“Missing someone?” Heidi’s soothing voice asked, her ghostly hand on Violet’s shoulder.
“Yes, of course I do. Richard’s always on my mind,” Violet said, somewhat defiantly. She grabbed her purse, snatched the keys out of it and headed out the door and to her new car, feeling irritable and not quite knowing why.
“Are you certain it’s only Richard you’re missing right now? Not a breakfast companion of late?” Heidi’s voice rang in her head.
Blast it! Why was Jiminy taunting her this way? She had started calling her inner voice Jiminy because she really didn’t know what else to call it.
“Well, you could give me a more suitable name....say....Heidi? You don’t know anyone named Heidi, do you?” Heidi suggested, an amused tone to her voice.
“Heidi? Well, no...it’s not a very common name, is it? The only one I know besides the super model is from the children’s book. Hmm, I wonder if I should read that to some of the older kids? They might like it. They liked Ann of Green Gables,” Violet mumbled to herself.
“Good idea. But back to whom you miss. Couldn’t be a certain tall, dark, handsome man, could it?” Heidi teased.
Violet frowned and again didn’t really know why she was annoyed. In truth, she did. She was just not willing to admit it, not even to herself. She slipped into the car, the car Victor had picked out for her, and helped her buy, after he convinced her she could afford it. Would she always think of him when she entered her car?
“That is hardly a bad thing,” Heidi told her. “There are worse people to think about, don’t you think?”
Violet wasn’t too sure about that. She frowned all the way to work and only stopped when she saw Jocelyn’s familiar black Escalade parked in front of Mio Caro Bambino. Her heart leapt with joy at the sight. She could barely get out of the car fast enough. She ran to the door, briefly stopping to say hello to a few parents and their kids and ran inside. She looked around but only saw more children taking their coats off and parents giving last minute admonitions before heading for work. She went to the office and there she was, Jocelyn, looking over some paperwork with Diane.
“Jocelyn!” Violet shouted, throwing her arms wide open.
Jocelyn looked up and a grin the size of Montana spread over her beautiful, mahogany face, her eyes glistening like molten silver.
“Violet!” she shouted almost pushing Diane into the file cabinet to get to her friend. She hugged her fiercely saying, “Damn, girl, you shrunk.”
Violet giggled and held back a sob with difficulty. Tears sprung to her eyes. She hadn’t realize how very much she had missed her soul-sister.
“I...uh...I’ll come back after the kids are settled in...okay?” Diane said, placing papers on the desk and slipping discreetly out of the room before closing the door behind her.
Neither said a word for several minutes, both quite overcome, clinging to each other for dear life. Eventually they stepped back, still holding hands and just looked at each other. Jocelyn, Violet noticed, had lost considerable weight, thirty, possibly forty pounds and she looked haggard, tired and not at all her usual vibrant, cheerful self. It tore at her soul to see her this way.
“Elo, Luvy,” Violet said in a cockney accent, as was their customary way of greeting each other.
“Elo, Dovey,”Jocelyn replied, wearing a wistful smile.
“You look good,” Violet lied, forcing a smile.
“You’re lying through your teeth. I look like shit,” Jocelyn countered and they both collapsed into giggles.
Sobering, Violet took a deep breath and whispered, “I’m so sorry about your mom. You know I loved her like my own mother.”
Jocelyn nodded and tried to keep smiling. It didn’t quite work. Violet squeezed her hands. When she was able to speak, Jocelyn gave her a searching look and said, “You, on the other hand, really do look good. What you been up to, besides getting rid of old Betsy?”
Violet’s mind instantly conjured up Victor, but knew what her friend would think of that. Finding nothing safe to say, she simply shrugged, “Oh, you know, same old-same old.”
“Come now, Violet. You can tell Jocelyn about another friendship you’ve formed in her absence. I think you know of which I speak,” Heidi whispered in her ear. “She’ll be so happy for you. You do want to make her happy, don’t you?”
Violet chose to ignore Heidi. It was simply better this way.
“So, just working here and being with the kids...that’s what got you over Richard’s death? Wish I had thought of that months ago. I hated seeing you like that and not being able to do anything for you,” Jocelyn said, looking unusually serious.
“I’ll never be over his death. You know that,” Violet retorted, not quite meeting her eyes.
A shrewd expression came over Jocelyn’s exotic features. Something was definitely up, she mused as she watched Violet unbutton her coat. “But you have stopped acting as if you died along with him. That’s a vast improvement.”
Again Violet shrugged saying nothing, which in itself spoke volumes. Diane had already filled Jocelyn in on the interesting “Victor Romanoff” development. She had hoped Violet would tell her something to the affect that she was actually falling in love and living again, but no such luck on that. Violet, she knew all too well, could be stubborn and unflinchingly loyal, at times to her detriment.
“Well...let’s see your new ride,” Jocelyn suggested.
“What...now?” Violet said, startled. “But the kids and...”
“You’ve got this place running like a well-oiled machine, Violet. I’m barely needed anymore. I can’t believe you found such great people to work here. I never would have figured stay-at-home moms would like to work at all. But part-time and flexible schedules make sense,” Jocelyn said, sounding somewhat in awe. “Honestly, stay-at-home mom doesn’t mean what it used to, does it?”
“Well, just as long as they can bring their kids too, it was fine. Hope you don’t mind too much,” Violet said anxiously.
“Do you see me complaining? It was a stroke of genius. You are smarter than you look,” she joked.
“It was Diane that thought of it. I knew from her mother that she didn’t want to work for her father anymore,” Violet said rolling her eyes. “Who would? He’s so ....well, you know.”
Jocelyn laughed and gave Violet another rib-crushing hug. “Yes, I know. I’ve missed this place. I’ve missed you.”
“Me, too,” Violet said, genuinely smiling now. They walked out of the office and several toddlers squealed excitedly, jumped out of their parent’s arms and surrounded them.
“Miss Jocy! Miss Jocy!” one little girl shouted jumping on her toes while others tugged on her now ill-fitting Chanel suit, grabbed her hands and gabbled incoherently.
“Not needed, huh?” Violet said, smirking.
“Well, I didn’t say not wanted, did I?” Jocelyn retorted, bending down and picking up two of the smaller children giving them each big kisses. “My darlings! Oh, I’ve missed my darlings! Yes, yes, I finally came back home! Let’s go in the playroom, everybody. Time for sing-along time! Hurry, hurry!”
Violet watched the kids follow her into the playroom like the piped piper promising ice cream. She giggled. She had been about to hang up her coat, but was stopped when Diane handed her an envelope.
“What’s this for?” she asked, surprised.
“Came for you in the mail,” Diane said, shrugging.
Why, Violet wondered, would mail come for her to the daycare center instead of home? She flipped over the pale lavender envelope, catching a lovely Lily-of-the-valley scent. She raised it up to her nose and inhaled deeply.
“Mmm, that’s nice,” she mumbled, her eyes closed and a faint smile on her lips as she imagined her shade garden abloom with these tiny, bell shaped flowers. Two more months until that wonderful event happened, however.
She gave a wistful sigh and looked at the envelope. Only her name was hand written in a bold, fluid script. She frowned. There was no return address, nor her own, not a stamp and not even the day care center’s name. It hadn’t come post, so, it must have been hand delivered. Ah, it was from one of the parents, no doubt, who had been here earlier to drop off their child.
She wondered which kid’s parent as she ripped it open smiling now and saw it was a birthday card printed with the flowers to match the scent. Oh, it was lovely! But a birthday card? Well, that was odd, indeed. Her birthday was more than a month ago.
But then, she looked closer at the card discovering it was not a birthday card after all, but instead it read Happy Un-birthday. She giggled. It must be some sort of prank from Freddy. It was probably his goofy way of reminding her his own birthday was coming soon. As if she could forget! She had been diligently knitting him a sweater since Christmas just for the occasion.
She opened the card, loving the wonderful perfume wafting from it, and read:
I hope you are enjoying your Un-birthday.
Her jaw dropped and she blinked several times trying with difficulty to make sense of what she had just read.
“So, what is it?” Diane asked curiously, as she opened the electric bill.
“Nothing,” Violet replied, quickly stuffing the card into her purse. Her heart beating considerably quicker now than it had been doing moments before, she placed her purse on the front desk and swiftly hung up her coat.
Helen, who sat a squirming toddler on the desk to remove muddy boots, cocked her head sideways to read the card sticking out of the purse. “Does that say Un-birthday? That’s so cute! Just like Alice in wonderland, right?” she asked giggling.
“It’s just a joke,” Violet stated firmly. She shoved the card further in and closed the purse, then, tossed it into a drawer and slammed it shut with un-due force.
“Are you all right, Violet?” Diane asked, looking concerned.
“Yes, of course,” she replied, practically snatching the squirming child away from Helen and she marched toward the playroom, as if on a mission.
“What in the world’s got into her?” Helen asked, looking stunned. Diane merely shrugged her own bewilderment.