“I’m here,” she said.
He felt movement and then saw her face. Her eyes were red from crying and her face a little gaunt from worry. She leaned over to kiss his cheek.
“I wanted to tell you that I’ll marry you.”
“Well, you asked on Saturday night and I never gave you an answer.”
“I remember,” he mumbled.
“I figure if you’re willing to take a beating, save my Katy’s life, and are amazing in bed …”
“Well … We don’t want to add ego adjustment to your next surgery.” Jill worked to keep a cheery voice. She was determined to be light and flippant when she spoke with him. “I’ll say … pretty good. Now don’t interrupt. I’ve been practicing. Where was I?”
“Amazing in bed,” he said.
“Yes. I figure if you’re willing to take a beating, save my Katy’s life and are … pretty good …”
“ …in bed, then I should marry you before you ride off on some horse.”
“Horse? I don’t have any pony bags.”
“I’d say like a knight in shining armor, but that ego adjustment is so costly.”
He smiled. She brushed her lips across his in a quick kiss.
“Jill?” Jacob asked.
“Would you mind if we got married tomorrow? Maybe save some excitement for our third non-date?”
“Well, I want a really big diamond. I’m willing to give you a few days, but only a few.”
“Val has your diamonds. Just ask her …”
Everything went dark.
Tuesday morning, 10 a.m.
Mike stopped the Mustang at the edge of the grass. The perfect lawn was broken by a few monuments. Sam Lipson sat on a bench near a blooming rose hedge. He was reading the Rocky Mountain News out loud to Celia’s grave.
“Are you sure you’re up for this?” Mike asked.
“My brother almost died because he did the right thing,” Valerie said. “I need to do the right thing. I need to speak with my father.”
Mike’s big hand stroked her delicate cheek. Her beautiful face was pale and drawn from her night at Jacob’s bedside. For the first time in a decade, she had allowed herself to be photographed in her distraught, rumpled condition. Today, Valerie Lipson didn’t give a crap what anyone thought or said about “Just Val.” He kissed her lips.
“I’ll be right here,” he said.
She held him tight and whispered in his ear, “I love you so very much, Michael Roper.”
Valerie slipped out of the car. Leaning in, she took a bouquet of a dozen white roses from Mike. With her shoulders squared, she walked forward across the lawn. Her father looked up to see her and jumped to his feet in surprise.
“What is it? What’s happened? Is Jake …?”
“Jake’s in surgery. Everything was going well when I left. Dr. Drayson said they found a metal shard, probably from the pipe wrench, next to his heart. They think that’s causing the heart attacks. The cardiac team removed the metal. The cardiac surgeon is optimistic that Jake’s heart is not damaged. We won’t know for certain until he’s active again.”
Sam Lipson visibly sagged with relief.
“The orthopedic surgeons have another couple hours. Jill and Delphie will call the moment they know anything.”
“I was reading your mother the funnies.”
“You can finish,” she said.
“That’s all right,” Sam said. “She likes them …”
“Uninterrupted, start to finish,” Valerie said in unison with him.
“Some things never change.” He smiled.
The retelling of Denver Cereal, Volume 1, continues tomorrow…
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