CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and FIFTY-ONE
Tuesday afternoon — 3:15 p.m.
“Don’t move,” Tres said.
He leaned over to kiss Heather and was caught up in kissing her. After a moment, he pulled himself away. He kissed her nose.
“I’ll be right back,” Tres said.
He slipped out of the warm bed, pulled the covers up around Heather, and went into the bathroom. Sighing, Heather rolled onto her back. Tres was up early this week. This meant that he was home in the early afternoon. With the kids out of the house, they were able to take their time. Tres grabbed his bathrobe and left the room to get some snacks. Heather drifted off.
She felt a weight on the bed. She rolled onto her side. Expecting Tres, she opened her eyes.
“What are you doing here?” Heather gasped.
She was staring into the eyes of her ex-boyfriend, Loki.
“They are making a show about me!” Loki said.
“It’s not about you,” Heather said.
“Why are they using my name?” Loki asked.
She shot him a dark look.
“Why are you here?” Heather asked.
“Well. . .” Loki said. “I. . .”
“Abi’s not here,” Heather said.
“Yes,” Loki said. “And that granddaughter of the archangel is at work.”
“Tanesha?” Heather asked.
“She’s terrifying,” Loki said. “How can you live with her?”
Tres came into the room with a small bottle of champagne, raspberries, and chocolate. He set the supplies on the dresser near the door. Without hesitation, he reached under the covers and pulled Loki out of the bed by his foot. The God of Mischief thumped onto the floor.
“Hey!” Loki said.
“This is my bed!” Tres said.
Loki crossed his arms and looked at Heather. She gave a slight nod. Tres kicked off his slippers and climbed back into bed. The moment Tres was settled, Loki launched himself into the bed. He landed in between Heather and Tres.
“Asshole,” Tres said.
“He’s upset that there’s going to be a show about him,” Heather said.
“He’s been in movies,” Tres said, with a shrug.
“They get it all wrong,” Loki said. “I’m not an asshole. I’m mischievous! Fun! Joyous!”
“And an asshole,” Tres said.
Loki looked at him for a moment and then laughed. He leaned over and kissed Tres’s forehead.
“Yuck, Asgard germs,” Tres said.
This caused Loki to laugh hysterically.
“Why is that funny?” Tres asked.
“Asgard blew up,” Heather said. “That’s why this one is. . . here.”
“She knows me well,” Loki nodded. “Loves me best.”
“Get,” Heather said. She paused between every word. “Out. Of. My. Bed.”
Loki zipped out of the bed by his feet again. He landed on his rear just past the end of the bed.
“Ow,” Loki said.
“What does he want?” Tres asked.
“No idea,” Heather said.
“I want you to fix it,” Loki said.
“Fix what?” Tres asked.
“This television show,” Loki said. “Just wreck it.”
Heather crossed her arms and leaned against the backboard of the bed.
“You’re a God!” Loki said. “You can fix this!”
Heather snapped her fingers, and Loki disappeared.
“Where’d he go?” Tres asked.
“Roof,” Heather said.
“Very funny,” Loki said, appearing at the end of the bed. “Very funny.”
“Think of it this way,” Heather said. “They’re making a show about you. It will bring you to a new audience.”
“But that’s not me!” Loki said. “I’m not that jerk.”
“Does it matter?” Heather asked. “Exactly like you, not like you, just your fame, mythical you — it’s all the same. More people will know your name again. They’ll look up who you are and what you do. Some will love you, and some will hate you. It’s been like that since time began.”
“Huh,” Loki said. “That makes sense to me.”
“Imagine that,” Tres said with a roll of his eyes.
Loki pointed to Tres and laughed.
“I like him,” Loki said. “We should keep him.”
“We?” Heather asked.
“And?” Tres asked.
“When do I get my share?” Loki asked.
Tres picked up a book on his bed stand and threw it at Loki. The God of Mischief disappeared before the book hit him. The book hit the wall with a thud.
“Sorry,” Heather said.
“Don’t be,” Tres said. “I told Nelson that we should expect Loki any day now.”
“Why?” Heather asked.
“He’s naturally curious,” Tres said with a shrug. “He does care about you.”
“Define ‘care’?” Heather said.
Tres grinned at her. He got up to get the champagne and snacks. He poured two small glasses of champagne and set the chocolate and raspberries between them. He fed her ripe raspberries, and she fed him chocolate.
In a half-hour, the kids were due home, dinner needed starting, and a million other worries descended. For now, they simply enjoyed their time together.
It was wonderful.
Tuesday afternoon — 4:05 p.m.
Delphie stood absolutely still in the middle of the backyard.
“You okay?” Sam asked, coming out of the house.
“Me?” Delphie turned to look at him. “I’m fine.”
Sam held out his arm, and they hugged.
“What are you doing?” Sam asked.
Delphie laughed. She patted his chest and moved away.
“It’s hot,” Delphie said.
“It is hot,” Sam said. “Why don’t you come inside and cool down?”
“I was thinking about the kids,” Delphie said. “They’ve been cooped up all day. Usually we’d go to the pool but. . .”
“The pools are closed,” Sam said.
“That little pool of Val’s is too small for everyone,” Delphie said.
“And now in the direct sun,” Sam said with a nod.
“Too much sun,” Delphie said with a nod. She raised her hand toward Sam, “I know, I know. I wanted maximum sun in our yard, but now. . .”
“The chickens are in the shaded part,” Sam said with shake of his head. “I don’t know, Delphie.”
“This year is just. . .” Sam said.
“This year?” Delphie asked. “This pandemic is going to be around for a long time. We have to figure out what we can do for these kids.”
“I understand why you’re concerned,” Sam said. “But they are back in school. They seem to be pretty happy there. The school is adding more physical exercise, which everyone’s enjoying.”
“Everything’s okay,” Sam said.
“Then why doesn’t if feel okay?” Delphie asked.
“Millions of people are sick,” Sam said. “We’ve been lucky to not have any deaths in the house. . .”
“But people are dying,” Delphie said, softly.
“I’ve been so lucky to have survived,” Sam said with a nod. “If it weren’t for Jill, her mother, Otis — I don’t know if I would have survived.”
Delphie looked away from him to hide the tears that come to her eyes whenever he talked about being ill.
“Hey,” Sam said.
Delphie turned back to look at him.
“I’m okay,” Sam said.
“I know, I just. . .” Delphie said with a shake of her head. “I know how close you were to. . . and. . .”
Sam put his arm around her, and they hugged again.
“It’s something I wanted to speak with you about,” Sam said.
Delphie wiped her eyes and looked up at him.
“I. . .” Sam started. “Well, there’s no easy way to say this but. . .”
“Just spit it out,” Delphie said.
“I think it’s time to really retire from Lipson Construction,” Sam said. “I mean, if that’s okay with you.”
“Why would it have to be okay with me?” Delphie asked. “Jake and Aden probably need. . .”
“No,” Sam said. “It’s you that I’ll drive crazy.”
“How so?” Delphie asked.
“I’ll be around more,” Sam said with a shrug.
Delphie grinned at him and didn’t respond.
“What?” Sam asked.
“Oh, you,” Delphie said. “I’m sure that in your mind you’ll hang out at home, read books, watch some television, practice golf. . .”
Sam winced at the word “golf.”
“Fishing, then,” Delphie said.
“Sounds great to me,” Sam said.
“Why is that funny?” Sam asked.
“You are,” Delphie said.
“Why?” Sam asked.
“I’ve known you since you were ten years old, Sam Lipson,” Delphie said. “You’ve never been able to tolerate inactivity. You’ll go fishing one day and the next start remodeling some place or training dogs or. . .”
“Is that a bad thing?” Sam asked.
“It’s a you thing,” Delphie said. “I’m sure that Jill and Jake could use help in their rehab business. Rodney’s pretty excited about the men he works with. Honey and MJ could use help starting another apartment building for folks in wheelchairs.”
Sam gave her a thoughtful look.
“That’s off the top of my head,” Delphie said.
“Maybe I’ve changed,” Sam said.
Delphie laughed out loud so hard that Sam began to laugh. After a moment, she turned to him.
“I think you should have more fun,” Delphie said. “I agree that it’s time to let the employees own the company. It’s time for you to move on.”
“Let go and let God,” Sam said. “Aden said at breakfast this morning. I. . . I’m not sure I know how to do that.”
“I think it’s something that must be done,” Delphie said. “Not eased into or thought about.”
Sam nodded. He stared off into space.
“When the kids were little, we used to lay out plastic sheeting and spray them with water,” Sam said. “The kids would slide along the sheeting. They cooled off.”
“If we put it on the driveway, the photographers will take photos of Val and Grace,” Delphie said.
“We have to put it here,” Sam said. He gestured to the area of ten-foot-wide grass between the back deck and the garden. “It’s still in the sun though.”
Shaking her head, Delphie shrugged.
“We’ll figure it out,” she said.
“And me retiring?” Sam asked.
“It seems like you’ve helped the company through this last crisis,” Delphie said. “You can always step in if they need it or if something happens.”
“So it’s okay with you if I retire?” Sam asked. “It will give me time to get up to some mischief and adventure.”
“Of course it will,” Delphie said with a grin. “Chaos, too!”
Sam smiled. He hugged her again.
“Did you get some watermelon?” Sam asked.
Delphie let go of him and looked up.
“Watermelon?” Delphie asked. “What are we talking about?”
“We’d better get inside before those boys eat all of that watermelon!” Sam said.
Laughing, Sam ran into the house. Delphie ran in after him.
Tuesday night — 9:15 p.m.
“I don’t know,” Jacob said. “I just don’t know.”
He shook his head. Moving around their couch in the loft, he sat down next to Jill.
“What concerns you?” Jill asked.
“I. . .” Jacob said. “I don’t know if it’s change or if I. . . Oh hell, I don’t know. I’ve spent the last months working non-stop, 24/7 to keep Lipson Construction open and everyone working. I spent the entire day going from meeting to meeting about either the company or with the union or with the state or with the residents of Honey and MJs building or. . . I don’t know.”
“It does seem weird to now say ‘Let’s sell the rest of the company,’ when you’ve been working so hard,” Jill said.
“We don’t know when or if this pandemic will be over,” Jacob said. “The state believes that we’ll have vaccine ‘soon’ but what the hell is ‘soon?’ And even then. I heard from some guys that they don’t think that they want to get vaccinated.”
Jill shook her head.
“The misinformation machine is working overtime,” Jacob said.
“For the election,” Jill said.
“I doubt it will stop at the election,” Jacob said. “It’s here to stay.”
“How was school?” Jacob asked.
“I didn’t have school today,” Jill said.
“I’m sorry,” Jacob said. “Of course, I knew that.”
Jill put her hand on his leg. He turned to look at her.
“You seem kind of. . .” Jill started.
“Freaked out?” Jacob asked.
“I am freaked out,” Jacob said. “I mean, there was a time when I dreamed of being free of this company. I wanted to. . .”
He blew out a breath.
“I’ve said this so many times that even I am bored hearing it,” Jacob said.
Jill grinned at him.
“I thought my life would go this way, but it went that way and upside down and now we have three kids and it’s so fucking hot,” Jacob said. “Why is it so hot up here?”
“We didn’t turn the air conditioning on out here,” Jill said. “It’s in the bedrooms, but not out here. I can turn it on, if you’d like.”
“What’s really going on?” Jill asked.
“I. . .” Jacob sighed. “I don’t want my dad to die.”
“Die?” Jill asked, confused.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Jacob said. “If he retires, he’s that much closer to death. I guess, I don’t know. I. . .”
Jacob shook his head.
“I feel a little crazy,” Jacob said with a grin.
“You sound a little crazy,” Jill said.
“You know what I think?” Jill asked.
Jacob looked at her. He got up and went to the refrigerator. He took out the pitcher of water and poured two glasses. He dropped a couple of ice cubes into the glasses and carried them back to the couch.
“Thanks,” Jill said.
“Yes, I would like to know what you think,” Jacob said. “Always. What do you think?”
“I think you’re traumatized by everything that’s happened this year,” Jill said. “The pandemic is terrifying. Your father got sick before we even realized there was a virus, let alone a global pandemic and it was before we were sent home.”
“He was so sick,” Jacob said softly.
“He nearly died,” Jill said.
“Then this company stuff,” Jill said. “You very nearly lost the entire company. You, your parents, Val — you’ve worked so hard for so many decades to build this company and then wham!”
“We were told to shut down,” Jacob said, softly.
“No Marlowe School,” Jill said. “The kids were home all the time. I was home. Everyone was standing around staring at you, expecting you to find a way to make it all work.”
Nodding, Jacob drank his water.
“It’s a lot,” Jill said. “I know you hate this word, but it’s traumatizing!”
“And now, we’re supposed to just go back to normal,” Jacob said. “Or as normal as possible. It’s insane, really. We’re lucky that no one’s fighting wearing masks or social distancing. Otherwise, that would be that. Seriously.”
“It’s just because people trust you,” Jill said. “Trust Sam. Everyone knows that they are the lucky ones, because we all know people who are out of work. Businesses are closing left and right. None of the servers at Pete’s are working. They are all at home praying to get unemployment. . .”
“That system is a mess,” Jacob said.
“Right,” Jill said. “You’re traumatized by everything. It makes sense that you’re a little stunned at the idea of being done with all of it.”
“People are still job sharing,” Jacob said. “Val’s still got money on the line for people insurance.”
“We’re not done with this,” Jill said.
“According to Delphie, we won’t be done with this for a long while,” Jacob said.
“Why?” Jill asked.
“I don’t really understand it, but I guess the virus mutates,” Jacob said with a shrug. “She said to expect it to get worse before we’re out of the woods.”
“It’s terrifying,” Jill said, under her breath. “We’re so lucky that none of us has been sick.”
“We cheat,” Jacob said. “Without your help, Dad would be dead.”
“Luck,” Jill said. “And, we’ve tried to share that luck. Blane and Nelson are running those clinics for neighbors on the weekends. We’ve been passing out dinners to people stuck at home.”
“We took in all of those Fey kids,” Jacob said.
“Right,” Jill said. “Grew all that food.”
“Speaking of food,” Jacob said. “Delphie wondered if you could help with the canning.”
“I’ve never done it before, but I’m game,” Jill said with a shrug.
“I guess, Delphie has gotten her friends to do the cooking,” Jacob said. “Sandy, too. She needs help sealing all the jars of jam and soup and stuff. Val helps. There’s just going to be a lot more.”
“There’s always more to do,” Jill said.
Jacob turned in his seat to look at her. She nodded. He looked away and shook his head.
“You’re right,” Jacob said. “Of course. There’s always more to do. There’s more to do here at the Castle. There’s more to do at the Marlowe School.”
“Lipson hasn’t restarted their private contracts,” Jill said.
Jacob pointed at her. They fell silent for a long moment. Jill finished her glass of cold water.
“It’s going to be okay,” Jill said.
“God, I hope so,” Jacob said. “It all just seems like chaos now.”
“You love chaos,” Jill said.
Jacob got up and held a hand out to her.
“Let’s go make some order,” Jacob said.
Jill laughed out loud. He grinned. She took his hand. Leaving their water glasses on the counter, they went to bed.
Denver Cereal continues next week...