Jill had just finished the last of the bathroom trim when Mike came up the stairs. According to Mike, some people wanted to see her wear some French clothing. Jill washed the paint off her hands and ran a brush through her hair. She was certain she would get down there and they would say something like, “Oh paint-in-your-hair girl? Yeah. We didn’t mean you.”
But Jill would do anything for Mike.
And he had asked, so she followed him down the long stairs from Jacob’s apartment. Sandy knocked on the side door just as she got to the bottom of the stairs.
“I lost track of the time. I’m sorry,” Jill said to Mike. He held her in place so she couldn’t retreat upstairs. “Sandy’s here to pick me up for breakfast.”
Sandy took one look at Jill’s nervous flutter and asked, “What’s going on?”
Mike nudged Jill into the Castle living room.
“We want to see how Jill looks in some clothing,” Alex said. “Claire thinks she’ll be perfect as a spokesmodel with Val.”
“I apologize.” Jill blushed. “I lost track of time. We go to breakfast …”
“I’d offer to make breakfast, but you can ask Mike,” Alex said. “You don’t want to eat what I might make.”
“I’ll make it,” Sandy said. “I’d like to.”
“Let’s make breakfast together,” Delphie said from the kitchen door.
“You’re so much prettier than me, Sandy. Why don’t you be the spokesmodel?” Jill asked.
“No way,” Sandy said. “I’ve had enough pictures taken of me to last a lifetime. Plus, they want you.”
“Come on, Sandy,” Delphie said. “Let’s see what we can come up with.”
“We’re doing this early so everyone can get to Mass,” Mike said. “I’ll call Meg. If we eat here, you can try on some stuff and have breakfast and get to Mass.”
“Come on, Jill. It’s pretty fun,” Valerie said.
Valerie took Jill’s hand and led her over to a stack of clothing. Every time Jill looked up there were more people in the Castle living room. Of course, Megan, Tim, and Steve had gone to school with the Hargreaves. And the Hargreaves seemed to multiply in front of her. Alex and Max were joined by their brother, Colin, and sisters, Erin and Samantha. Even Candy knew the Hargreaves. Then the spouses, boyfriends, and children arrived.
The usually silent Castle was filling with noisy, talking-all-at-once, Catholic siblings, spouses, children, and even more people from France.
Jill thought her sanity would be restored when Katy arrived. On the heels of Katy’s arrival, Claire Martins’s husband and other children arrived. It was love at first sight for Katy and Claire’s five year old, Camille. Katy only wanted to be with Camille. The little girls played together in a corner of the room.
And Jill tried on clothing.
Claire would take a measurement or say she liked one thing or another. This woman remained convinced that Jill was going to model for her. But Jill’s high school French only went so far. From what she could make out, they were going to pay her to wear these beautiful clothes.
And pay Katy. Claire Martins wanted Katy to join Camille in modeling their children’s line.
Having had enough of the noise and chaos, Jill made her escape. She set down the last of the outfits, checked on Katy, then slipped through a hidden stairwell to Jacob’s apartment. She was almost to the top of the stairs when she heard someone behind her. Turning, she saw Alex Hargreaves looking up the stairs at her.
“Escaping?” Alex asked.
“Can we come?”
Max’s identical face appeared over Alex’s shoulder.
Jill laughed. “There’s only cereal up here. I think they’re having breakfast in a minute.”
“Is there coffee?” Alex asked.
Jill nodded. Max pulled the door closed.
“You don’t want to be out there with all of …” Jill started.
“We don’t,” the twins responded in unison.
Jill waved, and they followed her up the stairs. Alex set to work on coffee while Jill and Max set up cereal on Jacob’s table. Jill had spent most of her life intimidated by the rich and powerful Hargreaves in general, and independent Alex in particular. In the twin’s funny company, Jill began to feel a little more normal. They even helped her finish painting the apartment. In fact, they insisted on helping her.
Sitting in Sunday Mass, Jill felt as if she was a totally different person than she was last week. Last week, she felt like little mousey, trampled-on Jill. This week, she felt as if she was exactly where she was supposed to be.
She just wasn’t sure where that was.
The retelling of Denver Cereal, Volume 1, continues tomorrow…
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