“Then we’re very happy for you,” Megan said. “We just wanted you to be happy.”
“Mike broke my nose,” Steve said. “Remember I went to Hollywood the summer after college? I was on this tour of the stars’ houses when I saw Mike and some girl walking down a hill. I mean, I hadn’t seen or heard from Mike in two years. Then there he was! So, I followed them. They cut into the backyard of this house. I …”
“He caught us in a delicate position,” Valerie said. “In our own backyard, but delicate none the less. Mike hit him on a reflex.”
“You DID get a new nose,” Candy said. “I KNEW it!”
“Yeah,” Steve said. “Valerie arranged for the surgery.”
“I could have killed him. I …” Mike said. “I went to treatment about a week later. I have a secret.”
“Your secret studio is in the carriage house of this house,” Candy said. “We all knew that. We thought it was because you were friends with Jake.”
Mike looked from face to face and everyone nodded.
“We also know you’re the artist who painted the ‘unknown Denver artist painting’ at the Denver Art Museum,” Tim said. “Well, we guessed. Now that I’ve met Val … It’s her, isn’t it?”
“I gave it to a friend who said it was too good to be owned by a single person,” Mike nodded toward the ceiling. Everyone looked up to the clouds, blue sky, and sun that adorned the dining room ceiling. “I’ve done a bunch of the work here, too. I’ll show you around when we finish dinner. I actually have another secret.”
Valerie’s head turned to look at him. Her eyes puzzled. Mike slipped his hand into his pocket.
“Jake paid a guy to find this for you,” Mike said. “He ‘just figured’ you’d like it back some day.”
He opened his hand, and there lay Valerie’s original diamond engagement ring. Valerie screamed. Covering her mouth with her hands, her eyes welled with tears. His eyes held the question again. She nodded. He slipped the diamond solitaire onto her finger.
“Thao at the Art of Gold cleaned it up and fixed it. She said we could update it, but I thought you’d want to …”
Valerie kissed him quiet.
The retelling of Denver Cereal, Volume 1, continues tomorrow…
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