Violet's tears fell in earnest.
“Ah, honey,” Victor said and put his arm about her. He silently cursed the middle console which prevented him from drawing her closer and truly comforting her. He allowed her to cry herself dry onto his shoulder all the while wondering what to say to make her feel better.
“That’s a terrific idea,” he said aloud.
“What?” Violet asked, lifting her head from his shoulder and looking at him through a blur of tears.
“Violet, you should adopt Missy. I’ll help you. I’m not an adoption lawyer but I’m sure I can help with the paperwork. Believe me, there’s massive amounts of paperwork and...”
“You’re insane,” she interrupted, drawing away from him.
“You keep saying that. Makes me wonder, did you ever work at the Mason Mental Institution to qualify you to give such an assessment?” he said with a smirk. Her reaction, however, wiped that smirk off his face.
She shook her head violently, more tears streaking down her cheeks. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said such an insensitive thing.”
“Violet, it’s okay. I was kidding,” he assured.
She sniffed, wiped at her face and made ready to leave the car. Victor stopped her with a hand on her arm.
“Violet, wait. Will you let me help you?”
“With what?” she said impatiently.
“Adopting Missy. You could do this.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” she said, reaching for the door handle.
He took her hand, preventing her from leaving. “Why is that ridiculous? You obviously love her and she you. You’d make a great mother for her. You already are a great mother,” he said reasonably.
“Every child should have both a mother and a father,” she said, now getting angry. “If you haven’t noticed, Richard is no longer around.”
“She got you there, Cowboy,” Richard said triumphantly. “There is no playing house without a daddy, ya know.”
“Have we forgotten Missy’s first words?” Heidi asked pointedly.
Feeling suddenly reckless and defiant, Victor said, “I can help with that, too.”
“Excuse me?” Violet said, trepidation running along her spine.
“I can be her daddy and then she’d have both parents, ” Victor said. He smiled. “Missy called me daddy, remember?”
“She did not!” Violet shouted so loudly, she awoke Missy. Her whimpers turned to howls before they knew what was what.
“There now, Missy,” Victor said in a soothing tone whilst snatching the baby away. “Come to Daddy. Mommy didn’t mean to scare you. She’s just a bit cranky.”
“Do not tell her that!” Violet shrieked.
Victor ignored this and left the car with the baby, went around to the passenger side and opened the door for Violet.
“Victor Romanoff, if you think....” she started, wagging a menacing finger at him, but she was swiftly interrupted.
“Hush, you’re frightening my baby,” Victor told her as he rubbed the whimpering baby’s back.
Both indignant and speechless, Violet stalked past him and opened her front door. She seriously considered slamming it in his face, but he did have the baby with him, who, she realized with a maternal pang, had been out in the bitter cold for far too long.
“Get her inside right this minute!” she commanded.
“Yes, Mommy,” he said, a smirk lurking around his mouth.
“Stop calling me that!”
“It’s all right, Missy. Mommy should stop yelling at us as soon as you get all warmed up.”
“Victor, please!” she pleaded, taking her own coat off before she took the child out of Victor’s arms.
She swiftly removed the snowsuit and bundled the baby up in a crocheted blanket which she always had tossed over the sofa for horribly cold nights like this.
Victor took Missy from her then and said, “You need to call Karen and those other people. Go on. Daddy’s got the baby.” He sat on the sofa next to Calendula with Missy on his lap and introduced them.
Violet, thinking he looked entirely too at home, glowered at him. She then grabbed her phone just as it sounded.
“Oh, my! Hello?”
“Violet, finally! We’ve been so worried,” Flora’s cheerful voice said.
“Oh, Flora, I’m so sorry, I had my phone off. I forgot to turn it on,” Violet said lamely.
Flora laughed. “We figured it was something like that. We know you so well. Probably having the time of your life with the baby. Am I right?”
“Uh, yes, well, we took her with us to the diner,” Violet said holding the phone a good distance from her ear as it was still on speaker and she had no clue how to undo it.
“We?” Flora asked, her curiosity obvious.
“Uh, we’re home now though, so... Missy’s fine. Tell Karen not to worry.”
“Oh, I knew that!”
“Yes, um ....what was it you needed from me?”
She motioned for Victor to change the setting on the phone, but he pretended not to understand. She glared at him and turned her back on him. That, however, didn’t prevent him hearing every word.
“Well, this is the thing. Karen thinks it best for Missy that she get a new home and new parents,” Flora stated gently.
“Oh, my,” Violet said, biting her lip and trying desperately not to start crying again.
“She wants us to find the right parents for Missy, but Karen gets to choose who will adopt her.”
“Oh, okay,” Violet said, slightly breathless.
“She also is looking for an open adoption. She wants to always be in the child’s life even if it’s only on the peripheral.”
“I see. Very wise of her,” Violet had to admit.
“Yes, but she doesn’t like the idea of Missy coming here to the orphanage while we look for these perfect parents,” Flora continued.
“But why?” Violet asked, bewildered. “It’s a lovely place and the kids are so well taken care of and... did she look around at all?”
“She refused. She said Missy wasn’t an orphan, so she shouldn’t be in an orphanage,” Flora said her usual cheerfulness slipping slightly.
“Wow,” Violet said, looking back toward Victor who had Missy petting the cat with her pudgy hand.
Violet smiled and fleetingly marveled that Calendula allowed this. She reluctantly forced her attention back to the phone.
“Violet, that is all fine and to be expected, but...now, this is where you come in,” Flora said, now sounding quite serious.
“Um, okay,” Violet replied a crease between her brows.
“Karen may call the whole thing off if you are not agreeable to this. She’s quite adamant about it actually. She says Missy loves you and she knows you will be wonderful for her. So, Karen was hoping, that during this search for the right people to adopt Missy, that the baby could stay with you.”
Violet gasped just as Victor’s gaze met hers. He grinned, kissed Missy on top of her dark silky curls and whispered, quite audibly, “Missy, my love, seems like Mommy and Daddy are gonna play house after all.”