“Big S..little s...silly Sammy Slick...sipped six sodas and got sick-sick-sick...” Violet read from Dr. Suess’ ABC book for the umpteenth time.
“I’m going to have to charge that girl extra if she keeps doing this,” Jocelyn said irritably.
Violet stared up, her eyes wide as they would go and said to the baby sitting on her lap, “Did you hear that, Missy? She’s going to charge me every time I read this book. We’ll have to do “Cat in the Hat” next time.”
“Very funny,” Jocelyn drawled. “I’m talking about Karen and you know it.”
“Yes, well, we must make allowances. She does try. She’s just....”
“A careless teenager that has no right to this sweet child.”
Violet grimaced and shook her head, as if to say, “Not in front of Missy.”
Jocelyn ignored this. “I can’t wait around forever, Violet. Not tonight,” she growled, checking her watch impatiently and glancing out the window.
“Hot date?” Violet asked, flipping the page for Missy and whispering, “Big T...little t...ten tired turtles on a tuttle-tuttle tree.”
“Actually, I do....well, a lukewarm one, anyway. Better than nothing,” Jocelyn grumbled. “But it’ll be frosty if I don’t get outta here soon. Where is she?”
“Why don’t you go and leave me to close up? She won’t be too much longer, “ Violet said, turning the page at Missy’s insistence and continuing, “Big U, little u... Uncle Ubb’s umbrella and his underwear, too.”
“Really, Vi? You won’t mind?” Jocelyn asked already putting on her coat.
“Of course not. Go. Have fun and remember. I want to be your bride’s maid,” Violet said, once again turning the page and saying, “ Big V, little v...Vera Violet...hey! That’s just like me! Vera Violet Vinn...is very, very, very awful on her violin and believe me, I would be awful, too.”
“Hmm, fat chance on the bride’s maid, but you’re a very, very, very good friend. I’ll see you tomorrow, Honey-buns,” Jocelyn said, looking far happier than she had been just moments ago.
“Bye, Sugar-plum!” Violet returned, giggling. She settled more comfortably into the rocking chair and flipped the page. “We better finish up, Missy. Then we can change your diaper and get you ready to go home. Your mama will be here soon.”
This, however, wasn’t to be. Twenty minutes passed, thirty minutes, then forty and no Karen.
Violet had just taken down a few building blocks for Missy when she heard a car outside. “Oh, she’s here, at last. Let’s get your coat, okay?” she said giving Missy a tiny kiss on her chubby cheek and heading to the front door. Her jaw dropped when she saw, not Karen coming through the door, but Victor and he didn’t look happy.
“What are you doing here?” they spoke simultaneously.
Taken aback, Violet glowered. “I do work here, or have you forgotten?” she snapped.
“I realize that, but this late? I was just about to pick you up at your house when I saw your car still here,” he said, his expression softening instantly upon seeing Violet’s companion.
“Why were you going to my house?” she asked, just before Missy launched herself out of her arms and straight into Victor’s. “Missy!”
“There’s my good girl!” he said happily, cuddling the baby and also kissing her cheek.
“Honestly, you ought to work here. She loves you, “Violet muttered half in awe, half amused. “But why were you coming to get me?”
He shook his head at Missy, “Dory’s at it again, Missy. She has forgotten our dinner plans.”
Violet gaped at him. She had indeed forgotten. “Oh, I’m sorry, Victor, but I can’t go now. Karen’s not here yet and...well, I can’t just leave Missy.”
“Well, give her a call and see what’s up,” Victor said, smiling as Missy played with his tie.
“She doesn’t have a phone.”
Victor raised a skeptical eyebrow. “Of course, she does. Everybody does.”
“No, she doesn’t. She’s... not very well-to-do,” Violet explained tentatively.
Victor frowned slightly. “Is she always this late?”
“Not this late, no. She’ll be here soon,” Violet said with no conviction.
“Something must have happened to make her this late. They made her stay late after work or...”
“The community college in East Meredith? She might be stuck in traffic, then.”
“No, Catalpa Valley High.”
To his credit, Victor made no visible sign of disapproval or surprise. “All right, then we’ll leave a note for her. She can come get Missy at the restaurant,” he said, unperturbed and talking to the baby he added, “I’m starved, Missy, how about you?”
“What? Take a baby to a restaurant? You’re insane,” Violet said.
“Could be, but still, we’re going. Missy will be a perfect little lady, won’t you, Missy?” he said grabbing her snowsuit. “Hmm, haven’t done this in a while. Which end is up?”
Violet snorted derisively and took it out of his hands. “Just hold her and I’ll do it.”
Once Missy was bundled up, Violet took a sheet of paper and wrote a note for Karen.
“Goodness, she’s going to think I kidnaped her,” she said biting her lip as she stooped and placed the note just partially under the potted Alberta Spruce tree by the front door. She hoped that would be enough to prevent it getting tossed up in the wind.
“Of course, she won’t. The note explained everything. She’ll be happy you took care of Missy,” Victor said holding the car door open for Violet, then placing the baby on her lap.
“Where are we going?” Violet asked anxiously. “Nowhere too fancy and not too far, okay?”
Victor laughed. “All right. How about the diner?”
Violet thought that perfect and told him so. “There are always loads of noisy kids there, so, no one will even notice if Missy gets fussy.”
“Missy, is this true?” Victor asked. He smiled when she squealed in delight. “Well, that says it all!”
Violet giggled and had barely stopped when they pulled into the diner’s parking lot. Victor took the baby from her before helping Violet out.
Violet held her hands out as if to say without words, “I’ll take the baby now.” But Missy would have none of this and neither it seemed would Victor.
“Hmm, maybe you’re the one kidnaping her,” Violet said going through the door before Victor.
Victor held Missy again while Violet removed the snowsuit. He placed the baby gently into the high chair and they took their seats.
“Missy,” Victor said in a whisper only Violet could hear. “You have my permission to scream if these people start talking about gall bladder operations.”
“Victor!” Violet scolded, but she couldn’t help giggling.
They were both laughing when a young waitress came to their table. “Hello, Mrs. Bennett,” she said smiling shyly.
Violet looked up and blinked. “Cathy? Omigosh, I haven’t seen you in so long.”
“Yeah, since the funer....” She stopped here and glanced at Victor, then to the baby and back at Violet. “Wow, I didn’t know you had remarried and have a baby. Sophie never said anything. Congratulations.”
Violet paled. “NO!” she shrieked.
Her shout attracted the curious and disapproving stares of the people around them. Now she looked like a tomato and was so flustered she couldn’t speak.
“We’re just friends, Cathy,” Victor interjected. “And this little darling is Missy. We’re babysitting.”
“Oh, I see. I just thought...cuz, you know...you look like the perfect little family and.... I’m sorry,” Cathy said, her own cheeks going bright pink. “Um...are you ready to order? I can come back.”
“Well, I know what I want. You ready, Violet?” Victor said.
“Um... uh... you go first...” she said fumbling with the menu.
Victor placed his order all the while chatting amicably with Cathy. “So, you know Sophie?” he asked.
“Oh, yes, we were such good friends until...well, she changed in our last year,” Cathy said glancing at Violet who seemed oblivious to the conversation. “After her dad died, she didn’t want to hang out or anything. I still miss her though. Hope she’s doing well at school. I wasn’t able to go. Gotta make some money first.”
Cathy giggled. “From your lips to God’s ears, Mr. Romanoff.”
Taken aback, Victor stared at her, his eyebrows raised. “How did you know my name?” he asked.
“Well, I knew Ronnie. He was in my class too. He’s at Penn state, isn’t he?”
“Wharton, yes. Did you and he date?” he asked curiously.
“No! He only liked really pretty girls,” she said, shaking her head.
“My dear, you don’t think you’re pretty?” he said incredulously. “I think you’re looking in the wrong mirror.”
She giggled and blushed. “You have a very nice friend here, Mrs. Bennett."
Violet either didn't hear or ignored her and placed her order.
“Do you think we should get something for Missy? Does she eat solid food yet?” Victor asked.
“Missy? Well, no, not really. Can’t imagine anything here good for a baby, though,” Violet said glancing back at the menu.
“How about some apple sauce?” Cathy suggested. “It’s homemade...well, from the Martin’s farm. Mrs. Martin still makes it herself. Mom always used to give it to us kids starting when we were babies. It’s awesome.”
Victor smiled up at her. “Think we have a winner. Thank you, Cathy.”