“What do you mean you’re not coming home for thanksgiving?” Violet shouted into the phone.
“Mom, I can’t come home now. We have…”
“You’re killing me Sophie! I haven’t seen you in forever!” Violet cried. “What’s going on that you won’t come home anymore? Is it Antoine? Is he keeping you in Florida against your will?”
“Mom, stop freaking out,” Sophie ever-so-calmly said. “It’s not that at all. It’s the band. We’re doing really well. It’s so important that I stay cuz they need me for…”
“But I’m your mother! Aren’t I even a tiny bit important to you anymore? I need you here, Sophie. I’m all alone now.”
“Mom, please listen. We have a week-long gig at Downtown Disney. Downtown Disney, Mom! This is like… a really a big deal. I want you to come and have Thanksgiving with me and the guys from the band. I know you’ll love them,” Sophie said. “I wish Kenny could come too, but he already told me he and Janice are going to spend the holidays with her family this year.”
“Have thanksgiving in Florida? Do they even celebrate it there?”
“Mom, don’t be so weird. It’s not like it’s another country.”
“May as well be,” Violet whined. Tucking her bare feet under her and grabbing the crocheted blanket to toss over her lap, suddenly feeling very cold and alone.
Sophie laughed. “Mom, it’ll be fine. Listen, we’re staying at a nice hotel and we’ll have a real nice, honest to goodness turkey dinner with all the trimmings at a really fancy restaurant.”
“What? You’re staying with a group of boys in a hotel room?” Violet shrieked.
“Of course not!” Sophie said. “Geeze, Mom, get a grip, will ya? I get my own room. The guys double up, but you can stay with me. It’ll be such fun, Mom. Please say you’ll come. I’d love to see you and I want you to see me sing. It was Daddy’s dream and now it’s mine.”
Violet’s throat tightened and she shut her eyes remembering Richard and how he loved to hear his pretty little girl singing.
“Okay, Honey,” she whispered.
“Okay you’ll come?” Sophie asked.
“I…I guess I will. It’ll be the first time I leave New York.”
Sophie laughed. “It’ll be the first time you leave Catalpa Valley.”
“No, I just came back from a weekend to the city,” Violet said without thinking.
“Oh, my God, Mom! I didn’t know that? Who did you go with?”
“Uh…um…I…” she stammered. “Jocelyn of course.”
“That’s great! Oh, Mom, I’m so excited! I can’t wait to see you!”
“I’ve never been on a plane either and now I have to fly on the busiest day of the year. Ugh!”
“No, you gotta come the weekend before Thanksgiving so you can stay the whole time with me,” Sophie said.
“But…I don’t think I can get that much time off work,” she said, even as she pictured Walter saying the exact opposite. Victor must have that guy firmly in pocket and she would always benefit from that connection.
“It’s just a daycare center, Mom. I’m sure they can…”
“Um…I guess I didn't tell you. I don’t work there anymore,” Violet said. “I think maybe I better try to get a whole week off cuz I have so much to tell you.”
“Wow, do you have a boyfriend, too?” Sophie said, her voice obviously laced with hope.
“No, of course not!” she said automatically. She bit her lip and childishly crossed her fingers as the image of Victor popped into her head. How would he feel if he heard her denying him so callously?
“Hurt and dismayed, no doubt! Good thing he’s not around to hear it then,” Heidi whispered.
“That’s too bad, Mom. I don’t like you being all alone. You should have a nice guy taking care of you and for you to take care of him. I know you must miss that,” Sophie said sadly.
“Yes, well, I do other things to be useful. I’ll tell you about all that at Thanksgiving,” Violet said, a tiny bit of excitement penetrating her being. “I better go get a ticket to Orlando.”
“I can’t wait to see you, Mommy! We’ll have such fun! Good night, Mom. Let me know when to get you at the airport. The guys are so looking forward to meeting you and possibly… your cookies?”
Violet laughed and assured her daughter she would indeed bring a big batch or two of her almost world famous cookies. She bid good night to her daughter and put down the phone, her smile fading.
How in the world was she going to tell Victor about this?
“What do you mean you won’t be around for Thanksgiving?” Victor bellowed, making the waitress jump and spill a cup of coffee she was bringing to him.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Romanoff,” she said. “I’ll get you another cup.”
“No worries, Francie. It was my fault,” Victor said, giving her a kind smile. As soon as she went away from their table, however, his smile faded, his eyes fixed on Violet and they were non too happy.
Violet didn’t like seeing it, so her own eyes fell on the pie before her. She forced herself to take a bite. It was a delicious apple crumb pie, but it may as well have been cardboard for all she tasted.
“Sophie wants me to come visit her cuz she’s so…so busy with her band,” she said, biting her lip. “She wants me to meet her friends and to see her perform. She’s so thrilled. It’s her dream come true. To sing for a living. It’s amazing. People kill for such and …”
Victor stared at her hoping and praying she would say it, but she never did. So, he would have to do it. It’s not like he had any pride left at this point.
“May I go with you? I’ve so longed to meet your kids and…”
“No!” Violet said.
“I see,” he said, pushing his untouched pie away from him, his jaw clenched painfully.
“Victor, please,” she said.
“Please what? Pretend this isn’t a blow or do you wish me to simply disappear?”
“No, of course not. I just don’t want Sophie to… to think I’ve so soon forgotten her father.”
Victor lifted a skeptical brow. “Sophie wouldn’t wish for you to find a new love? Funny, I didn’t take her for being such a selfish girl.”
“Then perhaps she’s just an excuse… like so many others,” he muttered as he lifted his coffee cup and sipped from it. He set it back into its saucer and silently seethed.
“Surely, you would want to be with your boys for thanksgiving,” Violet said after an excruciatingly long and painful silence.
“They always go to their mother’s for Thanksgiving. I get Christmas, although, they are a bit too old to be shuffling around like children of divorce anymore.”
“I’m sure Freddy and Laurie would love….”
“Violet, you don’t have to worry about me. I’ve lived through holidays on my own before and shall in future, no doubt. Although… I expect this to be the last year for it,” he said, a sudden, inexplicable smile materializing.
“Uh…why?” Violet asked, stunned to see him looking so serene.
“Are you done with your pie? We should get going,” he said, drinking the rest of his coffee and getting up before she could answer.
She followed him to the front where he paid the check and got a brilliant smile from the waitress—must have been a great tip—and out of the diner they went.
“Are you all right?” she asked.
“Indeed I am,” he replied, opening the car door for her.
“Are you sure?” she asked after he came around the car and got into the driver’s seat.
“Yes, I just had a wonderful idea,” he said, inserting the key and starting the engine before he turned to look at her stunned face. “How do you feel about Halloween?”
She blinked stupidly at him and shrugged. “It’s a pagan holiday which nowadays is harmless and an excellent excuse for fun pretending you’re someone else for kids and adult of all ages. Why?”
Victor grinned, but said no more as he started home. Violet had the odd impression she would soon find out.