CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY
Saturday afternoon—2:35 p.m.
Delphie wandered through the Castle.
Their afternoon video game tournament gearing up, the teenagers were arguing and laughing over video games in the small office off the main Castle living room. Delphie looked in the room and was surprised to see Honey getting ready to play with them. Unafraid to express herself, Honey voiced her preference which caused the kids to express that they were glad that Honey wasn’t hogging “their” WiFi bandwidth with her work.
Delphie’s niece, Ivy, came over to give Delphie a hug. Ivy was a little young to be hanging out with the teens, but she was where she wanted to be. She, Charlie, and Tink had been through so much together that Delphie couldn’t imagine Ivy anywhere else. Not wanting to disrupt the fun, Delphie kissed Ivy’s forehead and left.
Delphie continued through the Castle.
There was a satisfying “pat, pat, pat” coming from the kitchen where the tweens and older kids were learning how to make tortillas with Noelle, and Maresol. Maresol was speaking in Spanish so that Noelle could practice her translation skills. When Delphie wandered by, Noelle got flustered.
“Slow down,” Maresol said in English. “Back it up. What do you remember the last thing said?”
“Esta textura proviene del uso de este tipo de maíz,” Joey Hargreaves-Drayson said.
“This texture comes from using this type of corn,” Máire Hargreaves-Drayson said.
“That’s exactly right,” Maresol said in English. “Joey and Máire have been studying Spanish this year. You should practice with them.”
Noelle nodded and looked at the twins. They both gave her beautiful smiles. Noella blushed.
Smiling, Delphie left them to their cooking.
There was a loud “Ha! Ha! Ha!” in high pitched baby voices coming from the sunny backyard lawn where Nash and Teddy were teaching martial arts to the smaller kids. Not ten minutes ago, this diapered crowd was sound asleep, sprawled out on the Castle living room floor. Every adult changed at least one diaper before these toddlers ran outside. Now, they were exuberantly playing this new game. A few more exuberant ran squealing around the group until they fell over.
The kids looked so cute in their masks that Delphie had to smile.
In a shady corner of the lawn, Valerie was reading a chapter book to the kids that needed a little quieter entertainment. Because Valerie was so near to her due date, her own kids — Jackie and Eddie — stuck to her like glue. Little Chase Hargreaves-Klaussen was leaned up against Valerie. There were a couple of kids that she didn’t recognize. But Alexander Walters and Kallyn Tubman were helping with the kids and listening to Valerie.
Delphie grinned at the budding love that was growing between the two teens and the serenity of the scene. She turned to go and nearly ran into a woman. The woman was shorter than Delphie and thicker.
“I’m so sorry,” Delphie said. “I was lost in my own thoughts.”
“I think it was me,” Quanshay Tubman said. “I saw you looking at my girl.”
Delphie turned back to the teens.
“Do you think they. . .?” Quanshay asked.
“I don’t think that they know,” Delphie said. “They look like childhood friends who are exploring something else.”
“But aren’t you the Oracle?” Quanshay asked.
“Uh. . .” Delphie scowled. “Hmm. . .”
“What?” Quanshay asked.
“Do you know someone named ‘Phillis’?” Delphie asked.
Gasping, Quanshay put her hand on her heart and took a step back.
“I’ve been looking for someone who knows her, but. . .” Delphie continued.
Quanshay’s daughter noticed that something was going on with her mom.
“Mom?” Kallyn called.
“It’s okay, honey,” Quanshay said to her daughter. “You enjoy yourself. I’m going to talk to Delphie a little bit.”
“Should I get J’Ron?” Kallyn asked.
“I just checked on him,” Quanshay said with a laugh. “Wild horses couldn’t drag that child away from his video games. Your little brother’s playing martial arts over there.”
“I’ll watch him,” Kallyn said.
“You’re a very nice girl,” Quanshay said.
Blushing, Kallyn nodded.
“My kids are a protective over me when my husband is gone,” Quanshay said. She added softly, “Is there somewhere we can talk?”
“We can sit on the steps over there,” Delphie said.
“By the chickens?” Quanshay asked.
“No one will disturb us there,” Delphie said.
“I’ve wanted to see those chickens,” Quanshay said as they walked to the wooden stairs up to the medical offices. “Honey told me that they are already laying?”
“We had six eggs this morning,” Delphie said.
“So soon!” Quanshay said.
“We were very lucky,” Delphie said.
“Or something,” Quanshay said. “I also wanted to ask about the black woman with the two little kids.”
“Abi?” Delphie asked.
“Is that her name?” Quanshay asked. “I see her at night, but not during the day. Her partner is. . .”
“Finegal.” Delphie nodded.
“The Prince,” Quanshay said.
“He goes by Fin,” Delphie nodded.
“Is he related to Tanesha?” Quanshay asked. “They look like kin.”
“The kids say that he’s a fairy,” Quanshay said.
“He’s a fairy prince,” Delphie said.
“And she?” Quanshay asked.
“Would you like the truth?” Delphie asked.
Quanshay fell silent as they walked to the steps. Delphie sat down on the edge of bottom step and Quanshay sat down on the other edge of the steps.
“We could go up but the people with the coronavirus sit out there,” Delphie said. “I figure we should just give them some space.”
“Your partner, Sam, is up there,” Quanshay said.
“He is,” Delphie said. She turned to assess her new friend. “You seem to have the measure of everyone.”
“Old habit,” Quanshay said. “I grew up in a tiny little town. I’m always in everyone’s business.”
Delphie nodded. Quanshay felt no judgement from the older woman. She relaxed a little bit.
“You asked if I wanted the truth,” Quanshay said. “I feel like truth is my only true religion. My people have fought against untruths all of our lives. I can always tell when there’s a lie or a half-truth.”
“It’s hell on my second child,” Quanshay said. “He’s always wanting to slink around.”
“He’s not yet sure of himself,” Delphie said. “He will be. You don’t have to worry about him. There’s something very solid, strong about him.”
“I worry, though,” Quanshay said. “I do. Oh, wait, are you saying I should worry about Kalleyn? That boy she likes?”
“No,” Delphie said. “If I thought you needed to worry, I’d tell you. Kallyn will live a long and happy life.”
“What will they end up doing in their lives?” Quanshay asked.
“Your youngest will work in national politics. I’m not sure where or what, but that’s where he’ll land,” Delphie said. “Kallyn will follow her partner but maintain her own life and profession. And your youngest son will become an artist. I’m not sure whether he will be a painter or writer or something else. You will see it begin to take root in the next year or so.”
“Nothing to worry about,” Delphie said.
“Why did you ask me about Phillis?” Quanshay asked.
“She’s been hanging around the house,” Delphie said. “I was looking for the person she was connected with.”
Not sure what to say, Quanshay stared out across the grass to the chickens.
“I really hate it when there are random ghosts in the house,” Delphie said. “But I didn’t want to send her away without connecting her with whomever she needed to speak with.”
Quanshay turned to look at Delphie.
“No,” Delphie said. “It doesn’t happen often.”
“Huh,” Quanshay said. She leaned in toward Delphie. “What does she want?”
“Oh,” Delphie chuckled. “I’m sorry. I’m so used to ghosts and other entities that I always forget that everyone isn’t as comfortable as I am.”
“I am not. That’s for sure,” Quanshay nodded. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a ghost.”
“Ever?” Delphie asked. She laughed. “I’m sorry. I’m not laughing at you. I just can’t imagine it.”
Quanshay laughed along with Delphie. She was surprised that she was starting to feel better overall.
“How does it work?” Quanshay asked.
“Who was Phillis to you?” Delphie asked.
“To me?” Quanshay asked.
“She was. . .” Quanshay was surprised at her emotions. “I. . . I mean. . .”
Delphie waited for Quanshay to find her words.
“She lived in our house when I was a child,” Quanshay said. “She was in our house when my husband, Royce, came to live with us. He was just a little boy. 5 or 6? He’s not sure. I was five.”
“Oh,” Delphie said with a smile. “That’s who ‘Royce’ is.”
“She liked Royce,” Quanshay said.
“She does,” Delphie said with a grin.
“I lived with my grandparents and she lived with us,” Quanshay said. “She was so old. So old. She could be hard. She said she did it so that I would be a great person, but sometimes she was just hard. I don’t know. She was very old — we thought that she was over 100 years old or maybe a lot older — and she’d gone through hell and. . .”
Quanshay gave a little shrug.
“I loved her from the deepest part of myself,” Quanshay said. “I think she loved me. But. . . I. . . I’m kind of babbling.”
“She’s listening,” Delphie said.
“Why is she here?” Quanshay dared to ask.
“She wants to encourage you to do more,” Delphie said.
“Do more?” Quanshay snorted. “I’m exhausted from everything I’m doing right now!”
“She thinks that you should be more than a nail technician,” Delphie said. “She talked to you about being a lawyer?”
Quanshay squinted at Delphie and then scowled.
“I’m trying to remember,” Quanshay said. “She always said that she ‘had the gift.’”
“Of second sight?” Delphie asked.
“She saw something in you,” Delphie said. “And Royce. She is saying something. I’m not quite sure what it means. Would you mind if I just repeat what she is saying? It might mean something to you.”
Quanshay gave Delphie a nervous nod.
“She says. . . uh. . .” Delphie fell silent as if she was listening. “You been spending too much time on them kids and not enough time. . .”
“With your books,” Quanshay whispered along with Delphie. Quanshay added, “She used to say that I was too caring. I needed to be more selfish. I just. . . I don’t know where I would. . . I mean, I know that she’s right I just. . . I mean, Royce is deployed and I. . .”
“She’s just shaking her head and making this sound. . .” Delphie sucked in a breath between her teeth.
Quanshay gave a rueful laugh.
“I know that sound,” Quanshay said. “The truth is that I found all that law stuff to be boring. I want to help people, I mean. . .”
“Like medicine?” Delphie asked.
“Sometime, when I’m doing someone’s nails and they get talking? I feel so useless,” Quanshay said. “They have real problems. Real life problems. And all I can do is listen. It’s not enough.”
Quanshay shook her head and looked down at the grass.
“She’s right,” Quanshay said. “I know I should be doing more but I’m just not sure what would really help.”
“I understand that,” Delphie said with a smile. “You also can’t get between someone and their decisions. We live in a cause and effect world. Their lives reflect their choices and their experience. If they don’t like their lives, it means they need to make different choices or work on their experiences in counseling.”
Quanshay looked away from Delphie for a long moment. She watched the chickens peck at the ground and stared at the blue sky. Delphie waited.
“Do you give yourself a chance to explore what you might want to do?” Delphie asked.
“Heh,” Quanshay said. “I was just thinking that. I. . .”
Quanshay shook her head.
“What does she say?” Delphie asked.
“She says that your sister is a nail technician,” Delphie said. “But if you do it for much more, you’re going to hate it. You could help your sister with the business end and. . .”
“Go to school,” Quanshay whispered. “The kids are old enough. They are great help with the little one. I could start at community college and. . .”
Quanshay looked at Delphie.
“What if I go through it all and I end up doing nails?” Quanshay asked.
“It’s good honest work,” Delphie shrugged. “Helps a lot of women look wonderful but. . .”
“It’ll never be enough,” Quanshay said.
“Phillis just said, ‘That’s it,’” Delphie said.
Quanshay nodded. Delphie touched Quanshay’s arm.
“Just something to think about,” Delphie said. “Most schools are going to be online this year. You could start online and move to in the classroom when all of this pandemic is over.”
“What about the kids?” Quanshay asked. “Royce is deployed. I never know when he’s out of town and. . .”
“You can bring them here,” Delphie said.
“They’ll hang out or whatever,” Delphie said. “We get homework done every single night. Jill goes to college. . .”
“So does Honey,” Quanshay said.
“Do you see anyone suffering? Ignored?” Delphie asked.
Quanshay looked out across the yard.
“J’Ron is loving the gardening,” Quanshay said. “He wants to take home some tomatoes.”
“He would be very welcome to do that,” Delphie said.
“Do you have any questions for Phillis before she leaves?” Delphie asked.
“Just. . . is she happy now?” Quanshay asked.
Delphie was quiet for a moment.
“She had a lot of physical issues from her assault,” Delphie said.
“I didn’t know that,” Quanshay said.
“No one did,” Delphie said. “She didn’t want anyone to know how much she suffered. She kept it to herself.”
“She is out of pain,” Delphie said. “She gets to see you grow up. She loves your family and your sisters. It’s a great joy for her to see you thrive.”
“You need to tell her to go,” Delphie said. “That’s what she’s waiting for.”
“Love you, Phillis,” Quanshay said, tears forming in her eyes. “I miss you. A lot. And. . . fly free.”
Delphie was almost too silent for a moment and then she looked at Quanshay.
“She’s gone,” Delphie said.
Quanshay broke into tears. Delphie rubbed Quanshay’s back while she cried. After a few minutes, the women hugged.
Quanshay nodded to Delphie and got up. Delphie watched her go. After a moment or so, she went up the stairs to check on Sam.
Saturday afternoon—5:35 p.m.
Standing on the edge of the meadow at City Park, Nelson looked at Blane. When Blane nodded, Nelson swallowed hard.
This was the moment he would truly step into the role of being the Grandmaster of the Templars.
He was very nervous. Terrified, if he was perfectly honest.
“Do you think they’ll come?” Nelson whispered to Blane.
“Who?” Tres asked.
Nelson turned to see Tres.
“Oh my God,” Nelson hugged Tres. “I am so glad to see you.”
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world, brother,” Tres said in French.
“Are we hugging now?” Perses’s distinctive voice came from near them. “Don’t hug. Makes you look weak."
Tres and Nelson separated to see Perses point at them.
“Never hug,” Perses said.
“You’re such an asshole,” Hecate said, appearing out of nowhere.
“Hecate!” Nelson said, excitedly. “You’re here.”
“I am,” Hecate said. “I’m trying to ‘learn something.’”
Nelson grinned at her.
“You may hug me,” Hecate said.
Nelson took her up on the offer. Mari and Otis appeared next to them.
“Why are you hugging?” Otis asked. “Don’t hug. Makes you look weak.”
“That’s what I said,” Perses laughed.
Blane touched Nelson and pointed.
“They are waiting for you,” Blane said.
“I. . .” Nelson said.
“Let’s just get this done,” Perses said.
“Want to do some killing?” Hecate asked her father.
“Desperately,” Perses said.
Laughing, they walked toward the group of surviving Templars. The visitors from France were sitting in a circle in chairs set six feet apart. They had nearly reached the circle where there was a “whooshing” sound.
“Sorry,” Hedone said. She wore her golden shimmering outfit that she usually wore to court. “Wyn didn’t want me to leave.”
Tres kissed her cheek, and she smiled at him. She hugged Nelson and kissed his cheek. With her kiss, Nelson felt like he could actually do this thing.
“I wondered where you were,” Hecate said.
“He’s a little Greek God,” Blane said with a smile.
“No,” Nelson said. “He’s our boy — human and God.”
“I like that,” Hedone said.
Nelson grinned at her. Hedone linked her arm through his elbow. Blane put his arm around Nelson.
Together, they continued into meadows to deal with the last of the Templars.
Denver Cereal continues next week...