“Winnie, please, it’s story time. Just put them in the back room,” Violet said calmly. She only vaguely wondered who would send her flowers. She returned to the story and thought no more of them.
At break time, Violet went into the back to find Cheryl cradling her fussy baby, Billy, who seemed to be teething, Kerry Donovan, the new girl, sipping a cup of coffee and Pamela feeding her own baby, Frankie. All of them were giggling like school girls. Well, as two of them were barely out of their teens, that should be expected, but what, wondered Violet, had gotten into Helen who was well into her thirties.
“What’s going on?” Violet asked curiously.
“We could ask the same thing. Nice flowers. Why don’t you read the card and tell us who they’re from?” Cheryl said, a sly tone to her voice.
Trepidation crept up Violet’s spine as she looked at their faces. It was the same sort of expression they had when they first saw Victor. Now she knew who sent the flowers. She calmly got a cup of tea, even though she could feel her cheeks burning.
“Violet, read the card!” Pamela cried, almost bursting with glee.
“What for? It’s apparent you already have,” Violet snapped. She abandoned her tea and went back to the desk up front, snatched up the phone directory, found and dialed Victor’s office and waited for him to get on the line, seething.
“The law offices of Victor Romanoff. This is Ella. How may I help you?” sounded a crisp, no-nonsense voice.
“Yes, may I speak with Victor, please?” Violet said.
“I’m afraid not. Mr. Romanoff will be out of the office for several weeks. May I ask who’s calling?”
“Oh, no,” Violet said. She had completely forgotten Victor was in the city. But, she thought, he must have come back if he was sending her flowers and cards. “Um...uh...”
“I’m sorry, are you ill? Are you in some sort of distress?” the receptionist asked.
“Uh, no, I...uh, are you sure he’s not going to be in later today?” Violet asked.
“I think I would know best Mr. Romanoff’s schedule. He is at present at a conference and won’t be back for several weeks,” Ella responded, now sounding indignant. “May I ask who’s calling?”
“Several weeks, did you say?”
“Yes. Would you like to leave a message?”
“Um.... no, thank you,” Violet said, hanging up quickly. She stood with her hand still on the phone wondering. Victor would be away for several weeks? Surely, the card and flowers were his way of saying goodbye. No harm there, right?
“No harm whatsoever,” Heidi agreed.
That settled it. If Heidi (Violet truly did prefer calling her inner voice Heidi instead of Jiminy) thought it was fine, then, she would ignore it. It was, after all, just a card and flowers. Nothing more to worry about.
How wrong she was.
When she arrived at work the next day, a huge basket of muffins from the bakery waited for her with another card.
“Guess who these are for?” Kerry said cheerfully when Violet walked in and removed her coat and gloves.
Violet remained calm even as she fumed inwardly. Dear God, if this is from Victor, I’ll kill him, she thought.
“Oh, you will do no such thing. He’s just making certain you eat a proper breakfast, is all,” Heidi said dismissively.
Violet didn’t buy that for a second.
“I’m thinking they’re for everyone here,” she told her co-workers, keeping her tone even and light. “Take them to the kitchen and share,” she added heading toward the playroom. She could hear them giggling like pre-teen girls at a slumber party. Violet’s cheeks glowed pink with embarrassment.
“Would you like me to read you the card?” Jocelyn asked innocently, the next day when a huge flower arrangement of Gladiolus had just been delivered. She didn’t wait for an answer before she removed it from its envelope and read out loud.
“Dear Violet, here’s wishing you a great Un-birthday. Most sincerely, Victor Romanoff. Hmm, un-birthday. That is curious-er and curious-er, don’t you think, Violet?” she asked mockingly.
“I wouldn’t know,” Violet replied through clenched teeth. She took a deep breath and went to play with the kids. They, after all, she could handle without a problem. Wise guys who sent gifts for no reason and women with overly developed romantic sensibilities, not so much. She told herself to forget it. Surely, Victor would tire of this silly game.
She was so very mistaken.
The following days she received a box of chocolates, a collection of coffees from around the world, an un-birthday ice cream cake, a set of personalized stationary, a fresh fruit arrangement, a teddy bear dressed as a gardener, a basket full of wonderful smelling toiletries, a silk scarf, gold ear rings, a Coach hand bag which, incidentally, made Jocelyn drool and a cashmere sweater each with a card that read roughly the same.
Violet was beside herself. Her friends, however, were delighted. They all assumed the man was incurably in love with her. That was not at all what she wanted them to think.
“It’s just a joke. He’s a big joker, just like Freddy,” Violet told them, pretending none of this bothered her. But inside, she was planning how best to disembowel Victor, once he got back home.
On day number twenty–or was it twenty-one? She had lost count-- there was nothing at work for her, but that didn’t mean anything. It could be that the gift could come at anytime during the long work day. Therefore, she felt anxious and braced herself every time she heard the front door open.
Was it a delivery person with yet another huge flower arrangement? Or would it be a visit from a clown handing out balloon animals or perhaps a real live pony this time? At this point, she thought anything was possible.
At half past three that afternoon, she saw out of the corner of her eye the UPS truck park just outside the window of the daycare center. The man came out with a huge box. She stopped in the middle of a story and stared with eyes wide in fear until he walked right past and went to the craft store next door.
“Miss Violet, aren’t ya gonna finish reading? We want to know what happens to Harry and Hermione,” Jason asked, himself also anxious. His anxiety, however, was about the story.
“Yes, of course,” she replied, letting out a slow breath of relief.
The end of the day came with nothing from Victor. Hallelujah! she wanted to shout. She needn’t have worried about having to endure more playful ribbing from her friends. She had been saved from yet another attempt to pass it all off as a joke.
As Violet watched the last child tucked into her car seat and all the others leaving, she felt such a sense of relief, she thought she might faint.
“See ya later, Violet!” Kerry shouted before zooming off in her banged up Jeep, her little boy, Henry, secure in his car seat.
Violet waved and wondered if Kerry recalled that she wasn’t even working tomorrow and it wasn’t as if “later” was tomorrow. But she didn’t care. She went happily home feeling nothing could get her down now. Victor had finally tired of this childishness. Life would finally go back to normal.
Again, she was a bit mistaken.
She had only just removed her boots when the doorbell rang. She answered the summons and found a huge bouquet of balloons all reading ‘Happy Un-birthday, Violet’.
She groaned and her good mood evaporated instantly. She should have known it was too good to last.
“I suppose you think this all very funny?” she snapped.
The balloons coming through the door shoved her into the foyer, and she moved aside to allow them entrance. Her eyes nearly popped out of her head when she saw to her immense shock it wasn’t a delivery boy nor even Victor.
“Freddy? What in the world are you doing? Are you and Victor in cahoots to drive me completely nuts?”
Freddy frowned at her. “Humph! It’s nice to see you, too,” he replied huffily at her less than friendly welcome. He moved to the stairs and tied the balloons to the banister.
“Did Victor put you up to this?” she asked.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. This is all Laurie’s idea. It’s your un-birthday, but it also happens to be my real birthday,” he said grinning brightly. “Guess you forgot.”
Violet’s mouth fell open. She’d never, ever forgotten his birthday before, but leave it to some wise guy lawyer to muddle her brain so badly that she did just that.
“Oh, Freddy, I’m so sorry! I did forget your birthday was today,” she said contritely.
“Don’t worry, I know you still love me. I came to issue you an invitation to my impromptu birthday party. Laurie’s expecting you, so, come on. Can’t keep her waiting.”
“You really have no idea about Victor?”
“What about him? He’s been away for a while, is all I know. Are you dating him or something?” Freddy asked looking at her hopefully.
“No! We’re definitely not dating. I made you your present, but I didn’t wrap it yet. I could just meet you there,” Violet said evasively.
“Oh, no you don’t! I have to take you. It’s not at home and Laurie doesn’t trust you to stay, if you have your own car. So, here I am getting my hermit of a sister to my party. Don’t worry about the gift. I know you’re good for it. Let’s go. I’m starving!”
“This isn’t going to be anything big, is it?” she asked as she got her coat and pulled her boots back on.
“Few people, you know, no big deal.” Freddy said casually.
This was a complete lie.