher that would work as a vase. He added water to the vase and found a knife.

“Doesn’t look like you’ve been here much,” Tres said. He cut the ends off the roses and stuck them in the pitcher.

“With everything going on I …” Heather started. She shook her head. “Wait. Why are you here?”

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow…

Chapter Three hundred and Six : Clear my head (part six)


(part six)

Tuesday morning — 8:03 a.m.
Denver, Colorado

“I guess what we’re unclear on is why you were there in the first place,” the Denver Police Detective said.

Aden nodded. They were sitting in the Castle main living room. Samantha Hargreaves and Homeland Security Agent Arthur “Raz” Rasmussen were sitting on the couch across from him. He glanced at Samantha and she nodded.

“Charlie was supposed to be home,” Aden said. “This month, he’s working on his punctuality.”

“What does that mean?” the detective asked.

“Charlie is supposed to be on time everywhere,” Aden said. “He’s done pretty well, so he’s really dedicated to it. If he isn’t late more than three times, he gets to take his girlfriend out to dinner and a movie – no chaperone. He was pretty excited about that. This would have been his fourth time being late.”

“So you went looking for him,” the detective said.

“I guess I wanted to help him out,” Aden said. “He’s …”

Aden’s voice caught.

“Charlie was a street kid,” Raz said. “He’s dedicated to improving himself. School, workouts, living here. It’s all new.”

“He’s a good kid,” Aden said. “Just needed a chance.”

“So you saw the fight,” the detective said. “How’d you know it was Charlie?”

“I saw his hat,” Aden said. “I called the police when I saw the fight. I didn’t know it was Charlie then. I’d just parked on Broadway and went looking for him. He walks up 15th and takes the Colfax bus. I saw the fight, called the police and then …”

Aden nodded.

“I saw Charlie’s knit cap and I … threw myself at the men … I …”

Aden fell forward. He caught himself with his elbows on his knees. His eyes stared straight ahead at the wood floor.

“Docs say you probably saved his life,” the detective said.

When Aden didn’t respond, Samantha Hargreaves hefted herself on her feet. Now that she was standing, her pregnancy was evident. She walked the detective to the door, and sat next to Aden on the couch. She put her hand on Aden’s knee and he looked at her.

“I know it seems impossible,” Samantha said. “But Charlie is young and healthy. Well loved. He’s going to be fine.”

Aden’s head went up and down in a nod. His mind was numb and his ears filled with a kind of buzzing. Samantha said something else and Raz said something. Aden got up and walked them out of the house.

He sat down on the couch.

A few minutes later, Delphie’s new charge, Keenan, sat down next to him. Not saying a word, the boy leaned against Aden.

They sat in silence, staring straight ahead, and listened to the buzzing.

Denver Cereal continues on Monday…

Chapter Three hundred and Six : Clear my head (part five)


(part five)

Tuesday early morning — 2:43 a.m. ET
Atlanta, Georgia

“Mommy!” Jabari sat straight up in bed. “Mommy!”

“There, there,” a man’s voice said.

There was movement in the small room and Bumpy sat down on Jabari’s hospital bed. His big hand pressed Jabari back down to the bed.

“You okay?” Bumpy asked.

“I got scared,” Jabari said. “Where’s my mommy?”

“She had to go back to Denver,” Bumpy said. “You know that.”

“Yeah,” Jabari said. “I did. But …”

“It’s nice when she’s here,” Bumpy nodded.

Jabari mimicked his grandfather’s nod.

“Where my Daddy?” Jabari asked.

“He can’t be here,” Bumpy said.

“Because of the courts?” Jabari asked.

“Courts, fans, crazy people,” Bumpy said. “With any luck, we’ll be able to take you home tomorrow.”

“I want to go home,” Jabari said.

Jabari’s small fingers touched Bumpy’s big hand over his heart.

“Am I gonna be big like you?” Jabari asked.

“Do you want to be?” Bumpy asked.

“Uh-huh,” Jabari said. “Will I go to the yellow house with Mrs. Yvonne and Rodney?”

“We’re not sure,” Bumpy said. “Would you like to?”

“I want to see Mr. Chesterfield,” Jabari said. “He’s my best friend.”

Bumpy nodded.

“Will you tell me …?” Jabari swallowed hard, and nodded.

“I will never lie to you, Jabari,” Bumpy said.

“Is Mr. Chesterfield hurt?” Jabari asked.

“He’s lost an eye,” Bumpy said.

“Which one?”

“His right eye,” Bumpy said.

“I lost mine too,” Jabari put his hand over his left eye.

“The other one,” Bumpy said.

His other hand covered his other eye and he put his left hand back onto Bumpy’s hand over his heart.

“Is he hurt in other ways?” Jabari asked.

“Inside,” Bumpy said.

“Like me,” Jabari said.

“Something like you,” Bumpy grinned. “He’s going to get one hundred percent better. Just like you.”

“Even his eye?” Jabari asked.

“He’ll never get his eye back,” Bumpy said.

Jabari didn’t remove his hand from his eye. His good eye fell on Toto, the stuffed elephant, sitting near his feet.

“Toto lost his eye too?” Bumpy asked.

Jabari gave a solemn nod.

“Hmm,” Bumpy said. “I bet he needs a field bandage.”

Jabari nodded. The moment Bumpy moved his hand from Jabari’s chest, the child gave a tiny whimper. Bumpy turned back to the boy.

“You okay?” Bumpy asked.

“I feel bad,” Jabari said.

“I bet,” Bumpy said.

He grabbed some gauze from the cabinet and went back to the bed. He made a field bandage for the elephant, and one for Jabari. He sat down on the bed and put the bandage over Jabari’s right eye.

“You know your mommy isn’t going to love you having this bandage,” Bumpy said.

Jabari tapped his chest and Bumpy returned his big hand to the spot over the child’s heart.

“She’s at school,” Jabari said.

“What Momma doesn’t know won’t kill her?” Bumpy smiled.

Jabari nodded.

“You are your father’s child,” Bumpy said.

Jabari giggled because he liked that idea. Bumpy smiled.

“Tired,” Jabari said.

Bumpy sat on the bed until Jabari fell back asleep. When he moved, the child made the same whimpering sound. Bumpy shook his head.

He had no idea how this sweet boy came from that Annette. He was just glad the boy was here now. Asleep, Jabari snuggled Toto close to him. Bumpy smiled and went back to reading his book.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow…

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