CHAPTER FOUR HUNDRED AND SIXTY-SEVEN
Thursday evening — 8:14 p.m.
Almost everyone had left to watch Ivan and Sissy dance in City Park at the Thatcher Fountain. Mike and Jacob were setting up a computer so that Valerie could watch. She knew that across town, Wanda was watching on her telephone. Valerie hated those phones, so the computer was better.
Jackie’s head was on Valerie’s belly and her new child was in her arms. They’d finally decided to call him, Edward Perses Lipson-Roper, after Edward Teach, the notorious Blackbeard. Since Jackie was named after a famous pirate, it was only fitting that their son held his own with a pirate name as well. Valerie liked that Blackbeard avoided violence by creating a terrifying image.
“Eddie,” Valerie said.
She touched his tiny chin. He opened and closed his eyes. Valerie had been really lucky. Like Jackie, he seemed to be a mellow baby. She smiled. It had only been a few hours.
“Mommy?” Jackie’s sleep voice came from her mid-section.
Valerie touched her daughter’s head.
“Are you going to love Eddie more?” Jackie asked.
“No,” Valerie said. “Differently. Like I love Daddy and Uncle Jake with all my heart, but differently.”
She felt Jackie’s head nod against her. They fell into a light doze. Mike crept into the room with a wireless computer monitor. Jacob had set it up so that Valerie could watch the dancing.
“I’m awake,” Valerie said as the men were leaving.
Mike turned around and went to the bed. The screen was dark for a moment before Teddy’s feed of the dancers at the park came up. Valerie watched in relaxed silence.
“Any news about the kids?” Valerie asked.
Mike shook his head. He looked at her for a long moment.
“What?” Valerie asked.
“My Dad says that none of those children are related to me in anyway,” Mike said. “He says he just ‘knows.’”
“They took the kids to get some food and clothing,” Mike said. “They just called. They’re on their way over to meet Eddie. Jill and Abi are getting the extra room in the loft ready for them, so there’s nothing for anyone to do. They can stay tonight there if they’d like to.”
“It’s so late,” Valerie said.
“I guess the whole thing is a mess,” Mike said. “They were able to get the kids settled, but the kids have been in chaos for a long time.”
“Like Teddy and his brother and sister,” Valerie said.
“They have a place they can stay for a month or so,” Mike said. “Their caseworker is looking for any extended family. But no one seems to know much about Jazmyne’s side of the family and her partner is dead. The partner’s parents had cut her off when they found out that she was gay.”
Valerie clucked in empathy.
“Now that she’s dead, they’re coming around wanting to know what money they get from her estate,” Mike said. “They don’t seem to care about the kids, at least that’s what the caseworker said.”
“That doesn’t sound nice,” Jackie said.
Mike pulled the little girl onto his lap and kissed the top of her head. Valerie scowled over the entire mess.
“It’s other people’s problems,” Mike said. “We can help but we can’t …”
“Fix it,” Valerie said.
“Mostly, I wanted you to know that my mom was on her way,” Mike said.
“Thanks,” Valerie said.
“She wants to see Sissy and Ivan,” Mike said. “She feels close to Sissy because she helped Sissy get back on her feet.”
“She was very kind,” Valerie said, “to Sissy, I mean.”
Mike grinned at her clarification, and Valerie smiled.
“Are you okay if they just drop in, see the baby …” Mike said. “You know, like our son was a creature in the zoo?”
Valerie laughed at Jill’s description of them checking in on her twins.
“I’m okay,” Valerie said. “Happy. Eddie is …”
“He’s very beautiful, Mommy,” Jackie said.
“He is,” Mike said.
Valerie smiled. They heard Anjelika’s voice in their apartment living room.
“That was fast,” Valerie said.
She looked at Mike. He mouthed, “Zoo.” Carrying Jackie, Mike went to the door to welcome Anjelika and Perses into their bedroom.
Denver Cereal continues tomorrow…
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