CHAPTER FOUR HUNDRED AND FORTY-TWO
“If I lose this job, we’re back on the streets,” Jen said.
“Or they have to move back in with her ex,” the controller said.
“It sounds like your ex-husband is going to be tied up with the courts for a while,” Blane said.
Jen looked at the controller.
“He always manages to get out of the things he does,” the controller said. “When he gets out, he takes his rage out on Jen or her son.”
“I see,” Blane said with a nod. “It sounds like we have three problems. First, your son is intimidating Rachel. I happen to know that she’s terrified of him. We need to fix that.”
“The second thing is whether or not this incident will affect your job,” Blane said. “I can’t tell you how Aden will respond. But as far as I’m concerned, the only reason to be fired is over issues with your job. I’m pretty sure Jake would say the same thing. I can ask Aden when I see him tonight.”
“Thank you,” Jen nodded. She took a breath and started to look a little less desperate.
“The third issue seems to be your security and legal issues,” Blane said. “We take that kind of thing very seriously here. In fact, I’ll contact our attorney and have him look into what needs to be done next.”
Jen and the controller didn’t say anything.
“Did I miss anything?” Blane asked.
“School,” Jen said in a low voice. “The Marlowe School is a great opportunity for my son. He’s had such a hard time that … He’s just starting to read.”
“I have not heard from Mrs. Siegle, which is a good sign,” Blane said. “She’ll probably want to talk with you. Usually what happens is that they make up a plan of action to help your son learn not to call other children names. That’s what we did when my son, Mack, was hyper in the classroom.”
“What did they make you do?” Jen asked, her face a mask of horror.
“It wasn’t too hard,” Blane said. “I was in the hospital for a month. My wife was pregnant and had Mack. He wasn’t getting enough activity. So, now we make sure that he gets more physical activity in the morning and at night, and that he doesn’t eat too much junk. It’s a lot easier now that I’m home.”
“Can you speak with Seth?” the controller asked.
“About what?” Blane asked.
“About being sorry for causing all of this,” Jen said. With the words, Jen looked like she was going to start crying again.
“Sure,” Blane said. “In fact, why don’t we call him together?”
Blane dialed the phone on Aden’s desk and pressed the conference option.
“I’ve never figured out how to do that,” the controller said, when it was ringing.
“I’ll show you later,” Blane said.
The controller nodded.
“O’Malley,” Seth’s voice came through the speaker.
“Hey, Blane, what’s up?” Seth asked.
“I’m sitting with our controller and one of her entry level accountant, Jen,” Blane said. “She’s the mother of the boy Rachel’s been having trouble with.”
“Her ex-husband’s brought a handgun to the classroom this morning,” Seth said.
“Yes, she’s very upset about all of that,” Blane said. “She wants to apologize for her ex-husband.”
“Why would she apologize for someone else’s actions?” Seth asked.
The tinkling sound of piano keys could be heard in the background.
“She told her husband to go to the meeting in hopes that someone else saying that his language was inappropriate would make an impact,” Blane said. “She feels like it’s her fault that things got out of hand today and that her son has been harassing Rachel.”
“Oh, well, the harassing has got to stop,” Seth said. “But, if he hadn’t harassed Rachel, today could have gone much worse.”
“What?” Jen asked. “How could it be worse than shooting up a classroom?”
“It was only one shot,” Seth said. “And it went into the wall.”
Jen started to cry again.
“Your ex was attempting to remove your son from the classroom,” Seth continued. “Cleo scratched him pretty bad. If her son hadn’t been mean to Rachel, Cleo wouldn’t have been there to save the day.”
“What’s a Cleo?” the controller asked.
“She’s a cat,” Blane said.
“A cat?” Jen asked.
Rather than explain, Blane moved on.
“We’re setting her up with legal care,” Blane said.
“And her job?” Seth asked. “She shouldn’t lose her job because her ex went nuts.”
“She’s secure in her position,” the controller said.
“Good,” Seth said. “Anything else I can do?”
Blane looked at Jen and she shook her head.
“I’m picking up Rachel after school,” Seth said. “Why don’t we meet a little early so we can talk? Say 2:30? At the coffee shop on the corner? I’m buying.”
“She’ll be there Seth,” the controller said.
“Good, then it’s settled,” Seth said. “See you tonight, Blane.”
Seth hung up the phone.
“Does that feel settled?” Blane asked. Jen nodded. “Why don’t you take the rest of the day off?”
The controller nodded.
“I can’t afford it,” Jen said.
“On the house,” Blane said.
He looked at the controller and she nodded. The controller smiled her thank you’s to Blane, and the women left his office. Thinking he should call Mrs. Siegle, Blane got up and closed the door after them. He sat down at the desk for only a moment before Aden’s intercom buzzed.
“What’s up?” Blane asked.
“Can you come and take a look at this?” the voice on the other end asked.
Blane grinned. The glorious chaos of Lipson Construction continued. He was glad to be healthy enough to take it on.
“I’ll be right there,” Blane said.
Tuesday mid-morning — 11:02 a.m.
When Frankie leaned forward in his seat, Wanda leaned back. She looked at her parents who were sitting across from her. Her mother’s body had started swelling from the babies that lived inside her. Her father’s body was slimming due to his new workout program. Their faces were set to worry. In an effort to support them, Sam Lipson was sitting next to her father. He caught Wanda’s eye and gave her a soft smile. She smiled back at him. They were the only ones sitting in this waiting area.
They waited another five minutes before the nurse came out of the door.
“Wanda?” the nurse asked with a smile. “Is this your family?”
“Good,” the nurse said. “The doctor is waiting for you in her office.”
When Wanda stood up, Frankie hopped to his feet. He casually put his arm over her shoulder and she backed into him. They went through the door first followed by Wanda’s parents and Sam Lipson. They walked down a long hallway and turned right. Her doctor’s office was near the back of the building. Wanda vaguely wondered if she’d ever find her way out of this place.
She glanced at Frankie. His love for her gave her confidence.
She could be what she wanted to be.
At the doctor’s office, she took a seat in the back. After all, she and Frankie were the children. Sam Lipson insisted that she and Frankie sit next to the doctor’s desk. Her face flushed, but Frankie smiled.
“Thank you, sir,” Frankie said.
He was always more polite than she was. She sat down and he sat next to her. Her father and mother sat on her side and Sam Lipson sat near the back.
“I apologize for the wait,” her doctor said. “I was waiting for our entire team to be available. We want to make sure you’re as comfortable as possible.”
“Thank you,” Wanda’s father, Erik, said.
“Because of your age, Wanda, I have to ask you a few more questions,” the doctor said.
“Okay,” Wanda said. She felt her phone vibrate. Taking out her phone, she said, “My friend Sissy wanted to be here.”
“Good idea,” the doctor said. “I must say that you have a remarkable way of creating community, Wanda.”
Not knowing what that meant, Wanda focused on turning on her phone. Sissy’s bright smile made Wanda smile.
“This is my friend, Sissy,” Wanda said.
She held up the phone. Frankie took the phone and held it so Sissy could see the doctor. The phone buzzed and the screen split with Tink.
“There’s someone else,” the doctor said.
“That’s my friend, Tink,” Wanda said. “Ivy and Noelle are with Tink.”
“I’ve spoken with your school,” the doctor said. “They are supportive of the entire process. They said to tell you that they ‘have your back.’”
Wanda nodded. She was so glad she’d moved over to the Marlowe School with all of her friends.
“Now my questions,” the doctor said. “First, are you sure you want to do this?”
“Yes,” Wanda said.
“Wanda almost died from her eating disorder rather than continue to live as a boy,” Wanda’s mother said.
Every head in the room nodded.
“I’ve been to the therapy,” Wanda said. “I’ve lived as a girl for more than a year.”
“Year and five months,” the doctor said. “I want to be sure that no one is forcing you to have this surgery.”
The doctor looked directly at Frankie and he shook his head.
“I don’t care about it,” Frankie said. “It’s something Wanda wants to do for herself. I mean, she almost died to stop being a boy. I couldn’t stop her or … It was like nothing else mattered and I … I don’t want her to die.”
Frankie’s mind was flooded with that horrible time when his beloved was near death and beyond reason. He shook his head. He looked at Wanda’s parents and saw that they were remembering the same time.
“Are you saying that you’re uncomfortable performing the surgery?” Sam Lipson asked.
“No,” the doctor said. “No, not at all. I am required by law to assess the seriousness of the patient’s desire prior to performing the procedure.”
“Wanda and her family are serious,” Sam said. “We’ve spoken to our insurance. They have already approved the claim. Wanda and her family have the financial backing to support what the insurance won’t pay for.”
“Yes, I see that,” the doctor said.
Wanda was so anxious she wished her new puppy was with her now. She cleared her throat.
“I’m ready,” Wanda said.
“That’s good,” the doctor smiled at Wanda.
The doctor began to explain what was going to happen. Wanda tried to follow what the doctor was saying but she got lost along the way.
“This is really happening!” Wanda thought.
She felt excited and terrified at the same time. She would be a girl, a real girl, by the time her mother had her new siblings. She would be healed up and ready to help with the new kids. She felt her face begin to smile.
The adults agreed to do the genital surgery, but wait on doing anything to Wanda’s face. Because of her age and eating disorder, Wanda didn’t have any facial hair to be removed. With the adult’s nodding, they all agreed that if Wanda wanted or needed her face remodeled when she was older, they would address it then.
She would be in the hospital for at least three days. She should be able to go back to school in four to six weeks. She would have to continue to take the hormones and …
“Are we all on the same page?” the doctor asked.
Everyone in the room either nodded or said “yes.”
“Good,” the doctor said. “As I am your doctor, I will lead the team. Are you ready to meet them?”
Wanda nodded. The doctor said something into her phone and the door opened. About ten people streamed into the room. They shook Wanda’s hand as well as her parents. There were nurses and surgeons and …
She wasn’t quite sure what these adults wanted from her. She knew that Sissy had been in many situations like this. She imitated what Sissy called her “polite smile for grown-ups.” After the doctors introduced themselves, they went over what Wanda could and couldn’t do before surgery.
“You’re scheduled for surgery next week,” the doctor said. “Is there anything else you need from me?”
Everyone shook their heads and stood up. The doctors and nurses shook everyone’s hand, and they were released from the room. The nurse took them back through the maze.
“See you next week,” the doctor said to Wanda.
She nodded. Her father shook the doctor’s hand again. They were standing in the waiting room again.
“This seems like a great time for lunch,” Sam said. “What do you say?”
“Sounds great,” Wanda’s father said. “Wanda?”
Wanda nodded and put her phone up to her ear. Sissy, Tink, Ivy, and Noelle talked all at once. They all were excited for Wanda and a little scared. That was okay because Wanda was a little scared too. They said goodbye before Wanda got in the car.
“I’ll follow you,” Sam said as he got into the car.
Wanda and Frankie got in the back of the car while Wanda’s father drove and her mother was in the passenger seat. Her father started the car and then looked in the rearview mirror.
“Seems like things went well,” her father said.
Wanda nodded. He smiled.
“Onward to oblivion!” her father said with a laugh.
Wanda and Frankie laughed. Her father started the car and headed out to lunch.
A week from today, Wanda would finally be a girl. Wanda smiled and squeezed Frankie’s hand. He smiled.
“Are we going somewhere with shakes?” Wanda asked. “And whipped cream? Burgers?”
“Of course,” her father said.
Wanda was pretty sure this was the best day of her entire life.
Tuesday mid-afternoon — 2:02 p.m.
“Hey,” Seth called into the kitchen. “I’m heading out to get Rachel.”
He looked into the kitchen and didn’t see Maresol. Shrugging, he went to the closet to get his jacket. When he turned around, Maresol was standing behind him. He jumped with surprise.
“Gotcha,” Maresol said.
“I’m heading out,” Seth said. He pulled on his dress shirt to straighten the cuffs. “I’m meeting the mother of the child who’s been mean to Rachel.”
Nodding, Maresol straightened his tie.
“I need to speak to you about something,” Maresol said.
“Will it take a while?” Seth asked.
Maresol shook her head.
“Go ahead,” Seth said. “Speak away.”
“I thought you had to go,” Maresol said.
“I’m early,” Seth said. “And anyway, I’m waiting for Bernie. He insisted on coming along. He thinks I’ll wimp out.”
“What’s up?” Seth asked.
“Your father and I…” Maresol started.
Seth screwed his eyes closed and covered his ears. He shook his head. Maresol laughed. She pulled his hands down.
“We have both known true love,” Seth’s father, Bernie’s voice came from behind him. Seth turned around. “We know that this is not it.”
“Are you happy?” Seth put his hands on either side of Maresol’s face and looked into her eyes.
She nodded. He turned to Bernie and he nodded.
“What if this goes sideways?” Seth asked. “Big fight. Lots of anger.”
“Are you planning on bringing your first ex-wife around?” Maresol asked with a grin.
“I lived with the rage and chaos of O’Malley. I won’t live with it now,” Seth said, ignoring Maresol’s comment.
“There’s no way to tell what will happen, son,” Bernie said. “But I seriously doubt it.”
“What if you meet someone else?” Seth asked Bernie. “Men your age are really catches for women over 80.”
“Not my style,” Bernie said. “I’ve only been a one romance at a time man. Like my sons.”
“Why are you telling me?” Seth asked.
“I will not live with secrets,” Maresol said.
“It wasn’t much of a secret,” Seth said.
“It wasn’t?” Maresol flushed and looked at Bernie. “Ava knew?”
“Dale?” Maresol asked.
“Sandy?” Maresol asked.
Seth rolled his eyes in “of course” and nodded.
“My girlfriends?” Maresol asked.
“They are waiting for you to tell them,” Seth said.
“We wanted to tell you first,” Bernie said.
“Gee, thanks,” Seth said mildly.
Maresol and Bernie laughed. He grabbed Maresol and looked into her eyes again.
“Be happy,” Seth said.
He grabbed his father and did the same thing. When Bernie put his arm around Maresol, both of their eyes were wet.
“Are we ready to go?” Seth asked.
“Give me a minute,” Bernie said.
Seth went through the large and newly remodeled kitchen to the same sized coffee pot. He filled a travel mug and added cream. Bernie waited for him to finish and they went out to his truck.
“Letch,” Seth said when they had settled in the car.
“You are so right, son,” Bernie said. “After knowing Maresol for more than forty years, and having my beloved dead for almost thirty, I finally made a move.”
Seth turned to look at him. Bernie nodded. Seth laughed and started the car.
Denver Cereal continues next week….
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