And Mike was stationed at Fort Irwin in Barstow.
For six months of sheer bliss, she had Mike every weekend. Her parents’ divorce settlement included a fourth of the construction company. Jake bought her portion the very next day. With her new-found millions, she and Mike bought a tiny house in Monterey. They were married on the beach by a minister. Jake and Mom received a picture of Mr. and Mrs. Roper kissing on the beach.
Valerie was in heaven. She didn’t make Mike her world. He was her world — her morning, noon, and night. She graduated a term early to be with him, near him. While her childhood family burned to the ground, Valerie and Mike rose like the phoenix from its ashes.
“Valerie Lipson?” A short, thin Hispanic man stood next to Val’s table. “Raphael Acosa from US magazine. I’m wondering what you meant when you said you were going home to see your … We couldn’t quite catch the last word. TMZ is saying that you are going home to your husband. Ma’am, everyone knows you are marrying Wes. Are you and Wes already married? Are you married to someone other than Wes? US magazine would love to have an exclusive interview …”
Valerie stood so quickly that the man was forced to take a step back. Smiling her movie star smile, she said, “My brother lives in Denver. I have a family business meeting tomorrow. Gosh, I’m not sure what TMZ heard.” She shrugged. “If you’ll excuse me. I need to freshen up before the flight.”
“We’re sitting together on your flight, Val,” the reporter said. “We at US magazine wanted to show you our commitment to telling your true story.”
“Thanks. I’ll see you on the plane,” Valerie said.
She made a beeline for the restroom. Locking herself in a stall, she called her publicist. It was time to tell the truth.
“Okay, well, this has been fun,” Mike said. “I’ve got to get to work. Jill, you know how to get ahold of me, right?”
Jill hugged her older brother. “Thanks, Mikey.”
“Candy? You’ll remember to do that thing we talked about?” Mike asked.
“I watch ‘Val Count’ every night. We are up to one hundred and forty-nine engaged days.” Candy smiled to reassure her brother.
“Great. And you.” Mike pointed at Jacob. “I’d like a word.”
Jill shot a surprised look at Mike, then to Jacob. Jacob just smiled. Leaning to kiss her cheek, he said, “I’ll be right back.”
Jacob followed Mike through the hospital to the front door.
“Jill said you’re paying for everything,” Mike said. “And that the money lady asked Jill if she was trading sex for the hospital bill.”
Jacob took a step back. He shook his head slightly. “What?”
“I want to know how you’re going to expect repayment.”
“I … I never thought about it.” Jacob flushed bright red. “I …”
“Good, that’s what I told Jill,” Mike said. “You haven’t heard from Val, have you?”
Jacob shook his head.
“She’s been engaged a long time this time … You think …”
“Honestly?” Jacob asked.
“No,” Jacob said. “Val’s still Val inside.”
“I hope you’re right,” Mike said.
With a nod of his head, Mike walked toward the parking lot.
“What’s ‘Val Count’?” Jill asked Candy.
“Mike is obsessed with this soap opera actress,” Candy said. “She’s engaged for like, the third time. Entertainment Tonight is doing an engagement watch. I watch it every night and call him with what they say.”
“Who’s the girl?” Megan asked.
Megan jumped up from her seat and walked to the water cooler where Steve was standing. They shared a long look.
“I’ll tell you if even half of what they say about her is true, she’s a real bitch,” Candy said. “I mean, I don’t get it. Mike’s great looking, a wonderful person, an amazing artist, but he doesn’t want to be set up, won’t go out with girls — or boys, for that matter. He’s obsessed with this … prima donna actress.”
Megan closed her eyes. Turning around, she looked from Candy to Jill. It was time they knew the truth.
“Meg, what’s wrong?” Jill asked.
“Mike’s married to Valerie Lipson.”
The retelling of Denver Cereal, Volume 1 continues tomorrow…
This work, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.