Chapter Six Hundred and Thirty-four - Tiny sprouts (part six)
Chapter Six Hundred and Thirty-five - In the ballroom (part one)

Chapter Six Hundred and Thirty-four - Tiny sprouts


“Shall we go find your boys?” Honey asked.

“Please,” Max said.

They went through Honey’s apartment, past the little garden to the driveway.

“John’s sister, Niamh, says that John was tiny as a baby,” Max said. “They were all surprised at how fast he grew. Ciaran said that he shot up around the age Beau is now.”

“Maybe Beau will grow like that too,” Honey said with a smile.

“What’s the deal with Chase?” Max asked.

“Such a sweet boy,” Honey said.

“That’s what everyone says,” Max said.

“I think Chase is more relational,” Honey said. “He wants to connect with people. He sat on everyone’s lap until he discovered Nelson’s lap.”

Nodding, Honey looked at Max.

“That’s Maggie’s favorite lap,” Honey said.

“Good to know,” Max said.

“He would just nestle in,” Honey said. “I could see him listening, really listening, to what people were saying. I don’t think he understood what people were saying, he just wanted to hear their voices. My guess is that all of the noise and chaos was too much for him. I will tell you — the dogs love Chase.”

Max nodded. He looked up to see his twins inside the middle greenhouse. The boys saw Max at the same moment. Beau and Chase started squealing which brought all of the other kids from the lawn. The kids ran toward Max.

“Would you like to ask Delphie?” Honey asked.

Max looked at her.

“I’ve ask her about things all the time,” Honey said. “It’s very reassuring.”

Max gave Honey a vague nod.

“Do you know if Ooljee and her brother are here?” Max asked.

“Cian picked them up earlier,” Honey said. “Ooljee did not want to go.”

“She’s been lonely,” Max said with a nod.

The crowd of toddlers reached them. Honey picked up her daughter, Maggie. Max picked up Beau in his left arm and Chase in his right. The boys leaned into their dad and he held them tight. After a moment, Beau and Chase wiggled, and Max sent them down.

“Com’ on, Da,” Chase said, reaching for Max’s hand.

“We. . .” Beau grabbed Max’s hand and pulled on him. “D-ere.”

Pointing toward the greenhouse, Beau and Chase pulled on Max’s hands. Max looked at Honey.

“Go,” Honey said with a grin.

Max let himself be pulled along to the middle greenhouse where Delphie waited.

“Max,” Delphie said. “I know we’re not supposed to but. . .”

She held out her arm, and they hugged. Through the mask, Max kissed her cheek.

“Thank you for caring for our babies,” Max said.

“They are welcome anytime,” Delphie said. “Absolutely.”

“Do you know if they’re opening the Marlowe School?” Max asked.

“I am not sure,” Delphie said. “There’s a lot of work to do to get it up and running. You should talk to Jake.”

“I heard that Val’s in labor,” Max said.

Delphie sucked in a breath.

“On the radio?” Delphie asked, looking up at him.

Max nodded.

“That’s going to be a mess,” Delphie said, shaking her head.

“Sorry,” Max said, touching her shoulder.

He looked up when his sons called him.

“You have to see,” Delphie said. “It’s very exciting.”

Max followed her through the rows of seedlings to a set of seedlings along the back.

“Beau and Chase wanted to grow some flowers for the bees,” Delphie said. “We planted some lavender.”

“Look!” Beau said. “Look! Look! Look!”

“Look-look-look-look-look!” Chase said.

Max saw that tiny little sprouts.

“Smell!” Beau said and jumped around.

Max leaned down. Even as tiny seedlings, the lavender had its characteristic smell.

“Wow,” Max said.

“Isn’t that neat?” Delphie said.

“Is that normal?” Max asked.

“Yes,” Delphie said. “The Italian Basil, as well. It’s over here.”

Delphie turned around and gestured to a row. Max leaned over to smell.

“That’s incredible,” Max said.

“It’s not so unusual,” Delphie said. “Plants display hints to who they are early on. Like people.”

Delphie gestured to Chase and Beau. The boys’ heads were together as they looked at their flowers.

“I wanted to ask you about them,” Max said. He looked at the boys. “Should we set up another time?”

“We can,” Delphie said with a smile. “If you’re worried about them, they are caught up in their own world right now.”

Max sighed.

“Honey said that. . .”

Max mouthed the word “Chase.” Delphie nodded.

“He’s a sensitive boy,” Delphie said. “He cares deeply about people. Thinks about them. With so many people here, he got overloaded. I spent some time working with him on how to shut it off, but he’ll need to practice.”

“You mean, he’s psychic?” Max asked.

“If I were to say,” Delphie thought for a moment before she nodded, “I’d say that he’s intuitive — like his biological mother. He can sense things that are going on without having to know them intellectually. It’s a real skill.”

A little taken back that Delphie knew who was the boys’ biological mother, Max could only nod.

“Beau is such a lovely child,” Delphie said. “Niamh told me that she thought he’d shoot up.”

“He seems taller than when I saw him last,” Max said.

“I think so too,” Delphie said with a smile. “They are well loved. They’ll be just fine.”

“But Chase. . .” Max said.

“Alex had you to protect her and keep the noise down,” Delphie said. “Chase will need the same help.”

Max gave a nod.

“Maybe a smaller classroom, more quiet time, some meditation,” Delphie said. “If anyone knows how to take care of him, it’s you and Wyatt. They’re both going to live boringly happy lives.”

His eyes welling at the assurance, Max nodded.

“N-t-ee Del-fee,” Chase said.

“Yes, Chase,” Delphie said.

“C-n we take d-eez home?” Beau asked.

“They are pretty little right now,” Delphie said. “Why don’t I bring them to you when they are ready to plant?”

“Okay,” Chase said and Beau nodded.

“You are also welcome to come to see your plants or anyone,” Delphie said. “Any time.”

Chase and Beau grinned. They looked at each other and then nodded to Delphie.

“Come on, lads,” Max said. “Let’s go home.”

“Yea!” Beau and Chase cheered.

The boys followed Max and Delphie out of the tight space of the greenhouse. Max picked up the boys when they were outside and started for the cars. He was immediately surrounded by toddlers, led by Maggie, who want to say “good-bye.” Max set the boys down so that they could say their good-byes.

“Do you know where Máire and Joey are?” Max asked. “Alex will be home tomorrow, and I know she’ll want to spend time with them.”

“They are upstairs with Jackie and Eddie,” Delphie said. “In the loft.”

“If you could possibly keep an eye on the boys, I’ll. . .” Max said.

“I wanted to speak to you about something,” Delphie said.

Max turned to look at her.

“John isn’t doing very well,” Delphie said.

“My John?” Max asked, reeling back in shock.

“John Drayson,” Delphie said. “He dropped the kids here because he hadn’t been sleeping. He’s working crazy hours and. . .”

Delphie leaned in to Max.

“All of the death,” Delphie said with a nod. “It’s very triggering for him. Reminds him of his father and. . . somewhere, in the back of his brain, his mother.”

Max wasn’t sure what to say. He just gawked at Delphie.

“His mother was beaten to death in front of him and Jimmy,” Delphie said. “You know, Jimmy Kelly?”

Max gave a very slow nod. Delphie waited until Max caught his breath.

“I. . . mmm,” Max said. He sighed. “I never once thought of it. John’s so tough — mentally, physically. It’s always me or Alex going nuts. But. . .”

Max looked off in the near distance before turning back to Delphie.

“When you say the words, I know it’s truth,” Max said.

“Your gift,” Delphie said.

“Is it?” Max gave her a searching look before nodding.

“Of course,” Delphie said with a slight smile.

“Is Wyatt okay?” Max asked.

“Oh Wyatt,” Delphie said. “I think Wyatt would be okay in any situation. As long as you love him, he can survive nearly anything. The hardest. . .”

Delphie stopped talking.

“He should really tell you himself,” Delphie said.

“Please, tell me,” Max said. “I’ve just returned for the clown circus in Washington. I will be working like a madman to get supplies into Denver so that they aren’t stolen like the fifty ventilators we paid for and. . .”

Max stopped talking.

“Please,” Max said. “I need to know the lay of the land.”

“The worst thing for Wyatt was when you had a heart attack,” Delphie said. “He thought that you were dead. He didn’t really know about you and Alex — your strength together and how you heal.”

“He insisted that we get married after that,” Max said.

“You are closer than you know,” Delphie said with a smile.

Max gave her a brief smile before scowling.

“I appreciate you telling me about John,” Max said. “Are you telling me because of the kids?”

“Exactly,” Delphie said. “They can stay here. John comes by every afternoon to spend time with them. Alex is always welcome. When things settle down a bit, they can go home.”

“You don’t mind?” Max asked.

“They are welcome here,” Delphie said. “Most of the kids will be back in school soon any way.”

“They are opening the Marlowe School?” Max asked, again.

“Soon,” Delphie said.

“Máire and Joey can’t go to the Marlowe School or any private school,” Max said. “Stipulation by the tribe.”

“Maybe the tribe will change their minds with this pandemic,” Delphie said. “My guess is that it’s a chance for Joey and Máire to be leaders for their people.”

“I’ll call them,” Max said.

He looked to where Beau and Chase where laughing with the other children.

“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.”

Max nodded.

“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.

Máire nodded.

“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.


Tuesday early morning — 3:05 p.m.

Jeraine came up the dark basement stairs. In his life, he’d spent so much time in the night. In the height of his fame, he only woke up at dusk and was up all night. The night was his friend, if not the compatriot to all of his “crimes.”

He smiled at that idea.

He was on his way to the kitchen to make a travel mug of tea to give to Tanesha when he picked her up from the hospital. Tonight, she was helping out the night crew at Denver Health. Fin stayed home so Jabari went to sleep in Maggie’s room in Honey’s apartment. Jeraine was tasked with picking her up.

He saw golden light coming from the main Castle living room. Everyone knew that Valerie and Mike were often up all hours of the night. He coughed so that, if they were up to something, they’d know that he was there.

“Hey,” Jeraine heard Jacob’s voice coming from the couch.

He went through the living room to turn on the electric kettle, and then circled back to Jacob.

“How’s it going?” Jeraine asked.

“Good,” Jacob said.

There was a roaring fire in the fireplace.

“What are you doing here?” Jeraine asked when Jacob didn’t say anything else.

“Oh,” Jacob said with a grin. “I figured you were on your way somewhere.”

“I have to go pick up Miss T but you know, I always have time for you,” Jeraine said.

Jacob grinned.

“Let’s see, what am I doing here?” Jacob asked. “I’m not sure. I just got back from the hospital.”

“Oh?” Jeraine asked.

“Valerie had a girl,” Jacob said, raising his eyebrows.

Jeraine smacked his head with the palm of his hand.

“I knew that,” Jeraine said. “What’s her name?”

“They aren’t telling anyone,” Jacob said.

“That’s so Hollywood,” Jeraine said.

“Actually, I don’t think they know,” Jacob said with a chuckle. “Mother and baby are doing well. Mike’s eating cereal.”

“All is well,” Jeraine said with a grin. “How come you’re not eating cereal?”

“I was going to, but I just. . .” Jacob looked at Jeraine. “I’m wiped out.”

“Let me,” Jeraine said. “I have to make Miss T’s tea anyway.”

Jeraine went into the kitchen. He made Tanesha’s tea and set it out so the water would cool off before he closed the lid of the travel mug. He grabbed a couple of bowls, spoons, milk, and a box of cereal.

When he got back to the couch, Jacob was asleep.

“Jake,” Jeraine said.

Jacob looked up at Jeraine and smiled.

“Perfect,” Jacob said.

Jeraine grinned. Jacob stood up to take the bowls and milk. Jeraine set the cereal down and went to the kitchen to get Tanesha’s tea. While he was gone, Jacob poured cereal into the bowls. Jeraine sat down and the men started eating. They ate in silence.

“How are you doing?” Jacob asked.

“I don’t know, man,” Jeraine said. “I’m just living day to day. It’s kind of weird.”

“I understand,” Jacob said.

“If I were honest,” Jeraine crunched at his cereal and swallowed. “I feel kind of cursed.”

“Cursed?” Jacob asked, setting his empty bowl on the table. “How so?”

“When I was a kid, everything I did was additive,” Jeraine said. “I sold a song and then an album and then I had a live concert in a small venue which grew to stadiums and. . . I know it had to end. It just seems like when I get things going, something happens and it doesn’t pan out.”

“You mean like Las Vegas?” Jacob asked.

Jeraine nodded.

“I understand,” Jacob said. “I was ‘done’ with Lipson, taking time to sort out what was next for me, and wham — I’m back dealing with the same old assholes and all of their ridiculous paperwork.”

Raising an eyebrow, Jeraine gave a nodd.

“I’ve been thinking,” Jacob said.

Jeraine lifted an eyebrow. Leaning forward, he put the top on Tanesha’s tea.

“Maybe we’re just not flexible enough,” Jacob said. “I mean, I can do this stuff. Not everyone can. Maybe I should not take myself so seriously and just get people to work.”

Jeraine bit the inside of his lip. Jacob raised an eyebrow.

“You’re talking about me,” Jeraine said.

“And me,” Jacob said.

“I only have a minute before I have to go,” Jeraine said. “Lay it out for me.”

“Did you know that we have a ballroom?” Jacob asked.

“A. . .” Jeraine leaned forward toward Jacob. “What?”

“Go pick up Tanesha,” Jacob said. “I can show you when you get back.”

Denver Cereal continues next week...



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