Violet watched Victor take the sleeping baby up the stairs with her bottom lip anxiously clamped between her teeth. She should be the one putting Missy to bed.
“I guess I’ll go home now,” Karen quietly said putting the empty mug down on the tray with the others.
“I’m sorry…what?” Violet muttered before turning to face the young girl.
“It’s late and….and Missy’s asleep and…” Without warning Karen hid her face in her hands and burst into tears.
“Karen, what’s wrong?” Violet asked, although she had a rather good idea. She placed her arms around the thin girl and held her tightly. “It’s okay, Honey. Have a good cry. You’ve made the biggest decision of your life tonight. Giving your baby up isn’t easy. It’s very brave of you. I know I would never be able to do it. My kids are everything to me. I’ll take very good care of her for you until…”
“But you won’t adopt her,” Karen sobbed, pushing away from her. “You should be her mother.”
“Karen, please try to understand. I can’t raise a child alone. My husband is dead and a child should have both a mother and father,” Violet said, smoothing Karen’s lank hair away from her tear-streaked face.
“But you’ve got Victor. He’s great with Missy. He can pretend to be her dad even if you are just friends. He said he would. It’s better than nothing. Better than what I had. I never knew my dad,” Karen said, roughly wiping at tears with the tattered sleeve of her sweatshirt.
Violet stared at Karen for a minute and thought it best not to further upset her. “Missy will be fine here with me and the Trents will eventually find her wonderful parents both a mom and a dad. You’ll see. Now let’s get you settled for the night. It’s…”
“Huh?” Karen said. This so took her aback, she actually stopped crying.
“I have a spare room for you,” Violet said leading her to the stairs.
“What for?” Karen asked, completely baffled.
“Well, it’s very late and even if they cancel school tomorrow I can see you’re tired. After a nice hot bath you’ll feel loads better.”
“But I should go home,” Karen said, not quite believing her ears. Was Violet actually asking her to stay the night?
“Honey, there’s a major snow storm out there. I’m not letting you go out in that. You’ll end up in a snow bank and freeze to death. No, you’re staying here for the night. No arguments!” Violet said adamantly.
Karen wouldn’t think of arguing. It would be like living a heavenly dream even if it was for just one night. She could pretend for one night that she had a mother who really cared about her. It was more than she ever hoped for. “Okay,” she said, meekly allowing Violet to lead her up the stairs.
Once Violet showed Karen to Kenny’s old room, supplied her with a big fluffy towel, a long cotton night gown and a terrycloth robe and showed her where everything was in the bathroom, including giving her a new toothbrush, she slipped into her own room only to find Victor humming to himself as he stared down at the sleeping baby. You’d think she were a miracle, the way he gazed at her.
She watched him for a minute with a furrowed brow. She didn’t recall Richard ever looking at their kids like that. She shook her head of such thoughts. Richard had certainly loved the kids. He just wasn’t the type to show it so much. Not like Victor did anyway.
Victor saw her and smiled. “Out like a light,” he whispered. “Didn’t even wake up when I changed her.”
She went to look at Missy, standing right beside him and smiled too. Her heart swelled with delight. Her house was full again, almost like she had a family. Oh, how she wished it could stay this way.
Without realizing it, Victor had slipped his arm about her drawing her closer and she laid her head on his chest. They both sighed contentedly and merely looked at the baby.
“Is he planning on moving in?” Richard snarled.
“Of course not,” Heidi said gazing happily at them. “Not yet anyway.”
Richard didn’t particularly like that reply.
Several minutes went by before either Victor or Violet stirred. It felt too wonderful to do so. But eventually, Violet heard a tiny knock on the door frame. It was Karen ready for bed, all showered and wrapped in the warm and over-large bathrobe.
“Karen, come say good night to Missy. She’s sleeping but I always thought babies know when mommy comes to check on them even while they sleep,” Violet whispered motioning her to come in.
“Where do you come up with stuff like that?” Victor softly chuckled, stepping aside for Karen.
“I’m just funny that way,” Violet answered.
“You sure are,” he countered.
“You had this crib all this time, Miss Bennett?” Karen asked, her eye wide in surprise.
“Well, no, it’s Victor’s mother’s crib,” Violet explained. “Can you believe that, Karen? Victor actually fit in this tiny space…once upon a time.”
“Wow,” Karen said looking up at him. “It’s really nice of you to let Missy use it.”
“Better than having it gather dust in my attic,” he replied smiling at her. “My boys liked it fine too. Four babies have gotten use out of this so far.”
“So, far?” Karen asked, wondering what he meant by that. Did he intend on having more? She looked at Violet and back at him but he merely shrugged.
“Well, um, Missy’ll wake up kinda early, like six. Is that okay? I could put her in my room if you want,” Karen said, her tone both anxious and a bit hopeful.
“Don’t worry about that. I often wake up early,” Violet reassured.
“Yeah, especially when someone really wants breakfast,” Victor said. He tried to sound innocent, but that smirk gave him away. Violet poked him in the ribs with an elbow causing him to burst out laughing.
“Hush! You’ll wake the baby,” she said then pushed him out of the room.
Karen not understanding any of that, kissed her fingertips and placed them lovingly on Missy’s warm cheek. She smoothed down the blanket unnecessarily and touched the soft curls that so reminded her of Missy’s father.
“Wish you were here, Wally. God, please keep him safe and help me convince Miss Bennett to adopt Missy,” she whispered and then she went out into the hall.
“Let me get that for you, shorty,” Victor said. He laughed again when Violet made to punch him. He reached way over her head and pulled down a handmade quilt from the top shelf of the linen closet.
“Yes, thank you,” Violet said. She smiled when she spotted Karen. “Here, sweetie, take this just in case the power goes out and leaves us with no heat. Now get to bed. You look so tired. Sleep well, okay?”
Violet then placed her warm hand on the girl’s cheek very much like Karen had just done with Missy.
Overwhelmed by what she thought excessive kindness, Karen gave Violet a brutal yet quick hug and for good measure she did the same with Victor then sprinted to her room and closed the door.
Once in the bedroom, Karen fell to her knees and prayed harder than she ever had done. “Dear God, please make Victor marry Miss Bennett so they can adopt Missy. Please, please, please!”