The not-so-subtle clearing of a throat made Karen and Wally turn around. Victor and Violet stood in the archway.
“Hello,” Victor said, staring at the soldier. “Karen, would you mind introducing us to your friend?”
“Oh, uh,” Karen said nervously looking from Wally to Victor and back. “Um, this is Wally Cambry. He’s my…”
“Fiance,” Wally interjected, stepping forward and holding out his hand. “Nice to meet you, Sir.”
Victor took his hand and shook. “Victor Romanoff,” he replied, just as Missy jumped from Wally into Victor’s arms. “Hi, sweetie. How’s my good girl?” he said to the baby, giving her a kiss.
“I think someone needs a diaper change,” Violet said holding her hands out to the baby.
Predictably, Missy clung to Victor. “Come on, Missy. Let Auntie Violet change you. Then we can play, okay?” Victor said handing her to Violet. Violet whisked her to the changing table beside the playpen and set to changing her.
“You’re Ronnie’s dad,” Wally said, obviously annoyed that Missy left him for the other guy and was now taken further away from him by Violet.
“Yes. You know Ronnie?” Victor asked, raising an eyebrow in surprise.
“Yes, Sir. We were on the school soccer team together when I was a senior. He was a good player, even though he was just a freshman then” Wally said, unconsciously slipping an arm around Karen while watching Missy with Violet.
“Well, he always thought so,” Victor said, a crease forming between his brows. “That would make you at least three years older than Ronnie.”
“Only two I think. I skipped a grade in elementary school and graduated early,” Wally said and now he frowned. He looked questioningly at Victor. What did that have to do with anything?
Victor glanced from him to Karen and back, his expression stony. “Fiance, did you say?” he said.
“Yes, Sir. Karen and I will be getting married tomorrow,” Wally said, smiling at Karen.
“Tomorrow!” Violet shrieked, placing the now clean baby in her playpen.
“Isn’t this a bit rushed?” Victor said.
“No, not really, I wanted to get engaged before I left for the Army but…”Wally stopped to look at Karen.
“He’s only here for a few days. Wally is Missy’s dad, Victor, and... he was my boyfriend before he left for the Army,” Karen said, looking from Victor’s frowning face to Violet’s delighted, albeit surprised one. “He didn’t know about Missy until…”
“Yes, Karen, I understand that, but that’s no reason to rush into marriage. You are too young to be married ,” Victor stated brusquely. “As a matter of fact, I believe you’re too young to be with this….man at all.”
Stunned silence followed this.
“Victor, what do you…?” Violet began.
“I don’t mean to be rude, but what business is it of yours…Sir?” Wally said, coolly polite.
“I’m making it my business because I care about Karen,” Victor replied.
“You are not her father,” Wally countered.
“Wally, Victor’s been very nice to me,” Karen said, nervously biting her bottom lip again.
“That doesn’t make him your father,” Wally told her.
“No, I’m not Karen’s real father, but since she has no one to watch over her, I’m doing it,” Victor said, smiling at Karen. “She knows I have her best interests at heart.”
“She doesn’t need you. She’s got me,” Wally stated, possessively tightening his grip on her.
“I disagree. I also happen to a lawyer. I care about the law and those who harm others by breaking it.
You’ve heard of a little thing called statutory rape, Mr. Cambry? I believe you are guilty of that.”
“Victor!” Violet chided.
“Do the math, Violet. He’s twenty-one, Karen’s seventeen. She was under the age of consent and he was clearly an adult when he got her pregnant. He took advantage of Karen.”
The blood drained from Wally’s face.
“NO!” Karen shouted. “He didn’t do that, Victor. It wasn’t like that at all. I love him.”
“That has nothing to do with it,” Victor continued, glaring at Wally. “You were a child, Karen, still are in fact, and he was an adult at the time and should have known better.”
To everyone’s surprise, Wally quietly said, “He’s right. I should’ve known better.”
“Wally, you did nothing wrong,” Karen said.
“I did,” Wally replied miserably. Turning to Karen he took her hands and added, “I’m sorry. I didn’t think about what I was doing to you. I just saw you at that party and I fell for you instantly… I didn’t care that you were too young. I’m sorry.”
“Wally, you did nothing wrong,” This time it was Violet who said it, glaring at Victor.
“Violet, I know the law,” Victor said.
“I’m not disputing that, but you obviously don’t understand what it’s like to be young and in love,” Violet said, her eyes blazing.
“That has nothing to do with it,” Victor insisted.
“It has everything to do with it!” she shouted.
“Violet, would you stand by and do nothing if it were Sophie seduced at age sixteen by a twenty year old?”
“Fifteen, actually when we met,” Wally said grimacing. “The Army will think I’m a child molester and they’ll kick me out. I’ll never get into medical school now.”
At this point, Karen burst into tears and Violet was so incensed she actually struck Victor. Of course, this hurt her more than it did him, but she hardly cared.
“You big bully!” Violet yelled, massaging her painful hand. “Stop it right now, Victor Romanoff, or I swear you’ll never get so much as a crumb from me ever again.”
“This is more important than food, Violet. This is a crime!”
“Yes, it is more important than food. I’m glad we agree on that. But a crime? I don’t think so! Now, sit down!” Violet shouted. Taken aback, Victor just stared at her. “I said sit down. All of you!”
Wally, looking utterly bewildered, but knowing full well how to take an order, grabbed Karen’s hand and sat them both down at the end of the sofa. He put his arm around her and let her cry softly into his chest. He watched as Violet took Missy out of the playpen and placed her on his lap.
“There. That’s better,” Violet said, looking at the trio with pride. “A nice little family, just as it should be.”
“Violet…” Victor started to say but was quickly shushed.
“You’ve said quite enough, Mr. Lawyer man. Now sit down,” she spat at him. She waited for him to sit himself in the armchair, before she went on. “Okay. What we have here is a couple of kids…yes, kids!” she said lifting a hand when Victor made every intent to speak again. “Very much in love, and if you haven’t noticed, they have a child together. And even if Wally didn’t know about Missy at the time, he does now, and he loves her. I could see it the minute they saw each other. I think you can remember love at first sight, Victor, you who are so susceptible to it.”
For a full minute Victor gaped at her. Did she know? How could she?
“And now they want to do right by their child and marry. There is nothing wrong with that,” Violet finished.
“Violet, making one mistake does not give them permission to make an…”
Violet puffed up like an angry goose. “Don’t you dare call Missy a mistake!” she hissed.
“I didn’t say she was and I would never say that. She’s a perfect angel, but that doesn’t make any of this right. The mistake was Wally’s. He took advantage of Karen, an innocent, much too young girl and getting her pregnant just makes it worse,” he said staring at the boy with undeniable disdain. “If you were my son, I’d thrash you within an inch of your life.”
“And how would that help anybody?” Violet asked, utterly exasperated. “Victor, don’t you get it? That hardly matters anymore. The fact is Missy is here, and Karen and Wally are obviously in love and want to make things right.”
“Two kids barely dry behind the ears married? Brilliant plan! Two wrongs don’t make a right, you know,” he said, his own voice getting loud enough to make Missy whimper again.
“And your brilliant plan is keeping them apart? Worked well for Romeo and Juliet, didn’t it?” Violet shouted back.
“I’m hoping they’re not that stupid. The point remains, Violet, Karen is too young to be married especially to someone in the Army. The life of an Army wife is not an easy one,” Victor said.
“That’s true,” Wally said swallowing hard. “Sergeant Mahoney says it all the time, that no one should be married in the Army. I didn’t think of that either.”
“Wally, stop agreeing with this idiot!” Violet yelled.
“Yes, Ma’am,” he replied meekly. He looked at Karen while the adults continued to argue and whispered, “I think you got it wrong about them. Doesn’t look like they’re in love to me. Do they always fight like this?”
“Never, I’ve never seen them like this. It’s all my fault,” she whispered, tearing up again.
“It’s not your fault. It’s mine. I’m sorry. Maybe I should leave,” he mumbled.
“Please, Wally, don’t leave me again. I couldn’t take it,” she said clinging to him.
Victor almost laughed…almost. “Violet, wasn’t it you who said, not too long ago, that Karen needed a mother, and haven’t you provided a family for her?”
“What of it?” Violet asked.
“Well, now you’re saying she doesn’t need any of that, that she doesn’t need a mother anymore. Suddenly she can be all on her own again, raising Missy alone. And she will be alone even if she’s married, because the Army wife is pretty much on her own,” Victor said, triumphant.
“A girl never outgrows her need for a mother, especially when she has a child of her own,” Violet said, her eyes despite her efforts, filling with tears.
Victor’s smug expression turned to a grimace. He hated seeing her cry. He closed the distance between them and grabbed her shoulders hoping she wouldn’t pull angrily away. When she didn’t he said, “Violet, I don’t want to argue with you. While I still believe a crime has been committed and Wally should pay for it, I’ll put it aside for now. But you must see the folly of this marriage. No good can come from these two getting married. The odds are so very much against them, it’s not even funny,” he earnestly said.
“It’s not folly,” she said, wiping at her eyes.
“How can you say that? Statistics prove otherwise.”
“Statistics can be wrong and they will be in this case,” she stubbornly said.
“And how do you know that?” he asked.
“Because…because Richard got me pregnant when I was seventeen, we got married and we’ve been together ever since…or would be if he hadn’t died. Does that sound like one of your statistics? We made it and so can they!”
Victor stood stunned. He realized he truly ought to learn when to shut up.