“Where can Karen be?” Violet asked anxiously, as they headed outside after Victor paid the bill.
They had only just stepped over the threshold, when Cathy burst through waving the bill in the air.
“Cathy, what are you doing! Get back into the warm. You’ll catch your death out here without a coat on,” Violet chastised.
“But, Mr. Romanoff made a huge mistake. See?” Cathy said, holding out the bill.
“Did I?” he replied carelessly. He took the paper, skimmed it and handed it back to her with a smile. “No, it’s fine as is.”
“But...but...”Cathy muttered, frantically shaking her head.
“I believe with a few more tips like that, you’ll have plenty of money for that college fund of yours. You’ll even be able to start on time next autumn,” he said, a calm expression on his handsome face.
“But...but...” Cathy said again, incredulously gaping up at him.
“Now, Violet’s right. You will do yourself harm if you stay outside much longer. Go on, Honey, and we’ll see you soon. You’ll need books, too.”
Cathy stood there, her mouth hanging open. He had to physically turn her around and push her through the door to get her back inside. He chuckled and turned toward Violet who had a similar stunned expression on her face.
“How much did you give her?” she asked.
He poked her gently on the nose. “Never you mind.”
“Still playing Santa, aren’t you?”
“Shhh....you’ll upset the baby. Here, let me hold her. You grab my arm. These steps are very slippery,” Victor said, taking the nearly sleeping baby from her. Violet did as bid, took one step and her feet promptly shot out from under her. Had she not been holding onto Victor she would have fallen flat on her back.
“Goodness, I could have cracked my head open,” Violet said, breathing heavily and clutching his arm with a fierce grip.
“Thought you’d be happy to have someone get hurt. You are a lawyer,” she said, sliding into the car and reaching out for Missy.
“Of course not! Do I look like an ambulance chaser?” he asked, indignant.
Taken aback, Violet just stared up at him slightly frightened. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean....I’m sorry,” she muttered weakly. She wasn’t done apologizing before he slammed the door in her face.
Victor was so rarely angry, that seeing it now so clearly rather intimidated her. She realized she didn’t much like him being mad at her. But then, she mused as she waited for him to get into the driver’s side, she never liked anyone getting angry with her. It brought back such horrible memories, ones she never liked dwelling on.
She shook her head of such bad thoughts and settled the baby snugly against her, both for warmth and comfort and...well, she rather liked the feel of a baby again. Several minutes passed, however, and Victor did not enter the car. With a jolt of fear, she imagined him so angry with her that he would simply leave her here.
“How foolish of you! Victor would never do that,” Heidi admonished.
Violet had to agree, but she frowned, looked behind her and gasped. Much to her astonishment, Victor was back at the diner’s front steps sprinkling them with the sand which Mr. Webber, the owner of the diner, had by the door. Tears unexpectedly sprung to her eyes as she recalled all too clearly Richard doing precisely the same thing almost exactly a year ago to the day.
“Dear God, is this man a reincarnation of my Richard?” she whispered.
“Hell no!” Richard shouted.
Violet made a weird face. That didn’t sound at all like Heidi. Before she had a chance to ponder this further, Victor slid into his seat rubbing his cold hands together and grinning.
“There! No frivolous lawsuits in Catalpa Valley,” he said with a decisive nod. Catching the look on her face, he frowned. “You okay?”
“You look so sad. Did I upset you?”
“No, it’s just....you baffle me, Victor,” she said quietly.
“Do I? Why?” he asked, looking curiously at her.
She shook her head, feeling decidedly stupid. “Never mind. Just being silly, I am.”
“You’re never silly, my love....ly....lady,” he corrected himself slowly. Last thing he needed was to get Violet all riled up again about his excessive use of terms of endearment.
Violet made a funny face. “You feeling all right?”
“Yes. Thought I recognized someone. I was mistaken,” he lied promptly and started the car. “Have you checked for messages?”
“What do you mean?”
“On your phone.”
“Whatever for?” Violet said groping in her bag. “I had it with us the whole time. I would have heard it if anyone.....uh-oh.” She grimaced and bit her lip.
“What is it?” Victor asked looking at the phone in her hand, but he knew without her saying. “Violet, you didn’t have it off all day!”
She had. Now, she really felt stupid. She turned it on and several messages awaited her, only one of which was from Karen. Frowning again, she listened.
“Miss Bennett, this is Karen Struthers. Um...you said you would babysit Missy anytime? Um, I’m gonna be like, really late so...uh, I hope it’s okay. I’ll try to be quick, okay? Thanks,” Karen’s voice spoke.
Next message started as Victor impatiently said, “Well?”
“Shush! I’m listening.”
“Miss Bennet, this is Mary Bengal the secretary at Littlest Angel Orphanage. I called the daycare center, but you had already gone. Flora and Reverend Louis asked me to call and tell you they are in conference with a friend of yours, Karen Struthers. They wanted to let you know they would be a bit longer and hope that you and the baby are doing fine. Please, call us and let us know. Thank you.”
“Oh, my,” Violet mumbled and clutched the baby closer to her chest.
Just as the next message came on, Victor once again, more sternly this time, said, “Violet, what’s going on?”
“Hush!” Violet said and listened intently.
“Oh my goodness,” Violet whispered as yet another message came on.
“Violet, what?” Victor asked now almost frantic.
“Shush!” she replied and listened.
“Violet, this is Louis Trenton. Just checking up. Called your house but you weren’t there ....obviously. We’re still with your little friend. She may have decided to give up her child. We may be a bit longer. Please, call us back.”
“Omigosh!” Violet shrieked, making Missy squirm uncomfortably and start to cry.
“What! What is it?” Victor shouted.
“Missy...oh, sweetie, it’s okay, honey....shhhh, it’s okay,” she soothed the baby until she nestled back against her and fell asleep again.
“Violet, tell me...” Victor said menacingly.
“Victor, please!” she said.
At this point, Victor had made it to Violet’s driveway and parked the car. Then he grabbed the phone and pushed a button on the side making it go to speaker so he could hear it, too.
She gasped but said nothing and they both listened to the next message.
“Goodness, Violet, you must think us daft for leaving so many messages, but we are a bit worried now. Do give us a call back. Karen may indeed give up Missy, but there’s one stipulation, however, which we need to discuss with you.”
“Wow,” Victor said softly, looking down at the baby. “Did you suspect this?”
Violet shook her head, stuffing the phone back into her bag.
“Aren’t you going to call them?” Victor asked.
“I have to get Missy into the warm first,” she said mechanically.
“Violet, what’s wrong?” he asked, pushing her hair away from her face.
He tilted her face toward him and he saw tears swimming in her large hazel eyes. “Violet?”
“I’m going to miss her,” she whispered.