Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Five Hundred and Sixty-three : Storge -- familial love


Thursday afternoon — 3:44 p.m.

Tres Sierra stepped out of his electric SUV. He turned and reached across the seats to get his tablet computer.

“Hey,” came from behind him.

He straightened and turned around to see Blane coming down Race Street toward him. Tres held out his arms and the men hugged.

“Where are you coming from?” Tres asked.

“Work out,” Blane said. “New rec center. I thought I’d walk home.”

“I’m looking forward to going there,” Tres said. “You’ll go with me?”

“Of course,” Blane said. “Nice ride.”

“I just picked it up,” Tres said. “Can you help me later with the car seats?”

Blane gave Tres a wide grin.

“I tried by they are so confusing,” Tres said. “And I really don’t want to screw it up.”

“I get Jacob to do them,” Blane said. “Are they in there?”

Blane nodded toward the car. Tres nodded.

“Give me the keys,” Blane said. “I’ll get Jake to do them. You’re coming to dinner after you talk with Nelson?”

“I think we both are,” Tres said.

Blane nodded. Tres gave him the keys. Blane pointed up to Nelson’s yard, and Tres turned to see Nelson standing outside his door. When Tres turned back, Blane was walking toward the Castle.

“See you tonight,” Blane yelled.

Tres waved good-bye. Smiling, Tres started up the walk to meet Nelson.

“It’s kind of tricky to get back here,” Nelson said. “I thought I’d just wait out here.”

“Glad you did,” Tres said.

Nelson held out his hand to shake but Tres gave him a warm hug.

“You and Blane …” Nelson said when he pulled back. “You …”

Tres clapped Nelson’s back.

“That’s a tale that deserves a beer,” Tres said. “I’ve spent the last hour at the car dealership and could use something to wash the taste out of my mouth.”

Grinning, Nelson led Tres back inside his carriage house. He took two beers out of the refrigerator.

“I haven’t really drink since … you know … Blane and me,” Nelson said.

“Why’s that?” Tres took the caps off the beers.

“Blane’s an addict and an alcoholic!” Nelson said.

“He doesn’t want you to not have a beer or two,” Tres said. “He’s said that to me. He doesn’t want to be around alcoholics or addicts. Is that you?”

A tall man, Tres leaned down a bit to look into Nelson’s eyes. Nelson shook his head. Tres held out his beer and they “clinked” the bottles.

“Cheers,” Tres said as Nelson said, “Santé.”

“This is nice,” Tres said looking around the carriage house.

Nelson nodded.

“Jake?” Tres asked.

“Who else?” Nelson asked with a chuckle. “The man has a lock on the remodeling of everyone I know.”

Tres nodded. He turned around and then pointed to the door off the kitchen.

“Pantry?” Tres asked.

“Small guest bedroom,” Nelson said.

“Nice,” Tres said. “Can I …”

He waved his hand in a circle.

“Sure,” Nelson said.

Tres turned around. He went up the stairs to the living room area.

“I have that TV,” Tres said.

“Listen, you and Blane …” Nelson said. “You were going to tell me. I … uh … I’ve worried about you, you know. You’re the youngest of all of us, the most free. Hetero. How are you going to handle me and Blane and …”

Tres turned to look at Nelson. Nelson’s face was red. His body language was tense.

“What are you asking?” Tres asked.

“What are you to Blane?” Nelson asked.

“Oh,” Tres said. “I don’t know. I’ve never asked. I can tell you what he is to me. Would that help?”

Swallowing hard, Nelson nodded.

“I was fourteen or fifteen when Enrique started dating Blane,” Tres said.

“Oh, that’s right,” Nelson said, visibly relieved. “Enrique is your brother.”

Tres nodded.

“I was sixteen when Enrique moved in with Blane,” Tres said.

“That was Blane’s house?” Nelson asked.

“The condo?” Tres asked. “Celia bought it for him so that he would always have a place to live.”

“Enrique kicked him out,” Nelson said.

“Enrique and his mob kicked him out,” Tres said. “It took Jacob about a year to get Enrique out of it.”

Nelson nodded. Tres was silent for a moment. He wasn’t a man who shared much. He’d hoped what he’d said was enough.

“You and Blane?” Nelson asked.

“My parents were really elderly when I was born,” Tres said. “So old that I’ve wondered if I was the child of one of my elder sisters.”

“And?” Nelson asked.

“I’m told it’s not true,” Tres said with a shrug. “Most of my older siblings were married with their own children when I was born. Enrique was at home. I …”

Tres sighed.

“There just wasn’t much for a young child in that house,” Tres said. “I shared a room with my great-grandmother until she died. After she died, I could go weeks without anyone saying even a word to me. I had a roof. I had food. But human interaction?”

Tres shook his head.

“Then Enrique met Blane,” Tres said. “Blane has this way of reaching into the dark and …”

Tres looked at Nelson to see that Nelson was nodding.

“Anyway, Enrique’s ‘friend’ became my surrogate brother,” Tres said. “He’d make me lunches for the week. When he realized I was bored in school, he helped me figure out a way to graduate early. I was two years into college at Metro when my father asked me if I was ever going to graduate from high school.”

Tres shook his head.

“But Blane was there the whole time,” Tres said. “Enrique, too, but it was really Blane. After the whole Enrique thing, I thought I’d lost Blane forever. I came to the Castle — there weren’t gates then — and begged them to let me see Blane.”

Tres shrugged. Tears came to his eyes.

“Sorry, I always get a little bleary when I think of this,” Tres said.

Nelson gave Tres an empathetic nod.

“He … Blane, I mean, was emaciated, sick, and clearly distraught,” Tres said. “The first thing he said was, ‘How’s school? Did something happen?’ He was still my brother, my …”

Tres shook his head and looked over Nelson’s head.

“Anyway, Blane was back on his feet by the time I had finished my Masters in Finance,” Tres said. “He asked Jake to hire me as the assistant to the CFO at Lipson. The man was elderly, an original Celia hire. He taught me the ropes and when he retired, Blane pushed Jake to hire me. It was risky because I was so young, but …”

Tres shrugged.

“Seems like it’s worked out,” Nelson said.

“It’s been great for me,” Tres said. “I’ve learned a ton. Helping to orchestrate through the employee buyout has set me up for life. Seriously. I could go anywhere and get a job. I’m hoping to retire at Lipson. That’s my goal. What about you?”

“What about me and Blane?” Nelson asked. Nelson blushed. “Are you asking about sex or …?”

“No,” Tres said with a grin and a shake of his head. “I don’t want to know about that.”

Nelson looked up at Tres.

“I was asking about what your goals were,” Tres said. “Do you plan on retiring from the Denver Crime lab? Going back to Emergency Medicine?”

“Oh,” Nelson said. “I haven’t thought that far. I like working for Ava, but anything could happen.”

Nelson shrugged.

“You still feel close to Blane?” Nelson asked.

“I feel like he’s my family,” Tres said. “Heather says that Blane calls me his little brother. I think that’s about right.”

“And Enrique?” Nelson asked.

“I have lunch with him every once and a while when my mother insists that I tell him something,” Tres said. “I don’t really feel one way or another about him. He’s like my elder siblings. They are people I know, relatives, otherwise …”

“So no big happy family parties,” Nelson said.

“No,” Tres said. “I’m a little …”

“Shy?” Nelson asked.

“Introverted,” Tres said.

“Me too,” Nelson said with a grin. He made a dramatic sigh. “You can’t imagine how relieved I am.”

“Why?” Tres asked.

“I just … I don’t know,” Nelson said. “You’re a young heterosexual male. Why move in with some lady and her husband?”

“And you?” Tres asked. Nelson nodded. “That ‘lady’ is a Greek Goddess.”

“That’s why?” Nelson asked. “To be near a Goddess?”

“No,” Tres shook his head. “You’re very verbal, Mr. Weeks. You’re going to have to slow it down for me.”

Squinting, Nelson nodded.

“I was just pointing out that Heather is a Goddess,” Tres said. “Not that all women aren’t Goddesses in their own rights. They are. It’s just that …” Tres sighed. “We are honored to be in her presence. If something wasn’t right, she would know it.”

“Oh,” Nelson said. “I never thought of it that way.”

“She has the choice of every man or woman on the planet,” Tres said. “She chose Blane and then she chose us. There’s a kind of responsibility and honor with that.”

“And you?” Nelson asked. “What about raising kids that aren’t yours and …”

“I grew up with the children of my older siblings,” Tres said. “I like kids, and they like me. I don’t care if I’m their biological father. There are certainly plenty of Sierras on the planet. I really only care that kids are happy.”

Nelson nodded.

“You know that Tink works for me in the summers, right?’ Tres asked. “She’s started calling me ‘Daddy T’.”

Nelson grinned.

“Yes, you’ll get a name too,” Tres said.

Nelson’s grin grew wider.

“This is really happening,” Nelson said under his breath.

“Yes, lonely boy, you are suddenly going to be a part of a big, loud, weird family,” Tres said. “The weird part is me. Well, certainly, you know Enrique.”

Nelson laughed.

“Have you met Loki yet?” Tres asked.

“Loki?” Nelson gave a confused shake of his head. “From the movies? Thor’s brother?”

“He and Hedone have a ‘thing,’” Tres said with a nod and a grin. “Something for you to look forward to.”

“I guess,” Nelson said.

“Hey, Jake said that they’ve finished the demo on the house,” Tres said. “Can we take a look?”

“Yes,” Nelson cleared his throat. “That is what we’d planned to do this evening.”

Tres drained his beer. He spied that Nelson’s beer bottle was empty. Tres gestured to it.

“It was nice to have a beer,” Nelson said. “You can just leave that here.”

“Is Mari here?” Tres asked.

“No, why?” Nelson asked.

“She was showing me some options for the house,” Tres said.

Mari appeared. She grinned at Tres.

“I was just listening in,” Mari said.

“Yes, who needs an A.I. when you have a nosy fairy?” Nelson asked.

“Exactly,” Mari said. “What is an A. I.?”

Nelson opened his mouth, but Tres continued.

“She can show us different options,” Tres said. “I’ve priced out some of our options. She can show us visually what they would look like — you know, most expensive, medium, cheap. She …”

Nelson looked confused.

“Let’s go into the other house,” Mari said.

With that, they left the carriage house. They went through the backyard and into the main house. The walls were torn down to the studs. The floors were bare wood. The antique wooden stairs had been covered in paper to protect them during the construction.

Tres took a breath and sighed.

“I love a fresh pallet,” Tres said. “Has Jill been through?”

“She told me what she was thinking,” Mari said. “She wanted you to know that it was just preliminary. She would be here but she’s at the hospital.”

“How is Sandy?” Tres asked.

“You were just there,” Mari said.

“I was focused on …” Tres said. “I’m kind of a one-track guy.”

“Ah, yes,” Mari said. “Sandy’s okay. Stronger. They are going to move her tomorrow morning.”

“That’s good,” Nelson said.

Mari nodded.

“Now, let’s get started boys …” Mari said.

The men followed Mari into the house.


Thursday night — 10:45 p.m.

“Nash?” Noelle whispered.

They were sleeping in the den of Seth O’Malley’s house. True to form, Teddy was sound asleep on the floor. Nash was on the big couch, and she was lying on the smaller love seat. Noelle could hear Nash’s silently crying.

Samantha Hargreaves had come to talk to Valerie after she’d talked to Nash. Valerie brought Samantha into Mike’s studio where Noelle was working on the miniature painting Mike had assigned. Noelle had listened to these great women worry over her brother. She knew that he was suffering but Noelle was pretty sure they had no idea what was wrong. Mike had nodded for Noelle to contribute to the conversation but she’d just remained silent and worked on her painting.

How could these women possibly understand?

Noelle had promised herself that she would talk to Nash when she got back to Seth O’Malley’s house, where they were staying. But Nash was moving heavy plants for Delphie in the green house. Teddy was learning to cook from Maresol so she wasn’t able to talk to him either. She’d been hustled off to the shower. By the time she was done, dinner was waiting in the big dining room.

Mike had insisted that she take her the piece she was working on with her so that she could look at it in different lights to see what it needed. Of course, Seth’s Dad, Bernie, had seen her painting and wanted to talk about it.

To Noelle’s horror, she was the center of attention at dinner. It was a portrait of her mom, Sandy in watercolor on a polished Mammoth bone Mike had gotten from Snow Mass. Her painting was a miniature, not more than three and a half inches high and a little more than two inches wide. Noelle hoped to finish it before Sandy got home from the hospital.

Much to her surprise, the adults actually knew a lot of about art — even Maresol. They had some really interesting things to say about her miniature. They asked her why she was working on bone. (Because ivory was cruel.) They asked her how Mike had obtained the Mammoth bone. (A Lipson construction guy who had worked the Snow Mass site had sold it to Mike. Yes, he had a permit to sell it.) And then they started talking. She’d taken notes. Even Nash and Teddy had listened in fascination.

At Bernie’s encouragement, Seth had gotten up to get a small painting that had belonged to his mother. He returned with a miniature masterpiece about the size of her painting. Noelle knew off the bat that this was painted by Eulabee Dix. She’d been bold enough to talk about the piece like she knew something. She’d told them that it was watercolor on ivory — they didn’t know any better then — and that this was a picture of Ethel Barrymore.

That caused a lot of loud conversation as no one had known the woman in the miniature. The adults made a big effort not to use electronic tools. Bernie had brought out an enormous, heavy book of New York artists from the American Society of Miniature Painters. They were finishing their pie when everyone agreed that it was indeed Ethel Barrymore.

Noelle had been so flushed by the attention that she’d lost track of her worry for Nash.

Now, a full forty minutes after they’d gone to sleep, her worry returned.

Rather than whisper his name again, Noelle got up from her couch. As she had when they were small, she lay on her side behind her brother. They were tall teenagers but still very slim. The two of them fit easily on the big couch. Nash didn’t move when she cuddled next to him.

She heard him try to silence his sorrow and control his sobs. She put her arm around him and hugged him. Her actions seemed to unlock his pain and he sobbed. She just stayed there with him.

They had always been like two lost souls in the rain.

For most of their life, they were shuttled back and forth between their father’s stable home and the chaos that was their mother. Some days were a slog from beginning to end. Together, they marched through the heavy winds of their parents’ addictions and the insanity “shared custody.”

They were a team then.

They are a team now.

After a while, Nash was breathing deeply. Noelle thought he might be asleep when he sat up. She sat up. They instinctively moved until their hips and legs were pressed against each other. When he took her hand, she grabbed on with both of hers. He turned to look at her and gave her a sorrow-filled smile.

“I don’t know why I’m so sad,” Nash whispered to what he assumed was her question.

“I do,” Noelle said.

He looked at her.

“You thought maybe you’d get a normal life,” Noelle said in a soft tone. “Away from all this addiction crap. You could be with Nadia. You could be safe and happy and have love and …”

He teared up to her words. She gave him a kind smile, and he nodded.

“Have you talked to Nadia?” Noelle whispered.

“And say what?” Nash asked in a soft voice. “I’m a loser addict who nearly killed his mom? She’ll …”

Nash started to cry again. Noelle put her arm around him.

“You won’t know what she says until you talk to her,” Noelle whispered.

Nash shook his head. Tears continued to roll down his eyes. Noelle held her brother for a long, long time. At some point during the night, he looked at her with heavy, sleepy eyes. He nodded his head at her couch. She nodded.

“It’s going to be okay, Nash,” Noelle said.

“It’s going to be,” Nash said, an errant tear ran down his face.

She gave him a soft smile and went to her love seat. It took her a long time to go to sleep. She wondered if Eulabee Dix had ever hurt so badly because her brother was in pain. As she drifted off to sleep she remembered learning about “storge” — familial love — from the Goddesses Hedone and Aphrodite.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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