Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Four Hundred and Sixty-seven : The dance


Thursday evening — 8:14 p.m.

“Oh, thanks,” Sandy said, as she took the cup of hot chocolate from Aden.

She was sitting in camping chairs near the Thatcher Fountain. Fearing it was too cold, Ivan had told Wanda that he didn’t think they should dance tonight. But when Valerie had asked, they felt like they couldn’t say no to both of them. Sandy had gone with them to help where she could. The tall lady of the fountain’s grim silence seemed to whisper her judgements as they arrived.

Sandy had no sooner stopped the car when about twenty people appeared out of the surrounding trees. They had braved the cold rain on the hopes that Ivan and Sissy were dancing tonight. As soon as Teddy posted that they were at City Park and the Thatcher Fountain, dancers from all over Denver started to arrive. Many of Ivan’s old students came to either to watch or to dance. Most of the principle dancers from the Denver Ballet were warming up with Sissy. The crowd was growing. The police arrived to control the crowds and the televisions stations sent people to cover the event.

Everyone wanted to see the dance in the open of City Park. Aden and Delphie had just arrived with warm drinks and plenty of blankets. Aden sat down in the chair next to Sandy.

“Quite a scene,” Aden said.

Sandy nodded and sipped her hot chocolate.

“It’s become kind of a thing,” Sandy said.

“A thing?” Aden asked.

“Oh, I don’t really know what I mean,” Sandy said. “The Instagram account Teddy set up for Ivan and Sissy has something like a million followers.”

“A million,” Aden said. “Really?”

“And growing,” Sandy said. “Sissy said that Ivan’s received requests for big cities around the country for them to come and dance in their parks.”

“What are they going to do?” Aden asked.

“Sissy wasn’t sure,” Sandy said. “Ivan wants to get back to work — for both of them. This is just something fun for them to do, I think, but don’t quote me. I’m taking them to the airport tomorrow morning. I’ll probably find out then or …”

Sandy shrugged.

“What does Ivan say?” Sandy asked.

“He’s had some kind of …” Aden gestured to his heart. “I don’t know what to call it — awakening, I guess. He feels like he’s kept himself separate from everyone and everything. He wants to dive deep into his life for a while and see what that’s like.”

“Nice,” Sandy said.

Aden nodded.

“They have so much in front of them,” Aden said. “It’s probably best that they take it one thing at a time.”

Sandy nodded.

“Maybe I should go with you tomorrow morning,” Aden said.

“If you have time,” Sandy said. “Honestly, I think you’re right. They don’t know enough about what they are doing to know where they’re going. Sissy has to decide about schools and ballet companies. Ivan’s … Well, as you said, he’s kind of starting his life again. I guess they both are, really.”

Aden nodded. Sandy pointed to a group of male ballerinas getting out of a car. Aden nodded. A little awed by the whole unfolding event, they watched people in silence. Dale and Charlie flopped down on a blanket next to them.

“How was basketball?” Aden leaned over to ask Charlie.

“It was great,” Charlie said, his face brightening. “The guys seem really nice, or I should say that I liked them. The coach had some good ideas on helping me rehab. He gave me a name of a Physical Therapist that he thought might help me.”

Charlie dug out his wallet from his back pocket and gave Aden a business card. Aden passed it to Sandy.

“I’ve heard about him,” Sandy said with a nod. “I have time tomorrow to check if he’s on our insurance.”

“Thanks,” Charlie said.

“How are your knees?” Aden asked. “Legs?”

“Good,” Charlie said. “I mean, I still have a ways to go to get back in shape, but I was surprised at how much I could do.”

“He did great,” Dale said with a nod.

“I want to be ready now,” Charlie said. “But everyone says, you know, more PT, more time. I think it makes sense but …”

“Doesn’t make it easy,” Aden said.

Charlie nodded. Smiling, Aden returned his nod.

“Did Val have her baby?” Charlie asked.

“She did,” Sandy nodded. “Did you hear …?”

“I heard something weird,” Charlie said. “Or I should say someone said something about Mike having other kids and Valerie being mad.”

Charlie shrugged.

“It sounded fake,” Charlie said. “Dumb. Like someone who didn’t know Val and Mike was trying to make money off them.”

“Mike gave Candy’s sister some sperm a long time ago,” Aden said. “They didn’t know that she’d had the child or maybe children. There’s some confusion.”

“Always something,” Charlie said with a shrug.

“That’s the truth,” Aden said. “Glad basketball was fun.”

“Barbeque too,” Charlie said.

“We went to that barbeque after basketball,” Dale said with a nod. “There’s one right next to the school.”

“So good,” Charlie said.

The young men nodded in unison. The music started, and they turned their attention to where Ivan had set up a stage. Some young girls came out and everyone clapped. Sandy put her hand on Aden’s forearm. He turned to look at her.

“I wanted to ask you,” Sandy said.

He raised his eyebrows.

“You seemed a little …” Sandy shook her head. “ … something when you came in this afternoon. Sick of the chaos at the Castle, sick of the paparazzi — I don’t know what. I just wanted to check in to see how you were with living at the Castle now.”

Aden put his hand to his chest in a gesture of “Me?” The cheering increased. They looked to see Ivan and Sissy start to dance. They were so captivating that neither Sandy nor Aden said anything until they’d finished.

“Wow,” Sandy said.

Aden nodded. They drank their hot chocolate. Not one to let things slide, Sandy opened her mouth to ask again. Aden spoke first.

“I love living at the Castle,” Aden said. “It’s wild glorious chaos all the time.”

Aden nodded.

“I remember when the kids and I lived at our house in Park Hill,” Aden said. “It was quiet, safe, but not nearly as vibrant and … weird. I see the way the kids have blossomed while we live there. They are so much more resilient there than they were in our safe, quiet life. Charlie and Teddy seem happy there. It’s amazing.”

Aden nodded. He took a knitted cap from his pocket and gave it to Sandy. She tugged it over her head.

“We’ve watched births and made dinner, turned beds and taken care of bees,” Aden said. “We have space to help people who need it. And there’s almost always someone to help, to step in, when I’m working late or you are. Dinners are made. The apartment is cleaned. When the kids have a need, even just for a ride, there’s usually someone to help. Or they can take the Colfax bus which is only a few feet away.”

Sandy nodded.

“Remember that week long argument Nash and I had?” Aden asked.

“I’m not likely to forget it,” Sandy said.

“Life simply went on,” Aden said. “I was allowed to be mad. Nash was allowed to be mad. We had a few blow ups, but …”

“No one took sides or judged,” Sandy said.

“They seemed to trust that we’d work it out,” Aden said.

“You did,” Sandy said.

“I mean, it’s a weird mix of everyone being in your business and everyone minding their own business,” Aden said.

Sandy nodded.

“I just keep thinking that it’s going to end,” Sandy said.

Aden looked at her for a long moment before putting his arm around her shoulders.

“Because that’s what you want?” Aden asked.

“Because it’s good, I think,” Sandy said.

Aden shrugged.

“At some point, all of our kids will be gone,” Aden said with a nod.

Rachel ran across the grass toward them. Thinking Rachel was running to her, Sandy cleared her lap. Rachel dove at Charlie. He deftly caught her. He situated the little girl in front of him and put his arms around her. Sandy smiled at them.

“Things will change,” Sandy said. “But you’re saying that you’re still happy there.”

Aden nodded.

“Me, too,” Sandy said.

Aden and Sandy watched the dancers for a few minutes.

“What’s happening with Nuala?” Sandy asked about Nash and Noelle’s biological mother. She’s recently resurfaced and wanted money from Aden. “You had a conference with her attorney today.”

Aden shrugged. He looked at her.

“Nothing’s happening,” Aden said.

“Nothing?” Sandy asked.

“She’s making her demands,” Aden said. “We’re refusing them. She’s still in New York.”

“No movement at all?” Sandy asked.

“I don’t think she wants movement,” Aden said. “As long as I’m responsible for all of her problems, and responsible for fixing all of her problems, she doesn’t have to get well or change her own life.”

Sandy nodded.

“It’s just sad,” Sandy said after a while.

“Why?” Aden asked.

“She has really great kids,” Sandy gestured to where Noelle and Nash were helping Teddy with the cameras. “She doesn’t get to be a part of their lives.”

“I don’t think she wants to be a part of their lives,” Aden said.

“Why would you say that?” Sandy asked.

“Because if she was, she’d have to give up being the child herself,” Aden shook his head. “That’s simply not going to happen.”

“You sound heartbroken,” Sandy said.

“Frustrated,” Aden said. “Angry. Sick of having to deal with it.”

He looked at Sandy.

“Delphie told me that there will be an end to it in the next couple of weeks,” Aden said.

“That doesn’t sound good,” Sandy said.

Aden nodded. He pointed to where Tink and her brother, Chet, were talking.

“Chet seems like he’s doing well,” Aden said.

“I think it’s like Nuala,” Sandy said.

“The next few weeks will tell?” Aden asked.

Sandy nodded. Aden shrugged with his eyes. They fell silent as they enjoyed the cool night and the dance.


Thursday evening — 8:14 p.m.

Valerie sighed.

Almost everyone had left to watch Ivan and Sissy dance in City Park at the Thatcher Fountain. Mike and Jacob were setting up a computer so that Valerie could watch. She knew that across town, Wanda was watching on her telephone. Valerie hated those phones, so the computer was better.

Jackie’s head was on Valerie’s belly and her new child was in her arms. They’d finally decided to call him, Edward Perses Lipson-Roper, after Edward Teach, the notorious Blackbeard. Since Jackie was named after a famous pirate, it was only fitting that their son held his own with a pirate name as well. Valerie liked that Blackbeard avoided violence by creating a terrifying image.

“Eddie,” Valerie said.

She touched his tiny chin. He opened and closed his eyes. Valerie had been really lucky. Like Jackie, he seemed to be a mellow baby. She smiled. It had only been a few hours.

“Mommy?” Jackie’s sleep voice came from her mid-section.

Valerie touched her daughter’s head.

“Are you going to love Eddie more?” Jackie asked.

“No,” Valerie said. “Differently. Like I love Daddy and Uncle Jake with all my heart, but differently.”

She felt Jackie’s head nod against her. They fell into a light doze. Mike crept into the room with a wireless computer monitor. Jacob had set it up so that Valerie could watch the dancing.

“I’m awake,” Valerie said as the men were leaving.

Mike turned around and went to the bed. The screen was dark for a moment before Teddy’s feed of the dancers at the park came up. Valerie watched in relaxed silence.

“Any news about the kids?” Valerie asked.

Mike shook his head. He looked at her for a long moment.

“What?” Valerie asked.

“My Dad says that none of those children are related to me in anyway,” Mike said. “He says he just ‘knows.’”

Mike shrugged.

“They took the kids to get some food and clothing,” Mike said. “They just called. They’re on their way over to meet Eddie. Jill and Abi are getting the extra room in the loft ready for them, so there’s nothing for anyone to do. They can stay tonight there if they’d like to.”

“It’s so late,” Valerie said.

“I guess the whole thing is a mess,” Mike said. “They were able to get the kids settled, but the kids have been in chaos for a long time.”

“Like Teddy and his brother and sister,” Valerie said.

Mike nodded.

“They have a place they can stay for a month or so,” Mike said. “Their caseworker is looking for any extended family. But no one seems to know much about Jazmyne’s side of the family and her partner is dead. The partner’s parents had cut her off when they found out that she was gay.”

Valerie clucked in empathy.

“Now that she’s dead, they’re coming around wanting to know what money they get from her estate,” Mike said. “They don’t seem to care about the kids, at least that’s what the caseworker said.”

“That doesn’t sound nice,” Jackie said.

Mike pulled the little girl onto his lap and kissed the top of her head. Valerie scowled over the entire mess.

“It’s other people’s problems,” Mike said. “We can help but we can’t …”

“Fix it,” Valerie said.

Mike nodded.

“Mostly, I wanted you to know that my mom was on her way,” Mike said.

“Thanks,” Valerie said.

“She wants to see Sissy and Ivan,” Mike said. “She feels close to Sissy because she helped Sissy get back on her feet.”

“She was very kind,” Valerie said, “to Sissy, I mean.”

Mike grinned at her clarification, and Valerie smiled.

“Are you okay if they just drop in, see the baby …” Mike said. “You know, like our son was a creature in the zoo?”

Valerie laughed at Jill’s description of them checking in on her twins.

“I’m okay,” Valerie said. “Happy. Eddie is …”

“He’s very beautiful, Mommy,” Jackie said.

“He is,” Mike said.

Valerie smiled. They heard Anjelika’s voice in their apartment living room.

“That was fast,” Valerie said.

She looked at Mike. He mouthed, “Zoo.” Carrying Jackie, Mike went to the door to welcome Anjelika and Perses into their bedroom.


Thursday evening — 8:14 p.m.

After a day of watching toddlers, Heather and Blane were sitting in the kitchen of the Yellow House enjoying a rare quiet moment alone. Tink and Chet had gone to City Park to watch Sissy and Ivan dance. Mack and Jabari had fallen asleep where they stood when the other children left with Honey. The toddlers were asleep in Mack’s bed upstairs. Wyn was sleeping in his car seat on the counter. Tanesha had already left for her work on the mobile medical unit.

“Are you thinking …?” Heather asked.

“I never thought I’d live this long,” Blane said, cutting her off. “Every day is a gift. Every single day. That’s what I’m thinking. I know we talked a lot about it when we got married, when we had Mack, and then again when we had Wyn. I just never thought …”

He shook his head.

“I’d survive,” Blane said. “It never occurred to me that I would still be here.”

Heather covered his hand with hers.

“All of it, all of this,” Blane gestured around him, “all of it is because of you. So no, I’m not thinking about running off with some guy or dating or … I don’t want to change anything. Not one thing.”

Heather’s eyes pinched a bit and she looked away from him.

“I was just telling you that I ran into Nelson,” Blane said.

Nelson Weeks was a bodybuilder that Blane had met when Blane served bar at the Church Nightclub to catch the drug dealers that were pushing drugs on Jeraine. Nelson was there to help out, as well. Nelson worked with Ava O’Malley in the Best Backup Lab at the Denver Crime Lab. He was smart, funny, and friendly. He’d spent time with Heather and the kids while Blane was in the hospital.

“When you went out to get more snacks for the kids,” Heather said.

Blane nodded.

“He seemed surprised to see me,” Blane said. “Surprised to see how well I was. He mentioned it a couple of times. We shopped together and checked out. It wasn’t romantic.”

“How did you feel?” Heather asked.

Blane sighed and looked away from her.

“It felt like … I had a friend, I guess,” Blane said. “Like someone other than you or Jake or Aden was happy to see me, just me. Not me as a dad or an acupuncturist or really any of the other roles in my life.”

“Were you glad to see him?” Heather asked.

“I was,” Blane said. “Now, I feel guilty and stupid, like I’ve risked losing my entire life by running into some guy at the store. And …”

Blane stopped talking. His hand went to his stomach as if he was ill.

“Enrique,” Heather said.

“I …” Blane said.

Heather fell silent to give him space to talk. After a moment, she got up to turn on the electric pot for tea on the other side of the kitchen. Both lost in thought, neither said anything. He was still rubbing his belly when she returned with two cups of mint tea. He nodded and took a mug from her.

“You?” she asked.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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