CHAPTER FOUR HUNDRED AND FORTY-THREE
Tuesday afternoon — 4:15 p.m.
New York City, New York
“Oh, hi,” Sissy said to Ivan.
She’d just changed into her workout clothes. She was on her way to the dance floor when she discovered Ivan in the kitchen making tea. Ms. Anjelika was due to call in five minutes.
“You’re home early,” Sissy said. She kissed his cheek. “How was the izba?”
His face a mask of sad confusion, he looked into her eyes and then noticed what she was wearing.
“What are you wearing?” Ivan asked.
“My comfy clothes,” Sissy said with a smile. “What are you up to?”
“I had to come home,” Ivan said. “I had to speak with you.”
“Oh?” Sissy asked.
She glanced at the clock. Noting her glance, Ivan scowled.
“Am I keeping you from something?” Ivan asked.
“Uh,” Sissy said. She shook her head. “No, not really.”
“You are lying to me,” Ivan said. “Again. This is why I had to come home, why I had to ask you.”
Sissy flushed bright red. Seeing her reaction, Ivan launched into a speech he’d clearly practiced.
“I know that you are a young woman,” Ivan said. “I know that I have no right to clip your wings at such a young age. But don’t think that I didn’t notice you this weekend when you slinked off with your friends and the come back to shower! I know it’s too much expect for me and my life to remain interesting to you. I just didn’t think you would be so obvious about it, to show such disrespect for…”
“Stop!” Sissy commanded.
Surprised, Ivan stopped talking. They blinked at each other for a moment. Ivan took a breath to restart his speech.
“No,” Sissy said. She raised her index finger and pointed at him. He let his breath out. “You’re wrong.”
He blinked at her for another long moment.
“But…” he started.
“Hi, Sissy,” Sissy started. “What are you up to? I came home early from the spa after I realized that something might be going on with you.”
She raised her eyebrows at him and he laughed.
“As your loving companion, I wondered if you might tell me all about it,” Sissy said with grin.
He waved his hand as if that was what he meant. Smiling at him, she glanced at the clock.
“You see!” Ivan’s voice rose with mistrust. “You are meeting someone you don’t want me to know about. Who could that be besides another lover?”
Sissy cleared her throat and looked at him.
“Okay, okay,” Ivan said. “I am reverting to crazy paranoid Russian behavior.”
Grinning, Sissy nodded.
“But you are meeting someone!” Ivan said. “Do not pretend that you are not!”
Sissy took his hand and led him into the dance space. She took down the tablet computer from the stand and dialed into the video call. She’d just connected when Anjelika’s call came through.
“He knows,” Sissy said into the tablet.
“Give him to me,” Anjelika said. “I’ll handle this.”
Sissy passed the tablet to Ivan. Anjelika and Ivan spoke back and forth in fast Russian. From what Sissy could make out, Anjelika was telling Ivan that he should wait for his surprise. Not a great fan of surprises, Ivan told her that he must know now.
“Did you get that?” Angelika asked in Russian when Ivan gave the tablet back to Sissy.
“I think so,” Sissy replied in Russian.
Ivan was so surprised that his mouth fell open.
“This is my surprise?” Ivan asked in Russian.
“You’re an idiot,” Anjelika said from the tablet.
“This isn’t your surprise,” Sissy said in English.
“No?” Ivan asked.
“You already know I’ve been working on my Russian,” Sissy said. “How could that be a surprise?”
“The kind of surprise I can handle,” Ivan said with grin.
“You mean, the only kind of surprise you can handle is the one you already know about?” Sissy laughed.
Nodding his head, he kissed her. Shaking her head at him, she went back to the tablet.
“I think you are ready, Sissy,” Anjelika said.
“I do, too,” Sissy said.
“Let’s show him,” Anjelika said.
Nodding, Sissy put the tablet back on the stand and turned it so Anjelika could see her. Sissy took out her practice point shoes from the shelf.
“What are you doing?” Ivan asked. “Sissy, you…”
“Patience,” Anjelika ordered Ivan.
He shook his head and went to were Sissy was sitting. He knelt next to her.
“You will hurt yourself, my love,” Ivan said.
“Patience,” Sissy said. She gave him a big smile.
“I…” Ivan said.
“Tell him what you told me,” Anjelika said.
“It happened like this,” Sissy said. “Mari start coming over after you’d gone to the isba and Nadia was at work. She’s been having trouble fitting into Otis’s life. She hasn’t really left the fairy queendom in more than hundred years. So she doesn’t really understand life in the modern world. She started coming over to talk. We’d watch movies or music or really almost anything. After the first time or so, she would bring me these healing stones from Otis.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Ivan asked.
“Mari is embarrassed,” Sissy said. “She’s supposed to be… everything. And she found modern America confusing.”
“You kept your friend’s confidence,” Ivan said. “You are good like that.”
Sissy smiled and nodded.
“I got better pretty fast,” Sissy said. “I could place the stones on my side or legs. After a while, I had so many of them that I could lay on them.”
“Once she was better, she contacted me for help,” Anjelika said. “As a surprise.”
“That’s what you were doing when we were in Denver?” Ivan asked. “When you would disappear for hours?”
“She was with me,” Anjelika said.
“With you?” Ivan shot a distrustful look at the tablet. “But you would disappear with your friends!”
“They were helping me,” Sissy said with a smile.
“You’d better show him,” Anjelika said.
Sissy smiled. She went to the tablet and pushed a button for the music. Ivan took her place in the seat.
The music started, and Sissy began to dance. She didn’t dare look at Ivan. She kept her whole attention on the music and the dance. At some point in the dance, Mari and Otis had appeared next to Ivan. She danced her heart out. Only after she took the final grand jeté did she dare to look in Ivan’s direction.
He was on his knees and weeping. Mari and Otis cheered.
“Surprise!” Sissy said.
He jumped up to hold her tight.
“I love you,” he whispered and kissed her neck. “That was breathtaking.”
Sissy started to laugh.
“But?” Sissy asked.
“Well…” Ivan moved away from her. “You are…”
“Magnificent?” Mari asked with a laugh.
Ivan looked at the fairy. She smiled and he laughed.
“You are off…” Ivan said.
“Beat,” Sissy said in unison with him. “You must be precise or…”
Ivan looked at Sissy and she laughed. He took a breath and began instructing her.
“My work is done here,” Anjelika said.
The tablet when dark.
“Mine too,” Mari said.
She and Otis disappeared leaving Ivan and Sissy to do what they were born to do — dance.
Wednesday morning — 8:11 a.m.
“Jake got up this morning for work,” Jill said. “I packed us up. Sandy and Aden had an early flight so I dropped them at DIA. Honey and MJ were going with some of his team. The team showed up about the time we were leaving the hotel.”
Jill shrugged. She was sitting in the kitchen of Tanesha’s yellow house. Heather was making pancakes. Wyn was sitting in his car seat on the counter.
“Hey,” Tanesha called from the front.
“We’re in here,” Heather said.
Heather gave Tanesha a cup of her tea.
“Hey Jill,” Tanesha said when she saw Jill. “I just took Tink, Mack, and Jabari to the Marlowe School.”
“Jabari isn’t with Jeraine?” Jill asked.
“Jabari really likes school,” Tanesha said. “He’s doing so well that Jeraine decided he could stay here.”
“Wow,” Jill said. “A grown up decision from the Jeraine.”
“I know, right?” Tanesha laughed and tried to take a sip of tea. Since it was hot, she blew on the top of the mug.
“When do you start?” Jill asked.
“I already went to the orientations,” Tanesha said.
“She starts on the truck today,” Heather said.
“Two,” Tanesha said. “I’m on the two to ten shift. We go out into the neighborhood and work until ten.”
“Is it safe?” Jill asked.
“I don’t know,” Tanesha said. “I think so. They have guards for us, but … Well, gang bangers need healthcare too. So, we have to risk it.”
Jill nodded. Tanesha set her handbag on the counter. She pulled up a seat. Jill moved over so she had enough room.
“So …” Jill started.
She gave Tanesha and Heather a side eyed look.
“Which one of you would like to tell me about what happened in the wedding?” Jill asked.
“What do you mean?” Heather asked.
“Why was Honey’s dress torn?” Jill asked. “Sandy’s dress dirty, not to mention my dress …”
“Oh, that,” Tanesha said.
Heather turned her back to make the pancakes.
“Very funny,” Jill said.
Heather didn’t even look at her.
“Oh come on!” Jill said.
Heather started to laugh and Tanesha started to laugh.
“We wondered how long it would take you to ask,” Heather said.
“I’m asking!” Jill said.
“Did you hear how Cleo saved that little boy from being kidnaped by his angry father?” Tanesha asked.
“No,” Jill pointed at him. “I will not be distracted.”
Tanesha grinned at her.
“Short answer?” Heather asked. “Or long answer?”
“Start with short,” Jill said.
“From now on, I am the Goddess of Love,” Heather said.
“I thought you already were,” Jill said.
“I was just filling in for my father,” Heather said.
“Now it’s permanent,” Tanesha said.
“How did we …?” Jill asked.
“You were grabbed so that you could go to the ceremony,” Heather said.
“Why us?” Jill asked.
“Hera thought you’d want to be there,” Heather said.
“I’d rather remember something,” Jill said.
“That was an unfortunate side effect of the fast travel,” Heather said. “Have you dreamt about it?”
Jill shook her head.
“Why were our clothes messed up?” Jill asked.
“You can imagine that everyone wasn’t on board with my father losing his gift,” Heather said.
“Or having a girl handle this kind of active love,” Tanesha said.
“That’s not hard to imagine,” Jill said. “But I thought that Zeus wanted that all along. Even Aphrodite said something to that effect when we were at the spa.”
“They did,” Heather said.
“I think that Aphrodite wants it to go back to her son at some point,” Tanesha said.
“Only when he can handle it,” Heather said. “She knows that might never happen.”
“Then what was the problem?” Jill asked.
“My father, of course,” Heather said. “He can’t handle the job or modern life. He’s convinced that modern life is an aberration.”
“Aberration?” Jill asked.
“The internet,” Tanesha said with a nod. “Cell phones. Even cars for that matter.”
“How interconnected people are now,” Heather said. “It was a lot for fun for him when he could just send people into tortured love with no chance of meeting. Now there’s all this inner-marrying of people from different countries, religions, you know.”
“He’s been trying to force the world back into a time he can understand,” Tanesha said.
“It’s hard for me to imagine,” Heather said. “How could you not know that life moves in only one direction — forward.”
Heather set down a serving plate with pancakes on it. Jill got up and grabbed plates. Tanesha took out silverware from the drawer. They filled their plates and began adding butter and syrup.
“So we fought with your father?” Jill asked.
“And his friends,” Heather said.
Jill shook her head as if she was trying to clear it.
“It makes no sense,” Jill said as she doctored her pancakes.
“What happened?” Jill asked. “In the end?”
“Oh, he scampered away to his island retreat,” Heather said.
“Will he be back?” Jill asked.
“No,” Heather said.
“How can you be so sure?” Jill asked.
“Hera put a barrier around the island,” Heather said. “He’s not going anywhere.”
“Isn’t that my dad’s island?” Jill asked.
“It was,” Heather said with a nod. “It’s not anymore.”
“How?” Jill asked. “I don’t mean to question what you’re saying. It’s just that my father doesn’t like to lose anything, let alone something borrowed.”
“It was his suggestion,” Tanesha said.
“We traded,” Heather said with a shrug.
“For what?” Jill asked.
Heather looked at Jill and then glanced at Tanesha. She was about to say something when Tanesha spilled the beans.
“Perses missed a lot of years of your life, Jill,” Tanesha said. “He wanted to see what your life was like.”
Jill flushed with anger.
“Before you get mad, you actually agreed to it,” Heather said. “You thought it was sweet that he wanted to know more about you.”
“So you told him all of my secrets,” Jill asked.
“I told him none of your secrets,” Heather said.
“You’re sure?” Jill asked.
“Positive,” Heather said. “He wanted to see the whole of your life, not the specifics. If anything, I think he was impressed with what a great person you are.”
Tanesha nodded in agreement. But Jill scowled and focused on eating. After a few moments of pancakes, Jill was feeling calmer.
“How will this change your life?” Jill asked.
“I probably won’t go back to work,” Heather said. “My work is love. I will use my human life to try to help people love.”
“Like a marriage counselor?” Jill asked.
“Maybe,” Heather said. “I’m not sure. I’m going to let that unfold. I kind of have a lot on my plate right now.”
“No shit,” Jill said.
“When Blane’s settled in his practice and Wyn’s at school,” Heather said and shrugged. “I’ll have more time.”
“What if the world needs love now?” Jill asked.
“Then, it will be my job to figure what to do about it,” Heather said. “Well mine and my grandmother’s.”
“Are you sorry you didn’t go on a honeymoon?” Tanesha asked.
“Not really,” Jill said. “It will be great to finish this term. The end is in sight and …”
“Yeah,” Jill said. “It would be great to be on a beach right now.”
Tanesha and Heather laughed at her change of heart.
Wednesday afternoon — 2:13 p.m.
Honey leaned back into her first class seat. She, MJ, and a few people his team were meeting their families somewhere warm and beachy. They wouldn’t tell her where. The moment the plane took off, the entire group, every single person, fell sound asleep.
Honey was the only person awake in first class. The flight attendant gesture to her ginger ale and Honey shook her head. She had enough ginger ale. Honey mouthed “water?” The flight attendant gave her a bottle of water. Honey smiled and the flight attendant nodded.
Honey hadn’t thought about the plane flight. That is, she thought it would only be a couple of hours to Mexico, not eleven hours to who knows where. She looked at MJ. He’d fallen asleep like he was drugged. She knew they slept when they were in route. It was some team thing. She’d just never seen it, and frankly, it was pretty weird. Honey shrugged.
When in Rome …
Unlike any other time she’d fallen asleep, Honey dropped into a dream the moment she fell asleep.
Honey was sitting at the front the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. MJ was at her side. Sandy and Aden were in the middle with Jill and Jacob on the side. They’d already said their vows. It was almost time for …
“You may kiss the bride!” the priest said.
MJ dropped onto one knee and kissed Honey. Hidden behind the barrier, the audience cheered. Honey smiled and stroked his face. He kissed her again.
The priest said something or another but Honey wasn’t really paying attention anymore. She leaned forward and MJ hugged her. He stood up when it was their turn to leave. MJ nodded to her and easily lifted her from her chair. Margaret appeared and took Honey’s wheelchair. MJ carried her through the church while people cheered. They were just about to step into the entryway when …
… Honey was standing on the edge of the largest, greenest lawn she’d ever seen. She gasped at the simple sight of it. Jill and Sandy were standing about a foot from her.
“Where are we now?” Honey yelled. “Sorry I wasn’t sure you’d hear me.”
Jill looked at Honey and shrugged.
“I think we’re in Olympia,” Sandy said. “It looks just like Sissy described it.”
With her words, a golden pathway appeared in front of them.
“Seriously? A yellow brick road?” Jill asked.
“Tanesha’s right there!” Honey said.
Honey pointed to where Tanesha was standing. Tanesha wore a gorgeous floor length blue gown with a jeweled encrusted tiara on her head. Honey took a tentative step to see if she was able to walk. Seeing that she was stable, she walked to meet Tanesha. Jill and Sandy got there before her.
“Where are we?” Honey asked. “Is that Page of whatever here?”
“No,” Tanesha said. “We’re here to celebrate Heather.”
“Heather?” Sandy asked with a scowl. “Is she okay?”
“I’ll take you there,” Tanesha said.
She took Honey’s hand and put her arm around Jill. She put her other arm around Sandy. In a blink of an eye, they were standing in an entirely gold chamber. A man with a long grey beard, tan skin and piercing eyes sat on what looked like a throne. Hera stood by his side. Honey looked around the room with awe. Hundreds of people sat in a kind of stadium seating. A few of them smiled at Honey, Jill, and Sandy as they came forward in their wedding wear. The ever-lovely Aphrodite walked to meet them.
“What’s happening?” Jill whispered to Tanesha.
“Heather is receiving full powers as the Goddess of Love,” Tanesha whispered back. “Only, she’s called ‘Hedone’ here.”
Tanesha nodded. Honey, Jill, and Sandy nodded in agreement. Aphrodite welcomed them into the court and walked toward the front again.
“Where is Heather?” Honey asked in a low tone.
Tanesha pointed to the front of the room. There was a woman standing with their back to them. Her honey colored hair fell to her waist in perfect waves. She was wearing a floor length evening gown made entirely of gold. The gown fit against her near perfect curves. Honey raised her eyebrows in surprise. Tanesha nodded. When the woman turned to look at them, they saw Heather’s face smiling from this Goddess’s body.
“This is what she looks like,” Tanesha whispered. “She puts on the other body because it’s comfortable.”
Honey, Jill, and Sandy nodded. They knew Heather as a fit, but a little heavy mother of two, who loved chocolate cake.
“Will she have to leave Denver?” Jill asked.
Tanesha shook her head “no.” They watched Heather receive a golden crown from Aphrodite. The moment the crown rested on her hair, a crowd of angry people appeared about a few feet from where Honey, Jill, Sandy, and Tanesha were standing. Heather’s father strode into the court.
“I protest this ridiculous mockery of ceremony,” Eros said. Turning to point at Hedone, he sneered, “She is a half breed.”
The crowd erupted! Some of the Gods and Goddesses jumped to the floor. Other’s screamed out “boos”. More than a few Gods and Goddesses threw things and spells from their seats. Honey turned and noticed a group of ruffians were moving toward the floor.
“Tanesha!” Honey yelled.
Jill whipped around.
“Dad!” Jill called.
Her father appeared at her side. Sandy hooked arms with Jill and Honey.
“Tanesha!” Honey yelled but Tanesha was already too involved in the fight.
Overwhelmed, Honey didn’t the only thing she could think of.
“Fin! Abi! Tanesha needs you!” Honey yelled.
Perses turned to look at Honey. His eyes slowly blinked, and then he clapped his hands. Fin and Abi appeared by Tanesha’s side. Fin grabbed Tanesha to protect her. Abi gave Perses a nod and they stepped out together.
It happened so fast that Honey wasn’t exactly sure what had happened. Abi held some kind of a sword that was thin and wooden on one end; thick and sharp on the other end. Perses held a long broad sword that glistened with some kind of power. They seemed to grow in size. Eros’s supporters stopped in their tracks. They took one look at Abi and Perses before turning around and running away. Laughing, Abi called to the wind. The wind whipped around them ripping their dresses. With Perses at her side, they chased the ruffians out of Olympia.
When Honey turned back to the court, Eros was gone and the fighting had ended. Hedone was on her knees receiving her assignment.
“Look!” Honey said.
The women turned around to watch. When Hedone stood, they burst into cheers.
Honey felt someone touch her shoulder.
“Wake up!” MJ whispered. He kissed her lips. “We have a layover and then another plane.”
“Change planes?” Honey asked. “You mean the last flight wasn’t it?”
MJ shook his head.
“Where are we going?” Honey asked.
“You’ll see,” MJ said with a smile.
Honey grinned at him. He picked her up and they started out of the plane.
“What were you dreaming about?” MJ asked.
“Me?” Honey asked. Embarrassed, Honey added, “Was I dreaming?”
“You had the biggest smile on your face,” MJ said.
“Oh,” Honey shrugged. “I guess I was dreaming.”
MJ smiled. He carried her through the terminal in Berlin, Germany.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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