“You’re Valerie Lipson,” the clerk said.
Valerie smiled her movie star smile. “Do you watch Our Loves, Our Lives?”
Surprised by the question, the clerk looked up from her typing. She shook her head. “My husband works for your father. Lipson Construction. You look like your brother, Jacob.”
Valerie’s smile dimmed. Of course. Frontier Airlines was based in Denver, home of Lipson Construction.
“I bumped you to first class, on me,” the clerk said. “Your father’s been really great to us. He gave my husband a month off when our babies were born. He even cosigned on a loan so we could get into our house. My husband’s never been happier at a job. I … I just wanted to say, ‘thanks.’”
Valerie smiled at the woman. Everyone loved her scumbag father. This woman couldn’t help it if she were fooled by the bastard. Valerie paid for her ticket and thanked the woman. She wasn’t going to go diva on a poor stupid airline clerk.
Looking at her ticket, Valerie realized she had a few hours before her flight. Walking toward security, Valerie waved to the bank of paparazzi photographers.
“Val! Val!” they screamed. “Over here Val.”
“Val! TMZ! Where you goin’?” the videographer for TMZ.com asked.
Valerie waved and started up the escalator.
“Where you going, Val?”
“I’m going home, boys,” she said. Then, without even realizing what she was saying, she murmured, “I’m going home to my husband.”
Like any great actress, Valerie didn’t respond to her own words. She smiled and waved again as if she hadn’t said a thing.
While her stilettos pounded the concrete passageway, her mind returned to Mike.
“I can’t just work for your father!” the seventeen year-old Mike had screamed. “I take a job with your father, and I’ll never be my own person. You need a real man. Day by day, you’ll lose respect for me. I can’t live with that.”
“Please don’t go,” the fifteen year-old Valerie begged. “I’ll work for my father! I can take care of your family. Let me take care of your family. Please don’t leave me.”
“Oh, Val,” Mike said. “Oh, honey.”
He wrapped her in his arms and they cried together. When morning came, he left for basic training. That was the morning Delphie pronounced her fate, her curse.
Valerie ordered a cosmopolitan at the LAX bar. Finding a spot near the back, she opened a magazine. She slipped in her iPod earbuds so no one would bother her and her memories.
She was “Mike’s girl” to everyone in Denver. UCLA had given her a fresh slate. She started with UCLA boys, then graduated to producers and movie stars. One after another, she tried to find love again.
Mike would arrive at her dorm room in his dress uniform. He never cared who was there. He just wanted Val. More than once, he found her in bed with some random guy, and still he didn’t care. He’d shrug and say, “What can I expect? I’m the one who left.” But her promiscuity hurt him. He flaunted his own liaisons in return.
They went back and forth, hurting each other until the summer between her junior and senior year, the summer everything went bad.
Her precious mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. And her mother’s true love? He fucked his secretary and was stupid enough to get the whore pregnant. Her childhood home was sold before she had time to retrieve her things. Mom and Delphie moved into that tenement on Race Street. Jake, her funny, kind, lovable, partner-in-crime little brother, had managed to transform himself into a complete jock asshole.
And Mike was stationed at Fort Irwin in Barstow.
The retelling of Denver Cereal, Volume 1 continues tomorrow...
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