Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Five Hundred and twenty-six : Wings of change


Friday afternoon — 2:35 p.m.

Denver, Colorado

The sound of a child laughing and talking woke Pierre Semaines. He blinked.

He had no idea where he was.

He remembered getting on the shuttle to the extended care facility where he would spend the next few weeks in rehabilitation from his hip surgery. That was the last thing he remembered.

He turned his head to look at the child.

A little girl with long golden hair and dark eyes was having an animated conversation with …

Pierre looked and saw no one. He squinted to look at the child.

“Hello?” Pierre asked.

“Oh hi,” Katy Roper-Marlowe said. Turning back to the empty air, she said, “He’s awake now.”

Pierre looked at the empty air and the girl again.

“Would you mind …” Pierre started.

The little girl came to the edge of his bed. Her eyes just peeked over the high bed and covers. Pierre realized that she was older than he’d originally assumed. She was just small.

“Where am I?” Pierre asked.

“Oh,” Katy said with a big grin. “You’re at O’Malley’s house.”

“Seth?” Pierre asked.

Nodding Katy said, “He is my piano teacher, when he’s in town. Mostly, I see his dad, Bernie. And I’m not being disrespectful. He wants to be called ‘O’Malley’ and Bernie wants to be called ‘Bernie.’”

“Yes,” Pierre grinned at the little girl. He wasn’t sure why but he innately liked her. “They are like that.”

He raised an eyebrow at the girl. In his life experience, little girls knew everything that was going on.

“Any idea how I got here?” Pierre asked.

“Um,” Katy scowled. “Do you know who Ava is?”

Pierre nodded.

“Uncle Nelson told Ava that you were in the hospital,” Katy said. “Last night. Ava told Maresol …”

Pierre grinned. Hearing Maresol’s name, he visibly relaxed.

“ … this morning, which was a big mess because Maresol would have liked to know last night.”

Pierre chuckled as that did sound like Maresol.

“But don’t worry. They’re not in a big fight,” Katy said. “Maresol is just like that.”

“Yes she is,” Pierre said with a nod.

“Maresol told O’Malley that she was going to get you,” Katy said. In imitation of Maresol, she added, “I don’t care what you say, old man. Pierre is staying with us and not at some random center.”

Pierre laughed at Katy’s impression.

“She really did say that,” Katy said.

“I have no doubt that Maresol said those words just like that,” Pierre said. “I do have one question.”

“Okay,” Katy said.

“How did you know that she said it?” Pierre asked.

“Oh,” Katy said. “That’s easy. The ghost told me.”

“The what?” Pierre asked.

Katy pointed to where she’d been directing her conversation when he’d awakened. Katy leaned in.

“She says her name is ‘Mabelle,’” Katy said.

Pierre choked. He coughed for a moment. Katy went to rub his back like her mommy did when Katy had a cough.

“Don’t be upset,” Katy said. “Ghosts lie. It’s one of the reasons my dad hates them.”

Pierre looked at the little girl and then the empty air. He then said the only thing he could think of.

“Your father hates ghosts?” Pierre asked.

“It’s just his thing,” Katy said. The little girl raised her shoulders in an exaggerated shrug. “That’s why I came in here. My Daddy hates ghosts so he’ll send them on before they have a chance to …”

Katy leaned in and whispered, “Lie.”

“I saw the ghost and came in to see if she was a good ghost or a bad ghost,” Katy said.

Pierre simply looked at her. Nodding, Katy continued talking.

“My daddy and mommy are on a date,” Katy said. “My daddy has been saving the world in a mine and my mommy’s been studying for finals at college. They wanted some time alone.”

“Good for them,” Pierre said.

“Daddy’s going to come here to pick me up after their date,” Katy said. “So I figured I should check before he sends her on.”

Katy nodded. Pierre cleared his throat.

“I would very much like it if your father didn’t ‘send on’ this ghost,” Pierre said.

“Oh,” Katy said. She blinked at him. “The ghost said it doesn’t matter.”

Pierre scowled. As if she were talking to a moron, the little girl sighed.

“Most ghosts are stuck here,” Katy said.

“Stuck here?” Pierre asked. “As opposed to where?”

“To the other side,” Katy said with a shake of her head.

Pierre opened his mouth to ask a question but he shook his head instead, “What?”

“Okay,” Katy said. “This is how it works. People have souls.”

She looked at Pierre and he nodded.

“Sometimes, when people die, their soul gets stuck here,” Katy said. “Usually it’s because they die suddenly or they are control freaks or they want to tell someone something or stuff like that. The natural process is this – live, die, soul to the other side.”

As if the child had made great sense, Katy nodded.

“And Mabelle?” Pierre asked.

“She said that she was from a long time of saints …” Katy said.

Pierre gawked at Katy.

“ … she went to the other side and returned to the side of her beloved when he was in the hospital,” Katy said. “In France. That’s a place. My friend Sissy is there now. She looks like my Uncle Nelson.”

“Your friend Sissy?” Pierre asked.

“The ghost,” Katy said. “A lot.”

Katy looked at the man and saw that he was kind of stunned.

“She said that she has been at your side you were injured by the jackal,” Katy said. “Whatever that is.”

“It is a person,” Pierre said. “Carlos the Jackal. He …”

He looked at the little girl for a moment. For some reason, he felt that she would understand what he would say. He found his voice.

“He was an angry man,” Pierre said. “He blew up a train that my wife, our child, and I were riding. My wife, Mabelle, protected our child but was killed.”

“That’s what she said,” Katy said. “Except she said he was a ‘bad man.’ We kind of argued because bad men are usually just men who have bad ideas. But she knew that I had seen true evil.”

“You have?” Pierre asked.

Katy nodded. Pierre watched the girl while he tried to think through everything this child had said.

“Oh, she didn’t say ‘beloved’,” Katy said. “She’s kind of irritated about it. She keeps saying, ‘tell him that he is my ‘amour sacré.’”

Pierre gasped. Tears began to fall from Pierre’s eyes.

“Don’t be sad.” Katy gave him a hug.

The child patted his back like her mother did when she cried. After a few moments, Pierre shifted and she moved away. Katy gave him a pensive look.

“Your father?” Pierre found himself suddenly protective of his wife’s spirit. “He will injure the ghost?”

“Oh, right. We were talking about Daddy sending her to the other said,” Katy said with a nod.

Wiping his face, Pierre nodded.

“If she’s already been to the other side, she’ll just come right back,” Katy said. “If he sends her, but she’ll be right back if she wants to and she’s kind of throwing a fit to say that she wants to be with you. Being with you is her soul’s ‘amour sacré.’”

Struck by the truth of what the child has said, Pierre couldn’t think of anything to say. Katy nodded.

“And anyway, Daddy’s pretty good at knowing ghosts who’ve already been on the other side,” Katy said. She blinked at the man. “Do you want to talk to her?”

“Talk to her?” Pierre asked.

“She asked if you could use me to talk to her,” Katy said. “Since you can’t hear her.”

“Uh …” Pierre scowled at the child. “She never spoke English.”

“It’s okay,” Katy said. “Mind language is the same across all languages. I just said that other thing because she said you would know it was her.”

The door opened and a white blonde haired boy ran into the room.

“There you are!” Paddie Hargreaves said to Katy. “I’ve been looking everywhere!”

“I had to talk to a ghost,” Katy said. “This is Paddie. He takes piano lessons too.”

Pierre saw a spark of light on metal at the boy’s waist. He looked carefully and saw a thick metal sword tucked into a child’s plastic scabbard. Pierre squinted at the boy and then the girl. The girl turned to look at the blank space.

“Uh huh,” Katy said and nodded. “Paddie has the Sword of Truth.”

“He has what?” Pierre asked.

Not thinking, he swung his legs over the bed and then cried out in pain. Maresol ran into the room. She pushed the children out of the way and went to where Pierre was gulping air and sweating.

“Out!” Maresol said.

“But …” Katy said.

“Now!” Maresol said. Screaming, she said, “Seth O’Malley!”

His hair wet from the pool, Seth O’Malley poked his head into the room. He nodded to Pierre and lifted an eyebrow to Maresol.

“Take your students,” Maresol ordered.

Seth raised both eyebrows at Katy, and she shrugged. He waved toward her and Katy slunk out of the room. Paddie followed her close behind. Seth closed the door.

Maresol helped Pierre back into bed. She kissed his cheek.

“Stay there,” Maresol said. “You need to rest. The doctor said that this hip was harder than the other. He had to break away much bone. It will just take more time to heal completely.”

“Thank you,” Pierre said.

He gave her a soft smile which she returned. She smoothed his covers and filled his water cup from the pitcher on the table. She stood by him while he drank some water.

“The nurse will be here in an hour,” Maresol said. “Blane will be here after she leaves. Please rest in the meantime. You need to heal completely.”

Pierre nodded.

“I am sorry the children disturbed you,” Maresol said.

“They were lovely,” Pierre said.

“But?” Maresol asked.

“Do you think the child can see ghosts?” Pierre asked. “The girl? I know it’s crazy but she said that she saw Mabelle and mentioned that I was Mabelle’s ‘sacred love.’”

“The ceremony you went through,” Maresol said.

Pierre nodded. Maresol looked at the wall while she decided what to say.

“As for the girl,” Maresol said. She sucked in a breath and then let it out. “Yes. She has … powers. She is a special girl. Her mother is Seth’s daughter Sandy’s best friend, Jill. Katy’s been around here most of her life. Her mother insists on treating her like a little girl, so that’s what we do.”

“She looks like a little girl,” Pierre said. “With a powerful soul.”

“Yes,” Maresol said. “That is a good description.”

“She said that the boy has the Sword of Truth.” Pierre said.

Expecting Maresol to laugh, he looked at her. Maresol didn’t respond. After a moment, she sighed.

“In any family, there are things that are hard to explain,” Maresol said.

Trusting that Maresol would tell him when she could, he simply nodded to Maresol.

“My son knows that I am here?” Pierre asked. “I know that we’ve been separated, but now that I see him again, I do not want to be apart from him.”

“He will be here tonight for dinner,” Maresol said. “If Ava forgets to tell him, he will know tonight.”

“Thank you,” Pierre said. His face lit up with a smile. “I was looking forward to two weeks in the hospital. It is a great relief to me to be here. Thank you. I am most grateful.”

Maresol kissed his cheek again and left the room.

For a long time, Pierre looked at the space the little girl had been talking to. Finally, he sighed.

“The quest continues,” Pierre said. “Despite my best efforts, I am right in the middle of it. I am so glad that you are here with me.”

He sighed and closed his eyes. After a few minutes, he was sound asleep. His dreams were filled with gallant knights of old.


Friday evening — 8:35 p.m.

Paris, France

After dinner, Sissy and her friend Amelia Hutchins had excused themselves from the table to go to the bathroom. They were eating at an upscale, exclusively Parisian restaurant. Amelia was allowed in only after she produced a clipping that announced her engagement to Frederec in Le Parisien. Sissy got in because, oddly enough, of her Internet exposure. The hostess knew that Sissy was going to school at Opéra de Ballet (Paris Opera School of Ballet.) They were eating dinner with Sissy’s hosts — Benjamin and Claire — as well as, Max Hargreaves.

Sissy was following Amelia out of the bathroom when Amelia stopped short. Sissy ran into her back.

“What’s happened?” Sissy asked, recovering first.

Grinning, Amelia nodded toward the table. The waiter was setting another chair next to hers at the table. Sissy shrugged.

“No,” Amelia said. “Look.”

Sissy followed Amelia’s finger to where a man was standing. Even with his back to them, Sissy knew exactly who it was. She squeezed by Amelia and ran to the table. Once there, her hand lingered over his back. Sissy was flooded with insecurity.

Ivan spun in place, and she was in his arms. Sissy cried and laughed and then cried again. It was five minutes or possibly five days before she took her seat again. The entire restaurant had been cheering for them. When she sat down, she saw everyone’s smiling and laughing faces. She leaned over to Ivan.

“How did you get in?” Sissy asked, quietly.

“I made the reservation,” Ivan said.

A man came out from the back, and Ivan stood up. They hugged in greeting and then spoke quickly back and forth. When Ivan introduced a dazed Sissy, the man kissed her hand and welcomed her warmly. When all of the greetings were finished and another bottle of wine delivered, Ivan sat down next to Sissy. He held his hand out, and she grabbed onto it.

Chatting, everyone ate dessert while Ivan made his way through the dinner they had completed. The conversation lingered over coffee and aperitifs.

Sissy simply sat there holding Ivan’s hand.

When they got up to leave, Sissy followed the Martins out. Ivan tugged on her hand so she turned to look at him. In the light of her eyes, he was suddenly a loss for words.

Ivan shook his head. Sissy watched his face.

“I am here for a while,” Ivan said. “If it is tolerable for you.”

“When do you leave for Poland?” Sissy asked.

“We aren’t going to Poland,” Ivan said.

“But …” Sissy said.

“It was just decided the moment before I walked into the restaurant,” Ivan said. “You should hear from your brothers when you check your phone.”

Realizing she wouldn’t see her family, Sissy looked down. She was surprised at how sad and lonely she felt. Ivan touched her chin, and she looked up.

“There has been a serious threat,” Ivan said. “Nadia has hired a team of professionals to go into the mine in secret.”

Sissy numbly nodded. She turned to walk but Ivan held her in place.

“I am here. In Paris,” Ivan said. He took in her surprised face before continuing, “For a long as it is tolerable for you.”

“Tolerable?” Sissy asked. “I …”

She hugged Ivan tight.

“Benjamin is an old friend,” Ivan said. “He’s arranged for me to move into an apartment that our friend Max owns in the Montmartre.”

Sissy nodded.

“We have agreed that you will continue to live with Claire and Benjamin,” Ivan said.

“But …” Sissy started.

He held up a hand, and she stopped talking.

“Please, let me finish,” Ivan said. “I find myself exhausted. I …”

Ivan shook his head.

“It was Seth O’Malley who got this ball rolling,” Ivan said. “He brought me proof that the man who chased me around the globe is no longer living.”

“Wow,” Sissy said.

“I am free, and I …” Ivan said. He touched his chest. “ … weary. I have lived in Paris off and on in my life. Living here is always a joy. I need time to heal, to rest. You need the structure of a family to get to class and continue your studies.”

“Will I see you?” Sissy asked.

“As much as you wish,” Ivan laughed.

Sissy hugged him. When she let him go, she realized that their dinner companions had disappeared.

“Would you like to spend the weekend with me?” Ivan asked.

“I have a session in the morning tomorrow,” Sissy said.

“We can go,” Ivan said. “It would be a great joy for me to see you dance.”

Sissy grinned.

“Come on,” Ivan said. “The night is warm and lovely. Shall we walk?”

He tucked Sissy’s hand into his arm, and they started toward his new apartment.


Friday afternoon — 2:35 p.m.

Denver, Colorado

Jill sat up on the side of the bed. She paused for a moment and moved across the bedroom toward the bathroom. Feeling Jacob’s eyes, she grinned at him before going inside.

Her mind reviewed how they’d gotten here.

<p>Jacob had insisted on spending the afternoon today for a “date.” He told her about this great restaurant downtown. She’d been in the middle of some detail of the twins when she realized where they were.</p>  <p>Chuckling, Jacob had tucked her hand into his elbow, and they went into the five-star hotel in downtown Denver. She’d started toward the desk when Jacob held up a key card. </p>  <p>“This is where you went this morning?” Jill asked.</p>  <p>“One of the places,” Jacob said. </p>  <p>Suddenly nervous, Jill watched the elevator click through the floors. When she looked at her husband, he simply smiled at her. They got off the elevator at the top floor.</p>  <p>“But . . .” Jill started ask about their tight finances.</p>  <p>“This is one of the projects I helped finance before I met you,” Jacob said. “It took a while to get going and finally built, which is why it’s not an item on our finances. It was finally built last year. The hotel opened a month or so ago. One of the stipulations in the loan was that we would get free visits as often as we’d like until the building is paid off, which will be ten, twenty, years from now.”</p>  <p>“Downtown building projects?” Jill asked about a very large lump sum on their financial ledger.</p>  <p>“This is one of those projects,” Jacob said. “There was a gorgeous home on this land. 1800s timber baron. I bought the home and the land when I first moved here to Denver. That’s how I got connected here.”</p>  <p>“Where is the house now?” Jill asked. </p>  <p>“I moved it to a big lot in the Montclair,” Jacob said. “Sold it before . . . you know, the engagement party and everything.”</p>  <p>She gave him a sly smile.</p>  <p>“Shall we go in?” Jacob asked.</p>  <p><strong></strong>“One more thing,” Jill said.</p><p><i>Denver Cereal continues next week...</i></p>

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