CHAPTER FOUR HUNDRED AND SIXTY-SIX
“She had more,” Candy said. “Two others kids.”
“Mine?” Mike put his hand on his chest.
“Only one, I think,” Candy said. “At least that’s what I think. I don’t really know.”
Mike squinted at her for a moment and Candy looked down at the ground.
“Are you mad?” Candy asked.
“At you?” Mike asked.
Candy nodded. He replied by shaking his head.
“Why are you telling me this now?” Mike asked.
“Social Services called me looking for you,” Candy said. “Jazmyne’s in jail so they ran the kids DNA. And …”
“Found me in the Army’s database,” Mike said.
He looked away from her for a moment. He dug out his cell phone and looked at it. There was a voicemail and a text from Alex Hargreaves’ assistant giving him a “heads up.” He scratched his chin for a minute.
“The press is going to have a field day with this crap,” Mike said.
He scrunched up his face and looked down at the ground. Mike and Candy’s brother, Steve, came out of the office behind them and into the hallway. Seeing Mike’s condition, he took a few quick steps to his brother.
“What?” Steve said. “What’s happened?”
Steve put his hand on Mike’s shoulder.
“What’s going on?” Steve asked.
“I can’t think,” Mike said to himself.
Steve gave Candy a questioning look. Candy wrinkled her face and looked guilty.
“Mike.” Steve got right in Mike’s face. “You’re having a PTSD episode. I don’t know where you are in your head, but you are physically standing in the hallway of this ridiculous house you call a ‘Castle.’ Take a breath.”
Mike took one ragged breath.
“You know my voice,” Steve said. “I’m Steve, your baby brother. You were there when I was born. Our mother is that Russian menace named Anjelika. Your baby sister, Candy, is standing right here.”
Steve gave Candy a hard look. She put her hand on Mike’s arm.
“It’s me, Candy,” she said. “I’m your little sister. You are my hero, my big brother, my Mike.”
Mike took another breath.
“Where are you?” Steve asked. When Mike didn’t respond, Steve gathered his strength and demanded, “Open your eyes. Where are you?”
Mike’s eyes popped open.
“Castle, hallway.” Mike looked up at Steve and then Candy. “Steve. Candy. Jill?”
“She’s with Val,” Steve said.
“Valerie Lipson.” Mike’s face flushed at her name. “Year?”
“2017,” Candy said.
Mike nodded and mentally collected himself. He went through his exercise of visualizing his solid connection to the ground. Once he could clearly see the red line from the top of his head through his body to the ground, he visualized the white thread to the magnificent heavens. His mind filled with the beauty of Noelle’s paintings, which he’d helped add color to, inside the wall of the Marlowe School. His breath deepened. He nodded and then looked up again.
“I’m back,” Mike said.
“What happened?” Steve asked, never taking his hand off Mike’s shoulder.
“You remember Jazmyne?” Candy asked.
“She used Mike’s sperm to have a child,” Candy said.
Steve’s face shifted to an uncomfortable scowl.
“She’s in jail,” Mike said. “Murdered her last partner. And Candy? Oh God. Child. Valerie. Press. What…? How…?”
“Got it,” Steve said. “Here’s what we’re going to do.”
As if he were a child, Mike’s eyes opened fully and his face cleared. He looked up at Steve and put his arm around Candy.
“Dad,” Steve said in an even voice.
Perses appeared in the hallway.
“I was on my way,” Perses said. “Did you need something right now or can I go back to your mother? She’s fussing about what to bring. Any requests?”
“Mike’s child is with Social Services,” Steve said.
“Mike’s child?” Perses’ eyebrows went up.
“It’s my fault, I…” Candy started but Mike interrupted. “Candy’s partner wanted to have a child. I get her some sperm and forgot all about it. They broke up. The woman had at least one child after they broke up but didn’t tell Candy. The mother is in jail, and the kids are with social services.”
“Do we care about this child?” Perses asked.
“It’s a child, Perses,” Mike growled. It might have been an errant wind, but the Castle shook a tiny bit when Mike said the words. He glared at his father. “Mine or not, it didn’t ask to be born or to have its mother murder his other mother or…”
“Got it. Just checking,” Perses said. He turned to Candy. “Do you know where we need to go? What needs to happen?”
“Your mother and I will take care of this,” Perses said.
“Mom will freak out,” Mike said. Echoing something from the past, he said, “Oh Mike, you spread your seed around like a whore and look what’s happened. Babies everywhere. You’ve ruined your life. No wonder…”
“Think it through.” Perses cut Mike off rather than let Mike get caught up in his memory. “Your mother loves children. All children. Any children. We spent a decade in an orphanage because we couldn’t be here with you. Her favorite day of the week is when she gets to take care of the twins and that’s only because Jackie is now in school! Hell, she risked her life to move here to be around Katy!”
Mike squinted at him.
“Is it likely that she meant those words, even if she said them?” Perses asked.
“I…” Mike started.
“I understand,” Perses said. “It was an awful time. A lot of things were said. But it’s over now. And don’t worry. I’m a Titan. I can deal with your mother.”
Perses snorted a kind of laugh. Embarrassed at how relieved he felt, Mike nodded in understanding and looked down. Perses put his arm around Candy, raised a hand to Mike and Steve, and he disappeared with Candy.
“That’s that,” Steve said.
“What do you mean, ‘That’s that,’” Mike said. “You heard him — Perses is a Titan. That’s more than a God, or really an ancient God. He kills people for a living or just for fun. He’s like a bull and the world is his China shop. He…”
“He’ll take care of it,” Steve said, with a nod. “I’ve spent a lot of time with him in the last few years. He… Well, he’ll easily take this situation to its logical conclusion.”
Mike scowled at Steve.
“Now, let’s go and tell Valerie. We’ll decide together what to do with the press,” Steve said. “I checked with the midwife. Val’s got a few hours, so if we need to do something fast, we’ll make it happen. Jake’s here?”
“Good,” Steve said. “He’ll help figure out the best thing to do.”
Steve clapped Mike on the back.
“Come on, big brother,” Steve said. “Let’s go visit the movie star.”
Mike stood in place for a moment. Steve pushed him forward and he stumbled. Catching himself, he followed Steve into the office area where Valerie was in labor.
Thursday afternoon — 4:18 p.m.
“Just go!” Valerie said from the soft couch in the exam room. “I can’t hear myself think!”
The door closed behind Mike. Delphie lingered for a moment to see if the ban included her. Valerie pointed to the door.
“I’ll be right outside,” Delphie said. She opened the door. Turning she added, “Remember that your mother’s here if you need her.”
The door closed again. The ghost of Valerie’s mother opened her mouth to give advice, but Valerie shook her head. Her mother gave her an acquiescing nod.
Valerie crossed her arms and blinked. She winced.
“This is a fucking mess!” Valerie said to herself.
Her mother opened her mouth again, but Valerie glared at her.
“As you wish,” Celia said.
Valerie returned to her ruminations. Had Mike really just told her that today — the day she was giving birth to their healthy, curse-free son after the gut wrenching loss of two other boys — he’d learned from Candy that her ex-partner had children with the sperm she’d made Mike give them?
The door opened and her best friend, Samantha Hargreaves, peaked in at her.
“Is it safe?” Samantha asked.
“Only if you can deal with my wrath,” Valerie said.
“You mean, same shit different day?” Samantha laughed.
Valerie grinned at her.
“You okay?” Samantha asked.
“Okay?” Valerie asked. She blinked again. “Me?”
Samantha came in the room and went to Valerie’s side. Valerie let Samantha take her hand.
“Okay?” Valerie asked again. After a moment of silent thought, Valerie shrugged. “Yeah, you know what? I’m okay.”
“Really?” Samantha asked.
“Listen,” Valerie said. “I can’t really get mad at him when I’m the one who made him give the sperm to his sister. I can just hear myself now. What could it hurt?”
Valerie gave a slow angry shake of her head.
“Yeah, but …” Samantha started.
Valerie held a finger up.
“I can’t really be mad at his sister because …” Valerie nodded. “I mean, Candy. She’s … Candy. She’s just started to find herself and … her father was awful … and … God knows, Anjelika terrifies the girl …”
“Yeah, but …” Samantha tried again.
Valerie held a finger up.
“I mean it’s my big day to finally have the boy that I was told all of my life that I’d never ever have,” Valerie gasped a breath, and continued, “But, I’ve had a lot of big days and …”
Not one to give up, Samantha tried again, “Yeah, but …”
“I am no prima donna, Samantha Hargreaves. No matter what you say!” Valerie shook her head back and forth.
“I …” Samantha started.
“I am not,” Valerie cut her off. Her eyebrows rose in acknowledgement of how ridiculous she was being. Samantha smiled. “I mean, like Mike said, ‘It’s a child.’ And God … Goddess? How would I know? I …”
Valerie’s mouth opened and closed. Samantha stayed silent.
“You’re not going to ‘yeah, but’ me?” Valerie grinned.
“Would it help?” Samantha asked.
“Probably not,” Valerie said. “You wanna go try on some dresses?”
Samantha laughed at the memory of Valerie’s last birthing day. Valerie smiled.
“Thoughts?” Valerie asked.
“As a lawyer, my instincts are to cover your bases – find out the financial commitment to this child, figure out what this so called ‘mother’ wants, and be damned sure where your liability begins and ends,” Samantha said. “And …”
“Yeah, but …” Valerie said.
Samantha grinned. Valerie actually laughed.
“My instinct as your friend is to ask you what you want — to listen and be ready to act,” Samantha said in a soft kind voice. She pushed an errant hair out of Valerie’s face. “You were really great when I had Sasha. Drove me to Denver Health to fight for Charlie even when it was …”
“Ridiculous,” Valerie said.
“You never said ‘Don’t go,’” Samantha nodded. “You just said, ‘I’m here until she’s born, wherever that is, whatever that looks like.’”
Valerie smiled. The two women shared a fond look.
“So …” Samantha said.
Valerie looked up at the ghost of her mother. Celia gave Valerie a confident smile.
“Oh fuck it,” Valerie said. She got up from where she was sitting. “Where’s Teddy? He was supposed to be here to film this birth.”
“We’re going online?” Samantha asked.
“We’re going online,” Valerie said.
Valerie looked up to see her mother, Celia, beaming at her.
Thursday afternoon — 4:42 p.m.
“Are you ready?” Teddy asked.
Valerie looked up at the boy-turning-into-a-man. He was fourteen going on twenty-five. He was tall, and growing taller, with shocking blue eyes. He looked so much like his father at that age that sometimes Valerie and Samantha automatically rebuffed him. Then he opened his mouth. Unlike his father, this beautiful boy was smart, thoughtful, and deeply kind.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Valerie asked.
She was sitting in the Castle living room. Even though the day was warm, she’s asked Jacob to make a fire. It roared so loudly that they’d talked about moving to get away from the sound.
“I’m okay,” Teddy nodded.
Nash came into the room with a cup of mint tea. Noelle jogged up from the basement with a box of Thin Mint Girl Scouts cookies Sandy had hidden in the big freezers downstairs for just this occasion. Nash set the tea next to Valerie and Noelle ripped open the box. She gave a sleeve of cookies to Valerie and backed away.
“I’m not hysterical,” Valerie said.
“Keep telling yourself that,” Jacob said, as he came from the kitchen.
He kissed Valerie’s cheek and went behind the camera to take a look. Nash sat down at the computer Teddy’s camera was connected to. Jacob nodded at the image.
“What’s it look like?” Valerie asked.
“Shamu,” Jacob said the name of a famous killer whale from the 1960’s.
Valerie went so far as to throw a Thin Mint at him. He easily caught the cookie. He raised it over head like he’d won a prize. He ate the cookie while everyone laughed. Noelle went to stand next to Teddy.
“I’m not going to film any …” Teddy looked at Noelle and then back at Valerie.
“He doesn’t want to film the baby coming out,” Noelle said with a nod.
Nash, Teddy, and Noelle nodded in unison. They smiled when Valerie laughed.
“I don’t want that either,” Valerie said. “Good Lord.”
Mike wandered into the room. His old sweatshirt was covered with paint as were his hands. His face had a white streak of paint. His hair had streaks of paint.
“What did I miss?” Mike asked, and sat down.
“It’s only been a half hour!” Valerie plucked at his shirt.
“Are we doing this?” Mike asked.
“We’re ready,” Teddy said.
Mike pulled off his sweatshirt to reveal a T-shirt that said “Valerie’s Boy Toy.”
“Where’d you get that?” Valerie asked.
“Your publicist,” Mike said with a smile.
He raised his eyebrows a few times fast while she shook her head at him. Steve stepped in to time one of Valerie’s contractions.
“This baby is coming,” Steve said. “If you’re doing this, you need to do it now.”
“How long?” Valerie asked.
“Not very,” Steve said.
“Okay,” Jacob said, in the role of the director. “We’re ready when you are.”
With one hand on Nash’s shoulder, he held up his other hand with five fingers then four. Delphie came flying into the room with Jill and Sandy not far behind them. The women looked went to stand behind Teddy. Ivy came from the other direction and stood next to computer table where Nash was standing.
Jacob put up three fingers. Aden came in the side door. From where he stood, he could just see Sandy’s arm.
“The natives are restless out there,” Aden said, as he shook the fall rain off his jacket. “I haven’t seen so many papz since … Well, it’s been a while. You think that’s just for the baby?”
He took a step into the room and stopped walking. Sandy gestured for him to come to her. Aden scowled.
“Of course not,” Aden said answering his own questions. “Isn’t Val in labor?”
Sandy shushed him. Abi and Fin slipped around the filming to stand next to Fin.
“Abi can you do that …” Valerie asked.
Abi blinked her eyes. The room suddenly held a perfect light. The fire was the only thing that could be heard. Abi nodded.
Jacob held up two fingers. He looked around at everyone before putting up one finger. When nothing else happened, he nodded to Teddy and squeezed Nash’s shoulder. Nash opened a social media video feed. When Nash nodded, Jacob pointed to Valerie.
“Hi.” Valerie raised a hand to wave. “I’m in labor. Our baby’s due any minute.”
“Are you sick or are you not wearing makeup?” Nash read from the computer.
“Both,” Valerie said. “I didn’t put makeup on to have our son, and I’m in labor. That should be enough said.”
They waited a second and when Nash nodded. Valerie continued.
“A few years ago, when we were pregnant with Jackie, we decided to give some of Mike’s sperm …” Mike pointed to Valerie. She nodded, “ …to his sister’s female partner. Mike’s pointing at me because I am the one who pushed him to do it. We’d had such trouble having kids that I thought it might be awesome if Jackie had a cousin that was Mike’s child.”
“He did agree,” Valerie said. “It’s not like I tricked him.”
“Are you going to talk?” Valerie asked.
“It’s a big fucking mess,” Mike said with a shrug.
Valerie nodded. She had a contraction and grunted. Her hand went to her belly.
“Hurry up!” Steve said.
“The baby’s coming,” Mike said. “Here’s the deal — we found out today that there might be a child that was created by my sperm. We did not know. I can assure you that I love kids, and my mom? She’s nuts about kids. If we knew there was a kid that was connected with me, my mom would have broken speed limits to spend time with him or her.”
Mike looked at Valerie.
“Speed limits?” Valerie asked.
“She drives like an old woman,” Mike said.
“She is an old woman,” Valerie laughed.
“You’d better hope she doesn’t see this,” Mike sai
When Valerie laughed, everyone laughed.
“Do we know if it’s a girl or a boy?” Mike asked.
Valerie shook her head.
“Our friend, Tanesha, keeps up with the gossip rags,” Mike said.
“She has some computer alerts for all of us,” Valerie said.
“Is that English?” Mike asked. “What’s a computer alert?”
“Anyway, Tanesha told us that the Internet is a buzz of Valerie being in labor and me betraying her,” Mike said.
“Is that English?” Valerie asked.
Mike laughed. Valerie grunted with another contraction.
“Here’s the point,” Mike said. “There’s no betrayal. There’s really nothing. Well, that’s not true.”
Mike nodded toward the camera. Valerie folded forward and Steve stepped to her.
“There’s some kids who’s one mom was killed and the other is in jail,” Mike said. “That’s just awful. I know that it happens a lot now, but really — isn’t that awful?”
“It’s bad,” Valerie said from her bent over position.
“So we took time out from this family time to tell you,” Mike said. “That Valerie’s not mad at me, I mean, any more than usual. There’s no betrayal and after I wash my hands, I’m going to catch a baby.”
Mike gave the camera sincere nod. Valerie could be heard laughing.
“Someone asked if she’s choking,” Nash said.
“She’s laughing at me,” Mike said. He mouthed to the camera “Same shit different day.”
“Did you just say ‘same shit, different day?’” Valerie looked up at him.
“Would I say that?” Mike asked.
“Shall I finish here?” Mike asked with a laugh.
“Please,” Valerie said.
“It was just something that happened,” Mike said with a shrug. “What do they say on the television?”
“Story unfolding,” Fin’s said in his tight Isle of Man accent.
“Now that’s not English,” Mike pointed to him.
“He said …” Valerie started
“My mom and dad drove the speed limit, I am sure, I mean I wasn’t there, but my mom doesn’t like fast speeds.”
“Mike,” Valerie rotated her hand to show that he should hurry up.
“We found out about this situation,” Mike said. “My parents went right away to visit with the kids and see what the kids needed. It’s kind of a big sacrifice because my mom loves to be right there when the baby is born. So she gave that up to see the kids. But she’s not mad. At least I don’t think so. Have we heard from them recently?”
“Mom called again,” Jill said. “She’s not mad at all. They are taking the kids out for some dinner and getting them something warm to wear.”
“These kids don’t even have clothes,” Mike said. “So if you want to think about something awful, think about the tragedy of being a kid in all of this chaos. I mean, I grew up in a lot of chaos when my dad wasn’t there.”
“But not this,” Valerie said.
“Not this,” Mike said with a shake of his head.
“That’s all that’s happening here,” Mike said with a nod.
“We’ll be back to share our new son with you and the paparazzi outside,” Mike said.
He looked up.
“Did someone bring the guys something warm to drink?” Mike asked.
“We took care of it,” Sandy said.
“You guys usually ask about Jackie,” Mike said. “She’s with her buddies at a friend’s house. They’ll come as soon as the boy is born.”
“Mike?” Valerie asked. “You’d better go wash your hands.”
“Got to go,” Mike said.
“You’re clear,” Teddy said.
“I don’t want to have the baby here,” Valerie said.
Mike picked her up and jogged up the stairs to where Camilla had prepared the birthing tub. While Mike washed his hands, Camilla, their midwife, and Jill helped Valerie out of her clothing. She was in the tub when Steve and Jacob arrived. Mike stepped in.
“Are we ready?” Camilla asked.
“Ready,” Valerie said.
With a nod, Camilla walked Valerie through the steps of having their son.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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