Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Five Hundred and Forty-six : Forward facing


Friday night — 10:05 p.m.

Private ceremonial grounds, Navajo reservation

“Thanks for letting me know,” Gando Peaches said into the satellite phone. “And really, Jake, thanks for the last week.”

“See you in a few weeks,” Jacob said.

“Yeah,” Gando said. “That will be good.”

“Nah,” Jacob said. “You’re going to be fine. You can always call if you have any trouble. We’re not so far away.”

“Thanks, man,” Gando said.

“Oh, Mike said to tell you …” Jacob said.

“Fuck off, Ind’n,” Gando and Jacob said together.

Laughing, Gando hung up the call. He looked up. Hecate was sitting across the fire circle from him. She was holding a stick and poking at the joyous fire she’d created. The golden-orange light of the fire cast one side of her face in light while the rest of her face was in shadow.

Unfamiliar with telephones, she didn’t look up when he finished his call. He was slightly offended the first time she’d done this. Didn’t she want to know what was said? Didn’t she want to be included in his conversation? She’d laughed away his concerns.

“You have a lot to teach me, young one,” Hecate said. “But you may have your own conversations and thoughts. I will never ask. I will never listen in.”

“Why?” He’d asked.

“If I listened in on everything said to or by a human, even one I care about, I would go mad,” Hecate had said. “I would rather listen to the wind, the dance of the stars, the echoes across the water. This planet chants a precious song. It is my preference to hear her melody.”

She’d shrugged.

“Would you prefer that I listen in?” Hecate had asked. “Hedone tells me that there are women today who check their partners phones for texts and other infidelities. How do they have time to listen to the melody of the sun? The decadent sound of the movement of the planets that resonate in the song of your own human heart?”

His heart had squeezed in a way that he’d never felt before.

“If you need this, you will not ever have it from me,” Hecate had said, mildly.

“I don’t need it,” Gando had said. “I’m just … acculturated to it.”

Feeling his eyes upon her now, Hecate looked up from the fire. Her curious eyes scanned his face.

“Why did you laugh?” Hecate asked.

“Mike,” Gando said.

“My brother?” Hecate asked.

“He …” Gando pointed at her. “You said you didn’t listen.”

She gave him a broad smile.

“You laugh every time before you turn off your conversation,” Hecate said.

“I do?” Gando asked.

She gave a quick nod.

“What has my brother done?” Hecate asked.

“He tells me to ‘fuck off,’” Gando said. She gave him a confused look. “It’s a swear. He …”

“He has my father’s aggression with his human humor,” Hecate said with a smile. “I don’t know my father’s other family. I am looking forward to getting to know them.”

Gando felt a blanket of sorrow come over him.

“What is it?” Hecate asked.

“I want you for myself,” Gando said. He lifted a shoulder in a shrug. “Every relationship I have been in — since I was a boy, really — I have been the one who felt smothered. ‘Get a life of your own,’ I’d say. ‘You cannot count on me as your sole source of love.’ Or always, ‘I need you to have things in your life that you love as much or more than you love me.’”

He paused, watching her watch his face. There was something about her look that felt compelling. He felt her eyes on his lips.

It hit him out of the blue.

He’d never even kissed her. Yet here he was, feeling sad that he would not be her entire universe. He laughed at himself. She gave him a soft smile.

“I don’t know what we will have,” Hecate said. “I …”

“Do you want children?” Gando surprised himself by the question.

“I cannot have children,” Hecate said.

“Oh,” Gando said. “I can’t have children either. Accident. Military.”

Hecate nodded.

“I saw … uh … antiqua mater saum,” Hecate said.

Gando translated the Latin to ancient mother.

“Abi?” Gando asked. “We call her ‘Áltsé Asdzáá’. First woman. In the Diné Bahamé. Uh, the Diné story of creation and the people.”

“Your native language is very similar to Abi’s original language,” Hecate said with a nod. “It would make sense if you were her first people.”

“You were speaking of Abi?” Gando asked.

“She was unable to have children,” Hecate said. “Most of her life. She has children with her fairy prince. She believes it’s fairy magic so …”

Hecate shrugged.

“My father is the only Titan who has had children since … well, many, many thousands of years,” Hecate said. “So, I don’t know.”

Gando shrugged.

“Did you want children?” Hecate asked.

“I thought that, if I found the right person, I would adopt children,” Gando said. “There are Diné orphans who could use a loving home. They can only be adopted within the tribe, so there is a great need.”

Hecate nodded.

“Do you …?” Gando asked.

He was so ashamed of his need for her that he had the urge to throw himself onto the fire. He could not meet her eyes.

“Are you asking me if I can have intercourse with a human male?” Hecate asked. “I can. Have you heard the story of the women who have so much intercourse with a human male that the male dies?”

Keeping his eyes on the fire, he gave a quick nod.

“That’s a story of my mother,” Hecate said with a smile.

“Oh.” Gando’s head jerked up to look at Hecate. “Really?”

“Most certainly,” Hecate said with a laugh.

He laughed. He looked across the fire, and she grinned at him.

“Are you monogamous?” Gando asked. “Or is that a human thing?”

“Titans are monogamous, in general,” Hecate said. “There weren’t human beings when I was a child. We form long lasting connections with the right people. Both of my parents have done this. My father has always been loyal to my mother, still is, even after she let him go. He deeply loves his current wife, Anjelika.”

Gando swallowed hard. He wasn’t sure why, but he felt like he wanted to be her “right person.”

“Why do you ask me this?” Hecate asked.

“I … uh …” Gando said.

For all that he was and all that he wasn’t, Gando Peaches was brave, even with his heart. He girded himself for possible rejection and continued.

“I would like to spend what is left of my life, as much as I can, with you,” Gando said.

Hecate raised her eyebrows with surprise.

“That surprises you?” Gando asked.

Hecate nodded.

“Why?” Gando asked.

“No human has ever said that to me, I guess,” Hecate said. “I am not the one who is usually ‘wanted.’”

Shocked, Gando raised his eyebrows in surprise.

“Feared. Hated. Loathed for being powerful,” Hecate nodded. “I …”

She caught his eye, and they looked directly at each other.

“I cannot promise to spend every moment of every day …” Hecate said.

Gando waved his hand.

“I wouldn’t tolerate that,” Gando said. “I grew up with strong independent women like my grandmother and my sister. I like powerful women. Admire them. Trust them.”

Hecate nodded. She didn’t say anything for a long moment. He thought that maybe this was her way of turning him down.

She looked back up at him.

“I will be your life mate, Gando Peaches,” Hecate said.

“Do I need to ask your father?” Gando asked.

“Perses,” Hecate said.

Perses arrived to stand next to his daughter.

“Daughter?” Perses asked with surprise. Seeing Gando, he hopped over the fire to say “hello.” “How are you, Ganny?”

“I find myself wanting to spend my human life with your daughter,” Gando said.

Perses laughed. He looked at Hecate.

“You remember me telling you about a human I met who I wanted you to meet?” Perses asked.

“Many times,” Hecate said. She looked at Gando. “My father has been trying to get me out of isolation for a long time.”

“I have told you about Mike’s friend,” Perses said. “The one I thought you would like?”

He nodded to Gando and then to Hecate.

“Be happy,” he said and disappeared.

“That’s it?” Gando asked.

“That’s it,” Hecate said.

“What about your mother?” Gando asked.

“I’m not sure where my mother is, actually,” Hecate said. “She is lost to the world. Many Titans have been killed. My father and I were informed that she was killed. My heart tells me that she lives somewhere — safe and free. But it’s possible that this is a fantasy.”

Gando gave her a small nod.

“I thought of asking the Oracle,” Hecate said. “Surely she knows. The truth is that I don’t want to know. I’d rather imagine that she is free and safe.”

Hecate gave him a small smile.

“And you?” Hecate asked.

“My grandmother may want a ceremony,” Gando said.

“Your grandmother may have whatever she wishes,” Hecate said.

“I’m in the middle of this new business and …” Gando said.

“I just came back from more than a thousand years hermitage,” Hecate said. “Hedone will never tolerate me hiding out, even in this more precious and sacred spot. You do not wish to enrage Hedone.”

He raised his eyebrows in surprise, and she laughed. Hecate got to her feet.

“There are some rules,” Hecate said. “But we can get to those. Would you like to consummate our commitment?”

Gando hopped to his feet. She extended her hand, and he took it. He led her to the soft bedding in the sleep area they’d prepared earlier.


Friday night — 10:05 p.m.

Denver, Colorado

“My own bed,” Jill said. She sighed as she lay down.

Jacob slipped into bed beside her.

“The boys were particularly wild tonight,” Jacob said.

“They have a lot of energy,” Jill said, rolling onto her side.

“From the car ride?” Jacob asked.

“Car ride,” Jill said. “The wild trip through the reservation. I think they glean energy from the sheer beauty of the place. Monument Valley was … incredible.”

“When they’re a little older, we should go camping there,” Jacob said.

“We were supposed to go camping this week,” Jill said, snorting a laugh.

“Okay, okay, I’m an idiot,” Jacob said.

She laughed. He rolled on to his side to look at her.

“Thank you,” he said. He touched her face. “You were so great about caring for the kids and keeping everything smooth so that I could just work.”

“You really did something,” Jill said. “You brought water to people who didn’t have it. I love that you invited the plumbing group and so many of them came.”

“Just having a well doesn’t help anything,” Jacob said. “You have to get it into the house. Erik was great.”

“Wanda was wonderful to be around,” Jill said. “It’s such a treat to see her blossom.”

Jacob nodded. His hand touched her hair and her shoulder before settling on her waist.

“What?” Jill asked.

“I was just thinking that it’s a joy to spend my life with you,” Jacob said. “I get to watch your blossoming grow deeper, more intricate. It’s the joy of my life.”

Jill gave him a soft smile.

“What’s next for you, Mr. Marlowe?” Jill asked.

“Get through the weekend,” Jacob said. “Delphie has a long list of house stuff to get done. It’s going to take all of us to get it done.”

“She needs it done now?” Jill asked.

“Some of it is long overdue,” Jacob said.

Jill grunted.

“I’m also planning to help get the kids ready for their next term,” Jacob said. He shrugged. “You?”

“I need to get ready for my next term at school,” Jill said. “Then it’s boring stuff — shopping for clothes for the kids, stuff like that.”

“Did you have any fun last week?” Jacob asked.

“You mean, did I have fun spending a week with my best friends, my kids, and their kids by a pool in the hot, dry air?” Jill asked. “Dinner under the desert sky? Massages every day? Two pedicure and manicures? Meeting the amazing people who saved your life? Seeing that wonderful part of our country?”

Jacob smiled.

“It was perfect,” Jill said. “Fun to be there with you to support what you were doing. Fun to be there with our kids and our friends. Fun to see Heather and Blane creep forward in their life. Fun to stand up for us, our family, our world. It was … powerful, I guess.”

“And getting back to boring life?” Jacob asked.

“I love my boring life,” Jill said. “Investing in myself, my children, you, our friends, our family. Enjoying the abundance we’ve been given. I keep thinking that things can’t really get better …”

“And then they do,” Jacob said.

Jill smiled at him.

“Boring old life is pretty awesome,” Jill said. She yawned and closed her eyes.

He leaned forward and kissed her.

“Now that’s never boring,” Jill said with a sigh.

He smiled. He was about to say something else when he realized she was asleep. Smiling to himself, he fell asleep.


Friday night — 10:05 p.m.

Denver, Colorado

Heather softly closed the door to the basement apartment they were staying in at the Castle. She took a step in the apartment when Blane came out of the bedroom to greet her. He left the door slightly open so they would hear if Mack or Wyn cried. He helped her out of the backpack she’d been carrying.

Hoping not to wake the kids, they pantomimed whether she needed something to eat. She shook her head. She pointed to the other room and Blane nodded. Tink was in her room. Nodding, she pointed to the bathroom. She used the bathroom, changed into her sleeping clothes, and came out into the living area. Blane had pulled the bed out from the couch. He was in bed reading when she got out of the bathroom.

She grabbed her tablet computer and climbed into the bed. Blane set down his book. They scooted across the bed so that their heads were close. She turned on the tablet and opened the photo gallery.

“This is the one he was working on when I got there,” Heather whispered.

The photo showed a small, ornate sword. It was crusted with priceless jewels on the hilt. The blade was delicate and viciously sharp.

“It’s called the ‘Fairy Princess,’” Heather said. “I guess there’s a great controversy among the swords masters whether it exists. Neither Pierre nor his father believed it existed.”

“It’s very beautiful,” Blane said. “Why is it so controversial?”

“It’s imbedded with some kind of life and death curse,” Heather said. “The blade gives the owner near immortality while ensuring death to anyone the blade is used against.”

“Wow,” Blane said.

“Mari said that it was a bride present from a minor God,” Heather said. “Shiva killed him for using this level of magic for a weapon.”

“But not her?” Blane asked.

“Edie worked it out with Shiva,” Heather said. “It wasn’t Mari’s fault that this God had the blade created.”

“But she still owns it,” Blane said.

“That’s part of the agreement,” Heather said. “Shiva can call on Mari and the blade whenever, if ever, he needs it.”

“Has he needed it?” Blane asked.

“I don’t think so,” Heather said. “I’m not sure. I have some vague memory of this whole drama when it happened. It was a long time ago.”

Blane nodded.

“What was Nelson doing with it?” Blane asked.

“He said it needed tuning,” Heather said. “I’m not sure what that is besides sharpening. Mari seemed happy with the results.”

Heather clicked the photo and it switched to another picture of a sword.

“This is Edie’s sword,” Heather said. “He thought it was called the ‘Head remover’ or something like that. It’s named in Old Norse, so …”

Heather shrugged.

“He said that this blade was known for taking the heads of anyone it approached,” Heather said. “While I was there, Edie came to get the sword. She told him that she hadn’t taken a head in a long, long time. He wasn’t convinced. He said that the very essence of the blade was to remove heads.”

Blane shook his head.

“Wow,” Blane said.

“He personalized the blade for Edie,” Heather said. “Added this jewel and colored the hilt to match her colors.”

“It’s beautiful and terrifying,” Blane said.

Heather nodded.

“Where do the jewels come from?” Blane asked.

“Some family collection,” Heather said with a shrug. “They are made specifically to go on swords.”

Blane nodded.

“How was going through the house?” Heather asked.

While Tink watched the kids, Blane and Jacob had spent the evening going through Nelson’s home to see if it might work for combining their families. Mari had gone with them so that she could give them an illusion of what might be possible. Heather and Jill had hung out with Nelson.

“Good,” Blane said. He looked at Heather. “There’s plenty of space. Nelson and Tres can have their own spaces. We’ll have our space. We’re not sure if we should have the shared space on the first floor or the second. I’m sure Jill or Jake will ask you about it in the next month or so.”

“Pros to first floor?” Heather asked.

“Easier,” Blane said. “We can create private access to the apartments so no one can track who comes and goes. More private that way.”

“Cons to first floor?” Heather asked.

“Our set up is not exactly ‘normal,’” Blane said. “We might want to have a more public space on the first floor, keeping the shared floors away from view.”

Heather nodded.

“I’m just not sure that… well, are we sure that we’re not moving too fast? I mean, we just started …” Blane said.

Heather touched his face.

“What does that mean?” Blane asked.

Heather sighed.

“I think that we have to live — forward facing,” Heather said. “We can’t hide out in this apartment in the Castle forever. It will take at least six months to rehabilitate his house, and then we need to do the interior design. Nine months from now, we’ll be doing endless shopping trips for refrigerators.”

“We have time,” Blane said.

“We have time,” Heather said.

“What if it’s not right?” Blane asked.

“Then we don’t move in,” Heather said, with a shrug. “We figure out something else.”

Blane looked off in the near distance.

“What is it?” Heather asked.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Blane said. “Nothing really. I think I’m so used to there being the next battle, the next trauma that I expect it around every corner.”

“Ah,” Heather said. She grinned at him. “One day at a time.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Blane said. “I’ll tell you this — I am happy to be home.”

“Me too,” Heather said.

Blane put his head on Heather’s shoulder and fell asleep. Heather read her novel for a while before falling asleep.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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