Denver Cereal is taking a break

Dear Denver Cereal reader,

I'm writing to let you know that Saturday will be the last post of Denver Cereal for a while, at least.

There are so many moving parts to my life right now. They all came crashing down last night in enormous overwhelm.

I need to take some time to clear my head and decide what's next. I don't know if Denver Cereal will continue. I always hope so, but I don't know.

It's a pretty good time to take a break. Everyone in Denver Cereal is happy and growing. They've gotten vaccines and are on their way to surviving the pandemic.

I'm going to be off social media for the next couple of weeks. If you'd like to connect with me, feel free to send me an email.

Thank you for the gift of your readership. You can't imagine how grateful I am for you. Thank you for pushing me to be a better writing, supporting me with your comments and jokes, as well as your financial support.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and a joyous new year!

Many blessings!

Claudia


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-six - Ready, steady, go!

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-SIX

Thursday evening — 7:05 p.m.

 “If there’s anything you need, son, I’m here,” Pierre said.

“Papa,” Nelson said.

Nelson and his father hugged. Pierre kissed Nelson on each cheek.

“I’m sorry,” Pierre said.

“Don’t be,” Nelson said. “Of all the things you could have given me, this is really not the worst. I’m going with an international team to find this hoard. There a big name adventure movie company that is imbedding a team to take video and photos. I’ll be famous.”

“Just what you wanted,” Pierre said.

Nelson laughed.

“No, it’s not what I wanted,” Nelson said. “But is what I am able to do. I want to always be the person who is willing to do something to make the world a better place. This is another chance to do that.”

Pierre hugged Nelson again.

“I need to say goodbye to my family,” Nelson said.

“Yes,” Pierre said. “I will be here when you return and available if you need anything.”

“Thanks, Dad,” Nelson said.

Nelson nodded to the nurse, who took Pierre’s arm and led him back to bed. Nelson left his old house where his father was living now.

He went across the sunken garden and stopped for a moment to watch the fish. He knew that when he went inside, he would say good-bye and have to go. He lingered at the pond. They’d installed a heater so the water wouldn’t freeze. The fish came up to look at him. He sighed.

Tanesha and Jeraine had delayed having their new children at the house so that he could have a little time with everyone. And everyone was waiting for him.

He did not want to go. He already missed everyone like an ache in his bones.

“Oh hey, there you are,” Blane said, coming from inside. “I have something for you.”

Nelson turned to look at him. Blane held up a hypodermic needle.

“This is the one shot vaccine,” Blane said. “I got it for you because, you know, you’re leaving.”

“Where did you get it?” Nelson asked.

“Jake,” Blane said. “We have it for employees and spouses. Since Heather doesn’t need one, I got this for you.”

“What about Jeraine and Tanesha?” Nelson asked.

“Tanesha is getting on tomorrow at the hospital,” Blane said. “Jeraine is getting one through the casino. He’s a casino employee which, as you may not know, makes him an essential workers.”

“Of course he is,” Nelson said. “Tres?”

“Had his this morning,” Blane said. “This one is yours. Roll up that sleeve.”

“What if I have a reaction?” Nelson asked.

“You are heading into the unknown with a bunch of magical folks,” Blane said. “They are there only to help and support you. You can come home in a flash. Plus, you have to travel like a regular human. You can rest on the plane.”

Nelson nodded. He pulled off his sweater and pushed up the sleeve to his long sleeved T-shirt. Blane vaccinated him.

“You know all of this,” Blane said. “What’s going on?”

“I don’t know,” Nelson said. “The last time was bad. Horrible. I don’t want to go back there.”

“Neither do the folks from French antiquities,” Blane said. “This time is not the last time. You’re going with a huge group of humans and another group of magicals.”

“Paddie and Katy,” Nelson said.

“Which gives you access to every Titan,” Blane said.

“Do you think any of them were killed in the Titan purge?” Nelson asked.

“No,” Blane said. “But you didn’t hear it from me. I think there are likely ones like Cleo the cat.”

“Asteria,” Nelson said.

Blane nodded.

“I want . . .” Nelson said. He shook his head. “I love our family. I wasn’t sure that I would love this house and I’ve never felt more at home. Like all of me belongs right here — with you, our kids, our family. I will miss you so much.”

“Then go and come back,” Blane said. “We’ll be here — yelling at the kids, worrying about Covid, dealing with bullshit, wallowing in the imperfect joy of our actual lives.”

Nelson gave a nod.

“We’ll miss you too,” Blane said. “I was sent out here because Heather’s a mess. Tres, too. We don’t want you to go as much as you don’t want to go.”

“That feels nice,” Nelson said.

Blane grinned at him.

“Go,” Blane said. “Take care with yourself so that you can come home to us. We’ll be here.”

“Thanks,” Nelson said. “Wait, isn’t Hedone going with me?”

“Not with the gorgon there,” Blane said. “She needs to watch the things that the gorgon keep an eye on. She’d rather you had them.”

Nelson swallowed hard.

“She will be there if you need her,” Blane said. “She’s pretty confident that you won’t need her.”

“Mari?” Nelson asked.

“She’s going,” Blane said. “Alex. Hecate. The gorgon. Paddie and Katy. Athena. I think Artemis is going too. The French antiquities folks. The media company.”

Nelson nodded. Nelson and Blane hugged.

“Just come home,” Blane said.

“I will,” Nelson said. “I promise.”

Nelson let go. He looked through the wall of glass to see Heather, Mack, and Wyn waving at him. Tanesha, Jeraine, and Jabari waved. Tres waved. Nelson waved back.

“Time to go,” Nelson said, and disappeared.

Blane sighed. The plan had been to blip Nelson, Paddie, and Katy to Alex’s house where they’d drive to the airport. Blane had thought it would be easier if Nelson went that way. It certainly wasn’t easier for him. Blane walked into the house.

“He’s gone,” Blane said.

They hugged each other.

“When do the kids get here?” Blane asked.

“An hour,” Tanesha said. “I haven’t had a chance to check. Did Jake finish the rooms?”

“They’re all set,” Blane said. “Let’s take a look.”

They went upstairs. Wyn had moved in with Mack in his room, leaving three free rooms. Jacob had taken a wall out so that Jabari and his brothers could be in the same room. There were new bunk beds for the new kids.

“It’s really nice,” Tanesha said. “What about the baby?”

“I was told that the baby was staying with your parents,” Blane said.

“He’ll be here most of the time,” Tanesha said.

“We can move a crib in here,” Blane said. “Or he can take Jabari’s room downstairs. Is Jabari okay with giving up his downstairs room?”

“He’s excited to be ‘saving’ his brothers,” Tanesha said. “We’ll see how it goes. He loves being an only child. If he needs his own room, we can move him back. There’s also my office and the extra guest room.”

“Tink has that whole area to herself and she’s almost never there,” Blane said.

“She’s talked to us,” Tanesha said with a nod. “I’d rather see how it goes. For now, I think it’s important for the boys to be together as they transition to Denver. When they’ve been here a while they may need to be separated.”

Blane nodded.

“Do we know about their Covid status?” Blane asked.

Tanesha shook her head.

“The Atlanta Child Protection said that they had it when Annette died. Dr. Bumpy gave them tests when he saw them, but it still takes days for the results to return,” Tanesha said. “I’ll tell you, they were filthy. Sandy had to shave their heads. They had . . . everything in their hair. Clearly, Annette was sick for a long while and the boys were on their own. They are all underweight. Honestly, we won’t know anything about these kids until they’ve settled in. Do you think that’s okay?”

“I understand why you’re asking,” Blane said. “But for me? Tink? Even Heather? We know exactly what’s going on with these kids.”

“I had a ‘family,’” Tanesha said. “But really, I know what it’s like to not be in your family home. It’s confusing and terrifying.”

“Exactly,” Blane said. “And you’re right, we won’t know for at least a year, maybe longer, what’s going on with these kids. We have to expect everything and anything. But that’s okay.”

“Is it?” Tanesha asked, her voice laced with worry.

“Of course,” Blane said. “I’m glad that they’ll be here. They will have us and all of the people at the Castle. Your parents and Jeraine’s parents have agreed to help care for them. The boys have so much support.”

Tanesha nodded.

“Just overwhelming,” Tanesha said.

“It’s overwhelming,” Blane said. “And they’re kids. They’ll adjust. It will be a great treat to watch them come out of their shells. You’ll see. We’re going to be fine.”

Nodding, Tanesha smiled at Blane. The doorbell rang and Tanesha stiffened.

“They’re here!” Jeraine yelled from the top of the stairs.

“Here we go,” Tanesha said under her breath.

She and Blane climbed the stairs to greet their new family members.

~~~~~~~~

Thursday evening — 7:45 p.m.

“Sorry I’m late,” Jill said after entering the main area of Tanesha and Heather’s house. “I had to get Katy and Paddie off and then the twins had a melt down.”

Tanesha hugged Jill.

“What’s up with the twins?” Tanesha asked.

“They wanted to go with Katy,” Jill said. “At least that’s what I think they were saying. When they get upset, it’s hard to tell. It always surprises me how close they are with Katy, even though they fight all the time.”

Tanesha gestured to the play area where Jabari was playing with two other boys.

“Since he’s lived here, Jabari has only seen his brothers a few times,” Tanesha said. “But there they are.”

“Like best friends,” Jill said.

“I’m sure they’ll be best enemies soon enough,” Heather said with a laugh.

Heather and Jill hugged. Heather had Wyn on her hip. Jill ruffled his hair and he giggled.

“You okay?” Heather asked Jill.

“Not in the slightest,” Jill said. “I won’t be until Katy’s home again.”

“Understood,” Heather said, and hugged Jill again.

“I don’t know anything about the whole ‘friendly enemy’ thing,” Tanesha said. Pointing to herself, she added, “Only child. Jeraine and his sister were so different that they are basically only children. So we’re kind of out of our depth.”

“Well,” Jill said with a shrug. “You’ve had us for a long time. We’re like family.”

“But never my enemy,” Tanesha said.

“Fair enough,” Heather said.

“Where’s Sandy?” Jill asked.

Heather pointed to the kitchen. Jill turned to see Sandy with a tray of cookies. Heather’s son, Mack, was helping her put them on the cooling rack.

“Would you like to meet them?” Tanesha asked.

“Of course,” Jill said.

“But remember, this is really new and. . .” Tanesha leaned in and whispered. “. . . they don’t like me very much. I’m the evil other woman.”

Jill rolled her eyes.

“Of course you are,” Jill said. “They will make up their own minds.”

“Remember Sissy and Charlie?” Sandy asked. “No matter what our mother said, they knew that I was there for them.”

Tanesha shot Sandy a worried look but nodded. Jill and Tanesha walked over to the area where Jabari was playing. The boys were all wearing facemasks and pretending to be pirates.

“Jabari?” Tanesha asked.

“Mama?” Jabari looked up at her.

Tanesha smiled at his precious face.

“Auntie Jill just came from showing Katy and Paddie off,” Tanesha said.

Jabari jumped up and hugged Jill.

“We had to say ‘bye-bye’ to Uncle Nelson,” Jabari said. “I cried.”

“I cried too,” Jill said.

Jabari hugged her again.

“Do you want to meet my brothers?” Jabari asked. “They are coming to live with us and Granma Dionne and Grampa Bumpy and Nana Yvonne and Papa Rodney. Our littlest brother is with Nana Yvonne so he can get strong again.”

“They’re at Children’s with him,” Tanesha said in a low voice.

“I absolutely want to meet your brothers,” Jill said.

She dropped to her knees so that she would be at the children’s level.

“Okay,” Jabari said. “This is Trey. He’s called that because he’s the third person to have his name. He doesn’t like being called ‘Trey’ so Mama said we could change it to his real name.”

“Which is?” Jill asked.

“I’m William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, the third,” Trey said.

Jill thought that he looked like he was about four or possibly a mature three years old. His words were slurred in a kind of accented baby talk. He blushed when talking to Jill.

“Nice to meet you,” Jill said. “I’ve ready your. . .”

“Great-grandfather,” Jabari said, helpfully.

“I like his work,” Jill said. “What would you like to be called other than Trey?”

“Will,” the boy said.

“Good to know,” Jill said. “I will call you ‘Will’ until you change your mind or we make it official. Would you like that?”

The boy nodded and moved away from her. Jill glanced at Tanesha who nodded.

“He doesn’t like to be touched,” Tanesha said. “Has a lot of scars.”

Jill gave Tanesha a sad look and turned when Jabari tugged on her arm.

“This is our little brother,” Jabari said. “His dad was a football player. He died last week. He and Trey were living with his daddy’s parents but they died too.”

“What is his name?” Jill asked.

“Bubba,” Jabari said. “He doesn’t like that name either because our mom used to call him ‘Blubber.’ He wants a new name too. But he wants to keep his dad’s name.”

“Okay,” Jill said. “What does Bubba like to be called?”

The boy looked up at her. He was probably just a smidge older than two years old. His eyes were big and deep brown. His face was round and his body thick with little baby muscles.

“I am fat,” the boy said in a soft but clear voice.

“You look like a little boy to me,” Jill said. “You’re probably the age of my boys. They’re about like you.”

“Can I meet them?” the boy asked.

“Absolutely,” Jill said. “We hope you’ll be good friends.”

“Are they white like you?” the boy asked.

“They are,” Jill said.

“They probably won’t like me,” the boy said.

The boy seemed so lost and sad that it was all Jill could do to not pick the boy up and cuddle him.

“My dad just died,” the boy said. “And my grandparents. They’s all dead.”

The boy nodded and went back to playing with his brothers.

“He’s really sad,” Jabari said.

“I bet,” Jill said. Knowing that the little boy was monitoring their conversation, she added, “I thought my parents died when I was little. I was sad for a long time. So I understand.”

“Me too,” Jabari said.

“What does he want to be called?” Jill asked Jabari, who shrugged.

She looked at Tanesha, who shook her head. Since introductions were over, Jabari returned to playing with his brothers. Used to the vagaries of interacting with young children, Jill got up. She touched Tanesha’s shoulder and they walked over to where Heather and Sandy were working on cookies.

“The boy was really close with his father,” Tanesha said softly. “His grandparents are the ones who took him and Trey into their home when Annette lost custody. It’s a big shock for them.”

“Poor babies,” Jill said, nodding. “How do they like their room?”

Tanesha nodded.

“We’re meeting with a child therapist tomorrow,” Tanesha said. “We signed up for a home service to come in and help. Play therapy that kind of thing.”

Tanesha sighed and shook her head.

“Do you want me to check to see what they need?” Jill asked.

Tanesha’s head jerked to look at Jill.

“Can you?” Tanesha asked.

“I can try,” Jill said. Jill nodded to Heather. “Can you. . .?”

Heather held up her hands and rubbed her fingers together. The air filled with a wonderful smell and everyone seemed to relax a little bit. Jill nodded to Heather and went over to the boys again. After a few minutes, she returned. The girlfriends moved away so that they could speak privately.

“Okay,” Jill said. “The older boy, Trey?”

Looking worried, Tanesha nodded.

“He’s the reason the boys are here,” Jill said. “He wants to be your son — you and Jeraine. He’s been jealous of Jabari living here and pushed to come live here. Now that he’s here, he’s not sure he’s deserving of being here. So he has this conflict — wanting to be here and feeling like he shouldn’t be here.”

“Loyalty,” Sandy said.

“What?” Tanesha asked.

“He feels caught between his loyalty to his mother and his desire to survive,” Sandy said. “I felt that way when I moved in with my dad. I felt loyal to the other guy, who’d said he was my dad. It’s hard.”

“That’s helpful,” Tanesha said. “Thanks. And Bubba?”

“He’s very sad,” Jill said. “He doesn’t know why his dad is gone. He’s afraid that he’ll lose the love he got from them. He doesn’t want to be here or really anywhere right now.”

“He’s suffered an enormous loss,” Heather said.

“Do they have Covid?” Sandy asked.

Jill nodded.

“They are just a day away from showing symptoms,” Jill said.

“Can you help?” Tanesha asked.

“I have,” Jill said. “We should get Blane to treat them. Bubba needs Blane and Jeraine, well, and you, of course. I guess, you know, it’s like that song.”

“Song?” Tanesha asked.

“Hold on loosely but don’t let go,” Jill said. “You’re going to be fine. Truly. They’ve been waiting and wanting, their entire lives, to live with you and Jeraine. It’s their dream.”

“And their nightmare,” Sandy said.

Tanesha nodded. Tanesha held her arms out and her best friends hugged her tight.

“We’ve got this,” Heather whispered.

“Oh you guys,” Tanesha said and started to cry. 

They held each other for a long moment and then separated.

“Where is Blane?” Sandy asked.

“Vaccination clinic at the Castle,” Heather said. “They are vaccinating everyone at Lipson. They got some vaccine today so they’re using it. Did you get yours?”

Sandy nodded, as did Tanesha and Jill.

“Good,” Heather said. “Remember, you’

“Mama?” Jabari asked. “Can we have a cookie?”

Jabari’s voice broke up their private conversation. The women moved into action. For a moment, the boys’ sickness and loss was behind them, and they were just little boys eating cookies and playing.

Denver Cereal continues next week...


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-six - Ready, steady, go! (part six)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-SIX

(part six)

“Poor babies,” Jill said, nodding. “How do they like their room?”

Tanesha nodded.

“We’re meeting with a child therapist tomorrow,” Tanesha said. “We signed up for a home service to come in and help. Play therapy that kind of thing.”

Tanesha sighed and shook her head.

“Do you want me to check to see what they need?” Jill asked.

Tanesha’s head jerked to look at Jill.

“Can you?” Tanesha asked.

“I can try,” Jill said. Jill nodded to Heather. “Can you. . .?”

Heather held up her hands and rubbed her fingers together. The air filled with a wonderful smell and everyone seemed to relax a little bit. Jill nodded to Heather and went over to the boys again. After a few minutes, she returned. The girlfriends moved away so that they could speak privately.

“Okay,” Jill said. “The older boy, Trey?”

Looking worried, Tanesha nodded.

“He’s the reason the boys are here,” Jill said. “He wants to be your son — you and Jeraine. He’s been jealous of Jabari living here and pushed to come live here. Now that he’s here, he’s not sure he’s deserving of being here. So he has this conflict — wanting to be here and feeling like he shouldn’t be here.”

“Loyalty,” Sandy said.

“What?” Tanesha asked.

“He feels caught between his loyalty to his mother and his desire to survive,” Sandy said. “I felt that way when I moved in with my dad. I felt loyal to the other guy, who’d said he was my dad. It’s hard.”

“That’s helpful,” Tanesha said. “Thanks. And Bubba?”

“He’s very sad,” Jill said. “He doesn’t know why his dad is gone. He’s afraid that he’ll lose the love he got from them. He doesn’t want to be here or really anywhere right now.”

“He’s suffered an enormous loss,” Heather said.

“Do they have Covid?” Sandy asked.

Jill nodded.

“They are just a day away from showing symptoms,” Jill said.

“Can you help?” Tanesha asked.

“I have,” Jill said. “We should get Blane to treat them. Bubba needs Blane and Jeraine, well, and you, of course. I guess, you know, it’s like that song.”

“Song?” Tanesha asked.

“Hold on loosely but don’t let go,” Jill said. “You’re going to be fine. Truly. They’ve been waiting and wanting, their entire lives, to live with you and Jeraine. It’s their dream.”

“And their nightmare,” Sandy said.

Tanesha nodded. Tanesha held her arms out and her best friends hugged her tight.

“We’ve got this,” Heather whispered.

“Oh you guys,” Tanesha said and started to cry. 

They held each other for a long moment and then separated.

“Where is Blane?” Sandy asked.

“Vaccination clinic at the Castle,” Heather said. “They are vaccinating everyone at Lipson. They got some vaccine today so they’re using it. Did you get yours?”

Sandy nodded, as did Tanesha and Jill.

“Good,” Heather said. “Remember, you’

“Mama?” Jabari asked. “Can we have a cookie?”

Jabari’s voice broke up their private conversation. The women moved into action. For a moment, the boys’ sickness and loss was behind them, and they were just little boys eating cookies and playing.

Denver Cereal continues on Monday...


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-six - Ready, steady, go! (part five)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-SIX

(part five)

“Okay,” Jabari said. “This is Trey. He’s called that because he’s the third person to have his name. He doesn’t like being called ‘Trey’ so Mama said we could change it to his real name.”

“Which is?” Jill asked.

“I’m William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, the third,” Trey said.

Jill thought that he looked like he was about four or possibly a mature three years old. His words were slurred in a kind of accented baby talk. He blushed when talking to Jill.

“Nice to meet you,” Jill said. “I’ve ready your. . .”

“Great-grandfather,” Jabari said, helpfully.

“I like his work,” Jill said. “What would you like to be called other than Trey?”

“Will,” the boy said.

“Good to know,” Jill said. “I will call you ‘Will’ until you change your mind or we make it official. Would you like that?”

The boy nodded and moved away from her. Jill glanced at Tanesha who nodded.

“He doesn’t like to be touched,” Tanesha said. “Has a lot of scars.”

Jill gave Tanesha a sad look and turned when Jabari tugged on her arm.

“This is our little brother,” Jabari said. “His dad was a football player. He died last week. He and Trey were living with his daddy’s parents but they died too.”

“What is his name?” Jill asked.

“Bubba,” Jabari said. “He doesn’t like that name either because our mom used to call him ‘Blubber.’ He wants a new name too. But he wants to keep his dad’s name.”

“Okay,” Jill said. “What does Bubba like to be called?”

The boy looked up at her. He was probably just a smidge older than two years old. His eyes were big and deep brown. His face was round and his body thick with little baby muscles.

“I am fat,” the boy said in a soft but clear voice.

“You look like a little boy to me,” Jill said. “You’re probably the age of my boys. They’re about like you.”

“Can I meet them?” the boy asked.

“Absolutely,” Jill said. “We hope you’ll be good friends.”

“Are they white like you?” the boy asked.

“They are,” Jill said.

“They probably won’t like me,” the boy said.

The boy seemed so lost and sad that it was all Jill could do to not pick the boy up and cuddle him.

“My dad just died,” the boy said. “And my grandparents. They’s all dead.”

The boy nodded and went back to playing with his brothers.

“He’s really sad,” Jabari said.

“I bet,” Jill said. Knowing that the little boy was monitoring their conversation, she added, “I thought my parents died when I was little. I was sad for a long time. So I understand.”

“Me too,” Jabari said.

“What does he want to be called?” Jill asked Jabari, who shrugged.

She looked at Tanesha, who shook her head. Since introductions were over, Jabari returned to playing with his brothers. Used to the vagaries of interacting with young children, Jill got up. She touched Tanesha’s shoulder and they walked over to where Heather and Sandy were working on cookies.

“The boy was really close with his father,” Tanesha said softly. “His grandparents are the ones who took him and Trey into their home when Annette lost custody. It’s a big shock for them.”

“Poor babies,” Jill said, nodding. “How do they like their room?”

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-six - Ready, steady, go! (part four)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-SIX

(part four)

Thursday evening — 7:45 p.m.

“Sorry I’m late,” Jill said after entering the main area of Tanesha and Heather’s house. “I had to get Katy and Paddie off and then the twins had a melt down.”

Tanesha hugged Jill.

“What’s up with the twins?” Tanesha asked.

“They wanted to go with Katy,” Jill said. “At least that’s what I think they were saying. When they get upset, it’s hard to tell. It always surprises me how close they are with Katy, even though they fight all the time.”

Tanesha gestured to the play area where Jabari was playing with two other boys.

“Since he’s lived here, Jabari has only seen his brothers a few times,” Tanesha said. “But there they are.”

“Like best friends,” Jill said.

“I’m sure they’ll be best enemies soon enough,” Heather said with a laugh.

Heather and Jill hugged. Heather had Wyn on her hip. Jill ruffled his hair and he giggled.

“You okay?” Heather asked Jill.

“Not in the slightest,” Jill said. “I won’t be until Katy’s home again.”

“Understood,” Heather said, and hugged Jill again.

“I don’t know anything about the whole ‘friendly enemy’ thing,” Tanesha said. Pointing to herself, she added, “Only child. Jeraine and his sister were so different that they are basically only children. So we’re kind of out of our depth.”

“Well,” Jill said with a shrug. “You’ve had us for a long time. We’re like family.”

“But never my enemy,” Tanesha said.

“Fair enough,” Heather said.

“Where’s Sandy?” Jill asked.

Heather pointed to the kitchen. Jill turned to see Sandy with a tray of cookies. Heather’s son, Mack, was helping her put them on the cooling rack.

“Would you like to meet them?” Tanesha asked.

“Of course,” Jill said.

“But remember, this is really new and. . .” Tanesha leaned in and whispered. “. . . they don’t like me very much. I’m the evil other woman.”

Jill rolled her eyes.

“Of course you are,” Jill said. “They will make up their own minds.”

“Remember Sissy and Charlie?” Sandy asked. “No matter what our mother said, they knew that I was there for them.”

Tanesha shot Sandy a worried look but nodded. Jill and Tanesha walked over to the area where Jabari was playing. The boys were all wearing facemasks and pretending to be pirates.

“Jabari?” Tanesha asked.

“Mama?” Jabari looked up at her.

Tanesha smiled at his precious face.

“Auntie Jill just came from showing Katy and Paddie off,” Tanesha said.

Jabari jumped up and hugged Jill.

“We had to say ‘bye-bye’ to Uncle Nelson,” Jabari said. “I cried.”

“I cried too,” Jill said.

Jabari hugged her again.

“Do you want to meet my brothers?” Jabari asked. “They are coming to live with us and Granma Dionne and Grampa Bumpy and Nana Yvonne and Papa Rodney. Our littlest brother is with Nana Yvonne so he can get strong again.”

“They’re at Children’s with him,” Tanesha said in a low voice.

“I absolutely want to meet your brothers,” Jill said.

She dropped to her knees so that she would be at the children’s level.

“Okay,” Jabari said. “This is Trey. He’s called that because he’s the third person to have his name. He doesn’t like being called ‘Trey’ so Mama said we could change it to his real name.”

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-six - Ready, steady, go! (part three)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-SIX

(part three)

They went upstairs. Wyn had moved in with Mack in his room, leaving three free rooms. Jacob had taken a wall out so that Jabari and his brothers could be in the same room. There were new bunk beds for the new kids.

“It’s really nice,” Tanesha said. “What about the baby?”

“I was told that the baby was staying with your parents,” Blane said.

“He’ll be here most of the time,” Tanesha said.

“We can move a crib in here,” Blane said. “Or he can take Jabari’s room downstairs. Is Jabari okay with giving up his downstairs room?”

“He’s excited to be ‘saving’ his brothers,” Tanesha said. “We’ll see how it goes. He loves being an only child. If he needs his own room, we can move him back. There’s also my office and the extra guest room.”

“Tink has that whole area to herself and she’s almost never there,” Blane said.

“She’s talked to us,” Tanesha said with a nod. “I’d rather see how it goes. For now, I think it’s important for the boys to be together as they transition to Denver. When they’ve been here a while they may need to be separated.”

Blane nodded.

“Do we know about their Covid status?” Blane asked.

Tanesha shook her head.

“The Atlanta Child Protection said that they had it when Annette died. Dr. Bumpy gave them tests when he saw them, but it still takes days for the results to return,” Tanesha said. “I’ll tell you, they were filthy. Sandy had to shave their heads. They had . . . everything in their hair. Clearly, Annette was sick for a long while and the boys were on their own. They are all underweight. Honestly, we won’t know anything about these kids until they’ve settled in. Do you think that’s okay?”

“I understand why you’re asking,” Blane said. “But for me? Tink? Even Heather? We know exactly what’s going on with these kids.”

“I had a ‘family,’” Tanesha said. “But really, I know what it’s like to not be in your family home. It’s confusing and terrifying.”

“Exactly,” Blane said. “And you’re right, we won’t know for at least a year, maybe longer, what’s going on with these kids. We have to expect everything and anything. But that’s okay.”

“Is it?” Tanesha asked, her voice laced with worry.

“Of course,” Blane said. “I’m glad that they’ll be here. They will have us and all of the people at the Castle. Your parents and Jeraine’s parents have agreed to help care for them. The boys have so much support.”

Tanesha nodded.

“Just overwhelming,” Tanesha said.

“It’s overwhelming,” Blane said. “And they’re kids. They’ll adjust. It will be a great treat to watch them come out of their shells. You’ll see. We’re going to be fine.”

Nodding, Tanesha smiled at Blane. The doorbell rang and Tanesha stiffened.

“They’re here!” Jeraine yelled from the top of the stairs.

“Here we go,” Tanesha said under her breath.

She and Blane climbed the stairs to greet their new family members.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-six - Ready, steady, go! (part two)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-SIX

(part two)

“You know all of this,” Blane said. “What’s going on?”

“I don’t know,” Nelson said. “The last time was bad. Horrible. I don’t want to go back there.”

“Neither do the folks from French antiquities,” Blane said. “This time is not the last time. You’re going with a huge group of humans and another group of magicals.”

“Paddie and Katy,” Nelson said.

“Which gives you access to every Titan,” Blane said.

“Do you think any of them were killed in the Titan purge?” Nelson asked.

“No,” Blane said. “But you didn’t hear it from me. I think there are likely ones like Cleo the cat.”

“Asteria,” Nelson said.

Blane nodded.

“I want . . .” Nelson said. He shook his head. “I love our family. I wasn’t sure that I would love this house and I’ve never felt more at home. Like all of me belongs right here — with you, our kids, our family. I will miss you so much.”

“Then go and come back,” Blane said. “We’ll be here — yelling at the kids, worrying about Covid, dealing with bullshit, wallowing in the imperfect joy of our actual lives.”

Nelson gave a nod.

“We’ll miss you too,” Blane said. “I was sent out here because Heather’s a mess. Tres, too. We don’t want you to go as much as you don’t want to go.”

“That feels nice,” Nelson said.

Blane grinned at him.

“Go,” Blane said. “Take care with yourself so that you can come home to us. We’ll be here.”

“Thanks,” Nelson said. “Wait, isn’t Hedone going with me?”

“Not with the gorgon there,” Blane said. “She needs to watch the things that the gorgon keep an eye on. She’d rather you had them.”

Nelson swallowed hard.

“She will be there if you need her,” Blane said. “She’s pretty confident that you won’t need her.”

“Mari?” Nelson asked.

“She’s going,” Blane said. “Alex. Hecate. The gorgon. Paddie and Katy. Athena. I think Artemis is going too. The French antiquities folks. The media company.”

Nelson nodded. Nelson and Blane hugged.

“Just come home,” Blane said.

“I will,” Nelson said. “I promise.”

Nelson let go. He looked through the wall of glass to see Heather, Mack, and Wyn waving at him. Tanesha, Jeraine, and Jabari waved. Tres waved. Nelson waved back.

“Time to go,” Nelson said, and disappeared.

Blane sighed. The plan had been to blip Nelson, Paddie, and Katy to Alex’s house where they’d drive to the airport. Blane had thought it would be easier if Nelson went that way. It certainly wasn’t easier for him. Blane walked into the house.

“He’s gone,” Blane said.

They hugged each other.

“When do the kids get here?” Blane asked.

“An hour,” Tanesha said. “I haven’t had a chance to check. Did Jake finish the rooms?”

“They’re all set,” Blane said. “Let’s take a look.”

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-six - Ready, steady, go! (part one)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-SIX

(part one)

Thursday evening — 7:05 p.m.

 “If there’s anything you need, son, I’m here,” Pierre said.

“Papa,” Nelson said.

Nelson and his father hugged. Pierre kissed Nelson on each cheek.

“I’m sorry,” Pierre said.

“Don’t be,” Nelson said. “Of all the things you could have given me, this is really not the worst. I’m going with an international team to find this hoard. There a big name adventure movie company that is imbedding a team to take video and photos. I’ll be famous.”

“Just what you wanted,” Pierre said.

Nelson laughed.

“No, it’s not what I wanted,” Nelson said. “But is what I am able to do. I want to always be the person who is willing to do something to make the world a better place. This is another chance to do that.”

Pierre hugged Nelson again.

“I need to say goodbye to my family,” Nelson said.

“Yes,” Pierre said. “I will be here when you return and available if you need anything.”

“Thanks, Dad,” Nelson said.

Nelson nodded to the nurse, who took Pierre’s arm and led him back to bed. Nelson left his old house where his father was living now.

He went across the sunken garden and stopped for a moment to watch the fish. He knew that when he went inside, he would say good-bye and have to go. He lingered at the pond. They’d installed a heater so the water wouldn’t freeze. The fish came up to look at him. He sighed.

Tanesha and Jeraine had delayed having their new children at the house so that he could have a little time with everyone. And everyone was waiting for him.

He did not want to go. He already missed everyone like an ache in his bones.

“Oh hey, there you are,” Blane said, coming from inside. “I have something for you.”

Nelson turned to look at him. Blane held up a hypodermic needle.

“This is the one shot vaccine,” Blane said. “I got it for you because, you know, you’re leaving.”

“Where did you get it?” Nelson asked.

“Jake,” Blane said. “We have it for employees and spouses. Since Heather doesn’t need one, I got this for you.”

“What about Jeraine and Tanesha?” Nelson asked.

“Tanesha is getting on tomorrow at the hospital,” Blane said. “Jeraine is getting one through the casino. He’s a casino employee which, as you may not know, makes him an essential workers.”

“Of course he is,” Nelson said. “Tres?”

“Had his this morning,” Blane said. “This one is yours. Roll up that sleeve.”

“What if I have a reaction?” Nelson asked.

“You are heading into the unknown with a bunch of magical folks,” Blane said. “They are there only to help and support you. You can come home in a flash. Plus, you have to travel like a regular human. You can rest on the plane.”

Nelson nodded. He pulled off his sweater and pushed up the sleeve to his long sleeved T-shirt. Blane vaccinated him.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-five - It's time (part six)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-FIVE

(part six)

“Oh that’s much better, thank you Marigold,” Callisto said.

“You have a tiny butt, Jill,” Mari said. “She just needed a little more room.”

Callisto laughed. Mari grinned.

“Now, Mari,” Callisto said. “Do you still have that gem that falls off the Princess Blade?”

“It still falls off,” Mari said. “The Templar weapons master . . . Have you met him?”

Callisto shook her head.

“He tried to fix it, but it still won’t stay on,” Mari said.

“May I have it?” Callisto asked.

“Sure,” Mari said.

She took out the Princess Blade. As she did, a large blue stone fell off.

“I don’t remember it being this color,” Callisto said.

“It changes color,” Mari said. “I don’t know why.”

“Where are the children?” Callisto asked.

“They are in their room,” Jill said. “They were terrified last night. They didn’t get much sleep. They’re sleeping in. Should I wake them?”

“I would appreciate it if you did,” Callisto said.

Callisto and Mari began to chat in a language that Jill didn’t know. She went across the loft to wake Paddie and Katy. It took a few minutes, but she returned with the children.

“I am Callisto,” she said to Paddie and Katy. “I am here to protect you through the coming adventure.”

“Are those real snakes?” Paddie asked. He looked at Mari and asked, “Can I have snake hair?”

“This is the owner of the Sword of Truth?” Callisto asked with a grin.

“I don’t own her,” Paddie said. “I take care of her.”

“You are so right, little man,” Callisto said. “May I see the Vanquisher, young lady?”

“I’m Katy,” the little girl said. “Why do you want my sword?”

“I have something that belongs on it,” Callisto said.

“You’re kidding, right?” Mari asked.

Callisto shook her head. Katy opened her hand and the sword appeared.

“This stone belongs . . .” Callisto held out the stone. It floated across the room and latched onto a space on the Vanquisher. “There. How does it feel?”

“Heavier,” Katy said. “More powerful.”

“It is more powerful,” Callisto said with a smile. “The stone was taken from the sword to put on Princess Marigold’s sword. I’m sure the Vanquisher is delighted to have her back.”

“Why was it taken?” Paddie asked.

“They thought it would transfer the power of the Vanquisher to the Princess Blade,” Callisto said. “It didn’t. You can’t mix and match powerful objects. But we’ll see that soon.”

“Do you have to leave right away?” Jill asked.

Callisto shook her head.

“Let’s have some lunch,” Jill said. “We’ll all feel better when we eat.”

“Sounds good to me,” Callisto said. “It will give me some time to get to know the children. We will have to rely on each other during our journey.”

“I always rely on Paddie,” Katy said.

“I rely on Katy,” Paddie said.

“Good,” Callisto said. “You can both rely on me. I will not ever let you down.”

Katy looked deeply into Callisto’s eyes before nodding.

Jill walked over to the small kitchen. Mari, Callisto, Katy, and Paddie took stools at the counter. Jill made simple sandwiches which they ate with chips and fruit. By the end of the meal, Jill felt as if she was fast friends with Callisto. She knew that Paddie and Katy felt like they were as well.

For the first time in all of the months that Jill knew this stupid quest was coming, Jill finally felt like everything, including her precious daughter, was going to be all right.

Denver Cereal continues on Monday...


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-five - It's time

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-FIVE

Thursday morning — 10:17 a.m.

Denver Crime Labs

Denver, Colorado

“To what do I owe this pleasure?” Nelson asked.

Nelson was sitting at his desk outside Ava O’Malley’s office and next to the lab. He didn’t turn around or look up. He knew that someone from the “old world” had appeared. He just wanted to finish what he was working on.

When he looked up, he saw Hedone, Ares, and Athena had appeared.

“We need to get this quest underway,” Ares said.

Nelson raised an eyebrow at him.

“See I told you that he wouldn’t listen to me,” Ares said. “He has no respect.”

Hedone and Athena laughed so hard that Ares grinned. With their laughter, Ava got up from her desk and opened her office door.

“May I help you?” Ava asked.

“We’re here for him,” Athena said.

“That’s nice,” Ava said. “This is a secure building. How did you get in?”

“They’re immortal Gods,” Nelson said.

“Sure they are,” Ava said. “Are they bothering you?”

“Outside of being incredibly annoying?” Nelson asked. “No.”

Dr. Leslie McClintock came out of the lab. She looked from Hedone to Ares to Athena and blinked.

“You know who we are,” Athena said, evenly.

“I’m not sure if I should bow or . . .?” Leslie asked.

“You’re fine,” Nelson said. “They just came to annoy me.”

“Lucky you,” Leslie said. “May I . . . Uh . . . Would you mind if I asked you some questions?”

Ares stepped forward eagerly.

“Oh sorry, I meant Athena,” Leslie asked. “I . . . well really, we need some wisdom.”

Leslie pointed toward Ava’s office. She, Athena, and Ava went into her office. After a few minutes, they heard laughing and talking coming from Ava’s office.

“What’s happened between when we talked about this situation this morning?” Nelson asked.

“We can’t wait anymore,” Ares said.

“I’m sorry,” Hedone said. “I know that you were just settling in to your life again.”

“What about the French?” Nelson asked. “They were going to fund the entire thing. They . . .”

“We put a bug in their ear about another expedition,” Ares said. “You would be amazed at how persuasive I can be.”

Nelson gave him a skeptical look.

“I dressed in a modern suit, shook hands, and all of that,” Ares said, proudly. “You would have been proud of me. I looked like a modern man.”

“And?” Nelson asked.

“They should be calling you in a few minutes,” Ares said.

Nelson looked up at the ceiling and whispered an angry, “Fuck.”

“If you’re offering . . .” Ares said.

Nelson shook his head, and Ares laughed.

“Come on, young lad,” Ares said. “We’ll have a great time.”

“I . . .” Nelson started. “I need to talk to Blane and my family again. Tanesha and Jeraine are adopting three more kids and. . .”

“They’ll be okay,” Hedone said. “We’ve expected that you’d be leaving soon. It’s actually been longer than we expected.”

Nelson gave Hedone a vague nod.

“It won’t be like the last time,” Hedone said. “We are more prepared, ready for anything. You have the support of the Titans and us, of course. You’ll have your same travel team.”

“Alex, too?” Nelson asked.

“I think you’d literally have to kill her not to have her come,” Hedone said with a smile.

“You’ve told her?” Nelson asked. “She’s really busy in the middle of everything all the time.”

“We just left her,” Ares said. “She said she needed an hour or so but she’s ready to go. Max is coming this time too.”

Nelson nodded.

“Fuck,” Nelson said again in a more resigned way. “There’s no way to avoid this. I was hoping. . .”

Hedone shook her head.

“You will need to take Katy and Paddie with you,” Hedone said.

“The children?” Nelson asked. “Why?”

“You need their swords to raise the hoard,” Ares said.

Nelson nodded.

“They need to be with you for their own protection,” Hedone said.

“I can’t find a hoard and protect the children at the same time!” Nelson said.

“The gorgon have agreed to protect the children,” Hedone said.

The laughter in Ava’s office increased and they all looked over to see Leslie, Ava, and Athena laughing.

“You made some agreement with the gorgon?” Hedone asked.

“Medusa’s head is in the hoard,” Nelson said. “She is still alive. Her head is alive under the water. She . . .”

Nelson shivered.

“Just horrible,” Nelson said.

“What did you agree to son?” Ares asked.

“I agreed to give them the head,” Nelson said. “They agreed to support me. I thought that Hedone had put them up to it.”

Hedone shook her head.

“They knew all about me and the hoard,” Nelson said. He shrugged. “They actually were lovely. Truthful. Helpful. Did you know that there are many of them? They only appear in threes.”

“Really?” Ares asked.

Hedone nodded.

“They are women scorned, abused, or used as sex slaves or oracle slaves from our time,” Hedone said. “Their unexpressed rage and anger at their abuse turns them into gorgon.”

“They are?” Ares asked.

“How is it that you don’t know this?” Hedone asked. “Zeus created most of them with his rapey misogyny. Where do you think the Sea of Amber came from?”

“From the gorgon?” Ares asked. “I never thought of it.”

“They have powerful magic,” Hedone said. “They are unmovable, powerful, and incorruptible. They’ve been behind every effort to create a safer world for the vulnerable. They live in the shadows because of their abuse.”

“How do you know so much about them?” Ares asked.

“My friend Tanesha had to do a report on them when she was in college,” Hedone said. “I went to find out what I could and met them. I was . . . in awe, really. They are incredible. Truly incredible women, very powerful, and absolutely beloved to the mother. As, Nelson is beloved to the mother.”

Scowling, Ares nodded.

“How much time do I have?” Nelson asked.

“Not much,” Hedone said. “Katy and Paddie were so freaked out that Jill kept them home today.”

“Will we walk time again?” Nelson asked.

“I don’t know,” Hedone said. “Probably. I’m hoping that it won’t take that long.”

“We were going to do a lot of press about the find,” Nelson said.

Hedone nodded.

“Do the lawyers have the coordinates?” Nelson asked.

“The land is still owned by the Templars,” Hedone said. “As long as you can back up the claim to be the Grand Master with something more than a sword, we should be in the clear.”

“I have all the papers now,” Nelson said. “My name is on all of the deeds to property including all of the swords. Since my dad woke up, he’s been working to authenticate my claim. It just made it through the French courts.”

“Good,” Ares said.

“Why don’t you plan to leave tonight?” Hedone asked.

“Tonight?” Nelson asked.

“It’s soon enough,” Hedone said. “We’ll get out of your hair so you can wrap up what you’re doing.”

“But I have to go? Now?” Nelson asked. “This morning, we thought. . .”

“I’m truly sorry but yes,” Ares said. “You have to leave tonight, at the latest.”

Nelson nodded.

“I’ll get ready,” Nelson said. “We leave tonight? What time?”

“Eight o’clock,” Hedone said.

“I’ll be ready,” Nelson said, looking thoroughly depressed. “How long will I be gone?”

“A couple of months,” Ares said at the same time that Hedone said, “Few days, maybe a week.”

Nelson smiled at them.

“Will it be worth it?” Nelson asked.

“For the world?” Hedone asked. “Yes. For you personally? I’d also have to say yes. Everything you desire in your life is on the other side of this quest. Let’s just get it over with so you can get on with your life.”

Nelson nodded. His computer dinged and he turned back to look at it. A moment later, he looked for the Gods and they were gone.

“How long do you think you’ll need?” Ava asked, coming out of her office.

“No idea,” Nelson said. “They just said anywhere between a few days and a number of months.”

“Don’t worry,” Ava said. “We’ll put you on leave.”

“You won’t replace me?” Nelson asked. “You should probably replace me.”

“Not a chance,” Ava said. “Just come home to us.”

“And remember, we’re here if you need us,” Leslie said. “Any of us. At any time. We’re available to you and anything you need.”

Nelson nodded his thanks.

“I should probably go see my dad,” Nelson said. “He’s still pretty sick and . . .”

“Just go,” Ava said. “Let us know how we can help.”

Nelson nodded. He packed up what little he’d unpacked. Fran came out of the lab to hug Nelson good-bye. Bob came from across the hallway to see him off. Ava and Leslie hugged him for luck. He left the lab. Standing on the elevator, he could see his teammates standing in the hallway waving at him.

He tried to smile to show some optimism, but he felt like he was going to his death. Sighing, he made his way home.

~~~~~~~~

Thursday morning — 11:02 a.m.

“Who are you?” Jill asked the human form standing in the middle of the loft. “Why are you in my home?”

“I’m here to protect the children,” said the . . . woman?

Jill squinted at her. This being’s skin and clothing were grey from head to toe. Her hair was in what looked like dreadlocks but could actually be live snakes.

“You’re a gorgon,” Jill said.

“I am,” the being said. “You may call me, Euryale.”

“But that’s not your name,” Jill said.

“It will do,” the being said. “Now, where are the children?”

“Would you mind if I . . .” Jill started.

Jill reached out to the being. She put her hands on either side of the being’s face.

“What are you doing little Titanling?” the being hissed. The snakes on her head awakened and they hissed at Jill as well.

“One second,” Jill said. “Just give me . . .”

The being transformed into the form of a female. As she transformed, the woman’s eyes grew on her face and moved to be wide set. Her lashes became absurdly long, and her teeth straightened. Jill smiled.

“There you are!” Jill said. “You’re a fairy.”

“What have you done?” the being asked.

“I healed you, Callisto,” Jill said. “That’s who you are, right? Callisto the half-fairy?”

The woman’s hands went to her face and head. While she still had a head of snakes for hair, her skin was no longer stone colored but rather a golden brown like Heather’s. Her eyes were deep and dark. Her hands long and supple.

“Would you like to get rid of the snakes?” Jill asked.

“Am I no longer a gorgon?” Callisto asked in a whisper.

“Oh, no, I can’t do that,” Jill said. “I can just relieve your suffering, your trauma, your pain.”

Jill shrugged.

“That is not a Titan gift,” Callisto said.

“No,” Jill said. “I get it from my mother. She’s from Russia. She from an ancient line of healers. Would you like something more comfortable to wear?”

Callisto looked down at her grey outfit. She was wearing a grey dress down to her toes and sandals.

“You’re about my size,” Jill said. “Come on.”

“This doesn’t bother you?” Callisto asked. “Being around a gorgon?”

“I’ve been around abused women all of my life,” Jill said. “My mother was beaten and assaulted. My friends are abuse survivors. It’s not your fault that you were abused. Why shouldn’t you live free?”

Callisto mouthed the words that Jill said. Shaking her head, she followed Jill into Jill’s bedroom.

“I have some of Heather’s clothes here too,” Jill said. “She comes here after she’s been in Olympia so she can change, shower, or whatever. Let’s see . . .”

Jill took a pair of jeans and a couple of shirts out of her closet.

“We wear underwear,” Jill said. “Do you know what that is?”

Callisto shook her head. Jill opened her drawer.

“You’re thin,” Jill said. “Have you been eating?”

The woman shook her head.

“Okay, let’s get you something to eat after you change,” Jill said.

“Women wear these . . .” Callisto started. “What are they called?”

“Pants,” Jill said. “We specifically call those jeans. Everyone wears them. They are comfortable. If you’re going to watch after the children, then you need something comfortable.”

There was a whooshing sound in the loft.

“Someone has arrived,” Jill said. “I’ll go check.”

“I should go, in case it’s danger,” Callisto said.

“Why don’t you get dressed?” Jill asked. “If I get into trouble, and you’re not ready, I can always call my father.”

“Who is?” Callisto asked.

“Perses, God of Destruction,” Jill said.

“Ah,” Callisto said. “I’ve never met him. I know your sister, Hecate.”

“She’s wonderful. You’ll likely meet my father in due time. He loves the kids,” Jill said, with a shrug. “You’re welcome to anything in my closet. You’ll probably need at least a sweater. It’s always a little cold here and it’s winter.”

Callisto nodded to Jill. She went out of her bedroom and closed the door. Princess Marigold was standing in the middle of the loft.

“Mari?” Jill asked. “What are you doing here? How did you get in? I thought fairies weren’t . . .”

“I’m family,” Mari said. “Exempt.”

“Fin?” Jill asked.

“Oh, no, that’s Edie,” Mari said. “You have to know that she comes to see your boys at night.”

“I’ve seen her,” Jill nodded.

“She misses all of you something terrible,” Mari said. “She’s really sacrificing a lot to build a better tomorrow.”

“She is,” Jill said. “What’s up? Why are you here?”

“I heard that a gorgon was coming to take care of Katy and Paddie,” Mari said. “I wanted to make sure that you were okay.”

“She’s already here,” Jill said. “I healed her. Her name is Callisto.”

Mari’s eyebrows shot up.

“She told me to call her Euryale,” Jill said. “But I knew that wasn’t her name.”

“Euryale has been picking up the abused, destroyed, scorned women of the world and transforming them into gorgons,” Mari said. “She visited me after my ‘disgrace.’”

“When your fiancé was killed?” Jill asked.

“I was tempted to join her, but honestly, how could I be disgraced?” Mari asked. “My sisters were furious. Fin tried to fight her but she’s very strong. Her magic — well, honestly, all of theirs — is powerful. Different. Nelson made a potent ally when he made the compact with the gorgon. If anyone can keep the children safe, it’s a gorgon.”

Jill’s bedroom door opened and Callisto came out of the room wearing jeans, a long sleeved T-shirt, and a wool sweater.

“Good, you’re dressed,” Jill said. “Have you met Princess Marigold from Queen Fand’s realm?”

“Callisto!” Mari said.

The women ran to each other and hugged. It was a few minutes and many tears before they separated.

“I see you know each other,” Jill said with a smile.

“Princess Marigold helped me when I needed help the most,” Callisto said. “How do you know her?”

“My husband is a descendant of Manannán and Fand,” Jill said. “Prince Finegal lives here with his partner and their children. Although, Abi disappeared around the time of the pandemic.”

Callisto gave Jill a soft smile.

“These ‘jeans’ are nice,” Callisto said. “Do you get used to wearing this ‘underwear’?”

Mari laughed. She looked at Callisto and turned her hand over.

“Oh that’s much better, thank you Marigold,” Callisto said.

“You have a tiny butt, Jill,” Mari said. “She just needed a little more room.”

Callisto laughed. Mari grinned.

“Now, Mari,” Callisto said. “Do you still have that gem that falls off the Princess Blade?”

“It still falls off,” Mari said. “The Templar weapons master . . . Have you met him?”

Callisto shook her head.

“He tried to fix it, but it still won’t stay on,” Mari said.

“May I have it?” Callisto asked.

“Sure,” Mari said.

She took out the Princess Blade. As she did, a large blue stone fell off.

“I don’t remember it being this color,” Callisto said.

“It changes color,” Mari said. “I don’t know why.”

“Where are the children?” Callisto asked.

“They are in their room,” Jill said. “They were terrified last night. They didn’t get much sleep. They’re sleeping in. Should I wake them?”

“I would appreciate it if you did,” Callisto said.

Callisto and Mari began to chat in a language that Jill didn’t know. She went across the loft to wake Paddie and Katy. It took a few minutes, but she returned with the children.

“I am Callisto,” she said to Paddie and Katy. “I am here to protect you through the coming adventure.”

“Are those real snakes?” Paddie asked. He looked at Mari and asked, “Can I have snake hair?”

“This is the owner of the Sword of Truth?” Callisto asked with a grin.

“I don’t own her,” Paddie said. “I take care of her.”

“You are so right, little man,” Callisto said. “May I see the Vanquisher, young lady?”

“I’m Katy,” the little girl said. “Why do you want my sword?”

“I have something that belongs on it,” Callisto said.

“You’re kidding, right?” Mari asked.

Callisto shook her head. Katy opened her hand and the sword appeared.

“This stone belongs . . .” Callisto held out the stone. It floated across the room and latched onto a space on the Vanquisher. “There. How does it feel?”

“Heavier,” Katy said. “More powerful.”

“It is more powerful,” Callisto said with a smile. “The stone was taken from the sword to put on Princess Marigold’s sword. I’m sure the Vanquisher is delighted to have her back.”

“Why was it taken?” Paddie asked.

“They thought it would transfer the power of the Vanquisher to the Princess Blade,” Callisto said. “It didn’t. You can’t mix and match powerful objects. But we’ll see that soon.”

“Do you have to leave right away?” Jill asked.

Callisto shook her head.

“Let’s have some lunch,” Jill said. “We’ll all feel better when we eat.”

“Sounds good to me,” Callisto said. “It will give me some time to get to know the children. We will have to rely on each other during our journey.”

“I always rely on Paddie,” Katy said.

“I rely on Katy,” Paddie said.

“Good,” Callisto said. “You can both rely on me. I will not ever let you down.”

Katy looked deeply into Callisto’s eyes before nodding.

Jill walked over to the small kitchen. Mari, Callisto, Katy, and Paddie took stools at the counter. Jill made simple sandwiches which they ate with chips and fruit. By the end of the meal, Jill felt as if she was fast friends with Callisto. She knew that Paddie and Katy felt like they were as well.

For the first time in all of the months that Jill knew this stupid quest was coming, Jill finally felt like everything, including her precious daughter, was going to be all right.

Denver Cereal continues next week...


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-five - It's time (part five)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-FIVE

(part five)

There was a whooshing sound in the loft.

“Someone has arrived,” Jill said. “I’ll go check.”

“I should go, in case it’s danger,” Callisto said.

“Why don’t you get dressed?” Jill asked. “If I get into trouble, and you’re not ready, I can always call my father.”

“Who is?” Callisto asked.

“Perses, God of Destruction,” Jill said.

“Ah,” Callisto said. “I’ve never met him. I know your sister, Hecate.”

“She’s wonderful. You’ll likely meet my father in due time. He loves the kids,” Jill said, with a shrug. “You’re welcome to anything in my closet. You’ll probably need at least a sweater. It’s always a little cold here and it’s winter.”

Callisto nodded to Jill. She went out of her bedroom and closed the door. Princess Marigold was standing in the middle of the loft.

“Mari?” Jill asked. “What are you doing here? How did you get in? I thought fairies weren’t . . .”

“I’m family,” Mari said. “Exempt.”

“Fin?” Jill asked.

“Oh, no, that’s Edie,” Mari said. “You have to know that she comes to see your boys at night.”

“I’ve seen her,” Jill nodded.

“She misses all of you something terrible,” Mari said. “She’s really sacrificing a lot to build a better tomorrow.”

“She is,” Jill said. “What’s up? Why are you here?”

“I heard that a gorgon was coming to take care of Katy and Paddie,” Mari said. “I wanted to make sure that you were okay.”

“She’s already here,” Jill said. “I healed her. Her name is Callisto.”

Mari’s eyebrows shot up.

“She told me to call her Euryale,” Jill said. “But I knew that wasn’t her name.”

“Euryale has been picking up the abused, destroyed, scorned women of the world and transforming them into gorgons,” Mari said. “She visited me after my ‘disgrace.’”

“When your fiancé was killed?” Jill asked.

“I was tempted to join her, but honestly, how could I be disgraced?” Mari asked. “My sisters were furious. Fin tried to fight her but she’s very strong. Her magic — well, honestly, all of theirs — is powerful. Different. Nelson made a potent ally when he made the compact with the gorgon. If anyone can keep the children safe, it’s a gorgon.”

Jill’s bedroom door opened and Callisto came out of the room wearing jeans, a long sleeved T-shirt, and a wool sweater.

“Good, you’re dressed,” Jill said. “Have you met Princess Marigold from Queen Fand’s realm?”

“Callisto!” Mari said.

The women ran to each other and hugged. It was a few minutes and many tears before they separated.

“I see you know each other,” Jill said with a smile.

“Princess Marigold helped me when I needed help the most,” Callisto said. “How do you know her?”

“My husband is a descendant of Manannán and Fand,” Jill said. “Prince Finegal lives here with his partner and their children. Although, Abi disappeared around the time of the pandemic.”

Callisto gave Jill a soft smile.

“These ‘jeans’ are nice,” Callisto said. “Do you get used to wearing this ‘underwear’?”

Mari laughed. She looked at Callisto and turned her hand over.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...