Monday, July 18, 2011

Ch 71: Great opportunities and lonely summers

“Hey, Dad,” a familiar voice came through the phone.

“Ronnie! Hey, how are you?” Victor said, as he turned to the clock on his nightstand. Kind of early for a phone call. What, he wondered, could be wrong?

“I’m good. How are you?” Ronnie said.

“Good. What’s up? You’re coming home soon, right?” Victor said. There was a pause and a bad feeling settled in the pit of his stomach.

“That’s kinda what I wanted to talk to you about. I don’t want to get in the way of you and your girlfriend, so I thought I’d stay in the city if that’s okay,” Ronnie said, albeit casually.

“First, she’s not my girlfriend...”

“She’s a girl and she’s your friend, so there you go,” Ronnie interjected.

“Second, how would you get in the way?”

“You know, progressing into benefit territory would be impeded by having me and Simon hanging around.”

“Did you impede your mother when she got together with Andy?” Victor asked pointedly. “As I recall they married rather soon after the divorce and you were right there, front and center. Doesn’t sound like you were ever in the way for them. And you are hardly a child anymore. You have your own life with your own friends and things you would like to do without your old man. You would in no way be a hindrance.”

Ronnie made a growling noise.  “I keep forgetting never to argue with a lawyer,” he said.
Victor laughed, but sobered quickly. “What’s the real reason you don’t want to come home?”
"It’s not that I don’t want to go home. I have a job opportunity,” he said.
“Doing?” Victor asked.
“Helping a friend with a, uh, project. It’s in the city, so I can stay at the apartment. I won’t cause any trouble or have wild or even mild parties. I’ll be too busy for that. I won’t let anyone stay with me or anything,” Ronnie said eagerly. “Please, Dad? I can try and come home sometimes during the summer and see you and Mom or you can come meet me in the city. We can go see a game or something.”
“What kind of project is this?” Victor asked, suspicious now.
“It’s... uh... just adding my voice to a friend’s life’s ambition,” Ronnie said.
“Which is?”
“He has some ties to the entertainment industry,” Ronnie replied, getting more evasive by the minute.
“Please tell me this is not porn or even Girls-gone-wild kind of stuff,” Victor said sternly.
Ronnie laughed. “Funny, Dad. Nothing like that. It’s all legitimate, legal and won’t get anyone in trouble. I promise.”
“I’m certain you know the Girls-gone-wild videos are all that and still managed to get the man behind them in trouble.”
“Nothing to do with underage girls or any age girls. We’re all keeping our clothes on, Dad. I swear.”
“If it’s legitimate tell me what you’re doing,” Victor said.

“I don’t feel comfortable saying... yet. Maybe soon I will, if things go well. Please, Dad, just trust me,” Ronnie pleaded.
After a few silent moments, Ronnie pleaded, “Please, Dad, I really want to do this. After such a crappy time at school, I really need something good in my life.”
 Victor sighed. “Do not make me regret this, Ronnie.”
“I won’t, I promise.”
“I’ll call you when I’m coming into New York. Don’t want to find you in a compromising position,” Victor warned.
Ronnie laughed again. “You won’t, Dad. I'll just be there to sleep.”
“Tell your mother about this yet?”
“I wanted to check if it was okay with you first. I’ll tell her I have a girlfriend in the city. That seems to always satisfy her.”
“And why can’t you tell her what you told me? Different lies for different parents?” Victor asked, already regretting this decision.
“It’s not a lie. I have a few friends in the city that happen to be girls. You know Mom won’t like me working unless I’m an apprentice for Donald Trump or some other business tycoon. She definitely wouldn’t like me doing something that would actually make me happy,” Ronnie grumbled.
“Ronnie, you should tell your mother how you feel. I don’t want you unhappy in your life’s work. I don't want you unhappy in anything. If business is not your thing, tell her,” Victor said.
“Dad, it would be easier to live without my arms and legs. I gotta go. But thanks. You’re the best. Try to get us tickets for a Mets game, okay? Day game! Love you, Dad.”

“Love you, too,” Victor said sadly as he heard the line go dead.  “No Ronnie. How about Simon?”  He sighed and dialed the number leaning back on his pillows. “May as well find out the worst now.”
“Hey, Dad, I was just about to call you,” Simon said.
“Wonderful. What excuse do you have to stay away this summer?” Victor asked miserably.
“Damn, Dad, how do you do that?” Simon said, astonished.
“Practice,” Victor muttered. “It’s not because of my nonexistent love life, is it?”
“Not going well, huh? I thought by now... Did you have a talk with her ghost husband yet?”
“Let’s not go there, Simon. What are you doing this summer that’s better than keeping your lonely father company?”
“Dad, don’t say it that way. I’m not staying away cuz I want to. I just have a truly great opportunity. You’ll never guess,” he said excitedly.
“You been talking to Ronnie?”
“About what? You know I pretend I don’t have a brother when I’m at school,” he said.
Victor sighed. “Why can’t you two get along?”
“We’re too different,” Simon said.
“Or too alike. He also has a marvelous opportunity this summer and won’t make it home. What’s this job?”

“Doubt it’s anything like mine. My professor picked me to work with him at a children’s psych ward. Grunt work I’m sure, but I could learn so much just watching. Isn’t that awesome?” he said sounding thrilled.
“Why in the world would you want to do that?” Victor asked, horrified.
There was an ominous pause. “I’m thinking of going into child psychiatry,” Simon said, sounding defensive.
“Really?” Victor asked, incredulous.
“I think so. That okay?” Simon said, his voice going cold.
“Yeah, sure, I’m just surprised. I pictured you as a brain surgeon or something similar. You’re so brilliant, Simon, I figured you’d be great at something like that, but then, I know you will be amazing no matter what you choose to do. If child psychiatry is your passion, that’s fine, Simon. Whatever floats your boat, kid,” Victor said.
There was silence for a few seconds. “Have I told you lately how awesome you are, Dad?” Simon said.
“It’s been a while,” Victor said smiling.
“Thanks, Dad. This will give me a chance to see if it really is a passion,” he said. “I won’t be home all summer, though. Professor Albion says it’s pretty intense, not much time off. But maybe I can come home for a few days before school starts up again. That okay?”
It would have to be. “Of course. You can’t let an opportunity like this slip by,” he said, forcing himself to sound cheerful. “Told your mother?”
“Yeah, she thinks I’m nuts,” he replied, annoyed.
“She wants to see you, is all, but I’m sure she understands. We both know you’ll do fantastic,” Victor said confidently.

“You’re the best, Dad. Thanks. See you when I can,” he said.
“I love you, Simon,” Victor said and waited.
“Love you too, dad. See ya soon.” And the line went dead.
 Victor put down the phone already feeling unaccountably lonely. “If only I had Violet, really had her, it wouldn’t be so bad,” he muttered angrily.

“But this gives you uninterrupted time with her. Plan it well,” Richard told him.
“Time with Violet,” he said. “Any time with her is time well spent.”
He turned his thoughts to an entire summer with Violet. He could take her on picnics, on his boat, to the beach, horseback riding, hiking, on long rides through the country, just hanging out by the pool and so much more. There were tons of fun summer activities they could do. He’d have to make some plans.
With his mind squarely on breakfast, tea and sympathy with Violet, Victor threw the blankets off and headed for the shower.
Meanwhile, Violet also had been rudely awakened by a phone call. She grumbled as she held it to her ear, her eyes still closed against the bright light coming through the lacy curtains. “Hello?”
“Hey, Mom, I hope I didn’t wake you. I wanted to catch you before you went to work,” Sophie said.
“Sophie! Oh, it’s so good to hear from you. How are you, Darling?” Violet asked, still sleepy but now quite happy.
“I’m good. I’ve got such great news, but I know you’ll be upset,” Sophie said anxiously.
Violet sat bolt upright, suddenly wide awake. “What? What is it?”
“I have a great job lined up for the summer. It’s so fantastic I’m like…oh! So excited I can barely think straight!”
Violet’s heart nearly stopped. “You mean in Florida?” she squeaked.
“I know you want me to come home and I do want to see you, but this is a really good opportunity for me. Please, don’t be mad.”

“I’m…I’m not. What is the job?” Violet asked, numb with shock and disappointment.
“Oh, mom, you’ll never believe it! Remember when I told you about the new band which started up on campus?”
“Um, yes? Frozen cockroaches, you said," Violet said, easing back onto her pillows.

"Thankfully, they've changed the name to Zeitgeist," Sophie said, laughing.

"And that's better?" Violet said, reaching for the dictionary in her nightstand drawer and going to Z.

"It's loads better. It means the spirit of time in German."

"You sang with them once, didn’t you?” Violet said.
“Yes! Well, the lead singer, she was Scruff’s girlfriend and they broke up and…”
“Scruff? That’s his name?” Violet said, dismayed.
Sophie laughed. “Just a nickname, Mom. His real name is Harvey, so you see why he changed it. Know any rock stars named Harvey? Actually his friends gave him the name cuz he never shaves, and well, he looks scruffy all the time!”
“I can imagine,” Violet said, feigning enthusiam.
“But anyway! Scruff asked me if I’d like to be the lead singer now. I was doing back up for them on and off, whenever Sue Helen was in a snit about something, which was more and more often. But the audience really seemed to respond to me when they had me on lead and the  guys in the band love me, probably cuz I’m not a bitch like…”
“She is, Mom! She thinks she’s Amy Lee, Christina Aguilera and Brittney Spears all rolled up into one, which she isn’t! No one likes a diva.”
“Okay, if you say so,” Violet said sadly. “You will come back before school starts again?”
“Uh, I don’t think I can. We’re booked solid all over south Florida and Scruff is working on a gig in Orlando for August. Oh, Mom, this could be big! Please, don’t be mad at me. You can come visit me. I’d love you to meet the guys. You’ll love them. They’re such sweethearts! And wait until you…”
Violet listened to her lively chatter with a heavy heart. With her new job at the garden, she couldn’t go anywhere and it’s not like she enjoyed traveling anyway. She suppressed a sigh. She would just brace herself for the loneliest summer of her life. Last year had been bad enough with Richard’s death so fresh, but now she wouldn’t even have Sophie.
Once she put down the phone, the tears couldn’t be stopped.

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