“Well, that was…sweet,” Victor said looking amused and a bit touched. “And unexpected. Karen’s a sweet girl, isn’t she?”
“Yes. She’s had a rough day though. I hope she feels better after a good, long rest,” Violet said leading the way down the steps.
At the bottom they were met by Calendula who wore a reproachful scowl.
“What’s up with you, Ginger fluff?” Victor asked, picking her up and immediately getting her to purr as loudly as a passing diesel truck.
“Omigosh! I forgot to feed her,” Violet said and she dashed to the kitchen.
“Well, that’s our Dory for ya. I suppose you’re used to that,” Victor said and he followed Violet into the kitchen, with the cat in his arms looking decidedly happier.
“My goodness, where is my head lately?” Violet moaned as she scooped the food out of the can into a clean bowl and placed it on the floor mat. “Here you go, Honey. Come eat.”
“She seems more interested in affection right now,” Victor said, scratching the cat behind the ears.
“I’m sorry I forgot to feed you, Calendula, but if you hadn’t been hiding I wouldn‘t have forgotten. Now come and eat, you silly cat.”
Calendula ignored her and continued to purr.
“Yeah, food’s not what she wants. She was obviously feeling neglected. Well, Ginger fluff, I got some bad news for you. We have a baby in the house. You’re going to have to get used to being number two for a while.”
At these words, the cat promptly lept out of Victor’s arms and headed for the food bowl.
“Hmm, guess she didn’t like that,” he said, chuckling.
“There’s no understanding cats,” Violet said.
“Not that easy to understand babies, either, and you manage fine,” Victor countered.
“What’s to understand? Babies tell you what they need. Teenagers though.…now that’s a mystery. Look at Karen,” Violet said sitting down at the table and propping her chin on her hand.
“What about her?” he asked following suit and sitting next to her.
“I had her pegged all wrong. I thought she didn’t really care about Missy. She does care…. loads, but she’s been so stressed, stretched thin, to the breaking point perhaps. No one would have known it to look at her or to hear her talk when she picks up or drops off Missy at the daycare center. She truly loves that baby. I see it clearly now which makes giving Missy up for adoption all the more sad.”
“I saw it right away that she loves Missy, but then I only met her today.”
“She’s just a kid herself, Victor, and look at all she’s had to deal with by herself. A baby, school, trying to keep a roof over their heads and no father in sight for Missy.”
“Yes, about that. Do you know who Missy’s father is?” he asked, frowning. “She should get some sort of child support from him even if he doesn’t care about the baby. He should still be held responsible, if only monetarily speaking.”
“I don’t know anything about that. I didn’t feel it was my place to ask,” Violet said with an apologetic shrug.
“No, I suppose not.”
“He’s probably in school anyway. What money could she get? But that’s not what she needs. What she really needs is a mother, a mother who cares! Can’t believe her mother could be so cruel and kick her out and not even help with the baby, her own grandchild! I would never do that! It’s just too much for Karen alone, the poor kid. Wish I could help her,” Violet said miserably.
Victor stared at her and wondered if she really didn’t think she already had. That brief but heart felt hug from an obviously grateful Karen said as much.
“Well…I didn’t want to say anything in front of Karen but…” He hesitated here a second then leaned forward and plunged ahead. “I also believe Karen doesn’t really want to give up her baby. I think she just feels she has to.”
Violet glared at him. “Well, of course. What mother who truly loves her child would want to?”
“Exactly,” Victor stated calmly. “So, I’m thinking that all she needs is a bit of charity in the form of support, some help, some guidance from a trustworthy adult. That way she can handle a baby better and still be able to go to school and make a better life for both of them. I always believed charity begins at home.”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“Well, I don’t much like those huge charities that are more like mega- corporations, where they take your money but you don’t really see if any of it is truly going to those who most need help and then you don’t ever know who gets the help or who they are and how they go on from there. Do they truly get enough help to make a difference in their lives or is it just cosmetic? Is it just to make us feel as if we’re doing something when in fact, we may not be? Do you see what I mean? I like to actually personally know those I wish to help, and then truly help them. Instead I…”
“You give a huge tip to a waitress who wants to go to college,” Violet said her hazel eyes suddenly glowing. She placed her hand over his and added, “You know what, Mr. Romanoff?”
He grinned. “What?”
“You’re not so dumb for a lawyer,” she said, adamantly nodding.
“Yes, that’s what I’m going for, not so dumb,” he said, giving her a wink.
“Goodness, Victor, it’s so much better that way!”” she said her hand over her heart. “Why didn’t I think of that? So, what can we do to help Karen?”
“Well, I have an empty house. Three bedrooms with no one to use them. The boys rarely come home and never at the same time. We almost always meet in the city instead and when they come home they mostly go to their mom’s. So, what I’m thinking is Karen and Missy can stay with me. I’ll take care of them,” he said brightly.
Violet’s eyes popped open. “You want to…you?” she asked, incredulous.
“Why not me?”
“A bachelor raising a teenage girl and a baby? A bachelor no less who can’t boil water without setting off fire alarms?”
“Hey, I can make coffee!” he retorted defensively.
“Oh, well, I stand corrected then! Missy and Karen will do wonderfully on a diet of coffee,” she said rolling her eyes.
“It was just an idea,” he muttered.
“Yes, a very bad one,” she said.
"Got a better one, have you?” he asked.
“Yes, I do. They should stay with me. I’ve got almost as much room as you do. I may not live in a mini-mansion but…”
“And how do you know I live in a mini-mansion?” Victor asked, his eyebrows raised in surprise.
“Well, you said you live down Stoney Creek road. That’s full of huge almost brand new homes. It is now anyway. They knocked down all the hunting shacks except for one. You can’t tell me you own the cabin at the end by the creek. That tiny place is owned by Marvin Ballucci. He was my father’s old hunting buddy. His son Ed was one of Freddy and Richard’s best friends. One of the only ones I actually liked. He was a funny guy. He never looked at me like he wanted to….” She drifted off here and blushed. “He was torn up when Richard died. He was so nice to me at the…”
Violet’s mind went far off thinking about Eddie-Spaghetti. That’s what they called him back in kindergarten. He used to love pumpkin anything. She recalled he would buy all the pumpkin pies, pumpkin muffins and pumpkin bread she made at the fireman’s yearly fund raiser. Once he asked her to personalize them with his name just so no one else could get to them first. So, the next year she placed a big ED made out of pie crust on each pie. He loved that! Gosh, but he did make her laugh!
The last time she saw him, however, no one laughed. It was right after the funeral. They had all gathered at Freddy’s house and she sat in a numb coma of sorts listening to the useless hum around her. Ed had sat down beside her and grabbed her hand in his huge rough one.
He sat there for a while just staring at her obviously trying to come up with the right words. His eyes were all bloodshot and swollen like most people there. When nothing inspirational came to mind, he simply said, “I’m so sorry, Violet. Please call me, anytime if you need anything, anything at all. Richard was my best friend. I loved him like a brother. Mary had a crush on him all through high school. Did she ever tell ya that? Anyway….just, please, let me help you any way I can, okay? It’s the least I can do for my best friend’s…. widow.”
Violet remembered nodding and getting a tiny kiss on the cheek from him before he turned away with tears leaking out of his big, puppy-dog eyes.
Victor stared at her with increasing alarm. Who the hell was this Ed guy? And why was Violet suddenly wistful just thinking about him? Was this guy a rival for her affection? Had she perhaps been in love with him before Richard came along? Good God, was this “nice guy” Ed going to steal Violet away from him?
“You must get her back to thinking about the girls. Hurry!” Heidi advised.
“Violet?” Victor said, lightly touching her hand to get her attention.
“Huh?” she said distractedly.
“You were saying you wanted to take care of the girls?”
“Girls? Oh, yes! Where was I?” she said, visibly dragging herself back to the present.
“You were saying you had just as much room as I do,” Victor replied. “And you can do a wee bit better than make coffee.”
“Well, I can and I do. I have two empty rooms. Sophie can still have hers when she comes home on holidays…if she ever does. She didn’t come home for Easter this year and I don’t know if she’ll be coming back for summer. She’s got some sort of job or something. But anyway, Sophie can still have her room, Missy’s in my room for now and, like you pointed out, Kenny will never need his room again, so, Karen can have that.”
Victor smiled. It was no less than he had expected her to say. “You would make a better mom then I would, wouldn’t you?”
“You’re not supposed to be a good mom. You are the dad, Victor,” she said without realizing exactly what that implied. “I’ll need your help though.”
Victor’s heart gave a grand leap. “You got it. What would you like me to do?”
“Well, Karen’s stuff, clothes and things will need to be brought here and you’ve got that truck and…”
“Violet, don’t you think you may have forgotten something?” Victor asked, his indulgent smile back in place.
“You haven’t asked Karen if she would like to live here with you. It’s probably just a perfunctory measure but still, we should give her the choice, don’t you think? That way she feels in better control of the situation.”
She stared at him a bit taken aback. “Mr. Romanoff, I do believe you think of everything.”
He burst out laughing and rose from his seat taking her with him. She hadn’t realized his hand had still been on top of hers. “And on that wonderfully amusing note, I shall take my leave,” he said.
“Leave? What are you thinking? There’s a blizzard out there!” she shouted, looking at him as if he’d lost his mind.
“Violet, I live ten minutes away and have four-wheel drive.”
“So what?” she said striding to the window and looking out. “It’s awful out there. You can’t see for all the snow falling. There could already be a foot out there. Eight-wheel drive wouldn’t be able to help you now.”
“Violet, I’ll be fine,” he said laughing at her.
“I take it back, you’re not so smart after all,” Violet said, crossing her arms over her chest and glaring at him.
“So, what will you have me do? Sleep on the couch?”
“Of course not. I barely fit on there. You’ll have to sleep in Sophie’s room. Come on, you can reach the other quilt in the linen closet for me. I usually need a chair to get it down.”
“You’re serious, then? You actually want me to stay the night?” he said, completely incredulous.
“Victor, I’m starting to worry about you,” she said, grabbing him by the arm and forcing him to look out the window. “Look! It’s not fit for man nor beast. Like I told Karen, you’re going nowhere but upstairs where you’ll be safe. Think I wanna be worrying half the night wondering if you got home? I got better things to do, thank you very much. Now get going! No arguments!”