Denver Cereal Denver Cereal

Denver Cereal, Volume 1, Chapter Twenty: He said, “No matter what” (part three)


(part three)

“Hi.” Jill leaned over Jacob’s bed in the recovery room.

“Hi. How did you get in here?” Jacob asked.

“I told the nurse I was your wife.”

“We got married? Did I miss our wedding night too?”

Jill laughed.

“Was I amazing?” Jacob asked.

“I hope so,” Jill said.


“Chocolate chip?” Delphie asked.

“Yes! Yes! Yes! Can we make brownies? Mommy likes brownies and I like brownies and I bet my Jacob likes brownies and I bet my new Auntie …” Katy stopped talking. Her face scrunched up in puzzlement.


“Right, Valerie, likes brownies and I can bring some to Aunt Meg’s house tonight. I go to Aunt Meg’s house every, every, every Friday night. THIS time, I’ll bring brownies!”

Delphie lifted Katy onto the counter in the main kitchen of the Castle. Delphie had retrieved Katy from school early so they could spend some time together.

“I thought you wanted cookies,” Delphie said.

“Aren’t brownies a kind of cookie?” Katy asked. She took a sipper cup of milk from Delphie.

Delphie nodded her head at Katy’s logic. Moving around the kitchen, Delphie pulled all the ingredients for brownies from the cupboards and refrigerator.

“Would you like to crack the eggs?”

“Yes! Yes! Yes!” Katy clapped her hands and bounced on the counter. “I never get to really cook. They say I’m too little but I’m FOUR. FOUR is not too little to do anything.”

Delphie held Katy’s hand and they cracked an egg together. Katy squealed with delight when the liquid dropped into the bowl.

“I wanted to ask you about being four,” Delphie said. She gave another brown egg to Katy. “Together?”

Katy bashed the egg against the bowl. The egg crushed in her hand.

“Ooh, not so hard,” Delphie said. Using a dish towel, Delphie wiped the egg from the girl’s hand.

“I’m sorry!” Katy’s dark eyes filled with tears. “Did I ruin the brownies?”

“No, honey,” Delphie said.

“Oh, good.” Katy held her hand out for another egg and Delphie laughed.

“Yes, just like that. Tap, tap, tap,” Delphie said. “You’re three years old.”

“I AM NOT! I AM FOUR!” Katy shouted. Her lip vibrated and tears dropped from her eyes. “I’m no baby! Three-year-olds are babies. I’m a BIG girl.”

“Katherine, you can only be what you are.”

“NO! Don’t say that! NO! NO! NO! I’m FOUR.”

Delphie raised her eyebrows at the little girl. While Katy worked through her tantrum, Delphie set up the blender. She plugged it in next to Katy.

“Would you like to blend?”

“Yes.” The storm of emotion left Katy’s face bright red. “Are you mad at me?”

“No, honey. I don’t understand why four is better than three,” Delphie said.

“It just is.”

“Hold it steady.” With on hand on the blender and one arm around the child, Delphie reassured her. Katy leaned into Delphie’s warmth.

“I had a daddy …” Katy whispered.

While tears dropped from Katy’s eyes, Delphie’s hand moved softly over Katy’s back.

The retelling of Denver Cereal, Volume 1, continues tomorrow…

Denver Cereal, Volume 1, Chapter Twenty: He said, “No matter what” (part two)


(part two)

“What would Tanesha and Heather say?”

“They’ll say what they always say,” Jill said.

Together they said, “How big is his dick?” They laughed.

Sandy picked up her purse and then impulsively hugged Jill.

“Thanks,” Sandy said.

“Just go for it,” Jill said. “You’ve always been really happy around him. You seem really happy today. Why not just enjoy that?”

Sandy nodded.

Watching Sandy greet Aden, Jill smiled to herself. Her little plan worked.

Sandy let Aden hold her hand when they walked through the mall. Sandy even did something unheard of — she let him buy them coffee at Starbucks. Sandy never let a man buy something for her. Period.

When Aden dropped them at Denver Health, Sandy asked if he might take her to work. While Jill waved, Sandy made funny faces out the passenger window of his SUV. Smiling, Jill went into the hospital to see if Jacob was out of surgery.

Maybe both Sandy and Jill could find love. Jill beamed with delight.




Mike was in a complete panic. Pacing back and forth in the Castle kitchen, his mind worked overtime to convince him that he was not right for Val. He was too ugly! Not Hollywood enough! Too hairy! Those stylists knew the truth. Valerie couldn’t be seen in public with him. Sure, they’d spent a lot of time together over the years. But it was always in private, away from the camera. Who wanted to be married to someone they couldn’t be seen in public with?

With his panic, his rage grew.

Why had he even tried? How could he ever believe she would be his partner? His wife? Who did he think he was? He wasn’t famous! He wasn’t a star or a producer or a model or anything but a fucked up traumatized asshole. Jerking open the liquor cabinet, he reached for a bottle of whiskey. With his hand on the bottle, he saw the phone number he had written on the cabinet for moments just like these.


“I need …”

“Where are you?” she asked.

“Castle,” Mike said.

“We just got back. Meet us at the workshop. We can’t deal with the photographers,” she said. “Get going, Michael. We’re going to lunch.”

Mike sighed.

Alex Hargreaves’s voice always meant freedom and safety. Help was on the way. He wasn’t alone. Mike’s panic seeped from his pores. Alex would save him.


Mike almost skipped through the tunnels. He paced the workshop for five full minutes before Alex Hargreaves’s Jeep CJ screeched to a stop on Detroit Street. Alex, John Drayson, and a couple other guys piled out of the Jeep.

“Annie’s for lunch?” Alex asked. She hugged him and kissed his cheek. “How’s Jake?”

“He’s in surgery. He should be out in an hour or so,” Mike said. He pulled the workshop door closed. “But he should be home in a couple days.”

“That’s great news,” John said.

The men greeted him with hugs and pats on the back. Mike fell in beside them for the short walk to Annie’s Café.

He was going to be all right.

The retelling of Denver Cereal, Volume 1, continues tomorrow…

Denver Cereal, Volume 1, Chapter Twenty: He said, “No matter what” (part one)


(part one)

Jill thought she knew everything there was to know about Sandy. They had been best friends since Sandy converted to Catholicism and Jill made it home from Costa Rica. They shared every trial, every tribulation, and every triumph.

But Jill had never seen Sandy in love, or even in like, for that matter. In fact, Jill was certain Sandy would never let any man get close to her. Certainly not after what her “real” dad did to her on his weekends.

Standing in front of a dressing room mirror at Nordstrom, Jill felt a stab of intense jealousy. Sandy and that cutie Aden had flirted and chatted the entire way to the mall. They weren’t ignoring her. They were just consumed with each other.

As fast as Jill’s jealousy came, it disappeared, leaving her strong desire for Sandy’s happiness in its wake. Like Galadriel in that ring movie, Jill felt like she had passed a test — The Girlfriend Jealousy Test.

Jill wanted Sandy to be happy. Period.

She squinted at herself in the mirror. She had to talk to Aden. But what should she say?

Should she tell him about Sandy’s prick father? No.

She could tell him Sandy was only promiscuous to keep people away. Yeah, that’s not going to work. But if she didn’t tell him, Sandy would push it, sleep with him, and then dump him like she did every other man. Crap. Jill wrinkled her nose in the mirror.

Coming out of the dressing room, she saw Aden shake his head at Sandy. He gave her another skirt. Sandy wagged her eyebrows at Jill when she went into the dressing room. This was Jill’s chance.

“You like Sandy a lot,” Jill said. She sat next to him.

Aden’s head jerked to look at Jill.

“Is it that obvious?”

“Yeah.” Jill smiled at Aden. “Go really slow.”

Jill said it in such a low voice that she wasn’t sure Aden even heard her. Aden made no indication he heard anything. Instead, he stood to greet Sandy as she came from the dressing room. Jill joined him. Together they encouraged Sandy to get something a little more Hollywood and a little less Hollywood Boulevard.

Sandy laughed and pulled Jill into the dressing room with her.

“Well, what do you think?” Sandy asked.

“About the skirt?”

“Aden. He’s the guy from the gym that I …”

“I remember.” Jill took the skirt from Sandy and put it on an hanger. “I think he’s great! I’ve told you that for years and years. Did you find out about his wife?”

“He’s divorced. Like you told me, it was just some jealous girl,” Sandy said. She pulled her jeans up. “You don’t think he’s too old for me?”

“I’ve never thought he was too old for you, Sandy,” Jill said. “I liked him when you talked about working out with him. Now that I’ve met him, I really like him. He’s smart and funny and cute. I love his smile, and he smiles at you …a lot.”

The retelling of Denver Cereal, Volume 1, continues tomorrow…

Denver Cereal, Volume 1, Chapter Nineteen: So I’m asking . . . (part six)


part six)

“Honey, please,” Valerie pleaded. “I want you to share all of my life. That means you have to look the part.”

Mike looked at her and sagged. He followed her to the main level of the house. A severe, matronly woman stood in the middle of the main Castle living room. The complete opposite of the flamboyant Ramon, she arched a penciled eyebrow at Mike then shook her head.

“Neeooo.” She annunciated her “no” as if she were Pepé Le Pew.

Mike raised his eyebrows at her. Not sure of what to do, he held his hand out to the woman. “I’m Mike.”

The woman looked at Mike’s paint-stained hand and crossed her arms.

“You cannot take this … this … creature out in public,” the woman said.

“What?” Valerie asked. “Why?”

“He is … too old, too hairy, and too …” The woman made a disgusted face.

“But Wes is sixty-seven-years-old. Mike’s only thirty-two-years-old,” Valerie said.

“Wesford takes care of his skin. What products do you use on your face?” the woman asked.

“Um.” Mike felt like he was answering a trick question. “My face?”

“You see, completely unworkable.” The woman sneered at Mike. Looking at Val, she said, “Why is it that you left Wes? He was the perfect companion for you. Tall, thin like you are … not so … beefy hillbilly.”

“Sounds like you don’t need me anymore,” Mike said. “Val, honey, I’m going back to my studio. Nice to meet you, ma’am.”

The woman’s harping voice drifted through the kitchen. Standing at the garden door, Mike had his fill. Turning in place, he stormed back to the living room. The woman waved her finger in Val’s face while Valerie wept.

“Get out of my house,” he said to the woman. “You have no right to come in here and say anything — to me or to my wife. You certainly don’t know me. You can’t know Val if you talk to her like this.”

He picked up the woman’s bag and threw it out the side Castle door. He held the door and pointed for her to go.

The woman looked from Valerie to Mike.

“You have ruined your career,” she said.

“I don’t care,” Valerie said. “Please leave.”

With a smug “I told you so” look, the woman marched out the door. Mike scooped up Valerie and held her until she stopped crying.

“We’ll figure something out,” he whispered into her hair.

“I don’t care if I ever act again,” she said.

“Oh, honey, we don’t live like that. You love acting. You can do what you love. We just have to figure out how to make it happen.”

Valerie nodded and wiped her tears.

“Who’s next?” Mike said.

“I have a facial appointment. I thought I’d leave you with her, but … I forgot how awful she can be … “

Mike held her face between his big hands. His eyes caressed her beautiful face, then he kissed her lips.

“I love you, Val. Whatever you need is fine. You like that Ramon guy.. um, person. Why don’t we talk to him tonight?”

Valerie gave him a watery smile and nodded. He walked her through the tunnels to her Mustang. Valerie clung to him before getting in the car. He waited until she was down the street before he went back to the house.

Laughing, he made his way back to his studio. Then panic set in.

He’d waited a lifetime to be with Val. What if he wasn’t right for her life? He was going to lose Valerie because he was too hairy-beefy-hillbilly. There was no way to fix any of those things.


The retelling of Denver Cereal, Volume 1, continues tomorrow…

Denver Cereal, Volume 1, Chapter Nineteen: So I’m asking . . . (part five)


(part five)

“Excuse me,” Aden said. He stepped away from Jill and Sandy to read his daily list from Jacob.

“Heya, Aden,

Here’s your list:

  • Take the girls shopping.
  • Tell them about Val’s party next week. Make sure they both get something … nice. ;)
  • Have fun tonight.

Oh, and the sites? They’re ready to start again tomorrow morning so don’t have too much fun tonight. You’ll need to cover for me tomorrow.

— J”

Aden curled his lip. Even in the hospital, Jacob Marlowe managed to disrupt Aden’s drinking plans.

The next email was from Blane, their assistant, with confirmation from every site manager that the sites would start up tomorrow morning at 5 a.m.

The last email from Jacob said, “Get the ring box back from Jill.”

Shaking his head, Aden wandered to Sandy and Jill. Jill was holding the box out to Sandy.

“May I have that?” Aden asked.

“But … but …”

Aden opened the ring box to show Jill that it was empty. He raised an eyebrow and laughed at her shocked face.

“You play with the Marlowe, you’ve got to expect a little intrigue.”

“But he asked me and … I …”

“Did you say yes?” Aden asked.

“I …”

“When you’re ready to say yes, there will be a ring in this box. At least I hope so.”

Aden made an “It’s my ass if it’s not” face. Jill and Sandy laughed. He bowed slightly in his best butler imitation.

“Mr. Jacob has asked me to take you ladies shopping. He would like me to invite you to a fete at the Castle hosted by Miss Valerie in a week’s time.”

“What?” Sandy asked.

“Val’s having a party with all her Hollywood friends. She wants to celebrate Jake’s survival and introduce Mike to her friends. Jake wanted to invite Jill as his date. He thought Jill would feel more comfortable if her friends were there.”

“Oh … We would mix with Hollywood people … But …” Jill bit the inside of her lip.

“Good thing you’re taking us shopping,” Sandy said. “You buying?”

“Mr. Jacob,” Aden said.

“Great. Jill? Will you call Tanesha and Heather?”

While Jill dialed her cell phone, Sandy looked at Aden.

“How old are you?”

“38. You?”


“Is that a problem?”

Sandy shook her head. “I’m really sorry. I should have asked, but …”

“I understand,” Aden said.

“Do you still want to …?”

“I have to coach soccer at five but I’m otherwise free today. You?”

“I work from two to eight, but …”

“Perfect,” Aden said. “What if we shop this morning and I’ll take you to dinner tonight?”

Sandy blushed, smiled, and nodded.

The retelling of Denver Cereal, Volume 1, continues tomorrow…

For full chapters, visit Stories by Claudia