CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-EIGHT
“That’s not really why we’re here, is it?” Delphie asked.
“Will you tell me?” Nash asked. “One minute, they are destined to destroy the planet and the next …”
Delphie sighed and just looked at him.
“Please?” Nash asked.
“The four queens are on retreat,” Delphie said. “The fourth queen …”
“The one Jake rescued?” Nash asked.
“Yes,” Delphie said. “She has put a kind of spell on her sisters. They do not remember their queendoms or the world outside.”
“Why did she do that?” Nash asked.
“I told her to do it,” Delphie said. “Well, I told Abi to tell her to do it. She complied with Abi’s order.”
“Why?” Nash asked.
“Because the fairy queens were never meant to build their own warring Queendoms,” Delphie said. “They were to rule together, but they were separated during the shift to a more masculine, patriarchal society. They don’t remember this, of course. But I do.”
“What will happen to their queendoms?” Nash asked.
“They will unite,” Delphie said. “Fin is working on the structure right now. Most fairies are relieved to not be fighting each other anymore. There are still some that have a high sense of their uniqueness.”
“Couldn’t they just be like states or countries in the EU?” Nash asked.
“That’s the hope,” Delphie said.
“Who will lead them?” Nash asked.
“Edie,” Delphie said. “At least until they are through the transition.”
“Edie?” Nash asked. “The baby nanny?”
“Yes,” Delphie said with a grin. “She is extremely powerful. She’s wise and kind. She wants to have an elected person from every fairy state. Right now, the fairy states are so used to being ruled that they want a queen. It’s going to be a journey for them.”
“Are you ready to talk about something that matters?” Delphie asked.
“Excuse me for caring about the state of fairies!” Nash said in an offended voice.
When she looked at him, she saw that he was smiling. Delphie grinned back.
“Why are Saul’s ashes over there?” Nash asked.
“You don’t want to talk about …” Delphie started.
“Just warming up,” Nash said.
Delphie grinned at him, and he shrugged.
“What do you know about Saul?” Delphie asked.
“He was in a concentration camp and Seth found him,” Nash said.
“Mr. Seth?” Delphie asked.
“He told me never to call him that,” Nash said. “‘If you can’t call me ‘O’Malley’ like everyone else does, then leave it at Seth.’ That’s a direct quote.”
“It does sound like him,” Delphie said.
Nash nodded. They were silent for a moment before Delphie sighed.
“Saul was Seth’s older brother,” Delphie said. “You’ve never had an older brother.”
“Charlie?” Nash asked. “But I know what you mean.”
“You’ve met Bernie,” Delphie said. “If you took the best of Bernie — his intelligence, wit, crazy courage — and added Seth’s mother’s good looks and hearty bone structure, you’d get close to Saul. He was gorgeous to look at and had such a beautiful soul. He could light up a room. Any room. When Seth had been at the school for two years, Saul told their step-father that he was going on a school trip. He took the train across the country to check on Seth. They spent a riotous week in New York City, before Saul went home. Seth gave him money for his brothers and their mother.”
“Saul never touched a penny of that money,” Delphie said. “Even though that meant that he needed to get a job to pay for football, his clothing, and anything else he needed. Saul gave the entire sum to their mother. She used it to care for Silas. But Saul wouldn’t take a dime.”
“Why?” Nash asked.
“He wanted his mother to have it,” Delphie said. “Saul didn’t mind getting help from Seth. He just knew that his mother has no other way to make money. He was young and strong and …”
“That’s how he ended up in Special Forces in the early war in Vietnam,” Delphie said.
Unable to continue, she nodded.
“What happened to him?” Nash asked.
“It’s a good question,” Delphie said. “Most aren’t sure.”
“But you know,” Nash said with surety.
“Yes,” Delphie said with a sigh. “They told his mother that he was ‘lost,’ MIA. That’s what they told a lot of people, but I was Maresol’s good friend.”
“You and Maresol go back a long time,” Nash said. “Maresol worked here then?”
“As soon as Seth had any money at all, he hired someone to help his mother with this big house,” Delphie said. “Maresol was little more than a girl. Her husband had been killed and she had four children to care for. She leapt at the chance to work here.”
Delphie nodded and fell silent.
“What did they tell Seth’s mom about Saul?” Nash asked.
“I… uh… ,” Delphie said. “Well, the military had told her that he was ‘lost.’ I will tell you that it nearly killed her to ‘lose’ him. Day in. Day out. It started to wear her down, so Maresol brought her to me.”
“And?” Nash asked.
“For the longest time, Saul was hiding in the jungle,” Delphie said. “He was cut off from anyway of getting home. He just endured and survived. Nearly a year and then he was picked up.”
Delphie nodded and fell silent again.
“You had to tell his mother that?” Nash asked.
“I couldn’t,” Delphie said. “Seth was out of the Army by then. Mitch, too. His mother had kept this situation from Seth while he was in Vietnam.”
“Tunnels of Chi Chui,” Nash said.
“When Seth got back, he … well, he just did his Seth thing,” Delphie said with a chuckle. “He shook hands until he found someone with the connections to help him look for Saul.”
“General Hargreaves,” Nash said.
“Now you are not supposed to know that,” Delphie said.
“Sensei Colin told me,” Nash said with a shrug.
“Seth doesn’t talk about what happened or how he found Saul,” Delphie said.
“Did you help him?” Nash asked.
“As much as I could,” Delphie said. “But he had to do a lot of the groundwork while he was in Vietnam, in the middle of a war. It was dangerously crazy.”
“He wasn’t able to bring his brother’s body back because of the war,” Delphie said. “He paid the Buddhist monks to cremate Saul’s body. The military had already put up a grave for Saul at Arlington. So Seth brought him home.”
“So he could have his brother close to him?” Nash asked.
“I don’t think Seth ever dreamed that he would live in this house again,” Delphie said with shake of her head. “He brought them here for his mother.”
Nash nodded and felt like he understood.
Nash took a breath to ask another question but Delphie cut him off.
“Would you like to talk about what happened yesterday?” Delphie asked.
Nash swallowed hard and shook his head.
“You mean, ‘Would you like to talk about killing the only person in the world that loves you?’” Nash said with a sigh.
“She’s not dead,” Delphie said.
“If we lived in a normal house with normal people in it, she would be,” Nash said.
“If, maybe, might,” Delphie said. “Plus, she is not the only person who loves you.”
Nash looked at Delphie.
“I know, it’s just that …” Nash said with a sigh. “I … I mean … It’s all my fault.”
He put his hand to his chest and repeated, “My fault.”
“Teddy has a bit to do with it, too,” Delphie said.
“Teddy always wants to do what he’s told,” Nash said. “He’s so … good. I … He was …”
Nash took a breath to try to stop the storm of emotions. Think that he was winning, he took another breath and then another. Sorrow overtook him like a Tsunami. He began to weep.
Delphie sat with him. She’d sat with him any number of times when his mother had “forgotten” to pick him up. She’d listened to him rant when he’d argued with his father. She’d seen him through the rough nights after their mother had broken Noelle’s cheekbone.
She didn’t try to sooth him. That’s not really what he needed.
She sat with him in the middle of his emotions with showing him that she had great confidence that he would survive these feelings. When he stopped crying, she got up and went into the other room. She returned with a box of tissues and a large glass of water. Nash used the tissues and drank the water. They sat in silence for a while.
“What can you tell me about your phone?” Delphie asked.
“My … what?” Nash asked.
“It seems like you and your parents have been arguing over your cell phone,” Delphie said. “I wondered if you might talk to me about it.”
Nash took the cell phone out of his pocket and held it up to her. The screen was smashed. The plastic was bent. A putrid odor came from it.
“It’s fried,” Nash said. “Abi did it. I can’t even blame her, it’s just …”
Delphie didn’t respond. She knew that Nash needed to talk about this thing he carried around, even now that it wasn’t working.
“Tell me about it,” Delphie said.
Nash’s mouth opened and closed. He squinted at her and then shook his head.
“I know my dad says it’s bad, but what does he know?” Nash asked with a sneer. “He has no idea.”
“About what?” Delphie asked, keeping her voice neutral.
“About…” Nash scowled again.
He looked at Delphie and tried to determine what she wanted him to say so that he could be off the hook.
“What doesn’t you father know?” Delphie asked. She put her hand on her heart. “I would be happy to inform him, I’m just not sure what he doesn’t know.”
She gave him a kind smile.
“What is it that your father has no idea about?” Delphie asked.
“I… uh… hmm,” Nash scowled. He leaned toward Delphie as if someone could hear him. “I’m not normal.”
“How so?” Delphie asked.
“I…” Nash sighed. “I don’t have anyone who really gets me. You know?”
“Hmm,” Delphie said.
“I have this weird relationship with Nadia — who, don’t get me wrong, is amazing. But…” Nash sigh. “I can’t even drink, let alone… And she’s in New York. She’s really rich — rich like rich people want to be her kind of rich. And I…”
Nash lifted a shoulder in a shrug.
“I’m a weirdo,” Nash said. “Unique.”
“Sounds lonely,” Delphie said.
“Teddy is my best friend,” Nash said. “No question, but he’s so… sure of himself. He loves Noelle. Noelle loves him. I’m his friend. That’s it. He doesn’t need anything else.”
“And you do?” Delphie asked.
“I want to belong,” Nash sighed. “Somewhere. Anywhere.”
“Yes, I know what that feels like,” Delphie said softly. “Is there a place where you feel like you belong?”
Nash raised the burned out phone.
“I play games with people all over the world.” Nash’s voice rose in tempo and delight. A smile broke across his face. “Nadia can call me anytime. I have friends — people who are like me, really get me. They like what I have to say and what I do. I’m enough for them. I don’t have to be smarter or richer or older or… Just me is okay, no better than okay. Being me is good.”
Nash nodded his head.
“I feel good when I’m on it. Really good. Normal, even cool,” Nash said. He’s voiced turned hard and he added, “I’m not just the freak who goes to the freak school with all of the other freaks.”
He held up his phone.
“I’m friends with artists and athletes all over the world,” Nash said. “I’m friends with other people who do martial arts and we talk about martial arts. They really like me, cheer me on.”
He shook his hand with the phone in it.
“This is the best friend I’ve ever had,” Nash said. “It’s always there for me — day and night. If someone’s mean to me, I just block them. Trolls. I tell my friends and no one says ‘What did you do?’ They understand that the other person was a troll. There are lots of people who are just like me. They don’t live in stupid Denver and aren’t stupid fifteen years old.”
Delphie didn’t say anything.
“Dad just doesn’t get it,” Nash said.
“Oh, I think your father gets it more than you think,” Delphie said.
Nash turned to look at Delphie. He didn’t say anything for a moment and then asked.
“What do you mean?”
“I’m going to repeat back to you what you said and you tell me,” Delphie said. “Let’s say your father was saying it.”
Nash didn’t respond. Delphie raised her eyebrows and Nash nodded.
“Whiskey is the best friend I’ve ever had,” Delphie said. Nash gasped and Delphie continued, “It’s always there for me — day and night. If someone’s mean to me, I just block it out. But better than anything, when I got to the bar there are lots of people who are just like me. They don’t ask anything of me. I just have to…”
“Drink whiskey,” Nash whispered along with Delphie.
He gave Delphie a long look.
“I want to say that I’m not addicted,” Nash said. “That it doesn’t have anything to do with me.”
He shook his head.
“I don’t do drugs or alcohol,” Nash said. “That’s Dad’s and my stupid mother’s issue.”
“The scientists tell us that we get the same hit from these phones and social media that we get from drugs and alcohol,” Delphie said. “They are highly addictive.”
He held out his burned and reeking phone to her.
“This has never cost me anything,” Nash said. “I haven’t lost a job or a friendship or custody of my child or…”
“And Sandy?” Delphie asked.
Nash didn’t respond. He didn’t dare look at her.
“Your relationship with your father?” Delphie asked.
“My father is an asshole,” Nash said.
“Come on, Nash, you know this stuff,” Delphie said. “What was the last thing you did with Teddy?”
“Uh,” Nash said. “Um… He wanted to ride our bikes out to the gully but I was on Snapchat and…”
He looked at Delphie for a long moment.
“Shit,” he said. “I really love my phone. Love it. I felt like it was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
“It’s not living, Nash,” Delphie said. “It’s just a thing. What you get out of it comes from you and you only. I cannot give back to you.”
“That’s what Abi said, but she doesn’t understand,” Nash said. “I mean, how could she? I have real friends here.”
“Realer than Sandy?” Delphie said, softly.
Nash’s mouth dropped open.
“This is how all addicts fell,” Delphie said. “They feel lost and alone when their drug — the thing that works — is no longer available or they can’t use it. They love their drug or alcohol.”
Nash looked dumbstruck.
“But it doesn’t love them back,” Delphie said. “It is a thing that will take your entire life away or that of those you love with all your heart.”
“But…” Nash started.
His eyes filled with desperation, he looked at Delphie.
“You didn’t realize that addicts love their drugs?” Delphie asked.
Nash shook his head.
“Drugs work,” Delphie said. “That phone works for you. You don’t have to figure out how to meet your own needs, find your own confidence, talk to Nadia about how you feel, or even stretch to find what you’re good at because…”
“It’s always there for me,” Nash said. “Ready. Willing. Able to fill the gap.”
“I didn’t think it would be like this,” Nash said.
“Everyone says that,” Delphie said with a nod. “We all think it will be bigger or more consuming, that’s why it’s so dangerous.”
Nash numbly looked away from her.
“You know how the cigarette companies made their cigarettes more attractive to people,” Delphie said.
“They put extra stuff into cigarettes to make them more addictive,” Nash said.
“That’s what the companies who make the phone and social media and apps do,” Delphie said. “They intentionally make it addictive. You know that scroll feature?”
“It’s the same motion as using a slot machine,” Delphie said.
“But what am I going to do?” Nash asked. “I can’t… I just…”
Delphie didn’t say anything. She trusted Nash to come up with it himself. He gritted his teeth and looked at her.
“I have now paid a consequence I am unwilling to pay,” Nash said.
“Sandy nearly dying so that you could have your phone?” Delphie asked. Her question was hard but her voice was neutral.
“I just… I mean…” Nash said softly. “I’m going to miss it so much.”
“Well,” Delphie said. She leaned over to him and touched his leg. “What will you fill the void with?”
“Fill the…” Nash said. “Oh. Right. The void. I could… uh… I don’t know.”
“We’ll figure it out as we go,” Delphie said. “Are you ready to do the work?”
“I’m not willing to hurt someone else that I love,” Nash said. “I just won’t do it. I won’t.”
“Even if that person is you?” Delphie asked.
“Me?” Nash asked.
“I know that you and your father talked about you living with your mother,” Delphie said. “You told him that you’d rather live with her than lose your phone.”
Nash gasped. With her words, he remembered this situation more clearly. He had told his father that he would love to live with his crazy, stupid mother if it meant he could keep his phone. Nash let out a breath and started to cry again.
Delphie leaned back in her chair and waited.
Nash had finally realized what was going on. Now the work began. It was okay to feel a little sad at the work you have to do to rebuild your life. It was okay to be sad that you’ve hurt people, including yourself. She waited a few more minutes, before she cleared her throat.
“Suck it up, buttercup,” Delphie said in an imitation of Nash.
Nash gasped and looked at her.
“Isn’t that what you usually say to addicts?” Dephie asked. “What else do you say? Something like…”
“No one cares about your regrets,” Nash said, his numb voice still thick with tears. “All that matters is what you do about it.”
“What are you willing to do?” Delphie asked.
She held out her hand and Nash put the phone into it.
“So we start,” Delphie said. She gave Nash a soft smile. “I love you, Nash. I will do everything I can to help.”
Nash threw himself at Delphie. They fell off the chaise loungers and landed in a lump on the floor.
Delphie held onto the boy while he cried for himself and the start of his journey.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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