CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE
“Of course, it never occurred to Mom that you and Trevor would be married for so long. She believed you and Jacob would marry and live happily ever after. She wanted to ease the way there,” Valerie said. “Don’t worry, Jill. I’m not jealous.”
When Valerie’s face lit up, Jill saw Celia’s daughter. Pure and simple, Valerie was the kind, generous, open-hearted daughter of Celia Marlowe. Jill was so struck by seeing her dead friend in another person that she failed to notice what Valerie was doing until Sandy gasped.
“Pretty, huh? Mike and I set them up for you. We thought we’d give them to you Monday but … Jill?”
Mike caught Jill before she hit the ground in a dead faint. He cradled her head.
“What happened?” Valerie asked.
“She faints when she hasn’t eaten,” Sandy said. She kneeled down to hold Jill’s hand. “Did you see her eat yesterday?”
“She said she was sick to her stomach,” Sam said. “She just drank coffee.”
“I didn’t see her eat today,” Sandy said. “She said she ate with Jacob, but we’d have to ask him how much she actually ate.”
“Does she have an eating disorder?” Valerie asked.
“Yeah, it’s called poverty,” Sandy said. “If she can’t pay, she won’t eat. We tried to bribe her into eating Friday morning, but outside of a few bites, she wouldn’t eat. She’s been like that since we were kids.”
“Blane said she wasn’t eating because she couldn’t pay,” Sam said. “I just couldn’t believe it. I’d buy her anything. I don’t care.”
“She cares,” Sandy said. “I doubt she’s eaten much this week. She just had enough money for Katy to eat. She traded for the paint. She painted as a way to pay for her rent this week.”
“Oh God,” Valerie said.
Mike stood up with Jill in his arms.
“I’ll deal with this,” he said. He moved out of the basement leaving a guilt-stricken group. Standing at the bottom of the basement stairs, he turned. “There isn’t anything you can do. My parents were very strict about this kind of thing — no charity. Val, can you lock up?”
Mike carried Jill up the stairs as Noelle Norsen, followed by her brother Nash, came down the stairs.
“SANDY! Daddy, Mr. Lipson’s down here with Sandy! Hi, Sandy! I didn’t know you would be here!”
“Hi, honey,” Sandy said. “What’s going on?”
Aden jogged down the stairs.
“Blane can’t make it,” Aden said. “He’s having a bad day. He asked if I would go in his place. Delphie’s with Katy but she said she would watch the kids. I …”
Aden saw Sandy for the first time. His face flushed with emotion.
Valerie giggled at his reaction. She put her arm over Sandy’s shoulder.
“Wanna go to Trevor’s wedding?” Valerie asked Sandy.
“I don’t have anything to wear,” Sandy said. She looked from Valerie’s delighted face to Aden’s blushing face. “Plus, he didn’t …”
“I’d love it if you would come with me. We’re filling in for Jacob,” Aden said. “We’re just there to pay the bill and support Sam. We won’t stay for the reception. Just the wedding.”
“Oh, I …”
“Val can get you dressed,” Sam said. “Can’t you?”
“Of course,” Valerie said. “How much time do we have?”
“Twenty minutes at the outside,” Sam said. “Aden’s tux is here.”
Valerie grabbed Sandy’s wrist and dragged her through the basement.
“Twenty minutes,” Valerie yelled back to the men. “And I get Delphie.”
“Wait for me.” Noelle ran after them.
Sam looked up to the ceiling when Delphie and Katy cheered overhead.
“Time to get dressed,” Sam said. “I wondered why your tux was in my closet. Delphie had it cleaned.”
“Of course,” Aden said. “You want to come with us, Nash?”
“Sure,” Nash said.
“Maybe you could help me find my cufflinks.”
The retelling of Denver Cereal, Volume 1, continues tomorrow…
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