Denver Cereal Denver Cereal

Chapter Five Hundred and Ninety-eight: Just silly (part two)

CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED AND NINETY-EIGHT

(part two)

“Hey!” Valerie yelled. “Keep it down out there! Some people are trying to sleep.”

This caused Delphie to laugh. As if they’d heard the funniest joke, Delphie and Mike stood on the grass laughing.

Wearing only her dressing gown, Valerie appeared at the kitchen door. She ran across the deck and down the stairs.

“Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow,” Valerie said as her feet touched the frost hardened grass. Still laughing, Mike took a few steps and picked her up in his arms. He carried her back to Delphie.

“What are we doing?” Valerie asked.

“I was just asking Delphie that,” Mike said.

Valerie and Mike looked at Delphie. She grinned.

“I want to take out this stretch of grass,” Delphie said.

Mike groaned.

“I knew you would complain!” Delphie said. She raised her eyebrows. “I’ll just wait until Jake comes home.”

Mike shook his head at Delphie’s manipulation.

“Jake will do any thing for me,” Delphie said.

Mike gave her a firm look.

“Why exactly do you want to get rid of this lovely grass?” Mike asked. “Grass, I might add, that I’ve spent years busting my ass to grow and nurture. For you.”

“Oooh the big man and his grass,” Delphie said.

“Did you miss the ‘for you’ part?” Mike asked with mock indignation.

Valerie laughed.

“Are you going to plant it here?” Valerie asked from her perch in Mike’s arms.

“I think so,” Delphie said to Valerie.

“No,” Mike said. “No. You cannot plant your pot plants here. No. I won’t take care of them. Jake will freak out. For heaven’s sake, the Castle is full of little kids! You elderly stoners are going to have to grow your plants somewhere else.”

Valerie and Delphie laughed.

“What?” Mike asked. “Why are you laughing?”

“She wants to plant a grain here,” Valerie said. “What’s it called?”

“Kernza,” Delphie said. “It creates deep roots. It’s perennial so we don’t have to replant every year. Captures carbon. Good for the climate and…”

“What does it taste like?” Mike asked.

“It’s great,” Valerie said at the same time that Delphie said, “It’s okay.”

“You have to mix Kernza flour with wheat flour,” Delphie said with a shrug. “I think it’s a good idea. And we have the space.”

“The kids like playing on the grass!” Mike said.

“We have plenty of grass,” Delphie gestured to the patches around the garden. “But the kids can’t play on them now because no one’s picked up after the dogs.”

“Jake!” Mike said. He raised a fist and shook it at the sky.

The women laughed. He gave Delphie a nod and turned in place. Still carrying Valerie, he walked across the yard. He’d just reached the door when Delphie yelled, “You’re going to help me, right?”

“Let’s wait for Jake,” Mike said, wrenching open the kitchen door. “I have something else to take care of this morning.”

Delphie grinned at them and began pacing off the space again. Valerie laughed. He carried her up the stairs and back to bed.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow…


Chapter Five Hundred and Ninety-eight: Just silly (part one)

CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED AND NINETY-EIGHT

(part one)

Sunday morning — 6:04 a.m.

Mike jogged down the stairs from the second floor and into the main Castle kitchen. The kitchen was dark and quiet. No one had made coffee. No pot of tea sat under the tea cozy. Everything was exactly the same as he’d left it when he’d cleaned up last night.

“Oh Jake, when will you return to breathe life into this house?” Mike asked out loud.

He laughed at his joke. He switched on the drip coffee maker and set the kettle on the stove. No electric kettle for Mike Roper. He wanted his water slowly heated over a natural gas fire. Nodding to himself, he turned to go back upstairs. His kids were sleeping over with MJ and Honey’s daughter, Maggie. Valerie was sleeping in.

He looked at the kettle on the stove and wondered if he could hear the squeal from the kettle from upstairs. He did not want Jake to come home and find that Mike had burned down the Castle.

“Electric kettle it is,” Mike said.

He grinned at his brilliant pre-thinking, he turned off the stove, and clicked on the electric kettle. He was walking away when he realized that he’d forgotten to check to see if the electric kettle had water inside. He jogged back to the kettle and opened the lid.

“Oh shit,” Mike said.

The kettle was empty.

He filled the electric kettle with water and started back toward the stairs. He could cuddle with Valerie for at least another hour before the kids came back. Passing the windows to the garden, he glanced out the window into the backyard.

Delphie was pacing off the grass strip between the flagstone path and the fruit trees with one straight leg and then the other. She looked like a toy soldier or something out of the Christmas parade. Mike glanced up the stairs and then out the window again.

“Valerie’s asleep anyway,” Mike said.

He squinted as Delphie turned around on the grass. Delphie stopped short and stared at the grass. He looked up at the ceiling and groaned.

He couldn’t resist. He had to know what Delphie was doing.

He walked out of the kitchen and into the backyard. He was almost to Delphie before she looked up at him.

“What are you doing?” Mike asked.

“Nothing,” Delphie said.

“Nothing?” Mike asked.

“Standing here?” Delphie shrugged.

Mike stuck his leg straight out and did a straight legged marched along the stretch of grass.

“What’s it to you?” Delphie said, saucily with a hand on her hip.

Her attitude was simply too much for Mike. He laughed out loud. Delphie grinned with satisfaction.

Valerie opened the window from their apartment.

“Hey!” Valerie yelled. “Keep it down out there! Some people are trying to sleep.”

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow…


Chapter Five Hundred and Ninety-seven: Make it go away (part six)

CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED AND NINETY-SEVEN

(part six)

“Oh the curse,” Heather said.

Nash rewarded her with a laugh.

“And the problem is?” Heather asked.

“I…” Nash sighed. “If things go well, and Nadia and I get married, or whatever, my mother is going to want money from me and… that’s not really it.”

“What is really it?” Heather asked.

“I… uh…” Nash rubbed his head in such a way that his hair stood up on end. “I kinda want to stay a kid. I mean, Sandy’s became my mom like a minute ago and Rachel Ann’s still little and Noelle and…”

“You’ve always been a man in a boy’s suit,” Heather said.

“Right, but…” Nash said.

“You don’t want to give up what you have for some fantasy,” Heather said.

Nash nodded.

“Why would you have to give up being a kid?” Heather asked.

Nash looked at Heather as if he’d never thought of it.

“Sandy’s not going to push you,” Heather said. “Your father either. I can’t imagine Nadia cares. She’s so busy with her businesses and career, why would she mind? And anyway, most kids in functional families never really leave the nest. Look at Jake and Val. Sam’s right here with them.”

“I don’t know any functional families,” Nash said.

“Isn’t that what your father and Sandy have built?” Heather asked. “I mean, Sandy’s living at her father’s house while she heals.”

Nash looked at Heather for a long moment. He sighed.

“What if it doesn’t work?” Nash asked. “What if she hates me or I can’t stand her or…?”

“What if it doesn’t work?” Heather asked with a shrug. “I thought I’d found my prince charming when I met Mack’s father. Turns out he was a jerk. If I hadn’t met him and gotten pregnant, Blane and I wouldn’t have moved into together. Everything that happened after that — having Mack and Wynn, Blane’s treatments and now health, becoming a Goddess, our old home, adopting Tink, Tanesha living with us, Tres and Nelson joining our family — none of that would have happened. But you’re right.”

“About what?” Nash asked.

“I would have stayed safe,” Heather said.

Nash threw himself at Heather, and she held him tight. After a minute, he jumped up and ran out of the room.

“You are so welcome,” Heather said with a laugh.

“Talking to yourself?” Tres Sierra asked at the doorway.

“Nash,” Heather said.

“I just saw him go,” Tres said. “Everything okay?”

“It will be,” Heather said. “What is going on upstairs?”

“You mean our man-meeting?” Tres asked.

Heather nodded.

“Hockey,” Tres said. “We’ve decided that Jake’s boys are old enough for him to return to hockey.”

“What does Jake say?” Heather asked.

Tres shrugged.

“He’s fishing,” Tres said. “Mike says that if we decide to reform the team, Jake will go along with it.”

“Does Jake go along with anything?” Heather asked.

Tres laughed.

“Hey, can you help me put this laundry away?” Heather asked.

“Anything,” Tres said with a grin.

Heather smiled at him. He picked up the basket of folded towels and they left the apartment.

Denver Cereal continues on Monday…


Chapter Five Hundred and Ninety-seven: Make it go away (part five)

CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED AND NINETY-SEVEN

(part five)

“What happened to them?” Nash asked, his mouth an inch from his dog’s ear.

“It’s an interesting question,” Heather said. “Let’s see. As I said, some of them spent their lives longing and lonely. Other’s got married to someone ‘more appropriate.’”

“What happened to them?” Nash asked.

Heather shrugged.

“They lived their lives,” Heather said.

“Were they miserable?” Nash asked.

“Not all of them,” Heather said. “They didn’t grow. They lived a safe, secure life until it was over.”

Heather looked at Nash.

“You don’t strike me as someone who wants to live a safe life,” Heather said.

Nash didn’t respond.

“I might be able to help better if you tell me what’s going on,” Heather said.

Nash shook his head but didn’t say anything.

“Pretend that I’m a Goddess and you are talking to me in my shrine,” Heather said, her grin obvious in her voice.

Nash chuckled and looked at Heather.

“It’s complicated,” Nash said.

“I am a Goddess,” Heather said. “I’ve lived thousands of year, experienced thousands of lives.”

“Someday I’m going to write a book called ‘The Goddess who folded the towels,’” Nash said.

Heather grinned at him. After a moment, he sighed.

“Okay,” Nash said. “You won’t tell Sandy?”

“I won’t keep a secret if you’re in danger,” Heather said.

“Fair enough,” Nash said. He thought for a moment before nodding. “Okay. Nadia and I are at this place where what we’ve been doing doesn’t work anymore. We spend all of this time talking about stupid stuff and not enough time really getting to know each other. It’s like standing in place on a treadmill. Nadia says it’s like treading water in the ocean but I’ve never done that. She says you keep going under water and then popping back up. Mostly what you remember is being battered by the waves and your time underwater.”

He glanced at Heather and saw that he had her full attention.

“Nadia talked to Bernie on the way back from Poland,” Nash said. “Bernie said that he told Nadia that we needed time together. He’s willing to buy a place — an out of the way place — for Nadia and I to meet that’s away from the press and spotlight. This would give us real time together.”

Nash nodded.

“The next thing I know, I’m hearing from Jake that we can go to his place back East. You know, the one on the lake,” Nash said. “He said that he’s transitioning it into a high end hotel.”

“So it’s empty,” Heather said.

“Right,” Nash said. “It needed some serious repairs — roof and plumbing and stuff. So he closed it to do the repairs and then Jill decided to redo it. Most of the big structural repairs are done. The remodeling continues. Otherwise it’s empty for now.”

“It certainly is beautiful there,” Heather said. “Quiet.”

“Right,” Nash said. “We just have to agree to do it and then do it. I can bring someone with me. Seth has all of these nice people around him. Maresol, Claire, even Dale or Bernie — they’ve offered to go with me as a chaperone or whatever. Sam and Jake said they would too.”

“Blane would go with you,” Heather said.

“I know!” Nash said. “I know! I am not without helpful people who want to support me.”

“Oh the curse,” Heather said.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow…


Chapter Five Hundred and Ninety-seven: Make it go away (part four)

CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED AND NINETY-SEVEN

(part four)

“By the time we were sixteen, we were so old and tired that…” Heather sighed. “It was a really different world. Sixteen was an adult. But now, kids go to school. They have a chance to grow up. It’s a mark of the growth of human civilization that most countries have ended this kind of child labor, that kind of extreme poverty.”

Nash had so many questions, but he knew that Heather was saying something he should listen to. He also knew that this friend of his Sandy would listen to all of his questions when the time was right. He held his tongue.

“None of this has anything to do with you,” Heather said. “You’re sixteen now. You’re in this relationship that’s uncomfortable and raises a lot of eyebrows. You want to take care of yourself, grow up right, and also move forward with great speed.”

Nash nodded.

“These things — having people judge you, being uncomfortable, wanting to be true to yourself, grow up, and move forward — these are the things that can only be resolved through love,” Heather said. “Your love for Nadia will resolved every bit of this. Her love for you will help you and also help her. Love is more powerful than you can even imagine.”

Heather fell silent. Nash waited to see if she would say anything else. Heather sighed.

“My father was retired because of these Black Arrows,” Heather said. “I was assigned the task of researching the Black Arrows. I’ve spend the last year or so looking at each arrow, who it affected, and what was the outcome. The arrows are… almost cruel. They demand more than any person should be asked to do or achieve.”

Heather shook her head ruefully.

“I…” Heather sighed again. “I know that you don’t want to hear this but, from my study of these arrows, my father shot them at souls who needed them. You need this. Your very soul needs to grow in this specific manner. Yes, without the Black Arrow, your soul would slowly and eventually grow into where you would start a relationship with Nadia. This life, next life, another life… You will eventually get there.”

“And if I reject it?” Nash asked. “Push Nadia away? Insist that she get on with her life?”

“Do you want to do any of that?” Heather asked.

“That’s not the point!” Nash said, his frustration rising so high that Buster sat up and licked Nash’s face. Nash pressed his face into the dog. Heather waited until he was calmer.

“Okay, what happens if you push Nadia away?” Heather asked.

“To people who’ve done that,” Nash said.

“Oh, I see, what’s happened to people who’ve done this?” Heather asked. “It is true that not everyone has been successful in their Black Arrow. Some have lived their entire lives longing for the person they didn’t know existed. With the wars, many people left for war rather than have the relationship.”

Heather nodded.

“What happened to them?” Nash asked, his mouth an inch from his dog’s ear.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow…


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