“Hi,” Mike said to Jill.
He had carried her to Jacob’s apartment and laid her on the bed. Jill sat up with a gasp.
“Drink this,” Mike said. He held a glass of chocolate milk out to her. “Do it.”
Jill took a sip and set it down.
Jill sighed and drank the milk.
“I can’t help it. I feel awful. I don’t have a job! I don’t have a way to take care of my child! And all this bullshit. I’m going to be some spokesmodel and marry some rich guy I don’t even know. The guy I almost got killed because I’m too incompetent to even keep a job. And diamonds? I mean, come on …”
Mike hugged her to him.
“I’m sorry,” Mike said. “I’ve been so caught up in Val being home I never thought to ask if you had money.”
“I’m not your responsibility,” Jill said.
“You’re my sister, Jill. Yes, you’re my responsibility. So is Katy, but I can’t imagine you’ve let her suffer at all.”
Jill shook her head.
“Sandy said you painted as a way to pay for your rent. Is that true?”
“I’m no freeloader. It’s nice that they let me and Katy stay here, but …”
“How did you pay for it?” Mike asked.
“I know the guys at Belcaro Paints. They give me seconds and returns.”
“And you give them?”
“I work as a color consultant,” Jill said. “It’s easy, and …”
“Jill! That’s what? Your third job?” Mike was so exasperated he could barely speak.
“Fourth. But …”
“When did you eat last?”
“At Pete’s on Wednesday. I always eat at Pete’s when I work. It’s one of the reasons I work there. But Pete won’t let me work, so … What am I going to do, Mike?”
“You’re going to let me give you money,” he said. “I make really good money, Jill. When your feet are healed, and you take in all that’s happened, you’ll decide what you want to do.”
“I will pay you every penny back,” Jill said.
“You will not. I won’t let you.”
“Dad was wrong, Jill. About so many things. Just plain wrong. He never would have let me marry Val. Never. Not because she wasn’t good for me or didn’t love me or even because she isn’t Catholic. He wouldn’t let me marry Val because he was afraid. He didn’t want us to have friends or make connections here. He was afraid they would get …”
“Discovered,” Jill said.
“You remember what happened?”
“I’ve always remembered what happened. But whenever I talked about what happened, I was told that I was wrong.”
Mike hugged Jill again.
“Do you want …”
“I don’t want to talk about that now,” Jill said.
“When you’re ready, I know someone who has all the answers about our parents.”
“Okay,” Jill said. “I can’t deal with it today. Is that all right?”
“Of course. What’s going to make this better, Jill?” Mike asked. “If I had known how hard it was to be with Trevor, I would have helped you. I …”
“I know,” Jill said. “I couldn’t let you help. I mean, I begged Megan to let us get married. One week into it, I wanted to come home. I screwed up. Then, it was one tiny step at a time into a complete nightmare. I …”
“I don’t know.” Jill sighed.
“What would you eat?”
“You know, I’d love to go to Pete’s. I really miss it,” Jill said.
“Let’s go,” he said.
“Do you mind …”
“I know how hard it is to believe, but normal people don’t care about paying for a meal or helping out. They want to do it.”
“Are you saying you’re normal?”
The retelling of Denver Cereal, Volume 1, continues tomorrow…
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