Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Four Hundred and Eighty-three : How to make decisions


“What are you hung up on?” Seth asked.

“Um …” Sissy looked at Seth and then at Jammy. She glanced at Otis and then Ivan, before turning her gaze back to Seth. “I … uh … well, when I first tried out, I wanted to come to New York and this is the best school in New York. But mostly, I wanted to do better than …”

“Horse teeth,” Ivan said with a nod. “I wondered if you were thinking of her.”

Sissy nodded.

“What’s ‘horse teeth’?” Jammy asked.

“She’s a girl that is my age,” Sissy said. “She has really big teeth. When Ivan was first here, he couldn’t say her name so he called her ‘devushki s konskimi zubami’,” Otis laughed, “‘girl with horse teeth’. She thought it was a nickname or a term of affection. You know, she had this nickname and I didn’t so she was the favored student. You know, kids stuff.”

Sissy looked at Ivan. Proud of his work with students, he was sincerely embarrassed by his inability to say her name.

“Thank God, Google translate wasn’t around then,” Sissy said with a laugh. Ivan laughed. “She went to the arts high school, was able to stay in ballet all the years, intensives every single summer, special after school programs.”

Sissy nodded at her pancakes.

“She did everything right,” Sissy said without looking up. “Like you’re supposed to.”

Sissy fell silent and, for some reason, the men waited for her to continue.

“Of course, she never had private sessions with Ivan or Anjelika or …” Sissy leaned forward to whisper, “the fairies.”

Sissy nodded.

“I was really lucky,” Sissy said with a quick shrug. “And she is really good.”

“She decided that she didn’t want Russian teacher. Too much work,” Ivan said. “I saw her for summer class but not for individuals. She worked with a woman from Denver Ballet. She dances beautifully.”

“I wanted to do better than she did because, well, …” Sissy blushed. “Like I said, she did everything right.”

“She used to tell you that all the time,” Ivan said.

Sissy nodded.

“I didn’t do everything right,” Sissy said. “Not even close. I mean, eating disorder, missing years of training, dad dying, Charlie, mom’s ‘problems’ and …” She looked at Ivan before saying, “everything.”

“Where is this ‘horse teeth’ now?” Otis asked.

“That’s what I was thinking about,” Sissy turned to look at Ivan. “Do you know?”

Ivan shook his head.

“She broke a bone in her foot just under the ankle her first week of school last fall,” Sissy said. “She was dancing when it happened. I guess she stepped onto her foot and the bone broke. It’s a serious break for a ballet dancer. She was in the hospital when I was there. I saw her there. I pestered my nurse until she put us both on the balcony at the same time. Horse teeth told me that her issue was serious bone loss. I guess her diet is weird or whatever.”

“Is she still there?” Ivan asked.

“Technically,” Sissy nodded. “She’s having a hard time coming back from that injury. She’s been in Denver since she was released from the hospital. She’s starting back from the injury this fall. If I went there, now, I’d have to see her. Or worse …”

Sissy looked down at her pancakes for a moment.

“Sissy?” Seth asked.

Sissy looked up into Seth’s blue eyes.

“I’d have to be better than she is,” Sissy said as a nod. “After everything … that’s happened, you know … and even thought I used to want it really, really bad …it would be a terrible burden to be better than horse teeth. Now.”

Sissy nodded. Seeing that she still held their attention, she continued.

“I guess I’m saying that I didn’t know how to make the decision when I first made it,” Sissy said. “I went to the only place that let me in. A year later, and all of the things that happened, I’m still not really able to make it now.”

Sissy shrugged.

“I can stay in the dorm during the week and come home on the weekends,” Sissy said. “Lots of kids do that. We probably will slow down the dance parties because I’ll be dancing so much at school. Did you hear from school?”

Ivan nodded.

“I must take a few courses,” Ivan said. He looked at the men, “I am going to become a medical physical therapist to work with injured ballet dancers. I must take the prerequisites to get into school.”

He looked back at Sissy.

“I can start the Oriental Medicine next week,” Ivan said. “I will teach my classes and take Chinese Medicine classes at night.”

“So we’ll have a lot to do,” Sissy said.

“I think you’re saying that you want to stay where you are,” Jammy said.

“I don’t know anything else,” Sissy said.

Not sure of what else to say, she let the men take over the conversation. Sissy ate her pancakes and drank her tea. In the silence of conversation that didn’t include her, she looked out to the sidewalk and watched people scurrying back and forth on the cool New York City night.

She wondered if these people knew where they were going.

Sighing, she looked up at the men at the table. Seth was a world class piano player and composer. Everyone who ever met Seth loved him. Otis had been some kind of Russian Mob boss but was supposed to be reformed now. Otis had lived through unspeakable horrors in the gulag and still laughed about life. Jammy was a well sought after, highly paid entertainment lawyer and manager. She would never have him in her life if it wasn’t for Seth. And then there was Ivan. He was still a reliable male ballet lead. He loved teaching and was getting ready to start his next adventure.

Did these men know where they were going?

Would she ever know where she was going?

Catching her sigh, Ivan put his arm back around her and pulled her close as if she were cold. She drank her tea and partially listened to the men’s conversation about some case Seth wasn’t supposed to be working on but was still working on.

Maybe knowing where you were going didn’t matter as much as wanting to be where you are as you’re going there. Nodding to herself, she joined the conversation.


Wednesday night — 8:25 p.m.

Denver, Colorado

Tres Sierra looked up when Heather walked toward him. He got up from the booth where he’d been waiting. He shook Blane’s hand and nodded to Heather before getting into the booth. Heather sat directly across from him with Blane on the end of the booth.

Tres cleared his throat to speak, but Dr. Nelson Weeks came up to their table. Blane stood up to greet him. Nelson waved to Heather and nodded to Tres before sliding into the seat next to Tres.

Tres cleared his throat again.

“So,” Tres started, “my grandmother …”

Tres didn’t continue. They waited a moment before Nelson turned to Tres and clapped him on the back.

“Spit it out,” Nelson said.

They laughed.

“I don’t think I have anything to say,” Tres grinned at Nelson. He lifted his shoulders in a shrug. “I don’t know what to say, I guess.”

Tres nodded.

“Do you usually know what to say?” Nelson asked.

Tres turned to look at Nelson before nodded.

“Yeah, I guess I do always know what to say,” Tres said.

“Me, too,” Nelson said.

“By all means,” Tres gestured for Nelson to speak his mind.

“I don’t know how to start either,” Nelson said.

“We don’t either,” Blane said.

Heather nodded in agreement. The waitress came up and each person ordered a drink. Blane ordered pie for himself and Heather. Nelson also ordered pie, but Tres ordered cake.

“So, you don’t like pie?” Heather asked.

“I’m not going to just go along with everything,” Tres said in a burst of emotion. “Whatever you say or whatever. I am going to …”

He realized that they were staring at him and he blushed.

“Oh shit,” Tres said and looked away. Sighing, he turned back, “I really like the pie here.”

Blane hopped up and went to find the waitress. He came back a few minutes later.

“All taken care of,” Blane said.

“Thanks,” Tres said.

They sat in silence for another long minute.

“We are in the middle of a lot,” Heather said. “I know that you know this but I thought …”

Blane nodded and Heather swallowed hard.

“We remodeled our house so that Chet could come to live with us,” Heather said. “We didn’t realize that we’d enjoy living with Tanesha as much as we have. Now that Jeraine is touring, Tanesha needs someone to help take care of her and their son, Jabari while she goes to medical school. We went today to visit the house with Jer and Tanesha.”

The waitress arrived with their drinks and Heather stopped talking. While the men were drinking a variety of colors of beer, Heather had a cup of chamomile tea. Tres gestured to her tea.

“I’m still breastfeeding Wyn,” Heather said. “And anyway, I can’t really drink anymore.”

Rather than continue, Heather pressed on with what she’d prepared to say.

“We now feel like we can’t live in our beautifully remodeled house,” Heather said. “We went today. It’s hard to describe but every single decision was made with Chet in mind. He came to see the old house three or four times to pick out colors and set up his room. I mean, his room is perfect and …”

Her eyes welling with tears, Heather shook her head.

“I don’t think we can live there,” Heather said.

“It’s a crazy place to be in,” Blane said. “We felt like Chet’s parents. We feel his … loss as if our own child died. But we never even lived with him.”

“Just planned to live with him,” Heather said. “We have two young children and Tink and Jabari, like we said.”

She took a drink of tea.

“I mean we can sell the house,” Heather said, “and …”

Heather stopped talking. She looked away. No one said anything for a while. The pie arrived and they began to eat.

“I have one question,” Tres asked.

Heather looked up at him.

“What happens when you drink?” Tres asked.

Heather reached over and took Tres’s Guinness. She took a drink of the beer. Before she swallowed all of her bee, cherubs began to float around their table. Nelson leaned in.

“What are they?” Nelson asked.

“Cherubs,” Blane said. “Heather is the Goddess of Love.”

“Like Aphrodite?” Nelson asked.

“She’s my grandmother,” Heather said.

“That makes you Hedone,” Nelson said.

Heather nodded.

“Now, that makes a lot of things make much more sense,” Nelson said. He looked at Tres. “Did you know that?”

“I was told,” Tres said. “But the cherubs are … interesting.”

Heather looked up at him and started to laugh.

“But wait,” Nelson said, “what about Eros?”

“That’s a very long story,” Blane said.

“But you’ll tell me, right?” Nelson asked.

Heather and Blane nodded.

“Me, too?” Tres asked.

Heather and Blane kept nodding.

“Will you tell me about getting rid of HIV?” Nelson asked.

“Bone marrow transfusion,” Blane said.

“Yeah, but there’s something special about your blood now,” Nelson said. “Healing, right?

“We’ll tell you,” Heather said.

“I am not sleeping with him,” Tres said. He looked at Nelson. “No offense.”

“None taken,” Nelson said. “You’re not my type either.”

“Good to know,” Tres said. “Now that that is settled — how is this going to work?”

“We don’t have any idea,” Blane said. Heather nodded. “You?”

Tres shook his head.

“You could live with me,” Nelson said.

They turned to look at him.

“I live in a mansion,” Nelson said. “Literally. I mean, it’s a long story but I have plenty of room.”

Blane, Heather, and Tres just looked at him.

“You could each have your own room — Tink, Mack, and Wyn too,” Nelson said. “And there would still be and entire wing of rooms left over.”

“You’ve never been married, right?” Heather asked.

“Never,” Nelson said.

“No kids?” Heather asked.

“Never really wanted any until I met Mack,” Nelson said.

“He has that effect on people,” Blane said.

Nelson nodded. He turned to Tres.

“Have you met him?” Nelson asked. “Mack, I mean.”

Tres nodded.

“He’s a great soul,” Nelson said.

They nodded. No one knew exactly what to say next so the silence stretched.

“So why do you have this big house?” Tres asked.

“You don’t have the security clearance to know the answer to that question,” Nelson said.

“Really?” Tres asked.

“No,” Nelson said. “I’ve just always wanted to say that.”

Everyone laughed. After another awkward silence, Tres spoke up.

“I have a condo,” Tres said. “It’s next door to my abuela so I can keep an eye on her. Make sure my brother isn’t robbing her blind.”

Nelson nodded.

“So we have to think about Abuela,” Blane said.

“Tanesha lives across from her Gran to make sure Gran’s okay.” Heather nodded.

“How about you Nelson?” Heather asked. “Anyone?”

“They kicked me out when they found out I was gay,” Nelson said. “I haven’t heard from them since then.”

“I fucking hate that,” Tres said.

Nelson gave Tres a long assessing look.

“Me, too,” Nelson said.

“I thought your parents paid for college,” Blane said.

“They did,” Nelson said. “I graduated from college with I was eighteen. They didn’t know I was gay. I told them at my graduation. I haven’t seen them since.”

“So there might be some fences to mend,” Heather said.

No one said anything for a moment.

“I guess that’s what we’re asking,” Blane said. “It’s a lot to take on. We don’t know if any of us will get along or enjoy each other.”

“We don’t know if this will work,” Heather said. “With all of us, I mean.”

“Or how it will work,” Blane said. “We just wanted to get together to ask if we want to try.”

“I’m not sleeping with him,” Tres said as a joke.

“Homophobe,” Nelson said with a laugh.

Tres leaned over to kiss Nelson cheek. They all laughed after a minute they sat there in silence.

“I’m in,” Tres said with a nod.

“Me too,” Nelson said. “I think what you have is magnificent.”

“We willing to try too,” Heather said.

“I do have one question,” Nelson said.

“Okay,” Blane said.

“What if I wanted to have my own child?” Nelson asked.

“What if you did?” Tres asked.

Heather shrugged.

“Just something to figure out,” Tres said.

“Like everything else,” Heather said.

With that, they fell silent again. When the bill came, Blane insisted on paying it. They left the restaurant without saying another word. Blane opened Heather’s door and she got in. Sitting in the car by herself, Heather began to cry. Blane got in to the driver’s seat.

“What is it?” Blane asked.

“So scared of losing everything,” Heather said. “I’ve lost everything good so many times in my life. I … don’t want that anymore.”

“Me, too,” Blane said.

His eyes welled with tears. They drove home in silence.


Thursday early morning — 3:25 a.m. ET

Between New York City and France

Sissy stretched her legs into the aisle. Jammy had taken his seat next to her in First Class, stuck ear buds in his ears, leaned against the window, and feel sound asleep. They were sitting in First Class on their way to Paris, France.

Somehow, during their meal of pancakes, Jammy had received a call that the Paris Opera Ballet was requesting that Sissy apply to their school. The Royal Ballet Company must have called as well because Sissy was supposed to spend the latter half of today interviewing for them. Tomorrow, she would either go to the Vaganova School in St. Petersburg, Russia and the Bolshoi in Moscow on Saturday, or they would meet her in Paris. Sissy should know what was going to happen but she wasn’t paying attention. Jammy, Otis, and Ivan had set the whole thing up while Sissy was watching the people walk on the sidewalk past the diner window.

One way to not make a decision was to watch people walking on the sidewalk while your life unfolds in front of you. Sissy sighed.

It was probably just as well that Sissy didn’t know. She would have said that she didn’t want to go, because she didn’t want to go. Plus, Tink and Charlie were visiting and Tink had just lost her brother and her mother. Of course, Tink is the one who made Sissy go. Well, Tink and Sandy. Sissy had called Sandy from the airport. Sissy had wept her fears into the phone while Sandy told her that everything was going to be okay.

Sandy never lied. So everything was going to be okay. It just didn’t feel that way right now.

Sissy sighed and tucked her feet back into her area. The flight attendant came along to bring Sissy more water. The flight attendant also gave the man across the aisle a bottle of water. When the flight attendant moved, the man raised his bottle of water in a kind of salute. The man was older and wore reading glasses. He was wearing a suit. His body looked like it had at one point been active and fit. Now, his body reflected more time spent at the dining room table than the gym. Deeming him harmless, Sissy smiled at the man.

“Bonsoir,” the man said a proper “good evening” to Sissy in French.

“Bonsoir,” Sissy replied with a smile.

“Do you speak French?” the man asked. His voice reflected his surprise.

“It depends on what you consider ‘speaking’,” Sissy said in French. She laughed. “I’ve been learning French and Russian. My friend Mari speaks only French to me twice a week when we meet. I’m not very good.”

“And Russian?” the man asked in French.

“My boyfriend is from Russia,” Sissy said. Her face blushing as she had never called Ivan her “boyfriend” before.

The man nodded to Jammy.

“That’s my agent,” Sissy said.

“Your agent,” the man said with a twinkle in his eye. “You must be famous.”

Sissy shook her head vehemently. The man laughed at her sincerity.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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