Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Five Hundred and Sixty : Good friends


Wednesday afternoon — 3:42 p.m

“Isn’t he the one who raped the daughter of …” Jill asked.

Jill looked at Tanesha and she said, “Demeter. Tricked her into having to stay with him by feeding her pomegranate seeds.”

“That’s what I said,” Jeraine said. “He groaned and dropped his head into his hands. Lucifer shook his head and laughed. Then Hades asked me if I had a mother-in-law. I just shrugged because Yvonne is such a joy but …”

“That’s a story that Demeter tells,” Heather said as she walked into the small family room next to Sandy’s hospital room where the girlfriends has camped out in. “Gods know why anyone believes it.”

“Heather!” Jill and Tanesha said in near unison. They got up to hug their friend. “We were kicked out because they thought …”

“Sandy should be awake,” Heather said with a nod. “It’s going to take some time, but she’s going to be okay.”

They’d been scolded so many times by the nurses that they didn’t dare cheer. Instead, they beamed at Heather.

“Jeraine met Hades and Lucifer,” Tanesha said to Heather. “They kept calling him Jeraine Smith.”

Heather grinned.

“He was too intimidated to correct them,” Tanesha said.

The women shot laughing looked at Jeraine.

“Okay, okay,” Jeraine said. “I dare any of you to stand in front of those two and not be intimidated.”

“They are powerful,” Heather said with a nod.

“Will you tell us about his wife?” Tanesha asked.

“The story Demeter tells is that Persephone can only escape the dark for half of the year,” Heather said. “That’s they spring and summer are only half of the year.”

“On one side of the globe,” Jill said.

“Exactly,” Heather said. “The Greeks were world travelers. They knew better, they just …”

Heather shrugged.

“Let the mother have her story,” Heather said.

“What’s the real one?” Jill asked.

“You know about Kronos eating his children?” Heather asked.

“Zeus is supposed to have freed them,” Tanesha said with a shake of his head. “I can’t imagine that man tying his shoes without help.”

“No one really knows what happened,” Heather said. “It is what Zeus says and he was the only one there to tell the story. Anyway, Hades is the eldest and the last freed. When he came out, he wanted to travel the world. See what he had missed. He is handsome, powerful, and deeply kind.”

“He has the power of truly kind people,” Jeraine said with a nod. “You just want to be decent around him.”

Heather nodded.

“While he was traveling, he ran into Demeter and Persephone,” Heather said. “Persephone traveled with her mother as a child. Her mother lived a rather lonely life, and Persephone is lovely. It was really nice for Demeter to have her daughter with her.”

“Seems kind of selfish to me,” Jill said.

“That’s because you have a powerful daughter,” Heather said. “You’ve chosen to let her thrive as herself rather than keep her love and power with you. Demeter didn’t want to give her daughter up.

“Anyway, Hades and Persephone met in a field.” Heather nodded. “They just fell for each other. Hard. Demeter was afraid that her daughter might leave her. They snuck around for a while but Demeter caught them. One of the reasons Hades took the honor of caring for the souls of the dead was to get away from her wrath. Of course, Persephone became so despondent without her lover that Demeter relented.”

“Those pomegranate seeds?” Jeraine asked. “He looked at me and said, ‘It wasn’t pomegranate seeds I implanted in her’ and then laughed.”

“They have children,” Heather said. “Most of them live in the world. If you’d like, you can meet them. They are as lovely as their parents are.”

The women and Jeraine fell silent thinking about the story they’d heard.

“Did he think Zeus was crazy?” Tanesha asked Jeraine.

“Oh yea,” Jeraine said. “I said something about Zeus raping everyone and he said, ‘I can’t imagine how he did that from the Sea of Amber.’ Then he and Lucifer laughed.”

“Everyone knew that Zeus was a problem,” Heather said with a nod.

“Why do you think the stories are so different from what happened?” Jill asked.

“Stories are stories,” Heather said. “It’s only in modern time that we confuse stories with fact. Look at the news now. We get stories about facts in newspapers and on the television. Stories about facts are not facts. They are carefully edited to make them interesting.”

Heather shrugged.

“What in life makes sense?” Heather asked. “Look at Sandy’s situation. Nothing about it makes any sense.”

The women and Jeraine nodded. Jeraine poured more tea from the thermos he’d brought.

“Life is life,” Heather said. “We’re not meant to understand it all. We are meant to live it.”

Lost in thought, no one responded. A few minutes later, the nurse peeked inside the room.

“She’s awake,” the nurse said. “She’s very weak. Is her husband here?”

“We sent him home to rest,” Jill said.

The nurse looked at Heather and said, “Oh, hello.”

Heather smiled.

“Do I know you?” the nurse asked. “I feel like I know you.”

“I get that a lot,” Heather said. “I’m Heather Lipson.”

“Nice to meet you. I met your husband,” the nurse said.

“Blane,” Heather said.

“Nice guy,” the nurse said. “Sandy did ask for her husband. When she heard that he had gone home, she said, ‘My friends are here’ with great confidence. You must be good friends.”

“The best,” Jill said.

The nurse looked at Jeraine.

“Not offended,” Jeraine said.

“Okay, two at a time,” the nurse said. “For five minutes, no more. Then she must rest. She was very near death. It’s going to take time for her to come back fully. So don’t wear her out now.”

“Of course,” Heather said. She nodded to Tanesha and Jill. “You two can go. I’ll call Aden.”

“I can call Aden,” Jeraine said. “Maybe the nurse will …”

The women turned to look at the nurse.

“Oh okay,” the nurse said, a little intimidated. “But do not upset her. Only happy, joyous faces.”

“Of course,” Jill said.

The nurse led them into the private ICU where Sandy was staying, and Jeraine went to call Aden.


Wednesday afternoon — 4:17 p.m.

“Did you hear something?” Noelle looked up when Nash came in the room at Seth O’Malley’s house.

She and Teddy had been lying around in the den reading old mystery novels.

“Dad called the house,” Nash said. “Sandy’s awake. They think she’ll make a full recovery. He said that we should expect that it will take a …”

Nash’s voice caught but he continued, “ … long time. A long time.”

“That’s wonderful news,” Noelle said.

His eyes filled with tears, Nash nodded. He cleared his throat.

“Listen,” Nash said. “I wanted to say … well …”

He had spent the last few hours preparing what he would say to them. Now that he was there, the words just seemed too dumb. He looked down.

“What’s going on?” Teddy asked.

“Ihaveaproblemwithmyphone,” Nash said the words as if they were one word. “Addiction.Sorry.Sosorry.”

“Tell us something we don’t know,” Noelle said with a sniff.

Nash looked up at her. He blinked and then blinked again.

“You knew?” Nash asked.

Both Teddy and Noelle nodded.

“I have struggled with it myself,” Teddy said. He nodded. “Sandy fell because she turned to look at me.”

“What?” Nash asked.

“I was joking or … maybe not,” Teddy said.

“Sandy turned when Teddy took his phone back,” Noelle said.

“That’s why she fell,” Teddy said.

“No, it was me,” Nash said. “She was chasing after me.”

“It was both of us. Combined,” Teddy said. “I didn’t mean for her to get hurt.”

I didn’t mean for Sandy to get hurt,” Nash said, his hand pressed against his chest.

“But she did,” Noelle said. “Is that a consequence you can live with?”

Nash’s eyes welled with tears. He gave a barely audible, “No.”

“I feel the same way,” Teddy said. “It’s just hard. I tell myself that I keep the phone because Dad’s in the military and my sister’s not all that well and … But mostly I use it to play games and …”

Teddy’s eyes flicked to look at the wall. No one said anything for a long moment.

“We’ve decided to do what Charlie does,” Noelle said.

“Not carry a phone,” Nash said with a sigh.

“Charlie has a phone,” Noelle said. “He just has a pay as you go phone.”

Nash looked up at Noelle.

“I don’t think that would work for me either,” Nash said. “I’d just probably blow through it really fast and …”

“I wasn’t sure for myself,” Teddy said.

Nash nodded.

“I haven’t told Nadia,” Nash said. He took a breath and let it out. “I have to do what’s best for me. And … I don’t talk to her that much anyway.”

Nash gave a determined nod. Teddy got up, and the boys hugged.

“I have to find other things to do,” Nash said.

“That’s why we were reading these books,” Noelle said. “Seth had thousands of them. Maresol said we can read them as long as we don’t mess them up. So we’re being careful.”

“How are they?” Nash asked.

“Crazy,” Teddy said at the same time Noelle said, “Like little museums.”

Teddy looked at Noelle.

“The books are from the 1940s and 1950s,” Noelle said. “They are like looking at a museum of that time.”

“It’s a lot like today,” Teddy said.

“But really different,” Noelle said. “I bet you’d like them.”

“Did Dad say if we can see Sandy?” Nash asked.

“Not for a while,” Noelle said. “They are restricting her visitors to adults. Dad said that they get a few minutes at a time and that she’s mostly asleep.”

“So we just have to fill up today,” Nash said.

Noelle nodded.

“I don’t know how I’ll ever learn Ukrainian,” Nash said.

“You were learning on that phone app,” Teddy said.

For a moment, the three teenagers fell silent.

“I apologize,” Bernie said. “I was listening in.”

They looked up. Bernie was dressed in a red robe with a plastic crown on his head. He seemed not to notice his attire.

“I didn’t mean to eaves drop,” Bernie said. “I came to see if you’d like to watch the movie with Dale and me.”

He gave the teens a broad smile.

“I am King Theoden,” Bernie said. “Want to watch?”

“I would,” Teddy said.

“Who will you be, young Theodore?” Bernie asked.

“I was thinking of being Legolas,” Teddy said.

“Great choice,” Bernie said. “And the lass?”

“Eowyn,” Noelle said. “I like how strong she is. Plus, Ava’s sister is called ‘Eowyn.’”

“Indeed she is,” Bernie said. “Another good choice.”

He turned to look at Nash. In slow Ukrainian, he said, “Any you, Master Nash?”

Nash blinked and blinked again.

“You know Ukrainian?” Nash asked in Ukrainian.

“I know a number of languages,” Bernie said, returning to English. “My Ukrainian is a little rusty but it worked fine when we were there a while ago.”

Bernie winked at Nash.

“You know in my day, we used to rely on learning things from people, not machines,” Bernie said.

“Oh,” Nash said. “Would you mind helping me?”

“It would be my pleasure,” Bernie said. “Seth told me about those dark arrows and the lovely Nadia. I knew her father.”

Nash looked up at Bernie.

“He was an evil sod,” Bernie said. “But, his choice of a wife was brilliant. Nadia was a lovely child. I haven’t seen her in a long while, but I have every confidence that she’s an amazing adult.”

“She’s …” Nash said and blushed.

Seeing Nash’s reaction, Bernie put his hand on the boy’s shoulder.

“We’ll get you speaking Ukrainian in no time,” Bernie said.

“Thanks,” Nash said, his voice cracking with emotion.

“Now, onto more pressing matters,” Bernie said. “What would you like to be today?”

“Can I be ‘Boromir’?” Nash asked.

“Of course,” Bernie said. “Might I ask why?”

“I like that he was never really affected by the ring,” Nash said. “I mean, in the movie, he more does his duty than being under its influence.”

“Boromir is one of the few incorruptible characters in the book,” Bernie said.

“I’d like to be that,” Nash said. “Incorruptible.”

“Then we shall talk about how to do that,” Bernie said. “All with time. You know, I heard your talk about giving up your phones.”

“I nearly killed Sandy,” Nash said.

“Hmm,” Bernie said. “I will tell you that one way to fill time enjoyably is to learn new things. I can teach you piano or the violin. If you ask really nicely, Maresol might teach you some of what she knows about cooking. My son is a walking encyclopedia of murder and mayhem. He can talk your ear off about solving cases, but more than that — he really knows his villains. Dale is an incredible young man. He can tell you all kinds of interesting things. He also had a problem with phones for a while.”

Bernie nodded.

“I want to know about Chi Chui,” Teddy said.

“Let’s see if we can get Seth to talk about it with us,” Bernie said.

He looked at Teddy and then at Nash.

“People are our greatest resource,” Bernie said. “Those phones only give you a sense of being connected. They are not a substitute for actual human connections. That’s how they are like drugs or alcohol. Drugs and alcohol substitute for the feeling of being connected. Soon all you have is your drug or alcohol.”

He nodded.

“Or phone,” Bernie said. “Seth knows this first hand. He can talk to you about it. But if you really want to give up your addiction …”

Both Nash and Teddy nodded. Noelle nodded in support.

“Then you need to fill your life with real connections,” Bernie said. “That’s people, knowledge, art, exercise, joy, tragedy — life is big and wonderful. If you want to beat addiction, you must open yourself to the glory and pain of life.”

The boys nodded.

“You’re going to be with us until your mom is well,” Bernie said. “Let’s see if we can’t make a stab at changing things a bit.”

“We have to go back to school tomorrow,” Noelle said.

“That gives us evenings and mornings,” Bernie said. “We’re going to have so much fun.”

When the children gave him a worried look, he laughed.

“But first, we need to get you dressed,” Bernie said. “Come along!”

He moved across the den.

“We have our costumes in here.” He opened a non-descript trunk. “Take what you like. I’m going to start the popcorn.”

Teddy was on his knees looking at the amazing things inside the trunk. Nash was standing over the trunk ogling the odd clothing.

“Where did you get this stuff?” Noelle asked.

“Here and there,” Bernie said mildly. “Your brother, Charlie, called from work. He’s going to join us midway. Tink went to the Castle to see her friend, Ivy. I guess Ivy’s been ill.”

“The toddlers have strep throat,” Noelle said. “Ivy caught it too.”

“Good that she’s taking care of herself,” Bernie said. He gave them a wide smile. “We start in fifteen minutes!”

Smiling at the children, he went into the kitchen to make popcorn. Nash and Teddy pulled odd clothing items out of the trunk. Noelle picked up a wooden sword for her costume. Teddy found a child’s toy bow. Nash picked up a plastic shield. They were laughing and putting on clothing in no time. Noelle stepped into a tulle skirt.

Bernie watched them for a moment and then smiled. He turned his attention to the popcorn.


Wednesday evening — 6:10 p.m.

Even though he had a key, Blane knocked on Nelson’s door. Nelson opened the door and stepped back to let Blane in. Nelson’s hair was wet, and he was just tying his tie.

“I just need a minute,” Nelson said.

Blane lifted his hands to show that he was carrying two grocery bags.

“I wondered if you might be interested in staying in,” Blane said. “I thought I could cook something, and we could talk.”

Nelson’s cheeks flushed with color and his eyes welled. He gave a quick nod. He let Blane pass into the kitchen.

“You don’t wish to be seen in public with me,” Nelson said, softly. “After what happened at the gym …”

“No. Not at all.” Blane scowled and shook his head. He set the bags on the counter. “I just didn’t want the Baeckcoffe to go to waste.”

Nelson’s mouth fell open.

“My favorite dish. You remembered,” Nelson said. “But it takes two days …”

“I started it yesterday between things,” Blane said. “I thought I’d make it to thank you for taking care of the little ones. Then you talked about going out for dinner and …”

Blane gave Nelson a bright smile. He took two warm baguettes from off the top of the bag and carefully pulled a covered casserole dish out. He turned on Nelson’s oven.

“Surprise!” Blane said when he turned back to Nelson.

Nelson laughed. Blane opened the lid of the covered casserole, and Nelson swooned a bit.

“It’s been cooking all day,” Blane said.

“But Jeraine said that Hades and Lucifer were over! Didn’t they …?” Nelson asked.

“The Castle has a kitchen in every apartment,” Blane said. “I used Sandy and Aden’s. They have the most complete kitchen.”

“Makes sense since Sandy bakes so much,” Nelson said.

“Exactly,” Blane said. “I also made some cookies and a few other things for the kids and Aden. To help.”

“How are the Wild Bunch?” Nelson asked.

“The toddlers are still sick, of course,” Blane said. “Now that Sandy’s out of the wood, their mothers have set up a rotation to care for the children, as well as, Sandy. Plus Val’s back from her trip to LA.”

“Heather set that up?” Nelson asked.

“Jill,” Blane said. “Jill is the hyper-organized one. Well, second to Sandy, that is.”

Nelson nodded.

“The tweens and teens are at O’Malley’s,” Blane said. “I checked in on them this morning when I gave O’Malley a treatment. They are …”

“Upset?” Nelson asked.

“Teenagers,” Blane said with a smile. “Morose, angry, feeling sorry for themselves — the usual.”

Blane shrugged.

“I also made …” Blane said. He took a covered pie pan from the bag. “ …a clafoutis.”

“But how?” Nelson asked.

“I cheated a bit,” Blane said. “We froze cherries after our trip to the Eastern Slope early spring last year. It looks good, though.”

Blane took the cover from the pie pan.

“Oh wow,” Nelson said. “Just the smell …”

Nelson grinned at Blane, and it was Blane’s turn to blush.

“I just …” Blane said. “I …”

He sighed. Nelson intense ability to listen caused Blane to continue.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to speak to you about love,” Blane said. “I say ‘I love you’ to my children. Sometimes, I’ll say, ‘Love you, too’ when Heather says that she loves me. Sometimes. The words hurt me.”

Blane put his hand to his heart. Nelson opened his mouth to say something but Blane held up his hand.

“But I can cook,” Blane said. “For you. I made this for you.”

Blane nodded.

“Last night, I really needed … comfort,” Blane said. “You were lovely. Exactly what I needed. The children were so happy to be here. You and Pierre — you were real family to them. I am grateful. And …”

Blane sighed.

“I see what you are, and I …” Blane grimaced and shook his head. He managed, “Am grateful.”

Nelson hugged Blane. For a moment, they just stood there. Blane sighed and stepped back.

“Are you hungry?” Blane asked.

“Famished,” Nelson said. “Dad was able to stay today so I went into work this afternoon. I missed lunch and …”

“It’s all ready,” Blane said with a smile. “Let’s eat.”

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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