CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and FIFTEEN
Nelson awoke screaming. The nurse assistant came in and ran out again. The nurse and the nurse assistant returned. Together, they tried to get from Nelson what was wrong.
He couldn’t stop screaming.
Finally, the nurse called the doctor and they agreed to medicate him. Within moments, the narcotic went into Nelson’s IV and ever so slowly, he stopped screaming. When his voice fell to a slow mewing, the medical professionals left the room, and Nelson was alone again.
He felt a hand on his arm. He turned to see Abi holding his hand while her other hand stroked his forearm.
“Are you in pain?” Abi asked.
“Terrified,” Nelson said, his voice a whisper. “I. . . I. . .”
His hand moved to his nose.
“Smell?” Abi asked.
“Yes,” Abi said. “You smell something like that wretched dungeon?”
“You smell me,” Abi said.
Nelson pointed at her. She nodded.
“I was trying to keep you alive,” Abi said. “You were. . .”
Abi shook her head.
“You. . .” Nelson whispered.
“Shh. . .” Abi whispered.
“’fraid wake up there,” Nelson said.
“I brought you home,” Abi said. “I won’t allow you to return.”
“Promise,” Nelson said.
“You can trust me when I say that no being on this planet has the power to defy me,” Abi said. “Not a one. But even I cannot save you when your will is set against it.”
When he looked at Abi, she looked like Bathsheba.
“You,” Nelson whispered somewhere between a question and an acquisition.
“I asked your mother to go to you,” Abi said. “She was busy trying to save your father, so I chose her ancestor. I had an idea that you and she were in the similar places. She was able to enter the prison of your mind, get you to see that you needed to let go.”
“She saved me,” Nelson said. “Lost in that tomb.”
“Lost in your own will,” Abi whispered.
“Yes,” Nelson said as a sigh. “That too.”
Nelson glanced at Abi to see that she was grinning at him. It was only then that he realized that Abi was doing something to him. He turned to actually look at her. Her hands had melded into his flesh.
“What are you doing?” Nelson asked.
“Strengthening you,” Abi said.
“Why?” Nelson asked. “Why help me?”
“Oh dear, child,” Abi said. “You stand at an important crossroad in human history. You may determine the difference of what will happen and what won’t happen. You must be ready for it.”
“I don’t want to save the world,” Nelson said.
“Why is that funny?” Nelson asked.
“It’s not up to you to save the world,” Abi said. “Or even the human world.”
“What am I doing?” Nelson asked.
“Dear boy,” Abi said. “You are doing what you were born to do. I am helping you do it.”
“That’s what Jacque de Molay said,” Nelson said. He was feeling stronger, but he didn’t want to admit it. “He nearly killed me.”
“Yes, he did,” Abi said. “What do you think happened?”
Nelson was silent for a long time. He shook his head.
“Yes, you do know,” Abi said.
“Bathsheba said that I had to decide to leave there,” Nelson said. “You’re saying that I set my will to stay there. But. . .but I. . . I mean, I guess that’s how I got home but. . . Why didn’t I think of that sooner?”
“Good question,” Abi said. “I will tell you. . .”
Nelson looked over at Abi.
“I hate the Templars too,” Abi said.
He snorted a kind of laugh, and she smiled.
“May I ask you a question?” Nelson asked.
“Of course,” Abi said.
“Why do you take this fairy form?” Nelson asked. “You just told me that you are the most powerful being on this planet and yet you. . .”
He waved his fingers around and giggled like a girl in some kind of imitation of Abi.
“I do not act like that,” Abi said.
“I have seen those little Fairy Corps outfits,” Nelson said. “You look like. . .”
“Okay, okay, fair enough,” Abi said, with a sigh.
“Why bother?” Nelson asked. “You could crush all of these fairies and all of their bullshit and. . .”
“Oh my dear boy, do you truly not know that might is never the solution?” Abi asked.
“I. . .” Nelson scowled. “No. No. Is that true?”
“Of course it is,” Abi said. “You want to make real change then create community, connection, and be kind. That’s what works.”
“But. . .?” Nelson gazed at the ceiling. “Oh my God, I feel so much better. What did you do?”
“I took away that virus,” Abi said. “You’ve had it a long time. You don’t need it, do you?”
“AIDS?” Nelson laughed. “Really?”
“Oh, is that what it’s called?” Abi asked. She shrugged. “Humans and their viruses. Crazy really. Every living being has at least one virus associated with it. You cannot have life without viruses. Yet humans have this idea that they can negotiate around their virus.”
Nelson glanced at her.
“There would be no humans without viruses,” Abi said. She nodded. “And yet. . .”
She put her hand on her forehead in a dramatic gesture.
“. . . I don’t deserve this,” Abi said and then laughed. “You know what you don’t deserve?”
“What?” Nelson said vaguely.
“Life,” Abi said. “You do not deserve to be alive. It’s a gift. Every moment of it. But no living creature ever understands that. They come. They go. They never understand that their very presence is improbable and will end sooner than they ever understand. Can you imagine the shock when the last cell took the last breath of carbon dioxide and killed them all? ‘We don’t deserve this!’ They cried.”
“First mass extinction,” Nelson said. “Single cells took in carbon dioxide and excreted oxygen until they killed themselves.”
“Yes,” Abi said.
“That’s not an answer to why you’re in human form,” Nelson said.
Abi grinned at him and pulled back. He turned on his side to look at her.
“I won’t tell anyone,” Nelson said.
“I wanted to see what it was like,” Abi said. “Have children. Live like a human.”
“Not so complicated,” she said.
“And Fin?” Nelson asked.
“He loves me,” Abi said. “I love him. Is that not enough?”
“No,” Nelson said. “He’s such a pain in the ass. Beautiful. I’ll give you that. He’s probably a pretty great lay — all those muscles and power. But — and that’s a big but — he’s such a prima donna. Who wants to deal with all of his Prince-sized drama?”
Abi laughed, and Nelson grinned.
“He knows how powerful I am and he loves me anyway,” Abi said. “He doesn’t interfere or try to control me. He doesn’t try to take my power for himself. He lets me be me. He has fought for me.”
Abi nodded. She stood from her seated position.
“When you are well, you will speak with him,” Abi said. “He’s one of the few people who know and understand what you’ve been through. He even knows all of the humans you have dealt with. He was old in their time. He will fight with you, and you’ll see what I mean.”
Nelson nodded. Abi leaned over and kissed him.
“Sleep now,” Abi said. “When you awaken, you will be well.”
Nelson fell into a deep sleep.
Monday morning — 9:48 a.m. ET
New York City, NY
“Hi Sandy, how are you feeling?” Dr. Nadia Kerminoff said.
They were speaking via video call. Sandy was in Denver. Nadia was in Ivan’s loft.
“Healing,” Sandy said. “Slowly.”
“At least it’s happening,” Nadia said.
“The last surgery?” Nadia asked.
“They replaced my ankle,” Sandy said. “They say it looks good.”
“And feel?” Nadia asked.
“Okay,” Sandy said. She sighed.
“But?” Nadia asked.
“Oh, I was walking before, and now I’m back in this wheelchair,” Sandy said.
“Fair enough,” Nadia said. “But you’ll be back on your feet in no time. You’ll see. This will be much better.”
Sandy gave her a doubtful look but moved on.
“How are you?” Sandy asked.
“Tired,” Nadia said. “This coronavirus is. . . bad. So bad. I’ve been working. Dealing with arguing families is. . . a lot easier.”
“You’re amazing,” Sandy said.
“Just doing what I can,” Nadia said. She looked up and nodded. “Ian is here.”
Ian Berkenshire, the CEO of Nadia’s companies, walked into the apartment
“Hi Ian,” Sandy said. “Tanesha and Heather are here. Jill is on her way. So much is up in the air. She’s trying to help her husband’s company get on track.”
“That’s a lot of jobs,” Nadia said.
“They are considered essential,” Sandy said. “But only on some of the jobs so it’s kind of a big mess.”
“We’re in the same position,” Nadia said.
“We’re looking at converting one of our factories to making masks for people and for medical professionals,” Ian said. “We are blocked at almost every turn. Just insane.”
“We have to figure it out,” Nadia said.
Sandy nodded. Jill ran into the den of Seth O’Malley’s house.
“Jill’s here,” Sandy said. “Where are we?”
“The short answer is that we’ve been able to find the owners of about half of the remaining items,” Ian said. He nodded to Nadia.
“Among those that we’ve found, they are. . .” Nadia shook her head. “Angry is probably the best word to describe it. They don’t understand why we have the painting. They don’t believe that we just found their item.”
“We have shown them the videos of finding the salt mine,” Ian said. “And all of the supporting videos. It’s hard for them to believe that we don’t need to be prosecuted as Nazis or collaborators.”
“We’ve had pretty good luck with these families,” Heather said. “Would you like us to take over?”
“Please,” Ian said.
“Have you made any progress on the other half of crap?” Nadia asked.
“Did I say ‘crap’ out loud?” Nadia asked. She blushed. “I mean, precious works of art.”
“Maybe it’s time to pay someone do to do this?” Tanesha asked. “Between all of us, we can afford to hire a company to dispose of the items.”
“Do we trust that they will get it right?” Nadia asked. She yawned. “I’m sorry. I have to get some rest.”
She clicked off the video call.
“Ian, why don’t you send us the list of families?” Sandy asked. “We’ll see what we can do.”
“You sure?” Ian asked, his Australian accent strong.
“Absolutely,” Sandy said.
“Do not over tax yourself, Sandra,” Ian said.
Sandy grinned at him in reproach, and he nodded. He wasn’t responsible for her.
“I will send what we have,” Ian said. “You’ll let me know?”
“I will,” Sandy said.
“Right,” Ian said.
Ian waved to the girlfriends, and they waved back at him. When he was gone, Sandy closed the laptop.
“You’re sure you can do this?” Sandy asked.
“Of course,” Heather said. “Easy.”
Sandy grinned at Heather. She disappeared.
“How’s school?” Sandy asked Jill and Tanesha.
“Mine’s on hold,” Tanesha said. “We can take classes virtually but they haven’t figured it out yet.”
“Same here,” Jill nodded. “I think we’re off until the end of the semester.”
“That sucks,” Tanesha said. “You were almost done with school.”
“I’d rather not catch the virus,” Jill said.
“Me, too,” Tanesha said. “The ERs are crazy. They’ve asked for volunteers and. . .”
Tanesha shook her head.
“I want to help,” Tanesha said. “But it terrifies me, you know. I don’t want to get sick.”
Jill and Sandy nodded.
“How’s Jeraine?” Sandy asked.
“Pissed off,” Tanesha said. “He was ready to open the show and now this. They aren’t able to open. I’m sure he and his team will come up with something. But he’s worked so hard to make this show and now there are no shows.”
“Crazy,” Jill said. “It’s all just crazy. And all of the anger and division? I don’t know how we’re going to get through it.”
“At least we have each other,” Tanesha said. When Jill and Sandy seemed lost in their own thoughts, Tanesha added, “We do have each other, right?”
Jill hugged Tanesha and Sandy reached out a hand. Tanesha began to cry.
“I don’t know what I would do without you guys,” Tanesha said. “There’s so much hate coming at me.”
Not sure of what to say, Jill and Sandy just held on to Tanesha. Heather returned.
“How’d it go?” Sandy asked Heather.
Jill let go of Tanesha. They turned to look at Heather.
“They’re suing,” Heather said. “They want to review everything we have so they can determine what we might be hiding from them.”
“Ugh,” Sandy said. She dropped her head.
“Good,” Jill said. They turned to look at her. “Then it’s up to the attorneys. We can go swimming and enjoy our day.”
“Great thinking,” Tanesha said.
“I can’t go swimming,” Sandy said.
“Heather?” Tanesha asked.
Heather snapped her fingers, and Sandy’s ankle was covered in a waterproof silicone.
“Wow, that’s cool,” Sandy said.
“Tanesha’s idea,” Heather said.
“You are such a great friend,” Sandy said.
“Come on,” Jill said.
They went out into the cool spring air to the carriage house. Jill ran ahead to open the door. They went into the warm, moist air. Like they had when they were teens, they hung out in the hot tub and swam in the pool. For the next hour or so, they were able to let their pressures and stress fade away. Soon they would return to the pressures of the pandemic and their young families.
For now, they had each other.
That was enough.
Monday morning — 10:08 a.m. MT
“Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” Katy said. “You’re finally home!”
Jill turned to see her daughter enter their loft. Charlie and Tink were taking care of the kids today in the Castle living room. Somehow, Katy had slipped out of their grasp. Jill took a breath to respond to what she knew was coming next.
“Can I go see Paddie now?” Katy asked. “It’s not the weekend. Time to see Paddie!”
Katy clasped her hands in front of her heart and then jumped up and down.
“Katy,” Jill said, evenly.
“Can Paddie come over?” Katy asked. “Can we go to Paddie’s house? Or can we have Paddie over?”
Katy spun in place and paced away from Jill. As if she had just had this thought, Katy spun around.
“How about the twins and Paddie’s little brother play, and Paddie and I can play and. . .?” Katy’s bright face looked up to Jill’s.
They had been through this twice already today. From the moment Katy had awakened, she had one a singular thought — play with Paddie. A smart and very articulate girl, Katy had pressed at every point. Jill knelt down and put her arm around her daughter’s shoulders.
“We can’t see Paddie for a while,” Jill said. “There’s a terrible virus and everyone has been sent home.”
“But not Paddie!” Katy said.
On her drive to the Castle, Paddie’s mother, Julie, had called Jill to commiserate. Paddie was acting out the same drama at their home. The children were devastated that they couldn’t be together. In just one more day, Katy and Paddie would have been apart longer than they had been since before they’d met.
“Paddie is not sick!” Katy said. “He’s not been sent home! And I have cuddles! I don’t get sick!”
“Katy,” Jill said in warning.
To Jill’s surprise, Katy burst into tears and ran into her room. The little girl slammed her door in anger. Jill sighed. She went to the door and tried to open it. Katy had used her psychokinetic skill to force the door closed. Jill pressed her ear against the door. Katy was crying her eyes out.
Jill had never felt more inadequate. She felt tears well in her eyes.
The door clicked open. Jill went into the bedroom and sat on the bed. She pulled her daughter onto her lap. Jill and Katy cried.
Denver Cereal continues next week...
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