Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Four Hundred and Eighty : Not ready


Wednesday morning — 8:11 a.m.

New York City, New York

Ivan gave Sissy a kind but unforgiving look. Sissy shrugged. He opened his mouth to say something. Before he could speak, she shook her head. They were talking softly across the dining room table at Ivan’s flat. Ivan’s hand was touching a cup of tea, and Sissy held a green frothy protein drink in front of her.

“You can’t make me,” Sissy said.

He grinned at her childish response, and she smiled. They’d gone through this almost every day for the last two weeks.

“I’m not ready,” Sissy said.

“You are more than ready,” Ivan said. “And you know it.”

“I …” Sissy said.

“You dance beautifully at our little parties,” Ivan said.

“Everyone likes me there,” Sissy said.

Ivan laughed. She opened her mouth in indignation.

“Why is that funny?” Sissy asked.

“I have never met a Delgado that gave even a moment’s thought to whether anyone ‘liked them,’” Ivan said. “Not your father, not your brother. Surely, in all of the years of knowing you, when have you ever cared if people liked you?”

“Since I had to sit and be grilled over my relationship with you!” Sissy said. She crossed her arms in indignation. “I was just shot! I could barely walk and what were they interested in?”

Ivan had nothing to say and Sissy knew it. He hadn’t been in the room with her, so he had no real idea of what she went through. Even so, he knew that she knew that she was manipulating him to get him to stop asking her about going back to school. He closed his eyes and leaned his head back.

In all of his years of loving women — for all of the women he’d loved — he’d never in his life met a woman who could make him feel so crazy inside. The worst part was that she knew it. When he opened his eyes, she was grinning in triumph at him. He laughed.

“Fine,” he said. “We pick another school. Your Jammy has had many offers.”

Sissy shrugged.

“What does …” Ivan shrugged, “mean?”

“It means …” Sissy shrugged again. “Why bother? I’ve found a husband already. Why try so hard?”

Ivan burst out laughing until he realized that she might be serious.

“You’re not serious,” Ivan said.

“Sort of,” Sissy said. “Mom always said …”

“Stop,” Ivan said.

She stopped talking. Rather than look at him, she drank down her green drink. When she looked at him, she saw that he was watching her closely.

“I love you, and I’m interested in your thoughts, but nothing good comes after the words ‘Mom always said,’” Ivan said.

“But …” she started.

“Your job in life is not only to find a husband,” Ivan said. “Your job in life is to live your life to your fullest potential. You believe that as I do.”

“I don’t know what I believe,” Sissy said.

He looked at her for a long minute before realizing that she was actually telling him the truth.

“Plus, Tink and Charlie are here,” Sissy said. “I need to spend the day with them, not at some stupid school that hates me.”

Ivan looked at the clock and squinted.

“I need to get moving or be late to class,” Ivan said.

Sissy gave an accepting nod.

“I will speak to them to see if they will give you another week,” Ivan said.

“If you must,” Sissy said.

“If you miss next week, you will miss another entire year,” Ivan said. “You will be seventeen, too old to …”

He watched her with genuine concern. Something was wrong. Sissy had always been so driven to become a ballerina. When she was recovering, she was almost too aggressive with her physical therapy. She made damned sure she recovered to full function. She’d even hired Anjelika, behind his back, to get back to dancing long before he would have thought it wise.

But in the last few weeks, her interest in everything she’d once fought for had lagged. She would rather stay home than go out. She would rather do almost anything than even talk about school. As far as he knew, she either spent her time in the studio stretching or doing Pilates. If she was dropping weight, he’d swear that she was back into an anorexic cycle.

She was willfully tossing away her extraordinary God given talent. Most ballerinas would give their eye teeth to have her talent and training. It killed him to watch her throw it all away.

The worst thing was that she refused to tell him why she was behaving this way.

They had always been so brutally honest with each other. Even when she was a young child. He answered every question completely and honestly. To his knowledge, she’d always done the same.

Now, whenever he pressed, she told him that he simply could not understand. That was the truth, and they both knew it.

He took up her hands and kissed the knuckles.

“Time to go,” Ivan said. “I will see you tonight.”

She watched him take his jacket down from a hook and sit down on the bench to put on his formal boots. He checked himself in the full length mirror, gave her another kind look, and left the apartment. She watched the door for a full minute. When he didn’t return through the door, she got up from her seat.

Walking past the kitchen, she pointed at Giovanni and said, “Not a word.”

She went back to bed. Pulling the covers over her head, she muttered, “At least no one will tell me what a whore I am today.”

Giovanni was not alone in the kitchen. Giovanni had woken Tink and Charlie so that they could witness Sissy and Ivan’s interaction.

“What is happening to our Sissy?” Giovanni asked.

“They were pretty horrible to her at that awful school,” Tink said immediately coming to Sissy’s defense. “They said terrible things about her and Ivan. She had to deal with all of that while she had gaping wounds from being shot!”

When she saw how concerned Giovanni and Charlie were, she shrugged.

“I don’t think I’d go back there,” Tink said.

“They were awful,” Giovanni said. “There is no question that this is true. What is also true that she has had offers from many, many ballet schools — two others here in New York. I have had to leave an order at the desk not to send up people who wish to speak to her about going to their school.”

“Sissy’s amazing,” Tink said.

“She is amazing,” Giovanni said. “That is not a question. It’s just that … she is so different.”

“Dance has always been her life,” Charlie said.

“Sì,” Giovanni said. “But more she’s been — the entire time I’ve known her — so sure of who she was and what she wanted and every little thing. Now, she’s …”

Charlie nodded. Tink watched the concern work its way through Charlie’s face. She looked at Giovanni and then back at Charlie. Without saying another word, she walked past them and went to Sissy’s room. She tapped on the door and leaned in.

“Sissy?” Tink asked.

Sissy turned over to look at Tink. Rather than say anything, Tink went into the room. She shucked off her shoes, got in bed with Sissy, and hugged her tight.

Sissy began to weep.


Wednesday morning — 7:13 a.m.

Denver, Colorado

In answer to a knock, Jeraine opened the front door to the little yellow house. He wasn’t sure what he was expecting, but it wasn’t the small, heavy set, elderly Hispanic woman standing in front of him.

She spoke at him in a flurry of Spanish.

“Pardon?” Jeraine asked.

She repeated the same flurry of language. When he’d asked her to repeat herself, he’d expected his training in Spanish to kick in. It didn’t. He still had no idea what she was saying.

“No sé,” he said and started to close the door.

She put her foot in the doorway. She pointed behind him.

Blane was coming down the stairs. Jeraine shrugged.

“What’s going on?” Blane asked.

Jeraine opened the door for him to see the woman. She repeated the flurry of language.

Jeraine watched Blane. For reasons he didn’t quite understand, Jeraine felt very protective over Blane. He knew everything Blane had been through and didn’t want to see him hurt again.

Blane flushed at the sight of the woman. When the woman spoke, Blane shook his head. Jeraine was about to close the door in her face when Blane responded in the same fast Spanish.

“What is it?” Jeraine asked.

“It’s Enrique’s Abuela,” Blane said.

Jeraine translated the word “abuela” to grandmother. He started to close the door on her again.

“She’s here because of everything that’s happened,” Blane said to Jeraine. Looking at the woman, he added, “She speaks perfect and fluent English. Please, Abuela, come in.”

The woman sniffed at Jeraine as she walked past him. Jeraine gave Blane a “What was that?” look, and Blane shook his head. Jeraine followed them into the kitchen. When Blane realized Jeraine had followed, he raised his shoulders in a shrug of “Why?” Jeraine gave him a smug look and went into the kitchen. Blane pulled out a chair for Abuela. A small woman, she had to jump a few times before she was able to sit on the stool. Blane sat next to her.

“May I get you something, ma’am?” Jeraine asked.

“Some coffee,” Abuela said.

“Chocolate and cinnamon?” Jeraine asked.

“Sí,”Abuela said.

Blane and Abuela sat in awkward silence while Jeraine made a pot of drip coffee. Jeraine started baking muffins while the pot brewed. Jeraine was placing a pan of blueberry muffins into the oven when the coffee finished brewing. Jeraine poured the coffee and doctored it.

“Are you leaving now?” Blane asked with a smile.

“No,” Jeraine said. Instinctively, Jeraine put his hand on his chest. “Muffins.”

Blane took in Jeraine’s gesture and turned to Abuela. She said something in Spanish.

“English,” Blane said.

She scowled at him and he nodded to encourage her.

“He’s not leaving,” Blane said. “So you may as well tell us why you’re here.”

“He’s your lover, now?” Abuela asked.

“No,” Blane said. “He’s my family.”

Abuela nodded and turned to look at Jeraine.

“You look a lot like that singer,” Abuela said. “Famous. Scoundrel. You must get that a lot.”

Jeraine grinned at the elderly woman and Blane stifled a chuckle.

“I heard about what happened,” Abuela said. “To the boy.”

Blane’s face fell at her words. He looked down at the counter to regain his composure. Abuela put her rough hand over his.

“I will say my piece and leave you,” Abuela said.

Blane nodded and cleared his throat.

“My daughter went to great lengths to make sure that I didn’t know about Enrique’s tendencies,” Abuela said. “My brother was the same.”

Surprised, Blane looked up at her.

“It was never anything for me,” Abuela said. “I loved my brother. He loved men. Why did I care?”

Abuela lifted her shoulders in a shrug.

“I mean, the priest had a lot to say about it,” Abuela said. “But we all went to Catholic school. So many priests were gay! I really didn’t listen.”

“Why were you so upset with Enrique?” Blane asked. “I always thought …”

“Enrique is a horrible person,” Abuela said with a slight smile. “He is cruel. You know this more than anyone. What he did to you … And my daughter! She is more upset about him being homosexual than him being a monster.”

Abuela nodded. Blane shook his head.

“I’m apologize,” Blane said. “I was just so sure that …”

“I was a monster like my grandson?” Abuela said. “Yes, I understand that. You ever notice how Enrique didn’t want us to get to know each other?”

Blane nodded.

“You probably thought he didn’t want me to harass you,” Abuela said.

“He said as much,” Blane said.

“No,” Abuela said. “How could I harass such a beautiful being who makes such incredible food?”

Jeraine laughed. When Abuela looked at him, he turned it into a cough. The elderly woman laughed at him.

“You have to have something,” Abuela’s hand went to her heart, “in here, to be able to cook so well.”

Abuela gave Jeraine a suspicious look.

“We will see with your muffins,” Abuela said.

Jeraine laughed when she touched her chest again. She grinned at him. She wagged her finger at Jeraine and opened her mouth. She closed her mouth with a shake of her head.

“No, I cannot get distracted with handsome men,” Abuela said.

Jeraine and Blane grinned at her and she smiled. Her smile transformed into concern.

“I came to your home to say this: You have only one short life,” Abuela said. “You haven’t been with anyone since Enrique.”

“How would you possibly know that?” Jeraine asked abruptly.

Abuela gestured for Blane to answer the question.

“Enrique,” Blane said. He glanced at Jeraine and nodded. “He keeps track. I was just starting a friendship with a man at my doctor’s office and …”

Blane shrugged.

“My grandson is very controlling,” Abuela said.

“He has no intention of being my partner,” Blane said. “He just wants to make sure I’m miserable.”

“Are you miserable?” Abuela asked.

Blane looked at her for a moment.

“I am very sad about Chet and … all of that,” Blane said. “But miserable? No. I have two sons now — Mack and Wyn. Tiffanie, Chet’s sister, is our daughter. Heather is … wonderful. My children and Heather — they are the light of my life. I discovered that Jake is my brother, which is … Jeraine and Tanesha, and of course, everyone. My life is full of family, friends … great work. It’s nothing like what it was when I only had Enrique, or Enrique had me.”

“Good,” Abuela said. “But no lover. You and Heather …”

“We are parents, partners in life,” Blane said with a shake of his head. “Not lovers.”

“As I thought,” Abuela said. She took Blane’s hands. “You know how I know?”

Blane shook his head.

“My grandson, Tres,” Abuela said.

Blane nodded.

“We had a wedding last weekend,” Abuela said. “I asked him and he finally told me about loving someone he couldn’t have.”

Abuela tapped her temple.

“Abuela is no dummy,” she said. “I knew who he was talking about.”

Blane nodded.

“I also know Dr. Weeks’ grandmother,” Abuela said. “We volunteer at Samaritan House together. She talks on and on about her worries for her grandson the doctor who is not a doctor anymore. She told me that he has found someone but …”

Abuela nodded.

“Same story,” Abuela said. “So I came to say to you — life is short. If you learn anything from the boy’s tragedy, you should learn that life is too short to waste time with love.”

She looked at Jeraine and pointed at him.

“You are that singer — Dr. Bumpy’s son — aren’t you?” Abuela asked.

“I am,” Jeraine said.

“Whores everywhere,” Abuela said with a shake of her head.

“I am a reformed man,” Jeraine said.

Abuela sniffed at him. She turned away from him just as the bell rang for the muffins. He went to take the muffins out of the oven.

“You care about this man?” Abuela asked.

Blane nodded.

“Then you know what to do,” Abuela said. “Your Heather cares about my grandson?”

Blane nodded.

“Then you both know what to do,” Abuela said.

She slid off the chair to standing.

“Can I take that with me?” Abuela asked.

Jeraine turned around. He had a glass container with four muffins in it. She smiled her thanks. Before Blane or Jeraine could respond, Abuela walked out of the house and carefully closed the front door.

“She seems clear,” Jeraine said as he set a plate with muffins on it in front of Blane.

“Easier said than done,” Blane said.

Jeraine nodded. Their eyes drifted toward the door of the house before returning to the muffins. After a bite, Blane nodded to Jeraine and he smiled.

“What would you think?” Blane asked.

“I met Dr. Nelson Weeks when I ODed in Denver,” Jeraine said. “He was my doctor. Came to check on me every single day, even after I was released. Let me just say this — I owe him my life.”

Blane nodded.

“And Tres?” Blane asked.

“I’ll follow your lead,” Jeraine shrugged. “You like him?”

Blane nodded.

“You’ve thought about this house?” Jeraine asked. “Any conclusions on what we should do?”

Blane shook his head.

“We don’t know either,” Jeraine said. He picked up a plate of muffins. “I’m going to wake up Tanesha.”

Jeraine got halfway out of the kitchen before turning around.

“Call him,” Jeraine said.

He gave Blane a nod and left. Blane looked at his cell phone for a moment before heading up stairs to continue packing clothing for their stay at the Castle.


Wednesday mid-day — 12:13 p.m.

New York City, New York

Ivan looked up to see Melinda standing near the back of his classroom. He had his male Sprit de Corps dancers dancing with each other. One male had to perform the ballerina role while the other performed the male role. The idea was to give these young dancers an idea of what it’s really like to dance the ballerina’s part as well as support a variety of weights and talents of other dancers. Even with a couple weeks of practice, the young men still dissolved in laughter. Melinda was grinning at the young men.

Ivan looked at the clock. He held up two fingers to Melinda and she nodded.

“That will have to do,” Ivan said. “Please practice. One way to deepen understanding in your relationship with your female partner is to ask for help from them. They will be happy to help you dance their parts. It’s powerful.”

The young men held Ivan in rapt attention.

“Try it,” Ivan said. “We will meet again Friday.”

The young men clapped and Ivan gave a slight nod of his head. As Ivan had taught them, the young men gave the principal dancer a slight bow as they left the room. Two young men lagged behind to ask questions.

“I apologize,” Ivan said. “I must meet with Ms. Melinda.”

He put his hand on the young men’s upper arms.

“Send me an email,” Ivan said. “I will respond. Or come to office hours.”

The young men looked at Melinda and she smiled.

“I just wanted to know when you were holding another dance party,” one young man said.

The other young man nodded.

“You have to keep an eye on the Instagram account,” Melinda said.

“That’s all?” the young man asked.

“For now,” Melinda said.

The young men looked from Ivan to Melinda. Ivan pointed them out of the room and they slumped out with a slight bow to Melinda.

“What has happened?” Ivan asked and he straightened the room.

“I’ve spoken with Sissy,” Melinda said.

Ivan stopped moving. Even though his back was to Melinda, she could feel the despair that came off him in waves. He spun around and she nodded.

“What is it?” Ivan asked. “Please. Just tell me.”

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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