Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Five Hundred and Fifty-seven : Needing comfort


Wednesday early morning — 1:15 a.m.

Blane looked at his watch.

It was late.

Nelson had said he should come by when he was done at the hospital. And, anyway, Wyn would be up soon and need his bottle.

He winced at his own rationalization.

He really wanted — needed, maybe — was comfort.

He never got used to how life could change in a moment. One moment Sandy was trying to get the kids to dinner and the next she was intubated.

No one beside himself, Fin, and Tanesha knew how close she’d come to dying right there at the bottom of the stairs. They’d seen Abi grab Sandy’s soul from the air and push it back into her body.

Fin and Tanesha were fairies.

His new “senses” were newly forming from his work with Abi.

He watched in dumbstruck awe as Abi stepped between the seconds to make this happen. As far as everyone else was concerned, she was sitting in the dining room serving dinner.

“It was okay to want some comfort,” he reasoned.

He would go home to Heather, but he knew that she had stashed Sandy somewhere so that her body could heal. He groaned at himself and put his key in the lock of Nelson’s front door. The door swung soundlessly open.

He took one step insid,e and Mari the fairy appeared. She held her finger to her lips and gestured. He followed her up to Nelson’s living area. The Wild Bunch of toddlers were asleep on the couch and the floor. His son, Mack, was lying on his side with his best friend, Maggie, in front of him. Lying on the couch, Jabari’s eyes opened when he entered the room. Blane put his hand on the boy’s stomach, and the boy went back to sleep.

Nelson’s father Pierre was sound asleep, leaned back in a recliner. Sandy’s daughter, Rachel Ann, was lying against him. Jackie and Ivy were on the other end of the couch.

His son, Wyn, was … Blane didn’t see him. He gave Mari a questioning look.

Mari gestured toward the kitchen with her thumb. He followed her into the kitchen.

“What are you doing here?” Blane whispered.

“I’m still protecting Nelson,” Mari said.

“If you are protecting him from sick toddlers, you have failed miserably,” Blane said with a grin.

Missing his joke, Mari shook her head at Blane.

“His crazy family is still in play,” Mari said. “Pierre thinks that he’s taken care of it.”

Mari shook her head.

“Igh,” Blane said. “Where is Wyn?”

“Wyn’s with Nelson,” Mari said. “We ran out of space out here. Nelson said that Wyn eats in the middle of the night. We didn’t want to wake the others.”

“He’s still pretty little,” Blane said.

“He’s not that little,” Mari said with a pointed shrug.

“Point taken,” Blane said.

“There is no biological imperative for humans or fairies to sleep through the night,” Mari said. “The little Olympian God is going to be hard to convince that he should do what you want him to do.”

“He is very sweet,” Blane said. “Neither boy is defiant. I’ve never seen either one of them turn down a request from us. They like to get along with everyone.”

“Family trait,” Mari grinned.

“Hedone?” Blane nodded.

“Yours,” Mari said.

Blane chuckled in earnest. With his laugh, a door opened off the kitchen. Nelson came out carrying Wyn. Nelson’s hair was mussed and he was wearing the flannel pajamas that Heather had given him. Blane held out his arms, and Nelson set Wyn into his arms.

“Da,” Wyn said in a croak. “Froot, Da. Hot.”

“Poor Wyn,” Blane said.

Blane put his son’s head on his chest. Wyn pressed his warm body into his father’s chest. Blane could smell Nelson’s fancy shampoo on his hair. He looked at Nelson.

“You bathed him?” Blane asked.

“All of them,” Nelson said. “The little ones went in the bath together. Easy. Drying them off was a trick , but Papa helped.”

“Not Mari?” Blane asked.

“She was helping Abi get Honey walking again,” Nelson said.

Nelson gave a quick shake of his head and his eyes went to the ceiling to indicate that he had no idea what that meant. Blane gave an almost imperceptible nod of his head.

“I’m glad you’ve come,” Nelson said.

He reached out to touch Blane’s arm.

“I knew Wyn needed his bottle,” Blane said.

“Liar,” Mari said with a snort.

Shaking her head, she walked out of the kitchen leaving them looking at each other.

“It’s hard to …” Blane said.

“Ask for what you need?” Nelson asked.

“To need,” Blane said. He sighed. “Anything.”

Nelson nodded. He leaned forward and kissed Blane’s cheek.

“I’m glad you’re here,” Nelson said. “What can I do?”

“Hun-gy,” Wyn said. “Mommy?”

“She’s in Olympia,” Blane said.

“’S okay, Da,” Wyn said. “Love you.”

Wyn patted Blane’s chest. The wise old man faded, and the baby Wyn whimpered. Wyn pressed his face into Blane’s chest.

“Val said that she brought …” Blane said.

Nelson pulled a bottle of breast milk with a little oatmeal out of the refrigerator. He made quick work of warming it. Wyn took the bottle and settled down in Blane’s arms.

“Come on,” Nelson said.

He gestured to the room he’d come from. Blane followed him into what turned out to be a small guest room off the kitchen. Nelson sat down with his back against the backboard of the bed. He patted the space in front of him.

“What about Wyn?” Blane asked.

“You can hold him,” Nelson said. “I’ll hold you.”

Nelson shrugged. Blane felt his internal homophobia rise.

What if Wyn saw them? What if his son knew that he was gay?

His self-rage grew.

Why am I like this? God, I’d give a million dollars just to be … I can’t have what I want. I can’t be who I am. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t. And this gorgeous man who says he loves me wants to help me and I …

As if she was standing next to him, he heard Heather’s voice:

“What will happen if your son sees Nelson holding you when you’re in pain? Then our son will see love in action. He will know that comfort is available — for him and for you. He will know that his father is loved, that his father loves. I can’t imagine anything better for him to see — every day, all the time.”

His self-rage drained out of him. He took a breath and then another.

Nelson patted the bed again.

Holding Wyn against him, Blane crawled across the bed until he was sitting near Nelson. Nelson reached out and pulled Blane backward. Blane set Wyn down on the bed between his legs.

“Lean back,” Nelson said.

Blane did as he was told. Nelson wrapped his arms around Blane. After a moment, a tear ran down Blane’s face.

“What is it?” Nelson asked in a soft voice.

“Just life,” Blane said. “So fragile.”

“Sandy?” Nelson asked.

“So crazy,” Blane said. “Stupid. And she almost … She almost …”

Blane let out a sob. Nelson kissed Blane’s cheek. Blane leaned into Nelson. They lay like that until they fell asleep.

Nelson’s father tapped on the door at six in the morning. Pierre opened the door.

“Your alarm is going off and I don’t know how to turn it off,” Pierre said, in French. “I have tried.”

“Oui, Papa,” Nelson said.

Blane leaned forward so that Nelson could get out.

“I’ll take the child,” Pierre said continuing in French.

Unsure of what he meant, Blane blinked at him. Pierre held out his hands and leaned over the bed. Blane picked Wyn up from the bed. Blane set Wyn into Pierre’s hands.

“Baby Wyn needs a diaper change,” Pierre said with a dramatic whiff indicating that Wyn smelled.

“I’ll get …” Blane said

“I would advise you to take a shower while you can,” Pierre said. “These babies will need breakfast and medication. They are still very sick. Dionne will be here at seven.”

“In English?” Blane asked.

“You will need to learn,” Pierre said in English while wagging his finger at Blane. “No love of my son’s will be non-French speaking.”

Blane grinned at Pierre.

“Go shower,” Pierre said. “There is a shower in there. The children are ill and need food. The nurse will be here at seven.”

Blane nodded.

“Come on, Wyn,” Pierre said. “Let’s get you a new diaper.”

Pierre gave Blane a nod and pulled the door closed.

“That went well,” Blane said to himself.

He went to shower.


Wednesday morning — 6:15 a.m.

For the last several hours, Nash had been staring at the ceiling of Seth O’Malley’s den.

He knew that it was his fault that Sandy had fallen down the stairs. No, it was his fault that she’d nearly died! He sighed.

How can you love someone and hurt them so badly?

And the way his father had looked at him?

A tear ran down the boy’s face.

The last time they’d fought over his phone, his father had told him that if he didn’t like their rules, he could go live with his mother. His mother was dying to have him come to live with her — and get her hands on child support for him.

He swallowed hard.

He’d argued that Sandy was his mother. His dad had said: “If that’s the case, then why don’t you follow Sandy’s rules? Why don’t you trust that she’s doing this for your own good?”

Why? Why? Why?

He had no answer to any of the “Why’s”.

Why hadn’t he just left his phone and gone to dinner?

He heard movement in the kitchen. Using his nose, he tried to do what his martial arts teacher told him to do — identify the person through his senses.

He had no idea who was there.

He was drawn out of his blankets by the idea that there was someone to keep him from his dark, desperate thoughts. He crept passed Teddy, who was sleeping on the floor next to him. A lighter sleeper than even Nash, Noelle opened her eyes and leaned up on her elbows.

Nash put his finger to his lips and whispered, “It’s early. Go back to sleep.”

“Any news?” Noelle asked.

Nash shook his head. Noelle nodded and lay back on the couch.

“I’ll come and get you if I hear anything,” Nash said.

Noelle nodded. Nash went past the couch and across the ten feet or so between the den and the kitchen.

No one seemed to be in the kitchen.

He was so disappointed that he nearly cried. Then Delphie stood up. She closed a low cabinet and set the electric teapot on the counter. She lifted the kettle and turned to fill it with water from the filter.

She startled.

“Sorry,” Nash said in a low whisper.

His mood continued its plunge.

“I didn’t see you. That’s all,” Delphie said with a smile. “Would you like some tea?”

Nash gave a slow nod. Delphie filled the pot from the filtered water tap in the sink and turned it on. She took a few quick steps and hugged Nash tight. Nash gasped a breath but she held on. After a few minutes, she stepped away. She set out two cups and placed tea bags in them. When the pot clicked off, she poured the water into the cups.

Seth’s father, Bernie, appeared with a stained mug that looked like it had been made by a child. He held it out, and Delphie filled it with warm water and a tea bag. He set the mug on the cabinet and took half-and-half from the refrigerator. He set the cream on the counter.

Nash was sure that Bernie hadn’t seen him. Certainly, the elderly man had never spoken to him. The man turned to look at Nash.

“You must feel horrible,” Bernie said, mildly.

Nodding, Nash had to bite his lip to keep from crying.

“I understand,” Bernie said. “I am a man who has always tried my very best. I am also a man who has hurt those who love him the absolute most.”

Nash grunted rather than respond, which made Bernie grin.

“Who made your mug?” Nash asked.

“My son,” Bernie said.

“Seth?” Nash asked with a laugh.

“Saul,” Bernie said looking at the mug. “He made this when he was three. He was an incredible artist, truly magnificent. If you’d like a real treat, ask Seth or Maresol to show you his paintings. That’s his sculpture in the side yard. Don’t tell anyone, but his ashes are buried there too.”

Bernie winked at Nash, and Nash nodded at the seriousness of what Bernie had said. Bernie squinted as if in pain..

“Had he lived, I’m sure he would have risen to the level of the masters,” Bernie said. He looked at Nash. “War will make corpses of us all.”

He touched Nash’s shoulder in a kind way that somehow made Nash feel better.

“I love that book,” Nash said.

“Book?” Bernie asked. “Most boys your age would just have seen the movie!”

“Sandy wouldn’t …” Nash sucked in a breath.

“Let’s watch it together this afternoon,” Bernie said. “Maresol makes the best popcorn. Seth will be playing. Ava’s at work. It’s a perfect time.”

Nash gave him a numb nod.

“Dale and I sometimes dress up when we watch movies,” Bernie said. “Dale says that it’s very popular among young people now. I think it’s a gas! I usually dress up as Gandolf, although last time I dressed up as Wormtongue.”

Bernie laughed. Nash looked at the ninety-something year old. Bernie took out his tea bag, liberally doctored his tea, set the half-and-half in the refrigerator, and walked out of the room. Nash watched him go. Thinking about Bernie, Nash looked after him.

He startled when he realized that Delphie was standing right in front of him. She grinned.

“Come,” Delphie said. “Let’s sit in the pool house.”

“But it’s so cold out!” Nash said.

“Maresol built a solarium off the south side,” Delphie said. “It’s warm and private. You’ll love it.”

Nash gave her a numb nod, and she smiled. She gave him a metal tin. He tucked the tin under his arm. They walked across the grass in the bracing cold until they reached the pool house.

The pool house had once been a garage behind Seth O’Malley’s father’s home. When his father had broken his hip, Seth had this lap pool put into the ground back here. During her remodel, Maresol had added an apartment for Dale on the mainfloor, remodeled the four upstairs apartments, and added a sun room and green house.

After the frigid cold of the back yard, the air in the pool house was moist and warm. It hit Nash like a wave. For the briefest moment, he felt everything — exhaustion, terror, self-rage, and overwhelm. Then, as he always did, he packed it away. When he looked up, he noticed that Delphie was watching him.

“This way,” Delphie said.

She made the little cackle that used to make him laugh when he was a little boy. He managed to stay glum through one cackle, but the second one had him giggling like a five year old. She smiled at him. They walked past the pool down a hall. Dephie gestured to a door.

“That’s where Dale’s room is,” Delphie said with a nod. “It’s really nice.”

“He showed it to me and Charlie,” Nash nodded. “It was really nice of Maresol to make it.”

“O’Malley wouldn’t have it any other way,” Delphie said.

“Oh?” Nash asked. “He said it was all Maresol.”

“Of course he did,” Delphie said. “But you know how things really are, don’t you Nash?”

The words hit him like a brick wall. He stopped walking.

Truth was that he did know how things really were. He always knew the truth. He could pick it out of the air.

But lately …

“Can you get the door?” Delphie asked.

He had to jog to catch up with her. He opened the glass door and followed her into a kind of greenhouse garden. It wasn’t very big, but the space was used efficiently. Along one wall, there were vegetables — tomatoes and other summer foods. Some plants he recognized and some he didn’t. There were orange, lemon, and lime trees scattered around. The citrus trees were all in bloom.

“Who’s the gardener?” Nash asked.

“Me,” Delphie said with a grin. “And Bernie. Maresol helped me set this up. Bernie hadn’t had a garden in almost forty years. We tend it together. Now that you know about it, I’m sure you can take a shift.”

Nash nodded.

“It sounds like …”

“Bees,” Delphie said. “Yes, they have access to the plants in here. There’s a hive in the wall over there.”

“Does it make good honey?” Nash asked.

“Really good,” Delphie said with a nod.

“Are there pot plants?” Nash asked.

“In the back,” Delphie said. “I don’t use it, but Bernie finds it helpful for his aches and pains.”

“O’Malley?” Nash asked.

“He hates the stuff,” Delphie said.

“That’s good because he’s an addict,” Nash said.

Nash knew all about addiction and addicts from the classes and groups he and Noelle went to because both of their parents were addicts. Delphie gave Nash a mild look.

“Let’s sit over here,” Delphie said.

She gestured to a couple of chaise loungers that looked out onto the trees that separated O’Malley’s yard from his neighbors. For the first time, Nash noticed the garden built around the statue on the side yard. He realized that it was a memorial garden to both of Seth’s brothers.

“And his mother,” Delphie said, finishing his though.

“O’Malley is a nicer than I would have ever given him credit,” Nash said. “Sweeter.

Delphie nodded. They sat in silence for a minute.

“I can hear something …” Nash said.

“Fish,” Delphie said. “The vegetables are a kind of aquaponic. There is a fish tank with Tilapia. They live in a big tank at the end. Their water fertilizes the plants.

“Wow,” Nash said.

“It’s very high tech,” Delphie said. “And also something done thousands of years ago.”

“Really?” Nash asked.

“Really,” Delphie said.

“How’s your heart doing?” Nash asked.

“I’m well,” Delphie said.

“Any word about those fairy queens?” Nash asked.

Delphie just looked at him.

“That’s not really why we’re here, is it?” Delphie asked.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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