Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Four Hundred and Fifty-six : Tricky parts


Monday morning — 7:05 a.m.
New York City, New York

Tanesha slipped back into bed after using the bathroom. She pulled the crisp white hotel sheets up over her shoulders and lay down on her back.

“How is it?” Jeraine asked.

“The bathroom?” Tanesha asked with a grin. She rolled onto her side to look at him.

He was lying on his side looking at her.

“Why are you awake at this ungodly hour?” Jeraine asked.

“You are very much like your son,” Tanesha said. “Mornings, with a side of questions.”

Jeraine smiled. The private funeral for Big Daddy had happened after the big concert. They’d only been in bed for a few hours.

“We get up early to get the kids to school,” Tanesha said. “Blane’s been working at Lipson this week, so everything’s shifted to earlier. I get up to help them and help Jabari get ready.”

“Do you go back to bed?” Jeraine asked.

“Sometimes,” Tanesha said. “I usually have things to do — school work, housework, whatever.”

Jeraine grunted and rolled onto his back.

“How is it?” Jeraine asked. His head turned to look at her. “Being on the mobile unit.”

“Are you going to stay awake long enough to hear?” Tanesha asked.

“Hey,” Jeraine leaned up on one elbow. “I am awake.”

He flopped back down on the bed and pretend snored. She laughed. He rolled back onto his side to look at her.

“I only have one day with you,” he said. “I don’t want to waste it sleeping.”

His words made her smile. They had had many arguments about how he could stay up all night with his girlfriends but slept the entire time he was with Tanesha.

“I’m glad you came,” Jeraine said. He reached over and touched her shoulder. “Really glad.”

Tanesha smiled.

“So …” Jeraine said.

“I’d answer you if I could get a word in edgewise!” Tanesha laughed.

Jeraine laughed. She leaned forward to kiss his lips.

“I love you,” he whispered.

“I love you, too,” Tanesha said. “Let’s see … I’m amazed at how much I love the work. I don’t mind the late nights — which you know, in general, I hate. I don’t mind the cramped space — which you know, in general, I hate. I don’t even mind the smelly bodies.”

“Which the whole world knows you hate!” Jeraine laughed.

Tanesha nodded.

“I don’t feel like I’m doing anything, because I’m not, really,” Tanesha said. “Just taking blood pressure, talking to people. And it’s volunteer. But I really love it. I know I told you this on the phone but a lady from my Gran’s church came to see the doctor just because I was there. Amazing.”

Tanesha beamed at him.

“How is it for you to be on the road without us?” Tanesha asked.

“I … I’m embarrassed at how much fun I’m having,” Jeraine said.

“Embarrassed?” Tanesha asked. “Why?”

“Oh … I don’t know,” Jeraine said.

His eyes went vague. Tanesha reached over and stroked his face.

“I have always loved music,” Jeraine said. “Always. I mean, you know.”

“You’ve spent most of your life studying music — piano lessons, singing lessons, learning how to write songs,” Tanesha said. “You were always running from school to some special music thing.”

Jeraine nodded.

“You and music,” Jeraine said. “My only true loves.”

Tanesha smiled and kissed him again.

“I screwed it all up with the drugs and the women,” Jeraine said. “I had every little thing I could have ever wanted — everything I ever wanted, hell, everything I want now! And I …”

Jeraine paused while he gathered his thoughts. Tanesha watched his face.

“I thought that the drugs made music better, but they stole it all away from me,” Jeraine said. “I thought the women made my life more fun, freer. I was so mad at you for trying to ‘steal my life.’”

“I remember,” Tanesha said. “I was your controlling bitch.”

Jeraine wrinkled up his face.

“Sorry,” he said.

“I know,” Tanesha said.

“It wasn’t ever you,” Jeraine said. “The drugs and the women stole my life away from me. It was like while I was focus was on the high, the drugs and women snuck behind my back and robbed me. Most days, I didn’t even notice. Every once and a while, I’d wake up and see that everything was a mess. But …”

Jeraine shook his head.

“I don’t want that to happen again,” Jeraine said.

“I don’t want that to happen again either,” Tanesha said. “Why would it?”

“I don’t know,” Jeraine said. “It seems like I’m susceptible to tricky things that lie to me, tell me what I want to hear, and then take everything and slink away.”

“I think we all are,” Tanesha said.

“You’re not,” Jeraine said. “As long as I’ve known you, you’ve wanted to pursue being a doctor. Now, here you are — becoming a doctor.”

“Ever wonder why I keep drinking that tea and never purposely use this ‘fairy power’ Fin says that I have?” Tanesha asked.

Jeraine nodded.

“I think it’s a slippery slope,” Tanesha said. “A short cut, like drugs. The only real way to get ahead is through my own actions and choices.”

“But you could chose to use your fairy power,” Jeraine said.

“That’s the only thing I have control over,” Tanesha said. “The choice whether to use the fairy power or not. That’s all. If I start, who knows where I’ll stop. I’d blink like ‘I dream of Jeannie’ and be done with school. Then my ignorance would probably kill someone.”

Tanesha nodded, and Jeraine scowled.

“That’s the control you have over drugs,” Tanesha said. “The devil has to be invited in the door.”

“I thought you didn’t believe in devils, demons, and the like,” Jeraine said with a smile.

“I don’t,” Tanesha said. “I think a kind of devil lives inside all of us ready and willing to feed us lies and take away our dreams. We just have to …”

“Start,” Jeraine said. “So the drugs let lose my own power to self-destruct.”

Tanesha nodded.

“You remember psychology,” Tanesha said.

“The inner critic is frightened and would rather stay with the evil you know than risk change,” Jeraine nodded.

“Or as biology says it — the system strives for homeostasis,” Tanesha said.

“Any change is a threat to the system,” Jeraine said.

“Even a good change,” Tanesha said. “The closer you get to what you want, the harder the inner critic or your metabolism or your inner psyche works to keep it from you. You think it’s any accident that Fin arrived just as I’m finally starting med school? Or that you were presented with drugs the moment your guard was down and you were on your first tour? That’s just how it works. If we’re going to be all that we can be, we need to be vigilant against the danger that lives inside of us.”

Jeraine nodded.

“I love to see you happy like you were yesterday,” Tanesha said. “It’s like a dream come true for me. That’s what I want.”

“I love to see you happy, too,” Jeraine said with a smile. “You positively glowed after your first night on the mobile unit.”

“So we have to work together to keep the devil at bay,” Tanesha said. “To keep that light inside of us shining bright.”

Jeraine nodded. Tanesha leaned forward and kissed him again.

“You keep doing that and …”Jeraine said with a grin.

“And what?” Tanesha said defiantly.

He moved on top of her to show her exactly what he meant.


Monday morning —8:35 a.m.
Denver, Colorado

“Heather?” an unfamiliar woman’s voice said in rushed tones as Heather answered the phone.

Pulling away from the Marlowe school, Heather had answered the phone without thinking. She was often called back to school to help Mack put his shoes back on or bring something Tink had forgotten. The voice came through the Subaru’s speakers.

“This is Heather,” she said.

“It’s Risa,” the woman said. Heather nodded. This was Tink’s social worker —no, her ex-social worker.

“Hey Risa, how are you?” Heather asked.

“Uh, good,” Risa said. “I’m good.”

Knowing that Risa was often working and thinking at the same time, Heather didn’t respond to give the woman’s brain enough time to catch up. Risa’s jostled as if she was moving fast. When Risa didn’t say anything, Heather cleared her throat.

“Oh, sorry,” Risa said with a self-conscious chuckle. “Did you happen to see Tiffanie’s brother … uh … Chester? Yesterday?”

“No,” Heather said. “His foster parents called to cancel again at the last minute. We haven’t seen Chet in more than six months.”

“That long?” Risa asked.

“I left all of this on your voicemail,” Heather said.

“Did you?” Risa asked. “I’m sorry. I just saw that you called and called you back.”

“Oh, I do that all the time,” Heather said.

“I was supposed to do a home visit today with Chet, you know, to make sure he was ready to transition to your house,” Risa said. Heather heard the dinging of a car door in the background. “You still want that, right?”

“Of course,” Heather said.

“You’re on track with the building?” Risa asked.

“Sure,” Heather said, adding in her mind, “as far as you know.”

Risa fell silent.

“Did something happen with Chet?” Heather asked.

“He hasn’t been in school for a week,” Risa said. “I was supposed to do a home visit today but the family canceled.”

“Did they say why?” Heather asked. “They wouldn’t tell us anything, just that Chet was otherwise occupied.”

“That’s what they told me,” Risa said. “When I threatened to remove him, they told me he’s in a therapeutic home.”

“A what?” Heather asked.

Heather’s heart began to pound in her chest. She’d felt uneasy about Chet for the last week. She hadn’t wanted to say anything in case she was just being paranoid. In the background, it sounded like a car door opened and Risa got inside.

“That’s what I said,” Risa said. “So I went to his school. That’s where I am now.”

“And?” Heather asked.

“The foster withdrew him from school,” Risa said. “Transferred all of his paper work to …”

There was a rustle of papers. Heather waited while Risa found the paperwork.

“Colorado Springs Christian Conversion Academy,” Risa said.

“What is that?” Heather all but screamed into the phone.

“It’s a secure facility,” Risa said. “I called today and I can’t get in. I can’t get inside. As far as the academy is concerned, Chet will remain at their facility until he no longer shows the inclination to act out against God.”

“Act out against God?” Heather asked. “Which God? What God? What?”

“Gay conversion therapy,” Risa said. “Do you know it?”

“I’ve heard about these kinds of places but know this place? No. No, I’ve never heard of it,” Heather said. “I … I had no idea Chet was in this kind of danger. Can you get him out?”

“I don’t know,” Risa said. “I should be able to because he’s a ward of the state. When I called, the facility said that they answer to a higher calling, not the State of Colorado.”

“Oh no,” Heather whispered. “Is there anything we can do?”

“I’m meeting the Sheriff there,” Risa said. “I’ve called my supervisor the moment I learned of all of this. She pulled the accreditation for the family that Chet was placed with. They have three other foster kids; as far as I know, they exclusively foster gay and lesbian children. They’ve adopted two others. My supervisor called while I was in the school. She has custody of all five children. Picked them up at school. They are telling her unbelievable stories. Unbelievable.”

Heather cursed the modern culture which believed that God cared who someone loved. She was so angry that she had to pull the van over to the curb. She didn’t want to risk injuring herself or someone else because she was angry. She leaned her head against the steering wheel and tried to calm down.

“You still there?” Risa asked.

“Furious,” Heather said. “What can we do?”

“If we’re able to get Chet out of this place, and, sadly, that’s a big ‘if,’” Risa sighed. “We need a place to put him, hide him really. My supervisor said that they’ve rescued a few kids from this place. A week later, the facility came in the middle of the night with big bruisers to take them back.”

“We can hide him,” Heather said.

“You’d do that?” Risa asked.

“Oh, you’d be surprised at what I’d do,” Heather said softly.

Risa laughed.

“I want you to know that I had no idea this was going on,” Risa said. “Hell, I had no idea this place existed. They are a state accredited school, even. Well, after today, they aren’t.”

Heather didn’t know what to say. She tried to take some deep breaths to calm down.

“I promise you this,” Risa said. “I will move heaven and hell to get this boy out of there.”

“Not before I do,” Heather said softly.

“What was that?” Risa asked. “I didn’t hear you.”

“Nothing,” Heather said. “I’ll talk to Blane. We’ll both be available by cell. Call us as soon as you know anything.”

“Try not to panic,” Risa said. “I know it seems bad. Who am I kidding? It is bad. But you have no idea the resources I have at my disposal. We will get Chet back and free any other kids there. Keep your phones charged. I’ll be in touch as soon as I know anything.”

Risa hung up. Heather sat in the van for a long moment. She went through the list of who could help her. In Denver, Sandy was off today. Jill was working at the Castle. Tanesha was in New York. The fairies were there, but their power combined was nothing compared to the power she wielded now.

Abi. Abi would help. She hated this whole modern religion based in the belief of an impending apocalypse as much as Heather did.

Heather cursed.

She wasn’t Chet’s biological relative. She wouldn’t be able to assist him without the biological connection. It was possible that Abi was related, but unlikely because she’d only had two children. Gilfand wasn’t related to Tink so he wasn’t related to Chet.

Blane would never let her involve Tink.

She would never involve Tink.

Unable to come up with a plan, her rage shifted to despair. She started the car and drove home.

“Blane?” Heather asked at the door.

“What is it?” Blane asked. “What’s happened?”

“Chet’s being held hostage by a conversion therapy facility,” Heather said.

“Over my dead body,” Blane said. “What are we going to do?”

“I don’t know,” Heather said. “If we get him back, we have to hide him. I guess this so called school kidnaps kids in the middle of the night.”

“I’ll call Jake,” Blane said. “I’m sure that he, Jill, and even Sandy will come right over. We can do this.”

Blane smiled.

“Is Risa on the case?” Blane asked.

“That’s who called,” Heather said.

“Then we’re halfway there,” Blane said. “Get some coffee. I’ll call Jake.”

Heather nodded. She went to the coffee pot and poured a cup of coffee. She took a seat on the couch and tried to focus. Her mind flooded with despair. There wasn’t anything she could do. She couldn’t magically make it all work out. She would have to do what she’d always loathed doing — rely on other people.

“They’ll be right here,” Blane said. “Abi’s coming from New York. I guess she heard your thoughts. Did you do that on purpose?”

Heather shook her head.

“Anyway, Fin’s still in New York,” Blane said. “He’ll bring Tanesha home tonight. We should plan on her being home and wanting to help.”

He sat down on the couch and put his arm around her.

“We can do this,” Blane said.

“I don’t know how,” Heather said.

“I don’t either,” Blane said. “That doesn’t mean we won’t save the day like we always do. This is nothing compared to the horrors we’ve already conquered.”

“We always save the day?” Heather asked with a grin.

“We do,” Blane said.

Leaning into him and his confidence, Heather drank her coffee in silence.


Monday afternoon — 3:12 p.m.
New York City, New York

Claire heard her cell phone ringing but wasn’t sure where she’d left it. She’d spent the entire day attempting to clean up after the dinner party, the visit from Bernice’s grandchildren and children, and the weekend’s many events and guests. She’d finally given up and done what Seth had told her to do. She called a service. They were happy for the work and she was happy for the rest. Of course, she had to pay extra for the short notice, but she knew that Seth wouldn’t care. She’d let them into the building, pointed them in the direction of the mess, and was just sitting down for a cup of tea when her cell phone rang.

She searched her living room for the phone. It stopped ringing by the time she’d found it lying right next to her on the couch. She was reaching for her glasses when the phone rang again.

“Hello?” Claire asked.

“Claire?” Ava asked into her cell phone. “It’s Ava.”

“Ava!” Claire said. “It was such a joy to see you this weekend. Thank you for coming and being so lovely.”

“Oh Claire,” Ava said. “It’s really me that should be thanking you. I can’t think of one thing that was out of place. You made such a lovely weekend for everyone. Thank you.”

Blushing, Claire fell silent.

“Did you make it home okay?” Claire asked.

“I’m on my way to work,” Ava said. “There was a weather delay with my flight. I just made it in time to get to work.”

“Yuck,” Claire said.

“It’s okay,” Ava said. “I slept on the plane.”

Ava yawned.

“I might just close my door and nap for a while,” Ava said.

Claire laughed.

“What can I do for you, my dear?” Claire asked.

“Have you seen O’Malley?” Ava asked.

“This morning,” Claire said. “With you.”

“Yeah,” Ava said quietly.

“I’m sure he’s with the orchestra,” Claire said.

“That’s the thing,” Ava said. “When I landed I had a message from the orchestra saying he hadn’t arrived. Did they call you?”

“You know what?” Claire asked. “They probably did. I’ve been running around with my tail cut off trying to get everything cleaned up.”

“Oh, Claire, call a service,” Ava said.

“I did,” Claire said. “Finally. They are here now. Three ladies. They said it might be a few days.”

“It’s too much for any one person,” Ava said. “Leave it to the professionals.”

“I had to pay extra to get them here so fast,” Claire said.

“I’ll tell Sandy,” Ava said. “She won’t care.”

“Sandy’s such a dear,” Claire said. “I know you’re right.”

The women fell silent for a moment.

“So you don’t know where Seth is?” Claire asked.

“I don’t,” Ava said. “He took me to the airport. He used that military ID he has to walk me to the gate. He waited until I was on the plane. He said he was going to work. On the symphonies, I mean.”

“That’s worrisome,” Claire said.

“I’m sure he’ll show up,” Ava said. “He always says that if something happens to call you. You two are so connected that you know when something awful happens to the other person.”

Claire had a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach. It was the same feeling she had every time Seth was in trouble.

“So I’m calling,” Ava said.

Claire didn’t respond.

“He’s in trouble, isn’t he?” Ava asked.

“Feels that way,” Claire said. “I’ll call the hospitals. My daughter should be home in a half hour. She’ll help out, and any way she gets more results as a doctor.”

“Good idea,” Ava said. “Listen, I have to work.”

In the background, Ava’s car dinged as she turned the vehicle off.

“I’ll call O’Malley’s police buddies here to see if they can find him through the police networks,” Ava said. “But with Seth, you never know.”

“I’ll call Maresol,” Claire said. “She and Bernie know all kinds of people from all levels of the government. If they’ve taken him …”

“Again,” Ava said.

“Again,” Claire said. “They’ll find him.”

Ava’s car door slammed.

“We’ll find him, Ava,” Claire said.

“I’m sure it’s nothing,” Ava said.

“No, you’re not,” Claire said. “You’ll call me if you find out anything?”

“I’ll call you,” Ava said. “You’ll call me?”

“The moment I know anything,” Claire said. “Thanks for letting me know.”

Ava said something like “mmm” and the line went dead. Claire looked at the phone. Focusing on the feeling in her stomach, she tried to send a message to Seth. He would call her right away if he was able to. As the seconds dragged into ten minutes, Claire knew that Seth was somewhere that he couldn’t be reached.

She picked up her cellphone and started calling hospitals near the airport.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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