Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Five Hundred and Fifty-nine : Afternoon tea


Wednesday mid-morning — 11:20 a.m.

“Don’t get distracted, Jeraine,” he said to himself as he walked into the Castle. “You just need to grab a tin of cookies, fill some water bottles, get some snacks…”

He repeated his words like mantra.

“Don’t get distracted, Jeraine …” He took a breath to continue.

He stepped into the kitchen.

“What the …?” Jeraine asked.

Abi was sitting at the kitchen table with her back to the kitchen. There was a large man — both thick and tall — with dark hair and medium dark skin. He wore heavy clothing that covered most of his body. His hair was dark and long. He nodded to Jeraine and looked back at Abi. The other man was white skinned and beautiful. His hair was yellow, the color of fresh corn. He had eyes that were the bluest blue, beautiful lips, and a gorgeous smile. He was wearing an expensive business suit and seemed to be about six feet one or maybe six feet two. He smelled like …

“Jasmine on a warm day,” Jeraine whispered. He shook himself. “Don’t get distracted, Jeraine.”

The blonde man gave Jeraine such a seductive look at Jeraine’s entire body responded. Until this moment, Jeraine had never been interested in men.

“Knock it off,” Abi said.

The man shot Jeraine a smirk and looked back at Abi.

“Who …?” Jeraine started. “What?”

His lip curled with disgust.

“Fairies,” Jeraine said with a sniff. “I don’t have time for your nonsense.”

“Mr. Smith doesn’t like the fairies,” the dark skin man said. His voice was low and deep, firm and equally entrancing. “That’s unusual for humans.”

“How do you know my name?” Jeraine asked. His hand pressed against his chest.

The dark skinned man’s dark eyes scanned Jeraine in an assessing look. He did not reply.

“The fairy envoys were here for a long time while the fairy queens were in conference,” Abi said. “They wore out their welcome.”

The one side of the beautiful man’s lips curled in a smile.

“I told you to knock it off,” Abi said to the other man.

He looked back at Abi and gave her a fond grin.

“This is Hades,” Abi said, gesturing to the dark skinned man with the deep voice. “He is the Greek God of the Underworld.”

“Oh?” Jeraine asked. He took a step backward.

“This is Lucifer,” Abi said.

“I knew it!” Jeraine said. He looked up at the ceiling and shook his head. “I fucking knew it!”

“What did you know, Jeraine?” Lucifer said in his seductive voice.

“The Devil was a good looking white man,” Jeraine said with a grin. “I knew it.”

“Now, Jeraine, we’ve had this conversation,” Abi said. “Are there white men?”

“No, but …” Jeraine said.

“There are just men,” Abi said. “One human race. Human men.”

“Yes, but …” As if he were a child, Jeraine pointed at Lucifer. “He’s a white man.”

Jeraine nodded.

“I knew it.”

Abi sighed and looked at Lucifer.

“Show him,” Abi said.

“Oh come on,” Lucifer complained. “You have to admit that this is kind of fun.”

“Now,” Abi said.

Lucifer looked disappointed, but Abi was firm.

“I am not playing with you,” Abi said. “Do it. Now.”

“Fine,” Lucifer said.

The gorgeous blonde blue eyes white man disappeared and a voluptuous light skinned woman appeared.

“Whoa,” Jeraine said.

A moment later, he transformed into the most alluring dark skinned woman Jeraine had ever seen. Jeraine took a step backward.

Lucifer transformed into a tall strong dark skinned man, and then what looked like an Asian business man from Japan and then China and then Mongolia and then …

“Stop!” Jeraine said holing up his hand to block the site of Lucifer. “I get it! He’s a shape shifter like the cat.”

“The cat?” Hades asked.

“Asteria lives here in cat form,” Abi said.

“That’s a relief to me,” Hades said. He nodded to Abi in thanks. “My wife believes that she ‘lost’ her. She will be greatly relieved to know that she is all right.”

Abi nodded.

“What would you like me to look like?” Lucifer cut in to turn their attention back to him.

Jeraine took his hand away from his eyes and immediately regretted it. Lucifer looked like a unicorn with rainbow emanating from his long horn.

“The devil can take any form,” Jeraine said, closing his eyes.

There was a noise and Jeraine opened his eyes.

The traditional demon shape of the devil stood in front of him. Even though he knew that he shouldn’t be, Jeraine was terrified. He yelped with fear and covered his eyes.

“Knock it off,” Hades said.

He heard a demonic laugh.

“Enough,” Abi said with finality.

“If he’s not a shape shifter, what is he?” Jeraine asked, still not opening his eyes.

“He’s an archangel,” Abi said. “Show him.”

Jeraine opened an eye.

Lucifer gave her a long look before turning back to Jeraine. Lucifer transformed into the brightest, most beautiful light.

“This is what they look like when they aren’t in form,” Abi said. “They take form in which the other being expects them to take. This is the only way they can interact with a physical being. It is a great honor to see an archangel in energetic form.”

“Thanks?” Jeraine said mildly. “Hey, is that why Tanesha and her mom glow?”

“That’s right,” Lucifer as a light said. “You are my brother Uriel’s grandchild’s husband. We are family.”

“No, no, no.” Jeraine shook his head. “I don’t think so.”

Lucifer as the light laughed. It was truly the most beautiful sound Jeraine had ever heard. He looked at Abi but she looked angry.

“Knock it off,” Abi said. “You injure him in anyway, and I cannot predict how this house with respond.”

Lucifer as the light seemed to wince.

“How did you get in here?” Jeraine asked.

“It was not easy or pleasant,” Lucifer said. “I will honor the rules of the house.”

Lucifer gave Abi a little nod. His form became that of an older, medium skinned man in casual clothing. As if he was having trouble keeping up, Jeraine shook his head. Lucifer raised his hands in acquisition, and Hades laughed.

“While it’s horrifying to meet you both,” Jeraine said, “I am here on a mission for Miss. T. I won’t let you distract me. I just won’t.”

“What does she need?” Abi asked.

“Food, water, blankets,” Jeraine said. “Comfort for her and her girls. They are with Sandy in her room. Everyone except Heather. She’s in Olympia. The other girlfriends are … this thing is … well, it’s very hard on her and the other girlfriends.”

Abi gave a succinct nod of her head.

“It is done,” Abi said.

Jeraine swallowed hard. He looked from Hades to Lucifer and back again.

“Surely, you all aren’t here for me.” Jeraine’s voice came out in a squeak.

“They are not,” Abi said. “But since you are here, you might help me.”

“Uh,” Jeraine said. His eyes went from Hades to Lucifer. “Remind me why I’d like to do that?”

Hades laughed. Lucifer smirked as if he’d predicted Jeraine’s reluctance.

“I have broken an ancient agreement,” Abi said. “When this happens I must make tea for Hades and Lucifer.”

“Wha … uh … what did you do?” Jeraine asked.

“She stole a soul from me,” Hades said.

“I thought every soul was hers,” Jeraine said. “No insult meant.”

“That is correct,” Hades said. “She wanted to live with the little fairy prince, so she asked me to take care of the dead. It was my great honor to be of assistance. Since then there has been an order to things. Stealing a soul might be her right, but she has disrupted the order of things as well as our agreement.”

Jeraine looked from Abi to the God of the Underworld to Lucifer. The archangel as middle aged casual looking man nodded in agreement.

“But Sandy cannot be going to hell,” Jeraine said. “She’s the sweetest, nicest human being in the world. Why would she need to suffer eternal damnation?”

“She would not,” Lucifer said. “But that is not what I do.”

Jeraine looked at Lucifer and blinked. He wondered if he should actually ask the archangel what he meant or if he should just nod and head back to the hospital.

“Would you be willing to help?” Abi asked.

“Uh,” Jeraine said, keeping his eye on the devil. “You?”

“Yes me,” Abi said. “They have asked me for …mmm …”

“Favors,” Hades said.

Hades looked at Jeraine, and Jeraine was surprised at how kind this God seemed.

“I am too full up to do anything else,” Abi said.

“What can I do?” Jeraine asked.

“Could you make some tea?” Abi asked.

“I would love a biscuit,” Hades said. “Ares has been bragging about some kind of biscuit that has chocolate in small form that he called a ‘chip’ inside a salted butter biscuit. I …”

The God of the Underworld stopped talking when he noticed Abi, Lucifer, and Jeraine were looking at him.

“Why are you more afraid of him than me?” Hades asked Jeraine. “I am death.”

“Yeah, but he’s damnation,” Jeraine said.

“Him?” Hades asked.

Hades laughed.

“He’s not?” Jeraine asked.

“That is a common modern interpretation,” Abi said.

“Oh?” Hades asked. “I wasn’t aware of that.”

“What is he if he’s not damnation?” Jeraine asked. “Decades of torment for sins on earth? Retribution on a soul level?”

“If I tell you, will you get me one of these biscuits that Ares has talked about?” Hades asked.

“I want to try them as well,” Lucifer said. “My brother Uriel says you have something called ‘pears’? From trees?”

“They are out of season here in Denver,” Jeraine said. “Our trees are dormant right now.”

“What a shame,” Lucifer said.

“We usually have some in the refrigerator,” Jeraine pointed to the refrigerator. “They are grown in warmer climates and shipped here.”

“What a luxury!” Hades said.

“Refrigeration,” Jeraine said lifting a shoulder in a shrug.

“What is a ‘refrigerator’?” Lucifer asked but it was clear that Hades wanted to know.

Jeraine pointed to it. He opened the door.

“It’s cold inside,” Jeraine said. “Ideally 45 degrees. Helps food last longer.”

“Ares is correct,” Hades said. “This really is a world of wonder.”

Lucifer nodded. Jeraine went to the electric pot, filled it with water, and turned it on.

“Please make the tea I like,” Abi said.

“Not the one Miss T drinks,” Jeraine said with his eye on Hades and Lucifer.

“No,” Abi said.

“What is this luxury?” Hades asked at the same time Lucifer said, “Why can’t we have it?”

“It weakens her powers,” Abi said. “Magical and angelic. When she’s not on the tea, she and her mother can catch things on fire with a look or a touch.”

“Good skill to have,” Hades said.

“But not tea you’d like?” Jeraine asked.

“No,” Abi said.

“Very well,” Jeraine said. “I’ll make a pot of English Breakfast because it’s very common for people to drink it.”

“What is this tea the mother likes?” Hades asked.

“She likes Chai tea or a Hot Cinnamon Spice tea,” Jeraine said. “We have it in tea bags, so I’ll give you water and you can make what you like.”

“Most of those words are new to me, young Mr. Smith,” Hades said.

“Me, as well,” Lucifer said. “Please go ahead.”

“Might I watch?” Hades asked.

“Knock yourself out,” Jeraine said. “But I don’t know what would injure you so just keep back.”

“Good thinking,” Lucifer said.

While Abi was rooted in her chair, the men stood together at the end of the kitchen. Jeraine warmed the ceramic tea pot and took out a fine mesh tea strainer. He put a couple of teaspoons of their English Breakfast tea. When the electric kettle clicked off, he picked it up.

“What is that?” Hades asked.

“This boils water very quickly,” Jeraine said.

He opened the top to take off the lid. Hades moved to put his finger in.

“Don’t burn yourself,” Jeraine said.

“Thank you for your concern,” Hades said. He put his finger in. “It is very hot.”

With the God of the Underworld on his shoulder and the creepy Archangel at his side, Jeraine poured out the warm water from the tea pot, placed the tea strainer into the pot, and poured the hot water into the pot. He set it at the end of the counter so that Hades and Lucifer could look inside.

He filled the electric kettle again and turned it on. He set out mugs and got the cream from the refrigerator.

“You have to wait three minutes,” Jeraine said.

The God of the Underworld blinked at Jeraine, and Lucifer shook his head. Jeraine pointed to the digital clock on the stove.

“Hours,” Jeraine said pointed to the hours and then to the minutes. “Minutes.”

Hades and Lucifer went to the stove to touch the clock.

“Wait for three of these to pass and we’ll try the tea,” Jeraine said.

He turned away and went into the pantry. He took out the ladder and climbed up to just under the rafters.

“What are you doing?” Hades asked.

“Getting your cookies,” Jeraine said. “We make them in batches and put them in tins so that we always have some. But we have three teenaged boys so we have to hide them.”

“Why is that?” Hades asked.

“They will eat through these tins and anything else,” Jeraine passed Hades the tin of cookies and then another. “Ginger and chocolate chip.”

The God of the Underworld nodded. A thought occurred to Jeraine. If they knew what an amazing woman Sandy was, they might not be upset that she was staying on earth.

“You might like to try some cake,” Jeraine said. “Sandy makes the best cakes. That’s the woman whose soul was stolen from you.”

The God of the Underworld grunted. Jeraine put the ladder away and went to the refrigerator’s freezer. He took out an already prepared chocolate cake.

“This is frozen,” Jeraine said.

“Frozen?” Hades asked. “Like lakes in winter?”

“Like in there,” Jeraine said.

Hades and Lucifer looked inside the freezer. They opened and closed the door a few times to see how it worked. In the meantime, Jeraine took out a large knife and began to cut the cake.

“Now, you both said you work for Abi,” Jeraine asked.

“We have taken over some of her duties,” Hades said. “My brother, Poseidon, has taken over the seas from Abi’s brother, Gilfand.”

“And what does Lucifer do?” Jeraine asked.

His eyes flicked to Lucifer and then back to Hades. He gave Hades a quick nod to encourage him to speak.

“Do you know of people who live in great shame? Great self-loathing?” Hades asked. “These people can barely take a breath without feeling as if their very existence blots out the sun.”

“They are depressed,” Jeraine said.

“Come now, Mr. Smith,” Hades said. “You know better than that.”

Jeraine gave the barest nod.

“This kind of thing had not been seen in other species,” Hades said. “The single celled creatures and early invertebrates had none of it. It did not exist in the creatures you call ‘Dinosaurs.’ Not in most of the creatures on this planet …”

“Add a humanoid brain,” Abi said from the table.

“Yes,” Hades said. “As soon as a creature can think about himself, we see this kind of self torture.”

“Doesn’t it come from being abused?” Jeraine asked. “It’s not really self-torture.”

“It is often started in abuse — torture at the earliest ages,” Hades said. “Certainly. In a humanoid brain, the torture is internalized. The self-rage grows and grows. For a moment of abuse, there can be decades of self-torture, self-rage, and self-loathing. This kind of thing does great damage to the soul.”

“I take care of them,” Lucifer said.

“What does that mean?” Confused, Jeraine wrinkled his nose and shook his head.

“I take care of those souls who cannot love themselves,” Lucifer said. “They are broken, sorrowful. They weep and cry. I am their caregiver.”

Lucifer gave a nod.

“His ruler, the one you call ‘God’, was asked by Abi for help,” Hades said. “Lucifer is the most beautiful, cleverest, and loving angel. He was willing to love these poor souls back to soul integrity.”

Jeraine blinked at Hades and then Lucifer.

“What about the levels of Hell?” Jeraine asked.

“They are things the souls do to themselves,” Lucifer said. “I care for them until they are able to stop injuring themselves. You see, Jeraine, the soul holds the energy of the universe and in that way is the universe. It knows how to be whole, complete, unbroken.”

“Abi says that the body wishes to be whole,” Jeraine said.

“The body is a reflection of the soul,” Lucifer said. “If you care for the body, your soul will heal. It takes time, but it can be done in this realm through therapy and other modalities. If a person dies in, or particularly from, this state of self-loathing, these poor souls come to live with me.”

“Some souls are never able to heal,” Hades said with a sad nod.

“No matter what I do,” Lucifer said.

“But most work their way out of their broken place and come to live with me in the Underworld,” Hades said. “We welcome them with open arms. They see their families again, those who loves them. They share the knowledge of what their self-loathing had done, as well as how they healed. Everyone grows.”

Lucifer nodded.

“Human civilization has become more kind and more peaceful over time,” Abi said from the table.

“Am I going to remember this?” Jeraine asked.

“If you wish,” Abi said from the table.

Jeraine pointed to the clock — more than five minutes had passed. He took the tea strainer out of the tea pot and carried it to the table.

“Can you …?” Jeraine nodded to the mugs.

Hades picked up the mugs. Lucifer picked up the cream. They carried them to the table where Abi sat. Jeraine set the containers of cookies on the table and went back into the kitchen to warm the cake.

He stood on the other side of the barrier while the God of the Underworld and the devil he’d feared opened the cans of cookies and marveled at their first tastes of tea. If anyone had asked him, even a year ago, if he’d be warming cake for the terrifying monsters of his childhood, he would have said “No.”

But here he was – making sure the cake was delicious and getting ready to sit down with these creatures and share some tea.

Jeraine shook his head.

Life really was amazing.

And in that moment, he understood what Lucifer was saying. His own soul had been damaged by self rage from his addiction, his feelings of inferiority to his sister, and his abusive relationship with himself.

Lucifer looked up at him. He held up his tea up and nodded.

“To you, Jeraine Smith,” Lucifer said.

“To Jeraine!” Hades and Abi said.

Somewhere deep inside him, he felt some teeny-tiny portion of his soul move toward healing. It felt so good that he promised himself to try to stop the self-rage that injured his soul.

“Come, share tea with us,” Abi said.

Jeraine brought the cake to the table and sat down next to his friend and mother of all, Abi.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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