CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and FORTY
Thursday morning — 9:00 a.m.
“I don’t know,” Tres Sierra said to Jeraine. “Did you ask Jake?”
They were standing in the hallway of their new home. Jeraine, Tanesha, and Jabari had starting moving in the night before.
“He told me to ask you,” Jeraine said. “He’s been a little. . .”
Jeraine pointed to his temple and rotated his wrist in a gesture that meant “crazy.”
“Too much to think about,” Tres said with a laugh. “And you just had to drop a murder in his lap.”
“Hey.” Jeraine held up his hands as if he were being threatened. “It wasn’t me.”
Tres laughed. There was a knock at the door and Tres went to the front door to open it.
“Who’s fault is it then?” Tres asked laughing.
“I. . .” Jeraine started but stopped as Tres opened the door.
They expected the movers with more of their furniture from storage.
No one was there.
“Hello?” Tres asked.
He leaned out the door and looked left and then right. Jeraine tapped his arm and pointed down.
Maggie Scully was standing outside the door. She held a tiny pink suitcase in her fists just over her knees. Her usually perfect pigtails were disheveled. Her face, neck, chest, even her hands were bright red. She looked furious.
“Maggie!” Tres said.
“My friends are here,” Maggie said.
She marched into the house. Realizing she had no idea where she was going, she looked up at Tres and then saw Jeraine.
“Is Jabari ready?” Maggie asked.
“Jabari?” Jeraine asked, trying to remember if he forgot something. “He’s downstairs.”
“Where’s Mack?” Maggie asked.
“He’s. . .” Jeraine said.
“Wait,” Tres said. “Just wait. Why are you here, Maggie?”
“It’s Thursday morning,” Maggie said. “We always play on Thursday morning.”
“Does your mom know that you’re here?” Tres asked.
“She went to work today,” Maggie said.
Through the open door, they saw Tink race out of the Castle, through the gate, and across the street. She jogged up the hill to where their front door.
“Maggie!” Tink said, clearly angry.
“I’m not talking to you,” Maggie said. “I don’t have to talk to anyone I don’t want to.”
“You cannot leave on your own!” Tink said.
Dawning awareness came to the men. They looked down at the tiny girl. She was looking angry and more than a little embarrassed.
“You aren’t my mom!” Maggie said. “You can’t make me!”
“Uh!” Tink said. “We’ve been over and over this. You can’t be here because they’re moving in!”
“But it’s Thursday!” Maggie said, as if Tink was dumb or possible deaf. “We play on Thursdays.”
“Did you cross that street by yourself?” Tink asked. Her hands went to her hips and her voice was hard.
“I’m not a stupid baby,” Maggie said in a near perfect imitation of Katy’s latest favorite comeback. The girl gestured to the paparazzi across the street “I had one of those men walk me across.”
“Maggie!” Tink said.
Realizing that Tres and Jeraine were standing there, Tink looked up at them. The men gave her nearly identical “It wasn’t me” faces. She looked back at Maggie. She opened her mouth to speak, but Tres cut her off.
“How about this?” Tres asked. “Why don’t we bring Mack and Jabari back to the Castle?”
“I can’t look after more kids!” Tink said. “Noelle and Nash are watching Katy, Paddie, Jackie, Eddy, Máire and Joey. Charlie has all of the other kids — including those wild twins! — while I’m chasing down this one! The girlfriends are getting your stuff out of the storage container! We can’t take any more kids!”
“I’ll go,” Tres said. He gave her a kind smile.
“Who are you?” Tink asked.
“Good philosophical question,” Tres said. “We have met before. You actually know me.”
Tink gave him a deadly look.
“Right now, I’m the person who is resolving this situation,” Tres said.
“Don’t you have something to do over here?” Tink asked.
“I’m in charge of Mack and Wyn today,” Tres said. “I’m off for a few days because of job sharing.”
“Whatever,” Tink said. “Maggie, you need to get back to the Castle.”
“No!” Maggie said. “I won’t go without Mack and Jabari! I won’t go! I won’t go! I won’t go! I won’t go!”
Jeraine winced. He’d been in the middle of a Katy melt-down once. It had permanently scarred him. He held his breath.
“She doesn’t have powers,” Tres said under the sound of the shouting girl.
“Thank God for that,” Jeraine said.
The sound of Maggie brought Mack and Jabari to the door. They saw their friend’s red angry face and her messed up hair. Jabari shifted to hide behind Jeraine’s leg, while Mack waded right in.
“Maggie?” Mack asked. “Why are you mad?”
“He has powers,” Tres said under his breath to Jeraine.
Jeraine gave a slow nod.
Maggie started to sob. Mack went to his friend and hugged her while she talked and cried. Tres made out that her mother went back to work today and her father thought he might not be home tonight and her best friends weren’t playing with her and her hair was lumpy and Tink was mad at her and she’d done something terrible by coming here and she was alone this morning and. . . On and on the tiny child went. She was so grief-stricken that even Tink’s justifiable anger eased.
When Maggie was calmer, Mack stepped back. He looked up at Tres and Jeraine.
“Can Maggie come inside?” Mack asked. He looked up at Tink. “T’nk?”
Mack held out his hand and a golden apple appeared in his palm. Without hesitation, Tink took the apple and bit into it.
“Th-nks,” Tink said with a full mouth.
Smiling at his big sister, Mack nodded. Tink picked him up with one arm while holding the apple in the other.
“May as well come inside,” Tink said. “I need to change anyway.”
She finished eating the apple and held it out to Mack. He blew on it. The apple core flew across the cement path and landed in the dirt. Everyone watched in awe as a tree grew — from sprout to five feet — where the apple’s core had landed.
“I wondered where those were coming from,” Tres said.
“Mama said we could move them if there’s too many,” Mack said.
“Your mama’s brilliant,” Tres said, giving the boy a warm smile.
Tink smirked at Tres. Jabari held his hand out to Maggie, and they all went inside the cool house.
“Can I see your new bedrooms?” Maggie asked.
“This way!” Jabari said.
Maggie ran after Jabari. Tink set Mack down, and he ran off after the other children.
“Well,” Tink said as she walked past the men. “Any idea where my dad is?”
“Blane’s in his acupuncture studio,” Tres said. “I’ll keep an eye on the kids if you want to talk with him.”
“Thanks, funky-dad,” Tink said.
Tres grinned and watched her head inside.
“Funky-dad?” Jeraine asked with a raise of the eyebrows.
“She wanted to call me fuck-dad,” Tres said.
Jeraine laughed, and Tres smiled. There was another knock at the door. Tres went to watch the kids while Jeraine dealt with the movers. Another load of possessions was coming from the storage.
Thursday morning — 10:02 a.m.
Teddy Jakkman was standing on the Castle’s backyard grass watching the children play when Alex Hargreaves appeared. Instinctively, he let out a yelp and jumped. Then he swore at himself.
“Let’s try it again,” Alex said.
“I know you’re coming now!” Teddy said.
Alex grinned. She helped out with the martial arts classes whenever she was home. Right now, they were working on being calm, but prepared for anything at any time. It was a lot harder than it seemed.
“How long did it take you to get it?” Teddy asked.
“Forever,” Alex said. “And I had two annoying brothers, who kept me on my toes.”
Teddy grinned and then scowled.
“How’s Uncle John?” Teddy asked.
“Good,” Alex said with a grin. “Well, better. He’s starting to act a little bit more like himself again.”
“That’s good,” Teddy said.
“Death is sticky,” Alex said. “Every soul leaves a bit of themselves with you. I don’t understand it enough to explain it, but it just is.”
Teddy nodded in understanding.
“I came to see my children,” Alex said.
“Are you taking them home?” Teddy asked, his voice rising in anxiety.
“If they want to come home,” Alex said. “They seem pretty happy here. They’re having a great time here. Should I take them home?”
“No, I. . .” Looking relieved, Teddy nodded.
“Why?” Alex asked.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Teddy said with a sheepish grin. “If they go, then I’ll probably have to go.”
“Makes sense,” Alex said. “Unlike you, the kids and I need to have a conversation with our family in Afghanistan.”
“Valerie said something about it,” Teddy said with a nod.
“She said she’d set it up for me,” Alex said. “But I know she just had her baby. It would be okay if. . .”
“I think it’s done,” Teddy said. “Well. . . really, you’re just using Jill’s office. She talks to Mike and Val when they travel. It’s quiet and there’s space for everyone.”
“Sounds great,” Alex said. “Is Jill here?”
“The girlfriends are at Tanesha’s storage facility,” Teddy said. “Val’s waiting for you in the kitchen.”
“Perfect. Thanks for keeping track of everyone,” Alex said. “That’s a real skill, Teddy.”
Teddy blushed and looked away.
“Are my kids upstairs?” Alex asked.
Teddy gestured out on the grass. Máire, Katy, Ivy, and Jackie were with Delphie inside the greenhouses while Joey was running after Paddie with Eddy, Bladen, and Tanner close behind.
Smiling, Alex went to the greenhouse. Teddy watched. Even though Maire and Joey went long periods without seeing their mom, they were super close, almost closer because she was gone sometimes. The children could share their raw need and emotion because they knew that their mom could handle it. It was true for Teddy, his sister, and brother and their dad, too.
Máire looked up when Alex opened the door to the greenhouse. The girl’s face flushed red and she began to cry. Alex walked over to the small girl and picked her up. Alex smiled at Delphie and carried Máire out of the greenhouse. Teddy saw the girl cry and talk to her mother. Alex carried Máire over to the deck. She sat down and held her daughter as she cried and spoke.
Teddy went across the grass to get Joey. He was nearly there when Joey noticed his mom and sister. He raced past Teddy and threw himself on his mother and sister. The three of them were such a joyous sight that everyone stopped to watch.
After a moment, Alex got up. She held a hand out to Máire and a hand to Joey. Máire smoothed her long curly hair before taking her mother’s hand. The three went inside.
When Teddy looked back, the boys were playing again and Delphie was working with the girls in the greenhouse. It was just starting to warm up for the day.
Even with the face masks, handwashing, and social distancing, this was going to be a really great spring.
Teddy just knew it.
Thursday morning — 11:30 a.m.
“Who would have thought that we had so much crap?” Tanesha said.
She dropped down onto the ancient couch next to where Sandy was sorting through boxes.
“I do not remember storing all of this crap,” Tanesha said with a shake of her head.
“I’m not sure that you did,” Heather said, holding up an ancient dress. “This looks like. . .”
“Gran,” Tanesha said with a nod. “She must have put some boxes in with mine by accident.”
“By accident,” Jill said with a roll of her eyes.
“Some?” Heather asked.
Tanesha raised a hand to them”.
“I know, I know,” Tanesha said. “Let me just sit over here with my illusions and exhaustion.”
The women laughed. Tanesha leaned back so that her head was on Sandy’s lap and her knees rested on the armrest of the couch. Sandy rubbed Tanesha’s scalp and Tanesha’ closed her eyes.
“Have some iced tea,” Jill said.
She got up to get the thermos and cups from the back of her SUV.
“We need bourbon,” Sandy said.
“It’s too hot for Bourbon,” Heather said. “But champagne?”
“Headaches,” Tanesha said.
“Let’s face it,” Jill said. “We have to get through this and then celebrate.”
The women laughed. Jill sat down on the other side of Sandy and Heather pulled up a box.
“Can you magic something?” Tanesha said without opening her eyes.
“Magic?” Heather asked. “Something?”
She sniffed in a manner befitting of a queen.
“I assume you are speaking to me,” Heather said.
“Oh yes, oh wise goddess, please oh please, help me sort through all of this crap,” Tanesha said.
“Are you sure?” Heather asked. “You didn’t want me to ‘magic’ when we started.”
“I was a fool,” Tanesha said. “Please forgive me, oh, wise woman.”
Jill and Sandy watched and for a long, silent moment, they just looked at each other. Heather laughed.
“It’s about time,” Heather said.
Heather clapped her hands together. The random stacking of boxes and other junk was sorted into a large pile, stacked precariously from floor to ceiling, on one side of the storage unit and a four boxes in a row on the other side of the storage unit.
“Whoa,” Jill and Sandy said in near unison.
Tanesha sat up.
“What in the world?” Tanesha asked. “What is this?”
“On one side, you have the crap that you hate,” Heather said. Nodding, she added, “Most of it is Jeraine’s crap — his high school papers, crayon drawings, the first guitar string he ever broke, the. . .”
“The first guitar string he ever broke?” Jill asked, laughing.
“You see what I have to deal with?” Tanesha asked, laughing.
Ever the practical friend, Sandy asked, “And the other side?”
“Stuff you want to keep,” Heather said. “That little picture Jabari had with him when he came. Before and after pictures of the yellow house. Your college pictures.”
“Anything of Jer’s?” Tanesha asked.
“Some,” Heather said. “But we took a whole lot of it to the house.”
“Don’t remind me,” Tanesha said. “How much of that pile is Gran’s?”
“About half,” Heather said.
“She’s going to be mad if she finds out we got rid of her stuff,” Tanesha said.
“How would she find out?” Heather asked.
“Just don’t tell her,” Sandy said.
Tanesha gave them a worried nod. Her Gran’s lover was forced to return to her fairy realm during the fairy wars. Without the constant care of her lover, Gran had deteriorated terribly. At the beginning of the year, Tanesha had to put her grandmother into a care facility.
Now she worried that her Gran would get Covid. It wasn’t that her Gran hadn’t lived a long, satisfying life. If anything, Gran had lived much longer than she would have otherwise. And, it wasn’t that Gran was a nice person or even a deserving person. Tanesha loved her Gran and wanted her around. Tanesha sighed.
“Don’t you think that we should keep her stuff?” Tanesha asked.
“She hasn’t missed this stuff,” Heather said. “And it’s been here a long time.”
Tanesha gave a slow nod.
“She’s not going to make it is she?” Tanesha asked.
“That’s not my purview,” Heather said. “I don’t know.”
Tanesha nodded. She turned to look at Sandy and Jill.
“What would you do?” Tanesha asked.
“I would put the four boxes in the SUV and go to lunch,” Jill said.
“Life has too much crap,” Sandy said. “We can all use to lose a few boxes.”
Tanesha shook her head.
“It feels like I’m betraying her,” Tanesha said.
“But not Jeraine?” Heather asked with a grin. “What about the ribbon he won for winning first place in that race in third grade?”
Tanesha gave Heather a long look before starting to laugh.
“Oh look, the boxes are in the SUV,” Heather said.
“Wha. . .” Jill got up to look in the SUV.
When Sandy, Jill, and Tanesha looked again, the stacks of boxes were gone.
“Where did they. . .?” Tanesha started.
Heather pointed to the trash and recycling bins. The recycling bin was full of folded boxes. The three trash dumpsters were full. Heather pointed toward the road.
A trash truck pulled into the storage facility. While they watched, the truck picked up the dumpsters and rotated them into the truck. They watched the back of the truck as it exited to the street. A recycling
“I guess that’s that,” Sandy said.
“Time for drinks!” Heather said.
Laughing, the women left the storage unit. When the couch was free, it moved itself to the back of the storage unit. Tanesha gave Heather a curious look.
“Just in case we want a club house,” Heather said.
“Wednesday drinks club,” Jill said with cheer.
“Today’s Thursday,” Sandy said, laughing at Jill.
“I cannot keep these Covid days straight,” Jill said.
“You and me both,” Tanesha said.
“I’ll tell you one thing.”
The women turned to look at their friend.
“I love these masks,” Tanesha said, gesturing to her face mask. “We did all this dusty stuff and I’m not even stuff up.”
“Me too,” Sandy said with a nod.
“Now that you mention it,” Jill said.
“We should wear them all the time,” Heather said.
“We may have to,” Tanesha said, grimly.
“It always passes,” Heather said.
The friends shared a long look before Tanesha nodded. Tanesha and Heather helped Sandy into the back seat. Heather sat next to her. Tanesha got into the passenger seat and Jill started the SUV.
“Did I tell you that Loki came for a visit?” Heather asked.
“No way,” Tanesha said.
Laughing and talking, the four best girlfriends went to get tacos at their favorite truck with outdoor seating.
Denver Cereal continues next week...