Aden woke alone on the cramped twin guest bed.
And certain he had never felt so very alone.
Jill told him to go slow. He had tried to go slow. But last night …
He fucked up.
Standing from the bed, he stretched his sore body and smirked. The guest bathroom mirror reflected the unmistakable marks of passion created by Sandy’s teeth and nails.
And his heart ached with loss.
Sandy was gone, probably forever.
How could one man experience so much wonder and so much loss at the same time?
Hearing the water run, he remembered that the kids were home. He slipped downstairs to his bedroom, showered, and dressed then went to find the kids. They weren’t in their rooms. Standing in the hallway, he heard Nash’s voice, then Noelle’s voice coming from the kitchen. He went down the hall to find them.
“Oh, don’t worry, Sandy, we know all about sex,” Noelle said. “I haven’t had any sex. I don’t think Nash has had any sex either.”
“Nope,” Nash said. “But we saw a bunch this weekend.”
“Yeah,” Noelle said. “I didn’t like it. It wasn’t like Daddy said it was.”
“What do you mean?” Sandy asked.
“Well, Daddy says that sex is how adults play with each other. Like Nash plays soccer and I play gymnastics.”
“It didn’t look very fun,” Nash said.
“Why did you see sex?” Sandy asked.
“Because Nuala was doing drugs and having sex with men,” Nash said. “I told her we couldn’t be around drugs. But she just laughed at me.”
“What do you mean?” Sandy asked.
“Daddy says we have addict parents,” Noelle said. “Do you know what an addict is?”
“Dad says because we have addict parents, we are more sensitive to drugs and alcohol. We can’t be around it,” Nash said. “That’s why I locked us in the closet.”
“That was a very smart and brave thing to do, Nash,” Sandy said.
“My brother was amazing,” Noelle said. “You should have seen him. He wouldn’t let them take me or …”
“Into the other room,” Noelle said. “They wanted to have sex with me. But I told them that I was not a grown up and I did not want to play with them. Then Nash locked us in the closet.”
Aden’s heart seized with rage. No wonder Nuala was so adamant that she wanted the kids this weekend. Nuala’s party plans included his daughter. He rushed forward to comfort his kids but stopped in his tracks. Sandy’s neutral kindness was helping the kids. He paced back and forth to cool his rage.
“That’s why you called the police?” Sandy asked.
“Yeah,” Nash said. “Dad gave me a phone and told me to call him if I needed him. I was going to call but then I hoped he was with you … on a date. Dad said he was going to see you when we talked. So I called the police.”
“I think you both are very brave,” Sandy said. “Muffin?”
Aden heard the kids move forward. Blowing out the last of his rage, he walked forward into the kitchen. Noelle was sitting on a barstool at the kitchen median while Nash was sitting in front of the kitchen computer. They were both eating muffins.
“DADDY!!” Noelle said.
She jumped off the stool to hug Aden. Nash joined them.
“We were just talking to Sandy,” Noelle said. “We like her a lot. Plus, she made blueberry muffins. Don’t they smell great? She made coffee too. Do you want some? I can get it.”
Aden kissed Noelle’s head, then Nash’s.
“It’s great to have you here” Aden said. “I need to steal Sandy from you.”
“Okay Daddy,” Noelle said. “She has to go anyway. But she said she would come back to see us.”
“Can we go to the splash fountain today?” Nash asked.
“And the zoo?” Noelle asked.
Taking Sandy’s hand, Aden led her into his basement bedroom. He wrapped her in his arms, and she giggled.
“Last night was …”
“Incredible,” Sandy said. “Yeah.”
He brushed her lips with his lips.
“I thought you’d gone … that I’d blown it … that …”
Sandy put her finger over his lips.
“I heard Noelle crying. She was standing in the hall looking for you. She didn’t want to disturb you … us … She seemed to know who I was — which was weird …”
“We don’t have a lot of secrets around here.”
“I’m glad. I told her I would make her some blueberry muffins. She woke Nash. We talked. That’s all that happened. They had an awful time at their mom’s.”
“Sounded like you’re really good with kids.”
“I took care of my little sister and brother a lot.” Sandy shrugged. “I think the kids need you. Can you take Monday off?”
“I can, but keeping to the schedule helps them feel more normal than hanging around with me.”
“Jill’s baby Katy is like that.”
He tugged her to him and she rested her head on this chest.
“I have to get going,” Sandy said. “I meet Jill for breakfast and church every week. We’re hanging out today. Val said she would let us go through her old dresses since we didn’t find anything at the mall. Plus, it’s the one-week anniversary of the non-date. Delphie told Katy she would make a cake.”
“Quite a week.”
Sandy stepped back a bit to look at him. “Thanks for … last night.”
“When do I get to see you again?”
“Sandy … What did you decide?”
“After last night?” Sandy smiled. “Oh yeah.”
The retelling of Denver Cereal, Volume 1, continues tomorrow…
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