CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY-FOUR
“You really done something incredible here,” Max said.
“We did it together,” Delphie said. “Beau and Chase are welcome any time. I know you want them home with you, but if you need it again, just bring them here.”
“Thank you,” Max said. “I don’t doubt that what you’re saying is true.”
“You need to speak with the kids,” Delphie said. “They want to stay here, but aren’t sure that it’s okay.”
“Jill’s right there,” Delphie said. “She’s waiting to bring you up.”
“Who’s with the kids?” Max asked.
“Sandy,” Delphie said.
Delphie waved to Jill and she started toward them. Max followed Jill into the Castle. The Castle kitchen had a row of cakes silently lined up on the counter.
“Where are the teens?” Max asked.
“Playing video games,” Jill said. “They are playing until they go swimming. Tink’s upstairs to help with the kids.”
“What kids are up there?” Max asked out of curiosity.
“Well, my three children. My boys are too sad to see Beau and Chase leave. They are hiding upstairs,” Jill said. Max nodded. “Let’s see. . . Paddie, Máire and Joey are in the loft. . . Oh, Heather’s boys are up there. Jabari is outside with Maggie. Wait, no, Mack is outside with Jabari. Just her son, Wyatt. Val’s kids. Mmm. . . I think that’ s it.”
Jill shook her head.
“We have a system to keep track of them all,” Jill said. “There was just some shuffling when Tink came upstairs.”
“How do you keep track?” Max asked.
“We have a spreadsheet,” Jill said. “But the real trick is keeping in touch with each other. When the kids move around, we let each other know. We’re pretty good at that. Oh, Ivy, she came upstairs with Tink. Noelle, too.”
Max nodded and followed Jill up the stairs to the loft.
“Da!” Joey screamed and jumped up and down.
Máire ran to meet Max. He picked up the little girl and hugged her. Joey threw his arms around Max’s legs. The kids were talking at the same time in different languages. Max was simply delighted to see them. Knowing that he had to get back to his sons, he set Máire down. He crouched down to their level.
“I have been told that you would like to stay here,” Max said.
Joey and Máire leaned into each other. They gave a shy nod.
“Papa comes to see us every afternoon,” Máire said softly.
“He’s so tired,” Joey said.
“Sad,” Máire said.
“We thought that we would stay here and Mama can take care of him,” Joey said.
“I know your aunts and uncles will want to see you,” Max said.
“We know,” Joey said, very seriously. “But we think that they are safe at home.”
“We’ll be home soon, Da,” Máire said. “After Papa is feeling better.”
“He needs our Mama,” Joey said, with a nod.
Taken back by how sweet the children were, Max kissed Máire’s cheek and then Joey’s. They children hugged him again.
Max felt like he too could stay at the Castle forever. Sighing, he let go of Máire and Joey. He nodded to the adults in the room. Paddie ran over to give him a hug before running back to Katy. Max grinned at Teddy and left the loft.
He jogged down the steps and to the driveway where Delphie was holding onto his children. The hoard of toddlers had moved off to do something else with Nelson and Mike. Max picked up Beau and Chase and they went to his car. The kids were tucked into their car seats and he was behind the wheel when he heard a sound. Looking up, he saw a sea of toddlers waving to them along with Heather.
“Look,” Max said.
Beau and Chase waved back at their friends. Smiling, Max left the Castle parking lot and drove home.
Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...
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