Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Four Hundred and Forty : Just married.


Monday morning — 5:02 a.m.

Aden woke with a start. He glanced at the clock. It was just after five o’clock.

“Shit,” Aden said under his breath.

He grabbed his phone, and sat up on the side of the bed. His email and texts were oddly silent.

“What is it?” Sandy asked.

“I over slept,” Aden said.

Sandy watched him for a moment. She was about to remind him that they had a week off when he got out of bed.

“Go back to sleep,” Aden said. “I missed the sites start. Jacob trusted me with this huge opportunity. I can’t screw it up.”

For the first time, he looked around the darkened room. This was not their bedroom at the Castle.

“Any idea where we are?” Aden asked. He flipped open the dark curtain and realized that they were in downtown Denver. Just on the edge of his horizon, he noticed a single puff of white smoke begin to puff from their road equipment. The big machines were turned on at least a half hour before use to warm them up. Another machine started and then another. “Looks like we’re downtown. The South Platte site is just starting.”

“We’re staying downtown a few days,” Sandy said with a grin.

She wondered how long it would take for Aden to remember that they were on their honeymoon. He zipped into the bathroom for a quick shower. When he returned, he went to his suitcase and started to dress.

“Why?” Aden asked. “Did the Castle burn down?”

“Nope,” Sandy said.

“Some fairy related mayhem,” Aden said.

“Nope,” Sandy said.

“Titan related bs,” Aden said. Sandy sat up in bed and shook her head. “Seth?”

She shook her head.

“The kids?” Aden said. Tucking his belt into this belt band, he shook his head. “You think you can handle the kids today? I need to get moving.”

“Nope,” Sandy said.

Aden stopped getting ready and looked at her.

“What’s with you today?” Aden asked, in an irritated voice.

Sandy laughed. When he shook his head at her, she patted the bed.

“I’m sorry,” Aden said. “I feel like I’m being a big jerk, but I have to get to work. The kids need to get to school. You need to get moving.”

She gave him a particularly lovely smile and he stopped moving.

“What?” Aden asked.

“Do you remember last night?” Sandy asked.

Aden flushed. He remember some spectacular love making, but that was always the case with Sandy. Seeing his face, Sandy laughed again. This time she got out of bed.

“We had our big wedding yesterday,” Sandy said.

“We did?” Aden asked.

Sandy took his hands.

“Jill and Jacob are next door,” Sandy said. “Honey and MJ on the other side. We were supposed to have a big suite but they are sold out for that big wedding with the …”

“The ones who stole our flowers,” Aden said.

Sandy nodded.

“The hotel comped these lovely rooms,” Sandy said.

Aden scowled. He sat down on the bed and pulled on his tie.

“No work today?” Aden asked.

Sandy shook her head.

“No kids?” Aden asked.

“Not for a week,” Sandy said, with a smile. “Although we’d planned to see them at dinner tonight and tomorrow before we split up for our private honeymoons.”

“Jill and Jacob are going home because Jill wants to finish her school term first,” Aden said with a nod.

He sat on the side of the bed for a moment before looking up at her.

“Any idea why I got up?” Aden asked.

“None, what so ever,” Sandy said with a smile.

“And Lipson?” Aden asked rather than acknowledge that he was a little crazy.

“Blane’s there,” Sandy said with a nod. “He said he’ll be in touch if he needs anything.”

Aden nodded. He didn’t move for a moment.

“What?” Sandy asked.

“Nothing really,” Aden said. He stood up and undressed. “I’m … just …”

He closed and opened his eyes.

“I can safely say that yesterday was the best day of my entire life,” Aden said with a nod. He paused. “Do you think we’ll have other good days?”

“We’d better,” Sandy said with a laugh. “And frankly, if we don’t it’s really our fault.”

“How so?” Aden asked.

“We have love,” Sandy said. “We have our health. We have work we love and are good at. We have great children. We have a happy home and great friends. We have enough money to cover our bills and to feed our children. I think those the ingredients of a happy day.”

He nodded. Going to the window, he moved the blind away to see the job site again. All of the large equipment was on and warming up. At least that site was running without him. Sandy came up behind him to see what he was looking at.

“Blane will call if something goes wrong,” Sandy said.

He nodded.

“Can you leave it alone?” Sandy asked.

“What if they can do it without me?” Aden said.

“They can’t,” Sandy said with some certainty.

“How do you know?” Aden asked.

“I just do,” Sandy said.

Wondering what he should do, he looked at her for a moment.

“Come back to bed,” Sandy said.

Smiling at Sandy, he slipped back into the king sized bed.

“When’s breakfast?” Aden asked.

“Not for another two hours,” Sandy said. “The kids will be here. Delphie and Sam, Val and Mike, Edie, and even James Kelly.”

“Sounds great.” With that, Aden smiled and fell sound asleep.


Monday morning — 6:10 a.m.

MJ awoke to an empty bed. He scowled. Honey can’t get up on her own. Usually, her nurse, Mike and Jill’s brother, Steve, came to help. MJ had a whole plan to make it super romantic for their honeymoon.

And Honey was gone.

He grabbed a T-shirt and pulled it over his head. He strapped on his prosthesis, and moved to the other side of the wall between a sitting area and the bed. He stopped short.

Wearing one of his T-shirts, Honey was standing next to the wall of the room. She held a walker in her hands and a headset over her eyes and ears. While he watched, she managed to move her right leg in a tiny tentative step. She paused there, seeming to struggle for a moment before moving the left leg. Her hair was wet with sweat.

She was so focused on whatever she was doing that she didn’t hear MJ. He walked up to her and touched her shoulder. Honey yelped with surprise. She fell to the side and MJ caught her. He carried her to the sofa and sat down.

“What are you doing?” MJ asked. “You could have killed yourself!”

“Hey!” Honey said. “I don’t deserve that.”

To his own ear, he sounded like a complete asshole. He remembered what Dr. John Drayson always told him. Be supportive. Don’t clip her wings. Believe in what she can do. She will carry your belief in her while she tries new things.

“Sorry, I saw you fall …” MJ said. “Scared me.”

Honey didn’t say anything for a moment. She pulled off her headset.

“This is my virtual reality headset,” Honey said.

“Virtual reality headset?” MJ asked. “What?”

“You remember when we were in New York?” Honey asked.

“I do,” MJ said.

“We met with all of those experts?” Honey asked. “For my back?”

“I do,” MJ said.

“Well, one of the problems with every treatment is that the brain has disconnected with the nerves,” Honey said. “Even if you fix the spine, the brain won’t send a signal.”

“Isn’t that the definition of your injury?” MJ asked.

“Sort of,” Honey said. “Another thought is that the nerves are still there, still able to fire, but fire at such a low rate, the brain doesn’t hear them. My headset makes it possible for my brain to hear those low sounds by tricking my brain into thinking my legs still work.”

Honey smiled.

“You’ve been traveling so much in the last couple of months that you’ve missed me using it,” Honey said with a nod. “I’m only allowed to use it three times a week otherwise it overwhelms my brain. With the wedding and everything, I missed a session. I figured I could get one in while you slept.”

“How did you get out of bed?” MJ asked.

“That’s the first thing Steve and I worked on,” Honey said. “I can only get out of bed and into my wheel chair. I’ll need your help with everything else.”

He nodded that he was happy to help.

“Why don’t you show me how it works?” MJ asked. “Maybe I can help with this too.”

“You can’t wear the headset because it’s calibrated to me,” Honey said.

“Looks expensive,” MJ said.

“It is,” Honey said. “Before you ask, Sandy bought it for me. I didn’t ask her or anything. Steve was talking to Jill about it and Jill told Sandy about it. It showed up about a week later.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” MJ asked.

“I didn’t want to get your hopes up,” Honey said. “I have to pass this step to move to the rest of it. If I can’t do, then they’ll work with someone else who can.”

MJ clutched her to him. His heart raced with the agony of hope for her. Reminding himself that this wasn’t helping her, he shifted away and kissed her forehead.

“Looks like you’re doing a great job,” MJ said evenly.

“That’s nice of you,” Honey said. “It’s so hard. Very, very hard.”

“How much longer do you need to use it?” MJ asked.

“Today?” Honey asked. MJ nodded. “There’s no set time. The longer I use it the stronger the nerves get, and the pathways in my brain get better. If there’s ever a time when my spine is back together, I want to be able to use the nerves.”

“I’d still like to see it,” MJ said. “That way we can do it later in the week when we’re at the beach.”

He slipped Honey off his lap and stood up. Remembering how John always upped the ante on his wife’s exercises, he stood up and held out his hands.

“I can’t do that,” Honey said.

“Have you tried?” MJ asked.

Honey shook her head.

“Then how do you know?” MJ asked. “Come on, Honey, put your headset on and see.”

Honey didn’t move.

“Chicken?” MJ asked.

Honey scowled at him. She put her headset on and turned it on. To her surprise, she could see her strong, real legs below her with her feet touching the floor. MJ grabbed her hands. Honey tried to get up.

Nothing happened.

“Try again,” MJ said.

Honey tried to get up off the couch again. The only thing that happened was that she could see her feet on the floor. She tried again.


“One more try and we’ll stop,” MJ said.

Honey gave it all she had. While MJ cheered and held her hands, she managed a wobbly try off the couch. He picked her up and twirled her around.

“Want to try again?” MJ asked.

“Damn straight,” Honey said.

He put her down and she tried again.


Monday morning — 6:10 a.m.

“What’s wrong?” Jill asked Jacob.

He was sitting with his back to the bed and staring out into space. When he didn’t respond, she sat up.

“What’s going on?” Jill asked.

He looked at her and then back at the blank space on the wall.

“Jacob?” Jill put her hand on his arm.

He looked at her and smiled. He saw the concern on her face. He knew that she’d been through hell when he was sick with the Sea of Amber. He didn’t want to worry her any more. He touched the side of her face.

“Oh, nothing,” Jacob said.

“It doesn’t look like nothing,” Jill said. “What’s going on?”

He squinted but didn’t speak.

“You’re scaring me,” Jill said. “What’s going on?”

“It’s not really anything,” Jacob said. “It’s just that… well…”

“Well what?” Jill asked.

“I have everything I always wanted,” Jacob said. “I got the girl. The children. I got out of running Lipson.”

“Except that you’re going back on Wednesday,” Jill said.

“But mostly the company runs on its own,” Jacob said. “It’s well on its way to being owned by her employees.”

Jill gave him an acquiescing nod.

“We just had our big Catholic wedding,” Jacob said. “Plus all of that putting Queen Fand back together and…”

“Sea of Amber,” Jill nodded. “We also have more work than we can possibly do at the construction company.”

“Everything I dreamed of has already happened,” Jacob said with a shrug. “There’s nothing else to do.”

“Yes, I can see your problem,” Jill said in a light voice.

“Hey! Don’t make fun of me!” Jacob said.

“I am not making fun of you,” Jill said. “This is serious stuff.”

Sighing, Jacob nodded. He got up to use the restroom.

“Hey, we should get ready for breakfast,” Jacob said.

“We have more time,” Jill said. “They are coming to us. We showered last night, remember?”

Jacob flushed with the memory and she chuckled.

“We just have to get dressed,” Jill said.

Nodding, Jacob sat on the bed next to her. She put her hand on his leg.

“What would you like to do next?” Jill asked.

He raised his eyebrows with interest.

“I’m trying to be serious!” Jill said.

He sighed.

“I don’t know,” Jacob said. “I was in college the last time I had this issue and then my goal was to graduate. Dad came right after graduation and…”

He shrugged. Jill knew that he’d worked to first save Lipson Construction and then get it sold to the employees. He’d given all of his attention and most of his money to make it happen.

“It’s funny,” Jacob said. “I remember feeling like this was never, ever going to end. I remember being at my step-sister’s engagement party wondering if I’d ever be free.”

He looked at her and smiled.

“You, wicked woman, made all this happen,” Jacob said.

Jill laughed. He leaned forward to kiss her.

“If what you’re saying is even remotely true, then we should figure out what’s next,” Jill said. “Do you want to go to law school? Join the military? Run for office? Become a doctor? Or…?”

“I really only ever wanted to be a carpenter like my father,” Jacob said.

“You are that,” Jill said.

“Yea, but…” Jacob said.

“I think we’ll reach this place many times in our life,” Jill said. “Whatever you decide to accomplish today, will be done by some tomorrow.”

Jacob nodded.

“I’ll finish school, the kids will grow up and move out,” Jill said. “And there we’ll be. I think it’s good that we get a chance to figure out how to do this while we’re young.”

“I feel…” Jacob said. “Sad.”

“Sure,” Jill nodded. “Even when you get everything you want, you have to give up the wanting. There’s a loss there.”

Jacob nodded.

“You know what I think?” Jill asked.

He looked at her.

“I think you’re exhausted,” Jill said. “You’re so tired that you need time to sleep and reflect.”

“I’m not a very reflect-ish person,” Jacob said. “I don’t even know how to meditate.”

Jill gave him a soft smile.

“What?” he asked.

“How did you survive your time in the golden cabin?” Jill asked.

“Oh, well…” Jacob said. “I just wanted to get home, to you. To our children. I had a goal!”

Jill smiled.

“I don’t have a goal now,” Jacob said.

“You just need time,” Jill said. “You remember when Mike came home?”

Jacob nodded at the memory of Mike returning from war and a breakdown of his marriage to Valerie.

“Mike said the same thing,” Jill said. “It took him a month or so before he started painting.”

“Less than that,” Jacob said with a nod.

“Why don’t you give yourself some time?” Jill asked.

“Because I feel like a jerk,” Jacob said. “You’re out there working in our business, going to school, taking care of the kids… and I’m just scratching my belly.”

“You do realize that we’re days away from the twins learning to walk,” Jill said.

“Yeah, so?” Jacob asked.

“You’ll see,” Jill laughed.

Jacob smiled at her laugh.

“You don’t think I need to go to therapy or whatever,” Jacob said.

“You might need therapy,” Jill said with a shrug. “Mostly, I think you need some rest and space.”

Jacob shook his head. He got up and went to his side of the bed. He lay down next to her. Turning on his side, he put his arm over her stomach.

“I just…” he said.

Jill waited. After a moment, she looked up at him. He was sound asleep. Smiling to herself, she got out her phone to check in with everyone.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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