CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED and SIXTY-FOUR
After a moment, she took a breath and began to speak from the depths of her.
“I honestly don’t think that you remember what it was like to be poor,” Valerie said.
Not speaking, Jacob raised his eyebrows.
“Okay, that’s unfair,” Valerie said. “I just hated it. I really hated not being able to have the simple things that my friends had — clothing, shoes … lunch money, a red scooter.”
Jacob grinned at the reference to his childhood dream of having a red scooter.
“I just hated it,” Valerie said. “Mom and Dad worked all the time. If they weren’t working, they were talking about work, scheming how to get more work, or taking us to some God-forsaken job site so that they could work. I wanted a babysitter not a backhoe.”
“I swore that I’d never be poor,” Valerie said. “I swore that my children would have every little thing they wanted — trips to the beach or Milan or … Of course, my children just want to be at home, which is the Castle, so that they can hang out with their cousins. My gorgeous daughter rarely even brushes her hair, let alone worries about her shoes.”
“She’s kind of young for shoe worry,” Jacob said.
“I was her age when I was furious that Becky Juslip had these lace Mary Janes,” Valerie said. “Pink. I pestered Mom ruthlessly for those stupid shoes. When I finally owned a pair — my big present for Christmas — Penny had already moved on to a shoe with a heel. Of course. And I was still the lame one.”
“I wonder what happened to Ms. Juslip,” Jacob said, mildly.
“Fine, you’re right,” Valerie said. “I have my revenge against Becky and all of the Becky’s of the world! I know that.”
Jacob bit back a reply. He waited for her to continue. She took so long that he wondered if the moment had passed.
“That’s just it,” Valerie said. “I wanted money so much that …”
“I made a mess out of everything,” Valerie said. “Then Mike and I were back together and we had Jackie and …”
“You never gave up your love of money,” Jacob said.
Grunting, Valerie nodded.
“Don’t tell Mike that I told you, but I was furious at him for giving so many of his best paintings to the Denver Art Museum,” Valerie said. “We could have sold them and made a lot of money.”
Jacob didn’t say anything.
“I was in the basement yesterday,” Valerie said. “The kids were playing in that great room you made for them. ‘The Wild Bunch.’ Such a great name for them. I found Jackie’s perfect pink lace Mary Jane’s in a pile with Mack’s filthy soccer shoes. I couldn’t believe it! The perfect shoes and she …”
Valerie looked at Jacob.
“I asked her why she’d just thrown her shoes there,” Valerie said. “She said that they weren’t very comfortable.”
Valerie shook her head.
“Very comfortable,” Valerie said.
“And?” Jacob asked.
“They are very comfortable,” Valerie said with a snort of a laugh. “I was about to lecture her that women of class wear uncomfortable shoes when I just felt stupid. Why would I want my daughter to wear uncomfortable shoes?”
Valerie lifted her hands and flopped them back on her lap.
“I’ve wasted my life on Philarguria,” Valerie said.
“The love of money,” Jacob said. “Yes. I’ve heard all about the words for love in Greek as well.”
Valerie smiled. What few teenagers that weren’t sequestered at O’Malley’s house had been talking non-stop about love and the definitions of love. When Valerie didn’t respond, Jacob thought it might help if he said something.
“If I may …” Jacob said.
Denver Cereal continues on Monday…
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