Denver Cereal Denver Cereal

Denver Cereal, Volume 1, Chapter Ten: One step forward (part one)

CHAPTER TEN

(part one)

Mike slipped Val’s long hair over her shoulder so he could caress her back. He was sitting behind her in the big bathtub tucked against a glass-block window to the Castle’s backyard garden. Her elbows wrapped around his knees. The light from the setting moon danced against the wavy glass.

“Are you going to ask me for a divorce?” Mike asked.

Valerie turned to look at him. Her motion in the warm water caused her breast to float into Mike’s hand. He smiled. Unable to risk looking at her face, his eyes focused on the beautiful nipple rising to his touch.

“No,” Valerie said. “I was going to ask you if you’d like to make a go of being married.”

Mike’s head jerked up in surprise.

“I’ve tried to love without you. I’m incapable of loving anyone other than you, Michael Roper. And too terrified to let myself just love you.”

Mike nodded.

“Say something,” Valerie whispered.

“I’m afraid if I say anything you’ll change your mind,” Mike said.

She turned and leaned back against him.

“What about this Wes guy?” Mike asked.

“I had this dream … I … I saw Mom. She was knitting this beautiful golden blanket. When I got closer, I saw that every strand of the blanket was one of the people she loved — me, you, Jake, Jill, Delphie, even Dad. The sun surrounded her in a hazy, warm light. She smiled at me and … When I woke up … I guess it was yesterday … I realized that I only want to be with you. I think about you all the time, every day, almost every minute of every day. I …”

“I think about you all the time too,” Mike said. “Is this guy gay?”

Valerie laughed. “You mean, am I back because my fiancé is gay? No. I’m back because I want to be with you.”

“I heard that …”

“What?”

“That you have a movie coming out on Friday. You told TMZ you were going home to your husband to generate press for the movie,” Mike said. “Candy watches Entertainment Tonight for me when I’m working. I … It’s the only way I get to hear about you every day.”

“I don’t know why I said that. It just came out,” Valerie whispered. She shook her head, “I … I’m sorry. I’ve really hurt you. I … I don’t have any excuse …”

“I’m sorry for everything. I never should have left you. I regret it every single day,” Mike said. “I can’t imagine what it was like for you. You lost your family and then me … To lose your mom …”

“It was the baby that really did me in.”

“What baby?”

“Before I tell you, I want you to be clear: I left Wes. I left the ring, the beach condo, everything. I don’t want to be with him. Tomorrow, Wes is going to say he loved me enough to encourage me to sort out my life. My publicist talked him into it as a way for him to save face. He can be vicious if he’s humiliated.”

“But that’s not true?”

“No, that’s not true. I left him a note saying I was leaving. I don’t know why I said that at the airport. It’s like my soul spoke the truth — I wanted to come home to my husband,” Valerie said. “I was just one of Wes’s women, one in a long line of trophy brides.”

“Why would you want that?” Mike asked. His voice held hurt and confusion.

“It’s safe. I don’t have to risk …”

“Losing again.” Mike finished her sentence. He settled her back against him and kissed her head.

“I want to be here with you. This is my choice and my choice alone. It’s been a long time since I’ve made my own choice … It feels good … right.”

The retelling of Denver Cereal, Volume 1 continues tomorrow…


Denver Cereal, Volume 1, Chapter Nine: What did you say? (part four)

CHAPTER NINE

(part four)

“Val’s here,” Jacob said as Mike passed through the door. Mike stopped walking.

“What? Why?”

“She said she didn’t want me to have all the fun. Tomorrow’s the step-whore’s prenuptial meeting.” Jacob put his hand on Mike’s back. “Cereal?”

Mike nodded. They went through the darkened house to the original kitchen. Even though Jacob had installed small kitchens in the apartments, everyone used the main kitchen. Jacob pulled cereal boxes from the cabinet and retrieved the Royal Crest milk from the refrigerator. Mike ate a bowl of Cap’n Crunch before saying anything else.

“Trevor came to the hospital,” Mike said. “He made a huge-ass fuss. I guess he saw something on the news and put two and two together. He rushed into Katy’s room, saying this proved that Jill was an unfit mother. I guess he was all but foaming at the mouth. That crazy fucker tried to take Katy from the hospital. He said he was going to kill Jill for putting his daughter in harm’s way.”

Mike poured another bowl of cereal.

“Katy took one look at her father and started screaming in horror. I …” Mike shook his head and poured milk on his cereal. “Did Val mention me? I mean, do you think I should call her?”

“You and Val have a complicated relationship. If you want to call her, I know she’d like to see you.”

“Then why didn’t she tell me she was coming?”

“A very good question to ask Valerie. If it helps, she didn’t call, email or text me either.” Jacob shrugged.

“I drove this bachelor party tonight. Stupid fuckers. They picked up hookers for blow jobs all around. While his wasted friends cheered him on, the groom screwed some girl in the alley behind Vinyl,” Mike said. “All I could think was why does this jerk deserve to be married?”

“You and Val will work it out eventually,” Jacob said.

“God, I hope so,” Mike said.

“You were telling me about Trevor?”

“How did you know he would show?”

“I just figured it would happen. Who was there?”

Jacob had asked his midnight hockey team to keep an eye on Katy in case Trevor showed up. Mike set up a schedule so someone was there at all times.

“Colin.”

Mike smirked.

“What?” Jacob asked.

“Colin beat the crap out of Trevor when Trevor was in high school.”

Jacob raised his eyebrows. “What?”

“Colin’s little sister is about four years older than Trevor and Jill. Trevor started really hassling Erin. I mean, Colin’s what six-four, six-five? Erin’s not even five feet. She’s tiny — smaller than Jill, even. Colin was home on leave before he went into Special Forces. He went to pick up Erin at school and saw Trevor pawing at Erin. Colin isn’t known for his restraint, especially when it comes to his sisters.

“So Trevor’s there ranting and raving about how he’s going to take Katy, minus the hospital bill, of course. Colin took one look at Trevor and laughed. You know all those Hargreaveses are fucking nuts. I guess he tossed Trevor onto the sidewalk,” Mike laughed. “Trevor was so freaked he scrambled away.”

“He told Colin that he was going to find Jill,” Mike said. “I had just dropped the assholes off at the bride-to-be’s house when Colin called. I found Trevor trying to get into Jill’s apartment.”

“What did you do?”

“I called the cops. But then I couldn’t find Jill and … I guess I went a little nuts.” Pointing his spoon at Jacob, Mike said, “You should be glad I’m not Colin.”

“So noted. I do have a black belt in Brazilian jujitsu.”

“Well, big whoop-de-fucking-do. They teach everybody that in the military. Colin’s like an expert in every martial art.” Mike shrugged. “Sorry, man.”

“It’s not a problem,” Jacob said.

“Why’d you bring her here?” Mike asked.

“She didn’t want to go home. She said it would be too hard to be around Katy’s things. She was freaked enough about money, so I didn’t want to check us into the Adam’s Mark. Plus, Scooter and Sarah are here.”

“She saw Scooter?” Mike asked.

“The dogs were really what she needed.” Jacob nodded. “She played with them for a while and then took a shower. She’s exhausted. What a horrible day.”

Jacob looked up from his cereal when Mike didn’t respond. Mike’s face was completely blank. Jacob turned to see what Mike was looking at.

Valerie.

Val’s dark hair hung in waves over the spaghetti straps of her silk shorty. She beckoned Mike with her hand. Like a man in a trance, Mike stood up from the table and walked to Valerie. Jacob was just closing the door when Valerie giggled and squealed.

Guess Valerie and Mike are “on” again.

After cleaning up their cereal, Jacob went back upstairs to his apartment. Jill stirred when he came in but fell right back to sleep. Sarah had taken his side of the bed. Rather than fight the dog, he went to the table to work. He needed to clear his day so he could be available for Jill.

One last glance at Jill and he set to work.

The retelling of Denver Cereal, Volume 1 continues tomorrow…


Denver Cereal, Volume 1, Chapter Nine: What did you say? (part three)

CHAPTER NINE

(part three)

“Money makes the world work,” Jill said.

“Not really,” Jacob said. “Come on. I promised no hanky-panky on our non-date. You need to rest. Tomorrow is going to be another long day. Let’s just rest for a while. I can take the couch …”

“I don’t mind if we share a bed,” Jill said.

Jacob nodded. “Bathroom?”

Jill shook her head. He took her hand and held the covers for her. He went into his closet to change into another white T-shirt and slipped into the bed next Jill. When he held his arm out to her, she snuggled against him.

“I guess I made a fool of myself,” Jill said.

“Welcome to the club.” Jacob chuckled.

“How did you get so much money if you don’t care about it at all?”

“Oh, Jill, that’s a long, complicated answer and you’re exhausted. Let’s save some excitement for our second non-date.”

Jill stretched up to kiss him.

Snuggled together, their lips began a gentle exploration of each other’s mouth and tongue. When Jacob moved to kiss her face, he found her cheeks wet with tears. Pulling back to look at her, he saw that she was crying.

“What is it?” he whispered.

“I just feel really sad,” Jill said. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Jacob pulled her tighter into his arms. Tucked against his chest, Jill began to sob. He stroked her back and head until her emotional storm abated.

“Your shirt is drenched,” she said.

“Easy remedy,” Jacob said.

He gave her a tissue for her nose and pulled off his shirt. She tucked herself against him and fell sound asleep.

“I love you, Jill,” he whispered.

She stirred with his words, opened and shut her eyes. He smiled. Closing his eyes, he fell into a blissful sleep.

~~~~~~~~

Jacob woke to the sound of his Blackberry buzzing. Someone had sent him a text. Jacob shifted his shoulder and Jill rolled over. The clock read 3:07 in glowing red numbers. The site managers start up at five, so it couldn’t be work. He lay back against the bed.

The Blackberry continued its persistent buzz.

Someone needed his attention.

Slipping from the bed, Jacob crept across his apartment. He dug around in his laptop case until he found his vibrating phone. Looking at the face, he saw the same text repeated three times.

“Where the fuck is my sister?”

Mike.

“She’s asleep,” Jacob texted back.

“Stupid fucker,” Mike texted.

Hoping to not wake Jill, Jacob slipped out of the apartment. He had just reached the bottom of the stairs when Mike pounded on the door. Jacob opened the door.

Mike hit him like a ton of bricks. Jacob stepped aside, redirecting Mike’s energy, and Mike fell forward.

“I cannot believe you would take advantage of my sister when she is vulnerable.”

Mike took a swing at Jacob, which Jacob easily avoided.

“You done?” Jacob asked.

“No.”

Mike shifted to throw Jacob over his hip, but Jacob defended his position. The men stood in the small landing looking at each other.

“You want me to be with your sister. You’ve said that over and over again,” Jacob said. “Plus, nothing happened.”

“Then why don’t you have any clothes on?” Mike was mad but calming down.

“She cried on my T-shirt. I took it off because it was soaked,” Jacob said. “Besides, who are you? The morality police?”

“As far as my baby sister is concerned, asshole.”

“I’ve never come after you about my sister. And she was fourteen years old!”

“Fifteen. But I was only seventeen.” Mike grinned. “I love Val. You know that.”

“I love Jill. You know that. So what’s the problem?”

Mike looked at his boots for a moment, and then shrugged. “Breakfast?”

“Sure,” Jacob said.

The retelling of Denver Cereal, Volume 1 continues tomorrow…


Denver Cereal, Volume 1, Chapter Nine: What did you say? (part two)

CHAPTER NINE

(part two)

Jill heard Heather in the background. “Tell her we want every detail!”

“Yeah, make sure we get all the details. You know what I would do if I were in your situation.”

“I know. But how do I …?”

“Just take off your clothes. He’ll take care of the rest.”

“Okay.” Jill heard a door close downstairs. “I think he’s coming.”

“Have fun! We love you!” her friends yelled into the phone and hung up.

Jill slipped off the soft terry robe and stood in the middle of the room.

~~~~~~~~

Figuring Jill needed some time to herself, Jacob checked on Val, talked to Delphie, and answered some calls. Jill had been almost asleep on the deck, so he assumed she would have crawled into bed by now. Tiptoeing up the last few steps, he nudged the door open. Sarah bounded into the apartment.

And there was Jill. Naked. Standing in the middle of the room. In one glance, his eyes took in her round hips, taut belly, and perky breasts. His entire being rose to attention.

“Whoa,” he said. He spun around to face the door. “What’s going on, Jill?”

“The hospital lady said you told her I’d have to work off the hospital bill,” she said. “I figured …”

Jacob collapsed into himself.

“I’m sorry. I don’t know what I said to that woman,” Jacob said. “She was just a nasty clerk.”

“You mean you DON’T want to …”

Jacob turned to Jill. Forcing his eyes to stay on her face, he walked across the room. While his eyes caressed her face, he collected her hands with his hands.

“Nothing would make me happier than to make love to you. Not. One. Thing. But only when we want to … when you want to … when it’s right. Not as payment of some stupid debt.”

“Why did you bring me here?”

“I don’t know,” Jacob said. “You didn’t want to be at home without Katy. At my house, Scooter’s here to cheer you up. And I have cereal.”

Jill started crying. She didn’t resist when he pulled her into his arms.

“God, Jill. You’re not a whore or a prostitute or whatever else. Don’t shortchange yourself. You’re wonderful.”

“What did you mean, then?” Jill said into his shoulder.

“I don’t think I said that. After that horrible woman found out who I was, she was hitting on me. She even wanted me to sign her 5280. She probably said that to you so you’d be mad at me.”

“I’m not mad at you,” Jill said.

“Good.” Jacob pulled back to look into Jill’s eyes. “What will ease your mind about the hospital bill?”

“Nothing,” Jill said. “I hate being poor. I promise you, I will pay off the bill even if it takes forever.”

“If that makes you feel better, all right.” Jacob held his hand out to her and they shook on her promise.

He walked to his closet and picked out a clean white T-shirt for Jill to sleep in. She pulled the T-shirt over her head and then wandered across the floor to find her panties.

“You have so much that money can’t buy.” In order to keep from jumping Jill, Jacob started talking. “You have family who will drop everything to support each other. You have Katy. You have love and laughter in your life every single day. You have …”

He stopped talking when she bent over to pull on the beautiful panties. Taken aback by her full hips and muscular legs, all thought escaped his head. As she turned back toward him, Jacob adjusted his face, and himself. Noticing his motion, she gave him a wry smile.

“Money makes the world work,” Jill said.

The retelling of Denver Cereal, Volume 1 continues tomorrow…


Denver Cereal, Volume 1, Chapter Nine: What did you say? (part one)

CHAPTER NINE

(part one)

“Jill! Is Katy okay?” Sandy yelled into her cell phone.

“Katy’s okay. They’re keeping her overnight,” Jill said. “Where are you?”

“Funky Buddha. You wanna join us? I’m here with Tanesha and Heather. We’re hoping to find some fun.”

“No …”

“Jilly, what’s wrong?” Sandy asked. “Wait, hang on. I’m going to go the sidewalk so I can hear you.”

Jill paced Jacob’s apartment. After playing with the dogs, Jacob brought white wine and cheese to the deck. They drank wine, ate fancy cheese and those little crackers she had only seen on TV. Jacob’s sister, Val, and Delphie kept her laughing with funny stories about each other. She was all but asleep when he suggested she come upstairs to take a shower. He took her up to his gorgeous apartment, set out a towel and a bathrobe for her, then disappeared into the house.

Jill knew what was expected of her. After all, why would he have brought her to his house? She showered with his lavish soap and shampoo and then wrapped herself in his plush bathrobe.

Looking at his comfortable, queen-sized bed, she panicked. She couldn’t go through with it. She couldn’t sleep with some guy just because she thought he was cute … or because he paid for the hospital … or because she liked his house … or because she loved his mother … or … Vexed with herself, Jill called her best friend Sandy.

“Okay, sorry, I couldn’t hear you,” Sandy said. “What’s wrong?”

“Jacob took me back to his apartment.”

“You mean after he paid for the hospital, he took you back to his place? What’s it like?”

“It’s gorgeous. I mean, the furniture needs replacing, maybe some colors on the walls, and there’s a lot of electronic equipment. Typical guy’s place, you know. But it’s all wood floors, cut-glass leaded windows, and … The house is amazing. He calls it the ‘Castle.’ You’ll just die when you see it.”

“So what’s the problem?”

“I don’t think I can …”

Jill heard Heather ask for an update and Sandy explained what was wrong with Jill.

“Listen. There is only one reason a man brings you back to his place,” Sandy said. “Is there a bedside table?”

“Um … yeah,” Jill said.

“Open the drawer,” Sandy said.

“Okay,” Jill said. She slid open drawer in the antique table drawer.

“Condoms?” Sandy said.

Jill dug through the drawer. A reading light. Kleenex. Earplugs. A pair of glasses. A dog treat. A bag of throat lozenges. She gasped when she saw them. Jacob had condoms in this drawer!

“That man is ready to play,” Sandy said. “Good for you.”

“I don’t think I can do it. I mean, I know the accounting lady said I was going to have to, but I can’t just sleep with someone.”

“Honey, I don’t think he brought you to his apartment so you could sleep.”

“I know … What do I do?”

“She wants to know what to do,” Sandy said to Tanesha and Heather.

Jill heard her friends laugh. Tanesha grabbed the phone from Sandy.

“Jill, it’s Tanesha. I think you should enjoy that gorgeous man. You might just figure out why people actually like sex.”

“But Tanesha, I barely know this guy.”

“You know him enough for him to pay off your hospital bill. With the emergency room, what’s that gonna be? 20k? 30k?”

“I don’t know,” Jill mumbled.

“Honey, have some fun. You deserve it. That’s all I wanted to say,” Tanesha said. “She’s all yours.”

“I couldn’t have said it better,” Sandy said.

Jill heard Heather in the background. “Tell her we want every detail!”

The retelling of Denver Cereal, Volume 1 continues tomorrow…


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