CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and FIFTY-THREE
Wednesday morning — 12:05 a.m.
Jeraine took a breath and thought of Tanesha. She had just started her third year of medical school. He grinned. He was so proud of her accomplishments.
He looked down at Jabari.
“I’m okay, Daddy,” Jabari said. “You?”
“I’m good,” Jeraine said. “I was thinking of Mommy.”
Jabari gave his father a bright smile, and Jeraine grinned back at this boy. He held out his hand, and Jabari took it.
“You know what to do?” Jeraine asked.
They were sitting inside a limousine outside the “Celebration of Life” for Jabari’s birth mother, Annette. The event was put on by the reality television show that had been such a big part of Annette’s life.
“I’m wearing my mask,” Jabari said. He reached up to touch the face mask covering Jeraine’s face. “I’m going to. . . What am I going to do?”
“Be yourself,” Jeraine said. “Stay with me. No matter what anyone says, you are coming home with me.”
Jabari leaned into his father. The last time Jabari had been in Annette’s house, he’d returned home with deep bruises and welts not to mention a case of Covid-19 which left him in the hospital for a week. Jeraine and Jabari leaned in to each other for comfort and support. They were dressed in matching designer suits.
“Glasses?” Jeraine asked.
Jabari placed the prescription glasses over his eyes.
“You too, Daddy,” Jabari said. “No headaches.”
“No headaches,” Jeraine said putting his glasses on.
They startled when their door opened. Jabari jumped onto Jeraine’s lap and hid his face. Jeraine looked out into the bright world. His agent and friend James “Jammy” Schmidt V leaned into the limousine.
“Hey little man,” Jammy said.
Jammy held his arms out. Jabari threw himself into Jammy’s arms. Jammy stood up with Jabari in his arms. Jeraine slid out of the limousine seat. Jammy leaned over to speak to the driver.
Looking around, Jeraine straightened his suit and stood up. There were cameras everywhere. Jeraine counted five handheld television cameras as well as two stationary cameras.
Jeraine heard a white man yell his name. He had enough experience with people calling his name that he didn’t turn. He felt an arm over his shoulder and looked to see who would dare to touch him.
The casino owner was standing next to him. The man leaned in.
“We’re your buffer,” the casino owner said in his ear. “My wife’s here. Leslie, too. We’ll run interference.”
Jeraine smiled and hoped that he remembered the man’s name before the day was out.
“What’s our agreement with the television show?” the casino owner asked.
“They can video Jeraine from a distance,” Jammy said.
“Not the boy?” the casino owner asked.
“They weren’t willing to pay for his face or anything he said,” Jammy said.
“How much did you ask for?” the casino owner asked.
“Three million,” Jammy said.
The casino owner laughed.
“Keep an eye on Jabari,” Jeraine said.
“They’ve lost all custody, but we’ve heard that they are going to try to take him,” Jammy said.
“Jabari is coming home with me,” Jeraine said. In a low voice, he added, “He’s terrified of being stuck here.”
“Got it,” the casino owner said.
A beautiful white woman came and tucked herself into the casino owner. She smiled at Jeraine and held out her hand.
“Helen,” she said. “I’m delighted to meet you, Jeraine. Your shows have been real life savers for us. We dance and laugh and. . .”
Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...
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