Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Five Hundred and Sixty-nine : Nothing to see here


Saturday afternoon — 2:25 p.m.

Elyria Swansea area of Denver, Colorado


Information regarding events is classified.

See website for details.


Saturday afternoon — 3:15 p.m.

Sandy woke up with a start from a horrible nightmare about being stalked by her abusers. She moaned. Her pain from her injuries had activated her PTSD. She was having real trouble getting rest.

She was lucky though.

The people around her knew that she was struggling so they never left her alone. Every time she woke up, she would see someone else that she loved. She just had to turn her head.

She tried but gasped with pain.

“Okay, okay, okay,” Charlie’s voice came from beside her. The sound of hard pills knocking against plastic pill bottles filled the air.

“Ch …Ch …” Sandy tried to speak.

The next thing she knew, a young man who looked like someone she knew was sitting on her bed. Gasping in horror, she pulled away from him.

“Wh …” Sandy said.

Her dream was still vivid before her eyes. This young man was going to … She couldn’t bear to watch. She slammed her eyelids closed. Even the act of squinting her eyes tightly closed caused her pain. She let out a sob. A tear streamed down her face.

“Look at me,” the young man said.

She was too obedient not to open her eyes.

“It’s me, Sandy,” he said. “Charlie.”

Sandy shook her head, and then he smiled. His mouth was full of braces on his beautiful gleaming white veneers. His eyes folded in the way that her dad Mitch Delgado’s did. She tried to touch his face but her hands were bound in casts. He pulled off her covers and lifted the shirt Maresol had put on her when she was unconscious.

Like he had when he was tiny, he pressed his face into her skin. When he was little, he used to hide his head under her shirt when he was afraid. There was no way that anyone in the world would know that. She put her hand on the top of his head.

“Ch’r-ly,” she said.

He rubbed his chin on her belly, and she felt the stubble of his new beard. She laughed and squealed. And for the briefest moment, she was herself again — whole and happy, in the company of one of her favorite people.

The pain returned.

Unaware that she did it, she moaned. Charlie moved fast. He pulled down her shirt, put the covers back, and disappeared for only the briefest moment.

“Here,” Charlie said when he returned. “Take this.”

He held out some pills. She put them in her mouth. He held the water for her to drink.

“I wanted to ask you …” Charlie said. “Well, really Bernie wanted to ask you. Your grandfather. You remember him.”

Now separated from the nightmare, Sandy made a quick nodding motion.

“He’s made some THC patches,” Charlie said. “He gave me one when I came in. He thought that it might help.”

Sandy shook her head. He knew how much she was against marijuana use.

“I’m not going to argue with you,” Charlie said. “I’m only going to say that these chemicals all have a use. One of the uses of marijuana is for pain relief. It won’t make you a dope head. It just might help your pain. Bernie said that there are some studies about the use of it for people with PTSD.”

Sandy’s eyes flicked to look at Charlie directly.

“Not that you have PTSD or anything,” Charlie said.

Sandy tried to grin at him but was mostly unable.

“Now, none of that,” Charlie said. “Do you want to try it?”

Sandy looked at the ceiling for a moment before giving him a slight nod. He pulled back the covers again.

“Bernie said on your thigh,” Charlie said. “Maresol put you in pajama bottoms.”

“’s-ok,” Sandy said.

Charlie pulled down her pajama bottoms and put on the patch. He pulled up her pants and pulled the covers back on.

“He said he made these himself,” Charlie said. “Watched a YouTube video or something like that. Do you think he did?”

Sandy lifted a shoulder.

“Yeah, I don’t know either,” Charlie said.

She lay back and hoped that the pain meds or the patch would start working.

“In the meantime,” Charlie said. “I brought a book.”

“C-nt rr-dd,” Sandy said.

“Ah yes, my lady,” Charlie said in a bright voice. “You cannot read, but I can.”

Sandy looked at Charlie. He held up a copy of The Witches by Roald Dahl. Sandy made an effort to clap which caused her to gasp in pain and her hands went “thump.” It was one of her favorite books.

“I also have a copy of The Hobbit,” Charlie said. “And, if you’d like to branch out, we could start Harry Potter.”

“I-v r’d Hrry,” Sandy said.

“Well, I could always get you Little Women,” Charlie said. “Or should I call it by its official name …”

“L’ B-tchz,” Sandy said.

Charlie laughed and then became serious.

“Tink and I are staying here at Seth’s along with Nash, Teddy, and Noelle,” Charlie said.

Sandy gave him a slight nod.

“Nash, Teddy, and Nadia are talking to the Fey Team,” Charlie said. “The team is on their way to Poland but won’t be there for a few days. Hopefully, you’ll be better to watch when they go into your mine.”

Sandy didn’t respond so Charlie pressed on.

“Teddy and Nash, even Noelle, have a lot planned, but I’m not going anywhere,” Charlie said. “I’m not working this weekend so you sleep when you need to. I’ll read when you’re awake. Next week, after school, I’ll be here.”

Charlie gave a nod.

“Wrrk?” Sandy asked.

“I’m taking family leave,” Charlie said. “We all talked and it seems like I have the most freedom. I think everyone would rather be here. I am just lucky enough to be able to.”

“A-D’nn,” Sandy said.

“He’s at work now,” Charlie said. “But he’ll be back. He was going to try to work here, but Seth talked him out of it. You know, Seth’s rule for everyone else.”

“Wr a’ WrK,” Sandy tried to say as Charlie said, “Work at work.”

“Of course, he works all the time,” Charlie said. “Are you sorry Aden’s not here?”

Sandy moved her hand across her forehead as if she were relieved.

“So you have the second string,” Charlie said with a big smile. “Shall we start?”

Sandy nodded. He took his reading glasses pouch from his pocket. With great flourish, he pulled the glasses from the pouch and put them on. He gave her a kind smile and started to read.


Saturday evening — 7:15 p.m.

“It was like …” Nash put his fists to the side of his head and then pulled them out. “b-quew.”

Nash shook his head.

“Mind totally blown,” Nash said.

“Have you been there?” Ava asked Seth.

He gave a quick nod of his head. He looked at Nash.

“Now, you have to be careful not to discuss anything that might be sensitive in nature,” Seth said.

“I didn’t really understand that,” Nadia said. “Why did we have to swear to secrecy and all of that?”

“The Fey Team is an intelligence team,” Seth said. “Just knowing about them is classified.”

“You mean people don’t know they exist?” Teddy asked.

“A lot of people,” Seth said with a nod. “When was the last time your dad was on the front page of the newspaper or on CNN?”

“Never,” Teddy said. “I’ve seen him back up when reporters are around. He kind of slips away.”

Seth nodded.

“That’s what they are like,” Bernie said.

“They?” Seth asked his father.

Bernie laughed.

“You were one of them?” Teddy asked, his voice filled with awe.

“Define ‘them,’” Bernie said.

“A ‘G’ man,” Nadia said in a mock 1950s gangster voice. “A spook. A spy.”

Everyone turned to look at Bernie.

“I would answer that question but it might incriminate me,” Bernie said.

Nash and Teddy squealed with laughter. Everyone laughed either at Bernie or at the boys.

“I worked for my country when my country needed me,” Bernie said. “In those days, there was a lot more need for a lot more men. It wasn’t like it is now where only 2% of the population is in the military. Then, it was almost everyone. My father went to the Great War. When I was a kid, my friends and I went to Guadalcanal to fight. My son went to Vietnam with his best friend.”

Bernie nodded to Seth.

“Everyone you knew went to war,” Bernie said.

“Except rich people,” Noelle said with a sniff.

“Nadia’s father went.” Bernie nodded toward Nadia. “He was already well on his way to his second million when he signed up to fight. Most men would have been ashamed to not sign up. It was considered ‘un-American.’”

“And to be a Government man?” Maresol asked.

“Well, that was much less cool,” Bernie said with a big smile. “It was mostly for the freaks and geeks.”

“Which were you?” Teddy asked. “A freak or a geek?”

“Freak,” Bernie said with a laugh.

Everyone laughed with him. When their laughter died down, Bernie became very serious.

“I lost good friends at war,” Bernie said. “My eldest son didn’t come home from Laos. I’m glad that there are fewer wars and less soldiers. I hope to live long enough that there are no wars and no call for young men to give up their lives.”

Bernie gave a curt nod indicating that he’d said all he would say on the topic. Everyone fell silent as they ate their meal. Aden cleared his throat.

“I’ve never been in the military,” Aden said. “And, I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child to the atrocities of war.”

Bernie looked over at Aden, and Aden gave him a nod.

“I appreciate your service,” Aden said. “If there are less wars, it’s because your generation fought to make that so.”

Embarrassed, Bernie looked down at his meal. Maresol leaned over to kiss his cheek.


Saturday evening — 7:15 p.m.

“When do you think they’ll come back?” Ivy asked.

She was standing with her back turned in front of Delphie. They had had dinner early so Ivy took the chance to shower. Ivy’s hair had grown out into long curls which tangled easily. Every night, Delphie carefully combed out Ivy’s hair. Tonight, Delphie was braiding it into a series of small braids.

“You mean, Charlie and Tink?” Delphie asked.

“Nash and Teddy too,” Ivy said. “I get to see Noelle every afternoon after she paints. I don’t get to see the others.”

“Except at school,” Delphie said.

“Right,” Ivy said.

Delphie let the silence lag. When Ivy had something important to say, she usually started with a neutral topic and waited until she was sure someone was listening. When Ivy didn’t say anything else, Delphie replied to the question.

“I think Sandy’s still pretty sick,” Delphie said. “She’s staying at Seth’s so they can be together as a family there. You can really tell that they aren’t here, huh?”

“Uh-huh,” Ivy said. “There’s still lots of people to talk to, it’s just that they are more my age.”

“Would you like to stay with Seth, too?” Delphie asked. “I’m sure Seth wouldn’t mind. They certainly have room.”

“Oh no,” Ivy said. “Not at all.”

Delphie stared at the back of the girl’s head and willed her to speak her mind. After a moment, Ivy sighed.

“I was just thinking about how they all have a ‘thing,’ you know?” Ivy’s head jerked around to look at Delphie. “Charlie loves basketball. Noelle — painting. Teddy and Nash are always geeking about something or another.”

“Tink doesn’t really,” Delphie said.

“Tink’s like me,” Ivy said. “She’s just getting over everything. Plus, she’s been talking about learning to swim. I guess she had lessons when she was a kid so it would be relearning.”

“Do you know how to swim?” Delphie asked, hoping she’d picked the right topic.

“Uh-uh,” Ivy shook her head.

Every time she moved her head, the braids flew out of Delphie’s hand.

“Would you like to?” Delphie asked, grabbing the braids again.

Ivy didn’t respond. After a minute, Ivy sighed again.

“We can get you lessons this summer,” Delphie said.

“I would like to swim, but …” Ivy said. “I think that maybe I’d like to have my own thing.”

“Oh,” Delphie said. She felt enormous relief that she was finally clued into what Ivy wanted to talk about. “What kind of thing?”

“That’s just it,” Ivy said. “I don’t know. I just think that … You know, I’m not going to therapy as much and I have more time and stuff. I’m going to work this summer but I also could learn something new or get a passion.”

“A passion?” Delphie asked.

“You know, like they have,” Ivy said. “Did you know that Katy had ‘horsey bags’ years before she’d ever been on a horse? That’s … I want to have something like that that’s not just about my trauma and loss.”

“Ah, yes, makes sense,” Delphie said.

“Katy loves horses. Noelle loves art,” Ivy said. “Even Tink loves sewing and she’s going to be swimming and …”

“Charlie,” Delphie said.

“That, too,” Ivy said.

“What kind of thing do you think you might be interested in?” Delphie asked.

“I don’t know,” Ivy said. “The only other thing I did was help to find you. And, well, that’s done.”

Delphie wondered for a moment if Ivy felt that it was her fault for Ivy not having a “passion.” She shook off this ridiculous thought. Instead, Delphie decided to take Ivy at her word. Delphie began to ask about a variety of things. Ivy was too polite to do anything other than answer Delphie’s questions. So they began to a verbal dance.

“Do you like art?” Delphie asked.

“No,” Ivy said, emphatically. “I really suck at that.”

“What about playing a musical instrument?” Delphie asked. “Do you like those lessons you’re taking with Bernie?”

“Not really,” Ivy said. “I mean, I think it’s good to do. I mean, I like being around Bernie. I just don’t love the piano, you know?”

“I do,” Delphie said. “How about something physical like running or martial arts or …”

Ivy shrugged.

“I take martial arts with everybody once a week,” Ivy said. “I know that Nash and Teddy go every day, but I don’t like it enough to get that interested in it.”


Ivy shook her head.

“How about archery?” Delphie asked. “Mr. Max would teach you.”

“I love Mr. Max, but …” Ivy shook her head.

Delphie wracked her brain. She tried to think of the skills that people she knew had.

“What about smart stuff like rockets?” Delphie asked.

Ivy shook her head.

“Maybe math? Or computers? Or writing?” Delphie asked. “You do love to tell stories.”

Ivy shook her head.

“Would you like to be in a play?” Delphie asked.

“They don’t have those at my school,” Ivy said.

“Not now, but they would if you asked for it,” Delphie said.

Ivy sighed. Delphie glared at the back of Ivy’s head in frustration. Delphie kept carefully combing Ivy’s hair and braiding it.

“Have you ever …” Ivy started.

Delphie looked up from her work with hope. She waited. Ivy didn’t continue.

“Have I ever …” Delphie said.

“Um,” Ivy said. “Remember those photos I showed you?”

Delphie scrunched up her face and tried to remember which photos Ivy was talking about. She took a breath to ask if Ivy was talking about the baby elephants when Ivy spoke.

“You know, of that nebula?” Ivy asked. “You know the stars?”

Of all the things Delphie was going to say, she was not going to guess that Ivy was talking a photo of a nebula. Delphie made a vague noise to avoid sounding relieved that she hadn’t said the wrong thing which would have launched another round of verbal dancing.

“I was thinking that maybe I would like to look at the stars,” Ivy said.

“Oh?” Delphie asked.

“Uh-huh,” Ivy said, nodding. “Kind of expensive.”

“Expensive?” Sam asked from the doorway. “That sounds like my cue. What’s expensive?”

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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