Chapter Six Hundred and Eighteen: Funnies
Chapter Six Hundred and Twenty: Can you help?

Chapter Six Hundred and Nineeen: Changing times


Wednesday mid-day — 3:35 p.m.

Denver, Colorado

“Katy, honey,” Jill said opening the door to Katy’s room.

Katy was standing in the middle of the room. She held the hilt of the Vanquisher sword with both hands while the sharp point was pointed down. There was a black char mark in the wood floor around the point of the sword. Katy was in the middle of saying the word “Paddie” when Jill opened the door.

Not sure how to respond, Jill simply looked at her daughter for a long moment. Katy gave her mother her “seriously frustrated” look.

Jill raised her eyebrows.

Katy blushed.

“Why doesn’t it work?” Katy asked. She pointed the sword at her mother. “What did you do?”

“Don’t point that thing at me or anyone else!” Jill said. “I am the daughter of a Titan. Do not tempt me.”

“But. . .” Katy sighed. Her irritation slipped away and she dropped the sword. She looked very small and very sad. “I want Paddie to come here.”

“That’s understandable,” Jill said.

“Why doesn’t it work?” Katy asked. “The sword is supposed to bring me anything I want.”

“Anything?” Jill asked.

“Watch,” Katy said. She set the tip of the sword on the floor. “Ice cream.”

A pint of Tanner and Bladen’s favorite ice cream appeared on the floor.

“See!” Katy asked.

“This is how you get the boys to do what you say,” Jill said fighting to keep the laughter out of her voice.

“Of course,” Katy said.

Jill fought to keep her face neutral.

“Why doesn’t it work for Paddie?” Katy asked.

“Well. . .” Jill said. She shook her head. “Actually, I’m not sure. I think it’s because you promised not to go on any more adventures. But it could be my Dad or Abi. But more likely it’s that a promise is sacred, especially to objects of power.”

Jill shrugged.

“Could you really have taken the sword away from me?” Katy asked.

Jill nodded.

“But don’t tell anyone,” Jill said.

Nodding her head, Katy giggled. The sword disappeared.

“You came in to tell me something?” Katy asked. She crossed her hands in front of her and gave her mother her sweetest look. “Maybe like Paddie’s coming to visit?”

Katy’s eyebrows went up and her eyes got very big.

“Paddie is here,” Jill said. “But. . .”

Katy started jumping around with delight.

“Katy, the boys are sleeping,” Jill said.

“That’s why I’m not yelling and screaming,” Katy said. “I’m not a complete jerk, Mommy!”

Jill grinned at Katy saying a phrase often repeated by Noelle.

“But what?” Katy asked.

“Paddie is sick,” Jill said.

Katy looked immediately crestfallen.

“So is his Mommy and his brother,” Jill said. “Your grandmother, Anjelika, and my brothers and sisters helped to make them all strong, but right now they are very sick.”

“Even with cuddles?” Katy asked.

Jill nodded.

“Why aren’t they in the hospital, like Grampa Sam?” Katy asked.

“Turns out that while they are very sick, they aren’t as sick as some other people,” Jill said.

“Grampa Sam must be really sick,” Katy said.

Jill nodded.

“Is Jabari coming home?” Katy asked.

“How do you know about Jabari?” Jill asked.

“He’s my girlfriend-brother,” Katy said. “I’ve checked on him with my head.”

Jill gave Katy a long look and then shook her head.

“He’s with his dad,” Jill said. “They are in the basement isolating for a while until they are sure Jabari doesn’t get sicker.”

“Did he get cuddles?” Katy asked.

Jill nodded.

“Can I have cuddles?” Katy asked.

“Only if your promise not to go see Paddie for a while,” Jill said.

“I promise,” Katy said. Her eyes welled with tears. “Is Paddie going to die?”

“Not if I can help it,” Jill said. “You know what you could do to help Paddie?”

“Not see him,” Katy said miserably.

“Exactly,” Jill said.

Katy looked down for a moment. She gave a deep sigh.

“I promise,” Katy said.

Jill held out her arms and Katy ran into them. Jill carried her baby-girl to the bed. With Katy on her lap, they sat together for a long time.

“Want some ice cream?” Katy asked after more than twenty minutes.

“You know, I would,” Jill said. “But not that ice cream.”

Jill gestured to the melted mess of the twins’ favorite ice cream.

“I can get more,” Katy said.

“We have some of your favorites in the freezer,” Jill said. “That’s where the ice cream is coming from, you know.”

“Our freezer?” Katy asked.

“The Vanquisher won’t steal anything,” Jill said. “It’s something Dad told me because you know I how worry about that.”

“Can we have ice cream?” Katy asked.

Jill stood up with Katy in her arms. They went out to the little kitchen to have some bubble gum ice cream and worry about Paddie and his family.


Wednesday evening — 6:19 p.m.

Denver, Colorado

“I’m so sorry that I’m late,” Dr. John Drayson said. He got out of his sedan. “I know that you’ve been waiting for me. Everything is. . . crazy. And Alex is still gone.”

“Which just makes things crazier,” Jill said, speaking loudly to be heard through her mask.

He nodded at her understanding. Jill smiled at the handsome doctor. With the cloth mask on, his blue eyes looked even bigger and bluer.

“They’ve been resting,” Jill said. “You’re absolutely fine.”

“Do you happen to know how Nelson is doing?” John asked as they walked

“I spent an hour or so with him midday,” Jill said. “He wanted some sun, so I sat with him while the nurse had some lunch.”

“That was nice of you,” John said.

“Necessary,” Jill said. “She works really hard. Honey was able to help with the kids so it was really easy. I’m so lucky to have so much help here. Can you tell me how Sam is doing?”

“I was going to update Delphie after I check in with my sister-in-law,” John said. “I have no idea why they sent Julie away from the hospital. I can tell you that we would have admitted her.”

“She probably left,” Jill said. “She feels like she has no one to help with Paddie and Connor when the team’s gone. Less so now that Erin and Sami have left the city.”

“It’s a very difficult time,” John said. “She usually goes to one of her sisters.”

“She thinks that’s how she got infected,” Jill said.

“She’s not wrong,” John said.

John put his hand on Jill’s upper arm.

“How is Jacob?” John asked.

“No sign of illness or infection,” Jill said with a nod. “He and Aden have been working like crazy to help carry the company through this thing.”

“They’re being careful?” John asked.

“Masks, distance, reduced crews,” Jill said, nodding. “They are pretty serious about it since Sam got sick. We’ve have deliveries of cloth masks all day today. We’re going to drown!”

“Good,” John said. “We’re likely to be wearing them for a while.”

Jill grinned.

“I’ll take you to them,” Jill said.

Jill went in front of John showing him through the hallway and into the apartment at the end. He nodded to Jill. Jill opened the door.

Connor was awake and crying in the mewing cry of a baby. Paddie was asleep in the crock of Julie’s arm. Julie seemed asleep.

John went immediately to the sink in the kitchen and washed his hands and forearms. He dried them on a paper towel, put on a pair of protective glasses, and turned around to look at Jill.

“I’ll get Connor,” Jill said.

“Let me check him first,” John said, pulling a pair of latex gloves from his pocket and putting them on.

Jill held the toddler while John checked his lungs and heart.

“Thermometer?” John asked.

Jill gave him a forehead thermometer. John took off the cap and ran it over the toddler’s forehead. He looked at the number and gave it back to Jill. She wiped it off with a disinfectant cloth.

“He’s fever free,” John said.

Jill nodded. She carried him to the apartment’s small kitchen. She washed the toddler in the sink while John checked Paddie and Julie. She wrapped Connor in a diaper and some clean hand-me-downs from Valerie’s son. She grabbed some breast milk from the refrigerator and warmed it in a glass bottle I in the microwave. Connor gladly took the bottle from her. Jill carried him to the bed.

“Would you mind cleaning up Paddie?” John asked. “It looks like he’s been sick.”

Jill nodded. She put Connor into the crib they’d moved into the apartment before Julie and the children had arrived.

“Paddie still has a fever,” John said. “But it’s down from last night.”

“Come on, Paddie,” Jill said, picking up the little boy.

“Don’ tell Katy that I’m here,” Paddie said.

Jill grinned at the sincerity in his voice.

“I won’ get her sick,” Paddie said.

The little boy coughed and put his hand on the outside of his mask.

“I need a shower,” Paddie whispered. “I had an accident.”

“That’s okay,” Jill said. “We have a shower right here. I brought your favorite soap and a fluffy towel.”

Paddie nodded.

Jill carried him into the little bathroom. She helped him out of his soiled clothing and stayed with him while he showered. Halfway through, he was bent over with a hacking cough. The child couldn’t seem to catch his breath. Jill rubbed her hands together and placed her right hand between his shoulders. It took a minute or so but his coughing eased. He stopped coughing.

She got the boy out of the shower and helped dry him. Even though Paddie was a child, he was tall. Jill put him into some of Nash’s old sweats and a T-shirt. He didn’t resist her putting a child mask over his face and nose. Surprised, she leaned back when the wooden sword appeared at his waist. He ran to his mother on the bed.

“Mommy look!” Paddie said.

Julie’s eyes flicked to her son.

“It says ‘Life is Good’,” Paddie said with a grin.

“Feeling better?” Julie croaked.

“Cuddles always work,” Paddie said with a nod.

“Connor?” Jill asked.

John nodded toward the crib. Connor was sound asleep. Jill took the empty bottle from the toddler.

“He’s so much better than he was,” John said. “You’ll have to tell me about those cuddles.”

“Love always wins,” Jill said vaguely. “How is Julie?”

“She’s very ill,” John said. “For now, I’d like to keep this little family together. Paddie and Connor need their mother as much as she needs them right now. Their bond can be the difference between life and death for them.”

“We can take care of them,” Jill said and nodded.

“Does Nelson have a nurse?” John asked.

“He does,” Jill said. “We can get a nurse for Julie.”

“You may need one,” John said. “Her blood oxygen is low but not critical. At least, right now. I left a pulse ox to test her oxygen. If it falls to 80 or lower, then she needs to be in the hospital. I’d like to set up an IV but. . .”

John looked around the room, and then at Jill.

“Do you have IV saline here?” John asked.

“Not when MJ’s gone,” Jill said. “I will call the service when you leave and get a nurse here. If you leave the order, I can get it filled.”

“That’s a lot to ask for you to do,” John said. “You have a young family of your own to care for.”

“I do,” Jill said with a nod. “But we’ve asked Charlie and Tink to help with the kids. In fact, if you need help with the kids at your house, we can certainly take them. Plus, we have an empty apartment or two.”

“That’s very kind of you,” John said. “So far, we’re covered. My sister and brothers are doing the heavy lifting at home. I’ll tell you. . .”

John looked down at Jill and smiled.

“They are happy to have something new to complain about,” John said with a grin.

Jill laughed.

“I’ll write a detailed order,” John said. Pulling off his gloves. “Tell the nurse to call me if she or he has questions. Doesn’t your brother run a service now?”

“Steve?” Jill asked. “He does.”

“Brilliant,” John said. “Steve’s a good egg. I’m delighted that he’ll be able to help.”

Jill opened the door to the apartment.

“Would you mind if I shower here?” John asked. “I need to get home.”

“We have clean scrubs here,” Jill looked him up and down. “I think we have some in your size or close.”

“That would be very nice,” John said.

“I’ll show you the way,” Jill said.

She led John back into the medical offices. While he showered, Jill called Delphie and asked her to bring up some soup for Julie and food for the boys. She also called her brother, Steve, who said he’d come by the Castle to take a look at what Julie needed. John finished showering and changing. He said goodbye by reminding her to call him is she needed anything. He left through the medical offices.

Jill watched him go before heading downstairs to see what was next. She was just in the hallway when Delphie passed with a tray of soup for the little family. The smiled at each other as they rushed past toward their other duties.


Wednesday evening — 9 p.m.

Denver, Colorado

Jill had just reached the kitchen when Jacob and Tres returned from Lipson Construcation. Jeraine came up from downstairs around the same time. Because everyone wanted to be together to share their day, Jill and Heather set up the clay chimineas six feet apart. Jacob and Tres barbecued lamb chops with potatoes and a salad from the indoor garden.

It was cold and perfect. Jill hadn’t realized how much she missed talking to people. Everyone talked and laughed. The children played together in the thawing garden. Blane came in late and revealed a cake he’d worked on during the day.

With the instruction to enjoy her evening, Jacob grabbed the boys and took Katy off to bed. Tres took Wyn and Mack inside. Jeraine carried Jabari inside. Mike pulled the cover off the hot tub and brought Eddie and Jackie inside. Blane brought out a bottle of wine and glasses before heading inside.

“Hot tub?” Valerie asked after the men were gone.

“Can you go in?” Heather asked.

“Oh,” Valerie said.

Valerie gestured to the hot tub. The women looked in.

“Whhaaa??” Jill asked at the same time as Heather said, “What is this?”

“It’s a swimspa,” Delphie said as she came out of the house with another bottle of wine. “There’s a hot tub on the end and a swimming place on the other end. I went for a swim today.”

Delphie smiled.

“I bought it,” Valerie said. “I need to get some exercise but I’ve swelled up so much. My doctor in LA suggested this the last time, but I was able to swim at the rec center then.”

“The rec centers aren’t opening this year,” Delphie said.

“Because of the virus?” Jill asked.

Delphie nodded.

“So I needed a place to swim,” Valerie said. “Jake paid the delivery guys extra to move the hot tub to the other deck.”

“When?” Jill said. “I was just up there with him.”

“Yesterday,” Valerie said. “Anyway, I can hang out in the cool if I get too hot. Go get dressed.”

Delphie took off her housecoat to show a flowery bathing suit. She got into the hot tub end of the spa. Jill looked at Heather and shrugged. They went inside and changed into the suits they had hanging in the downstairs bathroom. They grabbed towels from the stack.

When they came out again, Valerie and Delphie were in the hot tub. Delphie had a glass of wine in her hand. Heather got into the hot tub and Jill gave her a glass of wine. Jill poured herself a glass and set it on the edge. Jill climbed in.

They sat together for a long moment without saying anything.

“How are you, Delphie?” Heather asked.

“Sad,” Delphie said. “Scared. It’s the worst at night because he’s always here. Always. Sam Lipson has been in this house every night since. . . we moved here, basically. It’s. . .”

Delphie stared off into space for a long moment. Shaking her head, she took a drink of wine.

“I miss him,” Delphie said.

“Me, too,” Valerie said.

Heather and Jill both nodded in agreement.

“He’s there,” Delphie said. “Fighting it out. On his own. I don’t think he’s ever been on his own. Not really. He and Celia met when he was ten when he lived with his family. I met then a few years later. Since then, it’s always been the three of us. Now, he’s in the hospital and I. . .”

Delphie sighed.

“You have us,” Valerie said.

Heather reached out to hold Delphie’s hand. Jill put her arm around Delphie.

“I just can’t believe it,” Valerie said. “I mean, I know that I’ve been gone and then even when I’m here I’m back and forth. But, Dad’s always been here. He’s so hearty. So tough. I mean, I knew that he wouldn’t live forever, but this? It feels a lot worse.”

Jill and Heather nodded.

“I hope he’s home before the baby’s born,” Valerie said.

Valerie looked at Delphie.

“I’m sorry,” Delphie said. “I don’t know.”

Lost in their own thoughts, the women fell silent for a while. Delphie took a breath and looked at Heather.

“How is Olympia?” Delphie asked.

Denver Cereal continues next week...



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