Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-four - The future's so bright... (part six)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-FOUR

(part six)

“They may have thought that the children were more vulnerable in the future,” Hedone said. “Get them out of this house, away from those who defend them, and then. . .”

“And then?” Jill asked.

“That’s the question, isn’t it?” Hedone asked. “I’ve been speaking with Nelson and Blane. It seems that we need to get this thing going in the next few days. No one wants to risk Katy and Paddie’s lives but we think now that they need to come with us.”

Jill nodded and Jacob looked worried.

“Do you think that this is some fairy bullshit?” Jacob asked. “Should I speak with Fin and Edie?”

“It’s a fair question,” Hedone said. “I won’t dismiss it out of hand. Talking with Edie and Fin is a good idea. That said, I think it’s unlikely.”

“Then who?” Jill asked.

“The Templars,” Hedone said. “Or someone who is loyal to the Templars.”

No one said anything for a moment.

“If you know anything else, I’d appreciate it if you’d tell us,” Jacob said.

Hedone sighed.

“There is one thing,” Hedone said. “We don’t know what the Vatican knows or thinks about this Templar crap. They have archives — documents, books, objects. . . just so much — that likely contain information about our situation. There may be someone pulling the strings from the Vatican. Nelson says that there’s a contact there at the Vatican that is loyal to the Templars. He’s calling him right now.”

“Lumiati?” Jacob asked.

“Those assholes?” Hedone asked. “No. The worrisome ones are gone and those left worship themselves too much to actually manifest anything upon the world.”

“Then who?” Jill asked.

“I don’t know,” Hedone said.

“How can we find out?” Jill asked.

“It’s definitely something we need to look into,” Hedone said.

“The only thing that’s going to end this is to find the hoard and bring it to the light of day,” Jacob said.

“Exactly,” Hedone said.

“What can I do?” Jill asked.

“Call your grandfather,” Hedone said. “His beloved has connections to the Vatican.”

“Mari?” Jacob said. “Princess Marigold?”

“She does seem ridiculous, doesn’t she?” Hedone asked. “She does that so that she’s underestimated. She is an incredible being — knows people everywhere. She loves Katy and, my guess is, that she’d be delighted to help.”

“I’ll talk to her,” Jill said.

Jill looked down to see that Paddie and Katy were following the entire conversation closely.

“What can we do to protect the kids?” Jacob asked.

“I’m not sure,” Hedone said. “Give me a few hours and I’ll see what I can find out.”

Hedone turned to walk out of the room. She stopped at the door.

“So you know, it was Hecate who put this right,” Hedone said. “I tell you that so that you know the level of power and ability required to have pulled Katy and Paddie into the future. It must be someone powerful without remourse.”

“A Titan?” Jill asked.

“I was thinking Zeus,” Hedone said. “But, I’ll find out.”

“Thanks,” Jill said.

Hedone nodded and disappeared.

“Can we snuggle for a while?” Katy asked. “We feel scared.”

“Of course,” Jacob said.

The little children and Katy’s parents snuggled down in the warm bed. They lay there together until Jacob’s alarm dragged him out of bed.

“I’ll call you,” Jacob said before he left the bedroom.

Jill nodded. Looking at the children, she decided to lay in bed for a while more. They were so little and so brave. She tried to will her strength into them, because no matter what happens now — they were going to need it.

Denver Cereal continues on Monday...


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-four - The future's so bright...

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-FOUR

Sometime in the future

New York, New York

Katy Roper Marlowe woke up with a start.

She had no idea where she was. The only thing that she knew is that she was naked.

And there was someone else in her bed!

She looked over and saw a tuft of white blond hair sticking out of covers tightly around the person’s head. That was just like how Paddie slept. But this person was big, really big.

“Paddie?” Katy asked.

The person didn’t stir.

Embarrassed by her own nakedness, she got out of bed.

She gasped.

She was big! She might even be taller than her own mother!

Her hands went over her body. She had breasts — not too big, not too small! Nice, strong legs. Her feet seemed really big! And her hands!

She reached out her hand and the Vanquisher appeared. With her gigantic size, the Vanquisher looked more like a knife than a sword. Clearly, the sword still belonged to her still. At least that hadn’t changed! She made the sword disappear.

Spying a silken bathrobe on a chair, Katy grabbed the robe and put it on. She went into the bathroom.

It was a lot nicer than her functional, practical bathroom in the Castle.

For the first time, Katy wondered where she was.

And who was the person in her bed?

Should she feel bad? She didn’t.

Shrugging to herself, she followed her feet out into the living area.

She floated toward the pictures on the wall. There was one of big her in a gorgeous lace white dress and. . .

“That’s got to be Paddie,” Katy said, softly to herself.

Whoever it was, he was wearing a black tuxedo. He was tall and handsome. White hair sticking straight up and sparkling blue eyes. Seeing him, Katy felt her heart warm.

There were pictures of her parents and even her brothers all grown up. Her mother’s friends were there and their husbands. There was a picture of Noelle and Teddy with a little baby and even a picture of a boy who had to be Jabari standing on a stage with a guitar.

Everyone was smiling and laughing. It made Katy so happy to see everyone so happy.

She went back to the bed.

“Paddie?” Katy asked. She was surprised because her voice sounded like her six year old voice.

“Katy?” Paddie moved the covers off his face. “You got big!”

“I know,” Katy said. “So did you!”

Paddie jumped up to look at himself.

“I’m huge!” Paddie said looking down at his naked body. Realizing that Katy could see him he said, “Turn around!”

“It’s okay, Paddie,” Katy said. “We’re married.”

“We are?” Paddie asked. He looked at his hand and saw that he was wearing a ring. “Look Katy!”

Paddie pointed to his wedding ring.

“I have one, too,” Katy said, pointing to hers.

Paddie’s face broke into a big, white toothed smile.

“My dream came true!” Paddie said.

Katy nodded.

“That makes me so happy,” Paddie said.

Katy smiled.

“You are very beautiful,” Paddie said, pulling on a T-shirt and sweatpants.

“You’re not so bad yourself,” Katy said.

Paddie giggled.

“What do you think is going on?” Paddie asked.

“I don’t know,” Katy said. “The last thing I remember is that you were staying with me because your mom was sick. But you don’t have to worry, there’s a picture of her on the wall outside. She must have gotten better. Connor’s there too.”

“And my dad?” Paddie asked, walking out to look at the photos.

“And your dad,” Katy said.

“I don’t know why, but I feel very relieved,” Paddie said.

“Your dad’s in the military,” Katy said. “You always talk about how worried you are that he’ll be hurt or die while he’s out on mission.”

Paddie nodded and looked at the pictures.

“Do you think we have our own food?” Paddie asked.

“There’s a kitchen,” Katy said.

They walked together into the kitchen. Paddie opened the door. Without thinking, he pulled out eggs, cheese and spinach. There was some vegan sausage so he added that. In a few minutes, he’d made them a breakfast burrito.

“How’d you learn to do that?” Katy asked.

“I don’t know,” Paddie said. “I just knew I could.”

Katy smiled at him. Standing in the kitchen, they wolfed down their breakfast burritos.

“What do you think is going on?” Paddie asked.

“I don’t know,” Katy said. “I woke up here too. Do you still have the Sword of Truth?”

Paddie reached into his pocket and was holding the sword.

“It fits you better now that you’re big,” Katy said.

“I’m really big,” Paddie said. He smiled broadly. “I like being big. Do you think when we go back that I can stay this big?”

Katy shook her head, and Paddie laughed.

“What do we do?” Paddie asked.

“I’ve been thinking,” Katy said.

“Did you call for your mom?” Paddie asked.

“I really wanted to,” Katy said, looking sad. “I really miss her. Do you think she’s okay?”

“She looks okay in this picture,” Paddie said.

Katy nodded.

“Do you think that this is a dream?” Paddie asked.

“I don’t know,” Katy said. “I think. . .”

Katy stopped talking for a moment and looked at Paddie.

“This is about that prophecy,” Paddie said. “The one about you and me.”

Katy nodded.

“Do you think I should call my grandpa or my Auntie Heather?” Katy asked.

“Your grandpa makes everything really intense,” Paddie said.

Katy nodded.

“Let’s call Auntie Heather,” Paddie said. “She’s always nice.”

Katy nodded.

“Is that Jabari on the wall?” Paddie asked.

“It looks like him,” Katy said. “See this red head in the front? That looks like Maggie.”

“Cool. They’re big too!” Paddie said with a grin. “Do you think we have jobs and stuff?”

“We pay for this nice place,” Katy said with a shrug.

“Where are we?” Paddie asked.

“I don’t know,” Katy said.

She went to the windows and opened the blinds. For a moment, they stood there in shock. They were looking out over the city. Central Park was a block or two away but they could see people playing and walking.

“What a view!” Paddie said.

Katy nodded.

“We must be rich,” Paddie said.

Katy nodded.

“Cool,” Paddie said. “You’re sure this isn’t a dream?”

“It’s not a dream,” Katy said. “We can check with the sword.”

“No, you’re right,” Paddie said. “I’m just happy that everything is so good for us!”

“Me too,” Katy said.

Katy watched Paddie watch people in the park.

“Should I call my Auntie?” Katy asked.

Paddie nodded.

“Auntie Heather?” Katy asked into the air.

Nothing happened. Katy thought for a moment.

“She probably doesn’t recognize my voice now,” Katy said.

“Use her Goddess name,” Paddie said. “Use the Vanquisher.”

Katy nodded. She held out her hand and the Vanquisher appeared.

“Hedone, the Goddess of Love,” Katy called.

The air around them glistened with light. Shrouded by the light, a figure appeared and gradually became clearer.

Timeless and shockingly beautiful, Hedone appeared in her gorgeous gold dress. Katy and Paddie stepped back.

“Auntie Heather,” Katy said. She jumped up and down a bit.

“Katy?” Hedone asked. “Katy, what’s wrong?”

“We went to bed last night at home with Mommy and Daddy and the twins,” Katy said.

“We woke up big!” Paddie said.

Surprised, Hedone blinked at them. She looked around the apartment and then walked to the window. She turned around and looked at them.

“When were you married?” Hedone asked.

Katy shrugged, and Paddie shook his head.

“What do you do for a living?” Hedone asked.

Katy shrugged, and Paddie shook his head.

“Interesting,” Hedone said. “Do you still have your swords?”

Katy held up the Vanquisher and Paddie took the Sword of Truth out of his pocket.

“Huh,” Hedone said. “Someone must have thought that you would be more vulnerable in the future than you are in the Castle.”

“Are we rich?” Paddie asked.

“Well, you’re an MD PhD,” Hedone said. “You specialize in infectious disease. Katy is a museum curator.”

“That sounds fun,” Katy said.

“Ivan and Sissy gave you this apartment as a wedding present,” Hedone said. “It’s a part of their floor in New York. Your mom and dad refurbished it for you, Katy.”

“It’s beautiful,” Katy said.

“You are both very loved,” Hedone said. “Katy, you control the entire collection of art from the Polish mine and the Templar Hoard, not to mention all of the items you and Paddie found under that church in the Isle of Man and other places you’ve adventured.”

“The white eyed guy?” Paddie asked.

“Maughold gave you everything,” Hedone said. “Fin and the fairies, too. You are both fairly famous. As far as I know, you’re very happy.”

“Mack and Wyn?” Paddie asked.

“Mack just got a job as a Greek antiquities professor at UCLA,” Hedone said. “Wyn is a lawyer. He has an internship at the Supreme Court.”

“Wow,” Katy said. “Does he like it?”

“Not in the slightest,” Hedone said. “He wants to be a Supreme Court justice and this is the way.”

Katy nodded. It was weird to her that the kids who were younger than her had grown up too.

“Nash and Nadia live here too,” Hedone said.

Katy nodded.

“Are you sure that you were in Denver at the Castle when you went to bed?” Hedone asked.

Katy and Paddie nodded.

“Listen to our voices,” Paddie said.

“Good point,” Hedone said. “You do sound like the little kids you were and not your adult selves.”

Hedone gave Katy a soft smile.

“We think it’s to steal our swords,” Paddie said.

Katy nodded.

“What do you know about the search for the Templar Hoard?” Hedone asked.

“Nothing,” Katy said. “Did we go?”

Hedone nodded. The goddess looked away for a long moment.

“This is about the prophecy,” Hedone said.

“Can I see my Mommy?” Katy asked. “I really miss her.”

Paddie nodded.

“Why didn’t you call your grandfather or your aunt?” Hedone asked.

“Because he’s all ‘Hello, I’m Perses,’” Paddie said mimicking Perses’ accent.

“‘I’m big and violent,’” Katy mimicked her grandfather.

“‘Shall I kill everyone just for fun?’” Paddie asked.

Hedone laughed.

“Fair point,” Hedone said. “Hecate.”

Hecate appeared out of thin air.

“What. . .?” Hecate turned to look from Katy to Paddie. “This is impressive magic. Yours?”

Because Hecate was looking at her, Katy shook her head. Hecate turned to Hedone, who shook her head.

“You don’t know how this happened?” Hecate asked.

Katy and Paddie nodded their heads in unison.

“That’s not good,” Hecate said.

“Do you remember them going missing in 2021?” Heather asked.

Hecate shook her head.

“So it was done out of time,” Hedone said.

“Or I put the children back before anything happened,” Hecate said.

“Can we go home?” Paddie asked. “My mommy is really sick. I can’t be here!”

Katy reached out to hold Paddie’s hand.

“I’ll put you back,” Hecate said.

There was a whooshing sound and child Paddie and Katy were gone along with Hecate.

“Auntie Heather?” adult Katy asked. “What are you doing here?”

“Do you remember waking up in adult bodies when you were kids?” Hedone asked.

Katy and Paddie nodded.

“You do?” Hedone asked.

“We put the pictures on the wall just like they were when we were here,” Katy said.

“It was just before the fight for the swords,” Paddie said.

Hedone nodded.

“Hasn’t happened yet?” Paddie asked.

“It hasn’t,” Hedone said. “Any tips?”

Shaking his head, Paddie reached his hand out, and Katy moved closer to him. His arm went over her shoulder. Hedone nodded. She kissed Katy on the cheek and disappeared.

Katy looked at Paddie and he smiled.

“It made me so happy to wake up as your husband,” Paddie said. “I’m so glad to be your husband.”

“I’m glad to be your wife,” Katy said.

They kissed and hugged each other.

“You look worried,” Paddie said.

“Just telling younger me that it’s all going to work out,” Katy said.

Paddie smiled at Katy and she kissed him.

“Coffee?” Paddie asked.

Katy nodded, and they went into the kitchen.

~~~~~~~~

Thursday early morning — 4:12 a.m.

Katy Roper Marlowe woke up in her own bed in the Castle. Sitting straight up, she looked around the room. There was a little boy’s tufted of white hair sticking out of his blankets in the bed next to hers.

“Paddie?” Katy asked.

Paddie’s head moved up and down causing the blankets to move.

“I’m ’fraid to get up,” Paddie said. “In case, we’re somewhere scary.”

“We’re not,” Katy said. “We’re in my room at home.”

“Are you little again?” Paddie asked.

“Yes,” Katy said. “You look like you are too.”

“Okay,” Paddie said.

“I’m going to see my Mommy,” Katy said.

“I’m going with you,” Paddie said.

Katy ran out of the bedroom with Paddie on her heels. They ran across the loft to Katy’s parents room.

“Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” Katy said.

Wide awake, Jill and Jacob sat straight up. Katy crawled across the bed toward her mother. Paddie stood on the side of the bed until Jacob grabbed him and pulled him onto the bed too. Jacob lay back down.

“What’s happened?” Jill asked.

“We grew up!” Katy said. “Me and Paddie were married and living in New York.”

“I was a doctor,” Paddie said.

“I was a museum curate,” Katy said. “But I don’t know what that is.”

“We were very happy,” Paddie said.

“Sounds like a beautiful dream,” Jill said with a yawn. “Shall we cuddle a bit before we have to get up?”

“It wasn’t a dream!” Katy said. “We were really there.”

Jill shook the sleep from her head.

“What?” Jill asked. She reached across and shook Jacob’s shoulder. “Jake?”

Jacob’s eyes popped open.

“What’s up?” Jacob asked.

Jill nodded to Katy.

“The kids were taken out of their beds and moved into the future,” Jill said. “What did you do?”

“We called Auntie Heather,” Katy said.

“But she didn’t come as Auntie Heather so we called Hedone and she. . .” Paddie said.

The Goddess of Love, Hedone, was standing at the foot of the bed. No matter what she actually looked like, Jill always saw her good friend Heather under the glow and the gold dress and perfect hair. Jill smiled at her friend. Of course, her friend would come to help Katy.

“Oh, good, you’re awake,” Hedone said.

“Is what they are saying true?” Jacob asked. “Not a dream.”

“No dream,” Hedone said. “In fact, if I had to wager a guess, Katy and Paddie had prepared for their younger selves to come visit them. They put a bunch of cheesy photographs of everyone on their walls so that when Katy and Paddie arrived they would see them.”

“We looked at those!” Katy said.

Paddie nodded.

“Katy was very beautiful,” Paddie said, shyly.

“Paddie was huge,” Katy said.

“I was handsome,” Paddie said.

Katy nodded.

Jill shot Jacob a worried look.

“What do we need to do?” Jacob asked.

“The truth is that we cannot wait any longer to go find this stupid hoard,” Hedone said. “The longer we wait, the more risk for the children.”

“Who would have done such a thing?” Jill asked.

“I think the question is when did someone do this thing?” Hedone asked. “This hoard has been missing for a long time. The prophecy has been told a long time ago. Someone, anyone really, could have sent their child selves to their older selves anytime between when the prophecy was made and now.”

“Why would they do that?” Jacob asked.

“They may have thought that the children were more vulnerable in the future,” Hedone said. “Get them out of this house, away from those who defend them, and then. . .”

“And then?” Jill asked.

“That’s the question, isn’t it?” Hedone asked. “I’ve been speaking with Nelson and Blane. It seems that we need to get this thing going in the next few days. No one wants to risk Katy and Paddie’s lives but we think now that they need to come with us.”

Jill nodded and Jacob looked worried.

“Do you think that this is some fairy bullshit?” Jacob asked. “Should I speak with Fin and Edie?”

“It’s a fair question,” Hedone said. “I won’t dismiss it out of hand. Talking with Edie and Fin is a good idea. That said, I think it’s unlikely.”

“Then who?” Jill asked.

“The Templars,” Hedone said. “Or someone who is loyal to the Templars.”

No one said anything for a moment.

“If you know anything else, I’d appreciate it if you’d tell us,” Jacob said.

Hedone sighed.

“There is one thing,” Hedone said. “We don’t know what the Vatican knows or thinks about this Templar crap. They have archives — documents, books, objects. . . just so much — that likely contain information about our situation. There may be someone pulling the strings from the Vatican. Nelson says that there’s a contact there at the Vatican that is loyal to the Templars. He’s calling him right now.”

“Lumiati?” Jacob asked.

“Those assholes?” Hedone asked. “No. The worrisome ones are gone and those left worship themselves too much to actually manifest anything upon the world.”

“Then who?” Jill asked.

“I don’t know,” Hedone said.

“How can we find out?” Jill asked.

“It’s definitely something we need to look into,” Hedone said.

“The only thing that’s going to end this is to find the hoard and bring it to the light of day,” Jacob said.

“Exactly,” Hedone said.

“What can I do?” Jill asked.

“Call your grandfather,” Hedone said. “His beloved has connections to the Vatican.”

“Mari?” Jacob said. “Princess Marigold?”

“She does seem ridiculous, doesn’t she?” Hedone asked. “She does that so that she’s underestimated. She is an incredible being — knows people everywhere. She loves Katy and, my guess is, that she’d be delighted to help.”

“I’ll talk to her,” Jill said.

Jill looked down to see that Paddie and Katy were following the entire conversation closely.

“What can we do to protect the kids?” Jacob asked.

“I’m not sure,” Hedone said. “Give me a few hours and I’ll see what I can find out.”

Hedone turned to walk out of the room. She stopped at the door.

“So you know, it was Hecate who put this right,” Hedone said. “I tell you that so that you know the level of power and ability required to have pulled Katy and Paddie into the future. It must be someone powerful without remourse.”

“A Titan?” Jill asked.

“I was thinking Zeus,” Hedone said. “But, I’ll find out.”

“Thanks,” Jill said.

Hedone nodded and disappeared.

“Can we snuggle for a while?” Katy asked. “We feel scared.”

“Of course,” Jacob said.

The little children and Katy’s parents snuggled down in the warm bed. They lay there together until Jacob’s alarm dragged him out of bed.

“I’ll call you,” Jacob said before he left the bedroom.

Jill nodded. Looking at the children, she decided to lay in bed for a while more. They were so little and so brave. She tried to will her strength into them, because no matter what happens now — they were going to need it.

Denver Cereal continues next week...


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-four - The future's so bright... (part five)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-FOUR

(part five)

Thursday early morning — 4:12 a.m.

Katy Roper Marlowe woke up in her own bed in the Castle. Sitting straight up, she looked around the room. There was a little boy’s tufted of white hair sticking out of his blankets in the bed next to hers.

“Paddie?” Katy asked.

Paddie’s head moved up and down causing the blankets to move.

“I’m ’fraid to get up,” Paddie said. “In case, we’re somewhere scary.”

“We’re not,” Katy said. “We’re in my room at home.”

“Are you little again?” Paddie asked.

“Yes,” Katy said. “You look like you are too.”

“Okay,” Paddie said.

“I’m going to see my Mommy,” Katy said.

“I’m going with you,” Paddie said.

Katy ran out of the bedroom with Paddie on her heels. They ran across the loft to Katy’s parents room.

“Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” Katy said.

Wide awake, Jill and Jacob sat straight up. Katy crawled across the bed toward her mother. Paddie stood on the side of the bed until Jacob grabbed him and pulled him onto the bed too. Jacob lay back down.

“What’s happened?” Jill asked.

“We grew up!” Katy said. “Me and Paddie were married and living in New York.”

“I was a doctor,” Paddie said.

“I was a museum curate,” Katy said. “But I don’t know what that is.”

“We were very happy,” Paddie said.

“Sounds like a beautiful dream,” Jill said with a yawn. “Shall we cuddle a bit before we have to get up?”

“It wasn’t a dream!” Katy said. “We were really there.”

Jill shook the sleep from her head.

“What?” Jill asked. She reached across and shook Jacob’s shoulder. “Jake?”

Jacob’s eyes popped open.

“What’s up?” Jacob asked.

Jill nodded to Katy.

“The kids were taken out of their beds and moved into the future,” Jill said. “What did you do?”

“We called Auntie Heather,” Katy said.

“But she didn’t come as Auntie Heather so we called Hedone and she. . .” Paddie said.

The Goddess of Love, Hedone, was standing at the foot of the bed. No matter what she actually looked like, Jill always saw her good friend Heather under the glow and the gold dress and perfect hair. Jill smiled at her friend. Of course, her friend would come to help Katy.

“Oh, good, you’re awake,” Hedone said.

“Is what they are saying true?” Jacob asked. “Not a dream.”

“No dream,” Hedone said. “In fact, if I had to wager a guess, Katy and Paddie had prepared for their younger selves to come visit them. They put a bunch of cheesy photographs of everyone on their walls so that when Katy and Paddie arrived they would see them.”

“We looked at those!” Katy said.

Paddie nodded.

“Katy was very beautiful,” Paddie said, shyly.

“Paddie was huge,” Katy said.

“I was handsome,” Paddie said.

Katy nodded.

Jill shot Jacob a worried look.

“What do we need to do?” Jacob asked.

“The truth is that we cannot wait any longer to go find this stupid hoard,” Hedone said. “The longer we wait, the more risk for the children.”

“Who would have done such a thing?” Jill asked.

“I think the question is when did someone do this thing?” Hedone asked. “This hoard has been missing for a long time. The prophecy has been told a long time ago. Someone, anyone really, could have sent their child selves to their older selves anytime between when the prophecy was made and now.”

“Why would they do that?” Jacob asked.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-four - The future's so bright... (part four)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-FOUR

(part four)

Katy nodded. It was weird to her that the kids who were younger than her had grown up too.

“Nash and Nadia live here too,” Hedone said.

Katy nodded.

“Are you sure that you were in Denver at the Castle when you went to bed?” Hedone asked.

Katy and Paddie nodded.

“Listen to our voices,” Paddie said.

“Good point,” Hedone said. “You do sound like the little kids you were and not your adult selves.”

Hedone gave Katy a soft smile.

“We think it’s to steal our swords,” Paddie said.

Katy nodded.

“What do you know about the search for the Templar Hoard?” Hedone asked.

“Nothing,” Katy said. “Did we go?”

Hedone nodded. The goddess looked away for a long moment.

“This is about the prophecy,” Hedone said.

“Can I see my Mommy?” Katy asked. “I really miss her.”

Paddie nodded.

“Why didn’t you call your grandfather or your aunt?” Hedone asked.

“Because he’s all ‘Hello, I’m Perses,’” Paddie said mimicking Perses’ accent.

“‘I’m big and violent,’” Katy mimicked her grandfather.

“‘Shall I kill everyone just for fun?’” Paddie asked.

Hedone laughed.

“Fair point,” Hedone said. “Hecate.”

Hecate appeared out of thin air.

“What. . .?” Hecate turned to look from Katy to Paddie. “This is impressive magic. Yours?”

Because Hecate was looking at her, Katy shook her head. Hecate turned to Hedone, who shook her head.

“You don’t know how this happened?” Hecate asked.

Katy and Paddie nodded their heads in unison.

“That’s not good,” Hecate said.

“Do you remember them going missing in 2021?” Heather asked.

Hecate shook her head.

“So it was done out of time,” Hedone said.

“Or I put the children back before anything happened,” Hecate said.

“Can we go home?” Paddie asked. “My mommy is really sick. I can’t be here!”

Katy reached out to hold Paddie’s hand.

“I’ll put you back,” Hecate said.

There was a whooshing sound and child Paddie and Katy were gone along with Hecate.

“Auntie Heather?” adult Katy asked. “What are you doing here?”

“Do you remember waking up in adult bodies when you were kids?” Hedone asked.

Katy and Paddie nodded.

“You do?” Hedone asked.

“We put the pictures on the wall just like they were when we were here,” Katy said.

“It was just before the fight for the swords,” Paddie said.

Hedone nodded.

“Hasn’t happened yet?” Paddie asked.

“It hasn’t,” Hedone said. “Any tips?”

Shaking his head, Paddie reached his hand out, and Katy moved closer to him. His arm went over her shoulder. Hedone nodded. She kissed Katy on the cheek and disappeared.

Katy looked at Paddie and he smiled.

“It made me so happy to wake up as your husband,” Paddie said. “I’m so glad to be your husband.”

“I’m glad to be your wife,” Katy said.

They kissed and hugged each other.

“You look worried,” Paddie said.

“Just telling younger me that it’s all going to work out,” Katy said.

Paddie smiled at Katy and she kissed him.

“Coffee?” Paddie asked.

Katy nodded, and they went into the kitchen.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-four - The future's so bright... (part three)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-FOUR

(part three)

“What a view!” Paddie said.

Katy nodded.

“We must be rich,” Paddie said.

Katy nodded.

“Cool,” Paddie said. “You’re sure this isn’t a dream?”

“It’s not a dream,” Katy said. “We can check with the sword.”

“No, you’re right,” Paddie said. “I’m just happy that everything is so good for us!”

“Me too,” Katy said.

Katy watched Paddie watch people in the park.

“Should I call my Auntie?” Katy asked.

Paddie nodded.

“Auntie Heather?” Katy asked into the air.

Nothing happened. Katy thought for a moment.

“She probably doesn’t recognize my voice now,” Katy said.

“Use her Goddess name,” Paddie said. “Use the Vanquisher.”

Katy nodded. She held out her hand and the Vanquisher appeared.

“Hedone, the Goddess of Love,” Katy called.

The air around them glistened with light. Shrouded by the light, a figure appeared and gradually became clearer.

Timeless and shockingly beautiful, Hedone appeared in her gorgeous gold dress. Katy and Paddie stepped back.

“Auntie Heather,” Katy said. She jumped up and down a bit.

“Katy?” Hedone asked. “Katy, what’s wrong?”

“We went to bed last night at home with Mommy and Daddy and the twins,” Katy said.

“We woke up big!” Paddie said.

Surprised, Hedone blinked at them. She looked around the apartment and then walked to the window. She turned around and looked at them.

“When were you married?” Hedone asked.

Katy shrugged, and Paddie shook his head.

“What do you do for a living?” Hedone asked.

Katy shrugged, and Paddie shook his head.

“Interesting,” Hedone said. “Do you still have your swords?”

Katy held up the Vanquisher and Paddie took the Sword of Truth out of his pocket.

“Huh,” Hedone said. “Someone must have thought that you would be more vulnerable in the future than you are in the Castle.”

“Are we rich?” Paddie asked.

“Well, you’re an MD PhD,” Hedone said. “You specialize in infectious disease. Katy is a museum curator.”

“That sounds fun,” Katy said.

“Ivan and Sissy gave you this apartment as a wedding present,” Hedone said. “It’s a part of their floor in New York. Your mom and dad refurbished it for you, Katy.”

“It’s beautiful,” Katy said.

“You are both very loved,” Hedone said. “Katy, you control the entire collection of art from the Polish mine and the Templar Hoard, not to mention all of the items you and Paddie found under that church in the Isle of Man and other places you’ve adventured.”

“The white eyed guy?” Paddie asked.

“Maughold gave you everything,” Hedone said. “Fin and the fairies, too. You are both fairly famous. As far as I know, you’re very happy.”

“Mack and Wyn?” Paddie asked.

“Mack just got a job as a Greek antiquities professor at UCLA,” Hedone said. “Wyn is a lawyer. He has an internship at the Supreme Court.”

“Wow,” Katy said. “Does he like it?”

“Not in the slightest,” Hedone said. “He wants to be a Supreme Court justice and this is the way.”

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-four - The future's so bright... (part two)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-FOUR

(part two)

“You are very beautiful,” Paddie said, pulling on a T-shirt and sweatpants.

“You’re not so bad yourself,” Katy said.

Paddie giggled.

“What do you think is going on?” Paddie asked.

“I don’t know,” Katy said. “The last thing I remember is that you were staying with me because your mom was sick. But you don’t have to worry, there’s a picture of her on the wall outside. She must have gotten better. Connor’s there too.”

“And my dad?” Paddie asked, walking out to look at the photos.

“And your dad,” Katy said.

“I don’t know why, but I feel very relieved,” Paddie said.

“Your dad’s in the military,” Katy said. “You always talk about how worried you are that he’ll be hurt or die while he’s out on mission.”

Paddie nodded and looked at the pictures.

“Do you think we have our own food?” Paddie asked.

“There’s a kitchen,” Katy said.

They walked together into the kitchen. Paddie opened the door. Without thinking, he pulled out eggs, cheese and spinach. There was some vegan sausage so he added that. In a few minutes, he’d made them a breakfast burrito.

“How’d you learn to do that?” Katy asked.

“I don’t know,” Paddie said. “I just knew I could.”

Katy smiled at him. Standing in the kitchen, they wolfed down their breakfast burritos.

“What do you think is going on?” Paddie asked.

“I don’t know,” Katy said. “I woke up here too. Do you still have the Sword of Truth?”

Paddie reached into his pocket and was holding the sword.

“It fits you better now that you’re big,” Katy said.

“I’m really big,” Paddie said. He smiled broadly. “I like being big. Do you think when we go back that I can stay this big?”

Katy shook her head, and Paddie laughed.

“What do we do?” Paddie asked.

“I’ve been thinking,” Katy said.

“Did you call for your mom?” Paddie asked.

“I really wanted to,” Katy said, looking sad. “I really miss her. Do you think she’s okay?”

“She looks okay in this picture,” Paddie said.

Katy nodded.

“Do you think that this is a dream?” Paddie asked.

“I don’t know,” Katy said. “I think. . .”

Katy stopped talking for a moment and looked at Paddie.

“This is about that prophecy,” Paddie said. “The one about you and me.”

Katy nodded.

“Do you think I should call my grandpa or my Auntie Heather?” Katy asked.

“Your grandpa makes everything really intense,” Paddie said.

Katy nodded.

“Let’s call Auntie Heather,” Paddie said. “She’s always nice.”

Katy nodded.

“Is that Jabari on the wall?” Paddie asked.

“It looks like him,” Katy said. “See this red head in the front? That looks like Maggie.”

“Cool. They’re big too!” Paddie said with a grin. “Do you think we have jobs and stuff?”

“We pay for this nice place,” Katy said with a shrug.

“Where are we?” Paddie asked.

“I don’t know,” Katy said.

She went to the windows and opened the blinds. For a moment, they stood there in shock. They were looking out over the city. Central Park was a block or two away but they could see people playing and walking.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-four - The future's so bright... (part one)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-FOUR

(part one)

Sometime in the future

New York, New York

Katy Roper Marlowe woke up with a start.

She had no idea where she was. The only thing that she knew is that she was naked.

And there was someone else in her bed!

She looked over and saw a tuft of white blond hair sticking out of covers tightly around the person’s head. That was just like how Paddie slept. But this person was big, really big.

“Paddie?” Katy asked.

The person didn’t stir.

Embarrassed by her own nakedness, she got out of bed.

She gasped.

She was big! She might even be taller than her own mother!

Her hands went over her body. She had breasts — not too big, not too small! Nice, strong legs. Her feet seemed really big! And her hands!

She reached out her hand and the Vanquisher appeared. With her gigantic size, the Vanquisher looked more like a knife than a sword. Clearly, the sword still belonged to her still. At least that hadn’t changed! She made the sword disappear.

Spying a silken bathrobe on a chair, Katy grabbed the robe and put it on. She went into the bathroom.

It was a lot nicer than her functional, practical bathroom in the Castle.

For the first time, Katy wondered where she was.

And who was the person in her bed?

Should she feel bad? She didn’t.

Shrugging to herself, she followed her feet out into the living area.

She floated toward the pictures on the wall. There was one of big her in a gorgeous lace white dress and. . .

“That’s got to be Paddie,” Katy said, softly to herself.

Whoever it was, he was wearing a black tuxedo. He was tall and handsome. White hair sticking straight up and sparkling blue eyes. Seeing him, Katy felt her heart warm.

There were pictures of her parents and even her brothers all grown up. Her mother’s friends were there and their husbands. There was a picture of Noelle and Teddy with a little baby and even a picture of a boy who had to be Jabari standing on a stage with a guitar.

Everyone was smiling and laughing. It made Katy so happy to see everyone so happy.

She went back to the bed.

“Paddie?” Katy asked. She was surprised because her voice sounded like her six year old voice.

“Katy?” Paddie moved the covers off his face. “You got big!”

“I know,” Katy said. “So did you!”

Paddie jumped up to look at himself.

“I’m huge!” Paddie said looking down at his naked body. Realizing that Katy could see him he said, “Turn around!”

“It’s okay, Paddie,” Katy said. “We’re married.”

“We are?” Paddie asked. He looked at his hand and saw that he was wearing a ring. “Look Katy!”

Paddie pointed to his wedding ring.

“I have one, too,” Katy said, pointing to hers.

Paddie’s face broke into a big, white toothed smile.

“My dream came true!” Paddie said.

Katy nodded.

“That makes me so happy,” Paddie said.

Katy smiled.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-three - And really, when have you ever done anything on your own? (part six)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-THREE

(part six)

“Plus our masks,” Dionne said, touching the cloth mask over her face.

“Is it true that the governor is giving Jacob vaccines?” Dr. Bumpy asked.

“The company has agreed, as a whole, to take them or stay home,” Rodney said. “Of course, we’ll see what happens.”

“Good stuff,” Dr. Bumpy said. “Dionne and I are getting them next week, as well. Yvie?”

“She’s covered at work,” Rodney said. “Jake told the governor that it was stupid to not vaccinate all of the adults in a home. Somehow, he got the governor to agree.”

“Valerie probably talked to him,” Yvonne said.

Dionne and Yvonne gave each other knowing nods.

“No idea,” Tanesha said.

“Listen,” Jeraine said, coming into the sitting area. “We’re not here for vaccines.”

“Okay, son,” Dionne said. “We’re just chatting.”

“Lovely home,” Yvonne said.

“I’ll show you the recording studio when we’re done here,” Jeraine said.

“Can’t wait,” Dr. Bumpy said. He rubbed his hands together. “Why are we here? Baby?”

His face lit up and he looked at Tanesha, who shook her head, and then to Jeraine. His son looked overwhelmed.

“What’s happened?” Rodney asked.

“We need some help,” Tanesha said.

For the next hour, they talked through Annette’s children moving to Denver. When they were done, their parents went to look at the recording studio.

Tanesha’s phone rang.

“What did they say?” Jill asked.

“They’ll help,” Tanesha said. “Mom said that she and dad had been talking about adopting some of these orphans. So, they knew all about what’s going on and said that they would help.”

“How do you feel about it now?” Heather asked.

“Are you guys at the salon?” Tanesha asked.

“We’ve been waiting to hear how it went,” Sandy said. “How do you feel?”

“Terrified,” Tanesha said. “I never wanted kids, I mean. . .”

“We can do this,” Jill said.

“Don’t overthink it,” Sandy said. “Kids mostly need food, safety, and acceptance. We’ve got that in spades.”

“What if I screw it up?” Tanesha asked. “What about school and being a doctor?”

“We’ve got this,” Jill said.

“Don’t even worry,” Heather said. “We’ve got this.”

“And Jer?” Tanesha asked. “I mean, he’s just getting on his feet and his head and. . .”

“Everything is going to be fine,” Heather said.

“Promise?” Tanesha asked.

“Promise,” Sandy said. “We’ve got this.”

“Okay,” Tanesha said. “Thanks.”

Tanesha hung up the phone. For a long moment, she stared at the wall. Shrugging, she went to go find Jeraine and their parents.

Denver Cereal continues on Monday...


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-three - And really, when have you ever done anything on your own?

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-THREE

Wednesday morning —5:02 a.m.

Aden pulled the door to their apartment closed and slipped down the stairwell. Blane and Jacob were waiting for him at the end of the stairwell. They were out the door and out into the cold morning in a matter of minutes. Aden started the truck and they drove out of Castle parking lot and on to their busy day.

The entire house seemed to sigh. A quiet silence fell over the Castle.

And then the screaming started.

Nash was taking too long in the bathroom, and Bladen threw up on Katy’s favorite shirt, and Jackie was sick of her brother Eddie’s “attitude,” and Charlie could not handle another minute of Teddy’s bullshit, and. . .

All at once, it seemed like every child in the Castle was screaming at the top of their lungs.

“What’s that?” Tanesha asked Jill when she opened the side door.

“Delphie says that it’s ‘eclipse energy,’” Jill said.

“Sounds like a lot of kid rage,” Tanesha said.

“Welcome to our humble abode,” Jill said.

Tanesha laughed. They walked into the main Castle living room where Jill had set up tea with breakfast cookies and scones for their early morning girlfriends’ breakfast. Jill and Tanesha listened to the hubbub for a long moment.

“You think we should do something about it?” Tanesha asked.

“Not a chance,” Sandy said, coming down the long stairway. “We’ll likely lose a limb.”

“As long as they don’t kill each other,” Jill said with a furtive glance upstairs.

Heather appeared with Mack, Wyn, and Jabari in her arms. Upon hearing the noise, the sleepy boys leaned into Heather. Tanesha took Jabari from Heather. She settled on the couch with the boy nestled in her lap.

“Should I. . .?” Heather gestured to the ceiling above.

“You mean, it’s not the 1970s?” Jill asked. “We can’t just let them brawl while we drink cocktails.”

“Where are the servants?” Heather asked.

The girlfriends laughed.

“We agreed to let them work their own stuff out,” Sandy said. “I have to trust them to do that.”

“Katy and Paddie said the same thing to me,” Jill said.

“Can I join you?” Valerie asked.

“Of course,” Jill said.

“Me, too?” Honey asked.

“Absolutely,” Sandy said.

With a cup of tea in their hands, they sat in terse silence.

“Is it just me or are you guys uncomfortable with this. . .?” Honey asked.

“We’re uncomfortable,” Tanesha said.

Honey nodded. The screaming continued.

“They’re making my head hurt,” Valerie said.

“They told us that we were undermining them by interfering,” Heather said with a roll of her eyes.

“Our kids are such assholes sometimes,” Sandy said under her breath.

They noticed immediately when Noelle stopped screaming. Katy fell silent at the same time as Jackie stopped screaming at her brother. Not ones to give up easily, the boys went on making their points for a while. Then, as suddenly as it started, everything was silent.

“Oh thank God,” Jill said. She blew out a breath and dramatically fell onto her lap.

Tanesha laughed, and Heather’s eyes flicked across the ceiling. Honey looked like she was going to cry. Valerie just looked exhausted.

“Scone?” Sandy asked.

For a moment, no one moved.

“I’ll have one of those cookies,” Tanesha said, breaking the spell.

When Valerie laughed, the rest of the women began to laugh. For the next half hour, they laughed, drank tea, and ate scones.

~~~~~~~~

Wednesday morning —7:02 a.m.

Jeraine flipped Tanesha under him and kissed her hard. She laughed.

“You taste like. . .” Jeraine kissed her again. “Tea and those breakfast cookies and. . .”

“You?” Tanesha asked.

Tanesha leaned her head up to kiss him. They kissed and rolled over again. For a while, they were caught up in each other in the way they had been since they were children. Breathless, they fell against the bed.

“You’re off all day?” Jeraine asked.

“All day,” Tanesha said. She fluffed her pillow and leaned back. “Do you have time?”

“I’m all yours,” Jeraine said. “Until. . . four? I think. There’s a show tonight.”

“Should we take Jabari out of school and. . .” Tanesha said and laughed.

“He would never want to be out of school,” they said in unison and laughed.

“We could go shopping,” Jeraine said.

“Ugh,” Tanesha said. “My feet hurt from work.”

“Spa day?” Jeraine asked.

“Eh,” Tanesha said, rolling over.

“Jeraine as your slave day?” Jeraine asked.

“That’s my every day,” Tanesha said.

They laughed. Jeraine kissed her ear.

“I’d love to spend the day with you,” Tanesha said. “Hang out here. Talk. Just see how you. . .”

Tanesha groaned when her phone rang. A second later, Jeraine’s phone rang. Tanesha reached her phone first.

“Hello?” Tanesha asked at nearly the same time that Jeraine said, “Hello.”

“Tanesha Smith?” a woman’s voice asked. “I need to speak with you and Jeraine Wilson.”

“Who is this?” Tanesha asked.

“It’s Atlanta Child Protection Services,” the woman said. “We haven’t met. My name is Hazel Johnson. I’m a child support service manager. I am responsible for the care and well-being of children in Atlanta.”

“Uh, okay, Jeraine’s right here,” Tanesha said. She nodded to Jeraine. “He’s hanging up. I’m going to put you on speaker.”

“Oh, good,” she said. “Thanks.”

Jeraine got out of bed and pulled on a T-shirt and sweatpants. Tanesha reached for her bathrobe.

“I’m here,” Jeraine said, pulling on his socks.

“Mr. Wilson, I’m not sure how to say this to you,” Hazel said.

“Ms. Johnson, you can tell us anything,” Tanesha said.

“How can we help?” Jeraine asked.

Hazel sighed.

“You can call me ‘Hazel,’” she said. “And, I’m glad you want to help, but let me tell you what’s going on first.”

“What’s going on?” Tanesha asked.

“You’re aware, well, of course you are,” Hazel said.

Hazel didn’t say anything for a long moment.

“Ma’am?” Jeraine asked.

“Sorry, I just realized that I was talking to Miss T and Jeraine,” Hazel said.

“It’s freaky,” Jeraine said. “For us, too.”

“We understand,” Tanesha said. “Take your time.”

“No, I. . . Well, I’m just going to tell you,” Hazel said. “You remember, Annette?”

“Jabari’s birth mother?” Jeraine asked. “Yes, I remember my son’s birth mother.”

“Yes, sorry — of course, you do,” Hazel said.

“Jer, why don’t you make us some tea?” Tanesha asked.

Looking relieved, Jeraine nodded and left the room.

“He’s gone,” Tanesha said. “You can talk to me. I’m just a regular person. I work a job like you. I’m no star.”

“Okay. Um,” Hazel said. “Thanks.”

“No problem,” Tanesha said. “What’s going on?”

“Jabari is Annette’s eldest child,” Hazel said.

“She has two or three others,” Tanesha said. “I’m not really sure how many because we’ve never seen them.”

“She has three other children,” Hazel said. “Two of them were removed from the home and placed with Annette’s mother. The youngest one was a baby.”

“Okay,” Tanesha said, slowly.

“Annette’s mother has died,” Hazel said. “As well as her sisters, Annette’s Aunts. They. . . well, um. . . Covid. The whole family has died.”

“The whole family,” Tanesha repeated still unsure of what was being said. “Their fathers?”

“One is in the hospital,” Hazel said. “Covid. It doesn’t look like he’ll make it. His parents have already succumbed to the virus. The baby’s father, well, he died.”

“Wow,” Tanesha said.

“Oh, sorry, he was a rapper,” Hazel said. “He was killed before the child was born last year. Drive-by shooting.”

“Okay,” Tanesha said. “I apologize but I’m not sure how I can help.”

“You’re right. I need to be more clear,” Hazel said. She gasped a breath and started talking, “I need to place the children. Annette’s chlidren are in foster care now. I went to visit with them last night, and they kept asking about Jabari. They don’t want to be placed in Atlanta where they’d be away from Jabari. They’ve asked me to move them to Denver, so that they can see their brother.”

“My friend, Heather, has a social worker who has helped them with their adoption,” Tanesha said. “If you hang on a minute. . .”

“I’ve spoken with social services there,” Hazel said. “They are as overrun as we are.”

“Overrun?” Tanesha slowly asked the question.

Tanesha felt like Hazel was saying something but she was too slow to hear or understand.

Her mind slipped to standing in the Castle kitchen this morning. She was putting away the tea pot when Delphie came up to her. Delphie hugged her. Pulling back, the oracle gave Tanesha was Valerie called an “Oracle Bomb,” a prophetic sentence that makes no sense at the time but will at some point in the near future.

“And really, when have you ever done anything on your own?” Delphie asked.

She kissed Tanesha’s cheek and drifted away. Tanesha realized that Hazel had been talking this entire time.

“I’m sorry,” Tanesha said. “I got off work at 3 this morning and have been running since then. I’m a little bleary. Would you mind repeating what you were saying?”

“Sure, no problem,” Hazel said. “How is medical school going?”

“Weird,” Tanesha said. “The pandemic has made the school part pretty weird and the rounds deadly.”

Tanesha sighed.

“I’m tired,” Tanesha said. “I’m sure you are too.”

“I bet,” Hazel said. “And yes, yes, I’m exhausted.”

“Please, humor me and repeat what you were saying,” Tanesha said.

“I’ll cut to the chase,” Hazel said. “These Covid deaths have created a lot of orphans. Like Annette’s family, it’s not uncommon for every member of the family to either be sick with that Long Haul or dead. Every child program in the country is jammed with orphans. No one’s seen anything like this. Ever. We’ve been running Facebook ads for Foster Parents here.”

“Crazy,” Tanesha said.

“The boys want to live with their brother, Jabari,” Hazel said. “That’s the truth of it. I was asked to call you to see if you might consider taking these boys into your home and raising them. All of Annette’s assets are being converted into trusts for her children. They also have money from their fathers. While you’re a foster parent, you’d get a monthly stipend and. . .”

Tanesha sighed.

And really, when have you ever done anything on your own?

Never.

Even when she was at college, her girlfriends sent food and clothing; talked to her in the middle of the night; Heather had even come to see her when she needed her most and held her hand through her worst moments from Jeraine’s bullshit to the horror of her parents situation.

“I need to speak with Jeraine and Jabari,” Tanesha said. “We. . . I mean, I’m in school and he’s. . . I will have to get back with you.”

“Denver Child Services has agreed to take temporary custody of the boys. We are coming to Denver this afternoon,” Hazel said. “If you only see the boys in visits, that’s fine. If you feel like you can help more, that’s better. You don’t have to kill yourself here. And there really isn’t anyone else.”

“The boys are Jabari’s brothers,” Tanesha said. “They will be in his life for the rest of his life. That matters. We also know a lot about Foster Care and have an agent we’ve worked with previously.”

“Good,” Hazel said. “Can we meet you for dinner tonight?”

“Tonight?” Tanesha asked. “Jeraine has a show and I. . .”

And really, when have you ever done anything on your own?

“What I need to do first is speak to Jeraine,” Tanesha said.

“I really hope that you’ll take the boys,” Hazel said.

“I hear what you’re saying,” Tanesha said. “It doesn’t change the fact that I need to speak to Jeraine.”

“Okay,” Hazel said. “I will call you at this number when we land this afternoon.”

“Thank you,” Tanesha said.

The woman was talking when Tanesha clicked off the phone call. Staring into space, she sat on the end of the bed for what felt like an age.

“You okay?” Jeraine asked as he poked his head in the doorway. “What did she want?”

“You should sit down,” Tanesha said.

Jeraine came into the room and closed the door. He sat down next to her on the bed. He grabbed her hand and intertwined their fingers.

“Lay it on me.”

~~~~~~~~

Wednesday morning —11:12 a.m.

“I love this house,” Dionne Wilson, Jeraine’s mother, said as she came down the stairs. “How long have you been here?”

“Not long,” Tanesha said. “Would you like to see the adult bedrooms?”

“We want to see everything,” Yvonne Smith, Tanesha’s mother, said. “Why haven’t we done this before?”

“Covid,” Tanesha said. “You old folks are at risk.”

“Who are you calling old?” Dr. Bumpy Wilson, Jeraine’s father, asked.

Everyone laughed.

“Jacob came over to help us get the air flow right,” Tanesha said.

“He’s the one who set it up for the school?” Yvonne asked.

“She’s talking about Marlowe,” Rodney Smith, Tanesha’s father, said.

“Oh, right,” Yvonne said. “I forget that his name isn’t Jakey.”

The older folks laughed. Shaking her head, Tanesha led them down the hallway.

“Every adult has his or her own room on this level,” Tanesha said. “Each room has a bathroom and outdoor space.”

“So nice,” Yvonne said.

“Like a fancy hotel,” Dionne said. “I like it. Jakey came up with this?”

“Jacob and Jill did,” Tanesha said with a nod. “Heather has the large bathroom because she does the most childcare. The kids rooms are at the end of the hallway.”

Tanesha opened a door to the room that Jacob had built out of thin air.

“Gorgeous playroom,” Dionne said.

“Why so many bedrooms?” Yvonne gestures to the four bedrooms along the back.

“We weren’t sure if Jabari would want to sleep up here,” Tanesha said. “We don’t know if Heather will have more children.”

“Is she planning on having more?” Dr. Bumpy asked with a scowl.

“Not that I know of,” Tanesha said.

They backed their way out of the room. Tanesha opened Nelson’s room.

“This room has a private stairwell to the rooftop,” Tanesha said. “Nelson is a big star watcher so Jacob made a patio out of some of the attic. Nelson has his own stairwell so that he can do star stuff when it’s happening.”

“Do you have access to this patio?” Rodney asked. “Didn’t you send me a photo from here?”

“It’s shared space,” Tanesha said with a nod.

They walked back down the hallway and went further into the house. Tanesha took them to her and Jeraine’s private area, Jabari’s bedroom, her study, and their little kitchen. Her parents lingered at the window that could be seen out of but not inside.

“Why are those photographers so amped up today?” Yvonne asked.

“We’ll get to that,” Tanesha said.

She led them out to the main kitchen area. They went through to the sitting area near the sliding door. Tanesha opened it a crack to get the air moving.

“Let me know if you get cold,” Tanesha said. “This is the best way we know of to stay safe. We put blankets around so feel free to grab one.”

“Plus our masks,” Dionne said, touching the cloth mask over her face.

“Is it true that the governor is giving Jacob vaccines?” Dr. Bumpy asked.

“The company has agreed, as a whole, to take them or stay home,” Rodney said. “Of course, we’ll see what happens.”

“Good stuff,” Dr. Bumpy said. “Dionne and I are getting them next week, as well. Yvie?”

“She’s covered at work,” Rodney said. “Jake told the governor that it was stupid to not vaccinate all of the adults in a home. Somehow, he got the governor to agree.”

“Valerie probably talked to him,” Yvonne said.

Dionne and Yvonne gave each other knowing nods.

“No idea,” Tanesha said.

“Listen,” Jeraine said, coming into the sitting area. “We’re not here for vaccines.”

“Okay, son,” Dionne said. “We’re just chatting.”

“Lovely home,” Yvonne said.

“I’ll show you the recording studio when we’re done here,” Jeraine said.

“Can’t wait,” Dr. Bumpy said. He rubbed his hands together. “Why are we here? Baby?”

His face lit up and he looked at Tanesha, who shook her head, and then to Jeraine. His son looked overwhelmed.

“What’s happened?” Rodney asked.

“We need some help,” Tanesha said.

For the next hour, they talked through Annette’s children moving to Denver. When they were done, their parents went to look at the recording studio.

Tanesha’s phone rang.

“What did they say?” Jill asked.

“They’ll help,” Tanesha said. “Mom said that she and dad had been talking about adopting some of these orphans. So, they knew all about what’s going on and said that they would help.”

“How do you feel about it now?” Heather asked.

“Are you guys at the salon?” Tanesha asked.

“We’ve been waiting to hear how it went,” Sandy said. “How do you feel?”

“Terrified,” Tanesha said. “I never wanted kids, I mean. . .”

“We can do this,” Jill said.

“Don’t overthink it,” Sandy said. “Kids mostly need food, safety, and acceptance. We’ve got that in spades.”

“What if I screw it up?” Tanesha asked. “What about school and being a doctor?”

“We’ve got this,” Jill said.

“Don’t even worry,” Heather said. “We’ve got this.”

“And Jer?” Tanesha asked. “I mean, he’s just getting on his feet and his head and. . .”

“Everything is going to be fine,” Heather said.

“Promise?” Tanesha asked.

“Promise,” Sandy said. “We’ve got this.”

“Okay,” Tanesha said. “Thanks.”

Tanesha hung up the phone. For a long moment, she stared at the wall. Shrugging, she went to go find Jeraine and their parents.

Denver Cereal continues next week...


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-three - And really, when have you ever done anything on your own? (part five)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-THREE

(part five)

Wednesday morning —11:12 a.m.

“I love this house,” Dionne Wilson, Jeraine’s mother, said as she came down the stairs. “How long have you been here?”

“Not long,” Tanesha said. “Would you like to see the adult bedrooms?”

“We want to see everything,” Yvonne Smith, Tanesha’s mother, said. “Why haven’t we done this before?”

“Covid,” Tanesha said. “You old folks are at risk.”

“Who are you calling old?” Dr. Bumpy Wilson, Jeraine’s father, asked.

Everyone laughed.

“Jacob came over to help us get the air flow right,” Tanesha said.

“He’s the one who set it up for the school?” Yvonne asked.

“She’s talking about Marlowe,” Rodney Smith, Tanesha’s father, said.

“Oh, right,” Yvonne said. “I forget that his name isn’t Jakey.”

The older folks laughed. Shaking her head, Tanesha led them down the hallway.

“Every adult has his or her own room on this level,” Tanesha said. “Each room has a bathroom and outdoor space.”

“So nice,” Yvonne said.

“Like a fancy hotel,” Dionne said. “I like it. Jakey came up with this?”

“Jacob and Jill did,” Tanesha said with a nod. “Heather has the large bathroom because she does the most childcare. The kids rooms are at the end of the hallway.”

Tanesha opened a door to the room that Jacob had built out of thin air.

“Gorgeous playroom,” Dionne said.

“Why so many bedrooms?” Yvonne gestures to the four bedrooms along the back.

“We weren’t sure if Jabari would want to sleep up here,” Tanesha said. “We don’t know if Heather will have more children.”

“Is she planning on having more?” Dr. Bumpy asked with a scowl.

“Not that I know of,” Tanesha said.

They backed their way out of the room. Tanesha opened Nelson’s room.

“This room has a private stairwell to the rooftop,” Tanesha said. “Nelson is a big star watcher so Jacob made a patio out of some of the attic. Nelson has his own stairwell so that he can do star stuff when it’s happening.”

“Do you have access to this patio?” Rodney asked. “Didn’t you send me a photo from here?”

“It’s shared space,” Tanesha said with a nod.

They walked back down the hallway and went further into the house. Tanesha took them to her and Jeraine’s private area, Jabari’s bedroom, her study, and their little kitchen. Her parents lingered at the window that could be seen out of but not inside.

“Why are those photographers so amped up today?” Yvonne asked.

“We’ll get to that,” Tanesha said.

She led them out to the main kitchen area. They went through to the sitting area near the sliding door. Tanesha opened it a crack to get the air moving.

“Let me know if you get cold,” Tanesha said. “This is the best way we know of to stay safe. We put blankets around so feel free to grab one.”

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...