CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SIXTEEN
Monday morning — 10:08 a.m. MT
Careful to put on her mask, Tanesha opened the door to Seth O’Malley’s house. Jeraine’s ex-wife was standing on the other side.
“Here,” she said with a sneer.
She pushed Jabari into the house. She sniffed at Tanesha.
“You look like shit,” she said.
“Where’s Jabari’s mask?” Tanesha asked.
“I threw it out,” she said, turning in place and started back down the walk where a limousine waited. “He’s ain’t no weakling. He don’t need it.”
Tanesha swung the heavy door closed. Jeraine’s ex was on a reality television show. The lawyers for the show had sued Jeraine for a chance to use the boy on the show. They’d fought for two years to keep the child off the program. Eventually, Jeraine lost the case. The producers promised that they would guarantee that the boy was well cared for. Clearly, they were mistaken.
She bent down to look at Jabari. The boy looked exhausted and filthy.
“How are you?” Tanesha asked.
“Tired,” Jabari said.
“Dirty,” Tanesha said.
“I’m so sorry,” Tanesha said.
“Me too,” Jabari said with a nod. He looked around the entry way. “Why are we here?”
“I have to help Sandy with some things,” Tanesha said. “Maggie and the other kids are coming over later. I thought you’d want to play in the pool, but you look exhausted.”
“Sandy’s in the pool right now,” Tanesha said. “Doing her PT. We can get you cleaned up in her room.”
Jabari had grown in height but was still slight. Tanesha easily picked him up. He instinctively nestled close to her.
“I want…” Jabari looked up at her. “Will you take pictures?”
“Of what?” Tanesha asked.
“Of me,” Jabari said.
Tanesha sucked in a breath.
“Why?” Tanesha asked.
Jabari pushed up his sleeve. His wrist had red chaff marks from being restrained.
Furious, Tanesha put the child down and started ripping off his clothing. Bruises — some deep and purple, others a few days old — were apparent through the child’s dark skin.
“Did you do this to yourself?” Tanesha asked.
“No, Mama,” Jabari said.
He held his arms up for her to hold him again. She picked him up. Not knowing what to do, she jogged through the house to the sliding glass door and went out into the yard. She ran fast, hoping the precious package in her arms wasn’t affected by the cold. She got to the carriage house and opened the door.
Sandy was standing in the shallow part of the pool with Otera, the physical therapist. They were doing slow squats in the water.
“I need help,” Tanesha said.
Denver Cereal continues tomorrow…
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