Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Chapter Four Hundred and Seventy-one : Hearts and Stuff

CHAPTER FOUR HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-ONE

Saturday evening — 7:10 p.m.

“Oh good,” Noelle said to Teddy and Nash as they came in the apartment. “You’re done.”

Waiting for them to return, she’d been pacing back and forth in the front of the apartment door in the apartment living room.

“For now,” Nash said. “We were coming to get permission to call Raz and those guys.”

“And get a ride over there,” Teddy said. He touched Noelle’s arm. “What’s going on?”

“Oh,” Noelle nodded as she tried to process what to tell them. They seemed so happy and excited to help Seth’s dad with his mystery. She didn’t want to rain on their parade.

“What is it?” Teddy asked. His face was so open and kind that she gave him a small smile.

“I…” Noelle scowled. “Did you talk to that girl?”

“Which girl?” Nash asked.

The boys moved uncomfortably close to Noelle. She would usually have backed up or made a joke but tonight, their closeness felt like a hug. She looked at Teddy and Nash.

“What is it?” Nash asked.

“That girl Auntie Jill’s sister adopted is…,” Noelle said in a soft voice. She mouthed the word “mean.”

Teddy’s brow dropped in a scowl.

“I knew her before,” Noelle said. “When we were little, you know, B.S.”

She mouthed “Before Sandy.”

“That was her?” Nash’s eyes widened with surprise.

Noelle nodded.

“What was her?” Teddy asked.

“Noelle had a tough time with a girl in elementary school,” Nash said. “She was horrible.”

“That girl,” Noelle said. “She… I cried every single day. I cried on recess. I cried in class. I cried in the morning before school.”

“How come I didn’t know about this?” Aden asked from the doorway of the apartment.

Noelle jerked around to look at him. Nash looked at their father, but Teddy never took his eyes off Noelle.

“You cried every day?” Teddy asked.

With his voice, Noelle turned back to look at Teddy. The kindness on his face brought back the pain of that horrible time. Her eyesight blurred with tears.

“Noelle?” Aden asked.

“It was a really hard time for everyone,” Nash said. “You’d just started working for Jacob and were going to school and… We were still seeing our mom and…”

“She was really horrible,” Noelle said.

“What happened today?” Teddy asked.

“I saw her and just…” Noelle said. “She looked at me and my words just…”

Noelle’s hand flew up to show that her words evaporated.

“I was scared and angry,” Noelle said.

“What did she do?” Aden asked.

“She kind of smirked at me,” Noelle said with a shiver. “I just stared at her. I didn’t even say anything. I just stared. And she…”

Noelle shivered so much that Aden hugged her tight.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Aden asked.

“There was just a lot going on,” Nash said.

“You don’t remember but things were really different B.S.,” Noelle said.

“Before Sandy,” Teddy said.

“Everything was overwhelming and everything,” Noelle said. “We didn’t ever talk about things like our hearts and stuff.”

“Just school and what we had to do,” Nash said.

“Sorry,” Aden said.

“Don’t be sorry,” Noelle said. “Everything is just better now.”

Nash, Noelle, and Teddy nodded. Aden smiled.

“What do we need to do to make this better?” Aden asked. “We’ve promised Candy that we’d help her with the kids and the kids will be at school on Monday.”

“That horrible girl is going to our school?” Noelle asked. “My safe place?”

Noelle shook her head and tears ran down her face. She ran out of the living room. The door slammed.

“What was that?” Sandy asked.

She came out drying her hands with a dish towel.

“A long story,” Aden said. “Can you…?”

“I’m on it,” Sandy said.

Sandy gave Aden the towel and went to Noelle’s room.

“Noelle?” Sandy asked as she tapped the door.

She opened the door and saw Noelle weeping on the bed. Sandy sat down on the side of the bed and rubbed Noelle’s back while Noelle cried.

~~~~~~~~

Sunday morning — 6:10 a.m.

“Well something has to be done,” Sandy said to Jacob and Valerie in an intense whisper. “Noelle is hysterical. She says she won’t go back to the school. And I remind you that the only reason the Marlowe School is taking older students is because of Noelle.”

They were standing in the main kitchen downstairs. Jill had called the meeting. They had to meet so early as to not disrupt everyone’s church schedule or the plans for a big brunch afterwards.

“That’s exactly right,” Jill said, giving her support to Sandy. “If this girl is willing to be cruel to Noelle, even yesterday, then she’s going to create a whole cool girl group.”

“It will split the older grade kids into factions,” Sandy said with a nod. “That’s the kind of thing that, once it’s started, it’s hard to stop. It’s not worth it.”

She’s not worth it,” Jill said. “We already know that her mother was in this secret relationship and …”

“You mean her dead mother, right?” Aden asked.

Jill just glared at Aden.

“You’re talking about a girl who has never had a stable home,” Aden said.

“How can you take her side?” Sandy asked.

“Over your own daughter!” Jill said.

“Didn’t you see how devastated Noelle is?” Sandy asked.

“I’m not taking her side!” Aden said.

“There are no sides!” Jacob said in defense of Aden.

In unison, the two women crossed their arms and scowled at their husband’s.

“Remember that we agreed not to do this?” Jacob said with a vague smile.

“Do what?” Valerie asked.

“Them ganging up on us,” Jacob said.

Valerie laughed at her brother and went around the counter to make coffee. As she passed, she turned on the electric pot for tea.

“Sit down,” Valerie said. “Have a bowl of cereal.”

“This doesn’t mean we’re going to forget,” Jill said.

“No,” Aden said. “This is too serious.”

Valerie set a box of Cap’n Crunch with Crunchberries on the counter and went to the refrigerator for milk. When she turned around, Sandy had grabbed the bowls and Jill was getting the spoons so that Jacob could talk to Aden for a moment. By the time Valerie had finished making the coffee, Delphie was fixing her cup of green tea and everyone had poured a bowl of cereal. Valerie grabbed another box of cereal from the pantry and came to sit down.

Jill and Sandy were sitting on one side of the table while Aden and Jacob were sitting on the other. They all but sneered at each other. Delphie was sitting on the end of the table. Valerie went to Jacob and made him move to the end. Valerie sat across from Sandy because she seemed the most incensed.

They ate a bowl of cereal while the coffee brewed. Sandy got up when the coffee was done. She made coffee for everyone. Jacob carried them to the table.

“This is about Noelle?” Delphie asked.

“There’s a horrible girl that …” Jill started.

In the moment of taking a sip of tea, Delphie held up her hand and nodded. Jill stopped talking.

“We think she shouldn’t go to the Marlowe School,” Sandy said.

“She should go to a reform school,” Jill said.

“Do they have reform schools anymore?” Aden asked.

“This is not funny!” Sandy said. “You aren’t taking this seriously!”

“I am.” Aden nodded. “I’m just …”

Feeling everyone’s eyes on him, he stopped talking.

“Okay, I feel badly for those kids,” Aden said with a shrug. “They seem so lost. It’s so unlike you …” he gestured to Sandy, “ … to not see the heart of a child. These kids are broken. Their mother was killed right in front of them by another woman they loved. They’ve learned that their mother and her partner weren’t married, but in fact, their mother broke up a marriage like relationship.”

“It does seem really hard,” Valerie said.

“That’s all I’m saying,” Aden said. “And Noelle admitted that it all happened in the middle of everything — Nuala visits, my school work, no loving mother. I don’t doubt that it was hard, but I also know that my daughter can globalize everything that’s going on inside her.”

Aden nodded.

“Thanks for letting me speak my piece,” Aden said.

Delphie put her hand on his shoulder in support, and the women nodded. He glanced at Jacob but Jacob’s eyes had a vague focus.

“What do you see?” Delphie asked.

“Oh,” Jacob jerked back to the present. “I was thinking about this kid, Scott the Snot. Katy swears that he tried to kill his mother. It’s on our plate to deal with next week. Now this.”

Jacob nodded.

“I guess I never really thought that we’d inherit people’s problems when we wanted to teach their kids,” Jacob said. “That’s all.”

Delphie took a breath to speak.

“Oh, and I wondered how Mom handled this kind of thing,” Jacob said.

“Did you ask her?” Jill asked.

Jacob shook his head.

“She was talking to Delphie,” Jacob looked at Delphie, who nodded. “What did she say?”

“Uh…” Delphie said. She kind of shrugged. “She said… Well…”

Everyone turned to look at Delphie. She didn’t say anything for a while.

“Sorry,” Delphie said. “We weren’t done talking.”

“What did Mom say?” Valerie asked.

“You mean what did we agree on?” Delphie asked defensively. “Because we didn’t agree for a few minutes. But really if you’re only interested in…”

“Oh Delphie, we’re just upset,” Sandy said. “Noelle was hysterical last night. She’s saying she won’t go to school and she loves school. It’s so bad that she’s saying that she wants to move back to New York City. You remember how much she hates New York.”

Delphie nodded.

“Will you tell us what you decided?” Valerie asked.

“You have two things,” Delphie said. “In Scott’s case, you have this little kid who’s pretty disturbed. His father is dead, but he doesn’t know that even though he was there when it happened. He believes that his mother is the reason he can’t see his father, even though she barely survived the entire thing. So did he, that’s the problem.”

“Why don’t they tell him that his father is dead?” Jill asked. “I’d never keep that from Katy.”

“Katy is very strong,” Delphie said. “Well loved. Scott grew up in this chaos that erupted into his father trying to kill Scott and his mother.”

Delphie looked up to see the horrified looks on their faces.

“How did he survive?” Valerie asked.

“They were in the kitchen making pasta when the father came in shooting,” Delphie said. “The mother pushed Scott into the cabinet and then she was shot. The father was bending down to get Scott out of the cabinet when Scott pulled the pot of cooking pasta onto the father.”

Everyone at the table gasped.

“They were both burned,” Delphie said. “When the father heard the police sirens, he shot in Scott’s direction and then shot himself. Scott had moved. His father was less than a foot away from Scott so the bullet hit the boy after it went through the father.”

No one said anything for a moment.

“The girl’s story is not as violent, but equally as traumatizing,” Delphie said. “The kids were there when Jazmyne killed their mother. Every piece of security has been stripped away from them. They feel like they can’t grieve their mother because she was killed. They feel like they can’t grieve Jazmyne because she’s still alive. They are confused.”

“That doesn’t mean that these kids haven’t done awful things,” Delphie said. “The girl was mean to Noelle but she was truly horrible to a lot of other children. And, Scott, he could end up being a serial killer or something like that. They’ve done bad things and could do even worse.”

Delphie nodded.

“I guess it’s really about what we believe,” Delphie said.

“What we believe?” Jill asked.

“Do we believe that these kids are bad and always going to be bad?” Delphie asked. “Or if we can help them?”

“How do we help them?” Aden asked.

“I don’t know,” Delphie said.

“Who does know?” Jacob asked.

“Katy and Noelle,” Delphie said. “Scott picked Katy and this girl picked our Noelle. There’s a reason for that.”

“How do I ask my daughter to help this Scott when he’s been really horrible to her?” Jill asked.

Delphie didn’t say anything. She just nodded.

“That’s the question isn’t it?” Aden asked. “How do we ask our kids to help these people who hurt them?”

Unable to come up with an answer, no one said anything. After a while, Jill looked up at the clock.

“We have to go to get the kids ready for church,” Jill said.

“I’ll clean up,” Valerie said.

“Thanks,” Sandy said.

Without answers, they got up to start their day.

~~~~~~~~

Sunday morning — 10:10 a.m.

“Sorry we’re late,” Teddy said as he pressed passed Raz to enter Raz’s carriage house.

“We had to go to church,” Nash said, following Teddy into the carriage house.

Comfortable with being in Raz’s home, Teddy went straight to the living area. Nash set his backpack on the couch.

“I saw you there,” Raz said.

Teddy picked up Raz’s baby, Sasha, from the crib along the wall.

“Why do you have to go to church?” Teddy asked.

Raz raised his eyebrows in a nod toward the baby. Nash gave the baby a kiss on the cheek and started unpacking his backpack. Raz was just closing the door when Alex and John’s twins, Máire and Joey, ran into the carriage house. They ran around Nash and grabbed hold of Teddy’s legs in a hug.

“I may have let it slip that you would be here,” Raz said with a grin.

Teddy set Sasha back in her crib and knelt down to hug Máire and Joey. The twins spoke in fast happy words that were undecipherable to anyone but Teddy. Children loved Teddy and he loved them in return. He was a regular in this household, so all of the kids knew him to be their friend and ally. Teddy looked surprised and Máire nodded.

“Show me?” Teddy asked.

Máire pointed to her skinned knee. Joey pointed to his matching knee. Teddy laughed. Raz came over to look at Máire’s bleeding knee.

“What happened, baby?” Raz asked Máire.

“Joey skinned his knee yesterday,” Teddy said. “She thought she should catch up but she didn’t want to tell her mom because she realized her mom might be mad.”

Teddy’s eyes twinkled with delight.

“Their mom hates it when they’re injured in anyway,” Teddy said with a grin.

Their mother, Alex Hargreaves, was regularly injured in her line of work. It was almost funny to watch how upset she became when her children were injured.

“They realized they have to do something because they’re supposed to spend the afternoon with their grandmother,” Teddy said.

Nash laughed at mention of Alex’s mother, Rebecca Hargreaves. Rebecca was always bugging Máire for being a tomboy like her brother. She would not approve of matching skinned knees.

“Shall we do surgery?” Raz asked.

The twins laughed and twirled around. Raz picked Máire with one arm and Joey with the other. While they squealed, he carried them to the door where their father, Dr. John Drayson, was standing. Raz rotated to show John the matching skinned knees. A doctor, John noticed immediately that Joey’s knee had already scabbed over while Máire’s knee had been freshly skinned.

“Good Lord,” John said. “Rebecca will have a fit.”

Raz nodded. John looked at Teddy and Nash. He nodded in hello to them. John tried to take Máire from Raz, but she hung on tight. The twins giggled at themselves. Nash came over to help but by the time he arrived, the twins were laughing so hard they couldn’t hold on. Nash got Joey and John took Máire.

“Off for some speed bandaging,” John said with a nod. He looked at Nash, “Do you mind?”

“I’ll be right back,” Nash said to Teddy and Raz.

Raz was about to close the door when Samantha slipped into the carriage house. She kissed Raz on the way into the room.

“Oh Teddy,” Samantha said. “I didn’t realize you were the meeting.”

“Do you need take her?” Teddy asked. “It’s no problem keep Sasha here.”

“I change her in to finery for my mother’s royal visit,” Samantha said.

“She needs a diaper change,” Teddy said.

“Raz!” Samantha scowled at her partner.

“Just happened,” Teddy said. “Babies seem to poop around me.”

Raz nodded to the truth of Teddy’s words. Samantha kissed Teddy’s cheek and took her child from him.

“How about a bath, pretty girl?” Samantha asked.

Sasha gave her mother a beautiful smile. Samantha slipped by Raz again. They watched her jog across the yard to her home next door. Nash was walking toward them on the path when Bernie came from the alley.

“Bernie,” Raz said and stepped back.

Nash came into the carriage house right after Bernie.

“No Sasha?” Bernie asked.

“Her mother took her,” Raz said. “Rebecca is coming.”

“Ah,” Bernie said. “She is such a beautiful baby. I’m sure her grandmother adores her.”

Raz smiled at Bernie. Nash went to his backpack. The boys set up their laptops while Raz fixed Bernie a cup of coffee.

“Now, what are we looking for?” Raz asked.

“A novel that was kept out the hands of the Nazis!” Nash said with enthusiasm.

Raz’s left eyebrow lowered at Nash’s words. He looked at Bernie.

“I have a friend who purchases items from elderly Jewish people,” Bernie said. “These elderly people have possessions they brought from the old country, family items.”

“You mean, Sandy,” Raz said.

“I cannot confirm …” Bernie started.

Raz raised his eyebrows in a dry “really?” Bernie’s feigned ignorance. In the way of teenaged boys, Nash and Teddy gaped at the men while they tried to assess what was actually happening. Raz shook his head at the man.

“I’ve verified the backgrounds and details of more than a few of the sellers as well as the items she’s purchased,” Raz said. “Alex and I have already taken two of her purchases to the German Centre for Lost Cultural Property for identification.”

“I see,” Bernie said.

“What are we looking for?” Raz asked.

“A book,” Nash said from across the room.

Raz lifted a skeptical eyebrow at Bernie.

“I helped Sandy purchase the writing journal of a Polish author who was killed at Sobibór,” Bernie said.

“Lidia,” Raz said her first name and then a slur of syllables.

“Do you know of her?” Bernie asked.

“Alex and I had a case where we were looking for something written by another Jewish author who was murdered in the same camp,” Raz said. “That case led us to create a file for all dead or missing authors from that time. Lidia, or as we call her LS, was on that list.”

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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