They were rather subdued as they stepped into the house. Victor helped Violet off with her coat and hung it up before removing his own. He then slowly followed Violet into the kitchen. He watched her place the pink rose and baby's breath bouquet on the counter along with her small dusty-rose pink purse which matched her dress and shoes perfectly. The sad smile on her face tugged at his heart. Just as he suspected would happen, they were back at square one and he didn’t know what to do about it.
“I was thinking about making coffee. Would you like some?” she asked vaguely, touching the velvety petals of a rose. She made a mental note to use the Baby’s breath in a craft project.
“I’ll make it. It’s my specialty, you know,” he joked, hoping to get a real smile from her. It didn’t seem she heard him at all.
She slowly turned, went to the fridge and peered inside. “I could whip you up something to eat, but I can’t imagine you’re hungry. I know I may never be hungry again. I’ve never seen so much food in one place and it was all so delicious,” she said, closing the door again.
“I don’t know about that,” he replied, grinning at her. “Leftovers from Violet’s kitchen can’t compare to catered food.”
“You’re teasing me,” she retorted as she brought down two of her flowery mugs.
“I speak only the truth. I’d much rather have a simple sandwich you make than some extravagant meal from chez tra-la-la,” he said.
“Was that the caterer’s real name?” she asked smiling a little.
“No, but it does make a good one, don’t you think?” he said, happy at last to see a smile.
“You sound like Richard,” she said, shaking her head.
“Scarily so sometimes.”
“Is that a good thing or a bad thing?” he asked, curiously watching her.
She thought on that for a minute with a tiny crease between her brows. Why did he always ask that? She really didn’t know the answer. She changed the subject.
“How did you manage today?” she asked.
“Manage?” he repeated absently as he poured water into the coffee maker.
“How did you manage everything on such short notice?”
“Oh, that. With enough money, you can move mountains, almost literally,” he retorted.
“Wally’s whole family was astonished that you would foot the entire bill for his wedding. So was I in truth, but then, I do know you better than they do.”
“It wasn’t just for Wally, was it? It seemed so important to you,” he said.
“Me?” she said, her eyes wide in surprise.
“Important to you that Karen have a nice wedding,” he replied.
“Nice?” she said, incredulous. “It wasn’t just nice, Victor. It was amazingly beautiful. Some people spend a year planning their wedding and don’t end up with anything that nice. The flowers, the food, the music and even the dress…everything was perfect. Karen was dazzling and she was beyond happy. You pulled off a miracle.”
“Now, the dress was a miracle. The rest not so much,” he said grimly.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I was very sure Wally wanted to hit me when I told him he couldn’t come with us to pick out the dress,” Victor said shaking his head. “I even explained that it was bad luck to see her in it before the wedding and he just didn’t care.”
“Can’t blame him. He wanted to spend every last minute with Karen and you had her out for two whole hours! He was frantic,” Violet said reproachfully.
“I wanted to ensure I got the coveted role of walking the beautiful bride down the aisle,” he said looking grumpy now.
Violet understood his expression. “You did have some competition, didn’t you?” she said, hiding her smile.
“Never saw so many vying for one role. Well, not since every guy in my high school wanted to play Romeo to Molly Wolbrock’s Juliet. She was the most popular girl in school, you know. We all wanted the chance to kiss her,” he told her nodding emphatically. “Thought for sure I’d lose.”
“The role of Romeo?” she asked, innocently.
“No, not that!” he shouted. “You weren’t catching me in tights just to kiss a girl. The role of father of the bride, of course.”
Victor frowned remembering how all of Wally’s uncles and even a few male cousins offered to do the task. Karen, although flattered and overwhelmed by all this attention, turned her big blue eyes toward Victor and relief swept over him. He knew then without her uttering a word that she wanted him to do the honor of walking her down the aisle. He couldn’t have been happier.
“Silly man,” Violet said, barely concealing her amusement. “You secured that weeks ago when you took her shopping and helped her with homework and a million other things dads do. You have no idea how many times she told me how much she liked you and how nice you were to her and to Missy. She said she thought you must be a great father for your sons. That’s teen-speak for “I wish he was my dad”, in case you didn’t know.”
He chuckled as he poured the coffee and set both mugs on the table before sitting beside Violet. “So, you’re fluent in teen-speak, huh? Next time I can’t figure out what Ronnie’s telling me, I’m coming to you for some proper deciphering.”
“You do that,” she said, getting up, going to the pantry and coming back to the table with a colorful cookie tin. She opened it and offered him a chocolate chip cookie.
“A bribe for Mr. Sweet-tooth? What, I wonder, could Miss Violet want from him?” he said grabbing a cookie and biting into it.
The smile on her face grew wistful. “They have one day left together,” she said sadly.
“Not much of a honeymoon, is it?” he replied, quickly sobering.
She shook her head as she sprinkled sugar into the coffee and stirred. “It’s so sad and cruel. Now that they finally got together…”
“To have to be apart again…yes. Cruel is the word,” he finished for her.
“I wish your miracle-making extended to the Military,” she said in a tiny voice.
“I’m sorry, Violet, but I have zero pull there,” he said, placing his hand on hers. “I did do one thing that I hope will help them a little.”
“More than what you already did for them?” she asked, shocked.
He shrugged. “I gave Wally a prepaid cell phone and I made him swear to me he would call Karen every chance he got. It’s all I could think of,” he said, helplessly.
“Oh, Victor, that’s wonderful,” she said happily. She then pushed the cookie tin toward him. “Here, have another.”
“O…….kay, why?” he asked slowly.
“Isn’t it obvious? It must be all the sugar I keep pumping into your veins that make you super sweet.”
He smiled as he grabbed up another cookie and bit into it. “That must be it.”
They lapsed into silence of an oppressive sort. Just a few days before, the house was alive with sound. Missy’s innocent babbling, Karen happily telling all that happened at school that day, Violet singing along with the radio while pots and pans banged in the kitchen and Victor bursting through the door at the beginning and end of each day to bellow, “I’m home. Where are my girls?” It was the sound, in essence, of a bustling family. That, however, would change now.
It had been decided between Wally and his parents that Karen and Missy should stay with the Cambry’s once Wally went back to the Army. They insisted, in fact. Matt and Alice Cambry had fallen in love with their new daughter-in-law and of course, Missy, their first grandchild. Wally wanted them to be well looked after and included by his family. He had, after all, a large loving clan, perfect for keeping her spirits up while he was away. Alice had even suggested she watch Missy while Karen was at school.
“Why take her to a daycare center when there are so many stay-at-home moms right in the family? Any one of us would love to care for such a darling child,” Alice said, adding with a laugh, “We’ll have to take turns or else there will be fighting over who gets to babysit Missy!”
It seemed Karen had gotten exactly what she had long been wishing for, a family to call her own. Karen and Missy no longer needed the one Violet and Victor had provided.
These thoughts went through their minds as they stared at each other over their coffee mugs and the cookie tin.
“This must be what empty nest syndrome is like…I’m guessing,” Victor said, tentatively.
“It’s exactly what it feels like. When Sophie went to…” Violet’s voice broke and her eyes filled with tears.
“Violet,” he said, squeezing her hand. “I hate to see you cry.”
She shook her head, wiping the tears off her cheeks. “It’s fine. Happy tears, you know. It’s all good. Missy has a daddy who loves her, grandparents and so many cousins to play with and Karen has the love of her life.” She gave him a wobbly smile which just about broke his heart.
“I miss them too,” he said needlessly.
“It just…It just makes me…” Violet stopped and shut her eyes tightly.
“What?” he asked frowning now. A sense of foreboding crept into him.
She looked up at him, her lips quivering. “It just makes me miss Richard so much.”
She burst out in sobs. Victor, on automatic, took her into his arms, her tears soaking his pristine white shirt.
They were indeed back to square one.