CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SIXTY-ONE
Saturday morning — 11:03 a.m.
Staring at some kind of a map, Ava, Fran, Leslie, and Bob walked across the Castle living room.
“That’s this way,” Jacob said.
Ava and her team waited for Jacob to get ahead of them. Captain Ferguson and his two technicians were following Jacob.
“We haven’t been through this room,” Jacob said. “Honestly, it’s something Val was going to get to but she got pregnant again. So be super careful. There could be anything in here.”
Everyone nodded. Jacob walked down the hallway in front of Honey and MJ’s apartment and stairs. The hallway stopped a few feet after the stairs with one room on the right.
“It’s this way,” Jacob said, holding up a cordless drill.
He pressed a section which opened up to show a screw, which he loosened. He revealed other screws and, with the help of Captain Ferguson, removed the panel that had been a wall.
“I had no idea that was there,” Sissy said.
Everyone turned to look at her.
“Hi,” Sissy said. “I wondered if I could talk to Ava.”
Ava looked at her team, and they nodded.
“What are you doing?” Sissy asked.
“Some jackass detective decided to look into cold cases here at the Castle,” Ava said, as she walked toward Sissy. “They were such assholes that we had to leave the lab to come spend our weekend here. Captain Ferguson has an entire team is working this weekend on this bullshit.”
Ava hugged Sissy.
“Sorry to be so dark,” Ava said as they separated. “Seth’s home and I want to be home with him.”
“I understand,” Sissy said.
“It’s really great to see you,” Ava said. “Just speaking for myself, I’ve missed you. I know that you’ve seen Seth a few times, but I know he’s missed you too. Not to mention your family. Is it nice to be home?”
A couple of laughing and talking teenagers ran in the side entrance and into the Castle living room. They turned to watch them before turning back.
“I wanted to ask you about Ivan,” Sissy said.
“Is it okay for him to be there?” Sissy asked. “I. . . Honestly, I didn’t know what to do.”
“He’s more than welcome to stay as long as he needs to,” Ava said. “Seth would love it if you would stay with us, but we marginally understand that you want to be with your family.”
Sissy gave her a worried nod.
“I need to talk to Sandy and Aden,” Sissy said. “They set aside time for us to talk. They’re waiting for me. But I wanted to check.”
“Don’t worry,” Ava said. “We’ve done this before. We’re happy to help.”
Sissy gave her a worried nod. Ava impulsively hugged Sissy again. Ava kissed Sissy’s cheek and went back to join her team. Sissy watched Ava for a minute before heading up the stairs to speak with Aden and Sandy.
With each step forward, she felt heavier until, at the top of the stairs, she barely had the strength to take the final step. Talking to Sandy and Aden would make everything that was happening real. For the last six months, she told herself that she didn’t have to deal with everything until she spoke with Sandy and Aden. Standing outside the apartment, she took a breath for courage and went inside.
Aden was sitting at the table. He had his laptop open, his phone, and a checkbook. He was clearly ready for anything. There were glasses of water and a pitcher on the table. Sandy came in from the kitchen with a pot of tea. Sandy nodded to Sissy and went back into the kitchen for something yummy.
Sandy did not disappoint. She returned with her “Everything” cookies that included nuts and chocolate and caramel bits and some candies and other yummy things. They were Sissy’s favorite.
“Have a seat,” Aden said, gesturing to a seat next to him at the round table. He gestured to everything in front of him. “I wasn’t sure what we’d need, so I. . .”
Sissy grinned at him.
“It’s really great to see you, Sis,” Aden said. “I’ve missed you. You’re such an important part of our family that we all miss you.”
“I miss you guys too,” Sissy said. “It’s like a rock in my shoe. I feel it every day.”
“We never got used to it either,” Aden said. “That’s not to underestimate your incredible accomplishments.”
Sissy smiled at him. Sandy took a seat next to Aden. She set her phone in front of her.
“We watched your final dance for school,” Aden said.
Sandy held up a hand showing five fingers and mouthed “times.” Sissy grinned.
“You know, I lead meetings all day, all week,” Aden said. “I don’t want to step on your toes.”
Sissy gave him a little shake of her head and sat down next to Aden. She shifted the chair so that she could see them both. As a younger girl, Sissy talked nearly non-stop. Neither Sandy nor Aden knew what to do in Sissy’s silence. They waited.
“I. . .” Sissy said. She looked up at them and then sighed. “If I tell you then it all becomes real.”
Sandy reached out for Sissy’s left hand and Aden took her right.
“Just tell us,” Sandy said, softly.
“Can’t fix a problem we know nothing about,” Aden said.
“You probably remember that Ivan moved to Paris to rest,” Sissy said. “He was tired from working and everything. I mean, he’s danced all of his life. He’s the eldest male dancer in the world.”
“It turns out that he had a kind of blood cancer called ‘Myeloma,’” Sissy said. “The doctors think it’s from his time in the gulag. They think that he’s had it for a few years. They got his samples from when we were shot. They found evidence that he already had the Myeloma.”
“When did you find out?” Aden asked.
“Right after I graduated,” Sissy said. “I. . . I mean, I’m such a child. I thought that if we ‘took care of it’ for a few months that we’d get married and live our lives.”
Sissy shook her head.
“So he’s started treatment?” Sandy asked.
“He’s pretty sick,” Sissy said. “He’s lost all of his hair and. . .”
Fat tears ran down her face. She sighed.
“The doctors said that he had a great chance of getting well because he’s so fit and doesn’t have a chromosome issue,” Sissy said. “But that gulag and. . . I mean, there’s no way to know what he was exposed to there.”
“What can we do?” Sandy asked.
“I. . .” Sissy swiped at her tears. Her voice dropped to a whisper, “I don’t know what to do.”
“We’re here,” Aden said. “Tell us what the options are.”
“They tried the meds in France,” Sissy said.
“Did they help?” Aden asked.
Sissy shook her head.
“Lay out the options for us,” Aden said. “I know that you are quite familiar with all of this but it’s new to us.”
Sissy bit her lip and nodded.
“Okay,” Sissy said. “I, uh, okay.”
She took a breath and settled her emotions.
“The doctors in France want to try more medications,” Sissy said. “But Otis says that nothing will work. Otis says that Ivan needs a bone marrow transplant. It’s usually not done in these cases, but Otis thinks it’s Ivan’s only chance. Otis wants him to have the last of the twin’s cord blood. If not that, Grace’s cord blood. He says that Grace has Mike’s healing abilities. Val saved it, right?”
Sandy and Aden nodded.
“One of the problems is that the docs in France want to be more conservative,” Sissy said. “Otis says that they’re going to waste our time and Ivan will get weaker. By the time they decide to do the bone marrow transplant, Ivan will be too weak to get it.”
“I mean. . .” Sissy abruptly stopped talking. Sissy grabbed her glass of water and drank it down. Sandy poured tea for each of them.
“I don’t know if you’ve spent time with Otis. . .” Sissy said. She looked up to see Sandy and Aden shake their heads. “He’s kind of a drama queen. It’s weird because he’s always so emphatic about things, so sure of what to do — anything, really. It’s hard to negotiate a dinner order, let alone something like this.”
“The doctors in France won’t do a bone marrow treatment,” Sissy said. “They refused. And then there’s money! Healthcare is free in France. Ivan is adamant that he won’t saddle me with a huge medical bills. So he. . . So he. . .”
Sissy sucked in a breath.
“He doesn’t want to get married,” Sandy said.
Crying, Sissy nodded.
“He knows that you’re loaded?” Aden asked.
“How am I loaded?” Sissy said, angrily. “My so-called mother stole any penny that should have been mine from Dad and any other money lined her pockets and. . .”
Sissy noticed that Sandy was shaking her head.
“Seth has money for you,” Sandy said. “Or I should say — I have accounts for you from Seth’s money.”
“Sandy added money to your accounts when she received that money for her mother’s symphony,” Aden said. “You have enough money to do anything you’d like to do. We’re also here to help in anyway — financial issues are the easiest, honestly.”
Sissy’s head collapsed into her hands. She sobbed.
Able to reach her, Aden rubbed her back. After a few moments, Sissy sat up.
Sandy gave her a soft smile. Sissy had become such a young woman.
“I’ll talk to Val and Jake, but I’m sure we can put you both on the Lipson Construction insurance,” Aden said. “That should help.”
“Why Val and Jake?” Sissy asked.
“They have to secure the insurance,” Aden said. “It’s complicated, but whenever there’s some weird economic issue, the insurance company wants us to stop covering our employees. Val and Jake put down a million or more to guarantee the insurance.”
“I think Aden’s just asking to be polite,” Sandy said. “You’ve always been on our insurance — which is Lipson Insurance. Adding Ivan is not a big deal. They have unmarried partner insurance from the days when gay people couldn’t get married.”
“With Seth, we are your legal guardians,” Aden said. “Insurance, money — all of that is solvable. The question is what do you need from us?”
“I need. . .” Sissy said. “I need. . .”
She looked at Sandy and Aden.
“Hope,” Sissy croaked out. “I thought that I’d finish school and start a life with Ivan. I’d work. He’d coach. We’d travel all over the world. It’s like some Kathryn Hepburn movie. I. . .”
Sissy heaved a heavy sigh.
“It’s gone,” Sissy said. “All of it. He doesn’t want to get married. He only came with me here so that I would be at home. He plans to leave me here and head back to France. He doesn’t want the bone marrow transplant. He doesn’t want to risk the cost of treatment. He. . .”
Sissy shook her head.
“Nadia calls him a stubborn old goat,” Sandy said.
Sissy grinned at the words, but the rest of her face was cast in sorrow.
“What about ballet companies?” Aden asked.
Sissy nodded and swallowed hard.
“I really want to stay in Paris,” Sissy said. “I know that would keep me away from home, but I love the Opera de Paris. I just love it there in France. Even the awful parts. I love Paris. Truly.”
“If Ivan dies?” Sandy asked, softly.
“I. . .” Sissy nodded. “He’s asked me this, as well. I would still rather be in Paris.”
“I think,” Sissy said. “I don’t know. I’m just a kid. I feel like just a kid and. . .”
“This is a huge burden to have carried by yourself,” Sandy said.
“I’m glad you told us,” Aden said.
“Ivan’s staying with Seth,” Sissy said. “I asked Ava if it was okay. She was like you guys — ‘Whatever you need,’ ‘Happy to help,’ you know how she is. Seth, his father, Maresol — they’ve been so nice. So nice. But. . .”
Sissy started crying again.
“What am I going to do?” Sissy asked.
No one said anything for a long moment. Aden looked at Sandy and she nodded.
“Are you asking us for advice?” Sandy asked.
“I guess so?” Sissy shrugged. “But don’t be offended if I don’t do it.”
“Of course,” Sandy said. “You’ve always been your own person, Sis. I wouldn’t expect that to change.”
Sissy gave Sandy a smile.
“So, my advice is this,” Sandy started. She took a deep breath and continued, “I think you should marry Ivan. The sooner the better. In the meantime, we’ll get him in to see Blane. See what Blane’s Chinese Medicine prognosis might be. Blane can talk to him about the process of getting the bone marrow transplant. Aden?”
“I agree with Sandy. Get married,” Aden said. “Enjoy the time you have. I also think that we should talk to Nadia. She talked to Nash almost every day. I doubt that she knows about this.”
“She doesn’t,” Sissy said. “Ivan wants to just fade away. Die with dignity and. . . Sorry, please continue.”
“The only other thing I would add is that I think you should talk to Delphie,” Aden said. “Get Ivan to talk to Delphie. If anyone can give you reasoned options, it’s someone who can see all of the outcomes. I’ll tell you, she’s been really helpful to me.”
“Really?” Surprised, Sissy asked in a laughed. “Delphie?”
“I’ve known her since Jake gave me the job as his assistant,” Aden said. “She told me that I would meet Sandy. She told me that I would have to be really patient. She got me working on myself so that I was ready when I had a chance with Sandy. I think she’ll help Ivan in ways we can’t predict.”
“But,” Aden said, with a grin, “you have to be prepared for some incense and tea and all the rig-a-morol. You know.”
Sissy gave him a watery smile.
“Whatever happens, Sis, we’ll be here for you,” Sandy said. “In fact, I wondered if we should look to buy you a place in Paris.”
“Oh, probably,” Sissy said. “I don’t know. Maybe when this is settled.”
“I’ll get our minions looking for something,” Sandy said.
“When do you have to tell the ballet companies?” Aden asked.
“Next Friday,” Sissy said. “I was asked to join the Denver Ballet, and that would be fine. I would be home with my family and everything.”
“Denver’s not Paris,” Sandy said.
“Got it,” Aden said.
“I know that I’m young,” Sissy said. “I. . . I mean. . . I really love Ivan. He’s been in my life for so long that even if we never marry and he dies, I will still feel a huge hole in my life. I will miss him the rest of my life. I just know it.”
“Why don’t we talk to him about that marriage thing?” Sandy asked.
“Would you do that?” Sissy asked.
“I’d do one better than that,” Sandy said with a smile. “I’ll get Nadia to talk to him. She’ll be furious that he is not getting the treatment due to the cost.”
“She’s really rich,” Sissy said.
“1% territory,” Aden said with a nod.
“I can see why she’d be mad,” Sissy said. “I think he just wants to stay in control. You know, he lost so many years in the gulag. When he got out, he wanted to control the rest of his life.”
“That does sound like Ivan,” Sandy said with a smile.
Sissy fell silent. Sandy looked at Aden.
“Thank you for telling us,” Aden said. “Why don’t we go find Delphie? I know that you’d rather know now than wait. Sandy will call Maresol and have her bring Ivan to the acupuncture clinic.”
Aden leaned over and kissed Sandy’s cheek. Sissy got up from her seat. Sandy got up to hug Sissy, but she was so distraught that she missed Sandy’s gesture. Aden gave Sandy a soft smile and Sandy nodded. Aden put his arm over Sissy’s shoulders and led her out of the apartment.
Sandy sat back down at the table and started making calls.
The first person she called was Jill.
“Where are you?” Sandy asked.
“Where are you?” Jill asked.
“Our apartment,” Sandy said. “Can you come?”
“On my way,” Jill said. “Heather and Tanesha are here. Do you. . .?”
“Oh great,” Sandy said. “Can they come too?”
“On our way,” Heather and Tanesha said in the background.
“Thanks,” Sandy said. “Is your mom here?”
“She will be,” Jill said. “Why?”
“I’ll tell you everything when you get here,” Sandy said and hung up.
Sandy called Maresol, Seth O’Malley’s housekeeper, family, and dear friend.
“Maresol?” Sandy asked. “Can you bring Ivan to the acupuncture clinic here at the Castle?”
“Is that where Blane is?” Maresol asked. “I’ve been calling him and I can’t find him. I tried Heather but she’s not answering and I know that Harvest Day. . .”
“Blane holds a free medical clinic here at the Castle on Saturdays,” Sandy said. “Nelson and LaTonya are also there to see patients.”
“When should I bring him?” Maresol asked.
“As soon as you can,” Sandy said.
“He’s very sick, Sandy,” Maresol said. “He probably should be around a bunch of people.”
“I thought that he could see Jill and her mom, Mike, Steve, Megan — you know, get their opinion,” Sandy said. “Is Angelika there with you?”
“She is. Dionne, too,” Maresol said. “We’ll be there within the hour.”
“Call me when you get here,” Sandy said. “We’ll have it all worked out by then.”
“Got it,” Maresol said. “Did you ask about the cord blood?”
“I was just about to,” Sandy said.
“Okay,” Maresol said. “Good. See you soon.”
Sandy sat staring into space until Jill and the girlfriends arrived. She told them everything and they started making plans.
Denver Cereal continues next week...
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