Victor grinned as he watched Garrett Johansen and Violet turn the corner and disappear behind the black culmed bamboo clump at the entrance to the children’s garden. That would be the last time he smiled for the next hour.
“Victor, I wondered if I’d see you here.”
The sultry voice sent a shiver down his spine and wiped the smile off his face. Bracing himself he turned and came face-to-face with his ex-wife.
“Hello, Kat. Nice to see you,” he said with zero enthusiasm.
She smiled coldly. “Don’t call me that,” she said, through clenched teeth.
“Yes, I forgot. It’s Katherine now. You look well,” he said.
“Don’t sound so surprised. I try to keep fit,” she retorted.
“Yes,” he said stoically as he recalled how she always ditched the boys every chance she got to go to a Pilates class. Glancing over her golden head, he added, “Where’s Andy?”
“He had to work tonight,” she said, looking intently at him. “You brushed off Silvia, I hear. How’d you manage that? You couldn’t do it while we were married. What’s changed?”
“Might it surprise you to know I’ve learned a thing or two since our divorce? It truly helps when you ignore those who bother you,” he retorted, looking every bit as if he wanted to employ such a tactic now. He even turned and took a few steps away. Unfortunately, Katherine followed in step, apparently not taking the hint.
“And it’s not the little chippy you brought here?” she said, smiling slyly.
Victor glared at her. “Could be,” he remarked, a warning in his voice.
“Who is she?” Katherine asked. “Have you been seeing her long?”
“When that’s any of your concern, I’ll make certain to let you know.”
“It is my concern if you marry this tramp and she ends up with the boys’ inheritance,” she replied coldly even as she smiled to a passing acquaintance.
“Not this again,” he mumbled. “Must we do this here?”
“And when would be a better time? When this babe’s got you by the balls?” she asked her brilliant blue eyes mere slits in her classically beautiful face.
“Now, you’re confusing her with you, Kat,” he said, snidely.
“Don’t call me that. Gordon just told me you’re never in the city anymore. What’s up with that? You’re a partner for goodness sake!”
“Again, when that concerns you…”
“It concerns the boys, so it concerns me. You’ve seen them?” she said, changing the subject at the speed of light.
He sighed. “If you mean for spring break, yes. We had a great time. Ronnie’s supposed to get a picture CD out to me soon. I’m sure he’ll send one to you if you ask.”
“It’s been more than a month, hasn’t it?” she said.
“Yes, but you know how he is. Even vacation pictures have to be a musical production,” he said, nodding to a passing acquaintance as they continued walking the length of the conservatory.
“If he’d only apply himself to his studies as much as he does to that blasted music of his, he might not be failing all his classes,” she snapped. “That’s your fault, buying him that stupid guitar for his birthday. I swear you do it to spite me.”
“Yes, everything I do is to spite you. I learned from the best,” Victor sardonically said stopping and turning to her. “He’s not failing all his classes, surely.”
“Do you even care?” she retorted waspishly.
“Of course, I care. He’s my son,” he said.
“You might act like it sometimes, instead of being his best buddy and letting him get away with murder,” she countered.
“Don’t you dare put that on me, Kat. You’re the one that practically stole them from me and then promptly got them a new daddy. What was I to do? I was forced to be nothing more to them than a distant uncle with no say about anything. But that was your intent all along, wasn’t it? To get me out of the way, so you could have full reign. I never could understand your logic. You never wanted them and yet…”
“That’s not true!” she shouted.
“I was there, Katherine. Don’t rewrite history. You fought me tooth and nail. And when you finally gave in, or, as you so often liked to put it, I forced you to be a baby factory, you never let me hear the end of it,” he said, his jaw clenched so tightly he thought he might break a tooth.
“As usual, you exaggerate,” she said dismissively.
“Do I? You hated being just a mother, hated the boys for ruining your dreams and you hated me for ruining your life. Well, I think we’re even. You ruined mine too. You didn’t want the boys yet you refused to let me have them. Einstein couldn’t figure you out.”
At that point they came upon a knot of people and they paused in their discussion to greet them in a civil manner they simply couldn’t manage for each other.
“Victor, don't go,” she said tugging on his arm, once they were alone again.
“Aren’t we done yet? I’ve got people to see,” Victor said impatiently.
“Ah, yes, you must get back to your gold digger,” Katherine said snidely.
“I suppose you would know a gold digger being one yourself,” he muttered.
“If you will recall, I took none of your money though I was entitled to it.”
“Only because Marty threatened to disinherit you. It’s all about money for you,” Victor said, triumphantly.
“Don’t call her that. Her name is Martha. No decent seventy year old woman goes by Marty.”
“She hates being called Martha and she’s sixty-eight. I would think her own daughter would know that.”
“As always happens, you divert me from my point,” she huffed, hands clenched by her side.
“You mean you had one other than destroying my good mood tonight?”
“My point and the only thing I ever have to talk with you about, are my sons.”
“Our sons, if you don’t mind.”
“Yes, well, there’s my point. You’re turning them against me.”
He glared at her, incredulous. “Do you hear yourself, Katherine? You are actually accusing me of what you’ve been doing for over a decade. I’m certain this will astound you, but I’ve never spoken a word against you to either of them…ever.”
“You expect me to believe that? They never want to come home anymore. They’re too busy going here and there with dad,” she said, her eyes oddly bright all of a sudden.
“I’m lucky the boys call me dad at all, so, I won’t apologize when they want to spend time with me. You’ve had them long enough. You’ve punished me enough, too, I’d say.”
“You’re always making me the bad cop with them.”
“You were born the bad cop, Kat. That has little to do with me and everything to do with your father and you know it.”
That stung her, Victor could tell. He almost regretted saying it…almost.
“While you’re Mr. Let’s-go-on-spring-break, I’m always the one that has to push the boys, Ronnie especially, to do something useful, to make something of himself. You fight me at every turn. Why can’t you ever back me up?”
“Back you up for what? To destroy their spirit, to quash their dreams? You made it quite clear several years ago that I have no say in their lives and they know it. So, all of a sudden, I’m to be consulted, but only if I agree with you and back you up? You’ve got some nerve, Katherine.”
“So, you’re just going to let Ronnie flitter away his life on his stupid music?”
“What do you want from me, Katherine? You’ve got him where you want him, at Wharton taking business course he has no right taking. If he's floundering, it's no one's fault but yours.”
“Well, with his own father telling him he can’t do it…”
“I never told him he couldn’t. I’ve always told both Simon and Ronnie they could do whatever they set their minds to do, if they have a passion for it. You lucked out with Simon. He was quite willing to follow in your father’s footsteps. He wants to be a doctor. He’s suited to that life and good for him, but you had to twist Ronnie’s arm until he agreed to go to business school. What good is that? He has no passion for it. He is ill suited to it, but he doesn’t want to disappoint his mother, so there he is, struggling with something he cares not a whit about because his mother put a guilt trip on him.”
Victor shook his head and continued, before she could interrupt. “Did it ever occur to you Ronnie might not want to come home because all you ever do is spend what little time you have together bitching about his music. That is his passion and you belittle it. How do you think that makes him feel?”
“There’s no future in that, Victor. He actually thinks he can be a rock star. And so what if he could? You actually want him wasting his life like that when he could be…”
“Miserable being a business executive?” he suggested. “Yes, I would. I would much rather see him struggling with something he loves than miserably being successful at something he hates. You don’t want to hear it, Katherine, but he’s good at music, very good. So, don’t you expect me to back you up. Not on your life.”
With that he stalked off and very nearly, in his anger, decapitated a flowering Rose-of-Sharon topiary. He didn’t, however, because he knew Violet wouldn’t like that. He smiled thinking about her and had the most intense desire to be with that wonderfully cheery woman.
Violet was so NOT Katherine.