They were talking on a computer program via the Internet. Because Sandy’s jaw was wired shut and her fingers broken, she was only able to tap out messages on the keyboard. Sissy would ask a question and then wait while Sandy answered via text.
“On lots of meds,” Sandy tapped out.
“You look horrible,” Sissy said.
“Gee, thanks,” Sandy said. She made the effort to do a big wink.
The absurdity of Sandy’s wink made Sissy laughed. Sandy gestured to Sissy.
“Please,” Sandy typed. “Tell me about you.”
“Me?” Sissy asked. Her hand went to her chest and she shook her head. “I didn’t just almost die!”
Sandy’s head moved from side-to-side.
“I’m just worried about you,” Sissy said.
Sandy’s braced hands went together in a prayer position. Her blue eyes plead with her younger sister. Sissy nodded.
“Well …” Sissy sighed and looked down as she tried to think of what to share. “The term is winding down. Can you believe that I’ve been here a whole year?”
Sandy as big of a shake of her head as the neck brace would allow.
“Me too,” Sissy said. “I’ve decided to stay an additional year, even though I’ll be older when I leave. Do you remember that we talked about that?”
Sandy gave a restricted nod. They’d spent hours in video Internet calls going back and forth about Sissy staying or going. She’d finally decided to stay.
“Almost no one in my class is staying,” Sissy said. “Just the head male and head female. They said that they wanted to refine their skills, but really they are looking at the best companies in the world. Another year will allow them to be a little more choosey. I’ve wondered if they’ll stay the year.”
“Maybe. I mean never say never, right?” Sissy asked. “Mostly, I’m not sure if I want to stay in Paris at the Ballet de l’Opéra national de Paris or come back to the US to work or wherever.”
Sandy didn’t respond so Sissy continued.
“I guess you know that,” Sissy said. “I think that I have to be honest and say that I’m a little scared to be done with school. I mean, I love being here. In Paris, sure. At school, of course. I know that I went to school in New York, but here it’s just … le vie.”
Sissy blinked at Sandy and then translated, “the life. Ballet is life here not just something I do for school.”
Sissy nodded to herself.
“Ivan says that being a part of a company is like being in school but more intense because everyone has their level and is competing to move up. I don’t know if I’d like all that competition, you know?”
“I’m going to see my mom,” Noelle said in a whisper. “Dad said I could see her today. It’s today.”
“What time is it?” Teddy asked.
“Early,” Noelle said. “But it’s still today! And Dad said I could see her today.”
She was standing on the den floor in her pajamas.
“Shh,” Noelle said. “Don’t wake Nash.”
She gestured to the figure on the other couch. Teddy nodded.
“I don’t know if I should …” Teddy started.
“Come on!” Noelle said. “You’ll wake Nash.”
Noelle made a dramatic show of tiptoeing toward the door where Sandy was staying. Teddy rolled his eyes at her efforts. She had to stop and hold her mouth to keep from laughing. He shook his head and pointed to Noelle’s socked feet. He slipped his feet across the hardwood. She nodded.
They slipped over to the door.
“What about your Dad?” Teddy whispered.
“He sleeps through anything,” Noelle said with a nod. “He won’t wake up.”
“You’re sure?” Teddy whispered.
“I don’t know,” Teddy said. He looked worried. “I might have to see dead people who were startled to death.”
Noelle hugged him tight. He sighed out his intense emotions.
“Where’s the dog?” Teddy whispered.
“She went up with Ava and Seth,” Noelle said. “Come on. Dad said we could see her today.”
Teddy nodded. Noelle cracked the door open just an inch. She stuck her nose in the room. Turning back to Teddy, she nodded.
She pushed the door open a crack wider and slid into the room. Teddy slid in behind her. Sandy was lying in the bed near the middle of the room. She was still hooked up to machines and there was an IV dripping, but her cheeks held a little color.
Noelle noticed that Cleo the cat was asleep above Sandy’s head on the edge of her pillow.
They continued their slide into the room. Noelle pointed to her father, who was sound asleep on a smaller daybed. A tall man, his feet dangled off the end of the bed.
Teddy held his finger to his lips to remind her not to talk.
They slid silently toward the bed.
“Oh,” Noelle said out loud when she got there.
Nash was asleep on his side with his arm over Sandy’s stomach. His face was puffy and red as if he’d been crying. Nash didn’t wake up but Sandy did. She tried to reach of Noelle and Teddy but wasn’t able to with her broken fingers.As tears streamed down her face, Noelle fell over onto Sandy. Teddy was so overcome with emotion that he stood there.
“She can’t speak,” Aden said from the daybed behind where Teddy was standing. Teddy looked at him. “I know she wants you to hug her.”
Teddy began to cry. He leaned over her legs.
“Good thing we didn’t wake up the kids,” Seth said with a laugh.
Everyone turned to look at him. Maresol came in behind him.
“You okay Sandy?” Maresol asked.
Sandy’s eyes flicked to Marsol. Her head went up and down very slightly in a nod.
“I’ll get breakfast,” Maresol said. She pushed Seth into the room. “Your dad would like to see you.”
Sandy’s eyes flicked to Seth. He took three steps and joined the kids in hugging her.
Honey awoke when M.J. came into the bedroom. He went into their bathroom before taking off his clothing. He crawled into bed.
“How did it go?” Honey asked.
“Good,” M.J. said. “Everyone seems in good spirits. I think it will be an interesting trip.”
“Are you mad that you aren’t going?” Honey asked.
“Mad?” M.J. asked. He leaned up on one elbow. “Not at all. I mean, it’s always hard to see them go. I hate missing out. You know? My team is off to Poland to look into an old mine and I want to be there.”
“Because that’s more fun?” Honey asked.
“Because they are my team,” M.J. said. “I also want to be here for you. You’re just getting strong enough to actually spend more time out of your chair. We need to keep working on your strength and coordination. I wouldn’t miss that for the world. Especially for an extra trip. I’m gone enough as it is.”
“You’re sure?” Honey asked.
“I’m a complicated guy,” M.J. said. “I can want to be with my team and want to be with you at the same time.”
“Sure but …” Honey said.
“No buts,” M.J. said. “Plus, I’m sure they’ll need my help from here. It’s only me and the White Boy. We need to keep things running at home and deal with all of the technical stuff.”
“You’ll be able to monitor from here,” Honey said.
“Right,” M.J. said. “They are ahead of us, so it will be some late nights and early mornings.”
“Is Chris coming here?” Honey asked using the White Boy’s given name.
“Probably,” M.J. said. “Or we’ll go to the Factory.”
“When’s his surgery?” Honey asked.
“Tomorrow,” M.J. said. “I’ll go with him but really he should be fine.”
“And you’re sure he told Yvonne that he was getting a vasectomy?” Honey asked.
“She’s been pushing him to do it,” M.J. said. “Alex said that she’s the tiniest bossiest person she’s ever met.”
“Every time she says that I wonder how much time she’s spent with you,” M.J. said.
“Hey!” Honey laughed.
“You’re mostly running that job site. Another month and it will be all yours,” M.J. said. “You’re going to college and raising Maggie while I’m off playing soldier.”
“I have a lot of help,” Honey said.
M.J. looked at Honey for a long moment.
“People ask me what it’s like to live with my wife’s family,” M.J. said.
“And?” Honey asked. “What do you say?”
“It’s really great,” M.J. said. “Sometimes, I think I’d like to have my own home. But …”
“There’s no way we’d have all of this on our salaries,” Honey said. “Fresh organic food from the gardens. Free daycare almost anytime we need it. Someone to help me. People who clean the house once a week without fail.”
M.J. nodded and leaned back.
“It’s just that idea of ‘making it,’ you know?” M.J. asked.
“Oh,” Honey sighed. “I honestly think we have it made. No need to make it.”
“Why are you unhappy here?” Honey asked, her heart racing with anxiety.
M.J. was asleep. Honey scowled at him.
She wondered how many times a man had awoken his woman with some issue that only left her awake and worried about whatever bullshit he’d brought up. She pushed him on the shoulder, and he awoke.
“Wha …?” M.J. asked.
“Are you seriously thinking of moving?” Honey asked. “Getting our own house?”
“Moving?” M.J. asked. “Why? Are you saying you want to move? Really, Honey, this is a great place for us. We have everything we need.”
Honey groaned and lay back. When she looked at him, he was grinning.
“I swear I will never get this,” Valerie said under her breath to Jill.
Valerie held up a tangle of yarn and knitting needles. Jill nodded in agreement.
“Now, Valerie,” Jill’s mother, Anjelika, said. “Human beings have been knitting since the beginning. You will surely learn.”
Valerie rolled her eyes to Jill, and Jill grinned. Anjelika looked at Jill. Her smile dropped immediately.
“You’re doing better,” Anjelika said.
Jill smiled at her mother.
“That’s the piece Delphie knitted, right?” Valerie whispered to Jill.
Jill nodded, and the women laughed. They had had an early dinner and were upstairs in Jill’s loft having a “girl’s night.” Delphie was making an effort to teach Katy, Jackie, Maggie, and Rachel Ann how to knit. Of course, the little kids were making pot holders on little plastic looms. Oddly, Rachel Ann picked up knitting right away.
Delphie came over to look at what Valerie had done. She scowled at Valerie.
“You used to be able to knit,” Delphie said.
“When,” Valerie said.
“Pre-Mike,” Delphie said. “You knitted me a scarf.”
“I did?” Valerie looked off into space for a moment. “Huh. I’d forgotten that.”
“You don’t apply yourself,” Delphie said. “Why don’t you try a bit?”
Valerie gave Delphie a patient smile, and Delphie grinned. Delphie turned looked at Jill’s work. The Oracle shook her head.
“Is there a craft that you enjoy?” Delphie asked.
“I’m hopeless?” Jill asked.
“Child of the Titan God of Destruction,” Delphie shrugged. “It’s not hard to see why creating things might require that you take some extra effort.”
“I make great kids,” Jill said with a nod to Katy.
Katy had been working with Delphie almost since she moved into the Castle. Katy was working on a shawl made out of blue alpaca wool she’d bought at a yarn festival.
Delphie gave Jill a long look.
“You’re trying not to say that it’s because of Celia,” Jill said.
“I would never discount you that way,” Delphie said with a grin.
Having listened to the entire exchange, Valerie burst out laughing. Jill grinned.
“Get to work,” Jill said to Valerie.
“You know what else you make well …” Delphie said.
“Brownies?” Jill asked.
“If you insist,” Delphie said with a grin.
Laughing, Jill got up. She went to see how Maggie and Jackie were doing. They both showed her the beginnings of lovely potholders. In spite of her young age, Rachel Ann was knitting with some fat needles and thick grey yarn. She held hers up for Jill to see.
“I’m making a blanket for my Mama,” Rachel Ann said in her soft, sweet voice. The child’s eyes welled with tears. “She’s very sick.”
“I bet this will help her get well,” Jill said.
Rachel Ann gave a quick nod of her head. Jill touched the child’s face and she smiled.
“I get to see her tomorrow,” Rachel Ann said. “My brothers and sister, too. But not Sissy.”
“Sissy is in France,” Jill said.
“I talked to Sissy tonight,” Rachel Ann said with a nod. “On the computer.”
“How fun,” Jill said. “I talk to my brother when he travels on the computer.”
Rachel Ann gave Jill a bright nod and returned to her work. Jill checked in with Katy, who thoroughly enjoying being the expert.
Just another wonderful night at the Castle.
Jill grinned at her daughter and went to make brownies.
They found their seats and sat down. Seth came in and took his place. Maresol brought a covered casserole. For a moment, they were silent as Maresol said her prayers.
“There is so a Team Blane,” Noelle said.
“Is not,” Nash said.
“So,” Noelle said.
“Enough!” Maresol said. “This is dinner. We don’t fight at our meals. We use them for enjoying each other’s company and learning about our days.”
Appropriately embarrassed, everyone fell silent. They began to fill their plates with the amazing smelling food.
“Team Blane?” Seth asked when everything was quiet.
Everyone started to laugh.
“No,” Maresol said. She pointed at Seth. “We are not starting this again.”
“Starting what?” Aden asked at the door to the dining room.
“Nash, make a place for your father,” Maresol said. She turned to Aden. “I wasn’t sure if you were eating with us.”
“She’s asleep,” Aden said.
“What’s asleep?” Charlie asked.
“Sandy,” Aden said.
The teens turned to gawk at him.
“She’s in their hospital room,” Aden said. “You didn’t know?”
Aden looked at Maresol , Ava, and then Seth.
“We figured you could use some private time,” Seth said.
“Mom is here?” Noelle asked, standing up.
“Sit,” Aden said. “Eat. Sandy is asleep.”
“How did she end up here?” Charlie asked.
“Where were we?”
“It’s something John Drayson worked out,” Aden said. He was passed the enchiladas “She arrived while you were in school. John didn’t tell you, Nash?”
“No,” Nash said.
“We had no idea!” Noelle said.
“I came with her,” Aden said.
“She’s resting now,” Seth said.
“It’s unlikely that she’ll wake today,” Aden said. “Moving from the hospital took everything out of her. Was Blane here?”
“They just left,” Seth said.
“He’s coming back here after dinner,” Aden said. “He’s going give Sandy a treatment. Jill’s brother Steve is coming over after that to get her settled for the night.”
Everyone fell silent. For a few minutes, the only sound was of them eating.
“So when can we see her?” Noelle’s voice broke the tension.
“Tomorrow,” Aden said.
“What about Rachel Ann?” Nash asked.
“She’ll be here tomorrow,” Aden said. “She’s having a sleep over with Katy and didn’t want to miss it.”
“She blew off being with us for Katy?” Noelle asked.
“You would have,” Nash said.
“Yea, but … ” Noelle said with a grin.
“Today was my day volunteering at the Museum of Nature and Science,” Bernie said. “I am helping to clean some of the bones from the Snow Mass site. And I can tell you. Those Mammoths? They were really… mammoth.”
Everyone laughed at his well-timed joke, and their usual, weird dinner atmosphere returned.