Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Five Hundred and Eighty-one : Ritual of love


Monday night — 11:05 p.m. MT

Denver, Colorado

Ivy woke up screaming. Again.

Delphie sat up, but Sam was there first. He took Ivy from her bed in the little pantry closet off the kitchen and brought her back to their bed. He sat down with her on his lap and held her tight. Delphie touched the child’s back.

For the last two weeks, Ivy had awoken at this time, in this way.


While Sam assured her that it was just a phase, Delphie was beside herself with worry.

What could possibly be wrong with the child?

When they asked her, Ivy just shook her head. The next morning, Ivy had no memory of waking up or of screaming. Yet, the next night came around and Ivy was up again.

Valerie and Mike were often up late and had heard Ivy scream. They’d offered assistance, but as much as Ivy adored Valerie and her daughter, Jackie, being cuddled and loved by them didn’t help.

Nothing helped.

The child was clearly terrified.

Of something. No one seemed to know what.

As the days turned into a week, Ivy was beginning to deteriorate emotionally and mentally. She was starting to forget her school work. She was irritable with her friends. When she had the chance, she wanted to be alone.

Very simply, Ivy was not Ivy.

Delphie was too worried about her little niece that she had no access to her intuitive self.

When Ivy had stopped screaming, Sam stood up. He followed Delphie through the hallway, down the stairs, and through the Castle kitchen to their backyard garden. Abi, Fin, Tanesha, and Heather stood around a fire pit they’d created in the grass. Zoe and Zaidy, Abi’s twins, sat on the grass on a blanket with Jabari.

Fin was stacking firewood onto the pit.

“Good,” Abi said, waving them forward.

“Jake’s going to kill you for making that fire pit,” Jill said as she came out with a sleepy Katy. “He loves that grass.”

“What Jake doesn’t know won’t kill him,” Abi said mildly.

“I am a fairy,” Fin said.

“Yeah, remind everyone,” Tanesha said. “They might have forgotten since you haven’t mentioned it in the last five minutes.”

Fin scowled at her when the girlfriends laughed.

“This grass will be fine,” Abi said. “Don’t give it a thought.”

Grinning, Jill left Katy at the fire pit and went inside to get her twins.

Maggie ran out of the house with MJ and Honey on her tail. When Honey rolled to the stairs, MJ held out an arm. To everyone’s surprise, she got up from her chair and moved slowly, tenderly into the yard. Tanesha gave her a tight hug when Honey made it to the grass. Exhausted and sweating from the effort, Honey dropped down on the cool grass.

Jackie ran out of the house with Mack following her. Wyatt, Bladen, and Tanner came with Jill. Mike and Valerie came out together. Mike carried Eddie in a baby sling. Valerie jogged to Fin to give him some matches. He shook his head and nodded to Tanesha.

“It must be feminine fire,” Abi said. “Those wonderful matches are male energy. We need only female energy for this ritual.”

Abi looked around the circle. The children were either held in someone’s arms or were lounging on the blanket with Jabari, Zoe, and Zaidy.

“Wait for us!” Noelle yelled from the car as Aden drove up.

Noelle, Nash, and Teddy rushed out of the vehicle to the circle. Aden straggled behind. He helped Rachel Ann out of her car seat and went to pick her up. She scooted out of the car and ran to her cousins Mack, Maggie, and Jackie.

“I know that Jake would have wanted to be here,” Jill said.

“He’ll be sad that he wasn’t here,” Valerie said.

“Sandy wanted to come,” Noelle said. “She cried because she couldn’t be here.”

“She’s too sick,” Nash said.

“We’re supposed to tell her all about it,” Teddy said.

“It has to be done tonight before the moon turns full,” Abi said with a slow shake of her head. “Sandy and Jake will have to be here with us in spirit.”

“Can you do that?” Noelle asked.

Abi just smiled. Jill looked at Valerie. With a grin, they both shrugged their eyebrows.

When you live at the Castle, you had to be ready for anything. Tonight’s ceremony fit in the category of “anything.”

“Let’s settle in so we can start,” Abi said.

Everyone settled in where they were sitting. Tanesha grabbed Jabari and M.J. captured Maggie. Jill and Katy held onto the twins while Valerie and Mike managed Eddie and Jack.

Blane and Nelson came out of the Castle carrying Mack and Wyn. Heather went to take Wyn from Nelson but the child wouldn’t budge. Blane put an arm around Heather and the three walked together to the grass.

Only then did another car pull in to park. Wearing sweatpants and a T-shirt, Tres Sierra hopped out of his sedan and ran over the grass. He made it to the blanket before the others. Heather kissed his cheek as she sat down. Nelson touched Tres’s shoulder and Blane hugged him.

“Good, we are all here,” Abi said. “Let’s start.”

The night became very still. It was almost as if the entire world was bending in their direction, straining to catch every word.

“Someone in our humble community is frightened,” Abi said. “She is experiencing terrible terrors in the night.”

Abi nodded to Tanesha. Heather put her arms around Jabari and Tanesha stood up.

“I don’t know if I …” Embarrassed, Tanesha looked around at everyone. “I’ve been practicing, but …”

“Go ahead,” Abi said.

Tanesha looked at Ivy before turning to Abi and giving her a curt nod. Rubbing her hands together, she walked to the fire. She opened her hands out so that her palms faced the dry wood. A spark flew off her hands.

“Oooh!” Everyone said as the little fire caught.

After a moment, they clapped for Tanesha.

“Will you tend the fire?” Abi asked.

“Of course.” Tanesha nodded. She knelt down to the fire.

“We are a community, a family,” Abi said. “One person’s struggle is affects us all. Our dear Ivy is struggling with her fear. Ivy?”

The girl looked up at Abi from Sam’s lap. Just then a car door slammed. Abi turned toward running feet. Jeraine stopped short on the pavement. He’d been running so fast that his dress shoes slid on the pavement. He laughed and walked to Tanesha.

“You are nearly late,” Abi said.

“Hey, I got here before …” Jeraine started. He kissed Tanesha.

Charlie and Tink arrived on his moped.

“You left us!” Charlie said.

“Oh crap, Charlie, I forgot,” Aden said. “I’m not any good at this time of night. I almost forgot Nash and Noelle. I was in the car and on the street without them.”

“He would have left us if we hadn’t flagged him down in the street,” Noelle said.

“True story,” Teddy said. “How’d you get up?”

“Maresol woke us,” Charlie said. “Told us we were late.”

“I’m sorry, son,” Aden said.

Aden got up and hugged Charlie and Tink. Charlie sat down with them. Tink joined Heather on their blanket.

A moment later, Edie appeared. She had her arms around Jacob who was holding Sandy up. Edie let go quickly to grab Sandy. Jacob went to the flower bed to throw up.

“Hurry, hurry,” Abi said looking up at the moon. “The moon’s position is nearly perfect.”

Jacob wiped his mouth on the back of his hand. He picked up Sandy to carry her over. Aden was there in a flash to take Sandy from Jacob.

“We needed to be here,” Jacob said to Jill as Aden took Sandy from him.

Jill gave him a beautiful smile and Jacob grinned. Jacob looked up for the first time and noticed the fire.

“Fin?” Jacob asked. “What’d you do to my grass?”

Valerie and Jill laughed.

“I will fix it,” Fin said, indignantly. “I am a fairy!”

“Who knew?” Jacob laughed.

Shaking his head at Fin, he went to Jill and the children. Aden settled Sandy on a blanket next to Charlie and between Noelle and Nash.

“Can I take over?” Jeraine asked, gesturing to the fire.

“It has to be feminine fire,” Tanesha said.

“That would not be me,” Jeraine said with a grin.

“Go sit down,” Tanesha said with a smile. “I’ve got this.”

“She started it with her hands,” Noelle said.

“I am not surprised,” Jeraine said with a smile. “She always starts a fire in me.”

“Yuck,” Katy said.

Laughing, he kissed Tanesha again and went to sit with Jabari.

“I believe we are all here,” Abi said. “Makes me so happy to see each of you.”

Abi looked up at the sky.

“And it’s time,” Abi said. “Good. Let’s begin again.”

“We are a community, a family,” Abi repeated. “One person’s struggle is affects us all. Our dear Ivy is struggling with her fear. Ivy?”

Ivy struggled to her feet. Abi gestured for Ivy to come to her. She lightly touched Ivy’s shoulder.

“Do you know why you’re so frightened?” Abi asked.

Ivy shook her head.

“Just happens,” Ivy said. “It’s horrible. I’m afraid to go to sleep! And nothing helps.”

“Ivy is a direct relation to an Oracle,” Abi said. “Her fear could relate to something that is to come, something that might happen, or possibly something that has happened. Her terror maybe from the horrors she’s experienced in her own life or something of the world. We do not know because Ivy does not know.”

“This kind of energy and emotion is very simply too much for one individual to carry,” Abi said. “As her family, her community, I ask each of you — are you willing to carry some of Ivy’s terror?”

“I am!” Noelle’s exuberant voice was the first heard.

“Me too,” Katy said just moments before every member of the group agreed with a murmured “I am” or a nod.

“Good,” Abi said. “That’s very good. Is there anyone who would abstain?”

No one said anything.

“Perfect,” Abi asked.

“What does carrying some of Ivy’s burden mean?” Aden asked.

“Yes, what does it mean?” Abi smiled at Aden. “I’m sure everyone would like to know.”

There was a general agreeing murmur.

“In older cultures and societies, including those which you call ‘animals’, when one person feels something out of the blue, everyone wants to know about it,” Abi said. “The elders would be assembled and they would talk about what this strong feeling might indicate for the family. If they have a shaman, the shaman would meditate on the issue until he or she returns with a recommendation.”

“All of this would be done out in front of the entire community,” Abi said. “We live in little rooms. We keep our secrets and our privacy. So, while most of us know that Ivy’s been struggling, we don’t participate in her feelings and her healing.”

“As I said before, these feeling are too much for one soul to hold onto,” Abi said. “To repeat some of what I said before, Ivy’s terror could be nothing more than growing pains. Ivy is a girl on the verge of womanhood. Her mind could be working through that change. Or it could be a message from the ether that something ominous is about to happen. There is no way for us to know because Ivy does not know.

“We are Ivy’s community,” Abi said. “Our Oracle is unsure of what might be causing this issue. That happens. Because of our unique abilities, we are able to recreate Ivy’s terror right here for all of us to witness.”

“What if it’s embarrassing?” Teddy asked. “Like period stuff.”

Abi looked at him for a long moment.

“I always forget how fragile modern males are,” Abi said.

“I’m not fragile,” Teddy said. “I just don’t want to … Oh. Never mind.”

Everyone laughed.

“Edie? Blane?” Abi asked.

Edie, the fairy, and Blane came up to Abi.

“Would you …” Abi looked at Ivy.

Abi gave the girl a soft smile and touched her index finger to Ivy’s forehead. The girl fell backward. Blane caught her and gently set her on the ground.

“Sit at her head,” Abi instructed Blane.

Blane sat cross-legged and put Ivy’s head on his lap.

“Edie? At his shoulders,” Abi said.

Edie nodded.

“I can continue ineptly explaining this to you,” Abi said. “However, the more words I say, the more the point is lost.”

Abi sighed.

“The only question you should ask is ‘Am I willing to share this child’s burden?’ whatever that ends up being,” Abi said. “I can tell you that in my long life, I’ve never seen anyone become overwhelmed by the emotions of another. There are so many of us who love Ivy. We can do this.”

Abi looked each person in the face.

“Do you agree?” Abi asked.

Everyone nodded. While Abi had been talking, Wyatt had gotten up from where he was seated and gone to sit with his father.

“Sorry,” Heather said, getting up to get Mack.

“Leave him,” Abi said. “We must trust the wisdom of the child.”

Heather sat back down. Abi nodded to Blane.

“She should be back into the fear,” Abi said.

Blane nodded. Edie touched his shoulders.

As if by a movie projector, a black and white flickering blurry image appeared at the end of Ivy’s feet. A man was yelling and a crowd was cheering.

“He’s a liar,” a whisper of a child’s voice said.

“Who is?” Teddy asked in a low tone. “Who’s a liar?”

“No one,” Abi said. “Everyone.”

Aden put his hand on Teddy to keep him still.

“He will destroy us all,” a whisper of a child’s voice said.

The image shifted. They were now looking at adults marching in the streets with burning rag and tallow torches. They wore heavy clothing — long woolen jackets, leather boots, hats, and scarves. They were yelling and chanting at the top of their lungs. Snow drifted and caught on the shoulders of them.

“I know that,” Nelson said in a whisper.

Abi looked at Nelson.

“This is a real thing?” Abi asked.

Nelson nodded. Abi nodded to Nelson.

The image changed to young people, possibly children, were prying up cobblestones and throwing them at police officers. The buildings on either side of the street were on fire.

“Days of peace are over,” a whisper of a child’s voice said. “Days of safety are over.”

The scene shifted. Time seemed to have passed as it was daylight and no longer cold. A line of women were shuffled out of a dark building. A blindfold was tied over their eyes. Their hands were tied behind their backs. They were made to stand against a brick wall.

One of the women began to sing. The words to the song were obscured, but they could hear the music.

Abi looked at Nelson, and he nodded.

The singing became louder and louder until the shooting began. One by one, the women were shot down where they stood.

Ivy began to scream.

But the images didn’t stop. Ivy didn’t wake up.

Blane looked up at Abi. She nodded for Blane to continue.

The flickering image changed again. Two burly, sweating men piled the women’s bodies into a horse drawn cart. The wooden cart rolled down the streets. Over Ivy’s screams, they could hear a group of children’s feet running. The children threw rocks at the man behind the cart.

One of the children undid the horse from the cart. Terrified by the children and the smell of death, the horse reared up, crushing its rescuer under its feet. While the cart attendant was stoned to death by the children, the horse ran off.

The children pushed the cart out of sight and down a road in the other direction. They arrived at an overgrown cemetery on the outskirts of town. Adults appeared from the overgrown bushes with shovels and pick axes. The adults and children wore filthy clothing. Their faces and hands were smeared with dirt. Many of them were gaunt from lack of food. The children and the adults were nearly emotionless. They seemed too stunned to feel anything.

They fought with the dry, compact dirt to bury the bodies of the young women together. When the hole was dug, the children rolled the bodies of the women into the hole. An elderly man stood at the end of the grave and spoke words in a foreign language.

“Polish,” Nash said. “That’s Polish.”

When the women were in the grave, the elderly man said a few last words before the adults began to shovel dirt onto the women’s bodies. It was slow, hard work in the hot sun, but no one seemed to complain. When they were done, they covered the site with tree limbs and other weeds.

The sad group had just finished when a high pitched screech of brakes came from a few feet away. The adults and children tried to scatter back into the brush but were cut down by a machine gun. Hidden from view, two small children had their arms around each other and their faces pressed into the dirt. Somehow, the men missed them. The men got back into their vehicle and left to area.

“That’s my mother. The girl,” Delphie said. “Ivy’s grandmother.”

The scene from inside Ivy’s head went to more modern scenarios. Images from the current events flashed across the black and white scene. After a few moments, the image turned to gray. There was nothing else.

Abi nodded to Edie and she let go of Blane’s shoulders. Blane kissed Ivy’s forehead before letting go of her head and standing up. Delphie went to Ivy’s side to help her get up.

“Wha … How’d I get over here?” Ivy asked Delphie.

“We have a lot to discuss,” Abi said. “Come. Take your seats. We will talk about what’s next.”

Delphie helped Ivy to her feet. They went over to the large blanket where Sam was sitting and sat down.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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