Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Four Hundred and Seventy-seven : Aftermath


Tuesday early morning — 6:31 a.m. MT

“Can we get you some coffee?” Blane asked. “Tea?”

Heather gestured for the woman to sit in an armchair. She sat down on the edge of the chair and shook her head. Rather than meet their eyes, she bowed her head and stared at her hands which were clasped on her lap.

“No, no, really,” the woman said.

Heather and Blane sat down on the couch across from her.

“I can’t imagine what you think of me,” the woman said.

“First,” Blane said. “We know who you are but we don’t know your name.”

“Tiffany has never spoken of me?” the woman’s voice cracked with emotion.

“She calls you ‘Mom’,” Heather said. “Or ‘my mom.’ Since we adopted her, she calls you her ‘birth mother.’”

The woman’s head moved in a nod. Even though they couldn’t see her face, it was clear that the woman was crying.

“Lilith,” the woman said, softly. She dared to look up for a moment. “My name is Lilith.”

“Nice to meet you,” Blane said. “I am Blane, and this is my wife, Heather.”

Lilith’s red, running eyes took in Blane before turning to Heather. The woman’s hands went instinctively crossed her throat. She nodded at them and then looked down.

“What can we do for you?” Heather asked, in a manner that she thought was kind.

Blane’s eyes suggested that she might have been kinder. Heather shrugged, and Blane nodded that he understood.

“Do you … uh …” Lilith stopped talking. She swallowed hard. Fumbling, she retrieved a tissue from her bag. “Do you know who Lilith is?”

“She is often seen as a demon by many Christian sects,” Heather said. “In Judaism, she’s known as the first wife of Adam, made at the same time as he was and from the same earth.”

“First woman,” Blane said under his breath.

Heather nodded to him at the same time the woman in front of them nodded.

“I’ve had dreams,” Lilith said. “All of my life.”

“Dreams?” Blane asked.

“They mostly come true,” Lilith said. “But … I haven’t had a dream for a long, long time.”

Thinking she would continue, Heather and Blane didn’t respond. A minute dragged into five minutes and Blane shrugged at Heather.

“Asleep?” Heather whispered.

“Embarrassed,” the woman in front of them said, softly.

When she looked up, they could see the fire that their daughter Tink held. She looked into Blane and Heather’s faces for cruelty but found none.

“Why did you come?” Blane asked softly.

“I came to see my daughter,” Lilith said.

“But you don’t have a daughter,” Blane said in the same soft, kind voice. “In fact, I believe you told her that no daughter of yours would allow those boys to use her so horribly.”

The woman winced at the repetition of her own words.

“You told her that you didn’t have a daughter,” Blane said. “In the hospital — while she was near death, I might add — you made certain that she, and everyone in hearing range, knew for absolute certain that you do not have a daughter.”

“We couldn’t afford the hospital bill and …” Lilith said in a rush of words.

She clamped her mouth closed. For a moment, they stared at each other.

“How did you …?” Lilith asked.

“A little bit at a time,” Blane said. “The hospital worked out a payment plan for us. Of course, Tink has medical insurance now so that has covered most of the follow up.”

“We had some help from Victim’s Services,” Heather said.

Heather and Blane looked at each other and nodded. Lilith didn’t respond.

“I shouldn’t have come,” Lilith said.

“And, yet, you did,” Heather said. Adding strength to her words, Heather demanded, “Why are you here?”

“I had a dream,” Lilith said. “About Chet and … I … felt …”

Lilith’s hands went to her chest again.

“In the dream, he was whole,” Lilith said. “Beautiful. Pure.”

“And gay?” Blane asked.

Lilith’s eyes flicked to Blane’s face.

“Yes, yes, I guess so,” Lilith said.

“I bet he would have loved to hear you say that he was beautiful or pure when he was alive,” Heather said.

“I’m sure you’re right,” Lilith said. “That’s why I had to come.”

“You threw him out of the house,” Heather said, without disguising her frustration for this woman. “You told him that you never wanted to see him again, that it was better if he just died! He died believing that you thought that he should no longer live. And that place! We’ve know that you sent him there.”

“For him to get back to Christ!” Lilith said.

“Right, the man who spent all his time with thirteen other men,” Blane said pointedly.

Lilith grabbed her bag and stood up. She marched to the door and stood with her back to them.

“Everything you’re saying is true,” Lilith said. “I disowned my daughter because I believed that she deserved what she got from those … boys. I sent son to the Christian Conversion Camp in order have the gay …”

Lilith stopped talking.

“Tortured out of him?” Blane asked in a smooth even tone.

Lilith shook her head.

“You honestly think that we’ll believe that you didn’t know exactly what they do there?” Heather asked.

Something about Heather’s words caused Lilith to spin around. She glared at Heather for a moment before nodding.

“I knew what they’d do,” Lilith said.

“Then why would you possibly care that he’s dead?” Blane asked.

“He will never get to Christ now!” Lilith said.

“No, that’s you who will never get to Christ,” Blane said with a snort. “Allow your son to be tortured? Tell your daughter she deserved being gang raped nearly to death? Wish the death of your own flesh and blood — do you honestly think this is what your Christ asked of you?”

The woman stared at Blane for a moment. Her mouth opened and closed, and then she shook her head. She shot Heather a pleading look but Heather shook her head.

“Don’t look to me to understand,” Heather said.

The woman nodded her head and turned to go.

“Why did you come here?” Heather demanded.

Lilith turned around.

“I came to apologize to my daughter,” Lilith said. “Before you say it, I know that she … that I … I wanted to tell her that she was right to be angry with me and that I’d hoped she would find happiness. The man …”

Lilith partially turned to gesture outside the room.

“He said that Tiffanie is in New York City,” Lilith said. “With friends?”

Heather nodded.

“She always wanted to go,” Lilith said. “Ever since she was a child and her father …”

Lilith swallowed hard.

“You know what?” Lilith asked. “I would love some tea. And water.”

Heather blinked at the woman. She had the feeling that this woman was planning something. Heather hoped that she could figure out what exactly that was. Heather looked at Blane, and he nodded. He left the room. Lilith went back to the chair and sat down. Blane returned almost immediately with a tray. Delphie followed behind him carrying a pitcher of water. Delphie gave Heather a wink and left the room.

“She had it all ready,” Blane said.

He took a plate of blueberry scones off the tray and offered one to Lilith. He poured three cups of fragrant tea.

“Gosh, that smells amazing,” Lilith said.

“It’s a blend that our friend Abi brings from the Isle of Man,” Heather said.

“Fin makes it,” Blane said. “He made the scones, too.”

“Her partner,” Heather said. “The tea is very uplifting, especially when you’re not feeling well. We’ve been drinking it non-stop.”

Lilith held the cup to her nose to take in the aroma.

“Why aren’t you feeling well?” Lilith asked.

“Our son was just murdered by a metal object inserted into his brain,” Heather said.

“So you know,” Lilith said.

“Know?” Blane asked.

“How I feel,” Lilith said.

“If you mean that someone else’s decisions have destroyed someone you loved,” Heather said. Lilith’s head went up and down in a nod. “Then …”

“I suppose we do,” Blane said.

They drank their tea and scones with sweet honey butter. Heather and Blane watched the magic of the tea and scones work on Lilith. When she sat back, she seemed brighter and happier.

“I have done some really awful things,” Lilith said. “I … lost my way.”

“We’ve both had that experience,” Blane said. “The real question is what are you going to do about it now?”

Lilith looked at Blane, and then at Heather. She gave a slight nod and picked up her purse. Before they could respond, Lilith took a small handgun from her purse and pointed it at her temple.

“No!” Blane and Heather screamed and jumped toward her.

They were too late. Tink and Chet’s mother shot herself through the temple. Having sensed the threat of the weapon, Abi rushed into the room. She touched the woman’s cheek and then her forehead.

“Her name was Lilith,” Heather whispered.

Abi put her hand on the chest. She shook her head at Blane and Heather. Jacob and Delphie came in.

Blane grabbed Heather, and they moved to a corner of the room. Neither Blane nor Heather would remember anything more from that day.


Tuesday early morning — 9:16 a.m. ET

New York City, New York

Tink took a long shower for no reason that she could determine. Standing in the middle of her private shower in the privacy of this bathroom, she wasn’t sure if she just loved the great water pressure, or she was trying to wash off her sorrow, or she was simply filthy from laying around yesterday. Whatever it was, under this water, she felt a tiny bit like she might be able to continue with her life.

Of course, she’d spent the entire day in bed yesterday.

But that was yesterday. Chet would not want her to suffer. And, she had finally made it the New York City. She brushed her curly hair and wrapped herself in a robe. When she opened the door to the small bedroom with the big sunflower on the wall. She saw Ivan standing near the door to the hallway.

“Ivan?” Tink asked.

“I apologize for the intrusion,” Ivan said. “I … We need to speak.”

“Sure,” Tink said. He was so handsome that she couldn’t help but smile at him. “Charlie and Sissy too?”

“I’ve asked them to speak with you privately,” Ivan said.

“Here?” Tink asked.

“Why don’t you get dressed?” Ivan asked. “Open the door when you’re ready. I can wait.”

Tink saw something in his face when he turned — relief? sorrow? Whatever it was, she felt it like a hot dagger in her gut. Something had happened and it was bad.

She pulled on a pair of comfortable yoga pants, a top, and a fleece. The entire outfit was new. She’d bought it to wear to yoga class with Wanda and Noelle while Charlie was at basketball. All of this happened so she hadn’t been able to start yoga. She’d hoped Sissy would do yoga with her so she wouldn’t be embarrassed when she finally got to class. Sissy would help her with anything. Barefoot, she pad to the door and opened it.

Ivan was standing just outside the door. He scanned her face before giving her a kind smile. He took her elbow and escorted her with practiced ease to the couch.

“I need to tell you something hard,” Ivan said.

Tink nodded.

“Your mother has killed herself,” Ivan said.

“Can she even do that?” Tink asked, referring to Heather.

Ivan’s left eyebrow went up and down a few times as he tried to understand what she was saying.

“Excuse me?” Ivan asked, finally.

“Did something happen to Heather?” Tink asked.

Ivan shook his head.

“Your mother, Lilith,” Ivan said.

Tink gasped in horror, and then shook her head.

“No, no, she never would,” Tink said. “She was terrified of going to hell. If she killed herself, by her belief — she’d certainly go to hell and there’s no way, just no way, that she’d …”

Tink’s mind reeled until it flashed on the truth.

“She went to be with Chet,” Tink said. “He’d go to hell for being gay. Burn for eternity for loving the wrong person. Since she couldn’t fix him …”

“That is what Jacob told me,” Ivan said.

“Jake?” Tink asked. “Where are my parents?”

“They have been detained by the police,” Ivan said. “As I understand it, your mother was speaking to them when she shot herself in the temple. They expect to be done with the police by the end of the day. They aren’t sure that they will be able to travel, but their hope is to get here to be with you. I told them that we would take their place for now.”

“Oh,” Tink said.

She looked away for a long moment. Glancing at Ivan to see if he was looking, she made a gun out of her right hand and held it to her temple. She pulled the pretend trigger and gave Ivan a questioning look. Ivan nodded.

“Right in front of Blane and Heather?” Tink asked.

“Jacob said they were drinking tea and eating blueberry scones,” Ivan said.

“Oh,” Tink said. “That is odd.”

“Yes,” Ivan said. “The police have found indications that this was her plan all along. She wished to see you and then kill herself. You weren’t there so she spoke with Blane and Heather.”

“Huh,” Tink said. Her eyes glazed over and she stared at the wall. “Odd.”


“Charlie and Sissy?” Tink asked. She was becoming more numb by the minute.

“They are very upset,” Ivan said. “For you, mostly, but also this reminds of their own cruel and crazy mother.”

“That’s right, isn’t it?” Tink asked. “This is really just a cruel gesture. If she’d wanted to kill herself, she could have done it at home with her husband or in the mountains or driving off a cliff. But instead …”

Tink fell silent for a moment and then whispered, “If I had been there, she would have killed herself in front of me and possibly …”

Tink looked at Ivan in horror.

“Yes,” he said, simply. “The police found evidence that she planned to murder you, as well.”

“Take me to hell with her.” Tink felt as if she were out of her body, watching this conversation.

Ivan took her hand and squeezed it hard. She looked down at her hand.

“I know that now is not the time, but …” Ivan turned his body to look at her. She was staring at the wall. “I have been through this very thing. My sister died. The grief and guilt killed my mother. My father wasn’t … there. I had a family at the Bolshoi. Everyone loved me and I was successful. I was not close to my parents. They were relics of another era. My sister and I were so close and she was gone. My mother, she birthed me, raised me … What I am trying to say is that I have an idea how you feel.”

“How do I feel?” Tink asked out of real curiosity. She turned her knees in his direction but her eyes stayed on the wall.

“As if every string that connected you to this earth has been cut.” Ivan made a horizontal slashing motion with his hand. “As if you are alone in the whole world.”

Tink’s head jerked to look at him in surprise. Slowly, her head went up and down.

“My mother tried to destroy me in her own way,” Ivan said. “Your mother pushed you out and then …”

“Tried to destroy me,” Tink said, quietly.

They sat in silence for a long moment.

“What do I do?” Tink asked.

“Whatever you’d like. Whatever feels good …” Ivan touched Tink’s heart, “ … here. We have every resource. You can also sit in this dark room by yourself.”

“No!” Tink was surprised at the anger in her own voice. “Not for her. Never for her. I’m in New York. I want to see … something New Yorky.”

Ivan smiled at her spunk.

“Then you shall,” Ivan said. “I must work, but Charlie, Sissy, and Giovani had planned to take you to see the Lady of the Liberty. They are scoping out places for an evening of dance. Does that sound fun?”

Tink nodded.

“Giovani had made your favorite pastry,” Ivan said.

Tink nodded.

“Will I ever … feel?” Tink asked. “Again?”

“You will,” Ivan said. “When you do, we’ll be here, as well.”

Tink nodded.

“Come,” Ivan stood up and held out his hand. “Let’s have some coffee and see what’s next.”

Almost unable to speak, Tink nodded and followed him out to the kitchen area. Charlie and Sissy had clearly been crying. Even Giovani looked heartbroken for her.

Tink felt numb.

And that was okay with everyone, too.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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