CHAPTER FOUR HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-FOUR
Sunday morning — 1:07 a.m.
Unable to sleep, Tink was tucked up in a fetal position with her covers over her head on her bed in the living room of the yellow house. She’d cried so much that her eyes were dry. Her head felt fuzzy from the drugs the doctors had given her. Heather and Tanesha had stuffed her full of warm milk and chocolate cake. Even so, she was wide awake.
Charlie hadn’t left her side. He’d been right there with her through every moment of it. He was even asleep in the chair next to her couch. Tink opened her eyes to look at him. She still called him “Pan,” but today, she saw how much of a man he’d become.
What did that make her?
Every time her eyes closed, she heard this question: “What did that make me?”
My brother is dead and I didn’t protect him from this crap. What did that make me?
My brother died right in front of me and I was worrying about whether Charlie and I were going to the fall dance.
I have to see my mother tomorrow.
I have to see the horrible bastard she married tomorrow.
Tomorrow, I have to decide to unplug my brother. Tomorrow, I have to decide whether or not to donate his organs. Tomorrow, I have to talk to funeral homes. Tomorrow, I have to figure out how I’m going to pay for this. Tomorrow, I have to figure out where to bury my brother.
Worst of all, tomorrow, I have to deal with the hypocrites who kicked me and Chet out of the house, who pushed him into that stupid program. My mother and that creature will cry and weep and moan for Chet, yet they made it happen as sure as they implanted that thing themselves.
With that thought, her mind seemed to short out. A few moments later, her eyes would begin to sag. As soon as her eyelids closed, the entire thing started over again.
Tink heard Tanesha slip out of the house. Tanesha was going to the airport to pick up Jeraine. Everyone in his entire show was so horrified by what happened to Chet that they were coming to Denver to play at his funeral.
Not tomorrow. Tomorrow …
Tink sat up.
“Are you okay?” Charlie asked. “What’s going on?”
He used to ask her these same words whenever she woke up in the middle of the night when they lived outside. If she had to pee in the middle of the night, he’d get up and go with her. No questions asked and never a complaint. Tears welled in her eyes at his care for her. He reached out his hand and she grabbed on. For a moment, they held hand and looked at each other.
“I need to talk to Heather,” Tink said. “I’ll be back.”
“Okay,” Charlie said. He shifted to upright and started to stand up.
“It’s okay,” Tink said with a smile.
He gave her a worried look and leaned back as if he was going back to sleep. Tink felt Charlie’s concerned eyes on her back as she slipped up the stairs to where Heather and Blane slept. Mack and Wyn were sleeping at the Castle tonight with Jill’s twins.
Tink was relieved to see the warm light coming from under the door. She pressed her head against the door and heard Blane’s low voice. Heather and Blane often stayed up late into the night to talk to each other. The sound of their voices had come to mean safety and love to her. Tink smiled and tapped on the door.
The door opened quickly as if someone was on the other side. Tink found herself face to face with the goddess, Hera. Tink stepped back in a kind of awe at her beauty; Hera stepped forward to hug Tink.
“Poor baby,” Hera said. “I’m so sorry about your brother.”
Tink started to cry. Hera pulled her into the room and closed the door. Hera held onto Tink until the girl was able to stop crying. Hera moved away and Tink found herself in the arms of the goddess Aphrodite. The Goddess of Love let her go and Heather put her arms around Tink. She was feeling hugged out when she got to Blane. He gave her a quick squeeze and let her go. Tink felt a little dizzy when they were done. Blane helped her to the bed.
“We were just talking about what to do… about your brother and those… people,” Aphrodite said.
It wasn’t so much as what she said but how she said it that sent shivers down Tink’s spine. She looked at Heather and saw that Heather was rolling her eyes. Clearly, there was more going on than Tink wanted to know about.
“What do you need?” Blane asked.
“I have to deal with my mother and step-father and bury Chet and…” Tink swallowed hard. “I… uh… I wondered if you could make me strong.”
Tink looked at Heather and nodded.
“I didn’t realize that the others were here,” Tink said.
“We’re uninvited,” Aphrodite said.
“We couldn’t stay away,” Hera said.
“Just so appalling,” Aphrodite said. “Dear Hedone was so upset.”
Tink looked at Heather. She was more than a little intimidated by the incendiary rage and desperate sorrow she saw on Heather’s face.
“I’m so sorry for upsetting you,” Tink said, and tried to leave.
“It’s not at all your fault!” Heather said. “We’re just trying to figure out what to do.”
Tink looked at Blane and he nodded.
“What can we do?” Tink asked.
“We’ve decided to delay your mother and step-father until the decisions have been made,” Hera said.
“How?” Tink asked.
“Weather, of course,” Hera said. “This time of year anything can happen.”
“They won’t bother you dear,” Aphrodite said.
“There isn’t anything we can do about the rest of it,” Heather said. “Chet is relying on you, and us, to help him on this last journey.”
“That’s why I need to be stronger,” Tink said.
“No, you don’t,” Hera said.
“I don’t?” Tink asked.
“You’re one of the strongest girls I’ve ever known,” Heather said.
Surprised, Tink looked at Hera and then Aphrodite, until finally settling on Blane’s kind face.
“We’ll be right at your side, every step of the way,” Blane said.
“I just can’t sleep.” Tink waved her hand in a circle near her temple. “My head is just…”
That’s the last thing Tink remembered clearly. She woke up the next morning when Charlie touched her face. She sat up and stretched. For whatever reason, Tink felt calm and almost ready to take on the day. Tink noticed a beautiful black dress hanging on the back of a chair. The dress was made out of black lace and had a beautiful silken layer underneath. There was a new pair of black boots and a black hat for the dress. A hanger underneath held a pair of black jeans and a soft, comfortable, long sleeved black shirt. She got up to look at it.
“Jer had the dress made for you by the show’s costumers,” Tanesha said from the doorway of the kitchen. “Your mom and I got you jeans and shirt. There’s a jacket in the closet if you need it. Charlie, you’re too big for the suit you got in New York. Dale’s coming over to bring you one of his.”
“Got it,” Charlie said.
“You were sound asleep when we got home so we hung the dress there,” Tanesha said.
“It’s beautiful,” Tink said. “You think it fits?”
“My husband is really good at knowing the exact size of women’s bodies,” Tanesha said wryly.
“Hey! That doesn’t sound nice,” Jeraine said from behind her in the kitchen.
A dish towel floated through the air and hit Tanesha on the back of head. Tanesha grinned at Tink and threw the towel back to Jeraine.
“Use the shower downstairs,” Tanesha said. “We’re done so you can take your time. You mind, Charlie?”
Charlie shook his head. He leaned back into the chair and closed his eyes.
“Thank you,” Tink said. In a louder voice, she said, “Thanks, Jeraine.”
“We’re here for you, Tink,” Jeraine said coming to the kitchen door and putting his arm around Tanesha.
“Every step of the way,” Tanesha said.
“Chocolate chip pancakes…” Jeraine said.
“And mood stabilizing eggs and bacon,” Tanesha said.
“When you’re ready,” Jeraine said. “Coffee?”
“Can’t stand the stuff,” Tink said.
“I’ll take some,” Charlie said.
“I’ll get it,” Tanesha said.
Tanesha and Jeraine turned and went back into the kitchen.
Tink kissed Charlie and started down the stairs to the bathroom. She didn’t know why, but she felt better this morning. It wasn’t that her day got any easier. Today was going to be absolutely horrible. She had to do everything awful today. Nothing could make that any better.
This morning, she just knew in her heart and mind that she could do it. She — unwanted Tiffanie, street kid, crazy girl, drug addict, gang rape survivor, stupid girl — could get through today. She could get through everything that had to be done. She had loved Chet from moment he came into this world. Now it was her chance to help her brother on his final journey.
“Thank the Goddesses,” Tink whispered and turned on the shower.
Sunday morning — 9:17 a.m.
“Oh gosh, a freak storm?” Jacob asked into the phone. “No snow plows?”
Jacob had volunteered to take Blane and Sam’s calls so that they could focus on what needed to be done next for Chet and Tink. Jacob listened to the portable receiver for their landline. Jill touched his back and set Bladen down on the couch next to where he was standing.
“Nope, nothing here,” Jacob said. He kept his voice breezy and friendly. “It’s actually a lovely day, actually. Those mountains, man …”
He tucked the phone against his chin while he knelt down to tie Bladen’s shoe.
“We were up late last night so we’re just getting up and around,” Jacob said. “Oh, have you tried Blane and Heather’s?”
He made a grim face and set the receiver down face up on the couch. The voice on the phone blew vitriol in a small squeaky voice. Jacob put his index finger up to his mouth and Bladen pantomimed laughing. Jacob finished dressing Bladen and set him down on the ground. Bladen ran off to find his twin around the same time that the voice stopped yelling into the phone.
“Sounds like you’re having a difficult day,” Jacob said.
Jill set Tanner down on the couch and Jacob started finishing dressing Bladen’s twin.
“Oh gosh,” Jacob said. “I wish I could help you. Our four wheel drive is in the shop for the winter. We needed to get it repaired for the winter.”
Jacob paused as Jacob tied Tanner’s shoes.
“Yeah, no,” Jacob said. “I don’t know anyone that would drive through a foot of snow to come to get you.”
Jacob nodded in hopes that they would agree.
“Colorado, you never know what the weather is going to do.”
Jacob listened for a pause in the verbal diarrhea on the other end of the phone.
“I know it’s hard,” Jacob said with a roll of his eyes. “I can’t imagine what today must be like for you.”
He fell silent while the caller shifted emotions.
“I wonder if the best thing is to head home,” Jacob said.
He looked up at the ceiling and set the phone down again. The voice screamed loud enough for Tanner give the phone a “What is that?” look. Jacob finished dressing Tanner and set him down by the time the man stopped talking. Jacob picked up the phone again.
“There’s no question that you’ve had a terrible day,” Jacob said. “That’s the only reason I haven’t hung up already.”
He paused for a moment.
“I strongly encourage you to head home,” Jacob said. “Please. You’re risking everything to get here. I know, I know, it’s your son. Such a terrible thing.”
“I wish there was a way that I could help you,” Jacob said. “But sadly, I can’t. You’re in my thoughts.”
Jacob said and hung up the phone. He gestured to Jill and she ran to unplug the phone line from the wall.
“How was that?” Jill asked.
“Awful,” Jacob said. “Terrible. I’d feel sorry for them if they weren’t such monsters.”
“Raawrr,” Tanner said.
The boy held his hands up in the air and roared. Not to be outdone, Bladen held up his hands and the two boys walked around as monsters. Jacob laughed at the boys.
“What happened to them?” Jill said.
“Freak snow storm,” Jacob said. “When they left the house, the roads were clear. They’d planned to be here first thing to ‘deal with this situation’ with Chet. They got to Monument Pass and a freak snow storm hit. The further they went, the worse the storm became. No tow trucks either.”
“How weird,” Jill said with a laugh.
He kissed her. Picking up one twin and then the other, he carried the boys down the stairs and out to his truck. He was almost to the truck when his cell phone rang. He set Bladen into his car seat and looked at the phone. Tink and Chet’s parents were calling again. He clicked ignore and went around to put Tanner into his car seat. The phone was ringing again when he got into the driver’s seat of his truck. Shaking his head, he turned off his phone and drove the boys to the Marlowe School for the day.
Sunday morning — 10:32 a.m.
Tink sat in a chair next to Chet’s bed. She’d given the transplant team permission to harvest organs from Chet the moment she’d walked into the hospital this morning. Because he was young and healthy, and they both shared a rare blood type, his organs were in high demand. The eye team and the kidney team were waiting for her when she got to the hospital.
As his closest relative, Social Services had allowed her to make the choice for Chet. Tink hadn’t hesitated. She knew what her brother would want to do. She told Chet’s social worker and the social worker told the transplant team. She watched the transplant team wheel Chet’s body into the surgery suite.
Her sweet, loving brother — the one she’d known all of her life — would have loved to that he was helping other people.
Of course, her mother and step-father has already threatened to sue the hospital. They’d told the social worker that even though Chet was a heathen — meaning he was gay — they wanted him to have a chance to come back during the rapture. Chet needed an intact body to get to heaven. Screw the living. Screw the sick. Screw the fact that Chet was a good person who tried hard. Screw Chet’s brilliance and beauty. What mattered to her mother and step-father was that Chet was buried with all of his organs.
“After all, we don’t want to spread his sickness,” her step-father had told the social worker.
As if Chet’s homosexuality was a sickness or an infection that could be spread. Tink was furious when she’d found out. She’d launched a whole argument in her mind only to find out what she already knew — her mother and step-father no longer had custody of Chet. That meant that what happened with Chet’s body was up to the social worker. The social worker had given Tink this one last chance to take care of Chet.
Four hours later, they’d already sent Chet’s corneas off to help a soldier who’d burned his in Afghanistan. They’d given one of Chet’s kidney’s to a sick child right there in the hospital. In a half hour, the kidney team would take Chet’s other kidney. Then, a team of doctor was going to split up Chet’s liver to save two patients’ from a painful death. Another team of surgeons were waiting to transplant Chet’s heart into a boy his age.
At Tink’s insistence, they were going to use anything they possibly could use. Tink felt proud of her brother for being able to save so many people. That’s exactly what Chet would want.
Between Heather, Delphie, and the social worker, they’d convinced the doctors to give Tink some time to sit with Chet before this last round of harvesting began. In an hour or so, the doctors would be done, and Tink would take Chet to the funeral home. This was her last chance to spend time with him before the machines were turned off.
Tink knew that Chet’s soul was gone. Delphie had told her that he had moved across the veil. More than anything, she knew it in the pit of her stomach.
Her brother was gone. All that was left was a husk that had held her brother’s beautiful soul.
She reached onto the bed to hold his hand. Given the circumstances, his hand was surprisingly warm. Tink’s mind flooded with memories. Her mind flashed on her sheer joy the moment she knew she was getting a sibling. Her mind shifted to her mother bringing this screaming bundle home from the hospital. Chet was a fussy child, who hated being alone. Just three years older, Tink would creep into his room in the middle of the night so he wouldn’t feel so alone. Night after night, she held his hand and along the way, Chet entered her heart.
Her mind jumped to his first step, his first day at school, and the first time someone beat him up for being a “sissy.” Tink had chased that boy down and beaten him black and blue. It was the first time the police were called and the first time her mother abandoned her for her boyfriend, now step-father. Tink sighed.
She only wanted to remember Chet and not them. They’d kicked her out of the house to “teach her” some undefined lesson. This began the cycle of getting kicked out, Chet waving to her from the porch, and then she’d be forgiven if, and only if, Christ saw fit. By the time she’d met Seth O’Malley and his pregnant daughter — the event that she thought started all the good things in her life — she’d spent more than a year, off and on, on the street. She knew Charlie and wore a Saint Jude pendant around her neck.
Chet never blamed her or told her that she was bad or wrong. Chet just loved her. His first night at Heather and Blane’s house, he’d come to her bed in the living room. They’d held hands in familiar comfort.
He was excited about his new life. He’d talked about school and what would happen next in his life.. Mostly, he was happy to be there with her.
Whatever happened, they would be together from now on.
She thought she’d be able to give him everything he deserved. She’d thought that she had time. They would finish growing up together. He would stay with her when he was looking at colleges. Their families would be close. Her kids and Chet’s kids would play together. They would be happy.
They were supposed to be happy.
Tink sighed. The only happiness she could give Chet now was the idea that he was helping so many people. The door to the room slid open and Charlie came in the room.
“Are you ready?” Charlie asked.
“No,” Tink said. “I don’t think I’ll ever be ready.”
Charlie didn’t say anything. He just gave her a kind look and nodded. Tink leaned over and kissed Chet’s cheek.
“Good bye, Chet,” Tink whispered. “It’s up to you now. You have to make yourself happy because I won’t be there to help.”
She got up and took a step toward Charlie. Spinning in back, she ran back to the bed. She threw herself onto the body that had held her beautiful body.
“I love you,” Tink said.
Tink jumped up and walked out of the room. Charlie grabbed her in the hallway. They held each other as an orderly and a nurse wheeled Chet’s body out of the room. Tink watched the body roll away from her.
In her mind’s eye, she saw Chet waving good-bye to her like he had so many times. Tink couldn’t help herself but wave back.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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